[Raleigh] North Carolina Standard, 7/27/1861: Death of Col. Fisher, 6th North Carolina Infantry

12 08 2015

Death of Col. Fisher.

The rumor we gave in our last of the death of Col. Charles F. Fisher, in the battle of Manassas, is confirmed. He fell at the head of his regiment, gloriously fighting for his native land. We have various accounts of the manner of his death; but our correspondent at Manassas, Capt. York, states that he fell at the head of a ravine, near Sherman’s Battery, while leading, it is presumed, the two right flank companies into the hottest of the fire. He is said to have given his watch and sword to his servant before entering the ravine. He was instantly killed, the ball entering his forehead and coming out at the back of his head. His hat shows the mark of the ball, the rim having been split in front, and the band cut behind. His remains reached this place on Wednesday morning last, via Goldsborough, on their way to Salisbury, his native town. The cars were draped in mourning, and his body was attended by some of the officers of the regiment, and several officers of the Road, who were much attached to him. Capt. Cole’s company, of Col Pettigrew’s regiment, by order of the Governor, accompanied the remains from this place to Salisbury.

Col. Fisher, we suppose, was about 48 years of age. We believe he was for a year or two at West Point, and that he afterwards prepared himself for the practice of the law. He edited for a year or so a paper in Salisbury. He was an able and accomplished writer, and a good speaker. He was a member of the State’s Senate in 1854-’55, and distinguished himself by his earnest advocacy of a liberal system of internal improvements. Soon after, he was called to the Presidency of the North Carolina Railroad, in which capacity he evinced great energy of character and business talents of high order. He resigned this position but a few weeks since to take command of the splendid regiment, which was raised mainly by his own exertions.

His regard for his men, and his efforts to render them comfortable, knew no bounds. Our correspondent – one of his own officers, who writes from Winchester under date of the 18th – speaks in the warmest terms of his devotion to the service, and of his unwearied efforts to provide for his men. Col. Fisher was of ardent temperament, frank in his intercourse with others, unaffected in his manners, modest, and brave. It was natural, therefore, that he should have many friends. He has fallen gloriously in a noble cause. It is believed that he was slain before the victory was fully won, while engaged in sustaining the heavy pressure on the left wing of our army. Cold and still, he was conveyed from the field, and heard not the exulting shouts of his comrades as they pursued the flying foe; but he died at the post of duty, at the head of the men who loved him like a brother, and his sensitive spirit was spared the pain of witnessing the suffering and the wounds of such of them as were stricken in battle. Very dear is his memory to all our people.

” ‘Tis come – his hour of martyrdom
In freedom’s sacred cause has come;
And though his life hath passed away
Like lightning on a stormy day,
Yet shall his death-hour leave a track
Of glory, permanent and bright,
To which the brave of after-times,
The suffering brave, shall long look back
With proud regret, – and by its light,
Watch through the hour of slavery’s night,
For vengeance on the oppressor’s crimes.”

(Raleigh) North Carolina Standard, 7/27/1861.

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Col. Charles Fisher, 6th North Carolina

8 05 2014

I have a lengthy memoir of Fisher and the 6th, presented at the dedication of a portrait of the Colonel. I found it at UNC’s Wilson Library a few years ago – hope to get it transcribed and posted here eventually.

If the Facebook page is not displaying, click on the post title and it should show up.

Body of Colonel C. F. Fisher, 6th NC, Returns

3 08 2011

The body of the lamented Col. Fisher, of the 6th Regiment of North Carolina State Troops, was escorted yesterday evening by the larger portion of the 4th Regiment State troops from the same State, from the Central depot to the Petersburg depot, en route for home. Col. Fisher was shot through the head and instantly killed, while leading his men in the memorable battle, near Manassas, last Sunday. The grief of his men at the loss of their gallant chief was deep and universal. It has hardly been a week since the lamented officer passed through the streets of our city at the head of his regiment, a splendid brass band discoursing the while the song of an anticipated victory. It came, but the song of triumph was hushed, for victory was bought by the death of many a brave and true man. Coll. Fisher was enlisted  heart and soul in the cause of Southern independence. He had used his means unsparingly in the equipment of the splendid regiment that he led so gloriously to battle in defense of our common country. to him victory came even in the arms of death. To his relations and friends it must be consoling to know that a grateful nation will forever keep alive the memory of the heroes who fell on the bloody fields of Manassas. Peace to their [names].

Raleigh Register, 7/26/1861

Transcribed by Michael Hardy

Lieut. Benjamin Rush Smith, Co. G, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

3 09 2015

A Letter.

The following letter we copy from the Daily Bulletin, by request, and we think it worthy of a perusal:

Headquarters 6th Regt, N.C.
State Troops, Camp Bulls Run,
July 24th, 1861.

Dear Parents: – Once more I have an opportunity of writing you all, and that after having been exposed for nine hours on a battle field, strongly contested on each side. we achieved a glorious but dear bought victory on last Sunday (July 21st) about 5 miles from the Junction on Bulls Run Creek. Our whole force on the field amounted to near 60,000, while that of the enemy was not less than 80,000, though we only had about 15,000 engaged – the enemy 35,000. The contest began at 6 A. M. and continued with unabated vigor until 4 1/2 P. M., when I saw the enemy flying across the hills with rapid strides. It was the most beautiful sight that one ever beheld to see them retreating with their banners unfurled, and to hear the cheers and huzzas that went up from our ranks. We pursued them for several miles, and that night I slept in the camp that the Yankees occupied Saturday night. Only four Companies in our Regiment were in the chase, (my Company one of them,) the rest being cut off in the early part of the engagement. – We were at Winchester when we received orders to come to Manassas. We arrived here Sunday morning about 6 A. M. I heard the cannonading as soon as I left the cars. A fellow told me that the “Ball” was open, and that we would “get there in time to dance at least one set.” I must say I felt a little queer at first, but fear left me as soon as I got into it. We were immediately marched to the “Ball Room,” and formed into line of battle at 7 1/2 A. M. When we had formed a rifled cannon ball came whistling through my company and passed in between me and the 3rd Serg’t of our company. It was a 12 pounder. We saw it before it got to us and dodged it. You ought to have seen us all squat. It was the first that had been fired at us. I have it now lying by me and will send it home if I can. We were placed in a position where two Regiments had been cut to pieces. The enemy had possession of a hill and we had to advance up a ravine with 2 pieces of Sherman’s battery placed at the mouth of it. We however advanced and silenced the battery in short time. Our Regiment there lost 18 killed and 47 wounded and one prisoner. My company lost of that number 7 killed and 6 wounded, (all privates,) being in the hottest of the fight. After taking possession of it, Col. Fisher advanced beyond the battery some 30 yards, and it was there that he fell pierced with a rifle ball through the head. All the other Officers escaped in our Regiment except Lieut. Mangum, who was wounded; Captain Avery, and Lieut. Col. Lightfoot, slightly. Our Brigadier General (Bee,) was killed. Just before going into battle I put up the most earnest prayer that I ever did, and I know that it was answered, for the balls came by ma as thick as hail stones and the bomb shells bursted all around me, and none but the hand of God could have saved me. I got several trophies off the battle field, and will send some home the first opportunity. It is impossible to give a description of the field after the battle. For 7 miles it was strewed with the dead and dying. You couldn’t advance a step without seeing them; many times I had to step over them. I never thought I could stand such scenes, but it has little effect on me now. I cut a button off a dead Lieutenant (Yankee) Hitchcock’s coat and took his likeness out of his pocket. I got a great many guns but could not carry them. The boy that waits on me got a splendid shot gun and sword off the battle field. This sheet of paper came out of a dead Yankees pocket; it came in very good time as I am almost out. Our cavalry chased them through Centreville and Fairfax also our artillery killing them all the way. I was told this morning that the road from here to Alexandria where they went is lined with those killed on the way, and the wounded and dead they attempted to take from the battle field. Their loss was about 3,000 killed and wounded, and ours was not more than 800. We have taken about 1,500 of them prisoners and they are still coming in. Since I have commenced this letter a Yankee Officer had been brought by, taken this morning a short distance from our camp. We are now encamped on the very spot where we formed our line of battle.

When we left Winchester (July 18th,) we were so hurried that we couldn’t bring our tents, and have been sleeping without them ever since, though last night I had a very good tend made of yankee blankets that they had left on the battle field. Besides the prisoners we took we captured 62 pieces of artillery, 300 wagons, and knapsacks and canteens by the thousand. Our Regiment has the honor of taking two pieces of Shermans battery, the pride of the North. The whole army went to Alexandria with only two pieces of Artillery, the rest being in our possession, and many of the pieces rifled. I think that peace will soon be made now since this important victory. I talked with some of the prisoners, most of them told me that it was not their will to fight against the South; that they had been forced into it, and that they had intended to go home as soon as their time was out. Some said that their time would have been out 1st of August, though I found many who were enlisted for 3 years. We had certainly the flower of the Northern army to contend against; many of them being of the regular U. S. Army, commanded by Generals Scott, McDowell and Patterson. Scott was not on the field himself the day of the battle, but one of the wounded Yankees told me that he reconnoitered the day before, and that he told the soldiers to fight like men and on next Tuesday he would insure them a dinner in Richmond; that he intended to make that place his headquarters. Well he told the truth, for 1,500 will eat there but only as prisoners. We are under orders to march this evening for parts unknown to myself, though I think it very probable it is towards Alexandria.

Jeff Davis now commands the army in person. I saw him the evening after the battle; he made us a short speech.

It was remarked in camp this morning that a flag of truce had been sent by Scott to Davis proposing to treat of peace although it may only be a rumor. I hope it is not for I never want to see such another slaughter as was on last Sunday.

Our Colonel being killed Lieut. Colonel Lightfoot will take his place.

We buried our dead Monday evening on the battle field. The Yankees have been lying there till to day when part of them were buried, though there are now hundreds of them lying where they fell, and a great many horses.

Your affectionate son,

B. Rush Smith

[Charlotte] North Carolina Whig, 8/6/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

B. R. Smith in 6th NC Roster

B. R. Smith brief sketch here, and more detail here.

Captain Richard Watt York* (4), Co. I, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

27 08 2015

The Battle of Manassas.

The North Carolina Standard (extra) has a letter from an officer of the late Col. Fisher’s Regiment giving an account of the participation of the Sixth North Carolina Regiment in the battle, and relating some interesting incidents of the engagement. He says

The battle commenced in the morning, with heavy cannonading on the right and centre, both sides maintaining their positions. The dull booming of the cannon was distinctly heard by us as we were disembarking from the cars; and, as soon as that was done, our Regiment was formed and moved off in quick time, notwithstanding our weary march from Winchester; and, though tired and apparently exhausted, yet, the terrible cannonading in the centre and on the right nerved every arm, brightened every eye and quickened every step. On we went through the dust that rose in clouds, until we reached a point when we filed to the left to a spring, where our canteens were filled with fresh water by companies; and, as each company received its water, were marched to the shade, and allowed to lied down and rest.

After the watering operation was finished, we proceeded, and were halted under cover of a hill in rear of one of our batteries, and ordered to load and rest, and immediately we loaded and laid our weary limbs upon the grass, and many fell into a doze, notwithstanding the battle was raging around us; but men who had not slept for three nights on a forced march could sleep anywhere. This was about seven o’clock, and the sun shone brightly, and the cannonading became more intense, dense clouds of smoke rose from the opposite hills, the earth shook with the awful thunder, and continued to wax hotter and hotter, when almost instantaneously the men cried out, “Colonel Fisher, we’re ready.” He replied: “I know that.” Suddenly his clear voice rang out, “Attention!” when every man spring with new life to his place in the ranks, shouldered his musket, and at the command “Forward, march,” we moved briskly up the hill, and formed a line of battle in rear of one of our batteries, where we could see distinctly the columns of smoke rising up from the enemy’s batteries on the opposite hills, while the balls were whistling around us.

Suddenly we shifter position further to the left in a road running by a thick wood, and still the balls were whistling over us. A slug from a rifled cannon passed through our ranks, but there was no wavering, but intent on the attack, you could read on every brow the stern resolve to conquer or die. Here we stood resting on our arms, with the wounded lying around us, and ever and anon some one would breathe his last; when again rang the clarion voice, and led by our gallant Colonel, we filed through the dense tangled undergrowth, and sped onward until we struck a ravine which led directly up to Sherman’s Battery**, and were halted with the two right flank companies, under Capts. Freeland and York, within forty yards of the guns and a Regiment of the United States army supporting them, when the command of fire was given, when we silenced the battery at the first fire. Capts. Kirkland and Avery led the men around the point of woods and charged the battery and drove every man from the pieces. About this time some officer cried out to cease firing, as we were firing into our own men.

Exposed to a raking fire from the enemy, and fired into by our friends, Colonel Fisher ordered us to retreat, which was done in some disorder, owing to the cry that we were firing into friends; and it was here that the gallant Colonel Fisher fell in front of the battery, leading on his men to the charge. He was shot through the head with a ball. May he rest in the soldier’s Heaven; for a nobler, braver, more gallant man never led a column to victory.

That portion of the Regiment rallied by the gallant Lightfoot and Webb pitched into the hottest of the fight and joined in the final charge, when the enemy were pit to a precipitate flight, and joined in the pursuit for several miles. No more gallant spirits strode over that field than Lieutenant Colonel Lightfoot and Major Webb. The remainder of the Regiment, under different officers, fell in with other Regiments and fought to the last. No Regiment behaved with more bravery and gallantry than the North Carolina Sixth Infantry on that memorable field. Led up into the hottest of the fight, within a few yards of a battery that was raking our army, they delivered their fire with the deadliest precision. Our loss was about sixty killed and wounded. Among the officers, our gallant Colonel Fisher fell early in the attack. Lieutenant Colonel Lightfoot was wounded in the calf of the leg, but never stopped, although on foot, as were all our field officers. Captain Avery was shot in the leg, but, like a brave man as he is, never left the field. Lieut. W. P. Mangum was severely wounded in the left side. The report that Major Webb was killed is untrue; though exposed to a most terrible fire, he escaped uninjured.

Several regiments claim the honor of silencing and taking this battery. It was taken by the 6th Infantry N. C. State Troops. The regiment, as I have stated, was led up within 40 yards of it, and their fire silenced it, and Col. Lightfoot, Maj. Webb, Captains Kirkland, Avery, and Lieutenants Avery and Mangum, marched right up to it with their men, and passed beyond it, and received a galling fire from the left, when they were ordered to cease firing and fall back. Maj. Webb was resting on one of the pieces, facing the fire, and our men retreated in good order, all the while delivering their fire.

About sunset, the enemy were charged by our army, and put in disorder, and ran like turkeys, pursued by our infantry, cavalry and artillery for several miles, until darkness stopped them. Our Regiment was in the charge, under Col. Lightfoot and Major Webb.

“To the victors belong the spoils,” and in this case they were enormous. Sixty-odd pieces of cannon, every piece they had but two, a large amount of small arms, a church full of knapsacks, blankets, ammunition, haversacks, &c., &c., with which our men are abundantly supplied.

Some twelve or fifteen hundred prisoners were taken, and a large number of officers.

Our loss was considerable, though I do not know how many we had killed and wounded – though very considerable; for it could not have been otherwise, fighting from sunrise until dark. Though our loss is not near so great as we at first supposed. The loss of the enemy is enormous; for they received our deadly shots with a bravery worthy of a better cause.

I visited the field after the battle, and it was indeed a sickening, heart-rending sight. The enemy lay piled in heaps, and horses strewn all along. I counted forty horses in a distance of fifty yards. Around Sherman’s batteries, where our Regiment fired, every horse and cannoneer was killed, and lay in one indiscriminate heap. All overt the battle field were strewed the dead and dying. Some had placed their arms under their heads as they went to their last sleep. Others folded their arms across their breasts, some with features distorted with fists clenched as they wrestled in the agonies of death; others wore the calm, placid smile which should grace the face of a soldier dying in a glorious cause. In the little clump of cedars the wounded had crawled and died, and lay there in ghastly heaps.

Our dead were buried with the honours due them and our wounded removed to different places in the interior, where they will be properly attended to .

Richmond Examiner, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* While the author is not identified in this article, the passage regarding the taking of “Sherman’s Battery” is identical to that authored by Capt. York and printed in the 8/6/1861 Fayetteville, North Carolina Observer and transcribed here.

** Sherman’s (Ayres’s) Battery (Co. E, 3rd US) was nowhere near the 6th NC, and in fact did not cross Bull Run. The author is here referring to a section of Griffin’s West Point Battery (Co. D, 5th US.) Sherman’s Battery was from the time of the Mexican War a very well-known battery, and was reported in many areas of the field by both Confederate and Union participants, nearly always in error. This battery is sometimes also referred to by historians as William. T. Sherman’s battery and, while it was attached to that colonel’s brigade, it derived it’s title not from him but from past commander Thomas. W. Sherman.

R. W. York at Ancestry.com 

Unknown Private, Co. I, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

17 08 2015

Correspondence of the Raleigh Standard.


Bull Run, July 28, 1861.

Mr. Editor: The following are the incidents of Capt. York’s company in the late battle. His company was next to the right flank of the Regiment, and exposed to the hottest fire in the engagement, on the left flank. For two miles the roar of musketry was incessant, and we were opposed to Rickett’s battery, and Massachusetts and Minnesota regiments of Volunteers. The company was ordered to fire on the battery, which was about 40 yards from us, and silenced it the first fire, killing every horse, as Captain Rickett himself said after the battle, he being wounded and taken prisoner. Then we received a cross-fire from the infantry, when we were ordered by Capt. York to load and fire kneeling; then came the order to retreat, as a Staff officer cried out that we were firing on our friends, but in reality, they were enemies; this caused considerable confusion, and Col. Fisher being shot in advance of his men, a large portion of the company rallied, and fell in with another regiment which was contending at the same point. Capt. York passed many hair-breadth escapes in rallying his men. Having rallied a small portion of them he found that his Regiment had moved off, and the enemy had taken their place; finding it necessary, he here contended with the enemy, and succeeded in cutting his way through and attaching himself to another Regiment. While ascending the hill, a single Yankee raised his rifle, when he shot him in the shoulder with his pistol, and when he brought his piece to a “ready,” shot him a second time through the heart, and taking his rifle, used it with good effect the remainder of the day.

Lieut. M. W. Page behaved most gallantly, and rallying a portion of his men, brave like himself, fought a guerilla warfare, with good effect. Taking his large pistol, he used it as a rifle, and brought down several of the Yankees. Passing through many close places, he had his sword shot away, and now goes on drill swordless. He was one of those who went up to Rickett’s battery.

Lieut. M. B. Barbee was perfectly cool during the action, and fought like a brave soldier, and managed his command as though on drill. In returning to the ground at first occupied, he had his pistol in his hand, which was shot out of his hand by a Minnie ball; he was not hurt, except the shock. He wore a large star on his hat, which was fired at several time, but did not hit it. Lieut. Allen being sick, was left behind at Winchester.

Harmon Sears, 1st Serg’t., while fighting bravely, was severely wounded by a ball in the side and arm. After which, having boldly told some Yankees that he was a Southerner, they brutally beat him over the heat with the butt of a musket, and bayoneted him, and doubtless left him for dead – but he is improving, and will no doubt get well.

Serg’t. John W. Wilder, during the action, was shot through the fleshy part of the thigh, and is improving. Private J. T. Morris was shot through the bowels, and it is believed to be a mortal wound. Private Jas. H. Moring was shot in the thigh, breaking the bone, and is doing well. Private J. D. Ausley was shot slightly in the thigh, but was not disabled, whereupon he remarked, “D–n you, you’ve burnt me – have you?” and immediately he shot down a fine gray horse, using it as a breastwork for himself, alone – and at a distance of 20 yards from the enemy, he made every ball tell. – His musket was also shot below the tail-band.

Private Wh. H. Lyon had his musket shattered in his hands, by a grape shot. Private J. T. Taylor had his cap-brim shot off. Serg’t. C. L. Williams had his sword shot off, cutting away a piece of his coat. Private James. W. Young shot down the ensign who held the “stars and stripes,” the first fire. Private Dennis Warren had his shoe-heel shot off.

Of all the men in the company no man did more deliberate fighting than Wm. G. Clements, and none whose shots took more effect upon the enemy and the horses of the battery. In short, all the men behaved well – several having their bayonets, cartridge boxes, &c., shot off. The battery taken by our Regiment was not Sherman’s, but Rickett’s.

The [Raleigh] North Carolina Standard, 8/3/1861.

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Captain Richard Watt York* (2), Co. I, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the March to Manassas and the Battle

11 08 2015

Manassas Junction, Va., July 21, 1861.

To the Editor of the Standard: – In my last I told you it was probable that we would march on Martinsburg. We were ordered to fill up our canteens and haversacks, which we did. We started about four o’clock, leaving our baggage. Anxiously we gazed at te blue mountains where we supposed the enemy lay encamped; but when we took up the line of march and went down into the city, we knew we were not marching on Martinsburg, but where we could not tell. After leaving the city Co. Fisher halted the column and read an order, which stated that Gen. Beauregard had been attacked by overwhelming numbers, and that we were on a forced march to join them. All night we traveled until 3 o’clock, when we slept for a while on the ground. We then rose and marched until 7 o’clock, when we halted and prepared breakfast; after which we again resumed our march and reached Piedmont on the Manassas Gulf Railroad, where we again slept on the ground. On yesterday (Saturday) morning we arrived here, and immediately took up the line of march for the field of battle.

The battle commenced at sunrise by heavy cannonading. About 7 o’clock the battle became general, and terrible indeed was the roar. The determined spirit on both sides exhibited itself in one uninterrupted roar of musketry. Soon our regiment was ordered into position. We were led by Col. Fisher up a rugged ravine, and the two right flank companies under Captains Freeland and York, suddenly came right upon Sherman’s battery, and a Yankee regiment, which poured upon us a galling fire. We immediately faced to the rear, and gave them a raking fire, which piled them up in heaps; by this time, being exposed to a cross fire, we were ordered to fall back. But Col. Fisher having been shot, and there being no one to guide us, some little panic occurred; but we fell back and formed behind another regiment. All did good service. At the head of the ravine Col. Fisher fell, being shot in the forehead. Towards evening, the battle became a running one, and about sunset they abandoned the field and were ridden down by our cavalry.

Our loss is considerable, but not so great as at first supposed. The Yankees were piled up in heaps. We took Sherman’s battery, and indeed all their big guns and wagon loads of small arms. Excuse this hasty scroll. I will send you details in my next.


(Raleigh) North Carolina Standard, 7/27/1861.

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* While the author is not identified, from this letter of the 18th it is apparent he was a captain in the regiment. The only captain in the regiment at First Bull Run with initial “Y” was R. W. York of Co. I. See here.

R. W. York at Ancestry.com 

Captain Richard Watt York* (1), Co. I, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the Soldier’s Haven and the March to Winchester

10 08 2015

Winchester, Va., July 18, 1861.

Mr. Editor: – Our Regiment, the 6th Infantry North Carolina State Troops, arrived here on the 16th. After leaving Raleigh we had a very pleasant time, but going through to Petersburg without stopping, and arriving there late at night, jaded us considerably. We arrived there about 12 o’clock at night, very hungry; but the good people of the city had supper ready for us, and we were ready for the supper. Early next morning the regiment was formed and we marched over to the Soldier’s Haven, where an ample breakfast was prepared for us, and after attending to this pleasant duty we expected to embark for Richmond; but cars were wanting, and two companies only, under Lieut. Col. Lightfoot, proceeded with the baggage, the remainder being left at the Soldier’s Haven, under Maj. Webb, to spend the day. After getting a dinner really sumptuous, two more companies proceeded, and late in the evening the remainder left also, and at 12 o’clock at night the last of us was in Richmond. Well, Mr. Editor, probably you are a little curious to know where the Soldier’s Haven is. I will endeavor to tell you, so that if you ever come to Petersburg and do not visit this spot, more dear by far to a soldier than any other turf around the Cockade City, you would do violence to a soldier’s feelings.

The beautiful Appomattox rolls its waters between it and the Cockade City. On its left lies a grassy plain, at whose border rises several beautiful hillocks, and deep ravines between. These hillocks are enclosed, and shaded by beautiful trees which offer a most refreshing shade to the weary soldier, while the heavy grass gives him a couch on which to rest his weary limbs, and gushing rivulets all around afford water in abundance. On the river side stands a long table, groaning from day-break until midnight under the weight of food. This is a place as romantic as the Vale of Tempe, far-famed, and holier than any other spot, with rich memories of the kind friends, and the sweet enchanting smiles and cheering words of the nymphs fabled of old. In my lonely marches, when worn down with fatigue and exhausted with hunger, I imagine I can see the clever faces of the men and angelic forms of the ladies (God bless them) of Petersburg. Some spots of earth may be forgotten, but the Soldier’s Haven, on the banks of the Appomattox can never be obliterated. May she stand eternally There is not another such place in this world.

Wearied and jaded by a six hours ride we got to Richmond about midnight, and at four next morning took up our line of march for the depot of the Virginia Central Railroad, our destination being Winchester. Arriving at the depot after a march of several hours through a heavy rain and muddy streets, judge of our vexation when we found no cars ready for us. Breaking ranks, we put ourselves under shelter as we could, and picked up cakes, pies and other eatables in infinitely small quantities, there being no haven for the soldier in Richmond as there is in Petersburg; but root hog or die was the word. About 2 o’clock it cleared away, and we marched up to capitol square, where President Jefferson Davis reviewed our regiment and made us a short speech, complimenting the old North State very highly. The Band played Hail to the Chief, Old North State, Dixie, and other patriotic airs, after which we marched down to the depot and embarked for Mannassa, where we arrived about 10 o’clock the next day. Mannassas is strongly fortified. The people generally have no idea of the strength of the place. The Yankees never will come through there. It is an utter impossibility. The troops were eager for a fight; but had no idea of getting one, for it is rashness to attack it.

After resting and getting dinner, we embarked at 5 o’clock on the Mannassas Gap Railroad for Strasburg, eighteen miles from Winchester. Long and anxious we sat in our cars waiting for the engines to take us off. The regiments began to hold dress-parade. The sun sank to his couch of fire, and night closed in, but no iron horse drew us off. Tired and weary from our night’s journey before, sleep found us, and many a soldier thought he was bounding over the mountains to join the army at Winchester; but day came and we were still at Mannassas Junction, and at about sunrise, without supper or breakfast, we started to Strasburg, and arrived there in the evening, pitched tents, and got supper – Col. Fisher being indefatigable in his exertions to render us comfortable. Tattoo was beat at 8 o’clock and tap immediately after. This astonished us. Soon the officer of the day came round and informed us that we had received a dispatch from Gen. Johnson to come on immediately, and we were ordered to march at midnight. I was preparing to lie down to take some sleep when the order came for the Captains to form their companies, march to the Quarter Master’s tent, receive their ammunition, and put out to Winchester, twenty miles. Without sleep for three nights, it was rather rough. Twelve o’clock drew on. I had fixed on my pistols and sword, filled my canteen and haversack, and was ready to form my company, when the bugler should give his blasts. Just then the rain commenced falling in torrents, and the order was countermanded until the rain should cease. About 2 o’clock the rain ceased, the bugler gave his blast, and soon the companies were formed, received their cartridges, and put out to Winchester.

After marching 9 miles we halted and got water, when we learned the Gen. Johnson had formed his line of battle, and that a detachment of Gen. Patterson’s troops were trying to turn his flanks and cut off our Regiment. Entirely ignorant of the country, we took up the line of march, and hurried on to effect a junction with Gen. Johnson. On arriving at Winchester we hated a few minutes to get water, and immediately marched through the town to the other side and were immediately placed in line of battle, and rested our weary limbs upon our muskets. Our positions was an excellent one, being posted about 500 yards to the left of the centre, behind a small hillock, which is a natural breastwork. Here we stood, amid the shocks of new mown wheat, awaiting the Yankee vandals, until about 10 o’clock at night, when Col. Fisher announced that after much trouble he had supper for us. We stacked arms, and all then lay down, making our bed by tearing down wheat shocks, and spreading our blankets over us, in which condition we took a heavy rain. We were kept in line of battle until about 2 o’clock yesterday, and our baggage being left behind, and after it arrived being packed away so that we could scarcely get to it, yet Col. Fisher himself, took our negroes, went back to town, had us a good breakfast cooked and brought to us. No man ever lived who thought more of his men that Chas. F. Fisher. No officer ever toiled harder than he to render them comfortable, and to do this, he shrinks from no labor no matter how menial. For be it remembered that a great deal of out breakfast on the morning of the 17th was cooked by the hands of Chas. F. Fisher. It is useless for me to say how our Regiment loves him. At 2 o’clock yesterday the troops were all ordered to their quarters and strong pickets posted in advance. The enemy, after advancing within three miles of us, fell back towards Martinsburg, and we joyfully went to pitching tents. And yet, not withstanding our suffering, not a murmur was heard, but all stood to their arms, and longed to see the foe.

This is a strong position, and the key to the Valley. We are well posted, and defy Old Abe to come down on us, which I do not believe he will do; for whenever he comes down to Winchester we will reddened the valley with their blood. They never can take this place.

We are here in camp in good health, no sickness, and in good spirits, and have but little expectation of a fight, though the enemy is only 12 or 15 miles distant, and may advance at any moment; but when he does come down, he will feel the effects of our heavy batteries and muskets in a way that will not be palatable. More anon.


P. S. Excuse this hasty epistle, I am worn out and tired. This morning (19th) we march to Martinsburg, I presume; at least we march.


(Raleigh) North Carolina Standard, 7/27/1861.

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

* While the author is not identified, from the narrative it is apparent he was a captain in the regiment. The only captain in the regiment at First Bull Run with initial “Y” was R. W. York of Co. I. See here.

R. W. York at Ancestry.com 

Preview: Davis & Greenwalt, “Calamity in Carolina”

23 04 2015

k2-_cd42791b-693d-41b5-a4ab-e4ed7596c686.v2About ten years ago I took a little trip down to North Carolina for a series of tours with an email group to which I still belong. We hit up Monroe’s Crossroads, Averasboro, Bentonville, and Forts Anderson and Fisher. (You can read a bit about the Bull Run connections to Bentonville here.) It would have been nice to have had Daniel Davis’s and Philip Greenwalt’s Calamity in Carolina: The Battles of Averasboro and Bentonville, March 1865, from Savas Beatie, along on that trip. Yet another of the ever growing Emerging Civil War series, Calamity covers those closing battles that pitted the forces of William T. Sherman against the who’s who of the Confederacy presided over by Joe Johnston. The convoluted movements of the armies before, during, and after these engagements could use considerably more than the six maps provided in this slim volume, but let’s keep in mind these are overviews, and you can always pick up a copy of Mark Moore’s Historical Guide to The Battle of Bentonville, which includes Averasboro, if you need to visualize.

Along with numerous period and contemporary illustrations and compact narratives of the actions (91 pages), Calamity includes driving tours and orders of battle for both battles, and appendices on Sherman’s March, Mower’s Attack, a sketch of Joseph A. Mower, the road to Bennett Place, the relationship between Sherman and Johnston, and the story of the preservation of Bentonville Battlefield.

T. E. Lawrence on Strategy and Tactics, and the Power of Ideas

13 03 2015

57936Right now I’m working my way through Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph, T. E. Lawrence’s memoir of his adventures in the Middle East. I’m enjoying it a good deal more than I anticipated. Lawrence was, it appears to me, a jerk. For instance, he spelled the names of places and people differently intermittently, and on purpose. He explained that this was because they were frequently spelled differently, which doesn’t help the reader much. But I suspect he really wasn’t writing for the reader. In fact, he says:

There are no lessons for the world, no disclosures to shock peoples. It is filled with trivial things, partly that no one mistake for history the bones from which some day a man may make history.

The edition I’m reading includes the historiography of the book, which is an adventure in itself, as well as some correspondence between Lawrence and his editor, in which you can see that not only was Lawrence a jerk, but he knew he was a jerk, he knew his editor knew he was a jerk, and moreover he knew that the editor needed him so badly that Lawrence had no motivation whatsoever to curb his jerk tendencies.

Enough of that – let’s get to it. In Chapter 33 (there are many short chapters – Lawrence anticipated the People Magazine approach to article length), Lawrence recounted the thoughts running through his head as he lay prostrate with illness, or as he described it “in impotence upon my face in this stinking tent.” I won’t get into the insight provided regarding the situation in the area then and its applicability to the world today, but will say if you’re interested you should really check the book out. This is the pivotal chapter (I think) where Lawrence hits upon the secret to “victory.” Not really being a military man by his own admission, Lawrence nevertheless found himself in a position of high command. So, with time on his hands, he started to think back on what he had read, beginning at Oxford, from “Napoleon to Clausewitz and his school, to Caemmerer and Moltke, and the recent Frenchmen” to “Jomini and Willisen” to “Saux and Guibert” to “Kuhne and Foch.”

Now, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about strategy and tactics and operations and goals and objectives, it’s that no matter how smart or well-versed you are, whatever your thoughts on them may be, somebody – somebody really smart and well versed – is going to tell you you’re thinking about it all wrong. If you’re really unlucky, they’ll toss about a few acronyms and initials to boot. So keep that in mind as you consider Lawrence’s thinking, which I’ve transcribed selectively.

But first, click on this link to give a little background music to the rest of the read:

When it grew too hot for dreamless dozing, I picked up my tangle again, and went on ravelling it out, considering now the whole house of war in its structural aspect, which was strategy, in its arrangements, which were tactics, and in the sentiment of the inhabitants, which was psychology; for my personal duty was command, and the commander, like the master architect, was responsible for all.

The first confusion was the false antithesis between strategy, the aim in war, the synoptic regard seeing each part relative to the whole, and tactics, the means towards a strategic end, the particular steps of its staircase. They seemed only points of view from which to ponder the elements of war, the Algebraical element of things, a Biological element of lives, and the Psychological element of ideas.

The algebraical element looked to me a pure science, subject to mathematical law, inhuman. It dealt with known variables, fixed conditions, inorganic things like hills and climates and railways, with mankind in type-masses too great for individual variety, with all artificial aids and the extensions given our faculties by mechanical invention. It was essentially formulable.

Lawrence went on to do the math with regards to the size of the area he wished to “deliver” and how his enemy was likely to defend it. Then he hits upon his true weapon, that of ideas:

…but suppose we were (as we might be) an influence, and idea, a thing intangible, invulnerable, without front or back, drifting about like a gas? Armies were like plants, immobile, firm-rooted, nourished through long stems to the head. We might be a vapour, blowing where we listed.

(When it comes to Bull Run, I think this notion of an idea or ideal as a weapon needs to be explored. At this point of the war, the possibility of an ideological impact was greater than it would ever be again. In the north, some – even Lincoln – still held out hope that southern unionists were the key to bringing the wayward sisters home, so highly did they value the idea of “Union.” How, if at all, did this belief or hope affect Union strategy? There’s not much documentation to go on, but you have to wonder…)

Then Lawrence calculated the number of men his enemy would require to defend the ground, and the number required to achieve his aims. He moved on to the biological factor and makes some keen observations with regard to reserves.

[I] plunged into the nature of the biological factor in command. Its crisis seemed to be the breaking point, life and death, or less finally, wear and tear… A line of variability, Man, persisted like leaven through its estimates, making them irregular. The components were sensitive and illogical, and generals guarded themselves by the device of a reserve, the significant medium of their art. [Military theorist Colmer Freiherr von der] Goltz had said that if you knew the enemy’s strength, and he was fully deployed, then you could dispense with a reserve; but this was never. The possibility of accident, of some flaw in materials was always in the general’s mind, and the reserve unconsciously held to meet it.

The ‘felt’ element in troops, not expressible in figures, had to be guessed at…and the greatest commander of men was he whose intuitions most nearly happened. Nine-tenths of tactics were certain enough to be teachable in schools; but the irrational tenth was like the kingfisher flashing across the pool, and in it lay the test of generals. It could be ensued only by instinct (sharpened by thought practising the stroke) until at the crisis it came naturally, a reflex.

This last bit touches on the popular belief, which some claim was predominant at least in the North, that great military commanders are born, not made. That a military education and experience might sharpen those with the innate ability to excel in command, but that it could not provide it. That the great, natural soldier who would lead the armies to victory could emerge from any walk of life. Some of this would come to a head in the debate over the value of West Point in the wake of the defeat at Bull Run.


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