Sgt. Major Randolph Barton, Staff, 33rd Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

28 02 2013

Baltimore, Md., January 15, 1897

John O. Casler:

Dear Comrade: Our command reached Manassas Junction on the 20th of July, in the morning, I think. We marched during the day to the right of the line, and the next day we marched and countermarched, halted and rushed, as the changing localities of the conflict, as far as our commanders could anticipate, seemed to require. My dinner was made from blackberries, for being outside of the ranks (as Sergeant Major) I could pick them as we passed over the fields. About 1 o’clock our regiment reached the elevation on which is seated the historic Henry house, and took position on the left flank of our brigade, up to that hour known as the 1st Brigade, or Jackson’s Brigade, ever afterwards as the Stonewall Brigade.

As we approached our position, we heard for the first time the horrid screaming of hostile shells going over our heads high up in the air, but not so high as not to be dangerous. I recall now with some amusement the intense gravity and astonishment written upon the faces of the men as these dangerous missiles from the batteries of Rickett and Griffin went hurtling over us; but I recall no signs of timidity. The men kept in their ranks, obeyed orders and moved into position on the left of the 2d Virginia, of which Brother Strother, my cousin, Willie Barton, and all my Winchester friends were members, with steadiness and resolution. My brother David was in the Rockbridge Battery, which was being supported by our brigade. My uncle, Frank Jones, and my brother-in-law, Thomas Marshall, were on Jackson’s staff. I felt the solemnity of the moment, but I recall no disposition whatever to turn and run. On the other hand, a sense of pride, a desire to emulate the action of the best men on the field possessed me, as it did, I believe, all of our command, except the Adjutant of our regiment. I think I went into that action with less trepidation than into any subsequent one. Inexperience doubtless had much to do with it, but, again, I attribute much of the nerve that sustained me to my year at Lexington. I felt on the field that the orders of our officers were supreme; that come what might, they must be obeyed, and discipline told on me from first to last. I will not give many details of the battle; they have been told by so many writers that it would prolong this narrative unduly for me to repeat them. I will only say that, after taking our position on the left of the brigade, we laid upon the ground listening to the musketry and cannonading going on to our right, or, rather, somewhat in front of our right, from the Confederate forces, which was being vigorously responded to by the Yankees. The “Henry house” was in front of our brigade, over the hill – the upper part of the house visible – and the Robinson house was to the right of that several hundred yards. Occasional shells would explode over our regiment, and the solemn wonderment written on the faces of the men as they would crane their heads around to look our for falling branches was almost amusing. I was near the left flank of the regiment, a few steps in rear, where, upon the formation of the regiment in line of battle, I belonged. Doubtless I wished I was home, but I had to stick. I remember an elderly man riding leisurely by towards the left, in rear of us, apparently giving orders. Some one, possibly myself, asked him who he was. He turned his horse and said: “I am Colonel Smith, otherwise Governor Smith, otherwise Extra Billy Smith.” It was, in fact, Colonel Smith, a game old fellow, who, I suppose, was looking over the ground for a position for his regiment, the 49th Virginia, as it subsequently took position on our left, and finally united in one of the charges on Griffin’s Battery.

Colonel Cummings and Lieutenant Colonel Lee were in front of our regiment, perhaps a hundred yards, stooping down, and occasionally standing to get a view over the crest of the hill that rose gently before us for a little over a hundred yards. The musketry kept up on our right, and then Colonels Cummings and Lee were seen to rise and, bending down, to come back with somewhat quickened steps to the regiment. I remember, as Colonels Cummings drew near, he called out: “Boys, they are coming, now wait until they get close before you fire.”

Almost immediately several pieces of artillery, their horses in front, made their appearance on the hill in front of us, curving as if going into battery, and at the same time I descried the spear-point and upper portion of a United States flag, as it rose in the hands of its bearer over the hill; then I saw the bearer, and the heads of the men composing the line of battle to the right and left of him. At the sight several of our men rose from the ranks, leveled their muskets at the line, and, although I called out, “Do not fire yet,” it was of no use; they fired and then the shrill cry of Colonel Cummings was heard, “Charge!” and away the regiment went, firing as they ran, into the ranks of the enemy, and particularly at the battery towards which our line rapidly approached. Although bearing a non-commissioned officers sword, I had obtained a cartridge box, belted it on, and had in some one secured a flintlock musket, with which one of our companies was armed. This gun, after two futile efforts, I fired at a man on horseback in the battery, one of the drivers, I think. I got near enough the battery to see that it was thoroughly disabled, horses and men falling, and our line driving ahead, when I felt the sting of a bullet tearing a piece from my side, just under my cartridge box, which I had pulled well around on the right and front of my waist. I called out that I was wounded to my uncle, Frank Jones, who helped me up on his horse, and carried me to the rear.

I think it can be demonstrated that the victory of First Manassas is traceable to Colonel Cummings. For fifteen or twenty minutes before our regiment (the 33d Virginia) rose and charged Griffin’s Battery the men of Bee’s and Bartow’s (and, I think, Evans’) commands were coming back over the hill from the Robinson and Henry houses in the greatest disorder, a flying, panic-stricken mob. The Stonewall Brigade maintained the line with the steadiness of veterans. The Rockbridge Battery, with its little guns, was doing its best. Jackson, about that time, rode along the front of his brigade, waiting for the critical moment to order his men into action. It was in his efforts to rally his command that the gallant Bee called to them to rally behind the Virginians. Pointing to Jackson, he used the memorable expression, “Look at Jackson, standing like a stone wall.” The precise expression he used it is impossible to learn. He most probably said, “Look at Jackson and his men, standing like a stone wall.” He had galloped up to Jackson a moment before, and had said: “General, they are driving us back,” and Jackson replied, the words snapping from his lips like grape-shot from a gun, “Then we will give them the bayonet.”

Bee turned to gallop toward his fleeing men, with the inspiration of Jackson possessing him, called out his immortal language, and fell, mortally wounded.

“Jackson had, within the half hour before, passed along his brigade the order not to fire until the enemy was within 30 paces, and then charge. So Colonel Cummings writes to me under the date of September 20, 1896. But, says Colonel Cummings, the shells of the enemy had caused some confusion “with the left company of my regiment,” or, rather, his command of eight companies, and when Griffin’s Battery showed itself on the hill in front of us, and occasional shots began to fall among us from the enemy moving towards our left to flank us, when the tumult of the broken ranks of Bee and Bartow was threatening the steadiness of our right, and the enemy, with exultant shouts, was pressing on, Colonel Cummings, like a flash, thought if those guns get into battery and pour one discharge of grape and canister into the ranks of my raw recruits the day is gone, and then it was, with splendid discretion, he took the responsibility of changing his orders, with the changed conditions, as Grouchy should have done at Waterloo, and charged the enemy.

The suddenness of our attack, the boldness of it, for our men went over and past the battery, the disabling of the guns, all checked the advancing lines. It was immediately followed up by the remainder of the brigade charging, and the troops on our left poured in. The tide of battle turned when it dashed against the farmer boys of the 33d Virginia. It was the first resistance it had met. The enemy came upon the point of a spear, one small regiment of undisciplined boys and me, not a month from the plough-handle and mechanic’s shop. The point broadened, as to the right and left assistance poured in, until it became a sharp blade against which the enemy could not and dared not rush; but the 33d led the van of the movement that first arrested McDowell’s victorious line, and from that moment the scene changed, and from the brink of disaster our army turned to a great victory. Colonel Cummings changed the life of McDowell by his order, “Charge!” He may have changed the history of the war. The battle pivoted upon his nerve. It was the turning point in tremendous events.

I visited the Robinson and Henry houses in September, 1861, and again in September, 1896. My last visit caused me to correspond with Colonel Cummings and read every line I could lay my eyes upon, including the reports of officers on both sides, as published in the compilation called the Rebellion Record, and I believe what I have attributed to Colonel Cummings cannot be successfully gainsaid. He turned the tide of the battle at First Manassas. Instead of the Confederate army flying as a mob to the Rappahannock, the Yankee army fled as a mob to Washington.

Several days have elapsed since I wrote the above. A day or so ago I accidentally saw in the Mercantile Library the “Recollections of a Private,” by Warren Lee Goss, of the Federal army. Turning to his narrative of the battle I find (p.13) a good representation of the Henry house plateau and the confusion in Griffin’s Battery following the attack of the 33d Regiment. I recognize the Sudley mill road, the entrance to the Henry place, on the left of the road, and the fence torn away to allow Griffin’s Battery freely to leave the rad and go upon the plateau. In September, 1896, I stood on this very ground, and , observing that between the bed of the road and the fence on the left hand side there was the usual wash, or gutter, I remarked to my companions that no doubt Griffin tore down the fence and filled the wash with the rails, thus making and easy crossing into the field for his artillery. The picture I am looking at shows the fence torn down, and imagination shows the rails placed as I surmised.

And now I quote from the book what seems to me brings the 33d face to face with the troops Goss writes about. Remember that the Sudley Mills road runs a south-easterly course from the mill to the Henry plateau. Our regiment charged northwesterly. McDowell’s line came over the hill supporting Griffin’s Battery, at right angles to the Sudley Mills road, advancing southeasterly.

Says Gross: “About 1 o’clock the fence skirting the road at the foot of the hill was pulled down to let our batteries (Griffin’s and Rickett’s) pass up to the plateau. The batteries were in the open field near us. We were watching to see what they’d do next, when a terrible volley was poured into them. It was like a pack of Fourth of July fire-crackers under a barrel magnified a thousand times. The Rebels had crept upon them unawares and the batteries were all killed and wounded.

“Here,” says Gross, continuing, “let me interrupt Tinkemann’s narrative to say that one of the artillerymen then engaged has since told me that, though he had been in several battles since, he had seldom seen worse destruction in so short a time. He said they saw a regiment advancing, and the natural inference was that they were Rebels.. But an officer insisted that it was a New York regiment, which was expected for support, and so no order was given to fire on them. Then came a tremendous explosion of musketry,” says the artilleryman, “and all was confusion; wounded men with dripping wounds were clinging to caissons, to which were attached frightened and wounded horses. Horses attached to caissons rushed through the infantry ranks. I saw three horses galloping off, dragging a fourth, which was dead.

“The dead cannoneers lay with the rammers of the guns and the lanyards in their hands. The battery was annihilated by those volleys in a moment. Those who could get away didn’t wait. We had no supports near enough to protect us properly, and the enemy was within seventy yards of us when that volley was fired. Our battery being demolished in that way was the beginning of our defeat at Bull Run,” says the old regular.

This ends the quotation. I have italicized the words which strike me as a direct confirmation of the claim I make that the 33d turned the tide, and Colonel Cummings’ timely order let loose the 33d at the very crisis of the battle. I distinctly only claim that with the order and because of the order came the first check McDowell sustained. That other troops immensely aided in forcing back the Yankee line when thus checked, I freely admit. But our regiment called a halt in the victorious advance of the enemy. I dwell upon the circumstance because of the great interest it adds to the engagement to know that you belonged to the regiment that received and repelled the dangerous thrust of the enemy at the nice turning point of the day. I should think to Colonel Cummings the circumstances would be of extraordinary interest, and that he would time and again reflect how little he thought, when he braced himself to give the order to his regiment, that he was making a long page in history.

Randolph Barton,

“Late Staff Officer 2d Corps, A. N. V.”

James I. Robertson, Jr., ed., Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade, pp. 40 – 46

Randolph J. Barton at Ancestry.com





Pvt. John O. Casler, Co. A, 33rd Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

27 02 2013

Manassas Junction, July 24, 1861.

Dear Father and Mother: I seat myself once more to write you a few lines, to let you know where I am and that I am still alive.

Last Sunday was such a day as I had never seen, and I hope to God I never will see another such time. We had one of the hardest battles that ever was fought in the United States. I have not power to describe the scene. It beggars all description.

We left Winchester on Thursday, and travelled that day and night, and Friday, about 9 o’clock, we arrived at Piedmont Station, and that evening we got on the cars and arrived at the Junction that night. The next morning we marched about four miles east, where they had had a battle on Thursday. We stayed there all day and night, expecting an attack every hour.

On Sunday morning our forces were attacked four miles higher up, and we made a quick march from there to the battle-field, where we arrived about 12. They had been fighting all morning, but about 10 they got at it in earnest. We got there (that is, Jackson’s Brigade) just in the heat of the battle, and our regiment was on the extreme left , and the enemy was trying to flank us. They did not see us until they were within 50 yards of us, as we were under the brow of the hill, and they were ordered to fire, but we were too soon for them. We fired first, and advanced, and then they fired. We then charged bayonets, yelling like savages, and they retreated, and our regiment took their artillery; but they were reinforced, and we had to fall back, exposed to two heavy fires, when we were reinforced by a North Carolina regiment; then we charged again and they retreated, and that part of the field, with the famous Griffin’s Battery, was ours. But the battle lasted about one hour longer in another part of the field, when they retreated in great confusion towards Alexandria, and then the cavalry and artillery pursued them about seven miles, killing and wounding a great many, and taking all their artillery and baggage; but the field for five miles around was covered with the dead and the dying.

I cannot tell how many we lost, but we lost a great many. Their loss was three times as great as ours. Our regiment lost thirty-five killed and over one hundred wounded. Our little company of thirty-two lost five killed and five wounded. Among the killed was poor Will Blue. He was shot dead. Never spoke, shot through the heart. Amos Hollenback, Polk Marker, Tom Furlough and Jim Adams, a fellow that lived with Dr. Moore, were killed. Will Montgomery was badly wounded, but not dangerously. Also John Reinhart, Bob Grace, Arch Young and Ed Allen were slightly wounded, but are able to go about.

We took seventy-six pieces of cannon and between 1,000 and 2,000 prisoners – several important ones, some of Lincoln’s cabinet. Also, General Scott’s carriage. He and some of the ladies from Washington came out as far as Centreville to see the Rebels run. They saw us running, but it was after the Yankees.

The next morning I went on their retreat for two miles, and the baggage was lying in every direction – coats, cartridge boxes, canteens, guns, blankets, broken-down wagons.

The bombs, cannon balls and musket balls whistled all around my head. I could feel the wind from them in my face, but I was not touched. It is rumored that we are going to take Washington. Jeff Davis got here just after the battle, and is on his way to Alexandria now.

There were about 40,000 of the enemy engaged in the battle, and 25,000 Confederates.

You must not be surprised to hear of me getting killed, for we don’t know when we will be killed.

Farewell,

John O. Casler

James I. Robertson, Jr., ed., Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade, pp. 37-40





Col. Arthur C. Cummings, 33rd Virginia Infantry, On the Battle (2)

26 02 2013

 Arlington, Va., November 10, 1896

John O. Casler, Esq.:

My Dear Friend: If you could realize the great pleasure your letter gave me you would not regret the time spent in writing. As you know, the 33d Regiment, which I organized at Winchester, was made up from Hampshire, one company; Hardy, one; Frederick, one; Rockingham, one; Page, one, and Shenandoah five, and as I have hardly ever been from home for the last fifteen years I rarely meet any of the old regiment, and when I do, or hear from them, it is a source of the greatest pleasure, especially when I learn they are getting on well, as I am sure you are.

As you say, I never had a great deal to say, and am somewhat reserved in my manners, but from my experience as Captain in the Mexican war I found that the greatest service I could render the men under my command was to see they were as well taken care of and provided for as circumstances would permit.

I am pleased to know that you have written your experience of “Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade,” and when your new edition is published I will certainly procure a copy, as I am sure of being interested in it.

I noticed one slight mistake in your letter with regard to myself, but of no importance. I did not resign, but for what I regarded as sufficient reason (not necessary to state now) was not a candidate for re-election at the reorganization of the army. Was elected to the Legislature, in which I served the last years of the war, until the surrender; practiced law for some fifteen or more years, since which I have devoted myself to my farm a few miles from Abington.

The law was my profession, which I commenced to practice the year after the close of the Mexican war. I have had two letters from Randolph Barton recently, whom you may remember, who had for the first time since the close of the war visited the battle-field of the First Manassas, and who seems to be much interested in the part performed by the 33d and the Stonewall Brigade on that memorable 21st of July, 1861.

Barton was a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Va., at the commencement of the war; was assigned to the 33d when I was organizing it at Winchester in the early part of July. I had no field officer at that time, and made him Sergeant Major. He was a bright young man, an Adjutant General on General Walker’s staff, and is now a prominent lawyer in Baltimore. He desired my recollection of the part performed by the 33d and the Stonewall Brigade, which I furnished him, and which corresponded pretty well with his own, with a few minor exceptions.

Our army left Winchester about 2 o’clock on the 18th of July, the Stonewall Brigade in front. The 33d did not reach Manassas until a little before daylight on Saturday morning, the 20th. On Saturday morning we marched out and joined the other regiments of the brigade in rear of McLane’s Ford, on Bull Run. Our line of battle extended from about Union Mills, on Bull Run, on the right, to the stone bridge. It was expected we would be attacked upon the right and center, but when it was ascertained early Sunday morning that the enemy was marching in the direction of the stone bridge, with the evident design of turning our left flank and reaching the Manassas Gap railroad, the Stonewall Brigade was moved up Bull Run and somewhat parallel with it (making short stops at intervals) until we reached the brow of the hill in front of the “Henry house,” where the brigade was formed in line of battle in a thicket of small pines. In the meantime, the battle was raging in the direction of the stone bridge, and our forces were being driven back before overpowering numbers. The line of the brigade was formed, with the 5th Regiment on the right, then the 4th and 27th (the latter two supporting Pendleton’s Battery), then the 2d and 33d.

At that time the brigade was the extreme left of our army, and the 33d,, on the left of the brigade, was ordered to lie down in the edge of the pines, which, aided by the conformation of the ground, at that time concealed us from the sight of the enemy, who, in large numbers, were pressing towards our right.

Our orders were to wait until the enemy were within thirty paces, then to fire and charge with the bayonet. About that time General Jackson came along the line and directed me to look out for the enemy’s artillery. As you are aware, the 33d had just been organized before we left Winchester, and, with the exception of two or three companies, were perfectly raw troops, and two of those, Captain Holliday’s (afterward Governor) and Captain Jones’ (afterward Colonel) were left behind, one as guard and one on detached service, and consequently were not in the field. So there were but eight companies present, numbering about 400 men, for active duty. When General Jackson directed me to look out for the enemy’s artillery, Captain William Lee, who was acting as Lieutenant Colonel, and a gallant man he was, and I walked out on the plateau and saw the artillery of the enemy moving rapidly up the Sudley road to our front and left, and large bodies of the enemy’s infantry moving along the hill towards our left flank, and we returned immediately to the regiment.

There had been some confusion in the regiment, produced by a solid shot being fired towards the regiment and tearing up the ground, together with the appearance of some red-coats on our left. Previous to this time the enemy’s artillery fire had been directed towards the regiments of the brigade and at Pendleton’s Battery. This little confusion in the regiment, and the fact of the men being raw and undisciplined, made me uncertain as to what would be the result, if I waited, as directed by General Jackson, until the enemy was within thirty paces. And, therefore, as soon as I returned to the regiment I ordered the charge, without waiting, as directed, until the enemy was within thirty paces, with the result that the enemy’s battery was taken, or rather, as I think, a section of it, without, as I believe, a gun being fired. No old regulars ever made a more gallant charge, though not a very regular one. Of course, we could not hold it without support, in the face of such overwhelming numbers, though the horses were shot down, and I have now an artillery bit, cut from one of the horses, which I have used ever since.

The 33d suffered more in the first battle of Manassas than any regiment in our army.

I regretted very much Captain Lee’s death. My acquaintance with him was short, but I esteemed him very highly. He was a true and gallant man, and being from the old army, and experienced, was of great service to me. My friend Barton is also of the true blue order. I have long cherished the hope of visiting the Valley, where I would meet some of survivors of the 33d, but suppose I must be content to remember them with the greatest kindness.

I am now in my 75th year, and feel the heavy weight of years. Very truly your friend,

Arthur C. Cummings,

Colonel, 33d Virginia Infantry.

James I. Robertson, Jr., ed., Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade, pp. 34-37





Pvt. John O. Casler, Co. A, 33rd Virginia Infantry, On the March From Winchester and the Battle

25 02 2013

July 18th we marched through Winchester and took the road leading to Berry’s Ferry, on the Shenandoah river, about eighteen miles distant. The citizens were very much grieved to see us leave, for fear the enemy would be in town, as there were no troops left but a few militia and Colonel Turner Ashby’s cavalry.

After marching a few miles we were halted, and the Adjutant read us orders that the enemy were about to overpower General Beauregard at Manassas Junction, and we would have to make a forced march. It was General Johnston’s wish that all the men would keep in ranks and not straggle, if possible. Then we started on a quick march, marched all day and nearly all night, wading the Shenandoah river about 12 o’clock at night halted at a small village called Paris about two hours, then resumed the march about daylight, and arrived at Piedmont Station, on the Manassas Railroad.

Our brigade was in the advance on the march, and when we arrived at the station the citizens for miles around came flocking to see us, bringing us eatables of all kinds, and we fared sumptuously. There were not trains enough to transport al at once, and our regiment had to remain there until trains returned, which was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. We had a regular picnic; plenty to eat, lemonade to drink, and beautiful young ladies to chat with. We finally got aboard, bade the ladies a long farewell, and went flying down the road, arriving at the junction in the night.

The next day, the 20th of July, we marched about four miles down Bull Run, to where General Beauregard had engaged the enemy on the 18th, and repulsed their advance. There we joined our brigade. We lay on our arms all night. We tore all the feathers out of our hats, because we heard the Yanks had feathers in theirs, and we might be fired on by mistake, as our company was the only one that had black plumes in their hats. We could hear pickets firing at intervals, and did not know what minute we would be rushed into action.

My particular friend and messmate, William I. Blue, and myself lay down together, throwing a blanket over us, and talked concerning our probable fate the next day. We had been in line of battle several times, and had heard many false alarms, but we all knew there was no false alarm this time; that the two armies lay facing each other, and that a big battle would be fought the next day; that we were on the eve of experiencing the realities of war in its most horrible form – brother against brother, father against son, kindred against kindred, and our own country torn to pieces by civil war.

While lying thus, being nearly asleep, he roused me up and said that he wanted to make a bargain with me, which was, if either of us got killed the next day the one who survived should see the other buried, if we kept possession of the battle-field.

I told him I would certainly do that, and we pledged ourselves accordingly. I then remarked that perhaps we would escape unhurt or wounded. He said: “No, I don’t want to be wounded. If I am shot at all I want to be shot right through the heart.”

During the night we heard a gun fired on the left of the regiment and I got up and walked down the line to see what had happened. I found one of the men had shot himself through the foot, supposed to have been done intentionally, to keep out of the fight, but the poor fellow made a miscalculation as to  where his toes were, and held the muzzle of the gun too far up and blew off about half of his foot, so it had to be amputated.

July 21st dawned clear and bright (and for the last time on many a poor soldier), and with it the sharpshooters in front commenced skirmishing. We were ordered to “fall in,” and were marched up the run about four miles, and then ordered back to “Blackburn’s Ford.” Our company and the “Hardy Greys” were thrown out as skirmishers, opposite the ford, in a skirt of woods commanding a full view of the ford, and ordered to fire on the enemy if they attempted to cross the run. While we were lying in that position heavy firing was heard on our left, both infantry and artillery. In a few moments we were ordered from there to join the regiment, and went “double quick” up the run to where the fighting was going on. The balance of the brigade was in line of battle behind the brow of a small ridge. We were halted at the foot of this ridge and Colonel Cummings told us that it was General Jackson’s command that our regiment should depend principally on the bayonet that day, as it was a musket regiment.

Some of the boys were very keen for a fight, and while we were down in the run they were afraid it would be over before we got into it. One in particular, Thomas McGraw, was very anxious to get a shot at the “bluecoats,” and when the Colonel read us the order about the bayonet I asked Tom how he liked that part of the programme. He said that was closer quarters than he anticipated.

Our regiment marched up the hill and formed “left in front,” on the left of the brigade, and on the entire left of our army. As we passed by the other regiments the shells were bursting and cutting down the pines all around us, and we were shaking hands and bidding farewell to those we were acquainted with, knowing that in a few moments many of us would be stretched lifeless on the field.

At this time our troops were falling back, but in good order, fighting every inch of the way, but were being overpowered and flanked by superior numbers. They were the 2d Mississippi and Colonel Evans’ 4th Alabama Regiments, General Bee’s South Carolina Brigade, Colonel Bartow’s 7th and 8th Georgia Regiments, Major Wheat’s Battalion (called the Louisiana Tigers), and Imboden’s Battery. They had resisted the main portion of the “Federal Army” and had done all that men could do, and had lost severely, but were still holding the enemy in check while we were forming.

It was there at this moment that General Jackson received the name of “Stonewall,” and the brigade the ever memorable name of “Stonewall Brigade.” General Barnard E. Bee, riding up to General Jackson, who sat on his horse calm and unmoved, though severely wounded in the hand, exclaimed in a voice of anguish: “General, they are beating us back!”

Turning to General Bee, he said calmly: “Sir, we’ll give them the bayonet.”

Hastening back to his men, General Bee cried enthusiastically, as he pointed to Jackson: “Look yonder! There is Jackson and his brigade standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here and we will conquer. Rally behind them!”

They passed  through our brigade and formed in the rear. I knew they were South Carolinians by the “Palmetto tree” on their caps. General Bee and Colonel Bartow fell, mortally wounded. The enemy, flushed with victory, pushed on, never dreaming what was lying just beyond the brow of the hill in the pines. There seemed to be a lull in the firing just at this time, and Sergeant James P. Daily, of my company, walked up to the brow of the hill, but soon returned with the exclamation: “Boys, there is the prettiest sight from the top of the hill you ever saw; they are coming up on the other side in four ranks, and all dressed in red!”

When we heard that, I, with several others, jumped up and started to see, but Colonel Cummings ordered us to “stay in ranks,” and Daily remarked: “We will see them soon enough.” Sure enough, in a few seconds the head of the column made its appearance, with three officers on horseback in front, and marching by the flank, with the intention of flanking one of our batteries – the Rockbridge Artillery, Captain W. N. Pendleton. In a few minutes they spied us lying there, and I heard one of the officers say: “Hello! what men are these?” At that moment some of our men who, evidently, had the “buck fever,” commenced, without orders, firing some scattering shots. The enemy then poured a volley into us, but as we were lying down the balls went over our heads, harmless.

That morning we had been given a signal to use in time of battle, to distinguish friend from foe, which was to throw the right hand to the forward, palm outward, and say, “Sumter.” When this regiment (which was the 14th Brooklyn, N. Y.), appeared in view Colonel Cummings gave the signal, and it was returned by one of the officers, but how they got it was a mystery. So, when the scattering shots were fired by some of our regiment, Colonel Cummings exclaimed: “Cease firing, you are firing on friends!” and the volley came from them at the same time, and I know I remarked, “Friends, hell! That looks like it.”

Colonel Cummings, seeing his mistake, and also seeing a battery of artillery taking position and unlimbering, in close proximity and in a place where it could enfilade our troops, determined to capture it before it could do any damage. I don’t think he had any orders from any superior officer, but took the responsibility on himself. Then came the command: “Attention! Forward march! Charge bayonets! Double quick!” and away we went, sweeping everything before us; but the enemy broke and fled.

We were soon in possession of the guns, killed nearly all the horses, and a great portion of the men were killed and wounded; and we were none too soon, for one minute more and four guns would have belched forth into our ranks, carrying death and destruction, and perhaps have been able to have held their position. As it was, the guns were rendered useless, and were not used any more that day, all though we had to give them up temporarily.

We were halted, and one of my company, Thomas Furlough, who had belonged to the artillery in the Mexican war, threw down his musket and said: “Boys, let’s turn the guns on them.” That was the last sentence that ever passed his lips, for just then he was shot dead.

While this was going on, the enemy were throwing a force on our left flank in the pines, and commenced pouring it into us from the front and an enfilading fire from the flank, and were cutting us to pieces, when we were ordered back, and halted at our first position.

Then we were reinforced by the 49th Virginia and the 6th North Carolina Regiments, commanded by Colonel Chas. F. Fisher (who was killed a few minutes afterwards) and “Extra Billy” Smith. This mad our line longer, and we were ordered to charge again. The charge of Jackson’s men was terrific. The enemy were swept before them like chaff before a whirlwind. Nothing could resist their impetuosity. The men seem to have caught the dauntless spirit and determined will of their heroic commander, and nothing could stay them in their onward course. The 33d Virginia, in its timely charge, saved the day by capturing and disabling Griffin’s battery, altho’ they could not hold it just then. The name won that day by the brigade and its General is immortal.

In this action our regiment (the 33d Virginia), being on the extreme left, was alone, the balance of the brigade not charging until later, and we were terribly cut up and had to fall back. General Jackson said he could afford to sacrifice one regiment to save the day; and it was the first check and first repulse the enemy had received, and during the remainder of the day the battle turned in favor of the Confederates.

We did not follow them far, for fresh troops were coming in all the time, and we had lost severely, and were considerably demoralized. I then took a stroll over the battlefield, to see who of my comrades were dead or wounded, and saw my friend, William I. Blue, lying on his face, dead. I turned him over to see where he was shot. He must have been shot through the heart, the place where he wanted to be shot, if shot at all. He must have been killed instantly, for hs was in the act of loading his gun. One hand was grasped around his gun, in the other he held a cartridge, with one end of it in his mouth, in the act of tearing it off. I sat down by him and took a hearty cry, and then, thinks I, “It does not look well for a soldier to cry,” but I could not help it. I then stuck his gun in the ground by his side, marked his name, company and regiment on a piece of paper, pinned it on his breast, and went off.

I then saw three field officers a short distance from me looking through a field glass. I very deliberately walked up to them and asked them to let me look through it, and one of them handed it to me. When looking through it I saw, about two miles off, what I took to be about 10,000 of the enemy. The field appeared to be black with them. I returned the glass, saying: “My God! have we all of them to fight yet?” Just at that moment “Pendleton’s Battery” turned their guns on them and I saw the first shell strike in the field. I don’t think it was five minutes until the field was vacant. I felt considerably relieved. I had had enough of fighting that day. We had gained a great victory. The enemy were completely routed and panic-stricken, and never halted until they arrived at Alexandria and Washington.

My company only numbered fifty-five, rank and file, when we went into service, but, ,so many having the measles and other ailments, we went into the fight with only twenty-seven men, and out of that number we lost five killed and six wounded. The killed were William I. Blue, Thomas Furlough, James Adams, John W. Marker and Amos Hollenback. The wounded were Sergeant William Montgomery, John Reinhart, Robert C. Grace, Edward Allen, A. A. Young and Joseph Cadwallader.

The regiment went right into action with about 450 men, and lost forty-three killed and 140 wounded. Our regiment fought the 14th Brooklyn Zouaves and the 1st Michigan, which poured a deadly volley into us. While we were engaged in front, Colonel Cummings ordered the regiment to fall back three times before they did so. All the troops engaged suffered more or less, but the loss of the 33d Virginia was greater than that of any regiment on either side, as the statistics will show, and it was the smallest regiment, not being full and not numbered.

We worked nearly all night taking care of the wounded, for nearly all of the enemy’s wounded were left in our hands. I took a short sleep on the battle-field. The next day was rainy and muddy. The regiment was ordered to “fall in,” but not knowing where they were going, I did not want to leave until I had buried my friend, according to promise. When they had marched off I hid behind a wagon, and Sergeant Daily, seeing me, ordered me to come on. I told him never would I leave that field until I had buried my friend, unless I was put under arrest. He then left me, and I looked around for some tools to dig a grave. I found an old hoe and spade, and commenced digging the grave under an apple tree in an orchard near the “Henry house.”

While I was at work a Georgian came to me and wanted the tools as soon as I was done with them. He said he wanted to bury his brother, and asked if I was burying a brother.

“No,” I replied, “but dear as a brother.”

“As you have no one to help you,” he said, “and I have no one to help me, suppose we dig the grave large enough for both, and we can help one another carry them here.”

“All right,” I said, “but I want to bury my friend near the tree, for, perhaps his father will come after him.”

So we buried them that way and gathered up some old shingles to put over the bodies, and a piece of plank between them. Then I rudely carved the name on the tree.

Captain William Lee, who was acting Lieutenant Colonel, was killed, and our Sergeant Major, Randolph Barton, a cadet from the Virginia Military Institute, was severely wounded.

That evening there was a detail made from each company to bury the dead, and we buried all alike, friend and foe, and this ended the first battle of “Bull Run,” and the first big battle of the war.

There is no doubt but that the timely charge of the 33d Virginia turned the tide of battle and saved the day for the Confederates. Colonel Cummings took the responsibility upon himself and ordered the charge just in the nick of time, for in five minutes’ time the Federals would have had their battery in position and would have had an enfilading fire on the brigade and Pendleton’s Battery, and made their position untenable. I herewith append a letter from Colonel Cummings, and one from Captain Randolph Barton, which bear me out in my statement, and more fully explain the situation and results. Also one that I had written to my parents three days after the battle, and which is still preserved.

Cummings Letter

Barton Letter

Casler Letter

James I. Robertson, Jr., ed., Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade, pp. 21-33





Col. Arthur C. Cummings, 33rd Virginia Infantry, On the Battle (1)

11 08 2012

Capt. P.L. Burwell

Abingdon Virginia

March 30th 1888

My dear Captain,

Your very kind letter of the 28th received today was both a surprise and a gratification to me – after the lapse of twenty six years it is very gratifying to be kindly remembered by those of my old command with whom I was associated with in the trying times of war, and for whom I have always cherished the kindred recollections – I have a very distinct and pleasant recollection of you and your valuable services when as you well remember I had to take my Regiment in the first battle of Manassas as undrilled and as undisciplined almost as raw material and I have always thought that the charge made by it upon the enemies [sic] battery to left of the Henry house was as gallant if not in as regular a line as could have been made by well drilled regulars – I remember you well, and the fact that you had lost an eye but I do not know that I could have recalled your name if I had not seen it signed to your letter which at once recalled it to my recollection – but the man I remember distinctly as on the memorable 21st of July 1861. I have not a very retentive recollection of names but the men with whom I was associated in earlier life and especially in the army I rarely forget – I think I have a very distinct recollection of all or nearly all the officers who were in the 33rd Regt whilst under my command, but some of their names I cannot now recall though the men themselves are plainly visible to my minds eye but if the name was mentioned I would remember it at once – There were about 400 men of the 33 Regt fit for duty and in the first battle of Manassas – and of that number there were almost 40 killed and wounded and if I am not mistaken and think I give you the figures correct, there were 39 killed and 100 or 101 wounded – I give you as I remember the figures of my report – but I think 36 or 37 would be the accurate number killed, as some two or three who were at first supposed and reported killed were in fact only missing and afterwards turned up – There is no doubt however that the 33rd suffered more heavily than any Regt in the fight – There were only eight companies of the Regt in the fight – one company from Rockingham commanded by Capt J. R. Jones afterwards Col Jones and a company commanded by Capt Holliday afterwards Col & Gen Holliday had been left at and in the neighborhood of Winchester and did not join the Regiment until a few days after the fight – in fact the company commanded by Gen Holliday was not assigned to the Regiment until some days after the battle. I have by few papers relative to the service of the Regt – My home & office in Abingdon together with a good many of my papers having been burned by the Federal army the latter part of the war – but I have a very distinct recollection of most every thing concerning the Regt whilst under my command except names and if there is any special information you desire and will let me know, I shall take pleasure in furnishing it. As you are now near Hampshire County West Virginia you can probably tell me what has become of Capt Grace who commanded a company raised near Frankfort in that County. The 33rd Regiment was from the counties of Rockingham 1 company Shenandoah 5 – Frederick 1 – Page 1 – Hardy 1 – and Hampshire 1 – so far from me in the extreme south west that I rarely meet any of the surviving officers or men though it would afford me great pleasure and gratification to do so – though advancing in years have & have not been exempted from the troubles of time I am in tolerable health and in reasonably comfortable circumstances I feel that I should be thankful in the blessings bestowed by a kind Providence & not ? at the trials from which few are exempt —  I shall be pleased and gratified to hear from you at any time.

Yours very truly,

Arthur C. Cummings

Transcription provided by reader James Myslik

Private collection of Sarah Beverly, Cookeville, TN

Notes





4th Sgt. Harrison B. Jones, Co. H., 33rd Virginia Infantry, On the March and Battle

22 04 2012

Thursday [7/18/1861]

Today left Winchester about 1 o’clock and marched to reinforce Gen Beauregard

we had a hard march to day; waded the Shenandoah river at Berry Ferry and continued marching until 9 o’clock at night, then stoped at Paris in Va

Friday [7/19/1861]

left Paris about 4 o’clock this morning and marched to Piedmont Station to break fast – after remaining there several hours we got upon the cars and run down to Mannassas Juncktion we remained in the cars all night there was a fight near the Junction

[Saturday 7/20/1861]

To day we marched to and fro through the Country below the Juncktion and cornfield about four miles from the Juncktion where we camped in the pine bushes with no blankets and very scant supper & breakfast.

Sunday [7/21/1861]

To day after getting an early breakfast we were marched at a quick pace having understood that the federal forces were making a attempted to flanke us about 2 o clock we were drawn up in line a battle about the time we go airly in line one of our company was wounded in the leg — we remained in that position some time exposed to heavy fire — from the Federal forces we then fired a round or two and charged upon the enemy running them from their cannon — our company lost 6 killed & fifteen wounded besides several others marked a little

MSS 14169 Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library, as transcribed at 150 Years Ago Today (1, 2, 3, 4). Used with permission.

Harrison Jones at Ancestry.com





William Fitzhugh Lee

17 10 2011

Here’s an interesting bit on William Fitzhugh Lee of the 33rd VA, mortally wounded at First Bull Run. Below are images I recorded of his grave in Elmwood Cemetery, Shepherdstown, WV, a few years ago.

 





SHSP- Thirty-third Virginia at First Manassas

25 04 2009

Southern Historical Society Papers

Vol. XXXIV Richmond, Va., January-December 1906, pp. 363-371

Thirty-Third Virginia at First Manassas

Colonel Cummings Takes Liberties with his Orders and Does Good Work

Colonel J. W. Allen’s Report–Interesting Recollections of Deeds of Valor at First Manassas Battle

From the Times-Dispatch, June 4, 1905

The fame of “Stonewall Jackson” overspread the Henry Hill combat at Manassas, 21st of July, 1861, but the reports of all his regimental commanders having been lost, no official record clarifies the movements and achievements of his five regiments on that day. The recent discovery and publication in The Times-Dispatch of Colonel Kenton Harper’s report of the Fifth Virginia Infantry, have fixed the movements of that regiment, and various communications from reliable officers and men have well nigh completed the history of the brigade on that occasion. Colonel Arthur C. Cummings, of Abingdon, commanded the Thirty-third Virginia Infantry that day. He had served in the Mexican War, and was a highly accomplished soldier and gentleman, worthy of higher command than befell his lot. His recent death has brought the name of this modest and heroic man again before the public. He shunned notoriety of all kinds, and rested content in “the conscientiousness of duty faithfully performed.”

Captain John H. Grabill, of the Thirty-third, who was with his regiment in the Manassas battle, and has kindly furnished’ me a brief statement and also with a pretty full account from Colonel Cummings, contained in a letter addressed to Captain Grabill at Woodstock, where he lives, dated May 16, 1898. It is due to history that these memorials of a brave regiment and of valiant deeds that had no little to do with the Confederate victory, be published. Captain Grabill relates his distinct memory of the charge of the Thirty-third, and that it was against the Brooklyn Zouaves (the Fourteenth New York), and a Michigan Regiment (the Michigan then commanded by Colonel, afterwards Major-General Orlando B. Willcox), who was at the front of the Federal battery. He says: “They were driven over their own battery by the charge of the Thirty-third,” and the battery captured as related by General Cummings. After the battle was over, General Jackson rode to one of the field hospitals. As he sat upon his horse he looked steadily upon the dying Captain Lee, of the Thirty-third, who was propped against a small tree, and made this remark: “The work Colonel Cumming’s regiment did today was worth the loss of the entire regiment.”

LOCATION OF THE GUNS

It will be observed that in Colonel Cummings’ description of the action, he says: “The pieces taken by the Thirty-third were situated considerably to the left (as we were facing) of the Henry House, and the pieces taken by the other regiments of the brigade were somewhat on the same line, but nearer the Henry House.”

I have no doubt that this statement as to the location of the guns is correct. Major R. W. Hunter, who was at that time first lieutenant and adjutant of the Second Virginia Infantry, which was immediately on the right of the Thirty-third, confirms Colonel Cummings’ statement, and I have seen similar statements in other accounts of the battle. The History of the Ulster Guard, a New York regiment, by Colonel Gates, who commanded it, contains a description of the battle at this point very much like that of Colonel Cummings’.

Confusion has arisen in some of the versions of this conflict, by the writer’s failing to distinguish between the separated guns that were taken by Colonel Cummings and those subsequently carried nearer to the Henry House, when the whole field was swept in the final Confederate charge.

ANOTHER FITZ LEE

The Captain Lee referred to by Colonel Cummings was William Fitzhugh Lee, born in Richmond, but then of Alexandria, the son of Rev. William F. Lee, and he was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute in the class of 1853. Two years later he became a lieutenant in the United States army. When the war broke out, he was on duty at the St. Louis arsenal, and he resigned to follow the fortunes of his State. He was soon appointed a captain in the Confederate army, and then lieutenant-colonel of the Thirty-third Virginia Infantry.

THE SECOND TO THE FRONT

Just after that sally of the Thirty-third, the Second Virginia Infantry, under Colonel James W. Allen, which was the next regiment to its right, advanced to the assault. Colonel Allen, born in Shenandoah, had moved with his father’s family in boyhood to Bedford County, and had attended the old New London Academy. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1849, and became there an assistant professor of mathematics after first teaching at the Piedmont Institute in Liberty. No report from him appears in the war records, but an extract from it is found in “The Memorial of the Virginia Military Institute,” by Charles D. Walker, p. 324, which indicates that it has been published in the press, and it happily preserves the continuity of the story of the Stonewall Brigade at Manassas. Colonel Allen had but one eye, and during the cannonade which preceded the infantry combat on that day, a shot cut off the limb of a pine tree and hurled it in his other eye, temporarily blinding him. He afterward greatly distinguished himself, and was killed while in command of the brigade at Gaines’ Mill, June 27, 1862.

COLONEL ALLEN’S REPORT

In the report of Colonel Allen of the action of his regiment on the occasion referred to, he says:

“About 1 P. M. I was directed to station my regiment at the edge of a pine thicket to support the battery immediately on my right, with orders to fire when the enemy appeared in sight over the hill, then to charge and drive them back with the bayonet. In this position my men lay somewhat under the cover of the hill for more than an hour and a half, during all of which time they were exposed to the effects of shell and shot from the enemy’s batteries, which had advanced, under cover of the hills, to my left flank. Many of my men and officers were wounded by explosions that took place immediately in their midst; yet they stood their ground, awaiting the approach of the infantry. Colonel Cummings, on my left, met them, endeavoring to turn their flank. After advancing, two of his companies fell back through my left, which was kept in position by the coolness of Captain Nelson, who gallantly maintained his position, though exposed to a front fire of grape and shell, and a flank fire from the enemy’s musketry. At this juncture I was informed by Major Botts (whose coolness, energy and perseverance in rallying the men deserves special mention) that my left was turned. Not seeing the enemy in front, I directed that the three left companies be drawn back to meet them. This order was partially misunderstood by the centre companies for a general direction to fall back, and all the line turned. I at once gave the order to charge, but the thicket was so close and impenetrable that only a part of the right wing, under Lieutenant-Colonel Lackland, could be rallied about thirty yards in rear of the original position, the enemy having advanced to the position originally held by the left of the regiment, judging by their fire, for it was impossible to see them.

SPECIALLY MENTIONED

“At this moment Colonel Preston, who was on my right, and in rear of the battery, advanced, and Lieutenant-Colonel Lackland, with about one hundred of my right, charged on the enemy’s batteries, drove them from their pieces, and took position immediately in front of the guns, sheltering themselves as much as possible by them. Wishing to secure one of the rifle cannon, he ordered five or six men to take it to the rear, but had not proceeded more than fifty yards, when the enemy opened on his right, which was unsupported, and he was compelled to retire with the few men under his command, having lost nine killed and thirty-four wounded in the charge. The line did not retire until after our battery was withdrawn.

“The list of killed and wounded having been handed in, it is unnecessary to repeat it. I cannot, however, close this report without again making honorable mention of Captain Nelson, who gallantly fell at his post, supposed to be mortally wounded, and to the gallantry of Lieutenant-Colonel Lackland, who, with but a handful of men, charged on the enemy’s battery and actually brought one of their rifled guns to the rear, with but four men.”

Colonel Allen’s reference to the appearance of Colonel Preston, “who was on the right and in the rear of the battery,” denotes the time when Jackson’s right centre advanced under his immediate direction. This was the third and effectual movement which carried the position defended by Griffin’s and Rickett’s one of twelve guns, which were posted near the Henry House, some of them being turned on the front of the Second and Thirty-third Regiments, and the most of them on the batteries of Pendleton to the right of these regiments, and on the front of the other three regiments of the brigade; i.e., the Fourth, Twenty-seventh and Fifth. When Colonel James P. Preston went forward with the Fourth, the Twenty-seventh, under Lieutenant-Colonel John Echols, moved simultaneously, and the two regiments commingled at the captured guns, each losing heavily in the charge.

From the material collected in the contribution to The Times-Dispatch, the historian, with the aid of the War Records, can now compute the complete story of the Stonewall Brigade at First Manassas.

JOHN W. DANIEL

—–

Colonel Cummings’s Account

On the night of the 20th of July, 1861, our army lay in rear and facing Bull Run, the right resting near Union Mills, and the left at the Stone bridge. General Beauregard expected to be attacked the next morning on the front and right, but very soon in the morning he and General Johnston saw that the enemy was moving on the Centreville road, in the direction of the Stone bridge, with the view of attacking and turning our left flank, the demonstration on our front being only a feint. Leaving a force to protect our right, the rest of the army, except the command at or near the Stone bridge, already engaged, were moved along and in the rear of Bull Run to reinforce the troops already engaged, and to resist the attack on our left.

The Stonewall Brigade, after being halted several times, reached the brow of the hill or ridge. The centre of the brigade, when thus formed in line in a pine thicket at the edge of the plateau, was about opposite the famous Henry House, After the brigade was formed in line, we were ordered to lay down in the edge of the pines. This was about 12 or 1 o’clock, and the battle had then been raging for hours, and our troops were being driven back. As the brigade was then in line, the Thirty-third was on the left and was at that time the extreme left of our army. On its right the Second, Fourth, Twenty-Seventh and Fifth–the latter, as I understand, a little detached from the balance of the brigade. [The Fourth was in line behind Colonel Pendleton's batteries, and the Twenty-seventh just in rear of it; so that the right centre was four deep.--J. W. D.]

Two of the largest companies of the Thirty-third had been left in the Valley. The eight companies present were from Shenandoah, Page, Hampshire and Hardy (five were from Shenandoah, and one each from Page, Hardy and Hampshire); both the latter companies were small, about fifty men, so that deducting the sick and absent, there were only about 400 men in the action. I was then the only regular field officer in the regiment; but there was a Captain Lee, a splendid man and gallant officer, who had been temporarily assigned to the regiment and acted as field lieutenant-colonel; he was, in the charge, struck in the breast with a piece of shell and fell at his post mortally wounded, and died soon afterwards.

THE CHARGE OF THE THIRTY-THIRD WAS VIOLATION OF ORDERS

After giving this brief account of our movements and the position of the brigade previous to our going into action, I will give my recollection, which is quite distinct, of the charge made by the Thirty-third and the reasons which led to its being made before the charge was made by the other regiments of the brigade. This charge by the Thirty-third was made contrary to the order of General Jackson, and I will give you the reason why his order was not strictly obeyed–as you will remember, the eight companies that participated in the charge, whilst made up of an exceedingly fine body of gallant men, were, with probably the exception of one or two companies, composed of undrilled and undisciplined men; in other words, they might almost be termed raw recruits. Whilst the brigade was laying in the edge of the pines the Thirty-third, a little to the left and front of the Henry House, as we were facing, General Jackson rode along in line and directed me to look out for the enemy’s artillery and to wait until the enemy were within thirty paces, and then to fire and charge bayonets. The battle was then raging to our front and right and our forces still being driven back.

About this time, or soon thereafter, some men, dressed in red, presumably Federals, appeared in the bushes on the left flank of the regiment, and some of the men of the left company fired at them, and about the same time some shots from the enemy’s artillery raked through the brush just over the regiment and tore up the ground uncomfortably near the men, and the two things together, coming about the same time, caused considerable confusion in a part of the regiment, and realizing that the most trying position that raw men, and even the best disciplined and bravest could be placed in, was to be required to remain still, doing nothing and receiving the enemy’s fire without returning it, I feared the consequences, if I strictly obeyed General Jackson’s orders; therefore it was that I gave the orders to charge, contrary to his order to wait until the enemy was within thirty paces, the enemy being much further off at that time.

From this you will readily see how it happened that the Thirty-third made the charge before the other regiments made the charge as a brigade. A more gallant charge is rarely made than was then made by the Thirty-third (though in not a very good order). The men moved off with the greatest alacrity, killed and drove off the gunners, shot down their artillery heroes and captured the battery of artillery, but the loss was so great, there being about 43 killed and 140 wounded altogether, we were forced to abandon the captured guns and fall back in the face of a deadly fire and overwhelming numbers, and this was the first check the enemy received up to that time. Very soon thereafter the other regiments of the brigade made a charge and captured another battery. The pieces taken by the Thirty-third were situated considerably to the left (as we were facing) of the Henry House, and the pieces taken by the other regiments of the brigade were somewhat in the same line, but nearer the Henry House (the Robinson House being still further to the right). One of the men of the Thirty-third cut a bridle bit from a bridle of one of the artillery horses and gave me afterwards, which I have used ever since and have now. I am inclined to think, from what I have since learned that the battery or pieces taken by the Thirty-third was Griffin’s, and that the one or pieces taken by the other regiments of the brigade was Rickett’s or probably, if there was but one battery in front of the brigade it was placed in two sections, the one on the left taken by the Thirty-third, and the other, in the same line, but nearer the Henry House, and the one taken but abandoned by the Thirty-third was also retaken by the brigade.

I think, however, it is more probable that both Griffin’s and Rickett’s were in position near and to the left of the Henry House. With batteries or sections of batteries at two different points near and to the left of the Henry House, will readily account for the Thirty-third taking one and the other regiments taking the other, and also retaking the one captured by the Thirty-third.

RETAKING OF THE ARTILLERY BY THE BRIGADE

There are two things, however, about which there can be no doubt–one that the Thirty-third, being at the time on the extreme left of our army, charged alone and took the enemy’s battery or section thereof on our left, and that the rest of the brigade immediately charged and took a battery or section of one nearest the Henry House, and as I now recollect, if not mistaken, retook the one previously taken by the Thirty-third, numbers of the Thirty-third falling in with other regiments as individuals, and not as a regiment, and also that I ordered the charge by the Thirty-third before the time arrived to execute General Jackson’s order for the reason before given. Every regiment gallantly did its whole duty, the other regiments likely doing more fighting than the Thirty-third, owing to the heavy loss sustained by it in making the first charge alone and the disorganization that followed.

I had frequent talks with the officers of the brigade after the fight and never knew of any difference of opinion as to the action of the different regiments of the brigade, and see no occasion for any now. In a fight, of course, every one sees more clearly what takes place in his immediate presence, and no doubt, many things were seen by others of which I have no personal knowledge. I have evidence in my possession from others of the Thirty-third which more than sustain my account of the action of the Thirty-third. From having been somewhat unwell, my hand is a little tremulous, but I hope you may be able to wade through this badly written letter, and if you tire before you reach the end, you can stop and take it in broken doses. I should have written you a clean and better account of the part performed by the Thirty-third and the rest of the brigade at the first battle of Manassas, but you must be satisfied at present with this. I should regret very much for any controversy to arise as to the part performed by any regiment of the brigade that was immortalized on the eventful 21st of July, 1861, when all behaved so gallantly and are entitled to the consolation of knowing that their full duty was well performed. But as you are an editor, though I may be over-cautious, I will ask, as there is no necessity of it, you will not make public my letter. The whole brigade measured up to its full standard of duty, made its reputation and there let it rest. Ever since the close of the war I have had a great longing to visit the Valley of Virginia, but the time never seemed opportune, but I still cherish, perhaps, the vain hope of doing so. As age advances, my heart instinctively turns to old friends and old things, many of whom (that is, friends) I fancy, I would meet in the Valley. I shall be pleased to hear from you any time when you are at leisure, and in the meantime, I remain,

ARTHUR C. CUMMINGS

Abingdon, May 16, 1898








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