General George Jerrison Stannard
Before the War
General George Jerrison Stannard was born October 20, 1820 in Georgia, Vermont and attended the public school in nearby St. Albans. He also worked as a farmer, teacher, and brick foundry operator in St. Albans. In September of 1850, he married Emily Clark. They had four children.
The Great Conflict Begins
The Civil War began after the confederate attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina in April of 1861. The night after the attack Stannard decided he would volunteer his services to the Union.
He was the first Vermont volunteer.
Stannard’s first regiment was only made up of four companies, roughly 200 men. The First Vermont Regiment would be units of volunteer militia. President Lincoln requested a regiment of 780 men from Vermont, which was formed on April 27, 1861. With the Second Vermont Regiment, Stannard was named Colonel on June 6, 1861. He would later named Colonel again, of the Ninth Vermont Regiment. With the Ninth, he landed himself in Virginia in July of 1862. On September 15, at the battle at Harper’s Ferry, Stannard and his men were forced to surrender, however they were the last union troops to do so.
Over the next two years, Stannard distinguished himself on the battlefield as an effective leader of troops in several campaigns, including the Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Williamsburg. As a result, he was appointed Brigadier General on March 11, 1863 and joined the camps in defense of Washington with command of the 2nd Vermont Brigade. Stannard was known for relentless, precision drilling of his men with a quiet but effective style that won him the admiration and respect of those who served under him.
The famous battle of Gettysburg took place between July 1st and July 3rd of 1863. During the Gettysburg Campaign, Stannard’s Brigade was sent from the capital to join the Army of the Potomac as it pursued Robert E. Lee into Pennsylvania, marching 18 miles a day for a week to get there.
During three separate assaults on the Union lines, he swung his brigade 90 degrees to the approaching Confederate forces, repelling the charges with successful flanking attacks in each case. The most significant of the flanking maneuvers was against “Pickett’s Charge.”
Confederate General George Pickett had 15,000 men, with orders to mount a frontal assault across open field against the North. General Stannard's strategy played a vital role in helping to stop General Pickett, leading to the North winning the battle.
At Cold Harbor on June 6, 1864, General Stannard commanded the First Vermont Brigade, Second Division, and Eighteenth Corps.
A month later he was involved in the Union’s push to reach the Confederate capital in Richmond, Virginia.
On September 29, 1864, Stannard successfully took Fort Harrison, which is very close to the Confederate capital. General O.O. Howard described Stannard as “a hard fighter and a manly man, with noblest instincts”. Also for is heroism Abraham Lincoln honored him with the Brevet of Major General of Volunteers.
About the Stannard-led repulse of Pickett, General Stannard’s commanding officer, Major General Abner Doubleday, wrote:
“I can only say that they performed perhaps the most brilliant feat during the war. For they broke the desperate charge of Pickett, saved the day and with it, the whole North from invasion and devastation.”
The Next Chapter
General Stannard continued in service to the Civil War and was wounded twice. The injury to his right arm sustained while holding Fort Harrison required that it be amputated and he returned to Vermont to recover and perform light duty military work.
After resigning from the army in 1866, Stannard served in various capacities. He worked for the Freedmens’ Bureau, and then lived in Burlington, St. Albans and Milton, Vermont, where he built a barn specifically for a one-armed man and raised horses.
Stannard started a brick-making business, but it shortly went bankrupt.
After that he became the Doorkeeper of the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. He held this position until his death on June 6, 1886.
General Stannard is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Burlington, Vermont. Statues of him were commissioned there and atop the Vermont Memorial at Gettysburg Battlefield. The town of Stannard in Caledonia County, Vermont is named for the General.
The Committee's Historian Terry Richards is currently compiling a much more complete and detailed history of General Stannard. Stay tuned, or contact Terry at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-893-6791 with feedback or for more information.