9th Vermont Infantry
Harper's FerryMemories of the Ninth Vermont at the
Tragedy of Harper's Ferry, Sept. 15, 1862.
rage with the lust of battle and yet not put up any fight at all against the will of one man, their commander, though he may be cowardly, incompetent, or even suspected of treachery. On this point, being with our Companion Col. Theodore Ayrault Dodge in Paris last winter, who is now so universally recognized as one of the greatest living military critics and historians, I asked him if he had known of a case in all the campaigns he had written about from Alexander to Napoleon, where a garrison, universally dissatisfied with the measures taken for its defence, or believing itself being betrayed, had deposed a commander and appointed anew one who had their confidence. He replied, "No, it would be mutiny and abhorrent to the spirit and intent of military discipline."
Stannard and the 9th Vermont were eager enough for a fight when they breathlessly reached the head of the pontoon and probably would have had their fill of it, but for the unfortunate decision to yield to the plea of sympathy for the rest of the command who had already surrendered, for Armistead's and Featherstone's brigades were lying in wait for us around the Point of Rocks.
Stannard's hard wrung decision to go back and surrender probably saved 12,000 men from the bitter fate of captivity in Rebel prisons and released to Lee for his urgent needs the men who would have guarded them.
On the other hand, had he refused to return, crossed the pontoons and cut them adrift, and opened a fight with Armistead and Featherstone and forced Franklin to come down from Crampton's Gap with the 6th Corps and couch's division of the 4th Corps, McLaws and Anderson would have been trapped and the ghastly tale of the 12,500 union dead and wounded on the bloody field of Antietam would probably never have been told. Seldom does a man hold the fate of so many men on his decision as hung on Stannard's.
And now, may I beg your indulgence to a pardonable pride, and salute my old regiment, as it passes in almost ghostly array with muffled, inaudible drums and spectral colors across the tragic stage, portrayed here to-night after nearly