War Like the Thunderbolt

31 08 2009

ThunderboltWhen Russell Bonds asked me, via Facebook, to read an advance copy of his new book, War Like the Thunderbolt: The Battle and Burning of Atlanta, I had mixed thoughts.  While all facets of the Civil War interest me, and I have read quite a bit, my impressions of the campaign and fight for Atlanta have been formed primarily by Thomas Connelly’s Autumn of Glory.  So, not only am I not an expert, I’m not particularly well read on the subject.  I’m not going to go into great detail here – you can find any number of reviews on the web, and I imagine scholarly, critical reviews are in the works.  The reviews look favorable thus far, and I don’t disagree with their overall tone.  What follows are just a few thoughts.

Thunderbolt is not a detailed, tactical analysis of the campaign; it’s not my idea of a military history.  The battle-pieces don’t venture much below brigade level.  This is popular, narrative  history, with plenty of first hand military and civilian accounts and character studies (Bonds appears to have used a wide array of resources, published and unpublished).  As such, it gets the job done in fine style.  Bonds writes in an engaging, clear, and easy to read manner, and he keeps things moving. 

I don’t necessarily agree with some characterizations.  Joe Johnston comes off as a caricature of the views of his long time detractors (I was disappointed to see the famous Mary Chesnut quail hunt story used again: it’s a tale that I think is just that, too prescient to be believable and probably one of her many “diary” entries created years after the fact).  John Bell Hood is cast in a more favorable light than that in which I’ve seen him over the years.  I’ve never viewed his behavior under Johnston as aggressive, supportive, or even obedient, and I’ve never thought of him as an upgrade over Old Joe.  As I read Thunderbolt I wondered if the Confederacy would have been better off had they given up Atlanta without the fight put up by Hood.  They ended up losing the city and about 20,000 men under Hood, and the hard fought Union victory won Lincoln reelection.  But had Sherman taken possession of the city in a relatively bloodless manner, would it have been viewed as a great victory by the Northern people?  Was Tullahoma?  As it is, I remain unconvinced of Hood’s ability and efforts at army command.

I’ve also never been impressed with Joe Wheeler, who is perhaps too kindly treated by Bonds.  And I wondered at the author’s asserertion that Oliver Howard was referred to as “Uh-Oh” by his commands – I’ve never seen contemporary evidence of it.  The footnoting format makes it a little difficult to tell what his source for this was.

But with the exception of what seems to me a pro-Hood angle, these are nit-picky things.  The strength of Thunderbolt is Bonds’s ability to tell a story.  It will appeal more to folks looking for a good yarn about the Civil War, creatively and colorfully presented (I love the way the book opens with the filming of Gone With the Wind), with not too many X’s and O’s.  And that’s OK, because I think that’s what it was meant to do.  If Bonds piques your interest for more detail, he also points you to where you can find it.  I don’t have to agree with an author’s every assessment to enjoy or even like a book.  I give War Like the Thunderbolt a thumbs up.

As luck would have it, I also received for review two other books, one on the same and the other on a similar topic.  Right now I’m reading Marc Wortman’s The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta.  The scope of Bonfire, if not the length, is much broader than that of Thunderbolt – it’s not until the 121st of 361 pages that Sumter is fired upon.  A much different book indeed.  I’ll let you know what I thought of it when I’m done, but so far I can tell you this guy loves adjectives.

The second book is a novel by Robert Hicks, author of The Widow of the South.  I don’t usually read Civil War novels, but the publisher was very nice in asking and as it turns out A Separate Country kinda-sorta picks up where Bonfire and Thunderbolt leave off, not in Atlanta, but with Hood in post-war New Orleans.  It looks interesting, and I haven’t taken a fiction break in a while, so what the heck.

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Reader Contributions

27 08 2009

Thanks to Jim Schmidt for transcribing this letter from Surgeon Frank Hamilton of the 31st NY and published in the American Medical Times in 1861.  And thanks to him for allowing me to post it to the resources here in its entirety.  As a rule I don’t regurgitate here  items that appear on other sites (specifically original content articles), but this qualifies as a resource and I don’t like to rely on another site being around in a month let alone 20 years, so I like to get the material on-site.  Jim intends to cull his and on-line collections of medical journals for more First Bull Run material and transcribe it when time permits, which can only be good for Bull Runnings.

Surgeon Frank Hamilton, 31st NY, to The American Medical Times

27 08 2009

The American Medical Times

Volume III, July-December 1861, pp. 77-79

Surgeon Frank H. Hamilton, 31st NYVI



Camp Pratt, near Alexandria, Va.

July 26, 1861.

[Special Correspondence of the American Medical Times]

I have had no time to write to you before, and I have scarcely the time now, but I have seized a few moments of leisure to give you a brief account of one day’s experience upon the field of battle.

At half past two, Sunday morning, I was in my saddle, with my assistants by my side, and my ambulance was ready for the march. The column began to move at this early hour, but our Division, under General Miles, did not leave the encampment until after six o’clock A. M. We then followed the long train which had preceded us, and after a march of about three miles took up our position where the battle of the preceding Thursday was fought, upon the brow of a hill commanding a view of the whole valley in which lay the forces of the enemy. The 32d and the 16th New York Volunteers were ordered to support Lieut. Pratt’s battery, Col. Pratt, of the 31st, acting as Brigadier- Gen, or commanding officer, while Lieut.-Col. Brown took charge of our own regiment, the 31st; subsequently Col. Pratt took charge of his own regiment and was ordered to support Major Hunt’s battery.

As soon as the troops were fairly in position the batteries opened upon the enemy with shell, solid shot, grape, and canister. Their fire was very effective, but it was not answered until late in the afternoon. In the meantime my assistants aided me in selecting a place along the wood, in our rear, where a pretty deep cut or gorge, leading a little off from the main road, would enable us to dress the wounded without exposure. We all went to work with a will, with the help of the drummer boys, and had soon cleared the gorge of stones and bushes. Here we proposed to have the wounded brought on stretchers by the drummers and a few volunteer aids, who together composed my ambulance corps. We then placed our ambulance above and beyond the gorge, in the direction towards a log-house, which was situated one-quarter of a mile further off in the rear. We took down the fences to let the ambulance pass, and planted our red flags at the temporary depot, and at the log-house. We were all ready when we received notice of an expected charge of cavalry upon that road, and were requested to select a building on the opposite side of the road, as the enemy’s batteries would range across the old log-house. Accordingly we hastened to make the change, and in a few minutes we had everything as well arranged in a snug wooden house, occupied by negroes, as if we were in Bellevue. The operating table was ready, the bed arranged, and the instruments, sponges, bandages, cordials, &c., in order.

I now rode back to the field, and found we had had one slight skirmish, in which one man of the 16th had been wounded in the head, which Dr. Crandell, of the 16th, had already dressed. It was past mid-day and we were all tired, hungry, and thirsty. Exploring a garden in front and to the right of the batteries I found cabbages, beets, parsley, onions, sage, and potatoes; near by were chickens, and smoked hams in a deserted lodge. Water we found one-quarter of a mile to the left on the borders of the woods, within which lay the enemy, but the drummers brought water, and with the help of Mr. Nourse, Dr. Marvin, and my son, we soon made about four gallons of the best soup I have ever eaten. We had salt and pepper to season it, and good appetites to welcome it. We made also a large coffee-pot full of coffee, and found sugar to sweeten it. This we carried to the rear and fed out first to the Col. and his staff, and then to the line officers and men, as far as it would go, not forgetting ourselves and the drummer boy.

After this precious repast we carried whiskey to those soldiers who had been skirmishing, or who seemed especially to need it; for they were without shelter, under a sky of brass. To those who called for it also we sent or carried water in pails—such water as we could get.  The men never left their lines, except when ordered to act as skirmishers, and must have perished except for some such refreshments.

At about four or five p. m. a message was sent to us that the enemy were retreating, and that the day was ours, and I immediately returned to my hospital to order, of the black inmates of the South, supper for the Colonel’s staff and my own. I was standing at the door, looking out towards the road, when I saw the regiments approaching in order, but rather rapidly; at the same moment came an order from Dr. Woodward, the intelligent and faithful medical director of our division, for me to fall back with my hospital to Centreville, about one mile further back, as the enemy were making an attempt to flank us on the left, in the direction of our division. I immediately had every thing replaced in the ambulance, and having paid Maria, the black woman, whose dinner we did not eat, we started for Centreville. We went along the same road with the troops, who were moving in good order, and without any appearance of alarm. At Centreville I took out my amputating case, general operating case, and medicine chest, and finding a large number of wounded already here, proceeded at once to dress their wounds, extract the bullets, etc. We were occupied for an hour or more in an old tavern. My assistants here were Dr. Lucien Damainville (first Assistant), Dr. — Brown, Mr. Marvine, medical student, Mr. Nourse, and my son Frank, who had been acting most of the day as the Colonel’s aid. I think Dr. Arnt, of one of the Michigan regiments, was with us at this time. We had no bandages, no lint, no sponges, no cerate, and but very little water, and I think only one basin. Our first attention was directed to those already in the house. Stooping down as they lay crowded upon the floor, we inquired, “Where is your wound, my poor fellow ?” for they seldom called us until we came to their relief, nor did many of them utter a moan. There they lay silent, waiting their turn. Most of the wounds were made by spherical balls—some had gone through entirely, without breaking a bone or severing an artery—and to them we said, ” Bravo, my boy, a noble wound, but no harm done. Mr. Nourse, apply a cloth, wet with cool water.” Not a few, encouraged and strengthened by these words, got up, and came on foot to Alexandria and Washington. I saw several at Fort Runyon, from whom I had extracted balls from the neck, arms, and legs, the next morning when I arrived there, and they had walked the whole distance. Three or four had balls through their bodies, and had walked two or three miles to the village ; one was brought up with a wound in his thigh, who had lain on the field since the Thursday preceding. He will recover, I think.

From this building we went to a private house, which was also full, and then to the old stone church. Here I met Dr. Taylor, of the 1st New Jersey Regiment, who was laboring most industriously, and Dr. _____ , a private, a very intelligent man, belonging, I think, to the 2d Michigan, and who, for his- extraordinary zeal and attention, deserves great credit.

In the old stone church the men were “lying upon every seat, between all the seats, and on every foot of the floor; a few on stretchers, perhaps three or four; a dozen or more on blankets—occasionally upon a litter, hay or straw, but mostly on the boards.

The scene here was a little different; it was dark; we had but two or three tallow-candles. The men had been waiting longer, and were in general more severely wounded; and, although now and then a man asked us to pass him, and to look first after some one lying near who was suffering more, yet from all sides we were constantly begged and implored to do something for them. After a little we concluded to take them in order as they lay, since to do otherwise rendered it necessary to consume time in going backwards and forwards, and we were constantly in danger of treading upon the wounded; indeed, it was impossible to avoid doing so. By this time we had found a hospital knapsack, and were pretty well supplied with bandages; but the time did not allow us to do much more at first, than to extract the bullets, and apply cool water dressings, with lint.

Only two amputations were made by myself; one below the knee, and one above the elbow-joint. Both of them, I confess, were done very badly, but I could, at the time, and under the circumstances, do no better. My back seemed broken, and my hands were stiff with blood. We still had no sponges, and scarcely more water than was necessary to quench the thirst of the wounded men. My assistants were equally worn out—Dr. Taylor alone seemed vigorous and ready for more toil.

At half-past twelve, or about that time, we went out to get a candle, to enable Dr. Taylor to amputate a man’s arm at the shoulder-joint. Just then a regiment came up, and the Colonel was challenged by the picket. This reminded me that if we were to stay all night, as we had mutually agreed to do, we should need the countersign; but although we told him we were medical men, in charge of the wounded, and intended to stay, this was refused to us. The colonel told us that his was the last regiment covering the retreat.

We obtained a candle and went to the house where lay Dr. Taylor’s patient, with his arm terribly shattered with a cannon ball or fragment of a shell. It was nearly torn off near the shoulder-joint, but the haemorrhage was trivial, he was dying of the shock. We gave him whiskey, the only stimulant we had, with water, dressed the wound slightly, and left him to his fate.

Dr. Damainville and I now lay down upon our backs upon the floor beside the wounded—we could do no more—our last candle was burning. Some of us had seen all the wounded, probably 250 in number, and done for them all that lay in our power. I had drunk some buttermilk and eaten a sandwich that Adjutant Washburn had held to my mouth once in the evening, but none of us had had any other food. I had sent Adjutant Washburn to overtake Gen. McDowell early in the evening, and to represent our condition, but he could not find him, and returned without help. The two bottles of whiskey taken by my son from the ambulance when we first came were already nearly distributed to the wounded. They had not a morsel to eat, the ambulances were all gone and had been for several hours. As we went into the street again, we found it was silent as the grave—the pickets even were gone, and except a few men so soundly asleep under the trees that we could not awaken them, there was no one left in the road. After a second consultation we determined to go also. My assistants and myself soon found our horses, but the servant was gone, and with him the bridles, nor could we after much search and loud and long shouting find him. I went back to the old stone church, and found one soldier just brought in, whose wounds I dressed, and then said aloud to the poor fellows within: ” Thank God, my boys, none of you are very seriously injured; you will probably all get well.” To which I heard one or two feeble responses: ” Thank you, Doctor, thank you.” I could not tell them I was about to leave them, and I trust in leaving them so I did them no wrong. I could be of no more service to them until morning, and then I presumed they would be in the hands of a civilized and humane enemy who would care for them better than we could. As I passed along out of the village I requested one gentleman who lived there to look after them, and also a family composed of a man and wife with two daughters. They all promised to do what they could.

Our instruments we could not take. There were five of us and two horses, and my son had sprained his ankle and could scarcely walk, so we went on towards Fairfax Court-House, and in half an hour we began to overtake the rear regiments, and soon I saw Dr. Woodward’s cheerful face begrimed with dirt like our own. I told him how we had left the wounded. There was no remedy, said he. They must be left. We hurried on and at Fairfax Court-House overtook Gen. McDowell, to whom I at once reported the condition and number of the wounded, and requested to be sent back if he thought it best. He replied, ” You have done right, keep on to Washington.” As I was leaving the gate he sent a messenger to call me back, and to ask me if I were walking. I replied that I was. “Gen. McDowell has here ten or twelve ambulances,” said he, “for the wounded, which he obtained by a dispatch to Washington. He wishes you to ride.” From Fairfax I rode until our ambulance broke down, filled with wounded. The wounded were transferred to another ambulance, and I again took to my feet and occasionally to my horse. I reached Fort Runyon, opposite Washington, at about 10 A.m., and here washed my bloody hands and arms, for here I found the first water.

The wounded were scattered the whole distance from Centreville to Washington, not in large numbers, but here and there one could be seen walking by the aid of one or two associates. In reference to the ambulances, the occasion of their absence from Centreville was simply, that the drivers became frightened, and to turn them back would have been impossible. Nor do I think it would have been possible for Gen. McDowell to have sent one vehicle back beyond Fairfax at the time I saw him.

It is remarkable that most of the wounds seen by me were not of a character which would be likely to prove fatal. Perhaps the men most severely wounded were left upon the field, or were dressed by those noble surgeons who were near them, and some of whom lost their lives, while others gave themselves up as prisoners.

In no case did a wound seen by me require the use of a tourniquet, although some soldiers had their limbs tightly girded so as to have already occasioned great swelling and pain.

Most of the balls extracted were spherical; and of those which I removed, the majority were removed through counter openings, the balls lying close against the skin.

Nearly all the soldiers that I have seen since the battle, in Washington and Alexandria, are doing well.

I must not omit to state that after I had left, and when I supposed our whole party were in front of me, Mr. Nourse, acting assistant apothecary in our regiment, went back with three horses, and placing three wounded officers upon them, sent them off, for which he would accept of no compensation. He then walked himself the whole distance to Alexandria. This, with many other signal instances of this young man’s courage, endurance, and humanity, deserves an especial notice.

My own regiment having, under its excellent commander, Col. Calvin E. Pratt, of Brooklyn, N. Y., covered the retreat of most of the forces, and especially of Hunt’s Battery, which took up a new position near Centreville early in the evening, left the ground at 11 P.m, and returned in perfect order to its old encampment near Alexandria. Before they left they received five successive volleys from the enemy s infantry, but not allowing their own fire to be drawn they saved themselves and their battery from being overwhelmed and taken. I must regard the coolness and discretion of Col. Pratt under these circumstances, as the highest evidence of his capacity as a military commander.

Frank H. Hamilton. Surgeon 31st, Regiment, N. Y. St. V.

Transcribed by Contributor Jim Schmidt (see here)

Meta (PDF Google Books)

Family Ties – Kilpatrick Part VII

26 08 2009

I received the following this evening, from Anne Mather Fowler McCammon:

I found your article on the Family Ties-Kilpatrick Part II very interesting. You are talking about my family and I enjoyed it very much. Philip Hickey Morgan – and by the way it is Hicky – after Philip Hicky (my great, great, grandfather); his wife (my great great grandmother Anne Mather Hicky) is my namesake. My great grandfather is Henry Waller Fowler, his Bowie knife is in the Alamo. Now I’ve bragged enough. I just wanted to tell you I enjoyed the article.

Thanks ,


Thanks for the note, Anne.  I’ve corrected my misspelling of Hicky.  For the whole Kilpatrick Family Ties series, see here.

Burnham’s Report

23 08 2009

You won’t find Colonel George S. Burnham’s name listed as commander of the 1st Connecticut Volunteers on most First Bull Run orders of battle: not R. M. Johnston’s, not John Hennessy’s, not Ed Bearss’, not Joanna McDonald’s, not even online OOBs like the NPS and Wikipedia.  I suspect the reasons behind these works listing Lt. Col. John Speidel at the head of the regiment that day are the result of two factors: the lack of an official report for the regiment; and the failure of Col. E. M. Keyes to name Burnham in his report, which recognizes the other regimental commanders in Keyes’s brigade and mentions Speidel, though not as commanding the 1st CT.  But Burnham wrote this history of the regiment’s brief existence for the Connecticut Adjutant General, and NPS Ranger Jim Burgess pointed me to a couple of contemporary newspaper articles which state that Burnham was on the field with the regiment during the battle:

It is a fact that our Connecticut troops stormed a battery before which the regulars had previously been repulsed.  The Third Regiment suffered most severely.  The enemy fought chiefly from behind masked batteries, and when one was taken they had another concealed which commanded it.  Three, however, were taken by great bravery in succession.  Col. Burnham, of the Connecticut First, distinguished himself for his coolness and courage. – “Return Home of the First Regiment”, Hartford, The Daily Courant, July 27, 1861

We kept on fighting, Gen. Tyler assuring us we had won the day.  He acted Bravely; so did Col. Keyes and Col. Spiedel; Col. Burnham stood by his regiment.– “Capt. Fitzgibbon’s Statement”, Hartford, The Daily Courant, July 29, 1861

This was enough for me to show Burnham as in command of the regiment on my order of battle for McDowell’s army.  A few weeks ago, I happened upon a website maintained by paleontologist William Parker, which I described in this post.  An exchange of emails with Mr. Parker, a descendant of a member of the 1st CT, informed me of the existence of an after action report written within days of the battle by Col. Burnham.  The report, Mr. Parker informed me, resides at the Connecticut State Library in Hartford.  It just so happens that, at the time I learned this, Facebook friend and Bull Runnings reader Dr. Lesley Gordon was in Hartford at the State Library doing research on her upcoming book on the 16th CT.  While I didn’t get in touch with her in time for her to copy the document, Dr. Gordon did put me in contact with Mel Smith, a librarian with the History and Genealogy Unit at the Library.  About two weeks later, at a cost of $5.22, I received a photocopy of the handwritten Official Report of Colonel George S. Burnham of the Battle of Bull Run, dated July 24, 1861, which I transcribed and posted here.  I inserted a few words or interpreted words of questionable legibility in brackets, and made a few paragraph breaks, but otherwise the report was transcribed as written.

I think in the absence of any positive evidence to the contrary, we have to accept that Col. George S. Burnham was indeed in command of the 1st CT Volunteers on July 21, 1861.  Thanks to Jim Burgess, William Parker, Lesley Gordon and Mel Smith for all your help.

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#18b – Col. George S. Burnham

21 08 2009

Unpublished Report

Report of Colonel George L. Burnham, First Connecticut Volunteers

Photocopy from Connecticut State Library in Site Owner’s Collection (*)

Fort Corcoran near Washington, DC

July 24th, 1861

Sir, I have the honor to report that we started from our Bivouac at Centreville at 2 O’Clock on the morning of the 21st of July, keeping the Warrentown Turnpike for about four miles, my regiment leading the Brigade.  There the Brigade was ordered to file off the road into the fields to allow troops to pass, the Brigade being held in reserve that day. After waiting some three hours, we filed again into the road.  Proceeding some two miles we again halted for a short time.  We then were ordered to advance.  Emerging from the woods through which we passed we were opened upon with a very heavy fire of shells from some two or three of the enemies batteries.  The troops dropping at the flash of the guns, most of the shells went over us, but few doing any serious damage.  Advancing at the double quick obliquely to [the] right of the road, we passed the building afterwards used as a hospital.  I met Gen. McDowell [and] was ordered by him to march by the left flank (we then were marching by the right.)  Passing through a narrow strip of woods we came in full view of the enemy, upon whom we immediately opened fire, and as well as I could judge, with considerable effect.  We then were ordered to march by the Left Flank, following the Connecticut 2d.  Being very hotly attacked by the enemies fire we kept well under the hill which protected our men to a great degree.  We were ordered to charge on one of the batteries but it was countermanded by yourself as [it] was evident that it would be a perfect annihilation of our men.  We then made attacks on the enemy whenever a favorable opportunity presented itself. 

About 4 O’Clock we had orders to change our position marching by the right flank, the Conn. 2d filing past.  Proceeding to the Hospital we learnt of the rout of our Army.  My regiment kept in most excellent good order, although hotly pressed by the enemies fire.  Reaching the woods we soon after met the enemies Cavalry in full charge, but my regiment standing its ground and one of our guns opening fire on them, they soon left us.  Coming up soon after with the N. Y. 2d under command of the Lieut. Colonel (the Colonel being absent) who placed his regiment with my own under my command, but had gone but a short distance when seeing Gen. Schenck the commander of their Brigade I placed myself and regiment under his command for a short time.

Reaching Cub Run I vainly tried to rescue the Parrot gun which was mired [by the] side of the road.  Fording the stream the staff of our color State Color was shot in two, but our colors on that day were not dishonored, but were brought off the field.

We then came up to Col. Miles Brigade which were held as reserve, and most nobly did he do his duty.  His presence with his Brigade held in most admirable order revived the [drooping?] spirits of the tired and retreating soldiers who immediately took fresh courage.  And the enemies Cavalry which up to this time and had pressed most earnestly and severely on our troops concluded it was time for them to retire, which they did much to our satisfaction.  We then marched into our old Bivouac Grounds in Centreville in as good order as when we first reached them the day Thursday before. 

Consoling ourselves that we were the first Regiment in the field, of the Brigade, and the last (as far as I could see) of all out of it our loss being eight wounded and nine missing.  And allow me to say that the Troops could not have behaved better, faithfully obeying every order and were [easily?] handled, my adjutant being my assistant. 

Resting awhile at Centreville we were ordered back to camp at Falls Church which place we reached after daybreak the 22d.  Striking our tents according to orders we remained all day in a most drenching rain, which occasioned very much suffering among the men on account of the very fatiguing duties of the day before and the wanting of rest.  At dark marching down with the two other Conn. Regiments we took possession of the two Ohio camps (1st & 2d) where with the Conn. 3d we rested for the night.  Next morning we struck the tents and with all the Camp Equipage &c we sent to Alexandria, the Conn. 2d doing the same thing for the N.Y. 2d.  The Three Regiments then marched to Fort Corcoran arriving at about sundown, well worn out.

My men, through this severe trial, seemed to vie with each other to find the least complaint of their sufferings, excepting, of course, those who basely deserted their colors or refused to go into the field on that eventful day, those complaining the most that suffered the least.

I hope I may be excused if there is any discrepancy in the report as I have been suffering with a most painful attack of neuraligy and with which I now suffer with redoubled force owing to my recent exposure.

I have the honor to be your most obdt servant

Geo. S. Burnham

Col. 1st Regt Conn. Vol.

To Col. E. D. Keyes

Commanding First Brigade

(*) All but last two paragraph breaks not in original.  [ ] are edited into text.

Cool Find

20 08 2009

ArthurIn today’s snail-mail I received an after action report that is not in The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies or any other printed collection, as far as I know; and has not been used in any history of the battle, as far as I know.  I have to transcribe it, since what I received is a photocopy of the handwritten report.  First I’ll post a short article on how I came by this document (a couple of people to thank for that), then I’ll post the report to the Resources.  Readers are what make a project like this work, and I couldn’t do it without you guys.

Charles D. Lyon and a Call for Stuff

19 08 2009

There’s a new biographical sketch of Lt. Charles D. Lyon of the 3rd Michigan Infantry up at Men of the Third Michigan Infantry.  The sketch includes an excerpt letter that the site owner attributes to Lyon, reprinted in the Grand Rapids Enquirer in July, 1861, describing the action at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18.  Check it out.  If anyone has the article and would like to share it for inclusion in the Resources here, let me know.  In fact, if you have any newspaper articles, letters, diaries or memoirs you’d like to contribute to the Resources, by all means drop me a line!

JCCW – Dr. Ira Tripp

19 08 2009

Testimony of Dr. Ira Tripp

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 226-228

WASHINGTON, February 26, 1862.

Dr. IRA TRIPP sworn and examined.

By Mr. Covode:

Question. What has been your connexion with the army?

Answer. My position was hospital steward.

Question. In the three months’ service?

Answer. Yes, sir; under General Patterson, in the 8th Pennsylvania regiment. I was taken prisoner on the 2d of July, near Falling Waters.

Question. Well, go on and state about that.

Answer. We were captured near Falling Waters on the second day of July, and taken to Martinsburg that day. There our horses were taken away from us.

Question. By whom?

Answer. By a rebel captain; I forget his name now. That evening we were taken about three miles beyond Martinsburg, and encamped there during the night.

Question. What force had the enemy at that time?

Answer. As near as we could judge, Johnston had about 5,000 men at that time. We were with them but one day there. The next day we were taken to Winchester, where they had about 2,000 more troops, as near as we could ascertain, making their entire force at that time about 7,000.

Question. What day were you taken to Winchester?

Answer. The 4th of July.

Question. What was done with you there?

Answer. We were kept in jail there two weeks.

Question. How many of you were there?

Answer. I think there were 45. During that time the enemy received re-enforcements of men, varying from perhaps a regiment down to a company, coming into Winchester at different times during the two weeks we were there. As near as we could calculate, their re-enforcements might amount in all to 5,000 or 6,000 men.

Question. Do you know from what direction these re-enforcements came?

Answer. I should judge, from the way they came into Winchester, that they were from Strasburg and in that direction.

Question. They did not come from Manassas?

Answer. No, sir; I do not think any of them came from Manassas.

Question. What was the condition of their fortifications at Winchester at the time you went there?

Answer. They were very light. They fortified a little, not a great deal, during the time we were there. After we had been there about a week, some of our men were taken out to the fortifications and made to work to try to mount a gun, as they told us when they came back. That was the only gun they saw; they saw some little intrenchments on each side of the road, not to exceed twenty rods altogether.

Question. Rifle-pits?

Answer. No, sir; not rifle-pits. They had some empty barrels there and a trench thrown up. There was no fortification of any strength at that time.

Question. You only knew of one gun there?

Answer. That was all at that time—one large gun; they had some seven or eight pieces of light artillery that we saw. They got a few after that—some four or five that we saw come in. They never had at the outside over 13,000 men at Winchester, I think, before the battle of Bull Run.

Question. Would there, in your judgment, have been any difficulty in Patterson’s taking Winchester?

Answer. No, sir; not at all. I do not think there would have been any trouble in his doing it.

Question. Did they appear to expect an attack from Patterson?

Answer. Yes, sir; daily.

Question. What do you know of any preparation to leave in case of an attack?

Answer. We hardly knew of any preparation they had to leave. They expected an attack. We had that from the jailer there and from the officers themselves. A great many of them left the day we did. I have no doubt that they expected that Patterson would come on and take Winchester after their troops left. I judge so from seeing so many going away the day we did; we saw their carriages, &c., on the road to Strasburg.

Question. What day did their army leave?

Answer. On the 18th of July.

Question. What number left?

Answer. As near as we could calculate, about 10,000 men in all left for Manassas.

Question. That would leave how many at Winchester?

Answer. Perhaps 2,000.

Question. Did they all leave at one time?

Answer. They left during the night of the 17th and the morning of the 18th, as near as we could get at it. We left on the 18th.

Question. By what route did they go to Manassas?

Answer. I do not know the route. I am not acquainted with that country. We got to Manassas in the morning on the 19th, about nine o’clock, I should judge.

Question. What time did you leave Winchester?

Answer. At noon of the 18th, in a great hurry.

Question. By what route did you go?

Answer. We went to Strasburg, about eighteen miles from Winchester, and there we took the cars to Manassas.

Question. What did you see of these troops after you left Winchester?

Answer. We saw some of the cavalry at Manassas on the 19th, and saw General Johnston himself there. We knew three of the cavalry, because they were of those who captured us.

Question. How long did you remain at Manassas?

Answer. From nine in the morning until nine or ten o’clock at night.

Question. Do you know whether these troops came into Manassas before you left?

Answer. Only a portion of them. All I know of their being there was seeing a portion of the cavalry and General Johnston himself. There were large re-enforcements coming in that day from the direction of Richmond. That is what I suppose kept us there; we could not get away because the track was occupied by these troops coming in. I should judge that that day and the day following there were 15,000 of re-enforcements from between Manassas and Richmond, coming in from the south on different roads. We had to guess at it, but that is about as near as we could get at it. Heavy trains were coming in constantly all the day long.

Question. Did you, on your way to Winchester, see any strong fortifications anywhere, after you were captured?

Answer. No, sir; we did not see any anywhere. There were no strong fortifications made after that I am certain. I do not think they ever expected to stand a battle at all against Patterson.

Question. Did you, while at Winchester, look for Patterson to come there?

Answer. We looked for him every day. We just as much expected he would come as we were living. We expected to be taken out by our own men or hurried off by the rebels.

Question. Our force was double theirs?

Answer. Yes, sir; nearly so. I calculated that Johnston had not more than 12,000 at the outside. And knowing the difference between the strength of the two armies, we constantly expected Patterson would take the place.

Question. What was the character of the re-enforcements that came into Winchester? Were they well armed and equipped?

Answer. All had arms; not very good arms. They looked like old muskets. Some came in in the night, and we could not tell what they had. Some of them were not very well uniformed, such as we saw. Some had citizens’ clothes on— no uniform at all. They looked like they had just been gathered up right out of the fields, with no uniform at all. There was in the jail yard a big pile of stone that had been pounded up for pavement, and getting on that pile we could see their encampment, and all over the country there.

Question. Did you see any fortifications at Winchester, except the small one at the terminus of the railroad from Charlestown?

Answer. That is all that we saw.

JCCW – C & O Canal Superintendent A. K. Stake

17 08 2009

Testimony of A. K. Stake

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 225-226

WASHINGTON, February 24, 1862.

A. K. STAKE sworn and examined.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Where do you reside, and what is your present occupation?

Answer. I reside in Williamsport. I am officially connected with the Chesapeake and Ohio canal—as general superintendent of the canal.

Question. Have you any knowledge of the force under Johnston at the time when Patterson was at Martinsburg?

Answer. None except from intercourse with Virginians whom I knew to be refugees. They corroborated all that Mr. Spates has said about it. I know that it was the impression throughout the community, and in the army, that there was not more than 10,000 men under Johnston; and there is this additional fact, ascertained since from perfectly reliable gentlemen, that there never was at any time, in Winchester, as many as 14,000 men, and of these there were, perhaps, 4,000 or 5,000 militia. The gentleman from whom I received this information is perfectly reliable. He is a southern man, and says there was not at any time as many as 14,000 men at Winchester, and of these there were from 3,000 to 5,000 militia, badly armed and equipped. I am not aware what information General Patterson may have had; but I should think he could have had the same information in regard to that matter that outsiders had.

Question. It was obtainable—current information?

Answer. Yes, sir. There was a party about him—McMullin’s men, “scouts,” as they were called ; they were so constantly about him that very few persons could approach him with matters of that kind. I could sometimes get to his headquarters about other matters, but not upon subjects of that kind. General Patterson told Mr. Spates and myself afterwards, at Harper’s Ferry, that he had positive information that Johnston had 42,000 men at Winchester. Of course, we believed as much of that as we pleased.

Question. Were you at Martinsburg when Patterson moved his force to Bunker Hill?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Do you know the feeling of the troops at that time?

Answer. When he moved from Martinsburg to Bunker Hill the supposition was that he was going out to attack Johnston, and the troops were in fine spirits about it. They had laid there at Martinsburg four or five days, and were tired of that, and were anxious to meet the enemy, and when they turned off towards Charlestown they became very much dissatisfied; but the officers allayed a great deal of that feeling by asserting that they were going down to Wizard’s Cliff, (a place on the road between Charlestown and Winchester,) from which they were to approach Winchester, so as to avoid the masked batteries that would be in their way if they went direct from Bunker Hill. But when they came to Wizard’s Cliff and passed on towards Charlestown there was a great deal of dissatisfaction; and at Charlestown, as I learned afterwards—I did not go there myself—was the first distinct refusal on the part of the three months’ men to follow General Patterson any longer. They declared that they had no disposition to be bamboozled any longer in that way, and as their time was up they would go home, unless he was disposed to go out and attack the enemy. He rode up before two regiments at Charlestown and announced to them that their time was up, and he had no further claim upon them; but he desired them to remain with him, as he hoped to meet the enemy in the field. My opinion is that there was not a word of dissent at that time; but when they retreated still further, to Harper’s Ferry, they became still more dissatisfied, and determined to go home. I had this from those who had official positions about him at that time. I heard General Cadwalader say, at Martinsburg, that the enemy had from 25,000 to 30,000 men. I do not know where he got his information, for there was no man outside of headquarters that estimated Johnston’s force at over 10,000 or 15,000 men.