Ed, 12th New York Infantry, on Blackburn’s Ford

11 06 2020

The Onondaga Regiment in the Action of the 18th.

The following is an abstract from a private letter written by a young man of this city, who is attached to the 12th (Onondaga) Regiment. It gives an account of the part taken by the 12th in the Bull Run affair on the 18th last:

(Three miles from Manassas, in the woods, waiting for an order to advance on the enemy.)

July 19th, 1861.

Dear Father: – Yesterday we advance at the head of the brigade, which was the advance brigade of the column consisting of 40,000 troops. We can upon the enemy entrenched in thick woods. Our skirmishers were sent in and driven out three time, with great loss, when out Regiment was ordered in to attack them. The boys all went in well on the jump. Well, we reached a ravine a rod wide, and cleared, on the other side of which was a deep wood. When Our whole Regiment was on the edge, just where they wanted us, we received a terrible volley of musketry from concealed foes whom we had not seen. Our company dropped immediately on our backs, and commenced firing and loading in that position, which we kept p for 25 or 30 minutes; company J, and part of company E, keeping with us. The rest of the Regiment retreated on the first volley. We stood our ground until we found that we were not supported, and they had ceased firing, when we retreated slowly, and in good order, coming out of the woods in line. Our retreat was followed by showers of grape and canister. When we got out of the woods, our Regiment was not in sight, and we found them halted about two miles on the backward track. Our loss this morning in the Regiment is 120 killed, wounded and missing. The Massachusetts 2d went in right after us, and retreated in disorder, without firing a volley. There were probably from 5,000 to 10,000 men in ambush, where they sent one regiment to dislodge them. What folly! Gen. Tyler blamed the Colonel for the Regiment’s retreat, but said the two companies that stood, were brave, and did well. I have a chance to send this to Washington by a reporter. Many particulars I can give you another time. The enemy retreated before us but a few hours at Vienna, Fairfax, Germantown and Centreville. We have about 40,000 troops here, and will have to outflank the enemy to dislodge them. Can wrote many particulars at another time.


Rochester (NY) Democrat and American, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

12th New York Infantry roster

Lt. Col. William H. Browne, 31st New York Infantry, On the Campaign

11 06 2020

Camp Near Alexandria, Va., July 22, 1861.

We have just arrived in camp after an absence of six days. A magnificent action has been fought. We must have had nearly 40,000 men engaged and the enemy, as events proved, had many more. The 31st had a post of honor, and honorably maintained it up to the moment of retreat. At each step new difficulties arose, and cunning devices of the foe were developed. Masked batteries, protected by the living wood, treacherous mires, and crafty ambuscades, came to light. I was only by a miracle of Grace that I escaped harm. Once I was sent with some companies to “draw out” the enemy. They came too soon, and sent a volley of rifle balls at us, as out caps rose upon the brow of the hill within a few hundred yards of their concealed works. We had only one man touched, springing back as we did into a ravine. As the rebels slowed themselves in pursuit of us, Richardson’s battery of rifled cannon threw in spherical case shot that did much slaughter. They seem determined not to come out openly and fight like true soldiers, so we have to resort to stratagem to bring them within reach. While making a reconnoisance during the battle, I came upon a force of rebels from two or three thousand strong as near as could be judged. Blackhawk took me on a gallop along their front.

Much to our surprise they had entered a ravine, and were discovered by our pickets just in time to prevent their turning our left flank. The instant they saw me a shower of balls came whistling about me. Then the grass was not suffered to grow beneath Black Hawk’s feet. He took the hint, and the way the noble beast cleared a fence and swept along the hill-side up to the battery of rifled guns of Capt. Green was the theme of admiration of the beholders. A score of guardian angels must have averted from me the leaden rain. One shot, perhaps intended for me, struck the head of a gallant young lieutenant (Gill, serving with the regular artillery) and penetrated the brain. While the guns were playing upon the heads of the interlopers, I hastily examined the wound, no surgeon being present. Emptying a canteen of water upon the head of the poor fellow, I soon satisfied myself that the injury was fatal. Consciousness was gone although the eyes were open and he breathed hard, and steadily, a smile being fixed on his lips. I think he lived only half an hour. Lieut. G. belonged to the Massachusetts volunteers.

After maintaining our ground against heavy odds, we received the mortifying order to retreat. We could not understand what it meant, until it became to palpable that the whole of our force was falling back upon Centreville. At 11 P. M. came a whispered order to retreat to Fairfax, ten miles off. The troops, whose haversacks and blankets had been left upon the field, and who had been on their feet for twenty-two hours, retired in tolerably good order, marching by daylight this morning twenty-eight miles. Yet no complaint has been uttered, in my hearing, at least. The Federal loss is terrible, but the Southern more so. The next time we will win.

L— was much interested in his first battle – my seventh. Our admirable surgeon, Dr. Frank H. Hamilton, toiled professionally until he could not stand alone. When all the surgeons of other regiments were literally obeying the order to retreat, he and his assistants of the 31st were true, entirely so. All honor to such men. Why did we retreat when our position was tenable? We only obeyed and imperative order. * * * * *

And so will terminate the hurried epistle of one who has slept but two hours in the last forty-eight.

W. H. Browne,
Lieut. Colonel 31st N. Y. Volunteers

Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

31st New York Infantry roster 

William H. Browne at Ancestry.com 

William H. Browne at Fold3

William H. Browne at FindAGrave 

William H. Browne at Arlington National Cemetery