20th Connecticut Infantry Regiment
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|20th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment|
Monument to the regiment at Gettysburg
|Disbanded||13 June 1865|
|Colonel William Wooster|
The 20th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment (20th Conn) was an infantry regiment of the Union Army of the Potomac, which fought in several pivotal battles in the Eastern and Western theaters during the American Civil War. Formed in July 1862, the regiment was assigned to the XII Corps, and later the XX Corps took part in a number of campaigns and battles including Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Atlanta Campaign, Sherman's March to the Sea, Bentonville, and the Grand Review of the Armies .
Raised in July 1862, upon formation the regiment was placed under the command of Colonel William Wooster, a businessman in civilian life. Wooster was chosen for command because of his quick learning of military tactics and strong personality. Within a few months, Wooster and the men of the 20th Conn found themselves on the front lines as a part of the Union XII Corps. The 20th took part in its baptism of fire at the Battle of Chancellorsville (May 1–6, 1863).
On May 2, 1863, at Chancellorsville, the unit suffered heavy casualties as they and other units of the XI Corps bore the brunt of CSA General Stonewall Jackson's surprise assault. However, it is the unit's role in the next major battle that they would be remembered for.
On July 2, 1863, on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, several units were moved from the Union right flank on Culp's Hill to the south to reinforce the left flank which was being attacked. Seeing an opportunity, Confederate General Richard Ewell launched an attack on Culp's Hill and his men occupied the earthworks deserted by the withdrawn units. Attempts were made to retake the fortifications, but due to miscommunications, such attempts were unsuccessful and resulted in heavy Union casualties.
At dawn on July 3, 1863, the commander of the Confederate army, Robert E. Lee, devised a plan to launch a massive assault on the center of the Union line (the attack now infamously known as Pickett's Charge). This plan also called for Richard Ewell's troops to renew their assault on Culp's Hill to keep any Union regiments from leaving that area to reinforce the assault's target area. Long before Pickett's men were ready to make the charge, Ewell's men, still occupying the earthworks, awoke to a ferocious artillery barrage from Union batteries nearby. Forced into action by the bombardment, Ewell sent a message back to Lee saying that he could not wait for the main assault to begin to attack, and was sending his troops into battle.
The artillery that the Confederate soldiers woke up to was devastating, and its effectiveness can only be credited to Colonel Wooster and the 20th Connecticut. The 20th was tasked with scouting the movements of the enemy and relaying that information to nearby batteries. They stayed in the woods overlooking the Confederate position and sent back constant updates. It was an incredibly dangerous task because in order to give accurate reports, they had to be very close to the target. Being in the impact zone was incredibly dangerous. Several men of the 20th were wounded/killed due to misfires or faulty ammunition. The last one to be wounded was Private George W. Warner, who lost both of his arms when a misfired shell detonated above him. Infuriated, Col. Wooster sent a report back to the batteries which allegedly said that if one more of his men were injured from a misfire, he would pull the 20th out of position, turn them around, and charge the batteries himself. The courier who carried the message added the comment, "he'd do it, too, so be careful." Save for a few mishaps, the artillery was incredibly effective. It did enough damage that the following infantry assault drove Ewell's men from the hill. Other Confederate units in the area attempted to charge up the hill and while they outnumbered their adversaries, the Union units on Culp's Hill were very well entrenched, and the attacks were repulsed with heavy losses.
It was one of the first times that an infantry unit was used as a scout force for artillery. Citing the effectiveness, the tactic was used by several other Union generals throughout the rest of the war, including Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman. This became a common practice in the army and the tactic is still being employed today. While the 20th Connecticut Infantry Regiment was left out of the combat at Gettysburg, their role in securing Culp's Hill would forever change how infantry was used in warfare.
- Hawthorne, Frederick W, Gettysburg: Stories of Men and Monuments, The Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides, 1985.
- Storrs, John W., The "Twentieth Connecticut" a Regimental History Ansonia, Conn.: Naugutuck Valley Sentinel, 1886.
- Time Life, Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide, London, 1985.