Pvt. Charles Winters, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

15 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.

———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Washington, July 23, 1861.

* * * The last time I wrote to you I believe I was in Fairfax C. H., near Centerville. Since then I have witnesses as terrible and bloody a battle as American history can boast of. We were routed up Sunday morning at two o’clock and marched towards Bull’s Run, a distance of about fifteen miles, where we arrived at twelve o’clock. The battle immediately commenced by cannonading on both sides. But this was too slow work, and we were marched up in musket distance. The first regiment we met we were going to fire into, but they told us not to fire into our own men, so we shouldered our muskets and had hardly done so when they poured into us with a whole volley of musketry, cutting down several of our men. They use all manner of stratagem, which was very effectual at first. They would send out little squads of men to get our men to chase them, and as soon as we got near enough, there would a whole regiment rise from behind some embankment and pour into us. Some would hoist the Stars and Stripes to make us think they were Union men. But these things finally played out. One regiment of cavalry tried to play this game on the New York Fire Zouaves. They allowed themselves to be fooled till a good opportunity presented itself, when they poured in upon them cutting them all to pieces. The report is that there were but six left. Bully for the New York boys – The rebels were very strongly fortified. They had embankments all around them, and a thick wood behind them where they could retreat and be in perfect safety. In short they had every advantage, but we made them retreat once and should have probably gained the day had they not been reinforced by a brigade from S. C. This was worse than we could stand so we had to retreat. They gained the day, but whether they gain the morrow is another thing. They have got to be routed out of there and Manassas Junction, their cake is dough*. There only hope of salvation is to keep these two places.

I never should or never could have suspected a people reared as they have been under the blessings of Christianity and civilization, to be possessed of such inhuman cruelty. I have often shuddered, and had my blood run cold when reading of the [?] of Indian wars, but I don’t know as I ever read of anything more cruel than to deliberately pull wounded men out of the wagons and cut their throats. I did not see this done, but there are boys in our company that did. Every wounded man they came across on the battle field, they would either cut his throat or run him through with the bayonet.

Our retreat march, before we could get in any kind of safety, was back to our old camp fifteen miles, and in this the rebel cavalry tried to outflank us, and they came very near doing so – Some ten or twelve of us stopped at a mudpuddle to get a drink, when we heard a great noise. On looking up to ascertain the cause we saw the rebel cavalry coming down a lane at right angles with the path we had to take. The boys scattered in every direction. I stopped half a second to see what to do, and finally ran for the woods. We came to a creek about the time the rebels got to a bridge where the creek crosses the main road. Our only chance was to jump in and wade through which we did in double quick time. They fired at us as we were crossing but did not hit us. After we had crossed, all the boys but myself ran for the woods. I suspected that part of the rebels had gone that way so I kept along the edge – Three or four balls were fired at me but without effect. We finally got to our camps where we stayed about two hours, when we were ordered to march, for it was not safe for us there. We came back to Washington where we arrived last night at four P. M., making almost forty eight hours without sleep, nothing to eat but sea crackers, a march of sixty miles, and a battle of five or six hours, You may judge for yourselves whether we were tired or not.

Charles Winters.

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*”Their cake is hoe” – One’s actions have failed or not led to the desired outcome. The phrase appears in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

Charles Winters roster bio 

Charles Winters at Fold3 





Sgt. Albert G. Northrup, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

14 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.

———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Camp Anderson,
Washington, July 29, 1861

Editor American: You have probably seen the full particulars of the great battle at Bull’s Run, in which our forces were defeated, and I will give you some of my own experience.

Our company was on picket guard the night before the action, and at 2 o’clock, A. M., we were called in, and in an hour were on the march for the scene of action. We marched about 12 miles when we began to hear the boom of cannon, and we knew that the strife had commenced. We pressed forward at a double quick rate and were soon in sight of the rebel batteries. Our regiment was one of the first to charge the enemy in our column. We drove them from their battery, and followed them into a deep valley, where they displayed a white flag, and our Colonel, supposing them to be our men, ordered us not to fire, but we soon found out our mistake and fired upon them. They returned the fire, killing our ensign and two privates. Our brave fellows fell all around me, and I expected it would be my turn next; but, thank Heaven I escaped without a wound. We were soon compelled to retreat, and we became separated and each one had to take care of himself. After four hours of hard fighting we were all on the retreat. Our men were nearly exhausted, not having had anything to eat or drink except sea biscuit and muddy water for two days.

We [?] filled our canteens with water from Bull’s Run that was thick with mud, glad to get even that. After we had retreated about 5 miles, the rebels fired upon us again, and we scattered in the woods, in confusion. I was completely exhausted and laid down in the woods and in less than ten minutes I was sound asleep. When I awoke I was alone and [?] was {?}. I knew not which way to go, but started as near as I could judge in the direction of our army. I soon came to where I heard [?] at [?] and supposing them to be rebels I did not dare approach them and lay down under a brush heap and staid there til morning.

When it was light enough to see, I started again and went directly toward the battle field again. I inquired of a slave which way it was to Centerville, and was told that it was in an opposite direction from that which I was travelling. I soon retraced my steps toward Washington, with faint of seeing it alive, as I was almost certain the enemy were between me and our army. I threw away everything that I had, made a breakfast of whortleberries, and amid a drenching rain commenced my march. The first man I saw, stood in the road directly before me with a musket in his hand. I supposed him to be a rebel, but went up to him and bade him “good morning.” He proved to be one of our soldiers from the State of Maine. At Centerville I fell in with three men from one of the Binghamton companies, and remained with them during the rest of the day. We were about the last on the road, and expected at any moment to see the enemy’s cavalry approaching, but we did not see them. Several times during the day I was on the point of giving up in despair, but my companions urged me on, and after one of the hardest days of my life I succeeded in getting to Alexandria, Va., where I staid at the hut of a slave – glad to get as good shelter as that. The next day I took a boat and came to Washington where I found our regiment, in their old quarters. Our boys thought I was either killed or taken prisoner, and when I made my appearance among them I was greeted with many a hearty shake of the hand.

Your townsman Delos Payne, was in thickest of the fight, and fought valiantly, and is anxious to get another chance to “pepper” them. I am unable to say how long we shall remain here, probably three or four weeks.

Oscar Phelps is with us, having done his duty faithfully on the field of battle.

Our defeat is a bad one, but we hope to do better the next time.

Yours truly,

A. G. Northrup.

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Albert G. Northrup roster bio 

Albert G. Northrup at Fold3 





Lieut. Prentice B. Wager, Co. I, 32nd New York Infantry, On the Campaign

12 12 2016

ANOTHER ACCOUNT.
———-
[Correspondence of the Journal]
———-

Station near Alexandria, Va.,
Sunday, July 28, 1861.

My Dear Selkreg –

The calendar indicates that a week has passed since the great battle. Nothing else shows it, for in war the sun rises with no clearer or holier light on the Sabbath than on any other day. The gentle and serene influences which have hallowed this day in our minds through all our lives, are unknown, unseen and unfelt here, save as our memory goes back to our homes in the far-off North, and imagination brings before our spirit’s backward gaze a christian people moving to the music of the Sabbath bells toward the place where the God of our fathers is worshipped. Other than this and an occasional war discourse from our Chaplain, we know no Sunday.

I wrote you a hasty sketch of the fight the other day, and have been endeavoring since to collect the facts as to the number of men actively engaged – the loss in killed, wounded and prisoners, – and other circumstances necessary to a complete and intelligent account of the affair; but I have given up the attempt in utter despair. In the first place I enquired of members of different regiments as to how many they had lost, and their stories were so conflicting that nothing could be gathered from there. Statements made by members of the same regiment would differ immensely. One would say about twenty of their men were killed, and another would assert that not fifty of the whole regiment was left. I have no doubt, judging from the accounts in the dailies, that the New York reporters asked these same fellows about it and sent on their answers as the exact figures. It is of no use to try to give any accurate statistics as to numbers and losses at present. Stragglers supposed to be lost are constantly coming in. Regiments totally broken up are being rapidly re-organized. Cannon reported captured turn up all right in Washington and Alexandria.

One thing is certain. On Tuesday, July 16th, 1861, the Grand American Army in solid column, with firm step, proud heart, drums beating and banners streaming on the breeze, marched on Manassas Junction via Fairfax Court House, and on the following Monday that same army returned via. Fairfax Court House in a very unsolid column, rapid step, humiliated hearts, with folded banners and ‘nary sound of drum. The causes which led to this sad reverse have already been largely canvassed in the newspapers. Some of them I know – many of them are known to almost everybody.

That somebody was to blame is very evident. It is very evident too that Gen. Scott thinks so, for high military officers who commanded on that battle-field won’t have a chance to unsheathe their inglorious swords at the head of our columns again very soon. Abler hands and wiser heads will guide and control our future operations. But I did not intend to say a word about this.

There ae a thousand conflicting opinions as to the cause which led to this defeat, and enough of them have already been printed so that your readers have had a good chance for selection in the premises, and each can pick out an opinion for himself. Aside from bad manoeuvering and gross imprudence on the part of officers commanding, our defeat is mainly to be attributed to a regular licking received at the hands of the rebels who had more men, were behind strong fortifications, in woods, well furnished with artillery which was well served, and rifles which were handled with as much dexterity and by men fully as brave and well disciplined as ourselves. For other and further causes of the disaster see articles in the New York papers written by parties who were not within three hundred miles of the fight.

The manner in which an army starts off to war may not be uninteresting to many of your readers, and the friends of the volunteers who have to stay at home, and consequently cannot see for themselves. The incidents on the march are also many times worth detailing. You will remember that early in July we moved from Camp McDougal, near Washington, across the Potomac into Virginia, and encamped about one and a half miles south-west of Alexandria, on the Fairfax turnpike. Several other regiments did the same thing about the same time, and we knew that something was going to be done. On the 15th of July, couriers on horseback were seen riding through all the camps, and immediately each company received orders to cook three days rations, and be ready to march at an hour’s notice. Forty rounds of ball cartridges were distributed to each man, and everybody was busy getting ready to march. That afternoon our regiment – and we did what all the others did – formed in column by company, and our arms and ammunition were duly inspected by the Colonel in person, to see that everything was in good working order. We were then dismissed. The next day we again fell in line, and the Colonel made a few stirring remarks, when our regimental colors were brought out, and he asked us if we would follow and defend them. We unanimously agreed that we would. Meanwhile the movement of the army had already commenced. Long trains of artillery had moved past our camp, and regiment after regiment had filed along the road towards Fairfax. The soldiers were in eminent spirit, and cheered loudly as they passed, and we hurrahed and tigered in response. At last our turn came to fall in column, and our line was put in motion. It was now past four o’clock P. M., and the army was fairly on its forward march. The order of march was in four ranks, or four men abreast, with files closely closed, and arms at will. The column this formed extended both to the advance and rear, further than the eye could reach, and as it moved slowly and steadily forward over the hills and down into the valleys, beneath the glittering bayonets and shining arms, which seemed to cover it like a steel armor, it resembled in the distance and immense serpent, with a shining metal back, and from its proportions one might imagine that its length was sufficient to wrap around the entire rebellion, and that a single tightening up of its folds would squeeze secession out of the Old Dominion. We moved on through a thinly settled country, finding few of the natives at home, and these principally women and slaves, and in many instances, these were gone also. Few were friendly to us, tho’ the boys would break from the ranks and fill their canteens with water at their wells, and help themselves to such fruit and things as they could find. We marched until about ten o’clock at night, and then encamped about three miles from Fairfax Court House. That night we slept on our arms, and posted a strong picket guard. The next morning our division was ordered to the left for the purpose of executing a flank movement on the rebels, who were in force at Fairfax. This took us three miles out of our direct route, and brought our line of march over the old military road cut by Gen. Braddock, thro’ to Western Virginia, for the purpose of the old French war. This road is very narrow, not wide enough for teams to pass each other, and cut through a dense forest, and much of the way it is dug out like a cut through a hill for a rail road. We soon came to trees lately felled across the road by the rebels. These our pioneers were obliged to cut away, and as we had to wait for them to clear the road, our progress was very slow. But we pushed on, momently expecting and attack, until we came to a deserted earthwork.

We then moved more cautiously and re-inforced our skirmishers in advance. – Pretty soon we heard sharp firing ahead, and a courier came dashing back, stating that a party of rebels had fired on our advance and fled. It was a good place for an attack, being where our route lay through a deep cut. Two hundred resolute men could have held the position against almost anything but a regular siege. This over, we moved on with an occasional skirmish, until we suddenly came in sight of an extensive earth work directly across the road. From behind this the enemy fired a volley upon us wounding two of our men. Their fire was returned and several of their men were seen to fall, when they fled carrying off their dead. – We then marched directly through their fortifications, and the boys picked up several things in their camp and among them some pistols and a sword or two. Blankets were scattered about in great abundance. We pressed on and found that the enemy had precipitately fled. We found their sick, hospital stores, provisions, liquors and some arms. The boys also captured a storehouse filled with drygoods, tobacco, cigars, shoes, ammunition, &c. – These they rapidly appropriated and distributed in a very liberal and profuse manner, cigars and tobacco being the most desirable plunder. A guard was soon placed over the storehouse however, and the fun stopped. While this was going on intelligence came that the rebels had left Fairfax and that it was occupied by the American troops. We immediately marched into a neighboring field, stacked arms and broke ranks for the men to rest. In company with Capt. Whitlock I immediately started for the celebrated Fairfax Court House, half a mile distant. Found the village full of the American army, and the Court House a very ordinary looking building. It is built of brick, and is about as magnificent as a country school house, and the interior arrangements quite similar. Fairfax is about the size of Dryden village. Most of the citizens had fled, and the soldiers had taken possession of the deserted house which were generally well furnished, and they had the darkies making hoe cake and roasting bacon which they had served up in good style on the tables where rebel families had that morning taken their breakfast. I regret to say that much property was wantonly destroyed, but it was impossible to wholly prevent outrages. The Zouaves especially broke things, generally. We encamped that night near Fairfax and the next day moved on to Centreville distant about ten miles, and five miles from Manassas, and there encamped. We had stacked our arms when heavy firing was heard to the right, indicating that our advance had engaged the enemy. This proved to be the battle of Bull Run, fought on Thursday, a short account of which I have already given you. Our loss was not so great as I then reported.

Friday and Saturday morning the army marched out to the battle. It was a magnificent spectacle, grand and awe-inspiring beyond the power of language to describe. Such a display of human power thus terribly manifested in the mighty and outstretched arm of war, is rarely witnessed in any clime or in any age, and must be seen with the living eye to be even faintly comprehended or understood. Those who gazed upon that brilliant yet terrible array, as with all the “pomp and circumstance of war” it went out to write a bloody page upon the book of time, will carry with them to the end of life the memory in pictures of living fire, of that host of freemen, as with floating banners and glistening arms it stood and moved in the early sunlight of that beautiful Sabbath morning. Our regiment was assigned a position on the left, and we were in the reserve while the main body moved to the right towards Manassas, where the principal attack was to be made. We quickly took up our position on the road to Bull’s Run – the right of our regiment resting on the road, and the left extending into the woods. Directly in advance of us, on the brow of the hill, we had a battery of rifled cannon, which commanded the rebel battery at Bull’s Run, where the battle of the previous Thursday was fought. The land lays around where the battle was fought some as it does around Ithaca, only there is no village or lake there and the valley and hill sides are thickly wooded. Our forces occupied what corresponds to the East hill (at Ithaca,) and the rebels occupied the West hill and the intervening valley. The rebels were strongly fortified in their position, and the woods were full of their masked batteries. At 7 o’clock A. M., the fight was commenced by shots from our cannon. These were from our battery in advance of our regiment. Soon we heard heavy firing on the extreme right, followed by the sharp reports of musketry and rifles, announcing that the battle had commenced in earnest.

The cannonading and the fire of small arms now became terrific and continued almost without intermission until nearly two P. M., when it decreased considerably. Meanwhile our reserve lay waiting, impatient for their chance in, knowing nothing of the result of the battle on the right. At last we received orders, and our regiment being in advance and in fact alone, moved rapidly down towards the brow of the hill, where our battery above spoken of, was stationed. What was our surprise to meet our pickets running towards us in the greatest confusion, and closely followed by our battery of flying artillery in full retreat. Not a man in our company flinched, but pressed steadily forward and formed in line of battle. The Colonel passed along the line, telling the men to “keep cool, fire low, and aim at the centre of their bodies.” The enemy were now seen charging out of the woods, and filling a little open field in the valley below us, a little beyond the range of our muskets. The artillery was called back by the bugle, and being quickly placed in position, poured a terrible fire of grape upon them, which did immense execution in their ranks. They charged forward, but the cannon was too much for them, and they retreated after firing a volley of grape and musketry, which killed one of our officers attached to the artillery.

Another body of the enemy then charged on our battery, and the gunners firing a few rounds, hitched on their horses and fled with their pieces, thus leaving us unsupported by artillery. The captain of the battery remarked as he fled past us, “Boys, it is too hot for us, you must take them now.” Our boys stood fast, only grasping their muskets tighter, and waited for the rebels to come up. But the enemy evidently not liking the looks of things, fell back, and then we were ordered to fall back too, of which movement, we couldn’t any of us see the point. We marched rapidly to a hill near Centreville, and there for the first time learned that the main body of our army had been defeated and had already retreated past Centreville and that the rebel cavalry was rapidly pursuing. We formed in hollow square on hearing this and awaited the charge of Cavalry. Presently a body of horsemen appeared emerging from the woods over the road where we had just retreated. A couple of shells from our battery sent them flying, and one of their horses, minus a rider, galopped up the road towards where we stood, and was immediately secured. He was equipped with a good saddle and a splendid pair of revolvers. It was now sundown. Meanwhile the rest of our brigade consisting of six or seven thousand man, had taken position on the hill, and we lay down on our arms in order of battle, ready for an attack whenever it should come. Instead of an attack, at about 11 o’clock we were waked up with and order to retreat and we were huriedly marched back to Fairfax, over a road literally covered with the arms and cast-away equipments of our army. We halted and rested at Fairfax, and then continued our retreat to our camp near Alexandria, where we arrived at about 11 A. M., on Monday, tired almost to death, and heartbroken over our sad reverse. But we are all right now and feel as well as ever, save the gloom caused by the humiliating discomfiture of our army. Although not engaged in the hottest of the battle, and though none of them fell on the field, yet the Ithaca volunteers were placed under circumstances well calculated to try their nerve and courage, and I am proud to be able to say that for their conduct on that trying occasion, none of their friends at home need ever blush.

Yours very truly,

P. B. Wager, Lieut. Co. I, 32d Reg.

Ithaca [N. Y.] Journal and Advertiser, 8/7/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Prentice B. Wag[n]er bio sketch 

Prentice B. Wager at Fold3





Notes on “Early Morning of War” – Part 2

9 12 2016

51gm8atoyol-_sx329_bo1204203200_I know, it’s been eight months since Part 1 of this series. Life goes on. To recap, here’s how this works: as I read Edward Longacre’s study of the First Battle of Bull Run, The Early Morning of War, I put little Post-Its where I saw something with which I agreed or disagreed, or which I didn’t know, or which I did know and was really glad to see; essentially, anything that made me say “hmm…” So I’ll go through the book and cover in these updates where I put the Post-It and why. Some of these will be nit-picky for sure. Some of them will be issues that can’t have a right or wrong position. Some of them are, I think, cut and dry. So, here we go:

Chapter 1: The Great Creole and the Obscure Ohioan

The biographical sketch of McDowell is pretty good here, more in-depth than you’ll find pretty much anywhere else. It touches on McDowell’s familial political connections, his broad education, experiences as a staff officer, alcohol abstention, and generally favorable impression upon military and political figures. This all contributes to making his ultimate appointment to command of an army more understandable and less serendipitous. I would have preferred a little more on McDowell’s actual rank (while a brevetted major, his actual rank prior to appointment as a full Brigadier General U. S. A. was as First Lieutenant) affected his relationship with other officers and his boss, Winfield Scott.

This chapter (p. 29) also gives the first glimpses into McDowell’s planning process, primarily with very preliminary plans he presented to his benefactor, Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, in May, 1861. These plans far exceeded McDowell’s areas of influence, and I think should not be given too much weight in examining the plans he would later develop, under changed circumstances, for moving on Manassas. It seems to me some of the assumptions and conditions in these earlier, larger plans get conflated by analysts into McDowell’s later, more narrow plans.

The background provided on Beauregard in this chapter is pretty standard, with a little more discussion of his pre-war politics than one normally finds in general sketches. One surprise here is a description of Beauregard’s character (p. 22) provided by South Carolina Governor Pickens in a 7/7/1861 letter to fellow South Carolinian Milledge Luke Bonahm, whom Bory had succeeded in command of the Bull Run line. In that letter, which may have been written in part as salve for the wounded pride of the recipient, Beauregard is described  in terms usually applied to his comrade Joe Johnston (“His reputation is so high that he fears to risk it”).

Also in this chapter is a brief recap of General Scott’s “offering” of “command” of “the” Union army to Robert E. Lee which left me as dissatisfied as most accounts of the meeting.

Check back here often for the next installment. I’m going to make an effort to put up a couple chapters per month from here on out.

Part 1





Capt. Jerome Rowe, Co. A, 32nd New York Infantry, On the Retreat

9 12 2016

Letters from the Battle-Field.
———-
[Correspondence of the Journal]
———-

Headquarters 32d Regiment,
Alexandria, Va.,
July 27, 1861.

Friend Selkreg: – I cannot help, as one of the many military men engaged in the ill-fated conflict at Bull’s Run, to feel slandered by the public press as regards the operations of that day. It is enough upon the poor soldiers that they were defeated, without making them accountable for the loss of half a million of property, strewn, as wrecks of defeat in the indecent haste with which that great army retired to camp that day; without charging upon the whole army a panic that carried them past Centreville in their rout; that lost that place, Fairfax Court House, and all the territory we had occupied by victorious arms, which is now given back to enemies and is being fortified, and must be retaken perhaps with loss of life.

The withdrawing our forces from the conflict at Bull’s Run, as the fight was then progressing, was doubtless eminently proper. The general rout following is the fault of the Commander, and one of the most infamous things, as it was conducted, in military history. If Gen. McDowell had ordered the army to fall back and form at Centreville, instead of ordering the men promiscuously to run for their lives to their camps, the command would have been well executed, our Government property saved, the territory saved, the moral and credit of the army saved, and neither the world nor our enemies have known that we were defeated. What reason was there for a panic among thirty thousand men, who were formed in divisions remote from the actual conflict, who had not fired a musket all day, who, when they retired from the woods, retired as they would have moved to a fourth of July parade. If all possible panics had been generated among the men in the fight, it would not have affected more than the six or eight regiments actually engaged in it, bating the stupid blunder of moving a train of baggage wagons into the inextricable passes of Bull Run, to be wedged in and block up the rear.

That thirty thousand men would have remained and held Centreville had they been permitted to have done so. So far from the army’s having taken flight, in an uncontrollable panic, I have seen several of the regiments who supposed when ordered to retreat that they were simply changing position for better effect. Ninety-nine out of every hundred of the troops, had they known that they were being withdrawn as defeated, would have refused to have left the woods. Fifteen thousand men, ourselves included, in a selected position natural for defence, were quietly asleep on the grass, and were awakened at 11 o’clock at night to march home. That single fifteen thousand could easily have held Centreville and have recovered all the property and saved the credit of the army. They would have done it if permitted. Re-enforcements would have reached us, and nothing would have pleased them more in the world than to have had Jeff Davis come out from his fastnesses and retreat behind masked batteries in the woods, and have attempted to have driven them from that position. Yet those men are now demoralized by the fright communicated to them by general officers, and by being marched, between 11 o’clock at night and 11 o’clock the next day, thirty miles to avoid some terrible grim-visaged enemy that would hang on their rear and worry and destroy them.

The Colonel of the 32d Regiment, when the enemy appeared and opened a tremendous fire upon our division, (which fire we suppose was simply to divert the attention of the remainder of the army from their own retreat at the place where the battle was, for they ran from our troops faster than our’s from them,) insisted on staying and giving them sturdy battle, and to that end induced some of the artillery, which the regiment protected, to stay after the other pieces had left, and give the enemy a few more rounds of grape and cannister. A young United States officer, a lieutenant of artillery, had just fallen and was carried in rear of our lines, and then retreat was ordered. The bugle, whose notes they must obey, then sounded a peremptory retreat which they obeyed, and left us to our duty to cover that retreat and save their horses and guns from the enemy. We did this, and our regiment came orderly the last out of the woods, with confederate cavalry hanging upon its rear, and audacious enough to show some of their horsemen after we got in line of battle in the open field. The cannon firing late in the day, which the New York papers speak of as a probable diversion, was the artillery of our own Brigade, formed by the side of our regiment, giving these cavalry hollow shot and setting them flying for the woods. When the enemy were at the right of our column, and driven by the artillery were expected to file around to the front and charge upon us at Bull’s Run, and the men stood with pieces cocked to receive them, I passed down the line to see how the men behaved, and my judgement is they would in action give a good account of themselves.

Yours, &c.,

JEROME ROWE, Capt. Co. A.

Ithaca [N. Y.] Journal and Advertiser, 8/7/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Jerome Rowe at Fold3 

Bio sketch of Judge Jerome Rowe (thanks to reader Chris Van Blargan)





Unknown, 32nd New York Infantry, On the Battle

7 12 2016

The Battle at Bull’s Run.
———-
[Correspondence of the Journal]
———-  

Camp McDougal, near Alexandria, Va.,
Wednesday, July 24, 1861.

Dear Sir: – Yours of the 19th of July has just been received and read with pleasure. Our Regiment reached our old camp at Alexandria the forenoon of Monday last, on our retreat from the battle of Bull’s Run, and Manassas, of the day before. – We had been encamped near Bull’s Run, and within two miles of the masked batteries of the Rebels for the two last days previous, making, as I supposed, every preparation for a great battle and certain victory, and I to-day firmly believe that the victory was as certainly won and that but for the cowardice, knavery or imbecility of our acting Generals the federal troops would to-day occupy those important points instead of being as they are, repulsed, under the disgrace of retreat, and in the camps they occupied a week ago, or further back even in Washington.

We went forth to battle on the morning of the 21st of July. We reposed much confidence in our strength, and we were strong and the day would have been ours, but for the lack of some one to lead or direct our movements, having the necessary skill and qualifications to entitle him to be styled General of the New York State army. But this was not our case. The left of the line where our Brigade was stationed as a support of the batteries planted at that end of the line, our General seemed either crazy, badly scared or drunk, and our regiment (I understand it was so with others) was moving from place to place continually, to what end or for what purpose nobody seemed to know. Our artillery (two batteries on the left) blazed away all day at the enemy or their masked batteries – (those doing such fearful work among our men but a few days before) – without receiving a single shot from the enemy in return during the whole day, newspaper reports to the contrary notwithstanding. The only fight on the left of the line where our regiment was stationed, was the cannonade of our guns unanswered by the rebels, and the occasional exchange of shots between our skirmishers and theirs, whereby less than half a dozen men were killed and wounded, except that just at dark a body of rebel infantry marched from the woods on the left and fired upon the gunners killing one of the Lieutenants and for the time driving them from their guns. They rallied again, however, and poured into the rebels successive doses of shot and shell that sent them flying and enabled our men to take away their guns before they could rally again.

It was at this time that the 32nd Regiment was for the first time called upon to do active duty, although we had been constantly on the field and ready at all times. When the attack was made upon our battery on the left our Regiment was ordered down to resist it and cover the retreat of the artillery. When we reached the ground the artillery was already retreating, having previously poured into the rebels such a volley of grape and canister, that before they could rally the horses had been harnessed to the guns and they were safely drawn from the field, which we then occupied, covering the retreat. The rebels did not again show themselves; we were not fired into, nor did we fire a shot during the day.

We were soon after ordered to fall back to Centreville, where several regiments were forming to resist the imagined attack from thousands of rebel cavalry, supposed to be in pursuit of our now retreating army. As we took our position in line, some acting General, probably drunk or half scared to death, shouted out in a very loud, excited voice: “The cavalry are upon us; we shall all be cut to pieces; for God Almighty’s sake move out here, or we shall all be cut to pieces!” And then addressing himself to the artillerymen he commanded, “Why in h—l don’t you fire?” And they did, and away went the cavalry, which was to cut us all to pieces, and which consisted, as near as I could see, of some few dozen horsemen just emerged from the woods we had left, and certainly were not so formidable as to call out an expression of fear or terror made use of by our acting General, and which, I have no doubt did much towards unnerving many who could not of themselves see that what their General told them was untrue, and added materially to the general confusion that followed in our horrid retreat shortly afterwards. As we were not molested during the evening by the enemy of any sort, we were allowed to lay down on our arms in line of battle, ready to resist an attack at a moment’s warning, on the damp, cold ground (for the dew had commended to fall, and all the nights are quite cold in Virginia,) to rest and sleep. I know not how it was with my comrades, but I never slept more soundly in my life than I did there in the open air upon the battle-field, where our General would have us believe we were liable to be attacked and utterly cut to pieces at any moment. I could not realize that we were in any such great danger; and to-day, after looking the ground all over, I cannot bring myself to believe there was the least danger imagined; and when at eleven o’clock we were aroused up and ordered to fall back to Fairfax Court House, and finally to Alexandria, it seemed to me that orders were being issued by secessionists, who were having the thing all their own way by merely ordering it so, and, I am sorry to say, this belief has not entirely left me yet. Our Regiment reached our old camp ground at noon of the next day, nearly used up from excessive travel, but not a man had received a scratch from the hands of the rebels. Most of the fighting was done at the right of the line and not in our vicinity. A few wounded men, skirmishers, were carried off the field on the left, and but a few; and in addition to these, the first sight that met our eyes, when we went to the relief of the artillery, was the almost lifeless body of a dying lieutenant of the artillery company, who was mortally wounded by a musket ball at the first attack upon the battery.

I must confess that when I again reached camp I felt somewhat rheumatic, as well as a good deal used up. For a whole week we had lived upon the hardest kind of fare, and often too little of that. At night we slept upon the ground, without the least shelter, no matter though the rain fell, as it did occasionally, and lucky was the man who had both his rubber and blanket. As for myself, by chance I had no blanket or overcoat, but as the boys were some of them very kind to me, I managed to get along very well, and in a fe days I shall be ready, under a new leadership, to march again to the scene of action with, I trust, a different result. One of our Generals told me on our return that our probable loss was from four to six thousand, but this is all nonsense; straggling soldiers have not yet ceased coming in, and already the reliable estimated loss is reduced to some six hundred.

I really believe that if we had maintained our ground at Centreville the enemy would have retreated much faster towards Richmond the next morning than we did towards Alexandria. But as it is it may all be for the best.

You will please say to the citizens of Tompkins through our papers, that not a man of our two Ithaca companies as yet has been harmed by a secessionist bullet.

Ever truly yours,

——

Ithaca [N. Y.] Journal and Advertiser, 7/31/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy





Projecting

5 12 2016

I’m getting around to outlining my thoughts on Irvin McDowell’s plan for the campaign on Manassas. If you’ve been following along, you know that I am firmly of the opinion that McDowell’s intentions and expectations for the campaign have been grossly misrepresented over the years, with resulting, understandable effects on the analysis of the failure of his plans (keeping in mind that reasons for the failure of plans and reasons for defeat are two very, very different things). While I think I’m no longer completely alone in that opinion, and may never have been, I’m still pretty sure I’m in a very small minority.

anteffcoverIn the meantime, I’m reading a very interesting book by Bradley Graham, The Antietam Effect. I’ve heard rumblings about this book over the past few years (self published in 2012), but never saw it until stumbling over it in the Fredericksburg Battlefield visitor’s center. This is a collection of essays dealing with various topics of the campaign. It’s wide-ranging, even eclectic. The titles listed in the footnotes may leave you scratching your head at first glance but, trust me, there’s a point to everything (and yes, you have to read the notes). I don’t necessarily agree with all the author’s conclusions, but I love his approach and find it very similar to my own, on a basic level.

One passage I found particularly intriguing, and applicable with some bending to my own experience with the historiography of First Bull Run, can be found on page 175:

To make their views more compelling, some authors enlist the unspoken opinions of key players…They engage in a species of psychological projection – projecting their own internalized impressions onto important historical characters. This cognitive bias tends to shape analysis, and good scholarship devolves into advocacy for the favored view, and the ascription of the author’s opinions onto those who did not espouse them.

It seems to me that, when it comes to McDowell’s intentions and expectations, authors have developed impressions of what they must have been or should have been, and in the absence of confirming evidence projected those impressions as being those of the man himself. The strange thing to me is how consistently this has been done over the years, so that those impressions have become generally accepted. When the legend becomes fact…