John E. Poyas, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (2)

12 08 2011

From Virginia.

We have been favored with another letter from Mr. J. E. Poyas, a member of the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers, Hampton’s Legion, to his sister in this city, which we publish (even at the risk of repetition,) believing that every thing concerning the Stone Bridge battle will be interesting to our readers

Manassas Junction, July 24, 1861.

My Dear Sister -

I trust my letter of Monday has flown to mamma on the wings of the lightning. I should have sent a telegram, but there were so many ahead of me, I thought it would be lost, or delayed until of no use.

The Legion has been baptized in blood, and have now a name to sustain, not to make. Would that we had been complete on Sunday, for with our artillery and cavalry we should have been equal to the hordes opposed to us, and instead of holding them in check, which we did for three hours, with scarcely any assistance, we would have driven them back or cut them to shreds before General Beauregard saw us on the field, and he would have been still more proud of his Carolinians.

On Sunday, 21st of July, at 7 A. M., the report of cannon was hard in the distance, and we knew that the battle had commenced. At eight we were formed into line and marched for the field.  After marching about four miles a scout came to us, saying the enemy were approaching in numbers on our left. The Georgia Regiment and a small battery (two pieces) of artillery were near us, and first engaged the enemy. We approached under cover of a slight elevation of the ground, but not unobserved, for before we were well in sight their batteries opened upon us, and we lay upon the ground with balls, grapeshot and fragments of shell falling thick and fast around us. Of course, our small force could not stand before their hordes in open field, and the Georgians with the artillery were forced back. We then approached, skirting a small wood on our right, and opened fire upon them. At our first fire their colors were shot down, and it was here than Bankensee and Phelps met their end.

We were soon obliged to fall back to a fence, and behind that to fight as long as we could stand, then to retire to a road in our rear, take to a ditch, and with a rail fence before us, to hold our position as long as possible.

It was here [Lt.] Col. Johnson was shot by the wretches who approached us with a Palmetto flag, and many of our men were wounded, but we made them pay dearly for their deception, by leaving hundreds of them stretched upon that portion of the field. Whilst we were in that ditch, Colonel Hampton, who had one horse shot, dismounted from his other, and joining us in the ditch, took a musket from one of the wounded men, and from that time until wounded late in the afternoon, fought with his men. I am happy to say that he is doing well, and was walking out yesterday. From that ditch and the fences around we fought from 11 A. M. to 5 P. M. At that time we took a park of nine pieces of artillery. The Richmond papers say the Virginians took it, but Gen. Beauregard says that ours is the credit, and it is certain that the Legion flag was the first over it, taken there by Corporal O’Conner, of our company – Sergeant Darby having become tired had given it to carry until he rested. Our company flags we were obliged to leave in Richmond. The staff of our Legion banner was struck by a ball. Colonel Kershaw’s regiment first came to our assistance from Bull Run. They were followed by Col. Cash’s regiment and (I think) Col. Jenkins’ regiment in the course of the afternoon. Old Jeff. [Davis] came upon the field at the head of a large body of cavalry, and completed the route of the enemy. Cols. Kershaw and Cash’s, one Mississippi regiment, Kemper’s battery from Alexandria, and a body of cavalry, with the Legion started in pursuit. Near Centreville they had halted – we formed the line of battle and Kemper opened upon them – and the Palmetto Guard, who were thrown out as skirmishers, gave them a volley, which sent them off howling, leaving their cannon and everything they had. As it was after sunset and cloudy, we could follow them no further, though the cavalry still kept up the chase. We have taken 1300 prisoners, 400 horses, 71 pieces of artillery, and property to an immense amount, in fact, I doubt if there has ever been so hard fought a battle or so complete a rout of an army on this Continent; perhaps never on either where there was such disparity of numbers.

According to the newspapers Gen. Johnston commanded our wing, but we never saw him, nor did we see Beauregard until 2 o’clock. Up to that hour, we could have been crushed at any moment, for the Yankees had ten to our one at the lowest calculation.

A Virginia traitor had furnished them with our countersign, and they had furnished themselves with a bogus Palmetto flag; had also recognized the Legion as soon as it appeared on the field, and paid it particular attention, but had not the pluck to press on and crush us.

Gen. Bonham, when last heard of, was in possession of Fairfax Court House, and is probably at this time in Alexandria, as a portion of our army has advance upon it, and report says taken it without firing a gun.

My opinion is that if we take Arlington Heights at once, we may be able to take Washington, and by so doing put an end to the war; but I am quite willing to leave the whole affair under God in the hands of those in whose care he has placed it.

As I have not mentioned Theo. G. Barker, our Adjutant, I must not close this rambling account of our first battle without saying, he was as cool and brave as it was possible for a man to be. After the fight we shook hands and congratulated each other on our safety. Our Captain is a trump – the ace of trumps – and we are all much troubled to think that he will be taken from us to be made a Major. Our Lieutenants all acted nobly; they told me they did not think I could have gone through with so much fatigue. I am very glad to say that Henry Middleton is doing well, ,and it is hoped he will recover. There is also hope for Green. Our frequent moves when the lines would necessarily be broken, made it particularly trying, for men when thrown into confusion are very apt to become panic stricken.

Virginians, Georgians, Alabamians, Mississippians, Louisianians and Carolinians, all did their duty, and entirely routed the Grand Army of the United States.

Charleston Courier 7/30/1861

Clipping Image





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





Bull Run “Historian’s Forum” Available Online

10 08 2011

The forum in which I participated for Civil War History and which I mentioned here can now be read in its entirety here.





The Father of Pvt. Theodore W. King, 1st RI, Searches For His Son

10 08 2011

Washington D.C

July 29, 1861

Dear Sir,

I venture from the friendly acquaintance I had with you at Newport Rhode Island to write you on a most distressing calamity which [fallen?] upon myself and family. My son, Theodore Wheaton King a private of Company F 1st Regiment of the Rhode Island Volunteers, was severely wounded at Manassas on Sunday last. He enlisted on his way to school for three months for the defence of Washington. His term of service had expired, and we were expecting him to return home when the unfortunate resolve was made to advance into Virginia.

His wound was on the outer and upper part of the thigh, or hip. Though wounded early in the action, he was entirely neglected by the surgeons though the retreat did not commence for some hours after. Of the degree of severity of his wound it is impossible for me to judge. Some of the soldiers said that he walked by the aid of some companions to within thirty feet of the temporary Hospital, where he was left neglected, under the shade of some trees surrounded by the killed and wounded. Some stray fellow soldiers passed him about the time of the retreat, to whom he made inquiries as to the condition of things and asked to be taken along, but fear had destroyed all manly feelings. They said that his voice was then good and his countenance unaltered. He was then left among the killed and wounded near the Battlefield–several of the Confederate Army were dying near him.

Upon receiving a telegram of his being wounded and left near the field of battle I came immediately to Washington, hoping to reach him. But you may imagine my deep distress at not being able to come into Virginia to succor my son, if alive, or to protect, and possess his body, if dead.

My son was nineteen years of age of stout frame, with full muscular development, light brown hair, large forehead, and was about five feet eight or ten inches high. Should it not be too inconsistent with your army regulations, I wish to be allowed to come into Virginia to see my son if alive, or to search for his body if dead. If that privilege cannot be allowed, will you, my dear sir, act for his Father, and spare no expense in aiding him, if alive or in having his body found, and his place of departure designated. In the last case, I should like his hat and clothes preserved, if possible. I have no need to appeal to your humanity, and good feelings. I am sure that you will do all in your power to aid my family they, overwhelmed by sorrow and distress. I shall remain in Washington at 486 12th Street at Mr. CB King’s as long as may be necessary to hear of the condition or fate of my son.

Very Respectfully Yours

David King M.D.

of Newport R.I.

To Col Porcher Miles

of General Beauregard’s Staff

Richmond Virginia

P.S. I enclose a photograph of my son, though very poorly taken. If dead it may be the means of designating his body.

*************************************

Richmond

Aug. 10th 1861

W. Porcher Miles

Dear Sir-

Dr. King’s son, T.W. King, is in the main [St?] prison hospt. in this city. The surgeon in charge represents him as doing very well– I return the letter.

Very Truly Yours

[Samuel P. Moore, Surg. Gen.?]

Transcription and Photo & Letter Image

Notes





The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook

9 08 2011

Now available from Savas Beatie is The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook, by J. D. Petruzzi and Steve Stanley. This short (184 page) paperback is packed with photos and maps and plenty of quick info on the campaign and the people involved. Nothing too deep, this is a good quick and dirty guide for vets and beginners alike, and perfect for tossing in the backpack for a day in the field.





Edward Porter Alexander On the Battle’s Aftermath

9 08 2011

Headquarters. 1st Corps. Army of the Potc.

Weirs House July 27th 1861

Your dear letter of the 26th has just reached me precious wifey, and tho. I’ve done nothing very special, I’ll give you a few lines in answer to questions. In the first place I am very much worried about your trunk, and that Mr. Dubose appears to help you so little, when I am sure a very little energy might get it. Worry him about the receipt anyhow, and get it at any rate. Then please write to Father what you know about where it was lost and ask him please to take the matter in hand for me, as I am too busy and cannot afford to lose it. Give him a fair and full estimate of the value of the trunk and all its contents, counting the value of all necessary articles and clothing at their present Richmond value and ask him to demand payment and in default to sue at once. I will write to him myself as soon as I can, but you must write immediately.

In the meanwhile I enclose you a check for $66.50 and will send you more as soon as you ask. I only decide on that sum as it will leave me an even hundred there and I don’t like to send larger single checks by such uncertain mails. I like the idea of your boarding with the Grattons very much. Do so unless you wish to go to Fred. In fact, Presh, do just what suits my little woman best. I think that Aleck and John have returned with Holmes’ Brig; Gus has, I know. I am glad you told me about the check. I never knew that there were two banks with such similar names before and I don’t think yet that I can understand it well without a diagram. I believe I wrote you that I am now Chief of Ordinance and Artillery for Gen. Beauregard’s army or the 1st Corps. Army of the Potomac, Gen Johnston’s being the 2nd (though Gen. J. ranks Gen. B). I am as busy as I can Bee from morning to night, but today I snatched time to ride with the two Generals and their staffs to look at and criticize the positions of the armies in the fight. The smell of the field was awful, principally from the dead horses, in some places in piles. Our dead were all buried some days ago, but they have only finished with the enemy today, burying 83 of them together while we were there, principally those red breeches New York Zouaves.

We have moved our headquarters from the junction to the farm house about a mile off in order to be more private. I have just gotten a tent for myself and hope soon to be fixed up more comfortably than I have been. I got a contraband little free darkey from Wash. captured on the 21st as a black Reprobate’s servant, but I’ve let Capt. Stevens. Engr. Corps take him, and I bribe some of a battallion of darkies who hang around us, to pick up a precarious subsistence for me. Killy is in camp under bushes, without tents, near the battle field about four miles from here, but I’ve been too busy to even ride out to see him yet.

It is getting late and I’m much fatigued and must stop. I’m afraid my duties will keep me here now for some time, at least till some thing turns up, for no possible excuse can be found here on my duties as they are now for a trip to Richmond.

Goodnight my own darling wifey. I love you and pray for you every night. Ever your own loving

Ed.

Tell me the address while at Mr. Grattons.

Transcription and Letter Image





Notes to Surgeon Charles Carroll Gray, 2nd US Cavalry Diary Entry on the Battle

8 08 2011

Charles Carroll Gray (1838 to 1884) was an assistant surgeon with the 2nd US Cavalry at Bull Run. Documentation of The Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill notes that the diary from which this passage is taken covers the period from July 16, 1861 to July 28, 1862. Biographical information from the same source notes that:

Gray was born on March 28, 1838, that he probably lived in New York State, that he studied medcine in Geneva, New Yok (probably at Hobart College) and at Bellevue Hospital in New Yok City. He took the army medical examination in May 1861, and was appointed first lieutenant and assistant surgeon. He was captured at First Manassas and imprisoned in the South for over a year, returning to duty upon his release, and remaining in the army until his retirement in 1879. He was promoted by brevet in 1865, and in 1866 was promoted to the regular grade of captian and in the same year to major and surgeon. He died November 22, 1884.

The diary consists of two sections of small notebooks, the first without a cover and inserted inside the cove rof the second. The second is a small leather bound notebook which Gray managed to buy while a prisoner in Charleston. When the space in the second section gave out, he reversed the book and wrote between the lines..

Note that Asst. Surgeon Charles Gray of the 2nd US Cavalry is not Asst. Surgeon Charles Gray of the 11th NY, mentioned in Gray 2nd US Cav’s diary and also, coincidentally, captured at Bull Run.

See document





Surgeon Charles Carroll Gray, 2nd US Cavalry Diary Entry on the Battle

8 08 2011

21st. Deluged by crossing columns of infantry; at day break halted on the hill at Centreville. Never felt so depressed in my life. Moved in close order over the fields & through the woods far to the right, a heavy cloud of infantry skirmishes on the left. As the sun rose I could not help thinking that many were looking at it for the last time. I said so the officer next me & he ["declined & fell"] into poetry to this effect – “And Ardennes moves above them her green leaves dewy with nature’s tear drops as they pass, grieving, if aught inanimate he grieves over the unreturning brave. (Wilson 1st – 4th Cavalry now dead. Rode a bobtailed gray horse.). Sen. Wilson gave us speed as we went down the Braddock road at a sharp trot. Marched & marched & marched, making a long detour to the right with the intention as we guessed to turn the enemy’s left at Manassas. Heintzelman next left. Tyler extreme left. Miles in reserve. As we cleared the woods about 10, we heard heavy artillery firing far to our left & the wise said Tyler’s division was engaged. Went ahead at a sharp pace. Horses & men* glad to dismount at a small stream (Cub Run) & drink.

*[Note in margin:] Here such of us as had anything to eat devoured it for fear of accidents. I divided my small lunch with Lt. Custer (of Drummond’s Co.) who had just joined us from West Point this morning. C. became afterward quite prominent & was killed June 25th ’76 on the Little Big Horn. Drummond after many escapes was killed at Five Forks, April 1865 – the last cavalry fight of the war.

[?] Drummond sings, &c. Found in the ravine & moved at a gallop to the extreme right and wailed orders. The ground to our left well sprinkled with dead & wounded. Our infantry close behind us (8 cos. regulars, 4 cos. marines, 8th N.Y. Mil., 14th Brooklyn – Red Legs) went into fire very stadily. Having no wounded of my command needing help, I turned my attention to the volunteers (mostly of Burnside’s brigade to our left & rear). Had a little talk with Douglas Ramsay just before he went into action with his battery (Rickett’s). Poor fellow he was soon killed. Soon an orderly from Dr. Magruder summoned us back to Sudley Church where in the few houses scattered about the wounded were being rapidly collected. There was another Dr. Gray there (Fire Zouaves) & some confusion arose thereby.

Retreat began between 4 & 5 P.M. I think, leaving a field strewn with dead and wounded as the troops streamed down the road past the church. I went out to find my horse. Horse gone but I presently found him with Asst. Surg. Silliman (serving with artillery) astride. He told me of the death of Capt. Ricketts & his Lieut. Ramsay, and further that his own horse was killed or missing & he had accordingly appropriated mine finding him riderless. I could not subscribe to the arrangement (wish I had) & he went in search of another mount. Soon ran into my cavalries – who looked anything but jubilant – and reported to Maj. Palmer. He seemed in a awful state of mortification and when I asked for orders he ‘wept’ for reply. Presently the cavalry & regular infantry moved slowly forward & I rode on the flank till meeting Magruder and [Averill?] (of the Rifles afterward Maj. Gen. Vols) with [B?] or O’Bryan afterward killed. We halted in Cub Run to water our horses & talk it over. As to the wounded, what was to become of them? All agreed that some of the medical officers should stay & become prisoners and take chances. Magruder (Asst. to Med. Director) said he could not – being a Southerner it would be very awkward & he didn’t believe he would be of much use – he “wouldn’t order me to remain but thought it would be well if I were willing to do so.” [Averill?] & the other officers were like minded, as in truth I was myself; so I bade them goodbye & rode back toward the field & to the little church in the grove. The grove full of stragglers mostly unwounded & many of them without arms. They could not be urged forward but loitered along or sat down as though the war – or this part in it at least – was over. They did not seem frightened but stupid, tired, & indifferent.

Went up to the church, found that Lt. Dickinson, Adjt. 3d Infantry whom I had left under a tree wounded, had disappeared as well as my blouse which I had left under his head. Shells beginning to fly rather savagely through the trees & around the building, I made search for something to hoist that the nature of our “population” might be indicated. Found a dingy white piece of some sort, hanging on to my horse. This time, went down to the road to hang it from a branch. While engaged in this a small body of Virg. cavalry (Rockbridge Cavalry Guards?) came hurrying up the road driving a lot of prisoners before them like so many sheep. The Lt. commanding with flourish of pistol & much excitement pronounced me prisoner, concerning which matter I expressed myself of the same opinion, & endeavored to explain to him that I had remained voluntarily & solely on account of the wounded with which the vicinity abounded offering my parole to remain where I was for any number of hours on days he might mention, &c., &c., but to no purpose – He was in a great hurry, very much excited, & a trifle frightened I thought. Didn’t know anything about paroles, hadn’t any authority anyway, &c, & I must mount at once & come along to Hd. Qrs. I am the more persuaded that my hero was the least bit in the world scared, from the fact that a few minutes before a small body of cavalry had bound down as if to attack the rear guard (Sykes’ Infantry) of our retreating troops. The old “dough boys” paid no attention to the bold dragoons until they were pretty near, when suddenly they faced about, opened ranks and opened fire, while a piece or two of artillery – Griffin’s I was told – which had been concealed by the infantry rattled into them & they were scattered like a flock of black-birds. Perhaps my Lt. was one of the discomfited – he had seen the affair no doubt. However he soon became more composed, though much elated with his goodly number of prisoners, momentarily increased as we moved up the road. None of them were wounded even slightly, nor did any of them so far as I recall have arms. What they had done with them I don’t know, thrown them away, as “cumbersome & dangerous” I suppose. We encountered two or three volunteer medical officers, but he made us demand for them to share my pilgrimage, but simply left them at their work when he found who they were & what doing. Left them “to be called for” in short. Whether he thought them of too great or little value to take away, or me of too great or too little value to leave, is a mystery. I don’t suppose he really had any theory unless perhaps as some one afterward suggested, he attached some fictitious value to a regular officer as prisoner.

Our company of prisoners – all with one exception beside myself privates or N.C. officers, and all on foot except myself, made slow marching though constantly urged. All had had a long day’s work of a particularly trying kind and many of them were of exceedingly poor material. All judging from my own feelings were hungry & thirsty, and it altogether was a bad job with no chance of improvement for many hours to come. Although I rode most of the distance it was the longest 8 or 9 miles that I remember. Toward dusk I saw that one of the prisoners – a soft stripling of 17 or thereabouts belonging to a N.H. regiment, was about to give out altogether, and having some vague notion that he might be killed if it became necessary to leave him persuaded the Lt. who had now become quite placable, to let me put the boy on my horse, which helped him through. (I might have spared myself the trouble for if I remember aright he died soon after in prison). Arrived at the Junction I made vigorous protest at being huddled into the pen with the rest of the folks I had come with. I did not know at the time that all the other officers, prisoners, to the number of 20 or more were inside; and so kicked up as much of a row as I could. It would probably have ended in my getting a bayonet stab or sabre cut on the head & being tumbled in by the heels; where my luck came in the shape of a creole Arty. Major from La. who was field officer of the day, or in command of the main gaurd or something of that nature. With the said genial creole I fraternized so successfully that I was permitted to report to the Medical Director of Gen. Beauregard, with the caution to look out not to step on the men; a needed warning for it was pitchy dark & beginning to rain & the men lay thick by the sides of the road & buildings. The wounds of many had ceased troubling as I found when stumbling along. (Mem.) a dead man never groans when you kick him, accidentally or otherwise. Well I thanked my friend from the land of cypress & alligator, & turned once my horse to him as [?]. It would have been in order for me to have warned him of the brute’s failing, had I not known that my major must be in no danger of needing such a mount. A man [?] to be shot is in no danger of being killed by a horse and my major was killed in action…(* And thus never had to know Kellogg et id omne genus). Found at the Hospital which was rather a small store turned into a depot of medical supplies & dispensary than an hospital, a Dr. or two prisoners like myself, and a [?] named Drew who claiming to be sick, had by some unexplained process of thimblerigging managed to avoid being “unimpounded” with the other officers. I came to know Drew well in after days and learned to admire his adeptness in ‘thimblerigging’ & his admirable skill in making much out of little. Through a little renegade Jerseyman, who was acting as Hosp. Steward or something of the sort, managed to get a little hard bread & what was more welcome plenty of water. (Mem.) They depend here for drinking water on rain & Bull Run five miles distant.

Transcrption and diary image.

Notes





The 30th Anniversary of First Bull Run, the Hatchet is Buried…

7 08 2011

…in them damned Yankee/Rebel skulls!!!!

Good stuff at Remembering.

 





Pvt. William Ray Wells, Co. I, 12th NY, on Action at Blackburn’s Ford (2)

7 08 2011

July 23 1861

Washington Cap. Building

Tuesday.

Dear Friends,

I am seated in the Capital building where congress sits at one of their desks (Henry C. Burnett is the name on the desk in front of me, using his pen and ink. I got my letter and envelope a little to my left in the P.O., Free. I have just had my likeness taken and enclosed in an envelope and sent to you. I took it into the post office here where I got my paper, &c. and had the P.M. send it for me. We started from Chain Bridge Tuesday the 16 and camped at Vienna the first night. One Co. all went on picket guard the first night. They made relieves of us part on two hours and then rest 4. When the first part were on two hours another 2nd relief part took their place and staid 2 hours then the 3 relief went on and staid 2 hours. The 2nd night we camped at Centreville and in the afternoon of the next day (Thursday) we were marching along when we heard firing ahead (there was one reg. ahead of us and two behind us. we all comprised Gen. Ritchardsons Brigade. We also had one Battery with us. When the cannon commenced firing ahead of us, they had all along been ahead, we formed into Battle line by the side of the road. We staid there but a few minutes when we (our reg.) was ordered on in advance of the Battery. After we had got by the Battery (they were on a rise of ground) in going down the hill in front of them we had open ground (meadow) and at the foot and all along after that beyond were roads. I will show you nearly so that I think you can form some idea how our reg. stood. The battery lay a little off to our right. [see drawing] There were pine under brush (very thick) ahead of us and as we had marched into them about 1 or 2 [rods?] ahead not thinking of [danger?] quite so near. The bushes seemed to be alive with the rebels (judging from their firing for we never saw one of them at any time we were there) their first volley was the most murderous to us. As soon as we were aware that we had run on to a mashed Battery (that is after their first fire we all fell and loaded on our backs. Then turned over and fired and kept doing so untill we were ordered to cease firing by our Capt. We fired about 9 and 10 rounds after our 6th round our guns were so hot we could not lay a finger on the barrel any where. One of our boys said he fired 12 rounds and in putting the 12th in the barrel it went off as soon as he had turned in the powder. Some way or other our two Co.s on the right and part of the 3rd. Co. got separated from the rest of the reg. so that Capt. Barnum had to take charge of us (our Col. was no where to be seen) he might have been with the rest of the reg. and he might not. Capt. Barnum stood in front of us and swung his sword and cheered us on untill he heard a N.S. Officer say who stood in our rear that our Col. had ordered us to retire. We then done so (by our Capt.s command) we retreated in order (what there was left us) about 10 rods when we halted and sent back part of us to bring of the dead and wounded. There was one man shot (my right hand man the only one shot in our Co.) whom we did not find. As soon as I saw him fall my blood was up and I did not care what I done (he fell at the first fire) the Capt. had to order me back. I was so far in advance of our Co. yesterday we all came back here to Wash. Our reg. could not get across the river and they waited a little while. While they were waiting I went out one side and laid down and went to sleep. When I woke up the reg. had left and I have not found where they are yet. I have found once in a while some of our reg. who have got strayed away from the reg. and that is all. When I woke up I enquired of some one standing around there if he knew where our reg. had gone and he said they had gone over the river into Washington. I then came to the gaurd one that was gaurding the bridge and asked him and he also said they had. I then came across (it was raining all this time) and put up in a hotell just in this end of the bridge. There is a Co. quartered there. I slept on the bare floor with nothing for a pillow and was very glad to get even a shelter for my head. Today I have heard that our reg. were at Arlington Heights. That is on the other side and up the river 7 miles. I think of taking a start (John Wells is with me) and go there as soon as I finish this letter. It is now 5 o’clock and I shall have to close if I go there to night. It cleared of this morning quite pleasant, but I must close.

Your affectionate son,

Ray.

I read a letter from Mary while on the battle field. I have not heard from any of the rest of you since the 5th your letter was dated. I have plenty writing papers on hand. Do not send any more.

Transcription and Letter Image

By the narrative it appears that Wells is describing again the engagement at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18, as he did in this letter.








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