Pvt. Charles W. Farrand, Co. F, 1st Michigan Infantry, On the Battle

11 05 2020

The Michigan First at Bull Run.
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We are favored with the following account of the battle at Bull Run by Mr. Charles Farrand, of this city. He belonged to Capt. Horace S. Roberts’ company in the 1st regiment, and describes things as he saw them. The reader will see how false is the assumption that the New York Zouaves fought more desperately than others. Mr. Farrand declares that they, they Michigan 1st, and New York 69th, were mingled together, and fought promiscuously thro’ all the fiercest of the conflict. He was “one of ‘em,” and had two guns struck and ruined in his hands.

No person could see all the battle; and this letter-writers disagree in many things; but Mr. F. states only what came under his own observation, and therefore reliance may be placed in his record. He says Bull Run was several miles from the field of battle.

Commencing with the attack, he says:

In the first charge upon the masked battery, in line of battle, the 69th New York were in front, then the Zouaves, and in the rear the 1st Michigan. Rising to the top of the hill, about thirty rods from the rebels, we fired, intending to fall back a little and load, as previously ordered. Just then this order was countermanded, and we were ordered to rush on, unloaded. This new order was imperfectly understood, and a portion fell back; upon which all did the same, but not more than two or three rods, creating some disorder; but we were in no sense “driven back.” After loading, we rushed forward, crossed a road, a deep ditch and a fence, descending the hill, firing as we advanced. Bu the time we reached the foot of the hill – the rebels having fallen back – the men of the three regiments were mingled together, every man trying to get in front, as though fighting on his own hook.* The din of battle was so terrific that no orders coud be heard. We were in this position nearly stationary perhaps half an hour.

We then changed, not to retreat, but to take up a new position, more to the right, to get at those who were firing at us from that quarter. We were not followed by the enemy on the left. We were in this vicinity, constantly engaged, between four and five hours; though it did not seem an hour.

Ricket’s battery of eight guns was stationed on the right of our division, and was taken by the rebels. A portion of all three of the regiments without any orders, rushed promiscuously to retake the battery, which was done. Here was some hand to hand fighting. The horses were all killed, or had run away, and we could not take off the guns, till the rebels rallied with an increased force, and, after spiking the guns, we fell back to our former position. Facing again to the rebels I saw them falling back, trying to draw away a gun into which I had myself driven a spike; but ere they had got it many rods, our bullets had made such havoc they abandoned it.

In a few moments I saw two rebels advancing to the gun – one with a rifle, and one with a flag, which he was in the act of planting by the gun. The man standing next to me and the rebel rifleman drew upon each other, and both fell at the same moment, killed, as I believe, by each other. At the same time I took deliberate aim at the flag bearer, and he fell as I fired.

By the time I had reloaded, another rebel was seizing the flag, and he too fell as I fired. Two more fell at this point in a similar manner as fast as I could load. I was some fifteen rods distant, and nearer the gun than most of my comrades, though in other parts of the line others were in advance.

At this moment the black horse cavalry made its appearance obliquely from the right – all the while the masked battery, as well as infantry, was pouring upon us a fearful fire of shot, shells, canister, &c. As the cavalry appeared, 600 strong, upon the full gallop, carbine in hand, our firing for the moment mostly ceased – each man reserving his charge to receive them with suitable honors.

The horses of the cavalry were all black or grey. Their front showed a line of perhaps ten rods. Our fire was reserved until the left of their front was within five or six rods of our right, killing most of the horses in front and many on their sides. As they fell, pitching their riders to the ground, those following fell over them and from our bullets, and in five minutes we had sent them probably four thousand pills, and they piled upon each other, a mangled, kicking, struggling, dying mass of man and horses – a sight of horror, to which no description could do justice! Our aim was mostly at the horses, and I doubt not many more of the men were killed by horses than by our bullets.

The story that all this fighting was done by the Zouaves is false. The three regiments were mingled together, and all fought equally well. I here speak what I know, for I was directly in front of the cavalry, and nearly in the centre. It was the general opinion that not over half a dozen of the cavalry escaped alive, though there may have been more.

During this brief but horrible work the masked battery and large bodies of infantry were pouring their fire into our ranks, and our men were falling on every hand. We again returned their fire, and soon after, Lieut Mauch having been struck down, I and two others assisted him back, and on returning, we found our men still standing their ground.

Soon after this, a flag of truce was raised by the rebels twenty or thirty yards in our front, and our fire slackened. Immediately the white flag fell, and out colors were raised. We knew not what to make of it at the moment, unless they were about to surrender, but supposed afterwards the design was to lure us into a more deadly range of their batteries. In a few minutes the rebel flag was again flying in their place. The contest raged for a time longer, when the firing of the rebels ceased, and we supposed the victory was ours. The rebels were seen to fall back, but very soon Johnson’s army was approaching. We had fought incessantly for four or five hours, without food or drink, almost exhausted at the beginning, our ranks were thinned and broken, we saw no prospect of support, and we retreated in disorder; but the was little running.

Just about this time the general stampede of the army took place, and we returned to Washington and vicinity, feeling that we had won a glorious victory, only snatched from us by the arrival of Johnson’s army, and the failure of proper officers to bring up the reserve force to our relief.

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*Col. Heintzelman says part of the Zouaves left the field and took no further part in the action. His report fully corroborates Mr. Farrand’s statement, save that he gives the Zouaves less credit.

Lansing (MI) State Republican, 8/14/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Charles W. Farrand at Ancestry.com 

Charles W. Farrand at Fold3 

Charles W. Farrand at FindAGrave