Lt. Melvin Dwinell, Co. A, 8th Georgia Infantry, Incidents of the Battle and Aftermath

10 11 2022

Editorial Correspondence.

Near the Battle Field, 6 Miles from
Manassas Junction, July 25.

Dear Courier: The events of the bloody 21st still continue, as they become known, to amaze even us who are here. If any previously doubted the righteousness of our cause, or that a just God smiled upon and blessed our patriotic efforts, to repel the wicked invaders, they now see such overwhelming evidence of these facts as to convince the most skeptical.

It is perfectly astonishing that the last man in the 8th Georgia Regiment was not killed, in the most brave and gallant charge made in the pine thicket, in the early part of the battle. The saplings, all about where we stood, are literally pealed and shot to pieces. We numbered five hundred and fifty-nine men in ranks. There were at least three thousand of the foe – and most of them regulars – in front of us, and about as many on the right. Our Regiment deployed here – entirely without support, sustained in the first charge a most deadly fire for thirty minutes, while with cool courage and accurate aim, our men poured the missiles of death into the ranks of the enemy. At the command we fell back in good order, and again at the order rallied to the same place. This would seem to be wanton sacrifice of our men, but it was really one of the wisest movements of the day, and it is believed to have turned the tide of the battle.

The enemy, as the prisoners now tell us, believed they were contending against at least six thousand men, and we thus held them in check for an hour and a half, and until our reinforcements could be brought on the field. Thus, although we did not have the pleasure of pursuing the most despicable and hated enemy, that ever contended on the battle field, we yet have the gratifying satisfaction of knowing that the 8th Georgia Regiment performed a most important part in the memorable events of this glorious day.

Geo. T. Stovall and Chas B. Norton fell in the first charge, within five steps of each other, and at almost the same instant. They were most bravely and gallantly fighting in the front rank, and two more heroic or better men never fell on the field of honor. Their many virtues and excellent traits of character, are now so distinctly present to the minds of their numerous friends and acquaintances, as to beggar any eulogy that I might attempt in this hasty letter. They were two gentlemen of such transcendant good qualities, of head and heart, as we are not likely “to look upon their like again.” James B. Clark fell in the second charge, equalling the bravest of the brave in the deadly fight. He was a noble youth, and much beloved by all who knew him. Near the same time and place of the two first, D. C. Hargrove was killed. No braver man fell that day, nor one who was more manfully contending. Dr. Duane was killed by a shot after the second charge.

Col. Bartow was killed some time after the second charge of the 8th Regiment, after two horses had been killed under him, and while he was bearing the colors and leading the 7th Regiment. It would be impossible for a man to show more indifference to danger than he did on this bloody field.

Col Gardner had his right leg broken below the knee, in the second charge. He is a most excellent officer, and very much beloved and highly respected by all his command. It will be very hard to satisfy the Regiment with any other man in his place, and probably it will only be supplied temporarily; that at least is our hope.

The evidences of the great extent of the victory still continue to accumulate. It is now currently reported that we have taken 360 heavy loaded wagons, beside a complete village of ambulances, carriages and other vehicles. President Davis is reported to have said in a speech since the battle, that of the men actually engaged in the fight, we had only fifteen thousand men, and the enemy thirty five thousand men. He also said we had taken more baggage wagons, baggage and provisions than all that there was previously, for the entire army, at Manassas Junction.

I learned yesterday that there were 237 wounded enemies – now prisoners – at Stone Church, six miles from here, all found there, together with 60 of them dead. They had tried, probably, to carry these off, but their retreat was too hasty to allow it. Ex-Gov. Manning, of S. C., now one of Gen. Beauregard’s Staff, said yesterday that our loss is estimated at one thousand, and that of the enemy, in killed and wounded, at between eight and ten thousand.

Among other things taken were two or three wagon loads of demijohns of fine liquors, and baskets of champagne, and other fixtures for jubilee, in honor of their expected victory. Seward, Greely, Gen. Scott, and may other distinguished Lincolnites, are reported to have been near the battle field, and watching the movements with telescopes.

In writing these hasty letters I am obliged to record facts and incidents as they occur to me or not at all – but hope the absence of order will not entirely deprive them of interest. I have just heard of the valliant conduct of Billy Barron when he was taken prisoner. He, with one or two others were with Col. Gardner, and trying to protect him after being wounded. A squad of ten or fifteen of the enemy charged down upon them, and ordered them to surrender, but Barron fought, striking with his gun, until completely overpowered, and was then carried off a prisoner.

Lewis Yarbrough, of the Miller Rifles, died of his wounds last night. Jas. W. Langston with ten other recruits for the Light Guards, and Alec Harper with some fifteen or twenty of the Miller Rifles, arrived. The boxes of eatables and luxuries were opened with the greatest pleasure, and I am sure such things were never better or more fully enjoyed. The “goodies” were shared by all, and many hearty thanks and cordial good wishes were expressed for the loved ones who sent them.

The 2d Brigade will hereafter be under the command of Gen. Jones, and old Army officer.

The spirit of Virginia ladies was exhibited in the conduct of Mrs. Thornton on Sunday evening. She lives on the road taken by the retreating enemy, and there was no white man about the place. A Yankee, exhausted from running, rushed into her kitchen and fell fainting. She applied restoratives, gave him some fine brandy, and when he was sufficiently recovered to receive it, supper. Shen then ordered a servant to take his gun and telling him he was her prisoner, sent for one of our officers and had him marched off. A few moments after one of Mrs. T’s servants coaxed one of these same Hessians into the kitchen, and they took him prisoner.

The Fire Zouaves, Lincoln’s “pet Lambs,” were slain like sheep – out of 950 it is said only 200 escaped. Many of their bodies are still unburied.

It is amazing to see the completeness and excellence of arms and accoutrements of the Federal troops. A better equipped army probably never entered the field.

Since writing the above John Black and Marcus Ross have come into camp. They tell us that they escaped from the enemy on Sunday evening during the confusion of the general stampede. They marched several miles with them until their Guard got separated from them, and then calling themselves Federal troops from Wisconsin, they managed to edge themselves off until finally they broke for the woods, and escaped. They traveled nearly all night not knowing where they were. Ross had a painful wound in his hand, and when they were certain that they were among friends they stopped about 22 miles from here. Black is unhurt. John Berry had two fingers on his left had shot off and is otherwise uninjured.

Camp of 8th Regiment Ga. Volunteers,
Near Manassas, July 30, 1861.

Dear Courier: – Through other sources you have doubtless received, before this time, most of the important particulars of the great and glorious, though dearly bought, victory of the 21st. In my other letters, I have noticed very little except the movements of our own Regiment, for the reason that I desired to chronicle my own observations rather than the doubtful rumors that came to my ears, and I have, even yet, not had opportunities to get facts in regard to the general plan and movements of the battle from reliable sources. The only satisfactory report of the memorable deeds of that day will be the official one, which will probably soon be forthcoming.

The following facts and incidents will be interesting to most readers. – There is probably not an officer in the Confederate army, more beloved by his command, and for whom there exists a more confiding respect for his military character and attainments, than is enjoyed by Col. Montgomery Gardner. He is familiar with his men, yet commands their full and high respect. – The following speech made to the Regiment just before we were led into battle is accurately illustrative of one of his peculiarities, viz: that he is a man for fighting rather than talking. I quote from memory, yet am sure the report is full and verbatim: “Fellow Soldiers: I shall soon lead you into battle; I cannot make a speech, and haven’t time now if I could. Keep cool, obey orders – follow me, and we will whip them, egad.” Every movement and command, until he fell from his wound, evidenced the utmost calmness and discreet bravery. It is the earnest wish of all, that he may speedily recover and again take his post at the head of our Regiment.

Other Captains may have done just as well, but I know that Captain Magruder was cool and discreet in his commands. He was wounded in the left arm in the very first of the fight, by a buck-shot, but continued during the fight, at the head of his company, with his arm in a sling. Late in the evening, and after the fight had ceased in that part of the field, he took a prisoner in the following manner: – He had gone some little distance to a spring for water, while there a man with a musket approached. He drew his pistol and demanded “who comes there.” The man answered “a member of the Wisconsin Regiment.” – The Captain said “throw down your gun and surrender, or I will blow your brains out.” The man threw his gun forward so that it stuck up on the bayonet. The Captain then marched him off to where other prisoners were, and put him under guard.

Where all were so brave and so well acted their part in the awful tragedy, it may seem invideous to particularize, but I cannot refrain from referring to the self-sacrificing devotion to comfort of our wounded, who had been left on the battle-field, exhibited by Geo. S. Barnsley. There were none of our Regiment known to be left on the field, yet, he, with two or three others, spend the time from 5 P. M. until 3 o’clock the next morning in searching out and bringing in such as could be found. – Considering the extreme fatigue and exhaustion of all, this particular kindness of heroism is worthy of high commendation.

We are now resting, getting ready for a re-organization of the Regiment and Brigade.

John Dunn, of the Floyd Infantry, died from his wounds last Saturday.

Tommy Hills, of the Miller Rifles, one of the bravest and best young men in the army, died of his wounds on Sunday.

McOsker, of the Buards, is very bad off. The balance of the Floyd county boys are doing well, so far as I have learned.

Several of our men have recognized acquaintances among the prisoners, large numbers of which continue to be found.

Some of the Oglethorpe Light Infantry boys, a few days since, while hunting for eggs, under a barn in the neighborhood, found three Yankees and took them prisoners.

Rome (GA) Tri-Weekly Courier, 8/6/1861

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy

Melvin Dwinell was the editor of the Rome Tri-Weekly Courier

Melvin Dwinell at

Melvin Dwinell at Fold3

Melvin Dwinell at FindAGrave

Vermonter in Gray: The Story of Melvin Dwinell

More on Melvin Dwinell herehere, and here



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