Sgt. Charles McFadden, Co. K, 79th New York Infantry, On the Battle

20 12 2012

Letter From The Battleground Of Bull’s Run.

A “NOVASCOTIAN” IN THE FIGHT.

The Picton Chronicle publishes a letter, addressed to a gentleman in Picton, by a young Nova Scotian, formerly a member of the Halifax Scottish Volunteer Rifle Company, who some months ago joined the New York 69th Highland Regiment, in which he was appointed a Sergeant and with his Regiment was present and took part in the recent fight at Bull’s Run. The letter was not intended for publication, says the Chronicle, but as the unpretending narrative of an eye witness and Novascotian too, a non-commissioned officer in a regiment which bore the brunt of the engagement, it contains so much that is interesting that we have obtained permission to give our readers the benefit of it. It is dated

Washington, 26th July, 1861.

I seize this opportunity of letting you know how I have been getting along since I last wrote you. Of course the newspapers will have posted you in reference to the part our regiment took in the late battle of Sunday, so I will only write of what I myself saw and as I am in the midst of noise and confusion, you must make every allowance for all short comings.

Our men were already worn out with long marching under a burning sun by day, and the discomfort caused by exposure and the sudden changes of temperature, for the nights have been cold and chilly, when we received the order to march. Two day’s provisions were served out consisting of fifteen hard biscuit and a piece of raw salt pork for each man. This was after our first battle. We commenced to march about 3 a. m. Sunday, July 21st, and were not long in coming up with the enemy. They retired after a few shell had been fired; and after we had pursued them for about two miles, made a stand at Bull’s Run. Our brigade consisting of the 2d Wisconsin, 13th New York and the 69th and 79th regiments with Sherman’s Battery, quickly drew up in line of battle, on the edge of a deep wood, and sat down to wait our turn to charge. Here we all made our wills, a good many for the last time. Fortunately, I am spared to add a codicil to mine if necessary, but I bequeathed to you all my old boots and hats, to most of the S. V. R. something to remember me by, including J– W–, to whom in the event of my sudden demise, I left all my “bad debts.”

About 9 A. M. the battle began in earnest and we received the order to charge the main body of their batteries, supported by Sherman’s Battery which opened the Ball. Our ranks were then suffering considerably, but almost immediately we drove the enemy out of their entrenchments, and took their guns. New and unlooked for batteries now opened upon us – 3 to one taken – but we kept on, and our Brigade went down the hill at the double quick, crossing Bull’s Run up to our waists in water, up the hill again on the other side, where the enemy was entrenched on top, with heavy artillery. The carnage among our men now became dreadful, but up the hill we went until within three hundred yards of their infernal batteries, that were cutting our boys at a fearful rate, when our brave Col. Cameron was killed, also Cap. Brown. When the firing commenced on our side, we mowed them down by hundreds, but not being properly supported we were compelled to retire, which we did in good order and without confusion, leaving scores of brave Highlanders dead upon the field; our wounded we carried with us. Soon after, we made the second charge supported by Carlisle’s Battery, but they never unlimbered; every man and horse belonging to it being killed in ten minutes. The roaring of cannon and the shrieks of the wounded men and horses – many of the latter running about the field riderless, made up a scene I will never forget. The ground became slippery with blood, and covered with the dear and wounded. But the reality of this picture, I will not attempt to pourtray. At last after nine hours hard fighting, we hear the bugle sound a welcome retreat. You will have already heard the story of the scene of confusion that ensued. It was a disgraceful panic, originating with the teamsters and camp-followers, but the excitement soon spread and became pretty general, but not until the greater part of the army was comparatively out of immediate danger of any description. The charge of the Rebel Black horse cavalry, was a sight to be seen and remembered. It was grand and impressive, but it was terrific. They swept down on our flank with fearful velocity, and cut us up terribly in flank and rear.

During this charge I had a narrow escape. A private of the Wisconsin 2d, shot one of them through the head as his sword was raised to split my skull. I shall never forget that man. We laid down and they passed over us. During the day we had nothing to eat, nor the next day either. That night we slept on the field, not having strength left to walk a dozen yards, and on the following morning we commenced our weary way back to Alexandria, thirty miles distant. On our way we were joined by two lieutenants, who like myself and my comrade had passed the night in the vicinity of the scene of action. Our little party of four was well armed. I took a long knife from the Cavalry fellow after the Wisconsin man shot him, which I still keep.

The scene along the road, beggars description. For miles beyond Centreville, it was filled with dead bodies, overturned army waggons, and accoutrements, and may a poor wounded fellow did we pass who had managed to crawl five or six miles only to die from exhaustion and loss of blood. We arrived at Alexandria that night, having walked 30 miles through scenes of horror and a drenching rain having eaten nothing for fifty-six hours, only to find every hole and corner filled with soldier, who had been in the panic on the day before. Wet as I was, I laid down in the streets of Alexandria and slept as sweetly as if I had been in the Acadian. Next morning the Provost Marshall gave us some bread, the first for many a weary hour. I think it was the sweetest morsel I ever eat in my life.

I received a copy of the Reporter which you were kind enough to send me. Only think of the Reporter being read in the back woods of Virginia. There is one little incident I had nearly forgotten. A large number of white coated gentry, mostly congressmen and reporters, were at the left of our regiment, at what they thought a safe distance, when suddenly, whether by accident or design, I know not, a shell burst directly over our heads. You ought to have seen them run. You might have played marbles on their coat tails for two miles at least, to the great amusement of our boys who were lying down at the time.

I had a narrow escape in the morning. One of our buglers had been wounded in the leg by a bullet, and I was binding a handkerchief round it, when a cannon ball came and smashed him into a thousand pieces, covering me with blood. – The only injury I received was from a splinter from a gun carriage which struck me in the back; it still gives me a good deal of trouble, but it is nothing serious.

I am heartily sick of the way in which Uncle Sam treats his soldiers. Nothing but crackers and water will weaken any man in a warm country, with plenty of hard marching to do. So ends the chapter of sufferings I have endured for the last two months, until I am so weak from bad living and other causes, that as soon as I can get my discharge I intend returning to Halifax, and try and get some rest for a while. Give my regards to all the boys, and tell them that I hope to be among them in a few weeks. I will send this letter by Capt. Bigelet to Boston, as it would never reach you if mailed here. The story of the Southerners bayoneting our wounded is quite true. I saw it with my own eyes.

Yours, truly,

C. McF.

Sergt. 69th Highlanders

The British Colonist, 8/10/1861

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See Charles McFadden in 79th New York roster, and note his “discharge” on 7/21/1861 at Bull Run, Va.

Contributed by John Hennessy





J. A. V.*, 16th New York Infantry, On the Battle

19 12 2012

Letter from the War.

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The following two letters from St. Lawrence County boys will be read with interest:

Alexandria, July [??], 1861.

Our regiment was sent to the extreme left to protect a battery of six rifled cannon. We remained inactive until about four o’clock, when we espied a detachment of the enemy coming to take possession of our guns. Under Lieutenant Colonel Marsh we formed to receive them, and the artillery played upon them with fine effect. They were in a ravine and we upon a hill. They fired upon us. We laid down and their bullets passed over our heads, falling among us, and in front of us. Our boys were as cool as if at their dinner, and waited for the foe to show themselves on the brow of the hill, with a smile of satisfaction on their countenances. They did not advance, and our artillery getting out of ammunition and leaving us, we were ordered to retreat, which we did in excellent style. Our regiment was the last to leave the field, and come near being surrounded, as our men had all retreated and left us alone.

Lieutenant Colonel Marsh showed great coolness and courage, and acquitted himself with great credit. Our regiment was the only one that left the field with unbroken ranks and marched in good style the whole way. This was due to the energy of Colonel Marsh and by his fearless conduct he has endeared himself to the officers and men. None of our regiment were hurt except Lieutenant Hopkins, who was slightly wounded in the heel while out on a scouting expedition.

We are again in our old camp, and were absent from Tuesday until Monday, during which time I never took off my clothes, slept on the ground, and ate hard bread and raw pork. I feel well, and am ready for another fight and hope we will have more competent leaders next time. Our loss is not so great as was first reported, although it is too much for all that was gained. The loss of the enemy must have been very great as a fierce cannonading was kept up by our men for over four hours.

Our men are very much dissatisfied with their food and I must say that our commissary department is very poor. We have not yet had our pay, and some are growling about it. All are out of money and we await with eager eyes the approach of pay day, which has been deferred from time to time.

Yours truly,

J. A. V.

St. Lawrence Republican, 8/6/1861

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*Possibly Lt. John A. Vance, Co. F, or Pvt. John Valliere, Co. B. See regimental roster

Contributed by John Hennessy





Capt. Calvin S. DeWitt, Co. I, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

18 12 2012

Letter from Capt. DeWitt

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Full Description of the Action of the Horseheads Company in the Great Battle at Bull’s Run.

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We are permitted to publish the following interesting letter from Capt. C. S. DeWitt, describing particularly the part taken by the Horseheads Company in the great battle at Bull’s Run.

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Head Quarters 38th Regiment N. Y. V.

Camp Scott, Shuters Hill, Fairfax Road,

Near Alexandria, Va., July 27, 1861.

Dear Sister:

This has been a very short week indeed to me. Here it is Saturday, six days since the battle of Bull Run, of which I suppose you have heard long before this, although I think, you have not heard much from our regiment as our Col. has not sent in his report yet and then our regiment is not a newspaper regiment, as you may have seen by the papers before this.

I looked for the New York papers the next day and was glad to hear that our regiment was not mentioned in the report, for I expected to see it in the papers that I was killed, for it was reported on the field that I was killed or badly wounded, but I am not. I escaped with the exception of a few light scratches. I was struck on the hand by a piece of a bomb and was pricked in the back of the head accidentally by one of my own men, but these are nothing.

But I will now attempt to give you an account of the battle, which is said to have been the most desperate one ever fought in the United States.

Imagine if you can our army on last Saturday night encamped in a pleasant valley near Centreville, Va., with orders to march in the morning at 2 o’clock, with 3 days provisions in our haversacks, no one knew where except the General in command. You might have seen me at 7 o’clock going through inspection of arms, seeing that all my men were fully equipped and had the requisite amount of ammunition. Finding every thing right I broke ranks for the night, telling the men I had orders to march at 2 in the morning, and they must get all the rest they could before that time. Then after arranging all my affairs about camp, at 10:30 I took my blanket and laid down to sleep. I slept until 12 when Col. Ward, wh was going round the camp tapped me on the should and said, “Capt. fall in your men right away as silently as possible. We move from here at one o’clock.” So I got up, spoke to the men, and they were all up and in the ranks in ten minutes.

The whole division of the army was in rank and commenced moving out of camp, but we had to stand there until f o’clock which was more tiresome than marching. Then we took up our march for the field of action which was 16 miles from our camp, which me marched in quick time, and reached the field about 12 M. You may judge what condition the men were in for fighting by this time. They were nearly exhausted by the heat of the day and the long march, and then were hurried into the fight without a moment’s rest.

The battle had been going on two hours when we arrived. We came on the field in double quick and then we were in for it. We were to take a masked battery and fight an unseen enemy. When we first came on the field we saw the rebels, but we gave them one volley, and they run for the woods which were on two sides of the field, and there were their batteries were concealed in the thick woods pouring out upon us their deadly shower of shell and canister, and volley after volley of rifle and musket balls, and as they were concealed in the wood and in entrenchments we could not see a man, and had to march up to their batteries through one of the most steady and the sharpest fire ever known to soldiers. We only had to judge where to fire from where the fire came from, which we did with considerable effect.

We soon however had a chance to see the rebels for we charged on them and run right into their battery. The 38th and the Zouaves charged together, side by side, which made a bad hole in them I can tell you. We laid them in piles, but we were driven back by far greater numbers and greater advantages of ground. There was surely never a more brave lot of men in any filed. My Company has received great praise for the bravery of both officers and men, and for the dangerous position we took.

I kept perfectly cool and composed, and went right in I tell you. My men stuck like good fellows, and if I do say it, was in the thickest and done some of the best fighting. I thought once it was all up with me. I was far in advance in the open field with a few men around men. From our position every shot told upon the rebels. But at this moment came a shower of bullets. The balls whistled past my ears like hail, and a corporal of my company was shot. He was not two feet from me. A ball struck him in the throat and went straight through his neck, low at the breast. He fell on his side and said, “O dear, I am shot!: This did not stop me much. I laid him in an easy position and urged the men on, but it was hard to keep them in that place. They were falling like rain. I looked round at McBride and he was not dead. I thought to carry him back a little from the field. I spoke to my Orderly Sergeant, who was near me, to take hold and we would carry him back a little. So we both took hold of him, but no sooner had we started with him than a ball struck the Orderly in the breast and went right through his body. He fell with a groan on my feet. This made my heart sick. Here lay two of the very nicest boys in the regiment. The Orderly Sergeant was Wm. F. Straight of Elmira, and the Corporal was John McBride of N. York. But no time to waste here. I looked around me and scarcely a man could be seen standing, and the ground was strewn with the dead and dying. Oh, it was an awful sight. I cannot describe it.

Imagine, if you can, a field strewn with  dead and wounded, and in many instances the black hearted rebels were known to cut the throats and mangle with their bayonets the wounded men left on the field.

Our loss is not so much by far as it was reported. I awfully hate to own we were whipped, but it was no victory, for the rebel loss was much greater than ours. There was two darkies run out of the enemy’s lines when we were retreating. They say that the enemy’s loss is far greater than ours. They say they had 500 darkies at work carrying away the dead and wounded. These niggars came out after some dead on the field and run over to our lines.

There was no use of losing the battle if we had the right management of the thing. The attack was not made right, nor in the right place. It was nothing but suicide to march those men before an unseen enemy and masked batteries. We were compelled to retreat after a desperate battle of six hours and a quarter, by far superior numbers, masked batteries and great advantage of ground – But we are here yet. Let them come out of their trenches and attack us, or stand up in sight or any way only so that we can see them, and we will show you how soon we can clean them out. We can whip two to one, and had them whipped, only for a panic amongst the teamsters, that was taken for a retreat by some of our troops, and this routed the men so that they could not be rallied in time to save themselves.

The great sacrifice in this battle is blamed on the commanding officer Gen. McDowel. – There was no use to have had so many killed. Men’s lives are too precious to be thrown away in that way. There was no necessity to hurry the thing along so fast, when we knew that the enemy had been in this place for months, and that they would stay there as long as possible. It is one of their strongest posts. They had three batteries, one on the right, left and centre. The Southern account of their numbers say that they had twelve thousand in the fight and sixty thousand in the reserve at Manassas Junction. Well now, McDowel’s command is only forty thousand, and we had only seven thousand men in the fight that attacked Bull Run, (now the papers may say what they please). The force was divided to attack another place but did not do it. At tow o’clock the victory seemed to be ours, and would have been could we have had a reserve of a few fresh troops to have come in to help. But no, there was two regiments in reserve in the woods a mile off waiting, but were never ordered to the field.

The 38th and the Fire Zouaves were fighting side by side, when a whole company of the rebel Black Horse Cavalry made a furious charge on us at the time when they tho’t us nearly whipped. But we gave them a warm reception, for only one horseman of the whole troop went back to tell the tale. We dropped them from their saddles like rain.

But I have written enough – you will be sick of reading more, although the half is not told you. But talk of being tired. I thought I had been tired before, but I did not know what it was to be so. We marched from five o’clock on Sunday morning until 8 o’clock on Monday morning, a distance of sixty two miles without rest, and had six hours hard fighting in the time. I had nothing to eat in this time except a couple of hard crackers or sea biscuits.

We arrived at our old camp at 8 o’clock next morning, and got breakfast at a farm house near by, which it is needless to say I relished very well. I have boarded at this house ever since.

I had two men killed, five wounded and eleven missing out of my company. Our whole loss was six to eight hundred.

Cr. Murdoch’s son is our Chaplain.

Yours, &c.,

Capt. C. S. DeWitt,

38th Regiment

Elmira Weekly Advertiser, 8/10/1861

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Calvin S. DeWitt at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. John H. Morrison, Co. H, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

17 12 2012

[The following letter was received from private John H. Morrison, of Co. H, (Captain Baird,) by his father. It is replete with interesting incidents of the part taken by the Geneva boys in the great battle at Bull's Run:

Alexandria, Va., July 23d.

Dear Father:

I sit down to write you a few lines, and it is a great task to do it, for I am so fatigued that I can hardly sit up. We have just returned from a march of about 32 hours in the rain. Sunday morning – (o, what a Sunday that was! it was one that I shall never forget) – we were called from our rest. We were about two miles from a place called Centreville: we had marched to Fairfax Court House the day before that, and routed the enemy. They left their camps and the most of their provisions in a great hurry. We stayed there one day and took 11 prisoners. The next day we marched to Centreville, and as I said, were aroused at 1 o’clock and started for Manassas Junction. We were on a forced march the most of the rime, and just before we got to the field of battle we got to the field of battle we had to move at “double quick.” We were drawn up in line of battle, and marched direct to the front of the enemy. They were in masked batteries, and we could not see them fairly. But we gave them a few vollies, and then our regiment was detailed to cover a battery of artillery. We were a few yards behind the picket battery, which was awfully cut up by the enemy’s artillery. We were then ordered to sustain a charge of the Fire Zouaves, which we did; and our regiment and the Fire Zouaves marched directly up within five rods of the rebel battery, and stood a galling fire for the space of 15 or 20 minutes, but had to retreat. We rallied again, and stood their fire for a long time, and had to retreat again. They may say what they please in the papers, but the Thirty-eighth and the Fire Zouaves were the only regiments that went any where near the enemy’s batteries.

While we stood there, I was wondering all the while that a ball did not hit me; but I got off without a scratch! Why I saw men fall all around me. Some had their head shot off clean from the body; some had both legs and arms taken off; and others fell with balls in their heads. It was one continual whiz around my head. Men would drop next to me; but although I always thought I would feel a little fear on entering a field of battle, yet I was never more cool and steady in my life, notwithstanding the hot weather and fatigue.

A great many of our men were sunstruck, including our Colonel; and if it had not been for Capt. Baird, we would not have a Colonel now. Capt. B. was the only officer of his rank in our regiment that I saw at the head of his men. You may read a great deal in the papers in regard to this battle. I cannot estimate the number of men lost on either side, but the slaughter was great. I have heard men that were in the Crimean war and in a dozen battles say, that they never saw men stand before such galling fire as we did.

You can put down the Brooklyn Phalanx (Henry Ward Beecher’s pets) as cowards! And you may not credit any of the State troops except those of New York for any great display of bravery.

I will not undertake to say how many men our regiment lost; but I will say that most of our Geneva boys are safe – that is, as far as I know. I expect that Johnny Orman is killed, and several wounded. Harry L. Stainton got a ball through his right hand; he may lose it, and he may not.

I will not attempt to give all the particulars until I can do so without causing needless alarm to the friends of the 38th.

I will mention the Fire Zouaves, as I think they stood the brunt of the battle. As for the “seceshers,” we will “polish” them off yet. Charley Dorchester, Clark McMillan of Phelps, and I, are in our tents, all sound. John Baker, Fred Andrus and young Tim Clare are safe.

I have just heard that we are cut off from Washington, and I must quit. I will give more particulars in my next. This in a hurry.

John.

Geneva Gazette, 8/2/1861

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John H. Morrison at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Officers’ Clerk George L. Russell, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

15 12 2012

Letter from Geo. L. Russell, of the 38th Regiment.

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[A friend to whom the following letter was addressed has kindly permitted its publication. The writer was 1st Lieutenant in Capt. Baird's Company, but resigned and was appointed Officers' Clerk in the regiment:]

Alexandria, Va., July 23.

You have probably heard, ere this, of the bloody and terrible battle of the 21st, and our awful defeat. We broke camp on the 16th and marched on Fairfax, the Ellsworth Zouaves and first Michigan Regiment taking the lead. The enemy hearing of our approach, fell back on Bull’s Run, where they were attacked on the 18th by the 12th and 69th N. Y. Reg’ts, who were unable to dislodge them, and were obliged to retreat to Centreville, where we joined them, together with the whole of Gen. McDowell’s column, consisting of about 45,000 men. Here we rested for two days, and on Sunday morning, the 21st, the whole army commenced its march on Manassas, which is distant 14 miles, where we arrived at 12 M., marching the whole distance under a broiling sun. And although completely exhausted, we were immediately ordered into action.

The battle had already commenced, having been opened by the 71st and 69th N. Y. Regiments. The enemy were entrenched behind strong breast-works, mounted with heavy rifled cannon, compared to which our light field pieces were mere pop-guns.

For four hours our men fought desperately, but in vain. Regiment after regiment would rush in, only to be driven back or cut to pieces by their terrible discharges. As soon as one battery was silenced another would open fire from a quarter least expected, slaughtering our men by hundreds.

At last the order for a retreat was given. (Now comes the most heart rending part of the whole.) Instead of retreating in good order, regiment after regiment rushed off the field in the greatest disorder, creating a perfect panic. Soon the route became general, and infantry, cavalry and artillery rushed from the field in the utmost confusion. It was the most terrible sight I ever witnessed. I have often imagined what the route of Napoleon was at Waterloo: but the reality of this far surpasses all my ideas of a great defeat. The army became a perfect rabble – they ran like sheep. If they had made a stand they could have retreated in good order, and saved hundreds of lives, and thousands of property; but there seemed to be no head whatever. On they rushed, every man looking out for “number one.” As fast as the horses attached to the waggons and artillery gave out, they were deserted. For thirty miles the roads were strewn with artillery, baggage waggons and military stores of all descriptions, amounting in value to hundreds of thousands of dollars – most of which will fall into the enemy’s hands. The wounded would struggle on as far as possible, and then fall – left to the mercy of the enemy, who on the field showed no quarter. I saw many a poor fellow bayonetted after being shot down. Terrible will be the revenge when our troops get the advantage of them.

Of Captain Baird’s company, one is known to be killed, (Jno. Orman;) wounded, Wm. Baker, (in leg;) Hugh Dunnigan, taken prisoner; Harry L. Stainton, slight; Ralph Patterson, Byron Stevens, John Robson, all slight; Norton Schemerhon, in breast, slight. These are known. There are a few who have not yet arrived in camp, but probably are all right. We hope for the best.

Carl did bravely – the company all praise him. Capt. Baird’s company all did well. The Zouaves and 38th did the hardest fighting that day, as their loss will show. Enclosed I send you a plan of the battle, so that you can see what we had to contend with. Our regiment lost about 200 men. I was on the field during most of the engagement. On the retreat I captured a horse and secured a minnie rifle. I met the Col. of our reg’t, who had lost his horse, and he being very much exhausted, I gave him my horse, and walked myself 14 miles. He then dismounted, and Carl and myself took turns the rest of the way. We were both completely used up when we arrived here, having had no sleep for two nights, and walked 40 miles.

Troops are arriving fast, and we shall make a stand here to protect Washington.

We are expecting an attack every day. Let them come; we will polish them off next time. Fred Andrus is all right. Let me hear from you soon. My regards to all.

Your Friend,

George L. Russell.

P. S. I visited the Surgeon. It was terrible to see the poor wounded fellows.

G.

Geneva Gazette, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Capt. William H. Baird, Co. H, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

12 12 2012

The 38th in Battle.

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Heroic Conduct Of The Geneva Volunteers.

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Interesting Letter from Capt. Baird.

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Camp Scott, near Alexandria,

Head Quarters 38th Reg’t,

2d Brigade – July 23d, 1861.

Dear Brother:

We have had a battle, of which you will probably be informed before this reaches you. I saw by the last N. Y. Tribune that there was no mention of the fact our regiment belonged to the Second Brigade. We do, however, belong to it, and have proved ourselves worthy of a share of the distinction which that brigade acquired in the battle.

Never did men fight longer or with more determined courage than the 38th and the Fire Zouaves did in this battle, against overwhelming odds that we had to encounter. We were ordered to be ready to march on the morning of the 21st, at 1 o’clock. We stood ready to march from that time until half past 5 o’clock. We then started and marched about 9 miles, stopped only about 10 minutes, when we were ordered to support our battery. We followed the battery in line, dressing on our colors. We went on double quick time for about one mile. When we got within half a mile of the position to be occupied by the battery on an eminence, cannon shot and bombs went whizzing by and over our heads at the rate of 12 a minute. I took out my watch and counted them. Before we came to a halt we had to cross three fences. After we cot in range of their batteries, I never saw a rifle pointed with more accuracy than they pointed their rifled cannon. Our battery was soon unable to sustain the awful fire to which it was exposed. We were then ordered to follow and support another battery on a hill, three-fourths of a mile on our right. We went at a quick step to the position assigned us. The Massachusetts 4th, as soon as we had taken our first position – before we left to support the second battery – shamefully left us to contend alone. We had scarcely reached our second position, going the entire distance through a shower of musketry, heavy shot and shell, when our battery was knocked all to pieces by a shot from a rifled cannon, which struck a wheel of a gun carriage, killed one gunner, took off a leg from another, and killed two horses, leaving it a perfect wreck. We were lying behind a rail fence some ten rods in rear of the battery, ready to support it from a charge of the enemy’s cavalry. By this time, however, the rebels made a charge on another gun at our right. – They come out of the woods in front of us. – We were there unsupported, the Fire Zouaves were the nearest regiment to us, they being half a mile in our rear. We met the rebels in between and in front of the gun they were trying to capture, and pen cannot describe the awful scene that followed. Musket balls went through and through our ranks by hundreds. As we were then unsupported, and the enemy had about 1,000 to our 688, we were compelled fall back, which we did in tolerable order. – They followed us to our battery, by which time we had got loaded and formed pretty well. Our Col. was weak with the heat and fatigue of the march, being so sick when we left our camp the he could not keep his seat in the saddle; our Lieut. Colonel was covered with boils, but he kept the field on foot, being unable to ride; our Major was struck by a ball near the ankle, which disabled him, and he was taken prisoner. The command fell on the Captains, and some of the sustained themselves well; particularly Capt. McQuade who had a leg shot off and was taken prisoner; and Capt. McGrath. Lieut. Funk of Co. C, proved himself a hero throughout the fight. There were others who fought well; but some of the officers in all the regiments should be reduced to the ranks, and some of the privates put in their places. There are privates in my company that would fill the places with honor to themselves and credit to the State.

I mention particularly Harry Stainton, who had his right hand shattered by a musket ball, kept on loading and firing with his left hand, and did not appear excited or alarmed in the least; also Byron Stevens, D. W. Farrington, Theron Stevens, Peter D. Roe, Charles Dorchester, Wm. Barker, (shot through the knee, kept on loading and firing,) John H. Morrison, Hugh Dunigan (shot through the thigh, breaking the bone, had two fingers shot off, and was taken prisoner,) Isaac Ritche, (wounded by a musket ball in the calf of leg, but walked with difficulty, ) John Hallam, (hurt with splinter in head, still kept with his company loading and firing,) John M. Robson, (shot in neck by a spent ball, not serious – after he was wounded he shot one fellow;) Charles Stone, Charles Halsey, Henry Bogart, and Menzo W. Hoard. All of the above men proved themselves capable of going into anything however desperate.

Our flag was carried in the centre of the regiment. It dropped, some of the enemy started to get it. Byron Stevens started for it, but it was got by one of our regiment before he reached it. It had two musket balls through it, and it is safe in our hands. There are many others in my company proved brave men; hav’nt time to give all names. Not one but stood his ground and did his duty. We rallied three times and drove the enemy back into the woods. Never were muskets pointed with more deadly effect. They went down before us like grass before the mower; around one gun they were piled in heaps.

One rebel officer had been left on the field wounded in the leg. One of the men of our regiment – not one of my company, thank God – was about to bayonet him. I rushed up and struck up his musket with my sword, seized it, put my sword to his breast, told him to stop or I would run him through. The officer thanked me with a smile I shall never forget. I gave him my name and rank, and threw him a canteen of water of one of his men, who lay torn to pieces by a cannon ball, his head 10 feet from his body.

We drove them into the woods again where they had breastworks that could not be taken. We halted and poured volley after volley in upon them. Their firing ceased for about 3 minutes, when they formed behind their breastworks and opened it again. Had they fired with as much certainty as our men did, they would have swept hour whole regiment completely away. – The balls fell in and around us like hail. By this time the Ellsworth Zouaves had reached the field. They were soon compelled to fall back, the rebels having been re-inforced.

I can give no correct account of the number of killed and wounded, but they lay as thick as leaves around us. Pen cannot describe the scene. We fell back, advanced the second time – were compelled to fall back again; and thus we continued to fight for two-and-a-half hours; when the enemy were re-inforced by some 5,000 men, and brought another battery to bear on our flank. We were then compelled to fall back on the main body. By this time the Brooklyn regiment (Ward Beecher’s “pet lambs” – and lambs they are, indeed) – came up. They had scarcely fired their muskets before they ran like sheep down the hill.

I came across our Colonel. He could hardly stand on his feet, and being so weak he could not mount a horse, and if helped in his saddle, unable to retain his seat. I gave him some water, got him on a horse and kept him on until we arrived at our camp, a distance of 10 miles. He would swoon every few minutes and totter in his saddle. I would arouse him, and give him some water, which would revive him for a while.

Capt. McQuade of our regiment had one leg shot off and was taken prisoner. Lieut. Brady had his arm terribly shattered by a Minnie ball. I came near being shot by own men. – A field officer was knocked from his horse but not much hurt. The horse ran right in front of my company as we were lying behind the fence where we were ordered to protect the second battery – the one that was struck by a shot. The officer was running around the field for a horse, seeing which , I ordered my men not to fire until I got the horse. They had not fired a gun for some time. I had scarcely reached the animal, some five rods distant, when the whole front rank opened fire. The horse was shot in four or five different places while I had him by the bridle. I left him and ran towards my men. When I got to the fence the rear rank commenced firing. The fence was low, and I threw myself flat on top of it and rolled off towards the men. How I escaped being shot, God only know.

Wadsworth of our State, who was prominently talked of for Governor last fall, is a volunteer Aid to Gen. McDowell. There was never a braver man lived. I could not but admire the courage he displayed in the battle. – He rode along and through the lines with the same calm mien he would at a review, giving orders with a clear and steady voice, as if he were directing some ordinary business. He is worthy of a higher position.

Through the mercy of Divine Providence I escaped unhurt – worried out, all but my courage, which is as good as ever. I only feel out of humor at our being obliged to retreat.

I give below a list of the killed and wounded of my company:

John Orman of Geneva, killed.

Luther L. Mills, of Orcott Creek, Pa., both hands shot off.

Hugh F. Dunnigan, of N. Y., shot through the thigh and 2 fingers off – taken prisoner.

Wm. Barker, of New York, shot through the thigh – is in hospital.

Harry L. Stainton, Geneva, musket ball thro’ the right hand.

John M. Robson, Stanley Corners – shot thro’ the neck – slight wound.

Norton Schermerhorn, Flint Creek – hurt in the side by a spent ball – not seriously.

John Hallam, N. York, and Englishman – cut on the head, not serious.

Isaac L. Ritchie, Ferguson’s Corners – wounded in calf of leg, not seriously.

The following are missing, supposed to have been taken prisoners:

John Lamphier and Wm. Ross, both of Geneva.

From your brother,

W. H. Baird,

Commanding Co. H,

38th Reg’t, 2d Brigade

Geneva Gazette, 8/2/1861

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William H. Baird at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. George Plaskett, Co. E, 14th New York State Militia, On the Battle

29 11 2012

From the War.

Mr. James Plaskett has received a very interesting letter from his son, who was in the fight Sunday, as a member of the 14th regiment New York militia. We make a few extracts. He says:

We had to march about 17 miles over a rough road, and without stopping, as our division was behind time. The last mile and a half we were put forward in double quick time, so that we went into action tired out. After fighting until our artillery ammunition – 2600 rounds – was used up, we had to retreat, and fall back for some six miles, to a point leading out of the wood, where we received a murderous fire from the enemy, which proved very disastrous, killing our Colonel, and wounding one Lieut. Colonel. One of the most inhuman occurrences which we were compelled to witness that day, was the destruction of a building erected by us for a temporary hospital. The building was about a mile from the batteries, and was filled with the wounded and dying, and they were also lying all around the outside of the building. The rebels pointed their guns, and threw bomb-shells into the building, which blew it up and killed all who were in and around the building. A negro regiment came on to the field after the fight was over, and killed all those who showed signs of life.

The sight upon the battle-field, in view of the carnage, was a sad one to me: legs, arms, and heads off.

There were only 18,000 of our troops in the engagement, against 80,000 or 90,000 of the rebels. We were on the move from 2 A. M. Sunday till Monday noon; fought five hours, and marched 60 miles.

Hartford Daily Courant, 7/27/1861

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George Plaskett at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Surgeon Charles W. Le Boutillier, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle and Captivity

27 11 2012

Dr. C. W. Le Boutillier’s Account of the Battle of Bull Run.

Immediately after our arrival at Bull Run, (near Sudley’s Church,) or a short time before the fight commenced between Heintzelman’s command and the enemy, a consultation was had between Surgeon Stewart and myself. He informed me that it was desired that I should go with the regiment and that he would soon follow with the ambulances. I followed, accompanied by Oscar Sears and twenty of our musicians who had been detailed by Col. Gorman to assist in taking care of the wounded.

A few minutes before we became engaged in action, I requested Chaplain Neill, (who was gallantly marching up with the regiment) to go back and “hurry” up the ambulances, and also to have some litters sent up to us. He want, and soon returned with two litters, bringing one himself upon his own back, and informed me that he had delivered the message.

We soon became engaged with the enemy, and at the first fire had about twenty killed and about thirty wounded.

The second fire produced about the same effect; and was nearly as fatal to us.

All the men detailed to assist us, left after the first fire; leaving Mr. Neill, Oscar Sears and myself alone to attend the wounded. For half an hour or more, we had our hands full.

We examined almost all the wounded (with the exception of those who walked away from the field) and carried them to a place of comparative safety, and dressed their wounds when necessary. It must be remembered that we also had to attend to very many of the wounded Zouaves who had been left on the field, deserted by their commanders. Four or five of our wounded were killed by the bursting of a shell in their midst after we had left them.

After attending to those who were wounded at the first two fires from the enemy, we had little to do except occasionally to visit the sufferers and furnish them with water and stimulants, a supply of which Oscar Sears (the acting Steward) had brought for that purpose.

During the fight, the brave little Sears never deserted me. He was always on hand, and discharged his duties gallantly and like a true soldier. Soon after the second fire of the enemy, they were repulsed and fell back from their position in front of our regiment. From that time until the retreat was ordered the regiment was divided into small squads, skirmishing about in the woods.

The first fighting was about 11 1-2 A. M. The retreat began about 4 1-2 P. M.

After the regiment was ordered to retreat, Oscar and I stayed with our wounded upon the battleground, for half an hour, still hoping the ambulances would arrive. I have been informed by Dr. Stewart since my return to Minnesota, that the Medical Director ordered him to take them upon the battle field. The enemy then came up and drove us away. Had the ambulances arrived even as late as four o’clock, our wounded, or the greater portion of them, might have been removed toe Centreville, and thence to Washington.

On leaving the field, Oscar and myself, were separated. I walked towards a house which I thought looked like a hospital, and on reaching it found I was not mistaken. I there met Drs. Powell and Furguson of the 2d New York and entered into conversation with them. I scarcely had been talking with them five minutes when a squadron of cavalry numbering about 50 men, charged upon us, surrounded the yard and house, and although we exhibited our green sashes and informed them that we were surgeons and that the building was a hospital, they fired upon us – emptied every gun they had in their hands, – screaming all the while, “shoot the d—-d sons of b—–s.”

They killed three of the wounded – two Northerners and a Georgian who were lying on the ground in front of the house under a locust tree. They also shot the brave Furguson in the left leg, fracturing both bones. They immediately began to load again, and we believing that it was their intention to murder us, rushed into the house and determined to defend ourselves. There were about ten or twelve privates who had assisted the wounded to this place, who had retained their arms. They fired upon the enemy from the doors and windows, killing their captain and four privates and put the whole to flight.

This captain it seems was a lawyer residing a few miles from Petersburg, Virginia.

As soon as they had left, Dr. Furguson was placed, with two others, into an ambulance, and we started for Sudley’s church or Bull Run, but were soon surrounded by 200 or 300 of the F. F. V., or black horse cavalry, who riddled our ambulances with bullets. They then ordered us to follow them, and we were taken to Manassas Junction. We earnestly begged them to permit us to stay with the wounded, who we knew were on the field of battle, but they informed us we must first see the General Commanding.

We arrived at Manassas Junction at nine or ten o’clock, P. M., and were immediately sent into the hospitals, that were then being prepared for the reception of the wounded.

We worked all night. Next morning we were waited upon by an aid of General Beauregard who presented us with a written parole which we refused to sign on the following grounds: 1st. That Surgeons who voluntarily remained on the battle field were never made or retained as prisoners of war.

2d. That the parole was not even such a one as is generally given to prisoners of war, as there was no provision in it for a release from the parole or an exchange.

After further consultation we concluded not to sign any parole, and informed them of our decision, and told them that if the wounded were neglected, the responsibility would fall upon them. Shortly afterwards we were taken before Gen. Beauregard who heard our reasons for refusing the parole. He then informed us that he would put us on verbal parole that we would not escape. We then returned to our respective duties. Out of 28 Surgeons, only five signed the parole. However it is proper to say that the Secretary of War (Walker) did not insist upon the original parole given to these surgeons and gave the regular parole.

We stayed at Manassas two days, when we were informed that they desired us to go to Richmond to prepare hospitals for our wounded. On our arrival at Richmond we were set to work to cleanse two large five story brick tobacco factories for that purpose.

In a few days our wounded began to arrive, and we continued to receive them until both buildings were completely filled.

The poor fellows were brought to us in a most shocking condition. They had been thrown into cattle cars, without straw or hay for bedding – those with broken and amputated limbs must have suffered most terribly. The fractured limbs had not been placed in splints in the majority of cases, and the bones generally had worked their way through the wound and protruded through. The cases of amputation was still worse. The sutures had cut through the flesh leaving the muscles and bones bare, and the majority of wounds were alive with maggots – almost every case of amputation resulted fatally.

The wounded at Richmond were not furnished with any blankets or clothing, and very little medicine – a few cots were furnished for the worst cases. There was at one time one hundred and twenty cases of fever in the hospital under my charge, and three fourths of them had to lie on the bare floor.

The wounded were furnished with bread and fresh meat, and occasionally rice and a few vegetables. Only for the timely aid of kind friends whom we met in the city, the poor fellows would have suffered far worse. The guards have positive orders that in case any one “poked his head out of the window, to shoot him.” Nothing was permitted to be carried into the hospital without a specific order from Gen. Winder – the Commander at Richmond.

The other prisoners were still worse treated. They were incarcerated in the same class of buildings, (Tobacco Factories) say two hundred and fifty on each floor. There was only one water closet connected with a building containing at least six hundred prisoners, and only two were permitted to go to it at a time. There were among the prisoners whole families of Western Virginians, some of whom must have been 70 years of age.

The officers, about 80 in number, were on a floor about 60 feet in length by 20, and were not furnished with anything but the common food given to the other prisoners – a great many of them had nothing but the bare boards for a bed during my stay there. They were not permitted to look out of the windows and a few were shot at, and wounded for disobeying the order – and a number of our wounded were shot at for unintentionally disobeying the same order. Sergeant Harris of the Minnesota Regiment, came near being killed under those circumstances. The officers, especially those of the 69th (Irish Regiment) and particularly Col. Corcoran, had to submit to all kinds of indignities. They seemed to think that a foreigner and Democrat ought to be severely punished when found in arms against them.

After we had been at Richmond some two weeks, we, the Surgeons in attendance upon the wounded, held a consultation, and agreed to take the parole which eleven other Federal Surgeons had taken, but with the understanding that we would be permitted to stay as long as our services were required by the wounded. We did so, and after than enjoyed considerable privileges.

About the 15th of September, a Medical Commission of Surgeons was appointed by the Confederate Government and reported that our services were no longer required, and we were informed that we would have to leave, and in accordance with those instructions, left. Before leaving we furnished the wounded with some clothing and a little money which we succeeded in raising  from some true Union friends in Richmond.

I deem it also my duty to say that as far as I could judge, Co. Gorman, and all the Field officers, and in fact the whole of the Regiment behaved (with a few exceptions) bravely and reflected great credit upon the true “Northern Star.”

St. Paul Press, 10/20/1861

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Charles W. Le Boutillier at Ancestry.com

Charles W. Le Boutillier Bio

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. Mortimer Stimpson*, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle

24 11 2012

Letters from soldiers.

We are under obligations to very many persons who have furnished us with letters from their friends in the army, obtaining early and interesting intelligence after the battle at Bull Run. We are still in the receipt of several, but the contents of most of them have been anticipated, and the publication at length is therefore unnecessary. From others we make extracts which will be read with interest by the friends of the writers. From a letter written by Mortimer Stimpson of the 1st Minnesota regiment, (son of Rev. H. K. Stimpson, of Lagrange, Wyoming County), we take the following:

“Our regiment with the Fire Zouaves were ordered to right flank at double-quick, right down upon the enemy who were concealed in a piece of thick everglades and woods. As we came up they displayed the American Flag just as our boys were going to fire at left oblique, and the Colonel gave orders not to fire, as they were our friends. Just then down went the flag, and up went the secession flag, and with the most destructive fire of musketry, grape and canister from a masked battery inside the wood. Our poor boys were cut up awfully, and after rallying three times were obliged to retreat. The carnage was most horrid on both sides. The dead, dying and wounded of both sides literally covered the ground. The secession cavalry charged our boys and the Fire Zouaves, when the Zouaves formed and almost annihilated them and their horses; that was the only fair show our boys had. At this juncture the enemy were reinforced by Johnson with twenty-five thousand men, and our forces made a precipitate retreat. *  *  *  *  *

There were more than 8.000 soldiers straying through the woods, and who refused to rally, as their commanders were either killed or wounded, but for the most part, our men were as brave as men could be, and it is acknowledged by all hands that if proper precaution had been used in surveying the ground, and plenty of siege pieces had been with us, we shouldn’t have had to mourn the loss of so many brave fellows, and a disastrous defeat. Our flying artillery did some fine work. We had [?] batteries with our division. Only five of these engaged the enemy, and one, after getting position on the left of the Minnesotas and Fire Zouaves, and unlimbering, every man fled without firing a gun. All their horses were killed, and consequently we had no help from the artillery.

I suppose you would like to know what part I took in the battle; my position as one of the Band did not require me to do anything and we were ordered to remain in camp, but we all disobeyed the command and went on the field. I saw the whole of the hard fighting. I found a Tennessee rifle with all the accoutrements on a wounded secessionist. I helped him up beside of a stump, and giving him some water from my canteen, I went into the engagement and fired fourteen times, and am positively certain that five of them took effect, because I laid in the bushes, 30 rods from their column. I took a secession prisoner, horse and all, and delivered him to the Brooklyn boys, and have his revolver and sash, which I hope to be able to show you sometime.

Rochester Democrat and American, 8/4/1861

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*Likely Montcalm J. Stimson, musician, Co. G.

Montcalm J. Stimson at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Chaplain Rev. Edward D. Neill, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle

23 11 2012

Chaplain Neill’s Letter.

Washington, July 24, 1861,

Wednesday Night.

  *  *  The conductors of the advance towards Richmond forgot the better part of valor, discretion. Our regiment, as you have learned, was in the advance of Heintzelman’s column, and I never saw men behave with so much dignity and cheerfulness, with the entire absence of all shouting, as they descended into the battle field. Occupying the extreme right on the battle field, and in proximity to the Fire Zouaves, I have no doubt that their red shirts led the rebels to suppose that they were all of the came corps, and direct their fire upon our men with greater energy.

It was painful, I assure you, to be on the battle field and have nothing to do but dodge cannon balls. It was impossible for me to lag behind, as I felt that the soldiers ought to see me by them and as they entered the engagement; and yet, when they skirmished around and left me near the artillery, I felt a singular loneliness, and would have felt much better if I had had some distinct military duty to perform.

As the battle ceased, however, I found my hands full in dragging our wounded men to the hospital, near by. Afterwards I succeeded in bringing Capt. Acker, Lieut. Harley, (of Capt. Pell’s company,) and five other wounded men in an ambulance to Centreville, near where we had camped before the battle. Harley and I reached this place before we were ordered to retire to Washington. We reached Georgetown at 11 A. M. Monday, having been on our feet, with the exception of a few halts, thirty hours. During this time I saw the battle; was in the ambulance and surrounded by thousands of panic stricken men; forced to make a wounded man tear off his flannel shirt, which I hung out the ambulance on a sabre, as a hospital sign, so that the rebels, who were alleged to be near, would not fire on the suffering; witnessed the wreck of artillery wagons, baggage wagons, &c., on the road, which has been so fully told in all the papers. From Saturday night at six o’clock until Monday at dinner time, I had the privilege of eating two pilot crackers, a piece of cake and a cup of coffee.

All my baggage was thrown into the road to make way for the wounded, and I fear that the trunk may be captured. In that case I am left with only the clothes on my back.

We were quite anxious for Drs. Boutillier and Steward, fearing that they may have been captured, but to night the former arrived, and we learn that the latter is out by the Hospital, not far from the battle filed.

The field officers behaved very well on the field, and ll of them escaped without the slightest scratch.

St. Paul Press, 8/1/1861

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Rev. Edward Neill on Ancestry.com

Edward Neill bio

Contributed by John Hennessy








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