George Palmer Putnam, Publisher, On the Retreat, With Incidents of the Battle

29 08 2014

The Affair of the Twenty-First.

George P. Putnam, the publisher, was an eye witness of the retreat of Sunday and Monday, and says:

The reports of a disorderly retreat of our main army are grossly untrue. A brief statement of a small part of what I witnessed will show this.

Mr. Tilley of Rhode Island and myself accompanied the De Kalb Regiment[*] from Alexandria in the cars to the Fairfax station on the Manassas Gap Railroad; we reached there at 10 A.M. Heavy cannonading was steadily going on. While the regiment waited for orders we walked forward on the track till within five miles of Manassas Junction. A scout was there sending hourly reports to General Scott of the firing. Returning, as the regiment still halted, a party of four of us, with a soldier, walked on the Fairfax Court House three miles, and thence on the road to Centreville.

About f o’clock we began to meet buggies and wagons with visitors returning to Washington. All reported that the day was ours, and rode on jubilant, until, at half past 4, an officer on horseback, riding fiercely, said, with emphasis, “No, no, it’s going against us.” The firing had ceased.

Near Centreville, between two long hills, we suddenly saw army wagons and private vehicles coming down before us in hot haste – a few soldiers on horseback mixed in with the crowd. Looking back we w found a regiment coming fresh from Fairfax in “double quick.”

Mr. Russel, of the London Times, was on horseback among the first from the battle.

The New Jersey Colonel instantly formed his men across the road, and resolutely turned back every soldier in the road, and in twenty minutes perfect order was restored, and the whole flight of the vehicles was shown to be absurd, so much so that we waited two hours at that spot, drawing water for the poor wounded men, who began to limp along from the field; only two or three ambulances to be seen.

At half past six, two hours after the battle was over, we started [?] [?] back to Fairfax Court House, [?] [?] [?] four wounded soldiers into the wagon.

Those who were [?] [?] [?] [?] got by the Jersey boys, were stopped by a company of the Michigan Fourth, from Fairfax, and compelled to turn back.

At Fairfax Court House we quietly took supper at the tavern, and never [dreaming] of any disorderly retreat, we were supplied with good beds; we undressed and went to sleep at 11 P.M. At three o’clock Monday morning, finding the wagons were moving on the Alexandria, we started again and walked quietly along with them to Alexandria, doing what little we could to aid the men more or less slightly wounded, or worn out, including some from the hospital – for still there was scarcely an ambulance to be seen.

But on the whole road from Centerville to Alexandria, I am confident that there were not five hundred soldiers in all, between 6 P.M. and day-light; so that it is grossly untrue that the whole army made a hasty retreat. On the contrary, all seemed to be certain that a stand was made at Centerville, of the whole of our main body, excepting only the stragglers from this first panic. The panic was explained by several who agreed it was purely accidental.

I talked with at least forty from Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin regiments who gave me some thrilling incidents of different parts of the field – which I have no time to tell now – many grumbled at [?] [?], but all seemed plucky, and said that our troops could beat the rebels easily in an open fight, and would do it yet – but the masked batteries on one side and the blunders on ours had “done for us this time.” I reached Alexandria at seven – having walked forty miles.

– The following incidents of the battle form the first chapter of the volume of history and legend that will grow out of it:

– A spectator of the [?] tells me that the Zouaves literally decimated the Black Horse Cavalry, the celebrated rebel troop. About the middle of the battle the Zouaves fired by platoon upon the rebel infantry stationed in the woods. After they had fired they discovered a troop of horse coming down on their rear. — They carried the American flag, which deceived Col. Heintzelman, and made him believe they were United States Cavalry, and  he so told the Zouaves. As they came nearer, their true character was discovered, but too late for all the Zouaves to reload. The regiment faced and received the cavalry as they came down, with leveled bayonets which threw them into confusion. Then away went muskets, and the Zouaves went in withe their knives and pistols. They seized horses and stabbed their riders. In this hand-to-hand conflict the Black Horse Troop were handled in their own preferred way of fighting. — The [?] showed the Zouaves to be the most expert handlers of the knife. When the fight was over, there were not twenty of the four hundred cavalry left alive. Men and horses had been cut to pieces by the infuriated red-shirts. This troop of cavalry had boasted they would picket their horses in the grounds of the White House.

– Mr. Russel of The London Times, who witnessed at Inkerman and elsewhere in the Crimea the fiercest infantry charges on record, says they were surpassed by those of our Firemen Zouaves, Sixty-ninth, and other regiments. The best fighting ever done on the globe was that by a large portion of the defenders of the [?] at Bull’s Run.

– Our greatest deficiency was in cool and [???]. The men fought [?] and were ready for anything which experienced commanders would order them to do. Gen. McDowell behaved admirably. He was active, [?] and attended to everything in person as far as possible; but he had not a sufficient staff, and was not properly supported by his subordinates. — Major Wadsworth of New York, one of his aids, showed the utmost gallantry and devotion. He exerted himself to rally the forces when they first fell back, and towards the close, after having his horse shot under him, seized the colors of the wavering New York Fourteenth, and called on the boys to rally once more for another charge, but without success. Major Wadsworth, as the Army retreated, remained at Fairfax Court House, and devoted himself to purchasing everything needful for the wounded. of whom about a hundred and fifty were at that place.

– A number of the Second New York saw the rebel sharp-shooters fire upon and kill two vivandieres who were giving [?] and [?] to the wounded. The rebels also shout at ambulances bringing off the wounded. They also fired point blank at the buildings used as hospitals, and it is said by some that they fired the buildings.

– Lieut. Col. Haggerty of the Sixty-ninth, was killed in a charge. When his body was found, his throat was cut from ear to ear, and his ears and nose were cut off. Many of the sounded were found thus disfigured.

– A member of the New York Sixty-ninth says:

Thos. Francis  Meagher was the most conspicuous man on the field, riding on a white horse, with his hat off, and going into the battle most enthusiastically. At one time our regimental color was taken, and Meagher seized the green flag of Ireland, and went to the front, leading the men to the charge. The color was recaptured, the enemy was driven back, and the we formed in hollow square, by orders, and retreated steadily off the ground.

– A Union man living near Fairfax assured our informants he had seen the intrenchments at Manassas, and that there were nine miles of batteries there.

– The number of killed and wounded is got by Gen. Mansfield at less than 1,000, and by Gen. McDowell at from 500 to 700.

– Senator Lane, of Indiana, gives it as his opinion that the reason of the panic was an order given to the batteries to return to a certain point for ammunition, and this apparently retreating movement of batteries produced consternation and panic. By other the order to retreat, which assisted to change the fortunes of Sunday, is ascribed to Gen. Miles, of the Army, who commanded the fifth division.

– The Zouaves, after taking one battery, were rushing upon another , when those behind it cried out, “For God’s sake, don’t shoot your brothers.” Upon this, the Zouaves reserved their fire, until artillery was poured in upon them by the battery from which the supplications had come.

– It is well authenticated that in several instances our men fired upon each other. Company [?] of the Thirty-eighth Regiment New York Volunteers, suffered severely form such a mischance.

– When the colors of the Sixty-ninth were captured by the Virginians, two of them seized the flags and were going off with them, when Lieut. Matthews, of Company K, Fire Zouaves, fired and killed both the Virginians, and recovered the flags.

– Capt. Wildey, of Company I, Zouaves, killed two out of four Mississippians who were dragging a gun. All our men agree in representing that the rebel infantry will not stand a fair fight, even with three to our one. They gave way whenever attacked, when not supported by artillery.

– There is every reason now to believe, from concurrent reports, that a retreating panic seized the confederate army at the same time some of our regiments began their hasty and wild exodus from the scene of carnage.

– Capt. T. F. Meagher had a horse shot under him, but is untouched. All out losses were in advancing – none in falling back. There was no panic in front. This was confined mainly to the wagon drivers, straggling soldiers and fugitive officers, and the rear of the column.

– Our loss in field pieces is not so great as heretofore estimated. Every gun of Capt. Ayres’ battery, formerly Sherman’s, was brought off safe – only some caissons being lost. The loss of baggage wagons will not exceed fifty. In small arms, our loss is at least three thousand.

– The Colonels of our regiments appear to have been in the thickest of the fight, if we may judge by the casualties. The returns show four killed and seven wounded. There were thirty-six in the engagement, which gives a ratio of one in three killed or wounded.

– Gen. Cameron, who went to Manassas intending to witness the battle, was so impressed with  the doubtful character of the attempt to force the enemy’s position, that he returned in haste to Washington to [?], if possible, the orders which had been issued for an attack, but arrived too late. He immediately pressed forward, however, all the available troops to strengthen the Reserve Corps. Our officers had little hope of winning the battle, on Saturday night. A prominent Member of Congress who was there, after an interview with General McDowell and his aids, wrote down his conviction that we should lose it, and that the commanding General was hopeless at the commencement of the battle. We learn from another source that this was the general feeling among the officers. One captain remonstrated against the madness of the assault. Gen. McDowell said that a victory at this juncture was so important, that a great risk must be run to win it.

– It is believed the loss of the Fire Zouaves will not exceed 100, and that of the N.Y. 71st 60. Stragglers are continually coming in, but they are scattered through the different camps, so that the muster roles of different regiments can not yet be arranged, and the exact losses ascertained.

– A prisoner who was brought in, in the course of the battle, declared that Gen. Johnston was shot, and fell from his horse at his feet. When Col. Burnside fell from his killed horse, he conversed for a moment with a rebel officer, who asked him whether he was wounded, when he replied, “Only slightly.” “I am mortally wounded,” said the rebel, “and can have no object in deceiving you. I assure you that we have 90,000 men in and within forty minutes of Manassas Junction.”

– The New York Herald’s dispatch says:

The whole of Sherman’s battery is saved.

Col. Blenker, commanding a brigade in the division of Col. Miles, which brought up the rear of the retreating column, picked up on the way the guns of Burnside’s R.I. regiment that had been left behind, and brought them in. The horses had been detached for the purpose of bringing in the wounded.

Hon. Alfred Ely, of the Rochester district, and his companion on the field, Mr. Bing, have not been heard of since the battle. They were last seen near one of the batteries, and are supposed to have been taken prisoners.

Capt. Griffin lost 60 of the horses attached to his battery, but brought away one gun and the forge.

If a stand had been made at Centerville, the enemy would probably never have discovered the advantage accidentally gained.

Col. McCunn, of the 37th N.Y. regiment, is in command at Fort Ellsworth. His brigade consists of the 37th New York, Lieut Col. Burke commanding, the 14th, 16th, 26th, 15th and [?] New York [???].

Col. Corcoran, of the 69th Irish Regiment, and Capt Edward A. Wild, Massachusetts regiment, are missing. It is feared that Corcoran is dead.

Lieut. Chandler, Co. A., Massachusetts 1st, is not dead as reported.

Ellsworth Zouaves punished the Black Horse Rangers very severely by lying flat on the ground feigning death, until they were almost upon them, when rising and giving one of their fiendish war yells, each Zouave picked his man and fired, decimating the detachment, and stampeding their horses without riders.

Oneida [Utica, New York] Weekly Herald, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

George P. Putnam Wikipedia (G. P. was the grandfather of his namesake publisher and husband of aviator Amelia Earhart.)

* 41st New York Infantry, in Runyon’s Division





Pvt. Miles O. Wright, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

19 08 2014

From Miles O. Wright, Co. B.

———-

Camp Union, Va., July 23, 1861.

Dear Sister and Brother: — I am saved by the grace of God. On the 18th day of July we commenced our fight, and on the 21st we had a warm time, I tell you. There was about 1200 killed, of our men and theirs. They had 75,000 men and we had 20,000, but when we got them in the open fields we drove them. But they went in their masked battery, and we cut them down like grass. We fought from half-past seven till half-past three, and then we retreated and left the field. They chased us for 15 or 20 miles with 30,000 men and their cavalry, and run over our men and shot some. They run over James Adams and Wm. Goodwin, but did not kill them. It hurt them some. Two out of our company were wounded, and we expect Tom Jones in killed or taken prisoner. If he is taken prisoner we will get him again. After they had chased us 10 or 12 miles, Patterson and Butler came in behind and shot and took all of them.

Manassas Station and Manassas Gap is what we tried to take. The battle was fought on Bull’s Run, about 25 miles from Washington City. But the way we come it, was about 50 miles. We marched all night and got into camp next morning.

I am alive and well, but pretty sore and lame. I am sleepy, not having slept for 48 hours. I have just seen five rebel prisoners, in charge of Capt. Brown’s company in this regiment. I cannot write much more. I am so tired. The boys that are alive are here. Two of our boys are shot, one in the shoulder and one in the elbow. Their names are Smith and Ketchum.

You musty not feel bad for me. If I get home alive, all right; if not, I die for my country. But I guess our fighting is done with. We have had our share of it. There is not over 500 left in our regiment out of 840. It took 11 tents for each company, now it don’t take over 5.

Good bye for this time.

From your Brother,

MILES O. WRIGHT

Dansville [New York] Advertiser, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Bio Sketch of M. O. Wright, p. 381





Pvt. Clarence D. Hess, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

18 08 2014

From C. D. Hess, Scott’s Band.

———-

Washington, Monday, July 23

You have no doubt ere this received news of the terrible engagement that took place yesterday. I was a spectator of the whole from beginning to end. As newspaper accounts of it are rather mixed up, I will tell you all I saw. The band went with the regiment to the point that I mentioned in my last, and there was discovered the whole Southern army. Our large guns immediately opened upon them and stirred them up some, but brought no response for some time. At length the infantry went out and commenced firing upon them. Then the “ball” commenced. They opened their masked batteries upon our boys. Our whole artillery returned their fire, and at the same time continual vollies of musketry were kept up on both sides. The constant roar of the cannon, the rattle of the small arms, the bursting of shell and the screams of the wounded, made up one of the most horrible scenes I ever could have imagined. We had about 40,000 troops in the field, and the enemy about 125,000, including 5,000 cavalry. Our boys drove them for about six hours, when they received reinforcements, and after three hours more of hard fighting, the enemy made a charge with their cavalry, and scattered our forces in every direction. Every man for himself was then the order, and I immediately broke for the woods, Jim Newton following closely. I lost drum, sticks, music, blankets, revolver and haversack. I traveled all night, and reached Camp Union this morning. Five of the band boys have come in, viz: Alex., Myering, Tiffany, Newton and myself. The rest I have not seen yet. The loss of life was immense. I do not know yet who was killed in our regiment. We will know in a day or two. It is the last battle the band will go to. I never want to see such a sight again. Our regiment will now probably bee soon discharged. I write this in haste to let you know that I am safe, and hereafter shall look out that I remain so.

Dansville [New York] Advertiser, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Bio Sketch of C. D. Hess, p. 284





Pvt. William H. McMahon, Co. G, 27th New York Infantry, On the Retreat

14 08 2014

From the 27th Regiment

———-

[We are allowed to make the following extracts from a letter written by Will H. McMahon, lately from Lima Seminary, to a friend in this village. Mr. McMahon is a talented young man and a ready penman, and we should be pleased to hear from him often.]

Washington, D. C., July 27, 1861.

I have but a few moments, the first I have had in a long while to devote to correspondence. I was, of course, in the battle at Bull’s Run, but mist reserve the description of that scene until some other time. I have only this to say as regards pictures in the papers, none of them that I have seen represent the field at all; and the reporters’ accounts are hardly to be relied on. We were about forty hours on the march and in battle, without food, sleep or water, except such as we took from some loathsome pools and thick muddy brooks. I drank water which your educated Irish hog who occupies the same room with the family would scorn to be in. None of our fellow students were injured. The retreat was a regular rout, owing mostly to the inefficiency off our officers. The South have better officers, artillery and cavalry. We the best men. * * * —— flunked when it came to the pinch of fight or run. Where he was hid I don’t know, but we did not get the sight of his lovely features during the battle. He is spotted. * * * We (the 27th) were exposed for three-fourths of an hour to the fire of three regiments and two large masked batteries, and we drove the regiments off in double quick time, but our Colonel being wounded we had no chance of taking the batteries.

In the middle of the rout the road was covered with every thing you can imagine. I might have picked up any thing that I wished on the field, but was too weak to carry more than my arms, and hat I ten thousand dollars I would willingly have given it all for one drink of ice water! I saw many truly horrible sights during the contest, but the shrieks of dying horses were much more shocking even than the groans of wounded and dying men. Our regiment lost heavily. If I live through our next engagement it will be almost a miracle. The two men who stood on each side of me were wounded, and the Col. was hit while I was yelling in his ear about a flag! * * But if I do live through it I intend to strip a rebel of something which I can mail and sent to you * * There is now (eight o’clock Saturday evening) heavy cannonading in the distance over the river. * * We can whip them every time, with good officers and two-thirds the men.

But I must stop writing and prepare for emergencies. Write immediately.

Yours in brotherhood,

WILL.

Dansville [NY] Advertiser, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

William H. McMahon – no entry at Ancestry.com. Found in roster of the regiment in History of the 27th Regiment New York Volunteers, p. 280: “promoted to Corporal, Nov. 7, 1861; to Second Lieutenant of Co. K, Sept. 11, 1862.”





Sgt. Mark J. Bunnell, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Aftermath of the Battle

13 08 2014

From Orderly Bunnell.

———-

[We received a long and interesting letter from the Orderly on Wednesday last, in which he graphically describes some scenes of the battle-field, bit it came so late that we could not publish it. On Monday we received the following short letter.]

Camp Bennett, Arlington Heights,

August 1st, 1861

Dear Ace: — I received your letter this morning, and was glad to hear from home, and that you were all as well as usual. My health is good. The reasons that I did not write before, is, that I was so tired out when I got back from the battle, that I could not think of anything. Ace, that was a time long to be remembered. I have not got over it yet, but am very well rested. I can’t describe the battle with the pen, but when I get home, I will tell you all about it. I cannot tell you when we will come home. We have been turned over to the U. S. for the whole term of our enlistment, but the regiment has got to be filled up to one thousand and forty men. the regiment is in a bad condition now. almost all sick, and I think that we will be sent back to the State to recruit. If so, then I will come home. Almost all in the regiment say that wen their three months are up, they will go home. Quite a number have deserted already, but that is a bad plan. All of our boys are here, except two that are in the hospital; one is Dieter and the other is Ketchum. The boys are not very fast to go into the fight again. I don’t know who would like such a fight as that was. We did not have anything to eat for about thirty-six hours, and during that time were on the battle-field some nine hours, and marched 60 miles. Talk about being tired! I can’t tell you anything about it, but thank God I am alive and well. I cannot imagine how we got off as well as we did. It seems almost like a dream to me now. Just think of marching along and stepping over dead bodies, and seeing men fall down dead by your side! It is awful! I have a Bowie knife, which I got on the field which will keep me in remembrance of these scenes were anything needed – but I never shall forget that day as long as I live.

It has been raining all morning, but is clearing off bright now. Our camp is very pleasantly situated just outside the fort. We don’t have much to do now, and in fact the boys are not in condition to do anything. I think we shall come home before long, but it may be all for the best if we should stay. I don’t think that Col. Quinby will command; I understand that he has tendered his resignation to the War Department. Probably a great many soldiers in this regiment would go in for the war under some other commander.

We have not got any more pay yet, but suppose we shall before long.

From your brother,

Mark J. Bunnell

Dansville [NY] Advertiser, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Mark. J. Bunnell at Ancestry.com





Sgt. Mark J. Bunnell, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

9 08 2014

From Orderly Bunnell.

————

Splendid weather — Our volunteers dissatisfied — Don’t know what for — Threaten to come home anyhow — Resignation of Co. Quinby — Stephen in command – The Battle — In a tight spot — How he got out — One poor fellow shot — Evening parade — Expects to come home — Long yarns promised.

————-

Fort Bennett, Arlington Heights,

August 7, 1861.

We are having splendid weather now. Although it is quite hot, a nice breeze comes off the Potomac, and makes it pleasant. — Our regiment is in a bad state — the men all dissatisfied, and they don’t know what for! They say they will go home the 14th at all hazards. I think they are foolish to act and talk so. It won’t do any good. Our Col. has resigned and gone home, and Col. Stephan commands now.

I will give you further reasons why I did not write sooner after coming back from the battle. I was completely tired out, had the reports of the company to write up, and a good deal other work to do for a week; a number of the other boys wrote, and I thought that you would hear from us and not be alarmed. Still I ought to have written but is is all right now, and I feel to thank God for my life. It makes me shudder to think of the battle. I was in a bad place at one time. Our company and regiment got scattered, all was confusion, and we could hardly tell who the enemy was; and when we made a charge on one of their batteries, they rushed out and said that we were killing our own men, and we ceased firing. They looked so much like our own men that we did not known the difference until they opened a fire on us. That is the way they would fight. Some of their uniforms closely resembled ours, and we got so mixed up that we didn’t know what to do but to keep shooting and laying down and loading, &c. But I commenced telling was a place I got into. Almost choked to death for water, I rushed into and old stone building where the balls were flying like hail, and what do you think it was? It proved to be a rebels’ hospital, and there I stood surrounded by rebels. I said nothing. — They were very busy cutting off arms and legs and doing up wounds. I thought I would walk out a little ways and then start on a run. So I stepped in front of the building, when about a dozen balls, came spat! spat! at me, and I thought I had better dig out of that as fast as possible — and I told my legs to do their duty, and I guess they did. There was a perfect shower of balls after me, and if God did not save me, what did? — Wasn’t I thankful when I got out where our troops were? A poor fellow just in front of me when most to our men, was hit by one of the balls which I think were intended for me. He immediately dropped, saying, “Oh, God, I am shot.” Poor fellow, he died like a soldier.

The drum is beating for evening parade, and I must close. It is now reported that we shall go home when our time is up; you shall receive due notice. When I get home I will tell you some long yarns.

From your soldier brother,

M. J. Bunnell

Dansville [NY] Advertiser, 8/15/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Mark. J. Bunnell at Ancestry.com





Upton and First Bull Run

8 08 2014

Friend Craig Swain recently reminded me that I haven’t written much about Upton and First Bull Run. I don’t know what Upton has to do with First Bull Run, but hey, Craig’s pretty smart, and he knows his big guns, so here’s what I found.

Kate Upton

Oh, he meant Emory Upton? Ah well, back to the drawing board.

 

 








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