Sgt. William P. Holden, Co. H, 2nd Maine Infantry, On the Battle

29 01 2013

Position of the Second.

1861 8-3 Bangor Daily Whig and Courier 2d Maine Bull Run with map 1861 8-3 Bangor Daily Whig and Courier 2d Maine Bull Run with map

We copy above what we should judge to be a very correct diagram of the position of our Second at the battle of Bull Run. It was roughly made, with such conveniences as are at the command of soldiers, by Wm. P. Holden of this city, and accompanied a private letter to his father. We copy such portions of the letter as explain the map; that our readers may understand, as clearly as may be, the exact position of our regiment, at the fight. After giving an account of the terrible forced march, fatigue and almost starvation preceding the attack, he says: -

We started for Bull Run on Sunday morning at 2 o’clock. The head of the column came up to a battery about 8 o’clock, and the artillery commenced throwing shell and balls into it, and in about half an hour they left it, and retreated to another. The artillery moved to the top of a hill, marked our battery. I have only marked on the map the battery which our regiment charged upon. There were eight more to the right. It was 12 o’clock before our regiment was called to charge. They were about three miles to the rear of the battery which they charged upon. They marched double quick all the way, and as it was a very hot day, you can judge what kind of shape the boys were in to fight. A great many of them could not stand it to run so far, and fell out of the ranks before they arrived at the battle ground. Our regiment went upon the main road as far as the line, marked through the cornfield and woods, and drew up in line of battle, in front of the woods. When we came out of the woods, there were a lot of rebel troops in the orchard, but as they were dressed in gray, our officers supposed they were our troops, and did not find out otherwise until they retreated some distance, turned and fired upon us, killing all that were killed during the fight. The Colonel then gave the order to charge upon them, which we did until within 40 yards of the battery, where our men stood until they were ordered to retreat by Col. Keyes. They then retreated to the woods, and laid down to rest. Gen. Tyler soon came down and ordered them to charge again, but Colonel Keyes said our regiment had done their share of fighting, and that he had better order one of the Connecticut regiments on, as they had not done any fighting. About 4 o’clock a general order to retreat to Centreville was given, as the rebels had received a reinforcement of 30,000 men from Manassas, and our troops had been fighting for eight hours and were pretty well tire out. We retreated to Centreville and encamped. About 12 o’clock at night, orders came from Gen. McDowell to retreat to Washington.

Bangor Daily Whig and Courier,  8/3/1861

Clipping Image

William P. Holden at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Preview: “The Battle of First Bull Run”

9 01 2012

A few weeks ago I received a copy of Blaikie Hines’s The Battle of First Bull Run Manassas Campaign – July 16-22, 1861: An Illustrated Atlas and Battlefield Guide. Anything with a title like that deserves some attention from a blog with a name like this one’s, and I plan on going into deeper detail with an author interview in the future, but I just wanted to get the word out. This is a pretty nice book, even if it does have several elements that are eerily similar to something I’ve been working on myself. No, I’m not accusing anyone of espionage, and really it’s only one of many elements in this book and on a much smaller scale than what I’m thinking about. Mr. Hines gave Bull Runnings a very nice acknowledgement (no, I did not see or even hear of this one until it was finished), but I’ll use that to point out a problem with the book: the web address in the acknowledgement is wrong. He left out the “.wordpress” part of it. No, I’m not whining, but here’s why I bring it up: this book is self-published. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but a problem often seen in self-published works is weak editing. The narrative here does suffer from typos and grammatical errors that drive a Chicago Manual of Style toting geek like me to distraction. Call me pedantic, call me what you will. I’m not going to dwell on the mistakes of grammar, punctuation, or fact at this point.

OK, now that we have that out of the way, let me briefly describe this oversized, landscape oriented book. It’s paperback, and the pages are a glossy, heavy stock. That’s good for taking out onto the field, and that’s where it’s meant to be taken. The layout is a little unconventional, but Hines has touched all the bases, giving an overview of events leading up to the battle, descriptions of the players, plenty of photographs (many labeled with landmarks), various maps including some utilizing satellite imagery, orders of battle, then and now photos, narrative vignettes, descriptions of arms, equipment, and uniforms, I can go on. At first glance, here’s what I think: if you have a particular interest in First Bull Run, you really should get your hands on a copy, if you can afford it. Stay tuned here for more.





Cool Bull Run Stuff on the Web

17 06 2011

A few links I ran across thanks to Facebook friends and others:

Go here for an overview of the battle and a cool animated map courtesy of The Civil War Trust.

Also from The Civil War Trust, John Hennessy talks about Jackson at Bull Run here. For more, see John’s article on the topic here.

And read this interesting bit on Matthew Brady at Bull Run from The Atlantic here.





D. B. Harris Map

10 11 2010

Here’s an unpublished map of the First Bull Run battlefield, by Confederate engineer D. B. Harris.  According to the notation, this sketch was used by Beauregard to prepare his map of the battlefield.  It’s a recent acquisition of the Manassas National Battlefield Park and has been provided by Ranger Jim Burgess.  You’ll need to use your photo viewer’s zoom to see the detail.  I’ve viewed the original and it’s quite faded.  It’s difficult to tell exactly what is being depicted here – for instance, is this as of a point in time or does it show movement?  Look at all the guns shown north of the Warrenton Pike, for instance.  Click once for a larger image.  Click that image for a really large image.

By sketch I mean this was made on the field and was not a final product.  As noted on the map, it was surveyed, so it is more than a free-hand sketch.  FYI, Confederate items are in blue.





West Point Atlas Maps

4 08 2010

Two of the seven Bull Run maps from The West Point Atlas of the Civil War:

Situation July 18, 1861

Situation 1400 Hours July 21, 1861





Sherman’s March to the Sea

2 07 2010

Thanks to friend Susannah Ural for passing this along.  Anne Sarah Rubin has a cool site of interactive maps, Sherman’s March and America: Mapping Memory.  From the introduction:

Sherman’s March and America: Mapping Memory is designed as an experiment in digital history. Historian Anne Sarah Rubin is working on a project about the ways Americans have remembered Sherman’s March to the Sea in 1864, and wanted to bring her work to a broader audience. Rather than build an archive of documents, images, and essays, she decided to take a more interpretive approach, and this site is the result. A generous Digital Innovation Grant from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) allowed Dr. Rubin to collaborate with Dan Bailey and Kelley Bell (both of the UMBC Visual Arts Department and the Imaging Research Center). What we have here is a small prototype—a proof of concept for our larger vision.

Mapping Memory is organized around both place and narrative. It consists of five maps, each one representing a genre of tales about the March. They are:

  • The Sherman or Fact Map, which lays out the basic events of the march.
  • The Civilians Map, for events involving African-Americans and Southern civilians.
  • The Soldiers Map, for events told from the perspective of veterans
  • The Tourism Map, which is about tourism and travel accounts.
  • The Fiction Map, which plots places both real and imagined that have appeared in novels and films about the March

When you draw the time slider across the base of each map, two lines, schematically representing the left and right wings of Sherman’s Army move across the landscape. At the same time, an array of map pins, or points, also appears. These points mark spots of significance, and the idea is that you can toggle between the maps, and see how different people remembered or wrote about different places or events. Not every place appears on every map, but most of them are on two or three, and Atlanta, Savannah, and Milledgeville are on all five. Clicking on a point will bring up a window with a mini-documentary about that place, from the map’s perspective.

For now, we have only animated one point per map, although ideally we will receive funding to complete the stories for each and every point. We tried to pick a range of places and stories, and also use a variety of styles and techniques to illustrate them. The active points, which are highlighted, are:

  • Sherman Map—Ebenezer Creek: A place where one of Sherman’s Generals abandoned scores of African-Americans to drown or be captured by Confederates.
  • Civilians Map—Oxford: The story of Zora Fair, the “girl spy of the Confederacy”
  • Soldier’s Map—Milledgeville: Sherman’s men repealing secession in a mock session in the state capitol building.
  • Tourism—Camp Lawton: The story of the prison camp turned state park outside of Millen. (
  • Fiction—Tara Plantation, Jonesboro, Clayton County: The roots of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with The Wind

We hope you find the site thought-provoking, and welcome your comments.





National Geographic Atlas of the Civil War

2 11 2009

AtlasI recently received a review copy of the National Geographic Atlas of the Civil War by Neil Kagan and Stephen G. Hyslop.  Billed as A Comprehensive Guide to the Tactics and Terrain of Battle, this atlas presents a chronological account of the war using more than 80 archival maps as well as about three dozen original battle maps created using satellite data.  The archival maps are not limited to those of battles and campaigns but include maps of rail lines, slave populations, fortifications, and more.  The book is copiously illustrated with hundreds of photographs and drawings.  Personally, I don’t have much use for comprehensive atlases, and find that when I do consult them I can usually find what I want in the Atlas to the Official Records and the West Point Atlas, and for detail you can’t beat the numerous online map collections.  This National Geographic Atlas is a beautiful, glossy, coffee table book, more for the casual Civil War enthusiast or beginner, but full of tidbits of interest to all levels.  Not a must have, but very nice for what it is.

Thanks to John McFeely of National Geographic.

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