Unknown, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (2)

2 09 2011

The Manassas Battle

A young member of the Hampton Legion sends the following interesting letter in reference to the Manassas battle:

Camp neat Manassas, July 30, 1861

Dear Mother, – I have not as yet given you a sketch of the battle, and really I feel unequal to the task. At any rate I will give you my personal experience. About 10 o’clock, Friday, a dispatch came that the Legion must leave for Manassas that evening. We struck tents at 3 o’clock and by 10 were on our way for the Junction. After a tedious journey in box cars we arrived at daylight Sunday morning. We found orders awaiting us to eat breakfast and proceed to the battle ground. I, assisted by one who has since died of his wounds (Middleton), ground the coffee. We eat a hasty meal. loaded our pieces, and started for the battle field. After a march of seven miles we reached the place where the bloody scene was to be enacted. It was then about the time of morning service, and it occurred to me that while we were about to  engage in the conflict prayers were ascending in our behalf. Soon we were addressed by our Colonel as follows: “Men of the Legion, I am happy to inform you that the enemy are in sight.” He then exhorted us to strike boldly, to remember the cause in which we were fighting, to stand up for South Carolina. We were then marched to the top of a hill and ordered to lie on our faces, so as not to attract the notice of the enemy, as they were too far off for our muskets to reach them. By the imprudence of some, who stood up, we attracted their attention and soon a shower of balls fell among us, and the shells burst within a few feet of some of us – the balls from the rifled cannon hissing like serpents. We left this position, and now comes the part we took in this fight. The Legion was formed in a narrow lane. In front of us could be seen, in large columns, the enemy advancing. Dropping on our knees in a gully we awaited their attack. Soon we were met by a tremendous volley of musketry and artillery, whose effect was terrible. It was by this volley our brave Lieutenant Colonel was killed – Col. Johnson was brave to a fault. Immediately to my left was poor Phelps; a ball passed clean through him, striking me in the leg, but it had performed its mission and only gave me slight pain. I turned to Phelps, thinking he might have a parting word to deliver, but he was dead, without a groan he had passed away. A bullet passed very near, grazing my temple and causing the blood to flow. In every direction could be heard the groans of the wounded. We in our turn poured a volley into the enemy. At this time I made up my mind for the worst; the sickening feeling which at first came over me when beholding the wounded wore away; I saw we had a terrible struggle and could have met death calmly. We struggled with a greatly superior force all day, sometimes sorely pressed. We were opposed to ten thousand men. After a hard fight all day seven thousand troops came to our rescue under Beauregard, and we routed the enemy. It is almost impossible for you to conceive what a terrible sight it was. The battle field next day was covered with the dead of the enemy who lay in hundreds. I do not know how I escaped. A feel very thankful.

I mentioned in my last that we were going to move camp. We started on Saturday and marched eight miles from the Junction to a pleasant camp. We are about four miles from Manassas. I felt very tired, but was obliged to go on guard.

Charleston Courier  8/8/1861

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