Diary 7/17/1861 – Pvt. John Henry Cowin, Co. D, 5th AL

14 11 2009

[Describing withdrawal from Fairfax Court House.]

After all the hustle and stir last night, no yankees came, but on the contrary every thing went on as ever, and I believe more so, for every one kept as still as possible, listening for the expected account.  This morning we heard firing out toward the pickets and all around the country.  about eight o’clock a couple of scouts came in at full speed, one having a yankee behind him captured by the pickets.  The regiment was immediately put in order of battle and marched down to the breastwork.  Tents were struck and the wagons loaded.  Father who was unable to walk, mounted a wagon horse and went off with the baggage.  Where we got to the breastworks Capt. Shelly’s Company was sent out as skirmishers, and soon we heard them open fire upon the enemy.  The firing was kept up for about an hour.  The balls whistling over our heads, I have often heard of balls whistling around a fellows head, but never knew what tune they played until this morning.  They came thick and fast, some falling within a few feet of us.  The pickets were driven in, but they came in orderly, displaying great coolness and bravery.  They fired each three or four rounds.  We remained at the breastworks about an hour and a half.  The pickets killed some ten or fifteen of the enemy.  We had only two men wounded, they very slightly.  One a member of the Warrior Guards (Tarrant) shot through the leg.  The other of Capt. Shelley’s company, having a portion of his ear shot away.  They came upon us with a large force and tried to flank us, and would have succeeded had we not received orders from the commanding general to retreat.  I think Col. Rodes intended to give them a fight, but had to obey the orders to retreat.  We left our breastworks with great reluctance, for there was all our work to be abandoned to the enemy without a fight.  The pickets from our company who were attacked were Jim Locke, Wm. Kennedy, George Nutting, John & Joe Wright.  They all got safely into Camp.  We left the breastworks and marched slowly and in order down the Centreville road.  The day was intensely warm, but we had to march ahead to avoid being flanked, as the enemy were pressing forward with great rapidity.  We marched eleven miles to Bull Run, where we met two Mississippi regiments, one South Carolina regiment and the Washington Artillery.  Here I found Father, who was much rejoiced to see us safe and well.  A good many broke down on the march.  Brother broke down, but managed to get a ride behind some one and came on safely.  I think one could have followed up our retreat and gathered at least two wagon loads of clothing, knapsacks &c, which the boys had thrown away.  A good many have now no clothing at all, not even a blanket.  We only remained at Bull Run about two hours, when we took up our line of march to a place called Union Mills, a distance of three miles.  We arrived there shortly after sunset, stacked arms, made fires, and dried our selves, as we had to ford creeks on the march.  Feel like I can do some sleeping tonight, as I did not have an opportunity last night.

Source – G. Ward Hubbs, ed. Voices from Company D, pp 19-20

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5 responses

16 11 2009
Steve Keating

I don’t suppose there is a description of where the breastwork was that Pvt Corwin was at? Living near Fairfax Courthouse, I am curious as to where the defenses were set up.

16 11 2009
Harry Smeltzer

I’ll have to read the previous diary entries. Once I get a chance to do that, I’ll let you know if there is any specific info in there.

16 11 2009
Steve Keating

Thanks Harry, and no rush.

19 11 2009
Harry Smeltzer

Steve, now that I think about it, the 5th was at Farrs Crossroads. I believe the crossroads are now in a GMU parking lot. See map here:
http://digilib.gmu.edu:8080/dspace/handle/1920/212
See also here:
http://traditions.gmu.edu/gmu_architecture.html

20 11 2009
Steve Keating

Harry
Many thanks for the information, and the time it took to find it. I do know the spot, right at the corner of Rt123 and Braddock road. Makes perfect sense>

Again Thanks

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