Lt. Samuel Johnson Cramer Moore, Co. I, 2nd Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

9 08 2021

Camp near Manassas July 27th 1861

My Dearest Ellen

It is so difficult, the way I am now situated, to write a letter, that I have it not in my power to let you hear from me as often as I wish, or as I would under other circumstances; the difficulty consists in the want of pen, ink and paper, and of any convenient way of writing. To illustrate, I am now sitting flat on the ground with a board on my knee, upon which rests a sheet of paper I begged of a friend, on which I am writing with a borrowed pen, with ink out of a borrowed inkstand. Had I paper, I could at least write with a pencil, but I have none, and all my efforts to purchase have proved unavailing. Never was a poor country so completely stripped of everything as this is–no stores, no houses of entertainment, houses all deserted of their inhabitants and occupied by troops, very many since the battle as hospitals for the wounded of both our own and the Federal armies–fences destroyed, fields laid waste, crops such as they had, very poor at best, destroyed and trampled–all these present but a portion of the dreaded effects of war.

The enemy, with less humanity than ordinarily is found with savage tribes, ran away from the battlefield on Sunday last, leaving many of their wounded and the dead upon the ground, to whom they have since paid no attention. Their wounded have been gathered up by our men, and are cared for like our own. Our soldiers too buried many of their killed until their bodies became so offensive as to sicken all who approached them, since which they have left them alone, and many bodies now lie on the field where they fell, a sad spectacle of mortality. It is usual to send a flag of truce to the battlefield after a fight is over, for the purpose of taking care of the wounded and the bodies of the dead. But the Yankees, either from excessive fright or from want of regard for the fallen, have failed to conform to this custom–hence this state of affairs of which I have spoken.

The whole condition of affairs has completely changed since we came here, at first no man dared to put his nose outside of our lines, for fear of being shot or captured by the federal pickets. Now our men can roam at large over the country, without the danger of meeting a yankee, unless it be a dead corpse in the fence corner or a half starved refugee begging for quarter or a mouthful to eat. These last they take prisoner and send them to Richmond to swell the trophies of our glorious victory.

You can form no idea of the terrific grandeur of the affair of Sunday last. Cannons booming, muskets rattling, shells bursting around us in every direction, troops marching, and at last gallant bayonet charges from our brave Southern troops, all tended to excite and stir up our men to brave deeds. Our regiment for nearly, if not quite 3 hours, stood under a raging fire of shot & shell without a falter, animated by the promise that at the proper time they should fire upon the enemy & follow the fire with the bayonet, but when the time came for this to be done, instead of ordering us to fire and advance, the Col gave the order to fall back.

I regret to say that Col Allen did not display courage or self possession on the battle field, whether he professes these qualities or not, and also that in his official report of the battle, which I have read, he does, to my certain knowledge, make an erroneous statement to screen himself from censure for his course on the field. These facts, of course, destroy all confidence in him, with every true man in his Regiment who knows them, and there is consequently great disaffection in the Regiment, amounting almost to disorganization. I doubt not too, that many trifling men among us, who are not attracted by principle in the war, are taking advantage of the present state of affairs hoping to get out of service entirely, so that altogether we are in an indifferent state. What will be the result of this I know not, but it may end in my throwing up my commission and shouldering a musket as a private in the ranks of some other regiment. After our Regiment retired on Sunday, I went into the battle with another Regiment, the 18th Virginia Regiment and flatter myself I did some pretty good fighting, but I was among strangers, and had I shown the courage of Julius Caesar, I would not have advanced the object I had in view; my intention has always been at the first battle; if I found I could stand it, to endeavor to do something which would give me an honorable mention of my name in the Colonel’s official report, so that I could make it the basis of an application for a commission in the Confederate States Army. Circumstances, which I have related, prevented this and although I have proof from several individuals that I did not play the coward in the fight, yet I am no nearer my commission that I was before. These matters, personal to myself, I mention to you, because I know that what interests me, is not uninteresting to you. Have you forgiven me for fooling you about my destination, when I saw you on my way here? Although I know it was for your good, yet I felt badly at practicing a deception on you. How are all my dear little children? Keep them for Papa. Tell Scolley if he had been here on Sunday last and heard the guns firing + the balls whistling he would no longer want to be a soldier. What is to be the little daughter’s name? I want you to make your own choice about it. “I hope it may not be long before I get to see you again, The enemy were so completely routed on Sunday that we now have no fears of an attack from them, and our troops are everyday drawing their lines nearer & nearer to Alexandria, without molestation. Soon will come the storming of Arlington Heights and then I think we will pause unless Maryland joins us, when we will whip the Yankees from her border. Some part of our army I think will be forced to the valley to drive the enemy from there…..

yrs fondly, Samuel J. C. Moore

From website tennrebgirl.com July 2012

Transcription by R. E. L. Krick

Contributed by Eric Mink

Samuel Johnson Cramer Moore at Ancestry

Samuel Johnson Cramer Moore at Fold3

Samuel Johnson Cramer Moore at FindAGrave

Samuel Johnson Cramer Moore papers at University of North Carolina

Samuel Johnson Cramer Moore biographical sketch





Boat Howitzers of Co. I, 71st New York State Militia

7 08 2021

I wrote a bit about the newly installed boat howitzers to represent those of Co. I, 71st NYSM, on the left of the James Rifles of Reynolds’s Rhode Island battery on Matthews Hill (see here). And I shared a video I shot with Dana Shoaf of Civil War Times magazine and Manassas National Battlefield Park superintendent Brandon Bies at that site here. The day before that video, I stopped by the guns and took a few photos, which follow.

First, the wayside marker:

Next, a shot from the rear of each gun, looking towards Henry Hill.

You may notice the “hammer locks” on the breeches. One on the left of one gun, and on the right of the other. These guns didn’t use the friction primers that were inserted into holes in the breeches of most other guns you’ve seen. Instead, they had hammers which were brought down to fire these howitzers, similar to a musket. One lock being on the left and one on the right indicates that one of these guns was produced after 1864. Thanks to friend Craig Swain, who wrote about this type of cannon in a series of posts here. Below are a couple of images of the “hammer locks.”

Here’s a head on shot of one of the guns.

Last, here’s a view of the boat howitzers in line with Reynolds’s battery. Beyond is the Sudley Road, and beyond that, on Dogan Ridge, the first positions of Griffin’s and Ricketts’s guns. Take a look that way next time you’re out there. Few ever do.





Pvt. Robert LaFayette Francisco, Co. E, 4th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

6 08 2021

The following is from a member of Col. J. F. Preston’s Regiment, to his brother in this city:

Camp near Manassas, July 30, 1861.

We left Winchester on Thursday, with the impression that we were going to prevent the enemy from out-flanking us in the direction of Charlestown; but when a few miles from town we were told by our officers that we were on a forced march for this place to help Gen. Beauregard, and that we must make it in forty-eight hours, which we did, and had some eight hours to spare. We had one day’s rest, when, on Sunday morning, 21st, while preparing breakfast in the pines, our ears were saluted by the enemy’s artillery, and in a few moments a few bombs fell in our neighborhood. This was only a feint.–We were in a few moments on the march, and, after marching and counter-marching, and double-quicking it some twelve miles, we were brought up immediately behind our largest battery to support it, and at which the enemy were hurling a perfect sheet of grape, canister, and every other kind of shot. We soon took our positions and lay down upon the ground quietly for two hours and forty minutes in the hot sun. During this time the pine bushes behind us were literally mowed down, and many of our best men were killed lying there. Three were killed by a bomb-shell within a few feet of me, a part of whose blood was spattered upon me. A little further off five of our countrymen were killed without having moved from their positions. Gens. Johnston, Beauregard and Jackson rode before us and gave us a cheer. Gen. Beauregard’s horse was shot within my sight. After a while the enemy got on our flank, and commenced a brisk cross fire both with artillery and musketry, and I began to think that our case was a desperate one, for our men who were on our left fell back and let the enemy have their position in the pines. But we did not have long to think of our position, for we were ordered to charge and clear the field with the bayonet.–Up we jumped, gave a loud yell, and over the fence and through the pines we went until we met the enemy face to face. We were met at every step with a perfect shower of bullets, and I saw many noble fellows full by my side to rise no more. One shot passed through the leg of my pants, and another through my shirt, but nothing could stop us; on we went until we charged on and over Sherman’s famous battery, and our brave Colonel (James F. Preston) was first to mount it and place our colors upon it. So, let the world say what they will, the Fourth Regiment of Virginia Volunteers took it and held it, though we were aided by the Twenty-Seventh; but they were a long way from it when we captured it. I am told that others claim and have received all the honor of the capture, some of whom perhaps never saw it. We took in all ten pieces, having first killed nearly all their horses and men. The men that we fought were the Brooklyn Zouaves, a part of Ellsworth’s Regiment, and the regulars.–But they could not stand the cold steel, and I never in my life saw men run so fast after fighting as well as they did; for there is no denying the fact that they know how to shoot, and for a long time fought well.

After our cavalry took them on the run, I returned to the field and assisted in removing many of our wounded men, and I never again wish to witness such a scene. The cries of the wounded and dying for help and water are still ringing in my ears. I carried water and ministered to both friend and foe as long as I could. Of the number of prisoners and amount of property taken in this fight, you doubtless know as well, if not better than I do.

I had many interesting conversations with the enemy’s wounded, nearly all of whom said that they had been most grossly deceived, but I don’t believe one word that they say. Some, however, said that they would fight again if they got the chance. I saw many letters that they had written to their lady-loves, telling them to direct their letters to Richmond, as they would be there in a few days. I don’t suppose there ever were men who calculated more certainly on victory than these men; but, thanks be to God, there never were men more bitterly disappointed.

They say that they can fight men with some hope of success, but not devils.

So you see, in the whole matter, the “harmless Fourth,” as we are called, have performed their duty well, and God in his mercy gave us help and put a “panic” into the hearts of the Yankees, and they ran; therefore we ought to give Him all the glory and thanks.

We had, when we went into action, a little over four hundred in our regiment. Thirty-five were killed and ninety-eight wounded. Our loss was, therefore, heavy in proportion to the number engaged. Not one of the company to which I am attached (the Montgomery Highlanders, Captain C. A. Ronald,) was killed, and only six wounded. I am satisfied that nothing but the protecting care of our Heavenly Father saved us from so many imminent dangers.

R. L. F.

Richmond (VA) Daily Dispatch, 8/6/1861

Clipping image

Contributed and transcribed by Eric Mink

Robert L. Francisco at Ancestry

Robert L. Francisco at Fold3

Robert L. Francisco at FindAGrave

4th Virginia Infantry Roster

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Image: Capt. Alfred Horatio Belo, Co. D, 11th North Carolina Infantry

5 08 2021
Alfred Horatio Belo (from FindAGrave)




Capt. Alfred Horatio Belo, Co. D, 11th North Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

5 08 2021

Battle Ground 4 miles north of Manassas
Junction, Va. July 21 [sic], 1861.

Dear Carrie;

Your very welcome note, together with Mollie’s interesting letter came very opportunely to hand this morning. We have just received our tents and put them up. We commenced receiving our baggage yesterday evening, but it was Company’s time to go on picket guard, therefore after going out and posting the pickets, I returned to camp, and with a few men left, succeeded in pitching all our tents last evening and this morning, and now as everything is going on quietly I have seated myself for the purpose off having a nice quiet chat with you.

It is unnecessary to say anything about our departure from Danville, as I noticed an article in the last Press giving the particulars. Our stay in Richmond was not long; we arrived here on Saturday about 10 o’clock P.M. and left on the following Tuesday at 6 o’c P.M. I suppose you have seen an account of the collision of that night. I was in the rear car, asleep at the time, but was waked by the jar. The troops were all on one train, and the baggage on another following behind. Between 11 & 12 o’clock the baggage train ran into our train, but strange to say the rear car was injured very slightly, while one or two next to it were smashed up considerably, wounding several of Capt. Connally’s men, and breaking and bending a number of guns. To look at the wreck afterwards impressed everyone with the thought that nothing else but the divine interpolation of God saved the lives of many of our Regiment on that night. The next morning we proceeded on our way and without anything unusual occurring, arrived at Manassas Junction about sundown. We were under order to report ourselves at Winchester, but learning here that a large force of the enemy was advancing, and in all probability a battle would ensue on the following day, we concluded to wait until Gen’l Beauregard returned, and if he thought our services would be more needed here than at Winchester, remain and go to W afterwards.

On the return of Gen’l Beauregard we were ordered to remain, and between 1 and 2 o’clock A.M. on Thursday the 18th inst. were commanded to wake up the men (who were still in the cars) and have them ready to march by 4 o’clock. Shortly after daylight we took up our line of march, and after marching four miles were halted and placed in the reserves. I will not attempt a description of our feelings and thoughts on that march, but leave you to imagine them. I will only say that events crowded each other so rapidly that we did not find much time for reflection, and marching to a battle field is not near so serious a thing as represented by some. The battle commenced about 12 o’clock and about 10 o’clock were ordered to take our position on the left flank, where we remained during he remainder of the engagement. The fight was chiefly confined to the right front and center, and we did not become generally engaged, altho’ occasionally a cannon ball or bomb shell would whistle past and strike before us to keep us on the alert, and be ready for an attack at any moment. Our men were all remarkably cool during the whole day, and when it was announced that the enemy had retreated seemed to be disappointed that they had not had an opportunity to try their muskets on some Yankee targets. I have often, when reading of battles wished that I could be placed in some position to see one, but then had no idea that wishes would be so soon realized. Carrie, I assure you that it is magnificently grand to hear the continued rattle of musketry, the clash of bayonets, the shouts of exultation rending the air when any point is attained, mingled with the booming of the field pieces, and no one can adequately realize it, unless by actual experience. After the battle we marched and took our position on the center (where we have been ever since). On Friday and Saturday we were busily engaged in strengthening our entrenchments, and were kept on the alert both night and day by constant alarms of the approach of the enemy. We were within sight, and by means of glasses could see the Yankees passing to and fro. On Saturday night, the same night you wrote, we slept in the trenches on our arms, but were not alarmed until about daybreak when we commenced preparations for the coming struggle. We breakfasted as early as possible. It was a beautiful, bright, sunny Sabbath morn, and Dame Nature seemed to have donned her best attire to witness the signal defeat of our enemies.

The first shot was fired about 6 o’clock and a brisk cannonading was kept up. Between 9 and 10 o’clock the enemy made an attack upon our left flank, and a bloody contest ensued lasting for several hours. The evident design was to attack both flanks, and then make a combined effort on the center, but they met with such stout resistance at those two places and had to reinforce so much that they had very few left to make the attack on the center. I heard it remarked yesterday that one of the Yankee prisoners said that they (the Yankees) had taken one of our pickets prisoner a day or two before the battle and had extorted from him the facts that the center was stronger than any other part, and the North Carolina men were in the center, whereupon they said ‘they would not encounter N.C. troops at all, but if they were compelled they would pit off to the last.’ Be that as it may, they did not advance upon us but kept up a constant cannonade upon us, which of course we could not resist, but had to keep well concealed behind our entrenchments. The battle was very bloody, and the victory dear as we lost some very good men, but our loss is not near so heavy as that of the enemy. The regulars and Zouaves are the men who did the hard fighting against us, and they are the ones who suffered the most. I am told that almost all of Ellsworth’s petlambs were left on the field. This was undoubtedly intended as a decisive battle on the part of the enemy. We are informed that a great many ladies and gentlemen, among them Congressmen with their wives and daughters accompanied the army as far as Centerville (three miles north of this), with the intention of going on to Richmond with the army, but in the evening of that great day suddenly concluded to postpone their visit to that city for the present. But I am digressing.

The battle continued with unabated fury until about 4 o’clock P.M. when the firing ceased and shortly afterwards we were told that the enemy were in full retreat, and were ordered to follow immediately. It was very gratifying to see the promptness with which our men leaped from their places, and in a few moments were in hot pursuit and with glistening bayonets and shouts of triumph rending the air. We passed right through the enemy’s camp and saw vast quantities of knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, blankets, uniforms, bread, beef, guns &c, that they had left behind in their haste, and continued the pursuit for several miles, when night came on us and we returned to our camp.

It is impossible for me to say anything correctly about the loss on either side. I know the whole of the next day was occupied in bringing in the booty and prisoners. We took a large number of baggage wagons and fine horses, all of Sherman’s battery besides a good many guns and other articles of war. On the day after the battle some five or six hundred prisoners were sent on to Richmond, including 30 or 40 officers, and there were, and are now a great many more to go on. It was decidedly the most signal victory that has ever been achieved on the American continent and several more lessons of the same sort will I hope have a good effect on Lincoln and his cohorts. But I declare, here comes the end of the paper and I must stop.

Write soon to Your cousin,

Alf.
Direct 11th Regt. N.C. Volunteers Manassas Junction. Va.

You doubtless heard of the death of Col. Charles Fisher. His remains were sent home.

Yours,
Alf.

Contributed by Charles R. Knight

Transcription from North Carolina Museum of History

Original letter at State Archives of NC

Alfred Horatio Belo at Ancestry

Alfred Horatio Belo at Fold3

Alfred Horatio Belo at FindAGrave

Alfred Horatio Belo at Wikipedia





Pvt. Thomas G. Read, Co. I, 33rd Virginia Infantry, On the Victory

4 08 2021

Manassa’s Junction
July 27, 1861

Dear Father,

I have been thinking sometime that I would send you a letter, as I have written twice to mother, I know you want the exact news about the big fight and what they took &ct. well I suppose you know we, that is, our company got here after the fight we got here last Tues. and have been under tent ever since, doing very well it is not near as bad as some report it we have had plenty to eat of fresh beef, bacon, flour, coffee & sugar, and some rice, we are kept right busy drilling three times a day, cooking, bringing water about 200 yds. The water is good freestone, but rather warm, still it does right well, there is plenty of it. As to the fight that took place last Sunday, it is considered by all a great victory, and so it is, I was out in the battleground Wednesday, it is 7 miles west of the Junction, and we are camped 3 miles west of it, so we are 4 miles from the battlefield, it is estimated that we killed 10,000 of the enemy, and they 3,000 of us, besides hundreds of prisoners taken by us, we took 70 pieces of cannon, 8 thirty two pounders, and 62 rifled cannon, besides 18,000 stacks of small arms. The value of all taken from them is estimated at a million and a half dollars so you see it is a pretty good gain to our side and less so theirs; there were a good many old regulars among the enemy; they are their best soldiers, and were dressed in red and blue, even had red pants, good marks to shoot at; it seems they intended to march right through to Richmond from the way they were prepared; they had 3 days rations in their haversacks, and had their Knapsacks on their backs pretty well filled; but God frustrated their designs and they have nothing left but infamy, dishonor, and defeat; if we had been able to follow them, we might have run them clear through, and taken possession of Washington itself, but it was not to be so, our men are very well satisfied as it is and there is no bravado, or boasting that I have heard, but we all believe that God was on our side, we being in the right. At last our men charged bayonets on them about a hundred yds off, but they ran like Yankees and we couldn’t reach them; they kept on running until they got out of danger though the cavalry pursued them and destroyed a good many with sword & pistol. they went back through Alexandria like stray sheep. Well, I can only tell you yet that I have been doing very well so far, we rode 35 miles on the cars from Salem to this place let me know whether Henry has gone in the militia and write soon to your affectionate son

Thos. G. Read

Let mother read this as if it were written to her, as I may not be able to write again soon, love to all, and tell James Zirkle I will write to him soon

T.G.R.

Contributed by Eric Mink

Read Family Correspondence at University of Notre Dame Rare Books and Special Collections, including biographical information

This letter at University of Notre Dame Rare Books and Special Collections (transcription and letter images)

Thomas G. Read at Ancestry

Thomas G. Read at Fold3

Thomas G. Read at FindAGrave

 





Image: Capt. Asher Waterman Harman, Co. G, 5th Virginia Infantry

4 08 2021
Asher Waterman Harman (From FindAGrave)




Capt. Asher Waterman Harman, Co. G, 5th Virginia Infantry, On the Victory

3 08 2021

Camp Jackson, July 25th, 1861

My dear Wife,

It has been a long, long time since I have received a letter from you. I know that it is not your fault, but that makes me the no less anxious to hear from you directly. I went to the Junction last night & was informed that the mail wouldn’t be opened until this morning & when I sent this morning was informed it would not be ready before 10 o’clock. John went in this morning & I am in hopes that he will bring me a letter from you. I know I am anxious. You were & are still to hear from me. I have done my part to communicate with you and have written daily. Some of my letters must have reached & relieved your mind on my account. We have been comparatively quiet for three days now, and we are down to our usual drill daily, & our orders has just come in to cook three days rations which does indicate a movement somewhere, though we may stay here for a week or so yet. Our forces are pressing on towards Alexandria. It seems now that Lion is to be herded in his den, and I think we may yet see the White House & Lincoln before we return to the Valley. Nothing would afford me so much pleasure. The newspaper accounts of the dead, wounded & prisoners of the enemy are moderate, also of wagons & army stores. It is almost incredible one can hardly believe their own eyes at the extraordinary sights. This has been a terrible disaster for them & will take millions of money for them to replace, if they even can their heavy losses. The results of this battle must change the face of the war. Their forces cannot penetrate into the State with a victorious army pressing on Washington & ready at a moment’s warning to be hurled on the rear of them. Such a course on their part would be fatal & render their destruction more than certain. I have no fears now for the final result of the contest. We have proven our superiority over even their Regular forces. Don’t think I am too confident. God is on our side. His finger is pointed direct to the late battlefield and speaks in tones of thunder his approval of our great cause & dare could it be otherwise. Are we not fighting for all we hold dear on this earth, and what is life worth, if we fail. I would not give a fig for it, but enough of this. Long before this you have seen Asher, Graham & Stafford & they have given you all the particulars from this Quarter & about me. Tell Willy he ought just to see the dead Yankees & Yankee prisoners. Father’s boys slayed a lot of them too & fought like wild cats. I am very anxious to hear from Michael. I want by all means to go into his regiment if I can get there. I think he has influence enough to have me there. William is especially anxious to go too. I hope we will all be together. When the horse gets home, if you need him, which I don’t think you do, as two horse plow teams will do the work, keep him, if not, Michael will dispose of him for me again. Bagly will let you have another hand if you need him. You will know best. Tell William or Mr. Dull to have the wheat land ploughed early & the land put in fine order so that the wheat will have a good start. I meant for you to get the Mediterranean wheat from Michael. Only seed as much in white wheat as will make bread for ourselves, say 8 or 10 acres. Sew our own Bouten wheat & the Med. from Michael. I am so anxious to get a letter from you, it seems like a mighty long time. Bearing the water, we are getting on very well, that is miserable & scarce. We suffer for it, but hope to be moved soon to a better place. Did we make much hay. How does the stock look. I hear that we have had a fine season and that the corn looks well. Hope our fall pasture will be good. Try & make a clover seed enough for ourselves. The Timothy seed you will have to buy. There is two bushels at home & five bushels more will do. Don’t sew the new ground in grass this fall. Leave it until next fall. Keep all stock off of the young grass except the colts & calves & don’t let them stay on in wet weather. Do with the wheat just as Michael advised. Remember me to the servants. How does Albert, Ned, Marshall, Fanny & Philbert come on. Hope they are all good. Mind me to Miss Sally & Mr. Dull. Good bye. God less you. Kiss my darling babies for me. Love to Lucy. Kind regards to Mrs. Donaghe. Love to Mary, Betty, Fanny & Corey. Hoping to get a letter from you soon.

I am as ever your fond & devoted Husband,

Asher W.H.

Have you seen my wounded men. I tried to send Doyle home this morning but could not. He has typhoid fever. Will send him up tomorrow. No news. Tom ate dinner with me today & is here now. Will & I are both well. Tom Gates is coming to stay with me.

Affec.,

Asher

Contributed by Eric Mink

The original letter and transcript were found by Eric Mink on the website of War Between the States Militaria July 2013.

Asher W. Harman at Ancestry

Asher W. Harman at Fold3

Asher W. Harman at FindAGrave





Interview: Knight, “From Arlington to Appomattox”

2 08 2021
Charles R. Knight

New from Savas Beatie is one of those volumes that Civil War researchers will keep on their reference shelves along with Warner, Heitman, Crute, Dyer, Boatner, Long, and Miers – Charles R. Knight’s From Arlington to Appomattox: Robert E. Lee’s Civil War Day by Day, 1861-1865. Mr. Knight has been good enough to answer a few questions about the book.


BR: You’ve spoken with us before – any updates with you?

CRK: Since our last interview, I’ve moved across the country…twice. First to the Civil War research hotbed of Phoenix, AZ, and then to the much better Raleigh, NC. Still in the museum field and now have 20+ years experience in the museums/historic sites field – a career choice I made for the money, obviously. Oh, and the family has grown by one since last time as well.

BR: In the beginning, this new book must have seemed either like an insurmountable task, or a put-my-nose-to-the-grindstone-and-it will-eventually-be-done procedural. What, in the first place, possessed you to undertake it? Were you influenced by Miers’s Lincoln Day-by-Day?

CRK: A number of years ago I was well into the research on my biography of “Little Billy” Mahone when Ted Savas sent me this cryptic message to call him. He asked me how that was going and said he had an idea that could use a lot of the same research materials, but looking at R.E. Lee rather than Mahone. “Go on,” I replied. He asked if I was familiar with E.B. Long’s CW Day by Day, which of course is an invaluable work looking at the major events of every day of the war. Ted explained that he wanted someone to do a similar work but focusing on Lee during the war. I thought “OK sure, how hard can this be? Between Lee’s own papers, the ORs, the writings of Lee’s major staff officers (Walter Taylor, Charles Marshall, Armistead Long) and D.S. Freeman to fill in the gaps, this shouldn’t be too much of an undertaking.” I cannot have been more wrong, that became apparent VERY quickly. For all the scores of titles that have been written in the last 160 years about Lee, no author – not even Freeman – set out to record the detail this type of project required. In fact the only person I am aware of for whom such a project had ever been attempted was Abraham Lincoln. The Lincoln Day by Day project was similar but quite different at the same time, in that it looked at his entire life and there was a team of researchers compiling EVERY known scrap of paper with Lincoln’s signature on it. This Lee project was concerned only with four years of his life, it was just me (although I could not have done it without the help of many friends and colleagues) pulling everything together, and I knew it would be an impossibility to even attempt to find everything. But I’m a detail person when it comes to research, and I found myself going down rabbit hole after rabbit hole, sometimes chasing things that wound up in the finished book, others that either hit a dead end or were not important enough to include.

BR: While nothing about this could have been easy, did you find any kind of freedom in the fact that you didn’t have to construct an overall narrative? Was there less “creative” writing?

CRK: With the exception of the introductory section for each month April 1861 through April 1865, it really was largely just compiling raw data: where Lee was, who he was with, who he wrote to, etc. There was no need to try to weave it into a sort of narrative for each day. That said, there are of course some days with gobs of information which do require a lot more organization than those for which there is little recorded. When I sat down to convert my notes into “complete” entries for each day, there were instances where I could move through several months in a matter of hours and other times where a single day of Lee’s life took me an entire weekend to do. Because of the lack of much interpretation, I was afraid that the finished product would be dry – and in some cases I admit it is – but, I think when you tackle large chunks, say at least a week at a time, you can really see how events both big and small take shape. And in a traditional biography that is lost.

BR: Cutting to the chase, what were some things you learned about the Marble Man that surprised you (individual events or overall characterizations)?

CRK: Without a doubt the most surprising revelations came from the private writings of those closest to Lee: either his family or his staff. Walter Taylor, Armistead Long, and others who were part of Lee’s inner circle wrote of their time with the General in the decades after his death, and the public by and large gobbled it up. But these were specifically designed for public eyes – none of them would say anything bad about their chief in that format. But when you look at their private letters – those not meant to be seen by the public at large – that is where you get their true thoughts. By reading Freeman one would never suspect that Lee harbored a tremendous temper and could hold a grudge for days on end, or that he would ever order his staff to fire on their own men. The writings of Lee’s military family however reveal much that would have made Freeman cringe. Taylor frequently griped about the lack of recognition he received from Lee and how frequently the General took out his temper on those around him at HQ. In fact Taylor referred to Lee in not so flattering terms as the “Tycoon.” Charles Venable – who butted heads with Lee perhaps more than any other of his aides – recorded some of the most eye opening details about Lee, and just how unpleasant life could be at ANV HQ. One of my favorite incidents I found that doesn’t come from one of the staff was an account by a gentleman who sat next to Lee on the train as the General returned to the army from a meeting in Richmond in the midst of the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid, which noted how anxious Lee seemed and how distant he was whenever anyone tried to talk to him, and he was constantly looking out the windows on both sides of the car. No one at the time understood Lee’s behavior, but once they arrived at Gordonsville they all learned just how close they had come to being captured by Union horsemen and immediately grasped the reason for his odd actions. I was also surprised at how much things of a non-military nature Lee dealt with on an almost daily basis. When we look at battle or campaign studies, such things are often not mentioned or if they are it is just a cursory one. Personal tragedy struck Lee multiple times during the war, with the well-known death of his daughter Annie in the wake of Sharpsburg, but also the death of his two grandchildren – one during the Seven Days, and one only weeks after Annie’s death, the death of his daughter-in-law Charlotte the day after Christmas 1863, Rooney’s capture from his literal sick-bed days before Gettysburg, how much his wife’s nomadic lifestyle concerned him, and not to mention his own failing health.

BR: Can you describe how long it took to write the book, what the stumbling blocks were?

CRK: When I first began this project I was living in Norfolk, VA – hometown of Walter Taylor. So I had easy access to Taylor’s papers at the Norfolk Public Library and the important repositories in Richmond were only a couple hours away. Then I moved to Phoenix, which is of course widely known as one of the major centers of CW scholarship in the country. Access to original papers became quite difficult to say the least and an increasing amount of my research was done remotely. Then I really lucked out when I got a job in Raleigh and had the immense collections at UNC and Duke at my fingertips. The first six months I was in NC I spent almost every weekend in either Chapel Hill or Durham, and I found a lot of smaller collections that I may not have ever found otherwise, many of which had some excellent REL material. I was researching this for at least five years, and it took a good six months to convert the raw data in my notes into daily entries. I never intended to find EVERY piece of Lee correspondence or reference to him, and I know there are lots of them out there that I didn’t find, so there’s always that little voice in the back of your mind that wonders if one of them has info that would fill in some of the gaps.

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

CRK: I don’t remember now for certain, but I think the very first source I started with was Dowdey & Manarin’s volume of Lee’s papers. I just started a Word document and for every event in Lee’s life, be it a letter written or received, a meeting with someone, etc., I recorded it by date. When I was “done” I think that document was 600-something pages, and it still didn’t have all of my notes – some of which I just plugged directly into the manuscript. The first mss collection I targeted was Walter Taylor’s papers at the Norfolk Public Library. His wartime papers were published back in the mid-90s, but the original collection has so much more of value than just those – I learned a lot from Taylor’s post-war correspondence with the other members of Lee’s staff as well as other notable officers like Jed Hotchkiss and others; anybody who uses just the published letters misses out on so much that Taylor offers. I got to be on a first name basis with the folks at UNC, Duke, VA Historical Society (even though one archivist there just seemed to take a perverse delight in making me request Lee materials one letter a time), and the VA Library. And speaking of the Library of Virginia, they have some of Freeman’s original Lee notes – it is incredible to me what he was able to accomplish in a pre-internet world, in particular his list of Lee mentions in the Richmond newspapers. I much prefer hardcopy books to electronic versions, but in this instance I was very glad to be able to use the “search” function of the online version of the ORs. Thankfully I had been putting off the large multi-volume works – the ORs, Southern Historical Society Papers, Confederate Veteran – so my time in Arizona was not a complete waste research-wise, as I was able to tackle them either online or the actual books.

BR: How has the book been received so far?

CRK: I’ve heard nothing but good things. Well, except for one Amazon review from someone who didn’t seem to read the book description before purchasing.

BR: In the editorial process something always ends up on the cutting room floor so to speak. Was there anything in that didn’t make the final cut – things for which you expected to find support and came up dry, for example?

CRK: I was lucky in that regard, not much in the way of text was cut. The format of the book wasn’t really conducive to that – eliminate text and data rather than interpretation or fluff is gone. Some of the bios and explanatory text in the footnotes were trimmed, but nothing major. I had far more images than could be used, and thankfully Ted Savas likes images and uses far more than any other publisher but even still it was difficult to pick and choose what would make the cut.

BR: Were there any areas in which you found info lacking?

CRK: The first year of the war for Lee is probably the least documented part of his CW service. For this I blame Walter Taylor; well not Taylor himself, but his fiancée Bettie Saunders. Taylor served with Lee for all but the first 3 weeks of the war, joining the General as an aide in early May ’61. Taylor was a very observant and detail-oriented young man, and he wrote to Betty usually at least twice a week, more often when he could. His letters are the best source we have on the inner circle at ANV HQ. But his letters from the beginning of the war up until mid’62 don’t survive – Bettie for whatever reason destroyed them. When Taylor found this out he was not happy and he pleaded with her to save them, as he was writing not only for her information, but for his own use as well – his letters to her were the only personal record he was keeping of his service. When he wrote his two books in later years, one can plainly see he was referring back to those letters as his main source. So without Taylor’s insight for Lee’s time as commander of Virginia’s military forces the first few months of 1861, his time in the mountains of western Virginia that summer and autumn, and while in command on the south Atlantic coast in late 61 and early 62, the sources are largely few and far between. And whenever Taylor went on leave later, documentation of HQ suffered as a result. A couple other areas were surprisingly little-documented as well: the period after Sharpsburg, as well as winter encampments.

BR: What’s next for you?

CRK: I hope to have my Billy Mahone manuscript finished by the end of the year, assuming of course places open back up for outside researchers. Mahone’s papers – almost 500 boxes of them – are at Duke, which as of now, is still closed to non-Duke people. Mahone is one of the few remaining important figures of the ANV without a good biography. Nelson Blake did a bio of Little Billy back in the 30s, but he focused on Mahone’s post-war political and railroad career – he devoted only about 25 pages to the Civil War. As one of the most peculiar of Lee’s lieutenants, Mahone clearly deserves better. Once that is done, I want to publish Charles Venable’s memoirs and letters. His writings are a great resource on Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia and only a relative handful of folks are aware of them and even fewer have ever used them.





“L.V.H.”, Co. I, 4th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

30 07 2021

Manassas Junction, July 24, 1861.

Mr. Editor:

I will now give you a short account of the important events that have lately transpired at this point. On Sunday, the 21st, inst., we fought a bloody and one of the greatest battles ever fought on this side of the Atlantic. I cannot enter into the details of the battle, but can only give you a description of the part played by Jackson’s brigade, and our regiment specifically. Early on the morning of the eventful day it was reported that the enemy were advancing upon us and that a large column was attempting to flank us on our left wing. So our brigade was put in motion and marched off to support the point of attack. Soon after our departure from our camp, the impudent fellows opened a cannonade just opposite our encampment, actually throwing balls, shells, &c., into it, yet we pushed on, and after a good deal of marching, counter-marching, double-quicking, &c., we halted for a short time in a grove. At that time there were cannon firing all along our line, but the heaviest was on our left, where the sharp rattle of musketry plainly told us that there the work had begun. It was then about 11 o’clock, but the firing had been opened some time before. After waiting for a short time, an aid came riding up at full speed and we were ordered into the field, which was at least a mile distant. Away we went over the hills towards the scene, whilst the din of the battle grew louder and louder. On arriving there our brigade was posted on the extreme left of the line of battle. Our regiment was posted just a few yards in the rear of the celebrated “Washington Artillery,” from New Orleans, which was stationed on the summit of a small hill. This we had to support, and await the order to charge on the enemy’s battery, just on an opposite hill. In the meantime the enemy’s whole fire from his artillery on the left was directed on the batteries just in front of our regiment, and we had to throw ourselves flat on the ground as a protection against the balls, shot, shell, &c., of the enemy’s battery, which came thick as hail just a few feet above our heads, and completely cutting to pieces a grove in our rear. Sometimes they would strike in front of us, tear up the ground, and bounce over our heads, and others would just graze the tops of our bodies as we lay prostrate. Whilst laying there, a fatal shell burst in the midst of our company, killed three of our boys and wounded another. Also we had some others wounded there. We lay in that awful place for at least two hours, during which time the suspense was of the most agonizing character. For our inactivity was a burden, and we expected every moment to be swept into eternity. The batteries in front of us did noble and effective work; and Capt. Pendleton’s battery was there too. After a time the enemy moved some of their pieces still further over to our left, so as to obtain an enfilading fire on our lines. Some of our pieces returned the compliment to them with a deadly fire. And then the strife was fiercest and the thunder of the battle the loudest. A large body of the enemy then attempted to get around us on our left, to take the batteries. But the word was given to charge on their lines. And believe me it was a relief for our boys to go get up from their dangerous position behind those batteries and dash forward in the charge. The Yankees cannot stand a charge, so they did not stand firm, but deemed it prudent to retire a short distance. Then our regiment was ordered to halt and open fire upon them. After firing upon their column for a while – many of the shots telling well – we again charged on them, and that was the turning point of the day, for they broke and ran like fine fellows. We immediately took all of their artillery, there, the celebrated Rhode Island battery. Abut the same time the enemy’s ranks broke along the line and the day was won. Some reinforcements then came in and joining in with our troops, pursued the routed army for about two miles. Then our cavalry put out after them for many miles, captured about 20 pieces of cannon from them, many baggage wagons loaded, guns, &c., which they threw aside in their flight. Our gunners turned some of their own rifle pieces upon them and played most beautifully into their ranks for miles. The road along which they fled was filled with blankets, haversacks, canteens, &c., laid aside by them, as they run like brave fellows. It was a complete rout for them and a glorious victory for us. Those were proud moments for our boys when they beheld our regimental flag wave in triumph over the field of Stone Bridge (the name given to the battle). It was the same flag given to our company on the morning of our departure, by the ladies of Falling Spring, as we gave it to the regiment, being the nicest of any among our companies. Opposed to our regiment were the New York Zouaves of Ellsworth’s regiment and some of the Brooklyn Zouaves; but with such a motto as “Pro Aris et Focis” upon our banner, we struggled hard and finally won the day. Also the rest of our brigade had to engage with regulars, and hence had quite brisk work of it. We gained the day, but it was a bloody victory for some of us. Our company lost five, and had seven wounded. There were also others from Rockbridge who fell to rise no more. Our company buried our dead comrades on the morning after the battle, just where we were first stationed, on the edge of the grove. Poor boys! they now sleep their long sleep in their soldier graves amid the hills of Prince William, where they fell in the cause of Freedom, and in defence of all that is dear to the human heart. On the field of Stone Bridge some of the best and bravest blood of the South was shed in the cause of Southern Independence, sons of Virginia, of the Carolinas and of all the other Confederate States, were there sacrificed upon our common alter and in one common cause. But the enemy’s loss far exceeded ours. I walked over the field in the evening of the day of battle, and where they stood the ground was strewn thick their dead and wounded. Some of the wounded said that we Southern boys fought differently from what they had been led to suppose. And that difference is owing to the difference on our respective causes. Had I time and space I could enter more into the details of the battle. Some of our boys remarked on that beautiful Sabbath morning that we would on that day fight a second Waterloo; and I hope it will be to Lincoln what it was to Napoleon. That it will but herald the downfall of the usurper and the tyrant and inaugurate the bright era of Southern Independence, when peace and prosperity will reign over the land of the sunny South.

L.H.V.*

Lexington (VA) Gazette, 8/1/1861

Contributed by John Cummings. Transcribed by Eric Mink.

Co. I was comprised of the Liberty Hall Volunteers (L. H. V.)

Original Roll of Liberty Hall Volunteers, Co. I, 4th VA Infantry