John Gibson Collection
Hd Qrs. 2d Brig., 2d Div., 6th Corps
(Vermont Brigade) Sept. 1864
Maj. Chas Mandee
Asst. Adjt. Genl.
I have the honor to report that this Brigade crossed the Rapidian May 4th 1864 and encamped two miles south of Germanna Ford.
On the morning of May 5th we marched to "Old Wilderness Tavern" and halted several hours. Soon after- noon this Brigade and two others - Wheaton's and Eustis' of this Division - Brig. Gen. Getty Comdg, were detached from the Corps and ordered forward across the "Old Pike" and along the Brock road to where it crosses the plank road leading from Chancellorsville to Orange Court House. Upon arriving at the cross roads Wheaton's Brigade became engaged with the enemies advance which was coming down the plank road driving before it a force of our cavalry. The point having been gained this Brigade passed Wheaton's and took position in two lines on the left of the plank road. Capt. C.J. Ormsbee 5th Vt. Vols. with companies D and K of that Regt. held the skirmish line. The 4th Vt. Col. Geo. P. Foster and the 3d Vt. Col. T.O. Seaver, constituted the first line. The 2d Vt. Col. Newton Stone, the 6th Vt. Col. E.L. Barney, and the 5th Vt. Lt. Col. John R. Lewis, constituted the second line. A section of artillery occupied the road and Wheaton's and Eustis' Brigades took position on the right. As soon as this Brigade took position the Regts. commenced erecting rude defensive works which subsequently proved of great value. The 2d Corps was moving up from the left, but only a few Regts. had got into position.
I was ordered to advance and attack the enemy. The skirmish line and two lines of battle were simultaneously ordered forward. All advanced promptly except the left of the skirmish line which for some unknown cause failed to advance with the rest. It was doubtless owing to the fact that the order was not communicated along the entire line. The ground was covered with brush and small timber so dense that it was impossible to see but a few yards from any point on the line. The Brigade had advanced but a short distance before the skirmish line on the right, and very soon thereafter, the 4th Vt., became engaged. The 3d Vt. Moved obliquely to the left, passed the skirmish line and became engaged a short time after the firing on the right had commenced. About the same time the artillery opened fire and the engagement became general along the line of the three Brigades. In my front the enemy had a few or no skirmishers out, and, with the exception of the skirmishing of short duration on my right, the engagement commenced with terrible volleys of musketry from both sides. The 2d Vt. and the 6th Vt. Moved up promptly to the support of the 4th Vt. and 3d Vt. Respectively and the 5th Vt. held a position further to the left. As soon as the first volleys were over our men hugged the ground closely and kept up a rapid fire. The enemy did the same. The rebels had the advantage of position inasmuch as their line was partially protected by a slight swell of ground, while ours was on ground nearly level. Attempts were made to dislodge them from that position but the moment our men rose to advance the rapid fire of musketry cut them down with such slaughter that it was found impracticable to do more than to maintain our then present position. The enemy could not advance for the same reason. The 2d Vt. crept forward upon nearly the same line of the 4th Vt. and both Regts. poured a constant and destructive fire into the enemy's line. The 3d Vt. Retired a short distance and the position was firmly held by the 6th Vt. By direction of the General Commanding Division the condition of affairs was represented to Maj. Gen. Birney commanding the right of the 2d Corps, who sent forward three Regts. to my support. One took position in rear of the 2d and 4th Vt. Regts. and the other two in rear of the 5th Vt. The position of the enemy in front of the 5th Vt. being less protected then it was in the front of the rest of the Brigade, I ordered the Regts. on the left to charge the enemy's line. The charge was partially successful, but the 5th Vt. which had the advance, became exposed to a destructive flank fire and further advance was deemed impracticable.
Our ammunition becoming well nigh exhausted and our loss being very heavy a force from the 2d Corps. was sent forward to relieve this Brigade. The Regts. on the right were relieved first. When the 2d Vt. and 4th Vt. commenced to retire, the enemy pressed forward and occupied the ground. So sudden was the enemy's advance that the staff officer sent to order back the 5th Vt. fell into his hands. Maj. Dudley then com'd'g the 5th Vt. finding his Regt. flanked, judiciously retired. The Brigade fell back to it's former position on the Brock Road. The 2d Corps now held the front, darkness came on, and the firing ceased. The loss of the Brigade in this engagement was about one thousand.
May 6th. The attack was made at daylight. This Brigade advanced on the plank road in two lines; two Regts. upon the right of the road and three upon the left. The Regts. were commanded as follows: 2d Vt. Lt. Col. S.E. Pingree, 3d Vt. Col. T.O. Seaver, 4th Vt. Maj. J.E. Pratt, 5th Vt. Maj. C.P. Dudley, 6th Vt. Lt. Col. O.A. Hale. There were two lines of battle in my front, and during the advance two more lines came from the right and passed in front of the others. At this time there was a general movement to the left and the Brigade came together on the left of the plank road.
The enemy had fallen back a short distance during the night and when met was driven back nearly a mile further. During this advance this Brigade suffered only from stray bullets and shells which came to the rear. Soon, however, the advance was checked, the tide of battle turned, and men came, disorganized, to the rear. This Brigade happened at the time to occupy slightly elevated or rolling ground where the enemy for his own use thrown together two irregular lines of old logs and decayed timber. The Brigade took position behind these lines of logs and rubbish and awaited the progress of battle. In a short time the lines in my front were swept away and heavy lines of the advancing enemy fell upon the Brigade with great force. They were received with an unbroken front and their advance was here checked and thrown back in confusion. The enemy reformed his lines and advanced to the attack and was again thrown back. The attack was many times repeated and as many times repulsed. The repulse was complete only in front of this Brigade. Every time the enemy moved to the attack he made a substantial advance upon both my right and left, especially on my right. Bullets came from the right across the plank road. Maj. Pratt faced the 4th Vt. to the right and directed his fire across the road. The state of affairs in that direction was represented to Gen'l Wheaton then com'd'g the Division, Gen Getty having been disabled by a wound, who promptly ordered the first Brigade to change it's front, partially facing it toward the plank road thus protecting my right and rear, and engaging the enemy across the road.
Perhaps the valor of troops and the steadiness and unbroken front of those noble Regts. were never more signally displayed. They stood out in the very midst of the enemy, unyieldingly dealing death and slaughter in front and flank. For more then three hours the Brigade held this advanced position repelling every attack. Foiled in every attempt at this point, the enemy massed forces about one fourth of a mile to my left and made a vigorous attack. Our lines at that point were forced back and men came to the rear. I immediately ordered two Regts. to change direction to the left, but before the order could be executed the enemy rushed through the breach and opened fire upon my left and rear, and at the same time made an attack in front. Perceiving that it was worse than useless to hold this position longer I ordered the Brigade to rally behind the breastworks on the Brock Road, at which point I had previously been ordered to rally in case of disaster.
The entire lines at this part of the army went back in some disorder, but out of this disorder the Regts. of the Brigade deliberately took their respective positions in the front works on the Brock Road. Other troops were placed on the right and left and rear, and our position was made strong again, and here we awaited the enemy's attack. It came late in the afternoon, a vigorous, determined and desperate attack. The heaviest part fell upon the troops upon my immediate left but a portion of it fell upon this Brigade and was handsomely repulsed. Later in the evening Wheaton's and Eustis' Brigades went back to join the Corps and this Brigade remained in it's position on the right of the 2d Corps.
May 7 In the morning there was only skirmishing in our front, and parties were sent out to collect and bury the dead. Under direction of Maj. Gen. Birney Com'd'g, I sent out a skirmish line under command of Maj. Crandall of the 6th Vt. to drive back the enemy's skirmishers and ascertain his position on the plank road. A reconnaissance also went out from my left and Maj. Crandall went far enough to ascertain that the main body had retired. A large number of muskets which the enemy had collected from the battlefield of the day before were captured, and Gen. Birney sent out teams and brought them in. The skirmish line was afterwards relieved and another sent out from the 5th Vt. under command of Maj. Nelson of the 3d Vt.
In the afternoon I was ordered to join the 6th Corps the right of which I found about sundown thrown back facing the Rapidian; and soon after dark, we commenced the flank movement towards Spotsylvania via Chancellorsville.
It is, perhaps, a fact worthy of note, that the key point to all the movements of that portion of the army was on the plank road, which point this Brigade, in common with Wheaton's Brigade, held during the entire engagements.
For their gallant conduct my thanks are especially due to the regimental Commanders. The success and safety of the Brigade is due in a great measure to them.
The list of killed and wounded embraces the names of many valuable officers.
Col. E.L. Barney 6th Vt. Vols. who fell wounded in the head and survived only a few days, was one of the purest of men and best of officers. He was always prompt and faithful in the execution of duties. He was a good disciplinarian and a gallant officer; and on every occasion he exhibited in himself the highest type of a Christian Gentleman.
Col. Newton Stone, 2d Vt. whose dead body was brought from the field the night of the first day's battle, was a good officer, gallant by nature, prompt in the execution of his duties; and urbane in his manners. He was beloved by his command and his superiors.
Lt. Col. John S. Tyler 2d Vt. who received a severe wound and subsequently died from it's effects was a young officer of great promise. Always cool, especially in battle, he could be relied upon.
Captains Orville Bixby, 2d Vt., Enoch Bartlett and Erastus Buck, 3d Vt., J.D. Carpenter, Dennie W. Farr and Daniel Lillie, 4th Vt., A.R. Hurlbut, Geo. D. Davenport and Chas. J. Ormsbee, 5th Vt.; and Riley A. Bird and geo. C. Randall, 6th Vt. were killed in action or died from the effects of wounds. They were officers of true merit. It is no disparagement to those who survive to say that the places of these Captains cannot be filled.
Lieutenants Abel Morrill, 3d Vt., Isaac A. Putnam, Thomas Ensworth, Winfield L. Wooster and N.H. Martin, 4th Vt.; O.H. Sweet and W. O. Beach 5th Vt.; and A.A. Crane 6th Vt. offered up their lives a sacrifice to our country's cause.
Col. Geo. P. Foster, 4th Vt. And Lt. Col. J.R. Lewis 5th Vt. Officers deserving of high commendation were both severely wounded. Col. Lewis lost his left arm.
Captains Elijah Wales, P.E. Chase, D.S. White, E.G. Ballou and W.H. Cady, 2d Vt. H.W. Floyd, John F. Cook, 3d Vt. Geo. H. Amidon and A.W. Fisher, 4th Vt.; F.H. Barney and W.B. Robinson, 5th Vt.; and C.W. Dwinnel 6th Vt.; and Lieutenants J.P. Sawyer, James Allen, Geo. Bridgeman and E. Drury, 2d Vt.; Henry C. Miller, Chas. E. Osgood and Richard P. Goodall, 3d Vt.; Geo. B. French (Adjt.), E.W. Carter, J.B. Brooks, L.B. Scott, Wm. C. Tracy H. W. Morton and L.F. Richardson, 4th Vt.; and Mines E. Fish, W.G. Davenport, Lt. L.G. Brownson, and S.H. Linclon (Adjt) and E.A. Holton 6th Vt. All received honorable wounds.
Justice requires special mention of the officers of the Brigade Staff. They fearlessly exposed themselves to all the dangers of battle whenever and where ever duty called them. Lieut. J.J. Bain 2d Vt. Acting A.D.G. was disabled by a severe wound in the face. Lt. Horace French 3d Vt. Acting A.D.G. had his horse shot and was captured by the enemy while going to deliver an order to the 5th Vt. These casualties occurred in the first days battle, leaving Capt. A. Brown 4th Vt. A.A.J. Gen. alone upon the staff during the remainder of the battle of the Wilderness. Most gallantly and nobly he performed the duty of three officers. It was an occasion that called for unusual abilities, coolness and power of endurance, and Capt. Brown was found fully equal to the occasion. Honorable mention is made of Corp. Thomas J. Miller Co. K 3d Vt. Privates Thomas J. McColley Co. F 2d Vt. and James R. McGibbon Co. H 5th Vt., mounted orderlies, who were constantly under fire carrying and delivering orders, and who performed their duties with a promptness, courage, and intelligence for which any staff officer might well be commended.
Sergt. Issac M. Burton Co. E 5th Vt. is also honorably mentioned for seizing and safely carrying the colors of his Regt. after they had been shot from the hands of the color bearer.
I would gladly mention at length individual cases of daring and noble heroism, but all did their duty so nobly that it is difficult to particularize. The memory of those who fell will be sacredly cherished as true and tried patriots - and those who survive well may proudly say, "I too was in the Battle of the Wilderness"
I am Major Very Respectfully
Your Obt. Servt.
Brig Gen Vol
Source: transcription of an original document from the collection of John Gibson
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