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´╗┐Title: Vermont riflemen in the war for the union, 1861 to 1865 - A history of Company F, First United States sharp shooters
Author: Ripley, William Y. W.
Language: English
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 VERMONT RIFLEMEN

 IN THE

 WAR FOR THE UNION,

 1861 TO 1865.



 A HISTORY OF COMPANY F,

 FIRST UNITED STATES SHARP SHOOTERS,



 BY

 WM. Y. W. RIPLEY, LT. COL.



 Rutland:
 TUTTLE & CO., PRINTERS.
 1883.



CHAPTER I.

  Abate the edge of traitors, gracious Lord.
  That would reduce these bloody days again,
  And make poor England weep in streams of blood!
  Let them not live to taste this land's increase,
  That would with treason wound this fair land's peace!
  Now civil wounds are stopp'd, peace lives again;
  That she may long live here, God say--Amen!

                                  --_King Richard III._

ORGANIZATION.


Very soon after the outbreak of the war for the Union, immediately, in
fact, upon the commencement of actual operations in the field, it became
painfully apparent that, however inferior the rank and file of the
Confederate armies were in point of education and general intelligence
to the men who composed the armies of the Union, however imperfect and
rude their equipment and material, man for man they were the superiors
of their northern antagonists in the use of arms. Recruited mainly from
the rural districts (for the South had but few large cities from which
to draw its fighting strength), their armies were composed mainly of men
who had been trained to the skillful use of the rifle in that most
perfect school, the field and forest, in the pursuit of the game so
abundant in those sparsely settled districts. These men, who came to the
field armed at first, to a large extent, with their favorite sporting or
target rifles, and with a training acquired in such a school, were
individually more than the equals of the men of the North, who were,
with comparatively few exceptions, drawn from the farm, the workshop,
the office or the counter, and whose life-long occupations had been such
as to debar them from those pursuits in which the men of the South had
gained their skill. Indeed, there were in many regiments in the northern
armies men who had never even fired a gun of any description at the time
of their enlistment.

On the other hand, there were known to be scattered throughout the loyal
states, a great number of men who had made rifle shooting a study, and
who, by practice on the target ground and at the country shooting
matches, had gained a skill equal to that of the men of the South in any
kind of shooting, and in long range practice a much greater degree of
excellency.

There were many of these men in the ranks of the loyal army, but their
skill was neutralized by the fact that the arms put into their hands,
although the most perfect military weapons then known, were not of the
description calculated to show the best results in the hands of expert
marksmen.

Occasionally a musket would be found that was accurate in its shooting
qualities, and occasionally such a gun would fall into the hands of a
man competent to appreciate and utilize its best features. It was
speedily found that such a gun, in the hands of such a man, was capable
of results not possible to be obtained from a less accurate weapon in
the hands of a less skillful man. To remedy this state of affairs, and
to make certain that the best weapons procurable should be placed in the
hands of the men best fitted to use them effectively, it was decided by
the war department, early in the summer of 1861, that a regiment should
be organized, to be called the First Regiment of United States Sharp
Shooters, and to consist of the best and most expert rifle shots in the
Northern States. The detail of the recruiting and organization of this
regiment was entrusted to Hiram Berdan, then a resident of the city of
New York, himself an enthusiastic lover of rifle shooting, and an expert
marksman.

Col. Berdan set himself earnestly at work to recruit and organize such a
body of men as should, in the most perfect manner, illustrate the
capacity for warlike purposes of his favorite weapon.

It was required that a recruit should possess a good moral character, a
sound physical development, and in other respects come within the usual
requirements of the army regulations; but, as the men were designed for
an especial service, it was required of them that before enlistment they
should justify their claim to be called "sharp shooters" by such a
public exhibition of their skill as should fairly entitle them to the
name, and warrant a reasonable expectation of usefulness in the field.
To insure this it was ordered that no recruit be enlisted who could not,
in a public trial, make a string of ten shots at a distance of two
hundred yards, the aggregate measurement of which should not exceed
fifty inches. In other words, it was required that the recruit should,
in effect, be able to place ten bullets in succession within a ten-inch
ring at a distance of two hundred yards.

Any style of rifle was allowed--telescopic sights, however, being
disallowed--and the applicant was allowed to shoot from any position he
chose, only being required to shoot from the shoulder.

Circular letters setting forth these conditions, and Col. Berdan
authority, were issued to the governors of the loyal states, and, as a
first result from the state of Vermont, Capt. Edmund Weston of Randolph
applied for and received of Gov. Holbrook authority to recruit one
company of sharp shooters, which was mustered into the service as Co. F,
First United States Sharp Shooters, and is the subject of this history.

Capt. Weston at once put himself in communication with well known
riflemen in different parts of the state and appointed recruiting
officers in various towns to receive applications and superintend the
trials of skill, without which no person could be accepted.

The response was more hearty and more general than could have been
expected, and many more recruits presented themselves than could be
accepted--many of whom, however, failed to pass the ordeal of the public
competition--and, as the event proved, more were accepted than could be
legally mustered into the service.

All who were accepted, however, fully met the rigid requirements as to
skill in the use of the rifle.

The company rendezvoused at Randolph early in September, 1861, and on
the 13th of that month were mustered into the state service by Charles
Dana. The organization of the company as perfected at this time was as
follows:

    Captain,                    Edmund Weston.
    First Lieutenant,           C. W. Seaton.
    Second Lieutenant,          M. V. B. Bronson.
    First Sergeant,             H. E. Kinsman.
    Second Sergeant,            E. W. Hindes.
    Third Sergeant,             Amos H. Bunker.
    Fourth Sergeant,            Milo C. Priest.
    Fifth Sergeant,             L. J. Allen.
    First Corporal,             Daniel Perry.
    Second Corporal,            Fred. E. Streeter.
    Third Corporal,             Ai Brown.
    Fourth Corporal,            W. C. Kent.
    Fifth Corporal,             H. J. Peck.
    Sixth Corporal,             W. H. Tafft.
    Seventh Corporal,           C. D. Merriman.
    Eighth Corporal,            C. W. Peck.
    Bugler,                     Calvin Morse.
    Wagoner,                    Edward F. Stevens.

Thus organized, the company, with one hundred and thirteen enlisted men,
left the state on the same day on which they were mustered, and
proceeded via New Haven and Long Island Sound to the rendezvous of the
regiment at Weehawken Heights, near New York, where they went into camp
with other companies of the regiment which had preceded them. On or
about the 24th of September the regiment proceeded under orders from
the war department to Washington, arriving at that city at a late hour
on the night of the twenty-fifth, and were assigned quarters at the
Soldiers' Rest, so well known to the troops who arrived at Washington at
about that time. On the twenty-sixth they were ordered to a permanent
camp of instruction well out in the country and near the residence and
grounds of Mr. Corcoran, a wealthy resident of Washington of supposed
secession proclivities, where they were for the first time in a
regularly organized camp, and could begin to feel that they were fairly
cut off at last from the customs and habits of civil life. Here they
were regularly mustered into the service of the United States, thirteen
enlisted men being rejected, however, to reduce the company to the
regulation complement of one hundred enlisted men; so that of the one
hundred and thirteen men charged to the company on the rolls of the
Adjt. and Ins.-Gen. of Vermont, only one hundred took the field. Other
companies from different states arrived at about the same time, and the
regiment was at last complete, having its full complement of ten
companies of one hundred men each.

The field and staff at this time was made up as follows:

    Colonel,                H. Berdan.
    Lieutenant-Colonel,     Frederick Mears.
    Major,                  W. S. Rowland.
    Adjutant,               Floyd A. Willett.
    Quarter-Master,         W. H. Beebe.
    Surgeon,                G. C. Marshall.
    Assistant Surgeon,      Dr. Brennan.
    Chaplain,               Rev. Dr. Coit.

Only one of the field officers had had a military education or military
experience. Lieutenant-Colonel Mears was an officer of the regular army,
a thorough drill master and a strict disciplinarian. Under his efficient
command the regiment soon began to show a marked and daily improvement
that augured well for its future usefulness. The officers of the
regimental staff were, each in his own department, able and painstaking
men. The chaplain alone was not quite popular among the rank and file,
and they rather envied the Second Regiment of Sharp Shooters who were
encamped near them, and whose chaplain, the Rev. Lorenzo Barber, was the
beau ideal of an army chaplain. Tender hearted and kind, he was ever
ready to help the weak and the suffering; now dressing a wound and now
helping along a poor fellow, whose fingers were all thumbs and whose
thoughts were too big for utterance (on paper), with his letter to the
old mother at home; playing ball or running a foot race, beating the
best marksmen at the targets, and finally preaching a rousing good
sermon which was attentively listened to on Sunday. His _faith_ was in
the "Sword of the Lord and of Gideon," but his best _work_ was put in
with a twenty pound telescopic rifle which he used with wonderful
effect. The original plan of armament contemplated the use exclusively
of target or sporting rifles. The men had been encouraged to bring with
them their favorite weapons, and had been told that the government
would pay for such arms at the rate of sixty dollars each, while those
who chose to rely upon the United States armories for their rifles were
to be furnished with the best implements procurable. The guns to be so
furnished were to be breach loaders, to have telescopic sights, hair
triggers, and all the requisites for the most perfect shooting that the
most skillful marksman could desire.

Many of the men had, with this understanding, brought with them their
own rifles, and with them target shooting became a pastime, and many
matches between individuals and companies were made and many very short
strings were recorded.

Under the stimulus of competition and organized practice great
improvement was noted in marksmanship, even among those who had been
considered almost perfect marksmen before. On one occasion President
Lincoln, accompanied by Gen. McClellan, paid a visit to the camp and
asked to be allowed to witness some of the sharp shooting of which he
had heard so much.

A detail of the best men was made and a display of skill took place
which, perhaps, was never before equalled. President Lincoln himself, as
did Gen. McClellan, Col. Hudson and others of the staff, took part in
the firing, the President using a rifle belonging to Corporal H. J. Peck
of the Vermont company.

At the close of the exhibition Col. Berdan, being asked to illustrate
the accuracy of his favorite rifle, fired three shots at different
portions of the six hundred yard target; when having satisfied himself
that he had the proper range, and that both himself and rifle could be
depended upon, announced that at the next shot he would strike the right
eye of the gaily colored Zouave which, painted on the half of an A tent,
did duty for a target at that range. Taking a long and careful aim, he
fired, hitting the exact spot selected and announced beforehand. Whether
partly accidental or not it was certainly a wonderful performance and
placed Col. Berdan at once in the foremost rank of rifle experts. On the
28th of November, the day set apart by the governors of the loyal states
as Thanksgiving Day, shooting was indulged by in different men of Co. F
and other companies for a small prize offered by the field officers, the
terms being two hundred yards, off hand, the shortest string of two
shots to win. The prize was won from a large number of skillful
contestants by Ai Brown of Co. F--his two shots measuring 4-1/4 inches,
or each within 2-1/8 inches of the center.

On the 7th of December another regimental shooting match took place; the
prize going this time to a Michigan man, his string of three shots,
fired off hand at two hundred yards, measuring six inches. These records
are introduced here simply for the purpose of showing the wonderful
degree of skill possessed by these picked marksmen in the use of the
rifle. But it was soon found that there were objections to the use in
the field of the fine guns so effective on the target ground. The great
weight of some of them was of itself almost prohibitory, for, to a
soldier burdened with the weight of his knapsack, haversack and canteen,
blanket and overcoat, the additional weight of a target rifle--many of
which weighed fifteen pounds each, and some as much as thirty
pounds--was too much to be easily borne.

It was also found difficult to provide the proper ammunition for such
guns in the field, and finally, owing to the delicacy of the
construction of the sights, hair triggers, etc., they were constantly
liable to be out of order, and when thus disabled, of even less use than
the smooth-bore musket, with buck and ball cartridge of fifty years
before. Manufacturers of fine guns from all parts of our own country,
and many from Europe, flocked to the camp of the sharp shooters offering
their goods, each desirous of the credit of furnishing arms to a body of
men so well calculated to use them effectively, and many fine models
were offered. The choice of the men, however, seemed to be a modified
military rifle made by the Sharpe Rifle Manufacturing Co., and a request
was made to the war department for a supply of these arms. At this early
day, however, the departments were full of men whose ideas and methods
were those of a half a century gone by; and at the head of the ordinance
department was a man who, in addition to being of this stamp, was the
father of the muzzle loading Springfield rifle, then the recognized arm
of the United States Infantry, and from him came the most strenuous
opposition to the proposal to depart from the traditions of the regular
army.

Gen. McClellan, and even the President himself, were approached on this
subject, and both recognized the propriety of the proposed style of
armament and the great capacity for efficient service possessed by the
regiment when it should be once satisfactorily armed and fairly in front
of the enemy. But the ordinance department was ever a block in the way;
its head obstinately and stubbornly refusing to entertain any
proposition other than to arm the regiment with the ordinary army
musket; and, to add to the growing dissatisfaction among the men over
the subject of arms, it became known that the promises made to them at
the time of enlistment, that the government would pay them for their
rifles at the rate of sixty dollars each, was unauthorized and would not
be fulfilled; and also that the representations made to them with
respect to telescopic breech loaders were likewise unauthorized.
Discontent became general and demoralization began to show itself in an
alarming form.

Some of the field officers were notoriously incompetent; the Major, one
of those military adventurers who floated to the surface during the
early years of the war, particularly so; he was a kind of a modern
Dalgetty without the courage or skill of his renowned prototype, rarely
present in camp, and when there of little or no service. The
Lieutenant-Colonel, a man of rare energy and skill in his profession,
and whose painstaking care had made the regiment all that it was at that
time, fearing the after effects of this demoralization on the efficiency
of the command, and seeing opportunity for his talents in other fields,
resigned; and on the 29th of November, 1861, Wm. Y. W. Ripley of
Rutland, Vt., was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel, and Caspar Trepp,
Captain of Co. A., was made Major. Lieutenant-Colonel Ripley had seen
service only as Captain of Co. K, First Vermont Volunteers. Major Trepp
had received a thorough military training in the army of his native
Switzerland, and had seen active service in European wars. The regiment
remained at camp of instruction under the immediate command of
Lieut.-Col. Ripley, employed in the usual routine of camp duty, drills,
etc., during the whole of the winter of 1861-62, particular attention
being paid to the skirmish drill, in which the men became wonderfully
proficient; and it is safe to say that for general excellence in drill,
except the manual of arms, they were excelled by few volunteer regiments
in the service. All orders were given by the sound of the bugle, and the
whole regiment deployed as skirmishers could be as easily maneuvered as
a single company could be in line of battle. The bugle corps was under
the charge of Calvin Morse of Co. F as chief bugler, and under his
careful instruction attained to an unusual degree of excellence. All
camp and other calls were sounded on the bugle, and the men found them
pleasant little devices for translating curt and often rough English
into music. They were bugled to breakfast and to dinner, bugled to guard
mounting and bugled to battle, brigades moved and cavalry charged to the
sound of the bugle. The men often found fanciful resemblances in the
notes of the music to the words intended to be conveyed. Thus, the
recall was sung as follows:

    "Come back again, come back again,
    Come back, come back, come back again."

while the sick call was thus rendered into words:

    "Come to qui-nine, come to qui-nine,
    Come to qui-i-nine, come to qui-i-nine."

They were not, on the whole, bad translations. The winter was an
unusually severe one, and, as the enemy maintained a strict blockade of
the Potomac, the supply of wood was often short, and some suffering was
the result. The health of the regiment remained fairly good; measles,
small pox, and other forms of camp diseases appeared, however, and Co.
F, of course, suffered its share, losing by death from disease during
the winter, Wm. T. Battles, Edward Fitz, Sumner E. Gardner and Geo. H.
Johnson.

On the 20th of March, 1862, the regiment received orders to report to
Major-Gen. Fitz John Porter, whose division then lay at Alexandria, Va.,
awaiting transportation to Fortress Monroe to join the army under
McClellan. At this time the regiment was without arms of any kind,
except for the few target rifles remaining in the hands of their owners,
and a few old smooth bore muskets which had been used during the winter
for guard duty. Shortly before this time the war department, perhaps
wearied by constant importunity, perhaps recognizing the importance of
the subject, had so far receded from its former position as to offer to
arm the regiment with revolving rifles of the Colt pattern, and had sent
the guns to the camp for issue to the men with promise of exchanging
them for Sharpe's rifles at a later day. They were five chambered breech
loaders, very pretty to look at, but upon examination and test they were
found inaccurate and unreliable, prone to get out of order and even
dangerous to the user. They were not satisfactory to the men, who knew
what they wanted and were fully confident of their ability to use such
guns as they had been led by repeated promises to expect, to good
advantage. When, however, news came that the rebels had evacuated
Manassas, and that the campaign was about to open in good earnest, they
took up these toys, for after all they were hardly more, and turned
their faces southward. Co. F was the first company in the regiment to
receive their arms, and to the influence of their patriotic example the
regiment owes its escape from what at one time appeared to be a most
unfortunate embarrassment.

The march to Alexandria over Long Bridge was made in the midst of a
pouring rain and through such a sea of mud as only Virginia can afford
material for. It was the first time the regiment had ever broken camp,
and its first hard march. It was long after dark when the command
arrived near Cloud's mills; the headquarters of Gen. Porter could not be
found, and it became necessary for the regiment to camp somewhere for
the night. At a distance were seen the lights of a camp, which was found
upon examination to be the winter quarters of the 69th New York in
charge of a camp guard, the regiment having gone out in pursuit of the
enemy beyond Manassas. A few persuasive words were spoken to the
sergeant in command, and the tired and soaked sharp shooters turned into
the tents of the absent Irishmen.



CHAPTER II.

THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN.


On the 22d of March the regiment embarked on the steamer Emperor, bound
for Fortress Monroe. The day was bright and glorious, the magnificent
enthusiasm on every hand was contagious, and few who were partakers in
that grand pageant will ever forget it. Alas! however, many thousands of
that great army never returned from that fatal campaign. The orders
required that each steamer, as she left her moorings, should pass up the
river for a short distance, turn and pass down by Gen. Porter's
flag-ship, saluting as she passed--a sort of military-naval review.

As the twenty-two steamers conveying this magnificent division thus
passed in review, bands playing, colors flying and the men cheering, it
was an inspiring spectacle for the young soldiers who were for the first
time moving toward the enemy. The enthusiasm was kept up to fever heat
until the leading steamers reached Mount Vernon, when, as though by
order, the cheering ceased, flags were dropped to half-mast, the strains
of "The girl I left behind me," and "John Brown's body," gave way to
funereal dirges, and all hats were doffed as the fleet passed the tomb
of Washington. On the twenty-third the regiment disembarked at Hampton,
Va., and went into camp at a point about midway between that place and
Newport's News, where they remained several days, awaiting the arrival
of the other divisions and the artillery and supplies necessary before
the march on Yorktown could commence.

Hampton Roads was a scene of the greatest activity, hundreds of ships
and steam transports lay at the docks discharging their cargoes of men
and material, or at anchor in the broad waters adjacent awaiting their
turn. Both army and navy here experienced a period of the most intense
anxiety. Only a few days previous to the arrival of the first troops,
the rebel iron-clad, Merrimac, had appeared before Newport's News, only
a few miles away, and had made such a fearful display of her power for
destruction as to excite the gravest apprehension lest she should again
appear among the crowded shipping, sinking and destroying, by the simple
battering power of her immense weight, these frail steamboats crowded
with troops; but she had had a taste of the Monitor's quality, and did
not apparently care to repeat the experiment. While thus awaiting the
moment for the general advance, Fitz John Porter's division was ordered
to make a reconnoissance in the direction of Great Bethel, the scene of
the disaster of June 10, 1861. The division moved on two roads nearly
parallel with each other. A body of sharp shooters led the advance of
each column, that on the right being under the command of Lieut.-Col.
Ripley, while those on the left were commanded by Col. Berdan.

This was the first time that the regiment had ever had the opportunity
to measure its marching qualities with those of other troops; they had
been most carefully and persistently drilled in this particular branch,
and as they swept on, taking the full twenty-eight inch step and in
regulation time, they soon left the remainder of the column far in rear,
at which they were greatly elated, and when Capt. Auchmuty of Gen.
Morell's staff rode up with the General's compliments and an inquiry as
to "whether the sharp shooters intended to go on alone, or would they
prefer to wait for support," their self-glorification was very great.

Later, however, they ceased to regard a march of ten or fifteen miles at
their best pace as a joke. Co. F was with the right column, under Col.
Ripley, and came for the first time under hostile fire. No serious
fighting took place, although shots were frequently exchanged with the
rebel cavalry, who fell back slowly before the Union advance. At Great
Bethel a slight stand was made by the enemy, who were, however, soon
dislodged by the steady and accurate fire of the sharp shooters, with
some loss. Pushing on, the regiment advanced some three miles towards
Yorktown, where, finding no considerable force of the enemy disposed to
make a stand, and the object of the reconnoissance having been
accomplished, both columns returned to camp near Fortress Monroe. The
march had been a long and severe one for new troops, but Co. F came in
without a straggler and in perfect order.

The experience of the day had taught them one lesson, however, and
certain _gray overcoats_ and Havelock hats of the same rebellious hue
were promptly exchanged for others of a color in which they were less
apt to be shot by mistake by their own friends. The uniform of the
regiment consisted of coats, blouses, pants and caps of green cloth; and
leather leggings, buckling as high as the knee, were worn by officers
and men alike. The knapsacks of the men were of the style then in use by
the army of Prussia; they were of leather tanned with the hair on, and,
although rather heavier than the regulation knapsack, fitted the back
well, were roomy and were highly appreciated by the men. Each had
strapped to its outside a small cooking kit which was found compact and
useful. Thus equipped the regiment was distinctive in its uniform as
well as in its service, and soon became well known in the army.

On the 3d of April Gen. McClellan arrived at Fortress Monroe, and early
on the morning of the fourth the whole army was put in motion toward
Yorktown, where heavy works, strongly manned, were known to exist. The
sharp shooters led the advance of the column on the road by which the
Fifth Corps advanced, being that nearest the York river. Slight
resistance was made by the enemy's cavalry at various points, but no
casualties were experienced by Co. F on that day.

Cockeysville, a small hamlet some sixteen miles from Hampton, was
reached, and the tired men of Co. F laid down in bivouac for the first
time. Heretofore their camps, cheerless and devoid of home comforts as
they sometimes were, had had some element of permanence; this was quite
another thing, and what wonder if thoughts of home and home comforts
flitted through their minds. Then, too, all supposed that on the morrow
would occur a terrible battle (for the siege of Yorktown was not then
anticipated); nothing less than immediate and desperate assault was
contemplated by the men, and, as some complimentary remarks had been
made to the regiment, and especial allusion to the effect those five
shooting rifles, held in such trusty and skillful hands, would have in a
charge, they felt that in the coming battle their place would be a hot
and dangerous, as well as an honorable one. At daybreak on the morning
of the fifth, in a soaking rain storm, the army resumed its march, the
sharp shooters still in the advance, searching suspicious patches of
woods, streaming out from the road to farm houses, hurrying over and
around little knolls behind which danger might lurk, while now and then
came the crack of rifles from a group across a field, telling of the
presence of hostile cavalry watching the advance of the invaders. More
strenuous resistance was met with than on the day before, but the rebels
fell back steadily, if slowly. The rain fell continuously and the roads
became difficult of passage for troops. The sharp shooters, however,
fared better in this respect than troops of the line, for deployed as
skirmishers, covering a large front, they could pick their way with
comparative ease. At ten o'clock A. M., all resistance by rebel
cavalry having ceased, the skirmishers emerged from dense woods and
found themselves immediately in front of the heavy earth works before
Yorktown. They were at once saluted by the enemy's artillery, and were
now for the first time under the fire of shell.

Dashing forward one or two hundred yards, the skirmishers took position
along and behind the crest of a slight elevation crowned by hedges and
scattered clumps of bushes. The men of Co. F found themselves in a peach
orchard surrounding a large farm house with its out-buildings. In and
about these buildings, and along a fence running westwardly from the
cluster of houses, Co. F formed its line, at a distance of some five
hundred yards from a powerful line of breastworks running from the main
fort in front of Yorktown to the low ground about the head of Warwick
creek.

Once in position, Co. F went at its work as steadily and coolly as
veterans. Under the direction of a field officer, who watched the result
with his glass, a few shots were fired by picked men at spots in the
exterior slope of the works to ascertain the exact range, which was then
announced and the order given, "Commence firing."

The rebels, ensconced in fancied security behind their strong works,
and who up to that time had kept up a constant and heavy fire from their
artillery, while their infantry lined the parapets, soon found reason to
make themselves less conspicuous and to modify very essentially the tone
of their remarks, which had been the reverse of complimentary. Gun after
gun was silenced and abandoned, until within an hour every embrasure
within a range of a thousand yards to the right and left was tenantless
and silent. Their infantry, which at first responded with a vigorous
fire, found that exposure of a head meant grave danger, if not death.

Occasionally a man would be found, who, carried away by his enthusiasm,
would mount the parapet and with taunting cries seem to mock the Union
marksmen, but no sooner would he appear than a score of rifles would be
brought to bear, and he was fortunate indeed if he escaped with his
life. At this point occurred the first casualty among the men of Co. F,
Corp. C. W. Peck receiving a severe wound. During the day a small body
of horsemen, apparently the staff and escort of a general officer,
appeared passing from the village of Yorktown, behind the line of
breastworks before spoken of, towards their right. When first observed
little more than the heads of the riders were visible above the
breastworks; near the western end of their line, however, the ground on
which they were riding was higher, thus bringing them into plainer view,
and as they reached this point every rifle was brought into use, and it
appeared to observers that at least half the saddles in that little
band were emptied before they could pass over the exposed fifty yards
that lay between them and safety. While the sharp shooters had been
successful in silencing the fire of the enemy's cannon, and almost
entirely so that of their infantry, a few of the rebel marksmen, who
occupied small rifle pits in advance of their line of works, kept up an
annoying fire, from which the Union artillerists suffered severely.

These little strongholds had been constructed at leisure, were in
carefully selected positions, usually behind a cover of natural or
artificially planted bushes, and it was almost impossible to dislodge
their occupants; every puff of smoke from one of them was, of course,
the signal for a heavy fire of Union rifles on that spot; but sharp
shooters who are worthy of the name will not continue long to fire at
what they cannot see, and so, after one or two shots, the men would
devote their attention to some other point, when the Confederate gunner,
having remained quite at his ease behind his shelter, would peer out
from behind his screen of bushes, select his mark, and renew his fire.

One spot was marked as the hiding place of a particularly obnoxious and
skillful rifleman, and to him, Private Ide of Co. E of New Hampshire,
who occupied a commanding position near the corner of an out house,
devoted himself. Ide was one of the few men who still carried his
telescopic target rifle. Several shots were exchanged between these men,
and it began to take the form of a personal affair and was watched with
the keenest interest by those not otherwise engaged, but fortune first
smiled on the rebel, and Ide fell dead, shot through the forehead while
in the act of raising his rifle to an aim. His fall was seen by the
enemy, who raised a shout of exultation. It was short, however, for an
officer, taking the loaded rifle from the dead man's hand, and watching
his opportunity through the strong telescope, soon saw the triumphant
rebel, made bold by his success, raise himself into view; it was a fatal
exposure and he fell apparently dead.

At nine o'clock P. M. the sharp shooters were relieved by another
regiment and retired to a point about half a mile in the rear, where
the tired soldiers lay down after nearly twenty hours of continual
marching and fighting. The fine position they had gained and held
through the day, was regained, however, by the rebels by a night sally
and was not reoccupied by the Union forces again for several days. On
the next day, Gen. Porter, commanding the division, addressed the
following highly complimentary letter to Col. Berdan:

      HEADQUARTERS PORTER'S DIVISION,
      THIRD ARMY CORPS.
      CAMP NEAR YORKTOWN, April 6, 1862.

      _Col. Berdan, Commanding Sharp Shooters:_

      COLONEL.--The Commanding General instructs me to
      say to you that he is glad to learn, from the admissions of
      the enemy themselves, that they begin to fear your sharp
      shooters. Your men have caused a number of the rebels to
      bite the dust. The Commanding General is glad to find your
      corps are proving themselves so efficient, and trusts that
      this intelligence will encourage your men, give them, if
      possible, steadier hands and clearer eyes, so that when
      their trusty rifles are pointed at the foe, there will be
      one rebel less at every discharge. I am, Colonel, very
      respectfully, your obedient servant,

      FRED. T. LOCKE, A. A. G.

Gen. McClellan, believing the place too strong to be carried by assault,
and his plans for turning the position having been disarranged by the
detention in front of Washington of Gen. McDowell's corps, to which he
had entrusted the movement, the army went into camp and settled down to
the siege of Yorktown. The ensuing thirty days were full of excitement
and danger, and Co. F had its full share. Several of the companies were
detached and ordered to other portions of the army. Co. F, however,
remained at regimental headquarters. Heavy details were made every day
for service in the rifle pits, the men leaving camp and occupying their
positions before daylight, and being relieved by details from other
regiments after dark. Details were also frequently made for the purpose
of digging advanced rifle pits during the night. These pits were
approached by zigzags, and could only be reached during the hours of
daylight by crawling on the hands and knees, and then only under
circumstances of great danger. They were pushed so far to the front
that, when the evacuation took place on the night of the 3d of May, they
were hardly more than one hundred yards from the main rebel line of
works, and hardly half as far from the rebel rifle pits. Frequent sharp
conflicts took place between bodies of rebel and Union soldiers striving
for the same position on which to dig a new rifle pit, in several of
which Co. F took a prominent part and suffered some loss.

So close were the opposing lines at some places that sharp shooting
became almost impossible for either side, as the exposure of so much as
a hand meant a certain wound.

In this state of affairs the men would improvise loop holes by forcing
sharpened stakes through the bank of earth in front of the pits, through
which they would thrust the barrels of their breach loaders, over which
they would keenly watch for a chance for a shot, and woe to that
unfortunate rebel who exposed even a small portion of his figure within
the circumscribed range of their vision.

The regimental camp before Yorktown was beautifully situated near the
York river and not far from army headquarters. Great rivalry existed
between the different companies as to which company street should
present the neatest appearance, and the camp was very attractive to
visitors and others. The officers mess was open to all comers and was a
constant scene of visiting and feasting. For a few days, it is true, the
troops, officers and men alike, were on short rations, but as soon as
the river was opened and docks constructed, the necessities, and even
the luxuries of life were abundant. At this camp the first instalment of
the much desired and long promised Sharpe rifles arrived. Only one
hundred were received in the first consignment, and they were at once
issued to Co. F as an evidence of the high esteem in which that company
was held by the officers of the regiment, and as a recognition of its
particularly good conduct on several occasions--it was a compliment well
deserved. On the night of the 3d of May, the rebels kept up a tremendous
fire during the whole night. Heavy explosions, not of artillery, were
frequent, and it was evident that some move of importance was in
progress. At an early hour the usual detail of sharp shooters relieved
the infantry pickets in the advanced rifle pits, and soon after daylight
it became apparent to them that matters at the front had undergone a
change, and cautiously advancing from their lines they found the rebel
works evacuated.

Pressing forward over the earth works which had so long barred the way,
the sharp shooters were the first troops to occupy the village of
Yorktown, where they hauled down the garrison flag which had been left
flying by the retreating rebels. All was now joyous excitement; what was
considered a great victory had been gained without any considerable loss
of life--a consideration very grateful for the soldier to contemplate.
Seventy-two heavy guns were abandoned by the rebels, which, though of
little use to them, and of less to us, by reason of their antiquated
styles, were still trophies, and so, valuable.

Regimental and brigade bands, which, together with drum and bugle corps,
had been silent for a month, by general orders (for the rebels had kept
up a tremendous fire on every thing they saw, heard or suspected), now
filled the air with many a stirring and patriotic strain. Salutes were
fired, and with the balloon, used for observing the movements of the
enemy, floating in the air overhead, one could easily believe himself to
be enjoying a festival, and for a moment forget the miseries of war. At
Yorktown the rest of the regiment received their Sharpe's rifles and,
with the exception of a few men who still clung to their muzzle loaders,
the command was armed with rifles of uniform calibre, and which were
entirely satisfactory to those who bore them. The Colt's five shooters
were turned in without regret; for, although they had done fairly good
service, they were not quite worthy of the men in whose hands they were
placed.

On the 5th of May was fought the battle of Williamsburgh, on which hard
fought field two companies of the regiment, A and C, bore an honorable
part--Co. F, however, was with the part of the command retained in front
of Yorktown. The guns were plainly heard at the camp, and painful rumors
began to be circulated. At about ten o'clock A. M. there came an order
to prepare to march at once, with three day's cooked rations; the
concluding words of the brief written message, "prepare for hard
fighting," were full of significance, but they were received with cheers
by the men who were tired of rifle pit work, and desired ardently an
opportunity to measure their skill with that of the boasted southern
riflemen in the field--a desire that was shortly to be gratified to an
extent satisfactory to the most pronounced glutton among them. The
preparations were soon made, and the regiment formed on the color line,
but the day passed and the order to march did not come. The battle of
Williamsburgh was over. On the evening of the eighth the regiment was
embarked on the steam transport "State of Maine," and under convoy of
the gun boats proceeded up the York river to West Point where they
disembarked on the afternoon of the ninth, finding the men of Franklin's
division, which had preceded them, in position. Franklin's men had had a
sharp fight the day before with the rear guard of the Confederate army,
but were too late to cut off the retreat of the main body, whose march
from the bloody field of Williamsburgh had been made with all the vigor
that fear and necessity could inspire. Here the sharp shooters remained
in bivouac until the thirteenth, when they were put in motion again
towards Richmond. The weather was warm, the roads narrow and dusty,
water scarce and the march a wearisome one. Rumors of probable fighting
in store for them at a point not far distant were rife, but no enemy was
found in their path on that day, and near sundown they went into camp at
Cumberland Landing on the Pamunkey.

On the fourteenth the regiment was reviewed by Secretary Seward, who
made a short visit to the army at this time. On the fifteenth they
marched to White House, a heavy rain storm prevailing through the entire
day. The sharp shooters were in support of the cavalry and had in their
rear a battery, the guns of which were frequently stalled in the deep
mud, out of which they had often to be lifted and pulled by sheer force
of human muscle. The march was most fatiguing, and although commenced at
half-past six A. M., and terminating at four P. M., only about six miles
were gained. White House was a place of historic interest, since it was
here that Washington wooed and married his wife; a strict guard was kept
over it and its surroundings, and it was left as unspoiled as it was
found. Above White House the river was no longer navigable, and the York
river railroad, which connects Richmond, some twenty miles distant, with
the Pamunkey at this point, was to be the future line of supply for the
army. On the nineteenth the troops again advanced, camping at Turnstall's
Station that night and at Barker's Mill on the night of the twentieth.
On the twenty-sixth they passed Cold Harbor, a spot on which they were
destined to lose many good and true men two years later, and went into
camp near the house of Dr. Gaines, and were now fairly before Richmond,
the spires of which could be seen from the high ground near the camp. On
the morning of the twenty-seventh, at a very early hour, there came to
regimental headquarters an order couched in words which had become
familiar: "This division will march at daylight in the following order:
First, the sharp shooters." * * * Three days cooked rations and one
hundred rounds of ammunition were also specified. This looked like
business, and the camp became at once a scene of busy activity. At the
appointed hour, in the midst of a heavy rain shower, the column was put
in march, but not, as had been anticipated, towards the enemy who
blocked the road to the rebel capitol. The line of march was to the
northward towards Hanover Court House.

As the head of the column approached the junction of the roads leading
respectively to Hanover Court House and Ashland, considerable resistance
was met with from bodies of rebel cavalry supported by a few pieces of
light artillery and a small force of infantry. At the forks of the road
a portion of Branch's brigade of North Carolina troops were found in a
strong position, prepared to dispute the passage. This force were soon
dislodged by the sharp shooters, the twenty-fifth New York, a detachment
from a Pennsylvania regiment and Benson's battery, and retreated in the
direction of Hanover Court House. Prompt pursuit was made and many
prisoners taken, together with two guns. Martindale's brigade was left
at the forks of the road before spoken of, to guard against an attack on
the rear from the direction of Richmond, while the rest of the division
pushed on to destroy, if possible, the bridges at the points where the
Richmond & Fredericksburgh and the Virginia Central railroads cross the
North and the South Anna rivers; the destruction of these bridges being
the main object of the expedition, although it was hoped and expected
that the movement might result in a junction of the forces under
McDowell, then at Fredericksburgh only forty miles distant from the
point to which Porter's advance reached, with the right of McClellan's
army, when the speedy fall of Richmond might be confidently expected.

The sharp shooters accompanied the column which was charged with this
duty. The cavalry reached the rivers and succeeded in completing the
destruction of the bridges, when ominous reports began to come up from
the rear, of heavy forces of the enemy having appeared between this
isolated command and the rest of the army twenty miles to the southward.
Firing was heard distinctly, scattering and uncertain at first, but soon
swelling into a roar that gave assurance of a hotly contested
engagement.

The column was instantly faced about, not even taking time to
counter-march, and taking the double quick--left in front--made all
haste to reach the scene of the conflict. The natural desire to help
their hard pressed comrades was supplemented by a conviction that their
own safety could only be secured by a speedy destruction of the force
between them and their camp, and the four or five miles of road, heavy
with mud, for, as usual, the rain was falling fast, were rapidly passed
over. As they neared the field of battle the sharp shooters, who had
gained what was now the head of the column, were rapidly deployed and
with ringing cheers passed through the ranks of the 2d Maine, opened for
the purpose, and plunged into the woods where the enemy were posted. The
spirit of the rebel attack was already broken by the severe losses
inflicted upon them by Martindale's gallant brigade which, although
out-numbered two to one, had clung desperately to their all important
position; and when the enemy heard the shouts of this relieving column,
and caught sight of their advancing lines, a panic seized them and they
fled precipitately from the field. Pursuit was made and many prisoners
taken, who, with those captured in the earlier part of the day, swelled
the total to over seven hundred. Two guns were also taken, in the
capture of which Co. F bore a prominent part. This affair cost the Union
forces four hundred men; the loss, however, principally falling on
Martindale's brigade, who bore the brunt of the rear attack. The sharp
shooters lost only about twenty men, killed and wounded--three of whom,
Sergt. Lewis J. Allen, Benjamin Billings and W. F. Dawson were of Co. F;
Dawson died on the 1st of June from the effects of his wound.

The regiment, however, met with a great loss on that day by the capture
of its surgeon, Guy C. Marshall, who, with other surgeons and
attendants, was surprised by a sudden attack on the field hospital by
the enemy's cavalry. Dr. Marshall never rejoined the regiment. Being
sent to Libby Prison, he was, with other surgeons, allowed certain
liberties in order that he might be the more useful in his professional
capacity. Placed upon his parole he was allowed, under certain
restrictions, to pass the prison guards at will, for the purpose of
securing medicines, etc., for use among the sick prisoners. The terrible
sufferings of his comrades, caused mainly by what he believed to be
intentional neglect, aroused all the sympathy of his tender nature, and
as the days passed and no attention was paid to his protests or efforts
to get relief, his intense indignation was aroused. Taking advantage of
his liberty to pass the guards, he succeeded in getting an audience with
Jefferson Davis himself. It is probable that his earnestness led him
into expressions of condemnation too strong to be relished by the so
called President. Howsoever it was, his liberty was stopped and he was
made a close prisoner. He continued his labors, however, with such
scanty means as he could obtain until, worn out by his over exertions,
and with his great heart broken by the sight of the suffering he was so
powerless to relieve, he died,--as truly the death of a hero as though
he had fallen at the head of some gallant charge in the field. He was a
true man, and those who knew him best will always have a warm and tender
remembrance of him.

On the twenty-ninth, the whole command returned to their camp near
Gaines Hill. The experience of Co. F for the next thirty days was
similar to that of Yorktown--daily details for picket duty were made,
and always where the danger was greatest; for, as it was the province of
the sharpshooter to shoot some body, it was necessary that he should be
placed where there was some one to shoot. In a case of this kind,
however, one cannot expect to give blows without receiving them in
return, hence it came about that the sharp shooters were constantly in
the most dangerous places on the picket line. At some point in the Union
front, perhaps miles away, it would be found that a few rebel sharp
shooters had planted themselves in a position from which they gave
serious annoyance to the working parties and sometimes inflicted serious
loss, and from which they could not readily be dislodged by the
imperfect weapons of the infantry. In such cases calls would be made for
a detail of sharp shooters, who would be gone sometimes for several days
before returning to camp, always, however, being successful in removing
the trouble.

On the thirty-first, the guns of Fair Oaks were distinctly heard, and
early the next morning the Fifth Corps, to which the regiment was now
attached, was massed near the head of New Bridge on the Chicahominy,
with the intention of forcing a passage at this place to try to convert
the repulse of the rebels at Fair Oaks on the day before into a great
disaster. The swollen condition of the river, however, which had proved
so nearly fatal to the Union forces on the day of Fair Oaks, became now
the safety of the rebels. A strong detachment of the sharp shooters,
including some men from Co. F, were thrown across the river at New
Bridge to ascertain whether the water covering the road beyond was
fordable for infantry. This detachment crossed the bridge and passed
some distance along the road, but finding it impracticable for men, so
reported and the attempt was abandoned.

No incidents of unusual interest occurred to the Vermonters after June
1st until the movements commenced which culminated in what is known in
history as the seven days battle, commencing on the 25th of June at a
point on the right bank of the Chicahominy at Oak Grove, and ending on
the first of July at Malvern Hill on the James river.

For some days rumors of an unfavorable nature had been circulating among
the camps before Richmond, of disasters to the Union forces in the
valley. It was known that Stonewall Jackson had gone northward with his
command, and that he had appeared at several points in northern Virginia
under such circumstances and at such times and places as caused serious
alarm to the government at Washington for the safety of the capitol. To
the Army of the Potomac, however, it seemed incredible that so small a
force as Jackson's could be a serious menace to that city, and
preparations for a forward movement and a great and decisive battle went
steadily on. On the 25th of June, Hooker advanced his lines near Oak
Grove, and after severe fighting forced the enemy from their position
which he proceeded to fortify, and which he held. On the night of that
day, the army was full of joyous anticipation of a great victory to be
gained before Jackson could return from his foray to the north. On the
morning of the twenty-sixth, however, scouts reported Jackson,
reinforced by Whiting's division, at Hanover Court House pressing
rapidly forward, with 30,000 men, toward our exposed right and rear. At
the same time large bodies of the enemy were observed crossing the
Chicahominy at Meadow Bridge, above Mechanicsville. It was at once
apparent that the Army of the Potomac must abandon its advance on
Richmond, for the time at least, and stand on its defense. McCall, with
his division of Pennsylvania reserves, occupied a strong position on the
left bank of Beaver Dam creek, a small affluent of the Chicahominy, near
Mechanicsville, about four miles north of Gaines Hill, and this command
constituted the extreme right of the Union army. On this isolated body
it was evident that the first rebel attack would fall.

At about three o'clock P. M. the division of the rebel General A. P.
Hill appeared in front of McCall's line, and severe fighting at once
commenced. About one hour later Branch's division arrived to the support
of the rebel general, and vigorous and repeated assaults were made at
various points on the Union line; the fighting at Ellison's Mills being
of a particularly desperate character. Porter's old division, now
commanded by Morell, was ordered up from its camp at Gaines Hill to the
assistance of the troops so heavily pressed at Mechanicsville. The sharp
shooters, being among the regiments thus detailed, left their tents
standing, and in light marching order, and with no rations, moved out at
the head of the column. Arriving at the front they took post in the left
of the road, in the rear of a rifle pit occupied by a battalion of
Pennsylvania troops and on the right of a redoubt in which was a battery
of guns. It was now nearly dark, the force of the attack was spent, and
the sharp shooters had but small share of the fighting. The night was
spent in this position, and the rest of the soldiers was unbroken,
except by the cries and moans of the rebel wounded, many of whom lay
uncared for within a few yards of the Union line. Some of the men of Co.
F, moved by pity for the sufferings of their enemies, left their lines
to give them assistance; they were fired on, however, by the less
merciful rebels and had to abandon the attempt. Before daylight the
order was whispered down the line to withdraw as silently as possible.
The men were especially cautioned against allowing their tin cups to
rattle against their rifles, as the first sign was sure to be the signal
for a rebel volley. Cautiously the men stole away, and, as daylight
appeared, found themselves alone.

They were the rear guard and thus covered the retreat of the main body
to Gaines Hill. As they approached the camp they had left on the
preceding afternoon a scene of desolation and destruction met their
astonished eyes. Enormous piles of quartermaster and commissary stores
were being fired, tents were struck, the regimental baggage gone, and
large droves of cattle were being hurried forward towards the lower
bridges of the Chicahominy--the retreat to the James had commenced.
Halting for a few minutes amidst the ruins of their abandoned camp
where, however, they found the faithful quartermaster-sergeant with a
scanty supply of rations, very grateful to men who had eaten nothing for
twenty hours and expected nothing for some time to come. They hastily
commenced the preparation of such a modest breakfast as was possible
under the circumstances, but before it could be eaten the pursuing
rebels were upon them, and the march towards the rear was resumed. A
mile further and they found the Fifth Corps, which was all there was of
the army on the south bank of the Chicahominy, in line of battle
prepared to resist the attack of the enemy, which it was apparent to all
would be in heavy force. The position was a strong one, and the little
force--small in comparison to that which now appeared confronting
it--were disposed with consummate skill. Dust--for the day was intensely
hot and dry--arising in dense clouds high above the tree tops, plainly
denoted the line of march, and the positions of the different rebel
columns as they arrived on the field and took their places in line of
battle.

Deserters, prisoners, and scouts, all agreed that Jackson, who had not
been up in time to take part in the battle of the previous day as had
been expected, was now at hand with a large force of fresh troops, and
it was apparent that the Fifth Corps was about to become engaged with
nearly the whole of the rebel army. Any one of three things could now
happen, as might be decided by the Union commander. The force on Gaines
Hill might be re-enforced by means of the few, but sufficient, bridges
over the Chicahominy and accept battle on something like equal terms;
or the main army on the right bank of the river might take advantage of
the opportunity offered to break through the lines in its front,
weakened as they must be by the absence of the immense numbers detached
to crush Porter on the left bank; or the Fifth Corps might by a great
effort, unassisted, hold Lee's army in check long enough to enable the
Union army to commence in an orderly manner its retreat to the James.
Whichever course might be decided upon, it was evident that this portion
of the army was on the eve of a desperate struggle against overwhelming
odds, and each man prepared himself accordingly.

In front of Morell's division, to which the sharp shooters were
attached, was a deep ravine heavily wooded on its sides, and through
which ran a small stream, its direction being generally northeast, until
it emptied into the Chicahominy near Woodbury's bridge. The bottom of
the ravine was marshy and somewhat difficult of passage, and near the
river widened out and took the name of Boatswain's swamp. On the far
side of this ravine the sharp shooters were deployed to observe the
approach of the enemy and to receive their first attack. In their front
the ground was comparatively open, though somewhat broken, for a
considerable distance. At half-past two P. M. the enemy's skirmishers
appeared in the rolling open country, and desultory firing at long range
commenced. Soon, however, the pressure became more severe, and a
regiment on the right of the sharp shooters having given way, they, in
their turn, were forced slowly back across the marshy ravine and part
way up the opposite slope; here, being re-enforced, they turned on and
drove the rebels back and reoccupied the ground on which they first
formed, soon, however, to be forced back again. So heavily had each of
the opposing lines been supported that the affair lost its character as
a picket fight, and partook of the nature of line of battle fighting.
The troops opposed at this time were those of A. P. Hill, who finally,
by sheer weight of numbers, dislodged the sharp shooters and their
supports from the woods and permanently held them. They were unable,
however, to ascend the slope on the other side, and the main federal
line was intact at all points. There was now an interval of some half an
hour, during which time the infantry were idle; the artillery firing,
however, from the Union batteries on the crest of the hill was incessant,
and was as vigorously responded to by the rebels. From the right bank of
the Chicahominy a battery of twenty pound Parrots, near Gen. W. F.
Smith's headquarters, was skillfully directed against the rebel right
near and in front of Dr. Gaines' house. At six o'clock P. M. Slocum's
division of Franklin's corps was ordered across to the support of
Porter's endangered command.

At seven o'clock the divisions of Hill, Longstreet, Whiting and Jackson
were massed for a final attack on the small but undismayed federal
force, who yet held every inch of the ground so desperately fought for
during five long hours.

Whiting's division led the rebel assault with Hood's Texan brigade in
the front line. The attack struck the center of the line held by
Morell's division, and so desperate was the assault and so heavily
supported, that Morell's tired men were finally forced by sheer weight
of masses to abandon the line which they had so long and so gallantly
held. Had the rebels themselves been in a position to promptly pursue
their advantage, the situation would have been most perilous to the
Union forces. The enemy had now gained the crest of the hill which
commanded the ground to the rear as far as the banks of the Chicahominy.
This deep and treacherous stream, crossed but by few bridges--and they,
with one exception, at a considerable distance from the field of
battle--offered an effectual barrier to the passage of the routed army.

But while the federals had suffered severely, the losses of the rebels
had been far greater. The disorganization and demoralization among the
victors was even greater than among the vanquished; and before they
could reform for further advance the beaten federals had rallied on the
low ground nearer the river and formed a new line which, in the
gathering darkness, undoubtedly looked to the rebels, made cautious by
experience, more formidable than it was in fact. Their cavalry appeared
in great force on the brow of the hill, but the expected charge did not
come; they had had fighting enough and rested content with what they had
gained. The least desirable of the three choices offered to the Union
commander had been taken, as it appeared, but a precious day had been
gained to the army already in its retreat to the James. A fearful price
had been paid for it, however, by the devoted band who stood between
that retreating army and the flushed and victorious enemy. Of the
eighteen thousand men who stood in line of battle at noon, only twelve
thousand answered to the roll call at night. One-third of the whole, or
six thousand men, had fallen. They had done all that it was possible for
men to do, and only yielded to superior numbers. It is now known that
less than 25,000 men were left for the defense of Richmond; the rest of
the rebel forces, or over 55,000 men, had been hurled against this wing
of the Union army hoping to crush it utterly, and the attempt had
failed.

Co. F had done its full share in the work of the day, and, although out
of ammunition, retained its position with other companies of the
regiment on the front line until the general disruption on the right and
left compelled their retirement from the field. Tired, hungry and
disheartened, they lay down for the night on the low ground a mile or
more in the rear for a few hours of repose. At about eleven o'clock
P. M. they were aroused and put in motion, crossing the Chicahominy at
Woodbury's bridge and going again into bivouac on the high ground near
the Trent Hospital some distance in the rear of the ground held by the
Vermont brigade on the northern, or right, bank of the river. During the
night the entire corps was withdrawn and the bridges destroyed. A fresh
supply of ammunition was obtained and issued at daylight, and at ten
o'clock A. M. the sharp shooters, with full cartridge boxes, but empty
haversacks, took up their line of march towards the James. In this
action the regiment lost heavily in killed and wounded. B. W. Jordan and
Jas. A. Read of Co. F were mortally, and E. H. Himes severely wounded.
Passing Savage Station, where the 5th Vermont suffered so severely on
the next day, the regiment crossed White Oak swamp before dark on the
twenty-eighth, and went into bivouac near the head of the bridge.

Wild rumors of heavy bodies of Confederate troops, crossing the
Chicahominy at points lower down prepared to fall upon the exposed flank
and rear of the federals were prevalent, and the dreaded form of
Stonewall Jackson seemed to start from every bush.

During the night, which was intensely dark, the horses attached to a
battery got loose by some means and, dashing through a portion of the
ground occupied by other troops, seemed, with their rattling harness, to
be a host of rebel cavalry. A bugle at some distance sounded the
assembly, drums beat the long roll, and in the confusion of that night
alarm it seemed as though a general panic had seized upon all. The sharp
shooters, like all others, were thrown into confusion and momentarily
lost their sense of discipline and disappeared. When the commanding
officer, perhaps the last to awake, came to look for his command they
were not to be found; with the exception of Calvin Morse, bugler of Co.
F, he was alone. The panic among the sharp shooters, however, was only
momentary; the first blast of the well known bugle recalled them to a
sense of duty, and, a rallying point being established, the whole
command at once returned to the line reassured and prepared for any
emergency.

At daylight the march was resumed and continued as far as Charles City
cross roads, or Glendale, the junction of two important roads leading
from Richmond southeasterly towards Malvern Hill; the lower, or
Newmarket road, being the only one by which a rebel force moving from
the city could hope to interpose between the retreating federals and the
James.

The sharp shooters were thrown out on this road some two miles with
instructions to delay as long as possible the advance of any body of the
enemy who might approach by that route. This was the fourth day for Co.
F of continuous marching and fighting; they had started with almost
empty haversacks, and it had not been possible to supply them. The
country was bare of provisions, except now and then a hog that had so
far escaped the foragers. A few of these fell victims to the hunger of
the half-starved men; but, with no bread or salt, it hardly served a
better purpose than merely to sustain life. To add to their discomforts
the only water procurable was that from a well near by which was said to
have been poisoned by the flying owner of the plantation; his absence,
with that of every living thing upon the place, made it impossible to
apply the usual and proper test, that of compelling the suspected
parties to, themselves, drink heartily of the water. A guard was
therefore placed over the well, and the thirsty soldiers were compelled
to endure their tortures as best they could. The day passed in
comparative quiet; only a few small bodies of rebel cavalry appeared to
contest the possession of the road, and they being easily repulsed. Late
in the afternoon the sharp shooters were recalled to the junction of the
roads, where they rested for a short time to allow the passage of
another column. At this point a single box of hard bread was procured
from the cook in charge of a wagon conveying the mess kit of the
officers of a battery; this was the only issue of rations made to the
regiment from the morning of the 25th of June until they arrived at
Harrison's landing on the 2d of July, and, inadequate as it was, it was
a welcome addition to their meager fare.

At dark the regiment marched southwardly on a country road narrow and
difficult, often appearing no more than a path through the dense swamp;
the night, intensely dark, was made more so by the gloom of the forest,
and all night the weary unfed men toiled along. At midnight the column
was halted for some cause, and while thus halted another of those
unaccountable panics took place--in fact, in the excited condition of
the men, enfeebled by long continued labors without food, a small matter
was sufficient to throw them off their balance; and yet these very men a
few hours later, with an enemy in front whom they could see and at whom
they could deal blows as well as receive them, fought and won the great
battle of Malvern Hill. During the night Co. F. with one or two other
companies were detailed to accompany Gen. Porter and others on a
reconnoissance of the country to the left of the road on which the
column was halted. With a small force in advance as skirmishers, they
passed over some two miles of difficult country, doubly so in the
darkness of the night, striking and drawing the fire of the rebel
pickets. This being apparently the object of the movement, the
skirmishers were withdrawn and the command rejoined the main column. So
worn and weary were they that whenever halted even for a moment, many
men would fall instantly into a sleep from which it would require the
most vigorous efforts to arouse them. Shortly before daylight they were
halted and allowed to sleep for an hour or two, when, with tired and
aching bodies, they continued their march. At noon they passed over the
crest of Malvern Hill and before them lay, quiet and beautiful in the
sunlight, the valley of the James; and, at the distance of some three
miles, the river itself with Union gun boats at anchor on its bosom.

It was a welcome sight to those who had been for six long days marching
by night and fighting by day. It meant, as they fondly believed, food
and rest, and they greeted the lovely view with cheers of exultation.
But there were further labors and greater dangers in store for them
before the longed for rest could be obtained. Passing over the level
plateau known as Malvern Hill, they descended to the valley and went
into bivouac. Here was at least water, and some food was obtained from
the negroes who remained about the place.

No sooner were ranks broken and knapsacks unslung than the tired and
dirty soldiers flocked to the banks of the beautiful river, and the
water was soon filled with the bathers, who enjoyed this unusual luxury
with keen relish.

The bivouac of the regiment was in the midst of a field of oats but
recently cut and bound, and the men proceeded to arrange for themselves
couches which for comfort and luxury they had not seen the like of since
they left the feather beds of their New England homes. Their repose,
even here, was, however, destined to be of short duration; for hardly
had they settled themselves for their rest when the bugles sounded the
general, and the head of the column, strangely enough, turned northward.
Up the steep hill, back over the very road down which they had just
marched, they toiled, but without murmur or discontent, for _this_
movement was _towards_ the rebels, and not away from them. Inspiring
rumors began to be heard; where they came from, or how, no one knew, but
it was said that McCall and Sumner had fought a great battle on the
previous day, that the rebel army was routed, that Lee was a prisoner,
that McClellan was in Richmond, and the long and short of it was that
the Union army had nothing more to do but to march back, make a
triumphal entry into the captured stronghold, assist at that often
anticipated ceremony which was to consign "Jeff. Davis to a sour apple
tree," be mustered out, get their pay and go home. When they arrived on
the plateau, however, a scene met their eyes that effectually drove such
anticipations from their minds. A mile away, just emerging from the
cover of the forest, appeared the forms of a number of men; were they
friends or enemies? Glasses were unslung and they were at once
discovered to be federals. Momentarily their numbers increased, and soon
the whole plain was covered with blue coated troops, but they were
without order or organization, many without arms, and their faces
bearing not the light of successful battle, but dull with the chagrin of
defeat. The story was soon told. Sumner and McCall had fought a battle
at Charles City cross roads, but had been forced to abandon the field
with heavy loss in men and guns. Instead of a triumphant march to
Richmond, the Fifth Corps was again to interpose between the flushed and
confident rebels and the retreating federals--but not, as at Gaines
Hill, alone. This was late in the afternoon of June 30. That night the
sharp shooters spent in bivouac near the ground on which they were to
fight the next day. At dawn on the 1st of July the men were aroused, and
proceeding to the front were ordered into line as skirmishers, their
line covering the extreme left of the Union army directly in front of
the main approach to the position. Malvern Hill, so called, is a hill
only as it is viewed from the southern or western side; to the north
and east the ground is only slightly descending from the highest
elevation. On the western side, flowing in a southerly direction, is a
small stream called Turkey run, the bed of the stream being some one
hundred feet lower than the plateau. On the south, toward the James, the
descent is more precipitous. The approaches were, as has been stated,
from the north where the ground was comparatively level and sufficiently
open to admit of rapid and regular maneuvers. The position taken by the
Union army was not one of extraordinary strength, except that its flanks
were well protected by natural features: its front was but little higher
than the ground over which the enemy must pass to the attack, and was
unprotected by natural or artificial obstacles. No earth works or other
defenses were constructed; although the "lofty hill, crowned by
formidable works," has often figured in descriptions of this battle. The
simple truth is it was an open field fight, hotly contested and
gallantly won.

The Union artillery, some three hundred guns, was posted in advantageous
positions, some of the batteries occupying slight elevations from which
they could fire over the heads of troops in their front, the most of
them, however, being formed on the level ground in the intervals between
regiments and brigades. The gun boats were stationed in the river some
two miles distant, so as to cover and support the left flank, and it was
expected that great assistance would be afforded by the fire of their
immense guns.

Porter's corps held the extreme left, with its left flank on Turkey run,
Morell's division forming the front line with headquarters at Crew's
house. Sykes' division, composed mostly of regulars, was in the second
line. McCall's division was held in reserve in rear of the left flank.
On the right of Morell's line thus formed, came Couch's division;
further to the right the line was refused, and the extreme right flank
rested on the James; but with this portion of the line we have little to
do. The main attack fell on the Fifth Corps, involving to some extent
Couch's troops next on the right. In this order the army awaited the
onset. In front of Morell's division stretched away a field about half a
mile in length, bounded at its opposite extremity by heavy woods.

Nearly level in its general features, there extended across it at a
distance of about one-third of a mile from the federal front, and
parallel with it, a deep ravine, its western end debouching into the
valley formed by Turkey run. This open field was covered at this time
with wheat just ready for the harvest.

Along the north side of this ravine, covered from view by the waving
wheat, the sharp shooters were deployed at an early hour and patiently
awaited the attack of the enemy. A few scattered trees afforded a scanty
supply of half grown apples which were eagerly seized upon by the
famished men, who boiled them in their tin cups and thus made them
fairly palatable; by such poor means assuaging as best they could the
pangs of hunger.

At about twelve o'clock heavy clouds of dust arising in the north
announced the approach of the Confederate columns, and soon after scouts
and skirmishers began to make their presence known by shots from the
edge of the woods, some two hundred yards distant, directed at every
exposed head. A puff of smoke from that direction, however, was certain
to be answered by a dozen well aimed rifles from the sharp shooters, and
the rebel scouts soon tired of that amusement. In the meantime the
artillery firing had become very heavy on both sides, our own depressing
their muzzles so as to sweep the woods in front; the effect of this was
to bring the line of fire unpleasantly near the heads of the advanced
sharp shooters. The gun boats also joined in the cannonade, and as their
shells often burst short, over and even behind the line of skirmishers,
the position soon became one of grave danger from both sides.

At about half-past two the artillery fire from the rebel line slackened
perceptibly, and soon appeared, bursting from the edge of the forest, a
heavy line of skirmishers who advanced at a run, apparently unaware of
any considerable force in their front. Bugler Morse of Co. F, who
accompanied the commanding officer as chief bugler on that day, was at
once ordered to sound commence firing, and the sharp shooters sent
across the field and into the lines of the oncoming rebels, such a storm
of lead from their breach loading rifles as soon checked their advance
and sent them back to the cover of the woods in great confusion and with
serious loss. The repulse was but momentary, however, for soon another
line appeared so heavily re-enforced that it was more like a line of
battle than a skirmish line. Still, however, the sharp shooters clung to
their ground, firing rapidly and with precision, as the thinned ranks of
the Confederates, as they pressed on, attested. They would not, however,
be denied, but still came on at the run, firing as they came. At this
moment the sharp shooters became aware of a force of rebel skirmishers
on their right flank, who commenced firing steadily, and at almost point
blank range, from the shelter of a roadway bordered by hedges. The bugle
now sounded retreat, and the sharp shooters fell back far enough to
escape the effect of the flank fire when they were halted and once more
turned their faces to the enemy. The tables were now turned; the rebels
had gained the shelter of the ravine, and were firing with great
deliberation at our men who were fully exposed in the open field in
front of the Crew house. Still the sharp shooters held their ground,
and, by the greater accuracy of their fire, combined with the advantage
of greater rapidity given by breach loaders over muzzle loaders, kept
the rebels well under cover. Having thus cleared the way, as they
supposed, for their artillery, the rebels sought to plant a battery in
the open ground on the hither side of the woods which had screened their
advance. The noise of chopping had been plainly heard for some time as
their pioneers labored in the woods opening a passage for the guns.
Suddenly there burst out of the dense foliage four magnificent stray
horses, and behind them, whirled along like a child's toy, the gun.
Another and another followed, sweeping out into the plain. As the head
of the column turned to the right to go into battery, every rifle within
range was brought to bear, and horses and men began to fall rapidly.
Still they pressed on, and when there were no longer horses to haul the
guns, the gunners sought to put their pieces into battery by hand;
nothing, however, could stand before that terrible storm of lead, and
after ten minutes of gallant effort the few survivors, leaving their
guns in the open field, took shelter in the friendly woods. Not a gun
was placed in position or fired from that quarter during the day. This
battery was known as the Richmond Howitzers and was composed of the very
flower of the young men of that city; it was their first fight, and to
many their last. A member of the battery, in describing it to an officer
of the sharp shooters soon after the close of the war, said pithily: "We
went in a battery and came out a wreck. We staid ten minutes by the
watch and came out with one gun, ten men and two horses, and without
firing a shot."

The advanced position held by the sharp shooters being no longer
tenable, as they were exposed to the fire, not only of the rebels in
front but to that of their friends in the rear as well, they were
withdrawn and formed in line of battle in the rear of the fourth
Michigan volunteers, where they remained for a short time. The rebel
fire from the brink of the ravine from which the sharp shooters had
been dislodged, as before described, now became exceedingly galling and
troublesome to the artillery in our front line, and several horses and
men were hit in Weeden's R.I. battery, an officer of which requested
that an effort be made to silence the fire. Col. Ripley directed Lieut.
J. Smith Brown of Co. A, acting Adjutant, to take twenty volunteers far
out to the left and front to a point designated, which it was hoped
would command the ravine. The duty was one of danger, but volunteers
were quickly at hand, among whom were several from Co. F. The gallant
little band soon gained the coveted position, and thereafter the fire of
the rebel riflemen from that point was of little moment. Lieut. Brown's
command maintained this position during the entire battle, and being
squarely on the flank of Magruder's charging columns, and being, from
the very smallness of their numbers, hardly noticeable among the
thousands of struggling men on that fatal field, they inflicted great
damage and loss in the Confederate hosts. It was now late in the
afternoon, no large bodies of the rebel infantry had as yet shown
themselves, though the clouds of dust arising beyond the woods told
plainly of their presence and motions. A partial attack had been made on
the extreme right of Morell's line, involving to some extent the left of
Couch's division, but was easily repulsed; the fire of Co. E of the
sharp shooters, which had been sent to that point, contributing largely
to that result. The artillery fire had been heavy and incessant for
some hours, and shells were bursting in quick succession over every
portion of the field. Suddenly there burst out of the ravine a heavy
line of battle, followed by another and another, while out of the woods
beyond poured masses of men in support. The battle now commenced in
earnest.

The Union infantry, heretofore concealed and sheltered behind such
little inequalities of ground as the field afforded, sprang to their
feet and opened a tremendous fire, additional batteries were brought up,
and from every direction shot and shell, canister and grape, were hurled
against the advancing enemy, while the gun boats, at anchor in the river
two miles away, joined their efforts with those of their brethren of the
army. It was a gallant attempt, but nothing human could stand against
the storm--great gaps began to be perceptible in the lines, but the
fiery energy of Magruder was behind them and they still kept on, until
it seemed that nothing short of the bayonet would stop them. Gradually,
however, the rush was abated; here and there could be seen signs of
wavering and hesitation; this was the signal for redoubled efforts on
the part of the Union troops, and the discomfited rebels broke in
confusion and fled to the shelter of the woods and ravines.

At the critical moment of this charge the sharp shooters had been thrown
into line on the right of the fourth Michigan regiment and bore an
honorable part in the repulse; indeed, so closely crowded were the Union
lines at this point that many men of the sharp shooters found themselves
in the line of the Michigan regiment and fought shoulder to shoulder
with their western brothers. The battle was, however, by no means over;
again and again did Magruder hurl his devoted troops against the Union
line, only to meet a like repulse; the rebels fought like men who
realized that their efforts of the past week, measurably successful
though they had been, would have failed of their full result should they
now fail to destroy the Army of the Potomac; while the Union troops held
their lines with the tenacity of soldiers who knew that the fate of a
nation depended upon the result of that day. At the close of the second
assault the sharp shooters found themselves with empty cartridge boxes
and were withdrawn from the front. The special ammunition required for
their breech loaders not being obtainable, they were not again engaged
during the day. In this fight the regiment lost many officers and men,
among whom were Col. Ripley, Capt. Austin and Lieut. Jones of Co. E,
wounded. In Co. F, Lieut. C. W. Seaton, Jacob S. Bailey and Brigham
Buswell were wounded. Buswell's wound resulted in his discharge. Bailey
rejoined the company, only to lose an arm at Chancellorsville.

The final rebel attack having been repulsed and their defeat being
complete and final, the Union army was withdrawn during the night to
Harrison's landing, some eight miles distant, which point had been
selected by Gen. McClellan's engineers some days before as the base for
future operations against Richmond by the line of the James river;
operations which, as the event proved, were not to be undertaken until
after two years of unsuccessful fighting in other fields, the Army of
the Potomac found itself once more on the familiar fields of its
earliest experience.

The campaign of the Peninsula was over; that mighty army that had sailed
down the beautiful Potomac so full of hope and pride less than four
months before; that had through toil and suffering fought its way to
within sight of its goal; found itself beaten back at the very moment of
its anticipated triumph, and instead of the elation of victory, it was
tasting the bitterness of defeat; for, although many of its battles, as
that of Hanover Court House, Williamsburgh, Yorktown, Mechanicsville and
Malvern Hill, had been tactical victories, it felt that the full measure
of success had not been gained, and that its mission had not been
accomplished. While the army lay at Harrison's landing the following
changes in the rolls of Co. F. took place: Sergent Amos H. Bunker, Azial
N. Blanchard, Wm. Cooley, Geo. W. Manchester and Chas. G. Odell were
discharged on surgeon's certificate of disability, and Brigham Buswell
was discharged on account of disability resulting from the wound
received at Malvern Hill. Benajah W. Jordan and James A. Read died of
wounds received at Gaines Hill and W. S. Tarbell of disease. E. F.
Stevens and L. D. Grover were promoted sergeants, and W. H. Leach and
Edward Trask were made corporals. At this camp also Capt. Weston
resigned and Lieut. C. W. Seaton was appointed captain, Second Lieut.
M. V. B. Bronson was promoted first lieutenant and Ezbon W. Hindes
second lieutenant. Major Trepp was promoted lieutenant-colonel, vice Wm.
Y. W. Ripley, and Capt. Hastings of Co. H. was made major.

The regiment remained at Harrison's landing until the army left the
Peninsula. The weather was intensely hot and the army suffered terrible
losses by disease, cooped up as they were on the low and unhealthy
bottom lands bordering the James. The enemy made one or two
demonstrations, and on one occasion the camp of the sharp shooters
became the target for the rebel batteries posted on the high lands on
the further side of the river, and for a long time the men of Co. F were
exposed to a severe fire to which they could not reply, but luckily
without serious loss.



CHAPTER THIRD.

SECOND BULL RUN. ANTIETAM. FREDERICKSBURGH.


About the middle of August, the government having determined upon the
evacuation of the Peninsula, the army abandoned its position at
Harrison's landing. Water transportation not being at hand in sufficient
quantity, a large portion of the army marched southward towards Fortress
Monroe, passing, by the way, the fields of Williamsburgh. Lee's Mills
and Yorktown, upon which they had so recently stood victorious over the
very enemy upon whom they were now turning their backs. Co. F. was with
the division which thus passed down by land. Upon arriving at Hampton
the Fifth Corps, to which the sharp shooters were attached, embarked on
steamboats and were quickly and comfortably conveyed to Acquia Creek, at
which place they took the cars for Falmouth, on the Rappahannock
opposite Fredericksburgh.

No sooner did McClellan turn his back on Richmond in the execution of
this change of base, than Lee, no longer held to the defense of the
rebel capitol, moved with his entire force rapidly northward, hoping to
crush Pope's scattered columns in detail before the Army of the Potomac
could appear to its support. Indeed, before McClellan's movement
commenced, the Confederate General Jackson--he whose foray in the valley
in May had so completely neutralized McDowell's powerful corps that its
services were practically lost to the Union commander during the entire
period of the Peninsular campaign--had again appeared on Pope's right
and rear, and it was this apparition that struck such dread to the soul
of Halleck, then General-in-Chief at Washington. Now commenced that
campaign of maneuvers in which Pope was so signally foiled by his keen
and wary antagonist.

The Fifth Corps left Falmouth on the 24th of August, marching to
Rappahannock Station, thence along the line of the Orange & Alexandria
R. R. to Warrenton Junction where they remained for a few hours, it
being the longest rest they had had since leaving Falmouth, sixty miles
away. On the 28th of August the sharp shooters arrived, with the rest of
the corps, at Bristoe's Station where Porter had been ordered to take
position at daylight to assist in the entertainment which Pope had
advertised for that day, and which was to consist of "bagging the whole
crowd" of rebels.

The wily Jackson, however, was no party to that plan, and while Pope was
vainly seeking him about Manassas Junction, he was quietly awaiting the
arrival of Lee's main columns near Groveton. The corps remained at
Bristoe's, or between that place and Manassas Junction, inactive during
the rest of the twenty-eighth and the whole of the twenty-ninth, and the
sharp shooters thus failed of any considerable share in the battle of
Groveton on that day. During the night preceding the 30th of August,
Porter's corps was moved by the Sudley Springs road from their position
near Bristoe's to the scene of the previous day's battle to the north
and east of Groveton, where its line of battle was formed in a direction
nearly northeast and southwest, with the left on the Warrenton turnpike.
Morell's division, to which the sharp shooters were attached, formed the
front line with the sharp shooters, as usual, far in the advance as
skirmishers. With a grand rush the riflemen drove the rebels through the
outlying woods, and following close upon the heels of the flying enemy,
suddenly passed from the comparative shelter of the woods into an open
field directly in the face of Jackson's corps strongly posted behind the
embankment of an unfinished railroad leading from Sudley Springs
southwestwardly towards Groveton.

It was a grand fortification ready formed for the enemy's occupation,
and stoutly defended by the Stonewall brigade. Straight up to the
embankment pushed the gallant sharp shooters, and handsomely were they
supported by the splendid troops of Barnes and Butterfield's brigades.
The attack was made with the utmost impetuosity and tenaciously
sustained; but Jackson's veterans could not be dislodged from their
strong position behind their works. The sharp shooters gained the
shelter of a partially sunken road parallel to the enemy's line and
hardly thirty yards distant; but not even the splendid courage of the
men who had held the lines of Gaines Hill and Malvern against this same
enemy, could avail to drive them from their shelter.

To add to the peril of the charging column, Longstreet, on Jackson's
right, organized an attack on Porter's exposed left flank. The corps
thus placed, with an enemy in their front whom they could not dislodge
and another on their unprotected flank, were forced to abandon their
attack. The sharp shooters were the last to leave their advanced
positions, and then only when, nearly out of ammunition, Longstreet's
fresh troops fairly crowded them out by sheer numerical superiority. Of
Co. F the following men were wounded in this battle: Corporals H. J.
Peck and Ai Brown and Private W. H. Blake. Corporal Peck was honorably
discharged on the 26th of October following for disability resulting
from his wound. The sharp shooters were not again seriously engaged with
the enemy during Pope's campaign. On the night after the battle they
retired with the shattered remains of the gallant Fifth Corps, and on
the 1st of September went into camp near Fort Corcoran. So far the
campaigns of the sharp shooters had, although full of thrilling incident
and gallant achievement, been barren of result. Great victories had been
won on many fields, but the end seemed as far off as when they left
Washington more than five months before.

Disease and losses in battle had sadly thinned their ranks, but the
remnant were soldiers tried and tempered in the fire of many battles.
They were not of the stuff that wilts and shrivels under an adverse
fortune, and putting the past resolutely behind them, they set their
faces sternly towards the future, prepared for whatever of good, or of
ill, it should have in store for them.


THE ANTIETAM CAMPAIGN.

On the 12th of September, the main portion of the army having preceded
them, the Fifth Corps crossed to the north bank of the Potomac, and by
forced marches came up with the more advanced columns on the sixteenth
and took part in the maneuvers which brought the contending armies again
face to face on the banks of the Antietam.

The rebels, flushed with the very substantial advantages they had
gained during the past summer, were confident and full of enthusiasm.
Posted in an exceptionally strong position, their flanks resting on the
Potomac while their front was covered by the deep and rapid Antietam,
they calmly awaited the Union attack, confident that the army which they
had so signally discomfitted under Pope would again recoil before their
fire. But the Union situation was not the same that it had been a month
before; McClellan had resumed the command, not only of the old Army of
the Potomac--the darling child of his own creation, and which in turn
loved and honored him with a devotion difficult for the carping critic
of these modern times to understand--but of the remains of the army of
Northern Virginia as well.

These incongruous elements he had welded together, reorganized and
re-equipped while still on the march, until, when they stood again
before Lee's hosts on the banks of Antietam creek on the 17th of
September, they were as compact in organization and as confident as at
any previous time in their history. Then, too, they were to fight on
soil which, if not entirely loyal, was at least not the soil of the so
called Confederate States; and the feeling that they were called upon
for a great effort in behalf of an endangered North, gave an additional
stimulus to their spirits and nerved their arms with greater power. But
with the history of this great battle we have little to do. The Fifth
Corps was held in reserve during the entire day. It was the first time
in the history of the company that its members had been lookers on
while rebel and Unionist fought together; here, however, they could,
from their position, overlook most of the actual field of battle as mere
spectators of a scene, the like of which they had so often been actors
in.

On the day after the battle they received a welcome addition to their
terribly reduced ranks by the arrival of some fifty recruits under
Lieut. Bronson, who had been detached on recruiting service while the
army yet lay along the Chicahominy during the previous month of June. On
the 19th of September the pursuit of Lee's retreating army was taken up,
the Fifth Corps in the advance, and the sharp shooters leading the
column. The rear guard of the enemy was overtaken at Blackford's ford,
at which place Lee had recrossed the Potomac.

The rebel skirmishers having been driven across the river, preparations
for forcing the pursuit into Virginia were made, and the sharp shooters
were ordered to cross and drive the rebel riflemen from their sheltered
positions along the Virginia shore. The water was waist deep but,
holding their cartridge boxes above their heads, they advanced in
skirmish line totally unable to reply to the galling fire that met them
as they entered the stream. Stumbling and floundering along, they at
last gained the farther shore and quickly succeeded in compelling the
rebels to retire.

Advancing southward to a suitable position, Co. F was ordered to
establish an advanced picket line in the execution of which order a
party under Corporal Cassius Peck discovered the presence of a small
body of the enemy with two guns, who had been left behind for some
reason by the retreating rebels. This force was soon put to flight and
both guns captured and one man taken prisoner. The captured guns were
removed to a point near the river bank, from which they were
subsequently removed to the Maryland shore. Remaining in this position
until after dark the sharp shooters were ordered back to the north bank
of the river, to which they retired. Morning found them posted in the
bed of the canal which connects Washington with Harper's Ferry, and
which runs close along the Maryland shore of the Potomac at this point.
The water being out of the canal, its bed afforded capital shelter, and
its banks a fine position from which to fire upon the rebels, now again
in full possession of the opposite shore from which they had been driven
by the sharp shooters the previous afternoon, but which had been
deliberately abandoned to them again by the recall of the regiment to
the northern shore on the preceding night.

It now became necessary to repossess that position, and a Pennsylvania
regiment composed of new troops were ordered to make the attempt.
Covered by the close and rapid fire of the sharp shooters, the
Pennsylvanians succeeded in crossing the river, but every attempt to
advance from the bank met with repulse. Wearied and demoralized by
repeated failures, the regiment took shelter under the banks of the
river where they were measurably protected from the fire of the enemy,
and covered also by the rifles of the sharp shooters posted in the
canal. Ordered to recross the river, they could not be induced by their
officers to expose themselves in the open stream to the fire of the
exulting rebels.

Every effort was made by the sharp shooters to encourage them to
recross, but without avail. Calvin Morse, a bugler of Co. F, and thus a
non-combatant (except that Co. F had no non-combatants), crossed the
stream, covered by the fire of his comrades, to demonstrate to the panic
stricken men that it could be done; but they could not be persuaded, and
most of them were finally made prisoners. In these operations Co. F was
exceptionally fortunate, and had no casualties to report.

The regiment remained at or near Sharpsburgh, Maryland, until the 30th
of October following. The members of Co. F, except the recruits, were
but poorly supplied with clothing; much had been abandoned and destroyed
when they left their camp at Gaines Hill on the 27th of June, and much,
also, had been thrown away to lighten the loads of the tired owners
during the terrible marches and battles they had passed through since
that time, and the little they had left was so worn and tattered as to
be fit for little more than to conceal their nakedness. The rations,
too, were bad; the hard bread particularly so, being wormy and mouldy,
and this at a place and time when it seemed to the soldiers that there
could be no good reason why such a state of things should exist at all.
But time cures all ills, even in the army, and on the 30th of October
the regiment, completely refitted, rested and in fine spirits, crossed
the Potomac at Harper's Ferry and were once more on the sacred soil of
Virginia. Moving southwardly towards Warrenton they arrived, on the
evening of November 2d, at Snicker's Gap and were at once pushed out to
occupy the summit. The night was intensely dark, and the ground
difficult; but a proper picket line was finally established and occupied
without event through the night. The next morning's sunlight displayed a
wonderful sight to the eyes of the delighted sharp shooters. They were
on the very summit of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and below them, like an
open map, lay spread out the beautiful valley of Virginia.

Scathed and torn as it was, to a close observer, by the conflicts and
marches of the past summer, from the distant point of view occupied by
the watchers, all was beautiful and serene. No sign of war, or its
desolating touch, was visible; except that here and there could be seen
bodies of marching men, and long trains of wagons, which told of the
presence of the enemy. Now, however, the head of every column was turned
southward, and the rebel army, which had swept so triumphantly northward
over that very country only two months before, was retiring, beaten and
baffled, before the army of the Union. The scene was beautiful to the
eye, while the reflections engendered by it were of the most hopeful
nature, and the sharp shooters descended the southern slope of the
mountain with high hopes and glowing anticipations of speedy and
decisive action.

From Snicker's Gap the army advanced by easy marches to Warrenton,
where, on the 7th of November, Gen. McClellan was relieved from the
command and Gen. Burnside appointed to that position. The army accepted
the change like soldiers, but with a deep sense of regret. The vast mass
of the rank and file honored and trusted Gen. McClellan as few generals
in history have been trusted by their followers. He was personally
popular among the men, but below and behind this feeling was the belief
that in many respects Gen. McClellan had not been quite fairly treated
by some of those who ought to have been his warm and ardent supporters.
They felt that political influences, which had but little hold upon the
soldiers in the field, had been at work to the personal disadvantage of
their loved commander, and to the disadvantage of the army and the cause
of the Union as well.

Whether they were right or wrong, they regretted the change most deeply,
and in this general feeling the sharp shooters stood with the great mass
of the army.

While they were always ready with a prompt obedience and hearty support
of their later commanders, the regiment never cheered a general officer
after McClellan left the head of the Army of the Potomac.

After a few days of rest at Warrenton to allow Gen. Burnside to get the
reins well in hand, the army was put in motion towards Fredericksburgh
where they arrived on or about the 23d of November. While at Warrenton
Gen. Burnside effected a complete reorganization of the army, on a plan
which he had been pressing upon the notice of his superiors for some
time. The entire army was divided into three Grand Divisions, the right
under Sumner, the center under Hooker, and the left under Franklin. The
Fifth Corps formed part of the Center Grand Division under Gen. Hooker,
and at about the same time Gen. F. J. Porter, who had been its commander
since its organization while the army lay before Yorktown during the
preceding April, was relieved from his command and was succeeded by Gen.
Dan'l Butterfield.

Gen. Burnside, having been disappointed in finding his ponton trains, on
which he depended for a rapid passage to the south bank of the
Rappahannock, ready on his arrival at Falmouth, was constrained to
attempt to force a passage in the face of Lee's now concentrated army.
The position was one well calculated to dampen the ardor of the troops
now so accustomed to warfare as to be able to weigh the chances of
success or failure as accurately as their commanders, and to judge
quickly of the value to their cause of that for which they were asked to
offer up their lives, but they undertook the task as cheerfully and as
willingly as though it had been far less uncertain and perilous. The
Rappahannock at this point is bordered by opposing ranges of hills; that
on the left bank, occupied by the troops of the Union and called
Stafford heights, rising quite abruptly from the river bank; while on
the southern shore the line of hills, called Marye's heights, recedes
from the river from six hundred to two thousand yards, the intervening
ground being generally open and, although somewhat broken, affording
very little shelter from the fire of the Confederate batteries posted on
Marye's heights. On the plain and near the river stands the village of
Fredericksburgh.

During the night of the 10th of December Gen. Burnside placed in
position on Stafford heights a powerful array of guns, under cover of
whose fire he determined to attempt the passage of the river at that
point, while to the Left Grand Division under Franklin was assigned the
task of forcing a passage at a point some two miles lower down. On the
night of the 11th attempts were made to lay the ponton bridges at a
point opposite the town. The enemy, however, well warned, posted a
strong force of riflemen in the houses and behind the stone walls
bordering the river, whose sharp fire so seriously impeded the efforts
of the engineers that they were forced to retire. The guns on Stafford
heights were opened on the town, and for nearly two hours one hundred
and fifty guns poured their shot and shell upon the devoted town. Each
gun was estimated to have fired fifty rounds; but at the close of the
bombardment the annoying riflemen were still there. Three regiments were
now thrown across the river in ponton boats, and after a severe fight in
the streets of the town, and after heavy loss of men, succeeded in
dislodging the enemy, and the bridges were completed. Of course a
surprise, upon which Burnside seems to have counted, was now out of the
question; but urged on by the voice of the North, whose sole idea at
that time seemed to be that their generals should only fight--anywhere,
under all circumstances and at all times--he threw Sumner's Grand
Division over the river and determined to try the issue of a general
battle.

The Center Grand Division, under Hooker, were held on the left bank of
the river and were thus unengaged in the earlier portion of that
terrible day; but from their position on Stafford heights, the sharp
shooters were eye witnesses to the terrible struggle in which their
comrades were engaged on the plain below--where Hancock's gallant
division, in their desperate charge upon the stone wall at the foot of
Marye's height, lost two thousand men out of the five thousand engaged
in less than fifteen immortal minutes, and where a total of twelve
thousand, three hundred and twenty-nine Union soldiers fell in the
different assaults; assaults that every man engaged knew were utterly
hopeless and vain; but to the everlasting honor of the Army of the
Potomac be it said that, although they well knew the task an impossible
one, they responded again and again to the call to advance, until
Burnside himself, at last convinced of the hopelessness of the
undertaking, suspended further effort.

During the day Griffin and Humphrey's divisions of the Fifth Corps, and
Whipple's of the Third, all belonging to the Center Grand Division,
were ordered over the river to renew the attack which had been so
disastrous to the men of the Second and Ninth Corps. Hooker in person
accompanied this relieving column, and after a careful personal
inspection of the field, convinced of the uselessness of further effort
in that direction, sought to persuade the commanding general to abandon
the attack.

Burnside, however, clung to the hope that repeated attacks must at last
result in a disruption of the enemy's line at some point, and the brave
men of the old Fifth were in their turn hurled against that position
which had been found impossible to carry by those who had preceded them.
Griffin and Humphrey's divisions fought their way to a point farther
advanced than had been reached in former attempts, some of the men
falling within twenty-five yards of the enemy's line, but they were
unable to reach it and were compelled to retire. It was clearly
impossible to carry the position. Hooker's educated eye had seen this
from the first, hence his unavailing suggestion before the useless
slaughter. His report contains the following grim lines: "Finding that I
had lost as many men as my orders required me to lose, * * * I suspended
the attack." With his repulse the battle of Fredericksburgh
substantially closed. The sharp shooters were not ordered to cross the
river on the thirteenth, and thus had no share in that day's fighting
and no casualties to report. On the early morning of the fourteenth,
however, the remainder of the Center Grand Division crossed to the
south bank, remaining in the streets of the town until the night of the
fifteenth, when the sharp shooters relieved the advanced pickets in
front of the heights, where considerable firing occurred during the
night, the opposing lines being very near each other. The ground was
thickly covered with the bodies of the gallant men who had fallen in the
several assaults, lying in every conceivable position on the field, gory
and distorted. How many of the readers of this book will make it real to
themselves what gore is? A familiar and easily spoken word, but a
dreadful thing in reality, that mass of clotted, gelatinous purple
oozing from mortal wounds.

Such things are rarely noted in the actual heat of the battle, but to
occupy such a field after the fury of the strife is over is enough to
unman the stoutest heart, and many a brave man, who can coolly face the
actual danger, turns deathly sick as he looks upon the result as shown
in the mangled and blood stained forms of those who were so lately his
comrades and friends. During the night the army was withdrawn to the
north bank, and just before daylight the sharp shooters were called in.
So close were the lines that great caution was necessary to keep the
movement from the sharp eyes of the peering rebel pickets. To aid in
deceiving the enemy the bodies of the dead were propped up so as to
represent the presence of the picket line when daylight should appear.
The ruse was successful, and the sharp shooters were safely withdrawn to
the town. They were the last troops on this portion of the field, and
on arriving at the head of the bridge found that the planking had been
so far removed as to render the bridge impassable. They had, therefore,
to remain until the engineers could relay sufficient of the planks to
enable them to cross. In their retreat through the town they picked up
and brought away about one hundred and fifty stragglers and slightly
wounded men who had been left behind by other commands. The Army of the
Potomac was again on the north bank of the Rappahannock. They had fought
bravely in an assault which they had known was hopeless; they had left
behind them twelve thousand of their comrades and gained absolutely
nothing. The loss which they had inflicted bore no proportion to that
which they had suffered; what wonder, then, if for a time officers and
men alike almost despaired of the cause of the Union? This feeling of
depression and discouragement was, however, of short duration. The men
who composed the Army of the Potomac were in the field for a certain
well defined purpose, and until that purpose was fully accomplished they
intended to remain. No reverse could long chill their ardor or dampen
their splendid courage. Defeated to-day, to-morrow would find them as
ready to do and dare again as though no reverse had overtaken them.

Thus it was that after a few days of rest the army was ready for
whatever task its commander might set for it. The sharp shooters
remained quietly in their camp until the 30th of December, when they
accompanied a detachment of cavalry on a reconnoissance northwardly
along the line of the Rappahannock to Richard's Ford, some ten miles
above Falmouth. The cavalry crossed the river at this point, covered by
the fire of the sharp shooters; a few prisoners were taken, and on the
1st of January, 1863, the command returned to their comfortable camp
near Falmouth, where they were agreeably surprised to find the Second
Regiment of Sharp Shooters, and among them, two other companies from
Vermont. The little band of Green Mountain boys composing Co. F had
sometimes felt a little lonesome for the want of congenial society, and
hailed the advent of their fellow Vermonters gladly.

At about this time Col. Berdan became an appendage to the general staff,
with the title of Chief of Sharp Shooters. The two regiments were
distributed at various points along the line, and the detachments
reported directly to Col. Berdan. The right wing, under Lieut. Col.
Trepp, was assigned to the Right Grand Division under Gen. Sumner, but
Company F remained near army headquarters.

On the 19th of January the Grand Divisions of Franklin and Hooker moved
up the river to essay its passage at Banks' ford, some six miles above
Falmouth, but in this affair, known as the Mud Campaign, the company had
no share, not even leaving their camp. Of this campaign it is enough to
say that it had for its object a turning operation similar to that
undertaken by Hooker some months later; but a furious rain storm
converted the country into one vast quagmire, in which horses, wagons,
guns and men were alike unable to move. It was entirely abortive, and,
after two days of exhausting labor, the disgusted troops floundered and
staggered and cursed their way back to their camps, actually having to
build corduroy roads on which to return. In consideration of their dry
and comfortable condition in camp, the sharp shooters freely conceded
all the glories of this campaign to others, preferring for themselves an
inglorious ease to the chance of being smothered in the mud. Some of the
difficulties of the march can be understood by recalling the requisition
of the young engineer officer who reported to his superior that it was
impossible for him to construct a road at a certain point which he had
been directed to make passable for artillery. "Impossible," said the
commander, "nothing is impossible; make a requisition for whatever is
necessary and build the road." Whereupon the officer made the following
requisition in the usual form:

      SPECIAL REQUISITION.

      REQUISITION FOR MEN.

      Fifty men, each twenty-five feet high, to work in the mud
      eighteen feet deep.

      I certify that the above described men are necessary to the
      building of a road suitable for the passage of men and guns,
      in compliance with an order this day received from
      Major-Gen. ----. Signed,

      ----, _Lieut. Engineers._

On the 25th of January Gen. Burnside was relieved from the command and
Gen. Hooker appointed to succeed him. The army accepted the change
willingly, for although they recognized the many manly and soldierly
qualities possessed by Gen. Burnside, and in a certain way respected and
even sympathized with him, they had lost confidence in his ability to
command so large an army in the presence of so astute a commander as
Lee. His manly avowal of his sole responsibility for the terrible
slaughter at Fredericksburgh commended him to their hearts and
understandings as an honest and generous man; but they had no wish to
repeat the experience for the sake of even a more generous
acknowledgement after another Fredericksburgh.

The remainder of the winter of 1862-3 was spent by the men of Co. F in
comparative comfort, although severe snow storms were of frequent
occurrence, and occasional periods of exceedingly cold weather were
experienced, to the great discomfort of the men in their frail canvas
tents. Both armies seemed to have had enough of marching and fighting to
satisfy them for the time being, and even picket firing ceased by tacit
agreement and consent.

Soon after assuming command, Gen. Hooker reorganized the army on a plan
more consistent with his own ideas than the one adopted by his
predecessor. The system of Grand Divisions was abandoned and corps were
reorganized; some corps commanders were relieved and others appointed to
fill the vacancies. The cavalry, which up to this time had had no
organization as a corps, was consolidated under Gen. Stoneman, and soon
became, under his able leadership, the equals, if not the superiors, of
the vaunted horsemen of the South. In these changes the sharp shooters
found themselves assigned to the first division of the Third Corps,
under Gen. Sickles. The division was commanded by Gen. Whipple, and the
brigade by Gen. De Trobriand. The detachments were called in and the
regiment was once more a unit. Under Gen. Hooker's system the army
rapidly improved in morale and spirit; he instituted a liberal system of
furloughs to deserving men, and took vigorous measures against
stragglers and men absent without leave, of whom there were at this time
an immense number--shown by the official rolls to be above eighty
thousand. Desertion, which under Burnside had become alarmingly
prevalent, was substantially stopped; and by the 1st of April the tone
and discipline of the army was such as to fairly warrant Hooker's proud
boast that it was "the grandest army on the planet."

The sharp shooters parted with their comrades of the Fifth Corps with
regret. They had been identified with it since its organization, while
the army lay before Yorktown, in April of 1862; they had shared with it
splendid triumphs and bitter defeats; they had made many warm friends
among its officers and men, with whom they were loth to part. Of the
officers of the Third Corps they knew nothing, but they took their place
in its ranks, confident that their stout soldiership would win for them
the respect and esteem of their new comrades, even as it had that of the
friends they were leaving. Gen. De Trobriand, their new brigade
commander, was at first an object of special aversion. Foreign officers
were at that time looked upon with some degree of suspicion and dislike,
and perhaps the foreign sound of the name, together with the obnoxious
prefix, had an undue and improper influence in the minds of the new
comers. However it came about, the men were accustomed to speak of their
superior officer as Gen. "Toejam," "Frog Eater," and various other
disrespectful appellations, much to his chagrin and discomfiture. Later,
however, when they became better acquainted, they learned to have a
mutual respect and esteem for each other and two years later, when they
parted company finally, the general issued to them a farewell address
more than usually complimentary, as will be seen further on. Indeed,
long before that time and on the field of actual and bloody battle he
paused in front of the line of the regiment to say to them: "Men, you
may call me _Frog Eater_ now if you like, or by whatever name you like
better, if you will only always fight as you do to-day." The sharp
shooters passed the winter months in comparative inaction except for the
ordinary routine of drills, inspections, etc., incident to winter
quarters; they took part in all the grand reviews and parades for which
Hooker was somewhat famous, and which, if somewhat fatiguing to the men
and smacking somewhat of pomp and circumstance, had at least the effect
of showing to each portion of the great army what a magnificent body
they really were, thus adding to the confidence of the whole.

On the twenty-first of February First Lieut. Bronson resigned, and was
succeeded by Lieut. E. W. Hindes, while, in deference to the unanimous
petition of the company, Sergt. C. D. Merriman was promoted second
lieutenant, both commissions to date from February 21, 1863. The roster
of the company now stood as follows:

    Captain,                    C. W. Seaton.
    First Lieutenant,           E. W. Hindes.
    Second Lieutenant,          C. D. Merriman.
    First Sergeant,             H. E. Kinsman.
    Second Sergeant,            A. H. Cooper.
    Third Sergeant,             Cassius Peck.
    Fourth Sergeant,            Edward F. Stevens.
    Fifth Sergeant,             Lewis J. Allen.
    First Corporal,             Paul M. Thompson.
    Second Corporal,            Ai Brown.
    Third Corporal,             L. D. Grover.
    Fourth Corporal,            Chas. M. Jordan.
    Fifth Corporal,             E. M. Hosmer.
    Sixth Corporal,             Edward Trask.
    Seventh Corporal,           W. H. Leach.
    Eighth Corporal,            M. Cunningham.

The winter was not altogether devoted to sober work. Sports of various
kinds were indulged in, one of the most popular being snowball fights
between regiments and brigades. Upon one occasion after a sharp conflict
between the first and second regiments of sharp shooters, the former
captured the regimental colors of the latter, and for a short time some
little ill feeling between the regiments existed, a feeling which soon
wore away, however, with the opening of the spring campaign.

On the 5th of April the first regiment had a grand celebration to mark
the anniversary of the advance on Yorktown where the sharp shooters were
for the first time under rebel fire. Target shooting, foot races,
jumping and wrestling were indulged in for small prizes. Jacob S. Bailey
of Co. F won the wrestling match against all comers and Edward Bartomey,
also of Company F, won the two hundred yards running race in
twenty-eight and one-half seconds. In the shooting test the Vermonters
were unfortunate, the prize going to Samuel Ingling of Michigan. Gen.
Whipple, the division commander, accompanied by several ladies who were
visiting friends in camp, were interested spectators of the games. As
the season advanced and the roads became settled and passable,
preparations began on all sides for an active campaign against the
enemy. "Fighting Joe Hooker" had inspired the army with much of his own
confidence and faith in the future, and it was believed by the troops
that at last they had a commander worthy in every respect of the
magnificent army he was called to command.



CHAPTER IV.

CHANCELLORSVILLE.


On the 28th of April the Third Corps, to which the sharp shooters were
now attached, moved down the river to a point some five miles below
Falmouth to support Sedgwick's command which was ordered to cross the
Rappahannock at or near the point at which Gen. Franklin had crossed his
Grand Division at the battle of Fredericksburgh.

Some days prior to this all surplus clothing and baggage had been turned
in. Eight days rations and sixty rounds of ammunition were now issued,
and the "finest army on the planet" was foot loose once more. Sedgwick's
crossing was made, however, without serious opposition, and on the
thirtieth the Third Corps, making a wide detour to the rear to avoid the
notice of the watchful enemy, turned northward and on the next day
crossed the river at United States ford and took its place in the lines
of Chancellorsville with the rest of the army. This great battle has
been so often described and in such minute detail that it is not
necessary for us to attempt a detailed description of the movements of
the different corps engaged, or indeed proper, since this purports to be
a history of the marches and battles of only one small company out of
the thousands there engaged. It will be remembered that the regiment was
now attached to the Third Corps, commanded by Gen. Sickles, the First
Division under Gen. Whipple and the Third Brigade, Gen. De Trobriand.
At eleven o'clock A. M. on this day, being the first of May, the battle
proper commenced, although severe and continuous skirmishing had been
going on ever since the first troops crossed the river on the 29th of
April. The Third Corps was held in reserve in rear of the Chancellorsville
house, having arrived at that point at about the time that the assaulting
columns moved forward to the attack. Almost instantly the fighting became
furious and deadly. The country was covered with dense undergrowth of
stunted cedars, among and over which grew heavy masses of the trailing
vines which grow so luxuriantly in that portion of Virginia, and which
renders the orderly passage of troops well nigh impossible. To add to
the difficulties which beset the attacking forces, it was impossible to
see what was in front of them; hence the first notice of the presence of
a rebel line of battle was a volley delivered at short range directly in
the faces of the Union soldiers, whose presence and movements were
unavoidably made plain to the concealed enemy by the noise made in
forcing a passage through the tangled forest. Notwithstanding these
disadvantages the Fifth Corps, with which the sharp shooters had so
recently parted, struck the enemy at about a mile distant from the
position now held by the Third Corps, and drove them steadily back for a
long distance until, having passed far to the front of the general line,
Meade found his flank suddenly attacked and was forced to retire. Other
columns also met the enemy at about the same distance to the front and
met with a like experience, gaining, however, on the whole, substantial
ground during the afternoon; and so night closed down on the first day
of the battle.

On the morning of the 2d of May a division of the Third Corps was
detached to hold a gap in the lines between the Eleventh and Twelfth
Corps which Gen. Hooker thought too weak. The sharp shooters, however,
remained with the main column near the Chancellorsville house. Early on
this day the Confederate Gen. Jackson commenced that wonderful flank
march which resulted in the disaster to the Eleventh Corps on the right,
later in the day. This march, carefully masked as it was, was,
nevertheless, observed by Hooker, who at first supposed it the
commencement of a retreat on the part of Lee to Gordonsville, and Gen.
Sickles was ordered with the two remaining divisions of his corps to
demonstrate in that direction and act as circumstances should determine.
In this movement Birney's division had the advance, the first division,
under Whipple, being in support of Birney's left flank. The sharp
shooters were, however, ordered to report to Gen. Birney, and were by
him placed in the front line as skirmishers, although their deployment
was at such short intervals that it was more like a single rank line of
battle than a line of skirmishers. Sickles started on his advance at
about one o'clock P. M., his formation being as above described. Rapidly
pressing forward, the sharp shooters passed out of the dense thickets
into a comparatively open country, where they could at least breathe
more freely and see a little of what was before them. They soon struck a
line of rebels in position on the crest of a slight elevation, and brisk
firing commenced; the advance, however, not being checked, they soon
cleared the hill of the enemy and occupied it themselves. Changing front
to the left, the regiment moved from this position obliquely to the
southeast, and soon found themselves opposed to a line which had
evidently come to stay. The fighting here was very severe and lasted for
a considerable time. The rebels seemed to have a desire to stay the
advance of the Union troops at that particular point, and for some
particular reason, which was afterwards made apparent.

After some minutes of brisk firing, the sharp shooters, by a sudden rush
on their flank, succeeded in compelling the surrender of the entire
force, which was found to consist of the Twenty-third Georgia regiment,
consisting of three hundred and sixty officers and men, which had been
charged by Jackson with the duty of preventing any advance of the Union
troops at this point which might discover his march towards Hooker's
right, hence the tenacity with which they clung to the position.

In this affair Co. F lost Edward Trask and A. D. Griffin, wounded.

The obstruction having been thus removed, the Third Corps, led by the
sharp shooters, pressed rapidly forward to the southward as far as
Hazel Grove, or the old furnace, some two miles from the place of
starting, and far beyond any supporting column which could be depended
on for early assistance should such be needed. It had now become
apparent to all that Jackson, instead of being in full retreat as had
been supposed, was in the full tide of one of the most violent
offensives on record; and at five o'clock P. M. Sickles was ordered to
attack his right flank and thus check his advance on the exposed right
of the army. But at about the same time Sickles found that he was
himself substantially cut off from the army, and that it would require
the most strenuous efforts to prevent the capture or destruction of his
own command. Furthermore, before he could make his dispositions and
march over the ground necessary to be traversed before he could reach
Jackson's right, that officer had struck his objective point, and the
rout of the Eleventh Corps was complete. The most that Sickles could now
do, under the circumstances, was to fight his own way back to his
supports, and to choose, if possible, such a route as would place him,
on his arrival, in a position to check Jackson's further advance and
afford the broken right wing an opportunity to rally and regain their
organization, which was hopelessly, as it appeared, lost. In the
darkness and gloom of the falling night, with unloaded muskets (for in
this desperate attempt the bayonet only was to be depended upon), the
two divisions of the Third Corps set their faces northwardly, and
pressed their way through the tangled undergrowth to the rescue of the
endangered right wing.

As usual, the sharp shooters had the advance, and received the first
volley from the concealed enemy. They had received no especial orders
concerning the use, solely, of the bayonet, and were at once engaged in
a close conflict under circumstances in which their only superiority
over troops of the line consisted in the advantage of the rapidity of
fire afforded by their breech loaders over the muzzle loading rifles
opposed to them. Closely supported by the line of Birney's division, and
firing as they advanced at the flashes of the opposing guns (for they
could see no more), they pushed on until they were fairly intermingled
with the rebels, and in many individual instances, a long distance
inside the enemy's line, every man fighting for himself--for in this
confused melee, in the dense jungle and in the intense darkness of the
night, no supervision could be exercised by officers and many shots were
fired at distances no greater than a few feet. So they struggled on
until, with a hurrah and a grand rush, Birney's gallant men dashed
forward with the bayonet alone, and after ten minutes of hand to hand
fighting, they succeeded in retaking the plank road, and a considerable
portion of the line held by the left of the Eleventh Corps in the early
portion of the day and lost in the tremendous charge of Jackson's corps
in the early evening. Sickles had cut his way out, and more, he was now
in a position to afford the much needed aid to those who so sorely
required it. Both parties had fought to the point of exhaustion, and
were glad to suspend operations for a time for this cause alone, even
had no better reasons offered. But the Union army was no longer in a
position for offense; the extreme left, with which we have had nothing
to do, had been so heavily pressed during the afternoon that it had been
with difficulty that a disaster similar to the one which had overtaken
the right had been prevented on that flank, and in the center, at and
about Hazel Grove and the furnace, which had been held by Sickles, and
from which he had been ordered to the support of the right as we have
seen, an absolute gap existed, covered by no force whatever. This, then,
was the situation, briefly stated.

The left was barely able to hold its own, the center was absolutely
abandoned, and the right had been utterly routed. In this state of
affairs the Union commander was in no mood for a further offense at that
time. On the other hand, the controlling mind that had conceived, and
thus far had successfully carried out this wonderful attack which had
been so disastrous to the Union army, and which bade fair to make the
Southern Confederacy a fact among the nations, had been stricken down in
the full tide of its success. Stonewall Jackson had been wounded at
about nine o'clock by the fire of his own men. He had passed beyond the
lines of his pickets to reconnoiter the Union position, and on his
return with his staff they were mistaken by his soldiers for a body of
federal cavalry and he received three wounds from the effects of which
he died about a week later. So fell a man who was perhaps as fine a type
of stout American soldiership as any produced on either side during the
war.

The sharp shooters, with the remnant of the Third Corps, passed the
remainder of the night on the plank road near Dowdall's tavern. Co. F
had left their knapsacks and blankets under guard near the
Chancellorsville house when they advanced from that point in the
morning, as had the rest of the regiment. Under these circumstances
little sleep or rest could be expected even had the enemy been in less
close proximity. But with the rebel pickets hardly thirty yards distant,
and firing at every thing they saw or heard, sleep was out of the
question. So passed the weary night of the disastrous 2d of May at
Chancellorsville.

During the night Gen. Hooker, no longer on the offensive, had been
busily engaged in laying out and fortifying a new line on which he might
hope more successfully to resist the attack which all knew must come at
an early hour on the morning of the third. On the extreme left the
troops were withdrawn from their advanced positions to a more compact
and shorter line in front of, and to the south and east of the
Chancellorsville house. The center, which at sunset was unoccupied by
any considerable body of Union troops, was made secure; and at daylight
Sickles, with the Third Corps, was ordered to withdraw to a position
indicated immediately in front of Fairview, a commanding height of land
now strongly occupied by the Union artillery. It was not possible,
however, to withdraw so large a body of troops from their advanced
position, in the face of so watchful an enemy, without interruption. In
fact, even before the movement had commenced, the enemy took the
initiative and commenced the battle of that day by a furious attack upon
the heights of Hazel Grove, the position so handsomely won by the Third
Corps on the previous day and from which they were ordered to the relief
of the Eleventh Corps at five o'clock on the preceding afternoon, as we
have seen. This height of land commanded almost every portion of the
field occupied by the Union army, and from it Sickles' line, as it stood
at daybreak, could be completely enfiladed. This position was held by an
inadequate force for its defense; indeed, as it was far in advance of
the new line of battle it may be supposed that observation, rather than
defense, was the duty of its occupants. They made a gallant fight,
however, but were soon compelled to retire with the loss of four guns.
The rebel commander, quick to see the great importance of the position,
crowned the hill with thirty guns which, with the four taken from the
Unionists, poured a heavy fire on all parts of the line, devoting
particular attention to Sickles' exposed left and rear.

At almost the same period of time the rebels in Sickles' front made a
savage attack on his line. The men of the Third Corps fought, as they
always fought, stubbornly and well, but, with a force more than equal to
their own in point of numbers, flushed with their success of the
previous afternoon and burning to avenge the fall of Jackson, in their
front, and this enormous concentration of artillery hammering away on
their defenseless left, they were at last forced back to the new line in
front of Fairview.

In preparation for the withdrawal contemplated, and before the rebel
attack developed itself, the sharp shooters had been deployed to the
front and formed a skirmish line to the north of the plank road with
their left on that highway, and thus received the first of the rebel
attack. They succeeded in repulsing the advance of the first line and
for half an hour held their ground against repeated attempts of the
rebel skirmishers to dislodge them. The position they held was one of
the utmost importance since it commanded the plank road which must be
the main line of the rebel approach to Fairview, the key to the new
Union line, and aware of this the men fought on with a courage and
determination seldom witnessed even in the ranks of that gallant
regiment. After half an hour of this perilous work, the regiment on
their right having given way, the sharp shooters were ordered to move by
the right flank to cover the interval thus exposed, their own place
being taken by still another body of infantry. Steadily and coolly the
men faced to the right at the sound of the bugle, and commenced their
march, still firing as they advanced. Necessarily, however, the men had
to expose themselves greatly in this movement, and as necessarily their
own fire was less effective than when delivered coolly from the shelter
of some friendly tree, log or bank which skirmishers are so prone to
seek and so loath to leave. Still the march was made in good order and
in good time, for the sharp shooters had only just time to fill the gap
when the rebels came on for a final trial for the mastery. For a long
time the green coated riflemen clung to their ground and gave, certainly
as good, as they received. But the end of the long struggle was at hand;
the regiment which had taken the position just vacated by the sharp
shooters was driven in confusion, and to cap the climax of misfortune,
the Union artillery, observing the withdrawal of other troops, and
supposing that all had been retired, opened a furious fire of canister
into the woods. The sharp shooters were now in a sad case--before them a
furious crowd of angry enemies, on the left the rebel artillery at Hazel
Grove sweeping their lines from left to right at every discharge, while,
worst of all, from the rear came the equally dangerous fire of their own
friends. To retreat was as bad as to advance. The ground to their right
was an unknown mystery and no hopeful sign came from the left; so taking
counsel from their very desperation they concluded to remain just there,
at least until some reasonable prospect of escape should present itself.
Taking such cover as they could get, some from the fire of our own guns
and some from those of the rebels, shifting from side to side of the
logs and trees as the fire came hotter from the one side or from the
other, but always keeping up their own fire in the direction of the
enemy, they maintained the unequal fight until an officer, sent for the
purpose, succeeded in stopping the fire of our own guns, and the sharp
shooters willingly withdrew from a position such as they had never found
themselves in before, and from a scene which no man present will ever
forget.

They were sharply pressed by the advancing enemy, but now, being out of
the line of the enfilading fire from Hazel Grove, and no longer subject
to the fire of their own friends, the withdrawal was made in perfect
order, the line halting at intervals at the sound of the bugle and
delivering well aimed volleys at the enemy, now fully exposed, and even
at times making countercharges to check their too rapid advance.

In one of these rallies there fell a man from another company whose
death as well deserves to be remembered in song as that of the "Sleeping
Sentinel." He had been condemned to death by the sentence of a court
martial, and was in confinement awaiting the execution of the sentence
when the army left camp at Falmouth at the outset of the campaign. In
some manner he managed to escape from his guards, and joined his company
on the evening of the second day's light. Of course it was irregular,
and no precedent for it could possibly be found in the army regulations,
but men were more valuable on that field than in the guard house;
perhaps, too, his captain hoped that he might, in the furor of the
battle, realize his own expressed wish that he might meet his fate there
instead of at the hands of a firing party of the provost guard, and
thus, by an honorable death on the battle field, efface to some extent
the stain on his character. However it was, a rifle was soon found for
him (rifles without owners were plenty on that field), and he took his
place in the ranks. During all of that long forenoon's fighting he was a
marked man. All knew his history, and all watched to see him fall; for
while others carefully availed themselves of such shelter as the field
afforded, he alone stood erect and in full view of the enemy. Many times
he exhausted the cartridges in his box, each time replenishing it from
the boxes of his dead or wounded companions. He seemed to bear a charmed
life; for, while death and wounds came to many who would have avoided
either, the bullets passed him harmless by. At last, however, in one of
the savage conflicts when the sharp shooters turned on the too closely
following enemy, this gallant soldier, with two or three of his
companions, came suddenly upon a small party of rebels who had
outstripped their fellows in the ardor of the pursuit; he, being in the
advance, rushed upon them, demanding their surrender. "Yes," said one,
"we surrender," but at the same time, as ---- lowered his gun, the
treacherous rebel raised his, and the sharp shooter fell, shot through
the heart. He spoke no word, but those who caught the last glimpse of
his face, as they left him lying where he fell, knew that he had
realized his highest hope and wish, and that he died content. The sequel
to this sad personal history brings into tender recollection the memory
of that last and noblest martyr to the cause of the Union, President
Lincoln. The case was brought to his notice by those who felt that the
stain upon the memory of this gallant, true hearted soldier was not
fully effaced, even by his noble self-sacrifice, and would not be while
the records on the books stood so black against him. The President was
never appealed to in vain when it was possible for him to be merciful,
and, sitting down, he wrote with his own hand a full and free pardon,
dating it as of the morning of that eventful 3d of May, and sent it to
the widow of the dead soldier in a distant state. It was such acts as
this that made Abraham Lincoln so loved by the soldiers of the Union.
They respected the President, but Abraham Lincoln--the man--was _loved_.

Upon the arrival of the retreating riflemen at the new line in front of
Fairview, they found their division, the main portion of which had, of
course, preceded them, in line of battle in rear of the slight defenses
which had been thrown up at that point, where they enjoyed a brief
period of much needed repose, if a short respite from actual personal
encounter could be called repose. They were still under heavy artillery
fire, while musketry was incessant and very heavy only a short distance
away, the air above their heads being alive, at times, with everything
that kills. Yet so great was their fatigue, and so quiet and restful
their position in comparison with what it had been for so long a time,
that, after receiving rations and a fresh supply of ammunition for
their exhausted boxes, officers and men alike lay down on the ground,
and most of them enjoyed an hour of refreshing sleep. So

  "Use doth breed a habit in a man."

Their rest was not of long duration, however, for the rebels made a
desperate and savage attack on the line in their front and the Third
Corps soon found itself again engaged. The enemy, under cover of their
artillery on the high ground at Hazel Grove, made an assault on what was
now the front of the Union line, (if it could be said to have a front,)
while the force which the sharp shooters had so long held in check
during the early part of the day made a like attack on that line now the
right of the entire army. So heavy was the attack, and so tenaciously
sustained, that the Union troops were actually forced from their lines
in front and on the flank of Fairview, and the hill was occupied by the
rebels, who captured, and held for a time, all the Union guns on that
eminence. It was at this stage of affairs that the Third Corps was again
called into action, and charging the somewhat disorganized enemy they
retook the hill with the captured guns, and following up the flying
rebels, they drove them to, and beyond the position they had occupied in
the morning. Here, however, meeting with a fresh line of the enemy and
being brought to a check, they were ordered again to retire; for Hooker,
by this time intent only upon getting his army safely back across the
river, had formed still another new line near to, and covering, the
bridges and fords by which alone could he place his forces in a position
of even comparative safety. To this line then the Third Corps, with the
tired and decimated sharp shooters, retired late in the afternoon,
hoping and praying for a respite from their terrible labors. For a
little time it looked, indeed, as if their hopes would be realized, but
as darkness drew on the corps commander, desiring to occupy a wooded
knoll at some little distance from his advanced picket line, and from
which he anticipated danger, ordered Gen. Whipple, to whose division the
sharp shooters had been returned, to send a brigade to occupy it. Gen.
Whipple replied that he had one regiment who were alone equal to the
task and to whom he would entrust it, and ordered the sharp shooters to
attempt it.

Between this wooded hill and the position from which the regiment must
charge was an open field about one hundred yards in width which was to
be crossed under what might prove a destructive fire from troops already
occupying the coveted position. It was a task requiring the most
undaunted courage and desperate endeavor on the part of men who had
already been for two full days and nights in the very face of the enemy,
and they felt that the attempt might fairly have been assigned to a
portion of the forty thousand men who, up to that time, had been held in
reserve by Gen. Hooker for some inscrutable purpose, and who had not
seen the face of an enemy, much less fired a shot at them; but they
formed for the assault with cheerful alacrity. To Co. F was assigned
the lead, and marching out into the open field they deployed as
regularly as though on their old drill ground at camp of instruction.
Corps, brigade and division commanders were looking on, and the men felt
that now, if never before, they must show themselves worthy sons of the
Green Mountain state. Led by their officers, they dashed out into the
plain closely supported by the rest of the regiment. Night was rapidly
coming on, and in the gathering gloom objects could hardly be
distinguished at a distance of a hundred yards. Half the open space was
crossed, and it seemed to the rushing men that their task was to be
accomplished without serious obstructions, when, from the edge of the
woods in front, came a close and severe volley betraying the presence of
a rebel line of battle; how strong could only be judged by the firing,
which was so heavy, however, as to indicate a force much larger than the
attacking party. On went the brave men of Co. F, straight at their work,
and behind them closely followed the supporting force. In this order
they reached the edge of the forest when the enemy, undoubtedly
supposing from the confidence with which the sharp shooters advanced
that the force was much larger than it really was, broke and fled and
the position was won.

From prisoners and wounded rebels captured in that night attack it was
learned that the force which had thus been beaten out of a strong
position by this handful of men was a portion of the famous Stonewall
brigade, Jackson's earliest command, and they asserted that it was the
first time in the history of the brigade that it had ever been driven
from a chosen position. The sharp shooters were justly elated at their
success and the more so when Gen. Whipple, riding over to the point so
gallantly won, gave them unstinted praise for their gallant action. In
this affair the regiment lost many gallant officers and men, among whom
were Lieut. Brewer of Co. C and Capt. Chase, killed, and Major Hastings
and Adjt. Horton, wounded. In Co. F Michael Cunningham, J. S. Bailey and
E. M. Hosmer were wounded.

Major Hastings had not been a popular officer with the command. Although
a brave and capable man, he was of a nervous temperament, and in the
small details of camp discipline was apt to be over zealous at times. He
had, therefore, incurred the dislike of many men, who were wont to apply
various opprobrious epithets to him at such times and under such
circumstances as made it extremely unpleasant for him. Such were the
methods adopted by some soldiers to make it comfortable for officers to
whom they had a dislike.

In the case of the Major, however, this was a thing of the past. On this
bloody field the men learned to respect their officer, and he, as he was
borne from the field, freely forgave the boys all the trouble and
annoyance they had caused him, in consideration of their gallant bearing
on that day. Adjt. Horton, also a brave and efficient officer, received
a severe wound--which afterwards cost him his good right arm--while
using the rifle of J. S. Bailey of Co. F, who had been wounded.

Co. F, which, it will be remembered, had been acting as skirmishers,
were pushed forward in advance of the main portion of the regiment to
further observe the movements of the enemy and to guard against a
surprise, and shortly afterwards were moved by the flank some two
hundred yards to the right, and were soon after relieved by a force of
infantry of the line which had been sent up for that purpose. While
retiring toward the position to which they were directed, they passed
nearly over the same ground which they had just vacated when they moved
by the right flank, as previously mentioned, and received from the
concealed rebels, who had reoccupied the line, a severe volley at close
range. Facing to the right, Co. F at once charged this new enemy and
drove them in confusion from the field. Lying down in this advanced
position they passed the remainder of the night in watchful suspense.

At day break on the fourth day of the battle, Co. F was relieved from
its position on the picket line and returned to the regiment, which was
deployed as skirmishers, and led the van of Whipple's division in a
charge to check movements of the enemy which had for their apparent
object the interposition of a rebel force between the right wing of the
army and its bridges. Firing rapidly as they advanced, and supported by
the division close on their heels, they drove the enemy from their rifle
pits, which were occupied by the infantry of the Third Corps, the sharp
shooters being still in front. Here they remained, exchanging occasional
shots with the rebel sharp shooters as occasion offered, for some hours.
Hooker was not minded to force the fighting at Chancellorsville;
preferring to await the result of Sedgwick's battle at Salem Church,
which had raged furiously on the preceding afternoon until darkness put
an end to the strife, and the tell tale guns of which even now gave
notice of further effort.

Lee, however, pugnacious and aggressive, determined to renew his attack
on the right, and, if possible, secure the roads to the fords and
bridges by which alone could the defeated army regain the north bank of
the river. With this view he reenforced Jackson's (now Stuart's) corps,
and organized a powerful attack on the position of the Third Corps. The
force of the first onset fell on the sharp shooters, who fought with
their accustomed gallantry, but were forced by the weight of numbers
back to the main line. Here the fighting was severe and continuous. The
one party fighting for a decisive victory, and the other, alas, only
bent on keeping secure its last and only line of retreat; but the
incentive, poor as it was, was sufficient, and the rebels were unable to
break the line. After four hours of continued effort they abandoned the
assault and quiet once more prevailed. In this fight Gen. Whipple, the
division commander, was killed. He was a gallant and an able soldier,
greatly beloved by his men for the kindliness of his disposition. He had
an especial liking for and confidence in the sharp shooters, which was
fully understood and appreciated by them, and they felt his death as a
personal loss.

To add to the horrors of this bloody field, on which lay nearly nine
thousand dead and wounded Union soldiers and nearly or quite as many
rebels, the woods took fire and hundreds of badly wounded men, unable to
help themselves, and hopeless of succor, perished miserably in the
fierce flames. Nothing in the whole history of the war is more horrible
than the recollection of those gallant men, who had been stricken down
by rebel bullets, roasted to death in the very presence of their
comrades, impotent to give them aid in their dire distress and agony.

  "Oh, happy _dead_ who early fell."

It was reserved for the _wounded_ to experience the agonies of a
ten-fold death. Hour after hour the conflagration raged, until a
merciful rain quenched it and put an end to the horrible scene. The
Third Corps remained in their position during the night, the sharp
shooters, oddly enough as it seemed to them, with a strong line of
infantry behind works between them and the enemy. Nothing occurred to
break their repose, and for the first time for seven days they enjoyed
eight hours of solid sleep unbroken by rebel alarms.

At day break on the morning of the 5th of May they were aroused by the
usual command of "sharp shooters to the front," and again found
themselves on the picket line confronting the enemy. The day passed,
however, without serious fighting, one or two attacks being made by
rebel skirmishers, more, apparently, to ascertain if the Union troops
were actually there than for any more serious business.

These advances were easily repulsed by the sharp shooters without other
aid, and at nine o'clock P. M., after seventeen hours of
continuous duty without rations--for the eight days rations with which
they started from their camp at Falmouth had long since been exhausted,
and the scanty supply they had received on the afternoon of the third
was barely enough for one meal--they were relieved and retired to the
main line. The company lost on this day but one man, Martin C. Laffie,
shot through the hand. Laffie was permanently disabled by his wound, and
on the 1st of the following August was transferred to the Invalid Corps
and never rejoined the company. Several prisoners were captured by the
men of Co. F on that day, but on the whole it was, as compared with the
days of the preceding week, uneventful. On the 6th the army recrossed
the Rappahannock by the bridges which had been preserved by the stubborn
courage of the Third Corps, and the battle of Chancellorsville passed
into history. The sharp shooters returned to their old camp at Falmouth
as they had returned to the same camp after the disastrous battle of
Fredericksburgh. It seemed as though they were fated never to leave that
ground to fight a successful battle. Only eight days before they had
marched out with buoyant anticipations, full of courage and full of
hope. They returned discouraged and dispirited beyond description.

At Fredericksburgh the army had marched to the attack without hope or
expectation of victory, for their soldiers' instinct told them that that
was impossible. At Chancellorsville, however, they felt that they had
everything to hope for--a magnificent army in full health and high
spirits, an able and gallant commander, for such he had always shown
himself to be, and a fair field. The thickets of the wilderness, it is
true, were dense and well nigh impassable for them, but they were as bad
for the enemy as for themselves, and they had felt that on anything like
a fair field they ought to win. Now they found themselves just where
they started; they had left seventeen thousand of their comrades dead,
or worse than dead, on the field, and fourteen guns remained in the
hands of the rebels as trophies of their victory; guns, too, that were
sure to be turned against the federals in the very next battle. Twenty
thousand stand of small arms were also left on the field to be gathered
up by the victors. It was a disheartening reflection, but soldier-like
the men put it from their thoughts and turned their minds and hands to
the duties and occupations of the present. In this battle Co. F lost
Edward Trask, Jacob S. Bailey, Almon D. Griffin, Martin C. Laffie and
John Monahan, wounded, besides several more whose names do not now occur
to the writer. Bailey had been previously wounded at Malvern Hill and on
this occasion his wound necessitated the amputation of his left arm, and
he was honorably discharged from the service on the twenty-sixth of the
following August. Monahan was transferred to the Invalid Corps and
Griffin returned to his company and remained with it to be honorably
mustered out by reason of expiration of term of service, on the 13th of
September, 1864. Trask returned to his company to serve with it until
the 5th of May, 1864, when he was killed in the battle of the
Wilderness.



CHAPTER V.

GETTYSBURGH TO THE WILDERNESS.


From the date of their return from the field of Chancellorsville to the
11th of June, the sharp shooters remained in camp near Falmouth engaged
only in the usual routine duties of camp life. Drills, reviews and other
parades of ceremony were of frequent occurrence, but nothing of moment
took place to essentially vary the monotony of their lives. Occasionally
a detail would be made from the company for a day or two of especial
service at some portion of the picket line where the rebel sharp
shooters had become unusually aggressive, but affairs in those parts
generally soon became satisfactory, and the men would be ordered back to
camp. These little episodes were eagerly welcomed by men tired again of
the inactivity of their lives in permanent camp. During this time,
however, important changes in the organization of the company took
place. Capt. Seaton, who had never entirely recovered from the effects
of his wound received at Malvern Hill, resigned on the 15th day of May,
and E. W. Hindes was appointed and commissioned captain. C. D. Merriman
was promoted to be first lieutenant and H. E. Kinsman second lieutenant,
the two former to date from May 15, 1863, and the latter from May 26.

The non-commissioned officers were advanced to rank as follows:

    First Sergeant,             Lewis J. Allen.
    Second Sergeant,            A. H. Cooper.
    Third Sergeant,             Cassius Peck.
    Fourth Sergeant,            Paul M. Thompson.
    Fifth Sergeant,             Edward F. Stevens.
    First Corporal,             Jacob S. Bailey.
    Second Corporal,            L. D. Grover.
    Third Corporal,             Chas. M. Jordan.
    Fourth Corporal,            E. M. Hosmer.
    Fifth Corporal,             Edward Trask.
    Sixth Corporal,             W. H. Leach.
    Seventh Corporal,           M. Cunningham.
    Eighth Corporal,            Edward Lyman.

The new officers had been connected with the company from its
organization; they were all roll of honor men, straight up from the
ranks, and were men of distinguished courage and skill, as they had
demonstrated already on at least fifteen occasions upon which the Army
of the Potomac had been engaged in pitched battles with the enemy,
besides numberless minor engagements and skirmishes. Indeed, their
lives might be said to have been passed, for the year and a half they
had been in the field, in constant battle, and the same was true of
every man in the company as well. The month of June was, however,
destined to bring with it hard marches and stirring events.

Not content with the results of the Maryland campaign of 1862, which had
resulted in a disastrous rebel defeat at Antietam, Lee, perhaps
recognizing the historical fact that a power which allows itself to be
placed entirely on the defensive is sure to be beaten in the end,
determined to essay once more an invasion of the loyal states, and to
transfer the seat of war, if possible, from the impoverished and
suffering South, to the soil of populous and wealthy Pennsylvania.

His route was substantially the same one pursued by him the previous
year, but not now, as on that occasion, was the severe fighting to take
place on the soil of Virginia.

By skillful feints and rapid marches, he succeeded in placing his army
north of the Potomac before the Union commander could strike a blow at
him. Early in the month it was certain that Lee was about to take the
field in some direction. Sick and wounded were sent to northern
hospitals, all surplus baggage and stores were turned in, and the Union
army, stripped of everything but what the men carried on their persons,
was ready to follow or to confront him. On the 11th of June the sharp
shooters broke camp at five o'clock P. M., and, for the third time,
marched out from the ground that had been their home for nearly seven
months. Twice before had they left the same place to fight desperate
battles with the same enemy, and twice had they returned to it, defeated
and despondent. Many a man, as the regiment marched out, wondered in his
heart if such would be their fate again; but soldiers are optimists by
nature and education; they soon learn that to fear and dread defeat is
to invite it; that confidence begets confidence, and that the example of
courage and cheerfulness is contagious. Not for a long time, therefore,
did these gloomy thoughts possess their minds, and soon they were
stepping out merrily to the sound of the bugle.

Other portions of the army had preceded them, and still others were
starting by different roads; and as far as the eye could reach, as the
columns passed over some height of land, could be seen the clouds of
dust that, rising high in the air, betrayed the presence of marching
men. Pressing rapidly northward, passing successively Hartwood church,
Rappahannock Station, Catlet's Station, Manassas Junction, Centerville
and Green Springs--all familiar as the scenes of past experience, and
many of them sacred to the memory of dead comrades--they forded the
Potomac at Edwards' Ferry on the 25th of June and reached the mouth of
the Monocacy, having marched thirty-one miles on that day. Arriving at
that point, tired and foot-sore, as may be imagined after such a march,
they found an aide-de-camp ordered to conduct them to their allotted
camp ground. He appeared to be one of those nice young men who were so
often appointed to positions on the staff for their beauty or their
fragrance, or for the general elegance of manners, rather than for their
ability to be of any real service. This young person, with no apparent
idea of where he wanted to go, marched them up and down and around and
about, until the patience of Trepp, the Dutch lieutenant-colonel, was
exhausted. Commanding halt, he turned to the bewildered aide and with
phrases and objurgations not fitted for the polite ears of those who
will read this book, concluded his lecture with "Now mine frent, dese
men is tired and dey is to march no more dis day," then, turning to the
regiment, he commanded, in tones that might have been heard at
Washington, "Men, lie down!" and the sharp shooters camped just there.
Leaving this place on the twenty-sixth, they marched to Point of Rocks,
and on the twenty-seventh to Middletown. On the twenty-eighth they
marched via Frederick and Walkersville and crossed the Catoctin
Mountains at Turner Gap. On this day the corps commander, General
Sickles, returned to his command after a short absence, and on the same
day General Hooker, not being able to make his ideas of the campaign
square with those of the department generals at Washington, was
relieved, at his own request, and General Meade was appointed to the
command. The army parted with Hooker without very much regret. They
recognized his wonderful fighting qualities as a division or corps
commander, and he was personally popular, but they had never quite
forgiven him for Chancellorsville, where he took his army, beaten and
well nigh crushed, back from an enemy numerically weaker than his own,
while he had yet nearly forty thousand soldiers who had not been engaged
in the action, and hardly under fire. It is safe to say that his army
had no longer that degree of confidence in his ability to handle large
armies, and to direct great battles, so essential to success. Of his
successor the army only knew that he was a scholarly, polished
gentleman, personally brave, and that as a brigade, division and corps
commander he had made few mistakes. On the whole, his record was
favorable and the men marched willingly under him, although the choice
of the rank and file might possibly have been some other man.

On the twenty-ninth the sharp shooters marched with the corps to
Taneytown, some twenty miles distant, and on the next day to within two
miles of Emmetsburgh, where they camped for the night. On the morning of
July 1st the guns of Reynold's fight at Gettysburgh were plainly heard,
and in the late afternoon they started for the point of action, some ten
miles distant, making most of the distance at the double quick.

At about sunset they arrived on the field and went into bivouac in the
rear of the hill known in the history of the subsequent battle as Little
Round Top, and were once more confronting their ancient antagonists. The
sharpshooters were now attached to the second brigade, commanded by Gen.
J. H. H. Ward, of the first division, under Gen. Birney, the old third
division having been consolidated with the first and second after the
terrible losses of the corps at Chancellorsville, and in this connection
we shall have to follow them through the battle of Gettysburgh. The
battle of the 1st of July was over. The First and Eleventh Corps had
sustained a serious defeat, and at the close of that day the rolls of
these two corps showed the terrible loss of over nine thousand men, and
yet the battle had hardly commenced. The situation was not an
encouraging one to contemplate; not half the Union army was up, some
corps being yet thirty or forty miles distant, while the events of the
day showed that the rebel army was well concentrated--but the die was
cast, events forced the battle then and there, and thus the rocky ridges
of Gettysburgh became of historic interest and will remain so forever.

Troops arrived rapidly during the night and were assigned places, as
they arrived, in the chosen line, which was in a direction nearly north
and south. The extreme left rested on a rocky height rising some three
hundred feet above the level of the surrounding country; some five
hundred yards to the north of this hill, called Round Top, rises a
similar elevation, although of less height, called Little Round Top;
thence north to Cemetery Hill, immediately overlooking the village of
Gettysburgh about two miles distant, the Union troops occupied, or were
intended to occupy, a rocky ridge overlooking and commanding the plain
to the westward. From Cemetery Hill the line was refused and curved
backward to the east until the extreme right rested on a wooded eminence
called Culp Hill, and fronted to the east, so that the entire line was
some three miles, or perhaps a little more, long, and was in shape like
a fish hook, the shank lying along the ridge between Round Top and
Cemetery Hill, and the point on Culp Hill. Below the bend of the hook,
at the base of Cemetery Hill, lay the village of Gettysburgh. Such was
the Union position at daylight on the morning of the 2d of July, 1863.
Fronting that portion of the federal troops which was faced to the west,
and at a distance of about one mile, ran another ridge, parallel to the
first, called Seminary Ridge, and which was occupied by the Confederate
army. To the north and east of Gettysburgh the ground was open, no
ridges or considerable body of wood land existed to cover or screen the
movements of the rebel troops. The village of Gettysburgh was occupied
by the enemy on the afternoon of the 1st of July after the defeat of the
First and Eleventh Corps, and yet remained in their possession. Midway
between the two armies ran the Emmetsburgh road, following the crest of
a slight elevation between the two lines of battle. The position
assigned to the Third Corps was that portion of the line immediately
north of Little Round Top where the ridge is less high than at any other
portion. Indeed, it sinks away at that point until it is hardly higher
than the plain in front, and not as high as the ridge along which runs
the Emmetsburgh road. At an early hour on the morning of the 2d,
Sickles, believing himself that the latter ridge afforded the better
position, and perhaps mistaking Gen. Meade's instructions, passed down
into the valley and took up the line of the Emmetsburgh road, his center
resting at a point known in the history of the battle as the "peach
orchard." From this point his line was prolonged to the right by
Humphrey's Division along the road, while Birney's Division, to which
Ward's brigade with the sharp shooters was attached, formed the left,
which was refused; the angle being at the peach orchard, and the extreme
left resting nearly at the base of Round Top, at a point known by the
altogether suggestive and appropriate name of the Devil's Den--a name
well applied, for a more desolate, ghostly place, or one more suggestive
of the home of evil spirits can hardly be imagined. Barren of tree or
shrub, and almost destitute of any green thing, it seems cursed of God
and abandoned of man.

Pending the deployment of the Third Corps, four companies of the sharp
shooters, F, I, D and E, with the Third Maine, a small regiment of only
two hundred men, were detached from Ward's brigade and ordered to a
point in front and to the right of the peach orchard, where they were
directed to advance to a piece of wooded land on the west of the
Emmetsburgh road and feel for the enemy at that point. The four
companies, deployed as skirmishers, advanced in a northwesterly
direction, and at about nine o'clock encountered a strong force of the
rebels, consisting of at least one brigade of Longstreet's command,
who, with arms stacked, were busily engaged in preparing their breakfast
when the rifles of the sharp shooters gave them notice of other
employment. They were taken entirely by surprise, and quickly perceiving
this fact, the riflemen dashed forward, firing as they pressed on as
rapidly as the breech loaders could be made to work. The rebels made but
a short stand; taken entirely unprepared and unaware of the
insignificant numbers of the oncoming force, they seized their guns from
the stack, and, after one or two feeble volleys, retreated in confusion.

The general in command made a gallant personal effort to rally his men,
but fell dead from his horse immediately in front of Co. F. The rout of
the enemy at this point was now complete, and pressing their advantage
to the utmost the sharp shooters drove them back nearly to the main
rebel line on Seminary Ridge, capturing many prisoners who were sent to
the rear, and a large number of small arms which, however, they were
unable to bring away. Having thus cleared the ground nearly to the main
rebel line, they took position behind walls, fences, etc., and for the
two or three hours following were engaged in sharp shooting with the
enemy similarly posted in their front. Their position was now some
distance to the right of the peach orchard and in front of the right, or
right center, of Humphrey's Division.

At about half-past three in the afternoon Longstreet commenced his
attack on Sickles' extreme left near Round Top, the battle soon
becoming very severe also at the angle in the peach orchard and
involving Humphrey further to the right. The attacking columns had
passed to the left of the sharp shooters and the fighting was now in
their left and rear. The rebels in their front also became very
aggressive and they were gradually pushed back until they became
intermingled with the troops of Humphrey's Division posted along the
Emmetsburgh road where the struggle soon became close and deadly. The
angle at the peach orchard was the key to Sickles' line, and against it
Longstreet pushed his best troops in dense masses, and at this point
occurred some of the hardest fighting that took place on the whole
field; but as the troops whose doings are chronicled in these pages had
no part in that struggle, it is enough to say that after a gallant
resistance the line was broken at the angle and the shouting rebels,
rushing through the gap, took both portions of the line in reverse,
while both portions were yet resisting heavy attacks on their fronts.
Such a situation could have but one result--both wings were compelled to
retire in confusion.

Anticipating this, Meade had ordered heavy supporting columns to be
formed behind the crest of the ridge and these were ordered down to the
relief of the sorely tried Third Corps. Barnes' Division of the Fifth
Corps, the same to which the sharp shooters had been attached for so
long a time, and in the ranks of which they had fought in all the
battles previous to Fredericksburgh, came gallantly to the rescue, but
were unable to withstand the terrible vigor of the Confederate assault,
and Caldwell's Division of the Second Corps was also thrown in to check
the onset.

These troops fought with the greatest courage but were defeated with the
loss of half the men engaged. In the mean time Longstreet, finding the
ground between the left of Birney's Division and the base of Round Top
unoccupied, pushed a force behind the Union left at that point which
succeeded in gaining a position in the rocky ravine between the two
Round Tops from which they pushed forward to secure the possession of
the lesser elevation, at that moment unguarded. This was the key to the
entire Union line, and once in the hands of the rebels would probably
decide the battle in their favor. But Warren, another old Fifth Corps
friend, quickly discovered the danger and ordered Vincent with his
brigade to occupy and defend this important point. The struggle for its
possession was terrible, but victory perched upon the Union banners and
the hill was made secure. Vincent and Hazlett, both of the Fifth Corps
also, were killed here. They had been well known and highly esteemed by
many of the officers and men of the sharp shooters, and by none were
they more sincerely lamented.

Darkness put an end to the battle of July 2d. Lee had gained
considerable ground, for the whole of the line occupied by the Third
Corps was now in his possession. There yet remained for him to carry the
real line of the federal defenses which was as yet intact. The position
taken by Gen. Sickles had been intrinsically false, and was one from
which he would have been withdrawn without fighting had time allowed.
Lee had gained ground, and that was all, unless the inspiriting effects
of even partial success can be counted.

Many thousands of Union soldiers lay dead and wounded on the field, and
the Army of the Potomac was the weaker by that number of men, but Lee
had lost an equal, or more likely a greater number, so that on the whole
the result of the day could not be counted as a substantial gain for the
rebels, and when the federals lay down for the night, it was with
confidence and assurance that the morrow would bring its reward for the
mishaps of the day. The corps commander, Gen. Sickles, had been wounded
and Gen. Birney succeeded to the command. Gen. Ward took command of the
division, and thus it came about that Col. Berdan was in command of the
brigade.

Company F had killed on this day Sergeant A. H. Cooper, and Geo. Woolly
and W. H. Leach wounded. Woolly's wound was severe and resulted in the
loss of his arm. Other companies in the regiment had suffered more or
less severely, the four companies engaged in front and to the right of
the peach orchard losing twenty men, killed and wounded, out of the one
hundred engaged.

During the night succeeding the 2d of July the shattered remains of the
Third Corps was withdrawn from the front line and massed behind the
sheltering ridge as a reserve. Its terrible losses of the day, added to
those sustained at Chancellorsville, had reduced the once powerful corps
almost to the proportions of a brigade. As the troops stood in line the
colors were like a fringe along its front, so close together were they.
The regiments that defended them were like companies--indeed, many
regiments had not the full number of one hundred men which is called for
on paper by a full company. The Third Corps was nearly a matter of
history, but the few men left with their colors were veterans, tried and
true, and although they were not displeased to be relieved from the
active fighting yet in store for the federals, they were quite ready to
stand to arms again whenever it should please Gen. Meade to so direct.
At daylight the enemy opened a heavy artillery fire all along the line.
The random nature of the firing was proof, however, that nothing more
serious than demonstration was intended.

Late at night on the preceding day the rebels had succeeded in gaining
important ground on the extreme right, and had indeed possessed
themselves of almost the whole of the wooded eminence known as Culp's
Hill, from which their artillery, should they be allowed time to get it
up, would take almost the entire Union line in the rear. To regain this,
Geary's Division was sent in early in the day, and after four hours of
severe fighting the rebels were dislodged and the Union right was
restored. Affairs now became quiet and so remained for some
hours--suspiciously quiet indeed, and all felt that some great effort
was about to be made by the Confederates. At about one o'clock a single
gun was fired as a signal from the Confederate lines near the seminary,
and instantly one hundred and fifteen guns opened on the Union center,
which was held by the First and Second Corps, supported by all that
remained of the Third. Never before had the Union troops been subjected
to such an artillery fire. Previous to this battle the cannonading at
Malvern Hill had always been quoted as the heaviest of the war. The
bombardment of Fredericksburgh had also been on a magnificent scale, but
here the troops were to learn that still further possibilities existed.
Eighty Union guns responded vigorously, and for two hours these
guns--nearly two hundred in number--hurled their shot and shell across
the intervening plain in countless numbers. The Union artillery was
posted along the crest of, or just behind the ridge, while the lines of
infantry were below them on the western slope. The soldiers lay prone on
the ground, sheltering themselves behind such inequalities of the
surface as they could find, well knowing that this awful pounding was
only the precursor of a struggle at closer quarters, which, if less
demonstrative and noisy, would be more deadly; for experience had taught
them that however frightful to look at and listen to, the fire of shell
at such long range was not, on the whole, a thing to inspire great fear.
It is a curious fact, however, that heavy artillery fire, long
sustained, begets an irresistible desire to sleep; and hundreds of Union
soldiers went quietly to sleep and slept soundly under the soothing
influence of this tremendous lullaby.

At three o'clock the artillery fire ceased, and from the woods crowning
Seminary Ridge, a mile away, swarmed the grey coated rebels for another
attempt on the federal line. Lee had tried the left and had failed; he
had been partially successful on the right on the preceding evening, but
had been driven back in the morning. It only remained for him to try the
center. In the van of the charging column came Picket's Division of
Virginia troops, the flower of Lee's army, fresh and eager for the
strife. On his right was Wilcox's brigade of Hill's corps, and on his
left Pender's Division. Could Picket but succeed in piercing the Union
center, these two supporting columns, striking the line at points
already shattered and disorganized by the passage of Picket's command,
might be expected to give way in turn, and the right and left wings of
the federal army would be hopelessly separated. But others besides Lee
saw this, and Meade hastened to support the points on which the coming
storm must burst with all the troops at his command. The Third Corps was
ordered up and took position on the left of the First, directly opposite
the point at which Wilcox must strike the line, if he reached so far.
Our artillery, which had been nearly silent for some time, opened on the
oncoming masses as they reached the Emmetsburgh road with canister and
case shot which made fearful gaps in their front, but closing steadily
on their colors they continued to advance. Their courage was
magnificent and worthy of a better cause. Eight Union batteries,
brought forward for the purpose, poured an enfilading fire into the
rushing mass, while Stannard's Second Vermont Brigade, far in advance of
the main line, suddenly rose up and, quickly changing front, forward on
the right, commenced a close and deadly fire directly on their exposed
right flank. Their track over that open plain was marked by a swath of
dead and dying men as wide as the front of their column; still they
struggled on and some portion of the attacking force actually pierced
the Union line, and the rebel Gen. Armistead was killed with his hand
upon one of the guns of Wheeler's battery. The point had been well
covered, however, and no sooner did the rebel standards appear crowning
the stone wall, which was the principal defensive work, than the troops
of the second line were ordered forward and for a few moments were
engaged in a fierce hand to hand fight over the wall. The force of the
rebel attack was, however, spent; exhausted by their march of a mile
across the plain in the face of the deadly fire, and with ranks sadly
thinned, the rebels, brave as they undoubtedly were, were in no shape to
long continue the struggle. They soon broke and fled, thousands,
however, throwing down their arms and surrendering themselves as
prisoners rather than risk the dangerous passage back to their own
lines, a passage only in a degree less perilous than the advance.

In the meantime Wilcox, on the right, had pushed gallantly forward to
strike the front of the Third Corps where the sharp shooters had been
posted in advantageous positions to receive him. They had opened fire
when he was some four hundred yards away, too far for really fine
shooting at individual men, but not so far as to prevent considerable
execution being done on the dense masses of men coming on. This attack,
however, was not destined to meet with even the small measure of success
which had attended Picket's assault, for Col. W. G. Veazey of the
Sixteenth Vermont, one of the regiments of Stannard's Second Vermont
Brigade, which had been thrown forward on the right flank of Picket's
column, seeing that attack repulsed, and being aware of the approach of
Wilcox in his rear, suddenly counter-marched his regiment and made a
ferocious charge on the left of Wilcox's column, even as he had just
done on the right of Picket's. The effect was instantaneous; they
faltered, halted, and finally broke. Launching forward, Veazey captured
many prisoners and colors, many more, in fact, than he had men in his
own ranks.

The fighting of the 3d of July now ceased and the federals had been
signally successful. The morrow was the 4th of July, the birthday of the
nation; would it be ever after celebrated as the anniversary of the
decisive and closing battle of the war? Many hearts beat high at the
thought, and the troops lay on their arms that night full of hope that
the end was at hand.

The repulse of Lee's final assault on the 3d of July had been so
complete and crushing, so apparent to every man on the field, that there
were none who did not awake on the morning of the 4th with the full
expectation that the Army of the Potomac would at once assume the
offensive and turn the repulse of the last two days into such a defeat
as should insure the utter destruction of the rebel army. Everything
seemed propitious; Sedgwick's gallant Sixth Corps had arrived late on
the night of the second, and had not been engaged. The men were fresh
and eager to deliver on the national holiday the death blow to the
rebellion. The troops who had been engaged during that terrible three
days battle were equally eager, notwithstanding their labors and
sufferings, but Meade was eminently a conservative leader, and feared to

    "Put it to the touch
    To win or lose it all."

And so the day was spent in such quiet and rest as could be obtained by
the men. The wounded were gathered and cared for, rations and ammunition
were issued, and every preparation for further defense should Lee again
attack, or for pursuit should he retreat, was made. Some rather feeble
demonstrations were made at various points, but no fighting of a serious
character took place on that day. The sharp shooters were thrown forward
as far as the peach orchard where they took up a position which they
held during the day, constantly engaged in exchanging shots with the
rebel pickets posted behind the walls and fences in the open field in
front of the woods behind which lay the rebel army. It was of itself
exciting and dangerous employment; but, as compared with their
experiences on the two preceding days, the day was uneventful. Co. F
lost here, however, two of its faithful soldiers, wounded, L. B. Grover
and Chas. B. Mead. Both recovered and returned to the company, Grover to
be promoted sergeant for his gallantry on this field, and Mead to die by
a rebel bullet in the trenches at Petersburgh. The regiment as a whole
had suffered severely. The faithful surgeon, Dr. Brennan, had been
severely wounded while in the discharge of his duty in caring for the
wounded on the field, and Capt. McLean of Co. D was killed.

Many others, whose names have been lost in the lapse of years, fell on
this bloody field. The fifth was spent in gathering the wounded and
burying the dead. On the sixth Meade commenced that dilatory pursuit
which has been so severely criticised, and on the twelfth came up with
the rebel army at Williamsport, where Lee had taken up and fortified a
strong position to await the falling of the river, a sudden rise of
which had carried away the bridges and rendered the fords impassable.

The army was eager to attack; flushed with their success, and fully
confident of their ability to give rebellion its death blow, they fairly
chafed at the delay--but Meade favored the cautious policy, and spent
the twelfth and thirteenth in reconnoitering Lee's position. Having
finished this preliminary work, he resolved on an attack on the
fourteenth; but Lee, having completed his bridges, made a successful
passage of the river, and by eight o'clock on that morning had his army,
with its trains and stores, safe on the Virginia side.

On the seventeenth the Third Corps crossed the river at Harper's Ferry
and were once more following a defeated and flying enemy up the valley,
over the same route by which they had pursued the same foe a year before
while flying from Antietam. The pursuit was not vigorous--the men
marched leisurely, making frequent halts. It was in the height of the
blackberry season, and the fields were full of the most delicious
specimens. The men enjoyed them immensely, and, on a diet composed
largely of this fruit, the health of the men improved rapidly.

On the nineteenth the sharp shooters reached Snicker's Gap, where, on
the 3d of the previous November, they had looked down on the beautiful
valley of Virginia and beheld from their lofty perch Lee's retreating
columns marching southward. To-day, from the same point of view, they
beheld the same scene; but how many changes had taken place in that
little company since they were last on this ground! Death, by bullet and
by disease, had made sad inroads among them, and of the whole number
present for duty the previous November, less than one-half were with
their colors now, the others were either dead in battle, or of wounds
received in action, or honorably discharged by reason of disability
incurred in the service. Sheridan once said that no regiment was fit for
the field until one-half of its original numbers had died of disease,
one-quarter been killed in action, and the rest so sick of the whole
business that they would rather die than live. Judged by this rather
severe standard, Co. F was now fit to take rank as veterans. Descending
the mountains, they marched southward, passing the little village of
Upperville on the twentieth.

On the twenty-third the Third Corps was ordered to feel the enemy at
Manassas Gap, and there ensued a severe skirmish, known as the affair of
Wapping Heights. The sharp shooters opened the engagement and, indeed,
bore the brunt of it, dislodging the enemy and driving them through the
gap and beyond the mountain range. They inflicted considerable loss on
the rebels, and made a number of prisoners.

In this affair a man from another company came suddenly face to face
with an armed rebel at very short range; each, as it subsequently
appeared, had but one cartridge and that was in his gun. Each raised his
rifle at the first sight of the other and the reports were simultaneous.
Both missed--the rebel bullet struck a tree so close to the sharp
shooter's face that the flying fragments of bark drew blood; the Union
bullet passed through the breast of the rebel's coat, cutting in two in
its passage a small mirror in his breast pocket. They were now upon
equal terms but each supposed himself at the disadvantage. Yankee cheek
was too much, however, for the innocent Johnnie, for the sharp shooter,
with great show of reloading his rifle, advanced on the rebel demanding
his surrender. He threw down his gun with bad grace, saying as he did
so: "If I had another cartridge I would never surrender." "All right,
Johnnie," said the Yankee, "If I had another you may be sure I would not
ask you to surrender." But Johnnie came in a prisoner. In this action
the sharp shooters expended the full complement of sixty rounds of
ammunition per man, thus verifying the assertion of their ancient enemy
in the ordnance department that "the breech loaders would use up
ammunition at an alarming rate;" both he and others were by this time
forced to admit, however, that the ammunition was expended to very
useful purpose. Passing now to the southeast over familiar grounds they
encamped at Warrenton on the twenty-sixth, and on the thirty-first at or
near White Sulphur Springs, where they remained until the 15th of
September, enjoying a much needed rest. It was eighty-one days since
they left their camp at Falmouth to follow and defeat Lee's plans for an
invasion of the North, and during that time they had not had one single
day of uninterrupted rest. Here the regiment had the first dress parade
since the campaign opened.

On the 15th of September they broke camp and marched to Culpepper, some
ten miles to the southward, where they remained until the 10th of
October. On the 22d of September eight days rations had been issued and
it looked as though serious movements were contemplated, but the plan,
if there was one, was not carried out.

On the 11th of October, with full haversacks and cartridge boxes, they
broke camp and moved again northward, crossing the Rappahannock by
Freeman's ford, near which they remained during the rest of that day and
the whole of the twelfth on the picket line, frequently engaged in
unimportant skirmishes with the enemy's cavalry. On the thirteenth they
marched in the early morning, still towards the north, prepared for
action, and at Cedar Run, a small tributary of the Rappahannock, they
found the enemy in considerable force to dispute the crossing. Here a
severe action took place, and as the emergency was one which did not
admit of delay, the attack was made without the formality of throwing
out skirmishers, and the sharp shooters charged with the other regiments
of the division in line of battle. Edward Jackson was severely wounded
here, but returned to his company to remain with it to the close of the
war. Quickly brushing away this force the corps advanced northwardly by
roads lying to the west of the Orange & Alexandria railroad and parallel
with it, and after a fatiguing march arrived at Centerville, only a few
miles from Washington.

The cause of this rapid retrograde movement was not easily understood by
the men at the time, but was subsequently easily explained. Lee had not
been satisfied with the results of his three previous attempts to
destroy the Union army by turning its right and cutting it off from
Washington, and had essayed a fourth. It had been a close race, but the
Union commander had extricated his army from a position that, at one
time, was one of grave peril, and had it compact and ready on the
heights of Centerville with the fortifications of Washington at his
back. Lee was now far from his own base of supplies and must attack the
Union army in position at once, or retreat. He took one look at the
situation and chose the latter alternative, and on the nineteenth the
Army of the Potomac was once more in pursuit, the Third. Corps with the
sharp shooters passing Bristoe's Station on that day with their faces
toward the South. On the twentieth they forded Cedar Run at the scene of
their battle of the week before, and on the same day, owing to an error
by which the sharp shooters were directed by a wrong road, they
recrossed it to the north bank, from which they had, later in the day,
to again ford it to reach their designated camping place on the south
side near Greenwich, thus making three times in all that they waded the
stream on this cold October day, sometimes in water waist deep. The next
camp made was at Catlet's Station, when the sharp shooters with the
Third Corps remained inactive until the 7th of November awaiting the
repairing and reopening of the Orange & Alexandria railroad which had
been greatly damaged by Lee in his retreat, and which, as it was the
main line of supply for Meade's army, it was necessary to repair
before the army could move further southward.

On the seventh, the railroad having been completely repaired and the
army fully supplied with rations, ammunition and other necessary
articles, Meade determined to try to bring his enemy to a decisive
action in the open field, and to that end directed the right wing of his
army, consisting of the Fifth and Sixth Corps under Sedgwick, to force
the passage of the Rappahannock at Rappahannock Station, while the left
wing, consisting of the First, Second and Third Corps, was directed on
Kelly's Ford, some five miles lower down the river.

The Third Corps, under Birney, had the advance of the column, the sharp
shooters acting as flankers, until the head of the column arrived at the
river opposite the designated crossing place. The enemy were found in
strong force occupying rifle pits on the opposite bank, and the column
was deployed to meet the exigency of the occasion. The sharp shooters
were at the front as skirmishers and advanced at the double quick in
splendid order until they reached the bank of the river, when they took
such cover as was afforded by the inequalities of the ground, and
commenced an active fire upon the enemy in the rifle pits on the
opposite side. It was soon found, however, that they could not be driven
from their strong position by simple rifle work, and the regiment was
ordered to cross the stream and drive them out by close and vigorous
attack. It was not a cheerful prospect for the men who were to wade the
open stream nearly waist deep and exposed to the cool fire of the
concealed enemy, who would not aim less coolly because the sharp
shooters would necessarily be unable to return the fire; but the line
was carefully prepared and at the sound of the bugle every man dashed
forward into the cold and rapid water and struggled on. Co. F was one of
the reserve companies and thus followed the skirmishers in column of
fours instead of in a deployed line. As the skirmishers arrived on the
further shore they naturally took such cover as they could get, and
opened a rapid fire. The Vermonters, however, closely following the
movement, passed the skirmish line thus halted and pushed on without
stopping to deploy even. Capt. Merriman, who had just succeeded to his
well deserved promotion, led the way until he stood upon the very edge
of the works overlooking the rebels within, of whom he demanded an
immediate and unconditional surrender. He was far in advance of his men,
and the rebels, at first taken aback by the very boldness of the demand,
now seeing him unsupported as they thought, refused with strong language
to surrender, but on the contrary called upon him to yield himself up as
their prisoner. Merriman, however, was not minded to give up his
captain's sword on the very first day he had worn it, and called out for
"Some of you men of Co. F with guns to come up here." His call was
obeyed, and five hundred and six Confederates surrendered to this little
company alone. In the company the casualties were as follows: Patrick
Murray, killed; Eugene Mead, Watson P. Morgan and Fitz Green Halleck,
wounded. Having thus uncovered the ford the sharp shooters were pushed
forward some distance to allow the remainder of the left wing to cross
and form on the south bank. Advancing about a mile from the river they
took up a position from which they repulsed several feeble attacks
during the day, and at dark were relieved.

For their gallantry and dash in this affair they received unstinted
praise from their brigade commander, De Trobriand, they having been
transferred back to his brigade some days previous. On the next day the
troops advanced towards Brandy Station where the union of the two wings
of the army was expected to take place. Considerable resistance was met
with at several points during the day, and at one point the skirmishers
of the third division, which was in advance, being unable to start the
rebels, the corps commander sent back his aide for "the regiment that
crossed the river the day before," but the brigade was some miles in
rear of the point of obstruction, and Gen. De Trobriand, rightly
believing that it would be unjust and cruel to require these men to
march so far at the double quick after their severe service of the day
before, sent the second regiment instead, who fully met the requirement
and soon cleared the road for the head of the column. On arriving at
Brandy Station the vast open plain was found packed and crowded with
troops, the entire Army of the Potomac being now concentrated here. The
sharp shooters went into camp on the farm of the so called loyalist John
Minor Botts, where they remained for the eighteen days following. In
consideration of his supposed loyalty, every effort was made to protect
the property of the owner of the plantation, but _rails_ are a
temptation that no soldier was ever known to withstand on a cold
November night. Evil disposed troops of other organizations raided the
fences every night, and the troops nearest at hand, the sharp shooters,
were required to rebuild them every day; and in this manner they passed
the time until the 26th of November, when the army broke camp and
crossed the Rapidan at several points simultaneously.

This was the initial movement in what is known as the Mine Run campaign.
The Third Corps crossed at Jacobs Mills ford, their destination being
understood to be Robertson's Tavern where they were to join the Second
Corps in an attack on the Confederate line behind Mine Run at that
point. But Gen. French, by a mistake of roads, and sundry other
unfortunate errors of judgment, found himself far to the right of his
assigned position, and while blindly groping about in the mazes of that
wilderness country, ran the head of his column against Ewell's Corps and
a brisk fight took place, which was called the battle of Locust Grove.

De Trobriand's brigade was near the rear of the column and was not
therefore immediately engaged. The familiar sounds of cannon and
musketry indicated to their practiced ears something more than a mere
affair of skirmishers, and soon came an order to take up a more advanced
position in support of the Third Division which was said to be heavily
engaged. Upon arriving at the front the sharp shooters were deployed
and ordered forward to a fence a little distance in advance of the main
Union line, and to hold that position at all hazards. Moving rapidly
forward they gained the position, and quickly converted the stout rail
fence into a respectable breastwork from which they opened fire on the
rebels in their front. Near them they found the Tenth Vermont, and thus
once again stood shoulder to shoulder with the men of their native
state. Five times during that afternoon did the enemy endeavor to drive
the sharp shooters from this line, and as often were they repulsed, and
each time with heavy loss. In one of these assaults the colors of a
rebel regiment, advancing immediately against Co. F, fell to the ground
four times, and just there four rebel color bearers lay dead, stricken
down by the fire of the Green Mountain riflemen.

The line of breastworks were held until the fighting ceased after dark,
when the sharp shooters were relieved and retired from the immediate
front and lay on their arms during the night. Co. F had lost in the
battle of the day five good men; E. S. Hosmer was killed at the fence,
while A. C. Cross, Eugene Payne, Sherod Brown and Corporal Jordan were
wounded. Cross rejoined the company and served faithfully until the
battle of the Wilderness in the following May where he was killed. Payne
returned to duty and served his full term of enlistment and was
honorably discharged on the 13th of September, 1864. Brown never fully
recovered from the effects of his wound and was subsequently transferred
to the Veteran Reserve Corps. Jordan also reported again for duty and
served until the 31st of August, 1864, when he was honorably discharged
on surgeon's certificate of disability. The regiment had lost thirty-six
men killed and wounded during the day, while the corps had suffered a
total loss of fifteen hundred, and had not yet reached its objective
point. And this was the soldiers' Thanksgiving Day at Locust Grove. Far
away in quiet northern homes, fathers and mothers were sitting lonely at
the loaded tables thinking lovingly of their brave boys, who were even
then lying stark and cold under the open sky, or suffering untold
agonies from cruel wounds. But this was war, and war is no respecter of
time or place, and so on this day of national thanksgiving and praise,
hundreds of the best and bravest suffered and died that those who came
after them might have cause for future thanksgiving.

"To the misjudging, war doth appear to be a worse calamity than slavery;
because its miseries are collected together within a short space and
time as may be easily, at one view, taken in and perceived. But the
misfortunes of nations cursed by slavery, being distributed over many
centuries and many places, are of greater weight and number."

Further severe fighting took place on the next day, but the sharp
shooters were not engaged. On the twenty-ninth (the corps having changed
its position on the previous day, taking up a new line further to the
left), the sharp shooters were deployed as skirmishers and pushed
forward to within sight of the strong works of the enemy on the further
side of Mine Run where they were halted and directed to closely observe
the movements of the rebels, but to do nothing calculated to provoke a
conflict, the preparations for assault not being completed on the Union
side. While laying here in a cold November rain storm they had ample
opportunity to calculate the strength of the enemy's line and the
chances of success. It reminded them strongly of Fredericksburgh. The
position was not dissimilar to that. Here was a swampy morass instead of
a hard plain, but beyond was a height of land and, as at
Fredericksburgh, it was crowned with earth works, while at the base of
the elevation, plainly to be seen by the watchers, were the long yellow
lines that told of rifle pits well manned by rebel soldiers. It looked
like a desperate attempt, but early on the morning of the thirteenth, in
obedience to orders, the sharp shooters advanced across the swamp
through the partly frozen mud, in many places mid-leg deep, driving the
rebel pickets into their works and pressing their way to within a few
rods of the enemy's front, which position they held, being of themselves
unable to go further without support, which was not forthcoming. This
advance had the seeming character of a demonstration only, but the sharp
shooters made the best of their opportunities, picking off a rebel now
and then as the chance occurred. Night came on and no hint of relief
came to the worn and weary men.

It was intensely cold and, of course, they had to endure it as best they
could, since to light a fire within so short a distance of the watchful
rebels would be to draw the fire of every gun within range. Neither
could they get the relief which comes from exercise, for the first
movement was the signal for a shot. So passed the long and dismal night;
the men getting such comfort as they could from rubbing and chafing
their benumbed and frost-bitten limbs. Morning dawned, but yet no relief
from their sufferings; and it seemed to the waiting men that they were
deserted. At times firing could be heard on the right, but of other
indications of the presence of their friends there were none. They
remained in this state all day on the 1st of December, and at night,
after thirty-six hours of this exposure, they were ordered back across
the swamp. Many men were absolutely unable to leave their positions
without aid, so stiff with cold and inaction were they; but all were
finally removed. The army had retired from the front of the enemy and
was far on its way to the river, leaving the Third Corps to cover the
withdrawal; the greater portion of this corps was also en route for its
old camp, and the sharp shooters were thus the rear guard of the army.
The march was simply terrible. All night they struggled on, many men
actually falling asleep as they marched and falling to the ground, to be
roused by shakes and kicks administered by their more wakeful comrades.
In spite of all, however, many men left the ranks and lay down in the
fields and woods to sleep, preferring the chance of freezing to death,
or of that other alternative only less fatal--being made prisoners--to
further effort. At day break the regiment arrived at the Rapidan at
Culpepper Mine ford, crossing on a ponton bridge and going into bivouac
on the north bank, where they could at least have fires to warm their
half frozen bodies. Here they lay until noon, their numbers being
augmented by the arrival of the stragglers, singly and in squads, until
all were accounted for, though at day break there were not guns enough
in some of the companies to stack arms with. At night, however, all were
comfortably quartered in their old camp--a thankful lot of men. This was
perhaps the most severe experience that Co. F had to undergo during its
three years of service. On many occasions they had more severe fighting
and had often to mourn the loss of tried and true comrades; but never
before or after did the company, as a whole, have to undergo so much
severe suffering as on this occasion. The principal loss of the regiment
in this campaign was by the death of Lieut.-Col. Trepp, who was shot
through the head and instantly killed on the 30th of November. Col.
Trepp had been with the regiment from the first, having joined as
captain of Co. A. He was a Swiss by birth, and had received a military
education in the army of his native land, and had seen much service in
various European wars. He was a severe disciplinarian, even harsh; but
was endeared to the men by long association in the field, and was
sincerely lamented.

From this time until the 6th of February, 1864, the regiment lay in
camp, inactive. On that day they were engaged in a reconnoissance to the
Rapidan, but were not engaged.

On the 28th of March the gallant old Third Corps, reduced as it was by
its losses at Chancellorsville, Gettysburgh and Locust Grove to the
proportions of a small division, passed out of existence, being
consolidated with the Second Corps, and becoming the first and second
brigades of the Third Division of that corps, Gen. Birney continuing in
the command of the division, while the corps was commanded by Gen.
Hancock, who had so far recovered from his wound received at Gettysburgh
as to be able to resume his place at the head of his troops. The sharp
shooters were attached to the second brigade, commanded by Gen. Hays.

This change was viewed by the officers and men of the Third Corps with
great regret. They were proud of their record, and justly so, but the
necessities of the service were paramount, and no sentiment of loyalty
to a corps flag could be allowed to interfere with it. In recognition of
the distinguished services rendered by the old organization, however,
the men were allowed to retain their corps badge; and they took their
places in the ranks of Hancock's command resolved that the honor of the
old Third should be maintained unsullied in the future, as it had been
in the past.



CHAPTER VI.

THE WILDERNESS, SPOTSYLVANIA AND COLD HARBOR.


On the 10th of March an order was received from President Lincoln
assigning Gen. U. S. Grant to the command of all the armies of the
United States, and during the last days of the same month Gen. Grant
pitched his headquarters tent at Culpepper Court House, and commenced a
study of the situation in Virginia, where the real struggle of the war
had been maintained for nearly three years, and where the strength of
the Confederacy yet lay. The time, until the 3d of May, was spent in
active preparation for the opening of the spring campaign. Sick and
disabled men were sent to the rear. All surplus baggage and stores were
turned in, and the army, stripped for the fight, stood ready whenever
the new commander should sound the advance; for although Gen. Meade was
still commander of the Army of the Potomac, every man knew that Gen.
Grant was there for the purpose of personally directing its movements.
On the 3d of May the sharp shooters broke camp and marched out on that
campaign which was destined to be one continual battle for nearly a year
to come, and at the end of which was to come the final triumph at
Appomattox.

The organization of Co. F at this time was as follows:

Captain, C. D. Merriman; vice E. W. Hindes honorably discharged on
surgeon's certificate of disability.

    First Lieutenant,           H. E. Kinsman.
    First Sergeant,             Lewis J. Allen.
    Second Sergeant,            Cassius Peck.
    Third Sergeant,             Paul M. Thompson.
    Fourth Sergeant,            L. D. Grover.
    Fifth Sergeant,             Edward F. Stevens.
    First Corporal,             Chas. M. Jordan.
    Second Corporal,            Edward Trask.
    Third Corporal,             M. Cunningham.
    Fourth Corporal,            Edward Lyman.
    Fifth Corporal,             D. W. French.
    Sixth Corporal,             Carlos E. Mead.
    Seventh Corporal,           Henry Mattocks.
    Eighth Corporal,            Chas. B. Mead.

With this organization and forty-three enlisted men, the company crossed
the Rapidan at Ely's ford at nine o'clock A. M. on the 4th of May, 1864.
Marching rapidly to the southeast; they bivouacked for the night near
Chancellorsville on the identical ground on which they had fought
exactly one year before under Hooker. The omen was not a happy one, but
with high hopes of success under this new western general who had always
beaten his enemies hitherto, they lay down prepared for whatever of good
or ill the morrow might bring forth.

Reminders of the conflict of May, 1863, were thickly scattered about on
the ground, and some men in the regiment found their hair covered
knapsacks where they had thrown them off in the heat of the former
battle, and which they had been forced to abandon. They found also the
graves of some of their lost comrades, buried where they fell, while in
many places human bones shone white and ghastly in the moonlight. It was
the very ground over which the sharp shooters had driven the Stonewall
brigade on the night of the 3d of May of the preceding year. With the
earliest streaking of the eastern sky on the morning of the fifth, the
Second Corps, with the sharp shooters in the advance, was put in motion
towards Shady Grove church, situated some four or five miles to the
southward at the junction of two important roads, and where they were to
form the extreme left of the army. Before the head of the column had
reached that point heavy firing was heard on the right and rear, and the
column was counter-marched and ordered to return to the junction of the
Brock road with the Orange plank road, which the enemy were making
desperate efforts to secure. It was indeed a matter of the utmost
importance to maintain possession of the Brock road, since it was the
very key to the whole battle ground. Running nearly north and south from
the Orange turnpike, near the old Wilderness tavern, it intersects all
the roads leading from the direction from which the enemy were
approaching, and, as it is the only important, or even passable, road
running in that direction, its possession by either army would enable
that party to outflank the other almost at pleasure. Getty's Division of
the Sixth had been detached from that corps on the right some hours
before, and ordered to hold this position at all hazards, and it was the
sudden attack on this isolated command that had called the Second Corps
back from its march towards Shady Grove church.

At about two o'clock P. M. Birney's Division arrived at the threatened
point and were at once deployed for action on the Brock road, and to the
left, or south, of its intersection with the plank road. Here the men of
Co. F. found themselves again shoulder to shoulder with their friends.

The old Vermont brigade formed part of Getty's Division and were already
deployed and sharply engaged; so that Co. F. found themselves in the
immediate neighborhood of the gallant Vermonters. Immediately upon the
arrival of the head of the division upon the field, and pending the
necessarily slower formation of the main line, the sharp shooters were
pushed out towards the enemy and at once came under a heavy fire. It was
their first fight under Hancock, and they felt that not only was their
own well earned reputation to be sustained, but that the honor of the
now dead and gone Third Corps was in a measure committed to their
keeping. There, too, just on their right stood the men of the old
brigade, proud of their own glorious record, and just a little inclined
to rate their own courage and skill above that of any other troops in
the army.

Under the stimulus of these conditions the sharp shooters as a regiment,
and the men of Co. F in particular, fought with a dash and energy which
surprised even their own officers who had learned long before that
there was almost no task which the rank and file thought themselves
unequal to. This contest of a skirmish line against lines of battle
continued for nearly two hours; but at about four o'clock P. M.,
the whole of the Second Corps having arrived and being in position, a
general advance was ordered, and now the fighting, which had been very
severe before, became simply terrific. The ground was such that the
artillery could not easily be brought into action. Only two guns could
be brought up, which were placed on the plank road where they rendered
excellent service. The musketry, however, was continuous and deadly
along the whole line. The roar of battle was deafening, and struck upon
the ear with a peculiar effect from the almost total absence of
artillery, usually so noisy an accompaniment of modern battle. The men
who noted this fact, however, were men accustomed to warfare, and who
knew that the fire of infantry was much more deadly than that of
artillery, and never before had they heard such continuous thunder or
confronted such a storm of lead as on this occasion. The fierce struggle
continued with unabated ferocity until the merciful night put an end to
it. The Brock road was held, but it had been impossible to do more. The
enemy were badly shattered, and at points the line had been broken; but
the nature of the ground was such as to prevent an orderly and
systematic pushing of such advantages as were, here and there, gained,
and, except that the key point remained in the hands of the federals,
it was a drawn battle.

The men lay on their arms during the night, in the position in which the
cessation of the battle found them; and, as illustrative of the
closeness of the contending lines, and the labyrinthian character of the
ground, it may be stated that during the night many men from both armies
while searching for water, or for their wounded friends, strayed within
the opposing lines and were made prisoners. Among the above were Sergt.
Paul M. Thompson and J. H. Guthrie of Co. F. Besides these two men, Co.
F had lost terribly in killed and wounded during the day. Corporal David
French, W. J. Domag and E. E. Trask were killed on the field; A. C. M.
Cross and Wm. Wilson were mortally wounded, while M. Cunningham,
Spafford A. Wright, John C. Page, S. M. Butler and Wm. McKeever suffered
severe and painful wounds--a total of twelve men lost out of the
forty-three who answered to the roll call on that morning, and this in
the first fight of the campaign.

But the survivors felt that they had well and nobly sustained the honor
of their corps, and of their state. They were proud, also, to have
received the commendation of distinguished officers of the old Vermont
Brigade, and so, with mingled emotions of sorrow and gladness, they lay
down on the bloody field. It will be remembered that the sharp shooters
had been pushed out on the left of the plank road immediately upon their
arrival and while the troops of the line were being formed on the Brock
road. In this formation, Birney's Division had been sent to the north or
right of the plank road, and formed on Getty's right; so that during the
subsequent battle the sharp shooters had been separated from their
brigade, and had been fighting in an entirely independent manner,
subject to no orders but those of their regimental and company officers.
At daylight the men were rallied on the colors and moved to the north of
the plank road in search of their proper command, which, after some
search in the tangled forest, they found the shattered remains of. The
brigade commander, Gen. Alexander Hays, and very many other gallant
officers and men had fallen on the preceding day, and so heavy had been
the losses that the entire brigade when deployed, hardly covered the
front of an average regiment as they had stood when the army crossed the
Rapidan.

Notwithstanding his severe losses of the day before, Gen. Grant (who, by
the way, was understood to have expressed the opinion at some time that
"The Army of the Potomac had never been fought up to its capacity")
ordered another general assault along the whole line at five A. M. on
the sixth.

Promptly at that hour the Second Corps advanced along the Orange plank
road, the sharp shooters being now on the right of that thoroughfare
with their own division. They were, as on the day before, in the front
line, but on this occasion they were heavily supported from the start,
Birney's and Mott's Divisions being in the first line while Getty's
Division formed a second line, the whole supported by Carroll's and
Owen's brigades of the Second Division of the same corps.

The attack was made with great vigor and impetuosity, and was for a time
successful, the enemy being driven with great loss and disorder from two
strong lines of works, one about four hundred yards behind the other,
which they had materially strengthened during the night. Birney's left,
in front of which was Co. F, advanced further than his right, driving
the Confederates before them and completely disrupting their line at
this point; in fact so far did they penetrate that they were in a
position to take the rebel left in flank and rear, and at one time the
sharp shooters, during a momentary lull on their own front, turned their
attention to a Confederate battery which was actually in rear of their
right, and which they had passed beyond in their charge. They were not
destined to reap the fruits of this victory, however, for at this time
Longstreet's command arrived on the field and commenced a furious attack
on Birney's exposed left. Changing fronts to meet this new enemy, the
sharp shooters, with the aid of their comrades of Birney's Division,
made a vigorous resistance to this counter attack. The momentum of their
own charge was gone; they had now fought their way through nearly a mile
of thickets and swamps and had, necessarily, lost their alignment and
cohesion. The utmost they could now hope to do was to beat back the
oncoming rebels and give the Union troops time to reform for another
assault. It was a vain effort, for the fresh masses of rebel troops
succeeded in forcing the advanced left back as far as the center and
right, which was at the same time, about seven o'clock A. M., struck by
a strong force of Confederates. By desperate effort the line was held
and a reorganization effected, and at about nine o'clock the offensive
was resumed along the plank road. The force of this attack was seriously
impaired by the supposed necessity of protecting the extreme left which
was greatly exposed. For some time heavy firing had been heard in that
direction, and ugly rumors of columns of infantry, too strong to be
checked by the cavalry, were rife. Then, too, a considerable body of
infantry was discovered actually approaching the left and rear from the
direction of Spotsylvania. All this necessitated the detachment of
considerable bodies of troops to guard that wing, which weakened the
force of the main attack. The infantry force which had occasioned so
much uneasiness proved to be a body of convalescents trying to rejoin
the Union army, and the troops sent to oppose them were restored to the
point of action. By this time, in the movement of the lines, the sharp
shooters found themselves, with most of the division, again on the left
of the plank road. The fighting now became as close and severe as that
of the preceding day; so dense and dark was the thicket, that the lines
were often close together before either could determine whether the
other was friend or foe; regiments lost their brigades and brigades
their divisions. Indeed, so confused was the melee that it is stated
that one regiment, being surrounded and ordered to surrender, actually
laid down their arms to another regiment of their own brigade.

Still, progress was made, and, on the whole, the federals, although
losing heavily, were gaining substantial ground. After half an hour of
this work the troops on the right of Birney's Division having given way,
Birney detached two of his own brigades to fill the gap, and at about
eleven o'clock the resistance in front of Hancock's Corps having nearly
ceased, another halt was called to readjust the confused and irregular
lines. Before this could be accomplished a new enemy appeared square on
the left of Birney's Division, which was doubled up by the suddenness
and impetuosity of the attack, and the confusion became so great along
the whole line that Gen. Hancock directed a withdrawal of the entire
corps to the breastworks which had been constructed on the Brock road,
and from which they had advanced on the day before. It began to look
like the same old story--as though Chancellorsville was to be
repeated--and as though the most cheerful bulletin Grant would have to
send North would be the often repeated one, "The Army of the Potomac is
again safe across the Rapidan."

But there, some way, seemed to be no actual movement looking in that
direction--in fact, _Grant had ordered the bridges removed as soon as
the last troops had crossed the river_, and for twenty-four hours there
had been no possibility of recrossing had any one been so minded. Lines
of retreat seemed to have no place in the plans of the new
general-in-chief.

The enemy followed the retiring Union troops closely, but once within
the breastworks the Second Corps was soon rallied, and, reforming, lay
down behind the rude entrenchments to await the signal for renewed
action. The Confederates pushed their lines to within two or three
hundred yards of the Brock road, but rested at that point until about
four o'clock P. M., when they took the offensive in their turn and made
a gallant assault on Hancock's command behind the breastworks. This
attack was understood to be under the immediate direction of Gen. Lee,
who was present and commanded in person.

The rebel line came gallantly forward to within a few yards of the road,
when they halted and opened a fierce fire, which was returned by the
Union troops from their shelter, coolly and with deadly effect.

Here the sharp shooters had the unusual good fortune to fight in a
sheltered position instead of in the open field, as was usually their
fate. During this affair the woods took fire and for a long time the
troops fought literally surrounded by the flames. The wind was from such
a direction as to bring the smoke from the blazing woods directly in the
faces of the federal soldiers, while the heat and smoke combined made
the position almost untenable, even had there been no other enemy to
contend with. In many places the log breastworks themselves took fire
and became a blazing mass which it was impossible to quench. Still the
battle raged; at some points it was impossible to fire over the parapet,
and the defenders were compelled to withdraw for a short distance. The
rebels were prompt to take advantage of such breaks, and at one point
pushed their advance up to and over the road, planting their battle
flags on the Union works, but a brigade of Birney's Division charged
them with such vigor that their holding was of short duration and they
were driven back in great confusion, leaving numbers of their dead and
wounded inside the breastworks.

In this charge the sharp shooters were conspicuous. Advancing in line of
battle and at the double quick, they forced the enemy from their front
over and far beyond the road, pursuing them and making prisoners even
beyond the lines which had been held by the rebels previous to their
assault. Their regimental flag was the only one advanced beyond the line
of works; other troops contenting themselves with simply repossessing
the line of the road. In this charge Jacob Lacoy of Co. F. was killed,
the only casualty in the company on that day. Following this repulse
Grant, still aggressive, ordered another attack by Hancock, and the
troops were formed for that purpose; but before the advance actually
commenced the order was countermanded and the men of the Second Corps
lay down for the night along the road which they had so gallantly
defended. The morning of the third day of the battle opened with the
greater portion of the army quietly resting on their arms; but for the
sharp shooters there seemed no relief or respite. At day break they were
deployed, again on the right of the plank road, and advancing over the
scene of the fighting of the two previous days, now thickly covered with
the dead of both armies, encountered the rebel skirmishers at a distance
of about four hundred yards from the Union line. Ordered to halt here
and observe the enemy, they passed the time until about noon in more or
less active sharp shooting and skirmishing. At twelve o'clock they were
ordered to push the enemy back and develop if possible his main line.
Supported by infantry they dashed forward and after sharp fighting drove
the rebels back into their works, some half a mile away. Here they were
brought to a halt and found themselves unable to advance further.
Counter attacks were made by the rebels which were for a time
successfully resisted; but the regiment was at last so far outflanked
that it became necessary to fall back to avoid the capture of the entire
command. The rebels did not pursue vigorously; the fight was out of
them, and with a few unimportant affairs on different portions of the
line the day passed without battle. Neither party had won a victory.
Grant had not destroyed Lee's army, neither had Lee driven Grant back
across the river, as he had done so many other Union commanders, and the
battle of the Wilderness was of no advantage to either party, save the
fact that Grant had destroyed a certain number of Lee's soldiers who
could not easily be replaced, while his own losses could be made good by
fresh levy from the populous North. Whatever may have been Gen. Grant's
idea of the "capacity" of the Army of the Potomac for fighting hitherto,
or whether he believed it to have been now "fought up to its capacity,"
he was forced to acknowledge that the fighting of the past three days
had been the severest he had ever seen. But his thoughts were not yet of
retreat; he had seen enough of the Wilderness as a battle field,
however, and on the evening of the seventh issued his orders for a
concentration of his army on Spotsylvania.

Company F. had lost in the action of this day Edward Giddings and Joseph
Hagan, killed, and Lieut. Kinsman, Dustin R. Bareau, Henry Mattocks and
Edward Lyman, wounded. The wound received by Mattocks, although painful,
was not such as to disable him, and he remained with the company only to
lay down his life on the bloody field of Spotsylvania a week later. The
total losses now footed up nineteen men since the morning of the 5th of
May.

All night long columns were marching to the southward. It was
evident that the army was to abandon this battle field, but it seemed
strange that the customs and traditions of three years should be thus
ruthlessly set aside by this new man, and that he should have turned his
face again southward, when by all precedent he should have gone north.
The men, however, began to surmise the true state of affairs, and when
during the night Grant and Meade, with their respective staffs, passed
down the Brock road headed still south, the men took in the full
significance of the event, and, tired and worn as they were, they sprang
to their feet with cheers that must have told Grant that here were men
fully as earnest, and fully as persistent as himself in their
determination to "fight it out on that line." The stench from the
decomposing bodies of the thousands of dead lying unburied filled the
air and was horrible beyond description, and the sharp shooters were not
sorry when at nine A. M., on the morning of May 8th, they were relieved
from their duties on the picket line and, forming on the Brock road,
took up their line of march toward Spotsylvania. They were the last of
the infantry of the whole army; a small body of cavalry only being
between them and the rebels who might well be expected to pursue.

The cavalry soon found themselves unable to check the pursuers, and Co.
F, now the rear guard of the army, was faced about and deployed to
resist the too close pursuit. In this order, and constantly engaged with
the rebel cavalry following them, they retired fighting, until at Todd's
tavern they found the rest of the division. During the day Wm. Wells was
wounded and taken prisoner, the only casualty in the company during the
day. Wells met the same sad fate which befell so many thousands of
unfortunate prisoners, and died at Florence, S. C., during the month of
September following.

Immediately upon their arrival a portion of the regiment, including Co.
F, was placed on the picket line to the west of the tavern, their line
extending across the Catharpin road. Here they met the advance of
Early's rebel corps, and some skirmishing took place; but the rebels
were easily checked, and no severe fighting took place. Early on the
morning of the ninth a strong force of the enemy's cavalry appeared in
their front and made a vigorous effort to force a passage. They were
strongly resisted and at last forced to retire before the well aimed
rifles of the Vermonters. Following rapidly, the sharp shooters pushed
them to and beyond the Po river, along the banks of which they halted.

During this affair a rebel captain of cavalry was wounded and captured.
Capt. Merriman, whose sword had been shot from his side during the
action of the preceding day, thinking that a fair exchange was no
robbery, appropriated the captured rebel's sabre, and thenceforth it was
wielded in behalf of instead of against the Union. In the afternoon of
this day the sharp shooters were recalled from their somewhat exposed
position, more than two miles from any support, and resumed the march
towards Spotsylvania, skirmishing with the rebels as they retired, until
they reached the high around overlooking the valley of the Po, where
they found the rest of the corps making preparations to force the
passage of the river.

The Union artillery was noisily at work, while rather faint response
came from the enemy on the opposite side. A rebel signal station was
discovered some fifteen hundred yards away, from which the movements of
our troops could be plainly observed, and from which Gen. Hancock
desired to drive the observers. A battery opened fire on them, but the
distance was too great for canister, and the saucy rebels only laughed
at shell. The men of Co. F., who were in plain view of both parties,
watched this effort with great interest for half an hour, when they
concluded to take a hand in the affair themselves. Long practice had
made them proficient in judging of distances, and up to a thousand yards
they were rarely mistaken--this, however, was evidently a greater
distance than the rifles were sighted for. They therefore cut and fitted
sticks to increase the elevation of their sights and a few selected men
were directed to open fire, while a staff officer with his field glass
watched the result. It was apparent from the way the men in the distant
tree top looked _down_ when the Sharpes bullets began to whistle near
them that the men were shooting under still, so more and longer sticks
were fitted to still further elevate the sights; now the rebels began to
look _upward_, and the inference was at once drawn that the bullets were
passing over them. Another adjustment of the sticks, and the rebels
began to dodge, first to one side and then to another, and it was
announced that the range was found. Screened as they were by the foliage
of the tree in which they were perched, it was not possible to see the
persons of the men with the naked eye; their position could only be
determined by the tell-tale flags; but when all the rifles had been
properly sighted and the whole twenty-three opened, the surprised rebels
evacuated that signal station with great alacrity. Gen. Hancock had been
a close and greatly interested observer of this episode, and paid the
men handsome compliments for their ingenuity and skill. The same night
the division commander, Gen. Birney, ordered that thereafter the sharp
shooters should report directly to his headquarters and also receive
their orders from the same source. They were thus detached from their
brigade. At six o'clock P. M. the line advanced, and, after some
slight resistance, effected the passage of the river. Pushing forward
the sharp shooters soon found themselves again on the banks of the same
river, which here changes its course to the south so as to again cross
the road along which the corps was advancing. It was now well into the
night, and as the men found the river too deep to ford; the column was
halted and spent the night in this position. The second corps, which had
held the entire left of the Union line ever since the crossing of the
Rapidan a week before, by these maneuvers found itself now on the
extreme right of the army, and its position was a serious menace to
Lee's left flank.

Indeed Barlow's Division, as it lay that night, was actually in rear of
the rebel left. Lee was quick to perceive the seriousness of the
situation, and during the night he placed a formidable force in
Hancock's front, and by the morning of the eleventh the corps found a
strong line of works, well manned, to oppose their further progress.
Reconnoissances were made, and a crossing effected at a point lower
down, but the position was deemed too strong to attack, and the troops
who had crossed were retired, soon after which the entire command was
withdrawn to the northern bank of the Po.

Birney's Division was first over, and thus escaped the severe fighting
which befell the other portions of the command in the movement. During
all this time the battle had been raging furiously on the center and
left of the Union army; repeated desperate assaults had been made at
various points, and everywhere the enemy were found in great force
behind strong works. The different assaults had been bloodily repulsed
and the losses of men had been terrible. Still there was no sign of a
retrograde movement. Grant seemed to have an idea that the true course
of the Army of the Potomac lay to the southward instead of to the north.
A repulse--such as would have been to the former commanders of that army
a defeat--only spurred him to renewed effort, and it was in the evening
of this day that he sent to President Lincoln the celebrated dispatch
which so electrified the people of the North and made it clear to them
that thenceforth there were to be taken no steps backward. "I propose to
fight it out on this line if it takes all summer." The operations of the
past two days had convinced Generals Grant and Meade that a salient near
the center of Lee's entrenched line was his weakest point, and during
the afternoon and night of the eleventh the troops selected were brought
up and formed for the assault. The point at which the attack was aimed
was the one which has since come to be called the Death Angle at
Spotsylvania; and well was it so called. Hancock's command was withdrawn
from the extreme right and placed on the left of the Sixth Corps in such
a position that their advance would bring them, not opposite the exact
angle, but on the rebel right of that point. Birney's Division had the
right formed in two lines of battle, with Mott's Division in one line in
support. The sharp shooters were deployed on the right of Birney's front
line so as to connect the right of the Second Corps with the left of the
troops next on the right. The night was made doubly dark by a thick fog
which shut out all objects from sight at a distance of even a few yards,
and in groping along to find their designated position, the men found
themselves far in advance of the proper point and close up to the rebel
line. As soon as their presence was discovered the enemy opened a brisk
fire upon them, but believing their position to be at least as
advantageous as the one they had left behind, the men lay quietly down
without replying to the enemy and waited the signal of attack. They were
now exactly opposite the Death Angle and only a few yards from the
abatis. At half past four A. M. the signal was given, and the troops of
the main line, rising to their feet, moved forward silently to the attack.

The sharp shooters, far in the advance, lay quietly until the charging
lines were abreast of them when they too sprang up and dashed straight
at the enemy's works. The lines were now in entirely open ground,
sloping upward toward the enemy, and fully exposed to the fire which
came thick and deadly from every gun that could be brought to bear. Men
fell rapidly, but nothing could stay the magnificent rush of the
veterans of the Second Corps, and with ringing cheers they crowned the
works with their standards and fairly drove the rebels out by the sheer
weight and vigor of their charge. Not all, however--for nearly four
thousand Confederates, including two general officers, surrendered
themselves as prisoners. Some thirty colors and twenty guns were also
captured.

The sharp shooters were active in the assault and also in the short
pursuit, which was brought to a sudden check, however, by the sight of a
second line of works extending across the base of the triangle made by
the salient. The Union troops were now a confused mass of rushing men.
They had lost their brigade, regimental and even their company
organization, as not unfrequently happens in such assaults, and the
enemy, advancing from behind their second line, compelled the triumphant
but disordered federals to retire to the captured works where they were
rallied. Quickly reversing the order of things, they, in their turn,
became the defenders where they had so lately been the attacking party.
Forming on the exterior slope, they fought the rebels stubbornly. It was
as apparent to Lee as it had been to Grant and Meade, that this was the
vital point, and now both parties bent their utmost energies--the one to
hold what they had gained, and the other to repossess themselves of what
they had lost. Both lines were heavily reenforced and the fighting
assumed the most sanguinary character of any that had been seen during
the whole of the bloody three years of the war. With desperate valor the
Confederates rushed again and again against the Union lines to be met
with a fierce fire at such short ranges, and into such dense masses,
that every shot told. In some places they gained the crest of the
breastworks and savage hand to hand encounters took place, but it was in
vain; not all the valor of the boasted chivalry of the South could pass
that line. Those who gained the works could not stay and live, and to
retreat was as bad. Many gave themselves up as prisoners, while others,
taking shelter on the other side of the works, kept up the fight by
holding their muskets high above their heads and thus firing at random
among the Union troops on the reverse side. All day long this terrible
combat continued. The dead on each side lay in heaps--literally piled
the one on the other, until in many places the ground was covered three
and four deep. The very trees were cut off by musket balls and fell to
the ground. There is in the War Department at Washington, to this day,
the stump of a tree more than eighteen inches in diameter which was cut
down by this awful fire. Darkness brought with it an abatement, but not
a cessation of the struggle; for until three o'clock in the morning of
the thirteenth the strife continued. At that hour the enemy definitely
abandoned the attempt to recapture the angle and retired to an interior
line. Twice during the day had Co. F exhausted the ammunition in its
boxes, and it was replenished by a supply brought to them as they lay by
the stretcher bearers, and once the regiment was retired for a fresh
supply, upon receipt of which they returned to the fighting.

In this carnival of blood--this harvest home of death--Co. F again
suffered the loss of brave men. Henry Mattocks, Thomas Brown and John
Bowen were killed, and Amos A. Smith and J. E. Chase were wounded. Only
eighteen men were now left out of the forty-three who entered the
campaign; twenty-five had fallen on the field.

A great sovereign once addressed his general thus: "I send you against
the enemy with sixty thousand men." "But," protested the general, "there
are only fifty thousand." "Ah!" said the Emperor, "but I count _you_ as
ten thousand!" So each man of the gallant few who were left of what had
been Co. F agreed to call his comrade equal to two men, and so they
counted themselves yet a strong company.

The night of the twelfth was spent on the line which had been won and
held at such a fearful cost of life. At twelve o'clock on the thirteenth
the regiment, now but a handful of men, were moved by the right flank
some three or four hundred yards, and ordered to establish a picket line
in front of this new position. This was successfully accomplished with
but little opposition and no loss to Co. F. That evening they were
relieved and returned to division headquarters, where they bivouacked
for the night. The three succeeding days were spent in the same manner;
out before daylight, establishing new picket lines, sharp shooting as
occasion offered, and spending the night near headquarters; but no
important affair occurred, and no casualties were reported.

The seventeenth was spent quietly in camp--the first day of
uninterrupted repose the men had enjoyed since crossing the Rapidan two
weeks before. During that eventful period there had not been one single
day, and hardly an hour, that the men of Co. F had not been under fire.
It was a short time to look back upon, but what a terrible experience
had been crowded into it! The company which is the subject of this
history had lost more than half of its numbers, while in the Army of the
Potomac the losses had been appalling--no less than four thousand five
hundred and thirty-two men had been killed on the field, and the wounded
numbered eighteen thousand nine hundred and forty-five (a total of
twenty-two thousand four hundred and seventy-seven men) while of the
missing there were four thousand eight hundred and seventy-two, making a
total of twenty-seven thousand three hundred and forty-nine lost from
the effective strength of the army since May 4th. Some idea of the
extent of the losses may be obtained by the casual reader by a
comparison, thus: If the entire population of any of the great and
populous counties of Bennington, Orange or Orleans, as shown by the
census of 1880, were suddenly blotted out, the loss would not equal the
total of killed and wounded during the twelve days between the 4th and
17th of May, while the entire population of Grand Isle county is not as
great as the number of the killed alone; and the total loss in killed,
wounded and missing is greater than the population of any county in the
State of Vermont except Chittenden, Franklin, Rutland and Windsor. And
yet there was no sign of retreat. On the contrary, on every side were
evidences of preparation for renewed battle, and during these days of
comparative quiet attempts were made at various points to penetrate the
rebel line, some of these assaults rising of themselves almost to the
dignity of battles, but so insignificant were they as compared with what
had gone before that they hardly attracted the attention, even, of any
but the men immediately engaged.

On the nineteenth Gen. Grant ordered another movement of the army, again
by the left, and again in the direction of Richmond. No unusual incident
occurred to mark the progress of the sharp shooters until the
twenty-first, when the regiment, by a sudden dash, occupied the little
village of Bowling Green, where the retreating enemy had confined in the
jail all the negroes whom they had swept along with them, and whom they
intended to remove to a point further south where they would be removed
from the temptation to desert their kind masters and join the Union
forces. The advance was too sudden for them, however, and some hundreds
of negro slaves were released from their captivity by the willing
riflemen.

Two miles beyond Bowling Green the skirmishers met a considerable force
of rebel cavalry, and a sharp skirmish took place. Two regiments of new
troops came into action on the right, but being dispersed and routed
retired to be seen no more, and the sharp shooters fell heirs to their
knapsacks which they had laid off on going into action. The departed
regiments had evidently had a recent issue of clothing, and their
successors were thankful for the opportunity of renewing their own
somewhat dilapidated wardrobes. They were further gratified about this
time by the arrival of four convalescents, which swelled the number to
twenty-two for duty. The twenty-second was a red letter day for the men
who had been confined to such rations as they could carry on their
persons. On this day they were ordered on a reconnoissance which took
them into a section of country not frequently visited by either army.
Halting at the County Poor House, they proceeded to gratify a soldier's
natural curiosity to see what might be found on the premises to eke out
their unsatisfactory rations, and, to their great delight, found
chickens, mutton, milk and eggs in profusion, upon which they regaled
themselves to their hearts' content. If these, thought the delighted
men, are Virginia poor house rations, the poor of Virginia are greatly
to be envied. Proceeding on the twenty-third towards Hanover Junction,
they found their way once again blocked by the rebel army in a strong
position behind the North Anna river and prepared again to receive
battle on a fortified line of their own choosing. This was a
disappointment, for the soldiers had become tired of such work and
ardently desired to get at the rebels in an open field; but Grant,
patient and persistent as ever, at once set about finding a means
whereby he might beat them even here, if such a thing was possible.

The line of march had brought the Second Corps to the extreme left of
the army, and it struck the river at the point at which the telegraph
road crosses it at the county bridge. Here the enemy had constructed, on
the north side of the river, a strong work for the defense of the bridge
head; while on the southern bank, completely commanding the approaches
to the river, was another, and a still stronger line of fortifications.
The land in front of the nearer of the two was a bare and open plain,
several hundred yards in width, which must be passed over by troops
advancing to the attack, and every foot of which was exposed to the fire
of the enemy on either bank. To Birney's Division was assigned the task
of assaulting this position, and at five o'clock P. M., on the
twenty-third, the division moved out in the discharge of its duty,
Pierce's and Egan's brigades in the front line, while the Third brigade
formed a second, and supporting line. The sharp shooters were deployed
as skirmishers and led the way. The works were won without serious loss,
and the sharp shooters passed the night near the river, charged with the
duty of protecting the bridge for the passage of the troops on the next
day, Gen. Hancock not deeming it advisable to attempt the crossing at
that late hour of the evening. Attempts were made during the night by
the rebels to destroy the bridge, but it was safely preserved, although
the railway bridge below was destroyed, and on the morning of the
twenty-fourth, the troops commenced crossing covered by the fire of the
sharp shooters, who lined the north bank, and the Union artillery posted
on the higher ground in the rear. The regiment followed the last of the
troops, and were pushed forward beyond the Fox house, a large, though
dilapidated Virginia mansion, where they met the rebel skirmishers.
Sharp firing at long range continued for some hours until the ammunition
in the boxes became exhausted, when the regiment was relieved and fell
back to the Fox house, where breastworks were thrown up and where they
remained during the rest of that day and the next, exposed to desultory
artillery fire, but suffering no considerable loss. The next day the
quartermaster, Lieut. Geo. A. Marden, arrived with the regimental
wagons, and with such stores, clothing, and so forth, as the small train
could bring.

As it was the first sight the regiment had had of its baggage for
twenty-two days, the arrival was the signal for great rejoicing among
the men, especially as the good quartermaster brought a mail, and the
heart of many a brave soldier was made glad by the receipt of warm and
tender words from the loved ones far away among the peaceful valleys of
the state he loved so well.

The morning of the twenty-sixth brought sharp fighting for the troops on
the right and left, but in Birney's front all was quiet, and the tired
sharp shooters lay still until dark, when they were ordered to relieve a
portion of the pickets of the Ninth Corps on their right. The night was
very dark, and it was with difficulty that they found their designated
position; but it was finally gained and found occupied by the
Seventeenth Vermont, among whom the men of Co. F found many friends.

During the night the army was withdrawn to the north bank of the river,
and on the morning of the twenty-seventh the sharp shooters were also
withdrawn, and operations on the North Anna ceased. Grant had found the
position too strong to warrant another attempt like those of the
Wilderness and Spotsylvania, and had determined on another movement to
the left. All day, and until two o'clock the next morning, the troops
toiled on, passing on the way the scene of a severe cavalry fight a few
days previous, the marks of which were plainly visible to the eye as
well as apparent to the nose, since the stench from the decaying bodies
of horses and men was almost unbearable. After a few hours of needed
rest the march was resumed at daylight, still to the south, and at four
o'clock they crossed the Pamunkey at Hanovertown. They were now
approaching familiar ground. Only two or three miles away was the old
battle field of Hanover Court House, while but little further to the
south lay Mechanicsville and Gaines Hill, where they had fought under
McClellan two years before. Halting in a field near the river they
rested until near noon of the following day.

During the forenoon of this day an inspection was had, from which it was
inferred by some that it was Sunday, although there was no other visible
sign of its being in any sense a day of rest. In the afternoon a
reconnoissance in force was ordered to determine, if possible, the
whereabouts of the rebels. Some skirmishing took place, but no important
body of the enemy was found until the advance reached the point at which
the Richmond road crosses the Totopotomy, where the enemy were found
strongly posted with their front well covered by entrenchments and
abatis, prepared to resist a further advance. A brisk skirmish took
place, and the rebels were forced into their works. The whole corps was
now ordered up and took position as close to the rebel line as it was
possible to do without bringing on a general engagement, for which the
federal commanders were not ready. In this position they lay, exchanging
occasional shots with the rebel sharp shooters, but with little or no
serious fighting, until the evening of June 1st, when the corps was
ordered again to the left, and by a forced march reached Cold Harbor
early in the forenoon of the second. At two o'clock A. M. on the 30th
of May Capt. Merriman had been ordered to take a detail of twenty-five
men from the regiment and establish a picket line at a point not before
fully covered. In the darkness he passed the proper position and went
forward until he reached the rebel picket line, which, after challenging
and receiving an evasive answer, opened fire on him. By careful
management, however, he was able to extricate his little force, and
eventually found and occupied his designated position. This was an
unfortunate locality for Capt. Merriman, for when the corps moved on
Cold Harbor, he, by some blunder, failed to receive his orders and was
thus left behind. Finding himself abandoned, and surmising the reason,
he took the responsibility of leaving his post; and as it was clearly
the proper thing to do under the circumstances, he escaped without
censure. Severe fighting had already taken place between the Sixth and
Eighteenth Corps and the rebels, for the possession of this important
position, and _Old_ Cold Harbor had been secured and held for the Union
army. This little hamlet is situated at the junction of the main road
from White House to Richmond, and the road leading south from
Hanovertown, which, a mile south of Old Cold Harbor intersects the road
leading southeasterly from Mechanicsville, which road in its turn
connects with the Williamsburgh road near Dispatch Station, on the
Richmond & York River Railway. The control of the road from White House
was indispensable to the Union army, as it was the only short line to
the new base of supply on the Pamunkey.

A mile to the westward of Old Cold Harbor this road intersects the
Mechanicsville road at a place called _New_ Cold Harbor, the possession
of which would have been more desirable, since it would have given to
the Union commander all the advantages of the roads heretofore mentioned
and, also, the possession and control of the highway from Mechanicsville
to Dispatch Station, which gave to the party holding it the same
advantage which the Brock road had afforded to the Union troops in the
Wilderness; that is, the opportunity to move troops rapidly over a good
road, and by short lines, from right to left, or vice versa. This point
was, however, held by the confederates in great force, and was defended
by formidable works. The heavy fighting of the day before had been for
its possession, and the federals had not only gained no ground, but the
troops engaged had suffered a disastrous repulse with severe loss, no
less than two thousand men having fallen in the assault. The morning of
the 2d of June brought to the anxious eyes of the federals the same
familiar old view. In every direction across their front were seen the
brownish red furrows which told of rifle pits, which at every commanding
point in the rebel line rose stronger and higher works, above which
peered the dark muzzles of hostile artillery.

It was evident that one of two things would ensue. Either a sanguinary
battle, like those of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania, where the rebels,
strongly intrenched, had all the advantages on their side must be
fought, or Grant must try another move by the left and seek a more
favorable battle ground. But that meant a move to the James river; since
between the White House and the James there could be no new base of
supply. Furthermore, the ground further to the south and nearer the
James, was known to be fully as difficult as that on which the army now
stood and was, presumably, as well fortified. And even if it was not
fortified, the further Grant moved in that direction the stronger grew
Lee's army, since the troops in and about Richmond, reenforced by a very
large portion of those who had so recently made, and still kept, Butler
and his thirty thousand men close prisoners at Bermuda Hundred, could be
safely spared for more active operations in the field against this more
dangerous enemy.

Moreover Grant had said "I propose to fight it out on this line," and it
was now nineteen days since the fight for the angle at Spotsylvania, and
the Army of the Potomac had hardly lost that number of hundreds of men
in the operations on the North Anna and the Totopotomy. It was time to
fight another great battle, lest the army should forget that it was now
to be "fought up to its capacity," and so the battle of Cold Harbor was
ordained. The position of the Second Corps was now, as at the
Wilderness, on the extreme left of the army; on their left were no
forces, except the cavalry which watched the roads as far to the south
as the Chicahominy. It was well remembered ground: two years before the
sharp shooters, then part of the Fifth Corps, had, with that
organization, fought the great battle of Gaines Hill, on this identical
ground, but how changed was the situation.

They had now the same enemy before them, but the positions were
completely reversed. Then, they were fighting a defensive battle for the
safety of the army. Then, the enemy came far out from their
intrenchments and sought battle in the open field. Now, it was the
federals who were the aggressive party, and the rebels could by no means
be tempted from the shelter of their strong works. Now, the enemy
occupied nearly the same lines held by the federals on the former
occasion, while the federals attacked from nearly the same positions,
and over the same ground, formerly occupied by the rebels. Then,
however, the federals had fought without shelter; now, the rebels were
strongly intrenched. Indeed, an unparalleled experience in warfare had
taught both parties the necessity of preparation of this kind to resist
attack, or to cover reverses. There was, however, a greater change in
the moral than in the physical situation. Then, the rebels had been
haughty, arrogant and aggressive; now, they were cautious and timid.
Brought squarely to the test of battle they were, individually, as brave
as of yore, but the spirit of confidence had gone out of them. They had
learned at last that "one southern gentleman" was not "the equal of
three northern mudsills." The handwriting on the wall was beginning to
appear plainly to them, and while they still fought bravely and
well--while they were still able to deal damaging blows, and to inflict
terrible punishment--they never afterwards fought with the dash and fire
which they had shown at Gaines Hill, at Malvern, at the Second Bull Run,
at Chancellorsville, or at Gettysburgh. The noontide of the Confederacy
had passed, and they knew then that henceforth they were marching
towards the darkness of the certain night.

The 2d of June was spent by both parties in strengthening positions and
other preparations. Constant firing, it is true, was going on all along
the line, but no conflict of importance took place on this day. Co. F
was thus engaged, but no important event occurred on their front. On the
third, however, at half past four A. M. the corps moved forward to the
assault. Barlow's and Gibbon's Divisions formed the front line, while
Birney's was in the second.

The early morning fogs still hung low and rendered it impossible for the
advancing troops to see what was before them; thus many parts of the
line became broken by obstacles which might have been, in part, avoided
had it been possible to discover them in time, and the column arrived at
the point of charging distance somewhat disorganized. Still the vigor of
the attack was such that the rebels could not long resist it; they were
driven out of a sunken roadway in front of their main line, into and
over their intrenchments, and at this point the success of the assault
was complete. Several hundred prisoners and three guns were captured,
the guns being at once turned upon their former owners.

The supporting column, however, failed, as is so often the case, to come
up at the proper time and the enemy, being strongly reenforced, advanced
against the victorious men of the Second Corps, and after a desperate
struggle, reminding the participants of the fight at Spotsylvania,
forced them back and reoccupied the captured works. In this affair Co.
F, being with Birney's Division in the second line, was not actively
engaged, nevertheless in the charge they lost two or three men whose
names are not now remembered, slightly, and Alvin Babcock, mortally
wounded. Babcock was one of the recruits who joined the company on the
day after the battle of Antietam, nearly two years before, and had been
a faithful and good soldier. He died on the first of July following from
the effects of his wound. The corps retired in good order to their own
works. A partial attack by the rebels on their position was easily
repulsed, and the rest of the day was passed in comparative quiet. The
picket line, in full view of the rebel works and only about one hundred
yards distant, was held by a regiment for whose marksmanship the rebels
seemed to have a supreme contempt, since they exposed themselves freely,
using the while the most opprobrious epithets.

The fire of their sharp shooters was constant and close, and a source of
great annoyance to all within range. Co. F lay some distance in the rear
of the pickets and somewhat exposed to the stray bullets which passed
over the front line. They became somewhat restive under this unusual
state of affairs; but receiving no order to move up to take part in the
conflict, and having no liberty to shift their position, Capt. Merriman
and Sergt. Peck determined to see what could be done by independent
effort to relieve the situation. Taking rifles and a good supply of
ammunition they made their way to the front and, taking up an
advantageous position, commenced operations. The first shot brought down
a daring rebel who was conspicuously and deliberately reloading his gun
in full view of a hundred Union soldiers. This single shot and its
result seemed to convey to the minds of the rebels that a new element
had entered into the question, and for a few moments they were less
active. Soon regaining their courage, however, and apparently setting it
down as the result of some untoward accident, they resumed their
exposure of persons and their annoying fire. It did not long continue,
however, for wherever a man appeared within range he got such a close
hint of danger, if indeed he escaped without damage, that the sharp
shooting along that front ceased. Further to the right was a place where
the breastwork behind which the rebel infantry was posted did not quite
connect with a heavy earthwork which formed part of the rebel line, and
which was occupied by artillery. Across this open space men were seen
passing freely and openly, apparently officers or orderlies passing
along the line in the discharge of their duties.

To this point the two sharp shooters now directed their at attention.
Dodging from tree to tree, now crawling along behind some little
elevation of land, and now running at full speed across some exposed
portion of the ground, they reached a place from which they could
command the passage, and very soon the rebels found it safer and more
convenient to take some other route. Service of this independent nature
had a peculiar fascination for these men. In fact, sharp shooting is the
squirrel hunting of war; it is wonderful to see how self-forgetful the
marksman grows--to see with what sportsmanlike eyes he seeks out the
grander game, and with what coolness and accuracy he brings it down. At
the moment he grows utterly indifferent to human life or human
suffering, and seems intent only on cruelty and destruction; to make a
good shot and hit his man, brings for the time being a feeling of
intense satisfaction.

Few, however, care to recall afterwards the look of the dying enemy, and
there are none who would not risk as much to aid the wounded victim of
their skill as they did to inflict the wound. War is brutalizing, but
the heat of the actual conflict passed, soldiers are humane and
merciful, even to their foes. The assault of the Second Corps had not
been an isolated attempt to force the rebel line at one point only. On
their immediate right the Sixth and Eighteenth Corps had also advanced,
and had met with severe loss; while far away to the north, even to and
beyond the Totopotomy, miles away, Burnside and Warren had been engaged
in more or less serious battle. At no point, however, except in front of
the Second Corps had the enemy's line been entered, and this lodgement,
as has been seen, was of brief duration. Advanced positions had been
held, however, and in many places a distance no greater than fifty to
one hundred yards now separated the opposing lines. Barlow's Division,
magnificent fighters, when forced out of the captured rebel works, had
taken advantage of a slight crest of ground not fifty yards from the
rebel line, and with the aid of their bayonets, tin cups, etc., had
thrown up a slight cover, from which they stubbornly refused to move;
and to this far advanced line Companies F and G were ordered during the
night of the third to keep down, so far as they were able, the rebel
fire when the morning light should enable them to see the enemy. They
spent the fourth in this position, constantly exposed and constantly
engaged, suffering the loss of one man, Joseph Bickford, killed. The
shooting on the part of the rebels was unusually close and accurate, and
was a source of great discomfort to one, at least, of the men of Co. F.
Curtiss Kimberly, known best by his friends as "Muddy," had such a
breadth of shoulders that the small stump behind which he lay for
shelter was insufficient to cover both sides at once. Three times in as
many minutes the stump was struck by rebel bullets, and "Muddy" gravely
expressed the opinion that there was "a mighty good shot over there
somewhere," at the same time uttering an earnest hope that "he might not
miss that stump."

During the night of the fourth they were moved to the left, and at
daylight found themselves face to face with the rebel pickets near
Barker's Mill. This was indeed "Tenting on the old camp ground," since
this point had been the extreme right of the Union line at the battle of
Gaines Hill, June 27, 1862.

They lay in this position until the twelfth, engaged every day, to a
greater or less extent, in skirmishing and sharp shooting until the
eleventh, when an agreement was made between the pickets that
hostilities should cease in that part of the line, and the day was spent
in conversation, games, etc., with the rebels. They were ravenous for
coffee, but had plenty of tobacco. The federals were "long" of coffee
but "short" of tobacco, and many a quiet exchange of such merchandise
was made in the most friendly way between men who for days had been, and
for days to come would be, seeking each others lives. It was a curious
scene and well illustrated one phase of war. On the twelfth, the truce
being over, hostilities were resumed and the men who had so lately
fraternized together were again seeking opportunity to destroy each
other. On this day Almon D. Griffin, who had been wounded at
Chancellorsville, was again a victim to bullets. He recovered, however,
and rejoined his company to serve until the expiration of his term of
service, when he was discharged. Grant was now minded to try another
movement by the left, this time transporting his entire army to the
south bank of the James, and on the thirteenth the sharp shooters
crossed the Chicahominy at Long Bridge, and leaving the old battle field
of Charles City cross-roads and Malvern Hill to the right, struck the
James river the same night at Wilcox's landing some two miles below
Harrison's, where McClellan's army had lain so long after his
unfortunate campaign in 1862. This was the first opportunity for a bath
which had been offered since the campaign opened, and soon the water was
alive with the dirty and tired men, their hands and faces of bronze
contrasting strangely with the Saxon fairness of their sinewy bodies, as
they laughingly dashed the water at each other, playing even as they did
when they were school boys in Vermont. It was a luxury which none but
those who have been similarly situated can appreciate.



CHAPTER VII.

SIEGE OF PETERSBURGH. MUSTER OUT.


Early on the morning of the fourteenth the regiment crossed the James by
means of a steam ferry boat and spent the day near the south bank. There
was trouble somewhere in the quartermaster's department, and no rations
could be procured on that day. On the next day orders were issued for an
immediate advance; still no rations, and the hungry men started out on
the hot and dusty march of some twenty miles breakfastless and with
empty haversacks. But a hungry soldier is greatly given to
reconnoissances on private account, he has an interrogation point in
each eye as well as one in his empty stomach. Every hill and ravine is
explored, the productions of the country, animal and vegetable, are
inventoried, and poor indeed must be the section that fails to yield
something to the hungry searcher. Chickens, most carefully concealed in
the darkest cellars by the anxious owners, are unearthed by these
patient seekers, pigs and cows driven far away to the most sequestered
valleys are brought to light; bacon and hams turn up in the most
unexpected places, and on the whole, the soldier on a march fares not
badly when left to his own devices for a day or so. Thus our sharp
shooters managed to sustain life, and at dark went into bivouac in front
of the rebel defenses of Petersburgh.

The Eighteenth Corps, under Gen. Smith, had preceded the Second, and had
had heavy fighting on the afternoon of this day; they had captured and
now held important works in the line of rebel defenses. Darkness and an
inadequate force had prevented them from following up their advantages,
and thus the first of the series of terrible battles about Petersburgh
had ended.

At daylight on the morning of the sixteenth the Union artillery opened a
brisk cannonade on the now reenforced enemy. During the forenoon the
sharp shooters lay quietly behind the crest of a slight elevation in
support of a battery thus engaged. At about noon they were deployed and
advanced against the rebel pickets with orders to drive them into their
main line and also to remove certain fences and other obstructions so as
to leave the way clear for an assault by the entire corps at a later
hour. The advance was spirited, and after a determined resistance the
rebels were driven from their advanced rifle pits, the skirmishers
following them closely, while the reserve companies leveled the fence in
the rear.

At six o'clock P. M. the Second Corps, supported by two brigades of the
Eighteenth on the right, and two of the Ninth on the left, advanced to
the attack, and after severe fighting, in which the corps suffered a
heavy loss in officers and men, they succeeded in capturing three redans
in the rebel line of works, together with the connecting breastworks,
and in driving the enemy back along their whole front.

Darkness put an end to the advance, but several times during the night
the rebels attempted to regain their lost works, and were each time
repulsed with loss. In this charge Caspar B. Kent of Co. F was killed on
the field. Co. F moved during the night to a position further to the
left, and farther to the front than any point reached by the Union
troops during the day, and were made happy by an issue of rations, the
first they had received since leaving the lines of Cold Harbor. A fresh
supply of ammunition was also received by them, of which they stood in
great need, they having very nearly exhausted the supply with which they
went into the fight. The rebels in their front were active during the
night and a good deal of random firing took place, but of course with
little result so far as execution went. Morning, however, showed a new
line of rifle pits thrown up during the night, not over fifty yards in
front of the sharp shooters who had by no means spent the night in sleep
themselves, but in making such preparations for defense as they could
with such poor tools as bayonets, tin plates and cups. They had been
sufficient, however, and daylight found them fairly well covered from
the fire of the enemy's infantry, and with a zigzag, or covered way, by
means of which a careful man could pass to the rear with comparatively
little danger. Co. F held this advanced line alone, and the day which
dawned on them lying in this position was destined to be one of the most
active and arduous, and the one to be best remembered by the men
present, of any during their entire term of service. No sooner did the
light appear than sharp shooting began on both sides, and was steadily
kept up during the day. The lines were so close that the utmost care was
required to obtain a satisfactory shot without an exposure which was
almost certainly fatal. Nevertheless, the gallant men of the Vermont
company managed to use up the one hundred rounds of cartridges with
which they were supplied long before the day was over. Capt. Merriman,
foreseeing this, had directed Sergt. Cassius Peck to procure a fresh
supply.

It was a service of grave danger, but taking two haversacks the sergeant
succeeded in safely passing twice over the dangerous ground and thus
enabled the company to hold its threatened lines. Many men in the
company fired as many as two hundred rounds on this day, and at its
close the rifles were so choked with dirt and dust, and so heated with
the rapid and continuous firing, as to be almost unserviceable.

The company suffered a severe loss at this place by the death of
Corporal Charles B. Mead, who was shot through the head and instantly
killed. Corporal Mead was one of the recruits who joined in the autumn
of 1862, and had been constantly with the company and constantly on duty
ever since, except while recovering from a former wound received at
Gettysburgh. He was one of two brothers who enlisted at the same time,
the other, Carlos E. Mead, having been himself wounded. He was a young
man of rare promise, and his early death brought sadness, not only to
his comrades in the field, but to a large circle of friends at home. He
had kept a daily record of events in the form of a diary during his
entire period of service, to which the writer of these lines has had
access, and from which he has obtained valuable information and
assistance in his work.

Henry E. Barnum was also mortally wounded, and died on the fourteenth of
the following month, while John Quinlan received a severe wound.
Quinlan, however, recovered and served his enlistment to the close of
the war. Sergt.-Major Jacobs, formerly of Co. G, who served with Co. F
on this day, was also mortally wounded.

The company was relieved at night and retired to the rear for a well
earned rest, to be engaged the next day in the sharp engagement around
the Hare house. Their position here, however, was less exposed and their
service less arduous. The Hare house had but lately been vacated by its
former occupants, a wealthy and influential Virginia family, who had
left so suddenly as to have abandoned nearly everything that the house
contained. The windows of the basement opened full on the rebel works
and rifle pits, the latter within point bank range, and here the sharp
shooters, seated at ease in the fine mahogany chairs of the late owner,
took careful aim at his friends in his own garden. They boiled their
coffee, and cooked their rashers of pork, on his cooking range, over
fires started and fed with articles taken from his elegant apartments,
not, it is to be feared, originally intended for fuel, and ate them on
his dining table. There was, however, no vandalism, no wanton
destruction of property for the mere sake of destruction in all this.
The house and its contents were doomed in any event, and the slight
havoc worked by the sharp shooters only anticipated by a few hours what
must come in a more complete form later. The shooting here was at very
short range, and correspondingly accurate. As an Alabama rifleman, who
was taken prisoner, remarked, "It was only necessary to hold up your
hand to get a furlough, and you were lucky if you could get to the rear
without an extension."

Silas Giddings was wounded here. Giddings had been a friend and
schoolmate of the Meads, and had enlisted at the same time. Thus of the
three friends two were severely wounded and one was dead. During the day
Birney's Division had made an assault on the main rebel line to the left
of the Hare house which had been repulsed with severe loss. The wounded
were left on the field, some of them close under the enemy's works. They
lay in plain sight during the hours of daylight, but it was impossible
to help them. When darkness came on, however, Capt. Merriman, slinging
half a dozen canteens over his shoulder, crept out onto the field and
spent half the night in caring for the poor fellows whose sufferings
during the day had so touched his sympathies. The 19th, 20th and 21st of
June were spent at this place, sharp shooting constantly going on. On
the twentieth Corporal Edward Lyman received a wound of which he died on
the twenty-fifth. Corporal Lyman was one of the original members of the
company; was promoted corporal on the 15th of August, 1863, and had long
been a member of the color guard of the regiment, having been selected
for that position for his distinguished courage and coolness on many
fields. Some times during these days a temporary truce would be agreed
upon between the opposing pickets, generally for the purpose of boiling
coffee or preparing food. Half an hour perhaps would be the limit of
time agreed upon; but whatever it was, the truce was scrupulously
observed. When some one called "time," however, it behooved every man to
take cover instantly.

Upon one occasion a rebel rifleman was slow to respond to the
warning--in fact he appeared to think himself out of sight; while all
others hurried to their posts he alone sat quietly blowing his hot
coffee and munching his hard-tack. It so happened, however, that he was
in plain sight of a sharp shooter less bloodthirsty than some others,
who thought it only fair to give him one more warning, therefore he
called out, "I say, Johnny, time is up, get into your hole." "All
right," responded the cool rebel still blowing away at his hot cup.
"Just hold that cup still," said the sharp shooter, "and I will show you
whether it is all right or not." By this time the fellow began to
suspect that he was indeed visible, and holding his cup still for an
instant while he looked up, he afforded the Union marksman the
opportunity he was waiting for. A rapid sight and the sharp's bullet
knocked the coffee cup far out of its owner's reach and left it in such
a condition that it could never serve a useful purpose again. The
surprised rebel made haste to get under cover, pursued by the laughter
and jeers of his own comrades as well as those of the sharp shooters.
Thus men played practical jokes on each other at one moment, and the
next were seeking to do each other mortal harm.

The various assaults having failed to force the enemy from any
considerable portion of the defenses of Petersburgh, it was determined
by the federal commanders to extend again to the left, with the intent
to cut off, one by one, the avenues by which supplies might be brought
to the enemy from the South; and on the twenty-first the Second Corps,
now under Gen. Birney (Gen. Hancock being disabled by the reopening of
an old wound), in company with the Fifth and Sixth Corps, moved to the
left and took up a position with its right on the Jerusalem plank road.
The Sixth Corps, which was to have prolonged the line to the left, not
arriving in position as early as was expected, the enemy took instant
advantage of the opportunity and, penetrating to the rear of the exposed
left of the Second Corps, commenced a furious attack. Thus surprised,
the entire left division gave way in disorder and retreated towards the
right, thus uncovering the left of Mott's Division, which was next in
line, which in its turn was thrown into confusion. The sharp shooters,
who had been skirmishing in advance of the left, had, of course, no
option; they were compelled to retire with their supports or submit to
capture. They fell back slowly and in good order, however, gradually
working themselves into a position to partially check the advancing
rebels and afford a scanty space of time in which the disordered mass
might rally and reform. In this movement they were gallantly supported
by the Fifth Michigan volunteers by whose assistance they were, at last,
enabled to bring the rebels to a halt; not, however, until they had
captured some seventeen hundred men and four guns from the corps. The
company again suffered heavy loss in this affair.

Barney Leddy and Peter Lafflin were killed on the field; Watson P.
Morgan was wounded and taken prisoner; Sergt. Grover was badly wounded
by a rifle ball through the thigh, and David Clark received a severe
wound. Morgan was a young but able and gallant soldier; he had
previously been wounded at Kelly's ford, but returned to his company to
be again wounded, and to experience the additional misfortune of being
made a prisoner. He was exchanged soon after, but subsequently died from
the effect of his wound. Sergt. Grover had also previously been wounded
at Gettysburgh, where he had been promoted for gallantry and good
conduct. Clark recovered to reenlist upon the expiration of his term of
service, and served to the close of the war. Of the forty-seven men who
had been with the company since it crossed the Rapidan only ten were
left for duty--thirty-five had been killed or wounded, and two had been
captured unwounded. From this time to the 26th of July the company were
employed, with short intervals for rest, on the picket line, here and
there as occasion demanded their services, but without important
incident. Active operations having now continued so long in this
particular quarter as to afford room for hope that the rebels might be
caught napping on the north bank of the James, Gen. Grant determined to
send a large force in that direction to co-operate with the Army of the
James, hoping to take the enemy by surprise and, by a sudden dash,
perhaps to capture the capitol of the Confederacy before its real
defenders could get information of the danger. With this view he
detached the Second Corps and two divisions of cavalry to attempt it.

The troops marched at one o'clock on the afternoon of the twenty-sixth,
and at two o'clock on the morning of the twenty-seventh the corps
crossed the James by a ponton bridge at Jones' Landing. Passing rapidly
to the north, in rear of the lines held by the Tenth Corps (belonging to
the Army of the James), the troops faced to the west and were soon
confronting the enemy in position. The sharp shooters were deployed and
advanced in skirmishing order across an open and level tract of land
known locally as "Strawberry Plains."

The advancing line was heavily supported and drove the enemy steadily
until they were forced back into their works, when, with a grand dash,
sharp shooters, supports and all in one rushing mass, swept up to and
over the rebel works, capturing in the charge four guns and some seven
hundred prisoners. Notwithstanding this success, the enemy were found to
have been so heavily reenforced by troops from the Petersburgh
lines--who could be transferred by railroad, while the Union forces were
compelled to march--that the full object of the movement could not be
attained. The captured works were held, however, while the cavalry,
moving still further north, destroyed the railroads and bridges north of
the city, and returned to the vicinity of Deep Bottom, where the corps
returned by a night march to their former position in front of
Petersburgh, resting for a few hours by the way on the field of their
battle of the 18th of July. The regiment lay in camp until the 12th of
August, engaged in the usual routine of picket duly and sharp shooting,
but without unusually hard service. Indeed, what would once have been
called by them active employment was now enjoyed as a season of grateful
repose, so constantly had they been engaged in bloody battle since
crossing the Rapidan. On the 12th of August the bugle sounded the
general once more, and with knapsacks packed, blankets strapped,
haversacks and cartridge boxes filled, the one hundred and sixty men who
now represented what had once been the First Regiment of United States
Sharp Shooters, marched with their division towards City Point.

Rumors were rife as to their destination--some said Washington; some
said a southern seaport, while some maintained that the objective point
was Chicago, where they were wanted to maintain order during the coming
democratic convention. At City Point they were embarked on steam
transports and headed down the river. The wisest guessers were now
really puzzled, and the prophet who foretold Chicago had as many chances
in his favor as any of his fellows. A few miles down the river, and the
fleet of laden steamers came to an anchor, and lay quiet for some hours.
The rest, cleanliness, and cool, refreshing breezes from the river, were
very grateful to the tired soldiers so long accustomed to the dirt and
dust of the rifle pits.

Soon after dark the anchors were got up and the heads of the steamers
turned again up stream. Now all was plain, another secret movement was
planned, and at daylight on the morning of the fourteenth the troops
landed at the scene of their crossing on the 26th of July at Deep
Bottom.

Moving out toward the enemy severe skirmishing took place, but no
engagement of a general character occurred on that day. On the fifteenth
they were detached from the Second, and ordered to the Tenth Corps, now
commanded by their former division commander, Gen. Birney, and at his
especial request. Moving out at the head of the column they found
themselves in the early afternoon the extreme right of the army, and in
front of the enemy at a little stream known as Deep Run, or Four Mile
creek. Deploying under the personal direction of Gen. Birney they
advanced toward a wooded ridge on which they found the rebel skirmishers
in force, and evidently determined to stay. In the language of Capt.
Merriman, who must be accepted as authority, "It was the hardest
skirmish line to start that Co. F ever struck." But Co. F was rarely
refused when it demanded a right of way and was opposed by nothing but a
skirmish line; and on this occasion, as on many former ones, their
steady pressure and cool firing prevailed at last, and after more than
an hour the rebels yielded the ground. On the sixteenth more severe
fighting took place with serious loss to the regiment, but Co. F escaped
without loss--in fact there was hardly enough left of the company to
lose. Col. Craig, commanding the brigade to which they were attached,
was killed, and Capt. Andrews of Co. E, Capt. Aschmann of Co. A. and
Lieut. Tyler of Co. I were wounded. Thus this movement ended, as had the
former one, with no decisive result so far as the participants could
see. A few guns had been captured, a few rebels killed, and a
corresponding loss had been suffered by the federals; but who could tell
what important effect on the great field of action, extending from the
Mississippi to the Atlantic, this apparently abortive movement was
intended to have?

The men were beginning to understand that marches and battles were not
always for immediate effect at the point of contact; and so they marched
and fought as they were ordered; winning if they could, and accepting
defeat if they must, but with a growing confidence that the end was
near.

On the seventeenth they rejoined their proper corps and marched again
toward the James, leaving Lieut. Kinsman in charge of a party who, under
a flag of truce, was caring for the wounded.

The corps recrossed the James on the night of the nineteenth and resumed
a place in the lines of Petersburgh, relieving the Fifth Corps who moved
to the left to try to seize and hold the Weldon railroad, the attempt on
which had been abandoned since the battle on the Jerusalem plank road on
the 22d of July. On the twentieth, companies C and A, whose term of
service had expired, were discharged. In Co. C only five, and in Co. A.
only eleven of the original members were left to be mustered out. The
terrible exposures of three years of fighting had done their perfect
work on them, and the little band who answered to the roll call on that
day had little resemblance to the sturdy line that had raised their
hands as they took the oath only three years before. The regiment was on
the eve of dissolution, since other companies were soon to reach the end
of their enlistment and might soon be expected to leave the service.
Indeed, the company whose history we have followed so long, would be
entitled to its discharge on the 12th of September, now only
twenty-three days off.

The departure of Co. A was made more sad from the fact that they took
with them their wounded captain, who had lost a leg in the battle at
Deep Run on the fifteenth. Capt. Aschmann had been with the company from
its organization, and had participated with distinguished gallantry in
all the battles in which it had been engaged, escaping without a wound,
only to lose his leg in the last fight, and only five days before he
would be entitled to his honorable discharge. It seemed a hard fate. In
Co. F great excitement existed in consequence of the near approach of
the time when they, also, might honorably doff the green uniforms which
had so long been worn as a distinctive mark of their organization, and
turn their faces homeward, once more to become sober citizens in the
peaceful and prosperous North--that North which they had fought so long
and so hard to preserve in its peace and prosperity. Many and frequent
were the discussions around the camp fire as to whether it was better to
leave the service or to reenlist. It was now plain that the days of the
rebellion were numbered, and that the end was at hand. It was evident
to these veterans, however, that a few more desperate battles must be
fought before the end was finally reached. They ardently desired to be
present at the final surrender and share the triumph they had suffered
so much to assure. On the other hand they as ardently longed to resume
their places in those home circles which they had left to take up arms,
only that the country and the flag, which they so honored and loved,
might be preserved to their children, and their children's children,
forever. They felt that they had done all that duty required of them,
that they had honorably served their term, and that they might safely
leave it to those who had entered the service later to finish the work
which they had so far completed. They felt, also, that they should leave
behind them an honorable record, on which no stain rested, and second to
that of no body of men in the army.

There were left of the original one hundred and three men who had been
mustered into the United States service only twenty-five present and
absent. Of these, six, namely, David Clark, Jas. H. Guthrie, Sam'l J.
Williams, Stephen B. Flanders, John Kanaan and Lewis J. Allen, had
reenlisted. The remainder, nineteen in number, as follows, elected to
take their honorable discharge:

    C. D. Merriman,
    Spafford A. Wright,
    Curtiss P. Kimberly,
    W. C. Kent,
    Eugene Payne,
    Cassius Peck,
    Fitz Green Halleck,
    H. E. Kinsman,
    Edwin E. Robinson,
    Wm. McKeever,
    Almon D. Griffin,
    E. F. Stevens,
    Watson N. Sprague,
    Jas. M. Thompson,
    Thos. H. Turnbull,
    W. W. Cutting,
    David O. Daggett,
    Geo. H. Ellis,
    H. B. Wilder.

Of these, nine only were present with the company to be mustered out.
The remaining six were absent, sick or wounded, or on detached service.

The few remaining days were destined, however, to be full of excitement
and danger. It seemed to the men that their division commander, aware of
the fact that he was soon to lose them, was determined to use them to
the best advantage while he had them. They were kept constantly engaged
during the hours of daylight, skirmishing and engaged in the rifle pits.
On the 21st of August they drove the rebels from a rifle pit in their
front, capturing forty prisoners, just four times as many as there were
men in their own ranks. From this date until September 10th they were
engaged every day on the picket line. On that day, with other companies,
they were ordered to occupy what had been, by consent, neutral ground
surrounding a well from which both parties had drawn water, and where
rebel and Unionist often met unarmed and exchanged gossip. It seemed a
pity to spoil so friendly an arrangement, but orders must be obeyed, and
soon after daylight the sharp shooters dashed out of their lines and
occupied the ground which they proceeded to fortify, capturing
eighty-five surprised, but not on the whole displeased, rebels.

The enemy did not relish being deprived of the opportunity of getting
water from this place, and on that day and the next made repeated
effort to repossess it, but without avail. Carlos E. Mead received his
second wound in repulsing one of these attempts. At last the day arrived
when they might claim to have fulfilled on their part the engagement
which they had entered into with Uncle Sam three years before, and on
the thirteenth the men present took their final discharge and bade
farewell to all the "Pomp and circumstance of glorious war." They were
destined, however, to have one more opportunity to show their skill even
on this last day of their service, for even while they were preparing
for their leave taking a sharp exchange of shots took place, in which
the departing Vermonters paid their last compliments to the enemy whom
they had so often fought, and during which A. W. Bemis, a recruit of
1862, was wounded. At last all was over; reluctantly turning in their
trusty rifles, to which they had become attached by long companionship
in many scenes of danger and death, they answered to the last roll call
and, bidding an affectionate adieu to their comrades who were to remain,
they turned their faces toward City Point and home.

The small remnant of the company kept up an organization under Sergt.
Cunningham, and was heavily engaged on the 27th of October in the battle
of Burgess Mill, which resulted from Grant's attempt on the South Side
railroad. The few men left fought with their accustomed gallantry,
losing Daniel E. Bessie and Charles Danforth, killed in action, and
Volney W. Jencks and Jay S. Percy, wounded and left on the field.

The little squad, now reduced to almost nothing, were again engaged on
the 1st of November, when they suffered the loss of still another
comrade, Friend Weeks, who was mortally wounded and died on the
seventeenth of the same month. On the 23d of December the few men left
of the once strong and gallant company were transferred to Co. E of the
Second Sharp Shooters, and Co. F ceased to exist as an organization.
With Co. E the men so transferred participated in the affair at
Hatcher's Run on the 15th of December, and at other points along the
line. On the 25th of February, 1865, the consolidated battalion of sharp
shooters being reduced to a mere skeleton, was broken up and its members
transferred to other regiments, the Vermonters being assigned to Co. G,
Fourth Vermont Volunteers, with which company they served until the
close of the war.

On the 16th of February, the division commander, Gen. De Trobriand,
under whom they had served for nearly two years, and who knew them
better, probably, than any general officer of the army, issued the
following complimentary order:

      HEADQUARTERS 3D DIV. 2D ARMY CORPS,
      February 16, 1865.

      GENERAL ORDER NO. 12.

      The United States Sharp Shooters, including the first and
      second consolidated battalions, being about to be broken up
      as a distinct organization in compliance with orders from
      the War Department, the brigadier-general commanding the
      division will not take leave of them without acknowledging
      their good and efficient service during about three years in
      the field. The United States Sharp Shooters leave behind
      them a glorious record in the Army of the Potomac since the
      first operations against Yorktown in 1862 up to Hatcher's
      Run, and few are the battles or engagements where they did
      not make their mark. The brigadier-general commanding, who
      had them under his command during most of the campaigns of
      1863 and 1864, would be the last to forget their brave deeds
      during that period, and he feels assured that in the
      different organizations to which they may belong severally,
      officers and men will show themselves worthy of their old
      reputation; with them the past will answer for the future.

      By command of Brig.-Gen. R. De Trobriand.

      W. K. DRIVER, _A. A. G._

It was a handsome compliment on the part of the commander, well deserved
and heartily bestowed. The history of Co. F would not be complete, or do
justice to the memories of the brave men who died in its ranks, or to
the gallant few yet living, without a record of the names of those who
so freely shed their blood, in the conflict for the Union.

In all thirty-two of its members died of wounds received in action, of
whom twenty-one were killed on the field while eleven died in the
hospital from the effects of their wounds. Their names are as follows:

    A. H. Cooper,
    Jay S. Percy,
    E. M. Hosmer,
    W. J. Domag,
    Jacob Lacoy,
    Joseph Hagan,
    Thos. H. Brown,
    Caspar B. Kent,
    Barney Leddy,
    Dan'l E. Bessie,
    W. F. Dawson,
    Jas. A. Read,
    M. W. Wilson,
    Alvin Babcock,
    Edw'd Lyman,
    Watson P. Morgan,
    Volney W. Jencks,
    Pat'k Murray,
    David W. French,
    Edw'd Trask,
    E. A. Giddings,
    Henry Mattocks,
    Jos. Bickford,
    Chas. B. Mead,
    Peter Lafflin,
    Chas. Danforth,
    B. W. Jordan,
    A. C. Cross,
    Jno. Bowen,
    Henry E. Barnum,
    Friend Weeks,
    William Wells.

The wounded who recovered and again reported for duty number forty-five.
The names are given here as second in honorable recollection only to
those who died on the field. The list will be found to contain the names
of several who were subsequently killed, or died of wounds received on
other fields:

    C. M. Jordan,
    Wm. McKeever,
    Spafford A. Wright,
    Dustin K. Bareau,
    Edward Lyman,
    J. E. Chase,
    John Quinlan,
    L. D. Grover (twice),
    A. W. Bemis,
    Sam'l Williams,
    C. W. Peck,
    Benjamin Billings,
    C. W. Seaton,
    W. C. Kent,
    Brigham Buswell,
    W. H. Blake,
    Barney Leddy,
    E. M. Hosmer,
    Jno. Monahan,
    Chas. B. Mead,
    Watson P. Morgan,
    A. J. Cross,
    Jno. C. Page,
    M. Cunningham (twice),
    H. E. Kinsman,
    Henry Mattocks,
    Amos A. Smith,
    Almon D. Griffin (twice),
    Silas Giddings,
    David Clark,
    Carlos E. Mead (twice),
    Geo. Woolly,
    Lewis J. Allen,
    E. H. Himes,
    Jacob S. Bailey (twice),
    H. J. Peck,
    Ai Brown,
    S. M. Butler,
    Edward Trask,
    Martin C. Laffie,
    W. H. Leach,
    Edw'd Jackson,
    Fitz Greene Halleck,
    Eugene Payne,
    Sherod Brown.

Thus out of a total of one hundred and seventy-seven men, including all
recruits actually mustered into the United States service (for it must
be remembered that thirteen of the one hundred and sixteen men who were
mustered by the state mustering officer at Randolph, and charged against
the company on the rolls, were discharged at Washington to reduce the
number to the legal requirement of one hundred and three officers and
men), thirty-two, or more than eighteen per cent, died of wounds; while
the killed and wounded taken together number seventy-seven, or
forty-three and one-half per cent of the whole.

The record shows the severe and dangerous nature of the service
performed by these men, and on it they may safely rest, certain that a
grateful country will honor their memories, even as it does those of
their comrades who fought in the ranks of other and larger
organizations.



CONCLUSION.

"You can have ten descriptions of a battle, or plans of a campaign,
sooner than one glimpse at the unthought of details of a soldier's
life."


The history of Co. F is finished, and is far from satisfactory to the
writer. Originally undertaken for the purpose of supplying the Hon. G.
G. Benedict, State Military Historian, with material for such a brief
record as he could afford room for in his history of the Vermont troops
in the war of the rebellion, it has grown far beyond what was intended
at the outset, and far beyond what would be proper for him to publish in
such a work as he is charged with. It should have been undertaken by
some other person than myself; by some one more intimately and longer
acquainted with the company in the field: by some one whose personal
recollection of the detail of its daily doings is more exact than mine
can possibly be; for the history of so small a portion of a great army
as a company is, should be a personal history of the men who composed
it. The record of a company is mainly made up of the every day scenes
and every day gossip about its company kitchen and its company street.
With these matters the writer does not profess to be, or to have been,
familiar.

The work has, therefore, become more of a description of campaigns and
of battles, and more a history of the regiment to which it was attached,
I fear, than of the company. Such as it is, however, its preparation has
been a labor of love, and it is published with the earnest hope that it
may serve at least to keep warm in the hearts of the survivors the
memories of those who marched with them in 1861, and whose graves mark
every battle field whereon the Army of the Potomac fought.

  WM. Y. W. R.



    +------------------------------------------------------+
    |             Transcriber's Note:                      |
    |                                                      |
    | Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the         |
    | original document have been preserved.               |
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    |  = sign denotes bold type                            |
    |                                                      |
    | Typographical errors corrected in the text:          |
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    | All instances of Spottsylvania changed               |
    |   to Spotsylvania                                    |
    | All instances of Rapahannock changed                 |
    |   to Rappahannock                                    |
    | Page    3  lands changed to land's                   |
    | Page    4  taget changed to target                   |
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