Pvt. Edward F. Phelps, Co. G, 5th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Campaign

17 11 2016

Correspondence.

Washington, July 25th, 1861.

Head Quarters 5th Reg’t Infantry, M. V. M.

Mr. Sentinel: – I take up my pen, unwillingly, to give you an imperfect account of one of the most disastrous battles ever fought in this country; one which would seem, to every intelligent person, to be unequal, ill-timed, and to persons of ordinary understanding, foolish and fool-hardy. The only possible object apparent in this movement was the gratification of selfish politicians; and I hope they may profit by this lesson, which they have learned at the expense of the poor soldiers.

On Monday evening, July 15th, an order came to our camp to cook up three days rations, and take our haversacks, blankets, canteens, and round-about, with forty rounds of cartridges, and be ready to march at (?) o’clock on Tuesday, the 16th. On Tuesday morning Col. Franklin, commander of the brigade, sent to Col. Lawrence to know how soon he could be ready to move. The answer was, “At any time.” We were then informed that if we were ready to march at 10 o’clock we should have the honor of being the advance guard of the whole division. At just 10 o’clock we were on a line, ready to march, in consequence of which we were the advance guard 48 hours; 24 hours more than is usual.

Our first day’s march was not more than ten miles, and nothing occurred through the day to indicate that we were in the vicinity of the enemy. At sundown we were drawn up on a sloping hill, to camp, for the night, and after the main body of troops had arrived the guard (5th Mass.) was advanced about one mile to an opening in the woods, when we threw out our pickets, and called in our skirmishers. Then stationed a main guard around the camp, and had just laid down for the night, when firing was heard among the pickets. All hands were at once upon their feet, with musket in hand, expecting an attack; but it proved to be only two horsemen whom the pickets fired upon, thinking, probably, in the darkness and excitement, that there were more of them. They killed the horse of one poor fellow, and took him prisoner, after a desperate fight. I do not know what was done with him, but I think they let him go the next morning. The other horseman got away, but it was thought he was wounded.

We had more excitement that night, and slept soundly until daylight next morning, when we had a hasty breakfast of hard bread and salt horse, and got into marching order again. We marched several miles, taking byroads and lanes, sometimes going through pastures, and bridle-paths in the woods, as our division was not to make the attack, but to cut off the retreat of the rebels from Fairfax Court House. There was but very little excitement, except the taking of a prisoner occasionally, until about noon, when in going around through a piece of woods to avoid a battery, our skirmishers ran into a camp of about six hundred rebels, when their pickets fired upon them, and the whole camp beat a hasty retreat. They left their beef on the griddle and their camp kettles boiling, evidently thinking we might be hungry after our forenoon’s march. We got no prisoners here, but found in a house near by twelve knapsacks, the contents of which the boys appropriated to their own use. We had a very good dinner that day. It consisted of ducks, chickens, turkeys, mutton, corn-cake, and all the luxuries usually found in country farm houses in Virginia. The people were glad to see us, and I really believe three-quarters of the inhabitants of this state, honestly told, would go for the Union.

In our march from this place to Longster’s station, we took about 20 prisoners, but failed in cutting off the retreat of the troops from Fairfax. Although we had two hours to spare of the time given us to get to this place, we were one hour behind the retreating column of rebel troops.

We rested at this place until about 4 o’clock the next afternoon, when we got into line again and marched from there to Centreville, about seven miles this side of Manassas. Here we found the other two divisions, which had arrived in advance of us, and were obliged to stop, as the head of their column had unfortunately ran into one of those infernal machines, otherwise known as a masked battery. The Mass. 1st received nearly all the damage done by this battery, the Boston Fusiliers losing over twenty men. It was thought best to wait a few days more before making an attack on Manassas, in order to let the men rest and give the regiments that were cut up time to get in order again. We had in the meanwhile ample time to reconoitre the enemy’s position and look the country over. Nearly all of the two days we were at Centreville we could directly see, with a glass, that the rebels were being reinforced very fast, and it was apparent to almost every one that their force was very much larger than ours; but notwithstanding all this, we were ready and anxious to fight them at any odds. We did not for a moment think of defeat, and had all the forces been put in the field that we had in the vicinity, I do not think we should have been defeated.

At about 2 o’clock on Sunday morning we were called up, and by 3 were on a line ready to march; but did not march until sunrise, when we took the route for Manassas, which we kept for about a mile and a half, when we were led through the fields, north of the main division, which was to make the attack in front while we were to take the route around through the woods and attack the rear. We arrived near Bull’s Run about noon I should think, and then regiment after regiment were marched off and put in positions where they were needed the most.

I will not attempt to give you a description of the battle. I could not if I would, and I will only follow our own brave Fifth. I do not believe there were braver officers or braver soldiers on the field that day. We divested ourselves of our blankets, haversacks, canteens that had no water in them, and all useless baggage. We were then kept close to the woods to avoid the fire of their batteries, until we came to the foot of a hill which sheltered us from their fire; here we were ordered to lie down and rise, one company at a time, and go to the summit of a hill and fire; then file to the right and left to the rear and load; then march to the rear of the rest, and fire when the time came again.

Col. Lawrence commanded us in person, giving his orders with such distinctness and precision as to avoid the possibility of an accident. One regiment on the left of us, in the flurry and excitement, and absence of order, fired altogether, killing at least three of their own men; but such was the coolness of Col. Lawrence and Adj. Chambers that not a man in our regiment was shot in this way.

At the time we were stationed in this position, cannon balls and shells were flying over our heads thick and fact. One shell burst right over the centre of the regiment, and the pieces fell down among us like huge hail stones. One piece dropped beside myself; I picked it up and have it now. Almost every one has some kind of a trophy. We soon drove the rebels from this point, and then we had to march through the Run at ‘double quick,” in order to get at them at another point. We went upon another hill, and were placed along side of the Fire Zouaves, where we saw the best fighting that was probably done by our division. The rebels lay piled two and three deep in front of the gallant and brave Zouaves, many of whom followed poor Elsworth to his long, last home. Here a charge was made by the rebels on the battery which we were sent to protect, and our forces not being strong enough to withstand the charge, we were scattered in every direction. I did not see Sol. Lawrence after this, but was soon informed that he was wounded. After this, not being able to rally all the men around the colors, Capt. Wardwell, of Co. F, and Capt. Geo. L. Prescott, of Co. G., (Concord Artillery,) rallied all the men they could and went into the battle on their own account. They were cool and calm, and fought bravely. Soon after this our color bearer was shot, but the colors were safe.

Our regiment made several rallies after that, and were just forming when they opened their fresh batteries, right upon us, and we were obliged, with everyone else, to retreat. After the order had come for us to retreat, we got together as many as we could, and Capt. Prescott tried hard to make the regiment return to the conflict again. but the rebel force was so large that it was finally thought not best to go back alone, and at this time another battery opened upon us, and we agreed to meet and form again at Centreville; expecting, of course, that we could make a stand there, but just before we got to Centreville another battery opened upon us, cutting us to pieces, and scattering us in every direction. Many of us did not reach Centreville until the next morning, and some poor fellows did not reach there at all. Those who did reach there that night did not stop, but kept on until they reached Washington or Alexandria. We do not pretend to count the killed yet, for almost every hour some one arrives who was so much exhausted that he could not reach home sooner. Our loss is not near so large as we at first supposed, and we hope yet to see many alive who have been counted dead.

We are stationed, by companies, in different parts of the city, and at present are only taking care of the sick and wounded. There are at present only five missing from the Concord company, and we hope to see some, if not all of them yet. The Waltham boys are all alive and well.

Our army will not be ready to march again for several months; but when they do go it is to be hoped, for the sake of the poor soldiers, that all politicians will be kept from having anything to do with it. Gen. Scott says that he fought the battle against his own judgment; and it was evident to every one, by the swarm of politicians in our camp at Centreville, that the whole thing was gotten up by this class of men, many of whom have less principle than brains.

The time for which our regiment enlisted expires in just one week from to-day, and we shall probably return home as soon as we can be mustered out of service. After that, if anything transpires of account, I will give you the benefit of it.

In the mean time I remain as ever,

Yours Truly,

E. F. P.*

Waltham (MA) Sentinel, 8/2/1861

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*Likely Private Edward F. Phelps, Co. G., the only E. F. P. I could find in the roster.

Edward F. Phelps at Ancestry.com

The Fifth regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in its Three Tours of Duty 1861, 1862-’63, 1864

Contributed by John J. Hennessy

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2nd Lt. Gustav Kast, Co. A, 2nd Michigan Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford

16 11 2016

The Scott Guards (Company A, Second Regiment) In The First Battle At Bull Run.

Extract from a Private Letter.

Bull Run, July 20.

You see now that I am on the battle field. We left Camp Winfield Scott last Tuesday at 3 o’clock P.M., and arrived at Vienna at 9 P.M. We remained there over night, and in the morning I saw the place where the rebels had their masked battery and fired upon the Ohio troops. We left Wednesday morning at 7 o’clock, and marched towards Fairfax Court House. When we came within sight of the place and saw the rebels leave there. We then took the road towards Germantown, where we arrived at 2 0’clock P.M. The rebels had left there, thought their camp fires were burning, and we found a good many articles which they had left behind. They were only a mile ahead of us. We took up our march again and drove the rebels right before us until we arrived at Centreville. We staid there a short time, and marched again towards the place where we are now, two miles from Centreville.

Here the rebels made a stand in a hollow by a road and small river which they call Bull Run. We were drawn up in line of battle, the Massachusetts First, then the New York, then our regiment, and the Third Michigan last. Our artillery commenced a fire at them from the hill where they were situated, and firing commencing at 2 o’clock. After we had fired for about half an hour our skirmishers, of which we furnished twenty privates, two Corporals, and one Sargeant, under command of Lieutenant J. V. Ruehle, went in the woods to see where the rebels were stationed. Our force went down hill till all at once they stood before the enemy within twenty rods, they commenced firing and the enemy fired by plattoons, but this did not stop our man from going ahead; they kept up their firing and came within four rods of the enemy, where they all at once discovered a masked battery with at least ten guns. The rebels then commenced to fire with the cannon at us. We were in the fire from 2 1/2 o’clock till 5, when the balls whistled around us in every direction. Musket balls whistled around us in every direction. Musket balls we could not dodge, but the cannon balls we could.

Wallen Weber of our Company is severely, and Marx is but slightly wounded. They are both privates – these two men are the only ones injured in our company. Wallen Weber will not be fit for duty after he gets well, for he received a shot in the side; but Marx will be able to do duty again in a few days.

We could not take the battery. We have got some 12, 16 and 32 pounders, which did good service. Two slaves that escaped, say that we killed from 200 to 300 rebels. Our brigade lost fifteen killed and twenty-five wounded. Colonel Richardson said the he never saw such heavy firing before. We have to sleep on the ground without tents; all we have is our blankets. There is now a large number of troops here, and we expect to attack the enemy to-day or to-morrow.

Gustav Kast

Lieutenant Company A, Second Regiment Michigan.

Detroit Free Press, 7/25/1861

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Gustav Kast at Ancestry.com

Gustav Kast at Geocities.ws

2nd Michigan Infantry roster

Contributed by John J. Hennessy





Pvt. John T. Phillips, Co. A, 2nd Ct Infantry, On the Wounding of James F. Wilkinson 

14 11 2016

Camp of the Second Regiment.

Washington, July 25th, 1861.

Editor Transcript: – Long before this letter reaches you, you will have learned that your assistant editor, J. F. Wilkinson, was wounded in the battle at Bull Run, on Sunday last. I was close by him when he fell, yet I can give you only the following particulars concerning his fate:

The battle had continued about four hours, and our regiment had been stationed in a deep ravine, covered with wood, where the balls from the rebels’ battery on the hill above us, were flying over our heads like hail, when we received orders to change our position. We had commenced marching, when he fell, exclaiming, as he did so, “My God, I am shot!” and soon after fainted. He appeared to be wounded just above the ankle.

His comrades asked for permission to leave the ranks, and convey him to a place of safety, if possible. The privilege of doing so was not granted, but corporal Jennings was detailed to assist him to the hospital. Our regiment moved on, and as nothing has been heard from either of them since, we are forced to the belief that if living, they are prisoners in the rebel camp.

Several times during the battle he had expressed the opinion that he could not endure the heat and labor we were subjected to, and should be compelled to leave the ranks. His comrades, knowing what his fate would be if he did so, encouraged him to renewed efforts, and he fell at his post, nobly doing his duty. You are so intimately acquainted with him that it is almost unnecessary to add, that no man was more ready to meet the enemies of his country, or would have braved more dangers to have secured a victory.

Dr. McGregor, of the 3rd Connecticut, is also a prisoner. He was attending to the wounded in the hospital at the time of the charge, and could have secured his safety by flight, but refused to leave the wounded.

I have not time to write more at present, s the mail is about to close.

Yours, &c.

J. T. P. *

P. S. The Second Regiment will probably leave for home in a few days.

Windham County (CT) Transcript, 8/1/1861

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Catalogue of Connecticut Volunteer Organizations (Roster)

Some biographical information on James F. Wilkinson, editor of the Windham County (CT) Transcript and member of Co. A, (wounded and captured at Bull Run) can be found here.

*J. T. P. is likely Pvt. John T. Phillips, of Pomfret, CT, also of Co. A.

Surgeon John McGregor was attached to the 3rd CT Infantry. Life and Deeds of Dr. John McGregor

John T. Phillips at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. David Sloane, Co. E, 1st Connecticut Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford

11 11 2016

From the First Regiment, C. V.

Centreville, Saturday, July 20th.

We came up to the enemy at Boonsville, and they retired, leaving in a hurry. Our regiment was skirmishing in advance of the column, after which we were placed in the reserve, falling back and letting the next brigade take the lead. At about half-past eleven o’clock we came up with the enemy, and made a bold stand. Our brigade fought for five hours, and we could not dislodge them. We lost Five Hundred men, killed and wounded, the enemy One Thousand. – They came out of their works and bayoneted our wounded. The N. Y. 12th and the Mass. 1st, fought hard, and were cut up very badly. So, you see, we have had some hard fighting. To-morrow we engage them and will drive them. I saw some of the men buried yesterday.

D. A. Sloane

The Danbury Times, 7/25/1861

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Catalogue of Connecticut Volunteer Organizations 

David Sloane at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John J. Hennessy





Pvt. Augustus E. Bronson, Co. I, 3rd Connecticut Infantry, On the Advance and Blackburn’s Ford

10 11 2016

War News.

——————

From the manuscript of our valuable and attentive correspondent, we should judge it was written while capturing one of the batteries at the battle of Bull’s Run. We hope he survives, and will continue to dot the incidents of the war.

Near Centreville, Va.,

July 18th, 1861.

We left “Camp Tyler” at 3 P. M. on Tuesday, with provisions for three days, and no other baggage but one pair of socks. The First, Second, and Third Connecticut Regiments Connecticut Volunteers, with the Second Regiment Maine Volunteers, constituted the advance. We marched by a circuitous route to Vienna, near which we camped for the night in an open field. Soon after we halted, the other brigades began to come in, and kept coming until the fields in all directions were covered with infantry, horsemen, and artillery. At about 5 o’clock A. M., on Wednesday, we again took up the line of march, in the direction of Fairfax. After marching about a mile we came to a road which had been obstructed by having trees felled across it. Removing the obstructions we continued our march, and when nearly in sight of Fairfax our scouts reported the enemy in sight. We formed and marched in double quick time across the fields, and came into line in time to see the rebels going off at the same pace. A brass band consisting of six pieces, belonging to the New York 8th, gave them a note or two of Yankee music, which increased their speed to a full run, and then struck into the woods and scoured them as far as Germantown, where we learned that the rebels had been in full retreat past there all day. They had a masked battery near Germantown, but had deserted it. Their baggage was scattered all along the road. I believe that some buildings in the place, and to belong to “seceshers,” accidentally caught fire soon after the Ellsworth Zouaves had passed. (I am sorry, but accidents will happen.) We again bivouaced in the fields on Wednesday night, about 3 miles from Germantown, towards Manassas. This A. M., at about 3 o’clock, we were aroused by the sound of the bugle, and were speedily in line, expecting an attack, but it did not come. At about 6:30 A. M., the army was again in motion, and as our brigade had formed the advance for two days, we were allowed to take the rear to-day. It was a grand sight, as regiment after regiment moved, until I should judge that at least 40,000 troops must have been in motion. It was an hour and a half after the march commenced, before it became our turn to move. We continued to see blankets, coats, etc., which in their haste the seceshers had thrown away.

We are now halted in the woods near Centreville, which I believe is eight miles from Manassas. There was a very strong battery near here, but the rebels ran about an hour before our advance came up. We have taken a few prisoners, but have had no fighting as yet. Our cavalry have just brought in a few prisoners, and report the enemy coming back. It is supposed Gen. Patterson is on the other side, driving them back, so we may have a fight to-day, yet.

3 o’clock P. M. There is a report now that our boys are getting the worst of it, and reinforcements are arriving amid the roar of cannon and the rattle of muskets.

4 o’clock P. M. Our men have carried their entrenchments, and the seceshers have fallen back into the woods. It is said that the 69th went at double quick time and stormed the battery without stopping. Bully for the 69th. One report is 4000 prisoners taken, but I don’t believe it. Another report is that Sherman’s battery was taken; but nobody believes that. Another report is that there was a masked battery in front of an open battery. Sherman’s battery silenced the open battery, and the N. Y. 12th then charged, when the masked battery opened upon them, and our men retreated.

5 o’clock P. M. A report has just reached us that our troops have the enemy surrounded in the woods. The last report is that both armies occupy the same positions they did at the commencement of the engagement. The action will be resumed in the morning, if the rebels do not retreat during the night. – About 50 of our men are killed, Sherman’s battery played into a train of cars filled by rebel troops, but how many were killed I do not know.

I have written down the reports, a few of them, as they came in, that you might see how much we can depend on reports in the midst of battle. The long and short of it is that our men were defeated.

6 o’clock, A. M., Friday. – Troops have been pouring in here all night. Gen. Tyler had command of our troops yesterday. The Fire Zouaves have taken eleven prisoners. One of the number was one who had taken the oath of allegiance at Fall’s Church. – When our roll call was handed in at the close of the first day’s march, not one of the 3rd was missing.

7:30 A. M. They are now hanging the man who was taken prisoner after having taken the oath.

A. E. Bronson

The Danbury Times, 7/25/1861

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Letters of Augustus E. Bronson as a member of the 17th CT 

Augustus E. Bronson at Fold 3 

Augusts E. Bronson at Findagrave.com 

Augustus E. Bronson at Ancestry.com 

Bronson was captured on July 21, 1861. After he was exchanged 9 months later, he enlisted in Co. C. of the 17th CT. He was mortally wounded at Gettysburg and died on July 5, 1863.

Contributed by John J. Hennessy





“M”, 2nd South Carolina Infantry, On the Retreat from Fairfax Court House, Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle

7 11 2016

Virginia Correspondence.

The Retreat from Fairfax C. H. – The Battle of the 18th – The Great Battle – The Killed and Wounded – The Captured Arms and Munitions – Our Wounded.

Virginia University, July 24.

Mr. Editor: On Wednesday last the Federal forces made their appearance in sight of Fairfax Village, upon which information Gen. Bonham made hasty preparations to five tem a warm reception, though as soon as the rifle companies of the 2d Regiment had reached the position they were to occupy as skirmishers, it was ascertained that the enemy were attempting to flank and cut off the Regiments at the Village, the order to retreat was given which was reluctantly obeyed by 4 Regiments of Carolinians. It seems that the enemy were marching to Fairfax in four or five columns of ten or fifteen thousand troops in each, and the arduous task of covering a retreat devolved upon the 2d Regiment. The retreat was conducted in an orderly, military and masterly manner, with only one or two missing and one to die en route. Though many weary limbs had given way to the hot and fatiguing double quick march, and on reaching Centreville our company mustered only forty-five men; among the absent was your correspondent who completely exhausted had been taken up behind our gallant and kind Commissary, Vellipigue. At Centreville our forces halted until midnight, when they again took up the line of march for Bull Run, on reaching which place our boys quickly repaired to the entrenchments which had cost them such hard labor a few weeks previous.

About 7 o’clock Thursday morning it was ascertained that the enemy were approaching, our company and the Palmetto Guards were sent out about one mile with Capt. Kemper’s battery to five our foe the breakfast welcome at Bull Run, and here our boys were first taught to quickly embrace the earth on the sound of a shell or cannon ball. Their balls passed harmlessly by while a dozen well directed volleys from Capt. Kemper’s battery mowed down their columns like so many pond weeds and caused them to change their plan of attack. The cannonading was soon stopped at this point and about 11 o’clock an exchange of musket shots began about a mile below our position accompanied by heavy cannonading, which was vigorously and actively continued for four consecutive hours, after which the enemy were put to flight with much loss of life and with three pieces of artillery left upon the field. Our loss was small, about six killed and forty odd wounded, while that of the enemy is variously estimated at from five hundred to three thousand in killed and wounded. The troops engaged in this battle were about three thousand on our part, the Washington Artillery, and Gen. Longstreets Brigade, the enemy are supposed to have had about ten thousand in the engagement. This ended the first battle at Bull Run with victory perched upon the Southern standard.

After dusk on the same evening it being believed that the enemy would not make an attack at the direct ford our Regiment was ordered to a weak point on the creek towards the left wing, where we remained upon arms during the following day. On Friday night an attack was momentarily expected and our men still retained their position in rank, while our company was ordered to the defence of Kemper’s battery, but the night passed in quietude save the interchange of a few picket guard shot; Saturday and night glided by in the same state of peace and quietude, but the harmony was broken s Sunday morning by a heavy fire of artillery on the center of our forces and on the extreme left wing. Our company was again sent out a mile and a half to ascertain in what direction the enemy were moving, but our mission was too late, the great body of their troops had been removed to the extreme left the night previous and the cannonading in the centre was only to deceive us as to the point of attack. While on the scout we were greeted with a goodly quantity of shell, balls and grape, thought they passed harmlessly over our heads. On returning to our camp we found that the regiment had been hastily despatched to the scene of battle and in haste we followed after them, though we were unable to find our Regiment, not knowing their position on the battle ground, so we attached ourselves to a Louisiana Regiment and went into the scene of action a the enemy only rallied twice after our arrival. – While going to our position in battle three hundred yards we were warmly peppered with Minnie musket balls, wounding Mr. Harrison of our company and killing several of the Regiment to which we were attached. on approaching near the enemy and preparing to charge bayonets a few volleys from one of batteries dispersed them to rally no more. After the flight of the enemy we were dispatched by our Captain to look after Mr. Harrison whom we found severely wounded in forearm and knee. Our troops pursued the enemy for miles, slaughtering and capturing them, and we understand that the Secession Guards took a respectable number of prisoners. The battle was terrific and strongly contested during the whole day, though the entire and complete route of the enemy somewhat alleviates the cost of so many gallant sons. The enemy attacked the wing of Gen. Johnson who had just completed his brilliant movement from Winchester to Manassas and for seven hours his wearied soldiers gallantly struggled with the heavy columns of the enemy when Gen. Beauregard came to his relief and after a few hours of hard struggling gained a signal and brilliant victory.

The heavy odds against whom Johnson had been contending were soon scattered and chased by the gallant hero of Sumter, who would dash before the thickest and hottest of the fire – leading our men to a bayonet charge and then directing the enemy’s cannon upon their own columns. The victory though decisive was a costly one; Carolina has to mourn the loss of the brave Johnson of Hampton’s Legion, and of Bernard Bee. Other distinguished officers fell in the field. The whole Confederate loss may be estimated at 450 dead, 250 mortally wounded and 1200 wounded more or less severely. This is the best estimate I can make by rough guess – it may be too large. In my own Regiment only 6 were killed and 15 or 20 wounded; though we were not in the hottest of the fight. Among those who suffered most severely was the 4th Alabama Regiment, the 7th and 8th Georgia Regiments, Hampton’s Legion and Col. Sloan’s Regiment of our own State, they having to oppose heavy columns of the enemy four hours until reinforcements could be brought to their relief. Among the wounded in our Regiment may be mentioned the gallant Capt. Hoke of Greenville.

[?????] their final retreat the panic became so great that the whole army was completely disorganized. Gen. McDowell undertook to make a stand near Centreville though it was impossible to make a rally of them either at that place or Fairfax. The whole road from Bull Run to Fairfax was covered with dead, wounded and exhausted soldiers, it was also strewn with knapsacks and small arms, which were discarded by the Federals in order to facilitate their retreat. I have only heard of about 1200 prisoners among whom are several field officers, though none of them of higher rank than Colonel.

It is said that we captured over two million dollars worth of property. Over one hundred baggage wagons loaded with army stores fell into our position. Sherman’s, Carlisle’s, Griffin’s and the West Point Batteries numbering from 50 to 100 pieces, all fell into our possession. Also the 32 pounders rifled cannon and several thousand stand of small arms, also the Rhode Island battery. It was a mistake about the Yankees not fighting; they fought manfully and gallantly, and some of their regiments were literally destroyed. The Fire Zouaves, the 69th, 71st, 14th and 28th New York Regiments, and the Michigan Regiments suffered frightfully. The outfit of the enemy was splendid and extravagant. The knapsacks and haversacks of the soldiers were filled with eatables and comforts. The wagons and ambulances were stored with luxuries for the officers that would astonish any frugal, warfaring people, fighting for liberty. Notwithstanding the complete route of the enemy they are still in strong force and much hard fighting is yet before us.

Our wounded suffered greatly for the first day or two after the battle as there are no accommodations at Manassas, in fact only two or three houses were there which could not contain them. Though they have all been sent to this place, Culpepper, Orange, Richmond, &c., where they will receive every attention at the hands of surgeons, nurses and ladies – of the kindness to the wounded by the ladies I cannot speak too much in praise – they supply them with every luxury, comfort, and conceivable necessity. So all persons who have wounded friends at the hospital at this place need not feel the least anxiety as to their treatment, as they are better provided for than they possibly could be in the most comfortable home. Having deposited Mr. Harrison in the most desirable quarters, I hasten back to rejoin my company this morning, though I shall not soon forget to contrast one night’s comfort at this place to the privations of camp.

This letter is written in great haste and hurry though I think the accounts of the battle are generally acurate. However your readers will receive the official reports before this reaches you.

M

The Abbeville Press, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John J. Hennessy





Pvt. John F. “Fred” Gruber, Co. A, 7th Louisiana Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle

2 11 2016

The Continental Guards at Bull Run and Stone Bridge.

———-

The town having waited with much impatience for news of Capt. George Clark and his gallant Continentals, it affords us much pleasure to lay before our readers the following letter, descriptive of what the Continentals saw and did during the ever memorable battles of the 18th and 21st of July. It was addressed to Mr. J. M. Laborde, and by that gentleman kindly placed at our disposal. The fact that the letter is from our old friend, Fred Gruber, will render it especially interesting:

Stone Bridge, Virginia, July 24, 1861

J. M. Laborde, Esq. – My Old Friend: Having by note to my wife apprised you that I am still in the land of the living, I avail myself of this first opportunity to give you a rough sketch of our doings since my last. The camp life at Camp Pickens, at the Junction, went on in the usual routine of business – drill, parade, etc., – until the 9th inst., when our company was ordered a few miles from camp, on picket duty, where we remained up to the 12th, on the morning of which day we were ordered back to camp, on order to join our regiment in the march of advance on the enemy.

While on picket duty the life was pleasant enough, with the exception of the fare, which was rather scant, consisting of salt pork and bread, and one young hog, which lost its way and strolled into our camp, where, owing to an unmistakeable Abolition proclivities, it met with an untimely death, greatly to the gusto of the boys. On the morning after our return to camp we struck the tents and marched to Camp Wigfall, about five miles distant, and there took up our abode for the time being. Reports constantly reaching us from Manassas Junction of the frequent arrivals of large bodies of troops, at once admonished us that our stay there would not be a long one, and our surmises proved correct, as on the evening of the 16th we struck tents again, leaving them and knapsacks behind, and provided with three days’ provisions in our haversacks, forty rounds of cartridges and guns, we quartered for that night on the ridge of one of those romantic mountains with which Virginia abounds. Here we met, for the first time, the Washington Artillery, or at least a good portion thereof. Of course the courtesies of war were exchanged, without, however, that usual New Orleans appendix, “Let us take a drink” as we had ‘nary drop.” After having, during a pleasant night, inhaled a sufficient supply of cool Virginia breeze and indulged in sweet dreams on rather hard ground, we broke camp in the early morn, and joined by a Virginia regiment and a battery of Washington Artillery, went over hill and dale, until about 12 o’clock, when we halted and took up, very mysteriously, our quarters under cover of a point of woods. At first, I thought strange of the movement; but in a very short time, with my usual quickness of perception, sharpened by a number of rifled cannon balls of the enemy flying right and left of us, I fully discovered the propriety of this order. Balls continued whistling, and at intervals musketry could be heard. Finally, when the report of arms indicated the progress of a general engagement, the word “march” was given and the brigade under Col. Early, of which the 7th regiment formed a prominent part, went in double quick time to the scene of action. On the way we were continually saluted by shells and balls of the enemy’s artillery, and it was a real miracle that some of us did not get killed; but God seemed then, as he has up to this time, to have held his protecting hand over us.

Arrived at a small river. Bull’s Run, the line of contention, the enemy occupied the top and slope of a hill on one side, while we were on a plain on the other side of the stream. One Virginia regiment, stationed there before us, had repelled the enemy already three times, and actually crossed the river and driven them to the top of the hills, when again they had to retreat and give way to numerical odds twenty to one. It was then our brigade arrived; and of such volleys of musketry, and the roaring of six pieces of the Washington Artillery, one who never was in battle cannot form an idea. The commanding voices of their officers, the shouts and hurrahs of the boys, the bursting of shells and howling of balls, formed a concert which was rather calculated to strengthen nerves, no matter how weak, or else kill instanter. For more than two hours this state of affairs lasted, when finally, the Artillery, after then enemy had been driven up the infantry, so effectively poured their shells and rifle balls into the ranks and batteries of the same, that the former must have suffered a terrible loss, and the latter were completely silenced. Our loss on that day was comparatively small – ten killed and about twenty-five wounded; among the latter Ernest [Siball?], of whose fate you, no doubt, know more than I do. The boys, though in their first battle, showed great spirit and spunk, and not one seemed to realize the constant danger impending. The officers were cool and collected and led their men to the front. I should not particularize, but I cannot refrain from mentioning particularly big Captain Wilson, (tobacco merchant on Gravier street) of the Virginia Blues. He, by our marching by the left flank, held the post of honor, and well did he fill it; no sooner in front of the ford, than he exclaimed, in his characteristic style, “Light on me, blue birds;” and so they did; they fought like good fellows, while their gallant Captain crossed swords with a Yankee Lieutenant, when one of the men expedited him to the other side of the Jordan. To make this rather hasty sketch complete, you must imagine Capt. Wilson, with nothing on but a dirty woolen shirt and a pair of blue pants and a slouch hat. Shortly after the firing had ceased, the dead on our side removed, and the wounded been properly cared for, I went in a squad of about twenty, in command of Lieut. Harper, across the stream to the slope of the hill. The sight here beggared description; so precipitate was their flight that they even did not take time to carry their dead off, and even left wounded behind; who, after suffering and groaning all night, were finally brought over and cared for by us; their dead on the side of the hill, where only musketry reached, to the number of more than twenty five, were buried by us, while the ground was literally covered with clothing, haversacks, equipments of all descriptions, and thousands of other things. Over 160 stands of the most improved fire-arms fell into our hands, together with more than that number of soldier’s caps.

In searching over the effects thus suddenly acquired, we found that the main force of this army seemed to have been letter writers, specimens of which fell into our hands, testifying strongly that imagination, no matter how vivid, at a Southern standard, could compare with the poetical flight of these consummate liars. Envelopes with colored engravings of the most disgusting and fanatical character, and franked by some Abolition member of Congress, were to be found in every pocket, while the general outfit of all seemed to be more appropriate to a barbecue of three days duration, or a regular week of camp meeting, than for war purposes.

Our Colonel, Harry Hays, is a trump; so is Lieut Col. DeChoiseul; and young Major Penn has a veteran’s head on young shoulders; he is the coolest man I ever saw, while the Adjutant, Merriam, is good naturedly smiling, whether in battle or in jovial conversation. Their behavior throughout was such as only to increase the confidence of their men in their favor.

I cannot close this brief sketch of this skirmish without alluding to the trojan services rendered by the Washington Artillery. They are au fait in their business. Prisoners since captured acknowledge that they estimated the number of pieces engaged at eighteen, while only six were there, and sometimes only four in play. But it is useless to dwell now upon the precursory marks of that gallant band of New Orleans soldiery, as they have already won laurels since that occurrence, which eclipse any previous one of their or any other corps of a like number.

It was on that evening that poor Maylan, of No. 18, was out on picket guard, when a wrong alarm was given, and on the quick return of the picket the poor fellow was shot through the heart while crossing the stream. He was a good fellow, and was well liked by his fellow soldiers. During the same night we commenced throwing up entrenchments along the stream for nearly a half mile, in order to protect us against the attacks of the enemy, in case they should feel disposed to renew the play, but they did not. Over five hundred men slept on their arms, if sleeping it can be called, anxiously waiting, [?] nothing occurred except one or two false alarms. On the following morning work again commenced, until we were completely protected against the fire of the infantry of the enemy, some companies working as late as [?] o’clock. During the following night, two companies, who had been stationed at a ford about a mile further down the stream, were surprised by the enemy; they, however, returned the fire very promptly and with such telling effect, that everything was quiet on the following day. Feeling now rather secure and having recovered most of our blankets, canteens and other equipments, which we had thrown away in our quick march, we expected a few days rest and ease, but such was not our luck. ON the following morning we received orders to march and make room for another Virginia and one South Carolina regiment. In less than half an hour the whole brigade was under way, and we were moving in the direction of Camp Wigfall, when about half way the order was countermanded and we camped that day and the following, until 7 o’clock on the morning of the 21st, (Sunday,) at the very place the courier overtook us. From here we returned to where we had started from, only by a different road; arrived there, we were soon honored by shot and shell from the enemy, but did not return, as we had no artillery. About 9 o’clock that morning a regiment of Virginians, together with the Continentals and Baton Rouge Fencibles, crossed the stream to storm the battery if it should become too annoying to us, it having already then killed four and wounded several of our men. At that time, in fact from early daybreak, we heard cannonading at some distance, and well aware that a general engagement must necessarily soon take place, we came to the conclusion that the crisis had at length arrived. At about 1 1/2 o’clock we were ordered to recross the river, and the whole brigade took up march in the direction of the firing, namely, the great battle of Stone Bridge. The distance is about twelve miles, and was made principally running, over fields, through woods, not one hundred yards even soil. You may well imagine how we felt at mid-day, the thermometer ranging about 85 [degrees]. Of course we threw off knapsacks, provisions, blankets and everything calculated to lighten us, but, nevertheless, a good many lagged behind and some others actually gave out; as for myself, I never experienced such fatigue and heat in all my various exploits. But what was that in comparison to what was to come? Closer and closer sounded the artillery and vollies of the infantry. Miles distant from the battlefield, dead and wounded lay strewn about on both sides of the road, while not a step we could go without meeting some one returning from the battle wounded or assisting the wounded, or one whose appearance already indicated that the battlefield of this world was closed for him forever; but not one passed who was able to speak, who did not hail us with some words of encouragement – such as, hurry up, boys; you are just in time; or, we have got them, boys – hurrah! and at them; while some, actually despairing, encouraged and begged us to be quick, as their regiments had suffered terribly; and if no reinforcements had come soon, the battle would have been lost. Both appeals, though contradictory, had the desired effect – the last eminences were gained, and there lay before our view two armies in deadly combat, deciding whether a nation of freemen shall be free or be subjugated to the rule of their would-be oppressors; every prominent point occupied by batteries pouring forth their deadly missiles, while brigade after brigade marched to and fro to protect them and gain for themselves more advantageous positions. A more appropriate place, so far as name is concerned, could not have been selected than Stone bridge, as had the enemy been successful, the North would indeed have had a stone bridge to cross over to the very streams of Southern heart’s blood. But, to the battle. Before sunrise, the special battalion if Major Wheat, composed of the Tigers, Capt. Alex White, the Walker Guards, Capt. Harris, the Old Dominion Guards, Capt. O. P. Walker, the Delta Rangers, Capt. Gardner, and Catahoula Guerillas, Capt. Buhoup, numbering together about 460, rank and file, commenced paying their respects to the advanced guard of the enemy. In this they were assisted by companies of South Carolina Regiments; but, owing to the rapidity of the advance in overwhelming numbers, it became necessary to retreat and resort to all stratagems known to warfare to escape the deadly Minie balls of the enemy. It was when emerging from the woods on our side of the road, to await the arrival of the enemy, that the South Carolinians mistook this battalion for the enemy, and fired into them; and the fire was returned before the unfortunate mistake was discovered; but this accident, as it were, cemented both only closer together for the balance of the day; wherever the fight was the hottest, the gallant Wheat, with his battalion, was foremost, assisted and seconded by the captains and officers of the companies, who are too well known by all of you, to need any praise at my hands for personal courage and bravery. It was very near the close of the battle when Maj. Wheat was wounded. His command having suffered severely, he rallied once more all remnants and scattered factions, and brought them again before the enemy only to dare them once more to come on, and their refusal to charge, to fall mortally wounded.

The command of the battalion, which was on that day reduced from 460 to 260, fell on Capt. Harris – a soldier and gentleman well known to all of you – who, during the battle, had his horse shot from under him, and had, in fact, several narrow escapes from death. And, while on escapes, allow me to relate to you the escape of Henry S. Carey of New Orleans. He got shot in the leg, and being left by his company, very quietly laid down and awaited coming events. He did not wait long; for one of those chivalrous Yankee brigades soon retreated in the direction where he was lying, when a straggling lieutenant discovered him some distance off, ran to him and said, “Aw, we have got you, [?]” “Yes.” said Carey, “you have, and I hope you will treat me like we treat you.” With that the Yankee ran his sword through Carey’s thigh, having, of course, missed his aim, (the heart) when Carey very quietly drew his revolver and blowed off the whole back part of the head of this Northern ruffian. Such is their bravery.

In the fore part of the battle, and while the enemy had the regulars of the United States Army to push forward, the battle was very well contested; and, with numerical strength over us, well-drilled and battle-tried soldiers in front, and more artillery than we hat, they no doubt thought to have quite an easy thing of it, and on several occasions actually did have the advantage. But they lacked one thing – the spirit and spunk which animated every one on our side. Whenever a charge was made, our boys would make the welkin ring with their shouts and hurrahs – so much so, that in the latter portion of the battle, we had only to hallo and run towards them, when they would leave in a hurry without even firing a shot.

The Northern army was commanded by Gen. McDowell, with Gen. Scott at Centreville as the “power behind the throne,” etc., etc.; while Gens. Beauregard, Evans, Johnston and Jefferson Davis, Esq., managed the youngsters of the Young Republic. You cannot imagine that I could give you a full detail of all the movements of the different wings of the army; and I therefore confine myself to such abstracts as may be interesting. Of all the different portions of the Northern army, the New York Zouaves suffered most. They are completely burst up. What are not killed, are wounded or taken prisoners. I actually don’t think that, out of 1100, 200 left the field with sound hides. They fought well, and were the especial favorites of the South Carolinians, Tigers, and particularly of the Washington Artillery. The prisoners and wounded say that they never expected to meet an army here, but merely a concourse of people in open rebellion – something like a Centre street riot in New York. The episode of the battle, however, was the critical moment, when, in order to save the day, it became necessary to storm a battery at all hazards. This duty, dangerous and important, was entrusted to a Virginia regiment, assisted by another, of what State I do not recollect. Their charge was terrible, but of no avail. Again they charged, with the same result. Reinforced, they fought their way, inch by inch, to the top of the hill, and the battery was captured, not, however, before 700 noble lives on our side had been sacrificed. This gave the battle a decided inclination to our side, but notwithstanding this, regiments after brigades and reserves of infantry kept pouring in, and the plan was at once changed.

While their infantry in overwhelming numbers were to keep our infantry harmless, their artillery, which had taken prominent positions, were to operate against our strongholds; but they had, no doubt, forgotten that there was also Washington Artillery in the field at Stone Bridge. Through the thickest of a perfect shower of minie’ rifle balls, they moved their batteries to the point selected by Gen. Beauregard himself, and his horse just then having been shot from under him, he very quietly helped himself to the horse of one of the artillery band left them with the bare admonition, “don’t waste your powder, boys, but take good aim;” and they did take good aim. In less than a half hour, that battery, as well as the surrounding infantry, were rather quiet, while cannons, ammunition wagons, horses, drivers and soldiers were all piled up in one heap. All hope was now gone; the whole reserve of the infantry was now called into action, the enemy not having one cannon left. It was then that our brigade made its appearance on one hill, the Rockville Artillery and a squadron of cavalry on the next. We led off with a charge, supported by the artillery, and if mortal eye ever beheld a sunning set of cowards, it was the thousands then making their way through the fields, over fences, etc., etc., in the direction of Rhode Island and intermediate landings. Escaped from reach of infantry, these brave ones were once more rallied by their commander to resist the cavalry, which they feared would attack them in their flight. Two solid squares were formed on a hill on the very end of the woods, and no sooner formed than they were scattered to the winds by the shells of rifle balls of the artillery. This was too much; to stop the Mississippi would be an easy job to the one of attempting to stop the flying infantry of Abe and Scott. Pursuit was almost useless, as no one could catch them; but General Johnston met them a short distance on their way, giving them his farewell compliment by taking fifty wagons of all sorts of camp equipage and the remainder of their cannon, horses attached, together with a good supply of ammunition, and last, but not least, the private equipage of Gen. McDowell, unfortunately, however, without the General. The number of killed is very large on both sides; ours not less than 1500, while the enemy’s cannot be under 2500. All houses in the neighborhood are converted into hospitals, while even a church serves for the present the same purpose; and it is in it where over 400 Zouaves are now under the treatment and kind care of the rebels, as they call us. The prisoners thus far taken amount to over 1500, and every day some fellows turn up, wither from their own will or caught by our soldiers. The total killed, wounded and taken prisoners of the enemy cannot fall short of nine thousand, while we have about twenty-five hundred all told. What made our loss so great was, first, the great superiority of their fire-arms in the hands of regular troops; and secondly, the storming of that battery. While it is horrible to think of such loss of human life, it is also gratifying to know that a decisive blow has been struck, the enemy routed, driven back, and completely disorganized, and their fondest hopes of subjugating the South are blasted for the present, at least. How sure they were of gaining this battle, I can prove to you by letters found in their pockets to their relatives, where they tell them to direct their letters to Manassas Junction; and from the fact that two trains of ladies and gentlemen accompanied Gen. Scott to Centreville, in order to assist the old chieftain in his triumphant march to Manassas, the key of the valley of Virginia, and thence return by railroad to Washington. Another corroborating fact is stated by the prisoners, who say that their term of three months was out some days ago, but they were not allowed to leave until after this battle, when they were to have been paid off in Manassas, and sent to Washington by railroad: but alas! “There is many a slip between the cup and the lip.” It is almost a pity that a man like Gen. Scott, enshrined in life-long glory, should, at the very brink of the grave, follow the promptings of vindictiveness, and avarice, and destroy, with one blow, all affection, love and admiration a grateful country had for him; but “such is life,” as Bill Adams says.

In this battle, the Continentals suffered more than any other company in the regiment, and for a very plain reason: we were the first to come down the hill, after the Mississippi regiment had been flanked; close to the woods in the hollow we were halted; while the Virginia regiment , in our rear, was flanked close to the woods on the right. These having been scarcely posted, Col Early commanding, gave order to form in line of battle – not in the hollow – but half way up the hill, in full view of the enemy on the ridge of the other, who used the opportunity to shoot down five of our men in less time than you could count twenty, and in other companies in proportion. The first man shot in our company was Henry Clay. The ball struck him in the neck, severed the jugular vein, and went out on the other side, killing him instantly. He had scarcely reached the ground, before two others fell – Sergt. Clohey shot through the leg, and Flynn badly wounded in the groin. While they were being picked up, a ball struck a canteen of one, went through it, and took the rear file, Kelly, through the hand. During this short time the cry was, “Let us charge,” but Colonel Early said, very coolly, that it was all a mistake, that they on the hill were our friends, etc.; until, when the whole regiment became so clamorous for a charge, that Col. Hays said: “Boys, do you want to charge?” All hands hallooed “Yes,” and charge it was, our gallant officer in front, closely followed by the boys, just in time to see the running Yankees knocked by our artillery over fences, roads, and everything which was not much higher than a one story house. So much for Col. Early.

I would be recreant to all truth and justice were I not here to mention, with all the praise this feeble pen is able to bestow, the coolness and promptness of our captain and lieutenants. McFarland you know too well to need encomiums from me; but, as regards Davis, he has surely more than gratified the most sanguine expectations of his warmest friends; he is a brick, and no mistake.

And now, let me close this rather lengthy and dull epistle, badly written, and scraped together on three different kinds of paper, with a Yankee cartridge box as a desk; read it to some of the Continentals if you deem it of sufficient interest, and allow me to subscribe myself with my best wishes for you and your family’s prosperity and welfare.

Your obedient servant,

JOHN F. GRUBER, Corporal*

In justice to myself I must inform you that I have been promoted to that important post. Give my respects to Jim McGawly, Blessy, Slemmer, Capt. Hodgkins, Th. Murray, and all the boys, and tell them for particulars I must refer them to a verbal report.

J. F. G.

New Orleans Daily Crescent, 8/5/1861

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*While Gruber signed this letter as a corporal, records indicate he mustered in and out of the 7th LA as a private.

John F. Gruber at Fold3

Contributed by John J. Hennessy