Capt. George Hillyer, Co. C, 9th Georgia Infantry, On the March to Manassas

21 04 2020

Letters from Capt. Geo. Hillyer.

Saturday, July 20, 1861.

Dear Father: – We are at a little station on the Manassas Junction. I do not know the name of the place, but that is not material. We are waiting for our turn by return trips of the train to go to Manassas to unite Gen. Johnston’s army with Beauregard. I have taken my valise in my hand, and in company with Craig, one of my men, walked off ½ mile from our camp, or rather from our gun-stacks, and pile of knap-sacks, for we have no camp furniture, except 3 mess boxes, having left every else in Winchester. After refreshing ourselves on the cool grass meadow, I sent Craig back to the gun-stacks to five me notice of any order, and am now in quiet and alone, penciling this note to you. *******

Day before yesterday, at about the same hour, Gen. Johnston received intelligence that Patterson had declined to attack us at Winchester, and had retired with his whole force toward the Potomac. Part of his army crossed into Maryland and the balance marched down the Potomac on this side towards Washington. And also a dispatch from Gov. Lechter stating that Beauregard was pressed upon by overwhelming numbers, and to come to his relief and save the State. Johnston immediately ordered the move, we started about 2 o’clock P. M., and marched without a halt, except to stop occasionally in the road when the way would e clogged up for a short time by a wagon turned over, or a baulky team, until 3 next morning. Oh! the horrors of the forced march! Think o it. 15,000 men on the road together in a march of 22 miles. Many fell sick and fainting. It was a sickening sight to see the pale and exhausted soldier lying panting by the roadside, his companions gone on a left him, and on one to give him even a cup of cold water. The men in the ranks could not relieve them because they could hardly get along themselves, and must not confuse the column by leaving ranks. The officers were busy taking care of their own men. I marched at the head of my men almost all the time, carrying some ones gun and cartridge-box, and my strength holding out in a remarkable manner. I never once felt even weary, that is, anything approaching exhaustion. My men stood it well, too, and none failed to arrive here safely with me. I pressed a dump cart into service, and let such ride as were not well, changing them about as their strength required. We forded the Shenandoah river about 12 o’clock at night, and crossed the Blue Ridge at 2. The river at that point is some 200 yards wide and about 3 feet deep. I wish I could describe the scene. Almost all the men carried their guns, cartridge-boxes, clothes, &c., on their heads. Lights flashing up and down either bank – half naked men filing across the wide water, hallowing as they breasted the strong cold waves. Loud words of command, horses neighing and rearing, wagons rumbling over the stony bottom, teamsters cursing and shouting, made a show I certainly shall never forget. I am satisfied, however, after securing this mixture of the truly sublime and the ridiculous, that the poetry of Washington crossing the Delaware, or crossing anything else was all a humbug. I would like to tell you all my thoughts as the column moved after midnight up the long mountain slope. The silence disturbed only by the tramp of many feet upon the McAdamised road, and the rumbling of the ammunition wagons in front. But I must see you to talk all these things over. It is mechanically impossible to write them. The news here from Beauregard is that he repulsed the enemy at Bull Run, in an attack they made on one of his advance batteries, with great slaughter. Two thousand (2,000) engaged on our side, and four thousand (4,000) on theirs; 60 or 70 of ours killed, and 900 of theirs. It is thought we will make a grand move on Washington, but the future must develop itself. The rest of baggage will be brought. I left my trunk in Winchester at the house of a man (family grocer) named Wm. Rea. I shall probably have it expressed to Mr. Clayton at Richmond, as it troubles me very much whenever we move. The army is new and hastily got together, so we have not enough wagons. Good-bye – God bless you and Mother dear.

Your son,

George Hillyer

Manassas Day after the Battle

Our Regiment has just arrived with the 11th and were not in the fight. – We go out this evening 4 miles to near Bull Run. The 7th and 8th were in the fight. The 8th suffered much. – Bartow is killed, and Gardner wounded. I can hear nothing of Ned Hull. In haste.

Your son,

G. H.

Athens (GA) Southern Banner, 8/7/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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