Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, SC

9 04 2023

While in Charleston, SC, for a presentation on March 13 to the Fort Sumter Civil War Round Table, I took a trip to the city’s Magnolia Cemetery. Below are a few images, including some of the Bull Runners interred there.

First up, the entry and the Civil War section near the office.

Magnolia Cemetery entrance
Confederate Section
A tough shot to get – sun was not my friend

Here are some Bull Runners:

Col. Micah Jenkins, 5th South Carolina
Monument to the Washington Light Infantry (Co. A, Hampton’s Legion)
Washington Light Infantry
Capt. James Conner, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion
Capt. James Conner
Capt. James Conner
Lt. Col. Benjamin Johnson, Hampton’s Legion
Lt. Col. Benjamin Johnson
Lt. Col. Benjamin Johnson
Lt. Col. Benjamin Johnson

The three crews if the Confederate submarine Hunley:

First crew
Second crew
Third Crew
Horace Hunley
Third crew
George Dixon, of the bent gold piece

A fire eater:

R. Barnwell Rhett

A general prominent out west:

Arthur Manigault

Next door at St. Lawrence Catholic cemetery:

More Charleston stuff coming, including more on James Conner, The Hibernian Society, The Citadel, and Ft. Johnson.

Interview: O’Neill, “Small But Important Riots”

31 03 2023

A new release from Potomac Books is Robert F. (Bob) O’Neill’s Small But Important Riots: The Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville. I’ve known Bob for about six years now, ever since we spent a week together out west visiting Indian Wars sites, including Little Bighorn. Bob graciously consented to discussing his new book, below.


Bull Runnings: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Bob O’Neill: My wife and I live in King George, VA. I am a retired police officer, and law enforcement instructor. Virginia Country’s Civil War published my first article in 1984. I have also published articles in Blue & Gray, Gettysburg Magazine, America’s Civil War, and the Little Big Horn Associates, Research Review. In addition to the 1993 H. E. Howard edition of The Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville, I published Chasing Jeb Stuart and John Mosby, The Union Cavalry in Northern Virginia from Second Manassas to Gettysburg in 2012. The latter study follows Maj. Gen. Julius Stahel’s Union cavalry, attached to the Defenses of Washington, and examines John Mosby’s first six months as a partisan commander from the viewpoint of Stahel’s troopers, using previously unpublished contemporary documents.

Dave Roth, owner, and editor of Blue & Gray, and I became good friends while working together on several Civil War articles. He had long wanted to publish an issue on the Little Big Horn, and in the early 2000’s we made two trips to the battlefield and several other nearby battlefields. Those trips and numerous related discussions led to my article in a later issue on the 1876 fights at Powder River and Rosebud. My work with Dave also resulted in my guiding two Custer related tours for Bruce Venter and America’s History, LLC.

Lastly, I publish a cavalry related blog, (Small But Important Riots), and several appendices not published in the new edition may be found on that site.

BR: What got you interested in history in general, and the Civil War in particular? Who/what were your early influences?

B’ON: Beyond grade-school classes, I learned to read and to enjoy reading by reading the books in my parent’s library. My dad, a naval officer in WW2 and Korea, had an extensive military library, including naval studies, Lincoln biographies, and Civil War histories. I began reading during the Civil War Centennial and studies such as Bruce Catton’s Army of the Potomac trilogy sparked my interest, as well as heavily illustrated books from American Heritage and similar publications. An early family trip to Gettysburg when I was nine or ten also left an indelible impression that continues to this day.

BR: Why Civil War cavalry, in particular?

BO’N: A couple of reasons: At Gettysburg, my parents hired a Licensed Battlefield Guide for the day, and while I do not remember much of the visit, I have never forgotten our first stop at the John Buford Memorial. I do not recall the guide’s description of the stand made by Buford’s cavalry, but the regimental markers and the Buford statue provided an early spark. I had also received by then a Landmark Series account of George Custer and his fight at the Little Big Horn. I loved the book, and my parents soon bought me more accurate studies of Custer and his demise. My interest in Buford and Custer has never waned. Finally, I have to credit Hollywood depictions of the cavalry and cavalry uniforms. Inaccurate though they often are, the bold colors caught my eye and sparked my interest in both the cavalry and the American West.

BR: You published The Cavalry Battles of Aldie, Middleburg and Upperville with H. E. Howard 30 years ago. What has happened in the interim?

BO’N: A lot. The book was very well received and sold very well but has been long out of print. Used copies commanded very high prices and remained out of reach for most folks who may have wanted to purchase a copy. The towns of Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville, the battlefields, and other historic landmarks throughout the Loudoun Valley faced intense pressure from developers in 1993 when Harold Howard published the book. The book brought attention to the history of the Loudoun Valley at an opportune time, just as citizens were organizing preservation efforts to save historic sites, including the battlefields. The efforts of many dedicated residents have resulted in hundreds of acres of land protected by preservation easements, several battlefield sites are now under the protection of the Northern Virginia Park Authority, roads retain their historic integrity and structures once on the verge of collapse have been saved. The battlefields have been mapped, with core and study areas defined, while opportunities to view and understand the battlefields, most of which remain in private hands, have been improved by construction of paved roadside pull-offs, and placement of Civil War Trails interpretive markers.

The first edition opened many doors, and I have met many residents of the area who have shared their time and knowledge and who remain friends.

BR: So, what have you turned up since the publication of the first version in 1993?

BO’N: No author had attempted a book-length study of the fighting in the Loudoun Valley prior to my effort. In his 1965 book Here Come the Rebels!, Wilbur Nye dedicated two chapters to the cavalry actions in the Loudoun Valley. Likewise, Ed Longacre discussed the events around Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville in two chapters of his 1986 book, The Cavalry at Gettysburg. All of the battlefields remained largely inaccessible in private hands, and only one monument and a couple highway markers marked the fields. Interpretation of the fighting remained in its infancy. Likewise, my own abilities, or lack thereof, as a researcher, as well as a deadline and format imposed by the publisher hampered by work. Publication and positive reviews, however, opened many doors for me, and the late John Divine, who had guided me over the fields, as he had guided Wilbur Nye, introduced me to many historians who have continued to offer assistance. Most importantly, John introduced me to Mike Musick, then the dean of Civil War archivists at the National Archives. I had made a couple brief forays into the archives for the first edition, but a combination of factors limited my work there. Mike, as the late Horace Mewborn used to say, broke the code for us at the archives. With Mike’s patient guidance, I grew comfortable there and learned to accept the time one needs to put in, in order to realize the real rewards the archives offers. Those rewards, as I will discuss below, convinced me that I, as well as all who came before me and after me, had erred in our interpretation of the events. The importance of one of those errors convinced me to re-write the book.

BR: Can you describe how long it took to write the book, what the stumbling blocks were, what you discovered along the way that surprised you or went against the grain, what firmed up what you already knew? When did you know you were “done”?

BO’N: The author of one online review site has declined to review Small but Important Riots, because he sees the book as a revised edition of my previous work, and he maintains a policy of not reviewing revised editions. And I cannot argue with him too strongly, as most revised editions contain very little new material. However, this edition is completely new from the first page to the last page. I spent nine years looking at every aspect of the study, taking advantage of improved access to the battlefields, my familiarity with the National Archives, the advent of online resources and a wealth of material gathered over the preceding thirty years, as well as the wise counsel of many knowledgeable friends. Not wishing to give everything away, I will offer, by way of example, the change that convinced to redo the book.

Every preceding study, to include my own, has been based around one over-riding theme, that Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, commander of the Union Cavalry Corps, had disobeyed his orders from army commander, Joseph Hooker, to take his cavalry and find Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, regardless of the cost. The editors of the Official Records defined that premise, by the communications they chose to include in Volume 27. The editors included thirteen messages between Hooker and his superiors, including President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and Gen. Henry Halleck from the night of June 16-17, 1863, in which they emphatically told Hooker to send his cavalry to find the enemy and Hooker appears to agree with them. But thirty years of experience has convinced me that the editors, faced with a monumental task, left out more information than they included.

Thirty years ago, as a novice researcher, I drank all the anti-Pleasonton Kool-Aid and ignored evidence to the contrary, including his testimony before the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. But I went away from the process convinced that I and others painted Pleasonton with a very broad brush, being too lazy to parse the truth from the fiction. Over time, I found the evidence that Pleasonton had told the truth: Hooker had told his superiors one thing and told Pleasonton another. Hooker’s orders were emphatic, Pleasonton was not to send his corps in search of Lee. Rather, Hooker granted him permission to send only one regiment to do so. But Pleasonton disobeyed his orders. He disobeyed that he might find Lee and in doing so he precipitated the fighting.

I have also corrected many lesser, though still embarrassing, errors of fact or interpretation. Some errors had lingered the entire time. That is, I knew there was a problem but I did not have a solution. Others had gone unrecognized until I began the writing process.

Covid told me I was done, and, as odd as it may sound, I am grateful for the events that forced me to move on.

BR: Can you describe your research and writing process? What online and brick and mortar sources did you rely on most?

BO’N: I enjoy researching much more than writing and never considered myself much of a writer. I often described my style as police report writing 101. Luckily, a friend with a deep well of patience convinced me during the last nine years to change my style and I believe, with his help, Small But Important Riots is, by far, the best narrative I have produced. I spent nine years working on the book, re-examining every facet of the events covered.

One challenge in writing of these events is that they fall between the larger battles at Brandy Station and Gettysburg. Many soldiers did not have time to write accounts of the Loudoun Valley fighting before being engulfed by events in Pennsylvania. Thirty years ago, I chased down letters and diaries as primary sources of information. As often as not the efforts proved unrewarding, but I never ceased to gather such accounts, and several proved vital in correcting errors. Rather than focusing my efforts again on letters and diaries, I determined to focus on documents in the National Archives, including pension and service records, regimental records, unpublished reports and communications, ordnance records and quartermaster records. The first edition included just three entries from the archives, whereas the new edition includes thirty-five.

The advent of online digital newspaper databases proved extremely beneficial. Thirty years ago, my bibliography included accounts from nineteen newspapers. I cite eighty-nine in the new edition. The online Fold3 database has also accelerated the process of reviewing service records and pension files. Whereas I examined maybe a dozen pension files in the first edition, I checked more than three hundred for the new edition. also proved invaluable. The combination of online newspapers, online ancestry records and my wife’s investigative skills with family and property records, as well as Wynne Saffer’s invaluable work on 1860 property boundaries, helped me to pinpoint the property where the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry met near total ruin on June 18, 1863.

BR: How has the book been received so far?

BO’N: The reviews so far, both in print and online, have been very positive. I am grateful for all who have published their thoughts and comments and I encourage everyone who reads the book to do so.

BR: What’s next for you?

BO’N: I work very slowly. Nine years spent re-writing a book I had already written may seem a bit extreme to some. But I had started almost from scratch thirty years ago. There was simply no template for these events. I have expanded the narrative and corrected many errors of interpretation, but much remains to be done. But for Covid, I might still be researching the book. I hope that someone will continue to expand our knowledge of these events in the not-too-distant future.

At the pace I work, I doubt I have another book in me. At present, and with the National Archives again open, I am helping some friends research their own projects and enjoy doing so. I am currently working on a presentation involving the Michigan Cavalry Brigade on the Plains, following the end of the Civil War. That study continues to expand and intrigue me and who knows what might follow.

Image: Capt. Romeyn Beck Ayres, Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery

30 03 2023
Romeyn Beck Ayres, Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery (Cowan’s Auction House)
Romeyn Beck Ayres, Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery (Cowan’s Auction House)
Romeyn Beck Ayres, Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery (Arlington National Cemetery)

Romeyn Ayres at Ancestry

Romeyn Ayres at Fold3

Romeyn Ayres at FindAGrave

Romeyn Ayres at Wikipedia

Romeyn Ayres at Arlington National Cemetery

Emily Lewis Gerry Dearborn Ayres, On Capt. Romeyn Beck Ayres, Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery, In and After the Battle

30 03 2023

Sherman’s Battery at Bull Run – Interesting Letter From a Lady.


The reports concerning the celebrated Sherman’s Battery at Bull Run were so conflicting that the impression has been left on the minds of many that some of the guns fell into the hands of the enemy. The Confederate reports all exulted over the alleged capture of the Battery, and such patriotic journals in this State as defended the rebellion, reiterated the statement with evident relish. The Battery was, it will be remembered, under the command of Captain Ayres. the wife of that gallant officer has an uncle residing in this city – a gentleman of high standing in this community, and a through going Union man. He has been kind enough to permit us to publish the following extract from a letter written him by Mrs. Ayres, dated Philadelphia, August 26. The lady was with her husband at Old Point until a short time after the destruction of the Norfolk Navy Tard. After describing the stirring times at Old Point, up to the time of her leaving, she writes as follows:

“Captain Ayres stayed there until the 7th of July, when he was promoted, and ordered to Washington to take command of ‘Sherman’s Battery’; was at both the battles of Bull Run – on the 18th and 21st of July, and was the only officer who saved his guns; brought off all his own and two others.”

So much for the pretence that the rebels had captured a portion of Sherman’s Battery. The following extract from the same letter will be read with interest:

“Since General McClellan has taken command of our army of the Potomac, affairs are assuming quite a different aspect. I hope something decisive will be done, the next time there is a fight, to give a chance for a settlement of this dreadful affair. I suppose you feel the effects of the war on your side of the continent, but have no idea of the excitement. Capt. Ayres is here in Philadelphia, to recruit a new company, as ‘Sherman’s Battery’ belonged to the 3d Artillery (our old Regiment) and the Captain is now in the 5th Artillery. He only had Sherman’s while Capt. Hamilton could get home from California. He came the first of the month.”

The lady writes as the wife of a soldier should, and speaks of “our regiment” in a manner evincing as much interest in it as that felt by her brave husband. Would that the wives of all our army officers had been as patriotic.

(Marysville, CA) Daily National Democrat, 9/20/1861

Clipping image

Romeyn Ayres at Ancestry

Romeyn Ayres at Fold3

Romeyn Ayres at FindAGrave

Romeyn Ayres at Wikipedia

Romeyn Ayres at Arlington National Cemetery

Image: Lt. Lorenzo Lorain, Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery

29 03 2023
Lorenzo Lorain, Co. E, 3rd US Artillery (Source)

Lorenzo Lorain at Ancestry

Lorenzo Lorain at Fold3

Lorenzo Lorain at FindAGrave

Lorenzo Lorain at Oregon History Project

Sherman’s Battery Corrective

28 03 2023

Sherman’s Battery.

This celebrated company of Artillery seems destined to immortality. Every item of Southern news has a new claimant for the honor of its capture at Bull run. It is scarcely exaggeration to say that there was not a single company, engaged on the side of the Rebels at Bull Run, that does not swear by all the gods of sescessiondom that to it alone is the honor due to taking Sheman’s Battery. A number of Army officers fresh from the seat of war – and among them Major, now General Sherman – have passed through Elkton within the last week, and their united testimony is, that Sherman’s Battery is now in Washington, every one of the six pieces is safe and sound; having been brought from the field by the skill and bravery of Captain Ayres and the noble men under his command., every one of whom loves the guns as dearly as sweetheart or wife.

The company lost twelve men in the battle and Lt. Lorain[1] was severely wounded by a rifle ball in the foot.

When Major Sherman arrived in Washington this spring, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and since then to Brigadier-General. His name is Thomas W. Sherman, and is often confounded with Col. W. T. Sherman, of Ohio.

Another error, which we see frequently in the papers, is, that this is Bragg’s or Ringgold’s Battery. It is neither, both of them being unfit for use, and long ago laid up.

The peace establishment of an Artillery company is four guns, which number Major Sherman had here last spring, all smooth bore. Two rifled guns were afterwards added to make up the war establishment.

These are facts.

The (Elkton, MD) Cecil Whig, 8/17/1861

Clipping image

[1] Lt. Lorenzo Lorain at Oregon History Project

Co. D, 5th U. S. Artillery, Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery, Co. G, 1st U. S. Artillery, After the Battle

28 03 2023

Our Batteries.

The West Point Battery[1] is badly cut up, It loses all the caissons and equipments, five pieces, forty horses, and five men killed and seven wounded. All the guns were thoroughly disables before they were abandoned.

The Ayres Battery[2], formerly Sherman’s, was brought off without any loss of consequence.

The Seymour Battery[3] was all saved except one 30 pound rifled gun that was thrown off the bridge, and so lost.

Pittsburgh (PA) Gazette, 7/27/1861

Clipping image

[1] Co. D, 5th U. S. Artillery

[2] Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery

[3] Co. G, 1st U. S. Artillery

Southern Swing

27 03 2023

From March 13th to March 21, I made presentations on two topics in three cities in three states. To many who do these kinds of talks, that’s not much. But for me, it is. The last was the fourth so far this year, and I have four more scheduled through July. Busy year for me (but happy to do more).

The first stop was the Ft. Sumter Civil War Round Table in Charleston, South Carolina. About 30 folks sat through my presentation “In the Footsteps of the 69th NYSM at First Bull Run.” I’ll have more on Bull Run related sights from my stay in Charleston (thanks to my brother Jerry for putting me up and putting up with me) later.

Standard selfie
Pre-meeting dinner with one brother, three authors, one RT president (Jim Morgan, top right) and one NPS historian emeritus (Rick Hatcher, lower left)
Two cool gifts from long-time friend Tom Churchill – flags of the 18th Mass, Tom’s research target, and the Citadel (Big Red), Tom’s alma mater.

Next up was the Rufus Barringer Civil War Round Table in Southern Pines, North Carolina, on March 16. There were about 35 in attendance for the same talk (it’s a popular one around St. Patrick’s Day). Thanks to in-laws Bill and Betsy Stewart for hosting my wife and me.

Befuddled selfie
President Matt Farina presented me with some very cool commemorative postage items
Friend and author Charlie Knight made the trip from Raleigh. I’ll be making this presentation to his round table in July. Yes, those are shamrocks on my bow tie.
Long-time friend and RBCWRT Program Chair Tonia “Teej” Smith

After returning home I made the short trip down to Morgantown, West Virginia to present “McDowell’s Plan for First Bull Run” to the Mason-Dixon Civil War Rountable. About 15 stayed awake for the whole thing!

Third times the charm
The venue…
…one of the oldest I’ve presented in.
RT president Matt Lively and his better half Lisa. Surprised to learn they used to have Pirates season tickets two rows behind me!
A letter opener!

Image: Pvt. Albert E. Sholes, Co. B, 1st Rhode Island Infantry

27 03 2023
Albert E. Sholes, Co. B, 1st Rhode Island Infantry (FindAGrave)

Albert E. Sholes at Ancestry

Albert E. Sholes at Fold3

Albert E. Sholes at FindAGrave

Pvt. Albert E. Sholes, Co. B, 1st Rhode Island Infantry, On the Campaign

27 03 2023

Personal Reminiscences of Bull Run.

Read at the Thirty-eight Annual Reunion of the First R. I. Regiment and First Battery Association at Lakewood, R. I, Thursday, July 21, 1910, by Albert E. Sholes, of Flushing, N. Y.

“And what so tedious as a twice-told tale,” says Pope, and yet your secretary, my comrades, wrote me a few weeks since, asking that I present on this forty-ninth anniversary of the day we celebrate, a paper of reminiscences.

To so give color and change to the story of that which is in the main familiar to you all, as to interest, is not an easy task. As on strives to look back through the mist of the years, he finds that details of incidents, faces and even names of those once closely allied with, and dear to him have been obliterated, wipes out as the child erases the picture from his slate, so that only the dimmest trace of it remains.

Yet the real story of the past can only be gathered and collated from individual remembrace, and i can respond to Comrade Slocomb’s request, tell of the time,

When we beheld a Nation betrayed,
When Lincoln called and we obeyed.

in no better way than by giving you personal memories.

[Skip to p. 5]

On July 16th. orders came for the regiment to move across the Potomac, but Commisary Cole was instructed to keep all the attaches of his department in camp. This did not meet my approval, and I arranged with one of the boys in my mess to bring my haversack with the rest for rations and leave it in my bunk. I served all the rations, saw the Regiment formed and march in, and watching my opportunity, slipped off to quarters, put on my equipments, caught my gun and ran as if for life.

Half a mile down New York avenue, I dropped into line, Captain Van Slyck[1] failing to note my presence till we had crossed the Long Bridge, when he commented with a smile, that I “would probably wish later that I had obeyed orders and staid in camp.”

Memory skips today many of the details of that march, though I recall that it was a hot and dusty experience. The night of the 17th if I remember rightly, we camped in the yard of Fairfax Court House, and I have a letter somewhere which I found in the scattered mail at the Post office, which written to a member of a South Carolina Regiment, from his home, informed him that a three gallon jug of old corn whiskey had been shipped, and requested in return that the soldier bring him “one of old Abe’s front teeth.”

I recall also a visit to the home of Major Ball, who, married into the Washington family, was in command of a Confederate battery, and how some of the troops – I think not of our regiment – had sought to get even with him by practicing on his piano with their boot heels.

Then came our advance on the 18th, when we heard the first shot of the enemy across Blackburn’s Ford, and our movement to Centerville, the morning of the 19th. That day and the next in camp there, and then, on the evening of the twentieth, came orders to prepare to move in the early morning.

Little of sleep was, I think, obtained by any of us that night. The excitement of realization that tomorrow would witness a battle between two great armies, both composed of American citizens, and that we were to participate, did not tend to slumber. Then, for myself, I was one of the details to go half a mile or more to a spring for water. On our return, rations which would shortly arrive must be waited for, and after arrival, which was near midnight, the meat must be cooked.

Finally tired and sleepy, I laid down only to be awakened before I had gotten even the traditional “forty winks,” with the cry of “Fall in.”

Out into the road, down to and over the bridge which was to achieve fame ere the close of the day, up a slight elevation, and forward over an unknown road, moving in quietness, every man simply following his file leader, dawn found us in the midst of a forest, such as few of any of us had ever before seen. Giant trees were on every hand, while all about us other giants had grown to maturity, lived their day, decayed and fallen to earth. We could almost imagine the genii of the forest peering out upon us and saying, “Who be these who this disturb us? Surely their like ne’er passed this way before.”

Clambering over the fallen trunks of trees, pushing through heavy growths of underbrush, we presently emerged into the open ground, crossed a little brook, and climbed a small hill toward what we later learned to be Sudley Church.

As the let of the regiment cleared the top of the hill, the order was given “By battalion left into line,” and we advanced in line of battle.

An hundred or more yards we moved when there came a shot which I am confident was the widest shot fired during the entire war. It struck the ground a short distance in our front, and ricochetting, passed directly over my head. I am prepared to swear to this even now, and I have no question that every man here today will testify that it passed directly over his head, never mind whether he was on the right or left of the line. The command came “Forward. Double quick!” and then, “Left oblique,” and in less time than I can tell it, pushing over the left of the 71st N. Y. as it lay on the hillside, we were on the brow of the hill with the Seventy-first New York on the right, the Second Rhode Island on our left, and the gray clad enemy in front.

Who can tell of the incidents of a battle, particularly one like Bull Run, where every man and officer was a novice in the art of war? The rattle of musketry, the roar of cannon, the cries of the wounded, the shouts of officers, the loading and firing at will, all come back as a blurred memory. I recall seeing the loved Prescott[2] dead, the falling with wounds of Irving and Haskins of my Company, the riding of Governor Sprague to the front of our line, the killing of his horse, and his appearance as he rose with his hat off, hair flying and sword waving and called on the First to follow him. Then as he was led rearward, some Regiment advanced to fill our places, and we were marched to right and rear to the shade of the woods, to have our supply of ammunition replenished.

Here, to us came the news of the wounding of Colonel Slocum, Major Ballou and Captain Tower, and that they had been borne to the little house at the rear of our line of battle.

Securing permission from Captain Van Slyck, I at once went to the cabin especially to know if i could render service to the man whom I had always loved and honored, Colonel Slocum.

As I recall, no physician or attendant was with them when I entered. Colonel Slocum, Major Ballou, and I think a third man lay on the floor at the side of the room, while I passed Captain Tower lying in the yard near the door of the cabin with the pallor of death on his face. I gave utterance to some expression of sorrow when the Colonel said, “I am glad you came, Albert; can’t you get us some water?” I removed the canteens, cutting the rapes and went to the old sweep well nearly up on the line of battle. As I drew up the bucket, a man waiting by the well at my side, fell dead, as he was struck by a fragment of shell. The canteens were filled, and returning, I gently raised the head, first of Captain Tower in the yard, then of Major Ballou, and finally of the Colonel, gave them a drink and moistened their faces with my handkerchief. when I had helped Colonel Slocum, I eased his position as best I could, and then sat or half lay beside him with his head upon one arm, while I wiped the blood away as it slowly oozed to his lips, till he suggested I return to my company. He bade me goodbye, and as the tears ran down my face, he said, “Never mind, Albert, it’s all right.” Captain Tower’s mind was wandering, and he was near death as I left, but the voices of both Colonel Slocum and Major Ballou were comparatively clear and their eyes not unsteady, so that I hoped to see them again. A few days later we learned that both had died in Sudley Church, to which place they had been removed by the rebels.

Returning to the Company I learned that the ammunition brought would not fit our rifles, and the wagons had been sent back. The troops passed us, moving hurriedly to the rear, and a report came that the enemy was reinforced and our men retreating. As Colonel Burnside rode up, several ran to him and asked if it were true. The cry arose for him to lead us back to the fight, with the responding cry. “What can we do without ammunition?” Shortly, we fell into line and covered the retreat, two hundred regular cavalry who were supposed to protect our rear, crowding their way through our ranks, ere we had gone a mile.

Needless to tell of the march back through the woods, of the opening of artillery on us as we came into the open above the bridge, of the blockade of the bridge by which we lost our guns, of the curses of McDowell, which rose loud and deep on every hand. Shortly after nightfall we were back in camp at Centerville, tired, weary, heartsick, with every Company counting their lost from those who had marched away in the morning.

A few hours of rest, and then, at midnight the sound of volleys, with stray shots dropping in camp, followed by the cry of “Fall in,” and we were off in irregular, disorganized mass for Washington.

What a night? Who, that was there can forget it? Men fell asleep leaning on a comrade, as they walked, and then, one after another dropped by the roadside indifferent to everything but sleep. I confess to being on of these, and at early dawn I was awakened to discover a six mule team stalled almost beside me, the animals twisted up as only army mules can twist themselves, and the driver using frantic exertions with whip and voice to straighten them out. Rising, I aided him to ultimate success, with the result that I was invited to crawl in on top of the barrels of beef, which I at once did. Placing my blanket roll on a barrel which lay on top of the upright ones, I dropped again into dreamless slumber. The jolting of the springless wagon tossed my head from the blanket to the barrel chimes and back again, until when I finally awoke as we entered Alexandria, I had that vulnerable left eye more badly swollen and discolored than ever before.

A boy of the Seventy-first had somewhere gotten into the wagon and when we dropped off we sought a place for breakfast, though it was well toward noon. As it chanced, we entered the Marshall House, where Ellsworth was shot a few weeks before. It was apparently uninhabited, and as we turned to go out a soldier came from the basement. “There is nobody about,” he said, “but I have found a barrel of mighty good wine down cellar.” Returning, he showed us the barrel and a sample of the contents testifying to his truthfulness, we filled our canteens and then proceeded to consider how to get to Washington. Stragglers from all regiments filled the streets, the Seventy-first being especially represented, and presently it was reported that a boat was to be sent from the Navy Yard for them.

My “Seventy-first” friend, Will Berrian[3], told me to stick by him and he would see me through, and I obeyed.

The boat came, and Lieut. Colonel Kimball standing at the gangway declared that he’d run through any not of the Seventy-first, who tried to embark; nevertheless, by the aid of a dozen of the Seventy-first I got on, but not by the gangway.

We landed at the Navy Yard about seven o’clock Monday evening, and I expended my last two dollars for a coach to Camp Sprague, where I arrived at about nine p. m., to receive a hearty welcome from the boys, who thought me captured.

On other incident, a pleasing memory, and my story ends. I slept until nearly noon the next day, then in the early afternoon started down town to assure my few Washington friends of my safety. Having made one call, I was about to cross New York avenue, at Four and One Half street, when I heard a familiar voice crying, “Here, my boy!” and looking up, Colonel Burnside had stopped his carriage in front of me. I saluted as he signalled me to approach, and as he asked where I was going, I answered, “Down on Pennsylvania avenue to visit friends,” when he said, “I wish you wouldn’t. Return to camp today, and I will give you a pass for all day tomorrow.” “Thank you, Colonel,” I replied, as I turned campwards; “I have a standing pass.” “Oh! yes,” said he. “You are with Captain Cole, aren’t you? Please then go back and oblige me. Some of the men on the avenue are not acting well today, and you know what Dog Tray[4] got for being in bad company.”

As I touched my cap in salute, and again turned, he threw open the door of his carriage and said, “Here, ride up with me,” and in a moment I was beside Colonel Burnside.

Long before we reached camp he had all my pedigree, knew several of my kindred and had permanently established himself a very warm place in my heart.

There could be no prouder boy or man in the camp than I, as we drove through it, and to his headquarters where I alighted, and he again thanked me, implying by his manner that in obeying his request I had conferred on him a special favor.

Two days later, on Thursday evening, July 25th, we bade farewell to Camp Sprague, and embarked near midnight for Providence, where after much delay we arrived on Sunday morning, July 28th.

We were boys, you and I in that long gone July
When our country called us to dare or to die!
But as the call came, in an hour then
The bous had assumed the full stature of men.

We’re proud to be counted as boys of “61,”
To have fought with Burnside at Bull Run.
We’re proud of the record the old Fist bore;
Each man did his duty; none could do more.

So here’s to the brave, the gallant Burnside,
We cherish his name in love and in pride;
And here’s to Sprague our War Governor, who,
In time of peril, was staunch and true!
Here’s to our comarades! God bless each one.
May He say, as He welcomes them, “Boys, well done!”

Transcript image

Contributed by Rob Grandchamp

[1] Capt. N. Van Slyk, Co. B

[2] Lt. Henry A. Prescott, Co. D

[3] Pvt. William L. Berrian, Co. H, 71st NYSM

[4] Old Dog Tray was a minstrel song written by Stepehen Foster in 1853, however the meaning of its use by Burnside is not clear.

Albert E. Sholes at Ancestry

Albert E. Sholes at Fold3

Albert E. Sholes at FindAGrave