Pvt. Worcester Burrows, Co. C, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and the Retreat

26 12 2012

Delaware Soldiers.

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We give below some extracts from letters after the battle, from Worcester Burrows and Henry O. Wheeler, of Deposit, which we find in the Deposit Democrat. They were both members of the N. Y. 27th., and as brave boys as ever went to the field.

From W. Burrows.

Soon after our Colonel fell the regiment seemed to waver, but it was immediately rallied by our gallant Maj. Bartlett, who assumed the command, and showed himself a brave and daring man and a good officer. Soon after he took the command the enemy hoisted the American flag, and we were instantly ordered not to fire, supposing them to be our men, but no sooner had they secured their position than they hauled it down and opened a desperate fire upon us. It was well returned, our boys fighting like tigers. We were badly cut up. Some of our men after they were wounded, would cry out, “give it to them boys.” One of our company stood firing all alone after the order to retreat was given, and when the Capt. asked him why he stood there all alone, he replied, “I was so enraged that I did not miss the regiment.”

Although the enemy had every advantage, we gave them a good reception, and we think they will prefer hereafter to meet “the Yankee [?]” as they did, three to one rather than as they braggartly say “one to three.”

The Ellsworth Zouaves came into the field just behind us. We could hear them shout, “Ellsworth,” above the cannon roar. They fought desperately, completely annihilating the company of Black Horse Cavalry, only six escaping.

As soon as the retreat commenced, the panic seemed to fly through the whole body, and every one was for himself. The ambulance were loaded to their utmost with the wounded, and a great many were left behind in the hospital; these were butchered by the canibals that followed us. As our broken forces were scattered along the road, a few of our Cavalry came dashing along, saying “the rebel Cavalry was upon us.” There was a predictable panic. Every thing was borne along in the crowd. We managed to keep our Deposit boy on board the ambulance; the first one broke down; on the next one, a four horse concern, we could only get him upon the step, where he rode until we reached the Run. Found the bridge blockaded;  artillery, ambulances, baggage wagons crowded into a confused mass. The enemy had cut off our retreat and poured on us a volley of shot and shell. The drivers cut their horses loose and fled, leaving the wounded to take care of themselves. In the same wagon with Wheeler was a wounded officer; a man rode up and offered him his horse to escape, but he refused it. Wheeler sat looking out as cool as ever for a few moments, and then said, “you can make your escape, and I will try if I die in the attempt.” He mounted my back, and I picked my way out of the rubbish, waded the Run and took to the woods. As we came up the bank from the Creek the grape fell around us like hail, but we escaped without a scratch. As soon as we were out of reach of the enemy’s fire, Wheeler took the “tow path” and hobbled nearly two miles. We stopped at Centreville and rested three hours, and had W’s wound dressed. We inquired for the Twenty-Seventh, and one of Deposit boys answered to the call; stopped a few moments with us and then went for help for W. About 11 P. M. the surgeon told me to be off with my friend or he would be taken. We commenced our weary march, but at a short distance a horse rushed into the road with a rail attached to his halter. I caught him, placed W. on his back, and set off in better spirits in search of the Twenty-Seventh, and overtook it about twelve miles from Washington, and what a sorry looking set. We arrived at Arlington about 10 A. M. on Monday. We had to wait until about 4 P. M. before we could get orders from Gen. Mansfield to cross Long bridge. On reaching Camp [?] some two hundred of the Twenty-Seventh were missing, but since, they have straggled in until now there is only 110 gone, 20 out of Co. C, which seems to have fared worse than any other. All the deposit boys came back. Three of them have been quite sick since they returned. All were lame and sore, as you may imagine from the length of our march without scarcely eating any thing from the time we left camp until we arrived at Washington. We are now all feeling pretty well, and will soon be ready for the field again. We will fight like savages if we get at the rebels again.

Truly yours,

W. B.

Franklin Visitor, 8/14/1861

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Worcester Burrows at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





“C”, Co. K, 27th New York Infantry, On the March and the Retreat

23 12 2012

From our regular Correspondent.

Letter from the 27th.

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Camp Anderson,

Washington, D. C.

August 5, 1861.

Friend Black: – I had intended soon after the memorable “battle before Manassas,” to write as full an account as possible concerning the advance of the 27th, the engagement following, and the final repulse and retreat to Washington, but as two weeks have since quickly elapsed, ,and letters have been daily received concerning the battle, and your readers were also favored with your letter from “Camp Anderson,” dated July 24, it will be almost unnecessary to have still another statement. Our retreat, no – we don’t call it a retreat – simply a retrograde movement together with the fatiguing march following, left the men, as you know, quite disheartened, but quiet and freedom from drill since our return have restored the usual good feeling, and we again hear issuing from the door of this and that “mess” the notes of patriotic songs which evince an increase of patriotic feeling and exuberant spirits. As not much has been written concerning it, I will write more particularly concerning

THE MARCH.

My last I think closed with a brief notice of orders to cross the Potomac, which was done within three hours of the command, the regiment singing, as we passed through the streets and over the Long Bridge, national airs, and hurrahing as we touched the “sacred soil,” with a right good will. Upon arriving on the Virginia side we found thousands in advance of us, and were followed by regiments from Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut and New York. In the rear hundreds of ponderous baggage wagons jolted over the stony road, regiments of cavalry clattered over the uneven ground, and the rumbling of artillery here and there along the [?] combined to make up one of the grandest scenes ever witnessed, viz: an advance movement of the American Army.

That night, fatigued by a forced march of sixteen miles, we halted at eleven o’clock six miles from Fairfax Court House, and encamped in a large field, with ripe sheaves of wheat as pillows and mattresses, a blanket for covering, and the sky as one grand tent. The rumble of baggage wagons, which filed by in one continuous train, lulled us to sleep, and in the morning roused us. A savory breakfast was cooked from [?] found in a cellar near by, and at eight o’clock we were again on the march, over a road obstructed by fallen trees and rail fences, which the advance removed, and at half past ten the order was given to form into platoons, and we ascended a hill in full view of the enemy’s earthworks, which had been deserted but two hours previous.

Smoking camp fires and an untouched breakfast told of their hasty departure. But a short distance farther on, and we were at the notorious village, Fairfax Court House, and from and old rusty dome or steeple of insignificant proportions, floated a small faded “pelican flag,” which was quickly removed, and in its stead out to the breeze went “[?] Red, White and Blue.” Our patriotic adjutant struck up the Star Spangled Banner, and the regiment joined in the chorus, the full and hearty sound floated with the dust surrounding into the face and eyes of the few rebel occupants of the town, one or the other of which had the effect to make them look very severe. Everything in town had a deserted appearance, and in the entire march a large proportion of the dwelling past were vacated.

The division halted a short distance beyond, and in the rebel camps surrounded by earthworks on either side for the protection of rebels, with marks every where around us of their presence, we spent the second night out of Washington, several members of our company sleeping even in a tent occupied the night before by a rebel Major.

Independent foraging parties went around shortly after the halt, and collected and bro’t in from different parts of the camping ground a good supply of coffee and honey, a beef that had been killed the morning previous, several tents and various cooking utensils.

Acting on the principle that “stolen fruit is the sweeter,” chickens were served up in all manner of ways, ,and the supply of beef being scanty a fine bullock was found near by and added to the rations, being cooked for the following day. Yes with all this there were many acts of destruction to be regretted. Looking up from pilot bread and blackberries, I saw the flames encircle a large barn but a short distance off, and in a few moments it was in ashes. Smoke was seen in other directions, and it was reported that owners were destroying their property that it might not come into our possession. How true this was I do not know. That night for the first time we heard the cry ring out on the night air, “turn out! turn out!” and crawling from under boughs and blankets used as covering, every man jumped for his musket, and was quickly in his place. We knew we were in an enemy’s country, completely surrounded by rebels who, but the night before, slept where we were sleeping, and all expected something, but were disappointed when told that the alarm was caused by an accidental discharge of a sentry’s gun, followed by the order to “stack arms.” Next morning we proceeded on and halted in the afternoon at the last camping ground, Camp Hunter, three miles from Centreville.

Here came the first realization of genuine camp life. Luxurious land to be simply [?] as in the far distant future or remembered past. To be sure those who had money could purchase of accommodating pedlars who followed us, as long as their supply lasted, two inches of bologna for two shillings, a pie, very thin and nearly transparent, for twenty shillings, or a pint of very common “tangle-leg” for one dollar, but as the 27th hadn’t been paid off, they had as I say to look at these articles, and stand by while the regulars in the brigade, who clinked in their pockets and on the card table gold for four months pay, did the “shopping.”

During our stay a sentence was executed upon two deserters from the 3d Infantry, which was fifty lashes upon the bare back well laid on, branding with the letter D, one and a half inches long and one inch wide, forfeiture of pay due and coming due, and at the expiration of ten days they were to be drummed out of camp. It was a sorry sight and one which no one wants to witness more than once,

At one o’clock Sunday morning, July 21st, the bugle sounded, and at two we started for Manassas Junction, with minds fully made up for a complete victory. Going four miles we left the direct road and marched through a road cut through the woods, with but an occasional and very brief halt, fourteen miles which placed the division in a position to make the attach from the rear of the enemy. During the entire distance all the water we drank was of the muddiest kind, and breakfast had to be eaten while marching. At half past ten, after a halt of fifteen minutes, the 27th was ordered onward, and away we went, on double quick, into the battle field, saluted upon coming into view by a round from the enemy’s batteries, which directed fire upon us, and soon changed the occasional booming to a continuous roar. – Right here I might as well stop. I shall not, nor can I give a description of that battle; an account I might give, but that you have had entire. Pen and ink cannot describe the roar of the cannon, the rattle of musketry, the charge of cavalry, the groans and implorations of the wounded, and dying, nor the horrors of war. The 27th fought bravely and nobly, and compelled to retreat, tired and worn, we slowly moved back toward Centreville, leaving our dead and wounded to the mercy of the enemy. Our retreat was hastened by an alarm, and arriving at the stone bridge another alarm was given which was too real. The rebels had planted a battery near the bridge, and were pouring in shell and grape furiously. I was near the Rhode Island battery when we arrived at the bridge, and such a scene of confusion I scarce ever witnessed. The gunners unhitched their horses and mounting them dashed away through the crowd leaving the battery – four heavy brass pieces – in the reach of the rebels. The wagoners, who followed next, joined in the panic, and cutting the fastenings to the wagons left them standing and upturned along the road. Infantry crowded on and hurried across, and as far as the eye could reach was one dense mass of soldiers fleeing for very life, and strewing the road as they went with muskets, blankets and haversacks, some even throwing away shoes to free themselves from everything which prevented a rapid flight. Near Centreville, confidence was restored by meeting fresh troops, and with a more steady tread the march was continued, with but a short halt at Camp Hunter, till on Monday morning at nine o’clock, wet with drenching rain, we came into  Fort Runyon, (just across the river), weary, footsore and exhausted, having marched according to statistics at the War Department, sixty-four miles, and been six hours in the battle field, without rest during the entire thirty-one hours.

Why a defeat, “and whose fault is it?” are questions which every one first asks, It was not because bravery and courage were wanting, and General Scott compliments his Generals in the strongest terms. One thing is certain, reinforcements were lacking, and while the enemy, after each volley, relived the exhausted with fresh troops, we were compelled to repeat the charge. Co. “K” did gloriously! The timid and weak (what Co. did not have them!) dropped out one by one, and placed themselves in positions of safety, leaving the field free to the true soldiers, who, amid the hottest fire, did their work manfully and nobly, and richly deserved the proudest victory ever achieved.

Our Col. is fast improving, and although he has received the appointment of Brigadier General, we hope to see him with us again temporarily, if not permanently. I picked up a Rochester Democrat of Aug. 3d, [?], and was astonished to find in it an article headed, “Information (!) for friends and relatives of Co. K, [?],” which contained such a [?] of misstatements that it must not pass [?] [?]. With but one or two exceptions the entire communication is false from the beginning to end, and the various expressions of those who read it were certainly amusing. The writer’s attempts to make us notorious are refreshing, [?] doubt whether any would be able to endure it but those who (the writer says) “charged and took unsupported a battery eight times.” (!) The fact is we have become disgusted with the lies in circulation, tales of heroic deeds, and narrow escapes, &c. &c., and prefer simply plain and truthful statements concerning us, knowing that the former are an injury, while the latter is our due, and all that we desire. I am sorry to add as a finale, that two deserters from Co. K, named J. Carlos Humphrey and William Murdock, are at large having donned citizen’s clothes, and been absent from camp for over one week. Whoever will cause their arrest will receive the usual reward.

The bugle is sounding for roll call, and hoping to be more prompt,

I am &c.,

C.

Orleans Republican, 8/14/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Sgt. Charles McFadden, Co. K, 79th New York Infantry, On the Battle

20 12 2012

Letter From The Battleground Of Bull’s Run.

A “NOVASCOTIAN” IN THE FIGHT.

The Picton Chronicle publishes a letter, addressed to a gentleman in Picton, by a young Nova Scotian, formerly a member of the Halifax Scottish Volunteer Rifle Company, who some months ago joined the New York 69th Highland Regiment, in which he was appointed a Sergeant and with his Regiment was present and took part in the recent fight at Bull’s Run. The letter was not intended for publication, says the Chronicle, but as the unpretending narrative of an eye witness and Novascotian too, a non-commissioned officer in a regiment which bore the brunt of the engagement, it contains so much that is interesting that we have obtained permission to give our readers the benefit of it. It is dated

Washington, 26th July, 1861.

I seize this opportunity of letting you know how I have been getting along since I last wrote you. Of course the newspapers will have posted you in reference to the part our regiment took in the late battle of Sunday, so I will only write of what I myself saw and as I am in the midst of noise and confusion, you must make every allowance for all short comings.

Our men were already worn out with long marching under a burning sun by day, and the discomfort caused by exposure and the sudden changes of temperature, for the nights have been cold and chilly, when we received the order to march. Two day’s provisions were served out consisting of fifteen hard biscuit and a piece of raw salt pork for each man. This was after our first battle. We commenced to march about 3 a. m. Sunday, July 21st, and were not long in coming up with the enemy. They retired after a few shell had been fired; and after we had pursued them for about two miles, made a stand at Bull’s Run. Our brigade consisting of the 2d Wisconsin, 13th New York and the 69th and 79th regiments with Sherman’s Battery, quickly drew up in line of battle, on the edge of a deep wood, and sat down to wait our turn to charge. Here we all made our wills, a good many for the last time. Fortunately, I am spared to add a codicil to mine if necessary, but I bequeathed to you all my old boots and hats, to most of the S. V. R. something to remember me by, including J– W–, to whom in the event of my sudden demise, I left all my “bad debts.”

About 9 A. M. the battle began in earnest and we received the order to charge the main body of their batteries, supported by Sherman’s Battery which opened the Ball. Our ranks were then suffering considerably, but almost immediately we drove the enemy out of their entrenchments, and took their guns. New and unlooked for batteries now opened upon us – 3 to one taken – but we kept on, and our Brigade went down the hill at the double quick, crossing Bull’s Run up to our waists in water, up the hill again on the other side, where the enemy was entrenched on top, with heavy artillery. The carnage among our men now became dreadful, but up the hill we went until within three hundred yards of their infernal batteries, that were cutting our boys at a fearful rate, when our brave Col. Cameron was killed, also Cap. Brown. When the firing commenced on our side, we mowed them down by hundreds, but not being properly supported we were compelled to retire, which we did in good order and without confusion, leaving scores of brave Highlanders dead upon the field; our wounded we carried with us. Soon after, we made the second charge supported by Carlisle’s Battery, but they never unlimbered; every man and horse belonging to it being killed in ten minutes. The roaring of cannon and the shrieks of the wounded men and horses – many of the latter running about the field riderless, made up a scene I will never forget. The ground became slippery with blood, and covered with the dear and wounded. But the reality of this picture, I will not attempt to pourtray. At last after nine hours hard fighting, we hear the bugle sound a welcome retreat. You will have already heard the story of the scene of confusion that ensued. It was a disgraceful panic, originating with the teamsters and camp-followers, but the excitement soon spread and became pretty general, but not until the greater part of the army was comparatively out of immediate danger of any description. The charge of the Rebel Black horse cavalry, was a sight to be seen and remembered. It was grand and impressive, but it was terrific. They swept down on our flank with fearful velocity, and cut us up terribly in flank and rear.

During this charge I had a narrow escape. A private of the Wisconsin 2d, shot one of them through the head as his sword was raised to split my skull. I shall never forget that man. We laid down and they passed over us. During the day we had nothing to eat, nor the next day either. That night we slept on the field, not having strength left to walk a dozen yards, and on the following morning we commenced our weary way back to Alexandria, thirty miles distant. On our way we were joined by two lieutenants, who like myself and my comrade had passed the night in the vicinity of the scene of action. Our little party of four was well armed. I took a long knife from the Cavalry fellow after the Wisconsin man shot him, which I still keep.

The scene along the road, beggars description. For miles beyond Centreville, it was filled with dead bodies, overturned army waggons, and accoutrements, and may a poor wounded fellow did we pass who had managed to crawl five or six miles only to die from exhaustion and loss of blood. We arrived at Alexandria that night, having walked 30 miles through scenes of horror and a drenching rain having eaten nothing for fifty-six hours, only to find every hole and corner filled with soldier, who had been in the panic on the day before. Wet as I was, I laid down in the streets of Alexandria and slept as sweetly as if I had been in the Acadian. Next morning the Provost Marshall gave us some bread, the first for many a weary hour. I think it was the sweetest morsel I ever eat in my life.

I received a copy of the Reporter which you were kind enough to send me. Only think of the Reporter being read in the back woods of Virginia. There is one little incident I had nearly forgotten. A large number of white coated gentry, mostly congressmen and reporters, were at the left of our regiment, at what they thought a safe distance, when suddenly, whether by accident or design, I know not, a shell burst directly over our heads. You ought to have seen them run. You might have played marbles on their coat tails for two miles at least, to the great amusement of our boys who were lying down at the time.

I had a narrow escape in the morning. One of our buglers had been wounded in the leg by a bullet, and I was binding a handkerchief round it, when a cannon ball came and smashed him into a thousand pieces, covering me with blood. – The only injury I received was from a splinter from a gun carriage which struck me in the back; it still gives me a good deal of trouble, but it is nothing serious.

I am heartily sick of the way in which Uncle Sam treats his soldiers. Nothing but crackers and water will weaken any man in a warm country, with plenty of hard marching to do. So ends the chapter of sufferings I have endured for the last two months, until I am so weak from bad living and other causes, that as soon as I can get my discharge I intend returning to Halifax, and try and get some rest for a while. Give my regards to all the boys, and tell them that I hope to be among them in a few weeks. I will send this letter by Capt. Bigelet to Boston, as it would never reach you if mailed here. The story of the Southerners bayoneting our wounded is quite true. I saw it with my own eyes.

Yours, truly,

C. McF.

Sergt. 69th Highlanders

The British Colonist, 8/10/1861

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See Charles McFadden in 79th New York roster, and note his “discharge” on 7/21/1861 at Bull Run, Va.

Contributed by John Hennessy





J. A. V.*, 16th New York Infantry, On the Battle

19 12 2012

Letter from the War.

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The following two letters from St. Lawrence County boys will be read with interest:

Alexandria, July [??], 1861.

Our regiment was sent to the extreme left to protect a battery of six rifled cannon. We remained inactive until about four o’clock, when we espied a detachment of the enemy coming to take possession of our guns. Under Lieutenant Colonel Marsh we formed to receive them, and the artillery played upon them with fine effect. They were in a ravine and we upon a hill. They fired upon us. We laid down and their bullets passed over our heads, falling among us, and in front of us. Our boys were as cool as if at their dinner, and waited for the foe to show themselves on the brow of the hill, with a smile of satisfaction on their countenances. They did not advance, and our artillery getting out of ammunition and leaving us, we were ordered to retreat, which we did in excellent style. Our regiment was the last to leave the field, and come near being surrounded, as our men had all retreated and left us alone.

Lieutenant Colonel Marsh showed great coolness and courage, and acquitted himself with great credit. Our regiment was the only one that left the field with unbroken ranks and marched in good style the whole way. This was due to the energy of Colonel Marsh and by his fearless conduct he has endeared himself to the officers and men. None of our regiment were hurt except Lieutenant Hopkins, who was slightly wounded in the heel while out on a scouting expedition.

We are again in our old camp, and were absent from Tuesday until Monday, during which time I never took off my clothes, slept on the ground, and ate hard bread and raw pork. I feel well, and am ready for another fight and hope we will have more competent leaders next time. Our loss is not so great as was first reported, although it is too much for all that was gained. The loss of the enemy must have been very great as a fierce cannonading was kept up by our men for over four hours.

Our men are very much dissatisfied with their food and I must say that our commissary department is very poor. We have not yet had our pay, and some are growling about it. All are out of money and we await with eager eyes the approach of pay day, which has been deferred from time to time.

Yours truly,

J. A. V.

St. Lawrence Republican, 8/6/1861

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*Possibly Lt. John A. Vance, Co. F, or Pvt. John Valliere, Co. B. See regimental roster

Contributed by John Hennessy





Capt. Calvin S. DeWitt, Co. I, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

18 12 2012

Letter from Capt. DeWitt

———-

Full Description of the Action of the Horseheads Company in the Great Battle at Bull’s Run.

———-

We are permitted to publish the following interesting letter from Capt. C. S. DeWitt, describing particularly the part taken by the Horseheads Company in the great battle at Bull’s Run.

———-

Head Quarters 38th Regiment N. Y. V.

Camp Scott, Shuters Hill, Fairfax Road,

Near Alexandria, Va., July 27, 1861.

Dear Sister:

This has been a very short week indeed to me. Here it is Saturday, six days since the battle of Bull Run, of which I suppose you have heard long before this, although I think, you have not heard much from our regiment as our Col. has not sent in his report yet and then our regiment is not a newspaper regiment, as you may have seen by the papers before this.

I looked for the New York papers the next day and was glad to hear that our regiment was not mentioned in the report, for I expected to see it in the papers that I was killed, for it was reported on the field that I was killed or badly wounded, but I am not. I escaped with the exception of a few light scratches. I was struck on the hand by a piece of a bomb and was pricked in the back of the head accidentally by one of my own men, but these are nothing.

But I will now attempt to give you an account of the battle, which is said to have been the most desperate one ever fought in the United States.

Imagine if you can our army on last Saturday night encamped in a pleasant valley near Centreville, Va., with orders to march in the morning at 2 o’clock, with 3 days provisions in our haversacks, no one knew where except the General in command. You might have seen me at 7 o’clock going through inspection of arms, seeing that all my men were fully equipped and had the requisite amount of ammunition. Finding every thing right I broke ranks for the night, telling the men I had orders to march at 2 in the morning, and they must get all the rest they could before that time. Then after arranging all my affairs about camp, at 10:30 I took my blanket and laid down to sleep. I slept until 12 when Col. Ward, wh was going round the camp tapped me on the should and said, “Capt. fall in your men right away as silently as possible. We move from here at one o’clock.” So I got up, spoke to the men, and they were all up and in the ranks in ten minutes.

The whole division of the army was in rank and commenced moving out of camp, but we had to stand there until f o’clock which was more tiresome than marching. Then we took up our march for the field of action which was 16 miles from our camp, which me marched in quick time, and reached the field about 12 M. You may judge what condition the men were in for fighting by this time. They were nearly exhausted by the heat of the day and the long march, and then were hurried into the fight without a moment’s rest.

The battle had been going on two hours when we arrived. We came on the field in double quick and then we were in for it. We were to take a masked battery and fight an unseen enemy. When we first came on the field we saw the rebels, but we gave them one volley, and they run for the woods which were on two sides of the field, and there were their batteries were concealed in the thick woods pouring out upon us their deadly shower of shell and canister, and volley after volley of rifle and musket balls, and as they were concealed in the wood and in entrenchments we could not see a man, and had to march up to their batteries through one of the most steady and the sharpest fire ever known to soldiers. We only had to judge where to fire from where the fire came from, which we did with considerable effect.

We soon however had a chance to see the rebels for we charged on them and run right into their battery. The 38th and the Zouaves charged together, side by side, which made a bad hole in them I can tell you. We laid them in piles, but we were driven back by far greater numbers and greater advantages of ground. There was surely never a more brave lot of men in any filed. My Company has received great praise for the bravery of both officers and men, and for the dangerous position we took.

I kept perfectly cool and composed, and went right in I tell you. My men stuck like good fellows, and if I do say it, was in the thickest and done some of the best fighting. I thought once it was all up with me. I was far in advance in the open field with a few men around men. From our position every shot told upon the rebels. But at this moment came a shower of bullets. The balls whistled past my ears like hail, and a corporal of my company was shot. He was not two feet from me. A ball struck him in the throat and went straight through his neck, low at the breast. He fell on his side and said, “O dear, I am shot!: This did not stop me much. I laid him in an easy position and urged the men on, but it was hard to keep them in that place. They were falling like rain. I looked round at McBride and he was not dead. I thought to carry him back a little from the field. I spoke to my Orderly Sergeant, who was near me, to take hold and we would carry him back a little. So we both took hold of him, but no sooner had we started with him than a ball struck the Orderly in the breast and went right through his body. He fell with a groan on my feet. This made my heart sick. Here lay two of the very nicest boys in the regiment. The Orderly Sergeant was Wm. F. Straight of Elmira, and the Corporal was John McBride of N. York. But no time to waste here. I looked around me and scarcely a man could be seen standing, and the ground was strewn with the dead and dying. Oh, it was an awful sight. I cannot describe it.

Imagine, if you can, a field strewn with  dead and wounded, and in many instances the black hearted rebels were known to cut the throats and mangle with their bayonets the wounded men left on the field.

Our loss is not so much by far as it was reported. I awfully hate to own we were whipped, but it was no victory, for the rebel loss was much greater than ours. There was two darkies run out of the enemy’s lines when we were retreating. They say that the enemy’s loss is far greater than ours. They say they had 500 darkies at work carrying away the dead and wounded. These niggars came out after some dead on the field and run over to our lines.

There was no use of losing the battle if we had the right management of the thing. The attack was not made right, nor in the right place. It was nothing but suicide to march those men before an unseen enemy and masked batteries. We were compelled to retreat after a desperate battle of six hours and a quarter, by far superior numbers, masked batteries and great advantage of ground – But we are here yet. Let them come out of their trenches and attack us, or stand up in sight or any way only so that we can see them, and we will show you how soon we can clean them out. We can whip two to one, and had them whipped, only for a panic amongst the teamsters, that was taken for a retreat by some of our troops, and this routed the men so that they could not be rallied in time to save themselves.

The great sacrifice in this battle is blamed on the commanding officer Gen. McDowel. – There was no use to have had so many killed. Men’s lives are too precious to be thrown away in that way. There was no necessity to hurry the thing along so fast, when we knew that the enemy had been in this place for months, and that they would stay there as long as possible. It is one of their strongest posts. They had three batteries, one on the right, left and centre. The Southern account of their numbers say that they had twelve thousand in the fight and sixty thousand in the reserve at Manassas Junction. Well now, McDowel’s command is only forty thousand, and we had only seven thousand men in the fight that attacked Bull Run, (now the papers may say what they please). The force was divided to attack another place but did not do it. At tow o’clock the victory seemed to be ours, and would have been could we have had a reserve of a few fresh troops to have come in to help. But no, there was two regiments in reserve in the woods a mile off waiting, but were never ordered to the field.

The 38th and the Fire Zouaves were fighting side by side, when a whole company of the rebel Black Horse Cavalry made a furious charge on us at the time when they tho’t us nearly whipped. But we gave them a warm reception, for only one horseman of the whole troop went back to tell the tale. We dropped them from their saddles like rain.

But I have written enough – you will be sick of reading more, although the half is not told you. But talk of being tired. I thought I had been tired before, but I did not know what it was to be so. We marched from five o’clock on Sunday morning until 8 o’clock on Monday morning, a distance of sixty two miles without rest, and had six hours hard fighting in the time. I had nothing to eat in this time except a couple of hard crackers or sea biscuits.

We arrived at our old camp at 8 o’clock next morning, and got breakfast at a farm house near by, which it is needless to say I relished very well. I have boarded at this house ever since.

I had two men killed, five wounded and eleven missing out of my company. Our whole loss was six to eight hundred.

Cr. Murdoch’s son is our Chaplain.

Yours, &c.,

Capt. C. S. DeWitt,

38th Regiment

Elmira Weekly Advertiser, 8/10/1861

Clipping Image

Calvin S. DeWitt at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. John H. Morrison, Co. H, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

17 12 2012

[The following letter was received from private John H. Morrison, of Co. H, (Captain Baird,) by his father. It is replete with interesting incidents of the part taken by the Geneva boys in the great battle at Bull's Run:

Alexandria, Va., July 23d.

Dear Father:

I sit down to write you a few lines, and it is a great task to do it, for I am so fatigued that I can hardly sit up. We have just returned from a march of about 32 hours in the rain. Sunday morning – (o, what a Sunday that was! it was one that I shall never forget) – we were called from our rest. We were about two miles from a place called Centreville: we had marched to Fairfax Court House the day before that, and routed the enemy. They left their camps and the most of their provisions in a great hurry. We stayed there one day and took 11 prisoners. The next day we marched to Centreville, and as I said, were aroused at 1 o’clock and started for Manassas Junction. We were on a forced march the most of the rime, and just before we got to the field of battle we got to the field of battle we had to move at “double quick.” We were drawn up in line of battle, and marched direct to the front of the enemy. They were in masked batteries, and we could not see them fairly. But we gave them a few vollies, and then our regiment was detailed to cover a battery of artillery. We were a few yards behind the picket battery, which was awfully cut up by the enemy’s artillery. We were then ordered to sustain a charge of the Fire Zouaves, which we did; and our regiment and the Fire Zouaves marched directly up within five rods of the rebel battery, and stood a galling fire for the space of 15 or 20 minutes, but had to retreat. We rallied again, and stood their fire for a long time, and had to retreat again. They may say what they please in the papers, but the Thirty-eighth and the Fire Zouaves were the only regiments that went any where near the enemy’s batteries.

While we stood there, I was wondering all the while that a ball did not hit me; but I got off without a scratch! Why I saw men fall all around me. Some had their head shot off clean from the body; some had both legs and arms taken off; and others fell with balls in their heads. It was one continual whiz around my head. Men would drop next to me; but although I always thought I would feel a little fear on entering a field of battle, yet I was never more cool and steady in my life, notwithstanding the hot weather and fatigue.

A great many of our men were sunstruck, including our Colonel; and if it had not been for Capt. Baird, we would not have a Colonel now. Capt. B. was the only officer of his rank in our regiment that I saw at the head of his men. You may read a great deal in the papers in regard to this battle. I cannot estimate the number of men lost on either side, but the slaughter was great. I have heard men that were in the Crimean war and in a dozen battles say, that they never saw men stand before such galling fire as we did.

You can put down the Brooklyn Phalanx (Henry Ward Beecher’s pets) as cowards! And you may not credit any of the State troops except those of New York for any great display of bravery.

I will not undertake to say how many men our regiment lost; but I will say that most of our Geneva boys are safe – that is, as far as I know. I expect that Johnny Orman is killed, and several wounded. Harry L. Stainton got a ball through his right hand; he may lose it, and he may not.

I will not attempt to give all the particulars until I can do so without causing needless alarm to the friends of the 38th.

I will mention the Fire Zouaves, as I think they stood the brunt of the battle. As for the “seceshers,” we will “polish” them off yet. Charley Dorchester, Clark McMillan of Phelps, and I, are in our tents, all sound. John Baker, Fred Andrus and young Tim Clare are safe.

I have just heard that we are cut off from Washington, and I must quit. I will give more particulars in my next. This in a hurry.

John.

Geneva Gazette, 8/2/1861

Clipping Image

John H. Morrison at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





What To Do? What To Do?

16 12 2012

Notice that Bull Runnings has been very focused on building the Resources section with soldiers’ correspondence. There are several reasons for the concentration. First, the Resources is why the site came about. I use blogging software to do it because it’s simple and so am I. And also because I like the way it develops. Second, I’ve decided to move a lot of the “newsy” or “discussion oriented” items that I used to post here over to Facebook. I found there was a lot of stuff going on here that I felt could be better served there. But I hope you’ve noticed I’ve kept up with the author interviews here, and of course I intend to continue with them here.

But I’ve also used Bull Runnings over the past six(!) years as an outlet for original content. I’ve let things slip in that area, mostly due to time constraints. So, I think in the coming year I’m going to get back to writing about the campaign and its personalities. To start with, I think I’ll serialize some/all/even more of what I’ve uncovered over the years about Peter Conover Haines, the man who “opened the ball” at Bull Run with a shot from his 30 pounder Parrott. You may remember I linked to this video of a Haines program I presented to the Loudoun Civil War Roundtable in 2011. I contacted several folks I know in “the business” about publishing an article presenting his story, but I had trouble hearing their enthusiastic responses over the hum of my air conditioning and an occasional cricket. Ditto for an annotated version of Haines’s 1911 Cosmopolitan Magazine article. So I think I’ll get cracking on both those items – look for them in (hopefully) the first quarter of 2013.

In the meantime, to keep up with other items of interest, like Bull Runnings on Facebook and subscribe to the Twitter feed.








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