Leonard Belding, Co. K, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle

4 10 2011

Letter From The Battle-Field

The following is a copy of an interesting letter from a Worcester county boy, who was in the fight at Bull Run.

Washington, D. C., Camp Clark,

 July 2[?], 1861.

Dear Father and Mother: – I take this, the earliest opportunity to let you know that I am in the land of the living, and enjoying good health. Probably you have heard of the “Grand Ball” which we had a Bull Run, and of our laying out about two thousand of the rebels. I will tell you some of the particulars of the battle. Last Sunday morning, the 21st of July, we were ordered to march, and at three o’clock A. M. were on the road, and marched twelve miles without anything to eat. Our regiment, the second Rhode Island, was the advance guard, and was thrown into the field against eighty thousand rebels, whom we fought for forty five minutes without any other of the regiments coming to our relief, during which time, our regiment drove back upward of ten thousand of the rebels three times, killing about six hundred of them, and they killed some one or two hundred of us. Every man of our regiment fought like bull-dogs, the bullets flying about our heads in a perfect hail-storm. Three of my most intimate friends were shot down by my side, one of them having his head shot from his body, and another had his leg taken entirely off, the blood flying in my face. I felt so badly that I almost fainted, but I rallied immediately, and clenching my teeth, went in, and every shot that I fired I made it tell, as I can assure you that I saw five of the rebels fall dead, and I thought the death of my friends avenged. I had several bullet holes in my clothes, and thought some of the time that I should never see home again. I went down with other of our men into the woods where the rebels had been, the blood in many places being over the soles of our shoes, and the dead rebels lying three deep in some places. While I was in the swamp I came across a wounded Alabamian, who begged me not to kill him, and asked me to give him some water. He said we had cut his regiment all to pieces, and that he was pressed onto the southern army, and that many others were, also. We were probably led on to the field by a traitor, who is now in jail, and who ought to be shot, as he certainly will be if he falls into the hands of the New York Fire Zouaves. If we had had ten thousand more men, we should have whipped them high and dry. All we wish for now is, that we may have another sight at them, and we will whip them just as sure as I am a “greasy mechanic.” You will probably have heard all the particulars of the battle, and the cause of our retreat, before you receive this, so I will bring my letter to a close by bidding you all good-bye for the present, and by saying that all of us are as firm and determined as ever, and only awaiting another brush with the enemy, when we will rub him out completely. Give my love to all the boys and tell them the Rhode Island troops did their duty nobly.

From your affectionate son,
Leonard C. Belding,
Co. K, 2d R. I. Vol.

Worcester Daily Spy 8/2/1861

Clipping Image

Chaplain Thorndike Jameson, “Tockwotton”, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle’s Toll

4 10 2011

Letters From The Second Rhode Island Regiment:

Camp Clark,  July 23, 1861.

To the Editors of the Evening Press: – Dear Sir: Among the vast crowd of facts and thoughts I hardly know that will be of the greatest relief to your readers. The Regiment is now mostly together again, and getting quietly settled in their quarters. Rations, blankets, &c., have been served out, and every possible thing will be done at once to make the men comfortable. New and spacious quarters are provided, where the wounded will at once be placed and carefully attended to .

The roll of the companies has just been called and the result is as follows: 28 killed, 56 wounded, and 30 missing. Total 115. This is even more favorable than I feared when I wrote last evening, and we trust that the missing ones will all return to us and that nearly if not all the wounded ones will recover.

Among the lost I include Col. Slocum, Major Ballou, and Captains Tower, and Smith. Of Col. Slocum I have spoken already. The whole camp mourns for him. His absence fills all with gloom, and has made the whole day seem to us like a funeral ceremony. ‘Tis not the loss of a skillful officer alone, that many of us mourn, but a warm-hearted and faithful personal friend whose place we see no means of filling. Major Ballou, also, showed himself among the bravest of the brave. He was constantly in the thickest of the fight, cheering the men by his voice and by his example, to yet greater valor. Even after he fell, he continued to shout to the men to press onward. He was as we know, a gentleman of most amiable character and high culture, and has now crowned his distinguished life, by a heroic fall, He was yet alive when the army retreated, but no hope was entertained by Dr. Wheaton that he would survive. Captain Tower, fell early in the battle, while boldly leading his men to the charge. He merely requested to be turned over, and died without a struggle. Captain Smith, after having led his company bravely through the strife, and performed all the duties of a gallant officer, was instantly killed by a ball from the masked battery which fired upon us on our retreat. To see him and others, thus literally mowed down in their defenceless condition, and to witness the crashing together of guns, wagons, carriages, horses and property of all sorts, into masses of hopeless confusion and ruin, was to me the most terrible part of the whole affair

The standard bearer of the regiment, John M. Durfee, who escaped unhurt, is deserving of special mention and praise. Though the balls were showering upon him like hailstones, and though the colors which the ladies presented to us was completely riddled by them, he not only bore it proudly aloft in the face of the foe, but waved it fearlessly far in advance and called constantly for the men to follow and defend it. An officer of another regiment shouted to me in his admiration – “That fellow alone is worth a thousand men!” Doubtless the steadiness of the men and the entire success of this part of the conflict are very much to be attributed to his bearing. It is no small part of the credit of the well disciplined and bravely led company of Capt. Viall that they furnished to us such a standard bearer.

But time and space would fail me to go into particulars. You may rest assured that the reputation of the State has been well sustained and that the high praise which is bestowed upon the 2d regiment has been richly earned. Had the decided advantage gained by them been followed up by others with half their promptness and valor, our defeat would have turned out a glorious victory. I am surprised to notice with what intelligence the men now discuss the incidents and the management of the combat. Also, with the vigor they are now recommending the work of preparation for renewed conflict. Do not imagine that there is the least discouragement here. We have only sowed the dragon’s teeth, and armed hosts are springing up like magic. The returned regiments with often all but trifling losses will soon be reorganized. A vastly larger army is already gathering about us, and when, with more experience, able general officers and in better discipline, it shall again take the offensive, woe to them upon whom shall fall its pent up vengeance.

I will only add that our men are rapidly regaining their strength and cheerfulness. The wounded (including Freeman) are doing well, and let our friends and all who mourn remember that their loved ones have fallen nobly and in the cause of freedom. In this and in the grace of God may they find consolation.

Yours, &c.,

Providence Evening Press 7/26/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

Author identification courtesy of reader Rob Grandchamp