Cpl. James A. Wright, Co. F, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Retreat

12 04 2012

In leaving the position in the road, we observed that everybody seemed to be going, and, in crossing a little rise of ground, we were fired on by some of the advanced skirmishers of this new force, but I do not think that there was a shot from those with whom we had been contending.

This new enemy – we then supposed – was the advance of Johnston’s forces from the Shenandoah Valley, but we have since learned that it was the last of them, under command of Kirby Smith, and that we had been fighting Johnston’s forces all day.  And that this force had got off of the cars at Gainesville and marched towards the firing at an opportune time. Without them, the story of Bull Run might have been a very different one.

After passing the rise, we were sheltered from this musketry fire, but the battery off at the right was throwing shells almost directly down the little valley.

After crossing the stream, which was neither deep nor wide, we started to go up the hill to the point where we had come in, and were again exposed to the batteries which fired on us going down. There was much haste and confusion going up the hill. It was a ‘go as you please’ until we reached the top, where we were out of the range. A hospital had been located at the Sudley Church; an effort had been made to get the wounded there; and both of the surgeons – Stewart and Le Boutillier – were there. Some of the wounded were being assisted up the hill at the time, and I helped carry Joe Garrison on a blanket a part of the way. At the same time, Corporal Schofield was being helped by some of the others of the company.

After we reached the top of the hill, I think there was but very little more firing. There were portions of a number of regiments and some batteries there, with guns in position for firing, but there did not seem to be anyone that knew just what to do. As many as possible of the regiment were assembled here, and an attempt made to find the other companies. After a little delay, we were directed to the ford across Bull Run, where we found what remained of the left wing of the regiment.

It was the first time we had seen or been in close connection with them since forming in line at the beginning of our fighting, and we now learned something of their part in the fight. It had been a terrible experience. Following Ricketts’s Battery – with the left very near the guns – they had come into line and faced the woods. At almost the same time, they saw a force coming out of the woods, and there was uncertainty as to their identity, which caused them to hold their fire – until fired upon. Almost the same time, they received fire from the batteries, which Colonel Franklin says were only about 1,000 feet away.

This was a very destructive fire – killed and wounded many men of the regiment and practically disabled the battery, as it was able to fire but a few round. The regiment returned this fire with such effect as to drive back this force, but their position was untenable on account of the enemy’s artillery. They were obliged to retire to the shelter of the hill, which position they maintained until ordered to withdraw, but – in the meantime – they took part in one or two other attempts to recover the guns. These attempts were failures – but all attempts of the enemy were also failures. If we could not remove the guns, neither could they so long as our forces remained in the shelter of the hill to protect them.

It was after we had reached the top of the hill and were nearly ready to march away, when a large force came out of the woods and charged on the deserted guns, swinging their hats and cheering. Whether these were some of the troops that had been there during the fighting – or some of those who had just come up – of course, I do not know. This was just at the time that the battery near us – Arnold’s, I think it was – limbered up to leave. I saw no other display of their infantry, except those that were coming across the fields on our right.

When we left the position on the hill, both of the surgeons remained with the wounded and fell into the hands of the enemy. This was voluntary on their part.

When we joined the regiment on the other side of the stream, we found several other regiments – or parts of regiments – there, but all were without orders. About this time, Governor William Sprague of Rhode Island joined his regiment and brought the news that our forces were retreating. It was decided by him – or someone else – to return to the bivouac at Centreville.

I do not know the time, but I judge it to have been between four and five o’clock in the afternoon. It was not far from 12 o’clock when we first came under fire. If it was four o’clock when we recrossed Bull Run, then it was probably three or later when we left the cut in the road where we did the last fighting. This is the best estimate we can make of the time, and, if correct, we were confronting the enemy – within musket range – three hours or more. If that was all, then we lived an awful long time in three hours.

When getting ready to march, Colonel Gorman offered the regiment for service as rear guard, but Governor Sprague claimed this for his regiment. This brought on a little discussion as to which was senior in rank – which involved command of the troops present. They were unable to agree, but Sprague settled it – at least to his own satisfaction – by claiming his rank as governor.

With this matter settled, we started for Centreville with the Rhode Island regiment in the rear and ours next in order. In this manner we marched until overtaken by a body of our cavalry – when we were considerably broken up by their hurriedly passing through us, obliging us to take to the sides of the road.

When we reached the main road, we found carriages, hacks, wagons, and artillery on the road, and all the moving – or trying to move – in the same direction we were, Some were stalled and some were broken down. There were frequent collisions and several wrecks, and we saw one runaway – a pair of horses attached to a hack. Of course, it was not possible to march in regular formation under such conditions, and we were too tired to attempt more than was necessary and make our way the best we could and as fast as we could. At one point, the road passed over a hill that was in range of the enemy’s artillery across Bull Run, and they were throwing shells in that direction. This added to the confusion and hurried matters, also, along that stretch of road.

It was getting dark when we reached Centreville and went to the place where we had spent Friday and Saturday nights and where some wagons had been left – with regimental and company property and some Negro cooks. I think that about one-half of those who had gone out of there that morning had returned. Not more. Where were the rest? At that time, we had no definite knowledge of the others and were anxious to learn the fate of absent ones. We sat or laid down on the ground, and for a little time there were inquiries about this and that one – when and where they had been seen last – but nature asserted herself, and it was but a few minutes before the majority were sleeping soundly.

It seemed but a moment – though it might have been an hour – when we were awakened and found a supply of coffee and crackers awaiting us. I do not know as I had realized that I was hungry, but the smell of that coffee made it evident at once. We drank an unknown quantity of the coffee, but it was not a small quantity, and we felt greatly refreshed and strengthened. We also filled our canteens. It was now quite dark and threatening rain, but we again laid down to sleep.

It was not long after this that we were again called up and told that we were to march soon. This was a surprise to us, as we expected to spend the night there. No one knew where we were to go. It was now raining a little and very dark. We had had no opportunity to recover the blankets we had piled up in the woods, and the rain and night air were chilling. I do not know what became of the blankets we left, but I have been told by a Massachusetts comrade who was in the field hospital at Sudley Church that our surgeons sent and had many of them brought in to lay the wounded on.

When we fell in, we marched down to the Warrenton Turnpike and formed on the left-hand side of the road, and we began to consider the probability of our going back. Up to that time, I do not think there was any expectation of a general retreat. I do not know who organized the order of march, but it was a pretty complicated arrangement for a dark night. In the main roadway there was a line of wagons and a line of artillery, side by side, and a line of infantry marching in fours on either side. Our regiment with others was on the left, and on the right was the Jersey Brigade, a body of troops which had not been actively engaged. I knew that the New Jersey men were on the opposite side of the road, and that there were wagons between, but it was too dark to see.

Everyone who made that terrible march knows that ‘confusion worse confounded’  was produced in large quantities that were painfully evident to all of the senses but seeing. When we started on the march, it was raining hard and so dark that you could not recognize the comrade with whom you touched elbows. It was, I judge, ten o’clock or later.

Since leaving the bivouac 20 to 22 hours before, we had marched 25 to 30 miles, under the scorching heat of the mid-summer sun, much of the way through smothering clouds of pulverized clay, which covered our clothing and filled the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, and was breathed into the lungs. Added to these were the excitement and mental strain of the battle and the bitter, humiliating results: defeat and disaster. To all of these was now to be added another march of 25 miles or more. None of us – of the ranks – really knew where we were going or what distance it was intended to march. All we actually knew was that we were headed back over the road we had come, and that it was dark as Egypt and raining diligently.

When this ‘mixed multitude’ of men, mules, horses, and wheels was set in motion, the situation was intensified. Wagons collided or got off the pike into the ditch; teams balked, and drivers swore and called for assistance; we of the infantry  blundered along the sides of the road as best we could – bumping into each other and everything else bump-able – tired beyond all previous experience and in anything but an amiable frame of mind. After vain attempts to keep some kind of a formation by touch and calling each other’s names or the company letter, all efforts in that direction were given up, and we just plodded along in the pouring rain as best we could.

When the rain began to fall, it was cooling and refreshing, but – as it saturated our scant clothing and poured over us in a continuous shower-bath fresh from the clouds – it became the reverse of agreeable and added much to our discomfort. The accumulations of dust on the road became sloppy mud very quickly, and the gathering water ran in little streams across the road or along the sides and collected in the depressions. Unable to see where we should go, we waded through these – often over our shoes in water and mud. The day’s operations had left a liberal deposit of dust, sand, and gravel in our shoes, and the addition of water increase the discomfort and added to the abrasions of our tired, blistered feet.

To start on such a march, under such conditions, after the efforts of the day, was a great undertaking. While the darkness lasted, it was each man for himself. When men felt that they had gone as far as they could, they turned aside in the woods and, finding a place where they could rest against a tree or stump, went to sleep. When awakened by the pitiless, drenching rain – as soon or later they were – they roused up by sheer will power and forced their stiffened, benumbed limbs to carry them onward.

Personally, that is the way I covered the distance between Centreville and Fairfax. I did not know where I was or what the hour of the night when – after a little debate with myself – I decided to rest awhile and think the situation over. With a comrade, I went a little ways into the bushes, curled up, and went to sleep without doing any thinking.

Daylight was coming, and the rain had almost ceased, when I awoke. We heard voices and knew that men were passing. Satisfying ourselves that they were not enemies, we went back into the road – though so stiff and sore that it was with difficulty we could walk. Groups of men, here and there, had made fires and were boiling coffee, and others were moving along. Going a little ways, we found two members of the company and several more of the regiment at a fire, making coffee in their tincups and little pails. Of course, we joined them at the same occupation, realizing that we were hungry.

After drinking a pint or so of strong, hot coffee and eating crackers and salt pork, we felt refreshed and continued our march. Many groups were marching, and others were halted – cooking – and we soon found others of the company and regiment and, naturally, we kept together. We soon came to Fairfax, where we found some of the wagons and artillery. From Fairfax, we took the road to Alexandria where our tents and the detail had remained. It was nearly twelve miles, but we made the distance before noon.

Here there was found food and drink and a warm welcome from those who had kept the camp. Some had come in before us, and others arrived later. Some water to wash our begrimed faces and something to eat, and, meantime, there was a general inquiry for the missing ones. In my tent, I was so fortunate as to have left a blanket, and I had a shirt and some underclothes, but I did not stop to change then. In a very few minutes, I was sleeping. I had slept, seemingly, but a little time when I was ‘stirred up’ and told that an order had come to move.

It was now well along in the afternoon, and more of the company and regiment had come in. Tents were struck and – with all the other company material – were loaded into the wagons, and we fell in for the march – we knew not where. The rain had ceased during the day, but as night came on it was threatening again. As we passed through Alexandria, it seemed impossible that it had been but a fortnight since we first marched through the city. It seemed like months.

When we reached Fort Runyon, near the Virginia end of the Long Bridge, it was getting dark and raining hard. Here we found more of the company and regiment, and there were glad greetings for some that it was feared were dead or in the hands of the rebels. I do not mean by that that there was anything like rejoicing in the general sense of the word. We had marched out in confidence, expecting a victory, but we had suffered a defeat which had wilted our pride – very much as the great physical efforts had exhausted our strength. We were sincerely glad the price in blood was no greater.

After a short halt, we crossed the Long Bridge and marched to Pennsylvania Avenue. Here and there was another halt. It rained furiously, and the only shelter we had was an iron picket fence. We got a splendid shower-bath, but we had all we wanted of that kind.

After what seemed a long time, we were admitted to some churches for the night. Food and coffee – plenty of it – was soon brought in. It was now getting quite late, and we could take our choice of sleeping on a seat or on the floor between two seats; only, there were not seats enough for all, and some must take the floor anyway. I was too tired to be particular, and gratefully glad to find shelter from the storm anywhere, and turned in on the pulpit floor. Before retiring that night, I found an opportunity to write a few words to my mother, and I think that evening or the next morning most of the boys managed to let their people know that they were still alive.

The next morning, Tuesday, July 23, the storm had ceased, and we again occupied the camp on Seventh Street out of which we had marched on the morning of July 3. It did not seem possible that but twenty  days had elapsed since we had left it. Neither did it seem possible that the 800 depressed, ragged, mud-stained, and foot-sore men who limped into camp and began the work of pitching their tents could be the same ones who had gone out from there less than three weeks before. We were a pretty hard-looking crowd. the blow had fallen with a heavy hand, and we felt its stunning effects. Mechanically, we went to work, but the interest grew as our work progressed.

Before noon, the tents were up, most of the boys had found another shirt in their knapsacks (or washed the one they wore), taken a bath, and presented a better appearance. Tents were stretched, rations were drawn, and the sun was shining and matters began to assume brighter hue. Our clothing had been a subject of complaint before we marched, and it was much more so now, but it was the result of the battle that lay nearest our hearts.

James Wright Papers, Minnesota Historical Society, as quoted on pp. 58 – 64 in Keillor, No More Gallant a Deed: A Civil War Memoir of the First Minnesota Volunteers. Used with permission.





Cpl. James A. Wright, Co. F, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle

3 04 2012

I am not sure what time it was when we were called, but it could not have been very long after midnight. My recollection is that the moon was shining when we formed for the march. Soon after forming, it was evident that there was some hindrance to the program of arrangements – whatever it was – and, after several attempts to move on, it was learned that some other troops (Hunter’s division) were crossing our line of march – apparently from our right to our left. We – being the flanking column with nearly three times the distance to march – should have had the right of way, but we did not get it, and I have never learned why.

While waiting here, we ‘rested at will’ and there was a mingling of the boys of other companies, who were getting acquainted, and I think also some from other regiments in the brigade. I recall that there was a feeling of dissatisfaction that we had been called so much earlier than was really necessary, but there was a general feeling of determination and hopefulness. I think none of us knew at that time that we were to make a long march to turn the enemy’s right flank. If we had, ordinary common sense would have suggested that we should not have been wasting precious hours on that hillside. We were all so new to the war – and absolutely inexperienced in battle – that we had no basis for a judgment, and our opinions were only reflections of our wishes.

Just when the coming light of day began to make things distinctly visible, while talking with Charley Harris, he was accosted by William A. Croffut, who was – or recently had been – connected with a Minneapolis paper, but who was there as a representative of some paper for the occasion. After an introduction, there was a short talk with Croffut, who questioned us as to the “state of our minds” at the near-approaching hour of battle. Neither of us could truthfully affirm that we were not somewhat disturbed as to our individual safety for the day – though we both tried to consider the matter hopefully and referred lightly to what might happen. We each left a message for our friends and, in case of “an accident,” requested a complimentary obituary notice. After that we shook hands and parted.

Charley got his obituary and – as it was a little premature – lived to read it. A privilege granted to but few. The long, anxious delay had tried us. It was sometime after sunrise, possibly six o’clock, when the road was clear, and we were fairly moving, following after some other division.

We marched for some distance in the rear of other troops over a good road, the Warrenton Turnpike. Soon after crossing a small stream, Cub Run, we turned to the right on a woods road. We – the regiment – were now at the head of the column and were followed by Ricketts’s Battery. Behind the battery were the 11th Massachusetts and 5th Massachusetts, completing the brigade. The 4th Pennsylvania, being a three months’ regiment and its time being out that day, had remained at Centreville or returned to Washington. It was said of them that they “marched to the rear to the tune of the enemy’s guns,” but their colonel, Hartranft, remained – acting as an aide on the staff of Colonel Franklin.

Soon after getting on this by-road, arrangements were made to deploy the first two companies – A and F – if desirable, but it was not found necessary. Our march was now much more rapid than it had been. The day was very hot and, in the woods, on the narrow roads, exceedingly close. From these conditions and out rapid marching, we were sweating profusely, and the march was taxing the men severely. About this time, we began to hear the report of a cannon occasionally, which continued for some time and increased in frequency. This firing seemed to be to our left and rear, and we appeared to be marching away from it.

When still some distance from the ford, near Sudley Springs Church, the artillery firing was heard again and increased to quite a rapid discharge. Musketry firing was also heard. About this time, our regiment was hurried forward at the double quick, and, when we reached the crossing, we were badly winded. As soon as we reached the ford, there was a rush to get water – wading in to fill our canteens and pouring it onto our heads. Meantime there was a pretty lively artillery fire going on and intermittent musketry firing.

There was but a short halt at the ford, when we reformed and waded the stream, following the road up a little rise, and then leaving it by turning to the left into a small, open wood. The other regiments of the brigade remained – for a time – on the other side of the stream, but the battery followed us over. During this time, there was rapid firing going on, and we laid down for a few minutes in this wood.

Here we could smell the smoke and hear firing out in the field in front. Near us in this wood was the Second Rhode Island, which had been in the fight and for some reason retired into this wood. They had some of their wounded with them. While here, Frank Bachelor told some of us that he had always had a great curiosity to know how one would feel in battle, but that had all passed now. He expressed himself as “satisfied, now, that his curiosity had carried him too far.” I do not recall any other attempt at ‘jesting in the face of death’ on that occasion – though it was not uncommon as we became more familiar with war. While here, Lieutenant Minor T. Thomas climbed a tree to make and observation, and when he came down reported the enemy retreating. We stopped in this wood but a few minutes, and while here the battery – Ricketts’s – had passed to the right of wood and began firing. When we left this wood we – Company F at least – left our blankets in a pile in the woods, but I do not know by whose order. They were hot and in the way.

Coming out of this wood, the regiment was formed in ‘column of division’ and marched almost directly to the front. The first division was composed of Companies A and F, and, being small, I was the corporal on the left of the first division. As we advanced to the front – far enough to see over the brow of the hill – I got a glimpse of what was in front of us. There was a valley, half a mile or more in width, through which ran a road and a crooked stream. There were some houses, fields, orchards or groves, clumps of bushes along the stream, and wooded hills beyond the valley. There were some troops down in the valley along the road, and I think some were across the stream. I did not observe that they were firing, and I presume that they were sheltered by the hill from the rebel batteries. there were some guns of the enemy on the hill across the valley – in the edge of the wood – which were throwing shell our way, but I think they were intended for the battery to our right, which was firing in that direction.

The ridge we were on, I presume, was Buck Hill. there were several regiments along the ridge to our left which had been engaged and, I believe, had driven some of the enemy from that position.

We remained here but a very short time, and, when we moved, marched by the right flank – in fours – obliquely to the right – across the fields down the hill to a road, which we followed across the stream (Young’s Branch) for a little distance, then turned to the left into a pasture or field, marching toward the hill on which the rebel battery was situated. Coming up a little rise, we crossed the road and were ordered to form line of battle ‘on right by file into line.’ While coming across the fields and down the hill, we were subject to the fire of their artillery. But when we reached the low ground we were sheltered from it, and – at the point where we were forming – were not exposed, except to the shells bursting in the air above us.

The distance marched must have been a mile or more. A part of the time we moved at double quick, and there was considerable dodging as the shells screeched over our heads. It was a new and trying ordeal that strained the nerves and hurt our feelings, but I am not aware that any other hurt was done. The formation of the line of battle was at right angles to the direction we were marching and brought the first two companies in front of a wood and but a short distance from it. The advance was led by Company A – Captain Alexander Wilkin – and was followed immediately by Company F – Captain William Colvill – and was made without any deployment of skirmishers or advance guard.

A good many things happened in the ‘thin space of time’ we were getting into line, and I do not think that I can give them consecutively.

Just as we were beginning the movement, I heard a shouting, the thunder of hoofs, and ‘chucking’ of wheels behind us. Looking backwards, I saw the artillery coming towards us – apparently over nearly the same route we had come. The horses had their noses and tails extended, and the drivers were lying low over their necks, yelling and plying their whips. It was a splendid, thrilling sight. It was Ricketts’s and Griffin’s batteries racing into position – and to destruction. Judged by results, they had much better remained on the other side and fired from a safer distance, but ‘all the same’ the movement was splendidly made. Crossing the stream, they broke through the regiment before it was half formed and separated the first division from the rest of the regiment. I had only time for a glance as we hurried into line, when other things absorbed my attention, and I thought no more of the batteries until we were later taken to the left to try to recover them – then a wreck on the plateau and covered by the enemy’s guns.

Just as I came into line, a mounted officer came from somewhere to the right and halted in front of Company A and inquired if it belonged to an Alabama regiment. Being questioned as to where he belonged, he mentioned the Second Mississippi Regiment, and was invited to dismount – at once. He slid off his horse on the opposite side – as if to shield himself – but came around his head and gave himself up. There was a young man with Company A, Javan B. Irvine, who had not then enlisted, but had come along out of interest, curiosity, or some other motive, and had kept with the company up to this time. He was not armed, except a revolver, but to him Captain Wilkin gave the prisoner, instructing him to keep him safe. Irvine proved a resolute, trusty fellow, and the next day delivered his prisoner to the authorities in Washington. He proved to be Lieutenant Colonel Boone of the Second Mississippi and was the highest rank of any prisoner taken and delivered in Washington, and, so far as I know, the only commissioned officer brought in.

The most of the regiment – except the two companies, A and F – now followed in support of the batteries. At the same time (possibly a minute earlier or later) there was a commotion in front of the two companies – in the edge of the woods and scarce a stone’s throw distant. Orders were given by Gen. Heintzelman, who had just ridden up, to “feel in the woods,” and – at almost the same instant – shots began to come from the brush,  now and then a head was seen. As quickly as possible, we turned our old smooth-bores toward the woods and fired. Then ‘things broke loose,’ and we were immediately enveloped in a dense smoke that for a little time did not permit us to see anything clearly, but bullets were hissing above our heads, and we could see red flashes through the smoke in front of us – at which we directed our fire. Our fire seemed the most effective, and, after a few volleys, the enemy retired into the woods; our firing ceased; and by someone’s order we were advanced into the woods.

It was not long after the firing began that I had a very narrow escape from serious wounds or possible death. I will first explain that our waist belts were made of ordinary harness leather and were a little less than two inches in width. They had a single hole in one end and multiple holes in the other, and were fastened with  a brass plate with hooks on the under side – and could be adjusted to the size of the person.

A bullet – coming almost directly from the front – struck my belt plate with such force as to knock the breath out of me and tumble me over. At first I am not sure that I thought of anything, but, when I did think, imagined that I was ‘done for’ and thought of everything – all mixed up. Then I heard someone – I think it was Oscar Williams – call my name. About that time, returning breath made me feel better and take a more hopeful view of the case, and I rolled over and got on to my feet. When I found that I was not killed, I was so glad that I felt first rate for a time and thought no more about it until the fighting was over.

The force if the blow was sufficient to bend and dent the plate, and left a discolored spot on the flesh as large as the palm of the hand. I have always considered this one of my narrowest escapes. It was a heavy bullet, and had lost some of its initial force, but if it had struck anywhere except on that plate (with the leather underneath it), it would have mangled and bruised and might have gone half through me. An inch or so – to the right or left – up or down – would have missed the plate, and then I would have ‘got it’ in the ‘bread basket,’ and it might have proved entirely too much for my digestion.

Lively skirmishing followed, and we were for a time separated from the other companies of the regiment. Our advance was opposed by the enemy, firing from behind trees and other protection, but we advanced in the same manner, drove them back into the woods, and captured a few prisoners – Alabamians. In advancing, we had crossed a fence and went for some distance into the woods. Meantime, though we were making a pretty lively racket ourselves, we heard very heavy firing to our left where the batteries and the rest of the regiment had gone.

We were now brought out of the woods – I suppose for the purpose of connecting with the regiment, as that would have been the natural thing to do.

Several of the boys had been hit while in the woods or at the first firing, but I do not believe that our loss was severe. Henry R. Childs, of the company, while advancing into the woods, was wounded in the head and shoulder, and was left insensible in the bushes. He afterwards ‘came to himself’ and, finding the company gone, started to follow it. Coming out of the woods to the open ground, he saw an advancing line of the enemy’s skirmishers, who ordered him to halt and fired on him, but he ran for it and managed to escape, believing – as he said – in the old adage that ‘he that fights and runs away may live to fight another day.’

Coming out of the woods at a point near where we entered, we formed in a close skirmish line and – advancing among the young pines and bushes, which were scarcely as high as our heads – we moved towards the higher ground that was on our left when we first began firing. There was cannonading going on at this time, but only a weak and irregular fire of small arms.

When we reached the crest of the hill, we were greeted with a sharp fire which came from the woods to the right oblique – as we could tell by the smoke, but we could see nothing but an occasional head. We answered this fire and laid down there among the little pines along the crest of the hill – loading while laying down and rising to fire. While lying on my right side – ramming a cartridge, which was lodged part way down the barrel – I had my feet crossed to hold the butt of the musket and my left knee bent – when a bullet cut through my pants and across the inside of my left knee, but did no serious damage. It was a pretty close call for a leg. An increasingly hot fire came from the woods on the right front, and a number were hit. A body of the enemy came along the fence as if to get to our right, and we retired to the shelter of the hill.

About this time, Lieut. Col. Miller came – with some of the other companies of the right wing – to our assistance., and we were formed in the road. We then joined with some other troops in an attempt to recover the guns of the batteries. It was successful on so far as it drove the enemy from the immediate vicinity of the guns, and, after suffering severe loss, we retired again to the cut in the roadway.

The wreck of the batteries was at the crest of the hill to our left, surrounded by dead men and horses. It was a position that ought not to have been taken by a battery, exposed as it was to a close fire of artillery and infantry, and, I presume, it would not have been taken if the true condition of things had been understood. The guns were at a point between the two forces and covered by the guns of both sides from sheltered positions, but neither side could maintain a position, where they were, long enough to remove them.

After our retirement to the road, there was a considerable time when matters were comparatively quiet.  Then we were advanced to meet a force of the enemy coming out of the woods to our right front, and there was more sharp fighting. We retired to the shelter of the road and soon drove them off – after which there was another period of quiet.

In all of these movements there was more or less confusion and disorder. We had not reached a stage of discipline when anything else could be reasonably expected. Especially of men under fire for the first time and subjected to severe losses. We were human, and, therefore, we were all more or less excited, confused, and uncertain as to what had been accomplished and hat more we were expected to attempt. A good many had left to care for the wounded, and others had gone to the stream to get water, for we were all suffering greatly from the heat, thirst, and exhaustion. When it is remembered that we had but little rest the night before; that the morning march of 12 miles had been a severe test to our powers of endurance; that our subsequent movements had been hurried – down hill and up – over fences and through woods;  also, that we were under the severe mental strain of battle, which is more exhausting than physical action – then our condition can be partly comprehended.

We were in a pitiable condition that under more favorable circumstances would have called for immediate relief. There did not seem to be a breath of air stirring; the early afternoon sun was shining directly into the roadway; we were sweating profusely and suffering from the heat – clothing torn and disordered – and our faces smeared with powder and dirt. We cared nothing for looks just then, but the feel of the situation was very unsatisfactory as we waited to see what was next on the program.

Sherman had not then defined war in a single brief sentence, but I heard the one important word in it uttered several times that day – suggested, no doubt, by the day’s experiences. We had read that ‘to make war was to be hungry and thirsty'; that it ‘was to suffer and to dies'; that it was ‘to obey.’ We had been trying to do all those of those things and assumed that we were getting ‘about what was coming to us’ and we naturally wondered if there was any more ‘coming.’ I think that all there realized that we had been hit pretty hard, but I do not think that any of us supposed that we were beaten. At least I recall no suggestion to that effect.

We remained for some time in this position, when we were disturbed by some cannon shots that came from the right and a little to our rear. At first we supposed it was some of our batteries that did not realize that we were so far to the front – but a little observation showed a line of battle advancing on our right flank. There was great anxiety to know if they were friends or enemies. About this time, there was a dash of cavalry coming out of a crossroad to our right, but it was repulsed before it reached us. The conviction now began to assert itself that those fellows coming in on our right were enemies and, if so, entirely too strong for us to contend with.

Lieutenant Colonel Miller was the highest officer present with that portion of the regiment, and he gave the order to retire and indicated the direction – directly to the rear.

James Wright Papers, Minnesota Historical Society, as quoted on pp. 51 – 58 in Keillor, No More Gallant a Deed: A Civil War Memoir of the First Minnesota Volunteers. Used with permission.





Cpl. James A. Wright, Co. F, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the March

29 03 2012

On the evening of July 15 – when we had about concluded that it was all talk – we were ordered to be prepared to move at a moment’s notice. It did not take long to make all necessary preparations. The tents were to be left standing, and a detail of ten men from each company – with a complement of officers – was to remain in charge of the camp. The selection was to be made from the sick and those the least able to march. About every company had that number of sick and ailing. Each man going was to carry his canteen, haversack with three days’ rations, and his blanket, besides gun and accouterments. The blanket was rolled lengthwise, and the ends tied together, and it was carried over the left shoulder with the ends tied at the right hip. In the blanket were soap, towel, etc., and also twenty rounds of extra cartridges, which with the forty in the box made a total of sixty rounds to each man. It was all arranges that night who of the company were to remain with ‘the stuff.’ I think we all found an opportunity to write a few lines to the folks at home, informing them of the contemplated movement and saying a word of farewell.

It is almost surprising – realizing the possibilities  of death or wounds as we did – that we marched out so cheerfully the next morning to take our chances. I am quite sure that we all understood the personal risks – perhaps exaggerated them – but I think none of us thought seriously of being defeated. We seemed to feel assured of success.

There were two officers and – I feel quite sure – eighty-six enlisted men who left the camp at Alexandria for the Bull Run Campaign on the morning of July 16, 1861. There were not more and might have been less. The commissioned officers of Company F were: Captain William Colvill, First Lieutenant A. Edward Welch, and Second Lieutenant Mark A. Hoyt. Non commissioned officers were: First Sergeant Martin Maginnis, Second Sergeant Hezekiah Bruce, Third Sergeant Calvin P. Clark, Fourth Sergeant Henry T. Bevans, and Fifth Sergeant Charles N. Harris. The corporals were: John Barrows, William D. Bennett, Fred E. Miller, Amos G. Schofield, Merritt G. Standish, John Williams, E. Oscar Williams, and James A. Wright. I recall that Lieutenant Mark A. Hoyt was one of the officers of the guard left behind us, and I feel quite certain that Corporal John Williams was also left, as his wife was then in camp at Alexandria.

For the first time, our brigade – the First of the Third Division – was assembled as a brigade. It was composed of the Fourth Pennsylvania, the Fifth and Eleventh Massachusetts, and First Minnesota. The brigade was commanded by Colonel William B. Franklin; and the division, Colonel Samuel P. Heintzelman – both of the regular army. It seems a little surprising that it had not been got together and drilled and maneuvered as a brigade and division before starting on the march, but that is not the only surprising thing about that campaign. If this had been done a few times, perhaps the brigade commanders might have been able to get more than one regiment in action at a time.

We started early, and it took some time to get fairly moving. The roads were dusty, and the day was very hot. The march was not hurried, and camp was made before night on a ridge covered with a second growth of scrub pines near Fairfax Court House.

Each man carried his rations as issued from the commissary, and they consisted of coffee, sugar, crackers, and salt pork. Each one did his own cooking while on the march, Although the cooks and wagons followed as far as Centreville, they were not with us. None of the boys were expert cooks, but all managed to make a shift at it and get something to eat. Many of the boys had provided themselves with coffee post – or small pails – to make coffee in and small frying pans to cook meat in, and found them very convenient. A ‘mess’ with a coffee pot, a frying pan, and a hatchet were pretty well fixed, and with a little experience could always prepare a meal at short notice – provided they had the necessary materials.

There had been no conflict with the enemy during the day, and we rested quietly during the night, sleeping on the ground under the pines, which sheltered us from the dew.

The next morning, Wednesday, July 17, the march was continued. There were frequent halts and delays, considerable skirmishing and some artillery firing, but no real fighting. We took no active part in these affairs, though near enough to hear them and feel a little of the excitement. One of these episodes was an attempt to capture an outpost on the railroad, which failed, as they ran off as soon as our men came in sight, leaving their dinner cooking.

We bivouacked in the bushes again that night near Sangster’s Station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. During these two days, we had occasionally passed a few houses near each other and, frequently, single houses in little cleared patches in the woods, but for the most of the way the country was rough and densely wooded, with pines and cedars predominating. Our division had apparently gone across the country and principally on the by-roads.

Thursday morning, the 18th, the march was continued near the railroad, and that morning our regiment led the brigade. As on the previous days, there were frequent halts as the advance felt its way. Finally, the regiment was halted in the woods at the edge of a field, while two companies – A and B, led by Lieutenant Colonel Miller – scouted some miles to the front and left. While waiting for the return of Lt. Col. Miller and his party, artillery firing began to our right and front. We were sure a great battle was being fought, while we seemed to be forgotten or lost in the brush. We could hear the distant musketry, also, occasionally.

After an hour or more, the firing gradually ceased, and about the same time the two absent companies returned – they having gone until they had discovered the enemy and retired without attacking, as they were instructed. This was the fight at Blackburn’s Ford, in which the advanced division under General Tyler was engaged. Of course, we were burning to know all about the affair, and there were many conjectures, but very little information obtainable. This was the third day out, and, although we had started with three days’ rations, we were not accustomed to taking three days’ supply at a time, and the most of us were out of food and hungry.

There had been strict orders issued against foraging, before we marched. There were also some cattle and sheep in the edge of the wood across the clearing, and the sight of these was too much for the hungry stomachs of some of the boys, and a small party went after them. They succeeded in getting some of these, which they skinned and cut up in the bushes, but in coming out they accidentally met Colonel Franklin, who at once began an inquiry.

About the same time, Colonel Gorman rode up, and, when he sensed the situation, opened on the culprits with a lively fire of cuss words, asserting that they were a lot of “born thieves” and a “disgrace to their state and to their mothers.” He brought matters to a head by requesting Colonel Franklin to let him make an example of them for the good of the regiment in the future. This was assented to by Col. Franklin, who was probably glad to have the matter taken off of his hands, and rode away. After he was gone, Col. Gorman – who looked very black and uncompromising – said, “Now, —- you, take up that meat and go to your companies, and don’t ever disgrace the regiment by getting caught in any such scrape again.”

It is perhaps needless to say that the boys were extra careful after that not to get caught. I do not think that Company F took a leading part in this affair, but there was a fair representation in the following. I saw ‘Lenghty’ wiping the blood off of his butcher knife with a bunch of leaves, and ‘Barb’ gave us a piece of sheep, which we broiled and ate with relish. I am not asserting that this was the right and proper thing to do – perhaps it was not – but we were in the enemy’s country and hungry. Right or wrong, we were doing just what has been done under like conditions since the days of David.

For the third night we slept under the skies, but instead of twinkling stars there were threatening clouds, and it rained a little that night and in the early morning. Friday the 19th, we marched to Centreville, where all of Heintzelman’s division was brought together; there were also many other troops there. What seemed to us a great army – probably 10,000 or 12,000 men – were gathered there, and more were coming. There was considerable skirmishing going on, but we took no part in it – that day or the next – and remained at the bivouac all day Saturday. It was a time of uncertainty and anxious waiting.

We could form but little opinion of how matters stood, when or where the next move would be made, but we felt assured that affairs had reached an acute stage, and that a crisis would come soon. When it did come we had no doubt that we would be ‘in it’ and share the fortunes of war with the rest, whatever they might be. After the repulse of General Tyler’s command on the 18th, some of us may have begun to feel the possibility of a defeat, but I am sure that the feeling – as to results – was one of assured confidence, no matter what might be the fate of individuals. We went to our blankets that evening knowing that we were to be aroused to march before daylight, and having no doubt but that the morrow would bring a battle. These were not pleasant thoughts to retire with, nor calculated to bring soothing reflections inviting sleep, but we did manage to put aside the wicked war and all of its attendant troubles, and slept until awakened to fall in for the march.

James Wright Papers, Minnesota Historical Society, as quoted on pp. 48 – 51 in Keillor, No More Gallant a Deed: A Civil War Memoir of the First Minnesota Volunteers. Used with MHS permission.





Reminder – Call for Stuff

9 10 2011

Just a reminder: if you have, or are aware of, any diaries, letters, memoirs, newspaper articles, &c., published or otherwise, with a Bull Run significance, send them in or let me know about them. They’re a big part of what this site is all about. I do require some sort of verification, so if you have letters or diaries of ancestors that you would like added to the record here, I’ll need as much information as you can provide, and preferably images of the original documents.

Help great-great-grandpa’s/grandma’s words live on in cyberspace and contribute to the historical record at the same time!





Pvt. Virgil A. Stewart, Co. A, 8th Georgia Infantry, Recalls the Battle

2 09 2011

It was on a bright, beautiful Sunday morning that one of the world’s most remarkable battles was fought. Gens. Gustave T. Beauregard and Jos. E. Johnston were the Confederate leaders, and Gen. Winfield Scott commander of the Northern army. Jefferson Davis was on the field, cheering the hosts in gray. It was here that Gen. Thos. J. Jackson got his nickname “Stonewall.” Francis S. Bartow, colonel of the Eighth Georgia Regiment, had our command, and Gen. Bernard E. Bee was also there, with his South Carolina battalions.

Predictions had been made by the Washington contingent that the flag that carried in its folds the love of these hotly patriotic Southerners would be furled forever. A large crowd of spectators came out from Washington in their fine carriages, with nice lunches and plenty to drink in celebration of the expected Union victory, and the festivities were to be continued that night in the capital.

The tides of battle surged back and forth. Units of the Southern army were cut to pieces, and the remnants retreated. Seeing some men turning to the rear, the gallant Bee shouted, “Look at Jackson there; he is standing like a stone wall!” The men rallied. Reinforcements for us came up, and by 3 o’clock in the afternoon the rout of the Union army was complete. Beauregard and Johnston wanted to push on to Washington in the hope of ending the war, but Davis said no.

Practically half of the Eighth’s 1,000 Georgians fell dead or wounded, or were captured or lost. The Fourth Alabama was also well decimated. Bartow led his men to an exposed eminence which was too hot to hold.

When the command to retire was given, I did not hear it, and soon found myself with none but dead and wounded around me. I fell back to a thicket and met Jim Tom Moore, who said he did not know where were the rest of the men. Ike Donkle sang out, “Rally, Rome Light Guards!” About a dozen came out of the thicket and were immediately fired upon by a regiment in a protected position. The Romans returned the fire, then fell back to cover. My hat and coat were well riddled, but my skin was untouched.

Among our dead were Jas. B. Clark, Dr. J. T. Duane, a native of Ireland, who had come to Rome only a few years before and opened a dental office; Geo. T. Stovall, a bachelor, superintendent of the First Methodist Church Sunday School, and perhaps the most beloved young man in the town; Charles B. Norton, a clothing merchant, and D. Clinton Hargrove, a lawyer, my uncle and a brother of Z. B. Hargrove. Charlie Norton was the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Reuben Norton and a brother of Mrs. Wm. M. Towers. Among our wounded were M. D. McOsker and L. T. (“Coon”) Mitchell,* son of Dan’l. R. Mitchell, one of the four founders of Rome.

When Charlie Norton was shot, he pitched forward and fell across me, for I was on my knees firing. He was the first Light Guard member to be killed. It was a horrible sight; men falling all around, some dying quickly and the others making the day hideous with their groans. Considering that so many were our boyhood friends, it was all the harder to bear.

Bartow fell mortally wounded, and was attended by Dr. H. V. M. Miller. A short time previously he was attempting to rally his men. Frenzied at his heavy loss, he seized a flag from the hands of a color bearer. It happened that these were the colors of a South Carolina unit under Bee. The incident was noticed by Bee, who rushed up and snatched the colors from Bartow. Bee also lost his life in this fight. Had he and Bartow been spared, it is quite likely they would have fought a duel.

As the Eighth Georgia marched off the field at the conclusion of the battle, Gen. Beauregard saluted and cried: “I salute the Eighth Georgia with my hat off. History shall never forget you!”

Capt. Magruder received two wounds at First Manassas. Later, at Garnett’s farm, near Richmond, he was wounded twice on the same day. Part of his nose and right jaw were torn away, and his shoulder was badly shot. Having had his face bandaged, he was rushing back to the front when a middle-aged man in homespun suit and broad-brimmed hat stopped him and said:

“Major, you are more seriously wounded than you realize. You must take my carriage and go to the hospital.”

Capt. Magruder pushed on abruptly, telling the man to mind his own business. A soldier who saw the meeting asked Capt. Magruder a moment later if he knew it was Jefferson Davis he was talking to. Capt. Magruder turned quickly and apologized, explaining that nearly all the officers had been incapacitated or captured, and that he must take command. He went through the thickest of the fight, fainted and was borne from the field. After a while he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. At Petersburg he was wounded twice; once slightly and suffered a broken arm. Surgeons insisted on amputation but he refused and his elbow was always stiff thereafter. He was sent to “Frescati,” the Magruder homestead in Virginia, which he had helped put in order to receive his wounded comrades.

George M. Battey, Jr., A History of Rome and Floyd County, pp 142-144

Contributed by reader Rick Allen





Confederate Veteran – Caring for the Soldiers in the Sixties

21 07 2011

A Woman Flees Battle and Finds Battle

Mrs. J.K. M’Whorter, “Caring for the Soldiers in the Sixties” *

Mrs. McWhorter lived near the intersection of Frying Pan Church Road and the Little River Turnpike, north of Centreville.  Later she would find the presence of Confederates about her exciting—“My sister and I had a great time all the summer of 1861….We were patriotic, and the Confederates stationed at this strategic point had to be looked after.”

But in July, as the Union army advanced, her family fled, heading west, taking refuge at the home of R.C. Weir, the owner of Sudley Mill, on the northern edge of the Bull Run Battlefield, a few hundred yards from Sudley Church.

One of the stirring events in which we participated was the flight from home just a few days before the first Manassas battle on July 21, 1861. We learned that the Yankees were advancing from Washington toward Manassas and became almost panic-stricken, for we supposed our homes would be in their path and that everything would be stolen, and, like the Widow Bedotte, “Our houses might conflagerate, and we be left forlorn.” So we decided there was no time to lose in getting inside the Confederate lines, as if the Confederacy could have any permanent lines!

The farm teams were hitched up and wagons packed with provisions and servants, some of the negroes being left at home to take care of things. The carriages and horses of the two families, with as many of our valuables as we could carry, brought up the rear of our procession. We moved off with no objective point that I can remember except getting inside the Confederate lines. Fortunately, we had some means in hand and supposed that would answer until better times dawned upon us.

We took the back roads leading from our neighborhood, hoping to keep clear of the Yankees. We had not gone more than seven or eight miles from home, I suppose, when, as we were going up a hill, the horses to the Cockerille carriage became unruly and commenced backing down hill. The occupants got out in a hurry, but the carriage was broken so that we could not go farther that day than Sudley Springs. Already a number of refugees were there. The house was occupied by a private family, but, as it had formerly been a hotel, it was large enough to accommodate a number of people. Mrs. Weir very kindly agreed to board us until we could get fixed up again and could see what best to do. Little did we suppose when we left home to get away from the Yankees that we would find ourselves encamped on what was to be a part of the famous first Manassas battle field.

We had been at Sudley Springs several days, waiting to see which way the Yankees were coming. Sunday morning, July 21, 1861, dawned on us clear, a typical July day. Most of the crowd had gathered about the long piazzas and front windows. We numbered about twenty ladies, several refugees from Washington among the number. Not long did we have to wait. We soon saw skirmishers scattered broadcast over the fields in front of us. One of these was a wheat field, full of shocks, each of which received special notice from a Yankee, who ran his bayonet through it in order to be sure it did not contain a hiding “Rebel.” Before long, however, Yankees discovered that this was not the way they would find the Rebels. There we sat or stood with feelings would be hard to describe now. Those were the first Yankees we had seen. A few moments more, a dark line of blue, with glittering bayonets, came slowly winding down the front of us. It was McDowell’s Corps, crossing Sudley Ford to flank Beauregard’s left. We were in the Yankee lines! Then some of them called at the house and told us of the “On to Richmond” program, of their great numbers, and how they had “Long Tom” in McDowell’s Corps and anticipated a small job in surrounding the little Confederate Army and capturing and killing the whole. Others told us they had men in a hollow and were mowing them down.

We had all of our silver buried that morning and, strange to say, we got it all again. My sister and I, with a number of the other ladies, a day or two before had helped tear up a bolt of red flannel, and a strip was tied around the arm of each soldier in a Virginia regiment to distinguish them from the enemy. Then we were all day holding up for our cause the best we could in our bearing toward the “Yanks.”

Late in the afternoon, as a fresh supply of stragglers were recounting their glorious deeds, we saw a dingy, dusty-looking body of cavalry dash over a distant hill in pursuit of some dark-looking objects. A lively little widow, who was discussing the battle with some of the Yanks, who were boasting of what they were doing, looked up and said: “What does that mean?” It was hard for them at first to think it was “Rebel” cavalry pursuing some of their panic-stricken, well-equipped men. You may be sure it did not take them long to think and say they had better be going. With that the little widow commenced singing and beating time with her hands to a quick step for them.

The fields spoken of soon presented a different appearance from what they did in the morning. Running Yanks were scattered all over them again, throwing down arms and everything that would hinder their speed. No time to run bayonets through wheat shocks! The “Rebs” were dashing after them and they were running for their lives. Soon we were in a glorious state of excitement. Our men were all about us, some bringing up prisoners and wounded Yanks.

Some of the cavalry paused at the doors long enough for us to hand them a cup of coffee or something to eat in hand. It was our supper time, and every one gladly gave up what was cooked to refresh the poor soldiers who had been fighting all day with nothing to eat. My grandmother and Aunt Martha contributed some provisions they had taken from home, and we had some of our best servants go to the kitchen and help cook. I remember handing coffee to some of our men who were on their horses at the back door; they had only time to swallow it down in a hurry, as they had to go the pursuit, and some looked after the wounded Yanks too.

We did not see a great deal of the fighting, as there was a hill between us and a part of the field where there was some heavy fighting. About dusk, when the crowd had passed on, we all went out on the field to see what we could capture in the way of arms. I picked up one of those valuable rifles; it was still cocked, and as I had not learned to handle fire arms I was afraid of it, and you can imagine how I looked when taking it to the house.

That night some of our badly wounded men were brought to the house, and we had plenty to do caring for them.  Some of us sat up all night with them. It was dreadful to see them suffering so!  Sudley church, a few hundred yards from us, used as a temporary hospital, was filled with the dead and dying, and they were scattered all about.

A few days later, when things were quiet again, we went back home, went near the Bull Run Bridge and not far from the Henry House. We walked over that part of the battle field, stood on the ground where Bee and Bartow fell, and saw the bullet holes in the old Henry House.  The elderly woman who lived in this house was sick in bed during the battle and was wounded. Dead horses were lying thick around the house, and we could see blue coats sticking out of the shallow graves, while bones and skulls lying about made a horrible sight. I saw enough of the horrors of war to last me.

* Confederate Veteran, Vol. 29 (1921), p. 410-411.





From Washington to Bull Run and Back Again – H. B. Jackson

13 04 2010

FROM WASHINGTON TO BULL RUN AND BACK AGAIN

BY LIEUTENANT H. B. JACKSON, 2nd Wis. Infantry, Read April 6, 1910

WAR PAPERS READ BEFORE THE COMMANDERY OF THE STATE OF WISCONSIN MILITARY ORDER OF THE LOYAL LEGION OF THE UNITED STATES VOLUME IV, pp 233-250

THE first real battle of the Great War came as a shock to the people and stirred the country from center to circumference as no later engagement ever did. Moreover the first battle of Bull Run, in dramatic incident and tragic termination, was unique, and so altogether, it has taken a prominent place in our military history. The writer’s purpose now is to take you from Washington to Bull Run and back again, within a half hour. The distance between the Capitol and the battle field is about thirty miles.

The battle was fought on the 21st day of July, 1861. On the 8th (thirteen days before), the raw and comparatively undrilled Federal troops destined for the conflict, were camping in and around Washington, on either side of the Potomac. They had been organized, it is true, into five divisions; all to be commanded by General McDowell. The first division, under the command of General Tyler, consisted of four brigades; the second, under General Hunter, of two; the third, under General Heintzelman, of three; the fourth, under General Runyon, as a reserve, of seven New Jersey regiments; the fifth division, under Col. Miles, of two brigades.

The writer was a lieutenant in the Second Wisconsin Infantry, a part of the third brigade of Tyler’s Division, commanded by W. T. Sherman, then acting brigadier general.

While this army, before the order to advance, had been organized into divisions and brigades, each having its own commander, such organization was only on paper. The regiments composing the different brigades were, in point of fact, scattered hither and yon, and had not been assembled in actual brigades before the advance began.

The third brigade, with which we are more particularly concerned, included the Second Wisconsin Infantry (which afterwards became a part of another, which achieved the name of “The Iron Brigade”), came together for the first time, and had its first brigade drill on July 11th, and two days later had marching orders. With knapsacks packed, and three days’ cooked rations in haversacks, on July 16th, at two o’clock in the afternoon, this brigade started from Camp Peck, a few miles from Washington just south of the Potomac.

The brigade marched, without knowing where we were going—just marching under orders, following file leaders; yet having a dim perception, amounting to almost conviction, that we were going somewhere to meet the enemy, wipe them out, and then “on to Richmond.”

The first day was hard on the men, they were unused to marching, and the weather was hot. After passing many deserted farms we arrived on the evening of the first day at Vienna, a small village about twelve miles west from Washington. Besides our brigade, other forces were concentrated at that village, making a total strength at that point of fully 12,000, the remainder of the army was not far away advancing on other roads in the same general direction toward Centerville.

Our twelve thousand were bunched for the night’s bivouac quite compactly in columns of regimental lines, and lay down on the grass under heaven’s high dome illuminated by as bright a moon as ever shone.

Every soldier had in his haversack cooked rations of bread and meat, and upon halting and stacking arms, every man stretched himself on the ground, munched his rations, and went to sleep without ceremony or delay.

With your permission I would like to sketch a picture of that “first night out,” as it is indelibly impressed upon memory. Soon after midnight I awoke with a strange sensation— due to being a raw recruit, a part of a great army, advancing through an unknown country, to meet an unknown foe. Arising to a sitting posture the raw recruit glanced about and noted critically the situation. There was the moon at the zenith in full splendor. Of the 12,000 soldiers, apparently not another soul was awake. The silence was impressive. What thoughts flitted through the boy’s mind out there on the sacred soil of old Virginia, a thousand miles from home, surrounded by scenes and circumstances so new and strange, I leave to your imagination.

The boy lay down with the 12,000 youthful sleepers until the blare of a bugle awoke the whole army at 3:00 in the morning. They ate again from haversacks, folded blankets strapped on the knapsacks, and were ready for the start. Yet history must record that it was nearly 6:00 o’clock before the army got under way, so true is it that “large bodies move slowly.”

From Vienna we marched to Germantown, about eight miles on the way to Bull Run. Owing to obstructions, such as fallen trees, and the like, with which the enemy had blocked the way, we did not arrive until 2:30 p.m. Here at Germantown, were found quite pretentious earth-works bearing marks of recent occupation and hasty abandonment, such as smouldering fires, and partially cooked food, all telling plainly that the enemy were falling back.

We planted the “Stars and Stripes” on their deserted earthworks, cheered a bloodless victory, and, resting awhile, proceeded a few miles further and bivouacked for the second night.

Here an amusing episode recurs to memory after the intervention of all these years.

Accompanying the army were many civilians, a condition not permitted later. These civilians included men who would readily admit that they were eminent citizens, members of Congress, newspaper correspondents, etc. Some were going along with the army “just for fun,” others had a pretense of business.

The night had passed quietly until about 3:00 o’clock when there was heard the trampling of many horses, as though a cavalry force were thundering down in a deadly charge.

The noise awakened the army. To complete the din, the long roll sounded the signal for every man to fall in. Seizing his gun from where he had stacked it, every man took his place in line. It is the conduct of these civilians that furnishes the amusing incident. When the clatter began some of them were sleeping on the ground near the writer. They were under no obligations to be brave as soldiers were. Self-preservation was the law that appealed to them and produced a vigorous scramble for life. Each soul possessed a single thought which was “to climb a tree” in double quick. While climbing they believed the cavalry charge was upon them which stimulated haste. Scarcely had they reached their coveted positions at the top of the trees, when it was known that the commotion was only the stampede of friendly horses engaged in the pastime of running away. Sheepishly these civilians came off their perch, amidst laughter and jeers, not enjoyed so much by them as others.

Quiet was again restored, guns restacked, the newspaper man and congressmen, and the army slept till morn.

March was resumed at 7:30 and at about 10:00 o’clock our brigade arrived before Centerville. Here we came in sight of earthworks formidable in appearance, but in appearance only. These were on the brow of the quite imposing hill which sloped toward us from Centerville, for a distance of nearly a quarter of a mile, to the spot where we were halting. They had been abandoned to be occupied by our division. Centerville, a modest little hamlet, stands at the summit of this hill, back of the earthworks just referred to. We remained at the halting place until summoned by the stirring events of the afternoon, which was not to pass without considerable loss of life to both armies, although three days intervened before the battle of Bull Run. This was the 18th day of July.

I am not attempting to give a history of the battle of Bull Run; this is for abler pens, and the literature of the War, it is rather my purpose to have you understand the condition of our army, at and before the time the battle was fought, and of what the troops did and suffered during the days immediately preceding the battle, in order that those who have been inclined to criticise those troops, because they retired from the field on which they had fought so bravely, may come to see that what some have charged to want of pluck, was nothing more or less than the absolute exhaustion of the human endurance these men possessed.

Our brigade tarried at the foot of the hill, quietly resting under the shade of bush and tree, as best it could, from 10 a.m. until nearly noon. In the meantime a brigade of our army, with a battery of artillery, had passed to and beyond Centerville, along Warrenton turn-pike, which leads directly west to the battle field of Bull Run. Just beyond Centerville, but out of our sight on account of the intervening hills and earthworks, the advanced forces marched obliquely to the left, taking a road diverging from Warrenton turn-pike, at an angle of about forty degrees, in a southwesterly direction toward Manassas Junction, through a country quite densely wooded. They advanced on this road or narrow lane until they came to a small stream, known as Bull Run.

Here they had encountered a confederate force of considerable strength and a rapid interchange of volleys ensued until four o’clock. When the booming of cannon first broke upon our ears as we lay in the valley, telling plainer than words that a conflict was on, every man became alert.

The firing continued. We have read in story books of the foaming steed ridden in hot haste, bearing a rider with message of great moment, etc. Now this veritable foaming steed appeared, and bore his rider to where our brigade was halted and up to the tree where Sherman sat.

After a short parley with the rider, General Sherman issued orders to fall in, and our brigade ascended the hill, passed through Centerville and then down the road taken by the preceding forces, going the distance of about a mile and a half at double quick. Before we had gone far, more impressive evidence than the noise of cannon told us that we were indeed nearing the scene of real conflict, for out from the woods, and slowly to the rear, was borne many a wounded and dying soldier.

Still pushing on we arrived at the spot where our artillery was engaged. Our brigade moved by its right flank into the woods and there took a position in line at right angles with the road over which we marched, with orders to support the artillery.

This engagement, known as the “Battle of Blackburn’s Ford,” was, after our arrival, for the most part a duel of artillery, carried on at so great a distance between the contending forces in the woods, that no enemy could be seen by either side. While thus in line, we had abundant opportunity to speculate upon probabilities and to observe the movements of rifled cannon shot fired from a distance.

The artillery firing at our forces was perhaps a mile and a half away. To cover that distance it was necessary to elevate the pieces so that the projectile would describe an elliptic, rather than a straight line. These rifled cannon shot were constantly heard screeching through the air as they plunged in our direction. Sometimes they would strike a tree and land in an unexpected place. At other times they would come whizzing on without interruption to their destination, striking down a man here and there as if by chance. While standing thus, I well remember, my attention was absorbed in listening to individual cannon shot, that is, to the whizzing noise they made in the air, rather than to the report of the guns. The danger contemplated was not that from the general crash or volley, but rather from the individual cannon shot whose wild whistle in the air would from time to time attract attention. All along the line the troops appeared to be listening and looking intently. For my part I could hear the whizzing noise in the air plainly enough in many cases to decide where the bolt was likely to fall, whether to the right or to the left. But in one instance it was impossible to decide where that particular shot was going to strike. I was seized with an impression that my time had come and involuntarily threw myself upon the ground. Getting up a moment later it was discovered that the shot had burrowed only a few feet behind me, and I have always believed that if I had remained standing that shot would have effectually done the work for me. Some of the soldiers with better eyes asserted they could see the balls, but I could not. This experience lasted until about 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon, when the cannonading gradually lessened and finally ceased after considerable loss had been sustained of killed and wounded. Then our brigade counter-marched toward Centerville by the same road we come on, till it intersected the turn-pike. Then taking the turn-pike we marched westward about a mile toward what was to be the battlefield of Bull Run, and took our position on an eminence to camp for the night. The experiences of the men were identical in this, that the fatigue which comes from mere exposure to imminent danger continuously for hours, especially when the troops so exposed are not actively engaged, is far more exhausting than physical exertion. All agreed after reaching camp in feeling complete fatigue.

The battle of Bull Run was still two days in the future. Yet a considerable tax, as you see, had been put upon the endurance of raw and inexperienced troops, although they had only been engaged in getting into position for the ensuing battle. There was to be no rest for the army the coming night. It was about sun down when we went into camp. Near by was a meadow dotted with newly made hay-cocks, which were picked up by the men as if there had been but one instead of a thousand and carried into camp. It was a sight to see those acres of hay-cocks disappear. The boys wanted the hay for beds and they got it in one trip.

Soon after sun down the commissary wagons came in view, and were very welcome, for they bore the precious freight of coffee and much needed rations.

Immediately the rails from neighboring fences were brought in, fires kindled, and coffee put to boil. The air was soon filled with delicious aroma, but the sadness of it all is that this coffee was never to cheer the tired soldiers. Just as the pot had fairly boiled a malicious force of sneaking confederates who had crawled up stealthily in the bushes, discharged several volleys over camp, luckily with too high aim.

The cry went up: “Put out the fires! Put out the fires!” It was a fearful sacrifice and the precious coffee was wholly lost. Then in darkness the long roll beat to arms, the tired troops fell in line, while skirmishers went out in fruitless endeavor to find what forces had been shooting at us. After they had fired their vicious volleys the confederates stole away unseen, leaving the troops in a condition quite forlorn, not knowing what would come next. Weary and worn and nearly exhausted, they stood in the darkness and rain as marks to be shot at by a hidden foe, or as one of my comrades said at the time, “To be shot at for $13 a month with no chance to return the fire.” One can imagine this little tableau vivant, or enough of it, and to see that the night was no picnic.

To cap the climax of discomfort, as darkness settled down it began to rain. The hay which had promised so much for our comfort was thoroughly wet.

Through the long, rainy night there was plenty of hunger, but no slumber, for it was passed in watchful expectation of another attack. Everything however has an ending, so did that night. With the morning came sunshine, and such cheer as men in their condition could muster.

The day was spent in getting dry, being fed and rested. At sundown the customary dress parade was held in fairly good form, considering the circumstances, and with the usual promulgation of orders.

Among other orders read that evening, was one directing the writer to report immediately at brigade headquarters, where he had been assigned for duty on the staff of General Sherman.

This order took the writer from his regiment and he was provided with a horse and equipments, and became established at brigade headquarters.

The next day Saturday, July 20th, was “the day before the battle” with all that the phrase implies. The plan on our side which contemplated an attack, had been most fully matured at a council of all the commanders, including our brigadier general. The precise work of each commander had been mapped out. If you are curious to know the details of these plans, you may read them at your leisure for they have become history.

On this 20th day of July every man in the army once again filled his haversack and at the early hour of 2:00 o’clock Sunday morning, July 21st, the entire combative force took up the march toward Bull Run by divers routes assigned to the different divisions.

From that early hour the troops were destined not to rest again until they had passed through the bloody battle, achieved a great victory over a superior force, and then later on, by the arrival of Johnston’s fresh army, were compelled to abandon a field they had fairly won, and retreat the succeeding night the entire distance from Bull Run to Washington. But we must not anticipate.

General Tyler’s division of which our brigade was a part, was on the the right of the army. The duty assigned to the writer by General Sherman was to care for all the vehicles belonging to the regiments of our brigade and organize them into a single train.

Just before the advance there was imparted to me as much of the plan of battle as it was thought necessary for me to know in order to govern my actions. I was directed to keep the train where it was, at the camp, until the combative force of the army had passed that point, and then to fall in with the other trains at the first opportunity and advance toward Bull Run until a certain blacksmith shop, which was about a half a mile east of Cub Run, had been reached; to post the train there and immediately report in person to the general wherever he could be found at the front.

In giving these instructions he said, “You will hear plenty of cannonading immediately in front. Pay no attention to it, for this will only be a feint; the real attack will be in another quarter.”

It is a matter of history how Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions turned to the right from Warrenton turn-pike at the old blacksmith shop just mentioned, taking a road which led northerly and nearly parallel with Bull Run, east of the stream, and proceeded in that direction far enough to reach a point where no rebel forces were present to interfere with their crossing; and how, when they had arrived there, at an hour much later than had been planned, that is to say, about noon instead of early morning, these troops under General Hunter, taking only a few moments to refresh themselves, passed over to the west side of Bull Run, and pushed down upon the enemy, who all this time had been entertained by the furious cannonading directly in their front, east of the Stone Bridge, where Sherman’s Brigade waited for the time to come to cross over.

Hunter’s force attacked the enemy’s left flank with vigor and later was joined by Heintzelman, when they drove the confederate forces down the west bank of Bull Run, past the point where Tyler’s division, including our brigade, was waiting, thus giving them the expected opportunity to pass over and join in the general attack, which was gallantly made with a rush.

While Hunter’s movement was being executed, as has been told, the writer had abundant time to obey instructions and post his train as directed, and then to ride down amid the smoke and roar of artillery, according to directions, until he reached the spot where a thirty pounder, attached to Carlisle’s Battery, was posted on the turn-pike, with Ayre’s Battery somewhat in the rear. A little to the right of this gun he found General Sherman with his brigade in line at right angles to the turn-pike in a dense wood on the easterly side of Bull Run. There Sherman remained awaiting the appearance of Hunter and Heintzelman. At the proper time Sherman’s brigade crossed over and became actively engaged, and met their full share of the fearful loss of the day, and did their full share of the work resulting in driving the over confident confederates from the stronghold they had taken and determined to keep at all hazards.

Up to three o’clock in the afternoon everything went our way, and indicated a complete victory for the Union Arms. Indeed at that time a great victory had been won.

Then it was that a genuinely dramatic incident occurred. General McDowell came riding along the line, joyously swinging his hat aloft, responding to the cheers of the soldiers on every hand. As he came near our position he drew rein to exchange salutes with General Sherman, and with a cheerful voice and mein, he directed him “to join in the general pursuit,” and rode away.

How well I remember the proud bearing of McDowell. His every action told, more plainly than any words, that he then believed himself a victorious captain whose brow was wreathed with laurels of success. But alas, too soon he learned that the fates of war are fickle.

Not more than twenty minutes intervened after McDowell departed before he came again our way. A fearful change had come over the spirit of his dream during those moments. The transformation was forlorn and complete. We need not discuss here the causes that led up to, and made necessary the retreat of which an account follows. Suffice it to say, that soon after McDowell rode away, a large force of rebel troops from Johnston’s army arrived fresh on the field, just in time to turn our glorious victory into black defeat.

Within that twenty minutes the Union army saw itself confronted by the arrival of a fresh and formidable army, saw that the battle just successfully finished must be fought anew, if the field was to be held, and recognized the fact, as fact it was, that the limit of human endurance had been fully reached and that they were actually incapable of another fight. Thereupon the whole army began as it were, upon their own motion, and as it would seem without orders to fall slowly to the rear, and thus reluctantly leave their hard fought field. Not indeed because of the troops they had been fighting all day and had fairly whipped, not because their valor had departed, but because their power to endure had been exhausted.

When General McDowell returned, it was as clearly certain that the day had been lost, as that a few minutes earlier victory had been shouted by all hands. No one more keenly realized this than McDowell himself. If it dazed and blunted his faculties for the moment, who shall wonder and who shall blame? It seemed that General Sherman expected some decisive movement to be ordered by the commanding general for he inquired of him, “What is to be done?”

To this General McDowell replied, “Wait awhile,” and rode away, looking for all the world the picture of despair.

In reading the memoirs of General Sherman you will see no mention of this meeting between himself and General McDowell at the very turn and crisis of the battle. But the writer has excellent reason for remembering it well because it was followed by an incident of peculiar interest to himself.

After “Waiting a while,” in obedience to McDowell’s command, and seeing the whole army moving to the rear, the writer ventured to ask General Sherman what should be done with the train in the rear for which I was responsible. This inquiry was deemed proper, seeing that the entire army was giving up the field. And yet its propriety was immediately doubted, for General Sherman, looking squarely in the face of the writer, in a voice that was stern if not savage, said; “I give you no orders at all, sir.”

This at the time was interpreted to mean that when he had orders he would let it be known without being asked. But later on the writer was informed by General Sherman what was really in his mind. He himself had received no orders from the commanding general, therefore he declined to give any orders. He had been told to “wait awhile,” and was doing it.

The writer seeing that the army was in actual retreat spurred away without orders to where his train was posted just east of Bull Run. Here indeed was pandemonium reigning supreme. Whenever there is a panic in an army it is generally in the rear rather than in front, and here was no exception to the rule. There was no panic at the front at Bull Run, but at the rear the quarter-masters of the several regiments composing our brigade at least, were found in a state of extreme excitement as though expecting momentarily to be gobbled up by the notorious Black Horse Cavalry, which by the way existed only in imagination. The riders they saw galloping in all directions, were none other than our cavalry, and no doubt in some instances, our own mounted officers going to the rear. It was a white horse that carried the writer to the rear, otherwise—perhaps he might have been taken for a Black Horse Cavalryman and not permitted to approach.

When he arrived the quarter-masters were not slow in condemnation of what they regarded inexcusable negligence, in not having previously moved the train to a place of safety. Steps were taken to allay their needless fears by assuring them there was not a rebel in sight, and that our entire army would have to be slaughtered or captured before any danger could come to them, a ceremony that would consume much more time than would be required to make a safe retreat. At first they seemed satisfied with such assurance, agreeing to help take the train toward Washington in an orderly way. Had they held to that purpose there would have been no trouble in doing so.

But it was not so to be. Panic took full sway among these people who had not been on the field. The brigade train was nearly half a mile in length, and so it was impossible to personally supervise the whole of it. It soon became apparent that no one was in a state of mind to assist in preserving the orderly retreat of the wagons. A start to the rear was begun on a decent walk but it was not long before some of the drivers had pushed their teams to a trot, and others to a gallop.

Then it was that the soldiers who were there to guard the train found it impossible to keep pace with the teams, and early reached the conclusion that it was their duty to ride, and so mounted the wagons. To make room for himself a man would roll a barrel of vinegar out of the back end of the wagon to be run over by the next, which would be overturned. What with barrels of vinegar and molasses, boxes of crackers, bags of oats, and other such stores thus thrown out, it was not long before the road was literally paved with these things. When a wagon was overturned it afforded an excellent excuse for cutting loose the horses and riding away, and the drivers were not slow in doing this. The road was thus blockaded by abandoned wagons.

Within a short time the brigade train was a thing of the past. It had destroyed itself. The occupation of the writer so far as the train was concerned was therefore gone, and he turned and rode to the front slowly against the retreating torrent.

In passing through the retiring crowds, made up in part of civilians as well as soldiers, many sights and scenes worth telling were observed but are omitted for want of time.

Darkness was now setting in, when however, many of those who had been engaged in the battle were met and recognized.

What had been the army, was the army no longer. It was a mere 4th of July crowd, a World’s Fair crowd on a Chicago Day, wholly without organization. The whole roadway was compactly filled from side to side with one solid mass, which within a rod or two, might have among its members the representatives of many regiments. In such a crowd as this, strange as it may seem, the writer met the orderly sergeant of his own company. He was uninjured, and carrying his gun.

His worn out condition was recognized and he was put in the saddle. We agreed not to part, as the writer now resolved to turn about and go along with him and the rest to the rear, walking by the side of the horse. Unfortunately for the orderly, but luckily for another, we presently came upon a corporal of our company who had been shot through the leg, limping along with many others in similar condition. The corporal had lost his gun, but showed no other evidence of demoralization. The sergeant upon request gave up the horse to the wounded corporal. They compromised, the corporal taking the sergeant’s gun and the horse, and we moved on together.

As the crowd advanced along the road the most important matter was to get a drink of water. So whenever and where-ever a well was found, it became the nucleus for a contending crowd, like boys surrounding the ticket wagon of a circus, but to a vaster extent, more like swarming bees bunched upon an overhanging limb.

The trend was ever toward Washington. The night grew darker. Now and then one would hear a cry out of the darkness of the number and name of a regiment, as for instance, “13th New York.” If a man of that regiment was within hearing he would respond “13th New York.” Comrades would thus come together but to be soon parted. So in the case of the writer. Having resolved to stay by his comrades and horse, he soon found that all had disappeared and he was alone in the struggling crowd. Considering that he had been mounted all day, his condition was so much better than the mass around him that he had no cause to complain.

On and on we kept tramping the weary way to Washington. Sometimes struggling for a drink by the wayside well but not daring to rest for a moment; because to sit down even for a single instant was to sleep, and to sleep at that time meant capture.

Past midnight the rain began to pour. This was not so much a misfortune as a discomfort. It is even possible that the drenching rain cooled the fevered soldiers and in that way was beneficial. Knowing how dusty and how besmeared they were before, one can imagine the appearance presented after the rain. The rain had said to the dust, “I am on to you, your name is Mud!”

Time went on while this motley retreat continued until about four o’clock in the morning when the writer met for the first time the captain of his company, Captain Bouck of Company E, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, son of Ex-Governor Bouck of New York, ex-Attorney General of Wisconsin, and a lawyer of high standing and ability. We were old friends; he was lame, foot-sore, weary, and nearly exhausted, but trudging on toward Washington the same as the writer. He reached out his hand in a mechanical way, we clasped, but neither spoke a word. Thus we went on together for a short time, only to separate, as in many cases before. Can you see the picture? It is like ten thousand others on the weary way.

Soon thereafter several soldiers were seen coming from a farm house where they got coffee and corn-cakes. The writer made his way to the house and while there made a bargain with the farmer to hitch up his horse and carry him and three others into Washington four or five miles distant. This was a happy thought, but not to be realized. Rosinante was tackled to a farm wagon with two boards for seats stretched from side to side of the wagon box.

We finally got aboard and started. It was daylight and Monday morning. Scarcely had we gone a mile when we discovered moving along with the rest, a lieutenant of my regiment who had been wounded by a musket shot in his left shoulder. The picture of this soldier was the picture of death. He had every appearance of a moving corpse. Nothing indicated that he was alive except that he was moving. He was scarcely alive. Automatically he kept on going. The writer spoke to him to arouse attention, but he did not hear. Finally to make certain of his identity the writer jumped from the wagon, shook him up, and told him his name and insisted that he should take the vacant seat in the wagon. Mechanically he obeyed and we started along, the writer hanging on to the end board of the wagon box.

So we went to Washington.

At last we arrived at the southern end of the Long Bridge, by which you cross over to the capital.

There fires had been built, large caldrons of pork and coffee were boiling, hard-tack was abundant, and the soldiers having been fed, were lying on the ground in the midst of a pelting rain, sleeping like infants on a mother’s breast.

But let us return to the lieutenant, for his case is typical of a thousand others.

Sheds had been thrown up for the wounded, and all the surgeons, good, bad or indifferent, that Washington and the neighboring cities could supply, were on hand to dress the wounded, and treat the sick as best as they could. The lieutenant was taken to one of these sheds and supplied with coffee, hard-tack and salt pork, of which he partook sparingly, and then he was turned over to a young surgeon who probed and dressed his wound, and laid him away to sleep. The writer did not see him again for several days, and when we next met he declared upon his honor that he did not remember meeting me at all, nor know how he got to Washington.

His case was a fair sample by which to judge of the many others of which we have not time to speak.

Not all of the troops went to Long Bridge where we did, but many reached Fort Corcoran, near Georgetown, and others made their way to Alexandria, all resting on the south bank of the Potomac.

None were permitted to cross over, except such as for good reason obtained passes.

I have now fulfilled my promise of taking you from Washington to Bull Run and back again, but I cannot consent to leave you there to pass as I did the doleful days which succeeded the battle of Bull Run.

In conclusion let me lay before you a brighter page of history, whereon is recorded that later, on the selfsame battlefield, the same army of the Potomac achieved an abiding victory for the Union cause. And on still other pages are recorded the Herculean achievements of our glorious armies which paved the way for their victorious return in strong and serried ranks to march into Washington not as we did, but bearing aloft the redeemed and consecrated Flag of the Union, amid the plaudits of an admiring country whose integrity and existence they had preserved for all future generations, by a soldierly constancy, and valor, unmatched and unmatchable, in the annals of all the Nations of the World.

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The Second Wisconsin at the First Battle of Bull Run – Thomas S. Allen

10 04 2010

THE SECOND WISCONSIN AT THE FIRST BATTLE OF BULL RUN

BY BREVET BRIG. GEN. THOMAS S. ALLEN, USV October 1, 1890

WAR PAPERS READ BEFORE THE COMMANDERY OF THE STATE OF WISCONSIN MILITARY ORDER OF THE LOYAL LEGION OF THE UNITED STATES VOLUME I, pp 374-393

WHEN the shot fired at Fort Sumter “was heard around the world,” an uprising of the loyal people of the country took place, which for numbers and unanimity of purpose had never been equalled since the time when Peter the Hermit issued his call upon the faithful to rise in their majesty and wrest the scepter of tyranny in the Holy Land from the grasp of Moslem usurpers. Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers touched the chords of patriotism, which for years had been lying dormant, as the appeals of Peter waked up the religious sensibilities of the faithful of the middle ages. The one, addressed to uneducated masses of the old world, was tinctured more or less with fanaticism; the other, addressed to the masses of an intelligent nation, was an “appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity and the existence of our National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government, and to redress wrongs already long enough endured.” As is well known the famous Crusades were doomed to ignominious failure, although attended with wonderful acts of heroism, leaving the fields of Eastern Europe and Western Asia strewn with the bodies of millions of warlike but deluded knights and peasants; while the proclamation of President Lincoln resulted in military organizations of a peaceful people, which, after a terrible four years’ contest, established “Liberty and Union” on a foundation so firm that nothing less than the degeneration of a race of patriots can cause or permit its destruction.

Wisconsin responded to the call of the War Department for a single regiment, by the tender, in less than seven days, of thirty-six full companies. The 1st Regiment, enlisted for three months, and the 2d Regiment, organized as a three years regiment, went into camp—one at Milwaukee and the other at Madison—at about the same time. The former was sent to the Shenandoah Valley and the latter to Washington, it being the only Wisconsin regiment present at the first Bull Run. Although I had enlisted and drilled with company “H” of the 2d, and intended to serve in said company, having been asked by the Miners’ Guards, of Mineral Point, to take command, I accepted, and left the state with the regiment as captain of company “I,” reaching Washington on the 25th day of June, 1861. It is safe to say that not a man in the regiment knew anything of actual warfare, although nine companies, including mine, were organized from as many independent companies of state militia, actuated by a common motive and by similar patriotic impulses, yet differing as to policies and parties. And yet, perhaps, some of us had felt somewhat of the martial ardor of the old cripple, who, after a long service, “hobbled home on crutches,” singing as he drew near the old homestead:

“My father was a farmer good,
With corn and beef in plenty;
I mowed, and hoed, and held the plow,
And longed for one-and-twenty.

“For I had quite a martial turn,
And scorned the lowing cattle;
I longed to wear a uniform.
Hear drums, and see a battle.”

As was the ease with the first regiments to respond in other states, so our ranks were filled with the best young blood of Wisconsin, and officered by men, many of whom subsequently, in their present and higher stations, made their mark on various fields of action. Among them, without disparagement to others, may be named Capt. George H. Stevens, promoted to lieutenant colonel, and killed at Gettysburg; Capt. Wilson Colwell, killed at South Mountain; Capt. David McKee, promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 15th Wisconsin, killed at Perryville; Capt. Gabe Bouck, promoted to colonel of the 18th Wisconsin, commanding that regiment through the Vicksburg and other campaigns; Capt. Wm. E. Strong, promoted brigadier general, by brevet, served on staff of Gen. McPherson; Capt. Randolph, killed at second Bull Run; Capt. John Mansfield, promoted to colonel of the 2d Wisconsin, and brevet brigadier general, commanded the Iron Brigade, and was subsequently lieutenant governor of California; Lieut. John Hancock, promoted to colonel of the 14th Wisconsin. The regiment numbered a trifle over one thousand men. Our field officers were Col. S. Park Coon, Lieut. Col. Peck, and Maj. Duncan McDonald.

On our way to Washington we drew seven hundred and fifty muskets at Harrisburg, and marched through Baltimore at about ten o’clock at night. A howling mob of rebels and their sympathizers crowded the streets, uttering the wildest imprecations on the men who dared to desecrate the soil of “My Maryland.” It was with difficulty that our men were restrained from opening fire. During the march I walked for several blocks on the flank of my company with City Marshal Kane, who was a good conversationalist, and pretended to be a loyal citizen. He certainly performed his duty that night. Shortly afterwards, however, his sympathies drove him into the ranks of the rebel army. Arriving at Washington we went into camp on Seventh Street, next to the 5th New Hampshire, whose leading fifer used to charm us with his wonderful rendering of the reveille (our drum corps couldn’t play). Besides, our brass band afforded us daily exhibitions of tunes of excruciating melody, and of marching time, to which no man, excepting a broken-legged cripple, could possibly keep step. It was here that we had our first experience of regular army inspection. All our field officers, including the adjutant, had gone down to the city early one morning to see that the Capital was properly protected, and that the President and other officials were performing their duty. I was officer of the day in camp. All went on swimmingly during the day. Pie-women, and smugglers of the army fluid which sometimes inebriates, had been duly examined, and passed or bounced, as the case might be, while the several companies had been through their regular drills, and the camp guards been scientifically relieved. It had been ascertained that for one day at least a regiment could be run without a colonel or adjutant. But about twelve o’clock at night, a call was heard ringing out on the night air: “Officer of the Day! Post Number One! ” Supposing, of course, that our out-posts had been attacked by a force of rebels from the other side of the Potomac, the officer of the day, who was making his rounds on the opposite side of the camp, clad in all the habiliments and trappings of war, including sash, hastened to the post designated. There he found the sentinel and officer of the guard contending with Gen. Mansfield, the old veteran who commanded the Department of Washington, who, accompanied by his staff, demanded admittance to our camp. He was making the “Grand Rounds.” The General appeared to be very angry at the refusal to admit him. He said that on demand of the sentinel he had given the password, but was still refused at the point of the bayonet, and he had threatened to put the sentinel under arrest—all to no effect. I saw the situation at once, and informed him that owing to the absence of the field officers and adjutant, I had received no password for the day, and was compelled to use that of the preceding day; that I presumed his password was correct, but that, as I did not know either himself or the password, he could not be admitted. Assuming to be indignant, he rode along the whole line of sentinels, trying his password on each one, without success. What passed between him and the field officers was never confided to me; but that was the last time we were ever without the proper password.

Gen. Mansfield, his hair already silvered, as he sat on his horse that night, was an officer of distinguished appearance, and being the first general officer we had ever seen, for the time he became our beau-ideal of a soldier. He was killed at Antietam while bravely pushing the 12th Corps into action. Having displayed our prowess in conquering the rebellion in Washington, we moved on the 2d day of July across the Potomac, and planted ourselves on the sacred soil of Virginia, some two miles in front of Fort Corcoran, doubtless for the protection of that fortress. That this movement was a success, is proved by the fact that the fort was never captured by either rebel cavalry or infantry, even though Beauregard’s whole army was within thirty to forty miles of it at the time, and never dared to come much nearer so long as they knew the 2d Wisconsin was there. Such is the respect shown by an honorable enemy to an invincible foe.

We remained in this camp two weeks, learning camp duty, tactics and field movements, under our lieutenant colonel, who had studied at West Point for two years, varied by an occasional drill under two young lieutenants of the regular army. How the boys wished they had one of them for colonel! for the recent defeat of Gen. Butler at Big Bethel and the ambush of Gen.Schenck near Vienna, had already filled their heads with imaginary “masked batteries,” and their own observations suggested the advantage of having educated officers. They had not, however, learned that with a little hard work, natural capacity, and study and pluck, the volunteer officer soon became as successful a regimental commander as the most cultured graduate of our military academy.

Under pressure of public opinion, voiced by Brigadier Generals Horace Greeley, Murat Halstead, and other generals of the editorial profession who laid out all the great campaigns of the war in their dingy sanctums, Gen. Scott, with the sanction of President Lincoln, ordered Gen. McDowell to move “on to Richmond by way of Manassas with such forces as were present in front of Washington,” guaranteeing that Gen. Patterson should prevent any junction of Gen. J. E. Johnston with Beauregard; assuring him that “if Johnston joins Beauregard he shall have Patterson at his heels.” McDowell showed great energy, and a week later, on the morning of July 16th, ordered a general movement of his army to the front, to begin that afternoon. Without going into details, it is enough to say that that part of the army which marched towards and reached the front amounted to less than 28,000 men with 49 guns, to encounter an army at Manassas of over 32,000 men and 57 guns. (See Nicolay’s “Outbreak of the Rebellion,” page 174.)

At about two o’clock P. M. of the same day we were moved out of camp on the road to Vienna, leaving behind us about one hundred men unfit for duty, under Lieut. Hunt, whose obesity was a guarantee of his inability to march. Recognizing the at-that-time uncontrollable habit of the men to fall out of the ranks for water, I had caused the canteen of every man in the company to be filled with strong, cold tea, which greatly lessened their temptation. After a march of twelve miles, at sundown we bivouacked for the first time without tents. Our march was resumed early the next morning, under strict orders from the War Department against foraging, issued to us by Gen. Wm. Tecumseh Sherman, our brigade commander, subsequently the commander of the “March to the Sea,” now one of the few great generals living, whose name is a household word in almost every family of this country, and whose fame is wide as the world. General orders had also been issued forbidding the harboring of fugitive slaves in our camps, and ordaining that all such as might escape into our lines should be returned to their masters. This was a concession made with the vain hope that the rebels of the South and pro-slavery copperheads of the North might be induced—the one to lay down its arms, and the other to stand by the Union as patriots. Both orders met with the disapproval of the men in the Union army, who declared that they did not propose to go hungry with provisions in sight, nor to become “nigger-hunters” to placate those who were fighting to destroy the government.

It was not very late in the afternoon when one of my men, Budlong, who stood six feet four inches in his shoes, and who had been missing for an hour or so, came to me and said: “Captain, Gen. Sherman orders me to report to you under arrest.” “Why? what have you been doing?” “Oh, nothing but helping myself to rations. You see our meat is so salt I cannot eat it, and I thought fresh mutton would taste better. I had a quarter on my shoulders, making my way to the regiment, when the General happened to ride along with his staff, and caught me.” “Didn’t you know the orders against foraging?” said I. “Yes, but I was hungry, and it was rebel mutton, anyhow.” “Well, what became of the mutton?” “Why, the General told one of his orderlies to have it cooked for his (the General’s) supper. He then said he would attend to my case after we had whipped the rebels at Bull Run.” This was the last ever heard of the matter officially. I never doubted that Gen. Sherman sympathized with the men then as always on this question.

We bivouacked the next night near the old Fairfax plantation. About dark the same culprit came to me, saying: “Captain, there is a nice lot of sheep up on the plantation. Our boys are terrible hungry, and as our muskets are all stacked under orders not to let them go out, I don’t see what I am to do.” “Have you forgotten the orders?” “No, but it is too bad that we should fare worse than the d—d rebs who are trying to destroy the government we came down here to save.” “Well, Bud, it is against orders to shoot anything but rebs.  My pistol hangs on my belt on one of the stacks, but you must not touch it.” I walked off, and what was my surprise and indignation, an hour or two later, to find that my whole company were feasting on the sacred mutton of one of the F. F. V.’s of Virginia.

The march to Centerville was a delightful one, although many, unaccustomed to marching, and especially to carrying knapsacks and “forty rounds,” fell to the rear to come up later in the day. It seems almost like yesterday that, on reaching the crest of a hill, the long column of troops with its batteries of artillery in advance of us, could be seen for a mile or two, colors flying, arms glistening, drums beating, bands playing, and war putting on a holiday attire. The thought then arose—can it be possible that such an array of brave men, so well armed and equipped, and so enthusiastic, should suffer the disgrace of defeat, and ever be compelled to halt on its way to the rebel capital? The idea was preposterous, and the thought that such a result was one of the uncertainties of war was not without its pain. The experience was new, and doubtless many besides myself were reflecting on the possibilities and impossibilities. That most of our regimental officers possessed confidence in the result was attested by the fact that they had hired a private wagon to carry their trunks containing their best uniforms and clothing; for we were all dressed in the dilapidated gray with which we left our state, while the officers had provided themselves with the regulation blue, to be used only on dress occasions. For myself, some bird had whispered into my ear that it would be just as well to leave baggage in camp. The result will be seen hereafter. But the spirits of all were gay, as is usual with men in the presence of novelty, especially when cheered by hope, and the feeling that they are serving a cause just in the sight of Heaven.

During the day a young mounted officer rode past us, who attracted general notice. He wore long, flowing locks, a hat and plume, a la Murat, and was uniformed in a royal purple silk velvet jacket, brilliant with gold trimmings. His cavalier style caused admiration and wonder, being so different from anything we had ever seen. “Who is it?” was the universal interrogation. It was soon known that it was young Custer, fresh from West Point, who had been sent forward by Gen. Scott with dispatches for Gen. McDowell. From that time forward his course was watched with peculiar interest. It was his cavalry that came up to us just after my regiment, the 5th Wisconsin, had captured Maj. Gen. Ewell at Sailor’s Creek, April 6th, 1865, three days before Lee’s surrender.

On the evening of the 18th, Gen. Tyler, commanding 1st Division, was ordered to make a reconnoissance towards Blackburn’s Ford, some three miles south of Centerville, on the road to Manassas, and not to bring on an engagement. Taking Col. Richardson’s brigade and a light battery he pushed forward, attacked and drove back a division of Longstreet, who, being reinforced by Early’s brigade, in turn advanced, driving in and disorganizing the 12th New York. An order by Tyler to fall back, was executed. Sherman’s brigade, with the 2d Wisconsin, had been sent for, with orders by some ignoramus to double-quick to the field, only a short three miles from our camp. The day being excessively hot, it may be easily imagined that green men with knapsacks tried the experiment for a few rods, and then eased off into a rapid march. As we approached the top of the hill overlooking the ford, we were met by a stream of fugitives, who were subjected to a storm of raillery by our boys. “Where are you going?” “What is the matter?” The invariable reply was: “We are all cut to pieces! ” Considering the fact that the total loss of that regiment was only five men killed and nineteen wounded, the nature of the terrible tragedy may be surmised. However, we pushed on, and in a short time filed off into the woods on the right, forming line of battle. The fight continued for some time, being simply an artillery duel. Shell and solid shot crashed through the trees over our heads, and frequently close enough to keep the men dodging long after danger was past.

This was our first experience under fire, and our “first baptism of blood,” but not a man left the ranks. Only one man was killed and two wounded by the bursting of a shell in our left company. The total losses of the day were: Union, 56 killed and wounded; Rebels, 63 killed and wounded.

As to the particular feelings or impressions of being under fire for the first time without an opportunity of returning it, each man has his own. I can only remember that a sense of my responsibility as captain of a company overpowered whatever feelings I might have had of personal danger, even though the sound of the shrieking shells was anything but agreeable. This first lesson taught us, as did the lessons of four years afterwards, that while the sound of big guns was more terriffic, the real danger in battle was the whistling “minnie,” which reached one without note or warning.

Gen. McDowell was anxious to make his attack on Beauregard on Saturday, the 20th, before assistance could reach him from Johnston’s army. But it was not until Saturday evening that he and his engineer officers could find a ford, which was not strongly entrenched and guarded, by means of which he could surprise and attack the rebel army in flank and rear. To attack in front would have been a useless massacre. On that evening he issued his orders for the forward movement at two o’clock Sunday morning. The divisions of Hunter and Heintzelman were to move to the right and cross Sudley Springs Ford, attack the rebel flank and rear, driving Evans’ brigade from the Stone Bridge, while Tyler’s division was to demonstrate in front. Sherman’s and other brigades, were to cross at or above the Stone Bridge as soon as the road was clear, or the enemy driven from our front. McDowell’s strategy was perfect. Gen. Sherman afterwards said it was “one of the best-planned battles of the war, but one of the worst-fought.” Gen. Johnston, who was in command of the rebel army during the fight, said: “If the tactics of the Federals had been equal to their strategy, we should have been beaten.”

But, leaving details of the battle behind, simply stating that, owing to the lack of promptness on the part of one division, the attack was necessarily delayed for two hours, the loss of which was one of the prime causes of our final defeat.

At two o’clock on the morning of Sunday, the 21st, we moved out of camp, marching and halting, mostly halting, as usual on night marches, for somebody to get out of the way, until after daylight, when we crossed Cub Run, and, ascending a hill overlooking the Bull Run valley and the Stone Bridge, we filed to the right of the road, and formed line of battle. Ayres’ battery was with us, and kept up a random firing on the batteries defending the bridge. We had a magnificent view of the historic stream and of the battle grounds beyond, which was a high plain, steep bluffs along the bank, the plain broken by ravines. Here we waited for several hours, momentarily expecting to see the smoke and hear the guns of our attacking divisions. It was not until eleven o’clock that the ball opened, and the sun was pouring down its fiercest rays. Hunter and Heintzelman had crossed the ford, and rattling musketry and puffs of smoke indicated that the skirmishers were at work. Soon the advancing lines came into view; our lines, preceded by the skirmish line, pushing forward, and the rebels as rapidly falling back. What a shout went up from our brigade! It meant, “Hurrah, boys; we have got ‘em!” On and on press our troops, who continued to draw nearer to the bridge and to us, in perfect lines of battle. Soon the rebels took to their heels and Stone Bridge was ours. It looked then as though the whole rebellion was conquered. Now was our time. Knapsacks were thrown into a heap, and guard placed over them. Gen. Sherman had discovered a ford half a mile above the bridge, passable for infantry, but not for artillery. To this he directed his brigade, the 2d Wisconsin leading. Marching to the ford under fire from a rebel battery, we waded through, climbed the precipitous ascent to the field above, and pushed forward in pursuit. How different was the scene presented to us, thus far, from that of a few hours later!

Having crossed the Warrenton pike, we were halted and ordered to lie down. The rebels had been driven across the pike and had made a stand on a hill running from the Henry house northeast to Bull Run. What happened there, not being all within the range of my view, I quote from Nicolay’s account, the briefest as well as one of the best written, as follows:

“When, at about half past two o’clock, the batteries of Ricketts and Griffin were ordered to move forward from the Dogan Heights across the valley to the top of Henry Hill, they did so with the feeling that the two regiments ordered to follow and support them were tardy, inadequate and unreliable. Other regiments, moving forward to the flank attack, could not well be observed because of the uneven ground and the intervening woods and bushes. The rebels had disappeared; there was a complete lull in the battle. But danger was no less at hand. Hardly had Ricketts taken his post before his cannoneers and horses began to fall under the accurate fire of near and well-concealed rebel sharpshooters. Death puffed from bushes, fences, buildings, and yet the jets of flame and wreaths of smoke were the only visible enemy to assail. Officers and cannoneers held on with desperate courage; some moved to new positions to foil the rebel range. Griffin’s battery came and took place alongside; eleven Union guns and thirteen Confederate guns were confronted at short range in a stubborn and exciting duel. But now the rebel regiments, seeing the dangerous exposure of the Union batteries, were tempted to swarm out of their cover. They pressed cautiously but tenaciously upon Ricketts. Griffin, absorbed in directing the fire of his guns against the rebel batteries, was suddenly startled at seeing a regiment advancing boldly on his right, in open view. Their very audacity puzzled him. They could hardly be friends, he thought; yet was it possible that foes were so near and would take such a risk? Instinctively he ordered his guns to be charged with canister and trained upon them. Yet at the dreadful thought of pouring such a volley upon a Union regiment, he once more hesitated and held a brief colloquy with Major Barry, chief of support. ‘They are Confederates,’ replied Griffin in intense excitement; ‘as certain as the world they are Confederates.’ ‘No,’ answered Barry, ‘I know they are your battery support.’ Griffin spurred forward and told his officers not to fire. The mistake proved fatal. During this interval of doubt the Confederate regiment had approached to point-blank range and levelled their muskets just as Griffin gave his order to desist. Griffin’s canister would have annihilated the regiment; but now the tables were turned, and in an instant the regiment’s volley had annihilated Griffin’s and Ricketts’ batteries. Officers and men fell, smitten with death and wounds, and horses and caissons went tearing in wild disorder down the hill, breaking and scattering the ascending line of battle. Under this sudden catastrophe the supporting regiments stood a while, spellbound with mingled astonishment and terror. They were urged forward to repel the advance on the guns, but the unexpected disaster overawed them; under the continued and still advancing volleys of the same rebel regiment, they fired their muskets, turned and fled.

“These disabled batteries, visible to both armies, now became the center and coveted prize of an irregular contest, which surged back and forth over the plateau of the Henry hill; but, whether because of confusion of orders, or the broken surface of the ground, or more probably the mere reciprocal eagerness of capture and rescue, the contest was carried on, not by the whole line, but by single regiments, or at most by two or three regiments moving accidentally rather than designedly in concert. Several times the fight raged past and over the prostrate body of Ricketts, lying wounded among his guns, and who was finally carried away a prisoner to Richmond. The rebels would dash forward, capture the batteries, and endeavor to turn the pieces on the Union lines; then a Union regiment would sweep up the hill, drive them back, and essay to drag the guns down into safe possession. And a similar shifting and intermitting fight went on, not merely on this single spot, but also among the low concealing pines of the middle ground in front, as well as in the oak woods on the Union right, where at times friend became intermingled with foe, and where both sides took occasional prisoners near the same place.

“In this prolonged and wasteful struggle the Union strength was slowly and steadily consumed. Arnold’s battery crossed the valley to the support of Griffin and Ricketts, but found itself obliged to again withdraw. The Rhode Island battery took part in the contest as well as it might from the hill north of Young’s Branch. Brigade after brigade—Sherman’s, Franklin’s, Wilcox’s, and finally Howard’s reserve, were brought forward—regiment after regiment was sent up the hill—three times the batteries were recovered and again lost.”

The above corresponds with my own observations, excepting that we were the last on the right of the line to make the charge. As we moved forward I distinctly saw two pieces of Ricketts’ battery, over which the forces on each side were contending, hauled to the rear. Men from some of the repulsed regiments, which had charged before us, straggled through our ranks, while others remained with us. Just then, too, on the hill, beyond range of our guns, we saw the famous but somewhat mythical Black Horse Cavalry rushing across our front, after a futile attack on the New York Zouaves to our left. This cavalry consisted of only a few companies raised in the vicinity of Warrenton, and was valuable only as scouts, or for the purpose of picking up stragglers. Its success in the latter direction was demonstrated before the day ended.

The crest of the hill in front of us, upon which the rebels had massed their infantry and artillery, was of a semi-circular form, so that when our regiment pushed on to the summit our left and center was facing south, while the four right companies faced east and south-east, our flank not far from the Sudley Springs road. This was an obstacle in the way of any concerted action, since no command could be heard along the whole line, nor was more than half the regiment visible at the same time. Col. Coon had been temporarily transferred to Sherman’s staff, leaving Lieut. Col. Peck in command. For some reason known to himself, the latter had dismounted and sent his horse to the rear, thus rendering it impossible for him to command so large a regiment, especially in such a position. Capt. Stevens’, Ely’s and my company were on the extreme right of the line; at least no troops were visible on our right, nor was any firing heard in that direction.

As we mounted the crest we were met by distinctive volleys of musketry, which were promptly returned, but it was impossible to push our line forward against the evidently superior forces massed in our front. The fire had continued for some time, when an officer on foot, dressed in blue uniform, ran down the rear of our line exclaimingly wildly: “For God’s sake, stop firing; you are shooting your friends.” Fearing this might be true, many of our men hesitated to continue firing, until by orders and appeals they were induced to begin again. Not long afterwards the same, or another, officer repeated the performance, with precisely the same exclamations. Whether this was a ruse on the part of the rebel officer, or whether he really supposed from our being dressed in gray that we were also rebels, may be a matter of doubt. But taking into consideration the ruse by which our batteries had just been captured, and subsequent attempts to deceive our troops by hoisting the Union flag, I am satisfied that it was a premeditated piece of iniquity. Whatever may be thought of it, the effect on our men was the same. They were certainly confused by doubt. To satisfy them, I picked up the musket of a wounded man, advanced to the front, saw distinctly a rebel flag, fired at the color-bearer, and induced my men to re-open fire. I continued to fire for some minutes, or longer, until my attention was called to an enfilading fire from the woods on our right. The fact that Johnston’s troops from Winchester were expected, and that this was in the direction of the railroad by which they would arrive, explained our view of the situation. About this time Col. Peck appeared on foot and asked me what I thought of this flank fire. My answer was that we could not maintain ourselves very long unless we were reinforced in that direction. He replied that that was his opinion, and left. Not very long after this, but how long I do not know, as the flight of time in a fight is a matter of conjecture, the Colonel appeared again in our rear and gave the order: “Fall back to re-form!” This was an indication that the left and center of our line, which we had neither seen nor heard from since the fight began, had met with no better success than the right, which turned out to be the fact.

An extract from Gen. Sherman’s report is as follows: “This regiment (the 2d Wisconsin) ascended to the brow of the hill steadily, received the fire of the enemy, returned it with spirit, and advanced delivering its fire. This regiment is uniformed in gray cloth, almost identical with that of the great bulk of the secession army, and when the regiment fell into confusion, and retreated toward the road, there was a universal cry that they were being fired upon by their own men. The regiment rallied again, passed the brow of the hill a second time, but was repulsed in disorder.”

Whether Col. Peck’s order to fall back was given to the whole regiment or not, I cannot say. But, so far as the right companies were concerned, they began to fall back without waiting for orders from their company officers. It was then the confusion began, and owing to the mixture of men of the different companies it was impossible to maintain order or discipline. The result was that the whole regiment fell back across the turnpike, where there was a rally around the colors and a movement with nobody in command toward the ford by which we had crossed. This must have taken place about four o’clock, as it was dark when we reached Centerville some five or six miles away, every man on his own account, owing to confusion and strife in crossing the fords, Stone Bridge and the bridge at Cub Run, which were blockaded by broken-down teams. On reaching Centerville I was informed by our hospital steward, in charge of the field hospital at that place, that Gen. Sherman had just passed through towards Washington, giving him orders to tell such of the 2d Wisconsin as passed, to make their way back to their old camp on the Potomac at once.

The general description of the retreat is too well known to be repeated. Members of congress, newspaper reporters, soldiers and spectators of the fight formed a confused mass of humanity. Just at the rear of Centerville, at the camp we had left at 2 o’clock in the morning, Capt. McKee and myself gathered together some two or three hundred men, and under the command of the former, marched in good order to our camp near Fort Corcoran, arriving there about twelve o’clock the following day, having marched and fought some thirty-six hours without rest or sleep, probably not less than fifty miles, the last twelve hours in a soaking rain.

Here we found Lieut. Hunt had orders from Gen. Sherman to burn our tents and move immediately to the fort. After consulting together, we concluded to have some dinner, and take a rest; and finally moved to the fort, shortly before dark. The wagon containing the officers’ baggage never returned.

The loss of the 2d Wisconsin in this campaign was 24 killed and 103 wounded, a total of 127. The loss of Sherman’s brigade was 317, killed and wounded. Our army lost an aggregate of 1496, killed and wounded. The loss of the rebel army was 1969, killed and wounded.

The first great battle of the war was fought and lost. The reasons need not be repeated. They are fairly stated in the report of Gen. McDowell, and in the various histories of the war.

I cannot refrain from saying that, in my humble opinion, Gen. McDowell was among the most capable of our army officers. His failure at Bull Run, however, aroused the ghouls of the press to charge him with incapacity, with disloyalty, and with drunkenness—three as baseless charges as were ever aimed at the reputation of a capable, loyal and temperate man. But for these vile slanders he might have had command of the Army of the Potomac, which under him would not have fought only to be repulsed or defeated through all its campaigns until it held its own at Gettysburg. His brilliant strategy was imitated by Gen. Hooker at Chancellorsville, who, with ten times the odds in his favor, failed in his tactical movements. Three days before the opening of the second Bull Run fight, in 1862, while we were camped near Warrenton, Gen. McDowell rode along our front. Acknowledging my salute, and after a short conversation in which he referred to the charges against his loyalty, he asked: “Well, Major, how would your boys like to have another fight on the old Bull Run battle ground?” To this I replied that they would appreciate highly a chance to pay off old scores. He then remarked very decisively: “We will meet the rebels on the same ground within a week and we shall win.” It was not his fault that the prediction was not fulfilled.

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Recollections of the Bull Run Campaign after Twenty-Seven Years – Henry F. Lyster

9 04 2010

RECOLLECTIONS OF THE BULL RUN CAMPAIGN AFTER TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS

A PAPER READ BEFORE MICHIGAN COMMANDERY OF THE MILITARY ORDER OF THE LOYAL LEGION OF THE UNITED STATES, FEBRUARY 1st, 1887  

BY COMPANION HENRY F. LYSTER, M. D., formerly Ass’t. Surgeon, 2nd. Regt. Michigan Infantry, and Surgeon 5th Michigan Infantry, and Acting Med. Director 3rd. Corps, Army of the Potomac

WAR PAPERS READ BEFORE THE COMMANDERY OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN MILITARY ORDER OF THE LOYAL LEGION OF THE UNITED STATES VOLUME I

The 2nd regiment of Michigan infantry had been encamped below the Chain bridge on the Maryland side of the Potomac since the 12th of July, 1861. Col. Israel B. Richardson was in command, although Mrs. Richardson, his wife, who accompanied him, was the power behind the throne. It was not until the Colonel had become a general of division, that he outgrew his better half and bossed things generally himself.

Lt. Col. Henry L. Chipman had accepted a captaincy in the 11th Regiment U. S. infantry, Adjutant Wm. J. Lyster had gone to the 19th U. S. infantry.

Major Adolphus W. Williams, who later to the surprise of many of us, became the colonel of a high number Michigan regiment, and was breveted a brigadier general of volunteers was with us at this memorable time. The major had invited the adjutant and myself to join his mess, which had been organized by purchasing through Higby and Stearns, a mess-chest duly furnished with stores, and by obtaining the services of the major’s nephew and brother-in-law as cooks and skirmishers. We were soon reduced to the point of starvation, although in camp. When a polite inquiry would be made as to whether dinner was ready: “Well it aint, you know,” would be the somewhat unmilitary reply. Any ordinary cook would have been dismissed, or sent to the guard house, but from a nephew of the major it had to be condoned. At last after a few weeks experience, Harve, the cook, was noticed kneading some flour and water upon the head of a barrel, and was asked by the Adjutant what these preparations meant, replied, “I’m building up some pies that will make your eyes stick out.” And they did.

About this time the Regimental Quartermaster used to spend the greater part of the day in Washington, nominally on business, but he too frequently neglected to order up the wagons with the soft bread and fresh beef; and when night came on apace, and he was warned to return to the command, his short comings began to loom up before his anxious mind and lie heavily upon his conscience. He would approach cautiously the outer boundaries of the camp, and preserving a strict incognito, with faltering accents and disguised voice would enquire whether the bread wagons had arrived. If they had, he rode gaily into camp, but if they had not, he faded from view, and did not return to meet those who were hungrily lying in wait for him. It was while in camp at the Chain bridge that we made out our first muster rolls. Those who have been engaged in this work will appreciate the service so kindly and politely rendered by Major Brooks, U. S. army, now retired, and living on second avenue in this city. Verily in these matters “a soft answer turneth away wrath and pleasant words are of more value than pearls and rubies.” The recollections of Major Brooks and of the very agreeable and courteous Capt. Charles Gibson, ass’t com. of subsistence on duty in Washington at that time, have remained as pleasant memories with those volunteers who came in official contact with them.

The soldiers of the 2nd regiment were greatly interested in a resident near the camp known as Bull Frizzel. He kept himself saturated with a country liquor called peach brandy, which rendered him very inflammable and caused him to give utterance to a good deal of “secesh” sentiment, and kept him in the guard house most of the time. As he was the only rebel in sight it was frequently proposed that we begin our work by shooting him, but calmer counsels prevailed, and we left him to the slower, but not less sure course, marked out by himself, and the worm of the still.

On the 4th of July the non-commissioned officers obtained permission to drill the regiment in battalion drill— 4th Sergt. Wm. B. McCreery acted as colonel. Col. Richardson watched the manoeuvres from the front of his tent with much pleasure and interest. Turning to me he enquired the name of the sergeant commanding, and said in his peculiar drawl, “Dr. Lyster these non commissioned officers drill the battalion better than the commissioned officers can do it.” He made McCreery 1st Lieut, and Quartermaster in less than a month from that date.

Our first march to meet the enemy began July 16, 1861, when we crossed over the Chain bridge to the sacred soil of Virginia. We were brigaded with the 3d Michigan infantry, the 1st Massachusetts infantry and the 12th New York infantry. Col. Richardson was put in command of this brigade, and Surgeon A. B. Palmer was acting brigade surgeon. We had marched five or six miles towards Vienna Court House where Gen. Schenck of Ohio had not long before run a railroad train into a masked battery, and we were all on the qui vive regarding masked batteries, and unusual things of that sort.

The sun was yet in the meridian when I heard a commotion near the head of the brigade and upon riding up was astonished to find that Dr. C, acting at that time as hospital steward of the 2d, was chasing a small rebel pig and firing his revolver at it while in pursuit. The soldiers cheered lustily and the doctor hotly followed the squalling porker intent upon having a spare-rib for supper. All this unfortunately attracted the attention of Dr. Palmer, who was riding with the Colonel at the head of the brigade. Dr. Palmer, with an eye to the preservation of good order and discipline in his department, drew his sword, and galloped after Dr. C. and the pig. The soldiers cheered down the whole brigade still more vigorously appreciating the added comic element in the affair, and warning Dr. C. of his danger watched the unequal chase with increasing interest. The pig escaped for the moment, and Dr. C. mixed up with the column somewhat crest-fallen, but was later restored to his usual equanimity when a hind quarter of the pig was sent him in the evening.

Nearly a year later, after the battle of Charles City crossroads, June 29th, 1862, on McClellan’s retreat, Dr. C. remained with the wounded and was taken prisoner, and went to Richmond. In this he showed the highest appreciation of the professional relation, but as a non-commissioned officer at the time, he ran an undue risk of being detained indefinitely in the military prisons; almost equivalent to a death sentence.

To the surprise of everyone, he was almost immediately exchanged. His long deserved commission of ass’t surgeon, came to him soon after, and when he resigned to accept a desirable professional alliance in Detroit, in April, 1864, the regiment lost one of its most efficient and highly respected officers.

Dear Dr. Palmer, who only a month ago covered with professional honors, went over to be mustered into that growing army of veterans in the silent land, was so elated with his success in this first march, that he confidently assured me as we lay in bivouac that evening, that he felt within him those martial qualities which would give him command of troops in case he should determine to substitute the sword for the lancet.

That night the stars were out, and the uncertain moon was low in the western horizon, the darkest hour just before the dawn was on us, when the nervous strain of the pickets post could hardly be expected to resist the extreme tension of the first night out. The imagination turned some unoffending object into the stealthily approaching foe, and the musketry began to rattle with a liveliness that seemed very like active work. I shall never forget how long it seemed to take to lace up those balmoral shoes, to don my uniform, and get the horse unpicketed and saddled, so as to be able either to pursue or fly as might seem most sensible. The next night I slept with my shoes and hat on, and with old Dan tied to the wheel of the ambulance.

It was about this period of the march that the star of the regimental Quartermaster began to wane. It was all about some honey. Mrs. Richardson had gone up to the command of the brigade at the same time that the Colonel had, and a hive of honey had been added to the headquarters stores. Most of us had had some of it, but it had been expected to last like the widow’s cruise of oil through the campaign. It was observed that the Quartermaster had some honey after it had suddenly disappeared at headquarters. Nothing that he had failed to do hitherto was equal to this new offence. The next day the men began to get out of rations and the wagons were slow in getting up. The Quartermaster was found late at night asleep in the train. Dr. Palmer again drew his sword and pricked around with it into a wagon in the dark, and roused him. He fled before the wrath of the command and never stopped until he had reached Battle Creek, Mich.; and McCreery reigned in his stead.

On the 18th of July we were halted about half a mile beyond Centreville, having a nooning, when the enemy were reported a mile and a half in front of us at Blackburn’s ford. We fell in at once, and marched forward through some intervening woods, formed in line behind Lieut. Ayres’ regular battery, which opened upon the woods across Bull Run to the west of us about a quarter of a mile. We soon drew the fire of a rebel battery, which turned out to be the Washington Light Artillery from New Orleans. The first shot fired at the army, afterwards known as the Army of the Potomac, was at this time, and it took the leg off of a sergeant of artillery in Ayres’ battery on our front, and knocked a log out of a house in the yard of which the battery was stationed. The effect of this shot was not observed by the enemy, and the range was altered, and the other shots were not so effective.

It fell to my lot to attend the first Michigan soldier wounded by the enemy in the war. We were moving down as a support to the 1st Massachusetts and 12th New York, who had been sent down to the ford to “feel the enemy,” which they succeeded in doing to the extent of losing 40 wounded and 12 killed. The bullets and solid shots were passing over us, when a rifle bullet struck Mathias Wollenweber of company A, 2d Mich. infantry, in the left side, and he fell upon the sod. I tried to probe the wound with my little finger, and held my horse with the bridle rein thrown over my left arm. Every time a shot passed over us, old Dan would toss up his head and pull my finger out of the wound, and I concluded that while like Mercutio’s wound, “it was not as deep as a well, or as wide as a church door, it was enough;” and so it proved, for it finally “let out his sweet life” twenty years afterwards. Vickery came over with a four wheeled ambulance and picked him up and carried him back to Centreville, where he was afterwards captured by the enemy.

Vickery was a tall, raw-boned Irishman from county Cork, who followed Surgeon Palmer from the University of Michigan, to look after the regimental hospital. He was clever, well educated, with plenty of wit and a large heart. The Second loved Vickery more, I believe, than they ever did anyone else, and with good reason too. He rose to be assistant surgeon Aug. 8, 1862, and surgeon Sept. 1st, 1854. He jumped up upon the earthwork at Petersburg, June 29th, 1864, to see the colored troops charge at the Burnside mine explosion, when a bullet cut one of the femoral arteries. Surgeon Hamilton E. Smith, of the 27th Michigan was beside him at this time, and performed the most valuable service of his life in checking the hemorrhage, as these wounds are usually fatal on the field. Vickery is now a surgeon in the regular army, and is in charge of the army and navy hospital at Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Colonel Richardson shortly after came over from the front, and in a scornful sort of manner, suggested to the regiment, that we had better be getting back or the enemy’s cavalry would cut us off. Upon this we moved back into the woods. Loss in the 3d Brigade, 19 killed; 38 wounded; 26 missing. Rebel loss, 15 killed; 53 wounded. It was upon this occasion that Major Williams, after having moved the regiment well into the woods, formed them into a hollow square to resist an expected charge of cavalry. How well I can remember the beautiful appearance the regiment presented in the timber, with fixed bayonets. In the movement I was left on the outside, and tried in vain, to get into the place where the Adjutant and Major seemed so safely protected. Colonel Richardson’s remarks to the Major, when he discovered our position, and proceeded to unravel us, were not of a character to be repeated, even at this late date.

It was on our way in from the place where Wollenweber had been wounded, and at the edge of the woods, that I found one of our lieutenants lying at the foot of a large oak tree, quite white and limp. He had been in the Mexican war and we regarded him as an experienced soldier. I stopped an army wagon and tried to load him in, supposing he had been taken seriously ill. Colonel Richardson, who seemed to be ubiquitous, ordered him out, and spoke very harshly to him, and took quite an unprofessional view of the case. After the Colonel had gone on, I ordered the Lieutenant loaded in again, and as the last order is usually the one obeyed, we carried him back in safety. He disappeared like the Quartermaster, and we never saw either of them any more.

The Colonel had not gotten quite as much work out of the 1st Massachusetts and 12th New York, as he had expected, and he reared around a good deal during the next two or three days.

For two or three nights before the memorable Sunday, July 21, 1861, picket firing had been very constant, and the details from the regiment had pretty generally tired off their pieces a good many times. The grand rounds at night by the officer of the day was considered little less than fatal. He usually proceeded with a sergeant on each side as flankers, all with pistols at full cock. After having made the circuit of the pickets, this officer lay down to sleep with his flankers on either side, in order to prevent so important an official from being captured.

We held our position between Blackburn’s ford and Centreville along the line of the Bull Run during the battle on Sunday, the 21st. It was quite a commanding position, and we could look off to the north and west, and get some idea of the plan of the battle

We came near being the centre of the fight ourselves. It seems, that Beauregard intended to deliver battle on our left, and cut through to Centreville and get in the rear of McDowell, but the aide de camp who was sent with the final order, stopped to get a drink at a spring. The farmer, upon whose land the spring was located, being an ardent rebel, would not permit him to go on his way with only this cold cheer, but insisted upon pledging him in a glass of peach brandy. The excitement was so great, and the importance of the occasion so supreme, that the aide took several drinks of this apparently harmless beverage. Upon remounting and galloping off he accidentally struck his head against a tree, and became insensible, so the order was never received by Ewell, the general in command on the Rebel right. In the meantime, General Hunter’s column was pressing the enemy’s left so hard that they were forced into a defensive battle.

During all this day, we, at Blackburn’s ford, heard the heavy firing beyond the stone bridge, and hoped that the Union forces were winning a great victory, and that we should be in Richmond within five days. It might have dampened our ardor somewhat had we known that nearly four years of hardship were to intervene before we should realize the fulfillment of that “hope deferred.”

During the afternoon, about 4 P. M., Colonel Davis, of the 2d brigade of Colonel Miles’ division, made a very creditable defense of our left. Colonel Richardson’s brigade, the 4th of Tyler’s division, was making a demonstration at Blackburn’s ford by throwing out heavy skirmishers, as if to cross over. Colonel Jones was ordered by General Johnson to cross and attack our left, in order to prevent the division from joining in the battle on the Warrenton pike, which was at that time very hotly contested. Colonel Jones crossed at McLean’s ford, with three regiments and formed in line intending to flank Captain Hunt’s field battery of four guns. Colonel Davis, noting this movement, changed his front unobserved and waited for the attack. When Jones’ brigade came within five hundred yards Captain Hunt opened upon his line with cannister, and Jones’ Brigade simply disappeared.

As Colonel Nicolay says, in his “Outbreak of the Rebellion,” Jones modestly reported a loss of 14 killed and 62 wounded. The loss in Davis’ brigade was trifling. What would have been the result of throwing the brigades of Richardson, Davis and Blenker, over the stone bridge not more than a mile distant, to meet the forces of Ewell, Early and Holmes, as they came up from our left to join the battle at the Henry house. Can anyone imagine what would have been the effect upon the long victorious Union troops, who had marched so many miles, and fought so many hours, and charged again and again, by regiments, up the Henry house hill?

I remember to this day, how much solid satisfaction it gave us that evening, when we first began to realize that we were defeated, to hear that General Scott was hurrying up from Alexandria with a 50 pounder seige gun, manned by the marine corps from Fortress Monroe.

The medical men of our brigade and General Miles’ division, were in a large farm house on the left of the Blackburn’s ford pike.

I had just made my first amputation, and was examining the bones of the amputated arm, when Colonel Richardson rode up and reiterated his warning of three days before, that “you had better be getting out of here or the enemy’s cavalry will cut you off.” Complying with this apparently well founded order, and with the aid of Vickery and Cleland, loading up my solitary patient, I was about to mount my horse and move back towards Centreville, when Colonel Richardson asked me if I would be obliging enough to let Mrs. Richardson have my horse, as she could not find hers, and he was about to send her back to Alexandria under the escort of Captain Brethschneider and his two conpanies of flankers. Of course, however much I felt that I needed a horse at that moment, to avoid the charge of black horse cavalry, momentarily expected from the left, I acceded to the Colonel’s request, assuring him that I considered it a privilege to render any service to either the male or female commander of our brigade.

Reasoning that if I was obliged to walk, I had better not stand upon the order of my going, but go at once, I started off at a fair, brisk, shooting gait of some four or five miles an hour, expecting to join the column moving back on the Blackburn ford pike to Centreville. I had not proceeded more than a hundred yards, when, like Lot’s wife, I looked back, only with more fortunate results, for I spied old Dan eating clover, and Mrs. Richardson mounted upon another horse, and starting off under Captain Brethschneider’s escort. I turned back, mounted old Dan, and rode down to Centreville, and up on to the Rebel earth-works, which overhung Fairfax pike.

It is not often in a lifetime that one is permitted to see such a sight as I then witnessed. A retreating, uniformed, unorganized, unarmed crowd, poured down towards Washington at a steady unhalting pace. The men who had borne the burden and heat of the day, the camp followers, the friends of the several regiments who had come along to see the victory. Every now and then a wounded officer or soldier, assisted by his comrades, went by. Here appeared a couple of Zouaves riding on an artillery horse, with the broad, flat harness on, as it had been cut out of the traces. I remember seeing a Zouave officer walking along, slightly wounded, and hearing him say to those with him, that he would go no further, here he would stand and fight to the last, and just then a gun from one of our field pieces was fired off in an unmeaning manner, over into Virginia from near Centreville. The sound of that gun sent all his military resolutions to the winds, and he passed along with the steady current of the retreat. On looking down into the lunette, I saw a number of open carriages, and standing up in one of them was Zach Chandler, looking off towards Bull Run (for Centreville was on a hill,) into the red dust which formed the horizon toward the battlefield. This must have been near nine o’clock in the evening, at that season of the year about the time that the growing twilight takes the place of daylight. I had sent on the regimental ambulance, and rode back to the 3rd brigade, which lay with Tyler’s and Davis’s brigades, to the south and south-west of Centreville, in line of battle, waiting for the long expected attack of Beauregard.

It was a relief to see the quiet composure of these troops after having witnessed the confusion of the retreating mass surging towards Washington.  After the darkness fell, these three brigades covered the retreat. Richardson’s last.

Col. Miles had been suspended by McDowell on account of drunkenness and inefficiency, Colonel Richardson having complained to McDowell that he had been constantly interfered with by Col. Miles, commanding the 5th division; that Miles was drunk and incapacitated for duty, and it was by his orders Richardson had been withdrawn from holding Blackburn’s ford.

It was here that Richardson lost his sword, and his wife’s horse and side-saddle. The sword he had left standing against a tree, and forgetting it there when he moved on. He borrowed mine, greatly to my relief. It was a heavy cavalry sabre which had been issued to me by the State—for ornamental purposes, I presume—and was a counterpart of the one lost by the Colonel. He applied for permission to send a flag of truce, hoping to have the horse and side-saddle returned, but was refused by General Tyler, very curtly. Richardson had known General Bee, and he told me he knew that if Bee was able to do so, he knew he would send them back. Poor Bee had hummed his last note, and was no longer a worker in the hive of the Confederacy. He had been killed in the hot work on the Sudley road, on the 21st.

The 3rd Michigan of our brigade, had about the same experience that the 2d had in this campaign; and to the 1st Michigan belong any laurels won by hard fighting. This regiment made four charges at the Henry house hill in the hottest of the battle, and lost 6 killed, 37 wounded, and 52 taken prisoner. Here it was that General Wilcox was severely wounded, and that Captain W. H. Withington was captured.

We believed that a stand would be made at Fairfax Court House, and no one in our division imagined we would go further back. As I rode into Fairfax Court House that night, a rather warm-looking individual in a rumpled linen duster, and with a straw hat well pushed back on his head, rushed down into the road, and seizing me by the hand, fervently exclaimed, “Thank God! Govenor, you are safe.” I said, I was, just as thankful as he appeared to be, and appreciated it quite as much as if I was a govenor, as it did not make much difference, so long as you were safe, what your rank was. It seemed he had mistaken me for Govenor Sprague of Rhode Island. I did feel flattered for the moment.

At this place I saw an anxious looking elderly man leaning over a gate, who asked me whether the army would make a stand here. His youngest son was in the house, mortally wounded; in the retreat a black horse cavalryman had ordered him to surrender and upon his refusing had shot him, the ball passing through the spine. The father had followed his son in to the tield. He was from Ohio. His name was McCook, and he was the father of those gallant sons, afterwards known as the “fighting McCooks.” His son died that night. McCook found out the name of the rebel cavalryman, who came from Warrenton, Virginia, and hunted for him in and about Washington and Alexandria for a long time; coming on his hot trail several times. By a strange coincidence, two or three of the McCook brothers were killed upon different anniversaries of this same day. I remember one, a general officer, was killed by guerillas, who took him out of an ambulance in Tennessee. And this old gentleman himself was shot by Gen’l Morgan’s men, in the raid through Ohio.

We did not halt at Fairfax Court House, but kept right on to the Long bridge at Washington, by way of Munson’s hill and Arlington. In this battle of Bull Run the Union army lost 481 killed, 1011 wounded, and 1460 missing. The Rebel loss was 269 killed, 1483 wounded, no missing mentioned.

It was in many respects a grand battle, and was well conceived and well fought on both sides. And there were as valorous deeds and as good work done on this open field by the raw toops, as were done in any battle of the war. The mistakes were chiefly tactical, and could hardly have been separated from the conditions which at that time existed; who knows what might have been the result had the battle been set 24 hours sooner, or before General Joe Johnston had added his 8,884 men and 22 guns, to Beauregard’s army. As it was, this army from the valley of the Shenandoah, which did most of the fighting on the Rebel side, and the arrival of its last brigade on the flank and rear of the Union lines decided the contest. Military critics are agreed that in many points. Bull Run, was a battle which the more it is studied the more it will redound to the military credit of both sides engaged in it. While the troops were not handled with the same firmness as Grant, Sherman, or Sheridan would have shown later, the material was there in as good quality as when its commanders of regiments and brigades, such as Richardson, Keyes, Sherman, Porter, Burnside, Hunter, Heintzleman, Ricketts, Franklin, Griffin, Wilcox and Howard, later rose to the command of Divisions, Corps and Armies.

This campaign occurred in what might be designated as the “romantic period” of the war. Who that was in field and camp in the summer of ’61, does not realize the truthfulness of this distinction as compared with the sledge-hammer work under that modern Charles Martel, General Grant, in’64 and’65?

We were all young then—and the imagination was more active, the ambitions were greater, the pleasures and disappointments keener. Every man carried a baton in his knapsack, and Hope, the enchantress, was clad in the most roseate hues. Who can look back after these long years, when all of us have drunk the cup of experience, and have in too many instances found it far different from the nectar of our youth, and not sympathize with the thrill and enthusiasm of those earlier days of the war ?

The soldier of ’61 was full of life and patriotism, his ardor undampened by the stern discipline and reverses of the war. The soldier of ’65 was inured to hardship and adversity, and hoped less, but fought and accomplished more. The period of romance had changed to a period of system and endurance. Individuality had given place to mechanical action, and what was lost in enthusiasm and animation, was made up in concert of action and confidence in method. The military machine ran more smoothly and with less friction, and inspired greater confidence. The history of these four years of war has its counterpart in our own lives. In our youth, we acted upon impulse regardless of consequences, now we think before we act: “then we saw through a glass darkly, but now we see face to face; then we knew in part, but now we know even as we are known.”

Life is easier at fifty than it was at twenty, but as a rule it is not more delightful; and so it was with the war. In ’61 it was pic-nic, and a theatre ; in ’64, and ’65 it was a business, and a circus.

The story of the Bull Run campaign which I can recall is no fable, nor is it the vain imaginings of a cavalryman, it is the veritable truth. That campaign had every adornment of high coloring, it was gotten up regardless of expense, and the music and scenic effects were magnificent. It needed the brilliant tinting of a Turner to paint it true to life, and the pen of a Mark Twain to record its vitality and expression. With its unhappy termination, went out forever the effervescence and impulsiveness of the service in the war. And with the disappearance of the baggy red breeches and the havalocks, and the pell-mell marching, came in the forty rounds in the cartridge box, the three days rations in the haversack, and the sharper lines of rout and battle.

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A Volunteer at the First Bull Run – H. Seymour Hall

5 03 2010

A VOLUNTEER AT THE FIRST BULL RUN

BY COMPANION H. SEYMOUR HALL, Brevet Brigadier General U.S.V. May 4, 1892

WAR TALKS IN KANSAS: A SERIES OF PAPERS READ BEFORE THE KANSAS COMMANDERY OF THE MILITARY ORDER OF THE LOYAL LEGION OF THE UNITED STATES, pp. 143-159

On Wednesday, April 17, 1861, after attendance at morning prayers in the chapel of Genesee College, Lima, N. Y., Truman L. Bowman and myself, both student boys who expected to graduate at the June commencement, challenged each other to enlist as soldiers in a regiment which Prof. Quinby, of Rochester University, had begun to organize at Rochester, N. Y., twenty miles away. We discontinued attendance on our recitations and imparted the project to our fellow-students, a number of whom were eager to follow our example, thus threatening to demoralize classes and considerably diminish the somewhat slender attendance in the college, so that on Monday, April 22d, the college president, Rev. J. Morrison Reid, D.D., late missionary secretary of the Methodist Episcopal Church, called a public mass-meeting of students and citizens in college chapel to capture and control these prospective soldiers. The chapel was crowded with people, and amid the most intense excitement, Doctor Reid was chosen to preside, and my friend and classmate, Charles H. Hickmott, secretary. After a most fervent and patriotic prayer, President Reid made a speech, advocating the organisation of a company to remain at home, complete our college course, drill for exercise, so as to be ready when needed; which time of need had not, in his opinion, yet come, though President Lincoln had called for 75,000 men.

The next speech followed a similar line of argument, the speaker being one whom I most admired and respected, our professor in French and German, William Wells, Ph.D., now filling the chair of modern language at Union College, Schenectady, N. Y. Others followed in the same strain, but all failed to touch the hearts of the people. Hall and Bowman were then called for, and both briefly and emphatically announced their purpose to become soldiers at once, at which the wildest enthusiasm was manifested. This was embarrassing to Doctor Reid, who looked over the audience for someone to call to his relief; observing Mr. John Mosher, the only banker in the village, the doctor asked him to give his views. Mr. Mosher rose deliberately, the people eagerly listened as he said with marked emphasis, “I have $100 to help fit out a company for immediate service.” There was small solace in this for our president, so again he sought for reinforcements, this time calling on Colonel Alexander McCane, of the War of 1812. The colonel promptly stood up, towered majestically above his fellows, planted his cane on the floor as if obeying the command, “Order arms,” and said with military brevity and vim, “I have another $100 to put with Mr. Mosher’s.” Utterly routed by this combination of finance and military strategy, Dr. Reid sought to rally his forces behind that honest farmer, Squire Calvin E. Vary, who had given several thousand of his hard-earned dollars to endow the college, was then one of its trustees, and had driven in from his farm to witness the proceedings. Says the doctor, “What does Squire Vary think?” Up rose the stalwart squire, showing his tall and massive form, and enunciated as his proposition, “All I have to say is, that I have another $100 to help those boys along, and will put with that just as much more as is necessary to organize the company. I move that this meeting be now adjourned.” Those three gentlemen then came to me and said, “Come down town with us; to-night we will hold a meeting in Concert Hall, and organize a company for immediate service.”

A meeting was held, rousing speeches by men who staid safely at home, encouraged the boys to join the company which it was resolved to organize, and while the meeting was full of enthusiasm and patriotic ardor, it was lacking in information. No one knew how to proceed or what were the pay and allowances of a soldier; none of us had ever seen a muster-roll nor a volume of tactics. The next morning I wrote out a brief pledge of enlistment, took it to a teacher of penmanship, had it beautifully copied at the top of a half-sheet of foolscap paper, pasted other half-sheets to it, and we signed our names to this, the first muster-roll of the “Lima Volunteers.” My roll filled up rapidly, and those under twenty-one years of age were required to bring the written consent of their parents before signing the roll. I find on my memorandum-book used at that time thirty-one names of boys for whom I had written out these certificates of consent for their parents to sign, and remember many others to whom I also furnished them, one-half the company at least being minors. President Reid had sent me a summons to resume attendance on my classes, to which I paid no attention, so he repeated it, coupled with the notice that I would be expelled if I did not comply, to which my reply was more emphatic than courteous; but I was not expelled. My friend General Horace Boughton, lately buried at Arlington, came out from Rochester recruiting for General Quinby’s regiment, into which he was mustered as captain. T. L. Bowman enlisted with him, and I saw Bowman no more till 1866, when he came to St. Louis, Mo., with Stilson Hutchings, as one of the Times editors, when Hutchings and Hodnett established the St. Louis Daily Times. When our ranks were full, the local citizens’ committee proposed that we elect officers, and they said that Colonel James Perkins was an experienced military man, who, in addition to his exhaustive knowledge of military science, would with his sixty years be like a father to us, and as some of us were orphans and strangers in the town, except for our few months’ residence there as students, we gladly ratified their choice.

They then proposed as lieutenant, Philo D. Phillips, who had commanded a company of “Wide-Awakes,” armed with torches, in the presidential campaign of 1860—so of course he knew all about war. As none of us knew anything about it, we also confirmed this selection, and were proud of our acquisition. Now our college, through its president and others, showed its deep interest in our welfare; not deep enough, however, to confer the degrees upon those of us who would have graduated in June had we not enlisted, as all other colleges in the North did on their students under similar circumstances, but deep enough to recommend as third officer, commissioned by the State as ensign, Thomas D. Bancroft, a student who it was claimed had served in Jim Lane’s thirty-day company that General Lane organized at Washington in March; hence Bancroft could allege experience as well as knowledge. But the boys knew Bancroft and drew the line there. They came to me and said: “You were the first one to enlist and interest others to do so, you have done all the business; the men whom we have elected captain and lieutenant have not taken part with us, nor done anything to entitle them to the places to which we have elected them; you ought to have had first place, all we can do now is to give you the next position, and we propose to make you ensign.” Knowing my entire lack of experience, I was entirely willing to remain in the ranks as I had begun, and so stated to my comrades, but they unanimously elected me. The ladies made a beautiful United States flag and presented it to the company in the Methodist church, which, large as it is, was much too small to hold the audience that gathered to witness the scene and hear the service of religious and patriotic prayer, songs, and speeches. As the ensign was supposed to have something to do with the colors, and for other reasons, it devolved upon me to receive the beautiful emblem from the hands of the ladies and to respond to the presentation speech. We soon learned that our company color could not be carried, but I kept it with the boys in every campaign and adorned our company headquarters with it in every camp, as long as I served with the company.

The ladies also made havelocks out of fine white flannel and gave each of us one to wear to protect our heads from the hot sun, and they supplied each soldier boy with an elegant pocket needle-book of their own handiwork, so liberally furnished with pins, buttons, needles, and thread that if we could have caught the Rebels asleep, we could have sewed them up so tight that they could not have fired a gun. The committee gave each man a blanket, which was trimmed and bound by the same fair hands.

When our .company was filled up to the maximum, Esquire Vary took our foolscap roll to Albany to have our company accepted by the State. Governor Morgan had called some of the members of the military committee of the Senate to advise with him, among them Dean Richmond and Erastus Corning, and when our services were tendered, all were of the opinion that no more men were needed, and that those already accepted by the State of New York could alone put down the Rebellion.

The squire was about to telegraph to us to disband, when he met Captain Joseph J. Chambers, who had recruited a company in Westchester County, and was now at the capital tendering its services to the State. Captain Chambers, whom I afterwards knew well, went before the Governor and the committee, to urge the acceptance of his own and the few other companies whose tender of service had not been accepted. He had been private secretary to Governor Myron H. Clark and was well known to Governor Morgan and his advisers. Having failed to change their decision by argument, and he could make a strong one, and was a ready speaker when aroused, though he stammered very badly at other times, he picked up a heavy chair and backed against the door of the executive chamber, saying, “B-b-b-by G-G-od! you d-d-d-don’t get out of this room t-t-t-till you accept these co-co-co-companies.” Whether for this or for some other reason, our company was accepted, and about the 30th day of April, 1861, Major C. E. Babbitt, a State officer, mustered the company into the service of the State of New York, and on the 7th day of May we were ordered to rendezvous at Elmira. I had procured a copy of Hardee’s Infantry Tactics and studied and practiced drilling, so that when thousands of people came to see us off, we could march quite like soldiers. We rode in wagons and coaches seven miles to Avon Springs, where a crowd so large and enthusiastic awaited us that we could hardly make our way to the cars. At Corning orders were received to stop off and quarter in the State Arsenal there, as there was no room for us in barracks at Elmira. By order of Captain Perkins, I proceeded to Elmira, to arrange to unite our company with some regiment, where I found several already containing five to eight companies each, their full complement of field and staff officers chosen, which gave companies joining later no voice in the selection of the regimental officers. This was not satisfactory to me, and I soon found representatives of other companies who took the same view of it that I did; consequently we formed an organization of our own, called ours the ‘”Union Regiment,” agreeing that no one should be selected for any field or staff position till ten companies were admitted. We made up that number about May 18th, near which time occurred my first meeting with General H. W. Slocum. He was in Elmira at the request of some gentlemen of another organization, expecting to be their colonel, but the election was delayed by officers who had other views. Learning something about him, and that he was a graduate of West Point, had seen service, and afterwards successfully engaged in business, I sought an introduction to him, and, without his knowledge, heartily pressed the suggestion that the officers of our regiment meet to elect a colonel. We did so, elected Slocum colonel without a dissenting voice, and sent a committee to notify him; he came in with them on their return and at once accepted.

The ten companies composing the regiment were organized in different counties of the State, as specified, and commanded at that time by Captains Joseph Chambers, Westchester County; Joseph J. Bartlett, Broome; Peter Jay, Broome; A. D. Adams, Wayne; C. C. Gardner, Dutchess; James Perkins, Lima, Livingston; C. E. Martin, Mt. Morris, Livingston; G. G. Wanzer, Monroe; H. L. Achilles, Orleans; and S. M. Harman, Allegheny. The regimental organization was then completed by our election of Captain Chambers as lieutenant-colonel and Captain Bartlett as major. Our company was ordered to Elmira and mustered into the service of the United States with the regiment for two years from the 21st of May, 1861, and Colonel Slocum at once began regular instruction and drill. This was the 27th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, and we were Company G. We learned our camp duty and the drill quite easy, but were somewhat particular about our rations in those days, and on one occasion when the beef was a little too fresh and lively, the boys of Company E securely boxed their dinner allowance, formed a procession, to the tune of “The Rogues’ March,” to an improvised cemetery in the orchard, and after a moving funeral oration by Judge Albion W. Tourgee, then a private in the company, buried their beef with all the honors of war. General Slocum, who was absent from camp, heard of it on his return. Tourgee says: “Some very strong language was indulged in, and afterwards a very nice fellow—one of those genteel fellows with a gun—came to me. He was very polite to me, and stated that the colonel wanted to see me at his quarters. I didn’t want to be rude, so I went. The colonel was smoking, not very quietly, and was talking to himself quite emphatically. He asked me if I had anything to do with ‘that operation.’ I did not know exactly to what he referred, but finally admitted that I might have been there. Then he asked me if I did not know that my conduct was derogatory to good discipline and in defiance of authority, and that upon me rested the fate of the country. I had never looked upon it in that light, and remarked that I never knew that beef had any particular rank, and that I thought it ought to be confined. He gave me a kind lecture, for which I was very thankful, and afterwards I found him a kind commander.” Our drill, spiced with similar incidents, went on till about the 8th of July, when we started for the front. At Williamsport, Pa., we found a fine supper prepared, and the enthusiasm of the people and the eagerness of the ladies to serve us with every delicacy of the table are yet well remembered. We arrived in Washington on the 10th and were quartered on Franklin Square, where were just barracks enough for our regiment. Guard-mounting, drill, target practice, and dress parade kept us busy by day, while the study of tactics and Army Regulations was the chief occupation of some of us when off duty. 

Our regimental quartermaster had been a village hotelkeeper at Lima, whose business experience in other directions was limited. When I called on him for company books and blanks, he said he had tried to get them, but they were not to be had. In looking around the city I had been to the War Department, and again I called on General George D. Ruggles, then a captain in the Adjutant-General’s office, and told him what Lieutenant Hamilton.said. He replied that car-loads of such supplies were on hand, suggesting that if I would send a man from each company, he would send the regiment a full supply. I reported the matter to Colonel Slocum, and we were soon supplied with books and blanks.

We left Franklin Square at 2 p. m., Monday, July 15th, crossed Long Bridge into Virginia, bivouacking at midnight, after what then seemed to us a tremendous march, six and one-half miles east of Fairfax Court House, momentarily expecting to meet the enemy. Under Colonel Andrew Porter, as brigade commander, we pushed on at 7 a. m., July 16th, toward Fairfax Court House, finding our road obstructed by fallen trees, which we had to remove, so that we did not reach the enemy’s works at the Court House till noon, when we found their works deserted, took possession, and remained for the night. On the morning of July 17th we advanced about half a mile beyond the village toward Centerville, where we came upon abundant evidences of the hasty flight of the enemy, blankets, tents, and arms being found plentifully strewn around in the vicinity of our camp. At this place one of our boys, a very young and slender freshman, a good soldier, found and brought to me an ancient and curious saber; the sharply curved blade is finely tempered, the ebony grip is clasped in the middle by a band of silver enlarged on one side into an oval plate bearing an eagle supporting a shield, in his talons arrows and olive branch, all beneath a constellation of thirteen stars, the silver guard terminating in a finely engraved eagle’s head of the same precious metal. I carefully preserve it, and have endeavored in vain to learn its history.

From this place we moved at 3 p. m. to within three miles of Centerville, where I made use of a tent which fell into my hands at Fairfax, upon which was marked, “Major Cabell, C. S. A.” Two hours after midnight the long roll called us out in the rain, but no enemy appeared. We remained in this place until we advanced to the attack. Our division commander, Colonel David Hunter, having his carriage and headquarters under a tree just across the road, where we saw squads of prisoners occasionally brought in. Saturday, July 20th, we received three days’ rations, with orders to cook and take them in our haversacks, and be ready to move at 2 a. m., Sunday, July 21st. Saturday night was a warm, beautiful moonlight night, and as the boys lay grouped around, they speculated whether the enemy would not retreat as he had done from Fairfax Court House, and some expressed doubts of our ever getting sight of him. I said to them that, having some acquaintance with Southern people, my opinion was that our desire to meet them would be fully satisfied.

Our discussion was closed by the first notes of the opening performance of the famous Marine Band of Washington, which accompanied our brigade, and just on the eve of battle their exquisite music was listened to in silence, and when the band finally closed with the familiar and touching strains of “Home, Sweet Home,” the eloquent silence remained unbroken till Sunday morning, July 21st, at half past 1, when we quietly aroused the men from their dreams of home and friends which many of them would never realize. Our division was the flanking column, which was to turn the enemy’s left by way of Sudley Springs and Ford, our brigade being second in line, the order of march being Griffin’s Battery; Battalion of Marines, Major John J. Reynolds; Twenty-Seventh Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, Colonel H. W. Slocum; Fourteenth New York State Militia, Colonel A. M. Wood; Eighth New York State Militia, Colonel George Lyons; Battalion Regular Infantry, Major George Sykes; one company Second Dragoons, two companies First Cavalry, four companies Second Cavalry, Major I. N. Palmer.

The road was obstructed by the troops en route to their position at the stone bridge, so that we did not cover the three miles to Centerville till 5, and it was nearly 7 when our brigade filed to the right at an old shop four miles beyond Centerville, and one-half mile beyond Cub Run Bridge on the Warrenton Turnpike, at which point the flanking movement really began. We followed an old abandoned road through the woods, which meandered somewhat near the general course of Bull Run, about two miles from it, till we came to Thornton’s, where our course changed to the southwest directly to Sudley’s Ford, which we reached about 10, having marched since 2 a. m., twelve and one-half miles only, though it seemed a great achievement at the time. Colonel A. E. Burnside’s brigade had crossed and were resting; we halted for rest and to fill our canteens before crossing Bull Run, and half an hour later, as the enemy was discovered, we crossed the ford while Burnside’s brigade was deploying. Our captain fell out exhausted as to the double quick we passed in rear of Burnside’s line, now hotly engaged, to take our place on his right. The shells of the Rebel artillery fell around us, damaging and demoralizing us slightly, the first casualty that I saw being the killing of two men of Major Sykes’ battalion by one shell. As we moved out across the open fields an incident occurred that I have a vivid recollection of, which was also witnessed by others, and which is so well recounted by Dr. W. H. Coe, now of Auburn, New York, that I will quote it from his letter to me:

“Auburn, N. Y., April 23, 1888

“General H. S. Hall:

“My dear Sir,—You will no doubt remember me as one of the original members of Company G, Twenty-seventh Regiment New York Volunteers, enlisted on Seminary Hill at Lima, April 23, 1861, nine days after the fall of Sumter. I was only a lad then, and was required to get the written consent of my parents allowing me to enlist. I attended a reunion of the Twenty-seventh at Mt. Morris last fall, at which only seven or eight of Company G were present. General Slocum was present, now slow in his motions, stocky in person, and getting white with age. I find on inquiry for this one or that one, that I am oftener answered ‘Dead’ than otherwise. I have been told that you went well up in the service after the Twenty-seventh boys came home, and that you left an arm down South. But I want to refer back to 1861, and our march from Centerville to Bull Run, and as we went on double quick across the fields in rear of the line of battle to take our place near the right of the line in such a position that we could see the hard fighting going on as we passed along, and knew that we were going into the same; then where was Captain Perkins? Poor man, he had tired out, and was not fit at his age to endure such marching; the company being led by First Lieutenant Phillips; then I well remember seeing lieutenant Phillips step back from the head of the company and say, ‘Lieutenant Hall, will you lead the company?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ said Lieutenant Hall, and immediately exchanged places with Lieutenant Phillips; and so Lieutenant Hall led the company through the first great battle of the war. I want your boys to understand this, and remember it as a bit of military history. You may have forgotten this item in the rush of changes of those days, but I distinctly remember it.”

The direction of our attack was nearly south along the Sudley and New Market Road, and as we advanced the enemy on the east of that road, under Bee, Bartow, and Evans, gallantly held their ground till our regiment was ordered to charge down the road upon their supports and turn their position by their left and rear.

Without halting, we rushed down the hill, driving infantry and artillery from their position near a stone house in the angle formed by the road we were on and the Warrenton Turnpike, and as they fell back to the heights across the turnpike we filed around the stone house facing to the rear of and advancing upon General Bee’s position, up the hill towards a grove of oak trees in which his.left was posted. At this moment the enemy, finding their left turned by us, retired by their right, and we saw them moving out of the grove parallel to our front, deliberately making signs, as if they were friends. Their colors were furled, and their gray uniforms did not sufficiently designate them, as many of our own troops wore the same color. We were yet lacking in discipline, so while some of us shouted, “Fire!” others yelled, “Don’t shoot; it is a Massachusetts regiment, or the Eighth New York.” Tall Bob Frazee at my elbow on the right of my company, with a voice like a fog-horn, shouted to them, “Show your colors,” when they shook out the Rebel flag and opened a terrific fire of musketry on us. That settled it, and gallantly and coolly directed by Colonel Slocum, Lieutenant-Colonel Chambers, and Major Bartlett, we gave them the best we had. Their batteries and reserves on our right rear across the Warrenton Pike joined in the fight, and when one company seemed somewhat nervous, Lieutenant-Colonel Chambers encouraged them by saying, “Ne-ne-ne-never mind a f-f-few shells, boys; G-G-G-God Almighty is m-m-merciful.” One lieutenant, with the large whites of his eyes showing like saucers, manfully stood his post and fired his revolver in the air. Riding up and down the rear of the regiment, the lieutenant-colonel continued his Scriptural injunctions, and noticing my company doing the most telling execution, said, “G-g-g-give it to ‘em, b-b-boys; God l-l-loves a cheerful g-g-giver.” The troops that engaged us soon passed over Young’s Branch and across the Warrenton Turnpike out of sight near the Robinson house with their main line and batteries, and as our regiment was without support, Colonel Slocum withdrew it up the hill into the grove from which the troops we had encountered came, receiving a bullet through the leg while directing the movement. Major Bartlett then assumed command of the regiment, he says by order of Colonel Slocum, and gallantly commanded us during the remainder of the action. An ambulance was brought to the grove, the colonel was put in, and, accompanied by the lieutenant of the elevated revolver, started for Washington. We were next formed in line on the ridge from which we had charged down upon the enemy around the stone house, this time advancing to the assault of the enemy on the Henry House Hill, south of the Warrenton Pike. There had been very little concert of action in the earlier part of the battle, and there was still less now, seeming to be no simultaneous advance of lines, divisions, or brigades, regiments going in here and there singly and being repulsed one by one. We advanced to the turnpike for the second time, now to the west of Sudley Road, crossed it and Young’s Branch, and moved up to the assault just as Ellsworth’s Zouaves and other regiments gave way, when we were retired in good order under a heavy fire, in rear of the ridge from which we had set out. A large body of disorganized men had gathered there, and General McDowell, accompanied by Major Wadsworth of his staff, rode up to Major Bartlett, and the general said that our regiment was so steady and reliable that he desired us to move upon the crest of the ridge as the foundation of a new line, which should show a firm front until we were relieved, and I have always thought he added, “by General Patterson, who will soon be here.”

We obeyed the order, other troops forming on our right and left, and off to the west we could see columns of soldiers moving towards us, which I supposed to be the expected relief. Soon without any apparent cause the troops on our extreme right began to pass in our rear as if of a common impulse, neither did I hear any orders for the movement, and when it reached our regiment we went with the rest. There were no signs of fright or panic, but soon ambulances, wagons, aid artillery became intermingled with the infantry, and very little semblance of organization remained. I had urged the company to keep together, and succeeded in keeping about twenty with me. We followed a road that led to a ford near the stone bridge, and forded Bull Run in plain sight of that bridge, just as the enemy’s artillery opened on the throng of men and teams crossing it, breaking down a loaded wagon almost on the center of the bridge obstructing its passage. Many of the drivers and some of the troops were seized with panic, and some teams and men wildly took to the woods. The cry of “Black Horse Cavalry!” was raised, which added to the confusion. The artillery fire did very little damage, nor did any cavalry appear to me, though I looked carefully in all directions.

As our little party was making its way steadily along near the road, an ambulance dashed past us, at the rear of which we saw our captain hanging on for dear life with one hand, his long legs flying in the air as he ran in his desperate efforts to keep up, while with the other hand he held on his shoulder several officers’ sabers. We soon came up with him lying exhausted by the side of the road, when Bob Frazee and I took his sabers, and, supporting him on each side, helped him along till two mounted officers overtook us, when I appealed to them, saying, “Gentlemen, for God’s sake can’t you give our captain a lift; he is old and completely exhausted?” One of them said, “I will,” dismounted, and we lifted Captain Perkins into his saddle. I inquired his name, which I have forgotten, but think he was assistant surgeon of the 79th Regiment, New York State Militia. Some distance further on we again came up with the captain, when Captain Seymour Pierce, then our first sergeant, and Lieutenant J. E. Briggs, then sergeant, helped him along till they got him into a wagon which took him to Washington. Our quartermaster had gone out with his horse and buggy, and Captain Perkins was riding with him when the stampede began; before this some officers of the regiment had asked to have their swords carried in the buggy, so Captain Perkins had taken charge of them. When the shelling began and the cry of “Black Horse Cavalry!” was raised, the quartermaster took through the timber with his buggy, soon broke an axle, setting our captain afoot, his appearance clinging to the ambulance being the first we had seen of him since he dropped out near the Sudley Ford in the morning. We halted at Centerville soon after dark, and lying down on the ground, I soon fell asleep. When I awoke, the sun, shining full in my face, was over an hour high. Not a sound was to be heard, so stirring myself, rising and looking around where an army was bivouacked when I had lain down the night before, not a human being, friend or foe, was in sight, except Captain E. H. Brady, then one of my sergeants. Gathering up the swords that the captain had left with me, Brady and I did not stop to pay our bill, make our toilet, or order breakfast, but steadily advanced backwards in good order towards Fairfax Court House.

We were soon overtaken by two men of the Second Wisconsin Regiment, mounted double on a confiscated horse. Seeing my extra equipment of swords, one of the men kindly offered to carry one of them for me, and I gladly handed him the first one that came to hand without noticing which or whose it was. Unfortunately, I never could remember his name, and the sword never was restored to its owner, who proved to be Lieutenant Coan, to whom it had been presented by Albion, N. Y., friends, hence its loss by his voluntary abandonment of it to the care of another was quite mortifying to him. The others I brought into Washington and restored to their owners, who seemed to take it as a matter of course that some brother officer should load up with the side-arms that they had divested themselves of on the field of battle. I never constituted myself an armor-bearer to any of them thereafter.

At Fairfax Court House many teams and wagons were abandoned; public, regimental, and officers’ property strewed the ground on all sides, in the midst of which we saw a mounted officer, whom as we came nearer I recognized to be General James S. Wadsworth, of Geneseo, N. Y., then a major of militia, serving as volunteer, aide-de-camp to General McDowell. I approached him and said, “Sir, we belong to the Lima Volunteers, from your county; can we be of any service to you?” He replied that we could help him make a train of the abandoned wagons, by getting the soldiers that were occasionally coming in to hitch up and take charge of teams, which we did, and made up quite a train, which we took into Alexandria, sending the wagons to their proper regiments. When we left Fairfax Court House, it was fully 9 a. m. of July 22d, and there was as yet no sight or sound of pursuit by the enemy. General Wadsworth was still there without one single orderly, guard, or escort, engaged in his efforts to save property and to forward such soldiers as had been left behind. It was characteristic of the man, who with his great wealth, which he had used freely to send supplies into Washington at an earlier day, never availed himself of it to avoid service, but bore a gallant soldier’s part, did a soldier’s duty, and died a soldier’s death at the head of his division in the Wilderness. We went into Alexandria without further adventure, where several men of the 27th Regiment had made their way, whom I gathered together, drew rations for, and put them in temporary quarters, reporting to the regiment by telegraph, started for our camp on Franklin Square, Washington, at 4 p. m., and reached there with thirty-five men of the regiment at 7 p. m., July 23d.

The loss of our regiment at the battle of Bull Run, in killed, wounded, and missing was 130, 60 of whom were missing. Thirty-five returned to us from Libby Prison in January, 1862, among them seven belonging to my company. The fate of the other twenty-five missing men I never knew.

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