Reports of Col. J. B. Kershaw, Second South Carolina Infantry
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 522-527
HDQRS. SECOND PALMETTO REG’T S.C. VOLS.,
Vienna, Va. July 26, 1861
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit a report of the operations of the troops under my command in the engagement near stone bridge on the 21st instant:
About noon on that day I received an order to move to Lewis’ house, some three miles distant, to the support of Colonel Jackson’s brigade, then engaged with the enemy, with my own regiment, that of Colonel Cash, and Captain Kemper’s battery. These troops, with the exception of Captain Perryman’s company, of my regiment, were at once put on the march. As we neared the road it was perceived that the passage of troops, indicated to the enemy on the north side of Bull Run by the clouds of dust, had attracted a dangerous fire of rifled cannon, and I directed the march across the fields. Captain Kemper was directed to precede the column to Lewis’ and await my arrival.
Arrived in the vicinity of Lewis’, a large number of our troops were met returning in a disorganized condition, and giving the most unfavorable accounts of the aspect of affairs on the field. Colonel Miles, of General Beauregard’s staff, met me to hasten our march, and informed me that Hampton’s Legion had just engaged, and that the enemy had acquired a decided advantage.
Soon after orders were received from General Johnston to enter the field on the left of Lewis’. Turning to the left, we passed over a hill through a thicket of woods under a fire of shot and shell from a battery directly in the line of our march, which wounded several, and killed one of our men. Emerging from the wood into an old field, near a ravine, with rising ground in front, I formed line of battle preparatory to entering the field at a point which seemed to indicate the left of the line of fire, which was very heavy in front and constantly increasing, and which I supposed to be directed upon Hampton’s Legion.
Before Colonel Cash had got into position upon my left it was perceived that the firing had passed still farther to our left and covered the whole front of my regiment, rendering it necessary to move the whole command in that direction by a flank. This movement had just been made when the line of fire made a corresponding change; rendering a still further movement necessary to avoid what I supposed to be the line of our troops in front of us. I therefore broke to the right into column, marched to the left, and formed on right into line. When my regiment had formed, the men were made to lie down, to avoid the shower of balls which was passing over us while Colonel Cash was conforming to the movement.
At this moment the head of a regiment marching by a flank passed to the right of my regiment and partly over my right wing, led by an officer who was said to be General Smith. I immediately rode up to the officer, and desired him to form on the left of Colonel Cash. Before he could respond he received a ball in his left breast or shoulder, and his men commenced firing to their front and right into the wood from which the shot came, and formed hurriedly in front of my right wing.
Colonel Cash, having to form in a thick wood, had not yet got into line, when a staff officer gave me the valuable information that a road on my left, leading perpendicularly to the front from my line, would bring me into a flanking position upon the enemy. Desiring to avail myself of the position, I immediately ordered my regiment to the front in line, obliquing to the left, to avoid the regiment which had formed partly in front of my right, and directed Colonel Cash to follow as soon as possible. The left of my regiment rested on the road to which I have referred. Reaching a fence which skirted the wood in front of us, which I then found to be in full possession of the zouaves of the enemy, I ordered a charge, which was responded to by a shout from the whole regiment. They swept through the wood, broke and dispersed the zouaves, and opened a deadly fire upon them as they fled across the field, leaving behind them a battery of six steel rifled cannon, which was immediately in front of my right wing in the open ground. The fugitives rallied in a field on our left across the road by which we had directed our march, where a formidable force appeared strongly posted on a commanding eminence. I immediately changed front forward on my left company, occupying the road as my line of battle, which being washed out formed a ravine, giving cover to the men. Captain Rhett’s company, on the left wing, was thrown at an obtuse angle in the skirt of a wood which ran parallel to the line of the enemy. Colonel Cash arriving formed promptly on the left of Captain Rhett, gaining a direct fire from the wood upon the enemy in front, while my regiment had an enfilade fire upon their left flank. In this position a continuous fire was kept up by our whole line until the enemy were driven back and reformed upon the crest of the hill.
Affairs were in this condition when Captain Kemper reported his battery, and was ordered up and directed to take position on the hill by the captured battery, and to fire upon the flank of the enemy over the heads of my regiment in the road. Returning to execute the order he was taken prisoner by some of the fugitive zouaves in our rear and detained some minutes, but released by the timely arrival of some of our troops and his own address. He soon brought up his pieces and placed them in the position indicated, whence he poured a most destructive fire through the ranks of the enemy, who filled up their files with a regularity, steadiness, and precision worthy the ancient fame of the U.S. Regulars, of which it is believed that force was composed. Twice were they broken and twice they reformed, but, again driven from the hill, they fell back out of our fire. Captain Kemper then withdrew his battery to rest his men, having lost one killed, two wounded, and some of his horses.
During the heat of the engagement a single company of Marylanders, under Lieutenant Cummings, I am told, reported to me and asked for a position, which I gave them on my left, where they conducted themselves gallantly during the fight. Meantime the enemy occupied in great force an elevated ridge in front and to the right of us, about a half mile distant. No troops of ours being visible except the forces immediately under my command, and having received no order since I entered the field, I deemed it prudent to retain my position and rest the command for the present. Within a few minutes, however, I perceived a regiment emerging from the wood on the left of Colonel Cash, and advancing in admirable order up the slope to the hill recently occupied by the forces of the enemy whom we had driven off. I immediately advanced my whole command, moving my regiment by the right flank along the road, Colonel Cash in the field in line. Arriving on the face of the hill towards the enemy, I formed line of battle to the left of the road. Here I found Colonel Withers’ Virginia regiment on the hill to the right of road, to whom I communicated my purpose to form line and advance to the attack, and I asked his co-operation, to which he immediately acceded. With Colonel Withers’ command I found also the remnant of Hampton’s Legion, under Captain Conner, assisted by Captain Gary. Captain Conner reported to me and was assigned to my left.
As soon as the entire line was displayed evidences of movements became perceptible in the line of the enemy, and in a few moments they were in full retreat by the rear of their left flank. I then proposed to Colonel Withers to proceed towards the stone bridge with a view to cut them off, and forming to the right into column, Colonel Withers being in advance, we marched towards that point.
I detailed some of my men under General Johnson Hagood and Col. Allen J. Green, of South Carolina, who were doing duty in my regiment as volunteer privates, each to take charge of one of the captured guns and turn them on the enemy, while Captain Kemper took charge of two others, and they continued firing until ordered to desist by one of our general officers.
I directed my march along the turnpike to the stone bridge, while Colonel Withers turned to the right and entered the wood. He threw out a skirmishing company, who crossed below the bridge in advance, while my command was marched along the road. Arriving on the north side of Bull Run, a reserve of the enemy was seen occupying the wood in front with artillery, and I deployed line of battle in the field to the right of the road, Colonel Withers forming line in my rear. Here I sent Adjutant Sill to the rear to report to the first general officer he might meet with that I had occupied that position; that the enemy was in front, and that I awaited orders. He delivered his message to Colonel Chesnut, aide to General Beauregard, and returned.
In the mean time Major Hill, C. S. Army, of the staff of General ——, reported to me with a squadron of cavalry, under the command of Maj. John Scott, C. S. Army, and stated that General Beauregard authorized the pursuit of the enemy with a view to cut them off. I immediately formed column for the advance, when Surgeon Stone, U.S. Army, rode up and asked why I was retreating (mistaking us for friends). He was informed of his mistake, and sent to the rear as a prisoner, first informing me that the enemy were in force in our front. Throwing out the rifles of Captain Hoke (now under the command of Lieutenant Pulliam) and Captain Cuthbert to the right and left of the road, and the cavalry, accompanied by Major Hill, along the road, I moved by column of company along the right of the road towards Centreville. Arrived at the house on the hill which was occupied by the enemy as a hospital, having made many prisoners by the way, we found that a portion of our cavalry (Captains Wickham’s and Radford’s*) had had an engagement there with a battery of the enemy which they had taken, but had retired after being fired on by the heavy reserve corps which intervened between them and my command. This cavalry had come into the road by Lewis’ Ford, below the stone bridge, and neither of us knew of the position of the other until some time after. At this point Captain Radford, Virginia Cavalry, was found mortally wounded.
Here the enemy opened upon us a fire in front, and I again formed line of battle, my regiment and the cavalry on the right of the road in the wood with a field in front, the Hampton Legion as a reserve, and Colonel Cash in column on the left ready to deploy. Here a staff officer rode up and gave me an order from General Beauregard not to engage the enemy until re-enforcements arrived, stating that they were on the way. Soon after Captain Kemper overtook me with his battery, when I formed column with my regiment and the Legion on the right, Colonel Cash on the left, and the battery in the road. At the request of Major Hill he was permitted to go in advance with Captain Cuthbert’s company deployed as skirmishers, and in this order the whole column was moved on to the hill commanding the suspension bridge, where our skirmishers became engaged with the enemy. I directed Captain Kemper to unlimber two of his pieces on the hill and open fire on the enemy, while I deployed my regiment on the right with the Legion and retained Colonel Cash in column on the left. The main body of the enemy were retreating by the Sudley Ford road, which comes into the turnpike at the suspension bridge on the south side of the run. Captain Kemper fired from one gun on the column retreating by the former road and from the other along the turnpike.
The effect of the firing was most disastrous. The reserve which we were pursuing, meeting the main body of the enemy coming by the other road, just at the entrance of the bridge, completely blocked it, and formed a barricade with cannon, caissons, ambulances, wagons, and other vehicles, which were abandoned with horses and harness complete, while the drivers fled. Many of the soldiers threw their arms into the creek, and everything indicated the greatest possible panic. The venerable Edmund Ruffin, who fired the first gun at Fort Sumter, who, as a volunteer in the Palmetto Guard, shared the fatigues and dangers of the retreat from Fairfax Court-House, and gallantly fought through the day at Manassas, fired the first gun at the retreating column of the enemy, which resulted in this extraordinary capture.
At this point I received a peremptory order to return to Bull Bun and take my position at the stone bridge. Here also the skirmishers recaptured General Steuart, of Maryland, who had been for several hours in custody of the enemy. Reluctantly I ordered my command to return, but, directing Colonel Cash to remain, I went with a detachment of twenty Volunteers from his regiment to the bridge, where I found Lieutenant-Colonel Munford, with a portion of the Virginia Cavalry, extricating the valuable capture. They had arrived by the Sudley Ford road, having pursued the enemy from the battle-field, and came up to the bridge when Captain Kemper ceased firing. Here I remained until 10 o’clock at night, aiding Colonel Munford, when I returned to camp.
Colonel Cash’s regiment remained in position until 1 o’clock, when the most valuable of the captured articles had been secured and carried to the rear. I am informed that about thirty pieces of cannon were taken at this point. At the time when we were first ordered forward Captain Perryman had been sent with his command on scouting duty across Bull Run, and I dispatched my aide-de-camp, Mr. Edward Wallace, to conduct him to Lewis’. Arrived there, finding the regiment had entered the engagement, he went with Mr. Wallace in search of his comrades, but not being able to obtain any information of our position, he attached himself to Colonel Hays’ Louisiana regiment, and entered the fight in time to participate in the final charge and pursuit of the enemy on the Sudley Ford road. Captain Perryman reports himself as much indebted to Mr. Wallace for his efficient aid in conducting his company through the engagement, and particularly mentions his coolness and gallantry.
One of my personal aides, Mr. W. H. Hardy, was most serviceable during the engagement, gallantly bearing order after order with promptness and intelligence. Having been sent by me to conduct Colonel Preston’s regiment to a position on my left, he was shot in the breast at the head of that regiment before he had proceeded sixty yards, and died instantly. A youth of pure and gentle spirit, he evinced on the field the cool, self possessed heroism of the veteran soldier.
Mr. John A. Myers, private, Captain Casson’s company, mounted Mr. Hardy’s horse, and rendered me most efficient aid during the remainder of the day.
Mr. A. E. Doby, also of my staff, was most active in assisting me on the field, and was most conspicuously exposed. His gallantry and intelligence in conveying my orders deserve particular mention. Riding into a squad of some of the zouaves when sent to Captain Kemper, then in the rear, he preserved his life by promptly repeating a signal which he saw one of them use as he rode up.
Colonel Cash distinguished himself by his courageous bearing and his able and efficient conduct of his regiment during the whole day. He will particularly report the conduct of his command.
Captain Kemper, of the Alexandria Artillery, and all his officers and men, engaged as they were under my own eye, merit the most honorable mention in this report. To the efficiency of this battery I have no doubt we are chiefly indebted for the valuable capture of arms, stores, and munitions of war at the suspension bridge. Without this artillery they could not have been arrested.
It is difficult to discriminate among my own officers and men, since all engaged in the fight with enthusiastic bravery and spirit, and bore themselves with light-hearted and vivacious gallantry to the end.
Captain Hoke, bravely leading his company, which was flanked by the left wing of the zouaves, was severely wounded in the flint charge and borne from the field, was taken prisoner by the enemy, but soon rescued. His company was subsequently courageously led by Lieutenant Pulliam.
Captain Richardson was wounded early in the action, gallantly leading his company. Upon being sent to the rear he, too, was captured by the zouaves, but afterwards rescued. The escape of so many of the zouaves to our rear was accomplished by their lying down, feigning to be dead or wounded, when we charged over them, and then treacherously turning upon us. They murdered one of our men in cold blood after he had surrendered, and one attempted to kill another of our number who kindly stopped to give him water, supposing him wounded. The command of Captain Richardson’s company devolved upon Lieutenant Durant, who efficiently conducted it through the day.
Captain McManus was painfully wounded in the arm early in the engagement, but bravely led his company through the day.
Captain Wallace was slightly wounded in the face at the head of his company. Lieutenant Bell was also smack. Lieutenant De Pass was most dangerously and severely wounded in the head, in the hottest of the fight, after most gallantly conducting himself in his position with his company. Captain Kennedy was struck, but only bruised, by a ball in the side. Captains Casson, Haile, Cuthbert, and Rhett were uninjured, though bravely conspicuous, as were all the company officers, in rallying and cheering their men in the thickest of the fight.
To Lieutenant-Colonel Jones and Major Goodwyn I am much indebted for their efficient discharge of their important duties. The latter was particularly exposed from time to time, and bore himself with reckless courage. Captain Sill, adjutant, and Sergeant-Major Haile were active and efficient, and did good service in the fight, the former with his pistols and the latter with his musket.
Many individual instances of distinguished gallantry have been brought to my notice, but where the whole command have conducted themselves with courage, devotion, and spirit it would be unjust to particularize. So, too, incidents illustrating the gallantry and spirit of the whole regiment might be mentioned, but would swell this report to too great a length.
Dr. Salmond, surgeon, and Dr. Nott, his assistant, were on the field, courageously devoting themselves to the wounded, and the chaplain, Rev. E. J. Meynardie, was assiduous in his attention to our unfortunate comrades.
The regimental flag, gallantly borne by Sergeant Garden, was three times struck during the engagement, and one of the color guard was wounded. The flag of the Palmetto Guard, Captain Cuthbert, was struck four times, that of Captain Kennedy once, and Captain Wallace’s once.
Among the trophies taken by my regiment was the flag of the First Regiment, Second Brigade, Fourth Division, of the State of Maine, with its proud motto, “Dirigo,” and a small Federal ensign.
I would particularly mention the gallant conduct of the Rev. T. J. Arthur, whose rifle did good service, and that of Professor Venable, of South Carolina College, Capt. F. W. McMaster, Gen. Johnson Hagood, Col. Allen J. Green, Maj. J. H. Felder, Mr. Edward Felder, and Mr. Oscar Lieber, citizens of South Carolina, who fought in the ranks of volunteers with distinguished bravery and efficiency.
Accompanying this report I have the honor to inclose a list of the casualties of the day in my regiment, with a statement of the number engaged.(+)
I have the honor to be, general, respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. B. KERSHAW,
Colonel Second Regiment S. C. Volunteers, &c.
Brig. Gen. M. L. BONHAM,
Commanding First Brigade, &c.
(*) See second report, p. 527
+Embodied in No. 121, post.
CAMP NEAR FAIRFAX COURT-HOUSE, August 22, 1861
GENERAL: If not improper, I would like to amend my official report of the battle of Manassas in the following respect:
In the paragraph where the names “Captains Wickham’s and Radford’s” occur in parenthesis insert “Powells and part of Captain Pitzer’s,” so that the whole passage in parenthesis will read thus: “(Captains Whickham’s, Radford’s, Powell’s, and part of Captain Pitzer’s).”
Only yesterday I learned that Captain Powell’s and part of Captain Pitzer’s company participated in the charge upon the battery near the hospital north of Bull Run.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. B. KERSHAW.
Colonel, Commanding Second Regiment, S. C. Volunteers
Brig. Gen. M. L. BONHAM,
Commanding First Brigade, &c.