A New Old Map of the Battlefield

21 09 2016

Author John Hennessy passed along this heretofore unseen, by him or me, map. It was provided to him by reader Kimball Brace, who found it in the Library of Virginia. Kim has been researching E. Porter Alexander and the signal stations around Manassas and the Bull Run Line.

Mr. Hennessy correctly points out some of the notable features of the map include its depictions of the Beale and Van Pelt houses and details of the topography around the Stone Bridge.

The key (click for large images):


The map (click for large images):


Here is a transcription of the key, provided by a staff member at the Winery at Bull Run. I’ll try to find out more about that part of the story later…

The key:
A. Centreville Road to Stone Bridge
B. Forest each side Centreville Road
C. Enemies long Parrot Gun, Rifled; opening light Sunday Morning July 21st 1861, on Col Wheat’s Battalion (marked by a circle with an X in it)
D. Beale’s House, vacated by family Wednesday July 17th.
E. Shaeffers encampment, of Battalion, Co S Beauregard Rifles, Capt Shaeffer. New Orleans ____ Blues. Capt Goodauyn. New Market ___ Capt H N B Wood.
F. Thicket to which a large force of the enemy were concealed.
G. Cornfield fronting entrenchment Schaeffer’s Battalion
H. Entrenchment left-wing Capt Wood’s __ north side Bull Run.
I. Shaeffer’s Battalion entrenched, s.side Bull Run.
J. Latham’s Battery 2 guns (one marked XX) firing upon enemy at A B & C
K. Albemarle Regt Col Strange Comm at, entrenched on Bluff of Bull Run
L. Wheat Stubble between Albemarle Regt. And front of Enemy advancing at this point, Capt Latham’s Artillery, opening upon them, they commenced the flank to O, all around
M. Stone Bridge
N. Battery, of Enemy (not known invisible) moved with infancy upon Left-Flank of S.C. Army.
O. Advance of enemy, from A,B, (Carrying C.) F & G to O. and direction up to V.
P. Cornfield of Beale’s
Q. Forest Felled by Shaeffer’s Battalion
R. Turnpike to Warrenton from Stone Bridge
S. Bull Run
T. Vanpelt’s House, He having 2 sons in the Northern Army
U. Open fields over which reinforcements passed. Met the enemy, and the result was as the country knows
V. Headquarter’s, Gen E Coucke Lewis House
W. 1 Gun from Latham’s Battery managed by Lieut Saunders New O ____ Blues.
a. *Cannon Shot from enemy into headquarters
b. XX Guns’ supported by Charlottsville
c. X Monticello Guards of Latham’s Battery
d. Cursive X : open fields leading to Manassas from Lewis Farm
X. Circle around an x: Col Wheat’s encampment before 21st July

Click here for citation

Pvt. Milton Robinson, Co. B, 8th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

13 09 2016

Camp Pickens July 23 1861

Manassas Junction

Dear Mother:

Through the benevolence of a just and merciful God, I am spared to communicate to you this morning in brief the particulars of one of the most bloody battles ever fought upon the Continent of America; On last Sunday morning we were drawn up in a line of battle & ammunition distributed to the Company and as soon as that was done, we marched to the field of battle where we witnessed a conflict that the bloody pages of history does not furnish a parallel.

The first shot was fired by the enemy. But the gallant and brave sons of Virginia returned the fire immediately after the first shot & then we could not hear anything but bombs whishing during the day.

Our company was reserved to the last moment when three of the Regiments were cut to pieces, And exhausted, some running to the woods and branches, some with one leg, one arm, one eye and some with no legs, when we saw them was enough to discourage any one. But General Beauregard called on the 8th Virginia Regiment, and led them through grape and bombs and in the charge, General Beauregard had his horse shot from under him and all his staff killed. He dismounted and loaded the cannon himself and made a lane through them at every shot. They then retreated a mile off. Then the Loudoun Company charged on them. Welby Carter was in the battle & his men were cut all to pieces. Robert Fletcher had his arm shot badly, John deButts had two fingers shot off and several others I could not learn their names were wounded.

We have just received orders to hold ourselves in readiness to march at any moments warning. we know not where. Write soon and give me all the news at home.

Your affectionate son

Milton Robinson

The Years of Anguish: Fauquier County, Virginia, 1861-1865, collected and compiled for the Fauquier County Civil War Centennial Committee by Emily G. Ramey and John K. Gott.

Contributed and transcribed by T. J. Smith

Milton Robinson on Fold3.

New Orleans Visit – Metairie Cemetery

4 09 2016

My wife’s second and last Civil War concession during our recent visit to the Crescent City, Metairie Cemetery proved a little frustrating. After taking the Canal Street trolley to its terminus, we de-streetcarred in an area surrounded by cemeteries (that’s why, when you are looking for which streetcar to board, you look for the one that says “Cemeteries” – $3 for a 24 hour ticket).


You’ll have to walk about a quarter-mile or so from the streetcar stop to the cemetery’s pedestrian entrance, crossing Metairie Road and passing under I-10 in the process. This gets you to the entrance, which is very near the Civil War related “attractions” in the cemetery. Sounds simple, and it is – if the pedestrian entrance isn’t padlocked. Which, of course, it was. So, we walked a long way, maybe half a mile, up Metairie Rd looking for another entrance, and we struck out. We walked back to the entrance and checked out the option of paralleling I-10 to another entrance, but you can’t walk there. About ready to give up and head back to the streetcar, the wife called the cemetery office and about 20 minutes later a volunteer came to pick us up and take us to the main office at the north end of the cemetery. There we picked up maps (they have one geared for Civil War personalities) and set off. Of course, all the Civil War sites are in the older part of the cemetery, which is at the south end near the pedestrian entrance. The kind woman in the office told us she would have maintenance open the gate, so we would have a relatively short walk to the streetcar afterwards. Needless to say, my Fitbit was working overtime and I finished the day with over 10 miles walked, including a walk to the Superdome and a return trip to Bourbon Street.

Here are the photos. I apologize for being unable to find John Bell Hood’s grave. Also note that there are plenty of other famous folks buried here, like Al Hirt, Louis Prima, Mel Ott, the founders of Popeye’s Chicken and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and many more. Click on the images for bigger ones. Keep an eye out for the Easter Egg!


Pedestrian Entrance


Pedestrian Entrance near Army of Tennessee Memorial – Albert Sidney Johnston’s statue is visible from I-10 as you enter the city from the airport

The Washington Artillery



The monument is inscribed with the unit’s battle honors, which include both world wars and Operation Iraqi Freedom – today it is the 141st Field Artillery Regiment

If true, very sad.


Army of Northern Virginia



Yes, that is Stonewall. Why? Why not!

General Richard Taylor


Army of Tennessee Tumulus


That is Albert Sidney Johnston atop the tomb.


There are 48 members of the Army of Tennessee buried in the tumulus, including P. G. T. Beauregard, who jointly, solely, or subordinately commanded the Confederate forces at First Bull Run


This Confederate officer is reading the Roll of the Dead



I hope you’ve enjoyed this three-part travelogue. I hope some day to get back to New Orleans to see more of the sights, Civil War and otherwise. But maybe when it’s not so hot.

Lee Circle

Confederate Memorial Hallo

New Orleans Visit – Confederate Memorial Hall

1 09 2016

In this post, I hipped you to my recent trip to New Orleans. After our stop outside at Lee Circle, we paid the small ($8) fee to tour Confederate Memorial Hall – Louisiana’s Civil War Museum. The exterior is nice, but the inside is very impressive – lots of wood and open timbers. Way old-school, outside of the 20 minute video presented at the end of a hallway on a flat-screen TV. So much to see, and you can check out the history of the place at their website. As with anything that is Confederate in NOLA, don’t put off seeing it until your “next trip,” as it may very well be “lost in time, like tears in rain.” Lots and lots of manicuring going on in the town.


One odd thing – the video mentioned a vast store of documents in the basement. When I asked the attendant how one gains access for research purposes, I was told one does not. I asked why and was told the documents are historic, hence no access. Ummm, OK, I guess.

Here are some photos, and I’ll try to let them do the talking for the most part. Click on any image for great big giant versions.

First, the exterior:


The interior:


Jefferson Davis ephemera:



This is the crib used by Jeff Davis as a child, also used for his children.



First Bull Run stuff:

  • Rob Wheat and the First Special Battalion:



Stars and Bars of the First Special Battalion


The story goes that, after his wounding at First Bull Run, Wheat was wrapped in these colors and borne from the field…


…and that his bloodstains are still visible today

  • 6th Louisiana Infantry


  • 7th Louisiana Infantry


  • 8th Louisiana Infantry


  • Washington Artillery



About that piece of wood (click on the image to enlarge) – it was not likely taken from Sherman’s Battery at First Bull Run, as the battery was not captured there.

  • P. G. T. Beauregard


Odds and Ends:

  • Benjamin Butler


  • A Piano, confiscated – or rescued – at Jackson, MS in 1863


  • Braxton Bragg



Any Masons in the house?

Lee Circle

Metairie Cemetery

New Orleans Visit – Lee Circle

30 08 2016

In 2016 I took a little trip, along with Mrs. Smeltzer down the mighty Mississip. We were there primarily for Bourbon St. and the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I managed to wrangle two Civil War related stops into the trip. This first was a byproduct to the second, but was so close by we really couldn’t miss it: Lee Circle. Let’s just say if you must see the monument there, you might want to do so right quick – the same with the Beauregard Equestrian statue that I did not have time to visit.


We hopped on a tour bus (FWIW, I think you’re better off using the St. Charles streetcar – a 24 hour ticket runs 3 bucks and can be used on any line, and it’s cool to ride a national historic landmark) and got off at the WWII museum stop (which will have to be visited on our next visit). Our object was the Confederate Memorial Hall, in the city’s Warehouse District, currently being re-branded as the Arts District. You’ll see that the Hall does not appear on the above Google map, and if you take the tour bus you may notice that your guide does not mention the place even though the bus takes you right past it, and it abuts the Ogden Museum of Southern Art which our guide did point out. We backtracked through the WWII museum construction detours and before entering what is now widely referred to as the Louisiana Civil War Museum (the Hall, actually), we took a few shots of the prominent monument hard-by, dedicated to Robert E. Lee, who was described by the guide as the commander of the “Confederate Army” during the Civil War. The place seems to be a popular hangout with down-on-their-luck locals. Brown bags litter the site. Here are a few photos. Two more posts to follow.


OK, the plaque is at best misleading. Lee did serve as General-in-Chief of all Confederate forces for a brief period in 1865, but Jefferson Davis was Commander-in-Chief from beginning to end. The monument was recently renovated, and I shudder to think what has caused the staining on this plaque – empty liquor bottles abound.


Confederate Memorial Hall

Metairie Cemetery

Lt. William Brockenbrough Newton, Hanover Light Dragoons, 30th Virginia Cavalry, On the Campaign

14 05 2016

Centreville, July 22d 1861

My Dearest Wife,

For the last four days we have never been longer in one place than two hours – have slept every night upon the ground in good weather and bad, eaten nothing but hard crackers and fried bacon, and rested little at any time. For all of which privations, and a thousand others, we have been more than compensated – thanks to the just God who governs the courses of history, and decrees the destiny of nations – in the glorious results of yesterday. My last was from Fairfax Court House.

On the morning of the 17th we had received reliable information that the enemy were advancing, over 50,000 strong, and were not surprised at 5 o’clock in the morning to hear the fire of our pickets who were slowly retiring before the advancing foe. The order was given to pack – in ten minutes baggage was packed, tents struck, and the wagons driven to the rear, and the whole command formed in line of battle. In a few moments the glittering bayonets of the enemy lined the neighboring hills. From the heavy signal guns being fired at intervals along our line commencing at Germantown, and stretching along to Fairfax Court House, it was evident that the enemy were endeavoring to surround our little band. But our “little Trump,” as the men call Beauregard, was not to be taken by any such game.

Every preparation was made to deceive the enemy by inducing him to believe that we meditated a vigorous resistance – meantime our column defiled through a densely wooded road, and was for on the road to Centreville when the enemy discovered his mistake. He followed on very cautiously. Our troop, with Kemper’s battery, was assigned to post of honour, and charged with the duty of covering the retreat. We were the last to leave the village, and as we went out at one end of the street, his column appeared at the other. We halted at this place (Centreville) about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, again made show of battle, slept until 12 o’clock at the heads of our horses, and silently left the place, the enemy’s pickets being within talking distance of ours.

At daybreak we were across Bull Run, having marched very slowly to keep pace with the infantry. We found beds of leaves in the woods, wrapped ourselves in our blankets, and slept for an hour or two, until roused by the roar of the enemy’s guns, as he opened his batteries upon our lines. For two mortal hours, shot and shell flew thick along our whole line. This day’s work was evidently intended only to draw the fire of our artillery and show where our batteries were. In consequence of which, our gunners were ordered not to fire a single shot until within point blank range. After thus opening the ball, two dense masses of infantry were seen to defile to the right and left, to make two separate attacks. It was indeed a beautiful sight, as they came down in perfect order, and with the steady step of veterans. They came nearer and yet nearer, and yet no shot from our guns. Men began to mutter and say that we were preparing for another retreat. But, in a few moments, the appointed time arrived, a single shot from the Washington Artillery gave the signal of death, and for half an hour there was nothing but a continuous sheet of flame along the right of our line. The enemy fell back, rallied and charged again with a like result; again they rested and rushed forward; but old Virginia was true to herself, and the gallant 1st and 17th regiments met them, though twice their numbers, charged them with the bayonet, and drove them back in utter confusion.

The cavalry were held in reserved, and although within range of the artillery and continually experiencing the sensations which men may be supposed to indulge, who know there is a hidden danger hovering in the air, without knowing where it is to light, took no part in the action. Our time came yesterday, however. Our troop was for four hours in the hottest of the fight, and every man in it won the applause and approbation of the whole camp.

The action commenced at 8 o’clock of a sweet Sabbath morning. The enemy commenced with quite a heavy cannonade upon our right, which proved to be a mere feint to distract our attention, as his main attack was directed to our left wing. At ten o’clock the enemy had crossed the river on our left, and the fight commenced in earnest. From the hill on which we stood, we could see the smoke and dust, although at the distance of several miles from the fight waged on our left. Some thought our men had fallen back; others, that the enemy were retreating. It was an hour of painful interest.

At eleven o’clock, and aid-de-camp rode up in a gallop, and said our men were retiring, and the cavalry was ordered to the left. We were temporarily attached to Radford’s regiment. Ours was the first company, and mine the front platoon. On we dashed at a gallop. As we passed within range of a battery of rifled cannon, a ball was fired at us, and passed just between W___ and myself, knocking up clouds of dust. Without wavering in their ranks, the men and horses dashed forward at a gallop. As we reached the scene of action, the sight was discouraging in the extreme. The enemy had a first the advantage of every attacking party. He had concentrated all his forces for an attack upon one point. The 1st Louisiana regiment and the 4th Alabama were assailed in flank and center by 30,000 men, and literally cut to pieces. They refused to surrender but retired slowly, disputing every inch of the ground. As we rode up, we met parts of companies which had literally been overwhelmed, the men wounded, heir arms broken, while some of them were carrying off their dead in blankets. Every thing looked like retreat.

We were ordered up to within 500 yards of the enemies artillery, behind a hill which afforded some protection against their destructive fire. For an hour the firing raged with incessant fury, a ball passed over the hill and through our ranks, grazing one of our men; a shell exploded right under Radford’s horse, and every moment shot and shell were continually whistling by us. I can give you no conception of that awful hour. Not a man shrank from his post; two of our men were taken deadly sick, one fainting from heat and excitement; such calmness and composure I never witnessed. To make the matter worse, despondency, if not despair was fast writing itself on every face. The fire was evidently approaching us, and our friends were retiring, and the whispered rumour passed from lip to lip that our artillery ammunition was running low.

In a moment, however, a cloud of dust in our rear showed the approach of our wagons coming up at a dashing rate with a fresh supply. Our reinforcements now commenced pouring in. Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi swept by in their glittering array with the calm light of battle on their faces, and their bayonets gleaming in the quiet Sabbath sunshine. No man faltered, no man lagged behind. Neither the groans of the dying, nor the shrieks of the wounded, as they passed to the rear in crowded ambulances, seemed to produce any impression, except to fix the determination upon the countenance of all – to win or die upon the field.

The tide now seemed to ebb just enough to keep us from despair. The firing did not advance, although the explosion of their shell was terrific in the extreme. A gleam of hope, too, gradually broke in upon us when Kemper’s battery, which had been posted in our centre, galloped up and opened a destructive fire upon our extreme left. The advance was evidently checked, when a loud cheer in the front told us that something unusual had happened. What was it? Was it the triumph of our enemies over our stricken friends, or was it some advantage gained in defence of right? The suspense was awful. Men stood straight in their stirrups and stretched their eyes as if they would pierce the rugged bosom of the barren hill which raised its sc[?]rred front before them.

An aid passes up – his message is written on his face, and, before he speaks a word, a wild shout breaks from the throats of thousands. When he speaks, another, and another, and another round of cheers told the story of our hitherto sinking hearts. The 4th Virginia regiment had taken Sprague’s Rhode Island battery of six pieces at the point of the bayonet. Scarcely had the echo of our cheers died upon the air, when again the noise of shouting broke upon us. What was it? Had the enemy rallied and retaken the guns? Fear struggled with hope. But, no! the gallant 27th, envious of the glorious achievement of the 4th, at a sing[?]e dash, had charged a regiment of regulars, swept them from the field, and taken every gun in Sherman’s battery. The firing of musketry and the rattling of bayonets was now terrific beyond description. For an hour there was an incessant crackling of rifles, without a single moment’s pause. The enemy were evidently retiring, and, unless reinforced from their left and centre, the day was ours.

To prevent this, our field telegraph had already given the signal for movement upon our own right, and a heavy fire of musketry and artillery told us that Bonham’s brigade, to which we had been attached in the morning, had crossed the run and were pouring it into the enemy’s centre. The South Carolina boys dashed up the hill, in the face of a murderous fire, bayoneted the gunners, and took quiet possession of their centre battery. It was now 3 o’clock, and the day was ours. The Washington Artillery galloped up the hill on which we were posted and opened a perfect Vesuvius of shot and shell upon the receding foe.

Colonel Lay now galloped up and told us the time for us to act had arrived – our whole force of cavalry – now rushed like the wind to the front. It was indeed a brilliant spectacle, as with slackened reins and sabres drawn, the whole command dashed past. The whole line resounded with continued cheering. The force was divided into different detachments. Col. Radford, with six companies, was ordered to cross a short distance below the enemy’s extreme right, and intercept his column; our company was in front, ,and I was riding in front of my platoon – when after crossing the swamp we came suddenly upon a detachment of the enemy concealed in the bushes, with their pieces levelled. The Colonel ordered the charge, and our boys dashed on. (1)

Poor E. F. was at my side when we rode over two of them, and they grounded their arms to E. W. just in our rear. We galloped on in pursuit of the rest, who retreated across a field toward the road on which the enemy was retreating. F. was just behind me; Saunders, a fine young fellow, just 24, and splendidly mounted, rushed past us. The enemy had concealed themselves behind a fence. We rode up and I demanded their surrender. They made no reply. I ordered Saunders to fire. Before he levelled his carbine, the whole squad poured in a volley. Saunders fell dead at my feet, and Fontaine reeled in his saddle, and exclaimed, “save me, boys, I am killed.” He was caught in the arms of his cousin, who was in the rear. Three of my platoon fired, and the two who had shot Saunders and Fontaine fell dead in their tracks. (2)

We were now in full view of the enemy’s line, passing in rapid and disordered retreat along the road, with two pieces of artillery, a large number of baggage wagons and some officers’ carriages. – Col. Radford, who is a soldier of experience, knew the strength of the enemy, and ordered a halt, commanding the men to form; but such a thing as forming was utterly impossible. The men seemed perfectly delirious with excitement, and with a wild shout of the guns, the guns,” our whole company rushed on pell-mell upon the battery, which proved to be another detachment of the Rhode Island Artillery. Such a scene of wild excitement I never witnessed.

My platoon had become detached from the company, and the company from the regiment. There were two caissons and two guns; the guns behind the caissons. My platoon, which was furthest down the road, rushed upon the men who guarded them – one fellow, standing upon the caisson, whipping the horses to make them run. They had become so much alarmed that they stood perfectly still and trembled. I made a blow at him with my sabre, knocked him off the caisson, and he was shot twice by our men before he hit the ground.

Meantime W., (who, by the way, performed admirably,) with the main body, crossed the road higher up and when the main body of the regiment came up, our company, with some of the Alexandria cavalry, had killed and wounded every man at the guns and driven their infantry supports into rapid retreat. When we left, we expected to be supported by infantry and artillery, and you may imagine our astonishment when, with not quite 300 men, we found that we had merely cut into the enemy’s column, and upon looking one hundred yards down the road, we found them preparing to open upon us with two guns, supported by six regiments of infantry. The Colonel at once ordered a retreat, so we shot the horses to the caissons, so as to block up the road, and retreated, not, however, before they had poured in upon us four rounds of grape and canister at 150 yards distance. How we escaped a perfect massacre I cannot say. Had they not been so close to us, the slaughter would have been terrible. Four of our men were killed, and Captain Radford, brother of the Colonel, was literally blown to pieces, I escaped without a scratch (as did all the rest of the officers), excepting quite a severe bruise, caused by my horse’s pressing my leg against the wheel of the gun carriage. We brought off several prisoners, a great many pistols, and several horses. (3)

Just ahead of the guns was an open carriage, very handsome; as soon as they saw us – such a rush you never saw. It is suspected, or rather hoped, that Wilson, of Massachusetts (who was, it is known, on the field,) was in it; for one of our men, Lindsay by name, took it into his head that Scott was in it, pursued and overtook it, and, at the distance of thirty steps, fired his musketoon, with eighteen buckshot, into the back window. (4)

As we returned to camp, a melancholy mistake occurred. B (our Second Lieutenant,) who was carrying poor F. to the hospital, with one or two others, met with a detachment of four of the Appomattox Cavalry, who hailed him. It is said that, instead of giving the signal agreed upon in our camp, by raising the hand to the top of the head, he took them for the enemy, and answered, Federal troops – they fired and he fell dead. (5)

Our company received, upon its return, the congratulations of every officer in General Bonham’s staff, to whom Colonel Radford had spoken of the conduct of our men.

To-day it has been raining all day. Our column pushed on this morning to this place. Our company was assigned the advanced guard; and this morning at 10 o’clock, I had the honor, with eight mounted men, of “occupying” the city of Centreville. The citizens tell us, that about 12 o’clock last night, the cry passed throughout the camp that the d—-d Virginia horsemen were upon them, when they left in utter confusion.

Our triumph has been complete. In two days our noble army has driven them back to Alexandria, captured 42 guns, many colors, and taken how many prisoners I will not venture to say. After we reached here we were ordered to explore the surrounding country in quest of fugitives. We took eighteen prisoners, and got back just at night, very wet. Such a collection of property left in their flight, you never saw. Hundreds of muskets, wagons, horses, gun carriages, thousands of knapsacks, oil-cloths, blankets, hogsheads of sugar, barrels of pork, beans – in short, everything you can conceive. We found to-day over five hundred splendid army over-coats in one pile, at one of their deserted camps, besides many tents, not struck. I helped myself to a magnificent officer’s blanket and oi-cloth to fit over the head, and the men all got over-coats.

The men are amusing themselves to-night with reading their letters, of which there are thousands left on the road. Many of them were directed to Mr. So-and so, expected at Manassas Junction. Some asked for a piece of the floor of the house on which Ellsworth was killed, with blood on it; others confidently express the belief that Beauregard’s scalp will be taken to Washington. When I tell you that we supped to-night on Yankee crackers – Yankee coffee, and nice beef tongue, actually left on the hearth of one of the officers quarters, in a kettle, ready to set on the fire – that this is written in pencil given me by one of the men, upon paper taken from their baggage wagons, that I am sitting on a Yankee camp stool, writing by a Yankee candle, you can form some idea of their utter route.

I send K a pincushion, picked up on the field, and L a needlecase. Tell W I have a nice sword for him, taken from one of the Vermont volunteers. I came very near taking a drum for him, of which we found six yesterday, but thought of the noise, and declined. (6)

Our troops occupy Fairfax Court House, to-night. – Good night; God bless and protect you, as I feel he has protected me in the last few days, in answer to your prayers. I hope I feel sufficiently grateful for my preservation.

Your husband,

W. B. N.

I had secured a beautiful Enfield rifle for uncle William, but it was paced in charge of one of the men, who has lost it. I will endeavor to procure another for him. Bowyer Brockenbrough, in command of a part of Pendleton’s battery, was knocked off his horse by a fragment of a shell, and slightly wounded. Raleigh Colston, who was a captain on one of the Berkely companies, had his pants perforated, and his leg grazed by a ball while advancing on Sherman’s battery. Willoughby Brockenbrough escaped untouched.


Richmond Daily Whig, July 29, 1861

From transcription in Civil War Times magazine, July 2007, Used with Permission. The letter was annotated by Joseph Pierro, who identified some of the lesser known or cryptically referenced individuals described by Newton, and they are listed below:

1 – Col. George W. Lay, Bonham’s AAG
2 – E. F. – Sgt. Maj. Edmond Fontaine, Jr.; Saunders – Pvt. Richard W. Saunders
3 – Captain Radford – Edmund W. Radford
4 – Wilson, of Massachusetts – Sen. Henry Wilson.
5 – B – Boldman H. Bowles
6 – K, L, & W – Newton’s children, Kate (3), Lucy (4), and Willoughby (7)

Unknown, 8th Georgia Infantry, On the Battle

18 08 2015

Full and Reliable Details from Our Exchanges.
The Eighth Georgia Regiment in the Battle at Stone Bridge.

The following graphic description of scenes on the battle field, and the gallant conduct of the Eighth Georgia Regiment, was written for the Richmond Dispatch by a gentleman who participated in the fierce conflict of the 21st of July.

Eighth Georgia Regiment

On Thursday, the 18th inst., about 2 P. M., this Regiment left Winchester for Manassas, under command of Lieut. Colonel Montgomery Gardner. Col. Bartow had been for some weeks acting Brigadier General of a Brigade, consisting of the 7th, 8th, 9th and 11th Georgia Regiments, and a battalion of Kentuckians.

The 8th marched 27 miles over the mountains, fording the Shenandoah, to Piedmont on the Manassas Gap Railroad, arriving there about 12 M., Friday. The march was fatiguing in the extreme. After a delay of a few hours they left for Manassas on the cars, and a slow, tedious ride brought them to this point late Saturday morning. They marched three and a half miles to camp in the woods, without tents, and without food. Early next morning they were ordered to the fight, where they arrived after a circuitous, wearisome, and at times double-quick tramp between ten and twelve miles.

Breathless, tired, faint and footsore, the gallant fellows were eager for the affray.

They were first ordered to support Pendleton’s Virginia Battery, which they did amid a furious storm of grape from the enemy. Inactive as they were, compelled to be under this fire, they stood cool and unflurried.

They were finally ordered to charge Sherman’s Battery. To do this it was necessary to cross and intervening hollow, covered by the enemy’s fire, and establish themselves in a thicket flanking the enemy’s battery. They charged in a manner that elicited the praise of Gen. Johnston.

Gaining the thicket they opened upon the enemy. The history of warfare probably affords no instance of more desperate fighting than took place now. – From three sides a fierce, concentrated, murderous, unceasing volley poured in upon this devoted and heroic “six hundred” Georgians. The enemy appeared upon the hill by thousands. Between six and ten regiments were visible. It was a hell of bullet-rain in that fatal grove. The ranks were cut down as grain by a scythe. Whole platoons melted away as if by magic. Cool, unflinching and stubborn, each man fought with gallantry, and a stern determination to win or die. Not one faltered. Col. Bartow’s horse was shot under him. Adjutant Branch fell, mortally wounded. Lieut. Col. Gardner dropped with a shattered leg. The officers moved from rank to rank, from man to man, cheering and encouraging the brave fellows. Some of them took the muskets of the dead and began coolly firing at the enemy.

It was an appalling hour. The shot whistled and tore through trees and bones. The ground became literally paved with the fallen. Yet the remnant stood composed and unquailing, carefully loading, steadily aiming, unerringly firing, and then quietly looking to see the effect of their shots. Mere boys fought like veterans – unexcited, save with that stern “white hear,” flameless exhilaration, that battle gives to brave spirits.

After eight or ten rounds the regiment appeared annihilated. The order was reluctantly given to cease firing and retire. The stubborn fellows gave no heed. It was repeated. Still no obedience. The battle spirit was up. Again it was given. Three volleys had been fired after the first command. At length they retired, walking and fighting. Owing to the density of the growth, a part of the regiment were separated from the colors. The other part formed in an open field behind the thicket. The retreat continued over ground alternately wood and field. At every open spot they would reform, pour a volley into the pursuing enemy and again retire.

From the accounts of the enemy who stopped to give water to the wounded and rifle the dead, it seems that the 8th cut to pieces the 6th Massachusetts, half demolished the Rhode Islanders, and made deadly havoc among the Regulars.

But a horrible mistake occurred at this point. – Their own friends, taking them for the enemy, poured a fatal fire upon their mutilated ranks.

At length they withdrew from the fight. Their final rally was with some sixty men of the six hundred they took in. Balaklava tells no more heroic tale than this: “Into the valley of death marched the six hundred.”

As they retired, they passed Gen. Beauregard. – He drew aside, fronted, raised his hat, and said, “I salute the 8th Georgia with my hat off.”

Of all the companies of the regiment, the Oglethorpe Light Infantry suffered most. They were on the extreme right nearest the enemy, and this were more exposed. Composed of the first young gentlemen of Savannah, their terrible loss will throw a gloom over their whole city.

An organization of five or six years’ standing, they were the favorite corps of Savannah. Colonel Bartow had long been Captain and was idolized by them, while he had a band of sons in them. It is supposed that his deep grief at the mutilation of his boys caused him to expose his life more recklessly than was necessary. He wished to die with them, if he could not take them back home.

They fought with heroic desperation. All young, all unmarried, all gentlemen, there was not one of the killed who was not an ornament to his community and freighted with brilliant promise.

In sending them to Virginia, Savannah sent her best to represent her, and their loss proves how well they stood up, ho well that city was represented upon a field where all were brave.

This company was the first one to offer its services to President Davis under the Confederate act authorizing him to receive independent companies, and had the honor of being first received. They left home in disobedience to the orders of their Governor, and brought away their arms in defiance of his authority, so eager were they to go where our country needed her best soldiers.

They were one of the two companies that took Fort Pulaski. When there was a riot expected in Savannah, early in the year, they were called out to quell it, with another corps.

Their whole history is one of heroism. First to seek peril, they have proved in their sad fate how nobly they can endure it.

The will inevitably make their mark during the continuance of this holy war. They have enlisted for the whole war, and not one will turn back who can go forward, until it is ended, or they are completely annihilated.

After the gallant 8th had retired with but a fragment, Col. Bartow, by Gen. Beauregard’s order, brought up the 7th Georgia, exclaiming, in reply to Col. Gartrell, of the 7th, who asked him where they should go – “Give me your flag, and I will tell you.”

Leading them to their stand amid a terrific fire, he posted the regiment fronting the enemy, and exclaimed in those eloquent tones so full of high feeling that his friends ever expected from him – “Gen. Beauregard says you must hold this position, and, Georgians, I appeal to you to hold it.”

Regardless of life, gallantly riding amid the hottest fire, cheering the men, inspiring them with his fervent courage, he was shot in the heart, and fell from his horse. They picked him up. With both hands clasped over his breast, he raised his head and with a God-like effort, his eye glittering in its last gleam with a blazing light, he said, with a last heroic flash of his lofty spirit, “They have killed me, but, boys, NEVER give up the field,” – emphasizing the “never” in his peculiar and stirring manner, that all who know him will do feelingly recall.

This perished as noble a soul as ever breathed. – He will long live in remembrance. He met the fate he most wished – the martyred patriot’s grave. He was a pure patriot, an able statesman, a brilliant lawyer, a chivalric soldier, a spotless gentleman. – His imperious scorn of littleness was one of his leading characteristics. His lofty patriotism will consign his name to an immortal page in his country’s history.

[Raleigh] North Carolina Standard, 8/3/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Captain Richard Watt York* (2), Co. I, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the March to Manassas and the Battle

11 08 2015

Manassas Junction, Va., July 21, 1861.

To the Editor of the Standard: – In my last I told you it was probable that we would march on Martinsburg. We were ordered to fill up our canteens and haversacks, which we did. We started about four o’clock, leaving our baggage. Anxiously we gazed at te blue mountains where we supposed the enemy lay encamped; but when we took up the line of march and went down into the city, we knew we were not marching on Martinsburg, but where we could not tell. After leaving the city Co. Fisher halted the column and read an order, which stated that Gen. Beauregard had been attacked by overwhelming numbers, and that we were on a forced march to join them. All night we traveled until 3 o’clock, when we slept for a while on the ground. We then rose and marched until 7 o’clock, when we halted and prepared breakfast; after which we again resumed our march and reached Piedmont on the Manassas Gulf Railroad, where we again slept on the ground. On yesterday (Saturday) morning we arrived here, and immediately took up the line of march for the field of battle.

The battle commenced at sunrise by heavy cannonading. About 7 o’clock the battle became general, and terrible indeed was the roar. The determined spirit on both sides exhibited itself in one uninterrupted roar of musketry. Soon our regiment was ordered into position. We were led by Col. Fisher up a rugged ravine, and the two right flank companies under Captains Freeland and York, suddenly came right upon Sherman’s battery, and a Yankee regiment, which poured upon us a galling fire. We immediately faced to the rear, and gave them a raking fire, which piled them up in heaps; by this time, being exposed to a cross fire, we were ordered to fall back. But Col. Fisher having been shot, and there being no one to guide us, some little panic occurred; but we fell back and formed behind another regiment. All did good service. At the head of the ravine Col. Fisher fell, being shot in the forehead. Towards evening, the battle became a running one, and about sunset they abandoned the field and were ridden down by our cavalry.

Our loss is considerable, but not so great as at first supposed. The Yankees were piled up in heaps. We took Sherman’s battery, and indeed all their big guns and wagon loads of small arms. Excuse this hasty scroll. I will send you details in my next.


(Raleigh) North Carolina Standard, 7/27/1861.

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* While the author is not identified, from this letter of the 18th it is apparent he was a captain in the regiment. The only captain in the regiment at First Bull Run with initial “Y” was R. W. York of Co. I. See here.

R. W. York at Ancestry.com 

Pvt. E. Starke Law, Co. B, (Oglethorpe Light Infantry), 8th Georgia Infantry, On the Battle

23 07 2015

Letter from an Oglethorpe.

Stone Bridge, July 26th, 1861.

My Dear Father: – You have doubtless ere this received a brief note from me informing you of my safety. That was but a hurried line to relieve your anxiety. I now write to give you some idea of our action. On Thursday, the 18th inst., very much to our surprise, while waiting at the breast-works at Winchester, in hourly expectation of an attack from Patterson, we were ordered to prepare for a march without any information as to the cause or our destination. At 1 o’clock we commenced the march, and we were informed that Patterson was directing his column towards Manassas, intending to unite his force with McDowell’s in an attack upon Beauregard, and that it was necessary for us to make a forced march to Manassas. We arrived at the Shenandoah about dusk; having to ford it, we lost about four hours. – At 3 o’clock on Friday morning we reached a little town called Paris, here a halt was ordered, our guns were stacked in the street, the men threw themselves upon the side-walk, and in ten minutes all were asleep. At 5 o’clock the drums beat, and in five minutes we were again on the march. After marching six or seven miles, we arrived at the railroad; the wagons were ordered to the front, and we were allowed the very pleasant privilege of cooking; if ever you saw faces brighten and eyes sparkle, you ought to have seen our army just then, for we had marched about twenty five miles without any thing at all to eat. Arriving at Manassas we were marched out about three miles and waited until Sunday morning when we received orders to proceed to the battlefield. After going eight miles we came in sight of the enemy. – A halt was ordered, and our Lieut. Col. walked up to the brow of the hill to examine the position of the enemy; in a few moments he returned with the intelligence that Sherman’s celebrated Battery was stationed opposite, and would undoubtedly shell us. Scarcely had the words passed his lips, ‘ere the boom of the cannon was heard, and the next moment a bomb passed harmlessly over our heads. We were then ordered to lie upon our faces, in which position we remained about fifteen minutes. While lying here, the bombs came nearer and nearer, until one dropped about three feet in front of John Fleming and myself, covering us with dust, the next dropped on our left, in front of the Macon Guards, wounding two men, one of whom died to day. Just at this time Gen. Bee sent an aid over to Col. (then acting Brigadier General) Bartow, saying that he must have a Regiment to support his right. Bartow ordered Col. Gardner to take the 8th (our) Regiment. Though the shot and shell were falling thick and fast around us, when Gardner gave the order, “Eighth Regiment to your feet,” every man rose and stood erect, not one faltered, and we charged for at least one mile in the face of that battery, without firing a single gun. We then turned into a narrow strip of woods within about seventy yards of the enemy’s line, and opened fire upon them. Here our little band of five hundred and fifty-nine men, for thirty minutes, bore the fire of eight Regiments of the enemy, and it is my honest conviction that they would have stood there until the last man had fallen, had no order to retire been given; as it was, the order to retreat was repeated three of four times before it was obeyed. Col. Gardner, who was in the Mexican war, and who was wounded in this action, says that it was the heaviest fire to which men were ever exposed. We lost from our Regiment, in killed, wounded and missing, over two hundred men. To give you an idea of how thickly the bullets were showered upon us, I need only state that but sixteen out of the seventy-six men that the Oglethorpes carried into action, escaped being killed, wounded, or struck with spent balls or pieces of shell. I myself got two bullets through my pants, and was struck by a piece of shell upon the right knee, which lamed me for a day or two. I the little copse of woods in which we fought, there is not a tree or bush that hs not one or more bullets in it, and it is only surprising that any of us escaped. We can only account for it by remembering that there is an over-ruling Providence, whose protecting arm was doubtless thrown around us. Poor Ferrill was killed right at my side; little Frank Bevill, Lippman, and John Fleming, were shot down just around […]

Our wounded are all doing well and I trust they will all recover. Fleming is slightly wounded in the shoulder and not considered at all dangerous. A correct list of the killed and wounded has been sent to Savannah, so that it is not necessary for me to mention them. Poor Bartow felt and suffered all that a noble, generous, and brave heart could, when he saw his brave men falling fast around him. When Gardner was shot down, Bartow was heard asking him “In God’s name, what can I do to save my brave boys?” At this time the enemy were firing on our front, had flanked us upon our right, and were pouring in upon us a destructive fire from that quarter, when, to cap the climax, one of our own Regiments coming up, mistook us for the enemy and gave us a volley upon our left; under these circumstances Bartow seized the colors and called upon his men to rally around him, when a ball pierced his heart. He fell nobly struggling for our sacred rights, and long will his memory live fresh in the hearts of his soldiers.

Our troops now began to come up to the scene of action and in a short time the enemy were put to flight and our victory was complete. Our loss, I think, is put down at 2,000 men, whilst the enemy acknowledge a loss of from 5,000 to 6,000. Prisoners are still being brought in. We took 61 pieces of cannon and a number of horses. The enemy were so confident of victory that large numbers of citizens, among whom were, I understand, a good many ladies, came out to Centreville, where they were waiting for a signal from the battle field, when the rebels should be routed, to come on and see the ruin they had wrought; but, much to their mortification, they beheld only their own troops flying like sheep before about one-fourth their own numbers. Such is the fortune of ward. I have given you but a poor account of the battle, the observations of one man engaged in fight are confined to a small space. We are now about six miles from Manassas and cannot tell how long we shall remain here.

We have no Colonel and our Lieut. Colonel is wounded, and will not probably be able to take the field for six months, so that it is impossible to say what will be done with us. As anything is decided I will inform you. In the meantime direct to Manassas, 8th Georgia Regiment.

Yours, &c.,

E. S. L. *

Savannah Republican, 8/6/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*Likely E. Starke Law, per roster here

E. Starke Law at Ancestry.com 

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