“W”, 2nd Vermont Infantry, Sets the Record Straight

15 01 2012

From the 2d Vt. Regiment.

In Camp at Bush Hill, Fairfax Co,, Va.

August 5th, 1861.

Messrs. Editors of the Free Press:

I notice some reports have gone to Burlington concerning the “Vermont Guard” not quite in accordance with the truth. For instance, the Times of July 26th says: – “Lieut. Sharpley carried the company into the battle and brought it off, showing throughout the contest the utmost coolness and self-possession. A cannon shot struck exactly at his feet on one occasion, plowing the earth and knocking him senseless; but on rising he went in again. He was ably seconded by Lieut. Weed.” I do not wish to detract in the least from the merits of Lieut. Sharpley. He has gained the reputation of being a brave and efficient officer, and he has the best wishes of all under his command. But as for his leading the company through the battle, I hardly think that Mr. Shaw (from whom the information purports to come) will admit that any member reported such a fact to him; nor will Lieut. Sharpley desire the reputation of so doing. Lieut. Sharpely did take command of the company when Capt. Drew became too exhausted to proceed farther, and led the company until rendered senseless by the cannon ball, when he was carried from the field by Mariam and J. S. Spaulding, and was not seen again by the company until it reached Centreville. Lieut. Weed took command after the misfortune to Lieut. S., and to him is due the credit of taking the company into battle and bringing it off, showing throughout all the coolness and self-possession ascribed to Lieut. Sharpley. He, certainly, was ably seconded by Orderly Bain. I would be unjust to Lieut. Weed not to give him the honor which he deserves. Lieut. W. is now in command of the company, and not a 1st Lieut. of another company, as another report says.

We are recruiting up now, and are occupied mostly on guard duty. We have now two companies each day for guard – one for a picket guard, and the other as a guard about the camp. Since Gen. McClellan has taken command, we have been kept very close, only two being allowed out of camp at a time, and then only with a written pass. Officer and men are debarred from the pleasure of going to Washington. On this account, intoxicating drinks have almost disappeared from camp. This produces a very beneficial effect upon the health of the men. We have but few in the hospital now.

Yesterday was a very sad day with us, rendered so by the death of Corporal Huntley of the Waterbury company. His disease was diptheria. Appropriate and very solemn exercises were held, and the corpse was started on its homeward journey. Today we are called to mourn another brother soldier – private Dow, from the same company, who died of the same disease. Thus have four of our number been laid low by this terrible disease. There are several others in the hospital suffering from diptheria, but none which are considered dangerous. The bodies of these young men have been sent home to their friends by members of the company.

Company G. has five men in the hospital at present; Sergeant Stuart and E. K. Sibley are in the camp hospital. The former was not wounded as you reported, but was sick with the measles at Centreville upon the day of the battle. By almost superhuman exertions he succeeded in walking to Alexandria, and has since been very weak. Sibley is down with the fever but is not considered dangerously ill. Nelson is wounded in the hospital in Washington, while we hear that Corporal Wilcox and private Bates are very badly off in the hospital at Annapolis; with these exceptions the company are enjoying good health.

Our regiment have not yet commenced work upon the entrenchments but we are employed rather as an advanced guard. Our pickets occasionally get a sight at those of the enemy, but no skirmishing of importance has occurred, nor do we anticipate any forward movement for some time to come. Indeed we are in no condition for such a move as we have half a dozen different kinds of guns and have but one shirt and one pair of socks apiece so that when washing day comes we are in a bad fix. Our fare is not much improved, but the boys stand up under all these difficulties much better than could be expected. How ling they will live with the miserable rations with which we are supplied is more than I can tell; yet we are promised better rations sometime, perhaps when we get back to Vermont. By the way there has been much excitement in camp for a few days past owing to the rumor, that we cannot be held out of the state more than three months, and that we shall then go home for the purpose of recruiting up. I think the boys are not homesick at all, nor are they discouraged, but they wouldn’t object to a short furlough.

All our grumbling about our guns bids fair to cease, as we have intelligence today from Mr. Hatch that he expects to procure rifled muskets for us. Gen. Davis and Lieut. Gov. Underwood, visited our camp to-day, undoubtedly for the purpose of finishing our equipment.

We have heard to-day that we are to move to the neighborhood of the 3d regiment, in a few days. At any rate you must not expect us to move to Vermont until Jeff. Davis and his rebel crew are no where.

W.

Burlington Free Press, 8/16/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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One response

15 01 2012
Chris Evans

Interesting read.

It’s fascinating how literary the 2nd Vermont could be. These letters are a example of it. As are the excellent letters the Wilbur Fisk would write home to his newspaper.

We are so lucky to have these fascinating sources.

Chris

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