Sgt. George F. Saunders, Co. D, 2nd Wisconsin, On the Battle

1 12 2011

Letters from Members of the Janesville Volunteers.

Fort Corcoran, Va., July 25th, 1861.

Dear Wife and Family: – I have at last found something to write, and having a little leisure time, I will endeavor to give you the news.

The first engagement took place about one week ago; the notice was short, and the contest unequal: the enemy fell back towards Manassas, – but on Saturday last the order was issued to prepare for action. The bugles sounded, the drums beat to arms; swords, muskets, cannon, and revolvers were examined to see if they were all right. At two o’clock the order came to march. In less than an hour, two batteries, sixteen guns (one 32-pounder), 10,000 infantry, 500 cavalry, sappers, miners, Zouaves, &c., were under march. Some were talking of home and friends; some singing, but very low. We had a long and dreary march. Sunday morning came, and I shall remember it as long as I live; and with it we took our position. The 79th Highland regiment on our right, the Sherman battery in the centre of the first brigade; the second brigade then formed with Sprague’s battery to support them; the third was on the extreme left, with the cavalry to assist them, and son on till the whole army was disposed of.

At about six A. M., Sherman’s battery sent in some shot and shell to see what the enemy were made of, but received no answer. We then saw some cavalry advancing, but the battery soon put them to right about; they soon returned, however, to decoy us on. This they did till we came within about a mile of their masked fort, when their cavalry and infantry commenced firing on our artillery. On we went at a double-quick; their batteries opened on us, and the fight became general. We were pretty well exhausted, but after the first fire, we never thought of hunger.

In order to get a high position, we were obliged to ford a river, which made us feel much better; but on getting to the other side, we were nearly surrounded. The very heavens seemed to be on fire, and such a havoc of human life! The rebel force was, as stated, between 30,000 and 40,000, with 10,000 of our troops engaged at one time. You can form a faint idea.

I would stand for an instant pitying some friend who had just dropped by my side, forgetting my own safety, which depended on my loading and firing in the quickest possible manner. I twice picked up the musket of a dead comrade, my own having been shot out of my hands. We came to a charge of bayonets three distinct times. We tried to rally our troops, but at about half past 4 P. M., the order to retreat was given, which I regretted to hear; but nothing could be done to any better advantage under the poor generalship.

The Wisconsin Second has represented her state nobly. Although there were a great many of us killed, there are still enough left who are willing to fight under competent officers, which, if we had been blessed with in the start, the battle would have been carried in our favor. The Janesville Volunteers fought well, although Capt. Ely and Ensign Dodge became exhausted shortly after entering the field; but I do not blame them, as we were all pretty well exhausted. Lieut. McLean fought bravely and escaped all right; I also escaped. Mc and I attribute it to the interposition of a kind Providence, which we hope will protect us till we return home. At roll call this morning, there were 13 missing, with what is in the hospital. I would give you a list of the killed and wounded, but we are not allowed to send any.

I believe we were visited by the president and cabinet. They spoke highly of the Wisconsin Second as we deserve. We are now re-organizing, and at the next battle we intend to do the whipping. We are all feeling as well as can be expected, and as anxious for a fight as before. The men still keep coming in as fast as they can find their way back; but there is one consolation, and that is we retreated in pretty good order. I think I have got along very well so far, as John Hamilton, three others and myself were out on a picket guard, when the rebel pickets commenced firing at us, and we escaped without a scratch. We, however, silenced them by giving them a few shots with our Sharpe’s rifles. You must excuse all mistakes, as I am sitting on the ground with my paper on my knapsack, which you may guess is not a very comfortable mode of writing.

Yours Truly,

Geo. F. Saunders.

The Janesville Daily Gazette, 7/30/1861.

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The Washington Artillery at Blackburn’s Ford

14 10 2011

The Battle at Bull Run.
Special Correspondence of The Delta.
Richmond July 20th; 1861.

The battle of Bull Run was fought day before yesterday, and our Artillery were engaged from 2, O’clock in the afternoon until 5, P. M. At half past four Captain Eschelman was wounded in the lower portion of the calf of the leg. A musket ball passed through the muscle, making a very ragged wound, and was up to last night very painful, attended with some fever. To-day, 12, M. I have just left him, and he said he had been since daybreak comparatively free from pain, and felt quite well. He will soon recover, and it is hoped will suffer but little from this time.

He is very well situated, at Dr. Deane’s residence, having been brought here last evening, with all the Artillery men that were wounded.

Muse, of Muse Bros., who died last night, was struck near the shoulder. Henry H. Baker has a ball in the calf of the leg. A young man, whose brother is a partner of Hagerty & Bros., had a ball through the flesh of the thigh, and one other a cut in the face. All are doing well and will recover very soon.

Walton, Slocomb, and two companies of the command were stationed three miles off, where it was supposed the enemy would make the attack, and saw nothing of the fight, and consequently were all safe. Captain Garnett, of this State, and Captain Eschelman wee in command of the seven guns we had in service, and raked the enemy down like grass, especially at the  first fire; knocked one of Sherman’s guns into fragments, and sent some four shot directly into their solid advanced column, driving limbs and bodies sky high. Sherman’s great battery at 5, O’clock was silenced, and commenced their retreat. Our boys gave them a parting shot and then a tremendous yell which finished the fight.

None of the Artillery men were hurt until just before the battle ended, ,so that all had a fair chance that commenced the fight to show indomitable courage and coolness. The enemy had engaged in the battle from 5,000 to 6,000 men and we had 3,000. Our wounded and dead 60, theirs over 500. Drs. Drew, Choppin, Beard, and several others from the different regiments, were on the ground. Beauregard commanded in person on the field, being mounted, of course.

The Daily Delta, 7/27/1861.
Jackson Barracks – Historical Military Data on Louisiana Militia, Vol. 111, pp. 46-47.





“DeW”, 1st Rhode Island Infantry, On the March to Manassas

28 09 2011

Correspondence of the Journal
On the Way to Manassas
Four Miles West of Fairfax
Friday, July 19, 1861

Corresponding under difficulties certainly, with a cartridge box for a table, and forty-five drops of ink, all in the country, the drum likely to beat at any moment for an advance.

Tuesday at 1 p. m. we left Camp Sprague, marched through the city over the Long Bridge. I have no time to tell you of our fine appearance, or the enthusiasm which greeted our march. We went about 12 miles, and camped in a large field near Annandale, where we were presently joined by our old friends, the 71st New York and the 2d New Hampshire, the whole constituting Burnside’s brigade of the 2d division, commanded by Col. Hunter of the regular cavalry. Next morning the column advanced, led by the 2d Rhode Island, who acted as skirmishers, scouring the woods for half a mile each side of the road. About three miles from Fairfax Court House we came upon the first barricade, consisting of large trees felled across the road for the distance of one hundred yards. Our axemen were ordered to the front, and soon removed the obstruction. We found two similar ones before reaching the town, but they were easily surmounted. Near the town was an earthwork, recently occupied by a battery of light artillery, which had been hurriedly removed. Behind it, at some distance from the road, were three camps. Paymaster Sisson, who was detailed with a party of carbineers to visit them, found much valuable booty, swords, pistols, muskets, clothing, and provisions of every sort. Their flight had evidently been most hurried. Indeed, our advance saw a small party at a distance making off as they entered the fort.

We immediately pushed forward, and entered the town without opposition. A secession flag flying from the top of the Court House was torn down in a twinkling and the stars and stripes substituted, followed by a violent ringing of the bell.

The troops were quartered about the town, and the stores and houses whence the secession owners had fled were thoroughly ransacked. Quantities of camp equipage and hospital stores, mostly marked “South Carolina,” were found, – sabres and guns of the most fantastic and obsolete description. But it would be perfectly useless to attempt a description of the heterogeneous assortment of plunder with which every man who took the trouble to forage was adorned. To judge from the uniforms about the camp, we would seem to have many of the Palmetto Guard and other crack secession regiments in our midst. Articles of the most cumbrous and useless description were taken, only to be dropped by the way.

Later in the day sentinels were posted in front of all the houses, and the “loot” was confined to the rebels camps.

Our companies bivouacked in the yards and lanes about town. Yesterday morning we moved one mile west and remained till 4 p. m., after which we advanced to this point. On the way we found pots and kettles and all sorts of camp furniture, cast away by the rebels in their flight. They found time, though, to burn one or two houses on the way. On reaching here we learned that Gen. Tyler’s division had suddenly come up on a masked battery which poured in a destructive fire of shot and shell, causing our men to retire. Many were killed and wounded, but you have much better information on the subject than we have. It is reported this morning that the enemy have retired from the battery. We expect to advance upon the Junction shortly. As I write, 12 secession prisoners, one of them a sergeant, are passing, guarded by a double file of soldiers. They are sturdy fellows. Some look defiant some downcast. I understand the Fire Zouaves took them. Sherman’s Battery, the Massachusetts 1st and New York 12th took part in the engagement yesterday. I do not mention any of the thousand rumors afloat respecting the loss yesterday, or the next movement to be made, because no accurate information can be obtained, by me at least. One thing is certain, Manassas must be ours, and the Rhode Island men expect to do their part in its reduction. That done, we will return content. I have been talking with the Quartermaster of the Massachusetts 1st. He thinks about 50 of his brigade are killed. A negro, escaped from the rebel camp this morning, reports dreadful slaughter done by Sherman’s battery.

DeW.

Providence Journal 7/22/1861

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Unknown, Hampton’s Legion [?], On the Battle (3)

11 09 2011

Further Particulars of the Manassas Battle – The Capture of Sherman’s Battery

We have some very interesting and authentic accounts of the battle at Manassas, from an officer who was in the thickest of the action, and who testifies to the extremely courageous and devoted action of the Hampton Legion, that held one of the most important positions in the fight, in front of the deadly fire of Sherman’s Battery.

The infantry companies of the Legion joined the line of battle about 9 o’clock in the morning, having marched seven miles, after a hastily-snatched breakfast, to take their part in the general action. In a few moments after the line was formed, Col. Johnson fell by a shot from the battery. He was instantly killed, the ball striking and tearing away the upper portion of his head. Colonel Hampton himself, assisted by Surgeon Darby and Adjutant Barker, bore the body from the fire.

At this instant, the men missing for a moment the presence of their commander, cried out “We have no commander.” Capt. Garey, who was commanding the left wing, suddenly called out, “Follow me, Hampton Guards, follow to victory.” The effect of the tones of the command was instant. The noble and gallant Edgefield company made a rushing charge towards the enemy, in advance of the rest of the Legion nearly three hundred yards, and so far on the left flank that for a moment they were under the fire of the Washington Artillery. The Guards advanced to within 1– or 120 paces of the enemy. Unable to maintain their position, they retired, falling back upon the column of the Legion. It was then that Col. Hampton, after a few thrilling words at the head of the Legion, ordered its fire to be opened upon the deadly battery that was mowing down his ranks.

Nobly and gallantly did his men respond. Firing by file and maintaining their position, they stood steadily until three o’clock in the evening, under the deadly fire of one of the most destructive batteries in the Federal army.

At this time of the day, the Legion fell back about 200 yards, when Gen. Evans, of South Carolina, rode up to the line, and making himself known to the men, added his noble and patriotic encouragements to those of their gallant commander.  A shout rises as Beauregard himself rides to the line, and in stirring words appeals to the Legion to hold its devoted position but a few moments longer, and the victory would be won.
The men were suffering horribly from the most aging thirst, when a number of officers and privates volunteered on the desperate mission of bringing water from a ravine near by through the fire of the enemy. But three returned from the gallant errand. Lieuts. Bates and Tompkins, of the Watson Guards, and private N. N. Cartlidge, and they just in time to join Col. Hampton’s last and desperate charge upon the battery.

The Legion had advanced about thirty paces, when the charge was joined by the 49th Virginia Regiment, under command of Col. Smith, who led the charge on foot – his horse having been shot from under him. Col. Hampton offered his own horse. At that time, when within about 150 yards of the battery, Colonel Hampton received his wound. He was struck by a ball in the temple. As he was raised, the cool and self-possessed gallantry of the brave man was exhibited. In calm and affecting words he exhorted Co. Smith to stand by the Legion and to help to support its flag. The words added a new spirit to the combined charge. The Legion advance to it with its right wing under the command of Col. Conner, and the left under that of Capt. Garey – the command of the intrepid Watson Guards, who had so distinguished themselves in the opening of the action, being devolved upon Lieut. W. D. Jennings, until joined by Lieuts. Bates and Tompkins, who had undertaken the brave mission of bringing water to the suffering men through the thickest of the fire.

The slaughter of the enemy at the battery, as the combined charge of the Virginia Regiment and the Hampton Legion swept over it, is said to have been terrific. The fugitives were pursued by the companies of the Legion to near Centreville. For four or five miles, the pursuit is described to have been over dead bodies, which strewed the retreat of the enemy.

The Legion reports about thirty killed and mortally hurt, with the immense number of nearly three hundred wounded – truly a gallant record. Neither its cavalry companies nor artillery arrived in time for the action; had they done so, quicker work would have been made by the Legion. As it is, with the gallant record it has made, and the compliments of Beauregard given it the day after the victory, it may boast, indeed, to have had a distinguished part in the glorious day.

The names of Captains Conner, Garey, Adjutant Barker and Surgeons Darby and Taylor are mentioned among those who distinguished themselves heroically in the fight.

The escapes of many of the men through the storm of fire are described as almost miraculous. The South Carolinians are better shots than the enemy. At three fires from one of the Corporals, J. W. Tompkins, two Yankees were seen to bite the dust; and at one time in the action, Lieutenant Jenkins, with a revolver, fired into the enemy a number of shots, nearly each one of which struck its man. Many of the Legion had their clothes torn through with bullets.

Richmond Examiner, 7/25/1861

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Unknown, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (3)

3 09 2011

Extracts from a Private Letter

{From a Member of Hampton’s Legion}

Camp Johnston
Six Miles from Manassas, July 30.

I will endeavor to give you some particulars of the fight, although you will by this time have heard thousands of reports, as every man sees different on such occasions. We received orders on Friday, the 19th inst., to appear at the Central Depot in Richmond, at 5 o’clock, p. m. We found it impossible to be there so early, and, consequently, did not get there until 8 o’clock. We then stacked arms, and lay down on the ground and slept until two that night. We left Richmond at the last named hour, and arrived at Manassas on Sunday morning around four o’clock. Shortly after, we heard the roar of artillery. Col. Hampton then drew us up in line and addressed us, the substance of which was, that we were about to go into battle, and hoped we would prove ourselves South Carolinians worthy of our State and [?]. We then took up the line of march for the field, at which place we arrived about nine o’clock. Col. H. ordered us to take the extreme left, and stand until we were cut to pieces, or drive the enemy back.

We advanced steadily forward, shells bursting all around us. We were then dressed into line, and I never expect again to see cannon balls and shells fly as they did that morning. It is a mystery to me how one man escaped in the Legion. We stood our ground for one hour, alone, under one of the hottest fires Gen. B— says he ever saw. I gave myself up for gone, but still kept loading and firing. Poor Phelps was shot dead at my side; also a man by the name of Blankensee. Bomar was wounded just to my left. Finding it impossible to hold our position, we retreated to a small clump of woods, and then the cry was, “We are surrounded; we are outflanked.” At this critical moment, the Georgia and Mississippi regiments came to our assistance. We then not only maintained our position, but kept the enemy in check until about 2 o’clock. At this time, Gen. B. came up with Kershaw’s and Cash’s regiments, and Kemper’s Battery and Johnston’s column. His appearance was worth to us 10,000 men. It rallied the wounded as well as the others. Those that were unable to rise from the ground raised their hands and cheered him as he passed along the line. We were then at close quarters with the scattered remnants of the Legion, and I assure you it was hot work. The order was given to charge the enemy’s battery, which, upon the second charge, fell into the hands of our troops. It proved to be the famous Sherman Battery. After this charge, the enemy, completely routed, took to flight. Our men pursued them as far as Centreville. They left everything, in the shape of eatables and drinkables, that you can think of – champagne, lemons, sugar, etc. We took, among other things, some trunks, We captured 70 ambulances, fitted up in the most fancy style; also, a carriage and six horses, with a sword and trappings, supposed to have belonged to some general officer. The woods around were strewn with the dead and dying. A man who has never been upon a battle field can form no ideas of the horrors of one. The roar of musketry, combined with the shrieks of the wounded and dying, and the sight of mangled bodies, is truly horrible. I saw a ball from one of the enemy’s rifle cannon cut a man in two. I witnessed Bartow’s horse shot from under him. He (Bartow) was a noble fellow. When he fell, two of our men helped his men to carry him from the field. A regiment of our Zouaves was pitted against the Fire Zouaves of Ellsworth; they killed all but about 200 of them; the bloody bowie knife did ample work. The Washington Artillery, of New Orleans, is one of the noblest band of men I ever saw. I give them the credit of gaining the victory; they fought like lions, actually mowing down the ranks of the enemy. In our advance, one of our men saw a wounded Yankee lying down; he went up to him and gave him some water; when he turned to join the company the fellow coolly drew his pistol and fired at him, but missed; our men immediately turned round and bayoneted him. I escaped with a Minnie ball through my hat. It just grazed my head. I send you, by Mr. R., a piece of a bomb shell picked up on the battle field. The Yankees are a mean, contemptible people. They sent, under the white flag, to know if Gen. B. would allow them to bury their dead after the fight on Thursday at Bull Run. Gen. B. assented, and the scoundrels, instead of burying their dead, commenced to throw up entrenchments. We found it out and very soon run them off. I took a walk over the battle field a few days ago, and the dead Yankees are not all buried yet. The bodies are in a dreadful condition, and the whole atmosphere is filled with the most disgusting smell. The idea, to me the most lamentable, is that the best blood of the South is being spilled whilst fighting against the lowest, most despicable and degraded men, not only of the North, but I believe of the world. The prisoners are, nearly all of them, the most miserable looking creatures I ever saw. Ely, the member of Congress taken prisoner, is an exceedingly low looking man. The enemy resorted to all kinds of deception and chicanery to take advantage of us; they used both the Palmetto flag and the Confederate flag while advancing upon us, and for some time completely deceived our men. they also got and used our signs of recognition. It is very hard to distinguish our men from the enemy when at close quarters, their uniforms are so much like ours. I am now compelled to close my letter, as the mail is about to start for Manassas, but before doing so let me say that no women of any country could be more kind to the sick and wounded men than the women of Virginia. Our wounded are receiving every attention; they are sought after and carried to private residences, and all that can be done to make them comfortable is being done. The farmers around the country where we are now stationed carry, daily, as many as forty and fifty of our men at a time to dine with them. Give my love to all the boys, and tell them I never expect again to see them.

Charleston Mercury 8/7/1861

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Unknown, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (2)

30 08 2011

Extract of a Private Letter

From a member of the Washington Light Infantry

Camp of the Legion
Manassas Junction, July 24,

On Friday afternoon, at [?] o’clock p. m., we left our camp at Richmond and started for this place. The distance is only a hundred and fifty miles, but as we were travelling as freight, and on a freight train, our progress was terribly slow. At some places we stopped three hours at a time, waiting for other trains to pass, but at last we reached the long wished for goal of our desires, Manassas Junction. Beauregard, as you are aware, commands here in person – the invincible, idolized Beauregard. When we reached this place, which was at daybreak Sunday morning, we understood that Gen. Beauregard was momentarily expecting an attack from the enemy, who were advancing on this place, in great force, via Centreville. Col. Hampton received a despatch ordering the advance of the Legion as soon as they had eaten breakfast. We pitched one large tent, crowded all our baggage into it, burned all our letters, eat a hasty breakfast, and took the road. Just as we were leaving camp we heard the artillery, about six miles distant, firing upon the enemy.

The morning was calm and beautiful; a clear, cool Sabbath morning; and while, at home, our friends were quietly preparing to go to Church, we were hurrying on to the field of battle. It was a strange Sabbath day! As we hurried along through the beautiful forest roads, the men in excellent spirits, conversing cheerfully and hopefully of the work before us, I was forcibly reminded of these lines from Byron’s Waterloo:

“And Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,
Grieving, if aught inanimate o’er grieves,
O’er the unreturning brave.”

Alas! how true of many of them – unretruning. At the first fire, two fell, who never spoke again, one of them, young Phelps, of Charleston, the other a brave Pole, whose name was Blankenzie.

About five miles from camp we first saw the enemy. A dense column of them were steadily moving up a lane, about half a mile off, upon which our artillery was playing with fearful effect. At each discharge of our pieces a wide break would suddenly appear in the long line of glittering bayonets, and ere they reached cover, many a foeman bit the dust. While on a hill, the enemy turned their artillery on us. The miserable scoundrels, contrary to the usage of civilized warfare, fired chain shot at us; but their aim was not good, and they flew over our heads, whistling like a flock of blackbirds. One round shot struck under the belly of Col. Hampton’s horse, covering him with the red clay. Finding that we were too far off to attack the enemy here, we wound around the base of the hill in order to cut them off. As we came out from the cover of the hill and reached a little hollow sparsely covered with trees, the enemy poured a withering fire upon us – round shot, chain shot, shell, musket and rifle balls fell like hail among us; it seemed as if a great hurricane was sweeping the valley; bushes and trees were cut to pieces. Here the Legion lost their first man. I cannot tell how many fell. The Manning Guards had three men killed  by one grape-shot; they were terribly mangled, but the poor fellows did not suffer, as they were immediately killed. Here we paused a few moments, then hastily forming mad a rush up the hill, but could find no enemy. We then filed down a lane, deploying the men at the same time under cover of a rail fence. We could now see their columns advancing – one immediately below us of three thousand, one to the left about five thousand, and to the right about ten thousand strong. The column nearest to us had a palmetto flag, and by this means completely deceived us. An old Texan scout, who was along with us, told us they were enemies, but our officers would not believe him; he, however, advanced to the fence, and laying his rifle on a gate post, took a long and steady aim, and when he fired the smile of satisfaction that lit his rugged countenance showed that his aim had been true. The Texan’s shot drew the fire of the enemy upon us, and the musket balls flew in clouds above us. Some ten of our men fell; two of them partially blinded by splinters – Ancrum and Bob Baker, from Charleston. Ancrum’s face was fearfully disfigured. Bob Bomar was reported mortally wounded, and so was old Mr. Ga. Jervey of Mount Pleasant; others were wounded badly, but are in a fair way to recover. We now poured a deadly volley amongst the Yankees, and, jumping the fence, charged them; but they were too fast for us, and succeeded in joining their column to the right. We took one prisoner, who came up voluntarily to Lieut. Logan and told him that he surrendered himself a prisoner. Logan took his rifle – a magnificent breech loading piece (one of Sharpe’s patent) – and gave it to old Calvert – our Texan scout – a splendid shot. Calvert ensconced himself in a little hollow, and, with the Yankee’s rifle, picked off fifteen of the enemy. We now advanced by the right flank to another lane, where we lay for an hour or two under the fire of twenty thousand men. The air was filled with balls. We were partially covered by a ditch about eighteen inches deep; and here my Zouave drill helped me a great deal in loading lying down. Lieut. Col. Johnson was killed here by a Minnie ball passing through his temple and out the back of his head. He fell without a groan. As we lay in this ditch, the balls flying over us sounded just as if we were in a swamp, with clouds of mosquitos about our ears. Several times, when I raised my head to fire, the balls would cut the edge of the ditch, and throw the dirt in my face. One spent ball cut my upper lip, but gave me no pain. Three times we were driven from this position, and twice, unsupported, regained it. The third time several other fresh regiments assisted us. We fought through lanes, over fences, around farm houses and in all sorts of places. Once we came near losing our colors, and when our company rallied to its support, only thirty out of ninety were left together. Col. Hampton was shot, and our gallant Capt. Conner, senior Captain, took command. About 3 O’clock Kershaw’s regiment, with several others, reached the field, when they gave a cheer and firing one volley advanced at the charge; the enemy’s column broke in confusion, and fled like dogs. The battle raged along a line of several miles, and everywhere our troops, though badly cut up, were victorious, and about five o’clock the rout became general. President Davis arrived at this time from Richmond with seven thousand fresh troops, they were, however, too late to take part in the fight. The five hundred cavalry pursued the enemy some miles. Infantry followed them as far as Centreville. Every now and then the flying artillery would wheel into line and pour a deadly volley into their ranks. The enemy threw away everything. We captured sixty-two pieces of artillery, among which were Sherman’s celebrated battery and Doubleday’s famous big rifle cannon; whether we got all his pieces or not, I cannot say. Cochrane, of New York, was killed, and a great many others of the big men either were killed or captured. About two thousand of the enemy were killed on the road to Centreville. The Louisiana Zouaves fought like tigers; a squad of them with bowie knives in hand, chased some twenty-five Yankees into a thicket, and there cut them up with their knives. They are terrible looking fellows; a great many of them are Frenchmen, savage-looking brown fellows, with black, cropped heads and wiry moustaches. I could relate much more that is horrible to think of, now that the excitement is over, but will refrain on account of the ladies. Such a battle was never before fought in America. For ten or eleven hours seventeen thousand men were opposed to seventy five thousand, and at the end of the time utterly routed them, capturing all their artillery and taking one thousand or more prisoners, and killing thousands of others. Seventeen thousand is the highest estimate of our men who were actually engaged, and seventy five thousand is the lowest estimate of the enemy. Some of the prisoners say that they had eighty-five thousand, and others ninety. The enemy were so confident of victory that they took only three days’ provisions, thinking that would suffice to take them to Richmond. Letters were found among their effects, written to their families, informing them that on Sunday they would attack Beauregard, and then push right on to Richmond. Alas for all human calculations, they never reached Manassas. About one thousand visitors [came from?] Washington to see us whipped, among them numbers of Congressmen. When the news reached them that their troops were in retreat, they fled like sheep, leaving wagons and carriages behind them, stored with champagne and good things of all kinds. I have not told a tenth part of the events of that day, but hope at some future day to tell you[all in person?]. The retreat of the enemy from Fairfax was very amusing. An old gentleman from there says that all of their [forces?] who were beaten here fell back on that place, together with Congressman, Members of the Cabinet, &c., and that at 12 o’clock at night a scout brought them word that our troops were advancing. He says that such fear and confusion were never seen before. In a few moments the place was deserted, baggage, arms, ammunition, everything was left behind. President Davis says that he has all the arms he could wish for, and that the 21st of July was Southern Independence day.

Among the wounded was Sweat, whom I have mentioned in one of my letters. He and I were in a ditch, when the Company was ordered to fall back. We both turned for a parting shot. Just as he fired he fell back wounded in two places, in the side and arm – severely but not mortally. There are not more than one-third of the Company who have not received a scratch of some sort. There are more holes through coat tails and hats, than one can count. But I have written enough.

Charleston Mercury 8/5/1861

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John E. Poyas, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (1)

11 08 2011

Extracts from a Private Letter

[From a Member of Hampton's Legion]

We have also been favored with the following extracts of a letter from John E. Poyas, of the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers, Hampton Legion, written the day after the glorious battle of Stone Bridge.

Manassas Station, July 22, 1861

My Dear Mother -

Our  Legion (now the Legion) arrived yesterday morning just before day. At 8 o’clock we took up the line of march, and about the time that you were all going to church, met the enemy, almost seven times our number, and with the assistance of one Georgia Regiment and two pieces of artillery, fought and kept back this immense force for three hours, until General Beauregard, who was fighting another detachment at a distant point. could come to our relief. When I say the Legion, I mean six companies of infantry for our artillery and cavalry have not come on yet. It was a hard fight but a glorious one, despite the heavy losses on our side. We would see our comrades falling around us, but, until forced to retire to rally, could not stop to take them from the field.

As you may well suppose, from the great disparity of numbers, we were sorely pressed, but as often as we were driven from one position would [rally?] on our Palmetto and meet them at another, and in this way kept them back until about two o’clock. Gen. Beauregard came on the field and told us, “Carolinians you have done well – go on, and the day will be ours.” Soon after, Col. Kershaw with the 2nd Regiment of S. C. Volunteers, came on, [then?] we took the park of artillery which had galled us so severely all the morning. Then Col. Cash with another South Carolina Regiment arrived, and was soon followed by others that had been fighting at Bull Run. The enemy having been driven from that point united with those opposed to us.  By sunset we had driven them miles away towards Washington, having taken thirty pieces of artillery, some five hundred prisoners, and ten thousand stand of arms. [Lt.] Colonel Johnson was shot through the head early in the engagement. George Phelps was shot on my right about the same time and instantly killed. Blankensee, another private, was killed much around the same time. Robert [Bo???] was severely wounded, and has been sent to Culpeper hospital, where the sick and som of the wounded are sent to be nursed. H. Middleton and J. W. Green were dangerously wounded. A great many are severely wounded. Scarcely any one escaped without a scratch or blow. Two of our men are still missing.

Col. Hampton was shot in the face, the wound is not considered dangerous, he fought bravely, and [when?] his horse was shot, took a musket in his hand and fought with his men.

Capt. Conner was struck by a spent ball, which did no more than cut his coat, but would have killed had it penetrated.  [?] it was in the left breast.

One of the first shots fired at us struck a [?], and sent splinters flying, one of which gave me a slight blow upon the forehead above the left eye, and another on the left arm, but caused me no inconvenience, another struck Henry Baker in the left eye injuring it seriously.

The rascals pretended to be making battle at Bull Run – only a ruse to draw attention from the larger body which was trying to get round this place to take the rail road leading to Richmond. They also raised a Palmetto flag under cover of which one portion of their force came very near our Legion and fired upon us, but on our return [?] they were brought to a halt, and we gave them as good as they gave us. We were under Beauregard, but Jeff. Davis was also on the field, and, I think, must have satisfied “Old Fuss and Feathers” that he can’t compete with him. Scot had [?,000] men. We never had, during the day, more than [13,000?] engaged.

The rout was a glorious one, and when we came up with the fugitives they attempted to make a stand. As [?] [?] [?] lines were formed, and the Washington Artillery of New Orleans opened upon them, they took to their heels, leaving 21 pieces of artillery, all that remained of the once famous Sherman’s Battery among them.

P. S. – The President and Gen. Beauregard have called on Col. Hampton th thank him for the action of the Legion yesterday.

Charleston Courier, 7/29/1861

Clipping image contributed by John Hennessy








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