Pvt. Richard F. Cole, Co. H, 14th New York State Militia, On the Campaign

16 06 2020

Camp Porter, Arlington Heights,
July 23, 1861.

Tuesday, the 16th inst., we started for Fairfax, at which place we expected to have a brush with the enemies of our country, but when we got there they were gone and we had to go further to find them; they had every thing fixed for us there (Fairfax) but left in a hurry; some of our boys talked pretty loud, but I kept up a devil of a thinking; you know I’ve had the honor of commanding bodies of men in times gone by (not soldiers you may say) and found it necessary to use strategy sometimes even if it was only to keep an engine from being beaten, and it struck me very forcibly that it was only a ruse to draw us on, and so it turned out. We rested in Fairfax one night and part of a day, and then moved on to Centreville where we staid until Sunday morning 2 o’clock, at which time we were moved on, and we kept moving until after 12 o’clock, at which time we came in sight of the bayonets of the rebels; we stopped not over ten minutes, and were marched into the battle, if it may be called by that name; I call it nothing but driving men to the slaughter as the men were well beaten with the march, and had no business to attack a fresh army of men safely entrenched behind batteries and in thick woods in rifle pits with plenty of artillery and twice as many men, all fresh and waiting for us. Only think of 20,000 men half dead with marching attacking from 80,000 to 100,000 fresh men in such a position as they were in. I have my ideas about it; other folks can have theirs, for all I care; it won’t alter mine one mite; but we went in as directed. I didn’t go very far before I got just what I expected, only it was drawn a little milder. I was the second one that went down; my file leader got it first and I got it about the same time and from the same shell; it knocked our pins from under us as if they were made of straw; but thank God neither of us were hurt very seriously. My wounds were only flesh wounds, but my comrade’s knee pan was knocked off. A fragment of shell hit my friend, Robt. Furey, on the cheek, and started the blood, but he went on, not knowing that he was struck until he found the blood running down his face. I had to limp up to the hospital with John Smith (queer name, but he was the first in the 14th regiment that was hurt, notwithstanding) where we found our two surgeons, Homiston and Swalm, assisted by Chaplain Inskip, pretty busy. So we took a back seat for the ones that were hurt more than we were, and looked at the fight. I don’t want to claim any more for our regiment than belongs to it, but I will say that they and the Zouaves charged in the face of the hottest fire of any regiments on that field, that is if I am any kind of judge. It is a miracle that they were not all left on the field, but thank God some of us are alive yet to tell the tale and avenge those that have gone. But I never want to see such a wind up again. I want the shoe on the other foot the next time, just to see if our men will bayonet the wounded, and shell the ambulances containing the wounded, as they did. I expect a great many of our men that are missing got that kind of treatment, in fact I know they did. Our Colonel and surgeons have not returned yet; the supposition is they are prisoners. The Colonel was wounded; we tried to bring him with us, but received a volley of grape and canister as we were crossing the bridge, and had to leave him in an ambulance, thinking he was all safe as a horse can generally get along faster than a man can, we have heard nothing of him since, but have hopes of his turning up to-morrow, as the boys keep straggling in one or two at the time, completely played out. I hardly know how far we have marched since Sunday morning, but should say it was at least fifty, if not sixty miles, without eating or sleeping, and I might say without water, for what we got was half mud, and would have turned our stomachs at any other time; but we were glad to get anything that looked like water, and were thankful for it at that. It is impossible to say how many we have lost, but it will not be as great as we expected at first. There was four missing out of my tent this morning; one has returned, and we have heard from two of the others, leaving one to hear from in our nine, and eight in the company (H). Some of the companies have lost a great many more; C and G, I understand, lost the most, but I am in hopes a great many of them will come back to-morrow or next day. I will try and let you know how many we have lost in my next letter.

Yours,
R. F. C.*
Co. H, 14th Regt., N.Y.S.M.

Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, 7/29/1861

Clipping image

Clear Copy at Newspapers.com 

Contributed by John Hennessy

* Likely Pvt. Richard F. Cole shown on the roster as wounded in the battle.

84th New York Infantry roster (the 14th NYSM became the 84th New York Volunteer Infantry)

Richard F. Cole at Ancestry.com 

Richard F. Cole at Fold3