Bristow, July 19th, 1861
Well, I suppose you are delighted to see my handwriting in ink once more, something I like myself. Now for my adventures.
On Wednesday evening I was still flat on my back at Mr. Meachen’s quite sick. I was summoned in great haste, put into a wagon and rushed off with the troop to Bull Run, at a place called Stone Bridge Ford, the enemy being on the advance from towards Fairfax Courthouse in overwhelming numbers. The whole of Cocke’s brigade took the same position, and we were tolerably well established by night but I had to sleep on the ground, which was not good for a sick man. I was sent by the surgeon, the next day, to this place in an ambulance, for I could not sit on my horse. This is a quiet hotel where are boarding some nice people; amongst them was Mrs. Hyde and her pretty, attractive niece Constance Cary who had come out of Alexandria when the yankees occupied it.
When the troops fell back it was done by preconcerted plan, and done without firing a gun. The enemy advanced, they thought, to certain victory but they were vastly mistaken. You must know that parallel to the Manassas Gap Railroad runs a stream to towards the Potomac called Bull Run, along which our army was placed in three positions. The center was at Mitchell’s Ford which is the ford where the road to Manassas from Centreville crosses the run; the right wing was down at a ford near where the railroad crosses the same run, and the left wing was under the command of Colonel Cocke, near the stone bridge, which is the bridge over which the pike from Warrington to Washington passes. General Beauregard commands the center in person – who commands the right wing I do not know. From Manassas to Mitchell’s Ford is three miles, from Centreville to the Ford is four miles. The Federal headquarters are at Centreville. It is about four miles from Manassas to our right wing. I think they call it Blackburn’s Ford. From Manassas to the stone bridge is six miles. Most of our troops are on the right and on the center. I have no idea of how many we have. I only know of Cocke’s brigade on the left, with which my command is operating under his orders.
About nine o’clock yesterday morning the enemy commenced an attack on Mitchell’s Ford and repeated it several times. Our position there is a strong one. All of our men behaved nobly. The Virginians stood with the coolness of veterans, yet fought with the fury of tigers in the charge. Our loss, however, was very small. I learn that no member of the Home Guard was killed, wounded or missing. Major Carter Harrison, your cousin and mine, I hear was killed. You can imagine my suspense while lying helpless in Manassas and hearing the battle raging within three miles.
The thunder of guns woke me up from a troubled sleep and at first I thought it was a morning thunder shower but as I became more awake, and heard the people in the house calling to each other I realized what had happened; the battle was commencing. I tried to spring out of bed but my first movement showed me I was still in no condition to join my company so all I could do was lay back, trying from the dim sounds to visualize what was going on at the front. Below me in the road I could hear the mustering of forage details that were in the rear, the jangle and rattle of an artillery company going up at a gallop, ammunition wagons creaking as the driver prodded their horses to greater effort. Now and then the hooves of a courier went past while news and rumors were relayed up from the front of the house to the upper floors by excited shouts. I strained my ears to every word. In the next room I could hear a woman praying, between sobs, for her husband. When John Scott came up i scanned his face, it was as stolid and unmoved by the battle as by any routine maneuver. “What is happening, how is the battle going?” I asked anxiously. “Them yankees ain’t doin’ nuthin,” he answered unmoved by the excitement. “Them yankees are just marchin’ up and bein’ shot to Hell.” John Scott was too much of an old warrior not to be able to sort out the facts from the many rumors that were flying about and I felt easier, especially when I discovered the fighting was going on well away from our position in the lines. As th excitement outside and in the house calmed down, the sound of the fighting remained unchanged and soothed by John Scott’s unemotional reports I was able to relax and sleep.
Fortunately Cocke’s brigade was not engaged yesterday and there is no fighting anywhere on the line today. I expect to join them before my company is engaged.
Blackford, S. L., Blackford, C. M., Blackford, C. M. III, Letters from Lee’s Army or Memoirs of Life In and Out of The Army in Virginia During the War Between the States, pp. 24-26.