Hon. Joel C. Baker,
First Lieutenant Ninth Regiment
The various disasters to the Union Arms in the Shenandoah Valley during the early months of our civil war enabled the volunteers from Vermont to make history, as well as to show the vigor and skill with which the sons of the Green Mountains could prepare for and meet an emergency. In the spring of 1862, recruiting ceased in this State, because it was understood that the regiments already at the front were the full proportion of Vermont to end the war. General Banks was advancing up the valley, and, with the examples of Milroy and Patterson before his eyes, it was confidently expected that this expedition would close to the army at Richmond the store house nearest it, and, at the same time, press at the back door of the rebel capital, while McClellan and his magnificent army of the Potomac thundered in at the front gate. Early in May, Stonewall Jackson made a rush down the valley, and the army of Banks was flying over the track his predecessors had taken towards Harper's Ferry and the Potomac. May 21, 1862, Governor Holbrook received a telegraphic order from the War Department, to raise at once another regiment of infantry, followed four days later by a dispatch requiring the immediate forwarding to Washington of the entire volunteer and militia force in the State. Orders were at once issued for the immediate enlistment of the Ninth regiment of infantry, in the shortest possible time, at recruiting offices in twelve different counties of the State. Lieut.-Col. George J. Stannard of the Second was called home to assist in the work, and was commissioned as Colonel of the new regiment, and in six weeks from the receipt of the first telegraphic order the Ninth regiment was fully organized and in camp at Brattleboro. The regiment was mustered into the service of the United States July 9, 1862, for three years, with 920 officers and men.
The situation was critical, and in six days after the regiment was mustered, July 15, it started for Washington under telegraphic orders, being the first regiment organized under the President's summons for help to protect the National Capital. The short time required to recruit and organize the regiment, with the superior order of men in its ranks, attracted great attention on the route from the Green Mountains to Philadelphia, and admiring crowds gathered around it and line the streets and housetops on its march from Madison Square to the Battery in New York City. The officers were dined at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, and the men were well fed, and left the city amidst salutes, and cheers, and ovations, and as they halted before going upon the ferry boat to cross North rive, Mr. Horace Greeley addressed them in a patriotic speech from the wheel house of the boat. This trip from Jersey City to Baltimore was uneventful, but at the latter city treason was rampant, and the streets were filled with a rough, scowling mass of men, who, by look and speech, indicated their resentment and desire for mischief. The regiment, under orders from its gallant Colonel, loaded its muskets and marched through the city, willing to take its first baptism of fire and blood there and then. The attack on the Sixth Massachusetts on that ground had produced its effect, and this regiment was prepared and ready for any attack that rebel enterprise should invoke. No assault was made, and Washington was reached in the night. Three days were spent there accustoming the well fed sons of Vermont to the worst fare which they were required to live upon during their entire service.
Sunday, July 19, Colonel Stannard with his regiment marched about fifteen miles to Cloud's Mills, and became a part of the division of General Sturgis. On the 24th, the regiment started for the Shenandoah, and the second day afterwards was at Winchester, and went into camp north of the city, and formed a part of a detached brigade then, or soon after, commanded by Brig.-Gen. Julius White, a vigorous, aggressive and capable officers, who was ordered to intrench and hold this place against the same force that less than three months before had routed the splendid army of Banks. General White went to work, and during the month of August, built, by details from his brigade, a bastioned fort, and armed the same with heavy guns. Under this service the men soon became drilled to hard service, and the frequent fights with bushwhackers at night, and the skirmishing often, and sometimes daily, with small bodies of irregular rebels who infested the region, developed the men rapidly into veteran soldiers, serviceable for any emergency. Major Stowell was made chief of scouts, and several of the more adventurous of the commissioned officers of the regiment took tours of rapid riding with the scouts and with the cavalry, and in that way gained considerable experience in riding, fighting and running, as well as digging in the trenches.
About the first of September, it was known that Jackson was approaching, and only two things could be done--one was to follow the example of all before us and retreat precipitately, and the other to say and be taken by old Stonewall. The example of other great men who had been in our place was taken, and a night march was made to Harper's Ferry, to be there, by treachery or incompetency, surrendered into the hands of the rebels. While in the valley various detachments of the Ninth were engaged in various skirmishes, some of them making much noise and little bloodshed. The story of the surrender of Harper's Ferry has been too often told in history and is too long to receive more than a passing notice. It was humiliating to the country, but to the Ninth regiment and its commanding officer it never brought a blush of shame, and the government marked its approval of his command by promoting Stannard to a Brigadier a few months later. General White compliments the officers and men of the regiment as being distinguished for gallantry in the affair. The night before the surrender, in the absence of Colonel Miles, General White, with the Ninth Vermont and two other small battalions, and a section of Rigby's battery met an assault of a full division of Confederate troops, commanded by Gen. A. P. Hill, and repulsed them.
Harper's Ferry was followed by six months in Chicago. The regiment went there as paroled prisoners, were exchanged Jan. 10, 1863, and remained as guard of the confederate prisoners captured at Murfreesboro and Arkansas Post until about the 1st of April. It then went in detachments with the prisoners in Camp Douglas to City Point, Va., and turned the prisoners over to the Confederate Commissary of Prisoners. At Chicago, small-pox, and restlessness at the situation, for a while kept the men grumbling and uneasy, and several officers resigned and have since won fame and wealth in civil life in the west, while a considerable number of enlisted men went into the regular army and other organizations about to go into active service at the front.
In April, 1863, the confederate General Longstreet besieged the village and fortifications of Suffolk, Va., and laid it under close siege until he was recalled by General Lee, to march north to take part in the invasion of Pennsylvania and the battle of Gettysburg. The Nansemond was navigable to Suffolk with gunboats, and general Peck with his twenty thousand troops was greatly aided by the gunboats that came up the river. The skirmishing was almost constant for several weeks, and there was seldom an hour when the rattle of musketry and the roar of artillery was not heard in all parts of the besieged camps, an the Ninth regiment had its full share of the hard work, and detachments of it did brilliant service in encounters with the enemy, especially in the capture of Battery Huger, at Hill's's Point, in the reconnaissance on the Edenton Road, and the pursuit to the Blackwater. In June, after Longstreet raised his siege, the Ninth, with the balance of Wistar's brigade, went to Yorktown, and when General Keyes was sent to march into Richmond, while Lee and his army were away on the Gettysburg campaign, the Ninth Vermont, Nineteenth Wisconsin and a New York Battery occupied West Point. The affair failed for want of vigor. It was one of those needless failures that, prior to 1864, marked the course of the Union Army in Virginia. How Sheridan, or Custer, or Kilpatrick, or Stannard would have swept into Richmond had they had the opportunity of leading the troops at White House Landing and West Point, while Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia were pressing on towards the high water mark at Gettysburg. Perhaps, however, the times were not ripe for three such victories as Vicksburg, Gettysburg and Richmond, all at one time.
After the failure of the attempt to capture Richmond in the absence of its defenders, Wistar's brigade lay at Yorktown from July to October, languishing with all kinds of miasmatic diseases and writing home dismal letters, in which historical allusions were grotesquely mingled with lonesome descriptions of the country and people, and discouragements about the health of the regiment, and of the whole prospect of the Union cause. Upon one or two occasions the monotony of ague, fevers and sickness was broken by a swift march of a few miles into the surrounding country, and those who were able to go came back invigorated and improved in health and spirits. July 25, one of these expeditions brought the troops into slight contact with bushwhackers, but generally the surrounding country was only peopled by superannuated whites an Negroes, of but little account to themselves, and no substantial support to their friends in the rebel army.
In the latter part of October, through the personal efforts of Senator Solomon Foot and Gov. J. Gregory Smith, an order was procured from the secretary of War to remove the regiment to a healthier location. The regiment, on the 24th of October, in company with part o the Ninety-ninth New York, put to sea, and after a tempestuous passage arrived at Morehead City, North Carolina, and were directed to take possession of Newport Barracks, ten miles up the railroad from Morehead City towards New Berne. This proved to be a healthy location; the men began to improve immediately and the sick were taken from the various hospitals where they had been left, to the new camp, and for several months the light duty of guarding the railroad from Morehead to Croatan was performed by the regiment, with no Confederate force except detached posts of from twenty-five to sixty men nearer than thirty miles, although the country was filled with roving bands of bushwhackers in small squads of four to ten men. The health of the regiment improved fast, and on the 12th of November, eighteen officers and two hundred sixty-four men were reported for duty.
December 1, 1863, Major Charles Jarvis, a gallant and enthusiastic officer, and the idol of his command, was shot and killed a few miles outside our picket lines by a small squad of rebel soldiers returning to the army from a furlough. The beginning of 1864 found the regiment at Newport Barracks numbering but one short of five hundred officers and men, of whome one short of three hundred were present for duty. January 27, the regiment, with about an equal number of cavalry, made a forced march of thirty miles in the night, and captured the entire garrison at Young's Cross Roads, without firing a gun. The force captured consisted of one officer and twenty-seven cavalrymen, with their horses, arms and equipments. The same day there arrived in camp three hundred and fifty recruits from Vermont, increasing the aggregate to 844. The recruits had but just been assigned to the companies and got their names upon the rolls, when General Pickett made an advance on New Berne, with six brigades of infantry and a full proportion of field artillery and cavalry. Pickett sent one of his brigades, commanded by General Martin, consisting of three regiments of infantry, a battalion of cavalry and three field-pieces, to capture the Ninth Vermont at Newport Barracks, About nine o'clock on the morning of February 2, Martin struck the outpost at Gales Creek, held by Company H, and drove it in. At 11 o'clock the Confederates appeared before Bogue Sound Block House held by company B, and commenced firing with infantry and artillery. The defenders, consisting of 62 men, half of whom had first received arms as soldiers that morning, returned the fire and continued to hold their ground until nearly surrounded, when, by order of the commanding officer, the company fell back upon the run and succeeded in reaching Morehead City. As soon as the outlying companies, H and B, were disposed of the rebels continued their march towards the camp at Newport. The regiment had been thrown forward about two miles and opened fire upon the rebel column when it appeared. The fight became general and lasted until dark, the Ninth being pressed back by mere force of numbers, an fighting like heroes, the new men lacking somewhat in drill and experience, but making it up in bravery and marksmanship. At night the Yankee boys had been crowded back to the Newport river, and, to prevent annihilation or capture, passed over the railroad and highway bridges and set them on fire, and made a night march to Beaufort unmolested and unpursued. The casualties were three killed, fourteen badly wounded, and forty-seven captured. The rebel loss was three officers and fifteen men killed, and thirty wounded. Pretty good shooting for raw recruits.
Work became more active from this time forward; both parties kept upon the alert. The Ninth Vermont and the Twenty-first Connecticut advanced to Newport Barracks on the 5th, and Martin's forces fell back before them and retreated to Wilmington, without further serious fighting. Outposts were reestablished at Gales Creek, and a company stationed at Kennedy's Mills. The position at Newport was strengthened and was not again attacked.
March, 16, 1864, the regiment met with a severe loss in the death of Maj. Amasa Bartlett, from brain fever. Major Bartlett was one of the most promising young officers who went from Vermont to the war. He was popular alike with all, and his death was a loss which was deeply felt throughout the entire command.
In April, word was received that the Confederate Commissary Department had a detail fishing on Bogue Banks, A detail of twenty men made the party a visit, and captured the entire party with 500 pounds of sea-trout, the fishing utensils and three boats. Two days later fifty men of the Ninth made a dash into Swansboro and captured a rebel Lieutenant and seventeen men of the Seventh North Carolina Cavalry, with their horses and arms, and a field-piece, destroyed a quantity of contraband goods, and returned with their prisoners and spoils, without losing a man. Capt. S. H. Kelley commanded both these details.
In May, the Ninth accompanied an expedition to Jacksonville, the county sea of Onslow County, on the New River, and one company of the regiment was alone in that rebellious village for several hours, but was withdrawn a very short time before an overwhelming force of rebels crossed into town. This expedition was a march of eighty miles in four days, several skirmishes, and operated to cause the rebel forces to concentrate on the road to Wilmington. During the balance of the summer to September 1st, the regiment was broken up and stationed at outposts around New Berne. September 15,1864, being the second anniversary of the surrender at Harper's Ferry, the regiment arrived in front of Petersburg, and on Friday, the 16th was assigned to Second Brigade, Second Division, Eighteenth Army Corps, Army of the James, Maj.-Gen. E. O. C. Ord commanding, and its history was part of the history of that gallant Corps until it was broken up. Two days after its arrival on the Bermuda Front, the regiment received another detachment of recruits, increasing its numbers to 1,129.
September 17, 1864, Lieut. E. W. Jewett, company A., with Sergt. Charles F. Branch, company C, with one hundred picked men, were sent as a support to an isolated, exposed earth-work on the Bermuda Front, known as Redoubt Dutton. This point was sometimes called Butler's Slaughter-pen, and it was near where Heckman's Brigade was badly cut up a few days before. The redoubt was names for Col. A. H. Dutton, Twenty-First Connecticut Vols., a brave and accomplished officer who was killed near the spot, and was equipped with siege howitzers, mostly 24 pounders. The location was peculiarly exposed, and was one of the most important positions on that front. It was very heavily built and armed, and stood on a bluff facing southward, and was flanked by a deep ravine upon the east and west. From the redoubt northward the ground sloped gently to a heavy line of Confederate earthworks about two hundred yards distant. Behind this earthwork were planted nine batteries fully manned. The Union lines were built somewhat in the form a letter S, and held the Tenth and Eighteenth Army Corps, with twenty-two batteries so arranged as to enfilade nearly every portion of the enemy's line. Our picket line was tortuous and extended over the front, and required a heavy force daily. The detail from the Ninth lived in gopher holes on the east side of the bluff, but spent more than half of their time for more than six weeks, in the rifle pits under the muzzles of the guns of the redoubt.
On Saturday, September 24th, a shotted salute of 100 guns was fired at sunset in honor of Sheridan's victory in the valley; again on the 30th, another was fired. The music of shot and shell from two hundred cannon playing over the heads of the Vermont support was terrific. This salute brought on a determined attack from the enemy, and the brunt of the assault fell upon Redoubt Dutton. It was admitted that the steady, well-directed fire of the Vermont line disarranged and broke two well organized lines of battle at less than one hundred and fifty yards. On Thursday, October 20, Cedar Creek was celebrated by one hundred guns shotted with shell, bearing on the enemy's lines.
On November 11, the line was weakened to re-enforce our troops on the railroad farther south, and at about nine o'clock a furious assault was made by the Confederates on our line of pickets, forcing them back. Some militia from Pennsylvania, enlisted for one hundred days, broke and sought shelter within the main line, leaving Lieutenant Jewett and his Vermonters alone to defend the redoubt and received the hearty congratulations of the artillery officers under their protections. The guns thundered all-night. Lieutenant Jewett resigned November 24th, and left the detachment under command of Sergeant Branch. This young non-commissioned officer kept his command well in hand and handled it, in its exposed position, with the skill of a veteran officer, and showed the ability which afterwards was given further development in command of a company. November 29, General Graham relieved this detail and they rejoined the regiment at Chapin's Farm (Chaffin's Farm) after seven weeks of arduous service under almost continuous and heavy fire which showed the stuff of which Vermont soldiers were made.
September 29, the Ninth participated in the battle of Chapin's Farm (Chaffin's Farm), on the north side of the James. Stannard's division carried Fort Harrison, and the Ninth Vermont alone was ordered to carry Battery Morris and the line of works of which it was a part. It made the charge, carried the works and drove its rebel defenders to the rear in confusion. The regiment was pushed forward for an assault upon Fort Gilmer, but it was not ordered to charge that strong-hold, and was recalled at night to join in the necessary work of putting in order the works taken, so they could be held against counter assaults which came the next day under the eye of General Lee himself, but were futile. On the 27th of October, the regiment took part in the battle of Fair Oaks, known as Fair Oaks 3d, and after the Federal repulse on that field, the Ninth Vermont was hastily recalled to form part of the provisional division sent to New York, under General Butler, to protect that city from anticipated riots during the presidential election. Once company came to Troy, N. Y., upon the same errand.
Upon its return from New York, the regiment, as part of the Third Division of the Twenty-fourth Corps, was called on heavily for details, and engaged in the winter watch of the Rebel Capital, always on the alert to take advantage of any delinquency of the foe. At brigade and division inspections held during the winter, the Ninth Vermont was pronounced, in General Orders from Division Headquarters, to be the best regiment in the division.
As the time drew near for the collapse of the giant rebellion, both sides prepared for the struggle. All the Twenty-fourth Corps except the Third Division, went south of the James to assist the Army of the Potomac, and this division, commanded by the gallant Devens, with two divisions of colored troops of the Twenty-fifth Corps with Weitzel at their head, lay watching, ready to spring at the first sign of weakening. The thunders of battle around Petersburg were distinctly heard, and at last the long waited for signal came, and on the morning of the 3d of April, 1865, before the dawn, the garrison withdrew and as soon as there was any light, the picket line advanced over and beyond the fortifications. This line, composed of men from the Ninth Vermont and their comrades of the Twelfth New Hampshire, rallied upon the road and went forward at a run, outstripping the colored troops and passing through the blazing streets of Richmond, amidst lines of a shouting and praying race, hailing the blue coated visitors as representatives of the power that brought them freedom and salvation and only halted at the Confederate White House, the home of President Jefferson Davis. That public functionary was not at home but was a fugitive from the wrath to come. For two weeks after the surrender of Richmond, the Ninth Vermont regiment was part of its provost guard, and its colonel, Bvt. Brig.-Gen. Edward h. Ripley, had command of the troops in the city for a much longer time. A few days more and Lee surrendered, followed by Johnston and the other Rebel Armies. The work was over, and on the 13th of June came the muster out of the original members, the journey home and disbanding. About 400 of the recruits remained in the service until December when they were mustered out, and the Ninth Vermont Volunteers became a thing of the past.
By virtue of General Orders, the regimental colors bore the name of the following battles in which the regiment was conspicuous and had a meritorious part: Harper's Ferry, Newport Barracks, Chapin's Farm (Chaffin's Farm), Fair Oaks and Fall of Richmond.
The following skirmishes and battles of lesser dignity were not inscribed upon its colors, but in which either the entire regiment or parts of it, bore an honorable part, and in which its blood was shed for the cause of the country:
Winchester, Va., Aug., 1862; Siege of Suffolk, Va., April to July, 1863; Nansemond, Va., April to July, 1863; Edenton Road, Val., April to July, 1863; Blackwater, Va., April to July, 1863; Gloucester Court House, Va., July 25, 1863; Young's Cross Roads, N. C., January 27, 1864; Bogue Sound, N. C., February 2, 1864; Gales Creek, N. C., February 2, 1864; Swansboro, N. C., April 29, 1864; Jacksonville, N. C., May 9, 1864; Redoubt Dutton, (Bermuda Front) Va., Sept. 24-30, 1864; Redoubt Dutton, (Bermuda Front)Va., Nov. 11, 1864.
Perhaps the fact that this regiment is the only one from the State that lost its colors at the hands of the enemy should be referred to. At the time of the betrayal and surrender at Harper's Ferry, Colonel Stannard refused to surrender for a time but when he succumbed to the orders of his superior officer and was about to march his regiment upon the heights to stack arms, the officers of the regiment cut its national colors into pieces, and parceled it out among themselves, and kept it out of the hands of the enemy. The intention was to so dispose of both flags, but in the excitement and necessary haste, the State flag was not entirely distributed and the larger part of it fell into the hands of the rebels. It was sent to Richmond as atrophy, and came back to the State through the War Department. The Ninth Vermont does not feel any disgrace at the loss of the flag because it was in no fault. When it marched into Richmond at the head of a column and capturing the rebel archives, the flag was re-taken by the same command from which it was taken, and its colors occupy as proud a place in the State Capitol as any, though not carried over as many bloody fields as the colors of the regiments of the old Vermont Brigade. At Harper's Ferry, the Ninth regiment did not surrender for over two hours after the other troops, for the reason that Colonel Stannard entertained the hope that he could fight his way out in some direction and reach the Army of the Potomac, which was known to be near us. When he saw the white flag raised he marched his regiment out of its place in the battle line on Bolivar Heights and down to the lower road leading into Harper's Ferry. En route, he called for fifty volunteers, who formed rapidly at the head of the regiment and started to lead the column in the direction of the Union troops on the other side of Harper's Ferry. Moving down the road he encountered the head of a rebel division which had crossed the Shenandoah River from Loudon Heights. This put an end to his endeavor to get away, as this column out-numbered his forces ten to one. The men then lay sullenly by the roadside waiting for something to turn up, until ordered by authority that could not be disobeyed, to march to Bolivar Heights and stack arms alongside the other Union troops. Marching up the rocky road, the entire command moved silently and in tears, as they passed Stonewall Jackson, who stood by the roadside, he noticed the appearance of the men and said, "don't feel bad men, don't feel bad, God's will must be done." Col. Dudley K. Andross, who had a special grievance, made reply to this: "Very well, General Jackson, but there will be a change in God's will within 48 hours," and that change was manifested at the battle of Antietam within that time predicted.
Source: Theodore S. Peck, Adjutant General, Revised Roster of Vermont Volunteers and lists of Vermonters Who Served in the Army and Navy of the United States During the War of the Rebellion, 1861-66, (Press of the Watchhman Publishing Co., Montpelier, VT, 1892), pp. 338-343.