Report of Col. Henry Whiting, Second Vermont Infantry
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, p. 422
As we approached the field we met many ambulances and litters with the dying and wounded. We were greeted by the crowds of returning stragglers, telling us to hurry on; that they had driven them a mile. Meanwhile, the fact that we saw no infantry organized gave us a good deal to think of till we came to where the rifled cannon balls fell around. Then, not hearing any artillery from our side, the fact burst upon us that all of the troops, except our brigade, in the neighborhood were routed.
The Second Vermont was ordered to form on the left of the Maine Fourth. Line was formed; we marched up the hill-side, and about half the distance to the next eminence, about two hundred yards in front, where the infantry and artillery of the rebels were stationed in force. The Vermont Second formed in line, and deliberately fired with rapidity from fifteen to twenty rounds. The enemy retreated before the fire, upon which, and the fact that a body of troops came up to fire over our heads, the commands were given by the colonel, “Cease firing! By the right flank, right face! Forward, march!” but on account of the talk and the confusion created by others coming up in the rear, the command was not heard far from the right. The right company marched to the right a short distance, when it was discovered that a battery of rifled cannon was so planted as nearly to enfilade our regiment, when a retreat was ordered, or, in other words, to file right, which would have brought us off the field; but, so great seemed the desire to continue the fight for a time, my directions were either misunderstood or delayed in execution, [which] kept the regiment on the field a short time longer than I wished it to have remained.
As to the conduct of the officers and men in the presence of the enemy, they exhibited the utmost coolness and bravery. The Bennington company, with its excellent rifles, was very effective. Lieutenant-Colonel Stannard stood square up to the work, as well as Major Joyce and Adjutant Ladd. Captain Hope, notwithstanding he was in the rear during the forced march with his company, worked very effectively to the last. Indeed, all of the officers and men on the field behaved well; and though some gave out by the wayside through inability to proceed, which, when one considers the trip, would wonder that so many could proceed, and none but those in good health could possibly have made the march.
Yours, very truly,
Colonel, Commanding Second Vermont Regiment