From the 27th Regiment
[We are allowed to make the following extracts from a letter written by Will H. McMahon, lately from Lima Seminary, to a friend in this village. Mr. McMahon is a talented young man and a ready penman, and we should be pleased to hear from him often.]
Washington, D. C., July 27, 1861.
I have but a few moments, the first I have had in a long while to devote to correspondence. I was, of course, in the battle at Bull’s Run, but mist reserve the description of that scene until some other time. I have only this to say as regards pictures in the papers, none of them that I have seen represent the field at all; and the reporters’ accounts are hardly to be relied on. We were about forty hours on the march and in battle, without food, sleep or water, except such as we took from some loathsome pools and thick muddy brooks. I drank water which your educated Irish hog who occupies the same room with the family would scorn to be in. None of our fellow students were injured. The retreat was a regular rout, owing mostly to the inefficiency off our officers. The South have better officers, artillery and cavalry. We the best men. * * * —— flunked when it came to the pinch of fight or run. Where he was hid I don’t know, but we did not get the sight of his lovely features during the battle. He is spotted. * * * We (the 27th) were exposed for three-fourths of an hour to the fire of three regiments and two large masked batteries, and we drove the regiments off in double quick time, but our Colonel being wounded we had no chance of taking the batteries.
In the middle of the rout the road was covered with every thing you can imagine. I might have picked up any thing that I wished on the field, but was too weak to carry more than my arms, and hat I ten thousand dollars I would willingly have given it all for one drink of ice water! I saw many truly horrible sights during the contest, but the shrieks of dying horses were much more shocking even than the groans of wounded and dying men. Our regiment lost heavily. If I live through our next engagement it will be almost a miracle. The two men who stood on each side of me were wounded, and the Col. was hit while I was yelling in his ear about a flag! * * But if I do live through it I intend to strip a rebel of something which I can mail and sent to you * * There is now (eight o’clock Saturday evening) heavy cannonading in the distance over the river. * * We can whip them every time, with good officers and two-thirds the men.
But I must stop writing and prepare for emergencies. Write immediately.
Yours in brotherhood,
Dansville [NY] Advertiser, 8/8/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy
William H. McMahon – no entry at Ancestry.com. Found in roster of the regiment in History of the 27th Regiment New York Volunteers, p. 280: “promoted to Corporal, Nov. 7, 1861; to Second Lieutenant of Co. K, Sept. 11, 1862.”