Pvt. John E. Donovan, Co. B, 2nd Wisconsin, On His Wounding In the Battle

31 01 2012

A Man Wounded Six Times In One Battle.

———-

Statement of John E. Donovan, Company B, Second Wisconsin Regiment.

———-

Went into an engagement at Bull Run, Sunday, July 21, 1861, at 10 o’clock, A.M., or thereabouts. Marched up the hill after getting over a fence, and on reaching nearly to the brow I was struck by a rifle ball in the calf of my right leg, outside, passing through to the skin on the other side. In the cars on the way to Richmond the next evening, a young man, looking among the wounded prisoners, wanted me to let him take it out and keep the ball, to which I consented, and he cut it out.

After being hit as above I stepped back to the fence, sat down and bound up my leg to keep it from bleeding. I then got up and loaded and fired from where I stood. After firing three times, another ball hit me in the left heel, glancing up along near my ankle joint. This ball remained in about eight weeks, when my leg, being badly festered, the prison hospital surgeon lanced it one evening, and in the night the ball worked down, so I got it out the next morning.

After being hit the second time I still kept loading and firing as fast as I could. In about ten minutes, as near as I can judge, a third ball struck me in the right side, which still remains somewhere within me. This disabled me somewhat for a short time, but I again loaded and fired two or three times as well as I could, when I was struck in the right arm (while in the act of firing) about midway between my elbow and shoulder joints, the ball running up towards my neck. The ball was taken out about nine weeks afterwards by the hospital surgeon at Richmond, about half way from my shoulder joint to my neck bone. I fired my musket but once after this, as the recoil of it hurt my shoulder so, I was unable to bear it.

I then left the fence to get behind a tree standing some two hundred and fifty yards off, and picked up a revolver which lay on the ground, just after I left the fence, at which time a bullet struck on my right wrist glancing off from the bone. I went a little further towards the tree, when some twelve or fifteen Confederate soldiers came out of the woods directly towards me.

I fired the revolver at them three times, and just as I fired the third barrel, a bullet fired by one of this company struck me just below my left eye, going into my head. I knew nothing more until about noon the next day (Monday). When I came to I found myself lying right where I fell the day before. I tried to get up, but could not. After this I made several ineffectual attempts to crawl away to the shade of a tree, the sun shining very hot. About four p.m., a couple of soldiers came along, picked me up, and carried me to the cars, and I was sent to Richmond, afterwards sent to Alabama, and finally released on parole. The bullet still remains in my head; the hospital surgeon says it lies somewhere near my right ear (the sense of hearing being entirely lost in that ear), the drum, or tympanum having been injured by it. The slightest touch on my chin, or near it, causes a severe pain in my right temple and over the ear. I cannot see at all with my left eye. I cannot bear to be out in the sun; it makes me dizzy and my head pains me severely; so also does more than ordinary exercise. Ordinarily, when sitting quiet, my head only occasionally troubles me – a little dizziness and heaviness is about all – except when out in the sun or heated, as before stated; and also when I attempt to lift anything, it puts me in severe pain in my head, and my eyes pain me exceedingly, as well then as when heated or out in the sun. I am obliged to keep out of the sun as much as possible on account of this excruciating pain in my head and eyes, and when I read my eyes fill with water, and I have to rest. I cannot write a letter of ordinary length. I have to stop several times for this and from dizziness. There is occasionally a dimness comes over my right eye even when quiet, but not very often. The surgeon said the bone around my left temple was shattered, and that pieces thereof would work out; none has to my knowledge. The bullet which entered my right side has not yet given me any great trouble.

New York Irish-American, 9/6/1862

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Contributed by John Hennessy





The Lincoln Pew

30 01 2012

In early June, 2011, I made  a trip to Washington, DC to speak to the Capitol Hill Civil War Roundtable (you can read about it here). It was a logistically challenging trip. I stayed with friends in Arlington on Sunday evening, then headed into the District Monday morning on the Metro. It was a hot day and I intended to do some site seeing, so I took my speachafying clothes and dropped them off with friend Ron Baumgarten. Then it was off on a free form tour. I’ll share some of the photos from that sojourn over the next few days or so.

My first stop was one I think most folks don’t make: the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. This church – albeit in a different building at a different location – was frequented by the Lincoln family while they lived a few blocks away on Pennsylvania Avenue. Inside the new building is a very cool artefact (click the icons for larger images):

  

The Lincoln family pew. I had the whole place to myself. And yes, you can sit in the pew. And yes, you can scoot your butt from one end to the other just to make sure you were in the right spot (though AL often stood during service). Check it out, but be respectful.





Pvt. Alexander Carolin, Co. A, 69th NYSM, On the Battle

29 01 2012

The following letter was received from Alexander Carolin, a private in the Sixty-ninth Regiment, and is addressed to his father, Mr. Dennis Carolin, ex-Alderman of the Fourth Ward. Private Carolin took part in the entire combat, and was an eye-witness of the death of Captain Haggerty:

Fort Corcoran, July 23, 1861.

Dear Father – We had orders to move on Saturday evening at six o’clock for our encampment near Centreville. We did not start until two o’clock in the morning. At about five o’clock we reached a place between Bull’s Run and Manassas Gap, where we came to a halt. Two Ohio regiments and the Seventy ninth of New York were with our column. Our regiment moved about, trying to get the enemy to attack us. We had Sherman’s Battery with us, besides a battery of rifled cannon. Our column kept up a fire on the woods, on the opposite side of the ravine, a distance of about a quarter of a mile, trying to find out the masked batteries, but the enemy would not return the fire. About ten o’clock we discovered two batteries, and drove the enemy out. The Sixty ninth advanced. We went off at a run, but could not overtake the enemy, as they scattered in every direction through the woods., kept up the run, turned to the right, waded through streams, climbed steep hills, left our battery behind us and outflanked the enemy, and came on them when we were not expected. The Louisiana Zouaves were doing big damage when we came on them. We gave a yell that could be heard far above the roar of the cannon. We fired into them and charged them with the bayonet. They were panic stricken and fled. We covered the field with their dead. Haggerty rushed forward to take a prisoner, and lost his life. The man turned and shot him through the heart. We drove the enemy before us for some distance, then got into line and had them surrounded. General McDowell came up just then, took off his hat and said, “You have gained the victory.” Our next fly was at a South Carolina regiment. We killed about three hundred of them. After fighting hard for some time we cleared the field of all the enemy. The enemy again rallying, the real fight then commenced. We were drawn up in line, and saw the other regiments trying to take the masked batteries. They were cut to pieces and scattered. We were then ordered forward to attack the batteries. We fought desperately, but we were cut down. We lost our flag, but took it back again with the assistance of a few of the Fire Zouaves, who fought like devils. We charged a second time, but were mowed down by the grape and rifles of the enemy. We came together again to make another charge, but we could not get together over two hundred men. We formed into a hollow square, when we saw the enemy turn out their cavalry, about a mile in length, and the hills all about covered with them, trying to surround us. All the regiments on our side were scattered and in disorder, except what were left of the 69th. The Fire Zouaves had to retreat, leaving a number of wounded on the field. Haggerty’s body was laid in a house when we were returning back. Col. Corcoran asked me to assist in carrying back the body, and I accordingly went back. We carried the body for some miles on a door, the shot falling thick around us. We had to leave the body on the road. Col. Corcoran, I hear, was afterwards wounded and taken prisoner. What we could gather together of our regiment marched back to Fort Corcoran during the night. I am trying to cross the river to send you a telegraphic dispatch, but the government will not allow any soldiers to cross. I escaped unhurt; although the men on each side and in front and rear were either killed or wounded.

I remain yours, affectionately,

Alexander Carolin.

New York Irish-American, 8/3/1863

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Contributed by Damian Shiels





The New York “Irish-American”

28 01 2012

A big thanks go out to FOBR (Friend of Bull Runnings) Damian Shiels, a professional archaeologist who specializes in military archaeology and who runs Irish in the American Civil War from, of all places, Ireland. He’s been feeding me clippings from the New York Irish-American, featuring letters primarily from the 69th New York State Militia on the battle. I hope you’re enjoying them. I think they’re great, especially in illustrating the limited perspective of most private soldiers during battle.

Just a word – you should keep in mind that the 69th NYSM is NOT the 69th New York Volunteers that would be a part of the famous Irish Brigade. That was a completely different organization, although some (and it’s hard to say how many) members of the 69th NYSM did join the 69th NYV. I’ve been informed that there was some division among the men of the militia units in their loyalty to its colonel, Michael Corcoran, and the captain of Co. K, Thomas Francis Meagher. The schism was perhaps rooted in the Fenian movement. While Meagher was recruiting up the new 69th NYV, some members of the militia unit, which had mustered out of US service when its 90 days were up shortly after Bull Run, joined him, some decided to stay with the militia, and some joined other units, including the 88th and 63rd NYV which also became part of the Irish Brigade, and the various regiments of Corcoran’s Irish Legion which was formed after Corcoran’s release from captivity and his promotion to brigadier-general. The 69th NYSM would operate through the war, being called back into emergency service once or twice more during the conflict, and in fact it survives to this very day and has an illustrious history including Father Duffy (as portrayed by Pat O’Brien, above with James Cagney, in The Fighting 69th; below is my 2004 snapshot of Duffy’s statue in Duffy Square in NYC). So, no, the Irish Brigade was not at Bull Run, and neither was the regiment that would be a part of that brigade and known as the 69th NYV.

Hope that makes sense!





Thomas D. Norris, Co. A, 69th NYSM, On the Battle

28 01 2012

The annexed letter, from a member of Co. A, 69th Regiment, gives some interesting details of the fight:-

Fort Corcoran, July 22, 1861.

My ever dear and beloved Wife.

I suppose you feel unhappy at present on account of passing accounts from the seat of war. I should not wonder, ,if you knew the half of our poor fellows that are lost or left behind. It would be no use for me to try to give you anything like a description of the battle field. – Enough to say, that besides bomb shells and rifle cannon shot, we had musket balls about our ears as thick as hail almost all the time from six in the morning until six in the evening, and a noise to be compared to nothing earthly. – Through the mercy of God, and the watchful eye and protecting shield and interceding care  of our glorious and blessed Mother, I was saved from even a scratch. Now you see how thankful we have a right to be to God for his excessive kindness to us at all times, and particularly now.

I tell you, my loving wife, it was an awful day. We left our camp about three o’clock yesterday morning, and marched about three miles through wood, &c, crossing streams knee deep, until we came or went to the scene of action, which was about three-quarters wood, and the remainder in little naked spots scattered amongst the trees. We opened fire on the enemy at ten minutes to six in the morning, and got no reply. We repeated and repeated, and got no reply still; so we drew nearer and changed our position  and gave them another salute, but with the same effect. We could not see a man nor hear a shot unless our own, until they, (the enemy) had everything as they pleased, and then, O my dearest, did we not have music! In a short time after the fight commenced, we saw a grand battle about a mile away between 8 Secessionists and some of our Union troops. The 69th were ordered to the relief of our party. Off we went in double quick time, crossing a river up to our knees, and soon we were before the enemy. We let them have it quick and hot; and in less than three minutes we put them to the route. But our noble and brave Haggerty, who was acting as Lieutenant Colonel, rushed so bravely in before us, and was about taking a prisoner, when he fell a victim to a ball that passed through his heart. Our Artillery gave in very early in the day; our cavalry rendered us very little or no assistance, while the enemy’s batteries played on us hot and heavy all the time. Our infantry had to do the best they could. The enemy were entrenched on the left of a battery that was playing directly on the Sixty ninth. This entrenchment was filled up with Southern riflemen, who could receive reinforcements from a wood that covered their left in spite of our troops. My dear wife, here is where they committed a slaughter on our troops, who went up, one regiment after another. The 14th, of Brooklyn, were cut up pretty much, as well as I can think; so were our Eight Regiment, of New York. The Fire Zouaves, ,who fought like tigers, were cut up badly. Our time was now come; so we advanced towards the aforementioned battery, into a hollow, and, stooping down, and letting their rifled cannon balls whiz closely over our heads, we passed immediately under their battery to their left and took our position in front of the entrenchments. Then the firing commenced, when a great many of our poor fellows fell. The firing continued from ten to fifteen minutes; and, our fellows getting confused, from a retreating Ohio regiment, who ran through our ranks, had also to retire from a hidden foe, for we could only see their heads and shoulders), a force far greater in numbers than ours, and who were to be aided by about three hundred cavalry who were bearing down on us. We took our flag of Erin, with the Stars and Stripes, away, all right, although some of our boys were obliged to work hard for it. Colonel Sherman, fearing the cavalry still, told the bravest of colonels (Colonel Corcoran), to from square. The gallant colonel said, “I have not as many as I like to do so; but we’ll do the best we can.” So the brave and determined colonel formed us into square, and so we retreated, receiving a fresh flanking fire from our adversaries as we went along, and a great many of our men were wounded in this way, amongst the rest our adored Col. Corcoran and Captain Clarke were both wounded in the legs. I believe the colonel was not much hurt. Their cavalry followed is all the way; and this, with a flank fire from the woods on both sides as we retreated, caused the artillerists to loosen their horses and ride them off, leaving their guns all in the hands of the enemy. This was about six o’clock in the evening; and we marched to our camp, about 30 miles, and reached there about daybreak. There was a reinforcement sent to meet the enemy, and if there are licked we’ll expect the enemy every day to attack Alexandria and Fort Corcoran. They won’t have masked batteries then, and you may be sure that we’ll let them have what they want, and what they will have. Oh! how surprised you would be to see T. F. Meagher, riding his poor steed, with one of its hind legs blown almost away – the fleshy part of it was all gone. Oh! my dear wife, he is a brave soul, and was with us all the time, under shot and shell, encouraging and cheering us up, and giving us a hurrah, for old Erin, now and again, that warmed is to the heart. With him and our own beloved Colonel, we could not help feeling ourselves blessed. About the other officers I won’t say anything, as it would be hard to pick a choice of them; they are all regular trumps – although I prefer Lieuts. Kelly and Strain, they being our own Company’s officers. I need not tell you that all the regiment are in great gloom at the loss of Lieut. Col. Haggerty – moreover Company A, whose Captain he was. I forgot to tell you that Acting Brigadier general Sherman publicly thanked the 69th for their desperate fighting; and when they were formed into line, after the first battle, he and his staff rode in front, with his hat in his hand, cheering for them. Give my love to all, and do you continue to pray for your own loving husband.

Thos. D. Norris.

New York Irish-American, 8/3/1863

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Contributed by Damian Shiels





John Stacom, Co. E, 69th NYSM, On the Battle

27 01 2012

Mr. John Stacom, of the “Ivy Green,” Elm-street, now a member of the New-York 69th  Regiment, arrived home on Tuesday, having received a wound in the left hand. He says:-

I was in the fight on Sunday all day, until we got completely off the field, and were on the road toward Vienna. On Sunday morning we were within two or three miles of this place. We encamped by the side of a road close by a wood, and then formed in line of battle, and proceeded steadily down through a thick wood into a ravine (Bull’s Run), and kept firing continually, in order to draw out the enemy, and unmask his batteries. After a good deal of firing, they opened upon us. We then fought our way down into the plain. The Wisconsin Regiment and the 69th tacked a large party, estimated at a number of thousands, total about 17,000, partially hidden in some brushwood, and succeeded in driving them completely away at the point of the baynet. They were in great disorder all over the field. Gen. McDowell came in at the other end and headed them off, while Col. Hunter approached on the right with his division, and the action then became general. It continued until about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when all stood still and we thought the battle won. The Generals collected on the hill, and were cheering and shaking hands. General McDowell took his hat off, complimented Col. Corcoran, and said the victory had been won. All at once the reinforcements on the other side, under Johnston, as was supposed, came down upon us, and the men being completely exhausted, gave way, until they reached the road. Col. Corcoran had only Capt. Meagher with him after Lieut. Col. Haggery was killed, which hapened in the first engagement. I saw him fall by a musket ball. Thomas Francis Meagher was the most conspicuous man on the field, riding on a white horse, with his hat off, and going into the battle most enthusiastically. At one time our regimental color was taken, and Meagher seized the green flag of Ireland, went to the front, leading the men to the charge. The color was recaptured, the enemy was driven back, and we then formed in hollow square, by orders, and retreated steadily off the ground.

We got on the road all well, and in good order. Having got my hand hurt, I took a Secessionists horse, and rode among the civilians, of which a lot, including artists and reporters, were gathered in carriages and on horseback. They were viewing the battle from the hill. Soon after I left my regiment, the civilians got panic stricken, and from them panic seized the teamsters, who imagined they were going to be cut off. From the teamsters it spread into several Ohio regiments and then became general.

I rode back alone. If there was any more fighting, it must have been in the road after the retreat commenced. I think there was no more fighting. The reinforcements opened four or five batteries on us immediately. There was only one party (in the woods) that we fought at all. We did not see any more, except a complete cavalry regiment, that charged on the Zouaves. Among the cavalry about three companies were colored, and officered by white men.

Gen McDowell three times charged us on batteries. It appeared that the 69th and the Zouaves were all over the battle field, as there were Aids running all the time saying the General wanted us over here or over there, to take this or that battery.

There were many killed and wounded lying around on the field, like sheaves in a wheat-field. There was a house on the hill where wounded men were almost piled, and the rebels shelled it, as much as anywhere else, while they must have known, by seeing our ambulances, that they were only wounded. The Ohio, 71st, 8th, and others took part. The 71st made only one charge, and lost very few men. The 69th did all the charging.

New York Irish-American 8/3/1863

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Contributed by Damian Shiels





M. Crosbie, Co. E, 69th NYSM, On the Battle

26 01 2012

Fort Corcoran, Arlington Heights,

July 25th, 1861.

We have returned to the fort after a pretty severe time of it. I am glad to inform you that the regiment has not suffered as severely as at first supposed. If I was competent even to do it I wouldn’t attempt to describe the battle. I feel very deeply Haggerty’s death; he was the first man of the 69th that fell, pierced through the heart; he never spoke after; but, believe me, his assassin met with a fitting fate – as many as fifty bullets pierced him; he fired from behind a tree. I have lost some friends both in this and other regiments. There is not on this continent a braver man than Thomas Francis Meagher. When his horse was actually torn from under him by a rifled cannon ball, he sprang on one of their outside parapets, and, waving his sword above his head, pointed to the green flag following, shouting “Boys! look at that flag – think of Ireland and Fontenoy,” – all the while the bullets raining around him. It was nothing but rally, charge and repulse. We could see no enemy; they fought from the woods and from masked batteries. When we’d charge to the borders of the woods not one of them was to be seen – all the while their secreted riflemen and artillery, with every advantage of position, pouring their hail over and around us. When Corcoran ordered the flag to be lowered, as it made too prominent a mark, the man that bore it said, “No, colonel, I’ll never lower it,” and was almost instantly killed; another sprang to it, and met the same fate. One thing was evident, not a man in the regiment would lower that flag an inch. I thank heaven we have it safe. You must bear in mind we had to fight fresh men on their own ground, while we were after a weary march of fully 30 miles on a cracker per day, with horrible ditch water for subsistence, laying in the wet grass whenever halted; still the boys went to their work like bricks. Corcoran made a regular target of himself; I have not seen him since; I understand he’s wounded; he is a brave officer, but Meagher is the adoration of the regiment. I hunted everywhere and made all the enquiries possible to find where Haggerty’s body lay, but could not find it; his wife, I know, will be in a dreadful state; I did intend to write her, but am not at present fit; if ’tis any consolation to her, he died a hero.

Yours, &c.

M. Crosbie.

Co. E, 69th, Fort Corcoran.

New York Irish-American, 8/3/1863

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Contributed by Damian Shiels








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