Hains Related Questions Answered?

24 06 2013
Hains Gun

Illustration from 1911 Cosmopolitan article

As I’ve no doubt mentioned before, I’ve been s-l-o-w-l-y annotating a 1911 Cosmopolitan article written by Peter Conover Hains, The First Gun at Bull Run. Fresh out of West Point, at First Bull Run Lieutenant Hains was in command of a 30-pdr Parrott rifle, detached from Company G of the 1st U. S. Artillery. The gun, generally referred to as Long Tom, was chosen to fire the opening shot of the battle of July 21st, and did so right around 6 A. M. (accounts of the precise time vary.) While just about every study of the battle written after 1911 relies to varying degrees on Hains’s memoir, there’s a lot wrong with it; some things just don’t jive with the facts. So I’ve decided to not take anything Hains writes in this piece at face value. Including this:

I was assigned to train a gun-crew over at what is now known as Fort Meyer, Virginia, just across the river from Washington.  It was a great gun – a thirty-pounder Parrott rifle,  drawn by ten horses as green as could be, horses from the farm that had not been trained even to pull together.  There were five riders or drivers, one man to each pair, and six men rode the caisson and limber as cannoneers.  Two wagons followed, carrying the ammunition.   Some two hundred men were attached to the gun to escort it, to help it along, and to render whatever aid I needed.  In all two hundred and fifty men filed out with the gun in July when I received orders to report to General Tyler  at Alexandria, Virginia.

Two hundred men attached as escort? Why so darn many? Well, it’s not as odd as it may sound, all things considered:

We sallied forth.  The roads promised much, and at first the gun behaved very well indeed.  But we soon came to a hill.  The ten horses threw themselves into their collars.  The gun started up a bit, then the pace slowed, paused, and – then the giant gun began slowly to drift backward down the grade.  We quickly blocked the wheels , and there were no brakes.  I rode up and down the line, cheering on the men.  The drivers yelled, and lashed their horses; the ten animals strained and tugged – but the gun remained motionless.

“Get out the prolonges ,” I ordered, and these lines, of about three-inch rope and knotted together to about a hundred feet in length, were quickly hooked to the axle of the gun. Two hundred men instantly trailed onto them.  With wild yells and cheers they started that gun forward, the ten horses and two hundred men soon dragging it upward to the crest.  It was great.  And most of us were very young indeed.

That makes sense. But, who were these 200 men (though I can’t figure out how you get 200 men to pull on a 100 foot rope)? It’s likely they were infantry. So, from what regiments were they detached? I’ve been keeping an eye out in letters for some mention of the detachment here and there of small groups, or even one or two large ones. But I did stumble across one reference, in Alan Gaff’s history of the 2nd Wisconsin at First Bull Run, If This is War pp. 186-187:

Captain Ayres’ battery unlimbered well in front of Captain Stevens’ Company A behind a screen of bushes and trees, while the thirty-pound Parrott rifled cannon, manned by a detachment under Lieutenant Peter C. Hains, was positioned right in the road. The Parrott gun had proved to be almost impossible to manage, requiring large detachments of horses and men to manhandle it over the hills and valleys. While the Wisconsin regiment occupied the position in support of the artillery, Lieutenant Tom Bishop and thirty men from Company I were detailed to assist Hains and did not serve with the main body during the remainder of the day.

Image of 30-pdr blatantly stolen from http://markerhunter.wordpress.com/

Image of 30-pdr blatantly stolen from http://markerhunter.wordpress.com/

Gaff cites the Daily Wisconsin 8/21/1861; Milwaukee Sentinel 7/30/1861; Wisconsin State Journal 7/30/1861; Mineral Point Tribune, 8/6/1861; a letter in a manuscript collection; and Tyler’s report (which doesn’t mention the detachment) for the above. I’ll try to find the two newspaper letters, maybe in the Quiner Collection. But it would appear that detachments of infantry were assigned to assist Hains at various points. But in the case of the 2nd WI, it was as support.

Also in If This is War I found a reference to another nickname for the 30-pdr Parrott, The Baby-Waker. I first heard the term during a tour years ago, but haven’t run across any other use except for this in Gaff, p. 187:

“At precisely 6 o’clock” Lieutenant Hains ordered his gunners to fire the monster Parrott rifle, dubbed “President Lincoln’s Baby-waker” by the Badgers.

The sources for the above paragraph are the Wisconsin State Journal of July 30, 1861 and the Milwaukee Sentinel of the same date, and a letter in a manuscript collection. More work to do!

UPDATE: Reader Jonathan Soffe, who hosts a great site on First Bull Run, contributes the following:

Two companies of the 11th Massachusetts Infantry, under the command of Captain J H Davis, Company B, were assigned to escort Hains on the march to Centreville on 16 July, 1861.

[This is from] A Narrative of the Formation and Services of the Eleventh Massachusetts Volunteers, from 15 April, 1861, to 14 July, 1865, by Gustavus B Hutchinson [p. 22]

“When the regiment arrived at the road leading to Fairfax, Companies A and G were left, under the command of Capt. Davis, to escort a detachment having in charge a thirty-pound Parrott gun, which, on account of the bad road, they were unable to bring up until the next morning.”

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.

Bull Run Sesqui on the Web

25 07 2011

Over the past week or so I’ve been sharing on Facebook and retweeting on Twitter various articles, images, and videos relating to the Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) that have swamped the web as the 150th anniversary of the battle approached and was commemorated. There were a bunch of them. Here are links to a few of the more significant items (I’ll add to this any that pop up afterwards, too). There are some worthy of posting to the resources section, and as I check them out and get any necessary permissions I will do so. Get comfortable, this will take a while. If I missed anything big, let me know!

Update 8/3/2011: I noticed I had fouled up a few of these links. I think they’re fixed now, so check them out again if you couldn’t get through.

Good Battle Stuff



Sesqui Events


Virtual Tour of Cannons at Bull Run

20 07 2011

Craig Swain has this very cool bit giving a virtual tour of the critical gun positions at Bull Run. Check it out!

Letter From the Fire Zouaves

20 07 2011

Here are two accounts from a member of the 11th New York Infantry, Lieutenant Edward Burgin Knox (that’s him on the left in the image on the left, when he was with the 44th NY, Ellsworth’s Avengers). Both are provided by Ron Coddington, the first in a New York Times Opinionator piece, and the second on Ron’s blog, Faces of War. Knox’s writing appeared in the Wisconsin Patriot on August 3, 1861. Ron generously provided the photo here and also has sent me a transcription of Knox’s account, which I’ll post to the Resources section soon.

MOC Bull Run Artifacts Video

17 07 2011

Hat tip to Kevin Levin for bringing to my attention this video of artifacts from the battle in the collection of the Museum of the Confederacy.

Blue & Gray Magazine Vol. XXVII, #5

26 04 2011

For twenty-seven years, Blue & Gray magazine has been putting out about six issues every year, each issue focusing on a battlefield in minute detail. Do the math: that’s about 160 issues, right? Subtracting the 130 issues that have featured Gettysburg, that still leaves about 30 opportunities to cover First Bull Run. Amazingly, the current issue is the first to highlight our favorite little skirmish.

Well, better late than never.

The magazine and Manassas National Battlefield Park ranger Henry Elliot have produced a fine work with an overview of the campaign, detail of the battle, solid tour guide, and wonderful maps of First Bull Run. Hurrah for this issue! There are twenty maps and a full Order of Battle. Footnotes. Illustrations. The works!

Buy this one today.

(Quibble: I disagree with Mr. Elliot’s assertion on page 8 that “McDowell needed to preserve his numerical advantage over Beauregard.” I’ve said it many times before and am comfortable with the fact that I sit way out here by myself in my position: McDowell never thought he would have a numerical superiority – he never thought he would maintain or gain one at any point in his planning, and therefore his plan did not depend on numerical superiority. For my most recent post on this, see here.)


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