A Southern Reporter’s Visit to the Battlefield.

1 10 2020

The Battle Field.

The writer of this, on Monday last, passed over the scene of the battle of the 21st near Bull Run. It was gratifying to fins, contrary to rumors which have gained some circulation, that the dead, not only of our own army, but also of the enemy, have all been decently buried. In the whole area of that terrible onset, no human corpse, and not even a mangled limb was to be seen. The earth had received them all, and so far as the human combatants were concerned, nothing remained to tell of those who had fallen victims of the shock of the battle, save the mounds of fresh earth which showed where they had been laid away in their last sleep.

Many of these mounds gave evidence of the pious care of surviving comrades. Enclosures were built around the graves, and branches of evergreens cover the spot. Sometimes boards marked the head and foot on which were carved or painted the name and fellowship of the deceased. Sometimes boards nailed to a neighboring tree told that the ground adjacent contained the fallen of a certain regiment or company.

Numerous dead horses, scattered over the area, show where the batteries of flying artillery were captured or disabled, or where some officer was dismounted. The prostrate fences, too, served to mark the track of the battle. Where the infantry crossed, they were broken down so that a man might step over; and wide gaps showed where the artillery carriages had thundered along.

The ground, too, tramped by the feet of rushing men and horses, evidenced where the struggles had been fiercest.

Of relics of the battle, already but few remain. The field has been searched and gleaned by daily crowds of visitors, seeking for mementoes. A few bullets that had run their errand, some fragments of exploded bombs, and a few other things, were all that an extensive ramble brought under our view. Canes cut from the battle-field are also considerably in demand.

The enemy’s column of advance, as shown by the battle-ground, presented a front of about a mile. Their onward march from the point where they encountered our advance bodies to the limit where they met our full line, and the full battle was joined and the fate of the day decided, was about a mile and a half, therefore covers the scene of the great conflict.

In this area are included five dwelling houses. All of these which were visited bore evidences of the storm which raged around them. Many were killed in the yard of a house of Mr. J. De Dogan. A bullet hole in a chamber door remains a memento of the battle. His family escaped just as the battle joined.

But it was on the hill south of the turnpike road, where the enemy’s farthest advance was checked, and where the final issue was fought, that the inwrapped dwellings showed the most plainly the fury of the fight.

A house here, late the abode of a widow lady, Mrs. Judith Henry, was riddled with cannon and musket shot. Hissing projectiles from the cannon of our enemies had passed through walls and roof, until the dwelling was a wreck. It is a sad story that we tell. This estimable lady, who had spent her long life, illustrated by the graces that adorn the meek Christian, was now bed-ridden. There she lay amid the horrid din, and no less than three of the missiles of death that scoured through her chamber inflicted their wounds upon her. It seems a strange dispensation of Providence, that one whose life had been so gentle and secluded, should have found her end amid such a storm of human passions, and that the humble abode which had witnessed her quiet pilgrimage, should have been shattered over her dying bed! Yet, even amid such terrors Heaven vindicated its laws. When the combatants had retired, the aged sufferer was still alive, and she lived long enough to say that her mind was tranquil and that she died in peace – a peace that the roar of battle and the presence of death panoplied in all his terrors had not disturbed. Noble matron! The daughters of the South will emulate your virtues, and the sons of the South will avenge your sufferings! The heaps on heaps of the enemy that were piled around your doors when you died, are but the earnest. A hundred yards to the right of the house of Mrs. Henry, lay five horses in a heap, and near by, another heap of as many more. Here a portion of Sherman’s battery made its last advance. Just as it reached the top of the hill, our riflemen approaching in the other direction reached it too. At once they poured in a fire which cut down horses and men and made the pieces unmanageable. The gallant boys followed the fire with a bayonet charge, and the guns were taken. It was here that Lieut. Ward fell. The cannon were taken and retaken several times in a furious fight; but the horses had been killed, and they could not be removed nor used.

On the left of Mrs. Henry’s, distant about a fourth oaf a mile, is a neat house belonging to a colored man named Robinson. A cannon ball drove through this also. Between these two is an orchard of small trees where Hampton’s legion fought and suffered so severely. Their graves are here. One of them which covers the remains of the Hon. J. L. Orr, is marked by a broken musket panted as a head stone.

Away on the extreme northern verge of the battle-ground, is the pine grove in which the Georgia regiment met the enemy’s advance. The gallant band there withstood the enemy’s columns, until nearly surrounded. They then retreated, not from those in front, but from those who were closing around them. In this pine grove there seemed scarce a tree that was not struck by the enemy’s balls. A number of Georgians fell here, and their graves are close by. In the grove was pointed out the spot where Lamar fell. In the rear was the dead charger of the lamented Gen. Bartow, killed under him, himself to fall soon after. But the Georgians suffered not their heroes to fall unavenged, for they piled the ground before them with the slain of the enemy.


The Battle Field.
[NOTES OF A LATE VISIT CONTINUED.]

The visit to the battle-ground of the 21st, noticed in yesterday’s issue, included a call, buy the writer, at several of the hospitals in which the wounded are now receiving attention. – Near the ford of Bull Run where the Northern army crossed in their advance against us, (it is about two miles above the Stone Bridge,) is a large brick church, known as the Sudley Southern Methodist church. It has been appriated to the wounded of the enemy, and is still overflowing – some being under sheds erected for their shelter. The pews of the church have been taken out, and the pallets of the wounded fill the floor. The altar of the church is the medicine dispensatory. The writer had often seen this sacred building filled with devout worshippers, whose meditations were disturbed by no anticipations of such a scene as not presented; but the care here taken of the wounded and the suffering, and they our enemies, who had causelessly come to do us the most grievous injuries, illustrated more forcibly, it may be, then even pulpit ministrations, the spirit which it is the object of churches to promote. Here was seen the fruit of former teachings. The invalids were well cared for, and were in various stages of convalescence. One who sat bolt upright on a char near the front door, and who told us that they were “all doing very well,” was himself, however, a proof that his testimony needed qualification. His rolling eye, his wild unnatural look, the wheezy, gurgling voice in which he said that his wound was “in the right chest,” his labored breathing, and throbbing frame, seemed to point to the mounds in the rear of the church where many of the wounded had gone, as his own speedy resting place. In this hospital, but a little before, a very young man in his last hour, had asked a visiting Southerner to engage in prayer with him. He said he had been raised to better things than he was now evidencing, expressed his gratitude, and soon after died.

In short, in the various hospitals for the wounded enemy, we saw only exhibitions of neatness and careful attention, and of a kindness that elicits a free expression of thanks from the sufferers. We must make one exception. There was one hospital where the filth was so disgusting that out tarry was very brief. It was the stone house on the roadside, where a Northern surgeon had charge of his own people. Fortunately his victims were but few.

The writer is more particular to detail these things, because of the slanders which the Northern papers are publishing. While the Northern people desert or neglect the mangled agents and victims of their diabolical designs against us, our kind ladies and citizens are actin the part of the good Samaritan towards them – binding up their wounds, and caring for their comfort. The returns for this are fervent expressions of gratitude from the sufferers, but unblushing charges of atrocious inhumanity in the Northern press! Thus do the two sections [?]itly illustrate the vast moral difference which, like a great gulf, divides Northern and Southern character.

In the hospital at Mr. Dogan’s, we found one of our wounded officers, the gallant Major Caleb Smith, of the 49th Virginia Regiment. A ball passed through his thigh, in the terrible conflict which closed the battle. He is doing well.

Just without the verge of the battle-field is the dwelling of a widow lady, also of the name of Dogan, who performed a part in the incidents of the day. The writer knows her well, and a most estimable lady she is. A squad of the enemy’s soldiers – a lieutenant and three men – came to her door, after the battle was over, claiming to be friends, and asked for food. She detected their character, and offered what they asked, on condition, and only on condition, that they would surrender to her. After some parley, they made professions of gallantry, and yielded. She locked up their arms, and then locked up themselves, and of course supplied them with food. Another, who was crossing the field about the same time, was captured by the young ladies of the house, who threatened to turn their dogs upon him unless he submitted. The prisoners were afterward sent into camp, and General Beauregard pleasantly complimented the exploit of our heroines, by promising to send a commission to the lady of the house. These are the daughters of the land which the Northern despot thinks he can subjugate!

Some words on the battle shall close these observations. Remarks are indulged by many writers, some of them of the South, to the effect that at one period of the fight our army was fairly whipped. This statement is both inaccurate and mischievous. Our army was never whipped; and this we propose to show by a simple narration.

To illustrate what we have to say, we will in part repeat a late general description of the battle ground. Draw a line a little north of east; it will represent the turnpike road which leads from Gainesville to Centreville, a total distance of eight miles. Midway between these villages, Bull Run is crossed but the turnpike on the “Stone Bridge.” A mile and a half west of the Stone Bridge a road crosses the turnpike nearly at a right angle. Towards the south this road leads to Manassas Junction. Towards the north it leads by Sudley church to the Sudley mills ford of Bull Run, about two miles distant. The course of Bull Run makes a sweep between the Stone Bridge and the Sudley ford.

The turnpike and the cross road, above describe, almost bisect the field of battle, in their respective directions. The fight was on both sides of both roads. The enemy, by a well conceived and well executed maneouvre, marched up the east side of Bull Run, crossed at Sudley ford where we had no defences, marched up the road from Sudley, and made his appearance on the heights north of the turnpike road and about three fourths of a mile distant. His line was nearly parallel to the turnpike, and instantly spread to both sides of the cross road to which it was of course at right angles. The line of our army was then facing Bull Run, with our left flank near Stone Bridge. The enemy thus came with his line against our flank. Our defences, too, were all turned and valueless, and nothing remained but for our troops to change front as rapidly as they might, and meet the enemy in the open field.

The forces which formed the let of our line, were of course the first to feel the enemy, and fronting to him they gave heroic battle. But while they held back the foes in their immediate front, the unresisted portion of the enemy’s line moving on, would speedily get upon their flank and threaten to surround them. This would compel our men to fall back; but as they fell back, by successive stages, they were brought in concert with others of our forces, and also strengthened by the arrival of the troops which were being rapidly brought up from the centre and right of out line on Bull Run. – Thus it was our line of battle constantly grew its length; but so long as it was shorter than that of the enemy, it was compelled to recede to avoid the raking flank fire of the overlapping portion of the enemy’s line. In this manner we slowly fell back from a point about three fourths of a mile North of the turnpike, to the parallel hill about the same distance South of that road. Here it was that our line got a length equal to that of the enemy. The out flanking, therefore, ceased, and our falling back ceased, and the full battle was joined. The conflict was terrible, but victory soon declared in our favor. Artillery and musketry poured in their fatal storm, and hand to hand conflict and the irresistible bayonet charge soon broke the thinned ranks of the enemy. – The flight now commenced. They were pursued over the whole ground by which they had advanced, and hills and hollows were filled with their slain.

If, then, we have conveyed the intended idea, the enemy’s line of battle retained a pretty uniform length of about a mile, while ours began with a very small front and widened at last to an equal width with his. While this widening progressed, our incomplete line receded; and when its object was consummated we stood, and the final issue was joined.

The inference drawn by Gen. McDowell from the receding of our troops in the first instance, that we were defeated and flying, seems therefore utterly unworthy of a military man. The dispatches which were sent back to Centreville and which seduced the boozy Congressmen there into fresh imbibitions, and were forwarded to cheer the chamber where Scott and Lincoln and Seward sat awaiting tidings, are a discredit to the intelligence of those who sent them. Our receding regiments did, indeed, suffer serious loss; but they inflicted greater! They left the mark of their heroism wherever they fought; and they fell back, not from the enemies in front, but upon their flank. To call this a defeat – to say that we were whipped – is to show a poor conception of the real condition of the battle. The battle was then not even made up! We were never whipped!

The attempt of the Northern presses to excuse their defeat by charging bad management on the part of the generals, is unwarranted by the facts. We think they managed well. They deprived us by their maneouvre of all aid from the entrenchments which we had prepared, and drew us into the open field. They got their whole line into battle long before it was possible for us to meet it with a line of equal length, and they fought the battle with by far the larger portion of their army, against by far the smaller portion of ours. – Their feigned attacks, an the tall forests which bound Bull Run and concealed their movements, enabled them to compass this. What more could they have desired? If the battle had continued and their heavier numbers had made a breach in our full line, our men behind would have arrived and restored it, and our full strength would have told at last. But the battle, as it stood, left the adversary nothing to wish in the way of opportunity. He was whipped with great slaughter, routed, chased from the field, not by a defect in his plan of battle, but by the irresistible prowess, the marvelous courage, the invincible resolve of Southern heroes, fighting for their homes and liberties. He was whipped by hard fighting. Nor were the Northern troops deficient in courage. As long as their attack on the troops in front of them was encouraged by the continuous flanking movement of their line which we have described, they stood well. They pressed with spirit upon our receding forces; and even when the full battle met, the slaughter which they suffered before they took to flight, showed a good degree of bravery. If the Northern people wish to know the source of their defeat, they must seek it, not in the disparagement of their officers or men, but in the military prowess and sublime courage of a virtuous people determined to be free, and who have not once thought of being conquered; and above all upon the favor of Heaven upon our good cause. That flight and panic among their retreating troops, which their papers so minutely describe, what resembles it so much as the panic by which Samaria was delivered from the beleaguering host of Assyria?

If we were to venture a single remark, by way of kindly caution to our own noble officers, it would be this: It is possible that in the late battle some were betrayed by personal courage, too much into individual exploit. – While Captains were cutting down the enemy, companies were in some cases losing their line, and becoming mixed up. It is well to avoid this. But we design not even to suggest a criticism. Officers and men, our army is composed of champions and heroes, and have won a victory whose transcendent glory and priceless advantage to our country, shall be a crown of honor to every participant until his dying day. To have been in the battle of Bull Run will be praise enough to fill the ambition of most men, and to ensure them favor wherever they may roam.

Richmond (VA) Enquirer, 8/2/1861

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