S. A., Personal Secretary to Secretary of the Senate, On Washington After the Battle

21 01 2018

Very Interesting Letters from Washington — Description of the Scene after the Battle of Bull Run.

———-

[We have been favored with the following copy of a highly interesting and descriptive letter from the private Secretary of Col. Forney, Secretary of the Senate, relative to the scenes which occurred at Washington during and after the battle at Bull Run. The letter was addressed to a personal friend of the writer, in a neighboring town, who has kindly placed it at our service. It will be read with deep interest. – Editor Am]

“Do you see, dear friend, where I am? Bodily here in my room, writing, near midnight, at the same little table. Mentally, trying to keep abreast of the grandest movement the world ever saw. The moral progress the Nation has made in the last six months is amazing.

Day before yesterday the Senate passed a bill setting free all slaves whom the rebels may use in any way for the furtherance of the war. On the 1st of January last the man would have been deemed crazy who should have said the Senate would pass such a bill in six years, even.

God is working in ways we never have dreamed of. I find no time here to read much but the papers – the new Atlantic is just out, and I must manage to edge that in somehow. My duty at the Senate commences at 9 o’clock and ends at 4. My dinner hour is 4 ½ — my breakfast hour is 8. I have but two meals daily.

What shall I tell you about the sad disaster of Sunday. You will get a history of it from the papers. The movement was unquestionably made before Gen. Scott was fully ready. Why, is one of the questions no one can answer. The day was also unquestionably ours up to about 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Our force in the battle was not over 25,000 men; yet though the rebels had the advantage of nearly double our number of men, added to that of an entrenched and strongly fortified position, we drove them from the field and won the day. Just in the moment of victory that strange panic sprung up and we lost all. It was utterly causeless –- no one can account for it. Our loss of artillery is not over twenty pieces. We saved nearly all of our army wagons and baggage. We threw away considerable ammunition, and some guns. Our loss of life is as yet impossible to tell. Each day reduces the general supposition, for men are constantly coming in. Tonight some 2,000 are unaccounted for and set down as killed, wounded and missing. I think 500 of them will yet report at camp – thus putting our killed and wounded at only 1500. I shall not be surprised if it is finally reduced to 1200. So far as we can judge, the loss of the enemy is at least double ours. We took 25 or 30 prisoners who have been brought here, and I judge the enemy did not get many of our men. Better than ours no men ever did on the field of battle.

Wednesday morning. Of course Sunday was a sad day here. Probably 200 people went out to the battle ground. I wanted very much to go, but my room-mate was sick and I did not try to get away. Sunday afternoon I went to service in the House by the chaplain of the Senate. At 6 in the evening I went to vespers in the Catholic Church. By 9 in the evening couriers began to arrive from the field of battle – and they kept coming in every half hour till after midnight. The general tone of the report was good – “severe fighting, but our men were gradually driving the rebels from the field.” Soon after midnight came in a rider who left a 5 o’clock. He brought report that “the day was ours – the firing had about ceased – the enemy was driven back some three miles.” You may be sure there was excitement. I us up town so cannot speak more in detail. Then everybody, generally, went home to sleep and pleasant dreams. The news of the disaster did not reach here till 2 o’clock. It was too awful, and no one placed the least credence, in the report. Half an hour more, and more messengers came in. Soon the panic stricken civilians and officers began to arrive. A newspaper reported tore up the avenue for the telegraph office – his horse badly wounded and gory with blood. Then soon came another who reported having a man shot from behind him on his own horse. The few people about the hotels were thunder-struck. At a quarter before 3 somebody called beneath my window. I recognized the voice as that of Col. Forney, Secretary of the Senate. Getting out of bed I went to the window when he struck me dumb with these words: “I am just in from Bull Run. We have been defeated. Our army is all retreating. We have lost nearly everything. Our killed and wounded are counted by the thousand. Some apprehensions are felt at the War Department that the city may be stormed before morning. Our men fought nobly, but it was of no use. They are awfully cut up. Col. Cameron is killed. Col. Burnside is wounded. Col. Hunter, is also wounded – his lower jaw is shot away – I have just left him. Our army is all in retreat in the most disordered manner.” Three hours before, I went to sleep with news of victory. What a tale to tell a man just roused from sound sleep! There was Col. Young, who rooms next door – it was his voice, and it was him. He was not wild or incoherent – he spoke calmly, but could it be true? Was I awake? O God, was it not all a fantasy of the brain! Before I could collect my senses – Col. Forney had passed into his room. There I stood with head stretched out the window. I remember looking to see if there was not a glare in the sky – it might be the enemy’s guns were already at work. By this time we were all awake – my room-mate and the gentlemen in the other rooms. The family were also astir. I could not speak – I lay down. But spoke my chum, “Sid, are we awake?” Surely, it was terrible. Presently he said, “It is awful!” repeating the three words every moment or two for sometime. First I thought of the ten-thousand homes in which there would be mourning on the morrow for the chosen one of the household. The great wail of wo swept over me like a thick tempest. Then came the full voice crying, “Vengeance!” and my thoughts sprung to the long line of a hundred thousand new men ready to die for Liberty and Law. But before one of them could get here the cannon would probably be upon us. Thousands of men must arm here to defend the city, to fight to the death if need be.

Was I ready? I am sure I did not hesitate an instant. I only considered, am I ready? Have I my business matters in such condition that a stranger could settle them? Is there any wrong I ought to repair before I go to another world – any farewell I must say? There were farewells to say, but I could say them in the moment of starting for the trenches. I lay and though. I did not see anything that required attention. I am sure I thanked God then that the hour had come when I was really wanted in the world – all these years of my life seemed to have been nurturing me just to carry a gun and use it nobly in the trenches and die for Humanity. Not doubting the full truth of all Col. Forney had said, in an hour I had given myself away. You had not friend – my mother had no son – my sister had no brother. My use and my life were passed over to the great cause, and I had no more concern for myself. God would deal with me as he pleased – in the end all would be well. I hope I may be as true when the real emergency does come, as I was that morning lying upon my bed. Resolving to get up and go down town as soon as I could well see, I turned over and went into a doze. I woke up to find myself saying aloud: I have fought the good fight, I kept the faith.” It was a quarter of 6 when I started up the street – just commencing to rain. Early as it was, the avenue was full of people – as many on the sidewalk as there usually are at 10 in the afternoon. By this time a few of the runaway soldiers were arriving. Each soiled, begrimed, red eyed man was instantly surrounded and made to tell his story. In the length of a square there were often a dozen of these grouped around some here. I didn’t care to hear details – the grand fact of a terrible defeat and of a probable attack upon the city was all I cared for. Having settled the case in my mind I was curious to see how the people felt. I stirred my blood strangely to hear a calm-faced man say, after hearing the story, “I have a wife and four little children – I am going home to put my house in order – I will be back in two hours – put my name down if men are wanted.” There was a hero, though fame may never catch his name. Scores of men would not believe the report of defeat – “it was impossible; these soldiers were deserters, cowards who deserved to be shot.” Here and there traitors appeared – their chuckle marked them. The stern faces of the loyal men promised harsh use of any man who spoke treason. One great man swore out roundly he was glad the government army was routed. In an instant a slight built private of the Massachusetts Sixth, stepped in front of him, and he lay sprawling on the sidewalk. It was done so quick I could hardly see it, but I know the blow was a neat one. The traitor got up and slunk away – the crowd clapped the soldier on the back and said, “Bully!” Good for you.”

At the hotel, men were getting up who had heard nothing of the disaster. First came into their faces a look of incredulous amazement – then every man’s face took on that look of stern determination to never yield. In some faces I saw as plainly as if the house-door had been open before me, all the home circle – wife and children, high hopes, desires, plans, promise of future years, and coming pride and joy. There was a look backward toward these, as it were, but in every eye was that calm decision which boded no good for an enemy who dare attack the city. On old man who appeared to be over sixty, heard the tale and said: “I have two sons in the Rhode Island First, I suppose they are both dead – I know what they were made of – I’m stout enough to handle a gun yet.” A few cowards there were – men ho had urgent business in Ohio or New York or somewhere else. Loyal men would not stay to hear their excuses. Every man was restless; there was not much talking. “Did you know Jim Harris?” said a man to one of the Michigan First. “Yes,” was the answer, he was shot dead.” Not a muscle quivered – “Where?” “In Front.” “That’s right, he was my son.” Before such heroism how mean I felt! I was ashamed of myself. I ought to have been in the field – my body might have stopped the ball which killed the son of such a father.

I am sure I came home to breakfast a better man than I was when I went away.

After breakfast we all went up street. It was the same scene. Every where knots of men around soldiers – the dreary rain pouring down – here a man standing out alone and solemnly and reverently calling God’s vengeance on the rebel fiends who came on the battle field, and bayonetted our wounded – there soldier friends rushing together, each having supposed the other dead – now a choleric old man swearing at himself for being so stiff with rheumatism that he could not march in a rank – elsewhere middle aged men shaking hands with each other, and saying almost gladly, “Now our time has come!” A beardless boy exclaiming, “I shall take Jack’s place in the 71st,” – an old man of seventy chiding one a few years younger for yielding to the fear of panic on the battle field – a coal-black negro touching his hat to me and asking, “Please, mass’sr, d’ye think we darkies can have a chance to fight dis yer day?” = one man swearing at the Tribune for urging on a battle before we were ready – another swearing at Patterson for letting Johnson escape him in the Harper’s Ferry neighborhood – the faint chuckle of some traitor – the faint chuckle of some traitor – the quick word “You are not wanted here, go away or you’ll get hurt” – in nearly every eye that strange light that never before was, which spoke in the same instant of home and friends, and consecration to the Stars and Stripes to the death. At ten I was at my post in the Senate. We could not work – we did only so much as we must. The wildest rumors were running about till near the middle of the afternoon. Every man kept an eye on Arlington Heights across the river if so be he might see the smoke of battle – crowds of soldiers poured into the city – reports of dead and wounded grew upon us – all waited in uneasy expectancy for the roar of cannon. The House was cast down and dispirited – the rain poured down faster and faster – everywhere except in the Senate was gloom – Trumbull of Illinois, Wilson of Massachusetts, Ten Eyck of New Jersey, each spoke a few nervous words in favor of the bill before mentioned, in relation to slaves – Charles Sumner’s responsive “aye!” when his name was called had the ring of an organ in it –old Ben Wade’s answer was as sharp as a sword – and when the vote was announced – “32 for, to 6 against” – the heats of the people in the galleries began to rise. Directly the bugle was heard and past the Capitol wound Sherman’s battery, which everybody supposed lost, only four men missing, and not a gun harmed. Bless me! How the people rushed out in the rain, swinging their hats and cheered! From that time things began to improve. Fact began to take the place of wild rumor – we began to comprehend and understand the great disaster. So the day wore away – rain and darkness everywhere, no booming of cannon, supposed dead men reporting themselves alive, fragments of regiments clustered in all parts of the city, everybody going to look after friends, private houses on every street opening to receive weary and hungry soldiers, stranger men giving soiled privates half dollars with which to get warm dinners. Five o’clock came and we went up town again. Straight to the quarters of the Michigan 2d, and found my friend Lester unhurt. My college mate, his is now assistant surgeon.

It was a long time before I could find a man of Company “F.” of the Minnesota First; there were not many of them left. At length, “Do you know anything of your First Lieutenant?” Dead.” That was all, then; so went down a rare nature, generous, chivalric, earnest. I saw him here and shook a “good bye” with him when the regiment crossed to Virginia, then days before the battle. His last words wot me were: “You now I’ve always been a Democrat, but I’m in for the war; I never can die in a better cause.” * *

War came home to me that evening as I moved about among the boys of Company “F.” I felt very much humiliated – they all seemed brothers to me, whom I had in some way wronged. Ah me that I could have given them twenty dollars instead of five so that they might all have put away their poor army ration, and had such a good warm meal!

* * * S.A.

Chenango American, 8/22/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

John W. Forney bio

More information on the identity of S. A. will update this post as it becomes available





Pvt. James A. Coburn, Co. K, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle, Wounding, and Imprisonment

17 01 2018

Letter from a Volunteer, Prisoner at Richmond.

Richmond, Aug. 4th, ’61.

My Dear Wife: — It has been some time now since I have had an opportunity of letting you know where I am. We left camp at Shuter’s Hill July 16th; marched to Fairfax Station; stopped there one night; next, we marched to Centreville, where we stayed two days. On the morning of the 21st we were turned out at one o’clock, but did not march until sunrise, when we were told we were to storm a battery that day. — We took up our line of march, and soon heard the booming of cannon. — Our destination proved to be Bull Run, where we arrived about one o’clock; when we commenced fighting, after a quick march, and also some double quick. I was somewhat fatigued, but went into it as hard as I was able. I was in the hottest of it for about an hour. The bullets flew like hail. Men fell on every side, some within an arm’s length. Suddenly our men began to retreat. When nearly alone I gave them a farewell shot (the Confederates), and turned to run. Had gone about 10 rods when I was struck by a rifle ball in my right hip. I fell, but crawled a few rods to a hole in some bushes. By the help of some of our men, I took off my shirt, and with that and a handkerchief I succeeded in stopping the blood. They there left me, and I lay down again in the hole. I was then between the two fires for about an hour. Our men then retreated out of hearing, and I was told they had gone back to Centreville, leaving us to our fate. The Southerners soon came up, and instead of abusing me, gave me a blanket, water and some buiscet, which I needed very much. I crawled about 20 rods that night and lay down, suffering much pain from the ball, which was still in. The next morning I could walk a little; went about 100 rods and lay down. The sight was horrible – men dead and dying on every side.

I was picked up about four o’clock Monday evening by the Southerners, and taken to Manassas Junction; stayed there two days – here the ball was taken out of my hip – thence by railroad to this place. We have been treated very kindly by the Southern people. I cannot say too much in their praise; especially the Sisters of Charity, who compose a part of our nurses.

My wound is doing very well. I hope in a couple of weeks to be pretty well. I can walk some now, and dress my wound. I hope that we will be exchanged when we are well. I think my fighting is done for the war. Even if I get well, I shall be so crippled as to be unfit for service; therefore I hope to get a discharge.

This letter must answer for you all at present. I don’t know when I can send you another. You cannot write to me. I hope to enjoy home again. I have been spared thus far by the hand of Providence alone, and I trust in Him who ruleth all things for my restoration to you.

From your affectionate husband,

JAMES A. COBURN

Elizabethtown (NY) Post, 8/29/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

James A. Coburn at Ancestry

James A. Coburn at Fold3

38th NYSV roster





“4th”, 4th Maine Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat, With Regimental Casualties

16 01 2018

Military Correspondence.
———-

Camp Knox, Clermont, Fairfax Co.
Va., July 20, 1861.

Some one has denominated this “Happy Valley.” This was before we went to Bull’s Run – before we had sore feet – before we lost our baggage – before we were beaten – before we returned – before we had seen service. It was when we were “on our way to Richmond” – big with fight – hadn’t seen a rebel.

We are about twenty-six miles farther from “Dixie” than when at Bull Run,” i.e. nearer the undiscovered northwest passage. But we are here on the old spot again. Here we have collected the fragments of our regiment – have had the roll; and as the silent echo of some oft repeated name dies away in the deep shadows of the overhanging, forest, there often comes a long pause, which is followed by no response – “present.” Then the soldiers stand closer together – utter nothing – only look away vacantly, at the creeping shadows of the coming evening, seemingly straining the vision after some object which the imagination is pointing at. Others, with blistered feet – bruised, ragged – with no blanket or coat, too weary and worn to be curious about the living or lament the dead, are stretched upon the open field, in sweet repose, dreaming a happy hour away. In his dream the weary soldier continues the march till he arrives at home – till his lips move to give utterance to his thankfulness, or receive and give back the welcome salutation, — when he is aroused to answer his name, and finds, alas, that he is living and only dreaming.

This is not fancy. There are few instances of severer efforts than that of Sunday. For five days previous we had been almost constantly on the move — with little or nothing to eat save what we took from the enemy; sleeping in the open air, without tents, in sunshine and storm. From some cause our baggage train was always too far in the rear to bring up our rations, till the day of battle, when with the same excellent management and skill which had hitherto marked its movements, it did not stop till it found itself in the hands of the enemy.

You have had so many accounts of the battle that you will not expect it from me. Those eye witnesses who tan away at the commencement, have given a glowing account, picked up from straggling soldiers, all of whom were the heroes of the fight.

Up to Sunday morning (July 21,) our whole force was encamped in and about Centreville. Bull’s Run is a range of hills about ten miles in length, (some miles this side of Manassas Gap,) running southeast and northwest. The southeast point, or the right of the enemy’s lines is about three miles from Centreville. The northwest, or left wing of the enemy’s line, is about nine miles from the place above named. We were ordered forward at two o’clock Sunday morning. Gen. Tyler, (he who blundered into an attack without orders, on Friday,) went to the right to make a feint, while the main column under Gen. McDowell, went around to their left in order to turn them. This we reached by a newly cut road through a forest, and commenced the attack about 8 o’clock in the forenoon. Our brigade was held in reserve. After the enemy had been driven from one position to take up another on the brow of a hill, in a word, after the New York Zouaves had made an assault and were scattered in disorder, we were called upon. We went forward, under a perfect shower of shot and shell for more than a mile, over the dead and wounded, in double quick, till we reached a valley beyond. The enemy stood concealed by a thick wood. Here we formed our line. The 4th (our own 4th, we are proud of her,) together with the 2nd Vermont, were ordered forward to make the assault and support a battery on the hill above. When we arrived there our battery had been silenced, and we were received by the enemy from a concealed thicket with volley after volley of rifle, while on our right and left were batteries in position to rake our lines both ways. Nothing but their rapid, and consequently inaccurate firing saved us from being cut all up. We maintained out position in this situation, unsupported by a single battery, for more than three quarters of an hour, when we were ordered to retreat. The 4th was the last to leave the field, and acquitted itself, as I predicted it would, most nobly.

Many regiments…[significant missing text]…of our boys did nobly, whose names in due time, will come before the public.

I regret that Capt. Bean was wounded before we made our charge, by a spent cannon ball, which bruised his leg considerably. He is doing well. Lt. Burd was also slightly wounded in the head, and is taken prisoner. Lt. Clark of company G, was killed while retreating, and just before reaching Centreville. Sergeant Major S. H. Chapman was instantly killed by a rifle ball through the heart. He fell by my side, and I watched the death shadow as it passed over his face, driving the blush of life from his cheek, and mantling it with the hue of death. It was the work of a moment. He never spoke. He was a noble fellow, and popular with the regiment. E. O. Maddocks, of company I, was wounded in the leg and left on the field. We hope he was cared for. He was a brave fellow. R. H. Gray, also of company I, was wounded in the arm and side, and left within their lines. We hope he is safe. It was impossible to bring them off. These were all good men and true.

The following is a list of the killed, wounded and missing in the 4th regiment M. V. M., as correctly as I can obtain them:

KILLED.

Lieut. Clark, Co G.
Lt. Major S. H. Chapman, (Staff)

Co. A.

Privates Sanford Sylvester, Geo S Sylvester and Elisha W Ellis.

Co. B.

Privates Ashael Towne, W B Fletcher and C C Fernald.

Co. C.

Privates Chas Smart and Dennis Canning

Co. D.

Privates J E Sparkhawk, W B Foss, Joseph E Starbird and Thos Horne.

Co. E.

Privates E E Hall, F J Stetson and Enos Clark

Co. G.

Privates Jos Wright and Freeman Shaw

Co. H.

Privates G F Cunningham, Jos Trim, —- West, W Cooper, G W Anderson, Miles Jackson and H B Washburn.

Co. I.

Privates E O Maddox severely wounded and missing, R H Gray, do., [since escaped.]

WOUNDED.

Co. A.

Privates Wm Kenduck and —- Bullen.

Co. B.

Privates —- Titus, Chas Sawyer and —- Marshall.

Co. C.

Privates S P Vose, S Heath and S P Pease.

Co. D.

Privates J A Simmons and Jos Norton, Jr.

Co. E.

Privates E J Hilton and H A Calligan.

Co. F.

Capt. Bean, Lieut. Burd, H A Calligan and E J Barlow.

Co. G.

Privates Freeman Shaw, J. Clark, Lorenzo Brigdon, Edward Jones, Sewall Seavy and E. B. Carr.

Co. H.

Privates William Fointai, J L Young and D Clough.

Co. I.

Privates Frank Forbes, Roscoe Trivet, L Temple, Joan Malano, C C Grey, James Trimbell, F W Porter and J M Wiswell, (all slightly.)

Co. K.

Privates E Redman and —- Bisbee.

MISSING.

Patrick Black, —- Lamb, M G Gowen, W D Woodcock, Thos S Grey, C F Merrill, D J Melay, G W Chatton, C P Perry, L Richards, H B Story, H Haskell, A Robinson, F Hull, Geo Osgood, Wm Packard, Joseph Mahoney, R G Bickford, E H Rowell, H A Delano, S Marston, C R Brookings, S P Dickerson, J E Boynton, Freeman Shaw, Thomas Knights, Miles Jackson and H Washburn.

The above is a complete list of the killed, wounded and missing in our regiment. I have no need to write more. The result of the day you have read and had from a thousand sources. It was bad enough. Our loss would have been small in material, had not the panic seized our men. It was mainly got up by members of congress and senators, assisted by reporters for the press. We have suffered quite enough already from these gentlemen, and if we cannot put a stop to their further interference, we shall force them to stop at home. As soon as the battle grew thick, they began a retreat. This frightened the teamsters, and they cut loose from wagons, and soon the panic became general. On M. C. (Ely) was taken. If we could exchange the balance at Washington for the poor soldiers captured, I think it might be for the advantage of the country. Why do they not go home? I hope another expedition will not be started till they do, and leave Gen, Scott free to manage the campaign to his liking. If congress would adjourn and the N. Y. Tribune could be suppressed, we might go forward with some hope of success. Till then I will make no further prediction. A great feeling is arising against the present cabinet among the republicans, which may tend to a revolution in it.

It is unnecessary for me to say that McDowell blundered. This is the old story. If these blunders are to be often repeated we had better go home. Gen. McClellan is coming, and great confidence is reposed in him. We trust that matters will now take a turn.

4th.

Republican Journal (Belfast, ME), 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





“Soldier,” 16th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

15 01 2018

Private Letter from a Soldier at Bull’s Run.

[Through the politeness of a friend we are permitted to make the following extract from a letter written by a soldier who was engaged in the battle of Bull’s Run, to his friends in this county. It does not contain anything new; and is chiefly interesting as coming from one who participated in the fight and subsequent stampede. – [Editor Journal]

Head Quarters, 16th N.Y.R.

Near Alexandria, July 29, 61.

Our regiment, in connection with many others, started for Fairfax Court House, where the enemy were encamped in force. About two miles this side we had a smart skirmish with the enemy, who fell back before our advance. It was the first time for all of us, and I confess it sounded strangely to hear the whistle of bullets around our ears. However, none of us were killed, and for the night we camped on the ground which the 8th Alabama regiment left on our approach.

They left behind their whole camp equipage, their dinner cooking, fires burning, &c. We took possession without asking leave. Thursday morning the whole force moved toward Centreville where we camped until the day of the fight. There I saw more of the pomp and circumstance of war than I ever expected to see. On every side the country swarmed with troops of artillery posted on every height, trains of baggage wagons filling every road, making the scene a most novel and interesting one.

You have doubtless read the published accounts of the battle. It was a foolhardy attempt to rout the enemy at great odds. At 2 ½ o’clock, A. M., we were roused for the march, and without breakfast, except such as could be eaten by the way, were led to attack the enemy in position who outnumbered us two to one – Everything was in their favor; complete knowledge of the ground, guns in position, fresh troops outnumbering ours, and sober generals. Against all of those our army had to contend. We did not begin our march until 6 A. M., when an advance on all sides was made. Our position was on the left wing, to repel any flank movement by the enemy. After marching about four miles we halted in front of a rebel battery where the fight of the 18th inst. Occurred. Our artillery opened on it, and we could see the shells burst in and over the entrenchment, but it failed to elicit any reply from the enemy. Two companies from our regiment were then detailed to go nearer as scouts, and force the enemy to discover themselves. The wood was so thick that we went within 100 yards before we were aware of their presence. A sharp skirmish then took place, men firing from behind trees and other shelter. One lieutenant in the other company was slightly wounded, while several of their men were seen to fall. Fearing an ambush, we now fell back and poured in a raking fire of artillery, which soon cleared that portion of the wood. A force of 3000 foot and 2000 horse were soon seen marching down on our left, and the brigade was ordered to the front to repel the attack. – They were in full view, and the most awful sight I ever witnessed was the effect of our artillery on their advancing column. Shells burst among them scattering in every direction, while grape shot mowed them with fearful rapidity.

I see in their account of the fight that the Tiger Rifles (the brigade attacking us) is reported as being cut up the worst of any one engaged, and for the reason that it was the only one that exposed itself – They fired on us very rapidly with rifles, killing one lieutenant and wounding a few privates, but doing us not material damage. At this time, the ammunition of our artillery gave out, and fearing the guns would be captured, they were taken off the field. Owing to confusion of orders, every regiment but ours left with them. The enemy, seeing their advantage, fired on us repeatedly, but injured no one. Orders now came for us to join the retreat, as the right wing was reported as wholly cut up.

On the heights of Centreville we camped until midnight, while the army was falling back on Fairfax, where being in the best condition we covered their retreat, which was soon turned into an utter rout. I have seen in no paper a description of it which answers to the reality. The road was literally strewn with every kind of munition of war and accoutrement of soldiers, which were thrown away or abandoned in the flight. Baggage wagons overturned and their contents tumbled out, horses shot to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy, or ridden off by their cowardly drivers. But the most painful sight was the men, In all stages of exhaustion, they blocked the way. Scores of them gave out and slept by the roadside. Worn out by the day’s exertions, the panic which spread among them was the only thing which kept all from falling, for the heat had been oppressive and the work arduous. It began to rain before we reached Fairfax, but so great was the exhaustion that, without any preparations for comfort, we slept where we halted. There was no order. Regiments were mixed up in almost inextricable confusion. It was one great train of fugitives from Centreville to Alexandria, and all for nothing, for the enemy was retreating as fast, though perhaps not as disastrously, in the other direction. The defeat is universally acknowledged to be owing to the inefficiency and drunkenness of our Generals. Two have already been removed, and more are trembling.

Soldier.

The People’s Journal [Greenwich, N. Y.] 8/8/1861

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Pvt. Henry Harrison Comer*, Co. A, 1st Ohio Infantry, On the Battle

11 01 2018

For the Lancaster Gazette

Our Army Correspondence.

Washington City, D.C.

July 24, 1861

Messrs. Editors: – Since writing to you last, stirring scenes and startling events have transpired. Leaving Camp Upton at 2 p.m. on Friday July 15, with bright hopes of a speedy reunion with friends and relatives, we joined regiment after regiment, brigade after brigade, division after division until the Grand Army of Occupation, filed in ranks of four numbering 50,000 men, were marching toward Manassas Junction, the bands playing national airs, banners floating in the breeze, voices singing Union anthems, and myriad bayonets gleaming in the sun. High and sanguine hopes were entertained that the horde of political blacklegs, bankrupt politicians, refugees from foreign climes and crimes, murderers, thieves pick pockets and assassins who composed the Southern rebel army would be most effectually wiped out and the Stars and Stripes float in glory and beauty o’er Vienna Station, Germantown, Fairfax Court House, Manassas Gap and Junction, and at last have a crowning glory by waving in majesty and beauty on the Capitol at Richmond. The station at Vienna was taken possession of, our national emblem placed on the track where one month before the 1st Ohio was fired into be a masked battery of the enemy. Germantown, Fairfax and Centreville fell before the stern front and steady march of the army of freedom, until we brought up at the northern fork of Bull’s Run, on July 20. Here a masked battery within an entrenchment was stormed, but with ill success, and both sides got off with considerable loss. Sunday morning dark and early, 2 o’clock, our column, under the command of Gen. McDowell, marched to the since scene of conflict; Schenk’s Brigade, composed of the 1st and 2d Ohio and the 2d New York, was given the post of honor and were thrown out as advance skirmishers in order to detect and draw forth the enemy’s fire of the masked batteries. The enemy lay strongly entrenched in unseen trenches, under cover of the woods and in the long grass. The 1st Ohio made the opening charge of musketry, the 2d New York followed at a double quick, which brought forth the enemy’s fire and regiment of riflemen who were finely repelled by the 2d Ohio. Our brigade loss was comparatively small, considering the dangerous position assigned us, and as you have heard by the newspapers, telegraphic reports and rumors probably more than iIi know of the details, I leave the matter to the official report of our very worthy and efficient Brigadier who has, after a considerable lapse of time, and by keeping us boys over their time, avenged the slaughter of Vienna and gained a reputation for Ohio!

The battle of Bloody Run will never be effaced from the O.V.M.’s memory; the mounds of dead and dying, the heroic charges, the rivers of blood, the death-groans of comrades, the ghastly visage, the faintly articulated cry for water, the booms bursting, the cannon’s flash, the impetuous rush, the Grecian stolidity, the Roman courage, the army of enthusiastic, impetuous, devoted and courageous soldiers who rushed into the jaws of death and charged into the cannon’s mouth, will live vividly in their memories long after the rebels who caused the disaster and death, have expired their crimes by an ignominious death on earth, and a torturing life among the spirits of the damned!

The precipitate retreat, the hurried flight from the field of action, was owing to a misconstrued order, and it is estimated that 15,000 U.S. Troops were in close proximity who were not in the engagement at all. Up to 3 P.M., the battle was ours, when Johnston’s rebel reinforcements turned the tide and compelled a retreat, which, although not compulsory, was a necessity. We were ordered to retreat which we lost time in doing! and starting at the double quick came, a distance of over 30 miles, our muskets, canteens, blankets, haversacks, cartridge boxes, etc., still a component of our baggage. At Fort Corcoran, Arlington Heights, we were kept in a drenching rain for six mortal hours, while regiment after regiment moved past us to shelter, food, and repose. We are now here in Washington City, barracked at Union Block, corner of 6th and Pennsylvania Avenue, while your correspondent has taken rooms at the Avenue House, doffed his soldier clothes, donned clean toggery, and imagines himself once more a icitizen!i

The order has been given to march to camp at 10 o’clock to-day, at the end of 7th st., to attend to roll call, see who are killed, wounded and missing, and to make arrangements for getting home as soon as troops now in waiting for orders are marched to this city to fill our places.

L.M. Dayton and Myron H. Gregory are here, together with Gen. W.T. Sherman of our city, who was commandant of a brigade. Company A has lost none of its members, with, possibly, the exception of William Swygert, who was substituted in place of Kitty Linn as a Pioneer. – He has not yet reported himself at headquarters.

Yours, as ever,

Harry Comer.

The Lancaster [OH] Gazette, 8/1/1861

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Contributed and transcribed by Dan Masters

* Records found for Henry Comer and Harry Comer in 1st Ohio. ID of Henry Harrison Comer is per contributor.

Harrison Comer is listed as a private in Co. A. in the Official Roster of Ohio Troops in the War of the Rebellion found at Ancestry.com

Harrison Comer at Ancestry.com

Harrison Comer at Fold3 





Pvt. Samuel S. Hersey, Jr., Co. K, 4th Maine Infantry, On the Battle

10 01 2018

Military Correspondence.

———-

[Letter from private Hersey, of Co. J*, to a friend, – interesting because the writer only tells what he saw.]

Bush Hill, Alexandria, July 27th, ‘61.

Dear Frank: Your letter came to hand day before yesterday at which time I was too much exhausted to reply. I will try now and give you an account of the battle, that is, what I saw of it. Our Brigade not arriving on the field until about three o’clock, I don’t of course know much about the first of it.

We were marched three or four days before hand to a field about one mile from Centreville, and there encamped. Saturday we were ordered to have three day’s rations in our haversacks, and be ready to march at 5 o’clock; this order was afterwards changed to 3 o’clock Sunday morning.

At 3, then, we formed in the road and took up the line of march. We were detained just this side of Centreville for two or three hours from some cause unknown to me, but at last we started at quick time and kept it up for about four miles. Then we were detained again waiting for the cavalry two or three hours more; all this time we could hear firing away off on our front and left. When the forward next began, the order came “Right shoulder shift arms” – “Double quick,” and the double quick was kept up until we reached the battle field; they would halt us a few seconds to breathe, and then came the dog trot again. When we got there the day was decided, but our officers were determined to have a hack at them. We marched up the road and formed the line at the foot of a long hill or ridge, and then went up the hill in line. When we reached the top our lines were broken by the retreat of our own cavalry, who went through us pell mell. One said, “For God’s sake don’t go up there for they have got a rifle battery posted so as to sweep the hill.” But we did go up, and from the top I got the first view I had of the enemy.

They were drawn up on our front and right in a body of woods; directly in front at about half a mile from us they had a battery of 6 pounders, while on the left of our front they had a large body of sharpshooters thrown out along a fence and lying behind it. Their fire was terrible, and for nearly an hour our Brigade alone and unsupported held them good play. Men fell at times like apples from a wind shaken tree.

Three times we were beaten back by the storm of iron and lead, and three times we charged back again. The general retreat began when we were beaten back the first time, but we did not notice that. In the last rally a little fellow in front of me was shot through the chest, another near me through the arm, still another in the hand; at the same volley a slug passed through my trowsers without touching me.

Our colors have five holes in them, and the standard bearer was shot through the hand. Our Brigade now joined in the retreat. I lingered behind, helping a wounded man, and that was the last I saw of the Brigade until the following Tuesday.

There never was anything so disorderly and disgraceful as our retreat. Had the enemy followed us with any force we should have been cut off. I came across half a dozen of our boys carrying our 5th sergeant, who was shot through the body, and stopped with them; we got him on a cavalry horse by the could not stand the rough motion, and at last we got him on a large white horse along with a fellow from Minn., who was shot through the neck. The enemy’s cavalry coming down the road we had to take to the woods.

At last our artillery formed at Centreville and drove them back. All our fellows kept dropping off, and at last I was left with the wounded man and a Minnesotian, who would not leave his chum. To make the story sort, I got him to the hospital – had the ball extracted, and the next day started from Centreville, and walked to Alexandria through the worst rain storm I have seen here yet, a distance of twenty miles.

That we were whipped, I do not wonder, for we had but 20 regiments in the fight, while detachments of men were coming to the enemies assistance about all the time; at any rate they numbered 90,000 men at the last action.

The Fire Zouaves fought like demons, I am told by witnesses. Once when the cavalry charged them they met them half way and drove them. They are splendid fellows, and fear is a word to them unknown. I tell you, Frank, there will be drafting in the State of Maine yet, and a good deal of it too. In my opinion this war will last a good while. The South is up as well as the North, and can make resistance, and will; our way will be contested inch by inch.

Yours truly,

Sam.

[Extracts from other letters of young Hersey, private in company J]

Aug 1. “I couldn’t help laughing at the lady’s account, who said our regiment were trampled to death. Never believe that kind of talk again. Cavalry are not half as dangerous as they look, and they can’t do a thing in the woods, or on broken ground, or where fences are plenty. A body of cavalry, [Black Horse Cavalry,] charged on the Ellsworth Zouaves. The Zouaves opened their ranks and ”took ‘em in.’ Some went out alive. There cannot be anything imagined half so full of fight as a Zouave. They charged again and again, and piled up the rebels in heaps.” “Our regiment [the 4th] has now got its battery of six rifled cannon, and any kind of horses, so that we can lick blazes out of the rebels the next time.” “All the Grays got safely back, save sergeant Walker, who is wounded and prisoner. I see the Journal has got it that Bill Gardner is wounded, but that is a mistake. He was not in the fight, but was in the hospital at Georgetown. He is doing well.” “The rebels take as good care of our wounded as of their own, and as they captured a lot of our surgeons, they have doctors enough.” “If ever the 4th is in action in another fight, don’t believe every clock and bull story, for they will exaggerate.” “I found that old deed, [which we spoke of last week,] in a chest among a lot of old papers, evidently the accumulation of a century. Some of the documents were on parchment. I took only an old book on Masonry and the deed. The house must have been owned by some rich old chap, by the look of things. It is on the same street with the Marshall House, where Ellsworth was killed.” “We are now in the best of quarters.’ “one of their rifle balls passed through my trowsers leg just below the knee, but did not touch the hide.”

Belfast (ME) Republican Journal, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*The 4th Maine, like all Union infantry regiments, had no Co. J. Records for Hersey were found in Co. K.

Samuel S. Hersey, Jr at Ancestry.com

Samuel S. Hersey, Jr. at Fold3

Samuel S. Hersey, Jr. at FindAGrave.com (likely) 





Capt. Silas M. Fuller, Co. K, 4th Maine Infantry, On the Battle

9 01 2018

Military Correspondence.

———-

[Extracts from a letter from Capt. S. M. Fuller]

Bush Hill, Va., July 29th, 1861.

Lieutenant Carter with some men have gone this afternoon to build a bridge, as we are to have artillery and cavalry attached to our brigade. It probably will be some time before we make another push for the enemy. I hope so at any rate; and also hope that the Tribune and other papers will let Gen. Scott have his way, and not try to crowd more the troops into war, until everything is prepared. The rebels are well fortified with masked entrenchments and forts.

At the battle we had, the rebels rushed on, with thirty thousand troops against our two thousand, and our troops on the retreat too, when our brigade arrived.

If they had followed us up they could have shot or taken us all, as our troops were thoroughly used up. A few minutes after we left the hill, there was a perfect line on it, who discharged their guns, but without much effect.

It is said the picket guard of the enemy are very near us now. One of my men says he was out about three miles, and saw four men; one of them beckoned to him; he proved to be an Alabama Lt. with whom he was acquainted when in California. He talked about an hour with him; then they ordered him to come as his prisoner. He went with them a few steps, until he saw four more on horses, and he also saw a good chance to run, which he did for the thick wood, they firing some thirty times at him, and chasing him with horses. He thinks that when he fired he wounded the Lieut. When he returned he had a ball through his canteen, and his fingers hurt a little.

We have some five or six regiments camped about us. The third Maine regt. buried a man to-day, who died of diphtheria.

Wm. Gardner is at Georgetown hospital yet; he is sick with a fever, but is getting better. I have about ten sick to-day, but none dangerously. They will probably be well in a day or two. The rest are well.

I have heard nothing of Walker. Mr. Bisbee was promoted to-day to Sergeant Major.

Belfast (ME) Republican Journal, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Silas M. Fuller resigned as Lieut. Col. of the regiment March 1, 1862.

Silas M. Fuller at Ancestry.com

Silas M. Fuller at Fold3

Silas Fuller at FindAGrave.com (likely)