Lt. Melvin Dwinell, Co. A, 8th Georgia Infantry, On His Feelings Under Fire

30 11 2022

Camp Bartow, near Manassas,
August 13, 1861.

Dear Courier: As everything in the way of news, incidents, accidents, &c., pertaining to the great battle of the 21st, is eagerly sought for by all who have relatives or friends in the Confederate Army, and as this includes nearly every family member in the country, the writer of this is so presumptious as to undertake “a description of one’s feelings in the battle of Manassas – it being his first experience.”

Though at different times and places our Regiment had been, some six or eight times, drawn up in line of battle, and we had gone through all the little heart sinkings, trepidations and fearful apprehensions, which most men experience, upon the eve of entering the life and death contest, yet, when we knew that a great battle was about to be commenced, yet there was such a deep and thrilling earnestness in the cannon’s first booming, as convinced us of the certainty of the fearful work about to be done, and a deep seated apprehension of danger – though not generally shown by palid cheeks or trembling limbs – was experienced. The certainty of danger became still more apparent, when coming near the range of one of the enemy’s batteries, we heard the whizzing of the death dealing missiles, as they passed with a horrid significance of what we might expect from better aim.

The “pomp and circumstance of glorious war,” suddenly dwindled down to the severest kind of plain, common sense, and it very soon became apparent, that common sense rules must be the basis of all discreet actions. At the first sight of the enemy, all the bug bear delusions that may have existed in the fancy of any one, as to their appearance, were suddenly dispelled, and they looked at the distance of three hundred or four hundred yards, precisely like so many of our men.

Quite different from all my fancies of great battles; this was not fought in a broad open field, where the two grand armies could be drawn up in long, unbroken lines, and approach each other in heavy columns. There is no considerable extent of right level ground on this memorable field, but is completely broken with hills and dales, meandering branches and protecting groves. And in extent, the hottest part of the battle field was about one miles by three quarters in width. On such a field, of course, the awful grandeur of appearance of the approaching armies was lost. Then when the firing commenced, that wonderful, indefinite and superhuman grandeur of movements, that my imagination had painted, all faded out, and in its place I had an ugly, dusty, fatiguing and laborious realization of the actual in battle. I experienced most fear when the first cannon ball passed over, with a tremendous whizzing, about twenty yards off; and felt the most dread apprehension, when ordered immediately after, to take a position on a little eminence, in fearful proximity to the place the ball had just passed. After our Regiment had moved forward some 200 or 300 yards, we again came both in range and sight of Sherman’s celebrated Battery, about three-fourths of a mile from us. Their shell and balls came fearfully near, and as one passed through an apple tree just over my head, a cold chill ran over me, and I suffered from agonizing fear, for probably, three or four seconds, but after this, during the entire battle, though I was in almost constant expectation of being killed, yet there was no painful realization of fear, such as would make one hesitate to ge wherever duty called, or prevented a full and free exercise of all the faculties of body and mind. As the dangers really increased, and friends were seen falling thick upon either side, the apprehension, or rather the fear, of them became strangely less, and without feeling secure there was a sort of forced resignation to calmly abide whatever consequences should come.

At no time did I experience any feeling of anger, or discover any exhibition of it in others. A stern determination and inflexible purpose, was the predominant expression of countenance of all, so far as my observation extended, and any sudden exhibition of passion would have seemed ridiculous.

One of the most remarkable mental phenomena, was the sudden and strange drying up of sympathetic feeling for the suffering of the wounded and dying. I could never before look upon even small operations, or persons in extreme pain from any cause, especially when blood was freely flowing, without intense pain and generally more or less faintness. But on this occasion I beheld the most terrible mutilations, the most horrid and ghastly expression of men in the death struggle, men with one arm or a leg, shot off, others with the face horribly mutilated, heads shot through and brains lying about, bodies half torn into, and at the hospital, some 50 men with legs or arms jut amputated and a half cord of legs and arms, and men in all degrees of pain, from the slight flesh wound to those producing death in a few moments, and viewed all this with far less feeling that I would ordinarily have seen brutes thus mutilated. This obduracy I am truly glad, was only temporary. Only two days after the battle I caught myself avoiding the amputation of an arm.

I have written thus much of my own feelings, not because they were peculiar, but according to my best knowledge and belief, were nearly the same as those shared by a great majority of all those who were in the heat of battle, for the first time, on the glorious 21st.

Our Regiment is now having an easy time. There is considerable slight sickness, but none dangerous that I know of. Dr. Miller has been appointed General Director of the Medical Board for our Brigade – the 2nd – but he still retains the office of Surgeon of the 8th Regiment.

M. D.

From Dear Courier: The Civil War Correspondence of Editor Melvin Dwinell, pp. 66-68

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Lt. Melvin Dwinell, Co. A, 8th Georgia Infantry, On the Advance to Manassas and Casualties

30 11 2022

Camp Bartow, near Manassas,
August 5, 1861.

Dear Courier: It has been several days since I have written to you mainly for the reason that I have quite fully experienced the wonderful state of exhaustion and debility – amounting to almost complete prostration – consequent to the great and indescribable exertions, both physical and mental, of the glorious 21st. Every person has experienced to some extent a sense of vacuity and extraordinary excitements. By multiplying this a thousand fold, some idea may be formed of the prostrate condition of our Regiment since the memorable battle of Manassas. With resolute men, the ability to endure increases to a marvelous extent, with the accumulation of exciting causes; but after these causes are removed, the natural depression, that follows, is as much below the ordinary equilibrium as it had been carried above. Since that “day so foul and fair,” until the past few days, when the men had began to brighten up, the ordinary routine of camp duties have seemed idle formalities, altogether frivolous, and they were reluctantly performed with feelings of repugnance that amount almost to disgust.

As the little glowing description of the march og Gen. Johnston’s command from Winchester to this place, seems, from its non-publication, to have been lost, and in order that our condition upon the day of battle may be better understood. I will now give a few of the leading facts: On Thursday July 18th, five Regiments, including the 2d, had orders to march from Winchester. Our Regiment left camp at 1 o’clock P.M., without dinner, and only food enough in our haversacks for one meal. When a half mile out of town, we were told that the march was to Manassas. Arrived at Millwood at 6 o’clock, and to the Shannandoah River, thirteen miles from Winchester, at 9 o’clock. Four hours were consumed by the army, in fording the river. Passed the Blue Ridge through Paris Gap, and arrived at that town distant from the river, five miles, at 3 o’clock A.M., on Friday; here lay down on the ground, without blankets, and rested three hours, then resumed the march to Piedmont Station, on the Manassas Gap Railroad – distance five miles – where we arrived at 9 o’clock. Our wagons came up about noon and we got a very good dinner, ready at three o’clock. From 7 P.M., till 2 A.M. Saturday, we were on the cars between Piedmont and Manassas – detained by the rascality of the conductor, who was believed to have been bribed by the enemy, and who has since been shot.

My letter published in the Courier on the 30th ult., gives an account of our movements of Saturday. We marched not less than ten miles on the morning of the battle.

From breakfast Thursday morning, until after the battle on Sunday, the men of the Regiment received about sufficient food for two full meals. In this time they marched 35 miles – fording the Shannandoah, and crossing the Blue Ridge – and were for several hours, crowded in the most uncomfortable manner in the cars.

I have been this particular in reporting our movements, because it has been intimated by some few who did not know the facts, that the survivors in the 8th Georgia Regiment broke down very soon after the bloody charge.

I saw a statement a few days since in a communication in the Richmond Dispatch, that the Oglethorpe Light Infantry occupied the right of the Regiment in the charge in the pine thicket. The falsity of this statement is only equaled by the presumption of the writer.

Below is an accurate statement of the numbers entering the battle of the 21st, from the various companies of the 8th Georgia Regiment, and of the killed, wounded and prisoners:

No.K’dW’dPr’s
A. Rome Light Guards565142
B. Oglethorpe L’t In’ry835253
C. Macon Guards624162
D. Echols Guards422111
E. Miller Rifles372150
F. Atlanta Greys763207
G. Pulaski Volunteers364140
H. Floyd Infantry404120
I. Stephens L’t Guards787131
K. Oglethorpe Rifles330160
Total5433615616

Gen. Samuel Jones, who has been appointed to command our Brigade for a few months, had charge of the Institute at Marietta, Ga. We, as yet, have no Lieutenant Colonel. A. R. Harper is acting as Adjutant, and Lieutenant Reese is acting Quartermaster of the Regiment. Our Brigade – the 7th, 8th, and 9th Georgia Regiments and Ky. Battalion – is now encamped 2 miles N.E. from Manassas. Our regular drills were resumed three days since.

Lieut. G. R. Lumpkin has resigned on account of ill health. He was an excellent officer and much beloved by the company. Z. B. Hargrove and Marion Ezzel have applied for, and will doubtless receive honorable discharges, on the ground of chronic ill health; also, McOsker, on account of his wounds, Howard, Anderson, and Stephenson, will probably get furloughs for 60 days on account of their wounds, and Ross for 30 days.

Several applications for discharges and furloughs will be made by members of the Miller Rifles and Floyd Infantry, but I have not time to go around and learn their names.

Rev. John Jones preached to us yesterday an excellent sermon. He will hold prayer meetings every evening, at eight o’clock, as long as he remains in camp.

There is considerable sickness in the Floyd county companies, but none are considered dangerous.

Of the general movement of our Army, you can learn more at your various homes than we can here in camp.

M. D.

From Dear Courier: The Civil War Correspondence of Editor Melvin Dwinell, pp. 62-64

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Lt. Melvin Dwinell, Co. A, 8th Georgia Infantry, On Casualties and Spoils

29 11 2022

Battle Ground near Manassas Junction July 24 1861

Dear Parents – On last Sunday I was in the midst of one of the hardest fought battles that has ever occurred in America – I am without a scratch or even a bullet hole in my clothes – Five of our men fell dead by my side – four were mortally wounded – and six or eight more severely – It seems a miracle that I escaped unharmed. The Confederate Army was victorious and completely routed Lincoln’s forces – We took 64 cannon of the best kind, 100 heavy baggage wagons – about 600 Prisoners and drove the enemy back some 12 or 15 miles and would have pursued them to Washington but out men gave out from sheer exhaustion.

Your aft. Son
Melvin

From Dear Courier: The Civil War Correspondence of Editor Melvin Dwinell, pp. 57-58

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Capt. Nathaniel H. R. Dawson, Co. C, 4th Alabama Infantry, On the Battle and Aftermath

29 11 2022

Near Manassas, July 25, 1861

I have written you three times since the late battle, my own dear Elodie, but it seems that for the first time today I am in a sufficiently quiet state of mind to commune with you. I feel like one who had accomplished a great work and was resting from his labors, and my first impulses after this are to lie down by your side and rest in the knowledge that your heart pulsates to every throb of mine. I come to pay tribute to you whom I love beyond all human beings and to whisper into your ear things that I dare not breathe to others, to tell you of the strength of that love which I bear you, and to seek comfort and peace in your sympathy. It is at such hours as this, when we rest from our labors, that man needs the comforting solace of woman, and I would give all that I have to be with you and to feel the influence of your kindness. How much I want you to be near me and to receive from your own lips the assurance of your love, I leave you to imagine.

Durin the fight when the bullets fell like hail, I thought of you as far away, at a church, on your knees, praying for my safety, and I was nerved and strengthened to do my duty. It seems a miracle that I was not killed as several of my men were shot down at my side. I attribute all to the providence of God, and I trust that I will endeavor to appreciate his mercy.

I went over the field yesterday. The scene was awful. The dead Yankees were still lying unburied in many places. I saw as many as one hundred in the space of an acre. They belong to Ellsworth’s Zouaves who were reduced from 1,100 to 200 men. God seems specially to have marked them for vengeance. They wore blue pants and red shirts and are fierce looking fellows. They fought well.

To give you an idea of the extent of the forces, I will merely mention that our line of battle extended ten miles, but we were only attacked on a line of about three miles. The roar of artillery was incessant from 8 o’clock until 3 in the evening. The air resounded with the whistling balls and hissing shells. Trees as large as my body were cut down in the forests by the rifle cannon balls. I have gathered up some bullets on the field and will keep them for you.

Our regiment is in a state of disorganization. Capt. Goldsby being the senior captain is acting as Col. He has been absent since the battle, and I now have the command. I do not desire to retain it however as I am anxious that a U. States officer should be placed in charge. We have suffered greatly for want of competent field officers, and I will not permit any selfishness to interfere with the welfare of the regiment.

We are encamped on the battlefield, surrounded by all the evidences of the sanguinary contest – broken gun carriages, dead men, dead horses, and the graves of the dead. Every house in the neighborhood is a hospital for the wounded of the army. Our own have been sent to Culpeper and Charlottesville. The dead Yankees will all be buried today. Judge Walker arrived this morning to take the remains of Lieut. Simpson, his brother-in-law, home. He will mail this letter in Richmond as there is some difficulty about sending letters off here. I telegraphed the Reporter to let you know I was safe as I knew you would be very uneasy until you heard.

We have been sleeping in the open air without tents since we left Winchester, and it seems we are to do without them for the balance of the season. We are indeed fast becoming used to all sorts of hardships. I am bearing them well and hope to pass thro them safely. It is now three months since I bid you goodbye, but it seems a long year. I cannot tell you how anxious I am to see you again. It will be one of the happiest days of my life when I meet you again safely. You are indeed, my dear Elodie, the star that I worship, and all the breadth of my love seems insufficient to repay you for yours. When I think how much this has cost me in the sacrifice of being absent from you, I almost wish it had not been commenced, but we are battling for our rights, and the feelings of an individual should not be allowed to interfere with our duties. But still I hope, and hope most earnestly, that I will be allowed to be reunited again to you. Our movements are uncertain. We will remain now on this line of operations and may go on to Alexandria, but we will hardly attempt to take the place by storm. The campaign will end in November on this line of operations, when the war may be transferred to the south.

You will write to me at Manassas Junction and your letters will be forwarded in case of our removal. I have not heard from you since the 11th of July. I hope to receive letters forwarded from Winchester today or tomorrow as I have sent a gentleman over there to see about our baggage. You can’t imagine how much pleasure a letter from you will give me now. It will be so soothing to read your affectionate letters. I will continue to write you as often as I have an opportunity, but you must not expect to hear as regularly as you have heretofore done. I will always embrace any opportunity of advising you of my movements.

I have now to attend a meeting of our officers and must bid you adieu. Farewell, my dear Elodie. Pray for me and may God bless and preserve you always.

Ever and affectionately yours,
N. H. R. Dawson

I have attempted no rhetorical account of the battle and its incidents. You will see this from better hands. Besides I have no time and no power to do so. You will see in the Charleston Mercury a full account from Mr. Sprate, who is a friend of mine. Our regiment did great credit to itself.

From Practical Strangers: The Courtship Correspondence pf Nathaniel Dawson and Elodie Todd, Sister of Mary Todd Lincoln. pp. 143-145

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Capt. Nathaniel H. R. Dawson, Co. C, 4th Alabama Infantry, On the Battle, Casualties, and Aftermath

28 11 2022

Manassas, Virginia, July 24, 1861

We have in some measure recovered from the excitement following the battle, and I prepare to write you this morning, seated in a thicket, pencil in hand, some of the details of the late engagement –

We, the 4th Ala., with the 2d Miss. and 6th N. C. Rg., under Gen. Bee commenced the fight by attacking the advancing column of Yankees. Our reg. was supposed to attack 5,000 men and after keeping them in check for one hour, retreated, fell back upon the reserve. I was injured by a sprain in the ankle and missed the Reg. which was in advance and was not further engaged. About 200 of the reg. was collected but took no further active part in the battle. We have but about 200 killed and wounded. Among the former is Lieut. Simpson, whom you saw last winter in Montgomery. He was to be married to Miss Collier. We lost about 1,000 killed and wounded. The loss of the Yankees is incalculable as they were [illegible] for fifteen miles, all of their artillery – 50 pieces – 10,000 stand of arms, all of their hospital wagons, a large number of their baggage wagons, and a large number of prisoners have been taken. Their dead line the road all the way.

I walked over the battlefield the next day after the fight. The scene presented was horrible. I counted in one small spot – where Sherman’s battery was taken – thirty-seven horses that were dead and near one hundred dead yankees, besides the wounded who had been removed. Near this place is a house, an old lady 90 years of age was killed by a cannon ball. Her daughter told me this herself at the house. The dead presented an awful appearance, and I thought perchance that the fortunes of man might place me in a similar position. I have learned it seems, however, to think philosophically of these things and am inclined to the opinion that I am hard-hearted.

I have thought of you all the time, my own dear Elodie, have prayed that I might be spared to see you again, and so far my prayer has been granted, and I am deeply grateful to God. I am afraid you have been troubled by rumors of my injury, as Mr. [illegible] and Mr. Smith, members of congress from Alabama who came up from Richmond yesterday told me that it was reported I was killed. I telegraphed the Selma Reporter the day after the battle and yesterday again and wrote you the night of the battle of my safety and hope your apprehensions were not excited, but I almost regret that I was not wounded that I might have had an excuse for giving harm. But I am deeply thankful that so far I have escaped. Col. Jones, Col. Law, and Major Scott are all wounded. Gen. Bee was killed. I send you a flower plucked by me this morning from the spot. He was at the head of our regiment at the time, or the remnant. We lost 185 killed and wounded out of about 700 who went to battle.

You must write me at Manassas Junction, and I will get your letters. I will write you as often as possible. I have sent to Winchester for my trunk and will then have facilities. Excuse this miserable scrawl, but we are in the woods without tents or baggage.

Remember me to Mr. and Mrs. White. You are the idol of my heart, and I am so grateful for your love.

Adieu, dearest Elodie,
Ever and affectionately yours,
N. H. R. Dawson

From Practical Strangers: The Courtship Correspondence pf Nathaniel Dawson and Elodie Todd, Sister of Mary Todd Lincoln. pp. 141-143

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Capt. Nathaniel H. R. Dawson, Co. C, 4th Alabama Infantry, On Casualties

28 11 2022

Manassas, July 21, 1861

We have had a terrible battle today, my dear Elodie, but have achieved a glorious victory. Our brigade was in the hottest of the engagement, and the 4th Ala. Reg. has been cut to pieces. I have had from twenty to thirty killed and wounded in the Cadets, but thanks to a merciful Creator and your prayers, I escaped unscathed. A cannon ball struck a fence which I was crossing and knocked me down, but the only harm done me was a dislocation of my ankle which I do not think will give me much pain. We have taken all the artillery of the enemy, their baggage and stores. Their loss is estimated at 4,000 to 5,000. But over this victory we have to mourn the loss of many of our best and bravest men. Mr. J. W. Stone, W. A. Lowry, E. G. Ursory, Bohannon, Taylor and several others are killed in the Cadets. W. H. Harrison, Jr. has lost his right arm. Rev. Turner is shot thro’ one of his legs. Geo. Cleveland is slightly wounded in the heel and several others whom you do not know.

My dearest, I wrote you a few lines to inform you of our arrival this morning and wrote you at the earliest moment from Gen. Beauregard’s headquarters of my safety and to thank God for it. My joy is great, and I attribute much to your prayers.

I have no time to write more fully. Dearest continue to pray for me. My escape is most miraculous. It is now near twelve o’clock at night.

Ever affty and sincerely,
Your own devoted,
N. H. R. Dawson

From Practical Strangers: The Courtship Correspondence pf Nathaniel Dawson and Elodie Todd, Sister of Mary Todd Lincoln. pp. 137-138

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Image: Andrew Carnegie

26 11 2022
Andrew Carnegie (Source)

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Andrew Carnegie’s Updates On the Battle

26 11 2022

(7/22/1861)

VICTORY! VICTORY!! VICTORY!!!

The following special dispatch to the Post was received last night at 10 o’clock from A. Carnegie, Esq., at Alexandria. Victory has perched upon the banners of the Republic:

Alexandria, Sunday night.

The enemy are completely routed at Bull’s Run. The batteries are taken. The victory is overwhelming. The backbone of secession is broken. Richmond is not far from our grasp.

A. CARNEGIE

(7/23/1861)

Alexandria, July 22nd.

Editor Post: – My despatch last night was based on a report brought by special messenger, who left the field at 4 p.m. The batteries (at Bull’s Run) were then in our possession and the day ours. Subsequently General Johnston, with twenty thousand men, carried into action, and drove our forces back. They are now arriving here, and will reform and be at the enemy again before long.

A. CARNEGIE

(7/24/1861)

Washington, July 23. – T. M. Carnegie – Gen. McDowell beat Gen. Beauregard twice on Sunday, and Gen. Johnston once. It was only when our troops were utterly exhausted, and a fresh army attacked, that they were overpowered.

We really gained three and lost one battle. The less is amply worth all it cost.

On hundred thousand men will leave here soon under Gen. McClellan, to annihilate rebellion. No half work now.

Forty additional regiments were accepted by the War Department yesterday.

The Government is fully aroused, and the entire property of the South will be confiscated if necessary.

The Ellsworth Zouaves, it is said, killed nearly all the celebrated Black Horse Cavalry.

Washington is perfectly safe, and the fortifications are fully manned with fresh troops. The rebels made no demonstration to advance, as their loss fully equals ours.

A. Carnegie

Pittsburgh (PA) Daily Post, 7/22,23,24/1861

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Image: Corp. William H. Merrell, Co. E, 27th New York Infantry

25 11 2022
William H. Merrell, Co. E, 27th NY (as Capt. 108th NY) (Source)

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Corp. William H. Merrell, Co. E, 27th New York Infantry, On His Captivity (2)

25 11 2022

The Wounded Prisoners at Richmond.

Mr. W. H. Merrill, one of the wounded prisoners at Richmond, writes as follows to the Rochester Express. His letter is dated August 20th:

“I assure you that I am indeed grateful to God for the preservation of my life, and that I have fallen into the hands of those who have left nothing undone that would contribute to my health or comfort.

“I was wounded about two hours after we entered the field at Bull Run, in the breast, near the heart, and fell soon after. * * * *

“We have had the best surgeons to be had, who have labored hard for our comfort. Many amputations have been necessary, which have been performed with skill. I think the wounded prisoners would endorse what I say when I give our foes credit for doing for us all that can possibly be done. I hope all who have friends here will be at ease about them, for they are in good, kind hands. The Sisters of Mercy (or Charity) are with us to cheer and nurse us. They labor hard, day and night. I have been much pained to read some of the contemptible false slanders of the Northern press about the Federal prisoners being treated with inhumanity. All such statements are false.

“I speak in strong terms because the Virginians have treated us well; for one I shall never forget them. I write just as it it, without fear or favor.”

The (Baltimore, MD) Daily Exchange, 9/9/1861

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