S. A., Personal Secretary to Secretary of the Senate, On Washington After the Battle

21 01 2018

Very Interesting Letters from Washington — Description of the Scene after the Battle of Bull Run.

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[We have been favored with the following copy of a highly interesting and descriptive letter from the private Secretary of Col. Forney, Secretary of the Senate, relative to the scenes which occurred at Washington during and after the battle at Bull Run. The letter was addressed to a personal friend of the writer, in a neighboring town, who has kindly placed it at our service. It will be read with deep interest. – Editor Am]

“Do you see, dear friend, where I am? Bodily here in my room, writing, near midnight, at the same little table. Mentally, trying to keep abreast of the grandest movement the world ever saw. The moral progress the Nation has made in the last six months is amazing.

Day before yesterday the Senate passed a bill setting free all slaves whom the rebels may use in any way for the furtherance of the war. On the 1st of January last the man would have been deemed crazy who should have said the Senate would pass such a bill in six years, even.

God is working in ways we never have dreamed of. I find no time here to read much but the papers – the new Atlantic is just out, and I must manage to edge that in somehow. My duty at the Senate commences at 9 o’clock and ends at 4. My dinner hour is 4 ½ — my breakfast hour is 8. I have but two meals daily.

What shall I tell you about the sad disaster of Sunday. You will get a history of it from the papers. The movement was unquestionably made before Gen. Scott was fully ready. Why, is one of the questions no one can answer. The day was also unquestionably ours up to about 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Our force in the battle was not over 25,000 men; yet though the rebels had the advantage of nearly double our number of men, added to that of an entrenched and strongly fortified position, we drove them from the field and won the day. Just in the moment of victory that strange panic sprung up and we lost all. It was utterly causeless –- no one can account for it. Our loss of artillery is not over twenty pieces. We saved nearly all of our army wagons and baggage. We threw away considerable ammunition, and some guns. Our loss of life is as yet impossible to tell. Each day reduces the general supposition, for men are constantly coming in. Tonight some 2,000 are unaccounted for and set down as killed, wounded and missing. I think 500 of them will yet report at camp – thus putting our killed and wounded at only 1500. I shall not be surprised if it is finally reduced to 1200. So far as we can judge, the loss of the enemy is at least double ours. We took 25 or 30 prisoners who have been brought here, and I judge the enemy did not get many of our men. Better than ours no men ever did on the field of battle.

Wednesday morning. Of course Sunday was a sad day here. Probably 200 people went out to the battle ground. I wanted very much to go, but my room-mate was sick and I did not try to get away. Sunday afternoon I went to service in the House by the chaplain of the Senate. At 6 in the evening I went to vespers in the Catholic Church. By 9 in the evening couriers began to arrive from the field of battle – and they kept coming in every half hour till after midnight. The general tone of the report was good – “severe fighting, but our men were gradually driving the rebels from the field.” Soon after midnight came in a rider who left a 5 o’clock. He brought report that “the day was ours – the firing had about ceased – the enemy was driven back some three miles.” You may be sure there was excitement. I us up town so cannot speak more in detail. Then everybody, generally, went home to sleep and pleasant dreams. The news of the disaster did not reach here till 2 o’clock. It was too awful, and no one placed the least credence, in the report. Half an hour more, and more messengers came in. Soon the panic stricken civilians and officers began to arrive. A newspaper reported tore up the avenue for the telegraph office – his horse badly wounded and gory with blood. Then soon came another who reported having a man shot from behind him on his own horse. The few people about the hotels were thunder-struck. At a quarter before 3 somebody called beneath my window. I recognized the voice as that of Col. Forney, Secretary of the Senate. Getting out of bed I went to the window when he struck me dumb with these words: “I am just in from Bull Run. We have been defeated. Our army is all retreating. We have lost nearly everything. Our killed and wounded are counted by the thousand. Some apprehensions are felt at the War Department that the city may be stormed before morning. Our men fought nobly, but it was of no use. They are awfully cut up. Col. Cameron is killed. Col. Burnside is wounded. Col. Hunter, is also wounded – his lower jaw is shot away – I have just left him. Our army is all in retreat in the most disordered manner.” Three hours before, I went to sleep with news of victory. What a tale to tell a man just roused from sound sleep! There was Col. Young, who rooms next door – it was his voice, and it was him. He was not wild or incoherent – he spoke calmly, but could it be true? Was I awake? O God, was it not all a fantasy of the brain! Before I could collect my senses – Col. Forney had passed into his room. There I stood with head stretched out the window. I remember looking to see if there was not a glare in the sky – it might be the enemy’s guns were already at work. By this time we were all awake – my room-mate and the gentlemen in the other rooms. The family were also astir. I could not speak – I lay down. But spoke my chum, “Sid, are we awake?” Surely, it was terrible. Presently he said, “It is awful!” repeating the three words every moment or two for sometime. First I thought of the ten-thousand homes in which there would be mourning on the morrow for the chosen one of the household. The great wail of wo swept over me like a thick tempest. Then came the full voice crying, “Vengeance!” and my thoughts sprung to the long line of a hundred thousand new men ready to die for Liberty and Law. But before one of them could get here the cannon would probably be upon us. Thousands of men must arm here to defend the city, to fight to the death if need be.

Was I ready? I am sure I did not hesitate an instant. I only considered, am I ready? Have I my business matters in such condition that a stranger could settle them? Is there any wrong I ought to repair before I go to another world – any farewell I must say? There were farewells to say, but I could say them in the moment of starting for the trenches. I lay and though. I did not see anything that required attention. I am sure I thanked God then that the hour had come when I was really wanted in the world – all these years of my life seemed to have been nurturing me just to carry a gun and use it nobly in the trenches and die for Humanity. Not doubting the full truth of all Col. Forney had said, in an hour I had given myself away. You had not friend – my mother had no son – my sister had no brother. My use and my life were passed over to the great cause, and I had no more concern for myself. God would deal with me as he pleased – in the end all would be well. I hope I may be as true when the real emergency does come, as I was that morning lying upon my bed. Resolving to get up and go down town as soon as I could well see, I turned over and went into a doze. I woke up to find myself saying aloud: I have fought the good fight, I kept the faith.” It was a quarter of 6 when I started up the street – just commencing to rain. Early as it was, the avenue was full of people – as many on the sidewalk as there usually are at 10 in the afternoon. By this time a few of the runaway soldiers were arriving. Each soiled, begrimed, red eyed man was instantly surrounded and made to tell his story. In the length of a square there were often a dozen of these grouped around some here. I didn’t care to hear details – the grand fact of a terrible defeat and of a probable attack upon the city was all I cared for. Having settled the case in my mind I was curious to see how the people felt. I stirred my blood strangely to hear a calm-faced man say, after hearing the story, “I have a wife and four little children – I am going home to put my house in order – I will be back in two hours – put my name down if men are wanted.” There was a hero, though fame may never catch his name. Scores of men would not believe the report of defeat – “it was impossible; these soldiers were deserters, cowards who deserved to be shot.” Here and there traitors appeared – their chuckle marked them. The stern faces of the loyal men promised harsh use of any man who spoke treason. One great man swore out roundly he was glad the government army was routed. In an instant a slight built private of the Massachusetts Sixth, stepped in front of him, and he lay sprawling on the sidewalk. It was done so quick I could hardly see it, but I know the blow was a neat one. The traitor got up and slunk away – the crowd clapped the soldier on the back and said, “Bully!” Good for you.”

At the hotel, men were getting up who had heard nothing of the disaster. First came into their faces a look of incredulous amazement – then every man’s face took on that look of stern determination to never yield. In some faces I saw as plainly as if the house-door had been open before me, all the home circle – wife and children, high hopes, desires, plans, promise of future years, and coming pride and joy. There was a look backward toward these, as it were, but in every eye was that calm decision which boded no good for an enemy who dare attack the city. On old man who appeared to be over sixty, heard the tale and said: “I have two sons in the Rhode Island First, I suppose they are both dead – I know what they were made of – I’m stout enough to handle a gun yet.” A few cowards there were – men ho had urgent business in Ohio or New York or somewhere else. Loyal men would not stay to hear their excuses. Every man was restless; there was not much talking. “Did you know Jim Harris?” said a man to one of the Michigan First. “Yes,” was the answer, he was shot dead.” Not a muscle quivered – “Where?” “In Front.” “That’s right, he was my son.” Before such heroism how mean I felt! I was ashamed of myself. I ought to have been in the field – my body might have stopped the ball which killed the son of such a father.

I am sure I came home to breakfast a better man than I was when I went away.

After breakfast we all went up street. It was the same scene. Every where knots of men around soldiers – the dreary rain pouring down – here a man standing out alone and solemnly and reverently calling God’s vengeance on the rebel fiends who came on the battle field, and bayonetted our wounded – there soldier friends rushing together, each having supposed the other dead – now a choleric old man swearing at himself for being so stiff with rheumatism that he could not march in a rank – elsewhere middle aged men shaking hands with each other, and saying almost gladly, “Now our time has come!” A beardless boy exclaiming, “I shall take Jack’s place in the 71st,” – an old man of seventy chiding one a few years younger for yielding to the fear of panic on the battle field – a coal-black negro touching his hat to me and asking, “Please, mass’sr, d’ye think we darkies can have a chance to fight dis yer day?” = one man swearing at the Tribune for urging on a battle before we were ready – another swearing at Patterson for letting Johnson escape him in the Harper’s Ferry neighborhood – the faint chuckle of some traitor – the faint chuckle of some traitor – the quick word “You are not wanted here, go away or you’ll get hurt” – in nearly every eye that strange light that never before was, which spoke in the same instant of home and friends, and consecration to the Stars and Stripes to the death. At ten I was at my post in the Senate. We could not work – we did only so much as we must. The wildest rumors were running about till near the middle of the afternoon. Every man kept an eye on Arlington Heights across the river if so be he might see the smoke of battle – crowds of soldiers poured into the city – reports of dead and wounded grew upon us – all waited in uneasy expectancy for the roar of cannon. The House was cast down and dispirited – the rain poured down faster and faster – everywhere except in the Senate was gloom – Trumbull of Illinois, Wilson of Massachusetts, Ten Eyck of New Jersey, each spoke a few nervous words in favor of the bill before mentioned, in relation to slaves – Charles Sumner’s responsive “aye!” when his name was called had the ring of an organ in it –old Ben Wade’s answer was as sharp as a sword – and when the vote was announced – “32 for, to 6 against” – the heats of the people in the galleries began to rise. Directly the bugle was heard and past the Capitol wound Sherman’s battery, which everybody supposed lost, only four men missing, and not a gun harmed. Bless me! How the people rushed out in the rain, swinging their hats and cheered! From that time things began to improve. Fact began to take the place of wild rumor – we began to comprehend and understand the great disaster. So the day wore away – rain and darkness everywhere, no booming of cannon, supposed dead men reporting themselves alive, fragments of regiments clustered in all parts of the city, everybody going to look after friends, private houses on every street opening to receive weary and hungry soldiers, stranger men giving soiled privates half dollars with which to get warm dinners. Five o’clock came and we went up town again. Straight to the quarters of the Michigan 2d, and found my friend Lester unhurt. My college mate, his is now assistant surgeon.

It was a long time before I could find a man of Company “F.” of the Minnesota First; there were not many of them left. At length, “Do you know anything of your First Lieutenant?” Dead.” That was all, then; so went down a rare nature, generous, chivalric, earnest. I saw him here and shook a “good bye” with him when the regiment crossed to Virginia, then days before the battle. His last words wot me were: “You now I’ve always been a Democrat, but I’m in for the war; I never can die in a better cause.” * *

War came home to me that evening as I moved about among the boys of Company “F.” I felt very much humiliated – they all seemed brothers to me, whom I had in some way wronged. Ah me that I could have given them twenty dollars instead of five so that they might all have put away their poor army ration, and had such a good warm meal!

* * * S.A.

Chenango American, 8/22/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

John W. Forney bio

More information on the identity of S. A. will update this post as it becomes available





Wilmer McLean – The Rest of the Story

15 10 2016

fig62We all know how it went. Wilmer McLean owned a farm (Yorkshire Plantation) near Manassas that P. G. T. Beauregard used for his headquarters prior to and during the First Battle of Bull Run. We know that a projectile from a Union cannon struck his chimney, and that it ruined a dinner cooking in the fireplace. We know from Bory’s report that Wilmer helped out the Confederate forces as a guide. We know that later on Wilmer relocated to Appomattox Court House, and that his residence was used for the proceedings of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia in April, 1865. But here are a couple of tidbits I learned, or perhaps was reminded of, in Arwen Bicknell’s Justice and Vengeance: Scandal, Honor, and Murder in 1872 Virginia, which I’m currently reading. Things like why he moved to Appomattox in the first place, and what he did and where he went after the surrender. Since she spent good time writing them, I’ll let her words speak for themselves, with my own emphasis:

McLean, who was too old to fight, made a nice living during the war as a sugar broker supplying the Confederate States Army, and moved his operations Appomattox County, partly because his commercial activities were centered mostly in Southern Virginia and partly to protect his family from a repetition of their combat experience…In 1869, bankruptcy forced the family back to the farm in Manassas, during which time he served as justice of the peace. He secured a job under [President Ulysses S.] Grant working as a tax collector in 1873 and moved his family to Alexandria, transferring to the U. S. Bureau of Customs in 1876 …

A little less romantic than the story of a poor farmer’s failure to avoid the war and being ultimately ruined by it with which many are familiar. But that’s often the case with beloved tales.

The author cites Biography of Wilmer McLean, May 3, 1814 – June 5, 1882, by Frank P. Cauble.

 

 





A. R., CSA Citizen, On the Battle

9 07 2015

Interesting Letter.

We are indebted to the kind courtesy of Governor Letcher for the opportunity of laying the following before our readers. It is an aged gentleman’s account of that glorious victory which is still thrilling the hearts of the aged and the young, and which spreads noble joy over our whole Commonwealth, from the mansion of our Governor to the humblest cabin in the most lonely mountain gorge; and over the whole vast extent of our beloved Confederacy:

Fauquier County, Virginia,

Recotortown, July 25, 1861.

To his Excellency, John Letcher, Gov. of Va.,

Dear Sir – Being an eye-witness to the battle fought at the Stone Bridge, on Bull Run, on the 21st inst. and the battle fought on the same day on Bull Run at the old battle ground, believing it may be interesting to you to get a history of these battles who has known all the ground fought over for the last 50 years, this, together with a rough diagram of the fields of battle, I enclose to you.

The favorable position I occupied during the day with a spy glass, enabled me to see the beginning and end of that day’s fighting. The firing at the old battle ground commenced at 20 minutes after 7 o’clock. A brisk cannonading was kept up until the battle commenced at the Stone Bridge, which lasted until 5 o’clock in the evening, at which time I saw the enemy in full retreat at double-quick time, closely pursued by our forces, the artillery, and cavalry – the artillery pouring their deadly fires into the ranks a every favorable opportunity, and the cavalry charging upon them and mowing them down like a scythe in the grass. In this retreat the enemy for about 3 1/2 miles was miserably slaughtered. The object no doubt of the enemy in opening their batteries at the old battle ground, was to draw our forces to this point. Gen. Beauregard took but little notice of this firing, but in a few minutes after the first fire at this point our forces were in full march for the Stone Bridge. We had only a small force at the ford on Bull Run, where the first battle was fought, but they were well fortified, and these batteries, at the distance they were from our forces, did us no injury during the day. What was the number of their forces at this point, we were unable to judge, because they were concealed in a woods immediately in the rear of their batteries (See diagram.) [Diagram not included.] At about five o’clock, and about the time the enemy made their retreat at the Stone Bridge, a reinforcement of about 10,000 hove in sight, which had, as I understand, been stationed at the Union Mill, to prevent their crossing a ford on Bull Run, near this point. They were travelling in double-quick time, as I supposed; they were aiming to cut off the enemy’s retreat from the Stone Bridge to Centreville. They were too late to effect that object, but not too late to attack and defeat the enemy at the old battle ground. But little has been said of this battle, because of its small importance when compared with the battle at the Stone Bridge. The distance from Camp Pickens to the Stone Bridge is 5 miles. The main battle did not commence at the Stone Bridge, but at least two miles west of it. The enemy, in large force, had moved up Bull Run in the direction of Sudley, and near that point crossed over an marched towards Dogan’s. – The high ground and woods between the Stone Bridge and Dogan’s, concealed them from our view. Dogan’s is on a high ridge, which continues until you get near the Stone Bridge. Near Dogan’s is where the enemy rushed from the woods and made their attack on the left wing of our army in such force that I cannot compare them in numbers to any thing else that a pigeon roost in a forest, when the pigeons are either coming in or going out. Our left wing in numbers could not have numbered one to ten of the enemy. Here our brave heroes sustained their position for one hour, repulsing the enemy whenever they attempted to extend their line to flank them. At this point was our greatest loss. As soon as our reinforcements came to the relief of our noble band, we soon repulsed the enemy. – They soon rallied and a more dearly fire kept up than tongue can express or imagination conceive. The enemy took a firm stand, and well did they maintain it for two hours. At this warmly contested stand the firing of the small arms reminded me of a long train of cars passing speedily over a bridge. I could not conceive how a single man could escape the fire. The enemy could not stand it, and again we repulsed them; but they soon rallied and made a desperate effort. We then gave way, but soon rallied, and the fight seemed to be still more desperate than before, and each party seemed as though it was death or victory on both sides. This state of things continued for two hours or more. Then the enemy gave way. Again they soon rallied and came into the fight as they had before, determined to die or be victorious. They stood the deadly fire of our noble and heroic and brave boys, led on and cheered on by our noble and brave Beauregard and Johnson, who were seen during the day in the thickest of the fight. The Yankees stood this hot and incessant fire until five o’clock, when they took their final leave of us in double-quick time, closely pursued by our artillery and cavalry, for a distance of between three and a half or four miles, to Cub Run. At Cub Run there is a high bridge to cross, and here the cavalry made a desperate charge upon them, capturing the last piece of their cannon, fifty horses and forty wagons, with a number of other valuables. Besides the killing and taking of prisoners, we have taken in cannon in sixty-three pieces, in small arms an immense quantity. – The precise number will never be known, as the country people around in every direction have well supplied themselves with arms to defend their homes, which they were very deficient in before this battle, for arms for the home guard. Now it seems that God, in His kind providence, has provided us with all the material comforts and arms for our defence. – Yes, on the Sabbath of the 21st instant, we received a refreshing shower of blessing; yet it had some hail mixed with it, which cut down many noble sons of the South. In clothing, arm, ammunition and war materials, we are abundantly supplied for the present. I have now closed my observations on the occurrences of the 21st instant. That night we returned to our camp, our bosoms filled to overflowing with joy at the result of the day. We knew that night we had driven the Yankees to Centreville, yet we were restless that night to know what would be the action on to-morrow. On the next day, early in the morning, I found the whole army marching in the direction of Centreville. The army was headed by the cavalry, they followed by the artillery, then the volunteers. Before the last of the volunteers had left camp I saw t first of the volunteers that I had passed returning. All were anxious to know the cause of this move. I was then at the Quartermaster’s department. An officer rode up in great haste, and said they had received a dispatch at headquarters informing them that the Yankees had fled from Centreville, and they had crossed over to Washington. Then all our force, except the cavalry and artillery, were ordered back. – They passed on to Fairfax Court House.

It was, or ought to have been, very pleasing to all Southerners to witness the cheerfulness of the soldiers in their line of march on Monday Morning for Centreville. It was raining incessantly, as it had been all the morning; the road which they were travelling, was about shoe-deep in mud, yet they looked cheerful, and seemed anxious to pursue the enemy. I must mention, while the volunteers were passing, I discovered in the ranks my old and esteemed friend Philip Pitman[*], of Shenandoah, who has been a member of both branches of the Virginia Legislature, and is still a member. He is about 60 years of age; his head as white as snow. He seemed happy and contented, as if he was on a deer hunt, which sport he very much enjoys. If all the Southern boys were made of such material as Philip Pitman the Yankee boys would not stand up long before us.

A. R.

Richmond Enquirer, 8/5/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*Philip Pitman was a member of Co. F, 10th VA Infantry. He would be discharged for old age and return to the Virginia Legislature. See here.





On the Anniversary of the Surrender at Bennett Place

21 04 2015

This article ran in my Collateral Damage column in Civil War Times back in December, 2010, as Bennett Place, Where the War Really Ended. Click on the thumbnails for larger images I recorded over the years.

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Original road trace

Original road trace

The knock came unexpectedly at just about noon that sunny spring day, April 17, 1865. James Bennett and his wife, Nancy, opened the door to their modest three-room, two-story home and were greeted by Union Major General William T. Sherman and Confederate General Joseph Johnston, along with their staffs and escorts, several hundred soldiers in all. Johnston thought the farm which he had passed earlier looked like an appropriate place for them to sit down and talk and Sherman had deferred to his judgment. The Bennetts left their guests and repaired to their detached kitchen, leaving the two men in possession of the main room, which was described as “scrupulously neat, the floors scrubbed to a milky whiteness, the bed in one room very neatly made up, and the few articles of furniture in the room arranged with neatness and taste”. What followed was the first of three meetings between the army group commanders; three meetings that would end – after no little drama – with the surrender on April 26th of nearly 90,000 Confederate soldiers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

353James Bennett (he would change the spelling from “Bennitt” after 1860: to avoid confusion the later spelling will be used here) was born in Chatham County, NC on July 11, 1806. In the 1820s he moved to Orange County, and on May 23, 1834 he married Nancy Leigh Pearson. The union produced three children: son Lorenzo in 1832, daughter Eliza Ann in 1834, and son Alphonzo in 1836. After years of struggling financially, in 1846 James was finally able to borrow $400 and purchase a 325 acre farm with an existing cabin along the Hillsboro Road outside Durham, NC, in eastern Orange County. They added siding to the cabin, and by 1854 James was able to pay off the loan, later selling 133 acres for $250.

Reconstructed Bennett Farm

Reconstructed Bennett Farm

James had several sources of income. He did some contract hauling; sold food, liquor and lodging to travelers on the Hillsboro Road; and made and sold shoes and clothing. But the family’s primary business was agriculture, and they grew corn which they both consumed and sold. The Bennett farm also produced cantaloupe, watermelon, oats, wheat, and sweet potatoes. Bennett owned no slaves, but hired helpers, including slaves, when he was able.

The war was hard on the Bennetts. Lorenzo, who had enlisted in the 27th NC, fell sick and died in a Winchester, VA army hospital in October 1862. Alfonso died that same year, though it isn’t clear if he died in military service. In August 1864 Eliza’s husband Robert Duke – a brother of Washington Duke for whom Duke University is named – of the 46th NC died of illness in a hospital in Lynchburg, VA. Soon after, Eliza returned to live at Bennett Place with her and Robert’s son, James.

Interior of reconstructed farm house

Interior of reconstructed farm house

When the “Terms of a Military Convention” were signed by Sherman and Johnston on April 26th, James Bennett was invited to join the generals and their staffs in a celebratory toast. Afterwards, a Union private offered to purchase the table cover on which the agreement had been signed, but Bennett refused. One reporter wrote that relic hunters were so thorough that there would soon be little left to indicate where the house stood.

Two days later, a detail from Kilpatrick’s cavalry division arrived and made Bennett an offer of $10 and a horse for the signing table and cover, with the caveat that they were under orders to take them if he declined the offer. Not surprisingly, he accepted, but despite turning over the table the payment never materialized. In 1870, after learning that the table had subsequently sold for $3,000, Bennett wrote to the governor of North Carolina seeking compensation for it and other items taken from his home, but to no effect. In 1873 he filed a claim with the Southern Claims Commission, but was denied restitution because he had supported the Confederacy.

While his land was spared the ravages of fighting, after the war the productivity of Bennett’s farm dropped off significantly. By 1875 sales of various parcels of his land left him with 175 acres, all of which he sharecropped out in early 1876. James Bennett died in 1879, followed not long after by his wife. By 1889 Eliza’s daughter Roberta Shields was the sole owner of the farm: she sold 35 acres including the house to Brodie L. Duke, a black-sheep son of Washington Duke, in 1890.

The chimney is all that remains of the original dwelling

The chimney is all that remains of the original dwelling

By the early 1900’s the farm was reported as deserted, the house in a state of severe 359disrepair. A protective structure was erected around the house in the latter half of the first decade of the 20th century. Richmond businessman Samuel T. Morgan purchased 31 acres and the house around 1908, but he died in 1920 before anything was done to preserve the structure. In 1921, the Surrender site burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances. All that remained was the stone chimney.

"Unity"

“Unity”

In 1923 a 3 ½ acre plot including the Surrender site and a new monument (Unity) was donated to a non-profit organization, The Bennett Place Memorial Commission, by the Morgan family in return for its promise to maintain the site in perpetuity. But while small improvements were made in the first decade, the site was relatively unvisited for more than 20 years. In 1961, Bennett Place became an official NC State Historic Site. The reconstructed house, kitchen, smokehouse and split rail fence lining the historic Hillsboro Road trace were dedicated, and Bennett Place’s life as a public historic landmark began. Today the site also includes a visitor center with theater, museum, and gift shop, the Everett-Thissen Research Library, and a bandstand.

358357DCP_0040DCP_0039

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Thanks to Tonia Smith for her assistance in the preparation of this article. See Arthur C. Menius, James Bennitt: Portrait of an Antebellum Yeoman in The North Carolina Historical Review, October 1981 and the same author, The Bennett Place, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, July 1979





Thornberry House

21 11 2014

This past Saturday I paid a visit to Manassas National Battlefield Park. One of the spots we hit was the north end of the park, the area of the Thornberry House and Sudley Church. The Thornberry children were used by photographers Barnard and Gibson in many of their March 1862 photos of the battlefield, and the house was used as a hospital in both battles of Manassas. It was near this house that Sullivan Ballou’s body was buried and subsequently dug up, mutilated, and burned (see here, here, and here.) Laura Thornberry later recorded her recollections of the battle. And here are some images of the house and surroundings I recorded earlier. Below are the images from Saturday, November 15, 2014. Click for much larger images.

Interpretive Marker

Interpretive Marker

House from west

House from west

House from south

House from south

Looking south down Sudley Road trace, west of Thornberry house

Looking south down Sudley Road trace, west of Thornberry house

Thornberry House 1862

Thornberry House 1862





Edward S. Barrett, Civilian, On the Battle (2)

15 09 2014

Scenes on the Battle Field – – – Personal Adventures at the Battle of Bull Run.

From The Boston, Traveller, Aug. 1.

[Concluded.]

Most of these rebels had gray outfits, with black trimmings, very similar to the uniforms of some of our men. Scattered all through this wood were our men and the Alabamians, dead and wounded mingled together. I noticed a splendid bay horse nibbling the leaves from a tree, and was thinking what a fine animal he was, when I saw that one fore leg was shot off, clean as though cut by a knife, and bleeding a stream. Until this time I supposed that everything was being swept before us, as the fire from the batteries had been nearly silenced on the right, and only an occasional discharge was heard. On the enemy’s left the firing was not nearly as vigorous as half an hour previous. I came out of the woods, and to my utter astonishment saw our whole body retreating in utter confusion and disorder – no lines, no companies, no regiments could be distinguished. I stood still a few moments, unable to comprehend the extraordinary spectacle.

I heard my name called, and turning round a lieutenant of the Massachusetts Fifth came towards me. “My God, Ed., what are you here for?” he exclaimed. Without replying, I asked if the Fifth had suffered much; he said that it had, and that the colonel was dangerously wounded. I waited to find others of my friends, but the whole line was drifting back through the valley. I fell in with them and went slowly up the hill, occasionally halting and looking back. I stopped on the brow of a hill while the volume drifted by, and I can compare it to nothing more than a drove of cattle, so entirely broken and disorganized were our lines. The enemy had nearly ceased firing from the batteries on their right and centre, but upon our extreme right, beyond a patch of woods, the fight was going on, and their cannonading was kept up with vigor.

The line where the main battle was fought was a half to three-quarters of a mile in length, the ground uneven and broken by knolls and patches of wood. At no time did we have a fair chance at the enemy in the open field. – They kept behind their intrenchments or under cover of the woods. Our comparatively slight loss may be attributed to the fact that the great body of our troops were posted in the valley in front of the enemy’s batteries, but by keeping as close to the ground as possible, the enemy’s shot passed over their heads, while the cross fire of infantry from their flanks caused us the most damage.

I did not leave the hill until the enemy’s infantry came our from their intrenchments, and slowly moved forward, their guns glistening in the sun; but they showed no disposition to charge, and only advanced a short distance. Had they precipitated their columns upon our panic-stricken army the slaughter would have been dreadful, for so thorough was the panic that no power on earth could have stopped the retreat and make our men turn and fight. They were exhausted with twelve hours marching and fighting, having had little to eat, their mouths parched with thirst, and no water in their canteens; what could be expected of them then? Our men did fight like heroes, and only retreated when they had no officers to control and command them.

I found my horse tied to the tree where I had left him in the morning. Mounting him, I rode up to the hospital headquarters, and stopped some time watching the ambulances bringing their loads of wounded, fearing I might discover a friend or acquaintance. As these loads of wounded men were brought up, blood flowed from the ambulances like water from an ice cart, and their mutilated limbs protruding from the rear had no semblance of humanity.

I left these scenes of blood and carnage and fell into this retreating mass of disorderly and confused soldiery. Then commenced my retreat. None who dragged their weary limbs through the long hours of that night will ever  forget it. Officers of regiments placed themselves in front of a body of their men and besought them to halt and form, for if they did not make a stand their retreat would be cut off. But they might as well have asked the wind to cease blowing; the men heeded them not, but pressed on in retreat. The regiments two or three miles to the rear, which had not been in action, exhorted our men to stop, but all to no purpose; no power could stop them. The various regiments tried to collect as many of their regiment and their State. In some instances they collected together two or three hundred men.

At a narrow place in the road the baggage wagons and artillery got jammed together in a dead lock, and in trying to get through I was hemmed in so completely that for fifteen minutes I could not move in either direction, and in this way I became separated from a remnant of the Fifth, ,and did not see them again till I reached Centreville. I finally extricated myself by breaking down a rail fence, and driving my horse over it, struck across a large corn field, thus cutting off a considerable distance and reaching the road at a point where it entered the oak forest. Shortly after entering the woods the column in front of me suddenly broke and ran into the woods on the left; the panic spread past me and soldiers ran pell mell into the woods, leaving me alone on my horse. I was afraid that in their fright they might shoot me and I shouted lustily “false alarm.”

Turning my horse about not a man could I see, but soon a soldier thrust his head from behind a large oak. I asked him “what the matter was;” he replied “the enemy are in front.” Somewhat provoked at the scare, I made some reflection on his courage, and shouted again still louder, “false alarm,” which was soon taken up along the road, and in five minutes we were going along as before. This was between five and six o’clock in the afternoon. Shortly after I overtook two soldiers helping along a disabled lieutenant; they asked me to take him up behind me, to which I readily assented, although my horse was already encumbered with a pair of saddle-bags and several blankets. The poor man groaned as they lifted him up behind me. – I was fearful he might fall off, and I told him to put both arms round me and hold on tight. Leaning his head upon my shoulder we started on.

He soon felt better, gave me his name, and informed me that he was a first lieutenant of the Marines, and belonged to Connecticut. – He stated that they had in the fight four companies of eighty men each and that Lieutenant Hitchcock (a very dear friend) was killed by his side. A cavalry officer with his arm in a sling, came riding along, and drawing up near me, I asked him if he was much hurt. He replied “that he had received a rifle ball through the fleshy part of his arm.” He also told me that during the fight he had two horses shot under him, and the one on which he was then riding he caught on the field. I questioned him as to the cause of our disaster, and he answered “that our light troops and light batteries could make no headway against the heavy guns of the enemy strongly intrenched.” I asked him how the enemy’s works could be carried; he replied, “by allowing the cavalry to charge, supported by infantry.” He also informed me that we had about one thousand cavalry in the field during the battle.

As we continued our retreat through the wood, the men overcome with weariness, dropped by the roadside, and immediately fell asleep – some completely exhausted, begged to be carried, the wagons being already overloaded with those being unable to walk; and some shrewd ones quietly bargained with the driver of an ordnance wagons for a seat by his side. Passing through this wood we came in sight of the hills of Centreville. I noticed that the column mostly left the road and bore off through and open field, leaving the bridge we had crossed in the morning some distance on our right. I could not account for this deviation from the morning’s course, and I left the main body and continued along some distance farther, determined to keep the main road, as I knew of no other way to cross the creek except by the bridge we had crossed in the morning, but coming up to a line of broken down wagons, it occurred to me that the bridge might be blocked up, as I recollected the passage was quite narrow. I then started off to the left across a level field, but upon looking back I perceived that the wagons still continued on toward the bridge; in fact there was no other way for them to cross. I followed the crowd of soldiers through the field and into some low woods.

Here they scattered in every direction, as there was no path, and each one was compelled to choose his own route. I picked my way among the tangled underbrush till I came to the creek; the bank down to the water was very steep, and I feared my horse could not carry us both down safely; so, dismounting, I led him slowly down, and then mounting, I drove into the stream. The bottom was soft and miry, and my horse sunk in to its belly. I began to think we all should be floundering in the stream; then urging him to his utmost strength we reached the opposite bank in safety. Twice my gallant horse started up the bank and fell back. After crossing this creek I came into a corn field, and soon struck a road leading to Centreville, which village I soon reached, and there my companion met with his captain and he dismounted. Never was a man more grateful for a favor than was this lietenant. With tears in his eyes he thanked me a thousand time, and, wringing my hands, walked away with his friends.

From Centreville I could see the disordered army winding on for some two miles; a portion of the men and all the wagons and artillery took the road over the bridge, while another portion came in nearly the direction I had taken. It was now nearly eight o’clock, and as it grew darker our retreating army kept the main road over the bridge. About two miles from Centreville, on the Southern road was a rebel battery where the fight had taken place the Thursday previous. This battery commanded the bridge above mentioned. Suddenly a cannon shot was fired from the battery and struck our column, crowding across the narrow bridge. The utmost consternation was created by this fire. In their haste wagons and gun carriages were crowded together and overturned; the drivers cut their horse loose who galloped, they scarcely knew whither. Our men plunged into the stream waist deep, and were scattered in every direction, and some who were seen up to this time have not been heard of since.

The enemy still fired from the battery but did not dare sally out, as they were kept in check by our reserve on the heights of Centreville. I reached our camp that we had left in the morning a little after eight o’clock and found that a few of the Fifth had arrived before me. It was then expected we should encamp for the night, but about nine o’clock we received orders to march to Alexandria. We had already travelled from ten to twelve miles, and now our weary soldiers were ordered to march twenty-five or thirty miles farther.

Slowly the fragment of our regiment fell into line and began this dreadful night march. – I took a sick man behind me and followed in the rear of our regiment, and crossing a field to the main road we fell in with the drifting mass. A friend of mine from the Fifth, who could hardly walk, approached me. I offered him my horse if he would hold the sick man, who was groaning at every step. Tho this he readily assented, so I dismounted. I saw no more of my horse till morning, but trudged along all night without once sitting down to rest, only occasionally stopping to get water.

I felt comparatively fresh when compared with my companions. The dust was intolerable, and, not having any canteen, I suffered exceedingly from thirst. Men dropped down along the road by scores; some, completely exhausted, pleaded piteously to be helped along; some took hold of the rear of the wagons, which was considerable support to theme, and many a horse had two men on his back, with another helped along by its tail; in fact, a horse carrying but one was an exception. – I assisted one fine fellow along for a long distance, who told me he was taken with bleeding at the lungs while on the field; he was very weak, and in vain I tried to find an opportunity for him to ride, but he bore up manfully through the night, and I saw him the next day in Washington.

After passing Fairfax Court House some of the regiments, or such a portion as could be collected together, bivouacked for the night., but the men were so scattered that I doubt if half a regiment halted at any one spot. I still walked on, never once resting, fearing if I did I should feel worse when I started again. Towards morning my feet began to be blistered and the cords of my legs worked like rusty wires, giving me great pain at every step. – Gladly did I hail the first faint streak of light in the East.

At daylight we were within five miles of Alexandria. About this time we came to where the Washington road branches off from the main road to Alexandria, and here our column divided. I continued on towards Alexandria, and in about an hour came in sight of Shuter’s hill. I then felt my journey was nearly accomplished, but the two miles seemed needless.

I stopped at a small house just back of Fort Ellsworth and asked the old negro woman for some breakfast. Two Zouaves were there when I entered, and soon four more came in. She knew them all, as they had paid her frequent visits while encamped in that neighborhood. She gladly got us the best she had, and those six Zouaves and myself, nearly famished as we were, sat down to that breakfast of fried port, hoe cake and coffee, served to us by this old slave woman, with greater delight than ever a king seated himself at a banquet.

The Zouaves each had their story of the battle to relate, but the charge of the Black Horse Cavalry was their especial theme. One of the, pulling a large Colt’s pistol from his pocket, said, “There, I gave that fellow h–l, and he wasn’t the only one, either.” I coveted this pistol, and soon bargained for it, and now have it in my possession. One barrel only had been fired. The Zouaves gradually dropped off, and after paying the slave woman for the meal I started over the hill for the camp of the Fifth, where I arrived about half past eight o’clock, and found that my horse, with his riders, had arrived safely some time before.

Part 1

New London (CT) Chronicle, 8/7/1861

Clipping Image

Edward S. Barrett* bio

Edward S. Barrett* at Ancestry.com

Barrett, Edwin Shepard What I Saw at Bull Run

Contributed by John Hennessy

*Likely the letter writer





Edward S. Barrett, Civilian, On the Battle (1)

12 09 2014

Scenes of the Battle Field — Personal Adventures at the Battle of Bull Run

From The Boston, Traveller, Aug. 1.

Mr. Edward S. Barrett, of Concord, has, at our request, furnished us the following narrative of his experience on the day of the recent Battle of Bull Run. It will be found exceedingly interesting: and our readers will agree that if all the “civilians” who went to the field on that day had behaved as well as Mr. Barrett, there would be no reason to complain of them.

It is quite possible that the writer has in some cases used the wrong military terms, for he makes no pretension to military knowledge; but his narrative will be found in all important particulars as authentic as it is interesting. It commences with the night before the battle:

On Saturday evening, the 20th of July, I heard we were to start at half past two the following morning, and our line was to be in readiness at an early hour. We had occupied the camp at Centreville since Thursday night. Wrapping my blanket around me, at 10 o’clk I stretched myself upon the bare ground to sleep. The night was cool, and at 12 o’clock I awoke feeling very cold, and unable to sleep more, I anxiously waited to hear the signal to prepare. At two o’clock our drum sounded through the camp, and was repeated through the numerous camps around us, and in half an hour forty thousand men stood ready to battle for the Union.

The Fifth Massachusetts regiment, which I accompanied, was in the division under Heintzelman, acting Major General, and our regiment was the third in the column. The First Minnesota, under Colonel Gorman, led forward by the Massachusetts Eleventh, Colonel Clarke; then the Fifth, Colonel Lawrence, with the regular cavalry and a battery of artillery leading the advance. We waited, in marching order, from half past two o’clock till after six before the order was given to advance, and then we learned that Colonel Hunter, with eight regiments, including Governor Sprague’s command had preceded us, and we were to follow. General McDowell and staff heading our division.

Mounted on a secession horse, which I had captured two days previously, I followed in rear of the regiment, in company with Quartermaster Billings and Surgeon Hurd. From Centreville we took the extreme northern road, leaving the Warrentown road on our left, which General Tyler had taken with his division. Passing through a forest of heavy oak timber some three miles in length, we emerged into the open country, with a wide interval on our left, and the Blue Ridge Mountains distinctly visible on our right. We had heard and occasional cannon shot during the morning, but not until ten o’clock was there any sound of a general engagement. The heavy cannonading on our left and in front caused the march to be hastened, and our men could hardly be restrained, so eager were they for the fight. About a mile and a half before we reached the field the men began to throw away their blankets, haversacks and all unnecessary appendages, the different regiments trying to throw them into a pile, or as near together without halting. I tied my horse near the hospital headquarters, and hastened to the head of the column, which advanced in double quick time till they cam within reach of the enemy’s guns. The fight was raging on our left and in front as our division came into the field. I could see that the enemies batteries were posted on a long ridge, with woods extending on either flank, and separated from us by a valley. It was now about half past eleven o’clock. General McDowell ordered one brigade, under Colonel Franklin, consisting of the First Minnesota, Eleventh and Fifth Massachusetts and a Pennsylvania regiment, to advance down the hill and take a position in the valley on a slight elevation directly in front of the rebel batteries. I followed on some distance, but the shot rattled about me, and I halted near General McDowell and staff, while the brigade swept past me and down the hill. I watched for some time the colors of the fifth with intense interest. The regiment reached the valley and deployed to the right on to a slight knoll, fell flat on their faces, while the shot from the rebel batteries passed mostly over their heads. A battery swept past me to take a position. I followed it along some distance, when the Major galloped back to me and called out: “Friend, tell Captain F. to hurry up my supports.” I did not know Captain F., but hastened back and met an orderly, of whom I enquired who he was. He pointed him out to me near a regiment of infantry. I rushed up to him and gave my message. He replied, “They are coming right along.” And on double quick the regiment followed after the battery. The rifle cannon shot, shells and bullets struck all around me, and men were falling in every direction. Seeing a high persimmon tree standing alone, a short distance down the hill, I determined to climb it. The top of it was dead, and about thirty feet off the ground. From this elevation I had an unobstructed view of the whole line, and I could see into the enemy’s entrenchments, where the men looked like so many bees in a hive, and I could plainly see their officers riding about, and their different columns moving hither and thither. Their batteries on the right and left were masked with trees so completely, that I could not distinguish them except by the flash from their guns,; and a battery in a cornfield on our extreme left was so completely concealed by the cornstalks placed so naturally about it, that our men came suddenly upon it, never dreaming of one so near. The cannon ball struck the ground continually close to the tree and bounded along for a quarter of a mile to the rear. I felt that I was above the range of these, but the rifle balls whistled about my head, striking the tree in a way anything but pleasant. Just after I had reached the top of the tree a New Hampshire regiment, close at my left had succeeded in driving them from the woods in front, and, with three cheers, they fell back into line.

When the line was formed, three cheers were given for Colonel Marston, who had fought gallantly and received two severe wounds. Sherman’s battery then commenced firing on my right, within thirty rods of me, and at the first discharge the men cheered and watched the effect of the shell, which exploded inside the enemy’s entrenchments. The men cheered again, to see that they got the range so quickly, and continued to fire with great rapidity, while the enemy returned the fire with equal vigor and precision, the cannonading being kept up incessantly for an hour.

The shot and shell from this battery must have done the rebels great damage, as every shot took effect within their intrenchments. – Still men and horses kept falling near our guns, and the infantry lines were parted in many places by their cannon balls. The valley for nearly one-half mile in front of the enemy’s works was filled with our infantry, extending to some patches of woods on our right. Our batteries were placed on various eminences on the flank and rear, shifting their positions from time to time. The fire from our lines in this valley was terrific, and as they kept slowly advancing, firing, retreating to load, and then advancing again, it was a sight which no words could describe. For three long hours we poured into their intrenchments this terrible fire, and whenever the enemy showed themselves on the flanks they were driven back with great slaughter. During all this time our men were subjected to a cross fire from the enemy’s infantry stationed in the woods on our left. At one time the “Stars and stripes” were waved in these woods, and men dressed much like our own called out not to fire that way. Our men gradually drew up towards the flag, when immediately the secession flag was thrown out and the rebels poured a volley into our men so unexpectedly that they were for the time driven back, but we soon regained the ground.

General McDowell now ordered a battery forward to take a position near a house on our right; the Fire Zouaves were ordered to support it. The position appeared to me, from my lookout, like a strong one, as it was on a hill on a level with the rebel batteries. – Our battery started, the horses running at the top of their speed, and shortly began to ascend the eminence, the Zouaves following closely; but scarcely had the battery halted and fired, before the enemy opened upon them from new masked batteries, and a terrific fire of musketry from the woods, and our artillery was driven back, many of their men and horses being killed. The Zouaves stood their ground manfully, firing in lines and then falling on their faces to load. The ranks we becoming dreadfully thinned, yet they would not yield an inch; when suddenly our dashed the Black Horse Cavalry, and charged furiously, with uplifted sabres, upon them. – The Zouaves gallantly resisted this furious onset without flinching, and after firing their muskets – too sorely pressed to load – would fight furiously with the bayonets or any weapon they could seize, and in some instances drag the riders from their saddles, stabbing them with their knives, and mounting their splendid black horses gallop over the field. Never, since the famous charge of the Light Brigade, was a cavalry corps more cut to pieces. There is a bitter animosity existing between the Black Horse Cavalry and Ellsworth’s Zouaves. A great many of the cavalry are citizens of Alexandria and Fairfax county and they resolved to kill every Zouave they could lay their hands upon to avenge the death of Jackson, and the Zouaves were equally determined to avenge the murder of Ellsworth; so no quarter was expected by them.

I had now been in the tree some two hours, and all this time a continuous stream of wounded were being carried to the rear. The soldiers would cross their muskets, placing their wounded companion across; slowly carry them past; and another soldier would have a wounded man with his arm around his neck, slowly walking back, and then two men would be bearing a mortally wounded comrade in their arms, who was in convulsions and writhing in his last agonies.

Leaving the tree, I went along over the field to the left, the bullets whistling about me and the cannon balls ploughing up the ground in every direction, when I came across two of our men with a prisoner, who said he belonged to a South Carolina regiment. I asked him some questions, but he was dogged and silent, and did not appear to be disposed to reply to my inquiries. The shot fell so thick, and shells bursting around me, I hardly knew which way to turn. A musket ball whizzed past my ear so near that I felt the heat, and for a moment thought I was hit. – The ground was strewn with broken guns, swords, cartridge boxes, gun carriages, haversacks together, with all the paraphernalia of warfare, mingled with the dead and wounded men. I saw here a horse and his rider under him, both killed by the same cannon ball. Seeing a small white house still towards the left, with a well near it, I started for some water, and getting over a wall I discovered lying beside it a number of our dead with their haversacks drawn over their faces. I lifted the cover from their faces, thinking, perhaps, I might come across some of my friends, but they were all strangers, or so disfigured that I could not recognize them. I went to the well for a drink, and as I drew near the house I heard loud groans, and such a scene as was there presented, in that little house of two rooms, and on the grass around it, was enough to appal the stoutest heart.

The rooms were crowded, and I could not get in; but all round on the grass were men mortally wounded. I should think there were at least forty on that green sward, within 20 rods of the house, and such wounds – some with both legs shot off; some with both legs broken; others with horrid flesh wounds made with shells. I saw one man with a sound in his back large enough to put in my fist; he was fast bleeding to death. As I walked among them some beseeched me to kill them and put an end to their agony; some were calling for the surgeon, but the hospital was more than a mile off, and there were but two surgeons there; some were just gasping, and some had died.

I left the house and bore off towards the right towards some low pine woods, about a hundred yards distant, and scattered along were the dear bodies of our men. On reaching the wood I found ground literally covered with the dead bodies of the enemy, and I counted in the space of ten rods square forty-seven dead rebels and ten mortally wounded; and scattered all through the woods still farther back were any number more. I talked with several of the wounded, and they told me they belonged to the 8th Georgia regiment, Col. Bartow, and had arrived at Manasas from Winchester the day before, where they had been with Gen. Johnston. They told me their whole regiment was posted in this pine woods. One young man told me he was from Macon, and that his father was a merchant. I asked another where he was from; he replied defiantly, “I am for disunion – opposed to you.” This man had both thighs broken.

I heard one of our soldiers ask a wounded Georgian if their orders were to kill our wounded. He answered No. Our soldiers carried water to these wounded men, and as they lay writing in agony a cup of water was put within their reach. The convulsions of one of these men was awful to look upon; he appeared to have been shot in the lungs, as he vomited blood in large quantities, and in his struggles for breath would throw himself clear from the ground. I noticed among the heaps of bodies an officer dressed in light blue uniform, with green stripes on his pants, a fine looking man, whom I took to be a captain. I also saw one of our soldiers take sixty dollars from the body of a dead Georgian; and their knives, revolvers, &c., were appropriated the same way. This I looked upon as legitimate plunder for the soldiers, but as a citizen I forebore to take anything from the field.

I think the fight in this wood must have been fiercer than in any part of the field, except it may be on our right, where the Zouaves were. The wood was near the enemy’s right, and where the fight commenced in the morning with Hunter’s division, and as Heintzelman’s division came into action the rebels were giving way at this point, under the galling fire of Co. Marston’s regiment, while the Rhode Island troops and some New York regiments had driven back their extreme right. – Passing through these pine woods I still bore to the right towards our centre, and crossed a cleared space and came to some heavy wood, on the edge of which I perceived a number of dead scattered about; and seeing several wounded men, I went up to one of them, and found he was a rebel belonging to an Alabama regiment. He told me he joined the regiment on the 13th of April. He pointed to a dead horse close to us, and said, “There is my Colonel’s horse, and I suppose you have taken him prisoner.”

[Concluded to-morrow.]

Part 2

New London (CT) Chronicle, 8/6/1861

Clipping Image

Edward S. Barrett* bio

Edward S. Barrett* at Ancestry.com

Barrett, Edwin Shepard What I Saw at Bull Run

Contributed by John Hennessy

*Likely the letter writer