J. H. G., Co. H, 71st NYSM, On the Battle (2)

24 04 2013

New York, August 3, 1861.

Permit me to contradict, through the medium of your extensively circulated journal, the assertion made by the Washington correspondence of the Daily Times, that Col. Martin, of the Seventy-first Regiment, did not fully attend to his duties on the field of battle at Bull Run, on Sunday, the 21st ult. Until he lost his horse, he never left the immediate presence of his regiment; and even after, when his duties were performed on foot, he encouraged and ordered his regiment wherever their duty called them. Few regiments maintained their position so well as ours – although others have been more highly praised. We were in the hottest of the fight, and among the first in the field, and certainly the last to leave it, and know not of the full retreat until we reached the road, having left the field in regular military order. The First and Second Rhode Island regiments fought by our side, and did bravely, having lost many killed and wounded. Among the latter was Lieutenant Prescott. I saw him struck with a ball on the upper part of his head. He probably died in ten minutes from the time the ball struck him. Morrissey, of our company, I learn has had his leg taken off – he, too, having been struck by a ball from a rifled cannon. Cobb, poor fellow, has lost his upper jaw, and a portion of his nose. Others in the regiment that were wounded are doing well. It was an awful sight to see the dead and dying, and to hear the wounded cry for water and assistance – enough to chill the heart’s-blood. One poor fellow, of an Alabama regiment, crawled to our lines wounded in the left thigh. He asked me for water. I gave him a drink from my canteen, rebel though he was.

I asked how many were in his regiment; he said some nine hundred. I told him all we asked was, a fair shot at them. He said he was compelled to take up arms against us, but I thought of the same old story; so I let that pass, for what it was worth. He was uniformed in a pair of blue overalls, no coat, a straw hat, and had a double-barreled shot gun. A poor specimen of a soldier, I thought, although he was some thirty-five years of age. He said we would have had fighting at those batteries, and so it proved. In my opinion, the torch to those woods would have smoked them out, and given us a fair chance to try Northern steel and Southern chivalry; but the cowards fought in the woods and behind entrenchments. Some one or two regiments came forward, and were soon cut to pieces by us. There was no general order given to retreat; and the supposition is, that the civilians, in a great measure, started the panic. It is certain, that it was no place for them, unless they did some fighting and not take the lead in running.

Our position was very much exposed; and for an hour and a half we were ordered to lie down, and load and fire! pretty close work, I assure you – with bullets whistling around you in endless number and variety, together with the dull roar of a cannon ball, and the shrill whistle of a shell, bursting within a few feet of where you were. I will now close: but before doing so, I would state that any and all statements made by papers, in detriment to the Seventy-first, are wholly false and unwarranted; and, as far as I am aware of, we each and all did our duty as upholders of the Stars and Stripes; and many of us are willing to return again, to teach a rebel foe a loyal lesson.

J. H. G., Seventy-first Regiment, N.Y.S.M.

New York Sunday Mercury, 8/4/1861

William B. Styple, ed., Writing and Fighting the Civil War: Soldier Correspondence to the New York Sunday Mercury, pp. 38-39





J. H. G., Co. H, 71st NYSM, On the Battle (1)

27 03 2013

Washington Navy Yard, July 23, 1861.

To the Editors of the Sunday Mercury:

Since my last from here, we have had a terrific battle, which, you will learn by the telegraphic accounts, resulted in our being repulsed, although the loss on our side is small in comparison with that of the enemy. The battle commenced at 9 A.M., on Sunday, 21st inst., the first engaged being the Seventy-first and the Rhode Island First and Second Regiments. We opened a heavy fire of musketry on the Alabamians, and slaughtered them badly. We could see them fall one after another very fast. They returned our fire with great activity and killed many of us, and wounded some thirty of our boys; and, the killed is supposed to be about ten, although we were at first reported badly cut up. We stood our ground well, and were the last to leave the field. Our colors were completely riddled, and a shell passed through the centre of the flag, just above the color-bearer’s head. We had almost succeeded in taking the battery on our left, when, by a ruse, the rebels stopped our firing by raising the Stars and Stripes. We thought they were our friends, and stopped firing, whereby a great advantage was gained by them. We were marched some twenty miles, and then entered the fight much worn out, but, nevertheless, we sustained the previous good reputation of the gallant Seventy-first, of Gotham. One of our Company H was struck by a cannon-ball in the face, which carried away his upper jaw and part of the nose – a horrid sight indeed. Another was struck by a ball in the thigh; he fell near me, and exclaimed: “My God, I’m shot!” One other was wounded in the left hand; and our gallant Lieut Embler was also wounded in the fleshy part of the leg, but it will not prove serious, we all hope. He is a brave man and gentleman. Col. Martin lost his horse, and had to foot it during the engagement. He walked up and down, cheering the boys and encouraging us on to victory. We finally all retreated in order, and reached Washington on Monday. Capt. Ellis was wounded slightly. Only four of our boys are missing. The rebels were seen cutting the throats of our wounded and bayoneting them to death. Oh, what a terrible sight! I hope never to see it again. The groans and cries of the wounded were too horrible to be depicted, amid the roaring cannon and the bursting of shell over and around us. Our total loss is about thirty in all. But few balls fell among us, as they were fired too high as a general thing. We expect to be home on Friday. The boys are under orders to leave for home to-morrow (Thursday), and all is bustle and confusion. I can write no more at present, but hoping you will set matters all right with relatives and friends of the regiment, believe me, yours, as ever, in the Union cause.

J. H. G.

Co. H, Seventy-first Regiment N.Y.S.M.

New York Sunday Mercury, 7/28/1861

William B. Styple, ed., Writing and Fighting the Civil War: Soldier Correspondence to the New York Sunday Mercury, pp. 34-35





John Ellis and the 71st NY at Bull Run

20 07 2011

[Via Pony Express]
The Battle of Bull Run *
—-
Personal Narrative of a San Franciscan
Col. John S. Ellis and his Four Brothers in Battle

Col. John S. Ellis of the 1st Regiment of California State Militia, and Sheriff elect of San Francisco – who is now on a visit to the East – served as a volunteer (attached, for the [ponce?], to the 71st New York Regiment) during the battle of Bull Run. Four of his brothers were also members of the same regiment. Col. Ellis has written a private letter to a friend of this city, giving a graphic account of the battle, which we are permitted to publish. The narrative will be read with deep interest by the personal friends of the gallant Colonel, and the public at large. He writes as follows:

New York, August 2, 1861.

I have had such an exciting time of it since I arrived [24th June] that this is the first fair opportunity I have had to write a letter.

* * *

I immediately proceeded to Washington in uniform, and took with me the flag which the National Guard commissioned me to present to the Massachusetts 1st. I found them encamped on Georgetown Heights. I fixed the 6th of July, for the presentation to come off. The regiment formed a hollow square to receive my party and myself. We had four carriage loads. Among others, were Senators McDougal, Wilson of Massachusetts, Colonel Hooker, Judge Satterlee, and George Smiley. They had a fine band playing patriotic airs. McDougal made a speech; also Senator Wilson, and the Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment made a beautiful one. The regiment gave me nine cheers. In the evening we had a grand “blow-out” in Washington.

I was all through the battle of Bull Run as a volunteer, attached to the 71st Regiment, armed with a rifle and sabre-bayonet. All my brothers were there also – five of us. We started at 2 o’clock on Sunday morning; marched none hours without resting three minutes at a time, and having in that period traversed about 15 miles, went right into action without breakfast; fought until 6 o’clock Sunday night; then retreated, marched all night and did not reach our camp till 9 o’clock Monday morning – all without anything for food except a hard, dry cracker, which I could not eat. We marched over 50 miles.

My brother Julius was shot in the foot while at the head of his company, waving his sword and cheering on his men. When he fell, I was with Gus on the howitzers. I heard the cry “Captain Ellis is killed!” and immediately rushed to the spot. The cannon balls were ploughing up the earth all around; shells were bursting and crashing through the trees directly in our rear, and the Minie balls were battering and humming in all directions. I immediately carried him off the field, and for nearly a quarter of a mile in direct range of the enemy’s guns; but, through God’s providence, our party were not hit. I finally found a doctor and ambulance, and put him in, and told my brother Sam not to leave him a moment. Fortunately I did so, as Sam did not allow him to remain at the hospital, but got him on the road. The hospital later in the day was shelled by the enemy and the wounded killed or taken prisoners.

I then went back to the fight and rejoined Gus, who was doing fearful execution with his 12 pounder howitzers. The 71st drove back the enemy three times, and completely cut up the Alabama regiment; and Sherman’s battery on our right silenced one of the enemy’s batteries until they got out of ammunition. We did our share; we drove back the enemy whenever he showed his face, and for a long time thought we had gained the victory. But alas! how much were we mistaken! Other regiments were ordered to charge into the woods and were met by masked batteries which poured into their bosoms the most terrific fire. The enemy had planted his guns in every conceivable position on the very points our troops had to advance by. No one knew where these batteries were located, how many guns were mounted, nor in what force were the enemy. No men unsupported as we were could advance without being annihilated. The regiments of our brigade were withdrawn from the unenviable situation, and formed in a large field; when, over the distant hills, came the enemy in force – a line of battle a mile long – outflanking us in all directions, with other parallel lines of lesser strength. Every blade of grass gleamed with a bayonet. This was too much for our unsupported troops, and they gave way. The 71st, however, was the last to leave the field, and retreated in line of battle, (with the enemy not 500 yards off,) until we reached the woods, when we flanked into the narrow road, and kept good order until the flying artillery came tearing through our ranks in full retreat. Their baggage wagons and ambulances so choked up the road that we could not keep the ranks for several miles. At Bull Run Crossing the enemy had allowed us to pass, and we never dreamed they had a masked battery there; but in the evening they shelled us, and a good many men were killed close to us (Gus and me). A shell exploded near us, and a spent fragment hit Gus under his arm and blackened it for nearly the whole length.

I cannot here relate all the scenes I saw, the horrible wounds inflicted, and all the incidents of this most shameful and unnecessary battle – for which the troops feel they were sacrificed by the stupidity of their generals. Suffice it to say our men fought bravely; and I can only account for the panic with which they were seized by the facts that the teamsters took fright and drove their wagons pell mell through them, and that many of the regiments had totally incompetent field and company officers – many of hwom acted cowardly – and the most of whom didn’t know what to do. We only had about 12,000 men engaged, and the enemy had all the way from 60,000 to 90,000 – out of sight, behind masked batteries, and in the woods. As it is, we routed them whenever they came out, until their reinforcements came down upon us, as I have related.

My brother Ash (Captain of Company K, 70th N.Y.S.T.,) just off a sick bed, was physically prostrated by the exertions of the day, and was carried into battle between two of his men, one of whom was shot dead. His Colonel was shot through the heart, and a majority of the Captains killed and wounded. He was hit by a spent ball which paralyzed his left leg. I subsequently met him on the road limping between two men and got a seat for him in one of the Rhode Island wagons. I was not even scratched – a most wonderful escape, as men were knocked over in every direction. The hum of the shells and whiz of the Minies filled my ears for the next 24 hours.

My father came down to the Navy Yard and he and I brought Julius home. The day before yesterday the Regiment returned here – sop all our boys are now at home except Ash, who is in for three years. Julius has received a very severe wound neat the tendon Achilles. I think a fragment of a shell must have struck him with its pointed end and passed on, as the surgeons cannot discover any foreign body lodged.

Remember me to all my good friends; you know very well I cannot write to them all, so when you meet them, say that I desired you to say that I am lively and hope to be among them before long.

Through the effects of this battle we have lost much of our prestige, but I think it is a lesson we my profit by. It has wonderfully raised the spirits of the Rebels, and men say they are preparing for an attack on Washington. If they should, and are repulsed, they would find it difficult to recover. We can lose battles and it only makes us mad – they cannot afford reverses.

By the way, I was also in Washington on the 4th of July and saw the parade of 23 New York regiments – a fine sight truly.

I leave for San Francisco on the 11th instant – solus.

Your old friend,
John S. Ellis

* San Francisco Bulletin August 20, 1861

Meta





And Yet Another

20 07 2011

And here’s another piece on a letter to a newspaper from a Bull Run participant, this time from John Ellis of the 71st New York and on Scott Patchan’s blog. I’ll get this one from the 8/20/61 San Francisco Bulletin transcribed ASAP.

I intend to include all the letters and newspaper accounts coming to light now in the resources section of Bull Runnings, but in order to do so I must have as much information as possible. Ellis is a good example of enough information. Full metadata, or as far as I’m concerned an image of the source document, is best. If it’s published, I need to have all the information that would be included in a footnote. Snippets of letters without dates or citation info, which is what many bloggers post, won’t be included here.








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