Pvt. Robert LaFayette Francisco, Co. E, 4th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

6 08 2021

The following is from a member of Col. J. F. Preston’s Regiment, to his brother in this city:

Camp near Manassas, July 30, 1861.

We left Winchester on Thursday, with the impression that we were going to prevent the enemy from out-flanking us in the direction of Charlestown; but when a few miles from town we were told by our officers that we were on a forced march for this place to help Gen. Beauregard, and that we must make it in forty-eight hours, which we did, and had some eight hours to spare. We had one day’s rest, when, on Sunday morning, 21st, while preparing breakfast in the pines, our ears were saluted by the enemy’s artillery, and in a few moments a few bombs fell in our neighborhood. This was only a feint.–We were in a few moments on the march, and, after marching and counter-marching, and double-quicking it some twelve miles, we were brought up immediately behind our largest battery to support it, and at which the enemy were hurling a perfect sheet of grape, canister, and every other kind of shot. We soon took our positions and lay down upon the ground quietly for two hours and forty minutes in the hot sun. During this time the pine bushes behind us were literally mowed down, and many of our best men were killed lying there. Three were killed by a bomb-shell within a few feet of me, a part of whose blood was spattered upon me. A little further off five of our countrymen were killed without having moved from their positions. Gens. Johnston, Beauregard and Jackson rode before us and gave us a cheer. Gen. Beauregard’s horse was shot within my sight. After a while the enemy got on our flank, and commenced a brisk cross fire both with artillery and musketry, and I began to think that our case was a desperate one, for our men who were on our left fell back and let the enemy have their position in the pines. But we did not have long to think of our position, for we were ordered to charge and clear the field with the bayonet.–Up we jumped, gave a loud yell, and over the fence and through the pines we went until we met the enemy face to face. We were met at every step with a perfect shower of bullets, and I saw many noble fellows full by my side to rise no more. One shot passed through the leg of my pants, and another through my shirt, but nothing could stop us; on we went until we charged on and over Sherman’s famous battery, and our brave Colonel (James F. Preston) was first to mount it and place our colors upon it. So, let the world say what they will, the Fourth Regiment of Virginia Volunteers took it and held it, though we were aided by the Twenty-Seventh; but they were a long way from it when we captured it. I am told that others claim and have received all the honor of the capture, some of whom perhaps never saw it. We took in all ten pieces, having first killed nearly all their horses and men. The men that we fought were the Brooklyn Zouaves, a part of Ellsworth’s Regiment, and the regulars.–But they could not stand the cold steel, and I never in my life saw men run so fast after fighting as well as they did; for there is no denying the fact that they know how to shoot, and for a long time fought well.

After our cavalry took them on the run, I returned to the field and assisted in removing many of our wounded men, and I never again wish to witness such a scene. The cries of the wounded and dying for help and water are still ringing in my ears. I carried water and ministered to both friend and foe as long as I could. Of the number of prisoners and amount of property taken in this fight, you doubtless know as well, if not better than I do.

I had many interesting conversations with the enemy’s wounded, nearly all of whom said that they had been most grossly deceived, but I don’t believe one word that they say. Some, however, said that they would fight again if they got the chance. I saw many letters that they had written to their lady-loves, telling them to direct their letters to Richmond, as they would be there in a few days. I don’t suppose there ever were men who calculated more certainly on victory than these men; but, thanks be to God, there never were men more bitterly disappointed.

They say that they can fight men with some hope of success, but not devils.

So you see, in the whole matter, the “harmless Fourth,” as we are called, have performed their duty well, and God in his mercy gave us help and put a “panic” into the hearts of the Yankees, and they ran; therefore we ought to give Him all the glory and thanks.

We had, when we went into action, a little over four hundred in our regiment. Thirty-five were killed and ninety-eight wounded. Our loss was, therefore, heavy in proportion to the number engaged. Not one of the company to which I am attached (the Montgomery Highlanders, Captain C. A. Ronald,) was killed, and only six wounded. I am satisfied that nothing but the protecting care of our Heavenly Father saved us from so many imminent dangers.

R. L. F.

Richmond (VA) Daily Dispatch, 8/6/1861

Clipping image

Contributed and transcribed by Eric Mink

Robert L. Francisco at Ancestry

Robert L. Francisco at Fold3

Robert L. Francisco at FindAGrave

4th Virginia Infantry Roster

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