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

10 08 2015

Winchester, Va., July 18, 1861.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Y.

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

Y.

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

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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

R. W. York at Ancestry.com 





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

29 07 2015

The Great Battle of Manassas.

A Graphic Account,

By One Who Participated.
————

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

Manassas Junction, July 22, 1861.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your son,

J. B. G.

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

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Contributed by Henry W. Persons & Rick Allen

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

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





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

23 07 2015

Letter from an Oglethorpe.

Stone Bridge, July 26th, 1861.

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

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

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

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

Yours, &c.,

E. S. L. *

Savannah Republican, 8/6/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*Likely E. Starke Law, per roster here

E. Starke Law at Ancestry.com 





Pvt. Lewis Herbert Metcalfe, Co. E, 11th New York Infantry, On the Battle

21 07 2015

“so Eager Were We All …”

The morning was beautiful. The day before had been so hot and sultry that the damp cool night air seemed quite a relief, and the full moon, beaming above, lighted up the valley in which we lay, and its rays glistened on the thousands of muskets which were stacked around.

I awoke shortly after twelve o’clock, my sleep having been disturbed by the voice of one of our sergeants who passed down the row of sleepers telling them that letters had arrived from home. The sight before me when I arose from the ground was one which, though often seen by a soldier, is always interesting. Twenty thousand men were gathered together in that valley covering the slope of the hills on both sides. In every camp large fires were burning, around which groups were sitting or standing reading newly received letters and papers or busily engaged in cooking food for the coming day.

We had bivouacked there two days and, having no tents, had managed to protect ourselves from the sun during the day by building bower houses of small trees which we cut in a neighboring wood, and which had served as a slight shelter against the rain which had fallen the night before.

Orders had been issued the evening previous for the army to march at two o’clock in the morning. Three days’ rations had been supplied; ammunition furnished; and all were prepared to start. Through all the camps everyone seemed stirring, though it wanted two hours of the time, so eager were we all to meet the foe. Many had not slept at all. Some had spent the night before the campfires writing to the loved ones at home, letters which for aught they knew might be the last. Others whom excitement forbade to sleep had spent the night in storytelling and suggesting plans of private action on the morrow.

As I wandered through the camp visiting several campfires, I found every man full of resolution. Once aroused I could not sleep again amid all the hum and bustle of the camp. So, taking my canteen, I started for a spring to fill it with water. I had to pass through several camps before reaching it, and found nearly everyone stirring. Here and there would be groups of privates surrounding some officer who was regaling them with latest news of which the very latest seemed to be that General Butler had captured Richmond and the Rebels had been surrounded by General Patterson. All that we had to do was to give Beauregard a thrashing in order to end all the troubles. Not a thought of defeat or reverse of any kind entered our minds. We had only to go forth to conquer.

Two o’clock came, but no movement was made. Our regiment was ordered to fall in by companies, and after a short time of waiting, the muskets were again stacked, and the soldiers dismissed for a while. Some of us set fire to the bower houses which, being dry, burnt with a brilliant light, and other regiments following our plan, in a very few moments the whole valley was almost one sheet of flame.

At daybreak we were ordered to fall in and marched a very short distance to the edge of the road, and after forming the regiment, we were allowed to rest on our arms. We rested there an hour or two. Some laid down and slept, and the sun was well up above the horizon before any movement took place around us. First, Ricketts’ Battery which lay across a little creek in front of us limbered up and started down the road. Then came the 1st Michigan Regiment who, in passing us, gave three cheers. “Fall in!” came the order to us, and instantly every man was in his place. After the Michigan regiment came the 2nd Scott Life Guard, 88th, New York, which also gave three cheers which we returned, and, on the order being given, we formed in marching order and started off behind them.

Our colonel had been suffering from fever for several days, and was not considered able to do any duty. To our great surprise, as we gained the top of the hill above our late camp, he came riding by us toward the head of the column cheered again and again by our regiment and others who lined the roadside in order to see us pass.

In a short time we passed through Centerville and turned to our left down a country road. On this road was stationed a number of regiments which were a portion of the reserve, and all of them, as we passed, cheered us and wished us success. On we marched, crossing Cub Run, and then a short distance beyond we turned abruptly to the right, passed through a small grove of trees, and emerged into a large open plain skirted by woods on nearly every side. Away ahead of us we could just see a regiment vanishing in the woods. “Forward double quick” came the order, and away we went. Now “double quick,” if properly performed, is a very pretty movement, and one not excessively tiresome to the soldier. I remember one day to have seen the Massachusetts’ 5th coming down Pennsylvania Avenue at double quick with the drums beating to keep the proper time, and it looked very well.

But with our regiment, it was another matter, and performed in a manner not set down in our tactics. Anyone who has seen a closely contested race between two fire engine companies down Grand Street can form a good idea of what double quick was with us. Soon the plain on each side of us was found strewn with blankets which had been thrown aside by flying soldiers, and some of us, thinking they belonged to the Rebels, set up a lively shout.

In a short time we gained the woods, and entered them by an old road which looked as though but little used, and which we afterward discovered had been widened and cleared in some portions to allow our artillery to pass on it. I cannot form any opinion of the distance through the woods or the length of time we were in them. Now and then we were halted for a very few minutes, and then away we went again at double quick. The day was very hot. Scarcely a breath of air was stirring, and the shade of the trees afforded but little relief.

As we advanced farther on we passed numbers from different regiments who had given out in the march and dropped by the side of the road to wait for the wagons to pick them up.

After a while we came to edge of the woods. For some little while back the booming of cannon had told us a battle was going on. Now that we had reached the edge of the woods, the sound came more clearly and we could hear the rattle of volley after volley of musketry. Passing up a steep hill, we left the woods and halted on the road. To the left of the road was a wheatfield, and, looking across the field a mile or two to the right, we could see the puffs of smoke rising, showing us where the fighting was going on.

Cheer after cheer rang out from our regiment at the prospect of at last finding the foe, and yet many among us were suffering from the intense heat and want of water, for nearly all the canteens were empty by this time.

Away again on the run. The dust under our feet was thrown into the air and filled our eyes and mouths, and the fierce July sun blazed remorselessly down upon us. But a short distance and we filed off the road on to an open plain, forming into companies, and halted. To the left stood a large old-fashioned mansion house, and around it were several horses tied, belonging to our army, and several ambulances were halted there in front of the house. To our right the land sloped steeply down to the creek, and at the bottom of the hill was a meadow which was occupied by several of our regiments who were getting water.

We paused but a moment, and at the order the column wheeled and marched down the hill, company front. To hear the shouts of the assembled soldiers below us as we moved slowly down toward them, and see the splendid manner in which the evolution was performed, one would think it was some gala day, and ours a Broadway parade instead of a battlefield, and a fiercely contested one at that. We halted a moment in the meadow. A squad was detailed from each company to fill our canteens with water from the creek. But before they returned, away we started again at double quick. Hot, tired, and thirsty, and Tantalus-like our chance for water seemed slipping from our grasp. But the squad detailed from our company came running up, and nearly all of us were furnished with a canteen of water.

Now it was double quick in earnest across the creek, up a hill, then another creek crossed by a bridge, by Sudley Church, and then wading through another creek till we halted for a moment and divested ourselves of blankets, overcoats and haversacks which we laid, each company by itself, in piles on the ground. After leaving our things, we started again, and soon came to a large open space, one just suited for a parade—and so we must have it. Break into platoons. Forward double quick. I guess it must have looked well, for a regiment just retiring from the field came around a piece of woods, and when they saw us, shouted, cheered, and threw their caps up. But we were tired and nearly worn out, as the pale faces and heavy short breaths of those around me indicated.

All the time the cannon were roaring out just ahead of us, and to our immediate left the crack of the muskets told us we were on the battlefield. A member of the New York 71st who was slowly walking to the rear met us. “For God’s sake, hurry up, boys,” he said. “We’re driving them, but they’re killing all our officers.”

A few moments more, and still at double quick we filed into marching order and entered the battlefield up a slope on the summit of which to our right was a large barn and several haystacks. We passed by Ricketts’ Battery which were in action a short distance down the slope of the hill to our left, and seemed to be engaging a Rebel battery which lay about a mile off a little to our rear and left. Several of the shells from it exploded in mid-air before reaching us, and a few balls passed over and through our regiment, but none were struck by them. Passing on by the barn we soon got out of range of them. We marched a little down the hill so as to be protected from the cannon, and formed in line of battle.

Behind us in the valley the 14th Brooklyn were drawn up in line and were resting. Oh, if we could but get some rest, just five minutes, to catch one good long breath,—one moment to get a sip of water from our canteens! No, not for us. Up rode an officer sword in hand ere we had hardly halted. “Colonel,” he shouted, “the General has decided to put you right into it. Let the colors advance ten paces. Detail two of your companies as a reserve. Dress on your colors.”

’Twas done. “Come on boys and show them what New York can do!” And with that the pet lambs were led to the slaughter. Ricketts’ Battery were ordered to limber up and follow us. The hill in front sloped down to a small creek along which ran a road, and just across the creek another hill rose, on the top of which was a small white house surrounded by an orchard and cornfield beyond which were dense woods. To our right a small spur of dwarf pines and bushes extended obliquely down the hill some little distance from the woods.

Down the hill we marched, over the fence into a road, across the creek, passing some skirmishers of the 14th, and then, climbing another fence, gained the foot of the hill on the other side. The regiment was thrown into a little confusion getting over the two fences, but soon resumed good order, and up the hill we pushed at double quick. Up, up, not a single enemy in sight, not a shot from his side. Up, up till we gained the top and then:

Crashing through the cornfield, singing and whistling around our ears, making the air blue and sulphurous with smoke, came a storm of bullets upon us from the woods in front. “Down, every one of you,” cried the Colonel. And we went down just in time to escape the second volley. No orders came all along the line. One and then another would jump up and fire and then lie down to reload. Some started toward the woods on their own account, crawling slowly along in hopes to get sight of the foe.

And still the volleys came thundering upon us from our unseen enemy.

Our right, among which was my company, were thrown into confusion by them, and [by] the number who broke ranks and advanced toward the enemy. Our gallant Captain who had been in front of us all this time commanded us to rise, sent the sergeants to bring the adventurers back into line, and ordered us to fall back down the hill to the valley. The men returned slowly, the company on our right returning with us, while the rest of the regiment held their ground and returned the fire of the Rebels.

As we fell back to the valley, being broken and separated, cavalry came riding down upon us. They were met by a volley from the regiment, and rode through us cutting right and left with their sabers but hitting no one. They passed to our rear, gained a small clump of bushes, partially rallied and commenced discharging their carbines at us. Without waiting for any orders, the two companies on the right rushed pell mell at them, running in their fury right up to the horses and bayoneting the riders when the bullet would happen to miss, and drove them flying from the field in as short a time as it takes me to tell it.

Having disposed of them, we soon got our companies rallied and ran up in good order and formed in line again with the regiment. We were in a bad position. The clump of trees extending down from the woods were directly in front of our portion of the regiment, and the fire of the Rebels who lay concealed among the bushes within thirty yards of us told with fearful effect on our men. We had just got into line with the regiment when a bullet whirred across my breast, passing through both shirts I had on, but not even grazing my body. Before I had recovered from the shock, a blow as though a club had hit me just above both ankles, told me that I was hit.

The regiment was still pressing forward, and not knowing how bad I was hit, I still kept on. I had taken three or four steps when my left leg crushed under my weight, and I fell to the ground. The regiment passed on a little from where I lay and left me alone. Knowing full well how necessary it was that the blood should be stopped, I took a handkerchief from my pocket and tied it tightly around my leg above the knee. Then, holding my gun in my hand, I crawled, or rather dragged myself, away from the enemy.

Several of my companions passed by me. One wished me to let him carry me back toward the ambulances, but he was stopped by the Colonel, who told him to attend to the fighting instead of the wounded.

I have no doubt but that much of the disorder into which our regiment was thrown was owing to the fact that those who were unhurt, instead of pressing on to the fight, would stop and carry their wounded friends out of the way. Thrown into all manner of danger as our firemen are, they soon learn to stand by each other in trouble, and the stern necessities of a battlefield even could not break them of it.

To the right of where we had been fighting, a road ran up the hill in the direction of the Rebels. It being but a few hundred feet off, and the balls coming very thick around me where I lay, I thought I would drag myself to it. So I started again still carrying my gun. Pausing to rest, it suddenly occurred to me that I was extremely foolish to be dragging my gun with me when I was disabled from rising. It was loaded, and raising it, I managed to get it to my shoulder and discharge it in the direction of the enemy. Then I reached for a small stone which lay near me, broke the nipple off the gun, and laid it down.

During the time while I was slowly gaining the roadside, our men were still fighting, but from the large number straggling around, and the number of wounded which were being brought by me, I could see that we would soon be driven from the hill. Ricketts’ Battery had come up behind us and got into position, but the heavy volleys had swept off nearly every horse, and it was impossible to move the guns away. For nearly two hours the strife was over those guns. We had been driven away from them, and they were in possession of the enemy when Captain Ricketts rode up to a large body of our regiment and exclaimed, “For God’s sake, boys, save my battery.”

Captain Ricketts had always been a favorite with our men, and enough of them rallied, and under the lead of their sergeants, charged on the Rebels and drove them back to the woods again. But we were too small in numbers to hold it. The brave artillery captain was badly wounded, and his battery, after being taken and retaken several times, was finally lost.

I at length reached the side of the road but found I was no better off. I lay there for a long time looking around till our own men had vanished from my sight. And then for the first time I saw our concealed foe. A company of them came slowly from the woods loading and firing with great rapidity. Their gray coats and slouch hats, seen under such circumstances, filled me with disgust which I have not yet overcome. The bullets rained all around me, striking near me in the ground and throwing the dirt over my clothes. They came so thick and struck so near me that, for a time, I thought they were firing at me. But only one ball struck that passed through my right leg.

Once again I saw a portion of our army. I was engaged in watching the motions of the Graycoats on the top of the hill when suddenly they disappeared toward the woods. Soon after there came by where I lay a party of three or four hundred of our army composed of all the regiments I had seen and of those I had not. They were not marching in regular order at all, each man alone loading and firing and pressing forward in the direction of where I was first shot. “We’re driving them! Come on, boys!” was their cry.

I hoped we were driving them, but I feared not, and my fears were too true. The soldiers pressed on, worked well up onto the field near the woods, when crack came another of those fierce volleys, and our soldiers returned down the hill, their numbers greatly reduced, and the ground around strewed still thicker with dead and wounded. The fight had been going on all this time in other parts of the field. Now for a time it ceased entirely around me, and everything was quiet.

I imagined the Rebels were changing their position, and it turned out so. They moved further to our right, and some pieces of artillery were brought and placed in position on the road near which I lay about two hundred feet above me. Just across the road from where I was, stood a large tree around the trunk of which several wounded men were lying. One man, a soldier of the 14th New York who was wounded, was standing by the tree. I had lain my head down on my arms and was resting quietly when I was startled by a fierce volley coming down the road, striking the tree and whistling through the branches. Next I heard a rush down the road and shouts of “Kill him, he’s a Fire Zouave, kill him!”

I lay perfectly still expecting every moment to be set upon by the Rebels when a voice as from one in authority spoke up, “Shame on you, men, would you hurt a wounded man?” Instantly the excitement ceased, and raising my head, I glanced across the road. Surrounding the wounded at the foot of the tree were quite a number of Rebel soldiers busily engaged in asking questions of the wounded. Among them was a gray-haired man who appeared to be their captain and whose voice at once denoted him to be the one who interfered on behalf of our soldiers.

Some of the Rebels were giving water to the wounded, and one young man among them, looking over toward me, caught sight of me and came to my side asking numerous questions as to where I was wounded, etc. I asked him for water, but he had none. Leaving me, he went to the captain and told him there were several wounded men lying there, some of whom wanted water. A canteen was found among them which was not empty, and it was brought to me and I drank. There was a large bush within a few feet of me, and some of them asked me if I did not wish to be moved out of the sun. I acquiesced in their proposal, and two or three of them lifted me very carefully from the ground and carried and laid me down in the shade of the bush.

Here, to my great surprise, were three of my own regiment, and two of them belonged to my company. One was slightly wounded, and had been surrounded by the enemy while taking care of the other, a member of 28 Engine who was mortally wounded. Poor fellow, he lay on the ground writhing in agony, now begging for water, now talking in broken sentences of companions who were far away.

Our captors had left us suddenly, and soon we heard them forming in the woods across the road, their right being supported by the artillery which was in the road above us. Their regiment extended away to the left through the woods and, at the edge near us, we could see the soldiers loading their pieces and preparing to meet the charge of our own men. I could not see our army, but the exclamations of the enemy told us a little of their movements. “There they come,” “What a splendid front!” “They look good” were some of the remarks made. One, apparently a boy, spoke: “I say, Captain, just give me twenty men, and I’ll go around here and scatter the hull on ’em.” The laugh with which his proposition was received showed it didn’t meet with much favor. I heard the Captain ask if their guns were all loaded, and then the order was given for them to lay down close.

All was still. One of my comrades muttered, “I wonder if our folks know where these fellows are hid?” Oh, what a moment of suspense! I could picture in my mind our brave fellows advancing steadily uphill toward the woods not knowing where they were to be met, but pressing steadily on in line of battle. I could imagine them drawing nearer and nearer the foe when from the center of the woods came a low sound which was caught up at each company and repeated again – “Fire!” And with a roar that shook the earth, the artillery above us and the infantry in the wood opened upon our advancing columns.

Scarcely had the Rebel volley died away when we heard a heavy volley from our side. Again was it returned from the foe, and the artillery kept sending their deadly messengers down the road. Cheer after cheer came from our soldiers as they poured their volleys into the trees. But it did not last long. After a short time, amid the noise of the cannon and musketry, one could hear the Rebels shout: “There they go, they’re breaking.” Several, with great enthusiasm, leaped from the ground and cheered for Jeff Davis, and the whole of them were filling the air with yells and hurrahs.

But the group near the bush were filled with different feelings. We looked at each other in sorrow. All our hearts seemed to tell us the day was lost.

The artillery had ceased firing. The soldiers had advanced from the woods, and everything was quiet again. I looked toward the poor fellow who was so badly wounded. He lay perfectly still. His head lay on the ground, and his face was covered with his right arm. I said to my friend, “Look at Tommy—he lies so still, he must be dead.” He walked up, raised the arm, and turned the body so as to get a view of the face. My thoughts were too true. Amid that crash of shot and shell, through the sulphurous smoke which filled the air around us his soul had answered to God.

The tide of battle had passed away from us entirely. Our army were slowly retreating, but the sound of cannon and small arms showed that the ground was still contested in the neighborhood of where we first entered the field. From where we lay we could see the open fields through which the last charge had been made, and saw several Southern regiments winding slowly out of the woods with their banners hanging lazily in their midst as they moved still more lazily in the direction of our army.

We were soon surrounded by numbers of Rebels all eager to ask questions, and also desirous of obtaining a Minie musket or rifle. One asked me for mine. I told him I had dropped it, and I watched him searching for it, and saw him pick it up. He went off with it, but I imagine he didn’t harm anyone with it that day. Our visitors were mostly of the [?] South Carolina and 4th Georgia regiments, although a great many other regiments were represented all of whom were desirous to see the Fire Zouaves.

From the remarks of those who came to see us, we knew that our army had been driven panic-stricken toward Washington, and as night drew near we all became anxious to know how we were to be cared for. Several Rebel officers had been around cheering us up, telling us they would take care of us as soon as ambulances could be obtained to take us off.

About half an hour after dark, someone about fifty feet down the road inquired if there were any Fire Zouaves in hearing. We answered, and soon our names were given to each other. There were two of our regiment badly wounded, lying together, and the inquiry came from them.

During the whole day I had suffered scarcely any from pain. The force of the ball which had broken my leg had so benumbed it that when I lay still I felt no inconvenience. I lay patiently waiting for some wagon to come along, but as one after another came near and then departed filled with wounded, I gave up all hope of being carried off that night, and lay down to sleep. There was an old overcoat beside me which I drew around me to keep the chill night air off. Amid the noise of the wagons, the shouts of the Negro drivers, the sighs and moans of the wounded and dying around me, I closed my eyes on this eventful Sabbath. The toil and excitement of the day at last asserted their power, and I fell into a sound sweet slumber. Sunday, the twenty-first of July, 1861, was left among the annals of the past.

Lewis Herbert Metcalfe at Ancestry.com.

Lewis Herbert Metcalfe bio sketch

Transcribed by reader David Ulf.

Also appeared in print in American Heritage Magazine, Vol. 16, Issue 4, 1965





A. R., CSA Citizen, On the Battle

9 07 2015

Interesting Letter.

We are indebted to the kind courtesy of Governor Letcher for the opportunity of laying the following before our readers. It is an aged gentleman’s account of that glorious victory which is still thrilling the hearts of the aged and the young, and which spreads noble joy over our whole Commonwealth, from the mansion of our Governor to the humblest cabin in the most lonely mountain gorge; and over the whole vast extent of our beloved Confederacy:

Fauquier County, Virginia,

Recotortown, July 25, 1861.

To his Excellency, John Letcher, Gov. of Va.,

Dear Sir – Being an eye-witness to the battle fought at the Stone Bridge, on Bull Run, on the 21st inst. and the battle fought on the same day on Bull Run at the old battle ground, believing it may be interesting to you to get a history of these battles who has known all the ground fought over for the last 50 years, this, together with a rough diagram of the fields of battle, I enclose to you.

The favorable position I occupied during the day with a spy glass, enabled me to see the beginning and end of that day’s fighting. The firing at the old battle ground commenced at 20 minutes after 7 o’clock. A brisk cannonading was kept up until the battle commenced at the Stone Bridge, which lasted until 5 o’clock in the evening, at which time I saw the enemy in full retreat at double-quick time, closely pursued by our forces, the artillery, and cavalry – the artillery pouring their deadly fires into the ranks a every favorable opportunity, and the cavalry charging upon them and mowing them down like a scythe in the grass. In this retreat the enemy for about 3 1/2 miles was miserably slaughtered. The object no doubt of the enemy in opening their batteries at the old battle ground, was to draw our forces to this point. Gen. Beauregard took but little notice of this firing, but in a few minutes after the first fire at this point our forces were in full march for the Stone Bridge. We had only a small force at the ford on Bull Run, where the first battle was fought, but they were well fortified, and these batteries, at the distance they were from our forces, did us no injury during the day. What was the number of their forces at this point, we were unable to judge, because they were concealed in a woods immediately in the rear of their batteries (See diagram.) [Diagram not included.] At about five o’clock, and about the time the enemy made their retreat at the Stone Bridge, a reinforcement of about 10,000 hove in sight, which had, as I understand, been stationed at the Union Mill, to prevent their crossing a ford on Bull Run, near this point. They were travelling in double-quick time, as I supposed; they were aiming to cut off the enemy’s retreat from the Stone Bridge to Centreville. They were too late to effect that object, but not too late to attack and defeat the enemy at the old battle ground. But little has been said of this battle, because of its small importance when compared with the battle at the Stone Bridge. The distance from Camp Pickens to the Stone Bridge is 5 miles. The main battle did not commence at the Stone Bridge, but at least two miles west of it. The enemy, in large force, had moved up Bull Run in the direction of Sudley, and near that point crossed over an marched towards Dogan’s. – The high ground and woods between the Stone Bridge and Dogan’s, concealed them from our view. Dogan’s is on a high ridge, which continues until you get near the Stone Bridge. Near Dogan’s is where the enemy rushed from the woods and made their attack on the left wing of our army in such force that I cannot compare them in numbers to any thing else that a pigeon roost in a forest, when the pigeons are either coming in or going out. Our left wing in numbers could not have numbered one to ten of the enemy. Here our brave heroes sustained their position for one hour, repulsing the enemy whenever they attempted to extend their line to flank them. At this point was our greatest loss. As soon as our reinforcements came to the relief of our noble band, we soon repulsed the enemy. – They soon rallied and a more dearly fire kept up than tongue can express or imagination conceive. The enemy took a firm stand, and well did they maintain it for two hours. At this warmly contested stand the firing of the small arms reminded me of a long train of cars passing speedily over a bridge. I could not conceive how a single man could escape the fire. The enemy could not stand it, and again we repulsed them; but they soon rallied and made a desperate effort. We then gave way, but soon rallied, and the fight seemed to be still more desperate than before, and each party seemed as though it was death or victory on both sides. This state of things continued for two hours or more. Then the enemy gave way. Again they soon rallied and came into the fight as they had before, determined to die or be victorious. They stood the deadly fire of our noble and heroic and brave boys, led on and cheered on by our noble and brave Beauregard and Johnson, who were seen during the day in the thickest of the fight. The Yankees stood this hot and incessant fire until five o’clock, when they took their final leave of us in double-quick time, closely pursued by our artillery and cavalry, for a distance of between three and a half or four miles, to Cub Run. At Cub Run there is a high bridge to cross, and here the cavalry made a desperate charge upon them, capturing the last piece of their cannon, fifty horses and forty wagons, with a number of other valuables. Besides the killing and taking of prisoners, we have taken in cannon in sixty-three pieces, in small arms an immense quantity. – The precise number will never be known, as the country people around in every direction have well supplied themselves with arms to defend their homes, which they were very deficient in before this battle, for arms for the home guard. Now it seems that God, in His kind providence, has provided us with all the material comforts and arms for our defence. – Yes, on the Sabbath of the 21st instant, we received a refreshing shower of blessing; yet it had some hail mixed with it, which cut down many noble sons of the South. In clothing, arm, ammunition and war materials, we are abundantly supplied for the present. I have now closed my observations on the occurrences of the 21st instant. That night we returned to our camp, our bosoms filled to overflowing with joy at the result of the day. We knew that night we had driven the Yankees to Centreville, yet we were restless that night to know what would be the action on to-morrow. On the next day, early in the morning, I found the whole army marching in the direction of Centreville. The army was headed by the cavalry, they followed by the artillery, then the volunteers. Before the last of the volunteers had left camp I saw t first of the volunteers that I had passed returning. All were anxious to know the cause of this move. I was then at the Quartermaster’s department. An officer rode up in great haste, and said they had received a dispatch at headquarters informing them that the Yankees had fled from Centreville, and they had crossed over to Washington. Then all our force, except the cavalry and artillery, were ordered back. – They passed on to Fairfax Court House.

It was, or ought to have been, very pleasing to all Southerners to witness the cheerfulness of the soldiers in their line of march on Monday Morning for Centreville. It was raining incessantly, as it had been all the morning; the road which they were travelling, was about shoe-deep in mud, yet they looked cheerful, and seemed anxious to pursue the enemy. I must mention, while the volunteers were passing, I discovered in the ranks my old and esteemed friend Philip Pitman[*], of Shenandoah, who has been a member of both branches of the Virginia Legislature, and is still a member. He is about 60 years of age; his head as white as snow. He seemed happy and contented, as if he was on a deer hunt, which sport he very much enjoys. If all the Southern boys were made of such material as Philip Pitman the Yankee boys would not stand up long before us.

A. R.

Richmond Enquirer, 8/5/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

*Philip Pitman was a member of Co. F, 10th VA Infantry. He would be discharged for old age and return to the Virginia Legislature. See here.





Capt. Hugh R. Miller, Co. G, 2nd Mississippi Infantry, On the Battle

8 07 2015

THE GREAT BATTLE OF MANASSAS.

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Report of Capt. Hugh R. Miller

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Hon. W. S. Bates:

It was due to the friends of the “Pontotoc minute men” that I should give them some account of the part performed by us on the 21st of July in the battle of Manassas; but this duty is now rendered doubly incumbent, by certain grossly erroneous statements recently published in the Examiner, purporting to give an account of our conduct on that memorable day. Justice to the men, as well as to the officers, demands that those statements shall be corrected.

We were led into battle by General Bee early in the morning. We went upon the field with 68 men, rank and file, with all the commissioned and non-commissioned officers at their posts – a larger number than any other company in the regiment turned out that day.

As we approached the enemy’s front, and neared the point where we were formed into line-of-battle Col. Falkner was detached with three companies, (not seven) to-wit; the Tishomingo Rifles, I-u-ka Rifles and Town Creek Rifles, about two hundred yards from the other seven companies of the regiment. The object was to endeavor to silence, or force back a battery of the enemy with these three companies, and succeeding or failing in this, that they should unite with the body of the regiment.

The other seven companies, including our own, were led up by Gen. Bee and formed on the side of a fence inclosing a corn field in our front, through which the enemy were advancing. – We were ordered by Gen. Bee, who posted us, to lie down behind the fence and to await the approach of the enemy – throwing down the fence so as not to obstruct our fire or advance, if it became advisable. The seven companies were thus posted – the 4th Alabama regiment being on our right, and about 300 yards in advance of our position, on the hill-side, and in the open cornfield. After we had formed thus behind the fence, the O’Conner Rifles, Captain Buchanan, who were on our left, were ordered forward by General Bee as skirmishers. They deployed in the open field in our front, abreast with the line of the 4th Alabama regiment, and became immediately engaged in a brisk fire with the enemy, which they [kept?] up, until compelled by overwhelming numbers, to rally upon the companies remaining at the fence, bringing one of their men badly wounded. They came down and formed on our right.

In the meantime an incessant fire had been kept up between the 4th Alabama and the enemy. From the time we had been posted at the fence, the enemy had been throwing shot and shell about 30 feet over our heads, cutting trees and limbs that fell amongst us. Having discovered the error in their aim, they gradually lowered the range of their guns until their shot and shell passed immediately over our heads and about us. At last a shell fell about 20 paces in front of the left of our company, scattering fragments and dust in every direction. At this moment all the companies of our regiment, posted at the fence, except the Pontotoc Minute Men and the Cherry Creek Rifles, (the O’Conner Rifles being still engaged in skirmishing in our front) sprang to their feet and retreated across the woods in our rear. Three men on the left of my company rose to their feet, supposing from the movement of the other companies that there was an order to retreat. None of them “fled” or moved a pace. Seeing the movement of the others I instantly sprang to my feet and said, “down men, stand to your posts, there is no order to retreat”. I was instantly obeyed and those who had risen to their feet, every men remaining at his post; although, by this time, the minie balls, as well as shot and shell, from the artillery, rained thick around us. No other officer of my company gave any command whatever – none was necessary. What Lieut. Fontaine may have done by “calls” and “signals” to those of other companies who “fled”, I know not – I heard nothing of it then, or since, until I saw the publication in the Examiner. It is due to the Cherry Creek Rifles to say that they did not partake of the panic, and did not leave their post, but the few of them who had arisen to their feet promptly assumed their original position, Capt Herring expressing his concurrence with me that there had been given no order to retreat.

It is proper to remark that this was the first occasion on which my men had been subjected to the fire of the enemy, and nothing occurred during that terrible day, that inspired me with such a high degree of confidence in their firmness and bravery, and in their readiness to obey my commands in the midst of peril, as the promptness with which they obeyed my orders and remained at their posts. They did not fly, or need to be rallied; but remained at their post with unblanched cheeks, until they were ordered to change position by the officer in command of them.

The 4th Alabama regiment, after withstanding a heavy fire for about half an hour, was compelled to file to the right to avoid being outflanked by vastly superior numbers, and retreated in good order far to our right, leaving only our three companies to face an advancing column of from three to five thousand men supported by artillery. As they advanced over the hill we fired a few rounds and retired though the wood in our rear. Here, as at all times during the day it was the constant aim and effort to Lieut. Palmer and myself, as previously agreed upon in conference, to keep our company together – compact. And in retiring across the wood, they did preserve good order – the O’Conner and Cherry Creek Rifles leaving us far in their rear. As we approached an open field in the rear of the wood, and after we were without the range of the enemy’s shot, I commanded “halt – about face – right dress,” all of which was promptly done; and to compose and reassure the men, as much as to secure good order when we advanced into the open field, I caused the company to tell off by twos. All this was done by my command, and not by the command of Lieut. Fontaine or any one else. It was not necessary for me to “come up;” I was all the time up, and immediately with the company, and so was my second in command, Lieut. Palmer.

We then filed by the right flank into the open field, passing down a hillside to a small creek, or “run” as they are called here, until we came up with the O’Conner and Cherry Creek Rifles. – We now discovered a large body of the enemy coming over the ridge in our rear and to the right of the line over which we had just passed. Our three companies immediately crossed the run and formed fronting the enemy. We could not retreat up the opposite hill-side without being under the fire of the enemy for several hundred yards. The enemy had fired a few shots at us, and had wounded one of Capt. Herring’s men. After a moments conference with Capts. Buchanan and Herring, we determined to form our men in the channel of the creek, and if forced to do so to retreat down the channel. The command was immediately given, and the men sprang into the water – the banks affording a fine breastwork and protection.

We opened fire upon the enemy within good musket range, and the dead bodies found upon the hillside afterwards, attest the effect of our shots. – The enemy were advancing in column of division, and immediately in the rear of the regiment nearest to us, another loomed up over the ridge with a flaunting flag of stars and stripes. – They were in full United States uniform, and there was no reason whatever, from their appearance and position, to doubt that they were the enemy; yet a silly clamor was raised by some as to whether they were friends or enemies. This was silenced by the command to form in this creek and to fire upon them.

To our surprise and gratification the regiment in advance, fell back under our fire up the hill out of the range of our guns, uniting with the regiment in their rear. This afforded us an opportunity to avoid being swallowed up by overwhelming numbers, and we retired across the ridge in our rear. Here we became separated from the O’Conner and the Cherry Creek Rifles, and did not see the latter company again during the day.

We retired across the ridge and through a skirt of woods to the [south?] side of the Warrenton road, where we met with Gen. Bee, who inquired of me for Col. Falkner; I replied that I had not seen, or been able to find him, or the regiment, since we were posted in the morning, and that I desired orders. Gen. Bee immediately led us forward near a house, known as Robinson’s – a free negro – and posted us on the hill-side on the right of a Virginia regiment, and passed on to the house on the top of the hill. In a few moments he returned and appealed to us and the regiment on our left, to move up to the house and aid in holding an important position that a few men had held for some time. We immediately sprang up, and so did the men of the regiment on our left, but their colonel springing to their front ordered them to remain where they were, that he (Gen. Bee) was not their commander. Gen Bee expressed his indignation at this, and turning to us said “come on Mississippians,” and led us up to the right of the house and formed us in the lane directly in front of the line of the enemy who were not yet within musket range. – The Cherry Creek Rifles were not with us at this time at all, as stated in the publication in the Examiner. Archibald Clark, II. McPherson and Mr. Gaillard of the Coonawah Rifles had come and joined us when the [company?] left the fence where we were posted in the morning, and were the only persons with us, not of our own company.

The infantry of the Hampton’s Legion were formed in the yard and about the house on our left. Gen. Bee succeeded in bringing up a few companies of a Virginia regiment who formed on our left in the lane. We had been posted here but a few minutes when we discovered a regiment of the enemy emerging from the woods upon an open ridge directly upon our right and within three hundred yards of us – my company being on our right flank and nearest to them. Their appearance and position at once demonstrated that they were of the enemy. Capt. Herring was not there to make any suggestion, nor did I think for a minute they were friends. The entire statement in the publication by Lieut. Fontaine on this part of the subject is a mass of error and confusion. If any signals were exchanged with the enemy here, I heard nothing and saw nothing of it. It was evident that they had come up to take us on the flank by a quick and unexpected attack. Col. Harper of the Va. regiment passed along the lane in our rear a short distance, and returning quickly, remarked to me as he passed, “they are certainly the enemy and will be upon us immediately.” His companies I discovered immediately withdrew along the lane to the left of the house and I saw no more of them.

I pause here for a moment to correct a few immaterial errors. I did not order the men here or elsewhere during the day, to “cease firing.” I was at no time bothered with doubts, which seemed to afflict others, as to the character of the troops around us. I did not fire my rifle here as stated. I did not have it with me at this time. I first fired at the fence where we were first posted in the morning, and when the enemy were at least five hundred yards from us. Before doing so, I cautioned the men not to fire because I did, as the enemy were entirely beyond the range of their guns. I then elevated the sight and took aim at a man on horseback whose head and body I could just see over the ridge – the enemy’s line being entirely out of view. I reloaded it, and again, when we formed in the channel of the creek, as before stated, I then fired at the enemy again, when on the reloading and attempting to cock it I found it out of the order so that I could not do so, and as we were led up to our position by Gen. Bee, in passing through the woods, I met a Georgia soldier, leading off another whom I took to be wounded, and asking him merely what troops and regiment he belonged to, I requested him to take my gun to his camp as it was an useless incumbrance to me, which he readily agreed to do. – I delivered it to him and that is the last of it.

To return to the narrative of events. We were left alone in the lane, our men had fired a few ineffectual shots at the column of the enemy in our front, just before we discovered the regiment flanking us on our right. In a very few moments after this regiment first made its appearance, it advance upon us at the double-quick, firing. I immediately ordered a retreat, without hearing any suggestion from any one – it was a necessity obvious to everyone. The greater portion of the company jumped over the fence in our rear, and forming the enclosure on that side of the lane, retiring diagonally from the front of the approaching regiment. Some few passed directly from the enemy down the lane into the yard. Of this last number was John M. Ward, who was last seen standing in a broken panel of the yard paling loading and firing. – Here he received his mortal wound. – My men continued to halt and fire as they retreated through the orchard down the hill. William E. Wiley received his mortal wound about thirty paces from the fence we had just crossed, and where he must have halted and have been firing at the enemy, as the shot entered his face and came out at the back part of his head. Both he and Ward were killed instantly. As we retreated down the hill, in the orchard, and about fifty yards from where Ward stood, Spotswood Dandridge had his thigh broken, and appealing to me as I passed him with the rear of the company, not the leave him, I turned and called to two or three men to assist John F. Wray who had already got to him, and they carried him from the field. In the mean time Archibald Clark of Capt. Taylor’s company, and Berry M. Ellzy of my company, were wounded – Clark mortally. The advance of the enemy was retarded and our escape secured by the firing of a portion of my men, which was kept up longer perhaps then was prudent or consistent with their safety. When my attention was called by Dandridge to himself, I saw Ward and hallooed to him to come on, but the distance and noise were so great that he could not have heard me. He was then alone, and no one of our company was near him when he fell. – Nearly the entire company passed through the orchard, and down the hill, having left the lane at the start, and did not form again until we had retreated about three hundred yards and without the range of the enemy’s guns. Here I halted the company and reformed it – the wounded being carried to the rear, except Ellzy who was wounded when none of his comrades were near him, and who was taken prisoner by the enemy, but afterwards abandoned by them from alarm, thereby affording him the means to escape.

We were again without orders and without a field officer to lead us, and moved across the field toward the left of our line of battle until we came upon a South Carolina regiment, with which, at the suggestion of Lieut. Palmer, I had determined to remain during the day. We had formed on their right but a short time when we discovered the O’Conner Rifles on another part of the same field, Lieut. Palmer and myself, after consultation, concluded that it was our duty to unite with them, and if possible find our own regiment. We accordingly drew off and joined the O’Conner’s, and with them moved up to a point near our left wing, and above and to the left of a portion of the 4th Alabama regiment which we found there without a field officer and in great confusion. Our men had just sat down for the first time during the day to rest, and some had started to a ravine nearby to get water, when Gen. Bee came dashing down the hill, exhibiting intense anxiety and addressing himself to us and the Alabamians on our right and below us, he said “men, there is a position here important to be held, move up quickly and support it.” Instantly our men were on their feet, and my company being on the left, and our route being to the left, I faced the company to the left and marched off by the left flank, the O’Conner’s who were on our right did the same and followed us, Gen. Bee leading us at a canter, whilst we moved at “double-quick.” It is proper to state here that Lieut. Leland had remained with us during the day until his strength was completely exhausted. He was so feeble from protracted illness that he scarcely ought to have gone upon the field at all. When we had halted to rest, as above stated, others said to me that they were broken down and unable to go further. Of this number was Wm. Barr who was quite feeble from a recent illness. As we moved up the hill, having near a half a mile to pass over, Mr. Barr gave out, not knowing where or how far we were called on to march, and turned to the left down a road leading towards Manassas, whilst our course was nearly in the opposite direction. Here, as he informs me, he was soon joined by Lieut. Fontaine and another, a private, of my company.

There was no other regiment, or considerable body of troops on our side anywhere to be seen on or near the field over which we passed. I had occasion to look back after we had advanced several hundred yards up the hill, and discovered that the Alabamians, although they appeared to be moving, were yet in confusion, and several hundred yards in our rear. The O’Conner’s were close up with us, and continued so until we approached the brow of the hill and formed into line – they forming on our right.

There was no regiment then on the field upon which we were formed, nor were we formed upon the flank of any regiment, as stated by Lieut. Fontaine. He did not reach that part of the field, and therefore knew nothing about it.

As we advanced toward the hillside and before we were nearer than four hundred yards of the enemy’s line, which was not yet visible from where we were, I discovered the last stragglers of a Virginia regiment, which had just been repulsed from this position, retreating across our front toward Manassas. It was the repulse of this regiment that caused Gen. Bee’s anxiety when he came for us.

Hitherto we had been led up to positions to await the approach of the enemy, now we had to advance upon the enemy, with the balls whistling around us like a hail storm. The Minute Men and the O’Conner’s moved steadily forward, loading and firing rapidly as they advanced, until we were within seventy-five yards of the enemy’s line. No other troops came up on the field, the Alabamians having fallen back, or turned towards Manassas. Just after we had formed into line and came within range of the enemy’s guns, Gen. Bee wheeled around our left flank, and to our rear, and in a few seconds received his death wound from a point of woods to our left, where some of the enemy had concealed themselves. A few minutes afterwards Lieut. Palmer received his death wound by a shot from the same quarter, and from the nature of the wounds of many of my men, they must have been shot from the same direction. – Our attention was directed exclusively to the front, and we apprehended no danger from this quarter. This party had pursued our retreating forces across the ridge, and had ensconsed themselves there after Gen. Bee had come down the ridge for us. The artillery on both sides had ceased to fire sometime before we were led up, and it was now a contest solely of the infantry in and about the silenced guns of Sherman’s and Rickett’s battery. We were led up immediately in front of the left gun of this battery. The enemy’s shot did not reach within three hundred yards of the road taken by Mr. Barr and others towards Manassas. Men never exhibited greater firmness and fearlessness, than did the Minute Men whilst under fire of the enemy. I had, I suppose, about fifty men at this time some had been wounded, some had gone to carry the wounded to places of safety and to attend to them, and a very few had become faint by the wayside. As it was, we had Lieut. Palmer killed here, and fourteen men wounded, including Mr. Gaillard, of Capt. Taylor’s company, who had fought with us all day. Andrew J. Clements here received a wound that has since proved mortal. In a little while the enemy began to retreat and the firing ceased, We had no numbers to justify pursuit –  the O’Conner’s had suffered severely –  and I called back my men who were most advanced, and as I turned back myself, I heard the voice of Charlie Earle calling me to the aid of Lieut. Palmer. I turned to him and discovered that he was badly wounded. Calling upon Manahan, Barksdale, E.L. Earle, Cooper and some others to assist me, we bore him slowly from the field. Our other wounded men were borne from the field by their comrades. The enemy had fled; – not another gun was fired, and we were last upon the field.

I have no space for eulogy; but a better man, a more skillful and faithful officer, or a braver soldier then Lieut. Palmer never drew a blade. Andrew J. Clements, William E Wiley, and Jno. M. Ward, had, by their uniform good conduct, in camp and upon the battlefield, commanded my highest approbation.

Josephus J. Pickens was temporarily separated from the company as formed into line in front of the enemy, by a gun of our artillery in retreat, running immediately across our rear. He diverged a little to our right, and took a position near an old apple or cherry tree where he had a fine chance at, and did good service upon the enemy, but unfortunately was too much exposed to another body of the enemy, and received a severe wound through both thighs. He fell where he was shot, and was unable to move – one thigh being badly broken. –  There I found him, and had him carried on a door-shutter to the place of rendezvous for the wounded. He is reported to be doing well, as all our wounded are – tho’ several of them, Pickens, Ellzy, Alexander, and McMicken, are badly wounded

Archibald Clark, who received his mortal wound whilst fighting with my company, was a brave and gallant soldier.

This much I have felt that justice of the company demanded of me. It is not intended as a full report of all that we did on that day. We were near the enemy’s front all day, and were repeatedly complimented by Gen. Bee for our firmness and bravery. He was the only field officer who witnessed our conduct, and unfortunately for us, and for the truth of the history, this gallant officer did not live to make a report. We achieved a great victory, and are content. If the part preformed by the Minute Men is not misrepresented, they are willing to wait and let their good deeds herald themselves.

HUGH R. MILLER

Capt. Pontotoc Minute Men.

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The facts as stated above are true as fat as they are within the recollection of the undersigned, and we were in the battle of the 21st July, the entire day.

Thomas J. Crawford, Jno. W. Dillard, Allen Moore, Wm. H. Toipp, W. E. Manahan, G. B. Mears, T. J. Rye, W. C. Nowlin, J. W. Combs, J. M. Barksdale, E. L. Earle, John McCurley, J. J. Donaldson, Dichard Drake.

The (Pontotoc, MS) Examiner, 9/13/1861

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Contributed by Cameron Stinnett

Hugh Reid Miller bio sketch

Hugh Reid Miller at Ancestry.com





Observer, U. S. Marine Battalion, On the Battle

8 06 2015

U. S. Marines at the Battle of Bull Run.

Correspondence of the Traveller.

Washington, August 9.

The battalion of United States Marines, commanded by Major John Geo. Reynolds, were in the action from the commencement until the retreat sounded. During the day they supported Griffin’s Battery, and in the charges that they made, fought with desperation; and throughout the entire battle behaved with all the coolness of veterans. The most of these men were raw recruits some of them never having been instructed in the drill prior to their departure for the field. All honor is due to our noble and gallant Major (Reynolds), who in so short a space of time raised them to such a state of efficiency, that they could favorably compare with the best men on the field. I think there are very few officers in the United States service who have the art of imparting knowledge to recruits to such a degree as Major Reynolds. On the field he behaved with coolness, and bravely led his battalion against the rebel hordes. When I saw how gallantly he acted, his long white locks streaming in the wind, I felt that I would freely sacrifice my life to have saved his. God has spared him while others have been stricken down. Lieut. Hitchcock was struck dead with a rifled cannon shot. Our officers have all shown, that although young (some of them smelling powder for the first time), they inherit the natural bravery of their ancestors. I think after this the Confederates will give the Marines a wide berth.

Major Leilin[*] was shot through the arm while leading his Company in the final charge. Among others who distinguished themselves was Lieutenant William H. Hale, who acted in a gallant and heroic manner, rallying our men by examples of bravery seldom surpassed. After Sherman’s Battery was taken by the enemy, Gen. McDowell ordered the Marines to advance and retake the guns. Lieut. Hale seized the Battalion Colors, and , while urging the men forward, was struck in the leg with a Minie Rifle Ball, inflicting a severe and dangerous wound. Paying but little attention to the wound, he continued at his post until the order of retreat was given. After having regained the other side, where our own forces were drawn up, he gave up the Colors to his commanding officer, and fell from exhaustion.

The Marines were the last to leave the field, covering the retreat of our retiring forces, and bravely contesting the ground with the rebels, inch by inch. Major Leilin, Major Nicholson, Captain Allan Ramsey, Lieutenants Monroe, Grimes, Baker, and Huntington, all behaved in a gallant and meritorious manner. Fifty-two of the Marines are killed and missing, and 22 wounded.

Major Reynolds is very active at present (having recovered from the fatigues of our long march,) in promoting the proficiency of our corps, drilling the men early and late. The Major is the able constructor and designer of the new Marine Barracks in Boston, said to be convenient, comfortable, and superior to any other Barracks in the United States.

Our men are now ready for the field, and eager for the fray. Gen. McDowell and staff gave our Battalion great credit for the manner in which they conducted themselves while under fire.

Observer.

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[*] Edit – Jacob Zeilin, commanding Co. A of the battalion, would later become the seventh commandant of the U. S. Marine Corps, its first non-brevet general officer, and approved the corps’ eagle, globe, and anchor emblem.

Based on the narrative, it is assumed the author is a member of the battalion.

Boston Daily Evening Traveller, 8/13/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy








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