Burnham’s Report

23 08 2009

You won’t find Colonel George S. Burnham’s name listed as commander of the 1st Connecticut Volunteers on most First Bull Run orders of battle: not R. M. Johnston’s, not John Hennessy’s, not Ed Bearss’, not Joanna McDonald’s, not even online OOBs like the NPS and Wikipedia.  I suspect the reasons behind these works listing Lt. Col. John Speidel at the head of the regiment that day are the result of two factors: the lack of an official report for the regiment; and the failure of Col. E. M. Keyes to name Burnham in his report, which recognizes the other regimental commanders in Keyes’s brigade and mentions Speidel, though not as commanding the 1st CT.  But Burnham wrote this history of the regiment’s brief existence for the Connecticut Adjutant General, and NPS Ranger Jim Burgess pointed me to a couple of contemporary newspaper articles which state that Burnham was on the field with the regiment during the battle:

It is a fact that our Connecticut troops stormed a battery before which the regulars had previously been repulsed.  The Third Regiment suffered most severely.  The enemy fought chiefly from behind masked batteries, and when one was taken they had another concealed which commanded it.  Three, however, were taken by great bravery in succession.  Col. Burnham, of the Connecticut First, distinguished himself for his coolness and courage. – “Return Home of the First Regiment”, Hartford, The Daily Courant, July 27, 1861

We kept on fighting, Gen. Tyler assuring us we had won the day.  He acted Bravely; so did Col. Keyes and Col. Spiedel; Col. Burnham stood by his regiment.- “Capt. Fitzgibbon’s Statement”, Hartford, The Daily Courant, July 29, 1861

This was enough for me to show Burnham as in command of the regiment on my order of battle for McDowell’s army.  A few weeks ago, I happened upon a website maintained by paleontologist William Parker, which I described in this post.  An exchange of emails with Mr. Parker, a descendant of a member of the 1st CT, informed me of the existence of an after action report written within days of the battle by Col. Burnham.  The report, Mr. Parker informed me, resides at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford.  It just so happens that, at the time I learned this, Facebook friend and Bull Runnings reader Dr. Lesley Gordon was in Hartford at the State Library doing research on her upcoming book on the 16th CT.  While I didn’t get in touch with her in time for her to copy the document, Dr. Gordon did put me in contact with Mel Smith, a librarian with the History and Genealogy Unit at the Library.  About two weeks later, at a cost of $5.22, I received a photocopy of the handwritten Official Report of Colonel George S. Burnham of the Battle of Bull Run, dated July 24, 1861, which I transcribed and posted here.  I inserted a few words or interpreted words of questionable legibility in brackets, and made a few paragraph breaks, but otherwise the report was transcribed as written.

I think in the absence of any positive evidence to the contrary, we have to accept that Col. George S. Burnham was indeed in command of the 1st CT Volunteers on July 21, 1861.  Thanks to Jim Burgess, William Parker, Lesley Gordon and Mel Smith for all your help.

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#18b – Col. George S. Burnham

21 08 2009

Unpublished Report

Report of Colonel George L. Burnham, First Connecticut Volunteers

Photocopy from Connecticut State Library in Site Owner’s Collection (*)

Fort Corcoran near Washington, DC

July 24th, 1861

Sir, I have the honor to report that we started from our Bivouac at Centreville at 2 O’Clock on the morning of the 21st of July, keeping the Warrentown Turnpike for about four miles, my regiment leading the Brigade.  There the Brigade was ordered to file off the road into the fields to allow troops to pass, the Brigade being held in reserve that day. After waiting some three hours, we filed again into the road.  Proceeding some two miles we again halted for a short time.  We then were ordered to advance.  Emerging from the woods through which we passed we were opened upon with a very heavy fire of shells from some two or three of the enemies batteries.  The troops dropping at the flash of the guns, most of the shells went over us, but few doing any serious damage.  Advancing at the double quick obliquely to [the] right of the road, we passed the building afterwards used as a hospital.  I met Gen. McDowell [and] was ordered by him to march by the left flank (we then were marching by the right.)  Passing through a narrow strip of woods we came in full view of the enemy, upon whom we immediately opened fire, and as well as I could judge, with considerable effect.  We then were ordered to march by the Left Flank, following the Connecticut 2d.  Being very hotly attacked by the enemies fire we kept well under the hill which protected our men to a great degree.  We were ordered to charge on one of the batteries but it was countermanded by yourself as [it] was evident that it would be a perfect annihilation of our men.  We then made attacks on the enemy whenever a favorable opportunity presented itself. 

About 4 O’Clock we had orders to change our position marching by the right flank, the Conn. 2d filing past.  Proceeding to the Hospital we learnt of the rout of our Army.  My regiment kept in most excellent good order, although hotly pressed by the enemies fire.  Reaching the woods we soon after met the enemies Cavalry in full charge, but my regiment standing its ground and one of our guns opening fire on them, they soon left us.  Coming up soon after with the N. Y. 2d under command of the Lieut. Colonel (the Colonel being absent) who placed his regiment with my own under my command, but had gone but a short distance when seeing Gen. Schenck the commander of their Brigade I placed myself and regiment under his command for a short time.

Reaching Cub Run I vainly tried to rescue the Parrot gun which was mired [by the] side of the road.  Fording the stream the staff of our color State Color was shot in two, but our colors on that day were not dishonored, but were brought off the field.

We then came up to Col. Miles Brigade which were held as reserve, and most nobly did he do his duty.  His presence with his Brigade held in most admirable order revived the [drooping?] spirits of the tired and retreating soldiers who immediately took fresh courage.  And the enemies Cavalry which up to this time and had pressed most earnestly and severely on our troops concluded it was time for them to retire, which they did much to our satisfaction.  We then marched into our old Bivouac Grounds in Centreville in as good order as when we first reached them the day Thursday before. 

Consoling ourselves that we were the first Regiment in the field, of the Brigade, and the last (as far as I could see) of all out of it our loss being eight wounded and nine missing.  And allow me to say that the Troops could not have behaved better, faithfully obeying every order and were [easily?] handled, my adjutant being my assistant. 

Resting awhile at Centreville we were ordered back to camp at Falls Church which place we reached after daybreak the 22d.  Striking our tents according to orders we remained all day in a most drenching rain, which occasioned very much suffering among the men on account of the very fatiguing duties of the day before and the wanting of rest.  At dark marching down with the two other Conn. Regiments we took possession of the two Ohio camps (1st & 2d) where with the Conn. 3d we rested for the night.  Next morning we struck the tents and with all the Camp Equipage &c we sent to Alexandria, the Conn. 2d doing the same thing for the N.Y. 2d.  The Three Regiments then marched to Fort Corcoran arriving at about sundown, well worn out.

My men, through this severe trial, seemed to vie with each other to find the least complaint of their sufferings, excepting, of course, those who basely deserted their colors or refused to go into the field on that eventful day, those complaining the most that suffered the least.

I hope I may be excused if there is any discrepancy in the report as I have been suffering with a most painful attack of neuraligy and with which I now suffer with redoubled force owing to my recent exposure.

I have the honor to be your most obdt servant

Geo. S. Burnham

Col. 1st Regt Conn. Vol.

To Col. E. D. Keyes

Commanding First Brigade

(*) All but last two paragraph breaks not in original.  [ ] are edited into text.





Cool Find

20 08 2009

ArthurIn today’s snail-mail I received an after action report that is not in The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies or any other printed collection, as far as I know; and has not been used in any history of the battle, as far as I know.  I have to transcribe it, since what I received is a photocopy of the handwritten report.  First I’ll post a short article on how I came by this document (a couple of people to thank for that), then I’ll post the report to the Resources.  Readers are what make a project like this work, and I couldn’t do it without you guys.





#6a – [USA] Casualties, July 21, 1861 – Regimental

31 03 2009

O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME LI/1 [S# 107], pp. 17-19

6ap17vol51pt1

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#121 – [CSA] Casualties, July 21, 1861

30 03 2009

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, p 570

121p570

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#4a – Col. Thomas A. Davies

27 03 2009

Report of Col. Thomas A. Davies, Sixteenth New York Infantry, Commanding Second Brigade, Fifth Division, of Skirmish at Fairfax Court-House, July 17

O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME LI/1 [S# 107], pp. 19-20

HEADQUARTERS SECOND BRIGADE, FIFTH DIVISION,

July 17, 1861

Agreeably to General Orders, No. 9, the Second Brigade, commanded by me, consisting of the Sixteenth, Eighteenth, Thirty-first, and Thirty-second Regiments, and Company G, Second Artillery (Greene’s light battery), took the advance of the Fifth Division, moving on Fairfax Court-House by way of the old Braddock road south of the turnpike road. I found the road very difficult for heavy artillery and barricaded by trees felled across the road as often as once in a quarter of a mile, requiring the constant use of the pioneer corps. After passing very many of these barricades we came to a blind barricade directly across the road and evidently intended for artillery.  After making reconnaissance we found a small picket posted behind it, when my advanced pickets were ordered to charge and fire upon them, which they did, dispersing it under a running fire. No one on our side was injured, and we never turned aside to ascertain whether any of the enemy were killed or not; the pickets reported, however, seeing several men fall.  This running fire and reconnaissance was continued to within one mile of the Fairfax Court-House, the enemy continuing retreating and firing upon our advancing pickets at every convenient opportunity.  After the exchange of fires a reconnaissance was made, discovering many abandoned masked batteries, and at last quite an extensive temporary fortification about one mile and a half from Fairfax Court-House, out of which we drove the enemy, who left their camp equipage, clothing, swords, and the like. We then pressed on to the encampment of the Fifth Alabama Regiment, which fled before us, leaving many valuable articles, guns, camp equipage, tents, corn, stores, and their hospital sick, taking the road, as we understood, to Centerville and Manassas Junction.  At this point, having received information that General McDowell had taken possession of Fairfax Court-House, the Fifth Division encamped, partly on the ground of the Fifth Alabama and the balance in the vicinity of the cross-roads. I have to report to you that we had three men wounded–one in the leg, one in the side, and one through the hand. We did not stop to examine the effect of shots which we made, but it is reported to me that as many as fifteen to twenty were seen to fall in the woods. I have to report to you further the energetic manner in which Lieutenant-Colonel Young, of the Eighteenth Regiment, in charge of the advance guard, performed his duty, and further that not a single man of any regiment fell back for an instant, but, on the contrary, the most determined bravery was displayed by every man who came in contact with the enemy.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

THOS. A. DAVIES,

Colonel, Comdg. 2d Brig., 5th Div., Troops Northeastern Virginia

Colonel MILES,

Commanding Fifth Division





#79 – Lieut. C. W. Squires

24 03 2009

Report of Lieut. C. W. Squires, Washington Artillery, of Action at Blackburn’s Ford

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 467-469

CAMP LOUISIANA, August 1, 1861

SIR: I have the honor to make the following report:

Early on the morning of the 18th ultimo the three pieces of artillery under my command were ordered to march in the direction of Blackburn’s Ford with Col. Jubal A. Early’s brigade. On reaching McLean’s farm house we were joined by two more pieces of our battalion, under command of Lieut. J. B. Whittington and L. A. Adam. We were directed by the commanding officer (Colonel Early) to form one battery and act together. We were ordered to take position behind a piece of woods within a short distance of Bull Run, and place the command in such a position as would enable us to move in any direction. We had not been in this position ten minutes before the enemy began firing rifled shell and round shot at the hospital which was on our right, but did little or no execution. Soon after we heard the firing of our infantry, which was apparently returned by the enemy with musketry and cannon. We now received orders to take our battery to an open ground within a half mile of Blackburn’s Ford, where we were again halted, with instructions to follow behind the Seventh Louisiana Regiment with two rifled cannon, holding one rifled and two 6-pounders in reserve with Colonel Kemper’s volunteer regiment. The guns were detached under Lieutenant Richardson, assisted by Capt. B. F. Eshleman, of the Fourth Company, who had been with us during the morning. We were now joined by Lieut. J. J. Garnett with a section which was attached to General Longstreet’s brigade.

Hearing firing, and supposing it to be our rifled cannon under Lieutenant Richardson, I left the five pieces under command of Lieutenant Garnett, and rode in that direction to see if my battery of five pieces in the rear could be used, and get orders to bring them on the field. I found the guns in battery firing through a thick piece of woods, and appeared to have done good execution, as the enemy were now driven back and nothing could be seen of them. Lieutenant Garnett in the mean time received orders to join us, which he did. The guns were ordered to form in battery on the left, which order was promptly obeyed. Orders came to cease firing, as the enemy had retreated. We rested about fifteen minutes, when a courier came, stating that the enemy had rallied and the infantry were marching in column of companies to attack our battery on the right flank. We then received orders to find out their position and commence firing, which order was obeyed.

We at first directed our fire against the infantry, whose bayonets we could see over the tree tops, but had not fired five rounds before the enemy brought a battery in position on a high hill directly in front of us and opened their fire. I immediately gave orders to the gunners to fire a little below the point from whence the smoke of the enemy’s guns came. The firing now became general on both sides, the enemy firing at first over our heads, but gradually getting our range. We returned their fire, and were informed by General Longstreet that we were doing great execution. The enemy’s guns ceased firing for a few minutes, and it appeared that something had happened. Our battery in the mean time kept up rapid firing. The enemy soon opened again, their shells bursting in the very midst of our battery, wounding Capt. Eshleman, Privates H. L. Zebel, J. A. Tarleton, and G. W. Muse, of First Company, and Privates H. Tully and A. Baker, of Third Company; also Lieutenant Richardson’s horse, the lieutenant himself barely escaping with his life. G. W. Muse died of his wound during the night.

At this point Lieutenant Garnett brought orders from the general commanding to advance by hand to the front, which was no sooner executed than a shower of shell, spherical case, and round shot flew over our heads. One of our guns was disabled, the vent having been enlarged, which rendered it useless. Seeing that our men could not stand the work much longer I sent Lieutenant Garnett to General Longstreet, commanding him to state our condition. He brought an order to withdraw piece by piece from the left, leaving one piece to return the fire of the enemy, gun for gun. It was evident that the enemy was retiring, as his shots were few and long intervals between each discharge. At this juncture we were ordered to fire the last gun at the retreating foe.

To Lieutenants Richardson, Garnett, and Whittington I would call your especial attention, all having behaved well. To Sergeants E. Owen, J. M. Galbraith, and J. M. Brewer, and Corporals Ruggles, Payne, Fellows, and Ellis, and to all the cannoneers and drivers I am much indebted for coolness and obedience to all my orders. I would recommend most highly to your kind attention Sergeants Edward Owen and John M. Galbraith. They behaved gallantly through the whole engagements, reporting at every moment the different positions of their guns and every little item of interest connected therewith.

We fired three hundred and ten rounds during the engagement, had one horse killed and five wounded.

Very respectfully, major, your obedient servant,

C. W. SQUIRES,

First Lieutenant, Battalion Washington Artillery

Maj. J. B. WALTON,

Commanding Battalion Washington Artillery








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