12th Vermont Infantry
Army Life in Virginia
Hon. George Grenville Benedict,
State Military Historian,
Lieutenant and A.D.C. on the staff of
Commanding Second Brigade.
The Twelfth regiment was the first of the five regiments of State militia furnished by Vermont in response to President Lincoln's call of August 4, 1862, for three hundred thousand militia for nine months' service. It comprised the first ten companies of Vermont volunteer militia which responded to the call. These were the West Windsor Guards (Co. A), Woodstock Light Infantry (Co. B), Howard Guard of Burlington (Co. C), Tunbridge Light Infantry (Co. D), Ransom Guards of St. Albans (Co. E), New England Guard of Northfield (Co. F), Allen Grays of Brandon (Co. G), Bradford Guards (Co. H), Saxtons River Light Infantry of Rockingham (Co. I), and Rutland Light Guard (Co. K). Seven of these, viz: B, C, E, F, G, H, and K companies had formed part of the First regiment, though under different company officers and with many different members. The regiment was organized in obedience to the State constitution, the privates electing the company officers, and these electing the field officers. Many of the officers had seen service. Colonel Blunt had been adjutant of the Third, and lieutenant-colonel of the Sixth regiment. Lieutenant-colonel Farnham and Major Kingsley had held commissions in the First regiment, and a dozen or more of the company officers had served in the ranks of that regiment. The material of the regiment was of the best Vermont stock. Many citizens of property and standing and earnest loyalty, whose professional and business engagements forbade their enlisting for a longer term, carried muskets in the ranks, and no Vermont regiment in after years furnished more men of prominence in civil life, the names of two governors of Vermont, a quarter-master general, a railroad commissioner, a State librarian, a State historian, and a number of State senators and leading citizens, being found in its roll.
The regiment went into camp at Brattleboro September 25, 1862; was mustered into the United States service October 4, with nine hundred ninety-six officers and men; left for the field October 7, and went into camp on Capitol Hill, Washington, October 10, being attached for three weeks to Derrom's Brigade of Casey's Division. October 30, the other four nine months regiments having arrived, the Second Vermont Brigade was organized, being the Second Brigade of Casey's Division of the Reserve Army Corps for the defense of Washington. The Brigade was commanded by Colonel Blunt as the ranking Colonel until December 7, when Brig.-Gen. E. H. Stoughton assumed the command. The Twelfth moved the same day across Long Bridge into Virginia, halting near Munson's Hill. It moved thence, November 1, with the Thirteenth regiment, followed a week later by the other regiments of the Brigade, to a spot two miles south of Alexandria on the Mt. Vernon road. Here, in "Camp Vermont, " it remained for six weeks, doing picket and fatigue duty, three hundred men being detailed daily for work on the ramparts of Fort Lyon. On the 12th of December, it moved with the Brigade to Fairfax Court House, and for three months did picket duty along Bull Run and Cub Run. On the 28th of December the regiment took part in the repulse of Stuart's third raid. This was an attempt by Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, the Confederate cavalry leader, with his division of 1, 800 sabres, to capture the supplies and garrisons at Dumfries, Fairfax Court House and Fairfax Station. Warned of his approach, General Stoughton, in the disposition of his command, stationed the Twelfth in rifle pits east of Fairfax Court House, across the Alexandria turnpike, along which Stuart was moving, and posted two companies, B and G, under Capt. Ora Paul, in some timber by the side of the turnpike, half a mile in advance. These companies received the head of Stuart's column, advancing in the moonlit evening of the 28th, with a volley which emptied a dozen saddles. Finding the troops defending Fairfax Court House and Station on the alert, Stuart returned to Culpeper with a loss of one man killed, thirteen wounded and fourteen missing.
January 20, 1863, the regiment moved to Wolf Run Shoals, Va., where, with the Thirteenth regiment, it was occupied for three months guarding the fords of the Occoquan River, and picketing the outer line of the defenses of Washington. On the 9th of March, the brigade commander, General Stoughton, having been captured at his headquarters by the guerrilla Mosby, Colonel Blunt resumed command of the brigade, that of the regiment devolving on Lieutenant-Colonel Farnham, until April 20, when Brig.-Gen. George J. Stannard was assigned to the command of the brigade.
May 1, the Twelfth regiment was sent to Warrenton Junction, Va., to guard the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, which had been reopened to the Rappahannock, and on the 7th moved forward to Rappahannock Station, where it guarded the railroad bridge for nine days. It was then stationed, in detachments, at Bristoe's and Catlett's Stations, and at Manassas, for two weeks, when it was drawn back to Union Mills, Va., whence it marched, June 21, to near Wolf Run Shoals.
When the Gettysburg campaign began in June, 1863, the Second Vermont Brigade was attached to the Third Division of the First Army Corps of the Army of the Potomac, and formed the rear guard of the army in its northern march until it crossed the Potomac. The Twelfth marched with the brigade from Wolf Run Shoals, June 25; crossed the Potomac June 27, at Edwards Ferry, and moving by the way of Frederick City and Creagerstown, Md., was drawing near Gettysburg July 1, when it was detached from the Brigade, with the Fifteenth regiment, to guard the corps train. It accompanied these to the vicinity of Rock Creek Church, near the battlefield. From that point, companies B and G, Captains Paul and Ormsbee, were sent forward as guard for a portion of the ammunition train, to a point on the Taneytown road, on the outskirts of the field, where they remained during the fighting of the third day of the battle. Other members of the regiment, on detached service, participated in the battle.
The term of service of the regiment expired July 4, and the next day the regiment left Westminster, Md., (whither it had marched from Gettysburg), by railroad for Baltimore, doing duty on the way thither as guard of a train of 2,500 Confederate prisoners. From Baltimore it went to Vermont, arriving at Brattleboro July 9. While in camp, waiting muster out, the field officers and two hundred of the regiment volunteered to return to New York to assist in suppressing the draft riots; but their services were not required. The regiment was mustered out of the United States service and disbanded at Brattleboro July 14, 1863.
The service of the Twelfth was such that it suffered no losses in battle; but it went where it was ordered, and no one who knew the character of the regiment ever doubted that it would have fought with as much courage and effect as any other Vermont regiment if it had had the opportunity. Its service was marked by good order, thorough discipline and prompt readiness to undertake any duty required of it. Its roll of a thousand and five members contains the names of four deserters. Two officers--Second Lieuts. K. P. Howard and E. S. Chadwick, both of company F--and sixty-two men, died of disease. Of the eight hundred and sixty-three officers and men mustered out at the close of its term, a considerable proportion subsequently returned to the army in other organizations.