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

10 04 2014

LETTERS FROM OUR BOYS.

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From George M. Morris.

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

Fort Bennett, Va.,

July 28, 1861.

Dear Bunnell:—

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

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

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

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

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

I remain your friend,

Geo. M. Morris

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

Clipping Image

George M. Morris at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Laura (Thornberry) Fletcher, On the Battle and Aftermath

3 04 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Laura Fletcher
December 12, 1936

NOTES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Ezra Walrath Court of Inquiry

24 03 2014

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

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

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

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

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





Col. Ezra L. Walrath, 12th New York Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford (2)

24 03 2014

A STATEMENT FROM COL. WALRATH.

HEAD-QUARTERS TWELFTH NEW-YORK

VOLUNTEERS, CAMP OF THE ONONDAGAS,

ARLINGTON, July 24, 1861.

To the Editor of the Washington Star:

After my arrival from Bull Run with my Regiment, I perused the daily papers published in Washington giving accounts of the recent battle, and was astonished to find such an account of the affair published in your paper from a “special correspondent,” reflecting in severe terms upon the courage of my Regiment, both officers and men, on that occasion. The whole matter as reported to your paper is untrue, and it would be doing justice to all concerned that you give publicity to the following statement of facts as they transpired. More could be said of the affair that ought to be made known to the public, but it would implicate certain officers of high positions in the service, and would be contrary to rules governing the inferior towards his superior. However, a court of inquiry will bring the facts before you. At about noon of the 18th inst., our Brigade was posted in rear of Sears’ battery on a hill overlooking a thick wood, in which, the enemy were hidden from view and waiting our attack.

After, considerable cannonading from our battery, which was replied to by the rebels, driving the skirmishers from the woods in double-quick time, two companies of the First Massachusetts Regiment were ordered to attack them in the woods on their left. They marched gallantly to the attack, and were repulsed with considerable loss. Two field-pieces, under command of Capt. BRACKETT, were then sent in, and met with such a deadly reception that the pieces were in danger of being lost. One of their men being shot, one of the men of my regiment immediately advanced and took his place at the gun. My command was then ordered to form near the woods in line of battle, on the left of a body of cavalry which was drawn up under cover of another piece of woods near the scene of action. A person in citizen’s dress, with shoulder straps, then rode up from the woods in great haste, and urged us forward to sustain his battery and prevent its loss. I had no Lieutenant-Colonel present, and was near the right of my regiment. The Adjutant, who was near the centre, asked him who he was, and he replied that he was Capt. BRACKETT, commanding the battery. At that moment I saw Col. RICHARDSON, commanding the Brigade, approaching, and I replied to Capt. BRACKETT that if it was Col. RICHARDSON’s orders to advance, I would do so. Col. RICHARDSON addressed us, saying: “Move forward, New-Yorkers, and sweep the woods.” I immediately gave the order to “Forward,” when the battery came rushing out of the woods, and broke through our line, followed by grape and canister from the enemy.

My command moved steadily forward into the woods and low thick pines and brush, which vailed everything in front beyond a few paces, and had proceeded some 20 or 30 rods when a murderous fire of musketry, grape and canister was opened on us. We returned the fire, and I ordered my command to fall, and load and fire lying. They did so, returning several volleys. The enemy continued to pour in their fire from a force which must have been quadruple our number, to say nothing of their battery. Yet my men returned the fire, till one of the line officers gave the command to retreat, when the centre and left rapidly fell back. As soon as I discovered the mistake I tried to rally the men on the colors, but the murderous fire being kept up, they would not obey, and actually ran over me. I followed, and entreated the men to rally on the colors, and partially succeeded several times, but was unable to make a permanent stand. Gen. TYLER at this time rode forward and denounced us all as cowards. He did not inquire the cause of the retreat, but at once censured us in severe terms. Several companies on the right — A, I, and part of E — remained until the firing ceased on the part of the rebels, when they, by order, formed a retreat in good order into the field in front of the woods.

At this time I had the regiment nearly formed on the hill near the woods, by the road, and left it in charge of the Major until I went back to see about the wounded, and when I returned, the word had been given for the brigade to retire to Centreville. I see, by the articles referred to, that “I mounted my horse and did not stop running until I was safely behind a pile of rocks.” Now, Sir, this is false in every particular. Our former Lieut.-Col. GRAHAM, (now Quartermaster of the regiment,) was mounted on a gray horse that resembles mine very much, who did ride to the rear in quick time. I doubt not but he was taken for myself when retiring from the battle-ground. I feel that I have been wronged and ask of you to publish this statement, and by so doing you will do justice to myself, my regiment, and my friends. I am so confident that I done my duty on that occasion, that I would repeat it if I should be placed before the enemy under similar circumstances.

E.L. WALRATH,

Colonel of the Twelfth N.Y. Volunteers.

New York Times, 7/31/1861

Source

 





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

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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





Hood and Me (But Mostly Me)

3 02 2014

JBHWhile reading John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General, I realized something about myself: the more ubiquitous the application of hyperbole to an individual or event, the more willing I am to consider challenges to the established line on them. Does that make me an iconoclast? To some extent, maybe, and certainly in cases where it appears to me writers have worked backwards from their fundamental diagnoses and bent evidence to fit their conclusion. Author Stephen M. Hood makes a compelling case that this is precisely what has happened over the years with his collateral relative. I think.

(It’s not hard to find “discussion” of this book on blogs and social media. Some clear thinking, some dogma, the usual “I haven’t read it, have no intention of reading it, but am happy to tell you what I think of its content” type comments. Some compelling arguments that author Hood committed some of the same crimes of which he is accusing others. Lots of folks talking past one another. Lots of pots shouting at kettles. Google to your heart’s content. You’ll find all of it out there.)

To me, the  book is strongest when it points out that sources cited as support in a particular work do not say what the author of that work claims they say. Author Hood does so often. And he does so convincingly. This is why you should read the book. In my opinion.

While I’ve had Wiley Sword’s The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah (aka Embrace and Angry Wind) on my shelf for years with every intention of reading it, I don’t see how I can possibly do so now with an open mind. Many of the indictments of Sword in author Hood’s book appear so cut and dry that I have difficulty perceiving of a scenario in which reading Sword’s book will make me think, “you know, with regards to these particulars, Sword is right and author Hood is wrong.” Again, that may say a lot more about me than about Sword or author Hood. And Hood doesn’t stop at Sword. He points out weaknesses in the works of Sword’s predecessors and followers. Out of necessity writers of non-fiction build upon the work of those who have gone before. Sometimes what they accept, they accept in error. I’ve seen it in my research of First Bull Run. I imagine everyone who has researched anything has seen it as well. Sometimes it’s purposeful, sometimes it’s not, but when discovered and proven it’s always wrong and should be corrected. At least, if you ask me it should.

Of note, author Hood points out that, despite what most students of the war believe, General Hood was not overly fond of frontal attacks, and rarely employed them of his own volition. Read that again. And he backs it up, too. Hey, don’t get mad at me. Relax. Count to ten. Now, if it’s true, does that affect your overall impression of General Hood? It affected mine.

On the other hand, I found the book weakest when it reached down deep in the ranks to find contemporary Hood praises; when it presented defenses consisting of “how could all these guys say such nice things” and “well, if Hood was so bad, why don’t you think so-and-so was bad for doing the same things?” Now, in a lot of instances author Hood is right, double standards have been established, but the exposition of double standards has rarely ever done anything but dredge up the old “you’re trying to tear down our guy to build up yours” response. That is to say, it’s an emotional thing, and the consideration of cold, hard facts carries more weight. With me.

I felt the Foreword and Introduction didn’t serve the book well. I was in fact concerned about the book’s prospects after reading them – they laid out a game plan that was inconsistent with my understanding of the focus of the work. After deliberation, I determined to forge ahead. I also found the author’s attempt to discredit Jefferson Davis’s writings about and dealings with Hood, coupled with his uncritical, face value acceptance of Davis’s criticisms of Joe Johnston, to be an odd and hypocritical juxtaposition. But maybe that’s just me.

Despite these and other, as I view them, weaknesses, I think John Bell Hood is an important book, and one that should be read by anyone interested in Hood and his tenure at the helm of the Army of Tennessee, and/or historiography in general. This book will make you think, whether or not you agree with the resurrection bit in the title. For this reason, it was picked as a runner-up for best book of 2013 in Civil War Monitor. By me.

I thought about this song a lot while reading this book, and while reading discussions of this book. I think sometimes it illustrates the relationship between authors and their subjects.





Pvt. Oliver S. Glenn, Co. A, 2nd Ohio Infantry (Regimental Band), On the Battle

30 01 2014

Our Army Correspondence

Letter from One of the Hillsboro Band.

National Hotel, Washington,

July 24th, 1861.

Mr. Boardman: – Dear Sir: When I wrote you last, we were on the eve of marching forth to battle. We did not march as soon as we expected. We left Camp Upton Tuesday evening at 3 o’clock, and marched to Fall’s Church, where we were joined by three Connecticut and one Maine regiment, under command of Gen. Tyler. The 1st and 2d Ohio and 2d New York regiments were under command of Gen. Schenck. We marched as far as Vienna without meeting any of the enemy, where we encamped for the night. The next morning the reveille was beat about 4 o’clock, and we got up and marched to Fairfax, about 4 miles distant. — Schenck’s brigade was in front to-day. They took the front each alternate day, the brigade that marched in front one day taking the rear the next. We had not proceeded very far before we found the road blocked up by trees that the enemy had felled across the road to obstruct our progress. The pioneer corps went forward and cleared the way. — About 9 o’clock we had come within a mile and a half of Fairfax, when the artillery in front fired a few shots, and we started up the hill on a double-quick. When we got to the top of it we could see their wagons leaving on a little faster time than double-quick, and could see a long line of bayonets glittering in the sun, following them at about the same speed. Our brigade formed in line of battle, and filed off to the left for the purpose of cutting off their retreat, but owing to the obstructions in the road they were a little too late, although there were some few prisoners taken.

When we arrived opposite Germantown we found a line of earthworks, about three hundred yards long, thrown up across the road. Our artillery fired a few shots into them; no enemy appearing, skirmishers were sent forward, and they reported it vacated. They had vamosed the ranche without firing a shot, and in such a hurry that they left their fires still burning and their meat cooking. Our boys now began to think that they were all a set of cowards, and never would fight, and that we would have Richmond in a few days; but in this they were sadly disappointed. — We encamped to-nigh about 5 miles from Centreville, which is situated on a singular-looking elevation, of considerable height, commanding a view of the valleys on each side for a distance of several miles, forming a natural fortification of great strength, on top of which the enemy had thrown up earthworks, but these too were deserted. — About 10 o’clock we heard a heavy cannonading going on in front, which gradually grew more rapid till about 2 in the evening, when intelligence was brought back that we had taken 69 pieces of artillery and 12,000 men. A great many of our men actually believed it, although there were only four regiments of our troops involved in it; but they had come to the conclusion that one Northerner was a match for five Southerners. Our men drew off with a loss of 30 killed and 25 wounded. — Gen. Tyler was very much censured for running his men in thus, as he had orders not to go further than Centreville that night. We encamped about a mile beyond Centreville, between that place and Bull’s Run, where we lay without further adventure, except that the Ohio boys talked of throwing down their arms and refusing to go into the fight, because they were being kept beyond their time; but Gen. Schenck made a speech to them Saturday evening, that aroused their patriotism. He is a better speaker than General.

On Sunday morning at 2 o’clock, we began the forward march, making as little noise as possible. A little after sunrise the skirmishers fired a few shots in front, and drove in the enemy’s pickets, when Carlisle’s battery was sent forward with a large 32-pound siege gun, to throw shells among them and draw the fire of their batteries, but in this they failed, for they did not return a shot. Soon the infantry on the right became engaged, and from that time till after four o’clock in the evening the firing was incessant. About 10 o’clock the 1st and 2d Ohio regiments were ordered to take a battery in front by flanking it. We filed to the left into a pine thicket so dense that a rabbit could scarcely go through it, through which there was a road cut of just sufficient width to admit four men abreast. The 2d regiment was in front. I had a musket, and was in the front company. Just as the first company and a part of the second had come out into the open field, which was a little meadow, about 150 yards across, a masked battery opened on us from behind a stone fence, which sent a shower of grape shot whistling about our heads, but we fell flat on our faces and they went over without doing any further injury that mortally scaring some of us. d scarcely got up till we saw the flash of their guns again, and a cloud of smoke, and down we come again. This we stood, without a man flinching, four times, and as we had neither Colonel nor General to lead us, some Captain, I believe it was, gave the order to retreat, which most of us did in good order, though some ran like Indians, and were not seen any more that day. At 2 o’clock the word spread through the ranks that the victory was ours, and the enemy were driven back at all points; but about this time Gen. Johnston reinforced them with a fresh body of 18,000 men – almost as many as we had in the field altogether, – and the battle began afresh with more fury than ever. A fierce cannonade and an incessant discharge of musketry began on the left and continued along the whole line. About three o’clock our artillery ammunition gave out, and then they played on our defenseless columns with great fury and precision. Each particular ball appeared as though it had been aimed at some particular object. Our brigade, being unprotected, withdrew from the open field into the woods.

About half-past three a causeless panic began among the citizens, of whom a great number came out from Washington to see the fight, which had a very injurious effect, for the panic spread like wild fire. About 4 they had outflanked us and came in on our rear, and their cavalry made a charge on our hospital, which was in our rear and totally unprotected, and cut off all who made their appearance on the outside of the house, and then came thundering down the road to where our brigade was drawn up in the woods, but as they came opposite to the left wing they poured in a destructive fire on them, and then turned and charged down the road in the other direction, on the broken columns of the retreating Fire Zouaves, who had done prodigies of valor that day. But they rallied, and almost annihilated the cavalry of the enemy, which was splendidly mounted.

A little after 4 it was announced that our brigade was surrounded and cut off, being in the rear, but we were determined to cut our way through. Col. McCook rode along the lines and said, “boys we have got into a trap, and now we will have to fight our way out.” — He was the only officer that the men appeared to have any confidence in. — We sent two field-pieces ahead to clear the way, but they had but a few pounds of cartridges, and were soon silenced, and left. The road was literally blocked up with broken wagons, gun carriages, ambulances, killed and wounded horses, and dead and dying men. Oh! it was a horrible sight! — A great many men threw away their guns, belts, cartridge-boxes, blankets, haversacks, canteens, and in fact everything that would impede their flight. The Ohio regiments were not broken but once, and that was in crossing a narrow bridge over Bull’s Run. Before they got across the enemy came up and opened fire on our rear, but as soon as we got over the hill a little we formed in line of battle, as there was a line of battle formed in our front advancing to meet us. We took them for enemies, and prepared to charge them, but they proved to be some who had rallied and were returning to our assistance. The enemy’s cannon kept thundering on our rear till we got under cover of some fresh batteries that had been brought up and placed on the heights at Centreville, and when they opened on them they drew off.

After we got to Centreville we stopped and slept an hour, and then were ordered to retreat. We marched the whole of that night. Gen. Schenck detailed the two Ohio regiments as the strongest, and marched us as a rear guard to protect the flying and broken army.

The road was crowded with fugitives all the night. But few regiments came in as regiments. Most of them were all broken up, and every man to shift for himself. If the enemy had have been in condition to take advantage of our defeat they might have turned it into a perfect slaughter. If they had sent a battery and one regiment around ahead of our men — demoralized and despirited as they were by their defeat, and crowded, packed and jammed together in the narrow roads, — they might have slain or taken them by the thousands.

The next morning a very cold rain began, and continued to pour down torrents all day. When we came to the river we found it guarded, and not a man was allowed to pass. So there we were forced to lay all day in a soaking rain, without a particle of shelter and no fire, after standing to our arms from 2 o’clock Sunday morning, in many instances without a morsel of food, for most of the men threw away their haversacks. The soldiers laid down in the mud and rain like beasts, for Nature could hold out no longer.

About dark the Ohio regiments got leave to go over the river into the city and get comfortable quarters, and I suppose they slept soundly that night, if they were not disturbed by dreams of bombshells bursting over their heads, as I was.

Yours Truly,

O. S. Glenn.

The [Hillsborough] Highland [County, Ohio] Weekly News, 8/8/1861

Clipping Image

Oliver S. Glenn at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Dr. Luther V. Bell, Surgeon, 11th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Battle

7 01 2014

At Our Former Camp, Near Alexandria,

Wednesday, July 24, 1861.

[To Dr. William J. Dale]

My Dear Doctor, — Knowing that you would feel an interest in my movements and fate during the past eventful week, I seize the earliest moment, after our regaining this place of safety, after the most terrible defeat of modem times, to give you a brief and crude narration of what concerns me personally; aware that you must already know vastly more of the general events than I have the means of doing. I will begin with last Tuesday week. After resting a day or two at this beautiful spot, whence I wrote you at a late hour before we left, the order came for us to march at two o’clock, P.M.

With four or five regiments more, we set out in fine spirits for unknown regions, as not a whisper ever passes from those at the head as to the route or destination. Soon the column began to move at a snail’s pace; and, after many hours, in this way we reached Aquatink Creek, where the bridges were burned, and the whole division had to pass over a single plank, which explained the strange delay. The creek was at the bottom of the deepest ravine, and then the hill on the other side was to be surmounted over the most horrible obstructions. At half-past three, a.m., we lay on the ground for an hour. Recommencing, we dragged along all day, under a burning sun, and through paths cut in the forest, so as to avoid the trees cut down and masked batteries. At night, we bivouacked near what is called Sangster’s Station. That afternoon, we again marched forward to Centreville. On entering this at nine or ten, p.m., the light of a thousand camp-fires shed their glow over a vast ravine, in which it was plain that the great division of the army was encamped, — forty or fifty thousand men, with batteries of artillery, baggage-wagons, &c. Here we bivouacked two nights. Dr. Josiah Curtis joined our camp here, and Mr. Henry Wilson was with us a night. At two o’clock, Sunday morning, the order to march was obeyed; and, as the mighty mass moved forward, it was manifest that the hour for the great action was near. At nine or ten, we saw, away at the south-west, clouds of smoke and dust, with plain sounds of cannon, and volleys of musketry. We hurried on, and about noon turned down into a field, where there was a creek, to rest and drink. In about two minutes, the order came to form into line, and push forward, as we were wanted. At half-past one, we were at the verge of the battle-field. As I passed, I noted a pretty large, rough-stone church, — large for Virginia, — which I decided would be one of the depots for the wounded. Curtis and I went up to the field, and there were abundant proofs of the awful work going on, — hundreds of dead men, horses dead and half killed, wounded men, in all directions. I notified all the officers of the regiment where their wounded should be carried; tried to aid some wounded, for whom I had carried my pocket full of tourniquets ; but found that there was no hemorrhage. The ambulances then came up, and were heaped with wounded: no attempt could be made to separate regiments, or even friends and enemies. Getting back to the church, I found work enough; for, in an hour, the entire floor and gallery (pews torn up) were covered with wounded to the number of seventy-five or eighty. The wounds were awfully ghastly; being made much with shell, Minie-balls, and rifled canon. We turned to with all our might (i.e., Dr. Foye, my- self, and Dr. Curtis, — to whose noble, fearless, volunteer devotion, too much honor cannot be given), and, until late in the afternoon, cut right hand and left hand. There were three or four other surgeons at the church; and I recollect seeing Dr. Magruder, U.S.A., who was said to have some directing power; although we all did as we saw fit.

About six o’clock, we were informed that the mighty stampede of our panic-stricken columns, flying for life, approached its end. Curtis coolly asked me if I meant to risk assassination or capture. I replied, ” that in no civilized country could a surgeon be injured with his badge in sight, his hospital-flag set, and about his duty of mercy. This is our post of duty: let us stand by it.” Curtis and Foye both replied, ” Doctor, we shall do just as you do.” “We went to work again in full activity, though I was almost exhausted with fatigue. No water could be had: our dressings, chloroform, &c., were exhausted. A half-hour after, Curtis said, “Doctor, if you should decide to change your design, you have but a moment to do it in. The enemy are just upon us. In hot blood, it is not likely they will spare us.” I had a young man from New Hampshire on the board laid over the chancel-rail, just having applied a tourniquet ; and was about making my first incision to amputate the leg. I thought an hour in a moment. I felt I had no right to sacrifice men who thus relied upon me. I said, “Let us go ! ” seized my coat and sash, and we rushed out. I had my valuable horse and equipments at hand; but there was no time to save them. I lost all, — sword and belt, every surgical instrument, and some family tokens which I valued much, such as my son Samuel’s (you recollect the boy) shawl and my brother James’s revolver.

We rushed through a creek, and took to the woods, making a few units of that vast, dilapidated, panic-stricken mass, crowding the road for five or eight miles, every now and then alarmed by the out-cry that the enemy was after us, when we would all rush out one side into the woods. A kindly cook, to whom I had shown some trifling kindness, and who had seized a horse, discovered me, and insisted on my riding, while he went on foot by my side, hurrying up my horse. After a while, we saw a Charlestown lieutenant (Sweet) much exhausted and sick, and got him up behind me.

After riding so (and all the horses carried double ; a great many of them had been cut away from the cannons) for some six or eight miles, we approached a narrow, high bridge, over “Cub Run.” In an instant, the bridge was a mass of artillery, wagons, cavalry, infantry, and ambulances, crushed together. The water-way at the side was equally jammed. At this instant, the incarnate fiends fired repeated charges of their rifled canon (doubtless planted by day-light for that range) into the mass, killing many. I was a few rods from the bridge; but, on hearing the awful sounds of those missiles, I drove straight into the woods, then forward, hoping to cross the creek below. A second discharge struck the trees as if lightning had crushed them. I told Sweet we must abandon the horse. He thought so too, and slipped off, and made for the creek. At this moment, my faithful cook cried to me not to leave the horse; for that the only crossing-place possible was at the bridge. He rushed back, seized the animal, forced him over a stone wall and into the water. Here the animal insisted on stopping to drink. Cook laid over him a naked sword, which he had picked up ; and one of our regiment urged him ahead with a bayonet. Just at this moment, a young negro was forced up into the deep water next the bridge, and was drowning ; when cook seized him, and pitched him up upon the bank. Cook then compelled my horse to rise the almost perpendicular bank ; and on we went. At the top of the hill, by a strange Providence, we again encountered Sweet, and took him on. In this way we reached Centreville, whence we had set out in such brilliant array. My cook asked me if I could ride to Washington that night. I replied, that I could do so better than the next day. We started on, I riding and he walking, Sweet left behind, until we reached Fairfax Court House. Here I spied a wretched old lager-beer wagon bound to Arlington. I deputed cook (who said he could ride the horse, beat out as he seemed to me) to hire a ride at any price, as I happened to have some money left. He agreed for ten dollars; and about eight, a.m., I reached the fortification at “Columbian Springs,” opposite Washington. Here I was compelled to stay the livelong day, useless, in the rain and mud, because I could not get a pass into the city. Towards night, I persuaded the colonel in command to give me one, and reached Willard’s. Here I found my servant Prentiss, whom I had directed, by a sergeant flying to our old camps here, to bring up my baggage. I was soon dressed in clean and dry clothes, and soon encountered an old Charles- town friend (Captain Taylor, U.S.A.) there on ordnance duty. He took me to his boarding-house; and I think I must have amazed him by the way I ate, for I had seen nothing but wretched hard bread and poor coffee since we left this place. He then gave me a beautiful bed ; and, having had six nights with nothing but earth and sky below and above me, I enjoyed it. Next morning, had a splendid breakfast, and bore away for Mr. William Appleton. Found him quite ill, but glad to see me, as it had been currently reported that I was among the slain. I told him some of my story, and said I wanted money. I had started with enough: but our staff and officers are very poor, as a general thing; and, having received no pay as yet, I was obliged to share with them. Of course, he put me at my ease cheerfully, and I left him happy. Got a ten-dollar gold-piece changed into quarters ; and, before I got to the Surgeon-General’s office to report the loss of all instruments, I met enough of our un-breakfasted stragglers to use it up. The next day (i.e., yesterday), we came back here in the baggage-wagons, and are again comfortably fixed in the old Virginia mansion of which I wrote you in a former letter. To-day, our pioneers have been cutting down the large trees of the pleasure-grounds, to allow a sweep for the big guns of Fort Ellsworth. Last night, we had an alarm that the enemy was upon us. I, with some half-dozen regiments encamped round about, turned out to arms. It was, of course, a false alarm. . . . Thus, doctor, I have given my share in those awful scenes. How much of life has been compressed in less than a month! I have seen more gun-shot wounds, performed more operations, and had a harder experience, I fancy, than most army surgeons in a lifetime.

I have enjoyed, from first to last, excellent health and spirits. I never, even when those cursed missiles were sent into my rear, felt one sentiment of regret at the step I had taken, or the slightest thought of receding. . . .

George Edward Ellis, Memoir of Luther V. Bell. pp. 57-61.

Luther V. Bell Wikipedia

Transcription courtesy of John Hennessy





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.








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