Historical Markers
Col. Strong Vincent Historical Marker
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Col. Strong Vincent

Lake Erie Region


Marker Location:
Northeast corner of High Street (US Route 19) and 1st Street, Waterford,

Dedication Date:
April 1994

Behind the Marker

Col. Strong Vincent stands on the crest of Little Round Top. After leaving his sword strapped to his horse, he directs his men with a riding crop. As Brig. Gen. Law's brigade charged towards them, Vincent encouraged his men by calling to them, "Don't give and inch boys."
Don't Give An Inch, by Don Troiani
Colonel Strong Vincent is one of the most important figures of the Battle of Gettysburg. And yet few people today know who he was and what he did that was so important. Those familiar with Ted Turner's Gettysburg movie know that Jeff Daniels played Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, who led the 20th Maine to glory at Little Round Top on July 2, 1863. But without the decisive actions of his brigade commander-Colonel Strong Vincent-Chamberlain would not have gotten all his well-deserved publicity.

Vincent had turned twenty-six years old on June 17, 1863. Born in Waterford, Erie County, the young officer had attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and there met and courted the young lady who would become his wife. Expelled for beating up a man who impugned his lady's honor, Vincent enrolled at Harvard. After graduating in 1859 he returned to Erie and became a lawyer.
Portrait of Strong Vincent.
Colonel Strong Vincent

When war erupted in 1861, Vincent joined a local regiment and became a lieutenant. When the unit disbanded, Vincent re-entered the service as lieutenant colonel of the 83rd Pennsylvania, a unit recruited in the state's northwest corner. Struck by malaria during the Peninsula Campaign, he missed the Seven Days Battles, in which his regiment suffered heavy casualties.

Promoted to colonel of the 83rd upon returning to active duty, he led his men at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, then received command of the Third Brigade, First Division, Fifth Corps, which included his old regiment as well as the 20th Maine.

In the summer of 1863, Vincent's brigade supported the Union cavalry that sparred with Jeb Stuart's gray horsemen in the Loudoun Valley, then assisted the cavalry at Middleburg and Upperville in mid-June. markerGeneral Meade, still in command of the Fifth Corps, reportedly was overheard saying of Vincent, "I wish he were a brigadier general, I'd put him in charge of a division."

As the Army of the Potomac moved north after Robert E. Lee's troops, Colonel Vincent and his brigade went into bivouac near Hanover, Pennsylvania, late on July 1. Then came word of a battle at Gettysburg and the order for the Fifth Corps to march onward. As his brigade was about to enter Hanover, Vincent brought the drum corps of his old regiment to the head of the brigade, then ordered the colors of his regiment uncased (when on the march, flags were generally kept furled in leather cases to prevent them from being unnecessarily damaged by weather).

Watching his troops march through Hanover to the cheers of its people, Vincent took off his cap and bowed as the tattered regimental flag went by. "What death more glorious can any man desire than to die on the soil of old Pennsylvania for that flag," said the colonel to his staff officers.
Marker at the location of the mortal wounding of Colonel Strong Vincent on the southern slope of Little Round Top.Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania
Marker at the location of the mortal wounding of Colonel Strong Vincenton the...

On the afternoon of July 2, the Confederate attack on the Union left flank had already started when the army's chief engineer, Gouverneur K. Warren, discovered that there were no Union troops on strategic Little Round Top. When he saw enemy troops forming to attack, Warren hastily sent off messengers to warn General Meade of the problem. Meade in turn ordered General George Sykes to bring his Fifth Corps to the left flank. When one of Warren's aides found Sykes and informed him of the pressing need for troops to occupy Little Round Top, the general sent one of his aides to find Brigadier General James Barnes, his First Division commander, with orders to send a brigade to the hill.

Strong Vincent stands on Little Round top with his men, as he instructs Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain of the 20th Maine to hold his position on the left flank.
Hold the Ground at all Hazards, by Keith Rocco
Vincent was sitting on his horse at the head of his stationary brigade when he saw the aide come dashing up. "Where is General Barnes?" asked the captain. Vincent did not know. "What are your orders? Give me your orders," said Vincent. Informed that General Sykes wanted General Barnes to send a brigade to that hill yonder–pointing to Little Round Top–Vincent, without an instant's hesitation, said that he would take the responsibility and lead his four regiments to the hill.

Vincent's 1,300 men were barely in position on Little Round Top when Alabama and Texas troops assailed them. The fighting grew fierce and at close range. When his right flank began to show signs of faltering, Colonel Vincent stepped up on a large rock and brandishing his riding crop, yelled at his men, "Don't give an inch, boys. Don't give an inch." Vincent was soon hit by a musket ball in his hip and groin, but his example of decisiveness and bravery helped save the day.

Vincent's wound was mortal and he died on July 7, having been promoted to brigadier general in recognition of his leadership on July 2. His remains were taken to Erie for burial.
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