Lt. Henry Simpson, Co. B, 2nd New York State Militia, On the Battle

16 02 2022

Lieutenant Simpson’s Account of the Battle of Bull’s Run

The following very interesting statement of several unpublished facts concerning the battle of Bull’s Run has been very kindly furnished us by Lieutenant Simpson, and officer of the Union army, connected with the Second New York regiment, which took an important part in the battle.

The statement of Lieutenant Simpson is a plain, unvarnished tale of a portion of the hot action of the 21st inst. He says.

The Black Horse regiment made a fierce attack on the regimental colors of the Second regiment, the design being undoubtedly to capture them and carry them off as a trophy for their side. The Second regiment, both officers and men, saw at once what the enemy wished to do. But as much as the rebels had resolved to take our colors the men of the Second were determined that they should not be taken. – We well knew that they had an overwhelming force, but they did not intimidate us in the least. The fight was very smart but there was no one to sustain us. Had we had a few good and experienced generals, it is my opinion that the disastrous retreat which ensued would never have occurred. Not that I wish or could blame General McDowell. He is an excellent officer, but his force was entirely too small to cope with the enemy. But other officers were entirely behind what their county expected and hoped from them. There was only three of four wounded in Company B, to which I belonged. The orderly Sergeant of our company was shot through the shoulder, the same ball breaking the leg of the man next to him. Two men of company K, were killed. One man of company A, was also killed, whose name was Maxwell, and two or three of company I were severely wounded, who have since most probably died.

I saw the whole action myself, but although I cannot state that I saw all the facts that have been published, I believe the Union forces suffered very severely – Our regiment certainly lost in killed and wounded some forty or fifty men. The regiment stood its ground manfully, and if we had had an open field, and no favor, we would have made the rebels scamper in double quick time.

The Sixty-ninth Regiment New York State Militia, performed prodigies of valor. They stripped themselves and dashed into the enemy with the utmost fury. The difficulty was to keep them quiet. While the Second was engaging a rebel regiment they retreated into a thick hay field, to draw the Northerners into a trap. The Second continued firing into them, while the Sixty-ninth, by a flank movement, took them in the rear, and pouring a deadly fire into their ranks, and afterwards charged them with the bayonet. The slaughter was terrible, and the defeat complete, for not a man stirred of the whole five or six hundred. In this attack there were very few of the Sixty-ninth wounded.

The enemy fired very rapidly and very well. They were apparently well supplied with artillery, and were not sparing in its use. The balls flew about us very thickly. During the heat of the fire our men had to lay on the ground, and thus endeavor to escape the tremendous result of the enemy’s fire. We kept as silent as possible all the while. For more than an hour the fire of the rebels continued in the most furious manner. One man was shot in the head and his face injured in the most frightful manner. His suffering was most awfully severe. For an hour and a half the Second regiment was under a most galling fire, without once having an opportunity of returning a single discharge. Had it not been for the Colonel’s prudence, or whatever it might be called, every man would doubtless have been killed. In my opinion, the army is very badly officered; there are very few good generals in the service. We are not in want of men. – They are in abundance everywhere, but we want good commanders. I have frequently heard the men say that they would never again serve under such men as Schenck and Taylor. The statement concerning the gallant repulse of the Black Horse cavalry by the Zouaves is entirely wrong. Not a man of the Zouaves was in sight when the terrible regiment came up. They dashed right down on the Second regiment, and out gallant fellows had as much as they could do to keep their ground against them. They seemed to be wile with hate and rage, rushing right on use with drawn swords – Our men took deliberate aim, and firing killed nearly every one of them. Their splendid black horses went galloping over the field. Privates Gilmore and Perry behaved very bravely. They killed from eight to twelve men and thus saved our colors. The retreat was conducted under the Lieutenant-Colonel and Major. The Colonel was most hotly pursued by the enemy and was compelled to make a precipitous retreat. The second went into the action 850 strong and lost about fifty men in the fight. I lost a very valuable black servant, a most intelligent and excellent man. His name was Charles Gilmore, and perhaps he is in the hands of the rebels.

The reports concerning the atrocious conduct of the rebel troops are quite true. They acted worse than could be expected from the Fejee Islanders. They fired into our hospital and killed our surgeons while dressing the wounds of our soldiers. The whole army is intensely excited on account their barborous acts. They fired on the hospital while the flag was hoisted. Those surgeons whom they did not kill they made prisoners and carried off.

Wheeling (WV) Daily Intelligencer, 7/27/1861

Clipping Image

2nd NYSM (82nd NYVI) Roster

Henry Simpson at Ancestry

Henry Simpson at Fold3


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