Image: Lt. Col. James Madison Leach, 11th North Carolina Infantry

3 09 2020
Lt. Col. James Madison Leach, 11th North Carolina Infantry, as U. S. Congressman post-war (source)

Lt. Col. James Madison Leach, 11th North Carolina Infantry, Defends His Conduct In the Battle

3 09 2020

Camp Rhett, (Near Manassa,)
Aug. 15th, 1861.

Mr. Editor: – I feel it my duty to notice, in this public way, a vile calumny against me, the report of which has been reaching me for the last three days, as talked of in Raleigh and various places in the State. It is to the effect that in the battles of Bull Run and Manassas, or Stone Bridge, I not only behaved ungallantly, but showed a want of bravery, fled from the field, was arrested and tried for cowardice, &c.

In both battles I endeavored to do my whole duty, as an officer and a North Carolinian.

I was often on horseback, riding up and down the lines, speaking words of cheer to the brave soldiers, and while this in the saddle was exposed to the heavy cannonading and shelling of the enemy, and was again and again urged by officers and privates to dismount and take my place in the entrenchments, which I sometimes did while the balls were flying over our heads, and often piercing the frail embankments, our brave men standing coolly awaiting the enemy. I take no credit to myself for this, I only did my duty, but mention it to refute the lying calumny of my slanderers; and take leave to say that every man did his duty, well and bravely, on those memorable days.

In the evening of the 21st, at least one hour after the last gun had been fired at our Regiment, and when the thrilling, glorious news first reached us, that the Yankees had been finally repulsed on the right wing, a distance from us of from three to five miles, and were fleeing, and while the whole line was wild with joy, I galloped off to the right, in common with many officers of other Regiments, not actually in the main fight, fell in with the Lynchburg Cavalry, as I understood, and pursued the enemy to Bull Run, and there hearing and believing they were routed, and hoping they would be pursued thus making the route complete, I returned across the field of the dead and dying, and back at half speed to our entrenchments, where I learned our Regiment had left some 20 minutes or more, though they were still in hearing, and I pressed on to the farther edge of the old field beyond Bull Run where I overtook the several Brigades that had been ordered to pursue and was a few minutes in finding our Regiment and getting through the mighty throng to them, where we remained about an hour and a half, and then marched back to our entrenchments, sleeping all night upon our arms.

It is strange news to every soldier of our Regiment that I showed any want of bravery; and is treated with that indignation and contempt that it deserves; while on the other hand it is said and repeated by officers and privates, that I acted rashly, and exposed myself unnecessarily.

I herewith append the statement in my defence, refuting the base falsehoods, made by 45 of the 48 commissioned officers of the regiment, two of them being absent when the statement was carried round, and the other, Lieut. Smith, being on sick leave at Charlottesville.

Thus it will be seen that every statement I have made is shown to be true by the brave officers of the regiment who have known me long, and who, in my military capacity, know me best; and I am proud to know that in their expressions of confidence and esteem they reflect the sentiments of the privates of the regiment.

It is regarded here as singular that I should have been singled our to be thus made the subject of such hellish persecution; while it is gratifying to me to learn, that both friends and enemies, whether political or personal, who have any character, are pronouncing the report to be a miserable lie.

It were flattery to call such slanderers liars, cowards, and scoundrels, though I do pronounce him, or them, and shall so regard any who may hereafter circulate the report with a view to my injury.

Lt. Col. 11th Reg’t N. C. V.


Camp Rhett, (near Manassas Junction,)
August 10, 1861.

As commissioned officers of the 11th Regiment N. C. Volunteers, it affords us great pleasure to contradict the report now in circulation in North Carolina, that Lt. Col. Leach, of our regiment, behaved ungallantly and showed a want of bravery in the battles of Bull Run and Stone Bridge, of Thursday and Sunday, the 18th and 21st ult., and to testify that it is wholly, out-and-out, a fabrication. But that on the other hand, he on both days, bore himself bravely and gallantly, often exposing himself to the cannonading and shelling of the enemy, by riding up and down the entrenchments and peaking words of cheer and encouragement to the brave soldiers.

After firing had ceased in the Centre, where our regiment was posted, at a late hour in the evening, when the first news reached us that the enemy were repulsed on the left, he galloped off in that direction, with officers as we have learned, from other regiments; and after we were ordered to pursue the enemy on the right wing, he overtook and joined us at the edge of the old field, one mile and a half from Mitchell’s Ford, where we were stationed. Ant it is utterly false that he was arrested for want of bravery. We likewise take pleasure in stating that Lt. Col. Leach has discharged his duty as a gallant officer, and is generally beloved by the Regiment.

[This is signed by the officers of the regiment as described by Lt. Col. Leach, and can be seen in the clipping attached below.]

(Raleigh, NC) Semi-Weekly Standard, 8/21/1861

Clipping Image

James Madison Leach at Wikipedia 

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