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

18 12 2012

Letter from Capt. DeWitt

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

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

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Head Quarters 38th Regiment N. Y. V.

Camp Scott, Shuters Hill, Fairfax Road,

Near Alexandria, Va., July 27, 1861.

Dear Sister:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cr. Murdoch’s son is our Chaplain.

Yours, &c.,

Capt. C. S. DeWitt,

38th Regiment

Elmira Weekly Advertiser, 8/10/1861

Clipping Image

Calvin S. DeWitt at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





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

17 12 2012

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

Alexandria, Va., July 23d.

Dear Father:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John.

Geneva Gazette, 8/2/1861

Clipping Image

John H. Morrison at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Capt. William H. Baird, Co. H, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

12 12 2012

The 38th in Battle.

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Heroic Conduct Of The Geneva Volunteers.

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Interesting Letter from Capt. Baird.

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Camp Scott, near Alexandria,

Head Quarters 38th Reg’t,

2d Brigade – July 23d, 1861.

Dear Brother:

We have had a battle, of which you will probably be informed before this reaches you. I saw by the last N. Y. Tribune that there was no mention of the fact our regiment belonged to the Second Brigade. We do, however, belong to it, and have proved ourselves worthy of a share of the distinction which that brigade acquired in the battle.

Never did men fight longer or with more determined courage than the 38th and the Fire Zouaves did in this battle, against overwhelming odds that we had to encounter. We were ordered to be ready to march on the morning of the 21st, at 1 o’clock. We stood ready to march from that time until half past 5 o’clock. We then started and marched about 9 miles, stopped only about 10 minutes, when we were ordered to support our battery. We followed the battery in line, dressing on our colors. We went on double quick time for about one mile. When we got within half a mile of the position to be occupied by the battery on an eminence, cannon shot and bombs went whizzing by and over our heads at the rate of 12 a minute. I took out my watch and counted them. Before we came to a halt we had to cross three fences. After we cot in range of their batteries, I never saw a rifle pointed with more accuracy than they pointed their rifled cannon. Our battery was soon unable to sustain the awful fire to which it was exposed. We were then ordered to follow and support another battery on a hill, three-fourths of a mile on our right. We went at a quick step to the position assigned us. The Massachusetts 4th, as soon as we had taken our first position – before we left to support the second battery – shamefully left us to contend alone. We had scarcely reached our second position, going the entire distance through a shower of musketry, heavy shot and shell, when our battery was knocked all to pieces by a shot from a rifled cannon, which struck a wheel of a gun carriage, killed one gunner, took off a leg from another, and killed two horses, leaving it a perfect wreck. We were lying behind a rail fence some ten rods in rear of the battery, ready to support it from a charge of the enemy’s cavalry. By this time, however, the rebels made a charge on another gun at our right. – They come out of the woods in front of us. – We were there unsupported, the Fire Zouaves were the nearest regiment to us, they being half a mile in our rear. We met the rebels in between and in front of the gun they were trying to capture, and pen cannot describe the awful scene that followed. Musket balls went through and through our ranks by hundreds. As we were then unsupported, and the enemy had about 1,000 to our 688, we were compelled fall back, which we did in tolerable order. – They followed us to our battery, by which time we had got loaded and formed pretty well. Our Col. was weak with the heat and fatigue of the march, being so sick when we left our camp the he could not keep his seat in the saddle; our Lieut. Colonel was covered with boils, but he kept the field on foot, being unable to ride; our Major was struck by a ball near the ankle, which disabled him, and he was taken prisoner. The command fell on the Captains, and some of the sustained themselves well; particularly Capt. McQuade who had a leg shot off and was taken prisoner; and Capt. McGrath. Lieut. Funk of Co. C, proved himself a hero throughout the fight. There were others who fought well; but some of the officers in all the regiments should be reduced to the ranks, and some of the privates put in their places. There are privates in my company that would fill the places with honor to themselves and credit to the State.

I mention particularly Harry Stainton, who had his right hand shattered by a musket ball, kept on loading and firing with his left hand, and did not appear excited or alarmed in the least; also Byron Stevens, D. W. Farrington, Theron Stevens, Peter D. Roe, Charles Dorchester, Wm. Barker, (shot through the knee, kept on loading and firing,) John H. Morrison, Hugh Dunigan (shot through the thigh, breaking the bone, had two fingers shot off, and was taken prisoner,) Isaac Ritche, (wounded by a musket ball in the calf of leg, but walked with difficulty, ) John Hallam, (hurt with splinter in head, still kept with his company loading and firing,) John M. Robson, (shot in neck by a spent ball, not serious – after he was wounded he shot one fellow;) Charles Stone, Charles Halsey, Henry Bogart, and Menzo W. Hoard. All of the above men proved themselves capable of going into anything however desperate.

Our flag was carried in the centre of the regiment. It dropped, some of the enemy started to get it. Byron Stevens started for it, but it was got by one of our regiment before he reached it. It had two musket balls through it, and it is safe in our hands. There are many others in my company proved brave men; hav’nt time to give all names. Not one but stood his ground and did his duty. We rallied three times and drove the enemy back into the woods. Never were muskets pointed with more deadly effect. They went down before us like grass before the mower; around one gun they were piled in heaps.

One rebel officer had been left on the field wounded in the leg. One of the men of our regiment – not one of my company, thank God – was about to bayonet him. I rushed up and struck up his musket with my sword, seized it, put my sword to his breast, told him to stop or I would run him through. The officer thanked me with a smile I shall never forget. I gave him my name and rank, and threw him a canteen of water of one of his men, who lay torn to pieces by a cannon ball, his head 10 feet from his body.

We drove them into the woods again where they had breastworks that could not be taken. We halted and poured volley after volley in upon them. Their firing ceased for about 3 minutes, when they formed behind their breastworks and opened it again. Had they fired with as much certainty as our men did, they would have swept hour whole regiment completely away. – The balls fell in and around us like hail. By this time the Ellsworth Zouaves had reached the field. They were soon compelled to fall back, the rebels having been re-inforced.

I can give no correct account of the number of killed and wounded, but they lay as thick as leaves around us. Pen cannot describe the scene. We fell back, advanced the second time – were compelled to fall back again; and thus we continued to fight for two-and-a-half hours; when the enemy were re-inforced by some 5,000 men, and brought another battery to bear on our flank. We were then compelled to fall back on the main body. By this time the Brooklyn regiment (Ward Beecher’s “pet lambs” – and lambs they are, indeed) – came up. They had scarcely fired their muskets before they ran like sheep down the hill.

I came across our Colonel. He could hardly stand on his feet, and being so weak he could not mount a horse, and if helped in his saddle, unable to retain his seat. I gave him some water, got him on a horse and kept him on until we arrived at our camp, a distance of 10 miles. He would swoon every few minutes and totter in his saddle. I would arouse him, and give him some water, which would revive him for a while.

Capt. McQuade of our regiment had one leg shot off and was taken prisoner. Lieut. Brady had his arm terribly shattered by a Minnie ball. I came near being shot by own men. – A field officer was knocked from his horse but not much hurt. The horse ran right in front of my company as we were lying behind the fence where we were ordered to protect the second battery – the one that was struck by a shot. The officer was running around the field for a horse, seeing which , I ordered my men not to fire until I got the horse. They had not fired a gun for some time. I had scarcely reached the animal, some five rods distant, when the whole front rank opened fire. The horse was shot in four or five different places while I had him by the bridle. I left him and ran towards my men. When I got to the fence the rear rank commenced firing. The fence was low, and I threw myself flat on top of it and rolled off towards the men. How I escaped being shot, God only know.

Wadsworth of our State, who was prominently talked of for Governor last fall, is a volunteer Aid to Gen. McDowell. There was never a braver man lived. I could not but admire the courage he displayed in the battle. – He rode along and through the lines with the same calm mien he would at a review, giving orders with a clear and steady voice, as if he were directing some ordinary business. He is worthy of a higher position.

Through the mercy of Divine Providence I escaped unhurt – worried out, all but my courage, which is as good as ever. I only feel out of humor at our being obliged to retreat.

I give below a list of the killed and wounded of my company:

John Orman of Geneva, killed.

Luther L. Mills, of Orcott Creek, Pa., both hands shot off.

Hugh F. Dunnigan, of N. Y., shot through the thigh and 2 fingers off – taken prisoner.

Wm. Barker, of New York, shot through the thigh – is in hospital.

Harry L. Stainton, Geneva, musket ball thro’ the right hand.

John M. Robson, Stanley Corners – shot thro’ the neck – slight wound.

Norton Schermerhorn, Flint Creek – hurt in the side by a spent ball – not seriously.

John Hallam, N. York, and Englishman – cut on the head, not serious.

Isaac L. Ritchie, Ferguson’s Corners – wounded in calf of leg, not seriously.

The following are missing, supposed to have been taken prisoners:

John Lamphier and Wm. Ross, both of Geneva.

From your brother,

W. H. Baird,

Commanding Co. H,

38th Reg’t, 2d Brigade

Geneva Gazette, 8/2/1861

Clipping Image

William H. Baird at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





A Trophy From Manassas (Co. B, 8th Louisiana Infantry)

24 10 2011

Captain A Larose, of the Bienville Rifles, has sent home to Hon. S. P. Delabarre, of this city, the flagstaff and tassel of the notorious New York Zouave Regiment, which will be presented to the Sons of Louisiana Association, at the request of the captors.

The company are all in good health, and ready to meet and help run the enemy again.

The Daily Delta, 8/7/1861.
Jackson Barracks – Historical Military Data on Louisiana Militia, Vol. 113, p. 54.





Captain Alexander Wilkin, Co. A, 1st MN, On the Battle

3 08 2011

Camp Gorman
July 23, 1861

Dear Father

I telegraphed yesterday immediately upon our arrival supposing you would feel uneasy upon hearing the result of the action at Bull Run. I got in yesterday morning. The Colonel with the rest of the regiment proceeded to Washington and were stopped at Georgetown. I came on here and am in command of the Camp. The night before the action I could not sleep as I had no blanket and the weather was very cold. We started at 2 1/2 in the morning, marched 15 miles to the battle field (I having a severe cramp in the stomach and a sprained knee), fought for several hours and then walked back here 40 miles by the next morning and I am now as good as ever. I walked at least 60 miles in 26 hours. The day was disastrous but as for myself personally and in fact the Regiment is concerned have nothing to regret.

We were ordered to the support of Rickett’s battery but as we were passing around them and they were unlimbering their guns the batteries of the enemy commenced playing upon them. Not fifteen minutes after Capt. Ricketts, his 1st Lieut., about 100 out of the 120 men and the same number of horses were killed on the spot. Col. Heintzelman, the Commander of our brigade, rode up and said that he had ordered up a regiment (I did not understand which) which had refused to come up and ordered us up to a wood where a body of men lay. We fired into the woods and the enemy’s riflemen fired upon our left within 60 yards of us. A large number of our men fell but only 3 of mine were wounded. Heintzelman’s aid then ordered us to fall back upon the woods but I did not hear the command and supposed the regiment had got into a panic. I had determined before I went into action that my Co. should never retreat — by order. I gave the command, “Co. “A” stand fast” and part of my first platoon stood fast. We saw a Mississippi regiment on our left. We turned and fired upon them for some time knocking them down right and left when it was said that they were our friends. They were only about 75 yards from us. They raised their hands and said that they were friends. I ordered the men to cease firing. One of them came up and I went up and spoke to him and asked if they were friends. He said they were. I asked what regiment and he said Mississippi. Some one said they wanted to deliver themselves up. I again ordered the men to cease firing; but shortly after one of my men fell by my side. I told the men to fire away and I borrowed a musket and fired myself. The enemy retreated and I and a few of my men followed. We fell in with Major Larsen of the Zouaves and some of his men and went in together. I took one prisoner and sent him off after taking his gun, shortly after two of the enemy jumped up. I fired upon one of them and he fell dead. I met several wounded men whom the Zouaves wanted to kill but I ordered them off and called upon the Major to prevent them, telling him his regiment would be disgraced by such conduct — when he interfered. I took a loaded gun from one of the Mississippians and left mine. I fired shortly after and think I hit. I only fired three times as I was obliged to be constantly among the men giving them orders.

At length we came to a road and looking over the other side of the field beyond I saw a long body of Cavalry. Thinking however they might be our own men I ordered our men not to fire. I felt tolerably certain they were the enemy and drew up to fire once but desisted. About this time there was heavy firing in our rear which I supposed came from our friends as we had chased the enemy ahead of us. I called upon them to desist and told them they were firing upon their friends but the firing continued and I saw there was no chance to get through. I then told the Zouave Major that we had better follow up the road until we got beyond the line of firing. He told me to go on first which I did but finding the fire hotter the further we went, turned and went in the other direction, where the firing was less. After a while as I was going up a little hill I saw a large body of the enemy drawn up in a line. I stepped back out of sight and followed a lane up a ravine and looked to see who were ahead. Seeing a large body of men drawn up to the left and supposing them to be the same which had fired on us in the woods, I walked up to them passing a wounded officer of our army who begged me to help him up. I said my poor man I would but you are heavy and I am not strong enough, but I will endeavor to get you help. I then called to the troops nearby and told them they had been firing upon their friends. But just as I spoke I saw by their uniforms they were enemies. I then turned leisurely to the right when I found another body. I was hemmed in and had no resource but to go through the gap which I did with a cross fire upon me from both. I did not think it possible to escape, the balls were falling around me like hail. I was made exhausted and soon laid down under cover of the bank at a little stream, between the enemy and a body of our own men on the opposite hill.

After resting a while I went a little further to where there were several Zouaves and several Michigan men who were firing. One of them threw his canteen to me and I took a drink. Our men retreated or moved on. When I got up and moved on a little further to the woods, soon there was a general retreat. After a while I saw Col. Heintzelman and told him I did not know where the Regiment was and asked him if I could be of any service. He said no, and that he had seen our colors to the right. I went back and tried to find them bout could not. We saved our colors. Our Regiment was the farthest in the advance and bore the most severe fire. After the order to retreat they and the Zouaves got mixed up and rallied and charged three times sustaining sever loss. I never saw such coolness. The men with me were perfectly cool and took deliberate aim killing great numbers of the enemy, many of them smiling and laughing all the time. I had a good many hunters and troopers and scouts. I had but one officer along with me, Lieut. Welch who is of Co. “F” who rallied part of his men and fought with me. A braver, cooler little fellow I never saw. Some of our men killed 3, 4, and 5 of the enemy. Some of them as they fired would turn to me and say Captain, I dropped that fellow, and I would turn and see them fall. They must have killed or severely wounded most of them as they were good marksmen and took deliberate aim. In my shots I never took better aim at a bird.

Some of the Germans in the rear fired wild and I had constantly to caution them against shooting our own men in front. Poor Welch I am afraid is gone. He was wounded twice and I think must have been left. He may be a prisoner. One of my men took a lt. Col. of the Mississippi. He rode up supposing us to be Georgians. There is no doubt our Regiment and the Zouaves deserve more credit than any other troops in the field, but we are Western men and won’t get the credit. I have not seen Gorman after we drew up at the woods. Lt. Col. Miller behaved nobly. As far as I can learn more credit is given to me than any other officer, but I yield to young Welch. It is generally said that after the first fire men become reckless and do not realize their danger but I did not get enough excited and felt my danger all the while. Whenever I could conveniently get a tree or other object between me and the enemy I did so and probably save my life by it. A battle like that is a terrible affair. The firing of the artillery and musketry is perfectly fearful.

As we filed off from the road to support the battery a shell struck near me under the horses of one of the batteries. Going in a little further a six pound ball passed close to my feet. Many of our men and officers had very narrow escapes. Many of them having several balls through their clothes, canteens, etc. Capt. McCune was killed at the first fire. We do not know how many men and officers are lost. A great many are missing. Most of our regiment are at Washington, but I remain in our old camp in command with about 125. I have about 25 men missing and among those present quite a number are wounded.

Love to all.

Send to Weck.

Yours affly.

Alex

Transcription and letter image at Minnesota Historical Society





Lt. Edward Burgin Knox and the 11th New York at Bull Run

25 07 2011

Eastern Intelligence *

The Eastern papers are still full of the battle of Bull Run. We select from the mass of extracts from their columns, the following additional details and incidents:

Ellsworth’s Zouaves at Bull Run.

The following statement of the part borne in the battle of Bull Run by the Fire Zouaves, was furnished by Lieut. Knox of Company A, in that regiment. Lieut. Knox was a member of the famous Chicago Zouaves. When Colonel Ellsworth took charge of the regiment in New York he summoned Knox to join him, and gave him a lieutenancy. He says:

The regiment was encamped on Saturday night at a place about a mile this side of Centreville. At 2 o’clock on Sunday morning the men were aroused and remained under arms until 7 o’clock, at which time they started forward. There were 950 men, all told, with “Pony” Farnham at their head. With cheers they moved briskly forward through the woods, singing and laughing and eager for the fight. They had marched about fourteen miles, and were within three miles of the battle-field, when they heard the guns and saw the smoke from an eminence. This excited the men wonderfully, and at a double-quick step they pressed on, with the intention of joining Col. Wilcox, who, with the Michigan regiment, was a short way ahead. Halting at a pool of dirty water, they refreshed themselves, and went on until they came to a church three-quarters of a mile this side of the battle-field, where they left their overcoats and haversacks, and having formed by companies, again went on at double-quick step.

As they passed a bit of woods they were fired at by some cavalry who were concealed there, but stopping only to return the fire, they moved on until they reached a fair halting ground. While there, the enemy succeeded in taking from the United States regulars a battery which was stationed in the woods at the right of the Zouaves, who were at once impressed with the idea that they had a mission, and that mission was to retake those guns. Whereupon with a wild, wild yell, three cheers and a loud, fierce cry of “Remember Ellsworth,” they dashed across the intervening space, rushed in the face of a murderous discharge from the cannon on the hill, and with loud whoops and hurrahs drove some away, killed the rest, occupied the position. and attempted to use the guns. The regulars did not return to receive at their hands the recaptured battery, and it was useless in their hands. While in possession of this battery a body of infantry who were in the woods in their right rear, fired with considerable effect several volleys into their midst, and the Colonel gave the order to leave the battery and dislodge the enemy. This they did effectually, and compelled the rebels to flee from the wrath behind. Unfortunately, the Zouaves were not aware of the state of affairs on the other side of the woods, and with hot haste, and in considerable disorder, they rushed out only to find themselves the target of another body of infantry beyond, while the Black Horse Cavalry were seen charging full upon them. Things looked badly, when, fortunately, the infantry were engaged by another regiment, thus giving the Zouaves time to prepare for the charge from horsemen. They formed hastily in line, kneeling, semi-kneeling and standing, that, Ellsworth fashion, they might receive their enemies with successive volleys.

On came the horse-a full regiment of brave men, splendidly mounted, and as ready for mischief as those on whom they hoped to fall. To an early discharge from the cavalry the Zouaves made no response, although several of the men were killed, but waited patiently until the enemy was almost upon them, when in quick succession, the three ranks fired, each man doing his best for the good cause. The shock to the rebels was great, but they rallied, behaving splendidly, and attempted a renewal of the charge, for which, however, the excited firemen were prepared, and for which the Black Horse Cavalry paid most dearly. They were completely shattered, broken up and swept away. Not more than a hundred of them rode off, and as they went their rebellious ears were saluted with “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, tiger, Zouave,” and such a “tiger repeat” as one can only appreciate when he has heard it. What happened after that, it is hard to detail. Grape and canister were poured in upon them thick and fast. Down on their faces till the shot passed on fell every man, and then “up and at ‘em” till the next volley, was the cry of them all. This continued for a long time, during which squad after squad was used up, man after man fell dead, or receiving a shot while on the ground, failed to rise at the next command. Then came the order to retreat, which slowly and gradually was obeyed. The regiment broke ranks-some of the men walked slowly off; others went into the woods and fought from behind trees on their own hook; others falling in with different regiments, joined forces against the common enemy, and others climbed the trees to see “what was up.” While in the woods the slaughter amongst the men was very great, and the cross fire to which they were exposed did the greatest damage than all else beside. The retreat was with them as with all the regiments-not particularly an orderly one, but rather a free and easy retrograde movement, which, if not a stampede or a rout, was at least a very unmilitary movement.

* Wisconsin Weekly Patriot, August 3, 1861

Notes





Letter From the Fire Zouaves

20 07 2011

Here are two accounts from a member of the 11th New York Infantry, Lieutenant Edward Burgin Knox (that’s him on the left in the image on the left, when he was with the 44th NY, Ellsworth’s Avengers). Both are provided by Ron Coddington, the first in a New York Times Opinionator piece, and the second on Ron’s blog, Faces of War. Knox’s writing appeared in the Wisconsin Patriot on August 3, 1861. Ron generously provided the photo here and also has sent me a transcription of Knox’s account, which I’ll post to the Resources section soon.








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