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Second Vermont Brigade

George Jerrison Stannard
General Stannard At Harper's Ferry
By General T. S. Peck

Monday morning, September 15, 1862, Colonel Dixon S. Miles was commanding our forces at Harper's Ferry. He was obliged to surrender. At the time the white flag went up Colonel George J. Stannard with his regiment, the Ninth Vermont, was on Bolivar Heights. Seeing the flag, Stannard was deeply chagrined and tried for two hours to get back and break through the cordon of hostile troops formed around our unfortunate garrison. In his last effort he moved down to the lower road, which runs parallel to the Shenandoah River, and was headed for the village of Harper's Ferry. At the foot of this rocky road Stannard called for forty volunteers as a "forlorn hope." He put himself at its head and started, expecting the regiment to follow, rapidly toward the bridge. But halfway down he met the head of A. P. Hill's corps. Instantly we saw two of Hill's aids confronting Colonel Stannard. Though firm, they were gentle in their manner and informed the colonel that the garrison had surrendered, and insisted that he take his regiment at once to the camping ground and stack arms. This occurred two hours after the other troops had given up. Being near him, I looked up and saw that Stannard's face was covered with tears, and I was sure that he was still meditating some way to keep his regiment from marching back to that hill. He began to retire, but his movements were slow and evidently reluctant. One Confederate officer told Stannard that if he did not hasten his march they would not dilly-dally with him longer, but would fire grape and canister into the command.

While the regiment was ascending the rocky road the men were breaking up their muskets and the drummers throwing their drums into the deep gorge below; officers were also breaking their swords and color-bearers destroying their flags.

When at last the regiment arrived we were ordered to stack arms; the Confederates laughed at our attempts, and while they were evidently angry to see the muskets so injured they cheered Colonel Stannard and his soldiers for their bravery.

THe next step was for Colonel Stannard to sign the parole for all his men not to take up arms again until regularly exchanged. The colonel on the spot declined to do this, stating that he would give his own parole, but could not be responsible for the men in his regiment. He created delay by one contrivance and another till late in the afternoon, hoping that relief would come from McClellan.

At last General Hill told Stannard that if he did not sign at once the men of his regiment would be marched to Richmond and held as prisoners of war. After that threat Colonel Stannard signed the parole.


Source: Autobiography of Oliver Otis Howard, Major General United States Army. New York: Baker & Taylor Company, 1908. ii:580-1. (Appendix).