"Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army with banners?"

Thursday, July 4, 2013

July 4, 1863. A most welcome message

Freedom and Unity
"Camp near Gettysburg - July

"My ever dear Lettie:

"This is probably the most welcome message that you ever received from me. I have time to write but few words. This is the first opportunity I have had. I have been engaged nearly all the time for the past few days in one of the worst battles this continent ever knew. We are all well except Floyd, who went to the hospital this morn. None of us were hurt in battle but Floyd is all tired out, but think he will be all right when he gets rested. 2 out of my company were killed and 7 wounded. A spent-ball struck me, knocking me down but I got right up again madder than ever. E. P. Davis of Felchville was killed. O such scenes such scenes. I cannot write now but will if ever I get time. I am sitting on the battlefield now and there is a man here who says he will try and get this to some P.O. He is waiting, I must close. We have suffered for want of food on the long march and the fight. I haven't had a mite of clothing on me night or day except my Blouse & Pants for 3 days and nights and slept right in the mud without a tent or a sign of anything. We lived on excitement for two days certain for I didn't eat more than two or three hard tacks all the time. We won a great victory and are now following the enemy. I counted 115 dead Rebels today on a piece of ground 4 rods square. The troops have all left, except the W. Brigade. We are burying the Rebs now and shall leave as soon as we get done. Our Reg't won the admiration of all for its gallantry, having captured 3 stand of colors and lots of prisoners.

"I will write again as soon as I possibly get time. From your loving husband, Elmer" ~ E.D. Keyes, Captain Company H, Sixteenth Vt.

After the battle, the regiment followed in pursuit of Lee's retreating army until Lee crossed the Potomac into Virginia, when it was ordered home, its term of enlistment having expired. The regiment arrived in New York during the draft riots and remained there until order was restored. It was finally mustered out at Brattleboro, Aug. 10, 1863. The total enrolment of the 16th was 968, of whom 735 began the 7-day march to Gettysburg and 661 arrived in the field. 24 were killed in action or mortally wounded; 48 died of disease and 1 died in prison - total deaths, 73. Eighty men were wounded, 4 were captured and 2 deserted.
The Brigadier General commanding, in view of the gallantry and efficiency of the 13th, 14th and 16th Vermont Regiments, displayed at the battle of Gettysburg, directs that the flags of each of the regiments be inscribed "Gettysburg;" that the people of the State may be reminded at the sight of these flags of the men who bore and honored them in the hour of national danger and triumph , and that every soldier may justly be proud of his devotion to country, and credit done to the State....

But while the entire command may well be proud of its laurels, they will not forget to remember the fallen dead. Let their names be embalmed in the hearts of their comrades! Let their memory be green as the sod that covers them! Let their virtues and example be a watchword in coming time! Let the tear of sympathy alleviate the sorrow of relatives and friends!
~Brig. Gen. Geo. J. Stannard,  General Order No. 10,  July 15,1863.

"We are once more in our native State, whose green hills and pleasant valleys we left to fight in this war for right and freedom. But not all have returned. Those whose lives were consecrated on the bloody field of Gettysburg, who fell nobly fighting for their country, as well as others who died in camp and on the march, are absent but not forgotten.

"All honors to the defenders of our country, and when the cause of this Rebellion -- slavery -- shall have been ended, and in its stead is heard the voice of FREEDOM, then shall we be a happy and prosperous people." ~ John C. Williams, Corporal, Co. B, 14th Regiment, Life in Camp 167 (1864).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Friday, July 3, 1863. “What troops are those ... muskets glittering in the sunlight and battle flags fluttering in the breeze?"

James Wilson
Co. B, 13th Vt
killed July 3, 1863
Age 20
"Friday, July 3, 1863: Skirmishing began a quarter before 4 o'clock . . . Artillery opened first at 4 AM then ceased somewhat until 2 PM when 100 pieces opened on us. Continued 2 hours when the enemy advanced. Captured 3 colors-lost one afterward. Brought in 2nd Florida and 8th Va. We have won a great victory."  ~ From the Diary of Wheelock G. Veazey, Colonel, 16th Vermont Regiment.(VHS), in David Cross, Wheelock Veazey, (Rutland Historical Society, 1995)

"Dexter Parker received a very painful wound from a piece of shell which cut through one of his hands and he was in such agony that Corporal O. G. Miles and James H. Wilson started to help him to the rear, one on each side. They had only gone a short distance when a shell struck in a pile of stones and burst. All three fell to the ground and it was found that a small piece of shell had pierced Wilson's heart, killing him instantly." ~ Ralph Orson Sturtevant, Pictorial History of the 13th Regiment Vermont Volunteers 470(1910)

"When we were about six hundred yards from the stone wall a Sergt. Dalton of my Co. asked me, “What troops are those on our right, are they our men or Yankees?” …There off on our right was the grandest sight I have ever seen -- ...A body of Yankees coming at double quick “right shoulder shift.” Their line perpendicular to our own,
uniforms looking black in the distance, muskets glittering in the sunlight and battle flags fluttering in the breeze created by their quickened motion.
"...[T]he shock of this attack on our right...struck us at least 100 yards from the stone wall. I saw their men … deliberately fire into our whole line. In a few minutes all was confusion...” ~Captain Henry Owen, 18th Virginia, in Richard M. Rollins, Pickett's charge: eyewitness accounts at the Battle of Gettysburg 188-89

"[A] bout 4:30 p.m. a large column of infantry was seen to steadily advance from between the batteries and right glad were we to see them. They came out in front, protected by their shells which being a little above them came over their heads and deployed handsomely in line. On they came directly towards my picket line but the grape and canister from our batteries and the shots fire from my picket now acting as skirmishers warned them of the hazard of that route. They then turned and marched by their left flank. At that moment our bugle sounded our picket came in, we formed a line with the 13th and 14th rushed on. We were asked if we could charge. Our terrific yell from our men was the response and there we were after the “greybacks” In fifteen minutes the results could be counted thus - 300 rebels dead and wounded on the field and over a thousand prisoners were taken and 2 stands of colors. Of these the 16th took full 400 prisoners and in a second separate charge made only by the themselves they took these two stand of colors the 2nd Florida and 8th VA, and over a hundred more prisoners." ~ Lt. Col. Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Letters July 6, 1863. VHS.

"....The movements I have briefly described were executed in the open field, under a very heavy fire of shell, grape, and musketry, and they were performed with the promptness and precision of battalion drill. They ended the contest in the center and substantially closed the battle. Officers and men behaved like veterans, although it was for most of them their first battle, and I am content to leave it to the witnesses of the fight whether or not they have sustained the credit of the service and the honor of our Green Mountain State. 

"... There were 350 killed, wounded, and missing from my three regiments engaged; of the missing, only 1 is known to have been taken prisoner." ~ Report of Brig. Gen. George J. Stannard, July 4, 1863.

From the Second Vermont Brigade monument:

July 1. Arrived at dusk and took position on right of Third Corps.

July 2. Joined the Corps and went into position at the left and rear of the Cemetery. Just before dusk a detachment advanced to the Emmitsburg Road and captured about 80 prisoners and recovered 4 abandoned Union guns.

July 3. In position on left of Second Division Second Corps at the time of Longstreet's assault. The 13th and 16th advanced against Major Gen. Pickett's Division changed front forward and attacked its right throwing it into confusion and capturing many prisoners. The 16th and part of 14th then went to the left and attacked the advancing Brigades of Brig. Gen. Wilcox and Perry (Col. Lang) and captured three flags and many prisoners.

Casualties Killed 1 Officer 44 Men, Wounded 12 Officers 262 men, Captured or Missing 32 Men; Total 351.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Thursday, July 2, 1863. Darkness came on and the battle ceased with the Sixteenth in the front line.

Colonel W. G. Veazey
First Army Corps
July 1-2-3-1863

Participated near this point in action of July 2nd
Picketed this line that night - held same as skirmishers
"Thursday, July 2, 1863: Battle began at 5 PM & continued until dark. We were not engaged but lay under severe artillery fire supporting batteries - lost about 10 men. Occupied the front line when the battle closed. Whole Reg. put on picket. Am Div. field officer of Day."   From the Diary of Wheelock G. Veazey, Colonel, 16th Vermont Regiment.(VHS), in David Cross, Wheelock Veazey, (Rutland Historical Society, 1995)

"During the forenoon, company B, Captain Arms was send forward to re-enforce the skirmish line, and there rendered splendid service. This company was taken into position by Captain Foster of company C, who was then on General Stannard's staff, and was wounded in discharging this duty.

"The main battles of July 2 were fought on the right and left flanks of the Union line. Near the close of the battle on the left the Sixteenth, with the rest of the brigade, was moved about one-half mile to the left along Cemetery Ridge to re-enforce our badly shattered lines. In this movement it was under terrific artillery fire, one shell hitting two men and killing them instantly. The regiment was finally halted in support of a battery and just in season to receive and repel a heavy charge of infantry. Darkness soon came on and the battle ceased with the Sixteenth in the front line." 
~Russell and Emery, 16th Vermont Infantry Regimental History

"The Sixteenth moved left in front, down the Taneytown road a short distance, and then into the field and along the crest till it reached the position of the Second Corps' batteries, receiving as it moved a cannon-shot—the first that entered its ranks—which knocked down a file of men, killing two of them. The smoke enveloped that part of the ridge, but it could be seen that a battery near there was without support, and a line of the enemy was both seen and heard advancing upon the guns with loud shouting. The Sixteenth deployed in rear of the battery; the enemy, disconcerted by the appearance of this fresh line, fell back; and the Sixteenth supported the battery till dark, when the regiment was moved to the left and forward into the front line in that part of the field." ~ 2 George Grenville Benedict, Vermont in the Civil War 455-56(Burlington Vt 1888). 

 "Soon after this Colonel Veazey was detailed to take the regiment with others and establish a picket line across the battlefield of that afternoon. The battle had been fought back and forth over this ground and it was literally covered with dead and wounded men, among whom the Sixteenth were deployed to watch the enemy while our army was resisting for a renewal of the awful conflict in the morning. No regiment ever had a more trying night on picket duty. It was not relieved in the morning, but the men held the same position as skirmishers throughout the forenoon and until the final assault." ~Russell and Emery, 16th Vermont Infantry Regimental History

"The next morning [July 2] our brigade consisting of the 13th, 14th, and 16th Regiment - the other two being at Westminster, MD - 20 miles southeast guarding the corps teams prepared for action. We were in position all the morning until about 4 o’clock when the rebels opened their batteries, ones having been playing since noon. Within five minutes thereafter a shell fell within (six feet near my) horse exploded without doing major damage. Soon the field officers dismounted and our brigade advanced to support our batteries. We were then in rear of the crest on which they were placed and there so protected that not a man was hit or hurt although their shells passed just above our heads and exploded from a few feet to one or two hundred yards beyond us. This music was not at all agreeable.

"Just before sundown we were advanced up another hill a little to the left and deployed in line amid the bursting of hundreds of shells. One came through the ranks about four feet to my right killing two men, one or two others were wounded. Up the hill we went and when on top the firing in that section had nearly ceased. We were near the center and not in the advance line there had been fighting on very ground where we were and two of our batteries had been taken and retaken. Our left had advanced and drove the rebels and they in turn had repulsed our advance with masked batteries and driven us back.

"Between the rebels and us was depressing basin through which ran a ravine well protected by brush and rocks. I was made officer of the picket and then went out and placed three companies as pickets there in two as support and the balance of the regiment left behind a clump of small trees as a reserve. I was on the line all night.

"After taking care that my line was right, I looked around and found this ravine full of dead and wounded soldiers about two rebs to one Union. Stretchers and ambulances were running all night but by morning nearly all had been removed. Between Union and rebel picket lines, parties of both were by a tacit understanding engaged in hunting up their dead and wounded comrades and friends without molestation." 
~ Lt. Col. Charles Cummings, Sixteenth Regiment, Letters July 6, 1863. VHS.

"After nightfall of Thursday Colonel Veazey was detailed as division field-officer of the day, and taking the Sixteenth Vermont regiment and a detail from the brigade on the right, posted a picket line along the front, from the right of Codori's house on the Emmittsburg road through the low grown to the left, till it joined the picket line of the Fifth Corps. Three companies were deployed on the picket line, and the remainder of the regiment lay as picket reserve. “It was,” says Colonel Veazey,
 “the saddest night on picket that I ever passed. The line ran across the field that had been fought over the day before, and the dead and wounded of the two armies, lying side by side, thickly strewed the ground. The mingled imprecations and prayers of the wounded, and supplications for help, were heart-rending. The stretcher bearers of both armies were allowed to pass back and forth through the picket lines, but scores of wounded men died around us in the gloom, before any one could bring relief or receive their dying messages.” "
~ 2 George Grenville Benedict, Vermont in the Civil War 459 (Burlington Vt 1888). 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Wednesday, July 1, 1863. On the Emmitsburg Road.

"Wednesday July 1, 1863. Marched to battlefield near Gettysburg but did not arrive in season. Our forces driven back. Took position in the line of battle. Very severe march. 1st Corps fought enemy alone. Loss severe." From the Diary of Wheelock G. Veazey, Colonel, 16th Vermont Regiment.(VHS).

"I saw General Sickles and staff coming up the road. I went out and saluted him and inquired if he could tell me where the Second Vermont Brigade was. He said, "Yes, they are about three miles below here and will soon be along."" ~ Lt. Frank Kenfield, 13 Vt , Co. E, caught up with reunited with his Regiment on July 1 on the Emmitsburg Road. He said:

In time of battle, as there is a dread about it that few, if any, can overcome. There is a great difference in mankind as to bravery, but the bravest are not over anxious to take a hand in a battle like Gettysburg.