9th Vermont Infantry
Harper's FerryMemories of the Ninth Vermont at the
Tragedy of Harper's Ferry, Sept. 15, 1862.
McClellan as we had been on the 15th of Jackson, and quite as surely again within McClellan's grasp on the 18th.
We had spent the summer like a gang of Italian laborers, digging with tender and unaccustomed hands the baked red Virginia clay, throwing up the fortifications on the hills about Winchester. They had just been completed and dedicated with fiery speeches from several political colonels, joyfully laying themselves down o the altar of sacrifice for their beloved country, when the ill-timed apparition of Stonewall Jackson, looming up portentously from the direction of Williamsport, led them to defer the proposed shedding of their heart's blood in the defence of those particular works and shed it in Harper's Ferry, which was said to be an impregnable natural fortress.
That night, the 3d of September, orders came to prepare for flight -- tents to be left standing, lights burning, all baggage and stores not transportable to be piled for destruction, and our summer's hard work to be blown up.
At nine o'clock we fell in and pushed for Harper's Ferry, marching all night and until four o'clock the next afternoon, when we found ourselves within those sheltering mountain walls.
After being hysterically moved about for several days, we were put into camp behind and supporting Rigby's battery at the point where the Charles Town Pike crosses Bolivar Heights, this being the only important crossing of the heights from the north and west. here we stayed until the final catastrophe. Now was the time when we would have been glad to dig and slash, day and night; but in spite of all the pressure put upon him by the officers of higher rank, Colonel Miles would not allow it, ridiculing the anxieties of the garrison. Colonel George J. Stannard seized the opportunity to seriously begin our military education, and we worked hard at drilling. But we were very uneasy. Inexperienced as we with few exceptions were, it was a plain that extraordinary measures should be quickly taken to seize and hold the bold heights which frowned above us. We were at the bottom of a bowl; one portion of the rim was