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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.


When the word reached us that the white flag had gone up, Stannard swore a bitter oath that he would not be sacrificed without one bold struggle for our honor and for our liberty. At his command we rushed by the left down a ravine to the bank of the Shenandoah, thence into town, making for the pontoon over into Maryland, with determination to risk the fire of the batteries on both heights, hoping that once across, a short struggle with what might be posted behind the Maryland Heights would bring us into McClellan's lines, then only a few miles away. Hill so rapidly advanced his line of battle, however, that they were I our camp before we were half way to the bridge, and being missed from the line, General White, who had assumed command after Miles was mortally wounded, sent one of his own and one of General Hill's aides to intercept us and bring us back. Taking the shorter route they caught us as we had breathlessly reached the pontoon. In five minutes what would have been left of us would have been in Maryland. At first Stannard refused to obey the ordered to return, but upon being impressed with the penalties which would be inflicted upon the other troops by his attempt to violate the generous cartel already hastily arranged, he with anguish of heart yielded. Here was where George J. Stannard made the only military mistake of his service from Lieutenant-colonel, in 1861, to major-general, in 1865. If he had not listened to the plea of sympathy for the rest of the command and had refused to surrender, crossed the pontoon, cut it adrift at both ends, and sent it down the Potomac as he intended; had had his fight around the Point of Rocks with whatever might be there, which proved to be Armistead's and Featherstone's brigades, Franklin from the spot on top of Brownsville Pass where he and General W. F. Smith at daylight had looked down on McLaws's tin line of battle and declined it, would have seen our fight, have had to attack not knowing but that it was the whole Harper's Ferry force attacking McLaws's flank; and catching McLaws and Anderson with only a part of their force on Maryland Heights, two brigades of Wright and Pryor on the height

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