26th Regiment Connecticut Volunteers
The Twenty-sixth regiment was organized in September, 1862, under General Orders No. 99, dated August 13th. Recruiting occupied from about August 20th to September 10th, when ten companies assembled at Camp Russell, Norwich, coming from New London and Windham Counties. The officers of the line were elected by each company after its enlistment, before they were commissioned. On September 19th the field officers were elected by the line officers. The staff was appointed by the Governor. On September 25th the regiment was formally mustered in by a United States mustering officer, but the rolls were not signed. From this time to November 13th the regiment remained in Camp Russell, and became quite proficient in company and regimental drill.
On November 10th and 12th the regiment was again mustered in by United States mustering officer Lieutenant Watson Webb, who signed the rolls. Orders were received on November 12th to break camp, which was done on the 13th, and at 3 p.m. the regiment, with full ranks, eagerly left its first camp and marched through the crowded streets of Norwich, viewed by thousands of spectators and friends, and embarked on the steamer "Commodore" for New York. On November 14th it was disembarked at Brooklyn, and marched to Centerville Race Course, where it made its second encampment until December 4th. This camp was known as Camp Buckingham. On December 4th this camp was evacuated, and at 4:30 p.m. the regiment arrived in Brooklyn, and the same evening embarked on the steamer "Empire City." Remaining in New York harbor until the morning of December 6th, the steamer put to sea under sealed orders. It was not divulged until several days later that this regiment was a part of an expedition to rendezvous at New Orleans, under General N.P. Banks.
On December 13th, the "Empire City" arrived in the Gulf of Mexico; on the 14th, at Ship Island; and on the evening of the 16th, at New Orleans. On the 18th disembarkation was made at Carrollton, a few miles above New Orleans, and tents were again pitched, at Camp Parapet, a large enclosure from the Mississippi to Lake Pontchartrain. Here for the first time arms were issued to the regiment, and officers and men eagerly studied and practiced the manuel of arms. In common with all Northern men going into camp so far south, much malarial sickness appeared, and soon the hospital was more than full, and many died. The influence upon the men of these frequent and sudden deaths was somewhat dispiriting. On January 21 and 22, 1863, the regiment was paid off in full.
On or about March 13th, when Commodore Farragut passed up the Mississippi with his magnificent fleet and successfully passed the Port Hudson batteries, the cannonading of which could be distinctly heard in the regimental camp, it became quite evident that the Twenty-sixth was soon to participate in more active warfare at the front. For this change the men were impatient. On May 20th the regiment embarked at Carrollton, on board the steamer "Crescent," for Baton Rouge, where it arrived on the morning of May 22nd, and during the forenoon it disembarked some six miles above, at Springfield Landing, in full view of the river works of Port Hudson, which, like Vicksburg, was a high bluff at a bend in the Mississippi, and strongly fortified on the river front; passing over and across ravines, gulches, and woodland, enclosing a rebel camp of many acres, and garrisoned by 6000 to 7000 men under Major-General Frank Gardner. The Twenty-sixth regiment was at this time attached to the First Brigade (General Neal Dow), Second Division (General T.W. Sherman), Nineteenth Army Corps (Major-General N.P. Banks).
Upon disembarkation at Springfield Landing the regiment was ordered immediately to the front to report to division headquarters. "Grim-visaged war" was now apparent. The mortar fleet below Port Hudson kept up a continual shelling of the rebel works, the missles passing directly over the regiment. On May 24th the regiment joined the left wing of the corps investing Port Hudson, which had progressed from right to left. The enemy were driven into their inner works during the afternoon of this day, abandoning their rifle pits and outer works, ten in number, in front of Sherman’s Division. During the evening communication was ordered to be established at the extreme front, between Sherman’s and Auger’s Divisions on our right. A detachment from the Twenty-sixth was selected for this purpose, and by 10 o’clock its object was accomplished, and Port Hudson was completely invested.
May 25th, 26th, and 27th were days of preparation for the first assault by the entire corps upon the enemy’s works, which were as strong as skill and time could construct. At 10:30 a.m. the bugle called into line Sherman’s Division, but not until 1:30 p.m. was all in readiness for the charge. The Twenty-sixth occupied the right center of Dow’s Brigade, and it so happened that at this point, by the "Slaughter" plantation house, were assembled Generals Dow, Sherman, and Andrews (Chief of Staff to General Banks), when General Dow ordered his brigade to the charge. With great enthusiasm General Sherman also in person ordered "Forward!" and led the column until he lost his leg and his horse by a shot. Charging over an open field upon a protected enemy is a story that has been told and written in the blood of thousands. Impetuosity, bravery, and skill accomplished the same here and no more than at Fredericksburg and many other historic fields. An advanced position was secured and held. When the Twenty-sixth called its rolls after the battle, 107 were dead and wounded. Among the number were all ranks from colonel to private. This regiment had received its first baptism of fire and blood, but only to prepare it for better service. The picket line that night was held in front of Dow’s Brigade by the Twenty-sixth.
From May 27th until June 14th the entire command was under continual fire, night and day. On the afternoon of June 13th a heavy skirmish line was thrown out on Sherman’s front, in which the Twenty-sixth performed a conspicuous part, losing one man killed and seven wounded. On June 14th a second general assault was ordered. Sherman, who had lost a leg May 27th, had been succeeded by General Dwight, who selected a position more to the left, and on the extreme right of the enemy, near the Mississippi River. The result of this assault was similar to the first. It was made in the early morning. No troops could have been better handled, or acted with more gallantry. In this charge the Twenty-sixth numbered 235 men, and its total casualities were sixty-one. Of this number four were killed and sixteen wounded by a single shell. After this battle the brigade commander said in his report: "The nine months troops have demonstrated by their gallant conduct that they can be relied upon in any emergency."
From June 16th to July 8th the siege was continued. On July 7th news was received of the surrender of Vicksburg, and on the next day Port Hudson surrendered, with 6,408 prisoners. General Bank’s total casualties during the siege were 500 killed, 2,500 wounded (official). That the Twenty-sixth had borne a conspicuous part was acknowledged by its being selected as one of ten regiments to receive the capitulation of the garrison on July 9th, and was assigned to the left of the line — the second post of honor. From July 10th to 25th this regiment performed provost and guard duty at Port Hudson. On July 25th orders were received to break camp and embark on the steamer "Saint Maurice," and return to Connecticut for muster out, by reason of expiration of term of service. The regiment left Port Hudson on the 26th, via Mississippi River, Cairo, Chicago, and New York; thence by steamer to Norwich, where it arrived August 7th. Upon its arrival it was received by the Mayor and city authorities, who bestowed upon the organization every attention and honor. The Mayor delivered an address of congratulation and welcome, and the citizens turned out en masse and provided a sumptuous collation on the public park. On August 17th the regiment again reassembled in its original Camp Russell, and was mustered out and paid off.