Short Break

12 01 2009

I’m making a quick trip to Washington, DC.  Down tonight, back up tomorrow night or Wednesday morning.  No posts until I get back.  If I see anything ACW related worth mentioning and think to take pictures, I’ll post it later.  Since the reason for the trip is off topic, I’ll say nothing more than it is way, way cool!

Leftwich’s Gun Crew’s Rebuttal

9 01 2009

The letter to the Richmond Enquirer written by members of Leftwich’s gun from Latham’s Battery, contesting the report of Captain John D. Imboden, was provided courtesy of Jim Burgess at Manassas National Battlefield Park.  It generated some good comments – check them out at the bottom of the post.  Notice that the gun crew claimed that Wheat’s Battalion alone faced off against 35,000 Federal troops.  This is not all that unusual for after action reports, regardless of th army, the period of the war, or the rank of the writer.  You defeat insurmountable odds, or retreat in an orderly fashion under the weight of same.

numbersFor instance, Joe Johnston’s report says 6,000 Confederates held off 35,000 Yankees at Bull Run.  Other reports make similar assertions.  And the myth that the Confederates were significantly out manned at Bull Run persists, showing up as recently as Joseph Glatthaar’s General Lee’s Army (see here and here).  And a new Lost Cause publication states that the Rebels faced the largest army ever assembled on the North American continent up to that time: true, but the book fails to mention that they did so with a force that came in a very, very close second.  I’ll be reviewing that book in the next installment of America’s Civil War’s Six-Picks.

So keep in mind that the two armies probably totaled about 33,000 to 36,000 men each.  We typically don’t include Runyon’s reserve division, or Johnston’s troops who failed to arrive in time, or any nearby Confederate militia units (thanks, Robert).  And the fighting on Matthew’s and Henry House Hills involved only about 15,000 to 18,000 men on each side.  These were evenly matched forces.

Lieut. Clarke Leftwich and His Crew’s Account of the Battle

8 01 2009

Richmond Enquirer, August 6, 1861, p 1

The Late Battle Near Manassas.

To the Editors of the Enquirer:

Camp near Centreville, July 29, 1861

Gentlemen: – In your issue of the 29th inst., there appeared a letter, purporting to be an official account of the action of the “Staunton Battery” in the great fight of last Sunday week, over the signature of its head officer, Capt. Imboden.  Though no one can doubt the courage and gallantry of the officers and men under the galling fire poured into them by the enemy’s forces; still there are some inaccuracies in the report, which I wish to correct. – Capt. Imboden, says he was the first (of the left wing) on the ground, and fired the first shot.  This is not the case.  The left half of Latham’s Battery – three pieces, belonging to Gen. Evans’s brigade, – were on the ground from twenty minutes to half an hour before, and had already opened the fire to the extent of twelve or fourteen rounds.  One of the pieces was to the right of the Staunton Battery, and commanded an open space to the right of a small belt of woods; while the other piece was to the left of the same belt, and within a hundred yards or so of the Stone House.  This piece was across the ravine, on the hill, 500 yards directly in front of the Staunton Battery – which Battery played over this piece during most of this engagement.  I was with this piece myself, and, from the last mentioned point, saw the Staunton Battery, and a regiment of infantry come over the hill, in our rear. – But before they came we had repeatedly fired into the enemy, who were formed in battle array immediately at the edge of the woods.

Furthermore, it was not the limber chest that “ran away,” as the gallant captain says, but the caissonIt was stationed at the Stone House in our rear, in the ravine.  The horses took fright, ran off, and dashed the caisson to pieces.  Some time after this, we had to retire in consequence of the enemy having driven in our support, who retired past our piece; while the enemy’s skirmishers tried to pick off the cannoneers from their guns.  This piece (ours) was then taken across the ravine to the hill, and planted a hundred yards to the right of the Staunton Battery, and remained there, together with our other piece, until the Staunton Battery retired from the field. –  Both pieces also continued firing for a short time afterwards.  And it was not until the Staunton Battery had retired that our piece had run out of ammunition.  I saw all this with my own eyes, and can, with the rest of the men, and the officer commanding the piece, vouch for its correctness.

As to the Alabama Regiment crossing to the north side of the Warrenton road, (as affirmed in Captain Imboden’s official report,) with our gun, that, too, is incorrect.  Our two six-pounders were brought from the Stone Bridge directly to the scene of action, (which commenced immediately after we took position,) unattended by the Alabama Regiment or a single individual except those commanding and manning the guns.  Nor did General Bee give an order to any one connected with Latham’s Battery, nor authorize anyone else to do it for him, during the time we were exposed to the enemy’s fire.  No gun or piece of artillery took position between the Staunton battery and the enemy, or with the Alabama regiment at any portion of the fight, except our two six-pounders.  Nor was any piece north of the Warrenton road except ours, during the engagement.  Probably, as ours was within three hundred yards of the enemy, and the Staunton battery five hundred yards in our rear, the Captain may have mistaken our gun for that of the enemy, as many of his balls fell within a few yards in advance of our gun.  But, if so, Col. Sloan’s regiment, and Major Wheat’s battalion, who first engaged 35,000 of the enemy, and fought and retreated under cover of our two six-pounders, have not forgotten it, nor did they mistake it at the time.

What our right and left half-batteries did, is known to Generals Evans and Cocke, and we seek no more notoriety.

We beg, most repectfully, as members of the piece referred to, to sign our names,

  • James W. Dickinson, Sergeant,
  • Charles Perry, Gunner,
  • Cannoneers:
    • R. B. Ross,
    • George Kendall,
    • W. S. Kinsey,
    • W. H. Bell,
    • Wm. S. Moore,
    • Wm. Reid

I affirm the statement, made in the above remarks, to be true in every respect, as I commanded the piece.

L. Clarke Leftwich,

Lieut. Commanding Gun


Wheat’s Report

7 01 2009

Well, I finally found a copy or Major C. R. Wheat’s report of the actions of the 1st Special Louisiana Battalion at Bull Run.  It was hiding in plain sight in the Supplement to the ORs, and was sent to me by friend of Bull Runnings Jonathan Soffe.

As discussed in this post, the report of Wheat’s commander N. G. Evans claims that the Battalion captured a regimental color during the fight.  Wheat’s report unfortunately does not mention any captured banner, however he does make mention of the capture of some artillery pieces.  Is it possible that the captured colors in question were actually those of a battery?

Also, I have more on the Wheat ambrotype recently “discovered” by Mike Musick and discussed here and here.  Mike sent me a big packet of info, which I mentioned here.  I haven’t forgotten – I just haven’t had time to get to it yet.

#110a – Maj. Chatham R. Wheat

6 01 2009

Supplemental Report

Report of Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat, First Special Battalion Louisiana Volunteers


Manassas, [Virginia],

August 1, 1861

Sir: I beg leave herewith, respectfully, to report the part taken by the First Special Battalion of Louisiana Volunteers, which I had the honor to command in the battle of July 21.

According to your instructions, I formed my command to the left of the Stone Bridge, being thus at the extreme left of our lines.  Your order to deploy skirmishers was immediately obeyed by sending forward Company B under Captain [Alexander] White.  The enemy threatening to flank us, I caused Captain [Jonathan W.] Buhoup to deploy his Company D as skirmishers in that direction.

At this conjuncture, I sent back, as you ordered, the two pieces of artillery which you had attached to my command, still having Captain [John D.] Alexander’s troop of cavalry with me.  Shartly after, under your orders, I deployed my whole command to the left, which movement, of course, placed me on the right of the line of battle.

Having reached this position, I moved by the left flank to an open field, a wood being on my left.  From this covert, to my utter surprise, I received a volley of musketry which unfortunately came from our own troops, mistaking us for the enemy.  Apprehending instantly the real cause of the accident, I called out to my men not to return the fire.  Those near enough to hear, obeyed; the more distant, did not.

Almost at the same moment, the enemy in front opened upon us with musketry, grape, canister, round shot and shells.  I immediately charged upon the enemy and drove him from his position.  As he rallied again in a few minutes, I charged him a second and a third time successfully.

Finding myself now in the face of a very large force – some 10,000 or 12,000 in number – I dispatched Major [Robert G.] Atkins to you for reinforcements and gave the order to move by the left flank to the cover of the hill; a part of my command, [by] mistake, crossed the open field and suffered severely from the fire of the enemy.

Advancing from the wood with a portion of my command, I reached some haystacks under cover of which I was enabled to damage the enemy very much.  While in the act of bringing up the rest of my command to this position, I was put hors de combat by a minie ball passing through my body and inflicting what was at first thought to be a mortal wound and from which I am only now sufficiently recovered to dictate this report.  By the judicious management of Captain Bouhup I was borne from the field under the persistent fire of the foe, who seemed very unwilling to spare the wounded.

Being left without a field officer, the companies rallied under their respective captains and, as you are aware, bore themselves gallantly throughout the day in the face of an enemy far outnumbering us.

Where all behaved so well, I forbear to make invidious distinctions, and contenting myself with commending my entire command to your favorable consideration.  I beg leave to name particularly Major Atkins, a distinguished Irish soldier, who as a volunteer Adjutant, not only rendered me valuable assistance but with a small detachment captured three pieces of artillery and took three officers prisoner.  Mr. early, now Captain Early, also, as a volunteer Adjutant, bore himself bravely and did good service.

My Adjutant, Lieutenant [William] Dickinson was wounded while gallantly carrying my orders through a heavy fire of musketry.

Captain [Obed P.] Miller of Company E, and Lieutenants [Thomas W.] Adrian and [Frank S.] Carey were wounded while leading their men into the thickest of the fight.

All of which is respectfully submitted,

C. R. Wheat.

Major, First Special Battalion,

Louisiana Volunteers

N. G. Evans,

Brigadier-General of Confederate States of America

[Wheat Papers, in possession of Mr. Charles L. Dufour, New Orleans, Louisiana]

#82b – Capt. James H. Waters

5 01 2009

Supplemental Report

Report of Captain James Harley Waters, Fifth Virginia Volunteers


Dear Sir: I have to report to you that neither my company nor myself was at Stone Bridge on the evening of July 21 as, unser your order, I had taken my whole company near the house on the hill above the battery with instructions to search for the dead and wounded and carry them off the field.

I had with me at the battery more than two-thirds of my company, which went into the battle eighty strong and but for those sent back with the wounded and killed during the fight, I think I might have counted at the battery all but three or four.  I do not know of any that left the field without my leave.

J. H. Waters,

Captain, [West Augusta Guards] Company L,

Fifth Regiment Virginia Volunteers

Colonel Harper


Captain Waters had my consent to look after his killed and wounded as stated.  The order to march in pursuit was received after my consent was given and I could not delay to collect his company.

[John W. Daniel Papers (#158), Manuscripts Division, Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library]

#82a – Col. James W. Allen

4 01 2009

Supplemental Report

Report of Colonel James Walkinshaw Allen, Second Virginia Infantry


Sir: I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the regiment under my command, on Sunday, July 21.  About 1 p.m. I was directed to station my regiment on the edge of a pine thicket to support the battery immediately on my right, with directions to fire when the enemy appeared in sight over the hill, then to charge and drive them back with the bayonet.  In this position my men lay somewhat under cover of the hill for more than an hour and a half, during all of which time they were exposed to the effect of shells and shot from the enemy’s batteries, which had advanced under cover of the hill towards my left flank.

Many of my men and officers were wounded by explosions which took place in their immediate midst, yet they stood their ground, awaiting the approach of the infantry.  Colonel [Arthur Campbell] Cummings, on my left, met them endeavoring to turn our flank.

After advancing, two of his companies fell back through my left, which was kept in position by the coolness of Captain [William Norborne] Nelson, who gallantly maintained his position, though thus exposed to both a front fire of grape and shell, and a flank fire from the enemy’s musketry.

At this juncture, I was informed by Major [Lawson] Botts (whose coolness, energy and perseverance in ralying the men deserves special commendation) that my left was turned.  Not seeing the enemy in front, I directed that the three left companies be drawn back to meet them.  This order was partially misunderstood by the center companies for a general direction to fall back, and all the line turned.  I at once gave the order to charge, but the thicket was so close and impenetrable only a part of the right wing, under Lieutenant-Colonel [Francis] Lackland, could be formed about thirty yards in rear of their original position; I then gave the order to form in the rear of the thicket, the enemy having advanced to the position originally occupied by the left of the regiment, judging from their fire, for it was utterly impossible to see them.

At the moment Colonel [Robert T.] Preston, who was on my right and in rear of the battery, advanced, and Lieutenant-Colonel Lackland, with about 100 of my right, charged on the enemy’s battery, drove them from their pieces, and took position immediately in front of the guns, sheltering themselves as much as possible by them.  Wishing to secure one of the rifle cannon, he ordered five or six men to take it to the rear, but did not proceed more than fifty yards when the enemy opened on his right, which, being unsupported, he was compelled to retire with the few men under his command, having lost nine killed and thirty-four wounded in the charge.

The line did not retire until after our battery was withdrawn.  The list of killed and wounded having been handed in, it is unnecessary to repeat it.  I cannot, however, close this report without again making honorable mention of Captain Nelson, who gallantly fell at his post, supposed to be mortally wounded; to the gallantry of Lieutenant-Colonel Lackland, who with but a handful of men charged on the enemy’s battery and actually brought one of their rifled guns some distance to the rear with but four men; to Lieutenant Harrison, Company D, who was shot dead whilst most gallantly charging with his men; to Lieutenant Mainer, Company E, who fell whilst advancing on the enemy; to Captain [William Lawrence] Clark, who fell dangerously wounded whilst leading his men, and to Adjutant Hunter who aided materially in rallying to the charge.  The coolness of the men under the fire of the enemy’s batteries for more than an hour was most commendable, especially as they had to receive [shots], without being able to return any of the fire.

Respectfully submitted,

[James Walkinshaw Allen]

Brigadier-General T. J. Jackson

[Samuel J. C. Moore Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill]