On August 1st, 1863, after marching over 400 miles and fighting the Battle of Gettysburg since leaving Falmouth on June 14th, the men of the Fourteenth Connecticut, found themselves at Bristow, Virginia, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. This weakened regiment was now less than a hundred strong. They were detached from the Second Corps, along with their comrades of the Twelfth New Jersey, for a period of rest and rebuilding.
From Bristow they marched a few miles southeast to Cedar Run. Although I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact location of this encampment, I believe it was near the village of Brentsville between Bristow Road (Route 619) and Aden Road (Route 646). Even today there are many open fields for drilling troops, plenty of water for drinking, washing, and cooking, and woodlands for firewood and shade from the summer sun.
The two regiments would remain encamped at Cedar Run until August 18th. It was during these peaceful days that the first replacement recruits began arrive. As Charles Page related in his History of the Fourteenth Regiment, on August 6th, “Captain Davis, who had been detailed to go to Connecticut for recruits, returned to camp with forty-two out of one hundred and seventeen with which he started, the rest having deserted along the way, most of them when the boat arrived in New York.”
While some of the new men went on to become first-rate soldiers, most were what Page called “not only conscripts, but nondescripts.” They represented fifteen to twenty different nationalities, many different walks of life, and of course possessed varying degrees of basic virtues. The “old soldiers” viewed each new recruit with suspicion, and sometimes with open contempt, until the new man proved himself trustworthy.
As I remarked in my post “Filling the Ranks,” desertion on the way to the front could be a profitable enterprise for the repeat bounty-jumper. The army would react to counter these mass desertions with armed escorts from the home state to the front. There would also be an increase in executions for desertion, and as we will see, there would be tragic consequences for the men of the Fourteenth Connecticut.