“L.V.H.”, Co. I, 4th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

30 07 2021

Manassas Junction, July 24, 1861.

Mr. Editor:

I will now give you a short account of the important events that have lately transpired at this point. On Sunday, the 21st, inst., we fought a bloody and one of the greatest battles ever fought on this side of the Atlantic. I cannot enter into the details of the battle, but can only give you a description of the part played by Jackson’s brigade, and our regiment specifically. Early on the morning of the eventful day it was reported that the enemy were advancing upon us and that a large column was attempting to flank us on our left wing. So our brigade was put in motion and marched off to support the point of attack. Soon after our departure from our camp, the impudent fellows opened a cannonade just opposite our encampment, actually throwing balls, shells, &c., into it, yet we pushed on, and after a good deal of marching, counter-marching, double-quicking, &c., we halted for a short time in a grove. At that time there were cannon firing all along our line, but the heaviest was on our left, where the sharp rattle of musketry plainly told us that there the work had begun. It was then about 11 o’clock, but the firing had been opened some time before. After waiting for a short time, an aid came riding up at full speed and we were ordered into the field, which was at least a mile distant. Away we went over the hills towards the scene, whilst the din of the battle grew louder and louder. On arriving there our brigade was posted on the extreme left of the line of battle. Our regiment was posted just a few yards in the rear of the celebrated “Washington Artillery,” from New Orleans, which was stationed on the summit of a small hill. This we had to support, and await the order to charge on the enemy’s battery, just on an opposite hill. In the meantime the enemy’s whole fire from his artillery on the left was directed on the batteries just in front of our regiment, and we had to throw ourselves flat on the ground as a protection against the balls, shot, shell, &c., of the enemy’s battery, which came thick as hail just a few feet above our heads, and completely cutting to pieces a grove in our rear. Sometimes they would strike in front of us, tear up the ground, and bounce over our heads, and others would just graze the tops of our bodies as we lay prostrate. Whilst laying there, a fatal shell burst in the midst of our company, killed three of our boys and wounded another. Also we had some others wounded there. We lay in that awful place for at least two hours, during which time the suspense was of the most agonizing character. For our inactivity was a burden, and we expected every moment to be swept into eternity. The batteries in front of us did noble and effective work; and Capt. Pendleton’s battery was there too. After a time the enemy moved some of their pieces still further over to our left, so as to obtain an enfilading fire on our lines. Some of our pieces returned the compliment to them with a deadly fire. And then the strife was fiercest and the thunder of the battle the loudest. A large body of the enemy then attempted to get around us on our left, to take the batteries. But the word was given to charge on their lines. And believe me it was a relief for our boys to go get up from their dangerous position behind those batteries and dash forward in the charge. The Yankees cannot stand a charge, so they did not stand firm, but deemed it prudent to retire a short distance. Then our regiment was ordered to halt and open fire upon them. After firing upon their column for a while – many of the shots telling well – we again charged on them, and that was the turning point of the day, for they broke and ran like fine fellows. We immediately took all of their artillery, there, the celebrated Rhode Island battery. Abut the same time the enemy’s ranks broke along the line and the day was won. Some reinforcements then came in and joining in with our troops, pursued the routed army for about two miles. Then our cavalry put out after them for many miles, captured about 20 pieces of cannon from them, many baggage wagons loaded, guns, &c., which they threw aside in their flight. Our gunners turned some of their own rifle pieces upon them and played most beautifully into their ranks for miles. The road along which they fled was filled with blankets, haversacks, canteens, &c., laid aside by them, as they run like brave fellows. It was a complete rout for them and a glorious victory for us. Those were proud moments for our boys when they beheld our regimental flag wave in triumph over the field of Stone Bridge (the name given to the battle). It was the same flag given to our company on the morning of our departure, by the ladies of Falling Spring, as we gave it to the regiment, being the nicest of any among our companies. Opposed to our regiment were the New York Zouaves of Ellsworth’s regiment and some of the Brooklyn Zouaves; but with such a motto as “Pro Aris et Focis” upon our banner, we struggled hard and finally won the day. Also the rest of our brigade had to engage with regulars, and hence had quite brisk work of it. We gained the day, but it was a bloody victory for some of us. Our company lost five, and had seven wounded. There were also others from Rockbridge who fell to rise no more. Our company buried our dead comrades on the morning after the battle, just where we were first stationed, on the edge of the grove. Poor boys! they now sleep their long sleep in their soldier graves amid the hills of Prince William, where they fell in the cause of Freedom, and in defence of all that is dear to the human heart. On the field of Stone Bridge some of the best and bravest blood of the South was shed in the cause of Southern Independence, sons of Virginia, of the Carolinas and of all the other Confederate States, were there sacrificed upon our common alter and in one common cause. But the enemy’s loss far exceeded ours. I walked over the field in the evening of the day of battle, and where they stood the ground was strewn thick their dead and wounded. Some of the wounded said that we Southern boys fought differently from what they had been led to suppose. And that difference is owing to the difference on our respective causes. Had I time and space I could enter more into the details of the battle. Some of our boys remarked on that beautiful Sabbath morning that we would on that day fight a second Waterloo; and I hope it will be to Lincoln what it was to Napoleon. That it will but herald the downfall of the usurper and the tyrant and inaugurate the bright era of Southern Independence, when peace and prosperity will reign over the land of the sunny South.


Lexington (VA) Gazette, 8/1/1861

Contributed by John Cummings. Transcribed by Eric Mink.

Co. I was comprised of the Liberty Hall Volunteers (L. H. V.)

Original Roll of Liberty Hall Volunteers, Co. I, 4th VA Infantry

Anniversary Video with Civil War Times: Jackson’s Gun Line, Wrap Up, 7/21/2021

29 07 2021

Our seventh and final stop on Thursday was a cannon on Jackson’s gun line on Henry Hill. It was the end of a long day. It was hot. It was humid. I was going on 2 hours sleep and a Cliff bar. I ran out of gas and lost my voice. Then it started to rain – which felt kind of nice. There were a few things I had prepared as a wrap up, including the myth of the “death” of the idea of a “single grand victory” with this defeat for the Union (it didn’t die – as John Hennessy has pointed out, the notion that the next fight was “the big one” persisted throughout the war). But I couldn’t get to them. All in all, it was a great day. Thanks to Dana, Melissa, and Brandon for having me along. Appearing in this video are Civil War Times editor Dana Shoaf, Civil War Times director of photography Melissa Weeks, Manassas National Battlefield Park superintendent Brandon Bies, and myself.

Anniversary Video with Civil War Times: The Robinson Farm and Family, Hampton’s Legion, 7/21/2021

28 07 2021

Our sixth (penultimate) stop on Thursday was the site of the Robinson house and the farm lane/driveway down to the Warrenton Turnpike. Here Brandon Bies related the fascinating and complicated story of James Robinson and his family (here’s a website that discusses archaeology at the site). Then I spoke briefly and extemporaneously on the actions of Hampton’s Legion in this area. Appearing in this video are Civil War Times Magazine editor Dana Shoaf, Manassas National Battlefield Park superintendent Brandon Bies, and myself. The magazine’s director of photography Melissa Winn is behind the camera.

Anniversary Video with Civil War Times: Preservation Issues, Tree Clearing, the Battlefield in Quadrants, 7/21/2021

27 07 2021

Our fifth stop on Thursday was on Henry Hill, below the Henry House near the wayside describing the activities of John Imboden’s battery. Here we discussed Stone House rehab, threats to the battlefield view shed, recent tree clearing, and viewing the battlefield in quadrants (correction: Imboden’s Staunton Artillery was with Johnston’s army, not Beauregard’s – read his memoir and his after action report). Appearing in this video are Civil War Times editor Dana Shoaf, Manassas National Battlefield Park superintendent Brandon Bies, and myself. The magazine’s director of photography Melissa Winn is behind the camera.

Anniversary Video with Civil War Times: Artillery Demo, 7/21/2021

26 07 2021

Our fourth stop on Thursday was behind the Henry House, where the NPS was putting on a living history artillery demonstration of Ricketts’s Battery. Appearing in this video is Civil War Times editor Dana Shoaf. Director of Photography Melissa Winn is behind the camera. I’m somewhere offscreen opening my mouth as wide as I can.

Anniversary Video with Civil War Times: A Dead Letter Soldier and Ranger Cameo, 7/21/2021

25 07 2021

Our third stop on Thursday was the Henry House, which is a reproduction of a post war structure. There we learned about a soldier in the 1st Ohio Infantry, commanded by Alexander McDowell McCook – gotta look into that middle name a little closer – in Schenck’s brigade of Tyler’s division. We also get to hear from Ranger Anthony Trusso of the battlefield staff. Appearing in this video is Civil War Times editor Dana Shoaf (who also stands behind the camera for the very first time), director of photography Melissa Winn, and MNBP Ranger Anthony Trusso.

Anniversary Video with Civil War Times: Bartow Monument, 7/21/2021

24 07 2021

Our second stop on Thursday was the monument to COLONEL (NOT Brigadier General) Francis Bartow on Henry Hill. There we spoke about the first monument on a Civil War battlefield (I think), the man in whose memory it was erected, as well as a little about the incidents surrounding the naming of “Stonewall” Jackson and his brigade. See here for a nice article on that by John Hennessy. You can also read more about the Bartow monument in the April 1991 issue of Blue & Gray Magazine (the one with friend Clark “Bud” Hall on the cover), in an article titled The Civil War’s First Monument: Bartow’s Marker at Manassas. Appearing in this video are Civil War Times editor Dana Shoaf and myself. The magazine’s director of photography Melissa Winn is behind the camera.

Anniversary Video with Civil War Times: Matthews Hill, 7/21/2021

23 07 2021

Our first stop on Thursday was the gun line on Matthews Hill. Until just recently, this meant the five James Rifles of Reynolds’s Rhode Island Battery. But just last week two 12-pdr Dahlgren Boat Howitzers were installed at the site of those of the 71st New York State Militia, then under the command of the Captain of Co. I, Augustus Van Horne Ellis (read his brother John’s account of the battle here).

Appearing in this video are Civil War Times Magazine editor Dana Shoaf, Manassas National Battlefield Park superintendent Brandon Bies, and myself. Civil War Times director of photography Melissa Winn is behind the camera.

Anniversary Videos from the Battlefield

23 07 2021
Left to Right, Dana Shoaf, Melissa Winn, and Brandon Bies on Matthews Hill

This past Thursday, July 21, 2021, I had the great fortune to roam about the battlefield for the 160th Anniversary of the First Battle of Bull Run, to record a series of Facebook Live videos with the good folks from Civil War Times Magazine, Editor Dana Shoaf and Director of Photography Melissa Winn. Also joining us was Manassas National Battlefield Park supervisor Brandon Bies. We spent time on Matthews and Henry Hill, and took in some familiar and new sites and sight lines. Over the next few days I’ll be posting the videos here. Topics discussed include: the 71st NYSM boat howitzers and their captain; Francis Bartow and his monument; Barnard Bee and “that nickname”; a dead letter office member of the 1st OVI; BOOM; tree clearing and the threat of a GINORMOUS data center to the view shed; the Robinson family; Hampton’s Legion; and the Gallant Pelham. And lots of other stuff on the way.

It was typically blistering hot on the Plains of Manassas. Not as hot as two years ago when it was 108 degrees, but still plenty hot enough for me to, I suspect, suffer from a little heat exhaustion toward the end of the day – but lack of sleep and food also had something to do with it.

Thanks so much to Dana and Melissa for giving me the chance to talk about the battle and the people and to be seen and heard all over the planet, and for allowing me to wear a hat!

Unknown Officer, Co. G, 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers, On the Battle

19 07 2021

The following letter from an officer in Company G, Second Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers, giving an account of the battle of last Sunday, will be read with interest. It was addressed to a prominent citizen of this town. It seems that our Company passed thirty-six hours wholly without food, drink, or sleep.

Camp Clark, Washington, D. C.,
July 23d, 1861.

Friend ——:– I suppose, were this, you have heard of our battle and defeat; but thinking that you would like an account from an eye-witness, I will give it to you. We left our camp at Centerville at two o’clock on Sunday morning, and, after marching about ten miles, we engaged the rebels. The Second Rhode Island Regiment, was in the advance, two companies on each side of the road acting as skirmishers, and my own company was the advance company on the road, marching by the flank in four ranks. We were marching in the woods, and could not see where the enemy were, when Col. Hunter came riding down to us and said, “Now, Rhode Islanders, we expect much of you – give it to them!” We assured him we would do it. We then leaped over a fence and found the enemy drawn up in a line and ready for us. We rushed down upon them, firing as fast as we could, but they outnumbered us, and being armed with Minie rifles, cut us completely to pieces. Through some mismanagement, our regiment was engaged with the rebels thirty minutes before any other troops came on the field, receiving a most galling fire. Within the space of ten minutes, Cols. Hunter and Slocum, Major Ballou and Capt. Tower fell, which was a severe loss to commence with. Our men fought like bull-dogs. During the thirty minutes we were all alone on the field out men expended all their ammunition, and we had to rob the dead to last till we were ordered off to replenish. The rebels are armed with first-rate arms, and use them well. They would bring out an American flag in their line and keep it there until they could rally their men in the bushes, and then make a rush upon us. In this way they deceived us.

Our light battery worked first-rate, but was obliged to leave the field for want of ammunition. After a fight of about five hours we were ordered to retreat. On our way back the enemy opened a masked battery upon us, and killed a great many men and horses, and took the light battery, except one piece. The Rhode Island Second Regiment received the highest praise from army officers and the citizens of Washington, for the prompt manner in which they went into battle. The greatest compliment I heard was than of an officer of the army, saying, that if it became necessary to cover the retreat, he would be obliged to take the Rhode Island Regiments and the Regulars to do it, which I thought was very good.

Major Ballou was in the midst of the battle, acting bravely, when a cannon ball passed through his horse, shattering the Major’s leg to pieces, so that they had to take it off. Our retreat was so hasty that we left both dead and wounded. How they will fare the Lord only knows. The rebels are a blood-thirsty set.

You can imagine the shape the men are in at present, when you know that we marched from 2 o’clock in the morning, without any breakfast, ten miles, and immediately attacked the enemy without resting at all; and then our retreat was so sudden that we could not rest. The distance to Washington was thirty miles, which we were obliged to mad before we halted, all without any food except what we could carry in our haversacks, and this we were obliged to throw away. So you see we were on our feet without rest from 2 o’clock Sunday morning, till eight o’clock Monday morning, when we arrived at Long Bridge. The men’s feet are in very bad condition. I never knew what it was to suffer for water before, being obliged to dip it up in the road all muddy, and drink it mud and all. It does not become me to give my opinion of this battle and its management, but I have one and you will, after you have read the whole account.

You must excuse the manner in which this is put together, for I have been writing all day making reports, and thought I would write you, if it was late.

Warren (RI) Telegraph, 7/27/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy