Preston’s Report

19 04 2008

The report of Col. Robert T. Preston of the 28th Virginia Infantry mentions his regiment’s capture of members of the 1st Michigan Infantry, including its brigade and former regimental commander, Col. Orlando B. Willcox.  Willcox remembered his encounter with the 28th VA and its commander, and identified the Captain – of Preston’s report (from pp 295-296, Forgotten Valor: The Memoirs, Journals, & Civil War Letters of Orlando B. Willcox, edited by Robert Garth Scott, see here):

It must have been with great difficulty that the 1st Michigan cut their way back from their position, for the enemy were now on two sides of them, & I soon found were approaching on a third side.  These were the 28th Virginia.  A party of their scouts or skirmishers were coming up a road in the woods, when I discovered them & ordered the three or four men who had gathered about me to fire upon them, & shouting at the same time” bring up the whole regiment!’ as loudly as I was able, the enemy’s party beat a hasty retreat.  The men said one or two fell.

This little affair roused my strength a little, & had my horse not been wounded, possibly I might have been bound on him & escaped.  The poor steed (a magnificent dapple grey stallion) followed me like a dependent child.  But I had scarce strength enough left to form a plan; my only purpose was to get to the rear before the regiment, still fighting manfully, knew that I was down.

With Capt. Withington’s assistance, I now crossed a fence & was going across a bit of open field holding my right arm with the left, & Capt. Withington’s right arm around my waist, when in this helpless condition we were assailed by Col. [R. T.] Preston, who charged on horseback at us, thundering loud oaths, pointing his revolver & demanding our surrender.  Of course there was nothing left us but to comply.  The stout colonel (for he was a stalwart man with a grizzled huge beard & loud, gruff voice) then demanded who I was, & when I told him, he hallowed like a bull, “You’re just the man I’ve been looking for.”  I replied, “I am an officer & a gentleman, sir, & expect to be treated as such.”  He assumed a milder tone & politely told us [to] keep our swords.

Captain Withington was later Colonel William H. Withington of the famous Stonewall Regiment, the 17th Michigan Infantry.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Bull Run, as was Willcox.





Union OOB

19 04 2008

 

Thanks to what I have to assume is the new WordPress upgrade, most of my Union order of battle has vanished into cyberspace.  I’ll have it repaired in a few days.  It’s a big job.





#104 – Col. Robert T. Preston

19 04 2008

Report of Col. Robert T. Preston, Twenty-eighth Virginia Infantry

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp.549-551

COLONEL: In obedience to your order of the 23d instant, that “commanders of regiments and of detached troops of all arms serving with the command of Colonel Cocke, on the 21st instant, in the battle of Manassas, will immediately make report to the colonel commanding the Fifth Brigade of the services performed by their respective commands on that glorious day,” I have respectfully to report:

The Twenty-eighth Regiment Virginia forces, C. S. Army, under my command, was, in obedience to orders, marched from Camp Mason on the 17th instant, and at about 4 p.m. on the same day encamped upon the position assigned it on the right of the road leading from Manassas Junction by Lewis’ Ford of Bull Run and upon the high ground within about half a mile of Lewis’ Ford, and was also intended to regard and defend the Island Ford of Bull Run, lying nearly a mile southeast of its position.

During the interval until the 21st the encampment was frequently changed for the purpose stated, and the regiment turned out under arms several times by night and day to repel expected attacks upon the position.

Colonel Withers having some days previously crossed Ball’s Ford and taken position in the woods, I was ordered on the evening of the 19th instant to cross the ford and defend it in conjunction with his command against the attack of the enemy. I occupied the right of the road leading from Ball’s Ford towards Centreville on the night of the 19th, and again on the night of the 20th instant. Both regiments on the nights referred to posted pickets along the Centreville road, and I also posted pickets upon the approaches to the Island Ford. For greater security I ordered Company K, Captain Deyerle, to take position with the advance picket, and make proper resistance before retiring upon my position.

During the early part of the night picket runners informed me that the pickets of a body of the enemy were posted within half a mile of our advance pickets. They also reported that they could hear a sound as of speeches made in the enemy’s camp, responded to by laughter and cheers. At 2 o’clock on the morning of the 21st pickets reported the noise of large bodies of the enemy and quantities of artillery passing over the turnpike in the direction of the stone bridge. The passing artillery was distinctly audible from my quarters.

At — o’clock a.m. the regiment was turned out under your order, and proceeded to occupy a position to resist the enemy if he should approach along the Centreville road. The two regiments were formed in line of battle, the Twenty-eighth resting on the right side of the road, parallel with and protected by the wood which intervened between their position and open ground. I subsequently caused the fence to be removed farther within the wood, so as to deprive the enemy of a material protection to his advance.

 

Two days before, in company with Captain Harris, of the Engineers, I made a personal reconnaissance of the Centreville road and approaches to the Island Ford on Bull Run, he explaining the topography of the grounds around us.

After remaining in this position until — a.m., dispatching couriers from time to time with information of all occurrences likely to be of interest to yourself, I received orders from brigade headquarters to recross the creek by way of Ball’s Ford or the fish-dam crossing, and take position below Ball’s Ford in the heavy timber on the south side of the ford. This order was executed with rapidity and exactness. The regiment deployed in line, its right resting on the ford. The Eighteenth Regiment crossed the creek by way of the ford, passing along our line, occupied the left, next the hill. The two regiments covered the road from the creek to the hill.

At — p.m. an order was received from you directing the advance of my regiment to the battle-field. The order was obeyed with alacrity. The Twenty-eighth passed in line across the field past the Lewis house (headquarters), through the orchard below the house, across the first ravine, upon the farm road leading from Lewis’ to Mrs. Henry’s house. It there halted, faced to the left, commenced to advance by a narrow lane nearly at right angles to its course up to this point. Its progress was stopped for a few moments by the passage of Latham’s battery, taking position, and afterwards by the Washington Battery coming from the direction of the field of battle. This obstruction removed, the regiment resumed its march. Advancing nearly half a mile, it was fired upon by the enemy, concealed in the woods on the right. By this fire six men of Company B, Captain Wilson, were wounded. This fire was promptly and effectually returned by Company B, Captain Wilson’s company, and several of the enemy killed and wounded.

At this moment a few of the enemy were discovered who had advanced beyond the road, and whose escape was intercepted by the passage of the regiment. Upon presenting a pistol at one of them he cried out that he was “an officer and a gentleman,” and yielded himself and companions prisoners. The men wounded and captured proved to be the advance of the First Regiment Michigan Volunteers, of the Federal Army. Among those who surrendered were Col. O. B. Willcox and Captain—, the former of whom had been wounded in the arm by the fire of Company B, Captain Wilson.

My advance continued about half a mile farther through a dense wood, when it entered the road to Sudley’s Mill. There it was stopped by Kemper’s battery, which in passing occupied the road entirely. The regiment was halted for a few moments and the men ordered to lie down from a very heavy fire of the combatants, which passed over them, and which it was not in position to return. By this fire one man of Company C (Captain Bowyer) was wounded.

I was here in some uncertainty in regard to my position. Beyond was a warm conflict between the Second and Eighth Regiments South Carolina Volunteers (Colonels Kershaw and Cash) and the enemy. The woods were very dense. I had never seen the ground before. I was wholly without a guide. I therefore availed myself of the unavoidable delay occasioned by the passage of the battery to procure such information of the relative positions of the combatants as to prevent ourselves from firing into or being fired into by our friends. Riding forward I met with Colonel Kershaw, who, in reply to my request that he would aid in leading me into position, furnished me a guide in Lieutenant Hardy, who rode forward and rendered important aid in that capacity. The battery having passed, the regiment renewed its march. It had advanced a short distance through a narrow road in the woods when, to my deep regret, Lieutenant Hardy was killed by a fire from the enemy, some of whom, and among them the man who shot Lieutenant Hardy, were immediately fired on and killed by my advanced company (A) Captain Patton.

I at once ordered the colors to the front, and emerging upon open ground returned obliquely across a short neck of woods and came in sight of the enemy, who were escaping from the woods in rapid and scattered retreat to their main body upon the turnpike. An effort was made to overtake them, but after pursuing them to the crest of the hill next the turnpike and above the stone house (Matthews’) the regiment was countermarched in a line parallel with the route of the enemy. Advancing upon this route I was directed by General Beauregard in person to cross the turnpike and scour the woods beyond. In performing this service I detached Company A, Captain Patton, with orders to examine the stone house of Matthews, from which a hospital flag was suspended.

In this house were found a large number of the wounded enemy, some dead, and thirty-six men, who surrendered themselves prisoners. Among them were two officers, a surgeon, and assistant surgeon. The latter was liberated on parole, and directed to take charge of and assist the enemy’s wounded. There were also found in the house about one hundred arms. I then passed beyond the stone house through the wood designated by General Beauregard, found several killed and wounded, and sent one of the latter, a Carolinian, to the care of our surgeons. The advance of the regiment stopped at this point, being the same, as I learned subsequently, where a severe conflict had occurred between Major (now Brigadier-General) Evans and the enemy. The regiment was then countermarched over the same ground to the turnpike, and down the same to the stone bridge.

From this point I was ordered by General Beauregard to march in the direction of the White House. This order was under execution when I was directed by order of General Beauregard to take post near Mitchell’s Ford, on Bull Run. The regiment reached this point at — o’clock the same night, a distance of about — miles from the field of battle.

The conduct of the command when called into action or exposed to a fire which they could not return, authorizes me to assure you that it may be relied on for any service which requires courage, energy, and obedience. I shall congratulate myself if it be your opinion that its opportune arrival contributed in any degree to arrest the progress of the enemy at a critical point and period of the fight.

I annex a return of the casualties during the fight.

Respectfully, colonel, your most obedient,

ROBT. T. PRESTON.

Colonel Twenty-eighth Virginia Infantry, C. S. Army

Col. P. ST. GEORGE COCKE,

Commanding Fifth Brigade, Virginia Forces, C. S. Army





Withers’ Report

18 04 2008

Just a couple of things to notice about Withers’ report: I’m pretty sure his is the only Confederate report I’ve posted so far that specifically identifies the 14th Brooklyn (NYSM), and Withers even goes so far as to refer to them – correctly – as Chasseurs.  Once again we see the misidentification of a Union battery as Sherman’s Battery.  In this case I think Withers was actually referring to Ricketts’ Battery.  And note also the claim regarding Union forces displaying a Confederate flag.  Most likely the confusion was the result of the very similar appearance of the Confederate First National flag (the Stars and Bars) to Old Glory.  It’s also possible that the troops in question (probably gathered about the Stone House) were waving a captured flag.  But I have seen nothing so far to indicate that they were purposely displaying one to deceive the enemy.





#103 – Col. R. E. Withers

18 04 2008

 

Report of Col. R. E. Withers, Eighteenth Virginia Infantry

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 546-548

Colonel: I have the honor to transmit a report of the share taken by the Eighteenth Regiment in the battle of the 21st of July.

The position occupied by my command was, as you are aware, on the north side of Bull Run, at Ball’s Ford, which we were ordered to defend. This position they had occupied for three days, sleeping on their arms, as their position was very much exposed. Colonel Preston’s regiment (Twenty-eighth) was on my right.

Early on the morning of the 21st I heard firing in the direction of my advance picket. Supposing it caused by an advance of the enemy on my position I hastened to the point, and found that the firing was caused by an advance of the enemy along the Warrenton turnpike, driving in the pickets of Major Evans on that road. I could distinctly hear the moving of a very large number of men and many ammunition wagons, indicating that a formidable attack was designed upon our lines. Causing two companies to be deployed as skirmishers on my left and in front I awaited further developments. No attack having been made on us we remained in position until 2 o’clock p.m. At this time, being enabled to see from my position the progress of the fight, and that the extreme left of the position of our army had been turned by the enemy crossing Bull Run at Sudley’s Mill, some distance above stone bridge, and were outflanking and forcing back by immensely superior numbers our forces on the left and center, I crossed the run and formed my regiment in readiness for immediate action. Soon after Colonel Cocke sent down by one of his aides an order to bring my regiment into action as speedily as possible. We moved forward in double-quick time, and soon came under fire of the enemy’s battery about Lewis’ house. Continuing to advance beyond the house, I was ordered by General Beauregard to conduct my regiment obliquely to the left and attack the center of the enemy. On approaching their position I found a pretty strong force posted in a thicket of pines, in some places almost impenetrable. With a cheer we dashed into the thicket and pushed forward, the enemy retiring as we advanced.

They were composed principally of the Fourteenth New York Chasseurs, and several of their number were killed and captured by the left wing of my regiment. Emerging from the pines I halted and reformed the regiment, which had been thrown into some disorder whilst advancing through the pines. I now found myself exposed to a hot fire of musketry, and could not clearly distinguish friends from foes. Ordering my men to lie down in a slight depression of the field, so as to protect them as far as possible, I rode to the left of the line, and after some trouble was enabled to discover the U.S. flag with about two regiments on a hill opposite our position and across the Sudley road. A pretty sharp fire at long range was kept up between these troops and my command for some time.  Just at this time a number of troops to my right, who had been stationed around an old house (Mrs. Henry’s), fell back in a good deal of confusion, but rallied as soon as they passed my line.  One of the captains came up, and, announcing that they constituted a part of the Hampton Legion, and had no field officers left to take charge of them, as their colonel was wounded and lieutenant-colonel killed, desired to know what they should do. I directed them to form on the right of my regiment, which they did with promptness. I was then told that they had been forced back from a battery which they had taken from the enemy, but which they seemed determined to regain, as their skirmishers had advanced very nearly to the guns, supported by a heavy force of infantry. I ordered the whole regiment to charge, which they did in beautiful style, driving back the enemy (not only the skirmishers, but the supporting infantry) beyond the hill.

This battery consisted of eight rifled cannon, and I was told constituted a part of the celebrated Sherman battery. They were posted between Mrs. Henry’s house and the Sudley road, in a little triangular plat of grass land. It was as immediately proposed to turn their guns on them. I ordered the two rear companies of my command, Company I and Company K, to drag the guns into proper position. They immediately brought up two of the guns and ammunition. Captain Claiborne, of Company B, Adjutant Withers, and Lieutenant Shields, of Company E, assisted by a gallant South Carolina officer, afterwards understood to be Green, and several others, soon loaded one of the pieces, and brought it to bear upon a large number of men who were congregated near a two-story house beyond the turnpike. Just as we were about to fire I discovered among them the Confederate flag, and ordered them not to fire. I know in this I am not mistaken, as it was first recognized by the naked eye, and an examination with a good field-glass confirmed my first opinion. Whilst debating the question amongst ourselves I saw two other bodies of troops passing up the hill towards the house, amongst whom the U.S. flag was dearly visible. They joined the party first seen, and proving thus that they were enemies and had raised our flag with the intention of deceiving us, we no longer hesitated to open fire upon them from their own cannon.

The South Carolinian alluded to above fired the first gun, and a most effective one it seemed to be. A few shots sufficed to drive all the enemy out of sight. My regiment was then ordered by General Beauregard to push for the turnpike at stone bridge and cut off, if possible, the retreating enemy at that point. We reached the run and crossed it just below the cut timber east of the stone bridge, and entered the turnpike road just beyond that point. The enemy, however, had retreated by the Sudley’s Mill and other points above.

Soon after we crossed the run we were joined by two South Carolina regiments, commanded respectively by Colonels Kershaw and Cash, and together we pursued the enemy along the turnpike road in the direction of Centreville, until I was recalled by an order to fall back to stone bridge. Before reaching the point we designed to occupy we were met by another order to march immediately to Manassas Junction, as an attack was apprehended that night. Although it was now after sunset, and my men had had no food all day, when the command to march to Manassas was given they cheerfully took the route to that place. On arriving in the immediate neighborhood of that place I was directed to carry my command to Camp Walker, a mile or two below. This place we reached late at night, and our wearied men threw themselves on the ground and slept till morning. On the 22d we were ordered back to our former position on Bull Run, and the next day to the position we now occupy, near suspension bridge, on Cub Run.

Too much praise cannot be awarded to the Eighteenth Regiment for their conduct during the memorable action of the 21st. Officers and men, with one or two individual exceptions, exhibited the utmost coolness and determined bravery. The last charge made by them was most brilliant and successful, and enabled us to retain possession of their cannon. I believe these pieces had been captured once or twice before during the action, but I claim for the Eighteenth the honor of holding the guns and turning them upon the enemy.

During the action Lieutenant-Colonel Carrington and Major Cabell rendered efficient and valuable service, as did Adjutant Withers and all the staff officers. Indeed, the officers generally displayed so much valor and determination that it would be invidious to draw distinctions. The whole command, indeed, exhibited a steadiness under fire remarkable for raw troops.

Considering the length of time we were under fire our loss was very small. I append the report.(#)

Captain Matthews, Company H, was among the wounded, but fortunately not very seriously. No other commissioned officer was hurt.

I would respectfully mention the necessity that exists for supplying many of the men with knapsacks, blankets, &c. As they advanced into battle, by my orders they threw away everything except their guns and ammunition, and, having subsequently marched to Camp Walker the same night, they had no opportunity of getting their clothing and blankets again.

I would also request that those of my companies who are now armed with the smooth-bore altered musket may be permitted to exchange them for the more efficient Enfield or minie gun.

With much respect, I am, your most obedient servant,

R. E. WITHERS,

Colonel Eighteenth Regiment Virginia Volunteers

Col. PHILIP ST. GEORGE COCKE,

Commanding Fifth Brigade, Virginia Volunteers.

*The nominal list shows 6 killed, 23 wounded, and 1 missing.

#Which shows 5 killed, 16 wounded, and 1 missing.





More on the Black Horse

15 04 2008

 

It’s funny how these things go, but the following I think illustrates how research has changed in the digital age.  I was frankly surprised by the lack of reaction to this post on the Black Horse Cavalry I made a few days ago.  You may not realize it, but what that post had to say about the naming of the troop is pretty controversial and directly contradicts the conventional wisdom.  So, I posted a question on the Civil War Discussion Group asking if anyone was aware of the source of the Payne quote, in which he stated that the name Black Horse was chosen for the troop from Warrenton, VA to reflect its members’ support of slavery (we were all extreme pro-slavery men).  With e-quaintance John Furey’s help I was able to rule out The Confederate Veteran.  Friend Teej Smith sent me this link to the Museum of the Confederacy’s collection of papers associated with Brigadier General “Billy” Payne.  That list led me to an article in North & South magazine, Vol. II, #7 by the MOC’s John Coski, consisting of transcriptions of various Payne writings.  While the quote in question was not included therein, the article did include a caption on an engraving that stated that the troop was so named because its members rode black horses.

One of the group’s members happened to have Mr. Coski’s email address, so I fired off a missive to him in which I linked to my earlier post here and asked him about his article in the magazine.  I shortly received a reply in which Mr. Coski informed me that at the time the article was researched he was not aware of the Payne quote, but that he learned of it later, and that the caption was the editor’s, not his.  He mentioned that the quote was included in a book on the troop, The Black Horse Cavalry: Defend our Beloved Country by Lewis Marshall Helm.  Mr Coski also indicated that he believed the quote was from a recalled conversation that appeared in the March 29, 1903 Richmond News.

I also contacted a fellow named Don Hackenson, who has the Helm book for sale on his website.  Don is a descendant of a member of the Black Horse and something of an authority on Virginia cavalry, particularly the troop and John S. Mosby.  He told me that while the quote is indeed included in Helms’ book, it’s not footnoted (I ordered it anyway UPDATE: I received the book, and it is indeed footnoted).  He graciously offered to get in touch with Brigadier General Helm to find out his source for the quote.  Four Helms served in the Troop, two of whom were killed in the war, and a younger brother, Lyttleton, nearly fought a duel with John Mosby after the war.  Don also is in possession of quite a few of Billy Payne’s papers given him by a descendant, and he promised to go through them in search of anything similar to the quote in question.

Don also called me yesterday to tell me about a pamphlet, Chronicles of a Virginia Family: The Klomans of Warrenton, by Erasmus Helm Kloman, Jr., which includes a version of the naming of the Black Horse Troop consistent with the Payne account in the Helms book.  However, the wording in both books are a bit too similar for me to consider them separate and independent.

From what little I’ve been able to learn about Billy Payne, he seems to have remained an unreconstructed rebel for the rest of his life.  He was able to rebuild his law practice in Warrenton after the war, while John Mosby was pretty much run out of that town for turning Republican.  So, Payne may not have been too concerned with the impact his story might have on the spirit of conciliation.  But as it stands now, I have but one shaky source.  If anyone has access to the March 29, 1903 Richmond News (it may have been the News-Leader, since the two dailies merged that year), any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Look for more on the Black Horse here in the future.





#29 – Bvt. Maj. Henry J. Hunt

13 04 2008

Report of Bvt. Maj. Henry J. Hunt, Second  U. S. Artillery

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 377-381

LIGHT BATTERY M, SECOND ARTILLERY,

Camp near Fort Albany, July 25, 1861

SIR: I have the honor to submit a report of the operations of my battery on the 21st instant.

The company arrived at New York on the 12th instant from Fort Pickens, Fla., with its battery, but without horses. A large portion of the men were recruits, and no opportunity for instruction as field artillery had been afforded them. The company reached Washington by rail on Sunday, 14th, and on Wednesday evening the battery, which came by sea, was received at the arsenal. Necessary repairs and refitting were at once commenced, ammunition and other stores drawn and packed, horses procured, and on Friday, the 19th, we marched from Capitol Hill to Colonel Richardson’s position in front of the enemy’s works at Blackburn’s Ford, a distance of twenty-eight miles. Saturday was devoted to instructing the recruits, shoeing horses, &c., and on that evening Lieutenant Platt’s section was detached to join the advanced guard. On Saturday night Lieutenant Edwards, Third Artillery, reported to me with a section of two heavy rifled guns. On Sunday morning, the 21st, Lieutenant Thompson’s section was placed in position on the right of the main road, overlooking the ford, and commanding the road by which the enemy’s advance was expected. A few shells were, by direction of Colonel Richardson, dropped into the woods and amongst the buildings which were supposed to contain the enemy, but no answer was returned, and the firing ceased. Soon after this an infantry column was seen pushing into the wood skirting Bull Run. Lieutenant Thompson moved forward a piece, and after a few rounds they disappeared.

At about 10 a.m. Colonel Miles ordered both sections of my battery to the extreme left, occupied by Davies’ brigade. Edwards’ section had been sent early in the morning to that position, from which he had opened his fire upon the woods and houses in front. I transmit herewith his report of the operations of his section, in which he describes the nature of the ground.

The firing was continued at intervals by the whole battery “as a demonstration,” but produced little or no effect, as there was no definite object, except when the enemy’s moving columns came from time to time within our range. We were supported by two infantry battalions, drawn up in line behind the battery. On inquiry, made immediately after my arrival on the ground, I was informed that a brigade of infantry was posted in the wood to our left and rear, commanding a deep and wide ravine on our left flank, and watching the road beyond it, which leads from below the ford to Centreville; and as we had skirmishers pushed forward into the ravine, I felt no apprehension of danger from that quarter, but still requested, as a precaution, that the battalion on the left should be formed on the brink of the ravine and in column, so that it might be readily deployed to front in any direction. No attention was paid to this request, and the regiment remained in line.

About 4.30 or 5 p.m., after the battle was apparently gained on the right, and whilst large re-enforcements of infantry and cavalry were observed hurrying up from the direction of Manassas, a strong force of infantry and some cavalry, variously estimated at from 2,500 to 5,000 men in all, appeared on our left, approaching parallel to our front by the lateral openings into the great ravine on our flank. The infantry only was first seen, and as they approached without any apparent attempt at concealment, preceded by our skirmishers, they were supposed to be our own troops. As the number increased, I rode down the ravine with my first sergeant to reconnoiter them. Some of our skirmishers stated that they had seen no troops; others said they were the Thirty-first [?] New Yorkers coming in. They carried no colors, and their numbers increasing to an alarming extent, I hurried back and changed the front of the battery, so as to command all the openings into the ravine and the approaches to our position. Colonel Davies at the same time detached a couple of companies into the ravine as skirmishers. The latter had scarcely deployed, when a sharp rattle of musketry removed all doubts as to the character of the advancing troops. We had been surprised, and the enemy was close upon us in large force. Our infantry regiments had changed front with the battery, but unfortunately closed their intervals behind it. Precious time was now lost in getting them on our flanks. Had they remained in our rear they would have been unnecessarily exposed to the fire directed on the battery, and in case of a determined charge for our capture, which I confidently expected, they would have been apt to fire through us, destroying men and horses and crippling the guns. At length they were moved to the right and left, and ordered to lie down and await the approach of the enemy, who by this time were closing up in apparently overwhelming numbers. I now directed the gunners to prepare shrapnel and canister shot, and in case the enemy persisted in his advance not to lose time in sponging the pieces–for minutes were now of more value than arms–but to aim low, and pour in a rapid fire wherever the men were thickest or were seen advancing.

The enemy having by this time completed his preparations and driven in our skirmishers, now rushed forward and opened a heavy musketry fire on the battery, but from the shortness of range, or from aiming upwards as they ascended the ravine, their shot mostly passed over us. The command was then given to the battery to commence firing. Under the directions of Lieutenants Platt and Thompson, Second Artillery, and Edwards, Third Artillery, commanding sections, the most rapid, well-sustained, and destructive fire I have ever witnessed was now opened. The men took full advantage of the permission to omit sponging, yet no accident occurred from it. The guns were all of large caliber (two 20-pounder Parrott rifle guns and four light 12-pounders), and they swept the field with a perfect storm of canister. No troops could stand it, and the enemy broke and fled in every direction, taking refuge in the woods and ravines; and in less than fifteen minutes not a living man could be seen on the ground which so recently had swarmed with them. The infantry regiments had not found it necessary to fire a single shot.

Believing now there was no support on our left (original rear), I executed a flank movement, so as to bring the left of the battery close to the wood and in front of the lateral road by which it had reached the ground. This movement threw the regiment on our left into the wood, and thus secured its possession. The fire was now reopened, the rifled guns throwing shell and the others round shot, so as to sweep the woods and search the ravines into which the enemy had been driven. In a few minutes orders were given to retreat, and I sent an officer to Colonel Davies to inquire if such were his directions; that the enemy were defeated, and that they would be unable to reform. The answer returned was “to retire at once on Centreville.” The pieces were limbered up, and, Lieutenant Edwards’ guns leading, moved off.

Scarcely was the column fairly in the road when a scattering fire was opened on the rear, doubtless by those who, having taken refuge in the woods, observed the withdrawal of our troops. The cry to the battery to “trot” was now clamorously raised from the rear, and confusion was fast spreading, when I directed a deliberate walk should be maintained, and pushed forward myself to the place where the ambulances and wagons were standing in the main road. The teamsters had taken the alarm from the rapid firing and the cries, and a panic was rapidly growing, when my assurance of our having beaten the enemy, and that there was no necessity for hurry, together with the appearance of the head of the battery emerging at a walk from the wood, reassured them and calmed the excitement.

The whole column now retired in good order, and was formed, together with all the disposable field artillery, in front of Centreville, under the immediate direction of General McDowell in person, and in so imposing an attitude as to deter the enemy from any advance in that direction, and to hold him completely in check.

During the night the troops were put in motion for their former camps on the Potomac. Barry’s battery, under Lieutenant Tidball, and my own were the last we could perceive on the ground. Just as I was leaving I received a message from Colonel Richardson, stating that his brigade was drawn up in column on the road, and that he wished me to pass him with the battery, but to remain near him, and that we would constitute the rear guard. This was accordingly done, but a mass of stragglers collected around the guns, and could not be prevailed upon to pass them or move without them. I was thus constrained to move forward until some 2,000 or 3,000 men interposed between us, when I received a message from Colonel Richardson, stating that a force of the enemy’s cavalry and horse artillery was in our rear and threatening an attack. I now drew up at the side of the road–to turn back in such a crowd was impossible—and only by representing that the rear was about being attacked could I urge them forward. On Colonel Richardson’s coming up, he stated that the demonstration of the enemy was very feeble, and we saw them no more. It is but just to say that the disorder and mob-like mixture of the volunteers did not appear to proceed from fear, but from sheer fatigue. They were footsore, lame, hungry, and tired, but seemed to be in good heart, and on my representing that it was important that a certain position in our advance should be occupied, some of Blenker’s German and of Montgomery’s New Jersey regiments formed in good order and took the position indicated. Had we been attacked by any force, I have little doubt that a stout resistance would have been made.

The officers of the battery (Lieuts. E. R. Platt and James Thompson, Second Artillery, commanding sections) performed all the duties devolving upon them with promptness, skill, and gallantry. Their labors in bringing the battery into good condition had been untiring, and to the thoroughness of the instruction they had imparted to their sections before they were dismounted in Texas is mainly attributable the efficiency with which the pieces were served on the field and the successful result of the action.

First Lieut. Presley O. Craig, Second Artillery, on sick leave on account of a badly-sprained foot, which prevented his marching with his own company, having heard of the sickness of my second lieutenant, volunteered for the performance of the duties, and joined the battery the day before it left Washington. He was constantly and actively employed during the night preceding and on the day of the battle, and his services were very valuable. When the enemy appeared he exerted himself in perfecting the preparations to receive him, and conducted himself with the greatest gallantry when the onset was made. He fell early in the action, whilst in the active discharge of his duty, receiving a shot in the forehead, and dying in a few minutes afterwards. This was the only casualty in the battery.

Cadet John R. Meigs, of the U.S. Military Academy, being in Washington on furlough, also volunteered his services, and was employed actively from the time he joined at Washington until the close of the battle. On the death of Lieutenant Craig, Cadet Meigs performed his duties until the close of the action with spirit and intelligence, and was very useful, after the affair was over, in conveying orders, observing the enemy, and rallying our troops.

Lieutenant Edwards commanded his section with skill and efficiency, and I can indorse the favorable report he makes of his lieutenants, Benjamin and Babbitt, and of the conduct of his men.

The behavior of the men of my battery was all that could be desired. They were cool, collected, prompt, and obedient, and not an instance of misconduct or neglect occurred during the action in the whole battery.

The first sergeant, Terrence Reily, was very efficient, as were also the chiefs of pieces–Sergeants Smith, Pfeffer, Flood, and Relinger.

A detachment of twenty recruits, under Lieutenant Brisbin, had been dispatched from Carlisle Barracks to fill up my company. Lieutenant Brisbin did not reach Washington until after we had left, but he followed us up, and sought us on the field. He did not succeed in finding the battery, but employed his men usefully in endeavoring to stop the retreat of our forces and in resisting the pursuit of the enemy. In the performance of these duties he was twice wounded. He speaks favorably of the services of Sergeants Bowman and Rogers, of his detachment.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

HENRY J. HUNT,

Bvt. Maj. and Capt., Second Artillery, Comdg.

Lt. Co. M. Capt. J. B. FRY,

Assistant Adjutant-General








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