Pvt. Jeremiah K. Rathbun, Co. E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle

1 07 2020

Headquarters 2nd Reg. RIV
Camp Clark, Co. E
July 25, 1861

Dear Father, I received your letter last nite and dear to us in the Battle last Sunday and among them was our Col. Slocum who acted like a brave man in the fight and Major Ballou and others that seemed nearer to us because we have always worked with and those was Stephen Holland, Billy Nichols, and Esic Smith is missing but we do not think he was killed and Lieut Church is missing to.

Our company was acting as Scouts when the enemy was found and was the first ones that fired a shot at the enemy and the 2 Regiment fout about twelve minutes before another was on the ground.

We was not more fit to fight than dead men for we was all tired out amarching and instead of afighting Sunday we was not to fight until Tuesday and some think that McDowel was a cam Traitor and I think so too for when we got on the field he came up and waved his handkerchief and the enemy began to fire. Good Bye.

Dear Brother, I received your letter and was glad to hear from you all. We had a pretty hard time on Sunday but I got back safe after a hard march and we are all about half sick. The next time we go I hope we shall not get out of Ammunition so as to wait for it to come to us as we did this time so you can see that the traitor was among us somewhere. Who ever heard of twenty thousand men fighting against one hundred thousand. We was to wait till Patterson’s forces came up to help us. Good Bye.

Dear Wife, It is with pleasure that I write these few lines to let you know I am well excepting I am a little tired, but am thankful that I am here to write you once more. I hope you and my little children is well and you must not worry about me, but trust in the Lord as he doeth all things well. I should like to see you and the children very much and all my friends. Tell father Rheubin that I should like to see him and I think I shall sometime. Give my love to little Rheubin and I should like to see him very much.

Dear Sisters, I thought I would try to write you a note but I don’t know what to write only to say that I am well and pray you are the same and should like to have you send me a paper that has got the news in it if you can. That is all I can think of now.

From your Affectionate Husband and Son Jeremiah K. Rathbun.

From Voices of the Civil War: Letters and Journal Excerpts of South Kingstown Men in the Union Army, 1861-1863, Shirley L. Barrett, Ed, Petaquamscutt Historical Society, pp. 13-14

Contributed by Rob Grandchamp

2nd Rhode Island Infantry Roster 

Jeremiah K. Rathbun at Ancestry 

Jeremiah K. Rathbun at Fold3 

Jeremiah K. Rathbun at FindAGrave 





Corp. William E. Smith, Co. E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle

1 07 2020

2nd Rgt. Co. E, Camp Clarke
[Undated] 1861

Dear mother, I am sorry to say that we can’t give eny acount of Esic nor Clark Rodman nor Lieut. Church. Don’e tell Allme as it will worry granmother. We are all well and that is all I can say. Ask father if he recieved them books I sent him and papers.

Give my love to all the boys and girls and tell them we are goin again pretty soon. Tell them I don’t think they care much for us they don’t write to eny of us. Tell all the girls to not be afreaide to write for we shall like to hear from them. Tell the Davidson’s girls to write to me. I want to hear from them all.

I saw many of our Ridgment shot down. I was close to Slocum when he was kild. A hard time we had I tell you. The Second Ridgment, that’s the one we are in you know, stood 45 minutes in front of a ridgment of the Rebels before eny of the rest got up to us. I dee Esic on the field afighting and have not seen him since. After the fight I looked every where for him but could not find him. Tell Dorcas Harvey her husband is here as well.

Don’t let enybody see this letter, if you do I won’t write eny more for if you do they will tell it all around and they write back and it makes a fuss saying that such a one wrote this and that.

Write George and let him know for I can’t. Don’t fret Mother for me for I will come out all rite at the end.

From your soon William E Smith

From Voices of the Civil War: Letters and Journal Excerpts of South Kingstown Men in the Union Army, 1861-1863, Shirley L. Barrett, Ed, Petaquamscutt Historical Society, p. 11

Contributed by Rob Grandchamp

2nd Rhode Island Infantry Roster 

William E. Smith at Ancestry 

William E. Smith at Fold3 

William E. Smith at FindAGrave (likely) 





Corp. Patrick Lyons, Co. E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Campaign

30 06 2020

Tuesday, July 16, 1861

After waiting long for the final order to march it finally came at last at 1 ocl. P. M. when we started for Washington and thence across the Long Bridge, rightly named being about 1 mile long, and were soon on the “Sacred Soil” of Virginia. We marched 11 miles that day and bivouacked for the night near Balls Cross Roads…

We were brigaded on the March with the 7th New York, 2nd New Hampshire, and the 1st R. I. The time for which the latter Regmt. Enlisted was now very nearly expired but they Volunteered to accompany us on this expedition which shows the stuff that they were made of & which entitles them to the front ranks amongst the Nation’s defenders.

Wednesday, July 17

After thawing ourselves out by some gymnastic exerises & having breakfast with the indispensible hot coffee we resumed out march to Richmond. Our Regmt. Had the right of the Column on this day’s March & consequently two companies were detailed to act as skirmishers & Co. E being one of them was deployed on the left of the column & advanced thro woods and fields till we came in sight of a pretty strong rebel fortification in front of the Village of Fairfax CH. The fort had the appearance of being still occupied thee being apparently Some heavy guns mounted & it was therefore deemed advisable to reconnoitre. Major Ballou was amongst the first to advance when upon a close inspection he found that the fort was evacuated, the guns Quaker ones (wooden).

The enemy apparently left in haste as a great many useful and some valuable articles were left behind and appropriated by our soldiers upon entering it. The writer picked up one trophy in the shape of an officers old fashioned red night cap, which he carried along in his haversack, but which , later he was destined to lose again.

We proceeded thro the Village which was an ancient looking place. The rebel flag floated over the Court House and some members of our Regmt hauled it down and hoisted the Stars and Stripes…

Saturday and Sunday, July 20 and 21, 1861

On Saturday evening the 20th we received orders to be ready to March at 1 ocl. That Night…but not until 2 ocl. Or thereabouts did we start.

The Column separated near Centreville. Our Brigade under the command of Col. Burnside of the 1st R. I. took the road to the right leading South West…Our destination was learned to be Bulls Run and as we had the extreme right of the army we had to march about 15 miles through thick forests and bad roads.

We met with no opposition till 11 A. M. when after having crossed the Stone Bridge over Bulls Run, Cos A and E were sent out to the right and left as skirmishers through dense woods. E had just completed its deployment when the left which extended to the extremity of the belt of woods discovered a force of about 200 of the enemy marching past our left flank through a clearing in the forest and the alarm “enemy on the left” passed along the line amid the greatest excitement.

The order from the Capt, close to the left was speedily obeyed and we fired a volley at the enemy who were falling back pretty lively by this time, believing no doubt from the racket we made, that our whole army was pouncing on to them. The Capt ordered us to advance over a fence at the end of these woods, which we did and again commenced firing. The enemy meanwhile having retreated to the opposite Slope of a hill between us, better known later as the Henry House Plateau. Returned the fire, but up to this time our casualties were few owing to the rebels being obliged to elevate their guns too high in firing over the hill.

We were thus engaged about 15 minutes when Co. A came to our assistance and we advanced to the Henry House on the Slope of the Hill which separated us from the enemy and everyone fired away at will and in some confusion.

It was ¾ of an hour before our Brigade formed line of battle on our right with the 1st R. I. Light Atillery near the extreme right when the battle became general all along the line. The enemies batteries opened on us from all points from woods in front and their infantry becoming emboldened proceeded to occupy a belt of woods on our left and front and put their Sharp Shooters in the tall pine trees opposite the Henry House.

It was here while advancing over the crest of the Hill, pistol in hand, and while getting over a fence, that the brave and lamented Col. Slocum (Col. of our Rgt) was shot in the forehead and died in a short time after being carried tenderly back to the Henry House.

The Major (Ballou) also fell here while riding along the crest of the Palteau receiving a canon shot in the thigh from which he died soon afterwards. Gov. Sprague was nor fortunate, he also rode along the hull and had a horse shot under him but bravely mounted another & repeated the act.

Co. E lost some of its best men here amongst who William Nichols, Corp. Stephen Holland and Henry L. Jacques were killed and Corp. Ezek B. Smith, Isaac Clark Rodman & John Clark, N. C. Dixson were wounded, the three former being captured, Smith and Rodman dying in prison at Richmond.

Meantime we were ordered back to the edge of the woods to get a fresh supply of ammunition. Up to this time everything was favorable for our side & we felt as if we would not be called upon again to take part in the battle…

[But again] the line was formed on the right of our former position, the Brigade in columns of Regts, our Regmt in front. We were not long in discovering that our troops were defeated and in full retreat and our duty was to cover the retreat. We descried a long column of the enemy advancing directly on our line and their batteries opened on us with disastrous effect…

The rout now became pretty general from all parts of the field excepting our force which had to stand in line facing the exultant and advancing foe. Our Cavalry and other mounted men added much to the consternation in their headlong haste to the rear, teams and ambulance got stuck in the mud and blocked the roads. Several Congressmen & other prominent men who came to see the battle in their Carriages added not a little to the confusion, members of all regiments got mixed up together, many of whom threw away their guns and equipment & set out to make their way to Washington.

But meantime, the space between the advancing column of the enemy and our brigade was lessening and we were ordered about face and marched off the field in good order until we came in contact with the disorganized mass near the stone bridge when it became impossible to preserve our organization. The enemy brought a battery to bear on the bridge and disables some ambulance wagons and artillery caissons which blocked it so that the troops had to wade the stream on either side and clamber up its steep banks, the water in the stream reaching breast high.

After crossing the stream the writer and John Allen were trudging along together when hearing some peculiar buzzing behind us looked around and saw a canon ball rolling after us which caused us to run in a zig zag manner till it gave up the pursuit.

Capt. Tower of Co. F was killed at the bridge and I suppose a great many others beside a large number of prisoners were captured among them Lieut. Church of…

…Upon arriving at Bush Camp, thinking we would make a stand here, reoccupied our huts and were soon fast asleep being completely exhausted by the fatigues of the past 20 hours our so…however…we were routed up and informed that the army were to retreat to Washington…

Jerry Quinlan and I kept together and jogged along with the weary throng composed of men from all the different organizations of the army, and I do not exaggerate when I say that we slept wile marching along at various stages of the journey, each one alternately stepping on the others heels, causing a momentary awakening…Traveling all night, the crowd to which I was attached, arrived at Fort Runyon, covering the long bridge, about 9 ocl. Monday morning the 22d.

Here we found the garrison working in hot haste arranging Shot & Shell for the guns & in every way preparing for the expected advance of the enemy, which however did not occure…For several days after we arrived in Camp, stragglers kept coming in by the twos and threes and all had woeful tales to tell of hardships and narrow escapes &c and about the last to arrive was Tom Flaherty with out late Col. Slocum’s horse, which notwithstanding repeated efforts of officers in command of the Chain Bridge to take away from him, he brought safely to Camp & afterwards the horse was shipped to the deceaseds home in R. I.

A few days after our return, the 1st RI bade us farewell & started for home which made us feel rather homesick. We exchanged our smooth bore muskets for their Springfield rifles and moved into their comfortable board barracks, which we did not long enjoy as we were moved to Brightwood about 5 miles from Washington and immediately set to work building fortifications for the defense of Washington.

From Voices of the Civil War: Letters and Journal Excerpts of South Kingstown Men in the Union Army, 1861-1863, Shirley L. Barrett, Ed, Petaquamscutt Historical Society, pp. 7-10

Contributed by Rob Grandchamp

2nd Rhode Island Infantry Roster

Patrick Lyons at Ancestry

Patrick Lyons at Fold3

Patrick Lyons at FindAGrave





“Ensis,” Co. C*, 18th Mississippi Infantry, On the Battle and Aftermath

30 06 2020

Correspondence of the Citizen.
—————

Camp Near Stone Bridge, Va.,
July 30, 1861.

Dear Citizen: – The 17th and 18th Regiments now find themselves at this new encampment, after much marching and exposure to the weather, and are attached to a new brigade. This re-organization, so decidedly agreeable to us, has been brought about, we suspect, by the freely expressed dissatisfaction which was felt by the two regiments, both in rank and file, towards our former Brigadier (D. R. Jones,) and we have now the pleasure to claim as our official head, the cool, chivalrous and experienced Gen. Evans.

You have doubtless been fully informed that the partial failure of our attack upon the enemy’s left wing battery, in the engagement on Sunday last, was entirely owing to the mismanagement, ignorance, and, I must say, military incompetence of our immediate leader. Being ordered to charge bayonets when at a distance of five hundred yards from an overwhelming enemy posted and entrenched upon and almost inaccessible hill, with two tremendous hills and a ravine at least seventy-five feet between us, we think displayed too rash and an indifference about the welfare of his men and too little of the general to be borne by regiments which, by their integral composition and proficiency in drill, are in every way prepared to sustain the high honor of their State. The ravine was utterly impassible in the charge; and to have stood there upon it’s brink, in the midst of the deadly and terrific storm of grape, canister and bombs which about ten heavy pieces of artillery thundered upon them, would have been sheer madness. The order to retire was therefore given, and although the Yankees immediately retreated and joined the general rout, yet, in the minds of some persons, uninformed as to the facts, our regiments sustained some discredit.

Our 2nd Lieutenant was a few days ago taken from us by the “Camden Rifles,” to supply the place of their lamented Captain (Adam McWillie); and the result of an election in the “Confederates,” to fill the place of Judge Hill, has just this moment been announced in favor of our popular Sergeant Hugh Love, for whose gallantry in action and agreeability in camp, every soldier can vouch. The unsuccessful aspirant was our worthy friend Sergeant Rucker.*

We are now encamped upon the edge of the main battle field. There remains to mark the spot only a few dead horses, the scars of the cannon-shot and graves of the fallen. The marks of the enemy’s flight are all over the country, and most remarkably did they exemplify the scriptural assertion, “the wicked flee when no man pursueth.” No idea of the utter consternation which attended their flight can be formed till the broken wheels and guns, the scattered clothes and provisions, the deserted tents and the tremendous quantity of relinquished booty of every description, all along the route from Bull’s Run to Alexandria is seen.

I have seen sixty-one pieces of the fine artillery which we took; and every wayside house has been converted into an arsenal, prison and hospital for their deserted equipments, the terror-stricken captives and poor wounded wretches. The moral force and the exaltation of the South, and her holy self-defence, which the news of this victory and unequaled defeat will carry throughout America and into the ears of astonished Europe (which the bragging North has ever attempted to deafen to the truth). Is the most grateful blessing which a kind God could grant to the Southern patriot and soldier.

The health of our company and regiment is only tolerable. We start soon for Leesburg, about twenty-five miles distant.

Mr. Hardy is still with us.

Dr. Divine, who has won the golden opinion of the regiment by his readiness in camp and upon the field, with his instruments and his rifle, is yet the welcome confrere of the company.

We miss the luxury of fruit and vegetables, which our friends at home are enjoying about now; but we, here, have this honorable war.

In haste, your friend,
Ensis.**

(Canton, MS) American Citizen, 8/10/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

18th Mississippi Infantry Roster 

* Hugh Love and William W. Rucker, both in Co. C per roster above. Co. C was raised in Canton, Madison County, MS.

** An ensis is a saltwater clam.





Unknown Irishman, Co. B, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

29 06 2020

From the Manchester Journal
A CHARACTERISTIC LETTER.

From an Irishman in the Castelton Company of the 2d Vt. Regiment:

Bush Hill, Fairfax Co.
July 26, 1861.

Dear Friend Patrick, – I received your letter last night with the greatest pleasure. It is the first word I have heard from any of my old friends since I have been here, and anything that comes from Vermont seems worth more to me than the whole Southern States. Patrick you asked me if I was in that fight. Oh, yes indeed I was, and God only knows what a fight we had to: it was one of the hardest battles ever fought. It was a very hot day, and we were very much furtuiged on so long a march, but we fought very brave, but all in vain. There were only 20,000 of our men, and they had about 90,000, and was fresh and hid in the woods, and had 48 rifel cannon behind heavy breastworks. We only had 20 pieces of cannon, and in an open field, and after we got out of ammunitions we was forced to retreat for our lives, and left them in possession of the field, and as the d–d savages ralied on us they run our wounded men through with their bayornets, and burned an old house where there was a good many of our wounded caried to have their wounds dressed. They took all the advantage they could. They raised the stars and stripes once, and we thought they were going to give up, but when we got clost up to them drawed it down and raised their d—l—h palmetto, then opened upon us with a volley of grape which killed about 200 of the Michigan First Regiment and then run into the woods. They took every way to whip us, but we killed more of there men, yes 3 times as many. They tried to surround us, but did not succeed. They made an atact on us as we returned. In those long woods they had a company of 400 black horses; it is called the black horse cavalry; we killed a good part of them, and the rest was glad to retreat and leave us. I wish you had been there to have picked up some of the swords and revolvers and rifuls. I picked up as many as I could carry, but we had to cross over a bridge, and there they had some cannon that was worked by the infernal black Nigars, and weakened the bridge, and it broke down with us and we lost our cannon in the stream, and I was forsed to drop my load of stuff. They killed about 500 men in all. To the bridge we lost our tents and every thing we had onley what we had on our back, and we marched all that night and the next day till noon. It commenced to rain the next morning, and we were as wet as a drouned rat; our feet was a soiled blister and we was so lame and tiard that I could lain down by the road-side and died with the greatest pleasure. – We all went to Alexandria. We got together and went down to Bush Hill last night, about four miles from Alexandria, to camp and recruit for another fight, which will be before long. We have been for the last 2 weeks where money was of no use; we shot hogs and cows and hens and every thing we could get, and stuck it on a stick, and roasted it and eat it without eny salt or eny bread, but we are in hopes of better times now, and I hope we shall have better times. I never saw hard times before, and I hope I never shall again, but I never will run away. I will fight as long as I can.

I wish you could see some of the women here; they are very poor and lean, with ragged clothes, and have no hoops on – nothing but a shirt and an old nasty torne dress, with four or five nasty young ones hanging on to her. Se puts me in mind of an old setting turkey that has sot about eight weeks on rotten eggs – and they cannot read or write; live in the woods in little old log house, and thier men hunt and fish and gamble and drink champaigne and whiskey; some are married and some are not married. I did not see any stoves; all of them has an old-fashioned fire-plase. The hogs run wild here. The water is very poor. You do not know how the country is covered with woods; it is a k—d wild barberaus place; the timber is mostly oak, white. How many is killed from our Regiment I do not know; four from our company. It is agoing to be an awful hard job to whip them, if we ever do. Give my best respects to all my acquaintances.

In haste, yours truly.

Vermont Watchman, 8/23/1861

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2nd Vermont Infantry Roster 





Sgt. Harrison Dewey*, Co. E, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Campaign

29 06 2020

INTERESTING ACCOUNT OF THE SECOND REGIMENT IN THE BULL RUN BATTLE
By a Member of the Turnbridge Company.

Bush Hill, Va., Aug. 5, 1861.

I will endeavor to give you a true and faithful description of our march from Washington to this place after the battle at Bull Run. We left our encampment at Capitol Hill July 16th, and encamped at Bush Hill. At the time of our encamping here we were in the most advanced post on this line in Virginia. We were here formed into a Brigade with the 3d, 4th and 5th Maine regiments, under Col. Howard of Maine. We remained here but a few days when our Brigade were ordered to gain the rear of Fairfax Court House, for the purpose of cutting off the retreat of the rebels from that place, while a more powerful force advanced against it in front. We started at 4 o’clock P. M., and marched until w A. M. We then encamped about two hours. During this march we passed an unfordable stream about thirty feet wide, on a single string-piece. It is said 15,000 troops crossed at this place in two hours. The army here divided; our brigade and one other marched to the rear, the remainder to the attack in front. After marching until 1 o’clock P. M., and gaining a good position in the rear of the rebels, we learned that they had evacuated the place about two hours previous. After resting a few hours, we took up our march for Centreville, where we arrived at 9 o’clock P. M. We here encamped in the open air, as we had done for the three previous nights. Here we remained three nights. Saturday evening we were ordered to be prepared to march to Bull Run at 2 o’clock the next morning. We were all ready before the hour appointed, and every one appeared at least to be eager for the fray. We did not get under way until some time after daylight. About six o’clock, A. M., we heard the roar of cannon. The sounds were like a shock of electricity throughout our regiment, and all seemed to exert themselves to gain the battle field. After marching 4 miles from Centreville, we were halted in a woods three miles from Bull Run. We were now within two miles of the nearest combatants, whose guns and cannonading made the earth tremble where we were halted; but notwithstanding our eagerness to press forward, we were detained here nearly two hours. Had we been permitted to have pressed forward against their right flank, as we afterwards did against their left, the battle would have been decided in our favor. But we lost the opportunity by this unjustifiable delay. At length a messenger arrived for us to march on to the field with all possible dispatch. When the order arrived, at least one-third of our brigade were asleep; but the alarm sounded and in four minutes we were in line and on our march. From this place to where we commenced firing, was three miles, and we marched most of the way on double quick time. On arriving within about one hundred rods of where we formed our line of battle, the rebels threw a tremendous sight of anon balls and bomb shells among us, the shells bursting in our midst scattering death and wounds on all sides. – The orderly sergeant of Company H, who was marching by my side, fell with his right arm broken in two places. One of the color guards was badly wounded in the leg, and a private by the name of Streeter was wounded in both legs. All these wounds were from the same shell. This, however, was but one of the many shells thrown amongst us. It was perhaps as destructive as any one. All the above wounded are missing. We did not slack our march in the least until we arrived on the field, which was already strewn with the dead and wounded. We formed our line behind a hill and marched on to the lines, which were formed within about forty rods of the rebel lines. After our second fire, the rebels hid themselves in the wood and behind stumps and trees. We stood our ground without flinching until we were ordered to retreat. The right wing of our regiment immediately obeyed the order, but the left wing still maintained their ground until they were twice more ordered to retreat. Our guns were now too hot for use, and we left the field.

During the battle the rebels displayed the Stars and Stripes, and also made our private signals when we were ordered to cease firing, but quickly discovering the mistake, we fired a volley and the rebel bearer of the Stars and Stripes fell dead, as did many others. A spent musket ball struck me on the right knee, but did no injury. As we walked (not run) up the slope that carried us up to the plain where the first shells burst among us, I was by the side of Capt. Smith. We heard a cannonball in our rear, when we both sprang aside, the ball passing between us, and not more than fifteen or eighteen inches from either of us. It struck the ground but a few feet forward of us. I picked it up, intending to save it, but it was too heavy to carry.

One of the most splendid displays in this or any other battle was the charge made by the Black Horse Cavalry, supported by the Texas Rangers, upon the Ellsworth Zouaves. They were about 500 strong, the Zouaves nearly 400. They rushed upon them at the height of their speed and with horrible yells. The Zouaves formed themselves into a hollow square and received them at the point of the bayonet. For a few moments it appeared as tho’ the Zouaves were being cut to pieces without mercy. The firing on both sides ceased and the greatest anxiety was apparent; but in less than five minutes the splendid body of cavalry was more than half stretched out in death. The Zouaves were not satisfied, but continued to make partial attacks upon them until not fifty of the cavalry remained unharmed. It is stated that the most deadly hatred existed between the cavalry and the Zouaves, and that they were determined to destroy them or die themselves, and the result is as above stated. I notice contradictory accounts in the papers respecting the above cavalry, but no doubt exists here but they are, as above states, the Texas Rangers.

We continued our retreat across the plain where the first shells and balls were fired at us. As we passed over this plain, if it were possible the balls and shells fell thicker and faster than when we passed over it in the battle, but no flinching or dodging was visible among the officers and men. We passed the plain, however, without extra loss. I did not notice a single gun fired by the retreating soldiers after they commenced their retreat, which is something very remarkable. I have heard that in some regiments they did fire [?] to the rear.

It is very gratifying indeed to reflect upon the bearing, steadiness and bravery of our regiment on the field of battle. No troops ever stood firmer. I did not see one that went on to the field tremble or flinch in the least. Capt. Smith was as cool, apparently at least, as when sitting in his own house, but not more so than were Lieutenants Whitney and Bixbey. After retreating about 4 miles we were suddenly attacked on our right flank by the enemy’s cannon. The excitement now became intense in the extreme and and the panic and confusion was inextricable. The rear was cut off and fled in confusion to the left. I was in the rear of our company at this time and did not see it again until the next Friday night. I continued to bear to the left until about eleven o’clock p. m. with two others. We then lay down on the ground until 3 o’clock a. m., when we started for Centreville, but soon learned that it was in the hands of the rebels. I see by the papers that I was last seen at Centreville*. This is not correct, Wiggins and Godale fled with me and continued with me until we arrived in Washington. At the time of our separation from the regiment we had two days rations for one man, making six meals, when we ought to have had forty. The remainder was supplied with black and blue berries which grow in great abundance. About 8 o’clock Monday morning it commenced raining and continued over twenty-four hours. I may here remark that the storms and nights here are very chilly. We were exposed to this long rain without going under any kind of shelter whatever. We dared not go to any house for fear of armed rebels, nor into any barn or shed in the night because of dogs; so that we did not go under any cover whatever until we arrived in Washington. When we left the regiment we were about fifty miles from the Potomac, but the course we traveled to get there could not have been less than 125 miles. The last day we traveled 23 hours, and the last 8 hours did not even halt. The first thing I recognized was the Capitol at Washington, and I assure you it was a beautiful sight to us. We arrived at six o’clock p. m. on Thursday. I immediately recognized a gentleman in the street from something particular about him; he took us home with him and treated us in the kindest manner until Friday. I then left for the camp at this place, (the others stopping in Alexandria.) where I arrived in the evening, when I was received by the company with hearty cheers, the Captain giving the order. On our journey to the Potomac we were six times headed off by the rebel cavalry and obliged to turn back and flee. I am now detailed as Clerk of a Court Martial and must close but will write again as soon as I can find time and give farther particulars and incidents.

Vermont Watchman, 8/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* Harrison Dewey of Co. E was reported as “last seen at Centreville” in the letter of “T. H. C.”, published in “Waltons Daily Journal (Montpelier, VT), 7/29/1861. The letter also mentions Wiggins and “Goodale.” Thus the extraordinary assumption that the letter writer is indeed Sgt. Harrison Dewey. See transcription here.

2nd Vermont Infantry Roster 

Harrison Dewey at Ancestry 

Harrison Dewey at Fold3 

Harrison Dewey at FindAGrave 





“Pequot,” 2nd New York State Militia, On the Campaign

27 06 2020

Letter from Washington – The Great Battle Near Manassas.

Camp Powell (2d Reg’t N. Y. S. M.)
Washington, July 29, 1861.

Friend Irish: – You have probably heard or read so many statements in regard to the great battle at Bull (or Bloody) Run, that perhaps it is rather late for me to give my version of it, but as every one who participated has an experience to relate, I will give you mine, and as our regiment was in the same division and near the Connecticut boys throughout the eventful day, it may be of some interest. – Our march from our old encampment at Ball’s Cross Road to Vienna, and from thence to Fairfax and Centreville is what every correspondent has pictured. It was a very slow movement, owing to the many obstructions on the road. We came upon half made forts and entrenchments, abandoned camps with the food still cooking, and camp utensils lying about in confusion, and we flattered ourselves that the enemy were cowards and would not show fight. The sequel proved they were too sharp for us, and this apparent hasty retreat was only a bait to draw us still further into the trap.

We came before Centreville on Thursday, and with twenty thousand more Union troops rested on a hill-side all day, while less than three thousand men of Col. Richardson’ brigade were getting badly cut up by the Rebels at Bull’s Run, on the southern road. Just before sundown we were ordered up the hill and started at double quick, all “spoiling for a fight” and eager to avenge the slaughter of our brave friends of the N. York 12th Reg’t with whom we were neighbors for a long time in camp, but when we arrived in the town we found we were to take position on the northern road leading to Manassas, by the way of Gainesville, and about a mile from the battle field of that day. We bivouacked in a large field of oats, without any tents or protection from sun or rain, and worse than this, with half rations, (only one meal a day) until Sunday morning. The country seemed to have been cleared of everything eatable or drinkable, except a little stream near us called Rocky Run, and with hard bread (or iron crackers as the boys call them) and water, we were compelled to content ourselves. Hunger will make men desperate, and not withstanding the strict orders of Gen. McDowell, sundry cattle, sheep, chickens, pigs, &c, did disappear from the neighboring fields, and no one could account for them. We were ordered when starting, each man to take only his musket, canteen, one blanket and three day’s cooked rations. In this country, marching under a burning sun, no man can carry food enough for three days in addition to musket, blanket and a quart canteen of water, consequently much was thrown aside, and some water. Not until Saturday evening – four and a half day’s in all – did we see any thing more furnished by our venerated Uncle Samuel. Saturday noon we were informed by our brigade Quartermaster that we would be immediately served with rations for three day, which we must cook and pack to be ready for a march forward (and a probable fight) at 6 o’clock that evening. The order was a afterward countermanded, because we did not receive provisions until 6 o’clock, and then we had no utensils to cook with. But the junk beef, bacon, &c., was cut up and packed raw, coffee was made in our drinking cups, and agreeably with new orders we marched silently out into the road at about 2 ½ o’clock A. M. It was a bright moonlight night, and as we filed up the hill we could look back for a couple of miles and see the ten thousand bayonets of our division, with Col. Hunter’s division following. It was a splendid sight, and it was enough to inspire the weakest soul to see so many keeping step to the music of the Union; but with it came the sad reflection that so many of these brave soldiers would, never return. The truth is the officers on our side went into the fight with no confidence whatever in the result, but were careful not to say so to the men under their command. Most of the officers in our brigade at least, expected to be badly whipped, for an army never went into the field in worse condition for a successful fight. One trouble was our empty stomachs, and this probably influenced the result of the battle as much as any one thing except bad generalship. Our brigade was commanded by Gen. Schenck, and consisted of the 1st and 2d regiments of Ohio Volunteers, 2d regiment N. Y. S. M., and Carlisle’s battery of 2d artillery, – in all about twenty-five hundred men, and we were the advance of the army. About two miles from our starting point we were deployed into the woods n our left in line of battle, and advanced in this way, preceded by skirmishers for about two miles, occasionally getting a sight of a rebel picket running from us. In our rear were the 69th N. York, the 1st, 2d and 3d Conn, while the 2d Wisconsin was thrown into the woods on the right of the road. We were on what is called the Warrentown turnpike, a northern road to Manassas, and about two miles north of the battle ground of Thursday, but on the same creek or run. Col. Hunter’s division, consisting of the N. Y. 71st regiment, the two Rhode Island regiments, and others, took a side road, taking them still farther north so as to come round and attack the enemy on the flank, for we had ascertained that they were intrenched on the opposite side of the creek. The battle was commenced by shots from our long Parrott gun which throws 32 lb balls and shells. We were ordered to lie in the woods out of range or fire, and to be ready for a charge. About 10 o’clock we were ordered to advance into a pine grove, but o getting into it by a nice little road evidently cut for us (as we afterward ascertained) we were met by a tremendous discharge from a four gun masked battery, which we could feel but not see. It was barely two hundred yards from us, and we could distinctly hear their officers giving orders and cursing the damned Yankees! The fire was terrible, and we lost eight or ten men killed and as many wounded within fifteen minutes. This was all bourne by our 2d N. Y. regiment (the Ohio boys having gone forward to try and take the battery) and the General seeing that by remaining we must be cut to pieces, ordered us to retire. The sensation of lying flat on the ground to avoid a shower of shot, shell and canister cutting through the trees about breast high, is anything but pleasant, although very exciting. The third shot killed one of our lieutenants and a poor drummer boy, whose scream of agony as the shell tore him in pieces still rings in my ears. The men were firm and did not flinch, and I think exhibited other qualities surpassing courage, that of endurance, for they lay down expecting a death shot every instant, and remained there until ordered to retire. The wounds our men received in the woods at this time were of a very severe kind, caused mostly by shell and rape shot. I had a very narrow escape while sitting in a group of four; one of them received a grape shot through the shoulder and breast, and another, one through the leg and ankle, the third had his hat cut into fragments, while your humble servant was untouched, save by the branches and splinters of a little tree which stood beside us. While we were out of the fight I crossed the road and witnessed the operation of the big gun, noting the effects of the shot upon the enemy’s entrenchments. From the top of the high hill I could see the whole battle field at a glance. The valley was full of our men, all pushing forward attacking batteries on the opposite bank of the river, and Hunter’s division, on the extreme north, were doing some tall firing, though a full view of their operations was obstructed by the woods. Long clouds of dust are seen to arise from the roads leading from Manassas, as well as from Winchester, and with a good glass it could be seen that a steady stream of reinforcements was pouring in to the aid of the enemy. The battle was now hotly contested and for about two hours the volleys of musketry were incessant – one long roll of firing broke in upon only by the thundering notes of the heavy cannon. Just then we were ordered into the woods to support a portion of Sherman’s battery, which endeavored to silence the saucy little masked battery just opposite. After a brisk firing of fifteen minutes our battery was forced to retire, having lost half of its men and horses. The General who ordered us in to the wood to support the battery, forgot to order us out, after the battery was withdrawn, and but for our commander taking the responsibility, ten minutes longer would have finished our regiment. As we came up into the road again we met the three Connecticut regiments going down into the fight. They were full of pluck and anxious for a chance at the enemy.

At 3 o’clock we were ordered to take a new position down the road in full view of all the enemy’s batteries, ostensibly to support a battery of two guns, but in reality to draw the fire from our enemy’s batteries so our storming parties could have a better chance of success. The tow Ohio regiments were somewhat sheltered by a cleft in the road, but ours was terribly exposed. Grape shot, shell, round shot and canister were rained upon us without mercy. Great gaps appeared in our ranks caused by three missiles; four of our men were torn in pieces and as many wounded by the explosion of a single shell! Grape and round shot struck all around in front and behind us; in fact we seemed to be a target for two batteries, and how any of us came out alive from such an infernal cross-fire no man can tell. But flesh and blood could not stand it and we were ordered out of fire again. Up to this time we had not an opportunity to fire a single musket. We now began to see stragglers come up the hill from the battle, and by half past four the remains of the different regiments commenced filing past us in retreat. We saw the 69th with the brave Col. Corcoran at the head looking sad enough. He said he thought 500 of his boys were missing. Our regiment with the three Connecticut regiments were posted along the road covering the retreat, when suddenly above us a terrible panic was created by a charge of cavalry which had outflanked our lines, and came along the road sabreing and shooting every body. We tried to rally, and did give them a good many shots, but were obliged to retire into the woods followed by the troopers. Here legs did their duty, and a good pair saved one life as I can testify. Picking up a loaded rifle laid beside a dead secessionist, your friend took careful aim at the waist belt of one of the troopers and pulled the trigger, and it is a matter of firm belief with the undersigned that the said trooper will ever make another charge. (The rifle was covered with secession blood when I took it, but I have had it carefully cleaned and will send it to you as a souvenir. I took it from a dead Georgian. His revolver I have also, which I retain for future operations.) After our run from the cavalry we cleared a high fence and came upon an open field. We saw the Zouaves running a mile ahead of us, pursued in some cases by the horsemen. I first saw Col. Terry with the Connecticut Second emerging from the woods, and joined him with a number of our men, and shortly our men headed by our Lieut. Col. came out with both colors flying (state and national.) which were received with cheers. The 1st Conn. came out headed by Col. Burnham, and we formed in three lines of battle and marched in good order to Centreville.

The road to Centreville was a scene of the wildest confusion and disorder. Baggage and ammunition wagons loaded, were thrown over the embankments; ambulances filled with wounded soldiers were pushed aside, heavy pieces of artillery were lying by the road, the gunners having cut loose the horses and ridden them away, and the ground was covered with muskets, knapsacks, haversacks, blankets, canteens, &c. The rout was complete, and all discipline was lost. Every impediment to flight was cast aside, and it was every man for himself.

Our brigade attempted to rally at Centreville protected by the skirmishers of Col. Mile’s division (who although armed with Enfield rifles had acted as a reserve all day, while those in the hottest of the fight had nothing but smooth bore muskets,) but our General was missing, and we had no other alternative but to continue our retreat. When we arrived at Fairfax Court House our body of fugitives numbered about three thousand and was constantly increasing. We took a different route and I arrived at camp between two and three o’clock a. m. Provisions were immediately cooked for our famished men, who after being somewhat refreshed were ordered to march to the city the same day in the midst of a pouring rain.

We are now located in a camp at 7th st, about two miles from Pennsylvania Avenue, and the 2nd and 3d Connecticut regiments are within a stones throw of us. There are some twenty thousand troops in camp here, within two miles of us. I see Capt. Chapman daily, he is well and his company also.

We find in footing up our losses (2nd reg.) that we have 23 killed, 25 wounded and 17 prisoners, and about 100 missing – among the killed are our Surgeon and 2 first lieutenants, our two assistant Surgeons are prisoners. The soldiers bestow great blame on General Tyler, who may be brave but certainly lacks judgement and places little value on the lives of his command. A captain of the 2nd informs me that in the retreat the General threw away his sword – travelled off as fast as his horse could carry him. Certain it is, (for I saw it myself,) the cavalry and artillery of the regular U. S. Army was the first and foremost in the retreat. Gen. Miles commanding the reserve is said to have been beastly drunk all day. He is under arrest. This battle learned us all a lesson – that we have underrated the means and spirit of the south; that we went into battle without the precautions for a safe retreat if repulsed, which is quite as likely to be necessary as preparations for advancing; also the bad policy of sending half starved and exhausted soldiers into a battle under leaders in whom they have no confidence. I deeply regret that the most unpopular general officer in this locality is from Connecticut, and bitter threats are made against him for the failure of the battle on the 21st.

But I see I have spun this out to an unendurable length and it will tire you to read it. The story could be condensed in a few words, ”We went, we saw, and we were badly beaten.”

Pequot.

New London (CT) Weekly Chronicle, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

82nd New York Infantry Roster (the 2nd NYSM became the 82nd NYVI)





Sgt. James A. Ward, Co. E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle and Company Casualties

27 06 2020

Letter from Sergeant Ward.

Providence, July 27, 1861.

Mr. Webster – I am requested to send you a piece of the secession flag which was captured by our troops at Fairfax Court House. Also, the following extracts from a letter received last evening.

C. A. W.

Camp Clarke, Washington,
July 24, 1861.

I write to inform you that I am in the best of health. I will endeavor to give you a slight history of our march from the time we left Fairfax until our return to this place, which, I assure you, no one in the regiment regretted.

We left Fairfax at about 5 a. m., and marched about four miles, when we halted in a piece of woods, and stopped four or five hours. We again started and marched about 6 miles farther, where we encamped for the night, which made us, as near as I can find out, thirty-two miles from Washington. We stopped about two and a half nights, leaving Sunday at two o’clock a.m., and starting for Manassas Junction, marching in a round-about course, twenty or twenty-five miles, when we came upon the enemy at a place called Bull’s Run, some miles beyond Manassas from where we started. The reason we went beyond was, we expected they would be attacked in front, and in case they retreated, we were to cut them off. It was rather a bad “cut off” for us.

Company E was a flanking company, and we were extended out on one side of the road, to a distance of about half a mile in some places. We could not tell exactly, as we were in a dense piece of woods. As we emerged from it, we came into an open cornfield, in which were hidden about three hundred secessionists, who fired upon us as soon as they saw us. We were all alone, no other company being nearer than a quarter of a mile. Our company received the first fire, and returned it three times before we were reinforced. We have had the praise of doing bravely, and we think the Second Regiment ought to have the praise, as we did the most of the fighting.

As we were advancing at one time, with Col. Slocum at our head, he was struck with a piece of shell in the head, which was the cause of his death. How long he lived afterwards, I know not, but should not think more than twenty minutes. By losing Col. Slocum, we lost a great deal. – Some of us think that Gen. McDowell was but a tool in the hands of the enemy to lead us into a well set trap, to be cut all to pieces. He was seen to hold up his hand on the battle-field, and soon after was wounded and carried off the field. What is more singular, he was only wounded in the hand.

It was a sad sight to see men fall on every side, pierced with the fatal ball. One poor fellow I saw was shot under the right arm. There was a hole made large enough to put your finger in, and every time he tried to breath, as he was dying, the blood would ooze out. It was the only case that moved me. I felt as cool as though I were performing an every day duty.

Company E has lost four killed, certain, and two are missing, besides our Second Lieutenant, Isaac M. Church, who was either taken prisoner or killed. Among the killed is one corporal and three privates, and one corporal missing. They are Corporal Stephen Holland, Privates W. H. Nichols, J. C. Rodman, Henry L. Jaques, killed, and Corporal E. B. Smith, missing. The balls fell around us like a perfect shower of hail.

When we arrived back at Washington, we were the hardest looking lot of men you ever saw, having in our retreat, which was done in the greatest confusion, marched over forty miles without halting more than an hour or two, and had nothing to eat, being glad to get rid of our haversacks on the battle-field. I consider I am good for one more battle.

We have not done much duty for the last two days, and hope not to have any to do for several days more, as we are all tired out.

I send you a piece of the secession flag which was hauled down a Fairfax Court House by our troops. It consisted of three stripes and seven stars. I could only get one color.

Yours Truly,
James A. Ward.

Providence (RI) Evening Post, 7/29/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

2nd Rhode Island Infantry Roster

James A. Ward at Ancestry 

James A. Ward at Fold3 





“Georgie,” Co. I, 71st New York State Militia, On the Battle and Retreat

26 06 2020

Washington Navy Yard,
July 22, 1861.

Dear Father: – I telegraphed you yesterday that I was back safe and would write shortly. We had a pretty hard fight – carried most of their fortifications – when they were reinforced by twenty thousand of Johnson’s command, (which Gen. Patterson should have intercepted), and were compelled to retire before such an overwhelming force of fresh troops. – In Company I were lost but three men – one killed and two wounded. They must have been captured during our retreat, as we have heard nothing of them since they were sent to the Hospital. Capt. Ellis, of Co. F, (not our Captain,) was wounded by the explosion of a shell; his father, Dr. Ellis, of New York, is now on here attending to him and his other son who was also wounded. They were both carried off the field by their brother, the Colonel, from California, who came on here to lend a hand and see to his brothers. One was shot down along side of him, and the other he found wounded and senseless along the side of the road, and would have been crushed to death by the retreating teams had it not been for the timely assistance of his brother, who, being a remarkably stout and muscular man, carried him also to the place of safety, and they are now doing well under the medical prescription of their father, the Doctor. Our Captain got knocked down by a spent shot, but was not seriously injured. He is now attending to his brothers.

We have lost both our howitzers, but brought them six miles from the field of action, after the order for our retreat, and then the enemy threw a shell among us, upset the ammunition wagon, dismounted one of the howitzers, and we were compelled to abandon them. The fight commenced at 12 o’clock on Sunday, and lasted till four in the afternoon, when we were ordered to retire. We marched till 12 o’clock the next day with scarcely a halt till we got home, and I can tell you I was pretty well used up. – They say it is a distance of fifty-five miles, and I should say it was at least that, from the way I felt when we got back to our old quarters at the Navy Yard. It was the longest tramp I ever took, and I don’t care about taking such another, especially on a retreat. If it were in pursuit of the traitors, I think I could do it over again without even thinking of getting tired, and I am in hopes I shall yet have the opportunity of trying it.

Georgie*

Newburgh (NY) Daily News, 7/26/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* There were at least two men named George in Co. I: Pvt. George Moore, Pvt. George Sterling





Pvt. Samuel Bond, Co. I, 71st New York State Militia, Last Letter

25 06 2020

The Last Letter of Samuel Bond
—————

The following is the last letter written by young Bond, who was killed at the battle of Bull’s Run. It will be read with interest:

Dear Sir: – Your kind letter came duly to hand. As to my desiring another specimen, if it is not repeated I shall feel very much disappointed. To receive a letter from a friend, especially one that is in every way worthy of our friendship, serves in a great measure to lighten our spirits and to inspire us with greater vigor to press on in a cause that is sanctioned by good and true men, and I trust by a God that is the God of Battle as well as of peace. * * * By the time you receive this, perhaps I shall be on my way to Richmond or Manassas Gap. We go to-morrow. I suppose we will act as skirmishers. We will act our part bravely, and try and bring no disgrace to Newburgh. Give my love to all, and keep a share yourself.

From your friend,
Samuel Bond
Co. I, 71st Regt. N. Y. S. M.

Capt. S. T. Harvey

Newburgh (NY) Daily News, 7/26/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Samuel Bond at Ancestry 

Samuel Bond at Fold3 

Samuel Bond at FindAGrave