George Palmer Putnam, Publisher, On the Retreat, With Incidents of the Battle

29 08 2014

The Affair of the Twenty-First.

George P. Putnam, the publisher, was an eye witness of the retreat of Sunday and Monday, and says:

The reports of a disorderly retreat of our main army are grossly untrue. A brief statement of a small part of what I witnessed will show this.

Mr. Tilley of Rhode Island and myself accompanied the De Kalb Regiment[*] from Alexandria in the cars to the Fairfax station on the Manassas Gap Railroad; we reached there at 10 A.M. Heavy cannonading was steadily going on. While the regiment waited for orders we walked forward on the track till within five miles of Manassas Junction. A scout was there sending hourly reports to General Scott of the firing. Returning, as the regiment still halted, a party of four of us, with a soldier, walked on the Fairfax Court House three miles, and thence on the road to Centreville.

About f o’clock we began to meet buggies and wagons with visitors returning to Washington. All reported that the day was ours, and rode on jubilant, until, at half past 4, an officer on horseback, riding fiercely, said, with emphasis, “No, no, it’s going against us.” The firing had ceased.

Near Centreville, between two long hills, we suddenly saw army wagons and private vehicles coming down before us in hot haste – a few soldiers on horseback mixed in with the crowd. Looking back we w found a regiment coming fresh from Fairfax in “double quick.”

Mr. Russel, of the London Times, was on horseback among the first from the battle.

The New Jersey Colonel instantly formed his men across the road, and resolutely turned back every soldier in the road, and in twenty minutes perfect order was restored, and the whole flight of the vehicles was shown to be absurd, so much so that we waited two hours at that spot, drawing water for the poor wounded men, who began to limp along from the field; only two or three ambulances to be seen.

At half past six, two hours after the battle was over, we started [?] [?] back to Fairfax Court House, [?] [?] [?] four wounded soldiers into the wagon.

Those who were [?] [?] [?] [?] got by the Jersey boys, were stopped by a company of the Michigan Fourth, from Fairfax, and compelled to turn back.

At Fairfax Court House we quietly took supper at the tavern, and never [dreaming] of any disorderly retreat, we were supplied with good beds; we undressed and went to sleep at 11 P.M. At three o’clock Monday morning, finding the wagons were moving on the Alexandria, we started again and walked quietly along with them to Alexandria, doing what little we could to aid the men more or less slightly wounded, or worn out, including some from the hospital – for still there was scarcely an ambulance to be seen.

But on the whole road from Centerville to Alexandria, I am confident that there were not five hundred soldiers in all, between 6 P.M. and day-light; so that it is grossly untrue that the whole army made a hasty retreat. On the contrary, all seemed to be certain that a stand was made at Centerville, of the whole of our main body, excepting only the stragglers from this first panic. The panic was explained by several who agreed it was purely accidental.

I talked with at least forty from Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin regiments who gave me some thrilling incidents of different parts of the field – which I have no time to tell now – many grumbled at [?] [?], but all seemed plucky, and said that our troops could beat the rebels easily in an open fight, and would do it yet – but the masked batteries on one side and the blunders on ours had “done for us this time.” I reached Alexandria at seven – having walked forty miles.

– The following incidents of the battle form the first chapter of the volume of history and legend that will grow out of it:

– A spectator of the [?] tells me that the Zouaves literally decimated the Black Horse Cavalry, the celebrated rebel troop. About the middle of the battle the Zouaves fired by platoon upon the rebel infantry stationed in the woods. After they had fired they discovered a troop of horse coming down on their rear. — They carried the American flag, which deceived Col. Heintzelman, and made him believe they were United States Cavalry, and  he so told the Zouaves. As they came nearer, their true character was discovered, but too late for all the Zouaves to reload. The regiment faced and received the cavalry as they came down, with leveled bayonets which threw them into confusion. Then away went muskets, and the Zouaves went in withe their knives and pistols. They seized horses and stabbed their riders. In this hand-to-hand conflict the Black Horse Troop were handled in their own preferred way of fighting. — The [?] showed the Zouaves to be the most expert handlers of the knife. When the fight was over, there were not twenty of the four hundred cavalry left alive. Men and horses had been cut to pieces by the infuriated red-shirts. This troop of cavalry had boasted they would picket their horses in the grounds of the White House.

– Mr. Russel of The London Times, who witnessed at Inkerman and elsewhere in the Crimea the fiercest infantry charges on record, says they were surpassed by those of our Firemen Zouaves, Sixty-ninth, and other regiments. The best fighting ever done on the globe was that by a large portion of the defenders of the [?] at Bull’s Run.

– Our greatest deficiency was in cool and [???]. The men fought [?] and were ready for anything which experienced commanders would order them to do. Gen. McDowell behaved admirably. He was active, [?] and attended to everything in person as far as possible; but he had not a sufficient staff, and was not properly supported by his subordinates. — Major Wadsworth of New York, one of his aids, showed the utmost gallantry and devotion. He exerted himself to rally the forces when they first fell back, and towards the close, after having his horse shot under him, seized the colors of the wavering New York Fourteenth, and called on the boys to rally once more for another charge, but without success. Major Wadsworth, as the Army retreated, remained at Fairfax Court House, and devoted himself to purchasing everything needful for the wounded. of whom about a hundred and fifty were at that place.

– A number of the Second New York saw the rebel sharp-shooters fire upon and kill two vivandieres who were giving [?] and [?] to the wounded. The rebels also shout at ambulances bringing off the wounded. They also fired point blank at the buildings used as hospitals, and it is said by some that they fired the buildings.

– Lieut. Col. Haggerty of the Sixty-ninth, was killed in a charge. When his body was found, his throat was cut from ear to ear, and his ears and nose were cut off. Many of the sounded were found thus disfigured.

– A member of the New York Sixty-ninth says:

Thos. Francis  Meagher was the most conspicuous man on the field, riding on a white horse, with his hat off, and going into the battle most enthusiastically. At one time our regimental color was taken, and Meagher seized the green flag of Ireland, and went to the front, leading the men to the charge. The color was recaptured, the enemy was driven back, and the we formed in hollow square, by orders, and retreated steadily off the ground.

– A Union man living near Fairfax assured our informants he had seen the intrenchments at Manassas, and that there were nine miles of batteries there.

– The number of killed and wounded is got by Gen. Mansfield at less than 1,000, and by Gen. McDowell at from 500 to 700.

– Senator Lane, of Indiana, gives it as his opinion that the reason of the panic was an order given to the batteries to return to a certain point for ammunition, and this apparently retreating movement of batteries produced consternation and panic. By other the order to retreat, which assisted to change the fortunes of Sunday, is ascribed to Gen. Miles, of the Army, who commanded the fifth division.

– The Zouaves, after taking one battery, were rushing upon another , when those behind it cried out, “For God’s sake, don’t shoot your brothers.” Upon this, the Zouaves reserved their fire, until artillery was poured in upon them by the battery from which the supplications had come.

– It is well authenticated that in several instances our men fired upon each other. Company [?] of the Thirty-eighth Regiment New York Volunteers, suffered severely form such a mischance.

– When the colors of the Sixty-ninth were captured by the Virginians, two of them seized the flags and were going off with them, when Lieut. Matthews, of Company K, Fire Zouaves, fired and killed both the Virginians, and recovered the flags.

– Capt. Wildey, of Company I, Zouaves, killed two out of four Mississippians who were dragging a gun. All our men agree in representing that the rebel infantry will not stand a fair fight, even with three to our one. They gave way whenever attacked, when not supported by artillery.

– There is every reason now to believe, from concurrent reports, that a retreating panic seized the confederate army at the same time some of our regiments began their hasty and wild exodus from the scene of carnage.

– Capt. T. F. Meagher had a horse shot under him, but is untouched. All out losses were in advancing – none in falling back. There was no panic in front. This was confined mainly to the wagon drivers, straggling soldiers and fugitive officers, and the rear of the column.

– Our loss in field pieces is not so great as heretofore estimated. Every gun of Capt. Ayres’ battery, formerly Sherman’s, was brought off safe – only some caissons being lost. The loss of baggage wagons will not exceed fifty. In small arms, our loss is at least three thousand.

– The Colonels of our regiments appear to have been in the thickest of the fight, if we may judge by the casualties. The returns show four killed and seven wounded. There were thirty-six in the engagement, which gives a ratio of one in three killed or wounded.

– Gen. Cameron, who went to Manassas intending to witness the battle, was so impressed with  the doubtful character of the attempt to force the enemy’s position, that he returned in haste to Washington to [?], if possible, the orders which had been issued for an attack, but arrived too late. He immediately pressed forward, however, all the available troops to strengthen the Reserve Corps. Our officers had little hope of winning the battle, on Saturday night. A prominent Member of Congress who was there, after an interview with General McDowell and his aids, wrote down his conviction that we should lose it, and that the commanding General was hopeless at the commencement of the battle. We learn from another source that this was the general feeling among the officers. One captain remonstrated against the madness of the assault. Gen. McDowell said that a victory at this juncture was so important, that a great risk must be run to win it.

– It is believed the loss of the Fire Zouaves will not exceed 100, and that of the N.Y. 71st 60. Stragglers are continually coming in, but they are scattered through the different camps, so that the muster roles of different regiments can not yet be arranged, and the exact losses ascertained.

– A prisoner who was brought in, in the course of the battle, declared that Gen. Johnston was shot, and fell from his horse at his feet. When Col. Burnside fell from his killed horse, he conversed for a moment with a rebel officer, who asked him whether he was wounded, when he replied, “Only slightly.” “I am mortally wounded,” said the rebel, “and can have no object in deceiving you. I assure you that we have 90,000 men in and within forty minutes of Manassas Junction.”

– The New York Herald’s dispatch says:

The whole of Sherman’s battery is saved.

Col. Blenker, commanding a brigade in the division of Col. Miles, which brought up the rear of the retreating column, picked up on the way the guns of Burnside’s R.I. regiment that had been left behind, and brought them in. The horses had been detached for the purpose of bringing in the wounded.

Hon. Alfred Ely, of the Rochester district, and his companion on the field, Mr. Bing, have not been heard of since the battle. They were last seen near one of the batteries, and are supposed to have been taken prisoners.

Capt. Griffin lost 60 of the horses attached to his battery, but brought away one gun and the forge.

If a stand had been made at Centerville, the enemy would probably never have discovered the advantage accidentally gained.

Col. McCunn, of the 37th N.Y. regiment, is in command at Fort Ellsworth. His brigade consists of the 37th New York, Lieut Col. Burke commanding, the 14th, 16th, 26th, 15th and [?] New York [???].

Col. Corcoran, of the 69th Irish Regiment, and Capt Edward A. Wild, Massachusetts regiment, are missing. It is feared that Corcoran is dead.

Lieut. Chandler, Co. A., Massachusetts 1st, is not dead as reported.

Ellsworth Zouaves punished the Black Horse Rangers very severely by lying flat on the ground feigning death, until they were almost upon them, when rising and giving one of their fiendish war yells, each Zouave picked his man and fired, decimating the detachment, and stampeding their horses without riders.

Oneida [Utica, New York] Weekly Herald, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

George P. Putnam Wikipedia (G. P. was the grandfather of his namesake publisher and husband of aviator Amelia Earhart.)

* 41st New York Infantry, in Runyon’s Division





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

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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

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William H. Baird at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. George Plaskett, Co. E, 14th New York State Militia, On the Battle

29 11 2012

From the War.

Mr. James Plaskett has received a very interesting letter from his son, who was in the fight Sunday, as a member of the 14th regiment New York militia. We make a few extracts. He says:

We had to march about 17 miles over a rough road, and without stopping, as our division was behind time. The last mile and a half we were put forward in double quick time, so that we went into action tired out. After fighting until our artillery ammunition – 2600 rounds – was used up, we had to retreat, and fall back for some six miles, to a point leading out of the wood, where we received a murderous fire from the enemy, which proved very disastrous, killing our Colonel, and wounding one Lieut. Colonel. One of the most inhuman occurrences which we were compelled to witness that day, was the destruction of a building erected by us for a temporary hospital. The building was about a mile from the batteries, and was filled with the wounded and dying, and they were also lying all around the outside of the building. The rebels pointed their guns, and threw bomb-shells into the building, which blew it up and killed all who were in and around the building. A negro regiment came on to the field after the fight was over, and killed all those who showed signs of life.

The sight upon the battle-field, in view of the carnage, was a sad one to me: legs, arms, and heads off.

There were only 18,000 of our troops in the engagement, against 80,000 or 90,000 of the rebels. We were on the move from 2 A. M. Sunday till Monday noon; fought five hours, and marched 60 miles.

Hartford Daily Courant, 7/27/1861

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George Plaskett at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. Caleb H. Beal, Co. H, 14th New York State Militia, On the Battle

25 06 2012

Arlington Va, Camp Porter

July 23rd, 1861

Dear Parents,

Thank God my life is spared, which is a miracle I assure you. The last letter I wrote you was the day before we marched to the battle field we, started at 2 O Clock that night and marched until 10 O Clock the next morning, and then were engaged in one of the most terrific battles ever fought in this country without stopping to rest at all, and we were all tired out when we arrived, we dropped our blankets and haversacks tore down fences, and rushed right up a steep hill to the enemies batteries.

I have often read of battles but never thought I should see the horror of war, which I did yesterday. I have seen enough. I pray and hope I may never witness such a again, but we are in for the war and may have to be in another battle before 3 weeks.

We fought bravely and the 14th as hard as any other regiment, but we were all obliged to retreat with a great haste, we are all back to our old camps that is those who are alright, all jaggered out having marched all night and yesterday through woods swamps and a hard march it was as we were afraid we should be cut off by the enemy, and if we had been it would have made an awful for all of us. We were in such confusion my legs are all swollen and my feet blistered and if you could look at our camp this morning, you would see a lot of dirty tired and limping lot of soldiers. It rained when we reached our camp and we all laid down and slept just as we were having all lost our blankets.

The rebels are the most cowardly I’d ever heard of. They actually came out of the woods and bayoneted our wounded, and the report is this morning that they have burned up the building where our wounded quartered. The rebels were all concealed in what is called masked batteries being ditches 14 feet deep in the edge of woods and you can not see them until you come right upon them. They say they extend for 3 miles and every little way is a battery. If they had come out in the field in a fair fight we should have cut them up awfully, but they had every advantage of us, they are very tricky. They came out and waved the American Flag and enticed our men to rally thinking it was our troops and when we got near them they drop the flag and fired on us doing awful damage.

We did not have so many men as we expected as one brigade which was to attack the batteries at another front from us were led 10 miles out of the way by their guide. Our Colonel was wounded and I helped to carry him on a litter for a good ways, he I think is not dangerous, although he did not speak and looked like a corpse, every one in the regiment is rejoicing over his narrow escape.

As we fought for 5 hours amid shower of cannon balls, grape shot bomb shells and bullets, at one time we were slipping down and marching up a hill to avoid the fire, when the 71 st reg. of NY mistook us for the enemy and poured a volley in to us, which you can judge somewhat of when I tell you that 6 or 8 of us were all in a heap in the dirt and the bullets striking nothin’ a fool of us. One of my mess mates had his cap taken off by a cannon ball. We made 3 rallys up the hill. But the enemy could not be got at. The zouaves were cut up awful! Our Major Jourdan was one of the bravest officers on the field riding and leading us on with, now boys “recollect your uniform, Brooklyn, and the Flag of your country.” With cannon balls striking all about him, we all thought that the enemy took him for Gen’l Mc Dowell as they kept up a continual fire at him, but it was the will of divine Providence that he should not be shot.

You will see all the publications in the paper which will give you statistics of numbers more accurate than I can, get the NY Times or Herald if you can.

When I woke up last night I found your letter laying beside me and was glad to hear from you. I read it and fell back to sleep again, and slept till this morning. This is all I can write now. I’am so tired and exhausted, tell the girls I received their letter, but had not time to answer it. Give my love to all and when I get settled I will try and write a gain.

Your affectionate son C H Beal

Excuse haste

P.S. Send some newspapers if you please.

We have marched altogether for the last 3 days 70 miles.

One in the regiment is rejoicing over his narrow escape.

—————–

Transcription courtesy and with permission of The Red Legged Devil

Original in the private collection of Anthony Dellarocca, Genealogist and Historian with the 14th Brooklyn Co. E (Living History Group)





JCCW Barbarities – Lewis Francis

7 05 2012

Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 3, pp. 477 – 478

Brooklyn, NEW York, April 16,1862.

LEWIS FRANCIS, being sworn, testified that he resides in Hamilton street, near Park avenue, in the city of Brooklyn; was at the battle of Bull Run as a private in the 14th regiment New York volunteers. As I was loading my musket I was attacked by two rebel soldiers and wounded in the right knee joint with a bayonet, when I fell. As I lay on the ground they kept bayonetting me until I received fourteen wounds; one of them then left, the other remaining over me, when a Union soldier coming up shot him in the breast, and he fell dead. I lay on the ground until about 10 o’clock the next day. I was then removed in a wagon to a building used as a temporary hospital. My wounds were then examined and partially dressed. On the Saturday following we were removed to the Manassas depot, and from there we were removed to the general hospital at Richmond. In October, my leg having partially mortified, I consented that it should be amputated, which operation was performed by a young man. I insisted that they should allow Dr. Swalm to be present. I wanted one Union man to be present if I died under the operation. The stiches and the band slipped from neglect, and the bone protruded, and about two weeks after another operation had to be performed, at which time another piece of the thigh bone was sawed off. About six weeks after the amputation, and before it healed, I was removed from the general hospital to the tobacco factory. On my removal from the prison to Fortress Monroe another operation was performed, when five pieces of bone were removed. I remained five weeks at this hospital, when I was removed to Washington and spent a week in the hospital at that place, when I was removed to Brooklyn, where an operation was performed by Dr. Lewis Bauer, who removed two splinters of bone and sawed off another piece of the thigh bone. Whilst at Manassas I recived for food but a small amount of boiled rice and hard bread. At Richmond, whilst in the general hospital, I was well fed; at the tobacco factory I had a small amount of sour bread and tough fresh beef. I should have perished for want, but a lady named Van Lew sent her slave every other day with food, and supplied me with clothing until January, when the officer in charge of the prison prevented her from sending me any more provisions. After they had removed me from the general hospital to the tobacco factory, they returned and removed the bed from under me, and removed all the pillows and bed clothing, and laid me on a blanket on a cot, with another blanket to cover me. At this time I was covered with bed sores, having lain in bed from July up to this time, December.





JCCW Barbarities – Dr. William F. Swalm

2 05 2012

Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 3, pp. 472 – 474

WASHINGTON, April 7, 1862.

Dr. WILLIAM F. SWALM sworn and examined.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Where is your residence?

Answer. No. 28 East Warren street, Brooklyn.

Question. What is your position in the army?

Answer. Assistant surgeon of the 14th regiment, New York State militia.

Question. Were you at the battle of Bull Run?

Answer. I was.

Question. Were you made prisoner there?

Answer. Yes, sir; at Sudley church.

Question. Will you state what you know in reference to the treatment of those of our soldiers who were taken prisoners?

Answer. I was there attending to the wounded when some cavalry rode up and took myself and eight or nine other surgeons prisoners. We remained there until Monday afternoon at 5 o’clock, when we were removed from the church and taken to Manassas. There were some 300 wounded men in the church and on the ground outside. When we got to Manassas we were told that it was unintentional the taking us there and keeping us from the wounded. On Tuesday morning we were ordered to be taken back. On the way back I was detailed to the old Lewis house, and I attended to the wounded there in conjunction with Dr. Norval, of the 79th New York. On Wednesday morning I was told by a captain, as I judged from the uniform he wore, there were two of our men alive, but wounded, still on the field. He pointed up towards the Henry house, and told me that I had better go and get them down. I asked him if I was allowed to do so. He said I was, and gave me a guard of two men. I went up there, and there I saw the most of our men buried. I was there surrounded by some civilians, who were very insulting, until a chaplain came to my rescue and told me that I must go to Manassas again. I was then placed behind a cavalry soldier and taken to Manassas, where I was taken before General Beauregard again. I arrived there at, perhaps, 12 o’clock on Wednesday. He kept me there until, perhaps, 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and then gave me a pass to go and attend to the wounded again. On my way back I was fortunate enough to get into a wagon. It turned off towards the other Lewis house, and I went in there, and saw Dr. Homiston. On Thursday Dr. Homiston was sent off with Colonel Wood, and I did not see him again until I saw him in Richmond. The rebels removed all their wounded, and left me alone entirely with several of our wounded—Captain Ricketts, Captain Withington, and others. The food we had was very scanty, consisting principally of hard crackers, and hardly enough of them to subsist upon. There was a Major Creecy there, who was a relative of Mrs. Ricketts or some of her family, and through him we got something for our wounded men. He was stationed behind the last house on the field. It was in that house that the operations on Prescott and others were performed. The time arrived for us to go to Manassas and from there to Richmond. We went on—Captain and Mrs. Ricketts, Dr. Lewis, and myself. Corporal Prescott, Colonel Wilcox, and others had gone on previously. Upon arriving at Manassas we remained there until evening, and then proceeded to Richmond—being twenty-four hours on the way. There was one death occurred on the way while in the cars from inattention, and was thrown from the cars while they were in motion. It is true they said they would see the body buried. We arrived in Richmond at ten o’clock at night, under charge of a second lieutenant, who took us before Adjutant General Cooper. General Cooper told us to go where we pleased, and to report ourselves to him on Monday at 9 o’clock. We left, and could not get into any of the hotels, they were so crowded. I found my way down to a tobacco warehouse at the foot of Main street. I went in there and made arrangements to remain there altogether, and attended to the wounded there on Sunday. On Monday morning, after some little trouble, I managed to get to see General Cooper, who told me to come again on Tuesday. I did not, however, go there again on Tuesday, but went to the prison and remained there. During my sojourn in the prison there, I was sitting one day leaning back with my feet upon the window sill, when the sentry outside called out to me to take them in; I got up and looked out of the window, and saw the sentry with his musket cocked and pointed towards me. Being cautioned by some one there to get out of the way lest I should be shot, I left the window. The commissary and quartermaster—one person, Mr. Warner, acting as both— who used to feed our men, did as well as he could; but the quality of the soup given their men and that given ours was very different. The soup was made of good enough meat, generally, but they put no vegetables in it. After from the first to the third week they stopped giving us coffee altogether. After some four or five days I was removed from the tobacco warehouse, by order of General Winder, to the general hospital, which was in charge of Dr. Gibson, surgeon general. The nurses there were sisters of charity. The left portion of the building, as you entered it, was set apart for our wounded, the right for theirs, and the main body of the building was used as as an operating room. I noticed that they used to bring in for their wounded nice biscuit, game, soft-boiled eggs, toast with eggs upon it, &c. This was done by the sisters of charity. I asked them to bring in some for our men, and was told that they had none. Of course, seeing what I did, I knew how much to believe of that. As to the way in which their operations were performed, I would mention the instance of Captain McQuade, of the 38th New York. He received a wound in the lower part of the left leg, which rendered amputation necessary. The operation was performed in Richmond, by a surgeon of the name of Peachy, I think. The flap was a very good one, but, in consequence of inattention, the inside flap entirely mortified, so that they had to cut it completely off, leaving the bone protruding from one and a half to two inches. Inflammation set in, and extended up the limb, and in this condition he was taken down to the tobacco warehouse at mid-day, his face exposed to the hot sun, and the result was, what might have been look for, his death.

Question. How long were you on the battle field after the battle?

 Answer. I was at the Lewis house from fourteen to eighteen days. One afternoon Captain Withington and myself concluded we would take a walk over the battle field. This was some ten or twelve days after the battle. As we walked around I saw some of our men still unburied, and some of them entirely naked—shoes, stockings, everything they had had on stripped from them, and their bodies left exposed, naked, on the field. Yet I saw a great many women, ladies I suppose they would call themselves—walking about the field at that time, apparently entirely unmoved. I should judge that I saw ten or twelve of the 14th regiment unburied, many of the 71st regiment, and a number of others whose regiments I did not recognize.

Question. You spoke of going on the field at one time to get two wounded men of the 14th regiment; did you find them?

Answer. No, sir; as I have stated, I was surrounded by some civilians, and not allowed to go up there.

Question. Do you know anything of the manner in which they buried our dead?

Answer. At the time I went up for the two wounded men, on the Wednesday morning after the battle, I saw them digging some trenches, and saw some two or three buried. They paid no attention as to how they put them in, but put them in face downwards or in any other way, just as it happened. They buried a number in a ravine that had been washed out by the rains—throwing the bodies into the ravine, and covering them up with earth. In going over the battle field lately I noticed where some of the graves had been opened by pushing rails down under the bodies and prying them up. Many of the negroes said they had seen the soldiers doing that.

Question. What was their object?

Answer. As I was informed, it was to make drinking cups of the tops of the skulls and rings of the bones, sawing pieces off for that purpose.

Question. You sum it all up as very inhuman treatment.

Answer. Yes, sir; I do. I will tell you how Doctor Ferguson, of New York, was treated. He was taking his ambulance for the wounded when he was fired into. He took of his green sash, to show his calling, and his hankerchief, as a sort of flag of truce, and waved them. A party rode up to him, and asked him who he was. He told them that he was a surgeon of the New York State militia. They said they would take a parting shot at him, any way. They fired at him, and shot him in the leg. He was taken prisoner, and laid in the ambulance. He had his boots on, and his spurs on his boots; and as they drove along his spurs would catch in the tail-board, causing him such agony that he screamed out. One of their officers rode up to him, and placed his pistol at his head, and threatened if he screamed again he would shoot him.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. When was this?

Answer. On Sunday, the day of the battle.








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