Pvt. William Nixon, Co. A, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle

23 11 2012

Letter From A Private In Capt. Wilkin’s Company.

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Interesting Account of our Soldiers in the Battle.

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[Mr. William Nixon permits us to publish the following letter from his son.]

Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Father: — I now write you in answer to yours. We arrived here yesterday afternoon from Manassas. I suppose you have heard of the battle there. It was a hard one. We fought steady for about six hours. Col. Gorman led us right into the mouths of the cannon, and into the midst of a large body of infantry. We were terribly cut up, losing half our company, but it is lucky we got out as we did.

I have not seen Edward since we left the field , but I guess he is all right, for some of our boys say they saw him on the road. Half our company only are here, [?] [?] expect some of them are yet on the road.

In the fight, I saw several of our boys shot down, two on my right were shot dead with the same ball, which went through the body of the first man on my right and struck the man in his rear in the shoulder. They fell like a stone, and did not utter a word. Mr. Halstead had all of his finger on one hand shot off. Robert Stines was shot in the elbow; he fell, and the blood ran out in streams. He asked me for some water but I had none to give him.

Mr. Neill was in the battle with us, but I do not know how he came out. One of the doctors was wounded, but not severely. Both Surgeons staid to take care of the wounded. It is reported that the rebels have slaughtered all the wounded.

In our retreat we were followed by several thousand dragoons for ten or fifteen miles. I thought I was at one time a prisoner. A companion and myself stopped to get a drink, and got left behind, and just as we were through drinking, a lot of cavalry came up and commenced firing upon us. I thought then that we were surely gone, so I told him to hurry up. He dropped his gun and came along with me a little ways, but could not keep up, but fell in with some other boys, and that was the last I saw of him. I have since heard that he was taken prisoner.

I got off better than I expected. When I went to the field, I did not expect to come off alive, but I put my trust in the Lord and he spared my life. As we were forming into line to go on to the field, I raised my eyes and asked Him to preserve me through the contest, and it so happened.

I never saw hail flying thicker than the balls did around me, some of them brushing my hair. We went in with the expectation of not seeing more than one or two hundred of the enemy, but when we got along by the side of a little grove a shower of balls came through the woods, and after a little there were about two thousand of the rebels ran out of the woods, and made believe they were our friends, and Capt. Wilkin ordered our men to cease firing, and then they poured a volley upon us, and just then we saw the Secession flag. I hauled up my gun, took deliberate aim at one of them, and shot him in the breast; he wheeled to run, took two steps and fell. I walked over him afterwards, and he was nearly dead. One of the Zouaves wanted to run his bayonet into him but he was stopped.

Our little Captain Wilkin fought like a man. He picked up a musket of one of the killed and shot four of the rebels, and took one prisoner.

Our boys fought like men – we were with the Zouaves all the time. They say they want the Minnesota boys to fight with them hereafter. No one can say but that all of our boys have done their duty. They went at it as cooly as thought they were shooting at a mark. We had a terrible hard time since we left Manassas; we camped one night at a place where we stayed one day, on the afternoon of which our company went out scouting, and discovered a battery of six cannon and several hundred men ready to fire upon us. We went back to camp to get more men, and when we got there the whole division was ready to march to Centreville, six miles distant! We had not had anything to eat since morning and all of our rations were gone, but we had to start right off, and march at double quick two or three miles to get up with our Regiment. We got to Centreville about nine o’clock at night and had to lay out all night in the rain without tents, and with nothing to eat until morning. We stayed here two days, and had nothing to eat but crackers, with dirty creek water to drink. We started at three o’clock in the morning for the battle field, and when we got within a mile of it stopped and got a drink. We were then ordered to at double quick into the field, and were about dead when we got there. As we went into the fight, we threw down our blankets and knapsacks, and when the retreat commenced we had no time to pick them up. We marched the rest of the day and all night and part of the next day before we reached Alexandria, where we stopped about an hour and got breakfast, and then proceeded to Washington where we arrived yesterday, and went into quarters. It rained all the time we were marching.

St. Paul Press, 7/30/1861

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William Nixon on Ancestry.com

William Nixon bio

Contributed by John Hennessy





“J. V.[?].”, Co. A*, 2nd Michigan Infantry, On the Campaign

22 11 2012

The Michigan Second In The Battles At Bull Run.

Extract from a private letter.

Arlington Heights, July 24.

I had quite an adventure last week, and will give you an account of it as well as I can. Tuesday 16th, at four o’clock P. M., we commenced our forced march, the skirmishers two miles ahead of the column, with the scouts flanked out right, left, and forward. At night we reached Vienna, where we met another division of our troops. We stopped until the morning of Wednesday, the 17th, when we marched through Germantown to Fairfax, where our skirmishers were deployed, and on closing to, we found that the enemy had vacated everything. The bugle sounded the “assembly,” and we marched to Centreville, and encamped two miles beyond for the night.

Thursday, at eight o’clock A. M., we marched toward Manassas Junction, and at eleven o’clock we come through the woods to Bull Run, where it looked mischievous. Two pieces of artillery were ordered forward. After they had fired several shots, they were answered and immediately our skirmishers were deployed forward, and we passed over a clearing through a ravine, and up on the other side, when we came into the woods again, and passing from behind one tree to another for about forty or fifty rods, we struck upon the enemy who were drawn up in line of battle, some 6,000 strong, before several batteries; they immediately opened a musket fire upon the skirmishers and came after us with “charge bayonet;” we were obliged to rally back through the woods behind the First Massachusetts Regiment, which was advancing upon them. Captain Brethschneider immediately informed them of the batteries’ cross fire and they changed their position further to the right; our skirmishers were also taken further to the right. During this time a raking fire of cannister came upon us and we rallied promiscuously. The left wing of the First Massachusetts was badly cut up, and at the same time the New York Twelfth, who were on the extreme left of the field, where our skirmishers firs went to, reached the full blast of the cross fire. The Michigan Second was on the extreme right of the Massachusetts First, but afterward moved further toward the left, to cover the skirmishers who were now rallying between the two regiments. While we were rallying there, the cry came: “Skirmishers this way; they are murdering our wounded.” I looked round and not seeing the Captain and having only a few men I hurried back again. Our Corporal, R. Wright, then saw a wounded man of the New York Twelfth trying to get up, and one of the rebels standing over him with his bayonet at his breast slowly pushing it in. Wright took aim and laid the rebel at the foot of his victim.

During this last time the skirmishers were fighting on their own hook and could hear no command and lasted quite a long while before we got out of the woods again, which is the reason why our Colonel thought we were all lost; I retreated out of the woods and found Captain B…who was very glad to see me again, and the Colonel ordered the skirmishers to retire. At the same moment a ball flew right over the Colonels head about five steps from where I stood, but he did not mind it at all. I then looked for some water, which was difficult to find. During this [?] the New York Twelfth were retreating promiscuously, for which they are much blamed; at the same time the Michigan Third, Massachusetts First and Michigan Second were withdrawn from the field and marched back to Centreville, where we stopped overnight. The next morning the regiment were marched to the field again, but only to make breastworks.

On Sunday [?] and divisions came up on the opposite side, and the battle was again commenced from three [?], our brigade forming the centre. The battle lasted six hours and a half. [?] [?] the right flank division was noticed to be retreating, and a heavy fire of musketry was opened on the left flank division.

Things began to look mischievous and our division was ordered away from the field. By the time we came to Centreville our regiments were drawn up in line of battle across the fields, and we could see the men of the Michigan First, Fire Zouaves, and other regiments, which formed the right division, coming down the road in disorder.

Our brigade then put out pickets and laid down to sleep. At eleven o’clock we were aroused and marched back toward Washington. Our camp is now on Arlington Heights. The President and Secretary of State came to our camp yesterday afternoon and promised to send two soldiers for every one secessionist.

During the time we were away, I was obliged to sleep on the ground, and some time could not get my blanket. At night it is always colder here than at home, and last Monday it rained all day. I was in my shirtsleeves and could not get my clothes, and when night came, I and my skirmishers were quartered in the secessionist, Gen. Lee’s, barn. We were wet to the skin. However, we crowded close together to keep each other warm, and because we were tired, we slept without feeling it. The next morning we rose early and waited for the sun to warm and dry us again.

I am well. None of our company were killed that you know, but Wolenweber is severely wounded, and a few others slightly. Wurstenberg had his arm shot off when we [?] on Sunday the last time.

J. V. [?].

Detroit Free Press, 7/30/1861

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*J. V. [?]. was apparently with Capt. R. Brethschneider’s detachment (Light Battalion of Infantry) of the 2nd Michigan. Brethschneider was captain of Co. E, however the detachment included men from all companies of the regiment. Mathias Wollenweber, considered by some the first Michigan casualty of the civil war, was a member of Company A, as was Frederick Wurstenberg.

Contributed by John Hennessy





“R”, 5th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Battle

21 11 2012

The following is a letter  from another member of the Massachusetts Fifth:

Our brigade under Col. Franklin, consisting of the First Minnesota, Fifth Massachusetts, and Fourth Pennsylvania Regiments, with a battery of six guns and a company of cavalry, left Alexandria on Tuesday morning, 16th inst., and arrived at Centreville on Friday night. We bivouacked in an oat field until Sunday morning at two o’clock, when we formed and stood in the road until five, at which time the column moved on. While we were at Centreville we were allowed but three hard brad a day, or one for each meal. True, we had some fresh beef on Saturday morning, but it was eaten so soon after being butchered that it made the men sick, and was thrown away. Even water could hardly be obtained, and a guard was stationed at the two or three miserable puddles to allow the men but one dipperful at a time. In consequence of this, two thirds of the men started for the battle field without any water in their canteens. The men from the first had slept upon the ground and had been half starved - not only our own brigade, but the entire division – and were more fit to be marched to the hospital than the battle field. Hungry and thirsty we marched until 12 o’clock, at which time we reached the field. The last two miles we traveled on the “doublequick.” About half a mile before reaching the field a halt was made for a moment and we divested ourselves of our haversacks and blankets, and advanced with full company front, close column.

The 11th Massachusetts, who had been ahead on the march, here halted while we passed but followed and took their position on our left, being the extreme left of the line of battle, the 5th being next. To our right were the Zouaves, who we supported. The position of the 5th was in the thickest of the fight as was also the 11th. To the left of the 11th was a piece of woods, from which stray bullets from the rebel skirmishers were fired into the ranks of the 11th. The 5th was ordered to halt upon the side of a hill, and lie down upon their faces. No sooner was this order obeyed than a shower of bullets came whistling over the heads of the men, ,but no one was hurt. Col. Lawrence gave the order for the first company to fire and then fall to the rear and load, when the second company was to fire and fall to the rear. After several volleys had been fired in this way, the enemy retreated from their position. The first man injured in the 5th was by a cannon ball, which injured two men in the Charlestown City Guard.

Col. Franklin rode up and asked, “What regiment is that lying on the hill?” When told they were the 5th Massachusetts, he replied, “I thought you were regulars you lay so still.” He then said to the Colonel, “Can you take that house? If you can the day is ours.” The Colonel shouted that we could, and we immediately fell into “sets of fours,” and proceeded to a road at a short distance, which led to the house referred to, behind which was a large force of rebels. The 5th and 11th had almost reached the house, passing through a dreadful fire to reach it, when the riderless horses attached to Rickett’s battery came dashing down upon us, the Zouaves following and the United States Cavalry following them. For a time a fearful confusion prevailed, and the 5th were obliged to halt and, and received our own cavalry at the point of the bayonet to prevent them from running over the men who were advancing. At this time Colonel Lawrence was wounded and carried from the field. The command then devolved upon the Lieutenant Colonel, but as he was not to be seen, the men were rallied by Sergeant Major Quincy, and Lieutenant Everett of the Charlestown City Guards; Lieutenant Tebbets of the Charlestown Artillery also exerted himself to the utmost to rally the men. After the cavalry had passed and left the field, the Fifth then rallied around the colors and reached the top of the hill, supporting the Zouaves, whose numbers were fast being diminished. A few moments after reaching the top of the hill, Color Sergeant Lawrence was shot through the breast by two bullets, another bullet passing through his head. Corporal Wallace, who carried the State banner, threw it on the ground and raised the stars and stripes again. Sergeant Major Quincy picked up the State flag and bore it aloft until the retreat had sounded. On his way he met a civilian on horseback, who he requested to take it for safe keeping and carry it to Centreville. He did so, but when he reached Centreville he had come to the conclusion that he had rescued the flag from the enemy and made himself a hero, and told his story accordingly.

After the retread had commenced, the Fifth rallied several times in squads of three or more, and were the last to leave the field, retiring with the Zouaves, 11th Massachusetts, and one other, in as good order as the confusion of the different regiments would admit. For the last half hour of the battle every man in most of the regiments was fighting “on his own hook,” firing wherever a rebel showed his head or his heels.

There were many men who deserve particular mention. Capt. Wardwell was very brave and cool, as was Adjutant Chambers, who was smoking a pipe during a part of the engagement. Sergeant Major Quincy deserves great praise for rallying the men when the field officers could not be found. Col. Lawrence was brave even to rashness, during the action, and did everything in his power to save the lives of his men by good management and care that one company not fire into the others, as was unfortunately the case with many other regiments.

R.

Boston Evening Journal, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown, Co. I, 5th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Battle

16 11 2012

The Massachusetts Fifth in the Fight.

The following is an extract from a letter furnished to the Journal from a member of the 5th Massachusetts Regiment, and gives an interesting account of the gallant conduct of that regiment in the recent fight: -

Washington, July 26, 1861.

It will be impossible for me to give you a description of the battle of Sunday, as I saw it in a different light from others close beside me. I can, however, tell you the part our regiment took in the battle. Was, as you know, were in Heintzelman’s division and in Franklin’s brigade. Our brigade consisted of the 1st Minnesota Regiment, 5th of Massachusetts, and 11th of Massachusetts, and we marched in that order. We left Centreville camp at about daylight, with three or four brigades in advance of us. The battle opened about two hours before we reached the field. On arriving there the 1st Minnesota took a position out of our sight. We were told to go to the support of one of our batteries, playing on the rebels. We at once started on the double quick, and halted on the top of the hill, directly in front of the enemy’s batteries. We were flanked by the 11th Massachusetts on the left. Col Franklin ordered us to charge down the valley, on to the enemy’s batteries. Col. Lawrence told us to wait for his orders; we did. He then ordered us to charge to the brow of the hill by companies, fire and retreat to the rear of the regiment, load and await our turn. Before the entire regiment had time to follow his instructions, we were ordered to cross the ravine and support the Zouaves, who then were in the thickest of the fight. In as good order as any double quick movement was ever made, did our regiment countermarch and form on the left flank of the Zouaves, who, according to all accounts, were subject to a galling fire. We did this, then halted for the word of command, which did not come. (Col. Lawrence had fallen while we were changing positions.) After a few moments delay we rushed to the support of the Zouaves, and held our ground as well as any regiment on the field; three several times we charged and only retreated when the whole field in our rear was crowded with flying soldiers, cavalry, artillery and citizens. We were utterly astounded at the flight of those in our rear, and even while the Zouaves were hurrying from the field the men cried loudly for their officers to lead them forward. I tried to do my duty during the fight. I walked off the field slower than I ever walked State street.

Our regiment formed under Capt. Brastow and filed to the rear of the Rhode Island brigade, and marched in good order to our old camp at Centreville. We had been there and hour or more when Col. Franklin ordered us to retreat instantly to Washington. I have no desire to praise our regiment. I know that the Zouaves say we were the only regiment who supported them well. Adjutant Fairbanks, aide to Heintzelman, told Capt. Brastow that our regiment stood their ground as well as any regiment on the field; that if others had done as well we could have held our ground.

The New York and other regiments were praised very highly, but they did not lose as many men in proportion to numbers as we did. We had 531 fighting men on the field and lost fifty-nine, which is over 10 per cent. So you see we must have had some work to do. In reference to our colors, the State flag was brought from the field by our Sergeant Major, the stars and stripes by the Color Corporal. Our defeat was caused by the want of a proper and prompt reinforcement. We won the field and it was for the reserve to keep it. The regiments facing the batteries did not retreat until the forces in our rear were entirely and completely broken up. In changing our position we were subject to a terrific fire, directed to sweep the road.

In our charges the balls flew around us like hail stones, and God only knows how we ever escaped as we did. The army officers could not stand the fire, but hastened from the field. There was no order or regularity displayed by any one. I saw a whole regiment refuse to obey the order to support the Zouaves. We did our best, that is all I have to say. The Washington papers speak well of us. The men rallied around the colors and stuck to them to the last. Every man of the Fifth would have preferred to have died then and there than to have returned to Massachusetts without our colors. We expect to return within a few days. The boys would like another chance at the rebels, and I think most of them will reenlist after a visit home.

Capt. Brastow is recovering from his bruises. I thought we had lost the old hero at one time, when he was thrown down and rolled in the dust by a charge from the cavalry, but he was on his feet and at our head, sooner than you can read this. He inspired us all.

The army is nearly organized; but few stragglers can be seen. The Zouaves are nearly all in camp. Our regiment could be called out in thirty minutes.

Boston Daily Advertiser, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown, 5th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Battle

16 11 2012

Letter From The Fifth Regiment.

We are permitted to publish the following letter from a member of the Massachusetts Fifth, giving his account of the battle of Bull Run: -

Washington, D. C., July 25, 1861.

My dear Father, – On Tuesday I sent you a few lines to inform you that I was still in the land of the living, which is something that I can account for but through the protection of Providence.  I was in the thickest of the fight; my company did nobly and charged the enemy three times. Our Colonel was cool, and well able to lead a regiment in the field. I cannot say as much for other field officers. Our Captain was like a tiger, in the fight. Your son endeavored to do his duty. The whole battle was, in my opinion, a poorly managed affair, and was fought against Gen. Scott’s wishes. I hope in future, they will let him alone.

To give you an idea of what was done in 24 hours, I will state, at 2 A. M., on Sunday, we left camp at Centerville (that is our division the third), marched ten miles through a circuitous route, to take a position on the enemy’s right flank. When we arrived, about 11 A. M., we halted only long enough to throw off our blankets and haversacks, then marched by a flank, double quick, about 1 1/2 miles to a swell of land and in front of Arnold’s Battery formed by company in close order and commenced firing by company, that is, the 1st company delivered their fire, advanced to the brow of the hill, then fall back, load and be replaced by the next company, and so on; Arnold’s Battery, as well as the enemy, all the time firing over our heads, and balls were thick enough to satisfy any one. Soon after the Mass. 11th were sent to support us on the left and the N. Y. 28th on the right. After being in this position about an hour, we were ordered to file off to the right to the road crossing the Bull Run, and support the N. Y. Zouaves and Rickets’s Battery. We had just got into position when the enemy made a charge on the Zouaves and the battery, driving them through our ranks and taking Captain Rickets prisoner. A good part of the Zouaves rallied on our rear, and with some of the Mass. 11th, we retook the battery and carried it off the field.

The battery had advanced to within 200 yards of the enemy’s works, which I think was wrong, as they (the enemy) had splendid batteries, and they were more rapidly served than ours. Their infantry were much inferior to ours. We drove them every time they made their appearance with fearful loss. We were at last obliged to retire to the hill where we had left our blankets; here we formed on the left of the Rhode Island boys, under Gov. Sprague and Col. Burnside, with a battalion of the 11th on our left, and endeavored to stop the retreat but it was too much for us, and what commenced as a withdrawal in good order soon became a mad flight. Gov. Sprague seeing there was then no hope of arresting it, marched around the right and on the outside of the woods in sight of the enemy’s batteries which was the only thing that saved us, as they, seeing us going off in good order, supposed the rest in the woods must be in like good order, and as they were evidently very glad to see us go, thought best not to trouble us. We have since understood that they were actually retreating when we were.

As we were coming out of the woods about five miles from the battle-field, one of their batteries opened on us with shell, doing great damage, and piling the road with ambulances and baggage-wagons, and preventing the artillery passing the bridge, and four of Arnold’s guns fell into their hands.

At about 7 P. M. I got into camp at Centerville, tired and hungry. There I found all the officers, three sergeants, three corporals, and twenty-five privates. I immediately threw myself on the ground, and went to sleep, not having eaten anything since morning. After about an hour’s sleep was called up by the Adjutant, and ordered to fall in as noiselessly as possible. An order had been given to fall back on Washington. For about three miles the regiment marched in good order by the flank, but after that the cavalry passed us, and the regiments began to crowd by each other and got mixed up, and some command was lost. My company kept their position with great difficulty until we arrived at Fairfax, when they dropped off from exhaustion by the road side.

I kept on with the hardy ones and before I reached Camp Mass. at 11 A. M., was overtaken by those that had rested. Here I found all but 18 or 20 of the Co. I took a cup of coffee and laid down to rest tired enough I assure you. I could not have slept more than half an hour when we were aroused by the order to fall in, it was raining big guns. Water and mud to our knees. Tired and hungry we marched to Washington a distance of 8 miles over a road that is bad enough in dry weather, and perfectly horrible in wet.

On reaching Washington, who should I meet but Dan —, John’s old friend who put money in my hands to get a new pair of pants and clean underclothes, my pants being covered with mud and cut in two places by shot. I then went to his room had a wash, took supper with him, and slept the night in his bed.

I do’nt care about breaking any of the articles of war, or I might tell a hard story about some of our high officers.

Boston Daily Advertiser, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Sgt. Frank L. Lemont, Co. E, 5th Maine Infantry, On the Battle

16 11 2012

A Personal Account of Bull Run.

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[The following is an extract from a private letter from Frank L. Lemont, now 1st Lieut. in the Lewiston Light Guards in the 5th Maine.]

Camp Vernon, Alexandria, Va.

My Dear Father: – It occurred to me last night while walking out alone, and thinking of home, that a true account of my actions and feelings that eventful day of Bull Run, might not be wholly uninteresting to you. I will commence from Saturday night at our encampment near Centerville, and end Monday noon, the time I arrived at Alexandria. At Brigade inspection that night, our commanding Office, Gen. Howard, told us that it would probably be the last time we should parade on that spot and he wished all to join in prayer for our welfare and the success of our arms. He joined with our Chaplain, and the whole Brigade uncovered their heads. It was a solemn sight and there were solemn yet determined men there. I felt as though I would like to ask God to be my support for the next 24 hours, for during that time I felt that I should need strength, and such strength as He only can give. But I was very calm although I did not know as ever I should behold another sun go down. Our orders were to be ready to march at one the next morning. I lay down, had a refreshing slumber and awoke at the long roll, greatly refreshed, prepared my coffee, drank it and eat my hard bread with a good relish, and by that time we were ready for a start. We expected to be brought into action at sunrise, but we kept halting, and it was past eight o’clock before we left Centerville, then we had nearly ten miles to march although the enemy was only three from us.

The attack commenced about sunrise. It was one of the hottest days of the season, but I stood the march beyond what I had dared to hope. While hundreds of stalwart fellows fell out on all sides, I kept on hardly feeling fatigued. During our march, at regular intervals of a few seconds could be heard the booming of cannon, and, as we approached nearer the scene of conflict we could hear the cracking, snapping, sound of Light Infantry as they made their successive charges upon the masked batteries of the rebels. They were sounds that I pray to God the valleys and hills of Old Maine may ever be strangers too. At 2 o’clock our Brigade arrived at Sudley Church, or rather Hospital. The doors and windows were open and the body of it was prepared for the wounded, nothing remaining but the desk or pulpit. It was here that the battle commenced in the morning, and the enemy had been driven back to their masked batteries. Our course was obstructed by the ambulances, filled with the wounded mangled in every shape. We passed along double quick trampling over the wounded, sitting and lying by the way side, until we came to an opening directly in range of the Rebel guns. Then commenced our first great danger. We passed nearly a quarter of a mile by the flank with the six pound shots whizzing just over our heads and falling all around us. Still but very few of our men fell in this movement. We then filed to the left, and passed down into a hollow under the cover of a hill, but the shot and shell were thick. By the time we got to this place the most of the men had deserted us either through fatigue or, – but I don’t wish to cast any reflections. Suffice it to say we had but eight men in our company ready to go up over the hill beside Lieut. Daggett and myself.

Up to this time I had felt no fear but still I felt very uncomfortable. My strength had not deserted me and I think my cheek was not pale. While we stood waiting and taking breath, a shot sped by and struck a fellow in the forehead killing him almost instantly. He was standing about three feet from me, and I shall never forget the sound the bullet made as it struck him. He fell upon his back, ,threw up his arms, trembled slightly and was dead. He was the first man I saw killed that day. You may think that I have grown hard-hearted when I tell you that that sight did not move me, but I assure you it did not unnerve me in the least, but I did think of his mother, if perchance he had any, as he lay thus uncared for; his body at the mercy of a ruthless foe.

We now had to ascend a hill through a thick growth of scrubby oaks and firs, and then we came out upon a broad opening with  a wood in front and one in the rear, and the rebel cannon playing upon us at both ends of the fields. You can imagine our position slightly as we charged down upon a masked battery concealed in the woods in front. During all this time we were exposed to a galling cross fire, ball and shell coming both ways.

I noticed many dead bodies as we passed up through the woods on to the hill, and one I noted in particular. He lay upon his right side. He was killed with a six pound cannon ball. I entered the left arm near the shoulder, and, I should judge, went entirely through his body and I thought at the time that I could run my arm through his body. It was a terrible sight and one I never wish to see again. I stopped for a moment and thought of his friends at the north, perhaps at that very moment sending up a prayer to God for his safety not dreaming that he, around whom their affections twined, was already with his Maker. – Such is war!

But I was unharmed and received not even a scar. I stood in my place in the company while they discharged 8 or 10 rounds and discharged my pistol once, when it occurred to me that I might get into a tight place and need the other charges, 5 in number. When we went up the hill, I put up my sword and took out my pistol, for I thought that would be the most effective, but I only fired one barrel for the reason I have above mentioned.

Our regiment retreated in the same manner that it went up, except that they did not keep together after a short time, all breaking up and mixing with other troops. The scene then became one which passes all description. You can imagine what it was, when I tell you that there were between twenty-five and fifty thousand men panic stricken, every one for himself rushing in greatest confusion, cavalry running down Infantry, field pieces dismounted, horses dashing away without riders, baggage wagons bottom side up, &c. Lieut. Daggett and I left the field together, and had retreated a short distance, when we heard a rushing sound of air, and before we thought what it was, a shell burst just above our heads, and for a few seconds the pieces flew lively. I do not know what saved us for doubtless it was aimed at us, for they tried to pick off the officers, and they saw our sword-scabbards glitter in the sun. After that we watched for the coming of those fellows pretty sharp. As we were passing over the brow of a hill, a few moments after, I cast my eyes in the direction of the enemy and to my surprise I beheld the main body of their Infantry sweeping down over the very ground we had occupied but a few minutes before. I turned round and for a few moments I was lost in the grandeur of the spectacle. They presented to us a mighty front, extending to the right and left, almost out-flanking our army. I saw their banners wave and the glittering of their bayonets in the sun. It was a sight I have longed to see, for it was to me something of a novelty to see a body of rebel troops. I had but little time to look at them for they were almost upon us and we had to leave as fast as our weary legs would carry us, and by that time I was nearly beat out.

Just then George Hamilton came up with us supported by two men. They delivered him up to me. He was nearly given out and I took his gun, lugged it a few steps and stuck the bayonet in the ground, and for aught I know it sticks there now. He gave out and laid down and I had to leave him behind. But the most trying scene was yet in store for me. I had passed on but a few steps when the cry came that the “Black Horse Cavalry” were charging upon us. I looked back but I could see nothing but smoke and men flying in all directions for shelter. It was a broad level field without a shrub or anything to secrete man or beast except a wood some quarter of a mile distant, and it was my aim to reach the cover of the wood, but how to accomplish it I did not know, for I was well nigh ready to fall, when Lieut. Daggett came up and said, we must run for our lives, and I confess that moment I felt the sensation of fear, but believe me when I tell you that that was the only time during that engagement I had any such feelings. We could but just totter along slowly with nothing but our swords to defend ourselves with, our company having all left us and just behind us 150 mounted devils, armed with carbines and swords, following up our weary men and cleaving off their heads without resistance. The idea of going as far as I had been that day and getting out so far and so well, and then having my head cut off was anything but pleasant. By some means we reached the cover of the wood. I sat down on a stump to pull of my boots in order to help me along, but I was so weak I could not get one leg over the other without taking hold and lifting it up, but I managed to get them off somehow or other, and that aided me considerably.

From that time we were not in much danger from shots from the enemy. We arrived again at Centerville after sun down, having been absent from that place nearly sixteen hours, during which I tasted nothing and hardly sat down. We went back to our camp and made a little coffee and lay down to rest for a short time, expecting soon to be on the march again for Fairfax. I laid down in the open air and slept about an hour, when the word came “the enemy are right upon us.” We sprang for our equipments, formed, and were soon on the march. We arrived at Fairfax Court House, at midnight and halted for a short time but were soon on our way again. After I left my boots I went in my stocking feet until I could scarcely walk. Just before I got to Fairfax I was lucky enough to find an old pair of shoes without strings, out at the toes and otherwise injured but I was then clear into Alexandria. We got into Alexandria at noon on Monday having been without sleep for 36 hours and nothing but hard bread to eat and in a tough battle three hours. I was unable to reach Alexandria on foot; but I got within a mile before I finally gave out.

Lieut. Frank L. Lemont

Lewiston Daily Evening Journal, 8/12/1861

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Frank Lemont at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





“Stephen”, 2nd Maine Infantry, On the Battle

14 11 2012

Letter from the Second Regiment.

Headquarters 2d Maine Regiment,

Arlington Heights, Va. near Fort Corcoran, July 27th.

After a disastrous battle, and an ignominious retreat, although the 2d Maine strictly obeyed orders, and nobly performed the duty assigned them, as the official report will testify, I embrace the present opportunity to once more resume our correspondence.

Our regiment, before the conflict, having been attached to Col. Keyes’s brigade and Gen. Tyler’s division were held as a reserve guard, until arriving at the scene of action, when suddenly the reserve was dispensed with, and we were literally run two miles and plunged into a masked battery, with the fond assurance that success was certain, and the day our own. After the first charge, however, we were fully convinced that we reckoned without our host, and that we had aroused more passengers than we imagined the infernal machine contained. Upon the second charge we did splendidly, sending many a misguided Southron to his long home, and for a moment the enemy’s lines apparently receding, we felt quite inspired. At this juncture, the battery still belching forth its torrent of iron hail, we were ordered o retire, which we did in good order, and having sheltered ourselves in the woods near  by, we then attempted to take the monster by a flank movement, which possibly might have been crowned with success, ,had more despatch been exercised. Our boys fell in lively, but the 1st and 2d Connecticut regiments seemed to prefer a recumbent position. Receiving the order to advance, we were repulsed, without loss, a third time, the enemy, on account of our delay, having anticipated the attack.

Failing in this, our last attempt, amid shells rifle cannon and Minnie rifle balls we retired from Bull’s or Bloody Run, feeling that without avail, we had nevertheless nobly performed the task assigned us. Would to Heaven we could tell a different tale.

In our first charge, Capt. James of Co. C fell mortally wounded, while bravely leading on his command. At the same fire, Wm. J. Deane, color bearer, fell wounded fatally while vigorously sustaining the flag presented to is the day before by the ladies of California formerly residing in Maine. This flag was for a short time lost, but finally regained. The flags presented at Bangor and New York are badly riddled, but will again, I trust, lead us on, not to defeat but victory. Color Sergeant Moore, I forgot to add, was also shot dead on the first charge, the aim of the enemy being directed to the glorious Stars and Stripes under which they heretofore received unnumbered benefits and unbounded protection. In returning from the field it fell to my lot to see and grasp by the hand both Capt. Jones and Sergt. Deane – the former being borne to the hospital by his comrades in arms and the latter already there under the care of Dr. Allen and Lieut. Skinner, who have since been taken prisoners. Dr. Palmer desired to remain at the hospital but Dr. Allen insisted that he should move on. Capt. Jones, receiving a ball through the spine, will probably never recover. Sergt. Deane, being apparently wounded thro the wind-pipe, his case was considered doubtful.

By the way, to give you a specimen of Southern chivalry, so much in vogue. While our Surgeons were amputating limbs and extracting lead from our wounded and dying, the valiant “Black Horse Cavalry”, so called, charged upon the hospital and all were taken prisoners – but owing to a galling fire from our ranks, they were unable to hold their position and with great loss and few prisoners rushed their steeds into the woods beyond.

I live in the hope that our regimental loss in killed, wounded and missing will not exceed one hundred, but the death or absence of even one brave fellow from our ranks is too much, when we reflect that apparently nothing has been gained by the struggle. Our regiment and all others would have been literally cut to pieces were it not, after the first fire, for the order to lay down and reload, by so doing the enemy’s fire, most of the time, was too high, and passed harmlessly over us.

By the way, Washington Harlow, of company C, reported wounded and in hospital, is incorrect. He is wounded and missing. Samuel Nash, of company A, reported wounded, is with us, alive and well. Rev. Mr. Mines, our Chaplain and one of the bravest of clergymen, is taken prisoner – not shot as some affirm. I trust that as regards surgeons and chaplains at least, there may speedily be an exchange of prisoners.

From all we can learn, Beauregard is inclined to deal justly with all and the acts of Indian barbarism that have been committed thus far are not through his orders. The loss of the enemy is far greater than ours, and from one of the 69th New York regiment who has made his escape I understand that Richmond is more a city of mourning than rejoicing. The truth is we gained the day, but, humiliating as it must be to us all, lost it through the incompetency of some, either officers or civilians, [?] the [?].

Among the distinguished busy-bodies on the field, there were too many Congressmen and reporters, and too few real commanding officers. But the die is cast and we must look hopefully to the future.

Our brigade, which comprised three Connecticut regiments and a portion of the New York 8th, whose term of enlistment has about expired, is now broken up, and we are temporarily attached to Col. Sherman’s command – 3d Brigade. We soon hope, however, to again be under Col. Keyes, who is both a skilful, cautious and humane commander, and much esteemed by us all.

Gen. Tyler, I must confess, we do not adore, but in the late engagement cannot say but that he obeyed, to the letter, the orders of his superiors in command. The whole movement was ill-timed, badly arranged, and horridly engineered, and my only wonder is, that we are not all laying upon the battlefield, under the [?] rays of a July sun.

On Sunday evening, our regiment, having retired in good order to Centreville, we were assigned the honorable part of guarding for the night, the battery commanded by Captain Ayres, but at about ten, P. M., jaded and fatigued, the whole army was ordered to Fairfax, and our march was continued until we arrived at Alexandria, twenty-five miles distant. Could we have retained our position at Centreville, even now we should have been there, but fate ordered otherwise, and we now have a demoralized army, and a disgraceful flight to patch up as soon and as best we may.

Our boys, owing to fatigue, ragged clothes, no money, &c., are not in the best of humor, as may be supposed, but with many promises ahead, and by the blessing of God, we soon hope to be in better circumstances, trusting that when we again move onward, we shall have a Commander-in Chief in whom we may have [?] confidence.

One thing has been demonstrated – that infantry cannot cope with masked batteries, and that a successful retreat – if retreat we must – cannot be accomplished without sufficient artillery and cavalry. Time alone will heal the present shock, and to time must be left the [?].

The general health of our regiment is good, although our camping ground is not in a very healthy locality, as we are now obliged to occupy the old camping ground of the New York 69th, which , upon our arrival, was not troubled with extreme neatness.

In a few days I hope to write you more in detail.

Yours in haste,

Stephen

Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Lieutenant Rinaldo B. Wiggin, Co. A, 2nd Maine Infantry, On the Battle

13 11 2012

Letter from the Regiment.

The following letter received on Saturday will be found of much interest. The incidents of the charge made by the gallant Second are given in some detail.

Arlington Heights,

Near Fort Corcoran, July 29, 1861

To B. C. Frost and other friends, who generously contributed in making up the box to the B. L. I.’s.*

Comrades – We have received you generous donation, and wish, as far as words are able, to express to you our thanks. We did not, (as was you intention), receive it in season for the 4th of July, but it came to us at a time when of all others we most needed it…it came to us after the battle, when we were “war worn and weary.” It came just as we had returned from burying one of our comrades, (Chamberlain). We had been on our feet for thirty-six hours, had fought a hard battle, and marched in all a distance of sixty miles, soaked with rain, our clothes ragged, and some without shoes. If you could have seen the crowd that gathered around that box as it was opened, and could have heard the fervent “God bless the boys at home!” as the generous presents made their appearance, I know you would have been amply compensated!

I will endeavor to tell you a little of the part we had in the affair, as I have not yet seen in correctly stated in the papers. In most accounts which I have seen the Second Maine is put down as the Second Wisconsin. We were in Col. Keyes’ brigade with the three Connecticut regiments, and in Gen. Tyler’s division. We [?] our camp at 2 o’clock Sunday morning, the 21st, at Centreville, when we were halted while the whole column marched past us, leaving us in the rear as a reserve. About 10 o’clock the order came for us to march to the front, which we did, coming up to the point where Sherman’s battery was engaging one of the rebel batteries. Here we threw off our coats and packs, and marched by the right flank in double quick time through the woods, across fields, over streams and ditches, a distance of over three miles, coming up to the enemy’s battery on the flank, coming on right line we charged the battery up a steep hill. The battery had just been reinforced by the arrival of Gen. Johnston’s fresh troops, and as we charged up the hill, a storm of iron and lead came down upon us, which nothing but the overruling hand of God prevented from sweeping us from the face of the earth.

Twice we charged almost to the muzzles of their cannon, and twice we were driven back, when the order came to retreat. William Deane was among the first who fell, carrying the California flag which had been presented to us the day before. We got him on board an ambulance of the New York 69th, and I suppose he fell into the hands of the enemy. John F. Reed was taken prisoner in the cavalry charge, and Edward R. Chamberlain of Bangor, died of exhaustion, two days after reaching Alexandria. This is the whole loss of the B. L. I.

On the retreat, shot and shell flew thick and fast amongst us, but fortunately none of us were hurt. The enemy’s cavalry made a dashing charge upon our rear, but we formed the best lines we could, and kept them at bay. At Centreville, we dropped on the ground for a few minutes to rest, when the order came to retreat to Fairfax, and once more we took up our weary line of march, retreating a distance of 28 miles, without food or rest, the last three or four hours through a heavy rain, till we reached Alexandria. We stopped two days in Alexandria, and were then ordered to this place.

Poor Chamberlain died the day after we left Alexandria, and it was while Capt. Bartlett was there making arrangements for his funeral, that the long looked for box was found in the Alexandria express office. You can perhaps imagine something of our feelings upon receiving it. All I can say to B. C. Frost, Levi March, John Lowell, C. C. Prescott, H. E. Sellers, H. G. Thaxter, O. R. Patch, and all others who contributed in making “our box”, is, that a soldier’s blessing will follow you.

On my own behalf, and in behalf of the officers and members of the Bangor Light Infantry,

I am, Gentlemen, yours truly,

R. B. Wiggin

*B. L. I. – Bangor Light Infantry, Company A of the 2nd Maine Infantry Regiment.

Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, 8/5/1861

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Rinaldo B. Wiggin on Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





“W.”, Co. E, 1st Special Louisiana Battalion, On the Battle

12 11 2012

More on the Manassas Battle.

———-

The following interesting letter from an officer in Major Wheat’s Battalion, addressed to his father, in this city, will be read with interest:

Battle-Field, Near Manassas Junction,

Wheat’s Battalion, July 2[?], 1861.

Dear Father — I received yours of 16th inst. yesterday night. I wrote you about same date from camp “Stuart,” and expect that you are in receipt of it, long ere the date of this.

We have been for the past week or ten days constantly on duty, our position, as the advance portion of the army, necessarily involved incessant and unflinching duties from officers and men. The enemy, previous to the 21st inst., were ubiquitous. The three or four battle previous to that date were well contested, but all resulted in their defeat. The camp equipage, baggage, &c., of our command were sent to the rear on the morning of the date of my last letter, and since then till now your son has been innocent of a change of linen or water to wash himself, except what the Heavens furnished in the shape of rain and dews, and they only contribute to render his dusty habiliments of the hue and character of the soil and road, with variegations of colors fixed and indelible.

Our duties have tried the mettle of our men; without covering, without blankets, half clothed, scarcely half fed, bivouacked where duty demanded our pickets to be placed, our men have stood it all, and bravely. I have seen them night after night lying uncovered in woods and fields, hungry and half-naked, (officers faring the same,) expecting the advance of the enemy every moment, without a murmur. Day after day, exposed to rains and an almost intolerable heat, they unflinchingly performed their duties. After marching and counter-marching, without tents, clothing or anything to render them at all comfortable, they  were led on the glorious morning of Sunday, 21st inst., to beat back Lincoln’s horde of northern barbarians, when for forty-eight hour previously they had not tasted food. Most gloriously did our battalion acquit itself. We have earned an undying fame.

The enemy, variously estimated at from 40,000 to 60,000, made a feint upon our front, which was easily and readily understood. Our battalion being in advance, and holding the post of honor on the left, were ordered to meet them as they endeavored to flank us. Our whole force did not number on the field 1800 men. Marching to take our position, we were fired upon by the South Carolina regiment and one of our company shot down; he fell at my feet. After the fire of the South Carolina regiment upon us from a point blank distance, concealed as they were in the woods, the enemy opened upon us a most terrific storm of shell, canister shot, chain shot, &c., taking position with only our little battalion, about 420 strong, the balance of our force of 1800 being under cover, we charged the enemy at the point of the bayonet and maintained, under the most incessant and murderous fire, for fully one hour, our position; and had our little battalion been supported we could have captured the enemy’s batteries and soon given another turn to events as they transpired.

I am anxious that you should hear from me, and cannot enter into a lengthened detail of the battle of the 21st. I write in a great hurry, but this I can say, that but for our battalion assuming the position it did, crossing a field at the charge, under the fire of eight thousand of the enemy, in position, protected by artillery, armed with the most improved weapons, the field would have been lost. All kinds of praise is accorded us. From Gen. Beauregard to the humblest private it is a source of wonderment how, being volunteers and unaccustomed to battle, we stood the fire we did. i can only say, personally, I endeavored to do my duty. I escaped most miraculously; fully one hundred shots were fired at me in a single instant. I entered into the engagement in my short sleeves, and showing a conspicuous mark, was fired upon from all points; just at the moment, at a deliberate aim, with my little carbine, I killed and officer or a man in front of their standard. The order to us being to fall back, as I retreated, being all alone, openly exposed, my white shirt a mark, I thought the eight thousand men opposed to our little battalion had opened upon me. Such an avalanche of shot, shell, &c., I do not care very soon to experience or risk the hazard of facing.

Our battalion was terribly cut up, seven commissioned officers of the eighteen who engaged in the battle being wounded. Our company lost half of its numbers in wounded. The flag we bore – ours being the centre flag company – evidences the fire we stood, there being no less than fifteen to eighteen perforations from the enemy’s bullets. I have not time to enumerate the wounded and killed, except of our company, and even this I may err in recapitulating, as returns are not complete:  Capt. Miller, small bone of leg broken; Lieutenant Dickinson, acting adjutant, shot through the thigh; Lieut Care, son of Dr. Carey, shot in the foot, and when lying on the field stabbed through the thigh by a Yankee officer, whom he killed; Major Wheat was shot early after the opening of the engagement, through the body, the bullet going entirely through his body, just back of both nipples; we thought he was killed, but he was brought from the field alive, and though pronounced mortally wounded he is fast recovering, and we only hope for him to live to lead us to millions of such glorious victories. We can whip the Yankees. At no time did we have more the 15,000 men engaged. Our battalion have earned their laurels. I cannot write more. I will send details, though I may have to copy many things embraced in this letter.

Thank God for my escape.

W.*

Daily True Delta, 8/8/1861

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*Possibly 1st Lt. William D. Foley

Contributed by John Hennessy





Chaplain Junius M. Willey, 3rd Connecticut Volunteers, On the Battle

11 11 2012

Third Connecticut Regiment —- A reliable Statement from Rev. J. M. Willey, its Chaplain

We visited the encampment of the 2d and 3d Connecticut Regiments, and witnessed their dress parade on Thursday afternoon last, and were gratified at their general good appearance. The Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Welles, Senator Dixon, and chief clerk Faxon, were present to witness the parade, and to show their interest in the volunteers from this State. We heard an excellent report of Mr. Willey, the chaplain of the 3d Regiment. He has been untiring in his efforts for the welfare of the men, and will ever be held in grateful remembrance by them.

Mr. Willey is disposed to forgive the rebels for stealing several of his manuscript sermons at Bull Run, provided they will read and profit by them; still they are such a rebellious people, that he has but little hopes of their salvation, with any weapon short of shot and shell. The following addressed by him to the Waterbury American, will be read with interest. We give it at his request.

I don’t think that I should now intrude upon you, except to ask you to put little reliance upon the newspaper reports of the great battle of the 21st. The accounts of “hair-breadth escapes and wonderful exploits” are most ridiculous and absurd. So far as my observation aids me, the reporters have obtained many of their startling particulars from those who were first to run away from the fight – whose lightness of foot enabled them to present full reports of the battle as much in advance of Government dispatches as they were in advance of men of courage in their stampede to Washington. On my arrival at Willard’s Hotel, on Tuesday morning, I heard men recounting their own daring achievements, whom, with my own eyes, I saw practicing the “double quick” from the battle field before it was known through the army that a retreat was ordered. Regiments are praised for their bravery, who were not ordered to fire a gun, and encomiums are bestowed upon officers for rallying their regiments, when for hours the Regiments had not the slightest idea where their officers were.

For the sake of common honesty, I must insist that the 3d Connecticut Regiment, which was the only Connecticut Regiment who made on charge on that memorable day, should not be entirely ignored for the simple reason that none of its officers ran away to “post up” reporters as to its daring deeds.

About half-past two, p. m., the 3d Connecticut and 2d Maine were ordered to charge upon a battery of rebels. The Colonel of the 3d did not send but led his Regiment to one of the most perilous labors of the day. Amid a shower of bullets and grape shot that sounded like the humming of bees, the work was done; the enemy was driven back and the possession of the place obtained. Our officers were determined to mark the place as our own, and Major Warner called for the Regimental Flag. The Stars and Stripes were advanced. “Not that one,” shouted the Major, “give me the Connecticut Flag!” and I tell you, Mr. Senior Editor, that your old blood would have coursed in quicker currents could you have seen the Major and Color Sergeant erecting on that spot, amid a leaden storm, the “Qui Trans. Sust.” of old Connecticut.

This was not all. When at length the column was ordered to retire from the field, it became necessary for some Regiment to cover the retreat. Col. Chatfield was ordered to do it. Had he and his Regiment been on their way to Washington, this laborious and dangerous duty might have been avoided, but the 3d Connecticut happened to be on the field and their confidence in the coolness and discretion of a Colonel who could walk down the lines with a smile upon his face, as he informed them how he should lead them in a charge that must end in the bloody death of some for whom he felt a brother’s solicitude, inspired them with courage to which some of the Regiments were strangers.

One of our officers seemed ubiquitous. I mean Adjutant Duryee. In any part of the regiment where he was needed he always appeared. Before the battle he had secured the love of the Regiment – after the battle the mention of his courage and bravery was on every lip. He rendered incalculable service to the Colonel in keeping the lines in order.

The field and staff lost most of their baggage. – The officers had laid aside their dress uniforms and everything that could encumber them. The Col. retains his sword and horse; all else is gone, but in exchange he has secured a military reputation of which Waterbury may be justly proud.

Very truly yours,

J. M. W.

Hartford Daily Courant,8/7/1861

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Junius M. Willey at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy








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