Battle of Cedar Creek

The Battle of Cedar Creek, Va., Oct. 19, 1864. and the Status of the Sixth Corps with Generals Grant and Sheridan

I was absent wounded in Vermont at the time of the battle of Cedar Creek, Va., and only know that my regiment fought desperately and lost heavily in killed and wounded. Captain Lucian D. Thompson of Waterbury, Vt., was decapitated by a solid shot from the enemy and Captain Chester F. Nye, Adjutant Wyllys Lyman and Lieutenants George E. Davis, B. Brooks Clark, Austin W. Fuller and George P. Welch were wounded. From June 1st to October 19, 1864, we had seven officers killed which included all the officers who originally went out with my old Company B, twelve wounded and two captured, making twenty-one in all. Surely, the blood shed in the Tenth Vermont for the preservation of the Union should satisfy the most exacting that the regiment stood up to the rack all through the Civil War from the time it entered it.

After the morning surprise at Cedar Creek, Oct. 19, 1864, just a month after the battle of Winchester, the Sixth Corps, I was told by officers of my regiment afterwards, was the only unstampeded infantry organization in the command around which General H. G. Wright soon rallied the better part of the surprised little army which Sheridan, after his historic ride of "Twenty Miles Away" from Winchester, found awaiting him ready to advance and again punish the enemy which it most effectually did. It was the last fight in the valley of the Civil War, and it was fitting that the Sixth Corps should have been allowed so largely to have so brilliantly rung down the curtain on the great Civil War stage in this section. The Sixth Corps was the mainstay of Sheridan's brilliant little army in the Shenandoah Valley campaign, and no one knew it better than he. When the spring campaign opened in 1865, he wanted it at Five Forks again, but Grant wanted it, too, at the same time to break the backbone of the Confederacy by breaking its lines in front of Petersburg on that memorable morning of April 2nd, 1865, which was the greatest possible honor of the day, and it did it. When given his choice by Grant of any corps in the army of the Potomac, Sheridan again called for it, too, a few days later, April 6, 1865, at Sailor's Creek, Va., the last real battle fought in the Civil War by the Army of the Potomac, when the Sixth Corps was rushed forward by Grant's order at pell-mell speed, where in another of Sheridan's characteristic, snappy, short, effective, two-hour fights, it largely helped to capture several—said to be eleven—general officers, 13,000 [1] prisoners and a burning wagon train, almost an entire column, excepting about 2,000 of General Lee's fleeing veterans, including himself, three days before his surrender at Appomattox. It was fitting, too, here, that the Sixth Corps should largely fight this battle and thus again brilliantly and virtually finally ring down the stage curtain of the greatest war tragedy of modern times—The Great Civil War.

Surely with all the brag and conceit in late years by members of other corps, that its corps was the best in the Army of the Potomac—and the Second as well as the Fifth were fine corps, and probably both these and the Sixth Corps were about equal—neither Grant nor Sheridan could have regarded the Sixth as an unreliable one, or second to any as a fighting corps however often members of other corps may conceitedly dub theirs the best in the army. And what other than the Sixth Corps can point to any such enviable repeated  preferences on the part of both Grant and Sheridan, or to such a proud record in the closing scenes of the great rebellion? Would they not be glad to do so if they could? And still neither of the able commanders of the Sixth Corps—Sedgwick and Wright—have been honored by an appropriation for a monument by Congress in the capital city of the Nation which the Sixth Corps twice saved, once at the battle of the Monocacy, largely by the Third Division, July 9th, and again three days later largely by the First and Second Divisions at the battle in front of Ft. Stevens in the suburbs of Washington, July 12th, 1864, when Early came so near capturing the city.

I do not believe in being invidious, but having been satiated for years by the egotistic statements of the superior qualifications by members of other corps of their particular corps, especially in Washington, and knowing only too well from long experience that frequently true  merit goes unrewarded in history and otherwise, because of an over-modest inclination to mention facts by those interested who can , when organizations and persons less worthy get more than is due by being more aggressive, is one of the reasons for my partially treating this matter. There was no corps, during the last few months of the war, to which Grant and Sheridan more frequently turned in emergencies than to the Sixth Corps, which is significant, as it shows their estimate of its merits as a reliable  fighting corps, over all others. The Sixth Corps was ever proud of the Second and Fifth Corps and felt honored in being associated with such splendid organizations in the same army all through the Civil War, but the Sixth Corps yields the palm to no other in the whole Union Army east or west when it comes to fighting or any other soldierly qualifications pertaining to a model army corps.

Said General Grant in the closing scenes of the Civil War: "I can trust the Sixth Corps anywhere." Said General Sheridan: "Give me the Sixth Corps and I will charge anywhere."

[1]So reported then. Generals Ewell and Custis Lee surrendered to our brigade. The guard was about to force them to wade a swollen morass about fifty yards wide, waist deep, but Ewell demurred. The guard said he had to wade it going over for them, and that it was no more than fair that they should wade it going back. Ewell replied that it took brave men to do it under fire, but that the necessity no longer existed for any one to wade it going either way, and so won the best of the argument, and his wish.