Col. Ezra L. Walrath, 12th New York Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford (2)

24 03 2014

A STATEMENT FROM COL. WALRATH.

HEAD-QUARTERS TWELFTH NEW-YORK

VOLUNTEERS, CAMP OF THE ONONDAGAS,

ARLINGTON, July 24, 1861.

To the Editor of the Washington Star:

After my arrival from Bull Run with my Regiment, I perused the daily papers published in Washington giving accounts of the recent battle, and was astonished to find such an account of the affair published in your paper from a “special correspondent,” reflecting in severe terms upon the courage of my Regiment, both officers and men, on that occasion. The whole matter as reported to your paper is untrue, and it would be doing justice to all concerned that you give publicity to the following statement of facts as they transpired. More could be said of the affair that ought to be made known to the public, but it would implicate certain officers of high positions in the service, and would be contrary to rules governing the inferior towards his superior. However, a court of inquiry will bring the facts before you. At about noon of the 18th inst., our Brigade was posted in rear of Sears’ battery on a hill overlooking a thick wood, in which, the enemy were hidden from view and waiting our attack.

After, considerable cannonading from our battery, which was replied to by the rebels, driving the skirmishers from the woods in double-quick time, two companies of the First Massachusetts Regiment were ordered to attack them in the woods on their left. They marched gallantly to the attack, and were repulsed with considerable loss. Two field-pieces, under command of Capt. BRACKETT, were then sent in, and met with such a deadly reception that the pieces were in danger of being lost. One of their men being shot, one of the men of my regiment immediately advanced and took his place at the gun. My command was then ordered to form near the woods in line of battle, on the left of a body of cavalry which was drawn up under cover of another piece of woods near the scene of action. A person in citizen’s dress, with shoulder straps, then rode up from the woods in great haste, and urged us forward to sustain his battery and prevent its loss. I had no Lieutenant-Colonel present, and was near the right of my regiment. The Adjutant, who was near the centre, asked him who he was, and he replied that he was Capt. BRACKETT, commanding the battery. At that moment I saw Col. RICHARDSON, commanding the Brigade, approaching, and I replied to Capt. BRACKETT that if it was Col. RICHARDSON’s orders to advance, I would do so. Col. RICHARDSON addressed us, saying: “Move forward, New-Yorkers, and sweep the woods.” I immediately gave the order to “Forward,” when the battery came rushing out of the woods, and broke through our line, followed by grape and canister from the enemy.

My command moved steadily forward into the woods and low thick pines and brush, which vailed everything in front beyond a few paces, and had proceeded some 20 or 30 rods when a murderous fire of musketry, grape and canister was opened on us. We returned the fire, and I ordered my command to fall, and load and fire lying. They did so, returning several volleys. The enemy continued to pour in their fire from a force which must have been quadruple our number, to say nothing of their battery. Yet my men returned the fire, till one of the line officers gave the command to retreat, when the centre and left rapidly fell back. As soon as I discovered the mistake I tried to rally the men on the colors, but the murderous fire being kept up, they would not obey, and actually ran over me. I followed, and entreated the men to rally on the colors, and partially succeeded several times, but was unable to make a permanent stand. Gen. TYLER at this time rode forward and denounced us all as cowards. He did not inquire the cause of the retreat, but at once censured us in severe terms. Several companies on the right — A, I, and part of E — remained until the firing ceased on the part of the rebels, when they, by order, formed a retreat in good order into the field in front of the woods.

At this time I had the regiment nearly formed on the hill near the woods, by the road, and left it in charge of the Major until I went back to see about the wounded, and when I returned, the word had been given for the brigade to retire to Centreville. I see, by the articles referred to, that “I mounted my horse and did not stop running until I was safely behind a pile of rocks.” Now, Sir, this is false in every particular. Our former Lieut.-Col. GRAHAM, (now Quartermaster of the regiment,) was mounted on a gray horse that resembles mine very much, who did ride to the rear in quick time. I doubt not but he was taken for myself when retiring from the battle-ground. I feel that I have been wronged and ask of you to publish this statement, and by so doing you will do justice to myself, my regiment, and my friends. I am so confident that I done my duty on that occasion, that I would repeat it if I should be placed before the enemy under similar circumstances.

E.L. WALRATH,

Colonel of the Twelfth N.Y. Volunteers.

New York Times, 7/31/1861

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24 03 2014
Ezra Walrath Court of Inquiry | Bull Runnings

[…] of the regiment at Blackburn’s Ford to which he alluded in his correspondence here and here, I was able to locate this unidentified news clipping from this […]

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