Bizarre Reenactment

19 02 2008

jeff-davis.jpg  howell-cobb.jpg

Here’s a story about an unusual reenactment featuring descendants of the original participants (pictured above, Jefferson Davis and Howell Cobb).  There’s a video, too.

11/21/2009 – Guess I should explain since the link doesn’t take you anywhere anymore: the link was to a story about a reenactment of the swearing in of Jefferson Davis as president of the CSA.

Gettysburg Field Trip 2/16/2008

17 02 2008

This weekend I drove out to Gettysburg to meet up with friend Chris Army to attend a program he coordinated for an online, bulletin board discussion group.  (You can read Chris’s thoughts on the weekend here.)  I met Chris and Mike Waricher near the D-Shaped field of Farnsworth’s Charge fame, had a nice dinner at the Gingerbread Man, and turned in early.

On Saturday we met for breakfast at the Lincoln Diner with “Chaplain Chuck” Teague, a ranger at GNMP.  Then it was over to Valentine Hall at the Lutheran Theological Seminary for a four hour PowerPoint presentation on Lee’s Operational Plan at Gettysburg with GNMP ranger Lt. Col. (ret.) Bill Hewitt.  This was a follow up to a program Bill did last year on Meade’s Operational Plan.  Bill did a fine job, complete with maps, flow charts, and graphs in an attempt to dispel the notion that Gettysburg was a chance encounter of two armies groping blindly in the dark.

After that, we hit the battlefield, with stops on Oak Hill, Cemetery Hill (in the National Cemetery), and Culp’s Hill.  It was a little brisk, but otherwise bright and sunny and a good day for pictures.  Click on the thumbnails for a larger image.

Here’s Bill in action in the classroom: 


The group on Oak Hill and views of the first day’s field and Barlow’s Knoll from the same spot:  

group-on-oak-hill.jpg view-of-first-day-field-from-oak-hill.jpg view-of-barlows-knoll-from-oak-hill.jpg

The group in the National Cemetery (that’s Chris in the blue & white jacket on the left, looking at the camera), the First Minnesota Urn, and a view of Evergreen Cemetery:

group-in-cemetery.jpg 1st-mn-urn.jpg evergreen.jpg

A few views of Clio atop the monument of the 123rd NY and the line of monuments below her on Culp’s Hill:

123rd-ny.jpg clio-1.jpg clio-2.jpg culps-hill.jpg

Those who Make Holes, and Those who Close Holes Up

14 02 2008

 miles.jpgThe two preceding posts are the last from McDowell’s staff, Surgeon William S. King and artillery chief Major William F. Barry.  I’m intrigued by a reference in King’s report to an Acting Assistant Surgeon Miles, who during the action inquired of King as to the safety of his father.  Could it be that his father was the well lubricated Col. Dixon Miles (left), who was back at Blackburn’s Ford literally wearing two hats?  I haven’t been able to find an answer yet, but did run across a pretty amusing account in the New York Times from August 30, 1854.  Miles was on his way to New Mexico, and wrote from Fort Atkinson on the Arkansas River of his encounters with the Camanches and Ki-o-wags:

Some of the bucks offered me as high as ten dollars for my daughter, and I had an offer of the swap of a squaw for Mrs. M.  I declined both advantageous offers.

What a guy.

#15 – Maj. William F. Barry

14 02 2008


Report of Maj. William F. Barry, Fifth U.S. Artillery, Chief of Artillery

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 345-348

ARLINGTON, VA., July 23, 1861

CAPTAIN: Having been appointed, by Special Orders, No. 21, Headquarters Department Northeastern Virginia, Centreville, July 19, 1861, chief of artillery of the corps d’armée commanded by Brigadier-General McDowell, and having served in that capacity during the battle of 21st instant, I have the honor to submit the following report:

The artillery of the corps d’armée consisted of the following-named batteries: Ricketts’ light company, I, First Artillery, six 10-pounder Parrott rifle guns; Hunt’s light company, M, Second Artillery, four light 12-pounders; Carlisle’s company, E, Second Artillery, two James 13-pounder rifle guns, two 6 pounder guns; Tidball’s light company, A, Second Artillery, two 6-pounder guns, two 12-pounder howitzers; Greene’s company, G, Second Artillery, four 10-pounder Parrott rifle guns; Arnold’s company, D, Second Artillery, two 13-pounder James rifle guns, two 6-pounder guns; Ayres’ light company, E, Third Artillery, two 10-pounder Parrott rifle guns, two 12-pounder howitzers, two 6-pounder guns; Griffin’s battery, D, Fifth Artillery, four 10-pounder Parrott rifle guns, two 12-pounder howitzers; Edwards’ company, G, First Artillery, two 20-pounder and one 30-pounder Parrott rifle guns. The Second Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers had with it a battery of six 13-pounder James rifle guns; the Seventy-first Regiment New York Militia two of Dahlgren’s boat howitzers, and the Eighth Regiment New York Militia a battery of six 6-pounder grins. The men of this last-named battery having claimed their discharge on the day before the battle because their term of service had expired, the battery was thrown out of service.

The whole force of artillery of all calibers was, therefore, forty-nine pieces, of which twenty-eight were rifle guns. All of these batteries were fully horsed and equipped, with the exception of the two howitzers of the Seventy-first Regiment New York Militia, which were without horses, and were drawn by drag-ropes, manned by detachments from the regiment.

General McDowell’s disposition for the march from Centreville on the morning of the 21st instant placed Tidball’s and Greene’s batteries (eight pieces) in reserve, with the division of Colonel Miles, to remain at Centreville; Hunt’s and Edwards’ (six pieces), with the brigade of Colonel Richardson, at Blackburn’s Ford; and Carlisle s, Ayres’, and the 30-pounder (eleven pieces), with the division of General Tyler, at the stone bridge; Ricketts’, Griffin’s, Arnold’s, the Rhode Island, and Seventy-first Regiment batteries (twenty-four pieces) accompanied the main column, which crossed Bull Run at Sudley Springs. As soon as this column came in presence of the enemy, after crossing Bull Run, I received from General McDowell, in person, directions to superintend the posting of the batteries as they severally debouched from the road and arrived upon the field.

The Rhode Island Battery came first upon the ground, and took up, at a gallop, the position assigned it. It was immediately exposed to a sharp fire from the enemy’s skirmishers and infantry posted on the declivity of the hill and in the valley in its immediate front, and to a well-sustained fire of shot and shell from the enemy’s batteries posted behind the crest of the range of hills about one thousand yards distant. This battery sustained in a very gallant manner the whole force of this fire for nearly half an hour, when the howitzers of the Seventy-first New York Militia came up, and went into battery on its left. A few minutes afterwards Griffin brought up his pieces at a gallop, and came into battery about five hundred yards to the left of the Rhode Island and New York batteries.

Ricketts’ battery came up in less than half an hour afterwards, and was posted to the left of and immediately adjoining Griffin’s.

The enemy’s right, which had been wavering from the moment Griffin opened his fire upon it, now began to give way throughout its whole extent and retire steadily, his batteries limbering up rapidly, and at a gallop taking up successively two new positions farther to his rear. The foot troops on our left, following up the enemy’s retiring right, soon left our batteries so far in our rear that their fire was over the heads of our own men. I therefore directed the Rhode Island Battery to advance about five hundred yards in front of its first position, accompanied it myself, and saw it open fire with increased effect upon the enemy’s still retiring right.

Returning to the position occupied by Ricketts’ and Griffin’s batteries, I received an order from General McDowell to advance two batteries to an eminence specially designated by him, about eight hundred yards in front of the line previously occupied by our artillery, and very near the position first occupied by the enemy’s batteries. I therefore ordered these two batteries to move forward at once, and, as soon as they were in motion, went for and procured as supports the Eleventh (Fire Zouaves) and the Fourteenth (Brooklyn) New York Regiments. I accompanied the former regiment, to guide it to its proper position, and Colonel Heintzelman, Seventeenth U.S. Infantry, performed the same service for the Fourteenth, on the right of the Eleventh. A squadron of U.S. cavalry, under Captain Colburn, First Cavalry, was subsequently ordered as additional support. We were soon upon the ground designated, and the two batteries at once opened a very effective fire upon the enemy’s left.

The new position had scarcely been occupied when a troop of the enemy’s cavalry, debouching from a piece of woods close upon our right flank, charged down upon the New York Eleventh. The zouaves, catching sight of the cavalry a few moments before they were upon them, broke ranks to such a degree that the cavalry dashed through without doing them much harm. The zouaves gave them a scattering fire as they passed, which emptied five saddles and killed three horses. A few minutes afterwards a regiment of the enemy’s infantry, covered by a high fence, presented itself in line on the left and front of the two batteries at not more than sixty or seventy yards’ distance, and delivered a volley full upon the batteries and their supports. Lieutenant Ramsay, First Artillery, was killed, and Captain Ricketts, First Artillery, was wounded, and a number of men and horses were killed or disabled by this close and well-directed volley. The Eleventh and Fourteenth Regiments instantly broke and fled in confusion to the rear, and in spite of the repeated and earnest efforts of Colonel Heintzelman with the latter, and myself with the former, refused to rally and return to the support of the batteries. The enemy, seeing the guns thus abandoned by their supports, rushed upon them, and driving off the cannoneers, who, with their officers, stood bravely at their posts until the last moment, captured them, ten in number. These were the only guns taken by the enemy on the field.

Arnold’s battery came upon the field after Ricketts’, and was posted on our left center, where it performed good service throughout the day, and by its continued and well-directed fire assisted materially in breaking and driving back the enemy’s right and center.

The batteries of Hunt, Carlisle, Ayres, Tidball, Edwards, and Greene (twenty-one pieces), being detached from the main body, and not being under my immediate notice during the greater portion of the day, I respectfully refer you to the reports of their brigade and division commanders for the record of their services.

The Army having retired upon Centreville, I was ordered by General McDowell in person to post the artillery in position to cover the retreat. The batteries of Hunt, Ayres, Tidball, Edwards, Greene, and the New York Eighth Regiment (the latter served by volunteers from Willcox’s brigade), twenty pieces in all, were at once placed in position, and thus remained until 12 o’clock p.m., when, orders having been received to retire upon the Potomac, the batteries were put in march, and, covered by Richardson’s brigade, retired in good order and without haste, and early next morning reoccupied their former camps on the Potomac.

In conclusion, it gives me great satisfaction to state that the conduct of the officers and enlisted men of the several batteries was most exemplary. Exposed throughout the day to a galling fire of artillery and small-arms: several times charged by cavalry, and more than once abandoned by their infantry supports, both officers and enlisted men manfully stood by their guns with a courage and devotion worthy of the highest commendation. Where all did so well it would be invidious to make distinctions, and I therefore simply give the names of all the officers engaged: viz: Major Hunt, Captains Carlisle, Ayres, Griffin, Tidball, and Arnold; Lieutenants Platt, Thompson, Ransom, Webb, Barriger, Greene, Edwards, Dresser, Wilson, Throckmorton, Cushing, Harris, Butler, Fuller, Lyford, Hill, Benjamin, Babbitt, Hains, Ames, Hasbrouck, Kensel, Harrison, Reed, Barlow, Noyes, Kirby, and Elderkin.

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


Major, Fifth Artillery

Capt. J. B. FRY,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Hdqrs. Dep’t N. E. Virginia

#14 – Surgeon William S. King

14 02 2008


Report of Surg. William S. King, U.S. Army, Medical Director

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 344-345


July 26, 1861

SIR: Being chief of the medical staff serving with the Army in the Department of Northeastern Virginia, I have the honor to make the following report of so much of the results of the action on the 21st at Bull Run as came within my charge. As the officers of the medical staff were attached to the different regiments and on duty with them, I deemed it proper to remain with and accompany the general commanding and staff from the beginning to the termination of the battle in order that I might be present if any were wounded, and also that I might be enabled to visit in this way every part of the field where the killed and wounded might be found.

After the action had fairly commenced and the wounded and the dead were seen lying on the field in every direction, I dispatched Assist. Surg. D. L. Magruder to the rear, with directions to prepare a church (which I had observed as we passed before arriving at the scene of action) for the reception of our wounded, and also to send the ambulances forward as rapidly as possible to pick up the Wounded and dead. In a very few minutes the ambulances made their appearance, and continued throughout the day to visit every part of the ground which was accessible, so as to be within reach of those parts of the field where the fighting was going on and wounded were to be found. It is due to the ambulance drivers to say that they performed their duties efficiently, and the results of their operations also show how absolutely necessary these means of conveyance are to the comfort and relief of the wounded, in giving them shelter and water when ready to perish with heat and thirst. By means of the ambulances also the men who go to the relief of their wounded comrades are separated but a short time from their companies, as, having deposited them in the ambulances, they can return to their proper positions.

As the general commanding visited almost every part of the ground during the conflict, with a view to encourage or direct the movements of the troops, my position as a member of his staff gave me every opportunity of seeing the results of the action. I therefore embraced the opportunity thus offered to give directions when needed to the drivers of the ambulances where to find the dead and wounded, and also to those carrying off the wounded where they could find the needed conveyances. The stretchers were found very useful and comfortable to the wounded, and were in constant requisition, conveying them to the nearest ambulances.

So far as I am informed, the medical staff belonging to the different volunteer regiments discharged their duties satisfactorily. I observed Acting Assistant Surgeon Miles busily engaged in dressing wounded men under the shade of a tree in a part of the field where the fire from the enemy was very hot. He addressed me a brief inquiry as I passed relative to the safety of his father, and then resumed his occupation. Surg. C. C. Keeney, of Colonel Hunter’s division, and Assist. Surg. D. L. Magruder, attached to the commanding general’s staff, did good service in the hospital church I have mentioned, and also in two houses near the church, where the wounded were placed after the church had been filled. These officers remained busily engaged in the discharge of their duties till the enemy’s cavalry made their appearance, and but narrowly escaped capture when they left. Drs. Swift and Winston, attached to the New York Eighth, remained with their sick, sacrificing all selfish considerations for their own safety in order that the wounded might not be neglected, and are now prisoners. I am informed that Assistant Surgeons Gray and Sternberg, of the Regular Army, and Drs. Homiston and Swalm, of the New York Fourteenth, also preferred to remain rather than abandon their charge. The conduct of these officers is worthy of all commendation.

It would be premature in me, in the absence of sufficient data–the reports of the regimental surgeons not yet being received–to express a positive opinion as to the number killed and wounded in the action on the 21st. There were, no doubt, many concealed from observation under cover of the woods and bushes; but, judging from the number that I saw in various parts of the field, and allowing a wide margin for those unobserved, I should think that the killed and wounded on our side did not exceed from 800 to 1,000.

The impossibility of making a careful survey of the field after the battle had ceased must be my apology for the briefness and want of detail in this report.


Surgeon and Medical Director, U. S. Army

Capt. J. B. FRY,

Assistant Adjutant-General, U.S. Army, Arlington, Va.

Food, Glorious Food

14 02 2008




Amateurs study strategy and tactics; professionals study logistics.  At least, that’s what I’ve been told.  And in that vein, the preceding three posts are reports from acting commissaries of subsistence in McDowell’s army.  Check out a juicy tidbit at the end of Hawkins’s report, which gives some insight into why the three days rations with which the troops left camp didn’t last that long.  In most histories of the campaign, the difference is attributed to a soldier’s natural tendency to eat everything in his haversack as quickly as possible.  Maybe that’s not the only reason.

Sketch by Edwin Forbes, Commissary Department, with Three Days Rations and Kitchen, on the March

#13 – Lt. John P. Hawkins

13 02 2008

Report of Lieut. John P. Hawkins, Acting Commissary of Subsistence, U.S. Army, of the subsistence of the Army from July 16 to 22

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 343-344

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 2, 1861

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to make the following report on the part performed by myself in connection with the commissary department subsisting the Army recently in the field under Brigadier-General McDowell:

On the evening of the 17th July I procured from Captain Symonds, commissary of subsistence at Alexandria, Va., a lot of provisions equal in bulk to fifty-six wagon loads, being in the principal parts of the ration equal to 64,700 rations, and in coffee and sugar a little over 70,000 rations. After some delay in getting the train started, occasioned by refractory teamsters, I at last got under way, and proceeded to join the main body of the Army at Fairfax Court-House, which I reached by 7 o’clock next morning, having traveled all night. Shortly after my arrival there the Army commenced the move towards Centreville, and its progress was so slow that the train was delayed there till evening before trying to make any move towards accompanying the troops. At this place Captain Clarke, C. S., relieved me from the charge of all the train excepting fourteen wagons with assorted loads, and with these, at about 4 p.m., I proceeded towards Centreville, via the Braddock road. The troops of my division (Fifth) were reached about 9 p.m., and as there was an immediate necessity for the distribution of the rations, they were divided out as rapidly as possible, without waiting for provision returns or any formal papers, beyond a return of the troops of the different organizations of the division, in order to give out to each its pro rata share of the whole amount. The troops marched on the 16th from the Potomac, carrying three days’ rations in their haversacks. The rations issued by me from my stores were for about two days and a half, commencing on the 19th. Subsequently, Lieutenant Curtis, of the Commissary Department, turned over to me additional stores sufficient to make a three days’ supply for the division, ending on the evening of the 21st.

In addition to the supplies in wagons, I took charge of, from Alexandria, ninety head of beef cattle, at estimated weight equal to 48,600 rations (deducting fifty per cent. gross). A portion of these was turned over to me for distribution to the Fifth Division and to Colonel Willcox’s brigade. On the evening of the 19th, by direction of Captain Clarke, C. S., I started on my return to Alexandria, with twenty-five wagons, to procure more supplies. I reached there on the morning of the 20th, but by reason of vexatious delays was unable to get the train loaded and on the way before 2 o’clock the next day, when I started with it to join the Army, and would have been able to have done so by 12 o’clock that night, but was ordered to return when within three miles of Centreville. The wagons all reached Alexandria safely on the morning of the 22d.

I have mentioned in my report that the troops started on the march with three days’ rations in their haversacks, but from that amount are to be deducted the coffee, sugar, beans, and rice, for the reason that, no transportation being allowed, the camp-kettles and mess-pans were not taken along. (I speak only of the Fifth Division, which obeyed the order literally.) So there were no means for the proper preparation of these parts of the ration, and they were in reality of but little account to the soldiers. In future marches without transportation, I would respectfully recommend that the bread and meat rations be increased, or that the order for the march should prescribe a certain number of camp-kettles to be carried by hand by each company, sufficient to make coffee and soup in.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


First Lieutenant, Second Infantry, A. C. S.

Capt. H. F. CLARKE,

Commissary of Subsistence, Washington, D. C.