J. H. G., Co. H, 71st NYSM, On the Battle (1)

27 03 2013

Washington Navy Yard, July 23, 1861.

To the Editors of the Sunday Mercury:

Since my last from here, we have had a terrific battle, which, you will learn by the telegraphic accounts, resulted in our being repulsed, although the loss on our side is small in comparison with that of the enemy. The battle commenced at 9 A.M., on Sunday, 21st inst., the first engaged being the Seventy-first and the Rhode Island First and Second Regiments. We opened a heavy fire of musketry on the Alabamians, and slaughtered them badly. We could see them fall one after another very fast. They returned our fire with great activity and killed many of us, and wounded some thirty of our boys; and, the killed is supposed to be about ten, although we were at first reported badly cut up. We stood our ground well, and were the last to leave the field. Our colors were completely riddled, and a shell passed through the centre of the flag, just above the color-bearer’s head. We had almost succeeded in taking the battery on our left, when, by a ruse, the rebels stopped our firing by raising the Stars and Stripes. We thought they were our friends, and stopped firing, whereby a great advantage was gained by them. We were marched some twenty miles, and then entered the fight much worn out, but, nevertheless, we sustained the previous good reputation of the gallant Seventy-first, of Gotham. One of our Company H was struck by a cannon-ball in the face, which carried away his upper jaw and part of the nose – a horrid sight indeed. Another was struck by a ball in the thigh; he fell near me, and exclaimed: “My God, I’m shot!” One other was wounded in the left hand; and our gallant Lieut Embler was also wounded in the fleshy part of the leg, but it will not prove serious, we all hope. He is a brave man and gentleman. Col. Martin lost his horse, and had to foot it during the engagement. He walked up and down, cheering the boys and encouraging us on to victory. We finally all retreated in order, and reached Washington on Monday. Capt. Ellis was wounded slightly. Only four of our boys are missing. The rebels were seen cutting the throats of our wounded and bayoneting them to death. Oh, what a terrible sight! I hope never to see it again. The groans and cries of the wounded were too horrible to be depicted, amid the roaring cannon and the bursting of shell over and around us. Our total loss is about thirty in all. But few balls fell among us, as they were fired too high as a general thing. We expect to be home on Friday. The boys are under orders to leave for home to-morrow (Thursday), and all is bustle and confusion. I can write no more at present, but hoping you will set matters all right with relatives and friends of the regiment, believe me, yours, as ever, in the Union cause.

J. H. G.

Co. H, Seventy-first Regiment N.Y.S.M.

New York Sunday Mercury, 7/28/1861

William B. Styple, ed., Writing and Fighting the Civil War: Soldier Correspondence to the New York Sunday Mercury, pp. 34-35





J. A. S., 11th New York Infantry, On the Campaign

17 03 2013

Washington, Thursday, July 25

To the Editors of the Sunday Mercury:

My communications with you have been interrupted for some time by events connected with the movements of our regiment, advancing from time to time, rendering the means of communication with Washington more difficult and uncertain. But to resume from my last letter, written at Shuter’s Hill, I have to say that the regiment broke camp, and move down the road some four miles, to a spot nearly opposite Cloud’s Mills, where we found ourselves supported on one side by the Scott Life Guard (Thirty-eighth Regiment), First Michigan, two Maine, and one Vermont regiments. We here remain for some days, until orders were received for the column to advance in light marching order. The men were given three days’ provisions in their haversacks, consisting solely of  six pilot biscuits, a piece of salt pork, one small cup of ground coffee, and a cup of sugar.

Leaving our encampment at about 10 o’clock in the morning, we took the road for Fairfax Station. The rest of the troops marched toward Fairfax Court House, while our brigade, consisting of the Michigan First, Scott Life Guard, and our own regiment, took a circuitous route through the woods to outflank the enemy at Fairfax Station. Company B., Captain Edward Burns, was sent forward as skirmishers, and entered Fairfax Station about an hour in advance of the main body. As they came within sight of the railroad station, they found the enemy retreating down the railroad-track, and, taking a side path, captured eleven in the woods, and in their camp, behind a masked battery, also took the flag of the Teusas Rifles, presented to them by the ladies of Teusas, Alabama. This flag was taken possession of by Colonel Willcox. It was a handsome blue-silk standard, with eight stars on a blue field, and a representation of a bale of cotton, wrought in white silk. It was afterward delivered up to Brigadier-General McDowell, who complimented the company on their bravery, and trusted the regiment would continue to do its duty as well in the future as in the past.

The next morning Capt. Andrew Purtell, of Co. K, assisted by John Wildey, of Co. I, and your correspondent, raised the American flag on the camp-ground of the rebels, amid the stirring music of the drum and fife and the enthusiastic cheers of the men. The flag which was raised was presented to Comapny K by Messrs. Whitton, Forsyth and other friends from the neighborhood of the Washington Market, in New York City. After taking up the line of march, at 3 o’clock that afternoon, we proceeded along the road past Fairfax Court House onto Centreville, when we were apprised of a battle going on by the report of artillery, which could be distinctly heard. Orders were immediately given to proceed as rapidly as possible, and at the same time we heard the most extravagant rumors that the New York Second and Twelfth Volunteers, and the Sixty-ninth, had engaged some batteries near Bull’s Run, and were badly cut up, so as to need immediate assistance. The men made the most super-human exertions until we arrived at the front of the hill near Centreville, when we were told that our services were not required, as they had beaten the enemy, and taken possession of a battery, at a place near Bull’s Run. We then again took up the line of march, with only a rest of a half an hour. We passed there the main body of our army, and lay for the night in full view of the village of Centreville. Here, by orders of Colonel Willcox, foraging parties were sent out, and some forty or fifty head of cattle brought in, shot, and dressed for the use of the men, and distributed to them. Our brigade – under Colonel Willcox – was thus the only one, or nearly, that was supplied with fresh food that night and the ensuing morning. Resting that day, and up to Saturday evening, we were ordered again to fall in line for a forward movement. Company rolls were called, and the men responded with alacrity, after which, we were told to lie down by our guns until 2 o’clock in the morning of Sunday. At that hour we were called up, and were fairly on the march a little after 4 o’clock.

Again striking a circuitous path through the woods, so as to flank the enemy’s batteries, accompanied by Gen. McDowell (the Scott Life Guard and the Michigan Regiment still with us), we marched steadily on until between 12 and 1 o’clock in the day. During the last four miles on the march we were in sight of the battlefield, from whence we could see clouds of smoke arising, and distinctly hear the report of the guns. Coming nearly within a mile of the actual battle-field, our men halted, threw off their overcoats, and haversacks, and, with only their canteens and equipments, marched immediately on the field.  Arriving at the foot of the hill, our two associate regiments were detached from us, while we marched over the brow of the hill, through a heavy wheat-field. Our red shirts had no sooner glanced in the sunlight than the enemy, noticing our approach, began to throw their six-pound shot at us. Falling back to the foot of the hill, Companies A and H of the regiment were ordered to be held back as reserve, while the remainder pressed eagerly onto the fight. These two companies in less than five minutes, were ordered forward and join the regiment in the battle. Our first point of attack was the nearest position held by the rebels. Some three regiments of riflemen were drawn up in front of a fence, with a masked battery on their left, at the edge of a wood which run down to our right, filled with their sharp-shooters and cavalry. From two to three hundred yards distant from the enemy’s line was another fence, up to which our regiment charged and delivered their fire. From here we could plainly see the rebel soldiers with the Confederate flag in the centre. While the men were loading, a charge was made on our rear, from the wood, by the now celebrated Black Horse Cavalry. Col. Heintzelman, of the Regular service was at this time with us, and he, like ourselves mistook this cavalry for troops of our own. Waving a small American flag at each end of their line, they advance to within almost  pistol shot, when our men discovered their mistake, and, flanking round, poured a volley into them, and then made a charge. It was one indiscriminate fight, hand to hand, and men fell on all sides, the enemy in front firing at us. Bowie-knives and pistols were used with deadly effect, until in this way the cavalry were driven back, their horses scampering riderless and wildly over the hills. At this point Col. Farnham was shot from his horse, wounded on the left side of the head, but was picked up and again placed on his charger, and led us to the charge against the battery. Major Loeser’s horse was also shot from under him, but being again mounted, he rode around our line as coolly as ever, urging the men to the charge. Being again driven back we retired some distance down the hill, attempting to carry our wounded off with us, when the colonel rode around to the rear and again brought the men to the charge.  It was all in vain, however, for our comrades were fast falling by the fire from the woods, while the enemy were too firmly intrenched for us to attempt to get nearer than the fence of which I firs spoke. At this point the Michigan First were brought up and driven back. Then the Rhode Island men charged with Gov. Sprague riding at their head; and, fighting all that the men could do, were still repulsed. While we were thus carrying our wounded slowly with us, we observed the Sixty-ninth Regiment coming along in full line of battle. They asked what the matter was, and being told that we had been driven back, answered that they would take satisfaction for us. Marching up to the particular point from where we had been driven, they delivered in their fire, loaded and fired again, and staid until actually driven back without the least chance of forcing the enemy from his position. It was at this time that their flag was taken (the green banner of their nationality) and carried through the woods.

Capt. Wildey, of Co. I, rallying a few men, charged through the wood after those who had the flag in their possession, and with his own pistol shooting the two rebels who had it, rescued and brought it back in triumph. In this way, with the flag of the Sixty-ninth at the head of our regiment we marched on towards Centreville. We had gone but a short distance, when from the clouds of dust on the roads to the right and left, and, on our rear, we could notice that the enemy were in full pursuit. Before proceeding a half mile, we were warned of their being within range by cannon-ball plowing the ground at our sides. We then took to the woods the colonel still riding at our head, bareheaded, and bleeding and after a march of about a mile, were charged upon by their infantry. Turning and delivering a volley which drove them back, we again marched on, and in a short time, gained the wide open road which brought us to Centreville, and from thence about two miles further down where those who were most fatigued made a halt for the night under charge of Capts. Wildey and Purtell, Lieut. Willsey, Capts. Bill Burns, Leverich, and a few other officers.

At about 10 o’clock that evening we were roused by the wagoneers, who told us that they had orders to retreat, as the enemy were endeavoring to cut us off at Fairfax Court House. There was no recourse but to  again take the road; and weary, footsore, and travel-worn, those that were left in our party reached Alexandria next morning.

There were many incidents connecting with the battle which might be interesting to your readers, did time permit or space suffice. The first one carried from the field was Lieut. Divver, of Vampany G. Shortly afterward, we saw a sergeant, whom we supposed to be Dan Collins, so well known and celebrated a singer in New York, carried off. Then small troops of men were scattered over the field, four or five in each, endeavoring to bear off some wounded comrade. Some were shot through the head, and lived perhaps five minutes; but most of the wounded were shot about the stomach and thigh – the majority of missiles being rifle-balls. On the road down, Capt. Leverich told me that he had left three of his sergeants on the field. Lyons, Connolly, of Engine 51, were left behind, also Babcock, of Engine 38, and many others whose names it would be impossible to give in this brief space. It will perhaps be three or four days yet before the actual loss in killed and wounded can be ascertained; but it has been very heavy – perhaps too heavy for our friends in New York to believe. Still, many are reported as missing who will yet turn up. Quite a number are undoubtedly in the woods between Fairfax and Centreville, and may yet come home safe.

It will take at least a month for our regiment to be fully recruited and ready to enter the field again. The general feeling among the men is, that of wanting satisfaction for the loss they have already suffered. So far as the officers of our regiment are concerned, one and all fought as bravely and manfully as the men could do. The colonel himself, bleeding, and faint, and weary, stood by us, and led us on in our disastrous route, and even took the precaution to have the guns that were thrown away by men in the fight placed under the wheels of the wagons so as to be broken and rendered useless, if picked up by the enemy.

Where the fault rests, it’s impossible for me to say. General McDowell, who was near our regiment, seemed to act cool and collected, and I cannot believe the mistake was his. The one great mistake, in bringing the men up, regiment by regiment, to charge on the batteries, where a full brigade was required.

If our friends in New York will only send on money, if they can, it will be the means of keeping many here, who, otherwise, will be likely to go away, and endeavor to reach home.

Many acts of kindness where exhibited toward our men by citizens in Washington, and also by our friends in New York, who came on, prominent among whom I noticed Hon. John Haskin, Alderman Brady, James Cameron of Horse Comp. 28, and many others, who did not spare their money in providing food and quarters for those who are here suffering. The stories told of the barbarity of the rebels toward our troops are in many cases, perhaps, exaggerated; but that cruelty was practiced toward them, there can be no doubt. Our hospital, with the yellow flag, and the letter H in its centre, flying from the roof of the building was fired on with shells and cannonry, and set on fire. Many poor fellows very likely lost their lives in it. Capt. Downey, it is reported, was butchered by them; but for the truth of this I cannot vouch, although many men assert it as an actual fact within their own knowledge. Certainly we were led to believe, before going into battle, and even on the retreat, that we need expect no mercy, and those who sank from exhaustion, intending to deliver themselves up, lay down with but little hope of ever regaining their regiment or meeting their friends. We ascertain from a sergeant of the Alabama Rifles whom we captured that their orders were to spare no man wearing a red shirt, but whether this inhuman mandate was fully carried into execution or not, it is impossible to say. Possibly those who may come in within the next day or two, will be able to state the truth on this point. I have thus briefly given such particulars as can be hurriedly noted down; and in my subsequent letters, will endeavor to give full information relative to all those who have been reported as missing, who are not with the regiment.

J. A. S.

P.S. – I shall furnish you with an official list of our killed and wounded as soon as our loss can be definitely ascertained. At present, all is rumor; and I would not harrow the feelings of any family by forwarding an unreliable statement.

New York Sunday Mercury, 7/28/1861

William B. Styple, ed., Writing and Fighting the Civil War: Soldier Correspondence to the New York Sunday Mercury, pp. 32-34





Col. Orlando B. Willcox, On the March to Manassas

12 03 2013

Fairfax Road

July 16

My glorious Molly,

Off once more on the march. This day we go no further than about 8 miles & anticipate no opposition. To-morrow we got to Fairfax & expect there may be fighting. Keep as calm & trustful…as possible.

I received Father’s kind letter, but for the last few days have been too busy to write any thing but business, orders, etc. The 4th Mich. has joined my brigade, also a light battery, D, 2d artillery, Capt. Arnold.

It is impossible to say or conjecture what will be the event of the campaign. It seems to be thought the enemy will fall back. If not we must drive them back.

My heart is too full for my eyes, surrounded as I am by my staff, to trust writing the impulses of the moment. I can only say God bless & keep you & bring us & the children all together soon.

Love to Father & Mother, Caro, Frank, [?] Wm. Blodgett, & all. Kiss my children.

Orlando

——————–

In Camp

Centreville, Va.

July 20, 1861.

My dear Marie,

I have received a letter from your beloved pen & it gave me supreme pleasure. It was written in such a calm, cheerful spirit. It has no date (don’t forget to date your letters), but you say i will have left Alexandria before receiving it.

We marched from Alexandria on the 16th with the whole brigade of 12 regiments, Ricketts’ Battery, Arnold’s battery (in my brigade) & C Company, 2d Cavalry, all composing Col. Heintzelman’s Division. The Brigade commanders are 1st, Franklin, 2d, O. B., 3d, Howard. The next day we marched: Franklin for Sangster’s Station & I for Fairfax Station, both points on the Railway. The roads did not diverge for some distance, so that I was kept back by Franklin, who moved very cautiously & slowly, till 12. At 12 I overlapped him by chance & got on to Fairfax Station & took eleven prisoners & a Secession flag & pushed on towards Fairfax Ct. House, but found it already occupied, & turned back & camped at the Station. Had I been able to march straight from the Pohick, alone with my brigade without being delayed by Franklin’s brigade, I might have caught a thousand of the rebels at least.

As it was, the rapidity of a single hour secured for my brigade the only prisoners taken & only flag that I heard of being captured by all the army. Ten of the captives were caught by Capt. Butterworth & one by Sergt. Beardsley of F. Co., son of Beardsley hotel keeper of Detroit. (They were brought up to Gen’l McDowell, who questioned them yesterday and attracted thousands of eyes.)

The next day we all marched to this point. Our division, as well as most of the troops, are camped on the long sloping sides of the hills overlooking Little Rocky Run. Centreville stands on top of the Western Ridge opposite me. We are right on the Blue Ridge & the scenery is magnificent. Just now there are thirty or forty thousand troops bivouacked almost in sight, & Gen’l McDowell is reviewing a Division of 12,000 men on one slope.

All are in good spirits. The affair of Tyler’s was but a premature & mistaken attack & was not a repulse. It showed the enemy’s position in a thick wood about 2 miles from us, & displayed our artillery to great advantage. Nothing could have been handsomer [than] the action of Ayres’ Battery. Ayres is a classmate. There [are] quite a number of my class here, all in conspicuous positions. Ayres, Burnside (not a general as you suppose, but like myself a brigade commander). Tillinghast, chief quartermaster, & Fry, adjt. gen’l. The latter does everything he can for me at Hd. Quarters. He is an old friend. His offices were useful yesterday. I got him to appoint Parker to muster in those of the present regiment who wish to remain & the number is already quite respectable, & hourly increasing.

There is a rumor at Fairfax & Alexandria that I was killed the other day, but Prof. Cooley who is here goes down to-day & will telegraph you.

Love to all, & kisses for babies. The 2d Mich. lost but 5 or 6 killed & wounded.

Orlando

Robert Garth Scott, ed., Forgotten Valor: The Memoirs, Journals, & Civil War Letters of Orlando B. Willcox, pp. 283-285.





Sgt. Major Randolph Barton, Staff, 33rd Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

28 02 2013

Baltimore, Md., January 15, 1897

John O. Casler:

Dear Comrade: Our command reached Manassas Junction on the 20th of July, in the morning, I think. We marched during the day to the right of the line, and the next day we marched and countermarched, halted and rushed, as the changing localities of the conflict, as far as our commanders could anticipate, seemed to require. My dinner was made from blackberries, for being outside of the ranks (as Sergeant Major) I could pick them as we passed over the fields. About 1 o’clock our regiment reached the elevation on which is seated the historic Henry house, and took position on the left flank of our brigade, up to that hour known as the 1st Brigade, or Jackson’s Brigade, ever afterwards as the Stonewall Brigade.

As we approached our position, we heard for the first time the horrid screaming of hostile shells going over our heads high up in the air, but not so high as not to be dangerous. I recall now with some amusement the intense gravity and astonishment written upon the faces of the men as these dangerous missiles from the batteries of Rickett and Griffin went hurtling over us; but I recall no signs of timidity. The men kept in their ranks, obeyed orders and moved into position on the left of the 2d Virginia, of which Brother Strother, my cousin, Willie Barton, and all my Winchester friends were members, with steadiness and resolution. My brother David was in the Rockbridge Battery, which was being supported by our brigade. My uncle, Frank Jones, and my brother-in-law, Thomas Marshall, were on Jackson’s staff. I felt the solemnity of the moment, but I recall no disposition whatever to turn and run. On the other hand, a sense of pride, a desire to emulate the action of the best men on the field possessed me, as it did, I believe, all of our command, except the Adjutant of our regiment. I think I went into that action with less trepidation than into any subsequent one. Inexperience doubtless had much to do with it, but, again, I attribute much of the nerve that sustained me to my year at Lexington. I felt on the field that the orders of our officers were supreme; that come what might, they must be obeyed, and discipline told on me from first to last. I will not give many details of the battle; they have been told by so many writers that it would prolong this narrative unduly for me to repeat them. I will only say that, after taking our position on the left of the brigade, we laid upon the ground listening to the musketry and cannonading going on to our right, or, rather, somewhat in front of our right, from the Confederate forces, which was being vigorously responded to by the Yankees. The “Henry house” was in front of our brigade, over the hill – the upper part of the house visible – and the Robinson house was to the right of that several hundred yards. Occasional shells would explode over our regiment, and the solemn wonderment written on the faces of the men as they would crane their heads around to look our for falling branches was almost amusing. I was near the left flank of the regiment, a few steps in rear, where, upon the formation of the regiment in line of battle, I belonged. Doubtless I wished I was home, but I had to stick. I remember an elderly man riding leisurely by towards the left, in rear of us, apparently giving orders. Some one, possibly myself, asked him who he was. He turned his horse and said: “I am Colonel Smith, otherwise Governor Smith, otherwise Extra Billy Smith.” It was, in fact, Colonel Smith, a game old fellow, who, I suppose, was looking over the ground for a position for his regiment, the 49th Virginia, as it subsequently took position on our left, and finally united in one of the charges on Griffin’s Battery.

Colonel Cummings and Lieutenant Colonel Lee were in front of our regiment, perhaps a hundred yards, stooping down, and occasionally standing to get a view over the crest of the hill that rose gently before us for a little over a hundred yards. The musketry kept up on our right, and then Colonels Cummings and Lee were seen to rise and, bending down, to come back with somewhat quickened steps to the regiment. I remember, as Colonels Cummings drew near, he called out: “Boys, they are coming, now wait until they get close before you fire.”

Almost immediately several pieces of artillery, their horses in front, made their appearance on the hill in front of us, curving as if going into battery, and at the same time I descried the spear-point and upper portion of a United States flag, as it rose in the hands of its bearer over the hill; then I saw the bearer, and the heads of the men composing the line of battle to the right and left of him. At the sight several of our men rose from the ranks, leveled their muskets at the line, and, although I called out, “Do not fire yet,” it was of no use; they fired and then the shrill cry of Colonel Cummings was heard, “Charge!” and away the regiment went, firing as they ran, into the ranks of the enemy, and particularly at the battery towards which our line rapidly approached. Although bearing a non-commissioned officers sword, I had obtained a cartridge box, belted it on, and had in some one secured a flintlock musket, with which one of our companies was armed. This gun, after two futile efforts, I fired at a man on horseback in the battery, one of the drivers, I think. I got near enough the battery to see that it was thoroughly disabled, horses and men falling, and our line driving ahead, when I felt the sting of a bullet tearing a piece from my side, just under my cartridge box, which I had pulled well around on the right and front of my waist. I called out that I was wounded to my uncle, Frank Jones, who helped me up on his horse, and carried me to the rear.

I think it can be demonstrated that the victory of First Manassas is traceable to Colonel Cummings. For fifteen or twenty minutes before our regiment (the 33d Virginia) rose and charged Griffin’s Battery the men of Bee’s and Bartow’s (and, I think, Evans’) commands were coming back over the hill from the Robinson and Henry houses in the greatest disorder, a flying, panic-stricken mob. The Stonewall Brigade maintained the line with the steadiness of veterans. The Rockbridge Battery, with its little guns, was doing its best. Jackson, about that time, rode along the front of his brigade, waiting for the critical moment to order his men into action. It was in his efforts to rally his command that the gallant Bee called to them to rally behind the Virginians. Pointing to Jackson, he used the memorable expression, “Look at Jackson, standing like a stone wall.” The precise expression he used it is impossible to learn. He most probably said, “Look at Jackson and his men, standing like a stone wall.” He had galloped up to Jackson a moment before, and had said: “General, they are driving us back,” and Jackson replied, the words snapping from his lips like grape-shot from a gun, “Then we will give them the bayonet.”

Bee turned to gallop toward his fleeing men, with the inspiration of Jackson possessing him, called out his immortal language, and fell, mortally wounded.

“Jackson had, within the half hour before, passed along his brigade the order not to fire until the enemy was within 30 paces, and then charge. So Colonel Cummings writes to me under the date of September 20, 1896. But, says Colonel Cummings, the shells of the enemy had caused some confusion “with the left company of my regiment,” or, rather, his command of eight companies, and when Griffin’s Battery showed itself on the hill in front of us, and occasional shots began to fall among us from the enemy moving towards our left to flank us, when the tumult of the broken ranks of Bee and Bartow was threatening the steadiness of our right, and the enemy, with exultant shouts, was pressing on, Colonel Cummings, like a flash, thought if those guns get into battery and pour one discharge of grape and canister into the ranks of my raw recruits the day is gone, and then it was, with splendid discretion, he took the responsibility of changing his orders, with the changed conditions, as Grouchy should have done at Waterloo, and charged the enemy.

The suddenness of our attack, the boldness of it, for our men went over and past the battery, the disabling of the guns, all checked the advancing lines. It was immediately followed up by the remainder of the brigade charging, and the troops on our left poured in. The tide of battle turned when it dashed against the farmer boys of the 33d Virginia. It was the first resistance it had met. The enemy came upon the point of a spear, one small regiment of undisciplined boys and me, not a month from the plough-handle and mechanic’s shop. The point broadened, as to the right and left assistance poured in, until it became a sharp blade against which the enemy could not and dared not rush; but the 33d led the van of the movement that first arrested McDowell’s victorious line, and from that moment the scene changed, and from the brink of disaster our army turned to a great victory. Colonel Cummings changed the life of McDowell by his order, “Charge!” He may have changed the history of the war. The battle pivoted upon his nerve. It was the turning point in tremendous events.

I visited the Robinson and Henry houses in September, 1861, and again in September, 1896. My last visit caused me to correspond with Colonel Cummings and read every line I could lay my eyes upon, including the reports of officers on both sides, as published in the compilation called the Rebellion Record, and I believe what I have attributed to Colonel Cummings cannot be successfully gainsaid. He turned the tide of the battle at First Manassas. Instead of the Confederate army flying as a mob to the Rappahannock, the Yankee army fled as a mob to Washington.

Several days have elapsed since I wrote the above. A day or so ago I accidentally saw in the Mercantile Library the “Recollections of a Private,” by Warren Lee Goss, of the Federal army. Turning to his narrative of the battle I find (p.13) a good representation of the Henry house plateau and the confusion in Griffin’s Battery following the attack of the 33d Regiment. I recognize the Sudley mill road, the entrance to the Henry place, on the left of the road, and the fence torn away to allow Griffin’s Battery freely to leave the rad and go upon the plateau. In September, 1896, I stood on this very ground, and , observing that between the bed of the road and the fence on the left hand side there was the usual wash, or gutter, I remarked to my companions that no doubt Griffin tore down the fence and filled the wash with the rails, thus making and easy crossing into the field for his artillery. The picture I am looking at shows the fence torn down, and imagination shows the rails placed as I surmised.

And now I quote from the book what seems to me brings the 33d face to face with the troops Goss writes about. Remember that the Sudley Mills road runs a south-easterly course from the mill to the Henry plateau. Our regiment charged northwesterly. McDowell’s line came over the hill supporting Griffin’s Battery, at right angles to the Sudley Mills road, advancing southeasterly.

Says Gross: “About 1 o’clock the fence skirting the road at the foot of the hill was pulled down to let our batteries (Griffin’s and Rickett’s) pass up to the plateau. The batteries were in the open field near us. We were watching to see what they’d do next, when a terrible volley was poured into them. It was like a pack of Fourth of July fire-crackers under a barrel magnified a thousand times. The Rebels had crept upon them unawares and the batteries were all killed and wounded.

“Here,” says Gross, continuing, “let me interrupt Tinkemann’s narrative to say that one of the artillerymen then engaged has since told me that, though he had been in several battles since, he had seldom seen worse destruction in so short a time. He said they saw a regiment advancing, and the natural inference was that they were Rebels.. But an officer insisted that it was a New York regiment, which was expected for support, and so no order was given to fire on them. Then came a tremendous explosion of musketry,” says the artilleryman, “and all was confusion; wounded men with dripping wounds were clinging to caissons, to which were attached frightened and wounded horses. Horses attached to caissons rushed through the infantry ranks. I saw three horses galloping off, dragging a fourth, which was dead.

“The dead cannoneers lay with the rammers of the guns and the lanyards in their hands. The battery was annihilated by those volleys in a moment. Those who could get away didn’t wait. We had no supports near enough to protect us properly, and the enemy was within seventy yards of us when that volley was fired. Our battery being demolished in that way was the beginning of our defeat at Bull Run,” says the old regular.

This ends the quotation. I have italicized the words which strike me as a direct confirmation of the claim I make that the 33d turned the tide, and Colonel Cummings’ timely order let loose the 33d at the very crisis of the battle. I distinctly only claim that with the order and because of the order came the first check McDowell sustained. That other troops immensely aided in forcing back the Yankee line when thus checked, I freely admit. But our regiment called a halt in the victorious advance of the enemy. I dwell upon the circumstance because of the great interest it adds to the engagement to know that you belonged to the regiment that received and repelled the dangerous thrust of the enemy at the nice turning point of the day. I should think to Colonel Cummings the circumstances would be of extraordinary interest, and that he would time and again reflect how little he thought, when he braced himself to give the order to his regiment, that he was making a long page in history.

Randolph Barton,

“Late Staff Officer 2d Corps, A. N. V.”

James I. Robertson, Jr., ed., Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade, pp. 40 – 46

Randolph J. Barton at Ancestry.com





Pvt. John O. Casler, Co. A, 33rd Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

27 02 2013

Manassas Junction, July 24, 1861.

Dear Father and Mother: I seat myself once more to write you a few lines, to let you know where I am and that I am still alive.

Last Sunday was such a day as I had never seen, and I hope to God I never will see another such time. We had one of the hardest battles that ever was fought in the United States. I have not power to describe the scene. It beggars all description.

We left Winchester on Thursday, and travelled that day and night, and Friday, about 9 o’clock, we arrived at Piedmont Station, and that evening we got on the cars and arrived at the Junction that night. The next morning we marched about four miles east, where they had had a battle on Thursday. We stayed there all day and night, expecting an attack every hour.

On Sunday morning our forces were attacked four miles higher up, and we made a quick march from there to the battle-field, where we arrived about 12. They had been fighting all morning, but about 10 they got at it in earnest. We got there (that is, Jackson’s Brigade) just in the heat of the battle, and our regiment was on the extreme left , and the enemy was trying to flank us. They did not see us until they were within 50 yards of us, as we were under the brow of the hill, and they were ordered to fire, but we were too soon for them. We fired first, and advanced, and then they fired. We then charged bayonets, yelling like savages, and they retreated, and our regiment took their artillery; but they were reinforced, and we had to fall back, exposed to two heavy fires, when we were reinforced by a North Carolina regiment; then we charged again and they retreated, and that part of the field, with the famous Griffin’s Battery, was ours. But the battle lasted about one hour longer in another part of the field, when they retreated in great confusion towards Alexandria, and then the cavalry and artillery pursued them about seven miles, killing and wounding a great many, and taking all their artillery and baggage; but the field for five miles around was covered with the dead and the dying.

I cannot tell how many we lost, but we lost a great many. Their loss was three times as great as ours. Our regiment lost thirty-five killed and over one hundred wounded. Our little company of thirty-two lost five killed and five wounded. Among the killed was poor Will Blue. He was shot dead. Never spoke, shot through the heart. Amos Hollenback, Polk Marker, Tom Furlough and Jim Adams, a fellow that lived with Dr. Moore, were killed. Will Montgomery was badly wounded, but not dangerously. Also John Reinhart, Bob Grace, Arch Young and Ed Allen were slightly wounded, but are able to go about.

We took seventy-six pieces of cannon and between 1,000 and 2,000 prisoners – several important ones, some of Lincoln’s cabinet. Also, General Scott’s carriage. He and some of the ladies from Washington came out as far as Centreville to see the Rebels run. They saw us running, but it was after the Yankees.

The next morning I went on their retreat for two miles, and the baggage was lying in every direction – coats, cartridge boxes, canteens, guns, blankets, broken-down wagons.

The bombs, cannon balls and musket balls whistled all around my head. I could feel the wind from them in my face, but I was not touched. It is rumored that we are going to take Washington. Jeff Davis got here just after the battle, and is on his way to Alexandria now.

There were about 40,000 of the enemy engaged in the battle, and 25,000 Confederates.

You must not be surprised to hear of me getting killed, for we don’t know when we will be killed.

Farewell,

John O. Casler

James I. Robertson, Jr., ed., Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade, pp. 37-40





Col. Arthur C. Cummings, 33rd Virginia Infantry, On the Battle (2)

26 02 2013

 Arlington, Va., November 10, 1896

John O. Casler, Esq.:

My Dear Friend: If you could realize the great pleasure your letter gave me you would not regret the time spent in writing. As you know, the 33d Regiment, which I organized at Winchester, was made up from Hampshire, one company; Hardy, one; Frederick, one; Rockingham, one; Page, one, and Shenandoah five, and as I have hardly ever been from home for the last fifteen years I rarely meet any of the old regiment, and when I do, or hear from them, it is a source of the greatest pleasure, especially when I learn they are getting on well, as I am sure you are.

As you say, I never had a great deal to say, and am somewhat reserved in my manners, but from my experience as Captain in the Mexican war I found that the greatest service I could render the men under my command was to see they were as well taken care of and provided for as circumstances would permit.

I am pleased to know that you have written your experience of “Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade,” and when your new edition is published I will certainly procure a copy, as I am sure of being interested in it.

I noticed one slight mistake in your letter with regard to myself, but of no importance. I did not resign, but for what I regarded as sufficient reason (not necessary to state now) was not a candidate for re-election at the reorganization of the army. Was elected to the Legislature, in which I served the last years of the war, until the surrender; practiced law for some fifteen or more years, since which I have devoted myself to my farm a few miles from Abington.

The law was my profession, which I commenced to practice the year after the close of the Mexican war. I have had two letters from Randolph Barton recently, whom you may remember, who had for the first time since the close of the war visited the battle-field of the First Manassas, and who seems to be much interested in the part performed by the 33d and the Stonewall Brigade on that memorable 21st of July, 1861.

Barton was a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Va., at the commencement of the war; was assigned to the 33d when I was organizing it at Winchester in the early part of July. I had no field officer at that time, and made him Sergeant Major. He was a bright young man, an Adjutant General on General Walker’s staff, and is now a prominent lawyer in Baltimore. He desired my recollection of the part performed by the 33d and the Stonewall Brigade, which I furnished him, and which corresponded pretty well with his own, with a few minor exceptions.

Our army left Winchester about 2 o’clock on the 18th of July, the Stonewall Brigade in front. The 33d did not reach Manassas until a little before daylight on Saturday morning, the 20th. On Saturday morning we marched out and joined the other regiments of the brigade in rear of McLane’s Ford, on Bull Run. Our line of battle extended from about Union Mills, on Bull Run, on the right, to the stone bridge. It was expected we would be attacked upon the right and center, but when it was ascertained early Sunday morning that the enemy was marching in the direction of the stone bridge, with the evident design of turning our left flank and reaching the Manassas Gap railroad, the Stonewall Brigade was moved up Bull Run and somewhat parallel with it (making short stops at intervals) until we reached the brow of the hill in front of the “Henry house,” where the brigade was formed in line of battle in a thicket of small pines. In the meantime, the battle was raging in the direction of the stone bridge, and our forces were being driven back before overpowering numbers. The line of the brigade was formed, with the 5th Regiment on the right, then the 4th and 27th (the latter two supporting Pendleton’s Battery), then the 2d and 33d.

At that time the brigade was the extreme left of our army, and the 33d,, on the left of the brigade, was ordered to lie down in the edge of the pines, which, aided by the conformation of the ground, at that time concealed us from the sight of the enemy, who, in large numbers, were pressing towards our right.

Our orders were to wait until the enemy were within thirty paces, then to fire and charge with the bayonet. About that time General Jackson came along the line and directed me to look out for the enemy’s artillery. As you are aware, the 33d had just been organized before we left Winchester, and, with the exception of two or three companies, were perfectly raw troops, and two of those, Captain Holliday’s (afterward Governor) and Captain Jones’ (afterward Colonel) were left behind, one as guard and one on detached service, and consequently were not in the field. So there were but eight companies present, numbering about 400 men, for active duty. When General Jackson directed me to look out for the enemy’s artillery, Captain William Lee, who was acting as Lieutenant Colonel, and a gallant man he was, and I walked out on the plateau and saw the artillery of the enemy moving rapidly up the Sudley road to our front and left, and large bodies of the enemy’s infantry moving along the hill towards our left flank, and we returned immediately to the regiment.

There had been some confusion in the regiment, produced by a solid shot being fired towards the regiment and tearing up the ground, together with the appearance of some red-coats on our left. Previous to this time the enemy’s artillery fire had been directed towards the regiments of the brigade and at Pendleton’s Battery. This little confusion in the regiment, and the fact of the men being raw and undisciplined, made me uncertain as to what would be the result, if I waited, as directed by General Jackson, until the enemy was within thirty paces. And, therefore, as soon as I returned to the regiment I ordered the charge, without waiting, as directed, until the enemy was within thirty paces, with the result that the enemy’s battery was taken, or rather, as I think, a section of it, without, as I believe, a gun being fired. No old regulars ever made a more gallant charge, though not a very regular one. Of course, we could not hold it without support, in the face of such overwhelming numbers, though the horses were shot down, and I have now an artillery bit, cut from one of the horses, which I have used ever since.

The 33d suffered more in the first battle of Manassas than any regiment in our army.

I regretted very much Captain Lee’s death. My acquaintance with him was short, but I esteemed him very highly. He was a true and gallant man, and being from the old army, and experienced, was of great service to me. My friend Barton is also of the true blue order. I have long cherished the hope of visiting the Valley, where I would meet some of survivors of the 33d, but suppose I must be content to remember them with the greatest kindness.

I am now in my 75th year, and feel the heavy weight of years. Very truly your friend,

Arthur C. Cummings,

Colonel, 33d Virginia Infantry.

James I. Robertson, Jr., ed., Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade, pp. 34-37





Sgt. William P. Holden, Co. H, 2nd Maine Infantry, On the Battle

29 01 2013

Position of the Second.

1861 8-3 Bangor Daily Whig and Courier 2d Maine Bull Run with map 1861 8-3 Bangor Daily Whig and Courier 2d Maine Bull Run with map

We copy above what we should judge to be a very correct diagram of the position of our Second at the battle of Bull Run. It was roughly made, with such conveniences as are at the command of soldiers, by Wm. P. Holden of this city, and accompanied a private letter to his father. We copy such portions of the letter as explain the map; that our readers may understand, as clearly as may be, the exact position of our regiment, at the fight. After giving an account of the terrible forced march, fatigue and almost starvation preceding the attack, he says: -

We started for Bull Run on Sunday morning at 2 o’clock. The head of the column came up to a battery about 8 o’clock, and the artillery commenced throwing shell and balls into it, and in about half an hour they left it, and retreated to another. The artillery moved to the top of a hill, marked our battery. I have only marked on the map the battery which our regiment charged upon. There were eight more to the right. It was 12 o’clock before our regiment was called to charge. They were about three miles to the rear of the battery which they charged upon. They marched double quick all the way, and as it was a very hot day, you can judge what kind of shape the boys were in to fight. A great many of them could not stand it to run so far, and fell out of the ranks before they arrived at the battle ground. Our regiment went upon the main road as far as the line, marked through the cornfield and woods, and drew up in line of battle, in front of the woods. When we came out of the woods, there were a lot of rebel troops in the orchard, but as they were dressed in gray, our officers supposed they were our troops, and did not find out otherwise until they retreated some distance, turned and fired upon us, killing all that were killed during the fight. The Colonel then gave the order to charge upon them, which we did until within 40 yards of the battery, where our men stood until they were ordered to retreat by Col. Keyes. They then retreated to the woods, and laid down to rest. Gen. Tyler soon came down and ordered them to charge again, but Colonel Keyes said our regiment had done their share of fighting, and that he had better order one of the Connecticut regiments on, as they had not done any fighting. About 4 o’clock a general order to retreat to Centreville was given, as the rebels had received a reinforcement of 30,000 men from Manassas, and our troops had been fighting for eight hours and were pretty well tire out. We retreated to Centreville and encamped. About 12 o’clock at night, orders came from Gen. McDowell to retreat to Washington.

Bangor Daily Whig and Courier,  8/3/1861

Clipping Image

William P. Holden at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Notes to Brig. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, On the Battle

12 01 2013

A few notes on this post – Brig. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, On the Battle:

A copy of this letter, from Richard S. Ewell to Mary Custis Lee, was provided to me by researcher Tonia Smith of Pinehurst, NC. I received permission from the Virginia Historical Society to post a transcription and an image of the letter here.

Before posting the letter, I contacted Donald Pfanz of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Mr. Pfanz is the author of the definitive biography of Ewell, and has recently published a collection of his correspondence. As the letter in question was not included in his book, I wanted to give him a first look. He very graciously consented to transcribe its contents. Considering his familiarity with Ewell’s handwriting and composition, this was appropriate. With one minor exception, his transcription of the letter has been reproduced here as submitted, complete with edits – typically I don’t edit correspondence for punctuation, spelling, or abbreviations. However, as Mr. Pfanz was kind enough to do the work, I make an exception in this case.

Thanks to Ms. Smith, the VHS, and Mr. Pfanz.





Brig. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, On the Battle

11 01 2013

July 31. 61—

Mrs. M. C. Lee

Dear Madam,

Your letter & the two enclosed came to my quarters within the last hour[.]  I assure you I feel deeply the gratitude due to an Overruling Providence for our deliverance.  From the rumors & confirmed reports I gather that the sons of our noble old State had their full share in the actions of the 18th & 21st.  As was proper they seemed to be the chief instruments & have suffered severely—

You will gather more of the details from papers than I can give you except that it is a fact that they brought a large number of handcuffs.  I am told a box of them was marked for Officers   –My brother told me he saw one numbered 500 or some such number but I am told there were thousands[.]   A circular has been sent from our Head Qrts. Inquiring into it.

I was not in the fight.  Crossing the river twice with my Brigade to take the offensive we were recalled both times, the lat time to go to Stone Bridge, the place of hardest contention[,] but the tide had turned before our arrival–  It is curious to read the exulting letters picked up on the field, some of them disgraceful even to our enemies–  Capt. Tillinghast – was killed Ramsey d[itt]o–  Rickets is a prisoner–  Orlando Wilcox d[itt]o.  Dr Stone & Gray do.  Andrew Porter[,] Fitz John Porter, Palmer, Stoneman, Miles, Heintzelman wounded, were on the field.  One co of 2d Drag. & 6 of Cavalry–  Major Sykes commanded a Battalion of Infantry–  I have not made many inquiries as you may suppose it is painful to find our old Army friends active against us–  Capt. Potter whom I left at Albuquerque N.M. professing never to take up arms against the South is a prisoner & I hear, loud in his threats of what they are going to do next–  The general tone of the prisoners is impudent in the extreme—

Mr. Moss wrote on the back of the letter enclosing those from Mrs. Fitzhugh that “he had made inquiries & Arlington had not been much abused.”  The papers state however that they were going to clear away the trees—

–Genl. Lee was traveling west a few days since but being without retinue it is likely [“likely” crossed out?] possible not to take the field–  They are repairing the rail road bridges burnt when we fell back from Fairfax & it seems a general advance is contemplated.  I think before very long you can go to Ravensworth & I hope to Arlington—

–I have had quite a holyday [sic] since the battle as changes in Brigades are being made.  Fortunately they leave me my best Regt. And the best colonel I have seen (Rodes 5th Ala.)  He is a Virginian & was a long time at the Institute—

–I have the same cavalry as before the battle and their horses are in fine condition.  If Miss Lee want to visit the battle field or to go to Ravensworth it can be managed without difficulty, particularly as regards the field–  The other would require notice a day or two before, but a horse could be sent to meet her at the Station[.]

–I believe I have told you all I know positively as regards who were present on the field & your other questions—

Mrs. Ricketts has joined her husband since the fight & she or some other Northern woman has been so violent in their expressions that it was threatened to put her in prison if she would not stop

–I have heard no names of the other ladies who came to enjoy our humiliation–  Indeed I don’t know but Mrs. Ricketts came after the fight—

–It is not likely that the women who came along to spend the winter in Richmond were the wives of old Officers–  They were I expect of the new forces or of volunteers–  I am sure Mrs. Miles was not along or he would never have been able to return–  Some blame is attached to us for not advancing in the panic, but although Alexandria might have been easily taken it would have been hard to hold & we were so embar[r]assed by wounded & prisoners that it would have been impossible to have supplied troops at that distance without the rail road—

With respects to Miss Mary

Yours—

R S. Ewell

P. S.

I will send you a list of Officers of the regular Army killed or Captured when I see a correct one – RSE–

Mary Lee Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia MSS/L5144a 1334-1666 Sec. 24. Used with permission.

Transcribed by Donald Pfanz.

Letter image

Notes





Brig. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, On the Retreat from Fairfax and the Battle

10 01 2013

July 31, 1861

Miss Lizzie Ewell

Dear Lizzie,

I received your note with the envelope a few days since. I am very sorry that I can not gratify your taste for blood and your ambition by any account of glory that I was to have reaped on the 18th or 21st. When we fell back from Fairfax Court-house Station my post had been assigned, in advance, at Union Mills on the extreme right flank of our position. I was, when directed to do so, at the critical moment, to take the road to Centreville to attack the enemy in flank, and the various other brigades, between this and the point of attack of the enemy, were also to cross the run and do likewise. On the 17th we all remained in position as the enemy did not make a decided attack. On the 21st we were roused before daylight with orders to hold ourselves in readiness at a moments warning, and very soon we could hear the booming of artillery and the faint discharge of musketry far up the run towards the turnpike. About nine A.M. the next General above me sent word he had crossed and was advancing, sending me a copy of his orders which looked to my doing so, although nothing had come to me. I also moved forward, but we were all arrested by an order to fall back to our old positions. The reason I had not received the order was that it had not been sent, but the time lost was so short that it made no difference – less than an hour. The reason of our recall was that our hands were full up the run, and the scales were doubtful.

At three P.M. I again received orders to cross, and went about 1 1/2 miles when I was directed to march my brigade to the stone bridge over Bull Run. My feelings then were terrible, as such an order could only mean that we were defeated and I was to cover the retreat. I reached [there] in time to find we had won, and marched back to Union Mills (Rail-road crossing of Bull Run.) Our line of battle from extreme left to right was nearly five miles. The battle took place on the left – across Bull Run – on open ground, the enemy having turned our flank. We should feel deeply our gratitude for the victory, for the march of the enemy was as a swarm of locusts, burning and destroying. They drove peoples stock into their pens merely to butcher them, leaving farmers without a live animal on their farms. The private memoranda found on the field speak of their depredations on the route.

On the 17th, the day we fell back from Fairfax, owing to the hurry of affairs, the troops at the Court-house fell back without warning me at the station, and the result was that Col. R. E. Rodes of my command (formerly of Lexington) was engaged with the enemy, and my flanks were about being turned before we knew that General Bonham had orders to retire. Either the Yankees lost their way or were over cautious for we extricated ourselves without loss of baggage or life. We were very near being surrounded by 10 or 15000 while we were less than 2000 without artillery. In the hurry of movements they forgot the most important orders sometimes. Col. Rodes is an old acquaintance of Benjamins, and excellent officer, behaved very gallantly, but in the blaze of more recent events his little skirmish will be overlooked. He killed and wounded some 40 of the enemy, including one captain, and drove them back to wait for their artillery. In the meantime we retired. All is doubtful as to future movements.

Remember me to the family. There is talk of an advance.

Yours,

R. S. Ewell.

Pfanz, Donald C., ed., The Letters of General Richard S. Ewell, Stonewall’s Successor, pp. 175-176

From a typescript in Library of Congress (original lost)








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