Lt. Eugene P. Fuller, Co. K, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

8 02 2014

Army Correspondence

Extracts from a letter by Lieutenant Fuller, to his parents, giving an account of his experience at the battle of Bull’s Run, on the 21st instant.

Arlington, Va., July 26, 1861

My Dear Parents – You have, undoubtedly been expecting to hear from me before this, but I have been to unwell to write. I have been suffering from indisposition ever since we left our old camp for the interior, and the fatigues and exertions of the march, battle and retreat, added to this, have made me down sick; to-day I am much better, although very week. I am stopping at Mr. Jackson’s; they have treated me very kindly, and have done every thing in their power to make me comfortable.

Well, we have met the enemy, and however humiliating the fact may be, we are forced to acknowledge that we were worsted in the contest. You, of course, have long ere this read the different newspaper accounts of the fight. None of them were fully correct, many of them false in every particular. Please to hear what not only an “eye witness,” but also a participant has to say on the subject.

On Saturday evening orders were received to be ready to march at half past two the next morning. At that hour, the call sounded, and we were awakened from our half finished repose on the damp ground, to march to battle. We were soon on the move. It was a beautiful morning, and as the sun rose from behind the adjoining hills, its rays were reflected back from the thousands of glittering bayonets. I looked, and thought perhaps it might be the last sun rise I should ever witness, (alas, it proved to be the last to many in that moving multitude,) but I soon shook off all gloomy thoughts, and passed on. About six o’clock our brigade was filed to the left, and marched by divisions into a piece of woods; the artillery were stationed in an open field near by, and soon opened by sending a thirty pound ball up the road. This was not replied to. After a short interval, another shot was fired, but this like the first elicited no reply. – Our attention was not called to a large body of troops on a road about three-fourths of a mile to the right of us, we knew that it could not be Col. Hunter’s division, as it was moving in the wrong direction, and he, Hunter, had not had time to make the circuit. Our battery now opened fire upon them, sending shell and shot into their midst, and scattering them considerably. We soon heard a volley of musketry, and knew by this that they had not been met by Col. Hunter. Volley after volley was fired, and the battle became general – on the right, on the left, and in front, the deep thunder of the artillery and the sharp report of the musketry were heard in frightful rapidity. We were ordered forward; and at a double quick march, we rushed on to support the gallant Hunter; wading across Bulls Run, and climbing a steep bank, we found ourselves in close proximity to the enemy who were retreating; we opened fire upon them, and their falling bodies proved that our aim had not been in vain. They soon, however, gained the corner of the woods, and we were ordered to cease firing, and marched some three-fourths of a mile to a rise of ground, where we found a considerable portion of the “grand army” assembled; the battle for a time had ceased, and we were allowed a resting spell, during which General McDowell rode past the different columns, and was loudly cheered by the soldiers.

We were soon ordered forward again, and had marched about one-fourth of a mile, when a concealed battery opened upon us, the first shot taking effect upon two of Captain Nolte’s company – they stood but a few feet from me when they fell. On we pressed almost running; we were ordered to the left to support a battery which was being stationed on a slight elevation; we were here halted and ordered to lie down. The firing by this time had become terrific; the balls from rifled cannon passing over our heads in close proximity; several of our regiment were struck; Michael Toole, of our company was here wounded in the knee by a spent ball.

We were ordered to charge forward, and at a double quick pace, we moved towards the enemy’s lines, and soon came in range of their musketry; it was there that many of our brave men fell dead or wounded. The firing was incessant; we replying with visible effect. Approaching a large piece of woods, between which and us was a log house we halted, but still continued firing. Here some one cried out, cease firing; that we were shooting our friends. We stopped for a time; and during the interval a man came into our ranks, I asked him if he was a Union Man? He replied, “No, I mistook you for a Baltimore regiment.” I immediately took his sword and revolver, placed him under guard, and then firing was resumed. We evidently were getting the better of our opponents, when suddenly we observed the whole line of our forces to swing back like a gate, leaving our regiment unsupported. No order to retreat was given that I heard, and there was no occasion for it that I can learn. It was a stampeded started on the hill by a cowardly regiment, aided by the civilians and teamsters who were near. – There was nothing now left for us to do but retreat, or be surrounded by overwhelming numbers; so we marched back up the road to a place where they were attempting to rally our forces, but the attempt was a vain one. The reserve had taken the alarm and scattered like chaff. Fearing I should lose my prisoner, I took him under my own charge; he turned out to be Lieut. Dunalt of the twenty-seventh Virginia regiment, he belongs to General Johnston’s division, and had come by forced marches from Winchester to join Beauregard.

I walked slow to keep out of the jam., and had a good chance to view the field of battle. It was a terrible and sickening sight. Dead men and horses lay strewn in frightful profusion – here on poor fellow with his leg carried away by a cannon ball, was begging piteously for water – another prayed that I would take my sword and put an end to his misery, some were in the last agonies of death; others not so severely wounded were trying to escape dragging their mangled limbs after them. God forbid that I should ever be compelled to witness another scene like the one of Sunday last.

About a mile from the battle field a masked battery opened a terrific fire upon our retreating army – here they again scattered in all directions. I took a circuitous route along a stream, and just before sun down, found myself upon our camping ground of the night before. – Just below this was a remnant of our army drawn up in line of battle, I tried to join them but a volley of musketry opened upon us. (I forgot to mention that a few moments before I was joined by Ensign Gilbert,) we held a council of war, and concluded that our safety lay in staying where we were. So we lay down on the ground, the prisoner in the middle, and for all of me he could have escaped a hundred times; for I never slept more soundly in my life, and did not wake dill long after daylight, and probably would not then had it not been for the rain – The army had left during the night, and so we were obliged to start on alone – Just by the fence we passed a dead man, he had crawled all the way from the battle field, some six miles – to die. We reached Centreville about six and a half in the afternoon. Here a church had been converted into a hospital. I went in and beheld another awful sight, but I will not sicken you with a description. On we went, just below Centreville Gilbert left me being in something of a hurry to get back. I could not move faster on account of my prisoner, who was or pretended to be foot sore, and moved at a very slow pace. The road between Centreville and Fairfax, was strewn with wagons and provisions, amunition, horses, and all kinds of descriptions of property. I reached Alexandria safely about three in the afternoon, reported to General Runyan who complimented me highly, put under my charge two Georgians who had been taken, and sent me by steamer to Washington.

I could not get a bed for love nor money, all the hotels being full to overflowing. I put the Georgians in the station house, and happened luckily to meet Van Buskirk, he procured a bed for myself and prisoner at a private boarding house. In the morning I awoke sick all over, had the jumping toothache to boot. I had my tooth pulled, and took a buss for camp, arriving at Jackson’s, I found our camp had been moved. Most of our folks supposed me to be lost, and they gave me three hearty cheers upon my arrival. The men now say they will go anywhere with me, because I stood by them in the battle.

Raymond, Kelley, and Joslyn, of our company are among the missing. Raymond and Kelley I fear have been killed, Joslyn was last seen at a spring about a mile from the battle field. He may have been killed by the shot from the masked battery which opened upon our retreating forces, but I think if he did not go on toward home he got lost and was taken prisoner. Conners was shot in the arm; Thompson in the finger; Toole I have already mentioned. This sums up the disasters in our company, though from the regiment many are missing, twenty or twenty-five are supposed to be killed.

I must not forget to mention the bravery of JOHN RICHARDSON and CHARLES MORGAN of our company. When behind the battery, the artillery being nearly tired out, called for volunteers to carry cartridges; these two alone out of a whole regiment jumped up and worked for a long time carrying cartridges from the caissons to the guns right in the face of the galling and well directed fire from the enemy’s battery – providentially they escaped injury. Heber acted very bravely, ad did all the company with one or two exceptions.

I am so week and confused, I fear I have given but a poor description of the days proceedings – when I get stronger, I will try and be more particular.

Your affectionate son,

Eugene

Brockport [New York] Republic, 8/1/1861

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Eugene P. Fuller at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown, Co. K, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle

5 02 2014

Letter from the 2d Regiment

———-

The Late Battle.

———-

[A friend allows us to pint the following private letter, which was written by one who was in the battle at Manassas. Although have already given a good deal of space to this battle, this letter from one who participated will be read with interest by all.]

“At this late day, amid the thousand and one exciting things I have had to think of, I am wholly unable to tell whether I have written you since the great battle or not. Since we returned to Alexandria we have not had much to do, and indeed we are so tired and lame that we could not do much at the best. Such tired, hungry, worn out boys never were seen before as the troops were when they returned. You have probably had all the accounts of the battle ere this, ‘by our special correspondent,’ or by an eye-witness, and have got more real information undoubtedly than an actor in the strife could boast of.

I was on guard Saturday last (20th July) at our camp near Bull Run. At 2 A. M. of Sunday we started on our march. There were the same long lines of soldiers that I have spoken of, but this morning we took different roads. It was pleasant in the morning’s uncertain darkness, to watch the wide spread array of camp fires where hot coffee had been made for thousands of men in the various encampments. The joyous shouts of the men rang out upon the air, the hoarse commands of the officers would ring in, and the pattering of the horse’s feet, rear and front, right and left, made a scene of bustle and confusion that was calculated to excite and arouse one if anything would do it. Those long lines with gleaming arms, banners bright soon returned, tarnished, tattered and torn. We did not make much advance for some time, and the light began to grow more and more certain. At last dawn broke in the east. Officers and men were loud in the denunciations of a delay, but the cause soon became known: the battery in front could get no good position to open fire upon the first rebel battery at Bull Run, whose vicinity and effect had been tested the Thursday before. This stopped the whole line of infantry this side of Centreville, but at last the loud opening peals of cannon told that the scene of death and havoc had commenced, – the gauntlet had been thrown down and the fortunes of the world in one sense were staked upon the issue of the hour, – upon the burning of gun-powder and the clash of steel. We were not in the main divisions by which the fighting was to be done, but were to go around and attack them in the rear. Our brigade numbered five regiments: three from Maine, one from Vt., and Ellsworth’s Zouaves. We did not mix in the heat of the battle but took a round about road and all day the heavy roar of cannon sounded in our ears and we could see our brother soldiers in deadly strife. You may imagine the anxiety with which we listened to the roar of the guns. We could see that the enemy was falling back by the onward movement of the roar of battle, and occasional couriers would bring us good news from the field. The reports were favorable to our side, but the march was very hard; we ran five or six miles going out on the double quick and in the afternoon when we finally got into the field we were so exhausted that we were far from being what we otherwise should have been. About the middle of the afternoon we were rushed into the field. We passed directly by one of the batteries of the rebels that had been captured by our troops, and from there to the field, about a mile and a half, it was an indescribable scene. I never saw such a site before and if such a thing could be, I wish never to see anything of the kind again. We met many returning from the battle wounded and dripping with blood, asking pitifully for aid and for water. Ambulances were passing filled with those unable to walk and the dead, some mangled in a most shocking manner, but we turned neither to the right or the left, but on we marched; soon the balls began to whiz; we could not only hear the guns but see them, and see the effects also; we were in a dangerous place; we charged up to a battery and stood the whole fire of the artillery for a long time, but bravery was no charm against shot and shell; the tide had turned, and the most desperate sacrifices now could not stay the current. – The enemy had retreated all day, three of four large batteries were deserted by them, until we got down upon their strong-hold close upon Manassas and they brought out their whole force, fresh and fierce, to meet us few exhausted infantry. For a long time we were upon a side hill in plain view of the enemy and in good rifle shot. I cannot commend their sharp shooters, they might have picked off every man of us seemingly, but their cannon shot and shells mostly went over and the rifle balls did but poor execution compared with what they might have done; ’tis a miracle that so many of us came off safe. I was hit by a spent ball upon the arm but it did no serious injury; my arm was senseless for a while and was blackened and burned, that was all.

By this time the ammunition for our artillery had given out, and their horses were disabled, the cavalry were fearful of meeting the Black Horse regiment, their hosts appeared countless and the folly of sending a few exhausted infantry had about played out, it was also known that one other division had withdrawn, and we slowly left the field and obtained shelter from the iron hail behind a hill. The enemy then made a flank movement with cavalry and light artillery which we successfully evaded, and we withdrew to the road. I was standing near Col. Howard, commander of the brigade, when McDowell’s order came to retreat to Centreville. I shall never forget the painful expression that passed over his face. He is a fine officer, but has had no experience, yet no one could have done more than he did in his place; the battle was lost before we were in the field. They showered down the cannon shot and shell like hail; we stood it until further exposing ourselves seemed folly and were among the last to retreat.

The rout that some papers have told do much about, I do not know of; the retreat was precipitate, but many regiments marched back in pretty good order. Stragglers ran wild everywhere like sheep; out of our regiment I think on-half were so tired that they could not go on to the field, but they were the fastest to retreat. If it had not been so serious it would have been quite amusing.

Just imagine how it must look to see thousands of men who have never met before, and who have no particular animosity against each other as individuals, rushing into the death field and mangling and hacking each other until you could hardly tell whether the object before you was made in God’s image or not; but it is the principle of the thing we are fighting for. A battle is a hard thing by which to decide the abstract question of right and wrong. I’m not growing cowardly, but the more I reason the more I see the folly of war. But there are men enough, and if the rebels can afford to stand it, surely when we have such a heritage to fight for we should not shrink from the meeting, be it amid the roar and clash of battle or in diplomatic halls where equal justice is dispensed.

I had felt confident all day of the victory, because I supposed our head men knew that Manassas was the enemy’s strong-hold and that once taken the victory was almost done, and yet they rushed and hurried us on with nothing to eat, no cavalry, no artillery, and not one-tenth part enough to compete with their batteries. We had few men and nothing to support them when they gave out. – There has been some cool swearing among the troops since last Sunday. I hear McDowell has been placed in arrest for his gross mismanagement; there are dark whisperings about his loyalty; some say he has two sons in the southern army, but I doubt its truthfulness; one thing I know, with the unbounded resources of the North, it is a shame to suffer the reverse we have, we might just as well have had 10,000 men as 30,000; 10,000 cavalry instead of 300 or 400, and 200 cannon as well as the few guns we had. We had better been a month in battering down batteries and in making gradual approaches than to have lost the day. For my part, if my life would have turned the current of the battle, I would willingly have made the sacrifice. I trust you know me well enough to know that I never forsake my country in the hour of her adversity. I have no fears of the final result of this contest, but this has retarded the onward movement vastly. – Beauregard said himself that if Manassas had been taken, he could have done no more, ,the war would have been decided. I scarcely expect to live through; certain it is that my proud spirit can never stand another defeat – ’tis ‘victory or death.’ I had rather die than run again, and will do it.

McClellan takes command of this division soon and he is a man we can trust, and when we get organized again we will wipe out this stain. Our next battle will be a hard one and I shall not flinch from my post for friend or foe. I never came here to run.

I am disgusted with Virginia; the soil is nearly all red, the land level and covered for miles with low dwarf pines; there are some fine forests, but you may travel all day and not see a house, and the houses and villages are just the reverse of neat Vermont homes. Our defeat the other day was near the place where General Braddock suffered so severely in the early wars. If my memory serves me right, his attack was made on Sunday also; certainly he fell into the traps of the enemy much like McDowell. We are always in danger on Sunday – in truth those are the days they take for war purposes. Waterloo was fought that day and a hundred others I might mentions.

We know something of the little scenes exacted just around us in battle – the truth is no one sees a battle – we hear the roar and see the smoke and know when the death struggle is going on. The Generals get a little wider view, but they depend mostly on the reports of their aids and couriers. ‘Tis true no one sees except Him who sees all things. It must have been the direct agency of Providence to save so many of us from that fiery tempest that rained over us. As we came up among the whistling balls I took one long look at the sky and the smoking hills, then fixed my eyes on the enemy’s lines, looked at my gun and rushed in. I have no further recollection of any care for the world or personal safety. I never was cooler when firing at a target than I was aiming my old musket at the rebels. I may not have killed a man of them, but I pitched the some cold lead, I know that much. I lost all my baggage, except what I had in my pockets. Our wagon broke down and our baggage was abandoned by the teamster. In thinking of our defeat I have grated my teeth to the quick through very madness. Be the war one month or ten years, ‘I am in for it;’ have no fears for me, for I am well and in a fighting condition.

One of the ‘Tigers'”

The [St. Johnsbury, Vermont] Caledonian, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. Oliver S. Glenn, Co. A, 2nd Ohio Infantry (Regimental Band), On the Battle

30 01 2014

Our Army Correspondence

Letter from One of the Hillsboro Band.

National Hotel, Washington,

July 24th, 1861.

Mr. Boardman: – Dear Sir: When I wrote you last, we were on the eve of marching forth to battle. We did not march as soon as we expected. We left Camp Upton Tuesday evening at 3 o’clock, and marched to Fall’s Church, where we were joined by three Connecticut and one Maine regiment, under command of Gen. Tyler. The 1st and 2d Ohio and 2d New York regiments were under command of Gen. Schenck. We marched as far as Vienna without meeting any of the enemy, where we encamped for the night. The next morning the reveille was beat about 4 o’clock, and we got up and marched to Fairfax, about 4 miles distant. — Schenck’s brigade was in front to-day. They took the front each alternate day, the brigade that marched in front one day taking the rear the next. We had not proceeded very far before we found the road blocked up by trees that the enemy had felled across the road to obstruct our progress. The pioneer corps went forward and cleared the way. — About 9 o’clock we had come within a mile and a half of Fairfax, when the artillery in front fired a few shots, and we started up the hill on a double-quick. When we got to the top of it we could see their wagons leaving on a little faster time than double-quick, and could see a long line of bayonets glittering in the sun, following them at about the same speed. Our brigade formed in line of battle, and filed off to the left for the purpose of cutting off their retreat, but owing to the obstructions in the road they were a little too late, although there were some few prisoners taken.

When we arrived opposite Germantown we found a line of earthworks, about three hundred yards long, thrown up across the road. Our artillery fired a few shots into them; no enemy appearing, skirmishers were sent forward, and they reported it vacated. They had vamosed the ranche without firing a shot, and in such a hurry that they left their fires still burning and their meat cooking. Our boys now began to think that they were all a set of cowards, and never would fight, and that we would have Richmond in a few days; but in this they were sadly disappointed. — We encamped to-nigh about 5 miles from Centreville, which is situated on a singular-looking elevation, of considerable height, commanding a view of the valleys on each side for a distance of several miles, forming a natural fortification of great strength, on top of which the enemy had thrown up earthworks, but these too were deserted. — About 10 o’clock we heard a heavy cannonading going on in front, which gradually grew more rapid till about 2 in the evening, when intelligence was brought back that we had taken 69 pieces of artillery and 12,000 men. A great many of our men actually believed it, although there were only four regiments of our troops involved in it; but they had come to the conclusion that one Northerner was a match for five Southerners. Our men drew off with a loss of 30 killed and 25 wounded. — Gen. Tyler was very much censured for running his men in thus, as he had orders not to go further than Centreville that night. We encamped about a mile beyond Centreville, between that place and Bull’s Run, where we lay without further adventure, except that the Ohio boys talked of throwing down their arms and refusing to go into the fight, because they were being kept beyond their time; but Gen. Schenck made a speech to them Saturday evening, that aroused their patriotism. He is a better speaker than General.

On Sunday morning at 2 o’clock, we began the forward march, making as little noise as possible. A little after sunrise the skirmishers fired a few shots in front, and drove in the enemy’s pickets, when Carlisle’s battery was sent forward with a large 32-pound siege gun, to throw shells among them and draw the fire of their batteries, but in this they failed, for they did not return a shot. Soon the infantry on the right became engaged, and from that time till after four o’clock in the evening the firing was incessant. About 10 o’clock the 1st and 2d Ohio regiments were ordered to take a battery in front by flanking it. We filed to the left into a pine thicket so dense that a rabbit could scarcely go through it, through which there was a road cut of just sufficient width to admit four men abreast. The 2d regiment was in front. I had a musket, and was in the front company. Just as the first company and a part of the second had come out into the open field, which was a little meadow, about 150 yards across, a masked battery opened on us from behind a stone fence, which sent a shower of grape shot whistling about our heads, but we fell flat on our faces and they went over without doing any further injury that mortally scaring some of us. d scarcely got up till we saw the flash of their guns again, and a cloud of smoke, and down we come again. This we stood, without a man flinching, four times, and as we had neither Colonel nor General to lead us, some Captain, I believe it was, gave the order to retreat, which most of us did in good order, though some ran like Indians, and were not seen any more that day. At 2 o’clock the word spread through the ranks that the victory was ours, and the enemy were driven back at all points; but about this time Gen. Johnston reinforced them with a fresh body of 18,000 men – almost as many as we had in the field altogether, – and the battle began afresh with more fury than ever. A fierce cannonade and an incessant discharge of musketry began on the left and continued along the whole line. About three o’clock our artillery ammunition gave out, and then they played on our defenseless columns with great fury and precision. Each particular ball appeared as though it had been aimed at some particular object. Our brigade, being unprotected, withdrew from the open field into the woods.

About half-past three a causeless panic began among the citizens, of whom a great number came out from Washington to see the fight, which had a very injurious effect, for the panic spread like wild fire. About 4 they had outflanked us and came in on our rear, and their cavalry made a charge on our hospital, which was in our rear and totally unprotected, and cut off all who made their appearance on the outside of the house, and then came thundering down the road to where our brigade was drawn up in the woods, but as they came opposite to the left wing they poured in a destructive fire on them, and then turned and charged down the road in the other direction, on the broken columns of the retreating Fire Zouaves, who had done prodigies of valor that day. But they rallied, and almost annihilated the cavalry of the enemy, which was splendidly mounted.

A little after 4 it was announced that our brigade was surrounded and cut off, being in the rear, but we were determined to cut our way through. Col. McCook rode along the lines and said, “boys we have got into a trap, and now we will have to fight our way out.” — He was the only officer that the men appeared to have any confidence in. — We sent two field-pieces ahead to clear the way, but they had but a few pounds of cartridges, and were soon silenced, and left. The road was literally blocked up with broken wagons, gun carriages, ambulances, killed and wounded horses, and dead and dying men. Oh! it was a horrible sight! — A great many men threw away their guns, belts, cartridge-boxes, blankets, haversacks, canteens, and in fact everything that would impede their flight. The Ohio regiments were not broken but once, and that was in crossing a narrow bridge over Bull’s Run. Before they got across the enemy came up and opened fire on our rear, but as soon as we got over the hill a little we formed in line of battle, as there was a line of battle formed in our front advancing to meet us. We took them for enemies, and prepared to charge them, but they proved to be some who had rallied and were returning to our assistance. The enemy’s cannon kept thundering on our rear till we got under cover of some fresh batteries that had been brought up and placed on the heights at Centreville, and when they opened on them they drew off.

After we got to Centreville we stopped and slept an hour, and then were ordered to retreat. We marched the whole of that night. Gen. Schenck detailed the two Ohio regiments as the strongest, and marched us as a rear guard to protect the flying and broken army.

The road was crowded with fugitives all the night. But few regiments came in as regiments. Most of them were all broken up, and every man to shift for himself. If the enemy had have been in condition to take advantage of our defeat they might have turned it into a perfect slaughter. If they had sent a battery and one regiment around ahead of our men — demoralized and despirited as they were by their defeat, and crowded, packed and jammed together in the narrow roads, — they might have slain or taken them by the thousands.

The next morning a very cold rain began, and continued to pour down torrents all day. When we came to the river we found it guarded, and not a man was allowed to pass. So there we were forced to lay all day in a soaking rain, without a particle of shelter and no fire, after standing to our arms from 2 o’clock Sunday morning, in many instances without a morsel of food, for most of the men threw away their haversacks. The soldiers laid down in the mud and rain like beasts, for Nature could hold out no longer.

About dark the Ohio regiments got leave to go over the river into the city and get comfortable quarters, and I suppose they slept soundly that night, if they were not disturbed by dreams of bombshells bursting over their heads, as I was.

Yours Truly,

O. S. Glenn.

The [Hillsborough] Highland [County, Ohio] Weekly News, 8/8/1861

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Oliver S. Glenn at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Lt. James P. Drouillard, Aide to Maj. George Sykes, U. S. Regular Battalion, On the Battle

9 01 2014

LETTER FROM LIEUT. J. P. DROUILLARD.

A letter from Lieut. Jas. P. Drouillard, who was in the battle at Manassas:

Camp Turnhill, Va.,

July 28th, 1861.

Dear Father: I am again back to our old camp, opposite to Washington, on the Potomac. The grand army, as you have doubtless heard ere this, was beaten by the enemy before Manassas, and completely routed. I cannot describe to you the scenes and events of our march to and from the battle-field. I was with a battallion of Regulars, numbering about 600 fighting men, under command of Maj. Sykes a Marylander by birth, but a true and loyal soldier. Four of my classmates were with me, and four of the class which graduated just before us—also two captains who were my instructors at West Point for three years. Our little battallion was on the field seven hours, and is the only one that never left the field after entering it, until the final retreat.

We won the victory at first, but while the rebels were falling back we saw in the distance immense volumes of dust raising, and knew they were reinforcements. Johnson’s column came upon us just in time to turn the wavering scale. Our volunteers fought well at first, and wherever they met the enemy on equal grounds, they repulsed them. By some means a panic was created among our troops—whole regiments threw down their arms, and ran for their lives. When defeat became inevitable, Gen. McDowell said the safety of the army depended on the Regulars, and ordered Maj. Sykes, our commander, to cover the retreat of the volunteers. Our little band was surrounded at one time by their cavalry, artillery and infantry, but we fought our way out, and while interposed between the retreating volunteers and the pursuing enemy, we were subjected to the most terrific fire. Maj. Sykes was all through the Mexican war, and says he never saw anything like it. Two of our officers were taken prisoners; they fell wounded, and our retreat was so rapid we had to leave them. I will not attempt to picture to you the battle-field, your imagination will suggest to you what a horrible sight it is to see over one hundred thousand men, on a single plain, engaged in deadly encounter. I never expected to get off the field. I expected to fall every moment—men were falling all about me—legs and arms, flying in every direction—the groans of the dying, and screams of the wounded are still in my ears.

You can form no conception of the rout of a large army. We marched forty-seven miles that day, without food and without water and rest. We were so sure of success, that all our cooked rations, blankets, &c(etc)., were left in the enemy’s rear, the point from which our column attacked. Twenty-five or thirty pieces of artillery, a large number of muskets, blankets, knapsacks, &c(etc)., fell into the hands of the enemy, besides many army wagons filled with munitions. The rebels are now hovering over Washington, and an attack is hourly expected. They had better not be to emboldened by their sucess. I think they lost two to one in killed and wounded. Gen. McClellan is here to supersede McDowell.

I would like to come home and see you all before we make another advance, because being with the Regulars, who never run, I do not expect to ever return from another campaign.

I hope you will get the trunk I sent you. My diploma and other valuables are in it; should I fall, my army trunk, containing many valuables, is stored at ____in Washington. My effects would be taken charge of by the War Department, but in case of difficulty, you will know where to apply. I will do my duty, and if the fortunes of war result adversely to me, I will leave a good record.

Your affectionate Son,

J. P. DROUILLARD,

Lieut. U. S. A.

Gallipolis (OH) Journal, 8/8/1861

Transcription courtesy this site.

James Pierre Drouillard bio

Thanks to reader Dave Powell





Dr. Luther V. Bell, Surgeon, 11th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Battle

7 01 2014

At Our Former Camp, Near Alexandria,

Wednesday, July 24, 1861.

[To Dr. William J. Dale]

My Dear Doctor, — Knowing that you would feel an interest in my movements and fate during the past eventful week, I seize the earliest moment, after our regaining this place of safety, after the most terrible defeat of modem times, to give you a brief and crude narration of what concerns me personally; aware that you must already know vastly more of the general events than I have the means of doing. I will begin with last Tuesday week. After resting a day or two at this beautiful spot, whence I wrote you at a late hour before we left, the order came for us to march at two o’clock, P.M.

With four or five regiments more, we set out in fine spirits for unknown regions, as not a whisper ever passes from those at the head as to the route or destination. Soon the column began to move at a snail’s pace; and, after many hours, in this way we reached Aquatink Creek, where the bridges were burned, and the whole division had to pass over a single plank, which explained the strange delay. The creek was at the bottom of the deepest ravine, and then the hill on the other side was to be surmounted over the most horrible obstructions. At half-past three, a.m., we lay on the ground for an hour. Recommencing, we dragged along all day, under a burning sun, and through paths cut in the forest, so as to avoid the trees cut down and masked batteries. At night, we bivouacked near what is called Sangster’s Station. That afternoon, we again marched forward to Centreville. On entering this at nine or ten, p.m., the light of a thousand camp-fires shed their glow over a vast ravine, in which it was plain that the great division of the army was encamped, — forty or fifty thousand men, with batteries of artillery, baggage-wagons, &c. Here we bivouacked two nights. Dr. Josiah Curtis joined our camp here, and Mr. Henry Wilson was with us a night. At two o’clock, Sunday morning, the order to march was obeyed; and, as the mighty mass moved forward, it was manifest that the hour for the great action was near. At nine or ten, we saw, away at the south-west, clouds of smoke and dust, with plain sounds of cannon, and volleys of musketry. We hurried on, and about noon turned down into a field, where there was a creek, to rest and drink. In about two minutes, the order came to form into line, and push forward, as we were wanted. At half-past one, we were at the verge of the battle-field. As I passed, I noted a pretty large, rough-stone church, — large for Virginia, — which I decided would be one of the depots for the wounded. Curtis and I went up to the field, and there were abundant proofs of the awful work going on, — hundreds of dead men, horses dead and half killed, wounded men, in all directions. I notified all the officers of the regiment where their wounded should be carried; tried to aid some wounded, for whom I had carried my pocket full of tourniquets ; but found that there was no hemorrhage. The ambulances then came up, and were heaped with wounded: no attempt could be made to separate regiments, or even friends and enemies. Getting back to the church, I found work enough; for, in an hour, the entire floor and gallery (pews torn up) were covered with wounded to the number of seventy-five or eighty. The wounds were awfully ghastly; being made much with shell, Minie-balls, and rifled canon. We turned to with all our might (i.e., Dr. Foye, my- self, and Dr. Curtis, — to whose noble, fearless, volunteer devotion, too much honor cannot be given), and, until late in the afternoon, cut right hand and left hand. There were three or four other surgeons at the church; and I recollect seeing Dr. Magruder, U.S.A., who was said to have some directing power; although we all did as we saw fit.

About six o’clock, we were informed that the mighty stampede of our panic-stricken columns, flying for life, approached its end. Curtis coolly asked me if I meant to risk assassination or capture. I replied, ” that in no civilized country could a surgeon be injured with his badge in sight, his hospital-flag set, and about his duty of mercy. This is our post of duty: let us stand by it.” Curtis and Foye both replied, ” Doctor, we shall do just as you do.” “We went to work again in full activity, though I was almost exhausted with fatigue. No water could be had: our dressings, chloroform, &c., were exhausted. A half-hour after, Curtis said, “Doctor, if you should decide to change your design, you have but a moment to do it in. The enemy are just upon us. In hot blood, it is not likely they will spare us.” I had a young man from New Hampshire on the board laid over the chancel-rail, just having applied a tourniquet ; and was about making my first incision to amputate the leg. I thought an hour in a moment. I felt I had no right to sacrifice men who thus relied upon me. I said, “Let us go ! ” seized my coat and sash, and we rushed out. I had my valuable horse and equipments at hand; but there was no time to save them. I lost all, — sword and belt, every surgical instrument, and some family tokens which I valued much, such as my son Samuel’s (you recollect the boy) shawl and my brother James’s revolver.

We rushed through a creek, and took to the woods, making a few units of that vast, dilapidated, panic-stricken mass, crowding the road for five or eight miles, every now and then alarmed by the out-cry that the enemy was after us, when we would all rush out one side into the woods. A kindly cook, to whom I had shown some trifling kindness, and who had seized a horse, discovered me, and insisted on my riding, while he went on foot by my side, hurrying up my horse. After a while, we saw a Charlestown lieutenant (Sweet) much exhausted and sick, and got him up behind me.

After riding so (and all the horses carried double ; a great many of them had been cut away from the cannons) for some six or eight miles, we approached a narrow, high bridge, over “Cub Run.” In an instant, the bridge was a mass of artillery, wagons, cavalry, infantry, and ambulances, crushed together. The water-way at the side was equally jammed. At this instant, the incarnate fiends fired repeated charges of their rifled canon (doubtless planted by day-light for that range) into the mass, killing many. I was a few rods from the bridge; but, on hearing the awful sounds of those missiles, I drove straight into the woods, then forward, hoping to cross the creek below. A second discharge struck the trees as if lightning had crushed them. I told Sweet we must abandon the horse. He thought so too, and slipped off, and made for the creek. At this moment, my faithful cook cried to me not to leave the horse; for that the only crossing-place possible was at the bridge. He rushed back, seized the animal, forced him over a stone wall and into the water. Here the animal insisted on stopping to drink. Cook laid over him a naked sword, which he had picked up ; and one of our regiment urged him ahead with a bayonet. Just at this moment, a young negro was forced up into the deep water next the bridge, and was drowning ; when cook seized him, and pitched him up upon the bank. Cook then compelled my horse to rise the almost perpendicular bank ; and on we went. At the top of the hill, by a strange Providence, we again encountered Sweet, and took him on. In this way we reached Centreville, whence we had set out in such brilliant array. My cook asked me if I could ride to Washington that night. I replied, that I could do so better than the next day. We started on, I riding and he walking, Sweet left behind, until we reached Fairfax Court House. Here I spied a wretched old lager-beer wagon bound to Arlington. I deputed cook (who said he could ride the horse, beat out as he seemed to me) to hire a ride at any price, as I happened to have some money left. He agreed for ten dollars; and about eight, a.m., I reached the fortification at “Columbian Springs,” opposite Washington. Here I was compelled to stay the livelong day, useless, in the rain and mud, because I could not get a pass into the city. Towards night, I persuaded the colonel in command to give me one, and reached Willard’s. Here I found my servant Prentiss, whom I had directed, by a sergeant flying to our old camps here, to bring up my baggage. I was soon dressed in clean and dry clothes, and soon encountered an old Charles- town friend (Captain Taylor, U.S.A.) there on ordnance duty. He took me to his boarding-house; and I think I must have amazed him by the way I ate, for I had seen nothing but wretched hard bread and poor coffee since we left this place. He then gave me a beautiful bed ; and, having had six nights with nothing but earth and sky below and above me, I enjoyed it. Next morning, had a splendid breakfast, and bore away for Mr. William Appleton. Found him quite ill, but glad to see me, as it had been currently reported that I was among the slain. I told him some of my story, and said I wanted money. I had started with enough: but our staff and officers are very poor, as a general thing; and, having received no pay as yet, I was obliged to share with them. Of course, he put me at my ease cheerfully, and I left him happy. Got a ten-dollar gold-piece changed into quarters ; and, before I got to the Surgeon-General’s office to report the loss of all instruments, I met enough of our un-breakfasted stragglers to use it up. The next day (i.e., yesterday), we came back here in the baggage-wagons, and are again comfortably fixed in the old Virginia mansion of which I wrote you in a former letter. To-day, our pioneers have been cutting down the large trees of the pleasure-grounds, to allow a sweep for the big guns of Fort Ellsworth. Last night, we had an alarm that the enemy was upon us. I, with some half-dozen regiments encamped round about, turned out to arms. It was, of course, a false alarm. . . . Thus, doctor, I have given my share in those awful scenes. How much of life has been compressed in less than a month! I have seen more gun-shot wounds, performed more operations, and had a harder experience, I fancy, than most army surgeons in a lifetime.

I have enjoyed, from first to last, excellent health and spirits. I never, even when those cursed missiles were sent into my rear, felt one sentiment of regret at the step I had taken, or the slightest thought of receding. . . .

George Edward Ellis, Memoir of Luther V. Bell. pp. 57-61.

Luther V. Bell Wikipedia

Transcription courtesy of John Hennessy





Pvt. Richard W. Simpson, Co. A, 3rd South Carolina Volunteers, On the Battle and Aftermath

5 09 2013

Vienna, Va

July 27, 1861

Dear Sister Anna

For vanity sake I will direct this letter to you, and besides I don’t believe I have written to you in some time.

Buddie [Taliaferro N. Simpson - BR] wrote to you about the great battle of Bull’s Run, and what he told you I can’t tell. Sunday morning early we heard the booming of cannon, but none were fired at us. During the fight we occupied the central position.  This was the mode of attack. Two divisions of 5,000 each were sent against our right and left wings to drive them back and decoy our forces from the central position. As soon as this was done, 30,000 were waiting a mile and half distant to rush right through, divide our forces, and cut us to pieces. But they found our left so hard to handle that they had to send reinforcements to them. We did the same. They had to send more until their whole central force came against our left, and there the great battle was fought. We didn’t get to fire a shot, but they fired at us with  their batteries from morning till night, never hurting a person. Shells and balls flew thick and fast all about us.

About five (5) in the evening one of Bonham’s aides came charging up hollering out, they fly, they fly, onward to the pursuit. Immediately we left at double quick, and coming up to their reserve camp, we formed in battle array. We then went on some distance further until they began to throw shells at our advance guard. Then night coming on we drew up until we could collect the spoils which they had left in their hasty retreat and then returned to camp.

The next morning our regt and Bacon’s were sent out to collect spoils. We went as far as Centreville. Such a sight you never saw or heard of. The road was strewn with blankets, oil cloths, canteens, haversacks, and knapsacks, and at their camp at Centreville was presented a scene of the wildest confusion. Officers left their trunks and mess chests filled with things of silver. Any quantity of wagons and horses were taken. In one lot I saw 50 as fine horses as I ever saw, every one with harness of the finest kind on them. We loaded all our wagons with their provisions such as pork, beans, and crackers. One of their prisoners told me that they had lost all they had. We took every piece of cannon they had but one – I saw this in one of their own papers – 25 of them were rifle cannon and one a 64 pound rifle cannon, also about 25,000 stand of arms, and prisoners there is no end to them. We took a good many of them. I went into the hospital at Centreville and saw 17 wounded Yankees in one place. Such another sight I never want to see again.

I will give you and idea of what we have undergone for the last few days. Sunday evening we double-quicked ourselves completely down. Next morning started in the rain to Centreville; it rained all day. In the night we then had to march back four miles through mud worse than that you have seen about Pendleton. We also waded a creek. With our wet clothes we laid down in the rain and, completely exhausted, slept all night. I had nothing but an oil cloth. Next morning we started without warning and marched again to Centreville. We staid there until about eleven o’clock at night and started with a few pieces of crackers for two days provisions and marched a forced march to Vienna a distance of about 14 miles. We didn’t get there until about an hour by sun next morning. When we got here there wasn’t half our company in ranks, all having dropped out, unable to go any further. Our feet were so badly blistered that we could scarcely put them to the ground.

Where we are to go next we are unable to tell. McDowell has resigned. McClellan will take command. The north is clamorous for a new cabinet. There are no Yankees this side of the Potomac. You must show our letters to Aunt Caroline for I have no paper.

Give my love to all and believe me as ever

Your affectionate br

Dick

Everson & Simpson, eds., “Far, far from home”: The Wartime Letters of Dick and Tally Simpson, 3rd South Carolina Volunteers, pp 36-38

Richard W. Simpson at Ancestry.com





Cpl. Taliaferro N. Simpson, Co. A, 3rd South Carolina Volunteers, On the Battle

4 09 2013

Bull’s Run

July 23, 1861

Dear Pa

I write in great haste to ease your mind with reference to Brother [Richard Simpson - BR] and myself besides all of our friends – none killed. The 3d was not in the engagement. Only cannon shot and shell were thrown at us in our intrenchments, but no one hurt. The battle of Bull’s Run and the victory of the southern troops is the most celebrated that is recorded in the annals of American history. On account of an order from the Col to prepare to march I cannot go into detail, but give an outline of the fight as I heard it.

First we made a glorious retreat from Fairfax, the most glorious made in America, and took our stand at Bull’s Run where we were reinforced to the number of forty or fifty thousand. The enemy came upon us with  45,000 & with a reserve of 50 or 60,000, amounting in all to 110,000. They began the engagement by throwing shell and shot upon our center, the position the 3d with several others held, and with a very large force made an attack upon our right flank, but were beautifully thrashed. This was on Thursday, the 18th. Friday and Saturday they reinforced, and Sunday morning at 25 minutes past 11 o’clock they began throwing shot on our center to keep our strong forces in their position thereby deceiving us, and with a force of 45,000 made a tremendous attack upon our left wing. The fight was terrible, but southern valor never waned, and with only 20 or 25,000 defeated them completely. South Carolina, as ever, has cast around her name a halo of glory never to be diminished. Sloan’s, Kershaw’s, and Cash’s regiments were engaged. Sloan’s for an hour and a half fought against five thousand and at one time was entirely surrounded, but reinforcements came in time to prevent the last one from being cut off. The gallant Col acted with great coolness and courage. The fight on Thursday we lost 12 men, 30 wounded; the enemy 150 killed and many wounded. The battle on Sunday we had 500 killed and wounded, while the enemy lost between 2 and 5,000 killed with over 2,500 prisoners. They fled before us like sheep. Their officers confess it to be a total rout on their part.

Our regiment was called upon to pursue them but didn’t overtake them. They have cleared out for Washington. The citizens in the county say that many of their soldiers and officers have declared that they have fought their last time this side of the Potomac. You will see a complete description of the fight in the papers, and I expect more correct than what I can write since theirs is from headquarters and mine from camp reports. Gus Sitton wounded in the arm. Whit Kilpatrick in the hand. Sam Wilkes was killed. Gen. B. E. Bee shot through the body – not expected to live. Col. Johnson of Hampton’s Legion killed. Hampton slightly wounded. Uncle Davy, Gus Broyles, and Sam Taylor were in the thickest of the fight but came through unhurt. The report is that McClellan was killed, and Patterson taken prisoner. How true I cannot tell.

I since hear that Jim Sloan and Wilton Earl are mortally wounded – and that Sloan lost 20 killed besides the wounded. I heard the names of several, but recognized none but one, Bellotte.

We took Sherman’s battery in full. In all we have taken some 60 or 70 cannon. The plunder left by the enemy and taken by the rebels cannot be described – tremendous, tremendous, tremendous. Wagons, horses in abundance, in addition to mountains of other things. One prisoner said they had left every thing they had. Gen McDowal was seriously injured. The citizens say that Scott with many leading congressmen and a crowd of ladies was at Centreville enjoying themselves finely and ready to follow the army on and have a ball at Richmond tonight. But when they heard of their defeat, they all left pell mell.

We march today to Centreville. What will be in the future policy of our Government I cannot of course say, but it will take them – the enemy – months to equip another army. No more fighting for some time unless we march upon them. The time for 80,000 of the northern troops will soon be out, and a prisoner said he had no idea that one third of them would return.

Give my love to all. If you can find anyone to send me a negro boy do so quickly. I need one badly. I have lost nearly all my clothes. Do send me one. There is no danger – and no expense. I will look for one – Mose or anyone. Farewell. Believe me as ever

Your affectionate son

T. N. Simpson

You see, I write on paper taken from the enemy.

Everson & Simpson, eds., “Far, far from home”: The Wartime Letters of Dick and Tally Simpson, 3rd South Carolina Volunteers, pp 32-36

Tally N. Simpson at Ancestry.com








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