We are permitted to make the followin extracts from a letter from Maj. Buel Palmer, 16th Regt. To his wife, dated.
Camp near Alexandria, July 22.
My Dear Wife: You will see by the heading of this short note that I am again back at the old Camp. All of the 16th Regiment are safe, only one wounded. Lieut. Hopkins was shot in the foot, a slight wound; he will be about again in a few days. * * *
Thursday we took up our line of march for Centreville where Gen. McDowell’s army was to concentrate before any further advance on the rebels. Our Regiment arrived there about noon on Thursday last, and bivouaced in an open tract of country around and about Centreville, together with about 35,000 other troops. We remained there until yesterday morning when the army took up its line of march. The 1st Division left about 2 o’clock A. M. Our Division being the 5th and last, did not get under way before 7 o’clock A. M. We marched to the ground where Gen. Tyler two days before had a hard brush with the rebels. Here we planted our battery and immediately opened fire on the masked batteries of the rebels just below us; a ravine called the Bull’s Run. They did not return the fire, still we kept up ours occasionally stopping for a short time. The battle soon became general all along the Bull’s Run for 3 or 4 miles from us to the right. The most of the battle was fought on our right, the rebels trying to flank us, that is trying to get around our right wing; but did not succeed. — News came to us about 3 o’clock that the rebels were in retreat which at one time was actually the case, but owing to some blundering our victory was turned into a defeat or retreat back to Centreville. Of this our Division knew nothing until about 6 o’clock, when our Reg’t was attacked by about 3000 rebel Infantry and some Horse. We had at the time a battery of 4 guns, brass, and 2 iron, the 16th and 31st Regts. We supposed that the rebels were in retreat all the time. The first intimation we had to the contrary was by seeing a long line of bright bayonets glittering in the sun; they were on our left and were right on us. We immediately changed the position of our battery, formed our infantry in line of battle, the right wing of the 16th on the right of the battery, the left wing on the left and the 31st on the left of our left wing. Lt. Col. Marsh, in command of the right wing, I in command of the left wing of the 16th, and Col. Pratt in command of the 31st. As soon as formed our battery opened upon them & must have done dreadful execution, as they scattered and ran in every direction. They soon reformed and advanced again; and again our batteries let them have it; our ammunition gave out, but the battery still stood in position. The enemy came up at last through a dense thicket of underbrush. In the mean time we had ordered our men flat on their faces so when their volley came it generally passed over our heads, some fell short; it was a perfect hail storm of bullets. We could see them tear up the turf on all sides of us, but providentially none of our boys were hurt. – A Lieut of the battery was killed, a ball struck him in the forehead and killed him almost instantly. The artillery and the 31st at last withdrew from the field, leaving our right alone. We fell back about ten rods still keeping our line of battle perfect. This movement was made in hopes that the rebels would leave their cover so that we could get a chance to pepper them, but they still kept behind the trees and in the bushes. We remained in this position until Col. Davies sent peremptory orders by his aid to leave the field and fall behind the battery that was in the woods in our rear and right. – When we received this order, we formed in two ranks and marched off the field in common time, our Reg’t being in the rear. We then marched up on the hill near Centreville and remained there until near 11 o’clock at night when Gen. McDowell ordered us to fall back on Fairfax and thence to our old Camp. The 16th and 31st were the rear guard of the Grand Army and arrived in camp this morning about 9 o’clock. The reason of our falling back is a mystery to me. I think our troops should have stayed at Centreville; still all the Divisions except ours were very badly disorganized and much cut up.
Plattsburgh Republican, 7/27/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy