Kershaw’s Report

21 02 2008

Col. Joseph B. Kershaw’s regiment, the 2nd SC, captured the colors of the First Maine Infantry during the battle.  As noted in Kershaw’s report, the banner was adorned with the Maine state motto, Dirigo – a Latin word meaning “I Lead” or “I Direct”.  While some sources link this motto to the fact that Maine once was the only state to hold its elections in September, it seems more likely that its choice was associated with the Polar Star, which leads mariners on the open sea to safe harbor.  The word is part of the official seal of the state (below).

dirigo.gif

 

Kershaw also mentioned some bad behavior by Federal Zouaves:

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.

There are lots of reports of less than honorable behavior by both sides at Bull Run, and I’ll have more to say about that later.  But for now, perhaps some confirmation of the above can be found in the Historical Sketch of the Nottaway Grays, afterwards Company G, 18th Virginia Regiment, Army of Northern Virginia.  The 18th was part of Cocke’s Brigade, under Col. Withers, who is mentioned in Kershaw’s report as acting in concert with his command.  A future captain of the company, Richard Irby, wrote:

Soon the scene of the hottest part of the day’s battle was reached.  This was where Bee’s men had been driven back and the famous Stonewall Brigade had turned the tide.  Here the red-breeched Federals were lying thick, dead and wounded.  The first man killed in our Regiment was shot by one of these men as the line swept by him.  It was a spiteful act, and he did not live long to repent it, for as soon as he had fired, Major Cabell shot him down with his pistol.  This occurred in the thick pines.

The stories fit together.  The 18th VA and Kershaw’s command fought together.  Kershaw wrote his report five days after the battle, but Irby wrote his sketch in 1878.  And as discussed here, there’s a good bit of confusion surrounding the Zouaves of the 11th NY and the Chasseurs of the 14th Brooklyn.  Did Irby refer to the red-breeched Federals because that’s how he remembered it, or did he add it for effect?  Did Kershaw see Fire Zouaves of the 11th NY (who did not wear red pants), or did he see red trousered members of the 14th Brooklyn?

Beats me.

I haven’t been able to track down the identity of the Maj. Hill who brought the battalion of cavalry to Kershaw, or to whose staff he was attached.








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