Jonathan Soffe has this interesting item, raising the question: What if McDowell had an observation balloon at Bull Run?
Jonathan Soffe has this interesting item, raising the question: What if McDowell had an observation balloon at Bull Run?
Hat tip to Warfare in the Age of Steam.
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
Stuart Salling has posted these letters from a member of Wheat’s Battalion written before and just after the battle.
Stuart has given me the go-ahead to post these letters to the Bull Run Resources section, which I’ll be doing soon. In the meantime, check them out on the Louisiana in the Civil War site.
Stuart Salling hosts the blog Louisiana in the Civil War, and also wrote the recently published Louisianians in the Western Confederacy – the Adams-Gibson Brigade in the Civil War. A contributor to his site posted this article, about the Battalion from formation through First Bull Run. Check it out.
U. S. Marine Barracks
Washington, D. C.
July 14, 1861
Your letter came to hand yesterday. I was very happy to hear from you at this time in particular. Last night, after I passed down the line to receive the reports of the companies, I was met by Capt. Jones, who said to me, “Mr. Hitchcock, prepare to take the field on Monday morning.” So tomorrow morning will see me and five other Lieuts. with 300 Marines, raw recruits in every sense of the term, on our way to Fairfax Court House to take part in a bloody battle which is to take place, it is thought, about Wednesday. This is unexpected to us, and the Marines are not fit to go into the field, for every man of them is raw as you please, not more than a hundred of them have been here over three weeks. We have no camp equipage of any kind, not even tents, and after all this, we are expected to take the brunt of battle. We are to be commanded by Major Reynolds, I suppose. We shall do as well as we can under the circumstances: just think of it, 300 raw men in the field! We shall drill all day and work hard. I have been very busy all day thus far but have taken a little time to write you. I have left my things with Lieut. Wm. H. Parker, and my watch also. He has my address and will take good care of my clothes, watch, etc. By writing to him you can find out about my matters. In case anything happens to me, he will send my things to you, and you can do as you like with them. Lieuts. Baker, Burrough and Parker will be left here at the Barracks, and any of them would be pleased to ive you information in regard to me or my matters. I hope the God of Battles will give me strength and wisdom to act wisely, and do my duty well. I am not prepared to die, but I am prepared to serve my country, and stand by the Stars and Stripes till the last. I am well and in good spirits. May God bless you all, is the wish of your
P. S. My love to all, and best regards to all my friends. I am just informed that we leave tomorrow evening.
Camp near Centreville, Virginia
Head Quarters Battalion Marines
Col. Porter’s Brigade,
July 20th , 1861
We have been in the field nearly a week now and have not had an engagement yet. The enemy has fled before us as we approached their different positions. We expected to have a fight at Fairfax Court House but as we approached their works they fled leaving a great quantity of flour, Ham, Pork, spears, shovels, etc. The works at Fairfax were good and they could have held us in check for a while, but would have been routed after a while by a flank movement. The Confederates made a stand at Bull Run which is between our camp and Centreville an about two miles from us.
A fight took place at Centreville day before yesterday, the result of which we cannot get at, there are so many different reports. We have been at this encampment about 36 hours waiting for Patterson’s and McClellan’s to come up with their columns in order to make a combined attack upon Manassas Junction where the rebels are collected in great force. We shall bring a force of nearly 129,000 men against them: how the battle will terminate I know not. At Centreville the forces engaged were the N.Y. 69th and 12th Regts. The 12th did not stand fire well after a little and went in. They were in a tight spot. They were in an angle in the road which was covered by a masqued battery that opened upon them rather unexpectedly. The killed and wounded amt. to 29, six I think were killed. I do not know when we shall advance, we may take up the line of march today, and may not leave here for a number of days. We are without tents or anything of the kind, still we manage to live very well. I am well. This is rather a rough life after all, in the field as we are without the usual convenience of camp. The 23rd Regulars are next to us commanded by Maj. Stiaso, I think. Just now as I write, four men of the Regt. are receiving 50 lashes for desertion; rather hard I tell you. I shall write as often as I can. I cannot write more today. I was on guard last night and must get rest as to be ready to advance. I hope you are well at home. Much love to you and the family. Give my regards to all that inquire after me.
As every, your aft. son,
[Civil War Times Illustrated, March/April 1992 - courtesy of reader Mike Pellegrini]
FROM WASHINGTON TO BULL RUN AND BACK AGAIN
BY LIEUTENANT H. B. JACKSON, 2nd Wis. Infantry, Read April 6, 1910
THE first real battle of the Great War came as a shock to the people and stirred the country from center to circumference as no later engagement ever did. Moreover the first battle of Bull Run, in dramatic incident and tragic termination, was unique, and so altogether, it has taken a prominent place in our military history. The writer’s purpose now is to take you from Washington to Bull Run and back again, within a half hour. The distance between the Capitol and the battle field is about thirty miles.
The battle was fought on the 21st day of July, 1861. On the 8th (thirteen days before), the raw and comparatively undrilled Federal troops destined for the conflict, were camping in and around Washington, on either side of the Potomac. They had been organized, it is true, into five divisions; all to be commanded by General McDowell. The first division, under the command of General Tyler, consisted of four brigades; the second, under General Hunter, of two; the third, under General Heintzelman, of three; the fourth, under General Runyon, as a reserve, of seven New Jersey regiments; the fifth division, under Col. Miles, of two brigades.
The writer was a lieutenant in the Second Wisconsin Infantry, a part of the third brigade of Tyler’s Division, commanded by W. T. Sherman, then acting brigadier general.
While this army, before the order to advance, had been organized into divisions and brigades, each having its own commander, such organization was only on paper. The regiments composing the different brigades were, in point of fact, scattered hither and yon, and had not been assembled in actual brigades before the advance began.
The third brigade, with which we are more particularly concerned, included the Second Wisconsin Infantry (which afterwards became a part of another, which achieved the name of “The Iron Brigade”), came together for the first time, and had its first brigade drill on July 11th, and two days later had marching orders. With knapsacks packed, and three days’ cooked rations in haversacks, on July 16th, at two o’clock in the afternoon, this brigade started from Camp Peck, a few miles from Washington just south of the Potomac.
The brigade marched, without knowing where we were going—just marching under orders, following file leaders; yet having a dim perception, amounting to almost conviction, that we were going somewhere to meet the enemy, wipe them out, and then “on to Richmond.”
The first day was hard on the men, they were unused to marching, and the weather was hot. After passing many deserted farms we arrived on the evening of the first day at Vienna, a small village about twelve miles west from Washington. Besides our brigade, other forces were concentrated at that village, making a total strength at that point of fully 12,000, the remainder of the army was not far away advancing on other roads in the same general direction toward Centerville.
Our twelve thousand were bunched for the night’s bivouac quite compactly in columns of regimental lines, and lay down on the grass under heaven’s high dome illuminated by as bright a moon as ever shone.
Every soldier had in his haversack cooked rations of bread and meat, and upon halting and stacking arms, every man stretched himself on the ground, munched his rations, and went to sleep without ceremony or delay.
With your permission I would like to sketch a picture of that “first night out,” as it is indelibly impressed upon memory. Soon after midnight I awoke with a strange sensation— due to being a raw recruit, a part of a great army, advancing through an unknown country, to meet an unknown foe. Arising to a sitting posture the raw recruit glanced about and noted critically the situation. There was the moon at the zenith in full splendor. Of the 12,000 soldiers, apparently not another soul was awake. The silence was impressive. What thoughts flitted through the boy’s mind out there on the sacred soil of old Virginia, a thousand miles from home, surrounded by scenes and circumstances so new and strange, I leave to your imagination.
The boy lay down with the 12,000 youthful sleepers until the blare of a bugle awoke the whole army at 3:00 in the morning. They ate again from haversacks, folded blankets strapped on the knapsacks, and were ready for the start. Yet history must record that it was nearly 6:00 o’clock before the army got under way, so true is it that “large bodies move slowly.”
From Vienna we marched to Germantown, about eight miles on the way to Bull Run. Owing to obstructions, such as fallen trees, and the like, with which the enemy had blocked the way, we did not arrive until 2:30 p.m. Here at Germantown, were found quite pretentious earth-works bearing marks of recent occupation and hasty abandonment, such as smouldering fires, and partially cooked food, all telling plainly that the enemy were falling back.
We planted the “Stars and Stripes” on their deserted earthworks, cheered a bloodless victory, and, resting awhile, proceeded a few miles further and bivouacked for the second night.
Here an amusing episode recurs to memory after the intervention of all these years.
Accompanying the army were many civilians, a condition not permitted later. These civilians included men who would readily admit that they were eminent citizens, members of Congress, newspaper correspondents, etc. Some were going along with the army “just for fun,” others had a pretense of business.
The night had passed quietly until about 3:00 o’clock when there was heard the trampling of many horses, as though a cavalry force were thundering down in a deadly charge.
The noise awakened the army. To complete the din, the long roll sounded the signal for every man to fall in. Seizing his gun from where he had stacked it, every man took his place in line. It is the conduct of these civilians that furnishes the amusing incident. When the clatter began some of them were sleeping on the ground near the writer. They were under no obligations to be brave as soldiers were. Self-preservation was the law that appealed to them and produced a vigorous scramble for life. Each soul possessed a single thought which was “to climb a tree” in double quick. While climbing they believed the cavalry charge was upon them which stimulated haste. Scarcely had they reached their coveted positions at the top of the trees, when it was known that the commotion was only the stampede of friendly horses engaged in the pastime of running away. Sheepishly these civilians came off their perch, amidst laughter and jeers, not enjoyed so much by them as others.
Quiet was again restored, guns restacked, the newspaper man and congressmen, and the army slept till morn.
March was resumed at 7:30 and at about 10:00 o’clock our brigade arrived before Centerville. Here we came in sight of earthworks formidable in appearance, but in appearance only. These were on the brow of the quite imposing hill which sloped toward us from Centerville, for a distance of nearly a quarter of a mile, to the spot where we were halting. They had been abandoned to be occupied by our division. Centerville, a modest little hamlet, stands at the summit of this hill, back of the earthworks just referred to. We remained at the halting place until summoned by the stirring events of the afternoon, which was not to pass without considerable loss of life to both armies, although three days intervened before the battle of Bull Run. This was the 18th day of July.
I am not attempting to give a history of the battle of Bull Run; this is for abler pens, and the literature of the War, it is rather my purpose to have you understand the condition of our army, at and before the time the battle was fought, and of what the troops did and suffered during the days immediately preceding the battle, in order that those who have been inclined to criticise those troops, because they retired from the field on which they had fought so bravely, may come to see that what some have charged to want of pluck, was nothing more or less than the absolute exhaustion of the human endurance these men possessed.
Our brigade tarried at the foot of the hill, quietly resting under the shade of bush and tree, as best it could, from 10 a.m. until nearly noon. In the meantime a brigade of our army, with a battery of artillery, had passed to and beyond Centerville, along Warrenton turn-pike, which leads directly west to the battle field of Bull Run. Just beyond Centerville, but out of our sight on account of the intervening hills and earthworks, the advanced forces marched obliquely to the left, taking a road diverging from Warrenton turn-pike, at an angle of about forty degrees, in a southwesterly direction toward Manassas Junction, through a country quite densely wooded. They advanced on this road or narrow lane until they came to a small stream, known as Bull Run.
Here they had encountered a confederate force of considerable strength and a rapid interchange of volleys ensued until four o’clock. When the booming of cannon first broke upon our ears as we lay in the valley, telling plainer than words that a conflict was on, every man became alert.
The firing continued. We have read in story books of the foaming steed ridden in hot haste, bearing a rider with message of great moment, etc. Now this veritable foaming steed appeared, and bore his rider to where our brigade was halted and up to the tree where Sherman sat.
After a short parley with the rider, General Sherman issued orders to fall in, and our brigade ascended the hill, passed through Centerville and then down the road taken by the preceding forces, going the distance of about a mile and a half at double quick. Before we had gone far, more impressive evidence than the noise of cannon told us that we were indeed nearing the scene of real conflict, for out from the woods, and slowly to the rear, was borne many a wounded and dying soldier.
Still pushing on we arrived at the spot where our artillery was engaged. Our brigade moved by its right flank into the woods and there took a position in line at right angles with the road over which we marched, with orders to support the artillery.
This engagement, known as the “Battle of Blackburn’s Ford,” was, after our arrival, for the most part a duel of artillery, carried on at so great a distance between the contending forces in the woods, that no enemy could be seen by either side. While thus in line, we had abundant opportunity to speculate upon probabilities and to observe the movements of rifled cannon shot fired from a distance.
The artillery firing at our forces was perhaps a mile and a half away. To cover that distance it was necessary to elevate the pieces so that the projectile would describe an elliptic, rather than a straight line. These rifled cannon shot were constantly heard screeching through the air as they plunged in our direction. Sometimes they would strike a tree and land in an unexpected place. At other times they would come whizzing on without interruption to their destination, striking down a man here and there as if by chance. While standing thus, I well remember, my attention was absorbed in listening to individual cannon shot, that is, to the whizzing noise they made in the air, rather than to the report of the guns. The danger contemplated was not that from the general crash or volley, but rather from the individual cannon shot whose wild whistle in the air would from time to time attract attention. All along the line the troops appeared to be listening and looking intently. For my part I could hear the whizzing noise in the air plainly enough in many cases to decide where the bolt was likely to fall, whether to the right or to the left. But in one instance it was impossible to decide where that particular shot was going to strike. I was seized with an impression that my time had come and involuntarily threw myself upon the ground. Getting up a moment later it was discovered that the shot had burrowed only a few feet behind me, and I have always believed that if I had remained standing that shot would have effectually done the work for me. Some of the soldiers with better eyes asserted they could see the balls, but I could not. This experience lasted until about 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon, when the cannonading gradually lessened and finally ceased after considerable loss had been sustained of killed and wounded. Then our brigade counter-marched toward Centerville by the same road we come on, till it intersected the turn-pike. Then taking the turn-pike we marched westward about a mile toward what was to be the battlefield of Bull Run, and took our position on an eminence to camp for the night. The experiences of the men were identical in this, that the fatigue which comes from mere exposure to imminent danger continuously for hours, especially when the troops so exposed are not actively engaged, is far more exhausting than physical exertion. All agreed after reaching camp in feeling complete fatigue.
The battle of Bull Run was still two days in the future. Yet a considerable tax, as you see, had been put upon the endurance of raw and inexperienced troops, although they had only been engaged in getting into position for the ensuing battle. There was to be no rest for the army the coming night. It was about sun down when we went into camp. Near by was a meadow dotted with newly made hay-cocks, which were picked up by the men as if there had been but one instead of a thousand and carried into camp. It was a sight to see those acres of hay-cocks disappear. The boys wanted the hay for beds and they got it in one trip.
Soon after sun down the commissary wagons came in view, and were very welcome, for they bore the precious freight of coffee and much needed rations.
Immediately the rails from neighboring fences were brought in, fires kindled, and coffee put to boil. The air was soon filled with delicious aroma, but the sadness of it all is that this coffee was never to cheer the tired soldiers. Just as the pot had fairly boiled a malicious force of sneaking confederates who had crawled up stealthily in the bushes, discharged several volleys over camp, luckily with too high aim.
The cry went up: “Put out the fires! Put out the fires!” It was a fearful sacrifice and the precious coffee was wholly lost. Then in darkness the long roll beat to arms, the tired troops fell in line, while skirmishers went out in fruitless endeavor to find what forces had been shooting at us. After they had fired their vicious volleys the confederates stole away unseen, leaving the troops in a condition quite forlorn, not knowing what would come next. Weary and worn and nearly exhausted, they stood in the darkness and rain as marks to be shot at by a hidden foe, or as one of my comrades said at the time, “To be shot at for $13 a month with no chance to return the fire.” One can imagine this little tableau vivant, or enough of it, and to see that the night was no picnic.
To cap the climax of discomfort, as darkness settled down it began to rain. The hay which had promised so much for our comfort was thoroughly wet.
Through the long, rainy night there was plenty of hunger, but no slumber, for it was passed in watchful expectation of another attack. Everything however has an ending, so did that night. With the morning came sunshine, and such cheer as men in their condition could muster.
The day was spent in getting dry, being fed and rested. At sundown the customary dress parade was held in fairly good form, considering the circumstances, and with the usual promulgation of orders.
Among other orders read that evening, was one directing the writer to report immediately at brigade headquarters, where he had been assigned for duty on the staff of General Sherman.
This order took the writer from his regiment and he was provided with a horse and equipments, and became established at brigade headquarters.
The next day Saturday, July 20th, was “the day before the battle” with all that the phrase implies. The plan on our side which contemplated an attack, had been most fully matured at a council of all the commanders, including our brigadier general. The precise work of each commander had been mapped out. If you are curious to know the details of these plans, you may read them at your leisure for they have become history.
On this 20th day of July every man in the army once again filled his haversack and at the early hour of 2:00 o’clock Sunday morning, July 21st, the entire combative force took up the march toward Bull Run by divers routes assigned to the different divisions.
From that early hour the troops were destined not to rest again until they had passed through the bloody battle, achieved a great victory over a superior force, and then later on, by the arrival of Johnston’s fresh army, were compelled to abandon a field they had fairly won, and retreat the succeeding night the entire distance from Bull Run to Washington. But we must not anticipate.
General Tyler’s division of which our brigade was a part, was on the the right of the army. The duty assigned to the writer by General Sherman was to care for all the vehicles belonging to the regiments of our brigade and organize them into a single train.
Just before the advance there was imparted to me as much of the plan of battle as it was thought necessary for me to know in order to govern my actions. I was directed to keep the train where it was, at the camp, until the combative force of the army had passed that point, and then to fall in with the other trains at the first opportunity and advance toward Bull Run until a certain blacksmith shop, which was about a half a mile east of Cub Run, had been reached; to post the train there and immediately report in person to the general wherever he could be found at the front.
In giving these instructions he said, “You will hear plenty of cannonading immediately in front. Pay no attention to it, for this will only be a feint; the real attack will be in another quarter.”
It is a matter of history how Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions turned to the right from Warrenton turn-pike at the old blacksmith shop just mentioned, taking a road which led northerly and nearly parallel with Bull Run, east of the stream, and proceeded in that direction far enough to reach a point where no rebel forces were present to interfere with their crossing; and how, when they had arrived there, at an hour much later than had been planned, that is to say, about noon instead of early morning, these troops under General Hunter, taking only a few moments to refresh themselves, passed over to the west side of Bull Run, and pushed down upon the enemy, who all this time had been entertained by the furious cannonading directly in their front, east of the Stone Bridge, where Sherman’s Brigade waited for the time to come to cross over.
Hunter’s force attacked the enemy’s left flank with vigor and later was joined by Heintzelman, when they drove the confederate forces down the west bank of Bull Run, past the point where Tyler’s division, including our brigade, was waiting, thus giving them the expected opportunity to pass over and join in the general attack, which was gallantly made with a rush.
While Hunter’s movement was being executed, as has been told, the writer had abundant time to obey instructions and post his train as directed, and then to ride down amid the smoke and roar of artillery, according to directions, until he reached the spot where a thirty pounder, attached to Carlisle’s Battery, was posted on the turn-pike, with Ayre’s Battery somewhat in the rear. A little to the right of this gun he found General Sherman with his brigade in line at right angles to the turn-pike in a dense wood on the easterly side of Bull Run. There Sherman remained awaiting the appearance of Hunter and Heintzelman. At the proper time Sherman’s brigade crossed over and became actively engaged, and met their full share of the fearful loss of the day, and did their full share of the work resulting in driving the over confident confederates from the stronghold they had taken and determined to keep at all hazards.
Up to three o’clock in the afternoon everything went our way, and indicated a complete victory for the Union Arms. Indeed at that time a great victory had been won.
Then it was that a genuinely dramatic incident occurred. General McDowell came riding along the line, joyously swinging his hat aloft, responding to the cheers of the soldiers on every hand. As he came near our position he drew rein to exchange salutes with General Sherman, and with a cheerful voice and mein, he directed him “to join in the general pursuit,” and rode away.
How well I remember the proud bearing of McDowell. His every action told, more plainly than any words, that he then believed himself a victorious captain whose brow was wreathed with laurels of success. But alas, too soon he learned that the fates of war are fickle.
Not more than twenty minutes intervened after McDowell departed before he came again our way. A fearful change had come over the spirit of his dream during those moments. The transformation was forlorn and complete. We need not discuss here the causes that led up to, and made necessary the retreat of which an account follows. Suffice it to say, that soon after McDowell rode away, a large force of rebel troops from Johnston’s army arrived fresh on the field, just in time to turn our glorious victory into black defeat.
Within that twenty minutes the Union army saw itself confronted by the arrival of a fresh and formidable army, saw that the battle just successfully finished must be fought anew, if the field was to be held, and recognized the fact, as fact it was, that the limit of human endurance had been fully reached and that they were actually incapable of another fight. Thereupon the whole army began as it were, upon their own motion, and as it would seem without orders to fall slowly to the rear, and thus reluctantly leave their hard fought field. Not indeed because of the troops they had been fighting all day and had fairly whipped, not because their valor had departed, but because their power to endure had been exhausted.
When General McDowell returned, it was as clearly certain that the day had been lost, as that a few minutes earlier victory had been shouted by all hands. No one more keenly realized this than McDowell himself. If it dazed and blunted his faculties for the moment, who shall wonder and who shall blame? It seemed that General Sherman expected some decisive movement to be ordered by the commanding general for he inquired of him, “What is to be done?”
To this General McDowell replied, “Wait awhile,” and rode away, looking for all the world the picture of despair.
In reading the memoirs of General Sherman you will see no mention of this meeting between himself and General McDowell at the very turn and crisis of the battle. But the writer has excellent reason for remembering it well because it was followed by an incident of peculiar interest to himself.
After “Waiting a while,” in obedience to McDowell’s command, and seeing the whole army moving to the rear, the writer ventured to ask General Sherman what should be done with the train in the rear for which I was responsible. This inquiry was deemed proper, seeing that the entire army was giving up the field. And yet its propriety was immediately doubted, for General Sherman, looking squarely in the face of the writer, in a voice that was stern if not savage, said; “I give you no orders at all, sir.”
This at the time was interpreted to mean that when he had orders he would let it be known without being asked. But later on the writer was informed by General Sherman what was really in his mind. He himself had received no orders from the commanding general, therefore he declined to give any orders. He had been told to “wait awhile,” and was doing it.
The writer seeing that the army was in actual retreat spurred away without orders to where his train was posted just east of Bull Run. Here indeed was pandemonium reigning supreme. Whenever there is a panic in an army it is generally in the rear rather than in front, and here was no exception to the rule. There was no panic at the front at Bull Run, but at the rear the quarter-masters of the several regiments composing our brigade at least, were found in a state of extreme excitement as though expecting momentarily to be gobbled up by the notorious Black Horse Cavalry, which by the way existed only in imagination. The riders they saw galloping in all directions, were none other than our cavalry, and no doubt in some instances, our own mounted officers going to the rear. It was a white horse that carried the writer to the rear, otherwise—perhaps he might have been taken for a Black Horse Cavalryman and not permitted to approach.
When he arrived the quarter-masters were not slow in condemnation of what they regarded inexcusable negligence, in not having previously moved the train to a place of safety. Steps were taken to allay their needless fears by assuring them there was not a rebel in sight, and that our entire army would have to be slaughtered or captured before any danger could come to them, a ceremony that would consume much more time than would be required to make a safe retreat. At first they seemed satisfied with such assurance, agreeing to help take the train toward Washington in an orderly way. Had they held to that purpose there would have been no trouble in doing so.
But it was not so to be. Panic took full sway among these people who had not been on the field. The brigade train was nearly half a mile in length, and so it was impossible to personally supervise the whole of it. It soon became apparent that no one was in a state of mind to assist in preserving the orderly retreat of the wagons. A start to the rear was begun on a decent walk but it was not long before some of the drivers had pushed their teams to a trot, and others to a gallop.
Then it was that the soldiers who were there to guard the train found it impossible to keep pace with the teams, and early reached the conclusion that it was their duty to ride, and so mounted the wagons. To make room for himself a man would roll a barrel of vinegar out of the back end of the wagon to be run over by the next, which would be overturned. What with barrels of vinegar and molasses, boxes of crackers, bags of oats, and other such stores thus thrown out, it was not long before the road was literally paved with these things. When a wagon was overturned it afforded an excellent excuse for cutting loose the horses and riding away, and the drivers were not slow in doing this. The road was thus blockaded by abandoned wagons.
Within a short time the brigade train was a thing of the past. It had destroyed itself. The occupation of the writer so far as the train was concerned was therefore gone, and he turned and rode to the front slowly against the retreating torrent.
In passing through the retiring crowds, made up in part of civilians as well as soldiers, many sights and scenes worth telling were observed but are omitted for want of time.
Darkness was now setting in, when however, many of those who had been engaged in the battle were met and recognized.
What had been the army, was the army no longer. It was a mere 4th of July crowd, a World’s Fair crowd on a Chicago Day, wholly without organization. The whole roadway was compactly filled from side to side with one solid mass, which within a rod or two, might have among its members the representatives of many regiments. In such a crowd as this, strange as it may seem, the writer met the orderly sergeant of his own company. He was uninjured, and carrying his gun.
His worn out condition was recognized and he was put in the saddle. We agreed not to part, as the writer now resolved to turn about and go along with him and the rest to the rear, walking by the side of the horse. Unfortunately for the orderly, but luckily for another, we presently came upon a corporal of our company who had been shot through the leg, limping along with many others in similar condition. The corporal had lost his gun, but showed no other evidence of demoralization. The sergeant upon request gave up the horse to the wounded corporal. They compromised, the corporal taking the sergeant’s gun and the horse, and we moved on together.
As the crowd advanced along the road the most important matter was to get a drink of water. So whenever and where-ever a well was found, it became the nucleus for a contending crowd, like boys surrounding the ticket wagon of a circus, but to a vaster extent, more like swarming bees bunched upon an overhanging limb.
The trend was ever toward Washington. The night grew darker. Now and then one would hear a cry out of the darkness of the number and name of a regiment, as for instance, “13th New York.” If a man of that regiment was within hearing he would respond “13th New York.” Comrades would thus come together but to be soon parted. So in the case of the writer. Having resolved to stay by his comrades and horse, he soon found that all had disappeared and he was alone in the struggling crowd. Considering that he had been mounted all day, his condition was so much better than the mass around him that he had no cause to complain.
On and on we kept tramping the weary way to Washington. Sometimes struggling for a drink by the wayside well but not daring to rest for a moment; because to sit down even for a single instant was to sleep, and to sleep at that time meant capture.
Past midnight the rain began to pour. This was not so much a misfortune as a discomfort. It is even possible that the drenching rain cooled the fevered soldiers and in that way was beneficial. Knowing how dusty and how besmeared they were before, one can imagine the appearance presented after the rain. The rain had said to the dust, “I am on to you, your name is Mud!”
Time went on while this motley retreat continued until about four o’clock in the morning when the writer met for the first time the captain of his company, Captain Bouck of Company E, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, son of Ex-Governor Bouck of New York, ex-Attorney General of Wisconsin, and a lawyer of high standing and ability. We were old friends; he was lame, foot-sore, weary, and nearly exhausted, but trudging on toward Washington the same as the writer. He reached out his hand in a mechanical way, we clasped, but neither spoke a word. Thus we went on together for a short time, only to separate, as in many cases before. Can you see the picture? It is like ten thousand others on the weary way.
Soon thereafter several soldiers were seen coming from a farm house where they got coffee and corn-cakes. The writer made his way to the house and while there made a bargain with the farmer to hitch up his horse and carry him and three others into Washington four or five miles distant. This was a happy thought, but not to be realized. Rosinante was tackled to a farm wagon with two boards for seats stretched from side to side of the wagon box.
We finally got aboard and started. It was daylight and Monday morning. Scarcely had we gone a mile when we discovered moving along with the rest, a lieutenant of my regiment who had been wounded by a musket shot in his left shoulder. The picture of this soldier was the picture of death. He had every appearance of a moving corpse. Nothing indicated that he was alive except that he was moving. He was scarcely alive. Automatically he kept on going. The writer spoke to him to arouse attention, but he did not hear. Finally to make certain of his identity the writer jumped from the wagon, shook him up, and told him his name and insisted that he should take the vacant seat in the wagon. Mechanically he obeyed and we started along, the writer hanging on to the end board of the wagon box.
So we went to Washington.
At last we arrived at the southern end of the Long Bridge, by which you cross over to the capital.
There fires had been built, large caldrons of pork and coffee were boiling, hard-tack was abundant, and the soldiers having been fed, were lying on the ground in the midst of a pelting rain, sleeping like infants on a mother’s breast.
But let us return to the lieutenant, for his case is typical of a thousand others.
Sheds had been thrown up for the wounded, and all the surgeons, good, bad or indifferent, that Washington and the neighboring cities could supply, were on hand to dress the wounded, and treat the sick as best as they could. The lieutenant was taken to one of these sheds and supplied with coffee, hard-tack and salt pork, of which he partook sparingly, and then he was turned over to a young surgeon who probed and dressed his wound, and laid him away to sleep. The writer did not see him again for several days, and when we next met he declared upon his honor that he did not remember meeting me at all, nor know how he got to Washington.
His case was a fair sample by which to judge of the many others of which we have not time to speak.
Not all of the troops went to Long Bridge where we did, but many reached Fort Corcoran, near Georgetown, and others made their way to Alexandria, all resting on the south bank of the Potomac.
None were permitted to cross over, except such as for good reason obtained passes.
I have now fulfilled my promise of taking you from Washington to Bull Run and back again, but I cannot consent to leave you there to pass as I did the doleful days which succeeded the battle of Bull Run.
In conclusion let me lay before you a brighter page of history, whereon is recorded that later, on the selfsame battlefield, the same army of the Potomac achieved an abiding victory for the Union cause. And on still other pages are recorded the Herculean achievements of our glorious armies which paved the way for their victorious return in strong and serried ranks to march into Washington not as we did, but bearing aloft the redeemed and consecrated Flag of the Union, amid the plaudits of an admiring country whose integrity and existence they had preserved for all future generations, by a soldierly constancy, and valor, unmatched and unmatchable, in the annals of all the Nations of the World.