Diary 7/18/1861 – Pvt. John Henry Cowin, Co. D, 5th AL

17 11 2009

[Describing fight at Blackburn's Ford]

Arose early this morning and broiled a piece of meat on the coals for breakfast.  After eating, we were marched off about a half mile to a bridge across Bull Run where we were stationed along the banks of the creek and on the railroad.  We had been here but a short time, when we heard the booming of artillery, in the direction from which we came yesterday.  The firing was kept up all day, ceasing three times only for a few minutes.  When we heard the connonading and occasional volleys of musketry, our company was placed in the bushes to watch for the approach of the enemy.  We remained there all day.  This afternoon Lieut Williams, who was left behind yesterday, came in and reported a great battle fought about three quarters of a mile from where we first went yesterday at a place called Mitchell’s Ford.  The enemy eighteen thousand strong attacked our forces four thousand strong.  The attack was made with both artillery and infantry.  Our forces had the Washington Artillery from New Orleans.  They first attacked the centre and endeavored to take our battery, but were repulsed with heavy loss.  They then attacked the right wing, but were again repulsed.  After this they collected themselves and made another attack on the left and were for the third time repulsed with even greater slaughter than before.  They then retired from the field.  When they attempted to storm the battery, they were allowed to march up to within a short distance of it when our infantry rose up and turned loose a volley into them which completely routed them.  They ran in the utmost confusion.  After going some distance they rallied, when Genl Bonham gave the order to charge them, but before our troops could get near them they broke and ran like sheep before wolves.  Report says that we lost sixteen killed and forty or fifty wounded.  Their loss is estimated at from five hundred to a thousand killed and wounded.  The Yankees made a bold stand for awhile, but could not contend against southern bayonets and the Washington Artillery.  Received two letters today, one from Brother, the other from Aunt Ann.  (Mrs. Cheney) All well at home and the crop good.  He says there is [not?] a danger of Lincoln starving us out.  To night we have every indication of a heavy rain, as we can hear the distant rumbling of the thunder and the clouds are flying overhead.  We have to sleep in the bushes and but few of the men have blankets.  Father sent me a blanket, but I could not find the man he sent it by, so have to do the best I can and take the rain if it comes.

Source – G. Ward Hubbs, ed. Voices from Company D, pp 20-21





Diary 7/17/1861 – Pvt. John Henry Cowin, Co. D, 5th AL

14 11 2009

[Describing withdrawal from Fairfax Court House.]

After all the hustle and stir last night, no yankees came, but on the contrary every thing went on as ever, and I believe more so, for every one kept as still as possible, listening for the expected account.  This morning we heard firing out toward the pickets and all around the country.  about eight o’clock a couple of scouts came in at full speed, one having a yankee behind him captured by the pickets.  The regiment was immediately put in order of battle and marched down to the breastwork.  Tents were struck and the wagons loaded.  Father who was unable to walk, mounted a wagon horse and went off with the baggage.  Where we got to the breastworks Capt. Shelly’s Company was sent out as skirmishers, and soon we heard them open fire upon the enemy.  The firing was kept up for about an hour.  The balls whistling over our heads, I have often heard of balls whistling around a fellows head, but never knew what tune they played until this morning.  They came thick and fast, some falling within a few feet of us.  The pickets were driven in, but they came in orderly, displaying great coolness and bravery.  They fired each three or four rounds.  We remained at the breastworks about an hour and a half.  The pickets killed some ten or fifteen of the enemy.  We had only two men wounded, they very slightly.  One a member of the Warrior Guards (Tarrant) shot through the leg.  The other of Capt. Shelley’s company, having a portion of his ear shot away.  They came upon us with a large force and tried to flank us, and would have succeeded had we not received orders from the commanding general to retreat.  I think Col. Rodes intended to give them a fight, but had to obey the orders to retreat.  We left our breastworks with great reluctance, for there was all our work to be abandoned to the enemy without a fight.  The pickets from our company who were attacked were Jim Locke, Wm. Kennedy, George Nutting, John & Joe Wright.  They all got safely into Camp.  We left the breastworks and marched slowly and in order down the Centreville road.  The day was intensely warm, but we had to march ahead to avoid being flanked, as the enemy were pressing forward with great rapidity.  We marched eleven miles to Bull Run, where we met two Mississippi regiments, one South Carolina regiment and the Washington Artillery.  Here I found Father, who was much rejoiced to see us safe and well.  A good many broke down on the march.  Brother broke down, but managed to get a ride behind some one and came on safely.  I think one could have followed up our retreat and gathered at least two wagon loads of clothing, knapsacks &c, which the boys had thrown away.  A good many have now no clothing at all, not even a blanket.  We only remained at Bull Run about two hours, when we took up our line of march to a place called Union Mills, a distance of three miles.  We arrived there shortly after sunset, stacked arms, made fires, and dried our selves, as we had to ford creeks on the march.  Feel like I can do some sleeping tonight, as I did not have an opportunity last night.

Source – G. Ward Hubbs, ed. Voices from Company D, pp 19-20





W. C. Tunstall, Co. D, 5th AL

7 11 2009

Reader Maxwell Elebash of Tuscaloosa, AL provided this letter written by his ancestor, and wrote the below biographical sketch:

Wiley Croom Tunstall was born 16 Dec. 1839 in Greensboro, AL (then Greene County but now Hale). His parents were Dr. James L. Tunstall of King William Co. VA and Eliza Ann Croom. He married Augusta Elizabeth Hobson (sister of Edwin L. Hobson of 5th Alabama) 10 Dec. 1862. They had five children. I am descended from their daughter Cammie Tunstall.

Wiley attended the University of Alabama and also Hampden-Sydney College. Post war he was a cotton planter in Hale County, member of the Alabama Legislature and served as Railroad Commissioner 1885-1895. He died in Anniston, AL 8 Aug. 1916 and is buried in Greensboro Cemetery.

Interestingly one of his wife’s sisters was married to Sydenham Moore, Col. of the 11th Alabama Inf. was MWIA at Seven Pines. Her mother was a sister of Lt. Col. John Clarke Mounger of the 9th Georgia Infantry KIA at Gettysburg attacking the Wheatfield on day two. One of Mounger’s sons was killed at Chancellorsville (14th Georgia Inf.) and the remaining two were killed in the Wilderness (8th Georgia Inf.).

Per G. Ward Hughes (ed.), Voices from Company D: Diaries by the Greensboro Guards, Fifth Alabama Infantry Regiment, Army of Northern Virginia:

Tunstall, Wiley C. (c. 1840, Alabama-1916).  In 1860 living with his mother, who reported $40,000 in real estate and $90,000 in personal estate, including eighty-six slaves; enlisted April 25, 1861, in Greensboro; third lieutenant in April 1862; resigned in October, 1862, citing chronic diarrhea; in 1880 married with five children.

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W. C. Tunstall, Co. D, 5th AL on the Aftermath of the Battle

7 11 2009

Union Mills Aug. 6th, 1861

Dear Mother,

I received your letter a few days since by Uncle Herndon.  That is yours and Bettie combined.  I was very glad to hear that you all had heard that we were not killed.  We were not in the battle.  I wrote you a letter after the Battle on the 18th & the one on the 21st also.  The last letter I wrote you I gave you a minute description of our maneuvering on that day, also an account of our retreat from Farrs X Roads, which letter I suppose you have received some time ago.  I suppose you all were very much distressed in Greensboro about our Company.  I was very glad to hear through Uncle H. that you were not kept in suspense but one day when you received the intelligence that the 5th Reg. was not in the Battle.  I rode over the battle field on Sunday.  It was truly a sad scene to witness the many graves scattered over the field of our brave and gallant men.  I saw where different officers of high rank fell.  The places being marked out by posts being driven down and names of the officers inscribed upon them.  There were a great many dead horses lying on the field but all of the dead were [line illegible] on our side.  There were so many Yankees that it was impossible for us to bury them very decently.  Sometimes they would bury 40 or 50 in one grave.  I understand from men that visited the battle Field the day after the battle that the whole field was covered with dead bodies.  Sometimes you would see them lying in large heaps on different spots.  The Yankees carried off their dead and wounded up to 3 o’clock in the evening.  The cars were brought out near the field and they were sent back to Alexandria.  We have not been able to find out the exact loss on both sides but the [line illegible] yet I think is from Russell the correspondent of the London Times.  He was in Alexandria and Washington when the enemy retreated and afterwards came to Richmond.  His estimate of loss is between 4 & 5000 killed & wounded on our side and between 10 and 12000 on the Yankees.  We are stationed at Union Mills in a very healthy place about 4 miles from Manassas Junction.  We are all doing very well.  We have fine water and plenty of it to drink and plenty to eat.  Although the fare is rather rough we are willing to submit to much greater privations and hardships to serve our Country in this great and grand cause.  I do not think we will have any fighting soon as…

Letter provided and transcribed by Tunstall descendent Maxwell Elebash of Tuscaloosa, AL.

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