Edward S. Barrett, Civilian, On the Battle (1)

12 09 2014

Scenes of the Battle Field — Personal Adventures at the Battle of Bull Run

From The Boston, Traveller, Aug. 1.

Mr. Edward S. Barrett, of Concord, has, at our request, furnished us the following narrative of his experience on the day of the recent Battle of Bull Run. It will be found exceedingly interesting: and our readers will agree that if all the “civilians” who went to the field on that day had behaved as well as Mr. Barrett, there would be no reason to complain of them.

It is quite possible that the writer has in some cases used the wrong military terms, for he makes no pretension to military knowledge; but his narrative will be found in all important particulars as authentic as it is interesting. It commences with the night before the battle:

On Saturday evening, the 20th of July, I heard we were to start at half past two the following morning, and our line was to be in readiness at an early hour. We had occupied the camp at Centreville since Thursday night. Wrapping my blanket around me, at 10 o’clk I stretched myself upon the bare ground to sleep. The night was cool, and at 12 o’clock I awoke feeling very cold, and unable to sleep more, I anxiously waited to hear the signal to prepare. At two o’clock our drum sounded through the camp, and was repeated through the numerous camps around us, and in half an hour forty thousand men stood ready to battle for the Union.

The Fifth Massachusetts regiment, which I accompanied, was in the division under Heintzelman, acting Major General, and our regiment was the third in the column. The First Minnesota, under Colonel Gorman, led forward by the Massachusetts Eleventh, Colonel Clarke; then the Fifth, Colonel Lawrence, with the regular cavalry and a battery of artillery leading the advance. We waited, in marching order, from half past two o’clock till after six before the order was given to advance, and then we learned that Colonel Hunter, with eight regiments, including Governor Sprague’s command had preceded us, and we were to follow. General McDowell and staff heading our division.

Mounted on a secession horse, which I had captured two days previously, I followed in rear of the regiment, in company with Quartermaster Billings and Surgeon Hurd. From Centreville we took the extreme northern road, leaving the Warrentown road on our left, which General Tyler had taken with his division. Passing through a forest of heavy oak timber some three miles in length, we emerged into the open country, with a wide interval on our left, and the Blue Ridge Mountains distinctly visible on our right. We had heard and occasional cannon shot during the morning, but not until ten o’clock was there any sound of a general engagement. The heavy cannonading on our left and in front caused the march to be hastened, and our men could hardly be restrained, so eager were they for the fight. About a mile and a half before we reached the field the men began to throw away their blankets, haversacks and all unnecessary appendages, the different regiments trying to throw them into a pile, or as near together without halting. I tied my horse near the hospital headquarters, and hastened to the head of the column, which advanced in double quick time till they cam within reach of the enemy’s guns. The fight was raging on our left and in front as our division came into the field. I could see that the enemies batteries were posted on a long ridge, with woods extending on either flank, and separated from us by a valley. It was now about half past eleven o’clock. General McDowell ordered one brigade, under Colonel Franklin, consisting of the First Minnesota, Eleventh and Fifth Massachusetts and a Pennsylvania regiment, to advance down the hill and take a position in the valley on a slight elevation directly in front of the rebel batteries. I followed on some distance, but the shot rattled about me, and I halted near General McDowell and staff, while the brigade swept past me and down the hill. I watched for some time the colors of the fifth with intense interest. The regiment reached the valley and deployed to the right on to a slight knoll, fell flat on their faces, while the shot from the rebel batteries passed mostly over their heads. A battery swept past me to take a position. I followed it along some distance, when the Major galloped back to me and called out: “Friend, tell Captain F. to hurry up my supports.” I did not know Captain F., but hastened back and met an orderly, of whom I enquired who he was. He pointed him out to me near a regiment of infantry. I rushed up to him and gave my message. He replied, “They are coming right along.” And on double quick the regiment followed after the battery. The rifle cannon shot, shells and bullets struck all around me, and men were falling in every direction. Seeing a high persimmon tree standing alone, a short distance down the hill, I determined to climb it. The top of it was dead, and about thirty feet off the ground. From this elevation I had an unobstructed view of the whole line, and I could see into the enemy’s entrenchments, where the men looked like so many bees in a hive, and I could plainly see their officers riding about, and their different columns moving hither and thither. Their batteries on the right and left were masked with trees so completely, that I could not distinguish them except by the flash from their guns,; and a battery in a cornfield on our extreme left was so completely concealed by the cornstalks placed so naturally about it, that our men came suddenly upon it, never dreaming of one so near. The cannon ball struck the ground continually close to the tree and bounded along for a quarter of a mile to the rear. I felt that I was above the range of these, but the rifle balls whistled about my head, striking the tree in a way anything but pleasant. Just after I had reached the top of the tree a New Hampshire regiment, close at my left had succeeded in driving them from the woods in front, and, with three cheers, they fell back into line.

When the line was formed, three cheers were given for Colonel Marston, who had fought gallantly and received two severe wounds. Sherman’s battery then commenced firing on my right, within thirty rods of me, and at the first discharge the men cheered and watched the effect of the shell, which exploded inside the enemy’s entrenchments. The men cheered again, to see that they got the range so quickly, and continued to fire with great rapidity, while the enemy returned the fire with equal vigor and precision, the cannonading being kept up incessantly for an hour.

The shot and shell from this battery must have done the rebels great damage, as every shot took effect within their intrenchments. – Still men and horses kept falling near our guns, and the infantry lines were parted in many places by their cannon balls. The valley for nearly one-half mile in front of the enemy’s works was filled with our infantry, extending to some patches of woods on our right. Our batteries were placed on various eminences on the flank and rear, shifting their positions from time to time. The fire from our lines in this valley was terrific, and as they kept slowly advancing, firing, retreating to load, and then advancing again, it was a sight which no words could describe. For three long hours we poured into their intrenchments this terrible fire, and whenever the enemy showed themselves on the flanks they were driven back with great slaughter. During all this time our men were subjected to a cross fire from the enemy’s infantry stationed in the woods on our left. At one time the “Stars and stripes” were waved in these woods, and men dressed much like our own called out not to fire that way. Our men gradually drew up towards the flag, when immediately the secession flag was thrown out and the rebels poured a volley into our men so unexpectedly that they were for the time driven back, but we soon regained the ground.

General McDowell now ordered a battery forward to take a position near a house on our right; the Fire Zouaves were ordered to support it. The position appeared to me, from my lookout, like a strong one, as it was on a hill on a level with the rebel batteries. – Our battery started, the horses running at the top of their speed, and shortly began to ascend the eminence, the Zouaves following closely; but scarcely had the battery halted and fired, before the enemy opened upon them from new masked batteries, and a terrific fire of musketry from the woods, and our artillery was driven back, many of their men and horses being killed. The Zouaves stood their ground manfully, firing in lines and then falling on their faces to load. The ranks we becoming dreadfully thinned, yet they would not yield an inch; when suddenly our dashed the Black Horse Cavalry, and charged furiously, with uplifted sabres, upon them. – The Zouaves gallantly resisted this furious onset without flinching, and after firing their muskets – too sorely pressed to load – would fight furiously with the bayonets or any weapon they could seize, and in some instances drag the riders from their saddles, stabbing them with their knives, and mounting their splendid black horses gallop over the field. Never, since the famous charge of the Light Brigade, was a cavalry corps more cut to pieces. There is a bitter animosity existing between the Black Horse Cavalry and Ellsworth’s Zouaves. A great many of the cavalry are citizens of Alexandria and Fairfax county and they resolved to kill every Zouave they could lay their hands upon to avenge the death of Jackson, and the Zouaves were equally determined to avenge the murder of Ellsworth; so no quarter was expected by them.

I had now been in the tree some two hours, and all this time a continuous stream of wounded were being carried to the rear. The soldiers would cross their muskets, placing their wounded companion across; slowly carry them past; and another soldier would have a wounded man with his arm around his neck, slowly walking back, and then two men would be bearing a mortally wounded comrade in their arms, who was in convulsions and writhing in his last agonies.

Leaving the tree, I went along over the field to the left, the bullets whistling about me and the cannon balls ploughing up the ground in every direction, when I came across two of our men with a prisoner, who said he belonged to a South Carolina regiment. I asked him some questions, but he was dogged and silent, and did not appear to be disposed to reply to my inquiries. The shot fell so thick, and shells bursting around me, I hardly knew which way to turn. A musket ball whizzed past my ear so near that I felt the heat, and for a moment thought I was hit. – The ground was strewn with broken guns, swords, cartridge boxes, gun carriages, haversacks together, with all the paraphernalia of warfare, mingled with the dead and wounded men. I saw here a horse and his rider under him, both killed by the same cannon ball. Seeing a small white house still towards the left, with a well near it, I started for some water, and getting over a wall I discovered lying beside it a number of our dead with their haversacks drawn over their faces. I lifted the cover from their faces, thinking, perhaps, I might come across some of my friends, but they were all strangers, or so disfigured that I could not recognize them. I went to the well for a drink, and as I drew near the house I heard loud groans, and such a scene as was there presented, in that little house of two rooms, and on the grass around it, was enough to appal the stoutest heart.

The rooms were crowded, and I could not get in; but all round on the grass were men mortally wounded. I should think there were at least forty on that green sward, within 20 rods of the house, and such wounds – some with both legs shot off; some with both legs broken; others with horrid flesh wounds made with shells. I saw one man with a sound in his back large enough to put in my fist; he was fast bleeding to death. As I walked among them some beseeched me to kill them and put an end to their agony; some were calling for the surgeon, but the hospital was more than a mile off, and there were but two surgeons there; some were just gasping, and some had died.

I left the house and bore off towards the right towards some low pine woods, about a hundred yards distant, and scattered along were the dear bodies of our men. On reaching the wood I found ground literally covered with the dead bodies of the enemy, and I counted in the space of ten rods square forty-seven dead rebels and ten mortally wounded; and scattered all through the woods still farther back were any number more. I talked with several of the wounded, and they told me they belonged to the 8th Georgia regiment, Col. Bartow, and had arrived at Manasas from Winchester the day before, where they had been with Gen. Johnston. They told me their whole regiment was posted in this pine woods. One young man told me he was from Macon, and that his father was a merchant. I asked another where he was from; he replied defiantly, “I am for disunion – opposed to you.” This man had both thighs broken.

I heard one of our soldiers ask a wounded Georgian if their orders were to kill our wounded. He answered No. Our soldiers carried water to these wounded men, and as they lay writing in agony a cup of water was put within their reach. The convulsions of one of these men was awful to look upon; he appeared to have been shot in the lungs, as he vomited blood in large quantities, and in his struggles for breath would throw himself clear from the ground. I noticed among the heaps of bodies an officer dressed in light blue uniform, with green stripes on his pants, a fine looking man, whom I took to be a captain. I also saw one of our soldiers take sixty dollars from the body of a dead Georgian; and their knives, revolvers, &c., were appropriated the same way. This I looked upon as legitimate plunder for the soldiers, but as a citizen I forebore to take anything from the field.

I think the fight in this wood must have been fiercer than in any part of the field, except it may be on our right, where the Zouaves were. The wood was near the enemy’s right, and where the fight commenced in the morning with Hunter’s division, and as Heintzelman’s division came into action the rebels were giving way at this point, under the galling fire of Co. Marston’s regiment, while the Rhode Island troops and some New York regiments had driven back their extreme right. – Passing through these pine woods I still bore to the right towards our centre, and crossed a cleared space and came to some heavy wood, on the edge of which I perceived a number of dead scattered about; and seeing several wounded men, I went up to one of them, and found he was a rebel belonging to an Alabama regiment. He told me he joined the regiment on the 13th of April. He pointed to a dead horse close to us, and said, “There is my Colonel’s horse, and I suppose you have taken him prisoner.”

[Concluded to-morrow.]

Part 2

New London (CT) Chronicle, 8/6/1861

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Edward S. Barrett* bio

Edward S. Barrett* at Ancestry.com

Barrett, Edwin Shepard What I Saw at Bull Run

Contributed by John Hennessy

*Likely the letter writer





Calloway Kirksey Henderson, Co. F, 7th South Carolina Infantry, On First Contact with the Enemy

5 09 2014

SENTINELS’ SHARP EARS FIRST DETECTED ENEMY

———-

How Palmetto State Pickets Got Earliest Intimation of Presence of Union Army at Manassas and Gave Information That May Have Turned the Tide of That Battle.

By Captain C. K. Henderson, of South Carolina. [*]

On Saturday afternoon, the day before the battle of Manassas, between sundown and dark, Colonel Thomas G. Bacon of the Seventh South Carolina Infantry, Bonham’s brigade, ordered Captain John S. Hard to take his Company F of that regiment and go on picket duty for the night. Captain Hard took his company across the stream Bull Run to the north side and to the top of the hill, and there filed to the left out of the road into the clover field. And here we were informed we were to spend the whole night on guard duty. Half of the company was detailed in groups of four, and the balance of the company was held in reserve fifty yard in the rear of the half that had been deployed as pickets. Mr. Henderson and his three comrades – Benjamin Sharpton, James Kadle and Smithfield Radford – formed the first group and were located on the main road between Manassas and Centerville, at Mitchell’s Ford. Two of the men of each group were allowed to sleep at the post in the clover while the other two were on guard, and they changed at intervals. The only instruction given was to halt anybody approaching from the north, and if they did not stop to shoot.

About midnight Captain Samuel McGowan, special aid to General Bonham, rode up from the rear and asked what was going on, and they reported to him that everything was well, except that the enemy was marching to their left up the creek. That information seemed to excite him and he asked how they knew, and they told him they had heard the marching soldiers, moving wagons and cannons for hours. He dismounted and one of the picket held his horse and he went forward a few paces in front of the picket. He asked if the matter had been reported to General Beauregard, and he was told that no instructions had been given as to that. He said if our opinion was correct, General Beauregard should know it at once. He reported to General Bonham and the to General Beauregard. The pickets continued on post all night, and next morning at sun-up they moved forward in the direction of the enemy, marching into and through a scope of woods. When we arrived on the north side of the woods, the whole Federal army was exposed to view, marching up the river in the direction of Stone Bridge. During the morning they were relieved of picket duty and their company rejoined their regiment down at Mitchell’s Ford. Not long afterwards the booming of cannon up the river told that the two armies had met the first time in deadly combat.

A number of years ago Mr. Henderson wrote to Captain, then Judge McGowan, the following letter about that eventful night, and Judge McGowan’s reply is recopied from the Abbeville Press and Banner. We publish both:

Aiken S.C., July 22, 1891.

Judge Samuel McGowan,

Columbia, S.C.

My Dear Sir, – It has been thirty years since the event occurred that leads to this not. Probably you will remember it, probably not.

On the night before the battle of Manassas, or Bull Run, which was Saturday night, the writer with a comrade, Benjamin Sharpton, was on picket guard on the outer line – on the left hand side of the rad leading from Manassas to Centerville via Mitchell’s Ford, across Bull Run – and while on post you came to us and asked us what the enemy were doping and we told you they were moving up the river to our left. You asked how we knew it, and we said: “By the noise of the wagons, artillery, etc.,” and you thought we were mistaken. You got off your horse and went forward a few steps ion front of our lines and listened for a short time, and then came back to us and said what we thought about the enemy was correct: that the general commanding the army must know of it at once, and asked why we had not reported it before that time, etc. We told you we had no instructions to report anything, but to shoot anyone coming from the direction of the enemy. You mounted your horse and made off in great haste to report the movements of the enemy, which I have no doubt you did.

I saw you several times next day (Sunday), as you attended to your duties, but it has never been my pleasure to speak to you since that Saturday night; yet I have often thought of the occurrence and wanted to know, did the commander of the army have that information before you gave it to him. Would it be asking too much of you to give me that information. As I have said before, probably you have forgotten all about it, but it is fresh in my mind.

I was quite a boy then – sixteen years old – and I did not feel quite at home and happy. My comrade was killed near Richmond. I was kept from injury during the entire war.

I occasionally meet miss Meta Lythgo and ask about you, and I ask our lawyers when they come back from Columbia, if they have seen you, how you are, etc.

If you remember this occurrence, and if I ever have the opportunity of talking with you about it, it would be very pleasant, indeed.

I have now taken too much of your time and will close, hoping that your life may be long spared to our State.

Truly, your unknown friend,

C. K. HENDERSON

———-

General McGowan tells us this is true in every particular except one, and that is that it was not half of the whole truth. The officers did report to the General (Bonham).

1. Then he sent his acting Adjutant General (McGowan) with the report to headquarters at Manassas (three miles), and he aroused General Beauregard about 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning and gave the information to him.

2. Then General Beauregard sent General McGowan to General Jackson, at McLain’s Ford.

3. Jackson sent the same officer and aroused Colonel Walker, of the New Orleans Artillery.

When the staff officer on his return reached Mitchell’s Ford, the sun was just rising, and the first gun of the great battle of Manassas was fired.

The general says he has often wondered as to how much the work of those faithful sentinels, far out on the lines, contributed to our first great success at Manassas Plains.

Privates gave battle, but officers reap the reward. – Press and Banner.

———-

James Kadle was killed at the battle of Gettysburg.

Benjamin Sharpton was killed at Cold Harbor.

Smithfield Radford died a short time after the war.

Company F, of the Seventh Regiment, was mustered in at Graniteville.

———-

Richmond [Virginia] Times-Dispatch, 9/4/1910

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Contributed by Brett Schulte

Calloway K. Henderson at Ancestry.com – includes photo.

Calloway K. Henderson bio sketch

* It appears Henderson wrote the first portion of this in the third person. Henderson mustered in as a private, but eventually was promoted corporal and sergeant – dates undetermined.





Pvt. John H. B. Jones, Co. I, 4th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

4 09 2014

REMINISCENCES OF A FAMOUS COMPANY

———-

The Liberty Hall Volunteers at First Manassas.

“Old Zeus” — College Roommates Killed by Same Ball.

By Lieutenant J. H. B. Jones

(The following remarks were made on Lee-Jackson Day, 1911, at Lexington, and are reprinted from the Lexington Gazette:)

The Liberty Hall company was organized at Washington College, Lexington, Va., early in April, 1861, and numbered seventy-one members, rank and file. It was mustered into service at Staunton, Va., on June 10, 1861, by Major (afterwards general) John Echols. It spent several days in Staunton, and was then ordered to Winchester, Va., and was assigned to the Fourth Virginia Infantry, as Company I. This regiment was composed of companies principally from the counties of Montgomery, Pulaski, Smyth and Grayson, and was commanded by Colonel James F. Preston, who was a fine old officer, amiable and humane, and ever watchful of the interests of his soldiers. He sympathized with us on long marches and did everything he could to aid the weary. The youthful appearance of our boys brought forth many comments from the bewhiskered mountioneers of the Grayson Daredevils, such as, “Sonny, does your mother know you are out?” or “You may crack a cap on my gun; it won’t hurt you.” “Come home before the kufy bell rings.” These remarks were not very complimentary to us soldier boys, and very often our replies were not given in scriptural language, but it was not long before our critics changed their opinions of our endurance and soldierly qualities. As soon as we had been assigned to our regiment our time was fully occupied in drilling, guard duties and cooking. We were fairly proficient in the first two duties, but novices in cooking. The bread, oh, my! the samples of bread we produced would astonish the chefs of the exclusive 400.

Ted Barclay, one of my messmates, was noted for his recipe for making steak gravy (the only butter we had for our slapjack bread). He never failed to drop the hot stump of a tallow candle into the frying pan when cooking by candle light, and just before it was ready to go on our tin plates.

Owing to the position of the Confederate forces, long and rapid marches had to be made to aid Evans’s brigade on the extreme left. Generals Bee’s and Bartow’s men were hurried forward to his assistance. Then General Jackson’s brigade, after a rapid march, took position on the Henry house plateau in front of the young pine woods and in an easterly direction from the Henry house. The location of the Fourth Virginia Infantry was just in front of the young pine saplings, and the ground before the L. H. V. Co., was slightly higher than the ground it occupied. The order was given for the Fourth Virginia to lie down. The Rockbridge Artillery and some other guns were stationed in  front of the Fourth Virginia and other regiments of the First Virginia brigade. The Thirty-third Virginia was to our left. The famous batteries of United States regulars commanded by Griffin and Ricketts were posted at first near the Henry House, and then advanced nearer to our line. These batteries were pouring a very destructive fire upon our forces. Some of their shots, aimed at the artillery in our front, passed them and struck the line of infantry. One solid shot killed three of the L. H. V.’s – viz.: Sergeant Charles W. Bell. Corporal William L. Paxton and Private Benjamin A. Bradley. The most trying duty that soldiers are called upon to perform is to support batteries in their front. They must lie still, receiving balls and shells not aimed at them, seeing their comrades killed and wounded, while they have to remain passive and restraint their combative instincts until ordered to “up guards, and at the enemy with bayonets.”

A very touching incident in the lives and death of Charley Bell and Ben Bradley may be recorded. They were playmates and close friends when small boys; they entered Washington College together, were roommates and bedfellows while there; in the army they were messmates and bunk fellows, and they were hurried into eternity by the same cannon ball. While the company was being subjected to this terrible ordeal of fire and blood, what can I say more complimentary than has already been said of our gallant captain, James J. White, the towering and loved “Old Zeus” of our college days? He walked backward and forward in front of his line of boys, seemingly unconscious of the deadly missiles flying past him; his words allayed their fears and inspired them with additional courage, and caused Jackson to say of them while making the successful, but bloody charge: “The boys were more than brave.”

Now the enemy’s fire became more distinct and more rapid; the enemy was sending forward fresh troops and more of them. The L. H. V.’s realized that their fighting qualities would soon be called into action. The artillery in their front were opening the way for them by retiring by the right and left flanks; the Federal volleys were getting nearer and nearer; our gallant soldiers were being outnumbered and were giving ground slowly. Every soldier knew that the time for vigorous action had come.

“The combat deepens, on ye brave

Who rush to glory, or the grave.

Wave Dixie, all thy banners wave,

And charge with all thy chivalry.”

The proximity of the volleys, the zip and singing of the rifle balls indicated that our men were stubbornly yielding to the enemy’s advance. Just then General Bee dashed to General Jackson and said: “General, they are beating us back.” Jackson’s reply was: “Then we’ll give them the bayonet.” General Bee returned to his men and said: “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Tally behind the Virginians; follow me.”

In this charge the gallant general was killed, but he had given Jackson a name that will ever live in history. Jackson watched the enemy’s approach closely, and then in clarion tone he called to his brigade: “Reserve your fire until they come within 50 yards, then fire and give them the bayonet, and when you charge yell like furies. Forward, First Brigade!”

Then and there, comrades, was born the rebel yell that ever grew in volume and spirit until insufficient rations cut short our wind and vocal powers. This was the decisive charge of the day, and in the language of Stonewall Jackson “broke the moral power of the Federal army.” The L. H. V.’s suffered severely in this charge. Four were killed, viz.: W. B. Ott, Calvin Utz, H. L. Wilson and C. D. Strickler, and three had been killed before the charge. The wounded were Orderly Sergeant William A. Anderson, Corporal G. B. Strickler, S. H. Lightner, H. A. Paxton. C. F. Neel and Bronson B. Gwynn. Sergeant E. A. Mitchell died shortly after the battle from brain fever, brought on by excitement and exertion in the battle, making a loss of fourteen men. The opponents of the company in this charge were the famous gaudy New York Zouaves. They had the reputation of being great fighters, and were terrible to look at. It was the fate of one of our smallest men, Bronson Gwynn, to meet in a hand-to-hand conflict with one of these big red breeches fellows, who jumped from behind a pine bush and made a desperate lunge at Gwynn with his bayonet. Fortunately, his thrust was inaccurate, and the bayonet only passed through his uniform between his arm and side. Poor little stammering, stuttering Gwynn rallied and extracted his clothing from the bayonet, at once crying out: “Now, d-d-damn you, take that,” and turned loose the contents of his old regenerated flint lock into the upper story of the Zouave’s fez-covered head. Having seen that his work was effective he hurried on to take his place in the charge.

Richmond [Virginia] Times-Dispatch, 2/12/1911

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Contributed by Brett Schulte

John H. B. Jones at Ancestry.com

John H. B. Jones at usgwarchives.net





George Palmer Putnam, Publisher, On the Retreat, With Incidents of the Battle

29 08 2014

The Affair of the Twenty-First.

George P. Putnam, the publisher, was an eye witness of the retreat of Sunday and Monday, and says:

The reports of a disorderly retreat of our main army are grossly untrue. A brief statement of a small part of what I witnessed will show this.

Mr. Tilley of Rhode Island and myself accompanied the De Kalb Regiment[*] from Alexandria in the cars to the Fairfax station on the Manassas Gap Railroad; we reached there at 10 A.M. Heavy cannonading was steadily going on. While the regiment waited for orders we walked forward on the track till within five miles of Manassas Junction. A scout was there sending hourly reports to General Scott of the firing. Returning, as the regiment still halted, a party of four of us, with a soldier, walked on the Fairfax Court House three miles, and thence on the road to Centreville.

About f o’clock we began to meet buggies and wagons with visitors returning to Washington. All reported that the day was ours, and rode on jubilant, until, at half past 4, an officer on horseback, riding fiercely, said, with emphasis, “No, no, it’s going against us.” The firing had ceased.

Near Centreville, between two long hills, we suddenly saw army wagons and private vehicles coming down before us in hot haste – a few soldiers on horseback mixed in with the crowd. Looking back we w found a regiment coming fresh from Fairfax in “double quick.”

Mr. Russel, of the London Times, was on horseback among the first from the battle.

The New Jersey Colonel instantly formed his men across the road, and resolutely turned back every soldier in the road, and in twenty minutes perfect order was restored, and the whole flight of the vehicles was shown to be absurd, so much so that we waited two hours at that spot, drawing water for the poor wounded men, who began to limp along from the field; only two or three ambulances to be seen.

At half past six, two hours after the battle was over, we started [?] [?] back to Fairfax Court House, [?] [?] [?] four wounded soldiers into the wagon.

Those who were [?] [?] [?] [?] got by the Jersey boys, were stopped by a company of the Michigan Fourth, from Fairfax, and compelled to turn back.

At Fairfax Court House we quietly took supper at the tavern, and never [dreaming] of any disorderly retreat, we were supplied with good beds; we undressed and went to sleep at 11 P.M. At three o’clock Monday morning, finding the wagons were moving on the Alexandria, we started again and walked quietly along with them to Alexandria, doing what little we could to aid the men more or less slightly wounded, or worn out, including some from the hospital – for still there was scarcely an ambulance to be seen.

But on the whole road from Centerville to Alexandria, I am confident that there were not five hundred soldiers in all, between 6 P.M. and day-light; so that it is grossly untrue that the whole army made a hasty retreat. On the contrary, all seemed to be certain that a stand was made at Centerville, of the whole of our main body, excepting only the stragglers from this first panic. The panic was explained by several who agreed it was purely accidental.

I talked with at least forty from Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin regiments who gave me some thrilling incidents of different parts of the field – which I have no time to tell now – many grumbled at [?] [?], but all seemed plucky, and said that our troops could beat the rebels easily in an open fight, and would do it yet – but the masked batteries on one side and the blunders on ours had “done for us this time.” I reached Alexandria at seven – having walked forty miles.

– The following incidents of the battle form the first chapter of the volume of history and legend that will grow out of it:

– A spectator of the [?] tells me that the Zouaves literally decimated the Black Horse Cavalry, the celebrated rebel troop. About the middle of the battle the Zouaves fired by platoon upon the rebel infantry stationed in the woods. After they had fired they discovered a troop of horse coming down on their rear. — They carried the American flag, which deceived Col. Heintzelman, and made him believe they were United States Cavalry, and  he so told the Zouaves. As they came nearer, their true character was discovered, but too late for all the Zouaves to reload. The regiment faced and received the cavalry as they came down, with leveled bayonets which threw them into confusion. Then away went muskets, and the Zouaves went in withe their knives and pistols. They seized horses and stabbed their riders. In this hand-to-hand conflict the Black Horse Troop were handled in their own preferred way of fighting. — The [?] showed the Zouaves to be the most expert handlers of the knife. When the fight was over, there were not twenty of the four hundred cavalry left alive. Men and horses had been cut to pieces by the infuriated red-shirts. This troop of cavalry had boasted they would picket their horses in the grounds of the White House.

– Mr. Russel of The London Times, who witnessed at Inkerman and elsewhere in the Crimea the fiercest infantry charges on record, says they were surpassed by those of our Firemen Zouaves, Sixty-ninth, and other regiments. The best fighting ever done on the globe was that by a large portion of the defenders of the [?] at Bull’s Run.

– Our greatest deficiency was in cool and [???]. The men fought [?] and were ready for anything which experienced commanders would order them to do. Gen. McDowell behaved admirably. He was active, [?] and attended to everything in person as far as possible; but he had not a sufficient staff, and was not properly supported by his subordinates. — Major Wadsworth of New York, one of his aids, showed the utmost gallantry and devotion. He exerted himself to rally the forces when they first fell back, and towards the close, after having his horse shot under him, seized the colors of the wavering New York Fourteenth, and called on the boys to rally once more for another charge, but without success. Major Wadsworth, as the Army retreated, remained at Fairfax Court House, and devoted himself to purchasing everything needful for the wounded. of whom about a hundred and fifty were at that place.

– A number of the Second New York saw the rebel sharp-shooters fire upon and kill two vivandieres who were giving [?] and [?] to the wounded. The rebels also shout at ambulances bringing off the wounded. They also fired point blank at the buildings used as hospitals, and it is said by some that they fired the buildings.

– Lieut. Col. Haggerty of the Sixty-ninth, was killed in a charge. When his body was found, his throat was cut from ear to ear, and his ears and nose were cut off. Many of the sounded were found thus disfigured.

– A member of the New York Sixty-ninth says:

Thos. Francis  Meagher was the most conspicuous man on the field, riding on a white horse, with his hat off, and going into the battle most enthusiastically. At one time our regimental color was taken, and Meagher seized the green flag of Ireland, and went to the front, leading the men to the charge. The color was recaptured, the enemy was driven back, and the we formed in hollow square, by orders, and retreated steadily off the ground.

– A Union man living near Fairfax assured our informants he had seen the intrenchments at Manassas, and that there were nine miles of batteries there.

– The number of killed and wounded is got by Gen. Mansfield at less than 1,000, and by Gen. McDowell at from 500 to 700.

– Senator Lane, of Indiana, gives it as his opinion that the reason of the panic was an order given to the batteries to return to a certain point for ammunition, and this apparently retreating movement of batteries produced consternation and panic. By other the order to retreat, which assisted to change the fortunes of Sunday, is ascribed to Gen. Miles, of the Army, who commanded the fifth division.

– The Zouaves, after taking one battery, were rushing upon another , when those behind it cried out, “For God’s sake, don’t shoot your brothers.” Upon this, the Zouaves reserved their fire, until artillery was poured in upon them by the battery from which the supplications had come.

– It is well authenticated that in several instances our men fired upon each other. Company [?] of the Thirty-eighth Regiment New York Volunteers, suffered severely form such a mischance.

– When the colors of the Sixty-ninth were captured by the Virginians, two of them seized the flags and were going off with them, when Lieut. Matthews, of Company K, Fire Zouaves, fired and killed both the Virginians, and recovered the flags.

– Capt. Wildey, of Company I, Zouaves, killed two out of four Mississippians who were dragging a gun. All our men agree in representing that the rebel infantry will not stand a fair fight, even with three to our one. They gave way whenever attacked, when not supported by artillery.

– There is every reason now to believe, from concurrent reports, that a retreating panic seized the confederate army at the same time some of our regiments began their hasty and wild exodus from the scene of carnage.

– Capt. T. F. Meagher had a horse shot under him, but is untouched. All out losses were in advancing – none in falling back. There was no panic in front. This was confined mainly to the wagon drivers, straggling soldiers and fugitive officers, and the rear of the column.

– Our loss in field pieces is not so great as heretofore estimated. Every gun of Capt. Ayres’ battery, formerly Sherman’s, was brought off safe – only some caissons being lost. The loss of baggage wagons will not exceed fifty. In small arms, our loss is at least three thousand.

– The Colonels of our regiments appear to have been in the thickest of the fight, if we may judge by the casualties. The returns show four killed and seven wounded. There were thirty-six in the engagement, which gives a ratio of one in three killed or wounded.

– Gen. Cameron, who went to Manassas intending to witness the battle, was so impressed with  the doubtful character of the attempt to force the enemy’s position, that he returned in haste to Washington to [?], if possible, the orders which had been issued for an attack, but arrived too late. He immediately pressed forward, however, all the available troops to strengthen the Reserve Corps. Our officers had little hope of winning the battle, on Saturday night. A prominent Member of Congress who was there, after an interview with General McDowell and his aids, wrote down his conviction that we should lose it, and that the commanding General was hopeless at the commencement of the battle. We learn from another source that this was the general feeling among the officers. One captain remonstrated against the madness of the assault. Gen. McDowell said that a victory at this juncture was so important, that a great risk must be run to win it.

– It is believed the loss of the Fire Zouaves will not exceed 100, and that of the N.Y. 71st 60. Stragglers are continually coming in, but they are scattered through the different camps, so that the muster roles of different regiments can not yet be arranged, and the exact losses ascertained.

– A prisoner who was brought in, in the course of the battle, declared that Gen. Johnston was shot, and fell from his horse at his feet. When Col. Burnside fell from his killed horse, he conversed for a moment with a rebel officer, who asked him whether he was wounded, when he replied, “Only slightly.” “I am mortally wounded,” said the rebel, “and can have no object in deceiving you. I assure you that we have 90,000 men in and within forty minutes of Manassas Junction.”

– The New York Herald’s dispatch says:

The whole of Sherman’s battery is saved.

Col. Blenker, commanding a brigade in the division of Col. Miles, which brought up the rear of the retreating column, picked up on the way the guns of Burnside’s R.I. regiment that had been left behind, and brought them in. The horses had been detached for the purpose of bringing in the wounded.

Hon. Alfred Ely, of the Rochester district, and his companion on the field, Mr. Bing, have not been heard of since the battle. They were last seen near one of the batteries, and are supposed to have been taken prisoners.

Capt. Griffin lost 60 of the horses attached to his battery, but brought away one gun and the forge.

If a stand had been made at Centerville, the enemy would probably never have discovered the advantage accidentally gained.

Col. McCunn, of the 37th N.Y. regiment, is in command at Fort Ellsworth. His brigade consists of the 37th New York, Lieut Col. Burke commanding, the 14th, 16th, 26th, 15th and [?] New York [???].

Col. Corcoran, of the 69th Irish Regiment, and Capt Edward A. Wild, Massachusetts regiment, are missing. It is feared that Corcoran is dead.

Lieut. Chandler, Co. A., Massachusetts 1st, is not dead as reported.

Ellsworth Zouaves punished the Black Horse Rangers very severely by lying flat on the ground feigning death, until they were almost upon them, when rising and giving one of their fiendish war yells, each Zouave picked his man and fired, decimating the detachment, and stampeding their horses without riders.

Oneida [Utica, New York] Weekly Herald, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

George P. Putnam Wikipedia (G. P. was the grandfather of his namesake publisher and husband of aviator Amelia Earhart.)

* 41st New York Infantry, in Runyon’s Division





Pvt. Miles O. Wright, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

19 08 2014

From Miles O. Wright, Co. B.

———-

Camp Union, Va., July 23, 1861.

Dear Sister and Brother: — I am saved by the grace of God. On the 18th day of July we commenced our fight, and on the 21st we had a warm time, I tell you. There was about 1200 killed, of our men and theirs. They had 75,000 men and we had 20,000, but when we got them in the open fields we drove them. But they went in their masked battery, and we cut them down like grass. We fought from half-past seven till half-past three, and then we retreated and left the field. They chased us for 15 or 20 miles with 30,000 men and their cavalry, and run over our men and shot some. They run over James Adams and Wm. Goodwin, but did not kill them. It hurt them some. Two out of our company were wounded, and we expect Tom Jones in killed or taken prisoner. If he is taken prisoner we will get him again. After they had chased us 10 or 12 miles, Patterson and Butler came in behind and shot and took all of them.

Manassas Station and Manassas Gap is what we tried to take. The battle was fought on Bull’s Run, about 25 miles from Washington City. But the way we come it, was about 50 miles. We marched all night and got into camp next morning.

I am alive and well, but pretty sore and lame. I am sleepy, not having slept for 48 hours. I have just seen five rebel prisoners, in charge of Capt. Brown’s company in this regiment. I cannot write much more. I am so tired. The boys that are alive are here. Two of our boys are shot, one in the shoulder and one in the elbow. Their names are Smith and Ketchum.

You musty not feel bad for me. If I get home alive, all right; if not, I die for my country. But I guess our fighting is done with. We have had our share of it. There is not over 500 left in our regiment out of 840. It took 11 tents for each company, now it don’t take over 5.

Good bye for this time.

From your Brother,

MILES O. WRIGHT

Dansville [New York] Advertiser, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Bio Sketch of M. O. Wright, p. 381





Pvt. Clarence D. Hess, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

18 08 2014

From C. D. Hess, Scott’s Band.

———-

Washington, Monday, July 23

You have no doubt ere this received news of the terrible engagement that took place yesterday. I was a spectator of the whole from beginning to end. As newspaper accounts of it are rather mixed up, I will tell you all I saw. The band went with the regiment to the point that I mentioned in my last, and there was discovered the whole Southern army. Our large guns immediately opened upon them and stirred them up some, but brought no response for some time. At length the infantry went out and commenced firing upon them. Then the “ball” commenced. They opened their masked batteries upon our boys. Our whole artillery returned their fire, and at the same time continual vollies of musketry were kept up on both sides. The constant roar of the cannon, the rattle of the small arms, the bursting of shell and the screams of the wounded, made up one of the most horrible scenes I ever could have imagined. We had about 40,000 troops in the field, and the enemy about 125,000, including 5,000 cavalry. Our boys drove them for about six hours, when they received reinforcements, and after three hours more of hard fighting, the enemy made a charge with their cavalry, and scattered our forces in every direction. Every man for himself was then the order, and I immediately broke for the woods, Jim Newton following closely. I lost drum, sticks, music, blankets, revolver and haversack. I traveled all night, and reached Camp Union this morning. Five of the band boys have come in, viz: Alex., Myering, Tiffany, Newton and myself. The rest I have not seen yet. The loss of life was immense. I do not know yet who was killed in our regiment. We will know in a day or two. It is the last battle the band will go to. I never want to see such a sight again. Our regiment will now probably bee soon discharged. I write this in haste to let you know that I am safe, and hereafter shall look out that I remain so.

Dansville [New York] Advertiser, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Bio Sketch of C. D. Hess, p. 284





Pvt. William H. McMahon, Co. G, 27th New York Infantry, On the Retreat

14 08 2014

From the 27th Regiment

———-

[We are allowed to make the following extracts from a letter written by Will H. McMahon, lately from Lima Seminary, to a friend in this village. Mr. McMahon is a talented young man and a ready penman, and we should be pleased to hear from him often.]

Washington, D. C., July 27, 1861.

I have but a few moments, the first I have had in a long while to devote to correspondence. I was, of course, in the battle at Bull’s Run, but mist reserve the description of that scene until some other time. I have only this to say as regards pictures in the papers, none of them that I have seen represent the field at all; and the reporters’ accounts are hardly to be relied on. We were about forty hours on the march and in battle, without food, sleep or water, except such as we took from some loathsome pools and thick muddy brooks. I drank water which your educated Irish hog who occupies the same room with the family would scorn to be in. None of our fellow students were injured. The retreat was a regular rout, owing mostly to the inefficiency off our officers. The South have better officers, artillery and cavalry. We the best men. * * * —— flunked when it came to the pinch of fight or run. Where he was hid I don’t know, but we did not get the sight of his lovely features during the battle. He is spotted. * * * We (the 27th) were exposed for three-fourths of an hour to the fire of three regiments and two large masked batteries, and we drove the regiments off in double quick time, but our Colonel being wounded we had no chance of taking the batteries.

In the middle of the rout the road was covered with every thing you can imagine. I might have picked up any thing that I wished on the field, but was too weak to carry more than my arms, and hat I ten thousand dollars I would willingly have given it all for one drink of ice water! I saw many truly horrible sights during the contest, but the shrieks of dying horses were much more shocking even than the groans of wounded and dying men. Our regiment lost heavily. If I live through our next engagement it will be almost a miracle. The two men who stood on each side of me were wounded, and the Col. was hit while I was yelling in his ear about a flag! * * But if I do live through it I intend to strip a rebel of something which I can mail and sent to you * * There is now (eight o’clock Saturday evening) heavy cannonading in the distance over the river. * * We can whip them every time, with good officers and two-thirds the men.

But I must stop writing and prepare for emergencies. Write immediately.

Yours in brotherhood,

WILL.

Dansville [NY] Advertiser, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

William H. McMahon – no entry at Ancestry.com. Found in roster of the regiment in History of the 27th Regiment New York Volunteers, p. 280: “promoted to Corporal, Nov. 7, 1861; to Second Lieutenant of Co. K, Sept. 11, 1862.”








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