Withers’ Report

18 04 2008

Just a couple of things to notice about Withers’ report: I’m pretty sure his is the only Confederate report I’ve posted so far that specifically identifies the 14th Brooklyn (NYSM), and Withers even goes so far as to refer to them – correctly – as Chasseurs.  Once again we see the misidentification of a Union battery as Sherman’s Battery.  In this case I think Withers was actually referring to Ricketts’ Battery.  And note also the claim regarding Union forces displaying a Confederate flag.  Most likely the confusion was the result of the very similar appearance of the Confederate First National flag (the Stars and Bars) to Old Glory.  It’s also possible that the troops in question (probably gathered about the Stone House) were waving a captured flag.  But I have seen nothing so far to indicate that they were purposely displaying one to deceive the enemy.

#103 – Col. R. E. Withers

18 04 2008


Report of Col. R. E. Withers, Eighteenth Virginia Infantry

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 546-548

Colonel: I have the honor to transmit a report of the share taken by the Eighteenth Regiment in the battle of the 21st of July.

The position occupied by my command was, as you are aware, on the north side of Bull Run, at Ball’s Ford, which we were ordered to defend. This position they had occupied for three days, sleeping on their arms, as their position was very much exposed. Colonel Preston’s regiment (Twenty-eighth) was on my right.

Early on the morning of the 21st I heard firing in the direction of my advance picket. Supposing it caused by an advance of the enemy on my position I hastened to the point, and found that the firing was caused by an advance of the enemy along the Warrenton turnpike, driving in the pickets of Major Evans on that road. I could distinctly hear the moving of a very large number of men and many ammunition wagons, indicating that a formidable attack was designed upon our lines. Causing two companies to be deployed as skirmishers on my left and in front I awaited further developments. No attack having been made on us we remained in position until 2 o’clock p.m. At this time, being enabled to see from my position the progress of the fight, and that the extreme left of the position of our army had been turned by the enemy crossing Bull Run at Sudley’s Mill, some distance above stone bridge, and were outflanking and forcing back by immensely superior numbers our forces on the left and center, I crossed the run and formed my regiment in readiness for immediate action. Soon after Colonel Cocke sent down by one of his aides an order to bring my regiment into action as speedily as possible. We moved forward in double-quick time, and soon came under fire of the enemy’s battery about Lewis’ house. Continuing to advance beyond the house, I was ordered by General Beauregard to conduct my regiment obliquely to the left and attack the center of the enemy. On approaching their position I found a pretty strong force posted in a thicket of pines, in some places almost impenetrable. With a cheer we dashed into the thicket and pushed forward, the enemy retiring as we advanced.

They were composed principally of the Fourteenth New York Chasseurs, and several of their number were killed and captured by the left wing of my regiment. Emerging from the pines I halted and reformed the regiment, which had been thrown into some disorder whilst advancing through the pines. I now found myself exposed to a hot fire of musketry, and could not clearly distinguish friends from foes. Ordering my men to lie down in a slight depression of the field, so as to protect them as far as possible, I rode to the left of the line, and after some trouble was enabled to discover the U.S. flag with about two regiments on a hill opposite our position and across the Sudley road. A pretty sharp fire at long range was kept up between these troops and my command for some time.  Just at this time a number of troops to my right, who had been stationed around an old house (Mrs. Henry’s), fell back in a good deal of confusion, but rallied as soon as they passed my line.  One of the captains came up, and, announcing that they constituted a part of the Hampton Legion, and had no field officers left to take charge of them, as their colonel was wounded and lieutenant-colonel killed, desired to know what they should do. I directed them to form on the right of my regiment, which they did with promptness. I was then told that they had been forced back from a battery which they had taken from the enemy, but which they seemed determined to regain, as their skirmishers had advanced very nearly to the guns, supported by a heavy force of infantry. I ordered the whole regiment to charge, which they did in beautiful style, driving back the enemy (not only the skirmishers, but the supporting infantry) beyond the hill.

This battery consisted of eight rifled cannon, and I was told constituted a part of the celebrated Sherman battery. They were posted between Mrs. Henry’s house and the Sudley road, in a little triangular plat of grass land. It was as immediately proposed to turn their guns on them. I ordered the two rear companies of my command, Company I and Company K, to drag the guns into proper position. They immediately brought up two of the guns and ammunition. Captain Claiborne, of Company B, Adjutant Withers, and Lieutenant Shields, of Company E, assisted by a gallant South Carolina officer, afterwards understood to be Green, and several others, soon loaded one of the pieces, and brought it to bear upon a large number of men who were congregated near a two-story house beyond the turnpike. Just as we were about to fire I discovered among them the Confederate flag, and ordered them not to fire. I know in this I am not mistaken, as it was first recognized by the naked eye, and an examination with a good field-glass confirmed my first opinion. Whilst debating the question amongst ourselves I saw two other bodies of troops passing up the hill towards the house, amongst whom the U.S. flag was dearly visible. They joined the party first seen, and proving thus that they were enemies and had raised our flag with the intention of deceiving us, we no longer hesitated to open fire upon them from their own cannon.

The South Carolinian alluded to above fired the first gun, and a most effective one it seemed to be. A few shots sufficed to drive all the enemy out of sight. My regiment was then ordered by General Beauregard to push for the turnpike at stone bridge and cut off, if possible, the retreating enemy at that point. We reached the run and crossed it just below the cut timber east of the stone bridge, and entered the turnpike road just beyond that point. The enemy, however, had retreated by the Sudley’s Mill and other points above.

Soon after we crossed the run we were joined by two South Carolina regiments, commanded respectively by Colonels Kershaw and Cash, and together we pursued the enemy along the turnpike road in the direction of Centreville, until I was recalled by an order to fall back to stone bridge. Before reaching the point we designed to occupy we were met by another order to march immediately to Manassas Junction, as an attack was apprehended that night. Although it was now after sunset, and my men had had no food all day, when the command to march to Manassas was given they cheerfully took the route to that place. On arriving in the immediate neighborhood of that place I was directed to carry my command to Camp Walker, a mile or two below. This place we reached late at night, and our wearied men threw themselves on the ground and slept till morning. On the 22d we were ordered back to our former position on Bull Run, and the next day to the position we now occupy, near suspension bridge, on Cub Run.

Too much praise cannot be awarded to the Eighteenth Regiment for their conduct during the memorable action of the 21st. Officers and men, with one or two individual exceptions, exhibited the utmost coolness and determined bravery. The last charge made by them was most brilliant and successful, and enabled us to retain possession of their cannon. I believe these pieces had been captured once or twice before during the action, but I claim for the Eighteenth the honor of holding the guns and turning them upon the enemy.

During the action Lieutenant-Colonel Carrington and Major Cabell rendered efficient and valuable service, as did Adjutant Withers and all the staff officers. Indeed, the officers generally displayed so much valor and determination that it would be invidious to draw distinctions. The whole command, indeed, exhibited a steadiness under fire remarkable for raw troops.

Considering the length of time we were under fire our loss was very small. I append the report.(#)

Captain Matthews, Company H, was among the wounded, but fortunately not very seriously. No other commissioned officer was hurt.

I would respectfully mention the necessity that exists for supplying many of the men with knapsacks, blankets, &c. As they advanced into battle, by my orders they threw away everything except their guns and ammunition, and, having subsequently marched to Camp Walker the same night, they had no opportunity of getting their clothing and blankets again.

I would also request that those of my companies who are now armed with the smooth-bore altered musket may be permitted to exchange them for the more efficient Enfield or minie gun.

With much respect, I am, your most obedient servant,


Colonel Eighteenth Regiment Virginia Volunteers


Commanding Fifth Brigade, Virginia Volunteers.

*The nominal list shows 6 killed, 23 wounded, and 1 missing.

#Which shows 5 killed, 16 wounded, and 1 missing.

More on the Black Horse

15 04 2008


It’s funny how these things go, but the following I think illustrates how research has changed in the digital age.  I was frankly surprised by the lack of reaction to this post on the Black Horse Cavalry I made a few days ago.  You may not realize it, but what that post had to say about the naming of the troop is pretty controversial and directly contradicts the conventional wisdom.  So, I posted a question on the Civil War Discussion Group asking if anyone was aware of the source of the Payne quote, in which he stated that the name Black Horse was chosen for the troop from Warrenton, VA to reflect its members’ support of slavery (we were all extreme pro-slavery men).  With e-quaintance John Furey’s help I was able to rule out The Confederate Veteran.  Friend Teej Smith sent me this link to the Museum of the Confederacy’s collection of papers associated with Brigadier General “Billy” Payne.  That list led me to an article in North & South magazine, Vol. II, #7 by the MOC’s John Coski, consisting of transcriptions of various Payne writings.  While the quote in question was not included therein, the article did include a caption on an engraving that stated that the troop was so named because its members rode black horses.

One of the group’s members happened to have Mr. Coski’s email address, so I fired off a missive to him in which I linked to my earlier post here and asked him about his article in the magazine.  I shortly received a reply in which Mr. Coski informed me that at the time the article was researched he was not aware of the Payne quote, but that he learned of it later, and that the caption was the editor’s, not his.  He mentioned that the quote was included in a book on the troop, The Black Horse Cavalry: Defend our Beloved Country by Lewis Marshall Helm.  Mr Coski also indicated that he believed the quote was from a recalled conversation that appeared in the March 29, 1903 Richmond News.

I also contacted a fellow named Don Hackenson, who has the Helm book for sale on his website.  Don is a descendant of a member of the Black Horse and something of an authority on Virginia cavalry, particularly the troop and John S. Mosby.  He told me that while the quote is indeed included in Helms’ book, it’s not footnoted (I ordered it anyway UPDATE: I received the book, and it is indeed footnoted).  He graciously offered to get in touch with Brigadier General Helm to find out his source for the quote.  Four Helms served in the Troop, two of whom were killed in the war, and a younger brother, Lyttleton, nearly fought a duel with John Mosby after the war.  Don also is in possession of quite a few of Billy Payne’s papers given him by a descendant, and he promised to go through them in search of anything similar to the quote in question.

Don also called me yesterday to tell me about a pamphlet, Chronicles of a Virginia Family: The Klomans of Warrenton, by Erasmus Helm Kloman, Jr., which includes a version of the naming of the Black Horse Troop consistent with the Payne account in the Helms book.  However, the wording in both books are a bit too similar for me to consider them separate and independent.

From what little I’ve been able to learn about Billy Payne, he seems to have remained an unreconstructed rebel for the rest of his life.  He was able to rebuild his law practice in Warrenton after the war, while John Mosby was pretty much run out of that town for turning Republican.  So, Payne may not have been too concerned with the impact his story might have on the spirit of conciliation.  But as it stands now, I have but one shaky source.  If anyone has access to the March 29, 1903 Richmond News (it may have been the News-Leader, since the two dailies merged that year), any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Look for more on the Black Horse here in the future.

#29 – Bvt. Maj. Henry J. Hunt

13 04 2008

Report of Bvt. Maj. Henry J. Hunt, Second  U. S. Artillery

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 377-381


Camp near Fort Albany, July 25, 1861

SIR: I have the honor to submit a report of the operations of my battery on the 21st instant.

The company arrived at New York on the 12th instant from Fort Pickens, Fla., with its battery, but without horses. A large portion of the men were recruits, and no opportunity for instruction as field artillery had been afforded them. The company reached Washington by rail on Sunday, 14th, and on Wednesday evening the battery, which came by sea, was received at the arsenal. Necessary repairs and refitting were at once commenced, ammunition and other stores drawn and packed, horses procured, and on Friday, the 19th, we marched from Capitol Hill to Colonel Richardson’s position in front of the enemy’s works at Blackburn’s Ford, a distance of twenty-eight miles. Saturday was devoted to instructing the recruits, shoeing horses, &c., and on that evening Lieutenant Platt’s section was detached to join the advanced guard. On Saturday night Lieutenant Edwards, Third Artillery, reported to me with a section of two heavy rifled guns. On Sunday morning, the 21st, Lieutenant Thompson’s section was placed in position on the right of the main road, overlooking the ford, and commanding the road by which the enemy’s advance was expected. A few shells were, by direction of Colonel Richardson, dropped into the woods and amongst the buildings which were supposed to contain the enemy, but no answer was returned, and the firing ceased. Soon after this an infantry column was seen pushing into the wood skirting Bull Run. Lieutenant Thompson moved forward a piece, and after a few rounds they disappeared.

At about 10 a.m. Colonel Miles ordered both sections of my battery to the extreme left, occupied by Davies’ brigade. Edwards’ section had been sent early in the morning to that position, from which he had opened his fire upon the woods and houses in front. I transmit herewith his report of the operations of his section, in which he describes the nature of the ground.

The firing was continued at intervals by the whole battery “as a demonstration,” but produced little or no effect, as there was no definite object, except when the enemy’s moving columns came from time to time within our range. We were supported by two infantry battalions, drawn up in line behind the battery. On inquiry, made immediately after my arrival on the ground, I was informed that a brigade of infantry was posted in the wood to our left and rear, commanding a deep and wide ravine on our left flank, and watching the road beyond it, which leads from below the ford to Centreville; and as we had skirmishers pushed forward into the ravine, I felt no apprehension of danger from that quarter, but still requested, as a precaution, that the battalion on the left should be formed on the brink of the ravine and in column, so that it might be readily deployed to front in any direction. No attention was paid to this request, and the regiment remained in line.

About 4.30 or 5 p.m., after the battle was apparently gained on the right, and whilst large re-enforcements of infantry and cavalry were observed hurrying up from the direction of Manassas, a strong force of infantry and some cavalry, variously estimated at from 2,500 to 5,000 men in all, appeared on our left, approaching parallel to our front by the lateral openings into the great ravine on our flank. The infantry only was first seen, and as they approached without any apparent attempt at concealment, preceded by our skirmishers, they were supposed to be our own troops. As the number increased, I rode down the ravine with my first sergeant to reconnoiter them. Some of our skirmishers stated that they had seen no troops; others said they were the Thirty-first [?] New Yorkers coming in. They carried no colors, and their numbers increasing to an alarming extent, I hurried back and changed the front of the battery, so as to command all the openings into the ravine and the approaches to our position. Colonel Davies at the same time detached a couple of companies into the ravine as skirmishers. The latter had scarcely deployed, when a sharp rattle of musketry removed all doubts as to the character of the advancing troops. We had been surprised, and the enemy was close upon us in large force. Our infantry regiments had changed front with the battery, but unfortunately closed their intervals behind it. Precious time was now lost in getting them on our flanks. Had they remained in our rear they would have been unnecessarily exposed to the fire directed on the battery, and in case of a determined charge for our capture, which I confidently expected, they would have been apt to fire through us, destroying men and horses and crippling the guns. At length they were moved to the right and left, and ordered to lie down and await the approach of the enemy, who by this time were closing up in apparently overwhelming numbers. I now directed the gunners to prepare shrapnel and canister shot, and in case the enemy persisted in his advance not to lose time in sponging the pieces–for minutes were now of more value than arms–but to aim low, and pour in a rapid fire wherever the men were thickest or were seen advancing.

The enemy having by this time completed his preparations and driven in our skirmishers, now rushed forward and opened a heavy musketry fire on the battery, but from the shortness of range, or from aiming upwards as they ascended the ravine, their shot mostly passed over us. The command was then given to the battery to commence firing. Under the directions of Lieutenants Platt and Thompson, Second Artillery, and Edwards, Third Artillery, commanding sections, the most rapid, well-sustained, and destructive fire I have ever witnessed was now opened. The men took full advantage of the permission to omit sponging, yet no accident occurred from it. The guns were all of large caliber (two 20-pounder Parrott rifle guns and four light 12-pounders), and they swept the field with a perfect storm of canister. No troops could stand it, and the enemy broke and fled in every direction, taking refuge in the woods and ravines; and in less than fifteen minutes not a living man could be seen on the ground which so recently had swarmed with them. The infantry regiments had not found it necessary to fire a single shot.

Believing now there was no support on our left (original rear), I executed a flank movement, so as to bring the left of the battery close to the wood and in front of the lateral road by which it had reached the ground. This movement threw the regiment on our left into the wood, and thus secured its possession. The fire was now reopened, the rifled guns throwing shell and the others round shot, so as to sweep the woods and search the ravines into which the enemy had been driven. In a few minutes orders were given to retreat, and I sent an officer to Colonel Davies to inquire if such were his directions; that the enemy were defeated, and that they would be unable to reform. The answer returned was “to retire at once on Centreville.” The pieces were limbered up, and, Lieutenant Edwards’ guns leading, moved off.

Scarcely was the column fairly in the road when a scattering fire was opened on the rear, doubtless by those who, having taken refuge in the woods, observed the withdrawal of our troops. The cry to the battery to “trot” was now clamorously raised from the rear, and confusion was fast spreading, when I directed a deliberate walk should be maintained, and pushed forward myself to the place where the ambulances and wagons were standing in the main road. The teamsters had taken the alarm from the rapid firing and the cries, and a panic was rapidly growing, when my assurance of our having beaten the enemy, and that there was no necessity for hurry, together with the appearance of the head of the battery emerging at a walk from the wood, reassured them and calmed the excitement.

The whole column now retired in good order, and was formed, together with all the disposable field artillery, in front of Centreville, under the immediate direction of General McDowell in person, and in so imposing an attitude as to deter the enemy from any advance in that direction, and to hold him completely in check.

During the night the troops were put in motion for their former camps on the Potomac. Barry’s battery, under Lieutenant Tidball, and my own were the last we could perceive on the ground. Just as I was leaving I received a message from Colonel Richardson, stating that his brigade was drawn up in column on the road, and that he wished me to pass him with the battery, but to remain near him, and that we would constitute the rear guard. This was accordingly done, but a mass of stragglers collected around the guns, and could not be prevailed upon to pass them or move without them. I was thus constrained to move forward until some 2,000 or 3,000 men interposed between us, when I received a message from Colonel Richardson, stating that a force of the enemy’s cavalry and horse artillery was in our rear and threatening an attack. I now drew up at the side of the road–to turn back in such a crowd was impossible—and only by representing that the rear was about being attacked could I urge them forward. On Colonel Richardson’s coming up, he stated that the demonstration of the enemy was very feeble, and we saw them no more. It is but just to say that the disorder and mob-like mixture of the volunteers did not appear to proceed from fear, but from sheer fatigue. They were footsore, lame, hungry, and tired, but seemed to be in good heart, and on my representing that it was important that a certain position in our advance should be occupied, some of Blenker’s German and of Montgomery’s New Jersey regiments formed in good order and took the position indicated. Had we been attacked by any force, I have little doubt that a stout resistance would have been made.

The officers of the battery (Lieuts. E. R. Platt and James Thompson, Second Artillery, commanding sections) performed all the duties devolving upon them with promptness, skill, and gallantry. Their labors in bringing the battery into good condition had been untiring, and to the thoroughness of the instruction they had imparted to their sections before they were dismounted in Texas is mainly attributable the efficiency with which the pieces were served on the field and the successful result of the action.

First Lieut. Presley O. Craig, Second Artillery, on sick leave on account of a badly-sprained foot, which prevented his marching with his own company, having heard of the sickness of my second lieutenant, volunteered for the performance of the duties, and joined the battery the day before it left Washington. He was constantly and actively employed during the night preceding and on the day of the battle, and his services were very valuable. When the enemy appeared he exerted himself in perfecting the preparations to receive him, and conducted himself with the greatest gallantry when the onset was made. He fell early in the action, whilst in the active discharge of his duty, receiving a shot in the forehead, and dying in a few minutes afterwards. This was the only casualty in the battery.

Cadet John R. Meigs, of the U.S. Military Academy, being in Washington on furlough, also volunteered his services, and was employed actively from the time he joined at Washington until the close of the battle. On the death of Lieutenant Craig, Cadet Meigs performed his duties until the close of the action with spirit and intelligence, and was very useful, after the affair was over, in conveying orders, observing the enemy, and rallying our troops.

Lieutenant Edwards commanded his section with skill and efficiency, and I can indorse the favorable report he makes of his lieutenants, Benjamin and Babbitt, and of the conduct of his men.

The behavior of the men of my battery was all that could be desired. They were cool, collected, prompt, and obedient, and not an instance of misconduct or neglect occurred during the action in the whole battery.

The first sergeant, Terrence Reily, was very efficient, as were also the chiefs of pieces–Sergeants Smith, Pfeffer, Flood, and Relinger.

A detachment of twenty recruits, under Lieutenant Brisbin, had been dispatched from Carlisle Barracks to fill up my company. Lieutenant Brisbin did not reach Washington until after we had left, but he followed us up, and sought us on the field. He did not succeed in finding the battery, but employed his men usefully in endeavoring to stop the retreat of our forces and in resisting the pursuit of the enemy. In the performance of these duties he was twice wounded. He speaks favorably of the services of Sergeants Bowman and Rogers, of his detachment.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Bvt. Maj. and Capt., Second Artillery, Comdg.

Lt. Co. M. Capt. J. B. FRY,

Assistant Adjutant-General

#28 – Col. Israel B. Richardson

11 04 2008

Reports of Col. Israel B. Richardson, Second Michigan Infantry, Commanding Fourth Brigade, First Division

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 373-377



Near Arlington, July 25, 1861

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report as to the operations of my brigade in front of the enemy at Bull Run, on Sunday, July 21:

On the night of the 20th July I was summoned to attend a meeting of commanders of brigades at the headquarters of the commanding officer in the field, General McDowell, and, in common with the other commanders of brigades, I was instructed what was expected of my portion of the command on the following day–that is, I was to defend the position which I then occupied in front of the enemy, called Blackburn’s Ford, and about one mile in his front, where we had been for the last three days. I was also ordered to consider myself under the command of Col. D. S. Miles, U.S. Army, who was to command his own brigade at Centreville, my own, and that of Colonel Davies, midway between the two, these three brigades constituting what was then called the reserve.

Attached to my brigade was the field battery of Major Hunt, U.S. Army, and also the rifled battery of 10-pounders, under Lieutenant Greene, U.S. Army. I was ordered to open fire on the enemy for the purpose of making a diversion, not before, but soon after, hearing the report of General Tyler’s cannonade on my right, to carry out which purpose I made the following disposition of the brigade: Two batteries I placed on the ridge of a hill, in view of the enemy; the Third Michigan Infantry on the left of the road, in line of battle. Still farther, six hundred yards to the left, on a commanding eminence, I had placed the day before two companies of the First Massachusetts Regiment, for the purpose of holding the log barn and the frame barn, which companies pushed, picket style, farther to our left for the security of that point, which I considered a good position for artillery. In a ravine half way between the two positions I placed also a company of the First Massachusetts Regiment, which pushed pickets down the ravine to its front; and on the extreme right of all I placed the balance of the Massachusetts regiment in line of battle, with two companies of that regiment pushed four hundred yards to the right and front, which two companies again threw pickets in advance. The New York and Second Michigan Regiments I placed in the road five hundred yards in rear of the line as a reserve.

Soon after making these arrangements, which I did on hearing the report of artillery on our right, Colonel Davies’ brigade made its appearance, with him at its head. Inquiring of me the date of my commission, he found that he ranked me by ten days, and he assumed the command. That officer wished a good position for artillery to open, and I immediately proposed the position on our left, near the log house, from which a good view of a large stone barn, called by the people of the country the enemy’s headquarters, could be obtained. Colonel Davies brought up with him the rifled 20-pounder battery of Lieutenant Benjamin, and ordered it to open fire immediately. He directed, also, Hunt’s battery to his assistance, and I ordered Greene’s battery to open its fire at the same time. The enemy appeared to have withdrawn his guns from that position, as he returned no fire, or he might have been reserving his fire for the last attack. An hour’s cannonading, however, brought in view a column of the enemy’s infantry, which I observed with my glass. There were at least twenty-five hundred men; and soon after two other bodies of men, of at least a regiment each, who soon occupied the lines on the other side of the run, which lines already appeared full to overflowing. Supposing now that they intended to make a push across our front in column, or would endeavor to turn our left, about 11 o’clock a.m. I began to fortify my position by throwing up an earthen parapet, with embrasures across the road for three guns, and commenced an abatis of timber, by felling trees, pointing outwards, between this battery and the log house to the left.

About this time the enemy on the opposite side appeared to be falling back in confusion from our right attack, which continued for some time, and then the tide changed, and they seemed to be returning in large masses.

During the interval between these two extremes I was ordered by Colonel Miles to throw forward skirmishers and feel the enemy, and accordingly two companies of the Third Michigan Regiment were sent forward and down the ravine, to cover our front and advance; these were supported by Captain Brethschneider’s light infantry battalion, which also advanced down the ravine, accompanied by Lieutenant Prime, Corps of U.S. Engineers, who went for the purpose of ascertaining the enemy’s position, he volunteering his services for that particular purpose. Colonel Davies also threw forward a company of skirmishers on his right. The enemy’s skirmishers were in force in the woods in front, and covered themselves with trees and rifle-pits which had been thrown up before. Our two advance companies were driven back; the enemy pursued, and were in turn driven back by the spherical case shot of Greene’s battery, and I ordered back the light infantry and also the two companies to their former position. The company in front of Colonel Davies’ command retired about the same time.

By 5 o’clock p.m. I had the battery and the abatis nearly completed, making my defenses as secure as the short time and few implements used would permit. No enemy appeared in force at my front with a disposition to assault, but about this time a heavy column of infantry appeared to the left of Colonel Davies, in a ravine, moving up to the attack. This brigade opened a heavy fire upon them, and gallantly drove them back, as he informed me afterwards. During this firing, which was soon after 5 o’clock, I received orders from Colonel Miles, through one of his staff, to retreat upon Centreville, and endeavor to hold that position. I immediately collected together my brigade, and put it in motion on the road towards Centreville, when a staff officer proposed to me to throw my regiment in line, face towards the enemy between the house occupied the night before by Hunt’s battery and the Union and Centreville road, in which road the enemy was supposed to be advancing. I had gained a position near the desired point when I was met by Colonel Davies, who informed me that he had beaten the enemy handsomely in front. I told him I had been ordered back to Centreville by Colonel Miles; that the rest of my brigade had gone on; that I had been directed to go to that point with my regiment for the purpose of facing the enemy there, which I had done, and Colonel Davies returned, as I supposed, to his brigade. Soon after this I was met by a staff officer of General McDowell’s, who told me to put my brigade in position on the left of the road from Centreville to Blackburns Ford, and stretching towards the Union and Centreville road, facing the enemy. Other troops had also fallen back to this point, distant about a mile from Centreville.

At about 6 o’clock p.m. Captain Alexander, of the Corps of Engineers, directed me, by the order of General McDowell, to take the general arrangement of the troops at that point in my own hands, he suggesting as a good line of defense a line between a piece of woods on the right and one on the left, the line facing equally towards the enemy, who were supposed to be coming either on the Union or Blackburn road. I immediately formed that line as I best could of the regiments nearest the position, placing the men in the ravines and the artillery as much as possible on the hills in rear of the infantry.

Before Captain Alexander gave me this last direction, I learned that Colonel Miles had altered the position of some regiments which I had placed before, especially the Third Michigan Regiment, which I had ordered to form close column by division, to remain as a reserve, and await further orders from me. The officer in command of the regiment at that time, Lieutenant-Colonel Stevens (Colonel McConnell being unwell, but on the ground), immediately executed that order, and put his regiment in close column. I went to another part of the field, and on returning found this regiment deployed in line of battle, and in another position. I inquired of Colonel Stevens the reason of their position being altered. He told me that Colonel Miles had directed this movement. I asked him why. Colonel Stevens replied, “I do not know, but we have no confidence in Colonel Miles.” I inquired the reason, and Colonel Stevens replied, “Because Colonel Miles is drunk.” That closed the conversation. I sent Colonel Stevens back with his regiment to form close column by division, as at first. I then reported to Captain Alexander that I had been interfered with in my disposition of the troops during the day, and I could not carry out General McDowell’s orders as long as I was interfered with by a drunken man. Captain Alexander then said that General McDowell now rested the whole disposition of the troops with me, and that I must use my own judgment. I went to place another battalion in line, when I was met by Colonel Miles, who ordered me to form that regiment in another direction. I replied that I should obey no more orders that he might see fit to give me. Colonel Miles then said, “Colonel Richardson, I shall put you in arrest.” I told him I never should obey his arrest, and that he never could put me in that position. Colonel Miles answered that he “did not understand this.” I made no reply, and went on with the further disposition of the forces, which was done according to the inclosed diagram.(*)

As soon as the line of battle was well formed the enemy’s cavalry made his appearance on the Centreville and Manassas road. I ordered Lieutenant Benjamin to open his rifled cannon upon them, which he did, and the cavalry disappeared after a few shots. It was now nearly dark, and the troops encamped in their present position. About 10 o’clock General McDowell informed me that a retreat was resolved upon; that the troops must be started on the road to Fairfax as soon as possible, and ordered me to move last and cover the retreat of the Army with my brigade. I told the general I would do so, and would stand by him as long as any man would. I left with my brigade at 2 o’clock a.m., after all the other regiments and batteries had retired. On reaching Fairfax I found it abandoned by our troops, and I covered the rear, bringing up my brigade in good order, the New York regiment in front, then the Massachusetts regiment, the two Michigan regiments in rear of the whole. Arrived at Arlington at 2 o’clock p.m. on Monday after the action.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,


Colonel, Commanding Fourth Brigade

My brigade in general behaved itself nobly, and always stood firm. Of my staff, Mr. Eastman, first lieutenant, U.S. Army, did his duty to my satisfaction. Lieutenant Brightly, U.S. Army, was sick and unable to perform much duty, but did all he could. Cadet John R. Meigs, U.S. Military Academy, acted as my volunteer aide, carried my orders promptly, and a braver and more gallant young man was never in any service. I most earnestly recommend him to be appointed at once a lieutenant in the Regular Army. Lieutenant Prime, Corps of Engineers, was continually in the performance of his every duty, and the medical staff were assiduous in their attendance upon the wounded.


Colonel, Commanding Fourth Brigade

*Not found.



August 11, 1861

CAPTAIN: Permit me to correct an unintentional error that has crept into Brigadier-General McDowell’s official report of the engagement of 21st July.

By command of Brigadier-General McDowell, given me in presence of Colonel Jackson, Eighteenth New York Volunteers, and of Captain Whipple, of the Engineer Corps, to conduct the retreat and to cover the retreat with my brigade, I did so cover the retreat from Centreville. I brought up the rear with my brigade in the following order: Twelfth New York leading, followed by First Massachusetts; the Third Michigan, taking up position, kept in the rear and followed by the Second Michigan. About one mile this side of Centreville we were obliged to halt on account of other regiments, and the Second Michigan then took the position of the Third Michigan, and thus marching in good order we reached Arlington about 4 o’clock on Monday, the 22d, and went into camp, having moved in rear of all other regiments and batteries. At Fairfax we were so far in rear that no troops (of our own forces) were in sight. Will you do my brigade the credit of this correction?


I. B. RICHARDSON, Colonel,

By LARNED, Lieutenant-Colonel


Assistant Adjutant-General, Arlington

The Black Horse Cavalry

9 04 2008

Charge of the Black Horse Cavalry upon the Fire Zouaves at The Battle of Bull Run, Harper\'s Weekly 8/10/1861 

The Black Horse Cavalry (or Troop) was actually one company of Confederate cavalry that eventually became Company H of the 4th Virginia Cavalry.  The 4th VA was not finally organized until September, 1861, but the Black Horse Cavalry, made up of young men from the finest families of Fauquier County, was formed as a militia company in June of 1859.  It became famous when it escorted John Brown to the gallows in December of that year, and by the time of First Bull Run their name had become to Confederate cavalry what Sherman’s Battery had become to Yankee artillery (see here), such that all rebel horsemen were referred to as the “The Black Horse Cavalry”.  At First Bull Run, the company was attached to Lt. Col. T. T. Munford’s squadron of the 30th VA Cavalry (see his OR).

I have long labored under the impression that the unit received its name due to the fact that all its members rode black horses.  But perhaps I’ve been shown the error of my ways in this unpublished manuscript of a roster of the Black Horse Cavalry, which includes a brief history, by Warrenton native and Black Horse authority Lynn Hopewell.  I mention Mr. Hopewell’s background as a preemptive strike at those who will jerk the knee and assume that the book’s author is some South-hating Yankee bent on slandering the motives of the Confederacy and its supporters.  The source for the story of the naming of the troop is William “Billy” Payne, one of its charter members as a private, Captain in command of the company at Bull Run, and eventually a Brigadier General (that’s him to the left, from the Generals and Brevets website) who recalled:

The purposes of the organization were well understood and the question was to give it a proper name.  I well remember the conversations between Major Scott and myself.  The first idea was that we were descendants of cavaliers.  The company was to be a cavalry troop.  I do remember that I called the Major’s attention to the fact that the first standard borne by our tribe, the Saxons, when they landed under Hengist and Horsa at Thanit, was the banner of the white horse.  It was agreed therefore that a horse especially typical and representative of Virginia should be adopted.  We were all extreme pro-slavery men, but the Major in addition, was in favor of opening the African slave trade and he suggested that the horse should be black, and hence the troop was named the Black Horse Troop.

As you can see in Mr. Hopewell’s pdf document, the footnote for this quote is blank. Mr. Hopewell unfortunately passed away in 2006.  I’m thinking the quote may be from Confederate Veteran, which I don’t have on disk yet (though I should).  If you know the source, help me out.

(UPDATE: I’m getting some help from members of the Civil War Discussion Group in finding the source for the quote, but as I do I’m also finding more questions.  There will be a follow up post.)

Recent Reads

8 04 2008

OK: it looks like WordPress has its hands full trying to deal with all the complaints.  I think the only way for me to fix my particular problem (font types and sizes) is to purchase an upgrade to something called CSS (cascading style sheets), which will allow me to manipulate my fonts.  That’ll cost me $15 per year, which will bring my total costs for this blog to just about $15 per year.  But it may remove the two step Word to WordPress process I currently employ.

In the past few weeks, I’ve finished three books and will hip you to them now.

Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War, by Nicholas Lemann, was described briefly here in my post on Stephen Budiansky’s The Bloody Shirt (follow the hyperlinks, folks: they’re there for a reason).  Redemption more narrowly focuses on the program by white Democrats to take back, or redeem, the government of the state of Mississippi from the Republican majority.  While not as well written as The Bloody Shirt, Redemption does a better job of tying in to the overall program of Democrats throughout the south, and it also more directly takes on the role of the Grant administration – in fact, the front and rear covers of the dust jacket feature upside-down, negative images of Grant’s Tomb.  Lemann also presents a more rounded (nuanced?) picture of First Bull Run Medal of Honor winner Adelbert Ames than did Budiansky.  I recommend them both, but if you can only read one I’d go with Lemann for a better overall understanding of the time.  Next up on my list for Reconstruction reading is Brooks Simpson’s The Reconstruction Presidents.

Did Lincoln Own Slaves? by Gerald J. Prokopowicz is one of the best Lincoln books I’ve read (cover to cover or otherwise), and that’s more than a few.  Based on questions Prokopowicz has fielded or solicited over his years as a teacher, talk-show host and Lincoln Scholar, the book is broken down into chapters covering Lincoln’s boyhood, his early adult life and law practice, his years in Springfield, his development as a politician, his role as a speaker, his presidency, his performance as Commander-in-Chief, the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, his physical appearance, his assassination, and his legacy.  Throughout Prokopowicz provides light and readable and at the same time thorough and scholarly answers to the questions, with responses ranging from one word to several pages.  He’s got a great sense of humor and the bits on Was Lincoln gay? and Speaking of JFK, what about the amazing coincidences between the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations? will have you spitting Pepsi through your nose if you’re not careful.  Buy this book: I get the impression Prokopowicz had as much fun writing it as I did reading it. 

I finished Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering over the weekend.  You’ve already heard plenty about this book – it has received more press coverage than any non-Lincoln Civil War book that I can recall over that past 15-20 years.  It’s well worth your time but is pretty gloomy.  On a Bull Run note, Faust recounts the journey of the soldiers of the city of Charleston killed in the battle from that field to burial in the city’s Magnolia Cemetery, which gives me something else to look for next the next time I’m in town (I also need to track down the spot in the cemetery where the single Bull Run prisoner to die in Castle Pinckney was buried, according to Orlando Willcox – see here). 

New WordPress Dashboard

5 04 2008


WordPress has blessed its users with an updated dashboard: that’s the NASA-like control panel that we use to manage our blogs, make posts, insert images and hyperlinks, etc…So far the reaction has been overwhelmingly negative.  That’s to be expected when something so integral to the day-to-day administration of a blog is significantly changed.  Think Coke/New Coke, WindowsXP/Vista, Word 2003/2007.  Right now my big problem is that when I copy over my text from Word – which I do so that I can manipulate my text font – I can no longer manipulate my text font.  Last night I could do it, but today the process for copying from Word has changed with the net result being that the font returns to this theme’s default font.  So there will be a little different look to my posts – no more clean Arial font – until WordPress addresses the issue, assuming they do.  They’ve also lost the spellcheck function, but since I usually compose in Word I should be OK.

General Nagle’s Sword

5 04 2008


Friend and Ranger John David Hoptak is moving ahead with his efforts to restore the statue of General James Nagle at Antietam.  He’s been missing his sword for some time.  You can read the story of Nagle here, and get info on how to help John at his blog.

#102 – Col. Eppa Hunton

4 04 2008


Report of Col. Eppa Hunton, Eighth Virginia Infantry

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 545-546


COLONEL: On the 18th of July, by orders from headquarters, my command took up its march from Leesburg to join your command, marching eighteen miles that day and ten miles the next, reaching your headquarters about noon.

I was ordered by you to form in line of battle in front of your headquarters, where we remained till the morning of the glorious and ever-memorable 21st. Early that morning my command by your orders was put in motion, and after changing its position several times was ordered behind the woods near to and northwest from your headquarters, to act as a support to other forces more in advance.  You directed me to hold this position, and I remained in it for several hours, exposed to the fire of one of the batteries of the enemy, which my men stood with much intrepidity, shot falling sometimes within a few feet of their line and passing over their heads.

Later in the day, about two hours, by order of General Beauregard, I took my command into the conflict and formed in line of battle behind a wood northeast of Mrs. Henry’s house, through which the enemy was said to be advancing in large force. At that moment a portion of our troops were retreating in great confusion, and the general commanding directed me to hold my line firm and assist in rallying the retreating forces behind it. This being done, the Eighth Regiment charged with great spirit through the woods, driving the approaching enemy back in disorder. I was then ordered to the fight around Mrs. Henry’s house, where the Eighth made a most gallant and impetuous charge, routing the enemy, and losing in killed, wounded, and missing thirty-three soldiers. I then drew the men back to a ravine on the east side of the house, to shelter them from random shots, when I was ordered to take a position near our first, to meet what was then supposed to be an advancing column of the enemy, when it was found to be a retreat. I was ordered immediately to Camp Pickens, which was reached at a late hour of the night.

I cannot speak in too high terms of the intrepidity of the men under my command, and where all did so well and acted so gallantly I will not and cannot discriminate in favor of any. Two of the companies had only joined the regiment on the day before leaving Leesburg. The whole regiment was very much worn down by their fatiguing march from Leesburg, and suffering from want of food and water on the field. Yet they stood all and bore all with cheerfulness and obeyed every order with alacrity. They had only one meal during the 21st, and but little water.

I was most ably and efficiently supported on the battle-field and during the whole period of our absence from Loudoun by Lieut. Col. C. B. Tebbs and Maj. N. Berkeley, both of whom displayed great gallantry on the field. Acting Adjutant Elzey also rendered me valuable aid, as did my sergeant-major, Fitzhugh Grayson, who has been missing since the fight, and I fear is a prisoner. I feel his loss very sensibly. He was generous and brave, and promised to make a valuable officer.

While mourning over the gallant fellows of the Eighth who fell on that bloody field it is a matter of congratulation and thankfulness to God that so few fell, and that no officer was either killed or wounded.

Below is a list of the killed, wounded, and missing.(*)

Very respectfully, colonel, your obedient servant,


Colonel Eighth Virginia Regiment


*The nominal list shows 6 killed, 23 wounded, and 1 missing