United States Sharpshooters
Companies E and H, Second United States Sharpshooters. (Three Years)
by Homer R. Stoughton, Lieutenant-Colonel Second Sharpshooters
On the 23d of September, 1861, governor Erastus Fairbanks authorized and commissioned Capt. Homer R. Stoughton, of Randolph, to raise a company of picked men to join Col. Hiram Berdan's organization, which was authorized by the general government, consequently the recruiting of the Second company began, and Seymour F. Norton, of Winooski Falls, was the first man to enlist, and Henry H. Church of Randolph, was the second. in the course of a few days there was as fine a company of men in camp at West Randolph as ever went from any State to the defense of the country's honor. All these men were required to stand the special test of making ten consecutive shots with a rifle, placing each shot inside a ten-inch ring at a distance of three hundred yards, and must in every way stand the physical examination required of all recruits to the army at the time. Right here I must add that the special branch into which these men were enlisted had such attractions that it brought together a superior set of men, intellectually as well as physically, so after organizing and getting ready for muster during the early part of October, an unpleasant fact was made known that prevented the muster in; it occurred in this way, as the records will show. At the extra session of the Legislature, called in the summer to provide for raising and equipping the six regiments, the cavalry and one battery, if I am not mistaken, it was thought the same act had provided for the State allowance at seven dollars per month for the enlisted men, but upon the convening of the regular session of the Legislature, it was found that no provision was made beyond the troops specified, leaving out the battery being recruited by Captain Hebard, as well as the sharpshooters, consequently a delay was caused in the muster of the Second company, and not until the legislature had passed the law providing for all enlisted men the State pay of seven dollars per month, was the company mustered, which was done by Lieut. W. W. Chamberlin, Fourteenth United States Infantry, on the 9th of November, 1861.
After waiting for instructions until about the 20th of November, the Second company sharpshooters, numbering officers and men, ninety-one, started for Washington, D. C., to join the Second U. S. Sharpshooters, Col. H. A. v. Post commanding; when the company reached Washington it became Company E of the regiment. To go back to the trip to Washington. I must give the company as high a compliment as any they deserved during the war, and that is, upon arriving in New York City, on Peck Slip Pier, 25 East River, on the "Elm City," they marched up to Park Barracks, where every soldier from New England remembers having once been, where they got their first real army fare, and upon ascertaining they were to leave Jersey City at four o'clock in the afternoon, they with one accord desired a pass to go out into the city, none of them having been in New York. The Captain, much to the astonishment of the Regular Army Officer in command at the barracks, granted the passes with the promise that they should all return in time to march to the ferry. At the appointed time every officer and man was in line, which astonished the commander at the barracks as much as the granting the passes had done in the morning, and with a single exception, not a man was intoxicated, and he was able to march to the train. Every man was in line as we arrived at the Baltimore and Ohio depot in Washington, and all went into cap off Seventh Street, out of the city, the details of making the camp of instruction and the joining of other companies comprising the regiment, occupied the time until December, when the writer was detailed by order of Gen. G. B. McClellan, at the request of Gov. Frederick Holbrook, to go to Brattleboro, Vermont, and aid in organizing and taking on the Third Vermont Company, Capt. Gilbert Hart, which was another fine body of men, who were complimented both in New York and Philadelphia as they passed through those two cities. This Third company became Company H, i the Second Regiment United States Sharpshooters; they remained in camp of instruction, Washington, until the 19th of March, 1862, when they were moved across the Potomac and brigade with the Fourteenth Brooklyn Zouaves, Twenty-second, Twenty-fourth and Thirtieth new York Volunteers, Gen. C. C. Augur commanding, and to which brigade was attached Battery B, Fourth U. S. Artillery, Capt. John Gibbon commanding; also two regiments of cavalry commanded by Colonel Bayard and Colonel Kilpatrick. All of these three last named officers were promoted to Brigadier-Generals before hardly a month had passed. I speak of these to show how the Vermont boys were surrounded at the outset.
There was nothing of special interest occurred until the First Army Corps under General McDowell was put on the move after General McClellan went to Yorktown; then the Corps moved on Fredericksburg, and on the 18th of April, 1862, the Second company sharpshooters was first called upon to skirmish against the retreating column of General Holney, who retired across the Rappahannock at Falmouth, and was followed by the brigade of General Augur, Battery B, Fourth U. S. Artillery, supported by Company E, Maryland U. S. S. S., who fired their first shots and first saw a dead soldier on that day. all the men behaved splendidly and deserved and got great credit for their behavior in the presence of the enemy. Company H did its part well in aiding the support of the skirmish line.
In the latter pat of May the army advanced towards Hanover Court House, an the Vermont companies were called upon to do picket duty in front of the enemy, and were complimented on the occasion. Then came the movement of Gen. Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, calling our Corps to aid General Banks, and in attempting to do so two trains collided on June 1st, when several men of Company E were badly injured. This prevented the procedure of General Augur's troops any further than Rectortown, Va., so the troops were ordered back to camp on Falmouth Heights, Va., where the writer was taken ill with a fever and was unconscious for several days, and in an almost hopeless condition for weeks, taking him away from his command from early in June until the 23d of August, 1862, when he joined his company in the fight at Rappahannock Station, where the series of battles commenced which ended at Bull Run, number two.
Companies E and H were under fire every day from August 23, 1862, to the wind up at Chantilly, when Gen. Phil. Kearny was killed the 30th of August. No men ever bore themselves more gallantly than the Vermont sharpshooters. It is hard at this moment, to enumerate the deeds of special daring performed by these men, often called upon to go and find troublesome Rebel sharpshooters, and invariably with a good account, the ranks were fearfully decimated, and the rolls showed fe men for muster on pay sheet, that were made up on the march to Antietam. At Groveton, Company E was the first company to encounter the Rebels under Stonewall Jackson, and in each succeeding day of that terrible fight the Vermonters vied with the companies from Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota and Michigan, to see who should do the best work, and on the very front lien on the left of where Lee broke our line, Companies E and H stood their ground with their cannonade, until there was danger of being out-flanked and captured, and then only by the most strenuous effort did they get away.
After the retreat to Upton's Hill, and the short rest, the regiment was again put on the move, and reached South Mountain in time to be engaged freely with the Rebels September 14, and in which the companies were complimented, with the others, for the daring and bravery in dislodging the enemy and occupying the ground from which the enemy was driven by the sharpshooters. On the 15th of September, after passing over South Mountain, many prisoners were taken, Companies E and H taking their full quota. On the 16th the regiment was at Keedysville, near Sharpsburg, near Antietam Creek, and on that night marched around to the right of the army, Hooker occupying the ground on the Sharpsburg and hagerstown Pike.
The troops remained on the Antietam battle field for several weeks, when they began the march into Virginia. The sharpshooters were at all times put into severe places. At Front Royal was a sharp skirmish.
In the early spring, the latter part of April and the first days of May, the Chancellorsville fight came. The Second regiment U. S. Sharpshooters was Whipple's Division of Sickles' Corps, as was the First regiment, in which was the First Vermont company U. S. Sharpshooters. On the 2d of May, at Hazel Run, the two regiments attacked and captured the largest part of the Twenty-third Georgia who were the rear of Stonewall Jackson's force that attacked the Eleventh Corps. All the men did excellent service on this occasion, as they did throughout the entire Chancellorsville battle, being put into the most difficult places. On the 3d of May, while on skirmish line engaging the enemy, the Eleventh New Jersey fired a volley into their own skirmish line in fron of them, causing some confusion and a retirement of the sharpshooters until the firing ceased.
From Chancellorsville we returned to camp at Stoneman's Switch. During this encampment the companies did regular picket duty and always performed every duty faithfully and promptly. On the march to Gettysburg, in the hot days of June, and all the time these two companies were on that march, no men ever tried to do better.
In the engagement on the 3d of July, when Longstreet attacked us, these two companies, E and H, were in the thickest of the fight, and when the Fifteenth Alabama struck us they stood their ground and entered into that fight with great zeal.
On the march back the men were zealous to get into a fight with the enemy, and at Williamsburg [Williamsport], while Lee was crossing, or rather delayed in crossing, the men of E were anxious to get into a fight, and begged to get up on the Rebel works.
This campaign was carried on until we reached Sulphur Springs, where we camped a logn time with the uusal routine, until, I think, November 6, when we made the crossing of Kelley's ford. The Second regiment was detached and sent to General DeTrobriand, who put them in the post of honor, the front; they were the first to reach the river. E, with Company C from Maine, deployed right in front of the Rebel rifle pits, in open ground, which was done with great coolness. On the day following, the regiment was sent for, to drive the Rebel cavalry and a battery of artillery from our front, which was done to the satisfaction of Generals Mead, Birney and Ward. This gave us Brandy Station as our winter quarters.
November 26 or 28, the battle of Mine Run was fought; though little fighint took place, yet it was hazardous beyond degree. On the 3th was the sharp shooting, and it was done very well; all the Vermonters fit for duty were there. We then returned to camp in winter quarters, partially prepared by the rebles, who had to go away and leave them. This was near Brandy Station, Virginia.
In the spring of 1864, General Grant took command, and the campaign was carried on continuously fromMay 4, when we passed over the same gruond to reach Todd's Tavern, as a year before to get to Chancellorsville. We were under fire the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th of May, when the writer was wounded.
On the evening of the 10th of May, 1864, at Spotsylvania,the Second Corps charged the Rebels and Lieut.-Col. Homer R. Stoughton, while leading the regiment, received a gun shot wound, breaking two ribs and receiving other injuries, which compelled his retirment fro the field, and from that to the 21st of June, 1864, the writer was away from the command on account of wounds received. The two companies, E and H, passed through al that series of battles of 1864, from Spotsylvania, through Cold Harbor and on to Petersburg, where the writer joined the regiment and assumed command on the 21st day of June, 1864, early in the morning. On the same day the Second Corps made a left flank movement to cut the Weldon railroad, the Second regiment, in which E and H were, was put to the front ton encounter the described squadron of Fitz Hugh Lee's cavalry. Colonel McDougal, who commanded the brigade, and to whome I reported, sent our regiment in and we soon found ourselves largely outnumbered, and reported to Colonel McDougal, when he replied, "go on, there is nothing in your front," so I pushed on. Presently report came from companies A and B both, that their line was being overlapped, and in danger of being captured. I directed them to break to the rear their respective flanks and the firing was beginning to be sharp. I head what I supposed was support coming on my left and rear, and in attempting to adjust and joine the line, fell into the hands of the Second N. C. cavalry, dismounted. At the same time the Colonel and Orderly of the Second N. C. cavalry were both captured by Lieutenant Sharp and some of the men. Five our our regiment were captured beside myself. The six months incarceration and parole deprives me from giving any further details. Captains Norton andAbbott of E and H would be better fitted to give the doings for the period from May 10 to Juen 21, and from that on to the end of the war.
The officers and men of companies E and H cannot receive too high priase for the efficient and valuable services during the entire period of the war after they entered the army.
At Fredericksburg, Orange Court House, Rappahannock, Sulphur Springs, Groveton, Bull Run, Sotuh Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wapping Heights, Auburn Virginia, Kelley's Ford, Brandy Station, Orange Grove, Mine Run, Wilderness, Po River, Spotsylvania, North Anna, Totopotomooy, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, June 16 '64, Deep Bottom, Petersburg, Sept. 10, '4 boydton Plank Road, Weldon railroad and Hatcher's Run, having forty killed and ninety wounded. The companies having been joined to the 4th Vermont, were mustered out July, 1865.
See Company G Roster