Save Historic Antietam Foundation Lecture Series 9/8/2012

7 08 2012

Save Historic Antietam Foundation Inc. is pleased to announce a special lecture series in honor of the 150th Anniversary of the battle of Antietam.  The lectures will take place in the Mumma Farm barn at Antietam National Battlefield on Saturday September 8, starting at 9:00.  This event will also feature presentations from the recipients of two special scholarships funded by SHAF.  Daniel Vermilya has received the first Joseph L.  Harsh Scholar Award and will share his research on the Union Army at Antietam.  Susan Rosenwald was awarded the special Sesquicentennial Award and she will share her research about the role and actions of Clara Barton at Sharpsburg.  Other speakers will include Dennis Frye, Chief Historian of Harper’s Ferry National Park, Dr. Mark Snell, director of the George Tyler Moore Center for Study of the Civil War and local columnist and writer Tim Rowland.  The event is free and open to the public, and no reservations will be required.   Donations to SHAF will be accepted and there will be book signing by the authors and other items for sale.

Schedule:

9:00-9:30 – Coffee and Danish

9:30-9:45 – Opening Remarks, Tom Clemens, President, SHAF

9:45-10:30 – Session I, Dr. Mark Snell, “Causes of the Civil War”

10:30-10:45 – Break

10:45-11:30 – Session II, Dan Vermilya, Harsh Scholar recipient, “Perceptions, Not Realities: The Strength, Experience, and Condition of the Army of the Potomac at Antietam”

11:30-12:00 – Awards

12:00-1:00 – Lunch, Box Lunch available, by pre-order only $10.00 each*

1:00-1:45 – Session III, Susan Rosenwald, Sesquicentennial Award recipient, “Clara Barton at Antietam”

1:45-2:00 – Break

2:00-2:45 – Session IV, Dennis Frye, “September Suspense: Lincoln’s Union in Peril”

2:45-3:00 – Break

3:00-3:45 – Session V, Tim Rowland, “Odd Incidents of Maryland Campaign”

3:45 – Closing Remarks

* Preorder on-line at www.SHAF.org, choices will be available on the website.





P. W. A., Co. B, 8th Georgia Infantry, On the Battle

13 06 2012

The 7th and 8th Georgia Regiments at Manassas.

From the correspondence of the Savannah Republican, we take the following interesting narrative of the part borne by the 7th and 8th Georgia Regiments in the great battle at Manassas:

Manassas, Va., July 23d.

Dear Republican — I had only time yesterday to give you a list of the killed and wounded in our company, without detailing the incidents of the portion of the fight in which we were engaged.

Last Thursday we were in Winchester. At 2 o’clock we left that place. We marched over the mountains, forded the Shenandoah, and arrived at Piedmont, a station on the Manassas Gap Railroad, about ten o’clock, Friday, having footed it twenty seven miles. All the baggage was left at Winchester. We took the cars after a few hours’ delay, and came slowly here, where we arrived late Saturday morning after a tedious ride. Then marching three miles and a half we encamped in a wooded ravine beyond Manassas, and slept that night on the open ground. After a meagre breakfast Sunday morning we received orders to march for the place of fight, which we reached by a long, weary, woody, hilly, circuitous tramp of between 10 and 15 miles, often going at double quick. We halted, breathless, foot sore and exhausted, but eager for the fray.

With a few moments rest the regiments were posted behind Pendleton’s Virginia Battery, exchanging shots with the famous Sherman’s Battery of the Federalists. Ball and shell fell around us like hail. The Col. ordered the men to lay down until they were needed to charge, which they did. For some time we lay in this perilous position, losing, however, but one man – a member of the Macon Guards – when we received the order to charge the enemy’s battery. To do this it was necessary to charge across an intervening hollow and establish ourselves in a small pine thicket, flanking the enemy’s position. This cold and fearful movement was made through a perfect storm of grape and in a manner that General Johnson specially praised.

Gaining the grove with the loss of Thos. Purse killed, and James Car??? wounded, we opened fire on a large detachment of the Federal Infantry, stationed on the edge of the hill above the thicket some fifty or a hundred yards off who had been put there for the assistance of the battery. At the same time a large force of the enemy moved up until we were surrounded on three sides. Our rove was one hundred or more yards long and a quarter as wide, and as dense as nature…to near ten thousand, who poured a murderous fire upon us, concentrated, well aimed, and continuous. It was a whirlwind of bullets. Our men fell constantly. The deadly missives rattled like hail among the boughs of trees. Never veterans fought more coolly than the whole regiment. Not a man flinched. Carefully loading, each one took special aim, fired, and composedly repeated the same again.

Adjutant Branch was shot almost immediately, and Col. Gardner wounded, and Col. Bartow’s horse shot under him soon after. The ground was in a few minutes covered – paved with the dead and wounded. After seven or eight volleys were fired by us it became necessary to retire. No support was given; half of the regiment were down, and the enemy increasing in numbers. Even when the order to cease firing and retire had been given, so unyielding were the men, that several additional volleys were poured upon the foe.

In retiring a large portion of the regiment became separated from the colors by the density of the growth and were unable to recover them, but another portion, consisting among others of all the officers of the Ogelthorpes, clustered around it, and slowly retired at a walk, from point to point, towards the reserve. At every step the storm of balls mowed us down, and with their decreasing force we returned it. The ground over which we passed consisted of a series of woods and small fields, and at each open space the officers would reform the men, and the fight would be renewed with the pursuing enemy advancing in strength. A horrible mistake at this point occurred. Our own friends, taking us for the enemy, directed a galling fire upon our mutilated ranks. The Carolinians, Louisianians, and 7th Georgians turn…terrible effect.

The regiment finally withdrew out of reach of the shot, which the 7th Georgia took our place. The remnants formed, consisting of about 60 men, with Major Cooper, Capts. Magruder, Lamar, West, Dawson and Ryan, and Lieuts. Wilcox, Hall, Lumpkin, Dwinnel, Harper, Cooper, and Butler, and Sergt. Major Menard, and marched back

As this small remnant of the gallant six hundred marched, they passed Gen. Beauregard, who stopped, fronted, and raising his hat said, “I salute the gallant 8th Georgia Regiment!” – Every bosom thrilled with the proud compliment.

When the 7th Georgia Regiment reinforced us, Colonel Bartow took the lead of that. He has been for some weeks Brevet Brigadier General, commanding the 2d brigade of Johnston’s division, the brigade consisting of the 7th, 8th, 9th and 11th Georgia Regiment and a battalion of Kentuckians.

Deeply cut by the destruction of his own heroic but ill fated Regiment, Col. Bartow sprang forward to lead the 7th Georgia Regiment, whose Colonel met him, asking where they should go. Seizing the regimental standard, Col. Bartow turned to the enemy, saying “Follow me, and I will show you where,” and led on into the midst of the terrible fire of the Federalists. The men began to fall; the bullets whistled by in countless numbers. On kept the brave fellows with unquailing sternness, the Colonel leading impetuously to the enemy, encouraging and cheering the men until they arrived at their appointed position, when he turned and exclaimed, “Gen. Beauregard expects us to hold this position, and, Georgians, I appeal to you to hold it.” The leaden storm poured with increasing strength. Hot and heavy it came. Bartow turned to give of the standard to the proper officer, when a bullet passed through his heart and he fell from his horse. Several men sprang forward and lifted him up with both hands clasped over his wound. The only words he spoke – which were his last, and which deserve to be remembered as the last words of…that fame has ever commemorated – were “They have killed me: but, boys, never give up.” He was taken from the field and died in a few moments.

Thus perished, in the prime of his noble manhood, a lofty gentleman, a pure patriot, an able statesman, and a chivalric soldier. His bitterest enemies could charge him with no worse shortcomings than those which result from a high-strung spirit, impatient of meanness, sensitive to injustice, and noble to a chimera. The manner of his death would eternalize a thousand less lofty souls than his, and…less holy cause than the one in which he so fervently engaged – for which he so eagerly gave up everything, and in which he so willingly and resplendently died.

His body was…yesterday. He was not the only one of our finest officers that perished. General Bee was killed; Gen. Smith was severely wounded; Col. Fisher of a North Carolina regiment, was shot dead; also, Col. Jones, from the same state.

It has been estimated that the loss of our army is 2,000 killed and wounded; for the enemy it must be over 5,000. the numbers engaged were probably 15,000 on ours, with an unused reserved of 15,000; while the enemy numbered, at least, 60,000. They were under General Tyler. They have fled beyond Alexandria. A gentleman from there this morning said that the fugitives in miserable plight were streaming through, and that all military discipline in the place…over.

I am convinced of one thing – that all this talk about the Federalists being starved, unclothed, and unenthusiastic is absolute fudge. We cannot compare with them in the perfection of equipments and general preparations. Their haversacks were full; their blankets are magnificent; their canteens and other conveniences are ingenious, their medical accommodations are superb.

It is all fudge, too, about their enlisting from coercion, and not knowing they are to fight us. They tell us such…to mitigate their imprisonment. They are…shrewdness is a Yankee characteristic.

I have many particulars to tell you, but I must close this for …your regular correspondent here,…will give you a general view of the battle.

The remaining Ogelthorpes send love to their friends. They mourn for their gallant comrades who have so nobly died.

Oglethorpe Light Infantry

—————-

July 25 – There was another error in my letter of yesterday, in relation to the…which the lamented Bartow and the 7th and 8th Georgia regiments took in the fight. Gallant as I represented…conduct to be it now appears that only the half was told. Gen. Evans’s brigade occupied the extreme left along the line of Bulls Run. Next came Gen. Bee’s brigade, and next to his Gen. Bartow’s, and after his Gen. Jackson’s. The enemy opened a battery upon Gen. Evans by way of feint, but continued to push on his flank movement. Gen. Bee was dispatched to hold him in check, but so great were the numbers opposed to him the he was gradually forced back, while the enemy slowly but surely advanced along our flank. It was at this point that Col. Bartow’s brigade was ordered up. Meanwhile a battery of six guns had been planted to our left to protect the steady march of the Federal column, and to drive back our forces as they endeavored to head it off. As Col. Bartow was proceeding to take his position he met Gen. Beauregard, who told him that everything depended on his taking the position to which he had been ordered and checking the advance of the enemy…if possible. Upon this bloody duty he immediately started at the head of the heroic 8th. He was exposed to a galling fire for nearly an hour, from which the enemy suffered terribly. His horse was killed under him by one ball, while his sword…pierced by another. His horse came near falling upon Capt. Dawson of the Stephens Light Guards, who behaved with great gallantry, as did the whole company. At length it became necessary to retire the 8th, so much had it suffered, in order to give it time to reform in line.

At this point Col. Bartow brought up the Seventh, which had been ordered to lie flat upon the ground until called for. During this time the enemy’s line continued to stretch away to the left and gradually to force ours back, when Gen. Jackson was ordered to bring his brigade into position. Placing himself at the head of the Seventh and taking the colors in his own hands, (the color bearer having been wounded, not killed as represented,) Col. Bartow proceeded again to occupy the position to which he had been ordered. He had procured another horse, and was not on foot when he fell, as I stated yesterday. The Seventh was exposed to the same raking fire from which the Eighth had suffered so much, though not for so long a time. Indeed the fighting along the entire line in this part of the field was terrific. It was here that the fortunes of the day vibrated first to one side and then to the other, and nothing but the almost superhuman exertion of the Confederate troops gave us the victory. You will be glad to learn that even the prisoners taken from the enemy pay the highest tribute to the Georgia brigade. They say they never saw men fight as they did, and when told that there were only two regiments of them, they were utterly astonished, for, judging by the terrible execution of our muskets, they had supposed them to number four times as many. I…part of the field the night of the battle was fought, in search of Bartow’s body, and the heaps of the dead on the enemy’s side, as seen by the pitiful moonlight, and the groans and cries that everywhere saluted my ears, told but too plainly that good old Georgia had that day dealt a giant’s blow at the head of the…

The Seventh, aided by the Eighth, which had been partially restored to order, continued to hold their position with varying fortunes, and never did quit the field until the battle was won. Bartow had promised Gen. Beauregard to maintain his position, and he did it as long as he lived, and the brigade did it after he had fallen. And the result was the capture of the battery (Sherman’s) that had decimated our forces by its fire, and the final route of the adversary. To no two regiments on the field is the country more indebted than to the glorious Seventh and Eighth from Georgia. Every man was a lion-hearted hero, and every company a wall of fire.

I have not attempted to furnish you an account of the individual acts of heroism, or the gallant conduct of other regiments; for the reason that the military rules adopted here render it difficult to get access to the proper sources of information. Besides, you will find in the papers of the other…more satisfactory account of what their particular regiments did, than I could possibly give you.

Thus far I have not been able to obtain a list of the killed and wounded in the Eighth Georgia Regiment, but should be able to do so to-morrow. It suffered considerably more than the Seventh. – Appended hereto is a statement of the casualties in the Seventh, which Col. Gartrell has kindly furnished me, and which may therefore be considered reliable. Let our people never forget their brave brothers who have fallen in the defense of the liberties of the country.

President Davis returned this morning. No man in the Confederacy regrets the death of Col. Bartow more than the President, who cherished a strong friendship for him. Immediately on his return to Manassas, Sunday night, he sent a telegram to Mrs. Davis, to break the sad news to Mrs. Bartow, who had come on to Richmond, to be as near her husband as possible.

One of the prisoners says that Gen. McDowell was the active officer upon the field but that Gen. Scott who took his position at Centreville, was the director of the whole battle. If such were their positions, the latter must have come near to be captured; for notwithstanding the failure to execute…to strike at the rear of the enemy, a bold dash was made from our centre at Centreville but it was late in the day and after the retreat had commenced. Had old “fuss and feathers” been there then he would have had the pleasure of being…to Richmond sooner than his army will ever take him. …prisoner says that Senator Wilson of Massachusetts and Bob Lincoln had driven out in a carriage to see…Federalists could whip us, and that they, as well as Senator Foster barely saved themselves. I have already mentioned that Mr. Ely, M. C., from New York, was taken prisoner. Another prisoner whom I did not mention in my last letter was Col. Wilcox, of the Michigan Regiment.

P. W. A.

Augusta Chronicle, 7/30/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy





Cpl. James A. Wright, Co. F, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the March

29 03 2012

On the evening of July 15 – when we had about concluded that it was all talk – we were ordered to be prepared to move at a moment’s notice. It did not take long to make all necessary preparations. The tents were to be left standing, and a detail of ten men from each company – with a complement of officers – was to remain in charge of the camp. The selection was to be made from the sick and those the least able to march. About every company had that number of sick and ailing. Each man going was to carry his canteen, haversack with three days’ rations, and his blanket, besides gun and accouterments. The blanket was rolled lengthwise, and the ends tied together, and it was carried over the left shoulder with the ends tied at the right hip. In the blanket were soap, towel, etc., and also twenty rounds of extra cartridges, which with the forty in the box made a total of sixty rounds to each man. It was all arranges that night who of the company were to remain with ‘the stuff.’ I think we all found an opportunity to write a few lines to the folks at home, informing them of the contemplated movement and saying a word of farewell.

It is almost surprising – realizing the possibilities  of death or wounds as we did – that we marched out so cheerfully the next morning to take our chances. I am quite sure that we all understood the personal risks – perhaps exaggerated them – but I think none of us thought seriously of being defeated. We seemed to feel assured of success.

There were two officers and – I feel quite sure – eighty-six enlisted men who left the camp at Alexandria for the Bull Run Campaign on the morning of July 16, 1861. There were not more and might have been less. The commissioned officers of Company F were: Captain William Colvill, First Lieutenant A. Edward Welch, and Second Lieutenant Mark A. Hoyt. Non commissioned officers were: First Sergeant Martin Maginnis, Second Sergeant Hezekiah Bruce, Third Sergeant Calvin P. Clark, Fourth Sergeant Henry T. Bevans, and Fifth Sergeant Charles N. Harris. The corporals were: John Barrows, William D. Bennett, Fred E. Miller, Amos G. Schofield, Merritt G. Standish, John Williams, E. Oscar Williams, and James A. Wright. I recall that Lieutenant Mark A. Hoyt was one of the officers of the guard left behind us, and I feel quite certain that Corporal John Williams was also left, as his wife was then in camp at Alexandria.

For the first time, our brigade – the First of the Third Division – was assembled as a brigade. It was composed of the Fourth Pennsylvania, the Fifth and Eleventh Massachusetts, and First Minnesota. The brigade was commanded by Colonel William B. Franklin; and the division, Colonel Samuel P. Heintzelman – both of the regular army. It seems a little surprising that it had not been got together and drilled and maneuvered as a brigade and division before starting on the march, but that is not the only surprising thing about that campaign. If this had been done a few times, perhaps the brigade commanders might have been able to get more than one regiment in action at a time.

We started early, and it took some time to get fairly moving. The roads were dusty, and the day was very hot. The march was not hurried, and camp was made before night on a ridge covered with a second growth of scrub pines near Fairfax Court House.

Each man carried his rations as issued from the commissary, and they consisted of coffee, sugar, crackers, and salt pork. Each one did his own cooking while on the march, Although the cooks and wagons followed as far as Centreville, they were not with us. None of the boys were expert cooks, but all managed to make a shift at it and get something to eat. Many of the boys had provided themselves with coffee post – or small pails – to make coffee in and small frying pans to cook meat in, and found them very convenient. A ‘mess’ with a coffee pot, a frying pan, and a hatchet were pretty well fixed, and with a little experience could always prepare a meal at short notice – provided they had the necessary materials.

There had been no conflict with the enemy during the day, and we rested quietly during the night, sleeping on the ground under the pines, which sheltered us from the dew.

The next morning, Wednesday, July 17, the march was continued. There were frequent halts and delays, considerable skirmishing and some artillery firing, but no real fighting. We took no active part in these affairs, though near enough to hear them and feel a little of the excitement. One of these episodes was an attempt to capture an outpost on the railroad, which failed, as they ran off as soon as our men came in sight, leaving their dinner cooking.

We bivouacked in the bushes again that night near Sangster’s Station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. During these two days, we had occasionally passed a few houses near each other and, frequently, single houses in little cleared patches in the woods, but for the most of the way the country was rough and densely wooded, with pines and cedars predominating. Our division had apparently gone across the country and principally on the by-roads.

Thursday morning, the 18th, the march was continued near the railroad, and that morning our regiment led the brigade. As on the previous days, there were frequent halts as the advance felt its way. Finally, the regiment was halted in the woods at the edge of a field, while two companies – A and B, led by Lieutenant Colonel Miller – scouted some miles to the front and left. While waiting for the return of Lt. Col. Miller and his party, artillery firing began to our right and front. We were sure a great battle was being fought, while we seemed to be forgotten or lost in the brush. We could hear the distant musketry, also, occasionally.

After an hour or more, the firing gradually ceased, and about the same time the two absent companies returned – they having gone until they had discovered the enemy and retired without attacking, as they were instructed. This was the fight at Blackburn’s Ford, in which the advanced division under General Tyler was engaged. Of course, we were burning to know all about the affair, and there were many conjectures, but very little information obtainable. This was the third day out, and, although we had started with three days’ rations, we were not accustomed to taking three days’ supply at a time, and the most of us were out of food and hungry.

There had been strict orders issued against foraging, before we marched. There were also some cattle and sheep in the edge of the wood across the clearing, and the sight of these was too much for the hungry stomachs of some of the boys, and a small party went after them. They succeeded in getting some of these, which they skinned and cut up in the bushes, but in coming out they accidentally met Colonel Franklin, who at once began an inquiry.

About the same time, Colonel Gorman rode up, and, when he sensed the situation, opened on the culprits with a lively fire of cuss words, asserting that they were a lot of “born thieves” and a “disgrace to their state and to their mothers.” He brought matters to a head by requesting Colonel Franklin to let him make an example of them for the good of the regiment in the future. This was assented to by Col. Franklin, who was probably glad to have the matter taken off of his hands, and rode away. After he was gone, Col. Gorman – who looked very black and uncompromising – said, “Now, —- you, take up that meat and go to your companies, and don’t ever disgrace the regiment by getting caught in any such scrape again.”

It is perhaps needless to say that the boys were extra careful after that not to get caught. I do not think that Company F took a leading part in this affair, but there was a fair representation in the following. I saw ‘Lenghty’ wiping the blood off of his butcher knife with a bunch of leaves, and ‘Barb’ gave us a piece of sheep, which we broiled and ate with relish. I am not asserting that this was the right and proper thing to do – perhaps it was not – but we were in the enemy’s country and hungry. Right or wrong, we were doing just what has been done under like conditions since the days of David.

For the third night we slept under the skies, but instead of twinkling stars there were threatening clouds, and it rained a little that night and in the early morning. Friday the 19th, we marched to Centreville, where all of Heintzelman’s division was brought together; there were also many other troops there. What seemed to us a great army – probably 10,000 or 12,000 men – were gathered there, and more were coming. There was considerable skirmishing going on, but we took no part in it – that day or the next – and remained at the bivouac all day Saturday. It was a time of uncertainty and anxious waiting.

We could form but little opinion of how matters stood, when or where the next move would be made, but we felt assured that affairs had reached an acute stage, and that a crisis would come soon. When it did come we had no doubt that we would be ‘in it’ and share the fortunes of war with the rest, whatever they might be. After the repulse of General Tyler’s command on the 18th, some of us may have begun to feel the possibility of a defeat, but I am sure that the feeling – as to results – was one of assured confidence, no matter what might be the fate of individuals. We went to our blankets that evening knowing that we were to be aroused to march before daylight, and having no doubt but that the morrow would bring a battle. These were not pleasant thoughts to retire with, nor calculated to bring soothing reflections inviting sleep, but we did manage to put aside the wicked war and all of its attendant troubles, and slept until awakened to fall in for the march.

James Wright Papers, Minnesota Historical Society, as quoted on pp. 48 – 51 in Keillor, No More Gallant a Deed: A Civil War Memoir of the First Minnesota Volunteers. Used with MHS permission.





New Original Artwork on “Civil War Monitor”

2 03 2012

Friend Terry Johnston sent me an image of the cover of the new, 3rd issue of The Civil War Monitor. It features one of Daniel Tyler’s brigade commanders. Here it is (click it for a bigger image):

I love this stuff. It really sets Civil War Monitor apart. I know it has to be expensive and maybe we can’t expect to see it on every issue, but I really, really like it.





Pvt. John W. Day, Co. H, 1st Massachusetts, On the March, Blackburn’s Ford, and the Battle

26 02 2012

The First Conflict at Bull Run.

The following letter was received by Capt. Wm. Day, in this city, from his nephew, who was connected with the 1st Massachusetts Regiment: -

Fort Albany, Arlington Heights, Va.,

July 27, 1861.

This is the first opportunity which has presented itself for some time, and I improve it in writing to you. We have had a hard battle since last I wrote.

On Tuesday afternoon, July 16th, we received orders to march into Virginia, and crossed chain bridge about four o’clock, en route for Vienna where we arrived after a long night’s march. – Here we snatched a few hours’ repose, and at about, 8 A. M. we started for Fairfax Court House. – Our brigade was thrown on the left to outflank the enemy in the town, but they fled at the approach of the entire column, headed by Sherman’s Battery. They ran all that day till at night we were glad to desist from the pursuit and rest in Centreville. As we passed through Germantown the rebels set fire to the houses. It was a terrible sight; the houses flaming everywhere, amid the dense woods, on the plains, and upon the distant hills. The rebels knocked in the heads of the flour barrels and stirred it in the mud rather than we should have it, and kegs of crackers and barrels of salt beef were mingled on every side, with cartridges, broken wheels, wagon bodies, etc. &c. They kept only half an hour ahead of us the whole way. When our brigade halted for the night, our company was appointed to do picket duty, and we marched off in the direction of the enemy for about a mile, then separated into squads of four, and hid ourselves in the bushes, where we awaited their coming, but were not attacked, although the pickets of the Ohio regiment were. On Thursday morning the Massachusetts First led the van, and we pushed forward for Bull Run, five or six miles distant. Halting about two miles off, our Company and Company G, were detailed to support two companies of Cavalry on a reconnoisance. We hurried rapidly forward under a blazing sun, and suddenly found ourselves in the face of the enemy’s batteries. A precipitate retreat was ordered, and we fell back on the main body. Sherman’s battery advanced at a quick trot, and fired the first gun at about 2 o’clock. The enemy commenced his reply and then retreated. We followed after in full feather, but as our skirmishers on the left were rushing on through the under brush they were saluted by a raking fire from a masked battery in the ravine below. They were scattered and nearly annihilated. The Boston Fusileers were ordered up to support them, and finding the place too hot for them, our Company and the National Guards were sent to their support. Our company crossed the ravine and ascended the hill, densely covered with wood, and passing the crest, found themselves on a comparatively open plateau sloping down to a pond of water, surrounded by a dense wood. From the wood the rifles and cannon belched forth their fires, and bullets screamed over our heads like a hornet’s nest. As we rushed down the hill at the battery, two men, Sergeant Thomas Harding, and George Bacon, were killed at my side one on my right, and the other on my left. We were broken by the fire, and obliged to retire to the crest of the hill under cover of the trees, leaving four men, two dead and two wounded on the field, beside those whom we were able to carry off – some six or eight. Twice we charged down the hill, and twice we returned, and then the word “retreat!” was passed along the line. Our Lieut. Col. Wells, fought like a common soldier – he rushed from man to man, grasping their muskets, and firing them, and shouting for another loaded one. So did our Captain, and the men, encouraged by their example, fought like devils, as was said by an officer in the regiment of artillery, who had been in the Mexican army. But what could three companies do against four thousand men who were in the battery and woods? Nothing, and we were obliged to retreat. Just as we leaped the fence, the Lieut. Col. called for volunteers to go down the hill and try to bring up our two wounded men. I said I would go, and handing my musket to the captain, ran down the hill as fast as I could amid a perfect storm of bullets, which made me bend over almost double in order that they might go over my head, as the enemy aimed most astonishingly high. Whole platoons fired at once, but the bullets passed over the heads of our men. I reached the nearest man, both threw up their hands and begged me for Christ’s sake not to leave them to the enemy who were bayonetting the wounded. I looked behind me, and judge of horror and peril to find myself alone; not a man had followed me down hill. I was not one hundred feet from the enemy, and without arms. I threw myself down on my face and grasped his hand, bidding him good bye. I told him I was so weak I could scarce get off myself, and that I was alone and must leave him. I then sprang up and ran as fast as I could up the hill, waving my cap and shouting friend! as loud as possible in order to keep the skirmishers of the New York 12th from firing on me – for amid the confusion of the hour it was almost impossible to distinguish friend from foe. the enemy shot my canteen off my neck as I ran up the hill, but I reached the N. Y. regiment in safety, and sank on the ground inside their line utterly exhausted. The other regiments now moved to the line of battle, but none entered the wood again. The men were much exhausted by their hard marching and the poor food they had had for the past three days; and we had been living on raw salt pork and hard bread. Finding retreat inevitable, Gen. Tyler ordered us to  retire to Centreville, where we arrived about 8 o’clock, and dropped down to sleep under a pouring rain. We lost 15, viz: killed, 5; wounded, 9; missing 1; – from whom we have heard nothing; no doubt he is dead. It is also believed that one of our company, who was dying of a cannon shot in his leg, was burned to death at Fairfax when the enemy burnt the hospital after the retreat of the second battle. This ended the first battle of Bull Run. We lay at Centreville all night, and at earliest dawn were marched to within two miles of the enemy, where we rested the next two days, till on Saturday night we were thrown out to sustain our pickets; our regiment laid down on a fresh ploughed field, and being much exhausted, went to sleep, waked every now and then by the sound of the enemy marching in with reinforcements to Bull Run. – They came with rolling drums and bugles playing martial airs, so close to us that we felt the jarring of the ground. But we lay still without noise, and they apparently knew not that on the other side of the wall in the corn-field lay a regiment of their sworn and deadly foes. I fell asleep and dreamed of faces left behind, till called up in the grey of the morn, when we rushed forward to take a position on the right bivouac in order to support the Artillery of the left battery of the central division.

It was a fair and lovely Sabbath morning when we filed into the woods, in the rear of our cannon, and sat down to await the commencement of the battle! Bang – went our cannon – echoing through the startled wood, and a rifle shell went crashing off like and express train in the direction of the enemy! Far away like distant thunder came the answer of our other batteries along the line. Then on the right large bodies of our troops charged on the foe; whole regiments fired at once, and whole squadrons of the enemy’s horse tore over the groaning ground. For nine hours the battle continued, and we sat there in those woods waiting the order to advance, but none came. As I reclined half dozing on my blanket I could not realize the awful scene only two miles distant. The cannon seemed to my mind a tolling bell calling to worship, as a thousand Sabbath bells were doing then in my far off Northern home, and spiritually I worshipped at the olden altar, as I read from my little Testament and Psalms:

“Lord make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is, that I may know how frail I am! Behold Thou hast made my days as an hand’s breadth, and mine age is nothing before thee; verily every man at his best estate is but vanity.

Lord! what I wait for? my hope is in thee; O! spare me that I may recover strength before I go hence and be here no more!”

At 4 P. M. up galloped an aid-de-camp, and a hurried retreat was ordered; while the enemy’s fire came pelting on our rear, we retired hastily to Centreville. Thence by a forced march to Arlington Heights, thirty miles. Here we are now, but know not how long we shall remain.

J. W. D.[*],

Co. H. Mass. 1st Reg.

Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics,  8/10/1861

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* Most likely John W. Day, a 23-year-old printer from Chelsea, MA, who enlisted in Co. H on 5/22/1861 and received a disability discharge in Bladensburg, MD on 8/29/1861. Per Ancestry.com.

Contributed by John Hennessy





Major C. H. Joyce, 2nd Vermont, On the Battle

24 02 2012

The Second Vermont at Bull Run

———-

From an interesting letter in the Burlington Times, doubtless written by Major Joyce, we make the following extracts relative to the part the Vermont Regiment took in the battle at Bull Run;

On, on we went upon the run, and our poor boys were dropping out by the dozens, yet no halt or slack. Now we have arrived at a road which leads up along the skirt of a piece of woods. We enter and go on upon the run. Now, Oh God! what a sight meets our eyes! Here are the hospitals for friends and foes, all thrown in together; here are the surgeons in the woods sawing off legs and arms from the poor fellows who have been wounded – some on the ground and some on a board; they shriek, they groan, they swear, in their delirium of agony; here comes the carts bringing in the wounded, the blood running from the cart like water from a street sprinkler. It is awful, it is terrible, but yet our brave boys press on. – Now comes a messenger saying to us, Go on, boys; they need your help. Then another saying, Go ahead, boys; the rebels are flying. We heed them not, but with steady step move on.

.       .       .       .

The order was given to “Forward the Second,” and you may depend it was done nobly. Oh, who would not have given a world at that moment to have been a Vermonter. Not a man but what felt they carried the honor of Vermont upon their bayonets. On they went – the orders come, “Captains in the rear of your companies,” “boys, keep cool,” “take good aim and mark your man.” Not a pale face appeared in line; lips were compressed and hearts were as firm as the granite in their native hills. The air was filled even to darkness, with iron and lead, yet I felt a pride in being with the noble Second on that day; and although I was not born upon Vermont’s soil, yet I was proud of her and her gallant sons, and gloried in the state of my adoption. – When we arrived on the brow of the hill we were in plain sight of the enemy’s lines. We marched down the hill about half way, and halted in line of battle.

Between us and the enemy was a deep ravine, and on the other side, on the hill pitching toward us were the rebels, behind a Virginia rail fence. The order now came to open fire on the whole line. Our boys drew up their guns, took deliberate aim at that fence, and then it would have done your soul good to see the devils jump. At the second volley they all cut and run into a piece of woods on their left flank. Soon they made their appearance at the edge of the woods, and at them we went again like bull-dogs.

It would, perhaps, be invidious to call names, but I must be permitted to mention Captains Dillingham, Eaton, Hope and Randall, and Lieutenants Henry, Gregg, Campbell, Johnson, Howe, Tracy, Hugh and Tyler, as men who were under my eye the whole battle. With Capt. Dillingham I have always been acquainted, ,and have felt a sort of pride in his success. I have watched him, and I saw him in the midst of the carnage on that bloody day. He was as cool and as self possessed as when on Company parade. I could hear him give his orders to his men; I noticed his face as he passed back and forth, speaking words of encouragement to his brave boys, and by this example inspiring them with courage and fortitude. In a moment I saw him fall ! Oh, God! I sprang towards him and caught him in my arms, lifted him up, and, to my great joy discovered that a Minnie ball had only just grazed his temple and stunned him for the moment. I set him on his feet and left him in charge of his men, and started for my post on the left of the line, and scarcely had I gone ten paces when, with a voice that could be heard beyond the enemy’s lines, I heard him say: “They have not killed me yet; give it to them, boys!”

Captains Smith, Fullam, Wallbridge, Todd, and others, behaved in a manner worthy of Vermont, while Capt. Randall greatly distinguished himself by his cool courage and self-possession; he was determined not to leave the field, and did not until compelled to do so by the commander. One word about our color-bearer: he is 6 feet 5 1-2 inches high – he carried his banner upon the field and stood by it during the whole battle, like Goliath of old. Not a limb trembled or or muscle moved. While six of the enemy’s bullets pierced the sacred flag, not one touched the noble bearer. He is truly a great man and deserves to be remembered.   .   .   .   .   .

Our Quarter master’s Department is managed on a scale not to be surpassed by any regiment in the service. Mr. Pitkin is untiring in his efforts to make us all comfortable, and he is nobly sustained by the Quarter master Sergeant, Cain, and the Messrs. Stone.

St. Albans Daily Messenger, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





“C.”, 2nd Wisconsin, On the Battle

22 02 2012

From the Milwaukee Sentinel.

Interesting Letter from the Second Regiment.

———-

Camp Corcoran,

Monday Night, July 22, ’61.

Once again, we are back in the vicinity of Washington, having passed through a battle that will ever have a full page in the history of battles. The full report of it you may have seen, and my work will be to give only a few scenes connected with the Second Wisconsin Regiment, which from the many who narrowly watched us, has received not a few encomiums.

On Sunday morning, July 21st, at 2 o’clock A. M., our camp near Centerville, was aroused by the cry of “Fall in to march.” – The men were ready and eager to be up, it being supposed that the commander-in-chief of the division had made preparations for us to go on and complete a victory which we felt sure was before us. The Second Wisconsin, 79th, 69th, and 13th New York, with Sherman’s battery and Capt. Thompson’s troop of 100 horse, formed one brigade, while two Connecticut and two Ohio regiments, with company E. U. S. artillery, and a troop of 100 horse, formed another. Both were under the command of Gen. Tyler, and formed the centre of McDowell’s grand army. The right wing was under the command of Gen. Hunter, and the left, under Gen. Heintzleman. The right and left were to close on the wings of the enemy’s fortifications, extending to a distance of six miles, while the centre was to attack their principal fortresses.

Our wing waited until nearly daylight before starting, as the others had a much longer distance to go; but at length we were under way. To Bull’s Run was only a distance of three miles, which was soon reached. Here we felt ourselves in the midst of the enemy’s works. The ground we were approaching was known to be full of masked batteries but a few days before, and now the march was necessarily slow and tedious.

The 2nd Wisconsin and the 79th New York to the right of the road and filing off through the woods, flanked with the left on the road, while the balance of the brigade took the left hand side, and Sherman’s battery, with “President Lincoln’s Baby-waker,” as a large 32-pound rifle cannon was called, took the road, the infantry acting as a support to the battery. The column, in this order, worked its way up gradually to the edge of the woods, and came to a halt. Just beyond the woods was an opening some 500 rods in extent; then came Bull’s Run, a deep ravine, and beyond this, high up, rose the natural fortifications of the rebels. No better place could have been selected, and no other natural fortification so easy of self-support could have been found.

On the enemy’s side, as we drew near, nothing out of the usual course of events could be seen. All seemed as natural as though the roads were not alive with armed men and filled with masked batteries.

After reconnoitering a while, the large rifle cannon began picking out some good marks. Sever shots were made, but they were not returned, when some one suggested that in a deep ravine, which could be seen, was a good seclusion. A shot directed there, sent forth into the open field at least 500 cavalry, who scattered like chaff in every direction, but soon returned. The big gun continued its work, and the riderless horses that came flying out, several of which came over to our lines, showed that it was no idle play. Sherman, too, opened his battery, and, at the same time, a masked battery, almost within musket shot of the Connecticut regiments, opened upon them, and then battery after battery poured in, and the shower of lead came out from every clump of trees.

The men threw themselves upon the ground, with their arms ready to come to a charge, and although the fire was hat and heavy, only one man was killed and two wounded, both of the Connecticut. The fire of the big gun and of Sherman’s and Co. E batteries was directed against those of the enemy, and in a remarkably short space of time, so accurate was the aim, they were all silenced.

Almost the same instant our battery commenced, that of the left wing opened in the stronghold we had attempted to take a few days before. They were soon silenced, and when the guns of Gen. Hunter’s wing opened, the other wings started on the march, the right pressing, formed in line, the center making the circuit around, in order to aid Hunter. On the route and in crossing Bull’s Run, fires from batteries opened on the columns, and in this movement several were killed. The rebels seemed to possess innumerable batteries. They had them everywhere, and no point where a gun could be planted to have an effect upon our column, seems to have been neglected. The column soon crossed, and we went up the mountain road, we could see the enemy flying in companies, in squads and in regiments, before Gen. Hunter’s men, towards a long and narrow piece of woods, while from the right they came pouring down in the same hasty manner before Gen. Heintzleman’s men. The ravine, against which fire had at first been directed, seemed filled with dead. Bodies were laying in every directions, showing that the loss from shot and shell was terrific. With a loud shout for the “stars and stripes” our boys pushed forward, in pursuit of the flying rebels until we reached Hunter’s command, it having halted to be recruited. The open plain before us had been the enemy’s camping ground, and muskets, blankets, knapsacks, canteens, haversacks and dead bodies, were lying about indiscriminately. Our boys threw off everything, down to clothing and cartridge boxes, when the battle line was formed so as to completely hem in the rebel stronghold.

Now the work commenced in earnest. — All along the line of woods batteries opened one after the other, and shot, shell, canister and grape poured in upon us. From the position we occupied it did but little serious damage, although it whistled with so shrill a series of noises as to startle the most brave. By some neglect we had little artillery with us, it having remained behind. — The Rhode Island battery opened on one of the enemy’s, but it had taken a position so near them that before it could be brought into actual service it was used up. Carlisle’s battery and Sherman’s opened a heavy fire, and as far as two batteries could be of use they were. They silenced gun after gun, and at length got out of ammunition. By this time the federal troops got ready for a charge at the point of the bayonet, the battle line being extended all along the enemy’s lines, with the regular cavalry and marines, together with Ellsworth’s Zouaves on the right. The Wisconsin Second occupied about the center of the line. They lay for some time under cover of a hill, while the shot was pouring over them, and then, when the charge was ordered, filed on up a narrow lane, and came into line, It was a dangerous position, as they were subject to a cross fire, and many of them fell wounded.

The grand body now moved forward at a double-quick, until they came within musket shot of the enemy, and the was poured in upon them a most murderous fire of musketry. Never was there anything like it. — Together with the musketry, three batteries were pouring in grape and canister, while our own batteries were silenced from want of ammunition. Had we had our usual amount of artillery, their batteries could have been silenced, but as we had no support from this source, the order was given to fall back, and the regiments fell back a few rods to rally, all in hopes that the enemy would withdraw from their ambush, and follow to give a fair fight.

The command to fall back was given by Gen. Tyler, who it is supposed acted from the order of Gen. McDowell.

The fortress behind which the enemy was entrenched was built of crossed railroad bars and logs, and behind these was an army of 70,00 men, arrayed so as fill up the whole line in front, the rear column loading and the front, two deep firing continually.

Before the order for retreat was given the battle was fairly won, and victory would have been surrendered to the federal flag, but as the rebels were about giving up, Gen. Johnston arrived from Manassas Gap, with 18,000 fresh troops. It was supposed that Gen. Patterson was close upon him, but such was not the case, he, for some reason, which I have not yet learned, having left the track.

When the order to fall back was given, the regiments of the army gave way, then rallied, and as the rebel troops showed themselves outside the entrenchments, poured in upon them volley after volley, but finding it fruitless to continue the fight, they received orders to give way, and take up their line of retreat. They did this by regiments and companies in admirable order, but hundreds fell out, and forming in squads fell behind, and seeking shelter, behind logs and trees, commenced an Indian fight upon the rebel cavalry, which came out of the woods, to the number of 1,000, to pursue the stragglers. They dropped from the saddle in squads under the fire. This Indian skirmishing was a protection to the retreating army; but many of those who were giving the aid, suffered in consequence, as they were taken prisoners, when they got down so few in numbers as to offer little resistance to the rebels.

Among the prisoners known to be taken is S. P. Jackson of La Crosse, a member of Co. B. He had his arm broken by a musket ball and was taken by the cavalry, together with t squad of seven Wisconsin boys. Then they were being taken off, a few of the boys rallied and fired into the cavalry, calling upon the Union prisoners to escape. They all did so but Jackson, who was taken off. Before the others escaped Jackson told the officer of the cavalry that he was useless to them, as his arm was broken. The reply was that he should be taken care of. “yes,” replied Jackson, “the same as our wounded men at Bull’s Run the other day. You bayoneted all our wounded men.” “It’s a lie,” replied the officer. “It is not,” replied Jackson, “you killed every one of our wounded men.” — “Our orders were to take care of the wounded, and we fight humanely. To be sure there are some d—-d rascals in every army who fight like tigers, and kill the wounded, but we prevent it when we can.” At this, one of them spoke up and said, “Not by a d—-d sight; we shall kill every hell-hound of them we take.” The New Orleans Zouave who was taken prisoner, also said, “You may kill me if you please, and you may win the battle to-day, but we will whip you to-morrow when our recruits get in, and then every one of you that falls into our hands will be butchered.” This appeared to be the general sentiment, that no mercy was to be shown, and that all who fell into their hands would have no pleasant situation.

Many of those captured afterwards escaped by a ruse or trick. Ruby, of the Oshkosh company, was kept some time, but escaped by playing Indian, while Whiting, of the La Crosse company escaped by yelling that the artillery was upon them, and they must retreat. The cavalry thought it one of their own officers who gave the command, and scattered, when Whitney escaped. A number of just such cases occurred. Capt. Colwell, of Co. B acted the hero all the way through. He rallied his men and led them on to positions where it would scarcely be deemed men could go. He captured one piece of artillery, he and his men taking the piece by main force and hauling it a long distance off, and then returned to the fight. The Wisconsin regiment was the last body off the field, and their run was caused by the rebel cavalry. Had they been less brave their loss in prisoners would have been greater, as they remained in squads and charged upon the cavalry every time they approached. The retreating column also had to contend against a raking fire of artillery. As they crossed the Run the rebels had a fine rake with their guns, and kept up a constant fire of grape and canister. The loss from this sortie, however, was not heavy.

The enemy did not follow up the retreat, which shows conclusively that they did not consider it a great victory. The retreat was continued to Centreville, when a halt was made for an hour’s rest. The regiments were then re-formed, and continued their march to their old rendezvous, some to Washington, others to Alexandria, and others to Fort Corcoran; the retreat being covered by two regiments who were not in the field.

It is certain that just before Gen. Johnston arrived with his troops, the rebels were whipped, although at no one time did the federal army have more than fifteen regiments in the field; and but for Johnston’s arrival, they would have left very suddenly for Manassas Gap. The federal troops are not disheartened at the result of the conflict. They feel that they have fought bravely, and that they had not well disciplined men to lead them on. After the conflict had commenced, but little was seen of them; but after the retreat was sounded, and while the column was marching until it had got beyond all danger, very few of the field officers were to be seen. Many of the captains and lieutenants of companies exhibited a courage and intuitive knowledge of military matters that was deserving of a better fate.

We lost most of our blankets, haversacks, &c., that were thrown off when we started to join Hunter, and we lost many of our muskets in the field, but their places were supplied with Sharpe’s rifles, with which the enemy were well supplied. I think the trade is about even. They were well supplied with fighting material, having all that is necessary, all bearing the trade mark of the United States.

Just as I am finishing the present, a member of Capt. Langworthy’s  company has come in from the enemy. He was taken prisoner, and set to work digging graves for the dead. Fearful are the preparations made, so immense is the number. All will be huddled together in common graves, friend and foe together, without prayers or service. It is asserted that a determination was expressed by many to bayonet such of our men who were badly wounded, and some proceeded to execute the threat, when stopped by an officer. Dr. Irwin, of our medical staff, is among them as a prisoner, and is looking after our wounded who are prisoners.

C.

Janesville Weekly Gazette and Free Press, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





W. H. Foote, Co. D, 2nd Wisconsin, On the Battle

17 02 2012

The Battle of Bull’s Run.

———-

The following letters were written for the information of friends, by a member of the Janesville Volunteers, and not for publication. We are, however, permitted to publish them to satisfy the public anxiety for all the news that can be procured in relation to the Second Wisconsin regiment, which suffered quite severely in this battle. We hope the missing from the regiment may return, but the probabilities are that many of them never will. Our readers who have read the letters of Corporal Hamilton in our paper, will especially regret to learn that his name is among those placed on the list of those who have not been heard from.

——

Fort Corcoran, Va.,

July 23d, 1861.

Dear Father: – We have at last had the long looked for fight. On Thursday, the 18th, our boys had a little fight at Bull’s Run. The contest was unequal, and the enemy fell back towards Manassas Junction. On Sunday last, our boys came up to a fort of masked batteries. The fight commenced about six in the morning, and lasted till five in the evening. Our men fought with the greatest bravery, and without a leader. The soldiers say that at the commencement of the fight, the officer in command ran away, and was not seen again in the battle field.

All allow that it has been one of the hardest battles ever fought on this continent. The celebrated Sherman’s battery was taken by the rebels, and retaken at the point of the bayonet. Our boys took a battery of six guns, but were afterwards compelled to retreat. At six o’clock, our troops were so badly cut up that the order was given for a general retreat; and a large portion of the federal army broke and ran for their lives, hotly pursued by the rebels. We lost a great many men killed, wounded and taken prisoners, and about one hundred wagons loaded with provisions.

The battle was fought about 25 miles from here. All night on the 21st, and all day Monday, the 22nd, our boys came straggling along, and even to-day, the 23d, some of them have just arrived. Many of our company have come in wounded, and some of them were left dead or wounded on the battle field. None of the officers were killed, and but one wounded slightly in the arm.

The President, Mr. Seward, Gov. Randall, Gen. Sherman and G. B. Smith, of Wisconsin, were all here a little while ago, and all made speeches to us. Lieut. McLain told the President that we had brave men, but no officers. The President said we should have officers before we went into another fight.

Gen. Tyler has been arrested for making the attack on Bull’s Run without orders. – When the first division were retreating, and the rebels were following in hot pursuit with their cannon, killing and wounding many of our men while running for their lives, the second division came upon the rebels, forcing them to retire, with much loss, to Manassas Junction, two miles south, where they will make another stand.

It rained all night, and many thousands were obliged to lay out in it. We are all in good cheer.

Camp Peck, July 24, 1861.

I have just written over two sheets of paper to you, but on receiving a letter from you, I thought I would write a little more, as the excitement here has somewhat abated. This afternoon, all that feel well enough are out to work building a brush fence around our camp. I think by the appearance of things the enemy are advancing on Washington. The man that went up in the balloon this morning, went southeast out of sight. He threw out several messages, but they were sealed, and directed to General Scott. Sergeant Sanders just came in and said the enemy were within twelve miles of here.

We can hear cannon roaring now, and have for several hours. One of our Captains has just returned from Vienna where they are fighting.

I think from what I have heard, we have thirty thousand troops between here and the rebels.

They (the rebels) are being reinforced all the time. The next battle will tell, as we will be about equal in numbers, but they will have to make the attack.

In retreating from Bull’s Run many of our boys threw away their guns and knapsacks. I have had the measles, and was not well enough to be in the battle, but was left with one hundred others to take care of the camp.

One regiment is going home this afternoon. They are called cowards by all who stay. There are many others whose time is up, but they say they will stay till old Jeff. is dead, and they have a piece of him. Good grit, don’t you think so?

If I live I am bound to have a lock of his hair. I am quite smart, and think I shall come out all right.

The enemy are fierce, and are quite sure they will whip us out, and I confess it looks as though it was going to be a hard struggle.

Wheat, corn, oats, and potatoes, and everything looks poor. I have not time now to give you a description of the country, but when the war excitement quiets down a little, I will give you a plain account of it.

We are two miles from Washington, and within two miles of a fort. We are building a brush fence around our camp. I have the rheumatism, and am excused. Many of our boys have bullet holes through their clothes and caps, and yet were not hurt. We are a hard looking set, all covered with dirt, as we have to lay in the mud. We have had hard work to get anything to eat, but we get plenty to-day.

July 25th.

This morning we find that thirteen of our men are missing: Corporals J. Hamilton and Sackett, Chas. Brown, S. McKay, McIntyre, Jason Brown, Perry, O. Wilcox and five others. We are the only regiment, so far as I can learn, but what had some of its commissioned officers killed. We have one wounded in his arm. One of our boys, after receiving a ball through his knee, got down on the other and fired over twenty times, and then retreated twenty-five miles.

We have lost out of our regiment about 200 men – a very small loss compared with some other regiments. The rebels came out and formed a line of battle with their backs toward our brigade, had the stars and stripes flying, and all supposed they were federal troops. One general told the boys not to kill their own men, and so they did not fire. All at once the rebel captain gave orders to about face, and they then fired on our men and killed many of them. The Zouaves pitched into them and cut them down. As soon as the rebels fired they raised the secession flag. F. Lee shot it down. The rebels caught it up and run. Our boys chased them until they ran into a masked battery, when they were forced to retreat.

One of our captains has a young negro slave who ran out of the rebel fort and came to him. The young darkey reports that the rebels have two regiments of slaves, but they had to be kept inside the fort to prevent their running away. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon the rebels came out with seven hundred cavalry, mostly black horses. They made a terrific charge on our men, and dashed through many regiments. The Zouaves made a stand to resist their fury, and with the help of others, killed nearly all the men, took as many of their horses as they could catch, mounted them and rode off. Our boys say the ground was strewed with swords, revolvers and implements of war. Chauncey Ehle shot a cavalry man just in time to save his own life. Clark Thomas shot one under nearly the same circumstances, but he was run over and cut off from the rest of his company. After wandering about for a while, he succeeded in securing a South Carolina charger, mounted him, and made his escape through the woods.

From your affectionate son,

W. H. Foote.

[A letter from the same writer, received to-day, dated the 26th, says: "All the officers are safe except Corporals Hamilton and Sackett. It is reported that Hamilton is in a Highland regiment, and that Sackett was shot in the chin and is in Georgetown hospital."]

Janesville Weekly Gazette and Free Press, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





“P. J. R.”, Co. D, 69th NYSM, On the Fight at Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle

25 01 2012

The annexed letter was commenced before the engagement, but finished in Fort Corcoran after the unfortunate rout: -

Centreville, Va. , July 20th, 1861.

Our position is unchanged since 7 p. m,. Thursday, and I expect we will begin to fight about 10 this morning. Several very heavy guns were placed in position. The great trouble in all this affair is, that so many were brought up to be shot at without being permitted to approach the batteries of the enemy. One regiment after another were ordered to the front, and there they had to stand and be slaughtered like sheep. Not a shot did we fire, but had to receive all that came from our enemies. The reason we did not fire was because we could see no enemy. They had a trap or masked battery (their old trick). Our men are boiling to retrieve the disasters of yesterday; some of the men and regiments of our brigade disgraced themselves by their incendiaryism on their march hither; burning houses and sacking them, shooting, stealing and killing all the live pigs, turkeys, and ducks; and supplying themselves with all the edibles in their reach. Three of us found a barrel of flour, and we started for the woods, and baked four good cakes, which were of service to us from Wednesday night till yesterday. It was darkies who cooked for us and whom I paid. There are no white people left here, all have gone with the rebel army and left their slaves behind. Col. Sherman, who commanded our brigade, has the names of forty-five men who disgraced themselves as mentioned, but not one of them belongs to the 69th. Thank God there are so few Vandals among us. The homes were completely sacked, and every article of value stolen; what could not be taken away was torn up and destroyed. This is deserving of reprobation, and it will, besides, hurt our character with our friends and enemies. Gen. McDowell has issued general orders censuring such conduct and announcing penalties for any like offence.

It was awful to see men in the heat and perspiration of a long and tedious march, under a scorching meridian sun of July, rushing by the hundreds and fighting for as much water as would wet their lips, but to nineteen twentieths of them their efforts were in vain; water was only obtainable by a very few, and they were the ones who could fight for it the best. I tried in vain from earliest dawn to 3 p.m., to get a tin-full to quench my thirst, but failed; once, when I had a cup full in my hand and was already anticipating the reward of half an hour’s patience and perseverance, my cup was wrenched from me by an unseen hand, and both cup and water “faded from my view.” Thank God, I bore it well, but went sorrowfully after my regiment; this was the first and only time I left my regiment and staid behind.

We were ordered up the narrow road leading to the masked battery, the order was given to throw away blankets and knapsacks, but the later contained all my food, and a few little valuables which I prized next to my life, and therefore I retained it, but the blanket I left beside a tree and found it fortunately on my return. The India rubber blanket is my chief protection, as it has rained every night since we came here. I place my musket on the ground and cover myself and it with the rubber blanket. Last night and the previous I was awakened by the firing of musketry, in each case bullets falling right into the ranks of our company. In the day time I was much more cool and collected than I ever thought to be, even when expecting to die by the bullets of the enemy, but this night-work is not at all to my taste. I am pleased to tell you that not one of our boys have shown the white feather. Tyler, McDowell and every officer of rank in the regular army, said that our coolness and courage was beyond all praise. Let naught be said, though, in dispraise of others, for as far as I have seen, all behaved bravely and stood to their colors.

Lieut. Dalton, of ours, was grazed in the forehead by a ball – it even turned the hat on his head and struck the man next him and sounded him severely. The flag of Sherman’s Battery was torn to ribbons, leaving nothing but the staff: but one man was killed and another wounded of the entire battery. Many poor fellows who were found wounded begged to be killed outright; still I heard but few of these cry, save when jolted over the stoney road. Col. Corcoran says our remarkable preservation was owing to “the protection of Almighty God, vouchsafed to the prayers of our good women at home;” and I endorse his opinion, and hope they will continue to pray until we are all safe and our country free from rebellion and civil war. The time of many of the regiments expired this week and last week, but as yet none have returned home, and we all feel, since we marched, that our country really needs us, and, therefore, do not complain; action is all we want if we are to stay any longer.

Capt. Meagher is winning laurels and is appointed Provost Marshal of the brigade: his bravery since Thursday, is proved.

Some of the First Massachusetts, I hear, marched clear upon the masked battery before they knew it, and had to fight with knives and revolvers; they could not use their muskets and were terribly cut up.

My feet blistered the first night’s marsh. Men drank freely of the brooks and streams where dozens were washing their bodies and clothes; the mud too was as thick as in your roads after a rain, yet all drank as if it was milk or good soup; I trust I shall never again see men so eager for drink, even officers and educated men were as greedy for it as others. I fortunately got a little vinegar from the Captain before the fight, and mixed it with water, this I kept and gave to some poor artillerymen, who needed it, when retreating from the scene of our disaster; I swallowed a little myself, dust and all, and felt greatly relieved.

P. J. R.

————

Fort Corcoran, July 23d, 1861.

I have to record to total defeat of our forces yesterday, we fought twelve hours and were marching six hours previously. A remnant of our brave regiment saved themselves by a march of fifty miles last night among the rest. Thank God, I have not even a scratch, although all my best friends are either dead or wounded or in the hands of the enemy. I am laid up and only reached here at 4 a. m. to day (over forty miles in eight hours). We were taken to the shambles to be slaughtered; we got no chance to fight, but we stood until we were more than half thinned; all we have saved is our honor. We have lost our principal officers, and have made the bravest stand during the day, save the Second Rhode island and the Fire Zouaves.

A more disastrous affair could not well be imagined – eight or ten thousand of our troops flying panic stricken and firing upon each other. My feet are black and swollen, and I feat that I shall be unfit for duty for a long time. About a hundred of us started for this place, over forty miles distant. The road was blocked up by our enemies. Our men are straggling back to camp and all are as badly off as myself. We marched in quick and double quick time over ten miles, then fought twelve hours and then made our hasty retreat when we found every other regiment flying in disorder and confusion. I turned up my pantaloons and marched just so until this morning. I was nearly the last to leave the field, but fear I did not do much good while there, save to rally round our flag, which was completely riddled; and our Colonel could not be persuaded to leave until he saw all the rest leave us. The rebel scoundrels fired upon our ambulances and dragged out the wounded. Since then we have not seen the Colonel. I am at present unable to write a full account of the affair, but shall endeavor to prepare one soon. Only about eighty-seven of our company, which numbered on hundred and twenty-two, are left, Meagher was the bravest of the brave. Pray that God may avert the destruction of our Republic.

P. J. R.

New York Irish-American, 8/3/1863

Clipping Image

Contributed by Damian Shiels





Interview: Mark Snell, “West Virginia and the Civil War”

17 11 2011

I met Mark Snell about 10 years ago at a Penn State – Mont Alto conference, sipping scotch and smoking cigars with Joe Harsh in the gazebos into the wee hours. Since then our paths have seldom crossed, though I did run into him in the Reliance Mine Saloon in Gettysburg a couple of years back. I don’t think he remembered meeting me, but he did say he was a Bull Runnings reader. Mark has a new book out from The History Press’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Series, titled West Virginia and the Civil War: Mountaineers Are Always Free, and he recently took some time to answer a few questions about it.

BR: For those who don’t already know, who is Mark Snell?

MS:  I’m a retired US Army officer, having served from 1973-1994. I currently work as a professor of history and the director of the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War at Shepherd University.  As a graduate student I studied under Herman Hattaway at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). I own and live on a circa-1832 farm just outside of Gettysburg. On July 1, 1863, two divisions of the Army of the Potomac’s 11th Corps marched down the road between my house and my barn.

BR: What got you interested in military history and the American Civil War as a line of study?

MS: I grew up in York, Pennsylvania, during the Civil War Centennial. York is about a 45-minute drive east of Gettysburg. Naturally, as a little boy I was fascinated by the monuments and cannons at Gettysburg National Military Park, and many family visits there sparked my interest. When I got older, I bought a metal detector and started digging relics, and later joined a re-enactment group. Those things really escalated my interest in the Civil War. Then, as a young army lieutenant, I was stationed in Germany, and I frequently traveled during my free time to the battlefields of the Napoleonic Wars, the Franco-Prussian War, World War I and World War II. Then, when I was a captain, I was selected to teach history at the US Military Academy. Uncle Sam sent me to graduate school prior to that assignment, and while at Rutgers University I wrote a master’s thesis on recruiting and conscription in York County, PA, during the Civil War. I was not really trained as a military historian, and in fact I taught courses in American history, not military history, at West Point. Nonetheless, I slowly gravitated towards specializing in military history, although I still consider myself a social/cultural historian.  I then became a doctoral student at UMKC, where I wrote a biography of Union general William B. Franklin for my dissertation [later published as From First to Last: The Life of Major General William B. Franklin - BR]. As I was completing my studies there, I was hired to be the director of the Civil War Center at Shepherd University. Recently, I taught for one semester in the Department of War Studies at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. There, I taught strictly military history, from the history of expeditionary operations to the history of insurgency/counterinsurgency warfare to military leadership from a historical perspective.

BR: While the West Virginia link is obvious from your connection to Shepherd University, how does your work there tie to the book? I know you have researchers working on a WV soldiers database – did the results of that study impact the book?

MS: Ever since my arrival at Shepherd, our staff has been compiling a database comprised of the transcribed military service records of West Virginia soldiers, both Union and Confederate, who fought in the Civil War. The information from the micro-filmed service records is entered, by regiment, in a special database that we created using Microsoft Access. Thus far we have entered the records of approximately 20,000 soldiers from both sides. Currently, we are entering the service records of soldiers who were assigned to the 22nd Virginia Infantry, a Confederate regiment recruited from the Kanawha Valley of modern-day West Virginia.  Since approximately 32,000 Union soldiers are credited to West Virginia, and somewhere around 20,000 (West) Virginians served in Confederate units, we still have a long way to go until the completion of that project. A few years ago we released a CD titled “Mountaineers of the Blue and Gray,” which contains historical data on West Virginia units, the battles in which they fought, key Civil War sites in West Virginia, the creation of the State of West Virginia, biographical sketches of famous or interesting West Virginia Civil War personalities, etc. The research that the staff of the George Tyler Moore Center had accomplished in constructing this CD, as well as the data gleaned from the military service records database, greatly facilitated the writing of my recent book.

BR: Was there anything that you turned up in the process of researching and writing this book that particularly surprised you (I know that’s a loaded question since you’ve been researching this topic for a long time)?

MS: Yes. I was surprised at the level and ferocity of guerilla warfare—which was then called “bushwhacking”—within the borders of the state. I found one instance where a Union soldier was ambushed and hacked to pieces and then beheaded by Confederate guerillas. In his autobiography, General George Crook remarked that the bushwhackers caused so many problems that, once captured,  they “accidentally” drowned, or “fell” and broke their necks, or were shot while “trying to escape.”

BR: Is there anything you wish had made it into the book but didn’t?

MS: I was limited by the number of words that was dictated by the publisher, but most of what I wanted to get into print actually survived the editor’s slashing.  This past semester I taught a course on West Virginia history, made necessary by the unexpected retirement of a faculty member who had taught that course for more than three decades. I only wish I had taught this course before I wrote West Virginia and the Civil War, as the knowledge I’ve gained from teaching it would have given me a better perspective for placing the war in the larger context of antebellum Western Virginia history and post-bellum West Virginia history. Also, I would have liked to have written an entire chapter on the guerilla war. Finally, because I had exceeded the publisher’s word-count limitation, I had to cut out some images.

BR: If there’s one thing about WV’s role in the Civil War that you hope people take away from this book, what is it?

MS: The one thing that people should understand is that West Virginia was the most divided state in the country—more so than Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri— with approximately 40,000 of its citizens serving as combatants (about 20,000 on each side). There were battles—particularly the ones fought in the Shenandoah Valley and within the borders of the new state, such as the 1863 clash at Droop Mountain and the 1864 battle at New Market—that pitted friends and family members against each other. Also, I think I set the record straight on the actual number of Union soldiers who enlisted in West Virginia’s Union regiments. The “official” number has always been given at approximately 32,000, but about a third of that number was made up of citizens of Pennsylvania or Ohio who came across the state border to enlist. Also, some of those 32,000 troops were men who re-enlisted in Veteran Volunteer regiments.  Older histories focusing on West Virginia and the Civil War also deflated the number of West Virginians serving in Confederate—mostly Virginia—regiments, but recent scholarship has adjusted the number upwards to approximately 20,000.

BR: Can you describe your researching and writing process?

MS: My research process for West Virginia and the Civil War was much easier than it should have been because of the ongoing research that the staff of the George Tyler Moore Center has been doing for more than a decade and a half. Nonetheless, I still used archival material and special collections found in the West Virginia University Library and the West Virginia State Archives. Plus, I used unpublished letters and other primary sources from our own library, as well as the plethora of primary sources that have made their way into print in the past few decades.  The internet also proved useful, as I was able to find on-line primary sources from reputable websites, as well as out-of-print books that have been scanned and made available on-line, such as the ones found at Google Books. The actual collection of my research notes is done on my laptop. When most of the research is completed, I write a detailed outline, and then I immediately begin writing the manuscript.  During the actual writing period I have books, photocopies and hand-written notes all over the place, usually in my dining room. The best way to describe it is “organized chaos.”

BR: What’s on tap for you?

MS: Right now I’m writing the narrative to accompany a photographic album on West Virginia and the Civil War, to be published in 2013 by West Virginia University Press, and I’m co-editing, with Ethan Rafuse, an anthology focusing on Union corps commanders, to be published by LSU Press. After those projects are finished, I’ll either write a book about the guerilla war in West Virginia, or I’ll do something completely different, like tackle a World War II subject.

The WVa guerilla war sounds particularly intriguing. Here’s hoping that we see at least one more Civil War related work from Mark before he goes traipsing off into other conflicts.








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