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13th Vermont Infantry
Biographical and Historical of Co. B
Thirteenth Regiment Vermont Volunteers
Civil War 1861-1865
Dedicated in scared remembrance of First Lieut. Nathaniel Jones, Jr.,
who died at Washington, D. C., Oct. 30th, 1862. The first life
of the regiment offered up on the alter (sic) of country
for the preservation of the Union.
Company B or the Mad River Valley Company as it was often called was recruited from the towns of Warren, Waitsfield, Fayston, Moretown, Duxbury and Middlesex. Captain O. C. Wilder of Waitsfield had a large share in the work of raising the company especially in Waitsfield, although he was ably assisted in his own town by comrade Z. H. Mcallister and by others in the adjoining towns. Enlistments began about the 15th day of August, 1862, and later the recruits were ordered to meet at Waitsfield on the 25th day of August to organize a company when it appeared that about 115 had already enlisted. Of course some of these did not pass inspection, but we still had a few more than the maximum number after the second inspection at Brattleboro, and the surplus were mostly transferred to Company H. The Company made unanimous choice of Orcas C. Wilder as captain and also chose Nathaniel Jones, Jr., as first Lieut. and Clesson R. McElroy as second lieutenant. The news of the organization of this company was carried by relays of horses to Northfield, the nearest telegraph station, and thence by telegraph to Adjt. Gen. P. T. Washburne, and the reply came that this company was the first in the state to report its organization under the call of the President for 300,000 nine months men. The company at once began to drill under the charge of Captain Wilder, but on the 3rd day of September, there came to us as drill master, Mr. Shattuck, a graduate of Norwich University. The company was exceedingly fortunate in having for an instructor a man so well versed in the tactics, and also one who speedily gained the good will of the boys and so it came to pass that the change from raw recruits to well drilled soldiers was very rapid. The company drilled at Waitsfield till the 8th of September when it was ordered to Moretown where the drill was continued till we left for Brattleboro on the last day of September. We had supposed that as the first company to organize we should rank as Company A, but we found that the Burlington Company was an old organization and hence we became Company B. This gave the company its place on the extreme left of the regiment, a place that had some advantages, but we soon learned that upon a march over difficult roads especially in the night it was a very fatiguing position to occupy.
The company was quartered at Brattleboro in a long barrack just finished, and the first night passed there was not a comfortable one for beginners at soldiering. The night was chilly and there was no straw in the bunks, but soon things were put in better shape. From this time the history of the company is merged in the history of the regiment and there is little that need be told about it separately. On October 29th, our first Lieutenant Nathaniel Jones, Jr., died at Washington. This was the first death in the company, and I think in the regiment. Soon after this Lieutenant C. R. McElroy was promoted to first Lieutenant and Sergeant Edwin F. Palmer was commissioned second Lieutenant.
During the months of December, 1862 and January, 1863, while the regiment was encamped near Fairfax Court House there was a good deal of sickness in the company. Almost all were afflicted with severe colds and there were several cases of fever, three of which terminated fatally. Oscar C. Reed died December 24th. Carlos W. Turner, our boy fifer January 4th, and John C. Canerday, January 20th. On December 12th, Levi Nelson went to general hospital and on January 6th, M. Franklin Atkins, Jerome Fisk, Horace Trask, Myron M. Davis, James M. Thayer and Wm. M. Turner went to general hospital. None of these returned to the company and all were discharged within a few weeks. Doubtless this sickness was largely attributable to exposure to that terrible storm at the time the regiment came back from Union Mills and also to the fact that we were without tents for some days after we came to Fairfax Court House.
Some time in February, while the regiment was at Wolf Run Shoals, an epidemic of measles broke out in the regiment and for some reason Company B seemed to suffer much more from it than any other company. There were over 40 cases in the company, and as many as 25 were off duty at one time. This made the details for guard and picket duty come around rather often for those who were well, but I think they bore it cheerfully,and were happy in the thought that their time to have the measles came years before. Although there was no death from the immediate effects of this disease there were several cases of serious relapse and other diseases set in, some of which had a fatal ending. Charles D. Billings and Cyron G. Thayer died the same day, May 19th., and Loren B. Reed, May 30th. Several cases of severe sickness following measles will be noted in individual records. During the spring several more were sent to general hospital, and Stedman D. Moulton was discharged for disability.
Also when we began that long march all not able to do duty were sent to hospital and this included from Company B, Harvey M. Waite, Eaton A. Heath, Wm. McDonnell and Levi W. Seaver. When we reached Gettysburg the company numbered 71 muskets and 3 commissioned officers. the casualties on that bloody field were James H. Wilson, killed. Corporal John Dolph, color guard severely wounded in foot; Corporal Lester K. Dow, wounded in foot by spent shell; Corporal Otis G. Miles, slightly wounded; Corporal D. S. Stoddard, slightly wounded; Private Albert H. Chase, severely wounded in head; Private Dexter Parker, severely wounded in hand; Private Edward A. Fisk, wounded in knee by shell; Private Samuel J. Dana, slightly wounded. While only one member of this company was killed at Gettysburg, at least 3 died very soon after the company was mustered out as a direct result of hardship encountered in that last march and the battle. These were Sergeant Aretas Thayer, Albert D. Barnard and John Baird, and it is thought that the wound received by Albert H. Chase was the ultimate cause of his death many years after.
In General Stannard's report made soon after the battle he speaks of the charge of the right wing of the 13th Regiment under Colonel Randall, on the second day of the fight, and that portion of the regiment under charge of Lieutenant Colonel Munson that day he calls the left wing, but the members of Company B know very well that they were in the charge under Colonel Randall, although the company was on the extreme left of the regiment. The division of the regiment between the two commands was made in this manner, viz: The regiment lay in division of two companies each, and when Colonel Munson was ordered to support a battery with a part of the regiment, he was given the second, fourth and half of the fifth division, and this left the first, third and half of the fifth division under Colonel Randall, and Company B was that half division and thus had the honor to be in that famous charge.
Probably no company from Vermont ever started for the front with greater pride in its organization than was possessed by the members of Company B. To begin with, the average age of the "boys" was greater than that of the companies that had been previously recruited in this vicinity. While there was a good number that had not reached their majority, and some who were very young, there were many who were older. These had been intensely interested in the progress of the war for the Union, and had felt strong desires to have a part in the great work, but it had hardly seemed possible for them to leave families, business and all ties that bound them at home, to be gone for a term of years, and they hoped that it would not be necessary for them to make such a sacrifice, but when the call came for 300,000 nine months' men they felt that it was a personal call, and immediately began to make arrangements accordingly.
At a reunion of the old company some years ago a comrade spoke substantially as follows: "We verily thought that our company was the best one that ever went out from these parts. We thought that there was material enough in it to furnish good officers for at least half a dozen companies, but reflected that it was better to be high private in such a company than sergeant in most companies. Also we thought that when the army was recruited by the addition of our company there ought to be no trouble for it to put down the Rebellion. After meeting the rest of the regiment at Brattleboro we found, however, that there were at least nine other companies who held the same opinion of themselves, but even then we could not quite give up the idea that the other companies of the regiment would at length be compelled to acknowledge our superiority and so it proved in one respect, at least. One evening while we were at Wolf Run Shoals as I was lying half sick in my tent, which was at the end of the company street, I heard some boys from another company passing by, and as they came against our company I heard one of them exclaim: -- "This is the biggest company for deviltry there is in the regiment." I knew it would come somehow but was not just sure how it would be."
As a matter of face, when we reached the front and sometimes saw whole days occupied by the passage of cavalry, artillery or baggage wagons by a given point and learned that what we saw was, after all, only a very small part of even the army of the Potomac -- we began to have some faint conception of the immensity of the army and also to see what an infinitesimal part of the mighty work there was to do, could be performed by one of the companies, however good it might be. But after the battle of Gettysburg, and our return home, some of our old time spirit began to come back to us, only it was expanded so as to include the whole regiment, and we joined with the other companies in saying: "Was not Gettysburg the turning battle of the War," And "Was not our regiment on hand in the right place at the right time to save the day twice in the course of that battle?" What would have been the result if we had not been on hand at those critical moments, we cannot say. Help might have come from some other source, but this we know. It was given to us through the providence of God to perform a very important part in that great battle, and that we were there and did our duty.
EDWARD A. FISK.
Source: Sturtevant, Ralph Orson. "Pictorial History: Thirteenth Vermont Volunteers, War of 1861-1865." Privately published, 1910.