Too Much Information Running Through My Brain…

22 07 2011

…Too much information, driving me insane.

My apologies to The Police. But the past few days, as demonstrated on Bull Runnings’ Twitter account and Facebook page, have seen an overwhelming amount of information on the battle and the anniversary commemoration. I did my best to keep up.

I will attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff and provide links to some of the more interesting items concerning the history of the battle. Keep an eye out for that.





Confederate Veteran – Caring for the Soldiers in the Sixties

21 07 2011

A Woman Flees Battle and Finds Battle

Mrs. J.K. M’Whorter, “Caring for the Soldiers in the Sixties” *

Mrs. McWhorter lived near the intersection of Frying Pan Church Road and the Little River Turnpike, north of Centreville.  Later she would find the presence of Confederates about her exciting—“My sister and I had a great time all the summer of 1861….We were patriotic, and the Confederates stationed at this strategic point had to be looked after.”

But in July, as the Union army advanced, her family fled, heading west, taking refuge at the home of R.C. Weir, the owner of Sudley Mill, on the northern edge of the Bull Run Battlefield, a few hundred yards from Sudley Church.

One of the stirring events in which we participated was the flight from home just a few days before the first Manassas battle on July 21, 1861. We learned that the Yankees were advancing from Washington toward Manassas and became almost panic-stricken, for we supposed our homes would be in their path and that everything would be stolen, and, like the Widow Bedotte, “Our houses might conflagerate, and we be left forlorn.” So we decided there was no time to lose in getting inside the Confederate lines, as if the Confederacy could have any permanent lines!

The farm teams were hitched up and wagons packed with provisions and servants, some of the negroes being left at home to take care of things. The carriages and horses of the two families, with as many of our valuables as we could carry, brought up the rear of our procession. We moved off with no objective point that I can remember except getting inside the Confederate lines. Fortunately, we had some means in hand and supposed that would answer until better times dawned upon us.

We took the back roads leading from our neighborhood, hoping to keep clear of the Yankees. We had not gone more than seven or eight miles from home, I suppose, when, as we were going up a hill, the horses to the Cockerille carriage became unruly and commenced backing down hill. The occupants got out in a hurry, but the carriage was broken so that we could not go farther that day than Sudley Springs. Already a number of refugees were there. The house was occupied by a private family, but, as it had formerly been a hotel, it was large enough to accommodate a number of people. Mrs. Weir very kindly agreed to board us until we could get fixed up again and could see what best to do. Little did we suppose when we left home to get away from the Yankees that we would find ourselves encamped on what was to be a part of the famous first Manassas battle field.

We had been at Sudley Springs several days, waiting to see which way the Yankees were coming. Sunday morning, July 21, 1861, dawned on us clear, a typical July day. Most of the crowd had gathered about the long piazzas and front windows. We numbered about twenty ladies, several refugees from Washington among the number. Not long did we have to wait. We soon saw skirmishers scattered broadcast over the fields in front of us. One of these was a wheat field, full of shocks, each of which received special notice from a Yankee, who ran his bayonet through it in order to be sure it did not contain a hiding “Rebel.” Before long, however, Yankees discovered that this was not the way they would find the Rebels. There we sat or stood with feelings would be hard to describe now. Those were the first Yankees we had seen. A few moments more, a dark line of blue, with glittering bayonets, came slowly winding down the front of us. It was McDowell’s Corps, crossing Sudley Ford to flank Beauregard’s left. We were in the Yankee lines! Then some of them called at the house and told us of the “On to Richmond” program, of their great numbers, and how they had “Long Tom” in McDowell’s Corps and anticipated a small job in surrounding the little Confederate Army and capturing and killing the whole. Others told us they had men in a hollow and were mowing them down.

We had all of our silver buried that morning and, strange to say, we got it all again. My sister and I, with a number of the other ladies, a day or two before had helped tear up a bolt of red flannel, and a strip was tied around the arm of each soldier in a Virginia regiment to distinguish them from the enemy. Then we were all day holding up for our cause the best we could in our bearing toward the “Yanks.”

Late in the afternoon, as a fresh supply of stragglers were recounting their glorious deeds, we saw a dingy, dusty-looking body of cavalry dash over a distant hill in pursuit of some dark-looking objects. A lively little widow, who was discussing the battle with some of the Yanks, who were boasting of what they were doing, looked up and said: “What does that mean?” It was hard for them at first to think it was “Rebel” cavalry pursuing some of their panic-stricken, well-equipped men. You may be sure it did not take them long to think and say they had better be going. With that the little widow commenced singing and beating time with her hands to a quick step for them.

The fields spoken of soon presented a different appearance from what they did in the morning. Running Yanks were scattered all over them again, throwing down arms and everything that would hinder their speed. No time to run bayonets through wheat shocks! The “Rebs” were dashing after them and they were running for their lives. Soon we were in a glorious state of excitement. Our men were all about us, some bringing up prisoners and wounded Yanks.

Some of the cavalry paused at the doors long enough for us to hand them a cup of coffee or something to eat in hand. It was our supper time, and every one gladly gave up what was cooked to refresh the poor soldiers who had been fighting all day with nothing to eat. My grandmother and Aunt Martha contributed some provisions they had taken from home, and we had some of our best servants go to the kitchen and help cook. I remember handing coffee to some of our men who were on their horses at the back door; they had only time to swallow it down in a hurry, as they had to go the pursuit, and some looked after the wounded Yanks too.

We did not see a great deal of the fighting, as there was a hill between us and a part of the field where there was some heavy fighting. About dusk, when the crowd had passed on, we all went out on the field to see what we could capture in the way of arms. I picked up one of those valuable rifles; it was still cocked, and as I had not learned to handle fire arms I was afraid of it, and you can imagine how I looked when taking it to the house.

That night some of our badly wounded men were brought to the house, and we had plenty to do caring for them.  Some of us sat up all night with them. It was dreadful to see them suffering so!  Sudley church, a few hundred yards from us, used as a temporary hospital, was filled with the dead and dying, and they were scattered all about.

A few days later, when things were quiet again, we went back home, went near the Bull Run Bridge and not far from the Henry House. We walked over that part of the battle field, stood on the ground where Bee and Bartow fell, and saw the bullet holes in the old Henry House.  The elderly woman who lived in this house was sick in bed during the battle and was wounded. Dead horses were lying thick around the house, and we could see blue coats sticking out of the shallow graves, while bones and skulls lying about made a horrible sight. I saw enough of the horrors of war to last me.

* Confederate Veteran, Vol. 29 (1921), p. 410-411.





I Get By With a Little Help

21 07 2011

As noted in this post, John Hennessy of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP is going through his personal Bull Run archives and will be posting tidbits on his revamped blog Remembering: Musings on Fredericksburg and Manassas. I received an email from John the other day in which he offered to pass along things as he finds them – by things I mean material for the Bull Run Resources section of this site. Of course I couldn’t say YES fast enough. I haven’t been doing a very good job this past year or so as far as primary source postings go, but I hope to correct that going forward – I have lots and lots of stuff to put up. So later today I’ll start with a civilian account of Bull Run that John sent along with his kind offer.





John Ellis and the 71st NY at Bull Run

20 07 2011

[Via Pony Express]
The Battle of Bull Run *
—-
Personal Narrative of a San Franciscan
Col. John S. Ellis and his Four Brothers in Battle

Col. John S. Ellis of the 1st Regiment of California State Militia, and Sheriff elect of San Francisco – who is now on a visit to the East – served as a volunteer (attached, for the [ponce?], to the 71st New York Regiment) during the battle of Bull Run. Four of his brothers were also members of the same regiment. Col. Ellis has written a private letter to a friend of this city, giving a graphic account of the battle, which we are permitted to publish. The narrative will be read with deep interest by the personal friends of the gallant Colonel, and the public at large. He writes as follows:

New York, August 2, 1861.

I have had such an exciting time of it since I arrived [24th June] that this is the first fair opportunity I have had to write a letter.

* * *

I immediately proceeded to Washington in uniform, and took with me the flag which the National Guard commissioned me to present to the Massachusetts 1st. I found them encamped on Georgetown Heights. I fixed the 6th of July, for the presentation to come off. The regiment formed a hollow square to receive my party and myself. We had four carriage loads. Among others, were Senators McDougal, Wilson of Massachusetts, Colonel Hooker, Judge Satterlee, and George Smiley. They had a fine band playing patriotic airs. McDougal made a speech; also Senator Wilson, and the Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment made a beautiful one. The regiment gave me nine cheers. In the evening we had a grand “blow-out” in Washington.

I was all through the battle of Bull Run as a volunteer, attached to the 71st Regiment, armed with a rifle and sabre-bayonet. All my brothers were there also – five of us. We started at 2 o’clock on Sunday morning; marched none hours without resting three minutes at a time, and having in that period traversed about 15 miles, went right into action without breakfast; fought until 6 o’clock Sunday night; then retreated, marched all night and did not reach our camp till 9 o’clock Monday morning – all without anything for food except a hard, dry cracker, which I could not eat. We marched over 50 miles.

My brother Julius was shot in the foot while at the head of his company, waving his sword and cheering on his men. When he fell, I was with Gus on the howitzers. I heard the cry “Captain Ellis is killed!” and immediately rushed to the spot. The cannon balls were ploughing up the earth all around; shells were bursting and crashing through the trees directly in our rear, and the Minie balls were battering and humming in all directions. I immediately carried him off the field, and for nearly a quarter of a mile in direct range of the enemy’s guns; but, through God’s providence, our party were not hit. I finally found a doctor and ambulance, and put him in, and told my brother Sam not to leave him a moment. Fortunately I did so, as Sam did not allow him to remain at the hospital, but got him on the road. The hospital later in the day was shelled by the enemy and the wounded killed or taken prisoners.

I then went back to the fight and rejoined Gus, who was doing fearful execution with his 12 pounder howitzers. The 71st drove back the enemy three times, and completely cut up the Alabama regiment; and Sherman’s battery on our right silenced one of the enemy’s batteries until they got out of ammunition. We did our share; we drove back the enemy whenever he showed his face, and for a long time thought we had gained the victory. But alas! how much were we mistaken! Other regiments were ordered to charge into the woods and were met by masked batteries which poured into their bosoms the most terrific fire. The enemy had planted his guns in every conceivable position on the very points our troops had to advance by. No one knew where these batteries were located, how many guns were mounted, nor in what force were the enemy. No men unsupported as we were could advance without being annihilated. The regiments of our brigade were withdrawn from the unenviable situation, and formed in a large field; when, over the distant hills, came the enemy in force – a line of battle a mile long – outflanking us in all directions, with other parallel lines of lesser strength. Every blade of grass gleamed with a bayonet. This was too much for our unsupported troops, and they gave way. The 71st, however, was the last to leave the field, and retreated in line of battle, (with the enemy not 500 yards off,) until we reached the woods, when we flanked into the narrow road, and kept good order until the flying artillery came tearing through our ranks in full retreat. Their baggage wagons and ambulances so choked up the road that we could not keep the ranks for several miles. At Bull Run Crossing the enemy had allowed us to pass, and we never dreamed they had a masked battery there; but in the evening they shelled us, and a good many men were killed close to us (Gus and me). A shell exploded near us, and a spent fragment hit Gus under his arm and blackened it for nearly the whole length.

I cannot here relate all the scenes I saw, the horrible wounds inflicted, and all the incidents of this most shameful and unnecessary battle – for which the troops feel they were sacrificed by the stupidity of their generals. Suffice it to say our men fought bravely; and I can only account for the panic with which they were seized by the facts that the teamsters took fright and drove their wagons pell mell through them, and that many of the regiments had totally incompetent field and company officers – many of hwom acted cowardly – and the most of whom didn’t know what to do. We only had about 12,000 men engaged, and the enemy had all the way from 60,000 to 90,000 – out of sight, behind masked batteries, and in the woods. As it is, we routed them whenever they came out, until their reinforcements came down upon us, as I have related.

My brother Ash (Captain of Company K, 70th N.Y.S.T.,) just off a sick bed, was physically prostrated by the exertions of the day, and was carried into battle between two of his men, one of whom was shot dead. His Colonel was shot through the heart, and a majority of the Captains killed and wounded. He was hit by a spent ball which paralyzed his left leg. I subsequently met him on the road limping between two men and got a seat for him in one of the Rhode Island wagons. I was not even scratched – a most wonderful escape, as men were knocked over in every direction. The hum of the shells and whiz of the Minies filled my ears for the next 24 hours.

My father came down to the Navy Yard and he and I brought Julius home. The day before yesterday the Regiment returned here – sop all our boys are now at home except Ash, who is in for three years. Julius has received a very severe wound neat the tendon Achilles. I think a fragment of a shell must have struck him with its pointed end and passed on, as the surgeons cannot discover any foreign body lodged.

Remember me to all my good friends; you know very well I cannot write to them all, so when you meet them, say that I desired you to say that I am lively and hope to be among them before long.

Through the effects of this battle we have lost much of our prestige, but I think it is a lesson we my profit by. It has wonderfully raised the spirits of the Rebels, and men say they are preparing for an attack on Washington. If they should, and are repulsed, they would find it difficult to recover. We can lose battles and it only makes us mad – they cannot afford reverses.

By the way, I was also in Washington on the 4th of July and saw the parade of 23 New York regiments – a fine sight truly.

I leave for San Francisco on the 11th instant – solus.

Your old friend,
John S. Ellis

* San Francisco Bulletin August 20, 1861

Meta





And Yet Another

20 07 2011

And here’s another piece on a letter to a newspaper from a Bull Run participant, this time from John Ellis of the 71st New York and on Scott Patchan’s blog. I’ll get this one from the 8/20/61 San Francisco Bulletin transcribed ASAP.

I intend to include all the letters and newspaper accounts coming to light now in the resources section of Bull Runnings, but in order to do so I must have as much information as possible. Ellis is a good example of enough information. Full metadata, or as far as I’m concerned an image of the source document, is best. If it’s published, I need to have all the information that would be included in a footnote. Snippets of letters without dates or citation info, which is what many bloggers post, won’t be included here.





Virtual Tour of Cannons at Bull Run

20 07 2011

Craig Swain has this very cool bit giving a virtual tour of the critical gun positions at Bull Run. Check it out!





Letter From the Fire Zouaves

20 07 2011

Here are two accounts from a member of the 11th New York Infantry, Lieutenant Edward Burgin Knox (that’s him on the left in the image on the left, when he was with the 44th NY, Ellsworth’s Avengers). Both are provided by Ron Coddington, the first in a New York Times Opinionator piece, and the second on Ron’s blog, Faces of War. Knox’s writing appeared in the Wisconsin Patriot on August 3, 1861. Ron generously provided the photo here and also has sent me a transcription of Knox’s account, which I’ll post to the Resources section soon.








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