Unknown Officer, 1st Minnesota, On the Battle

24 02 2012

The First Minnesota Regiment.

The following is an extract from a letter from an officer in the first Minnesota regiment, to his wife in this city. Many of the officers and men in the regiment were formerly residents of Massachusetts: -

Washington, July 29, 1861.

For several days, in fact, ever since our shattered regiment came here after the battle of Bull Run, I have been at work day and night. Our boys fought bravely, and if the troops of the north had all done their duty as well, the result of the battle would have been different. A United States officer told me, not knowing who I was, that there were but four regiments that deserved to be mentioned, and among them I was proud to hear “the Minnesota.”

We went into the field with nine hundred men, and have, as near as we can make out, 181 killed, wounded, and missing – nearly one fifth. All of the company officers and men, and a part of the field officers fought well, and did not retreat until they had been twice ordered to do so. A colonel of the secession army, whom our boys took, and who is now here a prisoner of war, says our men for three hours were engaged with eight thousand of the enemy, with a battery raking them from one of the flanks. Notwithstanding the odds of nine to one our men drove them, and the southern papers, I observe, say the battle upon their left, where we were, unsupported, was most sever, and their forces were obliged to give way until 5000 fresh reserve troops came to the rescue.

A captain a prisoner here, says the Minnesota wood choppers fought like devils. One of our surgeons, it is supposed, is killed; the other we heard from last evening – a prisoner. We expected to remain here some time, but to morrow morning we leave for Great Falls, fifteen miles from here, where the enemy is threatening some more fighting for our regiment, I suppose. Col. Gorman has been given command of the brigade. Our regimental flag has seventeen bullet holes through it, one shell, and one grape shot. Every one of our color guard was wounded – none killed.

The mistake of attacking Manassas at the time it was done, and before we were ready, will extend the contest immensely. The barbarities of the enemy are unspeakable, dragging our wounded from the ambulances and bayoneting them, luring our men on by displaying the federal flag, and cheering for the Union, and then shooting them down. This was done in our own regiment. May I live to avenge some fo the good and true men who were left at Manassas.

Yours, &c.,

***

Massachusetts Spy,  8/7/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





“C.”, 2nd Wisconsin, On the Battle

22 02 2012

From the Milwaukee Sentinel.

Interesting Letter from the Second Regiment.

———-

Camp Corcoran,

Monday Night, July 22, ’61.

Once again, we are back in the vicinity of Washington, having passed through a battle that will ever have a full page in the history of battles. The full report of it you may have seen, and my work will be to give only a few scenes connected with the Second Wisconsin Regiment, which from the many who narrowly watched us, has received not a few encomiums.

On Sunday morning, July 21st, at 2 o’clock A. M., our camp near Centerville, was aroused by the cry of “Fall in to march.” – The men were ready and eager to be up, it being supposed that the commander-in-chief of the division had made preparations for us to go on and complete a victory which we felt sure was before us. The Second Wisconsin, 79th, 69th, and 13th New York, with Sherman’s battery and Capt. Thompson’s troop of 100 horse, formed one brigade, while two Connecticut and two Ohio regiments, with company E. U. S. artillery, and a troop of 100 horse, formed another. Both were under the command of Gen. Tyler, and formed the centre of McDowell’s grand army. The right wing was under the command of Gen. Hunter, and the left, under Gen. Heintzleman. The right and left were to close on the wings of the enemy’s fortifications, extending to a distance of six miles, while the centre was to attack their principal fortresses.

Our wing waited until nearly daylight before starting, as the others had a much longer distance to go; but at length we were under way. To Bull’s Run was only a distance of three miles, which was soon reached. Here we felt ourselves in the midst of the enemy’s works. The ground we were approaching was known to be full of masked batteries but a few days before, and now the march was necessarily slow and tedious.

The 2nd Wisconsin and the 79th New York to the right of the road and filing off through the woods, flanked with the left on the road, while the balance of the brigade took the left hand side, and Sherman’s battery, with “President Lincoln’s Baby-waker,” as a large 32-pound rifle cannon was called, took the road, the infantry acting as a support to the battery. The column, in this order, worked its way up gradually to the edge of the woods, and came to a halt. Just beyond the woods was an opening some 500 rods in extent; then came Bull’s Run, a deep ravine, and beyond this, high up, rose the natural fortifications of the rebels. No better place could have been selected, and no other natural fortification so easy of self-support could have been found.

On the enemy’s side, as we drew near, nothing out of the usual course of events could be seen. All seemed as natural as though the roads were not alive with armed men and filled with masked batteries.

After reconnoitering a while, the large rifle cannon began picking out some good marks. Sever shots were made, but they were not returned, when some one suggested that in a deep ravine, which could be seen, was a good seclusion. A shot directed there, sent forth into the open field at least 500 cavalry, who scattered like chaff in every direction, but soon returned. The big gun continued its work, and the riderless horses that came flying out, several of which came over to our lines, showed that it was no idle play. Sherman, too, opened his battery, and, at the same time, a masked battery, almost within musket shot of the Connecticut regiments, opened upon them, and then battery after battery poured in, and the shower of lead came out from every clump of trees.

The men threw themselves upon the ground, with their arms ready to come to a charge, and although the fire was hat and heavy, only one man was killed and two wounded, both of the Connecticut. The fire of the big gun and of Sherman’s and Co. E batteries was directed against those of the enemy, and in a remarkably short space of time, so accurate was the aim, they were all silenced.

Almost the same instant our battery commenced, that of the left wing opened in the stronghold we had attempted to take a few days before. They were soon silenced, and when the guns of Gen. Hunter’s wing opened, the other wings started on the march, the right pressing, formed in line, the center making the circuit around, in order to aid Hunter. On the route and in crossing Bull’s Run, fires from batteries opened on the columns, and in this movement several were killed. The rebels seemed to possess innumerable batteries. They had them everywhere, and no point where a gun could be planted to have an effect upon our column, seems to have been neglected. The column soon crossed, and we went up the mountain road, we could see the enemy flying in companies, in squads and in regiments, before Gen. Hunter’s men, towards a long and narrow piece of woods, while from the right they came pouring down in the same hasty manner before Gen. Heintzleman’s men. The ravine, against which fire had at first been directed, seemed filled with dead. Bodies were laying in every directions, showing that the loss from shot and shell was terrific. With a loud shout for the “stars and stripes” our boys pushed forward, in pursuit of the flying rebels until we reached Hunter’s command, it having halted to be recruited. The open plain before us had been the enemy’s camping ground, and muskets, blankets, knapsacks, canteens, haversacks and dead bodies, were lying about indiscriminately. Our boys threw off everything, down to clothing and cartridge boxes, when the battle line was formed so as to completely hem in the rebel stronghold.

Now the work commenced in earnest. — All along the line of woods batteries opened one after the other, and shot, shell, canister and grape poured in upon us. From the position we occupied it did but little serious damage, although it whistled with so shrill a series of noises as to startle the most brave. By some neglect we had little artillery with us, it having remained behind. — The Rhode Island battery opened on one of the enemy’s, but it had taken a position so near them that before it could be brought into actual service it was used up. Carlisle’s battery and Sherman’s opened a heavy fire, and as far as two batteries could be of use they were. They silenced gun after gun, and at length got out of ammunition. By this time the federal troops got ready for a charge at the point of the bayonet, the battle line being extended all along the enemy’s lines, with the regular cavalry and marines, together with Ellsworth’s Zouaves on the right. The Wisconsin Second occupied about the center of the line. They lay for some time under cover of a hill, while the shot was pouring over them, and then, when the charge was ordered, filed on up a narrow lane, and came into line, It was a dangerous position, as they were subject to a cross fire, and many of them fell wounded.

The grand body now moved forward at a double-quick, until they came within musket shot of the enemy, and the was poured in upon them a most murderous fire of musketry. Never was there anything like it. — Together with the musketry, three batteries were pouring in grape and canister, while our own batteries were silenced from want of ammunition. Had we had our usual amount of artillery, their batteries could have been silenced, but as we had no support from this source, the order was given to fall back, and the regiments fell back a few rods to rally, all in hopes that the enemy would withdraw from their ambush, and follow to give a fair fight.

The command to fall back was given by Gen. Tyler, who it is supposed acted from the order of Gen. McDowell.

The fortress behind which the enemy was entrenched was built of crossed railroad bars and logs, and behind these was an army of 70,00 men, arrayed so as fill up the whole line in front, the rear column loading and the front, two deep firing continually.

Before the order for retreat was given the battle was fairly won, and victory would have been surrendered to the federal flag, but as the rebels were about giving up, Gen. Johnston arrived from Manassas Gap, with 18,000 fresh troops. It was supposed that Gen. Patterson was close upon him, but such was not the case, he, for some reason, which I have not yet learned, having left the track.

When the order to fall back was given, the regiments of the army gave way, then rallied, and as the rebel troops showed themselves outside the entrenchments, poured in upon them volley after volley, but finding it fruitless to continue the fight, they received orders to give way, and take up their line of retreat. They did this by regiments and companies in admirable order, but hundreds fell out, and forming in squads fell behind, and seeking shelter, behind logs and trees, commenced an Indian fight upon the rebel cavalry, which came out of the woods, to the number of 1,000, to pursue the stragglers. They dropped from the saddle in squads under the fire. This Indian skirmishing was a protection to the retreating army; but many of those who were giving the aid, suffered in consequence, as they were taken prisoners, when they got down so few in numbers as to offer little resistance to the rebels.

Among the prisoners known to be taken is S. P. Jackson of La Crosse, a member of Co. B. He had his arm broken by a musket ball and was taken by the cavalry, together with t squad of seven Wisconsin boys. Then they were being taken off, a few of the boys rallied and fired into the cavalry, calling upon the Union prisoners to escape. They all did so but Jackson, who was taken off. Before the others escaped Jackson told the officer of the cavalry that he was useless to them, as his arm was broken. The reply was that he should be taken care of. “yes,” replied Jackson, “the same as our wounded men at Bull’s Run the other day. You bayoneted all our wounded men.” “It’s a lie,” replied the officer. “It is not,” replied Jackson, “you killed every one of our wounded men.” — “Our orders were to take care of the wounded, and we fight humanely. To be sure there are some d—-d rascals in every army who fight like tigers, and kill the wounded, but we prevent it when we can.” At this, one of them spoke up and said, “Not by a d—-d sight; we shall kill every hell-hound of them we take.” The New Orleans Zouave who was taken prisoner, also said, “You may kill me if you please, and you may win the battle to-day, but we will whip you to-morrow when our recruits get in, and then every one of you that falls into our hands will be butchered.” This appeared to be the general sentiment, that no mercy was to be shown, and that all who fell into their hands would have no pleasant situation.

Many of those captured afterwards escaped by a ruse or trick. Ruby, of the Oshkosh company, was kept some time, but escaped by playing Indian, while Whiting, of the La Crosse company escaped by yelling that the artillery was upon them, and they must retreat. The cavalry thought it one of their own officers who gave the command, and scattered, when Whitney escaped. A number of just such cases occurred. Capt. Colwell, of Co. B acted the hero all the way through. He rallied his men and led them on to positions where it would scarcely be deemed men could go. He captured one piece of artillery, he and his men taking the piece by main force and hauling it a long distance off, and then returned to the fight. The Wisconsin regiment was the last body off the field, and their run was caused by the rebel cavalry. Had they been less brave their loss in prisoners would have been greater, as they remained in squads and charged upon the cavalry every time they approached. The retreating column also had to contend against a raking fire of artillery. As they crossed the Run the rebels had a fine rake with their guns, and kept up a constant fire of grape and canister. The loss from this sortie, however, was not heavy.

The enemy did not follow up the retreat, which shows conclusively that they did not consider it a great victory. The retreat was continued to Centreville, when a halt was made for an hour’s rest. The regiments were then re-formed, and continued their march to their old rendezvous, some to Washington, others to Alexandria, and others to Fort Corcoran; the retreat being covered by two regiments who were not in the field.

It is certain that just before Gen. Johnston arrived with his troops, the rebels were whipped, although at no one time did the federal army have more than fifteen regiments in the field; and but for Johnston’s arrival, they would have left very suddenly for Manassas Gap. The federal troops are not disheartened at the result of the conflict. They feel that they have fought bravely, and that they had not well disciplined men to lead them on. After the conflict had commenced, but little was seen of them; but after the retreat was sounded, and while the column was marching until it had got beyond all danger, very few of the field officers were to be seen. Many of the captains and lieutenants of companies exhibited a courage and intuitive knowledge of military matters that was deserving of a better fate.

We lost most of our blankets, haversacks, &c., that were thrown off when we started to join Hunter, and we lost many of our muskets in the field, but their places were supplied with Sharpe’s rifles, with which the enemy were well supplied. I think the trade is about even. They were well supplied with fighting material, having all that is necessary, all bearing the trade mark of the United States.

Just as I am finishing the present, a member of Capt. Langworthy’s  company has come in from the enemy. He was taken prisoner, and set to work digging graves for the dead. Fearful are the preparations made, so immense is the number. All will be huddled together in common graves, friend and foe together, without prayers or service. It is asserted that a determination was expressed by many to bayonet such of our men who were badly wounded, and some proceeded to execute the threat, when stopped by an officer. Dr. Irwin, of our medical staff, is among them as a prisoner, and is looking after our wounded who are prisoners.

C.

Janesville Weekly Gazette and Free Press, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





John Stacom, Co. E, 69th NYSM, On the Battle

27 01 2012

Mr. John Stacom, of the “Ivy Green,” Elm-street, now a member of the New-York 69th  Regiment, arrived home on Tuesday, having received a wound in the left hand. He says:-

I was in the fight on Sunday all day, until we got completely off the field, and were on the road toward Vienna. On Sunday morning we were within two or three miles of this place. We encamped by the side of a road close by a wood, and then formed in line of battle, and proceeded steadily down through a thick wood into a ravine (Bull’s Run), and kept firing continually, in order to draw out the enemy, and unmask his batteries. After a good deal of firing, they opened upon us. We then fought our way down into the plain. The Wisconsin Regiment and the 69th tacked a large party, estimated at a number of thousands, total about 17,000, partially hidden in some brushwood, and succeeded in driving them completely away at the point of the baynet. They were in great disorder all over the field. Gen. McDowell came in at the other end and headed them off, while Col. Hunter approached on the right with his division, and the action then became general. It continued until about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when all stood still and we thought the battle won. The Generals collected on the hill, and were cheering and shaking hands. General McDowell took his hat off, complimented Col. Corcoran, and said the victory had been won. All at once the reinforcements on the other side, under Johnston, as was supposed, came down upon us, and the men being completely exhausted, gave way, until they reached the road. Col. Corcoran had only Capt. Meagher with him after Lieut. Col. Haggery was killed, which hapened in the first engagement. I saw him fall by a musket ball. Thomas Francis Meagher was the most conspicuous man on the field, riding on a white horse, with his hat off, and going into the battle most enthusiastically. At one time our regimental color was taken, and Meagher seized the green flag of Ireland, went to the front, leading the men to the charge. The color was recaptured, the enemy was driven back, and we then formed in hollow square, by orders, and retreated steadily off the ground.

We got on the road all well, and in good order. Having got my hand hurt, I took a Secessionists horse, and rode among the civilians, of which a lot, including artists and reporters, were gathered in carriages and on horseback. They were viewing the battle from the hill. Soon after I left my regiment, the civilians got panic stricken, and from them panic seized the teamsters, who imagined they were going to be cut off. From the teamsters it spread into several Ohio regiments and then became general.

I rode back alone. If there was any more fighting, it must have been in the road after the retreat commenced. I think there was no more fighting. The reinforcements opened four or five batteries on us immediately. There was only one party (in the woods) that we fought at all. We did not see any more, except a complete cavalry regiment, that charged on the Zouaves. Among the cavalry about three companies were colored, and officered by white men.

Gen McDowell three times charged us on batteries. It appeared that the 69th and the Zouaves were all over the battle field, as there were Aids running all the time saying the General wanted us over here or over there, to take this or that battery.

There were many killed and wounded lying around on the field, like sheaves in a wheat-field. There was a house on the hill where wounded men were almost piled, and the rebels shelled it, as much as anywhere else, while they must have known, by seeing our ambulances, that they were only wounded. The Ohio, 71st, 8th, and others took part. The 71st made only one charge, and lost very few men. The 69th did all the charging.

New York Irish-American 8/3/1863

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Contributed by Damian Shiels





More On Handcuffs

29 12 2011

Chief Historian John Hennessy of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park sent Bull Runnings a note and newspaper clipping image yesterday, shedding a little more light on the origins of the Handcuffs Myth:

I recently came across this little notice from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which offers the only explanation I have ever seen for the handcuff legend. I haven’t looked into the details, but it seems plausible to me. Dunnell was colonel of the Fifth Maine:

The Mystery of the Hand Cuffs

The rebel reports of the Bull Run battle gave, among the list of articles taken, great numbers of hand cuffs. We always thought this entirely bogus, but, it appears it was true except as to numbers, and the explanation has finally leaked out. This is the story:

A Mr. Brady, of Maine, raised a company and was chosen Captain. The Governor however would not appoint him Captain, the election by the company not being binding. This incensed the company. The Adjutant General, Hodson, advised the Colonel  of the Regiment, Dunnell, by letter, to procure several dozen handcuffs, as he might want them, insinuating that there might be a bolt in his disaffected company. This letter fell into the hands of the rebels at Bulls Run and was published. They also state that they captured several thousand handcuffs. It probably all grew out of this singular letter, though the Portland (Me.) Argus says it was understood at the time that six dozen handcuffs were purchased for the 5th regiment, in which Mr. Brady’s company was.

Cleveland Plain Dealer, 8/20/1861

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Spin Ain’t Nothin’ New, Just Ask the Carthaginians

18 12 2011

Carthage

If you’re not already familiar with the rumors of Yankee handcuffs at First Bull Run, go here and get caught up (this article will be at the top of the page since it also carries a “handcuffs” tag – scroll down to the first article and read forward, if you get my drift). If you’re already hip, read on.

A little more fuel on the fire comes from Forgotten Valor: The Memoirs, Journals, & Civil War Letters of Orlando B. Willcox - thanks to Jim Rosebrock for jarring my memory on this. On page 301, Willcox describes an encounter with the enemy some days after his capture at First Bull Run:

Among our visitors who were numerous & mostly for curiosity, were a few of my old Army friends, generally polite but not one of them did me any good & some were insulting. Almost every stranger inquired, “What di you come down here for? Do you expect to subjugate us?” But, after all, it was from strangers that I experienced the most courtesy & most tangible comfort. Col. Lay, from the U.S. Army but now on Gen. Beauregard’s staff, came to inquire about the handcuff story which [had] created so much noise in the South. The story was that 30,000 handcuffs designed for the rebels were brot by Gen. McDowell & were captured. Both Ricketts & I denied it point-blank, & offered, if they could find them, to be the first to wear them. Lay afterwards came back & expressed Gen. Beauregard as satisfied, but to this day the tale never has been corrected, but has been kept alive to foment the passions of the South.

So, this story of handcuffs seems to be just that, a story, one likely propagated to further demonstrate the dastardly nature of the Northern opponent. It seems unlikely that so many handcuffs could, first, be carried on to the field (they were big, heavy, bulky things and would have required dozens of wagons to transport) and second, have been completely lost to history, physically speaking.

But what is the source of the story? How did “Gossip Zero” come up with the idea in the first place? Well, I may have stumbled across a clue in the book I’m reading right now. I picked up Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization, by Richard Miles, because I had a hankering to learn about the Punic Wars. 142 pages into a 373 page book and the first of the three Punic Wars hasn’t even started yet. The Carthaginians are still going at it with the Hellenic cities of Sicily, mostly Syracuse. Hannibals and Hamilcars abound – what, are there only two names in Punic? It’s all very confusing, and the long string of Scipios haven’t even been introduced by the Romans. Needless to say, I’m learning a lot, but If you’re into ancient history you’re better served by Elektratig.

So, back to the handcuffs. Miles lays out a compelling case that for several millenia, first the Greeks, then the Romans, and then those who followed in the study of classical history have conducted a very effective smear campaign against Carthage. In this case – but for sure not in the case of our Civil War – the history was written by the victors. And as we know, educated men in the 19th century were by and large educated in the classical sense: one attended university to become a gentleman, not an engineer or a journalist, or even an accountant or attorney. So learned folks – the kind of folks who made officers – were typically well schooled in Greeks and Romans. We often run across mentions of folks like Cicero and Cato in their writings. So I wonder how well the following anecdote was known at the time, and if it was perhaps the genesis of the Yankee Handcuffs myth. On the aforementioned page 142:

In [Sicilian Greek historian] Timaeus’ account of the later wars between Carthage and Syracuse, the complex strategic reasons why it was important for Carthage to intervene militarily in Sicily, like those of the Persians in Greece, were reduced to little more than a wish to enslave Hellas [Greece], beautifully articulated in one episode by an apparent discovery of 20,000 pairs of manacles in the Carthaginian camp after a victory [by Agathocles of Syracuse, I'm guessing], or simply a hatred of all Greeks.

Is this where the Confederates got the idea? Makes sense to me. It wouldn’t be the first time history was plagiarized in an attempt to stir up support. P. G. T. Beauregard had borrowed liberally from the rhetoric of the defense of New Orleans some 45 years earlier in his “Beauty and Booty” proclamation (the word then was that Sir Edward Pakenham had promised both to his men if they would take the city). Proving it, on the other hand, is problematic.





Pvt. Leonard Powell, Co. D, 2nd Wisconsin, On the Battle

7 12 2011

Letters from Members of the Janesville Volunteers.

Arlington Heights, July 24th.

Dear Wife: – I write to let you know that I am well. I hope you are also in good health. We have had two hard battles, have been defeated in one, and were obliged to retreat thirty miles to this place.

I cannot tell you how many balls whistled by my head during the battle, for I could not count them. The little things go very quick, but I can dodge the cannon ball and the bomb shell; but when a shell bursts it raises the “Old Ned” with the men. My gun was shot from my hands by a shell; that was close work for the eyes. Three were three men shot down by my side. – Fred. Main was shot through the leg, and has not been seen since. I fear he is dead, for the enemy killed our wounded. This will be a hard war for both sides, but we are bound to whip them. Our loss is about one thousand, and that of the other side about the same.

I was taken prisoner, but my legs were too long for them, and I left. I was separated from my company two days. The enemy could not fool “Old Pap.” I shot the man who was guarding me. He had taken my gun from me, but I had a pistol in my shirt pocket which he did not find. When he turned his back I gave him a charge, and then he let my old legs go. These legs of mine won’t let the body be abused in such times. I walked thirty-five miles that night, through the woods all the way. It was a hard tramp for me.

We were in the battle five hours; it was very hard fighting. I saw dead men and horses on all sides of me. ‘Tis enough to harden any man’s heart. I never had any fear at all until they all ran; and then I tried to help a wounded man off the field, and was taken prisoner.

Leonard Powell

Janesville Daily Gazette, 7/30/1861.

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Sgt. George F. Saunders, Co. D, 2nd Wisconsin, On the Battle

1 12 2011

Letters from Members of the Janesville Volunteers.

Fort Corcoran, Va., July 25th, 1861.

Dear Wife and Family: – I have at last found something to write, and having a little leisure time, I will endeavor to give you the news.

The first engagement took place about one week ago; the notice was short, and the contest unequal: the enemy fell back towards Manassas, – but on Saturday last the order was issued to prepare for action. The bugles sounded, the drums beat to arms; swords, muskets, cannon, and revolvers were examined to see if they were all right. At two o’clock the order came to march. In less than an hour, two batteries, sixteen guns (one 32-pounder), 10,000 infantry, 500 cavalry, sappers, miners, Zouaves, &c., were under march. Some were talking of home and friends; some singing, but very low. We had a long and dreary march. Sunday morning came, and I shall remember it as long as I live; and with it we took our position. The 79th Highland regiment on our right, the Sherman battery in the centre of the first brigade; the second brigade then formed with Sprague’s battery to support them; the third was on the extreme left, with the cavalry to assist them, and son on till the whole army was disposed of.

At about six A. M., Sherman’s battery sent in some shot and shell to see what the enemy were made of, but received no answer. We then saw some cavalry advancing, but the battery soon put them to right about; they soon returned, however, to decoy us on. This they did till we came within about a mile of their masked fort, when their cavalry and infantry commenced firing on our artillery. On we went at a double-quick; their batteries opened on us, and the fight became general. We were pretty well exhausted, but after the first fire, we never thought of hunger.

In order to get a high position, we were obliged to ford a river, which made us feel much better; but on getting to the other side, we were nearly surrounded. The very heavens seemed to be on fire, and such a havoc of human life! The rebel force was, as stated, between 30,000 and 40,000, with 10,000 of our troops engaged at one time. You can form a faint idea.

I would stand for an instant pitying some friend who had just dropped by my side, forgetting my own safety, which depended on my loading and firing in the quickest possible manner. I twice picked up the musket of a dead comrade, my own having been shot out of my hands. We came to a charge of bayonets three distinct times. We tried to rally our troops, but at about half past 4 P. M., the order to retreat was given, which I regretted to hear; but nothing could be done to any better advantage under the poor generalship.

The Wisconsin Second has represented her state nobly. Although there were a great many of us killed, there are still enough left who are willing to fight under competent officers, which, if we had been blessed with in the start, the battle would have been carried in our favor. The Janesville Volunteers fought well, although Capt. Ely and Ensign Dodge became exhausted shortly after entering the field; but I do not blame them, as we were all pretty well exhausted. Lieut. McLean fought bravely and escaped all right; I also escaped. Mc and I attribute it to the interposition of a kind Providence, which we hope will protect us till we return home. At roll call this morning, there were 13 missing, with what is in the hospital. I would give you a list of the killed and wounded, but we are not allowed to send any.

I believe we were visited by the president and cabinet. They spoke highly of the Wisconsin Second as we deserve. We are now re-organizing, and at the next battle we intend to do the whipping. We are all feeling as well as can be expected, and as anxious for a fight as before. The men still keep coming in as fast as they can find their way back; but there is one consolation, and that is we retreated in pretty good order. I think I have got along very well so far, as John Hamilton, three others and myself were out on a picket guard, when the rebel pickets commenced firing at us, and we escaped without a scratch. We, however, silenced them by giving them a few shots with our Sharpe’s rifles. You must excuse all mistakes, as I am sitting on the ground with my paper on my knapsack, which you may guess is not a very comfortable mode of writing.

Yours Truly,

Geo. F. Saunders.

The Janesville Daily Gazette, 7/30/1861.

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Second Chance

31 10 2008

Here’s one that got under the radar.  I posted it awhile back.  If you’re killing time today, give it a read and let me know what you think.  Follow the links and it will make more sense.

Handcuffs at Bull Run





Private Lewis Francis, 14th Brooklyn

21 09 2008

Medical/Surgical History – Part III, Volume II, p.154

Chapter X – Wounds And Injuries Of The Lower Extremities

Section II – Wounds And Injuries Of The Hip Joint

Amputations At The Hip Joint

The next case is exceptional inasmuch as the amputation and reamputation followed a bayonet stab in the knee instead of shot injury.

 

Photo – Photographic Atlas of Civil War Injuries

FIG 113 – Cicatrix sixteen months after a reamputation at the right hip, succeeding amputation for a bayonet stab through the knee.

CASE 331.–Private Lewis Francis, Co. I, 14th New York Militia, aged 42 years, was wounded July 21, 1861, at the first battle of Bull Run, by a bayonet thrust, which opened the right knee joint. He received not less than fourteen other stabs in different parts of the body, none of them implicating the great cavities. He was taken prisoner, and conveyed to Richmond and placed in hospital. One of his wounds involved the left testis, which was removed on July 24th. On October 28, 1861, his right thigh was amputated at the middle, on account of disease of the knee with abscesses in the thigh. The double-flap method was employed. The stump became inflamed and the femur protruded. An inch of the bone was resected and the flaps were again brought together. In the spring of 1862 the patient was exchanged and sent to Fort Monroe. Thence he was transferred to a Washington hospital, and thence, in March, 1862, to his home in Brooklyn. There was necrosis of the femur, and in May, 1862, its extremity was again resected by a civil surgeon. On October 28, 1863, Francis was admitted to the Ladies’ Home Hospital, New York. Necrosis had apparently involved the remaining portion of the femur. On May 21, 1864, Surgeon A. B. Mott, U. S. V., laid open the flaps and exarticulated the bone. The patient recovered rapidly and had a sound stump. He was discharged August 12, 1864. On October 1, 1865, a photograph, from which the accompanying wood-cut (FIG. 113) was taken, was forwarded by Surgeon A. B. Mott to the Army Medical Museum. Dr. Mott reported that the pathological specimen of the exarticulated femur was stolen from his hospital. For some months after his discharge Francis enjoyed good health; but then the cicatrix became unhealthy, pus was discharged through several sinuses, and there was bleeding from the slightest irritation. In March, 1867, a messenger was sent to his residence, 54 Hamilton Street, Brooklyn, and found him in very poor health. He had been unable to leave the house since November, 1866. On April 12, 1867, he was visited by Dr. E. D. Hudson, who reported him as then confined to his bed. There was a large ulcer at the upper outer angle of the cicatrix, which communicated with extensive sinuses; there was a fistula-in-ano also. The pus from the different fistulous orifices was thin, oily, and ichorous. There could be little doubt that there was disease of some portion of the innomi-natum. The patient was much emaciated, and had a cough with muco-purulent expectoration. His pulse, however, was not frequent, and he had a good appetite. In May, 1867, it was reported that his general condition had somewhat improved. In March, 1868, Pension Examiner J. C. Burdick, of Brooklyn, reported that this pensioner was “permanently helpless and required the constant aid of a nurse.” On May 30, 1874 (Decoration Day), and the day prior, at a preparatory parade of the veterans of his regiment, he was particularly active. The day after this unusual exercise, May 31, 1874, he died suddenly while at table.(2) This statement from the Brooklyn Union, June 1, 1874, is corroborated by the records of the Pension Bureau.

(2) Circular No. 6, S. G. O., 1865, p. 49. Circular No. 7, S. G. O., 1867, pp. 52, 65. HAMILTON (F. H.), Treatise on Military Surgery, 1865, p. 629.





Handcuffs at Bull Run

26 08 2008

This report of Captain Edward Porter Alexander on men and equipage captured by the Confederates at Bull Run is pretty straightforward and not too exciting.  Alexander grossly overestimates the strength of McDowell’s army, though other Confederate reports were even further off.  And this tidbit is enticing:

Incomplete returns of many miscellaneous articles, such as bed-ticks, buckets, coffee-mills, halters, picket-pins, saddles and bridles, ten barrels commissary stores, and a few handcuffs left from a large lot captured, but carried off by individuals as trophies.

That McDowell’s army brought thousands of handcuffs in which to haul the defeated rebels back to Washington is one of the oldest myths of First Bull Run, but myths are not necessarily false.  Indignant southern commentators reported 30-40,000 handcuffs captured.  You can read some of the accounts in Vol. II of The Rebellion Record (1862) – the Northern publishers ridiculed them, claiming they were written by Baron MunchausenThe New York Times had a similar attitude.   Southern papers and authorities certainly used the story of the handcuffs to their advantage, adding it to the rhetoric extolling the righteousness of the Confederate cause.

Mary Chesnut wrote shortly after the battle (at least, she would have us believe it was shortly after the battle):

They brought us handcuffs found in the debacle of the Yankee army.  For whom were they?  Jeff Davis, no doubt.  And the ringleaders.  Tell that to the Marines.  We have outgrown the handcuff business on this side of the water.  C. Vann Woodward, ed., Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, New York, 1981, p.113

Chesnut’s passage here is interesting, because the phrase Tell that to the Marines implies that she did not believe the handcuff story (in England sailors looked down on marines, and the phrase meant try that line of bull on somebody who doesn’t know any better).  So it would appear that at the time the story was contested not only by northern wags, but by some prominent southerners.

Folks were still fighting over the truth of the story years after the war.  I have copies of a few articles from Confederate Veteran magazine, which was published from 1893 through 1912.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the dates of publication for these articles (maybe someone out there can help me out with this):

HANDCUFFS ON THE MANASSAS BATTLEFIELD

By George G. Bryson, Gallatin, Tenn.

I cannot tell you much about the handcuffs seen on the First Manassas Battlefield.  I saw them in barrels on the slope of the hill between the Henry House and the spring.  There were also several barrels of crackers , which had been opened and out of which I replenished my haversack.  There may be some survivor’s of Lindsay Walker’s Battery who were present in this battle.  It was Walker’s guns which so effectually demolished the last effort to form line made by the Federals on this part of the field.  If there are any of them living, I believe they can also testify, for the handcuffs were within a few yards of the spot occupied by this battery while in action.  There were also several boxes, still unopened, on which was written: “To be opened on streets of Richmond.”

I have had a talk with my old friend M. E. Head, who was with me and saw the cuffs and boxes.  His recollection and mine are the same, except as to locality.  He thinks they were on the opposite side of the hill from where our command (Holmes’s Brigade) halted; but as to the fact of seeing them there is no doubt in his mind than in my own.

In the same issue, and on the same page (304):

ANOTHER ACCOUNT OF HANDCUFFS

By Mrs. E. A. Meriwether, St. Louis, MO.

I notice in the Veteran for April an article about the handcuffs found on the field of the First Manassasbattle.  The writer says: “I confidently defy any one to find in print a reference to this fact.”  About two years ago a book entitled “Facts and Falsehoods Concerning the War on the South in 1861-65″ was published.  Among other known “facts” contained in the book may be found an interesting account of the handcuffs and shackles captured at Bull Run [read it here].

Some years ago my husband’s cousin, Capt. Robert Walker Lewis, of Albemarle, Va., wrote to him (Col. Minor Meriweather) of being in that First Manassas battle, and that he and his men captured a wagon loaded with handcuffs and shackles.  Some of the Union prisoners captured at the same time stated that these instruments were intended to be used on the Rebels they expected to make prisoners, and intended to march them into Washington in that shackled condition.  I now have hanging on my wall one of those shackles.  It is made of two strong iron rings, with lock and key, to be fastened on the ankles.  These rings are fastened together by a strong iron chain seventeen inches long.

Was there a cache of Union handcuffs and/or shackles captured by the Rebels at Bull Run?  I’m not sure one way or the other.  However, one would think that of so many thousands carried off for display on southern walls, at least some would survive today.  So if you’re aware of the whereabouts of any of these mementos, drop me a note!

Photo of Delestasius style 1860s handcuffs at top from this site.

UPDATE 8/27/2008: Friend, reader, and researcher extraordinaire Teej Smith turned up a couple more contemporary references to the captured handcuffs.  First is this report in the New York Times on August 26, 1861, which examines the mathematics of 32,000 one-pound handcuffs loaded onto three 800 pound capacity wagons (I’m not sure upon what the correspondent based his estimate of the load limit). 

Second comes this announcement in the Raleigh North Carolina Standard for July 31, 1861.  In it, the writer not only perpetuates the handcuff story, but recognizes the need to perpetuate it in order to garner support for the war, avoid the necessity of a draft (the author misapprehended the eventuality: the Confederacy instituted conscription before the Union), and ultimately to raise a company of infantry:

AN APPEAL TO THE PATRIOTIC!

It is evident that the tyrannical despotism which has been inaugurated at Washington City by Lincoln and his supporters — smarting under the signal defeat it sustained in the great battle at Manassas — is still resolved to prosecute this unjust and iniquitous war upon the South with all its power, and with fresh rancor. If it succeeds in the appeal it has made to the worst passions of the Northern people, the question for the men of the Southwill be, not, who can with convenience volunteer for the defence of their rights and firesides, but, who can, in honor and duty, remain longer inactive, or refuse to lake the field for the protection of all that is valuable and dear to them? The subjugation of the South, is the dedicated purpose of that despotic government. The destruction of our homes, the confiscation our property, the massacre of our people, is its wish — its proclaimed intention. But the other day, on the floor of the Senate, one of its mercenaries declared that, if successful, ” Yankee Governors should be placed over the States of the South to be rule them as conquered provinces.” Another proclaimed in the same place, that “hemp was the only argument they intended to use to the South.” It is said that amongst the “booty ” they left, on their retreat from Manassas, were thousands of handcuffs, which had been forged for “Southern traitors” All admit that the South must arouse herself to an energy and boldness, fully equal to the conflict that may be forced upon her by the rapacity and tyranny of the Northern government. If volunteers cannot be obtained, the system of drafting will be necessarily adopted. No one can believe, for a moment, that the patriotic young men of our State, will, by inactivity, and or disregard for the importance of the struggle, and the odds with which their gallant brethren, who have been already subjected to the hardships and dangers of the battle field, must encounter, submit to be drafted! All they ask is, to be convinced that their services are needed, and they will rush, with alacrity, to the post of duty and danger.

This appeal is made to the patriotic who may wish to aid in procuring volunteers for a company of Infantry, to be organized for immediate service. Those wishing to volunteer, will apply to the undersigned, from whom all necessary information may be obtained.

JOHN DEVEREUX,

Raleigh, S. C.

July 30, 1861

My impression is that this John Devereux served as Quartermaster for North Carolina during the war, and was part of the delegation that surrendered the city to Sherman’s army in 1865 (see here.)

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