Lieut. Clarke Leftwich and His Crew’s Account of the Battle

8 01 2009

Richmond Enquirer, August 6, 1861, p 1

The Late Battle Near Manassas.

To the Editors of the Enquirer:

Camp near Centreville, July 29, 1861

Gentlemen: – In your issue of the 29th inst., there appeared a letter, purporting to be an official account of the action of the “Staunton Battery” in the great fight of last Sunday week, over the signature of its head officer, Capt. Imboden.  Though no one can doubt the courage and gallantry of the officers and men under the galling fire poured into them by the enemy’s forces; still there are some inaccuracies in the report, which I wish to correct. – Capt. Imboden, says he was the first (of the left wing) on the ground, and fired the first shot.  This is not the case.  The left half of Latham’s Battery – three pieces, belonging to Gen. Evans’s brigade, – were on the ground from twenty minutes to half an hour before, and had already opened the fire to the extent of twelve or fourteen rounds.  One of the pieces was to the right of the Staunton Battery, and commanded an open space to the right of a small belt of woods; while the other piece was to the left of the same belt, and within a hundred yards or so of the Stone House.  This piece was across the ravine, on the hill, 500 yards directly in front of the Staunton Battery – which Battery played over this piece during most of this engagement.  I was with this piece myself, and, from the last mentioned point, saw the Staunton Battery, and a regiment of infantry come over the hill, in our rear. – But before they came we had repeatedly fired into the enemy, who were formed in battle array immediately at the edge of the woods.

Furthermore, it was not the limber chest that “ran away,” as the gallant captain says, but the caissonIt was stationed at the Stone House in our rear, in the ravine.  The horses took fright, ran off, and dashed the caisson to pieces.  Some time after this, we had to retire in consequence of the enemy having driven in our support, who retired past our piece; while the enemy’s skirmishers tried to pick off the cannoneers from their guns.  This piece (ours) was then taken across the ravine to the hill, and planted a hundred yards to the right of the Staunton Battery, and remained there, together with our other piece, until the Staunton Battery retired from the field. –  Both pieces also continued firing for a short time afterwards.  And it was not until the Staunton Battery had retired that our piece had run out of ammunition.  I saw all this with my own eyes, and can, with the rest of the men, and the officer commanding the piece, vouch for its correctness.

As to the Alabama Regiment crossing to the north side of the Warrenton road, (as affirmed in Captain Imboden’s official report,) with our gun, that, too, is incorrect.  Our two six-pounders were brought from the Stone Bridge directly to the scene of action, (which commenced immediately after we took position,) unattended by the Alabama Regiment or a single individual except those commanding and manning the guns.  Nor did General Bee give an order to any one connected with Latham’s Battery, nor authorize anyone else to do it for him, during the time we were exposed to the enemy’s fire.  No gun or piece of artillery took position between the Staunton battery and the enemy, or with the Alabama regiment at any portion of the fight, except our two six-pounders.  Nor was any piece north of the Warrenton road except ours, during the engagement.  Probably, as ours was within three hundred yards of the enemy, and the Staunton battery five hundred yards in our rear, the Captain may have mistaken our gun for that of the enemy, as many of his balls fell within a few yards in advance of our gun.  But, if so, Col. Sloan’s regiment, and Major Wheat’s battalion, who first engaged 35,000 of the enemy, and fought and retreated under cover of our two six-pounders, have not forgotten it, nor did they mistake it at the time.

What our right and left half-batteries did, is known to Generals Evans and Cocke, and we seek no more notoriety.

We beg, most repectfully, as members of the piece referred to, to sign our names,

  • James W. Dickinson, Sergeant,
  • Charles Perry, Gunner,
  • Cannoneers:
    • R. B. Ross,
    • George Kendall,
    • W. S. Kinsey,
    • W. H. Bell,
    • Wm. S. Moore,
    • Wm. Reid

I affirm the statement, made in the above remarks, to be true in every respect, as I commanded the piece.

L. Clarke Leftwich,

Lieut. Commanding Gun

 








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