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6th Vermont Infantry

Kimball Collection

Letter to the Editor

Letter from the Sixth Regiment.

Camp near Rappah'k, Dec. 20.

FRIEND EARLE: Since my last letter to you we have past through another eventful era in the struggle for the preservation of our national existence and the sacred rights of this people ; and, though bloody it was and full of suffering, it was not one that has crowned our arms with success, or immortalized the name of any of our commanders. The battle of Fredericksburg, as it is that of which we are writing, was unsuccessful to our army, yet we were not defeated, but rather we retreated. As the official report of this battle has already reached every American home, and is known to you all, I will dwell more particularly upon what the Vermont Brigade experienced and passed through.

We broke camp near where are now located, six miles from Fredericksburg, early on the morning of December 11th, and marched at quick time over frozen ground toward Fredericksburg, the scene of action. As we reached the city, the cannonading which commenced early in the morning, grew heavier and more rapid. We reached the river, a little below Falmouth, about 9 o'clock, a. m., together with the remainder of our corps, and lay there the remainder of the day in supporting distance of the batteries, while they shelled the city, driving the enemy back, and also protecting the engineer corps while they threw pontoons across the river for our troops to cross upon. The cannonading was kept up all day yet, the enemy made but little reply. Fredericksburg is now a demolished city.

Early the following morning we crossed the river, the enemy falling back to their fortifications in the rear; and from that time until we recrossed the river, the night of the 15th, we were under the fire of the enemy. Immediately on our gaining the southern bank, our regiment being in advance of the division, was deployed as skirmishers, clearing a front for the whole division. In going upon the skirmish line we relieved a regiment that had already skirmished a little way from the river. Soon after deploying we received orders to advance, which was promptly obeyed, the rebel skirmishers falling back and continually firing upon us, which was sharply replied to by our men. We advanced our lines about one mile and held our position during the day, the enemy's skirmishers often firing into our line, yet we lay low and but few were wounded. There was only one of our regiment killed, Asa Miles of Woodstock, of Company E. He was with his company, which was in the rear supporting the front line, and was hit by a stray bullet.

During this time the lines were extended upon the right and left-batteries were planted and the ball was opened.-Our position was the right of the left wing. Our regiment was all relieved but three companies, including D, early in the afternoon ; but we were not relieved from the skirmish line until about 9 o'clock, p. m., when the 4th Vermont took our place. We joined our regiment in the rear-made us some coffee, lay down, wrapped in our blankets upon the damp cold ground, and were lulled to repose by the deadening peal of the cannon, to be aroused at an early hour by the reveille, sounded not by the drum, but by the thundering of artillery. That day (Saturday) was one of the hardest fighting during the whole engagement. All along the lines there was continual skirmishing and cannonading. The rebels made several and unsuccessful attempts to turn our left wing, and though they fought desperately they were bravely resisted by our out troops. Our batteries repeatedly silenced some of theirs at different points, but our infantry could not charge upon them, owing to marshes that intervened ; and thus it was, every position seemed to favor them while they were unfavorable to us. Their positions were chosen, and of such nature that they commanded the whole open field in which our troops were. Their line of defence was a semicircular form touching the river upon each side and extending back, giving a radius of about two miles, and through its whole extent they were screened by woodland and bluffs covered with rifle-pits and breastworks. Along the whole range of bluffs, reaching from the centre to the extreme right, were earth-works mounting many guns. Probably from the first of the battle there were more than 100 guns bearing upon our forces. Thus it will be seen that they had every advantage over our operations. They were sheltered by ravines and hills, while we had to advance upon them over an open plain with nothing to protect us from the raking fire of the enemy ; still we advanced, and every inch gained was nobly held by our brave troops. Sunday there was a lull of hostilities. Two mighty armies lay in the face of each other comparatively quiet. Our regiment was in the support of a battery. Monday the fight was again renewed with different degrees of success and loss. Our lines gained but very little ground. Though the enemy were strong and held their position with determination, still I felt sure that in the end we should whip them, or they would resort to their old trick and 'get up and get'-and Monday, the 15th, at 8, p. m., when the evacuation commenced, I know not but that all was right. The next morning, however, after five days fighting, the whole area south of the Rappahannock, occupied by our troops, was a naked plain ; and now here we are encamped near where we were the morning we marched for the scene of action, a weakened army. On whom does the blame of this movement rest? Not on Burnside, he obeyed orders ; and also displayed good generalship in getting his feeble army, with its ten thousand cripples, safely back this side of the river without bringing the enemy upon us.-Our entire loss was considerable ; probably much more than that of the enemy, and it is the first engagement for a long time wherein our troops suffered the greatest loss. The Vermont brigade sustained a small loss comparatively, save the 4th Regiment , which suffered a good deal-about 70 men killed and wounded. Capt. Quimby was

killed ; shot through the throat, cutting off both arteries. He fell, during the fight of Saturday, nobly at his post. Eighteen of Company B were shot down at one fire of grape by the enemy.

The weather during the engagement was favorable. Had it been as cold as it was days before, or as it is now, there must unavoidably have been a much greater amount of suffering than there was. The ambulances were busy and the wounded were well cared for.

This I find to be a fact: Once get the rebels routed and they are the best fellows in the world to drive, but so long as they can hold their position behind breastworks they will fight like demons. We know this from the eight engagements in which the 6th Vermont regiment has participated: first, we met the enemy at Lee's Mills, April 16th, at Williamsburg May 5th, at Golden's Farm in front of Richmond June 27th, at Savage Station June 29th, at White Oak Creek June 30th, at Crampton's Gap, Md., September 14th, at Antietam Sept. 17th and at Fredericksburg Dec. 11th and 15th inclusive. Our entire loss in killed and wounded is between two and three hundred men, and NEVER since we bade adieu to Camp Griffin, March 10th, nearly ten months ago, has the 6th Vermont regiment failed to respond to every command, and the same can be truly said of every regiment in the brigade.

Col. Lord, who has so long commanded our regiment, has resigned and is honorably discharged from the service. We gret it for he has been a noble commander, and never at any time or place have we seen him falter.

F. M. K.



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