During the last few days of October, the Army of the Potomac started to move. One by one the many regiments left their encampments and joined the long slow procession southward.
The Fourteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry left Bolivar Heights about noon on Thursday, October 30. They crossed the Shenandoah River near where it flows into the Potomac, marched along the Potomac toward Leesburg, Virginia, then marched south into the Loudon Valley. Progress was slow, sometimes only a few miles per day. The few roads were choked with men on foot and men on horseback, and thousands of horse or mule drawn wheeled vehicles—artillery pieces, caissons, ammunition chests, a multitude of wagons filled with ammunition, rations, officers’ baggage, and sutlers’ stores.
Whenever the army stopped for the night, units were sent out to guard the approaches over the Blue Ridge to the west. Troops stationed at the crest of these gaps reported the amzing sight of seeing thousands of Union campfires spreading out across the Loudon Valley to the east, and thousands of Rebel campfires spreading across the Shenadoah Valley to the west.
The Loudon Valley was a beautiful and verdant area of gently rolling farmland, cattle pastures, and horse farms, bounded by wooden rail fences. There were certainly abundant stores of good, nutritious food at every farm, but the Union army posted guards to prevent pillaging. Sgt. Hirst reported that when attempts were made to purchase food from the Virginia farmers, they would not accept Federal greenbacks, only Confederate money. With a hint of chagrin Hirst found some contentment in the steady supply of pork, hardtack, coffee, and sugar.
On November 3rd, Hirst also reported on the strength of the regiment—only about 460 men, a loss of over fifty percent of its fighting strength in little more than two months.