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NT: October 28, 1886 National Tribune: The Capture of Fort Harrison, Sept. 29

Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Brett Schulte.

The Capture of Fort Harrison.

EDITOR NATIONAL TRIBUNE: I saw in one of your issues a statement by Col. Bennett that Gen. [George] Stannard, with his brave Vermonters, charged and took Fort Harrison Sept. 29, 1864. Now, I positively say that is not the case. The brigade that took the fort was the Third Brigade, Third [sic, First] Division, Eighteenth Corps.1 The Third Brigade was composed of the 188th [Pennsylvania] and 58th P[ennsylvani]a., 21st Conn[ecticut]., and 40th Mass[achusetts]2. We fell in and marched to Deep Bottom, crossed the James River on pontoons, and formed our line of battle, the 58th P[ennsylvani]a. in front, the 188th P[ennsylvani]a. as a support, and charged nearly a mile, the 21st Conn[ecticut]. on the skirmish-line and the 40th Mass[achusetts] [sic, 92nd New York]. On the left, and took Fort Harrison. Our brigade was commanded by Colonel (afterwards Brevet Brigadier-General) Roberts, as kind and brave an officer as ever drew a sword. Gen. [Hiram] Burnham commanded the Third Division [sic, First Division, and he did NOT command the division, Stannard did] and Gen. [Edward O. C.] Ord the Eighteenth Corps. Gen. Burnham was killed and Gen. Ord wounded in the charge.3 This I know to be so, for I was an eyewitness and was in the assaulting column, and was wounded in the right hand.

Now, I do not wish to take one laurel from Gen. Stannard or his brave Vermonters4; but honor to whom honor is due. The Third Brigade was as good fighting stuff as ever went to the front, and did as good fighting as any set of men could do when properly handled. If Col. Bennett wishes to continue the controversy we will have it out, for there are some of the boys living yet that will attest my statements.—A. R. DEPEW, Co. A, 188th P[ennsylvani]a., Moscow, Lackawanna Co., Pa.5

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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: I’m not sure what to make of this statement. Depew seems badly confused.  His brigade was in the First Division, Eighteenth Corps.  George Stannard was not in charge of a brigade of Vermonters.  George Stannard commanded Depew’s division!  Hiram Burnham commanded a brigade in the division, NOT the division.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: Depew seems confused here as well.  The 40th Massachusetts was detached from his brigade during the Fifth Offensive.  The 92nd New York was also with the brigade during the fighting, and Depew neglects to mention them.  You should basically substitute the 92nd New York for the 40th Massachusetts any time the latter regiment is mentioned.
  3. SOPO Editor’s Note: Depew is right about Burnham getting killed and Ord wounded.  However, Burnham started the charge in command of a brigade. Burnham had until a few days earlier commanded the division.  Stannard had taken over only recently.  Add to this the length of time between 1864 and the writing of this letter, and Depew can be forgiven for making this mistake.
  4. SOPO Editor’s Note: There were no Vermonters in the entire First Division, Eighteenth Corps.  Stannard had commanded a brigade of Vermonters at Gettysburg, but Depew apparently didn’t realize that when people discussed Stannard taking Fort Harrison, HE (Depew) was fighting under Stannard.
  5. Depew, A. R. “The Capture of Fort Harrison.” National Tribune 28 October 1886. 5:1.
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