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Major Haley

Major Haley

Rank: Private, Co. F. 17th Vermont Infantry

Descendant: Heidi M


Major W. Haley was born in Pownal, Vermont on December 15, 1844 to William and Caroline (Shurtleff) Haley. He was one of ten children.

In February of 1864, at age 19, he enlisted with the 17th Vermont Infantry, Co. F as a Private. He mustered in on April 12, immediately became ill and was listed as absent until April 30. The 17th as part of the Second Brigade, Second Division, Ninth Corps was encamped at Bristoe Station from May 1 until May 4 before moving South toward Rappahannock Station. It is presumed that Pvt. Haley caught up with his unit at Bristoe Station; his muster rolls indicate his presence from May 1864 to the end of his enlistment.

On May 1 full of new recruits and after only a few weeks (and very little drilling), the 11th crossed the Rappahannock at Rappahannock Station, the Rapidan at Germanna Ford and rushed to support Grant’s Overland Campaign at the battle of the Wilderness. They arrived after the first day’s fighting but were in place by dawn of May 6. In a letter to the Lamoille Newsdealer dated June 8, 1864, soldiers in Co. C of the 17th outlined details of the regiment’s engagement at Wilderness.

“…We took our position on the centre of the west wing of Grant’s victorious army. Skirmishing had already commenced on the right wing, and in a few minutes they had a general engagement. We formed in line of battle, loaded our muskets and commenced our march to the front, in the forest of course, for the rebels were bound to fight us in the dense wilderness. We advanced through a small clearing with out finding any of the gray-backs. We then wheeled to the left, and took the wilderness on our left, formed a line of battle, and commenced to move in this new direction, as skirmishers, and had not gone far when they found the enemy in force, and exchanged a few shots and fell back on our line. We were supported by the 6th and 9th N. H. Regiments. We had three lines of battle, and the 17th were in the first line. We moved on steadily, but had not gone far when the rebels, having learned of our approach, commenced a terrific shelling from their batteries in front. Our boys moved on steadily up to a clearing, where near the edge was a small growth of trees and a heavy rail fence. We advanced to this and laid down; we laid here two hours and the rebels kept up a severe shelling and sharp-shooting all the time, but most of their shots went over us, and but a few of us were injured. Our forces made but little reply; save now and then a few shot at their skirmishers. Finding that we could accomplish but little here, we were ordered to change our front in a new direction, and found the enemy massed behind breastworks. The 17th was ordered to the front, and to charge, which they did splendidly; they received a heavy volley from the rebels, that made them waver for a moment, but they rallied and charged on with a cheer followed by those in the rear, and succeeded in completely dislodging the gray-backs from their position and captured many prisoners.”

Per Major Haley ‘s pension records,

“He was injured in the August 9, 1864 explosion in City Point, VA perpetrated by a Confederate secret agent, who placed an early incarnation of a time bomb in an ordinance barge. Major received an injury to his eyes and a laceration on his arm. Nonetheless, he served, without absence, until he mustered out in July of 1865. He was promoted to Corporal on August 27th, 1864.”

Returning to Pownal, VT after the war, he married Lucy Emery and they had six children, four of whom survived to adulthood. Their youngest son, Thomas Anthony Haley, would become my great grandfather.

Major Haley died on June 11, 1896 at the age of 53 and is buried in Pownal.

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