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9th Vermont Infantry

Harper's Ferry

Memories of the Ninth Vermont at the
Tragedy of Harper's Ferry, Sept. 15, 1862.


two places on the crest, from which it seemed almost possible to hurl hand grenades down upon us. Quickly our guns on Camp and Cemetery hills opened an ineffectual fire on them, but they could not reach them, and the batteries seemed to hope to frighten the enemy off with a big noise. The wicked waste of ammunition went on for hours unchecked. Major Stowell and I lay and watched them with our glasses, uneasily, but could as yet detect no guns. Wearisomely our shells lifted themselves in their futile flight up the side of the mountain, seeming always to fall short and provoke no attention. At about one o'clock we were again watching the Rebel working parties, when suddenly we saw one, two, three, half a dozen puffs of smoke burst out in their centre. We jumped to our feet, and shouted, "Our guns have at last got the range and will drive them out."

As suddenly, in the centre of White's brigade, lying at our feet, there was a crash, then another, and another, and columns of dirt and smoke leaped up as though a dozen vigorous volcanoes had broken forth. Stowell caught the situation quicker than I, and exclaimed, "Good God! It's their guns!" In an instant the bivouacs of White's brigade took on the appearance of an overturned beehive. Artillery, infantry, and cavalry were mixed in an absurd mêlée , at which one could not help laughing as the panic increased. We settled ourselves down again and watched. The Rebel batteries were forced into furious play, and as the fugitives came streaming toward us, the shells pursued them with fiendish accuracy. All at once one dropped in my company's street, which changed my point of view, and let all the humor out of it. It was time to be taking care of ourselves. In a cool and quiet way the companies fell in, and marched deliberately up over the crest of the hill and lay down, where the shells skipped over our heads into the valley beyond. Here we felt comfortable, but only for a moment, and for the last time in Harper's Ferry. We lay thus peering over at Loudon with occasional anxious scannings of the front at our left, where we could see the Rebel lines moving in and out of the fringe of wood and new batteries getting into position. To

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