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The Second Connecticut Heavy Artillery

It was in November, 1863, that the War Department orders were issued changing the Nineteenth Infantry to a regiment of heavy artillery, which Governor Buckingham denominated the Second Connecticut. Artillery drill had for some time been part of its work, and the general efficiency and good record of the regiment in all particulars was responsible for the change, which was a welcome one, as the artillery was considered a very desirable branch of the service, and the increase in size gave prospects of speedier promotions. Recruiting had been necessary almost all the time to keep the regiment up to the numerical standard; death and the discharge for disability had been operating from the first. It was now needful to fill it up to the artillery standard of eighteen hundred men, and this was successfully accomplished. Officers and men were despatched to Connecticut to gather recruits, and their advertisements set forth enticingly the advantage of joining a command so comfortably situated as “this famous regiment” in the Defenses of Washington, where, it was permissible to infer, it was permanently stationed, a belief which had come to be generally held. The effort, however, was not confined by geographical limits, and a large part of the men secured were strangers to Litchfield County. Before the 1st of March, 1864, over eleven hundred recruits were received, and with the nucleus of the old regiment quickly formed into an efficient command. “This vast body of recruits was made up of all sorts of men,” the history of the regiment states. “A goodly portion of them were no less intelligent, patriotic, and honorable than the...

Encampment in Virginia

Washington in September, 1862, while relatively secure from the easy capture which would have been possible in the summer of the previous year, was not in a situation of such safety as to preclude anxiety, for Pope had just been beaten at Bull Run and Lee’s army was north of the Potomac in the first of its memorable invasions of the loyal states. On the very day of his check at Antietam, September 17th, the Nineteenth Connecticut Volunteers reached the capital, and the next day moved into the hostile state of Virginia, bivouacking near Alexandria. In this vicinity the regiment was destined to remain for many months, and to learn, as far as was possible without the grim teachings of actual experience, the business for which it was gathered. At first there was a constant expectation of orders to join the army in active operations; the county newspapers for many weeks noted regularly that the regiment was still near Alexandria, “but orders to march are hourly expected.” It was good fortune, however, that none came, for not a little of the credit of its later service was due to the proficiency in discipline and soldierly qualities gained in the long months now spent in preparation. The task of giving the necessary military education to the thousand odd men fresh from the ordinary routine of rural Connecticut life, fell upon the shoulders of Lieutenant-Colonel Kellogg, and by all the testimony available, most of all by the splendid proof they later gave, it is clear that it was entrusted to a master hand. Matters of organization and administration at first engrossed...

The Call to Arms for Litchfield County, CT

In spite of the labors of unnumbered chroniclers, it is not easy, if indeed it is possible, for us of this later generation to realize adequately the great patriotic uprising of the war times. It began in the early days of 1861 with the assault on Fort Sumter, which, following a long and trying season of uncertainty, furnished the sudden shock that resolved the doubts of the wavering and changed the opinions of the incredulous. Immediately there swept over all the northern states a wave of intense national feeling, attended by scenes of patriotic and confident enthusiasm more noisy than far-sighted, and there was a resulting host of volunteers, who went forth for the service of ninety days with the largest hopes, and proportionate ignorance of the crisis which had come to the nation. Of these Connecticut furnished more than her allotted share, and Litchfield County a due proportion. The climax of this excited period was supplied by the battle of Bull Run. There was surprise, and almost consternation, at the first news of this salutary event, but quickly following, a renewed rally of patriotic feeling, less excited but more determined, and with a clearer apprehension of the actual situation. The enlistment of volunteers for a longer term had been begun, and now went forward briskly for many months; regiment after regiment was enrolled, equipped, and sent southward, until, in the spring of 1862, the force of this movement began to spend itself. The national arms had met with some important successes during the winter, and a feeling of confidence had arisen in the invincibility of the Grand Army...

The First Battle of the County Regiment

The movements of both armies were bringing them steadily nearer to Richmond, and but one chance now remained to achieve the object of the campaign, the defeat of Lee’s army north of the Chickahominy and away from the strong defenses of the Confederate capital. The enemy, swinging southward to conform to Grant’s advance, finally reached the important point of Cold Harbor on May 31st. Cavalry was sent forward to dislodge him, and seized some of the entrenchments near that place, while both armies were hurried forward for the inevitable battle. The Sixth Corps, of which the Second Artillery was part, reached its position on the extreme left near noon on June 1st, having marched since midnight, and awaited the placing of other troops before the charge, which had been ordered to take place at five o’clock. It would have been a fearful waiting for these men could they have known what was in store for them. But they were drugged, as it were, with utter fatigue; the almost constant movement of their two weeks of active service had left them “so nearly dead with marching and want of sleep” that they could not notice or comprehend the significant movements of the columns of troops about them preparing for battle, or the artillery which soon opened fire on both sides; their stupor, it is related, was of a kind that none can describe. They heard without excitement the earnest instructions of Colonel Kellogg, who, in pride and anxiety at this first trial of his beloved command, was in constant consultation with officers and men, directing, encouraging, explaining. “He marked out...

Ranald S. Mackenzie Takes Command

Immediately after receiving news of the action of June 1st, Governor Buckingham had sent a commission as colonel to Lieutenant-Colonel James Hubbard. He, however, was unwilling to assume the responsibility of the command; this had been his first battle, and he “drew the hasty inference that all the fighting was likely to consist of a similar walking into the jaws of hell. He afterwards found that this was a mistake.” Upon General Upton’s advice, therefore, the officers recommended to the Governor the appointment of Ranald S. Mackenzie, then a captain of engineers on duty at headquarters, and this recommendation being favorably endorsed by superior officers up to the Lieutenant-General, was accepted, and Colonel Mackenzie took command on June 6th. Of the man who was now to lead the regiment, Grant in his Memoirs writes twenty years later the following unqualified judgment: “I regarded Mackenzie as the most promising young officer in the army. Graduating at West Point as he did during the second year of the war, he had won his way up to the command of a corps before its close. This he did upon his own merit and without influence.” Such a statement from such a quarter is enough to show that once more the Second Connecticut was to be commanded by a soldier of more than ordinary qualities, a fact which was not long in developing. Colonel Mackenzie’s active connection with the regiment lasted only some four months, but they were months of great activity and afforded such occasions for proof of his abilities that his speedy promotion was inevitable. He never achieved the general popularity...

Assault on Fisher’s Hill and Battle of Cedar Creek

General Sheridan’s method of operation could hardly be held as dilatory. It would doubtless have commended itself more highly to his men if it had been somewhat more so, when at daylight on the morning after the splendid success of September 19th they were ordered in pursuit of Early’s army. The Confederate forces had taken position on Fisher’s Hill, considered the Gibraltar of the Valley, and according to Sheridan, almost impregnable to a direct assault. Two days were occupied in bringing up troops and making dispositions for the attack. The Second Connecticut reached its assigned position on the 21st near midnight, and found itself “on the very top of a hill fully as high as Fisher’s Hill, and separated from it by Tumbling River. The enemy’s stronghold was on the top of the opposite hill directly across the stream.” On the 22nd more or less skirmishing took place all day. A force had been sent round the enemy’s left flank; the attack it delivered late in the afternoon was a complete surprise to Early’s men, and an advance by the whole Union line quickly routed them. To make this charge the regiment moved down the steep hill, waded the stream, and moved up the rocky front of the rebel Gibraltar. How they got up there is a mystery,–for the ascent of that rocky declivity would now seem an impossibility to an unburdened traveler, even though there were no deadly enemy at the top. But up they went, clinging to rocks and bushes. The main rebel breastwork, which they were so confident of holding, was about fifteen rods from the...

Surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia

Colonel Hubbard, though born in Salisbury, had lived in the West before the war, and first saw service with an Illinois regiment. Returning to Connecticut, he assisted in raising a company for the Nineteenth, and was mustered in as its captain. He was steadily promoted until the death of Colonel Kellogg brought him naturally to the command of the regiment; but, as has been said, his own modest estimate of his qualifications for this responsibility caused him to decline the appointment. When it came to him a second time he accepted, and proved by his subsequent handling of the regiment a worthy successor to the remarkably able soldiers under whom he had served, winning the brevet rank of brigadier-general in the final campaigns. His ambition was, a comrade wrote, to do his full duty without a thought for personal glory; and he enjoyed in a high degree the respect and affection of his command. He died in Washington, where he lived for many years, on December 21, 1886, and was buried in Winsted. The brilliant victories in which the Second Artillery had borne so worthy a part, and the re-election of President Lincoln in November (1864), put an end to all anxieties as to danger in the quarter of the Shenandoah, which before Sheridan’s campaign had been a region of fatal mischance to the national cause from the beginning of the war. As a consequence the Sixth Corps was once more ordered to rejoin Grant’s army, and the regiment left the historic valley on December 1st, arriving on the 5th before Petersburg, where it was assigned a position near...

Return to Litchfield County, CT

Immediately after the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Sixth Corps was moved to Burkesville, some distance from Appomattox in the direction of Richmond, and there it remained for about ten days awaiting events. On April 22nd it was ordered southward to Danville, with a view to joining Sherman’s army then confronting Johnston in North Carolina, a movement which again necessitated some fatiguing marches, the one hundred and five miles being covered in less than five days. News was received, however, that Johnston had followed the example of Lee and surrendered, and the corps thereupon faced about once more. On its leisurely progress to the north it was joined by crowds of the newly freed negroes, who attached themselves to every regiment in droves, and the lately hostile inhabitants came also at every stopping place, “with baskets and two-wheeled carts” for supplies to relieve their dire necessities. Near Richmond the regiment remained several days, and the men were allowed passes to visit the late Confederate capital, so long the goal of their strenuous efforts. “The burnt district was still smoking with the remains of the great fire of April 2nd, and the city was full of officers and soldiers of the ex-Confederate army. The blue and the gray mingled on the streets and public squares, and were seen side by side in the Sabbath congregations. The war was over.” The consciousness of this last great fact was now becoming insistent in the minds of these citizen soldiers. The great purpose for which they had offered themselves was carried out, and their eagerness to have done with all...

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