Report of Col. J. H. Williams, Third South Carolina Infantry, of Retreat from Fairfax Court-House and Skirmish at Mitchell’s Ford
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 453-454
CAMP GREGG, Vienna, Va., August 2, 1861
I have the honor to report that I occupied the advanced position on the main turnpike road leading from Fairfax Court House to Alexandria when the enemy appeared in movement on the morning of the 17th upon the advanced forces at Fairfax. My baggage train, which had been kept in readiness, was immediately forwarded in the direction of Bull Run, carrying everything of value. My two companies on picket at the barricade across the Alexandria turnpike road, three miles from camp, and therefore in danger of being cut off by the column of the enemy advancing along the Flint Hill road, were called in, and my regiment marched through Fairfax to a position on the right of the road in front of Colonel Bacon’s camp, the right wing of the battalion being stationed behind the intrenchments, the left wing drawn up under the hill to the left of the works. When the line of march was taken up I followed in rear of Colonel Withers as far as Centreville, and arriving at that place deployed my regiment on the right, occupying the village. This position I held until ordered to Bull Run, following in rear of the artillery. Arriving there, I deployed along the right bank of the stream, my right resting on the left of the intrenched works, my left extending up the stream across the road which leads from Mitchell’s Ford along the right bank. My men, though much fatigued and in want of sleep, completed by 10 o’clock a.m. temporary breastworks of timber and brushwood, and awaited under arms the attack of the enemy, who soon after appeared in heavy force in our front and opened a brisk cannonade upon our whole line. One of my companies (Captain Jones’, on picket across the stream at Roberts’ house) received several well directed fires of the enemy, but retired under orders without loss. The enemy’s fire was kept up at intervals until 5 o’clock p.m., many of their missiles passing above and falling around us, but without doing any damage.
My regiment was not engaged in the musketry fire on the right in the afternoon of the 18th, being in position in expectation of an attack upon the center of our general line.
I must here express my high appreciation of the soldierly qualities and bearing of the troops under my command exhibited in the march from Fairfax, which was certainly a dangerous and trying one, and of their conduct while under fire. Of their fortitude, courage, and the prompt execution of all orders under such unfavorable circumstances I cannot speak too highly. On every occasion I received the active cooperation of all the field and staff officers and all the officers and men under my command.
J. H. WILLIAMS,
Colonel Third Regiment South Carolina Volunteers
Brig. Gen. M. L. BONHAM,
Commanding First Brigade, Army of the Potomac