- The Washington Times - Friday, September 10, 2004

A monument to the 8th Connecticut Infantry stands in a field on the southern end of the Antietam battlefield.

The field is not part of Antietam National Battlefield park, so you see it beyond a fence in what was, in 1862, a 40-acre cornfield owned by John Otto, according to Stephen W. Sears’ “Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam.”

The 8th entered combat that day with about 350 officers and men, according to the official records. More than half — 173 — would be killed, wounded or missing. Who were these men?

The 8th was recruited from all across Connecticut in the fall of 1861 to serve for three years. A number of the officers and men had served in the three-month units first recruited in the spring of 1861 in response to President Lincoln’s first call for troops.

The regiment, 1,027 men strong, was mustered into the service Oct. 5, 1861, according to Vol. I of “The Union Army” (Federal Publishing Co., 1908).

One of these soldiers was Pvt. John Scott, who enlisted in Company B. Scott gave his age as 18. The “Company Descriptive Book” says he was 5 feet 7 inches tall, with a dark complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair and that he was a mechanic before he enlisted. (This information is from his service records, which are available in the National Archives.)

Scott was mustered in on Sept. 27, 1861, in Hartford. As was common with the early service, he was not shown as present for a number of months, from November 1861 to February 1862. A note in his records says he was in a hospital in New Bern on March 22, 1862. No explanation is given. After that, his records show him present from March 1862 to December 1863.

Scott seems to have been a good soldier; he was promoted to corporal on March 24, 1863. It probably was before then that he bought the ID tag shown in the two pictures on this page. (Soldiers had to buy their own tags if they wanted them because neither government issued any identification tags.)

The front is stamped “JOHN SCOTT Co.B. 8th C.V. ENFIELD CT.” The reverse is an image of Maj. Gen. George McClellan. This style of ID tag may have been designed by Frederick B. Smith.

The following information is from Page 250 of “A Directory of American Military Goods Dealers & Makers, 1785-1915,” by Bruce S. Bazelon and William F. McGuinn:

Frederick B. Smith is listed as an “engraver and diesinker” based in New York City. He was working at 122 Fulton St. during the war. The records show that he signed some insignia. Look closely at McClellan’s image; on the shoulder can be seen “Smith” with the initial “F.”

The fact that Scott didn’t have his rank of corporal stamped on the ID tag leads me to believe he bought it before March 1863. Meanwhile, the 8th had been assigned to the 9th Corps, commanded by Gen. Ambrose Burnside and moved to Washington.

When the Antietam campaign began, the 9th Corps was ordered to Maryland. The 9th Corps was engaged at what is now known as Burnside’s Bridge, so Scott may have had the ID tag with him that bloody day in September 1862.

Col. Edward Harland, the brigade commander, reported that on the afternoon of Sept. 17, after crossing Antietam Creek, “I detached the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, placed it in what I considered the strongest position for the defense of the battery.”

Later in the afternoon, the colonel’s after-action report says, “When the order was given by General [Isaac P.] Rodman to advance, the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, which was on the right of the line, started promptly. The Sixteen Regiment Connecticut Volunteers and the Fourth Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers, both of which regiments were in a corn-field, apparently did not hear my order. I therefore sent an aide-de-camp to order them forward. This delay on the left placed the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers considerably in the advance of the rest of the brigade.”

This was not a good position. Harland says, “The Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, which had held their position until this time, now, by order of Major (J. Edward) Ward, commanding, moved more to the right, where they were sheltered in a measure from the fire in front, and changed front, so as to reply to the enemy on the left. After a few rounds, as most of the men were out of ammunition, the order was given to fall back.”

Major Ward in his brief report says, “About 4 o’clock p.m. [we] were ordered to advance to the support of General (Orlando B.) Willcox, on our right, who had been repulsed. We did so, and held our position far in advance, until ordered to retire by General Rodman, but not until we had lost over 50 percent of our regiment.” He ends his report with these words: “Our loss was 34 killed, 139 wounded, and 21 missing; total, 194.”

The regiment had seen the heaviest fighting of its life. Scott was one of the lucky ones who were not part of that total. However, he would see more combat during the rest of his service. The 8th would be engaged lightly at Fredericksburg and then moved to Southeastern Virginia as a part of the 18th Corps of the Army of the James.

Scott re-enlisted on Dec. 24, 1863. His service records show that the government owed him $402, which was a lot of money in those days. This included back pay, bounty and a clothing allowance of $34.82.

Scott was present from January 1864 to August 1864, according to his service records. In the May-June period, he was fined $2.93 for “lost ordnance.” Whatever he lost was not deemed important because Scott was promoted to sergeant on Aug. 1, 1864. Shortly thereafter, he lost more ordnance and had to pay the government $2.33.

During this period, the regiment was in a number of engagements as the Army of the James advanced on Cold Harbor, where the unit would suffer 38 killed and wounded. From there, they joined the fighting around Petersburg. Scott suffered what was described as a slight arm wound on Sept. 29, 1864, at Chapins Farm (or Chaffin or Fort Harrison) as part of the combat below Petersburg. (There is some indication in the records that he also may have been captured.)

Scott was sent to a hospital and remained there until November 1864. His records show that he again was fined $2.23 for lost ordnance (although this may be the same charge; his records are not clear on this point, but the amount is different) and $4.15 for transportation (where to is not specified, maybe back to his unit).

Scott returned to his unit and remained with it until he was mustered out on Dec. 12, 1865. The government still owed him $140 of the bounty but claimed $38.48 for his clothing account.

With this, Scott returned to civilian life and out of our sight. He had seen action in large and small fights, including Roanoke Island, Fort Mason, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Suffolk, Fort Huger, Dismal Swamp, Port Walthall, Swift Creek, Fort Darling, Cold Harbor and Petersburg.

Joseph Stahl is a writer and a collector of Civil War memorabilia.

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