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





2nd Lt. J. A. McPherson, Co. E, 6th NC, Account of the Battle

28 07 2011

Interesting Letter From Manassas. – We have been favored with the sight of a letter from 2d Lieut. J. A. McPherson, of this county, in Capt. Avery’s Company, of Col. Fisher’s Regiment [6th NCST], (lately a student at Col. Hill’s Military Institute at Charlotte,) dated at Manassas Station, July 22d, from which we are permitted to make the following extracts:-

“Leaving Richmond we went by railroad to Strawberry, and stayed there one night. Next morning we started for Winchester, 18 miles, on foot. We had to make a forced march of it, as Johnston was expected to he attacked by an overwhelming force. We arrived late in the evening, and were drawn out in line of battle. That night I lay in the corner of a fence with some wheat straw for a shelter. We stayed there till late next evening, when, not being attacked, we pitched our tents and slept in them one night.

News then came that Gen. Beauregard was attacked by a force of three to one, and that the forces threatening us had gone to unite with those against Beauregard. Early in the morning we struck our tents, and, with thousands of others, left Winchester late in the day. When out of town Col. Fisher read an order from the General to make a forced marched across the Blue Ridge. We marched till late in the night, and then all lay down by the road-side and slept. At day-break we started again, arrived at Piedmont that night and lay out in a wheat field all night. Next morning we were roused before day, and started for the cars, but did not get off till night. I stood it as well if not better than the most of them.

We reached Manassas early in the morning, and could hear the cannon firing. We got to the battle field about 12 o’clock, and were led into the fight, and that the hottest of it. Our front rank men fought bravely. We took two pieces of artillery that belonged to the brag battery of the U. S., Sherman’s battery.  We were standing around the pieces, when some one cried out that we had fired into our friends. The enemy fired upon us from the bushes, and we fell back, as we thought it was our friends. Then they fired on is worse than ever. Our men killed all their horses and they could not take off the guns; so we got them. Col. Fisher was killed near the battery. I did not see him fall and did not know he was killed till the next day. He was shot through the head.

I never thought I could stand the fire of bullets as I did that day; and how I escaped being killed I do not know. it was just an act of providence that we were not killed by hundreds. About 100 of our regiment were killed and wounded–17 killed and some mortally wounded.

After that fight about 145 of our men went with some other regiments to protect the Washington Artillery of New Orleans. We reached a high hill and could see the enemy drawn out in line of battle. We followed them two or three miles, and that is the last we have seen of them.

We were then about 8 miles from the Junction. The General told us he would attach is to a Mississippi regiment, and we could stay there for the night. I made my supper that night on berries that I picked about in the old fields. We laid that night on the ground in an old field. On Monday morning it began to rain. Our men said they knew where there were plenty of yankee blankets, over-coats and oil-cloths. Some were sent for them and came in loaded down with blankets, over-coats, india rubber tablecovers, oil cloths, and haversacks. I have a splendid yankee over-coat and so has Capt. Avery. I have also one of their india rubber table-covers. I found these useful, as we had to march 8 miles in the raid and mud. We took thousands of blankets, over-coats, &c.

We have fought the flower of the  Northern army, and I think they had a great many more men that we had. Some of the wounded told us that they were old U. S. regulars, and I think they must have been, for they fought bravely.

We have just received orders to leave this place, to go I know not where, but I suppose towards Alexandria. N. W. Ray [of Cumberland county] is very well. He was not hurt.

Fayetteville (NC) Observer, 7/29/1861

Clipping Image contributed by John Hennessy

Transcribed by Michael Hardy





Pvt. Drury P. Gibson, Company D, 1st Special Battalion Louisiana Infantry Before and After the Battle

31 07 2010

Camp Moore June 6, 1861

Dear Sister,

I again write to inform you that we are all well, and getting along tolerably well in drilling.

One of our men died yesterday with the pneumonia, his name was Patrick Sweeney. He was an Irishman and a good soldier, he was sick only five days, he died in his tent.

Several of the boys have been a little sick, though nothing serious, save that of poor Sweeney. One of the “Lafourche Guards” died a few days ago, he had the Typhoid Fever, those are the only deaths that we have had in camp since our arrival.

The “Catahoula Guerrillas” have been placed in the first Special Battalion, which when filled will be the 8th Regiment.

Two regiments left yesterday for Virginia. We will in all probability follow on in the course of two weeks.
 
One of our men deserted the other day. He was an unknown Irishman, our company numbers at the present, 100 Rank & File.

We have fine times, the men all seem to be well satisfied with the Camp life. We are quartered in a very healthy and pleasant country. There seems to be a disposition in some of our officers that has the subscription fund paid over to them, to get all they can, and keep all they get. The company have not been at any expense whatever since they left the shores of Catahoula and strange to say, there has not been one dime paid to any man in camp.

None of us are suffering or in particular need of money, but as it was paid into the treasury of the Company for the volunteers, I think it but just that it should be paid over to the company and some account rendered to the respecting contributions. At least such is my opinion of the matter. Other persons may perhaps think different notwithstanding.

I am going to keep my eyes open and watch passing events, and report to the public accordingly but, more some other time.

I am satisfied with the soldier’s life, but it is very confining and laborious to any one that has never been used to such a life.

The very flower of the South are engaged in this war. Companies are not formed of the lower classes in this war as in other wars. Men of intelligence, courage, and standing have taken up arms in defense of their homes, firesides and domestic institutions and they are invincible. We are bound to succeed or every man will perish in the effort.

I am well satisfied with my office 3rd Sergeant. I have all the benefits and privileges of an officer without such responsibilities and laborious duties that the higher officers have to go through with. We drill six hours every day, three hours in the morning and three in the evening. Nothing more at present.

————

August 1, 1861

I would have written before now, had a favorable opportunity presented itself; but owing to frequent movements and scarcity of writing materials, and all the time being in extreme outpost, I have delayed until the present leisure moment. We are stationary after cleaning out the Yankees on the memorable 21st of July 1861.

Previous to that battle we had been continually on the pact for two weeks. Maj. Wheat being an officer of experience and a noted character for scouting, we were placed on an outpost as soon as we arrived in Virginia, and kept there until Gen. Beauregard ordered us back to “Stone Bridge” to take a bold stand against the invading foe.

We were anxious to meet the enemy, in fact our hearts jumped for joy when we saw their bayonets glittering through the distant forrest. We were, especially the Guerillas, completely exhausted, we had been lying in ambush and marching around for two weeks, without tents or anything to cover us, save the canopy of heaven, it raining part of the time & at times with nothing to eat. I shall not pretend to give you an account of the battle of “Stone Bridge” as you no doubt have long since read all the particulars of that glorious victory in “your Delta”. Suffice to say that the “Catahoula Guerrillas” were the vanguard and had the honor and consolation of opening the battle on that occasion.

Catahoula has at last done something worthy of note, the names of her sons that were engaged in the battle of “Stone Bridge” will be handed down to future generations on the page of history, as souldiers and patriots, fighting for their homes, firesides, and to free our cherished sunny South of mercenary foes. Little did the avowed ________, foes of the Catahoula Guerrillas expect when we left Trinity that we would be identified and actors in one of the greatest victories that can be found in the annals of the nineteenth century.

All of the Louisiana troops are being concentrated at this place, Mitchell’s Ford on the Bull Run three miles below the Stone Bridge. We will rest here for awhile, if Davis don’t take a notion to march on Washington. We have got the Yankees whipped and I don’t think it will require much fighting to keep them so. We defeated the old regulars and best drilled men, and Sherman’s Artillery at Stone Bridge. It was not only a defeat but a route, a complete slaughter. Our total loss I suppose was about three hundred killed and one thousand wounded. The enemy lost some four or five thousand. The Battle field for miles was covered with dead and dying Yankees and our Cavalry completely slaughtered them when retreating or running. Every barn house, corner of the fence, and hollow top is full of dead, dying and wounded Yankees. I have had fine time of it, in cutting off their arms and legs, and dressing wounds. They seem to be very greatful for any attention for they know they deserve none. The northern army seems to be principally composed of foreigners, such as Elksworths Fire Zouaves, they are fighting for plunder. The New England states send native religious fanatics, especially Maine, Vermont and Michigan. None of the Lincolnites have been paid off and some of the prisoners say that they are not being well fed.

Among our prisoners I recollect of seeing several big buck Negroes marching in ranks, guns on sholdier as big as anybody. I reason it will be some time before you will see us if ever. I regretted very much the death of Hall and Elias Stone, they were both brave young men and fought like men and souldiers. Genticores was mortally wounded, he was sent to Richmond. I have not heard from him since. All the rest of our wounded are doing as well as could be expected. Maj. Wheat who at first was thought mortally wounded is improving some better. Our Battalion has been reported ready and willing for service. If you was to unknowingly happen into our camp I don’t think you would know any of us. We are so badly tan burnt and look so bad generally. Our health is tolerable good, but it makes one bear to be souldiers, marching around on half rations reduces all surplus fat, he is noting but bone and sinew. I have become so used to walking until I would rather walk than ride. I can lift three times as much now, as when I commenced souldiering. I think I have been considerably benefited.

————

August 12, 1861

…….the Catahoula Guerrillas are getting along tolerably well out here though several of the boys have been and are now sick. Four of our company has died from diseases, namely Sweeney, Peoples, Reinheardt and Ballard. We have had pretty warm times out here. You no doubt have long since heard of the great Battle of Stone Bridge on the 21st of July in which the Catahoula Guerrillas distinguished themselves for courage and bravery in maintaining firmly their position against overwhelming odds until we were sufficiently reinforced to shove the field of the mercenary and plundering Yankees. Wheat’s Battalion and five other regiments, in all numbering about five thousand effective men, held the enemy in check for two hours until our reinforcements came up; the enemy numbering at least fifty thousand, headed by all of the old United States regulars, Ellsworth Zouaves and Shermans celebrated light artillery. The Guerrillas fired the first guns, they opened the ball on that memorable occasion.

Poor Hall Stone and Elias Stone got killed in the battle. They were both mess-mates of mine. I very much regretted their untimely and premature deaths. Elias fell on the field during the action. When I saw that he was shot I asked if he was badly wounded. He said yes but I will give them another shot. He run his hand in his cartridge bag and fell dead in the act of loading his gun. Hall was mortally wounded, poor fellow, he struggled so hard against death. I never saw any one take death so hard, he said he wanted to live to revenge the death of Elias who fell by his side on the plains of Manassas. They were both buried with military honors side by side in the battlefield, in a beautiful place near some shade trees on a hill. We placed some stones at their heads to know the spot in future as a kind of a tomb stone. I think that we were very fortunate in getting only two killed and fifteen wounded, for I was shure or thought at one time that we would all be killed, and for my life even now. I don’t see how the remainder escaped unhurt. The balls came as thick as hail, grape bomb and canisters would sweep our ranks every minute, and strange to say the enemy only killed three hundred of our men.

One reason why they did not kill more of us, was because they overshot us. Their guns were ranged for a mile with raised sights so we closed in on the gentlemen, before they could lower their sights.

…….all of the Louisiana troops are here at Mitchell’s Ford on Bull Run on the main road between Manassas and Washington City. All of the Louisiana troops are under the command of Brigadier General Seymour of New Orleans. I have frequently heard of Mr. Cotton speak of Col., now Gen. Seymour. He is a fine officer and if the Yankees should take a fool notion and come this way, you will hear again from the Pelican State…..

Contributed by reader Stuart Salling, and published on his blog Louisiana in the Civil War on 7/24/10 (see here).  Originally published in the North Louisiana Historical Society newsletter in 1979.





Diary 7/21/1861 – Pvt. John Henry Cowin, Co. D, 5th AL

20 11 2009

Slept cold last night as I had only a single blanket whi[ch] was too small to sleep upon and cover with at the same time, besides the night was colder than usual.  Arose quite early this morning and found we had orders to prepare to take up our line of march.  We got breakfast as soon as possible, which occupied but little time as we had only to stick a little piece of meat on a stick, hold it over the fire a minute or two and breakfast was ready.  Soon after eating we began to hear the booming of cannon, apparently about two or three miles off, which still continues it now being about 12 o’clock.  There seems to be fighting at two points, on the extreme left and centre.  We soon got ready and the regiment crossed the creek.  We crossed and recrossed several times before we got upon the regular march.  We however got straight after a while and had a forced march of eleven miles to the battle field.  It was indeed a battle and a bloody one.  We passed on in sight of one place where they were fighting but did not stop, as we were going to  the assistance of the 4th Ala Regt. which we heard was being terribly cut up.  On the march we met many wounded returning from the field.  We marched on to avenge the blood of those who had fought so gallantly.  We witnessed sights we had never seen before.  The horrors of a battle field.  As we marched in sight the cowardly villains were retreating, we could see their guns glittering among the bushes as they moved off.  We heard that the 4th Ala was surrounded at one time by the overwhelming forces of the enemy, and cut up terribly.  General Bee was badly wounded.  Heard that Col Jones was killed, Lieut Col Law and Major Scott badly wounded.  Syd May was in the fight but came off unhurt.  It is said that the enemy came up with a Confederate flag, and our men thinking they were friends did not fire upon them, but as soon as they got within an hundred and fifty yards of our troops, turned loose both artillery and musketry, mowing them down like grass before a scythe.  It was the bloodiest battle ever fought on the continent.  We lost a great many in killed and wounded.  Their loss was tremendous.  The enemy were completely routed, losing fifty pieces of artillery, ten thousand stands of arms and a great many prisoners.  The Virginians did excellent fighting.  They charged their famous Shermans battery.  The Cavalry pursued the enemy under the command of President Davis in person.  The number of killed cannot yet be accurately ascertained.  Both sides lost heavily.  It is said that the enemy lost at the lowest calculation between four and five thousand in killed and wounded.  To night we have orders to march back to our bivouack.  Squire Griggs[,] Joe Grigg, and myself came to Manassas Junction to see Father, who is here with the baggage.  We found him well, but very uneasy as he was confident that we were in the fight.

Source – G. Ward Hubbs, ed. Voices from Company D, pp 22-23





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.








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