This regiment was organized under the provisions of an act of Congress, approved
July 22, 1861, and was fully organized, officered and equipped by Sept. 14, at
which time it was mustered into the service of the United States, for three
years, at Camp Olden, Trenton. It left the state on Oct. 1, with 38 officers,
851 non-commissioned officers and privates, a total of 889. Upon arrival at
Washington it went into camp at Meridian hill, and there remained until the
early part of Dec. 1861, when it was ordered to report to Gen. Joseph Hooker,
near Budd's ferry, Md., where the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th N. J. regiments were
brigaded and designated the 3rd brigade of Hooker's division, generally known as
the 2nd New Jersey brigade.
The regiment received its initiation into actual warfare at the battle of
Williamsburg, where with the 6th and 7th it was sent into a wood in front of a
line of field-works. Among the killed in that battle was Maj. Ryerson, while
among the wounded were a large number of officers, including Col. Johnson. Gen.
Hooker, in his report of the battle of Fair Oaks, testified in the most emphatic
terms to the gallantry of the brigade and added that the service assigned to the
7th and 8th in the rear was performed to his entire satisfaction. The loss of
the regiment at Fair Oaks or Seven Pines was 1 killed and 6 wounded. In the
engagement at Bristoe Station Lieut.-Col. Ward was wounded in the arm and side,
and Capt. J. Tuite was killed.
In the series of engagements ending at Chantilly on Sept. 1, 1862, the regiment
lost 25 men. In the formation of troops for the battle of Chancellorsville, the
New Jersey brigade, which at that time included the 2nd N. Y., 115th Pa., 5th,
6th, 7th and 8th N. J., under command of Gen. Mott, crossed the Rappahannock on
May 1. The 5th and 8th N. J. were detached to guard the pontoons, while the
others were picketed along the Rappahannock to its junction with the Rapidan and
thence along that river to connect with pickets thrown out by Carr's 1st N. Y.
brigade. Mott received instructions directing him to guard the ford, Seeley's
battery being placed at his disposal.
At 6 o'clock on the morning of May 3, the battle opened with skirmishing on the
left, and it soon extended along the entire front, accompanied by a hot
artillery fire from the enemy, the first shot from the latter's guns killing 2
men of the 8th. At one period of the engagement, a section of artillery
belonging to Dimmick's regular battery, 1st artillery, being in danger of
capture, all the cannoneers and horses having been killed, Gen. Mott dispatched
Capt. Nichols with a detachment of the 8th to bring it off by hand.
The battery was rescued, the gallant heroes of the 8th, with the brave Capt.
Nichols, bringing the guns safely into the lines. The losses of the regiment
were 21 killed, 96 wounded and 10 missing, Col. Ramsey being among the wounded.
The regiment saw action in the Wheatfield at Gettysburg, where its strength has
already been decimated down to apx 170 men. During the battle the unit fought
detached from the brigade on July 2 1863. The regiment was commanded by Colonel
John Ramsey until he was wounded.
They also supported batteries on Cemetery Ridge on July 3. As per the 8th
monument the unit "Took into action 170. Killed 7. Wounded 7 officers, 31 men.
Missing 2. Total 47." At the battle of the Wilderness, the brigade was advanced
to a position on the Brock road, where breastworks were hastily thrown up, the
5th and 8th N. J., under command of Col. Sewell, moving up the road to its
junction with what was known as the Furnace road, where Sewell was placed in
command of the skirmish line. The total losses of the regiment during the months
of May and June, 1864, amounted to 15 killed, 140 wounded and 25 missing.
In an engagement on the north bank of James river on Aug. 16, the regiment moved
forward as a forlorn hope, the object being to develop the enemy's strength, and
under command of Col. Ramsey, advanced steadily under a deadly cross-fire until
it was found that it would be impossible to reach the works, when the command
slowly retired. At the battle of Hatcher's run all the regiments of the brigade
were behind breastworks, except the 8th, then commanded by Maj. Hartford, which
was exposed to a galling fire, but it stood nobly to its work. The loss in the
brigade was 53, mainly in the 8th, owing to its exposed position.
At the opening of the fight at Armstrong's house the 7th and 8th N. J. were on
the right of the division. Later in the day Lieut.-Col. Schoonover's command was
attacked and driven from the works occupied in the morning, but the 7th and 8th
going to his help, his line was reestablished and securely held. At Boydton
plank road an assault was made by the 11th and 8th N. J., with two other
regiments, upon one of the Confederate works, the men advancing through heavy
slashings to the crest of a hill overlooking the enemy's position, and
succeeding in occupying part of his rifle-pits.
On April 2 a general attack on the enemy's line was ordered, and at 8 o'clock
the 8th N. J., advancing on the immediate front in the midst of a fire of
musketry, shell and canister, captured the entire picket line of the enemy — 165
men and 200 muskets — whereupon the 11th N. J. and 11th Mass. were advanced and
a charge was made on the main entrenchments of the Confederates, resulting in
the capture of further prisoners and the occupation of the works.
On June 25, 1863, a large number of the 8th reenlisted in the field, for three
years or during the war, and those who did not reenlist and whose term of
service had expired were mustered out at Trenton, Sept. 21, 1864. Those who
remained were consolidated into the 8th battalion and so remained until Oct. 12,
1864, at which time the 6th battalion was joined to it by transfer.
The command then resumed its regimental organization, which it continued until
the close of the war, the regiment being finally mustered out at Washington,
July 17, 1865. The total strength of the regiment was 2,795, and it lost, by
resignation 35, by promotion 56, by discharge 431, by transfer 336, by death
284, by dismissal 4, by desertion 416, not accounted for 247, mustered out, 986.