Sgt. John Vliet, Co. D, 14th New York State Militia, On the Battle and Retreat

17 06 2020

Camp Porter, Arlington Heights,
July 23d, 1861.

We left Camp Porter on Tuesday, July 16th, and slept in the open field until last night, as our tents did not go with us, on account of there being too much baggage when on a long march. On Sunday morning we got on our way at three o’clock for Bull’s Run, and marched until near 12 o’clock, without halting scarcely and of the way, and when we arrived within a mile and a half of the battle field they put us on the double quick march, which exhausted the men, it being a warm day and water scarce, so that they were unfit for the duty before them. But they managed to make three rallies with our regiment; the last one I was unable to move one foot before the other, and I laid or dropped down under a tree, which was struck three times with round shot from the enemy’s batteries; but that did not trouble me the least. I thought they would call me cowardly for leaving my post, but it was impossible for me to stand up, as our company had been on picket guard on Friday night, and kept on duty all Saturday; then getting ready on Saturday night to march early Sunday morning was enough to almost kill the stoutest among us. How I escaped God can only tell, for the two first rallies of our regiment the shot and shell fell like hail around us. We fought for five hours in the face of their batteries, and then were obliged to retreat, on account of the ammunition from our artillery giving out. Ad such a retreat you never saw nor heard tell of – the whole of our troops scattered in every direction, and scenes I witnessed are too horrible to relate. As I said before, it was impossible for me to walk, for I seemed to have a burning hot fever and was obliged to drink muddy water by the wayside; but my thirst could not be quenched, and I wished then they had shot me on the spot. I walked a short distance from the field and laid down to rest or die; then I got up and walked again, but could only travel a short space, and as the enemy’s cavalry was close to us I concluded to take my chances in the thick woods. I spread my blanket, which I had picked up by the road side, as all the troops threw their blankets and haversacks away before going into the field. I slept until 5 o’clock in the morning, and then started on my way, but felt very sick. There being a heavy white coating on my tongue, which showed I was in a fever, but the thought of being taken prisoner and hung kept me jogging along until I reached Centreville, when some kind hearted woman gave me a bowl of coffee, which revived me, and I was able to walk along through a heavy rain until I reached our camp in Arlington, having travelled for twelve hours without scarcely eating anything, except two crackers; but I had a good sleep last night. I think that water inside and out, with plenty of exercise, are food for fever. The only thing this morning is a slight stiffness in the calves of my limbs.

Sergt. Jno. Vliet, 14th Regt.

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

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Clear Copy at Newspapers.com 

Contributed by John Hennessy

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

John Vliet at Ancestry 

John Vliet at Fold3 





Cpl. John Fulton, Co. L (Engineers), 14th New York State Militia, On the Campaign

17 06 2020

JACK FULTON GIVES HIS VERSION OF THE BULL RUN FIGHT.

Camp Porter, Arlington Heights, July 25, 1861.

There is no doubt ere this you have heard about the battle at Bull’s Run. I want to give you some idea about our regiment from the time we left Arlington until we returned back again. We left Camp Porter at half-past 3 P. M. on the 16th, and marched 12 miles where we came to halt withing 7 miles of Fairfax, when we laid down and had some rest. Nothing of any note transpired during our march. We took up the line of march at 8 A. M. on the 17th for Fairfax. About three miles on the road the rebels had cut down a large number of trees to obstruct our march, but our division took the fields. We arrived at Fairfax at 1 P. M. The rebels left Fairfax in double quick time two hours before we got there. We passed four intrenchments that they vacated. We remained at Fairfax until 4 P. M. of the 18th, then took up our line of march for Centreville. We passed a number of encampments that they had set on fire. They left all their food and camp utensils, so you can judge the hurry they were in. We had a good dinner of the fresh beef that they left behind. We came to a halt 1 ½ miles from Centreville; you must understand we had no tents since we left our camp, all we had was the clear blue sky above us. Thank God we had good weather, but the dear lord how hot it was, soaking wet all the time, but we stand it like men so far, not a man lagged behind and all feel anxious to meet the enemy. But last night was the hardest of all nights, such firing of muskets by the ‘great man’ I never heard before, we were up and down all night. We have in our Brigade the 8th N. Y. S. M., Mart Owens’ Regt. 27th New York Volunteers, one regiment of regular and 600 marines from the Navy Yard besides the gallant 14th; also Griffin’s West Point Battery and a troop of cavalry under the command of Brig. Gen. Porter; the division under Gen. McDowell. Tell Mart Owen that Abe Beatty was in our camp on the 19th; Babcock is sick yet, he is not with his regiment. On the 20th two regulars were flogged for desertion one got thirty-five lashes the other fifty, and in ten days to be drummed out of camp. Now comes the tug of war; we left camp at 2 ½ A. M., for Bull’s Run. Nothing of any importance transpired for about three miles, until we came to a bridge that the rebels hart partly destroyed; but we soon repaired it enough to cross. Shortly after we got on the other side of the bridge we met Gen. McDowell; he put us in quick time for two and a half miles, then came to a halt for about ten minutes, and sent scouting parties. Here we were within 1 ½ miles of the enemy – that is, on a line – but we were to march about six miles, so as to surround them. Here we heard the first gun about 8 A. M., and we kept scouting until we passed Bull’s Run stream. Here we saw Gen. McDowell again; we were within 2 ½ miles of the enemy. Now comes the hot time; the order was double-quick, which we kept up for some time, until, pretty nearly played out, we came to another stream, that we had to cross knee-deep. Here all hands took a drink and filled their canteens. We could hear the guns firing like the very devil only half a mile from the enemy; then double-quick again until we arrived on the field of battle; here we took everything off except undershirts and pants; while doing this, the balls were dropping around us like hail. Then it was double-quick again, until we were in front of the enemy. All out things that we left on the field are lost. Our regiment was ordered on the left flank of the enemy. Griffin’s, Sherman’s, and the Rhode Island batteries were doing good work. The 27th Regiment, New York Volunteers, were the first to engage the enemy’s infantry, but had to fall back; then came the orders for the gallant 14th; Gen. McDowell calls on us to charge the enemy, which we did, and drove them to the woods, where they had entrenchments for their men; our men followed them up to the woods; here a number of our men got wounded; then came an order to retreat, which we did in handsome style, but could not draw them from the woods. We now had a rest for about 15 minutes. Then came the 71st and 8th (the 8th reserve for the 71st), when they opened fire with their howitzers, two in number, on the woods where the enemy had retreated, and drove them out towards their masked battery; here was a complete slaughter-house. As soon as our regiment opened fire on their infantry, the masked battery opened fire on them; such slaughter I never want to see again; our men had to lay down to load and fire. Just before we got this position, a shell wounded John Smith and Dick Coles. Inform Louis Buckman about Smith; tell him he is wounded in the knee, but not very serious. Poor Music, I am afraid, is dead; he was seen wounded in two places, on the right shoulder and leg; this I got from one of his messmates, now in the hospital, also wounded. Our hospital is full of wounded. But to return to the battle – at the time our regiment were lying down loading and firing, the Marines were ordered to cover our men, but they made a hasty retreat and left our men to be slaughtered; but the 71st came up and gave our men a chance to retreat, which we did in good order. The fire was too strong for the 71st, and they had to retreat. Shortly after this our regiment was fired into, some say by the 71st, others say the 8th, and our boys returned it, and made them come out of the woods mighty quick. All this time we were carrying the wounded off the field, I had just carried a wounded man up to the hospital when there came news that our Colonel was wounded. Burtis, Briss, Connor, Ritchie and myself went and brought him off the field amid showers of bullets, but, thank God, we came off safe. It was at this time that our army began to retreat, and it became general throughout our lines. We carried our Colonel about two miles on a litter, when we became exhausted and had to set him down, and some of our men took him up and carried him to the bridge that we had repaired when the rebels cut off our retreat, and that is the last we saw of him. Drs. Homiston and Swalm were with him at the time, also Lewis Phillips, Charles Phillips’ brother, and that is the last we saw of them. Bob Webb had his rifle shot out of his hand at the same place. Thank God, our regiment did their duty, they were the last of our division to leave the field; they made 7 distinct charges on the batteries. Our regiment has not been represented in the proper light; I understand the Zouaves got all the credit; they made but one charge, and that was when the Black Horse Cavalry charged upon them, and that was the last. Some of their men were in our ranks and some in the 71st, and others in the 8th, all the rest were up to the hospital, and you could not get them on the field again; they said they would not go on account of having no one to lead them; that their officers were not worth a d—n, that was the expression of them all. Those that were with the 71st, it is said, did very well, but I did not see them. I must close this letter, for the mail is about starting for Washington. There are about 140 men that we cannot account for, and 60 or 70 that we can, which makes 210, yet we have some hopes that these figures will be reduced, and I hope they will. I suppose we will remain here some time to recruit.

Yours,
John Fulton.

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

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Clear Copy at Newspapers.com 

Contributed by John Hennessy

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

John Fulton at Ancestry 

John Fulton at Fold3