The First Artillery, Eleventh Vermont Volunteers, was the largest Vermont regiment. Its aggregate membership, officers and men, was 2,320. It was originally recruited as an infantry regiment in the summer of 1862. Being assigned to duty in the Northern Defences of Washington, it was soon changed from infantry to heavy artillery by order of the War Department, and its enlargement to the regular heavy artillery standard was authorized. Further recruiting followed, which resulted in giving it twelve companies (called batteries) of one hundred fifty men each, with three Majors, with four Lieutenants to each battery. The number of non-commissioned officers was also enlarged.
The service of the regiment at Washington embraced a period of a year and eight months, chiefly employed in constructing and garrisoning the three well-known fortifications named Fort Slocum, Fort Stevens, and Fort Totten. Four other forts were occupied by the regiment during the latter part of its artillery service, giving it a front of about seven miles, facing north, from East Creek to Rock Creek. These works mounted over two hundred heavy guns and mortars, and were connected by a continuous line of rifle pits. The line thus occupied was about four miles from the city, beyond the Soldiers' Home, and was afterwards ineffectually attacked by General Early. During its occupancy by the Eleventh Vermont the regiment became noted for its proficiency in drill and thorough discipline. It assumed the red chevrons and shoulder straps of the artillery arm, and added an artillery flag to its colors, crossed cannon on a yellow field. Its camps were well-built wooden structures, with a fine hospital. It was the daily resort of visitors from the city. No more pleasant or cheerful experiences were ever the lot of soldiers in actual was than those enjoyed by this regiment during the whole of the year 1863 and the first three months of 1864.
After the battle of the Wilderness, General Grant summoned all available troops to the re-enforcement of the Army of the Potomac, and this regiment with others was ordered to the front as infantry, though still bearing its yellow flag and wearing red trimmings upon ins uniforms. It reported for duty near Spotsylvania Court House with 1,500 men in line, and at once became a member of the Old Vermont Brigade, whose five regiments had been reduced to scarce 1,200 muskets. In order to handle the Eleventh on the march and in battle it became necessary to divide it into three battalions, giving the Majors practically regimental commands. In this manner it fought to the end of the war in the Sixth Army Corps. Its active service was only eleven months. During this brief period 155 of its members were killed in action, or died of wounds received in action; 175 died in Confederate prisons, and 457 were wounded. These figures demonstrate the severity of the duty it was called upon to perform, and in the performance of which it never flinched for an instant. Being placed by the side of the veteran regiments of The Vermont Brigade, the Eleventh was on its mettle from the outset, and soon added to its discipline the experience of actual campaigning necessary to make it the equal of any command in the army. The list of its engagements appended shows that it was in every battle fought by the Sixth Corps from May, 1864, to April, 1865. The occasions most vividly remembers are, the heavy artillery fire to which it was subjected at Spotsylvania, May 18; the battle of Cold Harbor, where it suffered heavily; the bitter episode on the Weldon road, where almost an entire battalion was captured by General Mahone; the return to Washington and the repulse of General Early's attack on Fort Stevens; the sharp engagement on the skirmish line at Charles Town on August 21; the battle of the Opequon, when General Sheridan sent the rebels "whirling through Winchester;" the capture of Fisher's Hill; the battle of Cedar Creek, with the soul-stirring incident of Sheridan's ride when he drew rein on Rienzi in front of The Vermont Brigade, at at once announced to its officers that he would fight the battle out "in Getty's line;" the winter siege of Petersburg, culminating on the charge of April 2, when the Sixth Corps went through the rebel entrenchments in the early morning twilight, capturing what has been called the strongest line of works in America in fifteen minutes, during which 1,100 men were killed or wounded; and the pursuit of Lee's flying army to Appomattox Court House, followed by the final march to Danville of one hundred miles in four days, where the Sixth Corps remained until the last rebel had laid down his arms.
The regiment was fortunate in its officers. Its Colonel from enlistment until after the fighting was over, was Gen. James M. Warner of Middlebury, a West Point graduate, who had seen service on the plains in the regular army, a thorough soldier, and a universal favorite. He was shot through the neck in the regiment's first engagement at Spotsylvania, rejoined his command when it entered the Shenandoah Valley, commanded the brigade at the battle of Opequon, and was assigned the next day to command the First Brigade of Getty's Division, a detail of which continued until the close of the war, and in which he gained great credit, especially at Fisher's Hill, Cedar Creek, and the capture of Petersburg, being finally promoted to Brigadier-General of Volunteers, and Brevet Brigadier-General, U. S. A.
The first Lieutenant-Colonel was R. C. Benton, an experienced and capable officer, whose health broke down in the hard service of May, 1864, compelling his resignation. He was succeeded by George E. Chamberlin, previously Senior Major, an exceedingly gallant gentleman, who was killed at Charlestown. Maj. Charles Hunsdon then became lieutenant-colonel, commanding the regiment in the absence of General Warner most of the time thereafter, and finally promoted to the Colonelcy. Maj. Aldace F. Walker then became the last lieutenant-colonel. He was in command of the regiment at the battle of the Opequon. Other majors were George D. Sowles, Robinson Templeton, and Darius J. Safford, the latter remaining in the service after the conclusion of the war as Lieutenant-Colonel in command of a battalion which was not mustered out until some time after the rest of the regiment. Maj. Charles Buxton was killed at the Opequon before his commission reached him. Surgeon C. B. Parks and Chaplain Arthur Little deserve a special line of generous recognition.
Brevets for gallant and meritorious service were conferred upon
James M. Warner,
Maj. Aldace F. Walker,
Capt. James E. Eldredge,
Lieut. Henry C. Baxter,
Capt. George G. Tilden,
Lieutenants Henry J. Nichols,
George A. Bailey,
John H. Macomber,
and Charles H. Anson.
Several officers succeeded in making their escape from rebel prison pens to the Union lines. One, Lieut. Edward B. Parker, while endeavoring to escape, was seriously bitten by blood-hounds on his trial, and died of his injuries a few days later.
Spotsylvania, Va., May 15 to 18, 1864.
Cold Harbor, Va., June 1 to 12, 1864.
Petersburg, Va., June 18, 1864.
Weldon Railroad, Va., June 23, 1864.
Fort Stevens, Md., July 11, 1864.
Charles Town, W. Va., August 21, 1864.
Gilbert's Ford, Va., Sept. 13, 1864.
Opequon, Va., Sept. 19, 1864.
Fisher's Hill, Va., Sept. 21 and 22, 1864.
Cedar Creek, Va., Oct. 19, 1864.
Petersburg, Va., March 25 and 27, 1865.
Petersburg, Va., april 2, 1865.