Unknown, 11th North Carolina Infantry, On the Campaign

31 08 2020

LETTERS
FROM OUR VOLUNTEERS.
—————

Manassas Gap, Va., July 23, 1861.

On last Thursday we met the enemy at a place called “Bull’s Run,” about four miles from Manassas, and repulsed them three times with a loss to ourselves of only six killed and nine wounded, while the enemy confess to a loss of about eight hundred killed & wounded. They sent a flag of truce to us and asked leave to bury their dead, which was granted, and it took them all the next day – Friday – to finish the task. But the greatest news is yet to come. The enemy fell back on Friday to Centreville about eight miles from Manassas, and on Saturday were reinforced by 30,000 men under Gen. Patters. This made their force about 90,000 altogether. We were reinforced about the same time by 15,000 men under Ben. Johnston, and afterwards by Jackson’s brigade of 5,000. Jeff. Davis came up from Richmond also with some 15,000 or 20,000 men, thus making our force about 65,000. On Sunday morning, just as I received your letter, the pickets came galloping in, announcing that the Yankees were advancing from Centreville to attack us, and in about ten minutes afterward we heard the heavy thunders of their batteries about five miles on our left wing. Our line was stretched about 15 miles from Manassas to the north-west. Our regiment was placed immediately in the centre; it being the post of honor, and was given to us in order to compliment North Carolina for the bravery of her sons at Bethel Church. We had splendid entrenchments, and had a field battery of 6 cannon to support us where our company was placed as that was the spot where it was thought the enemy would tug and break through. Along the line of our regiment, other than where the Rifles were place, where were about twelve or fifteen other pieces, loaded with canister, ready to belch forth death to the foe at every discharge. We had not waited long after firing commenced before we saw the enemy marching in front of us at a distance of two and a half or three miles, arranging their line of battle. Their design was to attack our right, left, and centre simultaneously, with 20,000 men at each point, keeping 30,000 reserve. We had about 5,000 on our right, 5,000 on our centre, and some 15,000 on our left, as it was shrewdly suspected by General Beauregard that the grand blow would be made upon our left, that being the point most weakly defended by breastworks. The remainder of our troops were kept in reserve. About 9 o’clock the batteries in front of us were opened and the Yankees bombarded and cannonaded us till noon without cessation. The shells burst over us and all around us. Our entrenchments were struck by no less than 132 bombs and balls. The air was kept full of them flying in every direction, but not a single man of our regiment was hurt. During all this time the enemy were too far distant for us to do any thing with our muskets, and our cannon were not large enough to compete with the heavy Armstrong guns, and rifled cannon of the enemy; so we kept ourselves snug in our trenches watching the effect of the shells and balls, and getting so used to them that we could only laugh when one came too near, and declare that it was but a chance shot.

About noon, the grand assault was made up on the left, and then commenced the slaughter. The Yankees advanced in a solid body, and our troops held their fire until the enemy were within 100 yards and then they let fly. From this time on the thunders of cannon and musketry were incessant, and the battle became general. – The sky was clouded with smoke. Cavalry was galloping in every direction, and infantry from the reserve kept filing in double quick as fast as they could go. This continued until four o’clock in the afternoon, when suddenly the Major of our Regiment galloped along our lines, and taking off his hat, he waved it, shouting “The Yankees are flying, and our men have captured all their batteries.”

Cheer after cheer burst from the North Carolina boys, who were wild with delight. It was true enough! The enemy had been repulsed at all points, and were routed, horse, foot and dragoons, leaving 30,000 killed and wounded upon the field. The order was next given for us to form into line, and pursue them. We did so with fixed bayonets, and at double quick. Three thousand of our Cavalry first galloped after them, and then our whole army of infantry and artillery rushed after the Cavalry. We could see the Yankees clipping it at 2.40 speed about a mile ahead of us. They threw away their guns, knapsacks, blankets, cartridge boxes, and oil cloths. They left their baggage wagons and horses. All their provisions were cast along side the road and they themselves scattered like frightened sheep. It was the grandest sight in the world to see 60,000 men flying before 40,000 all going it as hard as they could clip. We followed them two miles beyond Centreville, and our men then broke down with running, and we had to return. We reached our entrenchment about 9 o’clock at night, and then wrapped ourselves in our blankets to catch a few hours rest, after the excitements of the day. The next morning we were made aware of the of our victory – 30,000 of the enemy killed and wounded on the field, and left for us to bury and take care of; 6,000 of our men killed and wounded. The Sixth N. C. Regiment of State troops were nearly cut to pieces, and its Colonel, Chas. F. Fisher, shot through the brain, dead. Two South Carolina Regiments, two Virginia Regiments, one Mississippi and one Alabama Regiment, were also shot to pieces. One Regiment lost every officer from the rank of Captain up to Colonel, some of the South Carolina companies had only six men living when the battle was over.

The enemy was completely defeated. We captured all their cannon, 66 pieces including Sherman’s famous rifled battery; 108 baggage wagons, hundreds of horses, all their provisions and ammunition. We took about 1,500 prisoners among whom were 36 field officers that we know of. Such was the great battle of Manassas. It will be a day long to be remembered in history.

A portion of our army is now pursuing the enemy towards Alexandria, and out Regiment moves to night for the same place. There will no doubt, be another battle there, as it is the key to Washington City; but we will be the conquerors as our boys are inspirited by victory, and the Yankees are disheartened by their bitter and overwhelming defeat. I wish I had room to tell you all the incidents of the battle, but I must, per force, reserve the narrative till I return. It would take a god sized volume to tell the half I could tell.

(Winston-Salem, NC) The People’s Press, 8/2/1861

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