Cedar Creek, VA
19 October 1864
The Burlington Free Press
November 25, 1864
THE FIRST VERMONT BRIGADE
Battle of the 19th of October
HEADQUARTERS VERMONT BRIGADE,
STRASBURG, Va., Oct, 24th, 1864
Peter T. Washburn, Adjt & Insp. Gen.
Sir:-I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by this Brigade in the battle of the 10th instant, near Middletown, Va.:
At the time of the enemy's attack on the 8th Corps, this Division was encamped on the extreme right of the army, there being only on Brigade on the right of this. The Division moved by the left flank and formed on the extreme left of the army near Middletown, and checked the enemy in his attempt to throw his right around the left and rear of our army.
In this new formation there was only one Brigade on the left of this. Before the troops could be got into the proper position, I threw forward Major Walker's battalion of the 11th Regiment, and the 5th and 6th Regiments, all under command of Major Johnson of the 2d Regiment, who deployed them as skirmishers and drove the rebel skirmishers from a skirt of woods between our lines and the pike leading from Cedar Creek to Middletown. The Brigade then advanced in common with the Division, throwing forward its left to near Middletown.
About this time the troops on the right gave way, and the enemy threatened our flank and rear. Agreeably to orders we fell back a short distance and took position on a crest commanding a part of the town and the ravine between us and the pike. This Brigade, held the centre of the Division. The first Brigade, Colonel Warner, held the right, and the 3d Brigade, General Bidwell, held the left.
The enemy advanced in heavy force, drove in our skirmishers and attacked the line of battle, and met with a severe repulse. This attack fell mainly upon this brigade. As soon as the enemy fell back I threw forward another skirmish line to follow closely, still holding the main force upon the crest.
At this point of time, I was informed by Gen. Getty that he had assumed the command of the Corps, and that I was in command of the Division, whereupon I turned over the command of the Brigade to Lieut. Col. Tracy, 2d Vt. Vols., he being the ranking officer present, Col. Foster at that time being in command of the pickets on the right, as Corps Officer of the Day.
The enemy rallied again, drove in our skirmishers, and made a vigorous assault upon our lines, and were again repulsed with great slaughter. The attack fell the heaviest upon the right of Bidwell's and the left of this Brigade, but all parts of the line were under the heavy fire of both musketry and artillery.
About this time, I was informed that there were none of our troops on the right, and that the enemy held the woods on the immediate right of Warner's Brigade, and I received orders from Gen. Getty, commanding the Corps, to draw back the division unless I saw some good reason for holding the position longer. Almost at the same instant the rebels rushed through the woods and opened a galling fire upon the flank and rear of Warner's Brigade, which necessarily fell back, and the order was immediately given to this Brigade.
Having retired about half a mile, the Division again halted and remained about half an hour. The enemy did not follow closely, but kept up an incessant artillery fire. It was however found that the troops on our right had all fallen back, and the position being an exposed one, the 2d Vermont, under Captain Wales, was deployed as skirmishers, and left to hold the line, with the 3d Vermont in support, while the balance of the command fell back a short distance further, and took up a new position.
In this last position, this Brigade, as before, held the center of the Division, the 3d Brigade being on the left; and the left of that Brigade rested on the pike just in the rear of Middlebury. Other troops were collected and formed on the right of this Division, and preparations for a final stand were made.
It was at this crisis that General Sheridan arrived upon the field. He rode rapidly down the pike, turned to the right, and passing between this and the third Brigade, reined up in front of this Brigade and inquired: “What troops are these?” “The Sixth Corps,” – “The Vermont Brigade!” – was shouted almost simultaneously from the ranks. “We are all right,” exclaimed the General, and swinging his hat over his head, he rapidly rode to the right amid the exultant shouts of the men.
Upon the return of Gen. Sheridan, Gen. Wright resumed the command of the “Corps, Gen. Getty the Division, and I returned to the command of the Brigade.
Quiet reigned for a time, but the enemy having re-formed made an attack upon the lines to our right. I was ordered with the Brigade from the line on the left to the point of attack. The enemy was repulsed, but another attack being expected, the Brigade remained a short time in support of the right of the 7th and the left of the 19th corps. The Brigade subsequently moved back towards the left, and by direction of General Sheridan, was held in reserve until our army assumed the offensive, when we took our former position on the left near the pike.
An attack was ordered, and the Brigade moved forward under a heavy fire and gained an advanced position. The first and third Brigades advanced at the same time on the right and left respectively, and both went back under the enemy's galling fire. This Brigade took its position behind a stone wall and refused to retire another inch, and opened a terrible fire upon the enemy in front. Far in advance of all other troops, the Vermont Brigade held its position, keeping up an incessant and rapid fire upon the enemy. It was not long before the enemy began to give way, and a movement upon the right being apparent, the Brigade bounded forward over the wall and down through an open ravine, and took position behind another stone wall from which the enemy had just been driven. The enemy made another stand, and the Brigade poured into his shattered lines a terrible fire of musketry. The third Brigade, having re-formed, came down and took position on our left. The enemy gave way and another advance was ordered—an advance from which there was no halting until the enemy had been driven across Cedar Creek and the Cavalry had taken up the pursuit. It was the last victorious charge, and the crowning victory of the day. The distance from the point of attack to Cedar Creek was about three miles, and nearly all of it an open country. The enemy's lines were entirely broken and went back in great haste and confusion. Our men followed closely upon the double quick, and soon the battle was with the swift alone. The men rushed forward in hot pursuit, losing all organization; those who could move the fastest were found to the front.
As we neared Cedar Creek, two regiments of Cavalry, one of which was the First Vermont -- passed us and completed the work of the day. After the cavalry passed, the infantry halted and reorganized. And in this reorganization, the Vermont Brigade was found in the advance of all the other troops except the cavalry which had just passed.
It was now dark, and the Regiments, tired but victorious, marched back and encamped on the very spot they left in the morning.
The loss of the Brigade, according to the latest revision of the list, was 33 killed, 210 wounded and 41 missing - 284 in all. A list of casualties has already been forwarded.
Among the killed I regret to name Lieut. O.R. Lee, 11th Vt., a promising and gallant officer.
Among those who received honorable wounds were Capt. George H. Amidon, 4th Vt. And Lieut. Henry C. Baxter of the staff; also Lt. Col. Amasa S. Tracy, 2d VT., Capts. W.H. Hubbard, 3d Vt., J.P. Aikens, 4th Vt., Thomas Kavaney, 5th Vt., Edward R. Kinney and Thomas J. Kennedy, 6th Vt., and Edward P. Lee, 11th Vt.; Lieuts. A.W. Ferry, 2d Vt., O.W. Lyon, 3d Vt. And G. O. French, 11th Vermont.
I desire to commend for their good conduct the Regimental Commanders and the officers and men in their respective commands.
Captain Wales was in command of the 2d Regiment while Col. Tracy was in command of the Brigade and after he was wounded -- Maj. Floyd was in command of the 3d, and while Colonel Foster was absent, was in command of the 3d and 4th Regiments. Colonel Foster, upon joining the Brigade took command of the left of the line. Major Johnson of the 2d was in command of the 5th, Captain Kenney was in command of the 6th, and after he was wounded, Capt Sperry took command. Lt. Colonel Hundson was in command of the 11th, and Major Walker and Capt. Templeton commanded battalions. Lt. Col. Tracy is deserving of especial mention as commander of the Brigade during a portion of the severest part of the battle.
I desire also to make a special mention of Major (Lieut Colonel?) H.W. Floyd, 3d Vt. Commanding Regiment, and my two Aids-de-Camp, Lieut George H. Sessions, 5th Vt. and Lieut. Henry O. Baxter, 11th Vt., for their truly conspicuous and gallant conduct.
I remain, General,
Your obedient servant,
Brig. General Com'd'g.
Submitted by: Denis & Karen Jaquish.