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





Charles Francis Adams, Jr., On the Consequences of the Defeat

11 03 2013

Boston, July 23, 1861

I don’t see any good in my saying anything of the disgraceful and disastrous battle of yesterday. The impression here is very general that Scott’s policy was interfered with by the President in obedience to what he calls popular will and at the instigation of Sumner, Greeley, and others, and the advance was ordered by Scott only after a written protest. The result was a tremendous and unaccountable panic, such as raw troops are necessarily liable to on a field of battle in a strange country, and it all closed in the loss of guns, colors, equipage, and even honor. Almost the first idea that occurred to me was the disastrous effect of this affair on you in your position. I do not see how foreign nations can refuse to acknowledge the Confederacy now, for they are a government de facto and this result looks very much as though they could maintain themselves as such. In any case I no longer see my way clear. Scott’s campaign is wholly destroyed and he must now go to work to reconstruct it. While our army is demoralized, theirs is in the same degree consolidated. Their ultimate independence is I think assured, but this defeat tends more and more to throw the war into the hands of the radicals, and if it lasts a year, it will be a war of abolition. Everything is set back for at least six months and just now, though not at all discouraged or disheartened, we feel here much as if we had been knocked over the head and had not yet recovered the use of our senses…

Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., A Cycle of Adams Letters, 1861-1865, Vol. I, pp. 22-23

Charles Francis Adams, Jr., bio.





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

31 01 2013

The “Manacle” Story,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Francisco Bulletin, 10/9/1861

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Clement M. Butler at Wikipedia

Contributed by John Hennessy





William Augustus Croffut, On Sudley Church Hospital During the Battle

24 11 2012

Mr. W. A. Croffut, communicates to the National Republican of the 26th the following graphic description of scenes at the hospital:

I was on the field of battle at Bull Run on Sunday, and am sufficiently recovered from the complete prostration which followed my march of sixty miles – from Vienna to battle and back to Washington – to be able to give a brief account of what I saw. I was but a civilian; my chief occupation was to help carry off the wounded, and minister, as far as possible, to their comfort.

I assisted to bear several to the hospital at the corner of the woods – near the battle field – perhaps 150 rods from the enemy’s batteries. Such a scene of death and desolation! Men, dying and dead, covered the floor and filled the yard with frightful misery. Civilians and soldiers turned surgeons, and amputated and bound up the wounds of the injured and dying. A shell from the enemy struck harmlessly near the front yard, and cannon balls flew over and around, with their prolonged “whish!” as if the sacred white flag above our heads, honored by all the people besides, was a special target for the hateful and insolent “Confederacy.” I learn that this hospital was burned soon after, with all is suffering inmates by the heartless and diabolical foe.

Soon after, a man was brought along on his way to the other hospital, and I assisted in carrying him thither. It was somewhat farther off, on the road of approach, and was extemporized from a church which we had passed just before reaching the battle-field. It was a scene too frightful and sickening to witness, much more describe. There were in it, scattered thickly on the floor and in the galleries, sixty or seventy, wounded in every possible way – arms and legs shot off, some dead, and scores gasping for water and aid. The pulpit was appropriated for a surgeon’s room, and the communion table of pious anarchy became an amputation table, baptized in willing blood, and consecrated to the holy uses of Liberty and Law! The road and woods, on either side and all around, are strewn with maimed and mutilated heroes, and the balls from the rifled cannon go over us like winged devils. There sits a colonel, with his arm bound up, asking to be put on his horse and led back to his regiment; here lies a captain with a grape shot through his head, and blood and brains oozing out as we touch him tenderly to see if he his dead; and yonder comes in a pale chaplain, cut by a canister, while, sword in hand, he led his brave little parish, in the name of Almighty God, to the fight. And again we enter the hospital with him. Oh, God! What a hideous sight! Step into this gory tabernacle. You may grow pallid and faint, and some even of the strong-hearted do, or you may find yourself cool and self commanding, as I do, against my own anticipations, amid such sights and scenes. I have known men who could walk up to a flashing wall of bayonets unblanched, who would faint at the sight of suffering. Look around you here. The grim chambers, where the deity of a strange despotism was worshipped, is turned into an altar of Freedom, and sanctified anew by the warm life of heroes. Fit choir, that in the galleries – the intermittent yells of the dying and the subdued groans of brave men! Eloquent preacher, in that pulpit so long defiled! Glorious burden on that sacramental tablet, splendid wine there flowing – where Christ has been so often crucified. Precious and acceptable Eucharist! And these are the services to day, in this chapel of paganism, once dedicated, with lying lips, to God. The house what Baal built rises over a holocaust of heroes. And this is the holy Sabbath day – the world’s White Day, so long kept as a blessed symbol of fidelity, purity, humanity, liberty, and peace!

That ghastly picture of carnage will be ever present before my eyes, and those half smothered sobs and groans, will always ring their dreadful chorus in my ears.

And now on, and on past us fly the panic-stricken troops. We are not beaten, but these think we are, which is just as bad for our cause to night. Good generalship and guarded baggage wagons would have saved us, we of the unmilitary corps think, but it is too late now. And so the whole nation is to suffer then, for the dark crimes of years – the South for its terrible guilt of commission, and the North for its moral debauchery which has betrayed it to such fearful complicity. Had we remembered the Divine decree “though hand joined in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished.”

May God purify the religion, and warm the heart, and quicken the conscience, and open the eyes of the nation! May we learn now the lesson which a few brave souls of the North have striven long to teach, and speedily wash our bloody hands and begin to do the righteous thing!

W. A. Croffut.

St. Paul Press, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Uncle of E. J. Goodspeed, A Civilian’s Eyewitness Account of the Battle

23 02 2012

Correspondence of the Daily Gazette.

Another Account of the Battle.

———-

Messers. Editors: — The Following is the main body of a letter just received by the family of my uncle, which I copy and send to you. As it deeply interested me I think it may interest your readers, and send it on.

Respectfully yours,

E. J. Goodspeed.

——-

Willard’s Hotel,

Washington, July 24th, 1861.

My Dear Son: — [Here follows a description of the appearance of our army in their entrenchments and of the general confidence of the troops that victory would be theirs.]

“Centreville is within one mile of the first battle ground.  The enemy held the ground and were encamped on the other side of Bull’s Run; ranging over an extent of about five miles. Centerville being a little to the left of the centre of their lines in front, with a glass I could distinctly see their several encampments on the slopes of the hills beyond, and still beyond the long range of the blue mountains of Virginia, ,stretching each way as far as the eye could see. The scene was most beautiful, and the contemplation of the conflict on the morrow most exciting. The certainty that hundreds of the brave boys of the magnificent army encamped around me, were building their last camp fires, and that anxious friends whom they had left and who were doubtless then praying for their safety in the coming fight, would be stricken with sorrow so soon, made it anything but pleasant to contemplate. We camped with the 14th of Brooklyn in the tent of their brave and lamented Col. Wood. I was recognized by several of the boys of the 14th. By two o’clock Sunday morning every regiment was ready for the march, each with two days rations in their haversacks. By three they began to move from about two miles this side of Centreville. My party and myself remained in Centerville and saw every regiment pass through. The sight was imposing and grand in the extreme. The boys were in good spirits, and, with us, were all certain of victory. I shook hands with many of them, and with Edward Appleton of the Vermont 2d, for the last time. His head was shot off before noon. He was from Bennington.

From the hills about Centreville, we had a view of the whole extent of the distant battle field, though the clumps of forest hid the combatants from our view. The smoke however from the cannonading told us of the positions of the contending forces; and the thick and lengthy clouds of dust away in the distance told us of the rapid approach of reinforcements to the enemy, and of the combination of the several divisions of our own forces. About 11 o’clock the cannonading seemed to be most fearful and rapid in the centre some three miles distant. — But all were hid from our view by the smoke. We could stand it no longer. My friend Watkin of the Express (N.Y.) and myself determined on a closer and more satisfactory view. By half past 11 we found ourselves with General Schenck and his staff, whose brigade was held in reserve, just on this side of Bull’s Run, and inside of one mile of the main battle ground, though hid from the enemy by a forest. We occupied a position which with our glasses gave us a full view of the battle, for at least 4 1/2 hours. We saw every charge of the glorious 71st, the 69th, the 14th, the Fire Zouaves, Sherman’s Battery, the Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Michigan, Rhode Island, Maine and Minnesota regiments. We were in constant receipt of the effect of their fire on our troops, by couriers who were going to Gen. McDowell and Schenck, up to four o’clock, at which time we were shelled out of our position and forced to an inglorious flight (I mean us civilians). Up to that time the victory was unmistakably ours, with a loss that could not have exceeded 300 killed. Our boys captured position after position of their murderous masked batteries until we supposed the victory was ours beyond a doubt. We distinctly saw their baggage train in full retreat, and cheered ourselves hoarse at our glorious victory. At this time a battery of five pieces, which had been pouring a cross fire into our boys on the other side of the Run, was turned upon us and gave us a more practical realization of the terrors of war. Several were killed very near me. I did not ask permission to leave, or stand upon the order of my going, but went at once. a half mile’s travel placed a heavy forest between me and their murderous shells, but not in season to prevent my being captured by the enemy’s cavalry, who had out-flanked Schenck’s brigade and who were just making a dash upon the hospital in front of me. As I emerged from the woods they drove us back and made a terrific sweep after the scattered soldiery and ambulance wagons in front of us. the 8th battalion of artillery opened a fire upon them and they were annihilated – horses riders and all – not more than six made their escape. This opened the way for me and several others to escape, and we improved it in double quick time. I left the woods mounted, though I entered on foot. I will explain when I see you. On reaching Centreville I found the entire baggage train in utter rout. I have no patience to describe the disgraceful scene and I will forbear. – On looking back from Centreville the ground over which I had just passed (Centreville is considerably elevated above the country intervening between it and the battle ground) I saw our victorious army in ignominious retreat – flight, rout, and no one in pursuit. I felt so outraged at this unaccountable panic that I determined not to leave Centreville until the disgraceful rout had passed on. – When they had all gone on, I left with the reserve brigade, composed of one battalion of artillery, the German Rifles, and the Garibaldi Guards, who marched on the Washington in perfect order – the rear guard of the Grand Army of the Potomac – with no one to pursue save a few scattering horsemen, the enemy being so badly cut up that he has not yet scarcely moved this side of Bull’s Run. I cannot explain the cause of this unexampled, shameful retreat. No matter what the newspapers say, do not believe that our loss in killed, wounded and prisoners will reach 1,500. The killed will fall short of 500, and for myself, I do not believe it will reach 300. So much for the first exploit of the army of the Potomac. I await with no little anxiety its further movements.”

He adds that the boys he has met since the conflict are eager for another engagement.

Janesville Daily Gazette, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Andrew E. Elmore, On the 2nd Wisconsin After the Battle

8 12 2011

“Outsider,”(who is reported to be Andrew E. Elmore,) writes to the Wisconsin again, under date of July 24th. He says that Lieut. Col. Peck has resigned. The 4th regiment is at Baltimore, and arms have been sent to this State for the 7th and 8th regiments. The following incident is narrated:

“The men who returned this morning to Capt. Randolph’s Camp say that they got lost in the woods and getting starved out, in vain endeavored to get to Washington; they concluded to give themselves up as prisoners, and the first man they met they went up to and told him that they were United States soldiers, had got lost and were there to deliver themselves up as prisoners. He said he did not want them, and there (pointing to some rifles) are guns that do not belong to me, and you can take them if you choose. They each took one, and he pointed out to them how they might avoid the pockets and get to Washington. – They followed his suggestions and got safe to camp. This statement is very curious to say the least; but it is believed to be true.”

Janesville Daily Gazette, 7/30/1861.

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Elizabeth Blair Lee

14 11 2010

 The author of this letter in the Resources section, Elizabeth Blair Lee (left, 1818-1906) was the daughter of Francis  Preston Blair, middle sister of Montgomery and Frank Blair, and wife of Union naval officer Samuel Phillips (Phil) Lee (right, 1812-1897).  These portraits were done by noted artist Thomas Sully.

Elizabeth wrote to her husband nearly every day while he was away on duty.  Phil would rise to the temporary rank of rear-admiral during the war, and attain that level permanently again after the war.

Elizabeth and Phil lend their name to the combined Blair-Lee house across the street from the White House – it currently houses visiting heads of state.  The left half of the house was first a wedding gift from Blair Sr. to his daughter and son-in-law.  I wrote a little bit about the Blairs and the house here and here.

You can read a more detailed biography of Elizabeth here.








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