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Twenty-fifth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
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The Twenty-fifth Regiment, Connecticut Volunteers, (George P. Bissell, Colonel), was recruited in Hartford and Tolland Counties, in the fall of 1862. The regiment was composed of the very best material, being almost exclusively young men impelled by patriotic motives, and from the first they took a high stand for efficiency and good discipline.
Later in its history, when the regiment had been tried in marches and battles, it was thus described by Adjutant-General Morse in his report to the Legislature for 1864: “This is one of the best of our nine months’ regiments and bore a conspicuous part in the advance upon, and the campaign preceding, the fall of Port Hudson. By the bravery always displayed on the field of battle, and the patience and endurance manifested on many long and arduous marches, it has won for itself a high and lasting reputation.”
The Twenty-fifth was mustered into the United States service November 11, 1862, and on the 14th sailed from Hartford for Centerville, L.I., to join at that rendezvous the Banks Expedition. The muster-roll showed 811 men thoroughly drilled and well appointed, except that they were without rifles which were later served to them on the ship after their arrival on the Mississippi River. The regiment embarked November 29, 1862, in two divisions;—one division of five companies under command of Colonel Bissell on the Steamer Mary Boardman; and the remainder under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Stevens on the Steamer Empire City. The destination of the expedition was unknown when the vessels sailed as the sealed orders were not to be opened until we had sailed twenty-four hours to the southward and eastward. The orders, when opened, were found to be simply to report at Ship Island, off the mouth of the Mississippi River, allowing a stop at Dry Tortugas for coal if necessary. The ships duly arrived at Ship Island and proceeded at once up the river to New Orleans where they arrived on the 14th of December, 1862. On the 16th, the Mary Boardman, with several of the other ships proceeded to Baton Rouge, where they arrived the next day. The Empire City landed the left wing of the regiment at Camp Parapet, just above New Orleans. The forces landed at Baton Rouge after a brief bombardment of the city and the Twenty-fifth (five companies), went into camp first on the United States Arsenal ground in the city and later near the cemetery, back of the city, where after some delay the left wing joined the colonel’s command and the regiment was once more united and in fighting trim. The regiment was first brigaded under General Albert E. Payne of Wisconsin, a noble and brave officer, afterwards with the Thirteenth Connecticut. The Twenty-sixth Maine and One-Hundred and Fifty-ninth New York, under Colonel H. W. Birge, of the Thirteenth Connecticut, as Brigade Commander, an officer of rare ability and bravery and a disciplinarian of the best stamp. Under his command the Twenty-fifth served during its entire term of service. He led them in many battles and marches and while he was strictness personified, he was so magnanimous, brave, reasonable and such a thorough soldier, that the men worshiped him and would follow him into the face of any fire. Now that he is gone they revere his memory.
The first work of the regiment was on the advance on Port Hudson, March 10, 1863, when Colonel Bissell, in command of his own regiment, two detachments of cavalry and a regular army battery, occupied Bayou Montesano, constructed earthworks and built a bridge across Bayou Sara. This bridge was designed by Sergeant William Webster of Company I, after a West Point engineer had despaired of the job. The regiment was seven miles in advance of the rest of the army and in a very exposed and dangerous position. This position they held under a frequently severe fire till the remainder of the army came up when they joined the column and went on to Port Hudson. They were in the front of the land forces when Farragut sailed by the forts in the Flagship Hartford. From the banks of the river the Twenty-fifth witnessed this grand bombardment and the burning of the frigate Mississippi in the night.
When the object of the expedition had been accomplished (to use the words of General Banks’ order), the regiment returned to Baton Rouge, passing a wet and dreary night in Camp Misery, a night which will never be forgotten, nor will any one ever forget the noble act of Quartermaster John S. Ives, who rode his tired horse several miles to Baton Rouge and brought out to the men coffee, which they managed to prepare over small fires and which no doubt saved many a man’s life. After a short stay at Baton Rouge, the army made another advance on the west bank of the Mississippi, starting March 28th, 1863, marching with frequent skirmishes, sailing up the Atchafalaya bayou and landing at Irish Bend, where the regiment engaged in its first real battle, April 14th, 1863. The severity of this battle may be judged of as we read in the Adjutant-general’s report: “Our loss, as you will see from the accompanying returns of the casualties has been very severe, being in all, ninety-six killed and wounded out of 350 with which the regiment went into action.”
From this point the regiment marched up to within six miles of the Red River and of this march the regimental report speaks thus: “What with our loss in battle, details for special service and the number who have given out on our very long and severe marches, this regiment is much reduced and has today only 299 men present of whom but 248 are fit for duty. You will thus see, though this campaign has been eminently successful, driving the enemy before us through the entire valley of the Teche, from its mouth to its source, it has been very trying upon the troops. Four engagements and 300 miles march in twenty days call for proportionate suffering which cannot be avoided.”
During May and June the regiment was actively engaged in the siege of Port Hudson, and was almost constantly under fire in the trenches and in the various assaults on that stronghold, leading the advance on the 23rd of May when a junction was formed with General Auger’s column which completed the investment of the place. During all the siege the regiment was constantly in the front and finally participated in the glories of the surrender of the fortress on the 8th of July, having been in almost constant, arduous duty, marching and fighting since early in March.
After the surrender of Port Hudson, the regiment returned to Donaldsonville, where it encamped till the expiration of term of service. Colonel Bissell sent to General Banks and offered himself and his command to remain longer in the department if our services were needed; but he replied that there would probably be no more fighting, and thanking us for our offer, he issued an order returning us to our homes. The regiment was finally mustered out at Hartford, August 26, 1863.
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