The Sound of Battle (March 11 – June 6, 1862)

I love a brave soldier who has undergone the baptism of fire. – Napoleon Bonaparte

11 March 1862

Oliver’s letter to Abbie on this day is a mixture of operational rumors and speculation along with very personal deliberations. The hottest rumor deals with the destination of the expeditionary force which Oliver seems to believe (correctly) is Newbern. Oliver gives himself allowance for possibly missing the location by the caveat, “as likely to be some other place.” Whatever the final destination might be, the men “are eager for a start and shall probably go today and we expect to make a hole somewhere when we move.” The prospect of spending weeks on a ship in the Hatteras Inlet is not exciting to them.

Oliver has an amazing grasp of some of the major operational and strategic issues surrounding the upcoming campaign.

It is likely that the fleet and land forces will act in conjunction and while the former peppers them in front, we shall attack them in the rear…We want to do a big thing here as well as the army in Tennessee, and if we succeed in cutting railroad communication between north and south Secession it will be a big thing.[108]

In fact, this is General Burnside’s plan to conduct a joint Army and Navy operation with the ships of the Navy providing supporting fire against Confederate forts and earthworks as the Army troops attack.

Having missed the relatively light combat action at Roanoke Island, Oliver along with his fellow soldiers seems to sense that this operation will bring more intense fighting. For the first time in his letters, Oliver opines on the prospect of facing death:

There will doubtless be a large number killed on both sides, but will it not be a good time to die? A man better die fighting for his country than at home. There is not the dread of Death here as there; but I expect like everyone else to come out alive. I have yet to see the man that did not. It is much the best way on the men to go into action with high hopes and good spirits instead of feeling low and depressed.[109]

His wording is reminiscent of the inscription found in the Bible.

If you die, die like a man.[110]

Although it had been almost one year since the capture of Fort Sumter signaling the beginning of the conflict, the full impact of the horror of war with its death and destruction had yet to be felt by the majority of the soldiers fighting for both armies and certainly not by the general public. The bond of soldiers living in community enforced a code of bravery to face death and dying that Oliver would soon see tested. For now, as they rode the seas headed for New Bern, all were of “high hopes and good spirits” and expecting to survive the coming combat action.

As he continues to write, Oliver reveals that he is facing a decision that is revealing about the man he is:

There has been some talk of enlisting in the regulars. The recruiting officer has been around in some regiments and many have enlisted. He has not been here and probably not in this division, but doubtless will be. I should like very much to enlist but will not until I hear from home, and know what you think about it. As for me, I should like it better than anything else I can do. Write what Father and Mother think about it when you receive this.[111]

These two paragraphs are enlightening about the man, Oliver Cromwell Case. Although the youngest son of a highly capable and upstanding Connecticut family, Oliver stands tall in the cause of his country and is fully prepared to do his duty. He is the man who believes that it is “better [to] die fighting for his country than [to die] at home.” Oliver has not only left the comforts of home in the service of his country, but he now expresses a depth of commitment that is leading him to enlist in the Regular Army. He wants a level of permanence expressed by his desire to become a career soldier. In fact, he writes that “I should like it better than anything else I can do.” Despite his recurrent illness and the horrible death of two friends from disease, Oliver wants to enlist in the Regular Army.

However, he is concerned about Abbie’s opinion and will not make a commitment until she relays to him her opinion and the feelings of his father and mother concerning his desire to join the Regular Army.

On the eve of his first combat experience, Private Oliver Case seems to be mentally prepared and committed to die if necessary in the service of his country. But, like all his fellow soldiers in the 8th CVI, he expects “to come out alive.”

As the fleet of Army transports carrying the troops of Ambrose Burnside’s expeditionary force lay at anchor in the mouth on Slocum Creek 12 miles south of the North Carolina city of Newbern, Oliver Case was about to get his wish to try his hand at fighting. While back aboard the old familiar surroundings of the “Chasseur,” Oliver read a letter from his sister, Abbie, received on the 11th of March 1862 from a ship of Union fleet traveling from the north. The mail call was a time of much interest from the soldiers of the 8th CVI as it had been a considerable period since the last delivery.

You ought to have seen that boat about eleven o’clock, every light occupied by at least a dozen different persons each anxious to read the news from home.[112]

13 March 1862          

The regiment is part of Burnside’s offensive against Confederate forces at New Bern, NC. Third Brigade commanded by Parke makes a slow landing at the mouth of Slocum’s Creek from small boats ferried by a tugboat.

According to Oliver, the soldiers of the 8th CVI along with the other regiments in Parke’s Brigade landed “in a small cove and immediately commenced marching up the river.” Slocum Creek probably seemed more like a river to Oliver and many of the boys from Connecticut. The 8th marched along the creek’s edge on what Oliver called “the beach” for about two miles before turning to head inland. Not long after heading away from the water, the regiment came upon a welcome sight that was just too good to resist for some of the troops.

In a short time we came up to an encampment of cavalry which had been evacuated but a short time. Some of the boys fell out and helped themselves to chickens, ham, biscuits etc.[113]

Good things cannot last and so it was for the feasting troopers who were soon given the order to move out. In a scene that would be a preview of Burnside’s infamous “mud march” in Virginia almost one year later, the troops struggled against terrible conditions. Oliver described it this way:

We travelled till after sundown over the muddiest road (if road it could be called) that I ever saw.[114]

The Confederate commander closest to the landing, Colonel R. P. Campbell, in command of the Confederate right wing, had interpreted the supporting gunfire from the Union ships as an indicator that another landing of Union troops would follow the first and orders his troops to pull back to the defense line near Fort Thompson. When the Union regiments reach the entrenchments on the 13th, they find them abandoned.

Oliver observed the abandoned enemy camps and fortifications realizing that the soldiers of Parke’s Brigade may have dodged the bullet for this day.

About the middle of the afternoon we came to the first battery, which had just been evacuated and the barracks set on fire, which were still burning as we passed. We found out afterward that if we had been a day later the rebels would have had their forces there and mounted and it would have taken the lives of many men to have dislodged them for it is a very strong point. The fortification is a mile long, with a large ditch in front protected in the rear by breast works of huge trees felled top of one another. It would have been almost impossible to have flanked them and they would undoubtedly have had to be charged upon to have dislodged them.[115]

The expedition continued to march until nightfall when they halted and prepared for follow on operations at daylight the next morning. General Parke reported that “roads generally were in bad order, and the men marched in many localities through water and mud. In addition, heavy showers fell at intervals during the day and night, and although the men had their overcoats and blankets the bivouac was extremely trying.”[116]

After struggling against the terrible road conditions, the troops were allowed to make camp for the night to include building fires using the available pitch pine wood which burned even in the wet conditions. That night, wrote Oliver, the rain “commenced in good earnest” creating miserable conditions for the soldiers who found that “after 12 o’clock very little sleeping was done by the soldiers in this division.” Oliver observed that the milder southern climate granted some relief when the order to move out came at 6 am, although “our blankets were as heavy as 8 ought to be.”

14 Mar 1862

The regiments and brigades of Burnside’s expedition were up and moving again on the morning of 14 February 1862. At 7:00 am the units were advancing toward Confederate breast works that, unlike those of the first day, were occupied by soldiers in gray and butternut. The First Brigade quickly became engaged by Confederate forces in entrenchments along the Fort Thompson line. Colonel Rodman, of the Fourth Rhode Island, discovered an opening in the entrenchments by which the Confederates can be flanked and reports this to General Parke who orders the brigade to attack. The entrenchments are soon overwhelmed and the Confederate are flanked because the center of the Confederate line is broken after green militia troops break and run.[117]

As his regiment approached the works, it was the moment of truth for Private Case as “the balls rung tunes over our heads and occasionally played a little nearer our heads than we cared for.” It was the beginning of his baptism of fire.

A phenomenon that is difficult to understand for those who have never experienced it is that in the midst of battle there is still room for humor. So it was for Oliver Case and the soldiers of Company A, 8th CVI:

Philo Matson, from out on Firetown mountains, was in the rank ahead of me and was much frightened; he would have fell out if possible. The orders were given to fall down, right up, fix bayonets, fire. As soon as I had fired, I heard Philo say, “Oh, I’m killed”, turned and saw a slight flesh wound on the top of his head. I certainly could not help laughing to see him. He turned to the orderly and asked him if he thought he was killed and, when he found out that he was still in the land of the living, took his gun and made himself missing as soon as possible.[118]

Here stands Oliver in the middle of bullets flying over his head, any one of which could strike him and cause instant death, yet he’s laughing. For his part, Private Philo A. Matson of Canton “made himself missing” on a permanent basis being listed as a deserter in April 1862.

The humor was short-lived as some of the Confederate rounds found their mark. Two companies of the 8th (G and H, actually K) were sent out as skirmishers as company A and the remainder of the regiment lay on the ground with the bullets buzzing just above them. Oliver reports to Abbie on the first causalities of the battle:

Capt. Epham [This name was unclear to the original transcriber] of Co. H was wounded in the shoulder at this time; it is feared mortally. Howes Phelps from Co. B was killed.[119]

In fact, there is no record of a Capt. “Epham” in the 8th CVI. The company commander of company H at this time appears to have been Capt. Thomas D. Sheffield of Stonington who had replaced Capt. Douglass Fowler. Sheffield originally enlisted in company G as the 1st Lieutenant and it is assumed he was promoted and transferred to company H upon the resignation of Fowler. He was honorably discharged on January 17, 1863. Rolls of the 8th confirm that Houlsey F.D. Phelps (aka “Howes”) of East Windsor (likely a distant cousin of Oliver), was killed at the Battle of Newbern on March 14, 1862. Capt. “Epham” was likely Capt. Charles L. Upham, commander of company K, who was reported as being wounded in the battle by the account of Croffut and Morris, but this status is not found on the company rolls.

These causalities occurred during the assault of the Confederate battery known as Fort Thompson described by Oliver:

At this time, word came that the 21st Mass. had charged upon the battery and were repulsed. We were ordered on double quick through [word unreadable] until we reached the rail road where was a high embankment where we halted to form.[120]

Moving quietly down the railroad, Colonel Harland had positioned his regiment to assault the battery from the flank. Oliver observed some deception in the works:

We were then ordered to fall and by mistake our colors fell too, and the rebels, deceived by our gray coats, took us to be rebel reinforcements arriving by rail road and ceased firing upon us; this mistake probably saved many lives.[121]

The soldiers were ordered to fix bayonets and the charge was then directed by Colonel Harland:

“…with a clear, shrill voice, and the emphasis of coming victory, rang the orders, “By company into line!” An advancing front of forty men appeared before the astonished rebels. ” Fix bayonets ! ” It was done at a rapid walk. ” Forward into line ! ” Up the embankment, and across the railroad, dashed the rear companies, coming into line within a hundred paces of the works. “Steady, guide center, forward, double quick !”[122]

And here is one of those points of disputed history. From Oliver’s view:

When we started from there we went double quick to charge their battery, but as they did not like the look of cold steel they left in a hurry. The color guard immediately ran up to the battery and planted the colors which were the first upon the battery.[123]

At least three regiments including the 8th CVI would claim the title of “First to Plant the Flag” upon the Confederate works. The 11th CVI and the 4th Rhode Island would also declare that they were the first regiment to the top. Croffut and Morris reported it this way:

The Eighth contests the claim of the 4th Rhode- Island to having first entered the enemy’s works; and it is certain that the flag of the Eighth was first displayed therein.[124]

Of course, the 8th CVI had a significant advantage here as “Morris” was the Rev. John M. Morris who would become the regimental chaplain just over one month after the Battle of Newbern.

General Parke reports that all the regiments “were under fire, and the officers seemed proud of the men they were leading and the men showed they had full confidence in their officers.”  Two soldiers are killed in action and four are wounded.

The attack upon the defenses of Newbern (March 14th) was made at an early hour, and the Eighth assisted in the capture of about five hundred Confederate troops. This was the regiment’s first baptism of blood. Its killed were privates Phelps of Company B and Patterson of Company I, with four wounded. The personal bravery of Colonel Harland amid the whistling bullets at Newbern, together with his skill and cool-headedness as a tactician, and his evident desire to shield his men from harm whenever possible, gave them a confidence in him which was never afterward shaken.[125]

The 8th was first in the battle in which they fought bravely…Gen Burnside came along up side of our Regt an[d] order[ed] us to charge on them in which we did in double quick time in which they fired upon us killing 8; wound[ed] several. It was a bold attempt but we won the victory driving the rebels in every direction.[126]

19 Mar 1862  

The 8th CVI and the 4th Rhode Island left New Bern on the steamer “Eastern Queen” and traveled down the Neuse to Slocum’s Creek where they turned upstream to a landing point determined by General Burnside.[127]

Oliver mistakenly lists the date for this march as March 18th. Nonetheless, he joins his fellow soldiers of the 8th CVI for the difficult road march. In the Civil War, infantrymen such as Private Case, lived a life on the move empowered by what the modern American infantryman would refer to your “LPCs – leather personnel carriers.” Marching was a big part of being a soldier in the Civil War. Generally, there were two types of marching configurations; heavy marching order and light marching order. For the soldier, the command for heavy marching order meant that he would shoulder all of his personal equipment which could weigh as much as 50 to 60 pounds. Heavy marching order was used when commanders did not plan for the current location to be revisited or accessible after completion of the march and required several hours of advance notice to allow for packing. Conversely, light marching order was used when an engagement was considered to be eminent with the soldier carrying only the essentials for battle such as their weapon, ammunition, water and possibly a small supply of food such as hardtack. For the 8th CVI, this command was modified to include “blankets and accoutrements.”

Oliver reports that they traveled about 7 miles up Slocum’s Creek and found the landing site disembarking and remaining at the landing site until about 5:30 PM. He is also quick to note that the soldiers had not “had any rations for one and one-half days.” Oliver was one of thirty-five men from Company A selected to participate in “a forced march of a dozen miles.” He described the experience of the march:

It was the hardest march I ever saw; mud over shoes, water often nearly knee deep, our haversacks empty, stomachs ditto.[128]

The soldier reached their destination, an abandon Confederate camp, about 9:30 PM making it a four-hour road march of about 9 to 10 miles. Given the terrible road conditions, this was not a bad pace by these Connecticut men as the current U.S. Army road march standard for the Expert Infantry Badge qualification is 12 miles in three hours or less. However, the soldiers were completely spent from the march:

Some of our men were so completely exhausted that as soon as they got to the camp they fell upon the ground and could not be aroused.[129]

Oliver had no time to rest after the completion of the march as he was assigned a special duty:

I was put upon picket the first night which I did not relish very much after the fatigue of marching, but lucky for me I had a pair of dry stocking in my pocket which were worth their weight in gold at such a time.[130]

20 Mar 1862

The 8th continues the road march along the road to Morehead and Beaufort. Two companies are left to guard the Confederate barracks.

Oliver recounts:

We again took up our line of march about 11 o’clock the next day, leaving a few companies to guard the barracks, on the road towards Morehead and Beaufort.[131]

The commanders obviously observed the effects of the previous day’s march on the soldiers and realized that today was not the best day for marching.

We had proceeded but a short distance when we were halted and a day’s rations of hardtack and about ½ gill of whiskey given to each man. Our march was rather hard for the reason that we were so stiffened up by our last night’s tramp, but as we only marched nine miles we stood it pretty well.[132]

By the way, from my best research, ½ gill of whiskey would be about 10 ounces, an ample amount to ease the pain of the march! However, there was more marching in store for Oliver and his fellow soldiers.

21 Mar 1862  

The 8th and the 4th are joined by Brig. Gen. Parke and his staff.  The brigade then marched for Carolina City.[133]

22 Mar 1862        

The brigade reaches Carolina City. It is described by the soldiers as “the entire municipality was contained in a dozen one-story houses and a few sheds.” Conditions at Carolina City are not good for the soldiers as resupply trains (ships) have been delayed and there is scant food available locally. Shelter is also a problem as “the men dug holes in the ground, and sheltered them with boards; and here for a dreary week they lived, catching a few fish and oysters when they could.”[134]

According to Oliver’s letter of 6 April, the group reached Carolina City on the 22nd and received a temporary respite from marching as they went into camp operations.

…we arrived at Carolina City where we have remained in some shanties of boards which we have picked from some old dilapidated dwelling. The sesech burnt the principal buildings before they left. There has been a splendid vessel burnt near the fort since we have been here to prevent its falling into our hands.[135]

Once again, Oliver found himself on picket duty stationed about seven miles from the main camp but enjoying the duty “very much.” Food was readily available to the soldiers who made good use of their issued food and “traded off our hardtack and salt horse for sweet potatoes and hoecake and had a fine mess of greens.” Obviously, relations with the local populace were good enough to facilitate this barter system although the Carolina City residents may have received the worst of the deal. “Salt horse” was a demeaning nickname used by soldiers for the salted meat provided by contractors in large barrels to Army units. The meat was often spoiled as alluded to in one of Oliver’s earlier letters.

When Oliver returned from his remote picket duty, he found that his company was gone and the rest of the regiment had been moved to multiple locations in anticipation of future operations.

When I got back, Co. A was on the other side of the sound, except a few sick ones who were left behind, and as our tents had come to pitch and floor them and get into camp once more. We expect the Co. back today but they may not be in, in several days. Our regiment is pretty well split up; two companies at Morehead, one at Beaufort, and ours over on the Island.[136]

Croffut and Morris write in their official history:

The force consisted of the Eighth Connecticut and the 4th and 5th Rhode-Island. The trains were much delayed : there was little food, and no tents or cooking utensils. The weather became stormy, and the men dug holes in the ground, and sheltered them with boards; and here for a dreary week they lived, catching a few fish and oysters when they could. Here Col. Harland was prostrated with typhoid-fever. Two companies of the Eighth were sent over to occupy Beaufort, and others to Morehead City. Opposite was Fort Macon, on the extreme upper point of Bogue Banks, a low, sandy island, or spit, half a mile wide, stretching twenty miles south-west along the coast. Inside this island was Bogue Sound, three miles wide, with shallow water, only three or four feet deep.[137]

General Burnside’s objective for this operation was the reduction and surrender of Fort Macon occupied by a small Confederate garrison, but commanding the approaches in and out of Bogue Sound. In his letter to Abbie, Oliver described Fort Macon:

Fort Macon is situated upon the extreme west of the island and completely hemmed in by our forces, both by land and by water. Our gunboats will make an attack soon, assisted by the artillery, if they do not surrender. It seems a pity that they should attempt to hold it when they themselves know they cannot and it will probably cost them a great many lives. The garrison consists of 300 men which cannot hold it a great while against our mortars.[138]

23 Mar 1862  

Brig. Gen. Parke demands the surrender of the Confederate garrison at Fort Macon across the Bogue Sound from Carolina City. He is generous in his offer to parole all surrendering soldiers if the fort is given up without a fight. The masonry fort built in 1826 is commanded by Confederate Colonel Moses J. White with a garrison of just over 400 officers and men.  Parke’s liberal terms of surrender are rebuffed by Colonel White and the brigade prepares “for besieging the place.” Additional material including artillery is moved to the area in anticipation of an extended siege. Parke’s plan is to conduct an investment of Fort Macon by securing all surrounding areas not yet under Union control.[139]

23-29 Mar 1862        

5 companies from the 8th CVI and 4th RI Regiment [unsure as to which companies although Co. A, 8th CVI is one] are detached from the Brigade at Carolina City and sent to Morehead City (2 companies – assumed to be from the 4th) and to Beaufort (3 companies – assumed to be from the 8th) in order to “seize all the boats and cut off all supplies for the garrison and stop all communication” with Fort Macon. The movement of the troops to Beaufort by boat is constantly under fire from the Confederates at Fort Macon. The force at Beaufort (assumed to be the 8th) established communications with the Union blockading fleet and the Confederate lines of communication with Fort Macon are severed.[140]

Oliver Case is seven miles away on picket duty when his company crosses the sound. He enjoys being outside the camp because food is more plentiful. He returns to the camp to find the rest of the 8th gone. He describes the disposition of the companies as “two companies at Morehead, one at Beaufort, and ours over on the island.”[141]

29 Mar 1862              

Brig. Gen. Parke began the movement of troops and material to affect the siege of Fort Macon. The logistics of moving siege equipment and supplies would continue until 10 April 1862 as only light draft boats are able to cross the sound making it a time consuming process. The ordinance assets assembled for the siege include 30lb rifled Parrotts along with both 10in and 8in mortars. Seven companies of the 8th CVI are included in the siege force.[142]

The soldiers were assisted by black fishermen who guided the boats under the cover of fog and darkness past the fort. Although the group was almost detected by one of the Confederate sentries, they managed to make it to the wharf at Beaufort and occupied the town unopposed. The brigade commander, General Parke, was now in a position to request the surrender of forces under Colonel White inside Fort Macon.

6 April 1862

In a letter to his sister Abbie written on this date, Oliver apologizes for being tardy in his correspondence, but blames it on the almost constant movement of his regiment and what he calls “light marching order.” Because of this configuration, he has been unable to carrying along his writing materials.

Oliver closed his letter of 6 April in his normal manner asking about the news from home including the news of the burning of his Uncle J.A. Tuller’s house and the deaths of both William Mather and his wife. He is also very happy to have recently received a letter from his father.[143]

12 Apr 1862              

After some initial probing attacks by Parke’s Brigade, a permanent advance guard of five companies is organized and moves on the approaches to Fort Macon. According to Parke’s report “a skirmish occurred with the enemy, in which Captain Sheffield [of Company H] and a private of the Eighth Connecticut Regiment were wounded.”[144]

12 Apr 1862              

During this period, the brigade continues to push toward Fort Macon closing the noose around the fort where almost one-third of the garrison is now sick.

In late March 1862, the commanding officer of the 8th CVI, Colonel Edward Harland, was sick and bed-ridden with typhoid fever as his regiment was divided into three parts. Two companies were sent to occupy Beaufort and a few of the other companies were sent to secure Morehead City. The remaining companies including Company A crossed over from Carolina City to the Bogue Banks to begin movement toward Fort Macon located on the tip of the banks. Oliver Case had been on picket duty seven miles away from camp near Carolina City when his company departed. As Private Case caught up to his fellow soldiers over on the Bogue Banks, there was much work to be done in preparation to lay siege to Fort Macon and its Confederate garrison.

On April 12th, the 8th CVI being commanded by Major Hiram Appelman in the absence of Colonel Harland began their push toward the fort.

Croffut and Morris describe the action:

Major Hiram Appelman, now in command, marched his regiment by the right flank up the beach, and, when within three miles of the fort, filed across the island in line of battle. Company G, Capt. James L. Russell, was thrown out as skirmishers; and the regiment waded forward knee-deep in the yielding sand. The rebel skirmishers contested the advance, but were driven steadily back; and, while they retreated, they shouted, with absurd inaptness, “Come on, you d__d Yankees! we are enough for you !” Company H, Capt. Sheffield, was now deployed to skirmish; and the captain was severely wounded in the body. The exultant rebels continued to move back until they entered the fort; the Eighth having passed through a cedar-jungle, about a mile from the fort.[145]

General Parke writes in his report:

The enemy made two ineffectual attempts at night to dislodge us from our advanced position, in one of which Lieutenant Landers and a private of the Fifth Rhode Island Battalion were slightly wounded, and in the other Major Appleman and a private of the Eighth Connecticut Regiment received severe contusions from a discharge of grape while digging rifle pits within 750 yards of the fort.[146]           

17 Apr 1862

Oliver’s next letter is written to Abbie on this date…

Bouge Island, April 17th, 1862

I may not live to get home, but I think I stand as good a chance as anyone in the company…[147]

The irony of those words coming from Oliver Case exactly five months before he would lose his life on the fields outside Sharpsburg. Commenting again to his sister Abbie, Oliver expresses the surprise he felt before marching into his first combat experience at New Bern, N.C.

I felt very different upon the battle than I expected. There is not the dread of death that one naturally expects.[148]

What did he expect? Fear? Cowardly? Anger?

In an essay entitled,”How Does One Feel Under Fire?”, Civil War officer Frank Holsinger wrote of the deception of “feelings” upon entering battle:

In presentments of death I have no confidence. While I have seen men go into battle predicting truthfully their own death, yet I believe it is the belief of nine out of ten who go into battle that this is their last. I have never gone into battle that I did not expect to be killed. I have seen those who had no thought of death coming to them killed outright. Thus Corporal George Horton, wounded at South Mountain, wrapped his handkerchief around his wounded arm and carried the colors of our regiment to Antietam. Being asked why he did not make the best of it and go to the hospital, that he was liable to be killed, he answered, “The bullet has not been moulded to kill me.” Alas! he was killed the next day.[149]

This line of discussion by Oliver began as a result of a rumor sent back home by his “friend” Philo Matson that we first met in the letter of 16 March 1862.

Oliver complains to Abbie of Matson’s misinformation:

I do not see what object P.A. Matson can have in representing me sick and “will probably never be able to see Conn. again.” He knows that since I left Annapolis, with the bare exception of a short time upon the “Chasseur”, I have been perfectly healthy. I do not think that there is one in the company but what has had sick spells caused by exposure. I may not live to get home, but I think I stand as good a chance as anyone in the company, P.A. Matson to the contrary notwithstanding.[150]

According to the records of the 8th CVI, Matson may have already deserted by the time this rumor makes its way back to Simsbury. Case is concerned about his family hearing these rumors and worrying about his health. Interestingly, later in the letter Oliver admits that he has “been a little down with a cold for a week or ten days, but since I have got into camp I am all right.”

Oliver’s letter of 17 April 1862 does not comment on this operation carried out by the 8th. He does describe the work being done to affect the siege of Fort Macon.

Some of the companies are detailed each night to help build entrenchments and I think that by three or four days at farthest we shall open fire upon the fort. The mortars and field pieces are nearly all in position, and part of the howitzers.[151]

Oliver’s prediction is fairly accurate because the siege will begin in about 7 days. In the meantime, life on Bogue Banks is filled with the work of preparing positions for mortars being floated across the sound. The guns were moved up the island at night to avoid detection by the Confederates within Fort Macon. Protected firing positions were constructed for the guns using sandbags. Conditions were difficult for Oliver and his fellow soldiers as they worked.

The Eighth Connecticut Volunteers and 4th Rhode-Island were alternately on duty; when off duty, occupying an uncomfortable camp down the island. Rifle-pits were dug at night within two thousand feet from the fort, and constantly occupied. In front of them, in storms, the sea surged over the island. The sand was so movable, that the men were sometimes half covered.[152]

20 Apr 1862              

Some portion of the regiment is detailed to assist with the firing on Fort Macon and defense of the Union mortar batteries located on Bogues Bank. The scene is captured in an original painting owned by the University of North Carolina.

25 April 1862 around 1700

The white is raised over Fort Macon by the Confederate commander, Colonel Moses White. The next day, over 400 Confederate defenders surrender in a formal ceremony, the Confederate flag is lowered and the fort is reclaimed for the Union.

The siege of Fort Macon terminated during the last week in April by the surrender of the Confederate garrison – forced to such decision by the bombardment of Union batteries, which were supported by the Eighth. During the greater portion of the siege, – Colonel Harland being prostrated by typhoid fever – the regiment was under command of Major Appelman, who received a painful though not dangerous wound from a canister shot.[153]

Late Apr to 1 July 1862       

The regiment enjoyed a period of rest and refitting at New Bern.[154]

Week of 25 May 1862

General Burnside conducts a review of Parke’s Division at New Bern.[155]

6 Jun 1862

On a rainy day in his North Carolina camp, Oliver pens a letter to a “friend” which describes camp life and the nearby city of New Bern as being a very pleasant city that reminds him of New Haven, Connecticut. He also discusses the daily routine of the regiment and laments that he doesn’t like going to bed at 8:45pm. He gives the camp news of a great battle in Richmond that occurred on May 31st but has few details of the action. Unknown to Oliver and his fellow soldiers, this is the battle that will become known as “Seven Pines” and after initial Union retreats, it is practically a tactical draw. Most significantly, the overall commander of Confederate forces, General Joseph E. Johnston, is seriously wounded during the battle and will be soon replaced by the currently military advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee. Lee’s ascent to command will begin a new era in the war that will lead to an invasion of the north less than four months later. Burnside’s troops will be rushed to meet the threat outside the town of Sharpsburg, Maryland.[156]

 

ENDNOTES:

[108] IBID

[109] IBID

[110] The Bible of Oliver Cromwell Case, Author’s Collection.

[111] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (11 March 1862)

[112] IBID

[113] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (16 March 1862)

[114] IBID

[115] IBID

[116] OR, Parke, March 22, 1862.

[117] IBID and OR, Harland March 22, 1862.

[118] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (16 March 1862)

[119] IBID

[120] IBID

[121] IBID

[122] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[123] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (16 March 1862)

[124] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[125] History of the Eighth Regiment C. V. Infantry, J.H.Vaill, Case, Lockwood, and Brainard Co, Hartford, 1889.

[126] Letters of Cyrus B. Harrington, Connecticut Historical Society, March 15, 1862.

[127] OR, Parke, May 9, 1862.

[128] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (6 April 1862)

[129] IBID

[130] IBID

[131] IBID

[132] IBID

[133] OR, Parke, May 9, 1862.

[134] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[135] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (6 April 1862)

[136] IBID

[137] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[138] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (6 April 1862)

[139] OR, Parke, May 9, 1862.

[140] IBID

[141] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (6 April 1862)

[142] OR, Parke, May 9, 1862.

[143] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (6 April 1862)

[144] OR, Parke, May 9, 1862.

[145] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[146] OR, Parke, May 9, 1862.

[147] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (17 April 1862)

[148] IBID

[149] “How does one feel under fire?” An article written and read by Frank Holsinger, May 5, 1898.

[150] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (17 April 1862)

[151] IBID

[152] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[153]  Vaill, 1889.

[154] IBID

[155] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (6 June 1862)

[156] IBID

 

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