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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2023 10:00 am 
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Location: Old Northwest (Michigan)
Fellow Shooters

The four PDF files comprise a speech presented by William H. Humphries, late of Co. E, 2nd USSS, during a reunion of the 4th Vermont Infantry in 1888.

Following the dissolution of the Sharpshooters in February 1865, those still serving were re-assigned to veteran volunteer infantry regiments from their native states. The Vermont sharpshooters were transferred to the 4th, until their muster out in mid-1865.

The Vermont Historical Society website has separated the 66 page text into three separate PDF files. As his introduction, Humphries described a brief history of the US Sharpshooter regiments.

History of the Vermont Companies, US Sharpshooters;

https://vermonthistory.org/documents/di ... Speech.pdf

Part 1;

https://vermonthistory.org/documents/di ... er1of3.pdf


Part 2;

https://vermonthistory.org/documents/di ... er2of3.pdf

Part 3;

https://vermonthistory.org/documents/di ... er3of3.pdf

In this section, Humphries unflinchingly describes the confused and bloody combat in Millers Cornfield region at Antietam. His recollections are rich in detail; clear, matter of fact, and devoid of flowery sentiment.

Humphries reports how the color bearer of a Texas regiment climbed a fence and advanced well ahead of his regiment. He was mortally wounded and fell with the colors. “Our adjutant (Parmalee) hoping to be brave” ran to the fallen flag, affixed it to his sword and raised it in triumph. He was promptly riddled with 7 bullets-likely a combination of Union and Confederate missiles. Advancing under cover, Bill Kerr of Co. A retrieved the Texas flag and brought it in.

Humphries fired off 40 cartridges, then removes his knapsack to retrieve the 100 packed within, then uses the knapsack for cover. A Wisconsin man from Gibbons brigade arrived, standing and firing. He ignores Humphries entreaties to get down, as a bullet strikes him in the head and he falls on the Humphries, covering him in gore. Humphries pushes the body away and picks up his rifle, only to throw it down as the red hot barrel gives him a second degree burn.

Hearing a call, Humphries discovers a wounded South Carolina lieutenant propped against a tree, wounded in both legs. Humphries crawls forward and gives and him a sip of water from his canteen. Returning to his post, Humphries is shocked to see “my rebel friend” struck by a percussive shell, leaving behind a dismembered corpse. When attempting to bring off comrade Byron McClellan, the New York volunteers carrying him were killed or wounded. McClellan’s legs were amputated but he died from loss of blood and shock.

By nightfall, Humphries recalled only four men and their Captain clustered around a campfire to cook their rations.

When I attended the 135th Antietam reenactment outside of Hagerstown, MD, I learned Co. C researcher, Art Ruitberg, had discovered Humphries account of Antietam and shared it with the 83 men representing the 2nd USSS. Art’s discovery helped us recreate many of the pivotal experiences of the Sharp Shooters in the fog and smoke choked “battlefield” that morning.

Bill Skillman
Michigan Companies
Berdan Sharpshooters Survivors Association


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