WASHINGTON, July 1 - As the nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today recognized Vermonters' historic role in preserving the Union during the Civil War.
"Despite its small size, Vermont was a major contributor to the Union Army," Sanders stated in the Congressional Record.
Under the command of Gen. George Stannard during the Battle of Gettysburg, waged from July 1 to July 3, 1863, Vermonters "broke the back of Pickett's charge" helping lead the Union Army to victory in the decisive battle," according to one Vermont historian.
Another Vermonter, Major William Wells, won the Medal of Honor for leading his men in a daring cavalry charge on Confederate lines during the battle. Wells, who served as Vermont's Adjutant General after the war, is honored by statues both in Gettysburg, Pa., and in Burlington's Battery Park (see attached photo).
"As we recognize the dedication of Vermont's soldiers in the Civil War, so should we recognize the dedication and bravery of Vermont's soldiers today, when over 1,500 members of the Vermont National Guard are serving in the war zone in Afghanistan," Sanders said.
Carrying on this tradition of service, the Vermont National Guard's 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, now deployed in Afghanistan, uses a famous line from the Civil War - "Put the Vermonters ahead" - as its motto, said Major William McKern of the Vermont National Guard. When the Battle of Gettysburg began, Union General John Sedgwick's soldiers were 35 miles from the battlefield and needed to reach the battlefield quickly. Vermonters were known for marching at a quick pace.
Nearly half of the military-age men in Vermont signed on to serve their nation. In all, 33,200 Vermonters fought in the war, or more than 10 percent of the state's population at the time. Vermonters suffered 5,194 deaths during the Civil War, including 1,832 Vermonters killed in battle, 2,747 who died of disease or other causes, and 615 who died while prisoners. More than 2,200 Vermonters were taken prisoner during the war.
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