Monthly Archives: February 2010

Edwards Ferry – Stannard’s Brigade Crossing

Last week while working downtown, I enjoyed a lunch with college with a mutual interest in the Civil War.  He has focused much of his study on Brigadier General George Stannard’s Second Vermont Brigade.  Last year, I’d tabled discussion of that unit’s crossing at Edwards Ferry pending more research.   But my friend was rather quick to offer up details, including scanned copies of several primary sources.

In addition, he passed a link to the Vermont in the Civil War site, an outstanding digital archive of materials!  (The site notes a video documentary of the 2nd Vermont Brigade’s march to Gettysburg.)  Of this wealth of information, two pieces summarize the brigade’s movements toward Gettysburg rather well.   The first, Chapter 11 of “Life in Camp” by J.C. Williams, Company B, 14th Vermont Infantry (also on Google Books) offered a day-by-day account of the march.   The second, a transcription of George Grenville Benedict’s “Vermont in the Civil War”  (Burlington, Vermont: Free Press Association, 1888), includes a narrative of the brigade’s movements in Chapter 26 (PDF).

With these bits of information, I can now amend the crossing time line and detail the brigade’s line of march.

Prior to the Gettysburg Campaign, the Second Vermont Brigade defended the southern approaches to Washington, D.C. and was not part of the Army of the Potomac.  On June 22, 1863, Lieutenant Colonel Edward R. Platt, reporting to the Army headquarters, detailed the disposition of Stannard’s men.  The 12th, 13th, and 14th Vermont along with the 2nd Connecticut Light Artillery (Captain John Sterling’s Battery) held a line along Occoquan Creek.  In particular the 12th and 14th along with the artillery camped near Wolf Run Shoals.  The 13th Vermont held a position along Telegraph Road near Occoquan Mills.  Platt mentioned other fortifications protecting Sallie Davis’s Ford and Selecman’s Ford, but added the force at hand was not sufficient to hold the line.  (OR, Series I, Volume 27, Serial 45, p. 259).  I have depicted the positions occupied by the Second Vermont Brigade on June 23 on a segment of the McDowell Map, along with the three defensive positions mentioned by Platt.

Dispositions of Stannard's Brigade - June 23

Not mentioned in Platt’s report but discussed in Benedict’s narrative, the 15th Vermont marched from Bristoe Station up the Orange and Alexandria Railroad from Union Mills as the Federal army withdrew northward.  The 16th Vermont camped near Union Mills.

The following day, Stannard received orders assigning his command to the First Corps, and to move through Centreville to join the line of march.  Stannard, however, waited until June 25 to begin the movement.   Concentrating first at Union Mills, the Vermonters moved on to Centreville.  According to William’s account, his regiment arrived at Union Mills at 10 am that day and halted while other elements of the Brigade arrived.  At 3 pm the Brigade took up the march again, arriving at Centreville after 5 pm.

On June 26, the brigade began the day’s march at 5:30 am, but progressed little as the 3rd and 6th Corps traffic had priority on the roads.  Williams noted arriving at Frying Pan around 5 pm, then marching two more hours to reach Herndon Station where the brigade camped for the night.

Stannard's Brigade Line of March June 26

While the brigade marched went into camp at Herndon Station, General J.E.B. Stuart’s Confederate cavalry reached the Vermonters’ former post at Wolf Run Shoals.    Stuart crossed the creek on the following day, heading through Fairfax Courthouse en-route to Rowsers Ford on the Potomac, and onward with an epic ride to Gettysburg.

The brigade rose early on June 27, taking the Alexandria, Loudoun, & Hampshire Railroad right of way to Guilford, arriving at 6 am.  From there, the brigade marched to the Leesburg Pike and halted near Broad Run around 10 am to allow the 6th Corps trains to pass.  The Brigade arrived at Edwards Ferry at 3 pm, but again waited for the 6th Corps to complete crossing.  Acting as the rear guard of the Army, the 2nd Vermont Brigade crossed the pontoons that evening and marched toward Poolesville before going into bivouac.

Stannard's Brigade Line of March - 27 June

At that point the brigade’s march steps beyond the scope of my study, but allow me to briefly summarize.  On the 28th, the Vermonters crossed the Monocacy and pressed on to Adamstown, Maryland.  The following day the brigade moved through Frederick all the way to Creagerstown.  The Vermonters reached Emmitsburg on June 30.  On the morning of July 1, two regiments of the brigade, the 12th and 15th Vermont, took up duties guarding the Corps trains.  The remaining three regiments reached the battlefield at Gettysburg late in the afternoon.  There the 2nd Vermont took a position in the center of the Federal line from which on July 3 these men aided in the repulse of Pickett’s Division.

As Benedict points out, between June 25 and July 1, the Second Vermont Brigade marched like veterans.  In fact, the brigade gained a day over their fellow First Corps counterparts as they headed for Gettysburg.

HMDB Civil War Updates – Week of February 22

Thirty-two new entries for the Civil War category at the Historical Marker Database this week.  These represent Civil War related sites in Alabama, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.  Here are the particulars:

– Three markers from Decatur, Alabama this week.  Morgan County, was traversed by the combatants on a number of occasions.  Federals used the Old State Bank building as a depot during one of their stays.  A nearby lake formed on the Tennessee River is named for Confederate General Joseph Wheeler, who lived just west of the city.

– Federals accidentally burned the Methodist Church in Huntsville, Alabama during the war.  Nearby is a Confederate memorial erected in 1905.

– Three Connecticut memorials this week, all from New Haven County.  A simple plaque stands in memory of the veterans of Orange, Connecticut.  In Wallingford, a soldiers memorial placed by the G.A.R. complements a separate memorial listing the names of those from the community who died in the war.

Clara Barton began her efforts to care and support the soldiers on the battlefields from 437 Seventh Street, Washington, D.C.   After the war she returned to lead efforts to aid those searching for missing soldiers.

Albert Pike‘s military career was not spectacular, but he is the only Confederate General memorialized by an outdoor sculpture in Washington, D.C.

– Continuing from last week’s marker entries for Civil War activity around Griffin, Georgia are six more state markers.  One marker notes the local leaders who represented the county in the state’s secession convention.  Following that vote, the county sent the Spalding Grays off to war, to become Company D, 2nd Infantry Battalion.  The famed Kentucky “Orphan Brigade” transitioned from line infantry to mounted infantry at Griffin in September 1864.   In November 1864, the Georgia militia units staged in Griffin as General Sherman’s men marched through on their way to Savannah.  Several hundred Confederates, and one Union soldier, lay at rest in the town’s Confederate cemetery.

– Manchester, Michigan boasts a colorful statue on its veterans memorial.

– The GAR Memorial in Park Cemetery, Carthage, Missouri features the names of four top Union commanders – Grant, Sherman, Meade, and Sheridan.

Gilbert Van Zandt was born in Port William, Ohio.  At age ten, he joined Company D, 79th Ohio Volunteers and was likely the youngest enlistee in the Union Army.

– The Bloomingburg Cemetery, Bloomingburg, Ohio is the final resting place for over 100 Union veterans, including one Medal of Honor awardee.  Many were part of the town’s African-American community.  The town was a stop on the Underground Railroad before the war.

– Dating back to the 1850s, the St. Colman Catholic Church was founded by Irish immigrants.  A number of Civil War veterans are buried in its cemetery.

– The 109th Infantry Regiment, one of many who’s World War service is memorialized at the 28th Division Shrine in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, traces its lineage back to the 17th and 119th Pennsylvania Volunteers.

– A tall memorial in front of the Lee County Courthouse in Bishopville, South Carolina honors the county’s Confederate veterans.

– Sumter County, South Carolina honors its Confederate dead with a memorial listing their names.

– The Baruch Home in Camden, South Carolina has a connection to Dr. Simon Baruch, Confederate Surgeon.

– Local militia units met at the Warrenton Muster Grounds near Liberty Hill, South Carolina for nearly a century before the Civil War and for half a century afterward.  As the marker notes, many of these meetings were more political than military in nature.

– A state marker near Cypress Crossroads, Lee County, South Carolina notes a skirmish fought on February 27, 1865 at nearby Mount Elon.  The Confederates delayed a mounted force of Federals scouting in advance of the army during the march through the Carolinas.

– Federal troops destroyed the railroad bridge over the Broad River near Peak, South Carolina in 1865.

– Two more entries related to Potter’s Raid through South Carolina at the end of the war.  One notes a skirmish at Spring Hill, South Carolina on April 16, 1865.  The other mentions fighting at Dinkins’ Mill on April 18, 1865.

– The most memorable passage of the week comes from Texas.  According to a state marker in Richmond, Texas, “The state set up camps of instruction, to teach Texans to walk and fight.” (So easy to take that out of context!)  As the marker notes, a large proportion of Texans opted to join cavalry units during the war.  But with operational needs for infantry, many cavalry regiments were dismounted for service as infantry.  That move didn’t always set well with the troopers.

– Two new markers at Balls Bluff battlefield in Leesburg, Virginia provide an overview of the battle and detail nearby sites associated with the October 1861 battle.

Pennsylvania Military Museum

Last spring we made a stop at the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania.  The visit was more of a “stop and stretch” opportunity than a planned visit.  Because the museum recently underwent renovation, I’d had it on my list for some time just never had the opportunity.  Going in I figured the majority of displays would focus on World War I and II topics.  However I found a rather noteworthy selection of Civil War artillery pieces on display.

The Museum itself dates to the late 1960s.   It spawned from the need to preserve and present the story of World War I veterans and support the 28th Division Shrine.

28th Division Shrine

The Shrine dates to the 1920s when the veterans used the former training facility for reunions.  In 1940, the veterans formally dedicated the shrine.  Since that time, the shrine expanded to include those who died in World War II.  The 28th Division, considered the nation’s oldest, contains many formations with long histories and lengthy lineages.  Proud of their unit histories, many of the veteran’s memorials on site mention regimental service in the Civil War and Spanish-American War in addition to the World Wars.

For example, the 111th Infantry Regiment traces its history back to colonial days and includes service in the Civil War as the 18th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment and later the 72nd Pennsylvania.  The 112th Infantry, 107th Field Artillery, and 108th Field Artillery Regiments also have battle honors and campaign streamers dating to the Civil War.

Civil War Honors on the 111th Infantry Memorial

With a mission to recount “the story of Commonwealth citizens who served our country in defense of the nation,” the museum expanded coverage with the recent renovation.  Now exhibits span from the colonial and Revolutionary War on to the Vietnam War.  I was told that future plans include exhibits pertaining to the Pennsylvania National Guard service in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Civil War section includes four artillery pieces.  The rarest of the set is a 6-pdr Griffin Gun.

6-pdr Griffin Gun

A product of Phoenix Iron Works, this type is often noted as the predecessor to the famous Ordnance Rifle and shared the same wrought iron construction technique.  However, the museum interpretation notes the Philadelphia Committee of Safety purchased a dozen of these weapons, including this piece, in the fall of 1862 when Confederates were roaming about Maryland.  As such, I’d consider this weapon more a “sibling” to the Ordnance Rifle.

A 12-pdr Model 1857 Light Field Gun, better known to us as a “Napoleon,” stands on the carriage next to the Griffin gun.

12-pdr Napoleon - Hooper #40

This Napoleon bears the marks of Henry H. Hooper & Company, registry number 40.  It was cast in 1862 and inspected by Thomas J. Rodman.  The weight stamp is 1,232 pounds.  Behind the Napoleon is a 12-pdr Confederate iron field howitzer from Tredegar Foundry.  The exhibit boundary prevented closer examination at this time.

6-pdr Model 1841 - Ames #30

The other Civil War field piece is a 6-pdr Model 1841 Field Gun.  Muzzle and trunnion stamps indicate N.P. Ames of Springfield, Massachusetts cast this gun in 1842.  It weighed 882 pounds and was inspected by James Wolfe Ripley.  The date of manufacture opens the possibility the gun once battled against a cannon sitting nearby.

Mexican 18-pdr Cannon

Pennsylvania troops captured this gun at the battle of Cerro Gordo in 1847.  The museum interpretation cites Fawcett, Preston, & Co. of London as the manufacturer, better known in our Civil War context for production of Blakely Rifles.

The non-Civil War exhibits, which were the majority for good reasons, included a Model 1917 6-ton Tank, the American licensed produced Renault FT-17 light tank.

Model 1917 Light Tank

As the display points out, a young Captain named Eisenhower used tanks like this one to train soldiers at Camp Colt in Gettysburg during World War I.  Recall that Camp Colt stood not far from where the 72nd Pennsylvania (see the 111th Infantry above) defended Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863.  I thought it was an interesting note at the time, and perhaps a good note to end my report on the museum.

The Pennsylvania Military Museum reopens for the season on March 14.  There is a six dollar admission fee, but there is a lot of history to take in. The Museum also hosts a series of military history lectures and living history events.