On September 23, 1861 my great-grandfather Charles S. Buell, age 19, went from his home in Woodbury, Connecticut to Hartford and enlisted in the Waterbury Company, Company E under a Captain Smith, of the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers. On that day and for the next two and a half years until June 19th, 1864 he kept a diary in three books of blank pages small enough to fit into a pocket. Above the first entry he wrote:
Charles S. Buell, Woodbury, Conn. 8th Regiment Company E Conn. Volunteers. Should it be my fate to fall upon the battlefield or otherwise be deprived of life they will very much oblige the owner thereof if they would see that it was returned to my relatives at Woodbury, Conn. Litchfield County.
The following are Charles S. Buell's complete diary entries (written in pencil) from September 11, 1862, when he was on the march to Antietam, to October 7, 1862 when his company finally marched away from the battlefield.
I have had quite a tramp today. In my search after wood I got lost and wandered all day. When I returned to camp my Regt. had gone. I trudged along after them. I halted at night near Damascus. The rain poured down while I was destitute of blankets.
This morning I started in search of my Regt. and found them after a march of 3 miles just packing up for a start. My things were all right. Friday morning we started for Frederick City. Followed up the Baltimore and Ohio RR. The sun poured down in fury upon us. We reached the city just at dark with but two men wounded. The citizens and girls fairly leapt and cried for joy. They invited us into the Hospital and treated us to wine and good things. We had hot tea and warm biscuit with butter.
We started this morning from the city throwing out skirmishers in advance. At this time we have been winding our way up the mountain to make a flank movement probably. I am feeling quite well, with exception of the reumatism in my left leg. Our march today has been a rapid one pursuing the enemy close to their heels. The cavalry had a skirmish with the rear guard to their baggage.
This morning the sky is hazy. Last night we lay on our arms about half a mile from Middletown. This another of Gods holy sabbaths are must be counted among the many of carnage and bloodshed. God forgive us and protect us by thy might. Give us victory for thy sons sake Amen. We are again called to fall in and pursue the retreating foe. This morning we had bushmeal for breakfast. Afternoon We started from camp 10 1/2 ock for the Blue Ridge where the action commenced and lasted all day. Gen Reno was killed. Our Regt was not brought into the engagement but two balls passed very near to me.
This morning at early dawn we rose from our position where we lay on account of the darkness of the night and not knowing the position of the rebels we lay on our arms. We marched up into the mountains about a mile, where we (Gen. Rodman's division) formed a line of Battle through the woods over bush and rocks. The dead rebels were strewed all along the road in scores. Up to 12 ock all has been quite with the exception of a few random shots. We lay on our arms about 2 hours. Probably too allow the Artillery to change their position. Last night we recd a mail for our Regt. Only one letter for Comp E that for Capt. The rebels are on the skedaddle our Reinforcements are comming up and we are persuing them right up to the handle. Afternoon and all is quite on the East side of the Blue Ridge. Troups are pouring on to a great rate.
Long to be remembered
[Circled with a wavy line in the original.]
These two days will always be in my memory as the hardest of this campaign. Just two weeks yesterday we commenced this march and have kept it up night and day living on hard tack and occasionally a bit of fresh beef boiled. It is hard but we will never submit to Rebbeldom though we have to go through Hardships and privations to the bitter end. God be with us and sustain us in every conflict.
Last night we had a forced march of six or seven miles. We forded one deep creek with wet feet and hungry stomaches we lay down to rest. The ball opened this morning at about 9 ock at our baggage waggons. But little damage was done. Four men killed and several muls. At four ock in the afternoon we moved in line of Battle to the left (Gen Rodmans) division. The rebels threw shels at our advance up to dark. All is right their shells fell short morning.
The rebels commenced shelling us at early dawn. Our Regiment lay within range of their shells about 2 hours four of our men were killed and several were wounded. We moved to the left and supported our battery at about 2 oclk the rebeles skedadled across the ravine & were we after them shot shell and canister. Our boys were in good spirits although we have had nothing to eat today.
[Two wavy lines separate the entries at this point.]
Great Battle fought Yesterday. At about four PM we engaged the enemy with infantry. The rebels got a cross fire on our Regt from three ways our fellows fought with undaunted Bravery. John E Tuttle my chum was shot through the bowels we held the enemy in check until reinforcements came up. We were then ordered back accross the river to get something to eat haveing nothing for three days but a few Biscuits (Hardtack). We drawed up in line of battle accross the river and called the roll our Regt. could muster but 130 men our company but 14. This morning we had fresh meat and coffee and Hard bread breakfast and feel much better. This morning my heart of full of thanks to God that I am still alive.
Last night we lay near Antiedam Creek to prevent the rebels from crossing. We went up on to the Battle field in the afternoon and brought of our dead. Leach and I brought off John E Tuttle.
This morning heavy cannonading is going on in the direction of the Potomac we are to remain in camp today to recruit a little.
Last night we recd a mail I received three from Woodbury two from home and one from Emma. John had one I have wrote two letters today one to Emma and one to Sister Amelia.
Today I am about sick with the disentry and pain in my head and bones. Andrew J. Cotney starts for Home to day on a 30 days furlough. I am quite unwell, about discouraged today.
Today I am not feeling very well we are under marching orders at any moment. I received one letter today from Emma.
Today I feel no better but worse if any thing. I went to the doctor and he excused me from duty. Our Regt had orders at 11 ock to pack and start. I and George Roswell were sent to and old barn with a lot of other sick. I receive three letters today one from Emma and one from Amelia and one from H C Percy. I wrote one to Amelia and one to Emma but had no chance to mail them.
Today the weather is quite hot. I have wrote three letters one to Emma one to Amelia and one to Father and mother.
Yesterday I wrote three letters 2 home dated 26th and 28th and one to E J T. I am not very well to day the weather is hot.
Today we recd a mail by the way of Joe Vail one from Cothren and one from Emma and one from Mother and Sister Amelia. I have written in return one to Cothren one to Em and one to Mother and Sister.
To day I have spent in looking for the remains of my comrade John E Tuttle. I found them and marked the grave. The body lies 20 rods west of John Otis residence about ? mile south of Sharpsburg. Close to a lane near three large stackS of straw. The job was a tedious one but cheerfuly performed in honor of the dead & the dear friends he has left behind.
We broke camp today at about 11 ock and took our march over the mountains and rocks. The sun was very hot and their was not a breath of air it was a tedious march.
Buell's service lasted three years. His company took part in the Peninsula Campaign and later, and most notably, in Antietam where it was part of Rodman's Division, Ninth Army Corps. He was invalided in Washington towards the latter part of his enlistment. His last diary entry is dated Sunday June 19th 1864.
According to a fact sheet I obtained at the Antietam Visitor's Center in the late 1970s, Rodman's Division was in position southeast of Burnside Bridge at daybreak on September 17. Around 1 p.m. it crossed the Antietam stream at Snavely's ford where it forced the Confederate soldiers from the high ground above the ford. It ascended "up the right bank of the stream until nearly abreast the Burnside Bridge (where it) formed a line on the left of Willcox's Division."
My great-grandfather's brigade was led by Col. Harland. The Park Service account continues: "About 3 P.M., the Division advanced. One regiment of Harland's Brigade gained the high ground northwest of this point; but the remaining two regiments, while moving through the forty acre cornfield northeast of this, were attacked in flank, by the right of A.P. Hill's Division and compelled to retire to the cover of the high ground near the Bridge."
"Compelled to retire" indeed! His brigade was blindsided by Hill's newly arrived forces and decimated by the crossfire. Once reinforcements arrived they were ordered back across the stream. There, according to the diary "Our Regt. could muster but 130 men, our company but 14." His regiment's battlefield monument is located at the farthest point of their advance.
The diarist almost always eschewed the use of periods to end his sentences. In order to make it more readable I added periods where they seemed reasonable and the next word was capitalized as if it were the beginning of a new sentence. On a very few occasions I corrected spelling errors that would have seriously impaired readability; otherwise they stand as is.
Many thanks to Marjorie Bolvin and Charles Mitchell, my sister and brother, for their help in checking the accuracy of this transcription.
April 2, 2004
Robert Cameron Mitchell