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14th Vermont Infantry

Life In Camp (J. C. Williams)

Chapter XI

A long March commenced. -- At Union Mills. -- Centreville. -- Guilford Station. -- Cross the Potomac. -- Cross the Monocacy. -- Hooker succeeded by Meade. -- Mead's Army in motion. -- First Day's Fight at Gettysburg. -- The great Battle fought. -- The Second Vermont Brigade. -- July 4. -- Effects of a Battle. A Glorious Union Victory.

June 24
Ten days' rations have been procured, and orders are received for the regiment to report at Union Mills to-morrow at ten o'clock in the forenoon. We now belong to the Army of the Potomac.

June 25
The line was formed this morning at seven o'clock, in heavy marching order, each man being supplied with three days' rations in his haversack, and having seven days' rations aboard the supply-train.

We arrived at Union Mills at the appointed hour, when orders were issued for the men to leave all unnecessary accouterments, such as knapsacks, clothing, etc., which would be sent to Alexandria. Gen. Stannard soon had this order modified, ordering the men to retain their knapsacks.

At two o'clock in the afternoon, the brigade was all there, and at three o'clock we marched, Gen. Stannard having had orders to report his brigade to Gen. Reynolds, commander of the 1st Army Corps, at Guilford Station, on the Loudon and Hampshire Railroad. Arrived at Centreville about five o'clock in the afternoon, and encamped in the form of a hollow square, two miles beyond, for the night, making about fourteen miles we had marched during the day. It rains quite hard to-night.

June 26
Reveille was sounded at five o'clock this morning, and we were to march half an hour later, but having to wait until the 3d and 6th Corps, together with the baggage train, passed, we could not start until eight o'clock. Our baggage train was sent ahead, but in consequence of the roads being bad our progress was very slow. The rain had caused the roads to be somewhat muddy, but the weather has been cool to-day and favorable for the march.

We passed the place called the Frying Pan about five o'clock in the afternoon, which place has been the scene of a great many cavalry skirmishes during this war, and is a favorable retreat for guerrilla bands. We arrived at Herndon, four miles below Guildford, at seven o'clock, where we have camped for the night. The 3d and 6th Corps have passed on to Drainsville.

June 27
Reveille was sounded at three o'clock this morning, and at five we were ordered forward, keeping the line of railroad for Guilford, at which place we arrived about six o'clock. On arriving there, it was ascertained that the 1st Corps, to which we now belong, had left two days before, and he brigade was again ordered forward. We arrived at Broad run at ten o'clock in the forenoon, where we intersected the 3d and 6th Corps, they having been ordered forward from Drainsville. The brigade was detained there some two hours in waiting for baggage train to pass, after which the column was again put in motion. We arrived at Edwards Ferry at three o'clock in the afternoon, and crossed over to the Maryland side of the Potomac on pontoon bridges. This place was the headquarters of Gen. Sedgwick, commander of the 6th Corps. To-night we have gone into camp near Poolsville.

June 28
Marched again this morning at seven o'clock; crossed the Monocacy river near its mouth about non, and halted for rest. At one o'clock the march was resumed. Passed Adamsville, on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, about six o'clock in the evening, and have gone into camp for the night two miles beyond.

June 29
The march was resumed at seven o'clock this morning, and it has rained all day. We arrived at Frederick city about noon, near which place the enemy's cavalry had been seen on Saturday. Here further orders were received, and it was ascertained that the whole army was moving towards Emmitsburg. Halted about three hours at Frederick, when we were again ordered forward. Have gone into camp to-night near Creagerstown. I learn to-night that Hooker has been relieved from the command of the army, and Major Gen. Meade appointed in his place.

June 30
The column was again put in motion this morning at seven o'clock. We halted for rest at noon near Mechanicstown. Marching again at one o'clock, we arrived at Emmitsburg at six, where we have gone into camp for the night. We are now only two miles from the Pennsylvania line, and one hundred and twenty miles from Wolf Run shoals, which distance we have marched in six days. The 1st, 3d and 11th Corps are now concentrated here. The enemy's cavalry is reported to be near Gettysburg, ten miles distant, and Lee is supposed to be advancing upon Harrisburg. A collision must soon take place.

July 1
Meade's army is again in motion this morning -- the 1st Corps, under Reynolds, taking the lead. Our brigade now belongs to the 3d Division, 1st army Corps, though for some reason we did not march with the division this morning, but remained about three hours' march in the rear; consequently we have not participated in to-day's fight.

We reached the scene of conflict about four o'clock in the afternoon, having been pressed forward with all possible speed for the last six miles, being in hearing of the battle. It was near eight o'clock before the brigade was in position, where we now are ready to participate in the battle which will doubtless be renewed in the morning.

I will here relate the particulars of to-day's fight: Gen. Reynolds on reaching Gettysburg found our cavalry engaged with the enemy on the Cashtown road, and immediately deployed the advanced division of his Corps, and the 11th Corps was to advance to his support. The enemy had been driven back, with the loss of a large number of prisoners, when Gen. Reynolds fell mortally wounded. The command then devolved upon Gen. Howard, and, the enemy being reinforced, he was obliged to withdraw his forces to the south side of Gettysburg, where they are now in position. Gen. Meade has not yet arrived.

July 2
Gen. Doubleday is now in command of the 1st Corps, and has denominated this the "flying brigade, " in consequence of the miraculous locomotion we have accomplished, and the forced march we have so nobly endured. After having marched for seven consecutive days, up to the hips in mud and water, with the rays of al almost vertical sun beating down upon our heads, and dropping down at the conclusion of each day's march on the water-soaked earth, with no covering to shelter us from the drenching rain, we are not well prepared for battle.

We have been reinforced by the 3d and 12th Corps. Gen. Meade arrived during the night, and has posted his troops in line of battle. The enemy's troops are now massed on a ridge about a mile from the one we occupy, and directly in front.

Noon. The firing from the artillery has been desultory all the morning, but no reply from the enemy.

Six o'clock in the evening. A severe engagement was brought on this afternoon by a furious attack of the enemy upon the 2d and 3d Corps, who, but for the timely arrival of the 5th Corps, would have been annihilated.

The 2d Vermont Brigade, with the exception of the 12th and 15th (these regiments having been detailed to guard the wagon train in the rear), has taken an important part in the engagement. Shortly after the battle opened, the left wing of the 13th Regiment was ordered forward as support to a battery, and a company of the 16th was sent out as a support to the skirmishers in front. In stationing them, Capt. A. G. Foster, A.I.G. on Gen. Stannard's Staff, was badly wounded.

Again, about half pas six in the afternoon, our line on the left center having become broken by a charge of the enemy, the brigade was ordered forward. The right wing of the 13th, under the command of Col. Randall, was in the advance, and on reaching the breach in the line was granted the privilege of making the effort to recapture the guns of Co. C, Regular Battery, which had just been captured by the enemy. This was accomplished by a charge of the five companies of the 13th, and in which charge Col. Randall had his horse shot from under him. Four guns of the battery were retaken, and two rebel field pieces with about eighty prisoners were captured in this charge.

The front line was thus re-established and is now held by this brigade. The assault on the left has bee gallantly repelled, the rebels retiring in confusion and disorder.

Eight o'clock in the afternoon. Another assault has been made on the right, but through the gallantry of the 11th Corps, the enemy was repulsed. Thus ends the battle of the second day.

July 3
The rebel Gen. Barksdale was brought into our lines during the night, mortally wounded. He was carried to a hospital, but soon expired. His hat and gloves are now in possession of Col. Nichols of the 14th.

Nine o'clock in the forenoon. The battle commenced very early this morning, a brisk fire being opened from the enemy's guns, and after a severe contest of about two hours a part of our line was regained, which had been abandoned yesterday to maintain other positions.

The 2d Vermont Brigade still remains in the front line, which was re-established yesterday. The enemy still holds his position, and fights desperately.

This is to be the eventful day. Here are two mighty armies, ready at the word of command to rush forward to mortal strife, each determined to maintain its cause. But how many brave men will, ere another day rolls around, be laid beneath the sod.

The operations of this day will doubtless decide the battle, and generals are to win imperishable renown. The nation's honor is being vindicated, and the fate of America is to be decided. The old Army of the Potomac is here ready to resist the onslaught of treason, and unless this desperate act of the rebels is checked the country is lost.

Six o'clock in the afternoon. The enemy opened a brisk fire of artillery from one hundred and twenty-five guns, on our left and center, about one o'clock, and this was shortly followed by an attack of infantry. This engagement lasted about five hours, raging at intervals upon our right, left, and center, and was the heaviest artillery fighting of the war. At the time of noting this the enemy is retiring, defeated, from the field, the assault upon our left resulting a great loss to them. Thus the battle for another day is ended -- and the questions naturally arrive, will be battle be resumed in the morning, and will the enemy attempt another assault upon our lines?

The 2d brigade has held the most important position in the whole line, -- and its movements, directed by Gen. Stannard have doubtless saved the day. The brigade has held the front line, in the center position, for about twenty-four hours, and during the spirited engagement of this afternoon a vigorous attack was made upon our position, by an overwhelming force of seventeen thousand rebels, whose charge was gallantly repelled by this brigade alone. The men were subjected some two hours to the severest cannonade of the battle, from one hundred and forty guns. The charge of the enemy was met with a warm reception by the Vermont boys. A charge was made upon the right of the brigade by a heavy infantry force, when a destructive fire from the 13th and 16th compelled a large share of the enemy to surrender prisoners of war. Another charge was made on our left, but the rebel force being badly cut to pieces by the fire of the 14th, a large portion were scooped into our lines.

The regimental colors of the 2d Florida and 8th Virginia regiments, and the battle flag of another rebel regiment, were taken by the 16th. These movements of the brigade were performed in the open field, under a heavy fire of shell, grape and musketry, and were executed with the promptness of veteran troops.

In the engagement of to-day, Orderly Sergeant Henry Vaughan, Private Geo. Baker, Co. B, were killed, and Orderly Sergeant Elisha F. Sweat, Co. K, 14th Regiment, who went from my town, was badly wounded in the head -- afterwards died.

The remains of these martyrs to the cause of freedom were brought home in October, and interred among their kindred.

July 4
The battle is not renewed with much vigor this morning. Our sharpshooters now occupy the town, and the enemy has abandoned his position on our right, while he occupies apparently a new line in front of our left. Lee has undoubtedly found it useless to attempt a further advance, and doubtless intends a retreat, or he would renew the battle.

Have been at the hospital to-day, helping take care of the wounded. And O God! what horrible scenes I have witnessed. Having been among two or three thousand wounded and dying men al day, I have had a chance to see the terrible effects of a battle. Our loss, as well as the enemy's, has been severe.

Six o'clock in the evening. It has been ascertained that the enemy ha sin reality commenced a retreat. The engagement of yesterday terminated the battle, and thus ended another sanguinary contest, and one of the best fought battles of the war. To Gen. Meade belongs the honor of winning for the country a glorious victory.

The following order has been issued:

                    Headquarters 3d Div., 1st A.C., 
                              July 4, 1863.

General Order No. _____. The Major General
commanding the division desires to return his thanks
to the Vermont 2d Brigade, the 151st Regiment
Pennsylvania Volunteers, and the 20th Regiment
New York State Militia, for their gallant conduct in
resisting, in the front line, the main attack of the
enemy upon this position, after sustaining a terrific
fire from seventy-five to one hundred pieces of artil-
lery. He congratulates them upon contributing so
essentially to the glorious, and it is to be hoped
decisive victory of yesterday.

     By command of Maj. Gen. Doubleday.
     (Signed)  EDWARD C. BAIRD, 
               Capt. And Ass't Adjutant Gen.

     Headquarters 3d Brigade, 3d Div., 1st A.C., 
          Gettysburg, Penn., July 4, 1863.
"Official."              Wm. H. HILL, 
                    Ass't Adj't Gen.

While the people in different parts of the country are celebrating the anniversary of the glorious Declaration of Independence, one of the bloodiest battles of the war has closed, the result of which will carry sad news to many a home.

It begins to rain to-night, which will make it very bad for the wounded, some of which still remain on the field.

July 5. It rained hard all night, which has added indescribable sufferings to the poor wounded men who were left on the field. The enemy's lines are entirely evacuated this morning. He has retreated, carrying a part of his wounded. The cavalry and the 6th Corps have been sent in pursuit.

To-day, as well as yesterday, has been spent in succoring the wounded and burying the dead. It is estimated that about three thousand of our men had been killed, and about the same number of the enemy. The whole number of wounded and missing has not been accurately ascertained, but will not fall far short of twenty thousand. The enemy has abandoned a large portion of his wounded, and to-day they are being carried to our hospitals, where they will be taken care of. It is estimated that nearly fifteen thousand prisoners have been captured from the enemy, together with a number of standards, several guns, and over twenty-five thousand small arms.

This is a well earned victory for us, and a hard blow for the rebels. To-day I have taken a tramp over the battle field -- and what horrors were revealed! I shall never forget the many ghastly scenes which met my gaze -- the dead in piles and heaps, horses and riders mingling in the same mass. In one trench dug by the rebels I saw seventeen officers, and a number of other trenches were filled with the rebel dead but remained uncovered, showing that the enemy had commenced to bury his dead, but was obliged to effect a hasty retreat.

The following order has been issued:

     General Order No. 68.
Headquarters of the Potomac

Near Gettysburg, July 5, 1863 -- 8:30 P.M.

The commanding General, in behalf of the coun-
try, thanks the Army of the Potomac or the glorious
result of the recent operations. Our enemy, superior
in numbers and flushed with the pride of a successful
invasion, attempted to overcome or destroy this army.
Baffled and defeated, he has not withdrawn from the
contest.

Our task is not yet accomplished, and the com-
manding General looks to the army for greater efforts
to drive from our soil every vestige of the presence
of the invader.

It is right and proper that we should, on all suita-
ble occasions, return our grateful thanks to the
Almighty Disposer of events, that, in the goodness
of his providence, He has thought fit to give victory
to the cause of the just.

          By command of Maj. Gen. MEADE.
                    S. WILLIAMS, A.A.G  
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