Pvt. Lewis Herbert Metcalfe, Co. E, 11th New York Infantry, On the Battle

21 07 2015

“so Eager Were We All …”

The morning was beautiful. The day before had been so hot and sultry that the damp cool night air seemed quite a relief, and the full moon, beaming above, lighted up the valley in which we lay, and its rays glistened on the thousands of muskets which were stacked around.

I awoke shortly after twelve o’clock, my sleep having been disturbed by the voice of one of our sergeants who passed down the row of sleepers telling them that letters had arrived from home. The sight before me when I arose from the ground was one which, though often seen by a soldier, is always interesting. Twenty thousand men were gathered together in that valley covering the slope of the hills on both sides. In every camp large fires were burning, around which groups were sitting or standing reading newly received letters and papers or busily engaged in cooking food for the coming day.

We had bivouacked there two days and, having no tents, had managed to protect ourselves from the sun during the day by building bower houses of small trees which we cut in a neighboring wood, and which had served as a slight shelter against the rain which had fallen the night before.

Orders had been issued the evening previous for the army to march at two o’clock in the morning. Three days’ rations had been supplied; ammunition furnished; and all were prepared to start. Through all the camps everyone seemed stirring, though it wanted two hours of the time, so eager were we all to meet the foe. Many had not slept at all. Some had spent the night before the campfires writing to the loved ones at home, letters which for aught they knew might be the last. Others whom excitement forbade to sleep had spent the night in storytelling and suggesting plans of private action on the morrow.

As I wandered through the camp visiting several campfires, I found every man full of resolution. Once aroused I could not sleep again amid all the hum and bustle of the camp. So, taking my canteen, I started for a spring to fill it with water. I had to pass through several camps before reaching it, and found nearly everyone stirring. Here and there would be groups of privates surrounding some officer who was regaling them with latest news of which the very latest seemed to be that General Butler had captured Richmond and the Rebels had been surrounded by General Patterson. All that we had to do was to give Beauregard a thrashing in order to end all the troubles. Not a thought of defeat or reverse of any kind entered our minds. We had only to go forth to conquer.

Two o’clock came, but no movement was made. Our regiment was ordered to fall in by companies, and after a short time of waiting, the muskets were again stacked, and the soldiers dismissed for a while. Some of us set fire to the bower houses which, being dry, burnt with a brilliant light, and other regiments following our plan, in a very few moments the whole valley was almost one sheet of flame.

At daybreak we were ordered to fall in and marched a very short distance to the edge of the road, and after forming the regiment, we were allowed to rest on our arms. We rested there an hour or two. Some laid down and slept, and the sun was well up above the horizon before any movement took place around us. First, Ricketts’ Battery which lay across a little creek in front of us limbered up and started down the road. Then came the 1st Michigan Regiment who, in passing us, gave three cheers. “Fall in!” came the order to us, and instantly every man was in his place. After the Michigan regiment came the 2nd Scott Life Guard, 88th, New York, which also gave three cheers which we returned, and, on the order being given, we formed in marching order and started off behind them.

Our colonel had been suffering from fever for several days, and was not considered able to do any duty. To our great surprise, as we gained the top of the hill above our late camp, he came riding by us toward the head of the column cheered again and again by our regiment and others who lined the roadside in order to see us pass.

In a short time we passed through Centerville and turned to our left down a country road. On this road was stationed a number of regiments which were a portion of the reserve, and all of them, as we passed, cheered us and wished us success. On we marched, crossing Cub Run, and then a short distance beyond we turned abruptly to the right, passed through a small grove of trees, and emerged into a large open plain skirted by woods on nearly every side. Away ahead of us we could just see a regiment vanishing in the woods. “Forward double quick” came the order, and away we went. Now “double quick,” if properly performed, is a very pretty movement, and one not excessively tiresome to the soldier. I remember one day to have seen the Massachusetts’ 5th coming down Pennsylvania Avenue at double quick with the drums beating to keep the proper time, and it looked very well.

But with our regiment, it was another matter, and performed in a manner not set down in our tactics. Anyone who has seen a closely contested race between two fire engine companies down Grand Street can form a good idea of what double quick was with us. Soon the plain on each side of us was found strewn with blankets which had been thrown aside by flying soldiers, and some of us, thinking they belonged to the Rebels, set up a lively shout.

In a short time we gained the woods, and entered them by an old road which looked as though but little used, and which we afterward discovered had been widened and cleared in some portions to allow our artillery to pass on it. I cannot form any opinion of the distance through the woods or the length of time we were in them. Now and then we were halted for a very few minutes, and then away we went again at double quick. The day was very hot. Scarcely a breath of air was stirring, and the shade of the trees afforded but little relief.

As we advanced farther on we passed numbers from different regiments who had given out in the march and dropped by the side of the road to wait for the wagons to pick them up.

After a while we came to edge of the woods. For some little while back the booming of cannon had told us a battle was going on. Now that we had reached the edge of the woods, the sound came more clearly and we could hear the rattle of volley after volley of musketry. Passing up a steep hill, we left the woods and halted on the road. To the left of the road was a wheatfield, and, looking across the field a mile or two to the right, we could see the puffs of smoke rising, showing us where the fighting was going on.

Cheer after cheer rang out from our regiment at the prospect of at last finding the foe, and yet many among us were suffering from the intense heat and want of water, for nearly all the canteens were empty by this time.

Away again on the run. The dust under our feet was thrown into the air and filled our eyes and mouths, and the fierce July sun blazed remorselessly down upon us. But a short distance and we filed off the road on to an open plain, forming into companies, and halted. To the left stood a large old-fashioned mansion house, and around it were several horses tied, belonging to our army, and several ambulances were halted there in front of the house. To our right the land sloped steeply down to the creek, and at the bottom of the hill was a meadow which was occupied by several of our regiments who were getting water.

We paused but a moment, and at the order the column wheeled and marched down the hill, company front. To hear the shouts of the assembled soldiers below us as we moved slowly down toward them, and see the splendid manner in which the evolution was performed, one would think it was some gala day, and ours a Broadway parade instead of a battlefield, and a fiercely contested one at that. We halted a moment in the meadow. A squad was detailed from each company to fill our canteens with water from the creek. But before they returned, away we started again at double quick. Hot, tired, and thirsty, and Tantalus-like our chance for water seemed slipping from our grasp. But the squad detailed from our company came running up, and nearly all of us were furnished with a canteen of water.

Now it was double quick in earnest across the creek, up a hill, then another creek crossed by a bridge, by Sudley Church, and then wading through another creek till we halted for a moment and divested ourselves of blankets, overcoats and haversacks which we laid, each company by itself, in piles on the ground. After leaving our things, we started again, and soon came to a large open space, one just suited for a parade—and so we must have it. Break into platoons. Forward double quick. I guess it must have looked well, for a regiment just retiring from the field came around a piece of woods, and when they saw us, shouted, cheered, and threw their caps up. But we were tired and nearly worn out, as the pale faces and heavy short breaths of those around me indicated.

All the time the cannon were roaring out just ahead of us, and to our immediate left the crack of the muskets told us we were on the battlefield. A member of the New York 71st who was slowly walking to the rear met us. “For God’s sake, hurry up, boys,” he said. “We’re driving them, but they’re killing all our officers.”

A few moments more, and still at double quick we filed into marching order and entered the battlefield up a slope on the summit of which to our right was a large barn and several haystacks. We passed by Ricketts’ Battery which were in action a short distance down the slope of the hill to our left, and seemed to be engaging a Rebel battery which lay about a mile off a little to our rear and left. Several of the shells from it exploded in mid-air before reaching us, and a few balls passed over and through our regiment, but none were struck by them. Passing on by the barn we soon got out of range of them. We marched a little down the hill so as to be protected from the cannon, and formed in line of battle.

Behind us in the valley the 14th Brooklyn were drawn up in line and were resting. Oh, if we could but get some rest, just five minutes, to catch one good long breath,—one moment to get a sip of water from our canteens! No, not for us. Up rode an officer sword in hand ere we had hardly halted. “Colonel,” he shouted, “the General has decided to put you right into it. Let the colors advance ten paces. Detail two of your companies as a reserve. Dress on your colors.”

’Twas done. “Come on boys and show them what New York can do!” And with that the pet lambs were led to the slaughter. Ricketts’ Battery were ordered to limber up and follow us. The hill in front sloped down to a small creek along which ran a road, and just across the creek another hill rose, on the top of which was a small white house surrounded by an orchard and cornfield beyond which were dense woods. To our right a small spur of dwarf pines and bushes extended obliquely down the hill some little distance from the woods.

Down the hill we marched, over the fence into a road, across the creek, passing some skirmishers of the 14th, and then, climbing another fence, gained the foot of the hill on the other side. The regiment was thrown into a little confusion getting over the two fences, but soon resumed good order, and up the hill we pushed at double quick. Up, up, not a single enemy in sight, not a shot from his side. Up, up till we gained the top and then:

Crashing through the cornfield, singing and whistling around our ears, making the air blue and sulphurous with smoke, came a storm of bullets upon us from the woods in front. “Down, every one of you,” cried the Colonel. And we went down just in time to escape the second volley. No orders came all along the line. One and then another would jump up and fire and then lie down to reload. Some started toward the woods on their own account, crawling slowly along in hopes to get sight of the foe.

And still the volleys came thundering upon us from our unseen enemy.

Our right, among which was my company, were thrown into confusion by them, and [by] the number who broke ranks and advanced toward the enemy. Our gallant Captain who had been in front of us all this time commanded us to rise, sent the sergeants to bring the adventurers back into line, and ordered us to fall back down the hill to the valley. The men returned slowly, the company on our right returning with us, while the rest of the regiment held their ground and returned the fire of the Rebels.

As we fell back to the valley, being broken and separated, cavalry came riding down upon us. They were met by a volley from the regiment, and rode through us cutting right and left with their sabers but hitting no one. They passed to our rear, gained a small clump of bushes, partially rallied and commenced discharging their carbines at us. Without waiting for any orders, the two companies on the right rushed pell mell at them, running in their fury right up to the horses and bayoneting the riders when the bullet would happen to miss, and drove them flying from the field in as short a time as it takes me to tell it.

Having disposed of them, we soon got our companies rallied and ran up in good order and formed in line again with the regiment. We were in a bad position. The clump of trees extending down from the woods were directly in front of our portion of the regiment, and the fire of the Rebels who lay concealed among the bushes within thirty yards of us told with fearful effect on our men. We had just got into line with the regiment when a bullet whirred across my breast, passing through both shirts I had on, but not even grazing my body. Before I had recovered from the shock, a blow as though a club had hit me just above both ankles, told me that I was hit.

The regiment was still pressing forward, and not knowing how bad I was hit, I still kept on. I had taken three or four steps when my left leg crushed under my weight, and I fell to the ground. The regiment passed on a little from where I lay and left me alone. Knowing full well how necessary it was that the blood should be stopped, I took a handkerchief from my pocket and tied it tightly around my leg above the knee. Then, holding my gun in my hand, I crawled, or rather dragged myself, away from the enemy.

Several of my companions passed by me. One wished me to let him carry me back toward the ambulances, but he was stopped by the Colonel, who told him to attend to the fighting instead of the wounded.

I have no doubt but that much of the disorder into which our regiment was thrown was owing to the fact that those who were unhurt, instead of pressing on to the fight, would stop and carry their wounded friends out of the way. Thrown into all manner of danger as our firemen are, they soon learn to stand by each other in trouble, and the stern necessities of a battlefield even could not break them of it.

To the right of where we had been fighting, a road ran up the hill in the direction of the Rebels. It being but a few hundred feet off, and the balls coming very thick around me where I lay, I thought I would drag myself to it. So I started again still carrying my gun. Pausing to rest, it suddenly occurred to me that I was extremely foolish to be dragging my gun with me when I was disabled from rising. It was loaded, and raising it, I managed to get it to my shoulder and discharge it in the direction of the enemy. Then I reached for a small stone which lay near me, broke the nipple off the gun, and laid it down.

During the time while I was slowly gaining the roadside, our men were still fighting, but from the large number straggling around, and the number of wounded which were being brought by me, I could see that we would soon be driven from the hill. Ricketts’ Battery had come up behind us and got into position, but the heavy volleys had swept off nearly every horse, and it was impossible to move the guns away. For nearly two hours the strife was over those guns. We had been driven away from them, and they were in possession of the enemy when Captain Ricketts rode up to a large body of our regiment and exclaimed, “For God’s sake, boys, save my battery.”

Captain Ricketts had always been a favorite with our men, and enough of them rallied, and under the lead of their sergeants, charged on the Rebels and drove them back to the woods again. But we were too small in numbers to hold it. The brave artillery captain was badly wounded, and his battery, after being taken and retaken several times, was finally lost.

I at length reached the side of the road but found I was no better off. I lay there for a long time looking around till our own men had vanished from my sight. And then for the first time I saw our concealed foe. A company of them came slowly from the woods loading and firing with great rapidity. Their gray coats and slouch hats, seen under such circumstances, filled me with disgust which I have not yet overcome. The bullets rained all around me, striking near me in the ground and throwing the dirt over my clothes. They came so thick and struck so near me that, for a time, I thought they were firing at me. But only one ball struck that passed through my right leg.

Once again I saw a portion of our army. I was engaged in watching the motions of the Graycoats on the top of the hill when suddenly they disappeared toward the woods. Soon after there came by where I lay a party of three or four hundred of our army composed of all the regiments I had seen and of those I had not. They were not marching in regular order at all, each man alone loading and firing and pressing forward in the direction of where I was first shot. “We’re driving them! Come on, boys!” was their cry.

I hoped we were driving them, but I feared not, and my fears were too true. The soldiers pressed on, worked well up onto the field near the woods, when crack came another of those fierce volleys, and our soldiers returned down the hill, their numbers greatly reduced, and the ground around strewed still thicker with dead and wounded. The fight had been going on all this time in other parts of the field. Now for a time it ceased entirely around me, and everything was quiet.

I imagined the Rebels were changing their position, and it turned out so. They moved further to our right, and some pieces of artillery were brought and placed in position on the road near which I lay about two hundred feet above me. Just across the road from where I was, stood a large tree around the trunk of which several wounded men were lying. One man, a soldier of the 14th New York who was wounded, was standing by the tree. I had lain my head down on my arms and was resting quietly when I was startled by a fierce volley coming down the road, striking the tree and whistling through the branches. Next I heard a rush down the road and shouts of “Kill him, he’s a Fire Zouave, kill him!”

I lay perfectly still expecting every moment to be set upon by the Rebels when a voice as from one in authority spoke up, “Shame on you, men, would you hurt a wounded man?” Instantly the excitement ceased, and raising my head, I glanced across the road. Surrounding the wounded at the foot of the tree were quite a number of Rebel soldiers busily engaged in asking questions of the wounded. Among them was a gray-haired man who appeared to be their captain and whose voice at once denoted him to be the one who interfered on behalf of our soldiers.

Some of the Rebels were giving water to the wounded, and one young man among them, looking over toward me, caught sight of me and came to my side asking numerous questions as to where I was wounded, etc. I asked him for water, but he had none. Leaving me, he went to the captain and told him there were several wounded men lying there, some of whom wanted water. A canteen was found among them which was not empty, and it was brought to me and I drank. There was a large bush within a few feet of me, and some of them asked me if I did not wish to be moved out of the sun. I acquiesced in their proposal, and two or three of them lifted me very carefully from the ground and carried and laid me down in the shade of the bush.

Here, to my great surprise, were three of my own regiment, and two of them belonged to my company. One was slightly wounded, and had been surrounded by the enemy while taking care of the other, a member of 28 Engine who was mortally wounded. Poor fellow, he lay on the ground writhing in agony, now begging for water, now talking in broken sentences of companions who were far away.

Our captors had left us suddenly, and soon we heard them forming in the woods across the road, their right being supported by the artillery which was in the road above us. Their regiment extended away to the left through the woods and, at the edge near us, we could see the soldiers loading their pieces and preparing to meet the charge of our own men. I could not see our army, but the exclamations of the enemy told us a little of their movements. “There they come,” “What a splendid front!” “They look good” were some of the remarks made. One, apparently a boy, spoke: “I say, Captain, just give me twenty men, and I’ll go around here and scatter the hull on ’em.” The laugh with which his proposition was received showed it didn’t meet with much favor. I heard the Captain ask if their guns were all loaded, and then the order was given for them to lay down close.

All was still. One of my comrades muttered, “I wonder if our folks know where these fellows are hid?” Oh, what a moment of suspense! I could picture in my mind our brave fellows advancing steadily uphill toward the woods not knowing where they were to be met, but pressing steadily on in line of battle. I could imagine them drawing nearer and nearer the foe when from the center of the woods came a low sound which was caught up at each company and repeated again – “Fire!” And with a roar that shook the earth, the artillery above us and the infantry in the wood opened upon our advancing columns.

Scarcely had the Rebel volley died away when we heard a heavy volley from our side. Again was it returned from the foe, and the artillery kept sending their deadly messengers down the road. Cheer after cheer came from our soldiers as they poured their volleys into the trees. But it did not last long. After a short time, amid the noise of the cannon and musketry, one could hear the Rebels shout: “There they go, they’re breaking.” Several, with great enthusiasm, leaped from the ground and cheered for Jeff Davis, and the whole of them were filling the air with yells and hurrahs.

But the group near the bush were filled with different feelings. We looked at each other in sorrow. All our hearts seemed to tell us the day was lost.

The artillery had ceased firing. The soldiers had advanced from the woods, and everything was quiet again. I looked toward the poor fellow who was so badly wounded. He lay perfectly still. His head lay on the ground, and his face was covered with his right arm. I said to my friend, “Look at Tommy—he lies so still, he must be dead.” He walked up, raised the arm, and turned the body so as to get a view of the face. My thoughts were too true. Amid that crash of shot and shell, through the sulphurous smoke which filled the air around us his soul had answered to God.

The tide of battle had passed away from us entirely. Our army were slowly retreating, but the sound of cannon and small arms showed that the ground was still contested in the neighborhood of where we first entered the field. From where we lay we could see the open fields through which the last charge had been made, and saw several Southern regiments winding slowly out of the woods with their banners hanging lazily in their midst as they moved still more lazily in the direction of our army.

We were soon surrounded by numbers of Rebels all eager to ask questions, and also desirous of obtaining a Minie musket or rifle. One asked me for mine. I told him I had dropped it, and I watched him searching for it, and saw him pick it up. He went off with it, but I imagine he didn’t harm anyone with it that day. Our visitors were mostly of the [?] South Carolina and 4th Georgia regiments, although a great many other regiments were represented all of whom were desirous to see the Fire Zouaves.

From the remarks of those who came to see us, we knew that our army had been driven panic-stricken toward Washington, and as night drew near we all became anxious to know how we were to be cared for. Several Rebel officers had been around cheering us up, telling us they would take care of us as soon as ambulances could be obtained to take us off.

About half an hour after dark, someone about fifty feet down the road inquired if there were any Fire Zouaves in hearing. We answered, and soon our names were given to each other. There were two of our regiment badly wounded, lying together, and the inquiry came from them.

During the whole day I had suffered scarcely any from pain. The force of the ball which had broken my leg had so benumbed it that when I lay still I felt no inconvenience. I lay patiently waiting for some wagon to come along, but as one after another came near and then departed filled with wounded, I gave up all hope of being carried off that night, and lay down to sleep. There was an old overcoat beside me which I drew around me to keep the chill night air off. Amid the noise of the wagons, the shouts of the Negro drivers, the sighs and moans of the wounded and dying around me, I closed my eyes on this eventful Sabbath. The toil and excitement of the day at last asserted their power, and I fell into a sound sweet slumber. Sunday, the twenty-first of July, 1861, was left among the annals of the past.

Lewis Herbert Metcalfe at Ancestry.com.

Lewis Herbert Metcalfe bio sketch

Transcribed by reader David Ulf.

Also appeared in print in American Heritage Magazine, Vol. 16, Issue 4, 1965





A. R., CSA Citizen, On the Battle

9 07 2015

Interesting Letter.

We are indebted to the kind courtesy of Governor Letcher for the opportunity of laying the following before our readers. It is an aged gentleman’s account of that glorious victory which is still thrilling the hearts of the aged and the young, and which spreads noble joy over our whole Commonwealth, from the mansion of our Governor to the humblest cabin in the most lonely mountain gorge; and over the whole vast extent of our beloved Confederacy:

Fauquier County, Virginia,

Recotortown, July 25, 1861.

To his Excellency, John Letcher, Gov. of Va.,

Dear Sir – Being an eye-witness to the battle fought at the Stone Bridge, on Bull Run, on the 21st inst. and the battle fought on the same day on Bull Run at the old battle ground, believing it may be interesting to you to get a history of these battles who has known all the ground fought over for the last 50 years, this, together with a rough diagram of the fields of battle, I enclose to you.

The favorable position I occupied during the day with a spy glass, enabled me to see the beginning and end of that day’s fighting. The firing at the old battle ground commenced at 20 minutes after 7 o’clock. A brisk cannonading was kept up until the battle commenced at the Stone Bridge, which lasted until 5 o’clock in the evening, at which time I saw the enemy in full retreat at double-quick time, closely pursued by our forces, the artillery, and cavalry – the artillery pouring their deadly fires into the ranks a every favorable opportunity, and the cavalry charging upon them and mowing them down like a scythe in the grass. In this retreat the enemy for about 3 1/2 miles was miserably slaughtered. The object no doubt of the enemy in opening their batteries at the old battle ground, was to draw our forces to this point. Gen. Beauregard took but little notice of this firing, but in a few minutes after the first fire at this point our forces were in full march for the Stone Bridge. We had only a small force at the ford on Bull Run, where the first battle was fought, but they were well fortified, and these batteries, at the distance they were from our forces, did us no injury during the day. What was the number of their forces at this point, we were unable to judge, because they were concealed in a woods immediately in the rear of their batteries (See diagram.) [Diagram not included.] At about five o’clock, and about the time the enemy made their retreat at the Stone Bridge, a reinforcement of about 10,000 hove in sight, which had, as I understand, been stationed at the Union Mill, to prevent their crossing a ford on Bull Run, near this point. They were travelling in double-quick time, as I supposed; they were aiming to cut off the enemy’s retreat from the Stone Bridge to Centreville. They were too late to effect that object, but not too late to attack and defeat the enemy at the old battle ground. But little has been said of this battle, because of its small importance when compared with the battle at the Stone Bridge. The distance from Camp Pickens to the Stone Bridge is 5 miles. The main battle did not commence at the Stone Bridge, but at least two miles west of it. The enemy, in large force, had moved up Bull Run in the direction of Sudley, and near that point crossed over an marched towards Dogan’s. – The high ground and woods between the Stone Bridge and Dogan’s, concealed them from our view. Dogan’s is on a high ridge, which continues until you get near the Stone Bridge. Near Dogan’s is where the enemy rushed from the woods and made their attack on the left wing of our army in such force that I cannot compare them in numbers to any thing else that a pigeon roost in a forest, when the pigeons are either coming in or going out. Our left wing in numbers could not have numbered one to ten of the enemy. Here our brave heroes sustained their position for one hour, repulsing the enemy whenever they attempted to extend their line to flank them. At this point was our greatest loss. As soon as our reinforcements came to the relief of our noble band, we soon repulsed the enemy. – They soon rallied and a more dearly fire kept up than tongue can express or imagination conceive. The enemy took a firm stand, and well did they maintain it for two hours. At this warmly contested stand the firing of the small arms reminded me of a long train of cars passing speedily over a bridge. I could not conceive how a single man could escape the fire. The enemy could not stand it, and again we repulsed them; but they soon rallied and made a desperate effort. We then gave way, but soon rallied, and the fight seemed to be still more desperate than before, and each party seemed as though it was death or victory on both sides. This state of things continued for two hours or more. Then the enemy gave way. Again they soon rallied and came into the fight as they had before, determined to die or be victorious. They stood the deadly fire of our noble and heroic and brave boys, led on and cheered on by our noble and brave Beauregard and Johnson, who were seen during the day in the thickest of the fight. The Yankees stood this hot and incessant fire until five o’clock, when they took their final leave of us in double-quick time, closely pursued by our artillery and cavalry, for a distance of between three and a half or four miles, to Cub Run. At Cub Run there is a high bridge to cross, and here the cavalry made a desperate charge upon them, capturing the last piece of their cannon, fifty horses and forty wagons, with a number of other valuables. Besides the killing and taking of prisoners, we have taken in cannon in sixty-three pieces, in small arms an immense quantity. – The precise number will never be known, as the country people around in every direction have well supplied themselves with arms to defend their homes, which they were very deficient in before this battle, for arms for the home guard. Now it seems that God, in His kind providence, has provided us with all the material comforts and arms for our defence. – Yes, on the Sabbath of the 21st instant, we received a refreshing shower of blessing; yet it had some hail mixed with it, which cut down many noble sons of the South. In clothing, arm, ammunition and war materials, we are abundantly supplied for the present. I have now closed my observations on the occurrences of the 21st instant. That night we returned to our camp, our bosoms filled to overflowing with joy at the result of the day. We knew that night we had driven the Yankees to Centreville, yet we were restless that night to know what would be the action on to-morrow. On the next day, early in the morning, I found the whole army marching in the direction of Centreville. The army was headed by the cavalry, they followed by the artillery, then the volunteers. Before the last of the volunteers had left camp I saw t first of the volunteers that I had passed returning. All were anxious to know the cause of this move. I was then at the Quartermaster’s department. An officer rode up in great haste, and said they had received a dispatch at headquarters informing them that the Yankees had fled from Centreville, and they had crossed over to Washington. Then all our force, except the cavalry and artillery, were ordered back. – They passed on to Fairfax Court House.

It was, or ought to have been, very pleasing to all Southerners to witness the cheerfulness of the soldiers in their line of march on Monday Morning for Centreville. It was raining incessantly, as it had been all the morning; the road which they were travelling, was about shoe-deep in mud, yet they looked cheerful, and seemed anxious to pursue the enemy. I must mention, while the volunteers were passing, I discovered in the ranks my old and esteemed friend Philip Pitman[*], of Shenandoah, who has been a member of both branches of the Virginia Legislature, and is still a member. He is about 60 years of age; his head as white as snow. He seemed happy and contented, as if he was on a deer hunt, which sport he very much enjoys. If all the Southern boys were made of such material as Philip Pitman the Yankee boys would not stand up long before us.

A. R.

Richmond Enquirer, 8/5/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

*Philip Pitman was a member of Co. F, 10th VA Infantry. He would be discharged for old age and return to the Virginia Legislature. See here.





Unidentified Officer, 3rd Tennessee Infantry, On the Battle

7 06 2015

In the Excitement of Battle. – An officer of the Cro[zi]er Guards, of Tennessee, who were with Co. Elzey’s Brigade in the gallant charge at the battle of Manassas, writes an interesting letter from Fairfax Court House, of which the following is an extract.

The distance from the junction to the point we occupied was at least six miles, and old officers who were with us say that the same time never was made by soldiers before. The dust was very deep in the road, and rendered it a perfect impossibility to see the man before you, so that we had to be guided by the shouts of the front men alone. The enemy had just raised their shouts of victory, as our cannon began thundering on them. Our infantry opening a moment afterward decided the day; for a few moments the enemy stood their ground, and attempted to rally for another fight, but it was impossible, their men broke and fled in the widest confusion. The day was won! Victory perched upon our standard. It was a proud moment for our commanders. Beauregard came dashing up our lines to Col. Elzey, complimenting him, ,remarked, “You, Col. Elzey, are the Blucher of the day” – a moment after, President Davis came up, and Col. Elzey was made a Brigadier General on the ground. You will hear many accounts of the carnage on the battle field, but the scene beggars all description. Around us and under our feet were piles upon piles of the dead and dying, horse and rider, carriage and driver, all in a confused mass, wounded men pulling you by the pants begging for water. The wails of dying men were unheeded, unnoticed by men who but a day before could not have looked upon a dead man without shuddering. I confess to having very weak n[er]ves in this respect, and yet I could stumble over dying or dead men with almost perfect indifference, so much does the excitement of the battle field change for the time man’s nature.

Macon Telegraph, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. Robert A. Glasgow, Co. H, 4th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

3 06 2015

Manassas, July 22, 1861.

Dear Father,

Yesterday we had a great battle, and won a glorious victory, but it was dearly bought, for many of our brave men were killed. Our regiment, the 4th, and the 27th were in the thickest of the fight. Early Sunday morning the Northerners opened a cannonade upon our right, at the same time, making a show of an attack upon the entrenchments on Bull Run. Dispatches, however, had come to us an hour before that the enemy were moving their main body upon our left, and about eight o’clock the Firing commenced upon our left, some four miles farther up the Run. There was one incessant roar of artillery and musketry. Our regiment and the 27th moved to the scene of action about 12 o’clock; as a reserve to support the batteries. We moved to the right of our batteries, which were placed on a brow of a gentle declivity, so as to fire at the advancing columns of the enemy, whose batteries were playing just in front of us. We were ordered to fall flat upon the ground; here we lay for two hours, I suppose, the bomb-shells and bullets flying over us, and cutting through the pines beyond. One shell struck among the Fort Lewis volunteers, and killed four men. A cannon ball and shell took effect in the College Company, killing three, among the number Squire Paxton’s son William. One of our men (Withers) was very badly wounded by a piece of shell. The enemy, finding they could not carry our batteries, which were making havoc among them, moved one close upon our left flank and commenced a cross fire. Never did officers act with more determined courage than ours at this critical moment. Col. Preston was moving in front of his regiment, unconcerned by the constant hissing of balls and shells around him. General Jackson, too, was riding along the front, urging our men to their duty, his appearance was that of a man determined to conquer or die. Dr. Pendleton whirled his pieces round, and opened a terrible fire upon the opposite battery, pointing the pieces (I am satisfied) several times himself. At this moment our regiment was ordered to charge upon this battery of the enemy, which was supported by their brag regiment, the New York Zouaves. In this charge, James McCorkle, Samuel Wilson, Goolsby, and McNamany were killed. Sergeant John Moffett was shot through the head, close upon the enemy’s battery. Sad to say, I have understood since that Wm. A. Anderson had one of knees fractured. He has been taken to Richmond. Providentially I escaped uninjured, one ball passing through my oil cloth, close to my left side, and another through my haversack. Though repulsed a little, our regiment rallied and carried the battery. Frank Paxton advancing before the regiment, waving his hat, was the first to plant our banner upon their battery. The “red breeches” ran off the field, leaving their men and guns strewed around. From twenty to thirty pieces of the best artillery fell into our hands – part of it that famous Sherman’s battery, with which they expected to sweep Virginia. They have fallen back considerably it is supposed a precipitate retreat. It is said when Gen. Beauregard got to Manassas Junction from the field of battle, he ordered cheers to be given for the 4th and 27th Va. Regiments. We have taken a great many prisoners. I got a glimpse of their army several miles wide, running in tolerable order. It is now about 12 o’clock – has been raining all morning. Everything is quiet. I am sorry for poor Wm. A., and would have seen him to-day if it had been possible. Young C.W. Bell, of the College Company, I understand was mortally wounded, has since died. Utz, from Fincastle, badly, but not dangerously. Our Lt. Col. has a wound in his knee that will make him unfit for duty for some time. I have had excellent health so far. It is believed the Northerners had almost double our numbers; nothing but determined courage on our side gained us the day. I hope this battle will teach them the folly of their crusade against us.

Lexington Gazette, August 1, 1861.

Robert A. Glasgow at Ancestry.com

Transcription provided by John Hennessy





Victory at Bull Run – What Was McDowell’s Game Plan?

24 05 2015

51PK6Qew8sL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_John Hennessy is working on a new edition of his seminal tactical study, The First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence, July 18-21, 1861. I’ve corresponded with the author enough to learn that this will be one of the rare updated editions that owners of the original will consider a “must have.” Mr. Hennessy discussed the new book somewhat in a recent interview with Civil War Talk Radio, which you can listen to here.

During this interview, you’ll hear the author discuss one of the great mysteries of the campaign – what exactly was Irvin McDowell’s vision of victory for his army (which ex post facto became known as The Army of Northeastern Virginia)? Many authors/historians have made the assumption – and it can only be an assumption – that McDowell envisioned a swift flank attack which would overwhelm his opponent and result in a set-piece victory, rolling up and decisively defeating Beauregard in a classic clash of arms.

The definition of victory here is not just semantics. It is critical in assessing McDowell’s plans and actions, and in determining why they failed.

I believe victory in McDowell’s mind was something other than what almost all chroniclers and critics of the campaign have assumed. I won’t tell you what to think, but will make a suggestion that may help you think for yourself: the answer can perhaps be found in what McDowell wrote before the battle and in what he did during it. In order to discern that, I think you must cast aside assumptions of what he must have intended and take him at his word – and actions. If you do that, then the inexplicables of the campaign may become more explicable. What appears to be a complex plan (given the traditional assumption of intent) may become less so.

Read McDowell’s plans. Look at what he did. Does that jive with your assumptions regarding his intent? To use a sports analogy, would you as a reporter rely on a head football coach’s post-defeat comments about his game plan when you have the actual game plan and video to look at? Especially when the game plan and video don’t support those comments?

Post-defeat comments: “We really wanted to establish the running game, but that didn’t work out.” Game plan: we must exploit the opponent’s secondary. Game film: first three possessions each consisted of three incomplete down-field passes and a punt.

Get it?





Calloway Kirksey Henderson, Co. F, 7th South Carolina Infantry, On First Contact with the Enemy

5 09 2014

SENTINELS’ SHARP EARS FIRST DETECTED ENEMY

———-

How Palmetto State Pickets Got Earliest Intimation of Presence of Union Army at Manassas and Gave Information That May Have Turned the Tide of That Battle.

By Captain C. K. Henderson, of South Carolina. [*]

On Saturday afternoon, the day before the battle of Manassas, between sundown and dark, Colonel Thomas G. Bacon of the Seventh South Carolina Infantry, Bonham’s brigade, ordered Captain John S. Hard to take his Company F of that regiment and go on picket duty for the night. Captain Hard took his company across the stream Bull Run to the north side and to the top of the hill, and there filed to the left out of the road into the clover field. And here we were informed we were to spend the whole night on guard duty. Half of the company was detailed in groups of four, and the balance of the company was held in reserve fifty yard in the rear of the half that had been deployed as pickets. Mr. Henderson and his three comrades – Benjamin Sharpton, James Kadle and Smithfield Radford – formed the first group and were located on the main road between Manassas and Centerville, at Mitchell’s Ford. Two of the men of each group were allowed to sleep at the post in the clover while the other two were on guard, and they changed at intervals. The only instruction given was to halt anybody approaching from the north, and if they did not stop to shoot.

About midnight Captain Samuel McGowan, special aid to General Bonham, rode up from the rear and asked what was going on, and they reported to him that everything was well, except that the enemy was marching to their left up the creek. That information seemed to excite him and he asked how they knew, and they told him they had heard the marching soldiers, moving wagons and cannons for hours. He dismounted and one of the picket held his horse and he went forward a few paces in front of the picket. He asked if the matter had been reported to General Beauregard, and he was told that no instructions had been given as to that. He said if our opinion was correct, General Beauregard should know it at once. He reported to General Bonham and the to General Beauregard. The pickets continued on post all night, and next morning at sun-up they moved forward in the direction of the enemy, marching into and through a scope of woods. When we arrived on the north side of the woods, the whole Federal army was exposed to view, marching up the river in the direction of Stone Bridge. During the morning they were relieved of picket duty and their company rejoined their regiment down at Mitchell’s Ford. Not long afterwards the booming of cannon up the river told that the two armies had met the first time in deadly combat.

A number of years ago Mr. Henderson wrote to Captain, then Judge McGowan, the following letter about that eventful night, and Judge McGowan’s reply is recopied from the Abbeville Press and Banner. We publish both:

Aiken S.C., July 22, 1891.

Judge Samuel McGowan,

Columbia, S.C.

My Dear Sir, – It has been thirty years since the event occurred that leads to this not. Probably you will remember it, probably not.

On the night before the battle of Manassas, or Bull Run, which was Saturday night, the writer with a comrade, Benjamin Sharpton, was on picket guard on the outer line – on the left hand side of the rad leading from Manassas to Centerville via Mitchell’s Ford, across Bull Run – and while on post you came to us and asked us what the enemy were doping and we told you they were moving up the river to our left. You asked how we knew it, and we said: “By the noise of the wagons, artillery, etc.,” and you thought we were mistaken. You got off your horse and went forward a few steps ion front of our lines and listened for a short time, and then came back to us and said what we thought about the enemy was correct: that the general commanding the army must know of it at once, and asked why we had not reported it before that time, etc. We told you we had no instructions to report anything, but to shoot anyone coming from the direction of the enemy. You mounted your horse and made off in great haste to report the movements of the enemy, which I have no doubt you did.

I saw you several times next day (Sunday), as you attended to your duties, but it has never been my pleasure to speak to you since that Saturday night; yet I have often thought of the occurrence and wanted to know, did the commander of the army have that information before you gave it to him. Would it be asking too much of you to give me that information. As I have said before, probably you have forgotten all about it, but it is fresh in my mind.

I was quite a boy then – sixteen years old – and I did not feel quite at home and happy. My comrade was killed near Richmond. I was kept from injury during the entire war.

I occasionally meet miss Meta Lythgo and ask about you, and I ask our lawyers when they come back from Columbia, if they have seen you, how you are, etc.

If you remember this occurrence, and if I ever have the opportunity of talking with you about it, it would be very pleasant, indeed.

I have now taken too much of your time and will close, hoping that your life may be long spared to our State.

Truly, your unknown friend,

C. K. HENDERSON

———-

General McGowan tells us this is true in every particular except one, and that is that it was not half of the whole truth. The officers did report to the General (Bonham).

1. Then he sent his acting Adjutant General (McGowan) with the report to headquarters at Manassas (three miles), and he aroused General Beauregard about 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning and gave the information to him.

2. Then General Beauregard sent General McGowan to General Jackson, at McLain’s Ford.

3. Jackson sent the same officer and aroused Colonel Walker, of the New Orleans Artillery.

When the staff officer on his return reached Mitchell’s Ford, the sun was just rising, and the first gun of the great battle of Manassas was fired.

The general says he has often wondered as to how much the work of those faithful sentinels, far out on the lines, contributed to our first great success at Manassas Plains.

Privates gave battle, but officers reap the reward. – Press and Banner.

———-

James Kadle was killed at the battle of Gettysburg.

Benjamin Sharpton was killed at Cold Harbor.

Smithfield Radford died a short time after the war.

Company F, of the Seventh Regiment, was mustered in at Graniteville.

———-

Richmond [Virginia] Times-Dispatch, 9/4/1910

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Contributed by Brett Schulte

Calloway K. Henderson at Ancestry.com – includes photo.

Calloway K. Henderson bio sketch

* It appears Henderson wrote the first portion of this in the third person. Henderson mustered in as a private, but eventually was promoted corporal and sergeant – dates undetermined.





Col. W. T. Sherman, to His Wife, On Preparations to March (2)

17 07 2014

Camp opposite Georgetown.

July 16, 1861.

Dearest Ellen,

We start forth today at 2 P.M. move forward 10 miles to Vienna, there sleep – and tomorrow morning expect to fight some six or eight thousand of the enemy, at or near Fairfax, Germantown or Centreville – There we may pause for a few days & then on Manassas Junction, Beauregards Hd. Qrs. distant from here about 30 miles. I think we shall make a wide circuit, to come on his rear.

I am going to mind my own Brigade – not trouble myself about General plans – McDowell commands the whole – Brig. Gen. Tyler our column of 4 Brigades of about 10, or 11,000 men. I will have 3,400 – New York 13, 69 & 79th & Wisconsin 2nd with Shermans Battery now commanded by Capt. Ayres.

I take with me a few clothes in the valises & saddle bags – leave my small trunk to follow – have about 50 dollars in money, a Boy named John Hill as servant – have drawn pay to June 30 – and you know all else.

I think Beauregard will probably fall back tomorrow on Manassas, and call by R. R. from the neighborhood of Richmond & Lynchburg all the men he can get, and fight us there, in which case we will have our hands full.

Yesterday I went to the convent to bring the Girls over to see a drill – I found India Turner over visiting John Lee – Miss Whittington out in the country – so I brot over Miss Patterson and a Miss Walker of New Orleans – and after drill took them back – I saw Sister Bernard, and another who said she was your drawing teacher – She had a whole parcel of little prayers, and relics to keep me from harm – I told her you had secured about my neck as it were with a Silk cable a little medal which would be there, and her little relics I would stow away in my holsters.

Whatever fate befalls me, I Know you appreciate what good qualities I possess – and will make charitable allowances for defects, and that under you, our children will grow up on the safe side. About the Great Future that Providence that gives color and fragrance to the modest violet will deal justly by all – knowing the Secret motives & impulses of every heart. In the noise, confusion, hustle and [crises] of these thousand volunteers, my tongue and pen may be silent henceforth about you and our children, but I confide them with absolute confidence to you and the large circle of our mutual friends & relations.

I still regard this as but the beginning of a long war, but I hope my judgment therein is wrong, and that the People of the South may yet see the folly of their unjust Rebellion against the most mild & paternal Government ever designed for men – John will in Washington be better able to judge of my whereabouts and you had better send letters to him. As I read them I will tear them up, for every ounce on a march tells.

Tell Willy I have another war sword, which he can add to his present armory – when I come home again – I will gratify his ambitions on that score, though truly I do not choose for him or Tommy the military profession. It is too full of blind chances to be worthy of the first rank among callings.

Watch well your investments – the note you left with Turner, as well as you others lest you may be necessitated to fall back on them. Always assure Maj. Turner and Mr. Lucas of the unbounded respect I feel for them. Give your father, mother, sis & all my love. Tell Henrietta it has been an impossibility for me to go over to see her father & mother without neglecting my command which I never do. Good bye – and believe me always most affectionately yrs.

W. T. Sherman

Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, pp. 116-118





Col. W. T. Sherman, to His Wife, On Preparations to March (1)

16 07 2014

Rosslyn, opposite Georgetown.

July 15, 1861.

Dearest Ellen,

Charles Sherman came over yesterday & spent most of the day with me. He brought your two letters of the 11th and I was very glad to hear you were so well and that the little baby was also flourishing. We certainly have a heavy charge in these Six children, and I know not what is in store for them. All I can now do is to fulfil the office to which I am appointed leaving events to develop as they may. After all Congress is not disposed to increase the Regular Army as the President supposed. The ten new Regiments are only for the war, and will be mustered out, six months after the close of hostilities, but who know when hostilities are to cease? I won’t bother myself on this point but leave things to their natural development.

I now have my brigade ready for the March – Mine is the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division[.] Brig. Gen Tyler commands the Division composed of four Brigades – Keyes’s (you remember him in California) Schenck – Sherman and Richardson – In my brigade are-the New York 69, Irish, 1,000 strong – the 79 Scots, 900 strong – Quinbys 700 strong, and Wisconsin and Col. Peck 900 strong, and the Battery of Capt. Ayres – used to be Shemans battery 112 men – 110 horses and six Guns – We move without baggage – I have Lt. Piper adjt. – McQueston & Bagley aids – two mounted orderlies and a negro servant John Hill.

4 columns move out against the forces of Beauregard – posted from Fairfax C. H. to Manassas Junction – supposed to be from 30, to 45,000 men – one under Col. Miles starts from below Alexandria – one Col. Heintzelman from Alexandria – one Col. Hunter from Long Bridge – and ones from this point Gen. Tyler – This latter is a West Point Graduate, at present Brig. Genl. from Connecticut. I don’t know him very well, but he has a fair reputation – McDowell commands the whole – say 40,000 men – The purpose is to drive Beauregard beyond Manassas – break his connection with Richmond, and then to await further movements by Gen. Patterson and McClellan – I know our plans, but could not explain them to you without maps – It may not produce results but the purpose is to fight no matter the result. We have pretty fair knowledge of the present distribution of Beauregards forces, but he has a Railroad to Richmond from which point he may get reinforcements, and unless Patterson presses Johnston, he too may send forces across from Winchester. Manassas Junction in our possession, Richmond is cut off from the Valley above Staunton. But with these Grand strategic movements I will try to leave that to the heads, and confine my attention to the mere handling of my Brigade[.]

Keyes Brigade is about 5 miles out – the Ohio 4 miles – mine here, Richardson is on the other side – on the first notice we simply close up – and early next morning at Fairfax C. H. where there are 6 or 7 S. C. & Georgia Regts. – Close at hand at Germantown, Flint Hill, Cumberville, Bull Run & Manassas are all occupied & fortified – but we may go round these. I take with me simply valise, & saddle bags – and leave behind my trunks to be sent over to John Sherman. Letter can take the same course. If we take Manassas, there will be a Railroad from Alexandria to that point, so that letters can be received regularly. Though we momentarily look for orders to cook Rations to be carried along, I still see many things to do, which are not yet done, and General Scott, will allow no risks to be run – He thinks there Should be no game of hazard here. All the Risks should be made from the flanks.

I wrote to Minnie yesterday – Poor Charley will be disappointed sadly – He overrates my influence and that of John Sherman – I have some hopes of the transfer with Boris. I will write again before we start but the telegraph will announce all results before you can hear by mail – as ever &c.

W. T. Sherman

Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, pp. 114-116





Lt. Eugene P. Fuller, Co. K, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

8 02 2014

Army Correspondence

Extracts from a letter by Lieutenant Fuller, to his parents, giving an account of his experience at the battle of Bull’s Run, on the 21st instant.

Arlington, Va., July 26, 1861

My Dear Parents – You have, undoubtedly been expecting to hear from me before this, but I have been to unwell to write. I have been suffering from indisposition ever since we left our old camp for the interior, and the fatigues and exertions of the march, battle and retreat, added to this, have made me down sick; to-day I am much better, although very week. I am stopping at Mr. Jackson’s; they have treated me very kindly, and have done every thing in their power to make me comfortable.

Well, we have met the enemy, and however humiliating the fact may be, we are forced to acknowledge that we were worsted in the contest. You, of course, have long ere this read the different newspaper accounts of the fight. None of them were fully correct, many of them false in every particular. Please to hear what not only an “eye witness,” but also a participant has to say on the subject.

On Saturday evening orders were received to be ready to march at half past two the next morning. At that hour, the call sounded, and we were awakened from our half finished repose on the damp ground, to march to battle. We were soon on the move. It was a beautiful morning, and as the sun rose from behind the adjoining hills, its rays were reflected back from the thousands of glittering bayonets. I looked, and thought perhaps it might be the last sun rise I should ever witness, (alas, it proved to be the last to many in that moving multitude,) but I soon shook off all gloomy thoughts, and passed on. About six o’clock our brigade was filed to the left, and marched by divisions into a piece of woods; the artillery were stationed in an open field near by, and soon opened by sending a thirty pound ball up the road. This was not replied to. After a short interval, another shot was fired, but this like the first elicited no reply. – Our attention was not called to a large body of troops on a road about three-fourths of a mile to the right of us, we knew that it could not be Col. Hunter’s division, as it was moving in the wrong direction, and he, Hunter, had not had time to make the circuit. Our battery now opened fire upon them, sending shell and shot into their midst, and scattering them considerably. We soon heard a volley of musketry, and knew by this that they had not been met by Col. Hunter. Volley after volley was fired, and the battle became general – on the right, on the left, and in front, the deep thunder of the artillery and the sharp report of the musketry were heard in frightful rapidity. We were ordered forward; and at a double quick march, we rushed on to support the gallant Hunter; wading across Bulls Run, and climbing a steep bank, we found ourselves in close proximity to the enemy who were retreating; we opened fire upon them, and their falling bodies proved that our aim had not been in vain. They soon, however, gained the corner of the woods, and we were ordered to cease firing, and marched some three-fourths of a mile to a rise of ground, where we found a considerable portion of the “grand army” assembled; the battle for a time had ceased, and we were allowed a resting spell, during which General McDowell rode past the different columns, and was loudly cheered by the soldiers.

We were soon ordered forward again, and had marched about one-fourth of a mile, when a concealed battery opened upon us, the first shot taking effect upon two of Captain Nolte’s company – they stood but a few feet from me when they fell. On we pressed almost running; we were ordered to the left to support a battery which was being stationed on a slight elevation; we were here halted and ordered to lie down. The firing by this time had become terrific; the balls from rifled cannon passing over our heads in close proximity; several of our regiment were struck; Michael Toole, of our company was here wounded in the knee by a spent ball.

We were ordered to charge forward, and at a double quick pace, we moved towards the enemy’s lines, and soon came in range of their musketry; it was there that many of our brave men fell dead or wounded. The firing was incessant; we replying with visible effect. Approaching a large piece of woods, between which and us was a log house we halted, but still continued firing. Here some one cried out, cease firing; that we were shooting our friends. We stopped for a time; and during the interval a man came into our ranks, I asked him if he was a Union Man? He replied, “No, I mistook you for a Baltimore regiment.” I immediately took his sword and revolver, placed him under guard, and then firing was resumed. We evidently were getting the better of our opponents, when suddenly we observed the whole line of our forces to swing back like a gate, leaving our regiment unsupported. No order to retreat was given that I heard, and there was no occasion for it that I can learn. It was a stampeded started on the hill by a cowardly regiment, aided by the civilians and teamsters who were near. – There was nothing now left for us to do but retreat, or be surrounded by overwhelming numbers; so we marched back up the road to a place where they were attempting to rally our forces, but the attempt was a vain one. The reserve had taken the alarm and scattered like chaff. Fearing I should lose my prisoner, I took him under my own charge; he turned out to be Lieut. Dunalt of the twenty-seventh Virginia regiment, he belongs to General Johnston’s division, and had come by forced marches from Winchester to join Beauregard.

I walked slow to keep out of the jam., and had a good chance to view the field of battle. It was a terrible and sickening sight. Dead men and horses lay strewn in frightful profusion – here on poor fellow with his leg carried away by a cannon ball, was begging piteously for water – another prayed that I would take my sword and put an end to his misery, some were in the last agonies of death; others not so severely wounded were trying to escape dragging their mangled limbs after them. God forbid that I should ever be compelled to witness another scene like the one of Sunday last.

About a mile from the battle field a masked battery opened a terrific fire upon our retreating army – here they again scattered in all directions. I took a circuitous route along a stream, and just before sun down, found myself upon our camping ground of the night before. – Just below this was a remnant of our army drawn up in line of battle, I tried to join them but a volley of musketry opened upon us. (I forgot to mention that a few moments before I was joined by Ensign Gilbert,) we held a council of war, and concluded that our safety lay in staying where we were. So we lay down on the ground, the prisoner in the middle, and for all of me he could have escaped a hundred times; for I never slept more soundly in my life, and did not wake dill long after daylight, and probably would not then had it not been for the rain – The army had left during the night, and so we were obliged to start on alone – Just by the fence we passed a dead man, he had crawled all the way from the battle field, some six miles – to die. We reached Centreville about six and a half in the afternoon. Here a church had been converted into a hospital. I went in and beheld another awful sight, but I will not sicken you with a description. On we went, just below Centreville Gilbert left me being in something of a hurry to get back. I could not move faster on account of my prisoner, who was or pretended to be foot sore, and moved at a very slow pace. The road between Centreville and Fairfax, was strewn with wagons and provisions, amunition, horses, and all kinds of descriptions of property. I reached Alexandria safely about three in the afternoon, reported to General Runyan who complimented me highly, put under my charge two Georgians who had been taken, and sent me by steamer to Washington.

I could not get a bed for love nor money, all the hotels being full to overflowing. I put the Georgians in the station house, and happened luckily to meet Van Buskirk, he procured a bed for myself and prisoner at a private boarding house. In the morning I awoke sick all over, had the jumping toothache to boot. I had my tooth pulled, and took a buss for camp, arriving at Jackson’s, I found our camp had been moved. Most of our folks supposed me to be lost, and they gave me three hearty cheers upon my arrival. The men now say they will go anywhere with me, because I stood by them in the battle.

Raymond, Kelley, and Joslyn, of our company are among the missing. Raymond and Kelley I fear have been killed, Joslyn was last seen at a spring about a mile from the battle field. He may have been killed by the shot from the masked battery which opened upon our retreating forces, but I think if he did not go on toward home he got lost and was taken prisoner. Conners was shot in the arm; Thompson in the finger; Toole I have already mentioned. This sums up the disasters in our company, though from the regiment many are missing, twenty or twenty-five are supposed to be killed.

I must not forget to mention the bravery of JOHN RICHARDSON and CHARLES MORGAN of our company. When behind the battery, the artillery being nearly tired out, called for volunteers to carry cartridges; these two alone out of a whole regiment jumped up and worked for a long time carrying cartridges from the caissons to the guns right in the face of the galling and well directed fire from the enemy’s battery – providentially they escaped injury. Heber acted very bravely, ad did all the company with one or two exceptions.

I am so week and confused, I fear I have given but a poor description of the days proceedings – when I get stronger, I will try and be more particular.

Your affectionate son,

Eugene

Brockport [New York] Republic, 8/1/1861

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Eugene P. Fuller at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown, Co. K, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle

5 02 2014

Letter from the 2d Regiment

———-

The Late Battle.

———-

[A friend allows us to pint the following private letter, which was written by one who was in the battle at Manassas. Although have already given a good deal of space to this battle, this letter from one who participated will be read with interest by all.]

“At this late day, amid the thousand and one exciting things I have had to think of, I am wholly unable to tell whether I have written you since the great battle or not. Since we returned to Alexandria we have not had much to do, and indeed we are so tired and lame that we could not do much at the best. Such tired, hungry, worn out boys never were seen before as the troops were when they returned. You have probably had all the accounts of the battle ere this, ‘by our special correspondent,’ or by an eye-witness, and have got more real information undoubtedly than an actor in the strife could boast of.

I was on guard Saturday last (20th July) at our camp near Bull Run. At 2 A. M. of Sunday we started on our march. There were the same long lines of soldiers that I have spoken of, but this morning we took different roads. It was pleasant in the morning’s uncertain darkness, to watch the wide spread array of camp fires where hot coffee had been made for thousands of men in the various encampments. The joyous shouts of the men rang out upon the air, the hoarse commands of the officers would ring in, and the pattering of the horse’s feet, rear and front, right and left, made a scene of bustle and confusion that was calculated to excite and arouse one if anything would do it. Those long lines with gleaming arms, banners bright soon returned, tarnished, tattered and torn. We did not make much advance for some time, and the light began to grow more and more certain. At last dawn broke in the east. Officers and men were loud in the denunciations of a delay, but the cause soon became known: the battery in front could get no good position to open fire upon the first rebel battery at Bull Run, whose vicinity and effect had been tested the Thursday before. This stopped the whole line of infantry this side of Centreville, but at last the loud opening peals of cannon told that the scene of death and havoc had commenced, – the gauntlet had been thrown down and the fortunes of the world in one sense were staked upon the issue of the hour, – upon the burning of gun-powder and the clash of steel. We were not in the main divisions by which the fighting was to be done, but were to go around and attack them in the rear. Our brigade numbered five regiments: three from Maine, one from Vt., and Ellsworth’s Zouaves. We did not mix in the heat of the battle but took a round about road and all day the heavy roar of cannon sounded in our ears and we could see our brother soldiers in deadly strife. You may imagine the anxiety with which we listened to the roar of the guns. We could see that the enemy was falling back by the onward movement of the roar of battle, and occasional couriers would bring us good news from the field. The reports were favorable to our side, but the march was very hard; we ran five or six miles going out on the double quick and in the afternoon when we finally got into the field we were so exhausted that we were far from being what we otherwise should have been. About the middle of the afternoon we were rushed into the field. We passed directly by one of the batteries of the rebels that had been captured by our troops, and from there to the field, about a mile and a half, it was an indescribable scene. I never saw such a site before and if such a thing could be, I wish never to see anything of the kind again. We met many returning from the battle wounded and dripping with blood, asking pitifully for aid and for water. Ambulances were passing filled with those unable to walk and the dead, some mangled in a most shocking manner, but we turned neither to the right or the left, but on we marched; soon the balls began to whiz; we could not only hear the guns but see them, and see the effects also; we were in a dangerous place; we charged up to a battery and stood the whole fire of the artillery for a long time, but bravery was no charm against shot and shell; the tide had turned, and the most desperate sacrifices now could not stay the current. – The enemy had retreated all day, three of four large batteries were deserted by them, until we got down upon their strong-hold close upon Manassas and they brought out their whole force, fresh and fierce, to meet us few exhausted infantry. For a long time we were upon a side hill in plain view of the enemy and in good rifle shot. I cannot commend their sharp shooters, they might have picked off every man of us seemingly, but their cannon shot and shells mostly went over and the rifle balls did but poor execution compared with what they might have done; ’tis a miracle that so many of us came off safe. I was hit by a spent ball upon the arm but it did no serious injury; my arm was senseless for a while and was blackened and burned, that was all.

By this time the ammunition for our artillery had given out, and their horses were disabled, the cavalry were fearful of meeting the Black Horse regiment, their hosts appeared countless and the folly of sending a few exhausted infantry had about played out, it was also known that one other division had withdrawn, and we slowly left the field and obtained shelter from the iron hail behind a hill. The enemy then made a flank movement with cavalry and light artillery which we successfully evaded, and we withdrew to the road. I was standing near Col. Howard, commander of the brigade, when McDowell’s order came to retreat to Centreville. I shall never forget the painful expression that passed over his face. He is a fine officer, but has had no experience, yet no one could have done more than he did in his place; the battle was lost before we were in the field. They showered down the cannon shot and shell like hail; we stood it until further exposing ourselves seemed folly and were among the last to retreat.

The rout that some papers have told do much about, I do not know of; the retreat was precipitate, but many regiments marched back in pretty good order. Stragglers ran wild everywhere like sheep; out of our regiment I think on-half were so tired that they could not go on to the field, but they were the fastest to retreat. If it had not been so serious it would have been quite amusing.

Just imagine how it must look to see thousands of men who have never met before, and who have no particular animosity against each other as individuals, rushing into the death field and mangling and hacking each other until you could hardly tell whether the object before you was made in God’s image or not; but it is the principle of the thing we are fighting for. A battle is a hard thing by which to decide the abstract question of right and wrong. I’m not growing cowardly, but the more I reason the more I see the folly of war. But there are men enough, and if the rebels can afford to stand it, surely when we have such a heritage to fight for we should not shrink from the meeting, be it amid the roar and clash of battle or in diplomatic halls where equal justice is dispensed.

I had felt confident all day of the victory, because I supposed our head men knew that Manassas was the enemy’s strong-hold and that once taken the victory was almost done, and yet they rushed and hurried us on with nothing to eat, no cavalry, no artillery, and not one-tenth part enough to compete with their batteries. We had few men and nothing to support them when they gave out. – There has been some cool swearing among the troops since last Sunday. I hear McDowell has been placed in arrest for his gross mismanagement; there are dark whisperings about his loyalty; some say he has two sons in the southern army, but I doubt its truthfulness; one thing I know, with the unbounded resources of the North, it is a shame to suffer the reverse we have, we might just as well have had 10,000 men as 30,000; 10,000 cavalry instead of 300 or 400, and 200 cannon as well as the few guns we had. We had better been a month in battering down batteries and in making gradual approaches than to have lost the day. For my part, if my life would have turned the current of the battle, I would willingly have made the sacrifice. I trust you know me well enough to know that I never forsake my country in the hour of her adversity. I have no fears of the final result of this contest, but this has retarded the onward movement vastly. – Beauregard said himself that if Manassas had been taken, he could have done no more, ,the war would have been decided. I scarcely expect to live through; certain it is that my proud spirit can never stand another defeat – ’tis ‘victory or death.’ I had rather die than run again, and will do it.

McClellan takes command of this division soon and he is a man we can trust, and when we get organized again we will wipe out this stain. Our next battle will be a hard one and I shall not flinch from my post for friend or foe. I never came here to run.

I am disgusted with Virginia; the soil is nearly all red, the land level and covered for miles with low dwarf pines; there are some fine forests, but you may travel all day and not see a house, and the houses and villages are just the reverse of neat Vermont homes. Our defeat the other day was near the place where General Braddock suffered so severely in the early wars. If my memory serves me right, his attack was made on Sunday also; certainly he fell into the traps of the enemy much like McDowell. We are always in danger on Sunday – in truth those are the days they take for war purposes. Waterloo was fought that day and a hundred others I might mentions.

We know something of the little scenes exacted just around us in battle – the truth is no one sees a battle – we hear the roar and see the smoke and know when the death struggle is going on. The Generals get a little wider view, but they depend mostly on the reports of their aids and couriers. ‘Tis true no one sees except Him who sees all things. It must have been the direct agency of Providence to save so many of us from that fiery tempest that rained over us. As we came up among the whistling balls I took one long look at the sky and the smoking hills, then fixed my eyes on the enemy’s lines, looked at my gun and rushed in. I have no further recollection of any care for the world or personal safety. I never was cooler when firing at a target than I was aiming my old musket at the rebels. I may not have killed a man of them, but I pitched the some cold lead, I know that much. I lost all my baggage, except what I had in my pockets. Our wagon broke down and our baggage was abandoned by the teamster. In thinking of our defeat I have grated my teeth to the quick through very madness. Be the war one month or ten years, ‘I am in for it;’ have no fears for me, for I am well and in a fighting condition.

One of the ‘Tigers'”

The [St. Johnsbury, Vermont] Caledonian, 8/9/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy








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