Preview: Ted Alexander’s “Antietam” and the NPS on Hispanics in the ACW

29 02 2012

Antietam National Battlefield’s Chief Historian Ted Alexander has authored The Battle of Antietam: The Bloodiest Day, an entry in The History Press Civil War Sesquicentennial Series. This is a nice, concise account of the Maryland Campaign, the narrative running 139 pages plus appendices including orders of battle, notes, bibliography, and index. While the whole campaign is covered, the bulk of the book is on the battle and its aftermath. Now, quibbles with a 139 page account of an event with the scope of the Maryland Campaign are inevitable, but you really can’t go wrong with this overview written by someone who is generally recognized as an expert on the topic.

Ted also gave me a copy of a new NPS booklet, Hispanics and the Civil War: From Battlefield to Homefront. This nifty guide discusses the roles played by Hispanics on both sides of the conflict, including some surprising folks like Admiral David Farragut (his mom was Spanish) – although I could find no mention of George Meade, who was born in Cadiz, Spain.





Unknown Confederate, On Searching for the Dead and Wounded

28 02 2012

A Search for the Dead by Moonlight.

A correspondent of the Columbia (Ga.) Sun, whose letter has been unaccountably detained, sends an interesting account to the paper of the great battles of Manassas Plains. We extract a portion, which we think will prove interesting even at this late day:

Having procured Dr. Miller’s ambulance, a party of us started to look for the body of Col. Bartow. It was a melancholy search, and extended far into the night. – The moon was shining however, and afforded sufficient light for our purpose. But who can describe the awful sight its pale beams disclosed to us during the night’s ramble among the hills! The mangled forms, the ghastly wounds, and gleaming faces of the dead; the beseeching cries of the wounded, the torments and contortions of the dying – who can depict them! The first man I encountered was a youth of twenty summers who had been killed by a Minnie ball, which entered the temple just in front of the ear, and passed out on the other side. It was a monster ball, and made a hole through which we could almost see. We next came upon a great heap of the enemy’s dead, among them some wounded who were still alive. It was here that the gallant Fourth Alabama Regiment had covered themselves with glory. An appeal was made to me by a wounded man from New York for water. – An Alabamian, also wounded, interposed and begged that we would give the New Yorker water; for he added, “when I was shot down a member of a New York Regiment went to the hollow below, and filled my canteen with water, and brought it to me.” Of course we did what we could to render the poor fellow as comfortable as possible.

But on we move among the dead, turning over first one man and then another, to see whether he be not the one for whom we are searching. As this one is turned over, we discover that the lower part of his face has been carried away that one a leg, and the one further on has lost his entire head. At one place we find a leg and nothing else; at another the scattered fragments of a body. By this branch we find a poor fellow who, having crawled to the water’s edge, drank his fill and died – We could see by the bloody track that another had vainly tried to reach the water, but died before he got to it. Near the stream stood a horse, one of whose forelegs had been carried away by a cannonball. He groaned most piteously.

Meanwhile we learn that Col. Bartow’s body has been found and carried in by another party. So, we’ll fill our ambulance with the sounded and send them into the hospital. By 10 o’clock all our wounded had been cared for, and we turn our footsteps back to the hospital. Three of us who started on foot, finally got lost. Again we traverse the battle field, and again are our ears saluted by the cries and groans of the wounded and dying. At length, my companions having encountered friends who were uncertain whether they would return to the hospital that night, I struck out alone [....] distant) and along which the battle had raged furiously during the latter part of the day. I soon came upon heaps of the enemy, where the dead and wounded, torn and mangled horses lay one upon another. A wounded Irishman from Minnesota saw me by the moonlight, and begged “for the body of the holy St. Patrick,” that I would give him “so much as a mouthful of water.” It was a great trail. I had been out since early morning without anything to eat but one cracker, and it was four or five hundred yards back to the branch, but I remembered what the wounded Alabamian had said, and went and got it for him. Nay, I should have gone any way. Having taken off the coat of a dead soldier and folded it and made a pillow for him and placed the canteen of water within his reach, I bade the poor fellow to be of good cheer, and left him among his dead companions. You may be sure he never ceased to ask the blessing of the holy Virgin upon me as long as I could hear him.

Further on I encountered a small party, one of whom was an old man whose white locks gleamed in the moonlight, and another was a young woman who leant upon his arm. What could they be looking for at this late hour and in this dread place. Was it for a son who had fallen in battle, or for the husband of this you wife? – As I reached the top of the hill and turned back to take a last look of the field, I heard a woman’s scream far down the road, which told too plainly for whom they were searching. She had found him, but whether dead or wounded, I could not tell. God have mercy upon this young wife, and upon the stricken hearts throughout our land, whose loved ones now sleep the sleep of death.

(Charlotte) North Carolina Whig,  9/3/1861

Clipping Image contributed by John Hennessy





Preview: “Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory” – and a Preservation Opportunity

26 02 2012

I’ve mentioned before that I serve on the board of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation, which does good preservation work down Western Maryland way. The good folks at Savas-Beatie publishing have partnered with us in the ongoing effort to raise funds for the preservation of Civil War sites in the Antietam vicinity. When you order a product from the S/B website (www.savasbeatie.com), simply enter SHAF as the coupon code and 10% of the retail price of your order will go directly to SHAF. This applies to all S/B titles, including current releases like Brian Jordan’s “Unholy Sabbath: The Battle of South Mountain in History and Memory” and SHAF President Dr. Thomas Clemens’s “The Maryland Campaign of September, 1862, Vol. I”, as well as upcoming titles like Vol. II of Tom’s work and Bradley Gottfried’s “The Maps of Antietam.” This is a great way to build your library with quality books and help SHAF achieve its goals in the process. Remember, enter SHAF as the coupon code.

Speaking of “Unholy Sabbath”, I recently received a copy in the mail. Physically, this is the standard, high quality book you’ve come to expect from Savas-Beatie. The author is a very young cat, a 2009 graduate of Gettysburg College who is currently working on his PhD. at some sheepskin factory called Yale. The author’s academic bent is reflected in the use of a colon in the title, and the focus on memory – not that there’s anything wrong with that (the memory thing, I mean). This is an example of the “new” military history, and I’m all for it, as how the fighting is remembered by participants and the public as time passes is fascinating to me, and tells a bigger story. It’s richly illustrated and includes plenty of Brad Gottfried maps – unfortunately, these don’t have topo lines and the lay of the land was vitally important to how the fighting developed at the passes. It’s a minor quibble for me, but then I’m pretty familiar with the area. Also included are full Orders of Battle and an extensive bibliography that confirms the author’s use of a wide array of manuscript and published primary and secondary sources. I say give it a whirl, though I must admit I have BIG problems with his description of Special Orders 191.

You can follow “Unholy Sabbath” on Facebook here.

And here’s the book trailer:





Pvt. John W. Day, Co. H, 1st Massachusetts, On the March, Blackburn’s Ford, and the Battle

26 02 2012

The First Conflict at Bull Run.

The following letter was received by Capt. Wm. Day, in this city, from his nephew, who was connected with the 1st Massachusetts Regiment: -

Fort Albany, Arlington Heights, Va.,

July 27, 1861.

This is the first opportunity which has presented itself for some time, and I improve it in writing to you. We have had a hard battle since last I wrote.

On Tuesday afternoon, July 16th, we received orders to march into Virginia, and crossed chain bridge about four o’clock, en route for Vienna where we arrived after a long night’s march. – Here we snatched a few hours’ repose, and at about, 8 A. M. we started for Fairfax Court House. – Our brigade was thrown on the left to outflank the enemy in the town, but they fled at the approach of the entire column, headed by Sherman’s Battery. They ran all that day till at night we were glad to desist from the pursuit and rest in Centreville. As we passed through Germantown the rebels set fire to the houses. It was a terrible sight; the houses flaming everywhere, amid the dense woods, on the plains, and upon the distant hills. The rebels knocked in the heads of the flour barrels and stirred it in the mud rather than we should have it, and kegs of crackers and barrels of salt beef were mingled on every side, with cartridges, broken wheels, wagon bodies, etc. &c. They kept only half an hour ahead of us the whole way. When our brigade halted for the night, our company was appointed to do picket duty, and we marched off in the direction of the enemy for about a mile, then separated into squads of four, and hid ourselves in the bushes, where we awaited their coming, but were not attacked, although the pickets of the Ohio regiment were. On Thursday morning the Massachusetts First led the van, and we pushed forward for Bull Run, five or six miles distant. Halting about two miles off, our Company and Company G, were detailed to support two companies of Cavalry on a reconnoisance. We hurried rapidly forward under a blazing sun, and suddenly found ourselves in the face of the enemy’s batteries. A precipitate retreat was ordered, and we fell back on the main body. Sherman’s battery advanced at a quick trot, and fired the first gun at about 2 o’clock. The enemy commenced his reply and then retreated. We followed after in full feather, but as our skirmishers on the left were rushing on through the under brush they were saluted by a raking fire from a masked battery in the ravine below. They were scattered and nearly annihilated. The Boston Fusileers were ordered up to support them, and finding the place too hot for them, our Company and the National Guards were sent to their support. Our company crossed the ravine and ascended the hill, densely covered with wood, and passing the crest, found themselves on a comparatively open plateau sloping down to a pond of water, surrounded by a dense wood. From the wood the rifles and cannon belched forth their fires, and bullets screamed over our heads like a hornet’s nest. As we rushed down the hill at the battery, two men, Sergeant Thomas Harding, and George Bacon, were killed at my side one on my right, and the other on my left. We were broken by the fire, and obliged to retire to the crest of the hill under cover of the trees, leaving four men, two dead and two wounded on the field, beside those whom we were able to carry off – some six or eight. Twice we charged down the hill, and twice we returned, and then the word “retreat!” was passed along the line. Our Lieut. Col. Wells, fought like a common soldier – he rushed from man to man, grasping their muskets, and firing them, and shouting for another loaded one. So did our Captain, and the men, encouraged by their example, fought like devils, as was said by an officer in the regiment of artillery, who had been in the Mexican army. But what could three companies do against four thousand men who were in the battery and woods? Nothing, and we were obliged to retreat. Just as we leaped the fence, the Lieut. Col. called for volunteers to go down the hill and try to bring up our two wounded men. I said I would go, and handing my musket to the captain, ran down the hill as fast as I could amid a perfect storm of bullets, which made me bend over almost double in order that they might go over my head, as the enemy aimed most astonishingly high. Whole platoons fired at once, but the bullets passed over the heads of our men. I reached the nearest man, both threw up their hands and begged me for Christ’s sake not to leave them to the enemy who were bayonetting the wounded. I looked behind me, and judge of horror and peril to find myself alone; not a man had followed me down hill. I was not one hundred feet from the enemy, and without arms. I threw myself down on my face and grasped his hand, bidding him good bye. I told him I was so weak I could scarce get off myself, and that I was alone and must leave him. I then sprang up and ran as fast as I could up the hill, waving my cap and shouting friend! as loud as possible in order to keep the skirmishers of the New York 12th from firing on me – for amid the confusion of the hour it was almost impossible to distinguish friend from foe. the enemy shot my canteen off my neck as I ran up the hill, but I reached the N. Y. regiment in safety, and sank on the ground inside their line utterly exhausted. The other regiments now moved to the line of battle, but none entered the wood again. The men were much exhausted by their hard marching and the poor food they had had for the past three days; and we had been living on raw salt pork and hard bread. Finding retreat inevitable, Gen. Tyler ordered us to  retire to Centreville, where we arrived about 8 o’clock, and dropped down to sleep under a pouring rain. We lost 15, viz: killed, 5; wounded, 9; missing 1; – from whom we have heard nothing; no doubt he is dead. It is also believed that one of our company, who was dying of a cannon shot in his leg, was burned to death at Fairfax when the enemy burnt the hospital after the retreat of the second battle. This ended the first battle of Bull Run. We lay at Centreville all night, and at earliest dawn were marched to within two miles of the enemy, where we rested the next two days, till on Saturday night we were thrown out to sustain our pickets; our regiment laid down on a fresh ploughed field, and being much exhausted, went to sleep, waked every now and then by the sound of the enemy marching in with reinforcements to Bull Run. – They came with rolling drums and bugles playing martial airs, so close to us that we felt the jarring of the ground. But we lay still without noise, and they apparently knew not that on the other side of the wall in the corn-field lay a regiment of their sworn and deadly foes. I fell asleep and dreamed of faces left behind, till called up in the grey of the morn, when we rushed forward to take a position on the right bivouac in order to support the Artillery of the left battery of the central division.

It was a fair and lovely Sabbath morning when we filed into the woods, in the rear of our cannon, and sat down to await the commencement of the battle! Bang – went our cannon – echoing through the startled wood, and a rifle shell went crashing off like and express train in the direction of the enemy! Far away like distant thunder came the answer of our other batteries along the line. Then on the right large bodies of our troops charged on the foe; whole regiments fired at once, and whole squadrons of the enemy’s horse tore over the groaning ground. For nine hours the battle continued, and we sat there in those woods waiting the order to advance, but none came. As I reclined half dozing on my blanket I could not realize the awful scene only two miles distant. The cannon seemed to my mind a tolling bell calling to worship, as a thousand Sabbath bells were doing then in my far off Northern home, and spiritually I worshipped at the olden altar, as I read from my little Testament and Psalms:

“Lord make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is, that I may know how frail I am! Behold Thou hast made my days as an hand’s breadth, and mine age is nothing before thee; verily every man at his best estate is but vanity.

Lord! what I wait for? my hope is in thee; O! spare me that I may recover strength before I go hence and be here no more!”

At 4 P. M. up galloped an aid-de-camp, and a hurried retreat was ordered; while the enemy’s fire came pelting on our rear, we retired hastily to Centreville. Thence by a forced march to Arlington Heights, thirty miles. Here we are now, but know not how long we shall remain.

J. W. D.[*],

Co. H. Mass. 1st Reg.

Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics,  8/10/1861

Clipping Image

* Most likely John W. Day, a 23-year-old printer from Chelsea, MA, who enlisted in Co. H on 5/22/1861 and received a disability discharge in Bladensburg, MD on 8/29/1861. Per Ancestry.com.

Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown Officer, 1st Minnesota, On the Battle

24 02 2012

The First Minnesota Regiment.

The following is an extract from a letter from an officer in the first Minnesota regiment, to his wife in this city. Many of the officers and men in the regiment were formerly residents of Massachusetts: -

Washington, July 29, 1861.

For several days, in fact, ever since our shattered regiment came here after the battle of Bull Run, I have been at work day and night. Our boys fought bravely, and if the troops of the north had all done their duty as well, the result of the battle would have been different. A United States officer told me, not knowing who I was, that there were but four regiments that deserved to be mentioned, and among them I was proud to hear “the Minnesota.”

We went into the field with nine hundred men, and have, as near as we can make out, 181 killed, wounded, and missing – nearly one fifth. All of the company officers and men, and a part of the field officers fought well, and did not retreat until they had been twice ordered to do so. A colonel of the secession army, whom our boys took, and who is now here a prisoner of war, says our men for three hours were engaged with eight thousand of the enemy, with a battery raking them from one of the flanks. Notwithstanding the odds of nine to one our men drove them, and the southern papers, I observe, say the battle upon their left, where we were, unsupported, was most sever, and their forces were obliged to give way until 5000 fresh reserve troops came to the rescue.

A captain a prisoner here, says the Minnesota wood choppers fought like devils. One of our surgeons, it is supposed, is killed; the other we heard from last evening – a prisoner. We expected to remain here some time, but to morrow morning we leave for Great Falls, fifteen miles from here, where the enemy is threatening some more fighting for our regiment, I suppose. Col. Gorman has been given command of the brigade. Our regimental flag has seventeen bullet holes through it, one shell, and one grape shot. Every one of our color guard was wounded – none killed.

The mistake of attacking Manassas at the time it was done, and before we were ready, will extend the contest immensely. The barbarities of the enemy are unspeakable, dragging our wounded from the ambulances and bayoneting them, luring our men on by displaying the federal flag, and cheering for the Union, and then shooting them down. This was done in our own regiment. May I live to avenge some fo the good and true men who were left at Manassas.

Yours, &c.,

***

Massachusetts Spy,  8/7/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy





Major C. H. Joyce, 2nd Vermont, On the Battle

24 02 2012

The Second Vermont at Bull Run

———-

From an interesting letter in the Burlington Times, doubtless written by Major Joyce, we make the following extracts relative to the part the Vermont Regiment took in the battle at Bull Run;

On, on we went upon the run, and our poor boys were dropping out by the dozens, yet no halt or slack. Now we have arrived at a road which leads up along the skirt of a piece of woods. We enter and go on upon the run. Now, Oh God! what a sight meets our eyes! Here are the hospitals for friends and foes, all thrown in together; here are the surgeons in the woods sawing off legs and arms from the poor fellows who have been wounded – some on the ground and some on a board; they shriek, they groan, they swear, in their delirium of agony; here comes the carts bringing in the wounded, the blood running from the cart like water from a street sprinkler. It is awful, it is terrible, but yet our brave boys press on. – Now comes a messenger saying to us, Go on, boys; they need your help. Then another saying, Go ahead, boys; the rebels are flying. We heed them not, but with steady step move on.

.       .       .       .

The order was given to “Forward the Second,” and you may depend it was done nobly. Oh, who would not have given a world at that moment to have been a Vermonter. Not a man but what felt they carried the honor of Vermont upon their bayonets. On they went – the orders come, “Captains in the rear of your companies,” “boys, keep cool,” “take good aim and mark your man.” Not a pale face appeared in line; lips were compressed and hearts were as firm as the granite in their native hills. The air was filled even to darkness, with iron and lead, yet I felt a pride in being with the noble Second on that day; and although I was not born upon Vermont’s soil, yet I was proud of her and her gallant sons, and gloried in the state of my adoption. – When we arrived on the brow of the hill we were in plain sight of the enemy’s lines. We marched down the hill about half way, and halted in line of battle.

Between us and the enemy was a deep ravine, and on the other side, on the hill pitching toward us were the rebels, behind a Virginia rail fence. The order now came to open fire on the whole line. Our boys drew up their guns, took deliberate aim at that fence, and then it would have done your soul good to see the devils jump. At the second volley they all cut and run into a piece of woods on their left flank. Soon they made their appearance at the edge of the woods, and at them we went again like bull-dogs.

It would, perhaps, be invidious to call names, but I must be permitted to mention Captains Dillingham, Eaton, Hope and Randall, and Lieutenants Henry, Gregg, Campbell, Johnson, Howe, Tracy, Hugh and Tyler, as men who were under my eye the whole battle. With Capt. Dillingham I have always been acquainted, ,and have felt a sort of pride in his success. I have watched him, and I saw him in the midst of the carnage on that bloody day. He was as cool and as self possessed as when on Company parade. I could hear him give his orders to his men; I noticed his face as he passed back and forth, speaking words of encouragement to his brave boys, and by this example inspiring them with courage and fortitude. In a moment I saw him fall ! Oh, God! I sprang towards him and caught him in my arms, lifted him up, and, to my great joy discovered that a Minnie ball had only just grazed his temple and stunned him for the moment. I set him on his feet and left him in charge of his men, and started for my post on the left of the line, and scarcely had I gone ten paces when, with a voice that could be heard beyond the enemy’s lines, I heard him say: “They have not killed me yet; give it to them, boys!”

Captains Smith, Fullam, Wallbridge, Todd, and others, behaved in a manner worthy of Vermont, while Capt. Randall greatly distinguished himself by his cool courage and self-possession; he was determined not to leave the field, and did not until compelled to do so by the commander. One word about our color-bearer: he is 6 feet 5 1-2 inches high – he carried his banner upon the field and stood by it during the whole battle, like Goliath of old. Not a limb trembled or or muscle moved. While six of the enemy’s bullets pierced the sacred flag, not one touched the noble bearer. He is truly a great man and deserves to be remembered.   .   .   .   .   .

Our Quarter master’s Department is managed on a scale not to be surpassed by any regiment in the service. Mr. Pitkin is untiring in his efforts to make us all comfortable, and he is nobly sustained by the Quarter master Sergeant, Cain, and the Messrs. Stone.

St. Albans Daily Messenger, 8/9/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy





First Bull Run Orders of Battle

23 02 2012

Just a reminder: the Orders of Battle (OOB) in the Resources section of this site are maps to most of the primary data on this site. If you’re looking for info on a particular unit, find them on the OOB, and if there is anything on the site for them you’ll find the links. There are some mistakes in my OOBs that I haven’t got around to fixing yet – spelling, first names and such for the most part. I plan to have pages for each command at some point, with a deeper roster of officers to company level, unit histories, etc. But my friend across the pond Jonathan Soffe has a great resource at Firstbullrun.com. Be sure to check it out and verify info you may find here. If you discover we are at odds, let me know.





Uncle of E. J. Goodspeed, A Civilian’s Eyewitness Account of the Battle

23 02 2012

Correspondence of the Daily Gazette.

Another Account of the Battle.

———-

Messers. Editors: — The Following is the main body of a letter just received by the family of my uncle, which I copy and send to you. As it deeply interested me I think it may interest your readers, and send it on.

Respectfully yours,

E. J. Goodspeed.

——-

Willard’s Hotel,

Washington, July 24th, 1861.

My Dear Son: — [Here follows a description of the appearance of our army in their entrenchments and of the general confidence of the troops that victory would be theirs.]

“Centreville is within one mile of the first battle ground.  The enemy held the ground and were encamped on the other side of Bull’s Run; ranging over an extent of about five miles. Centerville being a little to the left of the centre of their lines in front, with a glass I could distinctly see their several encampments on the slopes of the hills beyond, and still beyond the long range of the blue mountains of Virginia, ,stretching each way as far as the eye could see. The scene was most beautiful, and the contemplation of the conflict on the morrow most exciting. The certainty that hundreds of the brave boys of the magnificent army encamped around me, were building their last camp fires, and that anxious friends whom they had left and who were doubtless then praying for their safety in the coming fight, would be stricken with sorrow so soon, made it anything but pleasant to contemplate. We camped with the 14th of Brooklyn in the tent of their brave and lamented Col. Wood. I was recognized by several of the boys of the 14th. By two o’clock Sunday morning every regiment was ready for the march, each with two days rations in their haversacks. By three they began to move from about two miles this side of Centreville. My party and myself remained in Centerville and saw every regiment pass through. The sight was imposing and grand in the extreme. The boys were in good spirits, and, with us, were all certain of victory. I shook hands with many of them, and with Edward Appleton of the Vermont 2d, for the last time. His head was shot off before noon. He was from Bennington.

From the hills about Centreville, we had a view of the whole extent of the distant battle field, though the clumps of forest hid the combatants from our view. The smoke however from the cannonading told us of the positions of the contending forces; and the thick and lengthy clouds of dust away in the distance told us of the rapid approach of reinforcements to the enemy, and of the combination of the several divisions of our own forces. About 11 o’clock the cannonading seemed to be most fearful and rapid in the centre some three miles distant. — But all were hid from our view by the smoke. We could stand it no longer. My friend Watkin of the Express (N.Y.) and myself determined on a closer and more satisfactory view. By half past 11 we found ourselves with General Schenck and his staff, whose brigade was held in reserve, just on this side of Bull’s Run, and inside of one mile of the main battle ground, though hid from the enemy by a forest. We occupied a position which with our glasses gave us a full view of the battle, for at least 4 1/2 hours. We saw every charge of the glorious 71st, the 69th, the 14th, the Fire Zouaves, Sherman’s Battery, the Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Michigan, Rhode Island, Maine and Minnesota regiments. We were in constant receipt of the effect of their fire on our troops, by couriers who were going to Gen. McDowell and Schenck, up to four o’clock, at which time we were shelled out of our position and forced to an inglorious flight (I mean us civilians). Up to that time the victory was unmistakably ours, with a loss that could not have exceeded 300 killed. Our boys captured position after position of their murderous masked batteries until we supposed the victory was ours beyond a doubt. We distinctly saw their baggage train in full retreat, and cheered ourselves hoarse at our glorious victory. At this time a battery of five pieces, which had been pouring a cross fire into our boys on the other side of the Run, was turned upon us and gave us a more practical realization of the terrors of war. Several were killed very near me. I did not ask permission to leave, or stand upon the order of my going, but went at once. a half mile’s travel placed a heavy forest between me and their murderous shells, but not in season to prevent my being captured by the enemy’s cavalry, who had out-flanked Schenck’s brigade and who were just making a dash upon the hospital in front of me. As I emerged from the woods they drove us back and made a terrific sweep after the scattered soldiery and ambulance wagons in front of us. the 8th battalion of artillery opened a fire upon them and they were annihilated – horses riders and all – not more than six made their escape. This opened the way for me and several others to escape, and we improved it in double quick time. I left the woods mounted, though I entered on foot. I will explain when I see you. On reaching Centreville I found the entire baggage train in utter rout. I have no patience to describe the disgraceful scene and I will forbear. – On looking back from Centreville the ground over which I had just passed (Centreville is considerably elevated above the country intervening between it and the battle ground) I saw our victorious army in ignominious retreat – flight, rout, and no one in pursuit. I felt so outraged at this unaccountable panic that I determined not to leave Centreville until the disgraceful rout had passed on. – When they had all gone on, I left with the reserve brigade, composed of one battalion of artillery, the German Rifles, and the Garibaldi Guards, who marched on the Washington in perfect order – the rear guard of the Grand Army of the Potomac – with no one to pursue save a few scattering horsemen, the enemy being so badly cut up that he has not yet scarcely moved this side of Bull’s Run. I cannot explain the cause of this unexampled, shameful retreat. No matter what the newspapers say, do not believe that our loss in killed, wounded and prisoners will reach 1,500. The killed will fall short of 500, and for myself, I do not believe it will reach 300. So much for the first exploit of the army of the Potomac. I await with no little anxiety its further movements.”

He adds that the boys he has met since the conflict are eager for another engagement.

Janesville Daily Gazette, 8/2/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy





“C.”, 2nd Wisconsin, On the Battle

22 02 2012

From the Milwaukee Sentinel.

Interesting Letter from the Second Regiment.

———-

Camp Corcoran,

Monday Night, July 22, ’61.

Once again, we are back in the vicinity of Washington, having passed through a battle that will ever have a full page in the history of battles. The full report of it you may have seen, and my work will be to give only a few scenes connected with the Second Wisconsin Regiment, which from the many who narrowly watched us, has received not a few encomiums.

On Sunday morning, July 21st, at 2 o’clock A. M., our camp near Centerville, was aroused by the cry of “Fall in to march.” – The men were ready and eager to be up, it being supposed that the commander-in-chief of the division had made preparations for us to go on and complete a victory which we felt sure was before us. The Second Wisconsin, 79th, 69th, and 13th New York, with Sherman’s battery and Capt. Thompson’s troop of 100 horse, formed one brigade, while two Connecticut and two Ohio regiments, with company E. U. S. artillery, and a troop of 100 horse, formed another. Both were under the command of Gen. Tyler, and formed the centre of McDowell’s grand army. The right wing was under the command of Gen. Hunter, and the left, under Gen. Heintzleman. The right and left were to close on the wings of the enemy’s fortifications, extending to a distance of six miles, while the centre was to attack their principal fortresses.

Our wing waited until nearly daylight before starting, as the others had a much longer distance to go; but at length we were under way. To Bull’s Run was only a distance of three miles, which was soon reached. Here we felt ourselves in the midst of the enemy’s works. The ground we were approaching was known to be full of masked batteries but a few days before, and now the march was necessarily slow and tedious.

The 2nd Wisconsin and the 79th New York to the right of the road and filing off through the woods, flanked with the left on the road, while the balance of the brigade took the left hand side, and Sherman’s battery, with “President Lincoln’s Baby-waker,” as a large 32-pound rifle cannon was called, took the road, the infantry acting as a support to the battery. The column, in this order, worked its way up gradually to the edge of the woods, and came to a halt. Just beyond the woods was an opening some 500 rods in extent; then came Bull’s Run, a deep ravine, and beyond this, high up, rose the natural fortifications of the rebels. No better place could have been selected, and no other natural fortification so easy of self-support could have been found.

On the enemy’s side, as we drew near, nothing out of the usual course of events could be seen. All seemed as natural as though the roads were not alive with armed men and filled with masked batteries.

After reconnoitering a while, the large rifle cannon began picking out some good marks. Sever shots were made, but they were not returned, when some one suggested that in a deep ravine, which could be seen, was a good seclusion. A shot directed there, sent forth into the open field at least 500 cavalry, who scattered like chaff in every direction, but soon returned. The big gun continued its work, and the riderless horses that came flying out, several of which came over to our lines, showed that it was no idle play. Sherman, too, opened his battery, and, at the same time, a masked battery, almost within musket shot of the Connecticut regiments, opened upon them, and then battery after battery poured in, and the shower of lead came out from every clump of trees.

The men threw themselves upon the ground, with their arms ready to come to a charge, and although the fire was hat and heavy, only one man was killed and two wounded, both of the Connecticut. The fire of the big gun and of Sherman’s and Co. E batteries was directed against those of the enemy, and in a remarkably short space of time, so accurate was the aim, they were all silenced.

Almost the same instant our battery commenced, that of the left wing opened in the stronghold we had attempted to take a few days before. They were soon silenced, and when the guns of Gen. Hunter’s wing opened, the other wings started on the march, the right pressing, formed in line, the center making the circuit around, in order to aid Hunter. On the route and in crossing Bull’s Run, fires from batteries opened on the columns, and in this movement several were killed. The rebels seemed to possess innumerable batteries. They had them everywhere, and no point where a gun could be planted to have an effect upon our column, seems to have been neglected. The column soon crossed, and we went up the mountain road, we could see the enemy flying in companies, in squads and in regiments, before Gen. Hunter’s men, towards a long and narrow piece of woods, while from the right they came pouring down in the same hasty manner before Gen. Heintzleman’s men. The ravine, against which fire had at first been directed, seemed filled with dead. Bodies were laying in every directions, showing that the loss from shot and shell was terrific. With a loud shout for the “stars and stripes” our boys pushed forward, in pursuit of the flying rebels until we reached Hunter’s command, it having halted to be recruited. The open plain before us had been the enemy’s camping ground, and muskets, blankets, knapsacks, canteens, haversacks and dead bodies, were lying about indiscriminately. Our boys threw off everything, down to clothing and cartridge boxes, when the battle line was formed so as to completely hem in the rebel stronghold.

Now the work commenced in earnest. — All along the line of woods batteries opened one after the other, and shot, shell, canister and grape poured in upon us. From the position we occupied it did but little serious damage, although it whistled with so shrill a series of noises as to startle the most brave. By some neglect we had little artillery with us, it having remained behind. — The Rhode Island battery opened on one of the enemy’s, but it had taken a position so near them that before it could be brought into actual service it was used up. Carlisle’s battery and Sherman’s opened a heavy fire, and as far as two batteries could be of use they were. They silenced gun after gun, and at length got out of ammunition. By this time the federal troops got ready for a charge at the point of the bayonet, the battle line being extended all along the enemy’s lines, with the regular cavalry and marines, together with Ellsworth’s Zouaves on the right. The Wisconsin Second occupied about the center of the line. They lay for some time under cover of a hill, while the shot was pouring over them, and then, when the charge was ordered, filed on up a narrow lane, and came into line, It was a dangerous position, as they were subject to a cross fire, and many of them fell wounded.

The grand body now moved forward at a double-quick, until they came within musket shot of the enemy, and the was poured in upon them a most murderous fire of musketry. Never was there anything like it. — Together with the musketry, three batteries were pouring in grape and canister, while our own batteries were silenced from want of ammunition. Had we had our usual amount of artillery, their batteries could have been silenced, but as we had no support from this source, the order was given to fall back, and the regiments fell back a few rods to rally, all in hopes that the enemy would withdraw from their ambush, and follow to give a fair fight.

The command to fall back was given by Gen. Tyler, who it is supposed acted from the order of Gen. McDowell.

The fortress behind which the enemy was entrenched was built of crossed railroad bars and logs, and behind these was an army of 70,00 men, arrayed so as fill up the whole line in front, the rear column loading and the front, two deep firing continually.

Before the order for retreat was given the battle was fairly won, and victory would have been surrendered to the federal flag, but as the rebels were about giving up, Gen. Johnston arrived from Manassas Gap, with 18,000 fresh troops. It was supposed that Gen. Patterson was close upon him, but such was not the case, he, for some reason, which I have not yet learned, having left the track.

When the order to fall back was given, the regiments of the army gave way, then rallied, and as the rebel troops showed themselves outside the entrenchments, poured in upon them volley after volley, but finding it fruitless to continue the fight, they received orders to give way, and take up their line of retreat. They did this by regiments and companies in admirable order, but hundreds fell out, and forming in squads fell behind, and seeking shelter, behind logs and trees, commenced an Indian fight upon the rebel cavalry, which came out of the woods, to the number of 1,000, to pursue the stragglers. They dropped from the saddle in squads under the fire. This Indian skirmishing was a protection to the retreating army; but many of those who were giving the aid, suffered in consequence, as they were taken prisoners, when they got down so few in numbers as to offer little resistance to the rebels.

Among the prisoners known to be taken is S. P. Jackson of La Crosse, a member of Co. B. He had his arm broken by a musket ball and was taken by the cavalry, together with t squad of seven Wisconsin boys. Then they were being taken off, a few of the boys rallied and fired into the cavalry, calling upon the Union prisoners to escape. They all did so but Jackson, who was taken off. Before the others escaped Jackson told the officer of the cavalry that he was useless to them, as his arm was broken. The reply was that he should be taken care of. “yes,” replied Jackson, “the same as our wounded men at Bull’s Run the other day. You bayoneted all our wounded men.” “It’s a lie,” replied the officer. “It is not,” replied Jackson, “you killed every one of our wounded men.” — “Our orders were to take care of the wounded, and we fight humanely. To be sure there are some d—-d rascals in every army who fight like tigers, and kill the wounded, but we prevent it when we can.” At this, one of them spoke up and said, “Not by a d—-d sight; we shall kill every hell-hound of them we take.” The New Orleans Zouave who was taken prisoner, also said, “You may kill me if you please, and you may win the battle to-day, but we will whip you to-morrow when our recruits get in, and then every one of you that falls into our hands will be butchered.” This appeared to be the general sentiment, that no mercy was to be shown, and that all who fell into their hands would have no pleasant situation.

Many of those captured afterwards escaped by a ruse or trick. Ruby, of the Oshkosh company, was kept some time, but escaped by playing Indian, while Whiting, of the La Crosse company escaped by yelling that the artillery was upon them, and they must retreat. The cavalry thought it one of their own officers who gave the command, and scattered, when Whitney escaped. A number of just such cases occurred. Capt. Colwell, of Co. B acted the hero all the way through. He rallied his men and led them on to positions where it would scarcely be deemed men could go. He captured one piece of artillery, he and his men taking the piece by main force and hauling it a long distance off, and then returned to the fight. The Wisconsin regiment was the last body off the field, and their run was caused by the rebel cavalry. Had they been less brave their loss in prisoners would have been greater, as they remained in squads and charged upon the cavalry every time they approached. The retreating column also had to contend against a raking fire of artillery. As they crossed the Run the rebels had a fine rake with their guns, and kept up a constant fire of grape and canister. The loss from this sortie, however, was not heavy.

The enemy did not follow up the retreat, which shows conclusively that they did not consider it a great victory. The retreat was continued to Centreville, when a halt was made for an hour’s rest. The regiments were then re-formed, and continued their march to their old rendezvous, some to Washington, others to Alexandria, and others to Fort Corcoran; the retreat being covered by two regiments who were not in the field.

It is certain that just before Gen. Johnston arrived with his troops, the rebels were whipped, although at no one time did the federal army have more than fifteen regiments in the field; and but for Johnston’s arrival, they would have left very suddenly for Manassas Gap. The federal troops are not disheartened at the result of the conflict. They feel that they have fought bravely, and that they had not well disciplined men to lead them on. After the conflict had commenced, but little was seen of them; but after the retreat was sounded, and while the column was marching until it had got beyond all danger, very few of the field officers were to be seen. Many of the captains and lieutenants of companies exhibited a courage and intuitive knowledge of military matters that was deserving of a better fate.

We lost most of our blankets, haversacks, &c., that were thrown off when we started to join Hunter, and we lost many of our muskets in the field, but their places were supplied with Sharpe’s rifles, with which the enemy were well supplied. I think the trade is about even. They were well supplied with fighting material, having all that is necessary, all bearing the trade mark of the United States.

Just as I am finishing the present, a member of Capt. Langworthy’s  company has come in from the enemy. He was taken prisoner, and set to work digging graves for the dead. Fearful are the preparations made, so immense is the number. All will be huddled together in common graves, friend and foe together, without prayers or service. It is asserted that a determination was expressed by many to bayonet such of our men who were badly wounded, and some proceeded to execute the threat, when stopped by an officer. Dr. Irwin, of our medical staff, is among them as a prisoner, and is looking after our wounded who are prisoners.

C.

Janesville Weekly Gazette and Free Press, 8/2/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy





Previews Coming

22 02 2012

I have a backlog of titles that I need to talk about. I just want all the authors and publishers who have sent me stuff over the past one or two months to know that I will be getting to those in the coming weeks. In two cases (a book on Bull Run and another of letters from a member of the 8th PA Reserves), I want to go into more detail. The first I think will feature an author interview. The second will incorporate the results of a trip I made this week to Antietam National Battlefield, where historian Ted Alexander was nice enough to come in on his day off to give me access to the park’s file on the 8th PA Reserves. What I found in that file pertaining to my great-grandmother’s brother was startling. Fantastic, in fact.

But more on that, and on all the other books in the queue, later.

For now, here is the very best Confederate battle flag image to come down the pike in a long, long time.

My mom's maiden name was Powers but, sadly, I don't think I'm related to the Myrtle Beach Mermen closer.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 849 other followers