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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.


our dismay straight behind us, we heard a new uproar. Across the valley, not eight hundred yards away, where the Shepherdstown Pike skirted the woods, was an appalling long bank of smoke. In an instant the air seemed alive with bursting shell. Our old Belgians were not good for such a range. We were between two fires where there was not shelter for a rabbit.

The Rebel general, Walker, in his account, says:

"About an hour after my batteries opened fire, those of A. P. Hill and Lawton followed suit, and near three o'clock those of McLaws. But the range from Maryland Heights being too great the fire of McLaws's guns were ineffective, the shells bursting in mid-air. From my position on Loudon my guns had a plunging fire on the Federal batteries a thousand feet below, and did great execution. By five o'clock our combined fire had silenced all the opposing batteries but one or two on the east end of Bolivar Heights, which kept up a plucky, but feeble, fire until night put an end to the unequal contest."

For a space of time that seemed interminable we did the best we could by moving over from one slop to another, out of the frying-pan into the fire. Whichever slope we were on, we wished it were the other one. Later in the afternoon we hailed with joy orders to do something; to move over to the left to help Colonel Downey of the 3d Maryland, who was being driving in by the steady advance of A. P. Hill. Of this movement Colonel Trimble of the 60th Ohio, commanding our brigade, in his evidence before whom the brigade commanders were tried, said:

"Downey needed help, and when I ordered Colonel ----- of the ----- Regiment, one of the new ones, to take it to the support of Downey, he said it was no use to march his regiment to meet the enemy; they were so panic-stricken he could not hold them together, and I could only send Colonel Stannard with four companies of the 9th Vermont; there were portions of other regiments which had already become panic-stricken and left the field."

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