Burnham’s Report

23 08 2009

You won’t find Colonel George S. Burnham’s name listed as commander of the 1st Connecticut Volunteers on most First Bull Run orders of battle: not R. M. Johnston’s, not John Hennessy’s, not Ed Bearss’, not Joanna McDonald’s, not even online OOBs like the NPS and Wikipedia.  I suspect the reasons behind these works listing Lt. Col. John Speidel at the head of the regiment that day are the result of two factors: the lack of an official report for the regiment; and the failure of Col. E. M. Keyes to name Burnham in his report, which recognizes the other regimental commanders in Keyes’s brigade and mentions Speidel, though not as commanding the 1st CT.  But Burnham wrote this history of the regiment’s brief existence for the Connecticut Adjutant General, and NPS Ranger Jim Burgess pointed me to a couple of contemporary newspaper articles which state that Burnham was on the field with the regiment during the battle:

It is a fact that our Connecticut troops stormed a battery before which the regulars had previously been repulsed.  The Third Regiment suffered most severely.  The enemy fought chiefly from behind masked batteries, and when one was taken they had another concealed which commanded it.  Three, however, were taken by great bravery in succession.  Col. Burnham, of the Connecticut First, distinguished himself for his coolness and courage. – “Return Home of the First Regiment”, Hartford, The Daily Courant, July 27, 1861

We kept on fighting, Gen. Tyler assuring us we had won the day.  He acted Bravely; so did Col. Keyes and Col. Spiedel; Col. Burnham stood by his regiment.- “Capt. Fitzgibbon’s Statement”, Hartford, The Daily Courant, July 29, 1861

This was enough for me to show Burnham as in command of the regiment on my order of battle for McDowell’s army.  A few weeks ago, I happened upon a website maintained by paleontologist William Parker, which I described in this post.  An exchange of emails with Mr. Parker, a descendant of a member of the 1st CT, informed me of the existence of an after action report written within days of the battle by Col. Burnham.  The report, Mr. Parker informed me, resides at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford.  It just so happens that, at the time I learned this, Facebook friend and Bull Runnings reader Dr. Lesley Gordon was in Hartford at the State Library doing research on her upcoming book on the 16th CT.  While I didn’t get in touch with her in time for her to copy the document, Dr. Gordon did put me in contact with Mel Smith, a librarian with the History and Genealogy Unit at the Library.  About two weeks later, at a cost of $5.22, I received a photocopy of the handwritten Official Report of Colonel George S. Burnham of the Battle of Bull Run, dated July 24, 1861, which I transcribed and posted here.  I inserted a few words or interpreted words of questionable legibility in brackets, and made a few paragraph breaks, but otherwise the report was transcribed as written.

I think in the absence of any positive evidence to the contrary, we have to accept that Col. George S. Burnham was indeed in command of the 1st CT Volunteers on July 21, 1861.  Thanks to Jim Burgess, William Parker, Lesley Gordon and Mel Smith for all your help.

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#18b – Col. George S. Burnham

21 08 2009

Unpublished Report

Report of Colonel George L. Burnham, First Connecticut Volunteers

Photocopy from Connecticut State Library in Site Owner’s Collection (*)

Fort Corcoran near Washington, DC

July 24th, 1861

Sir, I have the honor to report that we started from our Bivouac at Centreville at 2 O’Clock on the morning of the 21st of July, keeping the Warrentown Turnpike for about four miles, my regiment leading the Brigade.  There the Brigade was ordered to file off the road into the fields to allow troops to pass, the Brigade being held in reserve that day. After waiting some three hours, we filed again into the road.  Proceeding some two miles we again halted for a short time.  We then were ordered to advance.  Emerging from the woods through which we passed we were opened upon with a very heavy fire of shells from some two or three of the enemies batteries.  The troops dropping at the flash of the guns, most of the shells went over us, but few doing any serious damage.  Advancing at the double quick obliquely to [the] right of the road, we passed the building afterwards used as a hospital.  I met Gen. McDowell [and] was ordered by him to march by the left flank (we then were marching by the right.)  Passing through a narrow strip of woods we came in full view of the enemy, upon whom we immediately opened fire, and as well as I could judge, with considerable effect.  We then were ordered to march by the Left Flank, following the Connecticut 2d.  Being very hotly attacked by the enemies fire we kept well under the hill which protected our men to a great degree.  We were ordered to charge on one of the batteries but it was countermanded by yourself as [it] was evident that it would be a perfect annihilation of our men.  We then made attacks on the enemy whenever a favorable opportunity presented itself. 

About 4 O’Clock we had orders to change our position marching by the right flank, the Conn. 2d filing past.  Proceeding to the Hospital we learnt of the rout of our Army.  My regiment kept in most excellent good order, although hotly pressed by the enemies fire.  Reaching the woods we soon after met the enemies Cavalry in full charge, but my regiment standing its ground and one of our guns opening fire on them, they soon left us.  Coming up soon after with the N. Y. 2d under command of the Lieut. Colonel (the Colonel being absent) who placed his regiment with my own under my command, but had gone but a short distance when seeing Gen. Schenck the commander of their Brigade I placed myself and regiment under his command for a short time.

Reaching Cub Run I vainly tried to rescue the Parrot gun which was mired [by the] side of the road.  Fording the stream the staff of our color State Color was shot in two, but our colors on that day were not dishonored, but were brought off the field.

We then came up to Col. Miles Brigade which were held as reserve, and most nobly did he do his duty.  His presence with his Brigade held in most admirable order revived the [drooping?] spirits of the tired and retreating soldiers who immediately took fresh courage.  And the enemies Cavalry which up to this time and had pressed most earnestly and severely on our troops concluded it was time for them to retire, which they did much to our satisfaction.  We then marched into our old Bivouac Grounds in Centreville in as good order as when we first reached them the day Thursday before. 

Consoling ourselves that we were the first Regiment in the field, of the Brigade, and the last (as far as I could see) of all out of it our loss being eight wounded and nine missing.  And allow me to say that the Troops could not have behaved better, faithfully obeying every order and were [easily?] handled, my adjutant being my assistant. 

Resting awhile at Centreville we were ordered back to camp at Falls Church which place we reached after daybreak the 22d.  Striking our tents according to orders we remained all day in a most drenching rain, which occasioned very much suffering among the men on account of the very fatiguing duties of the day before and the wanting of rest.  At dark marching down with the two other Conn. Regiments we took possession of the two Ohio camps (1st & 2d) where with the Conn. 3d we rested for the night.  Next morning we struck the tents and with all the Camp Equipage &c we sent to Alexandria, the Conn. 2d doing the same thing for the N.Y. 2d.  The Three Regiments then marched to Fort Corcoran arriving at about sundown, well worn out.

My men, through this severe trial, seemed to vie with each other to find the least complaint of their sufferings, excepting, of course, those who basely deserted their colors or refused to go into the field on that eventful day, those complaining the most that suffered the least.

I hope I may be excused if there is any discrepancy in the report as I have been suffering with a most painful attack of neuraligy and with which I now suffer with redoubled force owing to my recent exposure.

I have the honor to be your most obdt servant

Geo. S. Burnham

Col. 1st Regt Conn. Vol.

To Col. E. D. Keyes

Commanding First Brigade

(*) All but last two paragraph breaks not in original.  [ ] are edited into text.





Cool Find

20 08 2009

ArthurIn today’s snail-mail I received an after action report that is not in The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies or any other printed collection, as far as I know; and has not been used in any history of the battle, as far as I know.  I have to transcribe it, since what I received is a photocopy of the handwritten report.  First I’ll post a short article on how I came by this document (a couple of people to thank for that), then I’ll post the report to the Resources.  Readers are what make a project like this work, and I couldn’t do it without you guys.





#6a – [USA] Casualties, July 21, 1861 – Regimental

31 03 2009

O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME LI/1 [S# 107], pp. 17-19

6ap17vol51pt1

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#121 – [CSA] Casualties, July 21, 1861

30 03 2009

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, p 570

121p570

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#76a – Col. Montgomery D. Corse

28 03 2009

Report of Col. Montgomery D. Corse, Seventeenth Virginia Infantry, of action at Blackburn’s Ford, July 18

O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME LI/1 [S# 107], pp. 33-34

BULL RUN, July 19, 1861

GENERAL: I beg leave respectfully to report the operations of the Seventeenth Regiment of Virginia Volunteers on the 18th of July:

In pursuance of your orders the rifle companies (B and H), commanded by Captains Simpson and Herbert, were deployed as skirmishers along the right bank of Bull Run above Blackburn’s Ford, whilst Companies A and G, commanded by Captains Marye and Towson, were posted at the ford. Companies E and K, under Captains Devaughn and Shackelford, were detached and posted low down the run on the right of the First Regiment of Virginia Volunteers. About I p.m. the enemy appeared in considerable force on the opposite bank and opened a severe and continuous fire upon the First and Seventeenth Regiments. At this moment the remaining companies of the regiment were marched to the run, and responded lively and gallantly to the enemy’s fire. Company A, Captain Marye, was then ordered to cross the run and deploy as skirmishers on the opposite bank. Company C, Captain Head, and Company F, Captain Hamilton, were subsequently ordered to cross also and sustain this movement. The three companies promptly executed these orders, and after bravely driving the enemy through the woods back to their main body retired, bringing their own wounded and seven prisoners. Some fifteen or more of the enemy were killed, and many wounded. It affords me much gratification to remark upon the coolness and bravery manifested by both officers and men under my command. Particularly I must speak of the gallant conduct of Lieutenant-Colonel Munford, Major Brent, Adjutant Humphreys, Captain Marye, and Captain Head, who were actively and fearlessly employed during the engagement at the points where the fire was hottest. I must also mention Surgeon Lewis and Assistant Surgeon Snowden, who were untiring in their efforts to relieve the wounded, regardless of their personal safety. I regret to add that Captains Dulany and Presstman were severely wounded whilst at the head of their companies. Captain Shackelford, commanding Company K, and Lieutenant Javins, of Company E, were slightly wounded. Private Thomas R. Sangster, Company A, was killed, and four privates severely and six slightly wounded. I herewith return a full list of casualties.(*)

Your obedient servant,

M. D. CORSE,

Colonel, Comdg. Seventeenth Regiment Virginia Volunteers

Brigadier-General LONGSTREET,

Commanding Fourth Brigade, C. S. Army

(*) Shows 1 man killed, 4 officers and 10 men wounded





#4a – Col. Thomas A. Davies

27 03 2009

Report of Col. Thomas A. Davies, Sixteenth New York Infantry, Commanding Second Brigade, Fifth Division, of Skirmish at Fairfax Court-House, July 17

O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME LI/1 [S# 107], pp. 19-20

HEADQUARTERS SECOND BRIGADE, FIFTH DIVISION,

July 17, 1861

Agreeably to General Orders, No. 9, the Second Brigade, commanded by me, consisting of the Sixteenth, Eighteenth, Thirty-first, and Thirty-second Regiments, and Company G, Second Artillery (Greene’s light battery), took the advance of the Fifth Division, moving on Fairfax Court-House by way of the old Braddock road south of the turnpike road. I found the road very difficult for heavy artillery and barricaded by trees felled across the road as often as once in a quarter of a mile, requiring the constant use of the pioneer corps. After passing very many of these barricades we came to a blind barricade directly across the road and evidently intended for artillery.  After making reconnaissance we found a small picket posted behind it, when my advanced pickets were ordered to charge and fire upon them, which they did, dispersing it under a running fire. No one on our side was injured, and we never turned aside to ascertain whether any of the enemy were killed or not; the pickets reported, however, seeing several men fall.  This running fire and reconnaissance was continued to within one mile of the Fairfax Court-House, the enemy continuing retreating and firing upon our advancing pickets at every convenient opportunity.  After the exchange of fires a reconnaissance was made, discovering many abandoned masked batteries, and at last quite an extensive temporary fortification about one mile and a half from Fairfax Court-House, out of which we drove the enemy, who left their camp equipage, clothing, swords, and the like. We then pressed on to the encampment of the Fifth Alabama Regiment, which fled before us, leaving many valuable articles, guns, camp equipage, tents, corn, stores, and their hospital sick, taking the road, as we understood, to Centerville and Manassas Junction.  At this point, having received information that General McDowell had taken possession of Fairfax Court-House, the Fifth Division encamped, partly on the ground of the Fifth Alabama and the balance in the vicinity of the cross-roads. I have to report to you that we had three men wounded–one in the leg, one in the side, and one through the hand. We did not stop to examine the effect of shots which we made, but it is reported to me that as many as fifteen to twenty were seen to fall in the woods. I have to report to you further the energetic manner in which Lieutenant-Colonel Young, of the Eighteenth Regiment, in charge of the advance guard, performed his duty, and further that not a single man of any regiment fell back for an instant, but, on the contrary, the most determined bravery was displayed by every man who came in contact with the enemy.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

THOS. A. DAVIES,

Colonel, Comdg. 2d Brig., 5th Div., Troops Northeastern Virginia

Colonel MILES,

Commanding Fifth Division








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