#4 – McDowell’s Plan

30 10 2007

 

CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN MARYLAND, PENNSYLVANIA, VIRGINIA, AND WEST VIRGINIA FROM APRIL 16 TO JULY 31, 1861

UNION CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.–#4

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX pp 719-721

HDQRS. DEPARTMENT NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA,

Arlington, June(*) –, 1861

 Lieut. Col. E. D. TOWNSEND,

Asst. Adjt. Gen., Headquarters of the Army:

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following plan of operations, and the composition of the force required to carry it into effect, in compliance with the verbal instructions of the General-in-Chief:

The secession forces at Manassas Junction and its dependencies are supposed to amount at this time to–

Infantry          23,000

Cavalry          1,500

Artillery           500

Total               25,000

We cannot count on keeping secret our intention to overthrow this force. Even if the many parties intrusted with the knowledge of the plan should not disclose or discover it, the necessary preliminary measures for such an expedition would betray it; and they are alive and well informed as to every movement, however slight, we make. They have, moreover, been expecting us to attack their position, and have been preparing for it. When it becomes known positively we are about to march, and they learn in what strength, they will be obliged to call in their disposable forces from all quarters, for they will not be able, if closely pressed, to get away by railroad before we can reach them. If General J. E. Johnston’s force is kept engaged by Major-General Patterson, and Major-General Butler occupies the force now in his vicinity, I think they will not be able to bring up more than ten thousand men. So we must calculate on having to do with about thirty-five thousand men.

The objective point in our plan is the Manassas Junction. This is covered by the enemy’s troops stationed at Centreville, Germantown, Fairfax Court-House, Fairfax Station, a place between Fairfax Station and Sangster’s, and on the Occoquan. The position at Manassas may be reached by four routes: First, by the Leesburg stone road, Georgetown turnpike, and Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad, via Falls Church and Vienna; second, by way of the Little River turnpike and Fairfax Court-House; third, by way of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad; fourth, by way of the road south of the Orange and Alexandria road.

There is a fifth approach, from Dumfries or Evansport, by way of Brentsville, a march of about twenty-two miles, but the starting point is too far from the main direct approach to admit of its being used in the first instance without a superabundance of force. The country lying between the two armies is mostly thickly wooded, and the roads leading across it, except the turnpikes and railroads, are narrow, and in places sunken by the wear of travel and wash of rains. This makes it necessary to have the fewest possible number of carriages of any kind, and our forces, therefore, though the distance is short, will have to move over several lines of approach in order to get forward in time a sufficient body to operate with success. The Loudoun and Hampshire road is in working order as far as within five miles of Vienna, and no doubt could soon be repaired to that place. The Orange and Alexandria road, which I propose to look to as the main channel of supply, is now in working order some seven miles out of Alexandria, and from Manassas Junction to within fifteen miles of Alexandria. In the intermediate space the road has been destroyed as effectively as possible, and a long deep cut filled in with trees and earth. Nevertheless, all these obstacles can soon be removed with plenty of force and an adequate supply of proper materials.

Leaving small garrisons in the defensive works, I propose to move against Manassas with a force of thirty thousand of all arms, organized into three columns, with a reserve of ten thousand. One column to move from Falls Church or Vienna (preferably the latter), to go between Fairfax Court-House and Centreville, and, in connection with another column moving by the Little River turnpike, cut off or drive in (the former, if possible) the enemy’s advanced posts. The third column to move by the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and leaving as large a force as may be necessary to aid in rebuilding it, to push on with the remainder to join the first and second columns.

The enemy is said to have batteries in position at several places in his front, and defensive works on Bull Run and Manassas Junction. I  do not propose that these batteries be attacked, for I think they may all be turned. Bull Run, I am told, is fordable at almost any place. After uniting the columns this side of it, I propose to attack the main position by turning it, if possible, so as to cut off communications by rail with the South, or threaten to do so sufficiently to force the enemy to leave his intrenchments to guard them; if necessary, and I find it Can be done with safety, to move a force as far as Bristoe, to destroy the bridge at that place.

I cannot learn that the enemy has any magazines at the Junction, and I am under the impression he receives his supplies, except fresh beef, from the south by the railroad. I am told that on most of the approaches abatis have been made and other preparations to obstruct the advance of our troops, and, as the roads are mostly through woods, and are narrow, it will be necessary the Army should go, in the first place, as free from baggage as possible-no tents; provisions only in the haversack; the only wagons being those necessary for carrying axes, spades, and picks, and ammunition for the infantry, and ambulances for the sick and wounded. A subsistence train should be ready in Alexandria to go by the Little River turnpike in case the Orange and Alexandria road cannot be repaired, and another should be ready at Vienna, under the guard to be left there, for the use of the column moving from that point, in case it should fail to reach in time the Orange and Alexandria road or the Little River turnpike, or the latter should not in time be cleared of the enemy.

Believing the chances are greatly in favor of the enemy’s accepting battle between this and the Junction, and that the consequences of that battle will be of the greatest importance to the country, as establishing the prestige in this contest on the one side or the other–the more so as the two sections will be fairly represented by regiments from almost every State–I think it of great consequence that, as for the most part our regiments are exceedingly raw and the best of them, with few exceptions, not over steady in line, they be organized into as many small fixed brigades as the number of regular colonels will admit, these colonels commanding brigades to be assisted by as many regular officers as can be collected for the purpose, so that the men may have as fair a chance as the nature of things and the comparative inexperience of most will allow.

If the three companies of artillery in this department are furnished with batteries, we shall have with the three regular and three volunteer batteries here and in Washington a sufficiency of artillery; though, if the nature of the country did not make it embarrassing, I would, on account of the confidence it gives new troops, have still more. Fortunately, the country is so wooded that our deficiency in cavalry will be the less felt. We shall need all we have for the ordinary work of escorts, advance pickets, &c. I think every arrangement should be made, that when the columns take up their line of march no step be taken in retreat, but that they should press forward to the ultimate point steadily and determinedly. If they are well led I think they will do so, and with every chance of success.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

 IRVIN McDOWELL,

Brigadier-General, Commanding

* About June 24, 1861





#6 – Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell

3 10 2007

 

Reports of Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell, Commanding Federal Forces

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 316-328

CENTREVILLE, July 21, 1861–5.45 p.m.

We passed Bull Run. Engaged the enemy, who, it seems, had just been re-enforced by General Johnston. We drove them for several hours, and finally routed them.

They rallied and repulsed us, but only to give us again the victory, which seemed complete. But our men, exhausted with fatigue and thirst and confused by firing into each other, were attacked by the enemy’s reserves, and driven from the position we had gained, overlooking Manassas. After this the men could not be rallied, but slowly left the field. In the mean time the enemy outflanked Richardson at Blackburn’s Ford, and we have now to hold Centreville till our men can get behind it. Miles’ division is holding the town. It is reported Colonel Cameron is killed, Hunter and Heintzelman wounded, neither dangerously.

IRVIN McDOWELL,

Brigadier General, Commanding

Lieutenant-Colonel TOWNSEND

***

FAIRFAX COURT-HOUSE, July 21, 1861:

The men having thrown away their haversacks in the battle and left them behind, they are without food; have eaten nothing since breakfast. We are without artillery ammunition. The larger part of the men are a confused mob, entirely demoralized. It was the opinion of all the commanders that no stand could be made this side of the Potomac. We will, however, make the attempt at Fairfax Court-House. From a prisoner we learn that 20,000 from Johnston joined last night, and they march on us to-night.

IRVIN McDOWELL

Colonel TOWNSEND

***

FAIRFAX COURT-HOUSE, [July] 22, 1861

Many of the volunteers did not wait for authority to proceed to the Potomac, but left on their own decision. They are now pouring through this place in a state of utter disorganization. They could not be prepared for action by to-morrow morning even were they willing. I learn from prisoners that we are to be pressed here to-night and to-morrow morning, as the enemy’s force is very large and they are elated. I think we heard cannon on our rear guard. I think now, as all of my commanders thought at Centreville, there is no alternative but to fall back to the Potomac, and I shall proceed to do so with as much regularity as possible.

IRVIN McDOWELL

Colonel TOWNSEND

***

ARLINGTON, July 22, 1861

I avail myself of the re-establishing of telegraph to report my arrival. When I left the forks of the Little River turnpike and Columbia turnpike, where I had been for a couple of hours turning stragglers and parties of regiments upon this place and Alexandria, I received intelligence that the rear guard, under Colonel Richardson, had left Fairfax Court-House and was getting along well. Had not been attacked. I am now trying to get matters a little organized over here.

IRVIN McDOWELL,

Brigadier-General

E. D. TOWNSEND

***

HDQRS. DEPARTMENT NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA,

Arlington, Va., August 4, 1861

Lieut. Col. E. D. TOWNSEND,

Asst. Adjt. Gen., Hdqrs. of the Army, Washington, D. C.

COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the battle of the 21st of July, near Manassas, Va. It has been delayed till this time from the inability of the subordinate commanders to get earlier a true account of the state of their commands.

In my communication to you of the 20th ultimo, I stated it as my intention to move that afternoon and drive the enemy from the east side of Bull Run, so as to enable the engineers to make a sufficiently accurate reconnaissance to justify our future movements. Later in the day they had obtained enough information of the passages across the stream to dispense with this reconnaissance, and it was decided to move without further delay.

It had been my intention to move the several columns out on the road a few miles on the evening of the 20th, so that they would have a shorter march in the morning; but I deferred to those who had the greatest distance to go, and who preferred starting early in the morning and making but one move.

On the evening of the 20th ultimo my command was mostly at or near Centreville. The enemy was at or near Manassas, distant from Centreville about seven miles to the southwest. Centreville is a village of a few houses, mostly on the west side of a ridge running nearly north and south. The road from Centreville to Manassas Junction runs along this ridge, and crosses Bull Run about three miles from the former place. The Warrenton turnpike, which runs nearly east and west, goes over this ridge through the village, and crosses Bull Run about four miles from it, Bull Run having a course between the crossings from northwest to southeast.

The First Division (Tyler’s) was stationed as follows: One brigade on the north side of the Warrenton turnpike and on the eastern slope of the Centreville ridge; two brigades on the same road and a mile and a half in advance to the west of the ridge; and one brigade on the road from Centreville to Manassas where it crosses Bull Run at Blackburn’s Ford, where General Tyler had the engagement of the 18th ultimo.

The Second Division (Hunter’s) was on the Warrenton turnpike, one mile east of Centreville.

The Third Division (Heintzelman’s) was on a road known as the old Braddock road, which comes into Centreville from the southeast about a mile and a half from the village.

The Fifth Division (Miles’) was on the same road with the Third Division, and between it and Centreville.

A map, which is herewith, marked A,(*) will show these positions better than I describe them.Friday night a train of subsistence arrived, and on Saturday its contents were ordered to be issued to the command, and the men required to have three days’ rations in their haversacks. (See appendix herewith, marked B.)

Saturday orders (copy herewith, marked c) were issued for the available force to march.

As reported to you in my letter of the 19th ultimo, my personal reconnaissance of the roads to the south had shown that it was not practicable to carry out the original plan of turning the enemy’s position on their right. The affair of the 18th at Blackburn’s Ford showed he was too strong at that point for us to force a passage there without great loss, and if we did, that it would bring us in front of his strong position at Manassas, which was not desired.

Our information was that the stone bridge over which the Warrenton road crossed Bull Run to the west of Centreville was mined, defended by a battery in position, and the road on his side of the stream impeded by a heavy abatis. The alternative was, therefore, to turn the extreme left of his position.

Reliable information was obtained of an undefended ford about three miles above the bridge, there being another ford between it and the bridge, which was defended. It was therefore determined to take the road to the upper ford, and, after crossing, to get behind the forces guarding the lower ford and the bridge, and after occupying the Warrenton road east of the bridge to send out a force to destroy the railroad at or near Gainesville, and thus break up the communication between the enemy’s forces at Manassas and those in the Valley of Virginia before Winchester, which had been held in check by Major-General Patterson.

Brigadier-General Tyler was directed to move with three of his brigades on the Warrenton road, and commence cannonading the enemy’s batteries, while Hunter’s division, moving after him, should, after passing a little stream called Cub Run, turn to the right and north, and move by a wood road around to the upper ford, and then turn south and get behind the enemy; Colonel Heintzelman’s division to follow Hunter’s as far as the turning-off place to the lower ford, where he was to cross after the enemy should have been driven out by Hunter’s division; the Fifth Division (Miles’) to be in reserve on the Centreville ridge.

I had felt anxious about the road from Manassas by Blackburn’s Ford to Centreville along this ridge, fearing that, whilst we should be in force to the front and endeavoring to turn the enemy’s position, we ourselves should be turned by him by this road. For if he should once obtain possession of this ridge, which overlooks all the country to the west to the foot of the spurs of the Blue Ridge, we should have been irretrievably cut off and destroyed. I had, therefore, directed this point to be held in force, and sent an engineer to extemporize some field works to strengthen the position.

The Fourth Division (Runyon’s) had not been brought to the front farther than to guard our communications by way of Vienna and the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. His advanced regiment was about seven miles in rear of Centreville.

The divisions were ordered to march at 2.30 o’clock a.m., so as to arrive on the ground early in the day, and thus avoid the heat which is to be expected at this season. There was delay in the First Division getting out of its camp on the road, and the other divisions were, in consequence, between two and three hours behind the time appointed–a great misfortune, as events turned out. The wood road leading from the Warrenton turnpike to the upper ford was much longer than we counted upon, the general direction of the stream being oblique to the road and we having the obtuse angle on our side.

General Tyler commenced with his artillery at 6.30 a.m., but the enemy did not reply, and after some time it became a question whether he was in any force in our front, and if he did not intend himself to make an attack, and make it by Blackburn’s Ford. After firing several times, and obtaining no response, I held one of Heintzelman’s brigades in reserve, in case we should have to send any troops back to re-enforce Miles’ division. The other brigades moved forward as directed in the general order.

On reaching the ford at Sudley Springs, I found part of the leading brigade of Hunter’s division (Burnside’s) had crossed, but the men were slow in getting over, stopping to drink. As at this time the clouds of dust from the direction of Manassas indicated the immediate approach of a large force, and fearing it might come down on the head of the column before the division could all get over and sustain it, orders were sent back to the heads of regiments to break from the column, and come for-ward separately as fast as possible.

Orders were sent by an officer to the reserve brigade of Heintzelman’s division to come by a nearer road across the fields, and an aide-de-camp sent to Brigadier-General Tyler to direct him to press forward his attack, as large bodies of the enemy were passing in front of him to attack the division which had crossed over.

The ground between the stream and the road leading from Sudley Springs south, and over which Burnside’s brigade marched, was, for about a mile from the ford, thickly wooded, whilst on the right of the road for about the same distance the country was divided between fields and woods. About a mile from the ford the country on both sides of the road is open, and for nearly a mile farther large rolling fields extend down to the Warrenton turnpike, which crosses what became the field of battle, through the valley of a small water-course, a tributary of Bull Run.

Shortly after the leading regiment of the First Brigade reached this open space, and whilst the others and the Second Brigade were crossing to the front and right, the enemy opened his fire, beginning with artillery and following it up with infantry.

The leading brigade (Burnside’s) had to sustain this shock for a short time without support, and did it well. The battalion of regular infantry was sent to sustain it, and shortly afterwards the other corps of Porter’s brigade and a regiment detached from Heintzelman’s division to the left forced the enemy back far enough to allow Sherman’s and Keyes’ brigades of Tyler’s division to cross from their position on the Warrenton road.

These drove the right of the enemy (understood to have been commanded by Beauregard) from the front of the field, and out of the detached woods, and down to the road, and across it, up the slopes on the other side. Whilst this was going on, Heintzelman’s division was moving down the field to the stream and up the road beyond. Beyond the Warrenton road, and to the left of the road down which our troops had marched from Sudley Springs, is a hill with a farm house on it. Behind this hill the enemy had early in the day some of his most annoying batteries planted. Across the road from this hill was another hill, or rather elevated ridge or table land. The hottest part of the contest was for the possession of this hill with a house on it.

The force engaged here was Heintzelman’s division, Willcox’s and Howard’s brigades on the right, supported by part of Porter’s brigade and the cavalry under Palmer, and Franklin’s brigade of Heintzelman’s division, Sherman’s brigade of Tyler’s division in the center and up the road, whilst Keyes’ brigade of Tyler’s division was on the left, attacking the batteries near the stone bridge. The Rhode Island Battery of Burnside’s brigade also participated in this attack by its fire from the north of the turnpike. The enemy was understood to have been commanded by J. E. Johnston.

Ricketts’ battery, which did such effective service and played so brilliant a part in this contest, was, together with Griffin’s battery, on the side of the hill, and became the object of the special attention of the enemy, who succeeded (our officers mistaking one of his regiments for one of our own, and allowing it to approach without firing upon it) in disabling the battery, and then attempted to take it. Three times was he repulsed by different corps in succession and driven back, and the guns taken by hand (the horses being killed) and pulled away. The third time it was supposed by us all that the repulse was final, for he was driven entirely from the hill, so far beyond it as not to be in sight, and all were certain the day was ours. He had before this been driven nearly a mile and a half, and was beyond the Warrenton road, which was entirely in our possession from the stone bridge westward, and our engineers were just completing the removal of the abatis across the road to allow our re-enforcements (Schenck’s brigade and Ayres’ battery) to join us.

The enemy was evidently disheartened and broken. But we had then been fighting since 10.30 o’clock in the morning, and it was after 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The men had been up since 2 o’clock in the morning, and had made what to those unused to such things seemed a long march before coming into action, though the longest distance gone over was not more than 9½ miles; and though they had three days’ provisions served out to them the day before, many, no doubt, either did not get them, or threw them away on the march or during the battle, and were therefore without food. They had done much severe fighting. Some of the regiments which had been driven from the hill in the first two attempts of the enemy to keep possession of it had become shaken, were unsteady, and had many men out of the ranks.

It was at this time that the enemy’s re-enforcements came to his aid from the railroad train (understood to have just arrived from the valley with the residue of Johnston’s army). They threw themselves in the woods on our right, and opened a fire of musketry on our men, which caused them to break and retire down the hill-side. This soon degenerated into disorder, for which there was no remedy. Every effort was made to rally them, even beyond the reach of the enemy’s fire, but in vain. The battalion of regular infantry alone moved up the hill opposite to the one with the house, and there maintained itself until our men could get down to and across the Warrenton turnpike on the way back to the position we occupied in the morning. The plain was covered with the retreating groups, and they seemed to infect those with whom they came in contact. The retreat soon became a rout, and this soon degenerated still further into a panic.

Finding this state of affairs was beyond the efforts of all those who had assisted so faithfully during the long and hard day’s work in gaining almost the object of our wishes, and that nothing remained on that field but to recognize what we could no longer prevent, I gave the necessary orders to protect their withdrawal, begging the men to form a line, and offer the appearance, at least, of organization and force.

They returned by the fords to the Warrenton road, protected, by my order, by Colonel Porter’s force of regulars. Once on the road, and the different corps coming together in small parties, many without officers, they became intermingled, and all organization was lost.

Orders had been sent back to Miles’ division for a brigade to move forward and protect this retreat, and Colonel Blenker’s brigade was detached for this purpose, and was ordered to go as far forward as the point where the road to the right left the main road.

By referring to the general order it will be seen that while the operations were to go on in front, an attack was to be made at Blackburn’s Ford by the brigade (Richardson’s) stationed there. A reference to his report, and to that of Major Hunt, commanding the artillery, will show that this part of the plan was well and effectively carried out (+). It succeeded in deceiving the enemy for considerable time and in keeping in check a part of his force. The fire of the artillery at this point is represented as particularly destructive.

At the time of our retreat, seeing great activity in this direction, much firing, and columns of dust, I became anxious for this place, fearing if it were turned or forced the whole stream of our retreating mass would be captured or destroyed.

After providing for the protection of the retreat by Porter’s and Blenker’s brigades, I repaired to Richardson’s, and found the whole force ordered to be stationed for the holding of the road from Manassas, by Blackburn’s Ford, to Centreville, on the march, under orders from the division commander, for Centreville. I immediately halted it, and ordered it to take up the best line of defense across the ridge that their then position admitted of; and subsequently, taking in person the command of this part of the Army, I caused such disposition of the forces, which had been added to by the First and Second New Jersey and the De Kalb Regiments, ordered up from Runyon’s reserve before going forward, as would best serve to check the enemy.

The ridge being held in this way, the retreating current passed slowly through Centreville to the rear. The enemy followed us from the ford as far as Cub Run, and, owing to the road becoming blocked up at the crossing, caused us much damage there, for the artillery could not pass, and several pieces and caissons had to be abandoned. In the panic the horses hauling the caissons and ammunition were cut from their places by persons to escape with, and in this way much confusion was caused, the panic aggravated, and the road encumbered. Not only were pieces of artillery lost, but also many of the ambulances carrying the wounded.

By sundown most of our men had gotten behind Centreville ridge, and it became a question whether we should or not endeavor to make a stand there. The condition of our artillery and its ammunition, and the want of food for the men, who had generally abandoned or thrown away all that had been issued the day before, and the utter disorganization and consequent demoralization of the mass of the Army, seemed to all who were near enough to be consulted–division and brigade commanders and staff–to admit of no alternative but to fall back; the more so as the position at Blackburn’s Ford was then in the possession of the enemy, and he was already turning our left.

On sending the officers of the staff to the different camps, they found, as they reported to me, that our decision had been anticipated by the troops, most of those who had come in from the front being already on the road to the rear, the panic with which they came in still continuing and hurrying them along.

At — o’clock the rear guard (Blenker’s brigade) moved, covering the retreat, which was effected during the night and next morning.(^) The troops at Fairfax Station, leaving by the cars, took with them the bulk of the supplies which had been sent there. My aide-de-camp, Major Wadsworth, staid at Fairfax Court-House till late in the morning, to see that the stragglers and weary and worn-out soldiers were not left behind.

I transmit herewith the reports of the several division and brigade commanders, to which I refer for the conduct of particular regiments and corps, and a consolidated return of the killed, wounded, and missing, marked D. From the latter it will be seen that our killed amounted to 19 officers and 462 non-commissioned officers and privates, and our wounded to 64 officers and 947 non-commissioned officers and privates. Many of the wounded will soon be able to join the ranks, and will leave our total of killed and disabled from further service under 1,000.

The return of the missing is very inaccurate, the men supposed to be missing having fallen into other regiments and gone to Washington; many of the zouaves to New York. In one brigade the number originally reported at 616 was yesterday reduced to 174. These reductions are being made daily. In a few days a more correct return can be made.

Of course nothing accurate is known of the loss of the enemy. An officer of their forces, coming from them with a flag, admitted 1,800 killed and wounded, and other information shows this to be much under the true number.

The officer commanding the Eleventh New York (Zouaves) and Colonel Heintzelman say that the returns of that regiment cannot be relied on, as many there reported among the casualties have absented themselves since their return, and have gone to New York.

Among the missing are reported many of our surgeons, who remained in attendance on our wounded, and were, against the rules of modern warfare, made prisoners.

The issue of this hard-fought battle, in which certainly our troops lost no credit in their conflict on the field with an enemy ably commanded, superior in numbers, who had but a short distance to march, and who acted on his own ground on the defensive, and always under cover, whilst our men were of necessity out on the open fields, should not prevent full credit being given to those officers and corps whose services merited success if they did not attain it.

To avoid repetition I will only mention here the names of those not embraced in the reports of division and brigade commanders. I beg to refer to their reports for the names of those serving under their immediate orders, desiring that on this subject of persons, &c., they be considered as part of my own.

I claim credit for the officers of my staff and for those acting as such during the day. They did everything in their power, exposing themselves freely when required, and doing all that men could do, communicating orders, guiding the columns, exhorting the troops, rallying them when broken, and providing for them the best the circumstances admitted.

They are as follows:

First Lieut. H. W. Kingsbury, Fifth Artillery, A, D.C.

Maj. Clarence S. Brown, New York Militia, volunteer A.D.C.

Maj. James S. Wadsworth, New York Militia, volunteer A.D.C.

The latter (who does me the honor to be on my personal staff) had a horse shot under him in the hottest of the fight.

Capt. James B. Fry, assistant adjutant-general.

Capt. O. H. Tillinghast, assistant quartermaster, who discharged alone the important and burdensome duties of his department with the Army, and who was mortally wounded whilst acting with the artillery, to which he formerly belonged, and in which he was deeply interested.

Capt. H. F. Clarke, Subsistence Department, chief of subsistence department.

Major Myer, Signal Officer, and Maj. Malcolm McDowell, who acted as aides.

Surg. W. S. King and Assistant Surgeon Magruder, Medical Department.

Maj. J. G. Barnard, Engineer, and senior of his department with the Army, who gave me most important aid.

First Lieut. Fred. E. Prime, Engineer.

Capt. A. W. Whipple, First Lieut. H. L. Abbot, and Second Lieut. H. S. Putnam, Topographical Engineers.

Maj. W. F. Barry, Fifth Artillery, chief of artillery.

Lieut. Geo. C. Strong, ordnance officer.

Maj. W. H. Wood, Seventeenth Infantry, acting inspector-general.

Second Lieut. Guy V. Henry, who joined me on the field, and was of service as an aide-de-camp.

The following officers commanded divisions and brigades, and in the several places their duty called them did most effective service and behaved in the most gallant manner:

Brigadier-General Tyler, Connecticut Volunteers.

Col. David Hunter, Third Cavalry, severely wounded at the head of his division.

Col. S. P. Heintzelman, Seventeenth Infantry, wounded in the arm while leading his division into action on the hill.

Brigadier-General Schenck, Ohio Volunteers, commanding Second Brigade, First Division.

Col. E. D. Keyes, Eleventh Infantry, commanding First Brigade, First Division.

Col. W. B. Franklin, Twelfth Infantry, First Brigade, Third Division.

Col. W. T. Sherman, Thirteenth Infantry, commanding Third Brigade, First Division.

Col. Andrew Porter, Sixteenth Infantry, commanding First Brigade, Second Division.

Col. A. E. Burnside, Rhode Island Volunteers, commanding Second Brigade, Second Division.

Col. O. B. Willcox, Michigan Volunteers, commanding Second Brigade, Third Division, who was wounded and taken prisoner whilst on the hill in the hottest of the fight.

Col. O. O. Howard, Maine Volunteers, commanding Third Brigade, Third Division.

Col. I. B. Richardson, Michigan Volunteers, commanding Fourth Brigade, First Division.

Colonel Blenker, New York Volunteers, commanding First Brigade, Fifth Division.

Colonel Davies, New York Volunteers, commanding Second Brigade, Fifth Division.

As my position may warrant, even if it does not call for, some explanation of the causes, as far as they can be seen, which led to the results herein stated, I trust it may not be considered out of place if I refer, in a few words, to the immediate antecedents of the battle.

When I submitted to the General-in-Chief, in compliance with his verbal instructions, the plan of operations and estimate of force required, the time I was to proceed to carry it into effect was fixed for the 8th of July (Monday). (#)

Every facility possible was given me by the General-in-Chief and heads of the administrative departments in making the necessary preparations. But the regiments, owing, I was told, to want of transportation, came over slowly. Many of them did not come across until eight or nine days after the time fixed upon, and went forward without my ever seeing them and without having been together before in a brigade.

The sending re-enforcements to General Patterson by drawing off the wagons was a further and unavoidable cause of delay. Notwithstanding the herculean efforts of the Quartermaster-General, and his favoring me in every possible way, the wagons for ammunition, subsistence, &c., and the horses for the trains and for the artillery, did not all arrive for more than a week after the time appointed to move.

I was not even prepared as late as the 15th ultimo, and the desire I should move became great, and it was wished I should not, if possible, delay longer than Tuesday, the 16th ultimo. When I did set out on the 16th I was still deficient in wagons for subsistence, but I went forward, trusting to their being procured in time to follow me.

The trains thus hurriedly gotten together, with horses, wagons, drivers, and wagon-masters all new and unused to each other, moved with difficulty and disorder, and was the cause of a day’s delay in getting the provisions forward, making it necessary to make on Sunday the attack we should have made on Saturday.

I could not, with every exertion, get forward with the troops earlier than we did. I wished them to go to Centreville the second day, which would have taken us there on the 17th, and enabled us, so far as they were concerned, to go into action on the 19th instead of the 21st; but when I went forward from Fairfax Court-House beyond Germantown to urge them forward, I was told it was impossible for the men to march farther. They had only come from Vienna, about six miles, and it was not more than six and one-half miles farther to Centreville, in all a march of twelve and one-half miles; but the men were foot-weary, not so much, I was told, by the distance marched, as by the time they had been on foot, caused by the obstructions in the road and the slow pace we had to move to avoid ambuscades. The men were, moreover, unaccustomed to marching, their bodies not in condition for that kind of work, and not used to carrying even the lead of “light marching order.”

We crossed Bull Run with about 18,000 men of all arms, the Fifth Division (Miles’) and Richardson’s brigade on the left at Blackburn’s Ford and Centreville, and Schenck’s brigade of Tyler’s division on the left of the road near the stone bridge, not participating in the main action. The numbers opposed to us have been variously estimated. I may safely say, and avoid even the appearance of exaggeration, that the enemy brought up all he could which were not kept engaged elsewhere. He had notice of our coming on the 17th, and had from that time until the 21st to bring up whatever he had.

It is known that in estimating the force to go against Manassas I engaged not to have to do with the enemy’s forces under Johnston, then kept in check in the valley by Major General Patterson, or those kept engaged by Major-General Butler, and I knew every effort was made by the General-in-Chief that this should be done, and that even if Johnston joined Beauregard, it should be because he would be driven in and followed by General Patterson. But, from causes not necessary for me to refer to, even if I knew them all, this was not done, and the enemy was free to assemble from every direction in numbers only limited by the amount of his railroad rolling-stock and his supply of provisions. To the forces, therefore, we drove in from Fairfax Court-House, Fairfax Station, Germantown, and Centreville, and those under Beauregard at Manassas, must be added those under Johnston from Winchester, and those brought up by Davis from Richmond and other places at the South, to which is to be added the levy en masse ordered by the Richmond authorities, which was ordered to assemble at Manassas. What all this amounted to I cannot say; certainly much more than we attacked them with.

I could not, as I have said, move earlier or push on faster, nor could I delay. A large and the best part, so considered, of my forces were three-months volunteers, whose terms of service were about expiring, but who were sent forward as having long enough to serve for the purpose of the expedition.

On the eve of the battle the Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment of Volunteers and the battery of Volunteer Artillery of the Eighth New York Militia, whose term of service expired, insisted on their discharge. I wrote to the regiment as pressing a request as I could pen, and the honorable Secretary of War, who was at the time on the ground, tried to induce the battery to remain at least five days, but in vain. They insisted on their discharge that night. It was granted; and the next morning, when the Army moved forward into battle, these troops moved to the rear to the sound of the enemy’s cannon.

In the next few days, day by day I should have lost ten thousand of the best armed, drilled, officered, and disciplined troops in the Army. In other words, every day which added to the strength of the enemy made us weaker. In conclusion, I desire to say in reference to the events of the 21st ultimo, that the general order for the battle to which I have referred was, with slight modifications, literally conformed to; that the corps were brought over Bull Run in the manner proposed, and put into action as before arranged, and that, up to late in the afternoon, every movement ordered was carrying us successfully to the object we had proposed before starting–that of getting to the railroad leading from Manassas to the valley of Virginia, and going on it far enough to break up and destroy the communication, and interpose between the forces under Beauregard and those under Johnston; and could we have fought a day–yes, a few hours–sooner, there is everything to show that we should have continued successful, even against the odds with which we contended.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

IRVIN McDOWELL,

Brigadier-General, Commanding

*To appear in Atlas

+See McDowell’s report of August 12, 1861, p. 328

^ See McDowell’s report of August 12, 1861, p. 328

#See McDowell to Townsend, June 24, 1861, “Correspndence, etc.,” post.

—–

B.

CIRCULAR.]

HDQRS. DEP’T NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA,

Centreville, July 20, 1861.

The commanders of divisions will give the necessary orders, that an equal distribution of the subsistence stores on hand may be made immediately to the different companies in their respective commands, so that they shall be provided for the same number of days, and that the same be cooked and put in the haversacks of the men. The subsistence stores now in the possession of each division, with the fresh beef that can be drawn from the chief commissary, must last to include the 23d instant.

By command of Brigadier-General McDowell:

 JAMES B. FRY,

Assistant Adjutant-General

TO COMMANDERS OF DIVISIONS AND BRIGADES

—–

C.

GENERAL ORDERS, No. 22 I HDQRS. DEP’T NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA,

Centreville, July 20, 1861

The enemy has planted a battery on the Warrenton turnpike to defend the passage of Bull Run, has mined the stone bridge, and made a heavy abatis on the right bank to oppose our advance in that direction. The ford above the bridge is also guarded, whether with artillery or not is not positively known, but every indication favors the belief that he purposes defending the passage of the stream.

It is intended to turn the position, force the enemy from the road, that it may be reopened, and, if possible, destroy the railroad leading from Manassas to the valley of Virginia, where the enemy has a large force. As this may be resisted by all the force of the enemy, the troops will be disposed of as follows:

The First Division (General Tyler’s), with the exception of Richardson’s brigade, will move at 2.30 a.m. precisely, on the Warrenton turnpike, to threaten the passage of the bridge, but will not open fire until full daybreak.

The Second Division Hunter’s will move from its camp at 2 a.m. precisely, and, led by Captain Woodbury, of the Engineers, will, after passing Cub Run, turn to the right and pass the Bull Run stream above the lower ford at Sudley Springs, and then, turning down to the left descend the stream and clear away the enemy who may be guarding the lower ford and bridge. It will then bear off to the right, to make room for the succeeding division.

The Third Division (Heintzelman’s) will march at 2.30 a.m. and follow the road taken by the Second Division (Hunter’s), but will cross at the lower ford after it has been turned as above, and then, going to the left, take place between the stream and Second Division.

The Fifth Division (Miles’) will take position on the Centreville heights. (Richardson’s brigade will for the time form part of his division, and will continue in its present position.) One brigade will be in the village and one near the present station of Richardson’s brigade. This division will threaten Blackburn’s Ford and remain in reserve at Centreville.

The commander will open fire with artillery only, and will bear in mind that it is a demonstration only he is to make. He will cause such defensive works, abatis, earthworks, &c., to be thrown up as will strengthen his position. Lieutenant Prime, of the Engineers, will be charged with this duty.

These movements may lead to the gravest results, and commanders of divisions and brigades should bear in mind the immense consequences involved. There must be no failure, and every effort must be made to prevent straggling. No one must be allowed to leave the ranks without special authority. After completing the movements ordered the troops must be held in order of battle, as they may be attacked at any moment.

By command of Brigadier-General McDowell:

 JAMES B. FRY,

Assistant Adjutant-General

—–

HDQRS. DEPARTMENT NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA,

Arlington, August 12, 1861

COLONEL: My attention has been called by those interested to two omissions in my report of the battle of the 21st ultimo near Manassas, and I ask leave to make the following corrections, wishing that they be made part of my original report:

1. In speaking of the retreat, I mentioned that it was covered by Colonel Blenker’s brigade. I should have said Colonel Richardson’s and Colonel Blenker’s brigades. The former was on the left of the Centreville ridge, and the latter in front of it, on the Warrenton road. Each covered the retreat of those on the respective roads to the common point–Centreville; from there to the rear Colonel Richardson was behind, and covered the main body.

2. In speaking of the action on the left at Blackburn’s Ford, I mentioned Colonel Richardson’s and Major Hunt’s reports as giving the account of what transpired in that direction. In this connection I omitted to mention Col. T. A. Davies’ report, and now beg to refer to it as necessary to a full account of this part of the battle. He was engaged to the left of Richardson, and repulsed an attempt of the enemy to turn our left.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

IRVIN McDOWELL,

Brigadier-General, Commanding

Lieut. Col. E. D. TOWNSEND,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters of the Army

Table – [USA] Casualties at the Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861

Table – Statement of [USA] artillery lost at the Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861





The McDowell Monument

1 08 2007

  

mcdowellshiloh.jpg 

The McDowell headquarters monument is situated just west of the Stone House at the intersection of the Sudley Springs Road and the Warrenton Turnpike.  That is, just about 800 miles west of that point, on the battlefield of Shiloh, at the intersection of the Hamburg-Purdy Road and route 142/22.  I took this photo during my June trip to Tennessee and Mississippi. 

Colonel John A. McDowell was a brigade commander in Brigadier General William T. Sherman’s division of Major General U. S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee during the Battle of Shiloh.  He was also a brother of the commander of the Union forces at the Battle of First Bull Run, Irvin McDowell. 

John McDowell’s command at Shiloh was comprised of the 40th IL, 46th OH, his own 6th IA, and the 6th IN Battery.  (McDowell had relieved the 6th IA’s Lieutenant Colonel and placed a captain in command of the regiment.)  Positioned on the far right (western) flank of Sherman’s line, McDowell’s brigade missed much of the heavier fighting experienced by Sherman’s other three brigades.  Consequently, McDowell does not get a lot of ink in the various Shiloh campaign studies. 

This list of officers of the regiment notes that John Adair McDowell was a resident of Keokuk, IA (he was born in Ohio), and was 39 when he became colonel of the regiment on June 20, 1861.  He resigned his commission on March 12, 1863.  Here’s a history of the regiment. 

John is a shadowy figure, due in part to the fact that, despite serving in brigade command, he was never made a general officer.  I found some mention of him in Sherman’s Civil War, a collection of W. T. Sherman correspondence edited by Brooks Simpson at Civil Warriors. 

On page 267, Sherman mentions that McDowell delivered a speech prior to the presentation of a saddle to the general.  On page 323 he writes to Grant in Nov. 1862 that he feels McDowell among others is fit for brigade command.  On pages 341-342 he establishes the familial relationship between John and Irvin in a December 14, 1862 letter to the latter (in which he expressed his support for the embattled Irvin, who was suffering under a cloud of suspicion following Second Bull Run): 

Your brother John A. McDowell has been with me nearly a year commanding one of my Brigades and I left him a few days since at College Hill near Oxford in command of as good a Brigade as is in our whole army.  He is a good kind hearted Gentleman, full of zeal for our cause and I parted with him with feelings of great kindness.  I have urged his name for promotion and I hope successfully.  We have often talked of you, and through him I have sent you many expressions of my personal regard for your high character as a Patriot and Soldier. 

 Other than noting the event in a March 13, 1863 letter to his wife, Sherman does not detail the circumstances of McDowell’s resignation.  Lieutenant Colonel and future general John M. Corse took command of the 6th IA. 

Sherman also mentions on two occasions Major Malcolm McDowell of Ohio, a paymaster in his command.  There was a Malcolm McDowell who was a signal officer on Irvin’s staff at First Bull Run, and Malcolm was involved in preferring charges against Colonel Thomas Worthington as described in Sherman’s letter to Thomas Ewing Sr. on January 16, 1863.  As John McDowell is mentioned in this same letter as having complained about Worthington, I don’t think it a stretch that this Malcolm is the same Malcolm who was with Irvin on July 21.  On page 76 of Historic Families of Kentucky you’ll see that Abram Irvine McDowell of Columbus, OH had three sons – Irvin, John and Malcolm – so I’m pretty confident the fellows I’ve mentioned above are the three brothers.  I’m positive Major Malcolm is not the fellow pictured here:     

clockwork.jpg 

This guy makes looking for info on Major Malcolm on the web a real pain, tempting one to acts of ultraviolence.  Not to worry, he’s just here to check the meter. 

If you have any more info on John or Malcolm, please let me know. 

I’ve been remiss in posting photos and tales of my visit to Shiloh, and I’ll try to make up for that in the months ahead, assuming I can find some sort of Bull Run connection.  Speaking of that, here’s a random headstone I ran across at the national cemetery in Corinth, MS:   

manninggrave.jpg 

 

 

 





Irvin McDowell

11 01 2007

 

Irvin McDowell born Columbus, OH 10/15/18; son of Abram (one-time mayor of Columbus) and Eliza Seldon Lord McDowell; and brother of John A. McDowell, colonel of 6th Iowa Infantry and brigade commander under W. T. Sherman at Shiloh, and Malcolm McDowell, who served on Irvin’s staff; married Helen Burden of Troy, NY 11/13/44; four children: Irvin, Helen, Elsie, and Henry Burden; early education in France (College de Troyes); West Point class of 1838 (23 of 45); Bvt 2nd Lt 1st Arty 7/1/38; 2nd Lt 7/7/38; instructor of tactics at USMA 1841-1845; 1st Lt 10/7/42;  ADC to Gen. J. E. Wool in Mexican War; received a brevet to captain Ass’t Adj. Gen, for gallantry at Buena Vista 5/13/47; Bvt Maj Ass’t Adj. Gen. 5/31/56; appointed BGUSA  5/14/61 (n 7/16/61, c 8/3/61); Dept. of NE VA, 5/27/61 to 8/17/61; commanded forces now known as Army of NE VA, 7/8/61 to 8/15/61; McDowell’s Div. Army of the Potomac (AotP) 10/3/61 to 3/13/62; First Corps AotP 3/13/62 to 4/4/62; MGUSV eff. 3/14/62 (n 3/3/62, c 3/14/62); Dept. of Rappahannock, 4/4/62 to  6/26/62; wounded 6/18/62 when his horse fell on him; Third Corps, Army of VA, 6/26/62 to 9/5/62; Dept. of the Pacific, 5/21/64 to 6/27/65; Bvt MGUSA 3/13/65 (n 4/10/66, c 5/4/66) for the Battle of Cedar Mountain; Dept. of CA, 6/27/65 to 3/31/68; mustered out of volunteers (MOV) 9/1/66; Fourth Military District, 6/4/68 to 7/4/68; Dept. of the West, 7/16/68 to 12/16/72; MGUSA 11/25/72; Depts of East and South 12/16/72 to 76; Division of the Pacific 1876 to retirement 10/15/82; became San Francisco Park Commissioner; died 5/4/85, San Francisco, CA; buried San Francisco National Cemetery (Presidio), San Franciso, CA; marker reads “Irwin McDowell, Maj Gen US Army May 4, 1885”.

Sources: Boyd, The Irvines and their Kin, pp. 152, 171; Eicher & Eicher, Civil War High Commands, pp 377-378, 704, 708, 716; Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the U. S. Army, Vol. I p 664; Simpson, ed, Sherman’s Civil War, p341; Sifakis, Who was Who in the American Civil War, pp 414-415; Warner, Generals in Blue, pp 297-299; http://genforum.genealogy.com/cgi-bin/pageload.cgi?irvin::mcdowell::2682.html

mcd1.jpgmcd3.jpgmcd2.jpgmcd4.jpgmcd5.jpg

 Photos a, b, c, d - www.generalsandbrevets.com; e – www.findagrave.com

 RELATED ARTICLES





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





Presenting in Ohio Next Month

20 02 2014

Just a reminder that I’ll be making a presentation to the Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable on March 12. Here’s a summary:

Irvin McDowell’s Plan and Other Bull Run Misconceptions. This program will explore what the presenter feels are popular misconceptions surrounding the First Bull Run campaign, with primary focus on the Union army commander’s intentions up to the early hours of July 21, 1861. We will discuss how we have come to know the story of Bull Run as we know it, various primary sources and secondary accounts of the campaign, treatments by historians and institutions, the general interest (or lack thereof) of Civil War enthusiasts in the details of the campaign, and other related – or even unrelated – topics. As always, the audience will likely play no small role in the content of the program as it progresses.

I’m looking forward to this. It will be the first time I talk about my thoughts on what McDowell really intended when he set out from Washington for Manassas. It’s not what you think. Just gotta figure out how to set it down on paper and slides. You see, this is a very complicated case. You know, a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous. And, uh, a lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Oh man, my thinking about this case has become very uptight. Let’s just hope I can get things straight by then.

Check out the details at the COCWRT website.





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

8 02 2014

Army Correspondence

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

Arlington, Va., July 26, 1861

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your affectionate son,

Eugene

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

Clipping Image

Eugene P. Fuller at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





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

5 02 2014

Letter from the 2d Regiment

———-

The Late Battle.

———-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the ‘Tigers’”

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

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy





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

9 01 2014

LETTER FROM LIEUT. J. P. DROUILLARD.

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

Camp Turnhill, Va.,

July 28th, 1861.

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

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

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

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

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

Your affectionate Son,

J. P. DROUILLARD,

Lieut. U. S. A.

Gallipolis (OH) Journal, 8/8/1861

Transcription courtesy this site.

James Pierre Drouillard bio

Thanks to reader Dave Powell





Pvt. Theodore Reichardt, (Reynolds) Battery A, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, On the Battle

6 01 2014

Thursday, July 15. - Great excitement in camp; order was received to get ready for a forward movement; ammunition packed; haversacks and canteens were issued.

Tuesday, July 16. - The morning of that day found us marching across the Long ridge, directly through Fort Runyon, on the Virginia side; did not march over seven miles; after which we formed in line of battle and prepared to camp for the night, this being the first night in the open air. All quiet during the night.

Wednesday, July 17. - Resumed our march soon after break of day, and entered Fairfax Court House, contrary to our expectations, towards one o’clock, at mid-day, the rebels having evacuated the town shortly before our entrance. Their rear guard could be plainly seen some distance off. Our battery formed in park near the court house. Some of the boys were lucky in finding a good dinner served on a table in one of the houses, besides some articles of value, undoubtedly belonging to some confederate officers. Some picket firing during the night.

Thursday, July 18. - Advance at daylight. A part of the Union army, Gen. Tyler’s troops, engaged. This conflict the rebels call battle of Bull Run. While the contest was raging, our division halted two miles to the left of Fairfax Court House, at a place called Germantown. We could plainly hear the distant booming of artillery, and were impatiently waiting for the order, “forward.” Towards four o’clock P. M., we advanced again; preparations were made to get in action; sponge buckets filled with water, and equipments distributed among the cannoniers. But when we approached Centreville, intelligence came that our troops got worsted and the contest was given up. Our division went to camp within a mile and a half of Centreville. Strong picket lines were drawn up.

Friday, July 19. - Camp near Centreville. The troops remained quiet all day. Fresh beef as rations.

Saturday, July 20. - Quiet during the day. About six o’clock in the evening the army got ready to advance; but after council of war was held by the chief commanders, they concluded to wait till the next day.

Sunday, July 21. - Battle of Manassas Plains. This battle will always occupy a prominent place in the memory of every man of the battery. They all expected to find a disorganized mob, that would disperse at our mere appearance; while, to the general surprise, they not only were better disciplined, but also better officered than our troops. We started by tow o’clock in the morning, but proceeded very slowly. Passed Centreville before break-of-day. When the sun rose in all its glory, illuminating the splendid scenery of the Blue Ridge mountains, though no sun of Austerlitz to us, we crossed the bridge over Cub Run. By this time, the report of the 30-pounder Parrott gun belonging to Schenck’s command, who had met the enemy, was heard. Our division turned off to the right, and marched some miles through dense woodland, to the Warrenton road. Towards ten o’clock, nothing could be seen of the enemy yet, and the belief found circulation that the enemy had fallen back. Experience proved that, had we remained at Centreville, the rebel army would undoubtedly have attacked us; but hearing of our advance they only had to lay in ambush, ready to receive us. At the aforesaid time, the Second Rhode Island infantry deployed as skirmishers. We advanced steadily, till arriving at the Bull Run and Sudley’s Church, a halt was ordered to test the man and the horses. But is should not be; the brave Second R. I. Regiment, coming up to the enemy, who was concealed in the woods, their situation was getting critical. The report of cannon and musketry followed in rapid succession. Our battery, after passing Sudley’s Church, commenced to trot in great haste to the place of combat. At this moment Gen. McDowell rode up in great excitement, shouting the Capt. Reynolds: “Forward with your light battery.” This was entirely needless, as we were going at high speed, for all were anxious to come to the rescue of our Second regiment. In quick time we arrived in the open space where the conflict was raging already in its greatest fury. The guns were unlimbered, with or without command; no matter, it was done, and never did better music sound to the ears of the Second Regiment, than the quick reports of our guns, driving back the advancing foe. For nearly forty minutes our battery and the Second Regiment, defended that ground before any other troops were brought into action. Then the First Rhode Island, Seventy-first New York, and Second New Hampshire, with tow Dahlgren Howitzers, appeared, forming on the right and left. The enemy was driven successfully in our immediate front. Our battery opened on one of the enemy’s light batteries to our right, which left after a short but spirited engagement, in a rather demoralized state. Griffith’s, Ayre’s and Rickett’s batteries coming up, prospects really looked promising, and victory seemed certain. The rebel line gradually giving way. Gen. McDowell, seeing the explosion of perhaps a magazine or a caisson, raised his cap, shouting, “Soldiers, this is the great explosion of Manassas,” and seemed to be highly pleased with the work done by our battery. Owing to different orders, the battery, towards afternoon, was split into sections. Capt. Reynolds, with Lieuts. Tompkins and Weeden, off to the right, while the two pieces of the left section, to the left; Lieuts. Vaughan and Munroe remaining with the last mentioned. Firing was kept up incessantly, until the arrival of confederate reinforcements, coming down from Manassas Junction, unfurling the stars and stripes, whereby our officers were deceived to such a degree as to give the order, “Cease firing.” This cessation of our artillery fire proved, no doubt, disastrous. It was the turning point of the battle. Our lines began to waver after receiving the volleys of the disguised columns. The setting sun found the fragments of our army not only in full retreat but in complete rout, leaving most of the artillery in the hands of the enemy. Our battery happened to be the only six gun volunteer battery, carrying all the guns off the battle-field, two pieces in a disabled condition. A battery-wagon and forge were lost on the field. Retreating the same road we advanced on in the morning. All of a sudden the cry arose, “The Black Horse Cavalry is coming.” The alarm proved to be false; yet it had the effect upon many soldiers to throw away their arms. But the fears of many soldiers that the enemy would try to cut off our retreat, were partly realized. Our column having reached Cub Run bridge, was at once furiously attacked on our right by artillery and cavalry. Unfortunately, the bridge being blocked up, the confusion increased. All discipline was gone. Here our battery was lost, all but one gun, that of the second detachment, which was carried through the creek. It is kept at the armory of the Marine Artillery, in Providence. At the present time, guns, under such circumstances, would not be left to the enemy without the most strenuous efforts being made to save them. We assembled at the very same camp we left in the morning. Credit is due to Capt. Reynolds, for doing everything possible for the comfort of his men. At midnight the defeated army took up its retreat towards Washington. Our battery consisting of one gun, and the six-horse team, drove by Samuel Warden.

Monday, July 22. - Arrived at, and effected our passage across the Long Bridge, by ten o’clock, and found ourselves once more at Camp Clark, where we had a day of rest after our debut on the battle-field yesterday, under the scorching sun of Virginia.

Wednesday, July 24. - Lieut. Albert Munroe addressed the battery in regard to the battle, and attributed our defeat to the want of discipline. The men felt very indignant at his remarks. “We had to come down the regulations, the same as in the regular army, and should consider ourselves almost as State prison convicts.” We have since seen that he meant no insult towards the battery; but have found out to our satisfaction that he spoke the truth, for we have seen the time that put us almost on the same level with convicts.

Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery (Kindle Version, location 66 to 123)

Theodore Reichardt at Ancestry.com

While the above was published as a diary, it is apparent from the text that it was at least edited in retrospect.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 773 other followers