Captain 2 VT INF.
Let us have a look at Captain Charles Carroll Morey who was born 25 May 1840 Tunbridge, Orange, VT, USA to 02 Apr 1865. he enlisted in Company E, Vermont 2nd Infantry Regiment on 20 Jun 1861; was promoted to Full 1st Sergeant on 27 Dec 1862; promoted to Full Sergeant on 10 Feb 1862; promoted to Full 1st Lieutenant on 20 Jun 1864; promoted to Full Captain on 24 Jun 1864; and killed action on 02 Apr 1865 at Petersburg, VA.
At approximately 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, 02 Apr 1865, Ulysses S. Grant's army attacked Confederate lines at Petersburg, Virginia. By mid-afternoon, Confederate troops had begun to evacuate the town. The Union victory ensured the fall of Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, located just twenty-five miles north of Petersburg.
"Life Given, Not Lost": Captain Morey's Final Charge by Edward Alexander
"He who loseth his life for my sake, shall find it," began Reverend John H. Edwards to the Congregational Church in West Lebanon, Grafton, New Hampshire, USA.
Friends and family gathered 14 May 1865, to remember Captain Charles Carroll Morey, who lay in a battle ground grave 520 miles to the south in Virginia, resting "now beneath the fresh springing grass in front of Petersburg." Edwards titled his sermon, "Life Given, Not Lost," capturing the selflessness characterising the beloved soldier.
Popular among his regiment, Charles Carroll Morey wrote many letters home, often including photographs of his comrades with instructions to his parents to save them in hope the compilation could serve as mementos to the fond acquaintances and lasting inspirations he met.
Responding to President Abraham Lincoln's call for volunteers at the outbreak of the American Civil War, twenty year old Charles Morey enlisted as Corporal in the Second Vermont Infantry on 22 Apr 1861.
A veteran of many campaigns, Morey often found himself eulogising his comrades, recognising, "there is a little feeling left in the heart although we have become accustomed to scenes of violence and blood." After Sergeant George E. Allen's accidental drowning following the Seven Days' Battles, Morey wrote, "He was always at his best in time of danger and did not fear to sell his life dearly if necessary in the cause in which he was engaged." Morey's own tent mate, Private Frederick W. Chamberlin, fell dead at the Second Battle of Fredericksburg, 03 May 1863. "He was one of the best soldiers in the company," remembered Morey, "and he came to his end in the line of duty defending that old flag which so proudly waves ‘ore the land of the free and the home of the brave.'" These incidents provided Morey examples to lead by as his responsibilities grew while combat intensified through the course of the war.
At Spotsylvania Court House, on 12 May 1864, at the famous "Bloody Angle," Morey fought for nine straight hours, "we were terribly engaged, we charged on the enemy's works but they would not leave and we fought with them on one side of the parapet and we on the other… our loss was terrible." At one point while loading his rifle, he noticed, "while in the act of charging cartridge I saw a Reb who had got sight of me across his musket, and I assure you my legs grew very short… that is to say I dropped down out his sight just in time to hear his bullet whistle over my head." Towards the end of the battle a spent ball struck Morey in the leg, but without enough momentum to do any damage. Stirred by these experiences, the following day he wrote his parents, "I don't know what to say first but will praise God for his goodness in sparing my life while so many of our brave comrades have fallen victim to the enemy's shots." His confidence remained unshaken, believing that "we can whip the enemy and drive him out of Virginia."
Before that could be accomplished, Morey himself had to leave the state for Washington, D.C., in reaction to Jubal Early's July 1864 campaign which threatened the capital. After the Sixth Corps, in which Morey's Second Vermont served, repulsed the Confederate attack at Fort Stevens, they joined the Federal Cavalry under Philip T. Sheridan the following month, turning their attention to the Shenandoah Valley.
Sheridan wished to shut off this avenue of invasion as well as destroy the breadbasket of the Confederacy. At Charlestown, 21 Aug 1864, another stray bullet struck Charles Morey, now First Lieutenant, in the leg, this time forcing him to retire from the field to convalesce in a Baltimore hospital. Longing to return to his brothers-in-arms, Morey wrote, "I think it is wrong for one who is able to do duty to stay away."
Earlier that summer when learning about his parents moving to a new house, Morey had expressed a belief that he "could be happy there… but as it is the war must be settled then I will come home and try to be content with a quiet citizens life." The few months he was forced to spend away from his comrades, however, strengthened his new priorities and sense of belonging. "Once more I find myself with the regiment," he wrote on his return, "and feel as though I had got home."
Following the Battle of Cedar Creek, 19 Oct 1864, in which he claimed the Confederates "broke and run like a flock of sheep with dogs after them," the Sixth Corps returned to the Army of the Potomac which lay siege to the city of Petersburg.
Morey now rose to rank of Captain, in command of Company E. "He was faithful and fearless, and always rigidly abstained from every appearance of dissipation," wrote Private Wilbur Fisk, "… and was considered one of the most reliable officers in the regiment." The approach of spring and the pending arrival of Sheridan and the cavalry meant the renewal of active campaigning. The Confederates struck the first blow, hoping to slice through the Union entrenchments around Fort Stedman and sever the vital military railroad supplying the army. After a successful counterattack restored the breach, Federal pickets rushed forward all along the lines for miles, probing for weaknesses. When the Sixth Corps seized the rifle pits in between their front and the Confederate fortifications to the southwest of the city along the Boydton Plank Road, Morey noted that "the rebels do not fight as well as they did one year ago."
The advanced position gave the Sixth Corps ground to stage a frontal assault on the Confederate fortifications, and each day the soldiers expected such orders. "I think I would enjoy being home very much if the war was ended and an honourable peace once more established," Morey wrote March 31st, "but this little job must be accomplished first and we may look soon for important results." Highly confident just a few days before, the reality of the task ahead soon set in, "We hope and pray that we may be able to strike the death blow to the rebellion before many days but perhaps we may fail, yet as we hope for the best and will work hard for it and trust in God the accomplishment of the remainder, now is the time that we need divine assistance, pray for us that we may accomplish all." Often imploring his family to write to him, Morey concluded this letter with the request to "give my love to each member of the family and all our friends."
In the dark silence on the night of 01 Apr 1865, the Vermont Brigade, with the rest of the Sixth Corps, filed between Forts Fisher and Welch, organised into a wedge-shaped formation on the ground recently captured, and prepared to charge the Confederate earthworks beyond. Each of the seven brigades stacked its regiments; one behind the next in assault columns with the Vermonters holding the centre position, the entire pattern guided by a ravine belonging to one of the many branches of Arthur's Swamp which dissected the Confederate lines. At dawn 02 Apr 1865, the Second Vermont followed right behind the Fifth Vermont and pierced the Confederate earthworks, the first break in the lines encapsulating the city of Petersburg. Plenty of work still remained to be done that day.
After clearing the enemy's works south to Hatcher's Run, the Sixth Corps turned around and redirected for the outskirts of Petersburg, following the Boydton Plank Road and the parallel Confederate earthworks, recently taken. Two forts, Gregg and Whitworth, slowed the Twenty-fourth Corps on the right, as the Sixth slowly pushed for the Appomattox River. "Passing the point of attack in the morning, the enemy was met among the hills of that country," wrote Brigadier General Lewis A. Grant. "The ground between this formation and the city consisted of a series of hills and marshy ravines," claimed Captain Merritt Barber, "and the enemy was distinctly seen making every disposition of their troops and artillery to contest our advance."
Lieutenant Colonel Ronald A. Kennedy, commanding the 5th Vermont, halted his troops for a moment "for our lines to reform we charged again across the main road, following to the left and in the direction of the road to near the Turnbull house, formerly occupied as Lee's headquarters."
Lieutenant Eric L. Ditty, 6th Vermont, noticed "at Lee's headquarters a battery was posted, which gave us considerable trouble." With all available infantry deployed elsewhere, defence of Edge Hill rested on William T. Poague's Third Corps artillery battalion. Poague's position had orders to "be held to the last moment," buying time for James Longstreet's corps, hurrying south from Richmond, to fill the inner defences of Petersburg. "Guns were plentiful, men and horses scarce," remembered Poague. "The first assault on this part of our lines was broken and the enemy driven back into the woods along the road.".
Lieutenant Charles H. Anson, just promoted that day to the staff of Brigadier General George W. Getty's division, delivered messages through the barrage to the three brigade commanders. "To ride along the lines amid that terrible storm of shot and shell seemed impossible," he recalled. Some units found partial cover lying beneath the crest of a ridge until additional Confederate batteries began their deadly work, including several on the north bank of the Appomattox.
"The enemy poured in a very heavy fire of shot and shell from a battery on our right, which completely enfiladed our lines," reported Captain Barber, "and a perfect hail-storm of canister from a battery of four guns planted in the garden of the Turnbull house… directly in front." The rest of the exhausted Sixth Corps extended the line to the river and their own artillery began to deliver counter-battery fire. With the Confederate artillery positions south of the river overlapped, and Longstreet's reinforcements still rushing to the inner line of works, beyond which the church spires of the city of Petersburg now stood visible in the distance, the Vermont Brigade began the last charge in their last battle of the war.