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Colonel Nathan “Shanks” Evans commanded the Seventh Brigade in Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac at Bull Run. His command is often referred to as a demi-brigade due to its size: it consisted of one full regiment, the 4th SC, Wheat’s 1st Special Louisiana Battalion, Alexander’s and Terry’s troops of the 30th VA Cavalry, and one section of Latham’s battery. All told, he had about 1,100 infantrymen with him on the far left of the Confederate line on the morning of July 21, 1861. But what he managed to do with those men made him, for a time, a hero.
Using the advantages of terrain, Evans managed to hold back Burnside’s men until reinforced by Bee and Bartow, which in turn gave Johnston and Beauregard time to send much of their widespread and late arriving manpower to Henry Hill. He would follow up this success later in the year with a victory as the commander of the Confederate forces engaged at Ball’s Bluff, also known as the Battle of Leesburg. That action would earn him the thanks of the Confederate Congress.
But today Evans is probably best known not for his military achievments early in the war, but rather for his “barellita”, a one gallon jug of whiskey carried by an aide that accompanied him in camp and field. His reputation as a hard drinker dogged him throughout his Confederate career, and perhaps played a role in his slow promotion and a series of transfers that earned his men the sobriquet of “The Tramp Brigade”. He would end the war without a command and in relative obscurity.
Evans’s penchant for drink was a widely held impression from early on. In a letter to his mother written 10/18/1861, Longstreet staffer T. J. Goree wrote:
[Evans] is very much censured for not attacking [an isolated Federal force a few days after Ball’s Bluff], but the truth of the matter is he was so elated by his victory at Leesburg that he got a little drunker than usual, and was consequently not in a condition to do anything. Some of the officers under him speak of preferring charges against him. Genl Evans is one of the bravest men I ever saw, and is no doubt a good officer when sober, but he is unfortunately almost always under the influence of liquor. Cutrer, ed., Longstreet’s Aide: The Civil War Letters of Major Thomas Goree, p 51
As for the photo below, I have no idea what’s going on there, but the two men are holding hands. As I said here, things were different back then. I think. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
This article was originally published on 9/13/2007, as part of the Nathan George Evans biographical sketch.
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Report of Brig. Gen. Nathan G. Evans, Commanding Seventh Brigade, First Corps
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 558-560
HEADQUARTERS STONE BRIDGE, BULL RUN, VA.,
July 24, 1861
COLONEL: I have the honor herewith to submit the reports of Col. J. L. E. Sloan, commanding Fourth Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers; Captain Harris, commanding the First Special Battalion Louisiana Volunteers(*); Captain Terry, commanding the squadron of cavalry, and First Lieutenant Davidson, commanding a section of Latham’s battery of artillery, the whole constituting the force under my command on the 21st instant.
The enemy made his appearance in line of battle on the east side of the stone bridge, about fifteen hundred yards in front of my position, and opened their fire with rifled cannon at 5.15 a.m., which was continued at intervals for about an hour. Having my entire force covered by the crest of the hills on the west side of the bridge, I did not return the fire. Observing the enemy had deployed a considerable force as skirmishers in front of his line, and that they were advancing on my position, I directed the two flank companies of the Fourth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers and one company of Major Wheat’s Special Battalion Louisiana Volunteers to advance as skirmishers, covering my entire front.
The skirmishers were soon engaged, and kept up a brisk fire for about an hour, when I perceived that it was not the intention of the enemy to attack me in my present position, but had commenced his movement to turn my left flank. I at once decided to quit position and to meet him in his flank movement, leaving the skirmishers of the Fourth Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers, supported by the reserve of two companies, to keep him engaged. I sent word to Col. Philip St. George Cocke that I had abandoned my position at the bridge, and was advancing to attack the enemy at the crossing of the Warrenton turnpike and the Manassas roads.
Observing carefully the movements of the enemy, I was able to form my line of attack directly in his front, covered by a grove of woods, at about 9 o’clock a.m. Placing the Fourth Regiment on the left, supported by one piece of artillery, Major Wheat on the right, supported by a company of cavalry, I directed my command to open fire as soon as the enemy approached within range of muskets. At 9.15 o’clock my command opened a vigorous fire from their position, which caused the enemy to halt in confused order. The fire was warmly kept up until the enemy seemed to fall back. Major Wheat then made a charge with his whole battalion.
At this juncture General Bee arrived with his brigade to my timely assistance, and formed immediately in my rear, and advanced, covering and relieving my command, and was immediately hotly engaged with the enemy. Col. F. S. Bartow, with his regiment (Eighth Georgia), came up soon after to the support of General Bee, but the enemy by this time were in such large force that our position was no longer tenable, and I ordered my command, now greatly scattered, to fall back under cover towards the Lewis house. The commands of General Bee and myself were now completely scattered, when we were timely covered by Hampton’s Legion and other re-enforcements.
For the further services of my command I beg to refer you to the inclosed reports. While my whole command gallantly charged and repulsed the enemy, I would call the attention of the general commanding to the heroic conduct of Maj. Robert Wheat, of the Louisiana Volunteers, who fell, gallantly leading his men in a charge, shot through both lungs. I am also much indebted to him for his great experience and excellent advice. Colonel Sloan was observed by me several times during the day rallying his men and bravely leading them to action.
For acts of particular gallantry I beg again to refer to the reports of the immediate commanders. Lieutenant Davidson, though with one of his pieces crippled, did gallant service during the entire day, and kept up a brisk fire upon the enemy as they advanced to within two hundred yards of his piece. To my personal staff I am greatly indebted for the promptness with which they bore my orders under heavy fire, and to Capts. George McCausland, Alexander Rogers, aides-de-camp, and A. L. Evans, acting assistant adjutant-general, I am particularly indebted for remaining with me under heavy fire during the entire day.
I send herewith a stand of colors taken during the action by Major Wheat’s battalion. I would also call the attention of the commanding general to the valuable services of Dr. Bronaugh, of Virginia, who conducted me to the ground and assisted me in selecting my position to commence the action.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
N. G. EVANS,
Col. PHILIP ST. GEORGE COCKE,
Commanding Fifth Brigade
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Nathan George Evans: born Marion, SC 2/3/1824; nicknamed “Shanks” for his thin legs; brother of Chesley D. Evans, signer of SC ordinance of secession; brother-in-law of CSA general Martin W. Gary; attended Randolph-Macon College in Virginia; West Point Class of 1848 (36 of 38); Bvt 2nd Lt. 1st Dragoons 7/1/48; served on frontier duty in Texas1848-55; 2nd Lt 2nd Dragoons 9/30/49; 1st Lt 2nd Cav 3/3/55; duty in Kansas, 1855-1860; Sioux Expedition, 1855; Capt. (5/1/56 per Heitman, 12/20/55 per Cullum); Cheyenne Expedition 1856; Utah Expedition, 1858; Arkansas River Scout, 1859; Kiowa and Comanche Expedition, 1860; duty in Colorado, 1860; leave of absence, 1860-61; married Ann Victoria Gary, 3/20/60; resigned 2/27/61; Maj. SC Militia, AAG, 1/61; Capt ACSA Cav 3/16/61; Maj. CSA 3/16/61; AAG James Island Forces, 6/61 to 7/20/61; Col. CSA 4th SC Inf, 7/61; 7th Brigade, Army of the Potomac (AotP), 7/20/61 to 10/12/61; BGCSA 10/21/61 (n 10/21/61, c 12/19/61); 4th Brig., 4th Div, AotP, 10-22-61 to 10-24-61; Brg. X, Div. X AotP, 10/24/61 to 11/12/61; 1st Brig. 2nd Div. AotP, 11/12/61 to 12/18/61; 12/18/61 received Thanks of Confederate Congress “for the brilliant victory achieved by them over largely superior forces of the enemy in the battle of Leesburg [Ball’s Bluff]; 3rd Subdistrict, District of SC, Dept of SC, GA & East FL, 12-18-61 to 3/14/62; 3rd Subdist, Dist of SC, , Dept of SC & GA, 3/14/62 to 5/28/62; 2nd Subdist, Dist of SC, Dept of SC & GA, 5/28/62 to 6/19/62; Brig X, 1st Subdist, Dist of SC, Dept of SC & GA, 6/19/62 to 7/8/62; 3rd Brig, Jones’s Div, First Corps, Army of Northern VA (AoNV), 7/8/62 to 8/9/62; Evans’s Brig, Hood’s Div, First Corps, AoNV 8/9/62 to 11/6/62; Evans’s Brig, Dist of NC, Dept of NC, 11/6/62 to 3/3/63; James Island, 1st Subdist, Dist of SC, Dept of SC, GA & FL, 5/15/63 to 5/25/63; Evans’s Brig, Loring’s Div, Army of MS (AoM), 5/25/63 to 6/63; Evans’s Brig, Breckinridge’s Div, Army of TN (AoT), 6/63 to 6/21/63; Evans’s Brig, French’s Div, AoT, 6/21/63 to 8/3/63; Brig X, 2nd Subdist, Dist 1, Dept of SC, GA & FL, 8/3/63 to 9/15/63; arrested by Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard for disobedience of orders, Sept. 1863; acquitted of charges 11/5/63; Evans’s Brig, 1st Subdist, Dist of SC, Dept of SC, GA & FL, 3/11/64 to 3/21/64; 1st Subdist, Dist of SC, Dept of SC, GA & FL, 3/21/64 to 10/17/64; wounded after falling from his horse, 4/16/64; 2nd Subdist, Dist of SC, GA & FL, 10/17/64 to 11/5/64; failed to secure a command through to the end of the war; no record of parole; high school principal, Midway, AL, until his death on 11/23/68; buried Tabernacle Cemetery, Cokesbury, SC.
Sources: Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U. S. Military Academy, Vol II, pp 365-366; Eicher & Eicher, Civil War High Commands, pp 228-229,793; Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the U. S. Army, Vol. I, p. 410; Silverman, Thomas & Evans, Shanks: The Life and Wars of General Nathan G. Evans, CSA; Wert in The Confederate General, Vol II, pp 107-108; Warner, Generals in Gray, pp 83-84.
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The Battle of Manassas
Army of the Potomac,
Manassas, July 22, 1861
Yesterday, the 21st day of July, 1861, a great battle was fought and a great victory won by the Confederate troops. Heaven smiled upon our arms, and the God of battles crowned our banners with the laurels of glory. Let every patriotic heart give thanks to the Lord of Hosts for the victory He has given His people on His holy day, the blessed Sabbath.
Gen. Johnston had arrived the preceding day with about half the force he had, detailed from Winchester, and was the senior officer in command. He magnanimously insisted, however, that Gen. Beauregard’s previous plan should be carried out, and he was guided entirely by the judgement and superior local knowledge of the latter. While, therefore, Gen. Johnston was nominally in command, Beauregard was really the officer and hero of the day. You will be glad to learn that he was this day advanced from a Brigadier to the rank of full General. But to the battle.
At half-past six in the morning, the enemy opened fire from a battery planted on a hill beyond Bull’s Run, and nearly opposite the center of our lines. The battery was intended merely to “beat the bush.” and to occupy our attention, while he moved a heavy column towards the Stone Bridge, over the same creek, upon our left. At 10 o’clock, another battery was pushed forward, and opened fire a short distance to the left of the other, and near the road leading North to Centreville. This was a battery of rifled guns, and the object of its fire was the same as that of the other. They fired promiscuously into the woods and gorges in this, the Southern side of Bull’s Run, seeking to create the impression thereby that our center would be attacked, and thus prevent us from sending reinforcements to our left, where the real attack was to be made. Beauregard was not deceived by the maneuver.
It might not be amiss to say, that Bull’s Run, or creek, is North of this place, and runs nearly due east, slightly curving around the Junction, the nearest part of which is about 3 1/2 miles. The Stone Bridge is some 7 miles distant, in a northwesterly direction, upon which our left wing rested. Mitchel’s ford is directly North, distant four miles, by the road leading to Centreville, which is seven miles from the Junction. Our right is Union Mills, on the same stream, where the Alexandria and Manassas railroad crosses the Run, and distant four miles. Proceeding from Fairfax Court House, by Centreville, to Stone Bridge, the enemy passed in front of our entire line, but at a distance ranging from five to two miles.
At 9 o’clock, I reached an eminence nearly opposite the two batteries mentioned above, and which commanded a full view of the country for miles around, except on the right. From this point I could trace the movements of the approaching hosts by the clouds of dust that rose high above the surrounding hills. Our left, under Brigadier-General Evans, Jackson and Cocke, and Col. Bartow, with the Georgia Brigade, composed of the 7th and 8th regiments, had been put in motion, and was advancing upon the enemy with a force of about 15,000 while the enemy himself was advancing upon our left with a compact column of at least 50,000. His entire force on this side of the Potomac is estimated at 75,000. These approaching columns encountered each other at 11 o’clock.
Meanwhile, the two batteries in front kept up their fire upon the wooded hill where they supposed our center lay. They sent occasional balls, from their rifled cannon, to the eminence where your correspondent stood. Gens. Beauregard, Johnston and Bonham reached this point at 12, and one of these balls passed directly over and very near them, and plunged into the ground a few paces from where I stood. I have the ball now, and hope to be able to show it to you at some future day. It is an 18-pound ball, and about 6 inches long. By the way, this thing of taking notes amidst a shower of shells and balls is more exciting than pleasant. At a quarter past 12, Johnston and Beauregard galloped rapidly forward in the direction of Stone Bridge, where the ball had now fully opened. You correspondent followed their example, and soon reached a position in front of the battlefield.
The artillery were the first to open fire, precisely at 11 o’clock. By half-past 11, the infantry had engaged, and there it was that the battle began to rage. The dusky columns which had thus far marked the approach of the two armies, now mingled with great clouds of smoke, as it rose from the flashing guns below, and the two shot up together like a huge pyramid of red and blue. The shock was tremendous, as were the odds between the two forces. With what anxious hearts did we watch the pyramid of smoke and dust! When it moved to the right, we knew the enemy were giving way; and when it moved to the left, we knew that our friends were receding. Twice the pyramid moved to the right, and as often returned. At last, about two o’clock, it began to move slowly to the left, and this it continued to move for two mortal hours. The enemy was seeking to turn our left flank, and to reach the railroad leading hence in the direction of Winchester. To do this, he extended his lines, which he was able to do by reason of his great numbers. This was unfortunate for us, as it required a corresponding extension of our own lines to prevent his extreme right from outflanking us – a movement on our part which weakened the force of our resistance along the whole line of battle, which finally extended over a space of two miles. It also rendered it more difficult to bring up reinforcements, as the further the enemy extended his right, the greater the distance reserve forces had to travel to counteract the movement.
This effort to turn our flank was pressed with great determination for five long, weary hours, during which the tide of battle ebbed and flowed along the entire line with alternate fortunes. The enemy’s column continued to stretch away to the left, like a huge anaconda, seeking to envelope us within its mighty folds and crush us to death; and at one time it really looked as if he would succeed. But here let me pause to explain why it was our reinforcements were so late in arriving, and why a certain other important movement was miscarried.
The moment he discovered the enemy’s order of battle, Gen. Beauregard, it is said, dispatched orders to Gen. Ewell, on our extreme right, to move forward and turn his left and rear. At the same time he ordered Generals Jones, Longstreet, and Bonham, occupying the center of our lines, to cooperate in this movement, but not to move until Gen. Ewell had made the attack. The order to Gen. Ewell unfortunately miscarried. The others were delivered, but as the movements of the center were to be regulated entirely by those on the right, nothing was done at all. Had the orders to Gen. Ewell been received and carried out, and our entire force brought upon the field, we should have destroyed the enemy’s army almost literally. Attacked in front, on the flank and in the rear, he could not possibly have escaped, except at the loss of thousands of prisoners and all his batteries, while the field would have been strewed with his dead.
Finding that his orders had in some way failed to be executed, Gen. Beauregard at last ordered up a portion of the forces which were intended to co operate with General Ewell. It was late, however, before these reinforcements came up. Only one brigade reached the field before the battle was won. This was led by Gen. E. K. Smith, of Florida, formerly of the United States Army, and was a part of General Johnston’s column from Winchester. They should have reached here the day before, but were prevented by an accident on the railroad. They dashed on the charge with loud shouts and in the most gallant style. About the same time, Maj. Elzey coming down the railroad from Winchester with the last of Johnston’s brigades, and hearing the firing, immediately quit the train and struck across the country, and as a gracious fortune would have it, he encountered the extreme right of the enemy as he was feeling his way around our flank, and with his brigade struck him like a thunderbolt, full in the face. Finding he was about to be outflanked himself, the enemy gave way after the second fire. Meanwhile, Beauregard rallied the center and dashed into the very thickest of the fight, and after him rushed our own brave boys, with a shout that seemed to shake the very earth. The result of this movement from three distinct points, was to force back the enemy, who began to retreat, first in good order, and finally in much confusion. At this point the cavalry were ordered upon the pursuit. The retreat now became a perfect rout, and it is reported that the flying legions rushed past Centreville in the direction of Fairfax, as if the earth had been opening behind them. It was when Gen. Beauregard led the final charge, that his horse was killed by a shell.
We captured thirty-four guns, including Sherman’s famous battery, a large number of small arms, thirty wagons loaded with provisions, &c., and about 700 prisoners. Among the latter, were Col. Corcoran, of the New York Irish Zouaves, Hon. Mr. Ely, member of Congress, from New York, Mr. Carrington, of this State, a nephew of the late Wm. C. Preston, who had gone over to the enemy, and thirty-two Captains, Lieutenants, &c. We cam near bagging the Hon. Mr. Foster, Senator from Connecticut.
The official reports of the casualties of the day have not yet come in, and consequently it is impossible to say what our loss is. I can only venture an opinion, and that is, that we lost in killed, wounded and missing, about 1,500 – of which about 400 were killed. The enemy’s loss was terrible, being at the lowest calculation, 3,000.
Thus far I have said but little of the part taken by particular officers and regiments; for the reason that I desire first to obtain all the facts. Nor have I said anything of the gallant seventh and eighth regiments from Georgia. This part of my duty is most melancholy. It may be enough to say, that they were the only Georgia regiments here at the time, that they were among the earliest on the field, and in the thickest of the fight, and that their praise is upon the lips of the whole army, from Gen. Beauregard on down. Col. Gartrell led the seventh regiment, and Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner the eighth, the whole under the command of Col. Bartow, who led them with a gallantry that was never excelled. It was when the brigade was ordered to take one of the enemy’s strongest batteries, that it suffered most. It was a most desperate undertaking, and followed by the bloodiest results. The battery occupied the top of a hill, on the opposite side of Bull’s Run, with a small piece of woods on the left. Descending the valley along the Run, he proceeded under cover of the hill to gain the woods alluded to, and from which he proposed to make a dash at the battery and capture it. On reaching the woods, he discovered that the battery was supported by a heavy infantry force, estimated at 4,000 men. The whole force, together with the battery, was turned upon the eighth regiment, which was in the van, with terrible effect. Indeed, he was exposed on the flank and in front to a fire that the oldest veterans could not have stood. The balls and shells from the battery, and the bullets from the small arms, literally riddled the woods. Trees six inches in diameter, and great limbs were cut off, and the ground strewn with the wreck. It became necessary to retire the eighth regiment, in order to re-form it. Meanwhile, Col. Bartow’s horse had been shot from under him. It was observed that the forces with which his movement was to be supported had not come up. But it was enough that he had been ordered to storm the battery; so, placing himself at the head of the seventh regiment, he again led the charge, this time on foot, and gallantly encouraging his men as they rushed on. The first discharge from the enemy’s guns killed the regimental color-bearer. Bartow immediately seized the flag, and gain putting himself in front, dashed on, flag in hand, his voice ringing clear over the battlefield, and saying, “On, my boys, we will die rather than yield or retreat.” And on the brave boys did go, and faster flew the enemy’s bullets. The fire was awful. Not less than 4,000 muskets were pouring their fatal contents upon them, while the battery itself was dealing death on every side.
The gallant Eighth Regiment, which had already passed through the distressing ordeal, again rallied, determined to stand by their chivalric Colonel to the last. The more furious the fire, the quicker became the advancing step of the two regiments. At last, and just when they were nearing the goal of their hopes, and almost in the arms of victory, the brave and noble Bartow was shot down, the ball striking him in the left breast, just above the heart. His men rallied behind him, and finding him mortally wounded and that the forces that had been ordered to support their charge had not yet come up, they gradually fell back, bearing him in their arms and disputing every inch of ground. I learn that they would never have retired but for the orders which were given in consequence of the non-arrival of the supporting force. It appears that the order to support our charge, like that to gen. Ewell, miscarried – a failure which had nearly cost us two of the best regiments in the army. Col. Bartow died soon after he was borne from the field. His last words, as repeated to me, were: “they have killed me, my brave boys, but never give up the ship – we’ll whip them yet.” And so we did!
The field officers of the Seventh Regiment escaped except Col. Gartrell who received a slight wound. All the superior officers in the Eighth Regiment, except Maj. Cooper, were killed or wounded. Lieut. Col. Gardner had his leg broken by a musket ball, and Adjutant Branch was killed. Capt. Howard of the Mountain Rangers from Merriwether county was also killed. But I shall not go into a statement of the killed and wounded preferring in delicate and painful a matter to await the official report, which I hope to get tomorrow, when I shall have more to say about our heroic regiments. I will add just here, that our loss in officers was very great. Among others may be mentioned Gen. Bee, Lieut. Col. Johnson of Hampton’s Legion, and Col. Thomas of Gen. Johnston’s Staff, and others. Gen. Jackson was wounded in the hand, and Col. Wheat of the New Orleans Tigers was shot through the body. Col Jones of the 4th Alabama Regiment it is feared was mortally wounded. The regiments that suffered most and were in the thickest of the fight, were the 7th and 8th Georgia, the 4th Alabama, 4th South Carolina, Hampton’s Legion, and 4th Virginia. The New Orleans Washington Artillery did great execution.
If we consider the numbers engaged and the character of the contest, we may congratulate ourselves upon having won, one of the most brilliant victories that any race of people ever achieved. It was the greatest battle ever fought on this continent, and will take its place in history by the side of the most memorable engagements. It is believed that General Scott himself was nearby, at Centreville, and that he directed as he had planned the whole movement. Gen. McDowell was the active commander upon the field.
President Davis arrived upon the field at 5 o’clock, just as the enemy had got into full retreat. His appearance was greeted with shout after shout, and was the equivalent to a reinforcement of 5,000 men. He left Richmond at 7 in the morning.
But “little Beaury” against the world.
P. W. A.
Savannah Republican, 7/27/1861
William B. Styple, Ed., Writing and Fighting the Confederate War: The Letters of Peter Wellington Alexander Confederate War Correspondent, pp 19-23
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Baltimore, Md., January 15, 1897
John O. Casler:
Dear Comrade: Our command reached Manassas Junction on the 20th of July, in the morning, I think. We marched during the day to the right of the line, and the next day we marched and countermarched, halted and rushed, as the changing localities of the conflict, as far as our commanders could anticipate, seemed to require. My dinner was made from blackberries, for being outside of the ranks (as Sergeant Major) I could pick them as we passed over the fields. About 1 o’clock our regiment reached the elevation on which is seated the historic Henry house, and took position on the left flank of our brigade, up to that hour known as the 1st Brigade, or Jackson’s Brigade, ever afterwards as the Stonewall Brigade.
As we approached our position, we heard for the first time the horrid screaming of hostile shells going over our heads high up in the air, but not so high as not to be dangerous. I recall now with some amusement the intense gravity and astonishment written upon the faces of the men as these dangerous missiles from the batteries of Rickett and Griffin went hurtling over us; but I recall no signs of timidity. The men kept in their ranks, obeyed orders and moved into position on the left of the 2d Virginia, of which Brother Strother, my cousin, Willie Barton, and all my Winchester friends were members, with steadiness and resolution. My brother David was in the Rockbridge Battery, which was being supported by our brigade. My uncle, Frank Jones, and my brother-in-law, Thomas Marshall, were on Jackson’s staff. I felt the solemnity of the moment, but I recall no disposition whatever to turn and run. On the other hand, a sense of pride, a desire to emulate the action of the best men on the field possessed me, as it did, I believe, all of our command, except the Adjutant of our regiment. I think I went into that action with less trepidation than into any subsequent one. Inexperience doubtless had much to do with it, but, again, I attribute much of the nerve that sustained me to my year at Lexington. I felt on the field that the orders of our officers were supreme; that come what might, they must be obeyed, and discipline told on me from first to last. I will not give many details of the battle; they have been told by so many writers that it would prolong this narrative unduly for me to repeat them. I will only say that, after taking our position on the left of the brigade, we laid upon the ground listening to the musketry and cannonading going on to our right, or, rather, somewhat in front of our right, from the Confederate forces, which was being vigorously responded to by the Yankees. The “Henry house” was in front of our brigade, over the hill – the upper part of the house visible – and the Robinson house was to the right of that several hundred yards. Occasional shells would explode over our regiment, and the solemn wonderment written on the faces of the men as they would crane their heads around to look our for falling branches was almost amusing. I was near the left flank of the regiment, a few steps in rear, where, upon the formation of the regiment in line of battle, I belonged. Doubtless I wished I was home, but I had to stick. I remember an elderly man riding leisurely by towards the left, in rear of us, apparently giving orders. Some one, possibly myself, asked him who he was. He turned his horse and said: “I am Colonel Smith, otherwise Governor Smith, otherwise Extra Billy Smith.” It was, in fact, Colonel Smith, a game old fellow, who, I suppose, was looking over the ground for a position for his regiment, the 49th Virginia, as it subsequently took position on our left, and finally united in one of the charges on Griffin’s Battery.
Colonel Cummings and Lieutenant Colonel Lee were in front of our regiment, perhaps a hundred yards, stooping down, and occasionally standing to get a view over the crest of the hill that rose gently before us for a little over a hundred yards. The musketry kept up on our right, and then Colonels Cummings and Lee were seen to rise and, bending down, to come back with somewhat quickened steps to the regiment. I remember, as Colonels Cummings drew near, he called out: “Boys, they are coming, now wait until they get close before you fire.”
Almost immediately several pieces of artillery, their horses in front, made their appearance on the hill in front of us, curving as if going into battery, and at the same time I descried the spear-point and upper portion of a United States flag, as it rose in the hands of its bearer over the hill; then I saw the bearer, and the heads of the men composing the line of battle to the right and left of him. At the sight several of our men rose from the ranks, leveled their muskets at the line, and, although I called out, “Do not fire yet,” it was of no use; they fired and then the shrill cry of Colonel Cummings was heard, “Charge!” and away the regiment went, firing as they ran, into the ranks of the enemy, and particularly at the battery towards which our line rapidly approached. Although bearing a non-commissioned officers sword, I had obtained a cartridge box, belted it on, and had in some one secured a flintlock musket, with which one of our companies was armed. This gun, after two futile efforts, I fired at a man on horseback in the battery, one of the drivers, I think. I got near enough the battery to see that it was thoroughly disabled, horses and men falling, and our line driving ahead, when I felt the sting of a bullet tearing a piece from my side, just under my cartridge box, which I had pulled well around on the right and front of my waist. I called out that I was wounded to my uncle, Frank Jones, who helped me up on his horse, and carried me to the rear.
I think it can be demonstrated that the victory of First Manassas is traceable to Colonel Cummings. For fifteen or twenty minutes before our regiment (the 33d Virginia) rose and charged Griffin’s Battery the men of Bee’s and Bartow’s (and, I think, Evans’) commands were coming back over the hill from the Robinson and Henry houses in the greatest disorder, a flying, panic-stricken mob. The Stonewall Brigade maintained the line with the steadiness of veterans. The Rockbridge Battery, with its little guns, was doing its best. Jackson, about that time, rode along the front of his brigade, waiting for the critical moment to order his men into action. It was in his efforts to rally his command that the gallant Bee called to them to rally behind the Virginians. Pointing to Jackson, he used the memorable expression, “Look at Jackson, standing like a stone wall.” The precise expression he used it is impossible to learn. He most probably said, “Look at Jackson and his men, standing like a stone wall.” He had galloped up to Jackson a moment before, and had said: “General, they are driving us back,” and Jackson replied, the words snapping from his lips like grape-shot from a gun, “Then we will give them the bayonet.”
Bee turned to gallop toward his fleeing men, with the inspiration of Jackson possessing him, called out his immortal language, and fell, mortally wounded.
“Jackson had, within the half hour before, passed along his brigade the order not to fire until the enemy was within 30 paces, and then charge. So Colonel Cummings writes to me under the date of September 20, 1896. But, says Colonel Cummings, the shells of the enemy had caused some confusion “with the left company of my regiment,” or, rather, his command of eight companies, and when Griffin’s Battery showed itself on the hill in front of us, and occasional shots began to fall among us from the enemy moving towards our left to flank us, when the tumult of the broken ranks of Bee and Bartow was threatening the steadiness of our right, and the enemy, with exultant shouts, was pressing on, Colonel Cummings, like a flash, thought if those guns get into battery and pour one discharge of grape and canister into the ranks of my raw recruits the day is gone, and then it was, with splendid discretion, he took the responsibility of changing his orders, with the changed conditions, as Grouchy should have done at Waterloo, and charged the enemy.
The suddenness of our attack, the boldness of it, for our men went over and past the battery, the disabling of the guns, all checked the advancing lines. It was immediately followed up by the remainder of the brigade charging, and the troops on our left poured in. The tide of battle turned when it dashed against the farmer boys of the 33d Virginia. It was the first resistance it had met. The enemy came upon the point of a spear, one small regiment of undisciplined boys and me, not a month from the plough-handle and mechanic’s shop. The point broadened, as to the right and left assistance poured in, until it became a sharp blade against which the enemy could not and dared not rush; but the 33d led the van of the movement that first arrested McDowell’s victorious line, and from that moment the scene changed, and from the brink of disaster our army turned to a great victory. Colonel Cummings changed the life of McDowell by his order, “Charge!” He may have changed the history of the war. The battle pivoted upon his nerve. It was the turning point in tremendous events.
I visited the Robinson and Henry houses in September, 1861, and again in September, 1896. My last visit caused me to correspond with Colonel Cummings and read every line I could lay my eyes upon, including the reports of officers on both sides, as published in the compilation called the Rebellion Record, and I believe what I have attributed to Colonel Cummings cannot be successfully gainsaid. He turned the tide of the battle at First Manassas. Instead of the Confederate army flying as a mob to the Rappahannock, the Yankee army fled as a mob to Washington.
Several days have elapsed since I wrote the above. A day or so ago I accidentally saw in the Mercantile Library the “Recollections of a Private,” by Warren Lee Goss, of the Federal army. Turning to his narrative of the battle I find (p.13) a good representation of the Henry house plateau and the confusion in Griffin’s Battery following the attack of the 33d Regiment. I recognize the Sudley mill road, the entrance to the Henry place, on the left of the road, and the fence torn away to allow Griffin’s Battery freely to leave the rad and go upon the plateau. In September, 1896, I stood on this very ground, and , observing that between the bed of the road and the fence on the left hand side there was the usual wash, or gutter, I remarked to my companions that no doubt Griffin tore down the fence and filled the wash with the rails, thus making and easy crossing into the field for his artillery. The picture I am looking at shows the fence torn down, and imagination shows the rails placed as I surmised.
And now I quote from the book what seems to me brings the 33d face to face with the troops Goss writes about. Remember that the Sudley Mills road runs a south-easterly course from the mill to the Henry plateau. Our regiment charged northwesterly. McDowell’s line came over the hill supporting Griffin’s Battery, at right angles to the Sudley Mills road, advancing southeasterly.
Says Gross: “About 1 o’clock the fence skirting the road at the foot of the hill was pulled down to let our batteries (Griffin’s and Rickett’s) pass up to the plateau. The batteries were in the open field near us. We were watching to see what they’d do next, when a terrible volley was poured into them. It was like a pack of Fourth of July fire-crackers under a barrel magnified a thousand times. The Rebels had crept upon them unawares and the batteries were all killed and wounded.
“Here,” says Gross, continuing, “let me interrupt Tinkemann’s narrative to say that one of the artillerymen then engaged has since told me that, though he had been in several battles since, he had seldom seen worse destruction in so short a time. He said they saw a regiment advancing, and the natural inference was that they were Rebels.. But an officer insisted that it was a New York regiment, which was expected for support, and so no order was given to fire on them. Then came a tremendous explosion of musketry,” says the artilleryman, “and all was confusion; wounded men with dripping wounds were clinging to caissons, to which were attached frightened and wounded horses. Horses attached to caissons rushed through the infantry ranks. I saw three horses galloping off, dragging a fourth, which was dead.
“The dead cannoneers lay with the rammers of the guns and the lanyards in their hands. The battery was annihilated by those volleys in a moment. Those who could get away didn’t wait. We had no supports near enough to protect us properly, and the enemy was within seventy yards of us when that volley was fired. Our battery being demolished in that way was the beginning of our defeat at Bull Run,” says the old regular.
This ends the quotation. I have italicized the words which strike me as a direct confirmation of the claim I make that the 33d turned the tide, and Colonel Cummings’ timely order let loose the 33d at the very crisis of the battle. I distinctly only claim that with the order and because of the order came the first check McDowell sustained. That other troops immensely aided in forcing back the Yankee line when thus checked, I freely admit. But our regiment called a halt in the victorious advance of the enemy. I dwell upon the circumstance because of the great interest it adds to the engagement to know that you belonged to the regiment that received and repelled the dangerous thrust of the enemy at the nice turning point of the day. I should think to Colonel Cummings the circumstances would be of extraordinary interest, and that he would time and again reflect how little he thought, when he braced himself to give the order to his regiment, that he was making a long page in history.
“Late Staff Officer 2d Corps, A. N. V.”
James I. Robertson, Jr., ed., Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade, pp. 40 – 46
Randolph J. Barton at Ancestry.com
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Tags: 33rd Virginia, John Casler, Memoirs, Randolph Barton, Resources, Soldier's Letters
Categories : Private Correspondence, Reminiscences, Resources
July 18th we marched through Winchester and took the road leading to Berry’s Ferry, on the Shenandoah river, about eighteen miles distant. The citizens were very much grieved to see us leave, for fear the enemy would be in town, as there were no troops left but a few militia and Colonel Turner Ashby’s cavalry.
After marching a few miles we were halted, and the Adjutant read us orders that the enemy were about to overpower General Beauregard at Manassas Junction, and we would have to make a forced march. It was General Johnston’s wish that all the men would keep in ranks and not straggle, if possible. Then we started on a quick march, marched all day and nearly all night, wading the Shenandoah river about 12 o’clock at night halted at a small village called Paris about two hours, then resumed the march about daylight, and arrived at Piedmont Station, on the Manassas Railroad.
Our brigade was in the advance on the march, and when we arrived at the station the citizens for miles around came flocking to see us, bringing us eatables of all kinds, and we fared sumptuously. There were not trains enough to transport al at once, and our regiment had to remain there until trains returned, which was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. We had a regular picnic; plenty to eat, lemonade to drink, and beautiful young ladies to chat with. We finally got aboard, bade the ladies a long farewell, and went flying down the road, arriving at the junction in the night.
The next day, the 20th of July, we marched about four miles down Bull Run, to where General Beauregard had engaged the enemy on the 18th, and repulsed their advance. There we joined our brigade. We lay on our arms all night. We tore all the feathers out of our hats, because we heard the Yanks had feathers in theirs, and we might be fired on by mistake, as our company was the only one that had black plumes in their hats. We could hear pickets firing at intervals, and did not know what minute we would be rushed into action.
My particular friend and messmate, William I. Blue, and myself lay down together, throwing a blanket over us, and talked concerning our probable fate the next day. We had been in line of battle several times, and had heard many false alarms, but we all knew there was no false alarm this time; that the two armies lay facing each other, and that a big battle would be fought the next day; that we were on the eve of experiencing the realities of war in its most horrible form – brother against brother, father against son, kindred against kindred, and our own country torn to pieces by civil war.
While lying thus, being nearly asleep, he roused me up and said that he wanted to make a bargain with me, which was, if either of us got killed the next day the one who survived should see the other buried, if we kept possession of the battle-field.
I told him I would certainly do that, and we pledged ourselves accordingly. I then remarked that perhaps we would escape unhurt or wounded. He said: “No, I don’t want to be wounded. If I am shot at all I want to be shot right through the heart.”
During the night we heard a gun fired on the left of the regiment and I got up and walked down the line to see what had happened. I found one of the men had shot himself through the foot, supposed to have been done intentionally, to keep out of the fight, but the poor fellow made a miscalculation as to where his toes were, and held the muzzle of the gun too far up and blew off about half of his foot, so it had to be amputated.
July 21st dawned clear and bright (and for the last time on many a poor soldier), and with it the sharpshooters in front commenced skirmishing. We were ordered to “fall in,” and were marched up the run about four miles, and then ordered back to “Blackburn’s Ford.” Our company and the “Hardy Greys” were thrown out as skirmishers, opposite the ford, in a skirt of woods commanding a full view of the ford, and ordered to fire on the enemy if they attempted to cross the run. While we were lying in that position heavy firing was heard on our left, both infantry and artillery. In a few moments we were ordered from there to join the regiment, and went “double quick” up the run to where the fighting was going on. The balance of the brigade was in line of battle behind the brow of a small ridge. We were halted at the foot of this ridge and Colonel Cummings told us that it was General Jackson’s command that our regiment should depend principally on the bayonet that day, as it was a musket regiment.
Some of the boys were very keen for a fight, and while we were down in the run they were afraid it would be over before we got into it. One in particular, Thomas McGraw, was very anxious to get a shot at the “bluecoats,” and when the Colonel read us the order about the bayonet I asked Tom how he liked that part of the programme. He said that was closer quarters than he anticipated.
Our regiment marched up the hill and formed “left in front,” on the left of the brigade, and on the entire left of our army. As we passed by the other regiments the shells were bursting and cutting down the pines all around us, and we were shaking hands and bidding farewell to those we were acquainted with, knowing that in a few moments many of us would be stretched lifeless on the field.
At this time our troops were falling back, but in good order, fighting every inch of the way, but were being overpowered and flanked by superior numbers. They were the 2d Mississippi and Colonel Evans’ 4th Alabama Regiments, General Bee’s South Carolina Brigade, Colonel Bartow’s 7th and 8th Georgia Regiments, Major Wheat’s Battalion (called the Louisiana Tigers), and Imboden’s Battery. They had resisted the main portion of the “Federal Army” and had done all that men could do, and had lost severely, but were still holding the enemy in check while we were forming.
It was there at this moment that General Jackson received the name of “Stonewall,” and the brigade the ever memorable name of “Stonewall Brigade.” General Barnard E. Bee, riding up to General Jackson, who sat on his horse calm and unmoved, though severely wounded in the hand, exclaimed in a voice of anguish: “General, they are beating us back!”
Turning to General Bee, he said calmly: “Sir, we’ll give them the bayonet.”
Hastening back to his men, General Bee cried enthusiastically, as he pointed to Jackson: “Look yonder! There is Jackson and his brigade standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here and we will conquer. Rally behind them!”
They passed through our brigade and formed in the rear. I knew they were South Carolinians by the “Palmetto tree” on their caps. General Bee and Colonel Bartow fell, mortally wounded. The enemy, flushed with victory, pushed on, never dreaming what was lying just beyond the brow of the hill in the pines. There seemed to be a lull in the firing just at this time, and Sergeant James P. Daily, of my company, walked up to the brow of the hill, but soon returned with the exclamation: “Boys, there is the prettiest sight from the top of the hill you ever saw; they are coming up on the other side in four ranks, and all dressed in red!”
When we heard that, I, with several others, jumped up and started to see, but Colonel Cummings ordered us to “stay in ranks,” and Daily remarked: “We will see them soon enough.” Sure enough, in a few seconds the head of the column made its appearance, with three officers on horseback in front, and marching by the flank, with the intention of flanking one of our batteries – the Rockbridge Artillery, Captain W. N. Pendleton. In a few minutes they spied us lying there, and I heard one of the officers say: “Hello! what men are these?” At that moment some of our men who, evidently, had the “buck fever,” commenced, without orders, firing some scattering shots. The enemy then poured a volley into us, but as we were lying down the balls went over our heads, harmless.
That morning we had been given a signal to use in time of battle, to distinguish friend from foe, which was to throw the right hand to the forward, palm outward, and say, “Sumter.” When this regiment (which was the 14th Brooklyn, N. Y.), appeared in view Colonel Cummings gave the signal, and it was returned by one of the officers, but how they got it was a mystery. So, when the scattering shots were fired by some of our regiment, Colonel Cummings exclaimed: “Cease firing, you are firing on friends!” and the volley came from them at the same time, and I know I remarked, “Friends, hell! That looks like it.”
Colonel Cummings, seeing his mistake, and also seeing a battery of artillery taking position and unlimbering, in close proximity and in a place where it could enfilade our troops, determined to capture it before it could do any damage. I don’t think he had any orders from any superior officer, but took the responsibility on himself. Then came the command: “Attention! Forward march! Charge bayonets! Double quick!” and away we went, sweeping everything before us; but the enemy broke and fled.
We were soon in possession of the guns, killed nearly all the horses, and a great portion of the men were killed and wounded; and we were none too soon, for one minute more and four guns would have belched forth into our ranks, carrying death and destruction, and perhaps have been able to have held their position. As it was, the guns were rendered useless, and were not used any more that day, all though we had to give them up temporarily.
We were halted, and one of my company, Thomas Furlough, who had belonged to the artillery in the Mexican war, threw down his musket and said: “Boys, let’s turn the guns on them.” That was the last sentence that ever passed his lips, for just then he was shot dead.
While this was going on, the enemy were throwing a force on our left flank in the pines, and commenced pouring it into us from the front and an enfilading fire from the flank, and were cutting us to pieces, when we were ordered back, and halted at our first position.
Then we were reinforced by the 49th Virginia and the 6th North Carolina Regiments, commanded by Colonel Chas. F. Fisher (who was killed a few minutes afterwards) and “Extra Billy” Smith. This mad our line longer, and we were ordered to charge again. The charge of Jackson’s men was terrific. The enemy were swept before them like chaff before a whirlwind. Nothing could resist their impetuosity. The men seem to have caught the dauntless spirit and determined will of their heroic commander, and nothing could stay them in their onward course. The 33d Virginia, in its timely charge, saved the day by capturing and disabling Griffin’s battery, altho’ they could not hold it just then. The name won that day by the brigade and its General is immortal.
In this action our regiment (the 33d Virginia), being on the extreme left, was alone, the balance of the brigade not charging until later, and we were terribly cut up and had to fall back. General Jackson said he could afford to sacrifice one regiment to save the day; and it was the first check and first repulse the enemy had received, and during the remainder of the day the battle turned in favor of the Confederates.
We did not follow them far, for fresh troops were coming in all the time, and we had lost severely, and were considerably demoralized. I then took a stroll over the battlefield, to see who of my comrades were dead or wounded, and saw my friend, William I. Blue, lying on his face, dead. I turned him over to see where he was shot. He must have been shot through the heart, the place where he wanted to be shot, if shot at all. He must have been killed instantly, for hs was in the act of loading his gun. One hand was grasped around his gun, in the other he held a cartridge, with one end of it in his mouth, in the act of tearing it off. I sat down by him and took a hearty cry, and then, thinks I, “It does not look well for a soldier to cry,” but I could not help it. I then stuck his gun in the ground by his side, marked his name, company and regiment on a piece of paper, pinned it on his breast, and went off.
I then saw three field officers a short distance from me looking through a field glass. I very deliberately walked up to them and asked them to let me look through it, and one of them handed it to me. When looking through it I saw, about two miles off, what I took to be about 10,000 of the enemy. The field appeared to be black with them. I returned the glass, saying: “My God! have we all of them to fight yet?” Just at that moment “Pendleton’s Battery” turned their guns on them and I saw the first shell strike in the field. I don’t think it was five minutes until the field was vacant. I felt considerably relieved. I had had enough of fighting that day. We had gained a great victory. The enemy were completely routed and panic-stricken, and never halted until they arrived at Alexandria and Washington.
My company only numbered fifty-five, rank and file, when we went into service, but, ,so many having the measles and other ailments, we went into the fight with only twenty-seven men, and out of that number we lost five killed and six wounded. The killed were William I. Blue, Thomas Furlough, James Adams, John W. Marker and Amos Hollenback. The wounded were Sergeant William Montgomery, John Reinhart, Robert C. Grace, Edward Allen, A. A. Young and Joseph Cadwallader.
The regiment went right into action with about 450 men, and lost forty-three killed and 140 wounded. Our regiment fought the 14th Brooklyn Zouaves and the 1st Michigan, which poured a deadly volley into us. While we were engaged in front, Colonel Cummings ordered the regiment to fall back three times before they did so. All the troops engaged suffered more or less, but the loss of the 33d Virginia was greater than that of any regiment on either side, as the statistics will show, and it was the smallest regiment, not being full and not numbered.
We worked nearly all night taking care of the wounded, for nearly all of the enemy’s wounded were left in our hands. I took a short sleep on the battle-field. The next day was rainy and muddy. The regiment was ordered to “fall in,” but not knowing where they were going, I did not want to leave until I had buried my friend, according to promise. When they had marched off I hid behind a wagon, and Sergeant Daily, seeing me, ordered me to come on. I told him never would I leave that field until I had buried my friend, unless I was put under arrest. He then left me, and I looked around for some tools to dig a grave. I found an old hoe and spade, and commenced digging the grave under an apple tree in an orchard near the “Henry house.”
While I was at work a Georgian came to me and wanted the tools as soon as I was done with them. He said he wanted to bury his brother, and asked if I was burying a brother.
“No,” I replied, “but dear as a brother.”
“As you have no one to help you,” he said, “and I have no one to help me, suppose we dig the grave large enough for both, and we can help one another carry them here.”
“All right,” I said, “but I want to bury my friend near the tree, for, perhaps his father will come after him.”
So we buried them that way and gathered up some old shingles to put over the bodies, and a piece of plank between them. Then I rudely carved the name on the tree.
Captain William Lee, who was acting Lieutenant Colonel, was killed, and our Sergeant Major, Randolph Barton, a cadet from the Virginia Military Institute, was severely wounded.
That evening there was a detail made from each company to bury the dead, and we buried all alike, friend and foe, and this ended the first battle of “Bull Run,” and the first big battle of the war.
There is no doubt but that the timely charge of the 33d Virginia turned the tide of battle and saved the day for the Confederates. Colonel Cummings took the responsibility upon himself and ordered the charge just in the nick of time, for in five minutes’ time the Federals would have had their battery in position and would have had an enfilading fire on the brigade and Pendleton’s Battery, and made their position untenable. I herewith append a letter from Colonel Cummings, and one from Captain Randolph Barton, which bear me out in my statement, and more fully explain the situation and results. Also one that I had written to my parents three days after the battle, and which is still preserved.
James I. Robertson, Jr., ed., Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade, pp. 21-33
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Tags: 33rd Virginia, John Casler, Memoirs, Resources
Categories : Reminiscences, Resources
This day I spent lying down and taking remedies. By night I was so much better I determined to go back to my company reaching them about nine o’clock much worn down by my ride. The men welcomed me gladly. They had seen no yankees and very little expected the storm that was to break over our heads so soon. A bed of leaves was made for me and I laid down to rest. My own opinion was that a great battle was going to be fought the next day. The thoughts of a thinking man the day before a battle are necessarily solemn, he may be buoyant and hopeful, yet there is a dread uncertainty that comes over his thoughts both as to himself and those dependent on him which makes him grave and almost sad. I was tired and despite the thoughts of the next day’s work I soon dropped off to sleep and never moved until roused by my servant, John Scott, early Sunday morning. He told me to get up, something was going on, he did not know what but I’d better get up and make ready. I soon discovered what was about to happen. All the troops around me were up and cooking their breakfast, though it was scarcely light, and every one seemed to think an attack was about to be made upon our lines, but no one knew where. We supposed it would be made down towards the center where it was made on the 18th.
The bivouac of our squadron was on the extreme left near the Henry house as it was called. Mrs. Henry, who lived in it, and was so very old and infirm she refused to be moved out of it. She was said to have been a Miss Carter, and to have been one of the family who once owned the Sudley farm nearby. Mrs. Henry’s house during the day became a strategic point of great importance and was much torn up by shot and shell, by one of which she was killed. In her yard General Bee was killed and near it Colonel Bartow. Near it also it was that General Jackson formed his heroic brigade and received the baptism of fire during which he received the immortal name of “Stonewall”. A few days after the battle I got a piece of cedar post from the ruins of the house, and cut some crosses and other things which I sent home as mementos, and which I still have.
We were thrown into line about sunrise on the brow of a hill which overlooked Bull Run, with quite a wide valley (two hundred yards at least), below us. On the other side the bluff rose quite steeply, but on the top of it there was an open field. We were placed in that position to support a battery of artillery, whose I did not find out for it was moved very soon after the battle began to rage on our extreme left above the stone bridge.
I was still weak and John Scott brought me out to the one of battle another cup of coffee. He also brought some oats for my horse, which had not finished eating when I mounted him. He got an ammunition box to put the oats in and the horse was eating while I drank the coffee. We could distinctly hear the rumble of the yankee artillery on the pike beyond run, and there was no doubt they were moving in force toward the stone bridge and the Sudley farm and proposed to turn our left wing and sweep down on our side the run and our line. While we stood thus listening to the rumbling artillery and watching the dust as it arose from many hostile feet, we noticed a Federal battery of four guns suddenly dash out of the woods and throw itself into battery in the open space on the other side of the run above the bluff. We were much interested in the beauty of the movement, all of which we could see plainly, as it was not more than five hundred yards distant, but in a moment they opened upon our lines. The first shells went high above us, but the second were better aimed, and one of them struck the box out of which my horse was eating and shattered it to fragments, and then went on amongst the infantry behind us. John Scott did not move, or show any signs of fear. Having fired those two rounds they limbered up and left us as quickly as they came, and before our battery had done them any injury. When I noticed the first fire in some way I never dreamed the creatures were firing at us, so I went on drinking my coffee, but I was very rudely awakened from the dream by the second round when my indifference was changed to indignation, that they should actually have the impudence to fire at us on our own ground, and when we were doing them no harm.
After this there was a lull for a half hour while we remained in line of battle, but with no enemy in sight, then we heard the sound of cannon and musketry on our left, towards the stone bridge. We were moved up nearer the fighting, two other companies having joined us, and the whole thing being under the command of Lieut.-Col. Thomas T. Munford, of our regiment. The sounds indicated that the battle was growing fast and furious on our left, and that our lines were slowly being driven back, at which we were not surprised, as we knew we had but a small force on our left, and it was then obvious that the enemy was hurling upon it their whole force. We waited orders with great impatience and anxiety, for we saw our people were giving way and we could not see why we could not be of use. The battery we were supporting had been moved and there were no other troops very near us. I think Colonel Cocke forgot us, at all events we remained in the same position until near three o’clock in the evening.
About nine o’clock Generals Beauregard and Johnston, with their respective staffs, dashed by us, about fifty persons, handsomely dressed and mounted, and making a very grand show, and one which appealed to our enthusiasm very much, though all of us thought that one of the two generals should have been up with Colonel Cocke much earlier. Doubtless, however, they had good cause for the delay. Immediately behind them, at a sweeping gallop, came the “Washington Artillery,” a battalion of sixteen guns. This was the most inspiring sight I ever saw, and fills me with emotion whenever I think of it now. One not familiar with artillery can little imagine how grand a sight it was. Each gun had four horses, with outriders and officers on horseback and several men mounted on the gun; then the caisson of each gun with its four horses and the like equipment of men, making thirty-two in all. their ammunition wagons, forges and ambulances, all at full speed, making a processions, which under the circumstances, was very inspiring. Following the battalion next camp “Hampton’s Legion” of infantry under Col. Wade Hampton. Then a long and continuous line of infantry came pouring by as our troops were moved from the center and right wing to meet the attack on the left.
It is very easy, of course to criticise the conduct of the battle, and it is very unfair, as the critic does not know the inside causes, but while we stood there in nervous anxiety we all concluded our generals had been out-generaled, and the enemy had gained a great point upon them in transferring so many troops without their knowledge to the left, and forcing that wing back as they did. Our troops were put to a great disadvantage when run directly into a fight after moving at almost double-quick from six to ten miles on a hot July day, yet many of them were put to the test. We wondered also why, after it was discovered how the attack was made and that the enemy had stretched out his column from Centreville parallel to our front in the march towards Sudley, an attack was not made on his column, or upon the rear of his column, cutting him off from his base. Instead large forces, even after sending troops to the left, were idle all day at Mitchell’s and Blackburn’s Fords. No use was made of the cavalry until late in the day and then it was scattered about in small detachments, each acting under different orders, its attack was of little avail except to increase the panic of the enemy inducing a greater loss to them of the material of war. If when the enemy commenced to break, a column of cavalry had crossed Bull Run half way between Manassas and the stone bridge, and opened fire upon them as they moved back on the Warrenton Pike the victory would have been far more disastrous to the enemy and our gain in material so much the greater.
As these troops were passing towards the enemy another dismal line was moving back in the opposite direction. I shall never forget them. They were the wounded, some walking, some on stretchers, some in ambulances, all seeking the field hospital, which was near us in the woods, and all giving proof of their persons as well as their tongues of the terrible carnage on the left, and many giving discouraging tidings that our line was slowly giving way. Troops, certainly none but veterans, should never, if possible, be taken into action so as to see a field hospital or to meet the wounded or demoralized men. It has a bad effect and renders them unsteady.
The news given by the wounded men made us very impatient. We felt there was certainly something for us to do but no orders came. About eleven o’clock we were moved again further to the left, but though within range of artillery we had no actual fighting. The enemy continued to advance and at last, about mid-morning we saw signs of demoralization on the part of some of our troops; but about that time we saw a long column of troops in the same direction moving towards us, which, at first, we thought was the enemy, but to our infinite relief we found was General Jackson’s brigade which had just been put off a train of cars on the Manassas road. They doubled quick into action and met the enemy’s line and were soon heavily engaged. I was not near enough to mark the fighting, or rather my view was too much obstructed to get a view, but we could tell by the constant roar of cannon and musketry that the contest was severe. It was soon after this that Jackson won his “Stonewall,” as I have stated before. I got permission to ride a little distance from our command to get a closer view, and while out in an open field viewing the contest the best I could a bright-eyed boy of some sixteen years of age came up to me with a wounded hand and arm and spoke to me by name. I did not remember ever having seen him before, but he said he remembered me when I was a student at the University of Virginia and that his name was Everett B. Early of Charlottesville. He had run away from home and gone into the fight and been wounded. He had dressed his wound and was on his way back to take a hand again. He gave me a very intelligent account of the battle.
I was kept in a state of great excitement all day and found it hard to set on my horse from weakness induced by my recent sickness. We had nothing to eat. About four it became obvious that the advance of the enemy had been stopped. Then there was a sudden pause in the firing on their side, and when we could hear cheers and shouts on our lines. We were told by a wounded man that Sherman’s and Ricketts’ battery had been captured and that the enemy were slowly retiring. Still we were kept waiting though the sound of firing showed us the enemy was now in full retreat and the time for the cavalry had come. About five o’clock an officer came up and told Col. Munford the enemy were in full retreat across Bull Run, and ordered him to cross the stream and make for the pike to cut them off if possible and that Col. Radford with the rest of the regiment had already gone. Both parts of the regiment crossed about the same time, and we dashed up the hill, but the order had come too late for much good to be done. We were received by a scattering fire from the routed column, but they had generally thrown away their arms, and those who had not done so did so as soon as they saw us. It was a terrible rout and the face of the earth was covered with blankets, haversacks, overcoats, and every species of arms. We joined Col. Radford and the other six companies of the regiment as we reached the pike and followed the fleeing yankees, capturing many prisoners, until we came to a block in the road made by a great number of abandoned wagons, cannon and caissons, ambulances and other material at a bridge over a creek about two miles of Centreville. Further advance was checked, or at all events we went no further. From the other side of the creek and on top of the hill the enemy had been able to halt a battery long enough to fire one or two shots at our column, one of which killed Captain Winston Radford, of Bedford, a most excellent man and citizen and the brother of our Colonel. Beyond this our loss was very small and my company had only one or two wounded slightly.
Just as we crossed Bull Run I saw Edmund Fontaine, of Hanover, resting on a log by the roadside. I asked him what was the matter, and he said he was wounded and dying. He said it very cheerfully and did not look as if anything was the matter. As we came back we found him dead and some of his comrades about to remove the body. It was a great shock to me, as I had known him from boyhood, and though he was younger than I was we had met during many visits to Hanover when I was younger. We went into bivouac a little after dark, for it had become cloudy and was very dark.
It was a day long to be remembered, and such a Sunday as men seldom spend. To all but a scattered few it was our first battle, and its sights and wonders were things of which we had read but scarcely believed or understood until seen and experienced. The rout of the enemy was complete but our generals showed much want of skill in not making the material advantages greater. The Federal army was equipped with every species of munition and property, while ours was wanting in everything. They were stricken with a panic; wherever the panic was increased by the sight of an armed rebel it discovered itself by the natural impulse to throw away arms and accoutrements and to abandon everything in the shape of cannon, caissons, wagons, ambulances and provisions that might impede their flight, yet they managed, despite their flight, to carry off much. They only lost some thirty-odd cannon, for example, while with proper management on our part they would not have reached the Potomac with two whole batteries and so with other properties.
Had there been even a slight demonstration on Centreville that evening the panic would have been so increased that we would have made more captures in cannon, small arms and wagons.
During the evening, as I was riding over part of the field where there were many dead yankees lying who had been killed, I thought by some of Stuart’s regiment, I noticed an old doll-baby with only one leg lying by the side of a Federal soldier just as it dropped from his pocket when he fell writhing in the agony of death. It was obviously a memento of some little loved one at home which he had brought so far with him and had worn close to his heart on this day of danger and death. It was strange to see that emblem of childhood, that token of a father’s love lying there amidst the dead and dying where the storm of war had so fiercely raged and where death had stalked in the might of its terrible majesty. I dismounted, picked it up and stuffed it back into the poor fellow’s cold bosom that it might rest with him in the bloody grave which was to be forever unknown to those who loved and mourned him in his distant home.
The actual loss of the enemy I do not know but their dead extended for miles and their wounded filled every house and shed in the neighborhood. The wounded doubtless suffered much. Their own surgeons abandoned their field hospitals and joined the fleeing cohorts of the living, and our surgeons had all they could do to look after their own wounded, who of course were the first served. They received kind treatment however, and as soon as our surgeons were free they rendered all the aid in their power.
The enemy had permitted no doubt of the result to cross their minds, and had not kept it a secret in Washington that the final attack was to be made on Sunday. The day was therefore made a gala day by all the classes, and they came in great numbers in every possible conveyance to enjoy the rebel rout and possible share in the rebel spoils. Members of Congress and cabinet ministers, department clerks and idle citizens followed the advancing column in all the confidence of exhorting confidence, and there were not wanting many of the hack-load of the demi-monde with their admirers to compete the motley drew. Along the road and amidst abandoned cannon and wagons we found many a forsaken carriage and hack with half-eaten lunches and half-used baskets of champagne, and we received most laughable accounts from the citizens on the roadside of the scenes they saw and the sharp contrast between the proud and confident advance and the wild panic of the flight. The men of our company got many a spoil not known to the ordnance department or used by those who filled the ranks.
We bivouacked in the field and without tent or any shelter but the oilcloths, a vast supply of which we had laid in from those upon which our foes had slept the night before. They were of the very best material and we gladly abandoned ours or kept them to throw over our saddle in the rain. A battle is not a sanitarium for the sick or the cold ground a good bed for a feverish and chilly man. I was so worn and weary that I had no doubt whatever that when I awoke in the morning I would be very ill. Before I laid down I fortunately found an opportunity to send a telegram to my wife and owing to a fortunate accident it got off the next morning and relieved the minds of my people at home and the friends of all my men.
Despite my gloomy anticipations as to the effect of my health I slept like a top and awoke the next morning after daylight feeling very much better. I was aroused by a hard rain falling on my face. I got up at once and crawled into my wagon, which fortunately had come up during the night, and then I had my breakfast owing to John Scott’s thoughtfulness. I had heard nothing about my brothers, Capt. Eugene Blackford of the Fourth Alabama and Lieut. W. W. Blackford, of Stuart’s regiment of Cavalry. Both, I knew, had been engaged but I could not hear anything of them.
About eight o’clock, a staff officer from somewhere rode up and delivered an order calling for details to gather up arms and spoils from the field and to carry prisoners to the rear. I was sent with twenty men to report to Colonel Evans on the latter duty. When I reported I found also a small detail of infantry and the colonel put me in charge of the whole detachment and turned over to me several hundred prisoners, who looked very uncomfortable in the rain, with orders to take them to Manassas, six miles to the rear. Before we started Colonel Evans took me into a house in the yard of which he had his headquarters and introduced me to Colonel O. B. Willcox and Captain Ricketts of the Federal army, both of whom were wounded and prisoners. Willcox and Evans seemed very good friends and called each other Orlando and Shanks respectively – “Shanks” being Evans’ nickname at West Point. Willcox was courteous but Ricketts was surly and bitter and complained about his accommodations, which were very much better than those of his captor in the yard or than those of the vast proportion of our wounded men and officers. He had a comfortable room and bed and two surgeons to attend his wounds. One would suppose he expected the rebels to have a first-class hotel on the battlefield ready to receive him and that they had violated all the rules of civilized warfare in failing to do so.
We carried the two officers, placed under my care, in an ambulance, and we made them as comfortable as possible. We made rapid progress and I soon delivered my charge to some officer at General Beauregard’s headquarters. I had some pleasant chats with Colonel Willcox.
The sights of this day were terrible and more heartrending than those of the day before. Our preparations for the battle, so far as the care of the wounded was concerned, were very imperfect and we were called on to provide for those of both sides. The result was that many of both sides suffered much, but no difference was shown them save in the matter of priority of service. The surgeons were busy all day but still many wounds remained undressed for fully twenty-four hours. Luckily it was not very hot and the rain was a comfort.
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. 26-36.
*While this “letter” discusses incidents that occurred on July 21, Blackford may have started writing it on the 20th. Keep in mind that this collection had been edited twice – the last time by Blackford’s grandson – by the time it appeared in this publication. It is apparent that this account is not wholly a contemporary letter, and so has been classified here as a memoir.
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Tags: Charles Minor Blackford, James Ricketts, Memoirs, Nathan Evans, Resources, Willcox, Wise Troop
Categories : Reminiscences, Resources
The 7th and 8th Georgia Regiments at Manassas.
From the correspondence of the Savannah Republican, we take the following interesting narrative of the part borne by the 7th and 8th Georgia Regiments in the great battle at Manassas:
Manassas, Va., July 23d.
Dear Republican — I had only time yesterday to give you a list of the killed and wounded in our company, without detailing the incidents of the portion of the fight in which we were engaged.
Last Thursday we were in Winchester. At 2 o’clock we left that place. We marched over the mountains, forded the Shenandoah, and arrived at Piedmont, a station on the Manassas Gap Railroad, about ten o’clock, Friday, having footed it twenty seven miles. All the baggage was left at Winchester. We took the cars after a few hours’ delay, and came slowly here, where we arrived late Saturday morning after a tedious ride. Then marching three miles and a half we encamped in a wooded ravine beyond Manassas, and slept that night on the open ground. After a meagre breakfast Sunday morning we received orders to march for the place of fight, which we reached by a long, weary, woody, hilly, circuitous tramp of between 10 and 15 miles, often going at double quick. We halted, breathless, foot sore and exhausted, but eager for the fray.
With a few moments rest the regiments were posted behind Pendleton’s Virginia Battery, exchanging shots with the famous Sherman’s Battery of the Federalists. Ball and shell fell around us like hail. The Col. ordered the men to lay down until they were needed to charge, which they did. For some time we lay in this perilous position, losing, however, but one man – a member of the Macon Guards – when we received the order to charge the enemy’s battery. To do this it was necessary to charge across an intervening hollow and establish ourselves in a small pine thicket, flanking the enemy’s position. This cold and fearful movement was made through a perfect storm of grape and in a manner that General Johnson specially praised.
Gaining the grove with the loss of Thos. Purse killed, and James Car??? wounded, we opened fire on a large detachment of the Federal Infantry, stationed on the edge of the hill above the thicket some fifty or a hundred yards off who had been put there for the assistance of the battery. At the same time a large force of the enemy moved up until we were surrounded on three sides. Our rove was one hundred or more yards long and a quarter as wide, and as dense as nature…to near ten thousand, who poured a murderous fire upon us, concentrated, well aimed, and continuous. It was a whirlwind of bullets. Our men fell constantly. The deadly missives rattled like hail among the boughs of trees. Never veterans fought more coolly than the whole regiment. Not a man flinched. Carefully loading, each one took special aim, fired, and composedly repeated the same again.
Adjutant Branch was shot almost immediately, and Col. Gardner wounded, and Col. Bartow’s horse shot under him soon after. The ground was in a few minutes covered – paved with the dead and wounded. After seven or eight volleys were fired by us it became necessary to retire. No support was given; half of the regiment were down, and the enemy increasing in numbers. Even when the order to cease firing and retire had been given, so unyielding were the men, that several additional volleys were poured upon the foe.
In retiring a large portion of the regiment became separated from the colors by the density of the growth and were unable to recover them, but another portion, consisting among others of all the officers of the Ogelthorpes, clustered around it, and slowly retired at a walk, from point to point, towards the reserve. At every step the storm of balls mowed us down, and with their decreasing force we returned it. The ground over which we passed consisted of a series of woods and small fields, and at each open space the officers would reform the men, and the fight would be renewed with the pursuing enemy advancing in strength. A horrible mistake at this point occurred. Our own friends, taking us for the enemy, directed a galling fire upon our mutilated ranks. The Carolinians, Louisianians, and 7th Georgians turn…terrible effect.
The regiment finally withdrew out of reach of the shot, which the 7th Georgia took our place. The remnants formed, consisting of about 60 men, with Major Cooper, Capts. Magruder, Lamar, West, Dawson and Ryan, and Lieuts. Wilcox, Hall, Lumpkin, Dwinnel, Harper, Cooper, and Butler, and Sergt. Major Menard, and marched back
As this small remnant of the gallant six hundred marched, they passed Gen. Beauregard, who stopped, fronted, and raising his hat said, “I salute the gallant 8th Georgia Regiment!” – Every bosom thrilled with the proud compliment.
When the 7th Georgia Regiment reinforced us, Colonel Bartow took the lead of that. He has been for some weeks Brevet Brigadier General, commanding the 2d brigade of Johnston’s division, the brigade consisting of the 7th, 8th, 9th and 11th Georgia Regiment and a battalion of Kentuckians.
Deeply cut by the destruction of his own heroic but ill fated Regiment, Col. Bartow sprang forward to lead the 7th Georgia Regiment, whose Colonel met him, asking where they should go. Seizing the regimental standard, Col. Bartow turned to the enemy, saying “Follow me, and I will show you where,” and led on into the midst of the terrible fire of the Federalists. The men began to fall; the bullets whistled by in countless numbers. On kept the brave fellows with unquailing sternness, the Colonel leading impetuously to the enemy, encouraging and cheering the men until they arrived at their appointed position, when he turned and exclaimed, “Gen. Beauregard expects us to hold this position, and, Georgians, I appeal to you to hold it.” The leaden storm poured with increasing strength. Hot and heavy it came. Bartow turned to give of the standard to the proper officer, when a bullet passed through his heart and he fell from his horse. Several men sprang forward and lifted him up with both hands clasped over his wound. The only words he spoke – which were his last, and which deserve to be remembered as the last words of…that fame has ever commemorated – were “They have killed me: but, boys, never give up.” He was taken from the field and died in a few moments.
Thus perished, in the prime of his noble manhood, a lofty gentleman, a pure patriot, an able statesman, and a chivalric soldier. His bitterest enemies could charge him with no worse shortcomings than those which result from a high-strung spirit, impatient of meanness, sensitive to injustice, and noble to a chimera. The manner of his death would eternalize a thousand less lofty souls than his, and…less holy cause than the one in which he so fervently engaged – for which he so eagerly gave up everything, and in which he so willingly and resplendently died.
His body was…yesterday. He was not the only one of our finest officers that perished. General Bee was killed; Gen. Smith was severely wounded; Col. Fisher of a North Carolina regiment, was shot dead; also, Col. Jones, from the same state.
It has been estimated that the loss of our army is 2,000 killed and wounded; for the enemy it must be over 5,000. the numbers engaged were probably 15,000 on ours, with an unused reserved of 15,000; while the enemy numbered, at least, 60,000. They were under General Tyler. They have fled beyond Alexandria. A gentleman from there this morning said that the fugitives in miserable plight were streaming through, and that all military discipline in the place…over.
I am convinced of one thing – that all this talk about the Federalists being starved, unclothed, and unenthusiastic is absolute fudge. We cannot compare with them in the perfection of equipments and general preparations. Their haversacks were full; their blankets are magnificent; their canteens and other conveniences are ingenious, their medical accommodations are superb.
It is all fudge, too, about their enlisting from coercion, and not knowing they are to fight us. They tell us such…to mitigate their imprisonment. They are…shrewdness is a Yankee characteristic.
I have many particulars to tell you, but I must close this for …your regular correspondent here,…will give you a general view of the battle.
The remaining Ogelthorpes send love to their friends. They mourn for their gallant comrades who have so nobly died.
Oglethorpe Light Infantry
July 25 – There was another error in my letter of yesterday, in relation to the…which the lamented Bartow and the 7th and 8th Georgia regiments took in the fight. Gallant as I represented…conduct to be it now appears that only the half was told. Gen. Evans’s brigade occupied the extreme left along the line of Bulls Run. Next came Gen. Bee’s brigade, and next to his Gen. Bartow’s, and after his Gen. Jackson’s. The enemy opened a battery upon Gen. Evans by way of feint, but continued to push on his flank movement. Gen. Bee was dispatched to hold him in check, but so great were the numbers opposed to him the he was gradually forced back, while the enemy slowly but surely advanced along our flank. It was at this point that Col. Bartow’s brigade was ordered up. Meanwhile a battery of six guns had been planted to our left to protect the steady march of the Federal column, and to drive back our forces as they endeavored to head it off. As Col. Bartow was proceeding to take his position he met Gen. Beauregard, who told him that everything depended on his taking the position to which he had been ordered and checking the advance of the enemy…if possible. Upon this bloody duty he immediately started at the head of the heroic 8th. He was exposed to a galling fire for nearly an hour, from which the enemy suffered terribly. His horse was killed under him by one ball, while his sword…pierced by another. His horse came near falling upon Capt. Dawson of the Stephens Light Guards, who behaved with great gallantry, as did the whole company. At length it became necessary to retire the 8th, so much had it suffered, in order to give it time to reform in line.
At this point Col. Bartow brought up the Seventh, which had been ordered to lie flat upon the ground until called for. During this time the enemy’s line continued to stretch away to the left and gradually to force ours back, when Gen. Jackson was ordered to bring his brigade into position. Placing himself at the head of the Seventh and taking the colors in his own hands, (the color bearer having been wounded, not killed as represented,) Col. Bartow proceeded again to occupy the position to which he had been ordered. He had procured another horse, and was not on foot when he fell, as I stated yesterday. The Seventh was exposed to the same raking fire from which the Eighth had suffered so much, though not for so long a time. Indeed the fighting along the entire line in this part of the field was terrific. It was here that the fortunes of the day vibrated first to one side and then to the other, and nothing but the almost superhuman exertion of the Confederate troops gave us the victory. You will be glad to learn that even the prisoners taken from the enemy pay the highest tribute to the Georgia brigade. They say they never saw men fight as they did, and when told that there were only two regiments of them, they were utterly astonished, for, judging by the terrible execution of our muskets, they had supposed them to number four times as many. I…part of the field the night of the battle was fought, in search of Bartow’s body, and the heaps of the dead on the enemy’s side, as seen by the pitiful moonlight, and the groans and cries that everywhere saluted my ears, told but too plainly that good old Georgia had that day dealt a giant’s blow at the head of the…
The Seventh, aided by the Eighth, which had been partially restored to order, continued to hold their position with varying fortunes, and never did quit the field until the battle was won. Bartow had promised Gen. Beauregard to maintain his position, and he did it as long as he lived, and the brigade did it after he had fallen. And the result was the capture of the battery (Sherman’s) that had decimated our forces by its fire, and the final route of the adversary. To no two regiments on the field is the country more indebted than to the glorious Seventh and Eighth from Georgia. Every man was a lion-hearted hero, and every company a wall of fire.
I have not attempted to furnish you an account of the individual acts of heroism, or the gallant conduct of other regiments; for the reason that the military rules adopted here render it difficult to get access to the proper sources of information. Besides, you will find in the papers of the other…more satisfactory account of what their particular regiments did, than I could possibly give you.
Thus far I have not been able to obtain a list of the killed and wounded in the Eighth Georgia Regiment, but should be able to do so to-morrow. It suffered considerably more than the Seventh. – Appended hereto is a statement of the casualties in the Seventh, which Col. Gartrell has kindly furnished me, and which may therefore be considered reliable. Let our people never forget their brave brothers who have fallen in the defense of the liberties of the country.
President Davis returned this morning. No man in the Confederacy regrets the death of Col. Bartow more than the President, who cherished a strong friendship for him. Immediately on his return to Manassas, Sunday night, he sent a telegram to Mrs. Davis, to break the sad news to Mrs. Bartow, who had come on to Richmond, to be as near her husband as possible.
One of the prisoners says that Gen. McDowell was the active officer upon the field but that Gen. Scott who took his position at Centreville, was the director of the whole battle. If such were their positions, the latter must have come near to be captured; for notwithstanding the failure to execute…to strike at the rear of the enemy, a bold dash was made from our centre at Centreville but it was late in the day and after the retreat had commenced. Had old “fuss and feathers” been there then he would have had the pleasure of being…to Richmond sooner than his army will ever take him. …prisoner says that Senator Wilson of Massachusetts and Bob Lincoln had driven out in a carriage to see…Federalists could whip us, and that they, as well as Senator Foster barely saved themselves. I have already mentioned that Mr. Ely, M. C., from New York, was taken prisoner. Another prisoner whom I did not mention in my last letter was Col. Wilcox, of the Michigan Regiment.
P. W. A.
Augusta Chronicle, 7/30/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy
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Tags: 7th Georgia Infantry, 8th Georgia Infantry, Alfred Ely, Francis Bartow, Resources, Sherman's Battery, Soldier's Letters
Categories : Private Correspondence, Resources
On the evening of July 15 – when we had about concluded that it was all talk – we were ordered to be prepared to move at a moment’s notice. It did not take long to make all necessary preparations. The tents were to be left standing, and a detail of ten men from each company – with a complement of officers – was to remain in charge of the camp. The selection was to be made from the sick and those the least able to march. About every company had that number of sick and ailing. Each man going was to carry his canteen, haversack with three days’ rations, and his blanket, besides gun and accouterments. The blanket was rolled lengthwise, and the ends tied together, and it was carried over the left shoulder with the ends tied at the right hip. In the blanket were soap, towel, etc., and also twenty rounds of extra cartridges, which with the forty in the box made a total of sixty rounds to each man. It was all arranges that night who of the company were to remain with ‘the stuff.’ I think we all found an opportunity to write a few lines to the folks at home, informing them of the contemplated movement and saying a word of farewell.
It is almost surprising – realizing the possibilities of death or wounds as we did – that we marched out so cheerfully the next morning to take our chances. I am quite sure that we all understood the personal risks – perhaps exaggerated them – but I think none of us thought seriously of being defeated. We seemed to feel assured of success.
There were two officers and – I feel quite sure – eighty-six enlisted men who left the camp at Alexandria for the Bull Run Campaign on the morning of July 16, 1861. There were not more and might have been less. The commissioned officers of Company F were: Captain William Colvill, First Lieutenant A. Edward Welch, and Second Lieutenant Mark A. Hoyt. Non commissioned officers were: First Sergeant Martin Maginnis, Second Sergeant Hezekiah Bruce, Third Sergeant Calvin P. Clark, Fourth Sergeant Henry T. Bevans, and Fifth Sergeant Charles N. Harris. The corporals were: John Barrows, William D. Bennett, Fred E. Miller, Amos G. Schofield, Merritt G. Standish, John Williams, E. Oscar Williams, and James A. Wright. I recall that Lieutenant Mark A. Hoyt was one of the officers of the guard left behind us, and I feel quite certain that Corporal John Williams was also left, as his wife was then in camp at Alexandria.
For the first time, our brigade – the First of the Third Division – was assembled as a brigade. It was composed of the Fourth Pennsylvania, the Fifth and Eleventh Massachusetts, and First Minnesota. The brigade was commanded by Colonel William B. Franklin; and the division, Colonel Samuel P. Heintzelman – both of the regular army. It seems a little surprising that it had not been got together and drilled and maneuvered as a brigade and division before starting on the march, but that is not the only surprising thing about that campaign. If this had been done a few times, perhaps the brigade commanders might have been able to get more than one regiment in action at a time.
We started early, and it took some time to get fairly moving. The roads were dusty, and the day was very hot. The march was not hurried, and camp was made before night on a ridge covered with a second growth of scrub pines near Fairfax Court House.
Each man carried his rations as issued from the commissary, and they consisted of coffee, sugar, crackers, and salt pork. Each one did his own cooking while on the march, Although the cooks and wagons followed as far as Centreville, they were not with us. None of the boys were expert cooks, but all managed to make a shift at it and get something to eat. Many of the boys had provided themselves with coffee post – or small pails – to make coffee in and small frying pans to cook meat in, and found them very convenient. A ‘mess’ with a coffee pot, a frying pan, and a hatchet were pretty well fixed, and with a little experience could always prepare a meal at short notice – provided they had the necessary materials.
There had been no conflict with the enemy during the day, and we rested quietly during the night, sleeping on the ground under the pines, which sheltered us from the dew.
The next morning, Wednesday, July 17, the march was continued. There were frequent halts and delays, considerable skirmishing and some artillery firing, but no real fighting. We took no active part in these affairs, though near enough to hear them and feel a little of the excitement. One of these episodes was an attempt to capture an outpost on the railroad, which failed, as they ran off as soon as our men came in sight, leaving their dinner cooking.
We bivouacked in the bushes again that night near Sangster’s Station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. During these two days, we had occasionally passed a few houses near each other and, frequently, single houses in little cleared patches in the woods, but for the most of the way the country was rough and densely wooded, with pines and cedars predominating. Our division had apparently gone across the country and principally on the by-roads.
Thursday morning, the 18th, the march was continued near the railroad, and that morning our regiment led the brigade. As on the previous days, there were frequent halts as the advance felt its way. Finally, the regiment was halted in the woods at the edge of a field, while two companies – A and B, led by Lieutenant Colonel Miller – scouted some miles to the front and left. While waiting for the return of Lt. Col. Miller and his party, artillery firing began to our right and front. We were sure a great battle was being fought, while we seemed to be forgotten or lost in the brush. We could hear the distant musketry, also, occasionally.
After an hour or more, the firing gradually ceased, and about the same time the two absent companies returned – they having gone until they had discovered the enemy and retired without attacking, as they were instructed. This was the fight at Blackburn’s Ford, in which the advanced division under General Tyler was engaged. Of course, we were burning to know all about the affair, and there were many conjectures, but very little information obtainable. This was the third day out, and, although we had started with three days’ rations, we were not accustomed to taking three days’ supply at a time, and the most of us were out of food and hungry.
There had been strict orders issued against foraging, before we marched. There were also some cattle and sheep in the edge of the wood across the clearing, and the sight of these was too much for the hungry stomachs of some of the boys, and a small party went after them. They succeeded in getting some of these, which they skinned and cut up in the bushes, but in coming out they accidentally met Colonel Franklin, who at once began an inquiry.
About the same time, Colonel Gorman rode up, and, when he sensed the situation, opened on the culprits with a lively fire of cuss words, asserting that they were a lot of “born thieves” and a “disgrace to their state and to their mothers.” He brought matters to a head by requesting Colonel Franklin to let him make an example of them for the good of the regiment in the future. This was assented to by Col. Franklin, who was probably glad to have the matter taken off of his hands, and rode away. After he was gone, Col. Gorman – who looked very black and uncompromising – said, “Now, —- you, take up that meat and go to your companies, and don’t ever disgrace the regiment by getting caught in any such scrape again.”
It is perhaps needless to say that the boys were extra careful after that not to get caught. I do not think that Company F took a leading part in this affair, but there was a fair representation in the following. I saw ‘Lenghty’ wiping the blood off of his butcher knife with a bunch of leaves, and ‘Barb’ gave us a piece of sheep, which we broiled and ate with relish. I am not asserting that this was the right and proper thing to do – perhaps it was not – but we were in the enemy’s country and hungry. Right or wrong, we were doing just what has been done under like conditions since the days of David.
For the third night we slept under the skies, but instead of twinkling stars there were threatening clouds, and it rained a little that night and in the early morning. Friday the 19th, we marched to Centreville, where all of Heintzelman’s division was brought together; there were also many other troops there. What seemed to us a great army – probably 10,000 or 12,000 men – were gathered there, and more were coming. There was considerable skirmishing going on, but we took no part in it – that day or the next – and remained at the bivouac all day Saturday. It was a time of uncertainty and anxious waiting.
We could form but little opinion of how matters stood, when or where the next move would be made, but we felt assured that affairs had reached an acute stage, and that a crisis would come soon. When it did come we had no doubt that we would be ‘in it’ and share the fortunes of war with the rest, whatever they might be. After the repulse of General Tyler’s command on the 18th, some of us may have begun to feel the possibility of a defeat, but I am sure that the feeling – as to results – was one of assured confidence, no matter what might be the fate of individuals. We went to our blankets that evening knowing that we were to be aroused to march before daylight, and having no doubt but that the morrow would bring a battle. These were not pleasant thoughts to retire with, nor calculated to bring soothing reflections inviting sleep, but we did manage to put aside the wicked war and all of its attendant troubles, and slept until awakened to fall in for the march.
James Wright Papers, Minnesota Historical Society, as quoted on pp. 48 – 51 in Keillor, No More Gallant a Deed: A Civil War Memoir of the First Minnesota Volunteers. Used with MHS permission.
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Tags: 1st Minnesota, James A. Wright, Memoirs, Resources
Categories : Reminiscences, Resources