History group explores valley’s role in Civil War
by Jack Deming
Oct 11, 2012 | 1282 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Civil War memorabilia on display at the Dover Historical Society museum.
Civil War memorabilia on display at the Dover Historical Society museum.
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DOVER- Vermont, like every northern state, contributed men to the Union cause during the American Civil War. A century and a half later, the Dover Historical Society will unveil an exhibit displaying the Deerfield Valley’s contributions to the great national tragedy, on Saturday, October 13, from 10 am to 4 pm at the Harris House Museum on Route 100 in West Dover.

The exhibit will feature original items like soldiers’ lunch buckets, as well as reproductions including Union Army uniforms. Living History Association executive director Jim Dassatti says the crux of the event is a recently restored local soldiers roster that is usually kept in Dover’s town vault, but has been loaned to the exhibit. “Dover has recently restored this roster from the Deerfield Valley,” said Dassatti. “It was a commemorative roster that was issued after the war was over. They (rosters) were made for several different geographical areas throughout the country, for specific companies.”

The roster lists the names of Company F of the 16th Vermont Volunteer Regiment, which was a part of the 2nd Vermont Brigade, a nine-month brigade made up of men from the Deerfield Valley. Company F consisted of approximately 200 men, and as Dassatti explains, “When the 2nd Vermont went into camp, quite a few officers were trained at Norwich University, so the officers for the entire brigade were well trained, and they made excellent soldiers.”

The 2nd Vermont would not see action until the turning point of the war. Force-marched to the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, the 2nd Vermont fought heroically on the third day of the battle, when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee ordered an infantry assault of 12,500 men directly at the center of the Union lines over nearly a mile of open ground. The assault, now known as Pickett’s Charge, would see a staggering 50% casualty rate for Lee’s troops, with Vermont’s 2nd inflicting particularly effective damage to Lee’s divisions.

On the left side of the nearly mile-long union defenses were Maj. Gen. George Stannard and his 2nd Vermont Brigade. As Gen. George Pickett’s Confederate Division turned left to head toward their target, a copse of trees to Stannard’s right at a spot on the Union line known as “The Angle,” he split off from Gen. Richard H. Anderson’s troops heading for Cemetery Ridge to Stannard’s left. This split the Confederate line in two directly in front of the Vermont 2nd.

Stannard swung two regiments out at a 90-degree angle to flank Brig. Gen. James L. Kemper’s brigade to their right, and poured a devastating volley into his ranks. Minutes later, the Vermont brigade was approached from the south by Gen. Anderson’s division. Stannard wheeled his men around and repeated the flanking assault on the Confederates behind him. This maneuvering would prove critical to repulsing Pickett’s Charge. After Gettysburg, the Vermont men were sent east to help quell the draft riots in New York City.

According to Dassatti, the Living History Association is providing almost all of the exhibit items, and plans to hold more exhibits. “We’re in the process of creating a number of exhibits on different time periods of warfare that our membership re-enacts. We have more items than we have room for, and we have items that we loan out to the community as well,” said Dassatti.

The 150th anniversary of Gettysburg is next July, and Dassatti said he’d like to keep the exhibit running until then.

The group also has Revolutionary War and French and Indian War items. Most of the group’s original war artifacts are from World War II, but Dassatti said the group also owns items from World War I and the Vietnam War.

Another feature of the exhibit will be “The Road to Gettysburg,” a film written and produced by 30 Twin Valley High School students over four years in Bob Edwards’ video production classes. The film tells the story of the 2nd Vermont and has been featured on local cable. Edwards, who has taught video production for 14 years at TVHS, describes the film as a “Ken Burns style documentary.” The film has sold over 500 copies internationally.
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