Capt. Henry Alanson Barnum, Co. I, 12th New York Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford (1)

15 09 2018

Letter from Capt. Barnum
———-

We have been shown a private letter from Capt. H. A. Barnum of Company I, Onondaga 12th Regiment, to his wife, hastily written immediately after the skirmish at Bull’s Run, from which we make a few extracts.

In Front of Manassas, Va.
July 19th, 1861.

We approached Manassas yesterday about noon, and soon our skirmishers returned and reported the enemy in front in large force. At once our battery opened upon the enemy to find their location. Our fire was answered by the rebels, who showed their position.

Our regiment was in advance and rested at the left of our battery. After ascertaining the position of the enemy, the 12th Mass. Regiment was ordered forward to attack the enemy concealed behind a piece of timber. On reaching the woods they were met by a severe volley, which they returned for some minutes and then retreated. This discovered a masked battery at the left of their point of attack and in on our front. Two field pieces were ordered forward to attack it, which they did, but their men were nearly all killed by the deadly fire with which they were met, and the pieces were in imminent danger of capture, when the order came for the 12th (our regiment) to forward to the rescue.

We formed into line and advanced into a low field of brush, and covered the pieces, which retreated in safety. We continued to advance, and on reaching the brow of a gully a murderous fire was poured into us, which killed several of our men and wounded others. We returned the fire and fell upon our faces, loading and firing lying down. Their fire was continued with increasing rapidity, and our left and center fell back out of reach.

Company A, and my Company I, stood their ground and returned volley for volley.

And aid of the General rode forward, and harangued us briefly, complimenting us in unmeasured terms, and rode back to report our dangerous position to the General.

We kept up our fire until the fire of the rebels ceased, and supposing they were about charging on us, I ordered the boys to return to the open field, where we would be protected by our cavalry, which they did in good order.

Gen. Richardson, commanding our brigade, rode up and complimented us for our bravery, and ordered us to stand until further orders. We were soon ordered to join our regiment, and we marched back to them, and during the whole time until we encamped for the night, our Companies A and I did not break their lines.

Our regiment is censured for not rallying promptly, which is deserved. The error will never occur again I am sure.

My company and myself have been very profusely complimented for our coolness and bravery, which I mention so that you may be assured that whatever rumors may reach home derogatory to our regiment cannot be derogatory to us. * * * *

I am delighted with my boys. They stood to a man like veterans, assuring me that wherever I went they would stand by me, and they did so bravely, and in the face of a most appalling fire.

When the retreat commenced, fearing a panic, which you know is very contagious, I cocked my revolver and shouted to my command, that the first man who started to run I would shoot, and the men knew I would be as good as my word. Nut the caution was not needed. They are brave boys, and obey my commands with promptness.

Lieut. Combe cut his foot before leaving camp, but he rode in the baggage wagon and before the fight commenced he took his place and behaved throughout with the utmost coolness and bravery. Lieut. Drake was equally cool and brave, and my boys copied their officers admirably.

I write this sitting at the foot of a tree some half mile in the rear of our position yesterday – our brigade resting and awaiting orders. The battle has not been resumed to-day. * * * *

Only one of my men was killed, Michael Murphy, a brave fellow, who fell at his post nobly doing his duty. His friends reside at Fulton. My not loosing more men was due in part to the nature of the ground we occupied, being slightly hollowing, but still more to the fact that I kept my men lying flat down, except when firing.

Our regiment looses some ten men killed and several wounded. Capt. Root looses two men. – He is unharmed.

H. A. B.

Syracuse Daily Standard, 7/24/1861

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy

Henry A. Barnum at Ancestry.com

Henry A. Barnum at Fold3

Henry A. Barnum at FindAGrave.com

Henry A. Barnum was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions with the 149th New York Infantry at Missionary Ridge


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