A Lecture for the Library, Running the Guard and Leaving Long Island

This continues the series presenting the timeline for events in the life of Oliver Cromwell Case and the 8th CVI leading up to the battle of Antietam in September 1862.

30 October 1861

Many soldiers including Oliver Case attend an evening lecture given by Chaplain Joseph J. Woolley of the 8th held in Jamaica. The purpose of the lecture is to raise money for a regimental library to be used by the soldiers during their training and beyond.[1] Connecticut regiments are notable among all the regiments for their extensive libraries. By mid-July of 1862, the Connecticut units have compiled “1284 volumes and 5450 magazines shelved and locked in strong portable cases with a written catalogue and proper regimental labels.”[2] The lecture by Chaplain Woolley raises $40 toward the library and Oliver finds Rev. Woolley to be “an eloquent preacher as well as a very social and agreeable man” and believes that he is “superior to Dr. Holland,” his pastor back in Simsbury. Joseph Woolley played a major role in the acquisition and care of the regimental library. He commented on the receipt of books from the Christian Commission:

“The nicely selected stock was gone in two hours after I had opened the box,” wrote Chaplain Morris of the 8th Connecticut Volunteers. “Since that time the delivery and return of books has occupied several hours a day. Dickens has a great run. The tales of Miss Edgeworth and TS Arthur are very popular. The Army and Navy Melodies are hailed with delight and the boys are singing right merrily almost every night. Day before yesterday I received a box of pamphlets from the Commission. There were half a dozen men ready to open the box and twenty more at hand to superintend the process and share the contents. The demand for reading is four times the supply…”[3]

Oliver is so engrossed in the presentation by Reverend Woolley and the discussion that follows, that he loses track of time and has to “run the guard” because he is out past recall. No punitive action is taken against Private Case for his absence.[4]

               Post-war photo of Rev. Joseph J. Woolley, Chaplain of the 8th CVI

 The Rev. Woolley was a native of Bridgeport, Connecticut and entered the ministry in the Methodist Episcopal church only two years before the war began. He would serve with the 8th during the Burnside expedition in North Carolina, but was discharged due to the effects of typhoid fever prior to the beginning of the Maryland Campaign. After his recovery, Rev. Woolley would go on to serve as pastor of several churches. At the unveiling of a statute honoring General Burnside in Providence, Rhode Island on July 4, 1887, Rev. Woolley delivered the invocation.

Religious fervor is high amongst the Connecticut soldiers in camp including the 8th CVI.

Each regiment also organized and supported a Sunday school…The Eighth held a regimental prayer-meeting every Sunday night at their chapel, — “an enclosure of trees and earth, with walls six feet high, and no roof.” Just before sailing, about fifty partook of the communion here.[5]

As soldiers prepare daily for battle, many become aware of the spiritual consequences of what may lay ahead for them. Services are well attended and prayers are earnestly offered up.

Solemn prayer goes up to heaven for strength in the hour of trial, and earnest prayer for protection from temptation’s power; comrades press home upon their fellows the necessity of safety in Christ ; tearful eyes and softened hearts attest the fervor with which all unite in the petition for dear ones left at home- And so the hour passes almost unnoted, and men are surprised when the chaplain pronounces the benediction.[6]

31 Oct 1861

As Oliver writes a letter to his sister Abbie, an impromptu concert is taking place in his tent including “2 or 3 in our tent playing on their violins, and it is full of spectators” including Benejah. He has spent most of his day on “water guard” which consists of retrieving water from the designated source for the general use of those in his unit or his tent. Oliver comments that he enjoys this duty because it provides “considerable time for myself” and away from the roar of the camp. This is one of several indicators in Oliver’s letters that point to him as an introspective, intellectual personality who likely enjoyed academic pursuits.[7]

1 Nov 1861 8:00pm         

8th CVI departs Hunter’s Point, L.I. via boat bound for South Amboy, New Jersey. The steamer is packed with 1000 soldiers that would normally accommodate only half that number. Oliver writes that “every available niche of room was occupied, many of us lying with our heads upon each other.” A hard rain is falling as the soldiers load the steamer.[8]


Due to stormy seas, the steamer is towed into “Pier No. 1 N. River” until the storm has passed.[9]

2 Nov 1861 1:00am

The storm passes and the steamer leaves port bound for South Amboy.[10]


The steamer arrives safely at South Amboy. The soldiers of the 8th are quickly transferred to waiting rail cars to take them to Philadelphia. The large, slow-moving train consists of 19 passenger cars and 8 freight cars for the horses and baggage.


The train arrives at Philadelphia to a warm reception by the local citizens. The weary soldiers are treated to dinner described by Oliver Case as “a huge dinner and if anyone ever did justice to a dinner, we did to that.”[11]

Around 5:00pm

The soldiers reload the train and it departs Philadelphia moving very slow which allows the residents to shake hands through the windows and bid the soldiers farewell.

Just before midnight

After numerous mechanical problems along the route including eleven car couplings breaking at various places, the train finally arrives at Perryville, Maryland where the soldiers will be transferred again to a boat. The soldiers of the 8th sleep in a nearby depot as they wait for the boat. Oliver has just enough time to pen a letter to his sister Abbie, but even as he writes, the command of “fall in” is being given.[12]

[1] The Military and Civil History of Connecticut: The War of 1861-1865, W.A. Croffut and John M. Morris, Ledyard Bill, New York, 1868

[2] Books in the War: The Romance of Library War Service, Theodore Wesley Koch, Riverside Press Cambridge, Boston, 1919

[3] IBID

[4] The Letters of Oliver Cromwell Case (Unpublished), Simsbury Historical Society, Simsbury, CT, 1861-1862

[5] (Morris, 1869)

[6] IBID

[7] (Case)

[8] IBID

[9] IBID

[10] IBID

[11] IBID

[12] IBID


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