Lieutenant John P. Shaw, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle

3 10 2011

The following is an extract from a private letter of Lieut. Shaw, Company F, 2d regiment:

Camp Clark,  July 22, 1861.

Here I am safe and sound. We started from our camp, just beyond Fairfax C. H., at half past one a. m. for Bull Run, and marched about 15 miles, going round instead of taking a direct road, so as to get the other side of the enemy. We arrived there about 9 1/2 a. m. Sunday, and the first intimation we had of their whereabouts was a discharge of musketry, although we had a company of skirmishers on each side of the road. Our company was the advance guard, and the instant we were fired upon, Col. Hunter gave our company the order to “advance company front, and let them have it.” Their position was in a thick wood of about 500 feet in depth, beyond which  was a large open lot slightly ascending, and just beyond that was a deep valley with a high hill and masked battery. As soon as we received their fire, we returned it, and fell flat on our faces to reload; while loading they gave us another volley, which passed over our heads. We then arose again and drove them (500 in number) over the hill. As we were advancing they fired again, but fired too high. Reloading, we ran to the top of the hill, and let them have it again, and believe that every shot dropped on man. They then retreated to their battery, firing as they went, 10,000 more firing at us over their heads. one of the shots striking Capt. Tower in the throat and killing him almost instantly. The only words he spoke afterwards were, “Turn me over on my back – go in.” We then had it hot and heavy for about ten minutes, with the assistance of the two companies which were deployed as skirmishers, at which time our regiment joined us. In about fifteen minutes afterwards the 1st came in, and together we fought them 1 1/2 hours, without other assistance, and drove them from their battery to the woods, mowing them down as they retreated with a considerable loss on our side. At that time a division made its appearance on our right and blazed away at them, making great havoc among them, and driving them from the woods back to their battery, (the reason of their leaving it in the first place was that our light battery exploded their magazine.) By this time our troops had arrived to the amount of 20,000, including the regulars, and to every appearance our victory was complete, and we had orders from our Colonel (Burnside) to go into the wood and rest ourselves and take care of the wounded.

Those of our troops who have been in engagements before say it was the hardest battle they ever witnessed, and that they never saw any troops stand fire as well as ours.

In my last I wrote you that I had a lame foot, occasioned by blistering it, wearing the blister off and taking cold in it. I walked all the way to the battle ground with a cane, and threw it away when the firing commenced, then walked back to camp and half way to Washington, when I got a horse without a saddle and rode to Long Bridge.

Providence Journal 7/27/1861

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3 10 2011
Lieutenant John P. Shaw, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry « Bull Runnings

[...] Lieutenant Shaw who authored this account of his experience in the Battle of Bull Run is most likely John P. Shaw, who would die a captain in [...]

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