Interesting Letter from Dr. P. W. Ellsworth –
Tribute to the Connecticut Troops.
We have had the pleasure of seeing a letter written by Dr. P. W. Ellsworth, surgeon of the Connecticut Brigade, in which he gives a particular account of the battle of Bull’s Run; also of that on the following Sabbath, at both of which he was present. He says the Connecticut troops receive the highest praise from their commanders. Gen. Tyler gives them unqualified commendation, and Col. Keyes, who acted a Brigadier General, declares that he never saw such a storm of bullets as the enemy poured upon us, and never saw veteran troops stand the shock of battle so bravely.
“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 with commanded it. Three, however, were taken by great bravery in succession. Col. Burnham, of the Connecticut First, distinguished himself for his coolness and courage.
“The victory would have been on our side had not Johnston come up with his twenty thousand fresh troops, although the enemy had eighty thousand on the ground, and we not more than half that number.
“A Georgian colonel, taken prisoner, says that our artillery they could stand, ‘but our musketry was irresistible, it swept all before it.’ One crack company of Georgians lost every man but three, and the destruction on the side of the rebels is enormous.
“He says that in an open fight it is certain that Southerners are no match for our men.
“The view of the battle was grand, beyond description. The volume of smoke was not so great as I had expected, but the roar of artillery, and not less than one hundred and twenty thousand muskets, was terrific. The deep-toned roar of a huge thirty-two pounder, rifled gun, in our army could be distinguished above all. Every moment bomb shells burst in the air, scattering death, and rifled cannon also were pouring out their shells with great destruction on both sides.
“The battle raged thus from six A. M. till four P. M., with scarcely a moment’s cessation, excepting when our men were carrying the rebel batteries at the point of the bayonet. When the enemy saw our bayonets coming, they whipped off with their artillery and were ready again, so that it was hard work to get them.
“Our men labored under every disadvantage, from fatigue, hunger, and worst of all, from thirst – not a little, also, from the want of cavalry, to which the enemy were greatly indebted for their success: though their location and deliberate preparation, with their masked batteries, gave them a decided advantage. The federal troops declare that the rebels carried a flag staff having on one end a secession banner and on the other our own, and they showed either as suited their purpose. Their uniforms being very similar to our own, they often came close to our men in this treacherous way, preventing our fire until they had given their own.
“No provision for retreat had been made on our side; no one imagined the possibility of such an event. Consequently our troops were confused and subjected to the greatest privation and exposure.
He says, “I saw no one running, though they moved rapidly. Our Connecticut battalion retreated in the best order of all. No nobler men live than our Connecticut brigade, and I’ll not exclude the soldiers who fought with them. I am filled with admiration when I look upon them. Their country can never discharge the debt it owes them.
“The Southern troops are well fed, but where or how they obtain their provisions, I know not. What was found proved a good commissariat, and greater variety than we have had, thought they did not appear to be well supplied with tents.”
Hartford Daily Courant, 7/27/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy