Unknown, 8th Georgia Infantry, On the Battle

18 08 2015

Full and Reliable Details from Our Exchanges.
The Eighth Georgia Regiment in the Battle at Stone Bridge.

The following graphic description of scenes on the battle field, and the gallant conduct of the Eighth Georgia Regiment, was written for the Richmond Dispatch by a gentleman who participated in the fierce conflict of the 21st of July.

Eighth Georgia Regiment

On Thursday, the 18th inst., about 2 P. M., this Regiment left Winchester for Manassas, under command of Lieut. Colonel Montgomery Gardner. Col. Bartow had been for some weeks acting Brigadier General of a Brigade, consisting of the 7th, 8th, 9th and 11th Georgia Regiments, and a battalion of Kentuckians.

The 8th marched 27 miles over the mountains, fording the Shenandoah, to Piedmont on the Manassas Gap Railroad, arriving there about 12 M., Friday. The march was fatiguing in the extreme. After a delay of a few hours they left for Manassas on the cars, and a slow, tedious ride brought them to this point late Saturday morning. They marched three and a half miles to camp in the woods, without tents, and without food. Early next morning they were ordered to the fight, where they arrived after a circuitous, wearisome, and at times double-quick tramp between ten and twelve miles.

Breathless, tired, faint and footsore, the gallant fellows were eager for the affray.

They were first ordered to support Pendleton’s Virginia Battery, which they did amid a furious storm of grape from the enemy. Inactive as they were, compelled to be under this fire, they stood cool and unflurried.

They were finally ordered to charge Sherman’s Battery. To do this it was necessary to cross and intervening hollow, covered by the enemy’s fire, and establish themselves in a thicket flanking the enemy’s battery. They charged in a manner that elicited the praise of Gen. Johnston.

Gaining the thicket they opened upon the enemy. The history of warfare probably affords no instance of more desperate fighting than took place now. – From three sides a fierce, concentrated, murderous, unceasing volley poured in upon this devoted and heroic “six hundred” Georgians. The enemy appeared upon the hill by thousands. Between six and ten regiments were visible. It was a hell of bullet-rain in that fatal grove. The ranks were cut down as grain by a scythe. Whole platoons melted away as if by magic. Cool, unflinching and stubborn, each man fought with gallantry, and a stern determination to win or die. Not one faltered. Col. Bartow’s horse was shot under him. Adjutant Branch fell, mortally wounded. Lieut. Col. Gardner dropped with a shattered leg. The officers moved from rank to rank, from man to man, cheering and encouraging the brave fellows. Some of them took the muskets of the dead and began coolly firing at the enemy.

It was an appalling hour. The shot whistled and tore through trees and bones. The ground became literally paved with the fallen. Yet the remnant stood composed and unquailing, carefully loading, steadily aiming, unerringly firing, and then quietly looking to see the effect of their shots. Mere boys fought like veterans – unexcited, save with that stern “white hear,” flameless exhilaration, that battle gives to brave spirits.

After eight or ten rounds the regiment appeared annihilated. The order was reluctantly given to cease firing and retire. The stubborn fellows gave no heed. It was repeated. Still no obedience. The battle spirit was up. Again it was given. Three volleys had been fired after the first command. At length they retired, walking and fighting. Owing to the density of the growth, a part of the regiment were separated from the colors. The other part formed in an open field behind the thicket. The retreat continued over ground alternately wood and field. At every open spot they would reform, pour a volley into the pursuing enemy and again retire.

From the accounts of the enemy who stopped to give water to the wounded and rifle the dead, it seems that the 8th cut to pieces the 6th Massachusetts, half demolished the Rhode Islanders, and made deadly havoc among the Regulars.

But a horrible mistake occurred at this point. – Their own friends, taking them for the enemy, poured a fatal fire upon their mutilated ranks.

At length they withdrew from the fight. Their final rally was with some sixty men of the six hundred they took in. Balaklava tells no more heroic tale than this: “Into the valley of death marched the six hundred.”

As they retired, they passed Gen. Beauregard. – He drew aside, fronted, raised his hat, and said, “I salute the 8th Georgia with my hat off.”

Of all the companies of the regiment, the Oglethorpe Light Infantry suffered most. They were on the extreme right nearest the enemy, and this were more exposed. Composed of the first young gentlemen of Savannah, their terrible loss will throw a gloom over their whole city.

An organization of five or six years’ standing, they were the favorite corps of Savannah. Colonel Bartow had long been Captain and was idolized by them, while he had a band of sons in them. It is supposed that his deep grief at the mutilation of his boys caused him to expose his life more recklessly than was necessary. He wished to die with them, if he could not take them back home.

They fought with heroic desperation. All young, all unmarried, all gentlemen, there was not one of the killed who was not an ornament to his community and freighted with brilliant promise.

In sending them to Virginia, Savannah sent her best to represent her, and their loss proves how well they stood up, ho well that city was represented upon a field where all were brave.

This company was the first one to offer its services to President Davis under the Confederate act authorizing him to receive independent companies, and had the honor of being first received. They left home in disobedience to the orders of their Governor, and brought away their arms in defiance of his authority, so eager were they to go where our country needed her best soldiers.

They were one of the two companies that took Fort Pulaski. When there was a riot expected in Savannah, early in the year, they were called out to quell it, with another corps.

Their whole history is one of heroism. First to seek peril, they have proved in their sad fate how nobly they can endure it.

The will inevitably make their mark during the continuance of this holy war. They have enlisted for the whole war, and not one will turn back who can go forward, until it is ended, or they are completely annihilated.

After the gallant 8th had retired with but a fragment, Col. Bartow, by Gen. Beauregard’s order, brought up the 7th Georgia, exclaiming, in reply to Col. Gartrell, of the 7th, who asked him where they should go – “Give me your flag, and I will tell you.”

Leading them to their stand amid a terrific fire, he posted the regiment fronting the enemy, and exclaimed in those eloquent tones so full of high feeling that his friends ever expected from him – “Gen. Beauregard says you must hold this position, and, Georgians, I appeal to you to hold it.”

Regardless of life, gallantly riding amid the hottest fire, cheering the men, inspiring them with his fervent courage, he was shot in the heart, and fell from his horse. They picked him up. With both hands clasped over his breast, he raised his head and with a God-like effort, his eye glittering in its last gleam with a blazing light, he said, with a last heroic flash of his lofty spirit, “They have killed me, but, boys, NEVER give up the field,” – emphasizing the “never” in his peculiar and stirring manner, that all who know him will do feelingly recall.

This perished as noble a soul as ever breathed. – He will long live in remembrance. He met the fate he most wished – the martyred patriot’s grave. He was a pure patriot, an able statesman, a brilliant lawyer, a chivalric soldier, a spotless gentleman. – His imperious scorn of littleness was one of his leading characteristics. His lofty patriotism will consign his name to an immortal page in his country’s history.

[Raleigh] North Carolina Standard, 8/3/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Unknown Private, Co. I, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

17 08 2015

Correspondence of the Raleigh Standard.


Bull Run, July 28, 1861.

Mr. Editor: The following are the incidents of Capt. York’s company in the late battle. His company was next to the right flank of the Regiment, and exposed to the hottest fire in the engagement, on the left flank. For two miles the roar of musketry was incessant, and we were opposed to Rickett’s battery, and Massachusetts and Minnesota regiments of Volunteers. The company was ordered to fire on the battery, which was about 40 yards from us, and silenced it the first fire, killing every horse, as Captain Rickett himself said after the battle, he being wounded and taken prisoner. Then we received a cross-fire from the infantry, when we were ordered by Capt. York to load and fire kneeling; then came the order to retreat, as a Staff officer cried out that we were firing on our friends, but in reality, they were enemies; this caused considerable confusion, and Col. Fisher being shot in advance of his men, a large portion of the company rallied, and fell in with another regiment which was contending at the same point. Capt. York passed many hair-breadth escapes in rallying his men. Having rallied a small portion of them he found that his Regiment had moved off, and the enemy had taken their place; finding it necessary, he here contended with the enemy, and succeeded in cutting his way through and attaching himself to another Regiment. While ascending the hill, a single Yankee raised his rifle, when he shot him in the shoulder with his pistol, and when he brought his piece to a “ready,” shot him a second time through the heart, and taking his rifle, used it with good effect the remainder of the day.

Lieut. M. W. Page behaved most gallantly, and rallying a portion of his men, brave like himself, fought a guerilla warfare, with good effect. Taking his large pistol, he used it as a rifle, and brought down several of the Yankees. Passing through many close places, he had his sword shot away, and now goes on drill swordless. He was one of those who went up to Rickett’s battery.

Lieut. M. B. Barbee was perfectly cool during the action, and fought like a brave soldier, and managed his command as though on drill. In returning to the ground at first occupied, he had his pistol in his hand, which was shot out of his hand by a Minnie ball; he was not hurt, except the shock. He wore a large star on his hat, which was fired at several time, but did not hit it. Lieut. Allen being sick, was left behind at Winchester.

Harmon Sears, 1st Serg’t., while fighting bravely, was severely wounded by a ball in the side and arm. After which, having boldly told some Yankees that he was a Southerner, they brutally beat him over the heat with the butt of a musket, and bayoneted him, and doubtless left him for dead – but he is improving, and will no doubt get well.

Serg’t. John W. Wilder, during the action, was shot through the fleshy part of the thigh, and is improving. Private J. T. Morris was shot through the bowels, and it is believed to be a mortal wound. Private Jas. H. Moring was shot in the thigh, breaking the bone, and is doing well. Private J. D. Ausley was shot slightly in the thigh, but was not disabled, whereupon he remarked, “D–n you, you’ve burnt me – have you?” and immediately he shot down a fine gray horse, using it as a breastwork for himself, alone – and at a distance of 20 yards from the enemy, he made every ball tell. – His musket was also shot below the tail-band.

Private Wh. H. Lyon had his musket shattered in his hands, by a grape shot. Private J. T. Taylor had his cap-brim shot off. Serg’t. C. L. Williams had his sword shot off, cutting away a piece of his coat. Private James. W. Young shot down the ensign who held the “stars and stripes,” the first fire. Private Dennis Warren had his shoe-heel shot off.

Of all the men in the company no man did more deliberate fighting than Wm. G. Clements, and none whose shots took more effect upon the enemy and the horses of the battery. In short, all the men behaved well – several having their bayonets, cartridge boxes, &c., shot off. The battery taken by our Regiment was not Sherman’s, but Rickett’s.

The [Raleigh] North Carolina Standard, 8/3/1861.

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Captain Richard Watt York (3), Co. I, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the Capture of “Sherman’s Battery”*

14 08 2015

Who Took Sherman’s Battery? – A letter to the Raleigh Standard, from Capt. York, answers this question fully: –

“Several regiments claim the honor of silencing and taking this battery. iIt was taken by the 6th Infantry N. C. State Troops.i The regiment was led up within 40 yards of it, and their fire silenced it, and Col. Lightfoot, Maj. Webb, Capts. Kirkland, Avery, and Lieuts. Avery and Mangum, marched right up to it with their men, and passed beyond it, and received a galling fire from the left, when they were ordered to cease firing and fall back. Maj. Webb was resting on one of the pieces, facing the fire, and our men retreated in good order, all the while delivering their fire.” Around Sherman’s battery where our Regiment fired, every horse and cannoneer was killed, and lay in one indiscriminate heap. All over the battle field were strewed the dead and dying. Some had placed their arms under their heads as they went to their last sleep. Others folded their arms across their breasts, some with features distorted and fists clenched as they wrestled in the agonies of death; others wore the calm, placid smile which should grace the face of a soldier dying in a glorious cause. In the little clump of cedars, the wounded had crawled and died, and lay there in ghastly heaps.**

“That portion of the Regiment rallied by the gallant Lightfoot and Webb, pitched into the hottest of the fight, and joined in the final charge, when the enemy were put to a precipitate flight, and joined in the pursuit for several miles. No more gallant spirits strode over that field, than Lt. Col. Lightfoot and Maj. Webb. The remainder of the regiment, under different officers, fell in with other regiments and fought to the last. No regiment behaved with more bravery and gallantry than the North Carolina 6th Infantry, on that memorable field. Led up into the hottest of the fight, within a few yards of a battery that was raking our army, they delivered their fire with the deadliest precision.”

(Fayetteville, North) Carolina Observer, 8/6/1861.

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* Sherman’s (Ayres’s) Battery (Co. E, 3rd US) was nowhere near the 6th NC, and in fact did not cross Bull Run. The author is here referring to a section of Griffin’s West Point Battery (Co. D, 5th US.) Sherman’s Battery was from the time of the Mexican War a very well known battery, and was reported in many areas of the field by both Confederate and Union participants, nearly always in error. This battery is sometimes also referred to by historians as William. T. Sherman’s battery and, while it was attached to that colonel’s brigade, it derived it’s title not from him but from past commander Thomas. W. Sherman.

**The passage between those marked with quotation marks appears to have been written by the editors.

See a more complete version of this letter published in the Richmond Examiner here.

R. W. York at Ancestry.com 

Captain Richard Watt York* (2), Co. I, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the March to Manassas and the Battle

11 08 2015

Manassas Junction, Va., July 21, 1861.

To the Editor of the Standard: – In my last I told you it was probable that we would march on Martinsburg. We were ordered to fill up our canteens and haversacks, which we did. We started about four o’clock, leaving our baggage. Anxiously we gazed at te blue mountains where we supposed the enemy lay encamped; but when we took up the line of march and went down into the city, we knew we were not marching on Martinsburg, but where we could not tell. After leaving the city Co. Fisher halted the column and read an order, which stated that Gen. Beauregard had been attacked by overwhelming numbers, and that we were on a forced march to join them. All night we traveled until 3 o’clock, when we slept for a while on the ground. We then rose and marched until 7 o’clock, when we halted and prepared breakfast; after which we again resumed our march and reached Piedmont on the Manassas Gulf Railroad, where we again slept on the ground. On yesterday (Saturday) morning we arrived here, and immediately took up the line of march for the field of battle.

The battle commenced at sunrise by heavy cannonading. About 7 o’clock the battle became general, and terrible indeed was the roar. The determined spirit on both sides exhibited itself in one uninterrupted roar of musketry. Soon our regiment was ordered into position. We were led by Col. Fisher up a rugged ravine, and the two right flank companies under Captains Freeland and York, suddenly came right upon Sherman’s battery, and a Yankee regiment, which poured upon us a galling fire. We immediately faced to the rear, and gave them a raking fire, which piled them up in heaps; by this time, being exposed to a cross fire, we were ordered to fall back. But Col. Fisher having been shot, and there being no one to guide us, some little panic occurred; but we fell back and formed behind another regiment. All did good service. At the head of the ravine Col. Fisher fell, being shot in the forehead. Towards evening, the battle became a running one, and about sunset they abandoned the field and were ridden down by our cavalry.

Our loss is considerable, but not so great as at first supposed. The Yankees were piled up in heaps. We took Sherman’s battery, and indeed all their big guns and wagon loads of small arms. Excuse this hasty scroll. I will send you details in my next.


(Raleigh) North Carolina Standard, 7/27/1861.

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* While the author is not identified, from this letter of the 18th it is apparent he was a captain in the regiment. The only captain in the regiment at First Bull Run with initial “Y” was R. W. York of Co. I. See here.

R. W. York at Ancestry.com 

Captain Richard Watt York* (1), Co. I, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the Soldier’s Haven and the March to Winchester

10 08 2015

Winchester, Va., July 18, 1861.

Mr. Editor: – Our Regiment, the 6th Infantry North Carolina State Troops, arrived here on the 16th. After leaving Raleigh we had a very pleasant time, but going through to Petersburg without stopping, and arriving there late at night, jaded us considerably. We arrived there about 12 o’clock at night, very hungry; but the good people of the city had supper ready for us, and we were ready for the supper. Early next morning the regiment was formed and we marched over to the Soldier’s Haven, where an ample breakfast was prepared for us, and after attending to this pleasant duty we expected to embark for Richmond; but cars were wanting, and two companies only, under Lieut. Col. Lightfoot, proceeded with the baggage, the remainder being left at the Soldier’s Haven, under Maj. Webb, to spend the day. After getting a dinner really sumptuous, two more companies proceeded, and late in the evening the remainder left also, and at 12 o’clock at night the last of us was in Richmond. Well, Mr. Editor, probably you are a little curious to know where the Soldier’s Haven is. I will endeavor to tell you, so that if you ever come to Petersburg and do not visit this spot, more dear by far to a soldier than any other turf around the Cockade City, you would do violence to a soldier’s feelings.

The beautiful Appomattox rolls its waters between it and the Cockade City. On its left lies a grassy plain, at whose border rises several beautiful hillocks, and deep ravines between. These hillocks are enclosed, and shaded by beautiful trees which offer a most refreshing shade to the weary soldier, while the heavy grass gives him a couch on which to rest his weary limbs, and gushing rivulets all around afford water in abundance. On the river side stands a long table, groaning from day-break until midnight under the weight of food. This is a place as romantic as the Vale of Tempe, far-famed, and holier than any other spot, with rich memories of the kind friends, and the sweet enchanting smiles and cheering words of the nymphs fabled of old. In my lonely marches, when worn down with fatigue and exhausted with hunger, I imagine I can see the clever faces of the men and angelic forms of the ladies (God bless them) of Petersburg. Some spots of earth may be forgotten, but the Soldier’s Haven, on the banks of the Appomattox can never be obliterated. May she stand eternally There is not another such place in this world.

Wearied and jaded by a six hours ride we got to Richmond about midnight, and at four next morning took up our line of march for the depot of the Virginia Central Railroad, our destination being Winchester. Arriving at the depot after a march of several hours through a heavy rain and muddy streets, judge of our vexation when we found no cars ready for us. Breaking ranks, we put ourselves under shelter as we could, and picked up cakes, pies and other eatables in infinitely small quantities, there being no haven for the soldier in Richmond as there is in Petersburg; but root hog or die was the word. About 2 o’clock it cleared away, and we marched up to capitol square, where President Jefferson Davis reviewed our regiment and made us a short speech, complimenting the old North State very highly. The Band played Hail to the Chief, Old North State, Dixie, and other patriotic airs, after which we marched down to the depot and embarked for Mannassa, where we arrived about 10 o’clock the next day. Mannassas is strongly fortified. The people generally have no idea of the strength of the place. The Yankees never will come through there. It is an utter impossibility. The troops were eager for a fight; but had no idea of getting one, for it is rashness to attack it.

After resting and getting dinner, we embarked at 5 o’clock on the Mannassas Gap Railroad for Strasburg, eighteen miles from Winchester. Long and anxious we sat in our cars waiting for the engines to take us off. The regiments began to hold dress-parade. The sun sank to his couch of fire, and night closed in, but no iron horse drew us off. Tired and weary from our night’s journey before, sleep found us, and many a soldier thought he was bounding over the mountains to join the army at Winchester; but day came and we were still at Mannassas Junction, and at about sunrise, without supper or breakfast, we started to Strasburg, and arrived there in the evening, pitched tents, and got supper – Col. Fisher being indefatigable in his exertions to render us comfortable. Tattoo was beat at 8 o’clock and tap immediately after. This astonished us. Soon the officer of the day came round and informed us that we had received a dispatch from Gen. Johnson to come on immediately, and we were ordered to march at midnight. I was preparing to lie down to take some sleep when the order came for the Captains to form their companies, march to the Quarter Master’s tent, receive their ammunition, and put out to Winchester, twenty miles. Without sleep for three nights, it was rather rough. Twelve o’clock drew on. I had fixed on my pistols and sword, filled my canteen and haversack, and was ready to form my company, when the bugler should give his blasts. Just then the rain commenced falling in torrents, and the order was countermanded until the rain should cease. About 2 o’clock the rain ceased, the bugler gave his blast, and soon the companies were formed, received their cartridges, and put out to Winchester.

After marching 9 miles we halted and got water, when we learned the Gen. Johnson had formed his line of battle, and that a detachment of Gen. Patterson’s troops were trying to turn his flanks and cut off our Regiment. Entirely ignorant of the country, we took up the line of march, and hurried on to effect a junction with Gen. Johnson. On arriving at Winchester we hated a few minutes to get water, and immediately marched through the town to the other side and were immediately placed in line of battle, and rested our weary limbs upon our muskets. Our positions was an excellent one, being posted about 500 yards to the left of the centre, behind a small hillock, which is a natural breastwork. Here we stood, amid the shocks of new mown wheat, awaiting the Yankee vandals, until about 10 o’clock at night, when Col. Fisher announced that after much trouble he had supper for us. We stacked arms, and all then lay down, making our bed by tearing down wheat shocks, and spreading our blankets over us, in which condition we took a heavy rain. We were kept in line of battle until about 2 o’clock yesterday, and our baggage being left behind, and after it arrived being packed away so that we could scarcely get to it, yet Col. Fisher himself, took our negroes, went back to town, had us a good breakfast cooked and brought to us. No man ever lived who thought more of his men that Chas. F. Fisher. No officer ever toiled harder than he to render them comfortable, and to do this, he shrinks from no labor no matter how menial. For be it remembered that a great deal of out breakfast on the morning of the 17th was cooked by the hands of Chas. F. Fisher. It is useless for me to say how our Regiment loves him. At 2 o’clock yesterday the troops were all ordered to their quarters and strong pickets posted in advance. The enemy, after advancing within three miles of us, fell back towards Martinsburg, and we joyfully went to pitching tents. And yet, not withstanding our suffering, not a murmur was heard, but all stood to their arms, and longed to see the foe.

This is a strong position, and the key to the Valley. We are well posted, and defy Old Abe to come down on us, which I do not believe he will do; for whenever he comes down to Winchester we will reddened the valley with their blood. They never can take this place.

We are here in camp in good health, no sickness, and in good spirits, and have but little expectation of a fight, though the enemy is only 12 or 15 miles distant, and may advance at any moment; but when he does come down, he will feel the effects of our heavy batteries and muskets in a way that will not be palatable. More anon.


P. S. Excuse this hasty epistle, I am worn out and tired. This morning (19th) we march to Martinsburg, I presume; at least we march.


(Raleigh) North Carolina Standard, 7/27/1861.

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* While the author is not identified, from the narrative it is apparent he was a captain in the regiment. The only captain in the regiment at First Bull Run with initial “Y” was R. W. York of Co. I. See here.

R. W. York at Ancestry.com 

Pvt. James B. Grant, Co. B, 8th Georgia Infantry, On the March, the Battle, Capture, Escape, and Aftermath

29 07 2015

The Great Battle of Manassas.

A Graphic Account,

By One Who Participated.

We are kindly permitted to publish, almost entire, the following letter from a surviving Oglethorpe to his mother. We think our readers will agree with us that it the most interesting yet published. Our young friend has proved himself an artist with the pan as well as the pencil. It is proper to remark that it was not written for publication, but it will be found all the more admirable for that reason:

Manassas Junction, July 22, 1861.

My Dear Mother: Sunday, July 21st, 1861, will be a day never to be forgotten. A more glorious victory, or a more decisive one, never occurred on the continent. What wailing there will be throughout the land; the wounded and the dead on every side. I have seen as much blood and as many awful scenes as would do for a lifetime! A battle! how awful!

On last Thursday we left our encampment near Winchester, and marched all that day and the succeeding night, with the exception of two hours, when we halted to rest. At half past 11 that night we crossed the Shenandoah, pulled off our clothes, put them with our accoutrements on our heads and shoulders, and forded the river. The most of us had nothing to eat on the march. Day before yesterday we were encamped about eight miles from this place. Yesterday morning, about six o’clock, we received orders to march, after having advanced about a mile, we could hear, every now and then, the report of a cannon. – We halted, inspected our arms, and loaded our muskets. Col Gardner said to us, “Men, I am no public speaker, but recollect to sustain the honor of the State from which you come.” We gave him three cheers, and then continued on our march. The firing became more distinct as we advanced, but it was only a single gun, and that at intervals of about fifteen minutes, but it was sufficient to show that the ball had commenced; after a while, we could see the smoke from the cannon.

We must have marched about eight miles up one hill, and down another, with the sun intensely hot and plenty of dust, when we were brought up on the brow of a hill in a corn field, from whence we could see the enemy advancing in immense numbers.

Then the firing commenced in good earnest, and appeared to be on every side. A battery began to play on us, the first shot passing just above our regiment. You can have no idea, not the slightest, of what a peculiar noise and at what a distance you can hear a ball passing through the air. Several balls and bombs struck within a few yards of us, tearing up the earth and making the dust fly.

Col. G. ordered us to lie down flat on the ground, I suppose a hundred bombs and balls passed over us, not more than ten feet above us, and very often bursting and falling very near us. One fell in the Macon Guards, the company next to ours, wounding two of their men. – They were the first men in our regiment to spill their blood. The balls would tear away the limbs from apple trees near us, and one bomb fell and exploded not over fifteen feet from where several of the boys and myself were lying. It threw the dust all over me. After we had laid there about three quarters of an hour a courier came, saying Gen. Bee wanted a regiment to assist him. We were ordered to rise, and marched down between the fire of both sides, the balls whizzing over us incessantly. It seemed as though one passed every second. Sometimes a shell would burst in the air, leaving a little cloud of white smoke, which looked beautifully. After passing the batteries, we were placed in a pine grove and small saplings, and then commenced the work. The enemy were not more than a hundred yards from us, and had the advantage in position, as also a house, fence and hay stacks as defense, while we had no protection, the trees being too small to prove such. There must have been several regiments against us, our own being not six hundred men, but all brave fellows. At the word fire we rushed to the edge of the thicket and fired. I took deliberate aim. We then laid down, loaded and fired. The balls from the enemy fall like hail around us, tearing the bark from the trees. Our company and the Rome Light Guards were exposed to the most galling fire; a great many men were behind us, and in firing I am certain wounded some of our men. While loading for my second discharge, a ball struck me and I believed myself wounded. It pained a good deal, I looked, but could see no blood. George Butler, noble fellow, who was lying by my side, loading his musket, my right arm touching him, was shot; he jumped up, ran to the rear, and died in a few minutes. Bob Baker then ran up, and, as I saw him, (I was then on my back loading) I said, “Hello, old fellow, is this you?” He said, “Yes, Jim,” and laughed, and was just in the act of firing when he was shot. The blood flew over my hand and the stock of my gun. He rolled over groaning, and I thought he was shot in the heart. He was not killed, however, but badly wounded in the arm. Several others were killed and wounded within a few feet of me. I continued at my position, expecting every moment to be killed, until I was nearly shot by one of our own men in the rear, when I retired ten or twelve feet back.

Col Gardner, who was in front of us, was ordering us to charge the enemy, but in the noise his voice could not be heard, and a Minie balls struck him in the leg, below the knee, passing entirely through, and fracturing the bone. Gen. Bartow ordered us to retreat under cover of one of our batteries, as he knew it was madness for us to stay there. Had we laid there a half our longer, I believe not a man would have survived. Col. G. says he never saw such firing. Another ball struck me on the sole of my shoe, but did not damage.

As we were retiring, I stopped to take a mouthful of mud – scarcely could it be called water – my mouth was awfully hot and dry; just then I met Capt McGruder, who, pointing to a clump of bushes, said, “Col. Gardner is wounded” – the first I knew of it. I immediately went there, and there lay our gallant Colonel, with several men around him. I threw down my musket, took his wounded leg in my arms, while the others supported his body; it was then I saw our own beloved commander, our Gen. Bartow, for the last time – very soon after he received his death-wound. We made all the haste we could to get the Colonel on, as the enemy were advancing. Seeing our regiment retreat they supposed we were defeated, and were pushing on rapidly, the balls still falling around us, but when the enemy were only a little distance behind us, we being in rear of our regiment going up a steep hill, only able to advance slowly, the enemy opened a terrific fire. It is amazing that we were not all cut to pieces, for the balls passed between our very legs. Three of us stuck to the Colonel, but finding it impossible to succeed in carrying him off, and his leg being very painful, we stopped, after having carried him about a quarter of a mile, and laid him down in a sort of gully, hoping thus to be protected from random shots. His head was on my arm; Heidt, of our company, and Banon, of the Rome Light Guard, were the two men who were with me. The Colonel entreated them to leave him and try to rejoin the regiment and save their lives., (I had told him I would remain with him) but they refused to go. I firmly believe, if found, that we would be bayoneted. We had one gun; the enemy about sixty yards off – three regiments distinctly seen. I told the Colonel I would load it, and fight it out, that we might as well kill as many as possible. Do not consider this any bravery on my part, the veriest coward would have done the same thing, believing, as I did, that he must be killed. The Colonel said “No, if we keep quiet we might not be observed.” The enemy, in the meantime, coming on in line of battle, one regiment came within twenty feet of us; one man raised his rifle and took aim at us, and I raised a white handkerchief on the ramrod, and told them, “We surrender.” The officers then came up. I asked permission to take the Colonel down the hill to a spring where we could get water. They said “certainly.” We did so, and several physicians came up. They all treated us honorably and as prisoners of war. Never was I more surprised; the physicians examined the Colonel’s leg, had a litter brought for him, gave us water, and in all respects treated us with every kindness. Several of our wounded were lying around, and all of them received the same kind attentions. They asked us if we did not know how utterly useless it was to attempt to resist; that they “could sweep us all away – that they had fifty thousand men as a reinforcement. At the time they felt confident of glorious victory. While there, the balls and shot of our batteries tore away the limbs of trees all around us. With the assistance of one of their men, we got the Colonel to their hospital – an old farm house – a quarter mile distant.

We laid him under a tree in the shade. Their wounded were being brought in in large numbers – the whole yard was strewn with them, lying all about in the shade. The old farm house appeared to be their headquarters as well as the hospital, and we had not been there more than a half hour before they began to prepare for a retreat, and then ensued a scene of the wildest confusion. But we had time to observe that their men are far better equipped, in all respects, for a campaign than ours. The wounded, believing they would surely be killed, begged earnestly not to be left. They ordered us to put the Colonel on board and carry him with them, but he told them he would rather that they should shoot him there and then than move him again, and tried to persuade them to leave their wounded, with the physicians to attend them, pledging his word that if they would raise a yellow flag not a shot would be fired in that direction, and that their wounded should receive every attention, but their confusion was too great to admit of their listening to reason. At length, however, the Colonel persuaded them to leave some of their wounded, as well as ours, and six of their men to attend them, pledging himself that they should not be considered not treated as prisoners, nor would ours; and that their men should be returned as soon as possible. To this they consented.

Our batteries were now beginning to open on the house. Col. G. ordered a white flag of some sort to be raised. Our handkerchiefs were all too badly soiled, so I took off a part of an undergarment and tied it to a bedstead post, and ran up stairs, but found no possible way of getting on the house, and stuck it out of one of the windows. I could distinctly see our battery – the balls came nearer. I expected momentarily to see the old house knocked down. The balls continued to whiz. I went down into the yard, and was convinced that they did not see the flag. I jerked off my blue shirt, tied my undershirt to a pole, and climbed the chimney to an out-house. It was very broad, and from our batteries looked like an embankment. Heidt was standing near the foot of the chimney. I had nothing on but my pants; while trying to fasten up the pole our batteries must have taken me for one of the enemy attempting to mount a battery. The first thing I knew I heard a ball coming. It could not have passed more than three feet above me – it whizzed through the trees beyond. I was rather scared. I then put up another flag out in the field, which as soon as they observed they ceased firing at the house.

The rest of the day I was busy unceasingly in giving water to the wounded, and trying to fix up their wounds the best way I could. There was no physician there – all had gone when the enemy fled. My hand was in blood all day; nothing but blood. About every half hour I would go round the yard, give each of them a drink of water – so grateful, poor fellows! On one of my rounds I found that two or three had died while I was away. They were shot in every conceivable place.

Towards night we procured and ambulance and brought Col Garner here, where he has a tent, and I am nursing him. He is a noble man – bears it so well – as cool as a cucumber. He sent me down to the battle field this morning on business. I did not get back until two hours ago, it now being half past twelve. I sit up with him till one, when Frank, the negro man, will take his turn. I saw Bob; he is quite well.

We took 78 men into the fight (the O.L.I.) To show how terrible was the firing: six were killed, twenty were wounded, twenty-nine struck but not hurt, leaving only sixteen untouched; and they, when he fell, gathered round our noble hero, our beloved Gen. Bartow. We have gained a glorious victory – taken sixty-two pieces of guns. But all this the papers have told you. But oh! it is impossible to begin to describe the horrors of a battle field for a day or two after or at the time. The most of the killed have been buried, and yet today (23d) when I rode over to the field the dead were still strewn about in every direction – dead horses all over the field. The stench was so intolerable I could scarcely force the horse I was riding to go. I must acknowledge I had but a faint idea of what a battle was, nor am I so anxious as before for a fight; and yet to-morrow, if our company were to go, and our country needed our services, I should not hesitate a moment. I would go.

You must excuse this wretched scrawl, I am so tired. I have been so busy I have not had time to write. I have washed my face but twice since the battle. Our brave boys, who so nobly died, were buried yesterday, 22d, in one grave – side by side – noble, glorious fellows – brothers in arms, brothers in death. John Branch first, George Butler second, Willie Crane third, Bryan Morel fourth, Tom Purse fifth, Julius Ferrill sixth. The wounded are most of them at Culpepper C. H.

That ball that struck my leg left a mark but did not draw blood. I was a little scared in the fight, though my hand was steady, and I think I killed one Yankee. It was through the mercy of Almighty God that I was spared. I never expected it. I had an idea that I should be shot, but I knew that I was fighting for my country in a just cause, and that God’s holy will must be done. Mother, I was thinking of it this evening as I rode along, ’twas those many, many earnest prayers of yours to a merciful God that spared us.

I saw Charlie Daniell and Steve Barnwell this evening.; they are both well. Rockwell is all right, tell his mother.

Your son,

J. B. G.

Savannah, Ga. Daily Morning News 7/31/1861.

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Contributed by Henry W. Persons & Rick Allen

Per Wilkinson and Woodworth, A Scythe of Fire, the author is James B. Grant and the letter was written on July 22, 1861 [though most likely begun that day, and finished no earlier than the 23rd, per the narrative – BR.] Per this roster, Grant was a private in Co. B at First Bull Run. In June 1863 he would be appointed 1st Lieutenant to serve as then General William Gardner’s ADC.

This post updates and earlier post of an abbreviated version of this letter published in the New Orleans Crescent on 8/8/1861, contributed by John Hennessy.

Pvt. E. Starke Law, Co. B, (Oglethorpe Light Infantry), 8th Georgia Infantry, On the Battle

23 07 2015

Letter from an Oglethorpe.

Stone Bridge, July 26th, 1861.

My Dear Father: – You have doubtless ere this received a brief note from me informing you of my safety. That was but a hurried line to relieve your anxiety. I now write to give you some idea of our action. On Thursday, the 18th inst., very much to our surprise, while waiting at the breast-works at Winchester, in hourly expectation of an attack from Patterson, we were ordered to prepare for a march without any information as to the cause or our destination. At 1 o’clock we commenced the march, and we were informed that Patterson was directing his column towards Manassas, intending to unite his force with McDowell’s in an attack upon Beauregard, and that it was necessary for us to make a forced march to Manassas. We arrived at the Shenandoah about dusk; having to ford it, we lost about four hours. – At 3 o’clock on Friday morning we reached a little town called Paris, here a halt was ordered, our guns were stacked in the street, the men threw themselves upon the side-walk, and in ten minutes all were asleep. At 5 o’clock the drums beat, and in five minutes we were again on the march. After marching six or seven miles, we arrived at the railroad; the wagons were ordered to the front, and we were allowed the very pleasant privilege of cooking; if ever you saw faces brighten and eyes sparkle, you ought to have seen our army just then, for we had marched about twenty five miles without any thing at all to eat. Arriving at Manassas we were marched out about three miles and waited until Sunday morning when we received orders to proceed to the battlefield. After going eight miles we came in sight of the enemy. – A halt was ordered, and our Lieut. Col. walked up to the brow of the hill to examine the position of the enemy; in a few moments he returned with the intelligence that Sherman’s celebrated Battery was stationed opposite, and would undoubtedly shell us. Scarcely had the words passed his lips, ‘ere the boom of the cannon was heard, and the next moment a bomb passed harmlessly over our heads. We were then ordered to lie upon our faces, in which position we remained about fifteen minutes. While lying here, the bombs came nearer and nearer, until one dropped about three feet in front of John Fleming and myself, covering us with dust, the next dropped on our left, in front of the Macon Guards, wounding two men, one of whom died to day. Just at this time Gen. Bee sent an aid over to Col. (then acting Brigadier General) Bartow, saying that he must have a Regiment to support his right. Bartow ordered Col. Gardner to take the 8th (our) Regiment. Though the shot and shell were falling thick and fast around us, when Gardner gave the order, “Eighth Regiment to your feet,” every man rose and stood erect, not one faltered, and we charged for at least one mile in the face of that battery, without firing a single gun. We then turned into a narrow strip of woods within about seventy yards of the enemy’s line, and opened fire upon them. Here our little band of five hundred and fifty-nine men, for thirty minutes, bore the fire of eight Regiments of the enemy, and it is my honest conviction that they would have stood there until the last man had fallen, had no order to retire been given; as it was, the order to retreat was repeated three of four times before it was obeyed. Col. Gardner, who was in the Mexican war, and who was wounded in this action, says that it was the heaviest fire to which men were ever exposed. We lost from our Regiment, in killed, wounded and missing, over two hundred men. To give you an idea of how thickly the bullets were showered upon us, I need only state that but sixteen out of the seventy-six men that the Oglethorpes carried into action, escaped being killed, wounded, or struck with spent balls or pieces of shell. I myself got two bullets through my pants, and was struck by a piece of shell upon the right knee, which lamed me for a day or two. I the little copse of woods in which we fought, there is not a tree or bush that hs not one or more bullets in it, and it is only surprising that any of us escaped. We can only account for it by remembering that there is an over-ruling Providence, whose protecting arm was doubtless thrown around us. Poor Ferrill was killed right at my side; little Frank Bevill, Lippman, and John Fleming, were shot down just around […]

Our wounded are all doing well and I trust they will all recover. Fleming is slightly wounded in the shoulder and not considered at all dangerous. A correct list of the killed and wounded has been sent to Savannah, so that it is not necessary for me to mention them. Poor Bartow felt and suffered all that a noble, generous, and brave heart could, when he saw his brave men falling fast around him. When Gardner was shot down, Bartow was heard asking him “In God’s name, what can I do to save my brave boys?” At this time the enemy were firing on our front, had flanked us upon our right, and were pouring in upon us a destructive fire from that quarter, when, to cap the climax, one of our own Regiments coming up, mistook us for the enemy and gave us a volley upon our left; under these circumstances Bartow seized the colors and called upon his men to rally around him, when a ball pierced his heart. He fell nobly struggling for our sacred rights, and long will his memory live fresh in the hearts of his soldiers.

Our troops now began to come up to the scene of action and in a short time the enemy were put to flight and our victory was complete. Our loss, I think, is put down at 2,000 men, whilst the enemy acknowledge a loss of from 5,000 to 6,000. Prisoners are still being brought in. We took 61 pieces of cannon and a number of horses. The enemy were so confident of victory that large numbers of citizens, among whom were, I understand, a good many ladies, came out to Centreville, where they were waiting for a signal from the battle field, when the rebels should be routed, to come on and see the ruin they had wrought; but, much to their mortification, they beheld only their own troops flying like sheep before about one-fourth their own numbers. Such is the fortune of ward. I have given you but a poor account of the battle, the observations of one man engaged in fight are confined to a small space. We are now about six miles from Manassas and cannot tell how long we shall remain here.

We have no Colonel and our Lieut. Colonel is wounded, and will not probably be able to take the field for six months, so that it is impossible to say what will be done with us. As anything is decided I will inform you. In the meantime direct to Manassas, 8th Georgia Regiment.

Yours, &c.,

E. S. L. *

Savannah Republican, 8/6/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*Likely E. Starke Law, per roster here

E. Starke Law at Ancestry.com 


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