Rev. William S. Smart, D.D.,
Chaplain Fourteenth Regiment
The Fourteenth regiment was raised under President Lincoln's call of August 4, 1862, for three hundred thousand militia to serve for nine months. It consisted of companies recruited in Addison, Rutland and Bennington counties, and contained men from every town except Brandon, which had furnished a company (G) under Capt. (Gov.) E. J. Ormsbee, to the Twelfth regiment. The headquarters of the various companies were as follows: A, Bennington; B, Wallingford; C, Manchester; D, Shoreham; E, Middlebury; F, Castleton; G, Bristol; H, Rutland; I, Vergennes; K, Danby.
The regiment went into camp at Brattleboro, October 6, 1862, and was mustered into the United States service, October 21, and left next day for Washington, D. C., nine hundred fifty-two strong. They were as fine a body of men as could be found in the State, representing every walk in life. Every one was a volunteer, and not one deserter is found on their roster. A draft had been ordered by Governor Holbrook for September 11 in case the quotas of the towns were not raised by that time, but no draft was needed. During the recruiting of the regiment, an incident occurred in Benson, which, while local, well illustrates the patriotic spirit which pervaded Vermont. By a mistake in the office of the Adjutant General, the quota of this town was five in excess of the real number. It was discovered too late to be remedied, and the intelligence reached the town on the evening of the 10th, that the selectmen must proceed with the draft if the quota was not full by the morning of the 11th. Messengers were dispatched, and the people of the town summoned to consider the emergency. By ten o'clock nearly every male inhabitant was present. The first thing to do was to raise $1,000 to pay the usual bounty. As this was not a legal meeting, it was promptly raised by subscription, and the five men needed stepped into the breach, and the dreaded stigma of a draft was averted.
The officers of the regiment were a fine and able body of men. Few changes were found necessary during their term of service, yet they could have been duplicated, twice over, from the ranks. Of those now living it is not needful to speak. Many of them are well known in the State, but of the dead the spirit of comradeship compels a word.
Col. William T. Nichols of Rutland, was a brave and efficient commander. His first service was as a volunteer in the Rutland company of the First regiment. On his return he was elected as representative in the Legislature, and again in 1862, but dropping all civil duties and legal practice, he devoted himself to the service of his country. He is remembered by his officers and men with affection and esteem, as a good soldier and a gentleman. He died in April, 1882.
Charles Field of Dorset, was a Quartermaster, whose energy and care for the wants of the regiment were as unfailing as his native courtesy and gentle manners. Of this he gave signal proof, when, on the morning of July 2, he appeared on Cemetery Hill, with four wagon loads of coffee and hard tack. In doing this he took the risk of disobeying orders to go to the rear, with his train, and narrowly escaped capture, but his coming was welcomed by hungry men, and he saved the brigade from having to fight on empty stomachs.
Captain Munson of Manchester, company C., was a brave and capable officer in whose hands the colors never wavered on the line.
Capt. (Judge) Walter C. Dunton, company H, was as cool, careful and devoted to duty on the field, as he was afterwards distinguished for his ability and probity on the bench. He has gone over to the majority, mourned as a true patriot and good citizen.
The Fourteenth was attached to the defenses of Washington and did picket duty, first at Alexandria, after the 11th of December near Fairfax Court House, where it assisted in the repulse of Stuart's cavalry raid, and from March to June, 1863, at Wolf Run Shoal on the Occoquan river.This was the outer picket line of Washington. this duty was interspersed with the digging of rifle pits and the building of corduroy roads. The duty, while not particularly dangerous, was arduous and involved much exposure and hardship in winter weather. The health of the regiment, however, was good and the record remarkable. The entire loss by disease was only thirty-nine men, far less than the other regiments of the brigade. Some of this redounds to the credit of our excellent Surgeon, Dr. A. T. Woodward, and his assistant, Dr. L. D. Ross. Something is also to be attributed to the pluck and good spirit of the men, as is illustrated in the medical record of company A. It was called the 'noisy company." There was always some sport on hand among the boys of company A. They did not lose a man by sickness, and Captain Gore had the satisfaction of bringing back to Brattleboro every man he took out. Not a man was hit during the battle, although they were in no better position, apparently, than the rest of the line. The company must have been out of the range of the terrible artillery fire from which the regiment sustained its heavy loss at Gettysburg.
On the 20th of April, Gen. George J. Stannard, was assigned to the command of the brigade and on June 25th, the brigade, having been attached to the Third Division of the First Corps, began the march to the North, which ended at Gettysburg. June 30 it had reached Emmettsburg Maryland, having marched one hundred twenty miles in six days, gaining a day on the First Corps, which had proceeded in advance of the entire army.
The next day's march was made with quickened pace, for the sound of guns to the north told that a battle was going on and we were needed. The regiment reached the field too late to participate in the fighting of the first day, and bivouacked in a wheat field to the left of Cemetery Hill. At daylight of July 2 the brigade joined the First Corps, which was reduced by the casualties of the first day to two thousand four hundred men. This march was severe and told heavily on our ranks. The seven hundred twenty-two men who left Wolf Run Shoals, June 25, were reduced to five hundred. Two hundred and twenty-two had been compelled to fall out, unable to bear the killing pace.
Late in the afternoon of the 2nd, the brigade was called into action on the left center, to repel the attack of Gen. A. P. Hill. A battery had already been captured and was re-taken by the Thirteenth Vermont. Another was in peril and was saved as the Fourteenth double-quicked to its rescue. The regiment remained in this position during the rest of the engagement. In the opening cannonade of the third day the Fourteenth had several non-commissioned officers and men killed by the explosion of a battery caisson, near which they were lying. Colonel Nichols obtained permission to move his regiment forward about ten rods from the main line, where they lay during the terrific cannonade of the third day. When the gray line of Pickett's massive charge, seventeen thousand strong, moved down upon the position of the Fourteenth, they lay concealed on the ground, until the line was within sixty yards. The men rose at command and gave a staggering and unexpected volley in the face of the charging column. The direction of the advancing charge was changed, and swung off to the north, until their right flank was beyond the right of the Fourteenth. It was at this time that General Stannard's quick eye saw his chance for a flank movement, and delivered it with such fatal effect upon Pickett. The Fourteenth moved a short distance by the flank to the north, and obliquely from the main line. The Thirteenth, followed by the Sixteenth, changed front to the first company and moved out at right angles from the line and charged forward. The Fourteenth kept up a rapid fire at close range and closed up the pen in which Pickett's right wing was caught and crushed.
After the main charge was repulsed, General Wilcox's Brigade was seen coming down in front of the position of the Fourteenth. The Sixteenth was coming back to get into line to receive the charge, but Colonel Veazey saw an opportunity to strike them on the front, which he did in splendid style. Four companies of the Fourteenth, A, F, D and I, under Lieutenant-Colonel Rose, formed on his left and assisted in capturing most of the Rebel Brigade. So it fell to the lot of the Fourteenth, with the other regiments, to uphold the honor of Vermont on this hotly contested field, and at this critical time in the battle.
It can with truth be said, that they
"Nothing common did, or mean,
Upon that memorable scene."
General Doubleday, in his official report, says of these troops, which had never been in action before: "These movements were executed in open field, under very heavy fire of shell, grape and musketry, and were performed with the promptness and precision of battalion drill." The losses sustained by the Fourteenth in this engagement, were the largest in the brigade. Nineteen were killed in action; nine died from wounds received in action; total, twenty-seven. The wounded numbered seventy-four.
The Fourteenth joined in the pursuit of Lee after the battle and made some hard marches, one, on the 7th of July, is recalled of thirty-five miles continuously, ending in rain, mud and darkness, on the top of the Catoctin Mountain, after midnight. July 18 the regiment was released and started for home, and was mustered out in Brattleboro, July 30, 1863.
Vermont does well to preserve the names and deeds of her soldiers in the Civil War among her most precious archives, that the spirit of her sons, more immortal than their deeds, may be preserved to future generations. Such were the young men of Vermont in 1863. Such may they ever be when their country needs their service.
The average age of the regiment was a fraction over twenty-five years. Three hundred thirty two were from sixteen to twenty-one years of age.
All hail to the Vermont veterans, whose locks are growing gray, but who in youth's golden prime, held country dearest of all. May their generations never cease.
1. Chaplain Smart, writing probably close to 30 years after the event, did not recall that one member of Company A, Private Albert Wallen, died of disease 6/21/63, four members of the company were wounded at Gettysburg, and five members of the company had been discharged for disability before the regiment was mustered out. [tjl]
2. Actually, 18 were killed in action, 9 died of their wounds. The nine mortally wounded were also included in Chaplain Smart's figure of 74 wounded; the regiment's Final Statement only listed 65 wounded. [tjl]
Source: 1892 Revised Roster, pp. 502-523.