Private (2), Co. A, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Return to Washington and Incidents of the Battle

5 04 2020

Our War Correspondence.
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From Another Regular Correspondent.
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Camp Gorman.
Washington, D. C., July 26, 1861.

To the Editors of the Pioneer and Democrat

Day before yesterday that part of our regiment under command of Captain Wilkin, at Alexandria, broke camp and on the afternoon marched in obeyance to orders to Washington, leaving Camp Gorman, made familiar to us by many interesting incidents of camp life. There we had been vigorously engaged in quick and double-quick battalion drill, before the august eyes of distinguished military officers and civilians; there we had been lazily enjoying the cool shade during the hottest days; there we had mixed with the profanity incident to every trifling difficulty, so unavoidable in camp life, with the hurrahs and pledges of friendship and undisturbed magnanimity when under orders to march; and here we had found an asylum to rest our wearied and lame limbs, after returning from the battle at Bull’s Run, and the consequent march of about fifty miles, through a rainy day, subsiding on nothing but crackers and dirty water for forty-eight hours; and here, too, we found the first opportunity to calmly reflect on the struggles of Bull’s Run, and the loss of many a brave comrade, endeared to us by many acts of kindness. Who, then, could leave Camp Gorman, at Alexandria, without emotions of mingled pain and pleasure?

Leaving Camp Gorman, we marched up to the Railroad bridge, where we had had formerly guarded, and proceeded up on the Virginia side of the Potomac to Fort Remyan, located a dew rods back from the Long Bridge; and here we made a short pause to review the fort with its 22-pounders, with the usual supply of canister and grape, and talk with members of various regiments stationed there. The bridge was crowded with government wagons and troops passing both ways. Several New York regiments passed over the Virginia side while we waited for an opportunity to pass over; the question who we were and where we came from were usually answered by our boys with, “We are Minnesota First, from Bull’s Run!” We did not enter Washington City before it was dark, when we proceeded up various streets to the Old Representative Hall, where we had learned our regiment was stationed; but on arriving there we learned that Companies A, E and I were then quartered in an old church about two squares distant; and once there we were received by the cordial grasp and friendly greeting of out comrades of company A, with many mutual exclamations of surprise that we escaped safe from Bull’s Run when many of us had been reported victims of the bullets and shells of the enemy and left on the battle field; and we squatted on the steps forming the entrance of the church or on the pews inside to talk over the incidents of the battle field and the adventures on the retreat, and all uniting in praise of the bravery displayed by our cherished Lieutenant Colonel, and our gallant company officers in the stirring scenes on Sunday. Many were the expressions of sincere regret at the fall of Sergeant Wright, so universally esteemed in our company, as well as our other comrades who fell by our side.

That night companies A, E and F, were scattered in the pews, aisles, galleries and hall, and on the steps of the church, resting from days of extreme exertion. Yesterday morning we arose to partake of breakfast and prepare for removing to camping grounds where a Vermont regiment formerly camped, and about two squares back of our previous encampment in Washington – and once here we pitched our tents and passed the balance of the day in blissful idleness – our only duty here is to fall in ranks to answer to our names at reveille and tattoo.

Yesterday a report of the casualties in our regiment at Bull’s Run was made up, and I learn that it will be telegraphed and reach you long before my letter will be received in St. Paul; hence I will not recapitulate them here.

I will conclude this letter with a few incidents as they presented themselves to my own observation, or gathered from unquestionable authority, carefully avoiding any mention of such as are enshrouded in doubt. Incidents here related are perfectly reliable.

Among three prisoners taken by company A, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Rebel army, who dashed out of the woods to order us to stop firing, mistaking us for rebels. J. B. Irvine of St. Paul, who came into our camp at Centreville, when Lieut. Coates joined us, having shouldered a musket in the morning and joined with us to share in the struggles of the day, then approached him and asked him if he was a Major, and seeing his mistake and his position as prisoner at once, he frankly but reluctantly replied, “No sir, you have better game than that; I am a Lieut. Col. in a Georgia Regiment.” This is no less a person than Lieut. Boone, now a prisoner in Washington. Others have claimed the honor of taking him prisoner, but yesterday Lieut. Coates and J. B. Irvine visited him, when a mutual recognition took place, settling the disputed point beyond doubt.

When Col. Heintzelman ordered our Regiment to fall back into the woods, his Aid damning us for remaining in the open field to be slaughtered, our men rallied again under our flag and Lieut. Col. Miller, and a fierce struggle ensued to save our colors, which the enemy desperately assailed, but which resulted in saving our colors, none of which were lost during the engagement.

Our ever-gallant Captain commanding the Regiment once made a brilliant charge, repulsing the advancing Georgians, just as Lieut. Welch of the Red Wing company fell on the field. Captains Putnam and Acker also distinguished themselves on the field.

Downie of company B, on the left, besides the Fire Zouaves, rallying with a few of them in addition to his own command, made three distinct and successive charges on the enemy, with an energy that but for superior force would have routed them.

Dr. Steward remained at the hospital about one mile in the rear of the battle ground, and is no doubt taken prisoner; while the reports of the fate of the Assistant Surgeon and the Hospital are contradictory and their fate enshrouded in uncertainty.

A cannon ball struck the musket of one member of company “A” breaking it in two pieces, but without inflicting any injury to him. Many of the boys exhibit bullet holes through various of their garments, and if we ever live to see our friends at home, we can bring with us flags, guns, revolvers, swords, sabers, &c., as trophies of the late battle field. No doubt many incidents of interest transpired on the eventful day, and will reach you through other sources. I am not in possession of any more at present.

It is generally thought we will remain here some time to recruit, get some dimes from Uncle Sam, and have a little good times, before we again advance in the rebel States to fight the battles of our county.

Private

(St. Paul, MN) Weekly Pioneer and Democrat, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy


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