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Adjutant and Inspector General Reports
XI. REPORT OF COL. JOHN B. MEAD, EIGHTH REGIMENT VERMONT VOLUNTEERS.
Randolph, September 10th, 1865.
Peter T. Washburn,
Adjutant and Inspector General.
Sir--I have the honor to herewith forward a history of the 8th Regiment, from the time I assumed command of it, up to the date of its muster-out of service. My record commences with January, 1865, which found the regiment at Summit Point, Va., to which place it came on the 21st of December previous. Here it remained through the winter, performing heavy guard and picket duty on the line of the railroad from Charles Town to Winchester, building blockhouses and other means of defense, for the protection of the road from depredations by guerrillas. On the 20th of February, a detachment of the regiment, while cutting wood, were attacked by guerrillas, and eleven men captured; fortunately for them, however, they were taken no farther south than Richmond, were soon paroled, and rejoined the regiment.
The regiment, at this place, received at different times quite a generous accession of recruits, which, with but few exceptions, were good men. February 27th, ninety-four joined us, under Major Franklin; March 5th, thirty-five more; thus encouraging us with evidence that the regiment was not forgotten by the State it delighted to honor. No time was lost in perfecting these men in the drill and thus fitting the regiment for the field; and on the 4th of April the regiment, together with the rest of the troops in the vicinity, were put upon the march, under Gen. Hancock, up the Shenandoah Valley. April 6th, forty-one more recruits joined the regiment from the New Haven rendezvous under Major Pollard. The regimen with the army, moved no farther up the Valley than to near Newtown, and on the 11th of April marched back to the vicinity of Summit Point. On the 14th of April the fourth and last detachment of recruits, twenty-one in number, joined us, and were at once placed in the school of the soldier.
On the 21st of April the regiment took cars for Washington, and arriving, encamped near Fort Stevens. Here it performed various kinds of duty until the close of the month of May,--for a while, during the trial of the assassins at Washington, doing picket duty in front of the line of forts, and as a reserve near the City Arsenal, where were confined the assassins. About eighty men were detached and put to duty in the Quartermaster's department at Washington.
The regiment took part, in the meantime, in several parades and reviews, receiving from superiors high commendations for its interest and good military appearance.
Thus were we employed until the 1st of June, when orders were issued for Dwight's Division, to which we belonged, to embark on board transports for Savannah, Ga. His Excellency, Gov. Smith, paid the regiment a visit about this time, and finding that the officers and men very much preferred being transferred to the old Vermont Brigade, than to go again to a southern clime, interested himself at once in our behalf and promised to use all his influence to bring about the desired change. Orders, however, soon came for the regiment to be on the move, and it at once embarked on ocean steamers, at Alexandria, bound for Savannah. About two hours before the expedition was to sail, through the influence of Gov. Smith, and the energy and perseverance of Col. Frank F. Holbrook, State commissioner, orders reached us from Gen. Grant to disembark and report to Gen. Meade, for assignment to a position in the Vermont Brigade. And here I desire, in behalf of the officers and men of the regiment, to express my thanks to Gov. Smith and Col. Holbrook for their kind interposition and for being instrumental in bringing about so desirable a change in its destination.
The regiment subsequently reported to Gen. L. A. Grant, and remained in service until the 28th of June, performing the usual routine of duty incident to camp, when it was duly mustered out of service and put enroute for Burlington, Vt., under command of Lieut. Col. A. B. Franklin,--arriving on the 2nd of July,--where it was paid upon the 10th and at once disbanded.
I trust it may not be considered out of place, in closing this history, to add my testimonial to the general high character and ore than ordinary abilities of the officers and men, which composed the 8th regiment. I deem it but justice due the citizen soldiery of the Green Mountain State. Its first commander, possessing in an eminent degree those characteristics which historians have dwelt upon in a Stark or an Allen, and which make the true soldier, was enabled in a great measure to imbue those under his command with the same spirit and zeal. This, together with the fact that the material of the 8th regiment was made from the best bone and sinew, brain and tissue, that Vermont supplied,--its members representing nearly all of the trade and professions in life,--made it no very difficult task for Col. Thomas to find men in his regiment, that would be equal to almost any emergency that might arise, as he, with a heart full of love for his country and hatred to rebels, went forth to battle rebellion and the enervating influence of a southern clime.
The demand for men of genius and moral worth to fill various places of importance and trust, both in the military and civil departments at New Orleans, were perhaps equal to the supply;yet before eighteen months of service had passed away, Col. Thomas found that nearly sixty non-commissioned officers and privates of his regiment had been discharged to fill as many positions, from that of running and conducting printing presses,engines, and railroads, to the editing of newspapers and superintending of Military and Fire Alarm Telegraphs, as well as holding of commissions in several other regiments, both white and colored. To speak of its officers and men by detail would be but to make invidious comparisons; suffice it to say that, with but few exceptions, they were worthy sons of a worthy State. And I hope I may not be charged with egotism when I say, the the 8th regiment was not excelled by any other in service in its devotion to the cause for which it was raised, in its readiness and willingness to meet all necessary exposure and danger incident to a soldier's life, from the yielding to the slow and insidious workings of a disease peculiar to camp, to the facing the enemy's shot and shell. It was under fire not less than sixty different days, and never knew retreat, with our without orders, save on the morning of the 19th of October, 1864, at Cedar Creek, when a detachment of it was almost entirely surrounded by an overwhelming force of the enemy, and longer resistance would have resulted in its entire death and capture.
Its discipline was always good and the conduct of its men such as to invariably draw forth regrets from the people contiguous to its camp at its removal. It was an honor to be a member of the 8th Vt. regiment, and let future and abler pens than mine do ample justice to Vermont's noblest sons.
I have the honor to be Sir, Very respectfully your obd't serv't, JOHN B. MEAD, Late Colonel 8th Vermont Regiment.