Pvt. John B. Edson, Co. E, 27th New York Infantry, Revisits the Battlefield

25 08 2022

Manassas Junction
Sunday, April 6th 1862

Dear Father,

You no doubt will be surprised when you see this. We left Camp Franklin Thursday morning about 11 o’clock, marched to Alexandria & there took the cars for Manassas. Arrived all safe. As we came through the deserted camps of the Rebs, it was shameful to see the destruction of property. Locomotives & cars burnt right on the track.

Yesterday morning, Friday, I started for the old battle ground of the 21st of July last, arrived there about noon—it being about seven miles from where we are encamped. You cannot imagine my feelings when there & seeing the bones of our boys bleaching in the sun. It made my blood boil. There were a number of bones found of men belonging to our regiment which we buried over and there being a minister present, held a short service of the bones. His name was Parker. I went to the spot where Co. Ellsworth’s Fire Zouaves fought & there were the bones of nearly a dozen of them exposed to the gaze of the passers by. I helped cover them over again. I have now with [me] one of the ribs which was detached from the back bone & intend sending it home when convenient. I also have a piece of one of the Zouaves red shirts which I enclose in this and the girls can work it into a piece or needlework to keep in remembrance of those brave men.

I visited the old stone house where I carried John Clague. It looked natural—only has been torn to pieces pretty well. It still bears the mark of the cannon shot.

This is a rough sketch of the stone house. It was a tough sight to see these bones of our comrades thus exposed.

I suppose by the time you get this you will have received letters I sent by David Scott with the draft in. We expect to go on tomorrow towards the Rappahannock. The whole of McDowell’s Corps are now coming on. I will write again soon but you must answer this as soon as you get it. Give me all the news. So goodbye for the present. Your affectionate son, — John B. Edson

Letter Image

Contributed and transcribed by William Griffing, Spared & Shared

John B. Edson at Fold3

Pvt. John B. Edson, Co. E, 27th New York Infantry, On the Eve of Battle

24 08 2022

In camp 5 Miles beyond Fairfax Court House
and within 2 Miles of the Rebel Batteries
July 20th [1861]

My Dear parents,

I’m writing this under peculiar trials and circumstances as I’m seated in one of the camp wagons trying to write to you, my ever loved and to be loved parents.

We left Washington last Tuesday afternoon at 4 o’clock. The order for marching came very suddenly. We marched until 11 o’clock that night to a place 11 miles from Fairfax, there encamped until the next morning at 7 when we started on and such a march it beggars description—one of the hottest days I ever saw, if not the hottest. Men [were] falling out of the ranks at every step exhausted. I stood it until the last when men who had worked in the harvest fields at home in the morning said said if they had had another mile to march, should have dropped in the road. The rebels having poisoned several wells and destroyed others made it very bad for us.

We arrived at Fairfax at two o’clock. We expected to find a large secession force there but they had eloped. Consequently we were disappointed. We stayed in Fairfax from 12 o’clock of that day until 4 o’clock of the next day. We lived on the spoils taken from the secessionists. While there the boys took their guns and shot chickens, geese, pigs and even bullocks. One party went to a farmer’s house some two miles off and found 7 bottles of wine, pies, cakes, &c. No one at home. Fairfax was a deserted hole.

Started at 4 o’clock for this camp where we arrived at 7 o’clock [and] set our picket guard that night. That was a night indeed to me. I can assure you, I laid down upon the ground with a blanket over me [and] it commenced raining soon after and I was wet through. About 12 o’clock we were awakened by the firing upon our pickets. We all jumped up and seized our arms. During that hour volley after volley came pouring in. Such a sight! Men standing whispering to one another. Our Colonel came around and told us to lie down by our guns which we did only to be awakened by another alarm.

While I’m writing I hear the artillery booming in the distance towards the rebels’ batteries. I suppose you have heard of the battle on the 18th [see Battle of Blackburn’s Ford]. It was a small affair [paper creased] troops they having to retreat. The Colonel who led them on did so contrary to the orders of Scott. We lost some two hundred men. Gen. Scott is expected to be here this evening to plan the attack. It is this—to shell the batteries, then pour in shot until they are burned out, then bring on the infantry and give them the bayonet. We are waiting now for the shells to come on so we can proceed wit hthe battle. There will be severe fighting. We will in all probability be in Richmond some time next week. Our Colonel told our Orderly when he asked him for a sword that he would scarcely need one for we would all be home in three weeks. I tell you, it is tough. We will have all of Virginia in our possession before another month. I hope I shall live to see you all again. I often think of home and all its comforts. Tell all my friends if they write to direct to Washington.

John B. Edson, Company E, 27th Regt. N. Y. S. V., Washington D. C.

I wrote to you when in Washington but have received no answer. I will get it if you write. I have received no money yet. Probably will not until we are again in Washington. Let me know how you are getting along and what the people think of the movement of the army in Virginia. I hope to see you before many months are passed. It is very warm today. My love to all. Ever your affectionate son, — J. B. E.

Letter Image

Contributed and transcribed by William Griffing, Spared & Shared

John B. Edson at Fold3

Colonel Oliver O. Howard On the Battle

1 08 2022

City Hotel Alexandria Va
July 24th 1861

My dearest wife

On my arrival after our wearisome retreat at this place I was cheered by an affectionate letter from you enclosing one from my poor friend Mrs. Greble. [1] Since then I have been hard at work organizing, feeding & quartering troops.

Our battle was planned so as to break God’s holy day. Charlie [2] & I were under fire & know what it is to hear balls whistle. My horse had a ball put thro his [gambrel] & is very lame. After we had reached Fairfax C.H. somebody stole him from me, but I recovered him.

The battle was about ten miles beyond Centreville by the road we took. We were halted by Gen McDowell some six or seven miles this side of the field, & then were ordered to hasten on, & when about half way the order came to move at double quick, which we tried to do under a hot sun. The men were many of them exhausted when we came into sight of the battle. We passed the wounded for a while before we got into the open plain. We then marched about a mile under fire from heavy guns, formed two lines, one of the 2nd Vt. Regt Col Whiting & the 4th Maine – Col. Berry. The other of the 3d & 5th Maine. I marched up the first line & got them well at work & then returned to the valley below for the other line. I brought that up also. We ascended a hill through a piece of brush wood and then emerged into an open space and it was a warm place indeed. A battery on our right & another on our left were pouring the shot upon us & the musketry from the front.

I felt in no way unpleasant on the field. I kept sending Chas. off on duty. No balls touched any of us. Mordecdai [3] & Lt Buel [4] were much exposed but a Good Providence or rather a Good Lord protected us. We retreated when ordered to do so at a walk, but all the troops were mixed up – till we got to Centreville. Then we organized & marched back after an hour’s sleep to Fairfax Court House – slept till daylight on the ground & then retired in order to Clermont. The cars came to take the troops to town – where I got quarters for them & here we are, all but my own Regiment [5] which I sent to Clermont yesterday. I am going out there tonight. Much love to the children. I shall write Guy [6] just as soon as I can. Keep up a good heart darling. We have met with a sad reverse. Our baggage nearly all cut off. I lost all my papers some clothes & your miniature.

Aff. Your husband Otis

[1] Sarah Greble was the widow of Lt. John Greble, who had been killed at the battle of Big Bethel on June 10, 1861. Lieutenant Greble was one of Howard’s closest friends before the war, and Howard acted as godfather to Greble’s daughter, Clara.

[2] Charles Howard, O.O’s younger brother.

[3] Lieutenant Alfred Mordecai, Jr., (West Point, Class of June 1861) served as Howard’s Assistant Adjutant General from July-August 1861.

[4] Lieutenant David Buel (West Point, Class of June 1861) served as an aide to Howard until early August 1861.

[5] Howard commanded the 3rd Maine Infantry before he was promoted to brigadier general.

[6] Guy Howard, O.O.’s six-year-old son.

Howard Papers, Bowdoin College, Series 2, Box 2, Folder 27.

Transcription by Ryan Quint

See more at Emerging Civil War

Oliver O. Howard at Wikipedia

Oliver O. Howard at Ancestry.com

Oliver O. Howard at Fold3

Oliver O. Howard at FindAGrave

Pvt. Perry Mayo, Co. C, 2nd Michigan Infantry, On the Campaign

13 06 2022

Camp Winfield Scott
Washington, D. C
July 8, 1861

Dear Father and Mother: I again take my pen in hand to send a few lines in haste as this is the last opportunity I shall have of writing from here and maybe the last you will hear from me in some time. Before you hear from me again, we shall have an engagement as we are under orders to march into Virginia immediately. As our orders are sealed, no one knows where we are going, but I presume it is Fairfax Court House. All the troops here are moving forward now with utmost dispatch except just enough for the defense of the Capitol.

There was an attack on the picket guards last night and two were killed. I saw their bodies this morning.

I wrote to you yesterday, but I thought I would let you know we were gone. My health and spirits are first rate and I feel able to do my duty in action any moment, but I guess Dana Bostwick will be sick when the pinch comes.

Nothing more at present. I shall write again just as soon as there is any chance of getting anything through.

P.S. I rec[eive]d a letter from grandmother this afternoon. They are all well. I have also rec[eive]d one from S[teadman] Lincoln in Hancock. He desires me to give his best respects to you and mother. Nothing more at present but my love and best respects to you all for the moment.

I remain yours in haste.

P[erry] Mayo


Georgetown, [D.C]
July 23, 1861

Dear Father and Mother: I take my pen in hand to let you know that I still live. I have just arrived from that terrible battlefield and am now safe again in the land of freedom. I was in the field during both the engagements and escaped with no other injury than a sprained ankle and two ball holes in my clothes, one in my cap and the other in my blanket which was done up in a roll and passed over my right shoulder. This was done on the first day of the engagement at Bull Run.

We left camp Scott on the 16th and marched to Vienna (the town where the cars were fired into sometime since) where we slept in a marsh, and I caught a very heavy cold. The next day we marched within 4 miles of Centreville, and after our days march I was so overcome that the doctor was called. The next morning I got a ride and kept along with the company until noon when I stopped to rest and got about a mile and a half behind when I heard the cannonading commence and hurried up as fast as I could and got up so as to go into action with the N[ewl Y[ork] 12th which was next to us in the brigade.

We marched down a long hill through a wheat field and attacked them in a piece of woods where they had a masked battery and some 20,000 men hid in the scrub pines like so many “ingins.” At the first fire we rushed in, I supposing the whole time that our boys were in ahead of us which did not prove to be the fact as they had gone farther along out of our sight and laid down. After the first volley we got behind trees and took them at their own game and fired four rounds when we retreated over a knoll under cover of our cannon. In the retreat my ankle was hurt so I could scarcely walk, but when my company came around, [I] got off, with a little help, out of danger. We then went back some two miles and camped to await that terrible Sunday, long to be remembered.

On the morning of the 21st we were called out at sunrise expecting to go into the hottest part of the engagement. The Capt[ain] told me, as I was too lame to make a quick movement, to remain, but, as I did not like the notion of having anyone else fill my place, I formed in and marched on the field where we were held from morning till night in a suspense that cannot be described. We imagined the fight was raging in the most terrible manner on our right, with a volley every few minutes on our left, and a heavy cannonade from four of our batteries within eighty rods of our front. The smoke would frequently settle over the knoll on our lines. We were formed three lines in line of battle but did not get near enough to fire a shot.

Our brigade and Col[onel] Richardson were complimented for saving the whole army, after our forces gave way on the right and were retreating in the utmost confusion. The enemy made an attempt to break our left and cut off our retreat, but the Col[onel] withdrew his brigade and threw it into a field and formed us all behind a large stone wall. The enemy came to the edge of the woods just out of range of our guns and as they did not like the looks of our bayonets sticking over the wall they very prudently retreated. Had they come out, we would have shown them some tall specimens of Michigan marksmanship.

After their retreat we formed in line along a piece of woods where our men slept on their arms until midnight and then the division retreated toward Washington (the rest of the army had a left unbeknown to the Capt[ain] or ourselves). As the exertion of the day was too much for me, I was soon left behind to fall a prisoner in the hands of the enemy. After getting along for about two miles, I fell in with a member of one of the Conn[ecticut] Reg[imen]ts who was wounded in the head, and we made out to find an old horse which carried us both safe through to Arlington Heights. I do not know where the regiment or division is but presume I shall find it in time. There was two or three of Co[mpany] C sick down there, and I do not know what became of them. The rest were together. None of them were hurt. I am able to walk around a little by using my gun for a crutch and will probably not be able to get around much for some time. My health otherwise is better than could be expected. Our loss in the first engagement was about 60 killed and wounded, but I can form no estimation of our loss in the last battle.

I saw Con Nickerson the day before the last fight but have not heard from the regiment since. I understand they are badly cut up and their Col[onel] killed. I rec[eive]d your letter of July 5th just before starting.

The manner of disposing of my money that you spoke of suits me well enough as I suppose it safe there and hereafter. In regard to any of my business there, act to the best of your judgement and you may depend on its gro[w]ing satisfaction on my part.

I would write more but do not feel able so I must close for the present by sending my love and best wishes to you all while I remain your son.

Perry Mayo


Washington City, D. C.
August 2, 1861

Dear Father and Mother: I rec[eive]d your very welcome letter of July 26th yesterday and was very glad to hear from you as I had begun to think you were all dead or had forgotten to write.

I wrote home the next day after the retreat from the field of Bull Run. In a few moments after writing to you I found one of our baggage wagons and was carried to our camp where I have been lying for the past ten days in the hospital receiving treatment for my ankle which had by that time become very much swol[l]en and somewhat painful. I am hap[p]y to inform you that I am now much better and was discharged from the hospital yesterday. I can get around now very well with a cane but cannot do duty yet. When I arrived in camp I found the company bad counted me among the prisoners and that Capt[tain] Byington had sent a company back 15 miles in hopes of finding me, but as they went on a different road from the one I came, they did not arrive in camp until sometime after I did.

The reg[imen]t retreated to Alexandria, some ten miles from our camp at the Chain Bridge, and afterwards moved to Arlington Heights where our camp now is.

We are all in first rate health and spirits once again, and the boys have some lively games of ball in which I hope to be able to take a part.

I am very glad to hear that you have the wheat in safe, but I am sorry to hear of the damage done by Gordon’s stock, and as to damages, I know him so well that I never expect the first cent in that line. I send you, however, by this letter full power of attorney and you must do the best you can in the premises.

In regard to the expenses of harvesting my wheat, I expect you to take a sufficient amount from any money belonging to me which may come into your hands to indemnify you against all loss. I sent home $25 of my wages by express which you will get of A. Noble of B[attle] Creek. This is my U[nited] S[tates] pay from the 25th of May to the 25th of June, together with my mileage. There is now over a month’s pay due me beside my state money. I can send it all home as soon as I get it.

You wish me to state a few of the particulars of the fight but you have no doubt seen more correct and elaborate accounts than I can possibly give you. You seem to doubt the reports of their loss being equal to or greater than ours. Of this you need have no doubt, as from a hill just in front of our lines, we could see the whole battle. At one time, about 1 P.M., the enemy sent a very strong force of infantry up a long lane to attack our center, and Major Hunt’s Battery of Flying Artillery was sent from our side to intercept them. The Battery kept concealed behind a small hill in the road until the rebel columns had advanced nearly within pistol shot, when the guns were moved up as quick as lightning to the top of the hill. And before the enemy could form in line, they rec[eive]d such a shower of grape and canister that it seemed as though their whole column was struck to the ground as by one stroke from the hand of the Almighty.

This Battery (Hunt’s) consists of six pieces of brass cannon, 12 pounders, and in this engagement they were assisted by two 32 pounders from another battery. Whet few was left after the first two rounds from the battery made good their escape to the woods, but their number was few.

There was partial successes on both aides during the day but our men had the field fairly gained and had driven the enemy in nearly every point, but owing to some bungle and an affright amongst our teamsters, caused
by a charge from their cavalry, we were obliged to stand and see the whole lost without firing a gun. Our loss was perhaps 1,000 killed and wounded and their loss must have been greater. They were too much crippled to make an attempt to follow up the retreat.

I do not think of anything more of interest just now.

I am in receipt of a letter from grandmother, also one from Aunt Charlotte and S[teadman] Lincoln of Hancock, [New York]. He desires me to send his respects to you and mother. They are all well.

Write as often as you can, and next time write me a good long letter if you can find time.

Nothing more at present from your son.

Perry Mayo

Contributed by Jon-Erik Gilot with the following annotation: I found a file of these letters… in the archives at Wheeling University… These transcripts were apparently sent to a former historian at Wheeling College, Rev. Cliff Lewis, for his review prior to publication. The letters are held in the archives at Michigan State University, and were published by Michigan State in 1967.

Transcription images

2nd Michigan Infantry, Co. C roster

Perry Mayo at Fold3

Perry Mayo at FindAGrave

Sgt. Nicholas Taylor Dixon, Co. E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle

7 06 2022

Headquarters 2nd Regt. R. I. V., Co. E
Camp Clark
Thursday, July 25, 1861

Dear Father,

Your letter of the 23rd I received last evening. I am glad to answer yours that I am alive and well. Uncle Sam Rodman arrived here last night and told us the news. I am sorry to hear the neighborhood is so filled with anguish on first hearing of the battle. But never mind. Cheer up all of you. We are not at all scared to death yet. We expect to sacrifice our lives—some of us—if we expect to conquer the enemy.

The South is pretty sharp in playing her games on us while with us we have secession generals & guides to lead us into the rebels snare. But I think if our own officers was more careful and go by orders more than by their own forwardness in rushing on two or three days before the appointed time, we would not have to lose our lives so foolish. I would that all of the regiments was like ours & stand up in front of the whole secession army showering shot & shell upon us like hailstones. Capt. [Isaac Peace] Rodman is one of the bravest men that New England can boast of—and Gov. Sprague [too].

Col. [John S.] Slocum was the first man I saw fall. He was off his horse in front of the battle, gave it [the reins] to one of our company to hold—Tom Flaherty. He was getting over a fence within three feet of me & Capt. Rodman and several more of Co. E when a shot struck him in the head from the rebels. [With] my own handkerchief I tried to stop [the bleeding from] his wound for a minute or two but [could] see it was no use. It was fatal & I went to firing again. I never got hit nowhere on the flesh. Got two holes through my tunic and a ball hit the heel of my shoe when I though my heel was knocked off but on looking, it did me no damage.

But I tell you, we fought like tigers until the rebels retreated and we were ordered to go and lie down when they were reinforced & attacked us again. But the Rhode Island regiments & several others which were in the first engagement was not ordered out. We—the 2nd Rhode Island Regt.—was formed in a line of battle when we was the last that retreated.

We are getting along comfortable at Camp Clark at present. The 1st [R. I.] Regt. leaves today or tomorrow for home, their time being out. I suppose we will take their quarters.

I guess I must close. You can see more news in the papers than I can tell you. All of Company E is present but those you have heard was missing & dead. [Corp.] Steph[en] Holland & [Pvt.] Billy Nichols I saw dead on the field. [Henry] L. Jakeways [Jaques] was most dead when I saw him. He is dead, of course, now. John Clark died there. Church not heard of yet & Esic [B.] Smith. Henry Dixon is getting along first rate & J. Dockry.

Give my love to all,
— N. T. Dixon

Contributed and transcribed by Will Griffing

Letter images and biographical information at Spared & Shared

Nicholas Taylor Dixon at Ancestry

Nicholas Taylor Dixon at Fold3

Nicholas Taylor Dixon at FindAGrave

Chaplain Joseph Cross, 2nd Tennessee Infantry, After the Battle

13 04 2022

A Clergyman at the Battle of Manassas – He meets with “Hon.” Mr. Ely. – Rev. Joseph Cross, Chaplain of Col. Bate’s Tennessee Regiment, writes to the Christian Advocate some interesting letters from the “seat of war.” We extract the following from his last:

Merciful God, what a sight for Christian eyes! Wagons and ambulances loaded with mangled and groaning men; corpses carried on litters and legs and arms recently cut off by the surgeon; brains and blood scattered over the ground and trod into the mire; soldiers walking about with broken limbs, bandaged heads, covered with their own gore; others sitting or lying upon the wet earth, with wounds undressed and bleeding.

A lady, young and beautiful, but pale as death, hurried by me, exclaiming – “Where is poor Jim?” and as she disappeared in the throng a low voice said, “She is from Alabama; Jim was her brother.” Another came with delicate feet, fir only to tread on roses, regardless of the mud through which she waded, exclaiming, “Where is he? where?” and an officer answered, soothingly, “Yonder, in that house with the yellow flag; they have amputated the limb, and he is doing very well.”

The next sad spectacle was a middle aged woman, who met a dead body borne upon a plan; at the sight of which she burst in to tears, and sank upon the ground, when two soldiers raised her up and carried her after her dead husband.

I saw a dense crowd and walked toward it. Within were many prisoners, sitting, lying, walking about; some sad and others sullen; some evidently uneasy, others, apparently quite indifferent, and here and there one affecting mirth and jocularity. There several of Wilson’s cut-throat gang, and three of Ellsworth’s Zouaves. The latter said they did not know whether another of their number had escaped death, but believed themselves the only survivors. There was a little man with a wicked, wolfish look, as restless as a hyena in a cage. It was the Hon. Alfred Ely, member of Congress from Rochester, New York. Our Capt. Clusky, having been acquainted with him in Washington, stepped up and took his hand. Most piteously the prisoner implored the interposition, on his behalf, of a man whom, hours before he would gladly have slaughtered. Capt. C. introduced him to our gallant Colonel.

“Your servant, Colonel Bate,” said the prisoner, bowing obsequiously. “I am glad to meet you. You see I am in a bad fix.”

“Yes sir,” said the Colonel; “you are, for a member of Congress, in a VERY bad fix.” But you see,” rejoined the honorable gentleman, throwing open the breast of his coat, “I am not in uniform; merely spectator came out with Senator Foster to see the battle; but unfortunately ventured too far, and was taken.”

“Mr. Ely,” replied the Colonel, “a battle-field is no place for a civilian. You are a member of Congress, sire, and the representative of at least ninety thousand people. And do you think yourself a cipher in a scene like this? No, sir; the moral influence of our presence was worth a hundred soldiers to our enemies. Are you not a lawyer, Mr. Ely?”

“Yes, sir,” said Mr. Ely. “I am a lawyer.”

“Then, sir,” Col. B. continued, “you know that by your presence you are aiding and abetting that by this cruel and bloody assault upon us. It is a principle of law which you are accustomed to recognize elsewhere, and which you are oblige to acknowledge here.”

He assented with a sheepish look, and continued his absurd apology, which the Colonel thus cut short:

“Mr. Ely, we are glad to see you here, we want you with us, and cannot consent to part with you soon. There are men at Washington for whom we may be willing to exchange you hereafter, if indeed, you should not be hanged, as you deserve.” * * * *

The battle-field, who shall describe? You could have walked over acres literally paved with the dead and dying, and in some places were piles of gashed and gory corpses, but everywhere there appeared to be five Yankees and one Southron. The miserable cowards as they fled left the slain and the wounded upon the field, and the former were buried by our own soldiers, and the latter treated by our surgeons; while in Washington the brutal rascals were beating to death the few Southern captives they had taken!

In a few weeks I hope to preach to the Walker Legion from the steps of the Capitol at Washington, on the words of General Joshua before the gates of Jericho; “Shout, for the Lord hath given us the city!”

(Prattville, AL) Autauga Citizen, 9/12/1861

Clipping Image

2nd Tennessee Infantry Co. H Roster

Joseph Cross at Ancestry

Joseph Cross at Fold3

“W. P. S.,” On Brig. Gen. Barnard Bee and the Campaign

12 04 2022



On the fifteenth day of July the hills and valleys around Winchester, Va., were white with the tents of Gen. Johnston’s army, which consisted of the commands of Brigadier Generals Barnard E. Bee and E. Kirby Smith, and of Colonels Elzy, Bartow and Jackson, acting Brigadier Generals, and the cavalry command of Lieut. Colonel Stuart.

The town was all excitement under the information that Gen. Patterson had advanced from Martinsburg four miles in the directions of Winchester. Early the next morning the strains of martial music were heard on every side; the entire camp was in motion; and soon, out of the apparent disorder and confusion, came fort the regularly ordered columns, stretching along the roads leading in the direction of the enemy. The troops were in high spirits at the prospect of an engagement; but as it was well ascertained that such could not take place for a least several hours, while some of the commands took their positions in line of battle to await intelligence, General Bee availed himself of the opportunity to give the brigade some practical instruction, and spent most of the morning in “evolutions of the line.” Nothing further having been heard from the enemy, the troops were returned to their camps; but, in the evening, a courier from the ever-watchful Col. Stuart announced the enemy at Bunker’s Hill, nine miles from Winchester, and advancing. Orders were immediately issued to advance our troops to their respective positions and take up line of battle. As the order passed from camp to camp, it was received by the soldiers with the wildest enthusiasm, and the joyous shouts from determined men rang through the valleys. Every man sprang promptly to his position, and at night the men laid upon their arms in expectation of the attack, which was looked for with the first dawn of morning. The morning came; and, as hour after hour passed silently by, and still no signs of the enemy, disappointment was seen on every face. At last a messenger from Col. Stuart tells the story: “Patterson has fallen back on Bunker’s Hill, and commenced a movement to his right, which will take him to Charlestown and beyond our reach.” The lines were again retired, and the men moved sullenly back to camp. They had confidently expected to annihilate Patterson’s army of thirty thousand, notwithstanding our army numbered but little over half his force. At daybreak on Wednesday, the 18th, orders were issued that the troops should be supplied with two day’s cooked rations, and be ready to move at a moment’s notice. Early in the day orders to commanders of Brigades announced that Gen. Beauregard was being attacked at Manassas by overwhelming numbers, and that our army would be immediately moved to his support. This order was published to the troops after they were on the march, and several miles out of Winchester.

The object of Gen. Patterson in so suddenly abandoning what seemed to have been his purpose in moving on Bunker Hill, could not be certainly known. It might be to pass around and attack the unfortified side of Winchester, or it might be to get between Johnston’s army and Manassas, and prevent him from reinforcing Gen. McDowell. In either event, it was more than likely that we should encounter him en route to Manassas; and it was therefore important that the army should move with its appointments looking to an attack. Gen. Bee was in command of the rear division, consisting of his own brigade of five regiments and a Virginia battery of four brass field pieces, under the gallant Imboden; also, the brigade of Col. Elzy and Col. Stuart’s command of thirteen companies of Virginia cavalry.

The manly and soldierly bearing of General Bee, together with his constant efforts to secure for the troops of his command all the comforts that circumstances would allow, had won from them an admiration amounting to affection, which was demonstrated by the wildest and most enthusiastic cheering, as regiment after regiment defiled past him, where he stood dismounted on a slight eminence by the road side, watching to see that all was in order with the rear guard. But these men were yet to know him better and appreciate him more amid the storm of battle, the shrill sound of the enemy’s shells, and the sharp whistle of their Minnie balls filling the air – the dead and the dying strewed all around him – his cool steady courage as he moved from battalion to battalion of his command, a living, speaking example, [?]ing “death rather than defeat.”

It was late in the afternoon of the 18th July when the last regiment (the 6th North Carolina, commanded by Colonel Fisher,) left the town of Winchester. The troops were in the highest spirits, and their anxiety to reach Manassas could illy brook the frequent delays to which they were subjected by the trains of wagons extending for miles along the road between the advanced and rear columns. Hour after hour during the night the rumbling of heavy wagons and the steady tramp of soldiers echoed along the rugged road, reaching away in the direction of the Shenandoah. It was long past midnight when the exhausted teams were halted for food and rest, and the wearied soldiers stretched themselves and slept in the very roads. With the first streaks of dawn General Bee, who, with his staff, had obtained some two hours’ rest under a tree by the road side, was moving among his troops, and the column again on the march, soon reached the banks of the Shenandoah River. While the wagon train was crossing the stream the men despatched a scanty breakfast, and then themselves fording the river waist-deep, were quickly ascending the Blue Ridge Mountains through Ashby’s Gap. The scenery of this mountain pass is beautiful beyond description, but the men who then moved along it had not time or thought for the fairest beauties of nature. There was life and death on their movements, and, more than that, there was victory or defeat to our national arms, and each man strained his every nerve in the march. On reaching Paris, at the foot of the mountains, orders were received from General Johnston, who had reached Piedmont, on the Manassas Gap railroad, directing General Bee to march with his Division directly to Manassas, while the main body of the army should proceed thither by Railroad. General Bee at once issued an order detaching and organizing his command as separate from that of Genera Johnston, and commenced his march as directed. We had proceeded but a few miles, when Captain Randolph brough orders countermanding those received at Paris, and directing a junction with General Johnston at Piedmont. This was accomplished by the close of the day. When near Piedmont, a courier was met with orders for General Bee to report himself at headquarters as soon as possible. On returning from this interview Gen. Bee said, “I would have given anything in the world could I have said to Gen. Johnston, ‘my troops are in condition to march immediately to Manassas.’” That march would have taken him, as he supposed, within reach of Patterson’s force, and successfully to execute his orders in the face of such danger and obstacle, was an honor well worth the venture. He knew, however, that his men were in no condition for such a march without rest, and could not possibly make it in the time required. They had been on their feet for twenty-eight hours, most of the time under a burning sun, and without water, and not they absolutely required rest. Therefore, though with deep regret, he found himself compelled to admit that he could not go on that night, His care and solicitude for his soldiers was remarkable. He knew their wants, and made every effort to relieve them. When his column reached Piedmont he might have been seen, regardless of the drenching rain, moving everywhere among his troops, doing everything in his power which could contribute to their comfort. His gallantry, and patriotism had a parallel only in his kindness of heart.

At three o’clock in the morning the troops were ordered on board the cars for Manassas. Of General Bee’s command the Second Mississippi, the Fourth Alabama and two companies of the Eleventh Mississippi, under Lieutenant Colonel Liddell, obtained places in the train, while Imboden, with his Battery, resumed his march for Manassas. Generals Johnston and Bee, with their respective staff officers, completed the detachment which filled the train, and we proceeded to Manassas, arriving about 9 o’clock. Colonel Bartow had preceded us the evening before, with two regiments of his brigade.

We were scarcely well clear from the cars when a report was brought in that the enemy was advancing, and General Bee received orders to march his command to Camp Walker, about three miles from Manassas, in the direction of Centreville. Here he occupied only a supporting position, and it was evident to those around that a shadow overcast the face of our General. He had hoped for a post of honor, which, in his view, was in the front and nearest the enemy.

In this position our troops bivouacked during the night of Saturday, the 20th. At about 12 o’clock that night Captain Imboden reported his Battery just in from Piedmont.

At sunrise on the 21st July the booming of the enemy’s guns awoke the echoes along our whole line, and ushered in the bloody battle of Manassas Plains. I know write only of


It was immediately evident that General Bee had not been overlooked, but that great confidence was placed in his judgement and military capacity, for at six o’clock he received orders to take his own command, with that of Colonel Bartow and Pendleton’s Battery (supposing Imboden’s too much exhausted), and move to the extreme left, in the vicinity of Stone Bridge, giving him a large discretion in co-operating with the Generals Cocke and Jackson of that wing.

Immediately on the receipt of these instructions the General sent for Captain Imboden, and said to hem, “Captain I have been ordered to take into battle a battery supposed to be fresher than yours; will you stand that?” “Not if I can help it,” was the reply. “Harness up, then,” was the order, “and I will leave my guide to bring you up.” Despatching an order to Colonel Bartow to follow, the General then placed himself at that head of the column, and with only a chart to guide him, started for his position on the extreme left. Advancing in the direction of Stone Bridge, or more directly on a line for Sudley’s Ford, he passed first General Jackson, and then General Cocke.

Upon communicating with these officers and learning their position, Gen. Bee at once perceived that the discretion in his orders, as senior officer, could be used to attack the enemy in advance of those with whom he had been directed to co operate. Disregarding, therefore, the suggestion of Gen. Jackson to take position between himself and Gen. Bonham, and directing that he (Jackson) had better extend towards Bonham, he passed on to the exposed left of General Cocke, where he rightly divined was the post of danger. Continuing to advance until the enemy came into full view, he quickly detected their extension to the right to turn our left flank, when, directing his march in a parallel directions, he checked the movement and compelled them to take position and form line of battle.

Imboden, with his battery, came up most opportunely, and was established on our left just as Rickett’s Battery of the enemy was advancing to their front. Leaving Col. Bartow with two regiments to support the gallant Imboden, the General, at the head of the 2d Mississippi and the 4th Alabama Regiments, advanced on the right whilst the two companies of the 11th Mississippi had been sent forward to the support of the battery under General Evans. The command of Gen. Evans had been engaged with the enemy as he advanced, but now fell back through our ranks. Our line was then advanced close on the enemy, and opened a terrible fire on Rickett’s Battery and the divisions under the command of Cols. Hunter and Heintzelman.

A portion of Gen. Evans’ command rallied in our read, and returned to the charge, co-operating with our force. That General, reporting in person that a column of the enemy was about to turn our right, an order was sent to Col. Bartow to advance one regiment to the support of that point. The Colonel obeyed, and himself led the regiment into position. The 4th Alabama was thrown forward up the face of a hill, and there held their position close up, delivering a terrible fire, from which the enemy reeled and shook. The thunder of artillery, the heavy sound of bursting shells, around, above and below us, the sharp and incessant rattle of musketry, and the constant whizzing of the balls as the storm burst upon our little handful, was enough to shake the nerves of veterans; but our men stood firm, and time and again were the enemy hurled back, bleeding and shrinking from the well directed fire. But the storm raged on; and, as the advanced lines of the enemy melted away, new troops moved up to fill their places until overpowered by superior numbers. The Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels of both the Mississippi Regiments, killed or wounded, and many gallant officers besides, stretched upon the bloody field, our brave troops, unable longer to stay the tide, began slowly to give way. Gen. Bee, in the midst of the storm, was seen everywhere that the danger most threatened – riding up and down the lines; encouraging the troops by his voice and example; urging them, by all they held most dear, to stand up and resist the tide which threatened them with destruction. Forming his lines wherever the field offered an advantage, and in the last extremity falling back to a new position, for three mortal hours he bore the brunt of this terrible battle, disputing with his small force, inch by inch, the bloody ground, and only yielding to overwhelming numbers. Now our reserved began to come up. The first was a regiment unknown to us. The General at once assigned it position. Then came Hampton’s Legion. Still all were compelled to fall back until Jackson’s Brigade moved up. Riding up to the commanding officer, Gen. Bee remarked: You see, General, we have been overwhelmed by superior numbers, and driven back.” “Let them come on, sir, we will give them the bayonet,” was the reply. Confident that Jackson would do all that a brave man could do, the General turned from him, and once more forming his own command, now dwindled to a mere handful, addressed them briefly. I think he used these words: “Soldiers, you have fought gallantly, and have only been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers; now we are strongly reinforced; there is Gen. Jackson standing like a stone wall; if we determine to die here, we will conquer. Follow me!” And that devoted band did follow him to the death.

The impression made upon the writer by Gen. Bee, while delivering this brief address, is one which time cannot efface. Of commanding figure, with an eye of unusual expression and brilliancy, and a voice at once manly and commanding, as he rose in his saddle and uttered those memorable words, “If we determine to die here” – words which make him a patriot-martyr – he presented a picture truly sublime. His determination had been made, and near that spot he fell. He had passed safely through eight hard fought fields on the soil of Mexico, fearlessly exposing his life at the head of a company of the Third U. S. Infantry, fighting under the banner of what was then a great and glorious Union; but here, on his first battle field for his beloved South, fighting for her rights and her honor, he fell; fell, perhaps, by a ball from his own commanded ranged among his enemies on the bloody field. While advancing at the head of his troops, the fatal ball struck him from his horse, inflicting a mortal wound, and he was borne from the field by the officers of his staff. Though suffering severely, he roused himself on the succeeding morning and asked the fate of the day; when told that the enemy was totally routed, and expression of satisfaction passed across his features, and a few hours afterwards the spirit of the patriot soldier passed calmly away.

In the death of General Bee the country sustains the loss of a gallant and accomplished officer, and to he bereaved family and friends the loss is irreparable; but to him it was all that he would have asked. In his youth it is said he was ever fond of the quotation –

“The life that others pay let us bestow,
And give to glory what we to nature owe!”

He fell as a soldier should fall – amid the shock of battle, in a just cause, fighting for all the rights that man holds most dear, not for himself, but for us and for all that will come after us. And his bright example will teach others how do die in defence of their country’s honor. Many brave and noble spirits will follow him, but none more brave, more noble, or more worthy than General Barnard Elliott Bee.

W. P. S.

The Charleston (SC) Mercury, 9/7/1861

Clipping Image

Unknown Officer, Bonham’s Brigade, On the Battle and the Death of Bee

8 04 2022

Richmond, July 24. – The following is the account of the action on Sunday, at Stone Bridge, got from and officer of Gen. Bonham’s Staff:

Bonham’s Brigade was in the centre, at Mitchell’s Ford. This Brigade was composed of Kershaw’s, Williams’, Cash’s and Bacon’s Regiments of South Carolinians, Colonel Keller’s Louisiana Regiment, and Col. Kirkland’s North Carolina Regiment.

On the left of Bonham was Gen. Cocke, at Stone Bridge. This was when the fight began. After the battle had been raging for some time at Stone Bridge, General Beauregard, ordered up two regiments from Bonham’s Brigade to assist in repelling the enemy.

Gen. McGowan bore Gen. Bonham’s order for his troops to advance. Kershaw’s and Cash’s Regiments, with Kemper’s Battery, were sent forward. This was at the crisis of the battle – probably about two o’clock. As these troops passed on, they were joined by Col. Preston’s Regiment of Virginians, of Cocke’s Brigade. They made a dashing charge on the enemy over everything. In this onslaught, being comparatively fresh, these troops pursued the enemy upon the hills. They kept close upon the heels of the flying foe down the road, almost along the whole distance to Centreville, and in this pursuit, in conjunction with Radford’s Cavalry, of Virginia, they captured twenty-one pieces of field artillery.

About sunset, the other regiments of Bonham’s Brigade started, also, in pursuit of the flying for, by the Mitchell’s Ford Road, towards Centreville, and took many prisoners and some cannon.

The remains of Gen. Barnard E. Bee leave here tomorrow for Charleston. The name of this officer deserves a place in the highest niche of fame. He displayed a gallantry that scarcely has parallel in history. The brunt of the morning’s battle was sustained by his command until past 2 o’clock. Overwhelmed by superior numbers, and compelled to yield before a fire that swept everything before it, Gen. Bee rode up and down his lines, encouraging his troops, by everything that was dear to them, to stand up and repel the tide which threatened them with destruction. At last his own Brigade dwindled to a mere handful, with every field officer killed or disabled. He rode up to Gen. Jackson, and said: “General, they are beating us back.”

The reply was: “Sir, we’ll give them the bayonet.”

Gen. Bee immediately rallied the remnant of his Brigade, and his last words to them were: “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Follow me!”

His men obeyed the call; and, at the head of his column, the very moment when the battle was turning in our favor, he fell, mortally wounded. Gen. Beauregard was heard to say he had never seen such gallantry. He never murmured at his suffering, but seemed consoled by the reflection that he was doing his duty.

Yorkville (SC) Enquirer, 8/1/1861

Clipping Image

“C,” Brig. Gen. David Jones’s Brigade, On Miscarried Orders on the Right

7 04 2022

[From the N. O. Delta.]


The Battle of Manassas.

The following communication is from an officer whose position in the Confederate Army enables him to be an eye-witness, besides being an active participant in the movements which he mentions. We are happy to publish his correction of an error, which would deprive one of the noblest portions of Beauregard’s division of their share in that day’s great victory:

New Orleans, August 9, 1861.

Messrs. Editors: – Your correspondent from Richmond, “D,” the accuracy of whose reports I have often had the pleasure of contrasting with those of other papers, commits and error, which, if you allow me, I will take the liberty of correcting. In his last letter of the 1st inst., he regrets that upon the 21st the advance against the left flank of the enemy was not made, because orders which were sent by General Beauregard to General Jones were not received by the latter. He, without intention, committed an error in mentioning Gen. Jones’ name instead of Gen. Ewell’s. Gen Jones did receive orders from Gen. Beauregard to cross Bull Run at McLean’s Ford, for the purpose of attacking the enemy upon their flank, and did actually cross the Run twice on the 21st for that purpose. It was General Ewell to whom orders were sent to co-operate with General Jones, who, it is said, did not receive the orders – a melancholy fact, indeed – which compelled Gen. Jones, between 3 and 4 o’clock in the evening, with some 1,800 efficient men, to attack their batteries on the hill, near Blackberry Ford, protected by at least five thousand infantry and a considerable force of cavalry. This attack, made at a moment when their right was already giving way, succeeded in dislodging the enemy, though Gen. Jones’ command did not capture their pieces at the time. At the close of the engagement, Gen. Jones’ men were so completely worn out, by having had to stand and contend with the fire of such disproportionate numbers, after the fatiguing marches of the day, that the order which they then received from Gen. Beauregard to return to their entrenchments came very opportunely. – Your correspondent reasons very justly that “had this movement been executed as it was contemplated, the whole of McDowell’s right wing would have been cut off and captured.”

I would take this opportunity of doing to one of Gen. Jones’ regiments a justice which I have seen done them but in few accounts which I have read of the battle. The gallant 5th South Carolina Regiment behaved with a bravery and determination which entitles them to one of the brightest pages in the history of the battle of Manassas. Though exposed to as hot a fire as any seen that day in other portions of the field, they stood unwavering under the constant rain of shell and shot, which the enemy poured incessantly upon them; and had the occaission required, or even permitted, would I am confident, have charged without hesitation upon the immensely superior forces of the enemy, which occupied such and advantageous position on the hill. The name of the gallant Col. Jenkins is one which has become dear to every one under his command, and respected by those who have had occasion to judge of his high military acquirements, as well as his unflinching courage upon the battle-field. Under such officers as him, men will always march, probably to victory, but certainly to honor.

Believe me ever yours, truly,

Yorkville (SC) Enquirer, 9/5/1861

Clipping Image

*Possibly Capt. Asbury Coward of Jones’s staff.

Unknown (5), Co. I, 2nd South Carolina Infantry, On the Campaign

7 04 2022



Extracts from Private Letters.


[From a Member of the Palmetto Guards.]

Fairfax C. H., July 26.

Dear Sister: As you perceive, I am again at Fairfax, by not stationed there. Our force is posted at Vienna, where all the South Carolina Regiments are stationed. I saw L. L. C., of Boykin’s [?], after the engagement; his company came up too late to get into the fight. You have no doubt, ere this, seen by the official statement our gallant Second Regiment were in both engagements. Our company, the P. G.’s, were the first to face the music on the 18th, were the nearest to the Hessians on the 21st on the retreat, and the very last to fire on their retreating forces, to which was mainly attributable the capture of so large a number of the splendid artillery. We took fifty-five pieces rifle Dahlgrens, and the most improved kind, wagons, horses, &c. I equipped myself from head to foot in the Yankee clothing of a Maine Major.

We claim a very conspicuous part in the picture. Our Second Regiment, Cash’s Regiment, with Kemper’s Battery, all under the command of the gallant Kershaw, turned the fate of the day. Our loss on the 21st was 6 killed and 24 wounded. We have enjoyed the reading of a good many love-letters, which were both interesting and amusing. A more complete stampede was never heard of. It will take, in my opinion, more than two months for them to organize their army. Had Beauregard’s orders been carried out, I think all fighting would now be at an end; but as it is we will have to give them one more good flogging before they are satisfied. Their loss is very heavy in killed and wounded. I will not pretend to estimate it. We lost some good men, but our loss is comparatively light to theirs. I am writing in a book that a very pretty lady in Fairfax, for want of better paper, has given me; and a soldier, for the want of better, takes things as he finds them.

On the morning of the 21st, our Chaplain, Mr. Manardy, of the Second Regiment, gave us a very affecting prayer. Every man came down on his knees, and supplicated the Almighty to be on our side; and our prayers were heard, and we were all saved pretty nearly.

I have a splendid rifle which I took from a Yankee, and then made him my prisoner. He begged so hard for his life I could not kill him.

The day after the battle, it rained very hard, and the wounded of the enemy must have suffered tremendously.

Whilst we were pursuing the enemy, an officer came riding up to us and inquired why we were retreating that way? We soon discovered that he was our enemy, and make him out prisoner. The Colonel asking who he was, when he answered he was a Surgeon of the U. S. Army. We told him he could consider himself our prisoner; that we were not retreating, but advancing.

As you must already have heard, Jeff. Davis was on the field; but our Beauregard was commanding.

Write soon and send the papers regularly.

Charleston (SC) Mercury, 8/1/1861

Clipping Image