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17th Vermont Infantry





MR. EDITOR:--- As our regiment has once more change localities, perhaps a few lines from a member would be of interest to some of your readers. I thought I would just give you a sketch of our position, &c.

The health of the men before we left Yorktown was very bad indeed. It was evident to all that if we stayed there much longer, all would become inmates of the hospital. The number of privates for duty at one time, was reduced to 20, and many of the officers were on the sick list, and some in the hospitals. The future looked dismal to us all. The men had labored on their barracks and done garrison duty, until it had worn them out entirely. About the time orders came to pack up for a move, but where we were to go, was a mystery to us, all. Finally Vermont was decided upon, and all hailed the glad tidings, with great joy. Faces that had not worn a smile for weeks, beamed with exultation. The "shakes" seemed but a merry pastime and soon the quinine seemed sweet to the taste, and in the barracks which so long had been like hospitals, musical entertainment and soirees were given, and the days passed swiftly by. " When are we going to Vermont?" was the question most frequently asked. Soon doubts arose as to where we should go,, and on the 22d, the order came to get ready and go onboard the ocean transport "John Rice" and report at Newbern N.C. Our faces were long, but we were not disappointed much. The 99th New York regiment went on board first, and about midnight our regiment by General Wistar's headquarters to the landing, the drum corps playing, "Are you not glad to get out of the wilderness?" About daylight we were all on board, and the transport started. It began to rain and the sick boys who were on the upper deck suffered much in consequence. At Fort Monroe, the Colonel procured another transport, and eight companies of our regiment went on board, which made it much more comfortable for us all. Companies H and K remained on the John Rice.

The storm increased fast, and waters of the harbor began to roll us about uncomfortably. We remained at anchor through the night, waiting for the storm to abate, but on the morning of the 25th we started ocean-ward.

Some enjoyed the rough sea finely, but as for me, I will say,"" A life on the ocean wave" reads well, and sounds pretty when sung by a sturdy band of marines, But I could not realize exactly where this fun came in.I don't know but when a vessel rises up mountains high on a towering wave, and begins to tip so that every man has to hold on for dear life, with twenty or thirty horses down below all in a heap, kicking and smashing about, myself looking over the side of the vessel down into the deep, seething, surging, boiling cauldron, feeling that surely we shall go over, is a pleasure to some, but for me, give me dry land or a very small pond, or narrow river, where I could swim ashore or touch the bottom if an accident should happen. Some expressed a willingness to re-enlist for nine years with the privilege of going home by land rather than go home in a vessel around Cape Hatteras. The gale was so furious off Hatteras that the vessel had to put out to sea, fifty miles or more.----

We arrived at Morehead City on the 26th, making the passage in 23 hours, the quickest ever made by that transport. We landed there afternoon, but as we had the baggage of the whole regiment to handle over we did not get ready in season for the regular train, but an extra train came down in the evening and we got onboard and started for Newbern, a distance of thirty-six miles, where we arrived about mid-night. On the next day we moved back to Morehead City and then back ten and one-half miles to this place which is about as near no where as a regiment can get.

Colonel Ripley is in command of the Post, which is of considerable importance. The other eight companies did not arrive until the 30th.

The first boat they went on, proved un-seaworthy, and so they put back to Fortress Monroe where they went on board the transport Maple Leaf, which brought them through safely. One man from Company I fell overboard and was lost. Our duties here are picket and provost, with the usual camp labors of a regiment.

Three companies are detached and are stationed on the outpost. Two companies are cavalry and one heavy artillery are here. Our camp is of itself quite pleasant, but we are surrounded by swamps and, towering pine trees which hide all the all the surrounding country from view. The barracks are quite comfortable. The health of the regiment has improved slightly by the change. The very sick men were left in the hospital at Fort Monroe. Only twenty-four enlisted men of company H, are present, and only six privates are fit for duty. The company is fast diminishing. Lieutenant Stone has resigned, and his absence is felt by us all,

For over sixteen months he was with us, and an officer more loved, cannot be found. He was brave, generous, and kind.. No one applied to him for aid, but what it was freely granted. At the cot of the sick he was a frequent visitor and if by purse or hand he could help them, he always did so. May prosperity attend him through life, is the prayer of every member of the company.

Since our arrival here we have heard of the death of Porter S. Niles, a private of Co. H. He died at Fortress Monroe, Oct. 17th. He was placed in the hospital at Yorktown, for a few days, and removed to Fortress Monroe, Oct. 13th.No one thought he was dangerously sick when he left us, and we were all much surprised to hear of his death. He was a noble soldier, and always performed his duty with pleasure. His officers and comrades loved and respected him. They could trust him in any place, either in camp, or on picket duty. Faithfulness was a great virtue with him. Very many times has he volunteered to take the place of sick boys when already worn by duty. A great void has been made by his loss to the company. We truly sympathize with his friends at home, and especially his brother Albert, who still remains with us, a faithful, kind-hearted soldier, and an honor to the company of which he is a member. May he feel that his loss is his brother's gain, and meet him once more where scenes of conflict and strife are never known, and be with him in realms of joy and peace forever.

Our mails are few and very far between. We know no more of what is taking place with our army, than we should if we were in Asia.

If we have any friends in Vermont, we hope they will write many letters, for we assure them the 9th regiment is still alive; the N.Y. Herald the contrary notwithstanding.


From The Seventeenth Regiment
Washington, D.C. April 25th, 1864

Mr. EDITOR: --- The 17th Vermont Regiment, Lieut. Col. Cummings commanding, arrived in this city on Thursday last, and Friday afternoon proceeded to Alexandria, and encamped near that city.

Yesterday, in company with Lieut. Col. Benton, and Capt. Safford of the 11th Vermont I visited them at their camp. We found them pleasantly located near the Potomac on the “sacred Soul of Virginia.” Captain Kenfield, Lieut. Guyer, and Randall, of Co. C, were found at home, and though the latch string was not out, yet the tent door was wide open to receive us, and we were generously supplied with the best that the camp store and sutler’s department afforded, while with them.
The boys of the 17th are very well, especially those from Lamoille, in fact did not see or hear of any sick ones among them. I may be prejudiced in their favor, I honestly think that Co. C is the best company in the regiment.(1) The regiment now contains 7 companies. The men seem much disappointed that they are not under the command of Col. Randall, as they were recruited for him, and many of them veterans of the old gallant 13th, who fought so nobly under him at Gettysburg last summer. Col. Cummings, however seems every inch a soldier, and I doubt not will give good satisfaction, when the boys know him better, and see his soldiership in the field.

The 31st Maine, arrived on the same day as the 17th, and to-day, the 32d came on to the field, and both are encamped near the 17th.
Troops are concentrating here now in large numbers, but whether their destination is Fortress Monroe, to go under Burnside, or to swell the army of the Potomac, seems to be unknown, but I judge the former course the most probable.

I accepted the hospitality of the Lamoille County boys last night, sharing the tent of the Hospital Steward Warner, very comfortably, and returned here to-day. The police arrangements are very strict in relation to crossing the river. No person, either military or civil, can cross without a pass from Gen Auger, or some other proper officer, and before returning to-day, I had to obtain the consent of Gen. Slough, the Provost officer at Alexandria.

Congress seems to be industriously at work, and manifests a desire to finish up the session in good season. The House is engaged mainly on the new revenue bill, under the leadership of our able representative, J.S. Morrill. High rates of taxes seem to be the leading principle of the bill, to all of which I presume the loyal part of the people will cheerfully submit, if it will tend to stregtnen the arms of the government, put down the rebellion, and help pay the enormous expense of war.


(1) There were 57 members of Co. C from Lamoille County, according to the 1892 Revised Roster.


Lamoille Newsdealer, 5/14/1864

Submitted by Deanna French.