Bull Runnings Elsewhere

6 03 2010

Facebook friend Garry Adelman alerted me to this site for the Averasboro (NC) Battlefield and Museum, which features a snippet from this article I wrote on the death of Willie Hardee at the Battle of Bentonville.  I’m flattered they used my article, but wish they had linked to it so interested folks could read the whole thing.  In addition, I’ve written articles on Hardee in-law William Kirkland and on the town in which Willie is interred, Hillsborough, NC.  Check them out.

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Bull Run in the News – Kenton Harper, 5th VA

6 03 2010

Due to the transient nature of online newspaper urls, I’m going to depart from my custom of simply linking to OPW (other people’s work) and reproduce in its entirety this article from Staunton’s News Leader.  Kenton Harper was colonel of the 5th VA Infantry in Jackson’s Brigade (which means he was not “one of Bee’s officers”).

Kenton Harper Left Large Footprint in Staunton

By Charles Culbertson • mail@stauntonhistory.com • March 6, 2010

The moment was not going well for Confederate forces in the first major land battle of the Civil War. A coordinated Union attack at 11:30 a.m., July 21, 1861, had driven forces under Gen. Barnard Bee to the Henry House Hill near Manassas and was on the verge of breaking the line.

Suddenly, one of Bee’s officers — 60-year-old Col. Kenton Harper of Staunton — approached him and pointed out the presence of five regiments of Virginia troops under Col. Thomas J. Jackson that had just arrived on the scene.
Bee quickly made his way to Jackson and said, “The enemy are driving us,” to which Jackson reportedly replied, “Then, sir, we will give them the bayonet.”

At that point Bee is said to have shouted to his men, “There stands Jackson like a stone wall! Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Follow me!”

Some have claimed that Bee’s statement was perjorative — that Jackson was “standing there like a damned stone wall.” Whatever he said or how he meant it — we will never know, for Bee was mortally wounded moments later — his command rallied with Jackson’s men, who routed Union forces and helped win the First Battle of Manassas for the South.
Jackson, of course, received the immortal sobriquet, “Stonewall.”

It is unlikely that Bee was being critical of Jackson. Harper, a renowned Staunton publisher, politician, soldier and farmer, had little reason to either like Jackson or to portray him in a favorable light. Just before his death at age 66 in 1867, Harper told the editor of the Staunton Spectator that Bee’s words had been:

“Rally here! Look how these Virginians stand like a stone wall!”

Harper’s experience with the quirky professor from Virginia Military Institute began in April 1861. A major general in the Virginia state militia, Harper was given command of the 5th Virginia Infantry Regiment and marched out of Staunton with 2,400 men to seize the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry.

The assault was a success, with Harper’s men salvaging thousands of muskets, as well as milling machines, lathes and other supplies. Later that month, Harper was replaced in favor of Jackson, a move that irritated Harper and angered many of the officers serving under him.

He was further alienated from Jackson when, in September 1861, Jackson denied him leave to be by his dying wife’s side.

But Harper was bigger than his grievances, having forged a long and fruitful career through diligence, honor and competency. He continued to serve the Confederate cause despite fragile health that was exacerbated by the rigors of war.

Born in Chambersburg, Pa., in 1801, Harper grew up in the printing business, learning the trade from his father, who published the Franklin County Repository. In 1823, he moved to Staunton where he purchased the Republican Farmer and changed its name to the Staunton Spectator.

In 1836 Harper began serving as a state legislator and, in 1840, filled a year’s term as Staunton’s mayor. When the U.S. went to war with Mexico in 1846, Harper was appointed a captain in the 1st Virginia Infantry, commanding the Augusta County volunteers in the northern frontier of Mexico.

Although he never saw action, his “soldierly demeanor was so marked” that he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and given a military governorship in Parras, Northern Mexico. He was officially commended for the manner in which he conducted himself in that post.

Mustered out of service in 1848, Harper returned to Staunton where he sold the Spectator to the Waddell family. Soon he was appointed under President Millard Fillmore as U.S. agent to the Chicasaws at Fort Washita in the Indian Territory, a post he administered with distinction. His service there led to an appointment as assistant to the Secretary of the Interior — a post held by another Staunton resident, Alexander H.H. Stuart.

At the end of his term, Harper returned to Staunton where he worked his Augusta County farm, “Glen Allen,” and served as the president of the Bank of the Valley. By 1860 he was a major general in the Virginia state militia, a post that led to his military involvement in the Civil War.

After Jackson refused him permission to visit his dying wife, Harper resigned his commission and returned to Staunton for her funeral. He was again elected into the state legislature and, in 1864, was re-appointed as a colonel. Forming a regiment from reservist companies, he led them in battle at Piedmont and again at Waynesboro.

Two years after the war, Harper contracted pneumonia. Some of his last words were reported as, “I would not live always; I ask not to stay.” He died on Christmas Day, 1867.

Upon his death, the newspaper he had founded wrote, “His memory we should not willingly let die, his example of a virtuous life and peaceful death should long remain to point to each of us the lesson of the fineness he so truly illustrated.”

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A Volunteer at the First Bull Run – H. Seymour Hall

5 03 2010

A VOLUNTEER AT THE FIRST BULL RUN

BY COMPANION H. SEYMOUR HALL, Brevet Brigadier General U.S.V. May 4, 1892

WAR TALKS IN KANSAS: A SERIES OF PAPERS READ BEFORE THE KANSAS COMMANDERY OF THE MILITARY ORDER OF THE LOYAL LEGION OF THE UNITED STATES, pp. 143-159

On Wednesday, April 17, 1861, after attendance at morning prayers in the chapel of Genesee College, Lima, N. Y., Truman L. Bowman and myself, both student boys who expected to graduate at the June commencement, challenged each other to enlist as soldiers in a regiment which Prof. Quinby, of Rochester University, had begun to organize at Rochester, N. Y., twenty miles away. We discontinued attendance on our recitations and imparted the project to our fellow-students, a number of whom were eager to follow our example, thus threatening to demoralize classes and considerably diminish the somewhat slender attendance in the college, so that on Monday, April 22d, the college president, Rev. J. Morrison Reid, D.D., late missionary secretary of the Methodist Episcopal Church, called a public mass-meeting of students and citizens in college chapel to capture and control these prospective soldiers. The chapel was crowded with people, and amid the most intense excitement, Doctor Reid was chosen to preside, and my friend and classmate, Charles H. Hickmott, secretary. After a most fervent and patriotic prayer, President Reid made a speech, advocating the organisation of a company to remain at home, complete our college course, drill for exercise, so as to be ready when needed; which time of need had not, in his opinion, yet come, though President Lincoln had called for 75,000 men.

The next speech followed a similar line of argument, the speaker being one whom I most admired and respected, our professor in French and German, William Wells, Ph.D., now filling the chair of modern language at Union College, Schenectady, N. Y. Others followed in the same strain, but all failed to touch the hearts of the people. Hall and Bowman were then called for, and both briefly and emphatically announced their purpose to become soldiers at once, at which the wildest enthusiasm was manifested. This was embarrassing to Doctor Reid, who looked over the audience for someone to call to his relief; observing Mr. John Mosher, the only banker in the village, the doctor asked him to give his views. Mr. Mosher rose deliberately, the people eagerly listened as he said with marked emphasis, “I have $100 to help fit out a company for immediate service.” There was small solace in this for our president, so again he sought for reinforcements, this time calling on Colonel Alexander McCane, of the War of 1812. The colonel promptly stood up, towered majestically above his fellows, planted his cane on the floor as if obeying the command, “Order arms,” and said with military brevity and vim, “I have another $100 to put with Mr. Mosher’s.” Utterly routed by this combination of finance and military strategy, Dr. Reid sought to rally his forces behind that honest farmer, Squire Calvin E. Vary, who had given several thousand of his hard-earned dollars to endow the college, was then one of its trustees, and had driven in from his farm to witness the proceedings. Says the doctor, “What does Squire Vary think?” Up rose the stalwart squire, showing his tall and massive form, and enunciated as his proposition, “All I have to say is, that I have another $100 to help those boys along, and will put with that just as much more as is necessary to organize the company. I move that this meeting be now adjourned.” Those three gentlemen then came to me and said, “Come down town with us; to-night we will hold a meeting in Concert Hall, and organize a company for immediate service.”

A meeting was held, rousing speeches by men who staid safely at home, encouraged the boys to join the company which it was resolved to organize, and while the meeting was full of enthusiasm and patriotic ardor, it was lacking in information. No one knew how to proceed or what were the pay and allowances of a soldier; none of us had ever seen a muster-roll nor a volume of tactics. The next morning I wrote out a brief pledge of enlistment, took it to a teacher of penmanship, had it beautifully copied at the top of a half-sheet of foolscap paper, pasted other half-sheets to it, and we signed our names to this, the first muster-roll of the “Lima Volunteers.” My roll filled up rapidly, and those under twenty-one years of age were required to bring the written consent of their parents before signing the roll. I find on my memorandum-book used at that time thirty-one names of boys for whom I had written out these certificates of consent for their parents to sign, and remember many others to whom I also furnished them, one-half the company at least being minors. President Reid had sent me a summons to resume attendance on my classes, to which I paid no attention, so he repeated it, coupled with the notice that I would be expelled if I did not comply, to which my reply was more emphatic than courteous; but I was not expelled. My friend General Horace Boughton, lately buried at Arlington, came out from Rochester recruiting for General Quinby’s regiment, into which he was mustered as captain. T. L. Bowman enlisted with him, and I saw Bowman no more till 1866, when he came to St. Louis, Mo., with Stilson Hutchings, as one of the Times editors, when Hutchings and Hodnett established the St. Louis Daily Times. When our ranks were full, the local citizens’ committee proposed that we elect officers, and they said that Colonel James Perkins was an experienced military man, who, in addition to his exhaustive knowledge of military science, would with his sixty years be like a father to us, and as some of us were orphans and strangers in the town, except for our few months’ residence there as students, we gladly ratified their choice.

They then proposed as lieutenant, Philo D. Phillips, who had commanded a company of “Wide-Awakes,” armed with torches, in the presidential campaign of 1860—so of course he knew all about war. As none of us knew anything about it, we also confirmed this selection, and were proud of our acquisition. Now our college, through its president and others, showed its deep interest in our welfare; not deep enough, however, to confer the degrees upon those of us who would have graduated in June had we not enlisted, as all other colleges in the North did on their students under similar circumstances, but deep enough to recommend as third officer, commissioned by the State as ensign, Thomas D. Bancroft, a student who it was claimed had served in Jim Lane’s thirty-day company that General Lane organized at Washington in March; hence Bancroft could allege experience as well as knowledge. But the boys knew Bancroft and drew the line there. They came to me and said: “You were the first one to enlist and interest others to do so, you have done all the business; the men whom we have elected captain and lieutenant have not taken part with us, nor done anything to entitle them to the places to which we have elected them; you ought to have had first place, all we can do now is to give you the next position, and we propose to make you ensign.” Knowing my entire lack of experience, I was entirely willing to remain in the ranks as I had begun, and so stated to my comrades, but they unanimously elected me. The ladies made a beautiful United States flag and presented it to the company in the Methodist church, which, large as it is, was much too small to hold the audience that gathered to witness the scene and hear the service of religious and patriotic prayer, songs, and speeches. As the ensign was supposed to have something to do with the colors, and for other reasons, it devolved upon me to receive the beautiful emblem from the hands of the ladies and to respond to the presentation speech. We soon learned that our company color could not be carried, but I kept it with the boys in every campaign and adorned our company headquarters with it in every camp, as long as I served with the company.

The ladies also made havelocks out of fine white flannel and gave each of us one to wear to protect our heads from the hot sun, and they supplied each soldier boy with an elegant pocket needle-book of their own handiwork, so liberally furnished with pins, buttons, needles, and thread that if we could have caught the Rebels asleep, we could have sewed them up so tight that they could not have fired a gun. The committee gave each man a blanket, which was trimmed and bound by the same fair hands.

When our .company was filled up to the maximum, Esquire Vary took our foolscap roll to Albany to have our company accepted by the State. Governor Morgan had called some of the members of the military committee of the Senate to advise with him, among them Dean Richmond and Erastus Corning, and when our services were tendered, all were of the opinion that no more men were needed, and that those already accepted by the State of New York could alone put down the Rebellion.

The squire was about to telegraph to us to disband, when he met Captain Joseph J. Chambers, who had recruited a company in Westchester County, and was now at the capital tendering its services to the State. Captain Chambers, whom I afterwards knew well, went before the Governor and the committee, to urge the acceptance of his own and the few other companies whose tender of service had not been accepted. He had been private secretary to Governor Myron H. Clark and was well known to Governor Morgan and his advisers. Having failed to change their decision by argument, and he could make a strong one, and was a ready speaker when aroused, though he stammered very badly at other times, he picked up a heavy chair and backed against the door of the executive chamber, saying, “B-b-b-by G-G-od! you d-d-d-don’t get out of this room t-t-t-till you accept these co-co-co-companies.” Whether for this or for some other reason, our company was accepted, and about the 30th day of April, 1861, Major C. E. Babbitt, a State officer, mustered the company into the service of the State of New York, and on the 7th day of May we were ordered to rendezvous at Elmira. I had procured a copy of Hardee’s Infantry Tactics and studied and practiced drilling, so that when thousands of people came to see us off, we could march quite like soldiers. We rode in wagons and coaches seven miles to Avon Springs, where a crowd so large and enthusiastic awaited us that we could hardly make our way to the cars. At Corning orders were received to stop off and quarter in the State Arsenal there, as there was no room for us in barracks at Elmira. By order of Captain Perkins, I proceeded to Elmira, to arrange to unite our company with some regiment, where I found several already containing five to eight companies each, their full complement of field and staff officers chosen, which gave companies joining later no voice in the selection of the regimental officers. This was not satisfactory to me, and I soon found representatives of other companies who took the same view of it that I did; consequently we formed an organization of our own, called ours the ‘”Union Regiment,” agreeing that no one should be selected for any field or staff position till ten companies were admitted. We made up that number about May 18th, near which time occurred my first meeting with General H. W. Slocum. He was in Elmira at the request of some gentlemen of another organization, expecting to be their colonel, but the election was delayed by officers who had other views. Learning something about him, and that he was a graduate of West Point, had seen service, and afterwards successfully engaged in business, I sought an introduction to him, and, without his knowledge, heartily pressed the suggestion that the officers of our regiment meet to elect a colonel. We did so, elected Slocum colonel without a dissenting voice, and sent a committee to notify him; he came in with them on their return and at once accepted.

The ten companies composing the regiment were organized in different counties of the State, as specified, and commanded at that time by Captains Joseph Chambers, Westchester County; Joseph J. Bartlett, Broome; Peter Jay, Broome; A. D. Adams, Wayne; C. C. Gardner, Dutchess; James Perkins, Lima, Livingston; C. E. Martin, Mt. Morris, Livingston; G. G. Wanzer, Monroe; H. L. Achilles, Orleans; and S. M. Harman, Allegheny. The regimental organization was then completed by our election of Captain Chambers as lieutenant-colonel and Captain Bartlett as major. Our company was ordered to Elmira and mustered into the service of the United States with the regiment for two years from the 21st of May, 1861, and Colonel Slocum at once began regular instruction and drill. This was the 27th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, and we were Company G. We learned our camp duty and the drill quite easy, but were somewhat particular about our rations in those days, and on one occasion when the beef was a little too fresh and lively, the boys of Company E securely boxed their dinner allowance, formed a procession, to the tune of “The Rogues’ March,” to an improvised cemetery in the orchard, and after a moving funeral oration by Judge Albion W. Tourgee, then a private in the company, buried their beef with all the honors of war. General Slocum, who was absent from camp, heard of it on his return. Tourgee says: “Some very strong language was indulged in, and afterwards a very nice fellow—one of those genteel fellows with a gun—came to me. He was very polite to me, and stated that the colonel wanted to see me at his quarters. I didn’t want to be rude, so I went. The colonel was smoking, not very quietly, and was talking to himself quite emphatically. He asked me if I had anything to do with ‘that operation.’ I did not know exactly to what he referred, but finally admitted that I might have been there. Then he asked me if I did not know that my conduct was derogatory to good discipline and in defiance of authority, and that upon me rested the fate of the country. I had never looked upon it in that light, and remarked that I never knew that beef had any particular rank, and that I thought it ought to be confined. He gave me a kind lecture, for which I was very thankful, and afterwards I found him a kind commander.” Our drill, spiced with similar incidents, went on till about the 8th of July, when we started for the front. At Williamsport, Pa., we found a fine supper prepared, and the enthusiasm of the people and the eagerness of the ladies to serve us with every delicacy of the table are yet well remembered. We arrived in Washington on the 10th and were quartered on Franklin Square, where were just barracks enough for our regiment. Guard-mounting, drill, target practice, and dress parade kept us busy by day, while the study of tactics and Army Regulations was the chief occupation of some of us when off duty. 

Our regimental quartermaster had been a village hotelkeeper at Lima, whose business experience in other directions was limited. When I called on him for company books and blanks, he said he had tried to get them, but they were not to be had. In looking around the city I had been to the War Department, and again I called on General George D. Ruggles, then a captain in the Adjutant-General’s office, and told him what Lieutenant Hamilton.said. He replied that car-loads of such supplies were on hand, suggesting that if I would send a man from each company, he would send the regiment a full supply. I reported the matter to Colonel Slocum, and we were soon supplied with books and blanks.

We left Franklin Square at 2 p. m., Monday, July 15th, crossed Long Bridge into Virginia, bivouacking at midnight, after what then seemed to us a tremendous march, six and one-half miles east of Fairfax Court House, momentarily expecting to meet the enemy. Under Colonel Andrew Porter, as brigade commander, we pushed on at 7 a. m., July 16th, toward Fairfax Court House, finding our road obstructed by fallen trees, which we had to remove, so that we did not reach the enemy’s works at the Court House till noon, when we found their works deserted, took possession, and remained for the night. On the morning of July 17th we advanced about half a mile beyond the village toward Centerville, where we came upon abundant evidences of the hasty flight of the enemy, blankets, tents, and arms being found plentifully strewn around in the vicinity of our camp. At this place one of our boys, a very young and slender freshman, a good soldier, found and brought to me an ancient and curious saber; the sharply curved blade is finely tempered, the ebony grip is clasped in the middle by a band of silver enlarged on one side into an oval plate bearing an eagle supporting a shield, in his talons arrows and olive branch, all beneath a constellation of thirteen stars, the silver guard terminating in a finely engraved eagle’s head of the same precious metal. I carefully preserve it, and have endeavored in vain to learn its history.

From this place we moved at 3 p. m. to within three miles of Centerville, where I made use of a tent which fell into my hands at Fairfax, upon which was marked, “Major Cabell, C. S. A.” Two hours after midnight the long roll called us out in the rain, but no enemy appeared. We remained in this place until we advanced to the attack. Our division commander, Colonel David Hunter, having his carriage and headquarters under a tree just across the road, where we saw squads of prisoners occasionally brought in. Saturday, July 20th, we received three days’ rations, with orders to cook and take them in our haversacks, and be ready to move at 2 a. m., Sunday, July 21st. Saturday night was a warm, beautiful moonlight night, and as the boys lay grouped around, they speculated whether the enemy would not retreat as he had done from Fairfax Court House, and some expressed doubts of our ever getting sight of him. I said to them that, having some acquaintance with Southern people, my opinion was that our desire to meet them would be fully satisfied.

Our discussion was closed by the first notes of the opening performance of the famous Marine Band of Washington, which accompanied our brigade, and just on the eve of battle their exquisite music was listened to in silence, and when the band finally closed with the familiar and touching strains of “Home, Sweet Home,” the eloquent silence remained unbroken till Sunday morning, July 21st, at half past 1, when we quietly aroused the men from their dreams of home and friends which many of them would never realize. Our division was the flanking column, which was to turn the enemy’s left by way of Sudley Springs and Ford, our brigade being second in line, the order of march being Griffin’s Battery; Battalion of Marines, Major John J. Reynolds; Twenty-Seventh Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, Colonel H. W. Slocum; Fourteenth New York State Militia, Colonel A. M. Wood; Eighth New York State Militia, Colonel George Lyons; Battalion Regular Infantry, Major George Sykes; one company Second Dragoons, two companies First Cavalry, four companies Second Cavalry, Major I. N. Palmer.

The road was obstructed by the troops en route to their position at the stone bridge, so that we did not cover the three miles to Centerville till 5, and it was nearly 7 when our brigade filed to the right at an old shop four miles beyond Centerville, and one-half mile beyond Cub Run Bridge on the Warrenton Turnpike, at which point the flanking movement really began. We followed an old abandoned road through the woods, which meandered somewhat near the general course of Bull Run, about two miles from it, till we came to Thornton’s, where our course changed to the southwest directly to Sudley’s Ford, which we reached about 10, having marched since 2 a. m., twelve and one-half miles only, though it seemed a great achievement at the time. Colonel A. E. Burnside’s brigade had crossed and were resting; we halted for rest and to fill our canteens before crossing Bull Run, and half an hour later, as the enemy was discovered, we crossed the ford while Burnside’s brigade was deploying. Our captain fell out exhausted as to the double quick we passed in rear of Burnside’s line, now hotly engaged, to take our place on his right. The shells of the Rebel artillery fell around us, damaging and demoralizing us slightly, the first casualty that I saw being the killing of two men of Major Sykes’ battalion by one shell. As we moved out across the open fields an incident occurred that I have a vivid recollection of, which was also witnessed by others, and which is so well recounted by Dr. W. H. Coe, now of Auburn, New York, that I will quote it from his letter to me:

“Auburn, N. Y., April 23, 1888

“General H. S. Hall:

“My dear Sir,—You will no doubt remember me as one of the original members of Company G, Twenty-seventh Regiment New York Volunteers, enlisted on Seminary Hill at Lima, April 23, 1861, nine days after the fall of Sumter. I was only a lad then, and was required to get the written consent of my parents allowing me to enlist. I attended a reunion of the Twenty-seventh at Mt. Morris last fall, at which only seven or eight of Company G were present. General Slocum was present, now slow in his motions, stocky in person, and getting white with age. I find on inquiry for this one or that one, that I am oftener answered ‘Dead’ than otherwise. I have been told that you went well up in the service after the Twenty-seventh boys came home, and that you left an arm down South. But I want to refer back to 1861, and our march from Centerville to Bull Run, and as we went on double quick across the fields in rear of the line of battle to take our place near the right of the line in such a position that we could see the hard fighting going on as we passed along, and knew that we were going into the same; then where was Captain Perkins? Poor man, he had tired out, and was not fit at his age to endure such marching; the company being led by First Lieutenant Phillips; then I well remember seeing lieutenant Phillips step back from the head of the company and say, ‘Lieutenant Hall, will you lead the company?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ said Lieutenant Hall, and immediately exchanged places with Lieutenant Phillips; and so Lieutenant Hall led the company through the first great battle of the war. I want your boys to understand this, and remember it as a bit of military history. You may have forgotten this item in the rush of changes of those days, but I distinctly remember it.”

The direction of our attack was nearly south along the Sudley and New Market Road, and as we advanced the enemy on the east of that road, under Bee, Bartow, and Evans, gallantly held their ground till our regiment was ordered to charge down the road upon their supports and turn their position by their left and rear.

Without halting, we rushed down the hill, driving infantry and artillery from their position near a stone house in the angle formed by the road we were on and the Warrenton Turnpike, and as they fell back to the heights across the turnpike we filed around the stone house facing to the rear of and advancing upon General Bee’s position, up the hill towards a grove of oak trees in which his.left was posted. At this moment the enemy, finding their left turned by us, retired by their right, and we saw them moving out of the grove parallel to our front, deliberately making signs, as if they were friends. Their colors were furled, and their gray uniforms did not sufficiently designate them, as many of our own troops wore the same color. We were yet lacking in discipline, so while some of us shouted, “Fire!” others yelled, “Don’t shoot; it is a Massachusetts regiment, or the Eighth New York.” Tall Bob Frazee at my elbow on the right of my company, with a voice like a fog-horn, shouted to them, “Show your colors,” when they shook out the Rebel flag and opened a terrific fire of musketry on us. That settled it, and gallantly and coolly directed by Colonel Slocum, Lieutenant-Colonel Chambers, and Major Bartlett, we gave them the best we had. Their batteries and reserves on our right rear across the Warrenton Pike joined in the fight, and when one company seemed somewhat nervous, Lieutenant-Colonel Chambers encouraged them by saying, “Ne-ne-ne-never mind a f-f-few shells, boys; G-G-G-God Almighty is m-m-merciful.” One lieutenant, with the large whites of his eyes showing like saucers, manfully stood his post and fired his revolver in the air. Riding up and down the rear of the regiment, the lieutenant-colonel continued his Scriptural injunctions, and noticing my company doing the most telling execution, said, “G-g-g-give it to ‘em, b-b-boys; God l-l-loves a cheerful g-g-giver.” The troops that engaged us soon passed over Young’s Branch and across the Warrenton Turnpike out of sight near the Robinson house with their main line and batteries, and as our regiment was without support, Colonel Slocum withdrew it up the hill into the grove from which the troops we had encountered came, receiving a bullet through the leg while directing the movement. Major Bartlett then assumed command of the regiment, he says by order of Colonel Slocum, and gallantly commanded us during the remainder of the action. An ambulance was brought to the grove, the colonel was put in, and, accompanied by the lieutenant of the elevated revolver, started for Washington. We were next formed in line on the ridge from which we had charged down upon the enemy around the stone house, this time advancing to the assault of the enemy on the Henry House Hill, south of the Warrenton Pike. There had been very little concert of action in the earlier part of the battle, and there was still less now, seeming to be no simultaneous advance of lines, divisions, or brigades, regiments going in here and there singly and being repulsed one by one. We advanced to the turnpike for the second time, now to the west of Sudley Road, crossed it and Young’s Branch, and moved up to the assault just as Ellsworth’s Zouaves and other regiments gave way, when we were retired in good order under a heavy fire, in rear of the ridge from which we had set out. A large body of disorganized men had gathered there, and General McDowell, accompanied by Major Wadsworth of his staff, rode up to Major Bartlett, and the general said that our regiment was so steady and reliable that he desired us to move upon the crest of the ridge as the foundation of a new line, which should show a firm front until we were relieved, and I have always thought he added, “by General Patterson, who will soon be here.”

We obeyed the order, other troops forming on our right and left, and off to the west we could see columns of soldiers moving towards us, which I supposed to be the expected relief. Soon without any apparent cause the troops on our extreme right began to pass in our rear as if of a common impulse, neither did I hear any orders for the movement, and when it reached our regiment we went with the rest. There were no signs of fright or panic, but soon ambulances, wagons, aid artillery became intermingled with the infantry, and very little semblance of organization remained. I had urged the company to keep together, and succeeded in keeping about twenty with me. We followed a road that led to a ford near the stone bridge, and forded Bull Run in plain sight of that bridge, just as the enemy’s artillery opened on the throng of men and teams crossing it, breaking down a loaded wagon almost on the center of the bridge obstructing its passage. Many of the drivers and some of the troops were seized with panic, and some teams and men wildly took to the woods. The cry of “Black Horse Cavalry!” was raised, which added to the confusion. The artillery fire did very little damage, nor did any cavalry appear to me, though I looked carefully in all directions.

As our little party was making its way steadily along near the road, an ambulance dashed past us, at the rear of which we saw our captain hanging on for dear life with one hand, his long legs flying in the air as he ran in his desperate efforts to keep up, while with the other hand he held on his shoulder several officers’ sabers. We soon came up with him lying exhausted by the side of the road, when Bob Frazee and I took his sabers, and, supporting him on each side, helped him along till two mounted officers overtook us, when I appealed to them, saying, “Gentlemen, for God’s sake can’t you give our captain a lift; he is old and completely exhausted?” One of them said, “I will,” dismounted, and we lifted Captain Perkins into his saddle. I inquired his name, which I have forgotten, but think he was assistant surgeon of the 79th Regiment, New York State Militia. Some distance further on we again came up with the captain, when Captain Seymour Pierce, then our first sergeant, and Lieutenant J. E. Briggs, then sergeant, helped him along till they got him into a wagon which took him to Washington. Our quartermaster had gone out with his horse and buggy, and Captain Perkins was riding with him when the stampede began; before this some officers of the regiment had asked to have their swords carried in the buggy, so Captain Perkins had taken charge of them. When the shelling began and the cry of “Black Horse Cavalry!” was raised, the quartermaster took through the timber with his buggy, soon broke an axle, setting our captain afoot, his appearance clinging to the ambulance being the first we had seen of him since he dropped out near the Sudley Ford in the morning. We halted at Centerville soon after dark, and lying down on the ground, I soon fell asleep. When I awoke, the sun, shining full in my face, was over an hour high. Not a sound was to be heard, so stirring myself, rising and looking around where an army was bivouacked when I had lain down the night before, not a human being, friend or foe, was in sight, except Captain E. H. Brady, then one of my sergeants. Gathering up the swords that the captain had left with me, Brady and I did not stop to pay our bill, make our toilet, or order breakfast, but steadily advanced backwards in good order towards Fairfax Court House.

We were soon overtaken by two men of the Second Wisconsin Regiment, mounted double on a confiscated horse. Seeing my extra equipment of swords, one of the men kindly offered to carry one of them for me, and I gladly handed him the first one that came to hand without noticing which or whose it was. Unfortunately, I never could remember his name, and the sword never was restored to its owner, who proved to be Lieutenant Coan, to whom it had been presented by Albion, N. Y., friends, hence its loss by his voluntary abandonment of it to the care of another was quite mortifying to him. The others I brought into Washington and restored to their owners, who seemed to take it as a matter of course that some brother officer should load up with the side-arms that they had divested themselves of on the field of battle. I never constituted myself an armor-bearer to any of them thereafter.

At Fairfax Court House many teams and wagons were abandoned; public, regimental, and officers’ property strewed the ground on all sides, in the midst of which we saw a mounted officer, whom as we came nearer I recognized to be General James S. Wadsworth, of Geneseo, N. Y., then a major of militia, serving as volunteer, aide-de-camp to General McDowell. I approached him and said, “Sir, we belong to the Lima Volunteers, from your county; can we be of any service to you?” He replied that we could help him make a train of the abandoned wagons, by getting the soldiers that were occasionally coming in to hitch up and take charge of teams, which we did, and made up quite a train, which we took into Alexandria, sending the wagons to their proper regiments. When we left Fairfax Court House, it was fully 9 a. m. of July 22d, and there was as yet no sight or sound of pursuit by the enemy. General Wadsworth was still there without one single orderly, guard, or escort, engaged in his efforts to save property and to forward such soldiers as had been left behind. It was characteristic of the man, who with his great wealth, which he had used freely to send supplies into Washington at an earlier day, never availed himself of it to avoid service, but bore a gallant soldier’s part, did a soldier’s duty, and died a soldier’s death at the head of his division in the Wilderness. We went into Alexandria without further adventure, where several men of the 27th Regiment had made their way, whom I gathered together, drew rations for, and put them in temporary quarters, reporting to the regiment by telegraph, started for our camp on Franklin Square, Washington, at 4 p. m., and reached there with thirty-five men of the regiment at 7 p. m., July 23d.

The loss of our regiment at the battle of Bull Run, in killed, wounded, and missing was 130, 60 of whom were missing. Thirty-five returned to us from Libby Prison in January, 1862, among them seven belonging to my company. The fate of the other twenty-five missing men I never knew.

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Manus (Jack) Fish, 1928-2010

5 03 2010

Manus “Jack” Fish, long time employee of the National Park Service and regional director of the National Capital Region (which includes the battlefields of Manassas and Antietam) from 1973 to his retirement in 1988, has died after suffering a stroke on February 27.  During his tenure as regional director, he oversaw significant expansion of Manassas National Battlefield Park.  He was big into tree planting, so I’m not sure how he viewed the current trend of restoring view-sheds on the battlefields.  Here is his obituary, and here is a longer biography, from which I got the photo at left.

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How First Bull Run was REALLY Lost

4 03 2010

Well, Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter hit the shelves day before yesterday.  By most accounts it’s a big hit, and may even be made into a movie (unlike some folks, I don’t see Johnny Depp as Abe – maybe John Wilkes Booth).  Anyway, seeing the book in Barnes and Noble today reminded me that there’s an, umm, interesting account of the fighting at Bull Run, and what turned the tide for the Confederacy.  An enlisted man in a Massachusetts regiment wrote home to his wife after the battle, in a letter residing in the Harvard University Archives (where it “has long been mistaken for a work of epistolary fiction”):

We had [the Confederates] whipped at the start.  Blessed with greater numbers, we drove south up Henry House Hill, and into a group of trees at its peak.  What a sight to see them scatter like mice!  To see our ranks spread half a mile wide!  Th hear the cracking of gunpowder from all directions!

“Let us chase them all the way to Georgia!” cried Colonel Hunter, to the delight of the men.

As we neared the top of the hill, the rebels covered their retreat by firing on us.  The gun smoke grew so thick that one could scarcely see ten yards into the trees where they hid.  From behind this curtain of smoke suddenly came a chorus of wild yells.  The voices of twenty or thirty men, growing louder by the moment.  “First Ranks!  Fix bayonets!” ordered the colonel.  As they did, a small band of Confederates emerged from the smoke, running toward us as fast as any men have ever run.  Even from a distance, I could see their strange, wild eyes.  There was not a rifle, or a pistol, or a sword among them.

Our first ranks began to fire, yet their rifles seemed to have no effect.  Melissa, I swear until my grave that I saw bullets strike these men in their chests.  In their limbs and faces. Yet they continued to charge as if they had not been hit at all!  The rebels smashed into our ranks and tore men apart all in front of my eyes.  I do not mean to suggest that they ran them through with bayonets, or fired on them with revolvers.  I mean to say that these rebels–these thirty unarmed men–tore one hundred men to pieces with nothing more than their bare hands.  I saw arms pulled off.  Heads twisted backward.  I saw blood pour from the throats and bellies of men gutted by mere fingertips; a boy grasping at the holes where his eyes had been a moment before.  A private three yards in front of me had his rifle plucked away.  I was close enough to feel his blood on my face as its stock was used to smash his skull in.  Close enough to taste his death on my tongue.

Our lines broke.  I am not ashamed to say that I dropped my rifle and ran with the others, Melissa.  The rebels gave chase, overtaking and savaging men on either side of me as we retreated.  Their screams following me down the hill.

Well, there you have it.  As if we needed any more proof of the evil that was the so-called Confederacy.  Just for fun,though, care to take a stab at the factual accuracy of the account, with the exception of bloodsucking assistance?

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The Regular Infantry in the First Bull Run Campaign – Dangerfield Parker

3 03 2010

THE REGULAR INFANTRY IN THE FIRST BULL RUN CAMPAIGN.

PERSONAL REMINISCENCES.

BY DANGERFIELD PARKER, MAJOR NINTH US INFANTRY

UNITED SERVICE – Volume XIII (1885), pp. 521-531

The rays of the afternoon sun of the 16th of July, 1861, were brightly reflected from the rifle-barrels of a compact little battalion of infantry just about to move from camp at Arlington Heights, Virginia, and take its place in the heavy column already beginning the march toward Fairfax Court-House. The battalion consisted of Companies C and G, Second, B, D, G, H, Third, and G, Eighth United States Infantry, under the command of Major George Sykes, Fourteenth Infantry (afterward major-general of volunteers, and in command of the Fifth Corps), who had recently been promoted from captain Third Infantry. Captain N. H. Davis, Second Infantry (now inspector-general United States Army) was the acting major. There were but few of the remaining officers who had had much experience in the field, they being for the most part either fresh from West Point or civil life.

It is not my purpose in this article to attempt an elaborate description of the campaign ending in the disastrous battle of Bull Run, for this has been done by far abler hands, but rather to relate the part taken in it by the little force to which I had the honor to belong, together with such incidents as will be likely, I trust, to interest the general reader. In order, however, to render my narrative intelligible, it will be necessary, here and there, to describe with as light a touch as I may, such dispositions of troops, etc., as may be requisite to throw into relief the role performed by the actors in my little drama.

Five companies, only, of the Third Infantry had succeeded, a few weeks previously, in withdrawing from Texas (where they were stationed before the war), the remaining ones having been taken prisoners at Indianola by an overwhelming force of Confederates, and afterwards paroled. They rejoined the regiment the ensuing year. I afterwards heard some of the older officers say that when this was effected, the enlisted men of these paroled companies were reported “Present or accounted for,” though many received tempting offers of commissions in the Confederate service.

The battalion which we have just seen as about to commence its march (1) formed a portion of the First Brigade (Porter’s), Second Division (Hunter’s). The troops composing the remainder of this brigade were: a battalion of seven companies of regular cavalry, belonging to the First and Second Regiments, and Second Dragoons, under the command of Major (now General) Innis Palmer, a battalion of marines under Major Reynolds, the Eighth, Fourteenth, and Twenty-seventh New York Infantry, and Griffin’s battery of the Fifth United States Artillery.

Before proceeding with our narrative it will not be amiss, perhaps, to take a glance at the city of Washington as it then appeared. But for the handsome public buildings scattered here and there, the place presented all the characteristics of a southern town,—and a second-rate one at that,—and bore no resemblance to the beautiful city of to-day. The streets were wretchedly paved and lighted, and, in spots, an air of shabbiness—not to say dilapidation—prevailed.

The troops that since the “call” of the President had been pouring into the city were, in part, the organized militia of the different States, and, in part, volunteers. All having been mustered into the United States service, however, this distinction was but a technical one. The streets of the city fairly swarmed with these troops; mounted orderlies galloped hither and yon, the music of the bands of incoming regiments filled the air, the hotel corridors were filled with embryo brigadiers, and all was excitement, bustle, and seeming confusion. I remember, but a few brief weeks before the period of which I write, to have met daily, General (then major in the adjutant-general’s department) McDowell on his way to muster in the latest arrived battalions. He was always in the full dress of that day,—i.e., the soft felt hat with ostrich feathers, epaulets, and sash; and I recall the impression made upon me by his fine physique and soldierly appearance.

So far as I am informed, the First Bull Run campaign was the only one in which the troops represented—regulars, militia, and volunteers— preserved their distinctive names, and, to a certain extent, uniforms. The last-named feature gave to the columns rather a parti-colored, not to say variegated, appearance. I recall that the Fourteenth New York, for instance (familiarly known as the Fourteenth Brooklyn), wore a semi-zouave uniform. The Twelfth New York Volunteers wore the full-dress hat of the regular infantry. There were a few regiments uniformed in gray,—Wisconsin and Minnesota troops,—and this fact gave rise during the battle to the report that one or more of these organizations were fired upon by our own men. I am under the impression also that some of the companies wore the old-fashioned “swallow-tail.”

But to resume. The march to Centreville was necessarily a tedious one. The troops were, as a body, raw, and almost all of them inexperienced in field service. So far as drill was concerned, most of them had some knowledge of company and battalion movements. But in regard to marching, target-practice, and the thousand and one details of practical soldiering, they were utterly, and necessarily so, uninstructed. The regular troops had quite a number of old soldiers in their ranks, with the usual sprinkling of recruits. The paucity of their numbers—so far, at least, as the cavalry and infantry were concerned— prevented their being an important factor in the attack, but it was far otherwise, as we shall see, in the retreat.

Leaving out the element of inexperience—or rawness, if you will— of the volunteer troops engaged in this campaign, I have always been of the opinion that they were an exceptionally fine body of men, and that their conduct on the field of battle was, under the circumstances in which they were placed, all that could possibly be expected of them. They only did, indeed, what veteran troops had done, upon occasion, in similar cases from time immemorial.

Of the battalion of marines, consisting of about three hundred and fifty, rank and file, all, excepting about a dozen non-commissioned officers, were raw recruits; and of the commissioned officers there were comparatively few of experience. Their veteran major (Reynolds), being keenly alive to this fact, let no opportunity slip of endeavoring to get them into shape, and the novel spectacle of battalion drills by moonlight, after a tedious day’s march, was presented several times, much to the interest and amusement of our men. The good result of this, however, was satisfactorily demonstrated on the field of battle.

The march of the 16th was necessarily a short one, the evening of the 17th finding us in the vicinity of Fairfax Court-House. During this day’s march—a hot and dusty one, I remember—a private belonging to some organization ahead of us passed us at “double-quick” on his way to the front. I have never forgotten his appearance. Like many another commencing his campaign experience, he had prepared for the march by literally packing himself, and beside the regulation knapsack, haversack, canteen, blanket, and rifle, he appeared to carry an assorted cargo of “a little of everything.” As he passed us with pots rattling, etc., he turned a jolly red face toward the column and exclaimed, “Lord, Jee! I wisht I was a mule!” The roar of laughter that followed seemed greatly to refresh and speed him on his way.

The close of the day’s march on the 18th found us in bivouac near Centreville. I cannot now recall whether it was during that night, or that of the 19th, that the following incident occurred: As a distinguished general officer, describing the rout of the Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville, said, “somebody fired a gun” (but not the enemy, who was some distance away), and straightway such a fusilade across our camp began—apparently from every direction—that we were fain to look about for any shelter that might present itself. One of the officers’ “strikers” who was leisurely crossing the camp-ground, apparently oblivious to the fact that anything unusual was going on, had his march suddenly arrested by Captain D , who shouted “Lie down, you d— fool!”—which he proceeded to do instanter. He had been taught to obey orders, but not to avoid friendly bullets in an enemy’s country. It was one of the hottest fires I ever experienced.

While here, also, we witnessed a scene novel to most of us, and probably the last of its kind that took place in our army. It was the punishment, by whipping, of two deserters. Before the war this was the penalty prescribed for desertion in time of peace, and these criminals had committed the act some time previously. The battalion was drawn up in square, the punishment taking place within it. I will not enlarge on this scene further than to say it was a very painful one. A young officer, who displayed conspicuous gallantry in action a couple of days thereafter, fainted in ranks. One of the volunteers inquired of an officer of the Third, “If I, too, should desert, would I receive such punishment?” He was answered, “No, you would be shot!” But he did not seem to think this would be an improvement.

Having previously had many associations with the navy, I had a personal acquaintance with several of the older officers of the battalion of marines, from whom I received numerous invitations to meals, which, as they lived very well, to say nothing of their genial manners and hearty hospitality, I was very glad to accept. No one had tents, of course, but in some mysterious way they had been able to carry along tables. Though we dined and supped, therefore, alfresco, these appliances of civilization—with the addition of real tumblers, etc.— were most acceptable. I remember that at Centreville, after supper one evening, having permission to be absent from our own tattoo, I remained to hear the half-score or so of little marine drummers and fifers “sound off” that call. The field music of the corps used to be (and I presume still is) excellent, and during the two or three days we were at Centreville the performance of tattoo attracted crowds of volunteers, who evinced their appreciation of the music by loud clapping of hands, etc.

Major (afterwards General) George Sykes was an officer for whom I have always had an ardent admiration. He was a born soldier, and displayed conspicuous ability in every position in which he was placed. He possessed in a high degree that union of soldierly qualities that, while holding his men well in hand and under perfect control, enabled him to effect some decisive stroke with the least possible damage to his command. Thus his troops were in course of the war frequently called upon to enact upon the field of battle a dual or triple role,—to assist in opening the engagement, then to be withdrawn to the reserve, and finally (as at both Bull Runs, first and second) to make the final charge of the day. His troops seemed imbued with something of the order of his own daily life and demeanor, influenced by the same regularity and discipline, of which the ever-buttoned coat and spotless white glove were the outward symbols. As a man, he was upright and chivalrous; as a companion, courteous and—to his intimates—genial.

THE BATTLE

Day had not yet broken on the morning of July 21,1861, when our little force was paraded in readiness for the march to the battle-field; but, owing to the tardy march of troops in front, our division did not reach Centreville, about a mile distant, until after four o’clock, and it was some time after sunrise before we crossed Cub Run, on the Warrenton turnpike, and turned to the right on the “wood road” leading to Sudley Ford, with the “objective” of turning the Confederate left. This delay in the movement of the column in our front was particularly unfortunate, as the result proved, as this circumstance, coupled with the fact that the distance to be traversed was greater than the general-in-chief was led to expect, and the impossibility of concealing the movement of so large a column on a dusty road not especially favored topographically for this purpose, turned what had been intended as a “manoeuvre-march” into a simple “manoeuvre.” It will be remembered that McDowell’s original plan was to attempt to turn the Confederate right, and that this was abandoned for the reasons, as he himself says in his official report, that, upon examination, the roads on that flank ” were too narrow and crooked for so large a body to move over, and the distance around too great to admit of it with any safety.” Further, that the affair at Blackburn’s Ford, on the 18th, showed the enemy was too strong there to admit of forcing a passage without great loss, and if successful “would bring us in front of his strong position at Manassas, which was not desired.” And again, it has been stated that a demonstration in any direction was delayed by the non-arrival of subsistence stores (rations), which did not arrive until the night of the 19th and were distributed on the 20th.

The weather was extremely hot, and although the wood through which we now marched furnished here and there some protection from the fierce rays of the sun, yet its very denseness shut out the breeze and made the heat almost intolerable. The Second Brigade (Burnside’s) slowly preceded us under these circumstances, and it must have been fully ten o’clock before we arrived in the vicinity of Sudley Ford, probably eight or nine miles from our point of departure on the Warrenton turnpike. Turning south we speedily saw the smoke from the fire of the troops on the Confederate left, resting at that time on the Sudley road and the high ground north of the valley of Young’s Branch. The troops engaged were afterwards understood to be South Carolina and Louisiana regiments under General Evans, and opposed to them was Burnside’s second brigade of our division, which “opened the ball.” Just at this time an order reached Sykes to bring his battalion forward in support of Burnside. Before doing so he made us a short address. It was to the point, and gave us to understand that there would probably be some work for us to do. Shortly before this time, also, the first soldier I ever saw wounded in action passed us,—a cavalryman shot in the sword arm. The Sudley and Newmarket road, by which the column was now marching, was thickly wooded between the command and the creek (Bull Run) for a distance of about a mile, and then the country becomes more open on both sides of the road, gradually clearing into a series of undulating or rolling fields extending as far as the Warrenton turnpike, distant from the ford about two miles. Young’s Branch crosses the turnpike near the intersection of the two roads named, and it was in the more or less open space in this vicinity that the battle raged the fiercest.

We moved along at double time until, striking the open space referred to, we formed line, and swinging forward our left, charged through a belt of timber, taking several prisoners. Just previously we passed Rickett’s splendid battery, belonging to Franklin’s brigade of the Third (Heintzleman’s) Division. It was drawn to one side to allow us to pass, (2) and poor “Dang” Ramsay attracted our attention by waving his cap which he had placed on his sheathed sabre. He was killed shortly after this.

It was upon emerging from this wood, as I remember, that the battalion found itself opposite a masked battery posted near a house in the vicinity of the junction of the Warrenton turnpike and the Sudley road, and supported by an infantry force in position among the trees around it. The three left companies of the battalion were deployed as skirmishers under Captain Dodge, Eighth Infantry (now colonel Eleventh Infantry), and gallantly advancing to the attack were soon hotly engaged. The remainder of the battalion advanced across an open plain, the right skirting a belt of heavy timber. Having arrived at the apex of the angle formed by the southern limit of this wood with its eastern side, we changed direction to the right, and wheeling into line took up position to support the Rhode Island battery. This battery was served and handled with marked gallantry.

The troops on the Confederate left at this time consisted, as afterward appeared, of Evans’s demi-brigade, supported by Bee’s brigade posted near the historic Henry house, and afterward further strengthened, when the Confederate left fell back, by Hampton’s Legion and other troops.

By some Confederate writers the “turning column” has been estimated as about eighteen thousand strong. The official returns for July 16 and 17 give the total strength of the Second and Third Divisions as twelve thousand four hundred and twenty-five, from which it is to be presumed that on the day of the battle the usual number of non-effectives (the sick, etc.) must be deducted, as well as one entire regiment of the Third Division (the Fourth Michigan) not engaged.

The position of affairs on our right at this time was about as follows:

The Second Division (Hunter’s) hotly engaged; the Second (Burnside’s) Brigade on the right; the Third (Heintzleman’s) Division rapidly taking position on our left. The Rhode Island battery, which was the first one in position, was on the right, the two boat-howitzers attached to the Seventy-first New York Regiment on its left. A few hundred yards to the left, at intervals, Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries were posted in the order named. Arnold’s battery came into action a little later, and was posted on the left centre. From the position, of affairs, the brunt of the fighting was sustained, so far as artillery was concerned, by these batteries, and nobly they did their work. They were superbly handled.

Griffin’s battery was supported by the marines, and Rickett’s by the Fire Zouaves (Eleventh New York), with the Fourteenth New York as a reserve support.

The battalion of regular cavalry—all there was of this arm in the column—was posted slightly in rear of the extreme right. History recounts the distinguished part played by this little force—seven companies—both in the action and in assisting to cover the retreat.

The First Division (Tyler’s) was posted as follows: Richardson’s brigade at Blackburn’s Ford, the other three (Sherman’s, Schenck’s, and Keyes’s) at or near the Stone Bridge. The Fifth Division (Miles’s) was held in reserve, and at no time engaged, except in slight skirmishing on the retreat. The Fourth Division (Runyon’s) was several miles to the rear.

It was originally intended, I believe, that the Third Division should turn off to the left, by a road supposed to be about midway between the Warrenton turnpike and Sudley Ford; but as such a road did not exist, this division followed the Second to the ford. This suppositious road was to lead to an equally suppositious ford east of Sudley’s.

After a stout resistance the Confederate left gave way, and was pressed back with such energy as speedily to throw it into confusion.

Meanwhile, Sherman’s and Keyes’s brigades having, accidentally as it appeared, discovered a ford on the run above the Stone Bridge, advanced and took an active part in the conflict.

The engagement now became general along the line. Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries were brought farther to the front. The arrival of Jackson’s command, and of some of the fresh troops of the Army of the Shenandoah just arrived, enabled the Confederates to rally their shattered battalions, and by taking the offensive in turn, to pierce our centre and recover some of their lost ground.

It was now after two o’clock. Our right, though checked, was readily rallied and put in order for another forward movement. The delay required to effect this probably enabled the Confederates to have at hand, an hour later, Elzey’s brigade and the other fresh troops, now rapidly advancing from Manassas Station. Our line again advanced, and recovered the plateau upon which were situated the Henry and Robinson houses, but was again repulsed, with the loss of nearly the whole of Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries, the intrepid cannoneers being mostly shot down at their guns, while their supports fell back in disorder. The strong flanking position held by us on the right, however, enabled us still to hold our grip there, until the troops on our left were relieved and put in order for what was to be the final charge of the day on our part.

Up to this time, I believe it to be generally conceded that the fortunes of the day were in our favor. Even with the last advantage gained by the Confederates, we still retained our hold on the right so tenaciously as to enable us to reform a line of battle, presenting a firm and bold front. But the accession of fresh troops to the Confederate ranks afforded them the means of renewing the offensive so energetically that the result was inevitable. Moving around our right, under cover of the woods there, our flank began to yield, and before an advance of the whole Confederate line our men at length gave way, and in a twinkle were seized with a panic that, beginning in a retreat, degenerated into a rout.

Our battalion, which had remained under a hot fire for over an hour in support of the Rhode Island battery,—many of our men assisting in working it,—gradually worked its way farther to the right, the necessity for its longer stay in support of the battery having ceased, as the fiercest fighting was now developing in that direction. The line on this flank had extended somewhat in the manoeuvre for position.

Sykes now received an order to advance and cover the retreat of the troops in this part of the field. Shortly after getting in motion our little force was joined by a small detachment of what I now believe to have been Minnesota troops. They evidently must have been “spoiling for a fight,” at any rate, and had just left friends not so anxious for another round or two as they were. These men (uniformed, singularly enough, in gray) fell in on our left, and gallantly advanced to the front with us, and remained until we were ordered to form square. I then lost sight of them.

Though the number of troops engaged in this movement was insignificant, I have often thought that the order and regularity in which the men marched, and their gallant and determined bearing, must have excited the surprise, if not admiration, of our foe in the light of the events that preceded.

All was lost! The whole field, so far as the eye could reach, was covered with panic-stricken and flying men. The battalion advanced to the hill opposite, one upon which a house stood (probably Chinn’s, to the right and rear of the Henry house), where, being threatened with cavalry, it formed square. It remained in that position until, all of our men having fallen back, it was withdrawn in line-of-battle, suffering meanwhile severely from the fire of a section of artillery which was particularly attentive so long as it had a knowledge of our whereabouts. Being, on its march, still threatened by cavalry, the battalion, upon reaching the crest of another hill, faced about, opened fire, and held them in check. By this time the guns of the Confederates seemed from every height to converge their fire upon us, but by avoiding the road, the dust raised by the little column was so inconsiderable that our march was masked, and we were thus enabled to reach Centreville without further loss.

The reports of the different military commanders, as well as the accounts given by historians, agree in warmly praising the conduct of the regular infantry in this action. General McDowell says, “The battalion of regular infantry alone moved up the hill opposite to the one with the house, and there maintained itself until our men could get down to and across the Warrenton turnpike,” etc. General Barnard, the Compte de Paris, Swinton, and General Beauregard mention the conduct of the battalion in substantially the same terms.

The loss to the battalion, considering the small number engaged, was heavy, aggregating (killed, wounded, and missing) eighty-three. Lieutenant William Dickinson (now captain retired), acting adjutant of the battalion of the Third Infantry, was wounded and taken prisoner, as was also Lieutenant (now major Fourth Infantry) Jacob F. Kent.

I recall—the outcome of my inexperience—that in passing through these woods, I turned to Sykes and asked, “What do you make of this, major?” “Looks very much like a rout, lieutenant!” he replied, in the dry and somewhat nasal tone habitual to him.

Truly there is scarcely a step from the sublime to the ridiculous. I never think now of this incident without amusement: when the battalion formed square, as has been related, one of our friends in gray— apparently about six and a half feet high and slim in proportion— jumped up in the air and exclaimed frantically, “They’re trying to flank us! they’re trying to flank us!” His manner was so excited, and his appearance so outre (I think he wore a shako, which had slipped to the back of his head) that, if I had not been in a slightly mixed state of mind myself, I think I should have laughed outright. As it was, he made such a row that I felt strongly inclined to use some strong language. But all the same, he was a gallant fellow.

As we marched through Centreville we met the Fifth Division drawn up and seemingly in perfect order. I recollect that one regiment was singing “John Brown’s body.”

The fatigue of that terrible march, the gloom that settled like a pall upon the participants, can never be forgotten by them. General Sykes says in his official report, “Our officers and men were on their feet from 10 P.M. on the 20th until 10 A.M. on the 22d.” I must have fallen asleep (3) while marching, for I found myself with a strange regiment (I think the Twelfth New York Volunteers) when day broke. My command had halted for a short rest at Fairfax Court-House, and soon overtook me, after I had “fallen out” upon discovering my mistake.

The sun was high in the heavens when our worn-out officers and men reached camp at Arlington Heights, and after breaking ranks,— for the battalion had come “all the way through” in perfect order,— just threw their exhausted bodies down in the nearest shade that could be found.

Although, after the final charge of the Confederates on our right, with its attendant circumstances, there was no doubt in the mind of our leaders as to the final result, it would appear that the Confederate commanders were not at first prepared to decide upon the character of the reverse. So far as the disaster on our right, with its attendant circumstances, was concerned, there could be but one opinion. But was it a bona fide rout? It was, unquestionably. But were the Confederate leaders sure of it at first? We had heavy columns—of which fact they were doubtless aware—in reserve, as has been seen. The hardest part of the fighting had been done by the “turning column” and Keyes’s and Sherman’s brigades of Tyler’s division. Mr. Jefferson Davis writes to General Beauregard, under date of August 4, 1861, “You will not fail to remember that, so far from knowing that the enemy was routed, a large part of our forces was moved by you in the night of the 21st to repel a supposed attack upon our right, and the next day’s operations did not fully reveal what has since been reported of the enemy’s panic.”

So far as an advance upon Washington was concerned, it seems to have formed no part of the plan of the Confederate general-in-chief, nor of Mr. Davis,—at any rate at that time,—and this for what appear to have been good strategical reasons. Indeed, General Johnston makes a statement to that effect. He says, in his official report of the battle, “The apparent firmness of the United States troops at Centreville, who had not been engaged, which checked our pursuit; the strong forces occupying the works near Georgetown, Arlington, and Alexandria; the certainty, too, that General Patterson, if needed, would reach Washington with his army of thirty thousand men sooner than we could, and the condition and inadequate means of the army in ammunition, provisions, and transportation, prevented any serious thoughts of advancing against the capital.”

As to the numbers engaged on both sides, the official returns of the troops composing General McDowell’s army reported an aggregate of thirty-five thousand seven hundred and thirty-two. Of these about eighteen thousand—or let us say, at the outside, twenty thousand— were actively engaged. The Confederate field-return of the First Corps (Army of the Potomac) reports an aggregate of twenty-one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and the number actually engaged as nine thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven; but the return of casualties shows losses in organizations not embraced in this return. Of the Army of the Shenandoah engaged, General Beauregard reports the number as eight thousand three hundred and thirty-four. The reader can draw his own inference.

A few days after the battalion of regular infantry was re-established in camp, President Lincoln, accompanied by General McDowell, came over to review it. In their passage down the line they drew rein in front of the colors, when the general, turning to Mr. Lincoln, said, “Mr. President, these are the men who saved your army at Bull Run,”—doubtless an extravagant compliment. The President, looking keenly up and down the line, replied, “I’ve heard of them.”

This was all; but it made a powerful impression upon all present, as it more than compensated for the effect of the injurious reports rife in Washington upon our arrival there after the battle, viz., that “the regulars had run.”

Notes:

(1) This force was characterized by General Beauregard in his article in the November (1884) number of the Century as “a small but incomparable body of regular infantry.”

(2) If I remember correctly, it was this battery that was drawn by West Point horses.

(3) I believe this is not a very uncommon circumstance. I had done the same thing once before (in the “Patterson Campaign”) on the return march from Hagerstown to Williamsport.

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Virginia Scenes in ’61 – Constance Cary Harrison

2 03 2010

VIRGINA SCENES IN ‘61

BY CONSTANCE CARY HARRISON.

BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR – Volume I: From Sumter to Shiloh, pp. 160-166

The only association I have with my old home in Virginia that is not one of unmixed happiness relates to the time immediately succeeding the execution of John Brown at Harper’s Ferry. Our homestead was in Fairfax County, at some distance from the theater of that tragic episode; and, belonging as we did to a family among the first in the State to manumit slaves,—our grandfather having set free those that came to him by inheritance, and the people who served us being hired from their owners and remaining in our employ through years of kindliest relations,— there seemed to be no especial reason for us to share in the apprehension of an uprising of the blacks. But there was the fear — unspoken, or pooh-poohed at by the men who were mouth-pieces for our community—dark, boding, oppressive, and altogether hateful. I can remember taking it to bed with me at night, and awaking suddenly oftentimes to confront it through a vigil of nervous terror, of which it never occurred to me to speak to any one. The notes of whip-poor-wills in the sweet-gum swamp near the stable, the mutterings of a distant thunder-storm, even the rustle of the night wind in the oaks that shaded my window, filled me with nameless dread. In the daytime it seemed impossible to associate suspicion with those familiar tawny or sable faces that surrounded us. “We had seen them for so many years smiling or saddening with the family joys or sorrows; they were so guileless, so patient, so satisfied. What subtle influence was at work that should transform them into tigers thirsting for our blood? The idea was preposterous. But when evening came again, and with it the hour when the colored people (who in summer and autumn weather kept astir half the night) assembled themselves together for dance or prayer-meeting, the ghost that refused to be laid was again at one’s elbow. Rusty bolts were drawn and rusty fire-arms loaded. A watch was set where never before had eye or ear been lent to such a service. In short, peace had flown from the borders of Virginia.

Although the newspapers were full of secession talk and the matter was eagerly discussed at our tables, I cannot remember that, as late as Christmastime of the year 1860, coming events had cast any definite shadow on our homes. The people in our neighborhood, of one opinion with their dear and honored friend, Colonel Robert E. Lee, of Arlington, were slow to accept the startling suggestion of disruption of the Union. At any rate, we enjoyed the usual holiday gathering of kinsfolk in the usual fashion. The old Vaucluse house, known for many years past as a center of cheerful hospitality in the county, threw wide open its doors to receive all the members who could be gathered there of a large family circle. The woods about were despoiled of holly and spruce, pine and cedar, to deck the walls and wreathe the picture-frames. On Christmas Eve we had a grand rally of youths and boys belonging to the “clan,” as they loved to call it, to roll in a yule log, which was deposited upon a glowing bed of coals in the big “red-parlor” fire-place, and sit about it after-ward, welcoming the Christmas in with goblets of egg-nog and apple-toddy.

“Where shall we be a year hence?” some one asked at a pause in the merry chat; and, in the brief silence that followed, arose a sudden spectral thought of war. All felt its presence; no one cared to speak first of its grim possibilities.

On Christmas Eve of the following year the old house lay in ruins, a sacrifice by Union troops to military necessity; the forest giants that kept watch around her walls had been cut down and made to serve as breastworks for a fort erected on the Vaucluse property as part of the defenses of Washington. Of the young men and boys who took part in that holiday festivity, all were in the active service of the South,— one of them, alas! soon to fall under a rain of shot and shell beside his gun at Fredericksburg; the youngest of the number had left his mother’s knee to fight at Manassas, and found himself, before the year was out, a midshipman aboard the Confederate steamer Nashville, on her cruise in distant seas!

My first vivid impression of war-days was during a ramble in the neighboring woods one Sunday afternoon in spring, when the young people in a happy band set out in search of wild flowers. Pink honeysuckles, blue lupine, beds of fairy flax, anemones, and ferns in abundance sprung under the canopy of young leaves on the forest boughs, and the air was full of the song of birds and the music of running waters. We knew every mossy path far and near in those woods; every tree had been watched and cherished by those who went before us, and dearer than any other spot on earth was our tranquil, sweet Vaucluse. Suddenly the shrill whistle of a locomotive struck the ear, an unwonted sound on Sunday. “Do you know what that means?” said one of the older cousins who accompanied the party. “It is the special train carrying Alexandria volunteers to Manassas, and to-morrow I shall follow with my company.” Silence fell upon our little band. A cloud seemed to come between us and the sun. It was the beginning of the end too soon to come.

The story of one broken circle is the story of another at the outset of such a war. Before the week was over, the scattering of our household, which no one then believed to be more than temporary, had begun. Living as we did upon ground likely to be in the track of armies gathering to confront each other, it was deemed advisable to send the children and young girls into a place more remote from chances of danger. Some weeks later the heads of the household, two widowed sisters whose sons were at Manassas, drove away from their home in their carriage at early morning, having spent the previous night in company with a half-grown lad digging in the cellar hasty graves for the interment of two boxes of old English silver-ware, heirlooms in the family, for which there was no time to provide otherwise. Although the enemy were long encamped immediately above it after the house was burnt the following year, this silver was found there when the war had ended; it was lying loose in the earth, the boxes having rotted away.

The point at which our family reunited within the Confederate lines was Bristoe, the station next beyond Manassas, a cheerless railway inn; a part of the premises was used as a country grocery store; and there quarters were secured for us with a view to being near the army. By this time all our kith and kin of fighting age had joined the volunteers. One cannot picture accommodations more forlorn than these eagerly taken for us and for other families attracted to Bristoe by the same powerful magnet. The summer sun poured its burning rays upon whitewashed walls unshaded by a tree. Our bedrooms were almost uninhabitable by day or night, our fare the plainest. From the windows we beheld only a flat, uncultivated country, crossed by red-clay roads, then ankle-deep in dust. We learned to look for all excitement to the glittering lines of railway track, along which continually thundered trains bound to and from the front. It was impossible to allow such a train to pass without running out upon the platform to salute it, for in this way we greeted many an old friend or relative buttoned up in the smart gray uniform, speeding with high hope to the scene of coming conflict. Such shouts as went up from sturdy throats while we stood waving hands, handkerchiefs, or the rough woolen garments we were at work upon!  Then fairly awoke the spirit that made of Southern women the inspiration of Southern men throughout the war. Most of the young fellows we knew and were cheering onward wore the uniform of privates, and for the right to wear it had left homes of ease and luxury. To such we gave our best homage; and from that time forth the youth who was lukewarm in the cause or unambitious of military glory fared uncomfortably in the presence of the average Confederate maiden.

Thanks to our own carriage, we were able during those rallying days of June to drive frequently to visit “the boys” in camp, timing the expeditions to include battalion drill and dress parade, and taking tea afterward in the different tents. Then were the gala days of war, and our proud hosts hastened to produce home dainties dispatched from the far-away plantations— tears and blessings interspersed amid the packing, we were sure; though I have seen a pretty girl persist in declining other fare, to make her meal upon raw biscuit and huckleberry pie compounded by the bright-eyed amateur cook of a well-beloved mess. Feminine heroism could no farther go.

And so the days wore on until the 17th of July, when a rumor from the front sent an electric shock through our circle. The enemy were moving forward! On the morning of the 18th those who had been able to sleep at all awoke early to listen for the first guns of the engagement of Blackburn’s Ford. Deserted as the women at Bristoe were by every male creature old enough to gather news, there was, for us, no way of knowing the progress of events during the long, long day of waiting, of watching, of weeping, of praying, of rushing out upon the railway track to walk as far as we dared in the direction whence came that intolerable booming of artillery. The cloud of dun smoke arising over Manassas became heavier in volume as the day progressed. Still, not a word of tidings, till toward afternoon there came limping up a single, very dirty, soldier with his arm in a sling. What a heaven-send he was, if only as an escape-valve for our pent-up sympathies! We seized him, we washed him, we cried over him, we glorified him until the man was fairly bewildered. Our best endeavors could only develop a pin-scratch of a wound on his right hand; but when our hero had laid in a substantial meal of bread and meat, we plied him with trembling questions, each asking news of some staff or regiment or company. It has since occurred to me that he was a humorist in disguise. His invariable reply, as he looked from one to the other of his satellites, was: “The —-Virginia, marm?  Why, of coase. They warn’t no two ways o’ thinkin’ ’bout that ar reg’ment. They just kivered tharselves with glory!”

A little later two wagonloads of slightly wounded claimed our care, and with them came authentic news of the day. Most of us received notes on paper torn from a soldier’s pocket-book and grimed with gunpowder, containing assurance of the safety of our own. At nightfall a train carrying more wounded to the hospitals at Culpeper made a halt at Bristoe; and, preceded by men holding lanterns, we went in among the stretchers with milk, food, and water to the sufferers. One of the first discoveries I made, bending over in that fitful light, was a young officer whom I knew to be a special object of solicitude with one of my comrades in the search; but he was badly hurt, and neither he nor she knew the other was near until the train had moved on. The next day, and the next, were full of burning excitement over the impending general engagement, which people then said would decide the fate of the young Confederacy. Fresh troops came by with every train, and we lived only to turn from one scene to another of welcome and farewell. On Saturday evening arrived a message from General Beauregard, saying that early on Sunday an engine and car would be put at our disposal, to take us to some point more remote from danger. We looked at one another, and, tacitly agreeing the gallant general had sent not an order but a suggestion, declined his kind proposal.

Another unspeakably long day, full of the straining anguish of suspense. Dawning bright and fair, it closed under a sky darkened by cannon-smoke. The roar of guns seemed never to cease. First, a long sullen boom; then a sharper rattling fire, painfully distinct; then stragglers from the field, with varying rumors; at last, the news of victory; and, as before, the wounded, to force our numbed faculties into service. One of our group, the mother of an only son barely fifteen years of age, heard that her boy, after being in action all the early part of the day, had through sheer fatigue fallen asleep upon the ground, where he was found resting peacefully amidst the roar of the guns.

A few days later we rode over the field. The trampled grass had begun to spring again, and wild flowers were blooming around carelessly made graves. From one of these imperfect mounds of clay I saw a hand extended; and when, years afterward, I visited the tomb of Rousseau beneath the Pantheon in Paris, where a sculptured hand bearing a torch protrudes from the sarcophagus, I thought of that mournful spectacle upon the field of Manassas. Fences were everywhere thrown down; the undergrowth of the woods was riddled with shot; here and there we came upon spiked guns, disabled gun-carriages, cannon-balls, blood-stained blankets, and dead horses. We were glad enough to turn away and gallop homeward.

With August heats and lack of water, Bristoe was forsaken for quarters near Culpeper, where my mother went into the soldiers’ barracks, sharing soldiers’ accommodations, to nurse the wounded. In September quite a party of us, upon invitation, visited the different headquarters. We stopped overnight at Manassas, five ladies, sleeping upon a couch made of rolls of cartridge-flannel, in a tent guarded by a faithful sentry. I remember the comical effect of the five bird-cages (of a kind without which no self-respecting young woman of that day would present herself in public) suspended upon a line running across the upper part of our tent, after we had reluctantly removed them in order to adjust ourselves for repose. Our progress during that memorable visit was royal; an ambulance with a picked troop of cavalrymen had been placed at our service, and the convoy was “personally conducted” by a pleasing variety of distinguished officers. It was at this time, after a supper at the headquarters of the “Maryland line” at Fairfax, that the afterward universal war-song, “My Maryland !” was put afloat upon the tide of army favor. We were sitting outside a tent in the warm starlight of an early autumn night, when music was proposed. At once we struck up Randall’s verses to the tune of the old college song, “Lauriger Horatius,”—a young lady of the party, Jennie Gary, of Baltimore, having recently set them to this music before leaving home to share the fortunes of the Confederacy. All joined in the ringing chorus; and, when we finished, a burst of applause came from some soldiers listening in the darkness behind a belt of trees. Next day the melody was hummed far and near through the camps, and in due time it had gained the place of favorite song in the army. Other songs sung that evening, which afterward had a great vogue, were one beginning “By blue Patapsco’s billowy dash,” and “The years glide slowly by, Lorena.”

Another incident of note, during the autumn of ’61, was that to my cousins, Hetty and Jennie Cary, and to me was intrusted the making of the first three battle-flags of the Confederacy. They were jaunty squares of scarlet crossed with dark blue edged with white, the cross bearing stars to indicate the number of the seceded States. We set our best stitches upon them, edged them with golden fringes, and, when they were finished, dispatched one to Johnston, another to Beauregard, and the third to Earl Van Dorn, then commanding infantry at Manassas. The banners we’re received with all possible enthusiasm; were toasted, feted, and cheered abundantly. After two years, when Van Dorn had been killed in Tennessee, mine came back to me, tattered and storm-stained from long and honorable service in the field. But it was only a little while after it had been bestowed that there arrived one day at our lodgings in Culpeper a huge, bashful Mississippi scout,—one of the most daring in the army,—with the frame of a Hercules and the face of a child. He had been bidden to come there by his general, he said, to ask, if I would not give him an order to fetch some cherished object from my dear old home—something that would prove to me “how much they thought of the maker of that flag!” A week later I was the astonished recipient of a lamented bit of finery left “within the lines,”a wrap, brought to us by Dillon himself, with a beaming face. Mounted on a load of fire-wood, he had gone through the Union pickets, and while peddling poultry had presented himself at the house of my uncle, Dr. Fairfax, in Alexandria, whence he earned off his prize in triumph, with a letter in its folds telling us how relatives left behind longed to be sharing the joys and sorrows of those at large in the Confederacy.

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Book Trailer – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

2 03 2010

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a trailer for a book before, but this one is pretty cool.  It kind of reminds me of the Diet Mountain Dew commercial with a shirtless Abe.  The book comes out today.  I previewed it here, and reviewed it here.  I’m thinking a film is likely.

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The Confederate Commissariat at Manassas – L. B. Northrup

2 03 2010

THE CONFEDERATE COMMISSARIAT AT MANASSAS

BY COLONEL L. B. NORTHROP, COMMISSARY-GENERAL, C. S. A.

BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR – Volume I: From Sumter to Shiloh, p. 261

Generals Beauregard, Imboden, and Johnston in the foregoing articles [see pages 221, 239, and 250] criticise the management of my department in the matter of supplies for the Confederate army at Manassas either before or after the first battle. In the statements of these generals, there is some conflict, but they all concur in making me appear a preposterous imbecile, whom Mr. Davis was guilty of retaining. General Imboden in effect charges Mr. Benjamin with suppressing, in order to shield my incapacity, an official report of a board of officers convened by Johnston.

July 29th, 1861, General Beauregard wrote to his aides, Colonels Chesnut and Miles,—the latter read the letter in the Confederate Congress,— about his vision of capturing Washington, and thus laid the foundation of the cabal against Mr. Davis which made the Confederate Government a ”divided house.” It produced a resolution of inquiry, followed soon by a standing committee, and afterward, in January, 1865, by a unanimous resolution, in secret session of both houses, to appoint a joint select committee to investigate the condition and management of all the Bureaux of the War Department. The session of this committee on commissary affairs was held January 23d, 1865. During the war the investigations of the standing committee into my policy and methods were frequent; several were long taking testimony, for one member, H. S. Foote,—who when I was myself in prison published me as cruel to Federal prisoners,—was ever zealous to attack. Every investigation ended in approval. I have a letter from Mr. John B. Baldwin, chairman of the joint select committee, stating that he had declared in Congress, as the result of their examination, “that the commissary department of subsistence, under the control of Colonel Northrop, the Commissary-General, had been managed with a foresight and sagacity, and a far-reaching, comprehensive grasp of its business, such as we had found in no other bureau connected with the army supply, with perhaps a single exception.”

The facts are that the engineer, General Beauregard, neglected his communications, so that “troops for the battle” and “supplies” were “retarded”; but the supplies were at the depot. “Eighteen heavy cannon, called for two weeks before,” occupied unloaded cars at Fredericksburg, where there was a large supply of flour that had been accumulating since early June. Numerous cars were retained as stationary storehouses ”for provisions,” “useless baggage,” and “trunks”; one hundred and thirty-three cars were abstracted by the “military” power from the use of the railroads for two weeks and more before the battle until returned by the Quartermaster-General and Mr. Ashe, the Government agent. There was plenty of lumber available to construct a storehouse. General Beauregard was not “urgent on the Commissary-General for adequate supplies before the battle,” for there was no ground of complaint. It was after the battle, when the vision of capturing Washington had seduced him, that he tried to construct a ground of complaint anterior to the battle.

General Beauregard made but one demand on me (July 8th, by a telegram which I have) for a commissary of the old service. Lieutenant-Colonel Richard B. Lee was added; no one was removed. On the 6th day of July I ordered Fowle to buy all the corn-meal, and soon after all the bacon, he could. July 7th, Beauregard ordered him to keep in advance a two weeks’ supply for 25,000 men, and Major Noland was ready to supply any number of beeves. The findings of the Board (on which Colonel Lee sat) are incoherent as stated by Imboden. The interdictions alleged by him are refuted by Colonel Ruffin (my chief assistant), and by all the letters sent officially to me in August, 1861. I have Fowle’s detailed report of the rations at Manassas; there was plenty of provision for a march on Washington. If I had removed his commissaries as he alleges, or had “interdicted ” them as General Imboden states, General Beauregard need not have been hampered, in a country which all the generals have declared abounded in the essentials of food.

General Johnston’s comments on the commissariat are unfounded. He “requested” an increase of provisions which his commissary alone could determine, and allowed the accumulation to go on for twelve days after he knew that he had more than he wanted. When I was informed, I did what he should have done — telegraphed the shippers to stop. Two weeks before his move he promised my officer, Major Noland, the transportation deemed sufficient, and of which he had assumed direct control. Empty trains passed the meat which had been laid in piles, ready for shipment. Empty trains lay idle at Manassas for days, in spite of Noland’s efforts to get them. General Johnston says the stores of the other departments were brought off. Eight hundred new army saddles, several thousand pairs of new shoes, and a large number of new blankets were burned — Quartermaster’s stores then difficult of attainment.

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How Writing Leads to Thinking

1 03 2010

Lynn Hunt has this article up over on the American Historical Association site that any non-fiction writer – or aspiring writer - should read.  (Hat tip to Mark Grimsley via Facebook.)

A few tidbits from Ms. Hunt: 

  • My first rule…is not to look at notes. In the era of digitized databases, digital photographs of manuscripts and archives, and digital copies of notes taken of books and archives, such a rule is yet more imperative.
  • You want the number of your pages to increase steadily over time, culminating in the completion of a first draft. Whether you use an outline or not (I jot down bullet points in no particular order as a way of starting), what really counts is momentum, not momentum as in a jet racing forward to the completion of its route but rather momentum as in three steps forward, two steps back, two or three pages written (maybe even five!), then revised the next day while another one, two or three are added, and so on.
  • …life is short and if you want to write more than a dissertation or one book or two books and so on, you have to limit yourself to what can be done in a certain time frame. You cannot accumulate pages if you constantly second guess yourself. You have to second guess yourself just enough to make constant revision productive and not debilitating. You have to believe that clarity is going to come, not all at once, and certainly not before you write, but eventually, if you work at it hard enough, it will come. Thought does emerge from writing. Something ineffable happens when you write down a thought. You think something you did not know you could or would think and it leads you to another thought almost unbidden.
  • …writing crystallizes previously half-formulated or unformulated thoughts, gives them form, and extends chains of thoughts in new directions.
  • Nothing is more important to writing than the weeding, thinning, mulching, and watering that is known as revision. Sometimes another eye provides the added sunlight needed for new growth.
  • Most problems in writing come from the anxiety caused by the unconscious realization that what you write is you and has to be held out for others to see. You are naked and shivering out on that limb that seems likely to break off and bring you tumbling down into the ignominy of being accused of inadequate research, muddy unoriginal analysis, and clumsy writing. So you hide yourself behind jargon, opacity, circuitousness, the passive voice, and a seeming reluctance to get to the point. It is so much safer there in the foliage that blocks the reader’s comprehension, but in the end so unsatisfying.
  • When you are reading a book that grabs you, consider how the author accomplishes that effect. What is it that draws you in? What makes you think it beautiful or forceful or astute? Which quality do you cherish most? What can you learn about writing from it?
  • In short, one is not born a writer but rather becomes one. Learning to write well is a lifelong endeavor.

That’s a lot to chew on.  Maybe time for some introspection.

Lynn Hunt, professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles, is a former president of the AHA. Among numerous books that she has written, the most recent are Measuring Time, Making History, and Inventing Human Rights: A History.

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