Lt. Col. Thomas Ford Morris, 17th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Camp

7 01 2021

THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN, FROM AN EYE-WITNESS

Camp Lorrilard, July 22.

I was an eye-witness of the battle at Bull Run yesterday. The 17th were not in the action, but thinking there would be a brush, I with one of our Captains, Bartram, left our camp early Sunday morning. We met with no adventure, and on arriving on the heights near Centreville, heard heavy guns and saw the smoke. We pushed on rapidly for two or three miles, and found ourselves at the head of the centre division under General Schenck. The men in this command appeared demoralized and under great excitement. On inquiring the cause, I learned that their General had led them on a concealed battery, and that they had been considerably cut up; we had evidence of this in the numbers brought into hospital. I obtained a good position on rising ground, and for three or four hours watched the progress of the battle made by the division on our right, Hunter’s. It was a magnificent sight, and cannot be forgotten. Our men were perfect heroes, and I would have had the world see their bayonet charges, forcing the enemy back, and still rallying in to drive them farther back. Our men were perfect heroes, and I would have had the world see their bayonet charge, forcing the enemy back, and still rallying to drive then farther back. I was within 200 yards of one of our 32 pounder rifled canon, and when the enemy came out in any considerable force on the hill opposite, this gun would drop a shell among them, that would scatter them like sheep. The captain and myself were obliged to go back near Centerville to get waster, as the wells were guarded to keep the water for the wounded. We had just obtained water, and about giving some to our horses, when a stampede took place, soldiers, ambulances, horsemen, and representing two regiments. I determined to rally them, and no circus rider ever mounted quicker. The captain and I rushed in front of the frenzied multitude, and called out to them to rally, which had no effect. I drew a pistol, and shouted I would shoot every man who attempted to pass me, that there they must stand. I succeeded beyond my hopes, and forming them in line, marched them back to their command, Gen. Schenck. Both of these regiments had lost their Colonels, one killed and one carried off wounded. We returned to the battle field, and just as one of the divisions made an advance, throwing out artillery on the open field, where it was soon at work splendidly. At this time a message came from Gen. McDowell saying the enemy were in full retreat. This was enough glory, and I determined to go back to our camp with news of victory. We had gone but a mile when we stopped by the roadside to eat lunch, and unbridled our horses that they might graze, when lo’! the whole of our force were in retreat. I supposed the enemy were closing, and as my horse is hart to bridle at all times, I thought I should be taken, and ordered the captain to return to our camp. It was a perfect pout, and I hope I many never witness anything like it again. Wagons, ambulances, guns, men mounted and dismounted. It was utterly impossible to stop the current. Officers were powerless, and until they reached Centreville, where the reserve under General Miles were drawn up, there was no order. The most of the regiments made a stand, but the two I rallied in the morning (if by any means they could reach the Potomac) never wou’d stop running till they got home. I remained at Centreville until there was comparative quiet, owing to the knowledge that there was no enemy chasing, when I started for camp, and arrived at 1 a.m., on the 22d.

July 26th.

Our regiment is now inside Fort Ellsworth, our pleasant camp (Lorrilard) in the grove on the hillside, had to be given up with its cool breezes and delightful shade, and we are now sweltering in the sun. Our men are continually employed shifting and mounting guns, and cutting down trees that obstruct the range of those already mounted. On a hill near us a body of sailors from the navy yard at Washington, are throwing up a battery, and altogether we have busy times. If the enemy had pursued our retreating columns, they would have taken thousands of prisoners, and all the fortifications on this side of the river, would have been in their hands now. To be sure, we determined to hold this place to the last, but with the force they could bring, we could not have kept them out 12 hours. The 17th would have been annihilated, there was no retreat for us and we knew it. Now it is utterly impossible for them to hurt us. They will approach no nearer than Fairfax. We can whip them in open field, I think, three to one. Their strength lies in batteries, and they are terrible. We have tried them now, and hereafter will fight cannon with cannon; there will be no more sending men to be cut down without being able to effect anything.

July 29th.

A week has passed and no attack had been made upon us, and probably none anticipated. What an error the rebels had made in not following up their advantage. Our men have worked very hard the past week; wheeling dirt for gun platforms, building the same, and mounting guns. We feel secure against any force the enemy can bring against us.

President Lincoln, Mr. Seward and General McDowell paid us a visit a few days since. I was in command, and had the pleasure of receiving them. I had a long chat with Mr. Lincoln who inquired into many details of the battle, &c. He is very affable. Yesterday we had a visit from Gens. McClellan and McDowell with their staff officers, some twenty or thirty in all. I was delighted with Gen. McClellan; he is very unassuming in his manners, but there is a same about him I like. He is the General for me, and I think, the man of the day.

T. F. Morris,
Lt.-Col. 17th Regt., N. Y. V.

Yonkers (New York) Examiner, 8/8/1861

Clipping image

Contributed by John J. Hennessy

17th New York Infantry Roster

Thomas Ford Morris at Fold3

Thomas Ford Morris at FindAGrave


Actions

Information

2 responses

10 01 2021
Jonathan Soffe

Hi Harry,
I think the date of the letters are 22, 26 and 29 July 1861.
Jonathan

Like

10 01 2021
Harry Smeltzer

Corrected. Thanks!

Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: