Third Connecticut Regiment —- A reliable Statement from Rev. J. M. Willey, its Chaplain
We visited the encampment of the 2d and 3d Connecticut Regiments, and witnessed their dress parade on Thursday afternoon last, and were gratified at their general good appearance. The Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Welles, Senator Dixon, and chief clerk Faxon, were present to witness the parade, and to show their interest in the volunteers from this State. We heard an excellent report of Mr. Willey, the chaplain of the 3d Regiment. He has been untiring in his efforts for the welfare of the men, and will ever be held in grateful remembrance by them.
Mr. Willey is disposed to forgive the rebels for stealing several of his manuscript sermons at Bull Run, provided they will read and profit by them; still they are such a rebellious people, that he has but little hopes of their salvation, with any weapon short of shot and shell. The following addressed by him to the Waterbury American, will be read with interest. We give it at his request.
I don’t think that I should now intrude upon you, except to ask you to put little reliance upon the newspaper reports of the great battle of the 21st. The accounts of “hair-breadth escapes and wonderful exploits” are most ridiculous and absurd. So far as my observation aids me, the reporters have obtained many of their startling particulars from those who were first to run away from the fight – whose lightness of foot enabled them to present full reports of the battle as much in advance of Government dispatches as they were in advance of men of courage in their stampede to Washington. On my arrival at Willard’s Hotel, on Tuesday morning, I heard men recounting their own daring achievements, whom, with my own eyes, I saw practicing the “double quick” from the battle field before it was known through the army that a retreat was ordered. Regiments are praised for their bravery, who were not ordered to fire a gun, and encomiums are bestowed upon officers for rallying their regiments, when for hours the Regiments had not the slightest idea where their officers were.
For the sake of common honesty, I must insist that the 3d Connecticut Regiment, which was the only Connecticut Regiment who made on charge on that memorable day, should not be entirely ignored for the simple reason that none of its officers ran away to “post up” reporters as to its daring deeds.
About half-past two, p. m., the 3d Connecticut and 2d Maine were ordered to charge upon a battery of rebels. The Colonel of the 3d did not send but led his Regiment to one of the most perilous labors of the day. Amid a shower of bullets and grape shot that sounded like the humming of bees, the work was done; the enemy was driven back and the possession of the place obtained. Our officers were determined to mark the place as our own, and Major Warner called for the Regimental Flag. The Stars and Stripes were advanced. “Not that one,” shouted the Major, “give me the Connecticut Flag!” and I tell you, Mr. Senior Editor, that your old blood would have coursed in quicker currents could you have seen the Major and Color Sergeant erecting on that spot, amid a leaden storm, the “Qui Trans. Sust.” of old Connecticut.
This was not all. When at length the column was ordered to retire from the field, it became necessary for some Regiment to cover the retreat. Col. Chatfield was ordered to do it. Had he and his Regiment been on their way to Washington, this laborious and dangerous duty might have been avoided, but the 3d Connecticut happened to be on the field and their confidence in the coolness and discretion of a Colonel who could walk down the lines with a smile upon his face, as he informed them how he should lead them in a charge that must end in the bloody death of some for whom he felt a brother’s solicitude, inspired them with courage to which some of the Regiments were strangers.
One of our officers seemed ubiquitous. I mean Adjutant Duryee. In any part of the regiment where he was needed he always appeared. Before the battle he had secured the love of the Regiment – after the battle the mention of his courage and bravery was on every lip. He rendered incalculable service to the Colonel in keeping the lines in order.
The field and staff lost most of their baggage. – The officers had laid aside their dress uniforms and everything that could encumber them. The Col. retains his sword and horse; all else is gone, but in exchange he has secured a military reputation of which Waterbury may be justly proud.
Very truly yours,
J. M. W.
Hartford Daily Courant,8/7/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy