Watermelony Death

10 07 2020

Oh, the things we find.

Now that I’ve fallen into the black hole of Newspapers.com, I find that I can’t just focus on Bull Run stuff. I recall reading once that Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit and Unbroken, reads ALL of the papers when she’s researching her subject – that is, she reads the whole paper. This in fact is how she came across the story of Unbroken, while she was researching Seabiscuit. Anyway, today I was cruising through the August 1, 1861 issue of the Richmond Dispatch. On page two I came across this tidbit, a reminder that there are stories everywhere.

Lamentable Affair – We learn that Capt. Charles H. Axson, of South Carolina, was killed last Tuesday evening, near Wilson, North Carolina, on the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, by Arthur B. Davis, of the Second Georgia Regiment. The main particulars of the affair, as we learn from eyewitnesses, are as follows:

Capt. Axson, en route for Richmond, was bringing with him some watermelons and fine tropical fruit, as a present to distinguished friends in Richmond. Davis, while intoxicated, cut open several of the melons and crushed others. He afterwards approached the Captain and offered as an apology the remark that he was drunk, to which the Captain replied that being drunk was no excuse for stealing. During the day Davis again approached the Captain, and declared that he was sorry for what he had done while intoxicated, and was willing to make any apology for it. The Captain replied that he was satisfied, shook his hand and joined him in a drink. – They appeared afterwards to be friendly for some hours. In the afternoon, Davis being again under the influence of liquor, was making a rather careless exhibition of side-arms, when the Captain, in a good humor, and apparently remonstrating, held him for a moment. Being released, Davis withdrew for a moment to another car; but soon returned, with pistol in hand, demanding to know who was the man who had imposed on him. Captain A, supposing at once that he was the person alluded to, stepped forward, and was shot in the breast by Davis when very near him. Capt. A. died instantly. Davis was arrested.

Capt. Axson was the commander of Company “M,” First Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, which returned home a few weeks since. He was returning with his company again to enter the service. He was a true Southern man and a gallant officer. His company were warmly devoted to him, and are much afflicted by his untimely death.

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The next day, in the same paper, on the same page (semi-colons abound!):

The Late Homicide Followed by an Attempt at Murder! – Yesterday we learned that young Davis, who shot Capt. Axson on the Wilmington cars on Tuesday evening, was taken by a mob from a car on the south side of the river, opposite the city, and after being conveyed some half mile or so, was shot and stabbed several times. Though not killed outright, it is feared that his wounds are mortal. Some account of this shocking affair will be found in our local column, and it is also referred to in a letter, which we publish below.

We published yesterday an account of the killing of Capt Axson, which was furnished by a member of his company. We regret that in it the paper was led into the statement of circumstances that certainly reflect upon Mr. Davis, and are disputed. We are satisfied that he was a gentleman most respectably connected, and held in warm esteem amongst his fellow citizens. We give place very readily to the following communication in his vindication;

Richmond, Va., August 1st, 1861.

Editors Dispatch: Sir – In your issue of this morning, under the heading of “Lamentable Affairs,” I find an account of the shooting of Captain Axson, 1st South Carolina Volunteers, by Mr. Davis, of 2d Georgia Volunteers. So far as the fact of Captain Axson having been shot by Mr. Davis you are correct, and in so far only. From disinterested eye-witnesses, (witnesses who do not belong to either State, South Carolina or Georgia,) I learn that both parties were inebriated; that Mr. Davis did cut one, or perhaps more, melons of Captain Axson’s; when taxed for so doing Mr. Davis apologized, stating that he had supposed they were for sale, (as fruit was thus exposed all along the line,) and that he expected to pay for them on the appearance of the owner; that he was sorry for the mistake; that the excuse satisfied Captain A., when both drank together, more than once. A dispute afterwards arose, during which Captain Axson held Mr. Davis to the floor, choking him. On being released, Mr. Davis left the car, and procuring his side-arms returned to the car and to his seat, remarking that he would not suffer himself to be thus imposed on again; that on Captain Axson’s making a rush on him, Mr. Davis shot him. Your informant neglected to state to you other facts: that Major Butt, of the Second Georgia Regiment immediately arrested Mr. D, disarmed him and conveyed him to this city; that he left him in one of the cars, under a corporal’s guard, and went to hunt up the proper authorities, to whom he intended to surrender him; that during his absence the guard was set upon by a posse of armed men, (supposed to belong to Capt. Axson’s company;) that being no longer able to hold him the guard surrendered him, on the possee or mob promising to only convey him to the proper authorities; that the armed mob took Mr. Davis a half mile out of town, and there brutally murdered him; shooting him, and on his falling, one of the party ran up and stabbed him. Major Butt having taken his arms from him, no such cowardly assassination would have been attempted; for men who could this act, would have lacked the courage to have attacked him openly, when armed. Mr. Davis is well known in Georgia; his previous character has been unimpeachable. His conduct at home and abroad has been that of the true gentleman. The blood of Georgia’s Governors flow not in other veins, and the 2d Georgia Regiment had hoped that the press of Richmond would have waited until a judicial investigation had thrown full light on the affair. I do not know why the disposition of the fruit being bought by Capt. A. was mentioned. The piece says it was or “distinguished friends of Richmond.” If, by this mention, it was intended to leave the impression of social inequality on the part of Mr. D, it should have been left out; for Mr. D., socially, was any one’s equal. He occupied in his native State a high social position and deservedly. He was connected with (and never disgraced his connection,) the most honorable families in Georgia, begin a grandson of ex-Gov. Schley. So much for “distinguished friends” and its inference.

Respectfully,
W. A. T.

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There’s more, in other papers (for example, here), but I can’t delve too deeply into it. But YOU can! Let me know what you turn up in the comments section.

Capt. Charles H. Axson at FindAGrave

I couldn’t find anything definitive on Arthur B. Davis, but from what I can gather his wounds were not fatal.





Image: Capt. Edward Porter Alexander, Signal Officer, Army of the Potomac

10 07 2020
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E. P. Alexander as Colonel (Source)

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USMA Cadet E. P. Alexander (Source)

 





Capt. Edward Porter Alexander, Signal Officer, Army of the Potomac, On the Signal Corps in the Campaign

9 07 2020

THE FIRST SIGNAL MESSAGE.
—————
It Was Sent at Bull Run by Gen. E. P. Alexander, C. S. A.
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BY. BRIG. GEN. E. P. ALEXANDER, C. S. A.
—————

In September, 1859, I was a Second Lieutenant of Engineers, U. S. Army, and was on duty with the Corps of Cadets at West Point as Assistant Instructor in Practical Engineering. Here, on Sunday morning. I became acquainted with Dr. Albert J. Meyer, Assistant Surgeon, U. S. A., and learned from him of the system of military signals which he had devised and which he was then under order to develop and bring into practical operation.

Surgeon Meyer had been authorized also to select some young officer to assist him in his experiments, and our accidental acquaintanceship resulted in his making application for me to be relieved from duty at West Point and assigned to duty with him.

This was done, and I remained on duty with Surgeon Myer from Oct. 3, 1859, until March, 1860. The first three months were spent about New York Harbor, experimenting and perfecting our apparatus by daily and nightly signals, between Fort Hamilton, on the Narrows, and Sandy Hook, and Navesink Highlands. Then, everything being satisfactory, we went to Washington and exhibited the system to the Military Committees of the House and Senate, which resulted in the passage of a law creating a Signal Corps, of which Surgeon A. J. Myer was the head, with rank of Major.

I, at my own request, was returned to duty in my old corps, where I continued to serve until after the secession of Georgia, my native State. On May 1, 1861, I resigned, being then on duty at San Francisco, and I returned East via Panama, and arrived in Richmond on June 1.

WITH THE CONFEDERATE ARMY AT MANASSAS.

Confederate armies were being formed at that time in West Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley, at Manassas Junction, at Yorktown, and at Norfolk. On my arrival I was promoted Captain of Engineers, and several applications were made for me for different positions; but President Davis had been Chairman of the Military Committee of the Senate when Maj. Myer and I had appeared before it, on a number of occasions, exhibiting the military signals; so he refused all applications to me, and after making me put in operations a little factory of flags, torches, etc., on July 1, I was ordered to take myself and my system of signals to the army of Gen. Beauregard at Manassas Junction.

On June 24, Gen. McDowell had submitted to the War Department a plan for an advance upon Manassas Junction, to be begun on July 8, which had been accepted. Most fortunately for the Confederates, however, the Federal army, with all its resources, was not ready to start until July 16. Twenty miles of marching, and a preliminary skirmish, and only on July 21 was the battle delivered.

ORGANIZING A SIGNAL CORPS.

On my arrival at Manassas, July 2, 1861, I really had much more time to install my system of signals than I expected; for “rumors of the foe’s advance” now swelled upon almost every breeze, and I lost no time. I had brought with me from Richmond all the necessary flags, torches, glasses, etc., and the first thing was to select men. I soon made acquaintances among the officers, and got the names of about 15 young privates who might later be promoted as Signal Officers, and I had them detailed and assigned to me for duty. They were at once put upon a course of instruction and practice.

Meanwhile I procured a horse, and between times began an exploration of the country which was to be our theater of action, to find out what facilities it offered to establish lines of signal.

The topography was very far from favorable; the country was generally flat and gently rolling. There were but few large bodies of woods, but very many medium sized ones, and very much second growth pine. Our line of battle had been chosen along the stream of Bull Run, about three miles north of Manassas, and the course of the stream was generally wooded and bordered with small fields and pastures, giving very few open stretches. I was not at all sanguine that I would be able to render any valuable service, but, fortunately, I had the time to make a thorough search of the whole country, and as will be seen, one line which I opened up disclosed the vital secret of the enemy’s strategy in time to allow it to be successfully met.

LOCATING SIGNAL STATIONS.

About a mile east of the little village of Manassas, on the farm of a Mr. Wilcoxen, I found a high, rocky point, covered with cedars, but having a good outlook over a valley to the north and west. I made this point a central station, and by clearing it off, and by some clearing at other points, I got two straight six-mile ranges; one northwest to a bluff over Bull Run Valley, on our extreme left, a short way above the Stone Bridge (by which the Warrenton Turnpike crossed Bull Run), and the other north to Centerville, about three miles beyond the Run, opposite our center. Another station was found near the Run, opposite our right center; and a fourth near our headquarters in the village. This was the utmost that the topography permitted, and I established them and set the men to practicing by day and by night.

It is not necessary for me to refer to the operations preceding the 21st. Early that morning McDowell’s turning column was approaching Sudley Ford, two miles above the Confederate left at Stone Bridge; and after a very early breakfast, Gens. Beauregard and Johnston, with their united staffs, started to the front opposite their center. They had sent orders to Ewell, on their extreme right, to advance and turn the enemy’s left, but these orders miscarried in some way, and were never received; consequently there was no action on our center, which was waiting in vain for the right to begin, and ample time was allowed McDowell’s turning column to complete its long march and make the fight upon our left.

And now I may introduce the incident which this paper records in detail for the first time.

As the rather large party, with an escort of couriers, moved down the road soon after breakfast, Gen. Beauregard called me to him, and directed me to take a courier and go to my central signal station on the hill near Wilcoxen’s house, and to remain there in general observation and to send him messages about anything that could be seen. I was far from pleased at the receipt of this order, for I had hoped to accompany the two Generals throughout the day, and the chances of seeing anything important from this place seemed infinitely small. There was no help for it, however, and Beauregard deserves credit for the thought of taking every possible means of acquiring prompt information. If we had had a balloon this would have been the time to send it up.

By rare food luck the Wilcoxen Hill had a particularly good outlook beyond the Stone Bridge. From it could be seen our signal station on the bluff in rear of Stone Bridge, six miles off, and then beyond that for miles the level valley of Upper Bull Run, with its fields, fences, pastures, etc., was foreshortened into one narrow band of green. I arrived on Wilcoxen’s Hill about 8 a. m. After a careful study, I fixed the glass upon the Stone Bridge station and got from the operator there some details about the developments of the morning.

M’DOWELL’S FLANKING COLUMN DISCOVERED.

While I was reading the motions of his flag, the sun being low in the east, and I looking toward the west, from up in the narrow band of green above the flag, the faintest twinkle of light caught my eye. My eyes were always remarkably quick and good, and I had had long training with a glass. It was but a single flash, but the color was that of brass, and the shape a horizontal line. It could be nothing but the reflection of the morning sun from the side of a brass gun. I brought my glass very carefully to bear exactly, and presently made out a little swarm of still fainter glitters, and I knew that it was a column of bright musket barrels and bayonets.

It was about 8:45 a. m., and I had discovered McDowell’s turning column, the head of which at this hour was just arriving at Sudley, eight miles away. I at once appreciated how much it might mean, and I thought it best to give Gen. Evans, in command at the Stone Bridge, immediate notice, even before sending word to Beauregard. So I signalled Evans quickly, “Look out for your left; you are turned.” Gen. Evans afterwards told me that the pickets which he had at Sudley, being driven in by the enemy’s advance guard, had sent a messenger, and the two messengers, one with my warning and one with the report of the picket, reached him simultaneously. The two reports coming together from different sources, thoroughly impressed him with the gravity of the situation, and he acted immediately and with excellent judgement. He left four companies of his command to occupy the enemy (Tyler and his three brigades) in his own front, and with the remainder of his force (six companies of the 4th S. C. and Wheat’s La. Battalion), he marched to oppose and delay the turning column, sending word at the same time of his movement to Col. Cocke, next on his right. In his official report Evans warmly thanks Col. Robt. Wheat (who had been an old Filibuster) for sound advice on the field, and I have no doubt that Wheat was consulted and advised with here. Poor fellow, he fought as well as advised, and fell shout through both lungs. He recovered, but in his next fight, Gaines’s Mill, 11 months later, he fell, leading a charge and could only exclaim: “Bury me on the field, boys.”

Having sent Evans my brief notice of his immediate danger, I wrote a note to Gen. Beauregard, which I can quote, I believe, verbatim, as it was framed after my idea of what the reports of reconnoitering officers should be – the exact mathematical truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I kept no copy of it, but its impression upon my own brain was very vivid, and it was about as follows: “I see a body of troops crossing Bull Run about two miles above the Stone Bridge. The head of the column is in the woods on this side. The rear of the column in in the woods on the other side. About a half mile of its length is visible in the open ground in between. I can see both infantry and artillery.”

When I had it written, it looked very tame for notice of the great event I took it to be: but I gave it to my courier and sent him off at a gallop, with some two and a half miles to go.

Untitled

SEASONABLE AND MATERIAL ASSISTANCE.

Gen. Beauregard, in his report of the battle, does not mention the receipt of this note, but says generally that I gave him “seasonable and material assistance early in the day with the system of my signals.”

Gen. Johnston is a little more explicit, and says: “About 8 o’clock, Gen. Beauregard and I placed ourselves on a commanding hill in rear of Gen. Bonham’s left. Near 9 o’clock the Signal Officer, Capt. Alexander, reported that a very large body of troops was crossing the Valley of Bull Run, some two miles above the bridge. Gen. Bee, who had been placed near Col. Cocke’s position; Col. Hampton, with his legion, and Col Jackson, from a point near Gen. Bonham’s left, were ordered to hasten to the left flank.”

Bee’s force comprised the 4th Ala., 2d Miss., and the 7th and 8th Ga. The Hampton Legion was one regiment, and Jackson had five regiments, the 2d, 4th, 5th, 27th and 33d Va. So in all, 10 regiments, with an average distance of about three miles to go, were now en route to reinforce Evans with his one regiment and a half.

I need proceed no further in the history of this battle, though it included the sending of several other signals, and other matters of interest which concerned our knowledge of what was taking place.

It is known of all men that the delay made by the troops above mentioned gave time for the arrival of the brigades of Early and Kirby Smith and two regiments of Burnham’s, and that their arrival changed the defeat into victory. As the sending of these troops to the left was caused by the timely warning of the approach of the enemy upon that flank; it must fairly be attributed to the operation of the system of signals. And as to the value of that victory in moral effect upon the Confederate army and people, those who have fully appreciated the immense power given by “morale” to any army, will realize that that victory laid a foundation of morale without which our subsequent victories – prolonging the war for four years – would have been almost, if not quite, impossible.

The National Tribune, 1/8/1903

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Contributed by Michael Pellegrini

Edward Porter Alexander at Wikipedia 

Edward Porter Alexander at Ancestry.com 

Edward Porter Alexander at Fold3 

Edward Porter Alexander at FindAGrave 





Unknown, Albemarle Light Horse (Co. K, 30th Virginia Volunteers), On the Pursuit

8 07 2020

The Pursuit at Manassas.

We are permitted to publish the following letter from a member of the Albemarle Light Horse, (Capt. Eugene Davis,) which was engaged in the battle at Manassas Plains:

Manassas Junction, July 24.

Amid your rejoicings over the glorious victory of the 21st, I have thought it probable you would not object to hearing of the exploits of the Albemarle Light Horse, more in detail than can be found in the usual accounts of the battle. Our company returned from Occoquan on Friday before the great fight and were immediately sent to meet General Holmes’ Brigade, which was advancing from Fredericksburg. We met the General and returned with him on Saturday and continued under his command. On Sunday, shortly after our dinner, the order came for the Brigade to advance to the scene of action. We were soon mounted and ready to start, under the command of Major John Scott. After a most furious gallop of about two miles, we entered a grassy field, and were about ascending a high hill, when we were met by Col. Lay and directed to file around it, as the enemy’s flank battery was playing upon it. We did so promptly, and thus the balls passed, sone entirely over our heads and others into the earth near the top of the hill, making the dirt fly, but hurting nobody. On we went until ordered to halt and form into line, under cover of the hill upon which Lewis’ house stands. – Here we were subjected to a most demoralizing influence. Many of the companies which had been engaged were relieved by new companies and returning in a confused condition, leading and carrying their bleeding comrades, and giving awful accounts of the way in which their companies had been cut to pieces. One fellow made it his business to walk down the line and refresh us by telling how the Monticello and Holcombe Guards had been almost demolished. Major Scott seemed to see the effect of this upon his men, and sharply ordered the next fellow to be cut down who opened his mouth upon such a topic, and after that we heard nothing more, but still the line of bleeding wounded dragged its slow length along and still there came over us a sickening impression that the day had gone against us. – Everybody’s face looked elongated; but presently a shout was heard behind us, and on looking back we saw Capt. L. Walker’s battery which we had passed on the way advancing. He rode up in a cheerful mood and asked how things were going: “Hip and tug,” responded our officer; “Hip and tug is it,” said Lindsay, then le me get up on that hill with my little derringers.” And up he went with his “little derringers,” as he called his refle cannon, and commenced a succession of rapid firings, all of which were said to have ploughed ar road through horses, artillery and Yankees.

A squad of officers, who had collected on horseback, scattered over the fences and into the wood like a covey of partridges. In a few moments, we heard the joyful sound that the enemy were off in full retreat. Major Scott rode up to General Holmes, and reported for orders. “Go on, sir,” was the laconic response. And on we did go, without knowing, we must acknowledge, exactly where we were going to or what we were going after. But we were all too high strung to care much now, and there was only a general impression, that it was a sort of fox chase on a very expanded scale. At the Stone Bridge across Bull’s Run, (where the fight commenced in the morning,) we overtook Kershaw’s Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers, and attached ourselves to his command.

In a few moments orders came to send a platoon forward to act as skirmishers in a body of woods through which the road passed. Lieut. Geiger dispatched for this service, Major Scott accompanying him. Passing in front of the regiment, Geiger left the Major six men to keep the main body on the road, while he scattered the rest on either side, and the boys had fine sport gathering up the prisoners, with which the woods were filled. Riding on, Major Scott, with his six men, found a house upon the turnpike filled with Yankees. Without knowing how many there were, he made a charge upon it, and the cowardly devils surrendered at once. Upon being emptied, the house was found to have contained thirty-five Yankees and three Georgians, whom they had in custody. At this point, the Major remained until joined by Lieut. Geiger, with his platoon, and finally by Capt. Davis, (with the rest of the company,) who had also been subsequently sent in advance of Kershaw to reconnoitre, and had captured several prisoners.

We had scarcely got together before it was announced that the enemy were rallying and planting a battery in the road just in front of us. At this news we scampered into the woods to wait for the regiment and Kemper’s Artillery, which was coming, and here we sent four of our men, with our doctor, to attend to Capt. Radford, who had fallen a short distance off, and died soon after the boys reached him. He had kind, sympathizing hearts around him in his last moments, and soft, youthful hands to close his eyes.

The enemy at this point raised quite a shout, but the South Carolina boys had come and only gave way to the right to allow Kemper to open on them from the road, and again we were formed in rear of the regiment. The sun was just sinking behind the horizon when the battery opened, and of all the singing shots you ever heard, these were the most musical. Our horses actually danced at every crack, and at every crack the road was cleared in front. This was too much, and away they went again. A large body of Cavalry had entered the field and were standing some distance in our rear when an officer rode up and asked for two squadrons to follow and capture the baggage train and artillery. For some reason there was no response, except from Major Scott, who replied, that he had one company at his service. The officer accepted the offer and directed us to the left of the turnpike, warning the Major to be cautious. The very thing the Major did not seem disposed to be, for away we went again across the field towards the left, and heard from several as we passed, the pleasant expression “there goes a doomed body of men.” But we were too much elated to mind that, and in our excitement had forgotten all about the wounded men on the hill where we first formed.

After proceeding a short distance we captured a prisoner, from whom Major Scott extorted the confession that the most important part of the train had passed straight down the turnpike. So over the fence we went into the turnpike again, and at a breakneck speed forward, until we spied the train descending a hill at Cub Run. We charged with such a terrible clatter that we suppose the attendants thought we numbered thousands instead of about fifty, and (at the first fire) off they scampered, leaving artillery, wounded men, baggage and everything. The Major, accompanied by Lieut. Geiger and fifteen men, dashed across the stream in pursuit of the fugitives, and had captured several of them, when they discovered a body of 200 Zouaves, and at once demanded their surrender. This was pushing things rather too far, and so the gallant Yankee who commanded actually had the hardihood, instead of surrendering his two hundred men, as our men thought he would do, to fifteen, to ask by what right his surrender was demanded, and to prevent all reply by following up his querry by a rapid pop, pop, pop, all along the line. A “right about,” and rapid abandonment of prisoners, and a hasty retreat to the rest of the company, was effected without injury to anybody. I believe one of our horses did get a few buckshot in the leg.

During the absence of this party, Captain Davis began to discover the nature and value of the prize, and proceeded to disengage and send back the cannon. Seeing how very important it was to secure it all, and reflecting that we numbered not over fifty, and were far in advance of our own men, and a very short distance from the enemy, Capt. Davis sent Lieut. Randolph back for reinforcements, and he returned with a body of cavalry and some infantry, with whose assistance we were able. By about 1 o’clock, to get everything disentangles, and on its road to Manassas. There were sixteen cannon, among them one Armstrong gun, said to be worth ten thousand dollars, caissons, ammunition, wagons, ambulances, about one hundred horses, &c., &c., &c. A nice little two-horse carriage was found elegantly fixed up, with oil-cloth coats, bottles of cologne, a fine guitar, and all the other fixings of some calico exquisite, who was no doubt anticipating an elegant campaign in Virginia, and much chagrined at the way in which he got himself bedraggled running through Cub Run and the adjoining swamp and thicket. Another carriage seemed to belong to a more substantial character, as it was fount to contain hermetically sealed meats, vegetable soup, and oh! a box of elegant liquor – whiskey, brandy, champagne, and other wines. We could not help feeling some respect for this fellow. He was certainly a fine judge of spirits, and treated us in style. We actually drank to his health and reformation. The boys loaded themselves with coats, oil-cloths, splendid canteens, &c.

Such a rout you cannot conceive of, the whole road, and for a distance on either side for miles, was literally covered with all manner of blankets, hats, guns, swords, dead men and horses, wagons and wheels. I noticed several wagons loaded with timber, ready hewed, for the purpose of making bridges across Bull Run. But few men in that army will ever tread the soil of Virginia again without terrible trepidation and rapid looking from one side to the other, and crooking of the legs in a position to be ready for a right about. The abject servile behavior of the prisoners lowered even our opinions of our miserable foes, and you know it was very low before.

We reached our camp at daybreak Monday morning, and after a short nap got up to talk over the doings of the day and receive the congratulations of our friends and commendations of the General and others in high command. We certainly had a glorious day of it. It would have done you good to see how the boys rode. We will be in Alexandria next week.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 7/29/1861

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Albemarle Light Horse was Co. K of the 30th Virginia Volunteer Regiment and would become Co. K, 2nd Virginia Cavalry

Brief sketch of the Albemarle Light Horse 





Image: Col. Michael Corcoran, 69th New York State Militia

8 07 2020
OIP

Colonel Michael Corcoran, 69th NYSM (Source)

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Col. Michael Corcoran, 69th NYSM (Source)





Col. Michael Corcoran, 69th New York State Militia, On the Advance

7 07 2020

LETTER FROM COLONEL CORCORAN.

The Herald says:

The following letter was sent to Capt. Jas. B. Kirker*, of this city, by Col. Corcoran, of the 69th Regiment, which is at present on the advance movement with the grand army of the Union:

Headquarters Sixty-ninth Reg’t,
Near Centreville, Va., July 18, 1861.

Capt. James B. Kirker:

My Dear Friend: The night of the 16th we remained at Vienna, and left next morning at six o’clock. Our march from there was very slow indeed, caused by the obstructions placed on the road by the rebels, who had felled trees at several points, and through which we had to cut our way. Coming in view of Fairfax Court-House, the enemy fled, leaving many articles behind them in their very hurried retreat. Three of their Cavalry were made prisoners. We cam along in double-quick time for about a mile, and many threw away blankets and haversacks. One column pushed on towards Germantown, where the enemy had breastworks and four guns mounted, with about nine hundred infantry; but as soon as out battery opened upon them, they retired. From there we pushed on to this point, where the enemy were about 8,000 strong, but retired on our advance. From what we can learn, they are at Centreville, about 15,000 strong, and we start for there in a few minutes. The regiment is in good health and spirits, although they suffered much yesterday for want of water, as the enemy cut the ropes at all the wells along our line of march. Captain Breshle** received a flesh wound in the right shoulder, by the accidental discharge of one of our own muskets yesterday. He will be quite well in about a week. I will have him sent back to the fort as soon as I can. I must close, as the regiment is falling into line. I remain, ever yours truly.

Michael Corcoran, Colonel.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 7/26/1861

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69th New York State Militia Roster 

* James B. Kirker was attached to the regimental staff as an engineer.

** Likely Capt. John Breslin, Co. F.

Michael Corcoran at Wikipedia 

Michael Corcoran at Ancestry 

Michael Corcoran at Fold3 

Michael Corcoran at FindAGrave 





Pvt. Jeremiah K. Rathbun, Co. E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle

1 07 2020

Headquarters 2nd Reg. RIV
Camp Clark, Co. E
July 25, 1861

Dear Father, I received your letter last nite and dear to us in the Battle last Sunday and among them was our Col. Slocum who acted like a brave man in the fight and Major Ballou and others that seemed nearer to us because we have always worked with and those was Stephen Holland, Billy Nichols, and Esic Smith is missing but we do not think he was killed and Lieut Church is missing to.

Our company was acting as Scouts when the enemy was found and was the first ones that fired a shot at the enemy and the 2 Regiment fout about twelve minutes before another was on the ground.

We was not more fit to fight than dead men for we was all tired out amarching and instead of afighting Sunday we was not to fight until Tuesday and some think that McDowel was a cam Traitor and I think so too for when we got on the field he came up and waved his handkerchief and the enemy began to fire. Good Bye.

Dear Brother, I received your letter and was glad to hear from you all. We had a pretty hard time on Sunday but I got back safe after a hard march and we are all about half sick. The next time we go I hope we shall not get out of Ammunition so as to wait for it to come to us as we did this time so you can see that the traitor was among us somewhere. Who ever heard of twenty thousand men fighting against one hundred thousand. We was to wait till Patterson’s forces came up to help us. Good Bye.

Dear Wife, It is with pleasure that I write these few lines to let you know I am well excepting I am a little tired, but am thankful that I am here to write you once more. I hope you and my little children is well and you must not worry about me, but trust in the Lord as he doeth all things well. I should like to see you and the children very much and all my friends. Tell father Rheubin that I should like to see him and I think I shall sometime. Give my love to little Rheubin and I should like to see him very much.

Dear Sisters, I thought I would try to write you a note but I don’t know what to write only to say that I am well and pray you are the same and should like to have you send me a paper that has got the news in it if you can. That is all I can think of now.

From your Affectionate Husband and Son Jeremiah K. Rathbun.

From Voices of the Civil War: Letters and Journal Excerpts of South Kingstown Men in the Union Army, 1861-1863, Shirley L. Barrett, Ed, Petaquamscutt Historical Society, pp. 13-14

Contributed by Rob Grandchamp

2nd Rhode Island Infantry Roster 

Jeremiah K. Rathbun at Ancestry 

Jeremiah K. Rathbun at Fold3 

Jeremiah K. Rathbun at FindAGrave 





Corp. William E. Smith, Co. E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle

1 07 2020

2nd Rgt. Co. E, Camp Clarke
[Undated] 1861

Dear mother, I am sorry to say that we can’t give eny acount of Esic nor Clark Rodman nor Lieut. Church. Don’e tell Allme as it will worry granmother. We are all well and that is all I can say. Ask father if he recieved them books I sent him and papers.

Give my love to all the boys and girls and tell them we are goin again pretty soon. Tell them I don’t think they care much for us they don’t write to eny of us. Tell all the girls to not be afreaide to write for we shall like to hear from them. Tell the Davidson’s girls to write to me. I want to hear from them all.

I saw many of our Ridgment shot down. I was close to Slocum when he was kild. A hard time we had I tell you. The Second Ridgment, that’s the one we are in you know, stood 45 minutes in front of a ridgment of the Rebels before eny of the rest got up to us. I dee Esic on the field afighting and have not seen him since. After the fight I looked every where for him but could not find him. Tell Dorcas Harvey her husband is here as well.

Don’t let enybody see this letter, if you do I won’t write eny more for if you do they will tell it all around and they write back and it makes a fuss saying that such a one wrote this and that.

Write George and let him know for I can’t. Don’t fret Mother for me for I will come out all rite at the end.

From your soon William E Smith

From Voices of the Civil War: Letters and Journal Excerpts of South Kingstown Men in the Union Army, 1861-1863, Shirley L. Barrett, Ed, Petaquamscutt Historical Society, p. 11

Contributed by Rob Grandchamp

2nd Rhode Island Infantry Roster 

William E. Smith at Ancestry 

William E. Smith at Fold3 

William E. Smith at FindAGrave (likely) 





Corp. Patrick Lyons, Co. E, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Campaign

30 06 2020

Tuesday, July 16, 1861

After waiting long for the final order to march it finally came at last at 1 ocl. P. M. when we started for Washington and thence across the Long Bridge, rightly named being about 1 mile long, and were soon on the “Sacred Soil” of Virginia. We marched 11 miles that day and bivouacked for the night near Balls Cross Roads…

We were brigaded on the March with the 7th New York, 2nd New Hampshire, and the 1st R. I. The time for which the latter Regmt. Enlisted was now very nearly expired but they Volunteered to accompany us on this expedition which shows the stuff that they were made of & which entitles them to the front ranks amongst the Nation’s defenders.

Wednesday, July 17

After thawing ourselves out by some gymnastic exerises & having breakfast with the indispensible hot coffee we resumed out march to Richmond. Our Regmt. Had the right of the Column on this day’s March & consequently two companies were detailed to act as skirmishers & Co. E being one of them was deployed on the left of the column & advanced thro woods and fields till we came in sight of a pretty strong rebel fortification in front of the Village of Fairfax CH. The fort had the appearance of being still occupied thee being apparently Some heavy guns mounted & it was therefore deemed advisable to reconnoitre. Major Ballou was amongst the first to advance when upon a close inspection he found that the fort was evacuated, the guns Quaker ones (wooden).

The enemy apparently left in haste as a great many useful and some valuable articles were left behind and appropriated by our soldiers upon entering it. The writer picked up one trophy in the shape of an officers old fashioned red night cap, which he carried along in his haversack, but which , later he was destined to lose again.

We proceeded thro the Village which was an ancient looking place. The rebel flag floated over the Court House and some members of our Regmt hauled it down and hoisted the Stars and Stripes…

Saturday and Sunday, July 20 and 21, 1861

On Saturday evening the 20th we received orders to be ready to March at 1 ocl. That Night…but not until 2 ocl. Or thereabouts did we start.

The Column separated near Centreville. Our Brigade under the command of Col. Burnside of the 1st R. I. took the road to the right leading South West…Our destination was learned to be Bulls Run and as we had the extreme right of the army we had to march about 15 miles through thick forests and bad roads.

We met with no opposition till 11 A. M. when after having crossed the Stone Bridge over Bulls Run, Cos A and E were sent out to the right and left as skirmishers through dense woods. E had just completed its deployment when the left which extended to the extremity of the belt of woods discovered a force of about 200 of the enemy marching past our left flank through a clearing in the forest and the alarm “enemy on the left” passed along the line amid the greatest excitement.

The order from the Capt, close to the left was speedily obeyed and we fired a volley at the enemy who were falling back pretty lively by this time, believing no doubt from the racket we made, that our whole army was pouncing on to them. The Capt ordered us to advance over a fence at the end of these woods, which we did and again commenced firing. The enemy meanwhile having retreated to the opposite Slope of a hill between us, better known later as the Henry House Plateau. Returned the fire, but up to this time our casualties were few owing to the rebels being obliged to elevate their guns too high in firing over the hill.

We were thus engaged about 15 minutes when Co. A came to our assistance and we advanced to the Henry House on the Slope of the Hill which separated us from the enemy and everyone fired away at will and in some confusion.

It was ¾ of an hour before our Brigade formed line of battle on our right with the 1st R. I. Light Atillery near the extreme right when the battle became general all along the line. The enemies batteries opened on us from all points from woods in front and their infantry becoming emboldened proceeded to occupy a belt of woods on our left and front and put their Sharp Shooters in the tall pine trees opposite the Henry House.

It was here while advancing over the crest of the Hill, pistol in hand, and while getting over a fence, that the brave and lamented Col. Slocum (Col. of our Rgt) was shot in the forehead and died in a short time after being carried tenderly back to the Henry House.

The Major (Ballou) also fell here while riding along the crest of the Palteau receiving a canon shot in the thigh from which he died soon afterwards. Gov. Sprague was nor fortunate, he also rode along the hull and had a horse shot under him but bravely mounted another & repeated the act.

Co. E lost some of its best men here amongst who William Nichols, Corp. Stephen Holland and Henry L. Jacques were killed and Corp. Ezek B. Smith, Isaac Clark Rodman & John Clark, N. C. Dixson were wounded, the three former being captured, Smith and Rodman dying in prison at Richmond.

Meantime we were ordered back to the edge of the woods to get a fresh supply of ammunition. Up to this time everything was favorable for our side & we felt as if we would not be called upon again to take part in the battle…

[But again] the line was formed on the right of our former position, the Brigade in columns of Regts, our Regmt in front. We were not long in discovering that our troops were defeated and in full retreat and our duty was to cover the retreat. We descried a long column of the enemy advancing directly on our line and their batteries opened on us with disastrous effect…

The rout now became pretty general from all parts of the field excepting our force which had to stand in line facing the exultant and advancing foe. Our Cavalry and other mounted men added much to the consternation in their headlong haste to the rear, teams and ambulance got stuck in the mud and blocked the roads. Several Congressmen & other prominent men who came to see the battle in their Carriages added not a little to the confusion, members of all regiments got mixed up together, many of whom threw away their guns and equipment & set out to make their way to Washington.

But meantime, the space between the advancing column of the enemy and our brigade was lessening and we were ordered about face and marched off the field in good order until we came in contact with the disorganized mass near the stone bridge when it became impossible to preserve our organization. The enemy brought a battery to bear on the bridge and disables some ambulance wagons and artillery caissons which blocked it so that the troops had to wade the stream on either side and clamber up its steep banks, the water in the stream reaching breast high.

After crossing the stream the writer and John Allen were trudging along together when hearing some peculiar buzzing behind us looked around and saw a canon ball rolling after us which caused us to run in a zig zag manner till it gave up the pursuit.

Capt. Tower of Co. F was killed at the bridge and I suppose a great many others beside a large number of prisoners were captured among them Lieut. Church of…

…Upon arriving at Bush Camp, thinking we would make a stand here, reoccupied our huts and were soon fast asleep being completely exhausted by the fatigues of the past 20 hours our so…however…we were routed up and informed that the army were to retreat to Washington…

Jerry Quinlan and I kept together and jogged along with the weary throng composed of men from all the different organizations of the army, and I do not exaggerate when I say that we slept wile marching along at various stages of the journey, each one alternately stepping on the others heels, causing a momentary awakening…Traveling all night, the crowd to which I was attached, arrived at Fort Runyon, covering the long bridge, about 9 ocl. Monday morning the 22d.

Here we found the garrison working in hot haste arranging Shot & Shell for the guns & in every way preparing for the expected advance of the enemy, which however did not occure…For several days after we arrived in Camp, stragglers kept coming in by the twos and threes and all had woeful tales to tell of hardships and narrow escapes &c and about the last to arrive was Tom Flaherty with out late Col. Slocum’s horse, which notwithstanding repeated efforts of officers in command of the Chain Bridge to take away from him, he brought safely to Camp & afterwards the horse was shipped to the deceaseds home in R. I.

A few days after our return, the 1st RI bade us farewell & started for home which made us feel rather homesick. We exchanged our smooth bore muskets for their Springfield rifles and moved into their comfortable board barracks, which we did not long enjoy as we were moved to Brightwood about 5 miles from Washington and immediately set to work building fortifications for the defense of Washington.

From Voices of the Civil War: Letters and Journal Excerpts of South Kingstown Men in the Union Army, 1861-1863, Shirley L. Barrett, Ed, Petaquamscutt Historical Society, pp. 7-10

Contributed by Rob Grandchamp

2nd Rhode Island Infantry Roster

Patrick Lyons at Ancestry

Patrick Lyons at Fold3

Patrick Lyons at FindAGrave





“Ensis,” Co. C*, 18th Mississippi Infantry, On the Battle and Aftermath

30 06 2020

Correspondence of the Citizen.
—————

Camp Near Stone Bridge, Va.,
July 30, 1861.

Dear Citizen: – The 17th and 18th Regiments now find themselves at this new encampment, after much marching and exposure to the weather, and are attached to a new brigade. This re-organization, so decidedly agreeable to us, has been brought about, we suspect, by the freely expressed dissatisfaction which was felt by the two regiments, both in rank and file, towards our former Brigadier (D. R. Jones,) and we have now the pleasure to claim as our official head, the cool, chivalrous and experienced Gen. Evans.

You have doubtless been fully informed that the partial failure of our attack upon the enemy’s left wing battery, in the engagement on Sunday last, was entirely owing to the mismanagement, ignorance, and, I must say, military incompetence of our immediate leader. Being ordered to charge bayonets when at a distance of five hundred yards from an overwhelming enemy posted and entrenched upon and almost inaccessible hill, with two tremendous hills and a ravine at least seventy-five feet between us, we think displayed too rash and an indifference about the welfare of his men and too little of the general to be borne by regiments which, by their integral composition and proficiency in drill, are in every way prepared to sustain the high honor of their State. The ravine was utterly impassible in the charge; and to have stood there upon it’s brink, in the midst of the deadly and terrific storm of grape, canister and bombs which about ten heavy pieces of artillery thundered upon them, would have been sheer madness. The order to retire was therefore given, and although the Yankees immediately retreated and joined the general rout, yet, in the minds of some persons, uninformed as to the facts, our regiments sustained some discredit.

Our 2nd Lieutenant was a few days ago taken from us by the “Camden Rifles,” to supply the place of their lamented Captain (Adam McWillie); and the result of an election in the “Confederates,” to fill the place of Judge Hill, has just this moment been announced in favor of our popular Sergeant Hugh Love, for whose gallantry in action and agreeability in camp, every soldier can vouch. The unsuccessful aspirant was our worthy friend Sergeant Rucker.*

We are now encamped upon the edge of the main battle field. There remains to mark the spot only a few dead horses, the scars of the cannon-shot and graves of the fallen. The marks of the enemy’s flight are all over the country, and most remarkably did they exemplify the scriptural assertion, “the wicked flee when no man pursueth.” No idea of the utter consternation which attended their flight can be formed till the broken wheels and guns, the scattered clothes and provisions, the deserted tents and the tremendous quantity of relinquished booty of every description, all along the route from Bull’s Run to Alexandria is seen.

I have seen sixty-one pieces of the fine artillery which we took; and every wayside house has been converted into an arsenal, prison and hospital for their deserted equipments, the terror-stricken captives and poor wounded wretches. The moral force and the exaltation of the South, and her holy self-defence, which the news of this victory and unequaled defeat will carry throughout America and into the ears of astonished Europe (which the bragging North has ever attempted to deafen to the truth). Is the most grateful blessing which a kind God could grant to the Southern patriot and soldier.

The health of our company and regiment is only tolerable. We start soon for Leesburg, about twenty-five miles distant.

Mr. Hardy is still with us.

Dr. Divine, who has won the golden opinion of the regiment by his readiness in camp and upon the field, with his instruments and his rifle, is yet the welcome confrere of the company.

We miss the luxury of fruit and vegetables, which our friends at home are enjoying about now; but we, here, have this honorable war.

In haste, your friend,
Ensis.**

(Canton, MS) American Citizen, 8/10/1861

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy

18th Mississippi Infantry Roster 

* Hugh Love and William W. Rucker, both in Co. C per roster above. Co. C was raised in Canton, Madison County, MS.

** An ensis is a saltwater clam.