6th Vermont Infantry
Hon. Frank G. Butterfield,
(Chief of the Special Examination Division,
Bureau of Pensions, Washington, D. C.),
Lieutenant-Colonel Sixth Regiment
September 16, 1861, in response to an urgent request from the Secretary of War, Gov. Erastus Fairbanks issued orders for raising and organizing the Sixth Vermont Regiment. In less than two weeks the regiment was raised and ordered to rendezvous at Montpelier. The several companies were recruited and commanded as follows:
A, Addison county, Capt. George Parker, Jr.
B, Caledonia, Windsor and Orange counties, Capt. A. B. Hutchinson
C, Windsor county, Capt. J. C. Spaulding;
D, Orleans county, Capt. Oscar A., Hale;
E, Caledonia and Windsor counties, Capt. Edwin W., Barker;
F, Rutland, Washington and Chittenden counties, Capt. E. F. Reynolds;
G, Washington county, Capt. William H. H. Hall;
H, Washington county, Capt. D. B. Davenport;
I, Chittenden county, Capt. Wesley Hazelton;
K, Franklin county, Capt. Elisha L. Barney.
October 15 the regiment was mustered into the United States service for three years with the following field and staff: Colonel, Nathan Lord, Jr.; Lieutenant-Colonel, Asa P. Blunt; Major, Oscar S. Tuttle; Adjutant, Richard B. Crandall; Quartermaster, John W. Clark; Surgeon, R. C. M. Woodward; Assistant Surgeon, Charles M. Chandler; Chaplain, Edward P. Stone.
On Saturday, October 19, only thirty-three days after the Governor's call for volunteers, the regiment was en route o the front. Reaching Washington on the 22d, the regiment two days later marched to Camp Griffin near Lewinsville, Va., where it joined the Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Vermont regiment, thus completing The Vermont Brigade. Henceforth its history was merged into, and became identical with that of the old Vermont Brigade. During the winter the regiment suffered remarkably from sickness. There were 278 cases of typhoid fever, 330 of measles, 90 of diphtheria and 180 of mumps. The mortality was great, amounting to more than 50 deaths.
In the original organization of the Army of the Potomac, The Vermont Brigade, of which the Sixth formed a part, was assigned to Gen. William F. Smith's division of the Fourth Army Corps, under the command of General Keyes.
March 10, 1862, the regiment broke camp and entered upon its first field work, the Peninsula campaign. Embarking at Alexandria on the 23d, it landed at Fortress Monroe on the 24th, and on the 4th of April commenced its march up the Peninsula, arriving in front of the enemy on Warwick Creek on the next day. On the 6th the regiment was for the first time under fire in support of a battery, during a demonstration made by the division upon the Confederate works. It was, however, subjected to no loss, and it was not until the 16th of April, at Lee's Mills, that it received its "baptism of fire." On that day the right wing crossed Warwick Creek, through water up to the waist, under a severe and galling fire, and attacked the enemy's works. At the moment of success it was decided to abandon the attack and they were ordered to retire. The loss of the regiment in this battle was 23 killed and mortally wounded, and 57 wounded, the bulk of the loss being from the right wing. Thereafter the regiment remained in sight of the enemy, doing picket duty, during the remainder of the month of April, with no incident worthy of note, except that on the 29th it made a reconnoissance resulting in a slight skirmish. Lieut. A. M. Nevins of company G was mortally wounded, and a man in company K wounded.
On the night of the 3d of May the enemy abandoned their line across the Peninsula, and on the morning of the 4th the regiment crossed Warwick Creek and occupied the entrenchments which they had assaulted so gallantly on the 16th of April. When the enemy moved out of these works they left behind them evidence of an utter disregard of the rules of civilized warfare. There were found scores of loaded shells buried in the ground near the surface, to each of which was attached a fuse surmounted by a percussion cap just at the surface. These were thus planted for the purpose of killing our men when they stepped upon the percussion cap and exploded the shell. Several explosions took place, killing a few and maiming others, upon which a search was made and the remaining shells unearthed. This is no camp rumor, but an absolute truth, for the writer saw scores of these shells dug up and carried away.
Leaving Lee's Mills on the same day, the regiment moved up the Peninsula, and on the 5th of May they were again in battle at Williamsburg. the regiment marched on the 9th toward New Kent Court House, arriving there on the 11th; on the 12th to Cumberland Landing, on the Pamunkey River, and on the next day to White House Landing, where they remained four days. On the 16th day of May, 1862, the sixth Provisional Corps was organized, to which Smith's Division was assigned, and The Vermont Brigade, to which the Sixth belonged, became the Second Brigade, Second Division, Sixty Army Corps, which designation it retained until the close of the war. It marched on the 19th by way of Tunstall's Station to near New Bridge on the Chickahominy, ten miles from Richmond; on the 22d to near Gaines's Mill, about eight miles from Richmond; and on the 24th it moved forward a mile, and camped on the farm of Dr. Gaines. During the second day of the battle of Fair Oaks, (June 1), the corps marched to cross the Chickahominy at New Bridge to re-enforce the troops engaged, but were met at the pontoon bridge by countermanding orders. The brigade returned to camp and the Sixth regiment was left to guard the bridge.
June 5 the brigade crossed the river four miles below at Grape Vine Bridge and occupied a position near Golding's house, remaining there until June 28. On the evening of the 27th the Sixth was engaged in a severe skirmish at Golding's Farm, in which it lost one killed, six wounded and missing. For its part in this skirmish, it, together with the Fourth Vermont, was mentioned in General Hancock's report of the affair. On the 28th The Vermont Brigade was withdrawn from its position and marched out of camp under a furious cannonade from the rebel batteries. On the next day, Sunday, the regiment marched to Savage's Station, where a battle was fought in the afternoon, lasting well into the night. In this fight the regiment lost 21 killed and mortally wounded, and 54 wounded and missing. The regiment left the field at 10 o'clock, and with the balance of the command marched to the rear and crossed the white Oak Swamp at daylight on the morning of the 30th. On this day was fought the battle of White Oak Swamp.
The Sixth Army Corps held the right of the line at Malvern Hill, but was not engaged. After the battle it marched to Harrison's Landing, where it remained more than a month. On the Peninsula the regiment was constantly in the front, participating in nearly all the battles and skirmishes of the campaign. Added to the severe losses in battle were the many cases of sickness and death from fever and malaria, caused by the swamps of the Chickahominy, so that when the regiment arrived on the James River its ranks were sadly depleted. August 16 the regiment marched with the Sixth Army Corps en route to Fortress Monroe. On the 22d it embarked on transports from Fortress Monroe to Alexandria, arriving Sunday, August 24, and remaining there until August 29. The brigade was within sound of the firing at Second Bull Run, but was not engaged. The regiment participated in the Maryland campaign, being often under fire, and was engaged in the brilliant combat of Crampton's Gap and the bloody battle of Antietam.
September 26, the regiment went into camp at Hagerstown, Md., and enjoyed a month's fairly earned rest. Recrossing the Potomac November 2, it bore an honorable part at Fredericksburg. December 18, Colonel Lord, who had hitherto commanded the regiment, resigned on account of ill-health and Lieutenant-Colonel Tuttle was promoted to the colonelcy. The regiment wintered at White Oak Church, a few miles from Fredericksburg.
In March, 1863, Colonel Tuttle resigned by reason of serious illness, and Lieutenant-Colonel Barney was made colonel. Colonel Barney commanded the regiment thereafter until he fell mortally wounded in the battle of the Wilderness in May, 1864.
In the Chancellorsville campaign of 1863, the regiment did gallant service at Marye's Heights, and especially at Bank's Ford, where, in a gallant charge, it drove back the enemy and captured 250 prisoners. It again crossed the Rappahannock June 6, and was sharply engaged with the enemy, holding its ground three hours against a greatly superior force. it participated in the Pennsylvania campaign, and at Gettysburg, with the brigade, held the extreme left of the line. When the battle of Gettysburg opened on July 1, the regiment, with the Sixth Corps, was at Manchester, Md., thirty-five miles from the battlefield. At dusk orders came to move, but it was about 10 o'clock at night before the column started for Gettysburg. It was on this occasion that General Sedgwick issued his famous order, "Put the Vermonters ahead and keep the column well closed up," and before the sun went down on the afternoon of the 2d, the column deployed into the line of battle at Gettysburg.
July 10 it suffered severely in the battle of Funkstown, Md., one of the most brilliant engagements of the war. Here the brigade relieved Buford's cavalry which it found skirmishing with the enemy. The Sixth and Fifth first went on to the skirmish line, but, the enemy attacking in force, the entire brigade was deployed as skirmishers, covering a front of more than two miles. During the day it was attacked three times by heavy lines of battle, but each time repulsed the enemy. Notwithstanding there were probably 50,000 Union troops within thirty minutes' march of the line, the Vermont skirmish line held its position against solid lines of battle all day long without help, a feat unparalleled in modern history. Soon after the Sixth, with the rest of the Brigade, was sent to New York City on account of the draft riots; thence to Kingston, N.Y., returning to Virginia September 16. it served the remainder of the year with "Meade and Lee's express line, between Alexandria and Culpepper," participated in the engagement at Rappahannock Station November 7; was in the Mine Run campaign supporting the Third Corps at Locust Grove, and went into winter quarters at Brandy Station.
During the Wilderness campaign of 1864, the Sixth fought desperately and suffered enormously. Of 441 men going into battle, there were 69 killed and 127 wounded, a total of 196--almost one-half. On the 5th of May Col. Barney was mortally wounded, and the command devolved on Lieut.-Col. Oscar A. Hale, who commanded the regiment until he was severely wounded in August. On the 10th, at Spotsylvania, it charged with Upton's forlorn hope. Twelve regiments were selected from the Sixth Army Corps to pierce the enemy's line. Of these twelve, three were taken from the Vermont Brigade, the Second, Fifth, and Sixth. The Third and Fourth were on the skirmish line, and when the time came, joined in the charge. Col. Emery Upton, 121st New York, had the command. The twelve regiments formed in three lines and charged bayonet. They took the enemy's works, held these for some hours, but finally through some misapprehension were not supported, and ordered to retire. It was one of the most famous charges of the war. In made Colonel Upton a Brigadier-General, and reflected the highest honor upon every soldier engaged.
On the 12th the regiment fought at the Bloody Angle. All day long nothing separated the men from the rebels but a heavy breastwork, perhaps six feet thick. The musketry was so severe that in front of the Brigade oak trees of more than a foot in diameter were cut down by rifle balls. On the 15th the regiment, which had been reduced to about 250 men, was re-inforced by 150 men who had been on detached service for a year at Brattleboro. At Cold Harbor it was constantly engaged for twelve days, and on the 7th of June Maj. Richard B. Crandall was mortally wounded. The regiment crossed the James river on the 16th of June with the Brigade. It was constantly fighting and entrenching until the 9th of July, when it moved rapidly with the Sixth Corps to Washington to drive Early away. Thence it went with Sheridan to the Shenandoah Valley, and at Opequan, Winchester, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek, did its full share of the glorious work in the valley.
August 21 at Charles Town, West Virginia, in a sharp engagement it suffered more severely than any other regiment of the Brigade. Lieutenant-Colonel Hale, Capt. B.D. Fabyan, and Capt. F. G. Butterfield were severely, and Major Dwinell mortally wounded, and the regiment lost 10 killed and mortally wounded, 29 wounded, and one missing. For the remainder of the three years' term the regiment was commanded by Capt. M. Warner Davis. October 16 it was ordered to Vermont to be mustered out, leaving at the front those who had re-enlisted, forming a battalion of about 320 men. Capt. F. G. Butterfield, Co. I, was promoted to lieutenant-colonel, and Adj. Sumner H. Lincoln was made major.
At Cedar Creek, October 19, Capt. E. R. Kinney commanded the regiment until wounded, when the command devolved upon Capt. William J. Sperry. Lieutenant-Colonel Butterfield, being still disabled by his wounds, resigned his commission early in December, and Major Lincoln was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and colonel, and held the command through the rest of the war. Captain Sperry was made lieutenant-colonel, and Captain Kinney major. December 13 the Sixth rejoined the army at Petersburg, and participated in that series of brilliant victories which culminated in the surrender at Appomattox. The battalion was mustered out July 8, 1865, at Burlington, Vt. it was one of 45 out of 2,000 regiments which lost 200 men or over in battle, and one of the famous 300 fighting regiments of the Civil War.
The Light Brigade at Balaklava lost 36.7 percent; the Sixth in the Wilderness lost nearly 45 percent, and held the field. The reputation for gallantry won at Lee's Mills, its first battle, was retained through all its long period of service. Thereafter its members fought often, shoulder to shoulder, with comrades in the brigade, and with them gained the proud distinction of being among the first of all the troops of the Union Army in those qualities which make up the ideal soldier. They were constant and true, they kept untarnished the honor of their native State, and when they folded their banners and came back to Vermont, quietly and without an effort became again respectable citizens, and honest toilers in the arts of peace.
The officers of the regiment who were killed or mortally wounded were Col. E. L. Barney, Majors R. B. Crandall and C. W. Dwinell; Captains R. A. Bird, E. F. Reynolds, Luther Ainsworth, and G. C. Randall; First Lieutenants A. A. Crane, A. M. Nevins, G. C. Babcock, and J. G. Macomber; Second Lieutenant C. F. Bailey. Those who died of disease were Capt. D. B. Davenport, Lieut. G. H. Phelps, and Asst.-Surgeon C. A. Chapin.
Source: Theodore S. Peck, compiler, Revised Roster of Vermont Volunteers and lists of Vermonters Who Served inthe Army and Navy of the United States During the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, Montpelier, Vt.: Press of the Watchman Publishing Co., 1892, pp. 177-180.