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.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: