2nd Lieut. Charles E. Palmer, Co. F, 2nd Connecticut Infantry, On the Advance and Blackburn’s Ford

2 06 2020

OUR CORRESPONDENCE.
—————
From the Volunteers.
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Centreville, Va., near
Manassas Junction, July 19, 1861.

“Forward to Richmond!” seems at last to be the motto of Gen. Scott, and the movement has commenced. I wrote you a few weeks ago that the only sight we should get of the enemy at Fairfax, would be their coat-tails. Those who were fortunate enough to be in front of the line with telescopes, did, I believe, have that privilege, but the main column marched on in utter ignorance of that fact. But here we are, within seven miles of the far-famed Manassas Gap Junction, and two from the main body of the enemy at Bull’s Creek, who are strongly entrenched in a position which they evidently intended should become a second Thermopylae.

But to commence at the beginning. On Monday night last, at our evening parade, the order was given for each company to put three days’ rations in their haversacks, roll their blankets, and be ready to march at 3, P. M., next day. For once there was n countermand, and at the appointed time the Second Connecticut filed out into the road. The First fell into their rear, and in a few moments we were on the march toward Vienna, at the head of a division of ten thousand men. We went on without reconnoitering some two or three miles, when the Connecticut Brigade threw themselves off to the right and left as skirmishers, and we dashed on through the bushes and fields, without interruption till evening, when the column halted at Vienna, and we bivouacked for the night. Augmented during the night to twenty thousand, about sunrise we moved toward Fairfax. We took our position no the right as skirmishers, and for the first time evidences of the recent occupation by the enemy met our eyes. Temporary booths for pickets, haversacks and canteens, were occasionally found, while now and then the road was obstructed by fallen trees and other articles to impede our progress. By and by, a shout was occasionally heard along the line of our skirmishers, as they blazed away at some flying picket, and now and then a prisoner was carried back to the main body. These incidents grew more frequent, till a halt was sounded, just as the head of the column arrived at the top of a hill, commanding at a distance of a few miles, a view of Fairfax Courthouse. A battery of artillery was sent to the front, and we cautiously advanced till within about a mile, when our brigade was drawn up in line of battle, the cannon posted near a school-house on a little elevation , and a shell or two thrown over into the midst of the enemy. Then commenced a stampede. Baggage wagons could be seen moving rapidly forward, and the glitter of the arms of the enemy as they moved at a double quick out on the road toward Manassas Gao, showed that our first fight was not to be at Fairfax. Our column then obliqued to the right down the Germantown road, where the enemy were said to have entrenchments, and were determined to make a stand. But here again we were disappointed. After carefully feeling our way a few hundred yards, their pickets again came in sight, running in such haste as to leave their blankets, and in some cases their uncooked breakfasts on the fires at their posts. We passed several places where there had been masked batteries, and on emerging from a piece of woods, saw before us a long line of breastworks, in the rear of which was located a secession camp. There was no evidence of life around it except the flying pickets, who could still be seen at a distance, making off. – But understanding their ways, and not being inclined to fall into any trap by advancing our forces and suddenly finding a dozen cannon blazing at us, the skirmishers were ordered by Col. Keyes to halt till the artillery came up, who fired a couple of shots into it. This effected nothing, and a few men advanced cautiously and looked over, and soon our whole line was again in motion. There were evidences of a force having been at work during the morning at this entrenchment, which they had left in such haste as to leave their shovels, picks, and all their tools behind them. On advancing to their camp, we found camp equipage in such abundance that picking it up was out of the question with our limited supply of baggage wagons, and it was stored away to be taken care of at some future time. We pushed on to Germantown, (two houses, one pig-sty, and a pump.) planted the Stars and Stripes on a flag-staff, where once had floated the stars and bars; captured a baggage wagon full of army stores, with two horses attached; found lots of blankets, knapsacks, haversacks and canteens, which had been thrown away by the over-burdened John Gilpins. We halted at night at a point some ten miles from our position in the morning. The next day we moved on to our present position, where we arrived about 10 o’clock, A. M. The Connecticut regiments were relieved from skirmishing duty today, by the 2d Michigan and 12th New York, and we took a position near the center of the column. Scarcely had we came to a halt, when a report of artillery at the head of Col. Heintzelman’s division, which had been moving parallel with ours on a road about a mile to our left, showed us that we had engaged the enemy. This report was followed by another and another, till word was sent back along the line that the head of both columns had come up – to a strong position of the rebels at Bull’s Creek, and were now having a desperate conflict. Our brigade was filed into the woods as a reserve, and the rest of the division push-on to the scene. For three or four hours the booming of cannon was incessant, and we lay on our arms in line, expecting to be called on to march at any time, reports meanwhile coming back to us of the progress of the battle. Sometimes these were encouraging, but enough was learned to leave no doubt that the loss on our side was fearful, and that the enemy had not been dislodged from their position. The firing at length gradually ceased, and we were told that neither side had gained any advantage, but that both had lost a great number of men.

THURSDAY’S SKIRMISH AT BULL’S RUN.

The skirmishers at the head of our division were pushing into the woods – a dense pine growth – when they discovered a battery and retreated to rally on the reserve. For some reason this reserve was nearer than usual, and by the time they had reached it, were just pushing into the same place. At this moment the battery opened on them, throwing shell and shot with great execution. Our men retreated with as much regularity as possible, but another volley took effect, and made many a poor fellow bite the dust ere they were out of reach. Sherman’s battery of rifled cannon was then brought up and opened a fire of shell and canister into the place where the battery was located. No answer was returned, and a cloud of dust being seen rising in the rear, it was supposed by Gen. Tyler that the enemy had retreated, and he ordered the 2d Massachusetts to charge into the same place. They advanced, and the conflict commenced. The life-long hatred between these two States now had an opportunity of venting itself, and both sides seemed to feel that in them lay the issue. – South Carolina had the advantage, however, and Massachusetts was obliged to retreat, but only after repeated volleys from the battery. – The humanity of our enemy was shown by a Carolinian rushing out from his cover with fixed bayonet, and pinning a wounded man to the earth, who was attempting to crawl away. A lieutenant was seen to swing his sword and exclaim – “That’s it; kill every one of the d—-d Yankees!” Those were his last words, – the next moment he threw up his arms and fell a corpse.

The position of the enemy was such that but two regiments could be engaged at a time, and as it was deemed useless to throw more lives away, Gen. Tyler withdrew his forces to the woods and the firing on both sides ceased. The enemy attempted to cross a creek near by, but were driven back at the point of the bayonet by the New York 69th.

OUR LOSS.

I have made careful inquiry – not from officers who would have a motive in concealing the true number – but from sergeants and privates in the regiments engaged, who have the knowledge from the roll call of their different corps, and find the loss on our side to be from forty to forty-five killed, and about twice that number wounded. The regiments that suffered the most were the New York 12th, Massachusetts 2d, and Michigan 2d. Two were killed from Sherman’s battery. As the firing was mostly shell and grape, the proportion of the wounded was less than usual in engagements.

Heavy artillery seems to be what is wanted to dislodge the enemy from their position, and yesterday there arrived two large siege pieces – one a 64 pounder, drawn by fifteen horses – the other a 26, with bombs and tar-balls, the latter being intended to burn the rebels out from their present retreat. The attack cannot be postponed more than a day or two at most, and I have not much doubt they will be driven back to Manassas. It will be necessary to wait a few days, when they will be obliged from necessity, to fall further back, as the only water they have is obtained from their present position. Their force is reported as amounting to 40,000, and there may be a Water-loo here before the affair is ended.

Our present position is on the brow of a hill, where Beauregard evidently intended at one time to make a stand, as there is an earthwork here, pierced for several guns, which commands the main approach for two r three miles, and which could not be easily flanked. This is a splendid position for defense, and their deserting it for another is good evidence that they will not be easily dislodged.

Centreville is an old Virginia country town, – a place of some importance in the days of stage-coaches and toll-gates, but now run to dilapidation. I do not see a building which appears to have been built since the Revolution, and none have been repaired since their erection. Most of them have been deserted by their owners, and are now used for hospitals for our wounded.

At the old camp of the enemy here, there were many articles left which were siezed upon by our men as relics. I have been favored by the sight of several letters which were picked up. The following shows that they are not above the wants of us poor mortals in the Federal ranks: Sister Maria to her “Dear Chet,” invokes Heaven’s curses on those awful Yankees, and then says that she thinks it a shame that President Davis does not give them better food.

Here is a letter entire:

Centreville, Va., July 3d, 1861.

Dear Father – Send me at once a gallon of best whiskey. I have not time to write more.

Yours truly, —- —-.

Another from a lady to her brother requests him to “bring her home a Yankee captain so she can see what he looks like.” All either begin or end with curses on the Yankee Abolitionists. An order was found from the Adjutant General commanding every male citizen capable of bearing arms to report himself to General Beauregard, with such weapons as he could procure, within a week from July 11th. Their case is a desperate one.

The time of the First Connecticut Regiment expired to-day. They were called together this morning to see how many were willing to remain a few days to see the issue of the present operations. About fifty of the regiment were willing to stay, and they go home in a day or two. I understand that several regiments will follow them in a few days. Our (2d regt.) is out the 5th of August, and by that time I trust the immediate need for our presence will be through. We are now cooking three days’ rations, and are ordered to be ready to move by 5 o’clock this afternoon.

C. E. P.

Winsted (CT) Herald, 7/26/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

For the identity of C. E. P. see this post.

2nd Connecticut Infantry Roster

Charles E. Palmer at Ancestry.com

Charles E. Palmer at Fold3

Charles E. Palmer at Find-a-Grave


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