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The latest entry in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War series is The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson: The Mortal Wounding of the Confederacy’s Greatest Icon, by Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White, a new edition of the similarly titled Thomas Publications release from 2010. This update includes 50 pages of new material, nearly 200 illustrations, and several new appendices.
A foreword by NPS historian Frank O’Reilly is followed by ninety-five pages of text in fourteen chapters describing Jackson’s counter-attack at Chancellorsville, his wounding, surgery, journey to Guinea Station, illness, death, and funeral, with attention paid to the fate of Blue Light’s arm, the Chandler’s plantation, and a history of the preservation of the Jackson Shrine. Appendices cover timelines of the shrine and Jackson’s life, a tour of Lexington, VA, Jackson in memory and memorials, “what-ifs”, and Jackson’s surgeon Dr. Hunter McGuire. Kris and Chris have packed a lot of info into 149 pages.
You can read more by this prolific duo at their blog, the appropriately titled Emerging Civil War.
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On the 18th of July I struck my tents, rolled them up, and left them on the ground, and about noon marched through Winchester, as I had been encamped on the other side of the town. About an hour and a half after leaving, I had the following order from General Johnston published to my brigade: “Our gallant army under General Beauregard is now attacked by overwhelming numbers. The commanding general hopes that his troops will step out like men, and make a forced march to save the country.” At this stirring appeal the soldiers rent the air with shouts of joy, and all was eagerness and animation where before there had been only lagging and uninterested obedience.. We continued our march until we reached Millwood, in Clarke County, where we halted for an hour or so, having found an abundance of good water, and there we took a lunch. Resuming the march, my brigade continuing in front, we arrived at the Shenandoah River about dark. The water was waist-deep, but the men gallantly waded the river. This halting and crossing delayed us for some time; but about 2 o’clock in the morning we arrived at the little village of Paris, where we remained sleeping until nearly dawn. I mean the troops slept, as my men were so exhausted that I let them sleep while I kept watch myself.
Manassas, July 22d.
My Precious Pet, — Yesterday we fought a great battle and gained a great victory, for which all the glory is due to God alone. Although under a heavy fire for several continuous hours, I received only one wound, the breaking of the longest finger of my left hand; but the doctor says the finger can be saved. It was broken about midway between the hand and knuckle, the ball passing on the side next the forefinger. Had it struck the centre, I should have lost the finger. My horse was wounded, but not killed. Your coat got an ugly wound near the hip, but my servant, who is very handy, has so far repaired it that it doesn’t show very much. My preservation was entirely due, as was the glorious victory, to our God, to whom be all the honor, praise, and glory. The battle was the hardest that I have ever been in, but not near so hot in its fire. I commanded the centre more particularly, though one of my regiments extended to the right for some distance. There were other commanders on my right and left. Whilst great credit is due to other parts of our gallant army, God made my brigade more instrumental than any other in repulsing the main attack. This is for your information only — say nothing about it. Let others speak praise, not myself.
[Soon after the battle]
Mr. James Davidson’s son, Frederick, and William Page (son of my dear friend) were killed. Young Riley’s life was saved by his Bible, which was in the breast pocket of his coat . . . My finger troubles me considerably, and renders it very difficult for me to write, as the wind blows my paper, and I can only use my right hand. I have an excellent camping-ground about eight miles from Manassas on the road to Fairfax Court House. I am sleeping in a tent, and have requested that the one which my darling had the loving kindness to order for me should not be sent. If it is already made, we can use it in time of peace. . . . General Lee has recently gone to the western part of our State, and I hope we may soon hear that our God has again crowned our arms with victory.
And so you think the papers ought to say more about your husband! My brigade is not a brigade of newspaper correspondents. I know that the First Brigade was the first to meet and pass our retreating forces – to push on with no other aid than the smiles of God; to boldly take its position with the artillery that was under my command – to arrest the victorious foe in his onward progress – to hold him in check until reinforcements arrived – and finally to charge bayonets, and, thus advancing, pierce the enemy’s centre. I am well satisfied with what it did, and so are my generals, Johnston and Beauregard. It is not to be expected that I should receive the credit that General Beauregard and Johnston would, because I was under them; but I am thankful to my ever-kind Heavenly Father that He makes me content to await His own good time and pleasure for commendation – knowing that all things work together for my good. If my brigade can always play so important and useful a part as it did in the last battle, and trust I shall ever be more grateful. As you think the papers do not notice me enough, I send a specimen, which you will see from the upper part of the paper is a leader. My darling, never distrust our God, who doeth all things well. In due time He will make manifest all His pleasure, which is all His people should desire. You must not be concerned at seeing other parts of the army lauded, and my brigade not mentioned. “Truth is mighty and will prevail.” When the official reports are published, if not before, I expect to see justice done this noble body of patriots. My command consists of the Second, Fourth, Fifth , Twenty-seventh, and Thirty-third regiments of Virginia Volunteers, commanded respectively by Colonels, James W. Allen, James F. Preston, Kenton Harper, W. W. Gordon, and A. C. Cummings; and, in addition, we have Colonel Pendleton’s Battery. My staff-officers are Lieutenant-colonel Francis B. Jones, acting adjutant-general; Lieutenant-colonel J. W. Massie, aide; Lieutenant A. S. Pendleton, ordnance officer; Captain John A. Harman, quartermaster; and Captain W. J. Hawkes, commissary.
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Just a quick note to let folks know that a new biography of Stonewall Jackson by friend Ethan Rafuse is now available for order from Amazon.com. Ethan has not been one to simply repeat what others have written about familiar characters like Meade and McClellan. This is a short one at 150 pages, but I’m sure it will be worth your while.
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FROM WASHINGTON TO BULL RUN AND BACK AGAIN
BY LIEUTENANT H. B. JACKSON, 2nd Wis. Infantry, Read April 6, 1910
THE first real battle of the Great War came as a shock to the people and stirred the country from center to circumference as no later engagement ever did. Moreover the first battle of Bull Run, in dramatic incident and tragic termination, was unique, and so altogether, it has taken a prominent place in our military history. The writer’s purpose now is to take you from Washington to Bull Run and back again, within a half hour. The distance between the Capitol and the battle field is about thirty miles.
The battle was fought on the 21st day of July, 1861. On the 8th (thirteen days before), the raw and comparatively undrilled Federal troops destined for the conflict, were camping in and around Washington, on either side of the Potomac. They had been organized, it is true, into five divisions; all to be commanded by General McDowell. The first division, under the command of General Tyler, consisted of four brigades; the second, under General Hunter, of two; the third, under General Heintzelman, of three; the fourth, under General Runyon, as a reserve, of seven New Jersey regiments; the fifth division, under Col. Miles, of two brigades.
The writer was a lieutenant in the Second Wisconsin Infantry, a part of the third brigade of Tyler’s Division, commanded by W. T. Sherman, then acting brigadier general.
While this army, before the order to advance, had been organized into divisions and brigades, each having its own commander, such organization was only on paper. The regiments composing the different brigades were, in point of fact, scattered hither and yon, and had not been assembled in actual brigades before the advance began.
The third brigade, with which we are more particularly concerned, included the Second Wisconsin Infantry (which afterwards became a part of another, which achieved the name of “The Iron Brigade”), came together for the first time, and had its first brigade drill on July 11th, and two days later had marching orders. With knapsacks packed, and three days’ cooked rations in haversacks, on July 16th, at two o’clock in the afternoon, this brigade started from Camp Peck, a few miles from Washington just south of the Potomac.
The brigade marched, without knowing where we were going—just marching under orders, following file leaders; yet having a dim perception, amounting to almost conviction, that we were going somewhere to meet the enemy, wipe them out, and then “on to Richmond.”
The first day was hard on the men, they were unused to marching, and the weather was hot. After passing many deserted farms we arrived on the evening of the first day at Vienna, a small village about twelve miles west from Washington. Besides our brigade, other forces were concentrated at that village, making a total strength at that point of fully 12,000, the remainder of the army was not far away advancing on other roads in the same general direction toward Centerville.
Our twelve thousand were bunched for the night’s bivouac quite compactly in columns of regimental lines, and lay down on the grass under heaven’s high dome illuminated by as bright a moon as ever shone.
Every soldier had in his haversack cooked rations of bread and meat, and upon halting and stacking arms, every man stretched himself on the ground, munched his rations, and went to sleep without ceremony or delay.
With your permission I would like to sketch a picture of that “first night out,” as it is indelibly impressed upon memory. Soon after midnight I awoke with a strange sensation— due to being a raw recruit, a part of a great army, advancing through an unknown country, to meet an unknown foe. Arising to a sitting posture the raw recruit glanced about and noted critically the situation. There was the moon at the zenith in full splendor. Of the 12,000 soldiers, apparently not another soul was awake. The silence was impressive. What thoughts flitted through the boy’s mind out there on the sacred soil of old Virginia, a thousand miles from home, surrounded by scenes and circumstances so new and strange, I leave to your imagination.
The boy lay down with the 12,000 youthful sleepers until the blare of a bugle awoke the whole army at 3:00 in the morning. They ate again from haversacks, folded blankets strapped on the knapsacks, and were ready for the start. Yet history must record that it was nearly 6:00 o’clock before the army got under way, so true is it that “large bodies move slowly.”
From Vienna we marched to Germantown, about eight miles on the way to Bull Run. Owing to obstructions, such as fallen trees, and the like, with which the enemy had blocked the way, we did not arrive until 2:30 p.m. Here at Germantown, were found quite pretentious earth-works bearing marks of recent occupation and hasty abandonment, such as smouldering fires, and partially cooked food, all telling plainly that the enemy were falling back.
We planted the “Stars and Stripes” on their deserted earthworks, cheered a bloodless victory, and, resting awhile, proceeded a few miles further and bivouacked for the second night.
Here an amusing episode recurs to memory after the intervention of all these years.
Accompanying the army were many civilians, a condition not permitted later. These civilians included men who would readily admit that they were eminent citizens, members of Congress, newspaper correspondents, etc. Some were going along with the army “just for fun,” others had a pretense of business.
The night had passed quietly until about 3:00 o’clock when there was heard the trampling of many horses, as though a cavalry force were thundering down in a deadly charge.
The noise awakened the army. To complete the din, the long roll sounded the signal for every man to fall in. Seizing his gun from where he had stacked it, every man took his place in line. It is the conduct of these civilians that furnishes the amusing incident. When the clatter began some of them were sleeping on the ground near the writer. They were under no obligations to be brave as soldiers were. Self-preservation was the law that appealed to them and produced a vigorous scramble for life. Each soul possessed a single thought which was “to climb a tree” in double quick. While climbing they believed the cavalry charge was upon them which stimulated haste. Scarcely had they reached their coveted positions at the top of the trees, when it was known that the commotion was only the stampede of friendly horses engaged in the pastime of running away. Sheepishly these civilians came off their perch, amidst laughter and jeers, not enjoyed so much by them as others.
Quiet was again restored, guns restacked, the newspaper man and congressmen, and the army slept till morn.
March was resumed at 7:30 and at about 10:00 o’clock our brigade arrived before Centerville. Here we came in sight of earthworks formidable in appearance, but in appearance only. These were on the brow of the quite imposing hill which sloped toward us from Centerville, for a distance of nearly a quarter of a mile, to the spot where we were halting. They had been abandoned to be occupied by our division. Centerville, a modest little hamlet, stands at the summit of this hill, back of the earthworks just referred to. We remained at the halting place until summoned by the stirring events of the afternoon, which was not to pass without considerable loss of life to both armies, although three days intervened before the battle of Bull Run. This was the 18th day of July.
I am not attempting to give a history of the battle of Bull Run; this is for abler pens, and the literature of the War, it is rather my purpose to have you understand the condition of our army, at and before the time the battle was fought, and of what the troops did and suffered during the days immediately preceding the battle, in order that those who have been inclined to criticise those troops, because they retired from the field on which they had fought so bravely, may come to see that what some have charged to want of pluck, was nothing more or less than the absolute exhaustion of the human endurance these men possessed.
Our brigade tarried at the foot of the hill, quietly resting under the shade of bush and tree, as best it could, from 10 a.m. until nearly noon. In the meantime a brigade of our army, with a battery of artillery, had passed to and beyond Centerville, along Warrenton turn-pike, which leads directly west to the battle field of Bull Run. Just beyond Centerville, but out of our sight on account of the intervening hills and earthworks, the advanced forces marched obliquely to the left, taking a road diverging from Warrenton turn-pike, at an angle of about forty degrees, in a southwesterly direction toward Manassas Junction, through a country quite densely wooded. They advanced on this road or narrow lane until they came to a small stream, known as Bull Run.
Here they had encountered a confederate force of considerable strength and a rapid interchange of volleys ensued until four o’clock. When the booming of cannon first broke upon our ears as we lay in the valley, telling plainer than words that a conflict was on, every man became alert.
The firing continued. We have read in story books of the foaming steed ridden in hot haste, bearing a rider with message of great moment, etc. Now this veritable foaming steed appeared, and bore his rider to where our brigade was halted and up to the tree where Sherman sat.
After a short parley with the rider, General Sherman issued orders to fall in, and our brigade ascended the hill, passed through Centerville and then down the road taken by the preceding forces, going the distance of about a mile and a half at double quick. Before we had gone far, more impressive evidence than the noise of cannon told us that we were indeed nearing the scene of real conflict, for out from the woods, and slowly to the rear, was borne many a wounded and dying soldier.
Still pushing on we arrived at the spot where our artillery was engaged. Our brigade moved by its right flank into the woods and there took a position in line at right angles with the road over which we marched, with orders to support the artillery.
This engagement, known as the “Battle of Blackburn’s Ford,” was, after our arrival, for the most part a duel of artillery, carried on at so great a distance between the contending forces in the woods, that no enemy could be seen by either side. While thus in line, we had abundant opportunity to speculate upon probabilities and to observe the movements of rifled cannon shot fired from a distance.
The artillery firing at our forces was perhaps a mile and a half away. To cover that distance it was necessary to elevate the pieces so that the projectile would describe an elliptic, rather than a straight line. These rifled cannon shot were constantly heard screeching through the air as they plunged in our direction. Sometimes they would strike a tree and land in an unexpected place. At other times they would come whizzing on without interruption to their destination, striking down a man here and there as if by chance. While standing thus, I well remember, my attention was absorbed in listening to individual cannon shot, that is, to the whizzing noise they made in the air, rather than to the report of the guns. The danger contemplated was not that from the general crash or volley, but rather from the individual cannon shot whose wild whistle in the air would from time to time attract attention. All along the line the troops appeared to be listening and looking intently. For my part I could hear the whizzing noise in the air plainly enough in many cases to decide where the bolt was likely to fall, whether to the right or to the left. But in one instance it was impossible to decide where that particular shot was going to strike. I was seized with an impression that my time had come and involuntarily threw myself upon the ground. Getting up a moment later it was discovered that the shot had burrowed only a few feet behind me, and I have always believed that if I had remained standing that shot would have effectually done the work for me. Some of the soldiers with better eyes asserted they could see the balls, but I could not. This experience lasted until about 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon, when the cannonading gradually lessened and finally ceased after considerable loss had been sustained of killed and wounded. Then our brigade counter-marched toward Centerville by the same road we come on, till it intersected the turn-pike. Then taking the turn-pike we marched westward about a mile toward what was to be the battlefield of Bull Run, and took our position on an eminence to camp for the night. The experiences of the men were identical in this, that the fatigue which comes from mere exposure to imminent danger continuously for hours, especially when the troops so exposed are not actively engaged, is far more exhausting than physical exertion. All agreed after reaching camp in feeling complete fatigue.
The battle of Bull Run was still two days in the future. Yet a considerable tax, as you see, had been put upon the endurance of raw and inexperienced troops, although they had only been engaged in getting into position for the ensuing battle. There was to be no rest for the army the coming night. It was about sun down when we went into camp. Near by was a meadow dotted with newly made hay-cocks, which were picked up by the men as if there had been but one instead of a thousand and carried into camp. It was a sight to see those acres of hay-cocks disappear. The boys wanted the hay for beds and they got it in one trip.
Soon after sun down the commissary wagons came in view, and were very welcome, for they bore the precious freight of coffee and much needed rations.
Immediately the rails from neighboring fences were brought in, fires kindled, and coffee put to boil. The air was soon filled with delicious aroma, but the sadness of it all is that this coffee was never to cheer the tired soldiers. Just as the pot had fairly boiled a malicious force of sneaking confederates who had crawled up stealthily in the bushes, discharged several volleys over camp, luckily with too high aim.
The cry went up: “Put out the fires! Put out the fires!” It was a fearful sacrifice and the precious coffee was wholly lost. Then in darkness the long roll beat to arms, the tired troops fell in line, while skirmishers went out in fruitless endeavor to find what forces had been shooting at us. After they had fired their vicious volleys the confederates stole away unseen, leaving the troops in a condition quite forlorn, not knowing what would come next. Weary and worn and nearly exhausted, they stood in the darkness and rain as marks to be shot at by a hidden foe, or as one of my comrades said at the time, “To be shot at for $13 a month with no chance to return the fire.” One can imagine this little tableau vivant, or enough of it, and to see that the night was no picnic.
To cap the climax of discomfort, as darkness settled down it began to rain. The hay which had promised so much for our comfort was thoroughly wet.
Through the long, rainy night there was plenty of hunger, but no slumber, for it was passed in watchful expectation of another attack. Everything however has an ending, so did that night. With the morning came sunshine, and such cheer as men in their condition could muster.
The day was spent in getting dry, being fed and rested. At sundown the customary dress parade was held in fairly good form, considering the circumstances, and with the usual promulgation of orders.
Among other orders read that evening, was one directing the writer to report immediately at brigade headquarters, where he had been assigned for duty on the staff of General Sherman.
This order took the writer from his regiment and he was provided with a horse and equipments, and became established at brigade headquarters.
The next day Saturday, July 20th, was “the day before the battle” with all that the phrase implies. The plan on our side which contemplated an attack, had been most fully matured at a council of all the commanders, including our brigadier general. The precise work of each commander had been mapped out. If you are curious to know the details of these plans, you may read them at your leisure for they have become history.
On this 20th day of July every man in the army once again filled his haversack and at the early hour of 2:00 o’clock Sunday morning, July 21st, the entire combative force took up the march toward Bull Run by divers routes assigned to the different divisions.
From that early hour the troops were destined not to rest again until they had passed through the bloody battle, achieved a great victory over a superior force, and then later on, by the arrival of Johnston’s fresh army, were compelled to abandon a field they had fairly won, and retreat the succeeding night the entire distance from Bull Run to Washington. But we must not anticipate.
General Tyler’s division of which our brigade was a part, was on the the right of the army. The duty assigned to the writer by General Sherman was to care for all the vehicles belonging to the regiments of our brigade and organize them into a single train.
Just before the advance there was imparted to me as much of the plan of battle as it was thought necessary for me to know in order to govern my actions. I was directed to keep the train where it was, at the camp, until the combative force of the army had passed that point, and then to fall in with the other trains at the first opportunity and advance toward Bull Run until a certain blacksmith shop, which was about a half a mile east of Cub Run, had been reached; to post the train there and immediately report in person to the general wherever he could be found at the front.
In giving these instructions he said, “You will hear plenty of cannonading immediately in front. Pay no attention to it, for this will only be a feint; the real attack will be in another quarter.”
It is a matter of history how Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions turned to the right from Warrenton turn-pike at the old blacksmith shop just mentioned, taking a road which led northerly and nearly parallel with Bull Run, east of the stream, and proceeded in that direction far enough to reach a point where no rebel forces were present to interfere with their crossing; and how, when they had arrived there, at an hour much later than had been planned, that is to say, about noon instead of early morning, these troops under General Hunter, taking only a few moments to refresh themselves, passed over to the west side of Bull Run, and pushed down upon the enemy, who all this time had been entertained by the furious cannonading directly in their front, east of the Stone Bridge, where Sherman’s Brigade waited for the time to come to cross over.
Hunter’s force attacked the enemy’s left flank with vigor and later was joined by Heintzelman, when they drove the confederate forces down the west bank of Bull Run, past the point where Tyler’s division, including our brigade, was waiting, thus giving them the expected opportunity to pass over and join in the general attack, which was gallantly made with a rush.
While Hunter’s movement was being executed, as has been told, the writer had abundant time to obey instructions and post his train as directed, and then to ride down amid the smoke and roar of artillery, according to directions, until he reached the spot where a thirty pounder, attached to Carlisle’s Battery, was posted on the turn-pike, with Ayre’s Battery somewhat in the rear. A little to the right of this gun he found General Sherman with his brigade in line at right angles to the turn-pike in a dense wood on the easterly side of Bull Run. There Sherman remained awaiting the appearance of Hunter and Heintzelman. At the proper time Sherman’s brigade crossed over and became actively engaged, and met their full share of the fearful loss of the day, and did their full share of the work resulting in driving the over confident confederates from the stronghold they had taken and determined to keep at all hazards.
Up to three o’clock in the afternoon everything went our way, and indicated a complete victory for the Union Arms. Indeed at that time a great victory had been won.
Then it was that a genuinely dramatic incident occurred. General McDowell came riding along the line, joyously swinging his hat aloft, responding to the cheers of the soldiers on every hand. As he came near our position he drew rein to exchange salutes with General Sherman, and with a cheerful voice and mein, he directed him “to join in the general pursuit,” and rode away.
How well I remember the proud bearing of McDowell. His every action told, more plainly than any words, that he then believed himself a victorious captain whose brow was wreathed with laurels of success. But alas, too soon he learned that the fates of war are fickle.
Not more than twenty minutes intervened after McDowell departed before he came again our way. A fearful change had come over the spirit of his dream during those moments. The transformation was forlorn and complete. We need not discuss here the causes that led up to, and made necessary the retreat of which an account follows. Suffice it to say, that soon after McDowell rode away, a large force of rebel troops from Johnston’s army arrived fresh on the field, just in time to turn our glorious victory into black defeat.
Within that twenty minutes the Union army saw itself confronted by the arrival of a fresh and formidable army, saw that the battle just successfully finished must be fought anew, if the field was to be held, and recognized the fact, as fact it was, that the limit of human endurance had been fully reached and that they were actually incapable of another fight. Thereupon the whole army began as it were, upon their own motion, and as it would seem without orders to fall slowly to the rear, and thus reluctantly leave their hard fought field. Not indeed because of the troops they had been fighting all day and had fairly whipped, not because their valor had departed, but because their power to endure had been exhausted.
When General McDowell returned, it was as clearly certain that the day had been lost, as that a few minutes earlier victory had been shouted by all hands. No one more keenly realized this than McDowell himself. If it dazed and blunted his faculties for the moment, who shall wonder and who shall blame? It seemed that General Sherman expected some decisive movement to be ordered by the commanding general for he inquired of him, “What is to be done?”
To this General McDowell replied, “Wait awhile,” and rode away, looking for all the world the picture of despair.
In reading the memoirs of General Sherman you will see no mention of this meeting between himself and General McDowell at the very turn and crisis of the battle. But the writer has excellent reason for remembering it well because it was followed by an incident of peculiar interest to himself.
After “Waiting a while,” in obedience to McDowell’s command, and seeing the whole army moving to the rear, the writer ventured to ask General Sherman what should be done with the train in the rear for which I was responsible. This inquiry was deemed proper, seeing that the entire army was giving up the field. And yet its propriety was immediately doubted, for General Sherman, looking squarely in the face of the writer, in a voice that was stern if not savage, said; “I give you no orders at all, sir.”
This at the time was interpreted to mean that when he had orders he would let it be known without being asked. But later on the writer was informed by General Sherman what was really in his mind. He himself had received no orders from the commanding general, therefore he declined to give any orders. He had been told to “wait awhile,” and was doing it.
The writer seeing that the army was in actual retreat spurred away without orders to where his train was posted just east of Bull Run. Here indeed was pandemonium reigning supreme. Whenever there is a panic in an army it is generally in the rear rather than in front, and here was no exception to the rule. There was no panic at the front at Bull Run, but at the rear the quarter-masters of the several regiments composing our brigade at least, were found in a state of extreme excitement as though expecting momentarily to be gobbled up by the notorious Black Horse Cavalry, which by the way existed only in imagination. The riders they saw galloping in all directions, were none other than our cavalry, and no doubt in some instances, our own mounted officers going to the rear. It was a white horse that carried the writer to the rear, otherwise—perhaps he might have been taken for a Black Horse Cavalryman and not permitted to approach.
When he arrived the quarter-masters were not slow in condemnation of what they regarded inexcusable negligence, in not having previously moved the train to a place of safety. Steps were taken to allay their needless fears by assuring them there was not a rebel in sight, and that our entire army would have to be slaughtered or captured before any danger could come to them, a ceremony that would consume much more time than would be required to make a safe retreat. At first they seemed satisfied with such assurance, agreeing to help take the train toward Washington in an orderly way. Had they held to that purpose there would have been no trouble in doing so.
But it was not so to be. Panic took full sway among these people who had not been on the field. The brigade train was nearly half a mile in length, and so it was impossible to personally supervise the whole of it. It soon became apparent that no one was in a state of mind to assist in preserving the orderly retreat of the wagons. A start to the rear was begun on a decent walk but it was not long before some of the drivers had pushed their teams to a trot, and others to a gallop.
Then it was that the soldiers who were there to guard the train found it impossible to keep pace with the teams, and early reached the conclusion that it was their duty to ride, and so mounted the wagons. To make room for himself a man would roll a barrel of vinegar out of the back end of the wagon to be run over by the next, which would be overturned. What with barrels of vinegar and molasses, boxes of crackers, bags of oats, and other such stores thus thrown out, it was not long before the road was literally paved with these things. When a wagon was overturned it afforded an excellent excuse for cutting loose the horses and riding away, and the drivers were not slow in doing this. The road was thus blockaded by abandoned wagons.
Within a short time the brigade train was a thing of the past. It had destroyed itself. The occupation of the writer so far as the train was concerned was therefore gone, and he turned and rode to the front slowly against the retreating torrent.
In passing through the retiring crowds, made up in part of civilians as well as soldiers, many sights and scenes worth telling were observed but are omitted for want of time.
Darkness was now setting in, when however, many of those who had been engaged in the battle were met and recognized.
What had been the army, was the army no longer. It was a mere 4th of July crowd, a World’s Fair crowd on a Chicago Day, wholly without organization. The whole roadway was compactly filled from side to side with one solid mass, which within a rod or two, might have among its members the representatives of many regiments. In such a crowd as this, strange as it may seem, the writer met the orderly sergeant of his own company. He was uninjured, and carrying his gun.
His worn out condition was recognized and he was put in the saddle. We agreed not to part, as the writer now resolved to turn about and go along with him and the rest to the rear, walking by the side of the horse. Unfortunately for the orderly, but luckily for another, we presently came upon a corporal of our company who had been shot through the leg, limping along with many others in similar condition. The corporal had lost his gun, but showed no other evidence of demoralization. The sergeant upon request gave up the horse to the wounded corporal. They compromised, the corporal taking the sergeant’s gun and the horse, and we moved on together.
As the crowd advanced along the road the most important matter was to get a drink of water. So whenever and where-ever a well was found, it became the nucleus for a contending crowd, like boys surrounding the ticket wagon of a circus, but to a vaster extent, more like swarming bees bunched upon an overhanging limb.
The trend was ever toward Washington. The night grew darker. Now and then one would hear a cry out of the darkness of the number and name of a regiment, as for instance, “13th New York.” If a man of that regiment was within hearing he would respond “13th New York.” Comrades would thus come together but to be soon parted. So in the case of the writer. Having resolved to stay by his comrades and horse, he soon found that all had disappeared and he was alone in the struggling crowd. Considering that he had been mounted all day, his condition was so much better than the mass around him that he had no cause to complain.
On and on we kept tramping the weary way to Washington. Sometimes struggling for a drink by the wayside well but not daring to rest for a moment; because to sit down even for a single instant was to sleep, and to sleep at that time meant capture.
Past midnight the rain began to pour. This was not so much a misfortune as a discomfort. It is even possible that the drenching rain cooled the fevered soldiers and in that way was beneficial. Knowing how dusty and how besmeared they were before, one can imagine the appearance presented after the rain. The rain had said to the dust, “I am on to you, your name is Mud!”
Time went on while this motley retreat continued until about four o’clock in the morning when the writer met for the first time the captain of his company, Captain Bouck of Company E, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, son of Ex-Governor Bouck of New York, ex-Attorney General of Wisconsin, and a lawyer of high standing and ability. We were old friends; he was lame, foot-sore, weary, and nearly exhausted, but trudging on toward Washington the same as the writer. He reached out his hand in a mechanical way, we clasped, but neither spoke a word. Thus we went on together for a short time, only to separate, as in many cases before. Can you see the picture? It is like ten thousand others on the weary way.
Soon thereafter several soldiers were seen coming from a farm house where they got coffee and corn-cakes. The writer made his way to the house and while there made a bargain with the farmer to hitch up his horse and carry him and three others into Washington four or five miles distant. This was a happy thought, but not to be realized. Rosinante was tackled to a farm wagon with two boards for seats stretched from side to side of the wagon box.
We finally got aboard and started. It was daylight and Monday morning. Scarcely had we gone a mile when we discovered moving along with the rest, a lieutenant of my regiment who had been wounded by a musket shot in his left shoulder. The picture of this soldier was the picture of death. He had every appearance of a moving corpse. Nothing indicated that he was alive except that he was moving. He was scarcely alive. Automatically he kept on going. The writer spoke to him to arouse attention, but he did not hear. Finally to make certain of his identity the writer jumped from the wagon, shook him up, and told him his name and insisted that he should take the vacant seat in the wagon. Mechanically he obeyed and we started along, the writer hanging on to the end board of the wagon box.
So we went to Washington.
At last we arrived at the southern end of the Long Bridge, by which you cross over to the capital.
There fires had been built, large caldrons of pork and coffee were boiling, hard-tack was abundant, and the soldiers having been fed, were lying on the ground in the midst of a pelting rain, sleeping like infants on a mother’s breast.
But let us return to the lieutenant, for his case is typical of a thousand others.
Sheds had been thrown up for the wounded, and all the surgeons, good, bad or indifferent, that Washington and the neighboring cities could supply, were on hand to dress the wounded, and treat the sick as best as they could. The lieutenant was taken to one of these sheds and supplied with coffee, hard-tack and salt pork, of which he partook sparingly, and then he was turned over to a young surgeon who probed and dressed his wound, and laid him away to sleep. The writer did not see him again for several days, and when we next met he declared upon his honor that he did not remember meeting me at all, nor know how he got to Washington.
His case was a fair sample by which to judge of the many others of which we have not time to speak.
Not all of the troops went to Long Bridge where we did, but many reached Fort Corcoran, near Georgetown, and others made their way to Alexandria, all resting on the south bank of the Potomac.
None were permitted to cross over, except such as for good reason obtained passes.
I have now fulfilled my promise of taking you from Washington to Bull Run and back again, but I cannot consent to leave you there to pass as I did the doleful days which succeeded the battle of Bull Run.
In conclusion let me lay before you a brighter page of history, whereon is recorded that later, on the selfsame battlefield, the same army of the Potomac achieved an abiding victory for the Union cause. And on still other pages are recorded the Herculean achievements of our glorious armies which paved the way for their victorious return in strong and serried ranks to march into Washington not as we did, but bearing aloft the redeemed and consecrated Flag of the Union, amid the plaudits of an admiring country whose integrity and existence they had preserved for all future generations, by a soldierly constancy, and valor, unmatched and unmatchable, in the annals of all the Nations of the World.
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Tags: 2nd Wisonsin, Memoirs, MOLLUS, Resources
Categories : Reminiscences, Resources, The Battle
As discussed here, the version of my review of Still Standing – The Stonewall Jackson Story that appears in the May 2008 issue of America’s Civil War - on newsstands now – was edited about 35% for length. To perhaps (though probably not) nip in the bud any questions regarding my opinion of the film, I’m posting the original text of the review below. But don’t let this stop you from sending letters to the magazine.
Let me preface this by saying that I was predisposed to dislike the film prior to viewing, based on some things I had heard about it. This to me was problematic, so before viewing it I posted a question to the Civil War Discussion Group (CWDG), a Yahoo email group to which I’ve belonged since its inception about seven years ago. After discussing my problem with a few posters there, I determined that the proper course was to review the film on its own merits: what was the message it was trying to convey, and how well did it argue its case. The review is not a simple reflection of my thoughts on the message, and has nothing to do with liking or disliking, but is rather an analysis of the presentation. Note that each paragraph ends with an unexplored paradox.
Irony and paradox: those are the words used to characterize the life of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson in the documentary “Still Standing – The Stonewall Jackson Story”. They are used specifically to describe the story of Jackson as one of a very ordinary man, arising from ordinary, even humble circumstances to accomplish extraordinary things. Beautifully filmed, the DVD has a pleasant musical score and relies more on live action video of sites from the general’s life than on the Ken Burns trademark still photograph panning that has become S.O.P. for historical documentaries. All in all, this is an attractive package. But it is perhaps more rife with irony and paradox than the producers intended – paradoxes and ironies ultimately left unexplored or unconvincingly explained.
Focusing on Jackson’s spiritual life, and based on the book “Stonewall Jackson: The Black Man’s Friend” by Richard Williams, the program features a number of “talking heads”, first and foremost Jackson biographer James I. Robertson. Jackson’s story is broken down into chronological phases of his life, beginning with his traumatic separation from his mother at age seven to be sent to live with his uncle Cummins at Jackson’s Mill in what is now West Virginia. Robertson describes Jackson’s boyhood as one of solitude and loneliness, and tells us that he never got over the separation from his mother, that his uncle was an uncaring, selfish man and that, while he later said his uncle loved him, Jackson “did not know what love was.” At the same time, his boyhood is also described as shaped by his close friendship with future Union general Joseph Lightburn who, along with Cummins’s slaves, influenced Jackson to accept the gospel.
Jackson’s time at West Point is covered briefly, described as spent engrossed in study, and discussion of his Mexican War service is limited to his three brevet promotions, his dalliance with Catholicism, and the influence on his religious development of his superior officer Francis Taylor. As for his post-war career, we learn of his baptism while stationed at Ft. Hamilton and of his leaving the army to take a teaching job at VMI, but nothing of why he left or any role his ambition – later described by Dr. Hunter McGuire as “far beyond what ordinary men possess” – may have played in his decision. At VMI, while Jackson continued his personal voyage of faith, he distinguished himself as possibly the worst teacher in the history of the school. Despite that, evidence suggests that his students saw something special in “Tom Fool”.
While Jackson’s role at First Manassas and in the Valley Campaign is explored, there is really little analysis of his Civil War record. In fact, the film jumps from the Valley Campaign straight to Chancellorsville and his mortal wounding, avoiding entirely the paradox of Jackson’s spotty performance during the Seven Days.
At the center of the documentary is Jackson as husband, father, and benefactor of a Sunday school for slaves and free blacks in Lexington, Va. While establishing himself in the town, he joined the Presbyterian Church and married Eleanor Junkin. Fourteen months later, his wife and new son were dead, and Jackson’s faith is said to be all that pulled him through a difficult time. He toured Europe, and on his return quickly courted and married Mary Anna Morrison. By all accounts Jackson, earlier described as not knowing what love was, deeply, even romantically, loved his wife.
Jackson, who believed that every human being was a child of God, helped to fund a Sunday school to teach slaves and free blacks to read, in order for them to more closely follow the teachings of the bible. While in violation of Virginia law, he felt that God’s law trumped the law of man. Committed to the project, he sent his monthly stipend for the school from the battlefield of Manassas. This scenario presents perhaps the most significant paradox of Jackson’s life. While Robertson asserts that Jackson did not, in fact could not, fight for slavery, the fact remains that his actions helped sustain a government dedicated to the preservation of that institution; that while the beneficiaries of Stonewall’s bible school would become the freedmen of post-war Lexington, his actions helped delay their attainment of that status; that while Jackson was traumatized by his separation as a child from his beloved mother, his actions helped to perpetuate a system that methodically separated mother from child.
Perhaps a case can be made that for his time and community Jackson was in fact progressive in his views on and treatment of slaves and free blacks. However, “Still Standing” does not attempt to view Jackson in the context of his circumstances, instead boldly proclaiming him a “champion of enslaved men and women”. The glaring paradox is that he was at the same time on the battlefield a champion of slavery. That’s a paradox worth exploring.
Thanks to Senior Editor Tobin Beck for his kind permission to post this.
(UPDATE: Blogger Richard Williams, on whose book Still Standing is based, has “not commented” on this review here. He suggests that I can find explorations of all the paradoxes in the film in his book. As I said, I reviewed the film on its own merits. Sweet cross-marketing pitch though! I’m not sure what you found “curious” about my comments but no, I didn’t consider the review a “dreadful undertaking”, just a challenging one. As for my comments speaking for themselves, I sure hope they do – that’s what I was going for!)
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Tags: ACW Books, Articles, Civil War Magazines, History on Film, Reviewing, Stonewall Jackson, Writing About The Civil War
Categories : Articles, Books, Civil War Magazines, Writing About The Civil War
T. J. Jackson’s report is pretty concise. In it he recognizes a man who would play a prominent role in the remaining 22 months of Stonewall’s life, Dr. Hunter McGuire. The report closes with: I respectfully call attention to the accompanying reports of the commanders of the regiments and battery composing this brigade.(*) The asterisk found at the bottom of the report, placed there by the compilers of the Official Records, identifies these reports as Not found. Unfortunately, the compilers had to use lots of these asterisks when assembling the records for First Bull Run.
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Tags: After Action Reports, Articles, Stonewall Jackson
Categories : Articles, Official Reports, Soldiers, The Project, What is this?
Report of Brig. Gen. T. J. Jackson, C. S. Army, Commanding First Brigade, Army of the Shenandoah
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 481-482
HEADQUARTERS FIRST BRIGADE,
Camp near Manassas, Va., July 23, 1861
MAJOR: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my brigade on the 21st.
About 4 in the morning I received notice from General Longstreet that he needed a re-enforcement of two regiments, which were accordingly ordered.
Subsequently I received an order from General Beauregard to move to the support of General Bonham, afterwards to support General Cocke, and finally to take such position as would enable me to re-enforce either, as circumstances might require.
Whilst in the position last indicated I received a request from General Cocke to guard the stone bridge, and immediately moved forward to effect the object in view.
Subsequently ascertaining that General Bee, who was on the left of our line, was hard pressed, I marched to his assistance, notifying him at the same time that I was advancing to his support; but, before arriving within cannon range of the enemy, I met General Bee’s forces falling back. I continued to advance with the understanding that he would form in my rear. His battery, under its dauntless commander, Captain Imboden, reversed and advanced with my brigade.
The first favorable position for meeting the enemy was at the next summit, where, at 11.30 a.m., I posted Captain Imboden’s battery and two pieces of Captain Stanard’s, so as to play upon the advancing foe. The Fourth Regiment, commanded by Col. James F. Preston, and the Twenty-seventh Regiment, commanded by Lieut. Col. John Echols, were posted in rear of the batteries; the Fifth Regiment, commanded by Col. Kenton Harper, was posted on the right of the batteries; the Second Regiment, commanded by Col. James W. Allen, on the left, and the Thirty-third, commanded by Col. A. C. Cummings, on his left. I also ordered forward the other two pieces of Captain Stanard’s and all those of Colonel Pendleton’s battery. They, as well as the battery under Lieutenant Pelham, came into action on the same line as the others; and nobly did the artillery maintain its position for hours against the enemy’s advancing thousands. Great praise is due to Colonel Pendleton and the other officers and men.
Apprehensive lest my flanks should be turned, I sent an order to Colonels Stuart and Radford, of the cavalry, to secure them. Colonel Stuart and that part of his command with him deserve great praise for the promptness with which they moved to my left and secured the flank by timely charging the enemy and driving him back.
General Bee, with his rallied troops, soon marched to my support and as re-enforcements continued to arrive General Beauregard posted them so as to strengthen the flanks of my brigade. The enemy not being able to force our lines by a direct fire of artillery, inclined part of his batteries to the right, so as to obtain an oblique fire; but in doing so exposed his pieces to a more destructive fire from our artillery, and one of his batteries was thrown so near to Colonel Cummings that it fell into his hands in consequence of his having made a gallant charge on it with his regiment; but owing to a destructive small-arm fire from the enemy he was forced to abandon it. At 3.30 p.m. the advance of the enemy having reached a position which called for the use of the bayonet, I gave the command for the charge of the more than brave Fourth and Twenty-seventh, and, under commanders worthy of such regiments, they, in the order in which they were posted, rushed forward obliquely to the left of our batteries, and through the blessing of God, who gave us the victory, pierced the enemy’s center, and by co-operating with the victorious Fifth and other forces soon placed the field essentially in our possession.
About the time that Colonel Preston passed our artillery the heroic Lieutenant-Colonel Lackland, of the Second Regiment, followed by the highly meritorious right of the Second, took possession of and endeavored to remove from the field the battery which Colonel Cummings had previously been forced to abandon; but after removing one of the pieces some distance was also forced by the enemy’s fire to abandon it.
The brigade, in connection with other troops, took seven field pieces in addition to the battery captured by Colonel Cummings. The enemy, though repulsed in the center, succeeded in turning our flanks. But their batteries having been disabled by our fire, and also abandoned by reason of the infantry charges, the victory was soon completed by the fire of small-arms and occasional shots from a part of our artillery, which I posted on the next crest in rear.
By direction of General Johnston I assumed the command of all the remaining artillery and infantry of the Army near the Lewis house, to act as circumstances might require. Part of this artillery fired on the retreating enemy. The colors of the First Michigan Regiment and an artillery flag were captured–the first by the Twenty-seventh Regiment and the other by the Fourth.
Lieut. Col. F. B. Jones, acting assistant adjutant-general; Lieut. T. G. Lee, aide-de-camp, and Lieut. A. S. Pendleton, brigade ordnance officer, and Capt. Thomas Marshall, volunteer aide, rendered valuable service. Cadets J. W. Thompson and N. W. Lee, also volunteer aides, merit special praise. Dr. Hunter H. McGuire has proved himself to be eminently qualified for his position–that of medical director of the brigade. Capt. Thomas L. Preston, though not of my command, rendered valuable service during the action.
It is with pain that I have to report as killed 11 officers, 14 non-commissioned officers, and 86 privates; wounded, 22 officers, 27 non-commissioned officers, and 319 privates; and missing, I officer and 4 privates.
I respectfully call attention to the accompanying reports of the commanders of the regiments and battery composing this brigade.(*)
Your most obedient servant,
T. J. JACKSON,
Brigadier-General, Provisional Army, Confederate States
* Not Found
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Tags: After Action Reports, Resources
Categories : Official Reports, Resources
Scenes of the Battle Field — Personal Adventures at the Battle of Bull Run
From The Boston, Traveller, Aug. 1.
Mr. Edward S. Barrett, of Concord, has, at our request, furnished us the following narrative of his experience on the day of the recent Battle of Bull Run. It will be found exceedingly interesting: and our readers will agree that if all the “civilians” who went to the field on that day had behaved as well as Mr. Barrett, there would be no reason to complain of them.
It is quite possible that the writer has in some cases used the wrong military terms, for he makes no pretension to military knowledge; but his narrative will be found in all important particulars as authentic as it is interesting. It commences with the night before the battle:
On Saturday evening, the 20th of July, I heard we were to start at half past two the following morning, and our line was to be in readiness at an early hour. We had occupied the camp at Centreville since Thursday night. Wrapping my blanket around me, at 10 o’clk I stretched myself upon the bare ground to sleep. The night was cool, and at 12 o’clock I awoke feeling very cold, and unable to sleep more, I anxiously waited to hear the signal to prepare. At two o’clock our drum sounded through the camp, and was repeated through the numerous camps around us, and in half an hour forty thousand men stood ready to battle for the Union.
The Fifth Massachusetts regiment, which I accompanied, was in the division under Heintzelman, acting Major General, and our regiment was the third in the column. The First Minnesota, under Colonel Gorman, led forward by the Massachusetts Eleventh, Colonel Clarke; then the Fifth, Colonel Lawrence, with the regular cavalry and a battery of artillery leading the advance. We waited, in marching order, from half past two o’clock till after six before the order was given to advance, and then we learned that Colonel Hunter, with eight regiments, including Governor Sprague’s command had preceded us, and we were to follow. General McDowell and staff heading our division.
Mounted on a secession horse, which I had captured two days previously, I followed in rear of the regiment, in company with Quartermaster Billings and Surgeon Hurd. From Centreville we took the extreme northern road, leaving the Warrentown road on our left, which General Tyler had taken with his division. Passing through a forest of heavy oak timber some three miles in length, we emerged into the open country, with a wide interval on our left, and the Blue Ridge Mountains distinctly visible on our right. We had heard and occasional cannon shot during the morning, but not until ten o’clock was there any sound of a general engagement. The heavy cannonading on our left and in front caused the march to be hastened, and our men could hardly be restrained, so eager were they for the fight. About a mile and a half before we reached the field the men began to throw away their blankets, haversacks and all unnecessary appendages, the different regiments trying to throw them into a pile, or as near together without halting. I tied my horse near the hospital headquarters, and hastened to the head of the column, which advanced in double quick time till they cam within reach of the enemy’s guns. The fight was raging on our left and in front as our division came into the field. I could see that the enemies batteries were posted on a long ridge, with woods extending on either flank, and separated from us by a valley. It was now about half past eleven o’clock. General McDowell ordered one brigade, under Colonel Franklin, consisting of the First Minnesota, Eleventh and Fifth Massachusetts and a Pennsylvania regiment, to advance down the hill and take a position in the valley on a slight elevation directly in front of the rebel batteries. I followed on some distance, but the shot rattled about me, and I halted near General McDowell and staff, while the brigade swept past me and down the hill. I watched for some time the colors of the fifth with intense interest. The regiment reached the valley and deployed to the right on to a slight knoll, fell flat on their faces, while the shot from the rebel batteries passed mostly over their heads. A battery swept past me to take a position. I followed it along some distance, when the Major galloped back to me and called out: “Friend, tell Captain F. to hurry up my supports.” I did not know Captain F., but hastened back and met an orderly, of whom I enquired who he was. He pointed him out to me near a regiment of infantry. I rushed up to him and gave my message. He replied, “They are coming right along.” And on double quick the regiment followed after the battery. The rifle cannon shot, shells and bullets struck all around me, and men were falling in every direction. Seeing a high persimmon tree standing alone, a short distance down the hill, I determined to climb it. The top of it was dead, and about thirty feet off the ground. From this elevation I had an unobstructed view of the whole line, and I could see into the enemy’s entrenchments, where the men looked like so many bees in a hive, and I could plainly see their officers riding about, and their different columns moving hither and thither. Their batteries on the right and left were masked with trees so completely, that I could not distinguish them except by the flash from their guns,; and a battery in a cornfield on our extreme left was so completely concealed by the cornstalks placed so naturally about it, that our men came suddenly upon it, never dreaming of one so near. The cannon ball struck the ground continually close to the tree and bounded along for a quarter of a mile to the rear. I felt that I was above the range of these, but the rifle balls whistled about my head, striking the tree in a way anything but pleasant. Just after I had reached the top of the tree a New Hampshire regiment, close at my left had succeeded in driving them from the woods in front, and, with three cheers, they fell back into line.
When the line was formed, three cheers were given for Colonel Marston, who had fought gallantly and received two severe wounds. Sherman’s battery then commenced firing on my right, within thirty rods of me, and at the first discharge the men cheered and watched the effect of the shell, which exploded inside the enemy’s entrenchments. The men cheered again, to see that they got the range so quickly, and continued to fire with great rapidity, while the enemy returned the fire with equal vigor and precision, the cannonading being kept up incessantly for an hour.
The shot and shell from this battery must have done the rebels great damage, as every shot took effect within their intrenchments. – Still men and horses kept falling near our guns, and the infantry lines were parted in many places by their cannon balls. The valley for nearly one-half mile in front of the enemy’s works was filled with our infantry, extending to some patches of woods on our right. Our batteries were placed on various eminences on the flank and rear, shifting their positions from time to time. The fire from our lines in this valley was terrific, and as they kept slowly advancing, firing, retreating to load, and then advancing again, it was a sight which no words could describe. For three long hours we poured into their intrenchments this terrible fire, and whenever the enemy showed themselves on the flanks they were driven back with great slaughter. During all this time our men were subjected to a cross fire from the enemy’s infantry stationed in the woods on our left. At one time the “Stars and stripes” were waved in these woods, and men dressed much like our own called out not to fire that way. Our men gradually drew up towards the flag, when immediately the secession flag was thrown out and the rebels poured a volley into our men so unexpectedly that they were for the time driven back, but we soon regained the ground.
General McDowell now ordered a battery forward to take a position near a house on our right; the Fire Zouaves were ordered to support it. The position appeared to me, from my lookout, like a strong one, as it was on a hill on a level with the rebel batteries. – Our battery started, the horses running at the top of their speed, and shortly began to ascend the eminence, the Zouaves following closely; but scarcely had the battery halted and fired, before the enemy opened upon them from new masked batteries, and a terrific fire of musketry from the woods, and our artillery was driven back, many of their men and horses being killed. The Zouaves stood their ground manfully, firing in lines and then falling on their faces to load. The ranks we becoming dreadfully thinned, yet they would not yield an inch; when suddenly our dashed the Black Horse Cavalry, and charged furiously, with uplifted sabres, upon them. – The Zouaves gallantly resisted this furious onset without flinching, and after firing their muskets – too sorely pressed to load – would fight furiously with the bayonets or any weapon they could seize, and in some instances drag the riders from their saddles, stabbing them with their knives, and mounting their splendid black horses gallop over the field. Never, since the famous charge of the Light Brigade, was a cavalry corps more cut to pieces. There is a bitter animosity existing between the Black Horse Cavalry and Ellsworth’s Zouaves. A great many of the cavalry are citizens of Alexandria and Fairfax county and they resolved to kill every Zouave they could lay their hands upon to avenge the death of Jackson, and the Zouaves were equally determined to avenge the murder of Ellsworth; so no quarter was expected by them.
I had now been in the tree some two hours, and all this time a continuous stream of wounded were being carried to the rear. The soldiers would cross their muskets, placing their wounded companion across; slowly carry them past; and another soldier would have a wounded man with his arm around his neck, slowly walking back, and then two men would be bearing a mortally wounded comrade in their arms, who was in convulsions and writhing in his last agonies.
Leaving the tree, I went along over the field to the left, the bullets whistling about me and the cannon balls ploughing up the ground in every direction, when I came across two of our men with a prisoner, who said he belonged to a South Carolina regiment. I asked him some questions, but he was dogged and silent, and did not appear to be disposed to reply to my inquiries. The shot fell so thick, and shells bursting around me, I hardly knew which way to turn. A musket ball whizzed past my ear so near that I felt the heat, and for a moment thought I was hit. – The ground was strewn with broken guns, swords, cartridge boxes, gun carriages, haversacks together, with all the paraphernalia of warfare, mingled with the dead and wounded men. I saw here a horse and his rider under him, both killed by the same cannon ball. Seeing a small white house still towards the left, with a well near it, I started for some water, and getting over a wall I discovered lying beside it a number of our dead with their haversacks drawn over their faces. I lifted the cover from their faces, thinking, perhaps, I might come across some of my friends, but they were all strangers, or so disfigured that I could not recognize them. I went to the well for a drink, and as I drew near the house I heard loud groans, and such a scene as was there presented, in that little house of two rooms, and on the grass around it, was enough to appal the stoutest heart.
The rooms were crowded, and I could not get in; but all round on the grass were men mortally wounded. I should think there were at least forty on that green sward, within 20 rods of the house, and such wounds – some with both legs shot off; some with both legs broken; others with horrid flesh wounds made with shells. I saw one man with a sound in his back large enough to put in my fist; he was fast bleeding to death. As I walked among them some beseeched me to kill them and put an end to their agony; some were calling for the surgeon, but the hospital was more than a mile off, and there were but two surgeons there; some were just gasping, and some had died.
I left the house and bore off towards the right towards some low pine woods, about a hundred yards distant, and scattered along were the dear bodies of our men. On reaching the wood I found ground literally covered with the dead bodies of the enemy, and I counted in the space of ten rods square forty-seven dead rebels and ten mortally wounded; and scattered all through the woods still farther back were any number more. I talked with several of the wounded, and they told me they belonged to the 8th Georgia regiment, Col. Bartow, and had arrived at Manasas from Winchester the day before, where they had been with Gen. Johnston. They told me their whole regiment was posted in this pine woods. One young man told me he was from Macon, and that his father was a merchant. I asked another where he was from; he replied defiantly, “I am for disunion – opposed to you.” This man had both thighs broken.
I heard one of our soldiers ask a wounded Georgian if their orders were to kill our wounded. He answered No. Our soldiers carried water to these wounded men, and as they lay writing in agony a cup of water was put within their reach. The convulsions of one of these men was awful to look upon; he appeared to have been shot in the lungs, as he vomited blood in large quantities, and in his struggles for breath would throw himself clear from the ground. I noticed among the heaps of bodies an officer dressed in light blue uniform, with green stripes on his pants, a fine looking man, whom I took to be a captain. I also saw one of our soldiers take sixty dollars from the body of a dead Georgian; and their knives, revolvers, &c., were appropriated the same way. This I looked upon as legitimate plunder for the soldiers, but as a citizen I forebore to take anything from the field.
I think the fight in this wood must have been fiercer than in any part of the field, except it may be on our right, where the Zouaves were. The wood was near the enemy’s right, and where the fight commenced in the morning with Hunter’s division, and as Heintzelman’s division came into action the rebels were giving way at this point, under the galling fire of Co. Marston’s regiment, while the Rhode Island troops and some New York regiments had driven back their extreme right. – Passing through these pine woods I still bore to the right towards our centre, and crossed a cleared space and came to some heavy wood, on the edge of which I perceived a number of dead scattered about; and seeing several wounded men, I went up to one of them, and found he was a rebel belonging to an Alabama regiment. He told me he joined the regiment on the 13th of April. He pointed to a dead horse close to us, and said, “There is my Colonel’s horse, and I suppose you have taken him prisoner.”
New London (CT) Chronicle, 8/6/1861
Barrett, Edwin Shepard What I Saw at Bull Run
Contributed by John Hennessy
*Likely the letter writer
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Tags: 11th New York, Black Horse Cavalry, Civilian Letters, Resources, Sherman's Battery, Zouaves
Categories : Civilians, Private Correspondence, Resources