Major C. H. Joyce, 2nd Vermont, On the Battle

24 02 2012

The Second Vermont at Bull Run

———-

From an interesting letter in the Burlington Times, doubtless written by Major Joyce, we make the following extracts relative to the part the Vermont Regiment took in the battle at Bull Run;

On, on we went upon the run, and our poor boys were dropping out by the dozens, yet no halt or slack. Now we have arrived at a road which leads up along the skirt of a piece of woods. We enter and go on upon the run. Now, Oh God! what a sight meets our eyes! Here are the hospitals for friends and foes, all thrown in together; here are the surgeons in the woods sawing off legs and arms from the poor fellows who have been wounded – some on the ground and some on a board; they shriek, they groan, they swear, in their delirium of agony; here comes the carts bringing in the wounded, the blood running from the cart like water from a street sprinkler. It is awful, it is terrible, but yet our brave boys press on. – Now comes a messenger saying to us, Go on, boys; they need your help. Then another saying, Go ahead, boys; the rebels are flying. We heed them not, but with steady step move on.

.       .       .       .

The order was given to “Forward the Second,” and you may depend it was done nobly. Oh, who would not have given a world at that moment to have been a Vermonter. Not a man but what felt they carried the honor of Vermont upon their bayonets. On they went – the orders come, “Captains in the rear of your companies,” “boys, keep cool,” “take good aim and mark your man.” Not a pale face appeared in line; lips were compressed and hearts were as firm as the granite in their native hills. The air was filled even to darkness, with iron and lead, yet I felt a pride in being with the noble Second on that day; and although I was not born upon Vermont’s soil, yet I was proud of her and her gallant sons, and gloried in the state of my adoption. – When we arrived on the brow of the hill we were in plain sight of the enemy’s lines. We marched down the hill about half way, and halted in line of battle.

Between us and the enemy was a deep ravine, and on the other side, on the hill pitching toward us were the rebels, behind a Virginia rail fence. The order now came to open fire on the whole line. Our boys drew up their guns, took deliberate aim at that fence, and then it would have done your soul good to see the devils jump. At the second volley they all cut and run into a piece of woods on their left flank. Soon they made their appearance at the edge of the woods, and at them we went again like bull-dogs.

It would, perhaps, be invidious to call names, but I must be permitted to mention Captains Dillingham, Eaton, Hope and Randall, and Lieutenants Henry, Gregg, Campbell, Johnson, Howe, Tracy, Hugh and Tyler, as men who were under my eye the whole battle. With Capt. Dillingham I have always been acquainted, ,and have felt a sort of pride in his success. I have watched him, and I saw him in the midst of the carnage on that bloody day. He was as cool and as self possessed as when on Company parade. I could hear him give his orders to his men; I noticed his face as he passed back and forth, speaking words of encouragement to his brave boys, and by this example inspiring them with courage and fortitude. In a moment I saw him fall ! Oh, God! I sprang towards him and caught him in my arms, lifted him up, and, to my great joy discovered that a Minnie ball had only just grazed his temple and stunned him for the moment. I set him on his feet and left him in charge of his men, and started for my post on the left of the line, and scarcely had I gone ten paces when, with a voice that could be heard beyond the enemy’s lines, I heard him say: “They have not killed me yet; give it to them, boys!”

Captains Smith, Fullam, Wallbridge, Todd, and others, behaved in a manner worthy of Vermont, while Capt. Randall greatly distinguished himself by his cool courage and self-possession; he was determined not to leave the field, and did not until compelled to do so by the commander. One word about our color-bearer: he is 6 feet 5 1-2 inches high – he carried his banner upon the field and stood by it during the whole battle, like Goliath of old. Not a limb trembled or or muscle moved. While six of the enemy’s bullets pierced the sacred flag, not one touched the noble bearer. He is truly a great man and deserves to be remembered.   .   .   .   .   .

Our Quarter master’s Department is managed on a scale not to be surpassed by any regiment in the service. Mr. Pitkin is untiring in his efforts to make us all comfortable, and he is nobly sustained by the Quarter master Sergeant, Cain, and the Messrs. Stone.

St. Albans Daily Messenger, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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