Report of Col. Henry P. Martin, Seventy-first New York Militia
O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME 51 Part 1 [S# 107], pp. 22-23
HEADQUARTERS AMERICAN GUARD,
71ST REGT. LIGHT INFTY., NEW YORK STATE TROOPS,
New York, August 1, 1861
In accordance with orders, I herewith submit a report of the action of the Seventy-first Regiment New York State Militia in the engagement at Bull Run on the 21st of July:
We were ordered to commence the march, with the First and Second Rhode Island and the Second New Hampshire Regiments leading, and the Seventy-first Regiment bringing up the rear of the brigade, toward the battle-field a little after 2 a.m., and having marched steadily almost without a halt for eight hours we arrived upon the position assigned for our division. On our arrival the two Rhode Island and the New Hampshire regiments were drawn up in line, and the Seventy-first was ordered to pass in front of these regiments to a position in advance and to the right of the brigade, and also in front of two pieces of artillery, which I suppose belonged to Griffin’s battery. No sooner had we formed line than the right piece came dashing forward at full speed through our right wing, without any previous intimation being given. The men broke away and allowed the piece to pass, and immediately after its passage dropped back into their positions in line. Shortly after this the left piece executed the same maneuver, and with the same results. After remaining in this position about a quarter of an hour, exposed to the cannonading of the enemy, which they were directing toward us, we were ordered with our brigade to an adjoining field to engage a portion of the enemy that had debouched from their works, and fully equal in number to our own brigade, and after a severe contest, in which many valuable lives were lost and many of our best officers wounded, among whom were Captain Ellis, Company F; Captain Hart, Company A, and Lieutenant Embler, Company H, we succeeded in repulsing them and compelling them to retreat. In this conflict we were greatly assisted by two of Captain Dahlgren’s 12-pounder howitzers, in charge of Captain Ellis, Company I, of this regiment. After the retreat, General McDowell, with his staff, rode around the field in rear of our brigade, waving his glove in token of victory, and we all considered the day was ours. We were then ordered to retire to the edge of the wood, still in view of the enemy’s works and in reach of their cannon, and there to rest, as we had done all the duty that would be required of us, and would not be called into action again. After about all hour’s rest we were told the enemy was getting the best of us, and were ordered to retire to the field we had at first occupied and take the most advanced position on that field. Here we stood in line of battle waiting the approach of the enormous column of re-enforcements of the enemy from Richmond and Manassas. The head of this column was directed in front of the center of our regiment, and when it was within 500 yards of us we received the order to retire, which we did in line of battle in common time, not one man running. The brigade remained together on the retreat and arrived at our old bivouac, about one mile and a half from Centerville, all in good order. Here we again received orders to continue the retreat to Washington, and marched over the Long Bridge as a brigade. Hereunto appended is a return of our losses.(*) In closing my report I cannot but say that all praise is due to you, sir, for your coolness and daring during the engagement, and to your brave Rhode Island regiments, to whom we feel indebted for many acts of kindness, and to Governor Sprague, of your State, for his great courage and gallant conduct on the field.
Your obedient servant,
HENRY P. MARTIN,
Colonel Seventy-first Regiment New York State Militia
Col. A. E. BURNSIDE,
Acting Brigadier-General, Second Brigade, U.S. Army
(*) Nominal list (omitted) shows a total of sixty-two killed, wounded, prinsoners, and missing. See table, p. 18.