Unknown Pvt., 3rd Connecticut Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

3 06 2020

The Third Regiment, C. V.
The following from the New York World, is deservedly complimentary of the gallant Third:
Story of a Gallant Regiment.

We are slowly arriving at the truth, as to the sequel of the battle, and the manner in which our rear guard, from the field to Centreville, performed its duty. It is not too late to give honor to whom honor is due. Yesterday the Third Connecticut Regiment deposited its arms at the arsenal, the term of enlistment having expired, and will probably start for the North to-day. This corps was the last to leave the field of Bull Run, and, by hard fighting, had to defend itself and to protect our scattered thousands for several miles of the retreat.

Blenker’s Brigade, in reserve, of course fulfilled its duty, and has been lauded for so doing. But let me briefly give the day’s story of this Third Connecticut corps – a regiment actually engaged in the battle, which retreated grimly and dangerously repelling the advancing foe. The only regiment really menaced by the enemy, it was almost the only one which did not share in the panic. About 11 A. M., when Tyler ordered up the last of his brigades, under Col. Keyes, the Third Connecticut advanced with the rest by the right, skirting along the edge of the woods until it overtook Hunter’s division and the heat of the battle. The last mile and a half was done at double quick, and by the time the Connecticut boys came under their fire they were already half incapacitated for fighting by fatigue and thirst. But the brave Colonel Chatfield led them forward, under orders, until they charged, as I have before recorded, the rebels posted on the slope so visible from all portions of the field. The enemy retired before them, retreating into some woods beyond a farm house. At this moment some of the Connecticut men thought they discerned a Union flag, and that they were attacking their own friends. Col. Chatfield accordingly ordered the stars and stripes to be displayed, and the color-captain mounted a fence by the farmhouse and unrolled the standard. In an instant a terrific tempest of shot and shell burst from a hidden battery not more than a hundred yards ahead. This afterwards proved to be the heaviest battery served by the rebels during the day. The Third were unable to maintain their ground; many dropped, dead or wounded, and the line fell back to a road, where they lay protected by the side-bank while balls passed close over their heads. A charge of the enemy’s cavalry would have effectually routed them at this moment, but ere long they reached a safer place, where they remained until an order came to retire across the Run. It was between 3 and 4 P. M. when the command was executed in perfect order, our boys wading through the stream to their waists. They say it seemed a river of Paradise so fearfully were they suffering from the thirst and heat; but on they moved, through the woods, to a point in the rear of the commencement of the battle – near the building on the Centreville road used as a hospital for our wounded.

Up to this moment they had supposed the victory decided for the loyal cause, and had not the least suspicion that they were the last regiment in a disastrous retreat from the field. But now a horseman rode in, shouting that the enemy’s cavalry were in the road below, and that our day was lost. On this Col. Chatfield ordered his men, broken by the woods and almost dead with exhaustion, to form in such order as they could and cover the retreat. General Tyler and Colonel Keyes – both in the thickest of the fight throughout that eventful day – had joined them, and were thus the last to leave the spot. So they emerged on the road, saw it strewn with the wreck of the panic, finding wagons, gun-carriages, caissons, and what not left in wanton confusion. Two brass rifled pieces were lying dismounted, They took horses from army wagons, yoked them to caissons, strapped the guns with chains underneath the latter, and so saved them from falling into the enemy’s hands. The majority of the regiment were now moving toward Centreville in some confusion, too worn out to do anything else; but Tyler and Keyes, with Col. Chatfield, Captains Harland and Lewis, and a few other company officers whose names I have not learned, formed a line of fifty or seventy-five men, in the extreme rear, to resist the enemy’s cavalry, which now swept down the road to harass them.

Five or six times the rebel horse charged upon that handful of brave men, and each time were repulsed by a determined fire, which emptied many a saddle. And this is the way in which our retreat from the battlefield was covered.

The last charge was sustained at the Cub Creek bridge, a mile from Centreville, and the Third then toiled on their way unmolested, fully expecting to pass the night in the village. How easily our 35,000 men might have so halted! They could have held Centreville, and all the territory gained in the preceding week, till reinforcements of 50,000 men had made the advance a surety. But it is too late for regrets. The labors of the Third Connecticut did not end here. Though so wearied that one officer of the regiment says that $10,000 and a colonelcy at Vienna would not have induced him to march there for it, they were pushed right along by orders, and reached their old camp at Falls Church after daylight on Monday morning. Here they found the Ohio camps, at which the First and Second Ohio had refused to pause in their retreat. Tents, stores and munitions were here all abandoned – property amounting in value to $200,000 – and Col. Chatfield ordered his men to take hold and save it. Sending to Alexandria for a special train, they worked all day loading it with the deserted Ohio property, sent it off, and marched away themselves, just in time to escape the vanguard of the pursuing enemy, and reached Arlington that evening.

Such is the record of the regiment now disbanding. I should be proud to have been a private of the Connecticut Third.

Hartford (CT) Daily Courant, 8/10/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy