We Are Coming Father Abra'am The History of the 9th Vermont Volunteer Infantry 1862-1865. by Don Wickman. Illustrated, maps, footnotes, bibliography, appendices, index, 526 pp., 2005. Schroeder Publications, 131 Tanglewood Drive, Lynchburg, VA 24502, $45.00.
The Ninth Vermont Volunteer Infantry had a history radically different from any other regiment raised by the Green Mountain State during the Civil War. As shown by its organization and service, detailed in Dyer's Compendium, it was the only Vermont unit to serve in the Seventh, Eighteenth and Twenty-fourth Army Corps, the only one to be captured en mass and the only one to serve in North Carolina. At the beginning of its career it had the misfortune of losing its regimental colors; at the end of the war, it had the honor of being among the first Union troops to enter the shattered Confederate capital. In between these two events, despite months of enforced idleness awaiting exchange, able leaders managed to rebuild the shattered regiment into a finely tuned fighting unit, allowing its members to return at the end of the war, those that did return, the ability to speak proudly of their accomplishments.
Before the publication of the present volume, there have been few articles and only three volumes published even remotely related to the unit and its members, none of which come close to doing justice to the subject, so this history has been long anticipated.
"We Are Coming Father Abra'am" covers the main events in the regiment's career, from its recruitment in early July, 1862, until its final muster out in December, 1865. It provides a good deal of information on the regiment's major engagements at Harper's Ferry, Newport Barracks, Chaffin's Bluff or Farm, Fair Oaks and the Fall of Richmond, as well as a number of engagements of lesser significance at Blackwater, Edenton Road, Gloucester Court House, Nansemond, Suffolk, Redoubt Dutton and Winchester, Virginia and Bogue Sound, Gales Creek, Jacksonville, Swansboro and Young's Crossroads, North Carolina.
In addition, the author does an excellent job chronicling the regiment's time as a paroled, but not yet exchanged, unit in Illinois. It was not one conducive to good order and discipline. According to one officer, "if we stay here this winter, our Reg will be near worthless in the Spring, some deserting, some dying, and the rest demoralized by idleness and rum." Mr. Wickman's narrative documents the broad variety of duties the regiment was assigned, problems arising from guarding Confederate prisoners, inter-regimental rivalries, etc. Of special note is his detailed exposition of the politics of promotion among the regiment's officers.
His inclusion of a large number of heretofore unpublished photographs, maps and other illustrations from both private collections and public archives is also welcome. The maps are especially helpful in helping to understand the narratives of several battles. Also, as evidenced by his detailed bibliography, Mr. Wickman depended heavily on significant primary sources and included a substantial number of footnotes documenting his research, a growing and very welcome trend in modern historiography on Vermont Civil War topics.
The appendices contain an excellent history of the regiment's colors, the politics surrounding the awarding of the Medal of Honor to three officers for action at Newport Barracks on February 2, 1864, a statistical summary of the regiment's career, a complete, but barebones regimental roster and a recounting of the serendipitous capture of the former Quartermaster of the infamous Andersonville Prison by members of the regiment in the months following the end of the war.
The work, unfortunately, is marred by a poor editing job.
Tom Ledoux is the creator and webmaster of the Vermont in the Civil War web project, VermontCivilWar.org. He has an M.A. in military studies (Civil War studies) from American Military University.