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Second Vermont Brigade

George Jerrison Stannard
General Stannard At Fort Harrison

By General T. S. Peck

On September 29, 1864, General Stannard assaulted and took Fort Harrison with his division. The fort was located on the north side of the James River, near Chapin's Bluff, four miles from Richmond. At noon on September 30th, General Lee tried to recapture Fort Harrison; his attacking column, some 7,000 strong, was formed in three successive lines. The Confederates made three different attacks within an hour, and did not withdraw till after at least 2,000 were killed and wounded. THose who survived from the first Confederate line came into Fort Harrison, and one of the first arrivals was the colonel of an Alabama regiment, who, with blood streaming down his face, looked up at General Stannard and said: "You had better come out of this fort, for General Lee himself is over there" (pointing to the Confederate works), "and he says he will retake this fort" (Harrison) "if it takes half of his army." Stannard's reply was: "I shall be happy to see General Lee whenever he chooses to call."

During this short but terrific engagement Stannard stood, walked, or ran around the top of the parapet, hat in one hand and sword in the other, encouraging by voice and motions the men of his division. He was seen not only by men of the Union army, not far away, but by the Confederates.

Within Fort Harrison were log cabins used during their occupation by the Confederates as quarters. These cabins took fire, and between the excessive heat of the burning buildings and the severe fighting the men of Stannard's division were in a most hazardous position. There was great danger of their being prevented in their defense by the hot fire from the buildings. The wounded and hospital men, however, tore down the cabins and extinguished the fires.

At the close of the engagement proper the sharpshooters on both sides for a time continued their carnival; then it was that General Stannard was shot in his right arm, which was afterwards amputated. His heroic gallantry and superb fighting enabled the Union troops to hold this most important fortification, and for that action he received the brevet of Major General of Volunteers.

Stannard, with the Second Vermont Brigade, at Gettysburg, as everybody knows, did heroic work and helped largely to change a doubtful battle into victory. He was a hard fighter and a manly man, with noblest instincts.

Source: Autobiography of Oliver Otis Howard, Major General United States Army. New York: Baker & Taylor Company, 1908. ii:582-3 (Appendix).