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6th Vermont Infantry

Kimball Collection

Letter to the Editor

From the Sixth Regiment.

NEAR YORKTOWN, Va. April 23.

FRIEND EARLE.-Many and varied are the scenes through which the army of the Potomac has passed since March 10, the time we bid adieu to Camp Griffin. And took up our line of march toward the enemy's front. As I write, I will speak more particularly of the Vermont brigade, for 'tis that its welfare that most dearly interests Vermonters; but time will not allow me to go into detail, and should I, it would run a letter of decent length into a long and tiresome thing. We embarked at Alexandria on the 23d of March for some Southern and then unknown port. Near night we weighed anchor and the next Tuesday morning we disembarked at Hampton; passed many places of note, Fort Washington, Mount Vernon, Fortress Monroe, &c., &c. If there is a place that is impregnable, 'tis Fortress Monroe. In the waters in front of the fort lay many transport boats, schooners, &c., and among them I beheld the Monitor, a very unassuming little creature, Yet powerful it is. Hampton, though once a beautiful and flourishing town, is now but a city of ruins; only naked chimneys and crumbling walls are left to greet the soldier as he marches through its desolated streets. Marching about two miles from Hampton, we encamped. Thursday, a reconnaissance toward Big Bethel, and the next day returned and pitched tents near Newport News and the James river. While there I visited the News, and saw the relics of inhuman butchery, the wrecks of the Congress and Cumberland. Down upon the left lay the Congress, burned to the water's edge, while in front four hundred yards from there, was the Cumberland, with only its masts above water. With them, many noble fellows went down, contending for the right, to rise only when the sea shall give up its dead. I must hasten on: Leaving our camp neat the river, April 4, we took up a permanent march toward the enemy; as we advanced, they fled from Young's Mills, leaving their barracks uninjured, which we occupied that night-The next day our march was more cautious, as we came nearer upon hostile forces. We have found the enemy to have a line of earthworks, commanding each, from Yorktown across the peninsula to James river.

We have met them,-the siege has commenced, which will probably be a long one, and continued cannonading and skirmishing is kept up along the line.-From the first of our coming in here until Monday noon-thirty-six hours-our regiment supported Capt. Oyer's battery, while shelling one of the enemy's forts, and exposed to the fire from the enemy, but fortunately none of us at that time were injured. Our division was then relieved by another, and we were marched back to the rear to rest. During the time we lay back fatigue parties were out every day, building corduroy road, for the transportation of supplies, and more particularly big siege guns and mortars, preparatory for a general attack.

Last Wednesday, the 16th, was an eventful day to the Vermont boys. Our brigade being in advance, we were brought up before one of the enemy's forts. In the morning our regiment supported Capt. Mott's battery, while played upon the rebels. In the afternoon a charge was made upon the enemy's works. The 4th regiment were in line in front of the fort and did not suffer much, only two killed. The 3rd made a gallant charge upon a rifle pit, through the water to their armpits, drove the enemy; but for want of support fell back. The official report of their loss was 23 killed, 51 wounded, and 9 missing. Others have since died. Four companies-D, E, F, and K-were the principal sufferers. At nearly dark our regiment was ordered to make a charge upon their breastworks. Our men, holding their cartridge boxes upon their shoulders to keep them dry, marched nobly through the creek upon the enemy, through water nearly fifteen rods wide and in the center four feet deep. As we came upon the opposite bank the enemy poured a perfect shower of bullets upon us from their rifle pits, and also in a cross fire from the fort killing and wounding many. As soon as our critical position was seen we were ordered back. While there, men never fought braver than did the Green Mountain Boys of the Vermont sixth. Our wounded were all carried back. One poor fellow of our company was left upon the enemy's shore shot through the brain, though his, with the remains of others who were killed, have since been recovered by a flag of truce and received a soldier's burial. Our regiment lost 12 killed and 76 wounded-others have since died of wounds received. Companies C, D, F, and H suffered mostly. Our company lost two killed-Chandler Colburn of Troy; and Lewis Talbott of Newport died next morning from a wound. Five were wounded-Lieut. C. F. Bailey in the groin badly, 1st Sergt. M. W. Davis, of Brownington, in the side badly, Alstine Sabine, of Troy, in the arm, John Robinson, of Brownington, in the foot, and Wm. Livingston, of Albany, in the elbow slightly. Capt. Reynolds, of company F, was shot down while leading on his men. He was one of our best captains, and the regiment, and especially his company, will suffer greatly his loss. Lieut. Kinney, of company I, was shot through the leg, but commanded his company until it was safe back over the creek, and did not leave it then until ordered away by Col. Lord, who said it was no place for a wounded man. He reluctantly left his company to the command of another. Such is Vermont spunk. Our color bearer was wounded and fell, dropping the colors, but they were caught up and brought out pierced by ten balls. Sergt. Holston, of company I, has the honor of bringing out the colors. Capt. Davenport, of company H, was wounded. He, with Lieutenants Kinney and Bailey, were all of our line officers who received wounds-Capt. Reynolds was killed. I learned by the Tribune that many false reports of killed and wounded have been given, such as Capt. Hale, and Lieut. Dwinell, &c., being wounded, also Lieut. Bradbury of company E; but such is not the case-they were uninjured. Our company lost one more, Frank Stiles of Albany, who died of typhoid fever. The hard marches and exposures which we have to experience were too much for a constitution no stronger than his, and thus he sickened and died and we buried him with those who fell in action. His death was no less honorable. When able, he served his country faithfully. Thus in less than one week three fellow soldiers have been taken from our little band, and we deeply mourn their loss.

One fact is worthy of notice,-where our fallen soldiers were buried human bones were displaced, and also old Continental buttons were found, which is quite positive proof that some of our forefathers who fought to establish our national existence, repose in the same spot where now rest those who fought to preserve our national existence. Even now I hear the boom of cannon.

Yours truly,
F. M. K.



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