Unknown, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (3)

3 09 2011

Extracts from a Private Letter

{From a Member of Hampton’s Legion}

Camp Johnston
Six Miles from Manassas, July 30.

I will endeavor to give you some particulars of the fight, although you will by this time have heard thousands of reports, as every man sees different on such occasions. We received orders on Friday, the 19th inst., to appear at the Central Depot in Richmond, at 5 o’clock, p. m. We found it impossible to be there so early, and, consequently, did not get there until 8 o’clock. We then stacked arms, and lay down on the ground and slept until two that night. We left Richmond at the last named hour, and arrived at Manassas on Sunday morning around four o’clock. Shortly after, we heard the roar of artillery. Col. Hampton then drew us up in line and addressed us, the substance of which was, that we were about to go into battle, and hoped we would prove ourselves South Carolinians worthy of our State and [?]. We then took up the line of march for the field, at which place we arrived about nine o’clock. Col. H. ordered us to take the extreme left, and stand until we were cut to pieces, or drive the enemy back.

We advanced steadily forward, shells bursting all around us. We were then dressed into line, and I never expect again to see cannon balls and shells fly as they did that morning. It is a mystery to me how one man escaped in the Legion. We stood our ground for one hour, alone, under one of the hottest fires Gen. B— says he ever saw. I gave myself up for gone, but still kept loading and firing. Poor Phelps was shot dead at my side; also a man by the name of Blankensee. Bomar was wounded just to my left. Finding it impossible to hold our position, we retreated to a small clump of woods, and then the cry was, “We are surrounded; we are outflanked.” At this critical moment, the Georgia and Mississippi regiments came to our assistance. We then not only maintained our position, but kept the enemy in check until about 2 o’clock. At this time, Gen. B. came up with Kershaw’s and Cash’s regiments, and Kemper’s Battery and Johnston’s column. His appearance was worth to us 10,000 men. It rallied the wounded as well as the others. Those that were unable to rise from the ground raised their hands and cheered him as he passed along the line. We were then at close quarters with the scattered remnants of the Legion, and I assure you it was hot work. The order was given to charge the enemy’s battery, which, upon the second charge, fell into the hands of our troops. It proved to be the famous Sherman Battery. After this charge, the enemy, completely routed, took to flight. Our men pursued them as far as Centreville. They left everything, in the shape of eatables and drinkables, that you can think of – champagne, lemons, sugar, etc. We took, among other things, some trunks, We captured 70 ambulances, fitted up in the most fancy style; also, a carriage and six horses, with a sword and trappings, supposed to have belonged to some general officer. The woods around were strewn with the dead and dying. A man who has never been upon a battle field can form no ideas of the horrors of one. The roar of musketry, combined with the shrieks of the wounded and dying, and the sight of mangled bodies, is truly horrible. I saw a ball from one of the enemy’s rifle cannon cut a man in two. I witnessed Bartow’s horse shot from under him. He (Bartow) was a noble fellow. When he fell, two of our men helped his men to carry him from the field. A regiment of our Zouaves was pitted against the Fire Zouaves of Ellsworth; they killed all but about 200 of them; the bloody bowie knife did ample work. The Washington Artillery, of New Orleans, is one of the noblest band of men I ever saw. I give them the credit of gaining the victory; they fought like lions, actually mowing down the ranks of the enemy. In our advance, one of our men saw a wounded Yankee lying down; he went up to him and gave him some water; when he turned to join the company the fellow coolly drew his pistol and fired at him, but missed; our men immediately turned round and bayoneted him. I escaped with a Minnie ball through my hat. It just grazed my head. I send you, by Mr. R., a piece of a bomb shell picked up on the battle field. The Yankees are a mean, contemptible people. They sent, under the white flag, to know if Gen. B. would allow them to bury their dead after the fight on Thursday at Bull Run. Gen. B. assented, and the scoundrels, instead of burying their dead, commenced to throw up entrenchments. We found it out and very soon run them off. I took a walk over the battle field a few days ago, and the dead Yankees are not all buried yet. The bodies are in a dreadful condition, and the whole atmosphere is filled with the most disgusting smell. The idea, to me the most lamentable, is that the best blood of the South is being spilled whilst fighting against the lowest, most despicable and degraded men, not only of the North, but I believe of the world. The prisoners are, nearly all of them, the most miserable looking creatures I ever saw. Ely, the member of Congress taken prisoner, is an exceedingly low looking man. The enemy resorted to all kinds of deception and chicanery to take advantage of us; they used both the Palmetto flag and the Confederate flag while advancing upon us, and for some time completely deceived our men. they also got and used our signs of recognition. It is very hard to distinguish our men from the enemy when at close quarters, their uniforms are so much like ours. I am now compelled to close my letter, as the mail is about to start for Manassas, but before doing so let me say that no women of any country could be more kind to the sick and wounded men than the women of Virginia. Our wounded are receiving every attention; they are sought after and carried to private residences, and all that can be done to make them comfortable is being done. The farmers around the country where we are now stationed carry, daily, as many as forty and fifty of our men at a time to dine with them. Give my love to all the boys, and tell them I never expect again to see them.

Charleston Mercury 8/7/1861

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7 09 2011

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