Romeyn B. Ayres

29 07 2009

During the First Bull Run campaign, Capt. Romeyn Ayres commanded Company (Battery) E, 3rd US Artillery, the famous Sherman’s Battery, which was attached to Sherman’s brigade of Tyler’s division (see here); this despite his official assignment with the 5th Artillery.  Being unable to cross Bull Run with his brigade, Ayres spent the day in reserve and covering the retreat, during which he repelled a cavalry charge.  Ayres sent a wagon, three caissons and his forge ahead when preparing for the retreat, and reported all of these, plus seven horses and five mules, lost when fleeing volunteers cut the traces and stole the mounts (see his report here).

Later, he would advance through artillery positions to infantry brigade and division command, participating in the major campaigns of the Army of the Potomac through Appomattox.  He was also sent with his division to put down the draft riots in New York City.  The army must have been impressed, because in 1877 he was sent with a battalion to Mauch Chunk, PA, home to the Molly Maguires, to suppress the railroad disturbance there.  I’m guessing Ayres was not popular with the AOH.

In Cullum’s Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of USMA (Ayres’s Cullum number is 1352), classmate Col. John Hamilton notes that (i)n the field his style was that of the brilliant executor, rather than of the plotting strategist.  He had withal a remarkable eye to at once take in the situation on the field, and was the quickest of tacticians.

Hamilton provided a few anecdotes, demonstrating a sometimes brutal wit:

On march in Texas, during a few days’ rest he [Ayres] happened to pitch his camp near the permanent command of an officer who ranked him.  The officer was a strict constructionist of Army Regulations, and had his reveille at daybreak.   Ayres had ever liked his morning nap; and his senior, very unnecessarily, considering the transientness of the junction, assumed command over Ayres, and ordered him to comply with the Regulations.

After the interview, Ayres retired to his camp and issued the following order, sending his senior a copy:

Headquarters, Co.-, 3rd Artillery,

Camp —,—, 185-

Company Orders.  Until further orders, daylight in this camp will be at six o’clock.

R.B.Ayres

1st Lt., 3rd Artillery,

Commanding Co. -

During the Rebellion, a colonel of his brigade showed a timidity before the enemy too observable to the command to be overlooked by the brigadier.  What passed at the subsequent interview nobody will ever know, but the next day the colonel was found in the hottest part of the action.  Soon an officer of his regiment reported to Ayres, General, poor Colonel — is killed.  Thank God!  says Ayres, his children can now be proud of him.

I have some delightfully ironic trivia concerning Ayres’s grave, but will address that in a separate post later.  Stay tuned.

This article was origninally posted on 6/29/2007, as part of the Romeyn Beck Ayres biographical sketch.





JCCW – Gen. Daniel Tyler Part I

25 07 2009

Testimony of Gen. Daniel Tyler

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 198-206

WASHINGTON, January 20, 1862.

General DANIEL TYLER sworn and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. Will you please state what is your rank and position in the army, or what it was?

Answer. I was a brigadier general, second in command under General McDowell.

Question. You were present at the battle of Bull Run?

Answer. I was there.

Question. Please give a brief and concise statement of what you saw there, and how the battle was conducted, &c.; do this without questioning at first; I want to get particularly what, in your judgment, caused the disaster of that day.

Answer. The first great trouble was the want of discipline and instruction in the troops. The troops needed that regimental and brigade instruction which would have enabled them to act together in masses with advantage.

Question. Were there any other more proximate causes than that?

Answer. There was a great want of instruction and professional knowledge among the officers—the company and regimental officers.

Question. Well, sir, give a concise history of that battle.

Answer. I will begin back to the occupation of Falls’ Church. The first advance made by our troops, after the occupation of Alexandria, Arlington Heights, Fort Corcoran, and Roach’s Mill, was to Falls’ Church. That was made by me with the Connecticut brigade, about the 5th of June. I remained in that division, commanding the advance of the army, until the advance upon Manassas. When we advanced upon Manassas I was assigned to the command of a division of four brigades. My line of march was by Vienna to Flint Hill, and from there I had authority from General McDowell to take either the route by Fairfax Court-House, or the route by Gormantown, as my judgment should indicate. I took the advance through Gormantown, and arrived there in advance of any other division of the army, on the turnpike to Centreville. We continued our march until about 4 o’clock in the evening, and then bivouacked for the night. I think that was the first misfortune of our .movement. I think, if we had gone on to Centreville that night we should have been in much better condition the next day. I was ordered by General McDowell to take my division forward at 7 o’clock on Thursday morning and attack Centreville, he assigning me two twenty-pounders to assist in that attack. On arriving at Centreville, I found that the enemy had evacuated their fortifications, and that Cox’s division, as I was told by the people there, had passed over Stone Bridge, and Bonham, with the South Carolina and Georgia troops, had passed down by Blackburn’s Ford.

I waited there an hour and a half, getting such information as I could collect, and then, not finding General McDowell, or hearing from him, I took a squadron of cavalry and four companies of light infantry and went forward with General Richardson towards Blackburn’s Ford. After passing through the woods there we came out immediately upon Bull Run. From that point we had a very good view of Manassas. We found they had not occupied the left bank of Bull Run at all. There is a distance, along the stream there, of about a thousand yards of perfectly open country. There is not a tree until you get to Bull Run, and then it is covered with trees. I got there in the morning, with merely my staff and this squadron of cavalry and the light infantry. I was perfectly astonished to find they had not occupied that position on the left bank. It had complete control of it, so complete control that, after we got our artillery in position, we had the whole control of that valley. Beauregard, in his official report, complains that we threw shot in his hospital. We did, but we did not know it was his hospital; we thought it was his headquarters. The whole ground there, clear over almost into Manassas, was commanded by that position. This was a chain of heights, extending along the whole of this ford, and completely controlling the bottom of Bull Run.

As soon as I found out the condition of things I sent back for Ayres’s battery—Sherman’s old battery—and had it brought and put into position. After firing two or three shots they replied to us; but having only smoothbore guns they could not reach us. After the two twenty-pounders came up we had eight pieces in position, commanding the whale of that run. They could not make a move in front of the woods there without our controlling them. They made no movement at all; we could see no show of force. All we could see was some few around their battery. I then took Richardson’s brigade and filed it down there to see what there was in the bottom. This was evidently on the direct road to Manassas. They marched down through in front of the whole of that wood, without bringing any fire upon them. I sent some skirmishers into the woods, and there were some thirty or fifty shots fired from a few men.

I saw an opening where we could have a chance to get in a couple of pieces of artillery, and I ordered Captain Ayres to take a couple of his howitzers and go into that opening and throw some canister shot into the woods. The very moment he came into battery it appeared to me that there were 5,000 muskets fired at once. It appears by Beauregard’s report that he had seventeen regiments in front there. They were evidently waiting for our infantry to get into the woods there. Ayres threw some ten or fifteen canister shot in among them, but was forced to come out, which he did very gallantly, with the loss of one man and two horses. We then came on the hill, and the whole eight pieces were placed in position, and we exchanged with them 415 shots in three-quarters of an hour, our shots plunging right in among them. They fired at an angle of elevation, and the consequence was that we lost but one man; whereas our artillery was plunging right into them, and every shot had its effect.

The Rev. Mr. Hinds, who was taken prisoner on Monday after the fight, was taken down to Bonham’s camp there. He has lately been exchanged and returned, and represents their loss there at some 300 or 400 men that day. My idea was that that position was stronger than the one above. But that is a mere matter of opinion. But after this affair of Thursday that point was never abandoned. We held that point until after the battle of Sunday. Richardson’s brigade was left there, and Davies’s brigade supported him. And when General Ewell tried to cut us off at Centreville on Sunday afternoon they repulsed him. We could have made a first-rate artillery fight there on Friday morning before Johnston’s force came up. We knew of the arrival of Johnston’s forces on Friday afternoon, because we could hear the arrival of the cars up the Winchester road.

My division was stationed on Cub Run from Thursday evening, except Keyes’s brigade, which was left back at Centreville. My orders were for my division to move forward on Sunday morning to Stone Bridge, and threaten that bridge. We left our camp at half-past two o’clock in the morning, and arrived there a little past six o’clock. The fire was opened immediately after getting the division posted, say at a quarter past six o’clock. Our first fire was the signal for Richardson to open fire at Blackburn’s Ford at the same time. Under the instruction to threaten Stone Bridge, it was contemplated that Hunter and Heintzelman, after passing over by Sedley’s Church, would drive the enemy away from the front of the bridge, and enable us to repair the Stone Bridge, which General McDowell assumed to be ruined, and would be destroyed. We had a bridge framed and prepared for that purpose.

Now, at that time, when that should have been done, my division was to pass over the bridge and take part in the action in front of the bridge. About 11 o’clock, seeing that Hunter’s column was arrested on the opposite side of Bull Run, and that they were requiring assistance, I ordered over Sherman’s brigade, containing the 69th and 79th New York, a Wisconsin, and another regiment, with orders to come into line on the right of the troops that we saw attacked, which we supposed, from the appearance of them, to be Hunter’s division. They did so, and Sherman’s brigade made a very gallant attack there, and relieved Burnside’s brigade from the embarrassment they were in. General Burnside, in his official report, acknowledged that he was taken out of a very tight place.

At that time we supposed the battle to have been won. I had had no opportunity of seeing what had been done on the other side until the moment that I came into line with Keyes’s brigade on the left of Sherman’s brigade, and at that moment I saw Captain Fry, of General McDowell’s staff, standing by the fence, crying out “Victory! victory! We have done it! we have done it!” He supposed, and I supposed, and General McDowell at that time supposed, that the victory was substantially won. That was about half- past 12 o’clock. To show that he had some reason to believe that, we passed from that point with my division clear down to the Canady House on the Warrenton turnpike, driving the enemy without any show of resistance. There was hardly a gun fired. There appeared to be a general flight before us.

It was not until we got to that house that we met the enemy in any force at all. They had occupied a plateau of ground immediately above it with their batteries. Ricketts had his fight further over on the other side, while we attacked them by way of the road. At that point my brigade, after carrying the house twice, were repulsed and fell back under the hill. And at that moment, through General Keyes’s aid, who was with me, I sent verbal information to General McDowell that we were going to try to turn the batteries on the plateau by a movement below the Stone Bridge. That movement was subsequently made. We continued under the hill, advancing with the Connecticut brigade, with General Keyes’s brigade, until we reached a point considerably below the position of the enemy’s batteries on the plateau. And as Keyes faced his brigade to the right, to advance up the hill to attack the batteries, we had the first intimation of the retreat of the army by seeing them pouring over towards Sedley’s Church.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. At what time was that?

Answer. That was, perhaps, nearly three o’clock. Keyes’s brigade then faced to the left and took the same route back under the hill by which they had made the advance, recrossed Bull Run at the original point of crossing, went on up the Warrenton turnpike, at or near the hospital, and on the Centreville side of Bull Run, and continued their retreat towards Centreville. I did not see General McDowell on the field, and I did not receive any orders from him during that day.

Question. Have you anything further to state?

Answer. Nothing. I suppose you ask opinions about the panic. It has been very much discussed before military circles.

Question. We have heard various speculations as to the reason why the battle was not commenced earlier on Sunday; will you state the reason why the battle was delayed to so late an hour on that day?

Answer. The impossibility of moving an army of 22,000 men, with their ammunition, ambulances, &c., over a single turnpike.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Did not the most of the column wait in the road until Keyes’s brigade, which was back at Centreville, came up and joined you?

Answer. No, sir. The reason why the battle was delayed was this: The advancing so large an army as I have stated over one common road; and for the further reason that the country between Cub Run and Bull Run was supposed to be occupied by the enemy, and it became indispensable for the leading division, being without cavalry, and with no knowledge of the country, to move slowly, in order to protect themselves against any surprise on the part of the enemy, and force a position we had not the least conception of.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. Was yours the leading division?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Were the rest of the divisions delayed by your movement?

Answer. They were not more than was absolutely necessary under the circumstances.

Question. What time did your movement commence?

Answer. At half-past two o’clock, as will appear by the official reports of Generals Schenck, Sherman, and Keyes.

Question. You were to advance how far?

Answer. To the Stone Bridge, about two and a half miles.

Question. And the other divisions turned off from the road on which you advanced before they reached Stone Bridge?

Answer. Yes, sir; some two miles from the bridge.

Question. At what time did the rear of your division reach Stone Bridge?

Answer. Keyes’s brigade, being delayed to guard the road going down to Manassas, did not reach Stone Bridge until about 11 o’clock. But that brigade was acting under the orders of General McDowell.

Question. At what time did the portion of the division under your command reach Stone Bridge?

Answer. It reached there by six o’clock, perhaps a quarter before six. We opened fire, as General Beauregard states, at six o’clock. Our time said half-past six, but I presume their time was nearer right than ours. I was there more than half an hour, posting my division, before we opened fire.

Question. Then do I understand you to say that none of the other divisions were held back by any portion of your division?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. The last part of your division had reached the point where Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions were to turn off in time so as not to hold them back at all?

Answer. The two leading brigades of my division, Schenck’s and Sherman’s, arrived at the Stone Bridge in the neighborhood of and before six o’clock. Keyes’s brigade, having been detained by General McDowell’s order, arrived about eleven o’clock. Keyes’s brigade, therefore, is the only brigade that could have interfered with the movement of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions. That brigade of Keyes’s had no artillery. And so soon as General Schenck got his brigade on the line of the road, I saw the difficulty that there might be in consequence of Keyes’s brigade being left back at Centreville, having two miles of road to pass over, that they might interfere with Hunter’s column I then sent an aid back to tell General Keyes that as he had no artillery he should file immediately off the Warrenton turnpike into the fields, and immediately clear the turnpike for the use of the other columns. And I deemed it of so much importance, that after sending my aid, I rode back myself and saw the leading regiment of his brigade file into the fields, and gave him a positive order to put his brigade into the fields entirely out of the way of the other divisions. General Keyes reported to me that he did so, and I have no doubt of the fact, for I saw the leading regiment file off.

Question. Did any of the other divisions, or any portions of the other divisions, pass through a part of your division in order to get forward of them?

Answer. When Keyes’s brigade reached the road they occupied it, and Keyes’s brigade passed along parallel to the road and entirely out of their way. He was enabled to do that because he had no artillery. The others having artillery, there was no other place for them to pass, except up the road and over the bridge at Cub Run.

Question. At what time did the rear of your division—I do not mean to include Keyes’s brigade, but the rear of that which was with you that morning—pass the point where Hunter and Heintzelman turned off to the right?

Answer. We passed there before four o’clock.

Question. Or in two hours after you started?

Answer. Yes, air.

Question. Then do I understand you to say that the road was clear, so far as your division was concerned, up to the turning-off point after four o’clock, with the exception that Keyes’s portion of your division was then on that road?

Answer. Alongside the road, but off it.

Question. Why did you move first, as you were to move the shortest distance over the road?

Answer. That was the order of march by General McDowell. I did not see General McDowell or hear from him after the fight began, until we got back to Centreville.

By Mr. Odell :

Question. Did the fact of Keyes’s brigade not joining yours impede the progress of the other columns?

Answer. I do not think it did in the least.

Question. You did not receive an order from General McDowell to hasten your march?

Answer. No, sir ; I received no orders from General McDowell after I left him on Saturday night It was my suggestion to put Keyes’s brigade in the field. After seeing the head of his first regiment file into the fields, I did not wait there, but immediately pushed forward to post the other brigades at the Stone Bridge.

Question. Was there any portion of the march, with reference to Centreville Cross Roads or anything, retarded, so far as you know by your column?

Answer. No, sir; not that I know of.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. Was it understood that Keyes, with his brigade, should march up and join your division in advance of the movement forward of all the other troops?

Answer. I presume so. That was the understanding—to keep the division together.

Question. I understand you to say that it was expected that Keyes should move up in advance of any other portion of the army, and join your division?

Answer. Certainly; for General McDowell said, “The first division, (Tyler’s,) with the exception of Richardson’s brigade, will move first.”

Question. That was not done, was it?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Why did he not move forward so as to keep out of the way of the remainder of the army?

Answer. He states that he did not interfere with them.

Question. You say he turned off into the field. Why could he not, with the road clear before him, if he was in advance, move forward so as to keep clear of the others?

Answer. He might, if the movements were made with perfect regularity.

Question. He had no artillery, and was first on the road. Why did he not pass over the road so as to offer no obstruction?

Answer. Because, by passing into the field he would have given the rear columns the advantage of two miles and a half of clear track, which there was a possibility might be interfered with, but which was not interfered with.

Question. Were Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns in advance of the position where Keyes turned off the main road?

Answer. .No, sir; they moved from behind Centreville on the morning of the 21st.

Question. If he was first on the road, and they were behind him, and he had nothing but infantry, why could he not have moved forward with sufficient celerity to leave the road open to the rest as fast as they advanced?

Answer. He could if the column in advance of him had moved with perfect regularity.

Question. What column was in advance?

Answer. Sherman’s brigade and Schenck’s brigade.

Question. Then it was your division which obstructed his movement forward :

Answer. We did not obstruct him at all. When I ordered Keyes into the field he had not reached the rear of my division. But seeing the possibility of an interference, I ordered him into the field.

Question. If he had marched up and joined your division, as your division then was, would the rear of his brigade have extended back to the junction of the road where the others turned off?

Answer. At the time he joined us?

Question. Yes, sir.

Answer. I think it would at that moment; but still we were all advancing.

Question. Then did you make the movement into the field with Keyes’s brigade in order to prevent that difficulty?

Answer. It was to prevent a circumstance that might occur. It was to prevent difficulty, when I knew there were two brigades in advance of him, and to carry out the instruction to march through the field. It was not that any difficulty had occurred, but to take every precaution against any such occurrence. I had not seen the head of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns, and I did not know where they were. But foreseeing the difficulty of moving 20,000 men over* one turnpike, after getting the artillery and wagons and ammunition into line, I saw that there must be difficulty, and to obviate that as far as possible I rode back and ordered Keyes, who was without artillery, to file out into the field. At that time I did not know where Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns were, and I did not know that they had moved a foot.

Question. Did you see the rear of General Keyes’s column?

Answer. I did not. I only saw the leading regiment filed into the field.

Question. You do not know whether Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns was directly in the rear of Keyes’s brigade or not?

Answer. No, sir; but I wanted to provide against a contingency.

Question. At that moment you did not know the condition of things in the rear of Keyes’s command?

Answer. I did not. I had no idea where Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns were. I supposed they were on the road, however, but I did not know where; but I wanted to do all in my power to remedy any possible difficulty that might occur.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. The first attack on Thursday, I understood you to say, was made by a single brigade?

Answer. It was made by four companies of a brigade. There were never more than 300 men, except artillery, engaged with the enemy at any time.

Question. Supported by a brigade?

Answer. Yes, sir; by Richardson’s brigade.

Question. Should that attack on Thursday have been made at all, unless it was followed up and made successful?

Answer. It was not an attack. It was merely a reconnoissance to ascertain what force they had there on Bull Run. It was not the intention to make an attack. And the very moment the force of the enemy was discovered, which it was important to know, ‘that moment the troops were withdrawn, and merely a cannonade kept up in order to see what effect it would have upon the men in the bottom of Bull Run. The whole affair was over before six o’clock. It was one of those advance engagements that spring np sometimes without any expectation of anything very important coming froin it.

Question. It was intended as a mere reconnoissance?

Answer. Yes, sir. After we had ascertained the force of the enemy there, I ordered Richardson to withdraw his brigade. He was very anxious to make an attack at the time, and was very confident that he could repulse them and force them out of the woods. I told him our object was not to bring on an engagement. But there was one thing very significant in that affair. Richardson’s brigade moved along the whole front of that wood, and skirted it along without being attacked, though Beauregard says he had seventeen regiments in the woods there. The reason was that Richardson was supported by the artillery on the hill, and the enemy would have suffered very severely if he had made any attack.

Question. Was it your understanding that Patterson was to hold Johnston in the valley of Winchester?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. You did not expect Johnston down there?

Answer. No, sir.

Question. Had Patterson held Johnston, what, in your judgment, would have been the result of that battle?

Answer. We should have whipped Beauregard beyond a question.

Question. Then you deem that the real cause of that defeat was the failure of Patterson to hold Johnston back?

Answer. Undoubtedly. From Blackburn’s Ford we could have a fair view of Manassas, and could see what they had there; and I have never had the least doubt that if Patterson had kept Johnston’s army out of the way we would have whipped Manassas itself.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. You think if you had driven Beauregard into and upon Manassas, you could have driven him out of it?

Answer. Yes, sir; if Johnston had been kept out of the way. There has been a great deal said about their fortifications there. It was the understanding that, from Flint Hill to Gormantown, we should find a succession of very severe abattis and batteries, which would render it a very difficult passage for our troops. We first fell in with, on advancing from Flint Hill, an abattis, which was so miserably constructed that the axe-men of one of our Maine regiments cut it out in the course of fifteen minutes, so that our brigade passed right on. We found a second one of the same character; and then we found an abandoned battery, which two rifled guns could have knocked to pieces in fifteen minutes. At Centreville all the fortifications were of exactly the same character. They were the meanest, most miserable works ever got up by military men. And I have no reason to believe that, even back as far as Manassas, they were much better constructed than they were on this side the run.

Question. Then you attribute the advantages of the enemy in that fight, and the advantages which they probably would have had at Manassas, so far as they would have had any, to the natural location of the country, rather than to any earthworks or artificial works that had been erected?

Answer. Yes, sir; at Manassas particularly. There they had an elevation in their favor, and we would have been obliged to attack them there to some disadvantage.

Question. I suppose you knew, when you moved forward to make the attack, you were moving forward with undisciplined troops; but you also knew you were to attack undisciplined troops?

Answer. We supposed our men were equal to theirs, and we found them to be so.

Question. You did not expect perfection in our movements any more than you did in theirs?

Answer. There was nothing in their troops that I saw that induced me to believe that their discipline and instruction was in any way superior to ours.

Question.  Do you know the particulars of the loss of Griffin’s and Ricketts’s batteries that day?

Answer. They were on the opposite side of the hill from me, and I did not see them. But I think the loss of those two batteries created the panic.

Question. Do you think it very probable the issue of that battle would have been different if those batteries had not been lost?

Answer. I think if we could have had two good batteries there we could have done a great deal better than we did. I think the loss of those two batteries had a great effect upon us.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Did you receive from General McDowell, through his aid, Mr. Kingsbury, orders to make a more rapid advance?

Answer. No, sir; I did not.





JCCW – Gen. Erasmus D. Keyes

13 07 2009

Testimony of Gen. Erasmus D. Keyes

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 149-152

WASHINGTON, January 8, 1862.

General E. D. KEYES sworn and examined.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. Were you in the battle of Bull Run as brigadier general?

Answer. Yes, sir; I was acting brigadier; I was then a colonel.

Question. Will you tell us in what part of the field you were; and, in short, what you saw—what came under your own observation on that day?

Answer. I crossed Bull Run, directly following Sherman. I was in Tyler’s division and followed Sherman, and came into action on the left of our line, and my line of operations was down Bull Run, across the Warrenton turnpike. I crossed about half a mile above Stone Bridge and came into action a little before 11 o’clock, and passed to the left, and moved down a little parallel to Bull Run; and when I received orders to retire, I was nearly a mile in advance’ of the position where I had commenced. When I started into the action I was close up with Sherman’s brigade; but as I advanced forward, and got along a line of heights that overlooked Bull Run, Sherman’s brigade diverged from me, and I found myself separated from them, so that I saw nothing up there, except at a distance, beyond what related to my own brigade. I continued to advance, and was continually under fire until about 4 o’clock, when I received orders that our troops were retiring. I came off in perfect order, and was in perfect order all the day.

Question. You were on the left?

Answer. Yes, sir; opposed to the right of the enemy.

Question. Then, so far as you saw in your immediate vicinity, there was no rout?

Answer. No, sir; there was no confusion. I retired in just the same order nearly as I went into the fight; but when the masses mingled together as they came to cross Bull Run, there was confusion.

Question. What proportion of our troops reached the run without rout?

Answer. I being on the extreme left, of course all our people who withdrew before the enemy had to go a much longer distance than I had to go to reach Bull Run, because I was near to it at the time I received orders to retire. I moved up almost perpendicularly to the line of retreat of the balance of the army. As I approached the line of men in retreat they were all walking; I saw nobody run or trot even until coming down to Bull Run. In coming down there a great many wounded men were carried along, and I was detained so that the whole of my brigade got past me. I saw the quartermaster when I crossed Bull Run, and asked him where the teams were, and he said they were ahead; he saved them all but one, and got them back to camp. I then inquired of some ten or twelve squads of men to find out if they belonged to my brigade, and I found but one that did. Shortly after that a staff officer of mine came up and told me that my brigade was all ahead. I increased my pace, and got back to Centreville a little after dark, and found nearly all my brigade there. I did not come to the Potomac until Tuesday evening. There was no confusion at all in the whole affair, so far as my brigade was concerned, except very slightly in the retreat from Bull Run to the camp at Centreville; that I considered a perfect rout.

Question. You were in Tyler’s division, and you moved first on the field in the morning?

Answer. Our division started first; but I received orders to make way for Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions to pass through, as they had to go further to the right. So that before I got into action it was nearly eleven o’clock.

Question. Do you know why your division was stopped for the other divisions to pass through?

Answer. I thought it very obvious. Hunter had to go furthest up Bull Run to cross; then Heintzelman had to go next; and the next lower down was Tyler’s division. To enable the several divisions to arrive about simultaneous against the enemy, Hunter should go first and Heintzelman next. The reason we started first was, because our division was encamped ahead of the others mostly.

Question. How far from where you started did Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions turn off?

Answer. Heintzelman’s division passed through mine in the neighborhood of Cub Run.

Question. How far did they go on the same route you were going?

Answer. About a half or three-quarters of a mile beyond Cub Run, I think. I was not with them, but that is my impression.

Question. Do you know from whom the order proceeded for you to let the other divisions pass through your division?

Answer. My first order was from General Tyler, and then I received another order from General McDowell to remain where I was. When I sent word forward to know if I should go forward, General McDowell sent orders to remain where I was.

Question. Could you not have have passed on to the point where the other divisions turned off without bringing you in immediate contact with the enemy?

Answer. I think I could; yes, sir. But I did not know that at the time, and I do not know whether it was known to others or not.

By the chairman:

Question. To what did you attribute the disaster of that day?

Answer. To the want of 10,000 more troops—that is, I think if we had had 10,000 more troops than we had to go into action, say at eleven o’clock in the morning, we should certainly have beaten them. I followed along down the stream, and Sherman’s battery diverged from me, so that it left a wide gap between us, and 10,000 more men could have come in between me and Sherman, which was the weak point in our line, and before Johnston’s reserves came up it would have been won. I thought the day was won about two o’clock; but about half past three o’clock a sudden change in the firing took place, which, to my ear, was very ominous. I sent up my aide-de-camp to find out about the matter, but he did not come back.

Question. What time was it that you ascertained on the field of battle that Patterson had not detained Johnston’s column, but that it would probably be down there? Was it before the fight commenced?

Answer. There were rumors about the camp, to which I attached no particular importance. I supposed that Patterson was engaged up the river there, and would hold Johnston in check or follow him up if he should retreat. That was my impression at the time.

Question. Was that so understood at the time the battle was planned?

Answer. We had a council of war the night before the battle, but it was a very short one. It was not a council of war exactly; it was a mere specification of the line in which we should all proceed the next day. The plans appeared to have been digested and matured before that meeting was called. Whether anything was said about Johnston and Patterson at that meeting, I am not sure. I think not. That subject was discussed about the camp; but I know my own impression was that Patterson was opposed to Johnston, and would certainly follow him up if he should attempt to come and molest us. I know I conversed with some persons about it; but I do not think a word was said about it at the meeting the night before the battle.

Question. Had it been known that Patterson had not detained Johnston, would it not have been imprudent to hazard a battle there any how?

Answer. If it had been known that the 30,000 to 40,000 men that Johnston was said to have had, would have been upon us, it would have been impolitic to have made the attack on Sunday.

Question. If Johnston had not come down to the aid of Beauregard’s army, what, in your opinion, would have been the result of that battle?

Answer. My impression is that we should have won it. I know that the moment the shout went up from the other side, there appeared to be an instantaneous change in the whole sound of the battle, so much so that I sent my aid at the top of his speed to find out what was the matter. That, as far as I can learn, was the shout that went up from the enemy’s line when they found out for certain that it was Johnston and not Patterson that had come.

Question. Even after the disaster, what prevented your making a stand at Centreville, and sending for re-enforcements and renewing the fight there?

Answer. I was not the commander-in-chief.

Question. I know that; I only ask your opinion of what might have been done there.

Answer. If we .had had troops that were thoroughly disciplined it would have been the greatest military mistake in the world to have retreated further than Centreville. But as our troops were raw, and this capital appeared to be the point in issue, I think men of decided military ability might have been in doubt as to the policy of remaining there. There was a striking want of generalship on the other side for not following us. If they had followed us they might have come pell-mell into the capital.

Question. Was it not as likely that you could defend the capital on Centreville Heights as well as after the rout here?

Answer. I will simply tell you what I did myself. I came back to my old camp at Fall’s Church, and remained there until five o’clock on the afternoon of Tuesday, with my whole command. Then I marched them in good order, and passed three or four miles before I saw any of our own people. My impression then was that I could rally them there better than here. I acted upon that impulse myself. I did not bring my troops into town, which was the worst place in the world to restore order, but kept them in my camp at Fall’s Church.

Question. Was there not a strong brigade on Centreville Heights that had not been in the engagement at all on that day?

Answer. There was a division there—three brigades.

Question. Could.not a stand have been made there; and if it had been made, would our troops have been so demoralized as they were by running further?

Answer. It was a complicated question, and required, in my opinion, a first-rate head to decide; and if you have not a first-rate head of course you must guess a little. In my opinion it is a question that involves many considerations; first, the want of absolute command of the troops. The troops then were not in a sufficient state of discipline to enable any man living to have had an absolute command of them. The next point was to balance all the probabilities in regard to this capital; that is, was it more probable that the capital would fall into the hands of the enemy by retreating than by remaining there t I confess it was a question so complicated that I cannot answer it very definitely.

Question. If you had had knowledge on the ground, before the battle, of the condition of things with Patterson and Johnston, it seems to me that battle should not have been fought that day at all.

Answer. I should not have done it myself, certainly, if I had had that knowledge.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. I suppose there was no such absolute knowledge as that?

Answer. No, sir; I do not think there was.

By the chairman:

Question. Ought not military men to have been informed of that important and decisive fact before we made a movement?

Answer. It is certainly one of the axioms of the art of war to know what the columns are going to do, and where they are.

Question. Could not the railroad have been broken so as to prevent Johnston from coming down?

Answer. I suppose that Hunter’s column intended to push forward and disable that railroad, but he found work enough to do before he could undertake that. And in the heat of the day, after marching some fifteen miles, and being called upon to fight, they could not very easily have torn up a bridge.





Note From the Family of Romeyn Ayres

23 06 2009

I received this email the other day:

Hello Harry,

Thanks so much for doing a blog entry on my father’s great great grandfather, Romeyn Beck Ayres.   Today, Father’s Day, he had just shown me a photo from a magazine of Lincoln at Antietam where he inquired to the editors and they read the caption claiming Romeyn was 5th over to the left from Lincoln, the only one not wearing a hat.   But I found a caption online that says it was Col. Alexander S. Webb.  The photos on your site seem to confirm it was not him.

I am printing out the information you posted to show my father tomorrow.  This may be what wins him over re the internet.

Thanks again,

Tim Ayres

p.s.  I have my own wordpress blog, where I produce and rotate host a long running poetry show on our local college station.   Small world. 

madriveranthology.wordpress.com

Here’s a cropped version of the photo to which I think Tim is referring – click the thumbnail for a larger image:

AL-at-Antietam

The bareheaded fellow bears more of a resemblance to Webb than to Ayres.  That’s George Custer on the far right, by the way.

I’m not done with Ayres, commander of Sherman’s Battery (E, 3rd US) at Bull Run.  There’s a pretty cool story regarding his plot in Arlington National Cemetery and another of Tim’s ancestors. 





Hennessy on the Naming of “Stonewall”

16 04 2009

The following appeared in Vol. VIII, No. 2 of Civil War: The Magazine of the Civil War Society, March-April 1990, and is reproduced here with the permission of the author.  My notes in {brackets}.

Stonewall Jackson’s Nickname

What did General Bee really say at First Manassas?  And what did he mean?

By John Hennessy

This is the way the story goes: At noontime on July 21, 1861, a bright, warm summer day, the brash young Confederacy seemed on the brink of woeful disaster.  The brushy fields behind widow Judith Henry’s house were crowded with fugitives, gray-clad and blue-clad Confederates milling about, sweat-soaked, bleeding, confused, and dazed.  Officers rushed among them trying to restore formations shattered in the morning fight, but their yelling, cursing, and speechmaking did little good.

The tangled, frightened mob refused organization.  On the hills a mile to the north were 17,000 Federals, ready to advance, their muskets and bayonets glinting in the mid-day sun and their cannon steadily lobbing shells toward the Confederates.  The battle — the War itself — was only two hours old.  Could all be lost already?

So it seemed.  But then, suddenly, a column of men appeared, marching four abreast up a rutted road on the rear slope of Mrs. Henry’s hill.  Emerging from the timber, the column filed right, then left, the men lying down in the tall grass and pine thickets lining the eastern edge of Henry’s farm.  It consisted of five regiments, nearly 2500 men, all Virginians.  The man at their head was an obscure brigadier, no long ago a professor at the Virginia Military Institute, named Thomas J. Jackson.

Jackson’s arrival did not go unnoticed by those thousands of Confederates milling about in widow Henry’s meadow.  One of them, South Carolinian Barnard Bee, whose commission as Brigadier General carried the same date as Jackson’s, frantically rode up to the Virginian.  “General, they are beating us back”, Bee exclaimed, as if he were appealing to a superior officer.  Jackson, his eyes flashing in that soon-to-be-familiar way, coolly intoned his reply: “Sir, we will give them the bayonet.”  Reassured, Bee wheeled his horse and galloped back to the sorry mob behind Henry’s house.  To the north, the Federals prepared to attack.

Bee dashed among his troops, finding the remnants of the 4th Alabama, and beseeched them to fall in.  But the men, tired and scared, would have none of it.  Then Bee, in desperation, rose in his saddle, drew his sword and pointed through the roiling smoke toward Jackson.  “There stands Jackson like a stone wall!” he bellowed.  “Rally around the Virginians!”

Drummers beat the rally.  Tangled knots of soldiers shook themselves out into ragged lines.  In a short time the dazed mob of Alabamians had formed up into steady ranks, anchored on Jackson’s rock solid regiments.  The Confederates gripped their rifles tightly and peered down their barrels.  After what seemed like an interminable wait, the enemy appeared, stepping ever closer.  At the last possible moment, the Confederate line exploded in a blaze of fire that drove the Federals back.

Again the attack came on, and again Jackson’s men, assisted by Bee’s reformed mob, drove them back.  This time the Confederates rose and dashed headlong in pursuit, toward the Federal cannon.  The enemy troops began to flee in wanton panic.

Teetering on the edge of disaster at mid-day, the Confederates had by late afternoon won a stunning victory on the Plains of Manassas.  And it was largely thanks to a man who, because of his performance that day, would soon be known to the world as “Stonewall” Jackson.  At least, so the story goes.

***

This account of how Jackson received his nickname is one of the enduring legends of the War.  With its high drama and cool heroism, it has thrilled countless school children and battlefield visitors, inspired generations of writers, sculptors, orators and soldiers.

But a century of enthusiastic retellings and embellishments — along with some festering skepticism — have taken their toll.  Fact and fiction have been melded into the story until they are indistinguishable.  And trying to separate them is not merely difficult; it is construed by worshipers of Jackson as a kind of historical blasphemy.  Yet his detractors persist, telling us that the story is overblown or misconstrued — that only the faintest strands of truth remain.

Clearly, it is time for a re-examination.  We must see whether we can find out what, exactly, Bee said — if indeed he said anything.  We must inquire into when he said it, and why.

The story gained notoriety quickly.  Only four days after the battle, a correspondent of the Charleston Mercury informed his readers of Jackson’s stoic retort to Bee, and Bee’s comparison of Jackson to a stone wall.  The story, and the inevitable nickname, spread quickly through the army, and within a few months General Jackson had become simply “Stonewall.”  And as such, by the end of the War, he had become one of the most famous men in the world.

As a foremost martyr to the Lost Cause, Jackson became after the War a subject of veneration, as did the legend of his christening at First Manassas.  Alleged eyewitnesses to the event (most of them members of the Stonewall Brigade) stepped forward by the dozens to reiterate and embroider the now-unshakeable myth.   Sanitized and polished, the story became a treasured piece of Virginiana, a staple of Southern lore.

Lurking in the shadows of the rosy glow, however, was a small but growing army of skeptics who, with considerable vigor, questioned the basic circumstances and meaning of the events of July 21, 1861.  Some, claiming that no reliable eyewitnesses ever emerged, went so far as to insist the Bee-Jackson incident never occurred.  North Carolinian D. H. Hill, for example, probably motivated as much by the age-old Carolinian resentment of Virginia gentility as by the absence of verifiable sources, labeled the entire episode “sheer fabrication.”

Others chose to re-interpret the legend, perhaps to reflect their own regional loyalties.  Bee’s fellow South Carolinian, Colonel John Cheves Haskell, said that according to sources he deemed reliable, Bee was actually denouncing Jackson by calling him a “stone wall,” because Jackson had refused to come to the aid of Bee’s “hard pressed” troops.  Virginians, on the other hand, put special emphasis on the postscript to the stone-wall reference – the part that went “rally around the Virginians.”  It is not surprising that the impressive statue of Jackson that today commands Henry Hill bears those very words.  It was erected by the State of Virginia.

Historians picking their way through this minefield of sectional and personal partisanship had to step carefully.  Most referred to the incident vaguely enough to avoid error; as R. M. Johnston put it in 1913, “something was said by somebody, during or immediately after the battle, that likened Jackson or his men or both to a stone wall.”  What these writers lacked was not the will to tackle the issue, but rather two essentials: reliable eyewitness accounts of the Jackson-Bee exchange, and comprehensive details of the events on Henry Hill that Sunday.

For some time, in fact, there was available only one primary account of what Jackson said to Bee, and vice versa.  It was written long after the war, in the 1890s, by Lieutenant William Robbins of Bee’s 4th Alabama Infantry.  By the time it appeared, the legend was already in place, and historians tended either to interpret the Robbins account to fit the legend, or in the case of a lack of fit, to discount Robbins’s account altogether.

Recently, however, three new eyewitness accounts have come to light, all written by members of the 4th Alabama, that confirm and expand upon Robbins’s account.  Two of them, a diary kept by Chaplain James G. Hudson {James G. Hudson, A Story of Company D, 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment, C.S.A., edited by Alma H. Pate, Alabama Historical Quarterly, (Spring 1961), XXIII} and the official report of Captain Thomas Goldsby, were in all probability written within a week of the battle.  The other account is an unpublished history of the 4th Alabama, by Robert T. Coles, written in 1909 {since published: Robert T. Coles, From Huntsville to Appomattox: R. T. Coles’s History of 4th Regiment, Alabama Volunteer Infantry, C.S.A., Army of Northern Virginia, edited by Jeffrey D. Stocker, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996}.  Together, these four memoirs provide a clear and consistent picture of a very trying day for the 4th Alabama Infantry.

That July Sunday began full of hope and excitement for the men of the 4th Alabama, poised as they were near the center of the Confederate line at Blackburn’s Ford, certain they would be in the thick of the day’s fighting.  At 7 a.m., however, anticipation turned to disappointment.  The 4th was ordered into column and marched several miles north to the Stone Bridge — away, the grumbling men were sure, from the combat and the glory they craved.

As they neared the Stone Bridge, however, their mood changed yet again.  In front they could hear the rattle of musketry, and word came down the line of a potential crisis.  The Federals were trying to outflank the Confederates by crossing Bull Run two miles to above the Southerner’s left.  Eager for what one man called, “a chance to get a dab at the Yankees”, Bee’s men hurried over narrow roads and fence-studded farmland and, after only the briefest halt, threw themselves into the desperate fight on Matthew’s Hill.

Bee’s bloody attempt to drive back the Federal flanking column failed miserably.  By 11:30 a.m., the wreck of the 4th Alabama, along with two or three thousand other overwhelmed Confederates, was streaming back across the Warrenton Turnpike and up the slope of Mrs. Henry’s hill.

Once there, as the legend correctly holds, the Confederates milled about in disorganized mobs, edging toward the rear.  Then Jackson and his five regiments arrived.  Bee saw him, rode to him and, as related by a correspondent of the Mercury, told him of his plight.  “Sir, we will give them the bayonet”, Jackson told him.  Jackson in his after-action report confirmed the meeting with Bee: “Before arriving within cannon range of the enemy I met General Bee’s forces falling back.  I continued to advance with the understanding he would form in my rear.”

Here the legend and the eyewitness accounts begin to differ dramatically.  In the legendary version of the story it was at this time, about noon, that Bee returned to his troops and launched Jackson toward immortality.  But according to all four eyewitness accounts, Bee’s famous words were not spoken until two or three hours later.  By that time the tactical situation, and hence the meaning of what Bee said, were fundamentally changed.

The eyewitnesses recalled that Bee’s men, in serious trouble, continued rearward and formed 400 yards behind the right of Jackson’s line.  Captain Goldsby, on command of the 4th Alabama, wrote in his report, “Without any field officers, and almost surrounded by the enemy, we again fell back through a pine woods to an open field where we halted and awaited orders.  The thirst of the men was intense and almost intolerable.”

Meanwhile, one-quarter of a mile away, Jackson hurried to patch together a line of artillery in front of his now-prone infantrymen along the eastern edge of Henry Hill.  Benefitted greatly by a propitious lull granted him by the Federals, by 2 p.m. he had between 13 and 16 guns (no one knows for sure precisely how many) blazing away, including Alburtis’s Battery (the Wise Artillery), commanded by young Lieutenant John Pelham.

At about 2:30 p.m., 11 Union guns unexpectedly wheeled into position abreast of Widow Henry’s house, not 500 yards from Jackson’s line, and opened fire.  They were soon followed by Federal infantry.  The blueclad troops slowly closed with Jackson’s line, but hesitated, unsure of what they were facing.  Jackson’s men — at least a good number of them — rose and fired the first volley.

It was a savage firefight for a few minutes, but soon the Federals beat a hasty retreat to the cover of Sudley Road.  Jackson’s men, well satisfied by the apparent ease of their success, did not pursue.  In a few minutes yet another line of Unionists appeared, and again the Yankees approached Jackson’s line.  The Virginians’ task would not be so simple this time.

Meanwhile, Captain Goldsby and his tired band of Alabamians lay in the fields to Jackson’s right rear, waiting for someone to tell them what to do.  Soon General Bee galloped up to the regiment.  He had apparently been lost for some time, unable to find any familiar troops, and was anxious to get back into the fight.

All four eyewitnesses noted Bee’s bewildered arrival.  According to Goldsby, “At this place, a half mile behind our original position amid the bursting shells and the rattling storm of musketry, our heroic General Bee rode up to the regiment and inquired what troops we were.  Being told that ‘it was what remained of the 4th Alabama,’ he replied with an expressive gesture, ‘This is all of my brigade that I can find — will you follow me back to where the firing is going on?’  ‘To the death’ was the response.”

Regimental Chaplain Hudson, writing in his diary soon after the battle, recalled Bee’s arrival similarly: “While the 4th Regiment was recovering, General Bee rode up and asked who would follow him to the conflict.  Every man rose up, raised a shout and replied, ‘We will follow you to the death.'”

Lieutenant Robbins, writing in the 1890s, left yet another description that helps fix the position of the 4th Alabama and clearly indicates that by now Jackson’s men had become heavily engaged.  General Bee, wrote Robbins, ‘galloped up to the remnant of the 4th Alabama Regiment, which was so cut to pieces that Bee seemed not to recognize us at first, and he asked the question, ‘What regiment is this?’  We answered him, ‘The Fourth Alabama.’  At that time the heaviest masses of the Federals had so inclined to the left as to leave us comparatively unengaged, with little more than a skirmish line in our immediate front; but Jackson and his brigade, who were in position on high ground about 500 yards to our left, were being assailed by mighty masses of the enemy.  It was plainly the crisis of the day.  Bee then said to us, ‘Men can you make a charge of the bayonet?’ to which our poor battered regiment still had the pluck to respond, ‘Yes General; we’ll go wherever you lead and do whatever you say.'”

Private Robert Coles wrote in 1909 that at 2 p.m. “General Bee, very much depressed at the unfortunate turn of affairs, then proceeded to collect his forces.  Riding up to the 4th Alabama, he inquired what regiment is this; Captain Richard Clark and Captain Porter King quickly replied, ‘Why General, don’t you know your own men — this is what is left of the 4th Alabama.'”

These four accounts, remarkably consistent, point out two important facts that belie the legendery version of the story.  First, it is clear that at the time Bee spoke to the 4th, it was the general, not the regiment, who was discombobulated.  The regiment was simply lying still, waiting for orders.  There was, contrary to the legend, no rallying to be done (a point stressed by Lieutenant Robbins in another of his descriptions published in the Southern Historical Society Papers).

Bee, on the other hand, had been separated from his command for quite some time and was frantically trying to hunt up troops to bring back into the battle.  Which leads to the next point.  As Robbins explicitly states and the rest of the chroniclers imply, Jackson’s men were mightily engaged at the time of the incident.  It was Jackson, not Bee, who needed help.

Of Bee’s famous words, interestingly (and perhaps revealingly), the two men who wrote their recollections soon after the event said nothing, although clearly they were describing the same event as the post-war chroniclers.  Captain Goldsby wrote that after Bee spoke to the regiment, “he put himself on the left of our line and marched us by the left flank to where the fight was ranging around Sherman’s Battery.”  (Ricketts’s and Griffin’s batteries, the two Union batteries engaged on Henry Hill, were erroneously referred to by the Confederates as “Sherman’s Battery.”)  Parson Hudson remembered in his diary, “General Bee then led off in the direction of the house where the old lady [Mrs. Henry] was killed, and near where Sherman’s Battery was taken.”

But both of the post-war writers remembered that before Bee led the regiment into the fight he had something else to say.  Private Coles wrote: “After stating that this was the only part of his command he could find, he then said, “Come with me and go yonder where Jackson stands like a stone wall.”  Lieutenant Robbins described the moment more precisely, and only slightly differently: “Bee then pointed to the conflict going on upon the elevated ground to our left and said: ‘Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall; Let’s go to his assistance.’  I, myself, was there and heard the words.”

These descriptions, the only eyewitness accounts available, put a distinctly different light on the entire incident.  Rather than the Virginians helping the Alabamians, as the legend generally holds, Bee’s men were instead going to help the Virginians.  This rather revolutionary perspective — guaranteed to raise a Virginians hackles and warm the heart of a Carolinian or Alabamian — is borne out further by the descriptions of Bee’s and his men’s subsequent activities.

Following Bee’s words the 4th Alabama rose, fell into column, and marched to Jackson’s assistance.  En route the regiment became confused when Alburtis’s battery of artillery left Jackson’s line and split the Alabama regiment.  Bee rallied them, and with 100 men joined Jackson in the counterattack that captured much of the Federal artillery on Henry Hill.  In this attack Bee was mortally wounded.

It is the descriptions of Bee’s march to Jackson’s aid that remove virtually all question of the timing of the “stone wall” incident, placing it at nearly 3 p.m., several hours later than the legend holds.  The key event that times Bee’s move, witnessed by all four writers, is the withdrawal of Jackson’s artillery, led by Alburtis’s battery, from Henry Hill.  That artillery, as related to William Nelson Pendleton’s after-action report, pulled out only when Jackson’s men became heavily involved with Yankee infantry.

Goldsby wrote of the 4th’s march to aid Jackson’s counterattack, “[Bee] put himself on the left of our line and marched us by the flank to where the fight was going on around Sherman’s Battery.  As we were nearing the scene, a train of artillery that was falling back cut our line, thus separating the left company from the rest of the regiment.  This company, with our general at its head, obliqued to the right, upon the open plain, and proceeded about 100 yards, when our gallant and beloved commander fell mortally wounded.”

Chaplain Hudson’s diary reads, “As the regiment was moving up a narrow road, through a pine thicket, Alburtis’s battery, which had been driven from the position, came dashing down the road under full headway.  The men were compelled to file right and left into the thicket to prevent being run over.”  Hudson goes on to add, supporting Goldsby, that Bee then gathered about a company and led them to “where the battle was raging hottest,” where he was very soon mortally wounded.

Robbins also describes the advance: “General Bee at once placed himself at our left and led the 4th Alabamians towards Jackson’s position.  During this movement Alburtis’s Battery was compelled to fall back and galloped right through our ranks, producing considerable confusion.”  And Robbins also says that Bee was wounded shortly thereafter.

Finally, Private Coles remembered the incident briefly, his account varying only to the extent that he claimed Alburtis’s battery was then going into position rather than leaving it, as is so clearly stated by the others.

This then is the evidence.  The four accounts – two wartime and two post-war — are convincingly consistent.  They lack even a hint of the speculation, fabrication, or embellishment so apparent in most descriptions of the affair, most of which were written by Virginians who were nowhere near Bee that day.  Moreover, the Alabamian’s descriptions dovetail precisely with the terrain (including the monument marking the spot of Bee’s mortal wounding) and the known sequence of events.  In short, there is no reason to doubt their veracity.  They make sense.  Where does all this leave the legend?

Clearly the circumstances surrounding Bee’s words were not nearly as dramatic as depicted in the legend.  The event took place about three hours later than is commonly believed.  The crisis of the day — the mayhem following the retreat from Matthew’s Hill — had long since passed.  There were no disorganized mobs, and the Confederacy was not gasping its last.  Instead, the 4th Alabama, with only a captain in command, lay quietly waiting for orders, hundreds of yards behind the main battle lines.  If anyone needed rallying at that moment it was Bee, not the 4th.  The general had been separated from his battered command for at least an hour and by all accounts was confused and discouraged.

The general’s language, and its impact on the battle, is perhaps disappointing to those fond of the more dramatic tradition.  “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall: let’s go to his assistance,” is hardly the stuff novelists, movie-makers, or sculptors would wish for, or would have you believe.  And while tradition tells us the image of Jackson standing like a stone wall electrified thousands of retreating Confederates and helped turn the battle’s tide, the evidence suggests that instead Bee’s words — some of the most famous uttered by any American — were probably heard by no more than 50 men and had not the slightest impact on the outcome of the battle.

On the other hand the circumstance of Jackson’s command at the time, according to the Alabamians, was significantly more trying than is commonly portrayed.  The Virginians were not lying quietly while the fight raged in front of them.  (There is no support for the Carolinians’ charge that Bee was damning Jackson’s inactivity by referring to him as a “stone wall”.)  Rather, they were heavily engaged in driving back a Union attack; even more literally than in the traditional versions, they were indeed standing like a stone wall.  And following the Federal repulse, Jackson’s men, joined by the ill-fated Bee, launched a counterattack that was in fact one of the day’s decisive moments.

So while this legend, like most, is not entirely accurate, devotees of Jackson and of romantic legend need not be disappointed, for neither is it apocryphal.  When Bee turned in his saddle, pointed through the billowing smoke toward Jackson’s battling men and yelled, “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall,” he established Jackson and his men as a standard of excellence, objects for emulation.  To this day their conduct, at First Manassas and on a dozen other fields, remains the soldier’s benchmark for excellence.  Even when stripped of hyperbole and bias to the bare-bones eyewitness accounts, the sentiment of the legend, if not its details, survives intact.





#73 – Capt. Del. Kemper

16 03 2009

Report of Capt. Del. Kemper, Alexandria/Light Artillery, of Retreat from Fairfax Court-House and Skirmish at Mitchell’s Ford

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 458-459

ARTILLERY QUARTERS ADVANCED FORCES:

FIRST BRIG., FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,

Vienna, July 25, 1861

GENERAL: On the morning of Wednesday, the 17th instant, while in camp at Fairfax Court-House, about 7 a.m. I received information from you of the approach of the enemy, and a reiteration of orders previously given in regard to the disposition of my guns. Two were at once placed in battery in front of Colonel Williams’ regiment, on the Alexandria turnpike, and two in front of Colonel Kershaw’s position, on the Falls Church road. At 8 o’clock the enemy came in sight on the Flint Hill road, and orders were received to fall back. In conjunction with Colonel Kershaw’s regiment and Captain Wickham’s troop I enjoyed the privilege of covering this retreat, the rear guard being under Colonel Kershaw’s command, to whose report [No. 67] I beg to refer for any additional details. The enemy seemed not disposed to press us closely, and we reached Centreville without incident worthy of note about 12 m., and rested until midnight, when the march was resumed to Bull Run.

We arrived at Mitchell’s Ford a little before daybreak on the morning of the 18th. Two of my guns were posted on the hill in front of the trenches at Mitchell’s Ford; the others in the trenches. At 12 m. (Thursday, 18th) the enemy opened fire from one or more rifled guns in front of our position at a distance of one and one-half miles. This firing was completely at random until 12.30 o’clock, when they obtained the range of my position and fired many rounds of case and solid shot at us, but without  injury to us, while a light battery moved up toward us. I then opened fire upon the latter, firing six solid shot, and had the satisfaction of driving back the battery and its supports. I have since understood that this was Sherman’s battery, and that the amount of damage done them was considerable. We at once retired to the trenches in obedience to your orders.

Late in the evening, about 4 o’clock, I was ordered to accompany, with one gun, Colonel Kershaw’s regiment to the hill which we had before occupied, in front of Mitchell’s Ford, for the purpose of driving a body of infantry and cavalry from the cover of the hills beyond. Two solid shot and three spherical case having accomplished this object to Colonel Kershaw’s satisfaction, we returned to our respective positions in and behind the trenches. We were inactive listeners to the heavy firing on our right, and about dusk were ordered to move with Colonel Kershaw’s regiment to the left of the intrenchments.

I am glad to be able to add that no member of my command suffered any injury during these operations.

Respectfully, general, your obedient servant

DEL. KEMPER,

Captain, Comdg. Battery of Light Artillery from Alexandria

Brigadier-General BONHAM,

Commanding. First Brigade, &c.





#64 – Gen. G. T. Beauregard

22 02 2009

Reports of General G. T. Beauregard, Commanding Confederate Army of the Potomac, of Operations from July 17 to 20

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 439-448

MANASSAS, July 17, 1861

JEFFERSON DAVIS,

President of the Confederate States:

The enemy has assailed my outposts in heavy force. I have fallen back on the line of Bull Run, and will make a stand at Mitchell’s Ford.If his force is overwhelming I shall retire to the Rappahannock Railroad Bridge, saving my command for defense there and future operations. Please inform Johnston of this, via Staunton, and also Holmes. Send forward any re-enforcements at the earliest possible instant and by every possible means.

G. T. BEAUREGARD

—–

HDQRS. FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,

Manassas, August –, 1861

GENERAL: With the general results of the engagement between several brigades of my command and a considerable force of the enemy in the vicinity of Mitchell’s and Blackburn’s Fords, at Bull Run, on the 18th ultimo, you were made duly acquainted at the time by telegraph, but it is my place now to submit in detail the operations of that day.

Opportunely informed of the determination of the enemy to advance on Manassas, my advanced brigades, on the night of the 16th of July, were made aware from these headquarters of the impending movement, and in exact accordance with my instructions (a copy of which is appended, marked A), their withdrawal within the lines of Bull Run was effected with complete success during the day and night of the 17th ultimo, in face of and in immediate proximity to a largely superior force, despite a well-planned, well-executed effort to cut off the retreat of Bonham’s brigade first at Germantown and subsequently at Centreville, whence he withdrew by my direction after midnight without collision, although enveloped on three sides by their lines. This movement had the intended effect of deceiving the enemy as to my ulterior purposes, and led him to anticipate an unresisted passage of Bull Run.

As prescribed in the first and second sections of the paper herewith, marked A, on the morning of the 18th of July, my troops, resting on Bull Run from Union Mills Ford to the stone bridge, a distance of about eight miles, were posted as follows:

Ewell’s brigade occupied a position in vicinity of the Union Mills Ford. It consisted of Rodes’ Fifth and Seibels’ Sixth Regiments of Alabama, and Seymour’s Sixth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers, with four 12-pounder howitzers of Walton’s battery, and Harrison’s, Green’s, and Cabell’s companies of Virginia Cavalry.

D. R. Jones’ brigade was in position in rear of McLean’s Ford, and consisted of Jenkins’ Fifth South Carolina and Burt’s Eighteenth and Featherston’s Seventeenth Regiments of Mississippi Volunteers, with two brass 6-pounder guns of Walton’s battery, and one company of cavalry.

Longstreet’s brigade covered Blackburn’s Ford, and consisted of Moore’s First, Garland’s Eleventh, and Corse’s Seventeenth Regiments Virginia Volunteers, with two 6-pounder brass guns of Walton’s battery.

Bonham’s brigade held the approaches to Mitchell’s Ford. It was composed of Kershaw’s Second, Williams’ Third, Bacon’s Seventh, and Cash’s Eighth Regiments South Carolina Volunteers; of Shields’ and Del. Kemper’s batteries, and of Flood’s, Radford’s, Payne’s, Ball’s, Wickham’s, and Powell’s companies of Virginia Cavalry, under Colonel Radford.

Cooke’s brigade held the fords below and in the vicinity of the stone bridge, and consisted of Withers’ Eighteenth, Lieutenant-Colonel Strange’s Nineteenth, and R. T. Preston’s Twenty-eighth Regiments, with Latham’s battery, and one company of cavalry, Virginia Volunteers.

Evans held my left flank, and protected the stone bridge crossing, with Sloan’s Fourth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, Wheat’s special battalion Louisiana Volunteers, four 6-pounder guns, and two companies of Virginia Cavalry.

Early’s brigade, consisting of Kemper’s Seventh and Early’s Twenty-fourth Regiments Virginia Volunteers; Hays’ Seventh Regiment Louisiana Volunteers, and three rifled pieces of Walton’s battery–Lieutenant Squires–at first were held in position in the rear of and as a support to Ewell’s brigade, until after the development of the enemy in heavy offensive force in front of Mitchell’s and Blackburn’s Fords, when it was placed in rear of and nearly equidistant between McLean’s, Blackburn’s, and Mitchell’s Fords.

Pending the development of the enemy’s purpose, about 10 o’clock a.m. I established my headquarters at a central point (McLean’s farmhouse), near to McLean’s and Blackburn’s Fords, where two 6-pounders of Walton’s battery were in reserve, but subsequently during the engagement I took post to the left of my reserve.

Of the topographical features of the country thus occupied it must suffice to say that Bull Run is a small stream, running in this locality nearly from west to east to its confluence with the Occoquan River, about twelve miles from the Potomac, and draining a considerable scope of country from its source in Bull Run Mountain to a short distance of the Potomac at Occoquan. At this season habitually low and sluggish, it is, however, rapidly and frequently swollen by the summer rains until unfordable. The banks for the most part are rocky and steep, but abound in long-used fords. The country on either side, much broken and thickly wooded, becomes gently rolling and open as it recedes from the stream. On the northern side the ground is much the highest, and commands the other bank completely. Roads traverse and intersect the surrounding country in almost every direction. Finally, at Mitchell’s Ford the stream is about equidistant between Centreville and Manassas, some six miles apart.

On the morning of the 18th, finding that the enemy was assuming a threatening attitude, in addition to the regiments whose positions have been already stated, I ordered up from Camp Pickens as a reserve, in rear of Bonham’s brigade, the effective men of six companies of Kelly’s Eighth Regiment Louisiana Volunteers and Kirkland’s Eleventh Regiment North Carolina Volunteers, which, having arrived the night before en route for Winchester, I had halted in view of the existing necessities of the service. Subsequently the latter was placed in position to the left of Bonham’s brigade.

Appearing in heavy force in front of Bonham’s position, the enemy, about meridian, opened fire with several 20-pounder rifled guns from a hill over one and a half miles from Bull Run. At the same time Kemper, supported by two companies of light infantry, occupied a ridge on the left of the Centreville road, about six hundred yards in advance of the ford, with two 6-pounder (smooth) guns. At first the firing of the enemy was at random, but by 12.30 p.m. he had obtained the range of our position, and poured into the brigade a shower of shot, but without injury to us in men, horses, or guns. From the distance, however, our guns could not reply with effect, and we did not attempt it, patiently awaiting a more opportune moment.

Meanwhile a light battery was pushed forward by the enemy, whereupon Kemper threw only six solid shot, with the effect of driving back both the battery and its supporting force. This is understood to have been Ayres’ battery, and the damage must have been considerable to have obliged such a retrograde movement on the part of that officer. The purposes of Kemper’s position having now been fully served, his pieces and support were withdrawn across Mitchell’s Ford to a point previously designated, and which commanded the direct approaches to the ford.

About 11.30 o’clock a.m. the enemy was also discovered by the pickets of Longstreet’s brigade advancing in strong columns of infantry with artillery and cavalry on Blackburn’s Ford. At meridian the pickets fell back silently before the advancing foe across the ford, which, as well as the entire southern bank of the stream for the whole front of Longstreet’s brigade, was covered at the water’s edge by an extended line of skirmishers, while two 6-pounders of Walton’s battery, under Lieutenant Garnett, were advantageously placed to command the direct approach to the ford, but with orders to retire to the rear as soon as commanded by the enemy.

The northern bank of the stream in front of Longstreet’s position rises with a steep slope at least fifty feet above the level of the water, leaving a narrow berme in front of the ford of some twenty yards. This ridge formed for them an admirable natural parapet, behind which they could and did approach under shelter in heavy force within less than one hundred yards of our skirmishers. The southern shore was almost a plain, raised but a few feet above the water for several hundred yards; then rising with a very gradual, gentle slope and undulations back to Manassas. On the immediate bank there was a fringe of trees, but with little if any undergrowth or shelter, while on the other shore there were timber and much thick brush and covering. The ground in rear of our skirmishers and occupied by our artillery was an old field, extending along the stream about one mile, and immediately back for about half a mile to a border or skirting of dense second-growth pines. The whole of this ground was commanded at all points by the ridge occupied by the enemy’s musketry, as was also the country to the rear for a distance much beyond the range of 20-pounder rifled guns by the range of hills on which their batteries were planted, and which it may be further noted commanded also all our approaches from this direction to the three threatened fords.

Before advancing his infantry the enemy maintained a fire of rifled artillery from the batteries just mentioned for half an hour; then he pushed forward a column of over three thousand infantry to the assault, with such a weight of numbers as to be repelled with difficulty by the comparatively small force of not more than twelve hundred bayonets with which Brigadier-General Longstreet met him with characteristic vigor and intrepidity. Our troops engaged at this time were the First and Seventeenth and four companies of the Eleventh Regiments Virginia Volunteers. Their resistance was resolute, and maintained with a steadiness worthy of all praise. It was successful, and the enemy was repulsed. In a short time, however, he returned to the contest with increased force and determination, but was again foiled and driven back by our skirmishers and Longstreet’s reserve companies, which were brought up and employed at the most vigorously-assailed points at the critical moment.

It was now that Brigadier-General Longstreet sent for re-enforcements from Early’s brigade, which I had anticipated by directing the advance of General Early with two regiments of infantry and two pieces of artillery. As these came upon the field the enemy had advanced a third time with heavy numbers to force Longstreet’s position. Hays’ regiment, Seventh Louisiana Volunteers, which was in advance, was placed on the bank of the stream under some cover to the immediate right and left of the ford, relieving Corse’s regiment (Seventeenth Virginia Volunteers). This was done under a heavy fire of musketry with promising steadiness. The Seventh Virginia, under Lieutenant-Colonel Williams, was then formed to the right, also under heavy fire, and pushed forward to the stream, relieving the First Regiment Virginia Volunteers. At the same time two rifled guns brought up with Early’s brigade were moved down in the field to the right of the road, so as to be concealed from the enemy’s artillery by the girth of timber on the immediate bank of the stream, and there opened fire, directed only by the sound of the enemy’s musketry.

Unable to effect a passage, the enemy kept up a scattering fire for some time. Some of our troops had pushed across the stream, and several small parties of Corse’s regiment, under command of Captain Marye, met and drove the enemy with the bayonet; but as the roadway from the ford was too narrow for a combined movement in force, General Longstreet recalled them to the south bank. Meanwhile the remainder of Early’s infantry and artillery had been called up; that is, six companies of the Twenty-fourth Regiment Virginia Volunteers, under Lieutenant-Colonel Hairston, and five pieces of artillery, one rifled gun, and four 6-pounder brass guns, including two 6-pounder guns under Lieutenant Garnett, which had been previously sent to the rear by General Longstreet. This infantry was at once placed in position to the left of the ford, in a space unoccupied by Hays, and the artillery was unlimbered in battery to the right of the road, in a line with the two guns already in action. A scattering fire of musketry was still kept up by the enemy for a short time, but that was soon silenced.

It was at this stage of the affair that a remarkable artillery duel was commenced and maintained on our side with a long-trained professional opponent, superior in the character as well as in the number of his weapons, provided with improved munitions and every artillery appliance, and at the same time occupying the commanding position. The results were marvelous, and fitting precursors to the artillery achievements of the 21st of July. In the outset our fire was directed against the enemy’s infantry, whose bayonets, gleaming above the tree-tops, alone indicated their presence and force. This drew the attention of a battery placed on a high, commanding ridge, and the duel began in earnest. For a time the aim of the adversary was inaccurate, but this was quickly corrected, and shot fell and shells burst thick and fast in the very midst of our battery, wounding in the course of the combat Captain Eshleman, five privates, and the horse of Lieutenant Richardson. From the position of our pieces and the nature of the ground their aim could only be directed at the smoke of the enemy’s artillery. How skillfully and with what execution this was done can only be realized by an eye-witness. For a few moments their guns were silenced, but were soon reopened. By direction of General Longstreet, his battery was then advanced by hand out of the range now ascertained by the enemy, and a shower of spherical case, shell, and round shot flew over the heads of our gunners. But one of our pieces had become hors de combat from an enlarged vent.

From the new position our guns fired as before, with no other aim than the smoke and flash of their adversaries’ pieces, renewed and urged the conflict with such signal vigor and effect, that gradually the fire of the enemy slackened, the intervals between their discharges grew longer and longer, finally to cease, and we fired a last gun at a baffled, flying foe, whose heavy masses in the distance were plainly seen to break and scatter in wild confusion and utter rout, strewing the ground with castaway guns, hats, blankets, and knapsacks as our parting shell were thrown among them. In their retreat one of their pieces was abandoned, but from the nature of the ground it was not sent for that night, and under cover of darkness the enemy recovered it.

The guns engaged in this singular conflict on our side were three 6-pounder rifled pieces and four ordinary 6-pounders, all of Walton’s battery, Washington Artillery, of New Orleans. The officers immediately attached were Captain Eshleman, Lieuts. C. W. Squires, Richardson, Garnett, and Whittington. At the same time our infantry held the bank of the stream in advance of our guns, and the missiles of the combatants flew to and fro above them, as cool and veteran-like for more than an hour they steadily awaited the moment and signal for the advance.

While the conflict was at its height before Blackburn’s Ford, about l o’clock p.m., the enemy again displayed himself in force before Bonham’s position. At this time Colonel Kershaw, with four companies of his regiment (Second South Carolina) and one piece of Kemper’s battery, were thrown across Mitchell’s Ford to the ridge which Kemper had occupied that morning. Two solid shot and three spherical case thrown among them with a precision inaugurated by that artillerist at Vienna effected their discomfiture and disappearance, and our troops in that quarter were again withdrawn within our lines, having discharged the duty assigned.

At the close of the engagement before Blackburn’s Ford I directed General Longstreet to withdraw the First and Seventeenth Regiments, which had borne the brunt of the action, to a position in reserve, leaving Colonel Early to occupy the field with his brigade and Garland’s regiment.

As a part of the history of this engagement I desire to place on record that on the 18th of July not one yard of intrenchments nor one rifle pit sheltered the men at Blackburn’s Ford, who, officers and men, with rare exceptions, were on that day for the first time under fire, and who, taking and maintaining every position ordered, cannot be too much commended for their soldierly behavior.

Our artillery was manned and officered by those who but yesterday were called from the civil avocations of a busy city. They were matched with the picked light artillery of the Federal Regular Army–Company E, Third Artillery, under Captain Ayres, with an armament, as their own chief of artillery admits, of two 10-pounder Parrott rifled guns, two 12-pounder howitzers, and two 6-pounder pieces, aided by two 20-pounder Parrott rifled guns of Company G, Fifth Artillery, under Lieutenant Benjamin. Thus matched, they drove their veteran adversaries from the field, giving confidence in and promise of the coming efficiency of that brilliant arm of our service.

Having thus related the main or general results and events of the action of Bull Run, in conclusion it is proper to signalize some of those who contributed most to the satisfactory results of that day. Thanks are due to Brigadier-Generals Bonham and Ewell and to Colonel Cocke and the officers under them for the ability shown in conducting and executing the retrograde movements on Bull Run directed in my orders of the 8th of July–movements on which hung the fortunes of this Army.

Brigadier-General Longstreet, who commanded immediately the troops engaged at Blackburn’s Ford on the 18th, equaled my confident expectations, and I may fitly say that by his presence at the right place at the right moment among his men, by the exhibition of characteristic coolness, and by his words of encouragement to the men of his command, he infused a confidence and spirit that contributed largely to the success of our arms on that day.

Colonel Early brought his brigade into position and subsequently into action with judgment, and at the proper moment; he displayed capacity for command and personal gallantry.

Colonel Moore, commanding the First Virginia Volunteers, was severely wounded at the head of his regiment, the command of which subsequently devolved upon Major Skinner, Lieutenant-Colonel Fry having been obliged to leave the field in consequence of a sun-stroke.

An accomplished, promising officer, Maj. Carter H. Harrison, Eleventh Regiment Virginia Volunteers, was lost to the service while leading two companies of his regiment against the enemy. He fell, twice shot, mortally wounded.

Brigadier-General Longstreet, while finding on all sides alacrity, ardor, and intelligence, mentions his special obligations to Colonels Moore, Garland, and Corse, commanding severally regiments of his brigade, and to their field officers, Lieutenant-Colonels Fry, Funsten, Munford, and Majors Brent and Skinner, of whom he says, “They displayed more coolness and energy than is usual among veterans of the old service.” General Longstreet also mentions the conduct of Captain Marye, of the Seventeenth Virginia Volunteers, as especially gallant on one occasion, in advance of the ford.

The regiments of Early’s brigade were commanded by Colonel Harry Hays and Lieutenant-Colonels Williams and Hairston, who handled their commands in action with satisfactory coolness and skill, supported by their field officers, Lieutenant-Colonel De Choiseul and Major Penn, of the Seventh Louisiana, and Major Patton, of the Seventh Virginia Volunteers.

The skill, the conduct, and the soldierly qualities of the Washington Artillery engaged were all that could be desired. The officers and men attached to the seven pieces already specified won for their battalion a distinction which I feel assured will never be tarnished, and which will ever serve to urge them and their corps to high endeavor. Lieutenant Squires worthily commanded the pieces in action. The commander of the battalion was necessarily absent from the immediate field, under orders in the sphere of his duties, but the fruits of his discipline, zeal, instruction, and capacity as an artillery commander were present, and must redound to his reputation.

On the left, at Mitchell’s Ford, while no serious engagement occurred, the conduct of all was eminently satisfactory to the general officers in command.

It is due, however, to Col. J. L. Kemper, Virginia forces, to express my sense of the value of his services in the preparation for and execution of the retreat from Fairfax Court-House on Bull Run. Called from the head of his regiment, by what appeared to me an imperative need of the service, to take charge of the superior duties of the quartermaster’s department with the advance at that critical juncture, he accepted the responsibilities involved, and was eminently efficient.

For further information touching officers and individuals of the First Brigade, and the details of the retrograde movement, I have to refer particularly to the report of Brigadier-General Bonham, herewith No. 66.

It is proper here to state that while from the outset it had been determined on the approach of the enemy in force to fall back and fight him on the line of Bull Run, yet the position occupied by General Ewell’s brigade, if necessary, could have been maintained against largely superior force. This was especially the case with the position of the Fifth Alabama Volunteers, Colonel Rodes, which that excellent officer had made capable of a resolute protracted defense against heavy odds. Accordingly, on the morning of the 17th ultimo, when the enemy appeared before that position, they were checked and held at bay with some confessed loss in a skirmish in advance of the works, in which Major Morgan and Captain Shelley, Fifth Regiment Alabama Volunteers, acted with intelligent gallantry, and the post was only abandoned under general, but specific, imperative orders, in conformity with a long-conceived established plan of action and battle.

Capt. E. P. Alexander, Confederate States Engineers, fortunately joined my headquarters in time to introduce the system of new field signals, which under his skillful management rendered me the most important service preceding and during the engagement.

The medical officers serving with the regiments engaged were at their proper posts and discharged their duties with satisfactory skill and zeal, and on one occasion at least, under an annoying fire, when Surgeon Cullen, First Regiment Virginia Volunteers, was obliged to remove our wounded from the hospital, which had become the special target of the enemy’s rifled guns, notwithstanding it was surmounted by the usual yellow hospital flag, but which, however, I hope for the sake of past associations was ignorantly mistaken for a Confederate flag. The name of each individual medical officer I cannot mention.

On the day of the engagement I was attended by my personal staff, Lieut. S. W. Ferguson, aide-de-camp and my volunteer aides-de-camp, Colonels Preston, Manning, Chesnut, Miles, Chisolm, and Hayward, of South Carolina, to all of whom I am greatly indebted for manifold essential services in the transmission of orders on the field and in the preliminary arrangements for the occupation and maintenance of the line of Bull Run.

Col. Thomas Jordan, assistant adjutant-general; Capt. C. H. Smith, assistant adjutant-general; Col. S. Jones, chief of artillery and ordnance;  Major Cabell, chief quartermaster; Capt. W. H. Fowle, chief of subsistence department; Surg. Thomas H. Williams, medical director, and Assistant Surgeon Brodie, medical purveyor, of the general staff, attached to the Army of the Potomac, were necessarily engaged severally with their responsible duties at my headquarters at Camp Pickens, which they discharged with an energy and intelligence for which I have to tender my sincere thanks.

Messrs. McLean, Wilcoxen, Kinchelo, and Brawner, citizens of this immediate vicinity, it is their due to say, have placed me and the country under great obligations for the information relative to this region, which has enabled me to avail myself of its defensive features and resources. They were found ever ready to give me their time without stint or reward.

Our casualties, in all sixty-eight killed and wounded, were fifteen (including two reported missing) killed, and fifty-three wounded, several of whom have since died. The loss of the enemy can only be conjectured. It was unquestionably heavy. In the cursory examination, which was made by details from Longstreet’s and Early’s brigades, on the 18th of July, of that part of the field immediately contested and near Blackburn’s Ford, some sixty-four corpses were found and buried. Some few wounded and at least twenty prisoners were also picked up, besides one hundred and seventy-five stand of arms, a large quantity of accouterments and blankets, and quite one hundred and fifty hats.

The effect of this day’s conflict was to satisfy the enemy he could not force a passage across Bull Run in the face of our troops, and led him into the flank movement of the 21st of July and the battle of Manassas, the details of which will be related in another paper.

Herewith I have the honor to transmit the reports of the several brigade commanders engaged and of the artillery; also a map of the field of battle.(*)

The rendition of this report, it is proper to say in conclusion, has been unavoidably delayed by the constantly engrossing administrative duties of the commander of an army corps composed wholly of volunteers, duties vitally essential to its well being and future efficiency, and which I could not set aside or postpone on any account.

I have the honor to be, general, your obedient servant,

G. T. BEAUREGARD,

General, Commanding

General S. COOPER,

Adjutant and Inspector General, C. S. Army

[Inclosure A.]

Special ORDERS, No. 100

HDQRS. ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,

Manassas Junction, July 8, 1861

Paragraph IV, of Special Orders, No. 51, from these headquarters, dated June 20, 1861, is revoked, and if attacked by a superior force of the enemy, the three brigades of the Army of the Potomac, serving in Fairfax County, will retire in the following manner and order:

I. The First Brigade on Mitchell’s Ford, of Bull Run, by way of Centreville.

II. The whole of the Fifth Brigade on Bull Run stone bridge, and adjacent fords, making a stand, if practicable, at the suspension bridge across Cub Run.

III. The Second Brigade, except Colonel Rodes’ regiment, will fall back via the railway and adjacent roads on Union Mills Ford and the railroad bridge across Bull Run, burning the bridges on their way.

The Fifth Regiment Alabama Volunteers, Colonel Rodes, will retire by way of Braddock’s old road and the nearest side roads to McLean’s Ford, on Bull Run, or Union Mills Ford, as most practicable. These brigades, thus in position, will make a desperate stand at the several points hereinbefore designated on the line of Bull Run, and will be supported as follows:

I. The Third Brigade will move forward to McLean’s Ford.

II. The Fourth Brigade will repair to Blackburn’s Ford.

III. The Sixth Brigade will be advanced to Union Mills Ford.

IV. Major Walton’s battery will repair to McLean’s farm-house by the shortest practicable route, with which he shall at once make himself and his officers thoroughly acquainted. At said farm-house he will await further orders.

Should the enemy march to the attack of Mitchell’s Ford via Centreville the following movements will be made with celerity:

I. The Fourth Brigade will march from Blackburn’s Ford to attack him on the flank and center.

II. The Third Brigade will be thrown to the attack of his center and rear towards Centreville.

III. The Second and Sixth Brigades united will also push forward and attack him in the rear by way of Centreville, protecting their own right flanks and rear from the direction of Fairfax Station and Court-House.

IV. In the event of the defeat of the enemy, the troops at Mitchell’s Ford and stone bridge, especially the cavalry and artillery, will join in the pursuit, which will be conducted with vigor but unceasing prudence, and continued until he shall have been driven beyond the Potomac.

V. The garrison of Camp Pickens and all existing guards and pickets inside of the lines of Bull Run and the Occoquan River will remain in position until otherwise ordered.

VI. The chiefs of the several staff corps attached to these headquarters will take all necessary measures to secure an efficient service of their respective departments in the exigency.

By order of Brigadier General Beauregard:

THOMAS JORDAN,

Acting Assistant Adjutant General

[Indorsement]

The plan of attack prescribed within would have been executed with modifications affecting First and Fifth Brigades to meet the attack upon Blackburn’s Ford but for the expected coming of General Johnston’s command, which was known to be en route to join me on the 18th of July.

G. T. BEAUREGARD,

General, Commanding

(*) Map not found.





#82e – Capt. Thomas J. Goldsby

28 12 2008

Supplemental Report

Report of Captain Thomas J. Goldsby, Fourth Alabama

SUPPLEMENT TO THE O.R. – VOL.1: REPORTS ADDENDUM TO SERIES I, VOL. 2, pp 171-174

Headquarters, Fourth Alabama Regiment

Camp Bee, near Manassas, [Virginia]

July 29, 1861

Sir: In obedience to your order of July 26, I submit the following report of the operations of the regiment, immediately preceding and during the battle of July 21.

In the evening of Thursday, July 18, we left our camp near Winchester, and started upon a forced march, across the Blue Ridge, en route for Manassas.  We marched all that night and the next day, arriving at Piedmont after nightfall on July 19.  At that point we took the cars and arrived at Manassas Junction about 9 o’clock on Saturday, July 20.  Our tents were left at Winchester, and the supply of food was scant and insufficient.  The men arrived at Camp Walker about ten o’clock a. m. on Saturday, hungry and much exhausted by the exposure and fatigue.

We bivouacked that day and night, obtaining some food which, with some rest, much refreshed and strengthened the men.

On Sunday, July 21, immediately after breakfast, we received the order to “fall in” with knapsacks and arms and take up the line of march towards where the fire of the enemy first opened.  After marching in that direction some three or four miles – most of the distance in double-quick time – our direction was suddenly changed towards the left of our line of battle, to which we marched a distance of some two miles, in quick and double-quick time.  The day was exceedingly hot, and the supply of water being small, the men arrived on the battlefield much exhausted.

I suppose it was about 9 o’clock a. m., when we reached a skirt of woods about 250 or 300 yards from the enemy’s line, when we halted and formed in line of battle.  The enemy were right in front of us in overpowering numbers – Sherman’s Battery fully commanding our position, supported by immense bodies of infantry. 

Hardly had we halted and formed before the order came to advance, which we did in double-quick, through the open field to within 100 yards of the enemy’s line, where we were commanded to “halt and lie down.”

The left of our regiment was in the cornfield, and the right in the open field.  The fire at once became general – our men rising to fire and lying down to load.

Our advance was covered by one piece of artillery, the fire of which did much to divert the attention of the enemy from our advance movements.  Even in that our of peril we could not fail to admitre the accuracy and effect of its aim.  Unfortunately, after three rounds, the horses attached to the caisson became frightened and ran off, leaving the piece without ammunition and leaving us unprotected by artillery, except in so far that the gallant [John Daniel] Imboden was permitted, by the heavy fire in his front, to yield us occasional shots.  Although they could come but seldom, when they did come we recognized in them the booming “God cheer” of Virginia to Alabama.

For an hour and a half the Fourth Alabama sustained the most galling and destructive fire.  Our brave men fell in great numbers, but they died as the brave love to die – with faces to the foe, fighting in the holy cause of liberty.  Of course, it is impossible for me to say how many were opposed to us.  I only judge, from the incessant and tremendous fire that was kept up, that we were greatly outnumbered.

The force intended for our support on the right and left having been withdrawn for three-quarters of an hour, alone and unaided, except by Imboden’s Battery, we held our position, driving back on three separate occasions the advancing columns of the enemy and enabling reinforcements to come up.  At last, outflanked on the right and left and exposed to fire from three sides, we were ordered to fall back.

Our gallant Colonel [Egbert J.] Jones, who, during the hottest of the engagement, sat conspicuously on his horse – as calm as a statue – giving orders as they came, fell severely wounded in this movement.

We retired in good order through the woods on our left and, descending a hill, again formed in line of battle on a branch which runs through the ravine.  On our right, as we descended the hill, we observed two regiments drawn up in close column in line of battle.  These, being one-quarter of a mile behind the position which we had just left and where we expected to find reinforcements, we confidently regarded by us as friends.  They returned our signal, and we were on the point of forming behind them, when, as we unfurled our flag, they opened a murderous fire upon our ranks, killing some and wounding many, among the latter, Lieutenant-Colonel [Evander M.] Law and Major [Charles L.] Scott, both of whom had displayed great gallantry and done much to inspire us by their example.

Left, thus, without field officers and almost surrounded by the enemy, we again fell back, after returning in kind and with effect the compliments of our supposed friends through a pine wood to an open field, where we halted and awaited orders.  The thirst of the men was intense and almost intolerable.

At this place, a half mile behind our original position, amid the bursting of shells and the rattling storm of musketry, our heroic General [Barnard Elliott] Bee rode up to the regiment and inquired what body of troops we were.  Being told that “it was what remained of the Fourth Alabama,” he replied, with an expressive gesture, “This is all of my brigade that I can find – will you follow me back to where the firing is going on?”  “To the death,” was the response, whereupon he put himself on the left of our line and marched us by the left flank to where the fight was raging around Sherman’s Battery.

As we were nearing the scene, a train of artillery that was falling back cut our line, thus separating the left company from the rest of the regiment.  This company, with our General at its head, obliqued to the right, upon the open field, when our gallant and beloved commander fell, mortally wounded.  The rest of the regiment, not seeing the direction which the head of the column had taken, marched straight forward through the wood, exposed at every step to a galling fire.

Deprived, as we then were, of our Brigadier-General, of our Colonel, of our Lieutenant-Colonel and Major, not knowing our friends from our enemies, and exposed to a murderous fire, with no opportunity of returning it, we marched back, reformed our line, and awaited orders.

We remained on the field until the battle closed, with ranks thinned, it is true, but yet always with a perfect organization.

The regiment was exposed to heavy fire for seven or eight hours, and during the whole time, and particularly during that portion of it when they were actually engaged, the officers and men exhibited the most admirable coolness and gallantry.

I cannot refrain from mentioning the gallant conduct of Major Howard, the aide-de-camp of General Bee.  He was ever where the fire was the hottest, and though wounded, remained on the field until the close of the action.

Such, Sir, is a succinct account of the operations of this regiment, called for by your order.

The list of the killed and wounded, hereto appended, will testify that the regiment did not shrink from sealing with its best blood its devotion to the cause.

We rejoice at the glorious victory which was won on that ever memorable field, but over our exultation there is thrown the pall of private sadness by the death and wounding of those we love.

It would be invidious, if it were possible, to enumerate individual acts of heroism, where every man did his duty.

Captain Goldsby,

Commanding Regiment

General Whiting,

Commanding Third Brigade, Army of the Shenandoah

[Daily Dispatch, newspaper, Richmond, Virginia, August 17, 1861]





The New York Times Tackles the Sherman’s Battery Controversy

24 11 2008

w-t-sherman

Thanks so much to reader Linda Mott for once again coming up with a link to a topical newspaper article, this time a New York Times piece from August 11, 1861 (see here).  A couple of things: 

Note that T. W. and W. T. were not classmates at West Point.  T. W. graduated 18th of 49 cadets in 1836.  W. T. was 6th of 42 four years later, 1840. (Cullum)

During the Bull Run campaign, T. W. was in Pennsylvania recruiting for the 5th U. S. Artillery. (Cullum)

As for the two men being “great friends”, they did serve together at Ft. Moultrie in Charleston, SC in 1846.  T. W. rejoined W. T. in the Army of the Tennessee very briefly after Shiloh, and ran into him again briefly in New Orleans in March, 1864.  W. T.’s references to T. W. in his memoirs are cursory, giving no hint that they were ever “great” anythings, friends or otherwise. (Memoirs of General William T. Sherman)

Notice too that the article refers to the famous Sherman’s Battery.

I wish I could figure out that mouseover trick of Robert’s – it would save me having to make these explanatory posts.





The Two Shermans

24 11 2008

The New York Times, August 11, 1861 (see here)

The Two Shermans.

From the Cincinnati Commercial.

Not a little error and confusion has been created by writers in the newspapers, especially since the recent battle before Manassas Junction, by confounding the names of two meritorious officers in the Army.  There are two Col. Shermans in the Army: Col. William T. Sherman, of Ohio, and Col. Thomas W. Sherman, of Rhode Island.  The former is the only one of the two who was engaged in the battle at Bull Run.  He is a brother of John Sherman, Senator from Ohio.  He is not the Capt. Sherman who first organized the famous Sherman’s Battery.

There are some points of remarkable similarity in the case of the two Shermans, which have easily led those ignorant of their history and position into confounding them together.  Their initials are similar – one being W. T. and the other T. W. Sherman; they both graduated in the same class at West Point; both entered the same regiment – the Third Artillery; both served in the Mexican War; and both have been recently appointed Brigadier Generals.

It is T. W. Sherman, of Rhode Island, who commanded and gave his name to “Sherman’s Battery,” which he organized in Mexico, where he served under Taylor and Scott, and which was doing duty on the frontier (Minnesota) when the difficulties with the seceded States broke out.

W. T. Sherman, of Ohio, was found at the beginning of these troubles at the head of a State Military Academy in Louisiana, and upon the secession of that State he resigned, refusing to serve in a State disloyal to the Government.  When the new regiments of the regular Army were formed, Sherman, of Ohio, was appointed Colonel of the Thirteenth Infantry, and Sherman, of Rhode Island, was made Lieutenant-Colonel of the Fifth Artillery, and shortly after, by promotion of Col. Hunter, became Colonel of that regiment.

Sherman’s Battery, although it still retains the name, is now really Ayres’ Battery.  It was Col. Sherman, of Ohio, who commanded the Brigade in the battle fo Bull Run composed of the following regiments:

Seventy-ninth New-York (Highlanders,) Col. Cameron.

Sixty-ninth New-York, (Irish,) Col. Corcoran.

Thirteenth New-York.

Second Wisconsin.

He also had accompanying his Brigade, and under his orders, the Battery of Capt. Ayres, (Shermans Battery,) which was not captured by the enemy, as claimed by all the rebel newspapers, but after a desperate contest every gun was brought off in safety, and was replanted on Capitol Hill, from whence it has since been removed across the Potomac.

Col. Sherman, of Rhode Island, was not in the battle, but was on duty elsewhere.  Both of the Shermans are regarded in the Army as among its best officers.  Both are now Generals, and there is little doubt that they will distinguish themselves in the service, and very probably their actions will be confounded in future as in the past, and each receive the credit due the other.  At this, the two Shermans will not complain, for they are great friends, although not related to each other.

(See explanatory comments here).








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