Friday, December 30, 2011

Benjamin F. Giddings Personal Military and Civil History

The Cavendish Historical Society has recently received, from the Brattleboro Historical Society, materials relating to Benjamin F. Giddings. Benjamin Franklin Giddings was born in Cavendish, VT July 5, 1843, the son of Hiram and Rebecca (French) Giddings. He enlisted in the Civil War the first time at age 15. After the War, Giddings settled in California.

These materials were donated by: Don Butkovich, Antique Dealer, Traverse City, Michigan in Honor of his friend Gilbert H. Whelden, Jr., the nephew of B.F. Giddings, who purchased these papers directly from the Living Estate of Mr. Whelden in Michigan.

Among the items included a bound book entitled "Personal Military and Civil History." Below are the notes from Benjamin F. Giddings about his actions during the Civil War. On each page, Giddings wrote additional notes in the margins. They are in different ink, so it is possible that information was added at a latter date. These additional notes are indented.

1) “I first enlisted Oct. 26, 1861 at age 15 in Co. “H.” 2nd Berdan US Sharpshooters: this Regt. Was composed of companies from different states. The first Regt was commanded by Col Hiram Berdon of NY. The 2nd Regt by Col. HAV Post of NY. A civil engineer by profession. And a member of the 7th NH state militia a brave and splendid officer. The Co. was formed and mustered at Brattleboro, VT. And left the state for Wash. Jan 1, 1962 and joined the Regt then encamped on Meridian Hill near Washington. Ours was the last Co to join the Regt, which had 8 companies of 100 men each. Bilbert Hart of Dorset VT was Capt. We remained in this “Camp of Instruction” thru the winter, being drilled in Ballallium & skirmish drill, armed first with Colts muskets, where were soon discarded and replaced with Sharps Target Rifles. The latter part of March 1862 the Regt started on.

Col Berdan from whom Sharpshooters was named, was the inventor of a rifle which he hoped to get adopted for use in our army, but failed. He served as Col of 1st Regt till after Gettysburg when he resigned went to Russia got his rifle adopted by Russian Gov. and was made Super of their construction became a Russian Citizen and died a very rich man.

2) its first march crossing the Potomac into VA and joined a Brigade composed of the 22-24 & 30 NY Infantry. The Brooklyn 14th zouave. The Harris Light Cavalry, and Gibbons Battery of Artl, the Brig. Commanded by Brig Genl CC Augar of the Reg army, and becoming a part of Kings Div. McDowell’s Corps. Which became an independent command and army on the departure of the army of the Potomac on its Peninsula campagne under Genl McClellan. About the middle of April our Brig led the march from Catletts Sta to Falmouth VA 40 miles in 24 hours and giving our Brig the name of the “1st Iron Brigade.” The Sharpshooters led the advance and when approaching Falmouth in the early morning formed a skirmish line with Harris L. Cavs in advance. We had little brush with enemy they retreating across Rappahannock river to Fredericksburg.

The Harris Cavalry was under command of its Lt. Col Judson Kilpatric afterwards Maj Genl and commander of Calvery Corps Army of Potomac.
Capt Gibbon comd’r of the field battery.-was after words a Maj Genl and in command of a corps.
On our first march we got lost and we spent our first night of field camp in open ?? and a cold rain lasting thru the night.

3) burning the bridges. One Brig of our corps occupied Fredericksburg. While our Brig camped on the pleasant Falmouth hills which 8 months later shook with the thunder of Burnsides guns in the great battle & defeat at Fredericksburg in Dec. 62. In May we crossed the river and started on the march to join McClellan and cooperate with him in the operations against Richmond. But after marching eight miles we were ordered back. Marched rapidly to Catletts then to Manassus Junc put on RR cars and sent up to Front Royal in Blue Ridge Mts to intersept Stonewall Jackson in his advance on Wash. Who, when he had accomplished his object in drawing us away from joining McClellan marched his force back and joined Leee opposing the army of Potomac. Our corps then marched back to our old camp at Falmouth. A cousin of mine of same age who enlisted with me and was Corpl is same Co was taken ill with typhoid fever and left behind at Haymarket VA and I never saw him again as died of the fever. (Henry E. Giddings Reading VT)

While camped near Fredericksburg our boys often visited the little city where were several flour mills. And as we had plenty of coffee and the inhabitants none, we found no difficulty in effecting an ex 1 lb of coffee for 10 lbs or more of flour. Then came pancakes for us to take place of hard tack. It used to be said that some of the boys used to dry their coffee grounds and trade them for flour. I know not about this.

4) I became disabled by rupture [an accident due to severe straining, lifting or muscular exertion] on this hard march and in June 62 was discharged for disability. And went home to VT. The Regt remained in service to the end of war seeing much hard service and many hard battles was in the #rd Corps (Genl Seckles) at Gettysburg, and lost during its term of service 126 men and 9 com. Officers killed in action. I remained home working on farm and teaching school in winter until March 7, 1864 when I enlisted again in 17th VT inftry. (Co.G) the last Regt raised in VT the Regt formed and mustered in Burlington Vt and left the state Apr 18-64 as a Battallion of 7 companies under Lt Col Chas Cummings of Brattleboro, and was rushed to the front and joined the 9th Corps Genl Burnside at Calletts Sta. Just before it jointed the Army of the Potomac on the Rapidan. The Brig then was composed of 31 & 32 Me. 6-7 & 11 NH 17th Vt and shortly after 56th Mass.

On this march into Blue Ridge Mts. Train on Mansaasa Gap RR. Carrying our Regt. Was run into by another train following and many soldiers filling and covering the old box cars were killed many more maimed. I was in front of train near engine and escaped. Thos. Bruised and thrown out of car.

5) all N.E. troops and commanded by Coil S G. Griffith of the 6 NH a skillful and intrepid officer. The Div. Was comd by Maj Gen Robt B Potter a son of Bishop Potter of Penn & a splendid officer. On the morning May 4 we started on a forced march to join the Army of Genls Grant & Meade then just breaking camp at Culpepper CH to begin the Wilderness Campaign. We marched all day of May 4 & 5th and crossed the Rapidan at Germania Ford on the evening of the 5th just at the close of the 1st days fighting and got into position bet the 2nd & 5th Corps. Our Regt had never had a battalion drill. And we went into action for 380 muskets. Early on morning of May 6th, we had very severe fighting all day and lost heavily in proportion to our numbers. We were in all the terrible fighting which followed up the siege of Petersburg. On June 3 at battle of Cold Harbor I was wounded in left shoulder by musket ball and went to field hospital where I assisted the surgeon of ?Regt (Dr. Edson) in charge.

While Regt was crossing Rapidan on night of May 5 went through filled hospital tents of 6th Corps where a cousin and an officer of the VT Brig lay wounded unknown of course to me. His brother in 1st Vt cavalry had been killed the same day just as the fighting commenced in the early morn another coz was in the battle both days Col of 77th NY, in 6th Corps

6) in caring for the over 400 wounded from our one Division. The next morning I accompanied wagon & ambulance train with the wounded to White House Landing on the Pamonkie River walking the distance 12 miles and serving men who were in the train and wounded, with wate as I could get it. Went by steamer to Wash. & hospital then to Phil & then to Brattleboro, VT. Got furlough wound not pass to town. And fell in with squad of inmates of selected to be retd to Regts. Got to N.Y. Kight on Bedloe’s Island 19 days then got on Transport loaded with 1800 men, went via Ft. Munroe & up James river to City Point. When disembarked. Hunted up my Regt in lines before Petersburg after walking all night. Reported and found myself reported to Regt. As a deserter from Hospital. Was given chg of my Co. as 1st Sergt. it having no commissioned Officer. And next day Aug 19, 1864 started on march to left of line to support 5th corps (?) on Weldon RR. Promoted to 1st Lt Co B Capt Nov 64 served to end of war. Was at Berksville VA when Lee surrendered and commanded ground in chg of all guns and ordinance stores of Lee’s army. Marched to Alexandria Va and into camp. Was on Grand Review May 23 & 24, 65 mustered out at Bulrington Vt July 1865. Regt has 133 enlisted men & 14 com. Officers killed in action or died of wounds a record not excelled by an other Regt.