#19 – Brig. Gen. Robert C. Schenck

5 03 2008

 

Report of Brig. Gen. Robert C. Schenck, U.S. Army, Commanding Second Brigade, First Division

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 357-361

2D BRIG., 1st DIV., DEP’T NORTHEASTERN VIRGINIA,

July 23, 1861

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit this report of the movements and service of my brigade in the battle of Bull Run, on the Gainesville road, on the 21st instant:

Leaving my camp, one mile south of Centreville, at 2.30 a.m. of that day, I marched at the head of your division, as ordered, with my command in column, in the following order: The First Regiment of Ohio Volunteers, Colonel McCook; the Second Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Mason; the Second New York State Militia, Colonel Tompkins, and Captain Carlisle’s battery of light artillery, six brass guns. To Captain Carlisle’s command was also attached the large Parrott gun (30-pounder), under direction of Lieutenant Hains, of the Artillery Corps.

Proceeding slowly and carefully, preceded by five companies of skirmishers of the First and Second Ohio, which I threw out on either side of the road, we approached the bridge over Bull Run, beyond which the rebels were understood to be posted and intrenched, and to within a distance, perhaps, of three-fourths of a mile of their batteries on the other side of the stream. In obedience to your command, on first discovery of the presence of the enemy’s infantry forming into line on the hill-side beyond the Run, I deployed my three regiments of infantry to the left of the road, and formed them in line of battle in front of his right. Thus my command was constituted–the left wing of our division, Colonel Sherman’s brigade, coming up and taking position to the right of the road.

After the fire had been opened by discharge of the large Parrott gun from the center in the direction of the enemy’s work, I moved my extended line gradually forward at intervals, taking advantage of the ground, until I had my force sheltered partly in a hollow, covered by a ridge and wood in front, and partly by the edge of the timber lying between us and the run. Here we lay, in pursuance of your orders, for, perhaps, two and a half or three hours, with no evidence of our nearness to the enemy except the occasional firing of musketry by our skirmishers in the wood in front, answered by the muskets or rifles of the enemy, to whom our presence and position were thus indicated, with a view to distract his attention-from the approach of Colonel Hunter’s force from above and in his rear. At this time I received your notice and order announcing that Hunter was heard from, that he had crossed, and was coming down about two miles above us, and directing that if I saw any signs of a stampede of the enemy in front I should make a dash with the two Ohio regiments, keeping the New York regiment in reserve. For this movement I immediately formed and prepared. Soon after, and when, by the firing of artillery and musketry in front at the right, it appeared that the rebels were actively engaged in their position by our forces on the other side of the stream, I received your order to extend my line still farther to the left, sending forward Colonel McCook’s regiment to feel the battery of the enemy, which was ascertained to be on the hill covering the ford, half a mile below the bridge, and supporting him with my two other regiments. This was immediately done. Colonel McCook advanced in that direction along the road, which we found to be a narrow track through a pine wood, thick and close with undergrowth, and flanked on either side by ambuscades of brush-work, which were now, however, abandoned. Reaching the head of this narrow road where it opened upon the stream, Colonel McCook found the battery to be a strong earthwork immediately opposite, mounted with at least four heavy guns, and commanding the outlet from the wood. An open space of hollow ground lay between, with a corn-field to the left, the direct distance across to the enemy’s battery being about three hundred and fifty yards. Behind this battery, and supporting it, were discovered some four regiments of the rebel troops, while rifle-pits were seen directly in front of it. The First Regiment was then deployed to the left in the edge of the woods and into the corn-field, one company (Captain Kell’s) being thrown forward towards the run up to within perhaps twenty yards of the battery.

While this was done I advanced the Second Ohio, followed by the Second New York, toward the head of the road, in supporting distance from the First Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Mason’s regiment filing also to the left. Receiving Colonel McCook’s report of the battery, and that it would be impossible to turn it with any force we had, I immediately dispatched a message to the center to bring up some pieces of artillery, to engage the enemy from the head of the road. In the mean time the enemy, discovering our presence and position in the woods, and evidently having the exact range of the road we were occupying, opened on us with a heavy fire of shells and round and grape shot. To avoid the effect of this as much as possible, I ordered the men to fall back into the woods on each side of the road, and was presently re-enforced by two guns of Ayres’ battery, under Lieutenant Ransom, which passed to the head of the road. A brisk cannonading was then opened, but a very unequal one, on account of the superior force and metal of the enemy. While this continued, I left my horse and passed through the woods, and remained some time by our guns, to be satisfied whether we were making any impression on the enemy’s work. I soon found that it was not thus to be carried, and such also was the opinion of the officer in charge of the guns. Retiring, I found that the most of my two regiments in the rear had fallen back out of range of the hot and constant fire of the enemy’s cannon, against which they had nothing to oppose. The suffering from this fire was principally with the Second New York, as they were in the line where most of the shell and shots fell that passed over the heads of the Second Ohio.

Taking with me two companies of the Second Ohio, which were yet in the woods maintaining their position, I returned to cover, and brought away Ransom’s guns. It was just at this place and point of time that you visited yourself the position we were leaving. I must not omit to speak with commendation of the admirable manner in which these guns of ours were handled and served by the officers and men having them in charge; and I may notice the fact also that, as we were withdrawing from this point, we saw another heavy train of the enemy’s guns arrive and move up the stream on the other side of their battery with which we had been engaged along what we supposed to be the road from Manassas towards where the battle was raging with our troops on the right.

My three regiments being all called in, then returned and rested in good order at the center of the front, near the turnpike. Here I was informed by Colonel McCook that you had crossed the run above with other portions of our division, and left with him an order for me to remain with my infantry in that position supporting Carlisle’s battery, which was posted close to the road on the right. This was about 1 o’clock p.m. Captain Carlisle, while we thus rested, was playing with much apparent effect upon the enemy’s works across the run with his two rifled pieces, as was also Lieutenant Hains with the large Parrott gun. Soon after, having successive and cheering reports, confirmed by what we could observe, of the success of our Army on the other side of the run, I discovered that bodies of the enemy were in motion, probably retreating to their right. To scatter these and hasten their flight I ordered into the road toward the bridge the two rifled guns, and had several rounds fired, with manifest severe effect. This, however, drew from the enemy’s batteries again a warm and quick fire of shell and with rifled cannon on our position in the road, which continued afterwards and with little intermission, with loss of some lives again in my New York regiment, until the close of the fight.

While this was going on, Captain Alexander, of the Engineer Corps, brought up the company of pioneers and axmen, which, with its officers and sixty men, had been entirely detailed from the regiments of my brigade, to open a communication over the bridge and through the heavy abatis which obstructed the passage of troops on our front beyond the run. To support him while thus engaged, I brought and placed on the road towards the bridge McCook’s and Tompkins’ regiments, detailing also and sending forward to the bridge a company of the Second New Yorkers, to cover the rear while cutting through the enemy’s abatis. A second company from Lieutenant-Colonel Mason’s command was also brought forward with axes afterwards, to aid in clearing the obstructions, and thus in a short time Captain Alexander succeeded in opening a passage.

Captain Carlisle’s battery was now posted on the hill-side in the open field to the left of the road toward the bridge. Very soon after, some reverse of fortune appearing to have taken place with our troops on the other side, who were falling back up the run, it was discovered and reported to me that a large body of the enemy had passed over the stream below the bridge, and were advancing through a wood in the low grounds at our left, with an evident purpose to flank us. To intercept this movement, I ordered forward into the road still lower down two of Carlisle’s brass howitzers, a few rounds from which, quickly served, drove the rebels from the wood and back to the other side of the stream. It was not long after this that the unpleasant intelligence came of our Army being in retreat from the front across the ford above, and the order was given to fall back on Centreville. The retreat of my brigade, being now in the rear of our division, was conducted in the reverse order of our march in the morning, the Second New York moving first, and being followed by the Second Ohio and First Ohio, the two latter regiments preserving their lines in good degree, rallying together and arriving at Centreville with closed ranks, and sharing comparatively little in the panic which characterized so painfully that retreat, and which seemed to me to be occasioned more by the fears of frightened teamsters, and of hurrying and excited civilians (who ought never to have been there), than even by the needless disorder and want of discipline of straggling soldiers.

Near the house which was occupied as a hospital for the wounded, about a mile from the battle-ground, a dashing charge was made upon the retreating column by a body of secession cavalry, which was gallantly repelled, and principally by two companies of the Second Ohio, with loss on both sides. Here also, in this attack, occurred some of the casualties to the Second New York Regiment. From this point to Centreville a portion of the First Ohio was detailed, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Parrott, and acted efficiently as a rear guard, covering the retreat.

Arrived at Centreville, I halted the two Ohio regiments on the hill, and proceeded to call on General McDowell, whom I found engaged in forming the reserve of the Army and other troops in line of battle to meet an expected attack that night of the enemy at that point. I offered him our services, premising, however, that unfed and weary troops, who had been seventeen hours on the march and battle-field, might not be very effective, unless it were to be posted as a reserve in case of later emergency. General McDowell directed me to take them to the foot of the hill, there to stop and encamp. This I did, establishing the two regiments together in the wood to the west of the turnpike. After resting here about two hours, I was notified that your division, with the rest of the forces under the general commanding, were leaving Centreville, and received your order to fall back on Washington. I took the route by Fairfax Court-House, and thence across to Vienna, arriving at the latter place at 3.30 a.m. of the 22d, and there resting the troops for two hours in an open field. During the march we did what was possible to cover the rear of the scattered column then on the road.

Two miles, or less, this side of Vienna, Colonel McCook, with the main body of his regiment, turned upon the road leading to the Chain Bridge over the Potomac, thinking it might be a better way, and at the same time afford by the presence of a large and organized body protection to any stragglers that might have taken that route. Lieutenant-Colonel Mason, with the Second Ohio, marched in by the way of Falls Church and Camp Upton.

The return of the Ohio regiments to Washington was made necessary by the fact that, their term of service having expired, they are at once to be sent home to be mustered out of service.

Not having been able to obtain yet complete or satisfactory returns of all the casualties in the battle in the different corps of my brigade, I shall reserve the list of them for a separate report, which I will furnish as soon as practicable.

I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

ROBT. C. SCHENCK,

Brigadier-General

Brigadier-General TYLER,

Commanding First Division





Notes on “Early Morning of War” – Part 4

14 05 2017

51gm8atoyol-_sx329_bo1204203200_To recap, here’s how this works: as I read Edward Longacre’s study of the First Battle of Bull Run, The Early Morning of War, I put little Post-Its where I saw something with which I agreed or disagreed, or which I didn’t know, or which I did know and was really glad to see; essentially, anything that made me say “hmm…” So I’ll go through the book and cover in these updates where I put the Post-It and why. Some of these will be nit-picky for sure. Some of them will be issues that can’t have a right or wrong position. Some of them are, I think, cut and dry. So, here we go:

Chapter 4: Green and Green Alike (Don’t get me started on this quote – some view it as an indication of Lincoln’s raw, common sense. I see it as evidence of his poor grasp of military realities – if, in fact, he said it.)

P. 91 – The first sentence of this chapter is one of my great pet peeves: “On the day Irvin McDowell assumed command of the Army of Northeastern Virginia…”

The footnote for this paragraph cites Starr’s Bohemian Brigade and Warner’s Generals in Blue. Neither of these are primary sources (nothing wrong with that), and neither of them discuss the origin of the name Army of Northeastern Virginia (this is the first time the name is used in this book.) Why does this note not cite some order creating the army, or some report referring to it for the fist time? Because, as far as I’ve been able to determine, there never was any organization on the books called The Army of Northeastern Virginia. The moniker was only applied post-battle, and post formation of The (Federal) Army of the Potomac. Why is this important? What difference does it make? Maybe none. But it bugs the heck out of me when I see it. OK, enough on that, let’s move on.

Pp. 93-94 – The author notes that McDowell was hampered not only by “inadequate communications” south of the Potomac, but also faced a shortage of wagons to carry rations for his army when on the march. He had to deal with a “lack of cooperation from superiors and colleagues alike,” and that McDowell would later attribute this to Winfield Scott’s dissatisfaction with his elevation to command of the army in the field. General J. K. F. Mansfield was an instrument in Scott’s obstruction of McDowell’s efforts.

P. 101 – In the same vein, McDowell later claimed that he “had no opportunity to test my machinery…” That is, he couldn’t drill his new regiments in battlefield, brigade sized evolutions. When he did exercise a group of eight regiments together, Scott accused him of “trying to make some show.” The author points out that failure to drill regiments as brigades and divisions resulted in the inability to use them as such in practice. This gives some insight into the time-honored opinion that the “piece-meal” insertion of units into the battle was key to Union defeat.

P. 103 – The author raises a good question: Why was Daniel Tyler, who held no volunteer or regular army rank, and who had been out of the army for almost 30 years, given command of the largest division in McDowell’s army? Other than a generally favorable remark from W. T. Sherman (“has a fair reputation”), a good reason isn’t offered. The author notes and provides evidence that the men in the ranks were left unimpressed by Edith Carow (Mrs. Theodore) Roosevelt’s grandfather. [As a side note, I found some evidence in Alan Gaff’s If This is War that, despite having personally drilled the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteers of his division at least once, the men were less than familiar with Tyler, as some of them believed he attempted to rally the men on Henry House Hill, when he was nowhere in the vicinity. I’m guessing they confused him with another white-haired officer, Samuel Heintzelman.]

P. 108 – The author notes that the June 1 raid on Fairfax Court House by Lt. Charles H. Tompkins, and his “wildly inflated estimate of the troops” there “inhibited McDowell from making further reconnaissances.” He also states that “some historians” claim this also resulted in a postponement on the eventual movement on Manassas and allowed more time for Beauregard to strengthen the defenses there. [Delays leading to defeat, and separately to plan failure, will be a recurring theme.]

PP. 108-112 – On June 3, Scott directed McDowell to give an estimate of the number of troops he would need to make a move on the Bull Run Line (and maybe Manassas Gap), in conjunction with Patterson’s movement against Harper’s Ferry. McDowell’s was to be a supporting role. McDowell returned a number that was very low, a total of 17,000 men including a 5,000 man reserve. McDowell felt this would perhaps compel Beauregard to fall back on Richmond. Even when credible reports established that Beauregard had 20,000 on the line, McDowell still thought the move (and men), which would bypass Fairfax Court House, could succeed via a move toward Vienna. [The author does not explore this line of thought, but here we see an indication that McDowell is thinking along the lines of Scott’s campaign in Mexico, a series of turning movements by smaller forces, in the face of which the enemy would withdraw.]

As a test, McDowell ordered a foray to Vienna. The misfortune that befell Brig. Gen. Schenck at that place seemed “to have infected his men with a deep-seated fear of ‘masked batteries,’ one that politicians and newspaper editors would play up.” [All of which may be true, but I have yet to find any creditable evidence that this in any way impacted the orders to and dispositions of McDowell’s force when it eventually moved out. There are more practical reasons for those than some “fear” of masked batteries, a theme that runs through many chronicles of the campaign.]

P. 112 – The author notes that as of June 24, McDowell had access to fewer than 14,000 troops in his department [a much better term to use than a formal army name, by the way], but that he remained confident that if he could properly train, organize, and motivate all the men he would receive over the next few weeks they could defeat the rebels “if they needed to fight them at all. He [McDowell] continued to believe that a well-mounted advance might persuade” the rebels to fall back to better defenses nearer the Rappahannock River. [And here it is: I don’t think McDowell ever stopped believing that.]

P. 113 – By late June, those in power were getting anxious for a move. McDowell would say later that whenever he mentioned the obstacles he was facing, he received the same response regarding the relative “green-ness” of his men and those of the enemy [it’s tough sometimes to nail down just who first flung this classic, but misguided, comeback McDowell’s way – I’ve seen it attributed to both Scott and Lincoln]. The author correctly points out that it was the “government’s” lack of patience that was pressuring for a move, not that of “the people” or “the press.” [Of course, that buck stops with POTUS.] And so on June 21, Scott directed McDowell to present a “finished plan to ‘sweep the enemy from Leesburg to Alexandria’ in cooperation with a column from Patterson’s army.”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3





Col. W. T. Sherman, to His Wife, On Preparations to March (1)

16 07 2014

Rosslyn, opposite Georgetown.

July 15, 1861.

Dearest Ellen,

Charles Sherman came over yesterday & spent most of the day with me. He brought your two letters of the 11th and I was very glad to hear you were so well and that the little baby was also flourishing. We certainly have a heavy charge in these Six children, and I know not what is in store for them. All I can now do is to fulfil the office to which I am appointed leaving events to develop as they may. After all Congress is not disposed to increase the Regular Army as the President supposed. The ten new Regiments are only for the war, and will be mustered out, six months after the close of hostilities, but who know when hostilities are to cease? I won’t bother myself on this point but leave things to their natural development.

I now have my brigade ready for the March – Mine is the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division[.] Brig. Gen Tyler commands the Division composed of four Brigades – Keyes’s (you remember him in California) Schenck – Sherman and Richardson – In my brigade are-the New York 69, Irish, 1,000 strong – the 79 Scots, 900 strong – Quinbys 700 strong, and Wisconsin and Col. Peck 900 strong, and the Battery of Capt. Ayres – used to be Shemans battery 112 men – 110 horses and six Guns – We move without baggage – I have Lt. Piper adjt. – McQueston & Bagley aids – two mounted orderlies and a negro servant John Hill.

4 columns move out against the forces of Beauregard – posted from Fairfax C. H. to Manassas Junction – supposed to be from 30, to 45,000 men – one under Col. Miles starts from below Alexandria – one Col. Heintzelman from Alexandria – one Col. Hunter from Long Bridge – and ones from this point Gen. Tyler – This latter is a West Point Graduate, at present Brig. Genl. from Connecticut. I don’t know him very well, but he has a fair reputation – McDowell commands the whole – say 40,000 men – The purpose is to drive Beauregard beyond Manassas – break his connection with Richmond, and then to await further movements by Gen. Patterson and McClellan – I know our plans, but could not explain them to you without maps – It may not produce results but the purpose is to fight no matter the result. We have pretty fair knowledge of the present distribution of Beauregards forces, but he has a Railroad to Richmond from which point he may get reinforcements, and unless Patterson presses Johnston, he too may send forces across from Winchester. Manassas Junction in our possession, Richmond is cut off from the Valley above Staunton. But with these Grand strategic movements I will try to leave that to the heads, and confine my attention to the mere handling of my Brigade[.]

Keyes Brigade is about 5 miles out – the Ohio 4 miles – mine here, Richardson is on the other side – on the first notice we simply close up – and early next morning at Fairfax C. H. where there are 6 or 7 S. C. & Georgia Regts. – Close at hand at Germantown, Flint Hill, Cumberville, Bull Run & Manassas are all occupied & fortified – but we may go round these. I take with me simply valise, & saddle bags – and leave behind my trunks to be sent over to John Sherman. Letter can take the same course. If we take Manassas, there will be a Railroad from Alexandria to that point, so that letters can be received regularly. Though we momentarily look for orders to cook Rations to be carried along, I still see many things to do, which are not yet done, and General Scott, will allow no risks to be run – He thinks there Should be no game of hazard here. All the Risks should be made from the flanks.

I wrote to Minnie yesterday – Poor Charley will be disappointed sadly – He overrates my influence and that of John Sherman – I have some hopes of the transfer with Boris. I will write again before we start but the telegraph will announce all results before you can hear by mail – as ever &c.

W. T. Sherman

Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, pp. 114-116





Corp. George M. Morris, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

10 04 2014

LETTERS FROM OUR BOYS.

———————————-

From George M. Morris.

—–

[We are pleased to lay before our readers the following minute and graphic letter from our able correspondent, Corporal Morris. — It is the best published letter which we have seen from any member of the 13th regiment.]

Fort Bennett, Va.,

July 28, 1861.

Dear Bunnell:—

By the kind care and protecting arm of the controller of the destinies of man, I am able to indite you a letter this morning. — Confident that nothing short of power Supreme could have saved me from the danger which at times has surrounded me within the last two weeks, I return thanks to the God of battles for thus preserving me. We left our camp July 16th, in connection with Tyler’s division of the Grand Army, and moved forward into the enemy’s country. — We reached Vienna at 7 o’clock P. M., and encamped for the night. Early in the morning we resumed our march, taking the road for Georgetown, where a small force of the enemy were known to be intrenched. — The road was blockaded at short intervals by fallen trees, which the pioneers removed without much trouble. Skirmishing parties were constantly kept in front, at sufficient distance to give timely warning of the appearance of the enemy. As we approached Georgetown, two regiments were thrown into the fields in line of battle. Sherman’s battery proceeded along the road until the intrenchments could be seen. The rebels were at work on them, and seemed to be unconscious of our approach. A couple of shells from our howitzers soon attracted their attention, and caused them to make a hasty retreat. Two balls from the rifle cannon tore a hole through the intrenchment large enough for our troops to pass through. We saw no more of them that day. In an old house at Germantown two prisoners were taken. A short distance beyond Germantown we joined Hunter’s division, which left Alexandra at the same time ours left Arlington. They had come by the way of Fairfax, and met with similar success to ours. We proceeded on our journey about five miles farther and encamped for the night in an old secession camp which had just been vacated. They had been compelled to leave while preparing supper. The fires were still burning, with meat in kettles cooking over them. We slept soundly all night without being disturbed. It was understood that we were to proceed to Centreville that day, and that all the divisions under McDowell were to meet them. A large force of the enemy was expected to be intrenched at this place. Our marching on this day (July 18th,) was slow and cautious. We came in sight of the intrenchments before the other divisions came up, but nothing could be seen of the foe. After satisfying ourselves that the enemy had vacated this place also, we went forward and planted the stars and stripes on the breast-works, cheered them heartily. and turned into an open field to wait for the other divisions. They came up about noon, and a brigade belonging to Schenk’s division proceeded forward on the Manassas road; the remainder of the army staying at Centreville. About two o’clock the report of cannon was heard in the direction our troops had taken, and we knew a fight had commenced. Soon the news came that the advance regiments had been fired into by a masked battery, and a general engagement had commenced. Our brigade, (Sherman’s) was ordered forward to the support of Sherman’s battery, which had opened fire on the enemy. We “double quicked” for the three miles, and came into the scene of action. — Our regiment formed into line of battle, filed into the woods behind our battery to protect it from a charge of infantry. An open field lay between us and the enemy. They were secreted in a dim woods on the side hill above us. Nothing could be seen of them save a dragoon occasionally. The only means of learning their whereabouts was by the smoke of their guns. We lay upon our faces in the woods, while cannon ball and shell fell all around us thick and fast, for over an hour. Quite a number of the dead and dying lay strewn through the woods. — Had our regiment remained on their feet, we should have suffered terribly. As it was, not a man was hurt. McDowell came up about four o’clock, and seeing that nothing could be accomplished from the position we then occupied, he ordered the troops to fall back to Centreville. Thus ended the first day’s fight. Another move was not made until Sunday last. About two o’clock on the morning of the 21st, we started again for Manassas. Hunter’s division took the right flank road, Tyler’s the front, and Schenck’s the left flank. All started at the same time, with the intention of reaching Bull’s Run together, but at different places. This they accomplished without opposition. The road we took led us so that when we reached Bull’s Run, we were in the rear of the battery that fired into us on Thursday. Sherman got sight of it and threw two or three balls from his thirty-two pound seige gun, which tore it all to pieces. We then commenced feeling of the enemy from different points, by throwing shell into the woods in front. — They did not reply to our guns. They could be seen on the hill above us, and the pickets exchanged several shots.

By some means they got wind that Hunter was flanking them on the right, and they sent out a force to meet him. Our Brigade lay in the woods at this time waiting for Hunter to commence the attack. From an open field at our right we could see the enemy as they went out to meet Hunter. Our gunners threw a shell amongst them which done great damage and had the effect to disconcert them for a short time. They soon were out of reach of the guns in one brigade so we could do nothing but stay quietly in one place and wait for the fight to begin. At precisely nine o’clock Hunter came up and the fight began. He opened his battery upon them in the center of their column and flanked them on both sides. After a few rounds of small arms, they began to retreat. We were then ordered across the fields to cut them off. In consequence of being delayed on account of a stream, we did not reach them in time to prevent their retreat, but in time to give them the content of our guns, which made terrible havoc. One South Carolina regiment was entirely cut to pieces. The firing now ceased for a short time on both sides.

Our officers were confident that the victory was ours. McDowell and his staff rode into the field and was cheered loudly. An American flag was seen coming out of the woods opposite to us, and all thought it was Schenck’s division coming from the other side. It proved to be a ruse of the enemy however. As we advanced forward they opened a masked battery right where they had planted the stars and stripes. It cut several of our regiments horribly. One of our batteries soon engaged it, and our brigade was ordered to charge upon it. The 69th took it on the right side, 79th and 18th on the left. Had it not have been for the arrival of Johnson with a reinforcement of fresh troops just at this period, we should have gained the day without a doubt. But he instantly attacked us with a body of men numbering five to one, and forced us to fall back. The scene of carnage which now ensued beggars all description. New batteries before unseen opened on us from all directions. — The leaden messengers of death whistled around us — wounded men begged for aid — the dead men trampled over — all were nearly exhausted and dying of thirst. Having no fresh troops to fall back upon, a general retreat was absolutely necessary. By accident, not by bravery, I was about the last to leave the field. Could language paint the scene that I saw, then could I draw a picture that none but incarnate fiends could gaze upon without a shudder. Men lay around writhing in mortal agony. Some who had lost an arm or leg were begging pitifully for water. Others were dragging themselves slowly along into the bushes, there to breathe their last, alone and unheeded. My heart shrinks within me as the scene passes through my mind. Let those who have caused this war tremble at the surely coming retribution. The God of Heaven will surely hear the prayer of the mother left desolate in her old age. His forbearance may be long lasting, but it will have an end.

A few words concerning our company and I close. There is but two of them wounded, D. E. Smith and R. C. Ketchum. They are not seriously hurt. Both of them are wounded in the arm. The rest of the company are in much better health than could be expected under the circumstances. We marched 40 miles and fought nine hours without eating or sleeping. Many had such sore feet that they could not walk for four days.

I will write you again the latter part of this week, and give you some further particulars of the battle. Hoping never to be called upon the battle field again,

I remain your friend,

Geo. M. Morris

Dansville [New York] Advertiser, 8/1/1861

Clipping Image

George M. Morris at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. Oliver S. Glenn, Co. A, 2nd Ohio Infantry (Regimental Band), On the Battle

30 01 2014

Our Army Correspondence

Letter from One of the Hillsboro Band.

National Hotel, Washington,

July 24th, 1861.

Mr. Boardman: – Dear Sir: When I wrote you last, we were on the eve of marching forth to battle. We did not march as soon as we expected. We left Camp Upton Tuesday evening at 3 o’clock, and marched to Fall’s Church, where we were joined by three Connecticut and one Maine regiment, under command of Gen. Tyler. The 1st and 2d Ohio and 2d New York regiments were under command of Gen. Schenck. We marched as far as Vienna without meeting any of the enemy, where we encamped for the night. The next morning the reveille was beat about 4 o’clock, and we got up and marched to Fairfax, about 4 miles distant. — Schenck’s brigade was in front to-day. They took the front each alternate day, the brigade that marched in front one day taking the rear the next. We had not proceeded very far before we found the road blocked up by trees that the enemy had felled across the road to obstruct our progress. The pioneer corps went forward and cleared the way. — About 9 o’clock we had come within a mile and a half of Fairfax, when the artillery in front fired a few shots, and we started up the hill on a double-quick. When we got to the top of it we could see their wagons leaving on a little faster time than double-quick, and could see a long line of bayonets glittering in the sun, following them at about the same speed. Our brigade formed in line of battle, and filed off to the left for the purpose of cutting off their retreat, but owing to the obstructions in the road they were a little too late, although there were some few prisoners taken.

When we arrived opposite Germantown we found a line of earthworks, about three hundred yards long, thrown up across the road. Our artillery fired a few shots into them; no enemy appearing, skirmishers were sent forward, and they reported it vacated. They had vamosed the ranche without firing a shot, and in such a hurry that they left their fires still burning and their meat cooking. Our boys now began to think that they were all a set of cowards, and never would fight, and that we would have Richmond in a few days; but in this they were sadly disappointed. — We encamped to-nigh about 5 miles from Centreville, which is situated on a singular-looking elevation, of considerable height, commanding a view of the valleys on each side for a distance of several miles, forming a natural fortification of great strength, on top of which the enemy had thrown up earthworks, but these too were deserted. — About 10 o’clock we heard a heavy cannonading going on in front, which gradually grew more rapid till about 2 in the evening, when intelligence was brought back that we had taken 69 pieces of artillery and 12,000 men. A great many of our men actually believed it, although there were only four regiments of our troops involved in it; but they had come to the conclusion that one Northerner was a match for five Southerners. Our men drew off with a loss of 30 killed and 25 wounded. — Gen. Tyler was very much censured for running his men in thus, as he had orders not to go further than Centreville that night. We encamped about a mile beyond Centreville, between that place and Bull’s Run, where we lay without further adventure, except that the Ohio boys talked of throwing down their arms and refusing to go into the fight, because they were being kept beyond their time; but Gen. Schenck made a speech to them Saturday evening, that aroused their patriotism. He is a better speaker than General.

On Sunday morning at 2 o’clock, we began the forward march, making as little noise as possible. A little after sunrise the skirmishers fired a few shots in front, and drove in the enemy’s pickets, when Carlisle’s battery was sent forward with a large 32-pound siege gun, to throw shells among them and draw the fire of their batteries, but in this they failed, for they did not return a shot. Soon the infantry on the right became engaged, and from that time till after four o’clock in the evening the firing was incessant. About 10 o’clock the 1st and 2d Ohio regiments were ordered to take a battery in front by flanking it. We filed to the left into a pine thicket so dense that a rabbit could scarcely go through it, through which there was a road cut of just sufficient width to admit four men abreast. The 2d regiment was in front. I had a musket, and was in the front company. Just as the first company and a part of the second had come out into the open field, which was a little meadow, about 150 yards across, a masked battery opened on us from behind a stone fence, which sent a shower of grape shot whistling about our heads, but we fell flat on our faces and they went over without doing any further injury that mortally scaring some of us. d scarcely got up till we saw the flash of their guns again, and a cloud of smoke, and down we come again. This we stood, without a man flinching, four times, and as we had neither Colonel nor General to lead us, some Captain, I believe it was, gave the order to retreat, which most of us did in good order, though some ran like Indians, and were not seen any more that day. At 2 o’clock the word spread through the ranks that the victory was ours, and the enemy were driven back at all points; but about this time Gen. Johnston reinforced them with a fresh body of 18,000 men – almost as many as we had in the field altogether, – and the battle began afresh with more fury than ever. A fierce cannonade and an incessant discharge of musketry began on the left and continued along the whole line. About three o’clock our artillery ammunition gave out, and then they played on our defenseless columns with great fury and precision. Each particular ball appeared as though it had been aimed at some particular object. Our brigade, being unprotected, withdrew from the open field into the woods.

About half-past three a causeless panic began among the citizens, of whom a great number came out from Washington to see the fight, which had a very injurious effect, for the panic spread like wild fire. About 4 they had outflanked us and came in on our rear, and their cavalry made a charge on our hospital, which was in our rear and totally unprotected, and cut off all who made their appearance on the outside of the house, and then came thundering down the road to where our brigade was drawn up in the woods, but as they came opposite to the left wing they poured in a destructive fire on them, and then turned and charged down the road in the other direction, on the broken columns of the retreating Fire Zouaves, who had done prodigies of valor that day. But they rallied, and almost annihilated the cavalry of the enemy, which was splendidly mounted.

A little after 4 it was announced that our brigade was surrounded and cut off, being in the rear, but we were determined to cut our way through. Col. McCook rode along the lines and said, “boys we have got into a trap, and now we will have to fight our way out.” — He was the only officer that the men appeared to have any confidence in. — We sent two field-pieces ahead to clear the way, but they had but a few pounds of cartridges, and were soon silenced, and left. The road was literally blocked up with broken wagons, gun carriages, ambulances, killed and wounded horses, and dead and dying men. Oh! it was a horrible sight! — A great many men threw away their guns, belts, cartridge-boxes, blankets, haversacks, canteens, and in fact everything that would impede their flight. The Ohio regiments were not broken but once, and that was in crossing a narrow bridge over Bull’s Run. Before they got across the enemy came up and opened fire on our rear, but as soon as we got over the hill a little we formed in line of battle, as there was a line of battle formed in our front advancing to meet us. We took them for enemies, and prepared to charge them, but they proved to be some who had rallied and were returning to our assistance. The enemy’s cannon kept thundering on our rear till we got under cover of some fresh batteries that had been brought up and placed on the heights at Centreville, and when they opened on them they drew off.

After we got to Centreville we stopped and slept an hour, and then were ordered to retreat. We marched the whole of that night. Gen. Schenck detailed the two Ohio regiments as the strongest, and marched us as a rear guard to protect the flying and broken army.

The road was crowded with fugitives all the night. But few regiments came in as regiments. Most of them were all broken up, and every man to shift for himself. If the enemy had have been in condition to take advantage of our defeat they might have turned it into a perfect slaughter. If they had sent a battery and one regiment around ahead of our men — demoralized and despirited as they were by their defeat, and crowded, packed and jammed together in the narrow roads, — they might have slain or taken them by the thousands.

The next morning a very cold rain began, and continued to pour down torrents all day. When we came to the river we found it guarded, and not a man was allowed to pass. So there we were forced to lay all day in a soaking rain, without a particle of shelter and no fire, after standing to our arms from 2 o’clock Sunday morning, in many instances without a morsel of food, for most of the men threw away their haversacks. The soldiers laid down in the mud and rain like beasts, for Nature could hold out no longer.

About dark the Ohio regiments got leave to go over the river into the city and get comfortable quarters, and I suppose they slept soundly that night, if they were not disturbed by dreams of bombshells bursting over their heads, as I was.

Yours Truly,

O. S. Glenn.

The [Hillsborough] Highland [County, Ohio] Weekly News, 8/8/1861

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Oliver S. Glenn at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. Theodore Reichardt, (Reynolds) Battery A, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, On the Battle

6 01 2014

Thursday, July 15. – Great excitement in camp; order was received to get ready for a forward movement; ammunition packed; haversacks and canteens were issued.

Tuesday, July 16. – The morning of that day found us marching across the Long ridge, directly through Fort Runyon, on the Virginia side; did not march over seven miles; after which we formed in line of battle and prepared to camp for the night, this being the first night in the open air. All quiet during the night.

Wednesday, July 17. – Resumed our march soon after break of day, and entered Fairfax Court House, contrary to our expectations, towards one o’clock, at mid-day, the rebels having evacuated the town shortly before our entrance. Their rear guard could be plainly seen some distance off. Our battery formed in park near the court house. Some of the boys were lucky in finding a good dinner served on a table in one of the houses, besides some articles of value, undoubtedly belonging to some confederate officers. Some picket firing during the night.

Thursday, July 18. – Advance at daylight. A part of the Union army, Gen. Tyler’s troops, engaged. This conflict the rebels call battle of Bull Run. While the contest was raging, our division halted two miles to the left of Fairfax Court House, at a place called Germantown. We could plainly hear the distant booming of artillery, and were impatiently waiting for the order, “forward.” Towards four o’clock P. M., we advanced again; preparations were made to get in action; sponge buckets filled with water, and equipments distributed among the cannoniers. But when we approached Centreville, intelligence came that our troops got worsted and the contest was given up. Our division went to camp within a mile and a half of Centreville. Strong picket lines were drawn up.

Friday, July 19. – Camp near Centreville. The troops remained quiet all day. Fresh beef as rations.

Saturday, July 20. – Quiet during the day. About six o’clock in the evening the army got ready to advance; but after council of war was held by the chief commanders, they concluded to wait till the next day.

Sunday, July 21. – Battle of Manassas Plains. This battle will always occupy a prominent place in the memory of every man of the battery. They all expected to find a disorganized mob, that would disperse at our mere appearance; while, to the general surprise, they not only were better disciplined, but also better officered than our troops. We started by tow o’clock in the morning, but proceeded very slowly. Passed Centreville before break-of-day. When the sun rose in all its glory, illuminating the splendid scenery of the Blue Ridge mountains, though no sun of Austerlitz to us, we crossed the bridge over Cub Run. By this time, the report of the 30-pounder Parrott gun belonging to Schenck’s command, who had met the enemy, was heard. Our division turned off to the right, and marched some miles through dense woodland, to the Warrenton road. Towards ten o’clock, nothing could be seen of the enemy yet, and the belief found circulation that the enemy had fallen back. Experience proved that, had we remained at Centreville, the rebel army would undoubtedly have attacked us; but hearing of our advance they only had to lay in ambush, ready to receive us. At the aforesaid time, the Second Rhode Island infantry deployed as skirmishers. We advanced steadily, till arriving at the Bull Run and Sudley’s Church, a halt was ordered to test the man and the horses. But is should not be; the brave Second R. I. Regiment, coming up to the enemy, who was concealed in the woods, their situation was getting critical. The report of cannon and musketry followed in rapid succession. Our battery, after passing Sudley’s Church, commenced to trot in great haste to the place of combat. At this moment Gen. McDowell rode up in great excitement, shouting the Capt. Reynolds: “Forward with your light battery.” This was entirely needless, as we were going at high speed, for all were anxious to come to the rescue of our Second regiment. In quick time we arrived in the open space where the conflict was raging already in its greatest fury. The guns were unlimbered, with or without command; no matter, it was done, and never did better music sound to the ears of the Second Regiment, than the quick reports of our guns, driving back the advancing foe. For nearly forty minutes our battery and the Second Regiment, defended that ground before any other troops were brought into action. Then the First Rhode Island, Seventy-first New York, and Second New Hampshire, with tow Dahlgren Howitzers, appeared, forming on the right and left. The enemy was driven successfully in our immediate front. Our battery opened on one of the enemy’s light batteries to our right, which left after a short but spirited engagement, in a rather demoralized state. Griffith’s, Ayre’s and Rickett’s batteries coming up, prospects really looked promising, and victory seemed certain. The rebel line gradually giving way. Gen. McDowell, seeing the explosion of perhaps a magazine or a caisson, raised his cap, shouting, “Soldiers, this is the great explosion of Manassas,” and seemed to be highly pleased with the work done by our battery. Owing to different orders, the battery, towards afternoon, was split into sections. Capt. Reynolds, with Lieuts. Tompkins and Weeden, off to the right, while the two pieces of the left section, to the left; Lieuts. Vaughan and Munroe remaining with the last mentioned. Firing was kept up incessantly, until the arrival of confederate reinforcements, coming down from Manassas Junction, unfurling the stars and stripes, whereby our officers were deceived to such a degree as to give the order, “Cease firing.” This cessation of our artillery fire proved, no doubt, disastrous. It was the turning point of the battle. Our lines began to waver after receiving the volleys of the disguised columns. The setting sun found the fragments of our army not only in full retreat but in complete rout, leaving most of the artillery in the hands of the enemy. Our battery happened to be the only six gun volunteer battery, carrying all the guns off the battle-field, two pieces in a disabled condition. A battery-wagon and forge were lost on the field. Retreating the same road we advanced on in the morning. All of a sudden the cry arose, “The Black Horse Cavalry is coming.” The alarm proved to be false; yet it had the effect upon many soldiers to throw away their arms. But the fears of many soldiers that the enemy would try to cut off our retreat, were partly realized. Our column having reached Cub Run bridge, was at once furiously attacked on our right by artillery and cavalry. Unfortunately, the bridge being blocked up, the confusion increased. All discipline was gone. Here our battery was lost, all but one gun, that of the second detachment, which was carried through the creek. It is kept at the armory of the Marine Artillery, in Providence. At the present time, guns, under such circumstances, would not be left to the enemy without the most strenuous efforts being made to save them. We assembled at the very same camp we left in the morning. Credit is due to Capt. Reynolds, for doing everything possible for the comfort of his men. At midnight the defeated army took up its retreat towards Washington. Our battery consisting of one gun, and the six-horse team, drove by Samuel Warden.

Monday, July 22. – Arrived at, and effected our passage across the Long Bridge, by ten o’clock, and found ourselves once more at Camp Clark, where we had a day of rest after our debut on the battle-field yesterday, under the scorching sun of Virginia.

Wednesday, July 24. – Lieut. Albert Munroe addressed the battery in regard to the battle, and attributed our defeat to the want of discipline. The men felt very indignant at his remarks. “We had to come down the regulations, the same as in the regular army, and should consider ourselves almost as State prison convicts.” We have since seen that he meant no insult towards the battery; but have found out to our satisfaction that he spoke the truth, for we have seen the time that put us almost on the same level with convicts.

Diary of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery (Kindle Version, location 66 to 123)

Theodore Reichardt at Ancestry.com

While the above was published as a diary, it is apparent from the text that it was at least edited in retrospect.





Unknown, 2nd NYSM, On the Battle

2 04 2013

{Extract from a private letter}

Virginia, July 22, 1861.

Dear –: – I write to inform you that I am alive, unhurt and well. We have just got out of a severe battle, in which many of our brave boys were slaughtered.; but I have not time now to five you many particulars. We were marched up a road made expressly for us by the rebels. They opened their battery at the head of this road, and drove us back to the woods. We rallied, and, by the mismanagement of our incompetent general – Schenck – we were brought back on the same masked battery. We could not see any obstruction, or an enemy to fire at. The ground seemed to vomit out grape and canister in torrents. It is the general opinion among the men, that we were betrayed by our commanding general of division. Indeed, Col. Tompkins was under that impression, although he did not express it; for, when he received orders to attack the hole where these infernal machines were, he told the general he would not, and commanded his men to obey no orders that they did not receive from him – he would lead them to victory, and not to needless slaughter. When the order to lie down was given, a battery opened on the edge of a wood, tearing everything before it. Had our colonel followed the order of the general, we ould have been all cut to pieces. The Eight suffered severely, as also did the gallant Sixty-ninth, and brave boys of the Zouave regiment. They deserve immortal honor for their many gallant deeds.

This was no battle – it was a wholesale slaughter. The very ground opened, and blew us to atoms. Col. Tompkins deserves great praise. He saved two-thirds of our regiment by flanking us into the woods. The enemy seemed to understand our move; for, in less time than I can write, the Black Horse Cavalry dashed out on us; but O God! what a bloody reception they got from us. Nearly, if not quite, one hundred of them were left dead upon the field of their exploit.

I was attacked on the way from Vienna by a few straggling dragoons. We had provisions for our men, and I was in command. We made two horses by the operation, and I lost the little pistol which you presented to me. I missed it when two miles from the place where we were attacked; but I went back with ten men and a dark lantern and recovered it. This was very risky; but it was your gift.

We cut the Eight Regiment of Georgia all to smash. We have several prisoners. We were badly beaten, but not defeated or discouraged in the least. We will give it to them again. We are ordered to Washington, for the reason that this temporary success may encourage the enemy to attack the city. Our battle-flag is pretty well used up. I will send it home as a memento of what we have gone through. An infernal scoundrel on horseback tried to capture it from our sergeant; but he fell to the earth like lead. The pole and spear is broken, and the flag is all in ribbons.

As I said before, it is the opinion of the men that some of our generals were in league with the secessionists; if they were not, they are inexcusable on the ground of utter incompetency for their positions. Give us better officers in command, and we will face the devil and all his hosts in secessiondom.

Yours, etc.,

*****

New York Sunday Mercury, 7/28/1861

William B. Styple, ed., Writing and Fighting the Civil War: Soldier Correspondence to the New York Sunday Mercury, pp. 35-36





Capt. Richard Fitzgibbon, Co. H, 1st Connecticut Volunteers, On the Campaign

8 11 2012

Capt. Fitzgibbons, Co. H, of Bridgeport, kindly furnished us with the subjoined statement. He is a gentleman of intelligence, and the information derived from him can be relied upon as accurate. His statement is confirmed by Lieut. Lee, also of Bridgeport, who was side by side with Capt. F. in the engagement at Bull’s Run. Capt. Fitzgibbons has been in active military life about eight years, and now holds a Lieut. Colonel’s commission in the 8th Regiment of our own State militia.

Capt. Fitzgibbon’s Statement

The long roll sounded pleasantly in our ears while encamped at Fall’s Church, and at 2 o’clock P. M., Tuesday, the 16th, we marched to Vienna, where we bivouacked over night. About 6 o’clock the nest morning we took up the line for Fairfax, by way of Germantown. Our division, under the command of Col. Keyes, consisted of the 1st, 2d and 3d Conn., and the 2d Maine Regiments; the 1st and 2d Conn. regiments acted as skirmishers, and marched around Fairfax, while the remainder of the division marched directly forward. As we approached Germantown, we saw a secession flag flying on top of one of the houses. The 8th N. Y. regiment fired two shots at what was supposed to be a masked battery; our skirmishers fell upon their faces, ready to come up after the fire had been returned. The rebel battery fired over them, however. A member of the 8th N. Y. pulled down the flag, as we approached, and ran up the stars and stripes instead. This house was supposed to be the headquarters for the rebels. As we went through Germantown several houses were fired, but I am happy to say that none of our Connecticut troops had any hand in the firing of the buildings. – The house whereon the rebel flag was raised was entered by our men and found to be evacuated by the troops; tables were set, and our men partook freely of what they could find to eat. Our advanced and halted between Germantown and Centerville over night, where we bivouacked. Friday, about daybreak, we marched on for Centreville, where we arrived about noon. We could distinctly hear that an engagement was going on, before we arrived in sight. Several of our officers and civilians saw the engagement; none of our men took part. The secessionists, men, women, and children, followed up the rebel army; as we advanced, they pushed on, and they informed us that there was a great body of troops ahead of us.

Saturday, the 20th, we were notified to cook three days’ rations; that night we packed up, and at tow o’clock in the morning started for Bull’s Run. Our (Colonel Keyes’) brigade led off, until we got about half way, when we were called off into a corn field and filed off, and saw the whole column pass by. the 1st regiment boys felt a little discomfitted at this move, for fear they would not have a chance in the fight. We brought up the rear, and rested about half an hour, when the order came to again forward. This was about 7 o’clock in the morning. We marched into line, and about the first introduction we had was a charge by one of those masked batteries; we deployed a little to get by, ,when the men rallied in good order. Gen. Tyler rode by and praised our boys for their gallant appearance. We [??????]…they returned the fire, but their shots went over us, as we had dropped upon our faces. While in this position we loaded and fired another charge into them. One of our batteries came up and silenced one of their batteries which was playing upon us. As soon as their battery was silenced, the remainder of our brigade came up. We compelled the rebels to retreat, and as we moved on we encountered another battery; the 3d Conn. and the 2d Maine charged and suffered greatly. We then commenced scouting here and there, always putting in a fire when we got a chance. There was a continual fire upon us by their artillery, which was met by our musketry. We kept on fighting, Gen. Tyler assuring us we had won the day. He acted bravely; so did Col. Keyes and Col. Spiedel; Col. Burnham stood by his regiment. Soon afterwards, the order came to fall back, and we did so, not knowing it was a retreat; we were then in good order, and were accompanied by the Zouaves and Schenck’s brigade; saw the Zouaves make a splendid charge on the Black Horse Cavalry of Va.; it was a hand to hand conflict for a few moments with them, and the latter were cut up badly. We kept up a retreat, followed up by the enemy’s artillery and musketry. We saw the dead and wounded being carried from the field, some on blankets and others stretched on muskets. My company brought away six prisoners. We retreated in good order back to Centreville, to where we encamped the night before, arriving about dark. We remained here three hours and then had orders to fall back to Fall’s Church, which is about 25 miles from Bull’s Run. – We staid at Falls Church during Monday, and the next night had orders to march to Camp Upton, where the Ohio troops were encamped; we staid here during the night, and it was at this spot we saved some $200,000 of property, which had been left behind by one of the Ohio regiments. We struck their tents, took them to Alexandria, and loaded some six or eight cars with their trappings,, and about a ton and a half of ammunition. They had the finest camp equippage I ever saw. The War Department gave us great credit for what we had done.

Wednesday night we bivouacked at Arlington Heights; the next day we started for Washington. – We left Thursday afternoon, and arrived at Baltimore at 3 o’clock Friday morning, where we were detained until 6 P. M. waiting for conveyances; left Baltimore arrived at Havre de Grace, where we suffered another detention of five or six hours. We reached Philadelphia Saturday afternoon, and arrived in Jersey City about 4 o’clock Sunday morning; went on board the steamer Elm City at 4 o’clock and reached New Haven at 10.

Hartford Daily Courant, 7/29/1861

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Richard Fitzgibbon Biographical Information

Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown Captain, 2nd New York State Militia, On the March to Manassas, the Battle, and the Retreat

2 10 2012

A Soldier’s Letter.

———-

Description of the Battle by a Captain of the Second Regiment of New York.

———-

The following letter from a captain in the Second regiment of this city gives a vivid description of the battle at Bull Run, and the real nature of the panic:

Camp Powell,

Headquarters Second Regt. N. Y. S. M.,

Washington, D. C., July [?], 1861

Dear —-:  Your favor of the 2[?]th instant, as well as the previous one, were duly received; circumstances, as you are no doubt aware, prevented an answer to the first.

On Monday, the 15th instant, we received orders to be ready with three days, rations, and without knapsacks, carrying blankets only, to move in advance at five P. M. the next evening. At the appointed hour the line was in motion, and soon after reached the Ohio volunteers’ camp, who fell in our rear, giving New York the honor of the advance. We then moved off for Vienna, having been in the meantime joined by the Connecticut Brigade, which completed our division (Tyler’s).

The enemy’s pickets and advance guard rapidly fell back upon our approach, and after passing Fall’s Church pressed on Fairfax at an early hour in the morning, and, being on the left of the division, we deployed towards Germantown, while the right entered Fairfax. After a short rest the right joined us, and we marched on in column and entered Germantown, the enemy being in sight and hastily running out of reach of our guns. At this point we were informed that the enemy, to the number of fifteen thousand, were on the retreat and only one and a-half hours ahead of our advance. Our scouts having brought us this information, the news having been confirmed by Lieutenant Tompkins of the dragoons, we again took up the line of march, the heat being dreadful, and the men suffering terribly. After marching until late afternoon, the men being fairly exhausted, our advance suddenly came on the enemy’s camp, and easily pounced on the few remaining secessionists, as well as considerable of their rations, which were left behind in their hasty flight; in fact some of our mean found a watch or two, besides epaulettes, as well as any quantities of correspondence, in which the fair southern damsels begged their lovers to get pieces of a “Yankee’s hide” for them, etc., and on other themes too numerous to mention. The men being exhausted and night approaching, as well as the road barricaded by fallen trees, we halted, threw out our pickets and camp guard, and after hastily disposing of an insufficient meal, (being the first since morning,) we wrapped ourselves in our blankets, and with no other covering save the trees, were soon sound asleep. During the night we had several alarms, on account of the enemy’s cavalry trying to pass our pickets, in which efforts they suffered severely. At an early hour in the morning (Thursday 17th,) line was again formed, and the whole army of the Potomac moved on our right, in the centre and in the advance.

Centreville was soon after reached; line of battle being formed, and the scouts sent out. They soon after arrived with the intelligence that the enemy had again fallen back from their intrenchments, and at this stage I must say that I never saw a better place to make a stand, as the hill commanded all the approaches for over two miles around; however, subsequent occurrences have satisfied me that they had far superior locations at their command. The heat being terrible, and our men exhausted, we were halted to rest, and after an hour or so we heard heavy firing on the other side of Centreville, and very soon learned that our General (Tyler) had attacked the enemy’s masked batteries at the head of Rocky Run, about two miles from Centreville, which, as the papers have ere informed you, was the celebrated proceeding of the 18th instant.

During the heat of the engagement our brigade was ordered up, and upon reaching the scene, the Sixty-ninth and other regiments had been withdrawn. That affair at once destroyed both Tyler and others of his kind, in the estimation of the men, especially as Tyler had received orders to remain at Centreville – until further orders.

We then marched outside of that point about two miles, and encamped on the left of the road, (Warrenton,) while the Sixty-ninth and others were opposite. We remained here, in sight of the enemy’s advance posts, from that time until two o’clock Sunday morning when the advance took place. Both before reaching this point, and when we reached it, my command was engaged in that hazardous business of skirmishing, and on Thursday night in particular I was in advance of the lines a mile at least, and remained out until ten o’clock at night, when I was called in; and while out, however, and about sunset, I arrested three men in citizens’ clothes, who were hovering around our lines and satisfied me upon an examination that they should be detained. I accordingly brought them in and were duly examined by our Brigadier, General Schenck, who being in bed and rather sleepy, made a hasty examination and postponed the matter till the following morning, when after another examination, he discharged them.

After their discharge some of us who were dissatisfied took the trouble to search their houses, and succeeded in finding passes therein of a very recent date signed by our General Mansfield’s Aide-de-Camp, Captain Drake De Kay, which showed that they were spies, and had used them for that purpose in our lines. From that I made up my mind that I should take not more prisoners, but if, while prisoners, they should be accidentally shot, I would not complain of my men.

While we remained at Rocky run, and before advancing, I was led to suppose that we were waiting reinforcements of both men and heavy guns. At the appointed hour, two A. M. Sunday morning, and before prayers, we moved off at a quick pace but without making any unnecessary noise. Our division, (Tyler’s,) consisting of the Second New York, First and Second Ohio, Sixty-ninth, Seventy-ninth and others, took the lead, in the meantime our scouts and pickets being thrown out. At five A. M. the line halted and our regiment was thrown forward in advance, while the Sixty-ninth and Seventy-ninth took a position on our right. After reconnoitering the enemy’s position with our glasses, and waiting for the signal gun to be fired, we drew up by the flank so as not to be under cover of the woods, and at the same time near enough to make a charge on the enemy’s battery. A little after six we first drew the fire of the enemy by imprudently showing our command, or rather a portion of them. Supposing it to be a small battery, as it was, we quietly passed on for the purpose of outflanking it, and in doing so, we took an apparently new made road, and marched by the left flank, and very soon after, within three hundred feet of us, we espied the enemy in large force (about 8,000 infantry). We took immediate steps to attack them, but to our astonishment the enemy planked by the left, and hastily moving off unmasked eight rifled guns on our brigade (Schenck’s) with terrific effect.

The scene that follows beggars description; for fully over a half hour we stood a perfect shower of grape, canister and round shot. Upon my honor I have never been in a hail storm where the shots fell as thick and fast. Our General (Schenck) left us there and looked out for himself, whereupon our Colonel, upon his own responsibility, ordered us to withdraw from such a murderous man-trap – in fact I may call it nothing save a slaughter-house. He we suffered most.

The brigade then took up another position on the Warrenton road, to defend our batteries – Carlisle’s battery, and a heavy 32-pounder being in position. The strife continued; the right consisting of the Sixty-ninth, Seventy-ninth, Eleventh, Zouaves, [??]., having forced the enemy from their positions across the Warrenton road, while we were outflanking them on the left, at the same time exposed to a terrific cross fire from their batteries, which fairly riddled us. At 2 P. M. we accomplished our purpose by getting on their flank and throwing our right in front of their [????] – their [????] the whole time [????……].

[????…..] up under cover of the woods, but skirting the road, and while here the Sixty-ninth, Seventy-ninth and Eight Zouaves and others came straggling along, thoroughly exhausted and used up. At this point I had the pleasure of shaking hands with Colonel Corcoran of the Sixty-ninth and other officers of the same and other regiments with whom I was acquainted. At this time the batteries of our brigade had ceased firing, and were drawn up standing in the road, the pieces being limbered up. Our brigade were about getting ready to fall in by the left flank for the purpose of marching off to cover the retreat, when, quick as a flash, we heard terrible yells up the road in our rear, a great dust flying – the cracking of pistols and rifles without number. Looking up I saw Captain Carlisle, U. S. A., and his battery in full retreat as fast as they could go. I very soon after saw that the Black Horse Cavalry were upon us, to the number of three or four hundred. Seeing that our line was broken, and some officers in full retreat, several of the officers, particularly Lieutenant-Colonel Wilcox, Lieutenant Downey, Captain Hueston and others, rallied the men, and gave them a terrible volley, which caused great scattering among them, having emptied a number of their saddles, and reduced their number before the third volley to about fifty or sixty men.

In that charge we lost several of our men, and as we did not see some of them fall, these that are now missing have been taken prisoners, but as I saw them cutting right and left with sabre, carbine and pistol, apparently not caring to take prisoners, I am of the opinion that those or most of those now among the missing who were not officers in uniform will never be heard from again.

I am confirmed in this opinion from the fact that they not only bayonetted the wounded on the field, as I saw myself, but attacked our hospitals, containing the dead and wounded of their own as well as our side; and not satisfied with that I distinctly saw them set fire to the same, and shoot and cut those endeavoring to escape. My blood boils to think of their atrocities, and makes my feelings savor of hate and revenge for fallen comrades. We mourn the loss of our physician, Dr. Alfred Powell, a noble man, who refused to leave those under his care, and was brutally murdered by them while engaged in placing our wounded in the ambulance and our Assistant Surgeons Ferguson and Connolly (son of Charles W. Connolly, of the firm of Chas. W. Connolly & Co., New York,) after a brief defence, were taken prisoners.

During the excitement our Colonel (Tompkins) was cut off from his regiment by a party of the cavalry, and, together with Colonel Corcoran, was chased and fired at by them for some distance, and our Colonel says that he saw them shoot at Colonel Corcoran and thinks he was wounded and taken prisoner, as not being as well mounted as our Colonel (who was on the Lieutenant-Colonel’s magnificent black horse), he was undoubtedly rode down.

At the time of the rally I speak of Lieutenant-Colonel John A. Wilcox was in command, and bravely stood his ground, and reformed the regiment in good order, and was ably assisted therein by the major (J. J. Dimock), Captain Hueston, Lieutenant Downey and a few other brave spirits. Those that know me can easily determine where I must have been, as I do not believe in one blowing his own horn too much. I will leave my actions to be praised or censured by others than myself.

After the charge was disposed of the regiment being formed under good order, by Lieutenant-Colonel Wilcox and assisted by Adjutant Rea, the Zouaves, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Maine regiments being in advance of us, we slowly retreated, the Zouaves having beaten back another attack of the Black Horse Cavalry while on another road and before meeting us. Whatever others may say I emphatically say that our line withdrew in good order, and that the New York Second was the last to leave, as they were the first in the battle-field. As an instance to show the falsity of any panic being in existence among the men, some of our men engaged themselves picking blackberries on the road side, while others were occupied endeavoring to spike with their own ramrods the deserted pieces of Carlisle’s battery. If that looks like a panic or a stampede I am very much mistaken. The fact is, that the men were exhausted by eleven hours of the severest fighting that ever took place on the continent; and, as some European officers have been heard to say, surpassed anything they ever saw. I do not think history can show an instance where 25,000 men attacked upwards of 100,000, and fought them in an entrenched camp with concealed batteries, as well as men for that time. The whole panic was outside of five miles from the battlefield, and in the neighborhood of Colonel Miles’s reserves at Centreville. Otherwise we should have been cut to pieces before reaching the reserve, as has been testified to by several experienced officers, that the good order of Schenck’s brigade in retreating saved the whole army.

After falling back to Centreville and taking our position behind the reserve we received orders to fall back to our old camp, a distance of thirty miles, (Ball’s Cross Roads,) which we reached in food order at 6 o’clock next morning. About 10 o’clock Sunday night orders were issued for the whole line to fall back – the reserve and all which they did in good order, and without being annoyed by the enemy save by numerous barricades on the road, which had to be removed.

We were subsequently removed to Washington, and are now in camp recruiting as well as reorganizing the regiment. We number all told now only 700, so you see this campaign has pretty well used us up. We named our camp Powell, in honor of our noble Surgeon. As far as I can ascertain the enemy lost four times as much as our side, otherwise their main body would not have fallen back on Manassas Gap to recruit; however some of their advanced cavalry are still hovering around our pickets at Vienna and Fall’s Church, but will not dare advance nearer.

In conclusion I must say that although repulsed we are not disgraced, but have taught those cowardly scoundrels, that though in entrenched camps and behind masked batteries, and hid in the woods, they were whipped twice that day by one-quarter their number, and that our side withdrew from Exhaustion only, in fact, I must say that at a convivial party of the officers of our regiment held during Saturday night, the probability of a defeat was confessed, and firmly believed in by a majority of us who were present.

Our party sang a different tune on the following night (Sunday), although on account of our fortunate escape we were joyful in the extreme. Our loss will be heavy, but at present, on account of the number missing, we are unable to make out a full report.

Our men behaved nobly and surpassed the finest troops in the world, bout our volunteer (political) generals, as well as some favorite political colonels, behaved shamefully, and in many instances exhibited both cowardice and inefficiency – the exceptions, otherwise, were very few.

I shall await the re-organization of the regiment before taking steps, but if we are again placed under the command of politicians I shall resign my position and return to civil life. However, in the interval I will endeavor to obtain a furlough for a while, and see you again before entering upon another campaign.

I omitted saying that I did one thing for effect during the heavy fire, which had the best influence on the men, when I tried them by giving them orders, and that was the little trick of quietly smoking a cigar. While the men were falling around me I must confess my coolness was rather forced, but it had the desired effect on the men and I was satisfied.

New York Evening Post, 7/29/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Uncle of E. J. Goodspeed, A Civilian’s Eyewitness Account of the Battle

23 02 2012

Correspondence of the Daily Gazette.

Another Account of the Battle.

———-

Messers. Editors: — The Following is the main body of a letter just received by the family of my uncle, which I copy and send to you. As it deeply interested me I think it may interest your readers, and send it on.

Respectfully yours,

E. J. Goodspeed.

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Willard’s Hotel,

Washington, July 24th, 1861.

My Dear Son: — [Here follows a description of the appearance of our army in their entrenchments and of the general confidence of the troops that victory would be theirs.]

“Centreville is within one mile of the first battle ground.  The enemy held the ground and were encamped on the other side of Bull’s Run; ranging over an extent of about five miles. Centerville being a little to the left of the centre of their lines in front, with a glass I could distinctly see their several encampments on the slopes of the hills beyond, and still beyond the long range of the blue mountains of Virginia, ,stretching each way as far as the eye could see. The scene was most beautiful, and the contemplation of the conflict on the morrow most exciting. The certainty that hundreds of the brave boys of the magnificent army encamped around me, were building their last camp fires, and that anxious friends whom they had left and who were doubtless then praying for their safety in the coming fight, would be stricken with sorrow so soon, made it anything but pleasant to contemplate. We camped with the 14th of Brooklyn in the tent of their brave and lamented Col. Wood. I was recognized by several of the boys of the 14th. By two o’clock Sunday morning every regiment was ready for the march, each with two days rations in their haversacks. By three they began to move from about two miles this side of Centreville. My party and myself remained in Centerville and saw every regiment pass through. The sight was imposing and grand in the extreme. The boys were in good spirits, and, with us, were all certain of victory. I shook hands with many of them, and with Edward Appleton of the Vermont 2d, for the last time. His head was shot off before noon. He was from Bennington.

From the hills about Centreville, we had a view of the whole extent of the distant battle field, though the clumps of forest hid the combatants from our view. The smoke however from the cannonading told us of the positions of the contending forces; and the thick and lengthy clouds of dust away in the distance told us of the rapid approach of reinforcements to the enemy, and of the combination of the several divisions of our own forces. About 11 o’clock the cannonading seemed to be most fearful and rapid in the centre some three miles distant. — But all were hid from our view by the smoke. We could stand it no longer. My friend Watkin of the Express (N.Y.) and myself determined on a closer and more satisfactory view. By half past 11 we found ourselves with General Schenck and his staff, whose brigade was held in reserve, just on this side of Bull’s Run, and inside of one mile of the main battle ground, though hid from the enemy by a forest. We occupied a position which with our glasses gave us a full view of the battle, for at least 4 1/2 hours. We saw every charge of the glorious 71st, the 69th, the 14th, the Fire Zouaves, Sherman’s Battery, the Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Michigan, Rhode Island, Maine and Minnesota regiments. We were in constant receipt of the effect of their fire on our troops, by couriers who were going to Gen. McDowell and Schenck, up to four o’clock, at which time we were shelled out of our position and forced to an inglorious flight (I mean us civilians). Up to that time the victory was unmistakably ours, with a loss that could not have exceeded 300 killed. Our boys captured position after position of their murderous masked batteries until we supposed the victory was ours beyond a doubt. We distinctly saw their baggage train in full retreat, and cheered ourselves hoarse at our glorious victory. At this time a battery of five pieces, which had been pouring a cross fire into our boys on the other side of the Run, was turned upon us and gave us a more practical realization of the terrors of war. Several were killed very near me. I did not ask permission to leave, or stand upon the order of my going, but went at once. a half mile’s travel placed a heavy forest between me and their murderous shells, but not in season to prevent my being captured by the enemy’s cavalry, who had out-flanked Schenck’s brigade and who were just making a dash upon the hospital in front of me. As I emerged from the woods they drove us back and made a terrific sweep after the scattered soldiery and ambulance wagons in front of us. the 8th battalion of artillery opened a fire upon them and they were annihilated – horses riders and all – not more than six made their escape. This opened the way for me and several others to escape, and we improved it in double quick time. I left the woods mounted, though I entered on foot. I will explain when I see you. On reaching Centreville I found the entire baggage train in utter rout. I have no patience to describe the disgraceful scene and I will forbear. – On looking back from Centreville the ground over which I had just passed (Centreville is considerably elevated above the country intervening between it and the battle ground) I saw our victorious army in ignominious retreat – flight, rout, and no one in pursuit. I felt so outraged at this unaccountable panic that I determined not to leave Centreville until the disgraceful rout had passed on. – When they had all gone on, I left with the reserve brigade, composed of one battalion of artillery, the German Rifles, and the Garibaldi Guards, who marched on the Washington in perfect order – the rear guard of the Grand Army of the Potomac – with no one to pursue save a few scattering horsemen, the enemy being so badly cut up that he has not yet scarcely moved this side of Bull’s Run. I cannot explain the cause of this unexampled, shameful retreat. No matter what the newspapers say, do not believe that our loss in killed, wounded and prisoners will reach 1,500. The killed will fall short of 500, and for myself, I do not believe it will reach 300. So much for the first exploit of the army of the Potomac. I await with no little anxiety its further movements.”

He adds that the boys he has met since the conflict are eager for another engagement.

Janesville Daily Gazette, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy