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





J. A. S., 11th New York Infantry, On the Campaign

17 03 2013

Washington, Thursday, July 25

To the Editors of the Sunday Mercury:

My communications with you have been interrupted for some time by events connected with the movements of our regiment, advancing from time to time, rendering the means of communication with Washington more difficult and uncertain. But to resume from my last letter, written at Shuter’s Hill, I have to say that the regiment broke camp, and move down the road some four miles, to a spot nearly opposite Cloud’s Mills, where we found ourselves supported on one side by the Scott Life Guard (Thirty-eighth Regiment), First Michigan, two Maine, and one Vermont regiments. We here remain for some days, until orders were received for the column to advance in light marching order. The men were given three days’ provisions in their haversacks, consisting solely of  six pilot biscuits, a piece of salt pork, one small cup of ground coffee, and a cup of sugar.

Leaving our encampment at about 10 o’clock in the morning, we took the road for Fairfax Station. The rest of the troops marched toward Fairfax Court House, while our brigade, consisting of the Michigan First, Scott Life Guard, and our own regiment, took a circuitous route through the woods to outflank the enemy at Fairfax Station. Company B., Captain Edward Burns, was sent forward as skirmishers, and entered Fairfax Station about an hour in advance of the main body. As they came within sight of the railroad station, they found the enemy retreating down the railroad-track, and, taking a side path, captured eleven in the woods, and in their camp, behind a masked battery, also took the flag of the Teusas Rifles, presented to them by the ladies of Teusas, Alabama. This flag was taken possession of by Colonel Willcox. It was a handsome blue-silk standard, with eight stars on a blue field, and a representation of a bale of cotton, wrought in white silk. It was afterward delivered up to Brigadier-General McDowell, who complimented the company on their bravery, and trusted the regiment would continue to do its duty as well in the future as in the past.

The next morning Capt. Andrew Purtell, of Co. K, assisted by John Wildey, of Co. I, and your correspondent, raised the American flag on the camp-ground of the rebels, amid the stirring music of the drum and fife and the enthusiastic cheers of the men. The flag which was raised was presented to Comapny K by Messrs. Whitton, Forsyth and other friends from the neighborhood of the Washington Market, in New York City. After taking up the line of march, at 3 o’clock that afternoon, we proceeded along the road past Fairfax Court House onto Centreville, when we were apprised of a battle going on by the report of artillery, which could be distinctly heard. Orders were immediately given to proceed as rapidly as possible, and at the same time we heard the most extravagant rumors that the New York Second and Twelfth Volunteers, and the Sixty-ninth, had engaged some batteries near Bull’s Run, and were badly cut up, so as to need immediate assistance. The men made the most super-human exertions until we arrived at the front of the hill near Centreville, when we were told that our services were not required, as they had beaten the enemy, and taken possession of a battery, at a place near Bull’s Run. We then again took up the line of march, with only a rest of a half an hour. We passed there the main body of our army, and lay for the night in full view of the village of Centreville. Here, by orders of Colonel Willcox, foraging parties were sent out, and some forty or fifty head of cattle brought in, shot, and dressed for the use of the men, and distributed to them. Our brigade – under Colonel Willcox – was thus the only one, or nearly, that was supplied with fresh food that night and the ensuing morning. Resting that day, and up to Saturday evening, we were ordered again to fall in line for a forward movement. Company rolls were called, and the men responded with alacrity, after which, we were told to lie down by our guns until 2 o’clock in the morning of Sunday. At that hour we were called up, and were fairly on the march a little after 4 o’clock.

Again striking a circuitous path through the woods, so as to flank the enemy’s batteries, accompanied by Gen. McDowell (the Scott Life Guard and the Michigan Regiment still with us), we marched steadily on until between 12 and 1 o’clock in the day. During the last four miles on the march we were in sight of the battlefield, from whence we could see clouds of smoke arising, and distinctly hear the report of the guns. Coming nearly within a mile of the actual battle-field, our men halted, threw off their overcoats, and haversacks, and, with only their canteens and equipments, marched immediately on the field.  Arriving at the foot of the hill, our two associate regiments were detached from us, while we marched over the brow of the hill, through a heavy wheat-field. Our red shirts had no sooner glanced in the sunlight than the enemy, noticing our approach, began to throw their six-pound shot at us. Falling back to the foot of the hill, Companies A and H of the regiment were ordered to be held back as reserve, while the remainder pressed eagerly onto the fight. These two companies in less than five minutes, were ordered forward and join the regiment in the battle. Our first point of attack was the nearest position held by the rebels. Some three regiments of riflemen were drawn up in front of a fence, with a masked battery on their left, at the edge of a wood which run down to our right, filled with their sharp-shooters and cavalry. From two to three hundred yards distant from the enemy’s line was another fence, up to which our regiment charged and delivered their fire. From here we could plainly see the rebel soldiers with the Confederate flag in the centre. While the men were loading, a charge was made on our rear, from the wood, by the now celebrated Black Horse Cavalry. Col. Heintzelman, of the Regular service was at this time with us, and he, like ourselves mistook this cavalry for troops of our own. Waving a small American flag at each end of their line, they advance to within almost  pistol shot, when our men discovered their mistake, and, flanking round, poured a volley into them, and then made a charge. It was one indiscriminate fight, hand to hand, and men fell on all sides, the enemy in front firing at us. Bowie-knives and pistols were used with deadly effect, until in this way the cavalry were driven back, their horses scampering riderless and wildly over the hills. At this point Col. Farnham was shot from his horse, wounded on the left side of the head, but was picked up and again placed on his charger, and led us to the charge against the battery. Major Loeser’s horse was also shot from under him, but being again mounted, he rode around our line as coolly as ever, urging the men to the charge. Being again driven back we retired some distance down the hill, attempting to carry our wounded off with us, when the colonel rode around to the rear and again brought the men to the charge.  It was all in vain, however, for our comrades were fast falling by the fire from the woods, while the enemy were too firmly intrenched for us to attempt to get nearer than the fence of which I firs spoke. At this point the Michigan First were brought up and driven back. Then the Rhode Island men charged with Gov. Sprague riding at their head; and, fighting all that the men could do, were still repulsed. While we were thus carrying our wounded slowly with us, we observed the Sixty-ninth Regiment coming along in full line of battle. They asked what the matter was, and being told that we had been driven back, answered that they would take satisfaction for us. Marching up to the particular point from where we had been driven, they delivered in their fire, loaded and fired again, and staid until actually driven back without the least chance of forcing the enemy from his position. It was at this time that their flag was taken (the green banner of their nationality) and carried through the woods.

Capt. Wildey, of Co. I, rallying a few men, charged through the wood after those who had the flag in their possession, and with his own pistol shooting the two rebels who had it, rescued and brought it back in triumph. In this way, with the flag of the Sixty-ninth at the head of our regiment we marched on towards Centreville. We had gone but a short distance, when from the clouds of dust on the roads to the right and left, and, on our rear, we could notice that the enemy were in full pursuit. Before proceeding a half mile, we were warned of their being within range by cannon-ball plowing the ground at our sides. We then took to the woods the colonel still riding at our head, bareheaded, and bleeding and after a march of about a mile, were charged upon by their infantry. Turning and delivering a volley which drove them back, we again marched on, and in a short time, gained the wide open road which brought us to Centreville, and from thence about two miles further down where those who were most fatigued made a halt for the night under charge of Capts. Wildey and Purtell, Lieut. Willsey, Capts. Bill Burns, Leverich, and a few other officers.

At about 10 o’clock that evening we were roused by the wagoneers, who told us that they had orders to retreat, as the enemy were endeavoring to cut us off at Fairfax Court House. There was no recourse but to  again take the road; and weary, footsore, and travel-worn, those that were left in our party reached Alexandria next morning.

There were many incidents connecting with the battle which might be interesting to your readers, did time permit or space suffice. The first one carried from the field was Lieut. Divver, of Vampany G. Shortly afterward, we saw a sergeant, whom we supposed to be Dan Collins, so well known and celebrated a singer in New York, carried off. Then small troops of men were scattered over the field, four or five in each, endeavoring to bear off some wounded comrade. Some were shot through the head, and lived perhaps five minutes; but most of the wounded were shot about the stomach and thigh – the majority of missiles being rifle-balls. On the road down, Capt. Leverich told me that he had left three of his sergeants on the field. Lyons, Connolly, of Engine 51, were left behind, also Babcock, of Engine 38, and many others whose names it would be impossible to give in this brief space. It will perhaps be three or four days yet before the actual loss in killed and wounded can be ascertained; but it has been very heavy – perhaps too heavy for our friends in New York to believe. Still, many are reported as missing who will yet turn up. Quite a number are undoubtedly in the woods between Fairfax and Centreville, and may yet come home safe.

It will take at least a month for our regiment to be fully recruited and ready to enter the field again. The general feeling among the men is, that of wanting satisfaction for the loss they have already suffered. So far as the officers of our regiment are concerned, one and all fought as bravely and manfully as the men could do. The colonel himself, bleeding, and faint, and weary, stood by us, and led us on in our disastrous route, and even took the precaution to have the guns that were thrown away by men in the fight placed under the wheels of the wagons so as to be broken and rendered useless, if picked up by the enemy.

Where the fault rests, it’s impossible for me to say. General McDowell, who was near our regiment, seemed to act cool and collected, and I cannot believe the mistake was his. The one great mistake, in bringing the men up, regiment by regiment, to charge on the batteries, where a full brigade was required.

If our friends in New York will only send on money, if they can, it will be the means of keeping many here, who, otherwise, will be likely to go away, and endeavor to reach home.

Many acts of kindness where exhibited toward our men by citizens in Washington, and also by our friends in New York, who came on, prominent among whom I noticed Hon. John Haskin, Alderman Brady, James Cameron of Horse Comp. 28, and many others, who did not spare their money in providing food and quarters for those who are here suffering. The stories told of the barbarity of the rebels toward our troops are in many cases, perhaps, exaggerated; but that cruelty was practiced toward them, there can be no doubt. Our hospital, with the yellow flag, and the letter H in its centre, flying from the roof of the building was fired on with shells and cannonry, and set on fire. Many poor fellows very likely lost their lives in it. Capt. Downey, it is reported, was butchered by them; but for the truth of this I cannot vouch, although many men assert it as an actual fact within their own knowledge. Certainly we were led to believe, before going into battle, and even on the retreat, that we need expect no mercy, and those who sank from exhaustion, intending to deliver themselves up, lay down with but little hope of ever regaining their regiment or meeting their friends. We ascertain from a sergeant of the Alabama Rifles whom we captured that their orders were to spare no man wearing a red shirt, but whether this inhuman mandate was fully carried into execution or not, it is impossible to say. Possibly those who may come in within the next day or two, will be able to state the truth on this point. I have thus briefly given such particulars as can be hurriedly noted down; and in my subsequent letters, will endeavor to give full information relative to all those who have been reported as missing, who are not with the regiment.

J. A. S.

P.S. – I shall furnish you with an official list of our killed and wounded as soon as our loss can be definitely ascertained. At present, all is rumor; and I would not harrow the feelings of any family by forwarding an unreliable statement.

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. 32-34





Miss Emma Holmes, On the Battle, Aftermath, and Return of Dead to Charleston

18 02 2013

July 19 - News arrived today of the battle at Manassas Junction, which lasted four hours & a half in which the Federalists were severely beaten with great loss, while ours was very slight.

July 22 - The telegraph this morning announces a great and glorious victory gained yesterday at Bull’s Run after ten hours hard fighting. The enemy were completely routed, with tremendous slaughter; the loss on either side is of course not yet known, but ours is light compared to theirs. They have besides lost the whole of the celebrated Sherman’s Battery, two or three others, and a quantity of ammunition, baggage, etc. Their whole force amounted to about 80,000 while ours was only 35,000; only our left wing, however, command by Gen. Johnson, 15,000 against 35,000 of the enemy, were mostly engaged. The entire commanded by the President, who arrived on the field about noon, & the right wing, led by Beauregard, were only partially engaged. The Georgia Regiment commanded by Col. Francis S. Bartow seems to have suffered very severely, the Oglethorp Light I.[nfantry] from Savannah especially. Col. Bartow was killed and also Gen. Barnard Bee and Col. B. F. Johnson of the Hampton Legion. The latter arrived only three hours before the battle and seem to have taken conspicuous part in it. In Gen. Bee the Confederate Army lost an officer whose place cannot readily be supplied. He stood so high in his profession that, immediately after his arrival quite late from the distant western frontiers, a captain, he was raised to the rank of Brigadier General; he was one of Carolina’s noblest sons, and, though we glory in the victory won by the prowess of our gallant men, tears for the honored dead mingle with our rejoicings. Col Bartow was one of the most talented and prominent men in Savannah and very much beloved; he left Congress to go to Va. with the O.[gelthorpe] L.[ight] I.[nfantry] as their captain, but was made Col. & was acting Brigadier Gen. during the battle. Col. Johnson’s loss will also be much felt; he leaves a wife & eight children. A great many Charlestonians are wounded but only three of Kershaw’s R.[egiment] which must have been in the right wing…Rumors are, of course, flying in every direction, none of which are to be relied on, but Willie Heyward went on tonight to see after some of his friends, who he hears are wounded.

July 23 - The telegraph today only confirms what we heard yesterday without additional information, as the wires from Manassas to Richmond were down for some hours. Several gentlemen went on last night with servants & nurses to attend our wounded, and societies for their relief are being organized in the city. The northern account of the battle & dreadful panic which seized their troops, followed by complete demoralization, is most graphic. They admit that the carnage was fearful. The “brag” regiment of N. Y., the 69th, was cut to pieces; the infamous Fire Zouaves went into battle 1100 strong and come out 206. The New Orleans Zouaves were let loose on them & most amply were the murder of [James] Jackson & the outrages on women avenged on these fiends; 60 pieces of artillery were taken including Sherman’s which was celebrated as Ringgold’s during the Mexican War[,] Carlisle’s, Griffins, the West Point Batteries, & the 8 siege 32-pounder rifled cannon, with which Scott was marching upon Richmond. The Federal army left Washington commanded by Scott in all the pomp & pageantry of the panoply of war – all so grand and impressive in their own eyes that they did not dream that we would strike a blow but would lay down our arms in terror. They carried 550 pair of handcuffs & invited immense numbers of ladies to follow and see Beauregard and Lee put into irons, expecting to march directly on to Richmond. The contrast of the picture may be imagined – gloom and terror reign in Washington, and they are multiplying fortifications and reinforcing the city.

Today, by Col. [Richard] Anderson’s order, a salute was fired of twenty-one guns, from Forts Moultrie & Sumter, at 12 o’clock, in honor of the victory, & tomorrow their flags will be placed at half-mast and guns fired hourly from 6:00 A. M. till sunset in honor of the illustrious dead. Preparations are being made to receive the bodies in state; the City Hall is draped in mourning as when Calhoun lay in state, & now his statue gleams intensely white through the funeral hangings surrounding the three biers. I have not yet visited the hall but those who have say the impression is awfully solemn. It seems really the “Chamber of the Dead.” The  bodies were expected today, but a delay occurred & they may not come till Friday. This afternoon the Ladies Charleston Volunteer Aid Society held a meeting at the S. C. Hall, 192 ladies were there and nearly $1,000 collected from subscriptions and donations, Miss Hesse [T.] Drayton was appointed Superintendent, & Hesse [D. Drayton], Assistant, Emily Rutledge, Secy. & Treasurer, & 12 Managers to cut out the work & distribute it. We are to have monthly as well as quarterly meetings. The ladies all seemed to enjoy seeing their friends as well sa the purpose for which they came. Mrs. Geo. Robertson & Mrs. Amy Snowden have got up another called Soldiers’ Relief Assn. not only for sending clothes, but comforts & necessaries for the sick and wounded, while the ladies interested in the Y. M. C. A. have got up another& already sent on supplies for the hospitals. All are most liberally supported…

July 25 - Gen. McClellan has superseded McDowell, U. S., who was defeated at Bull Run on the 21st. He had telegraphed to Washington announcing a signal victory & by the time the news arrived his troops were routed and flying for their lives.

Mr. [Robert] Bunch of the English Consul says he considers this one of the most remarkable victories ever gained. Not only were the Lincolnites double our number, but all their batteries were manned by regulars, well trained and experienced as well as commanded by experienced officers. Those batteries were almost all taken by infantry at the point of the bayonet, a thing which has never been done before – cavalry always being sent to charge them.

The new French Consul, Baron St. Andre’, has lately arrived here. He was instructed to avoid Washington & to present his credentials to the Mayor, so at least we hear, and seems probable it is but the preparatory step to recognizing us.

July 26 - [Aunt] Carrie [Blanding] & myself went up today to Mrs. [Anna Gaillard] White’s to bid Mary Jane and herself goodbye as they expect to leave at midday for Summersville on their way Winnsboro. We found a number of the Dragoons collected there, waiting the arrival of the bodies; the train was expected at eight and again at ten, but a telegram announced that a delay had occurred & it would not arrive till one. Mr. [John] White invited some of the dragoons to wait there instead of returning home. A funereal car had been sent to Florence to meet the bodies & another draped in mourning bore the committee appointed to meet it. Business was generally suspended, all the flags were at half-mast & the Liberty pole had crape upon it; everybody was out to see the procession. The Dragoons in their summer uniform of pure white, the German Hussars, & Charleston Mounted Guard met the bodies at the depot and escorted them to the City Hall, four from each company being detailed as especial body guard & the City Guard marching in single file on either side of the hearses; the bodies lay in state for three hours; at four the procession moved again, the Dragoons first, Col. Anderson commanding and leading the way, with nearly a thousand regulars trailing arms. The W.[ashington] L.[ight] I.[nfantry] was the only volunteer company carrying ars in respect to Col. Johnson, but every infantry company in the city turned out; the pall bearers were all high officers in brilliant uniforms, some on foot others on horseback immediately around the hearses; the flags were furled, at least some were, & draped in crape. There was but little music. The R.[utledge] M.[ounted] R.[ifles] ending the procession on foot leading their horses, a body of artillery in their way to Va. commanded by Willie Preston were also in the procession. Col. Bartow’s body had been escorted to the Savannah R. R. by the Mounted Guard.

Carrie & myself dined at Mrs. W[hite]‘s; then all went to St. Paul’s [Episcopal Church] where the services were performed by cousin Christopher [Gasden] except Mrs. W and myself – our carriage came for me, and she and I rode out to see the procession. We got a position at the head of Calhoun [St.], and saw it as it turned into Coming [St.] Many of the companies could not get as far as the corner. After the services were over, the bodies were brought out and three volleys fired over them. They were then carried to Magnolia Cemetery, where Col. Johnson was buried & Gen. Bee’s remains placed until tomorrow, when they would be carried to Pendleton where all his family are buried. Gen. Bee was mortally wounded in the stomach by grape or chain shot and did not die till eleven o’clock on Monday and , though he suffered fearfully he never uttered a murmur. Col. J. and Col. B. were both instantly killed, the former dreadfully mangled in the face. Thus it was impossible to allow the family a last look ere they were consigned to the tomb, & oh, how harrowing to their feelings to think those loved forms so near and yet unable to obtain one last agonizing look.

July 27 - …[After Bull Run] 1500 of the Virginia Cavalry pursued the enemy beyond Fairfax till two o’clock in the morning. At that place, they found Gen. Scott’s carriage & six horses, with his sword and epaulettes, his table set with silver, champagne, wines and all sorts of delicacies, to celebrate their intended victory. But the arrival of the panic stricken troops, flying from close pursuit, had compelled “old fuss and Feathers” to follow their humiliating example…

July 29 - A letter was received from Rutledge today written from Stone Bridge on the 22nd. It was merely a few lines in pencil, telling us that the battle had taken place and that Kershaw’s & Cash['s] regiment had the honor of turning the tide of battle to victory. President Davis said they had done so. It was a mistake to say that he commanded the centre; he did not arrive till the enemy were in full retreat. To Beauregard belongs the honor of planning the battle & commanding the army – he has just been made a Confederate General. Col. Richard Anderson  has been raised to the rank of Brigadier General.

Cowen Barnwell says the road to Centreville was strewed not only with arms, knapsacks & soldiers’ clothing, but delicacies of all sorts and ladies bonnets and shawls. For, a great many Lincolnite Congressmen with their wives and friends had gone to witness the ‘great race’ between Federals and Confederates. One of the prisoners said they were told by their officers that we would not fight or at least it would be a mere brush, for our men were so few compared to theirs & they did not believe they would face the regulars, Scott’s chosen 10,000, but would yield or run and their army would march immediately on Richmond. The papers which were taken prove the man’s assertion true. A bill of fare among other things was found of a dinner McDowell intended to give yesterday in Richmond. [Alfred] Ely [of New York], a member of Congress, also Col. Corcoran of the N. Y. 69th, the latter was captured by a mere boy. The P[almetto] G[uard] have captured a flag & two drums. Every Southerner was a hero on that battlefield; every day we learn some new deed of valor, but the taking of Sherman’s battery at the point of the bayonet is the most wonderful. Beauregard said it was the greatest the world has ever seen.

Our troops suffered awfully for want of water. Exhausted from want of food, & hard fighting, their thirst was intense and caused severe suffering.

July 31 – We have heard nothing further from R[utledge] or Mr. T. S[umter] B[rownfield] since their notes dated Stone Bridge 22nd, but Mr. Stephen Elliott received a very interesting letter from Willie [Elliott] who is 1st Lieut. Brooks Guard, Kershaw’s R., giving a sketch of the battle. I fell very proud to think they had such a prominent position and should have had the universally acknowledged honor in connection with Cash’s R. and Kemper’s four-gun battery from a defeat into a glorious victory. For when they rushed to the charge, they met wounded men going to the rear who told them we were beaten & everything which met their sight seemed to confirm it, but undisheartened they rushed onward to victory, to Kershaw’s battle cry “Boys remember Butler, Sumter and your homes.”

It is very difficult to obtain accurate information about either the whereabouts of our friends or those who are wounded, as Beauregard will not allow any but those who are going to join the army to go on to Manassas and the Carolina Regiments are continually on the move…

August 1 - Among other articles captured have been several wagons loaded with handcuffs – 30,000 pairs, to deck their intended victims. I suppose the Lincolnites expected to have a triumphal entry to Washington in the old Roman style.

John F. Marszalek, ed., The Diary of Miss Emma Holmes, 1861-1866, pp. 65-74

More on Emma Holmes





George Templeton Strong, On the Campaign and Aftermath

15 02 2013

July 17. McClellan seems to have crushed treason in Western Virginia. And McDowell’s column is in advance on Fairfax and Manassas Junction. I fear this move is premature, forced on General Scott by the newspapers. A serious check on this line would be a great disaster.

July 19. Dined with Charley Strong and George Allen at the “Maison Doree,” a new and very nice restaurant established in Penniman’s house on Union Square. Called on Dr. Peters, as a private sanitary agent on my own account, also at Mr. Ruggles’s. We are all waiting breathlessly for news from the Army of Virginia. Batteries were encountered by the advance yesterday at Bull’s Run, three miles this side of Manassas Junction, and there was a sharp skirmish, our advance falling back on its supports at last with a loss of some sixty men. Today, there have been diverse stories of additional fight, stories both good and bad; bu the last report is that all are fictions and that things are in status quo. This lack of authentic official reports is no sign of success. We seem on the eve of a general action, but perhaps the enemy is holding Bull’s Run to secure a comfortable retreat toward Richmond. He certainly ran away from Fairfax with great precipitation, but I suppose the chivalry will fight pretty well behind entrenchments.

July 22, Monday. Good news – certainly good, though it may not prove sufficient to justify the crowding and capitals in the Tribune. It’s rather sketchy and vague, and no doubt exaggerated, but there has been fighting on a large scale at Bull’s Run. Our men have been steady under fire and the enemy has fallen back on Manassas. This last important fact seems beyond question.

General Johnston seems to have joined Beauregard, given him numerical preponderance. Patterson does not seem to have followed Johnston up. We attacked yesterday morning, and there was hard fighting till about half past five. Our right, under Hunter, turned the rebel entrenchments and seems to have repulsed the enemy, where they came out of their cover, and tried to use the bayonet. Hunter is killed or severely wounded. Ellsworth’s Fire Zouaves and Corcoran’s Irishmen are said to have fought specially well, and to have suffered much. It is rumored that an advance was shelling the batteries at Manassas last night. Not likely.

Thank God for the good news. We shall probably receive a cold-water douche, however, before night in the shape of less comfortable intelligence.

Seven P.M. My prediction about the douche verified indeed! Today will be known as BLACK MONDAY. We are utterly and disgracefully routed, beaten, whipped by secessionists. Perhaps not disgracefully, for they say Beauregard has 90,000 men in the field, and if so, we were outnumbered two to one. But our men are disorganized and demoralized and have fled to the shelter of their trenches at Arlington and Alexandria as rabbits to their burrows. All our field artillery is lost (twenty-five guns out of forty-nine!), and if the secessionists have any dash in them, they will drive McDowell into the Potomac.

How it happened is still uncertain. It doesn’t appear whether the stampede came of a sudden unaccountable panic, or from the advent of General Johnston on our flank. In this latter case, it was a revival of the legitimate Napoleonic drama: Blucher, General Johnston; Grouchy, General Patterson. But our reports are all a muddle. Only one great fact stands out unmistakably: total defeat and national disaster on the largest scale. Only one thing remains to make the situation worse, and I shall not be surprised if tomorrow’s papers announce it, That is, the surrender of our army across the Potomac and the occupation of Washington by the rebels. We could never retreat across the Long Bridge if successfully assailed, even were our men not cut up and crestfallen and disheartened.

Who will be the popular scapegoat? Probably Patterson, perhaps Secretary Cameron, or even General Scott!

July 23. We feel a little better today. The army is by no means annihilated. Only a small part of it seems to have been stricken with panic. A gallant fight has been made against enormous odds and at every disadvantage. An attack failed and we fell back. Voila tout. Only there is the lamentable loss of guns, some say eighteen, others nearly a hundred. That cannot be explained away. It’s said tonight that Tyler is at Centreville, entrenching himself, so all the ground occupied by our advance is not abandoned. The rebels show no disposition to  follow up their advantage or venture outside their woods and masked batteries. The first reports of our loss in killed and wounded are said to be greatly exaggerated.

Why we delivered battle is a mystery. I suppose the Tribune and other newspapers teased and scolded General Scott into premature action. Thought him too strong and self-sustained to be forced to do anything against his own judgment by outside pressure and popular clamor.

July 25. These Southern scoundrels! How they will brag over the repulse at Bull’s Run, though, to be sure, it’s not nearly so bad as our first reports. And is there not good reason to fear that their omission to follow up their advantage by a march on Washington indicates a movement in overwhelming force on the column of General Banks (lat Patterson’s) or Rosecrans’s (late McClellan’s)? May we not have another disaster to lament within the next forty-eight hours?

How the inherent barbarism of the chivalry crops out whenever it can safely kill or torture a defenseless enemy! Scrape the “Southern Gentleman’s” skin, and you will find a second-rate Comanche underneath it. These felons solaced themselves by murdering our wounded men in cold blood when they found us retiring from the field last Sunday afternoon – and did so with an elaboration of artistic fertility in forms of homicide (setting them up against trees to be fired at, cutting their throats, and so on), that proves them of higher grade in ruffianism and cowardly atrocity than anything our Five points can show. We must soon begin treating the enemy with the hempen penalties of treason.

July 26. The Eighth and Seventy-first Regiments (three-month volunteers) returned today, welcomed by crowds that blocked Broadway. They will be missed at Washington. We fell rather blue today, though without special reason. It seems clear that the loss of the rebels last Sunday was fully as severe as our own. Russell (London Times) writes Sam Ward that the Union army “ran away just as its victory had been secured by the superior cowardice of the South.” Pleasant. But Russell headed the race.

August 2, Friday. Exceeding sultry. Up before three this morning for the early train. But as the ticket office of that wickedly managed Baltimore & Washington Railroad was not opened till long after the hour for starting, our train got off near half an hour behind time, and missed its connection at Baltimore; so we were detained there till ten o’clock, and might just as well have postponed our arising till six. A most sultry ride. There were Dr. Bellows, Van Buren, George Gibbs, Wolcott Gibbs, and myself. Breakfasted at the Gilman House and dined at the Continental (Philadelphia). Saw Horace Binney at his house a moment. We have elected him and Bishop Clark of Rhode Island full members of the Commission, and I think both will serve. Home at half-past nine.

Washington hotter and more detestable than ever. Plague of flies and mosquitoes unabated.

Went on by night train Saturday. Spent the night filed away like a bundle of papers in one of the “sleeping” (!) car pigeonholes, where I perspired freely all night.

Sunday at the hospitals – two at Georgetown (“Seminary” and “Union Hotel”), and one at Alexandria. Much to write about both, were there time. Condition of the wounded thus far most satisfactory. Everything tends to heal kindly. But our professional colleagues say this is deceptive. The time for trouble has not yet come, and hospital disease is inevitable within sixty days. The medical men in charge are doing what they can, but radical changes are needed. The buildings are defective in many points. As at Fort Monroe, the cheerfulness and pluck of the men are most touching. I saw several hideous cases of laceration by Minie balls and fragments of shell, too hideous to describe; but all doing well. One poor fellow (a Glasgow man of the Seventy-ninth named Rutherford) was in articulo mortis with dysentery and consequent peritonitis. Another died while we were there, after undergoing amputation an hour or two before. One or two typhoid cases looked unpromising.

Visited “Fort Ellsworth,” in front of Alexandria. It is finished now and very formidable, easier to defend than to assault. But it seems to me (in my ignorance) insufficiently armed, and commanded, moreover, by the neighboring hills. The chivalry will never try to storm it, but I don’t see why they could not shell the defenders out. This seems true also of the most important works at the head of the Long Bridge.

Our session adjourned late last night, having sat, as before, morning and evening. It engrossed all of my time, except that we took two or three drives in what should have been the “cool” of the evening to visit certain regiments that are specially demoralized by the disaster of the 21st, the Seventy-ninth and others.

We did a deal of work. Among other things we recommended the Secretary of War to remove Dr. Kimball (General Butler’s amateur interloper) from Fort Monroe, a step which at once put us on intimate cordial and endearing relations with all of the Medical Bureau, Dr. Finley included. But we receive no sincere cooperation from our pretended Congressional allies. The President, with whom Professor Bache and Dr. Bellows had a conference Thursday night, is our friend. So is Meigs the Quartermaster-General, with whom I had an interview. He is an exceptional and refreshing specimen of sense and promptitude, unlike most of our high military officials. There’s not a fibre of red tape in his constitution. Miss Dix has plagued us a little. She is energetic, benevolent, unselfish, and a mild case of monomania. Working on her own hook, she does good, but no one can cooperate with her, for she belongs to the class of comets and can be subdued into relations with no system whatever.

Long talk with General McDowell. “He is sadly depressed and mortified, most unlike what he was a fortnight ago. Says he has nothing to reproach himself with, and that he did his best. He took 31,000 men into the field, and of these the reserve of 1,000 was not under fire at all. The enemy were twice his strength. Colonel Cullum tells me we lost twenty-five guns, just one more than half those that went into action. Though at the head of Scott’s staff, he cannot ascertain and does not know what produced this ruinous panic and stampede, or what regiment began it. Nor does he know whether or not the rebel force in Virginia is 70,000 or over 200,000. History is worth little.

From conversations and eye witnesses, I am satisfied that the rebels treated our wounded men with characteristic barbarity. Dr. Barnes found thirty officers and men whom he had collected in a shady place and left for a few moments (while he went for some surgical implement or assistance to the church that was used as a temporary hospital) bayonetted on his return. Two very intelligent privates of a Michigan regiment now in one of the Georgetown hospitals tell me with all minute details of time, place, and circumstance how they saw rebel soldiers deliberately cut the throats of wounded men.

I return from Washington depressed and despondent. Our volunteer system with its elected colonels and its political major-generals is very bad. We are fighting at sore disadvantage. The men have lost faith in their officers, and no wonder, when so many officers set the example of running away. Of the first three hundred fugitives that crossed the Long Bridge, two hundred had commissions. Two colonels were seen fleeing on the same horse. Several regiments were left without field officers and without a company officer that knew anything beyond company drill. The splendid material of the Scotch Seventy-ninth and the Fire Zouaves has been wasted. Both regiments are disheartened and demoralized. Neither would stand fire for five minutes – they are almost in a state of mutiny, their men deserting and the sick list enlarging itself daily. Why the rebels did not walk into Washington July 22 or 23 is a great mystery. They could have done so with trifling loss.

George Templeton Strong, Diary of the Civil War, 1860-1865 pp. 168-170, 172-174

George Templeton Strong wiki.

Notes





Rev. Clement M. Butler, D. D., On the “Manacle” Story and Public Sentiment After the Battle

31 01 2013

The “Manacle” Story,

We copy from the Protestant Churchman, published in New York, the following letter from Rev. Clement M. Butler, D. D., Rector of Trinity Church, Washington:

Some recent travelers announce that it is generally believed in the Confederate States than Gen. Scott was killed and the battle of Bull Run, and that the late Congress was held in Philadelphia. These are specimens of the singular delusions with regard to glaring facts, which prevail at the South. We cannot put down all these misapprehensions to the account of willful falsehood, for many of them prevail among good men known and honored and beloved in all the churches. I will mention a single case.

It has not been thought necessary here at the North to deny the story that manacles to the number of 6, or 20, or 30,000, were taken with Gen. McDowell’s army, for the purpose of being placed upon the citizens of the Southern States. Yet, the story is believed in the South, no, of course, by the political and military leaders, (for they invent it,) nor only by the ignorant whites, who have been long trained to credit all sorts of Northern atrocities, but by profound Doctors of Divinity of Northern birth and constant Northern associations, and who might therefore be supposed to doubt whether our Government, at a single leap, had passed far beyond the bounds of an Austrian or Neapolitan despotism.  Our good brother, Dr. Andrews of Shepherdstown, in an address prepared for the Northern churches, as an appeal for peace, (soon, I believe, to be published,) uses this language: “Among the vast and various stores captured on Sunday last, at Manassas, was a wagon loaded with manacles, judged to be 5,000 or 6,000. This I had from an eyewitness on the spot.” In a P. S. , he adds: “The account of the manacles is confirmed. A Federal officer captured, who professed to know all about it, said there were $12,000 worth in the lot which was captured. They are being distributed all over the South.”

Other statements as remarkable follow: The Rev. Dr. Col. Pendleton showed him 30 pieces of cannon in one place, among which was Sherman’s battery, which he (the Rev. Dr. Co. P.) had captured without the loss of a man killed or wounded. Now, it is known that Sherman’s battery was not taken, and that our total loss of guns was 25. “The killed and fatally wounded of the Federal army were 6,000, and the total of guns captured was 63.” On these statements I need not dwell, but finding, to my utter surprise, that the story of the manacles was believed by some intelligent a person as Dr. Andrews, I immediately proceeded to the War Department, to make inquiries on the subject.

The Adjutant-General emphatically denied that there was any truth in the statement, and authorized me to use his name. I called also at General Scott’s office, and not being able to see him, stated that I wished an official answer from his office, in reference to this matter. In reply, his aid, Col. Van Ranselear, declared the he had himself made this inquiry of Gen. McDowell, who told him that he had taken one hundred pair of manacles, as a preparation for insubordination threatened in part of a single regiment, and that these were all they had, and this was the only purpose for which they were taken. And yet, an eye-witness on the spot had seen five or six thousand! And these five or six thousand “are being spread all over the South!” Doubtless, these clanking manacles will produce all their intended effect there, but it is much to be doubted whether an appeal for peace to the churches of the North will be very effective when based upon facts such as these.

A friend recently visited the Theological Seminary, and found it (appropriately) in the possession of a New York regiment. He states that scarcely any injury has been done to the buildings, and that the grounds are kept in better than their usual order. The Colonel has strictly forbidden all depredations on private property, and recently discovering one of the men milking a cow, fired his pistol at him. The lofty tower of Aspinwall Hall is regarded as a very important out-look. Gen. McClellan, on a recent visit, considered whether the building should not be made his headquarters on the Virginia side. Whether or no it was in consequence of recent rumors that Beauregard was about to occupy Alexandria and Washington, my friend could not tell, but his attention was directed to the fact that the trees on Shooters Hill had been so cut away that two great guns were pointed directly upon Alexandria from Fort Ellsworth, and two others upon the Seminary; and that pains were taken to have these facts known rather than disguised. Most earnestly do we hope that no “military necessity” may bring them into action. Alexandria has already suffered all that even an enemy could wish, and more than enough to make friends, who have pleasant and sacred associations with the place, to weep. Indeed, one recent incident, which illustrates how unnatural anger gives way in a Christian heart before habitual benevolence, would plead not in vain, if it were known, for the preservation of the city. A strong Secessionist, who had been heard to say that he would not give a cup of water to a dying Federal soldier, had his feelings of pity and magnanimity so raised by the spectacle of our poor, fugitive, wounded, exhausted, and hungry soldiers, as they poured into Alexandria, that he exerted himself to the utmost for their comfort, and actually provided about 400 dinners for them at his own expense, before the day was closed. I rejoice to record this incident. Are there not many of our impulsive Southern friends whose talk is full of ferocity before the battle, who will exhibit a similar kindly reaction when it is over? There was much unpardonable and ferocious hatred exhibited in repulsive forms of cruelty at Bull Run, and the testimonies to this effect are too numerous and undoubted to be forgotten or denied; but there have been also many kindly courtesies shown to the prisoners at Richmond. May not war, with the mutual respect and the high courtesies to which it shall give birth, bring about the reconciliation and fraternal peace which the irritating strife of politics never could produce? I find the Confederate prisoners regard such a suggestion as wild delusion. But who ever, under a strong passion to-day, could be made to believe in the reaction which will take place to-morrow? Yet they who witness a flood-tide, as it comes tumbling in and raging and foaming on the rocks, in the evening, may see it, spent and still, slowly receding from the late lashed shore, in the calm morning.

Washington is singularly calm. Some strange spirit of subordination has possession of us all. We are growing modest and distrustful of our ability to plan campaigns. We have ceased to insist upon a victory to-morrow. While, on the one hand, we ache for a success which shall be decisive, on the other, we dread to express the feeling, lest it might have a feather’s pressure in hastening an attempt before success would be morally secure. In the meantime, we see and hear scarcely any troops, but we meet long, long trains of wagons in the avenues; we see whole herds of horses and mules on some side-lots in the neighborhood of the city; and those who are wakeful at night, think they hear the measured tramp, as if many men were marching without music. I have heard great Canterbury Cathedral organs giving out grave and majestic music, but the sound of a regiment’s march, in a still nigh, over the Long Bridge, with the thought of what soul-working and heart-working accompany it, and make its measured fall awful, is to me more moving and magnificent than that.

San Francisco Bulletin, 10/9/1861

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Clement M. Butler at Wikipedia

Contributed by John Hennessy





Brig. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, On the Battle

11 01 2013

July 31. 61—

Mrs. M. C. Lee

Dear Madam,

Your letter & the two enclosed came to my quarters within the last hour[.]  I assure you I feel deeply the gratitude due to an Overruling Providence for our deliverance.  From the rumors & confirmed reports I gather that the sons of our noble old State had their full share in the actions of the 18th & 21st.  As was proper they seemed to be the chief instruments & have suffered severely—

You will gather more of the details from papers than I can give you except that it is a fact that they brought a large number of handcuffs.  I am told a box of them was marked for Officers   –My brother told me he saw one numbered 500 or some such number but I am told there were thousands[.]   A circular has been sent from our Head Qrts. Inquiring into it.

I was not in the fight.  Crossing the river twice with my Brigade to take the offensive we were recalled both times, the lat time to go to Stone Bridge, the place of hardest contention[,] but the tide had turned before our arrival–  It is curious to read the exulting letters picked up on the field, some of them disgraceful even to our enemies–  Capt. Tillinghast – was killed Ramsey d[itt]o–  Rickets is a prisoner–  Orlando Wilcox d[itt]o.  Dr Stone & Gray do.  Andrew Porter[,] Fitz John Porter, Palmer, Stoneman, Miles, Heintzelman wounded, were on the field.  One co of 2d Drag. & 6 of Cavalry–  Major Sykes commanded a Battalion of Infantry–  I have not made many inquiries as you may suppose it is painful to find our old Army friends active against us–  Capt. Potter whom I left at Albuquerque N.M. professing never to take up arms against the South is a prisoner & I hear, loud in his threats of what they are going to do next–  The general tone of the prisoners is impudent in the extreme—

Mr. Moss wrote on the back of the letter enclosing those from Mrs. Fitzhugh that “he had made inquiries & Arlington had not been much abused.”  The papers state however that they were going to clear away the trees—

–Genl. Lee was traveling west a few days since but being without retinue it is likely [“likely” crossed out?] possible not to take the field–  They are repairing the rail road bridges burnt when we fell back from Fairfax & it seems a general advance is contemplated.  I think before very long you can go to Ravensworth & I hope to Arlington—

–I have had quite a holyday [sic] since the battle as changes in Brigades are being made.  Fortunately they leave me my best Regt. And the best colonel I have seen (Rodes 5th Ala.)  He is a Virginian & was a long time at the Institute—

–I have the same cavalry as before the battle and their horses are in fine condition.  If Miss Lee want to visit the battle field or to go to Ravensworth it can be managed without difficulty, particularly as regards the field–  The other would require notice a day or two before, but a horse could be sent to meet her at the Station[.]

–I believe I have told you all I know positively as regards who were present on the field & your other questions—

Mrs. Ricketts has joined her husband since the fight & she or some other Northern woman has been so violent in their expressions that it was threatened to put her in prison if she would not stop

–I have heard no names of the other ladies who came to enjoy our humiliation–  Indeed I don’t know but Mrs. Ricketts came after the fight—

–It is not likely that the women who came along to spend the winter in Richmond were the wives of old Officers–  They were I expect of the new forces or of volunteers–  I am sure Mrs. Miles was not along or he would never have been able to return–  Some blame is attached to us for not advancing in the panic, but although Alexandria might have been easily taken it would have been hard to hold & we were so embar[r]assed by wounded & prisoners that it would have been impossible to have supplied troops at that distance without the rail road—

With respects to Miss Mary

Yours—

R S. Ewell

P. S.

I will send you a list of Officers of the regular Army killed or Captured when I see a correct one – RSE–

Mary Lee Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia MSS/L5144a 1334-1666 Sec. 24. Used with permission.

Transcribed by Donald Pfanz.

Letter image

Notes





Pvt. Worcester Burrows, Co. C, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and the Retreat

26 12 2012

Delaware Soldiers.

———-

We give below some extracts from letters after the battle, from Worcester Burrows and Henry O. Wheeler, of Deposit, which we find in the Deposit Democrat. They were both members of the N. Y. 27th., and as brave boys as ever went to the field.

From W. Burrows.

Soon after our Colonel fell the regiment seemed to waver, but it was immediately rallied by our gallant Maj. Bartlett, who assumed the command, and showed himself a brave and daring man and a good officer. Soon after he took the command the enemy hoisted the American flag, and we were instantly ordered not to fire, supposing them to be our men, but no sooner had they secured their position than they hauled it down and opened a desperate fire upon us. It was well returned, our boys fighting like tigers. We were badly cut up. Some of our men after they were wounded, would cry out, “give it to them boys.” One of our company stood firing all alone after the order to retreat was given, and when the Capt. asked him why he stood there all alone, he replied, “I was so enraged that I did not miss the regiment.”

Although the enemy had every advantage, we gave them a good reception, and we think they will prefer hereafter to meet “the Yankee [?]” as they did, three to one rather than as they braggartly say “one to three.”

The Ellsworth Zouaves came into the field just behind us. We could hear them shout, “Ellsworth,” above the cannon roar. They fought desperately, completely annihilating the company of Black Horse Cavalry, only six escaping.

As soon as the retreat commenced, the panic seemed to fly through the whole body, and every one was for himself. The ambulance were loaded to their utmost with the wounded, and a great many were left behind in the hospital; these were butchered by the canibals that followed us. As our broken forces were scattered along the road, a few of our Cavalry came dashing along, saying “the rebel Cavalry was upon us.” There was a predictable panic. Every thing was borne along in the crowd. We managed to keep our Deposit boy on board the ambulance; the first one broke down; on the next one, a four horse concern, we could only get him upon the step, where he rode until we reached the Run. Found the bridge blockaded;  artillery, ambulances, baggage wagons crowded into a confused mass. The enemy had cut off our retreat and poured on us a volley of shot and shell. The drivers cut their horses loose and fled, leaving the wounded to take care of themselves. In the same wagon with Wheeler was a wounded officer; a man rode up and offered him his horse to escape, but he refused it. Wheeler sat looking out as cool as ever for a few moments, and then said, “you can make your escape, and I will try if I die in the attempt.” He mounted my back, and I picked my way out of the rubbish, waded the Run and took to the woods. As we came up the bank from the Creek the grape fell around us like hail, but we escaped without a scratch. As soon as we were out of reach of the enemy’s fire, Wheeler took the “tow path” and hobbled nearly two miles. We stopped at Centreville and rested three hours, and had W’s wound dressed. We inquired for the Twenty-Seventh, and one of Deposit boys answered to the call; stopped a few moments with us and then went for help for W. About 11 P. M. the surgeon told me to be off with my friend or he would be taken. We commenced our weary march, but at a short distance a horse rushed into the road with a rail attached to his halter. I caught him, placed W. on his back, and set off in better spirits in search of the Twenty-Seventh, and overtook it about twelve miles from Washington, and what a sorry looking set. We arrived at Arlington about 10 A. M. on Monday. We had to wait until about 4 P. M. before we could get orders from Gen. Mansfield to cross Long bridge. On reaching Camp [?] some two hundred of the Twenty-Seventh were missing, but since, they have straggled in until now there is only 110 gone, 20 out of Co. C, which seems to have fared worse than any other. All the deposit boys came back. Three of them have been quite sick since they returned. All were lame and sore, as you may imagine from the length of our march without scarcely eating any thing from the time we left camp until we arrived at Washington. We are now all feeling pretty well, and will soon be ready for the field again. We will fight like savages if we get at the rebels again.

Truly yours,

W. B.

Franklin Visitor, 8/14/1861

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Worcester Burrows at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Sgt. Charles McFadden, Co. K, 79th New York Infantry, On the Battle

20 12 2012

Letter From The Battleground Of Bull’s Run.

A “NOVASCOTIAN” IN THE FIGHT.

The Picton Chronicle publishes a letter, addressed to a gentleman in Picton, by a young Nova Scotian, formerly a member of the Halifax Scottish Volunteer Rifle Company, who some months ago joined the New York 69th Highland Regiment, in which he was appointed a Sergeant and with his Regiment was present and took part in the recent fight at Bull’s Run. The letter was not intended for publication, says the Chronicle, but as the unpretending narrative of an eye witness and Novascotian too, a non-commissioned officer in a regiment which bore the brunt of the engagement, it contains so much that is interesting that we have obtained permission to give our readers the benefit of it. It is dated

Washington, 26th July, 1861.

I seize this opportunity of letting you know how I have been getting along since I last wrote you. Of course the newspapers will have posted you in reference to the part our regiment took in the late battle of Sunday, so I will only write of what I myself saw and as I am in the midst of noise and confusion, you must make every allowance for all short comings.

Our men were already worn out with long marching under a burning sun by day, and the discomfort caused by exposure and the sudden changes of temperature, for the nights have been cold and chilly, when we received the order to march. Two day’s provisions were served out consisting of fifteen hard biscuit and a piece of raw salt pork for each man. This was after our first battle. We commenced to march about 3 a. m. Sunday, July 21st, and were not long in coming up with the enemy. They retired after a few shell had been fired; and after we had pursued them for about two miles, made a stand at Bull’s Run. Our brigade consisting of the 2d Wisconsin, 13th New York and the 69th and 79th regiments with Sherman’s Battery, quickly drew up in line of battle, on the edge of a deep wood, and sat down to wait our turn to charge. Here we all made our wills, a good many for the last time. Fortunately, I am spared to add a codicil to mine if necessary, but I bequeathed to you all my old boots and hats, to most of the S. V. R. something to remember me by, including J– W–, to whom in the event of my sudden demise, I left all my “bad debts.”

About 9 A. M. the battle began in earnest and we received the order to charge the main body of their batteries, supported by Sherman’s Battery which opened the Ball. Our ranks were then suffering considerably, but almost immediately we drove the enemy out of their entrenchments, and took their guns. New and unlooked for batteries now opened upon us – 3 to one taken – but we kept on, and our Brigade went down the hill at the double quick, crossing Bull’s Run up to our waists in water, up the hill again on the other side, where the enemy was entrenched on top, with heavy artillery. The carnage among our men now became dreadful, but up the hill we went until within three hundred yards of their infernal batteries, that were cutting our boys at a fearful rate, when our brave Col. Cameron was killed, also Cap. Brown. When the firing commenced on our side, we mowed them down by hundreds, but not being properly supported we were compelled to retire, which we did in good order and without confusion, leaving scores of brave Highlanders dead upon the field; our wounded we carried with us. Soon after, we made the second charge supported by Carlisle’s Battery, but they never unlimbered; every man and horse belonging to it being killed in ten minutes. The roaring of cannon and the shrieks of the wounded men and horses – many of the latter running about the field riderless, made up a scene I will never forget. The ground became slippery with blood, and covered with the dear and wounded. But the reality of this picture, I will not attempt to pourtray. At last after nine hours hard fighting, we hear the bugle sound a welcome retreat. You will have already heard the story of the scene of confusion that ensued. It was a disgraceful panic, originating with the teamsters and camp-followers, but the excitement soon spread and became pretty general, but not until the greater part of the army was comparatively out of immediate danger of any description. The charge of the Rebel Black horse cavalry, was a sight to be seen and remembered. It was grand and impressive, but it was terrific. They swept down on our flank with fearful velocity, and cut us up terribly in flank and rear.

During this charge I had a narrow escape. A private of the Wisconsin 2d, shot one of them through the head as his sword was raised to split my skull. I shall never forget that man. We laid down and they passed over us. During the day we had nothing to eat, nor the next day either. That night we slept on the field, not having strength left to walk a dozen yards, and on the following morning we commenced our weary way back to Alexandria, thirty miles distant. On our way we were joined by two lieutenants, who like myself and my comrade had passed the night in the vicinity of the scene of action. Our little party of four was well armed. I took a long knife from the Cavalry fellow after the Wisconsin man shot him, which I still keep.

The scene along the road, beggars description. For miles beyond Centreville, it was filled with dead bodies, overturned army waggons, and accoutrements, and may a poor wounded fellow did we pass who had managed to crawl five or six miles only to die from exhaustion and loss of blood. We arrived at Alexandria that night, having walked 30 miles through scenes of horror and a drenching rain having eaten nothing for fifty-six hours, only to find every hole and corner filled with soldier, who had been in the panic on the day before. Wet as I was, I laid down in the streets of Alexandria and slept as sweetly as if I had been in the Acadian. Next morning the Provost Marshall gave us some bread, the first for many a weary hour. I think it was the sweetest morsel I ever eat in my life.

I received a copy of the Reporter which you were kind enough to send me. Only think of the Reporter being read in the back woods of Virginia. There is one little incident I had nearly forgotten. A large number of white coated gentry, mostly congressmen and reporters, were at the left of our regiment, at what they thought a safe distance, when suddenly, whether by accident or design, I know not, a shell burst directly over our heads. You ought to have seen them run. You might have played marbles on their coat tails for two miles at least, to the great amusement of our boys who were lying down at the time.

I had a narrow escape in the morning. One of our buglers had been wounded in the leg by a bullet, and I was binding a handkerchief round it, when a cannon ball came and smashed him into a thousand pieces, covering me with blood. – The only injury I received was from a splinter from a gun carriage which struck me in the back; it still gives me a good deal of trouble, but it is nothing serious.

I am heartily sick of the way in which Uncle Sam treats his soldiers. Nothing but crackers and water will weaken any man in a warm country, with plenty of hard marching to do. So ends the chapter of sufferings I have endured for the last two months, until I am so weak from bad living and other causes, that as soon as I can get my discharge I intend returning to Halifax, and try and get some rest for a while. Give my regards to all the boys, and tell them that I hope to be among them in a few weeks. I will send this letter by Capt. Bigelet to Boston, as it would never reach you if mailed here. The story of the Southerners bayoneting our wounded is quite true. I saw it with my own eyes.

Yours, truly,

C. McF.

Sergt. 69th Highlanders

The British Colonist, 8/10/1861

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See Charles McFadden in 79th New York roster, and note his “discharge” on 7/21/1861 at Bull Run, Va.

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. George Plaskett, Co. E, 14th New York State Militia, On the Battle

29 11 2012

From the War.

Mr. James Plaskett has received a very interesting letter from his son, who was in the fight Sunday, as a member of the 14th regiment New York militia. We make a few extracts. He says:

We had to march about 17 miles over a rough road, and without stopping, as our division was behind time. The last mile and a half we were put forward in double quick time, so that we went into action tired out. After fighting until our artillery ammunition – 2600 rounds – was used up, we had to retreat, and fall back for some six miles, to a point leading out of the wood, where we received a murderous fire from the enemy, which proved very disastrous, killing our Colonel, and wounding one Lieut. Colonel. One of the most inhuman occurrences which we were compelled to witness that day, was the destruction of a building erected by us for a temporary hospital. The building was about a mile from the batteries, and was filled with the wounded and dying, and they were also lying all around the outside of the building. The rebels pointed their guns, and threw bomb-shells into the building, which blew it up and killed all who were in and around the building. A negro regiment came on to the field after the fight was over, and killed all those who showed signs of life.

The sight upon the battle-field, in view of the carnage, was a sad one to me: legs, arms, and heads off.

There were only 18,000 of our troops in the engagement, against 80,000 or 90,000 of the rebels. We were on the move from 2 A. M. Sunday till Monday noon; fought five hours, and marched 60 miles.

Hartford Daily Courant, 7/27/1861

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George Plaskett at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Lieutenant Lucius L. Bolles, Co. A, 3rd Connecticut Volunteers, On the Battle

3 11 2012

From the Third Regiment

[Extract from a private letter from Lieut. Bolles, of Capt. Lewis' Company, 3d Regiment, dated Washington, July 23d.]

I arrived here last evening with three rebel prisoners – a lieutenant and two privates. Our men stood up to the fight nobly. We were several hours in front of one of the masked batteries, and were constantly trying to take advantage of any weak point which might present itself to us. Gen Johnston, (rebel), sent forward 15,000 rebel troops against us, when the 71st and 72d New York fell back, (after we had really won the day), and the result was a perfect stampede among our troops. Officers deserted their regiments, men were running all sorts of ways fleeing from the enemy; but after all the fear and cowardice that was shown by the officers and men, our loss in killed and wounded did not exceed 500, while that of the rebels (so Gen. Mansfield informs me), exceeds 5,000.

The Connecticut troops came off the field together, excepting Capt. Lewis’ Company, who were detailed to serve as rear-guard to the baggage train, which owing to the stampede was on the extreme left of the line; that was twice attacked by cavalry, but we succeeded in keeping them off until the rebels opened a fire from their flying artillery of shot, shell, and grape, that of course with only 55 men we could not contend with, and our Captain received orders to retreat, which we did in good order. Our company have only lost two men. We arrived at our camp at Falls Church at 4 A. M. Monday. We arrived foot-sore and completely worn out, having been up two nights with one day’s hard fighting. This company stood up nobly before a brisk fire of shot and shell from masked batteries. Shot and Shell flew thick about us, but their aim was too high, and they passed over us. Captain Lewis proved himself a true soldier, and Lieut. Brenner stood by him nobly.

Mr. McKay, Gen. Mansfield’s aid, informs me that a box came directed to him Tuesday morning, which he opened and found to contain the head of our men who had died or been murdered on the field of battle. Our boys will pay them for such treatment. Wounded men were murdered. I saw two on the field belonging to the Maine 2d who had been wounded by balls from musketry, and afterwards bayoneted. We will return this outrage by giving them a thrashing.

Hartford Daily Courant, 7/26/1861

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Lucius Bolles at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy








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