Farewell to Falmouth

Point of Personal Privilege: Tomorrow, Saturday, June 15th, I will be joining the 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Company F for a Civil War living history event at Fort Trumbull Park, in New London, CT. I will be doing a meet and greet and book signing. Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. I would be honored to meet you there.

For the men of the Fourteenth Connecticut, life returned to the routine they had known before the start of the Chancellorsville campaign. On June 5th, Sgt. Benjamin Hirst wrote his wife, Sarah, that: “our present camp is a very nice place compared to what it was, it being in a pine woods, and having good water convenient to it, but the mosquitoes have begun to make fun of me at night which makes me wish I was at home sometimes, when I wake up and find them sucking on me.”

The command structure was again changed. Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock was promoted to command the Second Corps. The new commander of the Third Division was Brig. Gen. Alexander Hays. The Second Brigade of the Third Division also had a new leader, Col. Thomas Smyth, and a battalion of the 10th New York Infantry was added to the brigade.

For several weeks the Second Corps picketed all along the north bank of the Rappa-hannock River. During the first week of June, Gen. Lee launched the Gettysburg by starting his troops on a long march to the west and north around the Union. All furloughs of Union troops were cancelled on June 5th and all troops had to report back to their units immediately. Over the next several days, as the Confederate movements became clear, Maj. Gen. Hooker started the Army of the Potomac in motion. Each corps of infantry broke camp and started northward, accompanied by hundreds of artillery pieces and miles-long supply trains.

The Second Corps held its positions along the river until Sunday, June 14th, when it too joined the procession as the rear guard of the army. Many soldiers, including Sgt. Hirst, considered the northward march yet another retreat. “The Rappahannock was once again in undisputed control of the Rebels,” he wrote. The men of the Fourteenth would never see Falmouth again, and most had no wish to.

Fiction Connection: Michael Palmer was one of the few men from the 14th CT who was granted a furlough, but he had the misfortune of being en route home on June 5th. Imagine his despair when his hope of a peaceful respite at home was dashed and he had to return to the war front.

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