Lt. Samuel M. Harmon, Co. I, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

24 02 2017

Battle of Bull Run.

Extract of a letter from Lieut. S. M. Harmon, Co. I, 27th Regt., N.Y.S.V.

Franklin Square, Washington, DC, July 28, 1861

* * * I wrote you on the eve of the battle of Bull Run. Little did I imagine then the sufferings and dangers we had to undergo before another sunset. At 2 A. M. Sunday, the 21st, we took up the line of march for Bull Run, all eager for a fight. We went off without breakfast, but with a promise that we should have a cup of coffee before we went into action. After passing Centreville, three miles from our camp we turned to the right through the woods and marched a distance of eleven miles. We came upon the open ground where we found the enemy drawn up in battle array. Without waiting for us to rest, or even get a drink of water, we started off on double quick, for four miles. It was now half past nine A. M., and a hot July sun was pouring down upon us. There was no necessity for a double quick, and our General did not appear to thing we had any feeling. We went into action, however, in gallant style, and for two hours we engaged in an almost hand to hand conflict with a very superior force, and drove them more than half a mile, when, finding that Gen. McDowell was not going to send us any reinforcements and our men were getting out of ammunition, our Colonel gave the order to retreat to a wood in our rear. Just as we were entering the wood our Colonel was struck by a Minie ball and wounded. We were so greatly fatigued that many of us fell upon the ground completely exhausted. In a moment one of Gen. McDowell’s Aids said we must charge upon a battery. We did so, when the teamsters commenced shouting that we were defeated. That set the men to going and when commenced, was the greatest rout ever heard of. It was every man for himself, and the devil take the hindermost – no order, nothing. Our Regiment kept on line, and marched back to the centre of the field three times, in the hope that others would rally around us, but they would not so we commenced the retreat in good order until the artillery and baggage by breaking through our ranks broke us up. I had the colors of our Regiment with me and succeeded in rallying our men and keeping them together. I knew that we had got to march eleven miles to Centreville before the rebels could march four, or else we should be cut off. I so stated to my men, and told them if they remained with me I would get them through in safety. They did so, and when we reached the bridge across Bull Run we found it crowded with people, so I told the boys to follow me, and jumped into the stream which was waist deep. It was well we forded the creek, for we had but just got over when the enemy commenced plying on the bridge with their rifled cannon, killing four or five at every discharge. I immediately marched my men to camp wich we reached about 9 P.M. We had been there however, but a few moments when I received orders from Gen. Porter to continue our retreat to Washington, where we arrived about 9 A.M. Monday. Thus, you see, from 2 A.M. Sunday, to 9 A.M. Monday – we had been in action from 10 to 5 – we had marched 64 miles. Our feet were so sore that it was with difficulty we could stand upon them. Nothing but my will kept me up. I might by abandoning my company have rode all the way back to Washington, but I would not desert my men. I have the consciousness of having discharged my whole duty in every sense of the term. I exposed myself several times during the day, and although the bullets of the enemy passed through my coat and pants, I escaped without a wound – Two men were shot down by my side when we were charging on the battery, and two of the color guard were shot down on each side of me.

I am well and tough as a pine knot. I was never healthier in my life. * * *

Holmesville [NY] Weekly Tribune, 8/23/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

Samuel M. Harmon at Fold3.com 

Samuel M. Harmon at Ancestry.com 

Samuel M. Harmon at Findagrave.com

History of the 27th Regiment N.Y. Volunteers 

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What’s Up With That Cane?

26 07 2011

My current read, At the Precipice: American’s North and South During the Secession Crisis, by Shearer Davis Bowman, hepped me to a bit of information of which I was previously unaware, and prompted a trivia question for you, dear readers.

We all know that on May 22, 1856, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was brutally attacked in the Senate chamber with a gutta-percha walking stick in the hands of cowardly Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina.

Any idea why Brooks carried the cane? Here’s a hint: it wasn’t for show, and it wasn’t strictly for beating defenseless Yankees.





Getting Right with Lincoln – Part I

31 08 2008

The phrase “Getting Right with Lincoln”  was coined by David Donald in this article from 1956, and it has over the years been used to describe attempts to manipulate the record of Abraham Lincoln to justify the correctness of one’s actions or beliefs.  But I’m using it here to describe my ever-evolving image of the man who many, including myself, consider our greatest president.  But like that big mole on his face, the man had warts that were equally apparent but often ignored.  For instance, it’s been asserted by some who praise AL’s management style that he never let how an individual treated him affect his decision making process.  While I’ve got many and bigger problems with anyone extolling the virtues of Lincoln’s management style (I’ve worked for people who managed like him – CHAOS!), I think people like Winfield Scott would take issue with this particular assertion.  So from time to time here I’ll use this heading to discuss my developing understanding of POTUS16.

I recently finished reading Lincoln and the Decision for War: The Northern Response to Secession by Russell McClintock, which I found a much more useful analysis of the period than Nelson Lankford’s look at 1861,  Cry Havoc! The Crooked Road to Civil War, 1861 (reviewed here).  McClintock’s book reveals a Lincoln who was, first and foremost, a party politician.  He was keenly aware of his dependence on his fellow Republicans, and his moves were governed with this dependence in mind.  As a party new to power, it took awhile for things to develop, during which time Lincoln’s administration, both before and after the inauguration, adopted a policy not dissimilar to that of its predecessor, described as “masterly inactivity”.  While I’ve always thought of Lincoln as a product of the machine – and at the same time as one who helped design and build it – I haven’t always considered how Party considerations influenced his decision making.  It’s something I’m going to try to keep in the front part of my brain from now on, or at least until I’m shown the error of my ways.