Diary 7/21/1861 – Pvt. John Henry Cowin, Co. D, 5th AL

20 11 2009

Slept cold last night as I had only a single blanket whi[ch] was too small to sleep upon and cover with at the same time, besides the night was colder than usual.  Arose quite early this morning and found we had orders to prepare to take up our line of march.  We got breakfast as soon as possible, which occupied but little time as we had only to stick a little piece of meat on a stick, hold it over the fire a minute or two and breakfast was ready.  Soon after eating we began to hear the booming of cannon, apparently about two or three miles off, which still continues it now being about 12 o’clock.  There seems to be fighting at two points, on the extreme left and centre.  We soon got ready and the regiment crossed the creek.  We crossed and recrossed several times before we got upon the regular march.  We however got straight after a while and had a forced march of eleven miles to the battle field.  It was indeed a battle and a bloody one.  We passed on in sight of one place where they were fighting but did not stop, as we were going to  the assistance of the 4th Ala Regt. which we heard was being terribly cut up.  On the march we met many wounded returning from the field.  We marched on to avenge the blood of those who had fought so gallantly.  We witnessed sights we had never seen before.  The horrors of a battle field.  As we marched in sight the cowardly villains were retreating, we could see their guns glittering among the bushes as they moved off.  We heard that the 4th Ala was surrounded at one time by the overwhelming forces of the enemy, and cut up terribly.  General Bee was badly wounded.  Heard that Col Jones was killed, Lieut Col Law and Major Scott badly wounded.  Syd May was in the fight but came off unhurt.  It is said that the enemy came up with a Confederate flag, and our men thinking they were friends did not fire upon them, but as soon as they got within an hundred and fifty yards of our troops, turned loose both artillery and musketry, mowing them down like grass before a scythe.  It was the bloodiest battle ever fought on the continent.  We lost a great many in killed and wounded.  Their loss was tremendous.  The enemy were completely routed, losing fifty pieces of artillery, ten thousand stands of arms and a great many prisoners.  The Virginians did excellent fighting.  They charged their famous Shermans battery.  The Cavalry pursued the enemy under the command of President Davis in person.  The number of killed cannot yet be accurately ascertained.  Both sides lost heavily.  It is said that the enemy lost at the lowest calculation between four and five thousand in killed and wounded.  To night we have orders to march back to our bivouack.  Squire Griggs[,] Joe Grigg, and myself came to Manassas Junction to see Father, who is here with the baggage.  We found him well, but very uneasy as he was confident that we were in the fight.

Source – G. Ward Hubbs, ed. Voices from Company D, pp 22-23

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2 responses

21 11 2009
cpwehner

just wanted to let you know I have enjoyed these letters you have been posting!
Chris

21 11 2009
Harry Smeltzer

Thanks Chris, but just for the record they’re diary entries.

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