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The recruiting for the 8th USCT Regiment began in September 1863 at Camp William Penn, and the regiment was deployed to Florida on its first assignment in February 1864. After a time of looting supply lines and taking prisoners, the regiment finally encountered resistance at the Battle of Olustee. This battle incurred some of the heaviest losses (percentage-wise) of the Civil War, and the 8th USCT played an integral part:
- Without awaiting the arrival of the rest of his force [General Truman] Seymour put the Seventh New Hampshire in position on the right of the road and the Eighth Colored upon the left and pushed them at once into action. The Eighth though scarcely a month from camp and with hardly any skill in handling a musket boldly advanced in face of a withering fire from the enemy’s strong and well chosen lines… but still it stood firm. For three quarters of an hour the action raged with unabated fury these raw troops maintaining their ground without the least shelter with a courage worthy of veterans. Several color bearers were shot down and many officers fell but it preserved an unflinching front. At this juncture the enemy whose lines greatly overreached the Union front charged upon the unprotected left flank of the Eighth threatening its capture. Seeing that the ground could be no longer held General Seymour ordered the regiment to retire. It was executed in good order the men firing heavily as they went…. The loss in the Eighth was very severe.”
The Union brigade was repulsed by the Confederate forces, and eventually retreated almost to Jacksonville. The 8th USCT regiment was ordered to Virginia in August 1864, where it was on active duty on the Petersburg front and participated in some minor skirmishes. The regiment remained stationed around the James River until the fall of Petersburg in the spring of 1865.
You can read the full summary of the 8th USCT Regiment’s actions during the Civil War as well as see the complete muster roll here.
(Courtesy of Google Books – Samuel P. Bates, History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5 (Harrisburg: B. Singerly, 1871), 5: 965-990.)