John Gibson Collection
Headquarters 2nd Brigade 2nd Div. 6th Corps
(Vermont Brigade) Sept. 1864
Major Charles Mundee
I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of this Brigade near Spotsylvania Court House.
We arrived at Chancellorsville late in the morning of May 8th. The Brigade was detailed to guard the trains of the 6th Corps from this point and became separated from the Corps. The train went into park about 4pm and the Brigade halted to rest. Shortly afterwards I received orders to move forward and join the Division about four miles distant. Pursuant to orders, the Brigade moved forward making a forced march , as it was understood that an attack upon the enemy was to be made that evening. Arriving in the midst of battle and sticking (paper loss - words missing) on the right of the Corps, I was ordered to the extreme (paper loss - words missing) and took position under the direction of Major General (paper loss - words missing) Corps. I was however, almost immediately ordered from that position Brig. Gen. Neill then commanding the Division, and was conducted by a staff officer through a ravine bed, thick brush, and up a steep slope in a thick growth of pine timber, to get, as it was said, upon then enemy's flank. It was fast growing dark, and it soon became so very dark that it was not only impossible to find the enemy's position, but almost impossible to move at all in that dense forest. In that condition, I was left, quite in advance of the regular line of battle, in advance of the skirmish line, and without any definite knowledge of that position and strength of the enemy or of my relative position with the other Brigades of the Division. It was certain that the enemy had some force there and there were some Regt's of Union troops in the vicinity, but it was impossible to ascertain how they were situated. Friendly fire seemed to be strangly mixed. Shots came from the front and the rear, and it was impossible to tell from where they came. An attempt was made to take the Brigade out of that position, but under the darkness of the night it was very difficult to determine (paper loss - word missing). It was, however, successfully accomplished about three o'clock in the morning, and when daylight came, it was found that the Brigade then held nearly the position that it was designed for it to occupy. The 4th Vt. under Major Pratt was sent out to establish a picket line and skirmish with the enemy near the Scott house, and the remainder of the Brigade fortified it's position. The enemy opened upon us with artillery and musketry at long range, but the work was completed with small loss.
During the early part of the day of May 10th, the Brigade held it's fortified position. The skirmish line was advanced through the woods and established with open ground in front, not however without a sharp skirmish in which the 4th Vt. and 49th New York took the principal part. The 4th Vt. was afterward relieved from the skirmish line by four companies of the 3rd Vt. under Capt. Kenneson.
An attack upon the enemy's position on our front was planned, and the command of the attacking Column given to Col. (Now Brig. Gen.) Upton. I was ordered to send thru Regt's under command of a proper officer to report to Col. Upton. Accordingly, I sent the 2nd, 5th and 6th Vt. Regt's under the command of T.O. Seaver, 3rd. These regt's constituted the rear line of the attacking column and moved forward to and occupied and held the first line of the enemy's works after it had been carried, and while our troops were giving away under a galling fire. The order to retire failed to reach a portion of the 2nd Vt. who, with a few from the 5th and 6th Vt. Regt's remained in the works, obstinately repelling every attack of the enemy until late in the evening, refusing to fall back until they received positive orders to do so. The four companies of the 3rd Vt. on the skirmish line advanced with the attacking column, and some of the men remained in the enemy's works until the last. After the attack the Brigade resumed resumed very nearly it's former position, holding the same until the evening of May 11th when it was massed on elevated ground in the rear.
Early on the morning of May 12th, the Brigade moved with the rest of the Corps to the left and relieved a part of the 2nd Corps.Soon after the movement commenced, the 2nd Corps charged the enemy's works and made heavy captures of men and guns. By the time the brigade arrived at the scene of action, the enemy had rallied and was assuming the offensive. The Brigade marched into position under a heavy and destructive artillery fire. I was ordered to the extreme left of the 2nd Corps (which was then the extreme left of the Army of the Potomac) to relieve General Barlow's Division. Upon arriving at the point designated the Brigade formed in two lines of battle, threw out skirmishers, and commenced fortifying under a brisk fire of musketry and artillery. The works and position taken by the 2nd Corps were now held by the 6th Corps, and the enemy was making desperate attempts to retake them. The greatest efforts were being made near the center of the Corps at a point usually known as "the angle", which point was then held by by Gen. Russell's Division. Gen. Hancock in person directed me to take the Regt's composing my second line and to go to Gen. Russell's assistance, at the same time promising to send the rest of the Brigade as soon as he could order forward troops of his own to relieve them. Accordingly, I left the front and skirmish line in command of Col. Seaver, and took the Regt's of the rear line to "the angle", and was ordered farther to the right to support Gen. Wheaton, who was then advancing amidst thick brush and under a heavy fire. The Regt's moved up promptly to Gen Wheaton's support, and the 4th Vt. under Major Pratt, took and held the front line. Leaving the 4th Vt. Under Gen. Wheaton's command I went back to "the angle". About the same time Col. Seaver came up from the left with the balance of the brigade and it was all put into the engagement at this point except the 6th Vt. which was held in reserve.
This seemed to be a key point to both armies and the fighting was of the most desperate and determined character. It was emphatically and hand to hand fight. Scores of men were shot down within a few feet of the enemy's muskets. Abreast work of logs and earth seperated the combatants. Our men would reach over the breastworks and discharge their muskets in the very face of the enemy. And in some instances muskets were clubbed, and clubs and rails made use of. Two or three times during the engagement those who occupied the other side of the works, finding escape impossible, would raise up a white flag and when the fire slackened would jump over the works and give themselves up. About two hundred prisoners were taken in this way, and each time a squad came in the enemy would rush forward others to fill their place, who, in turn, would soon show a disposition to come over. The Brigade was engaged here about eight hours when it was relieved and marched to the rear. In this engagement my loss was heavy, but the slaughter of the enemy was terrible; the point was held and the whole line of rebel works fell into our hands. Bidwell's, Edward's and Upton's Brigades were all engaged at the same point, and it affords me pleasure to bear testimony to the gallant conduct of these officers and their respective commands. The men of the four Brigades fought side by side without much reference to separate organizations. Of such desperate fighting it is believed the history of war nowhere presents a parallel.
After dark, the Brigade marched round to the extreme right, and, feeling it's way through the dense forest, took position for the night. May 13th, there was only skirmishing in our front, and but a small portion of the Brigade was engaged. Towards evening we marched to the left and took position near the scene of strife the day before.
Early on the morning of the 14th, the 6th Corps marched several miles to the left passing completely round the 2nd, 9th and 5th Corps, and took position on the Ny River near the Anderson House. This brigade holding the extreme left of the army.
The Brigade remained comparatively quiet the three following days. A reconnaissance was made towards Spotsylvania Court House by Col. Seaver with the 3rd Vt. and a Massachusetts Regt. During this time the 11th Vt. Col. J.M. Warner, joined the Brigade.
During the night of May 17th, the Corps marched back to it's former position on the right and at daylight on the morning of the 18th the 2nd and 6th Corps charged. The other three Brigades of this Division formed in one line of battle each, one in front of the other, and this Brigade formed in their rear in two lines, the fine old Regts. constituting the 4th and the 11th Vt. constituting the fifth line of battle. In the advance this Brigade came upon the front line and halted. No further advance was made and the troops in my front retired. After holding the front line a short time, I was ordered to retire. In this engagement my loss was considerable though not heavy. The Corps then marched back to the Anderson House and crossed the Ny River on the right of the Division.
Early May 19th the Brigade advanced with the rest of the command about one mile and fortified it's position and remained substantially in the same place two days, during which time the skirmish line was more or less engaged.
About noon May 21st we marched about three fourths of a mile to the rear and occupied works partially built during the night. A strong skirmish line was left in the front works. The main portion of the army was moving towards North Anna River and we were preparing to follow. Just before dark a strong force of the enemy attacked our skirmish line breaking it at one point. Col Seaver 3rd Vt. was ordered to report with his Regt. to Col. Bidwell General Officer of the day to drive back the enemy and reestablish the line. This was gallantly done and several prisoners were captured. That night the Corps marched towards Guinea's Station, and the operations near Spotsylvania Court House were at an end.
In the bloody engagements of Spotsylvania my losses were severe but in numbers much less than in the Wilderness. Wherever the enemy was met, he was severely punished..
Major C.P. Dudley, 5th Vt. died from the effects of wounds received in the charge of May 10th while cheering forward his men at a critical time in the engagement. He was a gallant and faithful officer, and his loss is severely felt.
Col. J.M. Warner 11th Vt. was severely wounded in the neck while gallantly leading his Regt in the charge of May 18th.
Captains Rollin C. Ward 2nd vt. And Alfred C. Keith 6th Vt. and Lieutenants A. Worcester, E.A. Priest, O.V. Estes and A.J. Robbins 2nd Vt. and N.N. Glazier 11th Vt. Received honorable wounds in the noble discharge of their duties
Thanks are due to Lt. Col. S.E. Pingree Com'dg 2nd Vt., Col. T.O. Seaver 3rd Vt., Major J.E. Pratt 4th Vt., Major C.P. Dudley 5th Vt., Lt. Col. O.A. Hale 6th Vt., and Col. J.M. Warner 11th Vt., and to Dayton P. Clark who distinguished himself in the command of his Regt. in the hand to hand fight of May 12th (Col. S.E. Pingree being then in command of the picket line on the right) to Capt. E. A. Hamilton 5th Vt., who commanded his Regt. after Major Dudley was wounded; and to Lt. Col.R.C. Benton 11th Vt., who commanded his Regt. After Col. Warner was wounded.
Capt. A. Brown 4th Vt. Acting Asst. Inspr. Gen'l. was always present rendering invaluable services. The other officers of the staff having been wounded or captured in the battle of the Wilderness. 2nd Lt.. A.J. Robbins, Henry T. Cushman 4th Vt., and Issac L Eells, 5th Vt. kindly volunteered to serve upon the staff during these engagements and rendered most valuable services for which my thanks are especially due. 2Lt, A.J. Robbins 2nd Vt., was seriously wounded in the engagement of May 12th. Lt. C.H. Forbes 5th Vt., Act'g ADG joined the Brigade May 13th and was in the charge of May 18th.
I am Major, very respectfully
Your Obt. Servt'
Brig Gen Com'd
Source: transcription of an original document from the collection of John Gibson
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