Col. McRae’s Regiment at Manassas.
We regret very much that a sprained ankle kept our friend McRae from the field at Manassas, for we know he would have been willing to risk his life a thousand times to have participated in that day’s work. But the Regiment was there and did noble work as will be seen from the following account.
The Fifth Infantry, North Carolina State Troops, forms a part of Brigadier General Longstreet’s command, and although crippled in its efficiency by the sickness of two of its field officers, nobly performed its part in the battle at Manassas, on the right wing, under the gallant lead of its Lieutenant Colonel, who was in sole command during the entire engagement.
Early in the morning the cannonading commenced from two batteries on the right flank of the position occupied by this regiment, supported by a full brigade of the enemy. Col. Jones, determined to ascertain the position of their batteries and the force of the enemy, detailed a small reconoitering force under the command of the Rev. James Sinclair, Chaplain of the Regiment, who had volunteered his services for the day. – This force crossed the Run, and attempted to penetrate the wood on the left of the enemy’s position, but was recalled in order to charge the batteries up the ravine on the right, the scouts having brought in the necessary information. – The Virginia Seventeenth was at the same time ordered to support the North Carolina fifth, which duty it gallantly discharged. General Longstreet, with characteristic valor, undertook now a movement which if the orders were understood generally, would have carried the day with a still greater lustre, if not a more complete victory.
Col. Jones was ordered to send four companies up the hill as skirmishers, and to draw the fire of the batteries, while Brigadier General Jones from our right was to flank the enemy on his left. The reserve companies of the 5th, supported by the 17th Virginia, was to attack the right. The skirmishers of the North Carolina 5th, headed by the Chaplain, charged up the hill, in the face of a storm of grape and canister which killed two and wounded five of his men. On the summit of that hill these man lay for two hours, receiving the enemy’s fire without flinching, while on every side the hoary monarches of the forest were being mown down like grass before the mower’s scythe. The brave commander himself seemed to be ubiquitous here, there and everywhere exposing himself in the hottest of the fire. It is hard for men to remain still and receive the fire of the enemy, without being permitted to return it; and this precisely was the condition of the North Carolina 5th on the 21st inst. Long and eagerly did those brave men watch for the signal of the attack upon the right, in order to advance and give the Northern hounds a tuch of the Southern steel.
After remaining on the hill for two hours, and losing in killed and wounded seven men, this gody received orders to retire to the ravine, which was done in good order.
But the tide of battle again rolled down the hill, and once more four companies of the 5th N. S. State troops were ordered to occupy the summit, and await orders to advance with the bayonet on the battery on the right of the enemy’s position. This was accomplished without any loss to the North Carolinians and although they were not privileged to advance upon the battery, we think the North Carolina Fifth Infantry has given good earnest that at no distant day she will carve for herself a name in the military annals of the Southern Confederacy. Had Col. Jones the other field officers of the Regiment with him, there would have probably been another bright spot in the glories of the 21st of July, 1861. But Bravely did he perform his duty, though his Lieutenant Colonel was a preacher, taking his first lesson in the art of war, and imparting the same to the enemy in the most impressive manner possible.
Gen. Longstreet, in token of his appreciation of Mr. Sinclair’s services on the occasion, presented him with one of the sabres captured from the enemy, and expressed his desire that he should go on his staff.
[New Bern, NC] Weekly Progress, 8/6/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy