Two Whitings at Bull Run

8 10 2008

I’m a slave to sounds.  If I hear something and it provokes that Jeez, that sounds familiar sensation in my brain, I have to figure out why it sounds familiar.  Then I have to reconcile my findings – OK, it sounded familiar because A is sonically associated with Z, so what’s the practical connection, if any, between A and Z? Such is the case with the author of report #55, Col. Henry Whiting of the 2nd VT infantry regiment.  And no, I don’t know what’s up with that report – it reads like a fragment, it’s not  dated, and it doesn’t indicate to whom it was sent.

This itch was easy to scratch – Col. Henry Whiting’s name sounds familiar because Confederate Army of the Shenandoah commander and ranking rebel at Bull Run General Joseph E. Johnston’s staff engineer was Major William Henry Chase Whiting.  The Confederate Whiting was the guy who actually transcribed Beauregard’s whacked out orders on the evening of July 20-21, Bory’s man Colonel Thomas Jordan, who would normally handle such things, having been laid out with the help of a prescribed narcotic.

The Yankee Whiting (left, from Hunt’s New England volume of Colonels in Blue, click the thumb for a larger image) was born in 1818 in Bath, NY, and graduated from West Point in 1840.  It doesn’t look like he ever lived in Vermont, and according to Cullum was in fact regent of the University of Michigan when the war broke out, so how he wound up colonel of a Vermont regiment is a little murky to me.  A Wikipedia entry says that the command was initially offered to Vermont native Israel B. Richardson, who turned it down and recommended his classmate Whiting.  Although Whiting in fact graduated West Point one year ahead of Richardson, the two did enter the academy in the same year, and Richardson also lived in Michigan, so this sounds plausible.  He rose to brigade command but resigned over his failure to gain rank in early 1863.  He died in Ypsilanti, MI in 1887.

The rebel Whiting (left, from this site) was born in 1824 in Biloxi, MS.  But he went to high school in Boston, MA, so maybe there is a New England family connection there.  He graduated from West Point in 1845 (after first graduating first in his class from Georgetown University in DC in 1840), having established the highest academic marks ever attained by a cadet, a record that would stand until broken by Douglas MacArthur in 1903.  He died a prisoner in New York harbor in 1865, from wounds received at Ft. Fisher in North Carolina.  Fort Fisher was named for the colonel of the 6th NC, who was killed at Bull Run.

If anyone out there can connect these Whitings, please let me know.

#55 – Col. Henry Whiting

8 10 2008

Report of Col. Henry Whiting, Second Vermont Infantry

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, p. 422

As we approached the field we met many ambulances and litters with the dying and wounded. We were greeted by the crowds of returning stragglers, telling us to hurry on; that they had driven them a mile. Meanwhile, the fact that we saw no infantry organized gave us a good deal to think of till we came to where the rifled cannon balls fell around. Then, not hearing any artillery from our side, the fact burst upon us that all of the troops, except our brigade, in the neighborhood were routed.

The Second Vermont was ordered to form on the left of the Maine Fourth. Line was formed; we marched up the hill-side, and about half the distance to the next eminence, about two hundred yards in front, where the infantry and artillery of the rebels were stationed in force. The Vermont Second formed in line, and deliberately fired with rapidity from fifteen to twenty rounds. The enemy retreated before the fire, upon which, and the fact that a body of troops came up to fire over our heads, the commands were given by the colonel, “Cease firing! By the right flank, right face! Forward, march!” but on account of the talk and the confusion created by others coming up in the rear, the command was not heard far from the right. The right company marched to the right a short distance, when it was discovered that a battery of rifled cannon was so planted as nearly to enfilade our regiment, when a retreat was ordered, or, in other words, to file right, which would have brought us off the field; but, so great seemed the desire to continue the fight for a time, my directions were either misunderstood or delayed in execution, [which] kept the regiment on the field a short time longer than I wished it to have remained.

As to the conduct of the officers and men in the presence of the enemy, they exhibited the utmost coolness and bravery. The Bennington company, with its excellent rifles, was very effective. Lieutenant-Colonel Stannard stood square up to the work, as well as Major Joyce and Adjutant Ladd. Captain Hope, notwithstanding he was in the rear during the forced march with his company, worked very effectively to the last. Indeed, all of the officers and men on the field behaved well; and though some gave out by the wayside through inability to proceed, which, when one considers the trip, would wonder that so many could proceed, and none but those in good health could possibly have made the march.

Yours, very truly,


Colonel, Commanding Second Vermont Regiment