Diaries and Letters

19 11 2009

I don’t know how many of you have noticed this, but there are very few published collections of soldiers’ diaries and letters that discuss First Bull Run.  I sometimes run across various sites that have letters transcribed on them, and I think I’ll start a new section on my links page for them.  But here’s how you can help:

If you have in your possession any diaries or letters written by campaign participants or even civilian commentators, please let me know via this comments section. 

If you’d like to share any family diaries or letters here, that’s great – I’ll include attribution, and if you want to provide a biographical sketch of the writer that can be generally confirmed I’ll include that too.  Images of the documents themselves are a plus – I have to be responsible and try to limit the risk of posting phony stuff.

And, if you know of a published work or website, even if it should be obvious to me, shout it out.

Letter above by a civilian observer from this site.

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Diary 7/19/1861 – Pvt. John Henry Cowin, Co. D, 5th AL

18 11 2009

Fortunately for us we had not much rain last night.  Slept very soundly, three of us under one blanket.  The trees kept off the heavy dew.  Four or five of the boys came in this morning.  They broke down on the road and were left behind.  Brother came back from the Junction, where he went yesterday of account of being sick.  He states that father is very unwell, not being able to walk at all.  He was quite uneasy yesterday as he thought we were in the fight.  The enemy sent over a flag of truce this morning asking permission to bury their dead.  They say that they lost fifteen hundred men.  The correct list is however hard to get at.  Our loss is thought to be between fifteen and thirty killed and forty or fifty wounded.  Have not heard a gun today.  The bearer of the flag of truce states that they retired to Centreville and are throwing up breastworks, thinking that we are pursuing them.  We are again placed in the bushes to prevent the enemy from crossing to our side of the creek.  We have orders to charge them should they attempt a crossing.  Col Rodes says he wants to give the Greensboro boys a chance at the enemy the first opportunity and he thinks this the best way to do it.  The glorious news of the repulse of Patterson by Johns[t]on came in this afternoon.  It is said that he has driven him beyond the Potomac, which we hope may be true.  Whether it be true or not Johns[t]on has sent Beauregard four thousand men to reinforce this line.  An attack is expected and all the sick have been removed from the Junction; Among those sent by Johns[t]on to Beauregard is Col Syd Moore’s regiment.  The Yankees have made no advance today.  Guess they do not like southern balls and bayonets.  At Winchester where the engagement took place between Johns[t]on and Patterson, Johns[t]on found he could not dislodge the enemy from their works, he gave the order to storm them.  The South Carolina boys pitched in and ran over their works in short order, completely routing them, capturing their artillery and ammunition and fifty prisoners, who arrived at the Junction yesterday.  Our provisions got pretty short today, but fortunately some were sent down to us, and we pitched in like a pack of hungry wolves.  We have nothing but hard crackers and fat meat.  Our cooking utensils consist of sticks sharpened at one end, upon which we put our meat and hold to the fire until done.  It eats firstrate too especially when a fellow is hungry.  We sleep again tonight under the trees and bushes.

Source – G. Ward Hubbs, ed. Voices from Company D, p 21





Diary 7/18/1861 – Pvt. John Henry Cowin, Co. D, 5th AL

17 11 2009

[Describing fight at Blackburn's Ford]

Arose early this morning and broiled a piece of meat on the coals for breakfast.  After eating, we were marched off about a half mile to a bridge across Bull Run where we were stationed along the banks of the creek and on the railroad.  We had been here but a short time, when we heard the booming of artillery, in the direction from which we came yesterday.  The firing was kept up all day, ceasing three times only for a few minutes.  When we heard the connonading and occasional volleys of musketry, our company was placed in the bushes to watch for the approach of the enemy.  We remained there all day.  This afternoon Lieut Williams, who was left behind yesterday, came in and reported a great battle fought about three quarters of a mile from where we first went yesterday at a place called Mitchell’s Ford.  The enemy eighteen thousand strong attacked our forces four thousand strong.  The attack was made with both artillery and infantry.  Our forces had the Washington Artillery from New Orleans.  They first attacked the centre and endeavored to take our battery, but were repulsed with heavy loss.  They then attacked the right wing, but were again repulsed.  After this they collected themselves and made another attack on the left and were for the third time repulsed with even greater slaughter than before.  They then retired from the field.  When they attempted to storm the battery, they were allowed to march up to within a short distance of it when our infantry rose up and turned loose a volley into them which completely routed them.  They ran in the utmost confusion.  After going some distance they rallied, when Genl Bonham gave the order to charge them, but before our troops could get near them they broke and ran like sheep before wolves.  Report says that we lost sixteen killed and forty or fifty wounded.  Their loss is estimated at from five hundred to a thousand killed and wounded.  The Yankees made a bold stand for awhile, but could not contend against southern bayonets and the Washington Artillery.  Received two letters today, one from Brother, the other from Aunt Ann.  (Mrs. Cheney) All well at home and the crop good.  He says there is [not?] a danger of Lincoln starving us out.  To night we have every indication of a heavy rain, as we can hear the distant rumbling of the thunder and the clouds are flying overhead.  We have to sleep in the bushes and but few of the men have blankets.  Father sent me a blanket, but I could not find the man he sent it by, so have to do the best I can and take the rain if it comes.

Source – G. Ward Hubbs, ed. Voices from Company D, pp 20-21





CWPT Website

17 11 2009

The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) has resource pages for various battles, including First Bull Run here.  There’s some pretty cool stuff there, including a link to a video tour by R. E. L. Krick, and also one to Bull Runnings.  Check it out.





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





Good Job, True Blood Writers!

13 11 2009

Bill

I was watching an older episode of HBO’s True Blood series in which Bill Compton, aka Vampire Bill, was addressing a historical society.  He mentioned that he served during the Civil War (remember, he’s a vampire) in the 28th Louisiana Infantry, formed in 1862 under a Colonel Gray.  Later in the episode, he recalled making his way back home to Bon Temps, when he stopped by a cabin in the woods.  The female occupant informed Bill, before turning him into a vampire of course, that her husband was a member of the 13th Louisiana and had fought at Shiloh under Colonel Gibson.  What’s so cool about this?  Well, other than Bill being a vampire and all, it’s historically accurate.  The 28th was raised in 1862 under Colonel Gray (keep in mind there were two 28th LA regiments), and the 13th did fight at Shiloh under Colonel Gibson (who I think was actually in command of his brigade there).  Nice going, guys!  Now, about the yellow trim on Bill’s uniform jacket…

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Not So Exciting After All

9 11 2009

RichardsonI was excited.  Author Jack C. Mason had discovered a hundred or so letters written by Israel B. Richardson – mortally wounded as a major-general at Antietam and a colonel and brigade commander in Daniel Tyler’s division at First Bull Run – and used them to produce Until Antietam: The Life and Letters of Major General Israel B. Richardson, U. S. Army.  Great – fair usage would allow me to add to the resources section Richardson’s letters pertaining to Blackburn’s Ford and Bull Run.  After a long wait for the publication, I ordered the book from Amazon and received it last week.  The book is 202 pages of text, and in addition to other sources used Richardson’s unpublished letters as a basis for a full biography.  But silly me, I assumed by something in the title (oh, I don’t know, maybe the Life AND LETTERS part?) that the letters were included.  Sadly they are not.  This may be a kick-ass biography (I don’t know, I haven’t read it yet), but it is not a Life and Letters book.  Oh well, you live and learn

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