Edward S. Barrett, Civilian, On the Battle (1)

12 09 2014

Scenes of the Battle Field — Personal Adventures at the Battle of Bull Run

From The Boston, Traveller, Aug. 1.

Mr. Edward S. Barrett, of Concord, has, at our request, furnished us the following narrative of his experience on the day of the recent Battle of Bull Run. It will be found exceedingly interesting: and our readers will agree that if all the “civilians” who went to the field on that day had behaved as well as Mr. Barrett, there would be no reason to complain of them.

It is quite possible that the writer has in some cases used the wrong military terms, for he makes no pretension to military knowledge; but his narrative will be found in all important particulars as authentic as it is interesting. It commences with the night before the battle:

On Saturday evening, the 20th of July, I heard we were to start at half past two the following morning, and our line was to be in readiness at an early hour. We had occupied the camp at Centreville since Thursday night. Wrapping my blanket around me, at 10 o’clk I stretched myself upon the bare ground to sleep. The night was cool, and at 12 o’clock I awoke feeling very cold, and unable to sleep more, I anxiously waited to hear the signal to prepare. At two o’clock our drum sounded through the camp, and was repeated through the numerous camps around us, and in half an hour forty thousand men stood ready to battle for the Union.

The Fifth Massachusetts regiment, which I accompanied, was in the division under Heintzelman, acting Major General, and our regiment was the third in the column. The First Minnesota, under Colonel Gorman, led forward by the Massachusetts Eleventh, Colonel Clarke; then the Fifth, Colonel Lawrence, with the regular cavalry and a battery of artillery leading the advance. We waited, in marching order, from half past two o’clock till after six before the order was given to advance, and then we learned that Colonel Hunter, with eight regiments, including Governor Sprague’s command had preceded us, and we were to follow. General McDowell and staff heading our division.

Mounted on a secession horse, which I had captured two days previously, I followed in rear of the regiment, in company with Quartermaster Billings and Surgeon Hurd. From Centreville we took the extreme northern road, leaving the Warrentown road on our left, which General Tyler had taken with his division. Passing through a forest of heavy oak timber some three miles in length, we emerged into the open country, with a wide interval on our left, and the Blue Ridge Mountains distinctly visible on our right. We had heard and occasional cannon shot during the morning, but not until ten o’clock was there any sound of a general engagement. The heavy cannonading on our left and in front caused the march to be hastened, and our men could hardly be restrained, so eager were they for the fight. About a mile and a half before we reached the field the men began to throw away their blankets, haversacks and all unnecessary appendages, the different regiments trying to throw them into a pile, or as near together without halting. I tied my horse near the hospital headquarters, and hastened to the head of the column, which advanced in double quick time till they cam within reach of the enemy’s guns. The fight was raging on our left and in front as our division came into the field. I could see that the enemies batteries were posted on a long ridge, with woods extending on either flank, and separated from us by a valley. It was now about half past eleven o’clock. General McDowell ordered one brigade, under Colonel Franklin, consisting of the First Minnesota, Eleventh and Fifth Massachusetts and a Pennsylvania regiment, to advance down the hill and take a position in the valley on a slight elevation directly in front of the rebel batteries. I followed on some distance, but the shot rattled about me, and I halted near General McDowell and staff, while the brigade swept past me and down the hill. I watched for some time the colors of the fifth with intense interest. The regiment reached the valley and deployed to the right on to a slight knoll, fell flat on their faces, while the shot from the rebel batteries passed mostly over their heads. A battery swept past me to take a position. I followed it along some distance, when the Major galloped back to me and called out: “Friend, tell Captain F. to hurry up my supports.” I did not know Captain F., but hastened back and met an orderly, of whom I enquired who he was. He pointed him out to me near a regiment of infantry. I rushed up to him and gave my message. He replied, “They are coming right along.” And on double quick the regiment followed after the battery. The rifle cannon shot, shells and bullets struck all around me, and men were falling in every direction. Seeing a high persimmon tree standing alone, a short distance down the hill, I determined to climb it. The top of it was dead, and about thirty feet off the ground. From this elevation I had an unobstructed view of the whole line, and I could see into the enemy’s entrenchments, where the men looked like so many bees in a hive, and I could plainly see their officers riding about, and their different columns moving hither and thither. Their batteries on the right and left were masked with trees so completely, that I could not distinguish them except by the flash from their guns,; and a battery in a cornfield on our extreme left was so completely concealed by the cornstalks placed so naturally about it, that our men came suddenly upon it, never dreaming of one so near. The cannon ball struck the ground continually close to the tree and bounded along for a quarter of a mile to the rear. I felt that I was above the range of these, but the rifle balls whistled about my head, striking the tree in a way anything but pleasant. Just after I had reached the top of the tree a New Hampshire regiment, close at my left had succeeded in driving them from the woods in front, and, with three cheers, they fell back into line.

When the line was formed, three cheers were given for Colonel Marston, who had fought gallantly and received two severe wounds. Sherman’s battery then commenced firing on my right, within thirty rods of me, and at the first discharge the men cheered and watched the effect of the shell, which exploded inside the enemy’s entrenchments. The men cheered again, to see that they got the range so quickly, and continued to fire with great rapidity, while the enemy returned the fire with equal vigor and precision, the cannonading being kept up incessantly for an hour.

The shot and shell from this battery must have done the rebels great damage, as every shot took effect within their intrenchments. – Still men and horses kept falling near our guns, and the infantry lines were parted in many places by their cannon balls. The valley for nearly one-half mile in front of the enemy’s works was filled with our infantry, extending to some patches of woods on our right. Our batteries were placed on various eminences on the flank and rear, shifting their positions from time to time. The fire from our lines in this valley was terrific, and as they kept slowly advancing, firing, retreating to load, and then advancing again, it was a sight which no words could describe. For three long hours we poured into their intrenchments this terrible fire, and whenever the enemy showed themselves on the flanks they were driven back with great slaughter. During all this time our men were subjected to a cross fire from the enemy’s infantry stationed in the woods on our left. At one time the “Stars and stripes” were waved in these woods, and men dressed much like our own called out not to fire that way. Our men gradually drew up towards the flag, when immediately the secession flag was thrown out and the rebels poured a volley into our men so unexpectedly that they were for the time driven back, but we soon regained the ground.

General McDowell now ordered a battery forward to take a position near a house on our right; the Fire Zouaves were ordered to support it. The position appeared to me, from my lookout, like a strong one, as it was on a hill on a level with the rebel batteries. – Our battery started, the horses running at the top of their speed, and shortly began to ascend the eminence, the Zouaves following closely; but scarcely had the battery halted and fired, before the enemy opened upon them from new masked batteries, and a terrific fire of musketry from the woods, and our artillery was driven back, many of their men and horses being killed. The Zouaves stood their ground manfully, firing in lines and then falling on their faces to load. The ranks we becoming dreadfully thinned, yet they would not yield an inch; when suddenly our dashed the Black Horse Cavalry, and charged furiously, with uplifted sabres, upon them. – The Zouaves gallantly resisted this furious onset without flinching, and after firing their muskets – too sorely pressed to load – would fight furiously with the bayonets or any weapon they could seize, and in some instances drag the riders from their saddles, stabbing them with their knives, and mounting their splendid black horses gallop over the field. Never, since the famous charge of the Light Brigade, was a cavalry corps more cut to pieces. There is a bitter animosity existing between the Black Horse Cavalry and Ellsworth’s Zouaves. A great many of the cavalry are citizens of Alexandria and Fairfax county and they resolved to kill every Zouave they could lay their hands upon to avenge the death of Jackson, and the Zouaves were equally determined to avenge the murder of Ellsworth; so no quarter was expected by them.

I had now been in the tree some two hours, and all this time a continuous stream of wounded were being carried to the rear. The soldiers would cross their muskets, placing their wounded companion across; slowly carry them past; and another soldier would have a wounded man with his arm around his neck, slowly walking back, and then two men would be bearing a mortally wounded comrade in their arms, who was in convulsions and writhing in his last agonies.

Leaving the tree, I went along over the field to the left, the bullets whistling about me and the cannon balls ploughing up the ground in every direction, when I came across two of our men with a prisoner, who said he belonged to a South Carolina regiment. I asked him some questions, but he was dogged and silent, and did not appear to be disposed to reply to my inquiries. The shot fell so thick, and shells bursting around me, I hardly knew which way to turn. A musket ball whizzed past my ear so near that I felt the heat, and for a moment thought I was hit. – The ground was strewn with broken guns, swords, cartridge boxes, gun carriages, haversacks together, with all the paraphernalia of warfare, mingled with the dead and wounded men. I saw here a horse and his rider under him, both killed by the same cannon ball. Seeing a small white house still towards the left, with a well near it, I started for some water, and getting over a wall I discovered lying beside it a number of our dead with their haversacks drawn over their faces. I lifted the cover from their faces, thinking, perhaps, I might come across some of my friends, but they were all strangers, or so disfigured that I could not recognize them. I went to the well for a drink, and as I drew near the house I heard loud groans, and such a scene as was there presented, in that little house of two rooms, and on the grass around it, was enough to appal the stoutest heart.

The rooms were crowded, and I could not get in; but all round on the grass were men mortally wounded. I should think there were at least forty on that green sward, within 20 rods of the house, and such wounds – some with both legs shot off; some with both legs broken; others with horrid flesh wounds made with shells. I saw one man with a sound in his back large enough to put in my fist; he was fast bleeding to death. As I walked among them some beseeched me to kill them and put an end to their agony; some were calling for the surgeon, but the hospital was more than a mile off, and there were but two surgeons there; some were just gasping, and some had died.

I left the house and bore off towards the right towards some low pine woods, about a hundred yards distant, and scattered along were the dear bodies of our men. On reaching the wood I found ground literally covered with the dead bodies of the enemy, and I counted in the space of ten rods square forty-seven dead rebels and ten mortally wounded; and scattered all through the woods still farther back were any number more. I talked with several of the wounded, and they told me they belonged to the 8th Georgia regiment, Col. Bartow, and had arrived at Manasas from Winchester the day before, where they had been with Gen. Johnston. They told me their whole regiment was posted in this pine woods. One young man told me he was from Macon, and that his father was a merchant. I asked another where he was from; he replied defiantly, “I am for disunion – opposed to you.” This man had both thighs broken.

I heard one of our soldiers ask a wounded Georgian if their orders were to kill our wounded. He answered No. Our soldiers carried water to these wounded men, and as they lay writing in agony a cup of water was put within their reach. The convulsions of one of these men was awful to look upon; he appeared to have been shot in the lungs, as he vomited blood in large quantities, and in his struggles for breath would throw himself clear from the ground. I noticed among the heaps of bodies an officer dressed in light blue uniform, with green stripes on his pants, a fine looking man, whom I took to be a captain. I also saw one of our soldiers take sixty dollars from the body of a dead Georgian; and their knives, revolvers, &c., were appropriated the same way. This I looked upon as legitimate plunder for the soldiers, but as a citizen I forebore to take anything from the field.

I think the fight in this wood must have been fiercer than in any part of the field, except it may be on our right, where the Zouaves were. The wood was near the enemy’s right, and where the fight commenced in the morning with Hunter’s division, and as Heintzelman’s division came into action the rebels were giving way at this point, under the galling fire of Co. Marston’s regiment, while the Rhode Island troops and some New York regiments had driven back their extreme right. – Passing through these pine woods I still bore to the right towards our centre, and crossed a cleared space and came to some heavy wood, on the edge of which I perceived a number of dead scattered about; and seeing several wounded men, I went up to one of them, and found he was a rebel belonging to an Alabama regiment. He told me he joined the regiment on the 13th of April. He pointed to a dead horse close to us, and said, “There is my Colonel’s horse, and I suppose you have taken him prisoner.”

[Concluded to-morrow.]

Part 2

New London (CT) Chronicle, 8/6/1861

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Edward S. Barrett* bio

Edward S. Barrett* at Ancestry.com

Barrett, Edwin Shepard What I Saw at Bull Run

Contributed by John Hennessy

*Likely the letter writer





George Palmer Putnam, Publisher, On the Retreat, With Incidents of the Battle

29 08 2014

The Affair of the Twenty-First.

George P. Putnam, the publisher, was an eye witness of the retreat of Sunday and Monday, and says:

The reports of a disorderly retreat of our main army are grossly untrue. A brief statement of a small part of what I witnessed will show this.

Mr. Tilley of Rhode Island and myself accompanied the De Kalb Regiment[*] from Alexandria in the cars to the Fairfax station on the Manassas Gap Railroad; we reached there at 10 A.M. Heavy cannonading was steadily going on. While the regiment waited for orders we walked forward on the track till within five miles of Manassas Junction. A scout was there sending hourly reports to General Scott of the firing. Returning, as the regiment still halted, a party of four of us, with a soldier, walked on the Fairfax Court House three miles, and thence on the road to Centreville.

About f o’clock we began to meet buggies and wagons with visitors returning to Washington. All reported that the day was ours, and rode on jubilant, until, at half past 4, an officer on horseback, riding fiercely, said, with emphasis, “No, no, it’s going against us.” The firing had ceased.

Near Centreville, between two long hills, we suddenly saw army wagons and private vehicles coming down before us in hot haste – a few soldiers on horseback mixed in with the crowd. Looking back we w found a regiment coming fresh from Fairfax in “double quick.”

Mr. Russel, of the London Times, was on horseback among the first from the battle.

The New Jersey Colonel instantly formed his men across the road, and resolutely turned back every soldier in the road, and in twenty minutes perfect order was restored, and the whole flight of the vehicles was shown to be absurd, so much so that we waited two hours at that spot, drawing water for the poor wounded men, who began to limp along from the field; only two or three ambulances to be seen.

At half past six, two hours after the battle was over, we started [?] [?] back to Fairfax Court House, [?] [?] [?] four wounded soldiers into the wagon.

Those who were [?] [?] [?] [?] got by the Jersey boys, were stopped by a company of the Michigan Fourth, from Fairfax, and compelled to turn back.

At Fairfax Court House we quietly took supper at the tavern, and never [dreaming] of any disorderly retreat, we were supplied with good beds; we undressed and went to sleep at 11 P.M. At three o’clock Monday morning, finding the wagons were moving on the Alexandria, we started again and walked quietly along with them to Alexandria, doing what little we could to aid the men more or less slightly wounded, or worn out, including some from the hospital – for still there was scarcely an ambulance to be seen.

But on the whole road from Centerville to Alexandria, I am confident that there were not five hundred soldiers in all, between 6 P.M. and day-light; so that it is grossly untrue that the whole army made a hasty retreat. On the contrary, all seemed to be certain that a stand was made at Centerville, of the whole of our main body, excepting only the stragglers from this first panic. The panic was explained by several who agreed it was purely accidental.

I talked with at least forty from Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin regiments who gave me some thrilling incidents of different parts of the field – which I have no time to tell now – many grumbled at [?] [?], but all seemed plucky, and said that our troops could beat the rebels easily in an open fight, and would do it yet – but the masked batteries on one side and the blunders on ours had “done for us this time.” I reached Alexandria at seven – having walked forty miles.

– The following incidents of the battle form the first chapter of the volume of history and legend that will grow out of it:

– A spectator of the [?] tells me that the Zouaves literally decimated the Black Horse Cavalry, the celebrated rebel troop. About the middle of the battle the Zouaves fired by platoon upon the rebel infantry stationed in the woods. After they had fired they discovered a troop of horse coming down on their rear. — They carried the American flag, which deceived Col. Heintzelman, and made him believe they were United States Cavalry, and  he so told the Zouaves. As they came nearer, their true character was discovered, but too late for all the Zouaves to reload. The regiment faced and received the cavalry as they came down, with leveled bayonets which threw them into confusion. Then away went muskets, and the Zouaves went in withe their knives and pistols. They seized horses and stabbed their riders. In this hand-to-hand conflict the Black Horse Troop were handled in their own preferred way of fighting. — The [?] showed the Zouaves to be the most expert handlers of the knife. When the fight was over, there were not twenty of the four hundred cavalry left alive. Men and horses had been cut to pieces by the infuriated red-shirts. This troop of cavalry had boasted they would picket their horses in the grounds of the White House.

– Mr. Russel of The London Times, who witnessed at Inkerman and elsewhere in the Crimea the fiercest infantry charges on record, says they were surpassed by those of our Firemen Zouaves, Sixty-ninth, and other regiments. The best fighting ever done on the globe was that by a large portion of the defenders of the [?] at Bull’s Run.

– Our greatest deficiency was in cool and [???]. The men fought [?] and were ready for anything which experienced commanders would order them to do. Gen. McDowell behaved admirably. He was active, [?] and attended to everything in person as far as possible; but he had not a sufficient staff, and was not properly supported by his subordinates. — Major Wadsworth of New York, one of his aids, showed the utmost gallantry and devotion. He exerted himself to rally the forces when they first fell back, and towards the close, after having his horse shot under him, seized the colors of the wavering New York Fourteenth, and called on the boys to rally once more for another charge, but without success. Major Wadsworth, as the Army retreated, remained at Fairfax Court House, and devoted himself to purchasing everything needful for the wounded. of whom about a hundred and fifty were at that place.

– A number of the Second New York saw the rebel sharp-shooters fire upon and kill two vivandieres who were giving [?] and [?] to the wounded. The rebels also shout at ambulances bringing off the wounded. They also fired point blank at the buildings used as hospitals, and it is said by some that they fired the buildings.

– Lieut. Col. Haggerty of the Sixty-ninth, was killed in a charge. When his body was found, his throat was cut from ear to ear, and his ears and nose were cut off. Many of the sounded were found thus disfigured.

– A member of the New York Sixty-ninth says:

Thos. 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, and went to the front, leading the men to the charge. The color was recaptured, the enemy was driven back, and the we formed in hollow square, by orders, and retreated steadily off the ground.

– A Union man living near Fairfax assured our informants he had seen the intrenchments at Manassas, and that there were nine miles of batteries there.

– The number of killed and wounded is got by Gen. Mansfield at less than 1,000, and by Gen. McDowell at from 500 to 700.

– Senator Lane, of Indiana, gives it as his opinion that the reason of the panic was an order given to the batteries to return to a certain point for ammunition, and this apparently retreating movement of batteries produced consternation and panic. By other the order to retreat, which assisted to change the fortunes of Sunday, is ascribed to Gen. Miles, of the Army, who commanded the fifth division.

– The Zouaves, after taking one battery, were rushing upon another , when those behind it cried out, “For God’s sake, don’t shoot your brothers.” Upon this, the Zouaves reserved their fire, until artillery was poured in upon them by the battery from which the supplications had come.

– It is well authenticated that in several instances our men fired upon each other. Company [?] of the Thirty-eighth Regiment New York Volunteers, suffered severely form such a mischance.

– When the colors of the Sixty-ninth were captured by the Virginians, two of them seized the flags and were going off with them, when Lieut. Matthews, of Company K, Fire Zouaves, fired and killed both the Virginians, and recovered the flags.

– Capt. Wildey, of Company I, Zouaves, killed two out of four Mississippians who were dragging a gun. All our men agree in representing that the rebel infantry will not stand a fair fight, even with three to our one. They gave way whenever attacked, when not supported by artillery.

– There is every reason now to believe, from concurrent reports, that a retreating panic seized the confederate army at the same time some of our regiments began their hasty and wild exodus from the scene of carnage.

– Capt. T. F. Meagher had a horse shot under him, but is untouched. All out losses were in advancing – none in falling back. There was no panic in front. This was confined mainly to the wagon drivers, straggling soldiers and fugitive officers, and the rear of the column.

– Our loss in field pieces is not so great as heretofore estimated. Every gun of Capt. Ayres’ battery, formerly Sherman’s, was brought off safe – only some caissons being lost. The loss of baggage wagons will not exceed fifty. In small arms, our loss is at least three thousand.

– The Colonels of our regiments appear to have been in the thickest of the fight, if we may judge by the casualties. The returns show four killed and seven wounded. There were thirty-six in the engagement, which gives a ratio of one in three killed or wounded.

– Gen. Cameron, who went to Manassas intending to witness the battle, was so impressed with  the doubtful character of the attempt to force the enemy’s position, that he returned in haste to Washington to [?], if possible, the orders which had been issued for an attack, but arrived too late. He immediately pressed forward, however, all the available troops to strengthen the Reserve Corps. Our officers had little hope of winning the battle, on Saturday night. A prominent Member of Congress who was there, after an interview with General McDowell and his aids, wrote down his conviction that we should lose it, and that the commanding General was hopeless at the commencement of the battle. We learn from another source that this was the general feeling among the officers. One captain remonstrated against the madness of the assault. Gen. McDowell said that a victory at this juncture was so important, that a great risk must be run to win it.

– It is believed the loss of the Fire Zouaves will not exceed 100, and that of the N.Y. 71st 60. Stragglers are continually coming in, but they are scattered through the different camps, so that the muster roles of different regiments can not yet be arranged, and the exact losses ascertained.

– A prisoner who was brought in, in the course of the battle, declared that Gen. Johnston was shot, and fell from his horse at his feet. When Col. Burnside fell from his killed horse, he conversed for a moment with a rebel officer, who asked him whether he was wounded, when he replied, “Only slightly.” “I am mortally wounded,” said the rebel, “and can have no object in deceiving you. I assure you that we have 90,000 men in and within forty minutes of Manassas Junction.”

– The New York Herald’s dispatch says:

The whole of Sherman’s battery is saved.

Col. Blenker, commanding a brigade in the division of Col. Miles, which brought up the rear of the retreating column, picked up on the way the guns of Burnside’s R.I. regiment that had been left behind, and brought them in. The horses had been detached for the purpose of bringing in the wounded.

Hon. Alfred Ely, of the Rochester district, and his companion on the field, Mr. Bing, have not been heard of since the battle. They were last seen near one of the batteries, and are supposed to have been taken prisoners.

Capt. Griffin lost 60 of the horses attached to his battery, but brought away one gun and the forge.

If a stand had been made at Centerville, the enemy would probably never have discovered the advantage accidentally gained.

Col. McCunn, of the 37th N.Y. regiment, is in command at Fort Ellsworth. His brigade consists of the 37th New York, Lieut Col. Burke commanding, the 14th, 16th, 26th, 15th and [?] New York [???].

Col. Corcoran, of the 69th Irish Regiment, and Capt Edward A. Wild, Massachusetts regiment, are missing. It is feared that Corcoran is dead.

Lieut. Chandler, Co. A., Massachusetts 1st, is not dead as reported.

Ellsworth Zouaves punished the Black Horse Rangers very severely by lying flat on the ground feigning death, until they were almost upon them, when rising and giving one of their fiendish war yells, each Zouave picked his man and fired, decimating the detachment, and stampeding their horses without riders.

Oneida [Utica, New York] Weekly Herald, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

George P. Putnam Wikipedia (G. P. was the grandfather of his namesake publisher and husband of aviator Amelia Earhart.)

* 41st New York Infantry, in Runyon’s Division





Pvt. Theodore Reichardt, (Reynolds) Battery A, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, On the Battle

6 01 2014

Thursday, July 15. - Great excitement in camp; order was received to get ready for a forward movement; ammunition packed; haversacks and canteens were issued.

Tuesday, July 16. - The morning of that day found us marching across the Long ridge, directly through Fort Runyon, on the Virginia side; did not march over seven miles; after which we formed in line of battle and prepared to camp for the night, this being the first night in the open air. All quiet during the night.

Wednesday, July 17. - Resumed our march soon after break of day, and entered Fairfax Court House, contrary to our expectations, towards one o’clock, at mid-day, the rebels having evacuated the town shortly before our entrance. Their rear guard could be plainly seen some distance off. Our battery formed in park near the court house. Some of the boys were lucky in finding a good dinner served on a table in one of the houses, besides some articles of value, undoubtedly belonging to some confederate officers. Some picket firing during the night.

Thursday, July 18. - Advance at daylight. A part of the Union army, Gen. Tyler’s troops, engaged. This conflict the rebels call battle of Bull Run. While the contest was raging, our division halted two miles to the left of Fairfax Court House, at a place called Germantown. We could plainly hear the distant booming of artillery, and were impatiently waiting for the order, “forward.” Towards four o’clock P. M., we advanced again; preparations were made to get in action; sponge buckets filled with water, and equipments distributed among the cannoniers. But when we approached Centreville, intelligence came that our troops got worsted and the contest was given up. Our division went to camp within a mile and a half of Centreville. Strong picket lines were drawn up.

Friday, July 19. - Camp near Centreville. The troops remained quiet all day. Fresh beef as rations.

Saturday, July 20. - Quiet during the day. About six o’clock in the evening the army got ready to advance; but after council of war was held by the chief commanders, they concluded to wait till the next day.

Sunday, July 21. - Battle of Manassas Plains. This battle will always occupy a prominent place in the memory of every man of the battery. They all expected to find a disorganized mob, that would disperse at our mere appearance; while, to the general surprise, they not only were better disciplined, but also better officered than our troops. We started by tow o’clock in the morning, but proceeded very slowly. Passed Centreville before break-of-day. When the sun rose in all its glory, illuminating the splendid scenery of the Blue Ridge mountains, though no sun of Austerlitz to us, we crossed the bridge over Cub Run. By this time, the report of the 30-pounder Parrott gun belonging to Schenck’s command, who had met the enemy, was heard. Our division turned off to the right, and marched some miles through dense woodland, to the Warrenton road. Towards ten o’clock, nothing could be seen of the enemy yet, and the belief found circulation that the enemy had fallen back. Experience proved that, had we remained at Centreville, the rebel army would undoubtedly have attacked us; but hearing of our advance they only had to lay in ambush, ready to receive us. At the aforesaid time, the Second Rhode Island infantry deployed as skirmishers. We advanced steadily, till arriving at the Bull Run and Sudley’s Church, a halt was ordered to test the man and the horses. But is should not be; the brave Second R. I. Regiment, coming up to the enemy, who was concealed in the woods, their situation was getting critical. The report of cannon and musketry followed in rapid succession. Our battery, after passing Sudley’s Church, commenced to trot in great haste to the place of combat. At this moment Gen. McDowell rode up in great excitement, shouting the Capt. Reynolds: “Forward with your light battery.” This was entirely needless, as we were going at high speed, for all were anxious to come to the rescue of our Second regiment. In quick time we arrived in the open space where the conflict was raging already in its greatest fury. The guns were unlimbered, with or without command; no matter, it was done, and never did better music sound to the ears of the Second Regiment, than the quick reports of our guns, driving back the advancing foe. For nearly forty minutes our battery and the Second Regiment, defended that ground before any other troops were brought into action. Then the First Rhode Island, Seventy-first New York, and Second New Hampshire, with tow Dahlgren Howitzers, appeared, forming on the right and left. The enemy was driven successfully in our immediate front. Our battery opened on one of the enemy’s light batteries to our right, which left after a short but spirited engagement, in a rather demoralized state. Griffith’s, Ayre’s and Rickett’s batteries coming up, prospects really looked promising, and victory seemed certain. The rebel line gradually giving way. Gen. McDowell, seeing the explosion of perhaps a magazine or a caisson, raised his cap, shouting, “Soldiers, this is the great explosion of Manassas,” and seemed to be highly pleased with the work done by our battery. Owing to different orders, the battery, towards afternoon, was split into sections. Capt. Reynolds, with Lieuts. Tompkins and Weeden, off to the right, while the two pieces of the left section, to the left; Lieuts. Vaughan and Munroe remaining with the last mentioned. Firing was kept up incessantly, until the arrival of confederate reinforcements, coming down from Manassas Junction, unfurling the stars and stripes, whereby our officers were deceived to such a degree as to give the order, “Cease firing.” This cessation of our artillery fire proved, no doubt, disastrous. It was the turning point of the battle. Our lines began to waver after receiving the volleys of the disguised columns. The setting sun found the fragments of our army not only in full retreat but in complete rout, leaving most of the artillery in the hands of the enemy. Our battery happened to be the only six gun volunteer battery, carrying all the guns off the battle-field, two pieces in a disabled condition. A battery-wagon and forge were lost on the field. Retreating the same road we advanced on in the morning. All of a sudden the cry arose, “The Black Horse Cavalry is coming.” The alarm proved to be false; yet it had the effect upon many soldiers to throw away their arms. But the fears of many soldiers that the enemy would try to cut off our retreat, were partly realized. Our column having reached Cub Run bridge, was at once furiously attacked on our right by artillery and cavalry. Unfortunately, the bridge being blocked up, the confusion increased. All discipline was gone. Here our battery was lost, all but one gun, that of the second detachment, which was carried through the creek. It is kept at the armory of the Marine Artillery, in Providence. At the present time, guns, under such circumstances, would not be left to the enemy without the most strenuous efforts being made to save them. We assembled at the very same camp we left in the morning. Credit is due to Capt. Reynolds, for doing everything possible for the comfort of his men. At midnight the defeated army took up its retreat towards Washington. Our battery consisting of one gun, and the six-horse team, drove by Samuel Warden.

Monday, July 22. - Arrived at, and effected our passage across the Long Bridge, by ten o’clock, and found ourselves once more at Camp Clark, where we had a day of rest after our debut on the battle-field yesterday, under the scorching sun of Virginia.

Wednesday, July 24. - Lieut. Albert Munroe addressed the battery in regard to the battle, and attributed our defeat to the want of discipline. The men felt very indignant at his remarks. “We had to come down the regulations, the same as in the regular army, and should consider ourselves almost as State prison convicts.” We have since seen that he meant no insult towards the battery; but have found out to our satisfaction that he spoke the truth, for we have seen the time that put us almost on the same level with convicts.

Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery (Kindle Version, location 66 to 123)

Theodore Reichardt at Ancestry.com

While the above was published as a diary, it is apparent from the text that it was at least edited in retrospect.





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

2 10 2012

A Soldier’s Letter.

———-

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

———-

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





“DeW”, 1st Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle (2)

2 10 2011

“DeW”, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle (2)

Correspondence of the Journal.
The Reverse

Camp Sprague, July 24.

After our brigade had been withdrawn to the woods, arms were stacked, and the men sat down to take some refreshments from their haversacks, and compare notes with regard to the battle. I took this opportunity to traverse the scene of conflict. Our own men had been carried off, but in the corn-field I found numbers of the enemy dead or dying. After rendering what assistance we could, I conversed with some not so severely wounded. They belonged to New Orleans and Alabama regiments, and stated that their Colonel was mortally wounded. They said that all that morning troops had been coming as rapidly as possible from Manassas, by rail and on foot; that their force was very strong, though they had no means of ascertaining the numbers; that Beauregard held command in person; and that we should find the batteries very formidable. They seemed grateful for any kindness, and said they were now convinced that we were neither brutes nor cowards, as we had been represented to them. One poor fellow, shot through the hip, begged us to send home the body of his Lieutenant, lying near, as he was “of a wealthy family, who would pay any amount for the service.”

Returning up the hill I found one of the 71st leaning mournfully over the body of a comrade. “Look here!” said he, “that is my chum – we have slept under the same blanket for three months.” I will not describe the sights and sounds of horror which greeted me whichever way I turned. I have seen one battle field – may no stern necessity ever compel me to see another.

Stationing myself upon the summit of the hill, I watched the progress of the conflict, the heat of which was now removed nearly a mile to the east. The 69th New York, the Fire Zouaves and several other fresh regiments were now ordered forward, crossed the hollow, and commenced ascending the opposite hill. Up to this time I think all the shot had come from one battery, which the Zouaves were ordered to storm, Capt. Reynolds meanwhile keeping up a persistent fire upon it. The brave fellows rushed at it on the double quick, and twice, I am told, they gained possession of it, but each time were repulsed by overwhelming numbers, and at the same time two or three new batteries opened fire upon them from the covert of the adjacent woods, making sad havoc in their ranks. Hardly had they recovered from this surprise, when the famous “Black Horse Cavalry” charged upon them, firing their revolvers. In their ranks they bore a small Union flag, by reason of which they were allowed to approach very near, the Colonel of the Zouaves crying out, “Don’t fire, boys! they are our own cavalry!” Can treachery more devilish and double dyed be conceived of than this, twice practiced on that day? When the Zouaves discovered the deceit, they poured in a destructive fire which emptied many saddles and sent the horsemen flying back into the forest. Thus far I had watched the varying fight, but the enemy’s batteries now began to play upon the infantry who were forming in the hollow, doing them but little harm, their aim being much too high, but dropping shot and shell in my vicinity quite too quickly to be pleasant; so securing a ball from a rifled cannon which ploughed up the earth near by, I retired to the piece of woods where our regiments were in waiting.

The Retreat.

We had perhaps been here half an hour, when there was an energetic call from some one, I think Gov. Sprague, “Rhode Island, stand to your arms! Our troops are falling back on us!” and presently emerged from a cloud of dust half a dozen ammunition wagons, driving furiously, followed by a confused crowd of soldiers of different regiments, walking and running, crying out as they passed, “Save yourselves, boys! we are whipped, and the enemy is close behind us!” There was some delay in forming our men , caused, not by fear, but actually by the men hunting over the stacks to get the muskets with their own particular number on it. We marched a short distance, and halted in a field, while Col. Burnside rode back to reconnoitre. Meanwhile, in three or four different streams the fugitives were pouring by us from the battle field, exhausted and dispirited. After a while the Colonel came back and told us to go to the brook half a mile back and fill our canteens, which we did in perfect order. All this I supposed to be preparatory to a rally by our regiments and the 71st, and a return to the battle field. But I presume Col. Burnside, Gen. McDowell  became convinced that no effort would avail with some of the regiments who had been brought into the field on the run for four miles, without water, and were quite used up. Then, therefore, our canteens were filled, we were told to march on. Then, for the first time, the appalling truth burst upon me that we were defeated, and had nothing left for us but a mortifying and painful retreat. We kept together very well for six miles, till coming upon an open plain, two musket shots sounded ominously in the wood to our left. In three minutes more artillery was heard on the main road, which we were now approaching again, and the iron missiles came singing over our heads and crashing through the trees. The column hurried into the woods, and I think none were killed at this point. But a few hundred yards brought us into the road leading to the bridge, which we had passed in the morning. As we crowded towards it the enemy’s artillery was plainly visible on a hill to the west, supported by cavalry, while the crowded masses in the road made a target which they could hardly miss.

The Flight.

A discharge of musketry from an ambuscade in the bushes completed our confusion, and the retreat became a complete rout, everybody struggled to gain the bridge. But when on reaching it we found it barricaded, and our own artillery piled up pell mell, with wheels broken and horses gone, our ambulances filled with wounded drawn up to the side of the road, their occupants resigning themselves to their fate, the enemy’s guns sending round shot and shells, crashing and tearing through the panic-stricken crowd all the while, our misery was complete. I do not think a man of us really expected to escape.

Some climbed over the barricade. Most, like myself, dashed through the river, waist deep. Many fell down. losing their arms in the water. – When we got through, our clothes were so weighed down with water that we could with difficulty climb up the farther bank. One poor fellow near me lost his shoes, and walked twenty miles in his stocking feet. When we got clear of the stream we scattered into the woods to escape the deadly storm of balls, and after another mile could breathe freer. It was dark when we reached Centreville, but we kept on to our old camp, when we flung ourselves upon the ground, hoping to rest awhile. But there was no rest for us. We had hardly begun to dry ourselves by the fires hastily kindled, when the word was passed: “Fall in, boys, we must march to Washington!” twenty miles more. We staggered into the road again, and commenced our weary march.

I have no very definite idea of the subsequent events of that dismal night. We stumbled along through the hours of darkness, gradually becoming scattered, as the strong ones outwalked the weak, eagerly dipping our canteens in the muddy pools through which the cavalry and wagons had passed, welcoming the drizzling rain which came towards daylight, watching the dull sunrise over the endless road, till at last the blue haze of the Potomac, see through half shut eyelids, revived us a little, and somehow or other, I shall never be able exactly to tell how, most of us got inside Fort Runyon, on the Arlington side of Long Bridge. Here we were detained an hour or two, and treated to breakfast, and a wash. After this the regiments were reformed, and marched over the bridge to camp. A sorry show we made, passing through the city, with feet that flinched from every stone, and a sad assemblage watched us from the windows and sidewalks. A fat Irishwoman looked at us a moment as we passed, then stuck her knuckles in her eyes and blubbered outright.

Ever since we got here, stragglers have been coming in, and some now missing may yet appear. Our loss is not large. You will have the official report before this reaches you. Of the causes of our defeat, I say nothing. It becomes us to be grateful to the merciful Providence that saved so many of us, through that day and night of horror.

It takes the stories of several different men to make the true story of a battle. You have mine.

One word more. All that we won that day, and all that we did not lose, that is, our lives, we owe, under God, to Col. Burnside.

DeW.

Providence Journal 7/27/1861

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Black Horse Cavalry: Defend Our Beloved Country

5 05 2008

Defend Our Beloved CountryI received my autographed, limited edition (650/999) of Black Horse Cavalry: Defend Our Beloved Country by Lewis Marshall Helm a couple of weeks ago.  You’ll recall from my earlier posts here and here that I ordered this book from Don Hackenson’s website in large part because it contains a passage credited to Brigadier General William Payne regarding the meaning of the name Black Horse Cavalry.  I was happy to find that the book is footnoted (though very unevenly) and that the citation for the passage in question is indeed a March 29, 1903 article in the Richmond News.  If you have access to Richmond News archives and can get me a copy of the article, I’ll reimburse your expenses (copying and postage).

By the way, I’ve seen this book listed from various sources for as much as $75.  Don’s site has the book for sale at its original price.  It’s a hard cover book with dust jacket, 302 pages including a roster, with lots of illustrations.  Mr. Helm is a descendant of several members of the troop, and I have reservations about unit histories and biographies written by descendants in general, but if you’re one of those folks who just has to have every Confederate regimental, drop Don a note.





More on the Black Horse

15 04 2008

 

It’s funny how these things go, but the following I think illustrates how research has changed in the digital age.  I was frankly surprised by the lack of reaction to this post on the Black Horse Cavalry I made a few days ago.  You may not realize it, but what that post had to say about the naming of the troop is pretty controversial and directly contradicts the conventional wisdom.  So, I posted a question on the Civil War Discussion Group asking if anyone was aware of the source of the Payne quote, in which he stated that the name Black Horse was chosen for the troop from Warrenton, VA to reflect its members’ support of slavery (we were all extreme pro-slavery men).  With e-quaintance John Furey’s help I was able to rule out The Confederate Veteran.  Friend Teej Smith sent me this link to the Museum of the Confederacy’s collection of papers associated with Brigadier General “Billy” Payne.  That list led me to an article in North & South magazine, Vol. II, #7 by the MOC’s John Coski, consisting of transcriptions of various Payne writings.  While the quote in question was not included therein, the article did include a caption on an engraving that stated that the troop was so named because its members rode black horses.

One of the group’s members happened to have Mr. Coski’s email address, so I fired off a missive to him in which I linked to my earlier post here and asked him about his article in the magazine.  I shortly received a reply in which Mr. Coski informed me that at the time the article was researched he was not aware of the Payne quote, but that he learned of it later, and that the caption was the editor’s, not his.  He mentioned that the quote was included in a book on the troop, The Black Horse Cavalry: Defend our Beloved Country by Lewis Marshall Helm.  Mr Coski also indicated that he believed the quote was from a recalled conversation that appeared in the March 29, 1903 Richmond News.

I also contacted a fellow named Don Hackenson, who has the Helm book for sale on his website.  Don is a descendant of a member of the Black Horse and something of an authority on Virginia cavalry, particularly the troop and John S. Mosby.  He told me that while the quote is indeed included in Helms’ book, it’s not footnoted (I ordered it anyway UPDATE: I received the book, and it is indeed footnoted).  He graciously offered to get in touch with Brigadier General Helm to find out his source for the quote.  Four Helms served in the Troop, two of whom were killed in the war, and a younger brother, Lyttleton, nearly fought a duel with John Mosby after the war.  Don also is in possession of quite a few of Billy Payne’s papers given him by a descendant, and he promised to go through them in search of anything similar to the quote in question.

Don also called me yesterday to tell me about a pamphlet, Chronicles of a Virginia Family: The Klomans of Warrenton, by Erasmus Helm Kloman, Jr., which includes a version of the naming of the Black Horse Troop consistent with the Payne account in the Helms book.  However, the wording in both books are a bit too similar for me to consider them separate and independent.

From what little I’ve been able to learn about Billy Payne, he seems to have remained an unreconstructed rebel for the rest of his life.  He was able to rebuild his law practice in Warrenton after the war, while John Mosby was pretty much run out of that town for turning Republican.  So, Payne may not have been too concerned with the impact his story might have on the spirit of conciliation.  But as it stands now, I have but one shaky source.  If anyone has access to the March 29, 1903 Richmond News (it may have been the News-Leader, since the two dailies merged that year), any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Look for more on the Black Horse here in the future.








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