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