Chief Historian John Hennessy of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park sent Bull Runnings a note and newspaper clipping image yesterday, shedding a little more light on the origins of the Handcuffs Myth:
I recently came across this little notice from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which offers the only explanation I have ever seen for the handcuff legend. I haven’t looked into the details, but it seems plausible to me. Dunnell was colonel of the Fifth Maine:
The Mystery of the Hand Cuffs
The rebel reports of the Bull Run battle gave, among the list of articles taken, great numbers of hand cuffs. We always thought this entirely bogus, but, it appears it was true except as to numbers, and the explanation has finally leaked out. This is the story:
A Mr. Brady, of Maine, raised a company and was chosen Captain. The Governor however would not appoint him Captain, the election by the company not being binding. This incensed the company. The Adjutant General, Hodson, advised the Colonel of the Regiment, Dunnell, by letter, to procure several dozen handcuffs, as he might want them, insinuating that there might be a bolt in his disaffected company. This letter fell into the hands of the rebels at Bulls Run and was published. They also state that they captured several thousand handcuffs. It probably all grew out of this singular letter, though the Portland (Me.) Argus says it was understood at the time that six dozen handcuffs were purchased for the 5th regiment, in which Mr. Brady’s company was.
Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/20/1861