3rd Vermont Infantry
ex-Governor Samuel E. Pingree, Lieutenant-Colonel.
The history of the Third Regiment, Vermont Volunteer Infantry, is so completely interwoven with the history of the The Vermont Brigade- the long and honorable service of each of the five regiments of that brigade being the common fame of all--that the story of one is the substantial counterpart to the story of all the others. There was scarcely a fight in the whole service in which all were not under fire where any were, and no man could say that the glory which shed such an army-wide lustre on our arms and gave the great name to the valor of the Vermont troops was not the equal property of each of those five regiments, and the Eleventh which joined later.
The losses from disease in camp, and the casualties of the campaign and battle were substantially the same. All owed largely (and each equally) to those rugged masters of the details of the soldiers' education and guidance, Generals Smith and Brooks, for the disciplinary preparation for their brilliant achievements. They camped, they marched, they fought upon and over the same fields as one body, and under the same leaders. Their history, in most that makes up the fame of either, is the common inheritance of those regiments alike. After a lapse of nearly of nearly thirty years, it is difficult for even one "who went, and saw, and conquered" with them,to write a brief sketch of either without being lost in the broader and deeper achievements of all as the proper unit to write about, to tie to, and to let fond recollections rally around.
In April, 1861, the "shot of Sumter" was heard, hurling defiance to the people of the North. Within thirty days after, the young men of eastern Vermont, from Springfield to Coventry, were enlisting under their chose leaders, and invoking the State authorities to give them a place "in the right forms of war." The work went bravely on, and June 7, 1861, company F of Hartford, was the first to arrive in camp at St. Johnsbury from abroad, finding the St. Johnsbury company "at home" and ready to receive them. Company A from Springfield joined the next day, and others followed. The school of the soldier, squad and company were soon organized, and the theoretical learning of the militia veterans and the cadets from Norwich were improved, and in a few weeks guard mounting and dress parades were indulged in. Arms and uniforms were distributed in due time. The former, the Enfield rifle, was discarded for the Springfield rifle musket before the end of the first year's service, and the gray uniform, a Vermont manufacture, gave way the next spring to the inferior fabric, although standard dress, of the army blue.
The life in "Camp Baxter" was unmarked by important events. Men and officers labored together to fit themselves for the calling to which they had been voluntarily committed. Submissive to the slow developments of the laws and regulations of camp life, charity for the little learning each had of the new duties, and a spirit to study and comprehend the new vocation they had assumed, characterized the members of the regiment, and their labors were fruitful of good results.
July 22, 1861, news of a progressing battle at the front was in the air, and in two days after the regiment was on its way to Washington. the hospitable and patriotic people of St. Johnsbury bade them God speed, and acclaims of joy greeted them as the 882 officers and men passed through the cities and large towns on their way thither.
Presented with a beautiful banner at Hartford, Conn., by the sons of Vermont of that city, and joined there by Col. W. F. Smith, it marched on board the "Elm City" at New Haven, partook of the hospitalities of the good people of Philadelphia the night of the 25th, arrived in Washington the next morning, and on the 27th marched up the Potomac, laid out and occupied "Camp Lyon" for the protection of Chain Bridge (which was built of wood) and the waterworks and reservoir supplying the Capital, six miles below. Here Colonel Smith assumed command of the regiment, and introduced systematic methods of camp life with the drill, parade, picket duty and reconnaissance into Virginia, then held by the enemy stations at Falls Church and Vienna, within a few hours march of our camp.
The Sixth Maine, Mott's Battery and a company of cavalry constituted the Union troops at this important point for a season, but later the Thirty-third New York, and the Second Vermont joined us, and other commands were soon posted above and below our camp. Changes came in field and line by resignation and promotion. The first review of note was held here by President Lincoln, attended by several of his cabinet, together with Generals McClellan, Scott and others of rank and quality, who complimented the troops on their soldierly bearing, receiving their applause in return.
On the dark night of Sept. 3, 1861, the regiment, with the rest of the command, moved silently across the Potomac into Virginia, and named and occupied "Camp Advance" and built Fort Ethan Allen. The trial and death sentence of young Scott for sleeping at his sentry post near the old camp, the impressive parade for his military execution and his pardon by the President as he was standing to receive the fatal volley, the first baptism of the regiment by fire at the Lewinsville skirmish, Sept. 11, in which two men were killed and others wounded, the heavy details from day to day for fatigue duty upon the defensive works in rear of our camp, with the picketing at the front and the daily drills, make up the variety of the service for the summer.
Early in October, the Fourth and Fifth regiments arrived, and all soon advanced some four miles into the enemies country and occupied "Camp Griffin." The acclimation period was most severe and serious at this camp, and it was not till well nigh winter that the sick list began to shrink and the bulk of the regiment was on duty again, and in January, but one in ten were on the sick roll. A few officers organized a school of study of the tactics and regulations, and some of the men did the same. The skirmish drill by the bugle calls and the bayonet drill became in order, and these days of preparation were most profitable to all.
The camps were abandoned March 10, 1862, and the regiment moved via Flint Hill to Alexandria, arriving there after a march in the most cold and drenching rain storm it ever experienced. A fortnight later it sailed down the Potomac and Chesapeake to Fortress Monroe, arriving near Newport News on the 25th, and in the same week marched forward to the strongly fortified lines of the enemy on the slopes of the Warwick. Here the regiment furnished the first of its many details for the building of the corduroy roads through the vast morasses of the Peninsula. But the army, stretching from the head of the Chesapeake across the Peninsula to the James, was here confronted by the outer line of the defenses of Richmond, manned by brave and defiant Confederate soldiers, commanded by a general of large experience in the Mexican War. To break this line at a given point and open the for the Union army to make a lodgement on the right bank of the Warwick and turn to position of the enemy, two companies of this regiment were selected to lead in the desperate assault, supported by the others of the same regiment. This was the substantial opening of the great Peninsula campaign against Richmond under General McClellan. The attack was a success to the fullest extent of the orders given the storming column; the enemy's lines were broken and their forces scattered by less than two hundred men, and, with a division of troops predisposed and thrown across after it, the permanent lodgement of our forces on the west side of the stream was made possible. Once there to stay, the enemy's line of defense was turned, and the advance of our army on Richmond would be no longer delayed at Yorktown. No re-enforcement came, and after holding the position forty minutes, the four companies were recalled through the stream, having lost nearly half their number in killed and wounded. Providence had, apparently, intended that no great results should come of such small beginnings, and so the army remained here till the enemy evacuated Yorktown the May following.
The regiment was active in sustaining General Hancock in his masterly maneuver and battle at Williamsburg. In the month of road and bridge building, fatigue and picket duty, and in the seven days of fighting before Richmond, the regiment was always in hard service, and at Savage's Station, June 29, suffered severe loss in battle. In the Maryland campaign of 1862, which followed, it bore its share of the glory of the fight at Burkettsville, South Mountain, Antietam and, the following December, at Fredericksburg. In the first years and a half of its service its field officers had thrice changed, and the captains of the line had changed once or more in each company, and subaltern officers with proportionate frequency.
The allotment of limited space compels but brief reference to the memorable "mud march" under the right-hearted Burnside, the gallant rush and pursuit up the sides of Maryes Heights, the part so well borne in the valiant fight at Bank's Ford, where the Seventh Louisiana laid down their arms in its front, and its commanding officer tendered his sword to Seaver, who declined to take it from an officer who had shown such daring courage on that bloody field, the second Maryland march and campaign, culminating in the great victory to the Union army at Gettysburg, the rugged defence of the skirmish line at Funkstown in face of line of battle attacks, in which the entire regiment was engaged at the front or as active supports. Nor will space be permitted to recount the New York campaign for the preservation of loyalty and order there and in Jersey City against treasonable and riotous minorities in sympathy with the rebels of the South.
On the march to Brandy Station, Va., the regiment was disposed for its share in the brilliant evening battle of Rappahannock Station, of November 7, but the success of the storming force robbed it of a share in this bloody fight, where the Sixth Maine won enviable fame for such of its members as survived. Then came the happy winter in the captured camps of the enemy at Brandy Station, diverted only by the abortive demonstration on Mine Run, succeeded May 4, 1864, by the march towards the Wilderness, to which field the Third regiment headed the column and on which it lost one in three of its rank and file. At Spotsylvania, May 10, in Upton's charge, and on the 12th at the "Salient," the regiment was in the hottest of the battles, and on the 21st it was sent out alone to restore the lines where the enemy had broken through, endangering the forward movement south of Spotsylvania, capturing prisoners and reestablishing the lines. At Cold Harbor, June 3, the regiment bore the brunt of the battle in the front line, losing again nearly one-third of its effective force in killed and wounded, so that the losses by the casualties of battle had now taken from the rank every other man in the regiment inside of thirty days.
The march to Petersburg was the next move of the command. The skirmish line of the Sixth Corps in the advance on Reams's Station, on the Weldon railroad, June 29, was composed wholly of the Third Regiment, and the enemy retreated before their gallant fire. It was now transferred, by rapid transports up the Potomac as a pat of the Sixth Corps, to join in repelling the bold attack of Early on Washington in front of Fort Stevens, July 12, 1864, and to pursue and drive that audacious Confederate back into Virginia at Poolesville. The 104 of the old regiment who had not re-enlisted, bade adieu to their re-enlisted comrades, and to the pursuits of war, returned to Vermont and were mustered out of service July 27, 1864.
One hundred and seventy-nine had re-enlisted for the rest of the war, and these with recruits were consolidated into a battalion and continued with the brigade, taking part in the battle at Charleston, Va., August 21, and at Winchester, September 19, where the losses of the battalion were severe. At Fisher's Hill and at Cedar Creek the command also bore a conspicuous part, and suffered serious losses. This campaign over, by the defeat and rout of Early, the command returned to Petersburg, and went into winter quarters on the "squirrel road," to picket duty, work on fortifications, holding them against assaults, and joined in counter demonstrations against the enemy.
April 2, the battalion was in the great assault which resulted in rattling the Confederacy to pieces and the surrender of its armies. This was the last of its fighting. After the Grand Review by Governor Smith and President Johnson, the command turned its direction towards its beloved State, and was paid off and scattered, each man to his own home, from the Marine Hospital, of Burlington, June 19, 1865. Some of the feeble few who still live, meet annually, but count the survivors by numbers smaller and yet smaller as year by years goes by.
It is the highest compliment that could be paid to this regiment, to say, that it was the peer of any of its fellows of the Old Brigade, and the truth of its historic service commends the justice of thus much praise.
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. 67-69.