More on the Civil War

It has been some time since I wrote about anything. The research has been heavy and we are getting ready for our annual meeting, which will be about the War of 1812, and we are trying to find out the men from Killingly who served in that war. It is not easy to do as in the official book put out by the State of Ct. on this war they did list the men but not the town they came from. So, two of us have been working on this practically non-stop for weeks now and it has been very time consuming.

Also, as this is the historical societies 40th anniversary, we wanted to do a special project that will be on-going. We are going through some of our cemeteries to look for veterans stones (of all wars) to see if they still have their flag holders and flags. Many of the holders have been stolen to be turned in as scrap metal for cash. When we are finished with the survey we will then order as many flag holders as we need and make sure they are put out at the grave site.

While we are doing this we are noting other stones that may be broken, laying down, tilted or gone. As time goes on we want to fix the broken ones, and set up the ones tilted or laying down. It is quite a project. Every year we will do more.

One of our members and I are going through the New Westfield Cemetery and that is quite a job as it is a large cemetery and only part of it was mapped back in 1928. Many more stones have been put up since then and we have to map the rest of the cemetery.

So, I am going to put out more of the letters from our book “Dear Transcript” letters from the men of Windham County who served in the Civil War. I hope you enjoy them.

2 Oct. 1862
The Eighth Regiment
Sharpsburg, Md., Sept. 17th
Frank W. Spaulding

Dear Transcript: It is a painful task for me to describe the events of this day, and want of time forbids my giving a detailed account of the positions occupied by the contending forces. Early in the morning shot and shell from the enemies batteries came crashing through our ranks, and bursting over our heads. Our loss during the fire was four killed and several wounded. Our own batteries getting into position, soon silenced those of the enemy. About 4 o’clock P.M., we were ordered to the front, and again greeted by a furious fire of shot and shell to which our artillery gallantly responded. In the midst of the murderous fire General Rodman perceiving the enemy’s infantry preparing to advance upon us, ordered his division forward. The first Brigade, consisting of Hawkin’s Zouaves; the 89th and 103d New York Regiments, briskly ascended the hill, and received a terrible fire from three rebel brigades, who stationed behind fences and stone walls were completely sheltered. No troops could withstand such fire as was directed against them. Now came the order for the 2nd Brigade, consisting of the 4th R.I., and 16th, 11th, and 8th Connecticut to advance. The 16th Conn., 4th R.I. were sent to the left through a cornfield, and the gallant old 8th, alone and without support, followed in the wake of the 1st Brigade. As we reached the brow of the hill we looked for those that preceded us, but they had been compelled to retire. Now commenced a work of death and destruction which can neither be fully imagined or described. Grape and canister with thousands of bullets, mowed down our noble fellows, who scorning to retire stood up manfully to their work making every shot tell a tale of woe. The men fell on every side. Never was a more destructive fire directed upon one regiment than we sustained for twenty minutes. General Rodman gave the order to retire, but we had never yet turned our backs to the foe and we refused to do it now. Col. Appelman being wounded, also Gen. Rodman, Col. Harland trying to rally the 16th, the command devolved upon Major Ward. “Then will you follow me?” was his personal appeal, and rallying around the colors, stepping as fast as we could load and fire, we retired from the field. The Regiment lost in killed, wounded, and missing, 200 men out of 360 engaged.

16 Oct. 1862

The Battle Of Antietam

The following short but graphic description of the battle of Antietam, we clip from a letter in an exchange:–

“I don’t believe that there has been anything on this earth to compare with it since Waterloo. From sun to sun, twelve mortal hours, it was like hell broke loose. The darkness of Egypt from the dense choking smoke, relieved by thousands of sheets of red flame bursting out in every direction; the rifles rattling with a second’s cessation, like a bunch of crackers on the 4th; the five hundred cannon on both sides blending their discharges like the waves of the sea in one uninterrupted roar, that literally kept the ground vibrating like an earthquake; the infernal screaming of the shells, as if a thousand demons were hovering in the pitchy air overhead, the peculiar serpent like zing! zing! of the murderous Minnies, as they “toyed with your locks,” as the poets say; the short, sudden screams of the wounded all around you, and the deep prolonged groans of those who fell to rise no more; the hoarse shouting of officers; the yelling, cursing and hurrahing of whole square miles of men, black with powder and sweat, reeking with blood, and frantic with passion, made up a scene to which anything else in the world is flat, tame and expressionless.”

The following article (one of 17) was written by James F. Wilkinson, after he returned home from being a prisoner for a year. If you remember he was the editor of the Putnam part of the Windham County Transcript and had enlisted in April 1861 with the Buckingham Rifles of Norwich right away, was wounded at the first battle of Bull Run in July 1861 and taken prisoner. He was finally released in July of 1862.

30 Oct. 1862

Life Among The Rebels No. 16

At Salisbury, J. F. Wilkinson

The unchanging rations of sour bread and fat pork began to show their effects during the last weeks of our stay at Salisbury. There were numerous severe cases of scurvy among the prisoners, and there were but few among the entire number who had not the first symptoms of the complaint. Remedies were not to be had, and all looked forward to the time when the hot months would, in the language of the surgeon of the post, “make us die like rotten sheep.”

6 Nov. 1862
Editor writes:

We would urge upon the knitters of Windham County the necessity of taking immediate measures to supply the soldiers with mittens. Those made with a thumb and forefinger will be most useful, as with them, a musket can be handled as readily as with a glove.

27 Nov. 1862
written on 21
Nov. 1862
R. K. = Edwin Ruthven Keyes, Pomfret
Buckingham, Centreville Race Course, East N. Y., L. I.

Editor Transcript:– Our Colonel said to the regiment, that the food dealt out to human beings, was not such as government designed we should have, and paid for. Let me give you a little of the arrangement. Some one had contracted to supply us our rations cooked. They are cooked in large kettles. Potatoes are put in without washing; meat, ditto; cabbage, lice or no lice; beans without picking over, accompanied by rats or no rat-tails, and so on to the end of the chapter. But like loyal sons, as we are, we put it down, shutting our eyes and asking no questions for conscience’s sake, remembering it is all for our dear country.
                                            8 Jan. 1863
The Eighteenth
de Grace, Dec. 31st, 1862
Detachment = Moses Hallock, Danielsonville

Dear Transcript:– An incident, of a rather startling character, took place on the evening of the 29th, though we were not fully aware of it till the next morning. Mr. Taylor, of Sterling, came out on a visit to his two sons in this company, accompanied by Miss Philena Ladd, a young lady of their acquaintance. It so happened that the old gentleman, William A. Taylor, one of his boys, the young lady and our chaplain were all in a room together, and the consequence was that before the party broke up it was acknowledged that

Whoever says our chaplain’s bad
Is nothing but a railer:
Into that room she went—a Ladd,
He brought her out—a Taylor.

On the next evening the bridegroom—who is our room-mate—“came down” with a pail full of good elder and a large pan of apples, flanked with a bunch of cigars, and these, mixed with singing, extempore speeches, toasts, &c., caused the evening to pass pleasantly and quickly. For the newly wedded pair we wish a long life and a happy one, and may their children be like the blessings of God—neither few nor small.

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