Last month I compiled a selection of material written during the Gettysburg campaign by members of the 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery. The unit began its service as the 11th Vermont Infantry but spent the first year and a half of their service in the Washington defenses. Its soldiers freely expressed their expectations and confidence levels from their post around the national capital during the Army of Northern Virginia’s invasion in the summer of 1863. I left one soldier’s opinions out of my article–not because he did not have anything interesting to say, but because I did not know where to begin in editing his letter. Private Alonzo B. Sargent wrote to his hometown newspaper in an intentionally unique style. Sorry in advance for the headache.
4t Slowkum, Jewn Twenti 9,
1800 & 63.
Frend Url–1nce moar i taik mi penn in hannd 2 inform u that i am well and also that the leventh ridgement is in statuse quo. u kant imagen what xsitin times we r hevin hear. we hev bin xpecktin 2 b attacktid hear now for 2 or 3 daze; the rebils is repourtid 2 b within 4 milds of us; i spoze its a fact that tha did kapter an 100 & 40 wagins and mulze enuff 2 go with um yisterda neer 4t Reno and about 6 mild from hear, and then tha went and smast the wagins up and burnt um. i doant no what tha’ll b in hear arter us b4 long, 10y8 we keep a good lookout for um; lars nite we awl went in2 the 4t and stade; we lade down round the guns soze 2 b reddy 2 give um jessy spoizn tha did kum; the rebils hev gut a noshun that tha kan do pooty neer as tha r a mineter; its curis 2 me thet that shood git sow eronius idees inter ther heds, but i doant blieve tha no when tha r lickt; i doan’t bleeve that if our army hed hed so menny lickins (i speek in pariabulls now–a meloncolly joak) as they hed had (or 02 hev had) but we shood none enuff 2 keep away from um & not rush rite inter danger–inter the very joz of deth as it wer.
i reckon this rade will turn out 2 b a good thing for our ridgement, the boys was a spilein for the want of xsitement; tha was a gittin lazy and inderlent; in fact we hed startid a norganization 2 be called the 4t Slowcum indolence corpse, but i guess this little xsitemumt will nock the thing in teh hed for a spell.
the inhabutunts round hear r skaird most 2 deth; tha think that the rebils is goin 2 cum rite here and spile their crops, tha r moar afraid of thair crops than the hens r o theirn, and likewise that tha’ll steel awl their kattle, likewise hook thair hosses, likewise pilfer thair poletry, &., (&c. means licker). This puts me in mind that i was out onto a picket last week and i hed a konversashun with a cityzen that owned a farm about as big as the crown of a “old hat,” and razes a fue vedgetabulls onto it for the markit; he and his severl progenies of both sexis was a pickin peeze; he sed he gut rite smart for his peeze in markit, 8 dollurs a barril in the pod; he sed he didunt keep much stock, only a kow, 2 heffers, and a kritter; i didunt ask what a kritter was for fear he wood think i was green. i hev jest hurd that the rebils stole 3 hundud hed of kattle out hear in Maryland about 5 mild larst nite, but it is probly a plesunt little fixyun gut up by sum editer to scareify the foaks, 10y8 thare wer sum men cent from the sitty out in2 Maryland where guvment had sum kattle grazin and drove um in2 the sitty; tha went by hear larst nite about 12 o’clock; i tell u its terribull works out hear, u doant no ennything about it up thare in your sekewer and peasful hums. Well, i must wind up this interestin and instructin episle, for i hev gut 2 go 2 fateeggin in the 4t this after noon. i am much obleeged for the Standud u hev took the trubble to send men.
ures with respecks,
A.B. Sargent, F.R.S.
P.S. Korporal preest and i talk of goin out scoutin.
As published in the July 10, 1863 Orleans Independent Standard.
Alonzo Brown Sargent was born on August 9, 1833 in Irasburg, Vermont. He married Canadian native Betsey Leet on January 8, 1855 and the couple had six children. Alonzo stood 5’9” as an adult with brown hair and gray eyes. He worked as a shoemaker before the war.
On August 8, 1862, he enlisted as a private in Captain James Rice’s Company F of the 11th Vermont Infantry. The unit received assignment to the Washington defenses and eventually changed their designation to the 1st Vermont Heavy Artillery. During the Overland Campaign they joined the Sixth Corps of the Army of the Potomac and fought at Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and the Shenandoah Valley.
An older brother, Moses George Sargent, served in the same company as Alonzo and rose to the rank of second lieutenant. Moses was captured with fifty-three other members of the company on June 23, 1864 near the Petersburg & Weldon Railroad but survived his stay in Confederate prison camps until his release in March 1865. He wrote to his wife that “tears ran down my brown cheeks at [the] sight of the old flag which I had not seen for so many months.”
Alonzo was present with his company for the entire duration of its service, but for a brief detail in the regimental band from November 1864-January 1865. He mustered out of the army on June 24, 1865. Alonzo filed for a disability pension in 1885 due to suffering from rheumatism and piles inflicted from his time in the service.
He resumed his shoemaking trade in Albany, Vermont after the war and also worked as a choir teacher. Alonzo also served as deacon and superintendent of Sunday School at the congregational church and as a member of the Grand Army of the Republic. Sargent died of uremia on September 14, 1899. “A modest, quiet man, yet one who will be greatly missed,” noted the local newspaper. He was buried in Irasburg Cemetery.
“From the Eleventh Regiment,” Orleans Independent Standard, July 10, 1863.
 “Heard From,” Orleans Independent Standard, March 24, 1865.
 1890 Veterans Schedules, National Archives.
 “Albany,” Orleans County Monitor, September 18, 1899.