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. 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





Sgt. Mark J. Bunnell, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Aftermath of the Battle

13 08 2014

From Orderly Bunnell.

———-

[We received a long and interesting letter from the Orderly on Wednesday last, in which he graphically describes some scenes of the battle-field, bit it came so late that we could not publish it. On Monday we received the following short letter.]

Camp Bennett, Arlington Heights,

August 1st, 1861

Dear Ace: — I received your letter this morning, and was glad to hear from home, and that you were all as well as usual. My health is good. The reasons that I did not write before, is, that I was so tired out when I got back from the battle, that I could not think of anything. Ace, that was a time long to be remembered. I have not got over it yet, but am very well rested. I can’t describe the battle with the pen, but when I get home, I will tell you all about it. I cannot tell you when we will come home. We have been turned over to the U. S. for the whole term of our enlistment, but the regiment has got to be filled up to one thousand and forty men. the regiment is in a bad condition now. almost all sick, and I think that we will be sent back to the State to recruit. If so, then I will come home. Almost all in the regiment say that wen their three months are up, they will go home. Quite a number have deserted already, but that is a bad plan. All of our boys are here, except two that are in the hospital; one is Dieter and the other is Ketchum. The boys are not very fast to go into the fight again. I don’t know who would like such a fight as that was. We did not have anything to eat for about thirty-six hours, and during that time were on the battle-field some nine hours, and marched 60 miles. Talk about being tired! I can’t tell you anything about it, but thank God I am alive and well. I cannot imagine how we got off as well as we did. It seems almost like a dream to me now. Just think of marching along and stepping over dead bodies, and seeing men fall down dead by your side! It is awful! I have a Bowie knife, which I got on the field which will keep me in remembrance of these scenes were anything needed – but I never shall forget that day as long as I live.

It has been raining all morning, but is clearing off bright now. Our camp is very pleasantly situated just outside the fort. We don’t have much to do now, and in fact the boys are not in condition to do anything. I think we shall come home before long, but it may be all for the best if we should stay. I don’t think that Col. Quinby will command; I understand that he has tendered his resignation to the War Department. Probably a great many soldiers in this regiment would go in for the war under some other commander.

We have not got any more pay yet, but suppose we shall before long.

From your brother,

Mark J. Bunnell

Dansville [NY] Advertiser, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Mark. J. Bunnell at Ancestry.com





Col. W. T. Sherman, to His Wife, On Preparations to March (2)

17 07 2014

Camp opposite Georgetown.

July 16, 1861.

Dearest Ellen,

We start forth today at 2 P.M. move forward 10 miles to Vienna, there sleep – and tomorrow morning expect to fight some six or eight thousand of the enemy, at or near Fairfax, Germantown or Centreville – There we may pause for a few days & then on Manassas Junction, Beauregards Hd. Qrs. distant from here about 30 miles. I think we shall make a wide circuit, to come on his rear.

I am going to mind my own Brigade – not trouble myself about General plans – McDowell commands the whole – Brig. Gen. Tyler our column of 4 Brigades of about 10, or 11,000 men. I will have 3,400 – New York 13, 69 & 79th & Wisconsin 2nd with Shermans Battery now commanded by Capt. Ayres.

I take with me a few clothes in the valises & saddle bags – leave my small trunk to follow – have about 50 dollars in money, a Boy named John Hill as servant – have drawn pay to June 30 – and you know all else.

I think Beauregard will probably fall back tomorrow on Manassas, and call by R. R. from the neighborhood of Richmond & Lynchburg all the men he can get, and fight us there, in which case we will have our hands full.

Yesterday I went to the convent to bring the Girls over to see a drill – I found India Turner over visiting John Lee – Miss Whittington out in the country – so I brot over Miss Patterson and a Miss Walker of New Orleans – and after drill took them back – I saw Sister Bernard, and another who said she was your drawing teacher – She had a whole parcel of little prayers, and relics to keep me from harm – I told her you had secured about my neck as it were with a Silk cable a little medal which would be there, and her little relics I would stow away in my holsters.

Whatever fate befalls me, I Know you appreciate what good qualities I possess – and will make charitable allowances for defects, and that under you, our children will grow up on the safe side. About the Great Future that Providence that gives color and fragrance to the modest violet will deal justly by all – knowing the Secret motives & impulses of every heart. In the noise, confusion, hustle and [crises] of these thousand volunteers, my tongue and pen may be silent henceforth about you and our children, but I confide them with absolute confidence to you and the large circle of our mutual friends & relations.

I still regard this as but the beginning of a long war, but I hope my judgment therein is wrong, and that the People of the South may yet see the folly of their unjust Rebellion against the most mild & paternal Government ever designed for men – John will in Washington be better able to judge of my whereabouts and you had better send letters to him. As I read them I will tear them up, for every ounce on a march tells.

Tell Willy I have another war sword, which he can add to his present armory – when I come home again – I will gratify his ambitions on that score, though truly I do not choose for him or Tommy the military profession. It is too full of blind chances to be worthy of the first rank among callings.

Watch well your investments – the note you left with Turner, as well as you others lest you may be necessitated to fall back on them. Always assure Maj. Turner and Mr. Lucas of the unbounded respect I feel for them. Give your father, mother, sis & all my love. Tell Henrietta it has been an impossibility for me to go over to see her father & mother without neglecting my command which I never do. Good bye – and believe me always most affectionately yrs.

W. T. Sherman

Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, pp. 116-118





McDowell’s Real Plan

1 05 2014

Sorry this has taken so long.

The good folks at the Central Ohio Civil War Round Table – they’re in the Columbus area – invited me out to speak to them on the topic of my choice this past March 12. They invited me, jeez, must have been at least 18 months ago. They get really good speakers out there so the schedule is set many months in advance. This is the second time I’ve spoken to the group. I really like being invited back to a group, as I rightly or wrongly interpret that to mean they like what I do. Regardless, I’m to the point now where I won’t speak to any group unless they say “Hey, you want to speak to our group?”

My wife actually accompanied me on this trip; she’s never seen me speak before, and only once did she even attend a class I taught – because our soon to be son was due any day and she hoped discomfort and boredom would help spur things along. So this was an unusual trip right from the start, and continued on the unusual path when we got a flat tire very near our hotel. I changed the tire and we made it over to the hotel where our host Mike Peters (the historian of the COCWRT and the talent-booker) was waiting to take us to dinner.

After a nice meal we headed over to the venue in Westerville – a cool room in an old building at Otterbein University where veterans held meetings post-war. I renewed a couple of old acquaintances and made some new ones, and finally got to meet Phil Spaugy, with whom I’ve been “friends” on Facebook for awhile, and his posse from Dayton. Check out Phil’s blog here.

Towers Hall, Otterbein University

Towers Hall, Otterbein University

Meeting Room, COCWRT, Towers Hall, Otterbein University

Meeting Room, COCWRT, Towers Hall, Otterbein University

I was told by Mike that I had about 30 to 45 minutes for my presentation. I went over by about half an hour, but only one of the 20 or so in attendance left before the end (he is a lawyer, and I heard a siren going off only minutes before he left – coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.)

The gist of the presentation in a nutshell – my opinion, which I hope I supported adequately:

McDowell’s plan for the First Bull Run campaign was not a quick, tactical flank attack meant to overwhelm his outnumbered opponent and defeat him in the field. It was a deliberate, strategic turning maneuver, meant to compel a superior opponent to abandon his carefully chosen position, allowing McDowell to cut his line of communications. It did not fail because of slow movement, a complex plan, or the arrival of last minute Confederate reinforcements. It failed because McDowell was unable to establish his own line across Bull Run and move on the rail line at Groveton, and was instead drawn into a series of frontal assaults against a larger force occupying a superior position.

Sacrilege, I know. Of course, I had more to say than these four sentences, and that’s the fun part. You can read a recap of my talk here. I can quibble with a few things, but I’m not sure if the misunderstanding was due to a failure on my part to be clear. For now let’s just say that not all the details jive with what I meant to say. I really like this bit, though:

[Harry Smeltzer] reacts to consensus like a bull to the matador’s cape. Charge! And he lays waste to conventional wisdom. He doesn’t trust accepted “facts” and easy generalizations about battles, strategies, troop movements, and other assumptions that have been passed down as gospel over generations.

Yep, that’s me. I’m a loner. A rebel.

Afterwards we took a chilly walk to a nearby college pub where a few of us quaffed ales and had a generally ribald time. The next day, Mike and I went on a little field trip to nearby Lancaster, OH, while the wife made some sales calls and got the flat fixed. But that’s another story…





Previews: New from Savas Beatie

25 04 2014

Three new(er) releases from Savas Beatie have hit the shelves. I do apologize for the delay in announcing these, but now that our government has exacted it’s pound of flesh (that is, I have rendered unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s), I’m hoping to get back to more regular posting beyond the stuff I find and share on the blog’s Facebook page (which you can follow by clicking on the link over to the right.)

PETERS_CAMP2_lgFirst up is Volume II of Ed Bearss’s writings on the Petersburg Campaign, entitled The Petersburg Campaign Volume II: The Western Front Battles September 1864 – April 1865. The title is self-explanatory. You can read an interview with co-author/editor Bryce A. Suderow about the project here. This interview addresses to some extent who wrote what. 557 pages of text for you muddy trench fans. No order of battle, but clear George Skoch maps abound, and if you need more on the organization of the forces, check out Brett Schulte’s site here. And don’t miss the interview with Mr. Bearss on the back of the dust jacket.

We also have two new entries in the Mackowski and White edited Emerging Civil War series (see ECW’s site here.) Layout 1The first, No Turning Back is a guide to the Overland Campaign from Wilderness to Cold Harbor, and is the product of the combined efforts of National Park Service current and former employees Robert M. Dunkerly, Donald C. Pfanz, and David R. Ruth. Unlike most other ECW series entries, in which the battlefield tours are more or less appendices to a narrative, this is 165 pages of touring, supplemented with numerous maps and illustrations. Siegel’s No Backward Step has thus far been my go-to Overland guide, but the cheap binding really doesn’t lend itself to use in the field. No Turning Back relies on a more narrative flow and less reproduction of large chunks of text from eyewitnesses.

Layout 1The second new ECW title is Bloody Autumn: The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864, by NPS alums Daniel Davis and Phillip Greenwalt. This format will be more familiar to readers who have viewed other entries in the series. The narrative is concise at 90 pages, and, as the action is so spread out, appendices include four separate driving tours and an essay on battlefield preservation by one of my favorite rangers, Eric Campbell of Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park.

 





Corp. George M. Morris, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

10 04 2014

LETTERS FROM OUR BOYS.

———————————-

From George M. Morris.

—–

[We are pleased to lay before our readers the following minute and graphic letter from our able correspondent, Corporal Morris. --- It is the best published letter which we have seen from any member of the 13th regiment.]

Fort Bennett, Va.,

July 28, 1861.

Dear Bunnell:—

By the kind care and protecting arm of the controller of the destinies of man, I am able to indite you a letter this morning. — Confident that nothing short of power Supreme could have saved me from the danger which at times has surrounded me within the last two weeks, I return thanks to the God of battles for thus preserving me. We left our camp July 16th, in connection with Tyler’s division of the Grand Army, and moved forward into the enemy’s country. — We reached Vienna at 7 o’clock P. M., and encamped for the night. Early in the morning we resumed our march, taking the road for Georgetown, where a small force of the enemy were known to be intrenched. — The road was blockaded at short intervals by fallen trees, which the pioneers removed without much trouble. Skirmishing parties were constantly kept in front, at sufficient distance to give timely warning of the appearance of the enemy. As we approached Georgetown, two regiments were thrown into the fields in line of battle. Sherman’s battery proceeded along the road until the intrenchments could be seen. The rebels were at work on them, and seemed to be unconscious of our approach. A couple of shells from our howitzers soon attracted their attention, and caused them to make a hasty retreat. Two balls from the rifle cannon tore a hole through the intrenchment large enough for our troops to pass through. We saw no more of them that day. In an old house at Germantown two prisoners were taken. A short distance beyond Germantown we joined Hunter’s division, which left Alexandra at the same time ours left Arlington. They had come by the way of Fairfax, and met with similar success to ours. We proceeded on our journey about five miles farther and encamped for the night in an old secession camp which had just been vacated. They had been compelled to leave while preparing supper. The fires were still burning, with meat in kettles cooking over them. We slept soundly all night without being disturbed. It was understood that we were to proceed to Centreville that day, and that all the divisions under McDowell were to meet them. A large force of the enemy was expected to be intrenched at this place. Our marching on this day (July 18th,) was slow and cautious. We came in sight of the intrenchments before the other divisions came up, but nothing could be seen of the foe. After satisfying ourselves that the enemy had vacated this place also, we went forward and planted the stars and stripes on the breast-works, cheered them heartily. and turned into an open field to wait for the other divisions. They came up about noon, and a brigade belonging to Schenk’s division proceeded forward on the Manassas road; the remainder of the army staying at Centreville. About two o’clock the report of cannon was heard in the direction our troops had taken, and we knew a fight had commenced. Soon the news came that the advance regiments had been fired into by a masked battery, and a general engagement had commenced. Our brigade, (Sherman’s) was ordered forward to the support of Sherman’s battery, which had opened fire on the enemy. We “double quicked” for the three miles, and came into the scene of action. — Our regiment formed into line of battle, filed into the woods behind our battery to protect it from a charge of infantry. An open field lay between us and the enemy. They were secreted in a dim woods on the side hill above us. Nothing could be seen of them save a dragoon occasionally. The only means of learning their whereabouts was by the smoke of their guns. We lay upon our faces in the woods, while cannon ball and shell fell all around us thick and fast, for over an hour. Quite a number of the dead and dying lay strewn through the woods. — Had our regiment remained on their feet, we should have suffered terribly. As it was, not a man was hurt. McDowell came up about four o’clock, and seeing that nothing could be accomplished from the position we then occupied, he ordered the troops to fall back to Centreville. Thus ended the first day’s fight. Another move was not made until Sunday last. About two o’clock on the morning of the 21st, we started again for Manassas. Hunter’s division took the right flank road, Tyler’s the front, and Schenck’s the left flank. All started at the same time, with the intention of reaching Bull’s Run together, but at different places. This they accomplished without opposition. The road we took led us so that when we reached Bull’s Run, we were in the rear of the battery that fired into us on Thursday. Sherman got sight of it and threw two or three balls from his thirty-two pound seige gun, which tore it all to pieces. We then commenced feeling of the enemy from different points, by throwing shell into the woods in front. — They did not reply to our guns. They could be seen on the hill above us, and the pickets exchanged several shots.

By some means they got wind that Hunter was flanking them on the right, and they sent out a force to meet him. Our Brigade lay in the woods at this time waiting for Hunter to commence the attack. From an open field at our right we could see the enemy as they went out to meet Hunter. Our gunners threw a shell amongst them which done great damage and had the effect to disconcert them for a short time. They soon were out of reach of the guns in one brigade so we could do nothing but stay quietly in one place and wait for the fight to begin. At precisely nine o’clock Hunter came up and the fight began. He opened his battery upon them in the center of their column and flanked them on both sides. After a few rounds of small arms, they began to retreat. We were then ordered across the fields to cut them off. In consequence of being delayed on account of a stream, we did not reach them in time to prevent their retreat, but in time to give them the content of our guns, which made terrible havoc. One South Carolina regiment was entirely cut to pieces. The firing now ceased for a short time on both sides.

Our officers were confident that the victory was ours. McDowell and his staff rode into the field and was cheered loudly. An American flag was seen coming out of the woods opposite to us, and all thought it was Schenck’s division coming from the other side. It proved to be a ruse of the enemy however. As we advanced forward they opened a masked battery right where they had planted the stars and stripes. It cut several of our regiments horribly. One of our batteries soon engaged it, and our brigade was ordered to charge upon it. The 69th took it on the right side, 79th and 18th on the left. Had it not have been for the arrival of Johnson with a reinforcement of fresh troops just at this period, we should have gained the day without a doubt. But he instantly attacked us with a body of men numbering five to one, and forced us to fall back. The scene of carnage which now ensued beggars all description. New batteries before unseen opened on us from all directions. — The leaden messengers of death whistled around us — wounded men begged for aid — the dead men trampled over — all were nearly exhausted and dying of thirst. Having no fresh troops to fall back upon, a general retreat was absolutely necessary. By accident, not by bravery, I was about the last to leave the field. Could language paint the scene that I saw, then could I draw a picture that none but incarnate fiends could gaze upon without a shudder. Men lay around writhing in mortal agony. Some who had lost an arm or leg were begging pitifully for water. Others were dragging themselves slowly along into the bushes, there to breathe their last, alone and unheeded. My heart shrinks within me as the scene passes through my mind. Let those who have caused this war tremble at the surely coming retribution. The God of Heaven will surely hear the prayer of the mother left desolate in her old age. His forbearance may be long lasting, but it will have an end.

A few words concerning our company and I close. There is but two of them wounded, D. E. Smith and R. C. Ketchum. They are not seriously hurt. Both of them are wounded in the arm. The rest of the company are in much better health than could be expected under the circumstances. We marched 40 miles and fought nine hours without eating or sleeping. Many had such sore feet that they could not walk for four days.

I will write you again the latter part of this week, and give you some further particulars of the battle. Hoping never to be called upon the battle field again,

I remain your friend,

Geo. M. Morris

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

Clipping Image

George M. Morris at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Laura (Thornberry) Fletcher, On the Battle and Aftermath

3 04 2014

A few memories of the “War Between the States” by an eye witness, for my grandson, Westwood Hugh Fletcher. — Mrs. Laura Fletcher

On July 21st, Sunday, 1861 I sat on the hill side across the road from old Sudley Church and watched the firing of the muskets and the cannons, and the falling men. In a short time the army wagons began coming by piled as high as anyone would pile up wood, with the bodies of dead men that had been killed that day. They were taken to Sudley Church cemetery and dumped in a pit prepared for them. My Father, John F. Thornberry, Grandfather of Westwood Hugh, was in that great battle, was wounded and disabled for service any more. My father and mother with five little children (I was one of them) lived across the road from the church and two and a half miles from Manassas. On Saturday evening about 7 o’clock my uncle, William Wilkins came to my mother and insisted on taking her and us children to his house for the night as fighting would begin during the night. Mother said, “If you think so, I will get the children’s clothes for Sunday School and I will go.” He replied, “They will not need any clothes for Sunday School for there will be no Sunday School tomorrow.”

He was right, for 2 o’clock Sunday morning the Northern Army began pouring in about fifty feet from where my mother had just left. At Manassas they met the Southern Army from Richmond and the fighting began.

About 2 o’clock the Federal army began hauling off their dead and dumping them in the pit they had prepared for them at Sudley Church. As young as I was, I shall never forget the scene. I remember their faces yet.

Sunday night about 8 o’clock, my uncle heard someone whistling a long shrill whistle. He said, “That is someone in distress. I am going to look for him.” He found a young soldier boy about seventeen years old, lying in the woods. He asked him what he wanted. He said, “I want my mother.” He asked him where his mother was and he said at home in Michigan. He wanted to get him something to eat. He said no that he wanted water. Uncle went to the spring and filled his canteen. He drank it all. He went back to the spring and filled again and put it where he could get it, bade him goodbye, told him he would see him early the next morning. His reply was, “No, I will be gone before tomorrow.” When Uncle went back the next morning, he was dead.

When he related it, how my mother and aunt cried. I wondered why they cried, they did not know him. I know now why they cried!

That was Sunday evening. The next morning (Monday) my mother went to our home. It was desolate. She with us children left it Saturday evening as we had lived in it for 15 or 20 years, and there was not an article of anything in it. Ten men had bled to death in mother’s bedroom the night before. Carpets and all furniture were out and gone. We never saw any of it again, or anything else. The old farm well in the back yard was almost full of everything that would go in it. Such as china ware, cooking utensils, flat irons, and every thing you can imagine used in a family was thrown in it. Of course everything was broken. How we all cried over it; and no prospects of replacing any of it.

My father was brought to my Grandfather’s from the battlefield of Manassas, with typhoid fever (from a wound) and remained ill for eight weeks.

It was the Federal army that destroyed everything in its path. I don’t know how the Southern army did, as I am only writing from memory. This was the beginning of the war and terrible it was. They thought it was their duty to destroy everything they came to. My father lost in one day, over two thousand dollars worth of property. You may think I am exaggerating, but I will numerate some of the loss.

My father was a carpenter, wheel-wright, undertaker. Everything was made by hand. He also ran a blacksmith shop for his own work. I am writing that you might know how destructive everything was.

After my father got back, living in his own home, a terrible noise was heard one night about 2 o’clock. Ten Federal soldiers came to our home and burst the front door down. A piece of it struck my mother in the face and disfigured her very badly as well as hurting her. They arrested my father and oldest bother, who was 16 years old, for spies. They were not spies and never had been. They took them away to Washington, put them in the “old Capitol” prison, and it was three months before mother heard a word from them.

The next morning before taking them to Washington, the soldiers got a rope to hang my father, placing it around his neck. This did not occur in our house but just outside of our yard. My brother begged and cried like a baby not to hang his father, “He didn’t do anything.” One of the men said “Search his pockets before you draw that rope.” There they found a diary of his whereabouts. That saved him; he always kept one.

The Second battle of Manassas began the 26th of August, three years after. That was worse than the first. We were driven from our home by big cannons planted on the east and on the west of our home, and while we were at breakfast, two men soldiers on horses, came to our front door and said, “Get out of here. There are 12 cannons planted on two sides of your house, and you will be blown to pieces.” We got out as quickly as possible. We took refuge in the yard of “Uncle Tommie Hutchinson” and watched the firing all day.

About 12 o’clock the cannoning stopped, but the musketing kept on, until four o’clock in the afternoon. Such sights were never seen. My father hid in the ice-house all day. It was the 26th of August and the ice was low.

He walked out to the battlefield and tried to count the dead men, but could not. He got as far as one hundred and fifty and had to stop; he got sick and could go no farther. It was on the unfinished railroad between Alexandria and Manassas. The Southern Army ammunition train was cut off from their regiment and they had nothing to fight with and they used the crushed rock from the railroad. So many were killed with it.

Now this is true, every word that I have written.

Mrs. Laura Fletcher
December 12, 1936

NOTES

This account was written by Mrs. Laura (Thornberry) Fletcher (1854-1937), in December 1936 (age 82). She was the granddaughter of Rev. John Trone of Buckland Mills. Her mother was Martha (Trone) Thornberry. An aunt, Mary (Trone) Wilkins, was married to James Wilkins, a tenant farmer living on Stony Ridge, off the Groveton-Sudley Road. Laura had a son, Westwood Hugh Fletcher (grandson?), and three daughters: Boude Thompson, Estelle Blacketer, and Olive Carry.

Source: Norman M. Fletcher, Ft. Myers, FL

The following notes are provided by Museum Specialist, James Burgess:

1. The hillside on which Laura sat on July 21, 1861 was undoubtedly the Wilkins house site on Stony Ridge, which would have afforded a view of Sudley Church and the battlefield.

2. While not disputing the possibility of a wartime mass burial at Sudley Church, there was no established church cemetery at Sudley until 1896.

3. John F. Thornberry served briefly with the “Ewell Guards”, Company A, 49th Virginia Infantry.

4. William Wilkins was actually Laura’s older cousin (not uncle). He was 17 years old at the time of First Manassas. In 1862, he joined the Prince William Cavalry (Company A, 4th Virginia Cavalry). Laura may have him confused with his father, James Wilkins.

5. By most accounts Union forces did not arrive at Sudley Springs until 9:30 a.m. Since Laura’s mother had evacuated her and her siblings to the Wilkins home the night before, Laura’s knowledge of the Union army’s time of arrival is suspect. It is commonly known that the Union army broke camp in Centreville about 2 a.m. and this may have influenced her memory.

6. Laura’s mistaken belief that the Second Battle of Manassas began on August 26, three years after the first battle clearly reflects the effects of age on her memory. (It began on August 28, 1862, 13 months after the first battle.)

Contributed to Bull Runnings by James Burgess, Museum Specialist, Manassas National Battlefield Park

See here for more on the Thornberry children, including a photo of Laura.





Ezra Walrath Court of Inquiry

24 03 2014

As concerns Col. Ezra Walrath, 12th New York Infantry, and the results of his efforts for a Court of Inquiry into his command of the regiment at Blackburn’s Ford to which he alluded in his correspondence here and here, I was able to locate this unidentified news clipping from this site:

NEW YORK VOLUNTEERS.—Hon. George Geddes only delays his acceptance of the Colonelcy of the Twelfth Regiment until his physician shall assure him that his health will admit of active service. The commissioned officers of the Twelfth were unanimous in selecting Mr. Geddes for commander. The Syracuse Journal says he is the only man now left in the county, whose education and ability fit him for the position. The Twelfth has now about 400 men left, all of whom have served six months, and are said to be under good discipline. Col. Walrath having resigned, and Major Louis having been killed, the regiment is sadly in need of a head, and it is hoped that Mr. Geddes will soon determine upon his course in the matter.

—Col. Walrath, of the Onondaga regiment, (12th) has been entirely cleared of charges cowardice and incompetency, by the verdict of a Court of Inquiry, which awards to the Colonel high praise for his conduct at Bull’s Run. Capt. Locke, of the same regiment, was charged with giving the order to retreat, unauthorized. This charge was not sustained before a Court of Inquiry.

—The commissioned officers of the Onondaga Regiment (12th) have unanimously chosen Hon. George Geddes for Colonel, in place of Walrath in whose hands the regiment has fallen into a deplorable state of demoralization. Desertion has reduced the number from 780 to two or three hundred available men. Recruiting for it has actively commenced, and Col, Geddes will restore the regiment to efficiency if any man can.

Once I’ve identified the newspaper and date, I’ll move this to the resources section. As always, any help is appreciated.








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