J. S.*, Co. H, 14th N. Y. S. M., On the Battle

2 03 2019

Headquarters, 14th Regt., N. Y. S. M.,
Camp Porter, Co. H,
Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Father, Mother, and Sister: – I now take this opportunity to let you know the hardships I have gone through since writing my last letter. On last Tuesday, the 16th, we left our encampment, and marched to Fairfax, and on the Court House the rebel flag was flying; but it soon came down, and the stars and stripes were hoisted. The rebels fled as soon as we came in sight, leaving everything after them. We then pursued them to Centreville, and from there to Bull’s Run, where we opened fire on them from six different points, at to o’clock, Sunday morning, the 21st. The battle lasted for about six hours. There was a heavy loss on both sides. We marched thirty miles from Centreville, without sleep, and nothing but hard crackers, and dirty water to drink. When we had got ten miles from Bull’s Run, they had the road blocked up with trees and all the bridges torn down, which took us a long time to repair and resume our march. General McDowell headed our Brigade, which numbered about six thousand. General McDowell ordered the Fourteenth up a road to head the enemy off, when the Seventy-first Regiment of New York fired upon us, thinking that we were rebels, killing and wounded about forty of our Regiment. We were then ordered back to the rear of the field. We then loaded, and marched with the Fire Zouaves, and fired two volleys into the rebel troops, when they returned the fire, and we were mowed down like grass. I am very sorry to tell you that our Colonel was shot in that volley. I stepped out of the ranks, and lifted him up and put my musket under him, and helped carry him off the field. He was shot through the thigh. That was the last I saw of him after leaving the hospital. He has not returned to the camp since, and it is feared by the boys that he has been taken prisoner. As I was coming back after leaving the Colonel, a shell broke, killing and wounding sixteen of our Regiment. One piece of it struck my cap, and took it about 12 yards off my head. I wish you would tell Jimmy Doyle and the boys that Lewis Francis had his head taken off his shoulders. I managed to get off without a scratch, and I thank God for it; but my clothes were all torn to pieces. Our Major showed himself the smartest man on the field, and our Regiment has gained for itself a name which will never be forgotten. I am very glad to tell that we caved our Captain and Lieutenant Davie, and Mr. Weeks safe also, and Mr. McBride. It was the most heart-rending scene I ever witnessed, to see my comrades strewn dead under my feet. After retreating, which we did after advancing three times without success, we saw them advancing and killing our wounded men. Our gallant color bearer planted the stars and bars within ten feet of the rebels’ battery, when he was shot dead. When we were retreating, they came around at the back of us and tried to cut off our retreat, and I was taken prisoner and taken about half a mile from the rebel camp, when the cavalry headed them off through the woods, and saved me. I then made double quick time for about two miles, when I thought I was all safe, so I laid down and took a sleep for about four hours, when a man woke me up and told me that the enemy was about five miles off and coming toward us. All the things we had except our arms we had to throw away, and run, for fear of being captured again. There was an old house on the battle field, which we used for the hospital for our wounded, and the enemy threw a bomb shell into it and it is supposed killed all that were in it. There are very large bodies of men coming over from Washington now, and we expect to make another attack the week; but I don’t think we will go, as there is not more than half of the Regiment left. There is some talk here about sending us home for our gallant conduct during the battle of Sunday. Jim McNamara is all safe. As for Tome, in the Seventy-first, I did not see him. I will try and see him by my next letter.

J. S.

Brooklyn Evening Star, 7/25/1861

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy

84th New York Infantry (14th N. Y. S. M.) Roster

*Possibly Pvt. James Seymour, enlisted 4/18/61, or Pvt. John Shannon, enlisted 4/18/61, or Pvt. John Smith, enlisted 5/23/61.


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One response

3 03 2019
Meg Groeling

Rare is a letter from a New York soldier that does not mention the 11th Fire Zouaves somewhere. Remember Ellsworth!

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