Report of Lieut. Col. Addison Farnsworth, Thirty-eighth New York Infantry
O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 413-416
HDQRS THIRTY-EIGHTH REGIMENT, N. Y. V.,
(SECOND SCOTT LIFE GUARD),
Camp Scott, near Alexandria, Va., July 29, 1861
SIR: In compliance with my duty, I respectfully submit the following report of the operations of my regiment during the recent battle at or near Bull Run, on the 21st July, 1861:
On the morning of the 21st, in obedience to brigade orders, the regiment was formed, the men equipped in light marching order, and prepared to leave its bivouac at or near Centreville. The march, however, was not commenced until 6 o’clock a.m., when the regiment, with others constituting the brigade, advanced towards the scene of future operations.
After a fatiguing march over dusty roads, and at times through dense woods, the men suffering greatly from the intense heat and a great lack of water, and submitting to the same with a true soldierly spirit, the regiment, with others of the brigade, was halted in a field, in full view of the enemy, on the right of his line of intrenchments, and within range of his artillery. After a very brief rest the regiment was formed in line of battle, and ordered by Colonel Willcox, the commandant of the brigade, to advance to a slight eminence fronting the enemy’s batteries and about half a mile distant, to the support of Griffin’s battery, which was then prepared to take up a position at that point. This order was promptly executed, the men, led by yourself and encouraged by the gallantry of their officers, moving forward in gallant style in double-quick time, subjected a greater portion of the way to a terrible and deadly fire of grape and canister and round shot from the enemy’s works on our front and right flank. Arriving at the brow of the eminence in advance of the battery which it was intended to support the regiment was halted, and commenced, in fact, the attack of Colonel Heintzelman’s division on the right flank of the enemy, engaging a large force of his infantry, and by a well-directed fire completely routing an entire regiment that was advancing in good order and driving it into a dense woods in the distance.
After remaining in this position for some time, finding that the enemy’s artillery was telling with fearful effect upon our ranks, subjected as we were to a direct and flank fire from his batteries, the regiment was ordered to retire down a slight declivity, which was done in good order, affording it for a time partial protection from the enemy’s fire.
At this time Griffin’s battery was moving to a position on our right, and the regiment was ordered by Colonel Heintzelman, in person, to advance to its protection. Advancing by the flank under a galling fire, the regiment was halted within supporting distance of Griffin’s battery, which had now opened upon the enemy, and properly formed to resist a threatened attack from the enemy’s cavalry and infantry, which had shown themselves in large numbers on the borders of a grove to the right and front. In this position my regiment, under a spiteful and destructive fire from the enemy’s batteries, remained until forced to retire, and its presence not being deemed requisite because of the fact that Griffin’s battery had been compelled to leave the field. Retiring to a road about one hundred yards distant, my regiment was again formed in line of battle, and under the eye of the commander-in-chief, General McDowell, the men, inspired by his presence upon the field and led by yourself, it dashed gallantly up the hill towards a point where Ricketts’ battery had been abandoned, in consequence of its support, the First Fire Zouaves and First Michigan Regiment, having previously been compelled to retreat in the face of superior numbers and a great loss in their ranks.
Before arriving at the brow of the hill we met the enemy in large force; one of his infantry regiments, apparently fresh upon the field, advancing steadily towards us in line of battle. A large number of the men of this regiment had advanced in front of their line, and had taken possession of Ricketts’ battery, and were endeavoring to turn the guns upon us. A well-directed and destructive fire was immediately opened upon the enemy by my regiment and a portion of another that had rallied on our left (I think the Fourteenth New York State Militia), and after a sharp conflict he was’ forced to retreat in disorder and with great loss, seeking shelter in the woods from whence he had previously emerged.
The enemy not succeeding in taking with him Ricketts’ battery, which seemed to have been the chief object of his attack, it fell into the hands of my regiment, by whom three of its guns were dragged a distance of three hundred yards, and left in a road, apparently out of the reach of the enemy. Another rally was then again made by my regiment, the gallant men readily responding to the orders of their officers. Advancing in double-quick time to the right and front towards a dense woods, in which the enemy had been concealed in large force during the day, and from which evidences of a retreat were now visible, my regiment, with detached portions of others of our force, became engaged in a sharp and spirited skirmish with the enemy’s infantry and cavalry, and we appeared for a time to have complete possession of the field.
This was the last rally made by my regiment. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the enemy, re-enforced by fresh troops, literally swarming the woods, poured in upon us a perfect shower of lead from his musketry; his batteries reopened upon us with terrible effect, and a panic at this moment seeming to have taken possession of our troops generally, a retreat was ordered, and my regiment in comparatively good order commenced its march towards Centreville, where a greater portion of it arrived about 9 o’clock that night. Here, on the same ground that we had bivouacked previous to the battle, the regiment was halted. After a rest of about two hours it again resumed its march, joining in the general movement made by the Army towards this place. After a forced and wearisome march of seven hours, the men suffering from the great fatigue of the previous fifteen hours, without food for that length of time, with scarcely water enough to moisten their parched tongues, many of them wounded, sick, and otherwise disabled, my regiment, with the exception of about fifty who had straggled from their respective companies and joined the mass that were thronging to the capital, halted at its original camp-ground near Alexandria, the only regiment of the brigade that did so–the only regiment, in fact, that was under fire during the previous day that returned to and occupied their old camp-grounds previous to their advance towards the field of battle. It is with great pride, sir, that I mention this fact, evincing, as it emphatically does, a degree of subordination commendable in any regiment, and reflecting great credit upon the gallant officers and men of my own, particularly under the extraordinary circumstances connected with the occasion.
From the time my regiment was ordered in the field until forced to retire therefrom – a period of four hours – it was almost constantly under fire from the enemy’s batteries and engaged with the infantry; and to your coolness and courage alone during that time, your frequent orders for the men to lie down when the enemy’s fire was the hottest, and your constant efforts to protect them as far as possible at all times, was the regiment saved from presenting a larger number of casualties than its large list now shows.
Of the courage displayed by the men generally on the field during the entire day; of the readiness of the gallant fellows to obey at all times all orders, I cannot speak in too high terms or express in words my admiration. During all my experience in a former campaign and presence on many a battle-field, I have never witnessed greater bravery or moral soldierly requisites than were displayed by the men of my own regiment during the entire battle.
The conduct of the officers generally I cannot speak too highly of. Always at their posts cheering on their men by their soldierly examples, and displaying marked gallantry under the trying circumstances, I acknowledge my inability to do them justice in words. Major Potter was disabled during the early part of the engagement while gallantly performing his duty, and subsequently fell into the hands of the enemy. The brave Captain McQuaide, while cheering on his men, fell from a severe wound in the leg. Lieut. Thomas S. Hamblin, a gallant young officer, also received a wound in his leg while discharging his duty, and he, with the former officer, subsequently fell into the hands of the enemy. Captains McGrath and Allason both received injuries during the engagement, the former by being run down by the enemy’s cavalry (from the effects of which he is now suffering) and the latter by a slight musket-shot. Lieut. John Brady, jr., while bravely participating in the fight, was severely wounded in the arm. Asst. Surg. Stephen Griswold was on the field and under a heavy fire, at all times humanely and fearlessly discharging his duties to the wounded. He and Quartermaster Charles J. Murphy, who was assisting the wounded, were also taken prisoners.
In conclusion, I again assert my inability to do justice to the gallant conduct of the officers generally, and while it would afford me great pleasure to mention the names of many whose conduct fell under my personal observation, I must refrain from doing so, lest by omitting others I should do injustice to many equally as meritorious. Annexed is a list of the casualties in my regiment.(*)
Lieut. Col., Commanding Thirty-eighth Regiment,
Second Scott Life Guard
Col. J. H. H. WARD,
Comdg. Second Brigade, Third Division, Volunteers
(*) Embodied in division return, p. 405.