Battle Field of Bull Run,
Monday Morning, July 22, 1861.
We have met the enemy and gained a tremendous and glorious victory. South Carolinians have the most important part in the fight and ours (Colonel Kershaw’s Regiment, Colonel Cash’s Regiment, and Kemper’s Artillery), have the honor of having turned the issue of the fight and first sent the enemy flying before us. There force is not known, but almost their whole army must have been engaged in the fight; ours amounted to about 15,000. On account of the inequality of our forces, those first engaged on our side suffered very severely. Hampton’s Legion was almost cut to pieces. Hampton is wounded, and poor Colonel Johnson was shot dead while leading the Legion to the charge. His death has caused universal sorrow and grief through all the army, for he proved himself a gallant and excellent officer in the short time that life was spared to him on the field. He was killed at the commencement of the battle, by a rifle ball passing entirely through his head. I have not been able to see after him at all, but Henry saw his body taken from the field and attended it in the Hospital.
Col. Bartow, of Savannah, was killed, and has been sent home. The Savannah companies suffered terribly. The Washington Light Infantry went into the fight 110 strong, and joined us, when we advanced, with but 15 – they having been separated from the Legion. All of the missing are not, of course, dead or wounded, but I am afraid many are. None of the officers were injured. Sloan’s South Carolina Regiment was severely injured, but I know no particulars about it. And now for the fight, and their defeat and loss.
Early yesterday morning (Sunday 21st), a heavy cannonading was commenced simultaneously on the centre and left of our line of defence – we being stationed near the centre, a little to the left. This continued for about an hour, when a heavy discharge of musketry commenced on the left, about three miles from us, which actually raged for about three hours. At the end of this time our regiment was ordered to proceed to the same action. We immediately advanced, with Kemper’s (Alexandria) Artillery, which is attached to our regiment and Cash’s regiment. After marching about four miles, we formed in line of battle in the rear of the field of battle, with rifled shells bursting over and around us every minute. The scene at this time was calcuted to appal the oldest veteran, and we were untried and inexperienced volunteers. The dead and wounded were carried by us to the rear in a continuous stream, and squads of the Confederate men were retreating from every portion of the field. The fire in our front kept steadily closing in towards us. We were told that the day was lost; that the South Carolina troops were cut to pieces and ginned out, and the enemy were advancing in vast columns. Yet we firmly advanced through the woods, and soon became engaged in a fierce fight with the New York Fire Zouaves, who stood their ground for a short time, but broke finally and retreated across an open field. We followed them up, and the prospect before us when we reached the open field was indeed hopeless. Not a friend could be seen, and the enemy was drawn up in line after line for a mile in front of us. We kept advancing, pouring in volley after volley upon those nearest us. Kemper’s battery was delayed for half an hour, but finally came up with us and sent in round after round of shell and grape. Col. Cash, at the same time, advanced on our left, and several other regiments on his left. The defeat commenced by us was followed up by them, and soon the Yankees were flying from all parts of the field. Although but a small force, compared with theirs, we followed them up – our Regiment (Kershaw’s) in the advance. their retreat soon became a perfect rout. Infantry, cavalry and artillery joined in the pursuit of the perfect cloud of dust before them. The scene along the road was awful. The dying and dead scattered in every direction. Cannon, baggage wagons, arms, accoutrements of every kind and equipments of every description, were lying in the road and through the woods. We kept on in the pursuit for three miles, until all that we could find of the enemy were completely routed, when, by order of Beauregard, we returned to the battle field, where we are now. We took thirty pieces of splendid artillery – some say forty. The small arms can’t, as yet, be counted – they say we have captured about ten thousand. Blankets, oil cloths, knapsacks, haversacks, &c., I assure you, literally cover the ground. Where the enemy now are, we don’t know. If our whole force is to pursue them, it will be done immediately, as Davis is here – he, Beauregard and Johnston having all been in the field yesterday. About their killed and wounded we can tell nothing; they are scattered everywhere. The cavalry who have began to show themselves are continually bringing prisoners in. McDowell is reported to be wounded. Corcoran and Meagher are killed, they say. The fight for hours was terrible, but the rout was still more so.
I do not know what the loss in our regiment is, but it is very small. In my company only four or five are wounded; none known to be killed as yet. We have gained a victory which will no doubt considerably improve us in the eyes of the world.
Our regiment has had a hard time, not having slept under cover for five nights, and raining all the time.
Charleston Mercury, 8/1/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy