Vermont Flag Site Logo
2nd Vermont Infantry
Regimental History

Colonel Amasa S. Tracy

The Second Regiment Vermont Volunteer Infantry was organized at Burlington, and was mustered into the United Sates service by Lieutenant-Colonel Rains, U. S. A., June 20, 1861, it being the first three years' regiment raised in Vermont. It was composed of ten companies, selected from about sixty which offered their services for this organization. June 24, it left Burlington for Washington, where it arrived on the 26th. While in New York, on its way to the front, it was presented with a stand of State colors. On arriving at Washington, it went into camp on Capitol Hill, where it remained until July 10. On that day it moved into Virginia, over Long Bridge, and marched through Alexandria to Bush Hill, about five miles in the direction of Fairfax Court House. At Bush Hill it was, with the Third, Fourth and Fifth Maine, formed into a brigade under command of Col. O. O. Howard of the Third Maine. The brigade of Colonel (now Major-General) Howard was assigned to the Division of General Heintzleman. On the 16th, the regiment, with the rest of the Union Army under General McDowell, commenced its march to Centerville, and on Sunday, July 21, took part in the battle of Bull Run. After the defeat of the Union Army, the regiment returned to its old camp at Bush Hill. The loss of the regiment in this fight was as follows: Two men killed, one officer and 34 enlisted men wounded, and one officer and 30 men missing, making a total loss of 68 men.

General Howard always spoke in the highest terms of praise for the Second.

August 12, the regiment was detached from Howard's brigade and ordered to Chain Bridge, some ten miles above Georgetown on the Potomac, and went into camp at the east end of the bridge, being brigaded with the Third Vermont, the Sixth Maine and the Thirty-third New York regiments. September 3, it was moved across the bridge into Virginia once more, and about a mile from the bridge went into camp, (Camp Advance). Here the regiment, together with the Third Vermont and Sixth Maine, built Forts Marcy and Ethan Allen. During the winter of 1861-2, the regiment did picket duty along the Leesburgh turnpike, varied occasionally with a little skirmishing with the enemy. During the month of September, the Fourth and Fifth Vermont regiments had arrived, and the famous "Old Vermont Brigade" was formed. The Brigade had moved about three miles farther out in the direction of Lewinsville, where the Sixth Vermont was added to it, the whole being under command of Gen. W. F. (Baldy) Smith. Soon after the formation of the Brigade, General Smith was assigned the command of the Division of which The Vermont Brigade was a part, it being the Second Brigade, Smith's Division. Gen. W. T. H. Brooks took command, and from this time until the close of the war this regiment was identified with the Brigade, in all the battles in which the latter took part. It was a regiment in which all the officers of the Division and Corps had confidence. In a fight it would obey orders if within the limits of the possible so to do.

March 10, 1862, the regiment moved from Camp Griffin, where it had remained during the winter doing picket duty and drilling, and took up the line of march to Centerville. On the arrival of the army at that place, only "quaker guns" frowned upon us, and a change of base was decided upon and the army moved to Alexandria. The regiment went into camp on the same grounds it had occupied while under General Howard, before the battle of Bull run, but only for a few days. March 23, together wit the other regiments of the Brigade, it took transports at Alexandria for Fortress Monroe. On the 24th, they landed near the Fortress and moved out to Newport News on the James River.

April 2, 1862, the regiment moved with the army up the peninsula, taking part in the fights at Young's Mills, Lee's Mills and Williamsburg, beside some skirmishing with the enemy. April 13, it reached White House Landing, where the famous Sixth Corps was formed, and The Vermont Brigade was assigned to the Second Division as the Second Brigade, and retained that place during the remaining three years of the war. Leaving White House Landing May 19, the regiment reached the Chickahominy and went into camp on Golding's Farm until the 25th. On the evening of that day, after the fighting was over, the army commenced its retreat, and the Second did its share of the fighting during the Seven Days' fight. Again a change of base was decided upon, and August 22 the regiment took transports at Fortress Monroe and steamed up the Potomac to Alexandria.

For reasons best known to the higher officers, the Sixth Corps, at the Second Battle of Bull Run, did not reach the enemy till the evening of the last day of the fighting, and was soon ordered back to Chantilly. General McClellan had previously been relieved by General Pope, Pope had been defeated and Lee's army was in Maryland. Now Pope was superseded by McClellan, and then came the campaign in Maryland and the fights at Crampton Pass and Antietam. At Crampton Pass the Second Regiment charged the heights to the left of the road, and carried its colors to and over the crest, brushing away the rebel line as though it had been a cobweb. It was on the skirmish line at the battle of Antietam, when Lee's army withdrew from that bloody field. It fought at the first battle of Fredericksburg under Burnside, deploying as skirmishers under a furious storm of shot and shell. It repulsed the charge of a rebel brigade and held the ground all day, being withdrawn after dark. It fought in May, 1863, at the second battle of Fredericksburg under General Hooker, and carried the heights to the South of Fredericksburg in a manner that won the enthusiastic praise of those who saw the charge from the heights on the North side of the river. The next day it fought at Bank's Ford, and with the balance of the Corps for a time fought the great body of General Lee's whole army and held it in check until the Union Army had crossed the river. Colonel Whiting and Lieutenant-Colonel Joyce had resigned, and the regiment, in this fight, was commanded by Col. James H. Walbridge, who had been promoted from Major, Capt. Newton Stone being promoted to be Lieutenant-Colonel, and Capt. John S. Tyler to be Major.

On the 14th of August, 1863, the regiment went to New York, as it was expected there would be rioting in that city, remaining there until September 13, when it, with the other regiments of the Brigade, rejoined the Sixth Corps. During the winter of 1863-64 it took part in several reconnoissances with very little fighting. April 1, 1864, Colonel Walbridge resigned, and Lieutenant-Colonel Stone was promoted to be Colonel, Major Tyler to be Lieutenant-Colonel, and Capt. A. S. Tracy to be Major. May 4 the regiment, with the army, crossed the Rapidan, and on the 5th, first first day of the terrible Wilderness fight, both Colonel Stone and Lieutenant-Colonel Tyler fell, one dead, and the other mortally wounded. The regiment was with the army in all of Grant's campaign. It sustained almost irreparable loss by the death of Colonels Stone and Tyler, but the Second was one of those regiments that could fight with or without officers. Five captains and five lieutenants were either killed or wounded, and one, Lieutenant Carroll, captured. It fought at Spottsylvania at the "Bloody Angle," and at Cold Harbor. June 17, Maj. A. S. Tracy was promoted to be Lieutenant-Colonel, and Enoch E. Johnson to be Major. it had its share of fighting and skirmishing during the month of June, in front of Petersburg. July 10, it proceeded with the Sixth Corps to Washington to defend that city against the rebel army under Maj.-Gen. Jubal A. Early. It formed a part of General Sheridan's army of the Shenandoah Valley and fought at Charles Town, Va., Winchester and Fisher's Hill. At Cedar Creek, October 19, the Second, with the other regiments of the Vermont Brigade, fought until all the other organizations of the army had been driven back, and fell back in good order and formed the nucleus for the rest of the army to rally around. It took part on that day in the final charge that crushed Early's army.

In December, the Sixth Corps was withdrawn from the Valley and again joined General Grant's army in front of Petersburg. MArch 25, it participated in the charge on the enemy's entrenched picket line, which was captured. It was with the Brigade in leading the charge that broke the enemy's lines at Petersburg. With the army, it followed Lee's retreating forces, was at the battle of Sailor's Creek, and on the evening of April 6, while skirmishing with the rebel rear guard, fired the last shot of the Sixth Corps at the enemy. Lieutenant-Colonel Tracy was promoted to be Colonel, Major Johnson to be Lieutenant-Colonel and Capt. E. J. Ballou to be major, to date from April 2, 1865.

June 8, the regiment took part in the Review by the President. July 15, it was mustered out of the United States service, and proceeded to burlington, Vt., where it was discharged, July 25, 1865, having served four years, one month, five days. The total enrollment of the regiment was 1,858. Of these, 224 were killed or died of wounds, 175 by disease, accidents and in prison, making the total number of deaths from all causes 399. This number only includes those who died while in the service, while many more died soon after their discharge on account of wounds or disease contracted while in the service. Only 23 regiments out of a total of over 2,000 lost more men killed than the Second, and in the battle of the Wilderness, May 5 and 6, its loss was the heaviest of any regiment engaged, being 348 out of an effective force of 700 men, and in one week its loss was 56 per cent of its effective force. No regiment stands higher as a fighting regiment than the Second Vermont Volunteer Infantry. (Revised Roster)

The Second rendezvoused at Burlington, June, 1861, and went into Camp Underwood, where the men were drilled preparatory to active duty in the field. While in camp the regiment was uniformed, the cloth being of Vermont manufacture; and here, too, the boys were furnished old pattern smooth bore muskets, much to their dissatisfaction, for they expected modern rifles. In due season the regiment was ordered to Washington, where, on the morning of June 26th, it camped on Capitol Hill, but on the 10th of July moved into Virginia, and was brigaded with the Third, Fourth and Fifth Maine regiments under O. O. Howard. In the fall of 1861, at the suggestion of General W. F. Smith, otherwise known as "Baldy" Smith, the Second was organized with other Vermont regiments into the "Vermont Brigade." (Aldrich)

"The Second Vermont Regiment was comprised of ten companies of soldiers from the towns of Bennington, Brattleboro, Castleton, Fletcher, Ludlow, Montpelier, Tunbridge, Vergennes and Waterbury." (Rosenblatt)


Sources:

Source: Theodore S. Peck, compiler, Revised Roster of Vermont Volunteers and lists of Vermonters Who Served inthe Army an dNavy of the United States During the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, Montpelier, Vt.: Press of the Watchman Publishing Co., 1892, pp. 27-29.

Aldrich's "History of Franklin & Grand Isle Counties"
Rosenblatt's "Hard Marching Every Day: The Civil War Letters of Private Wilbur Fisk, 1861-1865"