Pages, Letters, Programs

15 01 2008

In keeping with the split personality of this site – it serves as both a blog and a repository for First Bull Run data (see the Pages section on the right) – I posted three official reports over the weekend.  Since I usually don’t post on the weekends, I’ve decided to put up this type of data (these types of data?) on Saturdays and Sundays.  I figure that way all the reports will be up this year, and I can start on the correspondence as well.  Other pages I’ll be working on are regimental biographies and MOH winners in the battle.

ororke.jpgIn related news, I received in the mail from a good friend a transcription of a letter written by Lt. Patrick Henry O’Rorke of his experiences during the battle.  O’Rorke graduated first in the USMA class of June 1861, and served as an aide on BG Daniel Tyler’s staff that summer.  He’s best known for his heroics and death on Little Round Top at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863 (you’ve probably rubbed his bronze nose there on occasion).  It’s a great letter, but there’s a problem: I have no idea where the original is deposited.  This makes the letter difficult to use.  So, if any of you out there have any idea what letter I’m talking about, please drop me a line.

In related-related news, I have tentatively determined that the role of the two USMA classes of 1861 in the battle will be the subject of my next round table program.  Don’t get excited: I don’t have any takers yet.  If you’re interested, leave a note on the Speaking Dates page.

#10 – Capt. Henry F. Clarke

13 01 2008


Report of Capt. Henry F. Clarke, Commissary of Subsistence, U. S. Army, of the subsistence of the Army from July 15 to 21

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 236 – 238

ARLINGTON, VA., August 2, 1861

CAPTAIN: For the information of the general commanding the department, I have the honor to submit the following report in reference to the subsistence of the Army under his command during its recent operations in front:

On the 15th ultimo the commanders of divisions were directed to see that all the troops of their respective commands have cooked and in their haversacks by 3 p.m. the next day three days’ rations, and orders were given that five days’ additional subsistence should be loaded into wagon trains on the day of march, and follow the Army on the day succeeding, and that a specified number of beef cattle should be driven forward with each train.

Owing to the necessary number of wagons not being furnished in season to uninstructed and many worthless teamsters and green teams, and to some of the roads being bad, only one of the trains–that in charge of First Lieut. J. P. Hawkins, Second Infantry, A. C. S.–was able to overtake the Army on the morning of the 18th. It, with ninety head of beef cattle, July traveling all the previous night, arrived at Fairfax Court-House on the morning stated, before the Army had taken up its march. During the morning, while the Army was moving forward to Centreville, it was thought the other subsistence trains, in charge of First Lieuts. G. Bell, First Artillery, and James Curtis, Fifteenth Infantry, intended for Colonel Heintzelman’s and General Tyler’s divisions, respectively, would not reach the Army in season, and I was directed to distribute the subsistence in the train present as equally as possible amongst the several divisions. Fourteen wagons, containing about 17,000 rations, were sent, in charge of Lieutenant Hawkins, to the Fifth Division; the remaining wagons were directed to immediately proceed to Centreville, and I had made the best arrangements in my power to distribute the provisions they contained amongst the other three divisions.

Shortly after our arrival at Centreville I was officially informed that the train with sixty-five head of beef cattle, in charge of Lieutenant Curtis, was in the vicinity, and the train with seventy head of beef cattle, in charge of Lieutenant Bell, was at Fairfax Court-House. I then directed the first of these trains to come forward to Centreville and encamp for the night, and the second to come forward with as little delay as possible, and myself conducted the remaining wagons of Lieutenant Hawkins’ train, and turned them over to the officer (Lieutenant Merrill) directed by General Tyler to receive and distribute to the First Division the subsistence stores they contained.

I endeavored to distribute the subsistence stores equally amongst the several divisions according to the strength of each; but in consequence of the necessity of breaking up the train in charge of Lieutenant Hawkins which was intended for the divisions of Colonels Miles and Hunter, and the late arrival of the others, difficulties arose, and I may not have succeeded in my object.

Making due allowance for all losses on the march, according to the reports of the officers conducting the trains and my own observation at least 160,000 complete rations were received by the Army at and in the  vicinity of Centreville; sufficient for its subsistence for five days.

In a circular from department headquarters, dated at Centreville, July 20, 1861, commanders of divisions were directed to give the necessary orders that an equal distribution of the subsistence stores on hand might be made immediately to the different companies in their respective commands, so that they should be provided with the same number of days’ subsistence, and that the same be cooked and put into the haversacks of the men; and they were informed that the subsistence stores then in possession of each division, with the fresh beef that could be drawn from the chief commissary, must last to include the 23d instant. The three days’ subsistence it was directed the troops should have in their haversacks by 3 p.m. on the 16th of July should have lasted them to the afternoon of the 19th. After the distribution made in compliance with the circular above referred to, I know of several instances in which subsistence stores remained in possession of division and brigade commissaries, and of others in which provisions were left on the ground of the encampments on the morning of the 21st of July.

From personal observation on the march on the morning of the 21st of July, I know that generally the haversacks of the men were filled–whether properly or not I do not know. Regimental officers should be held accountable for that. During the battle and following it I noticed many filled haversacks, canteens, blankets, and other property lying on the ground, their owners having doubtless thrown them away to get rid of the labor of carrying them on so hot a day and under such trying circumstances.

I beg leave to call your attention to the reports of Lieutenants Bell, Hawkins, and Curtis. The duties they performed were highly important, all who are acquainted with the difficulties under which they labored and overcame will know that they acted with judgment and energy and for the best interests of the Government.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain and Commissary of Subsistence


Assistant Adjutant-General, Arlington, Va.

#9 – Lieut. Frederick E. Prime

13 01 2008

Report of Lieut. Frederick E. Prime, U.S. Corps of Engineers

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX pp 234 – 236

SIR: In compliance with your instructions, I have the honor to report as follows with respect to my duties on Sunday, the day of the battle:

Early in the morning I proceeded with Colonel Miles, to whose staff I was attached, to Centreville, leaving my tool wagon and detachment at the cross-roads in Centreville. The battery near the road from Fairfax Court-House having been examined by Colonel Miles, the pioneers of the Garibaldi Guard were directed to construct a [redoubt] with two embrasures, so as to sweep the old Braddock road, and resist any attempt to outflank us from the left, by Union Mills road or road from Gaines’ Ford. The road being still obstructed by the other columns, by order of Colonel Miles I started Colonel Davies’ brigade on the road to Blackburn’s Ford, reaching that road by a short cut across the fields. I then returned to Colonel Miles, and examined some positions for intrenchments on the left of the Blackburn road. These positions having been chosen, I was directed to proceed towards Blackburn’s Ford with my tools. Reaching Colonel Richardson’s brigade, I was informed that Colonel Davies was in command. I proceeded to the extreme left of the line and reported to him. I shortly after returned to the center, where Captain Hunt’s battery was stationed.

I was directed by Colonel Richardson to remain near the battery and keep watch on the movements of the enemy. Colonel Richardson proceeded to make an abatis to cover a road for infantry and artillery, which should connect with the left. This road was formed on the skirt of the wood by cutting down the trees necessary for the abatis. Considerable progress was made in a battery across the road with three embrasures. This had a log revetment for the interior slope, and some ten or twelve feet of dirt in front. Captain Hunt’s battery having been ordered to the left, Lieutenant Greene’s battery was advanced to replace it, two pieces being on the right of the road and two on the left. An excellent view could be obtained of the infantry, cavalry, and artillery, as they moved either towards or from the main battle-field, the road in many places passing over cleared ground.

One hundred and sixty skirmishers were directed to proceed by a ravine our left to feel the enemy. I proceeded with them. On approaching the road near Bull Run the enemy’s skirmishers fired upon them and they fell back, the orders being that no engagement should be brought on. Shortly afterwards I was directed by Colonel Miles to send my men and implements to Centreville, and to return with him, in order to attend to the defenses of that point. Shortly before reaching Centreville I was directed by Colonel Miles to put Colonel Blenker’s brigade in motion immediately for Warrenton Bridge. I did so, and on Colonel Miles’ arrival at Centreville I received orders to accompany the brigade and make a stand at Warrenton Bridge, or, if circumstances rendered it necessary, to countermarch and take a defensive position at Centreville.

The road was now thronged with a mingled mass of footmen, mounted men, wagons, &c. Before reaching the head of the column I received from an officer of high rank intelligence that the Army was in full retreat. I requested him to send the battery at the rear of the column back to Centreville. As I reached each regiment I had them deployed to the right and left to cover the retreat, with instructions to fall back slowly to Centreville. Colonel Blenker, with his leading regiment deployed in line of battle and covered with a line of skirmishers, asked for authority to move forward, so as to check any advance of the enemy’s cavalry. Deeming my instructions sufficient, I gave the necessary order in Colonel Miles’ name, and was glad to learn from Colonel Blenker next day that an advance of cavalry had been checked and some prisoners released. I then returned to Centreville for orders, and, finding Colonel Miles had been relieved of his command, reported to General McDowell. By his direction I proceeded towards the Union Mills to ascertain if there were any signs of the enemy in that direction. None being found, I was, on my return, directed to post the Twenty-seventh Pennsylvania Regiment on the right of the Blackburn Ford road. On returning from the discharge of this portion of my duty I was unable to find general headquarters. I remained with Greene’s battery until I was informed that the Army had been ordered to fall back to Fairfax Court-House and make a stand.

At 3.30 Monday morning I was at Fairfax Court-House with my wagon, ready to carry out such orders as I might receive. The troops continued to file through the town, and I ascertained from Colonel Blenker that new orders had been issued, directing the troops to fall back to their old positions on the south side of the Potomac. I started my wagon and detachment for the engineer depot at Fort Runyon, and, at Colonel Richardson’s request, accompanied him and his rear guard of two Michigan regiments. These, I believe, were the last troops that left Fairfax Court-House, and covered the retreat as far as the cross-roads formed by the Alexandria turnpike and road through Arlington Mills. I shortly afterwards ordered an advance, reaching Alexandria about noon on Monday.

Before closing my report I wish to mention Sergeant Field and ten men from the Fourth New Jersey (three months’) Volunteers, who accompanied my tool wagon and brought it back in safety, being the most of the time separated from me.

Respectfully submitted,


First Lieutenant, Engineers


Corps of Engineer’s, Washington, D.C.

#8 – Capt. Daniel P. Woodbury

12 01 2008


Report of Capt. Daniel P. Woodbury, U.S. Corps of Engineers

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 233-234

FORT CORCORAN VA., July 30, 1861

MAJOR: In compliance with your request that I should furnish a report of my own services and observations at the unfortunate battle of Bull Run, I have the honor to say that I accompanied the divisions of Colonel Hunter and Colonel Heintzelman, and, assisted by Captain Wright, directed their course around the headwaters of Bull Run, leaving the Centreville and Warrenton road about one-third mile west of Cub Run at 5.30. a.m., July 21, and arriving at the upper ford, or Sudley’s Mill, at 9.30 a.m. The distance between these points by our route is between five and six miles. We followed in the main an old road as laid down upon the map, halting occasionally to prepare the road for artillery. At Sudley’s Mill we lingered about an hour, to give the men and horses water and a little rest before going into action, our advance guard in the mean time going ahead about three-quarters of a mile. Resuming our march, we emerged from the woods about one mile south of the ford, and came upon a beautiful open valley about one and a quarter miles square, bounded on the right or west by a wooded ridge, on the east by the rough spurs or bluffs of Bull Run, on the north by an open plain and ridge, on which our troops began to form, and on the south by another ridge, on which the enemy were strongly posted, with woods behind their backs. The enemy were also in possession of the bluffs of Bull Run on our left.

The flankers of the advanced guard on the left of our road first received the fire of the enemy–a single regiment lying on the ground on the south side of the northern ridge of the valley. At the same time the enemy opened upon the head of our column, and particularly upon the road, with many pieces of artillery in prepared batteries and in the open field. These batteries were more than a mile off, and did little execution, but the shells falling continually somewhat intimidated our troops. It was evident at a glance that the enemy was fully prepared, and I suggested to Colonel Hunter, commanding the leading division, that we should confine our operations mainly to our left flank, driving the enemy from the immediate vicinity of Bull Run, and securing a junction with General Tyler’s division, then to act according to circumstances as the commanding general might think best.

Colonel Hunter unfortunately was wounded at the very beginning of the action. He had gone forward to the very lines of the enemy to see better how to direct the attack, and was struck by the fragment of a shell. The loss of a chief, and so gallant a chief, at that moment was a great calamity. After this I reported to Colonel Porter, then in command, and afterwards to General McDowell, with whom I finally retired from the field.

It is not for me to give a history of the battle. The enemy was driven on our left from cover to cover a mile and a half. Our position for renewing the action the next morning was excellent; whence, then, our failure? It will not be out of place, I hope, for me to give my own opinion of the cause of this failure. An old soldier feels safe in the ranks, unsafe out of the ranks, and the greater the danger the more pertinaciously he clings to his place. The volunteer of three, months never attains this instinct of discipline. Under danger, and even under mere excitement, he flies away from his ranks, and looks for safety in dispersion. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon of the 21st there were more than twelve thousand volunteers on the battle-field of Bull Run who had entirely lost their regimental organizations. They could no longer be handled as troops, for the officers and men were not together. Men and officers mingled together promiscuously; and it is worthy of remark that this disorganization did not result from defeat or fear, for up to 4 o’clock we had been uniformly successful. The instinct of discipline which keeps every man in his place had not been acquired. We cannot suppose that the troops of the enemy had attained a higher degree of discipline than our own, but they acted on the defensive, and were not equally exposed to disorganization.

Lieutenant Cross, of the Engineer Corps, who has been my assistant during the last two months, had immediate charge of a working party of sappers and miners on our march from this place to Bull Run, following in the rear of the advance guard and promptly clearing away all obstructions. He was on the field of battle, zealously seeking and reporting information.



Captain Engineers


Corps of Engineers,

Washington, D.C.

America’s Civil War March 2008

9 01 2008


acw-march-08.jpgThe March issue of America’s Civil War has hit the stands, and I picked up my copy yesterday.  There’s an interesting piece by Rob Hodge on his life after Confederates in the Attic (Rob is the “bloater” featured on the cover of Tony Horwitz’s book), as well as some cool wet-plate photos of reenactors on the cover and inside.

Also in this issue are my first book reviews – you will find them at the end of the reviews section under In Brief.  I found writing these reviews, which are based on a cursory exam of the books in question, challenging.  I eventually read in full Ed Steers, Jr.’s Lincoln Legends and liked it a lot.  There was a fourth book I was assigned to review, but it was really not up to snuff (in my opinion) – it got some Bull Run stuff flat out wrong – so I took mom’s advice and said nothing at all.  I don’t think that’s a cop out at all for a review in brief.  If I had been asked to do a full review, well that’s a different story.  I won’t name the book here, but it did receive a positive review in February’s Civil War Times.  To each his own.

Anyway, the editor I deal with at ACW, Tobin Beck (who also co-authored, with Lance Herdegen, an article on the Underground Railroad in this issue), must have been satisfied since I’ve received three more books (and a DVD) to review for the May issue.

cwt-feb-08.jpgOn a related note, I want to echo Kevin Levin’s thoughts on the latest issue of Civil War Times (no longer Illustrated).  Friend Dana Shoaf has made a real impact since taking over, adding some features and ratcheting up the quality of the articles (read Dana’s interview with the author of this issue’s cover story, head Harvard honcho Drew Gilpin Faust, here).  But my favorite change is the ditching of the colorized photos on the cover.  For some reason I’ve always found them irritating.

Check out both of these increasingly fine magazines.  If you haven’t looked at them in awhile, I think you’ll be impressed.

Best of 2007

8 01 2008




Click on comments and have at it.  Be as long-or short-winded as you like.  If we get enough activity, I’ll summarize the “winners”.  If not, I’ll let the whole thing die on the vine.

Let’s have some fun.  This is the time of year that faceless organizations give out their awards for “best of” Civil War stuff.  I thought it would be neat to give you all the opportunity to spout off on what you liked (or disliked, if you must) the most in the year just gone by.  For books, let’s limit it to Civil War era publications from 2007.  Any Civil War themed blog is eligible.  What the heck, let’s throw in DVD’s that were released that concern the era, too.  And while we’re at it, nominate the best CW speaker you heard last year.

Society of Civil War Historians

7 01 2008


unionleague1.jpgToday I received confirmation that I am registered for the biennial meeting of the Society of Civil War Historians, to be held this coming June at the Union League in Philadelphia (see my photo at left).  Participation in the meeting is limited to members of the society, but membership in the society, according to their website, is limited to “anyone interested in the Civil War era”.  So I joined ($50, which gets me a subscription to Civil War History – which I already get – and the society’s newsletter) and registered for the meeting ($75).  But, you don’t have to be a member to attend the meeting ($100 without member discount).  Keep in mind attendees must abide by the Union League dress code.

guide.jpgI have some friends who are delivering papers at the meeting, and also have a good friend who lives within walking distance of the Union League, so this should be a fun and relatively inexpensive couple of days.  I hope to see some of you there.  If you’re planning on this being your first trip to Philly, or if you’re otherwise unfamiliar with the city’s rich Civil War heritage, I recommend Richard Sauers’s Guide to Civil War Philadelphia.