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

31 07 2010

Camp Moore June 6, 1861

Dear Sister,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

————

August 1, 1861

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

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

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

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

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

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

————

August 12, 1861

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

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

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

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

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





Letters from Wheat’s Battalion

27 07 2010

Stuart Salling has posted these letters from a member of Wheat’s Battalion written before and just after the battle.

Stuart has given me the go-ahead to post these letters to the Bull Run Resources section, which I’ll be doing soon.  In the meantime, check them out on the Louisiana in the Civil War site.





Wheat’s Battalion

24 07 2010

Stuart Salling hosts the blog Louisiana in the Civil War, and also wrote the recently published Louisianians in the Western Confederacy – the Adams-Gibson Brigade in the Civil War.  A contributor to his site posted this article, about the Battalion from formation through First Bull Run.   Check it out.





The Red Brick Wall was the Color of a Brick-Red Crayola

21 03 2010

Right now I’m reading On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery, by Robert M. Poole – a 2009 publication.  Just getting into it, cruising along, not much to complain about (though I think I need to write up something on just who offered Robert E. Lee command of what).  But then I roll across this:

Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth, commander of the 1st New York Zouaves, piled into a steamboat with his men and sailed toward Alexandria.  This dandified regiment of firemen-soldiers was hard to miss, decked out in their red pantaloons, tasselled caps and white spats and brewing for a brawl.

Jeez Louise.  I won’t go into what the 11th New York Infantry, Ellsworth’s Fire Zouaves did and did not wear and when they did and did not wear it.  Click on “Zouaves” in the tag cloud at the bottom of the right hand column of this page and you’ll find lots of articles on the topic.  The most definitive one is here.

Thanks to Douglas Adams for the title of this post.

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Photo of a Fire Zouave?

20 05 2009

I received the following email early this morning, and reproduce it here very slightly edited with photos in place of links:

Dear Mr. Smeltzer,

I found your page doing some research on photograph that I recently acquired, and I am wondering if you can help me with it.

I believe, though I am by no means sure, that this is a portrait of a Fire Zouave. I will attach links to scans of the image, a sixth plate (2.5 x 3.5 inches) tintype:

1) The tintype, in its case:

firezouavefullcase

2) A larger scan of the full plate, out of its frame, showing the horn:

firezouavenomat

3) A close-up of the fire horn and kepi:

firezouavehorn

4) A reversed scan of the lettering on the horn:

firezouavehornreversed

The evidence that he might be a Fire Zouave is as follows:

A) Dark (blue?) pants, which the 11th wore.

B) Red (tinted on the image) fireman’s shirt, with plastron. Also worn by the 11th.

C) The kepi with an oilcloth cover.

Most intriguing — and maddeningly so — is the lettering on the base of the horn. I can make out two S’s, with what looks like an I between them. After the second S, there looks to be either a T or an apostrophe followed by a letter. The I is possibly a numeral 1, in which case it might be “1st”. In any event, I can’t make out what the whole word would be. Probably either a town name or the name of his engine company.

My hypothesis is that this is a new recruit, displaying his two allegiances: to his firefighting unit and to his military unit.

Any help or hunches you might have would be greatly appreciated! As you can imagine, I am dying to get to the bottom on this image….

Thanks,

Gregory Fried

Professor and Chair, Philosophy Department

Suffolk University

 I’m undecided.  The fireman’s shirt this fellow is wearing is a little different from that of Francis Brownell, on display at MNBP – the belt is different too, but I think each fire company had their own:

Francis Brownell Uniform - Courtesy Manassas NBP

It is true that after a few weeks in the field the 11th NY ditched their blue-gray Zouave togs for Union blue, but they kept the red shirts as part of their ensemble.  However, there were other regiments recruited from fire companies that may also have worn the shirts; it’s also possible this photo depicts a soldier in more casual dress.  The horn could be a fire horn, could belong to the subject, or may simply be a photographer’s prop.

I know there are some readers out there who specialize in zouves, and some in portraits and photography, and some in the 11th NY specifically.  What do you all think?





Family Ties – Kilpatrick Part V

15 10 2008

Here’s an update to the Kilpatrick Family Ties series.  I found this site the other day, which has confirmed some of the information I already had and also alerted me to a few other tidbits.  To quote the Dude: Lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-yous, lotta strands to keep in my head, man.

You’ll notice some stuff that expands a bit on Part II and Part III.  I found it really interesting that Kilpatrick granddaughter Consuelo Morgan’s husband Benjamin’s father, Benjamin Thaw, Sr, Harry K.’s half brother, was married to a woman named Elma Ellsworth Dows, born in October, 1861.  Elmer Ellsworth, the first Colonel of the 11th NY Fire Zouaves, was one of the war’s first martyrs (see here), and there was a multitude of babies born across the North in following years named for him.  This is the first time I’ve run across what appears to be a female namesake!

You’ll also see that Consuelo is buried in the Thaw plot in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Cemetery.  I didn’t notice her grave when I made my trek there (see here), and didn’t think to look for her because she remarried after the death of Benjamin Thaw, Jr.  It turns out that she is buried not far from her other grandfather, Philip Hicky Morgan.  I guess I need to go back there.

The site has lots of interesting stuff about the Thaws that I didn’t know – though you can probably fill a thimble with the stuff I do know about them.  For instance, the family supplied two aviators to the American forces in WWI, one of whom died in action.  It seems a shame they’re remembered almost exclusively for nutcase Harry Kendall Thaw – of Pittsburgh.





Gettysburg Fix

10 08 2008

This past Thursday I decided, on the spur of the moment, to make a quick trip to Gettysburg.  The wife and son would be out of town for the weekend, things are a little slow work-wise, so I figured what the heck.  Wifey reserved a room for me at the Hampton Inn on York Street for Friday night, I wrapped up a few things that needed wrapped up, and I hit the road for Gettysburg Friday afternoon.  I got into town a around 6:30 and made a B-line for the the parking lot behind the Travel Lodge.  The Horse Soldier was closed, of course.  I guess the Visitor’s Center relocation has not affected their business to the point where they will stay open past 5:00 pm on a Friday night during the busiest season for the town.

And busy the town was!  After talking a bit with Licensed Battlefield Guide Andy Ward (I ran into him in the parking lot when he was on his way to take more of his fine battlefield pictures), I took a walk down Steinwehr Ave, past all the T-Shirt shops, ghost tour booths, and throngs of tourists.  At The Farnsworth House book store I picked up a copy of the new biography of Francis T. Meagher.  Later that night I stopped into the Reliance Mine Saloon for a couple or three Yuenglings.

Bright and early Saturday I made my way to the new Gettysburg Visitor’s Center, which I had not had the opportunity to visit.  It’s big.  Really big.  Lots and lots of space in this sucker.  The museum is nice, and the whole story of the war is laid out for what is undoubtedly the overwhelmingly typical visitor.  And it is the visitor’s center, after all.  The bookstore offers a nice selection for that same typical visitor, though there are also a few obscure titles (the reprint of Phisterer’s New York in the War of the Rebellion was a bit too pricey for the quality, though I thought about it).  I also took a walking tour from the VC to Cemetery Ridge, designed again for the typical visitor.  In this case, lucky typical visitors because it was led by Ranger and author Gregory Coco.  Ranger Coco offered an unusually candid and humanistic narrative as he led our group to the Widow Leister house and The Angle, admonishing us all to take time to think of all the good things we have, and not to focus on the negatives.  It was a beautiful day, so after the tour I wandered about a bit.  The 20th Mass. “Pudding Stone” monument (the last photo) is one of my all-time favorites.

      

As I headed back to my car, I passed this kiosk.  Yep, that face peering at you is non-other than Francis Brownell of the 11th New York Fire Zouaves, profiled here.

I returned to my favorite parking lot and, after a quick bite at O’Rorke’s Pub (named for the fellow whose account of his experience at Bull Run can be read here), set off for a long walk around town.  I was pleasantly surprised to run into old friends Jim and Kathy Semler and we had a nice chat.  Before heading home I returned to The Horse Soldier and purchased a print of Don Troiani’s New York’s Bravest, which depicts the 11th NY and the 69th NYSM at Bull Run.  I’m not a big fan of Troiani, but the subject appealed to me.  Now to get it framed and find a place to hang it.





Griffin’s JCCW Testimony

25 07 2008

Charles GriffinI thought Charles Griffin’s testimony before the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War would be a nice accompaniment to his report.  I’ll write up a little sketch of the committee, its members and its mission, and will copy it to the new page I’ve set up as an index to testimonies I post here.  Some good stuff in Griffin’s testimony – he pulls no punches when it comes to Artillery Chief William Barry or the 11th NY Fire Zouaves.





Fire Zouaves: A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

20 07 2008

I recently purchased Bleeding Blue and Gray: Civil War Surgery and the Evolution of American Medicine by Ira M. Rutkow (2005).  On page 12:

Poised at the foot of Henry House Hill, the Eleventh New York Infantry, best known as the First Fire Zouaves, may never have seen Johnston’s troops as they gathered at the ridge’s crest, but Johnston’s men could not miss the Yankees.  Advancing up the slope, the 950 or so Northerners were a colorful lot.  Sporting dark blue waistcoats accented in red and gold trim, bright red blouses, flowing crimson bloomers with blue piping and white spats, all capped off by a red fez, these warriors were the height of mid-nineteenth-century military haute couture.

Double Yoi.  I’d tell you what Rutkow’s source for this description is, but he neglected to note it.

I know, I go on and on about the uniform of the 11th NY Fire Zouaves at Bull Run, including herehere, here, and here.  To recap, despite numerous, even eyewitness accounts to the contrary, the regiment’s enlisted men did not wear red pants during the battle.  In fact, at no time were red pants ever a part of their uniform, though officers wore red pants of the chasseur pattern.  But don’t take my word for it:

Above is a photo of the 11th NY Zouave uniform of Private Francis E. Brownell of Company A, on display at Manassas National Battlefield (thanks to Jim Burgess at the park).  Notice the color (gray-blue), the name of Brownell’s New York fire company on his belt, and his red fireman’s jersey.  This is the same uniform Brownell was wearing on May 23rd, 1861, when he accompanied his colonel Elmer Ellsworth into Alexandria’s Marshall House hotel to pull down a secession banner flying from the building and visible through a glass from the White House.  As Ellsworth descended the stairs with the flag he was killed by a shotgun blast fired by the hotel’s proprietor, James Jackson.  Brownell, who was with Ellsworth, quickly shot Jackson in the face, then drove his saber bayonet through his body.

Ellsworth became a dead hero in the North, mourned by his friend Abraham Lincoln.  Jackson received similar posthumous honors in the south.  Brownell became a living celebrity, whose photo, complete with Ellsworth’s blood stained banner, became a popular item.

Brownell left the unit before First Bull Run, accepting a commission in the 11th US Infantry, and in 1877 he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his action at the Marshall House.  You’ll find his death notice here.

As you can read on this great website on the 11th, the regiment’s worn-out, gray-blue Zouave uniforms were grudgingly exchanged for standard union blue jackets and pants before First Manassas.  Many men continued to wear their distinctive red firemen’s shirts, and some may have worn red fezes, though the official uniform headgear as seen with Brownell was a kepi with company insignia and “1Z” for First Zouaves.  I think this image of the regiment fighting alongside the 69th New York Militia probably gives a good idea of what they looked like on the field at First Bull Run.

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Out, Damn’d Spot! Out, I Say!

13 05 2008

When it comes to First Bull Run, historians and other chroniclers of the battle have a lot in common with Lady MacBeth: they tend to see red where there is no red, or at least it’s not where they think it is.

I’m making my way through Joseph Glatthaar’s General Lee’s Army (see here).The first four chapters, while they have lots of really good information, were a real chore to read.  They remind me of George Rable’s Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!, which also contains lots of good stuff but could have been just as, if not more, effective in about half or two thirds the length.  Perhaps Glatthaar grew so enamored of the anecdotes he turned up he was loathe to part with them, with the result being that the relative importance of the various points being made is blunted.  Anyone frustrated with the seemingly excessive “stuff” that infuses Russell Beatie’s books should be similarly irked with the first four chapters of General Lee’s Army.  They should be, anyway.

But let’s get back to The Scottish Play, and how it applies to Glatthaar’s book.  In chapter six, the narrative framework of the story of Lee’s army – actually, the forerunners of Lee’s army – gets us to First Bull Run.  On page 55 the author writes:

Men of the 13th Virginia jumped off the train [at Manassas Junction on July 21] and raced to the sound of gunfire.  A private reported that “the dust was so thick that we could not see a man five paces immediately in front of us.”  Choking on dirt and craving water to soothe parched mouths, they eagerly rushed onward nevertheless.  Stragglers and wounded called out to them to “pick off the red pants [11th New York Infantry (Zouaves) and 14th New York Infantry], that they had injured us more than any other part of the enemy.”  But to their great dismay, they never got the chance.  By the time they reached the main battlefield, their comrades had swept the field.  The only Yankees in red pants they met were prisoners of war.

And they were also only members of the 14th Brooklyn.  As discussed several times on Bull Runnings (most notably here), the 11th New York Fire Zouaves were not wearing red pants at Bull Run.  Most of their Zouave pants had worn to tatters by then, and the majority of the men sported standard issue blue trousers.  In addition, the 11th New York Zouave uniform consisted of gray jackets, gray pants and red firemen’s shirts.  Not red pants.  They never wore ‘em.

It’s difficult to tell from the footnoting method (one note at the end of a long paragraph with a number of cites for the whole paragraph) whether Glatthaar used a participant’s identification of the regiments, or if he interpreted the description to apply to the 11th and 14th NY himself.  I really, really hate these footnotes.  But I’m willing to forgive them and the glacial pace of the first four chapters – and a disappointing, dismissive, pedestrian description of Joseph E. Johnston – because, like I said, there’s a lot of good stuff in General Lee’s Army.








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