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9th Vermont Infantry
Harper's Ferry

Memories of the Ninth Vermont at the
Tragedy of Harper's Ferry, Sept. 15, 1862.


how near help was, and yet withheld long enough to precipitate the catastrophe. Soon our ears caught the sound of the struggle to the north of us, opening the fight at Antietam. But the sullen muttering of the guns low down on the horizon plunged us into deeper gloom, as disarmed and humiliated we marched to the rear.

No disaster of the was exceeds Harper's Ferry in the folly and incompetence which caused it. Miles was a man of indolent habits and loose principles, with a mind enervated by past and possibly continued self-indulgence. On this last the evidence was conflicting. His staff officers testified that they knew he had never taken a drop of drink since he was court-martialed for being drunk at the first Bull Run. On the other hand a captain of cavalry, who had been sent on a reconnoissance to Leesburg, swore he came back and reported having counted sixty regiments and batteries, Lee's advance passing Leesburg. Miles was in a stupor, and incoherent, and refused to listen to him. Again he went down, this time on the Maryland side, and watched the ford until he had estimated ten thousand had crossed. He hurried back to Miles to warn him; who again doggedly refused to listen to him, and acted as though he were obstinately drunk. Colonel D'Utassy, of the Garibaldi Guards, who had served in his brigade in the first Bull Run, and was now in his command again, and very friendly with him, commanding one of his brigades, testified that he was broken down from too sudden abstinence from excessive habits, and remonstrated with him, telling him he was ruining himself. To this Miles replies, "I have taken an oath never to drink again, and I have kept it."

As to his loyalty, there was a universal distrust among the junior officers and men, who judged both from what was done and left undone, by a commander in such an important crisis. As I have before stated, the dullest, rawest recruit could see the need of rifle-pits, of slashing the woods to give range to our artillery, and to obstruct the advance of an enemy, the dire need of controlling the Heights if we were to remain in the basin, and yet he, an old West Point

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