Washington and Beyond (July 2 – September 15, 1862)

Omnia mea mecum porto (All that is mine, I carry with me). – Cicero

2 Jul 1862      

The 8th CVI is transported by rail to Morehead City, NC where they board the steamer “Admiral” and travel to Newport News, VA. The regiment spent the remaining days of July at Newport News.[157]

The historian of the Connecticut regiments described the movement and the soldiers’ new home at Newport News:

“On July 2, the Eighth moved to Morehead City, and thence on the transport Admiral to Newport News, where a camp was set on an exposed sandy plain. The Eleventh followed closely. The beach of Hampton Roads, near at hand, protracted the delight of bathing. A few oysters were scattered along the clean bottom ; and the boys felt out with their bare feet, dived down, and captured enough of the toothsome bivalves to break the monotony of salt pork and hard-tack.”[158]

Another regimental historian offered a more detailed view of Newport News:

At first view, Newport News had the appearance of a place where nothing new ever occurred or was likely to happen. A sandy plain, fifteen or twenty feet above the river, with a few old barracks, and some earthworks and ditches, constructed by General Butler’s troops; a gray sky, with spits of rain, made up the desolate picture. Beyond the plain was a swamp, with immense southern pitch-pines…[159]

It was during the month of July 1862 that the 8th was supplied with chaplain tents and an extensive library courtesy of the Chaplain’s Aid Commission of Connecticut. The commission was formed by many prominent men of the state as “an association to supply all Connecticut regiments with chapel-tents, circulating libraries, and regular newspapers, and to co-operate with the chaplains in the mental and moral welfare of the men.”[160]

Each of the ten regiments then in the field was furnished with a library of from seventy-five to a hundred and twenty-five bound volumes.By July, twelve hundred and eighty-four bound volumes had been forwarded, and fifty-four hundred and forty-eight magazines, with a very large number of illustrated and religious papers. The books sent were not worn out or cast off, but of high character and great variety.[161]

22 Jul 1862    

The War Department issues General Order No. 84 organizing the former expeditionary force under Major General Burnside into the Army IX Corps.

2 Aug 1862

4:00 pm

Oliver and 74 other members of the 8th CVI are assigned to baggage duty for the impending movement.

10:00 pm

Oliver and members of the 8th CVI depart their camp at Newport News go aboard the steamer “Columbia.”

4 Aug 1862

Noon

The 8th CVI departs Newport News aboard the “Columbia” with all baggage and horses. It is a very hot day.

4:00 pm

“Columbia” departs Fortress Monroe after a brief stop.

5 Aug 1862 Morning

The 8th and the 11th CVI arrive at Aquia Creek wharf and then then travel by rail to Fredericksburg, Virginia where they are assigned to stand for picket duty.

7 Aug 1862

From Fredericksburg, Virginia on August 7, 1862, Oliver Cromwell Case will write his last letter…at least the last letter known to exist 150 years later. He is worried that Abbie and the rest of his family would be reading the news of the movement of Burnside forces with apprehension regarding Oliver’s safety.

Knowing you would be anxious to know of my whereabouts, I take the first opportunity of addressing a few lines to you.[162]

Over one month earlier, the regiment, as part of Burnside’s expeditionary force, had relocated from their base of operations on the coast of North Carolina to Newport News, Virginia awaiting orders to potentially support George McClellan’s push to Richmond. However, things have gone sour for Little Mac as Robert E. Lee has taken command of the Army of Northern Virginia leading his troops to a series of victories causing McClellan to back away from Richmond. Burnside is once again ordered to relocate his force to Fredericksburg.

We left camp at Newport News, Saturday, August 2nd about 10 o’clock P.M. and went aboard the steamer “Columbia.” I was one of a detail of 75 men to load and unload baggage and convey it aboard. We were detail at 4 P.M. and finished at 3 A.M. Wednesday morning. I can tell you we felt like sleep about the time we finished our work.[163]

For Oliver and his fellow soldiers, the journey from Newport News to Acquia Creek via Fortress Monroe is not pleasurable. A crowded ship and the hot summer weather make conditions miserable.

We were all put upon one small steamer – baggage, horses and all – and the weather was hot, hotter, hottest. You can judge of the room we had but I was fortunate enough to get a place upon the hurricane deck and got all the breeze there was. We left the dock, or rather the steamer started the trip, about noon. We left Fortress Monroe at 4 P.M., arriving Aquia Creek next P.M. Went ashore next (Tuesday) morning, took the cars for the South. Here again I was fortunate enough to get on top of a box car and was quite comfortable while the train was in motion.[164]

Oliver and the 8th CVI made their camp on the grounds of the famous Lacy House (aka Chatham Manor) across the river from the city.[165] Previous guests of the Chatham Manor included George Washington and Abraham Lincoln who had visited for a meeting with Union General Irvin McDowell just four months prior to the arrival of the 8th Connecticut.

Oliver’s keen eye for the details of the geography and landscape is once again at work in this letter.

The road runs through the finest country I ever saw and contrasts strangely with the country we have seen heretofore. The place where we at last brought up is the pleasantest place I ever saw. The railroad runs through a fertile valley with low hills upon each side. We toiled up one of these hills to the east with our knapsacks and accoutrements on under a blazing sun, many falling out by the way. After supper, on reaching the top of the hill, we had a splendid view of the city of Fredericksburg and the village of Falmouth which lie west of the railroad upon either side of the Rappahannock.[166]

His assessment of the new surroundings continues with his usually comparison to something familiar back in Connecticut.

There are very many nice farm houses surrounded by any quantity of shade and fruit trees – some built the same style as Chester Seymour’s, but nicer. One peculiarity about the hilly land here is that it is so free from stones of any size and the land is comparatively smooth and the hills nearly regular. I saw some that were perfect cones and others that are in ranges so the sides are like the sides of a huge roller.[167]

Toward the end of the letter, Oliver reminds Abbie that the beautiful countryside is beset by a dangerous situation.

There are picketing skirmishes nearly every —— (words missing) —— We shall probably advance in a short time.[168]

His last words to his sister are of a practical nature dealing with the disposition of money he is enclosing for her. However, Oliver is unsuccessful in having the package containing the letter and the money sent via the Chaplain so he adds a note to the bottom of the letter dated August 9th that he is removing the money. So ends the last known letter of Oliver Cromwell Case.

 24 Aug 1862, Sunday

The 16th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment is formed and mustered into service at Hartford County, Connecticut after being recruited in the months of July and August. Under the command of Colonel Frank Beach, the regiment will depart for Washington in only five days to respond to the growing crisis in northern Virginia. Among the five sergeants assigned to Company E are the two older brothers of Oliver Case, Ariel and Alonzo. Ariel mustered in on August 5, 1862 at Hartford with Alonzo joining him two days later from Simsbury. Their company is under the command of Captain Charles Babcock of Canton.

28-30 Aug 1862

Events in northern Virginia on and near the old Bull Run battlefield during the last week of August are instrumental in setting in motion a chain of events that will climax at Sharpsburg three weeks later.

During this week, Confederate General Robert E. Lee sends the troops of General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson to attack Union’s Army of Virginia commanded by John Pope. On the 28th of August, Jackson ordered his commanders to attack Pope’s column moving along the Warrenton Turnpike. Although the Confederates have the element of surprise, there is no clear winner at the end of the day. It is the belief of Pope that he has pinned down Jackson and plans to finish him off the following day.

On the 29th, Pope concentrates his army in an attack against the Confederates who have taken positions in an unfinished railroad cut. Jackson’s troops turn back multiple attacks, but the casualties are heavy for both the Confederate and Union units. Pope seems unaware that almost 30,000 troops under General Longstreet are arriving on the field beginning at noon. Longstreet assumes positions to the right of Jackson.

On the third day of fighting, Pope again attacks Jackson with seeming disregard for the forces of Longstreet on his left. This is a serious mistake as Longstreet unleashes a massive artillery barrage against the attacking Union troops under Fitz John Porter. Longstreet follows with the largest mass assault of the war by all of his units slamming into the Union left flank driving them back across the Bull Run battlefield where they established defensive position on Henry House Hill. As darkness approaches, Pope orders an orderly retreat to Centreville. The Confederates are unable to pursue due to the darkness, fatigue and low supplies of ammunition.

In Fredericksburg, Burnside is put on notice to be prepared to move his army to the north in support of Pope.

31 Aug 1862, Sunday           

In anticipation of supporting future defensive operations to protect Washington, the 8th CVI is withdrawn from picket duty and returns to the city of Fredericksburg.

On [August 31st] the Eighth was withdrawn from picket beyond Fredericksburg, and retired through the town and across the river, greeted by the scowls and taunts of the rebel citizens, who threatened to fire upon the column from their houses.[169]

The soldiers and much of their equipment is soaked following a night of downpours.

1 Sep 1862 Morning 

Lee sends Stonewall Jackson in an attempt to interpose his force between Pope and the capital at the Battle of Chantilly. Meanwhile, Union forces to include the 8th CVI continue to evacuate Fredericksburg and return to Washington, DC to prepare for its defense. The federal capital begins to panic and Union forces are recalled to man the defenses. The 8th begins the evacuation in the morning.[170]

As the evacuation proceeds, orders are given to lighten the load of baggage to the maximum extent possible. Officers prepare their trunks for shipment to Washington. Even the Chaplain has to abandon his chapel tent and the extensive library that he has compiled for the regiment.[171]

The scene at Fredericksburg is one of finality as nothing is left behind for possible use by the Confederates. One regimental historian describes it:

Vast piles of rations and other stores, together with the government buildings, were set on fire and consumed. The two large bridges crossing the river were also destroyed, and clouds of black smoke rolled up into the heavens, as the flames darted to and fro among the dry buildings, and their valuable contents.[172]

Many slaves have flocked to the Union army while they occupy Fredericksburg seeking freedom and the protection of the Federal Army. Now, the former slaves are concerned about their fate as they witness the federal troops preparing to leave the city. Despite the prohibition on excess baggage, Burnside agrees to take along the former slaves with their families to Washington.[173]

1:00pm

With the sounds of battle from the direction of Washington in their ears, the 8th and the 11th reach Brooks Station on the Acquia Creek and prepare defensive positions likely to protect the withdrawal of Burnside’s force via water.

This is a place of easy defense, the road winding along between high hills. Col. Kingsbury of the Eleventh, now in command of the brigade, disposed his forces along the slopes; and a beautiful stream with a dilapidated dam afforded nearly all the men, by turns, a refreshing bath. Some families of negroes volunteered to bake hot corn dodgers till sundown for the hungry men, and joined the column, when, in the cool evening, it proceeded to Acquia Creek.[174]

After a defeat at Manassas, General Pope has withdrawn his army to Centreville and is engaged with Jackson at Chantilly. Due to Jackson’s aggressive attempts to cut off his retreat, Pope is now moving his army to prepare to defend Washington from Confederate attack and prevent its destruction.

2 Sep 1862

Although no specific historical account exists of the activities of the 8th CVI on this date, the regiment likely prepared for their movement north via water. The soldiers would be engaging in the time-honored tradition of “hurry up and wait” known to soldiers of all armies. The previous evening, the brigade had arrived from Brooks Station bringing with them many former slaves.

In September of 1862, Oliver and his fellow soldiers would have found the Aquia Landing to be a busy transfer point for personnel and supplies. The Union army had begun to transform the site into a supply depot after the Confederates abandoned it earlier in 1862. The history of the landing as a transportation hub dated back to 1846 when the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad was extended to the site. This now made it possible for a traveler to make the journey from Richmond to Washington in about nine hours utilizing the railroad and water transport. Previously, the same journey would take 38 hours traveling by stagecoach. In mid-1861, the Confederate had establishes batteries at the site and traded fire with the Union Navy before abandoning the site less than a year later.

The Union Army would burn the landing after the evacuation of northern Virginia in September 1862 only to rebuild it a few months later.

Also on this day, a small but important skirmish occurred to west of Aquia Landing. It became known as the Battle of Mile Hill as Confederate cavalry forces under Colonel Thomas Munford attacked a Union cavalry force composed of Cole’s Maryland Cavalry and the Loudoun Rangers just north of Leesburg, Virginia. The engagement was the first in the Maryland Campaign of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and allowed the Confederate forces to occupy Leesburg and begin crossing the Potomac River only four days later.

3 Sep 1862 Evening  

The 8th arrives at Washington, DC and makes camp on the grounds of the White House near the Washington Monument.[175] Washington is still buzzing from the belief that General Lee will soon attack the capital with his forces now believed to be massing to the south. However, Lee has other plans for his army. On this very day, the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia has written a letter to President Jefferson Davis informing him that the army is beginning to move to the west and contemplating a movement over the Potomac unless there is objection from the President. Lee has built a force of 55,000 soldiers organized into two corps under Jackson and Longstreet while McClellan has been named to organize the defense of Washington for the Union.

4 Sep 1862     

Harland’s Brigade (at the time consisting of only the 8th and 11th) conducts a march through the streets of Washington and settles again into their camp on the grounds of the Capitol. The march is noted in the Washington newspapers and the regiment is so impressive that the 8th is mistaken for troops of the Regular Army.

Next morning, they marched through the city in their best style; and the boys of the Eighth long remembered, and repeated with a smile, the announcement in the Star next evening, that “the Eighth Regiment of United-States Regulars marched in splendid order to join the forces of McClellan.”[176]

Today is very special because Oliver and his friends will receive a large amount from of mail from home for the first time in many days.

Up the Potomac from Washington, Lee has sent the division of division of General D.H. Hill across the river at Edward’s Ferry. Thus, the invasion of Maryland by the Army of Northern Virginia has begun and the Confederates are now on a course that will guide them to the town of Sharpsburg in less than two weeks.

Fri 5 Sep

Lee is hoping to draw the Union army out of the defenses of Washington by moving into Maryland on the previous day. President Lincoln has responded to the poor performance of Pope by bringing back McClellan to oversee the defense of Washington, but McClellan knows he must react to the Army of Northern Virginia’s move into Maryland. However, he is under no orders directing that he move the army to meet Lee’s invasion. After McClellan becomes aware that General Lee is moving his army north of the Potomac into Maryland, McClellan begins the very slow westward movement of six of his eight corps consisting of about 84,000 troops. Initially, this action is only intended to expand the defensive perimeter for Washington and potentially react to any Confederate threat to Baltimore.

It is a lively atmosphere as the southern soldiers reach the Maryland shore of the Potomac River. Bands are playing and troops are singing, “Maryland, My Maryland.”

The despot’s heel is on thy shore,

Maryland! My Maryland!

His torch is at thy temple door,

Maryland! My Maryland!

Avenge the patriotic gore

That flecked the streets of Baltimore,

And be the battle queen of yore,

Maryland! My Maryland!

Meanwhile, the 8th and 11th CVI regiments continue to make camp in Washington. Harland’s Brigade remains short at least one veteran regiment, the 4th Rhode Island. The 4th RI is still enroute to Washington from Acquia Landing. Unknown to Oliver, the fourth and final regiment to join Harland’s Brigade will be the newly formed 16th Connecticut. His brothers Ariel and Alonzo have recently enlisted in the 16th and we can safely assume that the mail received from home the previous day has brought this news to him.

Saturday 6 Sep

10 AM

The lead elements of Lee’s army reach Frederick, Maryland. One of the first encounters occurs on the grounds of the old Hessian Barracks being used as a Union hospital. Surgeon Pat Henry and other Union medical personnel who have been left to care for the sick and wounded encounter Confederate cavalrymen who demand and receive the surrender of the facility. Only six days later, Oliver Case and the 8th CVI will enter these same grounds.

The 4th Rhode Island Infantry Regiment arrives in Washington via the steamer State of Maine and immediately goes on the march to rejoin Harland’s Brigade. According to the history of the regiment, the route of march carried the troops up 7th street to place called Meridian Hill where they made camp. Presumably, this served as the rally point for the Harland’s other two regiments, the 8th and 11th Connecticut prior to marching north in search of the Confederates.

Meridian Hill received its name from John Porter who built his mansion there in 1819. Two years later, Columbian College was founded on the hill and was later renamed George Washington University. Prior to the Civil War, the hill served as a public gathering spot for the residents of Washington. After the war began, Camp Cameron was established on the hill known now as “Georgetown Heights” to house Union soldiers.

Sun 7 Sep Early AM

It is early in the morning when Oliver Case and the soldiers of the 8th Connecticut receive the order to march north out of Washington, DC. General McClellan’s newly formed army is slow in leaving the capital city and once on the road, the 8th CVI is delayed until 10:00 am. Roads are crowded with the wagon trains of the Army of the Potomac and thousands of soldiers in hundreds of regiments. This Sunday is particularly hot and the sun is beating down on a march route is covered with a dust cloud that’s stifling the mass of soldiers. The 8th along with the other two regiments of Harland’s Brigade march a total of 10 miles for the day. A halt is called Leeboro, Maryland were the brigade will make camp and rest for two full days.[177] Leesboro is the modern-day unincorporated town of Wheaton.

Leesboro or Leesborough received its name in 1826 and served as a hub for business that naturally developed near the junction of three major roads. Modern Maryland Route 97 was known as the Brookeville Pike or the Washington-Brookeville Pike and ran from Washington to Brookeville, Maryland and then to Baltimore. The Old Bladensburg Road was the second major route through Leesboro now known as Maryland Route 193, University Boulevard connecting the cities of Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Georgetown and Bladensburg. The last route was Veirs Mill Road, Maryland Route 586. During the Civil War it was known as the New Cut Road and ran from the sawmill of Samuel Veirs on Rock Creek to Rockville and then across the Potomac River into Virginia.

As the army moves out of Washington, McClellan has reorganized the Army of the Potomac for the Maryland Campaign with General Burnside being named as the Right Wing commander with the II and IX Corps subordinate to him. The 8th CVI remains as part of Harland’s Brigade which is assigned to the Third Division of the IX Corps with Isaac P. Rodman as the Division commander.

Isaac Peace Rodman was a Rhode Island Quaker born to Samuel Rodman and Mary Peckham in South Kingstown on August 18, 1822. As an adult, he married Sally Arnold, the daughter of the Rhode Island Governor Lemuel Arnold and went into business with his brother and his father. Rodman worked as a banker and entered the political arena serving as a town councilman and as a state representative and senator. Interestingly, he was a strong Quaker serving as both a Bible teacher and superintendent of the Sunday School.

With the arrival of the Civil War, Rodman found himself caught in a conundrum between the Quaker pacifist teachings and his patriotic devotion to preserving the Union. However, he quickly resolved this conflict and raised a company of men for the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry going on to serve as the captain. After intense fighting at the First Battle of Bull Run which claimed the life of the regimental commander, the 3-month unit was deactivated. Rodman was soon appointed as the colonel of the newly formed 4th Rhode Island with Burnside’s expeditionary force where he fought in the campaign on the North Carolina coast in the first half of 1862. Rodman quickly rose to brigade command with a promotion to General. After recovering at home in Rhode Island from a bout of typhoid fever, he returned to assume command of the Third Division of the IX Corps at the beginning of the Maryland Campaign.

On the same day as the rest of Harland’s Brigade reaches Leesboro, the 16th CVI departs Fort Ward near Arlington, Virginia to join the rest of the brigade on the march west. The 16th departed Connecticut only one week earlier and are ill-prepared for combat receiving very little training. “It was little more than a crowd of earnest Connecticut boys.”[178]

Oliver’s two older brothers, Ariel and Alonzo are members of the 16th CVI. It can be safely assumed that Oliver is aware that his brothers are in the 16th because the 8th had received mail four days earlier while in Washington. In his last available letter written on August 7, 1862 while in Fredericksburg, Oliver gives no indication that he is aware of his brothers’ decision to join. No matter his awareness of his brothers decision, Oliver will soon have a physical reunion with both of them.

Monday 8 September 1862

Although McClellan is under no orders to go on the offensive, he continues to slowly set the army in motion as it becomes more organized. Newspapers begin to recognize that Little Mac is organizing and moving the army north and west from the capital with one paper commenting that “McClellan’s presence leads many to suppose he is to assume offensive action.”

Burnside’s wing of the army made significant progress on the previous day and the 8th CVI remains at Leesboro while the other wings of the Army of the Potomac continue moving north. It’s unlikely that Oliver had the opportunity to explore much of the surrounding area as security was tight with the possibility of receiving orders to move out at any moment.

This is likely a special day for the Case family because the 16th CVI has now made the march from Fort Ward and Oliver is reunited with his two brothers, Ariel and Alonzo. Oliver enlisted in the 8th Connecticut almost one full year prior to his older brothers’ enlistment in the 16th Connecticut.

Evening

J.E.B. Stuart, General Lee’s cavalry commander, along with his staff officers arrive at Urbana, Maryland where they are warmly welcomed by many of the citizens. Stuart, well known for his flash and frolic, decides to host a party at the Landon House, a large abandoned building that formerly housed a military academy. With music provided by the 18th Mississippi Cavalry Regiment’s band, the party was well attended by local ladies and became known as the Sabers and Roses Ball.” The dance was temporary interrupted by Union cavalry action that was dealt with before the Confederate officers returned to the party.

Tuesday 9 September 1862

The 8th CVI departs Leesboro on a “fine and warm” day and marches north to Brookeville where they take a two-hour rest halt before moving “to little village of Drainsville.”[179]

The town of Brookeville was founded in 1794 by Quakers and was centered around a mill on the Reddy Branch which flows through the middle of the town. The town was officially chartered in 1808. One of the affluent farmers of the area built a turnpike in 1849 that connected Brookville to the Seventh Street Pike from Washington to facilitate the movement of goods to market. It is along this road which would later be known as Georgia Avenue that soldiers of the IX Corps including Oliver Case and the 8th Connecticut marched in September of 1862.

Based on Captain Walcott Marsh’s mileage estimate of 20 miles that day, this is likely the modern community of Sunshine, Maryland. Marsh described his experiences on this day:

We thus far had seen but few sighs of rebels though citizens said, that their cavalry had left day before. Thus far from Washington our road lay along a kind of ridge and the country is hilly but very fertile as every where might be seen large quantities of wheat and corn.[180]

Oliver and his fellow soldiers were subjected to what was described as “weather [that] was hot and dry” and a “march [that was] exhausting.”[181] The soldiers had no choice but to continue moving as “the men pressed on, sleeping as they could, and eating whenever rations were to be had.”[182]

Joel Cook, a special correspondent for the Philadelphia Press, described the soldier’s challenge on the march:

No hardships were harder than those of the march, if we are to trust the voluminous testimony of the foot soldiers. The roads were dusty in the summer, muddy in the winter; the soldier was dressed in heavy woolens, loaded down with fifty or sixty pounds of equipment, often without food for long stretches of the day. It is no wonder that straggling was almost universal, or that literally thousands of men fell out of line and got lost.[183]

Wednesday 10 September 1862 – Drainsville, Maryland

Private Oliver Case and the rest of his comrades in Harland’s Brigade remain in camp in the small village of Drainsville believed to be the modern town of Sunshine, Maryland. While Union commanders made their best attempt to enforce discipline in the ranks, straggling both purposeful and accidental is a significant problem. During these periods in camp along the route of march, many soldiers wandered away from camp in search of local hospitality. One such soldier was Charles Buell of Company E, 8th Connecticut who wrote in his diary that “in my search after wood I got lost and wandered all day.”[184]

General McClellan’s army is slowly making its way toward the Confederate Army and he now believes that Pennsylvania may be Lee’s intended target as he warns Governor Curtin:

Everything that we can learn induces me to believe that the information you have received is substantially correct. I think the enemy are checked in the directions of Baltimore and Gettysburg. You should concentrate all the troops you can in the vicinity of Chambersburg, not entirely neglecting Gettysburg. I will follow them up as rapidly as possible, and do all I can to check their movements into Pennsylvania.[185]

In Frederick, Robert E. Lee has placed his army in motion per Special Order 191. From early morning until evening, the Army of Northern Virginia moves in columns of four through the streets of Frederick. An event with future implications for Oliver Case and the 8th Connecticut takes place this day in Stonewall Jackson’s command. After being under arrest at the direction of Jackson for the past week, division commander A.P. Hill requests that Jackson allow him to assume command of his “Light Division” again for the next fight that now seems to be very close. Jackson realizes that Major General Hill is an excellent division commander and will be sorely needed for the coming battles.

An officer in Hill’s division recorded that once reinstated Hill donned “his coat and sword he mounted his horse and dashed to the front of his troops, and looking like a young eagle in search of his prey, he took command of his division to the delight of all his men…”

Thu 11 Sep 1000       

After spending two nights at Drainsville, the 8th Connecticut and the rest of IX Corps finally moves out toward Frederick. The 8th falls in line and begins the march at 7:00am as part of Rodman’s Division. The hot and dusty march continues until the regiment reaches what Captain Marsh calls the “little dirty village of Damascus.” The soldiers have marched about 10 miles, but their day is not done. After a rest halt, Oliver Case and his comrades form up and move out again until they reach the town of Ridgeville (now part of modern Mount Airy) near the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad line.

Mount Airy was formed by the incorporation of two towns, Parrsville and Ridgeville. The eastern most town was Parrsville that drew its name from the spring located in the town that forms the headwaters of the Patapsco River. It also formed the corners of four Maryland counties, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery and Carroll.

To the west of Parrsville was Ridgeville, the town occupied by the 8th Connecticut on September 11, 1862. The town was founded on the highest elevation along the National Pike between Baltimore and Braddock Heights. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad followed this route to the east and during the 19th century at Ridgeville, horses were used to help to pull the railcars up the steep inclines on the east side.[186]

A heavy rain begins falling after nightfall and continues all night.[187] Captain Marsh suffers from the rain, but does manage to enjoy some Maryland hospitality:

I got wet completely through but that is one of the variety of soldiers life. I was fortunate enough to get an excellent supper at a rich old Dutch farmers. They were strong union and hid their flag while rebels were around.[188]

Back in Hartford, Connecticut, a baby boy is born to Mary Elizabeth Thompson Case, the wife of Ariel Case, Oliver’s brother. In keeping with tradition, the baby does not receive a name until many days later likely at the prompting of his father. The name selected for the boy is Oliver Cromwell Case, a tribute to his uncle who will never lay eyes upon his nephew.

Fri 12 Sep Morning  

8th CVI goes on the march again following along the B&O line for part of the march. Again this day, the wagons and soldiers created a significant impediment to movement along the muddy road. They take a rest halt in New Market before marching into the city of Frederick.

Dr. Lewis H. Steiner, the Inspector of the Sanitary Commission who had remained in Frederick during the Confederate occupation, described the scene in the city on this day:

Martial music is heard in the distance; a regiment of Ohio volunteers makes its appearance and is hailed with most enthusiastic demonstrations of joy. Handkerchiefs are waved, flags are thrown from Union houses, and a new life appears infused into the people. Burnside enters amid vociferous plaudits from every one, and the citizens, with enthusiastic eagerness, devote themselves to feeding the troops and welcoming them to their houses, as their true deliverers from a bondage more debasing than that of the African slave.[189]

The soldiers of Harland’s Brigade are also well received in the city and move to the grounds of the Hessian barracks.

The Hessian barracks in Frederick Maryland dates from the time of the French and Indian war. Although there is some dispute about the actual date of construction, contemporary accounts indicate that the barracks was built to house the soldiers of General Braddock during the French and Indian war as they marched along on their route to Fort Dusquene. The barracks saw limited use during the Revolutionary War as it was in a state of partial completion but in the years leading up to the Civil War, it was used for various functions. The barracks and it grounds were used as an armory and a silk worm production facility as well as a fairgrounds in the years just prior to the Civil War.

During the Civil War, the barracks famously served as a Union hospital after the battle of Antietam. However, prior to the battle of Antietam the grounds of the Hessian barracks served as a campground for many of the Union regiments marching from Washington in pursuit of Robert E Lee’s Army. On September 12, 1862, Oliver Cromwell Case and the soldiers of the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment marched into Frederick and made their camp on the grounds of the Hessian barracks. At this time, the barracks was in use as a hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers.

The soldiers of the 8th Connecticut along with the rest of the Army of the Potomac sojourning in the city of Frederick received a warm welcome from the citizens who were glad to be relieved of the occupation by Confederate forces.

Women blessed God and the soldiers, and rushed out to kiss the old flag ; gray-haired men hobbled forth with radiant faces ; and the young shouted their welcome ; while children capered in holiday glee.[190]

According to several letters from members of the Eighth, many of Frederick’s fair citizenry provided meals and other tokens of appreciation. CPT Marsh recalls in a letter to home:

Where such demonstrations of joy were made at our coming as I never witnessed. Women came rushing up to us screaming and clapping hands and acting as if crazy. One woman seemed determined to throw her arms around my neck and several of officers were kissed by fair ones. The yard and hospital were full of sick rebels 600 of them and 150 of ours left when city was evacuated. The Surgeon came up to our colors and kissed them tears of joy dropping from his eyes. We halted and regit bivouacked in hospital yard for night. I took a walk down through city with Capt. Smith to try and get something eat but at all hotels they were eat out and seemed to be every where by rebels.[191]

CPT Marsh also recounts being invited into a Frederick home for supper along with CPT Smith of Company E.

I took a walk down through city with Capt. Smith to try and get something eat but at all hotels they were eat out and seemed to be every where by rebels. We inquired at one hotel where got same answer as before “nothing to eat” a gentleman standing by beckoned us to follow him. We did. So when were taken to a fine residence a few streets distance and told to walk in where found table set. Were taken up stairs to wash room where got off some dirt, Then took seats to table and had an excellent supper. Very fine people.[192]

Charles Buell of Company E remembered “citizens and girls fairly leapt and cried for joy” and that the soldiers were given wine and they had “hot tea and warm biscuit with butter.”[193]

As Oliver and his fellow Connecticut soldiers enjoyed the hospitality of Frederick, General George McClellan made his entrance to the city in fine style. The citizens of Frederick welcomed Little Mac as a liberating hero with citizens turning out to wave flags and present the general with flowers. Many men and women wept openly with joy at his arrival in this pro-Union Maryland town. Oliver and his comrades likely witnessed the grand scene of McClellan’s arrival in Frederick.

Sat 13 Sep Morning 

Private Oliver Case and the members of the 8th Connecticut are cheered again by the citizens as they leave Frederick. The regiment deploys skirmishers as they prepared to cross Braddock mountain outside of Frederick. They entered Middletown on the far side of the mountain taking up positions just before sundown. Although it appeared that they were close behind the enemy, there would be no serious engagement with the Confederates on this day.

Charles S. Buell of the 8th Connecticut described the day in his diary:

We started this morning from the city throwing out skirmishers in advance. At this time we have been winding our way up the mountain to make a flank movement probably. I am feeling quite well, with exception of the reumatism in my left leg. Our march today has been a rapid one pursuing the enemy close to their heels. The cavalry had a skirmish with the rear guard to their baggage.[194]

Captain Marsh confirms the action of the day:

Skirmishers were thrown out and we commenced ascending the mountain but up it we went and wound around to left again and down into another valley where came to another village called Middle Town but were not in time to get any rebel. Excepting stragglers as they discovering our movement skedadled…we had not rested more than hour before were marched out side town and formed in line of battle not knowing but enemy intended to attack us as they had driver in our cavalry but the night pass with out an alarm.[195]

In the larger context of the campaign, this was a highly significant day. Sometime before noon, Major General McClellan was presented a two page document purported to be a copy of Robert E. Lee’s battle plan known as Special Order 191. The document had been discovered that morning in a field outside of Frederick by soldiers of Company F, 27th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. The orders were wrapped around two cigars in an envelope and discovered on the ground near today’s Monocacy National Battlefield. McClellan’s staff quickly attested to the handwriting and signature of R. H. Chilton, Lee’s assistant adjutant general and by evening the general had issued marching orders for the following morning.

Sun 14 Sep

Early Morning          

Oliver Case and the soldiers of the 8th CVI were awaken at daylight by the sounds of battle coming from South Mountain. The regiment ate a breakfast of “bushmeal” before moving out toward the sound of battle in the late morning.

The regiment moved up the mountain toward the battle and deployed into a line of battle.[196]

Kanawha Division commander (and future IX Corps commander) Major General Jacob Cox described the scene and the route toward South Mountain:

The valley is 6 or 8 miles wide, and the National road, as it goes north-westward, crosses South Mountain at a depression called Turner’s Gap. The old Sharpsburg road leaves the turnpike a little west of Middletown, turns to the left, and crosses the mountain at Fox’s Gap, about a mile from Turner’s. The mountain crests are about 1300 feet above the Catoctin valley, and the “gaps” are from 200 to 300 feet lower than the summits near them. These summits are like scattered and somewhat irregular hills upon the high rounded surface of the mountain-top. They are wooded, but along the south-easterly slopes, quite near the top of the mountain, are small farms with meadows and cultivated fields.[197]

Rodman’s Division to include the 8th Connecticut takes a position on the right of the Old Sharpsburg Road (modern Fox Gap Road) and assumes a supporting role. Bullets fly over the heads of the soldiers and several times the regiment is ordered to its feet to prepare to fight only to be ordered back to the ground. Throughout the day no engagement with the enemy occurs for Harland’s Brigade. Silence settled over the area at around 9:00 pm and the 8th slept in their battle positions.[198]

The Confederate General D.H. Hill is defending Turner’s Gap and Fox’s Gap with about 5,000 men over a two mile front. Burnside uses Hooker’s Corps in the lead of the attack at Turner’s with Reno’s Corps (to which the 8th CVI is assigned) attacking Fox’s. The fighting is intense and the Confederates are forced to reposition units to support the defense of the gaps. However, at dark, the Confederates are still holding the line. General Lee orders the retreat of Hill’s forces because Crampton’s Gap has fallen to the Union forces. The battle is considered a success by Lee because he has delayed McClellan by a day allowing him more time to concentrate his forces that have been divided.

According to Croffut and Morris:

Early on the 14th the 9th Corps moved up on the left of the Hagerstown Pike, and by noon became warmly engaged; quickly driving the enemy half-way up the acclivity. By two o’clock, the 2d Corps arrived; but the 9th kept the lead. The Eighth and Eleventh Connecticut Regiments were held in reserve, and were under fire without being engaged. At four o’clock, the whole line advanced, after a fruitless artillery contest.

It was emphatically an infantry fight. Our column, pressing resolutely forward, met with strong resistance. Now the rebel line would be driven up almost to the summit; and, before the Union cheers died away, there would be a fresh crack of musketry, and our forces would recoil, while rebel yells echoed along the rocky hillside. The Union reserve was so near, that bullets chipped the branches overhead. Often the Eighth and Eleventh were called to their feet; but, when the wave of battle receded, they lay down again.[199]

It is costly for the IX Corps as Major General Jesse Reno, considered one of the finest commanders in the Union Army, is killed at Fox’s Gap by a Confederate sharpshooter.  His death will have a significant impact on the operations at the Battle of Antietam just three days later.

Mon 15 Sep   

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.[200]

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.”[201]

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.[202]

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.[203]

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.

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.[204]

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.”[205] 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.[206]

 

ENDNOTES:

[157]  Vaill, 1889.

[158]  Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[159]  History of the Thirty-Fifth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, 1862-1865; Mills, Knight and Company, Boston, 1884.

[160] Croffut and Morris, 1868

[161] IBID

[162] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (7 August 1862)

[163] IBID

[164] IBID

[165] Vaill, 1889.

[166] Case Letters, 1861-62.

[167] IBID

[168] IBID

[169] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[170] Vaill, 1889.

[171] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[172] Forty-Six Months with the Fourth R. I. Volunteers, George H. Allen, Reid, Providence, 1887.

[173] IBID

[174] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[175] Allen, 1887.

[176] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[177] Letters of Wolcott P. Marsh (unpublished), accessed from The Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers at Antietam website, http://home.comcast.net/~8cv/8cv-frame.html

[178] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[179] Letters of Wolcott P. Marsh (unpublished), accessed from The Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers at Antietam website, http://home.comcast.net/~8cv/8cv-frame.html

[180] IBID

[181] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[182] IBID

[183] The Siege of Richmond, Joel Cook, George W. Childs, Philadelphia, 1862.

[184]  Diary of Charles S. Buell, 8th Connecticut, as published on Antietam on the Web, http://antietam.aotw.org/exhibit.php?exhibit_id=369

[185] George B. McClellan Letter to Governor Andrew G. Curtin, 10 September 1862.

[186] “Parrsville & Ridgeville: Two Towns at the Four Corners,” HMdb.org, The

Historical Marker Database, Accessed from http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=4933

[187] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[188] Marsh

[189] Report of Lewis H. Steiner, M.D., Lewis H. Steiner, Anson D.F. Randolph, New York, 1862.

[190] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[191] Marsh

[192] IBID

[193] Buell

[194] IBID

[195] Marsh

[196] Buell

[197] “Forcing Fox’s Gap and Turner’s Gap,” Jacob D. Cox, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War: Volume I, edited by Robert Underwood Johnson and Clarence Clough Buel, The Century Co., New York, 1887-1888.

[198] Marsh

[199] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[200] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[201] Allen, 1887.

[202] Marsh

[203] Buell

[204] Marsh

[205] Buell

[206] Buell

 

 

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