Interview: Terry Johnston, “Civil War Monitor”

21 09 2011

Terry Johnston and I have never met, but we’ve been corresponding and talking on the phone for at least a couple of years. Terry was instrumental in publishing my first ever Civil War writing to appear in print, a long letter to the editor that ran in an issue of North & South magazine a few years back. Over  a year ago Terry called me about an idea for a new American Civil War publication he was considering. At the time, it was nothing more than a vague notion – at least, it seemed that way to me. But after a few phone calls it started to flesh out. Terry didn’t just pick my brain – he talked to a lot of folks and you may have run across a few announcements to that effect already on the web (see here and here, for example). At long last, everything’s set to hit the fan. I received a copy of the new magazine last week, and it looks great. At left is the cover of the premier issue. But the project is more than a print magazine: Terry has integrated a strong web presence into the whole enterprise. Rather than tell you what I think it’s all about, I thought it better for you to hear from the source. In the interest of full disclosure, I appear on the masthead of the magazine as a digital history advisor, and may also contribute to the magazine’s website periodically.

BR: Terry, while I’m sure most of my readers are familiar with your work, can you tell them a little bit about yourself?

TJ: Well, I’m a native of New Jersey. I received my B.A. from Tufts University and my M.A. (history) from Clemson University. I’m also, at long last, nearing completion of my Ph.D. in history—my dissertation focuses on Irish immigrants who served in the Union army. I’ve written a few articles and one book, Him on the One Side and Me on the Other, an edited collection of the wartime letters of two Scottish-born brothers who fought on opposite sides [see extracts here]. I also spent eight years (between 1999 and 2007) on the editorial staff of North & South magazine, the last two as lead editor.

BR: What got you interested in Civil War history?

TJ: Basically, it was a children’s book on Abraham Lincoln. When I was a kid, my mother, a former high school English teacher, was so determined to get my sister and me to read that she’d excuse us from minor chores whenever we would sit down with a book. On one such occasion, the book I picked up was something called Meet Abraham Lincoln. And I was hooked. So, technically, it is true when I say that I became a Civil War enthusiast to avoid taking out the trash.

BR: So tell us about The Civil War Monitor.

TJ: In a nutshell, it’s a new quarterly magazine, the first issue of which will hit the newsstand toward the end of the month (9/27, to be specific). Our tag line is A New Look at America’s Greatest Conflict, which to us means we intend to provide our readers with well-written and engaging articles that either break new ground or cover well-known topics with a fresh slant. To help accomplish this, we’ve gathered together a terrific team of editorial advisors (with the exception, perhaps, of one fellow with the initials HS) and a battery of top authors, all of whom are well in tune with the latest avenues of Civil War scholarship.

BR: There are at least four other Civil War focused periodicals out there today. What will set CWM apart?

TJ: A number of things, we hope. For one, we’re excited about the magazine’s look. Our art director, Patrick Mitchell (www.plutomedia.com), a veteran designer of several nationally renowned publications, has brought his unique vision to the project. And frankly we’ve been blown away by the results, which I think stylistically might best be described as a perfect blend of old and new. Beyond appearance, we believe our content is of the kind you won’t find in the other Civil War magazines. This is not to say that everything we intend to do isn’t being done, in some fashion, in the other magazines—like footnoting articles, for instance. But in other respects, we will be offering—or delivering—content in ways our competitors do not. Take our book section, for example. We have no intention of publishing the cursory reviews that are regularly found elsewhere (you know, those 200-word appraisals of 600-page books that invariably conclude with some version of the sentence, “These faults aside, this is a book that should find its way onto the shelf of every Civil War buff”). Instead, our book section will consist of a rotating lineup of bookish columns. In our premier issue, these are: Russell McClintock’s take on the essential readings on the coming of the war; Robert K. Krick’s musings on recent battle books; and Steven H. Newton’s reflections on the various books that influenced his interest in, and writing on, the Civil War.

Another way in which we’ll be delivering content is through our website (www.civilwarmonitor.com), something we’re equally excited about. Visitors will find a variety of free material there, including regular photo essays and our two blogs: The Front Line (www.civilwarmonitor.com/front-line), where a diverse lineup of scholars, public historians, and talented buffs will post on a wide array of Civil War subjects; and The Bookshelf (www.civilwarmonitor.com/book-shelf), our blog devoted to author interviews and clear, insightful, and substantive reviews of recently released books (the kind we like). Lastly, we’re also producing a digital edition of the magazine for our subscribers, viewable at our website, so that they’ll be able to read The Civil War Monitor online whenever they’d like.

In short, we truly believe that our coverage—in breadth, depth, and style, both in the magazine and on our website—goes beyond what you can get from the other popular magazines.

BR: Two blogs? Hmmm…not sure how to feel about that! How else can we follow CWM?

TJ: Facebook (www.facebook.com/CivilWarMonitor) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/#!/civilwarmonitor), of course! Our social media guru, Laura Davis, is a grizzled veteran of both, and while I must admit I’ve been learning about it all as I go, I’m starting to see the possibilities they offer for presenting Civil War history to a new generation of enthusiasts.

As far as I’m concerned, we can never have too many outlets for good Civil War writing. From the looks of the first issue, Terry is off to a great start.





#112 – Capt. W. R. Terry

29 06 2008

 

Report of Capt. W. R. Terry, Commanding Troop of Cavalry

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, p. 562

JULY 23, 1861

I have the honor to report the movements of the cavalry company under my command in the engagement of the 21st, as follows:

Early in the morning, soon after the firing of cannon was heard beyond the stone bridge on the turnpike in the direction of Centreville, I drew up the company near Bull Run below the bridge, and posted skirmishers, according to orders received from you. We had not remained in that position long before I received orders from you to bring up my company to the point where the action had commenced, (woods beyond stone house). I then posted them near the skirt of woods behind which the firing was going on. Soon afterwards, according to orders, we took position on the hill-side to protect a piece of artillery, and remained until it fired thirty rounds, and we received orders to retire. Afterwards during the day we protected artillery at two other points on the field. Falling in with Colonel Radford’s Rangers late in the day, when the order was given to charge the enemy, I proceeded with them, and took part in the general pursuit. The men under my command killed several of the enemy in the charge, captured about eighty prisoners and seven horses and took two stand of colors, one regimental. Among the prisoners taken were Colonel Corcoran, of New York; Lieutenant Gordon, of Colonel Keyes’ staff; a captain and a lieutenant belonging to a Michigan company.

We had the good fortune to come out of the engagement with only one killed and one slightly wounded.

Respectfully submitted.

W. R. TERRY,

Captain

General EVANS





Longstreet’s Report – Terry & Lubbock

27 03 2008

 rangers-ad.jpgIf you’re one of the three folks who actually read the ORs I post here, you may have run across a few familiar names in the report of Brig. Gen. James Longstreet.  The 100 pound Peyton Manning, T. J. Goree and G. Moxley Sorrel would remain with Longstreet throughout most of the war.  Cavalry aficionados among you may also have recognized Benjamin Franklin Terry and Thomas Saltus Lubbock.  I’ll write full sketches of both men, but for now here are brief recaps.

Terry was born in 1821 in Kentucky and moved to Texas when he was 12 years old.  In 1851 he was a partner in Texas’ first railroad.  He became a delegate to the Texas secession convention in 1861, and set out for Richmond later that year to offer his services to the Confederacy.

Lubbock was born in Charleston, SC in 1817.  He moved to Louisiana and was involved in the cotton trade, and when the Texas Revolution started he  threw his fortunes in with the state and served throughout in various military organizations including the Texas Rangers.  He was captured by the Mexican army and spent some time as a prisoner.  Lubbock was a strong secessionist, and in 1861 joined Terry on the trip to Richmond.

It appears, though I have yet to verify it, that Terry and Lubbock set out from Galveston on board a ship in the company of Longstreet, who was heading east after resigning as a paymaster in the U. S. Army, and Goree.  Terry and Lubbock eventually served on Longstreet’s staff at Bull Run as volunteers, though they were referred to as “Colonels”.  After the battle, they received permission from Jefferson Davis to return to Texas and recruit a regiment of cavalry.  Terry became Colonel and Lubbock Lt. Colonel of the 8th Texas Cavalry, Terry’s Texas Rangers.

Lubbock came down with typhus in Tennessee and had to leave the regiment.  Not long after, on Dec.17, 1861, Terry was killed in the regiment’s first battle at Woodsonville, Ky.  Lubbock ascended to command of the regiment, but never rejoined it, dying in hospital at Bowling Green (or Nashville?) in January, 1862.

Both Terry and Lubbock counties in Texas are named in honor of the former Longstreet aides, as is the city of Lubbock.

In the 1861 group photo below, Lubbock is thought to be second from the right (photo found here) – is it just me, or do the two fellas flanking him appear to be supporting a sleeping, sick, or even dead man?: 

lubbock-group.jpg 

Here’s a photo of Terry (found here, as was the recruiting announcement at top):

terry.jpg 

 And here’s a photo of Lubbock’s most famous son (found here):

buddy-holly.jpg 

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#3 – Col. Maxcy Gregg

11 12 2020

Report of Col. Maxcy Gregg, 1st SOuth Carolina Infantry. [On the Action at Vienna, June 17, 1861]

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 128-130

Camp near Fairfax Court-House,
June 18, 1861—1.30 a. m.

Colonel : In pursuance of orders received at 1 o’clock a. m. on the 16th of June, I proceeded in the forenoon of that day to make a reconnaissance across the country towards the Potomac. Marching from this place with my regiment (about five hundred and seventy-five strong), after leaving a large camp guard and Captain Ball’s troop of horse, numbering about seventy, including a detachment from Captain Wickham’s troop, I met at the Frying-pan Church Captain Terry’s troop of horse, about seventy strong (including a detachment of Captain Langhorne’s company), and two guns of Captain Kemper’s battery, commanded by him in person, and with thirty-four men. With this force I went on to Dranesville, learning on the way that some four hundred of the enemy came up the Alexandria and Leesburg turnpike the same day, about 1 o’clock p. m., to within a mile or two of Hunter’s Mill, and then returned.

Early in the morning of the 17th I rode with a troop of horse to the heights on this side of the Potomac, opposite to Seneca Creek, and went in person to the bank of the river to reconnoiter. I could see but few troops of the enemy, and no boats prepared for crossing the river. We marched down afterwards, under the guidance of Capt. John Powell, a high-spirited and highly intelligent and most zealous friend of our cause, to Hunter’s Mill, where, if the enemy had been engaged in repairing the railroad bridge, a plan of attack devised by Captain Powell would have offered the best chances of success. We found, however, no sign of the enemy, and only some railroad cars still smoking, which had been destroyed by our friends in the neighborhood.

We then marched to Vienna, and drew up our forces in readiness to receive the enemy if they should repeat the visit made for the last two days. Nothing being seen of them, however, and the water-tank having been demolished to increase the obstacle already caused by the removal of the lead-pipe for conveying water, I put the command in march for Fairfax Court-House.

Toward 6 o’clock p. m., just as we were moving off, a distant railroad whistle was heard. I marched the troops back, placing the two 6-pounder guns on the hill commanding the bend of the railroad, immediately supported by Company B, First South Carolina Volunteers, Lieutenant McIntosh. The rest of the regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton, was formed on the crest of the hill to the right of the guns. The cavalry were drawn up still farther to the right.

The train of cars came round the curve of the railroad into sight at the distance perhaps of four hundred yards. Captain Kemper and Lieutenant Stuart opened a rapid and well-aimed fire with the two guns, which would have been very destructive if the troops had not made a most rapid movement from the cars into the woods. Supposing that they might form and advance, I sent Companies A, Captain Miller, and E, Captain Gadberry, to deploy as skirmishers against them. Afterwards, finding that they were flying, I sent Captain Terry with his troop, guided by Mr. G. W. Hunter, a zealous friend of the cause, in pursuit. From the lateness of the hour, however, the nature of the ground, and the start which the enemy had, they could not be overtaken. Six of the enemy were found dead and one desperately wounded. Blood was also found in the bushes through which they had fled, but the darkness prevented any serious search. One passenger car and five platform cars were taken and burned. It seems from information which we gathered that five or six more cars belonging to the same train, and perhaps a number of cars in a second train, escaped by a precipitate retreat.

The wounded prisoner represented the number of the enemy’s force as eight hundred and fiftv men, and said that it was the Fifth [First] Regiment of Ohio Volunteers, commanded by Colonel McCook. Various arms, accouterments, and tools were taken, and one officer’s sword without a scabbard.

My orders requiring me to avoid any unnecessary engagement, and not to remain absent from my camp more than one night, I marched back to this place, where I arrived about 1 o’clock this morning. I have every reason to be satisfied with the conduct of all our troops. Captain Kemper’s command showed great ardor, combined with discipline. Captain Kemper’s and Lieutenant Stuart’s skill in the management of guns left. nothing to desire. Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton led the First Regiment with his usual gallantry of bearing, duly seconded by Major Smith, Lieutenant Ready (acting adjutant), and Captain McGowan, regimental quartermaster. Dr. Powell, surgeon, and Dr. Bull, assistant surgeon, had little to do, as the fire of musketry with which the enemy in scrambling out of the cars replied to our cannonade was straggling and ineffective. Major Kennedy, commissary, and Captain Tyler, volunteer on my staff, were prompt to carry orders and to give valuable counsel. The companies of Captains Miller and Gadberry, though greatly fatigued with two days’ rough march in hot sun and dust, appeared revived at once when thrown forward as skirmishers against the enemy. The same spirit was shown by all the other companies of the regiment. Lieutenant Bragg, of Company M, proved himself ready and skillful in deranging the railroad track. Captains Terry and Ball and the cavalry which they led commanded my entire confidence by their bearing, and only needed opportunity for more effective action. We arrived here about 1 o’clock this morning.

I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

MAXCY GREGG,
Colonel First Regiment S. C. Vols., Comdg. at Fairfax Court-House.

Col. W. C. Moragne,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Centreville.





Col. Jubal A. Early to Col. Robert S. Garnett on Recruiting and Arming Troops

4 12 2020

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

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – CONFEDERATE

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, pp. 851-853

Lynchburg, Va., May 16, 1861.

Col. R. S. Garnett, Adjutant-General, Virginia Forces:

Colonel: I arrived here this morning, and have assumed command of the Virginia volunteers mustered into the service of the State at this place. It was not possible for me to get here sooner, as I was compelled to make some preparation to enable me to go into the service. I find that Lieutenant-Colonel Langhorne has mustered into the service two companies of cavalry, one from Lynchburg and the other from Bedford; also, seven companies of infantry, two from Lynchburg, two from Bedford, two from Botetourt, and one from Floyd. Two companies reached here this evening from Roanoke, and will be mustered into the service to-morrow. The company of cavalry from Lynchburg, commanded by Capt. John S. Langhorne, has sabers, but no other arms. The company of cavalry from Bedford, commanded by Capt. William E. Terry, has about fifty sabers, leaving twenty odd without any arms, and those having sabers have no other arms. Three companies, belonging to the Twelfth Brigade of Militia, were reported by the adjutant-general of the militia as armed. The infantry companies have no arms whatever, and I imagine that there are no companies in the counties for which this place is the rendezvous which are armed. I know such is the case in the Twelfth Brigade, composed of the counties of Campbell, Bedford, Franklin, Henry, and Patrick. All the armed companies were ordered into the service by the governor some time since. If, therefore, five regiments of infantry and riflemen and one of cavalry are mustered into the service at this place, and they are armed here, it will be necessary to have sent here near five thousand stand of muskets and rifles, and the same number of sets of accouterments, and about one thousand arms for cavalry, and the like number of sets of accouterments. Some of the companies already here have knapsacks, but most of them are without them, and those likely to come hereafter will be entirely unprovided in that particular. There are not quite enough tents, of an inferior quality and make, for the troops that are here, and no suitable material is to be found at this place for making more. There are not enough mess-pans and camp-kettles for the troops that have been mustered into service, and the assistant quartermaster, Captain Gilmer, informs me that he has orders from the head of the Quartermaster’s Department to make no contract for the manufacture of any articles without orders from headquarters. There are several establishments here in which mess-pans, camp-kettles, and canteens can be manufactured, and I suggest that orders be given to that effect. If knapsacks cannot be furnished from Richmond, the men can make out pretty well by rolling up their clothes in their blankets and wrapping pieces of coarse cloth around them; and there are several large tobacco factories, which are idle, and can be procured as quarters for the troops, so that if arms can be furnished we can get along. If there are plenty of good flint-lock muskets they will do very well if percussion muskets cannot be furnished to all.

I find matters here in quite a confused state, owing to the inexperience of the officers of all the departments. Lieutenant-Colonel Langhorne has made no apportionment of troops among the counties to rendezvous here, and, in fact, has made no call, specifying the number to be received at this place. He has merely given notice, in the papers, that he would muster into service volunteer companies from the counties designated. This has produced a good deal of uncertainty and confusion. I do not wish this to be considered as a complaint against Colonel Langhorne. It results from his entire want of experience in such matters. I am satisfied he has been endeavoring to discharge his duty faithfully; but I would very respectfully suggest that it is rather out of the usual course to intrust to a mustering officer, of inferior rank, so large a discretion in regard to calling out volunteers. It strikes me that a call stating the number of regiments to be received here and the number and kind of companies to be raised in each county would facilitate the business very much. Some of the counties, as, for instance, Henry, Patrick, Carroll, Giles, Mercer, Tazewell, Wise, Buchanan, and McDowell, are remote from the lines of railroad, and cannot be communicated with very expeditiously; and, therefore, it is important that the call upon them should be definite. I would also suggest that it is not likely that there will be more cavalry companies from the counties east of the mountains except the two already mustered and one from Franklin unless, perhaps, one may be raised in Campbell. The counties west of the Alleghany must be relied on to furnish the remainder of the companies required to make out a regiment. Colonel Radford has reported, and he would prefer having command of the regiment of cavalry, and I think it would be better to give it to him, as he will, in all likelihood, be the only colonel that will be available who has had experience as a cavalry officer. I do not understand exactly the last orders in regard to the troops from Campbell, Bedford, Botetourt, Roanoke, and Craig (letter from Major-General Lee, of May 9). Am I to organize a regiment out of said troops, and give Colonel Radford the command of it, or shall I give him command of the whole, including the cavalry companies, and order him to report with them to Colonel Cocke? Shall I send off said troops before they are armed, or wait for their arms?

Lieutenant-Colonel Langhorne informs me that he received instructions to send Captain Moorman’s company (called the Beauregard Rifles) to Richmond, to be armed. The order, however, has been mislaid, and, as he may have misunderstood its tenor, and the instructions are inconsistent with the orders to me to send the troops from Campbell, &c., to Colonel Cocke, I have thought proper to wait for further orders, which, for dispatch, can be sent by telegraph, if the company is to be sent to Richmond.

A Mr. Eugene Carrington has exhibited to me an order from Major Ficklin, quartermaster, appointing him transportation agent here, and directing all orders for transporting troops, &c., from this place to emanate from him. I had thought that the quartermaster here would have control of the arrangements for transportation from this point, but I confess I am little acquainted with such matters, and I submit whether the appointment by Major Ficklin of a transportation agent here (while there is a quartermaster here) is regular.

I hardly think much can be done in the way of arming cavalry companies with double-barreled guns in this region. A number of the men have not got them, and have not the means of purchasing them if they were to be had.

You will pardon the length of this letter, but I thought it better to embrace all the matters about which I want instructions, and about which it is necessary to communicate with you, in one letter than several.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. A. EARLY,
Colonel, Volunteers, Commanding at Lynchburg, Va.





“Pequot,” 2nd New York State Militia, On the Campaign

27 06 2020

Letter from Washington – The Great Battle Near Manassas.

Camp Powell (2d Reg’t N. Y. S. M.)
Washington, July 29, 1861.

Friend Irish: – You have probably heard or read so many statements in regard to the great battle at Bull (or Bloody) Run, that perhaps it is rather late for me to give my version of it, but as every one who participated has an experience to relate, I will give you mine, and as our regiment was in the same division and near the Connecticut boys throughout the eventful day, it may be of some interest. – Our march from our old encampment at Ball’s Cross Road to Vienna, and from thence to Fairfax and Centreville is what every correspondent has pictured. It was a very slow movement, owing to the many obstructions on the road. We came upon half made forts and entrenchments, abandoned camps with the food still cooking, and camp utensils lying about in confusion, and we flattered ourselves that the enemy were cowards and would not show fight. The sequel proved they were too sharp for us, and this apparent hasty retreat was only a bait to draw us still further into the trap.

We came before Centreville on Thursday, and with twenty thousand more Union troops rested on a hill-side all day, while less than three thousand men of Col. Richardson’ brigade were getting badly cut up by the Rebels at Bull’s Run, on the southern road. Just before sundown we were ordered up the hill and started at double quick, all “spoiling for a fight” and eager to avenge the slaughter of our brave friends of the N. York 12th Reg’t with whom we were neighbors for a long time in camp, but when we arrived in the town we found we were to take position on the northern road leading to Manassas, by the way of Gainesville, and about a mile from the battle field of that day. We bivouacked in a large field of oats, without any tents or protection from sun or rain, and worse than this, with half rations, (only one meal a day) until Sunday morning. The country seemed to have been cleared of everything eatable or drinkable, except a little stream near us called Rocky Run, and with hard bread (or iron crackers as the boys call them) and water, we were compelled to content ourselves. Hunger will make men desperate, and not withstanding the strict orders of Gen. McDowell, sundry cattle, sheep, chickens, pigs, &c, did disappear from the neighboring fields, and no one could account for them. We were ordered when starting, each man to take only his musket, canteen, one blanket and three day’s cooked rations. In this country, marching under a burning sun, no man can carry food enough for three days in addition to musket, blanket and a quart canteen of water, consequently much was thrown aside, and some water. Not until Saturday evening – four and a half day’s in all – did we see any thing more furnished by our venerated Uncle Samuel. Saturday noon we were informed by our brigade Quartermaster that we would be immediately served with rations for three day, which we must cook and pack to be ready for a march forward (and a probable fight) at 6 o’clock that evening. The order was a afterward countermanded, because we did not receive provisions until 6 o’clock, and then we had no utensils to cook with. But the junk beef, bacon, &c., was cut up and packed raw, coffee was made in our drinking cups, and agreeably with new orders we marched silently out into the road at about 2 ½ o’clock A. M. It was a bright moonlight night, and as we filed up the hill we could look back for a couple of miles and see the ten thousand bayonets of our division, with Col. Hunter’s division following. It was a splendid sight, and it was enough to inspire the weakest soul to see so many keeping step to the music of the Union; but with it came the sad reflection that so many of these brave soldiers would, never return. The truth is the officers on our side went into the fight with no confidence whatever in the result, but were careful not to say so to the men under their command. Most of the officers in our brigade at least, expected to be badly whipped, for an army never went into the field in worse condition for a successful fight. One trouble was our empty stomachs, and this probably influenced the result of the battle as much as any one thing except bad generalship. Our brigade was commanded by Gen. Schenck, and consisted of the 1st and 2d regiments of Ohio Volunteers, 2d regiment N. Y. S. M., and Carlisle’s battery of 2d artillery, – in all about twenty-five hundred men, and we were the advance of the army. About two miles from our starting point we were deployed into the woods n our left in line of battle, and advanced in this way, preceded by skirmishers for about two miles, occasionally getting a sight of a rebel picket running from us. In our rear were the 69th N. York, the 1st, 2d and 3d Conn, while the 2d Wisconsin was thrown into the woods on the right of the road. We were on what is called the Warrentown turnpike, a northern road to Manassas, and about two miles north of the battle ground of Thursday, but on the same creek or run. Col. Hunter’s division, consisting of the N. Y. 71st regiment, the two Rhode Island regiments, and others, took a side road, taking them still farther north so as to come round and attack the enemy on the flank, for we had ascertained that they were intrenched on the opposite side of the creek. The battle was commenced by shots from our long Parrott gun which throws 32 lb balls and shells. We were ordered to lie in the woods out of range or fire, and to be ready for a charge. About 10 o’clock we were ordered to advance into a pine grove, but o getting into it by a nice little road evidently cut for us (as we afterward ascertained) we were met by a tremendous discharge from a four gun masked battery, which we could feel but not see. It was barely two hundred yards from us, and we could distinctly hear their officers giving orders and cursing the damned Yankees! The fire was terrible, and we lost eight or ten men killed and as many wounded within fifteen minutes. This was all bourne by our 2d N. Y. regiment (the Ohio boys having gone forward to try and take the battery) and the General seeing that by remaining we must be cut to pieces, ordered us to retire. The sensation of lying flat on the ground to avoid a shower of shot, shell and canister cutting through the trees about breast high, is anything but pleasant, although very exciting. The third shot killed one of our lieutenants and a poor drummer boy, whose scream of agony as the shell tore him in pieces still rings in my ears. The men were firm and did not flinch, and I think exhibited other qualities surpassing courage, that of endurance, for they lay down expecting a death shot every instant, and remained there until ordered to retire. The wounds our men received in the woods at this time were of a very severe kind, caused mostly by shell and rape shot. I had a very narrow escape while sitting in a group of four; one of them received a grape shot through the shoulder and breast, and another, one through the leg and ankle, the third had his hat cut into fragments, while your humble servant was untouched, save by the branches and splinters of a little tree which stood beside us. While we were out of the fight I crossed the road and witnessed the operation of the big gun, noting the effects of the shot upon the enemy’s entrenchments. From the top of the high hill I could see the whole battle field at a glance. The valley was full of our men, all pushing forward attacking batteries on the opposite bank of the river, and Hunter’s division, on the extreme north, were doing some tall firing, though a full view of their operations was obstructed by the woods. Long clouds of dust are seen to arise from the roads leading from Manassas, as well as from Winchester, and with a good glass it could be seen that a steady stream of reinforcements was pouring in to the aid of the enemy. The battle was now hotly contested and for about two hours the volleys of musketry were incessant – one long roll of firing broke in upon only by the thundering notes of the heavy cannon. Just then we were ordered into the woods to support a portion of Sherman’s battery, which endeavored to silence the saucy little masked battery just opposite. After a brisk firing of fifteen minutes our battery was forced to retire, having lost half of its men and horses. The General who ordered us in to the wood to support the battery, forgot to order us out, after the battery was withdrawn, and but for our commander taking the responsibility, ten minutes longer would have finished our regiment. As we came up into the road again we met the three Connecticut regiments going down into the fight. They were full of pluck and anxious for a chance at the enemy.

At 3 o’clock we were ordered to take a new position down the road in full view of all the enemy’s batteries, ostensibly to support a battery of two guns, but in reality to draw the fire from our enemy’s batteries so our storming parties could have a better chance of success. The tow Ohio regiments were somewhat sheltered by a cleft in the road, but ours was terribly exposed. Grape shot, shell, round shot and canister were rained upon us without mercy. Great gaps appeared in our ranks caused by three missiles; four of our men were torn in pieces and as many wounded by the explosion of a single shell! Grape and round shot struck all around in front and behind us; in fact we seemed to be a target for two batteries, and how any of us came out alive from such an infernal cross-fire no man can tell. But flesh and blood could not stand it and we were ordered out of fire again. Up to this time we had not an opportunity to fire a single musket. We now began to see stragglers come up the hill from the battle, and by half past four the remains of the different regiments commenced filing past us in retreat. We saw the 69th with the brave Col. Corcoran at the head looking sad enough. He said he thought 500 of his boys were missing. Our regiment with the three Connecticut regiments were posted along the road covering the retreat, when suddenly above us a terrible panic was created by a charge of cavalry which had outflanked our lines, and came along the road sabreing and shooting every body. We tried to rally, and did give them a good many shots, but were obliged to retire into the woods followed by the troopers. Here legs did their duty, and a good pair saved one life as I can testify. Picking up a loaded rifle laid beside a dead secessionist, your friend took careful aim at the waist belt of one of the troopers and pulled the trigger, and it is a matter of firm belief with the undersigned that the said trooper will ever make another charge. (The rifle was covered with secession blood when I took it, but I have had it carefully cleaned and will send it to you as a souvenir. I took it from a dead Georgian. His revolver I have also, which I retain for future operations.) After our run from the cavalry we cleared a high fence and came upon an open field. We saw the Zouaves running a mile ahead of us, pursued in some cases by the horsemen. I first saw Col. Terry with the Connecticut Second emerging from the woods, and joined him with a number of our men, and shortly our men headed by our Lieut. Col. came out with both colors flying (state and national.) which were received with cheers. The 1st Conn. came out headed by Col. Burnham, and we formed in three lines of battle and marched in good order to Centreville.

The road to Centreville was a scene of the wildest confusion and disorder. Baggage and ammunition wagons loaded, were thrown over the embankments; ambulances filled with wounded soldiers were pushed aside, heavy pieces of artillery were lying by the road, the gunners having cut loose the horses and ridden them away, and the ground was covered with muskets, knapsacks, haversacks, blankets, canteens, &c. The rout was complete, and all discipline was lost. Every impediment to flight was cast aside, and it was every man for himself.

Our brigade attempted to rally at Centreville protected by the skirmishers of Col. Mile’s division (who although armed with Enfield rifles had acted as a reserve all day, while those in the hottest of the fight had nothing but smooth bore muskets,) but our General was missing, and we had no other alternative but to continue our retreat. When we arrived at Fairfax Court House our body of fugitives numbered about three thousand and was constantly increasing. We took a different route and I arrived at camp between two and three o’clock a. m. Provisions were immediately cooked for our famished men, who after being somewhat refreshed were ordered to march to the city the same day in the midst of a pouring rain.

We are now located in a camp at 7th st, about two miles from Pennsylvania Avenue, and the 2nd and 3d Connecticut regiments are within a stones throw of us. There are some twenty thousand troops in camp here, within two miles of us. I see Capt. Chapman daily, he is well and his company also.

We find in footing up our losses (2nd reg.) that we have 23 killed, 25 wounded and 17 prisoners, and about 100 missing – among the killed are our Surgeon and 2 first lieutenants, our two assistant Surgeons are prisoners. The soldiers bestow great blame on General Tyler, who may be brave but certainly lacks judgement and places little value on the lives of his command. A captain of the 2nd informs me that in the retreat the General threw away his sword – travelled off as fast as his horse could carry him. Certain it is, (for I saw it myself,) the cavalry and artillery of the regular U. S. Army was the first and foremost in the retreat. Gen. Miles commanding the reserve is said to have been beastly drunk all day. He is under arrest. This battle learned us all a lesson – that we have underrated the means and spirit of the south; that we went into battle without the precautions for a safe retreat if repulsed, which is quite as likely to be necessary as preparations for advancing; also the bad policy of sending half starved and exhausted soldiers into a battle under leaders in whom they have no confidence. I deeply regret that the most unpopular general officer in this locality is from Connecticut, and bitter threats are made against him for the failure of the battle on the 21st.

But I see I have spun this out to an unendurable length and it will tire you to read it. The story could be condensed in a few words, ”We went, we saw, and we were badly beaten.”

Pequot.

New London (CT) Weekly Chronicle, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

82nd New York Infantry Roster (the 2nd NYSM became the 82nd NYVI)





Vivandiere, 7th Louisiana Infantry*, On Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle (1)

4 05 2020

From the Seat of War in Virginia
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Special to the New Orleans Crescent

Manassas Junction, July 21, 1861.

Mr. Editor – A few hours having elapsed since the smoke of the two late desperate conflicts between despotism and liberty cleared away, I will endeavor to disrobe wild rumor of its exaggerations and give your readers as correct and intelligible a report of the past few days in Eastern Virginia as it is possible at present to communicate. On Tuesday, the 16th inst., the entire corps d’armie, constituting the column under the command of Brigadier-General McDowell, left Arlington Heights, with the intention of forcing its way through to Richmond, via Fairfax and Manassas. The advance was made by four different routes leading towards Fairfax Court-house, and directly to Centreville.

The right wing, composed of the first division, four brigades under Gen. Tyler of Connecticut, approached by the [?]town turnpike. The center, composed of the second division, two brigades, Col Hunter, U.S.A., came by the Leesburg or Centreville road. The left wing was composed of the third division, three brigades, Col. Heintzelman, U.S.A., and the fifth division, two brigades, under Col. Miles, U.S.A. The latter approached by the “Old Braddock road,” and the third by the “Little River turnpike.” The fourth division, under Gen. Runyon, of New Jersey, constituted the reserve. In the whole column there were sixty-two regiments, about 55,000 men.

Meeting with but little resistance, these several divisions were concentrated at Fairfax Court-house where there was but about three thousand men under Gen. Bonham, of South Carolina. This position was surrendered by Gen. Bonham’s command, which fell back towards Centreville and Blackburn’s Ford on a small creek called Bull’s Run, about four and a half miles north-west from Manassas Junction. On Thursday, the 18th inst., the center of this imposing army, composed of the second division, numbering upwards of 12,000 men, under the immediate command of [?], were reported approaching Blackburn’s Ford. This ford is about twenty-five feet in width, and is approached by an irregular ravine made by the spongy nature of the soil. The northern bank is a perpendicular bluff about thirty feet high, with sides of a precipitate character. The southern bank is low and subject o overflow at high water.

Gen. Beauregard, hearing of the approach of McDowell to this ford, was on the alert and in a few hours had concentrated about 3,000 infantry and three pieces of artillery (Major Walton’s) at the ford. McDowell opened the ball with a [?] from a portion of Sherman’s celebrated battery, consisting of six or seven assorted pieces, including the famous eighteen pounder. The first few shots from the battery were directed at temporary headquarters of Gen. Beauregard, situated about half a mile to the rear of the ford, and the aim of the heaviest gun was directed at our hospital, from the top of which, in plain sight, a yellow flag was flying. The Washington Artillery, taking a position to draw the fire of the enemy from the hospital, responded, and soon had the six pieces of the enemy’s battery in full play upon their own guns. On the fourth or fifth fire, our six-pounder disabled the great eighteen-ponder of Boston, and soon after the music of the enemy was less deafening. Gen Beauregard, who commanded in person, now ordered the Seventh Regiment of Louisiana, under Colonel Harry T. Hays, and the First, Eleventh and Twenty-fourth Regiments of Virginia, to take position at the extreme southern flank of the ford, and prepare to give a warm reception to the enemy, who were seen approaching the opposite bank with their whole force of infantry. Gen. Bonham, meanwhile, had stationed his command of brave South Carolinians, consisting of several thousand gallant troops, and two batteries, a few miles above the ford, but did not come into action. The “bully Seventh of Louisiana,” under the inspiring command of ‘our Harry,’ charged the narrow border of timber that skirted the run at the ford, and with two of the three Virginia regiments above mentioned in close order beside them opened a most murderous fire on the thickets upon the opposite bank. “Our Seventh” in this, its first engagement, proved an honor to the State which sent it forth to battle for Southern independence.

Hitherto untried and inexperienced in the arts of war, both officers and men proved their mettle and efficiency. Col. Hays was not only theoretically but practically the head and front of his command, rushing with heroic coolness and bravery into the thick though narrow chaparral of undergrowth which skirted the banks of the stream, closely followed by his entire command. The Virginia regiments, coming in about the same time, drew a raking fire from the enemy on the [?], almost directly over our heads, the aim, however, being too high for effect. The Virginia Blues, under command of Capt. D. A. Wilson, Jr., of New Orleans, following their gallant leader, who, sword in hand, led his scarcely less heroic company down to the very brink of the stream, occupied the southern bank of the ford, being, in the absence of Capt. Terry’s Livingston Rifles, on the extreme left of the regiment. The conduct of Capt. Wilson and Lieuts. H. C. Thompson and C. E. Bellenger of the same company, is worthy of all praise; but being desirous of mentioning other names in connection with heroism on this memorable day, I am compelled to omit any detailed description of their acts. Under one of the most pouring showers of [?] [?] ever witnessed, the Virginia Blues followed the lead of the officers mentioned, almost to the water’s edge, the other companies of the regiment following obliquely to the right. The First Virginia Regiment having been the first to enter the woods, about a quarter mile above the ford, was under a most murderous fire, when the Seventh Louisiana entered. Encouraged by the reinforcement of the latter, who went into the thicket with a war-whoop which would have one credit to a band of Comanches, the Third, which was being slowly forced back from the water’s edge, returned to the charge with renewed vigor, and, sustained by the Third and Eleventh of Virginia in the rear, the First of Virginia and the Seventh of Louisiana stood their ground without flinching, receiving and returning the fire of the enemy for eight or ten rounds, when the Yankees retreated from the ford and scattered up and down the run.

Our own forces were also somewhat distributed, the Seventh and First Regiments still holding their position at the ford. Sherman’s Battery now opened with renewed vigor, and the fight lasted for two or three hours, when the little battery of Capt. Eschelman, of the Washington Artillery, proving too strong for the enemy, the latter retired, and the hard-fought day was ours. Of the conduct of our officers, too much cannot be said in their praise. From prisoners captured yesterday at the battle of Stone Bridge, I learn that the Seventh Regiment of Louisiana come in for more than its mere numerical proportion of credit in bringing about the result, among the enemy. The idea obtained that the “Seventh” was composed of New Orleans thugs, murderers and jail birds, a la Billy Wilson’s “Zous,” and was known among the Federalists as the “ragged Seventh.” Even this rather exceptional character is preferable to the treatment the Seventh received at the hands of the telegraphic reporter, at this point, for the Richmond press, who, in his dispatches, I perceive entirely ignored the fact of the presence of the regiment on the battle-field.

I do not wish to appear partial or invidious, but cannot forbear mentioning a few of the names of the officers of the Seventh whose opportunities for the exhibition of valorous conduct were perhaps better than their brothers-in-arms. Of the conduct of Capt. D. A. Wilson, Jr., and Lieutenants Bellenger and Thompson, I have already spoken. Capt. Wilson, when the order to charge was given, drew his sword, and waving it above his head, shouted at the top of his voice, “Come on, blue birds! follow me!” And they did, through a shower of balls thicker than hail-stones, followed by the remaining companies of the regiment at irregular intervals, but a short distance behind. Capt. S. H. Gilman, of the Crescent Rifles, Company C, ably and bravely supported by Lieutenants Driver and Dawson, was also conspicuous in the fight. Capt. W. B. Ratliff, of the Irish Volunteers, was remarkable for his close attention to duty and his cool courage. Lieutenants Hewitt and Kernington, of the same company, also distinguished themselves. Of Lieut. W. P. Harper, of the Crescent Rifles Company B, who, owing to the illness of Capt. Jett, took command of the company, I have only space to say that he is every inch a man, and a leader of coolness, bravery and efficiency. He was well sustained by Lieutenants A. E. Knox and H. Grimshaw, of the same company. Of Col. Harry T. Hays, it would not be necessary for me to say more than that he was present in the fray, for those who know him to feel assured, that he did his duty valiantly, and came out with additional laurels. To others, let me say should his life be spared, which may the Lord of Battle grant, his name will be remembered as one of the best military commanders of the war.

Our Lieutenant-Colonel, Chas. D. Choiseul, proved himself in this battle an officer whose native element is war; while in regard to Major Davidson Penn, I have but time to say that his action on the field of battle contributed in no small degree to the success of our regiment in the fight. Of our adjutant, Lieut. A. M. Merriam, his native coolness and excellent military ability did not desert him when under fire; while, in relation to the Sergeant Major, Redwood, who, with rifle I hand, entered with spirit into the hottest of the fight, allow me to remark that the regiment made and auspicious selection when it placed him in the position he occupies.

I have been thus minute in recording the part taken by our “crack Seventh” in the battle of the 18th, from the fact that the very existence, or at least the presence of the regiment in Virginia, has been almost, if not entirely, overlooked by the Virginia press. While the telegraph has been made to give other regiments the glory which should attach to its proud banner, President Davis and Generals Beauregard and Johnson have not been slow to perceive and acknowledge the prominent position which the Seventh of Louisiana had held in both engagements on Bull Runn, and will all in good time contribute their testimony in favor of the gallant and indispensable services rendered by it on both occasions. Meanwhile the friends of the members of the regiment will be pleased to learn that “Our Harry” and his command have not been idle spectators during the exciting events of the past few days.

Of the battle on Sunday, the 21st, at Stone Bridge, I will not attempt a reportorial description, as the telegraph ad official accounts have reached you before this can appear in your columns. I wish, however, to correct one or two blunders of the telegraphic agent, and again claim a little need of credit for our favorite “Seventh.” In the first really intelligible account of the fight you received over the wires, you were informed that at about 3 o’clock P.M. of the eventful 21st, when our heroic Spartan force of but 15,000 men, after a most valiant and desperate struggle of four hours, against 35,000 of the enemy, were being slowly forced from their position near the Stone Bridge, that Gen. Kirby Smith arrived with his brigade, on the railroad from Winchester to Manassas Junction; and that when within two miles of the bridge, seeing the violence of the contest there, he stopped the cars, dismounted his men, and, without orders, marched to, and arrived at, the scene of the action just in season to prevent the loss of our position and to change the tide of the battle in our favor.

Now, without wishing to deduct one iota from the importance of this fortunate and providential movement of Gen. Smith, I beg to submit that Louisiana, represented by her gallant Seventh, played an important part at this most critical juncture of the battle. The position of the Seventh of Louisiana having been in the center division of the defense during the early part of the day, (where, without coming into actual contact with the center of the enemy, it had been kept marching, on double-quick time, from one station to another, for several hours) was, about 12 o’clock, ordered suddenly to march in company with the Thirteenth Regiment of Mississippi, under Col. Barksdale, to the Stone Bridge, seven miles above. These two regiments were immediately on their way, and arrived on the field at about 2 o’clock, just in time to reinforce and relieve the tired and almost fainting troops already in the fight. Fatigued and almost ready to sink from exhaustion and the influence of a broiling sun, Col. Hays and his ever-ready staff immediately proffered their services to jump to the rescue, and, together with Col. Barksdale of the Mississippi Thirteenth, under Col. Early in command of the brigade, started on double-quick across the field to encounter the foe, then drawn up about three-fourths of a mile distant, and in the midst of a most murderous fire of shot, shell and bullets, Col. Hays, seeing at a glance the urgent necessity for prompt action, formed his own men on the march, Major Penn taking a position in the front, at which point Co. Hays joined him as soon as possible. After receiving two or three volleys of minie balls from a large body of regulars and volunteers, an order from Col. Early to charge this body, was communicated by an aid to Col. Hays, who gave it to his command with such vim as to occasion a spontaneous and unflinching response from the entire regiment. The boys sent up a shout which was heard above the roar of the artillery and the incessant firing of infantry, and which struck terror to the very heart of the volunteers, who beat a precipitate retreat, but who were soon rallied by the sterner regulars.

The Thirteenth of Mississippi and our Seventh were now within about a quarter of a mile of the enemy, when an order from Col. Early to halt, placed both regiments at the mercy of the fire of the enemy. The order was founded on the mistaken belief of Col. Early that the body on whom the charge was being made were friends. Several sharp volleys from their ranks soon put all doubts to rest as to the character of the body, and a fresh order to charge, accompanied by a perfect war-whoop from both regiments, struck terror to the souls of both regulars and volunteers, ad a quick retreat of the enemy, however, in excellent order, was made. Gen. Smith now came up in line, and a general charge was made, when the entire force of the Federalists brake and fled precipitately in the direction of Centreville, followed closely by about three thousand fresh cavalry, Gen. Johnston’s division bringing up the rear, in hot pursuit. This is the truth, the whole truth, and simply the truth. And when the history of the never-to-be-forgotten battle is written by hands guided by cool and stubborn facts, it will be seen that Louisiana contributed not only her Beauregard but other brave officers and men, to aid materially in the accomplishment of the grand result.

In this engagement the following officers of the Seventh are said to have distinguished themselves in various ways: Capt. Geo. D. Clark, Lieuts. McFarland and Davis of the Continental Guards, of New Orleans; Capt. Ratcliff, and Lieuts. Hewitt and Kernington, of the Irish Volunteers of LaFourche; Capt. T. Moore Wilson, and Lieut T. Gibbs Morgan, of the Sarsfield Rangers; and Lieuts. Harper, Knox, and Grimshaw, of Crescent Rifles, Company B. Lieut. Harper, on the 18th, led this fine company into the field; Lieut. Saml. Flower led the American Rifles into the field and was active and efficient. Lieut. Driver, of Company C, Crescent Rifles, did the state good service on this memorable day. In the Virginia Blues, Capt. C. A. Wilson, Jr., and Lieuts. Thompson and Bellenger, and, indeed, the entire company present on the field, numbering some 76 privates, were highly applauded for their gallant and soldierly bearing. A private in the ranks of the Continental Guards, Mr. Antony Offergeld, was also highly complimented by his Colonel. The Seventh Regiment, Washington Artillery, and Major Wheat’s Battalion, were the only Louisiana troops engaged in that part of the fight which took place at Stone Bridge.

Vivandiere

P. S. Our loss in killed and wounded will not exceed 1300. About 1000 prisoners have passed through this place for Richmond, up to this writing.

New Orleans (LA) Daily Crescent, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*The writer’s enlistment in the 7th Louisiana is assumed, but not certain.





Interview: Schmidt, “September Mourn”

17 02 2020

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I first met Alann Schmidt when he was a ranger at Antietam National Battlefield probably 10-15 years ago. He has since moved on from the NPS, but recently published with co-author Terry Barkley September Mourn: The Dunker Church of Antietam Battlefield (previewed here). Mr. Barkley was unavailable for interview, but Alann took some time to answer a few questions.

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

AS: I was born in Bethesda Naval Hospital, but have lived most of my life in south central PA. I have had some interesting jobs over the years, as I started out as a funeral director at one of the largest funeral homes in Pittsburgh, but eventually I decided to go back to school to pursue what was always my greatest interest – history. While completing my Master’s degree at Shippensburg University I did an internship at Antietam, and I jumped through whatever hoops necessary (and there were many) to stay. It was a terrific job for nearly 15 years, but suddenly I became sick with an unknown illness, to the point where I was so dizzy that I couldn’t stand, my vision was blurry, and I was so achy that I could hardly get around. It turned out to be Lyme disease and a malaria related disease called Babesia, and I had to take a disability early retirement. Over the years I have improved somewhat and am able to function fairly well, but I am still affected by neurological damage and limited in what I can do. Despite this (or maybe because of this!) I followed the Lord’s call to become a pastor, and I was ordained last year and now lead a small country church (Cherry Grove Church of God) near my home.

BR: What got you interested in the Civil War?

AS: Well, I am sure that this is sacrilege to admit, but I never was much of a Civil War buff. I live near Fort Littleton, a fort on the Forbes Road, so I was interested more in the French & Indian War. When I started at Antietam I obviously needed to learn all I could about the Civil War, and spending every day for years and years immersed in it does tend to sink in! And I had an amazing bunch of friends around me, like long-time Antietam fixtures Ted Alexander and Paul Chiles, Brian Baracz and Keith Snyder, and current authors like John Hoptak and Dan Vermilya. It was a privilege to learn from them and be part of that group. And certainly Rev. John Schildt, who I dedicated the book to.

BR: How did you come to be interested in the Church of the Brethren? Obviously you worked at the Antietam Battlefield, but did your interest predate your employment there?

AS: My denomination (Churches of God) has very similar beliefs, but I am not Brethren and had no connection to the Dunkers before I came to Antietam. As rangers we present general orientation talks and tours, but also have the opportunity to highlight other more specific topics. I was drawn to the Dunker Church simply because no one was doing a program on it, and in practical terms it was right across the road from the visitor center so I could easily organize and take groups over there! But as I began to research it to put a talk together I found more and more interesting sides to its story. I began to organize files, thinking perhaps someday I would write a magazine article or something, and gradually I had a large plastic tub full of files. I eventually became the go-to guy on the church and have been blessed with many opportunities to share the story, from park events to local history groups. The Brethren community very graciously welcomed me, and I have made several friends and often speak at their churches and events.

BR: Tell us a little about the Dunkers.

AS: “Dunker” is actually a nickname for a Protestant denomination that began as the German Baptist Brethren. To learn about them you simply break down that longer name. The group began in Germany in 1708 as part of the Pietism movement, wanting a more personal religious experience. One of their most notable features was that they practiced adult baptism out in the river, dunking themselves in the water (hence the nickname.) Like many others, the Dunkers came to America for religious freedom, and later spilt into a few denominations, the largest being the Church of the Brethren. The Dunkers were similar to other “plain” churches like Amish and Mennonite, and believed in a very literal reading of the New Testament. They were against most forms of indulgence, like drinking and gambling, were against slavery, and perhaps most of all were against any form of violence. There were Dunkers in central Maryland by the 1750s, and their first meetinghouse in the area was called the Manor church, built in 1829 in Tilghmanton, between Hagerstown and Sharpsburg. By 1852 the small white building we know as “the Dunker Church” was built on land donated by Samuel and Elizabeth Mumma just north of Sharpsburg.

BR: What roles did the Church (the building and the congregation) play during the battle and afterwards?

AS: The Dunker Church is the classic example of wrong place at the wrong time. It sits along the road on the ridge north of Sharpsburg. This made a good defensive position for the Confederate army, but that meant that all through the morning of the battle the Union army would be making waves of attacks coming right at the area. So… sitting right in the middle of the worst part of the worst one-day battle in American history was this church, dedicated to the principle of peace. You couldn’t write a fictional story like that and have anyone take it seriously, yet it is all true. The church sustained heavy damage (as you can see in the Gardner photos) but remained standing. Immediately after the battle it was a triage/emergency room, as surgeries were performed in it and soldiers were loaded up and taken to one of the many farm hospitals in the area, and it is even claimed that embalming was later done there.

While the locals, including the Dunkers, had left before the battle and were not in physical danger during it, when they came back they found a much different scene from what they had left behind. Their crops were destroyed, especially devastating since it was harvest season, and now their fields are giant cemeteries, greatly impacting how they will be used in the future. Their homes and farms are now hospitals, and they will be expected to provide much of the care and labor in these endeavors, not to mentions even more of their supplies. And their church has been defiled by the very thing they stand against. How would we respond? Obviously the focus of most Civil War studies is on tactical aspects of the battles, but there is so much more to these stories, so much more to think about. From just one day of battle these local folks’ lives were forever changed, and not only right after the battle, but years later, as due to things like monuments, tourists, and National Parks there would always be out of the ordinary impacts. I think the way the locals, especially the Dunkers, persevered, recovered and are still there is an inspiring story that we can learn much from.

One aspect that I wanted to shine a light on is the overlooked story of what happened later to the church. The congregation outgrew the building and moved in town in 1899, and it fell into disrepair, eventually collapsing in a windstorm in 1924. While it is known such an important landmark to the battle most folks don’t realize that the church was not there for nearly 40 years. It was only through a long, arduous process that it was finally reconstructed for the battle’s Centennial in 1962. This church has a tremendously interesting story of ups and downs (literal ups & downs!) and fascinating tidbits (like a connection to Mark Twain!) that is so much more than the Battle of Antietam.

BR: As we may have discussed, my great-grandmother’s brother, Pvt. James Gates of the 8th PA Reserves, was mortally wounded on Sept. 17, 1862, while advancing toward the church from the north. I learned of the circumstances of his death from the 8th PA Reserves file in the Park office, in accounts written by his comrade Frank Holsinger. I also learned that prior to the war, he came down from his Pennsylvania home as a seasonal hired hand on the farm of Church Elder David Long, and that he had courted one of Long’s daughters. After the battle, prior to Gates’s eventual death in Smoketown, Holsinger visited the Long’s and informed them of the wounding. Later, after the war, Holsinger returned for the dedication of the National Cemetery, where Gates is buried, and again struck up relations with the Longs, marrying another of their daughters. Can you tell us a little about the Long family?

AS: Elder David Long was the main pastor for the Manor church for many years before and after the battle, and as such would have also been the same for Antietam’s church, as it was one of several in the area grouped together. He was born in 1820, and in 1841 married Mary Reichard. They had 12 children; four sons were ministers and three daughters married ministers (one named Seth Myers – probably not the NBC one.) It is said that Elder Long would go to slave auctions and purchase slaves to set them free. Lots of folks (as many as 100) gathered at his house during the battle, and he would been the one preaching in the Dunker Church the Sunday of the Battle of South Mountain. He represented the area’s Brethren churches at many Annual Meetings, and is said to have performed more marriage ceremonies than anyone else in the area. He died at 75 from pneumonia. The History of the Brethren in Maryland notes that “Few families in Middle Maryland have made such a deep impression on the life of the Church as the family of David & Mary Long.”

(I do apologize that the Gates and Holsinger stories didn’t make the book, as things were pretty far along in the editing process until I realized what an interesting side story that was. I was amazed at this Bedford connection to the battlefield, as that isn’t far from where I live.)

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

AS: All in all it took 15 years, as I continued to gather information here and there in my daily work as well as in dedicated research. I continued to hone the material mostly through what was best received in my presentations, and even used the subject for class projects (deed chain exercises, term papers, archival studies.) As I continued to work at it I hoped to get it published as a book, but I had no idea of how that end of the process actually went. I hoped to have it completed for the 150th anniversary of the battle in 2012, but I always seemed so busy that I just never got around to finishing it. Then I got sick in 2015 and retired, and I simply thought that I had missed my chance, that it never would get done, as my mind is not nearly as sharp as it was before I got sick. I hoped that at least the material could be passed on for future ranger use, so that the park programs would continue after me and the subject not forgotten, but as time went by it all slipped further away.

Then fortuitously Terry Barkley contacted me in 2016! He was newly retired from the Church of the Brethren archive, and remembered that I had been there to research several years before. He asked me if I had ever finished the book, and I explained that I hadn’t and my circumstances. Much to my delight he offered to take up the project and finish it for me, especially the Dunker background chapters. He added and polished and made it so much more than I ever imagined it could be. We decided to send it to Savas Beatie, and much to our surprise they agreed to publish it. I am so happy that finally the Dunker Church story is out there for all to learn. Together with Terry’s Brethren background and my NPS background we have tried to give the subject the attention and respect it deserves, and in turn fill in a gap in the Antietam story.

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

AS: One of my collateral duties at Antietam was working in the park library, so I got to spend at least a small part of every day with lots of various source material, so that was where the vast majority of my information came from. I visited any other facilities I thought may have some related material, such as the Washington County Historical Society and the Washington County Library, both in Hagerstown, and the two National Archive facilities in Washington DC and College Park, MD. Once they heard I was working on the project folks far and wide gave me information, especially locals like Betty Otto, Ike Mumma, Tom Clemens, and Steve Recker, and my ranger friends would pass along things they would find in their research as well. I tried to cover all sides of the story, from Dunker religious history, to battle accounts, to park development, anything and everything. Terry had daily access to the Brethren archive and library for many years, so he was well versed in Dunker history subjects and got lots of material there. He was living in Lexington, VA at the time and did much of the final writing at the VMI library.

BR: How has the book been received so far?

AS: Well, it sold out of the hardcover printing run, so that’s good. I’ve been very encouraged by the good reviews, enthusiastic turnouts at my signings (2 years in a row now at the Church of the Brethren’s Annual Meeting the books sold out before I even got there!), and the appreciative feedback I’ve received from so many. I hoped to simply provide another option for those coming to Antietam that maybe weren’t hardcore tactical buffs, and it seems that the book has been that and more, and I hope will be for years to come.

BR: What’s next for you?

AS: Probably no more books, but who knows. I still write a lot – preparing sermons every week, and I really enjoy the research and public speaking I got used to doing as a ranger. My wife and I have a volunteer cat rescue, Righteous Rescues, that keeps me plenty busy enough for what I can handle physically.

My co-author Terry Barkley has a new book out, The Other “Hermit” of Walden Pond: The Sojourn of Edmond Stuart Hotham, also published by Savas Beatie. It is another interesting but little known side to a well known story, in this case Thoreau’s Walden Pond. Check it out.

Thanks for this opportunity, I have been so very blessed by this book and this whole process. All the best to you and your readers.





“W,”* Co. E, 13th New York Infantry, On the Sick Left Behind in Camp

4 03 2019

Extract from a Private Letter.

Camp Union, Va. July 23, 18.

Dear Mother: The whole regiment left day before yesterday, with the exception of the sick and one able-bodied man from each company. I was detailed from our company to stay. I do the cooking for five sick men and do guard duty at night. The weather is warmer than I ever experienced in Rochester. The first potatoes I have seen since leaving Elmira, I obtained in a foraging expedition to-day. They were very acceptable. Last night one hundred and fifty wagons, loaded with provisions for the advancing army, passed this camp. When last heard from, our regiment was in the best of spirits and anxious for a fight. The army, as it marched from here, presented a fine sight. The column marched four abreast, and extended a distance of six miles. There were in all some 35,000 men. Some of our men came back sick to-day, unable to go any further. None of our company (Schoeffel’s) have returned. I would like to [???] more than those from the country. Nine out of ten of the sick in our regiment are from the country.

Blackberries are exceedingly plenty here. A few mornings since I picked a six quart pail full in half an hour. The nights are very cool, and the variations of temperature, day and night, are quite trying to the endurance of the men, who serve night and day. The heat at Panama I endured much better than I can this climate; still I am quite healthy. Some of the flies here are as large as honey bees, and annoy us very much. A fine creek near by gives us a chance to bathe, which I do as often as convenient. We have also a spring, which affords water equal to filtered water you have at home.

Tell F. that his old friend Major Terry has resigned, at the request of the Captains excepting Captain Smith, of the “Smith Rifles.” Government offers a bounty of $100 to three months volunteers who will re-enlist for the war.

W.

Rochester Evening Express, 7/25/1861

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy

*The author is possibly Wilbur D. Smith, who published another, post-battle letter in the same edition of the Evening Express, from Camp Union.





Preview – Schmidt & Barkley, “September Mourn”

29 09 2018

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September Mourn: The Dunker Church at Antietam Battlefield, by Alann Schmidt and Terry Barkley, is a book that I have been anxiously anticipating due to a familial connection. My great-grandmother Smeltzer’s brother, Pvt. James Gates of the 8th Pennsylvania Reserves, was mortally wounded on September 17th, 1862, as he and his regiment moved south towards the Dunker Church outside Sharpsburg, Maryland. Prior to the war, however, he came down from his home in Bedford County, PA, to Sharpsburg and hired himself out to local farmers to assist with the harvest. One of those farmers who hired him was David Long, an Elder of the Dunker (German Baptist Brethren) Church. In fact, if a comrade’s recollections can be trusted, James had struck up a romance with one of the Long daughters, making the circumstances of his wounding and death all the more tragic.

While my great-great-uncle (or great-granduncle, depending on who you ask) and his story did not make it into this book, there is plenty on Elder Long, and plenty else to make this chronicle of one of the war’s most iconic structures worth your time. This history of the Church and its influence in the Sharpsburg community from its founding in 1853, through the battle and afterward, to its destruction and eventual restoration is thoroughly researched and engagingly told.

Schmidt is a former Antietam National Battlefield ranger and a pastor. Barkley is a former archivist and museum curator, and was the director of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives at the Church of the Brethren General Offices.