[From another Member of the Palmetto Guard.]
Culpeper C. H., July 23.
Dear Sister: I suppose you have heard of our retreat from Fairfax C. H. by this time. I will try and give you a description of our retreat and two battles we have fought lately. Soon Wednesday morning we heard our picket firing, and knew the enemy was approaching. We prepared to meet them, struck our tents, gathered up everything we had, and marched towards our batteries, and went two companies out as skirmishers. Our company was among the skirmishing party. We had not been out long before the order was given to retreat. The enemy were in bodies too large for us to contend with. Our object was to draw them on the Manassas Junction or Bull Run, where we had large forces. The retreat was a terrible one; the enemy having the largest force, was trying to [?] us, and cut us off from [?].But we were too smart [?]…..I was one of the [?] carry his body to the grave. We cut a lock of his hair off for his parents. We continued our march to Bull Run, the enemy pursuing us. We [?] Bull Run, manned our batteries, and awaited the enemy. They did not come until Thursday morning. The first intimation we had was from our scouts. Two cannon were immediately sent out to guard the road and to decoy them on to our battery. Our Company was sent out with them, to protect and cover the retreat, if necessary. We had not long to wait. We could not see the enemy, but the cannon balls came whistling over our heads like hail. Our cannon fired eight shots, and returned to our battery, our company remaining on the field until they wee safe, covering their retreat. The enemy did not come within rifle shot of us, so we did not get a chance to fire. When we found they would not, we retreated to our batteries with their cannon balls pelting after us. The enemy then retired to our right flank, trying to turn it. But they met men there ready to conquer or die. There was a terrible fight going on that side all the morning. We could hear the musketry and cannonading all day long. We heard a shout from our men. We had whipped them on that side. They were running, with our men charging at their heels. The fight then stopped on that side for some time. The order than came for the cannon on our side to go out into the field again. This time the Colonel went himself, with our company and four others. We thought we would get a shot now certainly, but we were doomed to disappointment. They came within range of our cannon.
Our cannon made such horrible havoc among them, that they retreated without injuring any of our men. One shot of our cannon made a perfect path through their ranks. We returned to our batteries on our right flank, where they were fighting in the morning. Only 52 of our men killed and wounded, and about 800 of the enemy.
The enemy retreated and kept at bay until Sunday. All Saturday night we were throwing up breastworks, and until Sunday morning 6 o’clock. Sunday, the cannon were heard a mile from us. The fight was going on for hours, a mile away from us. The enemy had retreated twice, and were eight miles from us (12 o’clock), when our Regiment was ordered into the field. Our men were anxious to ger into the fight. Col. Kershaw’s leg was badly hurt from a kick from a horse, and he was not expected to be there; but, regardless of his leg, when he saw us file out into the field, he mounted his horse and followed. On our way to the battle field, crowds of wounded men passed us – some of them most miserably cut up. As we came in hearing of the musketry, our Colonel leaped a fence on horseback, and took his place at our head. The men all cheered him. We had not far to go. We are on the battle field. The musket and cannon balls whistle through our ranks. The Colonel says, “My boys, remember Butler, Sumter, and your homes!” We charged upon the enemy. They run like sheep before us. I was the first man in the Regiment shot, and was taken off the field. I am now at a hospital with about 200 wounded and dying men. They are groaning all around me. But everything is comfortable here. There is plenty to eat, and kind ladies to nurse us. One of them wanted to write this letter for me – said I’d better not write – but I would.
Charleston Mercury, 8/1/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy