Pvt. Henry Harrison Comer*, Co. A, 1st Ohio Infantry, On the Battle

11 01 2018

For the Lancaster Gazette

Our Army Correspondence.

Washington City, D.C.

July 24, 1861

Messrs. Editors: – Since writing to you last, stirring scenes and startling events have transpired. Leaving Camp Upton at 2 p.m. on Friday July 15, with bright hopes of a speedy reunion with friends and relatives, we joined regiment after regiment, brigade after brigade, division after division until the Grand Army of Occupation, filed in ranks of four numbering 50,000 men, were marching toward Manassas Junction, the bands playing national airs, banners floating in the breeze, voices singing Union anthems, and myriad bayonets gleaming in the sun. High and sanguine hopes were entertained that the horde of political blacklegs, bankrupt politicians, refugees from foreign climes and crimes, murderers, thieves pick pockets and assassins who composed the Southern rebel army would be most effectually wiped out and the Stars and Stripes float in glory and beauty o’er Vienna Station, Germantown, Fairfax Court House, Manassas Gap and Junction, and at last have a crowning glory by waving in majesty and beauty on the Capitol at Richmond. The station at Vienna was taken possession of, our national emblem placed on the track where one month before the 1st Ohio was fired into be a masked battery of the enemy. Germantown, Fairfax and Centreville fell before the stern front and steady march of the army of freedom, until we brought up at the northern fork of Bull’s Run, on July 20. Here a masked battery within an entrenchment was stormed, but with ill success, and both sides got off with considerable loss. Sunday morning dark and early, 2 o’clock, our column, under the command of Gen. McDowell, marched to the since scene of conflict; Schenk’s Brigade, composed of the 1st and 2d Ohio and the 2d New York, was given the post of honor and were thrown out as advance skirmishers in order to detect and draw forth the enemy’s fire of the masked batteries. The enemy lay strongly entrenched in unseen trenches, under cover of the woods and in the long grass. The 1st Ohio made the opening charge of musketry, the 2d New York followed at a double quick, which brought forth the enemy’s fire and regiment of riflemen who were finely repelled by the 2d Ohio. Our brigade loss was comparatively small, considering the dangerous position assigned us, and as you have heard by the newspapers, telegraphic reports and rumors probably more than iIi know of the details, I leave the matter to the official report of our very worthy and efficient Brigadier who has, after a considerable lapse of time, and by keeping us boys over their time, avenged the slaughter of Vienna and gained a reputation for Ohio!

The battle of Bloody Run will never be effaced from the O.V.M.’s memory; the mounds of dead and dying, the heroic charges, the rivers of blood, the death-groans of comrades, the ghastly visage, the faintly articulated cry for water, the booms bursting, the cannon’s flash, the impetuous rush, the Grecian stolidity, the Roman courage, the army of enthusiastic, impetuous, devoted and courageous soldiers who rushed into the jaws of death and charged into the cannon’s mouth, will live vividly in their memories long after the rebels who caused the disaster and death, have expired their crimes by an ignominious death on earth, and a torturing life among the spirits of the damned!

The precipitate retreat, the hurried flight from the field of action, was owing to a misconstrued order, and it is estimated that 15,000 U.S. Troops were in close proximity who were not in the engagement at all. Up to 3 P.M., the battle was ours, when Johnston’s rebel reinforcements turned the tide and compelled a retreat, which, although not compulsory, was a necessity. We were ordered to retreat which we lost time in doing! and starting at the double quick came, a distance of over 30 miles, our muskets, canteens, blankets, haversacks, cartridge boxes, etc., still a component of our baggage. At Fort Corcoran, Arlington Heights, we were kept in a drenching rain for six mortal hours, while regiment after regiment moved past us to shelter, food, and repose. We are now here in Washington City, barracked at Union Block, corner of 6th and Pennsylvania Avenue, while your correspondent has taken rooms at the Avenue House, doffed his soldier clothes, donned clean toggery, and imagines himself once more a icitizen!i

The order has been given to march to camp at 10 o’clock to-day, at the end of 7th st., to attend to roll call, see who are killed, wounded and missing, and to make arrangements for getting home as soon as troops now in waiting for orders are marched to this city to fill our places.

L.M. Dayton and Myron H. Gregory are here, together with Gen. W.T. Sherman of our city, who was commandant of a brigade. Company A has lost none of its members, with, possibly, the exception of William Swygert, who was substituted in place of Kitty Linn as a Pioneer. – He has not yet reported himself at headquarters.

Yours, as ever,

Harry Comer.

The Lancaster [OH] Gazette, 8/1/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed and transcribed by Dan Masters

* Records found for Henry Comer and Harry Comer in 1st Ohio. ID of Henry Harrison Comer is per contributor.

Harrison Comer is listed as a private in Co. A. in the Official Roster of Ohio Troops in the War of the Rebellion found at Ancestry.com

Harrison Comer at Ancestry.com

Harrison Comer at Fold3 


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2 responses

14 01 2018
Brad

I’m seeing many references to trenches in recent postings. Were there trenches on Henry Hill, or were sunken farm lanes and natural swales taken as such? Seems to me the Confederates would have had little reason to entrench on Henry Hill before the 21st and little time to do once McDowell appeared on their flank. I don’t recall seeing any Confederate accounts that mention entrenching.

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14 01 2018
Harry Smeltzer

Brad, other than some rifle pit type entrenchments along the Bull Run line, and perhaps some more elaborate, prepared artillery positions, I’m not aware of anything we’d recognize today as infantry entrenchments. There were elaborate earthworks down around the junction. But we have to take into account the perspectives of the writers. Under fire, many otherwise benign topographical features could well present as entrenchments.

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