JCCW – Report On Rebel Barbarities At Manassas

23 04 2012

Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 3, pp. 449 – 457

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED SATES, April 1, 1862.

On motion by Mr. SUMNER,

Resolved, That the select committee on the conduct of the war be directed to collect the evidence with regard to the barbarous treatment by the rebels, at Manassas, of the remains of officers and soldiers of the United States killed in battle there; and that said select committee also inquire into the fact whether Indian savages have been employed by the rebels in their military service, and how such warfare has been conducted by said savages against the government of the United States.

Attest:

J. W. FORNEY, Secretary.

Mr. Wade, from the joint committee on the conduct of the present war, begs leave respectfully to submit a report, in part, as follows:

On the first day of April the Senate of the United States adopted the following resolution; which was referred to the committee on the conduct of the war:

Resolved,That the select committee on the conduct of the war be directed to collect the evidence with regard to the barbarous treatment by the rebels, at Manassas, of the remains of officers and soldiers of the United States killed in battle there ; and that the said select committee also inquire into the fact whether the Indian savages have been employed by the rebels, in their military service, against the government of the United States, and how such warfare has been conducted by said savages.

In pursuance of the instructions contained in this resolution, your committee have the honor to report that they examined a number of witnesses, whose testimony is herewith submitted.

Mr. Nathaniel F. Parker, who was captured at Falling Waters, Virginia, testifies that he was kept in close confinement, denied exercise, and, with a number of others, huddled up in a room; that their food, generally scant, was always bad, and sometimes nauseous; that the wounded had neither medical attention nor humane treatment, and that many of these latter died from sheer neglect; that five of the prisoners were shot by the sentries outside, and that he saw one man, Tibbetts, of. the New York twenty-seventh regiment, shot as he was passing his window on the 8th of November, and that he died of the wound on the 12th. The perpetrator of this foul murder was subsequently promoted by the rebel government.

Dr. J. M. Homiston, surgeon of the 14th New York or Brooklyn regiment, captured at Bull Run, testifies that when he solicited permission to remain on the field and to attend to wounded men, some of whom were in a helpless and painful condition and suffering for water, he was brutally refused. They offered him neither water nor anything in the shape of food. He and his companions stood in the streets of Manassas, surrounded by a threatening and boisterous crowd, and were afterwards thrust into an old building, and left, without sustenance or covering, to sleep on the bare floor. It was only when faint and exhausted, in response to their earnest petitions, they having been without food for twenty-four hours, that some cold bacon was grudgingly given to them. When, at last, they were permitted to go to the relief of our wounded, the secession surgeon would not allow them to perform operations, but intrusted the wounded to his young assistants, “some of them with no more knowledge of what they attempted to do than an apothecary’s clerk.” And further, “that these inexperienced surgeons performed operations upon our men in a most horrible manner; some of them were absolutely frightful.” “When,” he adds, “I asked Doctor Darby to allow me to amputate the leg of Corporal Prescott, of our regiment, and said that the man must die if it were not done, he told me that I should be allowed to do it.” While Doctor Homiston was waiting, he says a secessionist came through the room and said, “they are operating upon one of the Yankee’s legs up stairs.” “I went up and found that they had cut off Prescott’s leg. The assistants were pulling on the flesh at each side, trying to get flap enough to cover the bone. They had sawed off the bone without leaving any of the flesh to form the flaps to cover it; and with all the force they could use they could not get flap enough to cover the bone. They were then obliged to saw off about an inch more of the bone, and even then, when they came to put in the sutures (the stitches) they could not approximate the edges within less than an inch and a half of each other; of course, as soon as there was any swelling, the stitches tore out and the bone stuck through again. Dr. Swalm tried afterwards to remedy it by performing another operation, but Prescott had become so debilitated that he did not survive.” Corporal Prescott was a young man of high position, and had received a very liberal education.

The same witness describes the sufferings of the wounded after the battle as inconceivably horrible; with bad food, no covering, no water. They were lying upon the floor as thickly as they could be laid. “There was not a particle of light in the house to enable us to move among them.” Deaf to all his appeals, they continued to refuse water to these suffering men, and he was only enabled to procure it by setting cups under the eaves to catch the rain that was falling, and in this way he spent the night catching the water and conveying it to the wounded to drink. As there was no light, he was obliged to crawl on his hands and knees to avoid stepping on their wounded limbs; and, he adds, “it is not a wonder that next morning we found that several had died during the night.” The young surgeons, who seemed to delight in hacking and butchering these brave defenders of our country’s flag, were not, it would seem, permitted to perform any operations upon the rebel wounded. “Some of our wounded,” says this witness, “were left lying upon the battle-field until Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. When brought in, their wounds were completely alive with larvae deposited there by the flies, having laid out through all the rain-storm of Monday, and the hot, sultry sunshine of Tuesday.” The dead laid upon the field unburied for five days; and this included men not only of his own, the 14th regiment, but of other regiments. This witness testifies that the rebel dead were carried off and interred decently. In answer to a question whether the confederates themselves were not also destitute of medicine, he replied, “they could not have been, for they took all ours, even to our surgical instruments.” He received none of the attention from the surgeons on the other side, “which,” to use his own language, “I should have shown to them had our position been reversed.”

The testimony of William F. Swalm, assistant surgeon of the 14th New York regiment, who was taken prisoner at Sudley’s church, confirms the statement of Dr. Homiston in regard to the brutal operations on Corporal Prescott. He also states that after he himself had been removed to Richmond, when seated one day with his feet on the window-sill, the sentry outside called to him to take them in, and on looking out he saw the sentry with his musket cocked and pointed at him, and withdrew in time to save his life. He gives evidence of the careless, heartless, and cruel manner in which the surgeons operated upon our men. Previous to leaving for Richmond, and ten or twelve days after the battle, he saw some of the Union soldiers unburied on the field, and entirely naked. Walking around were a great many women, gloating over the horrid sight.

The case of Dr. Ferguson, of one of the New York regiments, is mentioned by Dr. Swalm. “When getting into his ambulance to look after his own wounded he was fired upon by the rebels. When he told them who he was, they said they would take a parting shot at him, which they did, wounding him in the leg. He had his boots on, and his spurs on his boots, and as they drove along his spurs would catch in the tail-board of the ambulance, causing him to shriek with agony.” An officer rode up, and, placing his pistol to his head, threatened to shoot him if he continued to scream. This was on Sunday, the day of the battle.

One of the most important witnesses was General James B. Ricketts, well known in Washington and throughout the country, lately promoted for his daring and self-sacrificing courage. After having been wounded in the battle of Bull Run, he was captured, and as he lay helpless on his back, a party of rebels passing him cried out, “knock out his brains, the d—-d Yankee.” He met General Beauregard, an old acquaintance, only a year his senior at the United States Military Academy, where both were educated. He had met the rebel general in the south a number of times. By this head of the rebel army, on the day after the battle, he was told that his (General Ricketts’s) treatment would depend upon the treatment extended to the rebel privateers. His first lieutenant, Ramsey, who was killed, was stripped of every article of his clothing but his socks, and left naked on the field. He testified that those of our wounded who died in Richmond were buried in the negro burying-ground among the negroes, and were put into the earth in the most unfeeling manner. The statement of other witnesses as to how the prisoners were treated is fully confirmed by General Ricketts. He himself, while in prison, subsisted mainly upon what he purchased with his own money, the money brought to him by his wife. “We had,” he says, “what they called bacon soup—soup made of boiled bacon, the bacon being a little rancid—which you could not possibly eat; and that for a man whose system was being drained by a wound is no diet at all.” In reply to a question whether he had heard anything about our prisoners being shot by the rebel sentries, he answered: “Yes, a number of our men were shot. In one instance two were shot; one was killed, and the other wounded, by a man who rested his gun on the window-sill while he capped it.”

General Ricketts, in reference to his having been held as one of the hostages for the privateers, states: “I considered it bad treatment to be selected as a hostage for a privateer, when I was so lame that I could not walk, and while my wounds were still open and unhealed. At this time General Winder came to see me. He had been an officer in my regiment; I had known him for twenty-odd years. It was on the 9th of November that he came to see me. He saw that my wounds were still unhealed; he saw my condition; but that very day he received an order to select hostages for the privateers, and, notwithstanding he knew my condition, the next day, Sunday, the 10th of November, I was selected as one of the hostages.” “I heard,” he continues, “of a great many of our prisoners who had been bayonetted and shot. I saw three of them—two that had been bayonetted and one of them shot. One was named Louis Francis, of the New York 14th. He had received fourteen bayonet wounds—one through his privates—and he had one wound very much like mine, on the knee, in consequence of which his leg was amputated after twelve weeks had passed; and I would state here that in regard to his case, when it was determined to amputate his leg, I heard Dr. Peachy, the rebel surgeon, remark to one of his young assistants, ‘I won’t be greedy; you may do it;’ and the young man did it. I saw a number in my room, many of whom had been badly amputated. The flaps over the stump were drawn too tight, and some of the bones protruded. A man by the name of Prescott (the same referred to in the testimony of Surgeon Homiston) was amputated twice, and was then, I think, moved to Richmond before the taps were healed—Prescott died under this treatment. I heard a rebel doctor on the steps below my room say, ‘that he wished he could take out the hearts of the d—-d Yankees as easily as he could take off their legs.’ Some of the southern gentlemen treated me very handsomely. Wade Hampton, who was opposed to my battery, came to see me and behaved like a generous enemy.”

It appears, as a part of the history of this rebellion, that General Ricketts was visited by his wife, who, having first heard that he was killed in battle, afterwards that he was alive but wounded, travelled under great difficulties to Manassas to see her husband. He says: “She had almost to fight her way through, but succeeded finally in reaching me on the fourth day after the battle. There were eight persons in the Lewis House, at Manassas, in the room where I lay, and my wife, for two weeks, slept in that room on the floor by my side, without a bed. When we got to Richmond, there were six of us in a room, among them Colonel Wilcox, who remained with us until he was taken to Charleston. There we were all in one room. There was no door to it. It was much as it would be here if you should take off the doors of this committee room, and then fill the passage with wounded soldiers. In the hot summer months the stench from their wounds, and from the utensils they used, was fearful. There was no privacy at all, because there being no door the room could not be closed. We were there as a common show. Colonel Wilcox and myself were objects of interest, and were gazed upon as if we were a couple of savages. The people would come in there and say all sorts of things to us and about us, until I was obliged to tell them that I was a prisoner and had nothing to say. On our way to Richmond, when we reached Gordonsville, many women crowded around the cars, and asked my wife if she cooked? if she washed ? how she got there? Finally, Mrs. Ricketts appealed to the officer in charge, and told him that it was not the intention that we should be subjected to this treatment, and if it was continued she would make it known to the authorities. General Johnston took my wife’s carriage and horses at Manassas, kept them, and has them yet for aught I know. When I got to Richmond I spoke to several gentlemen about this, and so did Mrs. Ricketts. They said, of course, the carriage and horses should be returned, but they never were.” “There is one debt,” says this gallant soldier, “that I desire very much to pay, and nothing troubles me so much now as the fact that my wounds prevent me from entering upon active service at once.”

The case of Louis Francis, who was terribly wounded and maltreated, and lost a leg, is referred to by General Ricketts; but the testimony of Francis himself is startling. He was a private in the New York 14th regiment. He says: ” I was attacked by two rebel soldiers, and wounded in the right knee with the bayonet. As I lay on the sod they kept bayonetting me until I received fourteen wounds. One then left me, the other remaining over me, when a Union soldier coming up, shot him in the breast, and he fell dead. I lay on the ground until 10 o’clock next day. I was then removed in a wagon to a building ; my wounds examined and partially dressed. On the Saturday following we were carried to Manassas, and from there to the general hospital at Richmond. My leg having partially mortified, I consented that it should be amputated, which operation was performed by a young man. I insisted that they should allow Dr. Swalm to be present, for I wanted one Union man there if I died under the operation. The stitches and the band slipped from neglect, and the bone protruded; and about two weeks after another operation was performed, at which time another piece of the thigh bone was sawed off. Six weeks after the amputation, and before it healed, I was removed to the tobacco factory.”

Two operations were subsequently performed on Francis—one at Fortress Monroe, and one at Brooklyn, New York—after his release from captivity.

Revolting as these disclosures are, it was when the committee came to examine witnesses in reference to the treatment of our heroic dead, that the fiendish spirit of the rebel leaders was most prominently exhibited. Daniel Bixby, jr., of Washington, testifies that he went out in company with Mr. G. A. Smart, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who went to search for the body of his brother, who fell at Blackburn’s Ford in the action of the 18th of July. They found the grave. The clothes were identified as those of his brother on account of some peculiarity in the make, for they had been made by his mother; and, in order to identify them, other clothes made by her were taken, that they might compare them. “We found no head in the grave, and no bones of any kind—nothing but the clothes and portions of the flesh. We found the remains of three other bodies all together. The clothes were there; some flesh was left, but no bones.” The witness also states that Mrs. Pierce Butler, who lives near the place, said that she had seen the rebels boiling portions of the bodies of our dead in order to obtain their bones as relics. They could not wait for them to decay. She said that she had seen drumsticks made of “Yankee shinbones,” as they called them. Mrs. Butler also stated that she had seen a skull that one of the New Orleans artillery had, which, he said, he was going to send home and have mounted, and that he intended to drink a brandy punch out of it the day he was married.

Frederick Scholes, of the city of Brooklyn, New York, testified that he proceeded to the battle-field of Bull Run on the fourth of this month (April) to find the place where he supposed his brother’s body was buried. Mr. Scholes, who is a man of unquestioned character, by his testimony fully confirms the statements of other witnesses. He met a free negro, named Simon or Simons, who stated that it was a common thing for the rebel soldiers to exhibit the bones of the Yankees. “I found,” he says, “in the bushes in the neighborhood, a part of a zouave uniform, with the sleeve sticking out of the grave, and a portion of the pantaloons. Attempting to pull it up, I saw the two ends of the grave were still unopened, but the middle had been prised up, pulling up the extremities of the uniform at some places, the sleeves of the shirt in another, and a portion of the pantaloons. Dr. Swalm (one of the surgeons, whose testimony has already been referred to) pointed out the trenches where the secessionists had buried their own dead, and, on examination, it appeared that their remains had not been disturbed at all. Mr. Scholes met a free negro, named Hampton, who resided near the place, and when he told him the manner in which these bodies had been dug up, he said he knew it had been done, and added that the rebels had commenced digging bodies two or three days after they were buried, for the purpose, at first, of obtaining the buttons off their uniforms, and that afterwards they disinterred them to get their bones. He said they had taken rails and pushed the ends down in the centre under the middle of the bodies, and pried them up. The information of the negroes of Benjamin Franklin Lewis corroborated fully the statement of this man, Hampton. They said that a good many of the bodies had been stripped naked on the field before they were buried, and that some were buried naked. I went to Mr. Lewis’s house and spoke to him of the manner in which these bodies had been disinterred. He admitted that it was infamous, and condemned principally the Louisiana Tigers, of General Wheat’s division. He admitted that our wounded had been very badly treated.” In confirmation of the testimony of Dr. Swalm and Dr. Homiston, this witness avers that Mr. Lewis mentioned a number of instances of men who had been murdered by bad surgical treatment. Mr. Lewis was afraid that a pestilence would break out in consequence of the dead being left unburied, and stated that he had gone and warned the neighborhood and had the dead buried, sending his own men to assist in doing so. “On Sunday morning (yesterday) I went out in search of my brother’s grave. We found the trench, and dug for the bodies below. They were eighteen inches to two feet below the surface, and had been hustled in in any way. In one end of the trench we found, not more than two or three inches below the surface, the thigh bone of a man which had evidently been dug up after the burial. At the other end of the trench we found the shinbone of a man, which had been struck by a musket ball and split. The bodies at the ends had been pried up. While digging there, a party of soldiers came along and showed us a part of a shinbone, five or six inches long, which had the end sawed off. They said that they had found it among many other pieces in one of the cabins the rebels had deserted. From the appearance of it, pieces had been sawed off to make finger-rings. As soon as the negroes noticed this, they said that the rebels had had rings made of the bones of our dead, and that they had them for sale in their camps. When Dr. Swalm saw the bone he said it was a part of the shinbone of a man. The soldiers represented that there were lots of these bones scattered through the rebel huts sawed into rings,” &c. Mr. Lewis and his negroes all spoke of Colonel James Cameron’s body, and knew that “it had been stripped, and also where it had been buried.” Mr. Scholes, in answer to a question of one of the committee, described the different treatment extended to the Union soldiers and the rebel dead. The latter had little head-boards placed at the head of their respective graves and marked; none of them had the appearance of having been disturbed.

The evidence of that distinguished and patriotic citizen, Hon. William Sprague, governor of the State of Rhode Island, confirms and fortifies some of the most revolting statements of former witnesses. His object in visiting the battle-field was to recover the bodies of Colonel Slocum and Major Ballou, of the Rhode Island regiment. He took out with him several of his own men to identify the graves. On reaching the place, he states that “we commenced digging for the bodies of Colonel Slocum and Major Ballou at the spot pointed out to us by these men who had been in the action. While digging, some negro women came up and asked whom we were looking for, and at the same time said that ‘Colonel Slogun’ had been dug up by the rebels, by some men of a Georgia regiment, his head cut off, and his body taken to a ravine thirty or forty yards below, and there burned. We stopped digging and went to the spot designated, where we found coals and ashes and bones mingled together. A little distance from there we found a shirt (still buttoned at the neck) and a blanket with large quantities of hair upon it, everything indicating the burning of a body there. We returned and dug down at the spot indicated as the grave of Major Ballou, but found no body there; but at the place pointed out as the grave where Colonel Slocum was buried we found a box, which, upon being raised and opened, was found to contain the body of Colonel Slocum. The soldiers who had buried the two bodies were satisfied that the grave had been opened, the body taken out, beheaded, and burned, was that of Major Ballou, because it was not in the spot where Colonel Slocum was buried, but rather to the right of it. They at once said that the rebels had made a mistake, and had taken the body of Major Ballou for that of Colonel Slocum. The shirt found near the place where the body was burned I recognized as one belonging to Major Ballou, as I had been very intimate with him. We gathered up the ashes containing the portion of his remains that were left, and put them in a coffin together with his shirt and the blanket with the hair left upon it. After we had done this we went to that portion of the field where the battle had first commenced, and began to dig for the remains of Captain Tower. We brought a soldier with us to designate the place where he was buried. He had been wounded in the battle, and had seen from the window of the house where the captain was interred. On opening the ditch or trench we found it filled with soldiers, all buried with their faces downward. On taking up some four or five we discovered the remains of Captain Tower, mingled with those of the men. We took them, placed them in a coffin, and brought them home.”

In reply to a question of a member of the committee as to whether he was satisfied that they were buried intentionally with their faces downward, Governor Sprague’s answer was, “Undoubtedly! Beyond all controversy!” and that “it was done as a mark of indignity.” In answer to another question as to what their object could have been, especially in regard to the body of Colonel Slocum, he replied : “Sheer brutality, and nothing else. They did it on account of his courage and chivalry in forcing his regiment fearlessly and bravely upon them. He destroyed about one-half of that Georgia regiment, which was made up of their best citizens.” When the inquiry was put whether he thought these barbarities were committed by that regiment, he responded, “by that same regiment, as I was told.” While their own dead were buried with marble head and foot stones, and names upon them, ours were buried, as I have stated, in trenches. This eminent witness concludes his testimony as follows : “I have published an order to my second regiment, to which these officers were attached, that I shall not be satisfied with what they shall do unless they give an account of one rebel killed for each one of their own number.”

The members of your committee might content themselves by leaving this testimony to the Senate and the people without a word of comment; but when the enemies of a just and generous government are attempting to excite the sympathy of disloyal men in our own country, and to solicit the aid of foreign governments by the grossest misrepresentations of the objects of the war, and of the conduct of the officers and soldiers of the republic, this, the most startling evidence of their insincerity and inhumanity, deserves some notice at our hands. History will be examined in vain for a parallel to this rebellion against a good government. Long prepared for by ambitious men, who were made doubly confident of success by the aid and counsel of former administrations, and by the belief that their plans were unobserved by a magnanimous people, they precipitated the war (at a moment when the general administration had just been changed) under circumstances of astounding perfidy. Without a single reasonable ground of complaint, and in the face of repeated manifestations of moderation and peace on the part of the President and his friends, they took up arms and declared that they would never surrender until their rebellion had been recognized, or the institutions established by our fathers had been destroyed. The people of the loyal States, at last convinced that they could preserve their liberties only by an appeal to the God of battles, rushed to the standard of the republic, in response to the call of the Chief Magistrate.

Every step of this monstrous treason has been marked by violence and crime. No transgression has been too great, no wrong too startling for its leaders. They disregarded the sanctity of the oaths they had taken to support the Constitution; they repudiated all their obligations to the people of the free States ; they deceived and betrayed their own fellow-citizens, and crowded their armies with forced levies ; they drove from their midst all who would not yield to their despotism, or filled their prisons with men who would not enlist under their flag. They have now crowned the rebellion by the perpetration of deeds scarcely known even to savage warfare. The investigations of your committee have established this fact beyond controversy. The witnesses called before us were men of undoubted veracity and character. Some of them occupy high positions in the army, and others high positions in civil life. Differing in political sentiments, their evidence presents a remarkable concurrence of opinion and of judgment. Our fellow-countrymen, heretofore sufficiently impressed by the generosity and forbearance of the government of the United States, and by the barbarous character of the crusade against it, will be shocked by the statements of these unimpeached and unimpeachable witnesses; and foreign nations must, with one accord, however they have hesitated heretofore, consign to lasting odium the authors of crimes which, in all their details, exceed the worst excesses of the Sepoys of India.

Inhumanity to the living has been the leading trait of the rebel leaders; but it was reserved for your committee to disclose as a concerted system their insults to the wounded, and their mutilation and desecration of the gallant dead. Our soldiers, taken prisoners in honorable battle, have been subjected to the most shameful treatment. All the considerations that inspire chivalric emotion and generous consideration for brave men have been disregarded. It is almost beyond belief that the men fighting in such a cause as ours, and sustained by a government which, in the midst of violence and treachery, has given repeated evidences of its indulgence, should have been subjected to treatment never before resorted to by one foreign nation in a conflict with another.

All the courtesies of professional and civil life seem to have been discarded. General Beauregard himself, who, on a very recent occasion, boasted that he had been controlled by humane feelings after the battle of Bull Run, coolly proposed to hold General Ricketts as a hostage for one of the murderous privateers, and the rebel surgeons disdained intercourse and communication with our own surgeons taken in honorable battle.

The outrages upon the dead will revive the recollections of the cruelties to which savage tribes subject their prisoners. They were buried in many cases naked, with their faces downward; they were left to decay in the Open air; their bones were carried off as trophies, sometimes, as the testimony proves, to be used as personal adornments, and one witness deliberately avers that the head of one of our most gallant officers was cut off by a secessionist to be turned into a drinking cup on the occasion of his marriage. Monstrous as this revelation may appear to be, your committee have been informed that during the last two weeks the skull of a Union soldier has been exhibited in the office of the Sergeant-at-arms of the House of Representatives, which had been converted to such a purpose, and which had been found on the person of one of the rebel prisoners taken in a recent conflict. The testimony of Governor Sprague, of Rhode Island, is most interesting. It confirms the worst reports against the rebel soldiers, and conclusively proves that the body of one of the bravest officers in the volunteer service was burned. He does not hesitate to add that this hyena desecration of the honored corpse was because the rebels believed it to be the body of Colonel Slocum, against whom they were infuriated for having displayed so much courage and chivalry in forcing his regiment fearlessly and bravely upon them.

These disclosures establishing, as they incontestably do, the consistent inhumanity of the rebel leaders, will be read with sorrow and indignation by the people of the loyal States. They should inspire these people to renewed exertions to protect our country from the restoration to power of such men. They should, and we believe they will, arouse the disgust and horror of foreign nations against this unholy rebellion. Let it be ours to furnish, nevertheless, a continued contrast to such barbarities and crimes. Let us persevere in the good work of maintaining the authority of the Constitution, and of refusing to imitate the monstrous practices we have been called upon to investigate.

Your committee beg to say, in conclusion, that they have not yet been enabled to gather testimony in regard to the additional inquiry suggested by the resolution of the Senate, whether Indian savages have been employed by the rebels in military service against the government of the United States, and how such warfare has been conducted by said savages, but that they have taken proper steps to attend to this important duty.

B. F. WADE, Chairman.





Housekeeping

17 09 2009

Just a few items to get on the record before I head to Sharpsburg for a couple of days.  I’m driving down tomorrow and bumming around the field a bit, and staying at a friend’s home Friday night.  I have a Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF) board meeting on Saturday morning, and the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association (SBPA) river crossing and picnic in the afternoon.  Then it’s north to Gettysburg Saturday night and a little time on the field on Sunday before heading home.  Hopefully I’ll have some photos to post next week, but I’m notoriously slow about that stuff.

My e-quaintance from across the pond, Johnathan Soffe of First Bull Run.com, has a new feature he’s working on – listing sources to verify the presence of various Confederate companies and organizations on the field at Bull Run.  This could lead to a more accurate accounting of Confederate troops.  Check out his first attempt on the 1st VA Cavalry here: scroll down to “download pdf” at the bottom of the right hand column.

I’ve been contacted by a descendant of a member of the 5th Alabama who has sent me an interesting letter by him describing the battlefield of First Bull Run shortly after the battle.  The letter is in his family’s possession and has never been published.  It so happens that his ancestor was a member of the Greensboro Guards, designated Company D of the 5th.  A very nice collection of Company D diaries published as Voices from Company D, edited by G. Ward Hubbs, has some Bull Run material and the letter writer’s descendant is working on putting together some biographical information on his ancestor, so I think I’ll make a series of posts out of these.

With that of Montgomery Meigs I’ve finished posting the Bull Run testimony before the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War.  I hope you’ve been reading on order, because that way you can see how the committee are building their cases and singling out their scapegoats – very interesting stuff.  I’ve separated the testimonies in the index by Patterson’s and McDowell’s commands, but think I’ll go back and number them sequentially so future readers can peruse them in order if they choose.

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JCCW – Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs

16 09 2009

Testimony of Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 246-247

WASHINGTON, July 14, 1862.

General M. C. MEIGS recalled and examined.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. It would appear from some of the testimony we have taken in regard to the circumstances attending the battle of Bull Run, that one of the causes of the delay of our army at Centreville from Thursday until Sunday was occasioned by a lack of supplies. Do you remember anything in regard to that?

Answer. This is the first I have heard of it. I was called upon to supply a certain number of wagons and horses, the most of which I had to purchase after I was called upon for them. I did all I could. I do not think I supplied them quite as early as I had hoped to do, or as was desired. But my impression has been that before General McDowell moved we could see where were the means of transportation that had been asked for. I may be mistaken about that. I did all that I could, and I think that General McDowell was quite satisfied; at least I never heard any complaint from him in regard to it. We supplied all the wagons that could be obtained, and I think we supplied all that were asked for. The army that moved was larger than it was first intended to move.

Question. Do you recollect the number of troops that were moved out to Centreville?

Answer. My recollection is, that it was first intended that 30,000 men should go, but that some 33,000 or 34,000 actually marched.





JCCW – Gen. James B. Ricketts

12 09 2009

Testimony of Gen. James B. Ricketts

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 242-246

WASHINGTON, April 3, 1862.

General JAMES B. RICKETTS sworn and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. What rank and position do you hold in the army?

Answer. I am at present a brigadier general of volunteers.

Question. What was your rank on the 21st of July last, the day of the battle of Bull Run?

Answer. I was a captain of the first regiment of artillery.

Question. In whose brigade?

Answer. General Franklin’s brigade.

Question. Will you please give us an account, in your own way, of what you saw of the battle?

Answer. I saw very little except what concerned myself. You must know that any one who has charge of six pieces of artillery has as much as he can attend to to manage them and obey orders. I went on the field at Sudley’s Spring, in General Heintzelman’s division, General Franklin’s brigade. After crossing the stream, where I watered my horses, my first order was to take to the right into an open field, to effect which I had to take down the fences. I then came into action about a thousand yards from the enemy, I should judge. There was a battery of smooth-bores opposed against me, doing some damage to us; it killed some horses and wounded some few of my men; I myself saw one man struck on the arm. My battery consisted of six rifled Parrott guns, consequently I was more than a match at that distance for the smooth-bore battery. It is difficult to judge of the passage of time under such circumstances, as we never look at our watches then. But after firing, I should judge, twenty minutes or a half an hour, I had orders to advance a certain distance. I moved forward, and was about to come into battery again, when I was ordered to proceed further on, up on a hill near the Henry House.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. About what time was it when you first came into action?

Answer. We had marched twelve miles. I should judge my first coming into action must have been somewhere about noon. That, of course, is a mere guess. I received this order to move forward. I told the officer that he must indicate the spot, so that there should be no mistake about it. I saw at a glance, as I thought, that I was going into great peril for my horses and men. But I did not hesitate to obey the order, merely asking to name the spot clearly indicated to me. The ground had not been reconnoitred at all, and there was a little ravine in front that I had to pass. As I marched at the head of my company with Lieutenant Ramsay, he said to me, “We cannot pass that ravine.” I told him that we must pass it. As we were under fire, to countermarch there would be fatal. The confusion consequent upon turning around there would expose us to great danger. As it was, we dashed across, breaking one wheel in the effort, which we immediately replaced. I called off the cannoniers and took down the fence and ascended the hill near the Henry House, which was at that time filled with sharpshooters. I had scarcely got into battery before I saw some of my horses fall and some of my men wounded by the sharpshooters. I turned my guns upon the house and literally riddled it. It has been said that there was a woman killed there by our guns. It was in that house that she was killed at the time I turned my battery on it and shelled out the sharpshooters there. We did not move from that position—that is, we made no important movement. We moved a piece one way or the other, perhaps, in order to take advantage of the enemy’s appearance at one point or another. But our guns were not again limbered up. In fact, in a very short time we were not in a position or a condition to move, on account of the number of our horses that were disabled. I know it was the hottest place I ever saw in my life, and I had seen some fighting before. The enemy had taken advantage of the woods and the natural slope of the ground, and delivered a terrible fire upon us.

Question. Was that the place where your battery was lost?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. And where you yourself was wounded and fell?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Who gave you the order to march forward there?

Answer. Lieutenant Kingsbury, of General McDowell’s staff, brought me the order. Lieutenant Snyder was also near, and I told him I wanted him to bear in mind that I had received that order, although no point was indicated.

Question. Had you a sufficient infantry support for your battery?

Answer. At that time I knew of no support. I was told a support was ordered. One regiment, the Fire Zouaves, I know came up to support me, and, when I saw them in confusion, I rode up to them and said something cheering to them. I had not much time to speak to them, but I thought I would say a little something cheering to them, as it might have some effect upon them.

Question. How long did you continue to operate your guns after you took that position?

Answer. Somewhere between a half an hour and an hour, I should judge.

Question. Was Griffin’s battery near you?

Answer. I do not know, except from what I have heard. I know there was a battery a little to the rear on my right, and from all accounts I suppose that to be Griffin’s battery. They were on my right in my first position, and moved up with me and took a position a little on my right.

By the chairman:

Question. How came they to order you to advance without infantry to support you? Is not that unusual?

Answer. The infantry came up directly afterwards. I do not know where the position of the infantry was. All I saw were the Fire Zouaves, who came up on my right to support me.

Question. In what number?

Answer. I should suppose, when my attention was called to them, that there were from two hundred to three hundred men.

Question. What number of infantry is supposed to be sufficient to support a battery?

Answer. To go into such a place as that, I should say there should have been two full regiments to have supported my battery.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Was the smooth-bore battery of the enemy supported?

Answer. Yes, sir; and we drove them away. They retired some distance as we advanced. They must have had a heavy support, judging from the amount of lead they threw from their muskets, for long after I was down the hail was tremendous. The ground was torn up all around me, and some bullets went through my clothes. I never expected to get off at all.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. How many of your men were hit?

Answer. I do not know. I was five months in Richmond as a prisoner. I, of course, made no report, and have made none yet. No report has been made, though I think it should have been made by the next officer, as I was virtually lost; was away from the battery, and knew nothing of what occurred to the men.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Who was in command of the artillery—the chief of artillery?

Answer. Major Barry—now General Barry.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Did he direct the movements of the artillery?

Answer. I did not see him.

By the chairman:

Question. Was the place where you were posted before you were ordered to advance more advantageous than the one to which you did advance?

Answer. I think it was, up to the time that I left it; and I think it would have been for a little longer time, considering that I had longer range guns than the enemy had.

Question. Could you have sustained yourself in your first position?

Answer. I think so. Yes, sir.

Question. From whom did the order to advance emanate?

Answer. General McDowell’s aid brought it to me. Major Barry had no aid. Whether it was Major Barry’s order or not, I could not tell. He had charge of the artillery, and was supposed to have directed its movements.

Question. Was it good generalship to order you to advance with your battery without more support than you had?

Answer. Do you mean the one regiment?

Question. Yes, sir; the Fire Zouaves you speak of.

Answer. No, sir; I do not think it was. I desire to state here that I have seen it mentioned that I made some mistake as to the enemy. Captain Griffin and myself are coupled together as having made some mistake on the field as to the character of the enemy. I wish to say that I made no mistake in regard to the enemy.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. You refer to mistaking a regiment of the enemy for one of our own troops?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. You are not connected with that in our testimony.

Answer. I am very glad to hear it. I had noticed that, among other things, in the papers; and when I came back from Richmond, I saw the President, and he said to me: “You thought you were going to certain destruction in going up there, so you said,” referring to our last position. I replied, “That is a mistake, I made no remark at all, except that I wanted the place clearly indicated to which I was to move.”

By the chairman:

Question. Were you present at the council of war the evening prior to the battle?

Answer. No, sir.

Question. At what time on the day of the battle did you learn that Johnston’s troops were coming down from Winchester?

Answer. Well, sir, I heard before we left little Rocky Run, this side of Centreville, that there was danger of meeting Johnston’s men on that day. I cannot tell you who told me.

Question. In your judgment, as a military man, after it was ascertained that Johnston would be down, was it prudent to fight that battle, unless you could have, for instance, Patterson’s army to follow Johnston’s down?

Answer. Yes, sir, I think so. I think we could have fought with the army we had. We had apparently as good men as ever were.

Question. Suppose that battle could have been fought two weeks before it was fought, what would have been the probable result?

Answer. I believe if we had fought it even two days before we would have walked over the field. I saw on the field of battle a number of officers who had resigned from our army, whom I had known; and while I was at Richmond some of them told me that at one time they were giving away, and that our panic was perfectly unaccountable to them. We gained the battle with the force we had. I believe there was a time when we had really won that battle, if we had only kept at it a little longer.

Question. As a military man, to what circumstances do you attribute our disaster on that day?

Answer. I impute it to the want of proper officers among the volunteers.

By Mr. Wright:

Question. Do you mean the colonels and generals?

Answer. I mean throughout. I cannot say particular colonels and particular captains, because some of them were excellent. But, as a general rule, many of the officers were inferior to the men themselves. The men were of as good material as any in the world, and they fought well until they became confused on account of their officers not knowing what to do.

By the chairman:

Question. Were you present and able to know the last charge of the enemy which was decisive?

Answer. Which charge was that?

Question. The same one that captured your battery, I believe. All the witnesses speak of a certain charge that was made there by the enemy.

Answer. My battery was taken and retaken three times. For a part of the time the struggle was going on over my body; and I think that for a part of the time I must have been insensible, for I bled very freely.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Which of our regiments fought over your body for the battery? Not the zouaves?

Answer. I did not know which regiment it was. It was not the zouaves. I saw a regiment, after I was down, move very near my battery, and I saw a shell explode among them, somewhere, I should judge, about the color company; and in speaking of it to Dr. Swan afterwards, the surgeon of the 14th New York regiment, who went over the field the next day, I concluded it was the 14th regiment, because he said he saw a great many of his regiment killed there. I therefore supposed that that was the regiment engaged in that struggle for the battery.

Question. Were you captured with your guns?

Answer. Yes, sir; I suppose I may say I was taken with my guns. When I was found I was asked my name, and I told them my name was Captain Ricketts. They asked if I was captain of that battery, pointing to one that was moving towards them, and I told them I was.

Question. Your guns were turned upon our troops after they were captured, were they not?

Answer. They say they were turned upon us; and I remember hearing one or two explosions.

By Mr. Julian:

Question. What kind of support did you receive from the Fire Zouaves?

Answer. Well, sir, these Fire Zouaves came up to the ground, but they soon got into confusion and left.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Was that in consequence of want of proper directions from their officers?

Answer. I should judge, from the manner in which the men stood there, and from their not being properly in line, that it was from want of officers; either that their officers were ignorant of their duty at that time, or that they were not there. I cannot say how that was. Our men really behaved very gallantly up to a certain time.

Question. Did the 14th New York regiment support you at all while you were in position?

Answer. That I cannot tell you. They were in the woods on my right, I know; because a number of officers told me about them, though they took them for the Fire Zouaves on account of their red uniform.





JCCW – Gen. Winfield Scott

12 09 2009

Testimony of Gen. Winfield Scott

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 241-242

LIEUTENANT GENERAL WINFIELD SCOTT.

NEW YORK, March 31, 1862.

On the statement of Major General Patterson, submitted by him as evidence to the honorable the committee of the House of Representatives on the conduct of the war, I beg leave to remark :

1. That his statement, 148 long pages, closely and indistinctly written, has been before me about 48 hours, including a Sunday when I was too much indisposed to work or to go to church; that I cannot write or read at night, nor at any time, except by short efforts, and that I have been entirely without help.

2. That, consequently, I have read but little of the statement and voluminous documents appended, and have but about two hours left for comments on that little.

3. The documents (mainly correspondence between General Patterson and myself) are badly copied, being hardly intelligible in some places from the omission and change of words.

4. General Patterson was never ordered by me, as he seems to allege, to attack the enemy without a probability of success; but on several occasions he wrote as if he were assured of victory. For example, June 12th he says: he is “resolved to conquer, and will risk nothing;” and July 4th, expecting supplies the next day, he adds: as soon as they “arrive I shall advance to Winchester to drive the enemy from that place;” accordingly he issued orders for the movement on the 8th ; next called a council of war, and stood fast at Martinsburg.

5. But although General Patterson was never specifically ordered to attack the enemy, he was certainly told, and expected, even if with inferior numbers, to hold the rebel army in his front on the alert, and to prevent it from re-enforcing Manassas Junction, by means of threatening manoeuvres and demonstrations—results often obtained in war with half numbers.

6. After a time General P. moved upon Bunker Hill, and then fell off upon Charlestown, whence he seems to have made no other demonstration that did not look like a retreat out of Virginia. From that movement Johnston was at liberty to join Beauregard with any part of the army of Winchester.

7. General P. alludes, with feeling, to my recall from him back to Washington, after the enemy had evacuated Harper’s Ferry, of certain troops sent to enable him to take that place; but the recall was necessary to prevent the government and capital from falling into the enemy’s hands. His inactivity, however, from that cause need not to have been more than temporary; for he was soon re-enforced up to, at least, the enemy’s maximum number in the Winchester valley, without leading to a battle, or even a reconnoissance in force.

8. He also often called for batteries and rifled cannon beyond our capacity to supply at the moment, and so in respect to regular troops, one or more regiments. He might as well have asked for a brigade of elephants. Till some time later we had for the defence of the government in its capital but a few companies of regular foot and horse, and not half the number of troops, including all descriptions, if the enemy had chosen to attack us.

9. As connected with this subject, I hope I may be permitted to notice the charge made against me on the floors of Congress that I did not stop Brigadier General McDowell’s movement upon Manassas Junction after I had been informed of the re-enforcement sent thither from Winchester, though urged to do so by one or more members of the cabinet. Now, it was, at the reception of that news, too late to call off the troops from the attack; and besides, though opposed to the movement at first, we had all become animated and sanguine of success; and it is not true that I was urged by anybody in authority to stop the attack, which was commenced as early, I think, as the 18th of July.

10. I have but time to say that among the disadvantages under which I have been writing are these: I have not had within reach one of my own papers; and not an officer who was with me at the period in question.

Respectfully submitted to the committee.

WINFIELD SCOTT. NEW YORK, March 31, 1862.





JCCW – Gen. George Cadwallader

11 09 2009

Testimony of Gen. George Cadwallader

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 235-241

WASHINGTON, March 19, 1862.

General GEORGE CADWALADER sworn and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. What has been your rank and position in the army?

Answer. I hold a commission of brigadier general in the State of Pennsylvania, under which, upon the call of the President last spring, I came into the service for three months. I also held a commission as major general by brevet in the army of the United States, conferred upon me after my commission as brigadier general had terminated. I state that, as it is considered material by General Scott.

Question. When did you commence service last year, and where did you serve?

Answer. I was mustered into service on the 19th of April, 1861, for three months.

Question. Under General Patterson?

Answer. Not at that time. I was assigned to the command of the department of Annapolis, my headquarters being at Baltimore. I succeeded General Butler in that command. I subsequently joined General Patterson’s column, where I commanded the first division of the column, consisting of the three brigades then commanded by General Williams, Colonel Thomas, and Colonel Miles.

Question. Did you accompany General Patterson in that campaign until he returned?

Answer. I joined him at Chambersburg, and remained with him until the army returned to Harper’s Ferry.

Question. What was his force at Martinsburg, Virginia?

Answer. My official position only gave me official knowledge of my own division, and perhaps I can only give an estimate.

Question. Give your estimate, according to the best light you had upon the subject.

Answer. I should say, according to the general knowledge I had, that he had from 18,000 to 22,000 men; perhaps from 18,000 to 20,000 men for duty.

Question. What was the object of that expedition, as you understood it?

Answer. I never was informed there, and never was officially consulted in regard to it by General Patterson. General Scott told me when I left here, and I also knew from the Secretary of War and the President, that the object was to drive General Johnston and the rebel force under him out of Harper’s Ferry. That was the object for which I went there, and I expected to be relieved and to return here the moment that was accomplished. I was so promised by the Secretary of War, but it was not done.

Question. General Patterson followed General Johnston from Harper’s Ferry for a while, did he not?

Answer. My division, as a part of General Patterson’s column, was in the advance. I crossed the Potomac from Williamsport; and when Johnston retreated as we advanced upon Harper’s Ferry, we went down as far as Falling Waters, on the Virginia side. I was there met with an order to send to Washington all the regular troops—they were all under my command— as it was thought that Johnston had fallen back to re-enforce Beauregard, and that Washington was in danger. All the regular troops being ordered to Washington, and the object of dislodging the enemy from Harper’s Ferry having been accomplished, General Patterson was compelled, or rather induced, to give me the order to fall back. I was then on the way to Martinsburg, and had got as far as Falling Waters, some miles on the other side of the Potomac. General Patterson was still at Hagerstown. A great misfortune, by the by, was that recall.

Question. Did you accompany his army into Virginia?

Answer. Yes, sir; I remained with the army until we went on up to Martinsburg, and on to Bunker Hill, which is ten miles from Winchester.

Question. What was Johnston’s force at Falling Waters, as near as yon could estimate it?

Answer. My information was so uncertain, so vague, that I never had any very definite idea upon the subject.

Question. He retreated before you after the battle of Falling Waters, did he not?

Answer. Yes, sir. He fell back first upon Bunker Hill, and then upon Winchester, which is due south about ten miles from Bunker Hill.

Question. Your position at Bunker Hill threatened Winchester, did it not?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Do you know the orders General Patterson received from headquarters here?

Answer. I know now; I did not know then. When I returned here General Scott expressed great astonishment that I had been kept in ignorance of everything of that kind, and directed Colonel Townsend, his adjutant general, to furnish me with copies of everything that had passed between him and General Patterson.

Question. When Patterson was at Bunker Hill with his army, was there any difficulty in his detaining Johnston in the valley of Winchester, and preventing his going down to join Beauregard?

Answer. I always considered our position a false one from the time that Johnston retreated from Bunker Hill. I could see that no movement we could make from there could accomplish the purpose of holding Johnston at Winchester one moment longer than he chose to stay. To the south of him he had the whole country open, while we were directly north of him. I always thought we should have moved more in a southeasterly direction, where we could have been more within supporting distance of a column moving from here, and also in a position more threatening upon Johnston’s right flank—our left upon his right. On the only occasion I ever was consulted, which was at Martinsburg, where the commanding officers of divisions and brigades, and the officers of the engineer corps on duty with our column, were summoned together by General Patterson, I expressed my opinion that, as we were not holding Johnston at Winchester one moment longer than he chose to stay there, we ought to attack him, and move in this direction at once, and unite with the forces that we supposed were about to attack Manassas. That was the advice I gave before all the officers present.

By Mr. Wright:

Question. When did you advise that?

Answer. It was within two days before we left Martinsburg for Bunker Hill. It was at the only meeting of the officers that was held during the campaign. It was a large meeting, and all the principal officers and the engineer officers were present.

By the chairman:

Question. What was the reason given for not attacking Johnston?

Answer. General Patterson gave no reason. He summoned these officers, myself among others, and asked our opinion as to what, under existing circumstances, we would advise being done. And, according to military usage, beginning with the junior in rank, it came to me last. Major General Sanford, of New York, and Major General Keim, of Pennsylvania, among others, were there. I at last gave my opinion, stated it briefly, as I have stated it here. We were not holding Johnston, because, as we were ten miles north of him, he could leave whenever he chose. He could get information much more rapidly from Beauregard than we could get it from Washington, and he knew exactly what the movements over in this direction were. If the intention was to hold Johnston there, we were not accomplishing the purpose; and we could not do it where we then were.

Question. Would it not have been easy to have placed yourself in a position where you could have done so?

Answer. Certainly. If we had moved upon Berryville and got upon his right flank, and he could not have moved one foot without our being upon his flank, we could have been at Manassas sooner than he could, and could have attacked him at any moment. Some of the officers thought that, as our army moved from here under General McDowell, Beauregard might retreat, falling back upon the whole of Patterson’s army, General Johnston uniting with him for that purpose. It was the opinion of two or three of the officers that Johnston might advance and cut us off while Beauregard came with his whole army upon Patterson’s column.

Question. Suppose that Patterson had orders from General Scott to hold Johnston in the valley of Winchester?

Answer. Which, I say, he could not have done without attacking him.

Question. Then, with such orders, he should have attacked him ?

Answer. That was what I thought; either to have attacked him or to have come down here, as we were doing no good there.

Question. You were at Bunker Hill when Johnston turned off to Charlestown?

Answer. Yes, sir; my division was in the advance from Bunker Hill in the direction of Winchester; and I marched with that column from Bunker Hill to Charlestown through Smithfield.

Question If you threatened Winchester while at Bunker Hill, did you not relinquish your threatening attitude when you turned off towards Charlestown ?

Answer. Of course, for we then went away from Winchester.

Question. So, from the time you turned off from Bunker Hill to Charlestown, all hope of detaining Johnston must have entirely vanished ?

Answer. Certainly; we were marching.away from him. In other words, we were on our way to Harper’s Ferry through Charlestown.

Question. Do you know whether General Patterson, when he resigned all hope of detaining Johnston, immediately informed General Scott of that fact?

Answer. I never was consulted about any such thing. Until I came back here I never saw a line from General Scott to General Patterson, or from General Patterson to General Scott. When I so informed General Scott he expressed great dissatisfaction, saying, “General Patterson knew that my communications to him were intended as much for you as for himself.” And it was then that he turned to Colonel Townsend and ordered him to make out and furnish to me copies of everything that had passed between General Patterson and himself.

Question. Is there anything more that you deem material which you would like to state? If so, please go on and state it in your own way.

Answer. I have no desire, nor do I know that there is anything of public utility for me to state, other than I have already stated. There are matters personal to myself; that, of course, I have no right to bring before this committee.

Question. You can state anything that you think best.  We are endeavoring to find out how this war has been conducted, and you can state anything in that connexion that is material for us to know.

Answer. I should like to state some things on my own account; and they are historical, too, so far as anybody may deem them of public importance. You asked me what my rank and position in the army were. When I was in command at Baltimore I was sent for by General Scott to come here. General Cameron was at General Scott’s headquarters, and General Scott handed me my commission as major general by brevet in the army, saying, “That commission of General Cadwalader’s as a major general of the army is a perfectly valid one at this time.” The question was whether I should rank as major general with General Patterson, and whether I was to be assigned to duty under my major general’s commission. Upon that General Cameron promised to assign me to duty under my brevet commission as a major general. He offered me a commission as major general of volunteers, or a commission of brigadier general in the regular service, which was what I had held during the Mexican war. I accepted the commission of brigadier general in the regular service, with the promise of the President, through the Secretary of War, that I was to be assigned to duty under my commission as major general by brevet, with the promise of promotion as major general, when they heard from General Fremont, which they expected to do in two weeks; under the expectation and with the conviction, as they told me, that he would decline the commission tendered to him. With that promise I took the commission of brigadier general, with the understanding that I was to be assigned to duty under my commission as major general by brevet, in preference to the commission of major general of volunteers.

Question. When was that?

Answer. That was the 8th of June. I addressed a letter to the Secretary of War before I left here, reminding him of the promise so as to avoid all mistakes, and which he perfectly remembers. General Fremont, unexpectedly to them, returned and accepted the commission offered him, which prevented their being able to give me that. For some reason General McClellan was brought here, and had I been commissioned major general, I would have ranked him. That prevented their being able to do one thing or the other. In the mean time they made major generals of volunteers, whom I would have ranked, that ranked me. They could not comply with their promise to me, and I went home, as they did not want me. That was the military position I occupied, and those are the reasons I am not now in service.

Question. You say they were convinced that General Fremont would decline. Upon what did they found that conviction?

Answer. I do not know. That was what General Cameron told me.

By Mr. Gooch :

Question. Did they desire that General Fremont should decline?

Answer. That I do not know; I merely tell you what passed. They told me that I was to have that commission; that they knew he would decline. That was the offer to me. I certainly would not otherwise have accepted the commission of brigadier general in the regular army, when I had the commission offered me of a major general in the volunteers. My commission of major general by brevet dates back to 1847, and ranks all except General Wool. They were unable to do what they had promised. They had appointed as major generals of volunteers General Banks, General Butler, General Dix, &c., and to come in then would have placed me very differently from what their own proposition was. I had not asked for that; they had sent for me and asked me to take it. I considered it a very complimentary and a very handsome thing; but, as I have said, they were unable to give it to me, for it interfered with other places. I told the President that if it deranged any of their plans, I was perfectly willing to exonerate him from any promise; if the interest of the service required it, I was perfectly willing and ready to serve; and it was not my fault that I went home.

Question. To come back to the other subject. You have not stated yet what you supposed Johnston’s force at Winchester to be.

Answer. I desire my remark about his force at Falling Waters to apply to his force at Winchester. I had no reliable information upon which to base an opinion.

By the chairman:

Question. Had you any reason to believe that Johnston’s army was materially increased after he reached Winchester?

Answer. By general rumor it was said to have been greatly increased.

Question. From where was it supposed the troops came?

Answer. From the south; we did not know from where.

Question. From Manassas?

Answer. We did not know. It was just the sort of rumor that would be current among the people of the country, entirely unreliable.

By Mr. Gooch :

Question. Have you ever made any written statement of the force under Johnston at Winchester? If so, please state when and under what circumstances you did so.

Answer. I never made any official statement of any kind of the forces under Johnston at Winchester, having no knowledge of my own in regard to it. After many of our regiments had started on their march home, their term of service having expired while we were at Harper’s Ferry, a Mr. McDaniel, a civilian, came to me on the 23d of July, with a statement of some information which he said he had obtained in regard to the force under Johnston, at Winchester. I asked him to let me copy it, which I did as he read it to me. I put no date to it, merely writing down what he read. I was about leaving, but before I went I showed it to General Patterson, as something that might be of interest to him. I did not give it as information obtained by myself, or express any opinion in regard to its reliability, giving it merely as information which McDaniel said he had obtained—not as information of my own.  General Patterson asked me to allow him to take a copy of it, promising to return me the original. He, however, did not return me the original, but sent me a copy of it.

By the chairman :

Question. Did you attach any importance to the paper as containing reliable information?

Answer. Not the slightest; and if I had, it could not have influenced General Patterson in what he had done, for he had got back to Harper’s Ferry, and the troops had crossed the river on their way home, before either of us knew anything about this.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. When you were at Bunker Hill, if it had been known that General McDowell was about to attack Manassas, and that it was expected that the army under General Patterson would detain Johnston so as to prevent his forming a junction with Beauregard and taking part in the action at Manassas, what should have been done by Patterson’s army to have accomplished that object?

Answer. I do not think he could have detained him in any other way than by attacking him. He could have prevented his taking the route by which he did go to Manassas, by taking up a position on his right flank, that is, to the eastward of Winchester. Johnston, however, would have had open to him the route by the way of Strasburg, which was the one they had always received and sent troops by. The way he actually did go was east, over the mountains to Piedmont, Strasburg lying west of south of him. If we had not attacked him, but had taken a position to the east of Winchester, Johnston could have gone by the way of Strasburg, but could not have gone the way he did go, over the mountains to Piedmont. Believing that we were not holding him where we then were, and that the object of any such instructions or suggestions, if any such existed, as I subsequently learned they did exist, could not be accomplished except by attacking Johnston, I advised that we should attack him, or if that was not done, that we should unite with the main body of our troops here in the attack upon Manassas. The expression used by General Scott, in one of his letters to General Patterson, which I saw afterwards, was “to consider the route by the way of Leesburg.” It is true that in the telegrams that came from General Scott it was indicated that General Patterson was to hold General Johnston if he did not attack him. But there was no possibility of holding him if we did not attack. To use General Johnston’s own expression in his report, he was merely waiting there looking at us.

By the chairman:

Question. Then if he was to hold him, and attacking him was the only way to hold him, it meant that he should attack him?

Answer. Attack him or consider the route by way of Leesburg.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. Could Patterson have come down that route in time to have taken part in the battle here?

Answer. Yes, sir; if he had moved on Berryville, we would have been on Johnston’s flank all the way.

Question. And you could have reached Manassas before Johnston could?

Answer. Certainly, if we had moved in time. According to McDaniel’s memorandum, Johnston started from Winchester at one o’clock on the day we left Bunker Hill. It was more with a view to the time when Johnston started than for any other purpose that I showed that memorandum to General Patterson. We started from Bunker Hill at daylight, and if you take the official report of Johnston, recently published, you will see that on that very day he got his instructions to go to Manassas, and that at one o’clock on the day we left Bunker Hill for Charlestown, Johnston left Winchester for Manassas.

Question. And you should have gone from Bunker Hill to Berryville, so as to have prevented Johnston from going to Manassas by the route he did go?

Answer. If we had done that, we could have gone to Manassas also. We had but 10 miles further than Johnston to go if we had gone by the way of Winchester; and we had not much further to go if we had gone by the way of Berryville, for we were almost as near Berryville as he was.

Question. So that you could have prevented his going the route he did?

Answer. We could have attacked him, which I think would have prevented him. I think he knew that, because he would not fight us in the open ground. He showed that his object was to elude us, according to his own expression.

By the chairman:

Question. And General Scott’s idea was to detain him by fighting or in any other way?

Answer. Yes, sir.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. Then Johnston could have been prevented from forming a junction with Beauregard, and the force under Patterson might have been ready to have taken part in the attack upon Manassas?

Answer. We might have attacked Johnston, and if we had been successful, which I think we would have been, we could have prevented the junction. And if we did not attack him, if we had marched in due time, we could certainly have been at Manassas in time to have taken part in the battle. The way was open to us, and the suggestion of General Scott was “to consider the route by way of Leesburg.” If I had had any discretion, I should have gone at once to Leesburg, which was half-way to Manassas, and on a good turnpike road directly there.

Question. Will you furnish the committee with the copies of the telegraphic despatches you received from General Scott?

Answer. I will.





JCCW – Maj. William W. Russell

3 09 2009

Testimony of Maj. William W. Russell

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 228-234

WASHINGTON, March 5,1862.

Major WILLIAM W. RUSSELL sworn and examined.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. What is your rank and position in the army?

Answer. I am major and paymaster of the marine corps.

Question. Were you attached to the staff of General Patterson during his advance into Virginia; and if so, how did you become so attached, being an officer of the marine corps?

Answer. From current reports and rumors I became convinced that General Patterson’s column would be engaged in the valley of Virginia, and I sought leave of absence from the Secretary of the Navy to endeavor to join General Patterson’s staff, where I thought I could be useful. I held a semi-civil position here as paymaster of the marine corps at the time. Having a great many friends south, and being a southern man myself, when my brother officers were resigning all around me, I thought it my duty to endeavor to do something for the government which had supported me for eighteen years, and something out- aide of my ordinary semi-civil duties. I obtained permission from my department and authority from the commandant of my corps to transact my business during my absence. General Cameron gave me a letter to General Patterson. General Scott, finding that I was going, also gave me a letter, though I made no application to him for it. I went up and joined General Patterson at Martinsburg, and he immediately placed me on his staff as one of his aids.

Question. What movements did General Patterson make after you joined him?

Answer. On the 15th of July he moved from Martinsburg on Bunker Hill with about 18,000 men and took possession of that place. He remained there until Wednesday morning, the 17th, when he marched to Charlestown. The only rebel force we observed on the march was a detachment of cavalry, said to be commanded by Colonel Stuart. The Rhode Island battery, on the right of our column, expended several shots in dispersing them.

Question. Were you aware of any reconnoissance being made from Bunker Hill towards Winchester?

Answer. No, sir; I was not. I heard some rumors of a reconnoissance made by some of General Sanford’s staff, but there were so many stories told I did not rely upon them. Colonel Thomas advanced several miles on the road with a portion of the cavalry under his command. I do not think any extended reconnoissance was made.

Question. What information had you relative to the force of the enemy?

Answer. A deserter presented himself at the headquarters of General Patterson at Bunker Hill, who seemed to be of a very communicative disposition. From his statement, the captain of engineers made a diagram of the works and defences of Winchester. I have it here. It reads “Defences of Winchester, obtained from a deserter from the confederate army, and believed to be reliable. J. H. Simpson, captain of engineers.” The deserter was so very communicative that I had some curiosity to find out something about him. I asked him where he was from, and he told me he was from the neighborhood of Bunker Hill. A son of a merchant whose house we occupied there was a smart, bright little fellow of some thirteen or fourteen years of age. We were very careful to protect the property left in his charge, and at my request sentinels were posted about his father’s store. He had every confidence we would protect the property and pay for what we got there. I asked him about this man. In the first place, ae a deserter I did not believe him, because he was a perjured man, and had deserted the flag he had sworn to support. This boy stated that this man and his brother were worthless characters, who resided within two miles of Bunker Hill; that he would work a few days and then loaf about the drinking establishments ; that he had no character or reputation in the community in which he lived. I stated the information I had thus gained.

Question. Did you state it to General Patterson?

Answer. I think I stated it in his presence. I said that on general principles I would not believe a deserter, because a man who would be false to his oath would be false in his statements.

Question. What was your opinion at that time relative to the force of the enemy?

Answer. I had no opinion about it. I did not believe a word that I heard. We had no positive means of getting information. They were all idle rumors, that I did not think were reliable at all. On the 17th we marched to Charlestown, not seeing any rebel force on that march, and encamped in and around that place with the whole of our army.

Question. During your service with General Patterson, were you aware of the receipt by him of any despatches from General Scott, relative to the movement of his column? If so, state what they were.

Answer. On the night of the 17th, General Patterson and his staff having all retired, I was sitting on the porch of the house we occupied as headquarters. Between twelve and one o’clock at night a special messenger arrived with a despatch for General Patterson. He was accompanied hy one of General Sanford’s aids; I do not now recollect who it was. That despatch I took up to the adjutant general of the column, Colonel Fitz-John Porter. I woke him up, and he read it in his bed, I reading it at the same rime. Colonel Porter arose from his bed, and exhibited it to Captain Newton, the chief of the engineer corps of that army. After some little discussion, of which I do not recollect the particulars, (it did not amount to much,) Colonel Porter requested me to take the despatch to General Patterson and wake him up. I suggested that I had but lately joined his staff, and would prefer his doing it. I thought it was a despatch of very great importance. He said, “You better take it.” I replied, “I will do so,” and proceeded to General Patterson’s room, where I aroused him from his sleep, and handed the despatch to him. It was as follows:

“HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,

“July 17, 1861—9.30 p.m.

“I have nothing official from you since Sunday, but I am glad to learn from the Philadelphia papers that you have advanced. Do not let the enemy amuse and delay you with a small force in front, whilst he re-enforces the Junction with his main body. McDowell’s first day’s work has driven the enemy beyond Fairfax Court-House. The Junction will probably be taken to-morrow.

“Major General PATTERSON,

“United States Forces, Harper’s Ferry.”

I read from a copy which I got at the War Department, and I believe it a true copy of that despatch. After General Patterson had read it twice over he turned to me and asked me if I had read it. I told him that I had. He then asked me what I thought of it. I replied that I had lately joined his staff, and would beg that he would ask Colonel Porter, or some other officer who had been with him longer than I had, as I did not like to give him an opinion. He said, “I desire your opinion, sir.” I then replied, “I will give you my opinion, honestly and without hesitation. I look upon that despatch as a positive order from General Scott to attack Johnston wherever you can find him; and if you do not do it, I think you will be a ruined man. It will be impossible to meet the public sentiment of the country if you fail to carry out this order. And in the event of a misfortune in front of Washington, the whole blame will be laid to your charge.” Those were as nearly the words as I can now recollect. He said, “Do you think so, sir?” I repeated that that was my honest conviction. He then said, “I will advance to-morrow. But how can we make a, forced march with our trains?” I said, “Sir, if you cannot send them across the river into Maryland, we can make a bonfire of them.” I then said, “General, have you positively made up your mind to this advance?” He said, “I have.” “Then,” said I, “I hope you will allow no one to influence you tomorrow in relation to it.” The next morning orders were sent to the different brigades and divisions to cook three days’ rations, and to be ready to march at a moment’s notice. I had no conversation with any one in relation to my interview with General Patterson up to 9 o’clock in the morning. About 9 o’clock I was in the room occupied as an office, when several prominent officers of the column appeared. I think they had been summoned there by the general. General Patterson entered and said, “Gentlemen, I have sent for you, not for the purpose of consulting you as to the propriety of the movement I intend to make, but as to the best mode of making it.” I then left the room. After these officers had separated I was told by the general that he did not think the Pennsylvania troops would march, and that an order had been issued for them to be assembled on their parade grounds that afternoon, that he might consult them in person. He did so. He appealed to them in very strong terms to remain with him a week or ten days; that they had promised him that in the event of a battle taking place they would stand by him, and he desired them to intimate, when the command “shoulder arms” was given to each regiment, whether they would comply with his wish. Several of the Pennsylvania regiments came to a shoulder when the order was given—one (Colonel Patterson’s) with but one exception; but the majority in the others failed to respond. I was near General Patterson during the whole time, and heard his speech to them. The advance was not made.

By Mr. Covode:

Question. Did General Patterson, at any time when he was addressing the troops, propose to march on to Winchester?

Answer. No, sir; not to my knowledge. General Patterson did not ask the troops whether they would advance against the enemy at Winchester. He asked them if they would remain with him. I think it due to those troops to state their condition as to clothing. They were very poorly clothed, indeed. Many of the men had their pantaloons patched with canvas from the flies of the tents, and their garments were particolored. They had received very hard treatment; were very badly clad, and many of them were without shoes. I did not hear General Patterson, before any regiment of Pennsylvania troops, ask them if they would advance against the enemy.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Had you any conversation with any of the officers in relation to this advance?

Answer. After I left the room, which I did while this discussion was going on, and which I had no curiosity to hear, Colonel Abercrombie, who commanded one of the brigades, came to me and asked me what I thought of the proposed movement of General Patterson. From the relations that existed between Colonel Abercrombie and General Patterson, I felt satisfied that he already knew my views about the proposed movement. When conversing in reference to the movement of the trains, and the suggestion that if they could not be saved, I thought that, under the circumstances, they should be burned, Colonel Abercrombie desired to know how the men could get along without their cooking utensils. I suggested that there were plenty of trees and bushes between Charlestown and Winchester, and the men could cook their meat as they did in California, by holding it before the fire. Then he remarked, “You would place everything on the hazard of the die; sacrifice our line of communication, and in all probability cause the command to be cut off.” I told him that I thought General Patterson was just in the position to place everything at that hazard; that if he failed to move, I was satisfied that, no matter how pure his intentions might be, he would be overwhelmed by public sentiment. I told him that as to cutting off our communication, I felt perfectly satisfied that the people of this country would open the line of communication if he took the risk suggested. The colonel did not agree with me, and our conversation ceased.
Question. You spoke some time ago about some information furnished by a deserter. Had General Patterson, that you know of, any reliable information in regard to the enemy?

Answer. Not that I know of. I think I should have heard it if he had had any.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. You deemed Bunker Hill an important position for the purpose of holding the enemy?

Answer. Well, sir, Bunker Hill was, I think, 10 miles from Winchester, and at Charlestown we were 22 miles in another direction. By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Did you not at Bunker Hill directly threaten Johnston?

Answer. By our advance from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill we threatened him.

Question. When you turned off to Charlestown from Bunker Hill, did you not intimate to the enemy that you were leaving him, and that he was free to move where he pleased?

Answer. If putting more miles between us and the enemy was such an intimation, we made it.

By the chairman:

Question. As a military man, in your judgment, was there any insuperable obstacle or barrier to your detaining Johnston there, if you had pursued him vigorously from Bunker Hill?

Answer. I think if we had advanced on Johnston, our men could, in all probability, have marched as fast as he could. Having only 10 miles the start of us, he could not have got to Manassas much before we could. If he had attempted to pull up the railroad as he passed along, we should then have overhauled him.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Did General Patterson send you to Washington with despatches for General Scott? If so, what took place at that interview?

Answer. General Patterson sent me to Washington to explain to General Scott the reason of his not moving against Winchester. He sent me on Friday, the 19th, and I arrived here on Saturday morning. I immediately called upon General Scott at his private quarters, and found him there with several of his staff. I stated to him what General Patterson had directed me to say to him, as nearly as I could. I exhibited to him the sketch made by the captain of engineers, giving the plan of the fortifications at Winchester, and the forces that occupied them, as stated by the deserter. General Scott seemed very much annoyed at the failure of the troops to advance, and said to me, “Why did not General Patterson advance?” I said, “Sir, General Patterson directed me to say to you that he understood your orders to him were to make demonstrations; to hold Johnston, not to drive him.” The general turned in his chair very fiercely on me, and said very excitedly, “I will sacrifice my commission if my despatches will bear any such interpretation.” Seeing the excited manner of the general, I begged to be excused for the present, and said I would call on him again at 12 o’clock, at his office. I then left him. I called at 12 o’clock, and he informed me that the Secretary of War had the day before relieved General Patterson from the command of that column, and had ordered General Banks to succeed him. I will state, also, that at this time I urged upon General Scott the request of General Patterson that re-enforcements should be sent him to enable him to make the movement on Winchester. And after my return my impression was that if they would give General Banks 25,000 men, and let him force his way through and take possession of Winchester and Strasburg, it would be an important movement at that time. That same movement seems now to be taking place under General Banks, other troops being placed in position at his old camps. On Monday morning, the 22d of July, I left this place on my return. On my arrival at Sandy Hook, a mile this side of Harper’s Ferry, I observed some officers I had left at Charlestown, and a number of troops. I called to them and asked them what they were doing there. They said that the whole army was at Harper’s Ferry. That was the first knowledge I had of any contemplated movement from Charlestown to Harper’s Ferry.

Question. Did you not understand when you advanced from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill that your object was to whip Johnston, or at least to hold him there?

Answer. To hold him; not to allow him to re-enforce Manassas. There is another thing that convinced me that my view of the despatch to which I have referred was correct. Another despatch was received by General Patterson from General Scott, on the 18th, as follows :

“SIR : I have certainly been expecting you to beat the enemy; if not, to hear that you had felt him strongly, or at least had occupied him by threats and demonstrations. You have been at least his equal, and I suppose his superior, in numbers. Has he not stolen a march, and sent re-enforcements towards Manassas Junction? A week is enough to win victories. The time of volunteers counts from the day of mustering into the service of the United States. You must not retreat across the Potomac. If necessary, when abandoned by the short-term volunteers, intrench somewhere and wait for re-enforcements.”

By Mr. Odell:

Question. What was the temper of the troops on the receipt of orders to move from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill, and while at Bunker Hill?

Answer. The march from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill was made in admirable order. I rode along the line several times to convey orders from the right to the left, and there did not seem to be any dissatisfaction that I could observe. The men preserved the order of march, and seemed to be in very good spirits.

Question. Did any dissatisfaction manifest itself at Bunker Hill?

Answer. I heard of none. The men violated the regulations somewhat, by foraging around, as all soldiers will.

Question. Did you hear of any expression of opinion to the effect that the men did not want to make an advance?

Answer. I heard some of the officers speak of the certainty of the Pennsylvania troops claiming their discharge at the expiration of their term of service.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question Where was that?

Answer. I do not know. It was a general rumor.

Question. At Charlestown you heard of great dissatisfaction?

Answer. Yes, sir.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Was there any dissatisfaction among the troops at going to meet the enemy?

Answer. I do not know that the men ever had that point—that they were going against the enemy—presented to them. Many of the men were in very bad condition as to clothing, &c. There was a regiment there from Indiana that was in as bad, if not a worse, condition than any regiment I have seen. General Patterson did not address that regiment. But they volunteered through their colonel to remain, without the suggestion of any one. Many of the men had no shoes, and the feet of some of them were so cut and injured by the flinty roads over which they marched that their officers had to order them to be carried in the wagons. Yet they volunteered through Colonel Wallace, their commander, to advance on Winchester, or against the enemy.

By Mr. Covode:

Question. Did the troops know they were retreating when they left Bunker Hill?

Answer. I do not think that either the officers or the men were aware that they were retreating, except from the direction that they took. After General Patterson was relieved, General Banks invited me to remain and occupy the same position on his staff that I had on General Patterson’s. I did so until after he moved across the Potomac with the main body of his army and encamped on this side. The movement across the river was made hy General Banks after full consultation with all the highest officers in his command, who voted each separately that it would be highly imprudent and dangerous to attempt to continue the occupancy of Harper’s Ferry with the small force left under his command; and that it could be held by means of guns mounted on the Maryland side, and without risk to his troops. On their advice he acted. He never surrendered, during the time I was up there, the place of Harper’s Ferry, but always kept a guard there for its protection.

By Mr. Covode:

Question. Did you, before you went up there, hare any conversation with General Scott; and if so, what did he tell you as to what he wanted done?

Answer. After receiving permission, and the order from General Cameron to proceed to join General Patterson, I called on Colonel Townsend, the assistant adjutant general, and offered to convey any despatches he might have for General Patterson’s column. While there General Scott heard my voice and called me into his room, and inquired when I was going. I told him. He then asked why I did not come to him for a letter to General Patterson. I told him I knew he was very much engaged, and I was almost afraid to ask to see him. He then directed Colonel Townsend to write a letter and bring it to him to sign. I think he remarked that we were in the same boat, meaning that we were both southern men, he from Virginia and I from Maryland. I said to him, “General, I have made up my mind that the column of General Patterson will be engaged by Sunday.” He replied, “It may be before that, but it cannot be long before it is.” I told him then that I would hurry and try to join General Patterson as soon as possible, which I did. I will remark here, that what I have stated in my testimony are entirely impressions of my own. And my advice, if it may be so called, to General Patterson as to an advance, was to meet the sentiment of the country, and what I conceived to be the first wish of the people—the defeat of the army of the rebels in front of Washington.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. What were your relations with General Patterson while with him and subsequently?

Answer. The first time I ever met General Patterson was at Martinsburg, when I presented the letters of General Cameron and General Scott, recommending me to his notice. General Patterson’s bearing towards me was exceedingly kind; he extended to me every courtesy and confidence during the time I was with him, and, in consequence, I have always felt the liveliest feelings of gratitude towards him. His impressions of my services may be obtained from this letter:

“HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF PENNSYLVANIA,

“Harper’s Ferry, July 25, 1861.

“MAJOR : I regret that in relinquishing the command of this department I can no longer avail myself of your services on my personal staff. For the promptness and gallantry with which those services were tendered at a critical moment, and the zeal and fidelity with which they have been discharged throughout, I can only offer you my cordial thanks.

“I remain, with great regard, very sincerely, yours,

“R. PATTERSON,

“Major General Commanding.

“Major W.W.Russell,

“United States Marine Corps, &c.”








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