Lt. George Campbell Brown, Aide-de-camp to R. S. Ewell, On the Battle

23 02 2013

I joined a company raised near Spring Hill & even before its organization we experienced the evils of the elective system of officering troops. Every post from Captain to Corporal was elective – & after some intriguing & squabbling we split into two companies – one, under my cousin Capt. G. W. Campbell, Jr. joining the 1st Tenn. Regt. (Maney’s), the other under Capt. (afterwards Major) N. F. Cheairs joining the 3d Tenn. (Jno. C Brown’s).

When I had been in Camp Cheatham about a month, I was sent home with a severe acute rheumatism of both knees, and by the advice of my physician (who assured me I would not be fit for duty in the infantry for six months) resigned my position as 1st Lieutenant & accepted the offer just afterwards made me by Genl R. S. Ewell of A. D. C. of his Staff. I secured a horse after some difficulty & started him for Manassas Junction under charge of my Mother’s carriage driver Robert, who went as my servant. Went on in the passenger trains myself & reached the Junction on the 19th July, two days before the Battle of Manassas. I recollect the despair which came over me when I heard Genl E’s Hd. Qrs. were at Union Mills, 5 miles off, as I thought of my big trunk. But I left it at the station & started down the R. Rd. lined with tents & troops & of course covered with filth in consequence. Pretty soon a young man of affable address caught up with me, bringing with him two others that I soon found out were under his guard as it gradually dawned on me that I was too. It turned out that his Lieut. had charged him to keep special watch on me as I might be a spy.

In honor of my supposed rank, I was carried direct to Genl Ewell’s Hd. Qrs., one of the men with me being dismissed at his Regts Camp, the other’s convenience postponed to mine. On the way I nearly lost the confidence of my guard and felt quite like an imposter myself. We met a group of a half-dozen plainly-dressed riders going at a gallop towards the Junction. “There goes Genl Ewell, now,” said the guard. I was forced to confess that I had not recognized him. We found only Lt. Taliaferro present at Hd. Qrs. – a gawky, good-natured freckled young “Plebe” from West Point, but who, in my humbled condition, seemed then to me most majestic & terrific in his military power & of almost incredible affability & condescension, seeing that he welcomed me quite like an equal. He gave the guard a receipt for me & we sat together in the small shade the quarters afforded until Genl E. retd. in about an hour – a medium=sized & plain man, with well-shaped, spare figure & face much emaciated by recent sickness but indicative of much character & genius. I had not seen him for eight years & found it not easy to recall his features. He had evidently changed much by exposure & bad health.

That night he told me Genl Beauregard expected a fight on the morrow. I must not forget his first greeting to me – a characteristic one. Seeing him busy in giving orders when he first came up, I kept my seat waiting to make myself known till he should be at leisure. Talieferro went up to him & told him I had come. He immediately came & shook hands saying, “Well, Campbell, I am sorry you have come.” Thinking he meant that he had mean time appointed another officer on his staff, I faltered out that I was too, if it embarrassed him in any way. He laughed & said that he meant we would probably have a fight the next day – that he had hoped I would stay away long enough to miss it but as I was here, it could not be helped. Next day he lent me a horse (he had then but two) which on the 21st I, in my “zeal without knowledge” rode nearly to death.

Early on the morning of the 20th, it was known that McDowell might attack at any time & the nerves of all were strained to their highest tension, listening for the beginning of the conflict. A Lieut. Clendening of Alabama (6th Ala. I think) was on duty at a picket post 3 miles below Union Mills, and before we had got fairly ready to move, came rushing to Hd. Qrs. pale & breathless with excitement (not fear) to report that the enemy had thrown a bridge across Bull Run from the side of the steep hill opposite & were crossing a heavy force of all arms over it. He described it minutely – said that the hill was steep & they had two bridges, one above the other (thus [sketch not included]) and were then crossing rapidly. He had seen infantry and artillery, and an officer on a fine white horse had made a special impression upon him. “What had become of his picket?” He had forgotten it entirely and feared it was cut off – had gone beyond it with a field-glass and seeing the bridge & enemy not over a hundred yards from him had rushed to Hd. Qrs. to tell of them.

Not believing his story, of which the details were almost incredible, Gen, Ewell mounted him on a courier’s horse & sent him with R. F. Mason (afterwards Maj. & A.Q.M. on Ewell’s & Fitz Lee’s Staff) to find the picket & point out the bridge. The picket knew of no enemy – but Clendening with a confident air carried Mason to the stream & pointed out the bridges. He showed the troops crossing – called on Mason to listen to the rumble of artillery – and to look at the man on the white horse who sat at the end of the bridge, directing the movement. It was a pure figment of his heated brain! Mason returned with him to Hd. Qrs. & by way of corroboration brought a member of the picket. Clendening denied nothing. He had seemed much abashed when they proved him mistaken about the bridge – but said he really thought it was there. Je was placed under arrest & the affair investigated. Luckily for him, Gen. Ewell sent for his Colonel, Captain &c, & found out his character. He never drank – was plainly sober – & showed intense mortification at his error. There was insanity in his family – but not much – and it was finally determined, upon consultation with medical men, that hard living & mental excitement had produced temporary insanity. He was released & advised to resign – did so & went home, intensely grateful to Gen. Ewell. He was a man of high personal character. A drunkard or habitual liar would have been shot, or tried by a drum-head Court, at least. His false report had been communicated to Gen. Beauregard by courier, & though instantly contradicted (i.e. in half an hour) might have caused a serious delay or change in the movements of the whole army.

Our brigade consisted of the 5th Alabama, Col. Rodes, the 6th Alabama (12 companies), Col. Seibles & the 6th Louisiana, Col. Seymour, with four pieces of the Washington Arty. (brass 7. pdrs., & 12 pdr, howitzers) under a Capt. T. L. Rosser, & three (or four) Cavalry Companies under Lt. Col. Walter Jenifer. Rodes (killed as Major General) was already prominent, being much commended for his conduct on the retreat from Fairfax Station & Sangster’s X-roads, to the present position. His Lt. Col. (Jones) & Major (Morgan, afterwards Brig. Gen’l. of Cavy. in the West – Alabama or Tennessee) were good officers. Seibles was a tall blustering politician, out of his element – his Lt. Col. (Baker) a mere cipher. Both resigned without reaching a higher rank. His Major (Jno. B. Gordon) commanded a Georgia Brigade & came out of the war a Lieutenant General. Poor old Seymour was killed in temporary command of Taylor’s Brigade at Cold Harbor – a brave gentleman but inefficient, slow officer. His Lieut. Co., a turbulent fellow, staid away from the Reg’t a good deal, I was told, & was thrown over at the reorganization. Major James resigned in August or Sept. from a quarrel with the Lieut Col. whose very name I forget. James was sensible – I know nothing of his soldierly qualities.

Rosser ended the war as Major General of Cavalry – Jenifer as nominated Lieut. Col. of same. Jenifer was worthless as an officer – a great dandy but small man.

The three infantry regiments had over 2500 men for duty. Seibles had some 1360 on his rolls – the others about 250 less, each. The Cavy. was about 300 men – & the “Governor’s Mounted Guard” & “Goochland Troop” were very fine men & unusually intelligent. The other Companies I forget. The Governor’s Guard were composed of young gentlemen from Richmond – & had as privates, Warwicks, Haxales, Strothers, Allans, &c. The Goochlanders were of nearly similar material.

It seems now ludicrous, yet very sad, to recall how eagerly we all looked forward to our first fight. Roser kept his battery continually unlimbered, ready for action, posted on a high hill just above the RRd. bridge & ford at Union Mills. Seible’s reg’t covered the side of the hill above & below the ford, sheltered in rifle-pits & behind large rocks that lay thick on the hillside. Rodes was very strongly & skilfully posted (I remember Gen’l. Ewell’s praising his works for their engineering skill displayed) below the RRd. bridge – & Seymour above the bridge – each of them with part in reserve.

Holmes’ brigade from Fredericksburg had come up on the afternoon of the 19th or morning of the 20th & was in reserve at [?] house, a mile & a half in our rear. Holmes ranked Genl Ewell – hence a blunder on the 21st.

Genl Ewell’s staff then consisted of 1. Col. Humphrey Tyler, almost always drunk – ordered to him from Richmond. 2. Lt. (Cadet) John Taliaferro, son of “Farmer John” of Orange Co. – brave & willing but young & stupid. 3. Capt. (afterwards Maj Genl) Fitz Lee, assigned to him by mutual request – very valuable & efficient. 4. Capt. (afterwards A.Q.M.) Rhodes – willing & quick – did not stay long with him, being ordered to Richmond at his own request. 5. R. F. Mason (afterwards Maj. & A.Q.M.) energetic & efficient as a scout & cool & brave – not useful except on the field. 6. C. Brown – No Qr Mr or Commy – no Brigade Surgeon – till late in the fall. A. M. Hudnut of Richmond acted as Clerk at this time & until October.

21st July – First Manassas. The night before this, Gen. Ewell sitting, for want of chairs, in his half-empty trunk – I, in front of him on a pallet – told me we would probably fight next morning – & to be ready to ride by daylight. I was – and thew whole command lay ready under arms till 8 A.M. listening from before sunrise to the fire of the guns at Stone Bridge & in front of Mitchell’s Ford. At [?] an order came from Genl Beauregard to be in readiness to move & at [?] after waiting for the expected orders to advance till uneasy Genl Ewell sent for further instructions. I here insert the correspondence bearing on this affair, so misunderstood at the time – & by at least one person, so wantonly misrepresented – viz. the correspondent of the “Columbus (Ga.) Sun” – who insinuated a charge of treason against Genl Ewell – but apologized & retracted when called on to give authority for his statements. Genl Beauregard gave Genl Ewell full permission to publish his (Genl B.’s) letter in his own defense – but presently wrote to him, begging him to wait for the publication of his (Beauregard’s) official report, which would fully & satisfactorily explain the matter. Genl Ewell did so wait – but when the report came out its way of stating the affair was so vague & unsatisfactory that he was greatly disgusted, seeing the probability that nine out of ten who read it would still impute blame to him when in fact it belonged to Beauregard. It seems hard to believe the most important order of the day, seeing that it was to move the wheeling & guiding flank of a body of twelve or fourteen thousand troops, by a courier. Still more so that the name even of the courier should be unknown – & that having sent he should wait – within fifteen minutes ride of the camp of those troops for several hours, waiting to know why they did not execute his orders & neither go himself nor send a Staff Officer moreover a courier to see to their execution. But so it was – and in the eyes of some at least in our Brigade, Beauregard was great no longer.

As I find on examining my pages that the correspondence I spoke of is not among them I leave a space for it & proceed. Genl Ewell, being aware of the original programme of Genl Beauregard, uneasy at getting no orders sent to Genl Holmes to ask if he had any, & finding he had none, took the responsibility on himself of moving across Bull Run on the road towards Centreville, sending a Staff Officer to inform Genl Beauregard of what he had done – and sending word to D. R. Jones on his left – Genl Holmes promised to follow him & started to do so. But I omit a very important link. When Genl E. first sent to Holmes, he sent als to D. R. Jones on his left, who returned a copy of a dispatch stating that “Ewell was ordered to cross Bull Run and move on Centreville & directing him (Jones) to conform to the movement as soon as notified by Ewell that it had begun.” This is the substance of the communication – & on this were based the subsequent movements of Ewell & Holmes.

We crossed Bull Run at Union Mills Ford – the 6th La. only using th R. Rd. bridge. Halting on the hill beyond the stream to form and close up, we moved in column on the Centreville Road – Rodes in advance, then the Art’y – then Seibles – then Seymour. But we had barely gone a mile & a half, when Capt. Rhodes, who had gone to Genl Beauregard, returned in hot haste to discontinue the movement. The order that he brought is indelibly engraved in my memory, from its peculiar phraseology. It was in the form of a circular & ran thus: “On account of the difficulties of the ground in their front the troops will resume their former positions.” It was dated 10 1/2 A.M. & signed by Beauregard. It was some time afterwards before I fully appreciated that the “difficulties” were the Yankees whom D. R. Jones attacked at McLean’s Ford. He ran up against them as stupidly as if he were blindfolded – and got run off in a minute. But I suppose the real reason of our recall was the state of affairs on the left, but that Beauregard for some reason felt it better to give a false excuse than none at all – perhaps for fear of disheartening the men.

At any rate we went back to our little house on the hill side & the troops to their bivouacs – and waited through the long July day with only an occasional flutter of couriers or Staff, listening to the distant & heavy firing, as only those can listen who hear the noise for the first time – with nerves at such a high tension that every moment we seemed to hear the guns come nearer & nearer. We gradually learned the state of affairs – that the struggle was to be decided on the left, seven miles away – and we began to comprehend that only in case of our defeat or as a forlorn-hope to prevent it, could we expect to share in the combat. Yet when after three P.M. the order to move was brought by Capt. Rhodes or Capt. Lee (I’m not certain which) with a face very firm but far from exultant – we moved with enthusiasm and perfect confidence. The change of direction put the 6th La. in advance & the men, mostly hardy Irishmen, outfooted the less robust soldiers of the Ala. Regts. so much that we had twice to stop & wait for them. The day was excessively hot & dusty – yet those Irish marched over four miles an hour – but we did not reach the field soon enough to do more than take a look at the rear of the enemy hurrying across Bull Run a mile above the Stone Bridge & cheer Johnston & Beauregard & Davis as they rode past us.

In less than half an hour a rumor came to Genl Beauregard that a force of the enemy were crossing at Union Mills. Not even fully understanding the completeness of his victory, he at once ordered our troops to return there & if we found no enemy to encamp for the night on our old ground. We did so – and our share in the first Manassas consisted of a march two miles to the front and back – and another seven miles to the left and ditto – the only fire we were under being that of two rifled guns opposite Mitchell’s Ford which shelled the road we were on as we passed, but being three miles away, hit nobody.

Next day passed with a rain that became heavier til near noon – then slackened – & Jno. Taliaferro who had heard that his brother was wounded had gone to see him having brought back a wonderful account of the battle-field I begged leave to go see it – and with a courier named Bruce, rode over it. One Yankee, with his head blown clean off by a round shot & only the chin left with a short black beard on it, giving it a peculiar appearance of Beastliness (in its literal sense), made on me the impression, scarce effaced by subsequent horrible sights, of being the most horrible corpse imaginable. Another I remember with a rifle ball quite through both hips from side to side, who was lying in a branch into which he had evidently crawled hoping to ease his pain. Most of the wounded had been removed but we found one poor fellow mortally hurt, on an out-of-the-way hillside, covered with two or three oil-cloths by some charitable hand, but so helpless that he had not been able to cover his head & one ear was quite full of water from the rain. Bruce lifted his head, wiped out the water and gave him some whisky, or apple brandy, from his canteen – & we received for it a warm blessing from the poor Irish boy – very likely his last words to any human being, though we sent two of the ambulance corps to take him to hospital. I remember being surprised to find so few dead as I saw & learning afterwards that many had been buried & that I had not seen quite a large part of the field – though I was where the hardest fighting took place – near the Henry house.

A few days later we crossed Bull Run & took up our camp on the waters of Pope’s Head Run near its mouth. Here we lay quiet for two nor three months. No special events occurred, except that Capt. Rhodes left the staff for Richmond to become A.Q.M – and Major James resigned from the 6th La. because of his quarrel with Lt. Col. (whom I never saw to my knowledge) & was reappointed in the Engineers. Mr. (afterwards Major) B. H. Greene of Miss here joined us, as volunteer aid to Genl Ewell. My servant Robert, who had been first our cook & then our driver at home, cooked for the mess – & we catered by turns – living pretty well. Humphrey Taylor, who was really all the time in the “biled owl” stage of drunkenness, and had a remarkable faculty, that had once or twice deceived Genl Ewell, of listening with apparent attention & deep gravity to any orders given him & replying mechanically: “Yes, Sir, Very well. It shall be done at once, Sir – ” while all the time stupid, blind drunk – he, say, had been sent to Manassas Junction on the 21st, to find Genl Beauregard – had got drunk & never been heard of till I passed him on the afternoon of the 22d in a sutlers tent talking to an Indian, or a mulatto, woman who kept it – and the next we knew of him was a publication in a Federal paper giving the news of his capture at Cincinnati in an attempt, doubtless inspired by bourbon, to bring his wife away into our lines. I have never met him since though we exchanged for him late in the war. He was never of any use to the C.S. and I was surprised that they exchanged him, considering the circumstances of his capture – & that he brought it on himself.

Terry L. Jones, Ed, Campbell Brown’s Civil War: With Ewell and the Army of Northern Virginia, pp. 20-33





Notes to Brig. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, On the Battle

12 01 2013

A few notes on this post – Brig. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, On the Battle:

A copy of this letter, from Richard S. Ewell to Mary Custis Lee, was provided to me by researcher Tonia Smith of Pinehurst, NC. I received permission from the Virginia Historical Society to post a transcription and an image of the letter here.

Before posting the letter, I contacted Donald Pfanz of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Mr. Pfanz is the author of the definitive biography of Ewell, and has recently published a collection of his correspondence. As the letter in question was not included in his book, I wanted to give him a first look. He very graciously consented to transcribe its contents. Considering his familiarity with Ewell’s handwriting and composition, this was appropriate. With one minor exception, his transcription of the letter has been reproduced here as submitted, complete with edits – typically I don’t edit correspondence for punctuation, spelling, or abbreviations. However, as Mr. Pfanz was kind enough to do the work, I make an exception in this case.

Thanks to Ms. Smith, the VHS, and Mr. Pfanz.





Brig. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, On the Battle

11 01 2013

July 31. 61—

Mrs. M. C. Lee

Dear Madam,

Your letter & the two enclosed came to my quarters within the last hour[.]  I assure you I feel deeply the gratitude due to an Overruling Providence for our deliverance.  From the rumors & confirmed reports I gather that the sons of our noble old State had their full share in the actions of the 18th & 21st.  As was proper they seemed to be the chief instruments & have suffered severely—

You will gather more of the details from papers than I can give you except that it is a fact that they brought a large number of handcuffs.  I am told a box of them was marked for Officers   –My brother told me he saw one numbered 500 or some such number but I am told there were thousands[.]   A circular has been sent from our Head Qrts. Inquiring into it.

I was not in the fight.  Crossing the river twice with my Brigade to take the offensive we were recalled both times, the lat time to go to Stone Bridge, the place of hardest contention[,] but the tide had turned before our arrival–  It is curious to read the exulting letters picked up on the field, some of them disgraceful even to our enemies–  Capt. Tillinghast – was killed Ramsey d[itt]o–  Rickets is a prisoner–  Orlando Wilcox d[itt]o.  Dr Stone & Gray do.  Andrew Porter[,] Fitz John Porter, Palmer, Stoneman, Miles, Heintzelman wounded, were on the field.  One co of 2d Drag. & 6 of Cavalry–  Major Sykes commanded a Battalion of Infantry–  I have not made many inquiries as you may suppose it is painful to find our old Army friends active against us–  Capt. Potter whom I left at Albuquerque N.M. professing never to take up arms against the South is a prisoner & I hear, loud in his threats of what they are going to do next–  The general tone of the prisoners is impudent in the extreme—

Mr. Moss wrote on the back of the letter enclosing those from Mrs. Fitzhugh that “he had made inquiries & Arlington had not been much abused.”  The papers state however that they were going to clear away the trees—

–Genl. Lee was traveling west a few days since but being without retinue it is likely [“likely” crossed out?] possible not to take the field–  They are repairing the rail road bridges burnt when we fell back from Fairfax & it seems a general advance is contemplated.  I think before very long you can go to Ravensworth & I hope to Arlington—

–I have had quite a holyday [sic] since the battle as changes in Brigades are being made.  Fortunately they leave me my best Regt. And the best colonel I have seen (Rodes 5th Ala.)  He is a Virginian & was a long time at the Institute—

–I have the same cavalry as before the battle and their horses are in fine condition.  If Miss Lee want to visit the battle field or to go to Ravensworth it can be managed without difficulty, particularly as regards the field–  The other would require notice a day or two before, but a horse could be sent to meet her at the Station[.]

–I believe I have told you all I know positively as regards who were present on the field & your other questions—

Mrs. Ricketts has joined her husband since the fight & she or some other Northern woman has been so violent in their expressions that it was threatened to put her in prison if she would not stop

–I have heard no names of the other ladies who came to enjoy our humiliation–  Indeed I don’t know but Mrs. Ricketts came after the fight—

–It is not likely that the women who came along to spend the winter in Richmond were the wives of old Officers–  They were I expect of the new forces or of volunteers–  I am sure Mrs. Miles was not along or he would never have been able to return–  Some blame is attached to us for not advancing in the panic, but although Alexandria might have been easily taken it would have been hard to hold & we were so embar[r]assed by wounded & prisoners that it would have been impossible to have supplied troops at that distance without the rail road—

With respects to Miss Mary

Yours—

R S. Ewell

P. S.

I will send you a list of Officers of the regular Army killed or Captured when I see a correct one – RSE–

Mary Lee Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Virginia MSS/L5144a 1334-1666 Sec. 24. Used with permission.

Transcribed by Donald Pfanz.

Letter image

Notes





Brig. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, On the Retreat from Fairfax and the Battle

10 01 2013

July 31, 1861

Miss Lizzie Ewell

Dear Lizzie,

I received your note with the envelope a few days since. I am very sorry that I can not gratify your taste for blood and your ambition by any account of glory that I was to have reaped on the 18th or 21st. When we fell back from Fairfax Court-house Station my post had been assigned, in advance, at Union Mills on the extreme right flank of our position. I was, when directed to do so, at the critical moment, to take the road to Centreville to attack the enemy in flank, and the various other brigades, between this and the point of attack of the enemy, were also to cross the run and do likewise. On the 17th we all remained in position as the enemy did not make a decided attack. On the 21st we were roused before daylight with orders to hold ourselves in readiness at a moments warning, and very soon we could hear the booming of artillery and the faint discharge of musketry far up the run towards the turnpike. About nine A.M. the next General above me sent word he had crossed and was advancing, sending me a copy of his orders which looked to my doing so, although nothing had come to me. I also moved forward, but we were all arrested by an order to fall back to our old positions. The reason I had not received the order was that it had not been sent, but the time lost was so short that it made no difference – less than an hour. The reason of our recall was that our hands were full up the run, and the scales were doubtful.

At three P.M. I again received orders to cross, and went about 1 1/2 miles when I was directed to march my brigade to the stone bridge over Bull Run. My feelings then were terrible, as such an order could only mean that we were defeated and I was to cover the retreat. I reached [there] in time to find we had won, and marched back to Union Mills (Rail-road crossing of Bull Run.) Our line of battle from extreme left to right was nearly five miles. The battle took place on the left – across Bull Run – on open ground, the enemy having turned our flank. We should feel deeply our gratitude for the victory, for the march of the enemy was as a swarm of locusts, burning and destroying. They drove peoples stock into their pens merely to butcher them, leaving farmers without a live animal on their farms. The private memoranda found on the field speak of their depredations on the route.

On the 17th, the day we fell back from Fairfax, owing to the hurry of affairs, the troops at the Court-house fell back without warning me at the station, and the result was that Col. R. E. Rodes of my command (formerly of Lexington) was engaged with the enemy, and my flanks were about being turned before we knew that General Bonham had orders to retire. Either the Yankees lost their way or were over cautious for we extricated ourselves without loss of baggage or life. We were very near being surrounded by 10 or 15000 while we were less than 2000 without artillery. In the hurry of movements they forgot the most important orders sometimes. Col. Rodes is an old acquaintance of Benjamins, and excellent officer, behaved very gallantly, but in the blaze of more recent events his little skirmish will be overlooked. He killed and wounded some 40 of the enemy, including one captain, and drove them back to wait for their artillery. In the meantime we retired. All is doubtful as to future movements.

Remember me to the family. There is talk of an advance.

Yours,

R. S. Ewell.

Pfanz, Donald C., ed., The Letters of General Richard S. Ewell, Stonewall’s Successor, pp. 175-176

From a typescript in Library of Congress (original lost)





General Ewell at Bull Run – Campbell Brown

28 02 2010

GENERAL EWELL AT BULL RUN (1)

BY MAJOR CAMPBELL BROWN, AIDE-DE-CAMP AND ASSISTANT ADJUTANT-GENERAL TO GENERAL EWELL.

BATTLES AND LEADERS OF THE CIVIL WAR – Volume I: From Sumter to Shiloh, pp. 259-261

In General Beauregard’s article on Bull Run, in “The Century” for November [1884], is this severe criticism of one of his subordinates, the late Lieutenant-General R. S. Ewell:

“Meanwhile, in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, I had been waiting with General Johnston for the sound of conflict to open in the quarter of Centreville upon the Federal left flank and rear (making allowance, however, for the delays possible to commands unused to battle), when I was chagrined to hear from General D. R. Jones that, while he had been long ready for the movement upon Centreville, General Ewell had not come up to form on his right, though he had sent him between 7 and 8 o’clock a copy of his own order, which recited that Ewell had been already ordered to begin the movement. I dispatched an immediate order to Ewell to advance; but within a quarter of an hour, just as I received a dispatch from him informing me that he had received no order to advance in the morning, the firing on the left began to increase SO intensely as to indicate a severe attack, whereupon General Johnston said that he would go personally to that quarter.”

This contains at least three errors, so serious that they should not be allowed to pass uncorrected among the materials from which history will one day be constructed:

1. That Ewell failed to do what a good soldier would have done — namely, to move forward immediately on hearing from D. R. Jones.

2. That Beauregard was made aware of this supposed backwardness of Ewell by a message from D. R. Jones.

3. That on receiving this message he at once ordered Ewell to advance.

The subjoined correspondence, (2) now [March, 1885] first in print, took place four days after the battle. It shows that Ewell did exactly what Beauregard says he ought to have done — namely, move forward promptly; that his own staff-officer, sent to report this forward movement, carried also to headquarters the first intelligence of the failure of orders to reach him; that no such message was received from D. R. Jones as is here ascribed to him; and that the order sent back by Beauregard to Ewell was not one to advance, but to retire from an advance already begun.

It is not easy to understand these mistakes, as General Beauregard has twice given a tolerably accurate though meager account of the matter — once in his official report, and once in his biography published by Colonel Roman in 1884. Neither of these accounts can be reconciled with the later attitude.

Upon reading General Beauregard’s article, I wrote to General Fitzhugh Lee, who was Ewell’s assistant adjutant-general at Manassas, asking his recollection of what took place. I have liberty to make the following extracts from his reply. After stating what troops composed the brigade, he goes on:

“These troops were all in position at daylight on the 21st July, ready for any duty, and held the extreme right of General Beauregard’s line of battle along Bull Run, at Union Mills. As hour after hour passed, General Ewell grew impatient at not receiving any orders (beyond those to be ready to advance, which came at sunrise), and sent me between 9 and 10 A. M. to see General D. R. Jones, who commanded the brigade next on his left at McLean’s Ford, to ascertain if that officer had any news or had received any orders from army headquarters. I found General Jones making preparations to cross Bull Run, and was told by him that, in the order he had received to do so, it was stated that General Ewell had been sent similar instructions.

“Upon my report of these facts, General Ewell at once issued the orders for his command to cross the Run and move out on the road to Centreville.”

General Lee then describes the recall across Bull Run and the second advance of the brigade to make a demonstration toward Centreville, and adds that the skirmishers of Rodes’s 5th Alabama Regiment, which was in advance, had actually become engaged, when we were again recalled and ordered to “move by the most direct route at once, and as rapidly as possible, for the Lewis house” — the field of battle on the left. Ewell moved rapidly, sending General Lee and another officer ahead to report and secure orders. On his arrival near the field they brought instructions to halt, when he immediately rode forward with them to General Beauregard, “and General Ewell begged General Beauregard to be allowed to go in pursuit of the enemy, but his request was refused.”

As to the real causes of the miscarriage of General Beauregard’s plan of attack there need be little doubt. They are plainly stated by his immediate superior in command, General Joseph E. Johnston, in his official report, as being the “early movements of the enemy on that morning and the non-arrival of the expected troops” from Harper’s Ferry. He adds: ”General Beauregard afterward proposed a modification of the abandoned plan, to attack with our right, while the left stood on the defensive. This, too, became impracticable, and a battle ensued, different in place and circumstances from any previous plan on our side.”

There are some puzzling circumstances connected with the supposed miscarriage of the order for our advance. The delay in sending it is unexplained. General Beauregard says it was sent “at about 8 A. M.,” but D. R. Jones had received his corresponding order at 10 minutes past 7, and firing had begun at half-past 5.

The messenger was strangely chosen. It was the most important order of the day, for the movements of the army were to hinge on those of our brigade. There was no scarcity of competent staff-officers; yet it was intrusted to “a guide,” presumably an enlisted man, perhaps even a citizen, whose very name was unknown.

His instructions were peculiar. Time was all-important. He was ordered not to go direct to Ewell, but first to make a detour to Holmes, who lay in reserve nearly two miles in our rear.

His disappearance is mysterious. He was never heard of after receiving the order; yet his route lay wholly within our lines, over well-beaten roads and far out of reach of the enemy.

Lastly, General Beauregard, in his official report, gives as his reason for countermanding the movement begun by Ewell at 10 o’clock, that in his judgment it would require quite three hours for the troops to get into position for attack. Had the messenger dispatched at 8 been prompt, Ewell might have had his orders by 9. But at 9 we find Beauregard in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, waiting for an attack which, by his own figures, he should not have expected before 12.

It is not for me to reconcile these contradictions.

(1) This article appeared substantially as here printed in “The Century ” for March, 1885.— EDITORS.

(2) [CORRESPONDENCE.]

Union Mills, July 25th, 1861.

General Beauregard.

Sir: In a conversation with Major James, Louisiana 6th Regiment, he has left the impression on my mind  that you think some of your orders on the 21st were either not carried out or not received by me.

My flrst order of that day was to hold myself in readiness to attack — this at sunrise. About 10. General Jones sent a copy of an order received by him In which it was stated that I had been ordered to cross and attack, and on receipt of this I moved on until receiving the following:

10 &1/2 A.M.

On account of the difficulties of the ground in our front it is thought advisable to fall back to our former position.

(Addressed) General Ewell.       

(Signed) G. T. B.

If any other order was sent to me, I should like to have a copy of it, as well as the name of the courier who brought it.

Every movement I made was at once reported to you at the time, and this across Bull Run, as well as the advance in the afternoon, I thought were explained in my report sent in to-day.

If an order were sent earlier than the copy through General Jones, the courier should be held responsible, as neither General Holmes nor myself received it. I send the original of the order to fall back in the morning. The second advance in the afternoon and recall to Stone Bridge were in consequence of verbal orders.

My chief object in writing to you is to ask you to leave nothing doubtful in your report, both as regards my crossing in the morning and recall —and not to let it lie inferred by any possibility that I blundered on that day. I moved forward as soon as notified by General Jones that I was ordered and he had been.

If there was an order sent me to advance before the one I received through General Jones, it is more than likely it would have been given to the same express.

Respectfully,

R. S. EWELL. B. G.

Manassas, Va., July 26th, 1861.

General: Your letter of the 25th inst. is received. I do not attach the slightest blame to you for the failure of the movement on Centreville, but to the guide who did not deliver the order to move forward, sent at about 8 A. M. to General Holmes and then to you —corresponding in every respect to the one sent to Generals Jones, lion ha MI. and Longstreet — only their movements were subordinate to yours. Unfortunately no copy, in the hurry of the moment, was kept of said orders: and so many guides, about a dozen or more, were sent off in different directions, that it is next to impossible to find out who was the bearer of the orders referred to. Our guides and couriers were the worst set I ever employed, whether from ignorance or over-anxiety to do well and quickly I cannot say: but many regiments lost their way repeatedly on their way toward the field of battle, and of course I can attach no more blame to their commanding officers than I could to you for not executing un order which I am convinced you did not get.

I am fully aware that you did all that could have been expected of you or your command. I merely expressed my regret that my original plan could not be carried into effect, as it would have been a most complete victory with only half the trouble and lighting.

The true cause of countermanding your forward movement after you had crossed was that it was then too late, as the enemy was about to annihilate our left flank, and had to be met and checked there, for otherwise he would have taken us in flank and rear and all would have been lost.

Yours truly,

G. T. Beauregard

General R. S. Ewell, Union Mills, Va.

P. S. Please read the above to Major James. Ewell, Union Mills, Va.

N. B. The order sent you at about 8 A. M., to commence the movement on Centreville, was addressed to General Holmes and yourself, as he was to support you, but being nearer Camp Pickens, the headquarters, than Union Mills, where you were, it was to be communicated to him first, and then to you; but he has informed me that it never reached him. With regard to the order sent you in the afternoon to recross the Bull Run (to march toward the Stone Bridgei), it was sent you by General J. E. Johnston, as I am informed by him, for the purpose of supporting our left, if necessary.

G. T. B.

Do not publish until we know what the enemy is going to do—or reports are out —which I think will make it all right.

B.

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Lizinka Ewell – Southern Unionist?

26 03 2009

In this post I discussed an entry in the Oxford Guide to American Military History in which the contributor indicated that Confederate Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell was removed from command of the Army of Northern Virginia’s 2nd Corps in 1864 in part because of his wife Lizinka Brown Ewell’s “increasing Unionist sentiments”.  Not recalling ever coming across this in my readings before, I fired off a note to Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania NMP Chief Historian John Hennessy, and asked if he could forward a link to my post to his colleague Donald Pfanz, who wrote The Book on Ewell.  Mr. Pfanz was good enough to respond and give his permission to post his note here.

Dear Mr. Smeltzer,

John Hennessy passed along your inquiry about Lizinka Ewell and her supposed Unionist sentiments.  Lizinka was definitely not a Unionist.  In fact, she outfitted an entire Confederate company at the outset of the Civil War.  She was, however, a practical woman, and early in 1865 when she saw that the South was “up the spout” and that it was only a matter of time before the Confederacy collapsed, she and her daughter fled to the North in an apparent effort to save what she could of her property.  Instead, she ended up under house arrest in St. Louis, where she stayed with a cousin, Thomas T. Gantt, who had been on McClellan’s staff earlier in the war.  (There must have been some interesting conversations in the household during that period!)

Lee transferred Ewell out of the army because he lacked faith in him and preferred to have Jubal Early lead the Second Corps.   (Lee also realized that with Longstreet’s wounding Ewell would take command of the army if anything happened to him.)   I am not completely satisfied in my own mind why Lee harbored doubts as to Ewell’s ability to command the corps.  It may have had something to do with Ewell’s adolescent behavior in the winter of 1863-4, his loss of temper at the Bloody Angle, or Lizinka’s overbearing conduct at headquarters.   It didn’t have anything to do with disloyalty on Lizinka’s part, however.

Don Pfanz

That’s good enough for me.  Thanks, Mr. Pfanz, for taking the time to respond. 





#95 – Brig. Gen. Richard S. Ewell

13 03 2008

 

Report of Brig. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, Commanding Second Brigade, First Corps

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 536-537

HEADQUARTERS SECOND BRIGADE,

Union Mills, July 24, 1861

SIR: In conformity with Special Orders, No. 145, headquarters Army of the Potomac, I have the honor to report that upon the morning of July 21, 1861, I first received orders to hold myself in readiness to advance at a moment’s notice. I next received a copy of an order sent to General Jones and furnished me by him, in which it was stated I had been ordered at once to proceed to his support.

I immediately commenced crossing my brigade over Bull Run, but whilst so doing received an order to fall back to my former position, which I did, and a short time afterwards received another order, brought by Colonel Terry, aide-de-camp, to cross again, proceed up the run, and attack a battery of the enemy upon its flank and rear, regulating my movements upon the brigades of Generals Jones and Longstreet. I again crossed the stream, and had proceeded about a mile and a half in execution of the order when I was stopped by an order to march at once to stone bridge, following General Holmes’ brigade, which had already been ordered to proceed to that point.

I deem it proper to state that the courier said he had been accompanied by an aide-de-camp whose horse had given out before reaching me. I countermarched and marched at once to headquarters in the field, remained in reserve at that point until ordered back to Union Mills, which I reached after a long and fatiguing march the same night.

My brigade consisted of Rodes’ Fifth Alabama, Seibels’ Sixth Alabama, Seymour’s Sixth Louisiana, a battery under Captain Rosser, the Washington Artillery, and four companies of cavalry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Jenifer. The infantry would hardly have got back that night, but for the excitement of hearing that the enemy were in possession of the ford. As connected with this, I send a report of a skirmish on the 17th, of Colonel Rodes’ regiment becoming engaged and checking the enemy, owing to the non-reception of the order to fall back on their appearance.(*)

Very respectfully,

R. S. EWELL,

Brigadier-General

Col.. THOMAS JORDAN,

Assistant Adjutant-General

*No. 74, p. 459.





Farewell Letters Then and Now

5 01 2008

Here is a touching piece drawing parallels between the famous Major Sullivan Ballou letter and another by one of our modern day heroes – a fellow blogger.  Please check this one out.  And follow this link to Major Olmstead’s full blog post.

The Major was a friend of fellow blogger Don at Crossed Sabers, and I notice that as I wrote this he put up a tribute.  You can read it here

Update – more details here.





S. A., Personal Secretary to Secretary of the Senate, On Washington After the Battle

21 01 2018

Very Interesting Letters from Washington — Description of the Scene after the Battle of Bull Run.

———-

[We have been favored with the following copy of a highly interesting and descriptive letter from the private Secretary of Col. Forney, Secretary of the Senate, relative to the scenes which occurred at Washington during and after the battle at Bull Run. The letter was addressed to a personal friend of the writer, in a neighboring town, who has kindly placed it at our service. It will be read with deep interest. – Editor Am]

“Do you see, dear friend, where I am? Bodily here in my room, writing, near midnight, at the same little table. Mentally, trying to keep abreast of the grandest movement the world ever saw. The moral progress the Nation has made in the last six months is amazing.

Day before yesterday the Senate passed a bill setting free all slaves whom the rebels may use in any way for the furtherance of the war. On the 1st of January last the man would have been deemed crazy who should have said the Senate would pass such a bill in six years, even.

God is working in ways we never have dreamed of. I find no time here to read much but the papers – the new Atlantic is just out, and I must manage to edge that in somehow. My duty at the Senate commences at 9 o’clock and ends at 4. My dinner hour is 4 ½ — my breakfast hour is 8. I have but two meals daily.

What shall I tell you about the sad disaster of Sunday. You will get a history of it from the papers. The movement was unquestionably made before Gen. Scott was fully ready. Why, is one of the questions no one can answer. The day was also unquestionably ours up to about 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Our force in the battle was not over 25,000 men; yet though the rebels had the advantage of nearly double our number of men, added to that of an entrenched and strongly fortified position, we drove them from the field and won the day. Just in the moment of victory that strange panic sprung up and we lost all. It was utterly causeless –- no one can account for it. Our loss of artillery is not over twenty pieces. We saved nearly all of our army wagons and baggage. We threw away considerable ammunition, and some guns. Our loss of life is as yet impossible to tell. Each day reduces the general supposition, for men are constantly coming in. Tonight some 2,000 are unaccounted for and set down as killed, wounded and missing. I think 500 of them will yet report at camp – thus putting our killed and wounded at only 1500. I shall not be surprised if it is finally reduced to 1200. So far as we can judge, the loss of the enemy is at least double ours. We took 25 or 30 prisoners who have been brought here, and I judge the enemy did not get many of our men. Better than ours no men ever did on the field of battle.

Wednesday morning. Of course Sunday was a sad day here. Probably 200 people went out to the battle ground. I wanted very much to go, but my room-mate was sick and I did not try to get away. Sunday afternoon I went to service in the House by the chaplain of the Senate. At 6 in the evening I went to vespers in the Catholic Church. By 9 in the evening couriers began to arrive from the field of battle – and they kept coming in every half hour till after midnight. The general tone of the report was good – “severe fighting, but our men were gradually driving the rebels from the field.” Soon after midnight came in a rider who left a 5 o’clock. He brought report that “the day was ours – the firing had about ceased – the enemy was driven back some three miles.” You may be sure there was excitement. I us up town so cannot speak more in detail. Then everybody, generally, went home to sleep and pleasant dreams. The news of the disaster did not reach here till 2 o’clock. It was too awful, and no one placed the least credence, in the report. Half an hour more, and more messengers came in. Soon the panic stricken civilians and officers began to arrive. A newspaper reported tore up the avenue for the telegraph office – his horse badly wounded and gory with blood. Then soon came another who reported having a man shot from behind him on his own horse. The few people about the hotels were thunder-struck. At a quarter before 3 somebody called beneath my window. I recognized the voice as that of Col. Forney, Secretary of the Senate. Getting out of bed I went to the window when he struck me dumb with these words: “I am just in from Bull Run. We have been defeated. Our army is all retreating. We have lost nearly everything. Our killed and wounded are counted by the thousand. Some apprehensions are felt at the War Department that the city may be stormed before morning. Our men fought nobly, but it was of no use. They are awfully cut up. Col. Cameron is killed. Col. Burnside is wounded. Col. Hunter, is also wounded – his lower jaw is shot away – I have just left him. Our army is all in retreat in the most disordered manner.” Three hours before, I went to sleep with news of victory. What a tale to tell a man just roused from sound sleep! There was Col. Young, who rooms next door – it was his voice, and it was him. He was not wild or incoherent – he spoke calmly, but could it be true? Was I awake? O God, was it not all a fantasy of the brain! Before I could collect my senses – Col. Forney had passed into his room. There I stood with head stretched out the window. I remember looking to see if there was not a glare in the sky – it might be the enemy’s guns were already at work. By this time we were all awake – my room-mate and the gentlemen in the other rooms. The family were also astir. I could not speak – I lay down. But spoke my chum, “Sid, are we awake?” Surely, it was terrible. Presently he said, “It is awful!” repeating the three words every moment or two for sometime. First I thought of the ten-thousand homes in which there would be mourning on the morrow for the chosen one of the household. The great wail of wo swept over me like a thick tempest. Then came the full voice crying, “Vengeance!” and my thoughts sprung to the long line of a hundred thousand new men ready to die for Liberty and Law. But before one of them could get here the cannon would probably be upon us. Thousands of men must arm here to defend the city, to fight to the death if need be.

Was I ready? I am sure I did not hesitate an instant. I only considered, am I ready? Have I my business matters in such condition that a stranger could settle them? Is there any wrong I ought to repair before I go to another world – any farewell I must say? There were farewells to say, but I could say them in the moment of starting for the trenches. I lay and though. I did not see anything that required attention. I am sure I thanked God then that the hour had come when I was really wanted in the world – all these years of my life seemed to have been nurturing me just to carry a gun and use it nobly in the trenches and die for Humanity. Not doubting the full truth of all Col. Forney had said, in an hour I had given myself away. You had not friend – my mother had no son – my sister had no brother. My use and my life were passed over to the great cause, and I had no more concern for myself. God would deal with me as he pleased – in the end all would be well. I hope I may be as true when the real emergency does come, as I was that morning lying upon my bed. Resolving to get up and go down town as soon as I could well see, I turned over and went into a doze. I woke up to find myself saying aloud: I have fought the good fight, I kept the faith.” It was a quarter of 6 when I started up the street – just commencing to rain. Early as it was, the avenue was full of people – as many on the sidewalk as there usually are at 10 in the afternoon. By this time a few of the runaway soldiers were arriving. Each soiled, begrimed, red eyed man was instantly surrounded and made to tell his story. In the length of a square there were often a dozen of these grouped around some here. I didn’t care to hear details – the grand fact of a terrible defeat and of a probable attack upon the city was all I cared for. Having settled the case in my mind I was curious to see how the people felt. I stirred my blood strangely to hear a calm-faced man say, after hearing the story, “I have a wife and four little children – I am going home to put my house in order – I will be back in two hours – put my name down if men are wanted.” There was a hero, though fame may never catch his name. Scores of men would not believe the report of defeat – “it was impossible; these soldiers were deserters, cowards who deserved to be shot.” Here and there traitors appeared – their chuckle marked them. The stern faces of the loyal men promised harsh use of any man who spoke treason. One great man swore out roundly he was glad the government army was routed. In an instant a slight built private of the Massachusetts Sixth, stepped in front of him, and he lay sprawling on the sidewalk. It was done so quick I could hardly see it, but I know the blow was a neat one. The traitor got up and slunk away – the crowd clapped the soldier on the back and said, “Bully!” Good for you.”

At the hotel, men were getting up who had heard nothing of the disaster. First came into their faces a look of incredulous amazement – then every man’s face took on that look of stern determination to never yield. In some faces I saw as plainly as if the house-door had been open before me, all the home circle – wife and children, high hopes, desires, plans, promise of future years, and coming pride and joy. There was a look backward toward these, as it were, but in every eye was that calm decision which boded no good for an enemy who dare attack the city. On old man who appeared to be over sixty, heard the tale and said: “I have two sons in the Rhode Island First, I suppose they are both dead – I know what they were made of – I’m stout enough to handle a gun yet.” A few cowards there were – men ho had urgent business in Ohio or New York or somewhere else. Loyal men would not stay to hear their excuses. Every man was restless; there was not much talking. “Did you know Jim Harris?” said a man to one of the Michigan First. “Yes,” was the answer, he was shot dead.” Not a muscle quivered – “Where?” “In Front.” “That’s right, he was my son.” Before such heroism how mean I felt! I was ashamed of myself. I ought to have been in the field – my body might have stopped the ball which killed the son of such a father.

I am sure I came home to breakfast a better man than I was when I went away.

After breakfast we all went up street. It was the same scene. Every where knots of men around soldiers – the dreary rain pouring down – here a man standing out alone and solemnly and reverently calling God’s vengeance on the rebel fiends who came on the battle field, and bayonetted our wounded – there soldier friends rushing together, each having supposed the other dead – now a choleric old man swearing at himself for being so stiff with rheumatism that he could not march in a rank – elsewhere middle aged men shaking hands with each other, and saying almost gladly, “Now our time has come!” A beardless boy exclaiming, “I shall take Jack’s place in the 71st,” – an old man of seventy chiding one a few years younger for yielding to the fear of panic on the battle field – a coal-black negro touching his hat to me and asking, “Please, mass’sr, d’ye think we darkies can have a chance to fight dis yer day?” = one man swearing at the Tribune for urging on a battle before we were ready – another swearing at Patterson for letting Johnson escape him in the Harper’s Ferry neighborhood – the faint chuckle of some traitor – the faint chuckle of some traitor – the quick word “You are not wanted here, go away or you’ll get hurt” – in nearly every eye that strange light that never before was, which spoke in the same instant of home and friends, and consecration to the Stars and Stripes to the death. At ten I was at my post in the Senate. We could not work – we did only so much as we must. The wildest rumors were running about till near the middle of the afternoon. Every man kept an eye on Arlington Heights across the river if so be he might see the smoke of battle – crowds of soldiers poured into the city – reports of dead and wounded grew upon us – all waited in uneasy expectancy for the roar of cannon. The House was cast down and dispirited – the rain poured down faster and faster – everywhere except in the Senate was gloom – Trumbull of Illinois, Wilson of Massachusetts, Ten Eyck of New Jersey, each spoke a few nervous words in favor of the bill before mentioned, in relation to slaves – Charles Sumner’s responsive “aye!” when his name was called had the ring of an organ in it –old Ben Wade’s answer was as sharp as a sword – and when the vote was announced – “32 for, to 6 against” – the heats of the people in the galleries began to rise. Directly the bugle was heard and past the Capitol wound Sherman’s battery, which everybody supposed lost, only four men missing, and not a gun harmed. Bless me! How the people rushed out in the rain, swinging their hats and cheered! From that time things began to improve. Fact began to take the place of wild rumor – we began to comprehend and understand the great disaster. So the day wore away – rain and darkness everywhere, no booming of cannon, supposed dead men reporting themselves alive, fragments of regiments clustered in all parts of the city, everybody going to look after friends, private houses on every street opening to receive weary and hungry soldiers, stranger men giving soiled privates half dollars with which to get warm dinners. Five o’clock came and we went up town again. Straight to the quarters of the Michigan 2d, and found my friend Lester unhurt. My college mate, his is now assistant surgeon.

It was a long time before I could find a man of Company “F.” of the Minnesota First; there were not many of them left. At length, “Do you know anything of your First Lieutenant?” Dead.” That was all, then; so went down a rare nature, generous, chivalric, earnest. I saw him here and shook a “good bye” with him when the regiment crossed to Virginia, then days before the battle. His last words wot me were: “You now I’ve always been a Democrat, but I’m in for the war; I never can die in a better cause.” * *

War came home to me that evening as I moved about among the boys of Company “F.” I felt very much humiliated – they all seemed brothers to me, whom I had in some way wronged. Ah me that I could have given them twenty dollars instead of five so that they might all have put away their poor army ration, and had such a good warm meal!

* * * S.A.

Chenango American, 8/22/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

John W. Forney bio

More information on the identity of S. A. will update this post as it becomes available





Pvt. James A. Coburn, Co. K, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle, Wounding, and Imprisonment

17 01 2018

Letter from a Volunteer, Prisoner at Richmond.

Richmond, Aug. 4th, ’61.

My Dear Wife: — It has been some time now since I have had an opportunity of letting you know where I am. We left camp at Shuter’s Hill July 16th; marched to Fairfax Station; stopped there one night; next, we marched to Centreville, where we stayed two days. On the morning of the 21st we were turned out at one o’clock, but did not march until sunrise, when we were told we were to storm a battery that day. — We took up our line of march, and soon heard the booming of cannon. — Our destination proved to be Bull Run, where we arrived about one o’clock; when we commenced fighting, after a quick march, and also some double quick. I was somewhat fatigued, but went into it as hard as I was able. I was in the hottest of it for about an hour. The bullets flew like hail. Men fell on every side, some within an arm’s length. Suddenly our men began to retreat. When nearly alone I gave them a farewell shot (the Confederates), and turned to run. Had gone about 10 rods when I was struck by a rifle ball in my right hip. I fell, but crawled a few rods to a hole in some bushes. By the help of some of our men, I took off my shirt, and with that and a handkerchief I succeeded in stopping the blood. They there left me, and I lay down again in the hole. I was then between the two fires for about an hour. Our men then retreated out of hearing, and I was told they had gone back to Centreville, leaving us to our fate. The Southerners soon came up, and instead of abusing me, gave me a blanket, water and some buiscet, which I needed very much. I crawled about 20 rods that night and lay down, suffering much pain from the ball, which was still in. The next morning I could walk a little; went about 100 rods and lay down. The sight was horrible – men dead and dying on every side.

I was picked up about four o’clock Monday evening by the Southerners, and taken to Manassas Junction; stayed there two days – here the ball was taken out of my hip – thence by railroad to this place. We have been treated very kindly by the Southern people. I cannot say too much in their praise; especially the Sisters of Charity, who compose a part of our nurses.

My wound is doing very well. I hope in a couple of weeks to be pretty well. I can walk some now, and dress my wound. I hope that we will be exchanged when we are well. I think my fighting is done for the war. Even if I get well, I shall be so crippled as to be unfit for service; therefore I hope to get a discharge.

This letter must answer for you all at present. I don’t know when I can send you another. You cannot write to me. I hope to enjoy home again. I have been spared thus far by the hand of Providence alone, and I trust in Him who ruleth all things for my restoration to you.

From your affectionate husband,

JAMES A. COBURN

Elizabethtown (NY) Post, 8/29/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

James A. Coburn at Ancestry

James A. Coburn at Fold3

38th NYSV roster