Pvt. John H. Morrison, Co. H, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

17 12 2012

[The following letter was received from private John H. Morrison, of Co. H, (Captain Baird,) by his father. It is replete with interesting incidents of the part taken by the Geneva boys in the great battle at Bull’s Run:

Alexandria, Va., July 23d.

Dear Father:

I sit down to write you a few lines, and it is a great task to do it, for I am so fatigued that I can hardly sit up. We have just returned from a march of about 32 hours in the rain. Sunday morning – (o, what a Sunday that was! it was one that I shall never forget) – we were called from our rest. We were about two miles from a place called Centreville: we had marched to Fairfax Court House the day before that, and routed the enemy. They left their camps and the most of their provisions in a great hurry. We stayed there one day and took 11 prisoners. The next day we marched to Centreville, and as I said, were aroused at 1 o’clock and started for Manassas Junction. We were on a forced march the most of the rime, and just before we got to the field of battle we got to the field of battle we had to move at “double quick.” We were drawn up in line of battle, and marched direct to the front of the enemy. They were in masked batteries, and we could not see them fairly. But we gave them a few vollies, and then our regiment was detailed to cover a battery of artillery. We were a few yards behind the picket battery, which was awfully cut up by the enemy’s artillery. We were then ordered to sustain a charge of the Fire Zouaves, which we did; and our regiment and the Fire Zouaves marched directly up within five rods of the rebel battery, and stood a galling fire for the space of 15 or 20 minutes, but had to retreat. We rallied again, and stood their fire for a long time, and had to retreat again. They may say what they please in the papers, but the Thirty-eighth and the Fire Zouaves were the only regiments that went any where near the enemy’s batteries.

While we stood there, I was wondering all the while that a ball did not hit me; but I got off without a scratch! Why I saw men fall all around me. Some had their head shot off clean from the body; some had both legs and arms taken off; and others fell with balls in their heads. It was one continual whiz around my head. Men would drop next to me; but although I always thought I would feel a little fear on entering a field of battle, yet I was never more cool and steady in my life, notwithstanding the hot weather and fatigue.

A great many of our men were sunstruck, including our Colonel; and if it had not been for Capt. Baird, we would not have a Colonel now. Capt. B. was the only officer of his rank in our regiment that I saw at the head of his men. You may read a great deal in the papers in regard to this battle. I cannot estimate the number of men lost on either side, but the slaughter was great. I have heard men that were in the Crimean war and in a dozen battles say, that they never saw men stand before such galling fire as we did.

You can put down the Brooklyn Phalanx (Henry Ward Beecher’s pets) as cowards! And you may not credit any of the State troops except those of New York for any great display of bravery.

I will not undertake to say how many men our regiment lost; but I will say that most of our Geneva boys are safe – that is, as far as I know. I expect that Johnny Orman is killed, and several wounded. Harry L. Stainton got a ball through his right hand; he may lose it, and he may not.

I will not attempt to give all the particulars until I can do so without causing needless alarm to the friends of the 38th.

I will mention the Fire Zouaves, as I think they stood the brunt of the battle. As for the “seceshers,” we will “polish” them off yet. Charley Dorchester, Clark McMillan of Phelps, and I, are in our tents, all sound. John Baker, Fred Andrus and young Tim Clare are safe.

I have just heard that we are cut off from Washington, and I must quit. I will give more particulars in my next. This in a hurry.

John.

Geneva Gazette, 8/2/1861

Clipping Image

John H. Morrison at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy








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