Pvt. Edward H. Bassett, Co. G., 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle (2)

26 03 2012

Washington City

July 26th, 1861.

Dear Brother,

I would write you a line. I am tolerable well although I have not got over our tramp to Bloody or Bull Run. I feel weak and lazy.

We had a pretty hard time on Sunday last but did not lose as many men as at first thought. There is some seven killed & missing. Among the killed, is our captain. He was killed by about the first shot of the rebels. He fell on his post encouraging his company & doing his best to make them successful. Jonathan Goodrich & several others bore him off the field & placed him beneath a large oak in the shade. His sash & sword were brought with us to Washington & will be sent to his family.

Lieutenant Messick will take his place in the Company. Messick is a brave soldier. He fought well & stuck with his men to the last. He was not hurt. Asa Miller our flag bearer was killed. He was one of the best soldiers we had. He volunteered to carry the flag. Wm. Potter was badly wounded and supposed to be killed at first but has been heard from. Mr. A. G. Strickland was badly wounded, a ball passed through his elbow. It will most likely make his arm stiff. The loss of this regiment in killed is some 46. There may be more but these we are pretty certain of. There are several missing in the Reg. Tey may have been taken prisoners & may be on their way to No. It is very difficult to travel far here without a pass as he country is under martial law. There was not a ball hit me but they came very close. I have forgotten John Rhoer. He was wounded and is at the hospital.

I have not received a letter from home since the 10th. There is not a thing that looks better than a good long letter from home. Write all the particulars.

The troops are continually comeing in from all quarters. Send them as now is the time if there be any more send them on. We will have a quick job of it when we begin. We are resting now & will be ready to give them some of our best. Tell the girls that we are all comeing back to see them before long. It is now nearly sundown & as calm & quiet as you could wish.

Lieutenant Messick is in good health. We like him first rate. Well I must close so Good Bye

From Your Brother

E. H. Bassett

Direct to Washington as before for the country is under Martial law & it would be the safest.

Excuse such a long letter but if you would read it you will do well & if you answer it you will do better.

P.S. There was two balloons sent up in Alexandria today. One was to go over Fairfax & the other I do not know where. My best respects to all the folks.

[Insert]

When we were on the march we run short of provisions & the boys got their guns & went out into the field & shot sheep, hogs, calves & caught every chicken that they could lay their hands upon & when at camp at Centreville they drove up a lot of fat oxen that belonged to the government & got the Colonel out & made him give them permission, then they knocked them down right in the cornfield & dressed them. We took the meat & roasted it by the fire & ate it without salt. I had some pepper along & used it. This was pretty hard fare but our provision train had not come up. When it came we had enough and were treated well when we came into Washington. The citizens brought out hot coffee, bread, meat &c. We are going to draw some clothing today & will receive our money in a few days so they say. We need it if every anybody did for we are entirely out,

There has one more of our boys just came in. His name is Martin Healy from Waseca Co. We supposed that he was killed. He laid in the woods within a few rods of the battle ground. He said that the d—d black scamps burnt the house where our wounded were placed. If this is the case they have most likely killed all the prisoners that they took. our two surgeons are supposed to be killed as they were with the wounded. They were excellent men both of them & understood their business. Write, write, write, write often.

From your brother

E. H. Bassett

Krom, Richard G., The 1st MN: Second to None – A Historical Narrative Including the 218 Unpublished Letters of Edward H. Bassett, Rochester, MN, 2010, pp. 47-49

Used with permission.





Pvt. Edward H. Bassett, Co. G., 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle (1)

21 03 2012

Camp Minnesota

Washington, D. C.

July 23, 1861

Dear Parents,

I suppose that you will have heard from us by telegraph before you receive this. The day before yesterday was the first time that we have had a chance to try our skill in the field fighting and the boys have done nobly but we lost our captain. He was shot through the heart and fell dead instantly. He stood by is giving commands and had his arms raised up encouraging the boys on. We lament his loss greatly. We all loved him and he was no coward. We lost somewhere between eight and twelve men and about that number wounded. Among the killed was one flag bearer. He was hit by three balls before he fell and after that he loaded and fired some three or four times. His name was Asa Miller from Cannon City I believe. We saved our company flag. Lieutenant Messick pulled it from the staff and wrapped it around him. We were forced to retreat for we found that we had fell in with the principal and in fact the majority of the southern army. They were somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 strong and we were only about 53,000. The battleground was about 10 miles from Manassas Junction. This information about the strength of the enemy and their position was received from a prisoner that was taken by Co. B. I do not know how many men were lost from the Minnesota Regiment but we suffered less than some other. We were decoyed upon one of their masked batteries and they are the most treacherous people that were ever allowed to exist. They hoisted the Union flag as we advanced and would beckon their hands and show every appearance of being friendly until we got in range of them when they opened up on us. As we had special orders not to fire until ordered, we all dropped down. I did not see the boys drop at first and stood up until they had all laid down and I looked around first on one side, then on the other and could not see the enemy and as the bullets were flying about as thick as raindrops I thought that the safest place for me would be flat on the ground. We laid there about ten minutes when the order was given to retreat firing. By this time the enemy had come up in sight and the boys fired into them and killed them off pretty fast. We then retreated behind a hill covered with timber. The enemy then attempted to make a charge upon the N. Y. Zouaves and they come in range of one or two of our brass field pieces and they opened a fire of grape and canister upon them and it was a sight to see how quick they were driven back. It as a very foolish move. When we were marched up we went up behind our cannon. The enemy were throwing bombs and round shot. Our battery was then about as far off from them as Cole Bloomer’s house is from ours. They threw their shot away beyond us about 100 feet high. We were marched up on the enemy’s right flank intending to give them a flank fire but they were ready for us and had the advantage of us for we had been marched at a double quick step for about one mile besides marching about 10 miles that morning stating at 2:30 in the night.

We were very weary but we gave them what they did not get every day, although we lost our Captain. We carried him off the field and took his sword belt, pistol, hat, etc. which will be sent to his family. We did not want the rebels to rob him. We rallied several times and charged them and it is pretty well known that we killed more than we lost for our boys took good aim as we retreated. Their cavalry tried to cut us off but we beat them badly. There was not more than 5 or 6 of them escaped. Although we had to retreat we did not feel like giving up. We were on a continual move from half past two Sunday morning until Monday night, without half enough to eat but we suffered the most for the want of water. We marched from Centerville to Washington by the way of Fairfax and Alexandria, in about 9 hours, a distance of about 35 miles. We are now quartered in Washington in a huge brick building. It rained yesterday while we were on our way from Alexandria and when we arrived here we were cold and wet. The citizens brought in some hot coffee, bread, ham, eggs and whiskey and we had a dry place to sleep. This morning was the first time that I have felt sick. I did feel pretty sick for two or three hours but have got over it now and feel pretty well again. I have had good health and stood it pretty well. We left our camp at Alexandria on the 16th of July in light marching order which consists of a gun, cartridge box with 40 rounds of ammunition, haversack with three days rations, blanket or overcoat which is rolled in a long roll and the ends tied together and put over the shoulders. I took my coat. We marched all day and camped in a thicket of pines on the ground. We heard some firing in the evening and expected an attack. I slept first rate right on the ground. We got up at sunrise, ate our breakfast and started. When we had traveled about 5 miles we came to the place where the firing had been. Some of the enemy’s cavalry had been scouting and saw a man out hunting some colts. They fired on him, killed his horse, wounded him and fled to camp. This is a miserable country, thinly settled, the buildings poor and old without paint, but whitewashed. The water is poor and the people poor and ignorant; not half of them can talk anything but the Virginia tongue. We traveled until we were about on-half mile from Centreville where we camped. We stayed there until Sunday morning at half past two. They have sent out some 100 mortars and 1000 horses and several large pieces since the battle. It is said that General Scott is mad that we were defeated and he will be apt to send on a pretty large force. It would do you good to see the earthworks around Washington. There are some very heavy pieces of cannon and they will be apt to get enough if they attempt to take Washington.

I have just come from the Smithsonian Institute. I went all through the museum and into the Indian portrait gallery and in fact all over the building. It is a grand sight. I also went up to the Patent Office. There I saw the coat that General Washington wore when he resigned his commission and also his traveling secretary. I did not have much time to look around there for they were just closing when I went. I shall go again when I get an opportunity.

John Russell says that crops do not look very well there, that the wheat is short and thin. Corn here is of all sizes, some 2 feet, some 4 and I saw some that was about 8, but it is an extra piece that will average 3 feet. You must write often and direct as before to Washington. Mr. Messick sends his respects to you. He was not hurt. Boultice Soule is also safe. We have not been paid off as yet but expect to in a few days if we stay here.

With love from your son,

Edward H. Bennett

Krom, Richard G., The 1st MN: Second to None – A Historical Narrative Including the 218 Unpublished Letters of Edward H. Bassett, Rochester, MN, 2010, pp. 42-46

Used with permission.





Unknown Officer, 1st Minnesota, On the Battle

24 02 2012

The First Minnesota Regiment.

The following is an extract from a letter from an officer in the first Minnesota regiment, to his wife in this city. Many of the officers and men in the regiment were formerly residents of Massachusetts: -

Washington, July 29, 1861.

For several days, in fact, ever since our shattered regiment came here after the battle of Bull Run, I have been at work day and night. Our boys fought bravely, and if the troops of the north had all done their duty as well, the result of the battle would have been different. A United States officer told me, not knowing who I was, that there were but four regiments that deserved to be mentioned, and among them I was proud to hear “the Minnesota.”

We went into the field with nine hundred men, and have, as near as we can make out, 181 killed, wounded, and missing – nearly one fifth. All of the company officers and men, and a part of the field officers fought well, and did not retreat until they had been twice ordered to do so. A colonel of the secession army, whom our boys took, and who is now here a prisoner of war, says our men for three hours were engaged with eight thousand of the enemy, with a battery raking them from one of the flanks. Notwithstanding the odds of nine to one our men drove them, and the southern papers, I observe, say the battle upon their left, where we were, unsupported, was most sever, and their forces were obliged to give way until 5000 fresh reserve troops came to the rescue.

A captain a prisoner here, says the Minnesota wood choppers fought like devils. One of our surgeons, it is supposed, is killed; the other we heard from last evening – a prisoner. We expected to remain here some time, but to morrow morning we leave for Great Falls, fifteen miles from here, where the enemy is threatening some more fighting for our regiment, I suppose. Col. Gorman has been given command of the brigade. Our regimental flag has seventeen bullet holes through it, one shell, and one grape shot. Every one of our color guard was wounded – none killed.

The mistake of attacking Manassas at the time it was done, and before we were ready, will extend the contest immensely. The barbarities of the enemy are unspeakable, dragging our wounded from the ambulances and bayoneting them, luring our men on by displaying the federal flag, and cheering for the Union, and then shooting them down. This was done in our own regiment. May I live to avenge some fo the good and true men who were left at Manassas.

Yours, &c.,

***

Massachusetts Spy,  8/7/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy





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








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