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

26 12 2012

Delaware Soldiers.

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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





Unknown Captain, 2nd New York State Militia, On the March to Manassas, the Battle, and the Retreat

2 10 2012

A Soldier’s Letter.

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Description of the Battle by a Captain of the Second Regiment of New York.

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The following letter from a captain in the Second regiment of this city gives a vivid description of the battle at Bull Run, and the real nature of the panic:

Camp Powell,

Headquarters Second Regt. N. Y. S. M.,

Washington, D. C., July [?], 1861

Dear —-:  Your favor of the 2[?]th instant, as well as the previous one, were duly received; circumstances, as you are no doubt aware, prevented an answer to the first.

On Monday, the 15th instant, we received orders to be ready with three days, rations, and without knapsacks, carrying blankets only, to move in advance at five P. M. the next evening. At the appointed hour the line was in motion, and soon after reached the Ohio volunteers’ camp, who fell in our rear, giving New York the honor of the advance. We then moved off for Vienna, having been in the meantime joined by the Connecticut Brigade, which completed our division (Tyler’s).

The enemy’s pickets and advance guard rapidly fell back upon our approach, and after passing Fall’s Church pressed on Fairfax at an early hour in the morning, and, being on the left of the division, we deployed towards Germantown, while the right entered Fairfax. After a short rest the right joined us, and we marched on in column and entered Germantown, the enemy being in sight and hastily running out of reach of our guns. At this point we were informed that the enemy, to the number of fifteen thousand, were on the retreat and only one and a-half hours ahead of our advance. Our scouts having brought us this information, the news having been confirmed by Lieutenant Tompkins of the dragoons, we again took up the line of march, the heat being dreadful, and the men suffering terribly. After marching until late afternoon, the men being fairly exhausted, our advance suddenly came on the enemy’s camp, and easily pounced on the few remaining secessionists, as well as considerable of their rations, which were left behind in their hasty flight; in fact some of our mean found a watch or two, besides epaulettes, as well as any quantities of correspondence, in which the fair southern damsels begged their lovers to get pieces of a “Yankee’s hide” for them, etc., and on other themes too numerous to mention. The men being exhausted and night approaching, as well as the road barricaded by fallen trees, we halted, threw out our pickets and camp guard, and after hastily disposing of an insufficient meal, (being the first since morning,) we wrapped ourselves in our blankets, and with no other covering save the trees, were soon sound asleep. During the night we had several alarms, on account of the enemy’s cavalry trying to pass our pickets, in which efforts they suffered severely. At an early hour in the morning (Thursday 17th,) line was again formed, and the whole army of the Potomac moved on our right, in the centre and in the advance.

Centreville was soon after reached; line of battle being formed, and the scouts sent out. They soon after arrived with the intelligence that the enemy had again fallen back from their intrenchments, and at this stage I must say that I never saw a better place to make a stand, as the hill commanded all the approaches for over two miles around; however, subsequent occurrences have satisfied me that they had far superior locations at their command. The heat being terrible, and our men exhausted, we were halted to rest, and after an hour or so we heard heavy firing on the other side of Centreville, and very soon learned that our General (Tyler) had attacked the enemy’s masked batteries at the head of Rocky Run, about two miles from Centreville, which, as the papers have ere informed you, was the celebrated proceeding of the 18th instant.

During the heat of the engagement our brigade was ordered up, and upon reaching the scene, the Sixty-ninth and other regiments had been withdrawn. That affair at once destroyed both Tyler and others of his kind, in the estimation of the men, especially as Tyler had received orders to remain at Centreville – until further orders.

We then marched outside of that point about two miles, and encamped on the left of the road, (Warrenton,) while the Sixty-ninth and others were opposite. We remained here, in sight of the enemy’s advance posts, from that time until two o’clock Sunday morning when the advance took place. Both before reaching this point, and when we reached it, my command was engaged in that hazardous business of skirmishing, and on Thursday night in particular I was in advance of the lines a mile at least, and remained out until ten o’clock at night, when I was called in; and while out, however, and about sunset, I arrested three men in citizens’ clothes, who were hovering around our lines and satisfied me upon an examination that they should be detained. I accordingly brought them in and were duly examined by our Brigadier, General Schenck, who being in bed and rather sleepy, made a hasty examination and postponed the matter till the following morning, when after another examination, he discharged them.

After their discharge some of us who were dissatisfied took the trouble to search their houses, and succeeded in finding passes therein of a very recent date signed by our General Mansfield’s Aide-de-Camp, Captain Drake De Kay, which showed that they were spies, and had used them for that purpose in our lines. From that I made up my mind that I should take not more prisoners, but if, while prisoners, they should be accidentally shot, I would not complain of my men.

While we remained at Rocky run, and before advancing, I was led to suppose that we were waiting reinforcements of both men and heavy guns. At the appointed hour, two A. M. Sunday morning, and before prayers, we moved off at a quick pace but without making any unnecessary noise. Our division, (Tyler’s,) consisting of the Second New York, First and Second Ohio, Sixty-ninth, Seventy-ninth and others, took the lead, in the meantime our scouts and pickets being thrown out. At five A. M. the line halted and our regiment was thrown forward in advance, while the Sixty-ninth and Seventy-ninth took a position on our right. After reconnoitering the enemy’s position with our glasses, and waiting for the signal gun to be fired, we drew up by the flank so as not to be under cover of the woods, and at the same time near enough to make a charge on the enemy’s battery. A little after six we first drew the fire of the enemy by imprudently showing our command, or rather a portion of them. Supposing it to be a small battery, as it was, we quietly passed on for the purpose of outflanking it, and in doing so, we took an apparently new made road, and marched by the left flank, and very soon after, within three hundred feet of us, we espied the enemy in large force (about 8,000 infantry). We took immediate steps to attack them, but to our astonishment the enemy planked by the left, and hastily moving off unmasked eight rifled guns on our brigade (Schenck’s) with terrific effect.

The scene that follows beggars description; for fully over a half hour we stood a perfect shower of grape, canister and round shot. Upon my honor I have never been in a hail storm where the shots fell as thick and fast. Our General (Schenck) left us there and looked out for himself, whereupon our Colonel, upon his own responsibility, ordered us to withdraw from such a murderous man-trap – in fact I may call it nothing save a slaughter-house. He we suffered most.

The brigade then took up another position on the Warrenton road, to defend our batteries – Carlisle’s battery, and a heavy 32-pounder being in position. The strife continued; the right consisting of the Sixty-ninth, Seventy-ninth, Eleventh, Zouaves, [??]., having forced the enemy from their positions across the Warrenton road, while we were outflanking them on the left, at the same time exposed to a terrific cross fire from their batteries, which fairly riddled us. At 2 P. M. we accomplished our purpose by getting on their flank and throwing our right in front of their [????] – their [????] the whole time [????......].

[????.....] up under cover of the woods, but skirting the road, and while here the Sixty-ninth, Seventy-ninth and Eight Zouaves and others came straggling along, thoroughly exhausted and used up. At this point I had the pleasure of shaking hands with Colonel Corcoran of the Sixty-ninth and other officers of the same and other regiments with whom I was acquainted. At this time the batteries of our brigade had ceased firing, and were drawn up standing in the road, the pieces being limbered up. Our brigade were about getting ready to fall in by the left flank for the purpose of marching off to cover the retreat, when, quick as a flash, we heard terrible yells up the road in our rear, a great dust flying – the cracking of pistols and rifles without number. Looking up I saw Captain Carlisle, U. S. A., and his battery in full retreat as fast as they could go. I very soon after saw that the Black Horse Cavalry were upon us, to the number of three or four hundred. Seeing that our line was broken, and some officers in full retreat, several of the officers, particularly Lieutenant-Colonel Wilcox, Lieutenant Downey, Captain Hueston and others, rallied the men, and gave them a terrible volley, which caused great scattering among them, having emptied a number of their saddles, and reduced their number before the third volley to about fifty or sixty men.

In that charge we lost several of our men, and as we did not see some of them fall, these that are now missing have been taken prisoners, but as I saw them cutting right and left with sabre, carbine and pistol, apparently not caring to take prisoners, I am of the opinion that those or most of those now among the missing who were not officers in uniform will never be heard from again.

I am confirmed in this opinion from the fact that they not only bayonetted the wounded on the field, as I saw myself, but attacked our hospitals, containing the dead and wounded of their own as well as our side; and not satisfied with that I distinctly saw them set fire to the same, and shoot and cut those endeavoring to escape. My blood boils to think of their atrocities, and makes my feelings savor of hate and revenge for fallen comrades. We mourn the loss of our physician, Dr. Alfred Powell, a noble man, who refused to leave those under his care, and was brutally murdered by them while engaged in placing our wounded in the ambulance and our Assistant Surgeons Ferguson and Connolly (son of Charles W. Connolly, of the firm of Chas. W. Connolly & Co., New York,) after a brief defence, were taken prisoners.

During the excitement our Colonel (Tompkins) was cut off from his regiment by a party of the cavalry, and, together with Colonel Corcoran, was chased and fired at by them for some distance, and our Colonel says that he saw them shoot at Colonel Corcoran and thinks he was wounded and taken prisoner, as not being as well mounted as our Colonel (who was on the Lieutenant-Colonel’s magnificent black horse), he was undoubtedly rode down.

At the time of the rally I speak of Lieutenant-Colonel John A. Wilcox was in command, and bravely stood his ground, and reformed the regiment in good order, and was ably assisted therein by the major (J. J. Dimock), Captain Hueston, Lieutenant Downey and a few other brave spirits. Those that know me can easily determine where I must have been, as I do not believe in one blowing his own horn too much. I will leave my actions to be praised or censured by others than myself.

After the charge was disposed of the regiment being formed under good order, by Lieutenant-Colonel Wilcox and assisted by Adjutant Rea, the Zouaves, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Maine regiments being in advance of us, we slowly retreated, the Zouaves having beaten back another attack of the Black Horse Cavalry while on another road and before meeting us. Whatever others may say I emphatically say that our line withdrew in good order, and that the New York Second was the last to leave, as they were the first in the battle-field. As an instance to show the falsity of any panic being in existence among the men, some of our men engaged themselves picking blackberries on the road side, while others were occupied endeavoring to spike with their own ramrods the deserted pieces of Carlisle’s battery. If that looks like a panic or a stampede I am very much mistaken. The fact is, that the men were exhausted by eleven hours of the severest fighting that ever took place on the continent; and, as some European officers have been heard to say, surpassed anything they ever saw. I do not think history can show an instance where 25,000 men attacked upwards of 100,000, and fought them in an entrenched camp with concealed batteries, as well as men for that time. The whole panic was outside of five miles from the battlefield, and in the neighborhood of Colonel Miles’s reserves at Centreville. Otherwise we should have been cut to pieces before reaching the reserve, as has been testified to by several experienced officers, that the good order of Schenck’s brigade in retreating saved the whole army.

After falling back to Centreville and taking our position behind the reserve we received orders to fall back to our old camp, a distance of thirty miles, (Ball’s Cross Roads,) which we reached in food order at 6 o’clock next morning. About 10 o’clock Sunday night orders were issued for the whole line to fall back – the reserve and all which they did in good order, and without being annoyed by the enemy save by numerous barricades on the road, which had to be removed.

We were subsequently removed to Washington, and are now in camp recruiting as well as reorganizing the regiment. We number all told now only 700, so you see this campaign has pretty well used us up. We named our camp Powell, in honor of our noble Surgeon. As far as I can ascertain the enemy lost four times as much as our side, otherwise their main body would not have fallen back on Manassas Gap to recruit; however some of their advanced cavalry are still hovering around our pickets at Vienna and Fall’s Church, but will not dare advance nearer.

In conclusion I must say that although repulsed we are not disgraced, but have taught those cowardly scoundrels, that though in entrenched camps and behind masked batteries, and hid in the woods, they were whipped twice that day by one-quarter their number, and that our side withdrew from Exhaustion only, in fact, I must say that at a convivial party of the officers of our regiment held during Saturday night, the probability of a defeat was confessed, and firmly believed in by a majority of us who were present.

Our party sang a different tune on the following night (Sunday), although on account of our fortunate escape we were joyful in the extreme. Our loss will be heavy, but at present, on account of the number missing, we are unable to make out a full report.

Our men behaved nobly and surpassed the finest troops in the world, bout our volunteer (political) generals, as well as some favorite political colonels, behaved shamefully, and in many instances exhibited both cowardice and inefficiency – the exceptions, otherwise, were very few.

I shall await the re-organization of the regiment before taking steps, but if we are again placed under the command of politicians I shall resign my position and return to civil life. However, in the interval I will endeavor to obtain a furlough for a while, and see you again before entering upon another campaign.

I omitted saying that I did one thing for effect during the heavy fire, which had the best influence on the men, when I tried them by giving them orders, and that was the little trick of quietly smoking a cigar. While the men were falling around me I must confess my coolness was rather forced, but it had the desired effect on the men and I was satisfied.

New York Evening Post, 7/29/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. Caleb H. Beal, Co. H, 14th New York State Militia, On the Battle

25 06 2012

Arlington Va, Camp Porter

July 23rd, 1861

Dear Parents,

Thank God my life is spared, which is a miracle I assure you. The last letter I wrote you was the day before we marched to the battle field we, started at 2 O Clock that night and marched until 10 O Clock the next morning, and then were engaged in one of the most terrific battles ever fought in this country without stopping to rest at all, and we were all tired out when we arrived, we dropped our blankets and haversacks tore down fences, and rushed right up a steep hill to the enemies batteries.

I have often read of battles but never thought I should see the horror of war, which I did yesterday. I have seen enough. I pray and hope I may never witness such a again, but we are in for the war and may have to be in another battle before 3 weeks.

We fought bravely and the 14th as hard as any other regiment, but we were all obliged to retreat with a great haste, we are all back to our old camps that is those who are alright, all jaggered out having marched all night and yesterday through woods swamps and a hard march it was as we were afraid we should be cut off by the enemy, and if we had been it would have made an awful for all of us. We were in such confusion my legs are all swollen and my feet blistered and if you could look at our camp this morning, you would see a lot of dirty tired and limping lot of soldiers. It rained when we reached our camp and we all laid down and slept just as we were having all lost our blankets.

The rebels are the most cowardly I’d ever heard of. They actually came out of the woods and bayoneted our wounded, and the report is this morning that they have burned up the building where our wounded quartered. The rebels were all concealed in what is called masked batteries being ditches 14 feet deep in the edge of woods and you can not see them until you come right upon them. They say they extend for 3 miles and every little way is a battery. If they had come out in the field in a fair fight we should have cut them up awfully, but they had every advantage of us, they are very tricky. They came out and waved the American Flag and enticed our men to rally thinking it was our troops and when we got near them they drop the flag and fired on us doing awful damage.

We did not have so many men as we expected as one brigade which was to attack the batteries at another front from us were led 10 miles out of the way by their guide. Our Colonel was wounded and I helped to carry him on a litter for a good ways, he I think is not dangerous, although he did not speak and looked like a corpse, every one in the regiment is rejoicing over his narrow escape.

As we fought for 5 hours amid shower of cannon balls, grape shot bomb shells and bullets, at one time we were slipping down and marching up a hill to avoid the fire, when the 71 st reg. of NY mistook us for the enemy and poured a volley in to us, which you can judge somewhat of when I tell you that 6 or 8 of us were all in a heap in the dirt and the bullets striking nothin’ a fool of us. One of my mess mates had his cap taken off by a cannon ball. We made 3 rallys up the hill. But the enemy could not be got at. The zouaves were cut up awful! Our Major Jourdan was one of the bravest officers on the field riding and leading us on with, now boys “recollect your uniform, Brooklyn, and the Flag of your country.” With cannon balls striking all about him, we all thought that the enemy took him for Gen’l Mc Dowell as they kept up a continual fire at him, but it was the will of divine Providence that he should not be shot.

You will see all the publications in the paper which will give you statistics of numbers more accurate than I can, get the NY Times or Herald if you can.

When I woke up last night I found your letter laying beside me and was glad to hear from you. I read it and fell back to sleep again, and slept till this morning. This is all I can write now. I’am so tired and exhausted, tell the girls I received their letter, but had not time to answer it. Give my love to all and when I get settled I will try and write a gain.

Your affectionate son C H Beal

Excuse haste

P.S. Send some newspapers if you please.

We have marched altogether for the last 3 days 70 miles.

One in the regiment is rejoicing over his narrow escape.

—————–

Transcription courtesy and with permission of The Red Legged Devil

Original in the private collection of Anthony Dellarocca, Genealogist and Historian with the 14th Brooklyn Co. E (Living History Group)





Contemporary Accounts of the Battlefield After Confederate Withdrawl

10 05 2012

In yesterday’s post I reproduced an 1865 account of what the 8th PA Reserves saw on the battlefield of Bull Run in the spring of 1862, and wondered whether there were any contemporary accounts to corroborate. Reader Vince, host of Lancaster at War, sent along this account published in a newspaper of the time describing the condition of the battlefield. Also included in the post is the above photo supposed to be a group of civilians posing in front of some disturbed remains on the battlefield of Bull Run (which can be found at Colgate University). I’ve never seen this photo before, and the year it was taken appears to be unknown, but if it is what it is thought to be, it’s the only such photo I know of. Thanks to Vince for pointing it out.

And right here on Bull Runnings, we have this letter. Not corroborative of everything, but of some things.








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