The Eighth Regiment was organized at Camp Buckingham, Hartford, in September, 1861. It was commanded by Colonel Edward Harland of Norwich, who had recently returned from a three months' service in the field as a Captain in the Third Regiment.
The regiment left Hartford October 17th, and for a fortnight was in camp of instruction at Jamaica, L.I. November 1st it proceeded to Annapolis. Early in January, 1862, the Eighth sailed with the Burnside Expedition. The Confederate forces on Roanoke Island were attacked February 7th, where the Eighth suffered no loss, being held in reserve. After a month's stay at Roanoke Island, Burnside's forces moved toward Newbern, by transports to Slocum's Creek (about eighteen miles below the city), thence marching up the south bank of the Neuse to the city's line of defense.
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 of Newbern, together with his skill and cool-headednesss 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.
The next move of the regiment was March 19th - to engage in the siege of Fort Macon; by steamer to Slocum's Creek, thence marching down the railroad. 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.
Soon after the surrender of Fort Macon, the Eighth returned by steamer to Newbern, where it enjoyed two months of rest and recuperation. On the 2d of July the regiment went by rail to Morehead City, thence by steamer "Admiral" to Newport News, Va., where it encamped dring the remainder of the month. On the first of August, in company with the Eleventh Connecticut, the Eighth went by transport to Aquia Creek, thence by rail to Fredericksburg, going into camp in front of the Lacy House, across the river from the city, where the month of August was spent, the regiment doing picket duty every other day to the westward of Fredericksburg.
With the first of September came the evacuation of Fredericksburg by the Union troops, which were ordered to Washington, where the Eighth arrived on the 3d. The regiment rested in bivouac on Capitol Hill until the 8th, when commenced the march which led to the battle of Antietam (September 17th), by which brought to the Eighth a severer loss than was occasioned by any other action during the war. Its total loss in that engagement was one hundred and ninety-four killed, wounded, and missing. Its death roll included Lieutenant Marvin Wait of Norwich, son of Connecticut's honored citizen, John T. Wait. Enlisting as a private soldier when but eighteen, the story of his heroic fortitude amid the carnage of battle will be preserved upon Connecticut's historic page along with that of Nathan Hale, the youthful martyr spy. Though severly wounded in his right arm, Lieutenant Wait refused to go to the rear, and seizing his sword with his left hand, encouraged his men to press on, until he fell riddled by bullets.
Of the officers wounded at Antietam were Lieutenant-Colonel Appelman, Captain McCall, 1st Lieutenants Henry F. Morgan and Russell, Lieutenant Eaton, Captains Ripley, Main, Jones, and Nelson Bronson. Conspicous among the enlisted men killed were the brave and broad-shouldered Whiting Wilcoox, George H. Marsh (killed by a cannon ball early in the day), George F. Booth, Harvey E. Elmore, David Lake, Oscar W. Hewitt, Robert Ferris, Elijah White, and Charles E. and William G. Lewis. - most if not all of these last named the color-guard, who fell in the line of battle, while defending their trust.
Six weeks later came the movement of the Army of the Potomac toward Fredericksburg, where it arrived November 19th. The Eighth pitched its shelter tents in front of the Lacy House again, within a stone's throw of its camp of the previous August. The fruitless attack upon the enemy's entrenched positions brought a loss of more than twelve thousand men to the Union forces, but Harland's Brigade, of which the Eighth formed a part, was fortunate in not getting into the hottest portions of the field. Its loss was one killed and two wounded. The laying of a pontoon bridge across the Rappahannock was the most hazardous of the first day's tasks, the fire from Confederate sharpshooters, entrenched on the opposite side of the river, being disasterous. An hundred men from the Eighth responded to the call for volunteers, and led by Captain Marsh and Lieutenants Morgan and Ford, went down to the river bank to assist in the terrible ordeal - as brave a band as rode into the "Valley of Death" at Balaklava - but they came back alive only because the chief of the engineers corps decided that it was useless to slaughter an hundred brave men in the attempt: the sharpshooters could only be silenced by artillery.
Early in February (1863) Harland's Brigade (Eighth, Eleventh, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Connecticut) went down the Potomac and spent a month at Newport News, quartered in comforatble barracks. About the middle of March a move was made to Suffolk, where the brigade was assigned to Peck's Division. Here the Eighth had little to do of an exciting nature, except when six companies, under Colonel Ward, made a dash upon a Confederate battery on the Nansemond River, which was captured without firing a shot, so complete and daring a surprise was the movement to the enemy. The regiment remained in the vicinity of Portsmouth during the summer of 1863, occasionally being called out in various directions on short raids.
In December, 1863, three hundred and ten of the original members of the Eighth re-enlisted as veterans, and in January, 1864, went to Connecticut on veteran furlough.
March 1st found the regiemnt returned to the field for duty. On the 13th it was ordered to Deep Creek; April 21st it went to Yorktown; and May 7th participated in the battle of Walthall Junction - Lieutenants Bingham and Goddard, being among the killed, and Colonel Ward, Captain Moore, and Lieutenant Vorra among the wounded. The regiment had now been transferred to the First Division of the Eighteenth Army Corps. May 13th the corps moved up the south side of the James, and on the 16th the Eighth suffered severely by a repulse in the fog at Drewry's Bluff, losing in killed, wounded, and prisoners upwards of sixty. Among the killed were two of the bravest and most efficient soldiers on the regiment - Captain McCall, and Sergeant Edward Wadhams.
June 1, 1864, was fought the battle of Cold Harbor, which the Eighth's loss was comparitively slight - eight killed and thirty wounded - the regiment being held during most of the engagement in reserve. Two weeks later commenced the movement toward Petersburg, the campaign lasting nearly all summer. June 16th the regiment lost two killed and seventeen wounded. There was a loss of twenty during the next month, to July 20, from Confederate artillery and sharpshooters, Captain H.C. Hall being among the killed, and Captains Ford and Goodrich among the wounded.
September 26th the Eighteenth Corps was sent back across the James to operate with General Butler toward Richmond. In the successful charge on Battery Harrison, September 29th, the Eighth suffered a loss of eight killed and sixty-five wounded. Among the killed were Lieutenants Irwin and Kilbourne, and Sergeant Seth F. Plumb, the latter having been commissioned Lieutenant, though not yet mustered. Lieutenant Irwin's term of service had expired and he was free to return home, but he chose not to leave his old regiment when an engagement was pending. Of the wounded in the charge were Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, Captains Roberts and Morgan, and Lieutenants Foss, Keables, and Weed. The charge upon Battery Harrison was the last fighting ordeal which fell to the lot of the decimated Eighth. On the 3d of April 1865, it was with the advance of the Union Army when it made its final "On to Richmond."
After the close of the war the Eighth went to Lynchburg, where it remained several months, doing semi-military and semi-police duty. The regiment was mustered out on the 12th of December, 1865, after four years and two months of service - having served a longer term than other Connecticut regiments except the First Artillery and the Thirteenth Infantry. Its tattered colors in the Capitol at Hartford speak more eloquently of its service than pen can do here, and the brave men who helped to make and maintain its honorable record will not have suffered and died in vain if the blessings of constitutional liberty are duly appreciated by those in whose behalf they laid down their lives.
This Eighth Regiment was organized at Camp Buckingham, Hartford, in September, 1861, It was first commanded by Col . Edward Harland of Norwich. The regiment left Hartford Oct. 17, 1861. It held a camp of instruction at Jamaica, Long Island, and there received its colors. It proceeded to Annapolis, where it spent the fall. Early in January, 1862, the Eighth sailed with the Burnside Expedition to North Carolina as part of the Ninth Corps. It was held in reserve during the battle of Roanoke Island.
It was engaged in the battle of Newberne, N.C. March 14, 1862. The Eighth then participated in the successful siege of Fort Macon, N.C., April 1862. From there the Eighth proceeded to Fredricksburg in July, 1862. On September 1st, the Eighth accompanied the Union Army to Washington, and on September 8th, joined the Maryland Campaign, including action at South Mountain.
The Battle of Antietam on September 17th, 1862, resulted in a greater number of casualties for the regiment than any other engagement of the war. Along with other regiments of Harland's Brigade, the Eighth marched downstream from Burnside's Bridge, and crossed the Antietam at Snaveley's Ford. They proceeded up the slopes towards Sharpsburg to attack the Confederates, finally being repulsed by reenforcements under Gen. A.P. Hill at the close of the day's fighting.
After Antietam, the Eighth stayed in Pleasant Valley til marching back to Fredricksburg, with the Army of the Potomac, assuming their old camps at the Lacey House. Soon it was involved in the contested crossing of the Rappahannock, the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13th, 1862, and was held in reserve during the bloody repulses that followed.
Following their participation in Burnside's Mud March, the Eighth took leave of the Ninth Corps early in 1863, and went to Newport News, then to Suffolk, Virginia. They participated in the siege there for several months. It was there that the Eighth, now under Col. John Ward, attacked Fort Huger and took it by surprise in a daring raid. The regiment remained in the Portsmouth area during the summer, and participated in the "Blackberry Raid" demonstration in force.
In December 1863, the Eighth re-enlisted 310 original members, and in January were home on veteran furloughs.
The year of 1864 found the Eighth returned to southeastern Virginia and had now been transferred to the Eighteenth Corps. There they participated in the battles of Walthall Junction, Fort Darling, Drewry's Bluff, Cold Harbor, and the siege of Petersburg. In September, they served on Bermuda Hundred, and across the James River. September 29th, they fought at Fort Harrison and Chaffins' Farm, which was their last engagement of the war.
The Eighth was with the Union Army in the final advance on Richmond in the spring of 1865. After Gen. Lee's surrender at Appomattox, the Eighth moved to Lynchburg, Virginia where it performed police and provost duties until it was mustered out of service December 12th, 1865, serving a longer term than all but two other Connecticut regiments.
Killed in action, 72 Died of disease, 132 Died of wounds, 40 Disch. prior to muster out, 610 Total, 854