Ballou Balloon Burst?

12 09 2017
Horatio-Rogers-Jr

Horatio Rogers, Jr.

The entire Robert Grandchamp America’s Civil War magazine article, “‘O Sarah!’ Did Sullivan Ballou’s Famed Letter Come From Another’s Pen?” can be found right here.

Go here for a link to an interview with Mr. Grandchamp.

Caption to photo in America’s Civil War magazine:

Was It Rogers? Some suspect Horatio Rogers Jr., not Ballou, wrote the famous letter, perhaps as a way of eulogizing his dear friend. (The Robert Grandchamp Collection)

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Charles H. Pierce, Co. D, Marine Battalion, On the Eve of the Battle

7 09 2017

Encampment of U. S. Marine Battalion
14 miles north of Manassas Junction, Virginia
Saturday July 20, 1861

Mother,

We crossed the Potomac last Tuesday and joined the advancing army. We marched all day & encamped at night near Fairfax Court House where the enemy were located in numbers to the amount of 10,000. Next morning we took the town after a short contest. The Southern Troops under General Beauregard fell back to a place two miles from where we now are.

We remained all day at Fairfax & next morning marched to attack Beauregard. We were repulsed and had to fall back. The 69th New York Regiment, it is said, had 40 men killed. We are now encamped in an old field by the side of the road, awaiting guns to come up from Washington, before we make another attack. They will be here tomorrow. We should take Manassas Junction next week and then push on to Richmond. I have suffered dreadfully since I have been on the march. The roads are hot & dusty, water is scarce, & I have often wished I could get shot to get clear of the intolerable thirst. My feet are all blistered & sore. We have to rest at night & every morning I feel almost unable to get up off the ground upon which we all have to sleep. I am writing this letter on my knee sitting in the shade under a tree. Write as soon as you get this and direct the letter as follows:

Company D Marine Battalion
Near Manassas Junction, Virginia

Tell me what the papers say about us. I mean what accounts do they give of our intentions.

We are within five miles of the enemy who are very numerous and strong, entrenched (they say but no one knows anything about their strength.)

Charles H. Pierce

I do not have an idea that I shall get shot. But I do not believe I can stand the hardships of the march much longer. You may consider this a letter from the battlefield, for mighty is war going on between our advanced guards & the enemy at a place called Centreville.

Museum Quality Americana auction site, Sept. 2017

Letter image and transcription

Contributed by John Hennessy





2nd Lt. Fred W. Shipman, Co. F, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

5 09 2017

OUR MILITARY BUDGET.
———————
A VIVID NARRATIVE OF THE CONFLICT.

The writer of the subjoined gives a graphic picture of what came under his observation in the battle of Bull Run:

Heintzelman’s division, in their move from Centreville to Bull Run, experienced one of the most sever marches known in modern times. I say this and it will appear palpable to all, when it is considered that the heat was intense, the distance twelve miles, the men loaded with their guns, blankets, canteens, forty rounds of ammunition in their cartridge-boxes, and nearly all the regiments wearing heavy blue jackets, and yet making it in about three hours and a half. Any one following in the rear of the division would find it hard to believe that it was advancing on the foe, but would rather incline to the opinion than an army in full retreat had passed over the road. Blankets and jackets were cast off as the heat grew more intense. Some of the men gave out and despairingly threw themselves down, lamenting their utter inability to proceed farther. Two miles this side of the enemy’s batteries, Wilcox’s brigade, with whom your correspondent is connected, were allowed a ten minutes halt to strip themselves of everything that would encumber them, and at the same time filled their canteens with water from a creek. They were then marched from the road across lots for about a mile, over fences, up hill, and at double-quick the whole way, until they found themselves in the presence of the enemy. At this time the men were so thoroughly used up that it seems impossible that the same men in five minutes from that time were fighting with all the desperation and valor of experienced veterans.

The scene at this point was most exciting. The brigade took its positions upon the field – the Zouaves to the right, the 38th regiment, Scott Life Guard, upon the left, and the Michigan regiment marching along the road and forming, ready to support any movement that might be made. About a mile directly in front we saw what appeared to be a volcano vomiting forth smoke and flame, while the rifle cannon ball and round shot fell thickly among us, as we were drawn up in line of battle. Towards the left, as we came within its range, another battery opened with shell upon us, changing now and then to round shot. Our own batteries were upon the field. Green’s being behind us throwing over our heads, while Arnold’s was to the right preparing to take position on the hill. Two others, consisting of light brass guns, were in position firing, but with little effect, the distance being too great. When the line was formed, Capt. Arnold received an order to take position upon the brow of the hill with his battery, and the Scott Life Guard was ordered forward to support him. When the enemy perceived the advance about being made they fired with redoubled energy, but our men moved steadily forward, crossing fences and coming in proper order upon the instant. They at last arrived at their proper place, just below the top of the hill, and were ordered to lay down, when Arnold’s battery took position on top and opened fire upon the enemy.

The Fire Zouaves in the meantime had received orders to advance and take position along the edge of the wood, on the right of Arnold’s battery. The fire came so heavy here that our battery had not been in position five minutes before one of the gunners had his legs shot off, four horses were killed, and every shot of the enemy was aimed in such an accurate manner, that it was useless for our battery to remain in such a position. They accordingly drew their pieces a little way down the hillside and left them. Upon this a furious charge was made upon the Zouaves by the enemy’s cavalry issuing from the wood. They were received by a volley from the regiment that emptied many a saddle, and sent the survivors to the right about in short order. Another charge was then made upon them by cavalry upon their right flank, and infantry in front, when they broke and ran down the hill in disorder. Col. Ward, of the Thirty-eighth, then gave his regiment orders to charge, when, with a cheer, the men dashed forward, driving the enemy into the woods, and covering the ground with the dead and wounded. A concealed battery on the right opened fire on the Thirty-eighth at this time, killing some thirty men and driving the regiment down hill again; but the officers rallied them and led again to the attack, and it was not until several of the officers and many of the men had fallen, that the Thirty-eighth Scott Life Guard, finding the odds too great to be combatted with, retreated to the road. That they retreated in good order, may be seen from the fact that they stopped, uncoiled the cannon ropes, and dragged Arnold’s battery away with them, thereby preventing its falling into the hands of the enemy.

In the meantime the Zouaves had formed again, marched to the extreme right of the wood and again beat off the Black Horsemen, making many a rider bite the dust. But valor was useless against such odds and strength of position, and they as well as the other regiments walked sadly from the field. Col. Wilcox had fallen early in the engagement while leading a party to the attack in the woods. About one mile from the field of battle a large stone building was used for a hospital, the scene around this place was truly harrowing, mutilated men, some without legs, or only one, arms torn off at the shoulder, deep and ghastly body wounds, some exposing the intestines, and in fact every kind of wound that could be inflicted by gunpowder, iron or steel. Most of the men were carried to the hospital seated upon a musket, one man seizing it by the stock, another by the barrel, the wounded being supported upon it by a third man walking behind,

Upon the retreat of the last regiments who went to the assault, the Sixty-ninth, Second Rhode Island, and the Sixty-ninth, a charge was made by the enemy in the direction of the Hospital, when a perfect stampeded took place; those who were carrying the wounded dropped them by the road side and consulted their own safety, the drivers of the ambulance wagons drove forward unloaded, men cast aside their guns, while the artillerymen drove headlong through the crowd. A scattered firing from men of different regiments at last drove the enemy back and the march was resumed at a pace more fitting for weary and dispirited men.

Nine o’clock p. m. brought them to their camp around Centerville. By 10 o’clock the different regiments were pretty well together; the men had built fires, and expressed the desire to make a stand, having confidence they could beat the enemy in the open field. In four hours an order came to retreat on Washington, and the weary march was resumed – some of the men crying with disappointment at our giving up without one more rally. Too much credit cannot be given the men, not only for their courage, but for their endurance under adverse circumstances. Lieut. Col. Farnsworth, of the Thirty-eighth N.Y.S.V., had been confined to his bed for over a week before the battle, was carried to field in an ambulance, and yet, sword in hand, mingled in the thickest of the fray. Fourteen wounded men of the same regiment walked the whole way from the field of battle to Shuter’s Hill; seven of them will probably die. Many of the wounded were brought in in common baggage wagons, which must have produced intense agony to the poor sufferers, the roads being in bad condition and very stony; others came upon horseback, supported by comrades sitting behind them; scores sat down by the roadside, bidding their friends good bye, as they could stand it no longer. But amid all this, the men looked forward to the time when they could again meet the foe, and may were the firmly-expressed resolves to thrash them yet.

F. W. S.*, Co. F, 38th Reg’t N.Y.S.V.

Washington Star, 8/1/1861

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*Likely 2nd Lt. Fred W. Shipman

38th New York Infantry roster 

Fred W. Shipman at Ancestry.com

Fred W. Shipman at Fold3

Contributed by John Hennessy





Corporal Benjamin Freeman Smart, Co. D, 2nd Maine, on The Battle

10 07 2017

Alexandria, Virginia – July 23, 1861 (Tuesday, 7 AM)

Dear Father;

After fighting one of the hardest battles that we ever fought in America, your son was not hurt in any way. It is true that we are defeated, and our army routed, but it was not the soldiers’ fault, for never did the soldiers fight harder, or bolder than those engaged in that battle. I think I tell the truth when I lay it to poor Generalship. I am sorry to say anything about or against our General Tyler, but I believe, and it is the belief of many, that he worked for the interest of the South instead of the North. That is a hard saying, but I feel so. If McClellan had conducted that noble army, I believe we would have routed them, although their number was greater than ours. I will say for the Maine boys, that they did nobly. The enemy were entrenched and behind the strongest batteries that could be made, and that stronghold which is just this side of Manassas was what we endeavored to take. I feel proud to think that I am a soldier of the Maine 2nd Regiment. They fought like tigers, and made one of the boldest and most daring charges that was ever made. They were twenty rods nearer the battery than any other Regiment.

Now for a very short detail of our operations. At 1 o’clock Sunday morning we left our encampment at Centerville and moved on. We then halted and let every Brigade pass us. Our Brigade consisted of three Connecticut and the Maine 2nd under Colonel Keyes, a U.S. Officer. But soon the order came to advance without any load except cartridges and belts. We stripped for the fight, and marched onward. We soon came into Sherman’s battery which was throwing ball and shell at a rapid rate. We then moved onward “Double Quick” for two miles. It was at that moment that we ascertained why we were kept in the rear. It was to be fresh for the boldest attack. We came within a short distance of the battery when we formed in the line of battle under a small hill. Maine boys attacked the front, and the Connecticut – each wing, and one Connecticut at reserve. The order came to forward march. Then came the order from our noble Colonel to forward guide center double quick march, Then came the tug of war.

One howl passed along the line, and the bold boys of the 2nd Maine dashed forward like lightning, firing as fast as possible. Our men began to fall like hail stones, but that did not discourage them. They rushed onward and were led by the most gallant officer that ever fought. We were quite near the battery, from which came ball, shell, grape & chain shot, also rifle and musket. Balls flew like hail stones among us, with every volley taking its number of bold men, but still unflinchingly the Maine boys dashed onward, showing neither fear nor cowardice. But our Brigadier General soon saw that the enemy was too strong for us. He rode to the left wing and gave the order to fall back to the woods on our left. This was our third charge, he gave the order twice before our heroic Major gave it to his men. I was on the right of the left wing, but when they turned toward the woods, I looked about. I beheld the Stars and Stripes and my beloved Colonel on the right. I said to myself – I never will leave that flag unprotected. I rushed for it, leaving my company there. I found our Colonel cheering his men he himself in advance of them all. Oh, Father, words are inadequate to express my love for the Patriotic hero, he deserves the praise of every living being in Maine, oh yes, and the U.S.

There he stood like one that knew not fear. He dashed on with the remainder of the Regiment, and went very near the battery. Had we been reinforced at that moment, the battery would have been ours, but was then impossible. I rushed to the Colonel’s side. He said: “Has the left wing of my Regiment fled?” I then told him how bravely they fought, and how they received orders twice from Colonel Keys before they fell back. A smile then lit up his countenance. He then drew his men together and fell back to the road which formed a breastwork for us. Our brigade was divided about 200 rods apart. All of the Connecticut Regiment, and the left wing of ours on the left, and the right wing of ours on the right, and not an officer of either part knew where the other was. The Colonel came to me and asked if I knew anything about the remainder, and it happened that I was the only one there that did know. He asked me if I could go and deliver a message to Colonel Keys. I knew what a dangerous undertaking, but of course your son said yes, and while the others lay concealed, I seized my gun, and rushed by the very cannon’s mouth for 100 rods without any shelter. When I came to the middle of the field, the cannon and musket balls flew all around me. I don’t see what saved me. Three cannon balls struck within three feet of me, and the rifle balls whizzed by me like a swarm of bees. It seemed to me that they saw me, and knew my errand. I neither paused, nor looked around, but dashed forward ’till I came to the left wing. The boys all cheered me as I went by. The Connecticut officers ordered me to lie down. They said I was exposing their whole Regiment. I said to them, “I know my business, and shall perform my duty.” I dashed along to the left of their line. There I found the Commanding officer, and delivered my message. He cheered me, and gave me orders for Colonel Jameson, but would not let me go back as I came, but told me to go down a ravine and through a piece of woods. I asked him twice to let me go as I came, but he wouldn’t consent for he said he didn’t want me to get killed. I soon found the Colonel who was watching for me. He waved his hand when I came in sight. I sprang forward, and was soon at his side. I felt proud to think that I had done him a little good. The officers rushed to me as if I was a lion. The Colonel then ordered his men to follow him, and me to act as a guide. I led them around through the same ravine. Many of them said I must be going wrong, but the Colonel ordered them to follow. I ran ahead ’till I came to the main body of our Brigade. I then jumped up on a fence and waved my cap until they came to me. Then they found that I had led them just right. I then reported myself to the General. He ordered me to fall back and rest, for he saw that I was nearly exhausted. I asked him if I should not act my pleasure, and he said yes. Well, said I, I will be in the ranks in ten minutes. He smiled, and I turned away. I got some water, and wet my head and drank a little, seized my gun, and fell in my place. I feel that I did my whole duty, and my officers give me praise.

Our Regiment was cut up badly. I think half or more of those noble boys are gone. There appear to be but a handful of them left. Our Regiment retreated in fair order, but this whole Army was broken up. There were too many for us, as we were led by our General. But we will wipe them out yet. In retreat we marched 32 miles, and I am very weary, but I stand it finely. I am ready to try them again any moment. “By the eternal” I will fight them until they recognize the Constitution of the U.S.

Our Regiment is so broken up that it will take some time to recruit. Our Captain was injured, while crossing a bridge in the retreat, across the chest. I led him along until I found a baggage wagon. Then I put him into it, and stuck by him all night. He was very grateful to me for my kindness. When morning came, I secured a horse for him, and guarded him until he was safely landed in this place.

One of our Corporals is probably dead, and another wounded, and about half of our Company are gone. It is hard, but then it is honorable to die for one’s country. All of our Field Officers are living. One or two Captains and several Lieutenants were killed or wounded. Some taken prisoners. I think our Chaplain and Surgeon are in the hands of the enemy, besides many others. I had no fear at any time. I was greatly excited and willing to do anything. I do not think there was a coward in the whole Regiment. We brought off all our flags in good shape. The bearer of the largest one was the first man shot.

I saw Major Nickerson yesterday, also Colonel Marshall and Captain Cunningham. They are all well, and send their regards to you. Captain Bean and Lieutenant Bird of the Brook Company were slightly wounded. Captain Sherwood was wounded in the arm, may lose it. Lieutenant Walker is all right. He behaved nobly, so say his men. I am going to see him soon. Mark Dodge and Daniel Nickerson are both well. Our Officers all behaved like patriotic heroes, and deserve the praise of all of Maine. Maine need not feel ashamed of her officers or men, for no others fought more bravely but the 2nd Regiment is ahead of all the others. No man behaved more heroic that Lieutenant Garnsey of our Company. I have not time to write more. Excuse the composition, spelling and writing, for I am so hasty that I think I have left out about half.

Yours in haste, from your son, B. F. Smart

Source (this site includes more information and writings of Smart)

Contributed by John Hennessy





1st Lt Clarke Henry Thompson, Co. G, 7th Virginia Infantry, On the Campaign

26 05 2017

Near Centreville, Fairfax Co.

Friday, August 2, 1861

Dear Aunt:

According to promise, I take this opportunity to write you a few lines. I am in camp near the above named place, and have been ever since last Sunday, at which time our regiment marched here from within on mile from the great and ever memorable battlefield of the 21st. I have thus far been spared from the bullets of the enemy, though subject to their fire in both battles.

I left Culpeper C. H. on the 26th of June, arriving in camp at a place called Wigfall, some two miles from Manassas, stayed there six or seven days, then marched with the regiment (which is called the 7th Va. Regt) to a place called Occoquan, a distance of eighteen miles.

We remained there a week and returned. In some five or seven days after our return we were ordered out to meet the enemy, a distance of about two miles, where we camped on the ground and many of us without blankets. On the next day which was Thursday the 18th, we marched some three or four miles in a different direction where we met the severest volly of musketry from the enemy, who were some thirty yards upon the hill, hidden completely from view. As luck would have it, not many of our regiment were killed or got wounded, but many of the enemy were slain. It was really a sight to find the blankets and clothes and things scattered over the field after their defeat.

You may think strange, but many of our men went upon the field the next morning and got off the dead bodies of the yankees, money, cards, likenesses, and many other little notions, many things no doubt had been stolen from our private citizens upon their route from Washington to the field.

We then stayed in our trenches for two whole days and nights waiting for them to return, but they did not return and they brought up a flag of truce for permission to bury their dead. Instead of acting honorably, they left their dead and wounded and went two miles up the run, where they threw up the most tremendous breast-work against us.

We took up the wounded and had them cared for, and believe me, General Beauregard had the dead buried.

On Saturday we were ordered out of the trenches and marched two miles, where we rested until Sunday morning, when we marched ten and a half miles to meet the enemy again. The battle commenced before seven in the morning and lasted until late in the evening. Our Regt. got upon the field about three o’clock in the afternoon at which time the enemy retreated.

We lost out of our regiment and fifty killed and wounded. They fired upon us very heavily for, I suppose fifteen minutes, we marched after them but not very far, as their retreat was in such haste and confusion that our Cavalry could hardly keep up with them, such a defeat was never known.

They scattered thousands of dollars worth of blankets, oil cloths, hats, coats and shoes. They actually threw away trunks filled with surgical instruments. Besides these there were silk dress patterns, bonnets and underskirts, found marked to to the wives of the men in New York, as trophies gotten from the “Rebels” as they term us. These things were stolen from private individuals in Alexandria and Fairfax C. H. How could a young man, dear Aunt, help volunteering to fight such a mob of heartless wretches as they? They actually killed the stock, burned houses, destroyed furniture of the people as they advanced.

We whipped them very decently, and they went back to the spot from which it took them six months to march, in six hours. They were seen to pass the streets begging the citizens for private clothing, thinking that they could escape, and that we were still after them. They fell in the streets and died of exhaustion. I had the audacity to think last Sunday, that I was not made to be struck by a bullet. It is, I think, the hand of the All-wise One that prevents the balls from striking me, for they whistled around like hail.

All history to a battle is mere fiction to the reality. It is an indescribable sight to see bodies mutilated in every manner in quantities all over the place, and arm here, a head there, a leg in another place. There were many cut up in this way. Some of the bodies actually laid out of the ground for six days. Hundreds of the finest horses were slaughtered upon the enemy side.

We took some 12,000 guns, 71 pieces of cannon, 1000 men and 500 horses.

I had no idea that I could stand what I have, but I can now walk over a dead “Yankee” with as good grace as I would a dog.

I hope that our Country may soon be at peace, but from the present movements of our regiments, I fear not, some four or five have passed down in the last few days. It is thought that we will advance upon Washington in a short time, how true this is I am not able to say, you can hear more news than we. The soldier’s life is not a pleasant one by any means, but when one knows the duty that he owes his Country, he will make any sacrifice. I shall ever consider the service that I have done the most noble act of my life. You will excuse this epistle as I am writing very fast. I will close. Remember me most affectionately to Uncle Albert, Cousin Fountaine and family, and all my relatives and friends.

Your most affectionate nephew,

C. H. Thompson

N. B. Write soon and address your letters to Manassas, in the care of Captain Walden, 7th Va. Regiment.

Library of Virginia

Transcription Image

Contributed by Keith Yoder

Clarke H. Thompson at Fold3 





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

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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 





Corp. Samuel J. English, Co. D, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Advance, Battle, and Retreat

7 02 2017

Camp Clark, July 24th/61
Washington, D. C.

Dear Mother

I rec’d your letter of the 21st shortly after our return to camp and take the earliest opportunity of writing. Yes, we have been & gone and done it. Last Thursday the 16th our brigade consisting of the two Rhode Island regiments, the New York 71st and the New Hampshire 2nd took up our line of march for Fairfax Court House. We crossed Long Bridge about 3 o’clock and continued on for six miles where we bivouacked for the night. Nothing occurred of importance to disturb our slumbers except the passing of troops bound on the same expedition. We commenced our march early in the morning, the 2nd R. I. regiment taking the lead and acting as skirmishers, Co. A taking the advance on the right; Co. D acting as flankers; Co. F acting as rear advance on the right of the column, Co. K[?] acting as advance on the left. Co. C as flankers and Co. G as rear guard. I cannot state exactly the strength of our forces at the time, but should judge there were seven or eight thousand, including 1500 cavalry and two Batteries of artillery with two howitzers belonging to the New York 71st Regt. When within half a mile of the village of Fairfax, word was sent that the rebels’ battery was directly in our line of march. Our artillery was immediately ordered to the front and fired three shots into it, making the sand fly, and showing pretty conclusively that the birds had flown. All the time this was taking place your humble servant was skirting around in the woods as a skirmisher and arrived in the village ahead of the main column. As our company arrived the streets presented the scene of the wildest confusion: old negroes running around, some laughing, some crying and some swearing at a fearful rate. The streets were strewn with the knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, blankets, shirts and most every article pertaining to camp life. The houses were deserted and in some places the tables were set for dinner and coffee warm on the stove. After strolling around a short time we quartered ourselves in the park of G. Lee and made ourselves as comfortable as circumstances would permit. The cavalry in the meantime pursuing the retreating rebels and capturing 30 of their men. What particularly pleased me was that the company that lost the mess was the Palmetto Guards and Brooks Guards of South Carolina, having lost all of their camp equipage and barely escaped with their lives. But to continue, the next day our colors started for Manassas but halted and camped three miles this side of Centreville, waiting for our troops and reinforcements to come up; the second regiment being somewhat in advance of the main army; we stay here for about three days and Sunday the 21st about 2 o’clock the drums beat the assembly and in ten minutes we were on our march for Bull Run having heard the enemy were waiting to receive us, our troops then numbering 25 or 30 thousand which were divided into three columns ours under Col Hunter taking the right through a thick woods. About eleven o’clock as our pickets were advancing through the woods a volley was poured in upon them from behind a fence thickly covered with brush; the pickets after returning the shots returned to our regiment and we advanced double quick time yelling like so many devils. On our arrival into the open field I saw I should judge three or four thousand rebels retreating for a dense woods, firing as they retreated, while from another part of the woods a perfect hail storm of bullets, round shot and shell was poured upon us, tearing through our ranks and scattering death and confusion everywhere; but with a yell and a roar we charged upon them driving them again into the woods with fearful loss. In the mean time our battery came up to our support and commenced hurling destruction among the rebels. Next orders were given for us to fall back and protect our battery as the enemy were charging upon it from another quarter, and then we saw with dismay that the second R. I. regiment were the only troops in the fight; the others having lagged so far behind that we had to stand the fight alone for 30 minutes; 1100 against 7 or 8 thousand. It was afterwards ascertained from a prisoner that the rebels thought we numbered 20 or 30 thousand from the noise made by us while making the charge. While preparing to make our final effort to keep our battery out of their hands, the 1st R. I. regiment then came filing over the fence and poured a volley out to them that drove them under cover again; they were followed by the New York 71st and the New Hampshire 2nd regiments; with 2,000 regulars bringing up the rear who pitched into the “Sechers” most beautifully. Our regiments were then ordered off the field and formed a line for a support to rally on in case the rebels over powered our troops. When the line had formed again I started off for the scene of action to see how the fight was progressing. As I emerged from the woods I saw a bomb shell strike a man in the breast and literally tear him to pieces. I passed the farm house which had been appropriated for a hospital and the groans of the wounded and dying were horrible. I then descended the hill to the woods which had been occupied by the rebels at the place where the Elsworth zouaves made their charge; the bodies of the dead and dying were actually three and four deep, while in the woods where the desperate struggle had taken place between the U.S. Marines and the Louisiana zouaves, the trees were spattered with blood and the ground strewn with dead bodies. The shots flying pretty lively round me I thought best to join my regiment; as I gained the top of the hill I heard the shot and shell of our batteries had given out, not having but 130 [?] shots for each gun during the whole engagement. As we had nothing but infantry to fight against their batteries, the command was given to retreat; our cavalry not being of much use, because the rebels would not come out of the woods. The R.I. regiments, the New York 71st and the New Hampshire 2nd were drawn into a line to cover the retreat, but an officer galloped wildly into the column crying the enemy is upon us, and off they started like a flock of sheep every man for himself and the devil take the hindermost; while the rebels’ shot and shell fell like rain among our exhausted troops. As we gained the cover of the woods the stampede became even more frightful, for the baggage wagons and ambulances became entangled with the artillery and rendered the scene even more dreadful than the battle, while the plunging of the horses broke the lines of our infantry, and prevented any successful formation out of the question. The rebels being so badly cut up supposed we had gone beyond the woods to form for a fresh attack and shelled the woods for full two hours, supposing we were there, thus saving the greater part of our forces, for if they had begun an immediate attack, nothing in heaven’s name could have saved us. As we neared the bridge the rebels opened a very destructive fire upon us, mowing down our men like grass, and caused even greater confusion than before. Our artillery and baggage wagons became fouled with each other, completely blocking the bridge, while the bomb shells bursting on the bridge made it “rather unhealthy” to be around. As I crossed on my hands and knees, Capt. Smith who was crossing by my side at the same time was struck by a round shot at the same time and completely cut in two. After I crossed I started up the hill as fast as my legs could carry and passed through Centreville and continued on to Fairfax where we arrived about 10 o’clock halting about 15 minutes, then kept on to Washington where we arrived about 2 o’clock Monday noon more dead than alive, having been on our feet 36 hours without a mouthful to eat, and traveled a distance of 60 miles without twenty minutes halt. The last five miles of that march was perfect misery, none of us having scarcely strength to put one foot before the other, but I tell you the cheers we rec’d going through the streets of Washington seemed to put new life into the men for they rallied and marched to our camps and every man dropped on the ground and in one moment the greater part of them were asleep. Our loss is estimated at 1,000, but I think it greater, the rebels lost from three to five thousand.

Rhodes, Robert Hunt, All For the Union: The Civil War Diary and Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes, pp. 32-35

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