Hains Related Questions Answered?

24 06 2013
Hains Gun

Illustration from 1911 Cosmopolitan article

As I’ve no doubt mentioned before, I’ve been s-l-o-w-l-y annotating a 1911 Cosmopolitan article written by Peter Conover Hains, The First Gun at Bull Run. Fresh out of West Point, at First Bull Run Lieutenant Hains was in command of a 30-pdr Parrott rifle, detached from Company G of the 1st U. S. Artillery. The gun, generally referred to as Long Tom, was chosen to fire the opening shot of the battle of July 21st, and did so right around 6 A. M. (accounts of the precise time vary.) While just about every study of the battle written after 1911 relies to varying degrees on Hains’s memoir, there’s a lot wrong with it; some things just don’t jive with the facts. So I’ve decided to not take anything Hains writes in this piece at face value. Including this:

I was assigned to train a gun-crew over at what is now known as Fort Meyer, Virginia, just across the river from Washington.  It was a great gun – a thirty-pounder Parrott rifle,  drawn by ten horses as green as could be, horses from the farm that had not been trained even to pull together.  There were five riders or drivers, one man to each pair, and six men rode the caisson and limber as cannoneers.  Two wagons followed, carrying the ammunition.   Some two hundred men were attached to the gun to escort it, to help it along, and to render whatever aid I needed.  In all two hundred and fifty men filed out with the gun in July when I received orders to report to General Tyler  at Alexandria, Virginia.

Two hundred men attached as escort? Why so darn many? Well, it’s not as odd as it may sound, all things considered:

We sallied forth.  The roads promised much, and at first the gun behaved very well indeed.  But we soon came to a hill.  The ten horses threw themselves into their collars.  The gun started up a bit, then the pace slowed, paused, and – then the giant gun began slowly to drift backward down the grade.  We quickly blocked the wheels , and there were no brakes.  I rode up and down the line, cheering on the men.  The drivers yelled, and lashed their horses; the ten animals strained and tugged – but the gun remained motionless.

“Get out the prolonges ,” I ordered, and these lines, of about three-inch rope and knotted together to about a hundred feet in length, were quickly hooked to the axle of the gun. Two hundred men instantly trailed onto them.  With wild yells and cheers they started that gun forward, the ten horses and two hundred men soon dragging it upward to the crest.  It was great.  And most of us were very young indeed.

That makes sense. But, who were these 200 men (though I can’t figure out how you get 200 men to pull on a 100 foot rope)? It’s likely they were infantry. So, from what regiments were they detached? I’ve been keeping an eye out in letters for some mention of the detachment here and there of small groups, or even one or two large ones. But I did stumble across one reference, in Alan Gaff’s history of the 2nd Wisconsin at First Bull Run, If This is War pp. 186-187:

Captain Ayres’ battery unlimbered well in front of Captain Stevens’ Company A behind a screen of bushes and trees, while the thirty-pound Parrott rifled cannon, manned by a detachment under Lieutenant Peter C. Hains, was positioned right in the road. The Parrott gun had proved to be almost impossible to manage, requiring large detachments of horses and men to manhandle it over the hills and valleys. While the Wisconsin regiment occupied the position in support of the artillery, Lieutenant Tom Bishop and thirty men from Company I were detailed to assist Hains and did not serve with the main body during the remainder of the day.

Image of 30-pdr blatantly stolen from http://markerhunter.wordpress.com/

Image of 30-pdr blatantly stolen from http://markerhunter.wordpress.com/

Gaff cites the Daily Wisconsin 8/21/1861; Milwaukee Sentinel 7/30/1861; Wisconsin State Journal 7/30/1861; Mineral Point Tribune, 8/6/1861; a letter in a manuscript collection; and Tyler’s report (which doesn’t mention the detachment) for the above. I’ll try to find the two newspaper letters, maybe in the Quiner Collection. But it would appear that detachments of infantry were assigned to assist Hains at various points. But in the case of the 2nd WI, it was as support.

Also in If This is War I found a reference to another nickname for the 30-pdr Parrott, The Baby-Waker. I first heard the term during a tour years ago, but haven’t run across any other use except for this in Gaff, p. 187:

“At precisely 6 o’clock” Lieutenant Hains ordered his gunners to fire the monster Parrott rifle, dubbed “President Lincoln’s Baby-waker” by the Badgers.

The sources for the above paragraph are the Wisconsin State Journal of July 30, 1861 and the Milwaukee Sentinel of the same date, and a letter in a manuscript collection. More work to do!

UPDATE: Reader Jonathan Soffe, who hosts a great site on First Bull Run, contributes the following:

Two companies of the 11th Massachusetts Infantry, under the command of Captain J H Davis, Company B, were assigned to escort Hains on the march to Centreville on 16 July, 1861.

[This is from] A Narrative of the Formation and Services of the Eleventh Massachusetts Volunteers, from 15 April, 1861, to 14 July, 1865, by Gustavus B Hutchinson [p. 22]

“When the regiment arrived at the road leading to Fairfax, Companies A and G were left, under the command of Capt. Davis, to escort a detachment having in charge a thirty-pound Parrott gun, which, on account of the bad road, they were unable to bring up until the next morning.”





What To Do? What To Do?

16 12 2012

Notice that Bull Runnings has been very focused on building the Resources section with soldiers’ correspondence. There are several reasons for the concentration. First, the Resources is why the site came about. I use blogging software to do it because it’s simple and so am I. And also because I like the way it develops. Second, I’ve decided to move a lot of the “newsy” or “discussion oriented” items that I used to post here over to Facebook. I found there was a lot of stuff going on here that I felt could be better served there. But I hope you’ve noticed I’ve kept up with the author interviews here, and of course I intend to continue with them here.

But I’ve also used Bull Runnings over the past six(!) years as an outlet for original content. I’ve let things slip in that area, mostly due to time constraints. So, I think in the coming year I’m going to get back to writing about the campaign and its personalities. To start with, I think I’ll serialize some/all/even more of what I’ve uncovered over the years about Peter Conover Haines, the man who “opened the ball” at Bull Run with a shot from his 30 pounder Parrott. You may remember I linked to this video of a Haines program I presented to the Loudoun Civil War Roundtable in 2011. I contacted several folks I know in “the business” about publishing an article presenting his story, but I had trouble hearing their enthusiastic responses over the hum of my air conditioning and an occasional cricket. Ditto for an annotated version of Haines’s 1911 Cosmopolitan Magazine article. So I think I’ll get cracking on both those items – look for them in (hopefully) the first quarter of 2013.

In the meantime, to keep up with other items of interest, like Bull Runnings on Facebook and subscribe to the Twitter feed.





Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable

13 07 2011

On June 14, 2011 I was privileged to speak to the Loudoun County Civil War Roundtable in the Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, Virginia. About fifty or so folks gathered for my presentation The First Shot at Bull Run: Peter Conover Hains Remembers.

This is a first-rate group and venue. Unfortunately I ran long once again and didn’t have time for Q&A, though a few folks did approach me afterwards with some good inquiries. My thanks to president Bill Wilkin, VP Cecil Jones, Secretary Dwight Bower, Treasurer Gary Mester and Program Chairman Chris Custode, as well as board member Craig Swain who helped book me, and board member Jim Morgan who graciously introduced me. My son and I had a great time.

Thanks also to the good folks at the Weider History Group, who hosted my son and me for lunch the next day and gave us a tour of their Leesburg offices.

Craig also made a video recording of the whole presentation and posted it to YouTube in six parts. The first segment is posted below. You can find all six parts here.





Recap of Capitol Hill Civil War Roundtable

18 06 2011

Sorry for the delay in posting this. Last week – precisely Monday, June 6 – I made the second presentation of my program on Peter Conover Hains, in to the good folks of the Capitol Hill Civil War Roundtable. The group met in a judiciary committee hearing room of the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC – not the same room where the Watergate hearings were held, but not too shabby.

It was a logistically challenging day. First I Metroed in from the home of my good friends Kathy and Dan Carson in Arlington. I lugged my computer, projector, materials and a change of clothes to the office of Ron Baumgarten of All Not So Quiet Along the Potomac, in the US Trade Representative complex in the Winder Building, of which he gave me a quick tour. It was nice to finally meet Ron so I don’t have to call him an e-quaintance any more. Then I had to kill time and wound up walking all day through Washington. I’ll cover that walk in another post.

After a long and very hot day I met RT president George Franks, III and other officers at Bullfeathers, a popular Hill watering hole and restaurant. Needless to say I required significant watering. Then it was up the Hill to the venue. Here are a couple of pictures of the room – click on the thumbs for larger images.

 

About 15-20 folks were present, and they were quite familiar with local District history, which was challenging considering my program included a good bit of it. As usual I ran a little long, but there was time for a few questions which were very good. George presented me with a beautiful miniature of the Statue of Freedom that sits atop the Capitol dome.

Thanks to everyone who made it out. You’re a great group!





Another Road Trip

13 06 2011

The second of three June road trips for Bull Runnings will feature my appearance before the Loudon County Civil War Roundtable in Leesburg, VA. For details, go here.





What’s Up With Me

15 08 2010

For those many, many fans of Bull Runnings who just have to know what’s going on in the exciting, fun-filled life of its host, I have a couple of things going on right now. The most immediate is the completion of the next installment of Collateral Damage for Civil War Times. This will feature a home on a Western Theater farm, though it’s not really on a battlefield and it’s on the Eastern seaboard. I checked the CWT website but don’t see that they’ve ever put one of these articles online. If they ever do, I’ll let you know.  And yes, I will be putting up all the photos I took of the Roulette Farm, my subject of the current issue of the magazine, in the near future.

You may have noticed that I have a speaking date coming up at the Rufus Barringer Civil War Roundtable in Pinehurst, NC in 2011.  After much deliberation, I’ve decided to make a presentation on Peter Conover Hains, the young artillery lieutenant who opened the ball for the Union at Bull Run with a shot from his 30 pdr Parrott, Long Tom.  I’ve been fascinated with his story for a long time, but haven’t really buckled down on it.  Of course I’ll share the fruits with you all here, when the time is right.

Other than the above mentioned date, I really don’t have any firm commitments to speak in 2011, or the rest of 2010 for that matter.  A couple of roundtables have expressed some interest, but I haven’t nailed anything down for sure.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be leading at least on bus tour on the battlefield, but even that isn’t official yet.  Keep in mind that I have incredibly high standards: I pretty much won’t speak to any group unless they say Hey, would you like to speak to our group?

If your group is interested in a Bull Run related program – or one on any of the other Civil War topics I’ve written on here or elsewhere – you can contact me at the email address in the right hand column.

Last, the Facebook fan page is doing well – Bull Runnings has 136 “likers” as of this morning.  If you want to follow on Facebook, you can use the link in the right hand column.








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