Unknown (2), Co. I, 2nd S. C., On the Retreat from Fairfax C. H., the Fight at Blackburn’s Ford, and the Battle

4 02 2012

We have been favored with the following extracts from a letter written by a member of the Palmetto Guard

Vienna, July 26, 1861.

Dear M—: —I telegraphed you a few days ago that I was quite well, and last night received your answer. The last part of your message I could not exactly make out, but take it that you intended to ask whether any of our company were killed or wounded. I had just written M—, and told her to send you word, but before this reaches you, you will have heard that we escaped without losing any.

W. Elliott was struck by a shell and stunned, blood issuing from his mouth. He is with us now, but is, I think, injured internally. Reeder was shot through the arm; a bad flesh wound. He had another wound, which I think was in the shoulder. J. L. Moses was struck in the collar bone. Walter was shot through the neck, the worst wound of all. Calder was knocked down by a shell or spent ball, but is now with us. The Captain of the Butler Guards was wounded in the arm; it is thought he will lose it. One of our men, Rice, went off the ground with him, and while doing so was also shot in the arm. Barnwell, a relation of the Captain, who was fighting with us, was wounded slightly in the nose. These are all we had injured.

Otis Prentiss was a prisoner for a time, but escaped. The loss of our Regiment I do not know. Hardy, one of the Colonel’s aids, was killed; one of the Butler Guards and one of the Camden Volunteers were killed. De Pass, a brother of Sam, it is said, is mortally wounded, also a member of his company. You will, however, get full accounts from the official reports.

I will now, as well as I can, give you an account of the whole affair.

On the 17th instant, soon after we had taken our wash, it was reported that the Yankees were coming in great force. Most of us then went to breakfast and ate a hearty meal. The order was soon afterwards given to strike tents, which was done, but not without a good deal of murmuring, for they had made us throw up embankments, and now for South Carolinians to retreat before Yankees we looked upon as a disgrace.

Every man packed his knapsack and made ready for a long march back to Bull Run. We were then formed in line, the company being over one hundred strong, when the Colonel advanced and addressed us in such language that we thought we had been mistaken and were not to retreat.

We then advanced and deployed as skirmishers. After remaining there some time, we returned to our quarters and marched towards Bacon’s Regiment. The enemy’s bayonets could now be seen and we were certain of a fight, and, of course, of a victory. Most of us unstrapped our knapsacks and placed them in charge of the villagers, though I could have carried mine without any inconvenience.

Our going into the batteries was only a sham to make the enemy believe we were going to fight, until the other regiments got out of the village, when we followed them; and that is the last we saw of our knapsacks, or ever will. However, I can get along very well. I have an oil cloth and two blankets, captured from the enemy, to compensate for my loss. The Yankees had 50,000 and we had 5000. Their object was to surround us and cut us to pieces, but they were mistaken, we got out about a quarter of an hour in advance of them. It was a very hot day, and we suffered intensely; one of our men, Brown, from Barnwell, died at Centreville from the effects of the march. We rested at Centreville till 12 o’clock that night, when we took up our line of march for Bull Run, the battle ground. Again did the enemy almost surround us, but we got out as successfully as we did before.

I was at first opposed to retreating, but now think it was all for the best.

We reached Bull Run about 2 o’clock, and went back to our old company ground, took a short nap and then got ready to meet the enemy; this was on the morning of the 18th. Two of Kemper’s cannon were stationed on a hill about five hundred yards in advance of the breast work; they were supported by our company and one other. Soon the enemy began to throw shot and shell at us but without much effect. Kemper’s battery fired eight shots at them, and we then retired to our breast works; they still continued to fire upon us but without any injury. Soon we heard the report of rifles and musketry on the right, the enemy trying to flank us; he was met, however, by the Virginia and Alabama troops, and repulsed with great loss. Again did a portion of our troops advance with Kemper who fired several more rounds doing – it was said by those who had climbed into the trees – immense damage. We heard but a little more of the enemy till Sunday. In the meantime our regiment had been removed to the left of the brigade.

On Sunday morning they again poured in on our batteries, but it was only a feint, as the battle soon afterwards commenced on the left at the Stone Bridge, where Sloan’s Regiment was, together with Hampton’s Legion and troops from other States. After they had been fighting about an hour, orders came for our regiment, together with Col. Cash’s, to proceed to the field. Off we started in high spirits, and on our way met numbers of the wounded coming from the field. They all told us the day was lost; that the enemy was cutting us to pieces.

Never did men go into battle under more unfavorable circumstances, but they did not appear to mind it much. We were also told that friends were firing upon each other as it was impossible to distinguish friend from foe. We “formed line of battle,” by coming into line by “on right by file into line;” it was done under a galling fire. We then fixed bayonets and charged into a thick wood which we found filled with the enemy.

It was while forming that Elliott, Reeder and Moses were wounded, and our flag was struck twice. We charged out of the wood with a yell when the enemy broke and run. We poured into them a terrific fire, and could have killed many more, when the cry of “Friends!” was raised, at which we ceased until the Stars and Stripes came into view, when we pushed into them right and left. The artillery came up, and the rout became general, and such a rout you never saw. They lost about fifty pieces of artillery, and baggage wagons innumerable. Of this you will see an account in the papers. If I live to see you again I will tell you more about the battle, it was the greatest defeat the world has ever heard of, and it is said that to Kershaw’s and Cash’s Regiments, together with Kemper’s Artillery, which is attached to our regiment, is due the credit of the victory.

Charleston Mercury, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown (1), 2nd S. C., On the Battle

3 02 2012

Battle Field of Bull Run,

Monday Morning, July 22, 1861.

We have met the enemy and gained a tremendous and glorious victory. South Carolinians have the most important part in the fight and ours (Colonel Kershaw’s Regiment, Colonel Cash’s Regiment, and Kemper’s Artillery), have the honor of having turned the issue of the fight and first sent the enemy flying before us. There force is not known, but almost their whole army must have been engaged in the fight; ours amounted to about 15,000. On account of the inequality of our forces, those first engaged on our side suffered very severely. Hampton’s Legion was almost cut to pieces. Hampton is wounded, and poor Colonel Johnson was shot dead while leading the Legion to the charge. His death has caused universal sorrow and grief through all the army, for he proved himself a gallant and excellent officer in the short time that life was spared to him on the field. He was killed at the commencement of the battle, by a rifle ball passing entirely through his head. I have not been able to see after him at all, but Henry saw his body taken from the field and attended it in the Hospital.

Col. Bartow, of Savannah, was killed, and has been sent home. The Savannah companies suffered terribly. The Washington Light Infantry went into the fight 110 strong, and joined us, when we advanced, with but 15 – they having been separated from the Legion. All of the missing are not, of course, dead or wounded, but I am afraid many are. None of the officers were injured. Sloan’s South Carolina Regiment was severely injured, but I know no particulars about it. And now for the fight, and their defeat and loss.

Early yesterday morning (Sunday 21st), a heavy cannonading was commenced simultaneously on the centre and left of our line of defence – we being stationed near the centre, a little to the left. This continued for about an hour, when a heavy discharge of musketry commenced on the left, about three miles from us, which actually raged for about three hours. At the end of this time our regiment was ordered to proceed to the same action. We immediately advanced, with Kemper’s (Alexandria) Artillery, which is attached to our regiment and Cash’s regiment. After marching about four miles, we formed in line of battle in the rear of the field of battle, with rifled shells bursting over and around us every minute. The scene at this time was calcuted to appal the oldest veteran, and we were untried and inexperienced volunteers. The dead and wounded were carried by us to the rear in a continuous stream, and squads of the Confederate men were retreating from every portion of the field. The fire in our front kept steadily closing in towards us. We were told that the day was lost; that the South Carolina troops were cut to pieces and ginned out, and the enemy were advancing in vast columns. Yet we firmly advanced through the woods, and soon became engaged in a fierce fight with the New York Fire Zouaves, who stood their ground for a short time, but broke finally and retreated across an open field. We followed them up, and the prospect before us when we reached the open field was indeed hopeless. Not a friend could be seen, and the enemy was drawn up in line after line for a mile in front of us. We kept advancing, pouring in volley after volley upon those nearest us. Kemper’s battery was delayed for half an hour, but finally came up with us and sent in round after round of shell and grape. Col. Cash, at the same time, advanced on our left, and several other regiments on his left. The defeat commenced by us was followed up by them, and soon the Yankees were flying from all parts of the field. Although but a small force, compared with theirs, we followed them up – our Regiment (Kershaw’s) in the advance. their retreat soon became a perfect rout. Infantry, cavalry and artillery joined in the pursuit of the perfect cloud of dust before them. The scene along the road was awful. The dying and dead scattered in every direction. Cannon, baggage wagons, arms, accoutrements of every kind and equipments of every description, were lying in the road and through the woods. We kept on in the pursuit for three miles, until all that we could find of the enemy were completely routed, when, by order of Beauregard, we returned to the battle field, where we are now. We took thirty pieces of splendid artillery – some say forty. The small arms can’t, as yet, be counted – they say we have captured about ten thousand. Blankets, oil cloths, knapsacks, haversacks, &c., I assure you, literally cover the ground. Where the enemy now are, we don’t know. If our whole force is to pursue them, it will be done immediately, as Davis is here – he, Beauregard and Johnston having all been in the field yesterday. About their killed and wounded we can tell nothing; they are scattered everywhere. The cavalry who have began to show themselves are continually bringing prisoners in. McDowell is reported to be wounded. Corcoran and Meagher are killed, they say. The fight for hours was terrible, but the rout was still more so.

I do not know what the loss in our regiment is, but it is very small. In my company only four or five are wounded; none known to be killed as yet. We have gained a victory which will no doubt considerably improve us in the eyes of the world.

Our regiment has had a hard time, not having slept under cover for five nights, and raining all the time.

Charleston Mercury, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Capt. James Conner, Hamtpon’s Legion, On the Battle (2)

27 10 2011

Manassas Virginia
Monday Night
July 22nd, 1861

My dear Mother,

Yesterday was a glorious and a sad day.  We have gained a great victory but lost many noble men.  Fortunately I came out of the battle unhurt.  On Friday morning we received orders to march the next day at 9.  At 12 the orders were given to leave by that nights train.  We packed up and started – marched into Richmond at 6 – but the cars were not ready, piled our arms and lay down in the streets until 12 – traveled all that night, all Saturday, all Saturday night and reached Manassas at 6 Sunday morning, starving all that time we had but one meal.  The cars should have made the trip in 12 hours – 7 is the usual time and we were ordered to take one meal cooked with us.  That of course gave out and we reached Manassas worn out from travel, and being cooped up in box cars, and hungry.  Fortunately I had started with 300 loaves of bread, (I fed the men with them on the road, that is my Company), and I also had four shoulders of raw bacon.  Sunday morning as soon as we landed I started fires, had the bacon cooked, gave the men a little, and a very little it was, breakfast.  We then had orders to move as the battle had begun, and while we eat our mouthful of food, the cannon were roaring in the distance.  We marched about 5 miles and were halted by the Colonel just under the brow of a hill.  I was sent forward to view the position or rather the Colonel permitted me to go.  Standing on the hill, I could see the battle going on in the valley below.  A battery of Artillery moved up at a gallop on our left and commenced firing on the U. S. troops.  This drew their fire in our direction and as we lay down behind the hill the grape shot and round shot came singing over our heads – sometimes so close you could feel the air as they passed.  The fight at this point was altogether an artillery one, and finding that we were exposed without doing any good, the Colonel ordered us back to the shelter of some woods.  We then moved forward some distance, when we received orders to advance to the support of some Georgia regiments.  They had been forced back, and we met them, and formed in front of them, we laying down behind a fence and commencing to fire at the Yankees.  At this moment a body of Yankees were seen moving around, and endeavoring to turn the flank of the army and get in our rear.  The order was given to us to outflank them and we moved down a lane running at right angles to that in which we were.  It was a yard lane or country road, with deep gullies on either side.  The troops opposed to us were Infantry, supported by Artillery.  I could see their numbers but could not estimate them.  Gen’l Beauregard told Hampton today that they were at least 4000.  As we commenced the movement, they opened a terrible fire of grape, canister and musketry.  The balls flew like hail, knocked the flint rocks whistling all around us.  I was in advance – my Company heading the Legion.  We faced to the right and ordered the men into the gully and under the cover of that and the fence on top of the bank, returned the fire.  It was here that we had the hardest fighting and met the heaviest loss.  At the very commencement of it, poor Col Johnson was killed, shot through the head.  He was in line with the 1st platoon of my company.  He threw his sword up, and fell back lifeless.  Hot and heavy the fire fell all around us.  By this time, I had gotten the rest of the men – the companies – down into the gully and at work, but for the first four or five minutes, maybe on half of that time, the Light Infantry were alone in the lane, and receiving the whole fire.  Hampton was in the centre, and I on the right, the men in the gully and he and I on the top of the bank, looking out at the enemy and cautioning the men to keep cool, and aim deliberately, and take resting shots, and above all to deploy out and not crowd.  Hampton’s horse had been shot under him and he was on foot.  Barker alone was on horseback, and he kept dashing between Hampton and me, carrying orders.  Theodore behaved splendidly; his conduct was above praise.  It was glorious, and how he escaped being shot was a miracle.  Once he reeled in the saddle as he went down the lane and I thought the poor fellow was gone, and I ran after him, taking one of my men with me, but found that it was his horse slipping on the rocks that had made him reel – neither he or his horse were hurt and yet his grey charger was always in the thickest of the fight.  All the Legion are loud in his praise.  How long we held the position I cannot tell, but we checked the flank movement of the enemy.  They then advanced from another point and we were in danger of being surrounded and fell back 100 or 150 yards under cover of a farm house.  Here again we made a stand and had an awful fight – the old body and the new body of the enemy opening fire upon us.  It was terrible and the men were falling all around us and fearing that they would be surrounded.

It was the only time in the day that the men looked dashed.  Hampton ordered the colors to the front, and I moved my Company up, met them [the colors] and all my boys came right up to them, moved up to the head of the lane, and exchanged fires.  Some artillery came up when we were nearly wiped out and relieved us – breaking and dispersing the new body which had advanced.  We then reformed – gathered the companies up, moved on, and halted in a deep hollow, thickly wooded, here another regiment, I forgot what, was attached to us or rather moved up to it.  It was a Virginia Regt, so my boys said.  Satisfied that we would not be moved, our men were there at least twenty minutes, and hearing that there was some water in the neighborhood, I had given my men leave to break when one of their officers came up and begged me for God’s sake not to break, else he could not hold his men together.  All the while the rattle of musketry and artillery were going on.  So instead of breaking, I detailed ten men to take all canteens.  You can’t imagine how we suffered for water.  I was hoarse with calling and parched with thirst and as I walked along picked blackberries to moisten my throat and tongue.  The men did the same, and when we could not find blackberries, we chewed grass.  We then advanced about half a mile and again engaged the enemy, driving him out of a farm yard, and taking possession of it myself.  They returned to retake it and the Light Infantry fight was hot and heavy.  Here it was that Hampton was shot. We were fighting from the house and behind the thick hedge and paling fence of the garden.  They brought up Artillery and we in time were driven out.  I was at this time in command of the Legion, and we fell back, closing well on the colors at the bottom of the hill and reforming.  We had got all mixed up in the scrimmage around the house and garden, and here it was that the flag was nearly shot away, the ball cutting nearly half way through the staff.  I reformed the Legion and we were supported by Withers’ Alabama Regiment, and then charged up the hill, drove the Yankees out of the house and garden, and drove back their artillery.  Advancing and leaving the house behind us, we kept forcing them back.  They broke and scattered as Kershaw’s Regiment came up, and I united with Kershaw, and sent Barker back for orders to Beauregard.  He told us to reunite with Kershaw.  It was now about 4 o’clock, the enemy in full retreat and Kershaw determined to pursue.  We were almost dead beat out, and only 160 strong.  We had gone into action in the morning 600 and more.  I could no longer form companies.  I massed the six companies and formed 3 divisions of them.  We pursued the enemy about four miles, he halted as we pursued him hard.  Kemper’s battery galloped up the road, and took position on the crest of the hill.  Wheat fields on each side of the road.  Kershaw’s and ours on the right of the roads, Coal’s S.C. regiment on the left, the Palmetto Guard thrown out as skirmishers.  The artillery opened and played havoc with them, and the cavalry came upon their flank and were preparing to charge them.  When they fled and the Cavalry captured 21 pieces of artillery and a lot of baggage.  We were then ordered by Beauregard to cease pursuit and fall back.  We fell back about 5 miles and bivouacked all night in a wheat field without anything to eat or drink, not even water in plenty.  Luckily we had captured some blankets which the Yankees threw away all about the road in their retreat, so we wrapped up in them and slept.  At daylight it commenced raining and we marched back in the rain, wet, weary, and dead beat out with a 7 mile march before us.  We reached camp and had breakfast.  I was so stiff and foot sore I could hardly walk, but a cup of coffee and clean socks helped me much, as I related to Hampton who was very complimentary to me individually and to the Company.  Spoke in the highest way of the manner in which the company had behaved.  Told me that Beauregard and Davis had both been to his tent to express their great delight at the way in which the Legion had acted in holding their position against a force so far superior, and supported by Artillery.  I ten got a horse and rode back to the battle field to look after my dead and wounded.  Raining all day and I came in about 5 o’clock, wet through after a days work as painful and infinitely more trying than yesterday.  A battle, the day after a battle, is a horrid sight.  Then you realize what war is.  I went of course through all the hospitals.  The most of our wounded are at Culpepper C. H.  The general Hospital is there.  I could not get there today.  Charlie Hutson is wounded, not mortally though – poor fellow.  I was within three feet of him when I saw him roll over, his face covered with blood.  I thought he was killed, but the ball went too high.  I had him moved to the rear.  Thompson was shot through the leg, but he refused to leave the ground and fought the battle out limping on one leg.  Poor Middleton was shot in the garden in the second fight.  I caught him as he fell – he is in a house near the battle ground, and I fear will die tonight.  I have been sad all day, doubly sad when I think of poor Col Johnson.  What a noble soul he had and how we all loved him and he was such a splendid officer.  All the men loved him and nick-named him the old Colonel and he pretended to dislike it but he knew it was the sweet indication that the men loved him.  We have lost a generous, gallant officer, and the State one of her wisest and best men.  Hampton rode up to me, his whole frame shook and his eyes filled with tears as he shook hands with men and said, “Have you seen Johnson?  Great God, how can I write home to his family.”  We sent his body down to Richmond today.  It is well.  I cautioned JM against rumors, for when I returned to camp this morning I found it generally reported that I was killed and Barker too and Spratt had telegraphed this fact to the papers.  Some of my own men it was said had seen me fall.  I at once telegraphed you, and made Spratt telegraph contradicting his report.  I hope the contradiction got there in time.  The whole thing arose from a disposition to magnify everything.  I was struck by a spent ball, which merely bruised me without even breaking the skin, and which I forgot five minutes after it occurred.  The blow was rather sharp, and knocked me back a little and the men reported I had been struck, then somebody added that I was shot, and then somebody said I was shot and killed and Spratt, eager for an item, had me down.  He also had it that the Legion was cut to pieces.   We did lose heavily but are good yet.  If we had had our cavalry and artillery we would have done better.  I do not know when I will have chance to write again.  I am in command and have a great deal to do, but will try and drop you a line if only to say all well.  I have written in a great hurry, on my lap, and only for yourself and the family.  As I was moving from the battle field with the Legion this morning, I got your letter sent by private hand from Richmond.  Love to all.

Yours affectionately,
James Conner

Source:  James Conner to Mother, 22 Jul 61, MSS letter (copy), James Conner Collection, South Caroliniana.

Notes (1)

Notes (2)





A Big “Thanks” and Coming Up Next

13 10 2011

I’m finished with the Hampton’s Legion and Rhode Island letters that Friend of Bull Runnings (FOBR) John Hennessy sent in. Thanks so much to John, he’s made this site so much more useful and has kicked me back onto the path of righteousness – that is, got me back to doing what I’m supposed to be doing here. Feel free to use FOBR on your resume and correspondence from here on out (time to order new stationery). I have one more item he sent that’s not exactly a letter, not exactly a memoir, not exactly a newspaper article, but is really all three so I have to figure out how to classify it first.

Next on my list is to start on some great stuff sent to me by FOBR Richard Holloway, archivist for the Louisiana National Guard at Camp Beauregard in Pineville, LA. IIRC, back in the 1930s the Works Progress Administration (WPA) gathered up all mentions of Louisiana militia in Louisiana newspapers from forever. These were transcribed and kept at the National Guard archives at Jackson Barracks. Some of these volumes were damaged as a result of Hurricane Katrina and have been preserved, but the Barracks is still undergoing repairs. The long and short of it is that Richard (who it turns out is related to the late Art Bergeron) was kind enough to scan and send all the Civil War related transcriptions. And that’s what I’ll be tackling next. I’m not sure what all is in there, if any letters are included or if it’s all articles, but expect the first one some time today.





New Tag Line

1 09 2011

“Dulce Bellum Inexpertis” has been Bull Runnings’ tag line for four years now – you can find it at the top of the column over to the right. Basically it means “War is delightful to those who have never experienced it.” I explain why I use it in more detail here.

You’ll notice a new quote below it that I just posted today. It is the close to this letter printed in a Charleston paper in August 1861 and attributed to a Chaplain W. L. I. of Hampton’s Legion. The author’s identity is problematic: no one with those initials appears on any roster of the Legion (UPDATE: Reader Dave D points out that “W. L. I. ” probably stands for “Washington Light Infantry.” Doh!). But it’s a good letter nonetheless, and the quote captures the essence of what I’m trying to do here in the Resources section.

“I am sending you these little incidents as I hear them well authenticated. They form, to the friends of the parties, part of the history of the glorious 21st. More anon.”





More Good Stuff Coming, and Some Already Here…

13 08 2011

…well, not here, exactly.

I’ll be away from the blog for about a week. When I get back to blogging, I have more good John Hennessy stuff on Hampton’s Legion to post. In addition to the Legion stuff, John has sent a batch of Rhode Island accounts which I’ll also be getting to.

Right now you’ll find some interesting Bull Run news in this post by Craig Swain.





America’s Civil War July 2011

6 05 2011

Inside this issue:

Field Notes:

5 Questions:

Cease Fire:

  • Harold Holzer discusses Civil War fiction

Legends

  • Ron Soodalter discusses Ivan Turchin and the sack of Athens, GA

Features

  • United We Stand – Gary Gallagher: Union as the northern cause
  • How to Market a Milestone - photos by Jennifer E. Berry: merchandise from the Civil War Centennial
  • Buying Time – Jeffrey Maciejewski: the 1st Minnesota at Gettysburg
  • “We Are All Rebels” – Jim Bradshaw: a Louisiana youth wages war withe the Yankees on his doorstep
  • Irvin McDowell’s Best Laid Plans – Your Host: all about McDowell’s plans and expectations for the march on Manassas

Reviews





Interview: Tonia Smith, Author and Professional ACW Researcher

3 12 2010

Here’s an interview that’s a bit of a departure from the formula:  Tonia “Teej” Smith, while an established author in her own right, is probably most noted as a professional researcher (she’s even helped out Bull Runnings on occasion).  Her name may be familiar to you if you read the acknowledgements sections of a number of Civil War books published in the past 10 years or so.  Teej has also moderated a couple of Civil War email discussion groups and founded the Rufus Barringer Civil War Roundtable in Pinehust, NC, where I’ll be speaking for the second time this coming May.  Always a great friend, Ms. Smith graciously consented to answer a few questions for Bull Runnings and shed some light on a little known aspect of that there book-writin’ process.

BR:  Can you tell the millions of Bull Runnings readers a little about yourself?
 
TS:  I’m a native Tar Heel, born in Oxford, NC, but, my dad being a career soldier, I was an army brat for the first thirteen years of my life. We did a couple of tours in Germany and were stationed stateside in a number of posts such as Fort Riley, Kansas, Fort Carson, Colorado and my personal favorite, Fort Knox, Kentucky. We came back to North Carolina when I was in the 8th grade and, except for a two year sojourn in Fredericksburg, Virginia, I’ve been here ever since. I now live in the golf capitol of North Carolina, Pinehurst, but I have no interest in chasing the little white ball. In 2001, with the urging and support of some dear friends, I started the Rufus Barringer Civil War Roundtable in Pinehurst. We began with fourteen members meeting in my sunroom and finished last year with eighty-one paid members in our third meeting place. I still serve on the board of the RBCWRT and am its program director.  Over the years I began doing research for various Civil War authors and eventually began writing articles myself. I also got involved in presenting Civil War programs at local schools and doing roundtable programs based on the articles I’ve written. 
 
BR:  What was it that got you interested in history, and in the Civil War era in particular?
 
TS:  You might say my dad, who was himself a history buff, planted the seed when he took me to my first battlefield, Stones River, and lifted me up so that I could touch a minie ball buried in a witness tree. What I remember most about that trip was the cold and mist (it was January) and the intense silence across the field.  I then took about a thirty-five year hiatus from studying the war when I got involved in school, marriage and raising a family. What brought me back may surprise you. While channel-surfing one Sunday afternoon in the mid 1990s I came across an advertisement for THE MOVIE aka Ted Turner’s Gettysburg. After watching it, I bought the book The Killer Angels, on which the movie was based, and joined an online discussion group that was and still is dedicated to the study of the Gettysburg campaign. I then began building my own library. At first I was all over the place with my studies, trying to learn about individual battles, whole campaigns, and commanders all at the same time. Trying to make up for lost time, you might say, but it didn’t take me long to realize I was going to have to narrow my field of interest if I didn’t want to become overwhelmed. From the very beginning, I was drawn to J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry. The first biography I bought was Manley Wade Wellman’s Giant In Gray.  However, what attracts me most to the Civil War period are the characters that you might say were created by the war. I don’t mean the central players like R.E. Lee, U.S. Grant, Stonewall Jackson, etc but people such as Confederate nurse Abby House, or the Cape Fear Minutemen, or cousins Orton Williams and Walter Gipson Peter, both also cousins of Mrs. Robert E. Lee who were executed on June 9, 1863, for spying at Franklin, Tennessee. History has all but forgotten these people but, in my opinion, it’s their stories and stories like theirs, that add the richness and color, and in many cases, the humanity to that era. 
 
BR:  How did you get started as a researcher for other authors? 
 
TS:  As realtors like to say “Location, Location, Location…” Seriously, a writer friend of mine knew that I live just over an hour from the libraries at the University of North Carolina and Duke University. One day he asked me if I would be interested in taking a look-see at a couple of collections he knew to be at those two schools. Like so many researchers, I immediately fell in love with “the hunt,” but I also found out that I have a knack for digging out the arcane tidbit. More importantly, I’m pretty good at deciphering the flowery penmanship prevalent in Civil War era letters, diaries and journals. 
 
BR:  Can you mention some names, like who you’ve worked with and any specific books/articles?
 
TS:  Eric Wittenberg and I share a passion for all things cavalry so I’ve worked more with him than anyone else, most particularly, Glory Enough For All: Sheridan’s Second Raid And The Battle of Trevilian Station and The Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads and The Civil War’s Final Campaign. Monroe’s Crossroads is just thirty miles from my home so you can understand why I would be interested in it. I’ve also done some work for Dave Powell on his Chickamauga project and for Sheridan “Butch” Barringer whose biography of Brig.Gen. Rufus Barringer, commander of the North Carolina Cavalry Brigade is still in the works. Two years ago I assisted Stevan Meserve in researching his footnotes for an annotation of a journal that eventually became the book In The Shadow of the Enemy: The Civil War Journal of Ida Powell Dulany. If I had to choose a favorite it would be having contributed to A Little Short of Boats: The Fights at Ball’s Bluff and Edwards Ferry, October 21-22, 1861, by Jim Morgan, both his original edition and the newly revised edition due out next spring. Those last two projects were a bit of challenge for me since they were not cavalry specific. 
 
BR:  Can you describe your research process?
 
TS:  It varies. Sometimes an author will send me to a list of collections found at a specific repository/archive with the request that I look for a  letter or letters known to be in that collection. Most often though, authors send me a list and an overview of what they hope to find in those collections. In which case, it becomes my job to look for references in those collections that are specific to my author’s needs. That often requires that I read every letter in a collection. And sometimes I do come up empty, but that is not as disappointing as it sounds. Often it simply means that the letter writer wasn’t present at an event or he did not find it important enough to write about it. What does take the wind out one’s sails is coming across the letter that begins, “Brother John should be home by now and no doubt has told you all about the battle of __________ so I will not go into the details again…”   Sigh…

It’s an entirely different process when I’m doing research for myself since I have to start from scratch. Often I can get an idea of where to start to search by looking at bibliographies of other authors who have written on  similar topics but most often it comes down to running names, events and locations through the search engines of various universities and other archival sites. I generally start with the universities closest to home and branch out from there. Even when I find what I think I need in the collections at Duke or Chapel Hill, I will still check other facilities to make sure that all of my bases are covered. Whether I’m working for myself or another author, the process has been greatly simplified by the growing number of research institutions that allow the use of digital cameras. In the same amount of time it used to take me to copy a few letters in a file, I can photograph the entire file and then decide what is truly needed at a later time. Another lesson I’ve learned is if the research facility has a card catalog as well as an online finding aid, use both. Often things in the card catalogs fall through the cracks in the transcription process.  
 
BR:  What are some of the surprises you uncovered in your research?
 
TS:  WOW…that’s actually a tough question as I have seldom completed a research project without finding some surprising tidbit that either confirmed what I originally had thought or told me that I was going in the wrong direction. But one that comes to readily to mind was a letter written by J.E.B. Stuart to Custis Lee, April 9, 1864, that I found at Virginia Historical Society while researching material for an article on Flora Cooke Stuart [wife of J. E. B.]. It was marked “confidential” and with good reason. Most cavalry folks know there was no love lost between Stuart and Wade Hampton but until I saw this letter, I had no idea of the extent to which Stuart was prepared to go to rid himself of the troublesome South Carolinian. Stuart also made a reference to the need for him and Custis to do what they could to keep cavalry chieftain, Fitz Lee, from drinking for the duration of the war. Her husband was barely cold in his grave before Stuart’s chief of staff, H.B. McClellan, wrote to Flora to warn her of the destructive nature of this letter and to suggest that she get the letter from Custis Lee and destroy it. Lee, too, was all for destroying the letter but Mrs. Stuart refused to do so.  The Jonathan Olds’ Flora Cooke Stuart Papers at Virginia Historical Society – which I was fortunate to be allowed to access even before they were cataloged – turned out to be a virtual gold mine of little known facts concerning the Stuart family after Yellow Tavern. 
 
BR:  Can you describe any instances where your research turned up anything that either conflicted with or confirmed your preconceived notions prior to starting a project?
 
TS:  One of the questions I’m most often asked when I do a program on Flora Stuart is whether there was ever reconciliation between the Stuarts and the Cookes. While I knew that Philip St. George Cooke reached out to his daughter when he heard about Jeb’s death, I hadn’t until recently been able to determine if she responded to him. Letters written by Cooke to his nephew, John Esten Cooke, which were recently posted on a website maintained by Cooke family descendants, indicated that she did. There is conclusive proof at Virginia Historical Society that Cooke also reconciled with his son, Brig. Gen. John Rogers Cooke, CSA.

The “smoking gun” that continues to elude me is proof positive that Orton Williams was not a glory hound so consumed with a desire to make a name for himself that he ended up getting himself and his cousin killed at Franklin, Tennessee. However, two years ago, I found a heretofore unpublished letter in the Mary Lee papers at Virginia Historical Society written April 7, 1863 by R.E. Lee to Orton Williams which totally debunked the often told story that Lee considered Williams a drunk and a failure. It also put to rest the notion that Orton’s immediate superiors, too, considered him a failure, and had removed him from command.  Add to that another unpublished letter I found at Duke’s Perkins Library which was written by J.E.B. Stuart at about the same time as the Lee letter to an unnamed colonel serving in the western theatre.  In his letter, Stuart stated he was he was pleased that the colonel was returning to serve in Virginia where “he should have been all along.” Lee, too, expressed a desire to have Williams back in Virginia. Not exactly resounding evidence that Williams and Peter had a legitimate reason to go to Fort Granger dressed in Union uniforms but if previous historians were wrong about the nature and character of Orton Williams which is the basis for their claim that Williams was unstable then in what other areas of the story might they have erred?

BR:  Can you tell us something about your own writing and speaking engagements?
 
TS:  My first article was titled Gentlemen, You Have Played This D____ed Well, published in the September 2005 issue of North and South Magazine. It was the story of the capture and execution of the aforementioned Confederate officers Colonel William Orton Williams and his first cousin, Lieutenant Walter Gibson Peter. Since then I’ve had an article on Confederate nurse Abby House published by America’s Civil War  and one in Civil War Times on the Stuart-Custis Lee letter. My article on Flora Cooke Stuart is still pending with ACW. I’ve done programs on Flora Stuart for the Loudoun County CWRT in Leesburg, Va., and the Eastern Loudoun County CWRT in Sterling Virginia, and for the Stuart-Mosby Historical Society in Richmond this past May. I’ve also spoken on Mrs. Stuart to various roundtables in my home state of North Carolina and will go to Huntsville, Alabama next June to tell her story of life without Jeb to the Tennessee Valley CWRT. In addition to the Stuart programs, I’ve also given presentations on Aunt Abby House, Confederate nurse; the capture and imprisonment of Brig. Gen. Rufus Barringer, the only Confederate general in uniform that Abraham Lincoln met; and the execution of Williams and Peter, most recently at the 2009 Longwood Seminar in Lynchburg, Virginia. 
 
BR:  What’s next for you?  

TS:  I’m very excited about a new research project that I will be starting next week for James Hessler, author of Sickles At Gettysburg. Jim’s next book will concern Lt. Gen. James Longstreet at Gettysburg and I will be going to Perkins Library at Duke and Wilson Library at UNC for him. On May 10, 2011, I will debut a new program based on the capture of Forts Caswell and Johnson on the North Carolina coast in January 1861 by a group of men out of Wilmington, NC who called themselves the Cape Fear Minutemen. Like my other roundtable presentations, this one will be based on an article that I am in the process of writing.

There are quite a few folks who owe Teej a lot, including writers, readers – and bloggers.  I have a couple of tidbits she scrounged up that I’ll be adding to the Resources section here in the future.  If you’re an author with research needs of your own and would like to explore the possibility of working with Teej, she can be reached at teej@nc.rr.com.





America’s Civil War September 2010

22 07 2010

Inside this issue:

  • An interview with Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent John Howard, who will be retiring at the end of this year.
  • Harold Holzer’s Cease Fire asks When will all of us finally admit what caused the war?  This one is sure to raise eyebrows for more than the reason obvious in the title.
  • Ron Soodalter on Hampton’s Beefsteak Raid of September, 1864.
  • A look at the correspondence between William T. Sherman and John B. Hood at Atlanta in September, 1864.
  • Winston Groom examines the causes of the war in Irreconcilable Differences.
  • Charlie Knight (look for an interview with him on his new book Valley Thunder here soon) on Franz Sigel’s Shame in the Shenandoah.
  • Antietam National Battlefield Chief Historian Ted Alexander’s Witness to Battle discusses soldier/artist James Hope’s paintings of the September 17, 1852 battle.
  • Ron Soodalter shows up again with Getting Away with Murder, a study of officers who met their ends during the war in ways less typical.

Book reviews/previews in this issue:  





The Regular Infantry in the First Bull Run Campaign – Dangerfield Parker

3 03 2010

THE REGULAR INFANTRY IN THE FIRST BULL RUN CAMPAIGN.

PERSONAL REMINISCENCES.

BY DANGERFIELD PARKER, MAJOR NINTH US INFANTRY

UNITED SERVICE – Volume XIII (1885), pp. 521-531

The rays of the afternoon sun of the 16th of July, 1861, were brightly reflected from the rifle-barrels of a compact little battalion of infantry just about to move from camp at Arlington Heights, Virginia, and take its place in the heavy column already beginning the march toward Fairfax Court-House. The battalion consisted of Companies C and G, Second, B, D, G, H, Third, and G, Eighth United States Infantry, under the command of Major George Sykes, Fourteenth Infantry (afterward major-general of volunteers, and in command of the Fifth Corps), who had recently been promoted from captain Third Infantry. Captain N. H. Davis, Second Infantry (now inspector-general United States Army) was the acting major. There were but few of the remaining officers who had had much experience in the field, they being for the most part either fresh from West Point or civil life.

It is not my purpose in this article to attempt an elaborate description of the campaign ending in the disastrous battle of Bull Run, for this has been done by far abler hands, but rather to relate the part taken in it by the little force to which I had the honor to belong, together with such incidents as will be likely, I trust, to interest the general reader. In order, however, to render my narrative intelligible, it will be necessary, here and there, to describe with as light a touch as I may, such dispositions of troops, etc., as may be requisite to throw into relief the role performed by the actors in my little drama.

Five companies, only, of the Third Infantry had succeeded, a few weeks previously, in withdrawing from Texas (where they were stationed before the war), the remaining ones having been taken prisoners at Indianola by an overwhelming force of Confederates, and afterwards paroled. They rejoined the regiment the ensuing year. I afterwards heard some of the older officers say that when this was effected, the enlisted men of these paroled companies were reported “Present or accounted for,” though many received tempting offers of commissions in the Confederate service.

The battalion which we have just seen as about to commence its march (1) formed a portion of the First Brigade (Porter’s), Second Division (Hunter’s). The troops composing the remainder of this brigade were: a battalion of seven companies of regular cavalry, belonging to the First and Second Regiments, and Second Dragoons, under the command of Major (now General) Innis Palmer, a battalion of marines under Major Reynolds, the Eighth, Fourteenth, and Twenty-seventh New York Infantry, and Griffin’s battery of the Fifth United States Artillery.

Before proceeding with our narrative it will not be amiss, perhaps, to take a glance at the city of Washington as it then appeared. But for the handsome public buildings scattered here and there, the place presented all the characteristics of a southern town,—and a second-rate one at that,—and bore no resemblance to the beautiful city of to-day. The streets were wretchedly paved and lighted, and, in spots, an air of shabbiness—not to say dilapidation—prevailed.

The troops that since the “call” of the President had been pouring into the city were, in part, the organized militia of the different States, and, in part, volunteers. All having been mustered into the United States service, however, this distinction was but a technical one. The streets of the city fairly swarmed with these troops; mounted orderlies galloped hither and yon, the music of the bands of incoming regiments filled the air, the hotel corridors were filled with embryo brigadiers, and all was excitement, bustle, and seeming confusion. I remember, but a few brief weeks before the period of which I write, to have met daily, General (then major in the adjutant-general’s department) McDowell on his way to muster in the latest arrived battalions. He was always in the full dress of that day,—i.e., the soft felt hat with ostrich feathers, epaulets, and sash; and I recall the impression made upon me by his fine physique and soldierly appearance.

So far as I am informed, the First Bull Run campaign was the only one in which the troops represented—regulars, militia, and volunteers— preserved their distinctive names, and, to a certain extent, uniforms. The last-named feature gave to the columns rather a parti-colored, not to say variegated, appearance. I recall that the Fourteenth New York, for instance (familiarly known as the Fourteenth Brooklyn), wore a semi-zouave uniform. The Twelfth New York Volunteers wore the full-dress hat of the regular infantry. There were a few regiments uniformed in gray,—Wisconsin and Minnesota troops,—and this fact gave rise during the battle to the report that one or more of these organizations were fired upon by our own men. I am under the impression also that some of the companies wore the old-fashioned “swallow-tail.”

But to resume. The march to Centreville was necessarily a tedious one. The troops were, as a body, raw, and almost all of them inexperienced in field service. So far as drill was concerned, most of them had some knowledge of company and battalion movements. But in regard to marching, target-practice, and the thousand and one details of practical soldiering, they were utterly, and necessarily so, uninstructed. The regular troops had quite a number of old soldiers in their ranks, with the usual sprinkling of recruits. The paucity of their numbers—so far, at least, as the cavalry and infantry were concerned— prevented their being an important factor in the attack, but it was far otherwise, as we shall see, in the retreat.

Leaving out the element of inexperience—or rawness, if you will— of the volunteer troops engaged in this campaign, I have always been of the opinion that they were an exceptionally fine body of men, and that their conduct on the field of battle was, under the circumstances in which they were placed, all that could possibly be expected of them. They only did, indeed, what veteran troops had done, upon occasion, in similar cases from time immemorial.

Of the battalion of marines, consisting of about three hundred and fifty, rank and file, all, excepting about a dozen non-commissioned officers, were raw recruits; and of the commissioned officers there were comparatively few of experience. Their veteran major (Reynolds), being keenly alive to this fact, let no opportunity slip of endeavoring to get them into shape, and the novel spectacle of battalion drills by moonlight, after a tedious day’s march, was presented several times, much to the interest and amusement of our men. The good result of this, however, was satisfactorily demonstrated on the field of battle.

The march of the 16th was necessarily a short one, the evening of the 17th finding us in the vicinity of Fairfax Court-House. During this day’s march—a hot and dusty one, I remember—a private belonging to some organization ahead of us passed us at “double-quick” on his way to the front. I have never forgotten his appearance. Like many another commencing his campaign experience, he had prepared for the march by literally packing himself, and beside the regulation knapsack, haversack, canteen, blanket, and rifle, he appeared to carry an assorted cargo of “a little of everything.” As he passed us with pots rattling, etc., he turned a jolly red face toward the column and exclaimed, “Lord, Jee! I wisht I was a mule!” The roar of laughter that followed seemed greatly to refresh and speed him on his way.

The close of the day’s march on the 18th found us in bivouac near Centreville. I cannot now recall whether it was during that night, or that of the 19th, that the following incident occurred: As a distinguished general officer, describing the rout of the Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville, said, “somebody fired a gun” (but not the enemy, who was some distance away), and straightway such a fusilade across our camp began—apparently from every direction—that we were fain to look about for any shelter that might present itself. One of the officers’ “strikers” who was leisurely crossing the camp-ground, apparently oblivious to the fact that anything unusual was going on, had his march suddenly arrested by Captain D , who shouted “Lie down, you d— fool!”—which he proceeded to do instanter. He had been taught to obey orders, but not to avoid friendly bullets in an enemy’s country. It was one of the hottest fires I ever experienced.

While here, also, we witnessed a scene novel to most of us, and probably the last of its kind that took place in our army. It was the punishment, by whipping, of two deserters. Before the war this was the penalty prescribed for desertion in time of peace, and these criminals had committed the act some time previously. The battalion was drawn up in square, the punishment taking place within it. I will not enlarge on this scene further than to say it was a very painful one. A young officer, who displayed conspicuous gallantry in action a couple of days thereafter, fainted in ranks. One of the volunteers inquired of an officer of the Third, “If I, too, should desert, would I receive such punishment?” He was answered, “No, you would be shot!” But he did not seem to think this would be an improvement.

Having previously had many associations with the navy, I had a personal acquaintance with several of the older officers of the battalion of marines, from whom I received numerous invitations to meals, which, as they lived very well, to say nothing of their genial manners and hearty hospitality, I was very glad to accept. No one had tents, of course, but in some mysterious way they had been able to carry along tables. Though we dined and supped, therefore, alfresco, these appliances of civilization—with the addition of real tumblers, etc.— were most acceptable. I remember that at Centreville, after supper one evening, having permission to be absent from our own tattoo, I remained to hear the half-score or so of little marine drummers and fifers “sound off” that call. The field music of the corps used to be (and I presume still is) excellent, and during the two or three days we were at Centreville the performance of tattoo attracted crowds of volunteers, who evinced their appreciation of the music by loud clapping of hands, etc.

Major (afterwards General) George Sykes was an officer for whom I have always had an ardent admiration. He was a born soldier, and displayed conspicuous ability in every position in which he was placed. He possessed in a high degree that union of soldierly qualities that, while holding his men well in hand and under perfect control, enabled him to effect some decisive stroke with the least possible damage to his command. Thus his troops were in course of the war frequently called upon to enact upon the field of battle a dual or triple role,—to assist in opening the engagement, then to be withdrawn to the reserve, and finally (as at both Bull Runs, first and second) to make the final charge of the day. His troops seemed imbued with something of the order of his own daily life and demeanor, influenced by the same regularity and discipline, of which the ever-buttoned coat and spotless white glove were the outward symbols. As a man, he was upright and chivalrous; as a companion, courteous and—to his intimates—genial.

THE BATTLE

Day had not yet broken on the morning of July 21,1861, when our little force was paraded in readiness for the march to the battle-field; but, owing to the tardy march of troops in front, our division did not reach Centreville, about a mile distant, until after four o’clock, and it was some time after sunrise before we crossed Cub Run, on the Warrenton turnpike, and turned to the right on the “wood road” leading to Sudley Ford, with the “objective” of turning the Confederate left. This delay in the movement of the column in our front was particularly unfortunate, as the result proved, as this circumstance, coupled with the fact that the distance to be traversed was greater than the general-in-chief was led to expect, and the impossibility of concealing the movement of so large a column on a dusty road not especially favored topographically for this purpose, turned what had been intended as a “manoeuvre-march” into a simple “manoeuvre.” It will be remembered that McDowell’s original plan was to attempt to turn the Confederate right, and that this was abandoned for the reasons, as he himself says in his official report, that, upon examination, the roads on that flank ” were too narrow and crooked for so large a body to move over, and the distance around too great to admit of it with any safety.” Further, that the affair at Blackburn’s Ford, on the 18th, showed the enemy was too strong there to admit of forcing a passage without great loss, and if successful “would bring us in front of his strong position at Manassas, which was not desired.” And again, it has been stated that a demonstration in any direction was delayed by the non-arrival of subsistence stores (rations), which did not arrive until the night of the 19th and were distributed on the 20th.

The weather was extremely hot, and although the wood through which we now marched furnished here and there some protection from the fierce rays of the sun, yet its very denseness shut out the breeze and made the heat almost intolerable. The Second Brigade (Burnside’s) slowly preceded us under these circumstances, and it must have been fully ten o’clock before we arrived in the vicinity of Sudley Ford, probably eight or nine miles from our point of departure on the Warrenton turnpike. Turning south we speedily saw the smoke from the fire of the troops on the Confederate left, resting at that time on the Sudley road and the high ground north of the valley of Young’s Branch. The troops engaged were afterwards understood to be South Carolina and Louisiana regiments under General Evans, and opposed to them was Burnside’s second brigade of our division, which “opened the ball.” Just at this time an order reached Sykes to bring his battalion forward in support of Burnside. Before doing so he made us a short address. It was to the point, and gave us to understand that there would probably be some work for us to do. Shortly before this time, also, the first soldier I ever saw wounded in action passed us,—a cavalryman shot in the sword arm. The Sudley and Newmarket road, by which the column was now marching, was thickly wooded between the command and the creek (Bull Run) for a distance of about a mile, and then the country becomes more open on both sides of the road, gradually clearing into a series of undulating or rolling fields extending as far as the Warrenton turnpike, distant from the ford about two miles. Young’s Branch crosses the turnpike near the intersection of the two roads named, and it was in the more or less open space in this vicinity that the battle raged the fiercest.

We moved along at double time until, striking the open space referred to, we formed line, and swinging forward our left, charged through a belt of timber, taking several prisoners. Just previously we passed Rickett’s splendid battery, belonging to Franklin’s brigade of the Third (Heintzleman’s) Division. It was drawn to one side to allow us to pass, (2) and poor “Dang” Ramsay attracted our attention by waving his cap which he had placed on his sheathed sabre. He was killed shortly after this.

It was upon emerging from this wood, as I remember, that the battalion found itself opposite a masked battery posted near a house in the vicinity of the junction of the Warrenton turnpike and the Sudley road, and supported by an infantry force in position among the trees around it. The three left companies of the battalion were deployed as skirmishers under Captain Dodge, Eighth Infantry (now colonel Eleventh Infantry), and gallantly advancing to the attack were soon hotly engaged. The remainder of the battalion advanced across an open plain, the right skirting a belt of heavy timber. Having arrived at the apex of the angle formed by the southern limit of this wood with its eastern side, we changed direction to the right, and wheeling into line took up position to support the Rhode Island battery. This battery was served and handled with marked gallantry.

The troops on the Confederate left at this time consisted, as afterward appeared, of Evans’s demi-brigade, supported by Bee’s brigade posted near the historic Henry house, and afterward further strengthened, when the Confederate left fell back, by Hampton’s Legion and other troops.

By some Confederate writers the “turning column” has been estimated as about eighteen thousand strong. The official returns for July 16 and 17 give the total strength of the Second and Third Divisions as twelve thousand four hundred and twenty-five, from which it is to be presumed that on the day of the battle the usual number of non-effectives (the sick, etc.) must be deducted, as well as one entire regiment of the Third Division (the Fourth Michigan) not engaged.

The position of affairs on our right at this time was about as follows:

The Second Division (Hunter’s) hotly engaged; the Second (Burnside’s) Brigade on the right; the Third (Heintzleman’s) Division rapidly taking position on our left. The Rhode Island battery, which was the first one in position, was on the right, the two boat-howitzers attached to the Seventy-first New York Regiment on its left. A few hundred yards to the left, at intervals, Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries were posted in the order named. Arnold’s battery came into action a little later, and was posted on the left centre. From the position, of affairs, the brunt of the fighting was sustained, so far as artillery was concerned, by these batteries, and nobly they did their work. They were superbly handled.

Griffin’s battery was supported by the marines, and Rickett’s by the Fire Zouaves (Eleventh New York), with the Fourteenth New York as a reserve support.

The battalion of regular cavalry—all there was of this arm in the column—was posted slightly in rear of the extreme right. History recounts the distinguished part played by this little force—seven companies—both in the action and in assisting to cover the retreat.

The First Division (Tyler’s) was posted as follows: Richardson’s brigade at Blackburn’s Ford, the other three (Sherman’s, Schenck’s, and Keyes’s) at or near the Stone Bridge. The Fifth Division (Miles’s) was held in reserve, and at no time engaged, except in slight skirmishing on the retreat. The Fourth Division (Runyon’s) was several miles to the rear.

It was originally intended, I believe, that the Third Division should turn off to the left, by a road supposed to be about midway between the Warrenton turnpike and Sudley Ford; but as such a road did not exist, this division followed the Second to the ford. This suppositious road was to lead to an equally suppositious ford east of Sudley’s.

After a stout resistance the Confederate left gave way, and was pressed back with such energy as speedily to throw it into confusion.

Meanwhile, Sherman’s and Keyes’s brigades having, accidentally as it appeared, discovered a ford on the run above the Stone Bridge, advanced and took an active part in the conflict.

The engagement now became general along the line. Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries were brought farther to the front. The arrival of Jackson’s command, and of some of the fresh troops of the Army of the Shenandoah just arrived, enabled the Confederates to rally their shattered battalions, and by taking the offensive in turn, to pierce our centre and recover some of their lost ground.

It was now after two o’clock. Our right, though checked, was readily rallied and put in order for another forward movement. The delay required to effect this probably enabled the Confederates to have at hand, an hour later, Elzey’s brigade and the other fresh troops, now rapidly advancing from Manassas Station. Our line again advanced, and recovered the plateau upon which were situated the Henry and Robinson houses, but was again repulsed, with the loss of nearly the whole of Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries, the intrepid cannoneers being mostly shot down at their guns, while their supports fell back in disorder. The strong flanking position held by us on the right, however, enabled us still to hold our grip there, until the troops on our left were relieved and put in order for what was to be the final charge of the day on our part.

Up to this time, I believe it to be generally conceded that the fortunes of the day were in our favor. Even with the last advantage gained by the Confederates, we still retained our hold on the right so tenaciously as to enable us to reform a line of battle, presenting a firm and bold front. But the accession of fresh troops to the Confederate ranks afforded them the means of renewing the offensive so energetically that the result was inevitable. Moving around our right, under cover of the woods there, our flank began to yield, and before an advance of the whole Confederate line our men at length gave way, and in a twinkle were seized with a panic that, beginning in a retreat, degenerated into a rout.

Our battalion, which had remained under a hot fire for over an hour in support of the Rhode Island battery,—many of our men assisting in working it,—gradually worked its way farther to the right, the necessity for its longer stay in support of the battery having ceased, as the fiercest fighting was now developing in that direction. The line on this flank had extended somewhat in the manoeuvre for position.

Sykes now received an order to advance and cover the retreat of the troops in this part of the field. Shortly after getting in motion our little force was joined by a small detachment of what I now believe to have been Minnesota troops. They evidently must have been “spoiling for a fight,” at any rate, and had just left friends not so anxious for another round or two as they were. These men (uniformed, singularly enough, in gray) fell in on our left, and gallantly advanced to the front with us, and remained until we were ordered to form square. I then lost sight of them.

Though the number of troops engaged in this movement was insignificant, I have often thought that the order and regularity in which the men marched, and their gallant and determined bearing, must have excited the surprise, if not admiration, of our foe in the light of the events that preceded.

All was lost! The whole field, so far as the eye could reach, was covered with panic-stricken and flying men. The battalion advanced to the hill opposite, one upon which a house stood (probably Chinn’s, to the right and rear of the Henry house), where, being threatened with cavalry, it formed square. It remained in that position until, all of our men having fallen back, it was withdrawn in line-of-battle, suffering meanwhile severely from the fire of a section of artillery which was particularly attentive so long as it had a knowledge of our whereabouts. Being, on its march, still threatened by cavalry, the battalion, upon reaching the crest of another hill, faced about, opened fire, and held them in check. By this time the guns of the Confederates seemed from every height to converge their fire upon us, but by avoiding the road, the dust raised by the little column was so inconsiderable that our march was masked, and we were thus enabled to reach Centreville without further loss.

The reports of the different military commanders, as well as the accounts given by historians, agree in warmly praising the conduct of the regular infantry in this action. General McDowell says, “The battalion of regular infantry alone moved up the hill opposite to the one with the house, and there maintained itself until our men could get down to and across the Warrenton turnpike,” etc. General Barnard, the Compte de Paris, Swinton, and General Beauregard mention the conduct of the battalion in substantially the same terms.

The loss to the battalion, considering the small number engaged, was heavy, aggregating (killed, wounded, and missing) eighty-three. Lieutenant William Dickinson (now captain retired), acting adjutant of the battalion of the Third Infantry, was wounded and taken prisoner, as was also Lieutenant (now major Fourth Infantry) Jacob F. Kent.

I recall—the outcome of my inexperience—that in passing through these woods, I turned to Sykes and asked, “What do you make of this, major?” “Looks very much like a rout, lieutenant!” he replied, in the dry and somewhat nasal tone habitual to him.

Truly there is scarcely a step from the sublime to the ridiculous. I never think now of this incident without amusement: when the battalion formed square, as has been related, one of our friends in gray— apparently about six and a half feet high and slim in proportion— jumped up in the air and exclaimed frantically, “They’re trying to flank us! they’re trying to flank us!” His manner was so excited, and his appearance so outre (I think he wore a shako, which had slipped to the back of his head) that, if I had not been in a slightly mixed state of mind myself, I think I should have laughed outright. As it was, he made such a row that I felt strongly inclined to use some strong language. But all the same, he was a gallant fellow.

As we marched through Centreville we met the Fifth Division drawn up and seemingly in perfect order. I recollect that one regiment was singing “John Brown’s body.”

The fatigue of that terrible march, the gloom that settled like a pall upon the participants, can never be forgotten by them. General Sykes says in his official report, “Our officers and men were on their feet from 10 P.M. on the 20th until 10 A.M. on the 22d.” I must have fallen asleep (3) while marching, for I found myself with a strange regiment (I think the Twelfth New York Volunteers) when day broke. My command had halted for a short rest at Fairfax Court-House, and soon overtook me, after I had “fallen out” upon discovering my mistake.

The sun was high in the heavens when our worn-out officers and men reached camp at Arlington Heights, and after breaking ranks,— for the battalion had come “all the way through” in perfect order,— just threw their exhausted bodies down in the nearest shade that could be found.

Although, after the final charge of the Confederates on our right, with its attendant circumstances, there was no doubt in the mind of our leaders as to the final result, it would appear that the Confederate commanders were not at first prepared to decide upon the character of the reverse. So far as the disaster on our right, with its attendant circumstances, was concerned, there could be but one opinion. But was it a bona fide rout? It was, unquestionably. But were the Confederate leaders sure of it at first? We had heavy columns—of which fact they were doubtless aware—in reserve, as has been seen. The hardest part of the fighting had been done by the “turning column” and Keyes’s and Sherman’s brigades of Tyler’s division. Mr. Jefferson Davis writes to General Beauregard, under date of August 4, 1861, “You will not fail to remember that, so far from knowing that the enemy was routed, a large part of our forces was moved by you in the night of the 21st to repel a supposed attack upon our right, and the next day’s operations did not fully reveal what has since been reported of the enemy’s panic.”

So far as an advance upon Washington was concerned, it seems to have formed no part of the plan of the Confederate general-in-chief, nor of Mr. Davis,—at any rate at that time,—and this for what appear to have been good strategical reasons. Indeed, General Johnston makes a statement to that effect. He says, in his official report of the battle, “The apparent firmness of the United States troops at Centreville, who had not been engaged, which checked our pursuit; the strong forces occupying the works near Georgetown, Arlington, and Alexandria; the certainty, too, that General Patterson, if needed, would reach Washington with his army of thirty thousand men sooner than we could, and the condition and inadequate means of the army in ammunition, provisions, and transportation, prevented any serious thoughts of advancing against the capital.”

As to the numbers engaged on both sides, the official returns of the troops composing General McDowell’s army reported an aggregate of thirty-five thousand seven hundred and thirty-two. Of these about eighteen thousand—or let us say, at the outside, twenty thousand— were actively engaged. The Confederate field-return of the First Corps (Army of the Potomac) reports an aggregate of twenty-one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and the number actually engaged as nine thousand nine hundred and seventy-seven; but the return of casualties shows losses in organizations not embraced in this return. Of the Army of the Shenandoah engaged, General Beauregard reports the number as eight thousand three hundred and thirty-four. The reader can draw his own inference.

A few days after the battalion of regular infantry was re-established in camp, President Lincoln, accompanied by General McDowell, came over to review it. In their passage down the line they drew rein in front of the colors, when the general, turning to Mr. Lincoln, said, “Mr. President, these are the men who saved your army at Bull Run,”—doubtless an extravagant compliment. The President, looking keenly up and down the line, replied, “I’ve heard of them.”

This was all; but it made a powerful impression upon all present, as it more than compensated for the effect of the injurious reports rife in Washington upon our arrival there after the battle, viz., that “the regulars had run.”

Notes:

(1) This force was characterized by General Beauregard in his article in the November (1884) number of the Century as “a small but incomparable body of regular infantry.”

(2) If I remember correctly, it was this battery that was drawn by West Point horses.

(3) I believe this is not a very uncommon circumstance. I had done the same thing once before (in the “Patterson Campaign”) on the return march from Hagerstown to Williamsport.

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