Image: Lt. Douglas French Forrest, Co. H, 17th Virginia Infantry

24 07 2020
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Douglas French Forrest as Paymaster, CS Navy (Source)





Lieut. Douglas French Forrest, Co. H,* 17th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

23 07 2020

A GRAPHIC PICTURE.
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We have been permitted to copy the following extracts from a letter written by a young officer who greatly distinguished himself at the battle of Manassas.

Should his modesty take offence at the publication of his frank expressions of feeling and unreserved narration of events, our apology is found in the fact that the original was placed at our disposal byt the courtesy of those to whom it was addressed.

The style is singularly copious, and the descriptive passages especially fine; and the more to be admired when we reflect that the letter was written, a la Pope**, upon fugitive scraps of paper, and currente calamo.***

THE NIGHT BEFORE THE BATTLE.

Saturday night was spent in watching. – The enemy’s bugle, his drum, the rumble of his baggage trains and artillery; not only these, but their very words of command, being distinctly audible in the silent night.

The next morning partly refreshed, we were ordered over the ford, (Bull Run,) as scouts in that direction. I was creeping over the field, when the enemy threw a shell at my party, which exploded just in advance of us. Here we passed a body, one of the Massachusetts slain, (shot the day before,) blackened and ghastly.

After a few hours we were ordered to our reserve, and, without breakfast, to deploy as skirmishers. The first reserve had been left in charge of Willie Fowle. I led the second further on, while the Captain placed himself in the skirt of wood, having established a line of sentries. Here we watched the enemy’s batteries, and would report their movements to the General. Becoming anxious about him, I left my reserve under Zimmerman, and advanced on the spot. The Captain said: “Don, I am awfully sleepy, and will just take a little nap, if you will watch those fellows there.” I cheerfully acquiesced, and relieved Jordan, one of our men who was the actual look-out at the fence. Here I lay on my face, my time pleasantly occupied with the proceedings at the batteries, the ceaseless explosions of the guns and rattle of musketry from the great fight below being in strange contrast with the quiet scenery of mountains and valleys!

SHOWING HOW YANKEE SPORTSMEN FLUSHED GAME AND THEMSELVES TOOK WING.

I unclasped my sword bet and yielded myself to the seductions of the scene, and was startled from my almost reverie by the cry of Lovelace, one of our men, posted on the right: “Look out, Lieutenant! Here they are!” Looking around I saw their skirmishers within about thirty yards with their pieces at a ready, and advancing, just as sportsmen approach a covey of partridges. I shouted to the Captain, and we dashed into the woods. I then asked him if we should fight them? He said, “he reckoned we had.” I then yelled to the boys, “Come on, Old Dominions! Now’s your chance! Now is the chance you’ve waited for!” This shout of mine was heard by our forces on the other side of the Run. The boys say I said “Isn’t it Glorious!” But I don’t remember. On came the boys. I led them, pointed out the Yankees, and we drove them out of the woods and completely put them to flight. As we drove them into the field, the enemy’s battery, about four hundred yards off, opened on us with grape and cannister, and we ordered a retreat; not, however, before our men returned it, firing right at the guns, wounding, as I have since learned from a prisoner, several of their men.

THE “IRON DICK” BATTLE.

We were exposed nearly half a mile without support. The enemy had our range completely, and we were in great peril – the balls whizzing and humming all around us. Fowle, who had advanced his reserve, and behaved with great coolness, says the line of skirmishers extended a long way and intended to cut us off; but we gave a yell, and as I have said, drove them home. Arthur was too slow in retreat even after he had given the order. I had to turn back twice too look for him.

How the balls rattled! Every man would sometimes have to get behind a tree to escape the “dreaded storm.”

A SOLDIER’S GRAVE.

McDermot, one of our men, was killed by a grape-shot. On yesterday I buried him. He had lain out all night, and our eyes filled with woman’s tears as we covered him with his blanket, and left him to sleep on the field where he had fallen. Hurdles put a head and foot mark at his grave, with the inscription in pencil:

Dennis McDermot, of the Old Dominion Rifles, of Alexandria, Va, died in battle, July 21, 1861, a gallant soldier and a good man.”

THE RETREAT OF THE “GRAND ARMY.”

What a glorious day Sunday was for the South! When the rout of the enemy came, down the long line of Bull Run (Yankee’s Run? Eds.) up went a shout! Oh! how grand it was! Imagine the quiet woods through which the watching bayonets glittered silently, suddenly alive with triumphant hurrahs! From right to left, and left to right, for seven miles they were repeated! Then came to order to advance, and as we left the woods and gained the high and open ground, the grandest spectacle I ever saw met my eyes. Company after company, regiment after regiment, brigade after brigade, army after army of our troops appeared We halted to enjoy the sight, and as our glorious artillery and dashing cavalry spurred by in pursuit, shout after shout rent the air. General Longstreet, our Brigade Commander, rode along our line with his staff and thousands of men flung their caps in the air, or swung them on their bayonets. Col. Corse our gallant little Colonel got his meed of hurrahs; next, an old negro who rode by with his gun, got no small salute. And then the sunset came in a perfect glory of light sifted through the leaves.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/3/1861

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This letter also appears in History of the 17th Virginia Regiment, C.S.A, by George Wise

* Per Col. Montgomery Corse’s Official Report,  Co. H (Capt. Herbert) was advanced across Bull Run as skirmishers on the morning of the 21st. The roster in the above referenced regimental history lists three lieutenants in Co. H: Wm. H. Fowle, Jr; D. F. Forrest; and W. W. Zimmerman. As the letter writer identifies Fowle and Zimmerman in his narrative, and is identified as a lieutenant, this letter was likely written by 2nd Lt. D. F. Forrest.

** Alexander Pope wrote his translation of Homer’s Illiad on the backs of scraps of otherwise used paper.

*** Without deep reflection, extemporaneous, “off the cuff.”

Douglas French Forrest bio

Douglas French Forrest at Ancestry.com 

Douglas French Forrest at Fold3 

Douglas French Forrest at FindAGrave 

 





“Palmetto,” Bonham’s Brigade, On the Battle

20 07 2020

The Battle of Manassas.

Richmond, Va., July 29th, 1861.

To the Editors of the Dispatch: – Among the many incidents of the battle of Manassas which have been reported in the city press since the fight, there was one important fact which should not be passed over in silence, and I am surprised that it has not before this time been mentioned, viz: the share which two South Carolina regiments had in the affair.

These regiments (the 2d South Carolina, Col. Kershaw, and the 3d* South Carolina, Col. Cash) reached the scene of action about 1 ½ o’clock P. M. Just before they caught sight of the enemy, they were met by at least fifteen hundred of our men – many of them wounded – coming away from the field of battle, who told them “the day was lost!” that “we could do nothing with the enemy, for their artillery was too strong for us!” that “Col. Hampton and all his officers were killed, and the enemy were driving our forces back!” This was the tenor of the information received by these two Palmetto regiments, who had already gone over four miles of hilly and broken ground at the double-quick step, and were, of course, in no plight to plunge into a contest with twenty times their force, probably flushed with the prospect of victory, and excited to madness by the contest. But, the gallant Palmettos, although believing they were marching on to certain destruction – upon a worse than forlorn hope – never faltered a moment, except to inquire the nearest way to the scene of combat, and hurried on. They soon heard a sharp volley from a wood in front, and the balls whistled through their ranks, cutting down many of their number, while the air overhead was alive with the hoarse scream of shells and the hum of cannon shot, as they crashed through the branches around.

Charging through the wood, they came in sight of the enemy – the N. Y. Fire Zouaves and the Chasseurs – and with a cheer that was heard above the din of battle, rushed upon the foe, firing as they went! The enemy immediately broke and fled across fields, fences and ditches for about a mile; but five or six regiments of them rallied on a high hill opposite. The Palmettos made at them, but were ordered to halt. Why this order was given we could not at first see, for our ranks were being rapidly thinned by the long range Minnie and Maynard guns of the Yankees. But while asking each other what it meant, we heard the clear voice of Col. Kershaw tinging over the field, “Boys, lie down and let the artillery fire over you!” – We immediately fell upon our faces, and the artillery (consisting of two pieces of Kemper’s Alexandria Battery,) sent death and desolation among the well-drawn up lines of the foe on the opposite hill, while our men picked off the officers or individuals occupying the prominent places among them. They began to waver, and a few more shots from Kemper and a volley or two between the pauses of the artillery from the deadly Mississippi rifles of the Palmetto boys completed the rout, and the enemy fled in confusion. Their own artillery, (six splendid rifled pieces of Griffin’s Battery) was turned upon them, and lent additional terror to their flight. But the fact to which I referred in the beginning of this slight outline was this: – These two South Carolina regiments, together with Kemper’s Battery and a detachment of the Va. Black Horse Cavalry, pursued the enemy for six miles beyond the field of battle and captured over twenty pieces of artillery, besides arms and stores innumerable, which otherwise would have been carried off!

Palmetto

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/2/1861

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* The 3rd Carolina was commanded by Col. J. H. Williams. The 8th South Carolina was commanded by Col. E. B. C. Cash. Both regiments were in Bonham’s Brigade along with the 2nd and 7th South Carolina. The action described appears to coincide with that of the 2nd and 8th SC, which operated together. This mistake could have been made by the editors (mistaking an 8 for a 3), or by the letter writer, who may have been unfamiliar with the command of the 8th or 3rd SC, or may not have been an eyewitness and was reporting second-hand information. It is assumed the letter writer was a participant, but not known.





“H*****,” Co. K, 18th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

19 07 2020

The Charlotte Rifles.

To the Editors of the Richmond Dispatch: – As an answer to the various inquiries of our numerous relatives and friends in Charlotte, concerning the part Capt. T. J. Spencer’s Rifle Company took in the recent engagement upon Bull Run, I propose as briefly as possible to give the desired information through the medium of your interesting columns. Some have erroneously supposed that we were at Mitchel’s Ford on Thursday, the 18th. We were not in any action until Sunday, the 21st. Early in the morning of that memorable day, we were stationed upon the road leading to Lewis’ Ford, which we had been guarding with a sleepless vigilance for several days. While standing here with the other companies of our regiment, arranged around at various points for the defence of the ford, our Captain took the first prisoner taken that day – He was a spy belonging to an Ohio regiment. He had unconsciously straggled into the lines of our men. When it became evident that the enemy did not design to cross the ford in that direction, we were deployed as skirmishers to prevent them from planting a battery in an open field upon and elevated point that commanded a full view of the opposite side of the stream – Here we remained for 3 or 4 hours, listening to the heavy thunderings of the artillery, the incessant roar of the musketry, and awful cries of the wounded – intermingled alternatively with the hearty cheers of the enemy and the vociferous applause of our soldiery as the tide of the battle would change from one side to the other. Having been withdrawn from our position and drawn up in battle array on the opposite side of the stream, we received orders to go forward to battle. In our advance we were exposed to the enemy’s shell and ball for more than a mile before we entered the battle-field. We advanced under the most discouraging circumstances. We met remnants of other regiments in retreat, saying that their companies had been cut to pieces and that the day was well-nigh lost. The wounded also were brought out in full view of our line. – The first appalling sight that met our vision was a wounded soldier with his left arm and a part of his left side entirely torn off rom his body. Wounds of various kinds presented themselves to our view. Strange to say, the only encouragement we received was from some poor wounded soldiers, who as they were being carried off the field waved their hands toward the scene of conflict. After marching through a body of thick pines, our company being situated upon the extreme left wing of the regiment, happened to fall suddenly upon a halfscore or more of New York Zouaves. We took a captain and several others as prisoners, and killed all the rest – They had on red pantaloons and a blue fatigue shirt. It was by the bullet of one of those desperadoes that Mr. Jas. Thomas, a worthy member of our company, lost his life.

Owing to various impediments on our route, our lines were thrown somewhat into confusion; but the regiment was soon arranged again, drawn up in full battle array in full view of the enemy. We were held here as mere spectators, awaiting further orders, and exposed, in the meanwhile, to a continual shower of the enemy’s bullets. When the command was given to advance, the whole regiment went in double-quick time, cheering and firing as they ran; meanwhile the flags of the Southern Confederacy were seen right and left, advancing over every hill. The enemy’s battery had been taken, and it became the province of our regiment to hold it. We met with but little resistance. The Charlotte Rifles, with the aid of Adjutant Hill, of North Carolina, had the honor of turning the famous Sherman’s battery around, and firing it upon the owners. When the Northern vandals perceived that the invincible columns of the Southern Confederacy were coming against them in and irresistible tide, and that their own guns were turned against them, they set their faces towards the land of their birth, resolving as no doubt many of them did, never to set foot again upon Virginian soil.

H*****

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/3/1861

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“An Eye-Witness,” 17th Virginia Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford

18 07 2020

THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN.

An “Eye-Witness” of this fight desires us to publish the following, and an act of justice to the troops who bore the brunt of the action. Though rather late in the day for a description of scenes with which the reader is familiar, we comply with the request:

Too much credit cannot be given to the 1st and 17th Regiments of Virginia Volunteers for their good conduct in the battle of Bull Run on Thursday, the 18th day of July. It was an experimental or test action in which the enemy first learned to run, and first discovered the necessity of so doing to save themselves from our steady fire and determined assault. It had a most important effect on the battle of Sunday, the 21st. In both cases the flight of the enemy was most precipitate and disastrous.

Gen. Longstreet’s Brigade, consisting of 1st Regiment Virginia Volunteers, commanded by Co. Moore, 17th Regiment, Col. Corse, and 11th Regiment, Col. Garland, were ordered under arms and marched in ten minutes out of camps at Manassas on the morning of the 17th, and in quick time reached Bull Run, some four miles distant. We were posted in a bend or horse-shoe of the run on the inner circle and along the bank. As the movement was designed as an ambuscade, silence and secrecy were observed by the troops. We slept on our arms that night, and early in the morning were ready for action. About eight o’clock our force was posted by regiment and divisions at the most available points for defense around the circle and flanking above and below Blackburn’s ford. It fell to the lot of the 17th to be posted mainly around this ford – one division was advanced across the ford to the opposite bank as skirmishers; the other divisions of the 17th were posted on the bank within the circle protected by trees and undergrowth, ready to meet the enemy as they advanced over the opposite bank, which was much higher than the ground occupied by us.

The Washington Artillery was some distance in the rear, and several regiments were posted near by in case of necessity. About 11 ½ A. M., the report of a rifle was heard from the other side of the run, then another and another. It was evident that the enemy were feeling for us in different directions. Then came the fire of a cannon, followed by many others in succession. This continued for half an hour without being noticed by us. We supposed by this that our position was discovered and all hope of the ambuscade was at an end, for very soon the enemy were seen advancing over the hill. Our artillery then opened fire, which was followed by the infantry around the ford. The rattling of musketry and the booming of cannon continued, with two slight pauses until about five o’clock in the afternoon, when the fire of the enemy ceased altogether; and it was afterwards discovered he had suddenly retreated, leaving many of his dead and wounded, several hundred muskets and two pieces of cannon on the field. The enemy fired their rifle cannon at the hospital, though protected by its flag, and struck it. They also fired at the ambulances with wounded men in them. Their sudden retreat was in no doubt owing, not only to the bloody repulse they had met with and the sad havoc made in their ranks, but to the appearance on the field of two Southern regiments coming shouting at double-quick. The shout was taken up by our brigade, and the horse shoes rung with the sound of human voices, that for a moment almost equalled the artillery. Certain it is, they fired but a few scattering shots after that, and had we known they were retreating we would have made a [?] of it. We were expecting the attack to be renewed every minute. As it was, their loss, in killed, wounded and missing, was over one thousand. Our loss did not exceed in [?] killed and about 60 wounded.

The Washington Artillery on that day immortalized itself. For coolness and courage, [?] of management of the guns, and rapidity and certainty of fire, it could not be excelled. Every man in the 1st and 17th did his whole duty. From position they, with the artillery, bore the brunt of the whole fight. Where every one fought so well, it were invidious to particularize.

Col. Moore, of the 1st, was wounded in the arm, and the commanded devolved on Lt. Col. Fry, who was assisted by Maj. Skinner. – Col. Corse, Lt. Col. Munford, and Adjutant Humphreys of the 17th, and Major Brent, were on the field in command in different parts of it. All these officers were in the thickest of the fight and displayed utmost coolness and courage. But nothing could exceed the cool determination and fearless daring of the officers and men of the line in the 17th Regiment. The writer could not obtain a list of the killed and wounded.

The Captains seemed to be marked by the enemy. Captain Dulaney, of the Fairfax Rifles, was shot in the shoulder by a musket ball. Captain Prestman was shot in the arm and side by buck-shot. These officers were taken from the field. Captain B. H. Shackelford, of the Warrenton Rifles, was shot in the ankle by a cannister ball. He bandaged the wound and remained upon the field till the close of the fight. O doubt is entertained that all of them will recover.

General Longstreet seemed to be everywhere, regardless of danger, and unconscious of what a conspicuous mark he presented to the enemy.

All praise, say we, to the [?] Regiments of Longstreet’s Brigade, and [?] of the first and seventeenth regiments.

An Eye-Witness

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/3/1861

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“Staunton,” 5th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

17 07 2020

THE FIFTH VIRGINIA REGIMENT.

Camp Near Manassas, July 31.

I take the liberty of asking a small space in your valuable paper to do honor to a regiment which has been entirely neglected in the accounts of the battle of July 21st. No notice has been taken of the Fifth Virginia Regiment or its gallant and brave commanders, Colonels Harper and Harman, and Major Baylor, or its heroic captains and men, who participated in that memorable conflict. The regiment was in the hottest of the fight for many hours. Captain A. W. Harman, of the Staunton Rifles (Company G,) was the first man who took possession of Sherman’s celebrated Battery, (six pieces,) and kept it. I should have noticed this before, but have been unable in consequence of sickness since the fight. Knowing that it is your principle to accord merit where merit is due, I hope you will oblige the Fifth by publishing the foregoing.

Staunton

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/3/1861

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“Chew,” Stanard’s Battery/Thomas Artillery, On the Battle and Casualties

16 07 2020

A correspondent, who desires that justice should be done to a gallant company, sends the following:

Manassas Junction, July 31st, 1861.

Having noticed the different correspondence of the Dispatch for the last week in regard to the late battle of Sunday, July 21st, allow me, an eye-witness, to correct an error in regard to the statement that the Howitzers rendered, &c., in the battle of that memorable day. The mistake was made, from the fact of the uniforms of the Howitzers and the Thomas Artillery are very nearly alike, the credit, therefore, is justly due to that gallant little band, the Thomas Artillery, who, for seven hours, under the range of the enemy’s battery, stood bravely by their guns, pouring shot thick and fast, and with good effect, into the enemy’s ranks, firing, as I understand, seven hundred and odd shot. Their ammunition being exhausted, they were ordered to retire, which they did in food order, having sustained a loss of two killed – Lieut. Macon and private John B. Dixon; and five wounded – Serg’t Massenburg, Corp’ls Thos. McCurdy and Topp, privates Waller and Davidson; the battery a loss of an ammunition chest, of one caisson, (which was struck by one of the enemy’s shells and blown up,) twenty five horses, killed wounded and missing.

They arrived, after a forced march from Winchester under Gen. Johnston, on the battlefield about eight o’clock Sunday morning, without food for men or horses, and remained near the field of battle the whole day, and at sun down took up their march for this place, which they reached about midnight.

There is no news worth attention. Troops continue to arrive daily. A number of wounded Yankee prisoners arrived last evening.

“Chew.”

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/3/1861

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* The Richmond Howitzers, Capt. J. C. Shields





Unknown, Lynchburg Artillery/Latham’s Battery, On the Battle

14 07 2020

The War.
—————
Facts and Incidents of the late Battles, &c., &c.
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A correspondent, who was attached to Latham’s Battery in the battle of July 21st, desires to correct a statement that has been published, to the effect that the battle was commenced at Stone Bridge by Gen. Evans, with certain regiments supported by two guns of the Washington Artillery. The writer says:

“In the first place there was no battle at the Stone Bridge, and in the second place none of the guns of the Washington Artillery were within miles of the bridge, nor in any manner connected with Gen. Evans’ command. With two six pounders of Latham’s Battery, I was within one hundred yards of the bridge, with a full compliment of men for both guns, under command of Gen. Evans, awaiting the approach of the enemy. In this position we had been for a week, scarcely leaving our guns, night or day, for a single moment. We were exposed to a raking fire from the enemy for most of the eleven hours’ battle, and it is no more than justice to Gen. Evans to say that [?] coolness, courage, and ability in battle, he has few equals.

“The two guns at the Stone Bridge were the left half of Captain Latham’s Battery, commanded by Lieuts. Davidson and Leftwich. The Captain of the Washington Artillery is too gallant a man to claim honors belonging to others, when an eleven hours’ in the open fields leaves no room for doubt, in the minds of any who were engaged, as to the respective positions of each.”

The writer goes on to give a detailed and minute account of the fight, closely written on both sides of the paper, which is a sufficient reason for its omission. His compliments to Gen. Evans, and to Captain Latham and his men, are fully justified by their action on that memorable day. On other paragraph [?]:

“Having ascertained that Lieut. Dempsey, of Company G., New York Second Regiment, [?] in the Baltimore Sun as killed, was in one of the hundred hospitals convenient to Manassas, Stone Bridge and Centreville, I went to see him, and found he had a dangerous wound in the head, caused by a bursting bomb. He told me he had a wife living in New York City, and I insert this for her benefit, trusting it may meet her eye and will venture a piece of advice. In time to come it would be well for Mrs. Dempsey to keel the Lieutenant at home, and leave us to manage our niggers as suits us best.”

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/3/1861

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“Justice,” 4th Alabama Infantry, On the Battle

13 07 2020

The Fourth Alabama Regiment.

Culpeper C. H., July 28, 1861.

To the Editors of the Dispatch: – Knowing that you would not intentionally allow injustice done through your columns to any of the brave soldiers engaged in achieving the glorious victory of the 21st at Manassas, I ask sufficient space for a brief statement of facts. In a late number of your paper appears a voluminous letter from an “eye-witness,” of the scenes enacted on the field, with somewhat minute detail of incidents and evolutions, and yet a regiment occupying the extreme left, in front of our entire line of battle nearly two hundred yards, exposed to a most murderous fire of musketry on both flanks, and of artillery in front, which held its position for nearly two hours, and by its obstinate courage contributed in no little degree toward the brilliant results achieved, is not even mentioned. I do not supposed and disparagement was designed, but it is difficult to imagine how a body of men so conspicuously exposed and so terribly decimated, (losing in killed and wounded just half of their whole number,) could have so entirely escaped the attention of your correspondent.

But once during nine long hours of incessant struggle and conflict did this little band even stagger, and then they rallied promptly at the command of their officers. Twice, under orders from their superiors, they retreated a short distance, but re-formed and renewed the fight without confusion or disorder. Some of the privates, in the fierceness of one of the charges, were separated from their company, but they never left the field. They formed with the first advancing column, and fought until the shout of victory arrested their forward footsteps. Their Colonel , Lieutenant Colonel and Major were shot down, and yet the Fourth Regiment of Alabama Volunteers maintained both its position and organism on the field throughout the fight. Colonel E. J. Long*, wounded in both hips by separate shots from opposite directions, now lies at Orange C. H., it is hoped, out of immediate danger. – Lieutenant Colonel Law is here, suffering from a shattered arm, which the surgeons think can be cured without amputation. – Major Scott, (C. S. A., formerly M. C. of the U. S. Congress from California,) is, I believe, in Richmond or its vicinity, with a Minnie ball through his leg.

Thus much I have felt impelled by a sense of justice to say.

Justice.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/1/1861

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Col. E. J. JONES was mortally wounded in the battle and died at Orange Court House on 9/1/1861.





Watermelony Death

10 07 2020

Oh, the things we find.

Now that I’ve fallen into the black hole of Newspapers.com, I find that I can’t just focus on Bull Run stuff. I recall reading once that Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit and Unbroken, reads ALL of the papers when she’s researching her subject – that is, she reads the whole paper. This in fact is how she came across the story of Unbroken, while she was researching Seabiscuit. Anyway, today I was cruising through the August 1, 1861 issue of the Richmond Dispatch. On page two I came across this tidbit, a reminder that there are stories everywhere.

Lamentable Affair – We learn that Capt. Charles H. Axson, of South Carolina, was killed last Tuesday evening, near Wilson, North Carolina, on the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, by Arthur B. Davis, of the Second Georgia Regiment. The main particulars of the affair, as we learn from eyewitnesses, are as follows:

Capt. Axson, en route for Richmond, was bringing with him some watermelons and fine tropical fruit, as a present to distinguished friends in Richmond. Davis, while intoxicated, cut open several of the melons and crushed others. He afterwards approached the Captain and offered as an apology the remark that he was drunk, to which the Captain replied that being drunk was no excuse for stealing. During the day Davis again approached the Captain, and declared that he was sorry for what he had done while intoxicated, and was willing to make any apology for it. The Captain replied that he was satisfied, shook his hand and joined him in a drink. – They appeared afterwards to be friendly for some hours. In the afternoon, Davis being again under the influence of liquor, was making a rather careless exhibition of side-arms, when the Captain, in a good humor, and apparently remonstrating, held him for a moment. Being released, Davis withdrew for a moment to another car; but soon returned, with pistol in hand, demanding to know who was the man who had imposed on him. Captain A, supposing at once that he was the person alluded to, stepped forward, and was shot in the breast by Davis when very near him. Capt. A. died instantly. Davis was arrested.

Capt. Axson was the commander of Company “M,” First Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, which returned home a few weeks since. He was returning with his company again to enter the service. He was a true Southern man and a gallant officer. His company were warmly devoted to him, and are much afflicted by his untimely death.

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The next day, in the same paper, on the same page (semi-colons abound!):

The Late Homicide Followed by an Attempt at Murder! – Yesterday we learned that young Davis, who shot Capt. Axson on the Wilmington cars on Tuesday evening, was taken by a mob from a car on the south side of the river, opposite the city, and after being conveyed some half mile or so, was shot and stabbed several times. Though not killed outright, it is feared that his wounds are mortal. Some account of this shocking affair will be found in our local column, and it is also referred to in a letter, which we publish below.

We published yesterday an account of the killing of Capt Axson, which was furnished by a member of his company. We regret that in it the paper was led into the statement of circumstances that certainly reflect upon Mr. Davis, and are disputed. We are satisfied that he was a gentleman most respectably connected, and held in warm esteem amongst his fellow citizens. We give place very readily to the following communication in his vindication;

Richmond, Va., August 1st, 1861.

Editors Dispatch: Sir – In your issue of this morning, under the heading of “Lamentable Affairs,” I find an account of the shooting of Captain Axson, 1st South Carolina Volunteers, by Mr. Davis, of 2d Georgia Volunteers. So far as the fact of Captain Axson having been shot by Mr. Davis you are correct, and in so far only. From disinterested eye-witnesses, (witnesses who do not belong to either State, South Carolina or Georgia,) I learn that both parties were inebriated; that Mr. Davis did cut one, or perhaps more, melons of Captain Axson’s; when taxed for so doing Mr. Davis apologized, stating that he had supposed they were for sale, (as fruit was thus exposed all along the line,) and that he expected to pay for them on the appearance of the owner; that he was sorry for the mistake; that the excuse satisfied Captain A., when both drank together, more than once. A dispute afterwards arose, during which Captain Axson held Mr. Davis to the floor, choking him. On being released, Mr. Davis left the car, and procuring his side-arms returned to the car and to his seat, remarking that he would not suffer himself to be thus imposed on again; that on Captain Axson’s making a rush on him, Mr. Davis shot him. Your informant neglected to state to you other facts: that Major Butt, of the Second Georgia Regiment immediately arrested Mr. D, disarmed him and conveyed him to this city; that he left him in one of the cars, under a corporal’s guard, and went to hunt up the proper authorities, to whom he intended to surrender him; that during his absence the guard was set upon by a posse of armed men, (supposed to belong to Capt. Axson’s company;) that being no longer able to hold him the guard surrendered him, on the possee or mob promising to only convey him to the proper authorities; that the armed mob took Mr. Davis a half mile out of town, and there brutally murdered him; shooting him, and on his falling, one of the party ran up and stabbed him. Major Butt having taken his arms from him, no such cowardly assassination would have been attempted; for men who could this act, would have lacked the courage to have attacked him openly, when armed. Mr. Davis is well known in Georgia; his previous character has been unimpeachable. His conduct at home and abroad has been that of the true gentleman. The blood of Georgia’s Governors flow not in other veins, and the 2d Georgia Regiment had hoped that the press of Richmond would have waited until a judicial investigation had thrown full light on the affair. I do not know why the disposition of the fruit being bought by Capt. A. was mentioned. The piece says it was or “distinguished friends of Richmond.” If, by this mention, it was intended to leave the impression of social inequality on the part of Mr. D, it should have been left out; for Mr. D., socially, was any one’s equal. He occupied in his native State a high social position and deservedly. He was connected with (and never disgraced his connection,) the most honorable families in Georgia, begin a grandson of ex-Gov. Schley. So much for “distinguished friends” and its inference.

Respectfully,
W. A. T.

Clipping image

There’s more, in other papers (for example, here), but I can’t delve too deeply into it. But YOU can! Let me know what you turn up in the comments section.

Capt. Charles H. Axson at FindAGrave

I couldn’t find anything definitive on Arthur B. Davis, but from what I can gather his wounds were not fatal.