Pvt. Franklin E. Gates, Co. G, 12th New York Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle

27 10 2016



—The Following letter from Frank Gates, a Volunteer in Col. Walrath’s regiment, is communicated by his father for publication:

Washington, July 23, 1861.

DEAR PARENTS:—To relieve your anxiety, I hasten to inform you that Frank is still in the land of the living. We arrived in this city yesterday, and I should have written to you then if I had not been completely exhausted. Until yesterday afternoon I had not received half an hour’s sleep for eighty hours; so you may well imagine that I was pretty well worn out when we came here. After reaching this city I made my way straight to the Capitol, where, by the kindness of one of the Congressmen, I was enabled to get a little rest. He took me into a room where nil was quiet, and provided me a good sofa to lie on.

I suppose you are anxious to hear an account of the battle in which I have been engaged; therefore I will begin now to give you a description of it: We left chain bridge last Tuesday afternoon and proceeded on our way to Fairfax, where the rebels had stationed a force (as near as I can ascertain) of about 5,000. At this place they had thrown up breastworks, blockaded the roads, &c. But as soon as they found our troops were advancing, they left as fast as their heels could carry them, and we took possession of the place. We then proceeded some six miles from Fairfax, and stopped for the night.—In the morning we resumed our march, and after going some two miles we came upon a strong rebel battery. Here we expected to have a ….brush, but on examination we found that the rebels had fled and deserted their posts here. So on we went. Thursday, at half-past twelve, we arrived at the place called Bull’s Run, which is but a short distance this side of Manassas. As soon as we came here our brigade, consisting of four regiments, which was in the advance of the main column, was drawn up in battle array. At ten minutes past one our regiment received orders to march down to the left to ascertain, if possible, the position of the enemy. We were marched in double quick time through ravines and over hills, until we came to a dense thicket which we immediately entered. Suddenly a heavy volley of musketry was poured in upon us but very fortunately it was aimed so high that the most of passed above our heads. We could not see a person in the direction from which we received the fire, although our left flank had approached within three rods of the spot from which the charge was made. The enemy, some five or six thousand strong, had concealed themselves behind a masked battery, and as soon as they fired, dropped down out of sight, and the only way that we could direct our fire was by aiming at the spot where we saw the flash of their guns. We at once charged upon them and then fell flat upon the ground and loaded again. Before we arose, their second volley was fired, which came a little lower and did us more injury than the first. If we had not fallen upon the ground I am sure we could not have escaped utter destruction. We arose to our feet and again charged upon them, and as before, fell and loaded. At this moment the rebels opened upon us from another battery a terrific fire of grape shot and shell. We charged again and then fell back to the first ravine in our rear. Here we were ordered by the Colonel to form in line again and make another charge upon them, but one of our batteries of flying artillery returned the charge we had received from theirs, and this brought us in range of the fire of both batteries, theirs and ours; therefore it was impossible to carry out our plan, and we were ordered to fall back. A heavy cannonade was kept up from both batteries until near sundown.

Then our whole force formed in a body and marched back to Centerville, a distance of two miles and stopped for the night. Nothing of much importance took place from that time until Sunday, when a hard battle was fought in the morning. Our batteries began to shell the woods for the purpose of routing them out of their strongholds and finding out where they were. During the whole of the fight we tried every possible scheme to draw them out of the woods into an open field, but this could not be done. They have adopted the Indian mode of warfare, and whenever they can be drawn out of their entrenchments and ambuscades they prove themselves the veriest cowards in the world. During the fore part of the day our batteries kept up a constant fire while our infantry scoured the woods off at the right. As soon as we begun the fire, they commenced pouring in reinforcements from Manassas, so that by the middle of the afternoon they had a force which more than doubled ours. But notwithstanding this, we kept driving them back, until our batteries had exhausted their ammunition and were compelled to cease firing. Then they began to follow us, and we saw that they were working to outflank us. To avoid this, we fell back to Centerville and drew up our forces in an open field, planting our batteries on a hill in the center of our troops. Here we expected an attack, but to our surprise they did not stir from the woods. We remained here from sundown until midnight, and then commenced our retreat back to this city. If we could have had more artillery, and plenty of ammunition, this movement would not have been made, but as it was, we could not do otherwise. The loss of life was great on both sides. As near as I can ascertain the loss on our side was between 1,500 and 2,000. Theirs was much greater. Ellsworth’s Zouaves suffered more than any other regiment, and about half their number was killed. [Our loss has since been shown to be much less than here stated.—ED.] No body of men ever fought more nobly and bravely than they did. They did not leave the field until they had laid one thousand of the rebels dead before them. Their brave Colonel fell from his horse at the first fire. I believe he was not mortally wounded. Beauregard commanded the rebel forces in person. His horse was seen to fall from under him. F. A. Darling stood by my side, and had the crown of his hat torn off by a grape shot. Another struck the bayonet of his gun and broke it off about two inches from the muzzle of his gun. A. Stone, of Peterboro, had a ball pass through his hat. G. Hammond had his gun knocked out of his hand by a grape shot. Several others in our company escaped in the same way, and there was but one killed, this was a young man by the name of John Markham. When we marched into the thicket, he was exactly in front of me, but when we formed a line and made the charge, he was a little to my left. I will now tell you of the narrow escape I had, and then close for the present. I had just entered a little hollow when I heard the whizzing of a cannon ball from one of the rebel’s guns; I dropped flat upon my face, when the ball passed directly over me and struck in a bank a few feet back of where I lay. If I had not fallen the instant I heard the sound, it would have torn me in pieces. Preparations are being made to attack them again. Whether it will be done before our time is out, I do not know, but I hope it will, for I want to meet them again.—We will have a much stronger force, both of infantry and artillery, which is the most needed. Give my respects to all my friends.

From your affectionate son,


Utica Morning Herald amd Daily Gazette (unknown date)

Transcription per New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center

Franklin E. Gates in Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of New York For the Year 1899

Thanks to reader Will Hickox

Image: Capt. Ephraim Weston, Co. G, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

26 10 2016

Capt. Ephraim Weston, Co. G, 2nd NH Contributed by David Morin, from The History of Hancock, New Hampshire

Sgt. Hugh R. “Rennie” Richardson, Co. F, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, On the Battle

25 10 2016

Letter from Sergeant Richardson.

Perhaps as graphic an account of the fight and retreat as has been furnished by any of our boys is the following from Rennie Richardson of the Lancaster Co. The friend to whom it was addressed giving us permission to publish. – Rennie’s honest indignation at the brutality of the Southern Miscreants in bayoneting our wounded, and his enquiry if the people of the North will endure it unrevenged, wakes a kindred feeling in the breasts of all but traitors and their sympathizers. We give the letter near verbatim.

Washington, D. C.,

Tuesday, July 22, 1861.

Friend Hod: – I received your letter to-day and read it with great pleasure. Our regiment has been out to fight and have got defeated. – The first day they took Fairfax Court House then marched on to Centreville took that and Sunday morning about 2 o’clock, they started for Bull’s Run; they calculated to take them by surprise but were found to be ready for us. We took two of their masked batteries. – In the first place we sent two regiments ahead for guard, when they got into the woods they did not see any thing, but the — rebels opened fire upon them with their masked batteries and cut them all to pieces. Then our column marched up and as soon as they got into the woods, the Rebels opened fire upon them from both sides of the road and cut them down like grass before the scythe. But them Fire Zouaves, Ellsworth’s men marched up in front of the enemy as cool as though they were going to fire at a mark. The enemy opened upon them with two masked batteries and the shells and balls went into them like hail stones, but they stood there like marble pillars and fired into the rebels and took two batteries; but the — rascals opened the third upon them and they could not stand that a great while. They did not flinch a hair. They marched in with 1000 men and came out with 300. Oh, they fought awfully! The bomb shells would come and you would bow your head and they would pass over you; some of them would take off a leg some an arm and some a head; some killed horses; one took Gov. Sprague’s horse’s head off passed along killed Col. Burnside’s horse and did not hurt a man. You never saw so much bowing in one day in your life as there was there yesterday. There was a great many of our Regiment killed and a great many of our company.

Oh, Hod, if you could have seen our Regiment coming home this morning it would have made your blood run cold; some with one shoe on, some barefoot, some in their stocking feet. They had nothing to eat from Sunday morning at 2 o’clock but once until Monday.

Them — — rebels would not let us go and get our wounded but they would stab and shoot them when they passed them. If the men of the north will stay at home and let that be done they are no men at all, — ’em.

Our Colonel was shot through his arm and will have to lose it. Our first Lieutenant was shot and one of our Sergeants.*



*Col. Marston’s wound is likely to prove less severe than reported. He will not lose his arm by latest accounts. As no mention is made of Lieut. Littlefield being severely wounded we presume he was not severely injured. The Sergeant alluded to is L. W. Brackett of Milan. – Ed. Repub.

Lancaster, NH, Coos Republican, 7/30/1861

Clipping image

History of the 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

Hugh R. Richardson in the Congressional Record, 1902

Contributed by John J. Hennessy

West Virginia Independence Hall, Wheeling, WV

21 10 2016

After my talk on Tuesday at the Ohio County Public Library and after a nice lunch on the river in North Wheeling, my son and I stopped in at the West Virginia Independence Hall, a museum downtown very near the library. This is one neat little museum, inside the 1859 Federal custom house. In brief, the first floor houses displays on the state’s people’s breaking of the tyrannical shackles that bound them to the slaveocracy of Virginia (how’s that for priming the pump?), along with the post-office which was housed there. The second floor has a few period-decorated offices and a great West Virginia battle flag collection. And the third floor has a beautifully restored courtroom. In this building were held the constitutional conventions that led to West Virginia’s 1863 statehood. Below are some photos of the exhibits there. The museum is free, and photography allowed (though no flash is permitted in the flag exhibit). Click the images for larger ones.



First floor:


Second floor (many flags, few good photos):


Third floor:



My son channels Gov. Pierpont

Sgt. Charles W. Fletcher, Co. F, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

20 10 2016

Letter from Sergeant Fletcher.

We are permitted to make the following extracts from a letter from Sergeant C. W. Fletcher of the Lancaster Company. The writer is entirely reliable and his narrative will be read with interest”

Camp Sullivan, Washington, D. C.,

Tuesday, July 23d, 1861.

Dear Parents: – You doubtless have heard of the battle at Bull’s Run, and in fact all the way along from there to Manassas. Will, I suppose you are anxious to know who is dead and who is alive. I wrote you when at Fairfax. – Well we pushed forward almost to Centreville and camped until Sunday morning at 2 o’clock, when we arose, ate a brakefast of hard bread and pushed forward with our column – a forced march of sixteen miles. When we arrived the head of the column had engaged the rebels, and without a minutes rest we were rushed into the heat of the battle amid a raking fire of shot, ball and shell from the enemies batteries. Our men fell like rain, but we had batteries playing into them, and they suffered too. We bought about one and a half hours, when we silenced their batteries and they retreated. Co’ Marston was badly wounded in the shoulder with a grape shot. We held our position a few minutes when they returned with a large reinforcement and we were repulsed; but we rallied upon them again and silenced some of their batteries. Meanwhile tremendous fighting with musketry and cavalry was kept up and things seemed to go in out favor until they opened a hotter fire than ever upon us, and as our artillery had run out of ammunition, we were obliged to retreat after a fight of five hours. During the fight we lost our haversacks and blankets, so we had nothing to eat. We were obliged to leave the sounded behind us to the mercy of the rebels. The surgeons were obliged to quit the building used as a hospital, and the rebels came up and burned it, wounded men and all.

We had retreated a few miles when we came to what is called Bull’s Run Bridge, where they had sent a detachment to cut off our retreat. – They had planted a battery and torn up the bridge, and the way they threw the shells among we poor tired fellows, was a caution; but we made our escape as best we could. They killed a good many and captured some wagons and several pieces of artillery, and took a great many prisoners. At Centerville we had a reserved force and they did not follow us up any farther. We left the force there, but for some reason it was thought best to keep up the retreat to Washington, and we marched all night and arrived in Washington about twelve o’clock, Monday; hungry and worn out; and well we might be, for within thirty-six hours we marched sixty-two miles and fought five hours without eating or sleeping, and almost without drinking. What do you think of that? I am as stiff as an old cart horse; my feet are all raw and I have a bad cold settled on my lungs. But God saw fit to spare me through the battle. I saw the boys fall around me and yet I was unharmed. It is hard telling who is missing and who is not.

It was an awful battle, and I guess you will find it was one of the bloodiest ever fought on this continent. The force was large on both sides and the line of battle must have reached four or five miles. They had all the advantage of the ground, and placed their batteries accordingly. Their infantry and cavalry were in the woods skulking about Indian like, and then there was a mistake among our commanders – the blow being struck too soon, as the other divisions had not arrived to help us. They enemy’s loss must have been very large, but the thing of it is they took a good many of our men prisoners. We have no means of telling how great the loss is at present.

I will now come down to our own regiment. – They, some of them, lagged behind in the retreat, and they keep coming in a few at a time. How many may come along we cannot tell; but at present we have not got half our number. And to come down to our company; we went on to the field with seventy men and have got back with about thirty; but we hope more of them will turn up soon. Our first Lieutenant, Littlefield, is missing. Our Capt. has gone back after him. Sergeant Brackett is doubtless killed or taken prisoner. I saw Cyrus Merrill shot dead, and any amount of others killed or wounded. Ellsworth’s Zouaves went on to the field nine hundred strong and returned with a little over one hundred.

You have read of battles and seen pictures, but the real thing is something else. Words cannot describe it; the noise and confusion; the shrieks and groans of the wounded and dying; to see your friends fall around you; to see a shell burst and blow a head off here and an arm or leg there; then a fire of grape shot mowing men in every direction, and a perfect buzz of musket and rifle ball all the time; such was our position for five long hours, and then the most heartrending of all is to think we had to come off and leave the wounded scattered on the field to die, or perhaps to be finished by a blow from a rebel. All I can say is, it is thought here to have been a terrible battle, and I can testify to the truth of that. A few days will determine our loss, better than we can tell now. Why I was spared more than others and still in the heat of it all the time, I cannot tell; but it must have been the hand of the Almighty that guided the balls by on the other side.

Affectionately yours,


Lancaster, NH, Coos Republican, 7/30/1861

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History of the 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

Charles W. Fletcher at Iowa Gravestones

Contributed by John J. Hennessy

Ohio County Public Library, 10/18/2016

19 10 2016

cid_dbd30eb9-4165-46cf-a86f-90fafa044a7cYesterday I presented my Kilpatrick Family Ties program to the good folks of the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling, WV, as part of their Lunch with Books program. About 60 were in attendance, including my son who is on break from Waynesburg University, and old friends Jon-Erik Gilot and Jim Dailer.

I thought the presentation went pretty well, though I was thrown when I realized I had left some materials – props, really – at home along with my clicker. I had to leave a few things out because we were on a pretty strict time limit, but managed to get all the important stuff in and field all the questions asked. Sean Duffy at the library does a very nice job, the facilities are great, and the audience engaged. If you are contacted by Sean to speak there, you should jump at the chance. And if you live in or are passing through the area, check out Lunch with Books every Tuesday at noon.

Afterwards my son and I followed Jim to lunch in North Wheeling along the river. A really perfect afternoon weather-wise. Then the boy and I took in a truly fine museum in Wheeling’s Independence Hall. More on that later.

Image: 2nd Lt. Harrison D. F. Young, Co. F, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

17 10 2016