#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


Blogging Those Lovable Losers

1 04 2008


bragg.jpgLong time e-quaintance Lee White, an NPS ranger at Chickamauga and a member of Dick Weeks’ Civil War Western Theater Discussion Group, has teamed up with three fellows with whom I am not familiar (Chris Young, Patrick Lewis, Daryl Black) for a collaborative blog about – to paraphrase Homer Simpson – the Washington Generals of the Civil War, the Army of Tennessee.  Yeah, I know, and the Generals beat the Globetrotters once, too.

Lee always has something interesting to say when it comes to his favorite topic, so I expect big things from him and his cohorts.  Welcome, Lee!  I’ve added you to the blogroll.  (Hat tip to Brett Schulte).