Lt. Edward Burgin Knox and the 11th New York at Bull Run

25 07 2011

Eastern Intelligence *

The Eastern papers are still full of the battle of Bull Run. We select from the mass of extracts from their columns, the following additional details and incidents:

Ellsworth’s Zouaves at Bull Run.

The following statement of the part borne in the battle of Bull Run by the Fire Zouaves, was furnished by Lieut. Knox of Company A, in that regiment. Lieut. Knox was a member of the famous Chicago Zouaves. When Colonel Ellsworth took charge of the regiment in New York he summoned Knox to join him, and gave him a lieutenancy. He says:

The regiment was encamped on Saturday night at a place about a mile this side of Centreville. At 2 o’clock on Sunday morning the men were aroused and remained under arms until 7 o’clock, at which time they started forward. There were 950 men, all told, with “Pony” Farnham at their head. With cheers they moved briskly forward through the woods, singing and laughing and eager for the fight. They had marched about fourteen miles, and were within three miles of the battle-field, when they heard the guns and saw the smoke from an eminence. This excited the men wonderfully, and at a double-quick step they pressed on, with the intention of joining Col. Wilcox, who, with the Michigan regiment, was a short way ahead. Halting at a pool of dirty water, they refreshed themselves, and went on until they came to a church three-quarters of a mile this side of the battle-field, where they left their overcoats and haversacks, and having formed by companies, again went on at double-quick step.

As they passed a bit of woods they were fired at by some cavalry who were concealed there, but stopping only to return the fire, they moved on until they reached a fair halting ground. While there, the enemy succeeded in taking from the United States regulars a battery which was stationed in the woods at the right of the Zouaves, who were at once impressed with the idea that they had a mission, and that mission was to retake those guns. Whereupon with a wild, wild yell, three cheers and a loud, fierce cry of “Remember Ellsworth,” they dashed across the intervening space, rushed in the face of a murderous discharge from the cannon on the hill, and with loud whoops and hurrahs drove some away, killed the rest, occupied the position. and attempted to use the guns. The regulars did not return to receive at their hands the recaptured battery, and it was useless in their hands. While in possession of this battery a body of infantry who were in the woods in their right rear, fired with considerable effect several volleys into their midst, and the Colonel gave the order to leave the battery and dislodge the enemy. This they did effectually, and compelled the rebels to flee from the wrath behind. Unfortunately, the Zouaves were not aware of the state of affairs on the other side of the woods, and with hot haste, and in considerable disorder, they rushed out only to find themselves the target of another body of infantry beyond, while the Black Horse Cavalry were seen charging full upon them. Things looked badly, when, fortunately, the infantry were engaged by another regiment, thus giving the Zouaves time to prepare for the charge from horsemen. They formed hastily in line, kneeling, semi-kneeling and standing, that, Ellsworth fashion, they might receive their enemies with successive volleys.

On came the horse-a full regiment of brave men, splendidly mounted, and as ready for mischief as those on whom they hoped to fall. To an early discharge from the cavalry the Zouaves made no response, although several of the men were killed, but waited patiently until the enemy was almost upon them, when in quick succession, the three ranks fired, each man doing his best for the good cause. The shock to the rebels was great, but they rallied, behaving splendidly, and attempted a renewal of the charge, for which, however, the excited firemen were prepared, and for which the Black Horse Cavalry paid most dearly. They were completely shattered, broken up and swept away. Not more than a hundred of them rode off, and as they went their rebellious ears were saluted with “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, tiger, Zouave,” and such a “tiger repeat” as one can only appreciate when he has heard it. What happened after that, it is hard to detail. Grape and canister were poured in upon them thick and fast. Down on their faces till the shot passed on fell every man, and then “up and at ‘em” till the next volley, was the cry of them all. This continued for a long time, during which squad after squad was used up, man after man fell dead, or receiving a shot while on the ground, failed to rise at the next command. Then came the order to retreat, which slowly and gradually was obeyed. The regiment broke ranks-some of the men walked slowly off; others went into the woods and fought from behind trees on their own hook; others falling in with different regiments, joined forces against the common enemy, and others climbed the trees to see “what was up.” While in the woods the slaughter amongst the men was very great, and the cross fire to which they were exposed did the greatest damage than all else beside. The retreat was with them as with all the regiments-not particularly an orderly one, but rather a free and easy retrograde movement, which, if not a stampede or a rout, was at least a very unmilitary movement.

* Wisconsin Weekly Patriot, August 3, 1861

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One response

25 07 2011
Brian Kammerer

Excellent account…what a gem and gives me a whole new appreciation for the 11th!
Was at the 150th displaying my wares on Battle Street in town. Met wonderful and enthusiastic people with a great love and appreciation of history every day of the event. The heat was killer but glad I went. Well worth the effort!

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