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United States Sharpshooters

1st Company - History

by William Y. W. Ripley, Lieutenant-Colonel.

Company F First U.S. Sharpshooters was organized in September, 1861, with Edmund Weston Jr., of Randolph as captain and C. W. Seaton and M. V. Bronson as lieutenants. It joined the regiment at New York and went with it to Washington, where the men were mustered into the service of the United States. The company left Vermont with one hundred and thirteen enlisted men, but upon muster in thirteen were rejected, to reduce the number to the regulation limit of one hundred men.

In November of the same year William Y. W. Ripley was commissioned as lieutenant-colonel of the regiment, and commanded it in all the battles in which Company F took part, until he was disabled by wounds.

The sharpshooters remained in a camp of instruction near Washington, until the 22d of March, 1862, then they were assigned to the division of Maj.-Gen. Fitz John Porter, and embarked for the Peninsula, where a portion of the regiment served in every battle of the campaign, except Fair Oaks.

Company F took part in the battles in front of Yorktown, at Hanover Court House, Mechanicsville, Gaines's Mill and Malvern Hill, losing eleven men in killed and wounded. At Harrison's Landing at the close of the seven days' battles, Captain Weston resigned and C. W. Seaton was promoted to be captain. The company marched with Morell's division of the Fifth Corps to the second battle of Bull Run, where it was sharply engaged, losing several men. At antietam the sharpshooters had the unusual experience, for them, of being merely on-lookers, as the Fifth Corps was not engaged as a whole; but at Blackford's Ford, on the Potomac, the rebel rear was overtaken and Company F rendered brilliant service, capturing two guns and several prisoners.

At Fredericksburg the sharpshooters were not ordered into action, but crossed the river on the 14th of December, and on the night of the 15th picketed the extreme front, close under Marye's Heights. After Fredericksburg, the regiment remained in camp, doing the usual picket duty, until the Army moved out in the Chancellorsville campaign. In this disastrous battle the company was engaged every day at different points on the line, and lost six men, killed and wounded.

At Gettysburg the sharpshooters served with the Third Corps, to which they had been transferred prior to the battle of Chancellorsville, and Company F, with three other companies of the regiment, performed a very valuable service in checking Longstreet's march towards the Union left, on the morning of the second day of the battle. They were all engaged at other points on the line on that and succeeding days, losing several men. On the 7th of November, company F led the advance of the Third Corps at the passage of the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford, under Capt. C. D. Merriman, with such vigor as to completely surprise and compel the surrender of four hundred and six Confederates, well covered by rifle pits, the company losing only four men. At Locust Grove, in the Mine Run campaign, the company was heavily engaged and again lost heavily in good men.

March 28, 1864, the gallant Third Corps, reduced to almost a skeleton by its terrible losses at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Locust Grove, passed into history, being consolidated with the Second Corps. The sharpshooters became part of the Second Brigade, Third Division, Second Corps, and as such took part in the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and the various battles around Petersburg.

The company crossed the Rapidan on the 4th of May, 1864, with forth-three enlisted men, and was engaged in the hardest fighting of that bloody campaign; at the close of the battle of Cold Harbor only fifteen of the forty-three were left; twenty-eight men had fallen. In the operations about Petersburg Company F was frequently engaged and lost fourteen men, up to the time when the term of original enlistment expired, on the 12th of September, 1864. Of the original one hundred and thirteen men mustered into the service, there were only twenty-five left, present and absent; of these, nineteen elected to take their honorable discharge, and six re-enlisted.

The small remnant of the company kept up an organization until the 23d of December, 1864, when they were transferred to Company E, Second U.S. Sharpshooters. During this period they were frequently engaged, and lost five men, killed and wounded. The company was present at no less than thirty-seven battles and skirmishes of importance, beside numberless minor affairs.

It numbered, from first to last, including all recruits, one hundred seventy-seven men; of these no less than thirty-two were killed field, or died of wounds received in action. The wounded who recovered and again reported for duty numbered forty-five; thus eighteen per cent of the whole died of wounds, while the total number of casualties is seventy-seven, or forty-three and a half per cent of the whole.

The record shows the severe and dangerous nature of the service performed by these men, and on it they may safely rest, certain that a grateful country will honor their memories, even as it does those of their comrades, who fought in the ranks of other and larger organizations.

Engagements

Big Bethel, Va, 28 Mar 62
Siege of Yorktown, Va, 5 Apr-4 May 62
Hanover Court House, Va, 27 May 62
Chickahominy, Va, 22-29 May 62
Mechanicsville, Va, 26 Jun 62
Gaines's Mills, Va, 27 Jun 62
Charles City Cross-Roads, Va, 29 Jun 62
Malvern Hill, Va, 1 Jul 62
Gainesville, Va, 29 Aug 62
Second Bull Run, Va, 30 Aug 62
Antietam, Md., 17 Sep 62
Blackford's Ford, WV, 19-20 Sep 62
Fredericksburg, Va, 13 Dec 62
Richards' Ford, Va, 31 Dec 62
Chancellorsville, Va, 2-5 May 63
Gettysburg, Pa., 1-3 Jul 63
Wapping Heights, Md., 23 Jul 63

Cedar Run, Va, 13 Oct 63
Kelly's Ford, Va, 7 Nov 63
Locust Grove, Va, 27 Nov 63
Mine Run, Va, 30 Nov 63
Wilderness, Va, 5-7 May 63
Todd's Tavern, Va, 8 May 64
Po River, Va, 10-11 May 64
Spotsylvania, Va, 12-16 May 64
North Anna, Va, 23-24 May 64
Totopotomoy, Va, 30-31 May 64
Cold Harbor, Va, 3-5 Jun 64
Petersburg, Va, 16-20 Jun 64
Weldon Railroad, Va, 22 Jun 64
Deep Bottom, Va, 27-28 Jul 64
Petersburg Mines, Va, 30 Jul 64
Four Mile Run, Va, 15-16 Aug 64
Hatcher's Run, Va, 27 Oct 64



Company F, (First Vermont Company), mustered into the service of the United States September 13, 61. Original members, not veterans, mustered out of service September 13, 64. Regiment disbanded and veterans and recruits transferred to Second Regiment U.S. Sharpshooters, December 23, 64, but their record is completed in this organization.


Field & Staff

Lieutenant-Colonel

Ripley, William Y. W., Rutland

See Company F Roster

Source: 1892 Revised Roster, p. 598