John E. Poyas, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (1)

11 08 2011

Extracts from a Private Letter

[From a Member of Hampton's Legion]

We have also been favored with the following extracts of a letter from John E. Poyas, of the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers, Hampton Legion, written the day after the glorious battle of Stone Bridge.

Manassas Station, July 22, 1861

My Dear Mother -

Our  Legion (now the Legion) arrived yesterday morning just before day. At 8 o’clock we took up the line of march, and about the time that you were all going to church, met the enemy, almost seven times our number, and with the assistance of one Georgia Regiment and two pieces of artillery, fought and kept back this immense force for three hours, until General Beauregard, who was fighting another detachment at a distant point. could come to our relief. When I say the Legion, I mean six companies of infantry for our artillery and cavalry have not come on yet. It was a hard fight but a glorious one, despite the heavy losses on our side. We would see our comrades falling around us, but, until forced to retire to rally, could not stop to take them from the field.

As you may well suppose, from the great disparity of numbers, we were sorely pressed, but as often as we were driven from one position would [rally?] on our Palmetto and meet them at another, and in this way kept them back until about two o’clock. Gen. Beauregard came on the field and told us, “Carolinians you have done well – go on, and the day will be ours.” Soon after, Col. Kershaw with the 2nd Regiment of S. C. Volunteers, came on, [then?] we took the park of artillery which had galled us so severely all the morning. Then Col. Cash with another South Carolina Regiment arrived, and was soon followed by others that had been fighting at Bull Run. The enemy having been driven from that point united with those opposed to us.  By sunset we had driven them miles away towards Washington, having taken thirty pieces of artillery, some five hundred prisoners, and ten thousand stand of arms. [Lt.] Colonel Johnson was shot through the head early in the engagement. George Phelps was shot on my right about the same time and instantly killed. Blankensee, another private, was killed much around the same time. Robert [Bo???] was severely wounded, and has been sent to Culpeper hospital, where the sick and som of the wounded are sent to be nursed. H. Middleton and J. W. Green were dangerously wounded. A great many are severely wounded. Scarcely any one escaped without a scratch or blow. Two of our men are still missing.

Col. Hampton was shot in the face, the wound is not considered dangerous, he fought bravely, and [when?] his horse was shot, took a musket in his hand and fought with his men.

Capt. Conner was struck by a spent ball, which did no more than cut his coat, but would have killed had it penetrated.  [?] it was in the left breast.

One of the first shots fired at us struck a [?], and sent splinters flying, one of which gave me a slight blow upon the forehead above the left eye, and another on the left arm, but caused me no inconvenience, another struck Henry Baker in the left eye injuring it seriously.

The rascals pretended to be making battle at Bull Run – only a ruse to draw attention from the larger body which was trying to get round this place to take the rail road leading to Richmond. They also raised a Palmetto flag under cover of which one portion of their force came very near our Legion and fired upon us, but on our return [?] they were brought to a halt, and we gave them as good as they gave us. We were under Beauregard, but Jeff. Davis was also on the field, and, I think, must have satisfied “Old Fuss and Feathers” that he can’t compete with him. Scot had [?,000] men. We never had, during the day, more than [13,000?] engaged.

The rout was a glorious one, and when we came up with the fugitives they attempted to make a stand. As [?] [?] [?] lines were formed, and the Washington Artillery of New Orleans opened upon them, they took to their heels, leaving 21 pieces of artillery, all that remained of the once famous Sherman’s Battery among them.

P. S. – The President and Gen. Beauregard have called on Col. Hampton th thank him for the action of the Legion yesterday.

Charleston Courier, 7/29/1861

Clipping image contributed by John Hennessy

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