Kirkland’s Report

1 02 2008

kirklandgrave3.jpgFor more on Kirkland, see this earlier post.  Good stuff.





#87 – Col. William W. Kirkland

1 02 2008

 

Report of Col. W. W. Kirkland, Eleventh North Carolina Infantry

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX p 521

HDQRS. ELEVENTH REG’T NORTH CAROLINA VOLS.,

Mitchell’s Ford, July 23, 1861

GENERAL: I have the honor to report the following facts concerning the operations of the regiment under my command during the actions of the 18th and 21st:

On the 18th I was ordered to take up a position in rear of the howitzer battery to support it. Subsequently I was directed to proceed to the extreme left as its defense. Throwing up a slight breastwork, I directed my men to kneel down and await the approach of the enemy, but as the attack was confined exclusively to the right, we had no opportunity to engage. After the action I was directed to post the regiment in the trenches which formed the center of your brigade, and here remained, perfecting and erecting breastworks, until the morning of Sunday, the 21st, when word was brought that the enemy was advancing against our left in great force, and had drawn up a strong column of about ten thousand, composed of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, with which he menaced our center. You ordered me at this time to proceed to some point near the enemy and report his proceedings as they developed themselves. I took the road leading to Roberts’ house, and from that eminence perceived that a battery of light pieces had been put in position to the left of the road, about opposite the center of our brigade, and farther to the right a heavy piece of ordnance, which I supposed was a 24-pounder, had been arranged in battery. This column must have been the reserve. Soon both light and heavy pieces opened upon our right and center, and as you are aware, continued a heavy fire for ten hours. Many shot and shell passed over and into the trenches occupied by my regiment, but fortunately no man was touched.

At 3 p.m., by your order, we assisted in the pursuit of the enemy, who was flying before our victorious columns who had so gallantly and so bloodily fought them through ten long hours. I must tell you that the officers and men showed a coolness under fire and an eagerness to advance which was very gratifying. I call your special attention to Maj. J. M. Richardson and Adjutant James A. Walthall, who were unremitting in their efforts to instruct the men in duties of which they had but little knowledge, owing to the recency of our organization.

Regretting, general, that I cannot report that the opportunity offered us to meet the enemy at the point of the bayonet,

I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WM. W. KIRKLAND,

Eleventh Regiment North Carolina Volunteers, Commanding

Brigadier-General BONHAM,

Commanding First Brigade, Army of the Potomac





Kirkland’s Grave – Oh, The Things We Find

18 05 2007

 Well, I’m off to throw away my money at Pimlico.  Hopefully it won’t take an eventual mortal injury in the feature for me to break even this year.  I’ll have my computer with me while in Baltimore, but I doubt I’ll have internet access.  So this post will have to do until I get back on Sunday.  Sometimes we manage to hit a Civil War site on the ride home – last year it was Monocacy.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

I mentioned here that I learned an interesting tidbit on William Whedbee Kirkland as a result of my visit to Elmwood Cemetery in Shepherdstown a couple of weeks ago.  Since I have a little time before we hit the road, let’s get it out of the way.

kirkland.jpgAt First Bull Run, Kirkland was colonel of the 11th North Carolina Volunteers, part of Brig. Gen. Milledge Luke Bonham’s First Brigade of Beauregard’s Army of the Potomac.  This apparently simple information can be confusing, however, since the 11th NCV was later designated the 21st North Carolina Infantry.  There was a later change to the regimental numbers, as well as designations of units as either North Carolina Infantry (NCI) or North Carolina State Troops (NCST).  It’s confusing, but when this change happened the NCV units had to change numbers, and those who became NCI regiments did so by changing their NCV number by ten.  It’s similar to the difference between the numbering of Pennsylvania Reserve regiments and their eventual PA volunteer infantry numbers, which you can figure out by adding 29 to the reserve number.  Confused?  If so, you get it.  But if you’re looking for the biography of the 11th NCV in a reference work like Crute, you need to look at the 21st NCI.  That’s the case for all of the NCV units, 2nd through 15th, except for the 10th, which became the 1st Artillery. 

Now, give me a minute while I try to remember my name.

You may recall from this earlier article that the later General Kirkland was related by marriage to Lieut. Gen. William J. Hardee.  When Hardee’s son Willie was gravely wounded in the late war Battle of Bentonville, his father sent him to the Kirkland home in Hillsboro (now Hillsborough), outside of Raleigh, NC.  It was there that young Willie died, and it was in the Kirkland family’s churchyard that he was buried.

After the war, Kirkland worked in the “commission business” in Savannah, GA.  The famous Broadway star Odette Taylor was actually Kirkland’s daughter, Bess, and her father eventually moved to New York where he worked for the post office.  Bess married another actor, one R. D. MacLean, whose real name was R. D. Shepherd of, you guessed it, Shepherdstown, WV (the acting couple are buried in Hollywood, CA, where they had moved to work in silent motion pictures – she was in Buster Keaton’s The Saphead; he seems to have had more success).  Apparently the elder Kirklands were tight with the Shepherd family, as Mrs. Kirkland – who at some point divorced her husband – is buried in the Shepherd family lot.  Kirkland, due to infirmity, spent the last 15 years of his life in the Washington, DC Soldier’s Home.  When he died in 1915, he was buried in Elmwood in what Ezra Warner wrote in 1959 was an unmarked grave. 

To bring the thread full circle, Kirkland’s burial plot (below, from my trip) was restored in 1990 by the citizens of his hometown, Hillsborough, NC.  I am not sure if the Susan Wilkins next to whom Kirkland is buried is his ex-wife, second wife, or what.  But check out the inscription on Kirkland’s stone.  Click on the thumbnail for larger pictures. 

 kirklandgrave1.jpgkirklandgrave2.jpgkirklandgrave3.jpg

I’m getting a sort of rakish vibe from Kirkland.  I don’t know if it’s because of his divorce, his post-war wanderings, his Hollywood connections, or the fact that after he dropped out of West Point he became a U. S. Marine.  Regardless, I’m looking forward to doing his bio sketch.  Any info you readers can provide is appreciated. 





A. C., Co. H, 11th North Carolina Infantry, On the Campaign

2 09 2020

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac,
Manassa, July 31st, 1861.

Dear Spirit: – Since we left Danville, we have gone through some degrees of a soldier’s life. We were hurried from D. to Richmond, remained there two days, and were then ordered to Winchester, but arrived at Manassa the evening before the battle at Bull Run on Thursday the 18th. We were ordered to Bull Run in order to take part in the fight. The Regiment, numbering eleven hundred and sixty, had to sleep in one train of freight cats (Wednesday night) on hard benches and the floor – about forty or fifty in a car. I suppose it was necessary to harden us a little before taking us to the field of action. We were up bright and early next morning, and Col. Kirkland soon had us in line and marched us to Bull Run, about four miles from Manassa. We were sent up the creek about a mile to keep the yankees from coming over on our side. The enemy’s cannon commenced firing, the balls were whizzing over, but without effect. The Colonel told us to stoop down behind the fence; we were soon down upon our knees with our guns through the cracks of the fence. We were close to a wooded swamp which was in our front, and were commanded to keep a sharp lookout for the yankees, and if one made his appearance, to pull trigger on him. Sometimes the boys would hear something in the woods or see a horse pass by, and there was a general clattering along the line, springing their locks ready for a fire. Unfortunately, a young man belonging to the third South Carolina Regiment went across to hunt a horse and came in the way we were looking for the[…] in the thick woods and three or four of them fired on him, but as he was rather protected by the trees, only two shot took effect, and they passed through the fleshy part of his arm without breaking the bone. The enemy did not get close enough to us to fire upon them – the advanced part of the army whipped them in a few hours.

We were ordered late in the evening to march down the creek about a mile and get behind the batteries – the batteries were not completed, but the several Captains soon had spades and mattocks and put us to work. – We worked night and day until we threw up splendid embankments, and were well protected by the morning of the 21st, at which time the great battle commenced – a battle that will be long remembered by both sections of the American Continent. That beautiful Sabbath day (before its close) told to the yankees that they had intruded upon the Lord’s day and an inoffensive people, and perhaps by this time they have learned that the Southern boys will not be so easily subjugated as they at first anticipated. We were placed about the centre of the line; the fight, was on the left wing. There was a battery of heavy artillery placed in front of us, about two miles off; they fired on us nearly all day with heavy slugs and bombshells, but we were so well fortified that they could do us no harm. Late in the evening we were ordered to pursue the enemy, which we did in “double quick,” for about three miles; but the yankees got so far the start on us, and were so badly scared, that we never caught up with them.

Our Regiment is stationed at Bull Run yet. A few of them are sick but not seriously so. As a general thing we are a healthy set of boys and I hope we well all do our duty, and be ready at all times to stand up in defence of our country. I believe our field officers are a brave, patriotic and competent set of men, and only require a chance to prove themselves worthy of promotion. Fin looking Regiments are coming in nearly every day. – There is a large body of fine looking troops here now.

May the God of battles soon send the time when we may be able to proclaim to each other, and to our friends whom we have left behind, that victory is ours, and peace and prosperity once more prevail in our land.

Prayer is still kept up in the “Mountain Tiger Camp,” and we are glad to inform our friends that in point of morals we are not retrograding.

A. C.,
Of the Mountain Tigers,
11th Reg. N. C. Vols.

(Raleigh, NC) The Spirit of the Age, 8/10/1861

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Unknown Officer, 11th North Carolina Infantry, On the Campaign

30 08 2020

LETTERS
FROM OUR VOLUNTEERS.
—————

Bull’s Run, July 23, 1861.

Dear Father: –

I received your letter, with that of mother’s on last Sunday morning. I would have written as soon as I got back from Richmond, but have been so busy ever since, that I can’t possibly write as often as I would like.

We left Danville, for Richmond, the Saturday after we were there. I had a tolerably hard time at it too. I was officer of the baggage guard, and did not get a bit of sleep or rest from Friday morning till Sunday morning about one o’clock. We then staid in the old Fair Grounds at Richmond till Tuesday evening about sundown, when we took the train for Winchester. The first train under command of Lieut. Col. Leach and the Major, started about half past six, and the second about an hour afterwards. I stayed with the Colonel; he asked me to stay and go with him and some other officers in a passenger car, attached to the second train. We travelled pretty well till about 10 o’clock, then the car I was on stopped with a sudden jerk that nearly knocked us down. I started out and found the whole road lined with soldiers. At first I thought we were attacked, but our train had run into the train before us, and smashed to of the cars loaded with Capt. Connelly’s, Scott’s, and Gilmer’s Companies. We had some 7 or 8 hurt but not seriously. We had to stay here till after eight o’clock next morning, and reached Manassas about sundown the next day. When we arrived there we found the women and children from Fairfax Court House, passing by in crowds, running from the enemy. The camp was deserted with the exception of one New Orleans regiment left there to guard the baggage. We were to change cars here for Winchester, but Col. Kirkland concluded to offer our services to Gen. Beauregard, instead of going on to Johnston. Beauregard got back to the Junction about 9 o’clock, when he accepted us and promised to give us “a chance at them.” We were up all night preparing, giving out cartridge and instructing the men how to load, till 4 o’clock, when we formed in columns and commenced our march for Bull’s Run, a small stream about 4 miles from the Junction, where our forces had thrown up earth works the night before. We were first employed as skirmishers in a pine thicket on the left, for about an hour, when some of our scouts came in and reported the enemy about 40,000 strong, advancing directly on our centre. We were then called in and held as a reserve, on top of a hill about a mile from the ford. We were all resting after our march, when we heard the roll of the kettle drum calling the men unto the trenches. We were then ordered on to the extreme left. As we were marching through an old field about three miles from the enemy they opened a battery of rifled cannon on us, but no one was hurt, although several of the men got suddenly sick about that time. We went across the field about a quarter of a mile, double quick, until we came to the creek, when we took up our position on a long rail fence. It was not long before the firing grew warm on our right, and occasionally some one of out men would fire at a Yankee, but we were not sure of killing any. The musketry was very heavy for a while, but our men gave them a bayonet charge which settled them for a time. The artillery went at it then and fought for about an hour, when the enemy sent in a flag of truce and got permission to bury their dead. The loss of our men inn that fight was about 50 or 60 killed, wounded and missing; that of the enemy was 905 according to their own reports. We were ordered to shift to the centre which was considered the most dangerous position on the whole line. We slept on our arms all night without interuption. The next morning we all went to work, with all the spades, shovels, and picks we could find, and by night felt tolerably secure. About 8 o’clock the pickets commenced firing and retreating, and every man had to run to his post. We were called to arms about a dozen times that night, but were not attacked after all. Everything was quiet on Saturday. Our men were burying the dead Yankees by hundreds; after they had got permission to bury their dead they would not do it. We all slept well on Saturday night, but on Sunday morning, about half past 6 o’clock, they opened on our centre, where companies from Forsyth and Stokes were entrenched. The shells burst all around us without doing any injury to any of us. A regiment of Alabamians was stationed just behind us in the woods, and one of the balls from the rifled battery passed directly over our heads and killed one of those then wounded another. One passed within a foot of our flag staff which was planted on our breast-work; another struck our works, but we had made them so strong that it could not pass through. There was a very heavy column of the enemy directly in front of us all day, but did not advance close enough for us to fire into them. They kept up a continual fire of musketry on both our wings, but the principal attack was made on our left. Old Scott was there himself. The Yankees fought well but could not drive our men back. At about 4 o’clock we heard the men cheering on our left and Gen. Bonham with his staff came galloping up the line throwing up their hats and telling us that the Yankees were in full retreat. We no sooner heard it than our Colonel came dashing down the lines and ordered us in pursuit. We pitched out and formed a column, and pursued them about three miles, but they had the start of us too far for the 11th to overtake them. The Yankees left their baggage, gun wagons, and everything else in their retreat. The road was literally strewn with clothing, knapsacks, canteens and blankets and our cavalry were taking prisoners in every direction. Their loss was very heavy and it can not be less the 8,000, while ours, though large, was comparatively small.

I was at the Junction yesterday and saw about six hundred prisoners on their way to Richmond. Capt. Wharton’s company is out on picket guard and have just sent in two Yankees. – Corporal Hunter, the same who clerked for Mr. E. Belo, commanded the guard that brought them in.

We took all the enemy’s artillery and about all their baggage wagons and horses. They brought in 108 horses yesterday.

I guess we are the dirtiest set you ever saw in your life. I have not changed my clothes since I left Richmond, on week ago to-day. We have to sleep in the trenches with only a blanket on a board, if we can get it, if not, on the naked ground. It has rained three times since we have been here and you may know how we look. A well digger is not sight to what we are. I must close now, as we will have to march to Centreville this afternoon; it is about 5 or 6 miles from here, and the mud is about a foot deep.

P. S. – We do not march till tomorrow.

(Winston-Salem, NC) The People’s Press, 8/2/1861

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“Justice,” 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

23 08 2020

[For the State Journal.]

Manassas Junction, Aug. 3, 1861.

Editors of the State Journal, Sirs: – Your attention has no doubt been called to a publication in the Standard, purporting to be an account of all that was done by the Sixth Regiment of North-Carolina State Troops on the memorable 21st ult. That statement does certainly far more than justice to one individual, and, by inference at least, great injustice to others. I do not pretend to reflect on Mr. Holden for publishing, as true, whatever facts were communicated to him from what he regarded as a reliable source; but the most charitable supposition in camp is, that the Standard’s informant, whether he be one of those mentioned in the article or not, was not an eye-witness of the whole affair.

In the article referred to, only the companies of Capt. Freeland and Capt. York are mentioned, and the inference is very palpable, that they alone bore the brunt of the battle. Now, if we are to judge from the list of killed and wounded, (which I enclose in full for publication,) and I know no better criterion by which to judge, it will be seen that, while Capt. Freeland’s company suffered as much, perhaps, as any, Capt. York’s loss in killed and wounded is less than that of any company actively participating in the fight.

The following summary will sustain me in what I have stated:

Co. A. Capt. Kirkland.
Killed, 2
Severely wounded, 2
Slightly wounded, 3
Missing 1
Total 7
Co. B. Lieut. Parish.
Killed, 1
Mortally wounded, [1]
Severely wounded, 2
Slightly wounded, 3
Total 7
Co. C. Capt. Freeland.
Killed, 2
Mortally wounded, 1
Severely wounded 10
Slightly wounded, 2
Total 15
Co. E. Capt. Avery.
Mortally wounded, 1
Severely wounded 4
Slightly wounded 7
Total 12
Co. F. Lieut. Carter.
Killed, 2
Mortally wounded, 1
Severely wounded, 3
Slightly wounded, 1
Total 7
Co. G. Capt. Craig.
Killed, 7
Severely wounded, 2
Slightly wounded, 14
Total, 23
Co. I. Capt. York.
Mortally wounded, 3
Severely wounded, 1
Slightly wounded, 1
Total 5

As unofficial reports have reached the people of N. C. through the press, it is due to the regiment and the friends of the regiment that a fair, full and impartial account of its connection with the fight should be published to the people of our state.

Omitting all the details of our march thither, it is sufficient to say, we reached the Junction soon after daylight on the 21st, and in a half hour were marched off at a pace between quick and double-quick toward Lewis’ house, distant some four miles. When within a mile of the battle field we halted in obedience to orders and the men were drilled an hour in the manual.

The regiment was then led forward to the brow of the hill in front of Lewis’ house for the purpose, it was said, of supporting a battery about to open fire from that point, but, for some reason, the battery was removed, and our regiment led to the left, and formed in line along a road on the margin of the woods.

While resting in that position, we were first enabled to realize that a hard-fought contest was going on before us. The wounded were every moment passing our line with the report that the enemy were advancing, and that the shell from Sherman’s battery were playing sad havoc with our soldiers. Shell whizzing over our line occasionally gave to their statement at least an air of plausibility, one of them wounding Col. Fisher’s horse, and another passing through the centre of Capt. Craig’s company. After a little pause, however, Col. Fisher commanded us to file to the left, and, conducted by a mountain officer, led us through a dense wood for some distance, and then filed us to the right, along a little ravine, with thick woods on our left and an old field on the right. Though concealed from our view by an undergrowth, the battery was throwing shell constantly over us as we advanced, and it was only on rounding a corner of the woods that we came in full view of it, planted on the top of the hill in an old field, and not more than sixty yards from us. It was supported by a body of Marines and Ellsworth’s red-legged Zouaves.

Col. Fisher then filed to the left around the corner of the woods, and the following companies in the order of the names – Capt. Freeland’s, Capt. York’s, Lieut. Carter’s, Capt. Avery’s, Capt. Craig’s, Lieut. Parish’s and Capt. Kirkland’s – came into line, faced to the right and opened fire on the enemy. Our men then advanced, firing at will, until, I suppose, they had fired two rounds or more, and many were then within thirty yards of the battery. All this time a oration of our men were firing at a body of men on our left in a little slip of woods, but at the time I speak of, a mounted officer rode in among our men, with no little danger to himself, and ordered us to cease firing. Our Colonel repeated the command, and when, through the united efforts of our Company officers, the firing was stopped, it was stated that we were firing into our friends on the left, and we immediately concluded that it was the 4th Alabama Regiment which, it was previously understood, would support us on that side.

When the smoke had cleared away we perceived that the horses attached to the battery were all killed and many of the soldiers manning and supporting the guns had fallen while many others had retreated, though the stars and stripes still floated over the battery, and some Federal troops were ranged around.

At this juncture, it was that, after a pause, Capt. Avery took the responsibility of ordering a charge, and it being repeated along the line, more than a hundred of our men did charge, and, the enemy retreating in hot haste, took possession of the battery. When we reached the top of the hill, many of the Zouaves could be seen running a distance of a hundred yards beyond, while some had squatted behind a fence in a lane about fifty yards beyond the battery. Upon these latter our men opened fire from points beyond and around the battery.

About this time a fire was opened upon us from the strip of woods on our left, and many of our number, among them the gallant young Mangum, fell. Our hands were tied. We had been told that they were friends, and to corroborate it, they had given us the sign adopted to distinguish friends that day, and some said had raised the Confederate flag. The solders of the 4th Alabama Regiment deny the charge, but with the facts before them, it is submitted to the public to pass judgment. Situated as we were, receiving a fire and unable to return it, our officers advised a retreat and we did give way.

Upon the conduct of our gallant Colonel, suitable encomiums will be passed by persons much more competent to perform the task than myself. I will content myself with giving a plain statement of facts.

He had been from the first in front of his regiment, and when, after the command to cease firing, a portion of his men were giving back fire for a moment, he came down the hill, called upon them to rally, and as they charged, said to an officer, ”you are right, rally your men, it will never do to give it up.” These were his last words. In a moment he swept on with the men and past them, and soon after it is supposed, fell about thirty yards beyond the battery and to the left of it. No one saw him fall, for no one could see him from behind, even though within a few paces of him. He had gone through a little cluster of pine bushes and at the moment he emerged from the other side fell dead. Besides, Col. Fisher had dismounted, and there was nothing to attract attention to his movement. In justice to those companies in the rear, that did not actively engage in the fight, it must be said that some were in the most trying of situations, receiving a galling fire and unable to return it, especially Capt. Tate’s, which was next in front. Maj. Pickett, who was in command of Sherman’s battery on the 21st, but now a wounded prisoner here, states, that when our regiment was coming up the ravine, he started to depress his pieces and rake our line; but we were too quick for him and our first fire killed all his horses and some of his gunners. With this statement before them, we call upon the citizens of North Carolina to aid us in establishing the fact, that we took Sherman’s battery. I may also state, that up to the time we attacked the battery, the enemy’s line in that direction had been steadily advancing, and our Generals were forming a new line some distance in the rear to fall back upon. When the battery was silenced, however, they instantly gave the command ”forward.” After we had retreated about a hundred and fifty yards to an old field, portions of Capt. Freeland’s, Lieut. Carter’s, Capt. Avery’s, Capt. Craig’s, Lieut. Parish’s and Capt. Kirkland’s companies rallied with all their officers, who were not disabled, and Col. Lightfoot, who had been last to leave the field despite a wound in the leg, then bleeding freely, took command, having the assistance of Maj. Webb and Adjutant Lowrie. Col. L. then reported to Gen. Cock for orders and was commanded to support the flank movement, which he did, moving with the left of our line till the final stampede of the enemy that evening. His command, being attached that night to the Va. 7th, slept on the line and returned to the Junction to rejoin their comrades Monday afternoon. This, Messrs. Editors, is a true statement of al that was done by the 6th Regiment, on the 21st.

I must not be understood to question the truth of any accounts of the heroic adventures or miraculous, hair-breadth escapes of any individual, which may have reached the public. Those feats were performed and those scenes enacted, where there could be no witness, but that one appealed to in the courts of justice. I, of course, cannot testify with regard to them.

JUSTICE.

(Raleigh, NC) Semi-Weekly State Journal, 8/17/1861

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Capt. James William Wilson, Co. F, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On His Company In the Battle

13 08 2020

For the Hillsborough Recorder.

Melville, Aug. 1st.

Mr. Hearte – Dear Sir: – I had intended writing you a lengthy account of the fight at Manassas, but was prevented by sickness from so doing. Two days previous to the fight I was sent off by Col. Fisher as Quarter-master, and for that reason did not get into the engagement until about 2 o’clock. As soon as I get better I will try to give you some items which will be of interest to your readers.

In the Standard I notice a letter from Capt. York, which does not give justice to the Company from the Hawfields, which I have the pleasure to command, and I write to-day to ask you in your next editorial to make a statement for them. In addition to the two companies that charged upon Sherman’s battery, under their brave commanders, Capts. Avery and Kirkland, the writer neglects to add the one from Haw Fields. This Company fought bravely through the entire battle, was in the charge upon the battery, and even went beyond it, and at night as large o proportion as from any other Company followed in the pursuit. I can say this without any egotism, as the company was under the command of my most efficient first Lieut. Carter. In this Company James P. Stewart and James Simpson (privates) were killed; Paisley White severely wounded; Elbridge Younger flesh wound in the arm; Samuel Younger wounded in the foot; Jo. Thompson (son of Samuel) marked in the ear. Many others received slight marks, but not of sufficient importance to notice.

The dispute as to whom belongs the credit of taking Sherman’s battery, in my opinion, arises from our not being able fully to identify which was really his battery. That we charged upon and took a battery there is not a shadow of doubt, but whether it was Sherman’s, or a part of it, or some other battery, my impression is no one can say positively, and so many having been taken the confusion may have thus arisen.

I am yet very feeble, but hope soon to be able to return to my post. By making some notice of what I have written you will, I know, gratify your many readers in the Hawfields.

Yours, very truly

James W. Wilson

Hillsborough (NC) Recorder, 8/7/1861

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[The following appeared in the (Raleigh, NC) Semi-Weekly Standard on 8/10/1861, along with an excerpt of the above:

We are satisfied that Capt. York did not intend to do the slightest injustice to the Hawfields company. He had left a blank in his letter, hoping no doubt before he closed his letter, to obtain the names of the other companies that charged upon the battery. In publishing the letter we closed up this blank.

Capt. Wilson had returned home on leave, on account of serious indisposition – hemorrhage of the lungs. We hope to hear of his restoration to health. He is every way worthy of the men under his command, who bore so gallant a part in the great battle with laid permanently the foundations of Southern independence.]

James William Wilson at Ancestry 

James William Wilson at Fold3 

James William Wilson at FindAGrave 





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

27 08 2015

The Battle of Manassas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richmond Examiner, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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

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

R. W. York at Ancestry.com 





Captain Richard Watt York (3), Co. I, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the Capture of “Sherman’s Battery”*

14 08 2015

Who Took Sherman’s Battery? – A letter to the Raleigh Standard, from Capt. York, answers this question fully: –

“Several regiments claim the honor of silencing and taking this battery. iIt was taken by the 6th Infantry N. C. State Troops.i The regiment was led up within 40 yards of it, and their fire silenced it, and Col. Lightfoot, Maj. Webb, Capts. Kirkland, Avery, and Lieuts. Avery and Mangum, marched right up to it with their men, and passed beyond it, and received a galling fire from the left, when they were ordered to cease firing and fall back. Maj. Webb was resting on one of the pieces, facing the fire, and our men retreated in good order, all the while delivering their fire.” Around Sherman’s battery where our Regiment fired, every horse and cannoneer was killed, and lay in one indiscriminate heap. All over the battle field were strewed the dead and dying. Some had placed their arms under their heads as they went to their last sleep. Others folded their arms across their breasts, some with features distorted and fists clenched as they wrestled in the agonies of death; others wore the calm, placid smile which should grace the face of a soldier dying in a glorious cause. In the little clump of cedars, the wounded had crawled and died, and lay there in ghastly heaps.**

“That portion of the Regiment rallied by the gallant Lightfoot and Webb, pitched into the hottest of the fight, and joined in the final charge, when the enemy were put to a precipitate flight, and joined in the pursuit for several miles. No more gallant spirits strode over that field, than Lt. Col. Lightfoot and Maj. Webb. The remainder of the regiment, under different officers, fell in with other regiments and fought to the last. No regiment behaved with more bravery and gallantry than the North Carolina 6th Infantry, on that memorable field. Led up into the hottest of the fight, within a few yards of a battery that was raking our army, they delivered their fire with the deadliest precision.”

(Fayetteville, North) Carolina Observer, 8/6/1861.

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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

**The passage between those marked with quotation marks appears to have been written by the editors.

See a more complete version of this letter published in the Richmond Examiner here.

R. W. York at Ancestry.com 





Bull Runnings Elsewhere

6 03 2010

Facebook friend Garry Adelman alerted me to this site for the Averasboro (NC) Battlefield and Museum, which features a snippet from this article I wrote on the death of Willie Hardee at the Battle of Bentonville.  I’m flattered they used my article, but wish they had linked to it so interested folks could read the whole thing.  In addition, I’ve written articles on Hardee in-law William Kirkland and on the town in which Willie is interred, Hillsborough, NC.  Check them out.

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