Report of Lieut. William D. Fuller, Third U.S. Artillery
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 366-368
FORT CORCORAN, VA., July 24, 1861
SIR: In obedience to your order, I beg leave to make the following report of the battle of Bull Run:
Leaving our camp near Centreville about 2.30 a.m. Sunday, the battery marched in rear of General Schenck’s brigade, immediately preceded by a 30-pounder rifled gun of Parrott’s make. The brigade, feeling its way, with skirmishers and flankers thrown out, arrived about 6 a.m. within two miles of Bull Run, across which the enemy were understood to be in position. At this point the road descends rapidly for three-quarters of a mile towards Bull Run. The 30-pounder rifled gun was placed in position in the road three-fourths of the way from the top to the foot of the hill, and fired twice at the supposed position of the enemy, without any effect of importance. Our battery having gone to the foot of the hill, almost down to the run, was countermarched, and formed into park on the top of the hill, behind and under cover of the woods.
Soon after, the battery was ordered and proceeded at once down the road, turned to the right near the foot of the hill, and came in battery in the edge of the wood. A party of the enemy having been observed to enter an abatis near the bridge, and just across Bull Run, Lieutenant Wilson fired two percussion shells from his rifled section, the first of which struck and burst in the abatis, scattering the enemy from it in all directions. More shots were fired from the 30-pounder rifled gun, and it was afterwards brought from the road and placed immediately on our right. The movements of the enemy were now and during the whole day studiously concealed under cover of woods or undulations of the ground.
At about 8.30 the column of Colonel Hunter was seen approaching across Bull Run and on our right. A movement of the troops of our division now began towards the right, and with the intention of crossing Bull Run. One of these regiments attempted to cut diagonally over the open field in front of our battery. When half way across, a light battery of six guns of the enemy galloped down, came in battery just across the run, and opened a rapid and unexpected fire of canister on this regiment which was marching by the right flank, and scattered it in confusion.
Captain Carlisle at once ordered the battery to open a fire of spherical case and shell on the enemy’s pieces, which at once ceased firing at our volunteer regiment, and began a rapid fire of shell and solid shot on us. After fifteen minutes of rapid firing on our part the fire of the enemy’s battery slackened. We then fired solid shot, and ended with a round of canister, the enemy having ceased firing, and retreated with heavy loss in men and horses, as we afterwards learned. My section consisted of a 6-pounder smooth-bore gun and a 12-pounder howitzer. But for the hot fire from our battery, under the direction of Captain Carlisle, the regiment which was within canister range of the enemy’s battery must have been cut to pieces. The timely diversion caused by the fire of our battery only saved them. A deliberate fire from the 30-pounder rifled gun was kept up with short intervals during the day, and evidently annoyed the enemy, who fired several rifled percussion shells at this piece with great precision.
Late in the afternoon the battery was directed to leave its position and go down near the bridge over Bull Run. While down there, Lieutenant Wilson, with his rifled section, and Lieutenant Lyford, with his section, were ordered out to take a position in front nearer the run, and both of these officers were under a heavy fire of shot and shell from batteries they could not reach with their guns. During their absence, being in command of the center section, by order of Captain Carlisle, I fired several rounds of spherical case and canister into the woods occupied by the enemy’s troops. On the return of the other sections, the battery was drawn just back of the brow of a small hill, to be covered from a fire of Hotchkiss and Parrott shell thrown from masked batteries in position. A Parrott shell which had not exploded fell near me, and on examination proved to be of excellent make, and must, from peculiarities in its construction, have been made by machinery similar to that of Captain Parrott, at the Cold Spring Foundry at West Point. A number of volunteers were killed by these projectiles in my vicinity.
Our battery was finally ordered up the hill a short distance to the rear, to place it and the troops under cover. Accurate information of our movements must have reached the enemy, as they changed the direction of their fire at once, and threw rifled projectiles all around us. After waiting in this road the battery was ordered up the hill, and directed to find a safe position just beyond it. Proceeding up the road in column of pieces, we were unexpectedly charged by cavalry, and from the position we could not come into action. Our cannoneers and drivers were shot or sabered. While moving at a gallop our wheels came off of each piece in my section. Our efforts to repair this damage were unavailing, and amidst a shower of pistol bullets we dragged our pieces until the traces broke. The men and non-commissioned officers behaved with gallantry. I halted at Centreville and attempted to join my brigade, but unsuccessfully. Learning that the regiments of the brigade were marching to Fairfax Court-House, I followed them with as many men and non-commissioned officers of my company as I could collect. An order being issued after this for the troops to retire to Washington, I proceeded with a sergeant, four enlisted men, and five horses to Fort Corcoran, where the baggage of the company was stored, and arrived there about 8 o’clock Monday morning.
WILLIAM D. FULLER,
Brevet Second Lieutenant, Third Artillery
Capt. J. HOWARD CARLISLE,
Commanding Company E, Second Artillery