“God be with us and sustain us in every conflict.” — Private Charles Sidney Buell, Company E, 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry
Monday 15 September 1862
After a long and anxious night of lying in their battle positions, the officers and soldiers of the 8th Connecticut wake early with orders to assemble for movement. The regiment moves to the far side of the Old Sharpsburg Road and then is ordered to return to the eastern side of the road. Along with the rest of Harland’s Brigade, the 8th then conducts a movement toward Fox’s Gap at the top of South Mountain. Prior to reaching the summit, all of Rodman’s Division is commanded to form a line of battle and prepare for possible resistance from the Confederate forces. However, there will be no more fighting here because all the Confederates are gone except those who now lie where they fell the day before among the rocks and trees.
According to Croffut and Morris:
For miles, the fields on both sides were crowded; the waning fires at least revealing in quaint light and shadow the almost count-less bivouacs of a silent and sleeping host. A little past midnight, having passed through the entire right and center to the front, the Eighth and Eleventh turned into a stubble lot for sleep; while the next brigades in order filed by in the ever-moving procession.[i]
The historian of one of the other regiments in Harland’s Brigade remembered that “the dead and wounded lay here and there on each side of the road, torn to pieces and mangled in all shapes, and left by the retreating rebels in their hasty flight.”[ii]
Captain Marsh of the 8th remembered the day this way:
…we came out of our hideing[sic] place and we marched across road to left into another piece of woods and there waited 2 or 3 hours see attack but they did not make any. Then we marched back and on over mountain and such sights I never saw. Hundreds of dead rebels laid piled up in a small narrow lane and behind on rd stone wall. The victory was ours… we passed by hundreds of dead sccesh lying beside stone walls in narrow lanes and scattered through the woods.[iii]
Charles S. Buell of the 8th Connecticut recounted the movement over South Mountain:
The dead rebels were strewed all along the road in scores. Up to 12 ock all has been quite with the exception of a few random shots. We lay on our arms about 2 hours. Probably too allow the Artillery to change their position…the rebels are on the skedaddle our Reinforcements are coming[sic] up and we are persuing[sic] them right up to the handle. Afternoon and all is quite on the East side of the Blue Ridge. Troups[troops] are pouring on to a great rate.[iv]
The main body of the Army of the Potomac crosses South Mountain and General McClellan establishes his headquarters in the German Reformed Church in Keedysville as he considers his next move against Robert E. Lee. The 8th CVI marches on into the night from Fox’s Gap and arrives in Keedysville around midnight. It does not appear that the soldiers were allowed to establish any type of camp but “lay on their arms” through the remainder of the night in a stubble field.
Keedysville, Maryland hosted Oliver Case and the 8th Connecticut on the evening of September 15, 1862
Captain Marsh writes…
…we marched quite a number of miles that day and night to the little village called Keedysville (or some such name) where by midnight we got a chance to lie down for night.[v]
For the foot soldiers of the 8th CVI, there are other important events of this day. Buell writes in his diary that the regiment “recd a mail for our Regt..only one letter for Comp E that for Capt.”[vi] As a soldier who normally received a large volume of mail (as indicated by some of his letters to his sister, Abbie), it is to be expected that Oliver Case received some amount of letters and possibly newspapers this day.
Charles Buell summed up the previous two days of marching and battle:
Long to be remembered…these two days will always be in my memory as the hardest of this campaign. Just two weeks yesterday we commenced this march and have kept it up night and day living on hard tack and occasionally a bit of fresh beef boiled. It is hard but we will never submit to Rebbeldom[sic] though we have to go through Hardships and privations to the bitter end. God be with us and sustain us in every conflict.[vii]
The 8th had known no hardships in battle like those that awaited them over the next 3 days…
[i] The Military and Civil History of Connecticut: The War of 1861-1865, 1868 by W.A. Croffut and John M. Morris, 1868.
[ii] Forty-Six Months with the Fourth R. I. Volunteers, George H. Allen, Reid, Providence, 1887.
[iv] Diary of Charles S. Buell, 8th Connecticut, as published on Antietam on the Web, http://antietam.aotw.org/exhibit.php?exhibit_id=369