Hains Related Questions Answered?

24 06 2013
Hains Gun

Illustration from 1911 Cosmopolitan article

As I’ve no doubt mentioned before, I’ve been s-l-o-w-l-y annotating a 1911 Cosmopolitan article written by Peter Conover Hains, The First Gun at Bull Run. Fresh out of West Point, at First Bull Run Lieutenant Hains was in command of a 30-pdr Parrott rifle, detached from Company G of the 1st U. S. Artillery. The gun, generally referred to as Long Tom, was chosen to fire the opening shot of the battle of July 21st, and did so right around 6 A. M. (accounts of the precise time vary.) While just about every study of the battle written after 1911 relies to varying degrees on Hains’s memoir, there’s a lot wrong with it; some things just don’t jive with the facts. So I’ve decided to not take anything Hains writes in this piece at face value. Including this:

I was assigned to train a gun-crew over at what is now known as Fort Meyer, Virginia, just across the river from Washington.  It was a great gun – a thirty-pounder Parrott rifle,  drawn by ten horses as green as could be, horses from the farm that had not been trained even to pull together.  There were five riders or drivers, one man to each pair, and six men rode the caisson and limber as cannoneers.  Two wagons followed, carrying the ammunition.   Some two hundred men were attached to the gun to escort it, to help it along, and to render whatever aid I needed.  In all two hundred and fifty men filed out with the gun in July when I received orders to report to General Tyler  at Alexandria, Virginia.

Two hundred men attached as escort? Why so darn many? Well, it’s not as odd as it may sound, all things considered:

We sallied forth.  The roads promised much, and at first the gun behaved very well indeed.  But we soon came to a hill.  The ten horses threw themselves into their collars.  The gun started up a bit, then the pace slowed, paused, and – then the giant gun began slowly to drift backward down the grade.  We quickly blocked the wheels , and there were no brakes.  I rode up and down the line, cheering on the men.  The drivers yelled, and lashed their horses; the ten animals strained and tugged – but the gun remained motionless.

“Get out the prolonges ,” I ordered, and these lines, of about three-inch rope and knotted together to about a hundred feet in length, were quickly hooked to the axle of the gun. Two hundred men instantly trailed onto them.  With wild yells and cheers they started that gun forward, the ten horses and two hundred men soon dragging it upward to the crest.  It was great.  And most of us were very young indeed.

That makes sense. But, who were these 200 men (though I can’t figure out how you get 200 men to pull on a 100 foot rope)? It’s likely they were infantry. So, from what regiments were they detached? I’ve been keeping an eye out in letters for some mention of the detachment here and there of small groups, or even one or two large ones. But I did stumble across one reference, in Alan Gaff’s history of the 2nd Wisconsin at First Bull Run, If This is War pp. 186-187:

Captain Ayres’ battery unlimbered well in front of Captain Stevens’ Company A behind a screen of bushes and trees, while the thirty-pound Parrott rifled cannon, manned by a detachment under Lieutenant Peter C. Hains, was positioned right in the road. The Parrott gun had proved to be almost impossible to manage, requiring large detachments of horses and men to manhandle it over the hills and valleys. While the Wisconsin regiment occupied the position in support of the artillery, Lieutenant Tom Bishop and thirty men from Company I were detailed to assist Hains and did not serve with the main body during the remainder of the day.

Image of 30-pdr blatantly stolen from http://markerhunter.wordpress.com/

Image of 30-pdr blatantly stolen from http://markerhunter.wordpress.com/

Gaff cites the Daily Wisconsin 8/21/1861; Milwaukee Sentinel 7/30/1861; Wisconsin State Journal 7/30/1861; Mineral Point Tribune, 8/6/1861; a letter in a manuscript collection; and Tyler’s report (which doesn’t mention the detachment) for the above. I’ll try to find the two newspaper letters, maybe in the Quiner Collection. But it would appear that detachments of infantry were assigned to assist Hains at various points. But in the case of the 2nd WI, it was as support.

Also in If This is War I found a reference to another nickname for the 30-pdr Parrott, The Baby-Waker. I first heard the term during a tour years ago, but haven’t run across any other use except for this in Gaff, p. 187:

“At precisely 6 o’clock” Lieutenant Hains ordered his gunners to fire the monster Parrott rifle, dubbed “President Lincoln’s Baby-waker” by the Badgers.

The sources for the above paragraph are the Wisconsin State Journal of July 30, 1861 and the Milwaukee Sentinel of the same date, and a letter in a manuscript collection. More work to do!

UPDATE: Reader Jonathan Soffe, who hosts a great site on First Bull Run, contributes the following:

Two companies of the 11th Massachusetts Infantry, under the command of Captain J H Davis, Company B, were assigned to escort Hains on the march to Centreville on 16 July, 1861.

[This is from] A Narrative of the Formation and Services of the Eleventh Massachusetts Volunteers, from 15 April, 1861, to 14 July, 1865, by Gustavus B Hutchinson [p. 22]

“When the regiment arrived at the road leading to Fairfax, Companies A and G were left, under the command of Capt. Davis, to escort a detachment having in charge a thirty-pound Parrott gun, which, on account of the bad road, they were unable to bring up until the next morning.”





Sgt. Lyman H. Smith, Co. E, 2nd Wisconsin, On the Battle

25 07 2012

Interesting Letter from a Wisconsin Boy.

———-

Below we publish an extract from a letter written by Lyman H. Smith, an Orderly Sergeant in the Second Wisconsin Regiment to his sister, Mrs. Williams, of Richford, Vermont. Mr. Smith formerly resided in Richford from whence he went to Wisconsin some six years ago, and as a member of the 2nd Wisconsin Regiment was engaged in the sanguinary conflict at Bull Run on the 21st of July:

Headquarters Second Wisconsin Reg’t.

Fort Corcoran, July 24, 1861.

Dear Sister: I was happily surprised to receive a letter from you, it being the first for a long time. I am glad to hear you are well. You will probably learn, ere this letter reaches you, of the terrible battle which has been fought near Manassas in which our Regiment took a prominent part, and suffered a severe loss. It was the greatest battle, I think, ever fought in the United States, and I trust the hardest that will be fought. We started from camp at three o’clock in the morning and marched on the enemy. At eight o’clock we met the enemy and commenced firing. The battle was hotly contested for nine hours with but little intermission. When the action commenced we had only twelve thousand troops on the field while the enemy had seventy thousand. At eleven o’clock we had apparently fairly won the day. About this time we discovered a large force advancing in the direction whence we expected reinforcements, which, however, proved to be reinforcements of the rebels. These fresh troops fell upon us, and our men fell like sheep at the slaughter, but our brave troops stood their ground, expecting help, until seven o’clock in the evening, when not receiving reinforcements we were obliged to abandon the field and retreat. When we had retreated about a mile I was informed that my messmate had been wounded and was left upon the battle field. I went back to the field determined if possible to find him, but after searching in vain for half an hour, was obliged to run for life amid showers of shot and shells. In the meantime the Regiment had got out of sight and I was left alone to make my escape as best as I could. In a short time I came up with the wagons containing our dead and wounded. About this time the rebel cavalry charged upon us. We escaped to the woods, a distance of thirty-five miles, without anything to eat, arriving here at Fort Corcoran at eight o’clock the next morning where I remained with the two New York Regiments. I never passed through so much in any three days of my life as on that day. Just think of standing right under the cannon of the enemy for nine hours, their shot falling like hail among us! I received two shots, one grazing my head the other my ear; they did not hurt me much, only enough to make me fight harder.

When our Regiment had fallen back to let another take its place, I went with the Fire Zouaves and we charged upon a battery, when we succeded in getting inside. Such a sight as was there presented I never wish to see again – the dead piled in every direction. This time we fairly drove the enemy from their guns, but their overwhelming force was more than we could stand. I have read a great deal of the horrors of the battle field, but one from reading, can imagine nothing of its real horrors. There were the dead and dying in every direction; some calling to be relieved from misery by being shot; others imploring help; while others were urging their comrades on to battle. One young fellow from Massachusetts lay dying his comrades trying to shoot him. He said to them, “Go on and save Massachusetts; don’t stop for me I shall soon be out of trouble. I expect we shall have to fight again to-morrow. We suppose there is fighting going on to-day about twelve miles from here, as cannon are heard and two Regiments have been sent from here to-day to assist our troops. Our men are nearly worn out and can hardly walk, but we must fight. You as if we have plenty to eat? No! we do not have half enough and what we have is very poor; but we are soldiers now, and not human beings!

St. Albans Daily Register, 8/2/1862

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Lyman Smith on Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





“C.”, 2nd Wisconsin, On the Battle

22 02 2012

From the Milwaukee Sentinel.

Interesting Letter from the Second Regiment.

———-

Camp Corcoran,

Monday Night, July 22, ’61.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C.

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

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Contributed by John Hennessy





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

17 02 2012

The Battle of Bull’s Run.

———-

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

——

Fort Corcoran, Va.,

July 23d, 1861.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Camp Peck, July 24, 1861.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 25th.

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

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

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

From your affectionate son,

W. H. Foote.

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

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

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. John E. Donovan, Co. B, 2nd Wisconsin, On His Wounding In the Battle

31 01 2012

A Man Wounded Six Times In One Battle.

———-

Statement of John E. Donovan, Company B, Second Wisconsin Regiment.

———-

Went into an engagement at Bull Run, Sunday, July 21, 1861, at 10 o’clock, A.M., or thereabouts. Marched up the hill after getting over a fence, and on reaching nearly to the brow I was struck by a rifle ball in the calf of my right leg, outside, passing through to the skin on the other side. In the cars on the way to Richmond the next evening, a young man, looking among the wounded prisoners, wanted me to let him take it out and keep the ball, to which I consented, and he cut it out.

After being hit as above I stepped back to the fence, sat down and bound up my leg to keep it from bleeding. I then got up and loaded and fired from where I stood. After firing three times, another ball hit me in the left heel, glancing up along near my ankle joint. This ball remained in about eight weeks, when my leg, being badly festered, the prison hospital surgeon lanced it one evening, and in the night the ball worked down, so I got it out the next morning.

After being hit the second time I still kept loading and firing as fast as I could. In about ten minutes, as near as I can judge, a third ball struck me in the right side, which still remains somewhere within me. This disabled me somewhat for a short time, but I again loaded and fired two or three times as well as I could, when I was struck in the right arm (while in the act of firing) about midway between my elbow and shoulder joints, the ball running up towards my neck. The ball was taken out about nine weeks afterwards by the hospital surgeon at Richmond, about half way from my shoulder joint to my neck bone. I fired my musket but once after this, as the recoil of it hurt my shoulder so, I was unable to bear it.

I then left the fence to get behind a tree standing some two hundred and fifty yards off, and picked up a revolver which lay on the ground, just after I left the fence, at which time a bullet struck on my right wrist glancing off from the bone. I went a little further towards the tree, when some twelve or fifteen Confederate soldiers came out of the woods directly towards me.

I fired the revolver at them three times, and just as I fired the third barrel, a bullet fired by one of this company struck me just below my left eye, going into my head. I knew nothing more until about noon the next day (Monday). When I came to I found myself lying right where I fell the day before. I tried to get up, but could not. After this I made several ineffectual attempts to crawl away to the shade of a tree, the sun shining very hot. About four p.m., a couple of soldiers came along, picked me up, and carried me to the cars, and I was sent to Richmond, afterwards sent to Alabama, and finally released on parole. The bullet still remains in my head; the hospital surgeon says it lies somewhere near my right ear (the sense of hearing being entirely lost in that ear), the drum, or tympanum having been injured by it. The slightest touch on my chin, or near it, causes a severe pain in my right temple and over the ear. I cannot see at all with my left eye. I cannot bear to be out in the sun; it makes me dizzy and my head pains me severely; so also does more than ordinary exercise. Ordinarily, when sitting quiet, my head only occasionally troubles me – a little dizziness and heaviness is about all – except when out in the sun or heated, as before stated; and also when I attempt to lift anything, it puts me in severe pain in my head, and my eyes pain me exceedingly, as well then as when heated or out in the sun. I am obliged to keep out of the sun as much as possible on account of this excruciating pain in my head and eyes, and when I read my eyes fill with water, and I have to rest. I cannot write a letter of ordinary length. I have to stop several times for this and from dizziness. There is occasionally a dimness comes over my right eye even when quiet, but not very often. The surgeon said the bone around my left temple was shattered, and that pieces thereof would work out; none has to my knowledge. The bullet which entered my right side has not yet given me any great trouble.

New York Irish-American, 9/6/1862

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Quiner Scrapbooks Online

12 12 2011

Thanks to several friends who have informed me that the Wisconsin Historical Society has digitized the Quiner Scrapbooks. These scrapbooks include newspaper clippings for various Wisconsin units. Of particular interest to Bull Runnings are those associated with the Second Wisconsin. This link will take you to the collection regarding the 2nd, starting on Volume I with the Bull Run stuff. I’ll be transcribing them here along with all the other newspaper items I have. Unfortunately, unless there is an index somewhere, the newspapers themselves are not identified, so I’ll just be referencing the Quiner scrapbook volume and page and providing a link to the images, for now.





Pvt. Leonard Powell, Co. D, 2nd Wisconsin, On the Battle

7 12 2011

Letters from Members of the Janesville Volunteers.

Arlington Heights, July 24th.

Dear Wife: – I write to let you know that I am well. I hope you are also in good health. We have had two hard battles, have been defeated in one, and were obliged to retreat thirty miles to this place.

I cannot tell you how many balls whistled by my head during the battle, for I could not count them. The little things go very quick, but I can dodge the cannon ball and the bomb shell; but when a shell bursts it raises the “Old Ned” with the men. My gun was shot from my hands by a shell; that was close work for the eyes. Three were three men shot down by my side. – Fred. Main was shot through the leg, and has not been seen since. I fear he is dead, for the enemy killed our wounded. This will be a hard war for both sides, but we are bound to whip them. Our loss is about one thousand, and that of the other side about the same.

I was taken prisoner, but my legs were too long for them, and I left. I was separated from my company two days. The enemy could not fool “Old Pap.” I shot the man who was guarding me. He had taken my gun from me, but I had a pistol in my shirt pocket which he did not find. When he turned his back I gave him a charge, and then he let my old legs go. These legs of mine won’t let the body be abused in such times. I walked thirty-five miles that night, through the woods all the way. It was a hard tramp for me.

We were in the battle five hours; it was very hard fighting. I saw dead men and horses on all sides of me. ‘Tis enough to harden any man’s heart. I never had any fear at all until they all ran; and then I tried to help a wounded man off the field, and was taken prisoner.

Leonard Powell

Janesville Daily Gazette, 7/30/1861.

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Sgt. George F. Saunders, Co. D, 2nd Wisconsin, On the Battle

1 12 2011

Letters from Members of the Janesville Volunteers.

Fort Corcoran, Va., July 25th, 1861.

Dear Wife and Family: – I have at last found something to write, and having a little leisure time, I will endeavor to give you the news.

The first engagement took place about one week ago; the notice was short, and the contest unequal: the enemy fell back towards Manassas, – but on Saturday last the order was issued to prepare for action. The bugles sounded, the drums beat to arms; swords, muskets, cannon, and revolvers were examined to see if they were all right. At two o’clock the order came to march. In less than an hour, two batteries, sixteen guns (one 32-pounder), 10,000 infantry, 500 cavalry, sappers, miners, Zouaves, &c., were under march. Some were talking of home and friends; some singing, but very low. We had a long and dreary march. Sunday morning came, and I shall remember it as long as I live; and with it we took our position. The 79th Highland regiment on our right, the Sherman battery in the centre of the first brigade; the second brigade then formed with Sprague’s battery to support them; the third was on the extreme left, with the cavalry to assist them, and son on till the whole army was disposed of.

At about six A. M., Sherman’s battery sent in some shot and shell to see what the enemy were made of, but received no answer. We then saw some cavalry advancing, but the battery soon put them to right about; they soon returned, however, to decoy us on. This they did till we came within about a mile of their masked fort, when their cavalry and infantry commenced firing on our artillery. On we went at a double-quick; their batteries opened on us, and the fight became general. We were pretty well exhausted, but after the first fire, we never thought of hunger.

In order to get a high position, we were obliged to ford a river, which made us feel much better; but on getting to the other side, we were nearly surrounded. The very heavens seemed to be on fire, and such a havoc of human life! The rebel force was, as stated, between 30,000 and 40,000, with 10,000 of our troops engaged at one time. You can form a faint idea.

I would stand for an instant pitying some friend who had just dropped by my side, forgetting my own safety, which depended on my loading and firing in the quickest possible manner. I twice picked up the musket of a dead comrade, my own having been shot out of my hands. We came to a charge of bayonets three distinct times. We tried to rally our troops, but at about half past 4 P. M., the order to retreat was given, which I regretted to hear; but nothing could be done to any better advantage under the poor generalship.

The Wisconsin Second has represented her state nobly. Although there were a great many of us killed, there are still enough left who are willing to fight under competent officers, which, if we had been blessed with in the start, the battle would have been carried in our favor. The Janesville Volunteers fought well, although Capt. Ely and Ensign Dodge became exhausted shortly after entering the field; but I do not blame them, as we were all pretty well exhausted. Lieut. McLean fought bravely and escaped all right; I also escaped. Mc and I attribute it to the interposition of a kind Providence, which we hope will protect us till we return home. At roll call this morning, there were 13 missing, with what is in the hospital. I would give you a list of the killed and wounded, but we are not allowed to send any.

I believe we were visited by the president and cabinet. They spoke highly of the Wisconsin Second as we deserve. We are now re-organizing, and at the next battle we intend to do the whipping. We are all feeling as well as can be expected, and as anxious for a fight as before. The men still keep coming in as fast as they can find their way back; but there is one consolation, and that is we retreated in pretty good order. I think I have got along very well so far, as John Hamilton, three others and myself were out on a picket guard, when the rebel pickets commenced firing at us, and we escaped without a scratch. We, however, silenced them by giving them a few shots with our Sharpe’s rifles. You must excuse all mistakes, as I am sitting on the ground with my paper on my knapsack, which you may guess is not a very comfortable mode of writing.

Yours Truly,

Geo. F. Saunders.

The Janesville Daily Gazette, 7/30/1861.

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Bull Run Micro-History

15 09 2011

I finished up Alan Gaff’s If This Is War: A History of the Campaign of Bull’s Run by the Wisconsin Regiment Thereafter Known as the Ragged Ass Second last week. Based mostly on soldiers’ letters written to hometown newspapers, similar to the letters you can find here and here, this is great stuff. Now, you can find countless other micro-histories just like this, as long as the topic rhymes with Gettysburg. This volume is illustrative of the potential for literary contributions that exists for a market that outsiders doubtless view as saturated.

Gaff presents the soldier accounts less than critically, and I’m OK with that. For instance he reproduces various accounts of Daniel Tyler giving orders on the Sudley Road west of Henry House Hill. Of course Tyler was never anywhere in that area. I find it likely that members of the 2nd WI, less than familiar with their new division commander and probably only glimpsing him at a distance during the march to the battlefield, mistook the gray-headed and equally ancient-looking Samuel Heintzelman, who was in the area giving orders to whoever would listen, for Tyler. But that’s how the Badgers remembered things, and how they remembered things is what this book is all about. I suspect that If This Is War would be more widely read and recommended had it been more thoroughly annotated, and think that readers should be careful when using it. But as I said, all in all I’m OK with Gaff’s approach.





Letter From 2nd Wisconsin, Co. B.

11 04 2011

Here’s a letter describing the battle from a member of the LaCrosse Light Guards, Company B of the 2nd Wisconsin. I don’t have enough detail to include it in the Resources section yet.

Here’s the intro from the LaCrosse (Wisc) Tribune:

Corp. William H. Collins enlisted in the La Crosse Light Guard on April 18, 1861, and served with Co. B until he was discharged as disabled in May 1962. Collins, who later returned to La Crosse and opened a Pearl Street jewelry store, described the battle of Bull Run in a letter to his wife dated July 23, 1861, and reprinted in a 1930 edition of the La Crosse Tribune and Leader-Press.

 See the letter here.








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