Capt. T. J. Goree on the Eve of the Battle

23 01 2009

To Sarah Williams Kittrell Goree

Bull Run – Near Manassas

July 20th 1861

My Dear Mother,

When I last wrote you it was from Fairfax C. H.  I then intended to have written you again before this, but have not had the opportunity to do so, as I have been in very active service since that time – Have been in one skirmish and one battle.  On the morning of the 17th inst. the enemy appeared in great force at Fairfax.  The[y] probably numbered over 40,000.  We had only 6 or 7000 there, and we thought that discretion was the better part of valor.  So we retreated in rather hot haste to a stronger position.  We left without firing a gun except 2 that a gentleman and myself who brought up the rear fired at a distance, with what effect I do not know.  We placed ourselves in very strong position on a large creek called Bull Run, and will have today about 35 or 40,000 me ready for the fray.  We got our position here on the night of the 17th.  Our lines and fortifications extend 5 or 6 miles up and down the river [with] different Genl’s in command at different points: Genl Beauregard in general command until Genl Joe Johnston reaches here, which he probably did last night.  The Brig. Genls. are Cocke, Bonham, Longstreet, Jones, Jackson, Ewell.

On the 18th a large body of the enemy made an attack, principally against Genl Longstreet’s command.  And he repulsed them most gloriously.  We had about 15 men killed and 50 or 60 wounded.  The loss of the enemy from all accounts was very large.  They have removed many of their dead.  I was sent out yesterday by Genl Longstreet with a Company of Cavalry to make a reconnaissance, and found on the battlefield 12 of the enemy’s dead, and the whole country for some distance was covered with canteens, blankets and haversacks.  I forgot first to say that Genl Longstreet has appointed me one of his aides and that I now rank as Captain.

Yesterday the enemy made some demonstrations, but no attack.  We are expecting a big battle today, probably 35 or 40,000 men on each side.  If we repulse them we will follow them, and try at once to take Washington City.  If we do fight today, it will be one of the greatest battles on record.  In the fight day before yesterday I was acting on Genl Bonham’s Staff.  We had several rifle cannon balls to fall in a few yards of us.  Times felt quite squally for a while.  Cols. Terry & Lubbock have gone back.  [One line illegible.]

Dr. Woodson is very sick and has gone to his uncle’s beyond Richmond.  I am about the only Texan here.  I have an excellent position and am well pleased.  Genl Longstreet has me in his mess and is very kind.  He is considered one of the best genls. in the army.  I have been introduced to Genl Beauregard and most of the other genls.  Beauregard is truly a great general.

I would not be surprised if David Scott is not here.  He belongs to Genl Johnston’s division of the army, the greater part of which was expected here last night.  I have met up with young Thos. Moorman a grandson of Aunt Lucy Kenner.  He is a very nice young man, about 19 or 20.  I have also seen Col. Simms, who owns old Uncle Bart.  He says Bart is well and on the plantation in Arkansas.  I would like to write more, but cannot now.  Our headquarters are in the open air in a pine thicket.  I write on my saddlebags, my seat on the ground, the Genl and balance of the Staff on the ground around.

I am very tired.  Have been on my horse almost all the time since the commencement of the retreat from Fairfax.

Have not had a chance to wash my face for more than three days.  You will probably have heard of the big fight before this reaches you.  I may not survive it, but if I am killed, it will be in a glorious cause.  I hope, though that I may survive it.  Almost feel confident of it.

Do not feel uneasy.  I will write you again soon.

Write me and direct to Manassas Junction, “Care of Brig. Genl Longstreet, 4th Brigade.”  Get Uncle Pleas to direct it.  I have not heard a word since I left, and you must know my anxiety to hear from you.  Write often.

If the fight takes place today, we will not be in the first of it, as our brigade is held in reserve.  The two armies, I think, are in about 2 miles of each other.  We think the attack will probably be made against Genl Cocke, who has command of the bridge.

I must close.  My very best love to all.

Your Son Aff’ly

Thos. J. Goree

P.S. During the fight a cannon ball passed through and knocked over Genl Beauregard’s dinner.

[Cutrer, Whomas W., editor, Longstreet's Aide: The Civil War Letters of Major Thomas J. Goree, pp. 22-23]

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One response

31 01 2009
Chris

Interesting that T.J. Goree (who is depicted in the movie Gettysburg briefly) was the grandfather of the Marine John W. Thomason Jr. who wrote the wonderfully illustrated book on Jeb Stuart in 1930.
Thanks for the great blog posts,
Chris

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