Pvt. Jonathan Coward*, Co. D, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

2 03 2022


In your issue of July 27 you published an account of those missing from the Thirty-eighth regiment of New York – Second regiment of Scott Life Guards. Among the names appears that of my brother, Jonathan Coward. Although a coward by name I hope he will prove himself not one by nature. He is a fine large fellow, and will not, as his school teacher used to say, be afraid to go up to a cannon’s mouth. Mother received a letter from him written July 22, saying “I’m safe. All’s well.”

Washington City, July 22, 1861

Dear Mother – I suppose you are very anxious to hear from me since the battle of Bull run. I am so tired I can scarcely write. I have not had one minute’s sleep in forty-eight hours, and very little to eat. In fact, I have had no time to think of eating, or doing anything else but march, fight and run. You will know all about this fight long before you get this hurriedly written letter. I can hardly see to write. I’m “played out,” as they say. You should see our troops! They look near dead. I am quite a hero around Washington, no matter where I go, people stop me to ask about the fight. I could have been drunk a dozen times if I drank liquor, for the men who talk to me ask me to have a drink, but I say no, sire. And the girls look so sweetly on me as I pass them. One dear old lady made me go home with her and have breakfast. I have walked since I first started, night before last, over sixty miles without any rest. We ran into the battle, and (?) left ran away! But don’t blame the boys for not (?) the day. We will make then sing the next time we meet them. Now you can’t imagine what a sight it is to look over a battle field. It seems like a dream to me to think what I have gone through the last two days. I was in the thickest of the fight; the balls flew around me as thick as if it was raining bullets; two of them had the pleasure to strike me, but I had the pleasure to know that they were spent – that is, they came so far they had lost their power – although, I thought certainly I was shot. One of them hit me on the back, which knocked me down, but after awhile I commenced to feel around me, and came to the conclusion I was not dead yet. So I jumped up and commenced to fire away again with a vengeance among the enemy. How many I shot I don’t know. I am sure I killed one, for I picked him out from the rest and led him have it. I fired altogether twenty rounds. I am writing this at the Clarendon Hotel. I do not know what they are going to do with us. I still have good health. Your loving son,


I had the presumption to think that probably you would give this a place in your valuable paper, and therefore wrote it on one side of the paper only.

126 New Canal street, New York City.

The New York Herald, 7/29/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

* Jonathan Coward mustered out as Jonathan Howard, per below roster.

38th New York Infantry roster

Jonathan Coward/Howard at Ancestry

Jonathan Coward at Fold3

Jonathan Howard at Fold 3

Jonathan Coward at FindAGrave



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