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6th Vermont Infantry
Letter to the Editor
From the Sixth Regiment.
CAMP UPON THE WHITE PLAINS, VA., Nov. 8, 1862
Friend Earle,-The army of the Potomac is once more in motion; another campaign is again opened, and we move not the weak and enfeebled army as when we left Harrison's Landing, Aug. 15th, jaded and worn by as hard and rough service and exposure during the campaign upon the peninsula as anything that has ever left record upon history, and emaciated by diseases contracted in the swamps of the Chickahominy, from which very many will never recover.-But we move, I believe, as an army sufficient to carry every point before it. Our corps, the 6th, has double the strength it had when we crossed the Potomac into Maryland, and it is the same, I reckon, with the whole army. New regiments have been attached and the old ones recruited, beside many returning to their companies who have been off sick in the hospitals. Our campaign in Maryland was rough and stormy, yet of so short duration that with the good fare and pure water which we had we gained in strength and spirits. I need not speak of the scenes which we experienced and the encounters we had, for they are already known by our friends at home. Twice we met the enemy: at Crampton's Gap and upon the plains of Antietam. The result is known to you all. History can but fail to do justice to our brave troops; and be it remembered that the Vermont boys were not wanting. They have won a name worthy the sons of the Green Mountain State. At Crampton's Gap we passed over an open field under a terrific fire from the enemy's batteries for more than a mile, and then charging upon them drove them in wild dismay over the mountain, at the point of the bayonet, with but little loss to us. Three days after, upon the plains of Antietam, we took a position that had been taken and retaken twice, and as the writer has stated, the Vermont boys took it, never to be retaken, and thus it proved, for we held it for more that forty-eight hours under a galling fire from the enemy-and
even there not a man flinched. But I need not dwell here, rather leave it for the historian.
One week last Wednesday, Oct. 29th, we broke camp at Hagarstown, Md., where we had been on detached service for five weeks and took up our line of march toward the Potomac which we reached the night of Nov. 2d, after one day's delay. The next morning at sunrise, we again crossed the Potomac upon a pontoon bridge, at Ferlin, and made twelve miles towards the interior of the Old Dominion. Each succeeding day we have marched, making from ten to fifteen miles a day, These may seem small numbers to you for one to march in a day, but it is good marching for an army and carry the necessary luggage. It is no small thing to march and carry knapsack with three days rations of coffee, sugar, hard crackers and salt hoss, rifle and belt containing cartridge box of forty rounds. The recruits stand it will, much better than I expected. To day we do not move. It is cold, and the ground for the first time this season is covered with snow. In the far distance I can see the dim outlines of the Alleghany Mountains, and with their mantle of snow they resemble the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Virginia in almost every spot shows the ravages of war. Gen. Burnside is in advance of us, and by cannonading we hear almost daily far ahead, we know he has had demonstrations with the enemy. Our look is onward, and I believe the next two months will tell greatly in the destiny of the war. When we went up the peninsula the rallying cry was "On to Richmond," but we failed to reach it, and blame was heaped upon Gen. McClellan, but he did in no way merit it.-A better General never commanded an army, and all the troops under his command have the greatest confidence in him. The advance upon Richmond was well conducted, and the retreat after the army had become enfeebled and no reenforcements furnished, was equally as well conducted. The campaign in Maryland was all that could be asked; the enemy were baffled in their attempt and driven with fearful losses back across the Potomac. I was told by prisoners that we took that the name McClellan sent a terror through their whole army; that they dreaded to meet him, but Pope and McDowell they said made them good commissaries. Still the north is prone to murmur at "little Mc," that he does not accomplish more. They will not hear to the idea of the army going into winter quarters. We don't desire it and McClellan does not intend it. Let those who grumble come into the field and they will think differently; and after twelve months service as rough as this army has seen, their fighting spirit will be somewhat tamed.
Once more we are moving upon the rebel capital, and I trust that the God of battles will enable us to reach the city.
To day we have again marched, and at 3 P.M., when we halted for the night, found ourselves about five miles from Warrenton. By the way, the Vermont brigade is now commanded by another General-Gen. Howe. Gen. Brooks has been promoted and now commands a division. He is a rough but brave General, and we were indeed sorry when the old scarred veteran left us. His last words to us were, "I have been with you just one year, and in that year many fond associations are connected with the Green Mountain Boys. You have been all that could have been asked, and now 'tis with the deepest regret that I leave you." More anon.
F. M. K.
NOTE: FM wrote in pencil next to this article-"I was greatly mistaken as most of the soldiers at that time were in the merits and abilities of Genl McClellan. I have long since ceased to regard him as a great soldier or as worthy the respect of the American nation."