Letter from the 2d New Hampshire Regiment.
Washington, D. C. July 25, 1861
Dear Brother: – I yesterday received a letter from you and sister and was very glad to hear from you. I am well, and have helped to fight one of the greatest battles ever fought in this country. I suppose that by this time you have the account of the fight and retreat of the army. We fought hard but in vain. What was the use of 25,000 or 30,000 men against 100,000? We had men enough, but they were not brought in to the field. At every point the enemy had masked batteries, and they would raise the stars and stripes or do anything to deceive out men, and that was one reason so many men were lost. But we did fight the best we could. They were commanded on the right by Johnston, on the left by Beauregard, and at noon Davis came and took command of the center.
I tell you Charley it was an awful day for all of us; men with all kinds of wounds begging for water and to be taken off, but we could do these poor fellows no good, for it was all a man could do to look out for himself. Men were mowed down like grain but we did the best we could as it was. I was under the fence after the regiment left me as you know I told you in Father’s letter, that I gave out and was where the balls came like hail-stones, and the regiment had gone ahead. I was almost asleep, for I was about dead when a cannon ball came and knocked a rail off the fence over my head and sent it across the road; I thought it time to get up; so I got up and went to find my gun; I could not see the regiment and started up the hill but gave out; I got into a wagon and went up the hill; then the retreat commenced. I got a drink of whiskey or I never could have got off the field; for it was men and horses, wagons and cannon rushing all ways, the dead and wounded at every step; It was as much as a man could do to carry his body over 40 miles with nothing to drink or eat; I could have taken a good horse but I thought the forces would not all retreat and the owner might be close by, so I kept on; but I called myself a fool afterwards for not getting a horse, for I never came so near dying as at that time. I had got but three miles, I could neither swallow nor spit; I drank water much blacker than your boots. We had to drink where all above and below were washing their wounds in it, and men going through mud, blood and all. It was good. Every mud hole we came to was at once in a centre of men dying of thirst. But I am alive and that is more than many a poor fellow can say; wounded men and those that gave out were left along the road and were probably killed or taken prisoners. But a man cannot tell much about anything, after a battle, for it is all a whirl, but it did not seem so in battle; I thought I could tell everything, but cannot; I was not scared, but never should have got home if it had not been that life depended on it. I was put among the missing but have returned safe.
J. S. S.*
Concord Independent Democrat, 8/8/1861
*Likely Cpl. Joseph S. Sweatt, Co. E.
Biographical information provided by reader David Morin
Sweatt, Joseph S. Co. E; b. Boscawen; age 17; res. Boscawen (Fisherville, now Penacook); enl. Apr. 18, ’61, for 3 mos.; not must. in; paid by State; re-enl. May 21, ’61, for 3 yrs.; must. in June 3, ’61, as Corp.; disch. disab. Aug. 1, ’61, Washington, D. C.
Residence Boscawen NH; a 17-year-old Student. Enlisted on 5/21/1861 at Boscawen, NH as a Corporal. On 6/3/1861 he mustered into “E” Co. NH 2nd Infantry. He was discharged for disability on 8/1/1861 at Washington, D.C.
On 9/4/1862 he mustered into “G” Co. RI 7th Infantry. He died of disease on 3/6/1863 at Boscawen, N.H. (Enlisted at Woonsockett, R.I. Died of typhoid fever.) He was listed as:
Wounded 12/13/1862 Fredericksburg, VA
Hospitalized 12/15/1862 Windmill Point, VA
Promotions: 1st Sergt 9/4/1862 (As of Co. G 7th RI Infantry)
Other Information: born 10/28/1843 in Boscawen, NH
(Parents: Ira & Mary S. Sweatt)
Sources; used by Historical Data Systems, Inc.
JOSEPH S. SWEATT.
Sergeant Joseph Sawyer Sweatt, eldest son of Ira and Mary S. Sweatt, was born in the town of Boscawen, N. H., Oct. 28, 1843. He was fitted in the schools of that town and of Fisherville (now Pena cook) for the Tilton (N. H.) Seminary, which he left for the purpose of enlisting in the Second New Hampshire, a three months’ regiment. He was thus present at the First Bull Run. During the retreat he was one of the many who were lost from their regiment and was reported killed, but, at length, he found his way back to his command. Upon his muster out he immediately joined the Second New Hampshire (three years) Volunteers, but soon after was taken sick, discharged, and sent home.
A little later he went to “Woonsocket, R. I., where an uncle resided, the late Enoch Sweatt, railroad contractor, and was by him employed as an assistant civil engineer. When the call came for “three hundred thousand more,” he enlisted as an orderly sergeant in the Seventh Rhode Island. He was wounded at Fredericksburg Dec. 13, 1862, and was taken to Windmill Point Hospital, Md. There his father visited him, and, after fourteen days, was able to remove him to Washington. After a brief rest he took him home to New Hampshire, but he lived only ten days after his arrival. Yet he was very thankful to gaze once more upon familiar scenes, and to die among his friends. His final and fatal illness was typhoid fever, to which he succumbed March 6, 1863. Three older sisters survive.
Source: The Seventh Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers in the Civil War, 1862-1865 by Hopkins, William Palmer, 1845-; Peck, George Bacheler, 1843-1934, ed
Contributed by John Hennessy
Camp near Harper’s Ferry, Aug. 5th, 1861.
Mr. Editor: – I hope you have not thought that, because I have not contributed lately to your paper I was among the fallen at the battle of Bull Run. True, I was in that battle, and in the thickest of the fight for five long hours; but no missile of death was allowed by my Heavenly Father to strike me down. Members of my own company and of my own mess fell at my side, the shells burst at my feet, the spent musket balls struck me, but I am still unscathed, ready for another conflict with my country’s enemies; ready for the life long conflict with the enemy of souls, ready I hope to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to lost men.
It seems strange to me, that even the presence of death has no effect upon the minds of men. One can still hear the same coarse jests, the same profane language, the same taunts at those who speak to them of religion, as before they were surrounded by the dead and dying.
We are now encamped in a lovely place; the mountains of the Blue Ridge are on every side except where the Potomac winds through them. We have taken the 1st R. I. Battery, as their time is up, and our battery with the exception of one piece, was lost at the battle of Bull Run. Perhaps your readers would like to have a short account of that battle, which was one of the bloodiest in American history.
We were encamped between Fairfax and Centerville, and expected to remain there for some time. We had built our huts of branches, our fire places and cranes were ready for use. Sunday morning at on o’clock the bugle sounded, and the battery was harnessed up. We mounted the boxes and silently wound along the road towards Manassas Junction. There was no music, no loud command; our General wished to steal a march on the enemy. We were confident of victory, as we had confidence in our commander. We took a circuitous path through the woods, and without once having halted during the march of twelve miles, we reached the field of battle. The Rhode Island troops had the right of the line, the 2nd regiment in advance, the 1st next in order with our battery between. The first notice we had of the presence of the enemy was the volley of musketry from the woods upon our lines. The 2d regiment charged and drove them from the woods, down the hill. We were instantly ordered into action. We got into battery as quickly as possible and engaged a battery about a third of a mile from us. We soon silenced that and engaged the enemy in other parts of the field. The battle grew hotter and hotter – thicker and thicker flew the bullets, the shot, the shell. Our horses suffered severely, our men at the guns were entirely exhausted, wounded or dead. We were so thirsty that we threw ourselves into the mudy brooks and eagerly swallowed the mud and water. The enemy were retreating on every hand. Already Beauregard had sent a dispatch to Richmond, and even while we were fighting, Jeff Davis was packing up his State papers to send them to a place of safety. Bu all day there had been a constant stream of reinforcements pouring into the woods where the rebels had their head quarters. All at once the celebrated black horse cavalry charged upon us, their fresh infantry poured their volley into our ranks, their masked batteries opened upon our flank; thick as hail the shot flew; four hundred of the Zouaves were cut down. We retreated. We ran before that stream of lead and iron. No man could stand such a fire as that. The retreat became a rout; all were mingled together in dire confusion; the road was crowded with fugitives; the wounded, the wearied all rushed along together. We brought our battery off the field, and dozens of wounded men climbed upon our boxes and pieces, some with broken arms, some with broken legs, some with the blood flowing down their faces, some with their clothes red with blood. We were obliged to leave many a poor wounded, dying man who beseechingly begged us to take him upon our boxes. Those that were free from wounds were panic struck. At the least alarm every man almost would flee for his life, not knowing where he went. Thus we passed slowly along. We came out of those long woods, the dust in the road was so thick that nothing before us could be seen. We began to hope that the enemy would not disturb us, for now we had reached the direct road to Centerville, and our reserve was two or three miles before us. It began to grow dusky, for the thick dust and the woods on either side of the road hid the setting sun; all at once into that dense mass of men, horses and wagons, the enemy from a masked battery poured their shell; the musketry opened upon them; their cavalry charged upon them. What a scene! We were just at the bridge, but upon it was piled the government baggage wagons. We could not pass with our battery; for it was a narrow bridge, and there were deep gullies on each side. Our drivers cut the traces, we left the wounded men to save our own lives, and helter skelter we dashed on towards Centerville. The cavalry of the enemy charged upon us, and many a poor soldier fell before their sabres. We soon met the reserve coming up under Colonel Miles, but still we hurried on through that long dark night; morning dawned, and still we had not halted; Washington and the long bridge hove in sight, and we sank down upon the ground exhausted! for we had eaten nothing since Saturday. We had marched ten or twelve miles to the battle field without halting, we had fought through that hot day, we had marched nearly forty miles from the battle field to Washington. Thus we fought, thus we retreated.
I will not say upon whose head a terrible retribution should be visited. We long for an opportunity to wipe off the disgrace of that day.
O! how much pleasanter we spent the hours of the last Sabbath (the 4th inst.) Though separated from our regiment, we had religious services. We repaired to a huge pile of rocks shaded by tall trees, and there one of our number preached to to us the gospel of Christ. It seemed lik a heaven below.
Boston Christian Era, 8/16/1861
*In Latin, Juvenis is a young man or a youth. The root of juvenile.
Contributed by John J. Hennessy
The Scott Guards (Company A, Second Regiment) In The First Battle At Bull Run.
Extract from a Private Letter.
Bull Run, July 20.
You see now that I am on the battle field. We left Camp Winfield Scott last Tuesday at 3 o’clock P.M., and arrived at Vienna at 9 P.M. We remained there over night, and in the morning I saw the place where the rebels had their masked battery and fired upon the Ohio troops. We left Wednesday morning at 7 o’clock, and marched towards Fairfax Court House. When we came within sight of the place and saw the rebels leave there. We then took the road towards Germantown, where we arrived at 2 0’clock P.M. The rebels had left there, thought their camp fires were burning, and we found a good many articles which they had left behind. They were only a mile ahead of us. We took up our march again and drove the rebels right before us until we arrived at Centreville. We staid there a short time, and marched again towards the place where we are now, two miles from Centreville.
Here the rebels made a stand in a hollow by a road and small river which they call Bull Run. We were drawn up in line of battle, the Massachusetts First, then the New York, then our regiment, and the Third Michigan last. Our artillery commenced a fire at them from the hill where they were situated, and firing commencing at 2 o’clock. After we had fired for about half an hour our skirmishers, of which we furnished twenty privates, two Corporals, and one Sargeant, under command of Lieutenant J. V. Ruehle, went in the woods to see where the rebels were stationed. Our force went down hill till all at once they stood before the enemy within twenty rods, they commenced firing and the enemy fired by plattoons, but this did not stop our man from going ahead; they kept up their firing and came within four rods of the enemy, where they all at once discovered a masked battery with at least ten guns. The rebels then commenced to fire with the cannon at us. We were in the fire from 2 1/2 o’clock till 5, when the balls whistled around us in every direction. Musket balls whistled around us in every direction. Musket balls we could not dodge, but the cannon balls we could.
Wallen Weber of our Company is severely, and Marx is but slightly wounded. They are both privates – these two men are the only ones injured in our company. Wallen Weber will not be fit for duty after he gets well, for he received a shot in the side; but Marx will be able to do duty again in a few days.
We could not take the battery. We have got some 12, 16 and 32 pounders, which did good service. Two slaves that escaped, say that we killed from 200 to 300 rebels. Our brigade lost fifteen killed and twenty-five wounded. Colonel Richardson said the he never saw such heavy firing before. We have to sleep on the ground without tents; all we have is our blankets. There is now a large number of troops here, and we expect to attack the enemy to-day or to-morrow.
Lieutenant Company A, Second Regiment Michigan.
Detroit Free Press, 7/25/1861
Clipping image not available due to copyright.
Contributed by John J. Hennessy
I’ve written before of the mis-identification of Sherman’s Battery in accounts of the battle, be it of the Sherman to whom the moniker pertains, or to the location of said battery during the battle. Like the Black Horse Cavalry, in the eyes of many participants every battery they saw on the field was the famous, rock-star Sherman’s Battery. Shortly after the battle, when faced with the reality of the safe return of the battery to the Washington vicinity, some Confederates were still in denial. From the New Orleans Daily Crescent, 8/5/1861:
A Bogus Sherman Battery.
Richmond, August 3. – It is reliably stated by undoubted authority, that when the news reached Washington of the capture of Sherman’s Battery, Gen. Scott privately ordered six cannon to be taken from the Navy-Yard and sent to the neighborhood of Alexandria, with horses, which were brought back with the announcement that Sherman’s Battery had not fallen into the hands of the enemy.
My wife’s second and last Civil War concession during our recent visit to the Crescent City, Metairie Cemetery proved a little frustrating. After taking the Canal Street trolley to its terminus, we de-streetcarred in an area surrounded by cemeteries (that’s why, when you are looking for which streetcar to board, you look for the one that says “Cemeteries” – $3 for a 24 hour ticket).
You’ll have to walk about a quarter-mile or so from the streetcar stop to the cemetery’s pedestrian entrance, crossing Metairie Road and passing under I-10 in the process. This gets you to the entrance, which is very near the Civil War related “attractions” in the cemetery. Sounds simple, and it is – if the pedestrian entrance isn’t padlocked. Which, of course, it was. So, we walked a long way, maybe half a mile, up Metairie Rd looking for another entrance, and we struck out. We walked back to the entrance and checked out the option of paralleling I-10 to another entrance, but you can’t walk there. About ready to give up and head back to the streetcar, the wife called the cemetery office and about 20 minutes later a volunteer came to pick us up and take us to the main office at the north end of the cemetery. There we picked up maps (they have one geared for Civil War personalities) and set off. Of course, all the Civil War sites are in the older part of the cemetery, which is at the south end near the pedestrian entrance. The kind woman in the office told us she would have maintenance open the gate, so we would have a relatively short walk to the streetcar afterwards. Needless to say, my Fitbit was working overtime and I finished the day with over 10 miles walked, including a walk to the Superdome and a return trip to Bourbon Street.
Here are the photos. I apologize for being unable to find John Bell Hood’s grave. Also note that there are plenty of other famous folks buried here, like Al Hirt, Louis Prima, Mel Ott, the founders of Popeye’s Chicken and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and many more. Click on the images for bigger ones. Keep an eye out for the Easter Egg!
If true, very sad.
Army of Northern Virginia
General Richard Taylor
I hope you’ve enjoyed this three-part travelogue. I hope some day to get back to New Orleans to see more of the sights, Civil War and otherwise. But maybe when it’s not so hot.