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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.


We thought there was no regiment there tried as severely as the 9th Vermont. The hottest fire of the enemy was concentrated on Rigby and Potts; for their batteries were the ones that A. P. Hill's division had to face most directly in the assault. We were in a straight line between Rigby and the batteries across the Shenandoah, and in a straight line between Potts and those westward on either side of the Charles Town Pike, while the sabots of Rigby's guns under which we lay annoyed us not a little. We were in a freshly ploughed field of red earth on our bellies, a very conspicuous line of blue on red as seen from above, and there was no tree in the orchard over an inch in diameter, or with foliage enough for a screen. All we could do was to lie still and wait until they got a range upon us, and then Stannard would order us to jump up, double-quick as far to the front as possible, and drop flat, then back again under Rigby's guns. This was repeated several times with perfect steadiness. Reel testimony since then confirms my memory of nine batteries playing down into that basin for two long hours with not less than fifty guns, to which we replied with as many, making one hundred guns crashing and reverberating against those encircling walls, and when the battle flags of A. P. Hill's long lines began to advance upon us, emerging from the woods for the assault, colonel Miles's heart failed him for the men he had so badly handled, and he gave up the contest to spare the useless slaughter. Taking out his handkerchief and ordering his staff to do the same, he rode up to a prominent place on the east end of Bolivar Heights, nearly a mile away from us, and leaving their horses, walked along the crest toward the left. The basin was much shut in with fog and cannon smoke, and the Rebels recognized the white flag but slowly. One battery after another ceased firing as ours ceased. The last to quit was Rigby, who kept pounding away, and held his colors up long after word had reached him to haul them down. He was a rough old Indiana fighter, furious with rage, and swore that if the enemy wished his battery and colors, they would have to come and take them.

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