United States Sharpshooters
Third Company - History
By Curtis Abbott,
Company H, the third and last company of this arm raised in Vermont was organized in December, 1861, at Brattleboro, where it was mustered in on the 31st of the same month, with Gilbert Hart, Captain, Henry Herbert and Albert Buxton, Lieutenants. It started the same day for Washington, leaving behind sick with measles one-fifth of its one hundred men and officers, who followed in February, 1862. Quartered in the camp of instruction near the city, as a part of the Second U.S. Sharpshooters under the command of Col. H. A. V. Post, it took lessons in the art of war an the duties of camp life till March 19, when the regiment crossed the Potomac, and as a part of McDowell's corps, began duty in the field. General Augur commanded their brigade and King their division. It had been settled at the camp of instruction, by negotiations, in which the men very actively participated, that their arm should be the recently invented breech-loading rifle of the Sharpe Manufacturing Co. Their uniform of dark green, leather leggings, hair knapsacks backed with bright tin kettles, and their rifles, distinguished them among the many regiments then leaving Washington, but the difference in appearance was less marked after a few bivouacs.
Remaining near Washington, south of the Potomac, till April 4, they then advanced toward the Rappahannock, and after camping at Bristoe Station from the 6th to the 15th, and at Catlett's till the 17th, made a forced march to Falmouth in McDowell's effort to surprise the small Confederate force stationed there, but which escaped through Fredericksburg, burning the bridges.
In camp and guarding supplies at Falmouth till May 25, then across the Rappahannock, and on the march toward Richmond, but turning back on the 29th they marched to Catlett's, where they took cars and went via Manassas Junction toward Front Royal, in the movement to intercept Stonewall Jackson's retreat up the Shenandoah.
They were detained with some injury and loss to the regiment and company by colliding trains at Rectortown Station, and after other marches and halts, on the 15th of June reoccupied their camp at Falmouth.
On duty at Spotsylvania Court House and vicinity from the 5th of August to the 9th, they began on the 10th a forced march to Cedar Mountain, passed Ellis's Ford, and on the evening of the 11th reached the scene of the late battle, and camping in the vicinity till the 19th, moved back with the Army of Virginia behind the Rappahannock.
From the 21st of August to the 3d of September they were engaged in the series of battles, marches, and counter marches, incident to Pope's campaign after his retreat from Cedar Mountain. In their three days of battle and skirmish near Rappahannock Station, Company H lost one man killed, and another in their skirmish of the 26th of August at Sulphur Springs. On the 28th, in the attack on King and Groveton, their brigade (now Hatch's) taking an important part in the contest, the company was under fire, mostly of artillery, and met with no loss. On the 28th the same brigade, by the rapidly changing processes of war, was commanded by Colonel Sullivan, Hatch having succeeded King. Just at night fall a battle began between this and Hood's division, which lasted till nine o'clock. Company H on the Warrenton Turnpike assisted in holding the enemy at bay till the night finally ended the battle; loss, two wounded, one captured. On the following day they were again engaged, but without loss to this company.
In the re-organization of the Army of the Potomac their brigade, now commanded by Colonel Phelps, with its division, became a part of the First corps under Hooker. They marched through Maryland to the South Mountain range and were engaged September 13 at Turner's Gap, carried the ground to the summit, where, having routed he enemy and captured his Mountain howitzers, they rested on their arms and advanced at day-break, marching to Antietam. On the 16th they led the advance of Hooker's division on Lee's left, had a slight skirmish at the close of that day, and were in the thickest of the fight in the corn fields at about sunrise the following morning. Loss, five men wounded, one mortally. There was heavy loss throughout the regiment including its colonel wounded, and adjutant killed. Their ranks thinned by previous hard marches, their loss at this battle was fully twenty-five per cent of those present for duty, but they received thirteen recruits and some sick and wounded returned to duty in October. On the 30th they re-crossed the Potomac, and nearing Fredericksburg, Colonel Post recovering form his wound, returned but to resign, and Capt. Homer R. Stoughton of Company E was promoted to major and took command of the regiment. Captain Hart and Lieutenant Herbert resigning, Lieutenant Buxton and Q. M.-Sergt. William P. Shreve were promoted to captain and first lieutenant of Company H respectively, and First Sergt. William Newell to second lieutenant.
December 9 they marched on toward Fredericksburg amidst snow and ice, and crossed the river at the lower bridge on the 12th. For the next three days they were on the terrace above the river under the enemy's guns posted along the wooded ridge beyond, and subjected at intervals to their fire. On the 13th, as skirmishers, they captured a redoubt in the wood by the river with several prisoners and horses. This skirmish on the river terrace, from which the fog was then lifting, the line deploying as it advanced toward the wood, while our batteries north of the river raked the ground in its front, afforded one of the finest battle pictures of the war and was not especially bloody. Skirmishing on this and the two succeeding days carried them beyond the range of the great guns of the ridge in their front, to encounter a more to be dreaded danger from the rifles of their antagonists; yet their loss in the three days' encounter was but two slightly wounded.
January 14, 1863, by command of General Burnside the two regiments of sharpshooters were formed into a distinct arm of the service under the command of Colonel Berdan. This order led to much extra marching of the sharpshooters during the rainy season and till after the famous "Mud March, " but finally on he 2d of February they went into winter quarters on a hillside, facing South, near Stoneman's Switch, where picket duty alone relieved the monotony till the opening of the Chancellorsville campaign. They took an active part in the maneuvers and auspicious opening of the Chancellorsville campaign, as well as in the battle. they werof the force marching to the river below Fredericksburg without actually crossing, and thence rapidly up he river to the U. S. Ford, where they crossed by pontoons on May 1. On this field their part in the capture of the Twenty-third Georgia regiment, their skirmish of the same day on Lewis Creek, and their bare escape from capture on that disastrous evening are noteworthy events; and of no less interest, their proximity to the scene of the wounding of the Confederate General Jackson. Their service on the following day, though in an exposed position, was not in the thickest of the fight, but their skirmishing on May 3 was hot and bloody, some of the casualties resulting sadly enough from the rash fire of their friends.
The two regiments received especial compliment after this battle from General Birney, commanding the division. The company's loss in the battle was three wounded.
June 24, Major Stoughton was promoted to the Lieut.-colonelcy.
They reached the field of Gettysburg on the evening of July 1. On the 2d as skirmishers on the extreme left of the army they held back the charging columns of the enemy while Round Top was in danger. On the 3d they double-quicked to the scene of Pickett's charge, discharged a volley into the flying ranks of Wilcox's men, and sent forward a skirmish line on the heels of the retiring enemy. On the 4th they skirmished in the field to the front of this charge and lost heavily. Their loss was four wounded and two captured. In line of battle but not under fire at Williamstown, before Lee's crossing of the Potomac, in support of the First Sharpshooters at Wapping Heights, of the rear guard of the army during most of Mead's retreat from the Rapidan to Manassas, and as such engaged in several skirmishes on the march, supporting the First sharpshooters at Kelly's Ford, in a manner bloodless to them, though not to their enemies; they were engaged on the following day, November 7, at Brandy Station, and quickly swept away the opposing force of cavalry without loss to the company, the regiment having one man mortally wounded. In the Mine Run campaign, November 27, at Locust Grove, they had four men injured by a pine tree felled upon the company by a shell bursting in its trunk.
The union lines being re-formed on Mine Run, Company H was engaged skirmishing on the days of Sunday and Monday, and picketed at night, a fact influencing their "sleepy march" on the night of the retreat. Their loss at the run was two wounded. Among the regiment's wounded there, was Lorenzo Barker, their fighting chaplain.
December 21, the company, with its regiment, reenlisted as an organization, and on January 7, 1864, these veterans having received furloughs started for home. February 23, returned to their camp near Culpeper with their bodies and their ranks both recruited, the company again numbering 100 men as when it first left Vermont.
By re-organization of the Army, March 28, the Third Corps was absorbed by the Second under the command of General Hancock, and the Second Sharpshooters became a part of the Third Division and First Brigade, commanded respectively by General's Birney and War, and the long campaign opened which began with the Wilderness battle and ended with Appomattox.
On May 5 company H, having crossed the Rapidan the morning of the day previous, was brought under fire as flankers on the Brock road, just south of its intersection with the Orange Plank, and, resting there through the night on their arms, they advanced in solid ranks to the latter road, at the opening of the battle in the morning and the contest is bloody, with varying success, till at the burning log breast-work in the evening, the enemy was repulsed. Loss of Company H: 8 killed, 16 wounded and 2 missing. Among the killed or mortally wounded, was Captain Buxton, their tried and faithful commander.
May 7 they skirmished to the front of the same field. May 8, leaving this bloody field in their rear, inspired by the tactics of their new commander-in-chief not to wait for the verdict, they marched to Todd's Tavern, [in the movement to Spotsylvania C. H.] skirmished there and again crossed the Po River. Returning they next join Warren's assaulting column. Finally at daylight on the 12th, at the capture of the angle, the company gathered in several times its own numbers in prisoners. In this battle and their skirmish of the succeeding day, Company H lost 4 wounded. After several days more of alternate skirmish and rest at this field, they marched to the North Anna, there led the charge which captured the Telegraph road bridge, with the loss to Company H of one killed and two wounded, and in their next charge of Totopotomoy Creek, with their regiment, captured a number of prisoners and the enemy's entrenched skirmish line.
From June 2 to 13, during the operations and disastrous charge of the army at Cold Harbor, the loss of Company H, though not in the charging column, was one man killed and three wounded.
After the crossing of the James and during the attempts to carry Petersburg by direct assault their duty as skirmishers was almost incessant, and their loss correspondingly heavy, aggregating from the 6th to the 18th three men killed, not less than five wounded, and one captured. Further left on the 21st in the movement against the Weldon railroad, while leading Barlow's division, they captured a colonel in command of a brigade, with a lieutenant and his staff and other prisoners of the force forming there in the thicket to lacerate our moving flank. Loss, Lieutenant Newell wounded, one man killed. Colonel Stoughton was here captured. Sergt. Walter W. Smith took command of the company. Among the losses of the 22d inflicted by the Confederate flankers were two men captured from Company H.
Twice back across the James and Appomattox to skirmish and capture a battery in the vicinity of Deep Bottom. On duty as skirmishers at the episode of the Burnside Mine, picketing wherever their rifles may prove the most available; so the month of July and August pass, and September 10, under De Trobriand now their brigade commander, they share in the capture of the rifle pits on the Jerusalem Plank Road, in front of Forts Hell and Sedgwick. Their service for the next two months in the rifle pits was irksome and dangerous, but resulted in the loss of only two men, wounded.
This service was varied by marches and battles to the left--October 1, on the ground where Fort Fisher afterwards rose and became familiar to the Vermont Brigade, and October 27, beyond Burgess' Hill in a movement against the Southside railroad.
William H. Churchill and Edgar A. Beach, recently commissioned as Captain and Lieutenant, were never mustered in as such by reason of wounds and capture at this battle. Churchill's wound being mortal. Five others of the company were here wounded. They were of the rear guard in the night retreat from this field.
Thanksgiving day in the trenches with roast turkey from home.
Early in December they cross the Nottoway with the Fifth Corps and assist in wrecking the Weldon railroad.
During the winter, Sergeant Smith became Captain of the company, and Sergeants Abbott and Keeler, Lieutenants, Lieutenant Shreve being mustered out by reason of expiration of term of service, and the company is augmented by seventeen recruits, mostly from Company F, first U.S. Sharpshooters, whose organization had ended. Finally as identified with the Second U.S. Sharpshooters they deliver their last skirmish on the morning of February 5, 1865, at the Vaughn road crossing of Hatcher's Run, crossing the stream and capturing the works in the face of the enemy's fire with the loss of one man wounded.
By an order of the War Department, disbanding the regiment and sending its eight companies to troops of their respective States, Company H retaining its letter, became a part o the Fourth Vermont Volunteers on February 25, on which day, parting sadly with the regimental staff and the men of the other companies, they march to their new quarters on the line by Fort Fisher.
Well received by their comrades in arms of the Fourth, they participated with them in sundry skirmishes, and the capture of entrenched picket lines in front of the fort in the advance upon, and capture of, the enemy's works, April 2, in he preparation near Amelia Court House, and battle at Sailor's Run, and the rapid march toward Appomattox Court House.
After Lee's surrender they marched to Danville and returned partly by cars, through Richmond and Fredericksburg to Washington. In sight of the dome of the Capitol, the business of war being done, a spirit of discontent prevailed like that which had possessed them in the camp of instruction, before they took the field, but it was not for long. In a few weeks they were welcomed to the then newly incorporated city of Burlington, where they were mustered out.
Expert marksmen and skirmishers, no disaster ever befell a flank of our army with these men deployed in its front. The companies of these regiments, being from many different States, brought together as one family, caused friendly relations to spring up and continue among men otherwise widely separated by space. And the States so contributing, composing the most of those then loyal, have thus set at least one small rivet more in the links which bind them with their sisters.
Rappahannock Station Va., 21-24 Aug
Sulphur Springs Va., 26 Aug
Groveton Va., 28 Aug
Second Bull Run Va., 29-30 Aug
South Mountain Va., 14 Sep
Antietam, Md., 16-17 Sep
Fredericksburg Va., 12-16 Dec
Chancellorsville Va., 2-4 May
Gettysburg, Pa., 2-4 Jul
Wapping Heights Va., 22 Jul
Auburn Va., 13 Oct
Kelly's Ford, Va., 6 Nov
Brandy Station, Va., 7 Nov
Orange Grove, Va., 27 Nov
Mine Run Va., 28-30 Nov
Wilderness Va., 5-8 May
Po River Va., 10-12 May
Spotsylvania Va., 10-12 May
North Anna Va., 23-24 May
Totopotomoy Va., 31 May
Cold Harbor Va., 11 Jun
Petersburg Va., 16-23 Jun 64
Deep Bottom Va., 27-28 Jul
Petersburg Va., 10 Sep
Boydton Plank Road Va., 27 Oct
Weldon Railroad Va., 7-19 Dec
Hatcher's Run Va., 5-7 Feb
Source: 1892 Revised Roster; photograph of Hannibal Tichout(Teachout) courtesy of Stephen Craig Picou, great-grandnephew of Hannibal.