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1st Vermont CavalryCorrespondence
John Hammond, 5th New York Cavalry
Washington June 3rd 1863
You have probably ere this heard of the desperate fight [May 30th] of our boys [5th NY Cav] and the 1st Vt [Cav] with Moseby and their capture of one piece of Artillery from him. I was at Fairfax at the time and had got everything ready to come here with Maria [Maj. Hammond's wife] to send her home. Gen Stahel hearing of the affair ordered me to take what men there was in our Regt & the 1st Vt and go to Kettle Run as twas supposed it must be Stuart as Moseby had never had artillery. It appears that Moseby had about 100 men and one piece of artillery, which had been sent him by Fitz Lee but four days before. He attacked the train [Orange & Alexandria RR] about three miles from where we are posted the intermediate places on the road are only patrolled. Moseby planted his piece in the woods near the track loosened a rail attached a wire to the same and as the train came up pulled it off which brought matters to a stand at the same time opening upon the Locomotive with Grape & Shell; the guard on the train all ran away (which is what we expect them to do being Vt 9 months men). When the firing was heard at our camp our men under Capt Hasbrouck [Abram H. Hasbrouck, Co. G] about 60 in number with Lieut's Barker [Elmer J. Barker, Co. H], Boutelle [Frazier Augustus Boutelle, Co. A], Dimick [Eugene B. Dimmick, Co. M] & Waugh [Albert B. Waugh, Co. M] started to get in the rear if possible; Lieut Col Preston [Addison W. Preston] of the 1st Vt with about 100 men went to the immediate place where the firing was heard - Our men came up with them first about 6 or 7 miles from where they attacked the train and pitched into them at once. Elmer [Barker] found that our men were like to be repulsed and called for volunteers to charge on the gun - The road was narrow with high banks flanked by dense forests of pines which was excellent cover for the Rebs and from which they poured in a murderous fire. Elmer charged on the gun with about 20 men and when within 2 rods of the cannon the Rebs opened upon them with grape & canister killing or wounding all but one of the 7 that were in the advance with Lieut Barker - this was about the last shot they had - the Vermonters coming up at this time the rebs deserted their piece and took to their heels - Our Regt had killed Corporal [Orlando] Drake of Co H - grape through the head one man in Co B and 1 in Co C. - Corporal J. Wooster [Joseph E. Worster, Co H] 2 pistol shots near the hip his wounds are slight and some 4 others are wounded not seriously. Elmer had two grape shots through the left leg about half way between the knee and hip, no bones injured - 2 grape shot hit his saddle one tore the sole of his boot and he was also grazed on the hand - his horse Prince has one shot in the neck just forward of the shoulder one in the near fore leg one in the back on the right side & one in the right shoulder yet like his master he's good for another fight and takes his food and looks as mischievous as ever - I took him down to Fairfax from the front the day after Elmer came down - Elmer is seriously wounded but we have the best assurance that he will get along and not lose his leg - he had the best attendance by Doct's Wood & Gale & I am going to keep Maria here to nurse him until he is able to acompany her home Everything has been and will be done for him possible - Doct Wood and Gale have taken him under their especial charge - I am going to buy a hair-mattrass and some other comforts; He is very cheerful & feeling first rate. Gen [Julius] Stahel calls on him every day and says he will do anything he can for him in the way of promotion - Genl [Samuel Peter] Heintzelman has complimented him for his daring bravery - the boys in Co H shed many tears over the death of Drake and have sent his remains home - one of Co F's boys killed Capt Haskins [Bradford Smith Hoskins, formerly British 44th Foot, Essex Regiment] of the British service who has been with Moseby about ____ [2?] months - he had 6 medals on his body 2 Crimean 2 Garibaldean & 2 Turkish - the Rebel artillerist was also mortally wounded and taken prisoner - he says Elmer's repeated charges on the gun was the most daring thing he ever witnessed - Lt Boutwell [sic = Boutelle] of Co A had his horse killed by a shell passing thro' him which only burst after passing through him and striking a fence - our boys had 5 horses killed and several wounded the Vt 17 men killed and several wounded please show this to Elmers sisters.
Yours & c
John Hammond [Major, 5th NY Cav]
Your kind letter has remained too long unanswered but the time has been pressing & no time for writing. I came in from the front near Kettle Run to have two of my grinders pulled which was consummated last evening much to my satisfaction as it has relieved me from intense pain which I have endured for the last ten days.
Source: original at Penfield Museum, Crown Point, NY; transcription and parenthetical notes courtesy of Greg Furness, March 2011.
Webmaster's Note: At least three of the five Vermont 9-months regiments, 12th-16th, were involved in guard duty on the Orange & Alexandria, but the 12th Vermont was the only one noted so engaged during May and early June.
Another account of the engagement, from the 5th NY's perspective, is available on pages 58-60 of the history of the 5th New York Cavalry aka First Ira Harris Guard; the book also includes other interactions with the 1st Vermont Cavalry.