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A Fighting Vermont Regiment Summary of Actions after Gettysburg, July 5-13, 1863
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ADDISON W. PRESTON. Autograph Document, c. July to October 1863, 2 pp., 8 x 12¼ in.

Inventory #23879.01       Price: $1,250

Complete Transcript

Lightersvil Md[1]

July 5 Having march all night I enterd Lightersvill Md with 200 men and captured 125 rebels 100 head of cattle and several waggons Entered Hagerstown at 12 oclock “M.” Marching between two detachments of Lees Army

July 6 Hagerstown During the early part of the day four companies of my command were thrown into the town as sharp shooters where they were sharply engaged until 3 oclock PM when I was ordered to act as rear guard while our forces retired In so doing, we were obliged to confront greatly superior numbers whose repeated assaults only terminated with darkness The loss to the regiment here was severe[2]

July 8 Boonsboro Was not engaged until after noon by a vigerous attack of all our forces during which a brilliant charge was made by a portion of this regiment the enemy was driven from the field[3]<2>

July 11 Col Sawyer[4] assumed command

July 13 Second Engagement at Hagerstown where a brilliant charge was made by a detach[ment] of the[this?] Regmt and a lively Skirmish took place with our dismounted Carbineers

Port Conway Skirmish at Port Conway Va In which the enemy were driven across the river by a detachment under my command (The the enemies Gunboats shelled by our battrs on the succeeding day)[5]

James City Va (near Culpeper) The enemy under Hampton and our forces under Gen Kilpatrick I supported with this regiment[6]

Historical Background

While Col. Edward B. Sawyer was absent on medical leave, Lt. Col. Addison W. Preston led the Vermont cavalrymen through the Battle of Gettysburg. After battling Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry at Hanover, Pennsylvania, on June 30, the 1st Vermont Cavalry joined the Union line on the extreme left near the Round Tops. Throughout July 3, they joined a dismounted attack on the Confederate right flank, and a mounted assault late in the afternoon pushed back the Confederates but left 67 of their regiment - 10 percent of the 675 engaged - dead. In the aftermath, they were one of the regiments harassing General Robert E. Lee’s retreating Confederate army as it hurried toward the Potomac River and the safety of Virginia.

Addison Webster Preston (1831-1864) was born in Burke, Vermont, and moved as a child to Danville. He entered Brown University, but left due to ill health. He sailed to Australia and then to California, where he spent several years before returning to Danville. Preston enlisted as a captain in the 1st Vermont Cavalry in September 1861, and was promoted to Lt. Col. in September 1862. He was wounded at Hagerstown in the Gettysburg Campaign and again two months later at Culpeper Court House. Appointed colonel on April 29, 1864, he was killed in action on June 3, 1864, at Hawe’s Shop, Virginia. He left a widow and two children. Brigadier General George A. Custer said over his body, “There lies the best fighting colonel in the Cavalry Corps.”

[1] Leitersburg, MD.

[2] In the words of 1st Vermont diarist Horace Ide, “We sat right down before Lee’s Army, and they had to remove us before he could proceed.” Some of the regiment captured at Hagerstown were sent to Andersonville Prison in Georgia, where eventually 57 members of the 1st Vermont Cavalry died. Joseph D. Collea Jr., The First Vermont Cavalry in the Civil War: A History (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1010), 187.

[3] A report of the regiment’s actions from June 30 to July 8, authored by Preston, appeared in the Rutland Weekly Herald (VT), 6 August 1863, 3:1-2.

[4] Edward B. Sawyer (1828-1918), colonel of the 1st Vermont Cavalry from September 1862 to April 1864.

[5] Engaged in battles at Port Conway, Virginia, on August 25 and September 1, 1863.

[6] Engaged at James City, Virginia, on October 10, 1863, against Confederate cavalry under Wade Hampton.

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