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)





Pvt. Worcester Burrows, Co. C, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and the Retreat

26 12 2012

Delaware Soldiers.

———-

We give below some extracts from letters after the battle, from Worcester Burrows and Henry O. Wheeler, of Deposit, which we find in the Deposit Democrat. They were both members of the N. Y. 27th., and as brave boys as ever went to the field.

From W. Burrows.

Soon after our Colonel fell the regiment seemed to waver, but it was immediately rallied by our gallant Maj. Bartlett, who assumed the command, and showed himself a brave and daring man and a good officer. Soon after he took the command the enemy hoisted the American flag, and we were instantly ordered not to fire, supposing them to be our men, but no sooner had they secured their position than they hauled it down and opened a desperate fire upon us. It was well returned, our boys fighting like tigers. We were badly cut up. Some of our men after they were wounded, would cry out, “give it to them boys.” One of our company stood firing all alone after the order to retreat was given, and when the Capt. asked him why he stood there all alone, he replied, “I was so enraged that I did not miss the regiment.”

Although the enemy had every advantage, we gave them a good reception, and we think they will prefer hereafter to meet “the Yankee [?]” as they did, three to one rather than as they braggartly say “one to three.”

The Ellsworth Zouaves came into the field just behind us. We could hear them shout, “Ellsworth,” above the cannon roar. They fought desperately, completely annihilating the company of Black Horse Cavalry, only six escaping.

As soon as the retreat commenced, the panic seemed to fly through the whole body, and every one was for himself. The ambulance were loaded to their utmost with the wounded, and a great many were left behind in the hospital; these were butchered by the canibals that followed us. As our broken forces were scattered along the road, a few of our Cavalry came dashing along, saying “the rebel Cavalry was upon us.” There was a predictable panic. Every thing was borne along in the crowd. We managed to keep our Deposit boy on board the ambulance; the first one broke down; on the next one, a four horse concern, we could only get him upon the step, where he rode until we reached the Run. Found the bridge blockaded;  artillery, ambulances, baggage wagons crowded into a confused mass. The enemy had cut off our retreat and poured on us a volley of shot and shell. The drivers cut their horses loose and fled, leaving the wounded to take care of themselves. In the same wagon with Wheeler was a wounded officer; a man rode up and offered him his horse to escape, but he refused it. Wheeler sat looking out as cool as ever for a few moments, and then said, “you can make your escape, and I will try if I die in the attempt.” He mounted my back, and I picked my way out of the rubbish, waded the Run and took to the woods. As we came up the bank from the Creek the grape fell around us like hail, but we escaped without a scratch. As soon as we were out of reach of the enemy’s fire, Wheeler took the “tow path” and hobbled nearly two miles. We stopped at Centreville and rested three hours, and had W’s wound dressed. We inquired for the Twenty-Seventh, and one of Deposit boys answered to the call; stopped a few moments with us and then went for help for W. About 11 P. M. the surgeon told me to be off with my friend or he would be taken. We commenced our weary march, but at a short distance a horse rushed into the road with a rail attached to his halter. I caught him, placed W. on his back, and set off in better spirits in search of the Twenty-Seventh, and overtook it about twelve miles from Washington, and what a sorry looking set. We arrived at Arlington about 10 A. M. on Monday. We had to wait until about 4 P. M. before we could get orders from Gen. Mansfield to cross Long bridge. On reaching Camp [?] some two hundred of the Twenty-Seventh were missing, but since, they have straggled in until now there is only 110 gone, 20 out of Co. C, which seems to have fared worse than any other. All the deposit boys came back. Three of them have been quite sick since they returned. All were lame and sore, as you may imagine from the length of our march without scarcely eating any thing from the time we left camp until we arrived at Washington. We are now all feeling pretty well, and will soon be ready for the field again. We will fight like savages if we get at the rebels again.

Truly yours,

W. B.

Franklin Visitor, 8/14/1861

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Worcester Burrows at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





“C”, Co. K, 27th New York Infantry, On the March and the Retreat

23 12 2012

From our regular Correspondent.

Letter from the 27th.

———-

Camp Anderson,

Washington, D. C.

August 5, 1861.

Friend Black: – I had intended soon after the memorable “battle before Manassas,” to write as full an account as possible concerning the advance of the 27th, the engagement following, and the final repulse and retreat to Washington, but as two weeks have since quickly elapsed, ,and letters have been daily received concerning the battle, and your readers were also favored with your letter from “Camp Anderson,” dated July 24, it will be almost unnecessary to have still another statement. Our retreat, no – we don’t call it a retreat – simply a retrograde movement together with the fatiguing march following, left the men, as you know, quite disheartened, but quiet and freedom from drill since our return have restored the usual good feeling, and we again hear issuing from the door of this and that “mess” the notes of patriotic songs which evince an increase of patriotic feeling and exuberant spirits. As not much has been written concerning it, I will write more particularly concerning

THE MARCH.

My last I think closed with a brief notice of orders to cross the Potomac, which was done within three hours of the command, the regiment singing, as we passed through the streets and over the Long Bridge, national airs, and hurrahing as we touched the “sacred soil,” with a right good will. Upon arriving on the Virginia side we found thousands in advance of us, and were followed by regiments from Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut and New York. In the rear hundreds of ponderous baggage wagons jolted over the stony road, regiments of cavalry clattered over the uneven ground, and the rumbling of artillery here and there along the [?] combined to make up one of the grandest scenes ever witnessed, viz: an advance movement of the American Army.

That night, fatigued by a forced march of sixteen miles, we halted at eleven o’clock six miles from Fairfax Court House, and encamped in a large field, with ripe sheaves of wheat as pillows and mattresses, a blanket for covering, and the sky as one grand tent. The rumble of baggage wagons, which filed by in one continuous train, lulled us to sleep, and in the morning roused us. A savory breakfast was cooked from [?] found in a cellar near by, and at eight o’clock we were again on the march, over a road obstructed by fallen trees and rail fences, which the advance removed, and at half past ten the order was given to form into platoons, and we ascended a hill in full view of the enemy’s earthworks, which had been deserted but two hours previous.

Smoking camp fires and an untouched breakfast told of their hasty departure. But a short distance farther on, and we were at the notorious village, Fairfax Court House, and from and old rusty dome or steeple of insignificant proportions, floated a small faded “pelican flag,” which was quickly removed, and in its stead out to the breeze went “[?] Red, White and Blue.” Our patriotic adjutant struck up the Star Spangled Banner, and the regiment joined in the chorus, the full and hearty sound floated with the dust surrounding into the face and eyes of the few rebel occupants of the town, one or the other of which had the effect to make them look very severe. Everything in town had a deserted appearance, and in the entire march a large proportion of the dwelling past were vacated.

The division halted a short distance beyond, and in the rebel camps surrounded by earthworks on either side for the protection of rebels, with marks every where around us of their presence, we spent the second night out of Washington, several members of our company sleeping even in a tent occupied the night before by a rebel Major.

Independent foraging parties went around shortly after the halt, and collected and bro’t in from different parts of the camping ground a good supply of coffee and honey, a beef that had been killed the morning previous, several tents and various cooking utensils.

Acting on the principle that “stolen fruit is the sweeter,” chickens were served up in all manner of ways, ,and the supply of beef being scanty a fine bullock was found near by and added to the rations, being cooked for the following day. Yes with all this there were many acts of destruction to be regretted. Looking up from pilot bread and blackberries, I saw the flames encircle a large barn but a short distance off, and in a few moments it was in ashes. Smoke was seen in other directions, and it was reported that owners were destroying their property that it might not come into our possession. How true this was I do not know. That night for the first time we heard the cry ring out on the night air, “turn out! turn out!” and crawling from under boughs and blankets used as covering, every man jumped for his musket, and was quickly in his place. We knew we were in an enemy’s country, completely surrounded by rebels who, but the night before, slept where we were sleeping, and all expected something, but were disappointed when told that the alarm was caused by an accidental discharge of a sentry’s gun, followed by the order to “stack arms.” Next morning we proceeded on and halted in the afternoon at the last camping ground, Camp Hunter, three miles from Centreville.

Here came the first realization of genuine camp life. Luxurious land to be simply [?] as in the far distant future or remembered past. To be sure those who had money could purchase of accommodating pedlars who followed us, as long as their supply lasted, two inches of bologna for two shillings, a pie, very thin and nearly transparent, for twenty shillings, or a pint of very common “tangle-leg” for one dollar, but as the 27th hadn’t been paid off, they had as I say to look at these articles, and stand by while the regulars in the brigade, who clinked in their pockets and on the card table gold for four months pay, did the “shopping.”

During our stay a sentence was executed upon two deserters from the 3d Infantry, which was fifty lashes upon the bare back well laid on, branding with the letter D, one and a half inches long and one inch wide, forfeiture of pay due and coming due, and at the expiration of ten days they were to be drummed out of camp. It was a sorry sight and one which no one wants to witness more than once,

At one o’clock Sunday morning, July 21st, the bugle sounded, and at two we started for Manassas Junction, with minds fully made up for a complete victory. Going four miles we left the direct road and marched through a road cut through the woods, with but an occasional and very brief halt, fourteen miles which placed the division in a position to make the attach from the rear of the enemy. During the entire distance all the water we drank was of the muddiest kind, and breakfast had to be eaten while marching. At half past ten, after a halt of fifteen minutes, the 27th was ordered onward, and away we went, on double quick, into the battle field, saluted upon coming into view by a round from the enemy’s batteries, which directed fire upon us, and soon changed the occasional booming to a continuous roar. – Right here I might as well stop. I shall not, nor can I give a description of that battle; an account I might give, but that you have had entire. Pen and ink cannot describe the roar of the cannon, the rattle of musketry, the charge of cavalry, the groans and implorations of the wounded, and dying, nor the horrors of war. The 27th fought bravely and nobly, and compelled to retreat, tired and worn, we slowly moved back toward Centreville, leaving our dead and wounded to the mercy of the enemy. Our retreat was hastened by an alarm, and arriving at the stone bridge another alarm was given which was too real. The rebels had planted a battery near the bridge, and were pouring in shell and grape furiously. I was near the Rhode Island battery when we arrived at the bridge, and such a scene of confusion I scarce ever witnessed. The gunners unhitched their horses and mounting them dashed away through the crowd leaving the battery – four heavy brass pieces – in the reach of the rebels. The wagoners, who followed next, joined in the panic, and cutting the fastenings to the wagons left them standing and upturned along the road. Infantry crowded on and hurried across, and as far as the eye could reach was one dense mass of soldiers fleeing for very life, and strewing the road as they went with muskets, blankets and haversacks, some even throwing away shoes to free themselves from everything which prevented a rapid flight. Near Centreville, confidence was restored by meeting fresh troops, and with a more steady tread the march was continued, with but a short halt at Camp Hunter, till on Monday morning at nine o’clock, wet with drenching rain, we came into  Fort Runyon, (just across the river), weary, footsore and exhausted, having marched according to statistics at the War Department, sixty-four miles, and been six hours in the battle field, without rest during the entire thirty-one hours.

Why a defeat, “and whose fault is it?” are questions which every one first asks, It was not because bravery and courage were wanting, and General Scott compliments his Generals in the strongest terms. One thing is certain, reinforcements were lacking, and while the enemy, after each volley, relived the exhausted with fresh troops, we were compelled to repeat the charge. Co. “K” did gloriously! The timid and weak (what Co. did not have them!) dropped out one by one, and placed themselves in positions of safety, leaving the field free to the true soldiers, who, amid the hottest fire, did their work manfully and nobly, and richly deserved the proudest victory ever achieved.

Our Col. is fast improving, and although he has received the appointment of Brigadier General, we hope to see him with us again temporarily, if not permanently. I picked up a Rochester Democrat of Aug. 3d, [?], and was astonished to find in it an article headed, “Information (!) for friends and relatives of Co. K, [?],” which contained such a [?] of misstatements that it must not pass [?] [?]. With but one or two exceptions the entire communication is false from the beginning to end, and the various expressions of those who read it were certainly amusing. The writer’s attempts to make us notorious are refreshing, [?] doubt whether any would be able to endure it but those who (the writer says) “charged and took unsupported a battery eight times.” (!) The fact is we have become disgusted with the lies in circulation, tales of heroic deeds, and narrow escapes, &c. &c., and prefer simply plain and truthful statements concerning us, knowing that the former are an injury, while the latter is our due, and all that we desire. I am sorry to add as a finale, that two deserters from Co. K, named J. Carlos Humphrey and William Murdock, are at large having donned citizen’s clothes, and been absent from camp for over one week. Whoever will cause their arrest will receive the usual reward.

The bugle is sounding for roll call, and hoping to be more prompt,

I am &c.,

C.

Orleans Republican, 8/14/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





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








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