Notes on the Suicide of Lt. C. E. Earle

17 09 2020
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Richmond’s Exchange Hotel and Ballard House (contributed by reader Tom Leupold)

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Contributed by reader Tom Leupold

My last post  was an article in the August 8, 1861 Richmond Dispatch on the suicide of Lt. C. E. Earle, of Co. B, 4th South Carolina Infantry. I like to leave the items in the Resources section of this site generally free of opinion and analysis, other than providing links to where the reader can learn more. The interest this post has been surprising, considering I debated whether or not to include it in the first place, and has impelled me to provide a little more information.

As stated in commentary at the bottom of the post, I suspect the C. E. Earle in question is Claudius Eugene Earle, based on this site,  which for some reason shows his death date as July 7, 1861 as opposed to Aug. 7, but does show a birth date of 1835. Fold3 tells me that C. E. (and that’s how all his available records show, “C. E.”) was one of four Earles in Co. B, the others being Alexander C., G. W., and James W., all privates. I located a FindAGrave entry for a Claudius Eugene Earle in Anderson County, S. C., where Co. B was raised, but it shows birth and death dates in 1835. Was this another C. E. Earle, or perhaps was it some convention to allow for the burial of a suicide within the churchyard? I don’t know.

As to whether or not whatever action Earle saw at Frist Bull Run impacted his decision to leap from the 6th floor of Richmond’s Ballard House to Franklin St. below, I have no idea. Earle is mentioned twice in the after action report of Col. J. B. E. Sloan. Basically, Earle as a lieutenant was in command of Co. B. on the 21st (why Capt. W. W. Humphreys was not, I don’t know). First, the company was held in reserve at the Stone Bridge, with companies E and J (yes, J) deployed as skirmishers there. The rest of the regiment was sent to Matthews Hill. After the Confederates fell back across the Warrenton Pike… I’ll let Sloan take it from here:

Lieutenant Earle, commanding Company B (Palmetto Riflemen), and Captain Dean’s company (C), both reserves, occupied the position first held by the regiment (on the left of the road near the bridge) until after the battery retired, when they also retreated toward Lewis’ house and were then formed into a battalion, with portions of Captain Shanklin’s company, under Lieutenant Cherry, and Captain Long’s company and the New Orleans Zouaves, Captain ——-, and some Alabamians, under Major Whither and Colonel Thomas, of Maryland, and by them led to the field of battle on our extreme left. They charged a battery of the enemy, and, after a severe conflict, repulsed him. Sergeant Maxwell planted the colors of the Fourth Regiment South Carolina Volunteers on the cannon of the enemy and maintained his position until after his comrades had been repulsed by a superior force, who had deceived our men and prevented their firing upon them by using our colors and sign of recognition. During this contest Major Whitner had his horse shot under him while endeavoring to rally the men led to the charge.

And there, as far as I can tell, Earle disappears from the record, until showing up in the Dispatch eighteen days later.

What drove him to the act? Was it heredity, as the article suggests, something he saw or did during the battle of the 21st, something that happened before or afterwards unrelated to the battle, or some combination? It seems unlikely that Lt. Earle would have been given such responsibility as command of the regiment’s reserve had he been exhibiting signs of mental instability (though later in the war we can certainly point to many such cases). Was it what we today call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? I’m not a fan of post-mortem psychoanalysis after 159 years (although plenty of folks have based entire books on such drivel), so I won’t conject. But perhaps some reader out there has C. E. Earle in their tree, and can help us fill in the blanks with facts.

UPDATE: This from reader Brad in the comments:

Richmond Whig 8/8/61

Extraordinary Suicide.—Yesterday afternoon, about 4 o’clock, Lieut. C. E. Earle, of the Palmetto Rifles, 4th Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, (Col. Sloan) committed suicide by throwing himself from the front window, nearest the Eastern end, of the sixth or top story of the Ballard House. He fell upon the granite pavement below, and was instantly killed. His head and body were dreadfully fractured and crushed by the fearful concussion. The deceased was a native of Greenville, S. C. He had been sick at his room, in the Ballard House, for several days, but made bis appearance at the office, yesterday, and paid his bill, intending, as he intimated, to leave for Manassas this morning. A note found in his room, addressed to Mr. Ballard, indicates that he was laboring under an aberration of mind when he committed the rash act. He refers to certain “slanders,” charging him with refusing to recognize a young lady, whose name he mentions, and gives directions for the disposition of a considerable sum of money which he had left in the custody of Mr. Ballard.

There is also an article on the suicide in the 11/30/61 Daily Dispatch, page 2.

What caused the Dispatch to publish another article nearly 4 months later? Well, here it is (I apologize, some of image on Newspapers.com is too blurry to make out):

The Late Lieut. Earle. – The reader will remember the remarkable suicide of Lieut. Earle, at the Exchange Hotel, in August last. The reporter at that time employed in this office, noticed the event, in the local department, in a paragraph in which it was stated that the act was occasioned by insanity, which was hereditary in the deceased. – The [?] remark, so unnecessary and heedless, and in no view of the case justifiable, attraced the notice of Mr. Wm. E. Earle, a relative of Lieut. E, and he soon afterwards wrote to the editors denying the statement, and inquiring upon whose authority it was made. This letter, in the course of official business, was transferred to the local department, without reaching the editors, and was not properly answered, whilst the cause of [???] aggravated by a statement in the local column that Mr. Wm. E. Earle denied that insanity was inherited by his relative. That gentleman has recently brought [??] to the knowledge of the [???] never read the paragraph [???] or saw the letter of Mr. Earle. [??????] for the very objectionable statement is too vague to be entitled to notice.

This case is one of the wrongs of journalism growing out of inconsiderateness, without improper motive, which it must be confessed, occur too often, and which, in the nature of things, it is impossible fully to repair. We very much regret that this paper has been the medium of it, and make this explanation in justice to Mr. Wm. E. Earle and ourselves.

For now, that’s all I have. The family refuted the statement regarding the heredity of insanity. And the possibility that a woman was somehow associated with the act has been introduced. I’ll update here if I get any more, and if you find anything, please, be like Brad and leave a comment.





Suicide of Lt. C. E. Earle,* Co. B, 4th South Carolina Infantry

15 09 2020

LOCAL MATTERS.

Suicide. – Lieut. C. E. Earle, of the Palmetto Guard, of Col. Sloan’s 4th Regiment of South Carolina volunteers, killed himself instantly yesterday evening, about 4 o’clock, by jumping from the eastern 6th-story window of the Ballard House, fronting on Franklin Street. Lieut. Earl fell a distance of about 0ne hundred and ten feet to the pavement below, breaking his skull in several places, also his arm and legs. After the first alarm was over the body was removed to a room in the lower part of the building, and the Coroner (Dr. Peachy) notified to hold an inquest. There seems to be no doubt that the act was committed in a fit of temporary insanity. The reporter learned from Mr. Powers, clerk of the hotel, that he arrived there last Friday night, and, after a sojourn of a day or two, complained of indisposition, whereupon Dr. Pollard was called in to attend him. The latter yesterday left word for his patient to be watched, as he feared some attempt on his life from his appearance and bearing. No particular attention was paid to the doctor’s suggestion, it being, no doubt, deemed an evidence of sanity that he prior thereto had called and ordered both the tavern and medical bill to be drawn off, as he intended leaving on yesterday. Nothing more was thought of the matter till the suicide was an accomplished fact. It was rumored that a negro was in the room whom Earle jerked away from when he made the leap from the window. It was also said that insanity was a hereditary disease in his family. Prior to committing the rash act the deceased penned a letter directing what disposition he wished made of his property. This letter was read by Mr. Ballard. The relatives of the deceased, who are highly respectable people, were notified by telegraph of the unfortunate occurrence, and will, no doubt, soon be here to remove the body to its native soil.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/8/1861

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* Possibly Claudius Eugene Earle. Located a gravesite of Claudius Eugene Earle with birth and death date of 1835. and a reference to Claudius Eugene Earl born 1835 died July 7, 1861 in Richmond (date could be incorrect, as the article above indicates C. E. Earle died 8/7/1861)

Earle is mentioned in Col. Sloan’s after action report as being in command of Co. B during the battle.

C. E. Earle at Ancestry.com

C. E. Earle at Fold3





Col. Dixon Miles, 5th Division, Defends His Actions

14 09 2020

RICHARDSON VS. MILES.

Col. Richardson, of the Federal Army, in his report of the late battles, reiterates the charge of drunkenness against Col. Dixson S. Miles, of the same army. The latter replies as follows, through the Washington Star:

Will you please give place in your columns to a short replay from an old soldier in correction of Col. Richardson’s report as published in this morning’s Sun. Perhaps no one has ever before been hunted with more assiduous, malicious vituperation and falsehood, since the battle of Bull Run, than myself. My name, I have been told, has been a bye-word in the streets of Washington and its bar-rooms for everything derogatory to my character. It was stated I had deserted to the enemy; I was a traitor, being from Maryland; a sympathizer; gave the order to retreat; was in arrest; and now, by Col Richardson’s report, drunk.

I will not copy Richardson’s report, but correct the errors he has committed, leaving to his future days a remorse he may feel t the irreparable injury he has inflicted on an old brother officer.

The order for retreat from Blackburn’s Ford, as communicated by my staff officer, emanated from Gen. McDowell, who directed two of my brigades to march on the Warrenton road as far as the bridge on Cub creek. I sent my Adjutant General, Captain Vincent, to bring up Davies’ and Richardson’s brigades, while I gave the order for Blenker’s brigade at Centreville to proceed down the Warrenton road. I accompanied these troops a part of the way, endeavoring to collect and halt the routed soldiers. I returned to Centreville heights as Col. Richardson, with his brigade, was coming into line of battle facing Blackburn’s Ford. His position was well chosen, and I turned my attention to the pacing of Davies’ brigade and the batteries. A part of Davies’ command was placed in echellon of regiments behind fences, in support of Richardson; another portion in reserve, in support of Hunt’s and Titball’s batteries.

After completing these arrangements, I returned to Blenker’s brigade, now near a mile from Centreville heights, took a regiment to cover Green’s battery, and returned to the heights. When I arrived there, just before dusk, I found all my previous arrangements of defence had been changed, not could I ascertain who had ordered it, for General McDowell was not on the field. Col. Richardson was the first person I spoke to after passing Captain Fry; he was leading his regiment into line of battle on the crest of the hill, and directly in the way of the batteries in rear. = It was here the conversation between the Colonel and myself took place which he alludes to in his report. Gen. McDowell just afterwards came on the field, and I appealed earnestly to him to permit me to command my division, and protested against the faulty disposition of the troops to resist an attack. – He replied by taking command himself and relieving me.

Col. Richardson states a conversation with Lt. Col. Stevens, of his command. I never say Col. Stevens, to my knowledge. I never gave him, or any one, the order to deploy his column; the order must have emanated from some one else, and hence my misfortune; for on his impression that I was drunk, those not immediately connected with me rung it over the field, without inquiry or investigation. – This is all that is proper for me to say at this time, as I have called for a court to investigate the whole transaction. Those who have read Richardson’s report will confer a favor to compare this statement with it; the discrepancies are glaring – the errors by deductions apparent.

D. S. Miles,
Colonel Second Infantry.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/6/1861

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“Trion,” Holmes’s Brigade, On the Battle

14 09 2020

From the Richmond Dispatch.

Holmes’ Brigade.

Richmond, Va., Aug. 9, 1861.

To the Editors of the Dispatch: – In all the accounts of the battle at Bull Run, I see in no place where Holmes’ Brigade is mentioned, and it is to do that gallant band justice that I now trouble you. – Holmes’ Brigade was stationed at Aquia Creek before the battle, it is now, though there has been some addition to it since then. On the 18th, before the memorable 21st, they were ordered to Manassas, arriving there Saturday, perfectly broken down, after a very fatiguing march, having had very little to eat, and very little sleep. On the next day they were awakened by the booming of cannon, and were soon ordered to fall in. They then stood there on their arms, expecting every moment to be ordered into the field, until 1 o’clock, when they marched in double-quick from the extreme right wig of the army to the left wing, a distance of eight miles. Though the enemy fired into their ranks a great part of the way, they pushed on unflinchingly. – After they arrived on the battle-field, Walker’s Battery, of the brigade, opened fire upon the enemy, doing great havoc in their ranks, causing a panic, and finally the grand rout. The firing was so fine that Gen. Beauregard inquired the name of the young man who fired the first shot, and complimented him publicly. Their cavalry also did their duty, killing a great many of the enemy, and taking a great many prisoners and canon.

Trion

The (Wilmington, NC) Daily Journal, 8/17/1861

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Pvt. John A. Jennings, Co. B, 2nd South Carolina Infantry, Incidents of the Pursuit

13 09 2020

Incidents.

Mr. Jennings, a member of the Butler Guards, arrived here yesterday on his way home for a brief visit. Being an eye-witness and an active participator in the battle of Stone Bridge, he relates some interesting incidents, one or two of which we note.

When Kershaw’s regiment was advancing on the retreat of the federals, and officer, mistaking them for a federal regiment in retreat, asked them not very politely what they were retreating for, and told them to go back to their guns. Col. Kershaw, who was at the head of the column, said:

“Who are you, sir?”

“I am Surgeon General Wyndham*, of the United States army.”

And I, sir, have to honor to be the Colonel of the second Palmetto regiment; dismount and deliver up your arms.”

Not obeying very promptly, Major Artemus D. Goodwyn drew his sword, and ordered him to dismount; which he promptly did.

After surrendering, he asked the Colonel if he would permit him to go on his parole of honor.

“Yes,” said Col. Kershaw, “to General Beauregard’s headquarters;” and he went. Col. K. then mounted his horse, which is said to be a magnificent animal.

Col. Kemper, who, with his command, was with the Carolina regiment, was, at one time, surrounded by some dozen of the enemy, who demanded his sword and surrender. Col. K. said he would deliver his sword to a proper officer. Seeing one of the North Carolina regiments on the left he said to the Lincoln men, yonder is one of your regiments, take me there and I will deliver my sword to the Colonel. They did take him, and found themselves all prisoners. – Southern Guardian.

The (Charlotte, NC) Evening Bulletin, 8/1/1861

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* Identity not determined. The Surgeon General of the U. S. Army in 1861 was Brig. Gen. Clement Finley.

John A. Jennings at Ancestry.com

John A. Jennings at Fold3

John A. Jennings (KIA 7/2/63, Gettysburg PA) at FindAGrave





Corp.* Warren D. Wilkes, Co. J, 4th South Carolina Infantry, On the Capture of “Sherman’s Battery”

12 09 2020

The Capture of Sherman’s Battery.

From Lieut. Warren Wilkes, of the 4th Regiment of South Carolina volunteers, who arrived here yesterday in charge of the remains of his brother, Adjutant S. M. Wilkes, killed at Manassas, we obtain the following particulars of the capture of this celebrated battery. The battery was masked in a pine thicket, from which position it opened fire, at about ten minutes past 8 o’clock in the morning, upon Major White’s battalion of the 4th South Carolina regiment, which maintained its ground until the 4th Alabama and 11th Virginia regiments came to its assistance. The battle continued to increase in vigor and intensity, and whilst raging most furiously, our men at this point finding they were being overwhelmed in numbers, were about giving way in the centre of the column. At this critical juncture, Ex-Gov. Smith, with the 49th regiment of Virginians came to the rescue. Seizing a Confederate flag he unfurled it to the breeze, and appealing to the troops in short, forcible terms, to rally to the rescue and make one gallant final charge with their comrades in arms and win the day, he put himself at the head of the column, and followed by our gallant men, charged through several companies of sharp shooters stationed in the bushes and behind fences, reached the terrible battery, and amid a blinding storm of “leaden rain and iron hail,” captured it and turned the pieces on the panic-stricken foe. Not one man of Sherman’s battery was left to tell of its capture, and but four horses remained alive.

The following are the casualties sustained by the 4th South Carolina regiment: – Capt. Kilpatrick received a shot in his right hand; a severe wound, but it will not cause amputation. Capt. Pool was shot through the right thigh, rendering immediate amputation necessary. Lieut. Ballale was shot through the left leg; amputated. Orderly Sergeant Fuller, of Capt. Poole’s Company, had his left foot shot to pieces. Orderly Sergeant J. W. Morrice, of the same regiment, was shot through the shoulder, and died from the effects of the wound. In Capt. Anderson’s Company, of the same regiment, private John Simpson, was shot through the heart in a bayonet charge, and instantly killed. Private Kay was wounded in the neck by a piece of bomb. This company sustained no further injury, though in the thickest of the fight. In the Palmetto Rifles, private Earl, had the flesh torn from his right shoulder to the bone, by a piece of bomb. It is hoped he will recover. Jas. Sloan, private, was shot through the cheek with a musket ball. Hubbard was wounded with a musket ball, which passed through his left arm near the elbow and through the abdomen. Cochrane was shot through the shoulder. Five members of the Company are missing.

Our informant states that the number of cannon captured from the enemy, amounted to at least seventy pieces. The amount of small arms and quantity of commissary’s stores captured in incalculable. – Richmond Enquirer.

The (Wilmington, NC) Daily Journal, 7/29/1861

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*While the article identifies Warren D. Wilkes as a Lieutenant, records below indicate he was a corporal.

Warren Wilkes at Ancestry.com

Warren Wilkes at Fold3





“Howitzer,” 1st Co. Richmond Howitzers, On the Battle

12 09 2020

The Howitzer Battalion.

1st Co. Howitzers.
Centreville, August 6th, 1861.

To the Editors of the Dispatch: Allow me to correct, through the medium of your paper, a wrong impression which may have gained credence form the communication signed “Chew,” of the Thomas Artillery. The article I refer to is this: “That the Richmond Howitzers did not perform efficient service in the battle of the 21st.,” thereby leading those who knew nothing of the circumstances to believe that we proved recreant to our trust, or performed iniefficient service. Had “Chew” simply stated that we were not on the left wing, he would have accomplished his object – that of refuting the statement made in a former issue, that we were actively engaged in the fight. For a long time we have been attached to Gen. Bonham’s Brigade, in the advance at Fairfax C. H., and by our position were entitled to the post of honor, the centre, and were placed there. During Thursday and Sunday we were subjected to what General Bonham told us was the truest test of the bravery of a soldier – a heavy fire, without being allowed to answer it. Shot and shell from a battery on the hill above us fell and exploded all around us. No one could tell where they would attack us. General Bonham told us if attacked we were to defend our positions as long as we had a man left; yet not a man quailed, but all were ready to take the risks in defence of such a cause as ours. We were in the pursuit and scout which followed the rout of the enemy. Still, far be it from me to detract from the exploits of the Thomas Artillery that day, which will immortalize them forever. We are now attached to General Longstreet’s brigade, with the 1st, 11th, 7th, and 17th Virginia Regiments. We are enjoying excellent health.

Howitzer.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/8/1861

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W. P. P., 2nd South Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

11 09 2020

From Camp Gregg.
[Correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.]

Advance Forces, Army of the Potomac,
Camp Gregg, July 31, 1861

Perhaps a letter from this quarter would not be altogether uninteresting to your readers. The Brigade of Gen. Bonham, including Capt. Kemper’s battery, are stationed at this point. We arrived here on Wednesday morning after the engagement of the 21st at Stone Bridge. The health of the troops generally is good. We have fine water, plenty of healthful food, (much of which at one time belonged to the enemy,) a large quantity of wood for cooking, and last, though by no means the least of our comforts, we are once more in possession of our tents. This important article had been dispensed from the time we left Fairfax until our arrival at this place, with the exception of one night.

The Yankee settlers in this neighborhood cut stick as soon as they found that their friends were whipped, and that the South Carolinians were coming. Many of them had raised the Union flag when the Yankees marched through here to Fairfax C. H. – Now their houses are deserted, and their possessors are perhaps safely on the other side of the Potomac.

I presume the details of the battle of Stone Bridge have reached you; but there are thousands of interesting incidents, perhaps insignificant in themselves, but which, collectively, went far towards turning the tide of battle. All the troops engaged, so far as my observations extended – and I was an eye-witness to much that occurred on that day – acted nobly. But as some newspaper correspondents have failed to do proper justice to the Second Palmetto Regiment, under Col. Kershaw, I trust you will permit me to say a few words in reference to the part it performed in that action.

During the first part of the engagement, the Second Regiment was stationed to the left of Gen. Bonham’s Brigade, about three miles below the Stone Bridge. About 12 o’clock Col. Kershaw, with Col. Cash (8th S. C. Regiment,) were ordered to repair to the battle-ground and take position on the left. – When we arrived in the neighborhood of the battle-ground, we met detached portions of Sloan’s S. C. Regiment, Hampton’s Legion, and a North Carolina Regiment, whose Colonel had been killed, leaving the field before superior numbers. So thickly flew the canister, grape, and Monnie balls of the enemy, that we were compelled to be flat upon the ground while the line of battle was being formed. It was whilst in this position we sustained a galling fire from the Fire Zouave Regiment, stationed behind a fence in our front. We also discovered at this time that there was a park of rifle cannon playing upon us from the right. At length the line of battle was formed, consisting of the 2d and 8th South Carolina Regiments and Preston’s Virginia Regiment, all under command of Col. Kershaw. Riding to the front and right of his own regiment, Col. Kershaw inquired of his men if they would follow him. Replying in the affirmative, he gave the order to charge, and with a shout they arose and broke the enemy’s line. So sudden did we spring on them and pass them, that more than a hundred Zouaves were left in our rear, and were made prisoners of by our straggling soldiers. The right wing of the Second Regiment came square upon the rifle cannon, which were in a short time turned upon the enemy. I have never ascertained the name of the battery; but a wounded enemy under one of the pieces informed us that it had once been commanded by Colonel Magruder, now of the Confederate army. It was in advancing upon this battery that the Zouaves displayed the Confederate flag, which caused us to reserve our fire for several minutes. Finally, they emerged from the woods with the Stars and Stripes, when they were fired into by the Butler Guards, the right flaking company of Kershaw’s Regiment, whose trusty Enfield rifles made many of them bite the dust. The rifle cannon were removed from the field, by order of General Beauregard, by men from the Second Regiment.

The enemy were pursued by the brigade under Col. Kershaw to within a short distance of Centreville, capturing a great number of pieces of artillery. Captain Kemper’s battery also performed a conspicuous part in the pursuit. The enemy was frequently in sight, large bodies of them flying in almost every direction. It was in the pursuit that the celebrated Rhode Island battery was captured. The small loss sustained by the Second Regiment, in killed and wounded, must not be taken as an indication that they were not in the hottest of the fight. When it is remembered that much of their fighting was accomplished whilst lying on the ground, and the enemy’s balls going over their heads, the reason why co few were killed is rapidly understood.

W. W. P.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/5/1861

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S. S. C., 4th South Carolina, On the Battle

10 09 2020

Correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.
Fourth South Carolina Regiment.

Camp Pettus, 7 miles North of
Manassas, Aug. 5, 1861.

In reading the letters of your numerous correspondents with regard to the late battle at Stone Bridge, I see that nearly all allude to particular regiments, and the prominent parts enacted by each of them in achieving that great victory. Though I have been glad to see the gallantry and prowess of each regiment and legion thus chronicled to the world, I have been surprised to see that the very first regiment and battalion which were engaged in that conflict, and who sustained the whole shock of the enemy, unsupported for two hours, have been scarcely mentioned at all. I allude to the Fourth South Carolina Regiment, under Col. J. B. E. Sloan, and the Louisiana Regiment, under Maj. Wheat. As I am a member of the “Fourth,” I speak of what I know. Our regiment, with Major Wheat’s command, and two six-pounders of Latham’s Artillery, had been encamped for four or five days previous to the battle, within a few hundred yards if the Stone Bridge, waiting and watching for the enemy. Before daylight on Sunday morning, 21st, we were aroused by the firing of our pickets. Being formed in line of battle, our regiment by sunrise was lying upon the ground directly in front of the bridge, and covered by the brow of the sharp hill to the left of the road. Soon after sunrise, the long straight turnpike upon the opposite side of the Run was filled with the columns of the enemy as far as the eye could reach. They came within five hundred yards of us, threw out their skirmishers, and opened a battery upon us, feeling with ball and shell around and over the hill to find our position. Our regiment remained here with no other firing except between our skirmishers and those of the enemy, until about eight o’clock, under the immediate supervision of Gen. Evans, whose headquarters were within one hundred yards of our position.

At about 8 o’clock we received a message that the enemy had crossed the Run in large force about three miles above, and were marching down to flank us on our left. Withdrawing without the knowledge of the army in our front, and which was composed of eight or ten thousand men, we commenced a double-quick to meet the column which had crossed above. After accomplishing a mile or more, we came in sight of their long line of bayonets, glistening in the morning sun. Halting, we formed in a small hollow or ravine, with Maj. Wheat’s battalion on our right and a little advanced from our position. The enemy formed on a commanding hill, four or five hundred yards in front, and opened upon us with a heavy fire of musketry, and grape-shot from the Rhode Island Battery. Both the Louisianians and our regiment returned the fire with spirit, and several of our men were killed and wounded this early in the day, or before 9 o’clock.

Soon afterwards, we received an order to form under cover of a wood on our right, and somewhat nearer the enemy. Here we remained for some time, in the edge nearest the enemy, keeping up our fire, and having many of our men killed and wounded. The first reinforcement of which we were aware joined us here, and arrived at 9 ½ or 10 o’clock. It proved to be the 4th Alabama Regiment and some other companies, under command of the lamented Col. Bee.

With this noble regiment, which has been deservedly spoken of for its gallantry, we retired when the fire became too hot to be withstood. We, however, soon rallied, and returned to the fight, remaining in it throughout the day. A large portion of our regiment were in the first charge made upon Sherman’s Battery; and many eye-witnesses will avow that the regimental flag, presented to us a few weeks ago by the patriotic ladies of Leesburg, was the very first planted upon one of those guns. It was done by Major Robert Maxwell, our gallant color-bearer. These pieces were, I believe, taken several times before we finally succeeded in holding them. This much I have thought should be said, in justice to the 4th Regiment and the Louisiana battalion, without in the least intending to detract from any other command. Where all did nobly, comparison would be odious. History will, however, record that we were first in the fray, and, with about 1,000 men, )as four of our companies remained at the bridge as skirmishers and a reserve,) kept 30,000 of the enemy in check for one and a half or two hours.

After the day was ours, and victory had perched upon the new born banners of the South, our regiment returned to its former camping ground, now a portion of the battle-field, and, for the first time that day, partook of a soldier’s meal. Our tents and blankets had also been sent off, and, without either, we were exposed that night to a drenching rain, catching what we could of sleep, and dreaming of the thrilling incidents of the day. The loss od our regiment in killed and wounded as 102 men, our of 700 fit for duty. Among the gallant dead was Adjutant Genl. Sam. Wilks, of Anderson, South Carolina. – Our army boasts no more chivalric and accomplished gentleman. Himself and horse fell within 50 yards of our encampment, pierced by more than a dozen bullets.

S. S. C.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/8/1861

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Pvt. William C. File, Co. G, 18th Mississippi Infantry, On the Campaign

10 09 2020

The following private letter from a private in one of the Mississippi Regiments, was handed us for publication. Many of our readers are doubtless quite familiar with the author, as he was once a cititzen of this place. As it may afford some information to our readers, we give it publicity:

Camp near Fairfax, Va.
July 24th, 1861.

Dear Farther and all at Home:

If you received my last letter, you may not be surprised at getting this one. It is now one week since we left our camp at the Junction, shifting about from one place to another. We are now farther off than we have been yet. I will tell you what we have been doing the past week. About 10 o’clock A. M., last Wednesday, our whole Brigade was suddenly called to march. We got ready in a short time, taking nothing with us but our blankets, provisions, (raw meet and crackers) and marched out about one and a half miles to Bulls Run. Here we remained all day. The next day, three companies, (including ours) crossed the creek, lying in the bushes all day as scouts. About noon they commenced fighting in our rear, a mile or so off, and for about 3 ½ hours, cannon and small arms kept an incessant firing. We heard the cannon balls but were out of their range. The Yankees were routed and fled in confusion. We heard that our loss was 45 killed and wounded, that of the enemy, 7 or 800. At night, we had very thick bushes to cover us, and taking dry oats from a field near by, made a first rate bed, but just as we had got in a good way for sleeping, a little shower of rain fell, wetting our blankets and beds, so we had the pleasure of sleeping under wet blankets the balance of the night, but we managed to pass a tolerable comfortable night. – Next day we remained lying about in the bushes. At night we heard a good deal of firing. We crossed and re-crossed the Creek again, and took our stand in the pine bushes, lying on our arms all night. We were roused up several times during the night, by firing, but the enemy did not come. Leaning up against a pine, gun in hand, I slept until sun up. We remained here during Saturday. On the next day, (Sunday,) the enemy, some two miles distant, commenced throwing bombs but all fell over our encampment or exploding in the air, doing us no damage. Our Brigade then crossed the creek, and lay in the woods some 3 or 4 hours. We could from this time until in the evening, hear the roar of cannon and small arms, at Stone Bridge, some eight miles distant. Jeff. Davis and Beauregard were there, The Yankees were again driven off the field with great loss. We have heard they had some 60,000 engaged: ours only 18 or 20,000; their loss some 15,000; ours about 5,000. We took about 500 prisoners, some 30 pieces of their best artillery, and a great quantity of baggage, &c. But I wish to tell you of our little fight.

In the evening our Brigade advanced upon the Battery that had been playing on us in the morning. We advanced to a steep hill, and were forming a line of battle at its foot, our left flank exposed to the enemy’s batty, when suddenly they opened upon us and cannon balls and grape shot, fell upon us like hail. Some of the men in front commenced hollowing like the victory was won, and at one wild rush, the whole brigade rushed up the hill – all confusion – every one became his own captain – great many shooting at their own men. Our officers tried hard to rally them, but in vain. We were where we could not see the enemy for the bushes in front of us, while we were exposed to a severe fire all the time. I saw a great many shooting but finding they were firing at our own men, I did not fire my gun.

All then run to the foot of the hill, where we first formed, and ran to an old pne field in our rear, to rally. I followed some of our company to the pines, the balls whistling around my head, plowing up the ground all around me. As I crossed the fence I saw our flag-bearer fall, exclaiming, “I’m dead.” Our captain was found dead near by, the next day, also another of our company, with 8 or 10 others. I made my way to our Regiment again. We made the attack in a bad manner. We have the honor of taking the place. Col. Longstreet came up on the other side, as we were leaving, and they run without firing hardly a gun. Our company lost two killed, three wounded; our flag-bearer dangerously. The whole brigade lost 13 killed; I don’t know how many wounded.

On Monday we paid our last respects to our captain; it was raining all day, but we buried him with military honors, firing three rounds over his grave. Yesterday we came to this place. The enemy have all left the country; gone over the river, and I expect our troops have possession of Alexandria, at this time. But I must close. – Write soon and direct as before.

Remaining till death,
W. C. File

The Carolina Flag (Concord, NC), 8/2/1861

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William C. File at Ancestry.com

William C. File at Fold3