Everyone Has an Angle

15 07 2008

A friend passed on this article by Lt. Col. Robert Bateman.  A good look at what historians do, how their job differs from that of a journalist (ideally, anyway), and how their opinions are just as biased as anyone else’s.  In summary:

In other words, while journalists may write the first draft of history, among historians there is no such thing as a “last draft.” There is only the most current, and the one certain thing within history is that it will change again soon enough. – R. Bateman

Check it out.





Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard to Sec. of War LeRoy Pope Walker, on Advance to Positions Forward of Bull Run

28 12 2020

CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN MARYLAND, PENNSYLVANIA, VIRGINIA, AND WEST VIRGINIA FROM APRIL 16 TO JULY 31, 1861

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – CONFEDERATE

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, p. 947

Headquarters
Army of the Potomac, Manassas Junction, Va., June 23, 1861.

Hon. L. P. Walker, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that, in consequence of the large re-enforcements I have lately received, I have divided my forces into six brigades, as per inclosed statement,* and commenced a forward movement to protect my advanced position at Centreville, Fairfax Court-House, and Sangster’s Cross-Roads, and also to be within striking distance of the enemy, whose advance positions seem to be at and to the rear of Falls Church (seven -miles from Alexandria), where they have five regiments (First and Second Connecticut, First and Second Ohio, and Sixty-ninth New York), one troop of cavalry, and one light battery. They have also four companies at Annandale.

My advanced forces (three brigades of three regiments each) occupy the triangle represented by Mitchell’s Ford (Bull Run), one regiment; Centreville and a point half way to Germantown, one brigade; Germantown and Fairfax Court-House, one brigade; at the crossing of Braddock’s old road with the Fairfax Court-House and Fairfax Station roads, one regiment; at the latter station, one regiment and one battalion, and at Sangster’s Cross-Roads, one battalion. All these positions are in easy and short communication with each other and with these headquarters. Most of my cavalry is with the advance, scouting, reconnoitering, &c. One light battery is at Fairfax Court-House with General Bonham’s brigade, and another is to be sent to Centreville to act with Colonel Cocke’s brigade. I unfortunately have none to spare for my other brigades. I have thrown eight miles in advance of the latter town or village one battalion of infantry and two companies of cavalry to observe the country towards the Potomac and the movements of the enemy in that direction. As already reported to the Department, one regiment (Sloan’s South Carolina) has been ordered to Leesburg, to assist Col. E. Hunton in the defense of that important position. I regret much my inability to send him some artillery.

I must call the attention of the Department to the great deficiency of my command in ammunition, not averaging more than twenty rounds in all per man. If I were provided with the necessary materials, molds, &c., I think I could establish here a cartridge manufactory which could supply all our wants in that respect. Could not a similar arrangement be made at all hospital depots, State arsenals, penitentiaries, &c.? To go into battle each soldier ought to be provided with at least forty rounds of cartridges, and not less than sixty rounds in reserve.

I remain, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

G. T. BEAUREGARD,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

*See General Orders, No. 20, p. 943





Pvt. William J. Hubbard, Co. H, 18th Virginia Infantry, Before, During, and After the Battle (3 Letters)

20 10 2020

Fairfax Ct. House July 11th [or 14th] 1861

Dear Tom,

I have a chance to send you a letter by Mr. Brow, and tell you how I am getting along here. I wrote to you the last of June while we were at Centerville and again on 4 of July while at Georgetown and have not received no answer. I was afraid my letters was not sent to you. I have been sick four times since I left home by cooking and was washing too much. I have at present a very bad cold with a slite [slight] headache and have a very sore lip that seems to be a blood bile. We have a wet time of it at present, and our tents is so damp that a sick Man can’t improve at present much. We had an alarm last week and our regiment was out with less excitement than before, but it was all nothing, some of the boys said the Picket shot at a lightening bug for the enemy, they say that they saw a man strike a match and so the tale goes. Our Pickets hear the drum and fife of the enemy frequently indeed that Wally Wootson [William Woodson Co. H*] was and I was really surprised [surprised] to hear it[.] I little thought when we went to gather [together] to the degarian room to have our likeness taken that he would soon be done with earth. I know it goes hard with the old folks our people begin to feel the scourge of war, though we are in the right. I had my likeness taken for Sue, and gave it to G.H. Gilliam to send it to you the first opportunity, write me word if you have received it yet.

I received a letter from [unknown name] dated the 2 and it was a treat indeed to hear from home. She inquired about our flys whether we received them or not they all came safe to hand.

Sunday night it was raining again and we will be made sick, if the wet weather continues, we have 80 men out every night standing guard and taking the weather with out any shelter and they come in of mornings complaining they were nerly [nearly] Frozen.

We have Preaching twice on sunday [Sunday] in good weather and in the week. Dr. Dabny reads a portion of scripture [Scriptures] and comments on it some four times a week. It dose [does] me good to hear songs of zion, and hear the earnest prayer on our behalf.

Tom you see from the position we occupy we stand a chance to have a brush with the enemy at any time. The citizens of Fairfax have been moving off and I see furniture passing every day for the last 4 or 5 days. Fairfax is a place about as large as Pr. E. C. House with regular streets and some nice private residences. This is a grass and wheat country and quite level. The timber is the same as ours with a good deal of undergrowth and makes it impossible for our army to march through it. We have to guard the roads and wach [watch] the open fields.

We can by [buy] mutton and eggs[,] chickens and butter most every time we need it We have orders to keep 3 days provisions cooked on hand, and to be ready to march at a moments warning we know not where.

I wish you all could come and see what a soldier was to go through in camp, I told our boys if we were spared to reach home again we could camp out to show the ladies how the soldiers cooked and how they fiked [fixed] their beds, it would amuse you to see them fixing after they have arrived at a new place you see them striking every piece of plank they can lay hands on, some rakeing [raking] up leaves like an old sow. Some round a tree that has been cut down like you have seen cows in spring pulling of the bows to keep them off the ground and make their beds soft such is a soldiers[‘] life. As the drum will tap for lites [lights] to be put out soon I must my letter to a close. If you have a chance to send, let me have some more of the McLanes Pills and Jamaca [Jamaica] ginger. Write me the news, give my love to I.P.G and Winston and Mr. Matthews and Sady [Sadie?] Misses Fanny Evelin and Betty and tell them I will never forget the pleasant hours we spent together. I have not heard from Ned Gilliam for a long time write me how he is getting along. I been sorry I did not stay home when I was their until [until] I got well. I am afraid it will be some time before I am prepared to stand guard with safty [safety], but if we are called out to night I will shoulder my musket and do the best I can, the drum has taped for lites [lights] to be put out.

So Tom

PS I hope none of the Family will think of [illegible word] by themselves slighted because I do not call them by name. I write to all in the same letter and wish all to read.

Wm. H.

*William J. Woodson, a 22-year-old farmer that enlisted at Pamplin Depot, died July 8, 1861, of typhoid fever.

—————

Centerville Fairfax July 26th

Dear Family,

I know you all have been looking for a letter from me, since our retreat from Fairfax. [O]our Regiment has been staying in the woods as a Picket[s] guarding a ford on Bullrun [Bull Run], without anything except a few blankets and our clothes, and there we stayed untill [until] Sunday evening, when we marched off to the field of Battle, we had a trying time of it, as soon as we left the low grounds and got on the hill where the enemy could see us they let fly the Bunbs [bombs] at us, they came hissing through the air, and fall and explode all around us tareing [tearing] up the ground like a thunder bolt, I tell you all we tried to be quite small, we soon reached to the top of the hill where we could hear the fireing [firing] as plain as if it was only a few hundred yards off, as soon as we reached that point the cannon balls and shell came thick and fast making the trees and ground crack again, I tell you I did not feel as comfortable as I would like to be behind a brest work [breastworks], we march on to the field of battle expecting every moment to be our last, and such a field I hope not to march through again the pruse [spruce] pine was so thick that you could not see a man ten steps, and we had to press throug[h] it several hundred yards before we could reach the field of battle as soon as we reach the opening we form in line of battle, and we were scarcely form[ed] when [Andrew] Leach was shot by my side and fell dead without a groan and the next moment Billy Grey [Gray] was struck by a ball on the neck which only bruised a little, and [Robert P.] Meadows was struck on the nose, which blined [blinded] him for a while and gave him a very sore nose

I tell you it was raining bullets jus[t] about that time we dropped on the ground until [until] the shower was over and as soon as it slacken we marche[d] to the top of the hill where we saw the enemy in full view, as soon as they saw us they sent another storm of lead at us, we fell on the ground the secon[d] time, as soon as the fire slacken we charged on the battery just as they were ready to send reinforcements to it, as soon as they saw it in our possession they gave up for good we let them have a few rounds and they retreated out of the way, soon we saw several Regiments comeing [coming] on the wright [right] of the enemy and fired in to them and soon they were all retreating, to our joy. Some of the boys proposed to wheel the cannon [a]round and give them a fire from their own guns. No sooner said the boys seized her and pulled her around, loaded and fired, and made an opening in their ranks. I tell you there was no order in retreating after that before they could load and fire again our Regiment was ordered to the stone Bridge where we expected some of them would try to cross under the fire of their guns over the river. We marched below the bridge in the bend of the river where we could rake them if they had crossed but they had higher up on a bridge they had made. We crossed the river with the expectation of pursuing them but Col. Withers had orders to wait for the rest of the brigade did not come up we halted to rest our selves [ourselves] on the grass and here Sergeant [Thomas H. B.] Durfrey [Durphy] got shot while sitting on the ground. We had not been long here before we were ordered to Manassas, as they heard that an attack would be made Sunday night but the defeat at stone Bridge broke it up. If we had pursued them with our forces we could have taken nearly all the army. We got a march?? about 9 o’clock at night and march 5 miles near Manassas and took a nap upon the cold ground with the blue heavens for our covering. We were wakeed [woke]up the next morning by the rain gently falling in our faces though with grateful hearts for the protection we had received on the battle field the day before. I can say without doubt, the Lord mighty in battle fout [fought] for us, and glory and praise be to his name for his goodness unto us. We march Monday through the rain wet as rats near the battle field and halted for the night. And the rain pouring down next morning I went to battle field to bury poor Leach hoo [who] had been overlooked on Monday, such a sight I never wish to see again[.] The enemy was lying over a field nearly a mile long in every direction with different uniforms it was sickening to behold. The mangled bodies as they lay on the field. The enemy was so frightened they never returned to bury their dead. Tuesday evening we came to this place, and we know not where next we go. As we came along the road[,] the road was srowed [strewed] provisions & every thing a soldier needs. I never expected to see such destruction. They throwed down their guns sourds [swords], shoes, hats, pants, socks that they might get along the faster. I found three guns two cartridge boxes pr [pair] of boots canten [canteen] and a pair of red pants. I am equipped with Yankee fixins now. I have seen several hundred prisoners. Col Withers has now a Col Wood in his tent that was wounded in the fight in the hip and will get well soon. Two of his men stuck to him. One was sent to the junction the other is here with the Col to wait on him. They looked like criminals when they were first brought in, when they were first taken. I understand that they pled for their life, but they now look quite cheerful. They are treated as the rest of us, the young man that waits on the Col is as lively as any of our boys and is fond of jokes. He says we are quite a different people from what he expected to see. He seems to be contented.

I heard an exhortation from H.B. Coles last night which the regiment was pleased with.

We as a regiment here are enjoying good health, though many has left sick sinc[e] we left Richmond. I have not been sick since the day before we retreated from Fairfax. I expect you all have herd more news about the battles then I have as I rarely se[e] a paper[.] Let me hear from you all soon. As Manassas is headquarters direct every thing [everything] to that place we get our provisions from there. Give my love to all my friends and pray for us while we are exposed to the perils of warfare. I am getting hungry and must go to cooking so Dear Friends good by for the present.

Tom I received yours and Sues letters the morning after the battle. It was a real treat. I received the nice little flag.

Yours,

W.J. Hubbard

—————

Camp Centerville Aug.11th 1861

Dear Family,

I take this opportunity of dropping you all a few lines. I have spent the Sabbath so fare [far] something like home. Dr. Dabney gave us a sermon this morning on swaring [swearing]. I thought it came in good time. It was the best on the subject I ever heard. It would astonish you if you were here at the wickedness of our men. They will swear on the field of battle where bumbs [bombs] and shot are flying around them. We have meeting every night when the weather is fair, and the Dr. is well.

Mr. Granberry was in camp this week to see us[,] he looks more like a soldier than a preacher, he is chaplain in a Regiment mad[e] up partly from Albemarl[e].

It has been quite a quiet time since the fight, and we feel as unconcern[ed], as if peace was about to be made. There will be a calm after a storm.

We drill in the morning and then have Dress Parade in the evening; our company is quite small and the Col. is complaining because so many is absent, he says he will deal with them as diserters [deserters] if they don’t return soon.

We have rain in the abundance, the ground has been too wet for camp life, and it has given our boys colds

I have been well ever since our retreat from Fairfax though exposed a gooddeal [good deal], I was glad to see Sam and Brown once more, and hear from home, they have been complaining ever since they been here, Sam was quite sick last night, but better to day [today], Billy Gilliam is complaining of the r[h]umatism a little, he got very wet in the coming here from Manassas. Julius Fore is been complaining for several days and I would not be surprised if he haves a spell of sickness.

I have received four letters since the battle and a great treat it was to hear from home once more, I can’t read a letter from home without sheding [shedding] tears.

I do hope the yankies [yankees] have their fill of us, and will make peace, and let us return to our homes, once more I met with Mr. Leach last Friday to the Battlefield to see the grave of his Brother, he is now on his way to Pamplins. There was quite a change since I were there last, the Yankies [Yankees] had a little dirt thrown on their boddies [bodies] jus[t] where they ly [lie], and by fall their bones will be s[t]rewed over the field, with the frames of the horses that was killed in battle

I would like to see som[e] one from the nieghborhood in our camp, I believe all the companys have been visited by some one [someone] from their neighborhoods since the fight, I would be glad to see you Tom, or Par [Pa] here and let you see a little of camp life, and try it a week or too [two] for yourselves.

We hear but little news that is true, you all can tell more about the fight than I can, because you have read all the points.

In this neighborhood there is I reccon [reckon] 100 wounded prisoners and most of them will get well, they say they will not, take up arms against us no more, they have been fooled by their officers they say, they only took up arms to protect Washington. We have re[a]d a great many letters that droped [dropped] in their retreat, I saw one written to a young lady in Main[e] stateing [stating]that Scott was with them at Bullrun [Bull Run] and he was a fine looking man, and he was in good spirits and would press the war on with vigor. We have no hint where we will go next. I would not be surpprised [surprised] if we were sent to Fairfax again

It is a b[ea]utiful sight to get on some high hill and look on our encampments in all directions, having the appearance of little towns, and at night like a citty [city] lit up with gass [gas].

The boys who lost their [k]napsacks have been in a bad fix, they have but one such and that is on their backs, some have divided with them, I thought all my clothes were gone for good but one of the boys saw my knapsack at Mannassas [Manassas] and brought it to me, I tell you I was glad to see it. I only lost my big blanket.

I wrote last week giving our movements in the fight I reckon you all have red [read] it before this time I want a pa[i]r of everyday yarn pants sent to me the last of this month so I may save my uniform pants. We have not received any pay yet, when I get it I would like for you to get it Tom, as I have a plenty for the present. I have received the medicine all in good order and they have been doing us good already

Tell Isham to write me soon,

Since you ask me what has become of my letter paper this is all I have seen I reckon this is the paper they sent Monday morning it is a beautiful morning, Col. W said dress on perraid [parade] yesterday evening, that he would arrest those who had staid [stayed] over there time and those who had gone without permition [permission]. good bye [Good bye]. One of your members

Wm. J. H.

—————

Letters contributed by reader Tim Smith of Joliet, Il. and Patrick Shroeder of Lynchburg, VA, and the National Park Service (with permission of NPS). Transcribed by NPS Volunteer Mike Hudson, [edits] by Patrick Schroeder, Appomattox National Historic Site.

William Hubbard is portrayed by living historians at Appomattox Court House National Historic Site

William J. Hubbard at Ancestry

William J. Hubbard at Fold3

William J. Hubbard at FindAGrave





A Southern Reporter’s Visit to the Battlefield.

1 10 2020

The Battle Field.

The writer of this, on Monday last, passed over the scene of the battle of the 21st near Bull Run. It was gratifying to fins, contrary to rumors which have gained some circulation, that the dead, not only of our own army, but also of the enemy, have all been decently buried. In the whole area of that terrible onset, no human corpse, and not even a mangled limb was to be seen. The earth had received them all, and so far as the human combatants were concerned, nothing remained to tell of those who had fallen victims of the shock of the battle, save the mounds of fresh earth which showed where they had been laid away in their last sleep.

Many of these mounds gave evidence of the pious care of surviving comrades. Enclosures were built around the graves, and branches of evergreens cover the spot. Sometimes boards marked the head and foot on which were carved or painted the name and fellowship of the deceased. Sometimes boards nailed to a neighboring tree told that the ground adjacent contained the fallen of a certain regiment or company.

Numerous dead horses, scattered over the area, show where the batteries of flying artillery were captured or disabled, or where some officer was dismounted. The prostrate fences, too, served to mark the track of the battle. Where the infantry crossed, they were broken down so that a man might step over; and wide gaps showed where the artillery carriages had thundered along.

The ground, too, tramped by the feet of rushing men and horses, evidenced where the struggles had been fiercest.

Of relics of the battle, already but few remain. The field has been searched and gleaned by daily crowds of visitors, seeking for mementoes. A few bullets that had run their errand, some fragments of exploded bombs, and a few other things, were all that an extensive ramble brought under our view. Canes cut from the battle-field are also considerably in demand.

The enemy’s column of advance, as shown by the battle-ground, presented a front of about a mile. Their onward march from the point where they encountered our advance bodies to the limit where they met our full line, and the full battle was joined and the fate of the day decided, was about a mile and a half, therefore covers the scene of the great conflict.

In this area are included five dwelling houses. All of these which were visited bore evidences of the storm which raged around them. Many were killed in the yard of a house of Mr. J. De Dogan. A bullet hole in a chamber door remains a memento of the battle. His family escaped just as the battle joined.

But it was on the hill south of the turnpike road, where the enemy’s farthest advance was checked, and where the final issue was fought, that the inwrapped dwellings showed the most plainly the fury of the fight.

A house here, late the abode of a widow lady, Mrs. Judith Henry, was riddled with cannon and musket shot. Hissing projectiles from the cannon of our enemies had passed through walls and roof, until the dwelling was a wreck. It is a sad story that we tell. This estimable lady, who had spent her long life, illustrated by the graces that adorn the meek Christian, was now bed-ridden. There she lay amid the horrid din, and no less than three of the missiles of death that scoured through her chamber inflicted their wounds upon her. It seems a strange dispensation of Providence, that one whose life had been so gentle and secluded, should have found her end amid such a storm of human passions, and that the humble abode which had witnessed her quiet pilgrimage, should have been shattered over her dying bed! Yet, even amid such terrors Heaven vindicated its laws. When the combatants had retired, the aged sufferer was still alive, and she lived long enough to say that her mind was tranquil and that she died in peace – a peace that the roar of battle and the presence of death panoplied in all his terrors had not disturbed. Noble matron! The daughters of the South will emulate your virtues, and the sons of the South will avenge your sufferings! The heaps on heaps of the enemy that were piled around your doors when you died, are but the earnest. A hundred yards to the right of the house of Mrs. Henry, lay five horses in a heap, and near by, another heap of as many more. Here a portion of Sherman’s battery made its last advance. Just as it reached the top of the hill, our riflemen approaching in the other direction reached it too. At once they poured in a fire which cut down horses and men and made the pieces unmanageable. The gallant boys followed the fire with a bayonet charge, and the guns were taken. It was here that Lieut. Ward fell. The cannon were taken and retaken several times in a furious fight; but the horses had been killed, and they could not be removed nor used.

On the left of Mrs. Henry’s, distant about a fourth oaf a mile, is a neat house belonging to a colored man named Robinson. A cannon ball drove through this also. Between these two is an orchard of small trees where Hampton’s legion fought and suffered so severely. Their graves are here. One of them which covers the remains of the Hon. J. L. Orr, is marked by a broken musket panted as a head stone.

Away on the extreme northern verge of the battle-ground, is the pine grove in which the Georgia regiment met the enemy’s advance. The gallant band there withstood the enemy’s columns, until nearly surrounded. They then retreated, not from those in front, but from those who were closing around them. In this pine grove there seemed scarce a tree that was not struck by the enemy’s balls. A number of Georgians fell here, and their graves are close by. In the grove was pointed out the spot where Lamar fell. In the rear was the dead charger of the lamented Gen. Bartow, killed under him, himself to fall soon after. But the Georgians suffered not their heroes to fall unavenged, for they piled the ground before them with the slain of the enemy.


The Battle Field.
[NOTES OF A LATE VISIT CONTINUED.]

The visit to the battle-ground of the 21st, noticed in yesterday’s issue, included a call, buy the writer, at several of the hospitals in which the wounded are now receiving attention. – Near the ford of Bull Run where the Northern army crossed in their advance against us, (it is about two miles above the Stone Bridge,) is a large brick church, known as the Sudley Southern Methodist church. It has been appriated to the wounded of the enemy, and is still overflowing – some being under sheds erected for their shelter. The pews of the church have been taken out, and the pallets of the wounded fill the floor. The altar of the church is the medicine dispensatory. The writer had often seen this sacred building filled with devout worshippers, whose meditations were disturbed by no anticipations of such a scene as not presented; but the care here taken of the wounded and the suffering, and they our enemies, who had causelessly come to do us the most grievous injuries, illustrated more forcibly, it may be, then even pulpit ministrations, the spirit which it is the object of churches to promote. Here was seen the fruit of former teachings. The invalids were well cared for, and were in various stages of convalescence. One who sat bolt upright on a char near the front door, and who told us that they were “all doing very well,” was himself, however, a proof that his testimony needed qualification. His rolling eye, his wild unnatural look, the wheezy, gurgling voice in which he said that his wound was “in the right chest,” his labored breathing, and throbbing frame, seemed to point to the mounds in the rear of the church where many of the wounded had gone, as his own speedy resting place. In this hospital, but a little before, a very young man in his last hour, had asked a visiting Southerner to engage in prayer with him. He said he had been raised to better things than he was now evidencing, expressed his gratitude, and soon after died.

In short, in the various hospitals for the wounded enemy, we saw only exhibitions of neatness and careful attention, and of a kindness that elicits a free expression of thanks from the sufferers. We must make one exception. There was one hospital where the filth was so disgusting that out tarry was very brief. It was the stone house on the roadside, where a Northern surgeon had charge of his own people. Fortunately his victims were but few.

The writer is more particular to detail these things, because of the slanders which the Northern papers are publishing. While the Northern people desert or neglect the mangled agents and victims of their diabolical designs against us, our kind ladies and citizens are actin the part of the good Samaritan towards them – binding up their wounds, and caring for their comfort. The returns for this are fervent expressions of gratitude from the sufferers, but unblushing charges of atrocious inhumanity in the Northern press! Thus do the two sections [?]itly illustrate the vast moral difference which, like a great gulf, divides Northern and Southern character.

In the hospital at Mr. Dogan’s, we found one of our wounded officers, the gallant Major Caleb Smith, of the 49th Virginia Regiment. A ball passed through his thigh, in the terrible conflict which closed the battle. He is doing well.

Just without the verge of the battle-field is the dwelling of a widow lady, also of the name of Dogan, who performed a part in the incidents of the day. The writer knows her well, and a most estimable lady she is. A squad of the enemy’s soldiers – a lieutenant and three men – came to her door, after the battle was over, claiming to be friends, and asked for food. She detected their character, and offered what they asked, on condition, and only on condition, that they would surrender to her. After some parley, they made professions of gallantry, and yielded. She locked up their arms, and then locked up themselves, and of course supplied them with food. Another, who was crossing the field about the same time, was captured by the young ladies of the house, who threatened to turn their dogs upon him unless he submitted. The prisoners were afterward sent into camp, and General Beauregard pleasantly complimented the exploit of our heroines, by promising to send a commission to the lady of the house. These are the daughters of the land which the Northern despot thinks he can subjugate!

Some words on the battle shall close these observations. Remarks are indulged by many writers, some of them of the South, to the effect that at one period of the fight our army was fairly whipped. This statement is both inaccurate and mischievous. Our army was never whipped; and this we propose to show by a simple narration.

To illustrate what we have to say, we will in part repeat a late general description of the battle ground. Draw a line a little north of east; it will represent the turnpike road which leads from Gainesville to Centreville, a total distance of eight miles. Midway between these villages, Bull Run is crossed but the turnpike on the “Stone Bridge.” A mile and a half west of the Stone Bridge a road crosses the turnpike nearly at a right angle. Towards the south this road leads to Manassas Junction. Towards the north it leads by Sudley church to the Sudley mills ford of Bull Run, about two miles distant. The course of Bull Run makes a sweep between the Stone Bridge and the Sudley ford.

The turnpike and the cross road, above describe, almost bisect the field of battle, in their respective directions. The fight was on both sides of both roads. The enemy, by a well conceived and well executed maneouvre, marched up the east side of Bull Run, crossed at Sudley ford where we had no defences, marched up the road from Sudley, and made his appearance on the heights north of the turnpike road and about three fourths of a mile distant. His line was nearly parallel to the turnpike, and instantly spread to both sides of the cross road to which it was of course at right angles. The line of our army was then facing Bull Run, with our left flank near Stone Bridge. The enemy thus came with his line against our flank. Our defences, too, were all turned and valueless, and nothing remained but for our troops to change front as rapidly as they might, and meet the enemy in the open field.

The forces which formed the let of our line, were of course the first to feel the enemy, and fronting to him they gave heroic battle. But while they held back the foes in their immediate front, the unresisted portion of the enemy’s line moving on, would speedily get upon their flank and threaten to surround them. This would compel our men to fall back; but as they fell back, by successive stages, they were brought in concert with others of our forces, and also strengthened by the arrival of the troops which were being rapidly brought up from the centre and right of out line on Bull Run. – Thus it was our line of battle constantly grew its length; but so long as it was shorter than that of the enemy, it was compelled to recede to avoid the raking flank fire of the overlapping portion of the enemy’s line. In this manner we slowly fell back from a point about three fourths of a mile North of the turnpike, to the parallel hill about the same distance South of that road. Here it was that our line got a length equal to that of the enemy. The out flanking, therefore, ceased, and our falling back ceased, and the full battle was joined. The conflict was terrible, but victory soon declared in our favor. Artillery and musketry poured in their fatal storm, and hand to hand conflict and the irresistible bayonet charge soon broke the thinned ranks of the enemy. – The flight now commenced. They were pursued over the whole ground by which they had advanced, and hills and hollows were filled with their slain.

If, then, we have conveyed the intended idea, the enemy’s line of battle retained a pretty uniform length of about a mile, while ours began with a very small front and widened at last to an equal width with his. While this widening progressed, our incomplete line receded; and when its object was consummated we stood, and the final issue was joined.

The inference drawn by Gen. McDowell from the receding of our troops in the first instance, that we were defeated and flying, seems therefore utterly unworthy of a military man. The dispatches which were sent back to Centreville and which seduced the boozy Congressmen there into fresh imbibitions, and were forwarded to cheer the chamber where Scott and Lincoln and Seward sat awaiting tidings, are a discredit to the intelligence of those who sent them. Our receding regiments did, indeed, suffer serious loss; but they inflicted greater! They left the mark of their heroism wherever they fought; and they fell back, not from the enemies in front, but upon their flank. To call this a defeat – to say that we were whipped – is to show a poor conception of the real condition of the battle. The battle was then not even made up! We were never whipped!

The attempt of the Northern presses to excuse their defeat by charging bad management on the part of the generals, is unwarranted by the facts. We think they managed well. They deprived us by their maneouvre of all aid from the entrenchments which we had prepared, and drew us into the open field. They got their whole line into battle long before it was possible for us to meet it with a line of equal length, and they fought the battle with by far the larger portion of their army, against by far the smaller portion of ours. – Their feigned attacks, an the tall forests which bound Bull Run and concealed their movements, enabled them to compass this. What more could they have desired? If the battle had continued and their heavier numbers had made a breach in our full line, our men behind would have arrived and restored it, and our full strength would have told at last. But the battle, as it stood, left the adversary nothing to wish in the way of opportunity. He was whipped with great slaughter, routed, chased from the field, not by a defect in his plan of battle, but by the irresistible prowess, the marvelous courage, the invincible resolve of Southern heroes, fighting for their homes and liberties. He was whipped by hard fighting. Nor were the Northern troops deficient in courage. As long as their attack on the troops in front of them was encouraged by the continuous flanking movement of their line which we have described, they stood well. They pressed with spirit upon our receding forces; and even when the full battle met, the slaughter which they suffered before they took to flight, showed a good degree of bravery. If the Northern people wish to know the source of their defeat, they must seek it, not in the disparagement of their officers or men, but in the military prowess and sublime courage of a virtuous people determined to be free, and who have not once thought of being conquered; and above all upon the favor of Heaven upon our good cause. That flight and panic among their retreating troops, which their papers so minutely describe, what resembles it so much as the panic by which Samaria was delivered from the beleaguering host of Assyria?

If we were to venture a single remark, by way of kindly caution to our own noble officers, it would be this: It is possible that in the late battle some were betrayed by personal courage, too much into individual exploit. – While Captains were cutting down the enemy, companies were in some cases losing their line, and becoming mixed up. It is well to avoid this. But we design not even to suggest a criticism. Officers and men, our army is composed of champions and heroes, and have won a victory whose transcendent glory and priceless advantage to our country, shall be a crown of honor to every participant until his dying day. To have been in the battle of Bull Run will be praise enough to fill the ambition of most men, and to ensure them favor wherever they may roam.

Richmond (VA) Enquirer, 8/2/1861

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Unknown, 5th South Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

5 08 2020

LETTER FROM THE BATTLE FIELDS.

A lady in this town who has a cousin in the 1st South Carolina Regiment* at Manassas, having received from him a letter about the battles in that vicinity, has kindly permitted us to extract from it the following:

Manassas Junction, July 24th, 1861.

My Dear Cousin:

* * * * * *

“I have often seen battles fought in poetry, and it all seemed very grand; but I never had the faintest idea of the reality until Thursday and Sunday last. – On Thursday there was an attack made on us which lasted from 12 to 3 ½ o’clock. It was a desperate fight and resulted in a victory for us. Our loss was about forty killed and wounded; the killed and wounded of the enemy, as near as we could ascertain, was about 500. The cowardly scoundrels ran and left behind their dead and wounded, and we had to bury what we could of their slain. They lay all the next day on the field.

On Saturday night, I and one of General Jones’ aids were sent out to reconnoiter. We reached the ground assigned us about dusk. The moon was shining brightly. We climbed a tall tree on a hill, near the road by which the enemy were expected to pass; and we could see them passing, and hear them singing, rattling [?], cursing, and cheering, as regiment after regiment joined them. They approached within about one mile of the Creek (Bull Run,) and camped, and planted their batteries. About 7 o’clock, Sunday morning, they commenced the firing; and in an hour afterwards, the whole creek for the distance of 3 or 4 miles was in a perfect blaze, from the fire of cannon, bursting shells and musketry.

{Here follows an account of the part taken in the fight by the troops to which the writer belonged – too long for our columns, at present.}

“We had but three killed – one by a shell, one by the fire of the Mississippians, and one in some other way, unknown. There were about 20 wounded. I got a scratch from a ball which did not do more than cut the skin. There were tens of thousands of balls flying around me, but my kind, merciful Father, in whom I trust, did not permit me to be harmed; and the first thing I did after I got off the field, was to return my heartfelt thanks for his kind preservation. I visited the field the next day, and then, horror of horrors! There lay the yankees, mangled in every possible form. And this morning I went around to see the wounded; they have been brought in after lying there on the field from Sunday afternoon – day and night – Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. – They were broken and mangled in every way. Oh! my cousin, it makes my heart-sick when I think of it!

“They shot at our hospital – with yellow flag over it – all day, while their own wounded were there with ours. They also raised our state flag, Confederate and white flag; when we would march up, would pour a deadly volley into us. The poor deluded fellows – the wounded – told me that Scott had ordered the Adjutants of each regiment to read out that they (the yankees) had possession of Richmond, and had only to pass this way to get there, when they would pay them off and disband them.

“Our killed dwindled down to 350; wounded, 900; but near two-thirds of them are like me, just scratched. IT was the most complete victory ever won.”

(Salisbury, NC) Carolina Watchman, 8/5/1861

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*The 1st S. C. Regiment was not present. From the letter’s contents, it appears the regiment in question was the 5th S. C., in Brigadier General David R. Jones’s Brigade. Jones’s report estimated the 5th S. C. loss at 3 killed, 23 wounded, which also generally conforms to the contents of the letter.





Unknown, Albemarle Light Horse (Co. K, 30th Virginia Volunteers), On the Pursuit

8 07 2020

The Pursuit at Manassas.

We are permitted to publish the following letter from a member of the Albemarle Light Horse, (Capt. Eugene Davis,) which was engaged in the battle at Manassas Plains:

Manassas Junction, July 24.

Amid your rejoicings over the glorious victory of the 21st, I have thought it probable you would not object to hearing of the exploits of the Albemarle Light Horse, more in detail than can be found in the usual accounts of the battle. Our company returned from Occoquan on Friday before the great fight and were immediately sent to meet General Holmes’ Brigade, which was advancing from Fredericksburg. We met the General and returned with him on Saturday and continued under his command. On Sunday, shortly after our dinner, the order came for the Brigade to advance to the scene of action. We were soon mounted and ready to start, under the command of Major John Scott. After a most furious gallop of about two miles, we entered a grassy field, and were about ascending a high hill, when we were met by Col. Lay and directed to file around it, as the enemy’s flank battery was playing upon it. We did so promptly, and thus the balls passed, sone entirely over our heads and others into the earth near the top of the hill, making the dirt fly, but hurting nobody. On we went until ordered to halt and form into line, under cover of the hill upon which Lewis’ house stands. – Here we were subjected to a most demoralizing influence. Many of the companies which had been engaged were relieved by new companies and returning in a confused condition, leading and carrying their bleeding comrades, and giving awful accounts of the way in which their companies had been cut to pieces. One fellow made it his business to walk down the line and refresh us by telling how the Monticello and Holcombe Guards had been almost demolished. Major Scott seemed to see the effect of this upon his men, and sharply ordered the next fellow to be cut down who opened his mouth upon such a topic, and after that we heard nothing more, but still the line of bleeding wounded dragged its slow length along and still there came over us a sickening impression that the day had gone against us. – Everybody’s face looked elongated; but presently a shout was heard behind us, and on looking back we saw Capt. L. Walker’s battery which we had passed on the way advancing. He rode up in a cheerful mood and asked how things were going: “Hip and tug,” responded our officer; “Hip and tug is it,” said Lindsay, then le me get up on that hill with my little derringers.” And up he went with his “little derringers,” as he called his refle cannon, and commenced a succession of rapid firings, all of which were said to have ploughed ar road through horses, artillery and Yankees.

A squad of officers, who had collected on horseback, scattered over the fences and into the wood like a covey of partridges. In a few moments, we heard the joyful sound that the enemy were off in full retreat. Major Scott rode up to General Holmes, and reported for orders. “Go on, sir,” was the laconic response. And on we did go, without knowing, we must acknowledge, exactly where we were going to or what we were going after. But we were all too high strung to care much now, and there was only a general impression, that it was a sort of fox chase on a very expanded scale. At the Stone Bridge across Bull’s Run, (where the fight commenced in the morning,) we overtook Kershaw’s Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers, and attached ourselves to his command.

In a few moments orders came to send a platoon forward to act as skirmishers in a body of woods through which the road passed. Lieut. Geiger dispatched for this service, Major Scott accompanying him. Passing in front of the regiment, Geiger left the Major six men to keep the main body on the road, while he scattered the rest on either side, and the boys had fine sport gathering up the prisoners, with which the woods were filled. Riding on, Major Scott, with his six men, found a house upon the turnpike filled with Yankees. Without knowing how many there were, he made a charge upon it, and the cowardly devils surrendered at once. Upon being emptied, the house was found to have contained thirty-five Yankees and three Georgians, whom they had in custody. At this point, the Major remained until joined by Lieut. Geiger, with his platoon, and finally by Capt. Davis, (with the rest of the company,) who had also been subsequently sent in advance of Kershaw to reconnoitre, and had captured several prisoners.

We had scarcely got together before it was announced that the enemy were rallying and planting a battery in the road just in front of us. At this news we scampered into the woods to wait for the regiment and Kemper’s Artillery, which was coming, and here we sent four of our men, with our doctor, to attend to Capt. Radford, who had fallen a short distance off, and died soon after the boys reached him. He had kind, sympathizing hearts around him in his last moments, and soft, youthful hands to close his eyes.

The enemy at this point raised quite a shout, but the South Carolina boys had come and only gave way to the right to allow Kemper to open on them from the road, and again we were formed in rear of the regiment. The sun was just sinking behind the horizon when the battery opened, and of all the singing shots you ever heard, these were the most musical. Our horses actually danced at every crack, and at every crack the road was cleared in front. This was too much, and away they went again. A large body of Cavalry had entered the field and were standing some distance in our rear when an officer rode up and asked for two squadrons to follow and capture the baggage train and artillery. For some reason there was no response, except from Major Scott, who replied, that he had one company at his service. The officer accepted the offer and directed us to the left of the turnpike, warning the Major to be cautious. The very thing the Major did not seem disposed to be, for away we went again across the field towards the left, and heard from several as we passed, the pleasant expression “there goes a doomed body of men.” But we were too much elated to mind that, and in our excitement had forgotten all about the wounded men on the hill where we first formed.

After proceeding a short distance we captured a prisoner, from whom Major Scott extorted the confession that the most important part of the train had passed straight down the turnpike. So over the fence we went into the turnpike again, and at a breakneck speed forward, until we spied the train descending a hill at Cub Run. We charged with such a terrible clatter that we suppose the attendants thought we numbered thousands instead of about fifty, and (at the first fire) off they scampered, leaving artillery, wounded men, baggage and everything. The Major, accompanied by Lieut. Geiger and fifteen men, dashed across the stream in pursuit of the fugitives, and had captured several of them, when they discovered a body of 200 Zouaves, and at once demanded their surrender. This was pushing things rather too far, and so the gallant Yankee who commanded actually had the hardihood, instead of surrendering his two hundred men, as our men thought he would do, to fifteen, to ask by what right his surrender was demanded, and to prevent all reply by following up his querry by a rapid pop, pop, pop, all along the line. A “right about,” and rapid abandonment of prisoners, and a hasty retreat to the rest of the company, was effected without injury to anybody. I believe one of our horses did get a few buckshot in the leg.

During the absence of this party, Captain Davis began to discover the nature and value of the prize, and proceeded to disengage and send back the cannon. Seeing how very important it was to secure it all, and reflecting that we numbered not over fifty, and were far in advance of our own men, and a very short distance from the enemy, Capt. Davis sent Lieut. Randolph back for reinforcements, and he returned with a body of cavalry and some infantry, with whose assistance we were able. By about 1 o’clock, to get everything disentangles, and on its road to Manassas. There were sixteen cannon, among them one Armstrong gun, said to be worth ten thousand dollars, caissons, ammunition, wagons, ambulances, about one hundred horses, &c., &c., &c. A nice little two-horse carriage was found elegantly fixed up, with oil-cloth coats, bottles of cologne, a fine guitar, and all the other fixings of some calico exquisite, who was no doubt anticipating an elegant campaign in Virginia, and much chagrined at the way in which he got himself bedraggled running through Cub Run and the adjoining swamp and thicket. Another carriage seemed to belong to a more substantial character, as it was fount to contain hermetically sealed meats, vegetable soup, and oh! a box of elegant liquor – whiskey, brandy, champagne, and other wines. We could not help feeling some respect for this fellow. He was certainly a fine judge of spirits, and treated us in style. We actually drank to his health and reformation. The boys loaded themselves with coats, oil-cloths, splendid canteens, &c.

Such a rout you cannot conceive of, the whole road, and for a distance on either side for miles, was literally covered with all manner of blankets, hats, guns, swords, dead men and horses, wagons and wheels. I noticed several wagons loaded with timber, ready hewed, for the purpose of making bridges across Bull Run. But few men in that army will ever tread the soil of Virginia again without terrible trepidation and rapid looking from one side to the other, and crooking of the legs in a position to be ready for a right about. The abject servile behavior of the prisoners lowered even our opinions of our miserable foes, and you know it was very low before.

We reached our camp at daybreak Monday morning, and after a short nap got up to talk over the doings of the day and receive the congratulations of our friends and commendations of the General and others in high command. We certainly had a glorious day of it. It would have done you good to see how the boys rode. We will be in Alexandria next week.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 7/29/1861

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Albemarle Light Horse was Co. K of the 30th Virginia Volunteer Regiment and would become Co. K, 2nd Virginia Cavalry

Brief sketch of the Albemarle Light Horse 





Interview: Somerville, “Bull Run to Boer War”

12 03 2020

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Michael Somerville is an English military historian whose doctoral thesis at the University of Buckingham looked at the influence of the American Civil War on the Victorian British Army. The end result of that work has been published by Helion & Company as Bull Run to Boer War: How the American Civil War Changed the British Army. Michael has been good enough to answer a few questions for Bull Runnings.


BR: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

MS: I graduated with a First Class degree in History from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University, but at the time I didn’t want to continue academic study and made what was as the time perhaps a rather unusual decision to go into a career in IT. I spent nearly forty years as a programmer, consultant and project manager before retiring in 2018. Alongside my professional career though I always remained interested in history and particularly military history. I live in Wimbledon, south-west London with my wife, Gillian. She did her degree in American Studies, so interest in the Civil War period is something we share, though mine are primarily military and hers in the social aspects.

When I was working overseas for a year Gillian suggested that I do an MA course in military history to keep me occupied in the evenings! This was not practical for many reasons, but the following year I signed up for the MA course at the University of Buckingham, and with the centennial of the First World War coming up in 2014, the idea of researching the idea of looking at how one conflict had influenced the other was an obvious. In 2017 I was awarded a doctorate by the University of Buckingham for my thesis on the influence of the Civil War on the Victorian British Army.

I’m a member of the American Civil War Round Table UK, who appointed me their President this year. I’ve written a number of articles for our society journal (which publishes some excellent scholarship), mostly on British observers to the war, but Bull Run to Boer War is my first externally published work.

BR: I’m curious – as an Englishman, what got you in the American Civil War? Who/what were your early influences, for both your interest in the Civil War and Military History?

MS: I had always been interested in military history as a boy, but it was initially about the Second World War, like many of my generation I think. I did read a little on the American Civil War at University, but only briefly. In the 1980s I became quite a serious wargamer – figures, not re-enactment – and the period covering the American Civil War and contemporary European and British wars became my main focus. The historical side of the hobby was always as important to me as the gaming aspect, and I did a lot of reading and research in order to set up games and competitions that I felt challenged the players with the problems and choices that the generals had to make at the time.

In 2011, Gillian was working in the BBC on a series of radio programmes to mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, and she was put in touch with the American Civil War Round Table (United Kingdom) who were organizing a number of events around the country. We went to their conference and I was hugely impressed with the level of collective knowledge that the group had, and with the welcome we received, we joined the group on the spot. Although the war is a minority interest here in the UK, it is a small but important part of the heritage of some places such as Liverpool. Many of our members visit the USA regularly to tour the battlefields, and we also have many people who trace the stories of the many British-born soldiers and sailors who served on both sides. Attending the Conferences and hearing the many excellent speakers also made me want to build on such knowledge as I had to do more academic research into the American Civil War, prompting me to sign on for the MA.

BR: I’m a bit of a stickler when it comes to the use of the term “military history.” I think it gets misused and abused here in the U. S., and means something deeper and broader than simply researching or writing about people, places, and events of a military nature. How do you define “military history” and “military historian?”

MS: The book could almost be classified as ‘pure’ military history. It looks at how a military event (the American Civil War) was studied by a military organization (the British Army), and how that influenced its military equipment, tactics, and thought. It is not a narrative about the war, or about the army, but tries to analyze the influence of one on the other. That potentially limits its appeal to those interested in purely military matters, and put off those who are drawn to military history by depictions of battle and by personal stories. I was very conscious when writing the book that I needed to make it accessible to the non-specialist where possible. But I believe that military history needs to be more than a narrative of a battle or a series of vignettes of soldiers’ personal experiences – it needs to have an element of analysis, to explain how and why people acted and things happened the way they did, and with what consequences. I am also fascinated by parallels and comparisons between different military periods and armies, and how armies function as institutions, an understanding of which I think is essential to a military historian.

BR: Bull Run to Boer War looks at how the American Civil War “predicted the way in which later wars such as the Boer War and the First World War would be fought.” Can you summarize this premise, and give a brief overview of your findings?

MS: The Civil War and the First World War hold similar places in the American and British national consciousness – they are the bloodiest conflicts that the two nations have respectively fought, and they are each portrayed to some extent as being unnecessary, incompetently fought, or both. Many histories of warfare point to technical and tactical innovations in the Civil War – the machine-gun or trenches for example – and how these were then features of the First World War. The inference is that the men in charge of the armies in 1914 should have seen what was going to happen, and therefore have avoided it. The British come in for particularly severe criticism – partly because they were one of the few European armies to actually fight significant actions in the closing years of the nineteenth century. For example, some websites on the Boer War perpetuate the idea that the British expected to fight it using almost Napoleonic tactics, whereas if only they had studied the Civil War properly they would have realized the errors of their ways.

My basic premise is that this is twenty-twenty hindsight, and even then mostly inaccurate. If you trace the history of this view, it really derives from British critics of the Army’s performance in 1914-18 which were written in the 1930s. But the British Army of the nineteenth century was responding to the challenges and demands of the day, which did not include planning for a four-year global war involving every Great Power. The tactics and technologies of the Civil War were not as novel or unprecedented as they are sometimes depicted, so when the British went to America in 1861-65 – and many more officers did than the few who are usually mentioned – they did not see dramatic change in the nature of warfare, because none had yet occurred. Also the geography of America at the time was not at all like most of Europe with its highly developed agricultural and transport systems. The Civil War was Napoleonic in the scale of its armies but most individual campaigns were fought over sparsely populated wilderness. Attributing some aspects of the way that the Civil War was fought (such as the way the Americans used cavalry) to these local factors, was not a misunderstanding of what was seen, it was in fact quite perceptive. And the conditions in South Africa, with wide open plains and steep bare hills, were nothing at all like the mostly forested battlefields of the Civil War.

Conversely, the British did not subsequently ignore what they had seen in America. The latter half of the nineteenth century was a time of great technical change in the military. To give just one example, the British infantryman used at least five different standard small arms between 1850 and 1900 – ranging from the smooth-bore musket with a range of about 100 yards and firing twice per minute to the Lee-Metford magazine rifle, with twenty times the range and seven or eight times the rate of fire. With such weapons, to plan to fight the next European war in the same manner as Waterloo – or even Gettysburg – would indeed have been suicidal. But they did not. The infantry understood the need to entrench and to use open formations. The cavalry knew it could not charge machine guns and magazine rifles frontally, and looked to use its mobility to beat its opponents by maneuver, surprise, and dismounted firepower. And there are descriptions of preparing defensive positions written in the 1870s that refer to the use of trenches, wire entanglements, explosive mines and machine guns – not a bad prediction of what would be seen over forty years later.]

The Boer War provided the British with a new and important set of lessons – which is why I decided to close my book in 1900. But since these descriptions and recommendations appear in manuals, books, and articles written before 1900, they cannot be ascribed to lessons from the Boer War or the early twentieth century – they derive from the study of earlier conflicts, in which the American Civil War featured prominently.

BR:Can you describe how long it took to write the book, what the stumbling blocks were, what you discovered along the way that surprised you or went against the grain, what firmed up what you already knew? When did you know you were “done”?

MS: The book originated in 2012 as a dissertation for a MA in Military History at the University of Buckingham, which was meant to last one year. At the end of that time, I realized that I had far more material than I could fit into a 25,000 word dissertation, and my supervisor suggested that rather than submit it I expand it into a doctorate thesis. I was still doing a full-time job, so it was around four years before I was in a position to submit, and then about another year of reviews and amendments to finally get the thesis accepted in 2017. During that final year I was already thinking that maybe I would like to publish it in some form, as I felt that the subject matter had been left unresearched for many years and the material which I was uncovering was of significant importance to the history of military thought.

I thought it would be relatively easy to turn the thesis into a book, but my publisher warned me that it would take some time; in the event around two years! Some of that was the immensely tedious business of revising things like footnotes to meet a different editing standard. Rather less soul-destroying was the need to make the book comprehensible to the non-specialist reader. I knew it was a subject that could interest readers on both side of the Atlantic, but a lot of British would not be familiar with Civil War people and events, while most Americans probably don’t know much about British operations in Africa, India and elsewhere. Getting the balance between accessibility, readability, and brevity was a challenge.

Mostly my research supported my initial belief that the British Army had been over-criticized for its indifference to the Civil War. In fact I was surprised when I discovered just how early some changes were initiated. The Austro-Prussian War of 1866 is traditionally supposed to have made European armies wake up to the potential of the breech-loading rifle and the railways, but the British Army adopted the former in 1864 (nine months before the US Army!) and set up a railway board in 1865. Far from ignoring the machine-gun the British were keen adopters of the technology, even though early weapons had not performed well in field, because it could compensate for their relatively low numbers of troops. The use of barbed wire was mentioned in books published twenty years before the First World War. I don’t conclude that the Army was perfect – both the organization and individuals made lots of mistakes. But we should not judge them by twentieth century standards.

I started the process rather skeptical of the idea that the American Civil War predicted the First World War. I would still argue that is true in the field of technology – there is no comparison between the artillery, machine guns, and rifles of the Civil War and those of 1914. And as a result the tactics of most of the better known battles have more in common with the Crimean War than the Western Front. But I now think that by 1865 there were aspects that could be said to have been more comparable to the two World Wars at an operational and strategic level, such as the mobilization of most of the countries human and physical resources for war. Unfortunately these were the lessons that it was most difficult for a democratic country, like Britain or America, to prepare for in time of peace, so they had to be relearnt and reapplied.

My test audience is my long-suffering wife, who has read almost every version of every chapter. She is keen on history but not so much on the military side, so can tell me where I need to explain or clarify things for the non-specialist. If she told me a bit of the book was interesting or good I could feel confident it was about ready.

BR: Can you describe your research and writing process? What online and brick and mortar sources did you rely on most?

MS: As a former Project Manager I have a tendency to set plans and targets, so although there is sometimes some tension between ‘academic’ and ‘amateur’ historians, I rather appreciate the rigor which the academic process enforces. Because it started out as an academic thesis, I had to produce a detailed work plan up front, with a core research question and a series of subsidiary questions that the thesis intended to answer. The next stage was to read any secondary works already written on the subject. In one respect I was fortunate that there is only really one work that covers it directly – Jay Luvaas’ Military Legacy of the Civil War, which was ground-breaking for its time but sixty years old. I discovered that most books describing the military impact of the Civil War on Europe, if it was mentioned at all, simply referenced Luvaas’ research. I determined to read all of Luvaas’ primary sources, and see whether I agreed with his interpretations and conclusions, trying to look at everything from a nineteenth century rather than a twentieth century perspective.

That meant going through large numbers of old military books and journals. Some of these are available online, and I was able to borrow some from the RUSI library in London, but for many it meant long hours taking notes in the British Library – at weekends or in the evening after work. As well as articles about the Civil War, reading other articles and books on tactics and weapons revealed several less obvious evidence that people were taking note of what had happened in America. I also looked at military manuals of the period – both official and unofficial – and found it was mostly untrue that tactics did not change during the period. I had already decided that I would adopt a thematic rather than a chronological structure, and this research largely formed the basis for the chapters on the infantry and cavalry in particular, by identifying what soldiers saw as being the military issues of the day and analyzing what they thought the solutions were.

Being able to download electronic versions of much of the out of copyright material from sites such as archive.org meant that I could view them on my laptop at home and on holidays. Having online search engines was immensely useful, and generated some surprising leads. Even in the British Library, browsing their online catalogue with various search terms and date ranges revealed an interesting but long-forgotten pamphlet by a British general written in 1865, proposing how to fight a war with the United States. A Google search for British observers came up with a bookseller who had a report written by [William T.] Sherman and dedicated by him to Sir Bruce Hamley, a prominent British military writer, and pointed me to a set of letters between them contained in Hamley’s biography. I would probably never have found this otherwise. Another Google search came up with a copy of the Guards Brigade’s Journal for 1863 and an article describing a visit to Meade’s army after Gettysburg – another source I don’t think has been previously identified. I also used family history sites to research the background of the different observers in 1861-65. It turned out one young Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers who visited the Confederate lines at Petersburg in 1864 was a nephew of Robert E. Lee – which was both unexpected and perhaps gives some insight how he managed to travel through Virginia at the time. .

There are a number of reports in the old War Office records at The National Archive in Kew, London, that show how American technology was being studied both during and after the war. This ranges from artillery, fortifications, to coastal obstructions and mines. And a friend at the ACWRT pointed me to the leave records held there for the British troops stationed in North America, from which it is possible to check when many of the known observers visited. I did further analysis to spot patterns in the leave records which enabled me to suggest how many undocumented visits might have been made, and by who and when. Almost all of this is new research on previously untapped sources.

BR: How has the book been received so far?

MS: There has been a significant amount of interest from several military journals, although I have not yet seen any reviews published. The few people who I have had feedback from have said that they have found it both interesting and convincing in its argument. One acquaintance from the Round Table has authored several successful historic novels about the Civil War, and I was especially pleased that he found the book very readable as well as informative. I have given a couple of informal lectures to small groups in the UK, and it generates a lot of discussion. I am visiting America in the summer and have one talk planned in Charleston SC, I hope to do a few others. This will be interesting, as I expect to get different challenges and questions from an American audience compared to a British one.

A few friends have said that they thought I have been rather hard on Jay Luvaas. This was not my intent, his original work was a classic of its time and the foundation to my research, but it did not tell the whole story. Like mine it originated as a dissertation, was expanded into a thesis and then became his first book. Unfortunately I never met him, but I would like to think that he would have approved.

BR: What’s next for you?

MS: My next project is very different. My father served in the Second World War, but like the majority of veterans from that conflict he rarely talked about it, even to me. A few years ago I decided to get his military record, and that led me to thinking that most history about that war is written about famous battles and elite units. I want to try and write the story of an ordinary infantry battalion. Unlike Bull Run to Boer War it will be a narrative history, but through the narrative trying to understand what it was like to be one of the millions of ordinary men serving in the war – who they were, why they joined up, how they trained, what happened to them in combat, plus all of the mundane aspects of military life that often get forgotten.

I’ve chosen the 5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, my father’s unit, as the subject for obvious personal reasons – but it is effectively a random selection, as British conscripts of whom my father was one got relatively little choice which unit they joined. They were not at Alamein, or Anzio, or Normandy or Arnhem, so most of the battles in which they fought have had very little written about them. I also want to try and visit as many of the locations as possible to understand why the battles were fought as they were and with the results that they had. It is likely to be a three or four year project. I hope will appeal to both dedicated military historians and to a wider audience who want to understand more about their father’s or grandfathers’ experience of the war.

Michael will be speaking at the Ft. Sumter Civil War Round Table in Charleston, SC in August, 2020 (this is the same venue hosting me in May).





Lt. William Mack Robbins, Co. G, 4th Alabama Infantry, On the Battle

25 11 2018

With Generals Bee and Jackson at the First Battle of Manassas

On the afternoon of July 18, 1861, the army of [Brigadier General Joseph E.] Johnston – about ten-thousand strong – which had been for some weeks manoeuvering up and down the [Shenandoah] Valley in front of [Major General Robert] Patterson and was then lying around Winchester, was hastily put in motion and marched off southeastwardly, going we knew not whither. Most of the men belonged to the class which may be described as “young bloods,” sons of planters, reared in ease and affluence – intelligent, merry hearted, high spirited, full of romance and enthusiasm. They had volunteered at the first call, not only from devotion to the cause, but love of adventure, and there was nothing they were so eager for as to get into battle, being somewhat tinctured with the idea that they “could whip at least three Yankees apiece,” and were rather afraid that the war might come to an end before they got the chance to prove it. In spite of their confidence in their general, they had been a good deal chagrined and disgusted at what they deemed his overwary strategy in not delivering battle to the enemy under Patterson. They were therefore greatly delighted to hear the general order which General Johnston caused to be read to each regiment as soon as we got well out of Winchester that summer evening. That order was about in these words: “Beauregard is attacked by overwhelming odds at Manassas. Your commanding general has full confidence in your zeal and devotion and asks every man to step out lively. You are going on a forced march over the mountains to reinforce your companions in arms and save the country.” Loud cheers welcomed the tidings. The prospect of an early encounter with the enemy loomed up ahead and stimulated the impatient spirits of the men to their best exertions. Heat, dust, and night-fall soon made the rapid march disagreeable enough, but it was pushed without a check till we reached the Shenandoah. This river, about waist deep, was waded at dawn of July 19, amidst songs, jokes, and general hilarity. The Blue Ridge was passed at Ashby’s Gap, and at evening of the same day the head of the column arrived at Piedmont Station on the Manassas Gap Railroad, whence Johnston’s forces were sent forward in detachments by rail as fast as transportation could be furnished.

So much has been said about Johnston’s troops appearing on the field in the nick of time after the battle had been long ranging that the impression extensively prevails that none of them were there at its beginning. This is a great mistake. Three brigades – [Brigadier General Thomas J.] Jackson’s, [Col.] F. S. Bartow’s and nearly all of [Brigadier General Barnard E.] Bee’s – were at hand when the battle opened and bore an important part in it all day. The Fourth Alabama and other regiments of Bee’s Brigade reached the Junction at noon of the twentieth and were among the very earliest in the conflict the next day. It was only the comparatively minor number of Johnston’s men under [Brigadier General Edmund] Kirby Smith and [Colonel Arnold] Elzey that leaped from the train when they heard the battle in progress, and, hastening down the Warrenton Pike, came in so luckily on the right rear of the Federals and caused the panic which gave the victory to the Confederates.

I have spoken of the eagerness of our inexperienced but enthusiastic soldiers to see and participate in the battle. The feeling did not diminish, but rather grew in intensity on this occasion, up to the time of actual engagement, and how much longer I cannot say; but one thing is certain – all of us by the time the day was over felt sufficiently amused. Thousands of soldiers on both sides know all about the experience of a first battle, and anything said on the subject would be but an old tale to them; but those who never took a hand, and especially young who have come up since the war would no doubt like to know how a battle looks and seems to a new soldier – its thrill, its thunder, its grandeur, its horror, and no lees its odd, absurd, and even grotesque features. I do not feel competent to paint an adequate picture and description of these things. I doubt if any pen can fitly paint them. A few hints about how this battle opened and proceeded – as the writer saw it – must suffice. The Fourth Alabama were busy with breakfast near the junction when the sudden boom of a gun in the direction of the railroad bridge over Bull Run drew our eyes that way and we saw for the first time the little dense round sphere of white vapor, high up in the air, produced by the bursting of a shell. This was quickly followed by others, the design of the Federals being to draw all attention to that part of the line while they were executing their shrewd flanking movement on our left. However, our regiment, with others of Bee’s Brigade, was at once moved at double-quick towards the Confederate left, to a position that had been allotted to us at one of the upper fords. But we had scarcely reached the designated point when we were again ordered to go at a rapid run for about two miles still further up the stream to meet the Federals – our commanders having just at that moment discovered that they had crossed the stream at Sudley’s Ford, entirely beyond the Confederate left, and were pouring down in heavy force on that flank. All depended on presenting a quick front to this unexpected movement. So we went  – a few battalions only – across the fields at out highest speed, and soon reached the plateau of the Henry House, around which the battle was afterward mainly fought. But Bee did not permit us to stop there. He marked that as the most favorable position for the Confederate line to form its new front on, but he knew his brigade alone could not hold it and he also saw that the enemy would reach it, unless checked and delayed by some means before an adequate force of Confederates could get there to oppose them. To gain the needed time it was necessary to risk the sacrifice of the two and a half regiments then with him by a bold movement still further to the front. He could not hesitate. So he ordered the Fourth Alabama, Second Mississippi, and Eleventh Mississippi (two companies) to move half a mile further forward to the next ridge to engage the enemy and delay them as long as possible. Down the slope we rushed, panting, breathless, but still eager because ignorant of the desperate crisis which had doomed us to probably destruction to save the whole army. As we passed the little rivulet below the Stone House, the duel of the artillery began and the shells of friend and foe shrieked wildly above our heads. Mounting the hill and entering the copse of timber north of the Stone House, we began to hear a sharp cracking of musketry ahead of us – a collision  between the Federals and some small bodies of Confederates we had not known were there before, among them [Major C. R.] Wheat’s Louisiana Tigers, wearing the zouave uniform.

As we emerged from the little wood we caught sight of these Tigers, utterly overwhelmed and flying pell-mell, most of them running off to our right and toward the stream (Bull Run). This and their zouave uniform, which we had never before seen, but had heard some of the enemy wore, for a minute caused us to mistake these “Tigers” for Federals and as they were flying in disorder, some of our men set up a loud yell and shout of victory, supposing the enemy were already routed and retreating, whereupon one ardent fellow of the Fourth Alabama, with his finger on the trigger and anxious to pull down on somebody before they all got away, burst out with: “Stop your darned hollerin’ or we won’t get a shot!” But the mistake was discovered just in time to prevent our firing on friends. A little way further up the hill beyond the timber and we struck the enemy and no mistake. Their long advancing line, with the Stars and Stripes waving above it (which made some of us feel sorry), began to peer over the crest, eighty yards in our front, and opened a terrific fire, which at first went mostly over us. It is proper to mention that the Mississippians, who had come with us, were halted at the edge of the wood behind us, and so did not get into the hot conflict that ensued, the whole brunt of which thus fell on the Fourth Alabama alone. On receiving the enemy’s first fire we lay down and waited till we could see their bodies to the waist, when we gave them a volley which was very effective, firing uphill. The Federals fell back and disappeared behind the crest. After some interval they advanced another and longer line; but the result was the same as before, only they held on longer this time and their fire hurt us badly. A third time they came on in a line which extended both our flanks, and now the conflict became bloody and terrible to us, their balls coming not only from the front but from the right and left oblique, cutting down our colonel (Egbert Jones) and stretching lifeless many a familiar form so recently full of hope and gayety. Then war began to show us his wrinkled front. But we thought of what they would say at home if we flinched and how ashamed we should feel if after all the big talk about whipping the enemy we let them whip us at the first chance. We could see, too, that they were as awkward at the business and enjoyed it as little as ourselves. Besides, it looked like they could hardly help killing every one of us if we got up and tried to run away. It seemed our safest chance to hug the ground and pepper away at them; and so from sheer desperation, as much as anything, we kept to it, until after awhile, to our great joy, the enemy fell back once more behind the crest, and their fire lulled. Our general, seeing we would be certainly overwhelmed at the next onslaught, gave us the order to retire, which we did before another attack. We had been at it for over an hour and had really rendered great service in gaining time for the Confederate army to change front and form the new line. But nearly one third of the Fourth Alabama had gone down in the effort and were left on the ground, including the colonel, mortally wounded. I should not omit to mention that the Seventh and Eight Georgia, of Bartow’s brigade, also came into our advanced position far to our right during our contest, and had a bloody collision with another column of the Federals, and though these Georgians were recalled some time before we were, they contributed materially to the delay of the Federal advance.

The two Mississippi regiments of our (Bee’s) brigade had also retired before us, so that the Fourth Alabama was going back alone. In this movement a bloody episode occurred to us. Retiring by the same route along which we had come, when we reached the little rivulet running near the stone house, we saw a regiment, in column by companies, marching down the rivulet toward us. Their flag was furled on the staff and so was ours. By the quarter we had just come from they thought us probably Federals, but were not sure. As for us, we felt the enemy had got so far around in rear of the place of our recent fight; their uniform also resembled that of the Sixth North Carolina, belonging to our brigade, and we hastily took them for that regiment coming to our aid. Thus encouraged we halted, faced about and reformed our line, intending with this supposed reinforcement to take another tilt with the enemy we had been fighting if they should pursue us as we expected. The unknown regiment also halted and deployed into line of battle at right angles with ours and less than 100 yards from our left flank. Their colonel signaled us with his handkerchief for the purpose of communicating  and learning who we were as it afterward appeared; but we never dreamed this was his purpose and made no haste to respond, feeling confident we knew him, and thinking of course he knew us. All this took place in a few moments. Having quickly rearranged our line, our flag was than unfurled and displayed – the Stars and Bars! Instantly a blaze of fire flashed along the line of our supposed friends (a New York regiment it really was), and an enfilading hailstorm of bullets tore through the Fourth Alabama from left to right, killing many and disabling more, among the rest Lieutenant Colonel [Evander M.] Law and Major Scott, leaving our regiment without field officers.

What does the reader suppose we did? We did not stay there. The position was too bad and the surprise too sudden. True, the enemy’s fire was once returned with considerable effect; but it is only frank to say that we resumed, without delay, our movement back to the main Confederate line, whither Bee had intended us to go when he first ordered us to retire. Having arrived there, even after all they had suffered, the Fourth Alabama still had pride enough left to rally again, and under the command of a captain fell in on the right of the line and fought to the end of the terrible day. I will not now attempt to detail all the incidents that befell the regiment in these later hours of the battle. I will give one, however, which will always be of special historic interest.

The position of our regiment being now on the right of the Confederate line as drawn on the plateau of the Henry House, and the leading design of the Federals during the entire day being to turn the Confederate left, the heaviest fighting gradually veered toward that flank. No one who was there can ever forget how the Federal musketry crashed and rolled in fresh outbursts as new troops poured in against the center and left. Farther and farther round its awful thunder seemed to encroach, as if it would never be stayed till it should rend and tear that part of our line to atoms. Our brigade comrades of the Sixth North Carolina, separated from us in the manouevres of the day, had rushed in single-handed and attempted to check it, but had been smitten as with fire by its overwhelming power and their gallant Colonel [C. F.] Fisher, with many of his men, were no more. Jackson, with brigade, was struggling desperately, and at length successfully, to arrest the Federal columns; but immovable as Jackson and his men stood, the surging tides of the enemy beating upon him with such a mighty momentum that it seemed as if he must give way. Just then the battle had entirely lulled in our front on the right. Our Brigadier, General Barnard E. Bee, at this moment came galloping to the Fourth Alabama and said: “My brigade is scattered over the field and you are all of it I can now find. Men, can you make a charge of bayonets?” Those poor battered and bloody-nosed fellows, inspired by the lion-like bearing of that historic officer, responded promptly: “Yes, general, we will go wherever you lead and do whatever you say.” Be then said, pointing toward where Jackson and his brigade were so desperately battling: “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall! Let us go to his assistance.” Saying that Bee dismounted and led the Fourth Alabama (what remained of them) to Jackson’s position and joined them on the right of his brigade. Some other reinforcements coming up a vigorous charge was made, pressing the Federals back. In this charge Bee fell mortally wounded. Bartow fell nearly at the same time and within a stone’s throw of the same spot. Before the Federals recovered from the impression made by this partial repulse they saw Kirby Smith’s men advancing down the Warrenton Pike upon their right rear, as before stated, and his unexpected appearance in that quarter struck them with an overpowering panic and caused their precipitate retreat from the field. The battle ended so suddenly that the Confederates could not understand and could scarcely believe it. When afterwards the doings of the day were recounted among is the above expression, uttered General Bee concerning Jackson, was repeated from mouth to mouth throughout the Confederate army, and that is how he came to be known everywhere as Stonewall Jackson.

In conclusion, as I have set down with an endeavor at entire frankness the achievements, the mistake and the misfortunes that day of the regiment to which I myself belonged (the Fourth Alabama), I may be pardoned for adding a word about how we looked back upon our experience after it was over as a curious illustration of the absurd notions of inexperienced soldiers. Our ideal was that we were to whip whatever we came across – no matter about numbers; many or few, we must put them to flight. To turn the back before any enemy would be disgraceful. Having, therefore, turned our backs to the enemy twice that day, as I have narrated, once under orders and once without, we of the Fourth Alabama, upon the whole, felt humiliated and rather ashamed of ourselves on reviewing what had occurred. It was some days after the battle that to our surprise we began to hear from our comrades if the army and to read in the papers that our regiment was thought to have distinguished itself greatly. Then we began to hold up our heads again and to recall the fact that we had lost more than any other regiment in the army. Finally, we go hold of the Northern newspapers and found where our gallant and generous adversary, [Brigadier General Samuel P.] Heintzelman, giving an account of what he termed our stubborn resistance in that opening conflict, which I have described, had praised us extravagantly, saying: “That Alabama regiment was composed of the most gallant fellows the world ever saw.” This restored our equanimity, and we concluded that if we had not come up to our previous ideas of our invincibility, maybe we had not done so badly after all, and perhaps our sweethearts at home would not scorn us as poltroons. One other profound inpression, however, was left on the minds, at least of some of us, by the events of that day, and especially when we came to gather up the mangled remains of so many of our late merry-hearted and beloved comrades – an impression which was not changed by all we saw in the succeeding four years, or by the lapse of time since, and that was – talk as men about great war-like deeds, heap plaudits on heroes and worship military glory how they will – war is from hell!

Transcribed from Peter Cozzens (ed.), Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 5, pp. 41-49. Brackets above are the editor’s. Per note therein, the original article first appeared in the Philadelphia Weekly Times, 2/26/1881, under the title First Battle of Bull Run.

William Mack Robbins at Ancestry

William Mack Robbins at Fold3

Interesting article on William Mack Robbins





Sgt. William Sidney Mullins, Adjutant, 8th South Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

16 02 2018

Vienna 6th August, 1861

My dear Sir,

I received yours of the 27th ult day before yesterday: your first also came safely to hand. I had been thinking of writing to you for some time, but our facilities for writing here are very poor, & until to day, I have hardly found time & convenient arrangements for writing a long & detailed account of any thing. Besides for a month all our correspondence has been under military surveillance & they open our letters without scruple: after the war, if some of us do not get killed, there will be some private war on this account. I hold the claim as against S.C. Volunteers to be insulting & infamous & I will shoot any man without scruple whom I have good reason to believe guilty of opening my correspondence, be his position that of President, General, or what not, when my service has ended & I can meet him as an equal. Of this hereafter.

You have by this time doubtless seen Capt. Evans, & read in the papers many accounts of the Battle. I will however give you a brief statement of what I know, & my opinions about what I have heard. There never will be any fair & just statement of the whole battle. No man living ever can make it. There are many conflicting statements here & even as regards our own Regiment there are facts asserted & denied, about which I am entirely in doubt this day. The ground was broken: there was no position from which the whole could be seen & in some cases Regiments were for hours without orders fighting on their own hook. I will give you now what I think to be the most probable story of the affair – as I go along I will tell you the facts that I know. We were not at all engaged in the first battle: they cannonaded us & the balls fell around us occasionally that day, but no body was hurt. Capt. Harrington was on picket in a wood in front of our unit on Saturday night, & between daylight & sunrise he sent in a man to Col. Cash to say that the enemy were retreating: that from one oclock that morning the sound of their artillery & waggons going off had been heard. These sounds were distinctly audible in our Camp. Col. Cash ordered me to report the fact to Bonham & I gallopped there at once. Gen. B. sent back word to Col. C. by me that it was not a retreat, but that the enemy were moving to attack the left & to be on our guard as the attack might begin on own front. By eight oclock they commenced firing all along our lines with their artillery, which we found afterwards to be only four pieces kept behind to deceive us & prevent us from moving up to the left. Between eight & nine heavy cannonading began on our left in the direction of Stone Bridge & soon afterwards very heavy rollings of musquetry & this continued without intermission save for brief intervals all day. We lay in our trenches quietly. Between eleven & twelve Col. Cash sent me with a good glass to a high hill in the rear of the Camp a mile to see if I report any thing of the Battle. I found there Beauregard, Bonham, & their Staff. The sight was magnificent. We could not see the troops but the smoke indicated the position of the batteries & the whole length of the line. I staid there half an hour, & though I could not make out anything myself, a member of the Staff told me that the enemy had turned our flank & that our friends were giving back. I gallopped back to Col. C. & as I arrived an aid came to order, Kershaw, Kemper & Cash to hurry forward to the battle. As I left the hill, Beauregard & Staff gallopped towards the battle – Bonham back to the right where another attack was expected. We immediately started under a terrible sun to the battlefield at the double quick: it was a terrible thing to run four miles at midday. As we started two regiments of cavalry darted on before us & our own drums beat: this informed the enemy exactly of our position & they directed their batteries exactly at us. The balls fell all around us: many within four or five feet of our line, wonderful it was that no one was hurt. Several I assure you fell so close to me that the rushing & hiss seemed to be felt against my cheek. Believe me – it aint a pleasant feeling. The double quick run carried us out of this. Within a mile or perhaps a mile & a half of the battle field we commenced meeting the wounded & the flying. One man wounded accompanied by four or five perfectly unhurt: we met more than a hundred such parties. All told the same tale: the enemy were cutting our friends to pieces. Hamptons legion cut all to pieces Hampton & Johnson & Bartow all killed – Sloans Regiment utterly cut – these statements were repeated us by nearly as many men as both Kershaws & Cash Regiments contained. Besides these cowards there were many along the way side wounded fatally & writhing in agony & uttering cries of agony. The effect of this upon the Regiment was not inspiriting. As we came upon the field – or in sight of it – artillery at once opened fire upon us & soon afterwards musquetry. Asa Evans, Genl. Evans aid told me next day that this was from our own friends & ordered by Beauregard. He mistook us for the enemy flanking & Asa says he said “we shall have to retire from the field.” They soon discovered who we were however – they knew the white Palmetto & an aid of Genl. Johnson dashed up to us to order us to the left of the point where we had first been ordered. And now let me pause from my story of what I saw to tell you the history of what had happened up to this time, as I learn it from others. Genl. George Evans was in command at Stone Bridge with fourteen hundred men, as he states them: Sloans Reg. Wheats Bat. & some companies: he was drawn up on a high hill near Stone Bridge, expecting the attempt to cross there: with only two pieces of artillery, one of which was disabled before the action began. Fifteen hundred men came up on the other side of the stream at the Bridge and commenced a heavy artillery fire: he forbade his piece to open at all but deployed a few skirmishers on the banks of the stream & waited. For more than an hour it went on thus: heavy artillery playing upon him but without effect, & his line silent & waiting: but from the high hill where he was posted, he finally saw emerging from the wood in his rear & on his flank columns with the sunlight on their bayonets a mile & half off: he knew his flank was turned: that the attack in front was but a faint to deceive him & that the battle was to begin in earnest now on a fair field & with no advantage of position on his side. With Maj. Wheat he rode forward to select a position, hastily did so, changed his whole position & the battle began. The enemy in this column were twenty thousand strong at the lowest calculation: fourteen hundred was Evans force, & so the real fight began. The enemy had crossed at an old ford four miles above unknown to Beauregard. If they had known Evans weakness then, I think they would have swept him from the field in an hour & won the field. But they were afraid of masked batteries & opening their artillery, their infantry kept well back. Evans sent to Gen. Cocke for reinforcements: he refused telling Evans to fall back upon him. To do this was to leave the Road to Manassas open & Evans refused & sent a more urgent message to Cocke, but meantime Bee – I know not how – came upon the field. Slowly, cautiously & but steadily the enemy drove us back: the field – the dead – the path of the enemy showed this the next day: more than a mile our side had fallen back. Of what occurred during all this time read the papers & judge for yourself. Each Regiment claims all the glory of holding the field: let history decide: judge for yourself. But I resume my own story now. Soon after two – perhaps a little before two we came upon the field, Kershaw & ourselves formed in one line & advanced obliquely to the left. All day the enemy had played this game flanking continually: whenever the front was engaged new troops spread out beyond, & attempted to take us in flank & in rear: twas thus their numbers told. Our march brought us into a thick wood: Kershaw kept on in old field & thus met the enemy before us & opened fire: he changed his front at once bringing his Regiment at once at right angles to us thus __| [Cash horizontal, Kershaw vertical] the enemy pursuing his game came down Kershaws line to the same wood where we were advancing intending to go round Kershaw but met us & we gave him along our whole line one deadly sheet of fire at at about fifty yards distance before which they broke & ran like the devil. They were the N.Y. Fire Zouaves & Kershaw himself who could see the effect of our fire better than we could ourselves says they fell before us, trees in a hurricane. We gave them another at a greater distance & a part of our line a third, but by this time they had found shelter in another wood & were safe from us. They formed in this wood & came out upon a hill about 350 or 400 yards from us with two Regts of Volunteers & opened upon us a deadly fire: their Minie Rifles & Muskets reached us perfectly: ours were too short of range & Cash at once ordered us to lie down. For fifteen minutes the balls fell around us thicker than hail. Every tree in that wood is struck with balls: many have five or ten & next day the ground was strewn with leaves cut from the trees. Why we did not lose there one or two hundred men is to me incomprehensible. To look at the trees where we lay even now you would hardly believe that we lay there so long & lost so few men. The fire became galling finally & Col. Cash undertook to move us further down to the left thus ___| [Cash horizontal, ? vertical, enemy hypotenuse] Cash desired to go down as I have dotted [left of diagram] but the woods were thick, his orders were misunderstood, our Regiment fell into confusion for a brief while: meantime Kemper, glorious Kemper, was playing upon them with as rapid & deadly fire as ever flashed – what music it was to us! & before we came out on the left their Regulars fled: the Zouaves & Regulars whipped, the volunteers concluded that they had no call to try it further & the day was won. Now in all this part of the field, Kirby Smith nor any one else had any part of the fight, but Kershaw, Cash & Kemper: that they overrated us in in number I am sure: that they fled under a panic, I am sure for the Regulars & Zouaves, outnumbered us then & if they had come boldly upon us we should have been very glad to see some help, but they fled. Jeff Davis came upon the field late that day and there gave us the credit of turning the day. He has changed his opinion since, they tell me. We were at once ordered to pursue & went onward. Kershaw, Cash, & Kemper. Col. Withers Va. Reg was on the road as we went on & was asked to go on with us: he said he was ordered to stop at Stone Bridge & damned if he went on & not a step did he go. But on we went & yet faster before us went five or ten times our number. Finally we came up with the enemy & glorious Kemper opened once more: they staid not to try muskets, but abandoned to us every gun, their waggons & fled in one inglorious rush for safety. Yes! McDowell was there covering the retreat & his prisoners say at the first fire of Kemper led the race although they utterly overwhelmed us in numbers & artillery. We did not know until the cavalry came in what a capture we had made: nearly thirty guns – among them that long ten foot rifled thirty two pounder, drawn by ten horses, & guns, ammunition, etc. We stayed upon the field guarding these things alone – even Kershaws Regt had left – until two oclock & within three miles of us five thousand troops fresh who had not been in the battle, besides the disomfitted hosts who had fled. My dear sir never did whiskey & champagne taste as sweet as the copious draughts of the enemys stores that night. I was sure they had had not time to poison them & I drank freely & joyously. But shall I tell you now of the battlefield? Of the dead hideous in every form of ghastly death: heads off – arms off – abdomen all protruding – every form of wound: low groans: sharp cries: shrieks for water & convulsive agonies as the soul took flight. It is useless to write. I know something of the power of words to paint & I tell you that a man must see all this to conceive it. One soon becomes callous. We were thirsty ourselves: a slight breakfast – a four miles run – the excitement of battle – the roar of artillery & burning thirst – all this hardens the heart & before we left the field our men were gathering Colts Revolvers & Sharps Rifles from dying & wounded men with utter indifference to their bitter cries. Yet we gave them water when we could get it. On an acre square I saw sixty five dead men – near Shermans battery – mostly Zouaves: how many times it was taken & retaken, Heaven knows, but when we came upon the field the Zouaves had it again, although it was not firing. Kershaw drove them from it & as they fell along his left intending to fall upon his flank they met us as I have told you already. I shall enclose you in another envelope Cashs Report, with his consent. Dont publish this, but he says you may give his report to the Southerner, not to publish but to complete a statement from it as from a witness. They may publish that. Do write me often. Tell me what you have heard at home about us all. If I ever live to see you, I will tell you many things I cannot write. But this I say – if it please God, to stop this war, I will unfeignedly thank him. It wasnt the battle, but the next day – in a heavy rain their wounded & our wounded – lying in their agony – without food or care – nobody to help – nothing to eat & drink – this filled my heart with terror. I heard men imploring the passers by to kill them to relieve their agony. I saw the parties who were out to bury discussing whether to bury a man before he was dead. He could not live & some proposed to bury him any how. Says a sergeant set down a minute & he will be dead & we wont have to come back! This is war!

Genl. Evans proposed to Beauregard (Evans told me himself) as soon as they left the field to take a Regiment, & a battery & by a short country road dash ahead post him himself in front while the whole army advanced in rear & cut them off. Beauregard said “No! our loss of life is great: I will not risk such soldiers as these.” The feeling was noble but it was a terrible mistake of judgment. If it had been done, not a man of that army would have escaped. Such an utter panic in an army is unknown in the history of two centuries. Our brigade could have driven every soldier of the Federal Army from our side of the Potomac.

Davis is not the man for the next President. Beauregard has implored for weeks & weeks most piteously more troops. He has told them that he was crippled for men & during this very time Davis has rejected Regt. after Regt. because they would not volunteer for the war & because he had not appointed the Field Officers. He has been appealed to overlook his objections – to take things as he could & he has let his temper overrule his judgment & risked all our lives. If they the enemy, I mean, had had a great general, our Regiments would not have brought a man away from Fairfax C. H. on our first retreat. Fifteen thousand men deployed in one hundred & fifty yards of our Regiment alone, & but for a wholesome fear of masked batteries, not one man of us would have ever seen home again.

Again, there has not been any provision made for the sick & wounded that is even decent. The offices of the Surgeons department are crammed with utter incapables. In the volunteers, this is bad enough but in the Regular service it is intolerable. I heard the day before the Battle an officer of intelligence say “Well, whoever is wounded seriously will die. There has not been an army in Christendom during this century, where provisions for the wounded was so entirely neglected.” This was a man of intelligence who knew of what he was speaking.

I might say many other things to you of inefficiency & incapacity: of drunkenness, in high places at critical periods: of blunder & ignorance that would disgust you. But I will not close discouragingly. Let me say this, that with all this our army will win our triumph. They our leaders may foolishly fling away many of our lives: our cause will triumph. The soldiers discriminate between the blunders & follies of our leaders & the cause itself, & by that they will stand. I hope some day to talk these things over with you: till then adieu.

Dont let my scribblings get into the papers. You may show them to any discreet friends you choose, but on no account let any word get to a newspaper. Beauregards orders are stringent & a violation would expose me to trouble & danger. Perhaps you had better not show them at all. My regards to Mr. Millin & your sons if they are with you. Present my respectful remembrances to Mrs. Charles & believe me very truly yours

Will S. Mullins

W.S. Mullins 6 Aug 1861 Report of the Battle of Manassas

Letter image

From South Caroliniana Library

A full annotated transcription can be found at the above site, including biographical information regarding the author and persons mentioned in the letter. The transcription was compared to the letter image prior to posting here – those serve as its basis. Per that transcription, this letter was addressed to Edgar Welles Charles of the Darlington District, South Carolina.

William Sidney Mullins at Ancestry

William Sidney Mullins at FindAGrave

E. B. C. Cash’s report, which mentions Mullins and the capture of Congressman Alfred Ely.





Pvt. Delos Payne, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

1 01 2018

The Gallant 27th — Letters from our Volunteers.

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Much praise is awarded the 27th Regiment of N. Y. State Volunteers for their heroic conduct on the field at Bull Run. While our citizens will feel a thrill of patriotic pride as they rehearse the noble deeds of all those fighting in their country’s cause, they will look with peculiar interest upon the doings of the particular regiment in which most of those who have left this vicinity have enrolled. The three Companies formed at Binghamton, and in which several residents of this and adjoining towns enlisted, are in the 27th regiment. This regiment was one of the last to leave Elmira for the seat of war, and they had scarcely formed camp at Washington before they were ordered to proceed with the grand army towards Manassas. They were the first in the field on the battle of Sunday, having marched 15 miles, (the last mile and a half in double-quick time.) They had no breakfast, and while weary and faint, were ordered under fire. They went gallantly into action, and performed wondrous deeds of valor, fighting constantly throughout the day, and being among the last to leave the field when the retreat took place. Their Colonel, Slocum, was wounded, and the whole regiment terribly cut up. Their fighting was harder and their loss greater than any other regiment except the 69th and the Fire Zouaves. The following are among the killed in this regiment: Norman S. Miller, (Chenango Forks;) Wesley Randall and Asa Parks, (Binghamton;) Frank Spencer, (Coventry;) Col. Slocum, and Lieut. Col. Chambers.

There may be other names familiar in this vicinity but we have learned of none. Sergt. A. G. Northrup, (formerly of this village,) reported missing, has turned up. He fell asleep from exhaustion, during the retreat, and was two days getting into camp.

There have been several letters received from the seat of war by the friends of our volunteers. We have been furnished with two, from which we make copious extracts. The first is from Delos Payne, of this village, a member of Company D, Capt. Rogers, 27th regiment, to his wife.

Washington, July 27, 1861

* * * I am well and safe after the great battle at Bull’s Run. The march and retreat has made my knee worse. [He injured his knee while on a visit home from Elmira – Ed.] We have not got a correct account of the killed and wounded. Men fell to the right and left of me. We drove two regiments into the woods, and they opened a masked battery on us. Our Colonel (Slocum) was shot in the thigh. He was not two feet from me. I carried him off the field. There are twelve killed and missing in our company. I have just heard that there are 94 killed in the regiment. There are about 150 who are not able to drill, from wounds, or sickness.

It was a horrible sight to see men with their legs shot off, their faces mangled, and wounded in all different ways. They shot very careless. I asked one man who lay down beside me, why he did not get up and use his gun, and before the words were out of my mouth he was shot dead, while I escaped. When I left the field I carried one fellow off on my back who was wounded in the knee. After that I got three canteens of water, and returned and gave it to those who were wounded. Their only call was for water. The balls whistled around my head all the time I was doing it. I did not mind it any more than if they were pop-guns. The fear was all gone. * * * When any one fell we were all faster than ever. I shall live to come home yet, all right. I shall not be able to do any more service until my knee gets well. We have not got our pay yet. When I do I shall send it all home. * * *

Yours,

DELOS PAYNE

The prediction that Payne would not shrink from performing his whole duty seems to be verified. The act of going back to the field alone, under the fire of the rebels, to give water to the wounded, is characteristic and highly commendable.

Chenango American, 8/1/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

Delos Payne at Fold3

Five Months in Rebeldom, or Notes from the Diary of a Bull Run Prisoner, at Richmond

History of the 27th Regiment N.Y. Vols