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Thread: Regiment History: 8th Virginia Infantry

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    Regiment History: 8th Virginia Infantry

    As a resident of Leesburg, Virginia, I have done extensive research into my hometown's regiment during the Civil War: the 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment. I've gained access to valuable letters / correspondence, after-action reports, and the Virginia Regimental Histories book on the 8th Virginia. I thought I'd share my findings here, and tell their stories. Here goes:

    The 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment

    "The Bloody Eighth"


    A History


    Prologue:
    The Bloody Eighth

    The Genesis of the 8th Regiment Virginia Volunteer Infantry may be traced to the year 1859. As John Brown raided Harpers Ferry, the borderland panicked with fear of further raids and slave uprisings. Hillsborough, a hamlet in northwest Loudoun County and only a few miles from the scene of the raid, was no exception to this general fear. As a result, a home guard company was organized under the name of The Hillsborough Border Guards. Their only part in this epic event was to act as guards at two Potomac River bridges.

    As the trial and execution of John Brown brought no further violence, calm settled over the area. However, these citizen soldiers apparently enjoyed their experience and reorganized into a militia company. They soon became a viable part of the Hillsborough community with their muster for drills and their holiday parades.

    On April 19, 1861, two days after the Virginia convention had voted to secede from the Union, the Hillsborough Border Guards were accepted into state service for one year. In early May, they marched out, some 80 strong, for the camp of instruction at the Fair Grounds in Leesburg. An eyewitness described the company as it left its muster point:

    “The marching music came from their fifer whose favorite tune was “St. Patrick’s Day in the morning.” They were uniformed in gray swallow tail coats with three rows of Virginia buttons on the kite-shaped red breasts of the officer’s coats and on the black breasts of the privates’. The officers wore golden, tinseled epaulettes and golden braid on the legs of their pants, and black stripes on the legs of the private’s pants; golden stars on the skirts of their coats, red feathers in the high gray caps of the officers and black pompoms in the privates’ caps which with their glittering swords, shining guns and bayonets and other accoutrements, presented an inspiring, formidable, and warlike appearance.”

    Upon incorporation into the 8th Virginia Infantry, the gaudy uniforms were discarded, and the regulation gray jacket was substituted. It is inconceivable that these nattily attired recruits of 1861 would be the same shoeless, ragged veterans that would wade every river between the Tar in North Carolina and the Susquehanna in Pennsylvania before war’s end.


    Colonel Eppa Hunton


    The name of Eppa Hunton was closely identified with the 8th Virginia Regiment throughout its nearly four years of service. Hunton was Colonel of the 8th from the organization until August, 1863, then served as commander of the brigade in which the regiment served until three days before Appomattox. Born on September 22, 1822, Hunton, a former school teacher and lawyer, played an active role in democratic politics. At the outbreak of the war, he was serving as Commonwealth Attorney at Brentsville, Prince William County, Virginia.

    Unbending in his politics, he refused to listen to a “Northern Methodist” minister preach when they both lived in Brentsville before the war. However, he gladly accepted him into the 8th and made him Chaplain. When Charles F. Linthicum was killed at Cold Harbor in 1864, no one mourned him more than Hunton.

    Eppa Hunton was described by a contemporary as, “one who had none of the arts of the orator, except that of the earnestness and candor...and a view of strong common sense in all that he said.” Ill health plagued him throughout the war. An annoying fistula that did not respond to treatment caused him much suffering, and forced his absence from command frequently. It also delayed his appointment to higher command.

    He was elected to the Virginia Secession Convention as an “Immediate Secession Candidate,” and continued to press for secession as the convention dragged on. When the convention voted to secede on April 17th, Hunton immediately applied for a commission in the Virginia forces. Governor John Letcher commissioned him Colonel of the 8th Regiment Virginia Infantry, to be assembled at Leesburg, Virginia. At Sayler's Creek on April 6, 1865, Brigadier General Hunton was captured with most of his command as Union cavalry intercepted the retreat. Sent to Fort Warren, Boston Harbor, he would remain a prisoner until July.

    Returning to private life, Hunton opened a law office in the fall of 1865 at Warrenton, Virginia. Elected to Congress in 1872, he continued to serve the northern district of Virginia until 1881. He was appointed to the United States Senate in 1892, and served in that body until 1895 when he retired to private life, where he continued to take an active interest in the affairs of the state until his death in 1908. Successful as a military leader, he was even more distinguished in the civil life of his native state, but his greatest reward appears to have been the affection that his old soldiers held for him.





    The Berkeley Brothers

    Possibly no Confederate was so influenced by one family as the Eighth Virginia Infantry was influenced by the Berkeley Brothers. The four brothers, large landowners from Loudoun and Prince William counties, were descended from distinguished ancestors. For nearly two centuries before the war, the Berkeleys had been prominent in the councils of the Old Dominion, so it was natural for these men to bring leadership to this newly organized regiment.

    Edmund: 1824 - 1917. Captain, Company C., Major, Lieutenant Colonel
    Wounded at South Mountain & Gettysburg
    William N.: 1826 - 1907. Captain, Company D., Major
    Wounded and captured at Gettysburg; Captured at Sayler’s Creek
    Norborne: 1828 - 1911. Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel
    Wounded and captured at Gettysburg
    Charles F.: 1833 - 1871. First Lieutenant, Captain, Company D.
    Captured at Gettysburg; Captured at Sayler’s Creek

    Surviving the war, they returned to agricultural pursuits, and to prominent places in the community. The gallant Eppa Hunton, first Colonel of the 8th, and later Brigadier General in command of the brigade, who knew the Berkeleys better than anyone, had this to say: “We stopped on the south side of Goose Creek at Ball’s Mill. I named my camp ‘Camp Berkeley.’ This was in compliment to four brothers; Norborne Berkeley, who was the Major of the Regiment; Captain Edmund and Captain William Berkeley, and Lieutenant Charles F. Berkeley. They were four of the bravest, noblest, most patriotic and unselfish men I met in the war. They were always ready for any duty they were called upon to perform, and always did it with alacrity, courage, and efficiency…”

    “These four brothers fought the whole war and at its close they ranked as follows: Colonel Norborne; Lieutenant Colonel, Edmund; Major, William; Senior Captain Charles…” “When the war came on it was no trouble for the Berkeleys to raise a good company from among their countrymen. They were the kind of men that other brave men love to follow.” Small wonder that historians refer to the 8th as the “Berkeley Regiment.”



    Edmund Berkeley (Left), William N. Berkeley (Center), and Norborne Berkeley (Right). No photograph or illustration of Charles Berkeley exists.


    Chapter 1:
    Organization

    Spring - Summer, 1861

    The 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment was organized into state service on May 8, 1861. The regiment was assembled and trained at the Fair Grounds near Leesburg with the following Field and Staff officers:

    Eppa Hunton: Colonel
    Charles B. Tebbs: Lieutenant Colonel
    Norborne Berkeley: Major
    John M. Orr: Quartermaster
    Dr. Richard H. Edwards: Surgeon
    Charles F. Linthicum: Chaplain
    Companies forming this unit were enlisted for one year:

    Company A: Hillsboro Border Guards -- Loudoun County. Accepted into state service April 19, 1861. Captain N.R. Heaton
    Company B: Piedmont Rifles -- Fauquier County. Enlisted May 17, 1861, at Rectortown. Captain Richard H. Carter
    Company C: Evergreen Guards -- Prince William County. Enlisted May 8, 1861, at Haymarket. Captain Edmund Berkeley
    Company D: Champe Rifles -- Loudoun County. Enlisted May 13, 1861, at Aldie. Captain William N. Berkeley
    Company E: Hampton’s Company -- Loudoun County. Enlisted May 29, 1861, at Philomont. Captain Mandley Hampton.
    Company F: Blue Mountain Boys -- Loudoun County. Enlisted June 19, 1861, at Bloomfield. Captain Alex Grayson.
    Company G: Thrift’s Company -- Fairfax County. Enlisted June 22, 1861, at Dranesville. Mustered into service July 16, 1861. Captain James Thrift.
    Company H: Potomac Grays -- Loudoun County. Enlisted July 13, 1861, at Leesburg. Captain J. Morris Wampler
    Company I: Simpson’s Company -- Loudoun County. Enlisted July 13, 1861, at Mt. Gilead-North Fork. Captain James Simpson
    Company K: Scott’s Company -- Fauquier County. Enlisted July 30, 1861, at Warrenton. Captain Robert T. Scott

    Coming from the good agricultural area of Northern Virginia, the occupation of more than 60% of these new soldiers was farmers, with a sprinkling of clerks and tradesmen. This was a regiment of brothers: four sets of four, sixteen sets of three and more than eighty pairs, gave it the air of a family gathering. Major Norborne Berkeley, V.M.I. Class of 1848, was responsible for much of the early training. He was ably assisted by Mason Graham Ellzey, V.M.I. Class of 1860, who acted as drill master while awaiting an appointment as a surgeon in the Confederate Medical Service. Throughout the month of June and into early July, the 8th Virginia was engaged in drilling and guarding the Potomac River crossings.


    Company C was the first to come under enemy fire. While on picket duty at Conrad’s Ferry, a local citizen and politician had brought them a feast in the nature of a roast lamb. He also brought along a small sporting rifle, which he proceeded to make his contribution to the cause by taking a shot at the Yankees on the opposite shore. This seemed to violate the truce that had existed, and return fire came across the water. The Confederates fired a round from a cannon belonging to a local battery, striking an officers hut. This brought a heavier fire from the superior muskets of the Federals, causing the Company C men to take shelter behind limestone ledges. The only casualty, a leg wound, was suffered by a private too curious in the excitement to take cover.

    On July 18th, the 8th Virginia took the road to war in response to orders from Manassas to assemble there to meet a threatened invasion. In a letter home, Corporal George Donohoe wrote of the march, “we started early and after traveling until about two o’clock we halted to take dinner which was composed of some bread that was so tough we could hardly pull it apart and some meat that was not much better.” Near sundown they halted for the night at the plantation of Aris Buckner. Apparently they had trained well, for the regiment covered eighteen miles that day without noticeable straggling.

    On the 19th, an early start and a rapid march allowed them to cover the last leg of the journey by midafternoon. Their camp was established along Holkum Branch near Lewis’ Ford on Bull Run. There, they were assigned to the Fifth Brigade commanded by Colonel Philip St. George Cocke. This brigade consisted of the 8th, 18th, 19th, and 28th Virginia Infantry Regiments. Despite the fact that these regiments were brigaded, they fought as individual units on the day of the battle. On the 20th, Corporal Donohoe again found that army life was less than ideal as he wrote, “we were kept in the sun nearly all day, expecting the enemy. When night came we lay down on our guns to sleep, but the coolness of the air prevented us getting much rest.” The 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment would soon find itself in the heat of combat during its first battle: the Battle of First Manassas.
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    Chapter 2:

    Battle of First Manassas

    Manassas Campaign

    July 21, 1861


    On July 21, 1861, during the early actions of the Battle of First Manassas, the 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment was being held in reserve by Colonel Cocke. Within sound of the battle and exposed to the fire of an enemy battery, Colonel Cocke continued to hold them in reserve despite pleadings from Hunton to allow them to move. Finally, Colonel Hunton, becoming impatient at the inaction, appealed to Colonel “Extra Billy” Smith of the nearby 49th Virginia to advise General Beauregard of their position. Soon the order came for the regiment to advance.
    Abandoning their position along Bull Run, they moved up and formed line of battle behind the woods northeast of Henry Hill near the Robinson House. Chaplain Linthicum, the “Northern Methodist” minister, rode to the front of the line and offered prayer, sending them into their first battle. From near the Robinson House, the 8th Virginia went into action on Henry Hill, helping to restore the line that had crumbled under the Union assault. Together with the men of Colonels Harper and Wade Hampton, they were soon engaged in the bloody fighting around the Henry House.
    Combat with the 8th Virginia began around 2:00 PM, when the companies of the regiment formed a line of battle just ahead of the treeline near the Robinson House. Colonel Hunton began to issue orders to his regiment, splitting his line of battle into three formations: Companies A, B, and C on the left overseen by Lt. Colonel Tebbs, Companies D, E, and F in the center overseen by Colonel Hunton himself, and Companies H and I on the right overseen by Major Berkeley. The 8th Virginia was facing the enemy’s lines of battle: the 69th New York State Militia, an Irish unit led by Colonel Michael Corcoran, and the U.S. Marine Battalion, led by Major John G. Reynolds.


    When his regiment was in range of the Federal lines of battle on the opposite side of the Robinson House, Colonel Hunton gave the order for his men to make ready. Upon ordering the regiment to fire, he could see many of the 69th New Yorkers fall to his musket volley. As gunpowder smoke filled the air from the musketry, Colonel Hunton drew his sword and ordered his men to fix bayonets. “Eighth Virginia! Give ‘em hell! Charge!!!” Hunton began rushing out toward the enemy. The Virginians roared a battle cry, which would become known as the “Rebel Yell”, then charged through the open field toward the enemy. Sergeant Clinton Hatcher of Company F proudly waved the 8th Virginia’s regimental colors as he charged forward. The 8th Virginia finally made their way toward the left flank of the Henry House, where they engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. The Yankee troops of the 69th New York and the Marine Battalion fought bitterly with the Virginians. The Federal lines were beginning to break as the 8th Virginia gained the upper hand in the fight.

    Colonel Eppa Hunton, with his revolver in hand, spotted Colonel Michael Corcoran standing beside the 69th’s flag bearer. Aiming at the famous Irish colonel, Hunton said, “I do believe your lines are broken, Colonel.” The Irishmen of the 69th and the troops of the Marine Battalion were beginning to break, falling back from Henry House Hill as the 8th Virginia cut down their ranks. The men of the 8th were soon joined by horse-mounted dragoons of Hampton’s Legion, which smashed through the retreating Federals. Colonel Harper’s 5th Virginia, at the double-quick pace, approached Hunton’s 8th Virginia to join in the fight. It was now 2:30 in the afternoon. A half-hour had passed, and the 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment had helped turn the tide of battle in the Confederate counter-attack on Henry Hill. Colonel Eppa Hunton had been able to capture the famed 69th New York commander, Colonel Michael Corcoran, as a prisoner-of-war, along with several of his officers. Some of the officers from the Marine Battalion had also been taken prisoner. As the remaining Irishmen of the 69th New York, now under Captain Thomas F. Meagher of Company K, retreated from Henry Hill with the remnants of the U.S. Marine Battalion, Colonel Hunton ordered Sergeant Hatcher to wave the battle flag colors of the 8th Virginia proudly over the spot they had taken on the left flank of the Henry House.

    The Virginians cheered and waved their hats in the air as they watched the Yankees retreat off Henry Hill. The 8th Virginia’s performance that afternoon drew praise from General Beauregard in his report: “Colonels Harper, Hunton and Hampton, commanding regiments of the reserve, attracted my notice by their soldierly ability, time when the enemy by a last desperate onset with enemy odds had driven our forces from the fiercely-contested ground around the Henry and Robinson Houses.” The Battle of First Manassas was over, as was the Leesburg regiment’s first taste of combat with the enemy.

    Late that afternoon, the 8th was hurried off to Manassas Junction in answer to an alarm that an attack was expected there. This alarm was false, and they went into camp near where the Court House now stands. Upon their return they encamped along Bull Run at Ball’s Ford, where Colonel Hunton wrote his report of the battle. He concluded the report by saying, “I was then ordered to the fight around Mrs. Henry’s House, where the Eighth made a most gallant and impetuous charge, routing the enemy, and losing in killed, wounded, and missing thirty-three soldiers.” The 8th Virginia’s casualties of First Manassas were 6 killed, 26 wounded, and 1 soldier missing. This, the first casualty list, was but the beginning of the long road that would earn for the regiment the designation of “The Bloody Eighth.”
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    Chapter 3:
    Battle of Ball's Bluff

    McClellan's Operations in Northern Virginia
    October 21, 1861


    Only eight companies had fought at First Manassas; now G and K would join them to give, for the first time, a full regiment of ten companies. Never meeting the desired number of one thousand, the 8th Virginia was from first to last small, as it does not appear that they exceeded more than 750 men at any one time. Colonel Hunton, although lacking in combat experience, had handled his troops well. He had attained the goal that every commander cherished: the confidence of his men.
    Back to Loudoun County they went in the early days of August, 1861. Their camp was established at Waterford, 7 miles northwest of Leesburg. Waterford was the heart of the strong Union sentiment in Loudoun. It was also a point from which the low-water crossings of the Potomac River could be watched. At this time, Colonel Hunton was in command of this important northern flank of the Confederate Army, then encamped around Centreville. While at Waterford, Captain Edmund Berkeley slept on a coffin, with his company headquarters’ gear stowed inside. At Manassas, when the count of the killed and mortally wounded was reported, one of the men from Company C did not expire; thus, he found a utilitarian use for it, possibly the first time such an eerie bed had been used.

    Realizing the vulnerability to invasion, the Confederacy sent Colonel Nathan G. “Shanks” Evans to Leesburg to fortify and guard this exposed flank of their army. With Evans came three Mississippi regiments and to this brigade was added the 8th Virginia. Colonel Hunton, suffering from a fistula, was absent during much of this period in the hope that rest and medical treatment would bring relief. Lieutenant Colonel Tebbs, while liked by his fellow officers, offered little leadership; thus, the Berkeleys exercised a great influence on the conduct of the regiment. Dedicated, fearless men of high character, they gave to the 8th a spirit that Colonel Hunton had predicted when he spoke so highly of them back at Camp Berkeley to months earlier.
    Despite the fact that they were camped in the open air, and with good sanitary conditions around them, close confinement took its toll on these farm boys. Surgeon Edwards reported 53 cases of illness within the regiment on August 31, forty-one of whom had been sent to general hospitals. Two deaths from illness were also reported. Colonel Hunton returned to duty on October 19th, still unwell, but all signs pointed to a movement by the enemy. General McCall’s Federal division had advanced on Dranesville, only 12 miles from Leesburg. Early on the 20th, the 8th Virginia was hurriedly dispatched to Goose Creek, where the road from Dranesville to Leesburg crossed that stream.

    Late in the day of October 20, Brigadier General Charles P. Stone’s Union Corps of Observation started crossing the Potomac at Edwards Ferry, and a section of the river that had not been closely watched by the Confederates because of the rough terrain. Colonel Evans sent the 13th Mississippi to contain the enemy at Edwards Ferry and sent a hurry-up call to Hunton at Goose Creek. Leaving Company H at Goose Creek, the nine remaining companies hurried to Ball’s Bluff. With only a momentary stop at Fort Evans, double-timing most of the way, the 8th reached the bluff by noon. Supported by three companies of cavalry, they drove back the 15th Massachusetts to the top of the bluff.

    It was 12:30 PM when the 8th Virginia marched into battle at quick time pace at Ball’s Bluff. Their weapons were shouldered, and they were ready for combat. It had been exactly three months since they last fought, and they were eager for another fight with the Yankees. Sergeant Clinton Hatcher was once again carrying the 8th Virginia battle flag into combat as the regiment set up positions in the trees just below the bluff. The 15th Massachusetts was in sight. Colonel Hunton positioned Captain Grayson's Company F 80 yards further up the slope of the bluff, then told them to begin shooting volleys on the Federals. While Captain Grayson gave the order for his company to march forward, Hunton looked over at Edmund Berkeley and ordered him to get his Company C skirmishers up the slope's right flank in support of Company F. The Company C skirmishers then broke off from the main formation to support Company F's battle line.

    Company F began to advance at the quick time march toward the 15th Massachusetts line. Halting just 100 yards from the enemy, Captain Grayson ordered his company to form a line of battle. As the men readied their Springfield Model 1842 smoothbore muskets and Model 1855 rifles, Grayson gave the command to take aim and open fire. Grayson later wrote, "The pitter-patter sound of over fifty muskets going off at once violently rang through the air as I watched my company open fire across the field." Many soldiers from the 15th Massachusetts fell where they stood from the devastating volley.

    Bullets whizzed through the trees, one zipping close to Corporal Thompson Kidwell of Company F as he reloaded his Model 1855. When he finished loading the weapon, he took aim again and fired away as the company spit out another volley of musketry. Gunpowder smoke engulfed Company F before floating across the grassy field. Meanwhile, skirmishers from Company C were opening fire on the 15th from the right flank. More and more of the Massachusetts men fell where they stood as the combined firepower from the Company F battle line and the Company C skirmish line devastated the 15th Massachusetts' line of battle.

    The Yankees began to fall back from their position in the woods toward the top of the bluff.
    Taking position in the woods and ascending the slope, Hunton contained the 15th and 20th Massachusetts Regiments until Colonel Evans could send help. Using the shelter of the woods, the 8th kept up a “spitting fire” that inflicted loss on the Federals without many casualties in return. Company F and the Company C skirmishers reformed ranks with the rest of the regiment and joined them in shooting at the Federal lines from the 20th Massachusetts and 1st California regiments.

    It was not until Union Colonel Edward D. Baker brought over two mountain howitzers that Colonel Hunton’s men began to take heavy losses. From the surgeon’s report it would appear that “tree bursts” sent flying pieces of wood; thus the friendly woods now became an enemy. Major Norborne Berkeley watched as the two Federal mountain howitzers on the opposite side of the bluff opened fire on the 8th. There was a thunderous roar as the artillery shells burst through the trees, sending wood splinters in every direction. Major Berkeley could see several privates from Company E fall where they stood from the shrapnel. "I urged my men to remain calm and steady their aim. It wouldn't have done much use for us to panic in the face of heavy fire" Norborne wrote later on. At about 2:30 PM, the 18th Mississippi, closely followed by the 17th Mississippi, came up to relieve the pressure on the 8th Virginia.

    A semi-circular ring was now drawn around the hapless Federals, still bravely holding at the brink of the bluff. Colonel Hunton, atop his war horse, began riding through the 8th’s battle lines. He ordered Companies A, B, and C to advance across the field directly across from the 20th Massachusetts and 1st California. Bright flashes of light burst from the Springfield Model 1855 muskets as the Company A, B, and C lines of battle opened fire. White gunpowder smoke was floating across the battlefield as Hunton commanded his Companies D and E to open fire while the former companies reloaded. While the left line of battle reloaded their muskets, the weapons of the middle rank and file were raised at the ready position. “Commence firing!” As the next volley flew across the battlefield, the Federals of the 20th Massachusetts line of battle returned fire. A few of the soldiers in Company D fell to the ground dead, shifting the battle line to fix the gaps. Colonel Hunton ordered the third rank and file line to open fire now, sending another devastating volley across the field. He could see through the smoke as a cluster of Yankees fell to the gunfire.

    Some confusion ran through the ranks around this time, when Lt. Colonel Charles Tebbs, believing he had heard Colonel Hunton order a retreat, began shouting commands for his lines to fall back. It took several minutes, but Colonel Hunton and Major Berkeley were able to restore order and reform their lines. As the infantry clashed, Hunton noticed that the two mountain howitzers were preparing to fire once more. Seconds later, they opened up on the 8th Virginia, sending two round shots into their ranks. Many of the men from Company I fell wounded, their screams filling the air. Colonel Hunton checked his watch. It was 4:30 PM: two hours had passed in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, he could see the Union Colonel Edward Baker leading his troops of the 1st California into battle.

    Hunton ordered his skirmishers out into the adjacent treeline to open fire on the commander and his men. Sergeant Benedict R. Lunceford led his squad into the trees to open fire on the Yankees. Loading his Model 1861 musket, Sergeant Lunceford took aim at Colonel Baker. Readying his shot, he squeezed the trigger and fired, sending a roundball through the neck of Colonel Baker. The Union colonel fell to the ground grasping his bloodied neck, choking to death on his blood. Sergeant Lunceford had just killed the first and only U.S. Senator to die in combat.



    Colonel / Senator Edward D. Baker is shot dead by Sergeant Lunceford at the Battle of Ball's Bluff

    The Union command was thrown into disarray as the 1st California troops were routed from the field due to the loss of their commander. Colonel Eppa Hunton took this to his advantage. “Eighth Virginia, rally behind me! This is our chance! Fix bayonets and charge them Yanks” The men of the 8th Virginia began fixing bayonets and joined their commander in his charge. The 8th Virginia charged across the clearing, overrunning and capturing the two troublesome howitzers. The 18th Mississippi joined in the attack to force the enemy over the bluff and down to the bench along the river below. While rushing across the open field and proudly waving the 8th Virginia's battle flag, Sergeant Clinton Hatcher of Company F was shot in the heart and chest three times. The 6' 4" flag bearer fell dead where he stood, dropping the flag before another sergeant rushed in to grab it and pick it up. Sergeant Hatcher wasn't the only man to die where he stood. Corporal George Donohoe would never again write of the tough bread and meat, nor of the cold nights, for he died that afternoon with a Union bullet through his heart.


    This is the spot where Sergeant Clinton Hatcher, the 8th VA's flag bearer from Company F, was shot dead.

    As the Federals began running down the bluff, they were shot in the back by the men of the 8th Virginia and 18th Mississippi. The battle became a real disaster for the Union forces, as they would show casualties of more than 900 from a force of 1700. The men had fought with great bravery, doing everything that was asked of them, but through the ineptitude of their officers, they had been placed in a position from which not even seasoned troops could have extricated themselves. Out of ammunition, and exhausted after five hours of fighting, the 8th Virginia was recalled and started back to Leesburg for a well-earned rest. A picket line was established under First Lieutenant Charles Berkeley, to guard the battlefield and watch the struggling Federals recross the river.


    The 8th Virginia charges the Federals along Ball's Bluff

    Union troops are gunned down retreating off the bluff into the Potomac River at the end of the battle


    Many local citizens lined the hillsides watching the battle that afternoon; now they would come forth looking for sons or family members. Black powder smoke hung dense over the wooded battlefield, making shadowy figures of the men as they withdrew from the bluffs edge. “Father, don’t you recognize your own son?” Private Lewis Shumate of Company C replied to the question of a worried father, “Have you seen my son Lewis?” Powder-blackened faces showed little resemblance to the clean-cut farm boys of that morning.

    About dark, Lieutenant Berkeley, hearing the enemy still trying to cross back to the safety of the Maryland shore, sent a request back to the regiment for volunteers to attempt their capture. Some 50 men responded under Captain William Berkeley, and under the guidance of Corporal E.V. White of Ashby’s cavalry, a volunteer on the field that day, they rounded up 325 Federals who were sent off to Richmond as prisoners of war. From a total of 450 men committed, the battle cost the 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment 14 dead, 33 wounded, and 1 missing.The name of Sergeant Clinton Hatcher would live on, first with the original camp of Confederate Veterans, and today, in Clinton Hatcher Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans. The work of the regiment that day did not go unnoticed, as Mrs. Beauregard made a flag from one of her silk dresses for presentation to the regiment. General Beauregard had this to say in presenting the flag: “For distinguished valor on the field of battle at Ball’s Bluff, October 21, 1861.




    The 8th Virginia battle flag, made and presented to them by Mrs. Beauregard and her husband, General P.G.T. Beauregard

    In mid-November, General Joseph E. Johnston began to implement Jefferson Davis mandate that troops should be brigaded according to the states from whence they came. A Mississippi regiment was sent to Leesburg to join the three already there, and the 8th Virginia was sent to the main army at Centreville. There they were again assigned to the brigade commanded by General Philip St. George Cocke. This brigade was now composed of the 8th, 18th, 19th, and 28th Virginia Infantry Regiments. Later, the 56th Virginia was assigned to form the unit that would remain together throughout the war.
    A royal reception greeted Colonel Eppa Hunton’s men when they arrived at Centreville. As the heroes of Ball’s Bluff, they received the plaudits of the army. The dreary duty of picketing occupied their time for the remainder of November. Captain William Berkeley of Company D worte that the men were well and hearty, and that they had selected a fine campground that was dry and warm. On November 30th, they commenced building winter quarters. The men built fireplaces and stone chimneys to the tents, which made them quite warm until permanent buildings could be constructed. Several men reported that this new camp was in a warm, sheltered spot.
    Units were ordered out on December 9th to witness the execution of two members of the celebrated Louisiana Tigers. The 8th Virginia was one of these units as Captain Berkeley wrote home under date of December 10th: “Yesterday we all turned out to witness a military execution. Two of the notorious Tigers were shot by sentence of Court Martial. It was an imposing and awful sight. I never wish to witness another.


    Campaigning was over for the year of 1861, and the men were comfortable in their newly-constructed quarters. However, homesickness and illness were taking their toll. The returns for the month of December show a regimental strength of 33 officers and 511 men, of which 133 were sick and 42 were AWOL.

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    Chapter 4:

    Battle of Williamsburg


    Peninsula Campaign
    May 5, 1862

    Private James Russell of Company A wrote to his wife from the camp at Centreville on January 8, 1862: “I have been detailed for several days to help get timbers to build a theater for the benefit of Longstreet’s division. I expect to get a ticket for the winter as it is not likely the Yankees will come to see us.

    Chaplain Charles Linthicum inserted a notice in a Loudoun County newspaper, asking for books for the men of the 8th Regiment: “Books, Books, Books is the continuing cry in the camp. Good books will restrain evil, develop good, interest the mind, cultivate the affections, refine the nature, and profit the soul of man. I would name Rev. Cornelis of Leesburg, Rev. Harris of Upperville, and Mrs. Catherine Brown of Middleburg as suitable agents to receive and distribute the books.” The theater and a circulating library gave evidence that there was a cultural side of the Army not generally shown.

    Sickness was taking its toll, Russell in his letter said, “a great many of our men are sick at this time, and they are sending them off to RIchmond and other hospitals.” Captain Berkeley of Company D wrote home saying, “almost half the men in camp have had jaundice.” And in a postscript he added, “please send us some chopped cabbage pickle, or some beets in vinegar. I think the jaundice is brought on by the want of such diet.” Other than guard duty there was little to break the monotony of camp life, except to try to keep well.

    The unfortunate death of Brigadier General Philip St. George Cocke created a vacancy in the command of the brigade. On February 28, Brigadier General George E. Pickett was assigned to duty with the Second Division of the Army of the Potomac to report to Major General James Longstreet. General Longstreet then assigned his old friend of the 8th U.S. Infantry to the brigade formerly commanded by Cocke. By this appointment, Pickett began a relationship with the 8th Virginia that would continue until the final days of the war. Except for time out with wounds, he would command them, first in the brigade, then in his division, to undying fame in the annals of the Army of Northern Virginia.

    As Major General George B. McClellan started to move his Union Army toward the Virginia Peninsula, Joseph E. Johnston withdrew his army from its winter quarters. On March 9, the 8th Virginia Infantry, accompanied by the Loudoun Artillery, marched from Centreville headed west on the Warrenton Turnpike. Their route lay through Warrenton, Sperryville, and Culpeper before reaching Orange Court House on the 24th. They remained at Orange until April 5th, when they moved to Lebanon Church on the Peninsula, about four miles from Yorktown, arriving there on the 19th.

    The great majority of the Army were those volunteers that had been enlisted for only twelve months. The Confederate Congress was aware of this and showed their concern that the rolls could not be kept up to strength during the summer as these enlistments expired. After much debate, a law was passed and published to the Army on January 1, 1862, that for: “all who should re-enlist, a furlough of thirty days at home, transportation going and returning, a bounty of fifty dollars, and the privilege of re-organizing and re-electing their own regimental and company officers at the expiration of the first enlistment” would be given.

    This, together with the final passage of the Conscription Act of April 16, 1862, attained the desired results. The election of officers had little impact on keeping the men, and in most cases it was detrimental to the service. The 8th was fortunate, for although it lost some good men, those elected were excellent choices. Thus, by selecting capable individuals, they suffered no harm from this system. Major Norborne Berkeley replaced Charles B. Tebbs as Lieutenant Colonel, while Captain James Thrift of Company G was elected Major. Three companies were to see new commanders: Captain W.R. Bissell was elected to Company A as a replacement for Captain Heaton, who had transferred to the Nitre and Mining Bureau; J. Owens Berry replaced the newly promoted Major Thrift; and William E. Garrett was elected to the command of Company I.

    The 8th Virginia, from their camp near Lebanon Church, could hear occasional skirmishing but were not engaged, as they were held in reserve during their state on the Yorktown-Warwick line. By May 1, Major General Joseph E. Johnston was finding his Peninsula line becoming more difficult to hold from the growing pressure of Major General George B. McClellan’s army. On the night of May 3, Johnston started to withdraw his forces. Rain and mud became their enemy as weary men toiled along roads deep in mire toward Williamsburg.

    On the night of May 4, Pickett’s Brigade camped on the campus of William and Mary College. Their orders were to continue the march toward Richmond on the morrow. There was the feeling amongst the officers of the 8th that the army had made another successful withdrawal without attack from the enemy. Colonel Hunton, too ill to remain with his men, had turned the command over to Lt. Colonel Berkeley and sought rest in a Williamsburg home.
    Rain and mud had so long delayed the withdrawal, that on the morning of May 5th, the Union Army was applying pressure on the retreating Confederates. Major General James Longstreet was placed in command of the rear guard. By 6:00 AM, Heintzelman’s Union Corps assaulted the Confederate center and right. About 8:00 AM, Pickett received an order from Longstreet to countermarch and support the line east of the town.

    The brigade halted on the college grounds for some time and was then ordered to move to the junction of the Kings Mill Road and the Main Road. After a short pause here, the brigade moved out to a skirt of woods on the right to extend the line, and if possible, turn the left flank of the enemy. The 8th Virginia, leading Pickett's Brigade, entered the woods, and before the other three regiments could follow, they were recalled. This left the 8th Virginia to proceed onward alone. There on the right flank, the 8th Virginia, together with the 14th Louisiana Infantry Regiment of Pryor's Brigade, repulsed the enemy, drawing praise from Brigadier General Pickett.

    For the 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment, their participation in the Battle of Williamsburg began around noon on May 5, 1862. At 12:00 PM, skirmishers from both the 8th Virginia and the Union 6th Vermont exchanged fire at one another in the trees. This sporadic and confused fighting was characterized by brief firefights, followed by a lull, and then another ensuing firefight. Around 1:30 PM, Lt. Colonel Norborne Berkeley brought forth the rest of his regiment to reinforce his skirmishers in the woods. Deploying his companies in the trees, he ordered the regiment to march forward and face the enemy. Company H was the first company to become fully engaged by the 6th Vermont, receiving a volley of musket fire from the Federal soldiers. Company H soon redeployed in the treeline and returned fire with their own volleys. Minutes passed as each side exchanged barrages of musket fire. Finally, Colonel Berkeley brought forth Company K to reinforce the soldiers of Company H.

    When Company K entered the field, they attempted a wheeling maneuver to outflank the 6th Vermont. However, the 6th Vermont had noticed their movement through the trees, and dispatched skirmishers to slow their movement. Around 3:00 PM, a tremendous downfall of rain soaked the Yankee and Rebel soldiers. Nevertheless, exchanges of fire continued throughout the day. The fighting in the woods around Williamsburg escalated around 5:00 PM, when Colonel Berkeley brought forward his remaining companies to shore up his lines. For hours, the two regiments exchanged volleys at one another. "We fought the Yankees in the trees all day long. Just like at Ball's Bluff, the trees were both our saviors and killers. They provided cover from incoming fire, but the exploding wood splinters were like shrapnel" a private in the 8th's Company A wrote in his journal after the battle. Indeed, the men would use the treeline for cover, but incoming artillery would cause wooden splinters to burst in every direction. To make matters worse, the rainfall had turned the ground into mud, and the 8th Virginia soldiers had to combat the enemy, the deadly trees, and the elements.

    The confused fighting in the woods outside Williamsburg cost the 8th Virginia four dead and eleven captured, of which four had been wounded. At about 8:00 PM that evening, as darkness began to settle over the woods, the 8th Virginia was withdrawn after eight hours of combat in the firing line. The Battle of Williamsburg had ended inconclusively, with neither side making significant progress in the engagement.


    Last edited by JDwoody; 12-01-2018 at 05:40 AM.

  6. #6
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    Chapter 5:
    Battle of Seven Pines

    Peninsula Campaign
    May 31 - June 1, 1862


    Scurvy had been prevalent in the trenches at Yorktown, rapidly increasing during the hardships of the retreat. A doctor, then with D.H. Hill's Division and later a surgeon with the 8th Virginia Infantry reported: "I saw men on that retreat breaking ranks and scrambling for bunches of wild garlick, which they devoured with greedy delight. I saw green persimmons in like manner greedily devoured, which I had supposed would have been a physical impossibility. Measles, malarial fever and a shocking epidemic of typhoid fever prevailed at the same time to a fearful extent."

    On the afternoon of May 31st, 1862, Pickett's Brigade was ordered to move to the York River Railroad and cover that route against any advance of the enemy in that direction. At daylight, the brigade was directed to report to Major General D.H. Hill near Seven Pines. Hill sent Pickett about 400 yards in advance of "The Redoubt," a position held by Federal General Silas Casey the previous day. The line that was formed had Brigadier General Lewis Armistead's Brigade on Pickett's left. As the Confederate line moved forward toward the York River Railroad, Armistead's men fled to the rear, causing Pickett to refuse the left of his line to cover the gap thus created. To check the advance of the Federals, Pickett charged and drove them back. The 18th and 19th Virginia Infantry Regiments took most of the loss in the action, thus saving the 8th from heavy casualties. However, the 8th Virginia suffered its fair share of losses, including its newly-elected Major, James Thrift, mortally wounded while leading a charge. Here at the Battle of Seven Pines, or the Battle of Fair Oaks as some called it, the 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment had acquitted themselves well.

    The 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment's participation in the Battle of Seven Pines began around 12:30 PM, when they marched onto the field of battle in formation. Despite receiving heavy artillery fire, the 8th Virginia maintained its lines of battle and marched into positions in advance of The Redoubt. Colonel Hunton, once again commanding the regiment into battle, ordered his Companies A, B, and C to advance abreast one another closer to the enemy formations. Upon arriving across the field from the Union 72nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Lt. Colonel Norborne Berkeley began issuing orders for his men to take aim and prepare to open fire. However, the 72nd Pennsylvania managed to fire off its volley first, and around a dozen or so soldiers from Company B and C fell where they stood. Colonel Berkeley told his men to maintain their positions, despite an increase in artillery fire raining down on their lines.

    Finally, Lt. Colonel Berkeley issued the order to open fire, and the three companies spit a volley of musket fire into the Union lines. The 72nd Pennsylvania returned fire with another volley, and another dozen troops from Company C were gunned down. Captain Edmund Berkeley attempted to maintain order in his company, and prevented several fresh recruits from breaking formation. Finally, he restored confidence in his men, who began to shoot back at the Yankees in disjointed bursts of musket fire. Meanwhile, Captain Bissell received orders from Lt. Colonel Norborne Berkeley to advance at the double-quick pace onto the 72nd Pennsylvania's right flank. Norborne Berkeley had spotted an opening in the 72nd's lines, and began moving his companies into position to exploit it. Major James Thrift began moving forward now with Companies D, E, and F, Captain Alex Grayson's Company F taking the lead and advancing at double-quick.

    Major Thrift began pressing the advance, urging his troops to follow his lead as he charged up towards the 72nd Pennsylvania's lines of battle. Companies E and F had joined him in the charge, fixing their bayonets and launching themselves over The Redoubt and across the grassy fields. However, as Major Thrift got closer and closer to the enemy positions, a cannon shell exploded near him, knocking the Major off his feet and mortally wounding him. His men continued on without him, and Captain Bissell's Company A provided covering fire volleys as Company F rushed the 72nd Pennsylvania's lines.

    When Company F smashed into the lines of Company B, 72nd Pennsylvania, their fixed bayonets and Rebel Yells struck fear into the Philadelphia men. A close-quarters, hand-to-hand combat ensued, in which Company F, soon joined by Companies E and A, was able to rout the 72nd Pennsylvania's lines. By 4:00 PM, the 8th Virginia was pulled off the line, having made its mark on the inconclusive battle at Seven Pines.

  7. #7
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    Chapter 6:
    Battle of Gaines's Mill

    Peninsula Campaign - Seven Days' Battles
    June 27, 1862

    Following the Battle of Seven Pines, Pickett's Brigade went into camp along the Williamsburg Road. They would remain here until the opening of the Seven Days' Battles, beginning with the Battle of Gaines's Mill on June 27, 1862. Captain Edmund Berkeley, commanding Company C, was promoted to Major to replace James Thrift. While at this camp, the 56th Virginia Infantry was added to Pickett's Brigade, completing the organizaiton that would remain together throughout the war. On the afternoon of June 25th, the brigade was ordered to draw eighty rounds of ammunition and cook three days rations. At 8:00 PM that evening they were ordered to fall in, prepared to march that night. The next morning they halted on the Mechanicsville Pike near the bridge that crossed the Chickahominy River.

    Pickett's Brigade reached Gaines's Mill about 4:00 PM on June 27th, and immediately led to the right in the direction of heavy fighting. "Passing through woods we soon reached a large open undulating field with heavy timber on all sides, where we formed in line of battle, and awaited a few minutes for the approach of the enemy," wrote one soldier in the 8th Virginia. General Pickett then ordered the brigade to advance, driving the enemy from a triple row of defenses, first from a deep ditch, then from abatis, then a barricade at the brow of the hill. Second Lieutenant Joseph Cooper of Company G gave the best account of this when he wrote: "The 'Rebel Yell' resounded over the din of battle, and soon Pickett's men were within the enemy's first fortified line, when its occupants surrendered. Then the second gave way and fled, and the other line became panic-stricken and fled also...Twelve guns were parked on the edge of a peach orchard, somewhat in the rear of the Watts house, which the left of the brigade had not yet reached. The Eighth Regiment was below on the extreme right of the Watts house in pursuit of the fugitives, when the enemy opened fire with grape and canister from those twelve pieces, which stopped the pursuit. Their terrible fire was of short duration, for as soon as the left of the brigade got close enough, those guns were silenced, and the fire in Pickett's front ceased, and the day was won."

    The day was won, but the cost was great on the brigade. Brigadier General Pickett was badly wounded, and the 8th Virginia Infantry counted eight dead and forty-five wounded from a force of only 219. Colonel Hunton and several of his men writing in various publications after the war took exception to the fact that Whitling's division was credited with first penetrating the Union line. They blame William Swinton, war correspondent, for writing that Hood's Texas Brigade first pierced the line, pointing out that they had breached the line before Hood's people came marching on the field. Except for Gettysburg, the Battle of Gaines's Mill would be their bloodiest day. Shortly after dark, they were relieved and sent back to bivouac. The next day they crossed to the south side of the Chickahominy River, and moved toward the James River.

  8. #8
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    Chapter 7:

    Battle of Glendale

    Peninsula Campaign - Seven Days' Battles

    June 30, 1862


    [FONT=Arial][SIZE=4]On June 30, 1862, the 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment was brought up to a point on the Darbytown Road to participate in the Battle of Glendale, the sixth day of the Seven Days' Battles. Colonel Hunton was now in command of the brigade, acting for the wounded General Pickett, and Lt. Colonel Norborne Berkeley was in charge of the 8th Virginia. It was 2:00 PM when the 8th Virginia was brought onto the field of battle. Artillery was roaring all around as cannons from both sides exchanged fire at one another. The 8th Virginia hunkered down while the barrages rained around them. When the artillery finally ceased, Lt. Colonel Berkeley deployed his regiment in a line of battle on the field.

    Moving Companies A, B, and C forward ahead of the regiment, Lt. Colonel Berkeley commanded them to fire volleys on the opposing Union lines. Meanwhile, Companies D, E, and F deployed skirmishers on the flanks of the former companies. Companies G, H, I, and K were deployed to the right side of the field, and maneuvered around the Federal lines while they were engaged with the first three companies. Company A was the first to receive casualties from the Union lines of battle. They quickly deployed and fired two volleys into the Federal ranks, devastating their lines. Company B then moved up to reinforce them, and fired another volley while Company A reloaded. Company C then moved up and fired several volleys. This pattern of reloading and firing by companies was used throughout the day.

    Company F skirmishers engaged the Federal troops in the field, throwing down harassing fire while the rest of the 8th Virginia attacked their front. Company H was the first to maneuver around the Federal lines, and unleashed a series of devastating volleys upon the Yankees. At 5:00 PM, Colonel Hunton rode up to Lt. Colonel Berkeley and gave the order for the 8th Virginia to charge the enemy artillery in front of them. Fixing their bayonets, the 8th Virginia rushed forward onto the field shouting the Rebel Yell. They charged through the Yankee lines and managed to capture a series of artillery batteries firing on the rest of the Confederate troops. Colonel Hunton fell behind from exhaustion, and Colonel Strange of the 19th Virginia Infantry Regiment commanded the brigade until the engagement ended at about 8:30 PM.

    The casualties for the 8th Virginia Infantry at the Battle of Glendale, AKA the Battle of Frazier's Farm, were two killed and twenty-four wounded, bringing their total losses to 106 since the regiment reached the Virginia Peninsula. The brigade, again under the command of Colonel Hunton, moved into camp about four miles from Richmond on the Darbytown Road. Held in reserve, they were not engaged at the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862. They would stay in camp at Roper's Mill below Richmond until the Northern Virginia Campaign in August.
    Last edited by JDwoody; 12-05-2018 at 03:42 PM.

  9. #9
    My GGF was Benjamin Lunceford, where can I source this information?

  10. #10
    WoR-Dev Bradley's Avatar
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    I would also be interested in knowing what sources were involved in your research.

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