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2nd Vermont Infantry
Sergeant Nelson S. Cole
Suffield, January 1, 1901
Sgt. N. S. Cole's experience while in the war of the rebellion 1861 to 1865 as I remember it. I enlisted May 18th, 1861 in Brattleboro, Vt. for 3 months and commenced to drill under E. M. Strongton (sic), afterwards General. In a few days we had orders to enlisted over for two years, which we did to a man. We still continued to drill for a week or 10 days when orders came to enlist for three years or sooner discharged which we all did with one or two exceptions. 83 officers and men composed a company at that time and we drilled Scott's tactics. We chose officers and went to Newfane, the country site to drill in the hotel for 10 days and then we were ordered back to Brattleboro where we were measured for uniforms and they7 were made by CUne & Brackell & Pratt & Wright, then the local clothiers. We were then assigned to Co. C, 2nd Regt. Vermont Vols. and orders to Burlington, Vermont and went into our first camp.
We were mustered into the U.S. service the 20th of June by Lt. Col. Rains of the U.S.A. Afterwards General in the Rebel Army. We were then ordered to Washington and started the 24th by way of Troy and down the Hudson to New York where we had rations and were presented with our first stand of colors. We then left by the way of Phila. and arrived there about mid-night and went to the old Cooper Shop for rations. After a couple of hours we again went aboard the cars for Baltimore. When we arrived at Havre De Grace they took part of the train across the river on a ferry and then went back for the rest. We were then issued six rounds of ammunition and ordered to load our pieces. Then we started for Baltimore where we arrived about . We got out and were ordered to cap our guns (which were the old flint-lock percutioned over) and we marched through the city about four miles. There were not many regiments that had attempted to go that way after the 6th Mass. was assaulted. We had no trouble in passing through although they looked rather ugly. We then took a train for Washington. When we got to the relay house we commenced to see plenty of camps in due time we arrived in Washington and marched to Capitol Hill and went into camp and remained until July 9th. We were ordered to Alexandria, Va. and went into camp at Bush Hill, not far from Clouds Mills. We did pickett duty as far as Springfield Station on the railroad. We remained there until the 18th when we were ordered to march. That night we crossed Pohick Creek on a log and then went into camp. AFter we had all turned in and most of us asleep a drove of hogs stampeded through our camp, which we though was the whole Rebel Army. After that we got though our first night on the march. Tee next day we marched near Centerville and camped for the night. We surprised a Rebel camp and they left a lot of flour and other rations. That was our first experience in cooking. We had no utensils. Some would pour a container of water into a barrel of flour and what that would wet up was a ration. We found some salt where they had emptied some brine and we pounded it up and salted our dough and hot stones and put our cakes onto them and set them before the fire to cook. If anything, they were heavier than the stones. We foraged and got some of those razor back hogs, but there was not grease enough in them to fry but they tasted pretty good. The next morning was Sunday, the 2st we could hear cannonading in the distance so we though there was a fight on. About 9 o'clock we were ordered to fall in. We were formed in a hollow square and Gen. O. O. Howard and STaff rode into the enter and made a beautiful prayer (something I never saw after). We then started on the march. We went through Centerville and there we saw our first wounded. The houses were all turned into hospitals. We crossed Cub Run bridge and filed into a grove and layed off for orders. There I first saw Gen. McDowell and Staff. The boys said they wished they had half the whiskey he had in him.
After a while we got orders to fall in and we started. When we got out of the woods we got the order double quick which we kept up until we reached Sudley's CHurch, about 6 miles. We then halted for a few minutes in front of the church, which was used for a hospital.When we got orders to forward we went up quite a steep hill and there we met the wounded. Some were able to walk and some on stretchers. When we gained the top of the hill we struck a double quick and at our left was a Rebel battery playing across the ridge. One shell burst in our ranks and killed the first men of the regiment out of Co. C., Cpl. Russell Bingaman and wounded three others. We soon got out of range down in a ravine and formed in line of battle and advanced up through a belt of timber. When we came out in the clear we were in front of the enemy. Our men were being killed and wounded before we knew the enemy was firing at us. We then opened a volley and then fired at will about 8 or 10 rounds, then got orders to move by the left flank. A comrade of mine, Ed Gillson was wounded, shot through the ankle with a minney ball and my Lieut. told me to take him back, which I gladly did. I got him as far as a little creek and got our canteens filled when I heard some troops coming. Thinking they were our men I waited, thinking I would get help, but when they came out of the woods I saw a Rebel flag. I told Ed they were the Rebs and he must look out for himself and I started on a lively gait by the side of a fail fence and they were firing at me every jump. I soon got out of range and did not get hit. I then changed my course and made for a woods, that I saw across an open field. When about half way across zip came a ball and then another and another. I looked back and there was a line of battle and they were firing at me at long range. I made the woods without getting wounded and got my wind and then started for - where I knew not. I came to a house. There were some children frightened almost to death. THey directed me as well as they know how to Sudley's Church so I made for that. It was then getting about sundown. I came up to it in the rear about dark thinking our men were there but I was sadly mistaken. An officer rode up to me and said "Lay down your arms, you are a prisoner." I did so and then went up in front of the church where was a squad of our men prisoners. About that time there was great excitement. Their Cavalry had captured and brought in a large squad of prisoners so I passed the guard into the church and out through a window back to the woods where I had come half an hour before. I made my way the best I could for several hours then I crawled under an old tree top that had been blown down and remained until morning. It commenced to raid before light so I could not get any point of compass to steer by, but I worked my way for several hours when I got sight of some one ahead of me. After a while I made the out and they were our men lost the same as myself. One was a Rhode Island boy and one a New Yorker and they had their guns and ammunition. We counselled and made a start but kept a sharp lookout. After a while we came to a clearing and we could see a house. We watched it for a long time and did not see any signs of life, so we ventured up. We found two N.Y. Zouaves and one 2nd Minnesota boy and they had two guns. We could not get much information from the people there so we started again. We were soon in the woods again. After a while we came out where we thought we could see troops and wagons moving, but could not tell whether they were our men or the Johneys, so we altered our course and took to the woods again. We came across three more stragglers, one a Maine boy wounded in the arm and two New York boys, one with a bullet in the clef of the leg. They had two guns. I took one of them and we started again but had to go slow for the mane with wounded leg was getting about played.
We finally came to a pike which proved to be the Aldie Pike. We met a man who seemed to know more about the country and he gave us some directions and said it was a right smart ways to Centerville and he thought the Yankees were there, so we started for Centerville. We had gone but a short way when we came to another road that led to the left. Up this road a short way was a house and a woman came out and beckoned to us so we went up to her and she told us that the Reb's Cavalry had passed up that road but a short time before and we would be taken prisoners or shot if we didn't take to the woods. The majority were in favor of going up behind them and if they saw them would take to the woods. I told them I would not go so they left me and I stayed there. It was about dark then. In the course of half an hour we heard the Cavalry coming and they went past the house with all of my comrades prisoners.
The woman was frightened and said I must not stay in the house for if they found me there they would burn her house. She said there was a little hut down below the garden so I made for that. It was raining hard then. It proved to be a hen roost so I made myself as comfortable as possible. In about an hour the woman came down and brought me a pitcher made up my mind I would have to stay there for the night, but I did not for the woman came down and said everything was quiet got a good night's rest. She had a boy about 12 years old and she had sent him out to see if there was anybody around, but he did not see anyone so she gave me some breakfast, and some old clothes which I donned and left my uniform in exchange. Then the boy went on horseback on the pike and I went in the field in sight of him. He said he would throw up his hand when he stopped, if he did not see anyone. Every time he stopped up went his hand so I knew the coast was clear. In this way he piloted me out about 3 miles to another pike which would take me to Fairfax Court House. I bid him goodbye and started, thinking our men were there. I soon came to a woods and had just gone about 40 rods when I was halted by a rebel Cavalrymen. He asked me where I was going. I told him I was going to find out about the battle. He wanted to know if I had seen any Yankees. I told him I saw 4 that morning and told him the direction. He told me to come with him so we went along a short ways where a byroad came in and there were 4 or 5 more Cavalrymen. One was an officer. He questioned me about the Yanks. I told him two of them had on red uniforms, so they left me and went in the direction I had told them the Yanks had gone.
I then struck across an open field for a woods I could see about 1/2 a mile and I never looked behind me until I had reached it. I could not see anything moving so I made as near as I thought to the west. After a while I came out in a clearing and I could see several buildings, one quite large. I waited for some time but could see no stir, so I ventured down to one of them. I went to a well and was about to draw some water when a man came out and spoke to me and asked me if I wouldn't like a drink of milk. He pulled up a jar that hung in the well and gave me a couple of glasses, which I was very thankful for. I talked quite a while with him and he had not heard about the battle. I made up my mind that he was not much of a Rebel so I told him who I was and where I have been and where I wished to go. He told me I was about 7 miles from the river and the place where we were was called Frying Pan; that everybody between there and the river were strong Sesech, excepting some colored people who lived on the bank of the river, and if I got through and found them, they would get me across to Maryland. He told me to keep in the woods and directed me and said the road ran straight to Leesburg and to keep to the left of that. It was about 3 o'clock then. I would come out where I could see the pike and get my bearings then keep under cover and travel. It was getting most sundown and I was getting pretty tired. I thought I was pretty near the river for I had passed Leesburg a way to my right, so I ventured out to a house. All was quiet so I rapped. A woman answered my call and I inquired for the river. She said it was not but a short ways and to take a path which would lead me there. I started and had gone but a little ways before I met 2 men and a colored boy on a horse. I said good morning and asked them how far it was to the river. One of them wanted to what I wanted to go to the river for. I told him I wanted to get across. He said the d--mn Yankees had stolen all the boats and I could not get across and wanted to know where I was from and who I was. I told him I went down to Bull Run to see the fight and had got lost. He says "If you are one of them d--- Yankees I will have you!" and told the Nigger to go for a rope. I told him I was no soldier and had been with the Southerners and they let me go. He was anxious to hear more about the fight so I made as good a story for his side as I could and he said he would take me up to the house and hang me there. He first searched me to see if I had commenced to rave he had got a Yankee and he was going to hand him. His wife took my part and he finally quieted down. I agreed with him on everything and told him that we was liked out and they would not be any more fighting. He got cooled down and asked me to have some supper, which was very acceptable. He said he would keep me until morning and he would take me up to Leesburg and deliver me to the Rebels. I told him I would rather be a prisoner than to be tramping as I was, so when he got tired he let me upstairs to bed. I took off my shoes and lay down on the bed. When everything was quiet I got up, shoes in hand, and let myself out of a window into a wheat field and struck the path for the river, which was about one mile, as near as I could judge. I came to a crick, which I found out after was Goose Crick, crossed on a log that for the purpose and came into a cornfield. I knew I was near the river on account of the fog.
When I got through the cornfield I came to a barn and went in and stayed until it began to be light in the east. I went out and I was on the bank of the river. I soon came to a cabin and a colored man came out with a pail. I spoke to him and asked him if he could not take me across the river. He said there were not any boats. I told him what the man at Frying Pan had told me and who I was, so he told me to stay where I was and he went off. Soon I heard a paddling in the water and soon a skow boat came out of the fog and landed. I got in and he paddled me across with a board and told me where to go and get some breakfast. Where we landed was a crick emptied into the and an aqueduct under the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The place I was directed to get something to eat was a Miller who had a large grist mill and some stoves. He was just coming out as I went to the door. I told him who I was and asked for something to eat. He said he would be back soon and breakfast would be ready in a little while. When he came back he asked me in and I told him my experience and he told me about the man that was going to hang me, his name was Jim Cochran. He gave me some whiskey which I thought would not be polite to refuse and a good breakfast of coffee, hominy and bacon, corn bread and honey. He had a couple of horses saddles and I mounted one and he took me to another place 3 or 4 miles and there we called. I had to tell my story to them. There were three young men there and they saddled up and gave me another lift for a few miles to a big plantation. This man had 40 slaves, had [a] blacksmith shop and [a] carriage shop and a big farm. He used me alright, gave me all I could eat and drink and directed me. I made Tennallytown that night and stayed in a hotel where they had built a big fort and the house was inside. That was some 4 miles from the District of COlumbia. The next day was Sunday and I walked to Georgetown and then to Washington and the first men that I knew was my Captain (Todd) sat on the National House porch. He was shot in the neck. He took me into his room and the Col. was in the hotel (Whiting) stopping. The Capt. sent for him and I had to tell him my adventures. Also Ex. Gov. Slade's son was there. The Col. gave me a pass so I would not get picked up by the Provost guard so I stayed two days with the Capt. whom I have never seen since. I then got a pass to go to my Regt., which lay at Bush HIll, 4 miles below Alexandria, where we camped before we started for Bull Run.
I found the Regt. the 29th of July 1861 on my 22nd birthday. Thus ended my first campaign or the 1st Bull Run.
Soon we were ordered to move. We crossed Long Bridge into Washington, passed up through Georgetown near Chain Bridge and went into camp there. We met the 8th Vermont, they were building Fort Vermont. In a few days the Regt. crossed over on the Virginia side in light marching order and built Fort Ethan Allen and Fort Marcey -- did not break camp. I was left in charge of Co. C's quarters and drew rations and sent them to the regt. every morning. The regt. was gone about 10 days when they came back. The next day we broke camp and moved over the river and out to Lewinsville (sic) and Falls Church. THe 4th, 5th and 6th Regts. came in a few days and went into camp near us. We were organized as the 1st Vermont Brigade by Gen. Brooks, composed of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Vermont Regts. About December 15th I was taken sick. I was on picket out by Lewinsville. An ambulance was sent for me and I was taken to the Field Hospital. I had the Typhoid fever, got better and had a relapse, was there until the Army was ordered to move about the 1st week in March. I was moved with the rest of the sick to Georgetown Summarg Hospital. I was more dead than alive when we arrived. In a few days I commenced to pick up and the 1st of April I was granted a furlough for 30 days and went home to Brattleboro, Vt. I was not able to return when the furlough expired and stayed until the 15th of May. By permission of Geo. Holbrook who is now living (Jan 25th 1907) I reported back to the hospital in Georgetown and stayed about a week and was sent to the front with 35 men for different regiments. We went down the Potomac and up the York rivers to Yorktown and then up the Pamunkey as far as White House. Most of the men found their regiments near there, but my regiment was on the move and the Provost Marshall told me to stay there until he found out where they were. I made quarters and stayed a week, then the Provost gave me a pass and I went on the cars to deep bottom and found the regiment just before the Battle of Fare Oaks. Our Brig was on the reserve near Grapevine Bridge after the battle we crossed the Chickahominy and went into camp at Goldens Farms and did picket duty in front of Richmond. We stayed there until we were flanked out and then we commenced the 7 days retreat to Harrisons Landing. We passed Savage St. but the enemy was close onto us, so we turned about and went back and had a sharp battle. We lost one man killed and several wounded but the 3rd Vt. lost heavy. This was on June 29th 1862.
We then retreated and marched all night. We were on one road and the Johnies on another that ran parallel with us. We were ordered to take off our cups and anything that would make a noise and not speak above a whisper. We got across WHite Oak Swamp about daylight, went over a bluff into a ravine, stacked arms and lay down. We were asleep as soon as we touched the ground. Sometime in the forenoon we were woke up and shell and shots were plowing the earth in every direction. The enemy had massed a battery of 24 guns and opened them all at once. They knocked out Mott's Battery which had taken a position on the bluff, the first round, but they were soon silenced by other Batteries. We then moved back through a piece of timber and out in a clearing where the supply trains were and there was a great panic among the Teamsters. They would take out their saddle mule and ride him away (There I saw one of the most (?) sights I saw while in the service) A provost Marshall rode up to a colored driver who was taking out his saddle mule and ordered him to stop and take his team along. He did not mind anything he told him and undertook to mount his mule to run away. This officer rode up to him and slashed him with his saber and split one side of his face and ear so it fell down on his shoulder and he started to run and every jump it would flop up and down and he kept on out of sight. Soon the ball opened at Malvern Hills and we were ordered to support a battery. after dark we commenced on the retreat again and came out near the James River and halted, and stocked arms and went to sleep. The next day it rained and we marched to Harrison Landing but had not gotten our camp in shape before we were ordered back and had a skirmish with their Advance Guard. AFter driving them back we went back to the landing and went into camp. That ended the Peninsular Campaign.
The first Maryland Campaign - We left Harrison's Landing about July 30th 1862 and marched to Yorktown. I was played out and was passed on transport to Fortress Monroe and remained until the Regt. arrived, then we took steamers up the Potomac and stopped at Aquia Crick for orders. When they came we went up to Alexandria and marched to Centerville and met the retreat of 2nd Bull Run. I was sent with a squad of 20 men to relieve the pickets at Cub Run Bridge and remained until the rear guard of Pope's Army came. We then marched at will for our camp, but found nothing but the fires burning. The Regt. had moved an hour before, so we followed the moving columns on the pike to Fairfax Court House. One comrade of my company and myself kept together in the fields beside the road until we came to a house where there was quite a crowd and a guard. We inquired what was the trouble and were told that Gen. Kearney had been killed and had just been brought in on his horse. He was shot in a railroad out near Chanila where our men and the Rebs got mixed in the dark. We moved on and came to some hospital tents and in a field nearby were some horses and mules loose and no guard. I made for one and caught him without any trouble and led him off by the fore. My chum did not have as good luck as I did and that was the last I saw of him. When I got away a proper distance I packed my knapsack, rigged a bridal out of my Gun Sling and canteen strap and then I was mounted infantry. I went as far as Fairfax and was told that I had passed our Brig so I went back and was told that it was the other way. I gave up trying to find them and picketed my horse and made some coffee by a fire that had been left, then camped for the rest of the night. When it was light I started again for the Regt. I soon found it and they were all sleeping, for they had marched and maneuvered all night. We left soon after getting breakfast and marched to Washington.
News had reached us that the enemy was near Tennallytown, so when we got to Washington they gave us a big reception. I do not remember all the places, I remember going through Roversville and Fredrick City. We first met the Rebs. at Burkettsville Sept. 14th 1862 and charged through the town and up the mountain at Crampton Pass we took several prisoners and one Napoleon gun.We passed over on the other side of the Mountain where the Rebs had formed and left their knapsacks. When they were driven back they were in too much of a hurry to stop for them. We had lots of fun looking them over. We lay there all night and the next day. That day the 9th Vermont came past us. They had been taken prisoners and had been [paroled]. They were surrendered at Harper's Ferry. We soon started for Antietam. We forded the stream some way to the right of the bridge and joined on to the left of Gen. French's command with Dunkers Chapel in our front (this was Sept. 17th 1862). We were in a big cornfield. We lay there until the enemy retreated, two days and night. THe 2nd night I was detailed with 20 men to pick up the dead in front of our Regt. It was getting so it smelled rather rank. There were details out of other Regts. along the line. The pickett line ran along just on the crest of the ridge which protected our line. They lay along with the dead. We would crawl up and take a man by the leg and haul him down so the hill would protect us and load him on a couple of fence rails and two men would carry him off to the rear (night of the 18th of Sept. 1862) the Pioneers were building then. I remained with two men and pulled the bodies down and loaded them. Sometimes we would get hold of a pickett for we could not tell them from the dead only when they kicked. If we made any noise zip would come a ball. My squad picked up 39 bodies and the Pioneers buried 300 in one trench. When it became light we could see about as many dead lying around as ever. We advanced up by Dunker Church and down towards Sharpsburg and halted. The Rebels had all gone. I started then to take in the sights of the field. There was a sunken road that they used for a line of battle and you could walk on the dead for a 1/2 mile. I found two that were still alive among them. It was the bloodiest field I ever saw. After that we marched to Hagerstown and camped on the fair ground. Our Col. was Military Governor for the town. We had a good time while we stayed there. After leaving Hagerstown we crossed back to Virginia. We had no more engagements until Dec. 13th when we arrived at Fredericksburg, Gen. Burnside in command. We crossed below the town near the Benerd House and advanced in line of battle out on an open plain between our artillery and the enemy. The ground was frozen hard and the balls would glance as though they struck solid rock. Our Regt. lost five killed between50 and 60 wounded. It was lucky for us that night came on so we got out under cover of the darkness. We then recrossed the Rappahannock and went into camp for Winter Quarters near White Oak Church on Falmouth Heights. We got our quarters nicely made when our Regt. was detailed on detached service at Belle Plain Landing. After arriving there we again built quarters, the finest we ever had. About the time we got them completed we were ordered to join the Brig which was then on the march. This was Burnsides Campaign when he was struck in the mud. The morning we broke camp it commenced to rain and it kept raining. We got lost and halted for orders. We stayed in that place for two days and nights. We could not build a fire so we lay in our tents and steamed it out under our blankets. The 3rd day we got orders to go back to our first camp in front of Fredericksburg. I was taken with Rheumatism in both hips so I could not march. The Capt. took my gun and a comrade took my knapsack and I managed to work myself along until I came to the road where the army was moving. I lay there until almost night when our wagon train came along and they took me in one of the wagons so I got to the camp about dark. My chum was detailed on pickett as soon as the Reg. made camp so I had no place. I rolled myself up in my blankets and lay on the ground that night. When my man came off pickett the wood had been (?) so we could not get any to build our quarters with, so we lay on the ground with our tents spread over us for about a week. When one morning we woke up to find about four inches of snow on top of us. Then the Orderly reported us to the Capt. and he detailed a team and some men and they drew us a load of logs, so we soon had good quarters. We remained in the town on the Pontoons under a heavy file and drove the enemy back to the foot of th heights. We then moved up to the south part of the town and lay under cover on the bank of the river. We had the 26th New Jersey attached to our Brig at that time (9 month men) they were ordered to charge across the plain on Maryes Height and our Regt. was supporting them. When they were half way to the foot of the heights they got a shell in their ranks, when they broke and every man was for himself. Then we were ordered in. We crossed the open in a zigzag way so they did not get a good range on us. We drove the Rebs out so they did not et a good range on us. We drove the Rebs out of their rifle pits and charged the heights. My tent mate was wounded (Geo. A Rice) just as we gained the top of the heights, when they gave us their last volley and then run. I got a stretcher and got him down to the foot of the mountain. When he died I left him as the enemy had got back on the heights. I went up through the town and out on the Salem pike. I did not find the Regt. until the next day. They were near the Salem Church. We then fell back to Salem Heights and lay in line of battle all day and watched the enemy forming in front. Our line was formed in a circle both flanks on the river. The enemy formed the same. They moved their whole army on the 6th Corps, just before dark they made an attack and drove in our skirmish line. Our Brig. was on the front Center. They came within 200 yds before we opened fire, then we ave them a volley, then loaded and fired at will. the enemy gave away and we charged taking lots of prisoners. We lost in Co. C. 5 killed and wounded. We established a strong rear guard and the Corps commenced to cross the river on Pontoons. The 2nd Vermont covered the retreat and just at daybreak we crossed the bridge and the anchors raised and the bridge was swung to the opposite shore before we had got off of it. We had masked batteries in position when the enemy showed their advance guard they were shelled back and the Pontoon was taken up and moved back to their old camp on Falmouth Heights. We took time and marched back to White Oak Church where we started from. Thus ended Fighting Joe's Chancellorsville Campaign.
We lay there some time when the army commenced to move north. We remained until the last and then we made a faint. We crossed a Pontoon at the same place as they two times before and advanced out on the Bowling Greene Road. We did not have much fighting this time. The next day we recrossed the river and were the rear guard of the army. We went through a placed called Dumfroze and Wolf Ron Sholes and Union Mills when we went into camp for two days. There we first met the 2nd Vermont Brigade ( Gen. Stannard, our old Lt. Col.) composed of the 12-13-14-15 and 16th Rgts. (9 months men). We then started on a forced march for Maryland. We forded the Potomac at Edwards Ferry. I do not remember the places we passed through until we arrived at Westminster. We remained there until the 30th of June or the 1st of July (I don't remember which) when we were ordered to fall in about 10 o'clock at night and was on the march until nearly sundown the next day. When we arrived at a little round top at Gettysburg we crossed the Tinelytown road and filed to the left of little round top to the base of round-top and formed line of battle in an old lane which was on the extreme left of the army and where they expected the final attack would be made. There we remained until the Ball was over.
By permission from Capt. Wales about 5 o'clock I went on top of little round top and had a fine view of the Rebels last charge. This was July 3rd. This was high water mark of the Rebellion and Picketts Div., which made it, was the flower of the Confederate Army and was repulsed and flanked by Gen. Stannards 2nd Vermont Brigade of 9 months men. The next morning, the 4th the Rebels were gone and our picketts were advanced. We moved up the Tinelytown pike near the cemetery and across the valley of death to the Trossell farm. I took a stroll over most of the field of the battle of the 3rd. The dead were all there, horses and men all together. We soon moved out, about 2 miles and made rifle pits and remained a while.
"This Picture was taken on the Peninsula in front of Richmond Va June 1862. From left to right - Sargt. (sic) N. S. Cole, Co. C 2nd Regt Vt. Vols; Larken G. Meede (sic) the sculptor of Florence It[a]ly, John P. Ripley, Corp, Geo. Padelfoot, Lieut. Henry Prouty, Albert L. Kindall & Chas. Jerome Stockwell (Cook) all of Co. C 2nd Regt Vermont Vols. 2nd Brig. 2nd Div 6th A[rmy] Corps.
[Inscription on the obverse of the photograph].
Experiences In the Wilderness in 1864
It was on May 5th 1864 that Gen. Grant fought the first battle in the wilderness. At that time I was a Sgt. in Co. C, 2nd Regt., Vermont Volunteers in the old Vermont Brigade of the 6th Army Corps. We broke camp at Brandy St. May 4th and crossed the Rappadan River at Germania ford. Our position was on the right, but by request of Gen. Hancock, who commanded the 2nd Corps., we were assigned to his corps, and reported at the cross roads where the plank road crosses the Brook road. There we met the cavalry, which had been the only troop engaged at that time. This was about noon and our Brig was ordered in on the left of the plank road. We went by flank into line on the double quick but did not get into line before they fired a full volley into us. There was not over 150 yds. away. This volley thinned our ranks in a fearful manner. Capt. Wales, my Captain, was seriously wounded. He was shot through the lung. I was trying to have him taken back but he said it was of no use for he was a dead man. While talking to him a miney ball stuck in the side of my knapsack which wheeled me partly around. I then lay down beside him when a ball that struck a tree and glanced and struck me in the thigh, which I am carrying the mark today. About that time they ceased firing and the Capt. rallied a little and said he would be taken back, so I called a comrade, George Prouty and he took one side and I the other and we started him back.
About that time we had orders to fall back and the enemy opened another volley but we got him out all right. A shot went through my blouse pocket and tore a bunch of cartridges to pieces and another went through my pants leg but they did not draw blood. AFter we got the Capt. back to the first hospital we left him and hunted up the Regt. which we found on the Brook road. They were asleep so we prepared to take a little sleep. When I heard some one calling for Co. C I answered him. He said one of our boys was down on the field shot through the ankle and wanted to be brought off. I asked him his name and he said Rand (He was reported killed and was a great favorite with us all) so I awoke three of the boys and we started for him, thinking we could bring him out on a blanket. As we passed out by the pickett they told us we must not speak above a whisper as we were between the two pickett lines, so we crawled along the best we could. I knew we were pretty near where the fighting was, for we had fallen over lots of dead bodies. I told the boys to lay low and I would call. I called Kirk, he answered and so did the Johneys with a volley, after that we crawled up among the dead to him. We placed him on a blanket and started but his leg pained him so that he hollered and then came another shower of shot, so we lay low. He said he would rather lay there than be hurt so, so I told the boys to go back and get a stretcher and I stayed there with him. They were gone nearly an hour but it seemed a week. The wounded and dying were calling for water and for help in all directions and every time they heard one speak they answered with a shot. We placed our comrade on the stretcher and 2 took him and the rest of us held the undergrowth and bushes to they could pass through. In that way we worked him out and got him to where the ambulances were waiting, about day light, then we went back and found the Company. They were still sleeping but we did not have time to rest before orders came to fall in. We had lost so many officers and men that we were consolidated into four companies instead of ten; we had loss all our Field and Staff Officers and all our commissioned officers but two Captains and four Lieutenants. The ranking Capt. took command. Then we were ordered to advance. We passed over seven lines of battle and relieved the skirmished but had not been there long when they advanced and we opened on them. They would fire and fall back. The first volley killed our commanding Capt. so our last Capt. took command. They kept working that way for a while when they advanced up a revine so they got a flank fire on us and we were ordered back. We went on the go as you please plan. When we got back to the first line of battle they happened to be all Germans and we could not make them understand, so they got up a stampede and every line of battle went out like swarms of bees. When they got to the crossroads they rallied as I ever saw men before and a very short time all was in position and a strong line advanced.
We then cut a slash and built brest works and lay behind them until the next day the picketts were driven in. The Rebs advanced in three lines when the 1st line got through the slack gave them another which stopped them. The dead and dying were in every shape. We then charged and brought in a lot of prisoners. They fell back and we formed a new line of picketts.
They were skirmishing all night. In the morning we were advanced again and relieved the old pickett we had a pretty hot skirmish all the morning and they commenced to draw back. We commenced a flank movement but there was fighting every day and night for five days. May 10th we made a charge on some Earthworks under Col. Upton and covered them. We lost heavily. Our orderly Sergeant was killed in this engagement. We were soon ordered back. This, I think, was the 10th. The next morning we lost our beloved commander, Gen. John Sedgwick. He was personally directing a position for a battery and was picked off by a sharp shooter. I was close to him when they carried him to the rear. Hancock had hard fighting all the morning of the 12th. He had made seven charges on one point and had been repulsed every time. He then sent for the old Vermont Brigade and we made the charge under a galling fire over dead and dying at what is known as the Bloody Angle. We charged to the woods and the enemy was one side and we were the other about 10 feet apart. We lost quite a lot of men by getting up and shooting down onto them. We lay there all that day and the night, then both Armies started a flank movement. We had only gone a few miles when we were wheeled about and went back on double quick and charged some rebel works. Then we went back and overtook the moving Army on the way to North Anna. Thus ended the two greatest battles of U.S. Grant. May 24 we crossed the North Anna.
The Battles and Engagements that I participated in were:
Bull Run July 21, 1861 Golden Farm June 26, 1862 Savage Station June 29, 1862 White Oak Swamp June 30, 1862 Crampton's Pass, Md. Sept. 14, 1862 Antietam Sept. 17, 1862 Fredricksburg Dec. 13, 1862 Maryes Hights May 3, 1863 Salem Hights/Banks Ford May 4, 1863 Fredricksburg, Va. June 5, 1863 Gettysburg, Pa. July 3, 1863 Funkstown, Md. July 10, 1863 Rappahannock St. Nov. 7, 1863 Wilderness, Va. May 5-10, 1864 Spotsylvania C. H. May 12-18, 1864 Coal Harbor June 1-12, 1864 Petersburg June 18, 1864 North Anna May 24, 1864
We were relieved from the front the 19th of June 1864, our term of service expiring June 20th and were mustered out the 29th in Brattleboro, Vt., but the Regt. remained until the close of the war at Apamatox, May 1865. They were in eleven more battles after my time expired. The official statement of losses of the 2nd V[ermont] Reg. were -Killed in Action Officer 4, Enl. men 134 Total 138 Died of wounds " 2 " " 80 Total 82 Died of disease " " 139 Total 139 Died in Confed. prison not of wounds Total 22 Died in accident Total 3 Executed Total 1 Total no. of deaths 385
Sergt. N. S. Cole, Co. C, 2nd Regt. Vt. Volunteers.
See also Reunion Co. C, 2nd Reg't, Vt. Volunteers, Civil War; May 18th 1890.
There is another version of Cole's memoirs in the Brattleboro Reformer, 29 March 1907.
Source: Memoirs and photograph courtesy of Douglas Ronaldson, Bonita Springs, FL, great-grandson of Sergeant Nelson S. Cole.