Pvt. Henry M. Crocker, Co. C, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

18 02 2023




Again in Camp Anderson,
Tuesday afternoon July 28, 1861

Dear Father and Mother, Brothers and Sisters and all – I again take a seat in the old barracks at Washington, to say a few words to you which may be a little interesting, although it may not be very pleasing news in some respects. You are undoubtedly aware by the letter I wrote you the morning I marched, that we had been over in the enemy’s country (Virginia) and also my march until I reached the regiment, which was last Friday morning, about three miles beyond the Fairfax Court-House, which house you have heard of many a time. We staid in said Camp until Sunday morning about 8 o’clock, when our Brigade was ordered to march. We all fell in and marched about fourteen miles, when we heard reports from the enemy – we struck in double quick and marched on the same time into the battle field, which was at a place called Bull’s Run, about two miles from the place where we struck into double quick, which makes our march that day sixteen miles, and more than that, our Company was stationed in the woods as
picket guard Saturday night, being the night before we marched consequently we did not feel very rugged for marching Sunday morning but we marched on, eating our breakfast and dinner on the march. We arrived at the battle field about 1 o’clock – our Regiment being the head one of our Brigade, we were the first Regiment in the field.

We fought about three hours, and by not having only about half of our troops there and the rebel troops were eighty thousand which was as many again as we expected they had and they being fortified in several batteries on different hills, with large guns which they could, standing behind their batteries throw their cannon balls and bomb shells at us from every direction, keeping themselves perfectly shielded from our shots, not withstanding that, and the immense majority of men they had we killed several of their men and officers that ventured to stick out their heads but how many we cannot tell.

Out of our company including wounded and all, are sixteen missing, as we were obliged to retreat so sudden with the exception of one whom I picked up from beside the fence – he was shot through the thigh and I fortunately saw our Quarter master at a short distance and succeeded in hailing him and getting him into the wagon. I left him to come with the Quarter master, and ran on ahead to overtake the Company who were on the retreat, but they being so mixed up in the Regiment, that I did not overtake any of them until they got some six miles from the battle field, and then only about a dozen of our Company the rest being scattered. There I fell in the ranks and marched on a short distance the road then being through the woods, and we had not got more than half through when we heard that the cavalry and artillery were following us up. We then struck into a double quick and retreated as fast as we could, which was not the fastest as we had such a hard march to get them along, besides all the fighting, which was an awful dangerous fight for us, I tell you – The men fell on every side of me, and the bomb shells, cannon balls &c whizzed over and around my head almost blowing my cap off but some way or other I cannot tell why I escaped them all.

Our Colonel was shot through the leg between the knee and thigh. He was immediately picked up by a couple of our men and carried into the woods, and laid on a blanket in care of our Doctor, at the same time our Captain and First Lieutenant were wounded in the shoulder and our Ensign was shot dead on the spot, and we were so crowded we did not have time to even
take his sword or revolver or pick up our wounded except one or two which we ran upon but were obliged to leave them by the side of the fence to be run through with the bayonet, as their barbarous hearts ran our wounded and prisoners.

I will now give you some account of my travel back. At the alarm of the rebels chasing us hundreds of our men were scattered in the woods myself included in the Company. The rest of the men ran on in the road – being overtaken in a hollow they were obliged to unhitch their horses from their cannon and baggage wagons and leave them for the rebels – The most of them that kept in the road marched on all night, all of them feeling ready to drop down but we that turned into the woods lay down on the ground and slept quite soundly after the rebels got through thundering by us. I happened to lie down away from any of our men, and did not
see one of our Regiment until I got to Washington about 1 o’clock this afternoon. I arose about 3 o’clock in the morning and marched on through the woods about twelve miles before we dare come into the road. I traveled through the rain all day. I came out of the woods in company with a captain of one of the Maine Regiments and some others. We came out to a slaveholders house – the old boss was a widower and his slaves said he left for the woods to secrete himself about the day we marched. We got the boss slave to hitch up his horses and carry us a piece and while he was getting his horses the wenches got us some milk and corn bread, which went good I tell you as we had not eaten anything but a dry cracker for the last forty eight hours.

I came within seven miles of here last night where one of the Maine Regiments were camped. They occupied an old log house with a fire place at each end, where I dried myself and rested considerably. The place of the battle was about thirty-five miles from here. Just before entering the battle field, I, like a great many others, threw off our canteens and haversacks, and in mine I had all my stationary and lost the whole, but after the fight I picked up one in the field. A great many of the boys were so weary they threw away their guns and some other equipments while in Virginia. We suffered considerably from thirst. Sunday afternoon we drank out of a brook with the horses. I do not know when we shall attack them again, but not until we have reinforcement. With my love to you all

I close

Union (NY) News, 8/1/1861

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy

Henry M. Crocker at Ancestry

Henry M. Crocker at Fold3

Henry M. Crocker at FindAGrave

A clipping indicates Crocker was “the last living pall-bearer of Abraham Lincoln,” however no confirmation was found.



One response

18 02 2023

Have you ever thought about putting all these post in book form?

Liked by 1 person

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