#34 – Maj. J. J. Bartlett

11 06 2008

Report of Maj. J. J. Bartlett, Twenty-seventh New York Infantry

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 388-389


Camp Anderson, Washington, D. C., July 23, 1861

SIR: Pursuant to orders, I hereby submit for your consideration a report of the operations of the Twenty-seventh Regiment New York State Volunteers, under command of Col. H. W. Slocum, in the battle at Bull Run, on July 21, 1861.

At precisely 2 o’clock a.m. we formed in column for march in rear of the Marine Corps, commanded by Major Reynolds. After an exhausting march of eight hours, the enemy were discovered to be in force on our front and left. Fifteen minutes after their appearance we were hurried on at double-quick time for the distance of at least one mile, and formed in line of battle by the left flank on the brow of the hill commanding a part of the enemy’s position. Without coming to a halt, we were ordered to charge the enemy by a road leading to the valley beneath us, where they were in numbers strongly positioned in and about a large stone house, with a battery of six mounted howitzers commanding the approach. The men, though greatly fatigued and exhausted, gallantly attacked and drove the enemy from the house, who retired in disorder behind their battery, leaving a large number of killed and wounded on the field. The battery was next attacked, and after receiving eleven rounds hastily retired, taking up another position about one hundred and fifty yards on our left and front.

We were immediately attacked on our right flank by a large force, who approached by a ravine under cover of a thick growth of bushes, and in the front by about 1,500, who had been driven from their position on the hill commanding our left, and whom we mistook for the Eighth New York Regiment coming to our support. By this mistake we lost many killed and wounded, besides the opportunity of capturing a large number of prisoners. We were now engaged by more than twice our own numbers, and fired upon from concealed positions, and receiving the fire of the battery from its new point of attack. Perceiving the necessity of support, I rallied about 200 of the Eighth New York Regiment on the brow of the hill commanding the enemy, and the colonel withdrew the regiment to the top of the hill in a perfectly exhausted condition, formed, and marched them into the woods for rest.

During our retreat Colonel Slocum received a wound from a musket ball in the right thigh, which rendered it necessary for him to retire from the field, which he did, placing the command in my hands. After remaining half an hour in this position I was commanded by Captain Averell, aide-de-camp to the colonel commanding, to join a united charge to be made against the enemy’s strongest position by all the regiments not actually engaged at that moment. I marched in four ranks, under fire of the battery commanding the road, to the creek, and filed to the right, under protection of its banks, to await the general assault. Seeing our forces engage the enemy by small detachments, and not in the order in which the attack was commanded to be made, that they were repulsed and driven back in disorder, and believing that no assistance I could render would avail in restraining the troops or stay their flight, I withdrew my command in perfect order to the heights above the stream, and formed in line of battle, facing the enemy, and remained in position until thousands of troops had passed to our rear in flight and confusion.

I then, at the urgent solicitation of the line officers, marched to the rear in direction of the retreat, and again formed, by command of General McDowell, in line of battle, facing the enemy, that he might have a nucleus to form the division upon once more. The attempt proving ineffectual, I again marched to the rear, and by his command formed in line a third time. It being impossible to form in any force upon our lines, I withdrew the regiment from the field, and after a short rest joined the retreating column.

In the retreat to Washington we lost two sergeants, believed to have been cut off from the regiment at the bridge which was fired upon by the enemy, and many men from exhaustion.

I am happy to report that during the whole day the men of the regiment behaved coolly and gallantly, promptly obeying every order, and that they never once retreated or gave way before the enemy without a positive command.


Major, Commanding


Commanding Second Brigade

Dead Birds

9 06 2008


Wow – I completely missed this one from 2004.  Dead Birds is a ghostly gore-fest about Confederate deserters who rob a bank in Alabama and hole-up on a haunted plantation.  I’m watching it now on Showtime.  It features E.T.’s pal Henry Thomas as the gang’s leader.  The casting of the now notorious Isaiah Washington (later of Grey’s Anatomy) as one of its members will surely set some folks off – but keep in mind we’re talking bank robbers here, not soldiers.

I’ve seen worse flicks.


Hittin’ the Road

9 06 2008


This Friday, I’ll be starting off a long weekend of baseball and Civil War.  Friday’s stops will include the new VC at Monocacy National Battlefield, possibly the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, and a Frederick Keys game that evening (with manager Richie “The Gravedigger” Hebner).  Saturday I’ll head to Baltimore for the Inner Harbor and an interleague game between the Pirates and the Orioles (the Pirates of the Senior Circuit will give the game practiced in the American League a whirl – not really baseball since old guys who can’t field still get to play, but they use the same equipment).  On Sunday I’ll ride with a friend who lives in Center City to Philadelphia to attend the biennial meeting of the Society of Civil War Historians to be held through Tuesday at the Union League (see here): lots of big-wigs delivering lots of papers, some of them acquaintances and some of them friends.  I hope to spend a little time “touring” a spot that hosted hundreds, if not thousands, of Pennsylvania recruits during 1861-1865, McGillin’s Olde Ale House, the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philly.  It’s not far from the Union League, and I won’t be driving the whole time I’m in town!  I hope to see some of you there.

Manassas National Battlefield Park Photos April 2004

7 06 2008


I shot these in April 2004 with a very cheap camera – cannons are representative (click on the thumbs for larger image):

One of Ricketts’ Guns – Henry House Hill

One of Ricketts\' Guns

Battle Monument – Henry House Hill

Battle Monument

Jackson’s Artillery Line – Henry House Hill

Jackson\'s Artillery Line

Jackson Monument – Henry House Hill

Jackson Monument I

Jackson Monument II

Jackson Monument II

Griffin’s Guns – Henry House Hill, 2nd Position

Griffin\'s Guns

Original Sudley Road Trace South of Visitor’s Center

Sudley Road Trace

Stone Bridge over Bull Run

Stone Bridge

Antietam Weather

5 06 2008


High winds brought down some trees in the jewel of the NPS, Antietam National Battlefield, and environs.  Check out Mannie’s (and Mannie Part II) and John’s blogs, and the NPS website.  There doesn’t seem to be any monument or gravestone damage, but some buildings were damaged.

Mark Grimsley on the Impetus for the Advance on Manassas

3 06 2008

The Hard Hand of War - Mark GrimsleyMark Grimsley has been discussing his book The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy toward Southern Civilians 1861-1865 over at Civil Warriors (see here and here).  I read the book recently after it sat on my bookshelf for a few years, and I’m one of the folks who sent the emails to which Prof. Grimsley referred in his post.  I won’t go into all the reasons why The Hard Hand of War is one of the most important books on the American Civil War of the last 25 years.  But I’ve been meaning to mention something covered in it, as it directly deals with First Bull Run.  I just hope I can do it justice.

A component of the traditional narrative of the campaign is that the Federal advance on Bull Run was prompted by pressure from the Northern public as expressed via the press.  While some historians have removed the President from the equation by saying that the army was prompted to advance by this pressure, or that Winfield Scott was induced to advance by it, or even that McDowell was compelled to advance by it, to me it has always seemed obvious that the moving force behind the advance was Abraham Lincoln.  I think Lincoln himself sought to distance himself after the fact, if the story of his reaction to Scott’s post battle lament about Scott’s allowing himself to be pressured to send the army to the field before it was ready is to be believed (AL basically said “surely you’re not blaming me for pressuring you” – Scott’s response, interpreted by most as backing down, was to me delightfully sarcastic and probably not lost on a sharp wit like Lincoln’s).  But that’s neither here nor there as far as Grimsley’s book is concerned, and I’ll discuss the Scott-Lincoln exchange more fully in a post some other time.

Grimsley’s work does not run counter to the idea that the primary force behind the advance on Manassas was Lincoln.  Where he differs with the accepted story line is in the influence on Lincoln of a supposedly unified, howling Northern press.  This discussion is in Chapter 2, Conciliation and its Challenges.  It begins (italics are extractions from the text):

Conciliation formed the dominant Union policy for the first fifteen months of the war.  It not only characterized the way in which Federal forces were to deal with Southern civilians, it also shaped the Federal strategy to defeat the Confederacy.  Northern officials instinctively grasped the truth of Treitschke’s statement that “Again and again, it has been proved that it is war that turns a people into a nation.”  The slave-holding aristocrats had made a rebellion; they must not be allowed to make a nation.  Conciliation on the one hand, and a sweeping military effort on the other, seemed the keys to preventing this.  Together these two approaches would sap Southern resistance and make possible an early victory.

(One of the great things about this book is that it was written by that rarest of birds in Civil War literature, an honest to God military historian – see here for what I mean by historian)

Winfield Scott was on board with the idea of a combination of conciliation and military effort.  As Grimsley points out, tact and patience characterized Scott’s behavior over the years in things military and diplomatic (if not personal).  Concerns in the early days of the rebellion were for the promotion of pro-Union sentiment in the southern states, and Scott was of the opinion that this could best be done through the adoption of a policy that might defeat the Confederacy without the bloodshed, devastation, and bitterness that would accompany a major offensive.  In May of 1861 these thoughts manifested in Scott’s overall strategy for victory, dubbed by the press The Anaconda Plan.  Note that Scott’s plan was born of experience and not, as has been stated by some, of his fondness for his native South.

Initially the press was unanimously behind Scott, because he was Winfield Scott, after all; because they were patriotic, of course; because many believed the idea that victory could and should be won with as little loss of life and property as possible; and because rumors also circulated that Scott’s deliberation would extend no further than mid-July at the latest.  Criticism came not from people who thought Scott was wrong about the potential of pro-Union sentiment in the South, but rather from those with different ideas concerning the best way to tap it.  To them, only quick action could ignite Southern Unionists; delay would leave them correspondingly discouraged.

Within Lincoln’s cabinet, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair was one whose thoughts on the best way to encourage Southern Unionists opposed those of Scott.  Blair felt that the regular army officers grossly overestimated the strength of secessionist spirit in the South.  “This,” he declared (in a mid-May 1861 letter to Lincoln), “is a fundamental and fatal error and if our military movements are predicated on it & we fail to go to the relief of the people of the South they will be subjugated and the state of consolidation now falsely assumed will be produced.”  Immediate, offensive action was what was needed to best encourage Southern Unionists, and it could be accomplished by a very small portion of the army. Blair wasn’t questioning Scott’s patriotism, just his ability to grasp the true state of affairs.  He recommended that the President should adopt a policy independent of the General-in-Chief.

Despite Blair’s advice, Lincoln decided to bear with Scott’s policy for awhile.  But as time dragged on (and we’re talking mere weeks here – the definition of dragging time would change dramatically by 1865) without any significant offensive action, elements in the Northern press began to express opinions more similar to those of Blair.  Then, on June 26, Horace Greeley’s Republican paper New York Tribune declared:

Forward to Richmond!  Forward to Richmond!  The Rebel Congress must not be allowed to meet there on the 20th of July!  BY THAT DATE THE PLACE MUST BE HELD BY THE NATIONAL ARMY!

The Chicago Tribune jumped on the bandwagon the next day, echoing Blair’s sentiment:

The Union men of the South, to whose relief the loyal army is marching, will be crushed out, or forced into cooperation with the rebels, long before the anaconda has got the whole country enveloped in its coils.

But a number of Northern newspapers were still backing Scott’s plan, and their editorials ridiculed the “Forward to Richmond” cries of the two Tribunes.  The New York Times reported on June 27 that the General was still committed to the conciliatory plan, concluding that By January, he [Scott] thinks that the rebellion will be entirely defeated, and the Union reconstructed.  On July 1 that paper responded to a letter critical of Scott it had printed two days earlier, stating:

The South must be made to feel full respect for the power and honor of the North: she must be humbled, but not debased by a forfeiture of self-respect, if we wish to retain our motto – E pluribus unum – and claim for the whole United States the respect of the world.

Grimsley points out that:

With public opinion on its efficacy still divided, the popular notion that Lincoln was somehow forced to launch an immediate offensive is untenable.  It is much more likely that the President himself embraced the Blair thesis that an early offensive offered the best way to encourage the Southern Unionist sentiment that, he hoped, would then overwhelm the slaveholding aristocracy.  

Fully embracing Blair’s thesis required the adoption of a policy that was independent of Lincoln’s General-in-Chief.  It wouldn’t be the last time the President would make that choice.

At a meeting with his cabinet, Scott, and Irvin McDowell on June 29, Lincoln directed – despite Scott’s objections – that an advance be made within a few weeks.  He issued positive orders to that effect to McDowell on July 8.  On July 16, McDowell put his army in motion.

Grimsley concludes that the repulse of McDowell’s offensive ended any hopes of a rapid Confederate collapse.  It also destroyed whatever promise the Anaconda held out, for the South had been further united by the nationalistic pride generated by the victory.

Talk about a turning point.

#109 – Col. Jubal A. Early

1 06 2008

Report of Col. Jubal A. Early, Commanding Sixth Brigade, First Corps, Army of the Potomac

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 555-558


August 1, 1861

COLONEL: I submit the following report of the operations of my brigade on the 21st ultimo:

My position on the morning of the 21st was in the pines on the road from Camp Walker to the gate in front of McLean’s farm house, to which place my brigade had been removed on the day before from Blackburn’s Ford, on Bull Run, where it had been since the action on Thursday, the 18th. The portion of the brigade with me consisted of Colonel Kemper’s regiment, Seventh Virginia; Col. Harry T. Hays’ regiment, Seventh Louisiana, and six companies of my own regiment, the Twenty-fourth Virginia.

At an early hour in the morning the enemy’s batteries near Blackburn’s Ford opened fire, and I received an order from General Beauregard through one of his aides to move my brigade to the cover of the pines between McLean’s Ford and the road leading to Blackburn’s Ford, so as to be ready to support either General Longstreet or General Jones, as might be necessary. A short time after taking this position I received a request from General Longstreet to send him a regiment, which request I complied with by sending him the six companies of my own regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Hairston, and two companies of Colonel Hays’ regiment, under Major Penn. I proceeded also to General Longstreet’s position at Blackburn’s Ford, and after the companies I had sent him were posted as he desired, I returned to the place where the rest of the brigade was, and in a short time received a further request from General Longstreet to furnish him another regiment, which I complied with by carrying him the residue of Hays’ regiment.

Upon arriving at the ford I found the companies I had before sent had crossed over Bull Run and were in position with General Longstreet’s command, awaiting the signal for an assault on the enemy’s batteries, which were constantly firing in every direction. Hays’ companies were drawn up in double column in rear of the ford, where they remained for some time, when I received an order from General Longstreet to march Hays’ regiment back, and with that and Kemper’s cross McLean’s Ford and attack the enemy’s batteries in the rear. Hays’ regiment was immediately marched back to where Kemper’s regiment was, sustaining during its march a fire of the enemy’s batteries, which was directed by the cloud of dust it raised in marching, and a shell exploded in the ranks, wounding three or four men.

I proceeded with Hays’ and Kemper’s regiments to cross at McLean’s Ford for the purpose of attacking the batteries in the rear, but before the whole of the regiments had crossed, the general’s aide, Colonel Chisolm, arrived with orders requiring me to resume my position. I then sent Kemper’s regiment back to its place in the pines, and marched Hays’ regiment up the run to Blackburn’s Ford. General Longstreet then directed me to carry the regiment back to where Kemper’s was, and after the men were rested a few minutes they were marched down the run by way of the intrenchments which had been occupied by General Jones’ brigade at McLean’s Ford. Upon arriving there I found General Jones had returned with his brigade to the intrenchments, and I was informed by him that General Beauregard had directed that I should join him (General Beauregard) with my brigade.

I immediately proceeded to comply with this order, and sent to General Longstreet for the six companies of my own regiment, and received a reply stating that I could take in lieu thereof the Thirteenth Mississippi Regiment, under Colonel Barksdale, which had been ordered to report to him, and thus save both regiments from the fire of the enemy’s batteries, which they would have to sustain in marching to and from Blackburn’s Ford.

I accepted this proposition, and immediately put the two regiments of my brigade, with Colonel Barksdale’s Thirteenth Mississippi Regiment, which I found in the pines on the road leading from McLean’s farm house toward Mitchell’s Ford, in motion to comply with General Beauregard’s directions, having previously sent Captain Gardner ahead to ascertain where the general was. I marched in rear of Mitchell’s Ford in the direction of the ground on which the battle was being fought, near the stone bridge, and after proceeding some distance was met by Captain Gardner, who informed me he had been unable to find the general, but had ascertained that his headquarters were at Lewis’ house, in the direction of the fighting. I continued to advance through the fields as fast as my men could move, guided by the roar of the cannon and the volleys of musketry, until we reached the neighborhood of the battle-ground, when I sent Captain Gardner again ahead to ascertain, if he could, where the general desired me to go, my brigade being still kept on the march.

Captain Gardner met with Col. John S. Preston, one of the general’s aides, who informed him that the general had gone to the front, and that the order was that all re-enforcements should go to the front. The captain soon returned with this information, and I still continued to advance until I was met by Colonel Preston, who informed me that General Beauregard had gone to where the fighting was on the right, but that General Johnston was just in front, and his directions were that we should proceed to the left, where there was a heavy fire of musketry. I immediately inclined to the left in a direction pointed out by Colonel Preston, and soon met with General Johnston, who directed me to proceed to the extreme left of our line and attack the enemy on their right flank. This direction I complied with, marching in rear of the woods in which General Elzey’s brigade had just taken position, as I afterward ascertained, until we had cleared entirely the woods and got into some fields on the left of our line, where we found Colonel Stuart, with a body of cavalry and some pieces of artillery, belonging, as I understood, to Captain Beckham’s battery.

Here I turned to the front, and a body of the enemy soon appeared in front of my column on the crest of a hill deployed as skirmishers. Colonel Kemper’s regiment, which was in advance, was formed in the open field in front of the enemy under a heavy shower of minie balls, and advanced towards the enemy. Colonel Barksdale’s and Colonel Hays’ regiments were successively formed towards the left, and also advanced, thus outflanking the enemy. At the same time that my brigade advanced the pieces of artillery above mentioned and Stuart’s cavalry moved to our left, so as to command a view of a very large portion of the ground occupied by the enemy. With the advance of my brigade and the cavalry and artillery above mentioned the enemy retired rapidly behind the hill, though the advance of my brigade was delayed a short time by information from one of General Elzey’s aides, who had gone to the top of the hill, that the body of men in front of us and who had fired upon my brigade, was the Thirteenth Virginia Regiment. This turned out to be an entire misapprehension; and in the mean time a considerable body of the enemy appeared to the right of my position, on an extension of the same hill, bearing what I felt confident was the Confederate flag. It was soon, however, discovered to be a regiment of the enemy’s forces, and was dispersed by one or two well-directed fires from our artillery on the left.

As soon as the misapprehension in regard to the character of the troops was corrected, my brigade advanced to the top of the hill that had been occupied by the enemy, and we ascertained that they had retired precipitately, and a large body of them was discovered in the fields in the rear of Dogan’s house, and west of the turnpike. Here Colonel Cocke, with one of his regiments, joined us, and our pieces of artillery were advanced, and fired upon the enemy’s column with considerable effect, causing them to disperse, and we soon discovered that they were in full retreat. My brigade and Colonel Cocke’s command were advanced in a direction so as to pass over the ground that had been occupied by the enemy’s main body, crossing a ravine and the turnpike, and passing to the west of Dogan’s house by Matthews’ house and to the west of Carter’s house. My own brigade advanced as far as Bull Run, to the north of Carter’s house, and one mile above stone bridge, where it bivouacked for the night. Colonel Cocke crossed the river at a ford to the left, and I saw no more of him for that night.

We saw the evidences of the fight all along our march, and unmistakable indications of the overwhelming character of the enemy’s defeat, in the shape of abandoned guns and equipments. It was impossible for me to pursue the enemy farther, as well because I was utterly unacquainted with the crossings of the run and the roads in front, as because most of the men belonging to my brigade had been marching the greater part of the day, and were very much exhausted; but pursuit with infantry would have been unavailing, as the enemy retreated with such rapidity that they could not have been overtaken by any other than mounted troops. On the next day we found a great many articles that the enemy had abandoned in their flight, showing that no expense or trouble had been spared in equipping their army.

The number of men composing my brigade as it went into the action was less than fifteen hundred, but I am unable to give exact returns, as we bivouacked eight or ten miles from our baggage, with which were all the rolls and returns, and the brigade has since been separated and reorganized.

Colonel Kemper’s regiment, embracing less than 400 men at the time, lost in killed 9, wounded 38; Colonel Hays’ regiment lost in killed 3, wounded 20; Colonel Barksdale’s regiment lost in wounded 6; making in killed 12, wounded 64; in all. 76.

Without intending to be invidious, I must say that Colonels Kemper and Hays displayed great coolness and gallantry in front of their regiments while they were being formed under a galling fire from the enemy’s sharpshooters, who, from their appearance, I took to be regular troops. My aide and acting assistant adjutant-general, Capt. Fleming Gardner, rendered me very efficient service during the whole day, and a Lieutenant Willis, who volunteered to act as aide, and did so, was also of great service to me. I have not seen him for several days, and did not learn the particular corps to which he belongs, but I believe he belongs to a company of Rappahannock cavalry.

A company from Rappahannock joined Colonel Kemper’s regiment in the early part of the day, and a South Carolina company joined Colonel Hays’ regiment just after it arrived in front of the enemy.

The companies of my own regiment remained all day, until the retreat of the enemy at Blackburn’s Ford, with General Longstreet, under an annoying fire from the enemy’s batteries, but without sustaining any loss, and afterwards joined in the pursuit, under General Longstreet, towards Centreville.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Colonel, Comdg. Sixth Brig., First Corps, Army of the Potomac


Assistant Adjutant-General, First Corps, Army of the Potomac