Politics and Military

The 10th Vermont Retreat: Charlie George Saves His Little Brother Along the Way

Charles and Herbert George were brothers from Vermont, two of four who enlisted in the 10th Vermont Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. They were all musical and became members of the regimental band.

A Civil War regimental band

The George boys grew up in Newbury, Vt., in a large farming family, the sons of James George and Maria Nourse George. They had three sisters. Their father, who drank and gambled, wasn’t much of a provider. The boys all left home at a young age, two to farm, two to become telegraph operators.

The brothers participated in the Battle of Monocacy near Fredericksburg, Md., on July 9, 1864. Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal Early had led his forces on a rampage from the Shenandoah Valley into Maryland. He was trying to divert Union forces from Gen. Robert E. Lee, who was under siege in Petersburg.

The Confederates defeated the Union forces under Gen. Lew Wallace. The 10th Vermont, fought valiantly under Col. William Wirt Henry, who was wounded in the battle

Charles wrote to his wife about the battle – some of the hardest fighting and marching of the war. They marched through dust to Fredericksburg and were roused early on Saturday, July 9, he wrote. They formed the line of battle at 8 a.m., drew rations and started ‘fighting like tigers.’

During the battle they were peppered with shells and bullets as they tried to help the wounded. The rebels overpowered the Union forces, and they retreated. They marched all night and until 4 pm the next day, wrote Charles, covering 40 miles on their way to rejoin their division.

Charles stuck with Herbert who wasn’t well, carrying his things and leading him by the hand. Herbert wouldn’t have made it otherwise. They slept for four hours and then prepared to resume the march. Herbert threw away his knapsack and everything but his rubber blanket. They made coffee with cold water strained through a towel and hardtack before starting out again. Herbert soon gave out. He staggered and fell. Charles found a ride for him.

They reached Relay House in Maryland, from where they wrote home.

On July 14, 1864, Herbert wrote:

Dear folks at home

Just a word–I am all tired out & cant seem to get rested any although we have been here doing nothing for 3 days. We went up to Frederick & fought the rebus — got whipped & had to retreat 40 miles in a hurry. Such a hard march I never had. I’ll tell you all about it when I feel like it. I came near falling out & being taken prisoner. My first Bass player was taken prisoner & the other one is sick. Two others sick & I’m about sick so the Band is played out for a day or two. Our regt is pretty small now. Only about 200 muskets and guess it will fall short of that. We are now ordered to move somewhere but can’t tell anything about were.

Write often
in haste,
J. Herbert

With thanks to Bully for the Band: The Civil War Letters and Diary of Four Brothers in the 10th Vermont Infantry Band, edited by James G. Davis. You can purchase Bully for the Band at the New England Historical Society’s online bookstore here.

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