Romeyn B. Ayres

29 07 2009

During the First Bull Run campaign, Capt. Romeyn Ayres commanded Company (Battery) E, 3rd US Artillery, the famous Sherman’s Battery, which was attached to Sherman’s brigade of Tyler’s division (see here); this despite his official assignment with the 5th Artillery.  Being unable to cross Bull Run with his brigade, Ayres spent the day in reserve and covering the retreat, during which he repelled a cavalry charge.  Ayres sent a wagon, three caissons and his forge ahead when preparing for the retreat, and reported all of these, plus seven horses and five mules, lost when fleeing volunteers cut the traces and stole the mounts (see his report here).

Later, he would advance through artillery positions to infantry brigade and division command, participating in the major campaigns of the Army of the Potomac through Appomattox.  He was also sent with his division to put down the draft riots in New York City.  The army must have been impressed, because in 1877 he was sent with a battalion to Mauch Chunk, PA, home to the Molly Maguires, to suppress the railroad disturbance there.  I’m guessing Ayres was not popular with the AOH.

In Cullum’s Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of USMA (Ayres’s Cullum number is 1352), classmate Col. John Hamilton notes that (i)n the field his style was that of the brilliant executor, rather than of the plotting strategist.  He had withal a remarkable eye to at once take in the situation on the field, and was the quickest of tacticians.

Hamilton provided a few anecdotes, demonstrating a sometimes brutal wit:

On march in Texas, during a few days’ rest he [Ayres] happened to pitch his camp near the permanent command of an officer who ranked him.  The officer was a strict constructionist of Army Regulations, and had his reveille at daybreak.   Ayres had ever liked his morning nap; and his senior, very unnecessarily, considering the transientness of the junction, assumed command over Ayres, and ordered him to comply with the Regulations.

After the interview, Ayres retired to his camp and issued the following order, sending his senior a copy:

Headquarters, Co.-, 3rd Artillery,

Camp —,—, 185-

Company Orders.  Until further orders, daylight in this camp will be at six o’clock.

R.B.Ayres

1st Lt., 3rd Artillery,

Commanding Co. -

During the Rebellion, a colonel of his brigade showed a timidity before the enemy too observable to the command to be overlooked by the brigadier.  What passed at the subsequent interview nobody will ever know, but the next day the colonel was found in the hottest part of the action.  Soon an officer of his regiment reported to Ayres, General, poor Colonel — is killed.  Thank God!  says Ayres, his children can now be proud of him.

I have some delightfully ironic trivia concerning Ayres’s grave, but will address that in a separate post later.  Stay tuned.

This article was origninally posted on 6/29/2007, as part of the Romeyn Beck Ayres biographical sketch.





Note From the Family of Romeyn Ayres

23 06 2009

I received this email the other day:

Hello Harry,

Thanks so much for doing a blog entry on my father’s great great grandfather, Romeyn Beck Ayres.   Today, Father’s Day, he had just shown me a photo from a magazine of Lincoln at Antietam where he inquired to the editors and they read the caption claiming Romeyn was 5th over to the left from Lincoln, the only one not wearing a hat.   But I found a caption online that says it was Col. Alexander S. Webb.  The photos on your site seem to confirm it was not him.

I am printing out the information you posted to show my father tomorrow.  This may be what wins him over re the internet.

Thanks again,

Tim Ayres

p.s.  I have my own wordpress blog, where I produce and rotate host a long running poetry show on our local college station.   Small world. 

madriveranthology.wordpress.com

Here’s a cropped version of the photo to which I think Tim is referring – click the thumbnail for a larger image:

AL-at-Antietam

The bareheaded fellow bears more of a resemblance to Webb than to Ayres.  That’s George Custer on the far right, by the way.

I’m not done with Ayres, commander of Sherman’s Battery (E, 3rd US) at Bull Run.  There’s a pretty cool story regarding his plot in Arlington National Cemetery and another of Tim’s ancestors. 





#27 – Capt. Romeyn B. Ayres

3 10 2007

 

Report of Capt. Romeyn B. Ayres, Fifth U.S. Artillery

(Edit – Commanding Light Battery E, 3rd U. S. Artillery)

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 373-374

 

LIGHT COMPANY E, THIRD ARTILLERY,

Camp Corcoran, Virginia, July 25, 1861.

SIR: I have the honor to report the part taken in the battle of the 21st instant by this battery.

The battery advanced in the morning with the brigade to which it was attached—Col. W. T. Sherman’s—on the center route upon the front of the enemy’s position. The battery operated from this position at times upon the enemy’s batteries and troops as occasion offered. About noon I started with the brigade, as ordered, to cross the open ground, the run, and to rise the bluff, with a portion of the battery, one section being detached at this time, operating upon a battery to the left. On arriving at the run it at once was apparent that it was impossible to rise the bluff opposite with the pieces. I sent an officer immediately to report the fact to Colonel Sherman and ask instructions. I received for reply that I should use my discretion.

I immediately returned to the central position. I remained at this point, operating upon the enemy’s guns and infantry, till ordered by General Tyler to cover the retreat of the division with the battery.

A body of cavalry at this time drew up to charge the battery. The whole battery poured canister into and demolished them. The battery moved slowly to the rear to Centreville.

I will add, that the coolness and gallantry of First Lieut. Dunbar R. Ransom on all occasions, and particularly when under fire of three pieces, with his section at short range, when the battery was about to be charged by a large body of cavalry, and also when crossing a broken bridge in a rough gully, and fired upon in rear by the enemy’s infantry, were conspicuous. The good conduct of First Lieut. George W. Dresser, Fourth Artillery, was marked, especially when threatened by cavalry, and at the ravine referred to above. Second Lieut. H. E. Noyes, cavalry, was energetic in the performance of his duties.

I lost four horses killed on 18th; two horses wounded on 18th; seven horses on 21st; three caissons, the forge, and a six-mule team and wagon (excepting one mule), on the 21st. I sent all these caissons, &c., ahead when preparing for the retreat, to get them out of the way. The fleeing volunteers cut the traces and took the horses of the caissons.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. B. AYRES,

Captain, Fifth Artillery, Commanding Company E.

First Lieut. ALEXANDER PIPER,

Third Artillery, A. A. A. G.





Romeyn Beck Ayres

29 06 2007

Romeyn Beck Ayres; born East Creek, NY 12/20/25; fluent in Latin; first wife Emily Louis Gerry Dearborn; second wife was Juliet Opie Hopkins Butcher, the daughter of Juliet Opie Hopkins; West Point Class of 1847 (22 of 35); Bvt 2nd Lt 4th US Arty 7/1/47; 2nd Lt 3rd Arty 9/22/47; served in garrison in Puebla and Mexico City, Mexico; 1st Lt 3/16/52; Capt 5th Arty 5/14/61; Artillery, W. F. Smith’s Div., 4th Corps, Army of the Potomac (AotP), 10/3/61 to 3/13/62; Artillery, 2nd Div., 4th Corps, AotP, 3/13/62 to 5/18/62; Artillery, 2nd Div., 6th Corps, AotP, 5/18/62 to 11/16/62; Artillery, 6th Corps, AotP, 11/16/62 to 4/4/63; BGUSV 11/29/62 (n 3/4/63 c 3/9/63); 1st Brig., 2nd Div, 5th Corps, AotP 4/21/64 to 6/28/63; 2nd Div, 5th Corps, AotP 6/28/63 to 3/24/64; Bvt Maj 7/2/63 for gallant and meritorious service in the Battle of Gettysburg; 4th Brig, 1st Div, 5th Corps, AotP 3/24/64 to 4/64; 1st Brig, 1st Div, 5th Corps, AotP 4/64 to 6/5/64; Bvt Lt Col 5/5/64 for gallant and meritorious service in the Battle of the Wilderness; 2nd Div, 5th Corps, AotP 6/6/64 to 12/22/64 and 1/8/65 to 6/28/65; wounded at Petersburg, VA 6/20/64; Bvt MGUSV 8/1/64 (n 7/17/66 c 7/23/66) for conspicuous gallantry in Battles of Wilderness, Spotsylvania CH, Jericho Mills, Bethesda Church, Petersburg, Weldon RR (Globe Tavern), and for faithful service in the campaign; Bvt Col 8/18/64 for gallant and meritorious service in the Battle of Weldon RR; Bvt BGUSA 3/13/65 (n 4/10/66 c 5/4/66) for gallant and meritorious service in the Battle of Five Forks; Bvt MGUSA 3/13/65 (n 7/17/66 c 7/23/66) for gallant and meritorious service in the field during the war; 3rd Div, Provisional Corps, 6/28/65 to 7/65; Dist of the Shenandoah Valley, Middle Dept, 8/23/65 to 4/30/66; mustered out of volunteers 4/30/66; Lt Col 28th US Inf 7/28/66; 19th US Inf 3/15/69; 3rd Arty 12/15/70; served in garrison in various posts including Little Rock, AK, Jackson Barracks, LA, and Key West, FL; Col 2nd Arty 7/18/79; supervised various posts in FL; died Fort Hamilton, NY 12/4/88; buried Arlington National Cemetery, VA, Sec 1, site 12.   

Sources: Eicher & Eicher, Civil War High Commands, pp 110-111, 706, 710, 718 732; Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the U. S. Army, Vol. I p 177; Sifakis, Who was Who in the American Civil War, pp 23-24; Warner, Generals in Blue, pp 387-388. 

ayres1.jpgayres2.jpgayres3.jpgayresmarker.jpg  
  Photo credits: a, b, c; www.generalsandbrevets.com d; findagrave.com

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Col. W. T. Sherman, to His Wife, On Preparations to March (2)

17 07 2014

Camp opposite Georgetown.

July 16, 1861.

Dearest Ellen,

We start forth today at 2 P.M. move forward 10 miles to Vienna, there sleep – and tomorrow morning expect to fight some six or eight thousand of the enemy, at or near Fairfax, Germantown or Centreville – There we may pause for a few days & then on Manassas Junction, Beauregards Hd. Qrs. distant from here about 30 miles. I think we shall make a wide circuit, to come on his rear.

I am going to mind my own Brigade – not trouble myself about General plans – McDowell commands the whole – Brig. Gen. Tyler our column of 4 Brigades of about 10, or 11,000 men. I will have 3,400 – New York 13, 69 & 79th & Wisconsin 2nd with Shermans Battery now commanded by Capt. Ayres.

I take with me a few clothes in the valises & saddle bags – leave my small trunk to follow – have about 50 dollars in money, a Boy named John Hill as servant – have drawn pay to June 30 – and you know all else.

I think Beauregard will probably fall back tomorrow on Manassas, and call by R. R. from the neighborhood of Richmond & Lynchburg all the men he can get, and fight us there, in which case we will have our hands full.

Yesterday I went to the convent to bring the Girls over to see a drill – I found India Turner over visiting John Lee – Miss Whittington out in the country – so I brot over Miss Patterson and a Miss Walker of New Orleans – and after drill took them back – I saw Sister Bernard, and another who said she was your drawing teacher – She had a whole parcel of little prayers, and relics to keep me from harm – I told her you had secured about my neck as it were with a Silk cable a little medal which would be there, and her little relics I would stow away in my holsters.

Whatever fate befalls me, I Know you appreciate what good qualities I possess – and will make charitable allowances for defects, and that under you, our children will grow up on the safe side. About the Great Future that Providence that gives color and fragrance to the modest violet will deal justly by all – knowing the Secret motives & impulses of every heart. In the noise, confusion, hustle and [crises] of these thousand volunteers, my tongue and pen may be silent henceforth about you and our children, but I confide them with absolute confidence to you and the large circle of our mutual friends & relations.

I still regard this as but the beginning of a long war, but I hope my judgment therein is wrong, and that the People of the South may yet see the folly of their unjust Rebellion against the most mild & paternal Government ever designed for men – John will in Washington be better able to judge of my whereabouts and you had better send letters to him. As I read them I will tear them up, for every ounce on a march tells.

Tell Willy I have another war sword, which he can add to his present armory – when I come home again – I will gratify his ambitions on that score, though truly I do not choose for him or Tommy the military profession. It is too full of blind chances to be worthy of the first rank among callings.

Watch well your investments – the note you left with Turner, as well as you others lest you may be necessitated to fall back on them. Always assure Maj. Turner and Mr. Lucas of the unbounded respect I feel for them. Give your father, mother, sis & all my love. Tell Henrietta it has been an impossibility for me to go over to see her father & mother without neglecting my command which I never do. Good bye – and believe me always most affectionately yrs.

W. T. Sherman

Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, pp. 116-118





Col. W. T. Sherman, to His Wife, On Preparations to March (1)

16 07 2014

Rosslyn, opposite Georgetown.

July 15, 1861.

Dearest Ellen,

Charles Sherman came over yesterday & spent most of the day with me. He brought your two letters of the 11th and I was very glad to hear you were so well and that the little baby was also flourishing. We certainly have a heavy charge in these Six children, and I know not what is in store for them. All I can now do is to fulfil the office to which I am appointed leaving events to develop as they may. After all Congress is not disposed to increase the Regular Army as the President supposed. The ten new Regiments are only for the war, and will be mustered out, six months after the close of hostilities, but who know when hostilities are to cease? I won’t bother myself on this point but leave things to their natural development.

I now have my brigade ready for the March – Mine is the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division[.] Brig. Gen Tyler commands the Division composed of four Brigades – Keyes’s (you remember him in California) Schenck – Sherman and Richardson – In my brigade are-the New York 69, Irish, 1,000 strong – the 79 Scots, 900 strong – Quinbys 700 strong, and Wisconsin and Col. Peck 900 strong, and the Battery of Capt. Ayres – used to be Shemans battery 112 men – 110 horses and six Guns – We move without baggage – I have Lt. Piper adjt. – McQueston & Bagley aids – two mounted orderlies and a negro servant John Hill.

4 columns move out against the forces of Beauregard – posted from Fairfax C. H. to Manassas Junction – supposed to be from 30, to 45,000 men – one under Col. Miles starts from below Alexandria – one Col. Heintzelman from Alexandria – one Col. Hunter from Long Bridge – and ones from this point Gen. Tyler – This latter is a West Point Graduate, at present Brig. Genl. from Connecticut. I don’t know him very well, but he has a fair reputation – McDowell commands the whole – say 40,000 men – The purpose is to drive Beauregard beyond Manassas – break his connection with Richmond, and then to await further movements by Gen. Patterson and McClellan – I know our plans, but could not explain them to you without maps – It may not produce results but the purpose is to fight no matter the result. We have pretty fair knowledge of the present distribution of Beauregards forces, but he has a Railroad to Richmond from which point he may get reinforcements, and unless Patterson presses Johnston, he too may send forces across from Winchester. Manassas Junction in our possession, Richmond is cut off from the Valley above Staunton. But with these Grand strategic movements I will try to leave that to the heads, and confine my attention to the mere handling of my Brigade[.]

Keyes Brigade is about 5 miles out – the Ohio 4 miles – mine here, Richardson is on the other side – on the first notice we simply close up – and early next morning at Fairfax C. H. where there are 6 or 7 S. C. & Georgia Regts. – Close at hand at Germantown, Flint Hill, Cumberville, Bull Run & Manassas are all occupied & fortified – but we may go round these. I take with me simply valise, & saddle bags – and leave behind my trunks to be sent over to John Sherman. Letter can take the same course. If we take Manassas, there will be a Railroad from Alexandria to that point, so that letters can be received regularly. Though we momentarily look for orders to cook Rations to be carried along, I still see many things to do, which are not yet done, and General Scott, will allow no risks to be run – He thinks there Should be no game of hazard here. All the Risks should be made from the flanks.

I wrote to Minnie yesterday – Poor Charley will be disappointed sadly – He overrates my influence and that of John Sherman – I have some hopes of the transfer with Boris. I will write again before we start but the telegraph will announce all results before you can hear by mail – as ever &c.

W. T. Sherman

Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, pp. 114-116





Hains Related Questions Answered?

24 06 2013
Hains Gun

Illustration from 1911 Cosmopolitan article

As I’ve no doubt mentioned before, I’ve been s-l-o-w-l-y annotating a 1911 Cosmopolitan article written by Peter Conover Hains, The First Gun at Bull Run. Fresh out of West Point, at First Bull Run Lieutenant Hains was in command of a 30-pdr Parrott rifle, detached from Company G of the 1st U. S. Artillery. The gun, generally referred to as Long Tom, was chosen to fire the opening shot of the battle of July 21st, and did so right around 6 A. M. (accounts of the precise time vary.) While just about every study of the battle written after 1911 relies to varying degrees on Hains’s memoir, there’s a lot wrong with it; some things just don’t jive with the facts. So I’ve decided to not take anything Hains writes in this piece at face value. Including this:

I was assigned to train a gun-crew over at what is now known as Fort Meyer, Virginia, just across the river from Washington.  It was a great gun – a thirty-pounder Parrott rifle,  drawn by ten horses as green as could be, horses from the farm that had not been trained even to pull together.  There were five riders or drivers, one man to each pair, and six men rode the caisson and limber as cannoneers.  Two wagons followed, carrying the ammunition.   Some two hundred men were attached to the gun to escort it, to help it along, and to render whatever aid I needed.  In all two hundred and fifty men filed out with the gun in July when I received orders to report to General Tyler  at Alexandria, Virginia.

Two hundred men attached as escort? Why so darn many? Well, it’s not as odd as it may sound, all things considered:

We sallied forth.  The roads promised much, and at first the gun behaved very well indeed.  But we soon came to a hill.  The ten horses threw themselves into their collars.  The gun started up a bit, then the pace slowed, paused, and – then the giant gun began slowly to drift backward down the grade.  We quickly blocked the wheels , and there were no brakes.  I rode up and down the line, cheering on the men.  The drivers yelled, and lashed their horses; the ten animals strained and tugged – but the gun remained motionless.

“Get out the prolonges ,” I ordered, and these lines, of about three-inch rope and knotted together to about a hundred feet in length, were quickly hooked to the axle of the gun. Two hundred men instantly trailed onto them.  With wild yells and cheers they started that gun forward, the ten horses and two hundred men soon dragging it upward to the crest.  It was great.  And most of us were very young indeed.

That makes sense. But, who were these 200 men (though I can’t figure out how you get 200 men to pull on a 100 foot rope)? It’s likely they were infantry. So, from what regiments were they detached? I’ve been keeping an eye out in letters for some mention of the detachment here and there of small groups, or even one or two large ones. But I did stumble across one reference, in Alan Gaff’s history of the 2nd Wisconsin at First Bull Run, If This is War pp. 186-187:

Captain Ayres’ battery unlimbered well in front of Captain Stevens’ Company A behind a screen of bushes and trees, while the thirty-pound Parrott rifled cannon, manned by a detachment under Lieutenant Peter C. Hains, was positioned right in the road. The Parrott gun had proved to be almost impossible to manage, requiring large detachments of horses and men to manhandle it over the hills and valleys. While the Wisconsin regiment occupied the position in support of the artillery, Lieutenant Tom Bishop and thirty men from Company I were detailed to assist Hains and did not serve with the main body during the remainder of the day.

Image of 30-pdr blatantly stolen from http://markerhunter.wordpress.com/

Image of 30-pdr blatantly stolen from http://markerhunter.wordpress.com/

Gaff cites the Daily Wisconsin 8/21/1861; Milwaukee Sentinel 7/30/1861; Wisconsin State Journal 7/30/1861; Mineral Point Tribune, 8/6/1861; a letter in a manuscript collection; and Tyler’s report (which doesn’t mention the detachment) for the above. I’ll try to find the two newspaper letters, maybe in the Quiner Collection. But it would appear that detachments of infantry were assigned to assist Hains at various points. But in the case of the 2nd WI, it was as support.

Also in If This is War I found a reference to another nickname for the 30-pdr Parrott, The Baby-Waker. I first heard the term during a tour years ago, but haven’t run across any other use except for this in Gaff, p. 187:

“At precisely 6 o’clock” Lieutenant Hains ordered his gunners to fire the monster Parrott rifle, dubbed “President Lincoln’s Baby-waker” by the Badgers.

The sources for the above paragraph are the Wisconsin State Journal of July 30, 1861 and the Milwaukee Sentinel of the same date, and a letter in a manuscript collection. More work to do!

UPDATE: Reader Jonathan Soffe, who hosts a great site on First Bull Run, contributes the following:

Two companies of the 11th Massachusetts Infantry, under the command of Captain J H Davis, Company B, were assigned to escort Hains on the march to Centreville on 16 July, 1861.

[This is from] A Narrative of the Formation and Services of the Eleventh Massachusetts Volunteers, from 15 April, 1861, to 14 July, 1865, by Gustavus B Hutchinson [p. 22]

“When the regiment arrived at the road leading to Fairfax, Companies A and G were left, under the command of Capt. Davis, to escort a detachment having in charge a thirty-pound Parrott gun, which, on account of the bad road, they were unable to bring up until the next morning.”





Col. Orlando B. Willcox, On the March to Manassas

12 03 2013

Fairfax Road

July 16

My glorious Molly,

Off once more on the march. This day we go no further than about 8 miles & anticipate no opposition. To-morrow we got to Fairfax & expect there may be fighting. Keep as calm & trustful…as possible.

I received Father’s kind letter, but for the last few days have been too busy to write any thing but business, orders, etc. The 4th Mich. has joined my brigade, also a light battery, D, 2d artillery, Capt. Arnold.

It is impossible to say or conjecture what will be the event of the campaign. It seems to be thought the enemy will fall back. If not we must drive them back.

My heart is too full for my eyes, surrounded as I am by my staff, to trust writing the impulses of the moment. I can only say God bless & keep you & bring us & the children all together soon.

Love to Father & Mother, Caro, Frank, [?] Wm. Blodgett, & all. Kiss my children.

Orlando

——————–

In Camp

Centreville, Va.

July 20, 1861.

My dear Marie,

I have received a letter from your beloved pen & it gave me supreme pleasure. It was written in such a calm, cheerful spirit. It has no date (don’t forget to date your letters), but you say i will have left Alexandria before receiving it.

We marched from Alexandria on the 16th with the whole brigade of 12 regiments, Ricketts’ Battery, Arnold’s battery (in my brigade) & C Company, 2d Cavalry, all composing Col. Heintzelman’s Division. The Brigade commanders are 1st, Franklin, 2d, O. B., 3d, Howard. The next day we marched: Franklin for Sangster’s Station & I for Fairfax Station, both points on the Railway. The roads did not diverge for some distance, so that I was kept back by Franklin, who moved very cautiously & slowly, till 12. At 12 I overlapped him by chance & got on to Fairfax Station & took eleven prisoners & a Secession flag & pushed on towards Fairfax Ct. House, but found it already occupied, & turned back & camped at the Station. Had I been able to march straight from the Pohick, alone with my brigade without being delayed by Franklin’s brigade, I might have caught a thousand of the rebels at least.

As it was, the rapidity of a single hour secured for my brigade the only prisoners taken & only flag that I heard of being captured by all the army. Ten of the captives were caught by Capt. Butterworth & one by Sergt. Beardsley of F. Co., son of Beardsley hotel keeper of Detroit. (They were brought up to Gen’l McDowell, who questioned them yesterday and attracted thousands of eyes.)

The next day we all marched to this point. Our division, as well as most of the troops, are camped on the long sloping sides of the hills overlooking Little Rocky Run. Centreville stands on top of the Western Ridge opposite me. We are right on the Blue Ridge & the scenery is magnificent. Just now there are thirty or forty thousand troops bivouacked almost in sight, & Gen’l McDowell is reviewing a Division of 12,000 men on one slope.

All are in good spirits. The affair of Tyler’s was but a premature & mistaken attack & was not a repulse. It showed the enemy’s position in a thick wood about 2 miles from us, & displayed our artillery to great advantage. Nothing could have been handsomer [than] the action of Ayres’ Battery. Ayres is a classmate. There [are] quite a number of my class here, all in conspicuous positions. Ayres, Burnside (not a general as you suppose, but like myself a brigade commander). Tillinghast, chief quartermaster, & Fry, adjt. gen’l. The latter does everything he can for me at Hd. Quarters. He is an old friend. His offices were useful yesterday. I got him to appoint Parker to muster in those of the present regiment who wish to remain & the number is already quite respectable, & hourly increasing.

There is a rumor at Fairfax & Alexandria that I was killed the other day, but Prof. Cooley who is here goes down to-day & will telegraph you.

Love to all, & kisses for babies. The 2d Mich. lost but 5 or 6 killed & wounded.

Orlando

Robert Garth Scott, ed., Forgotten Valor: The Memoirs, Journals, & Civil War Letters of Orlando B. Willcox, pp. 283-285.





“Stephen”, 2nd Maine Infantry, On the Battle

14 11 2012

Letter from the Second Regiment.

Headquarters 2d Maine Regiment,

Arlington Heights, Va. near Fort Corcoran, July 27th.

After a disastrous battle, and an ignominious retreat, although the 2d Maine strictly obeyed orders, and nobly performed the duty assigned them, as the official report will testify, I embrace the present opportunity to once more resume our correspondence.

Our regiment, before the conflict, having been attached to Col. Keyes’s brigade and Gen. Tyler’s division were held as a reserve guard, until arriving at the scene of action, when suddenly the reserve was dispensed with, and we were literally run two miles and plunged into a masked battery, with the fond assurance that success was certain, and the day our own. After the first charge, however, we were fully convinced that we reckoned without our host, and that we had aroused more passengers than we imagined the infernal machine contained. Upon the second charge we did splendidly, sending many a misguided Southron to his long home, and for a moment the enemy’s lines apparently receding, we felt quite inspired. At this juncture, the battery still belching forth its torrent of iron hail, we were ordered o retire, which we did in good order, and having sheltered ourselves in the woods near  by, we then attempted to take the monster by a flank movement, which possibly might have been crowned with success, ,had more despatch been exercised. Our boys fell in lively, but the 1st and 2d Connecticut regiments seemed to prefer a recumbent position. Receiving the order to advance, we were repulsed, without loss, a third time, the enemy, on account of our delay, having anticipated the attack.

Failing in this, our last attempt, amid shells rifle cannon and Minnie rifle balls we retired from Bull’s or Bloody Run, feeling that without avail, we had nevertheless nobly performed the task assigned us. Would to Heaven we could tell a different tale.

In our first charge, Capt. James of Co. C fell mortally wounded, while bravely leading on his command. At the same fire, Wm. J. Deane, color bearer, fell wounded fatally while vigorously sustaining the flag presented to is the day before by the ladies of California formerly residing in Maine. This flag was for a short time lost, but finally regained. The flags presented at Bangor and New York are badly riddled, but will again, I trust, lead us on, not to defeat but victory. Color Sergeant Moore, I forgot to add, was also shot dead on the first charge, the aim of the enemy being directed to the glorious Stars and Stripes under which they heretofore received unnumbered benefits and unbounded protection. In returning from the field it fell to my lot to see and grasp by the hand both Capt. Jones and Sergt. Deane – the former being borne to the hospital by his comrades in arms and the latter already there under the care of Dr. Allen and Lieut. Skinner, who have since been taken prisoners. Dr. Palmer desired to remain at the hospital but Dr. Allen insisted that he should move on. Capt. Jones, receiving a ball through the spine, will probably never recover. Sergt. Deane, being apparently wounded thro the wind-pipe, his case was considered doubtful.

By the way, to give you a specimen of Southern chivalry, so much in vogue. While our Surgeons were amputating limbs and extracting lead from our wounded and dying, the valiant “Black Horse Cavalry”, so called, charged upon the hospital and all were taken prisoners – but owing to a galling fire from our ranks, they were unable to hold their position and with great loss and few prisoners rushed their steeds into the woods beyond.

I live in the hope that our regimental loss in killed, wounded and missing will not exceed one hundred, but the death or absence of even one brave fellow from our ranks is too much, when we reflect that apparently nothing has been gained by the struggle. Our regiment and all others would have been literally cut to pieces were it not, after the first fire, for the order to lay down and reload, by so doing the enemy’s fire, most of the time, was too high, and passed harmlessly over us.

By the way, Washington Harlow, of company C, reported wounded and in hospital, is incorrect. He is wounded and missing. Samuel Nash, of company A, reported wounded, is with us, alive and well. Rev. Mr. Mines, our Chaplain and one of the bravest of clergymen, is taken prisoner – not shot as some affirm. I trust that as regards surgeons and chaplains at least, there may speedily be an exchange of prisoners.

From all we can learn, Beauregard is inclined to deal justly with all and the acts of Indian barbarism that have been committed thus far are not through his orders. The loss of the enemy is far greater than ours, and from one of the 69th New York regiment who has made his escape I understand that Richmond is more a city of mourning than rejoicing. The truth is we gained the day, but, humiliating as it must be to us all, lost it through the incompetency of some, either officers or civilians, [?] the [?].

Among the distinguished busy-bodies on the field, there were too many Congressmen and reporters, and too few real commanding officers. But the die is cast and we must look hopefully to the future.

Our brigade, which comprised three Connecticut regiments and a portion of the New York 8th, whose term of enlistment has about expired, is now broken up, and we are temporarily attached to Col. Sherman’s command – 3d Brigade. We soon hope, however, to again be under Col. Keyes, who is both a skilful, cautious and humane commander, and much esteemed by us all.

Gen. Tyler, I must confess, we do not adore, but in the late engagement cannot say but that he obeyed, to the letter, the orders of his superiors in command. The whole movement was ill-timed, badly arranged, and horridly engineered, and my only wonder is, that we are not all laying upon the battlefield, under the [?] rays of a July sun.

On Sunday evening, our regiment, having retired in good order to Centreville, we were assigned the honorable part of guarding for the night, the battery commanded by Captain Ayres, but at about ten, P. M., jaded and fatigued, the whole army was ordered to Fairfax, and our march was continued until we arrived at Alexandria, twenty-five miles distant. Could we have retained our position at Centreville, even now we should have been there, but fate ordered otherwise, and we now have a demoralized army, and a disgraceful flight to patch up as soon and as best we may.

Our boys, owing to fatigue, ragged clothes, no money, &c., are not in the best of humor, as may be supposed, but with many promises ahead, and by the blessing of God, we soon hope to be in better circumstances, trusting that when we again move onward, we shall have a Commander-in Chief in whom we may have [?] confidence.

One thing has been demonstrated – that infantry cannot cope with masked batteries, and that a successful retreat – if retreat we must – cannot be accomplished without sufficient artillery and cavalry. Time alone will heal the present shock, and to time must be left the [?].

The general health of our regiment is good, although our camping ground is not in a very healthy locality, as we are now obliged to occupy the old camping ground of the New York 69th, which , upon our arrival, was not troubled with extreme neatness.

In a few days I hope to write you more in detail.

Yours in haste,

Stephen

Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, 8/2/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy





Bull Run Sesqui on the Web

25 07 2011

Over the past week or so I’ve been sharing on Facebook and retweeting on Twitter various articles, images, and videos relating to the Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) that have swamped the web as the 150th anniversary of the battle approached and was commemorated. There were a bunch of them. Here are links to a few of the more significant items (I’ll add to this any that pop up afterwards, too). There are some worthy of posting to the resources section, and as I check them out and get any necessary permissions I will do so. Get comfortable, this will take a while. If I missed anything big, let me know!

Update 8/3/2011: I noticed I had fouled up a few of these links. I think they’re fixed now, so check them out again if you couldn’t get through.

Good Battle Stuff

Miscellaneous

Opinion

Sesqui Events

Videos








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