#84 (Part 1) – Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard

26 01 2008

 Reports of Gen. G. T. Beauregard, C. S. Army, and Resulting Correspondence (Part 1)

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 484 – 504

HDQRS. FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,

Fairfax Court-House, October 14, 1861

SIR: I have the honor to transmit by my aide, Lieut. S. W. Ferguson, the report of the battle of Manassas, with the accompanying papers and drawings(*), as well as the flags and colors captured from the enemy on that occasion. Occupations of the gravest character have prevented their earlier transmission. I send as a guard of said colors two of the soldiers who participated in their capture.

I remain, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

G. T. BEAUREGARD,

General, Commanding

Gen. SAMUEL COOPER,

Adjutant General C. S. Army, Richmond, Va.

*Drawings not found

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HDQRS. FIRST CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,

Manassas, August 26 [October 14], 1861

GENERAL: Before entering upon a narration of the general military operations in the presence of the enemy on the 21st of July, I propose, I hope not unseasonably, first to recite certain events which belong to the strategy of the campaign, and consequently form an essential part of the history of the battle.

Having become satisfied that the advance of the enemy, with a decidedly superior force, both as to numbers and war equipage, to attack or turn my position in this quarter, was immediately impending, I dispatched on the 13th of July one of my staff, Col. James Chesnut, of South Carolina, to submit for the consideration of the President a plan of operations substantially as follows:

I proposed that General Johnston should unite as soon as possible the bulk of the Army of the Shenandoah with that of the Potomac, then under my command, leaving only sufficient forces to garrison his strong works at Winchester, and to guard the fine defensive passes of the Blue Ridge, and thus hold General Patterson in check. At the same time Brigadier-General Holmes was to march hither with all of his command not essential for the defense of the position of Aquia Creek. These junctions having been effected at Manassas, an immediate impetuous attack of our combined armies upon General McDowell was to follow as soon as he approached my advanced positions at and around Fairfax Court-House, with the inevitable result, as I submitted, of his complete defeat and the destruction or capture of his army. This accomplished, the Army of the Shenandoah, under General Johnston, increased with a part of my forces, and rejoined as he returned by the detachments left to hold the mountain passes, was to march back rapidly into the valley, fall upon and crush Patterson with a superior force wheresoever he might be found. This I confidently estimated could be achieved within fifteen days after General Johnston should march from Winchester for Manassas. Meanwhile I was to occupy the enemy’s works on this side of the Potomac if, as I anticipated, he had been so routed as to enable me to enter them with him; or if not, to retire again for a time within the lines of Bull Run with my main force. Patterson having been virtually destroyed, then General Johnston would re-enforce General Garnett sufficiently to make him superior to his opponent, General McClellan, and able to defeat that officer. This done, General Garnett was to form an immediate junction with General Johnston, who was forthwith to cross the Potomac into Maryland with his whole force, arouse the people as he advanced to the recovery of their political rights and the defense of their homes and families from an offensive invader, and then march to the investment of Washington in the rear, whilst I resumed the offensive in front. This plan of operations, you are aware, was not accepted at the time, from considerations which appeared so weighty as to more than counterbalance its proposed advantages.

Informed of these views, and of the decision of the War Department, I then made my preparations for the stoutest practicable defense of the line of Bull Run, the enemy having now developed his purposes by the advance on and occupation of Fairfax Court-House, from which my advanced brigade had been withdrawn.

The War Department having been informed by me by telegraph on the 17th July of the movement of General McDowell, General Johnston was immediately ordered to form a junction of his army corps with mine, should the movement in his judgment be deemed advisable. General Holmes was also directed to push forward with two regiments, a battery, and one company of cavalry.

In view of these propositions, approaching re-enforcements modifying my plan of operations so far as to determine on attacking the enemy at Centreville as soon as I should hear of the near approach of the two re-enforcing columns, I sent one of my aides, Colonel Chisolm, of South Carolina, to meet and communicate my plans to General Johnston, and my wish that one portion of his forces should march by the way of Aldie, and take the enemy on his right flank and in reverse at Centreville. Difficulties, however, of an insuperable character, in connection with means of transportation and the marching condition of his troops, made this impracticable, and it was determined our forces should be united within the lines of Bull Run, and thence advance to the attack of the enemy.

General Johnston arrived here about noon on the 20th July, and being my senior in rank he necessarily assumed command of all the forces of the Confederate States then concentrating at this point. Made acquainted with my plan of operations and dispositions to meet the enemy, he gave them his entire approval, and generously directed their execution under my command.

In consequence of the untoward detention, however, of some five thousand of General Johnston’s army corps, resulting from the inadequate and imperfect means of transportation for so many troops at the disposition of the Manassas Gap Railroad, it became necessary, on the morning of the 21st, before daylight, to modify the plan accepted to suit the contingency of an immediate attack on our lines by the main force of the enemy, then plainly at hand.

The enemy’s forces, reported by their best-informed journals to be fifty-five thousand strong, I had learned from reliable sources on the night of the 20th were being concentrated in and around Centreville and along the Warrenton turnpike road to Bull Run, near which our respective pickets were in immediate proximity. This fact, with the conviction that after his signal discomfiture on the 18th of July before Blackburn’s Fords–the center of my lines–he would not renew the attack in that quarter, induced me at once to look for an attempt on my left flank, resting on the stone bridge, which was but weakly guarded by men, as well as but slightly provided with artificial defensive appliances and artillery.

In view of these palpable military conditions, by 4.30 a.m. on the 21st of July I had prepared and dispatched orders directing the whole of the Confederate forces within the lines of Bull Run, including the brigades and regiments of General Johnston, which had arrived at that time, to be held in readiness to march at a moment’s notice. At that hour the following was the disposition of our forces: Ewell’s brigade, constituted as on the 18th of July, remained in position at Union Mills Ford, its left extending along Bull Run in the direction of McLean’s Ford, and supported by Holmes’ brigade, Second Tennessee and First Arkansas Regiments, a short distance to the rear–that is, at and near Camp Wigfall. D. R. Jones’ brigade, from Ewell’s left, in front of McLean’s Ford and along the stream to Longstreet’s position. It was unchanged in organization, and was supported by Early’s brigade, also unchanged, placed behind a thicket of young pines a short distance in the rear of McLean’s Ford. Longstreet’s brigade held its former ground at Blackburn’s Ford, from Jones’ left to Bonham’s right, at Mitchell’s Ford, and was supported by Jackson’s brigade, consisting of Cols. James F. Preston’s Fourth, Harper’s Fifth, Allen’s Second, the Twenty-seventh, Lieutenant-Colonel Echols, and the Thirty-third, Cummings’ Virginia Regiments, two thousand six hundred and eleven strong, which were posted behind the skirting of pines to the rear of Blackburn’s and Mitchell’s Fords, and in rear of this support was also Barksdale’s Thirteenth Regiment Mississippi Volunteers, which had lately arrived from Lynchburg. Along the edge of a pine thicket, in rear of and equidistant from McLean’s and Blackburn’s Fords, ready to support either position, I had also placed all of Bee’s and Bartow’s brigades that had arrived, namely: Two companies of the Eleventh Mississippi, Lieutenant-Colonel Liddell; the Second Mississippi, Colonel Falkner, and Fourth Alabama, with Seventh and Eighth Georgia Regiments, Colonel Gartrell and Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner–in all two thousand seven hundred and thirty-two bayonets. Bonham’s brigade, as before, held Mitchell’s Ford, its right near Longstreet’s left, its left extending in the direction of Cocke’s right. It was organized as at the end of the 18th of July, with Jackson’s brigade, as before said, as a support.

Cocke’s brigade, increased by seven companies of the Eighth, Hunton’s, three companies of the Forty-ninth, Smith’s, Virginia Regiments, two companies of cavalry, and a battery, under Rogers, of four 6-pounders, occupied the line in front and rear of Bull Run, extending from the direction of Bonham’s left, and guarding Island, Ball’s, and Lewis’ Fords, to the right of Evans’ demi-brigade, near the stone bridge, also under General Cooke’s command. The latter held the stone bridge, and its left covered a farm ford about one mile above the bridge.

Stuart’s Cavalry, some three hundred men of the Army of the Shenandoah, guarded the level ground extending in rear from Bonham’s left to Cocke’s right.

Two companies of Radford’s cavalry were held in reserve a short distance in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, his left extending in the direction of Stuart’s right.

Colonel Pendleton’s reserve battery of eight pieces was temporarily placed in rear of Bonham’s extreme left.

Major Walton’s reserve battery of five guns was in position on McLean’s farm in a piece of woods in rear of Bee’s right.

Hampton’s Legion, of six companies of infantry, 600 strong, having arrived that morning by the cars from Richmond, was subsequently, as soon as it arrived, ordered forward to a position in the immediate vicinity of the Lewis house as a support for any troops engaged in that quarter.

The effective force of all arms of the Army of the Potomac on that eventful morning, including the garrison at Camp Pickens, did not exceed 21,833 and 29 guns. The Army of the Shenandoah, ready for action on the field, may be set at 6,000 men and 20 guns. (That is, when the battle began. Smith’s brigade and Fisher’s North Carolina came up later, and made total of Army of the Shenandoah engaged, of all arms, 8,334. Hill’s Virginia Regiment, 550, also arrived, but was posted as reserve to right flank.) The brigade of General Holmes mustered about 1,265 bayonets, 6 guns, and a company of cavalry about 90 strong.

Informed at 5.30 a.m. by Colonel Evans that the enemy had deployed some twelve hundred men (these were what Colonel Evans saw of General Schenck’s brigade of General Tyler’s division and two other heavy brigades—in all over nine thousand men and thirteen pieces of artillery, Carlisle’s and Ayres’ batteries; that is, nine hundred men and two 6-pounders, confronted by nine thousand men and thirteen pieces of artillery, mostly rifled) with several pieces of artillery in his immediate front, I at once ordered him, as also General Cooke, if attacked, to maintain their position to the last extremity.

In my opinion the most effective method of relieving that flank was by a rapid, determined attack with my right wing and center on the enemy’s flank and rear at Centreville, with due precautions against the advance of his reserves from the direction of Washington. By such a movement I confidently expected to achieve a complete victory for my country by 12 m.

These new dispositions were submitted to General Johnston, who fully approved them, and the orders for their immediate execution were at once issued.

Brigadier-General Ewell was directed to begin the movement, to be followed and supported successively by Generals D. R. Jones, Longstreet, and Bonham, respectively, supported by their several appointed reserves. The cavalry, under Stuart and Radford, were to be held in hand, subject to future orders and ready for employment, as might be required by the exigencies of the battle.

About 8.30 a.m. General Johnston and myself transferred our headquarters to a central position, about half a mile in rear of Mitchell’s Ford, whence we might watch the course of events. Previously, as early as 5.30, the Federalists in front of Evans’ position (stone bridge) had opened with a large 30-pounder Parrott rifled gun, and thirty minutes later with a moderate, apparently tentative, fire from a battery of rifled pieces, directed first in front of Evans’, and then in the direction of Cocke’s position, but without drawing a return fire and discovery of our positions, chiefly because in that quarter we had nothing but eight 6 pounder pieces, which could not reach the distant enemy.

As the Federalists had advanced with an extended line of skirmishers in front of Evans, that officer promptly threw forward the two flank companies of the Fourth South Carolina Regiment and one company of Wheat’s Louisiana Battalion, deployed as skirmishers to cover his small front. An occasional scattering fire resulted, and thus the two armies in that quarter remained for more than an hour, while the main body of the enemy was marching his devious way through the Big Forest to take our forces in flank and rear.

By 8.30 a.m. Colonel Evans, having become satisfied of the counterfeit character of the movement on his front, and persuaded of an attempt to turn his left flank, decided to change his position to meet the enemy, and for this purpose immediately put in motion to his left and rear six companies of Sloan’s Fourth South Carolina Regiment, Wheat’s Louisiana Battalion’s five companies, and two 6-pounders of Latham’s battery, leaving four companies of Sloan’s regiment under cover as the sole immediate defense of the stone bridge, but giving information to General Cocke of his change of position and the red, sons that impelled it.

Following a road leading by the old Pittsylvania (Carter) mansion, Colonel Evans formed in line of battle some four hundred yards in rear, as he advanced, of that house, his guns to the front and in position, properly supported, to its immediate right. Finding, however, that the enemy did not appear on that road, which was a branch of one leading by Sudley Springs Ford to Brentsville and Dumfries, he turned abruptly to the left, and marching across the fields for three-quarters of a mile, about 9.30 a.m. took a position in line of battle, his left, Sloan’s companies, resting on the main Brentsville road in a shallow ravine, the Louisiana Battalion to the right, in advance some two hundred yards, a rectangular copse of wood separating them, one piece of his artillery planted on an eminence some seven hundred yards to the rear of Wheat’s battalion, and the other on a ridge near and in rear of Sloan’s position, commanding a reach of the road just in front of the line of battle. In this order he awaited the coming of the masses of the enemy, now drawing near.

In the mean time, about 7 o’clock a.m., Jackson’s brigade, with Imboden’s and five pieces of Walton’s battery, had been sent to take up a position along Bull Run, to guard the interval between Cooke’s right and Bonham’s left, with orders to support either in case of need, the character and topographical features of the ground having been shown to General Jackson by Capt. D. B. Harris, of the engineers, of this army corps. So much of Bee’s and Bartow’s brigades, now united, as had arrived, some 2,800 muskets, had also been sent forward to the support of the position of the stone bridge.

The enemy, beginning his detour from the turnpike at a point nearly half-way between stone bridge and Centreville, had pursued a tortuous, narrow trace of a rarely-used road through a dense wood the greater part of his way until near the Sudley road. A division under Colonel Hunter, of the Federal Regular Army, of two strong brigades, was in the advance, followed immediately by another division, under Colonel Heintzelman, of three brigades and seven companies of Regular Cavalry, and twenty-four pieces of artillery, eighteen of which were rifled guns. This column, as it crossed Bull Run, numbered over sixteen thousand men of all arms by their own accounts.

Burnside’s brigade–which here, as at Fairfax Court-House, led the advance–at about 9.45 a.m. debouched from a wood in sight of Evans’ position, some five hundred yards distant from Wheat’s battalion. He immediately threw forward his skirmishers in force, and they became engaged with Wheat’s command, and the 6-pounder gun under Lieutenant Leftwitch. The Federalists at once advanced–as they report officially–the Second Rhode Island Regiment Volunteers, with its vaunted battery of six 13-pounder rifled guns. Sloan’s companies were then brought into action, having been pushed forward through the woods. The enemy, soon galled and staggered by the fire and pressed by the determined valor with which Wheat handled his battalion until he was desperately wounded, hastened up three other regiments of the brigade and two Dahlgren howitzers, making in all quite three thousand five hundred bayonets and eight pieces of artillery, opposed to less than eight hundred men and two 6-pounder guns. Despite this odds, this intrepid command, of but eleven weak companies, maintained its front to the enemy for quite an hour, and until General Bee came to their aid with his command. The heroic Bee, with a soldier’s eye and recognition of the situation, had previously disposed his command with skill, Imboden’s battery having been admirably placed between the two brigades, under shelter, behind the undulations of a hill about one hundred and fifty yards north of the now famous Henry house, and very near where he subsequently fell mortally wounded, to the great misfortune of his country, but after deeds of deliberate and ever-memorable courage. Meanwhile the enemy had pushed forward a battalion of eight companies of regular infantry, and one of their best batteries of six pieces (four rifled), supported by four companies of marines, to increase the desperate odds against which Evans and his men had maintained their stand with an almost matchless tenacity. General Bee, now finding Evans sorely pressed under the crushing weight of the masses of the enemy, at the call of Colonel Evans threw forward his whole force to his aid across a small stream (Young’s Branch and Valley), and engaged the Federalists with impetuosity, Imboden’s battery at the time playing from his well-chosen position with brilliant effect with spherical case, the enemy having first opened on him from a rifle battery (probably Griffin’s) with elongated cylindrical shells, which flew a few feet over the heads of our men and exploded in the crest of the hill immediately in rear.

As Bee advanced under a severe fire he placed the Seventh and Eighth Georgia Regiments under the chivalrous Bartow, at about 11 a.m. in a wood of second-growth pines, to the right and front of and nearly perpendicular to Evans  line of battle; the Fourth Alabama to the left of them, along a fence, connecting the position of the Georgia regiments with the rectangular copse in which Sloan’s South Carolina companies were engaged? and into which he also threw the Second Mississippi. A fierce and destructive conflict now ensued. The fire was withering on both sides, while the enemy swept our short thin lines with their numerous artillery, which, according to their official reports, at this time consisted of at least ten rifled guns and four howitzers. For an hour did these stout-hearted men of the blended commands of Bee, Evans, and Barrow breast an unintermitting battle-storm, animated surely by something more than the ordinary courage of even the bravest men under fire. It must have been indeed the inspiration of the cause and consciousness of the great stake at issue which thus nerved and animated one and all to stand unawed and unshrinking in such extremity.

Two Federal brigades of Heintzelman’s division were now brought into action, led by Ricketts” superb light battery of six 10-pounder rifled guns, which, posted on an eminence to the right of the Sudley road, opened fire on Imboden’s battery–about this time increased by two rifled pieces of the Washington Artillery under Lieutenant Richardson, and already the mark of two batteries, which divided their fire with Imboden and two guns under Lieutenants Davidson and Leftwitch, of Latham’s battery, posted as before mentioned. At this time confronting the enemy we had still but Evans’ eleven companies and two guns, Bee’s and Bartow’s four regiments, the two companies Eleventh Mississippi under Lieutenant-Colonel Liddell, and the six pieces under Imboden and Richardson. The enemy had two divisions of four strong brigades, including seventeen companies of regular infantry, cavalry, and artillery, four companies of marines, and twenty pieces of artillery. (See official reports of Colonels Heintzelman, Porter, &c.) Against this odds, scarcely credible, our advance position was still for a while maintained, and the enemy’s ranks constantly broken and shattered under the scorching fire of our men; but fresh regiments of the Federalists came upon the field. Sherman’s and Keyes’ brigades of Tyler’s division, as is stated in their reports, numbering over six thousand bayonets, which had found a passage across the run about eight hundred yards above the stone bridge, threatened our right.

Heavy losses bad now been sustained on our side both in numbers and in the personal worth of the slain. The Eighth Georgia Regiment had suffered heavily, being exposed, as it took and maintained its position, to a fire from the enemy, already posted within a hundred yards of their front and right, sheltered by fences and other cover. It was at this time that Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner was severely wounded, as also several other valuable officers. The adjutant of the regiment, Lieutenant Branch, was killed, and the horse of the regretted Barrow was shot under him. The Fourth Alabama also suffered severely from the deadly fire of the thousands of muskets which they so dauntlessly confronted under the immediate leadership of Bee himself. Its brave colonel (E. J. Jones) was dangerously wounded, and many gallant officers fell, slain or hors de combat.

Now, however, with the surging mass of over fourteen thousand Federal infantry pressing on their front and under the incessant fire of at least twenty pieces of artillery, with the fresh brigades of Sherman and Keyes approaching, the latter already in musket range, our lines gave back, but under orders from General Bee. The enemy, maintaining their fire, pressed their swelling masses onward as our shattered battalions retired. The slaughter for the moment was deplorable, and has filled many a Southern home with life-long sorrow. Under this inexorable stress the retreat continued, until arrested by the energy and resolution of General Bee, supported by Barrow and Evans, just in rear of the Robinson house, and Hampton’s Legion, which had been already advanced and was in position near it. Imboden’s battery, which had been handled with marked skill, but whose men were almost exhausted, and the two pieces of Walton’s battery, under Lieutenant Richardson, being threatened by the enemy’s infantry on the left and front, were also obliged to fall back. Imboden, leaving a disabled piece on the ground, retired until he met Jackson’s brigade, while Richardson joined the main body of his battery near the Lewis house.

As our infantry retired from the extreme front the two 6-pounders of Latham’s battery before mentioned fell back with excellent judgment to suitable positions in the rear, where an effective fire was maintained upon the still advancing lines of the Federalists with damaging effect until their ammunition was nearly exhausted, when they too were withdrawn in the near presence of the enemy and rejoined their captain.

From the point, previously indicated, where General Johnston and myself had established our headquarters, we heard the continuous roll of musketry and the sustained din of the artillery, which announced the serious outburst of the battle on our left flank, and we anxiously but confidently awaited similar sounds of conflict from our front at Centreville, resulting from the prescribed attack in that quarter by our right wing.

At 10:30 a.m., however, this expectation was dissipated, from Brigadier-General Ewell informing me, to my profound disappointment, that my orders for his advance had miscarried, but that in consequence of a communication from Gen. D. R. Jones he had just thrown his brigade across the stream at Union Mills. But in my judgment it was now too late for the effective execution of the contemplated movement, which must have required quite three hours for the troops to get into position for the attack. Therefore it became immediately necessary to depend on new combinations and other dispositions suited to the now pressing exigency. The movement of the right and center, already begun by Jones and Longstreet, was at once countermanded with the sanction of General Johnston, and we arranged to meet the enemy on the field upon which he had chosen to give us battle.

Under these circumstances our reserves not already in movement were immediately ordered up to support our left flank, namely, Holmes’ two regiments and battery of artillery, under Capt. Lindsey Walker, of six guns, and Early’s brigade. Two regiments from Bonham’s brigade, with Kemper’s four 6-pounders, were also called for and, with the sanction of General Johnston, Generals Ewell, Jones (D. R.), Longstreet, and Bonham were directed to make a demonstration to their several fronts, to retain and engross the enemy’s reserves and any forces on their flank and at and around Centreville. Previously our respective chiefs of staff, Major Rhett and Colonel Jordan, had been left at my headquarters to hasten up and give directions to any troops that might arrive at Manassas.

These orders having been duly dispatched by staff officers, at 11.30 a.m. General Johnston and myself set out for the immediate field of action, which we reached in the rear of the Robinson and Widow Henry’s houses at about 12 m., and just as the commands of Bee, Bar-tow, and Evans had taken shelter in a wooded ravine behind the former, stoutly held at the time by Hampton with his Legion, which had made stand there after having previously been as far forward as the turnpike, where Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson, an officer of brilliant promise, was killed, and other severe losses were sustained.

Before our arrival upon the scene General Jackson had moved forward with his brigade of five Virginia regiments from his position in reserve, and had judiciously taken post below the brim of the plateau, nearly east of the Henry house, and to the left of the ravine and woods occupied by the mingled remnants of Bee’s, Bartow’s, and Evans’ commands, with Imboden’s battery and two of Stanard’s pieces placed so as to play upon the on-coming enemy, supported in the immediate rear by Col. J. F. Preston’s and Lieutenant-Colonel Echols’ regiments, on the right by Harper’s, and on the left by Allen’s and Cummings’ regiments.

As soon as General Johnston and myself reached the field we were occupied with the reorganization of the heroic troops, whose previous stand, with scarce a parallel, has nothing more valiant in all the pages of history, and whose losses fitly tell why at length their ranks had lost their cohesion.

It was now that General Johnston impressively and gallantly charged to the front, with the colors of the Fourth Alabama Regiment by his side, all the field officers of the regiment having been previously disabled. Shortly afterwards I placed S. R. Gist, adjutant and inspector general of South Carolina, a volunteer aide of General Bee, in command of this regiment, and who led it again to the front as became its previous behavior, and remained with it for the rest of the day.

As soon as we had thus rallied and disposed our forces, I urged General Johnston to leave the immediate conduct of the field to me, while he, repairing to Portici, the Lewis house, should urge re-enforcement–forward. At first he was unwilling, but reminded that one of us must do so, and that properly it was his place, he reluctantly, but fortunately, complied; fortunately, because from that position, by his energy and sagacity, his keen perception and anticipation of my needs, he so directed the reserves as to insure the success of the day.

As General Johnston departed for Portici, Colonel Bartow reported to me with the remains of the Seventh Georgia Volunteers, Gartrell’s, which I ordered him to post on the left of Jackson’s line in the edge of the belt of pines bordering the southeastern rim of the plateau, on which the battle was now to rage so long and so fiercely.

Col. William Smith’s battalion of the Forty-ninth Virginia Volunteers, having also come up by my orders, I placed it on the left of Gartrell’s, as my extreme left at the time. Repairing then to the right, I placed Hampton’s Legion, which have suffered greatly, on that flank somewhat to the rear of Harper’s regiment, and also the seven companies of the Eighth (Hunton’s) Virginia Regiment, which, detached from Cocke’s brigade by my orders and those of General Johnston, had opportunely reached the ground. These, with Harper’s regiment, constituted a reserve to protect our right flank from an advance of the enemy from the quarter of the stone bridge, and served as a support for the line of battle, which was formed on the right by Bee’s and Evans’ commands, in the center by four regiments of Jackson’s brigade, with Imboden’s four 6-pounders, Walton’s five guns (two rifled), two guns (one piece rifled) of Stanard’s, and two 6-pounders of Rogers’ batteries, the latter under Lieutenant Heaton, and on the left by Gartrell’s reduced ranks and Colonel Smith’s battalion, subsequently re-enforced, Falkner’s Second Mississippi Regiment, and by another regiment of the Army of the Shenandoah, just arrived upon the field–the Sixth (Fisher’s) North Carolina. Confronting the enemy at this time my forces numbered at most not more than sixty-five hundred infantry and artillerists, with but thirteen pieces of artillery and two companies (Carter’s and Hoge’s) of Stuart’s Cavalry.

The enemy’s force now bearing hotly and confidently down on our position, regiment after regiment of the best-equipped men that ever took the field according to their own official history of the day, was formed of Colonels Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions, Colonels Sherman’s and Keyes’ brigades of Tyler’s division, and of the formidable batteries of Ricketts, Griffin, and Arnold (regulars), and Second Rhode Island and two Dahlgren howitzers–a force of over twenty thousand infantry, seven companies of regular cavalry, and twenty-four pieces of improved artillery. At the same time perilous heavy reserves of infantry and artillery hung in the distance around the stone bridge, Mitchell’s, Blackburn’s, and Union Mills Fords, visibly ready to fall upon us at any moment, and I was also assured of the existence of other heavy corps at and around Centreville and elsewhere within convenient supporting distances.

Fully conscious of this portentous disparity of force, as I posted the lines for the encounter I sought to infuse into the hearts of my officers and men the confidence and determined spirit of resistance to this wicked invasion of the homes of a free people which I felt. I informed them that re-enforcements would rapidly come to their support, and that we must at all hazards hold our posts until re-enforced. I reminded them that we fought for our homes, our firesides, and for the independence of our country. I urged them to the resolution of victory or death on that field. These sentiments were loudly, eagerly cheered wheresoever proclaimed, and I then felt reassured of the unconquerable spirit of that army, which would enable us to wrench victory from the host then threatening us with destruction.

Oh, my country! I would readily have sacrificed my life and those of all the brave men around me to save your honor and to maintain your independence from the degrading yoke which those ruthless invaders had come to impose and render perpetual, and the day’s issue has assured me that such emotions must also have animated all under my command.

In the mean time the enemy had seized upon the plateau on which Robinson’s and the Henry houses are situated–the position first occupied in the morning by General Bee before advancing to the support of Evans. Ricketts’ battery of six rifled guns, the pride of the Federalists, the object of their unstinted expenditure in outfit, and the equally powerful regular light battery of Griffin, were brought forward and placed in immediate action, after having, conjointly with the batteries already mentioned, played from former positions with destructive effect upon our forward battalions.

The topographical features of the plateau, now become the stage of the contending armies, must be described in outline. A glance at the map will show that it is inclosed on three sides by small water-courses, which empty into Bull Run within a few yards of each other a half a mile to the south of the stone bridge. Rising to an elevation of quite one hundred feet above the level of Bull Run at the bridge, it falls off on three sides to the level of the inclosing streams in gentle slopes, but which are furrowed by ravines of irregular direction and length, and studded with clumps and patches of young pines and oaks. The general direction of the crest of the plateau is oblique to the course of Bull Run in that quarter and to the Brentsville and turnpike roads, which intersect each other at right angles. Immediately surrounding the two houses before mentioned are small open fields of irregular outline, not exceeding one hundred and fifty acres in extent. The houses, occupied at the time, the one by the Widow Henry and the other by the free negro Robinson, are small wooden buildings, the latter densely embowered in trees and environed by a double row of fences on two sides. Around the eastern and southern brow of the plateau an almost unbroken fringe of second-growth pines gave excellent shelter for our marksmen, who availed themselves of it with the most satisfactory skill. To the west, adjoining the fields, a broad belt of oaks extends directly across the crest on both sides of the Sudley road, in which during the battle regiments of both armies met and contended for the mastery. From the open ground of this plateau the view embraces a wide expanse of woods and gently undulating open country of broad grass and grain fields in all directions, including the scene of Evans’ and Bee’s recent encounter with the enemy, some twelve hundred yards to the northward.

In reply to the play of the enemy’s batteries our own artillery had not been either idle or unskillful. The ground occupied by our guns, on a level with that held by the batteries of the enemy, was an open space of limited extent, behind a low undulation just at the eastern verge of the plateau, some live or six hundred yards from the Henry house. Here, as before said, thirteen pieces, mostly 6-pounders, were, maintained in action; the several batteries of Imboden, Stanard, Pendleton (Rockbridge Artillery), and Alburtis, of the Army of the Shenandoah, and five guns of Walton’s and Heaton’s section of Rogers’ battery of the Army of the Potomac, alternating to some extent with each other, and taking part as needed, all from the outset displaying that marvelous capacity of our people as artillerists which has made them, it would appear, at once the terror and the admiration of the enemy. As was soon apparent, the Federalists had suffered severely from our artillery and from the fire of our musketry on the right, and especially from the left flank, placed under cover, within whose galling range they had been advanced; and we are told in their official reports how regiment after regiment thrown forward to dislodge us was broken, never to recover its entire organization on that field.

In the mean time, also, two companies of Stuart’s Cavalry ((Carter’s and Hoge’s) made a dashing charge down the Brentsville and Sudley road upon the Fire Zouaves, then the enemy’s right; on the plateau, which added to their disorder wrought by our musketry on that flank. But still the press of the enemy was heavy in that quarter of the field as fresh troops were thrown forward there to outflank us, and some three guns of a battery in an attempt to obtain a position, apparently to enfilade our batteries, were thrown so close to the Thirty-third Regiment, Jackson’s brigade, that that regiment, springing forward, seized them, but with severe loss, and was subsequently driven back by an overpowering force of Federal musketry.

Now, full 2 o’clock p.m., I gave the order for the right of my line, except my reserves, to advance to recover the plateau. It was done with uncommon resolution and vigor, and at the same time Jackson’s brigade pierced the enemy’s center with the determination of veterans and the spirit of men who fight for a sacred cause, but it suffered seriously. With equal spirit the other parts of the line made the onset, and the Federal lines were broken and swept back at all points from the open ground of the plateau. Rallying soon, however, as they were strongly re-enforced by fresh regiments, the Federalists returned, and by weight of numbers pressed our lines back, recovered their ground and guns, and renewed the offensive.

By this time, between half past two and 3 o’clock p.m., our re-enforcements pushed forward, and, directed by General Johnston to the required quarter, were at hand just as I had ordered forward to a second effort for the recovery of the disputed plateau the whole line, including my reserve, which at this crisis of the battle I felt called upon to lead in person. This attack was general, and was shared in by every regiment then in the field, including the Sixth (Fisher’s) Worth Carolina Regiment, which had just come up and taken position on the immediate left of the Forty-ninth Virginia Regiment. The whole open ground was again swept clear of the enemy, and the plateau around the Henry and Robinson houses remained finally in our possession with the greater part of the Ricketts and Griffin batteries, and a flag of the First Michigan Regiment, captured by the Twenty-seventh Virginia Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Echols, of Jackson’s brigade.

This part of the day was rich with deeds of individual coolness and dauntless conduct, as well as well-directed embodied resolution and bravery, but fraught with the loss to the service of the country of lives of inestimable preciousness at this juncture. The brave Bee was mortally wounded at the head of the Fourth Alabama and some Mississippians. In the open field near the Henry house, and a few yards distant, the promising life of Bartow, while leading the Seventh Georgia Regiment, was quenched in blood. Col. F. J. Thomas, acting chief of ordnance, of General Johnston’s staff, after gallant conduct and most efficient service, was also slain. Colonel Fisher, Sixth North Carolina, likewise fell, after soldierly behavior at the head of his regiment with ranks greatly thinned.

Withers’ Eighteenth Regiment, of Cocke’s brigade, had come up in time to follow this charge, and, in conjunction with Hampton’s Legion, captured several rifled pieces, which may have fallen previously in possession of some of our troops, but if so, had been recovered by the enemy. These pieces were immediately turned and effectively served on distant masses of the enemy by the hands of some of our officers.

While the enemy had thus been driven back on our right entirely across the turnpike and beyond Young’s Branch on our left, the woods yet swarmed with them when our re-enforcements opportunely arrived in quick succession and took position in that portion of the field. Kershaw’s Second and Cash’s Eighth South Carolina Regiments, which had arrived soon after Withers, were led through the oaks just east of the Sudley-Brentsville road, brushing some of the enemy before them, and taking an advantageous position along and west of that road, opened with much skill and effect on bodies of the enemy that had been rallied under cover of a strong Federal brigade posted on a plateau in the southwest angle formed by intersection of the turnpike with the Sudley-Brentsville road. Among the troops thus engaged were the Federal regular infantry.

At the same time Kemper’s battery, passing northward by the Sudley-Brentsville road, took position on the open space, under orders of Colonel Kershaw, near where an enemy’s battery had been captured, and was opened with effective results upon the Federal right, then the mark also of Kershaw’s and Cash’s regiments. Preston’s Twenty-eighth Regiment, of Cocke’s brigade, had by that time entered the same body of oaks, and encountered some Michigan troops, capturing their brigade commander, Colonel Willcox.

Another important accession to our forces had also occurred about the same time, 3 o’clock p.m. Brig. Gen. E. K. Smith, with some seventeen hundred infantry, of Elzey’s brigade, of the Army of the Shenandoah, and Beckham’s battery came upon the field from Camp Pickens, Manassas, where they had arrived by railroad at noon. Directed in person by General Johnston to the left, then so much endangered, on reaching a position in rear of the oak woods, south of the Henry house, and immediately east of the Sudley road, General Smith was disabled by a severe wound, and his valuable services were lost at that critical juncture; but the command devolved upon a meritorious officer of experience, Colonel Elzey, who led his infantry at once somewhat farther to the left, in the direction of the Chinn house, across the road, through the oaks skirting the west side of the road, and around which he sent the battery, under Lieutenant Beckham. This officer took up a most favorable position near that house, whence, with a clear view of the Federal right and center, filling the open fields to the west of the Brentsville-Sudley road and gently sloping southward, he opened fire with his battery upon them with deadly and damaging effect.

Colonel Early, who by some mischance did not receive orders until 2 o’clock which had been sent him at noon, came on the ground immediately after Elzey, with Kemper’s Seventh Virginia, Hays’ Seventh Louisiana, and Barksdale’s Thirteenth Mississippi Regiments. This brigade, by the personal direction of General Johnston, was marched by the Holkham house across the fields to the left, entirely around the woods through which Elzey had passed, and under a severe fire, into a position in line of battle near Chinn’s house, outflanking the enemy’s right.

At this time, about 3.30 p, m., the enemy, driven back on their left and center and brushed from the woods bordering the Sudley road, south and west of the Henry house, had formed a line of battle of truly formidable proportions, of crescent outline, reaching on their left from vicinity of Pittsylvania (the old Carter mansion), by Mathews’ and in rear of Dogan’s, across the turnpike near to Chinn’s house. The woods and fields were filled with their masses of infantry a and their carefully-preserved cavalry. It was a truly magnificent, though redoubtable, spectacle as they threw forward in flue style on the broad, gentle slopes of the ridge occupied by their main lines a cloud of skirmishers, preparatory for another attack.

But as Early formed his line, and Beckham’s pieces played upon the right of the enemy, Elzey’s brigade, Gibbons’ Tenth Virginia, Lieutenant-Colonel Steuart’s First Maryland, and Vaughn’s Third Tennessee Regiments, Cash’s Eighth and Kershaw’s Second South Carolina, Withers, Eighteenth and Preston’s Twenty-eighth Virginia advanced in an irregular line, almost simultaneously, with great spirit from their several positions upon the front and flanks of the enemy in their quarter of the field. At the same time, too, Early resolutely assailed their right flank and rear. Under this combined attack the enemy was soon forced first over the narrow plateau in the southern angle made by the two roads so often mentioned into a patch of woods on its western slope, thence back over Young’s Branch and the turnpike into the fields of the Dogan farm and rearward, in extreme disorder in all available directions towards Bull Run. The rout had now become general and complete.

About the time that Elzey and Early were entering into action a column of the enemy (Keyes’ brigade, of Tyler’s division) made its way across the turnpike between Bull Run and the Robinson house, under cover of a wood and brow of the ridges, apparently to turn my right, but was easily repulsed by a few shots from Latham’s battery, now united and placed in position by Capt. D. B. Harris, of the Virginia engineers, whose services during the day became his character as an able, cool, an(. skillful officer, and from Alburtis’ battery, opportunely ordered by General Jackson to a position to the right of Latham, on a hill commanding the line of approach of the enemy, and supported by portions of regiments collected together by the staff officers of General Johnston and myself.

Early’s brigade, meanwhile, joined by the Nineteenth Virginia Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Strange, of Cockers brigade, pursued the now panic-stricken fugitive enemy. Stuart, with his cavalry and Beckham had also taken up the pursuit along the road by which the enemy had come upon the field that morning, but soon, cumbered by prisoners who thronged his way, the former was unable to attack the mass of the fast-fleeing, frantic Federalists. Withers’, R. T. Preston’s, Cash’s, and Kershaw’s regiments, Hampton’s Legion, and Kemper’s battery also pursued along the Warrenton road by the stone bridge, the enemy having opportunely opened a way for them through the heavy abatis which my troops had made on the west side of the bridge several days before; but this pursuit was soon recalled in consequence of a false report which unfortunately reached us that the enemy’s reserves, known to be fresh and of considerable strength, were threatening the position of Union Mills Ford.

Colonel Radford, with six companies Virginia Cavalry, was also ordered by General Johnston to cross Bull Run and attack the enemy from the direction of Lewis’ house. Conducted by one of my aides, Colonel Chisolm, by the Lewis Ford to the immediate vicinity of the suspension bridge, he charged a battery with great gallantry, took Colonel Corcoran, of the Sixty-ninth Regiment New York Volunteers, a prisoner, and captured the Federal colors of that regiment, as well as a number of the enemy. He lost, however, a promising officer of his regiment, Capt. Winston Radford.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mumford also led some companies of cavalry in hot pursuit, and rendered material service in the capture of prisoners and of cannon, horses, ammunition, &c., abandoned by the enemy in their flight. Captain Lay’s company of the Powhatan Troops and Utterback’s Rangers, Virginia Volunteers, attached to my person, did material service under Captain Lay in rallying troops broken for the time by the onset of the enemy’s masses.

During the period of the momentous events, fraught with the weal of our country, which were passing on the blood-stained plateau along the Sudley and Warrenton roads, other portions of the line of Bull Run had not been void of action of moment and of influence on the general result.

While Colonel Evans and his sturdy band were holding at bay the Federal advance beyond the turnpike the enemy made repeated demonstrations with artillery and infantry upon the line of Cooke’s brigade, with the serious intention of forcing the position, as General Schenck admits in his report. They were driven back with severe loss by Latham’s (a section) and Rogers’ four 6-pounders, and were so impressed with the strength of that line as to be held in check and inactive even after it had been stripped of all its troops but one company of the Nineteenth Virginia Regiment, under Captain Duke, a meritorious officer; and it is worthy of notice that in this encounter of our 6-pounder guns, handled by our volunteer artillerists, they had worsted such a notorious adversary as the Ayres (formerly Sherman’s) battery, which quit the contest under the illusion that it had weightier metal than its own to contend with.

The center brigades, Bonham’s and Longstreet’s, of the line of Bull Run, if not closely engaged, were, nevertheless, exposed for much of the day to an annoying, almost incessant fire of artillery of long range; but, by a steady, veteran-like maintenance of their positions, they held virtually paralyzed all day two strong brigades of the enemy with their batteries (four) of rifled guns.

As before said, two regiments of Bonham’s brigade–Second and Eighth South Carolina Volunteers-and Kemper’s battery took a distinguished part in the battle. The remainder–Third (Williams’), Seventh (Bacon’s) South Carolina Volunteers, Eleventh (Kirkland’s) North Carolina Regiment, six companies of the Eighth Louisiana Volunteers, Shields’ battery, and one Section of Walton’s battery, under Lieutenant Garnett–whether in holding their post or taking up the pursuit, officers and men discharged their duty with credit and promise.

Longstreet’s brigade, pursuant to orders prescribing his part of the operations of the center and right wing, was thrown across Bull Run early in the morning, and under a severe fire of artillery was skillfully disposed for the assault of the enemy’s batteries in that quarter, but was withdrawn subsequently, in consequence of the change of plan already mentioned and explained. The troops of this brigade were–First (Major Skinner), Eleventh (Garland’s), Twenty-fourth (Lieutenant-Colonel Hairston), Seventeenth (Corse’s) Virginia Regiments; Fifth North Carolina (Lieutenant-Colonel Jones), and Whitehead’s company Virginia Cavalry. Throughout the day these troops evinced the most soldierly spirit.

After the rout, having been ordered by General Johnston in the direction of Centreville in pursuit, these brigades advanced nearly to that place, when, night and darkness intervening, General Bonham thought it proper to direct his own brigade and that of General Longstreet back to Bull Run.

General D. R. Jones early in the day crossing Bull Run with his brigade, pursuant to orders indicating his part in the projected attack by our right wing and center on the enemy at Centreville, took up a position on the Union Hills and Centreville road more than a mile in advance of the run. Ordered back, in consequence of the miscarriage of the orders to General Ewell, the retrograde movement was necessarily made under a sharp fire of artillery.

At noon this brigade, in obedience to new instructions, was again thrown across Bull Run to make demonstration. Unsupported by other troops, the advance was gallantly made until within musket range of the enemy’s force–Colonel Davies’ brigade, in position near Rocky Run–and under the concentrated fire of their artillery. In this affair the Fifth, (Jenkins’) South Carolina and Captain Fontaine’s company of the Eighteenth Mississippi Regiment are mentioned by General Jones as having shown conspicuous gallantry, coolness, and discipline under a combined fire of infantry and artillery. Not only did the return fire of the brigade drive to cover the enemy’s infantry, but the movement unquestionably spread through the enemy’s ranks a sense of insecurity and danger from an attack by that route on their rear at Centreville, which served to augment the extraordinary panic which we know disbanded the entire Federal Army for the time. This is evident from the fact that Colonel Davies, the immediate adversary’s commander, in his official report, was induced to magnify one small company of our cavalry which accompanied the brigade into a force of 2,000 men, and Colonel Miles, the commander of the Federal reserves at Centreville, says the movement caused painful apprehensions for the left flank of their army.

General Ewell, occupying for the time the right of the lines of Bull Run, at Union Mills Ford, after the miscarriage of my orders for his advance upon Centreville, in the afternoon was ordered by General Johnston to bring up his brigade into battle, then raging on the left flank. Promptly executed as this movement was, the brigade, after a severe march, reached the field too late to share the glories as they had the labors of the day.  As the important position at the Union Mills had been left with but a slender guard, General Ewell was at once ordered to retrace his steps and resume his position,. to prevent the possibility of its seizure by any force of the enemy in that quarter. Brigadier-General Holmes, left with his brigade as a support to the same position in the original plan of battle, had also been called to the left, whither he marched with the utmost speed, but not in time to join actively in the battle. Walker’s rifled guns of the brigade, however, came up in time to be fired with precision and decided execution at the retreating enemy, and Scott’s cavalry, joining in the pursuit, assisted in the capture of prisoners and war munitions.

This victory, the details of which I have thus sought to chronicle as fully as were fitting an official report, it remains to record was dearly won by the death of many officers and men of inestimable value, belonging to all grades of our society. In the death of General Barnard E. Bee the Confederacy has sustained an irreparable loss, for, with great personal bravery and coolness, he possessed the qualities of an accomplished soldier and an able, reliable commander. Colonels Bartow and Fisher and Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson, of Hampton’s Legion, in the fearless command of their men, gave earnest of great usefulness to the service had they been spared to complete a career so brilliantly begun. Besides the field officers already mentioned as having been wounded while in the gallant discharge of their duties, many others also received severe wounds, after equally honorable and distinguished conduct, whether in leading their men forward or in rallying them when overpowered or temporarily shattered by the largely superior force to which we were generally opposed.

The subordinate grades were likewise abundantly conspicuous for zeal and capacity for the leadership of men in arms. To mention all who, fighting well, paid the lavish forfeit of their lives, or at least crippled, mutilated bodies, on the field of Manassas, cannot well be done within the compass of this paper; but a grateful country and mourning friends will not suffer their names and services to be forgotten and pass away unhonored.

Nor are those officers and men who were so fortunate as to escape the thick-flying deadly missiles of the enemy less worthy of praise for their endurance, firmness, and valor, than their brothers in arms whose lives were closed or bodies maimed on that memorable day. To mention all who exhibited ability and brilliant courage were impossible in this report; nor do the reports of brigade and other subordinate commanders supply full lists of all actually deserving of distinction. I can only mention those whose conduct came immediately under my notice or the consequence of whose actions happened to be signally important. It is fit that I should in this way commend to notice the dauntless conduct and imperturbable coolness of Colonel Evans, and well indeed was he supported by Colonel Sloan and the officers of the Fourth South Carolina Regiment, as also Major Wheat, than whom no one displayed more brilliant courage until carried from the field shot through the lungs, though happily not mortally stricken. But in the desperate, unequal conflict to which these brave gentlemen were for a time necessarily exposed, the behavior of officers and men generally was worthy of the highest admiration, and assuredly hereafter all there present may proudly say, We were of that band who fought the first hour of the battle of Manassas. Equal honors and credit must also be awarded in the pages of history to the gallant officers and men who, under Bee and Bartow, subsequently marching to their side, saved them from destruction, and relieved them from the brunt of the enemy’s attack.

The conduct of General Jackson also requires mention as eminently that of an able, fearless soldier and sagacious commander, one fit to lead his efficient brigade. His prompt, timely arrival before the plateau of the Henry house, and his judicious disposition of his troops, contributed much to the success of the day. Although painfully wounded in the hand, he remained on the field to the end of the battle, rendering invaluable assistance.

Col. William Smith was as efficient as self-possessed and brave. The influence of his example and his words of encouragement were not confined to his immediate command, the good conduct of which is especially noticeable, inasmuch as it had been embodied but a day or two before the battle.

Colonels Harper, Hunton, and Hampton, commanding regiments of the reserve, attracted my notice by their soldierly ability, as with their gallant commands they restored the fortunes of the day at a time when the enemy by a last desperate onset with heavy odds had driven our forces from the fiercely-contested ground around the Henry and Robinson houses. Veterans could not have behaved better than these well-led regiments.

High praise must also be given to Colonels Cocke, Early, and Elzey, brigade commanders; also to Colonel Kershaw, commanding for the time the Second and Eighth South Carolina Regiments. Under the instructions of General Johnston these officers reached the field at an opportune, critical moment, and disposed, handled, and fought their respective commands with sagacity, decision, and successful results, which have been described in detail.

Col. J. E. B. Stuart likewise deserves mention for his enterprise and ability as a cavalry commander. Through his judicious reconnaissance of the country on our left flank he acquired information, both of topographical features and the positions of the enemy, of the utmost importance in the subsequent and closing movements of the day on that flank, and his services in the pursuit were highly effective.

Capt. E. P. Alexander, C. S. Engineers, gave me seasonable and material assistance early in the day with his system of signals. Almost the first shot fired by the enemy passed through the tent of his party at the stone bridge, where they subsequently firmly maintained their position in the discharge of their duty–the transmission of messages of the enemy’s movements–for several hours under fire. Later, Captain Alexander acted as my aide-de-camp in the transmission of orders and in observation of the enemy.

I was most efficiently served throughout the day by my volunteer aides, Colonels Preston, Manning, Chesnut, Miles, Rice, Hayward, and Chisolm, to whom I tender my thanks for their unflagging, intelligent, and fearless discharge of the laborious, responsible duties Intrusted to them. To Lieut. S. W. Ferguson, aide-de-camp, and Colonel Hayward, who were habitually at my side from 12 noon until the close of the battle, my special acknowledgments are due. The horse of the former was killed under him by the same shell that wounded that of the latter. Both were eminently useful to me, and were distinguished for coolness and courage until the enemy gave way and fled in wild disorder in every direction–a scene the President of the Confederacy had the high satisfaction of witnessing, as he arrived upon the field at that exultant moment.

I also received from the time I reached the front such signal service from H. E. Peyton, at the time a private in the Loudoun Cavalry, that I have called him to my personal staff. Similar services were also rendered me repeatedly during the battle by T. J. Randolph, a volunteer acting aide-de-camp to Colonel Cocke. Capt. Clifton H. Smith, of the general staff, was also present on the field, and rendered efficient service in the transmission of orders.

It must be permitted me here to record my profound sense of my obligations to General Johnston for his generous permission to carry out my plans with such modifications as circumstances had required. From his services on the field as we entered it together, already mentioned, and his subsequent watchful management of the re-enforcements as they reached the vicinity of the field, our countrymen may draw the most auspicious auguries.

To Col. Thomas Jordan, my efficient and zealous assistant adjutant-general, much credit is due for his able assistance in the organization of the forces under my command and for the intelligence and promptness with which he has discharged all the laborious and important duties of his office.

Valuable assistance was given to me by Major Cabell, chief officer of the quartermaster’s department, in the sphere of his duties-duties environed by far more than the ordinary difficulties and embarrassments attending the operations of a long organized regular establishment.

Col. R. B. Lee, chief of subsistence department, had but just entered upon his duties, but his experience and long and varied services in his department made him as efficient as possible.

Capt. W. H. Fowle, whom Colonel Lee had relieved, had previously exerted himself to the utmost to carry out orders from these headquarters to render his department equal to the demands of the service. That it was not entirely so it is due to justice to say was certainly not his fault.

Deprived by the sudden severe illness of the medical director, Surg. Thomas H. Williams, his duties were discharged by Surg. R. L. Brodie to my entire satisfaction; and it is proper to say that the entire medical corps of the Army at present, embracing gentlemen of distinction in the profession, who had quit lucrative private practice, by their services in the field and subsequently did high honor to their profession.

The vital duties of the ordnance department were effectively discharged under the administration of my chief of artillery and ordnance, Col. S. Jones.

At one time, when reports of evil omen and disaster reached Camp Pickens with such circumstantiality as to give reasonable grounds of anxiety, its commander, Colonel Terrett, the commander of the intrenched batteries, Captain Sterrett, of the C. S. Navy, and their officers, made the most efficient possible preparations for the desperate defense of that position in extremity; and in this connection I regret my inability to mention the names of those patriotic gentlemen of Virginia by the gratuitous labor of whose slaves the intrenched camp at Manassas had been mainly constructed, relieving the troops from that laborious service, and giving opportunity for their military instruction.

Lieut. Col. Thomas H. Williamson, the engineer of these works, assisted by Capt. D. B. Harris, discharged his duties with untiring energy and devotion as well as satisfactory skill.

Capt. W. H. Stevens, engineer C. S. Army, served with the advanced forces at Fairfax Court-House for some time before the battle. He laid out the works there in admirable accordance with the purposes for which they were designed, and yet so as to admit of ultimate extension and adaptation to more serious uses as means and part of a system of real defense when determined upon. He has shown himself to be an officer of energy and ability.

Maj. Thomas G. Rhett, after having discharged for several months the laborious duties of adjutant-general to the commanding officer of Camp Pickens, was detached to join the Army of the Shenandoah just on the eve of the advance of the enemy, but volunteering his services, was ordered to assist on the staff of General Bonham, joining that officer at Centreville on the night of the 17th, before the battle of Bull Run, where he rendered valuable services, until the arrival of General Johnston, on the 20th of July, when he was called to the place of chief of staff of that officer. It is also proper to acknowledge the signal services rendered by Cols. B. F. Terry and T. Lubbock, of Texas, who had attached themselves to the staff of General Longstreet. These gentlemen made daring and valuable reconnaissances of the enemy’s positions, assisted by Captains Goree and Chichester; they also carried orders to the field, and on the following day accompanied Captain White-, head’s troop to take possession of Fairfax Court-House. Colonel Terry, with his unerring rifle, severed the halliard, and thus lowered the Federal flag found still floating from the cupola of the court-house there. He also secured a large Federal garrison flag, designed, it is said, to be unfurled over our intrenchments at Manassas.

In connection with the unfortunate casualty of the day, that is the miscarriage of the orders sent by courier to Generals Holmes and Ewell to attack the enemy in flank and reverse at Centreville, through which the triumph of our arms was prevented from being still more decisive, I regard it in place to say a divisional organization, with officers in command of divisions, with appropriate rank, as in European services, would greatly reduce the risk of such mishaps, and would advantageously simplify the communications of a general in command of a field with his troops.

While glorious for our people, and of crushing effect upon the morale of our hitherto confident and overweening adversary, as were the events of the battle of Manassas, the field was only won by stout fighting, and, as before reported, with much loss, as is precisely exhibited in the papers herewith, marked F, G, and H,(@) and being lists of the killed and wounded. The killed outright numbered 369, the wounded 1,483, making an aggregate of 1,852.

The actual loss of the enemy will never be known; it may now only be conjectured. Their abandoned dead, as they were buried by our people where they fell, unfortunately were not enumerated, but many parts of the field were thick with their corpses as but few battle-fields have ever been. The official reports of the enemy are studiously silent on this point, but still afford us data for an approximate estimate. Left almost in the dark in respect to the losses of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions, first, longest, and most hotly engaged, we are informed that Sherman’s brigade, Tyler’s division, suffered in killed, wounded, and missing 609; that is, about eighteen per cent. of the brigade. A regiment of Franklin’s brigade (Gorman’s) lost twenty-one per cent., Griffin’s (battery) loss was thirty per cent., and that of Keyes’ brigade, which was so handled by its commander as to be exposed to only occasional volleys from our troops, was at least ten per cent. To these facts add the repeated references in the reports of the more reticent commanders to the “murderous” fire to which they were habitually exposed, the “pistol-range” volleys, and galling musketry of which they speak as scourging their ranks, and we are warranted in placing the entire loss of the Federalists at over forty-five hundred in killed, wounded, and prisoners. To this may be legitimately added as a casualty of the battle the thousands of fugitives from the field, who have never rejoined their regiments, and who are as much lost the enemy’s service as if slain or disabled by wounds. These may not be included under the head of missing, because in every instance of such report we took as many prisoners of those brigades or regiments as are reported missing.

A list appended exhibits some 1,460 of their wounded and others who fell into our hands and were sent to Richmond.(*) Some were sent to other points, so that the number of prisoners, including wounded who did not die, may be set down as not less than 1,600. Besides these a considerable number who could not be removed from the field died at several farm-houses and field hospitals within ten days following the battle.

To serve the future historian of this war I will note the fact that among the captured Federalists are officers and men of forty-seven regiments of volunteers, besides from some nine different regiments of regular troops, detachments of which were engaged. From their official reports we learn of a regiment of volunteers engaged, six regiments of Miles’ division, and the five regiments of Runyon’s brigade, from which we have neither sound nor wounded prisoners. Making all allowances for mistakes, we are warranted in saying that the Federal army consisted of at least fifty-five regiments of volunteers, eight companies of regular infantry, four of marines, nine of regular cavalry, and twelve batteries of forty-nine guns. These regiments at one time, as will appear from a published list appended, marked K, numbered in the aggregate 54,140, and average 964 each. From an order of the enemy’s commander, however, date, July 13, we learn that one hundred men front each regiment were directed to remain in charge of their respective camps. Some allowance must further be made for the sick and details, which would reduce the average to eight hundred men. Adding the regular cavalry, infantry, and artillery present, an estimate of their force may be made.(+)

A paper appended, marked L, exhibits in part the ordnance and supplies captured, including some twenty-eight field pieces of the best character of arm, with over one hundred rounds of ammunition for each gun, thirty-seven caissons, six forges, four battery wagons, sixty-four artillery horses completely equipped, 500,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition, 4,500 sets of accouterments, over 500 muskets, some nine regimental and garrison flags, with a large number of pistols, knapsacks, swords, canteens, blankets, a large store of axes and intrenching tools, wagons, ambulances, horses, camp and garrison equipage, hospital stores, and some subsistence.

Added to these results may rightly be noticed here that by this battle an invading army, superbly equipped, within twenty miles of their base of operations, has been converted into one virtually besieged and exclusively occupied for months in the construction of a stupendous series of fortifications for the protection of its own capital.

I beg to call attention to the reports of the several subordinate commanders for reference to the signal parts played by individuals of their respective commands. Contradictory statements found in these reports should not excite surprise, when we remember how difficult if not impossible it is to reconcile the narrations of bystanders or participants in even the most inconsiderable affair, much less the shifting, thrilling scenes of a battlefield.

Accompanying are maps showing the positions of the armies on the morning of the 21st July and of three several stages of the battle; also of the line of Bull Run north of Blackburn’s Ford. These maps, from actual surveys made by Capt. D. B. Harris, assisted by Mr. John Grant, were drawn by the latter with a rare accuracy worthy of high commendation.(#)

In conclusion, it is proper and doubtless expected that through this report my countrymen should be made acquainted with some of the sufficient causes that prevented the advance of our forces and prolonged vigorous pursuit of the enemy to and beyond the Potomac. The War Department has been fully advised long since of all of those causes, some of which only are proper to be here communicated. An army which had fought as ours on that day, against uncommon odds, under a July sun, most of the time without water and without food except a hastily-snatched scanty meal at dawn, was not in condition for the toil of an eager, effective pursuit of an enemy immediately after the battle.

On the following day an unusually heavy and unintermitting fall of rain intervened to obstruct our advance with reasonable prospect of fruitful results. Added to this, the want of a cavalry force of sufficient numbers made an efficient pursuit a military impossibility.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

G. T. BEAUREGARD,

General, Commanding

General S. COOPER,

Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond, Va

*Summarized in No.121, post.

@Namely: 3 colonels, 1 major, 13 captains, 36 lieutenants, 2 quartermasters, 5 surgeons, 7 assistant surgeons, 2 chaplains, 15 citizens, and 1,376 enlisted men.

+Report No. 120, post.

#Not found





Preview – Croon (Ed), “The War Outside My Window”

17 04 2018

9781611213881This is a little different for Bull Runnings. The good folks at Savas Beatie sent me a digital, advance unedited galley of a unique diary, The War Outside My Window: The Civil War Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham, edited by Janet Elizabeth Croon. The story of this diary, which I’ll describe below, has been bouncing around for quite some time – here’s a WaPo article from 2012.

I’ve read snippets of LeRoy’s diary, and enough of other online sources which you can find yourself to get a good idea of his back story (note this is a preview, not a review.) Here’s the gist – he was a very bright, well-read, and articulate young man, living in Macon, GA. He suffered from a disease resulting from a severe injury to his leg – when the diary opens, he’s already an invalid and would need to be pulled about in a wagon of sorts. Unlike the reader LeRoy was of course unaware that his condition was mortal, and he would barely outlive the war that understandably occupied so much of his thoughts. Our knowledge of his impending doom makes his daily writings, spanning the whole conflict and very much of and in the moment, all the more poignant in their innocence, ignorance, and wit. You’ll feel for the kid.

Here’s young Gresham’s entry for July 22, 1861, with the early news of the fighting at Manassas:

Macon July 22 1861: Another great battle at Manassas! Sherman’s Battery taken! Terrible Slaughter on both sides! The enemy retired from the field. The Fight commenced 4 oclock this morning and continued until about seven. The battle raged with terrible force and a heavy loss on both sides. There has evidently been a signal Victory at Bulls Run. President Davis’ message is out. It is not only well written, but beautiful in contrast to the boorish effort of Doctor Lincoln, Chief magistrate of United States. Raining very slightly before breakfast this morning. Sad news Gen. F. S. Bartow is killed. Macon Gaurds in the fight. President Davis commanded in person; Beauregarde + Johnson’s army both engaged 40 000 to 70 000 on a side. Beauregarde’s horse shot from under him. It will be sometime before we can get the truth of it. Dressed my back this morning and its healing though very slowly. General Wise has also gained a signal Victory in western Virginia, killing 150 federals and losing few of his men. Julia Ann is up and about again. Very heavy shower this afternoon. Uncle John, Deo Volente [God willing], leaves for Athens tomorrow. Father comes home but there are no more reliable dispatches. The battles undoubtedly sends a thrill of Anguish to many an anxious heart in the newborn Confederacy. Ave Maria Jose [goodbye].

Undoubtedly, some will latch on to the undeniable fact that LeRoy was a youth of privilege and wealth, a member of a slaveholding family with personal servants, and may argue that these are the most important, or even the only, aspects of his life with which we should concern ourselves, to the exclusion of all others. To the contrary, young Gresham’s story and personal observations give great insight into the mind of someone raised in the reality of the times, and should provide a tool for historians to interpret those times in context as opposed to retrospect. I mean, that’s their job, after all. It’s not everyone’s job. But it is that of the historian.

It’s hard to tell you what you’ll get with the final product. Of course you get the diary and detailed annotations in bottom of page footnotes; illustrations including a few of actual diary pages with what we refer to today as “metadata” (doodling, sweat stains, etc.); Hal Jesperson maps; extensive dramatis personae; and appendices related to LeRoy’s medical condition. A lot of detective work went into this.

I am perhaps dying ebook[7587][Dennis Rasbach, MD, has written an e-book (not yet available), I Am Perhaps Dying: The Diary of LeRoy Wiley Gresham and the Medical Backstory of his Private Battle with Tuberculosis During the Civil War. Keep on the lookout for that.]

The War Outside My Window is scheduled to drop in June, with national coverage and a feature in the Sunday Parade magazine. Advance orders or signed copies are being taken at the Savas Beatie site linked above. I think this will be an important work, and well worth your time.





Notes on “Early Morning of War” – Part 6

7 04 2018

51gm8atoyol-_sx329_bo1204203200_To recap, here’s how this works: as I read Edward Longacre’s study of the First Battle of Bull Run, The Early Morning of War, I put little Post-Its where I saw something with which I agreed or disagreed, or which I didn’t know, or which I did know and was really glad to see; essentially, anything that made me say “hmm…” So I’ll go through the book and cover in these updates where I put the Post-It and why. Some of these will be nit-picky for sure. Some of them will be issues that can’t have a right or wrong position. Some of them are, I think, cut and dry. So, here we go:

Chapter 6: Freezing For a Fight (A) : Beauregard’s plans.

Pp. 138-142 – Beauregard’s wackiness raises its head as on June 12 he encourages Johnston to abandon the Valley, march east through the Blue Ridge passes, block them behind him, link up with Bory “in advance of Bull Run,” and together retake Alexandria and Arlington. The author characterized the Creole’s plans, rightly, as “sweeping in scope, careless of details, and unsound in some of its conclusions,” and that a glaring weakness was “its blithe reliance on the support that the inadequate and inefficient Confederate logistical system was incapable of giving him.” The author also points out that the rejection of this plan by President Davis tested the pair’s “already fragile relationship.” This rejection “shocked” Bory into a “defensive mindset.”

P. 144 –  On July 4, while scouting the no-man’s land between the Confederate and Union positions in NoVa, two members of the Black Horse Cavalry were killed by friendly fire.

P. 145 – Bory complained to anyone and everyone of the problems he was facing. He was in constant fear of attack, and called continuously for reinforcements. While most expectant of an attack on the road from Centreville to Manassas at Mitchell’s Ford, he also considered the likelihood of a flanking maneuver on his left, in the Stone Bridge area. The author points out the incongruity of Bory’s fear and the fact that he assigned only a small contingent at Stone Bridge, under “a known inebriate,” Shanks Evans.

P. 146-147 – Giving counsel to his fears, Bory informed Richmond “I shall act with extreme caution.” He laid out his “defensive strategy” in S.O. 100 on July 8. This firmed up the positions of the three brigades south of Bull Run, and also instructed those three brigades north of the Run, in the event of an attack, to fall back to various points along it before being overwhelmed – that is, don’t put up a fight. But on July 10, Bory received intelligence of McDowell’s impending advance via spy Bettie Duval that changed his perspective, and on July 13 he again pitched his unification scheme to both Richmond and Joe Johnston. This new scheme became quite grandiose. Johnston never replied, and Richmond again rejected Bory.

I don’t really have a problem with any of this. But then, Bory’s plans aren’t really my bag and I’ve got no reason to part with traditional interpretations. Next up, though, are the Federal commander’s plans. Plural. Let’s always keep that in mind.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 7





Sgt. William Sidney Mullins, Adjutant, 8th South Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

16 02 2018

Vienna 6th August, 1861

My dear Sir,

I received yours of the 27th ult day before yesterday: your first also came safely to hand. I had been thinking of writing to you for some time, but our facilities for writing here are very poor, & until to day, I have hardly found time & convenient arrangements for writing a long & detailed account of any thing. Besides for a month all our correspondence has been under military surveillance & they open our letters without scruple: after the war, if some of us do not get killed, there will be some private war on this account. I hold the claim as against S.C. Volunteers to be insulting & infamous & I will shoot any man without scruple whom I have good reason to believe guilty of opening my correspondence, be his position that of President, General, or what not, when my service has ended & I can meet him as an equal. Of this hereafter.

You have by this time doubtless seen Capt. Evans, & read in the papers many accounts of the Battle. I will however give you a brief statement of what I know, & my opinions about what I have heard. There never will be any fair & just statement of the whole battle. No man living ever can make it. There are many conflicting statements here & even as regards our own Regiment there are facts asserted & denied, about which I am entirely in doubt this day. The ground was broken: there was no position from which the whole could be seen & in some cases Regiments were for hours without orders fighting on their own hook. I will give you now what I think to be the most probable story of the affair – as I go along I will tell you the facts that I know. We were not at all engaged in the first battle: they cannonaded us & the balls fell around us occasionally that day, but no body was hurt. Capt. Harrington was on picket in a wood in front of our unit on Saturday night, & between daylight & sunrise he sent in a man to Col. Cash to say that the enemy were retreating: that from one oclock that morning the sound of their artillery & waggons going off had been heard. These sounds were distinctly audible in our Camp. Col. Cash ordered me to report the fact to Bonham & I gallopped there at once. Gen. B. sent back word to Col. C. by me that it was not a retreat, but that the enemy were moving to attack the left & to be on our guard as the attack might begin on own front. By eight oclock they commenced firing all along our lines with their artillery, which we found afterwards to be only four pieces kept behind to deceive us & prevent us from moving up to the left. Between eight & nine heavy cannonading began on our left in the direction of Stone Bridge & soon afterwards very heavy rollings of musquetry & this continued without intermission save for brief intervals all day. We lay in our trenches quietly. Between eleven & twelve Col. Cash sent me with a good glass to a high hill in the rear of the Camp a mile to see if I report any thing of the Battle. I found there Beauregard, Bonham, & their Staff. The sight was magnificent. We could not see the troops but the smoke indicated the position of the batteries & the whole length of the line. I staid there half an hour, & though I could not make out anything myself, a member of the Staff told me that the enemy had turned our flank & that our friends were giving back. I gallopped back to Col. C. & as I arrived an aid came to order, Kershaw, Kemper & Cash to hurry forward to the battle. As I left the hill, Beauregard & Staff gallopped towards the battle – Bonham back to the right where another attack was expected. We immediately started under a terrible sun to the battlefield at the double quick: it was a terrible thing to run four miles at midday. As we started two regiments of cavalry darted on before us & our own drums beat: this informed the enemy exactly of our position & they directed their batteries exactly at us. The balls fell all around us: many within four or five feet of our line, wonderful it was that no one was hurt. Several I assure you fell so close to me that the rushing & hiss seemed to be felt against my cheek. Believe me – it aint a pleasant feeling. The double quick run carried us out of this. Within a mile or perhaps a mile & a half of the battle field we commenced meeting the wounded & the flying. One man wounded accompanied by four or five perfectly unhurt: we met more than a hundred such parties. All told the same tale: the enemy were cutting our friends to pieces. Hamptons legion cut all to pieces Hampton & Johnson & Bartow all killed – Sloans Regiment utterly cut – these statements were repeated us by nearly as many men as both Kershaws & Cash Regiments contained. Besides these cowards there were many along the way side wounded fatally & writhing in agony & uttering cries of agony. The effect of this upon the Regiment was not inspiriting. As we came upon the field – or in sight of it – artillery at once opened fire upon us & soon afterwards musquetry. Asa Evans, Genl. Evans aid told me next day that this was from our own friends & ordered by Beauregard. He mistook us for the enemy flanking & Asa says he said “we shall have to retire from the field.” They soon discovered who we were however – they knew the white Palmetto & an aid of Genl. Johnson dashed up to us to order us to the left of the point where we had first been ordered. And now let me pause from my story of what I saw to tell you the history of what had happened up to this time, as I learn it from others. Genl. George Evans was in command at Stone Bridge with fourteen hundred men, as he states them: Sloans Reg. Wheats Bat. & some companies: he was drawn up on a high hill near Stone Bridge, expecting the attempt to cross there: with only two pieces of artillery, one of which was disabled before the action began. Fifteen hundred men came up on the other side of the stream at the Bridge and commenced a heavy artillery fire: he forbade his piece to open at all but deployed a few skirmishers on the banks of the stream & waited. For more than an hour it went on thus: heavy artillery playing upon him but without effect, & his line silent & waiting: but from the high hill where he was posted, he finally saw emerging from the wood in his rear & on his flank columns with the sunlight on their bayonets a mile & half off: he knew his flank was turned: that the attack in front was but a faint to deceive him & that the battle was to begin in earnest now on a fair field & with no advantage of position on his side. With Maj. Wheat he rode forward to select a position, hastily did so, changed his whole position & the battle began. The enemy in this column were twenty thousand strong at the lowest calculation: fourteen hundred was Evans force, & so the real fight began. The enemy had crossed at an old ford four miles above unknown to Beauregard. If they had known Evans weakness then, I think they would have swept him from the field in an hour & won the field. But they were afraid of masked batteries & opening their artillery, their infantry kept well back. Evans sent to Gen. Cocke for reinforcements: he refused telling Evans to fall back upon him. To do this was to leave the Road to Manassas open & Evans refused & sent a more urgent message to Cocke, but meantime Bee – I know not how – came upon the field. Slowly, cautiously & but steadily the enemy drove us back: the field – the dead – the path of the enemy showed this the next day: more than a mile our side had fallen back. Of what occurred during all this time read the papers & judge for yourself. Each Regiment claims all the glory of holding the field: let history decide: judge for yourself. But I resume my own story now. Soon after two – perhaps a little before two we came upon the field, Kershaw & ourselves formed in one line & advanced obliquely to the left. All day the enemy had played this game flanking continually: whenever the front was engaged new troops spread out beyond, & attempted to take us in flank & in rear: twas thus their numbers told. Our march brought us into a thick wood: Kershaw kept on in old field & thus met the enemy before us & opened fire: he changed his front at once bringing his Regiment at once at right angles to us thus __| [Cash horizontal, Kershaw vertical] the enemy pursuing his game came down Kershaws line to the same wood where we were advancing intending to go round Kershaw but met us & we gave him along our whole line one deadly sheet of fire at at about fifty yards distance before which they broke & ran like the devil. They were the N.Y. Fire Zouaves & Kershaw himself who could see the effect of our fire better than we could ourselves says they fell before us, trees in a hurricane. We gave them another at a greater distance & a part of our line a third, but by this time they had found shelter in another wood & were safe from us. They formed in this wood & came out upon a hill about 350 or 400 yards from us with two Regts of Volunteers & opened upon us a deadly fire: their Minie Rifles & Muskets reached us perfectly: ours were too short of range & Cash at once ordered us to lie down. For fifteen minutes the balls fell around us thicker than hail. Every tree in that wood is struck with balls: many have five or ten & next day the ground was strewn with leaves cut from the trees. Why we did not lose there one or two hundred men is to me incomprehensible. To look at the trees where we lay even now you would hardly believe that we lay there so long & lost so few men. The fire became galling finally & Col. Cash undertook to move us further down to the left thus ___| [Cash horizontal, ? vertical, enemy hypotenuse] Cash desired to go down as I have dotted [left of diagram] but the woods were thick, his orders were misunderstood, our Regiment fell into confusion for a brief while: meantime Kemper, glorious Kemper, was playing upon them with as rapid & deadly fire as ever flashed – what music it was to us! & before we came out on the left their Regulars fled: the Zouaves & Regulars whipped, the volunteers concluded that they had no call to try it further & the day was won. Now in all this part of the field, Kirby Smith nor any one else had any part of the fight, but Kershaw, Cash & Kemper: that they overrated us in in number I am sure: that they fled under a panic, I am sure for the Regulars & Zouaves, outnumbered us then & if they had come boldly upon us we should have been very glad to see some help, but they fled. Jeff Davis came upon the field late that day and there gave us the credit of turning the day. He has changed his opinion since, they tell me. We were at once ordered to pursue & went onward. Kershaw, Cash, & Kemper. Col. Withers Va. Reg was on the road as we went on & was asked to go on with us: he said he was ordered to stop at Stone Bridge & damned if he went on & not a step did he go. But on we went & yet faster before us went five or ten times our number. Finally we came up with the enemy & glorious Kemper opened once more: they staid not to try muskets, but abandoned to us every gun, their waggons & fled in one inglorious rush for safety. Yes! McDowell was there covering the retreat & his prisoners say at the first fire of Kemper led the race although they utterly overwhelmed us in numbers & artillery. We did not know until the cavalry came in what a capture we had made: nearly thirty guns – among them that long ten foot rifled thirty two pounder, drawn by ten horses, & guns, ammunition, etc. We stayed upon the field guarding these things alone – even Kershaws Regt had left – until two oclock & within three miles of us five thousand troops fresh who had not been in the battle, besides the disomfitted hosts who had fled. My dear sir never did whiskey & champagne taste as sweet as the copious draughts of the enemys stores that night. I was sure they had had not time to poison them & I drank freely & joyously. But shall I tell you now of the battlefield? Of the dead hideous in every form of ghastly death: heads off – arms off – abdomen all protruding – every form of wound: low groans: sharp cries: shrieks for water & convulsive agonies as the soul took flight. It is useless to write. I know something of the power of words to paint & I tell you that a man must see all this to conceive it. One soon becomes callous. We were thirsty ourselves: a slight breakfast – a four miles run – the excitement of battle – the roar of artillery & burning thirst – all this hardens the heart & before we left the field our men were gathering Colts Revolvers & Sharps Rifles from dying & wounded men with utter indifference to their bitter cries. Yet we gave them water when we could get it. On an acre square I saw sixty five dead men – near Shermans battery – mostly Zouaves: how many times it was taken & retaken, Heaven knows, but when we came upon the field the Zouaves had it again, although it was not firing. Kershaw drove them from it & as they fell along his left intending to fall upon his flank they met us as I have told you already. I shall enclose you in another envelope Cashs Report, with his consent. Dont publish this, but he says you may give his report to the Southerner, not to publish but to complete a statement from it as from a witness. They may publish that. Do write me often. Tell me what you have heard at home about us all. If I ever live to see you, I will tell you many things I cannot write. But this I say – if it please God, to stop this war, I will unfeignedly thank him. It wasnt the battle, but the next day – in a heavy rain their wounded & our wounded – lying in their agony – without food or care – nobody to help – nothing to eat & drink – this filled my heart with terror. I heard men imploring the passers by to kill them to relieve their agony. I saw the parties who were out to bury discussing whether to bury a man before he was dead. He could not live & some proposed to bury him any how. Says a sergeant set down a minute & he will be dead & we wont have to come back! This is war!

Genl. Evans proposed to Beauregard (Evans told me himself) as soon as they left the field to take a Regiment, & a battery & by a short country road dash ahead post him himself in front while the whole army advanced in rear & cut them off. Beauregard said “No! our loss of life is great: I will not risk such soldiers as these.” The feeling was noble but it was a terrible mistake of judgment. If it had been done, not a man of that army would have escaped. Such an utter panic in an army is unknown in the history of two centuries. Our brigade could have driven every soldier of the Federal Army from our side of the Potomac.

Davis is not the man for the next President. Beauregard has implored for weeks & weeks most piteously more troops. He has told them that he was crippled for men & during this very time Davis has rejected Regt. after Regt. because they would not volunteer for the war & because he had not appointed the Field Officers. He has been appealed to overlook his objections – to take things as he could & he has let his temper overrule his judgment & risked all our lives. If they the enemy, I mean, had had a great general, our Regiments would not have brought a man away from Fairfax C. H. on our first retreat. Fifteen thousand men deployed in one hundred & fifty yards of our Regiment alone, & but for a wholesome fear of masked batteries, not one man of us would have ever seen home again.

Again, there has not been any provision made for the sick & wounded that is even decent. The offices of the Surgeons department are crammed with utter incapables. In the volunteers, this is bad enough but in the Regular service it is intolerable. I heard the day before the Battle an officer of intelligence say “Well, whoever is wounded seriously will die. There has not been an army in Christendom during this century, where provisions for the wounded was so entirely neglected.” This was a man of intelligence who knew of what he was speaking.

I might say many other things to you of inefficiency & incapacity: of drunkenness, in high places at critical periods: of blunder & ignorance that would disgust you. But I will not close discouragingly. Let me say this, that with all this our army will win our triumph. They our leaders may foolishly fling away many of our lives: our cause will triumph. The soldiers discriminate between the blunders & follies of our leaders & the cause itself, & by that they will stand. I hope some day to talk these things over with you: till then adieu.

Dont let my scribblings get into the papers. You may show them to any discreet friends you choose, but on no account let any word get to a newspaper. Beauregards orders are stringent & a violation would expose me to trouble & danger. Perhaps you had better not show them at all. My regards to Mr. Millin & your sons if they are with you. Present my respectful remembrances to Mrs. Charles & believe me very truly yours

Will S. Mullins

W.S. Mullins 6 Aug 1861 Report of the Battle of Manassas

Letter image

From South Caroliniana Library

A full annotated transcription can be found at the above site, including biographical information regarding the author and persons mentioned in the letter. The transcription was compared to the letter image prior to posting here – those serve as its basis. Per that transcription, this letter was addressed to Edgar Welles Charles of the Darlington District, South Carolina.

William Sidney Mullins at Ancestry

William Sidney Mullins at FindAGrave

E. B. C. Cash’s report, which mentions Mullins and the capture of Congressman Alfred Ely.





Pvt. John W. Burrows, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

2 01 2018

The Gallant 27th — Letters from our Volunteers.

———-

Much praise is awarded the 27th Regiment of N. Y. State Volunteers for their heroic conduct on the field at Bull Run. While our citizens will feel a thrill of patriotic pride as they rehearse the noble deeds of all those fighting in their country’s cause, they will look with peculiar interest upon the doings of the particular regiment in which most of those who have left this vicinity have enrolled. The three Companies formed at Binghamton, and in which several residents of this and adjoining towns enlisted, are in the 27th regiment. This regiment was one of the last to leave Elmira for the seat of war, and they had scarcely formed camp at Washington before they were ordered to proceed with the grand army towards Manassas. They were the first in the field on the battle of Sunday, having marched 15 miles, (the last mile and a half in double-quick time.) They had no breakfast, and while weary and faint, were ordered under fire. They went gallantly into action, and performed wondrous deeds of valor, fighting constantly throughout the day, and being among the last to leave the field when the retreat took place. Their Colonel, Slocum, was wounded, and the whole regiment terribly cut up. Their fighting was harder and their loss greater than any other regiment except the 69th and the Fire Zouaves. The following are among the killed in this regiment: Norman S. Miller, (Chenango Forks;) Wesley Randall and Asa Parks, (Binghamton;) Frank Spencer, (Coventry;) Col. Slocum, and Lieut. Col. Chambers.

There may be other names familiar in this vicinity but we have learned of none. Sergt. A. G. Northrup, (formerly of this village,) reported missing, has turned up. He fell asleep from exhaustion, during the retreat, and was two days getting into camp.

There have been several letters received from the seat of war by the friends of our volunteers. We have been furnished with two, from which we make copious extracts. The first is from Delos Payne, of this village, a member of Company D, Capt. Rogers, 27th regiment, to his wife. * * * The following extracts are from a letter from John W. Burrows, of this town, a member of the same company:

Washington, July 24, 1861

Dear Brother and Sister: * * * We have had a hard battle since I wrote you last. Last Sunday will long be remembered. Our regiment was a picket guard on Saturday night, until 2 o’clock, when we were ordered to march. We were encamped between Fairfax and Centerville, Va. We marched within six miles of the battle field, when six regiments were sent six miles around to flank the enemy, while the main force attacked them in front. We marched around to the field. Here McDowell ordered us to take the right of the battery. We marched half a mile to do it, while the enemy poured shell and chain shot and grape and cannon balls into our midst. We were the first on the ground. We marched down into a small hollow, to take a battery, the enemy on both sides of us. Here the battle commenced in good earnest. We returned the fire on both sides, until one party run up the stars and stripes and surrendered. We marched up to take them when they opened fire on us again, on both sides. We stood and fought as long as there was any chance for us. Napoleon B. Elliot, Frank Spencer, Pardee, and myself got in a file. We fought so until Pardee was shot, and the whole regiment was broken up. We loaded and fired as fast as we could. The infantry fell back a little and we tried to form a line. Our Captain was wounded, and he spoke to me to help, but we could only get eight or ten in line. The firing again commenced on both sides, and we saw the cavalry was going to attack us. We were in no shape to meet them and had to retreat.

Another regiment came to assist us. We met them on the top of the hill, just marching into the field. Our Colonel, Lieut. Col. and our Captain, were wounded, and Ensign was shot dead. We tried to get into other regiments, as ours was so badly cut up it had orders not to attempt to form, but they were all numbered and would not take us in. Elliott was almost melted. We found some water which was muddy, and a dog lay asleep in it. We drank what we dared to, and then went to the woods where the wounded were carried. There was a hard sight. Some had their legs shot to pieces; some had their legs off; some their arms; some were shot through the neck; one sat leaning against a tree spitting large mouthfuls of blood. They were dying in all shapes. One had a bullet put through his head; it come out just between the eyes, and he still breathed; some had their faces blown all to pieces; some had their heads cut off. The living ones bore their pain well.

Our whole force retreated. When we came back to where we left the main road to flank them, their cavalry attacked us at the bridge, and killed quite a number. What become of the main force that was to attack them in front I don’t know; they didn’t help us. We had nothing to cover our retreat and were driven back to Washington. The Southern army was twice as large as ours. They had three masked batteries; one behind the other, and their men in the woods. They would retreat from one to have our men come up and take it; then they would open on us with another and the infantry; then the cavalry would cut us down. They had their whole force there – about 100,000 men. Beauregard was there himself.

I never heard any thing sound better than the chain shot, shell and cannon balls did when they passed over and by us. They sounded so good I was almost willing to be hit by them, though of course I know it would be all day with me if they did. I had no fear of them – they sounded like a jay bird.

We had a hard tramp of it. We went two nights without sleep, and marched 15 miles to battle without eating breakfast or dinner, only what little sea biscuit we could eat on the road. We fought in this way until the retreat.

* * * I never saw tired men before. I would not have carried my body ten miles further, for it. The roads were lined with soldiers that were tired out. Some gave out before we reached the field of battle. When Elliott and I got inside the fort at Washington we lay down and slept, until we were wakened by officers, when we got some supper. * * *

Elliott and I went in together and came out together. We were not separated only once, then he was behind a tree shooting some Secessionists who were hid behind bunches of hay. When we retreated they crowded up the hill after us, and as I was getting over a fence, one man was shot by my side, and a ball passed over my shoulder. There were but a few that did not get holes shot through their clothes, but I did not get hit. Pardee was shot in the hollow. He wou’d look up and say “give it to the cowards.” He was shot just above the knee. He had good grit, and got away, though nearly melted.

* * * I don’t know how long we shall stay here. It will take some time to recruit again, and then we shall give them another try. We only got out “puppy teeth” pulled this time, but some of them came awful hard. It is pleasant while in battle, but it is hard to see what had been done, afterwards. I want to meet them once more even-handed; that is all I desire. We had a hard time of it. They would hoist our flag, and they were dressed so near like us, that we could not tell them from our men. They are worse than Indians, for they had no more principle than to murder our wounded and prisoners. Daniel Hawkins is all right. I saw him last night. Our boys from your way are all sound except some bruises.

Yours, &c.,

JOHN W. BURROWS

Chenango American, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

John W. Burrows at Fold3

John Burrows at Ancestry.com

History of the 27th Regiment N.Y. Vols





2nd Lt. George Armstrong Custer, Co. G, 2nd U. S. Cavalry, On Travelling to the Field and the Battle (Part 3)

18 11 2017

I was standing with a friend and classmate at the moment on a high ridge near our advancing line. We were congratulating ourselves upon the glorious victory which already seemed to have been ours, as the Confederates were everywhere giving way, when our attention was attracted by a long line of troops suddenly appearing behind us upon the edge of the timber already mentioned. It never occurred to either of us that the troops we then saw could be any but some of our reinforcements making their way to the front.

Before doubts could arise we saw the Confederate flag floating over a portion of the line just emerging from the timber; the next moment the entire line leveled their muskets and poured a volley into the back s of our advancing regiments on the right. At the same time a battery which had also arrived unseen opened fire, and with the cry of “We’re flanked! We’re flanked!” passed from rank to rank, the Union lines, but a moment before so successful and triumphant, threw down their arms, were seized by a panic, and begun a most disordered panic.

All this occurred almost in an instant of time. No pen or description can give anything like a correct idea of the rout and demoralization that followed. Officers and men joined in one vast crowd, abandoning, except in isolated instances, all attempts to preserve their organizations. A moderate force of good cavalry at that moment could have secured to the Confederates nearly every man and gun that crossed Bull Run in the early morning. Fortunately the Confederate army was so badly demoralized by their earlier reverses, that it was in no mood or condition to make pursuit, and reap the fill fruits of victory. The troops that had arrived on the battlefield so unexpectedly for the Federals, and which had wrought such a disaster on the Union arms, were Elzey’s brigade of infantry and Beckham’s battery of artillery, the whole under command of Brigadier General Kirby Smith, being a detachment belonging to Johnston’s Army of the Shenandoah, just arrived from the valley. Had this command reached the battlefield a few minutes later, the rout of Beauregard’s army would have been assured, as his forces seemed powerless to check the advance of the Union troops.

General McDowell and his staff, as did many of the higher officers, exerted themselves to the utmost to stay the retreating Federals, but all appeals to the courage and patriotism of the latter fell as upon dumb animals. One who has never witnessed the conduct of large numbers of men when seized by a panic such as that was cannot realize how utterly senseless and without apparent reason men will act. And yet the same men may have exhibited great gallantry and intelligence but a moment before.

The value of discipline was clearly shown in the crisis by observing the manner of the few regular troops, as contrasted with the raw and undisciplined three months’ men. The regular soldiers never for a moment ceased to look to their officers for orders and instructions, and in retiring from the field, even amid the greatest disorder and confusion of the organizations near them, they preserved their formation, and marched only as they were directed to do.

The long lines of Union soldiery, which a few minutes before had been bravely confronting and driving the enemy, suddenly lost their cohesion and became one immense mass of fleeing, frightened creatures. Artillery horses were cut from their traces, and it was no unusual sight so see three men, perhaps belonging to different regiments, riding the same horse, and making their way to the rear as fast as the dense mass of men moving with them would permit.

The direction of the retreat was toward Centreville, by way of the Stone Bridge crossing, and other fords above that point. An occasional shot from the enemy’s artillery, or the cry that the Black Horse cavalry, so dreaded in the first months of the war in Virginia, were coming, kept the fleeing crowd of soldiers at their best speed.

Arms were thrown away as being no longer of service in warding off the enemy. Here and there the state colors of a regiment, or perhaps the national standard, would be seen lying on the ground along the line of retreat, no one venturing to reclaim or preserve them, while more than on full set of band instruments could be observed, dropped under the shade of some tree in rear of the line of battle, and where their late owners had probably been resting from the fatigues of the fight when the panic seized them and forced them to join their comrades in flight. One good regiment composed of such sterling material as made up the regiments of either side at the termination of the war could have checked the pursuit before reaching Bull Run, and could have saved much of the artillery and many of the prisoners that as it was fell into the enemy’s hands simply for want of owners.

The rout continued until Centreville was reached; then the reserves posted under Miles gave some little confidence to the retreating masses, and after the latter had passed the reserves, comparative order began in a slight degree to be restored. General McDowell at first decided to halt and make a stand on the heights near Centreville, but this was soon to be discovered to be inadvisable, if not impracticable, so large a portion of the army having continued in their flight toward Washington. Orders were then given the various commanders to conduct their forces back to their former camps near Arlington opposite Washington, where they arrived the following day.

The cavalry, on the Federal side consisting of only seven companies of regulars under Major Palmer, were not employed to any considerable extent during the battle except as supports to batteries of artillery. One charge was made in the early part of the battle near the Warrenton Turnpike by Colburn’s squadron. In advancing in the attack in the morning, Palmer’s companies accompanied Hunter’s division in the long and tedious movement through an immense forest by which Bull Run was crossed at one of the upper fords, and the left flank of the Confederates successfully turned.

After arriving at Sudley Springs, the cavalry halted for half an hour or more. We could hear the battle raging a short distance in our front. Soon a staff officer of General McDowell’s came galloping down to where the cavalry was waiting, saying that the general desired us to move across the stream and up the ridge beyond, where we were to support a battery.

The order was promptly obeyed, and as we ascended the crest I saw Griffin with his battery galloping into position. The enemy had discovered him, and their artillery had opened fire upon him, but the shots were aimed so high that the balls passed overhead. Following the battery, we also marched within plain hearing of each shot as it passed over Griffin’s men. I remember well the strange hissing and exceedingly vicious sound of the first cannon shot I heard as it whirled through the air. Of course I had often heard the sound made by cannon balls while passing through the air during my artillery practice at West Point, but a man listens with changed interest when the direction of the balls is toward instead of away from him. They seemed to utter a different language when fired in angry battle from that put forth in the tamer practice of drill.

The battery whose support we were having reached its position on an advanced crest near the right of the line, the cavalry massed near the foot of the crest and sheltered by it from the enemy’s fire. Once the report came that the enemy was moving to the attack of the battery which we were specially sent to guard, the order was at once given for the cavalry to advance from the base to the crest of the hill and repel the enemy’s assault.

We were formed in column of companies, and were given to understand that upon reaching the crest of the hill we would probably be ordered to charge the enemy. When it is remembered that but three days before I had quitted West Point as a schoolboy, and as yet had never ridden at anything more dangerous or terrible than a three-foot hurdle, or tried my sabre upon anything more combative than a leather head stuffed with tan bark, it may be imagined that my mind was more or less given to anxious thoughts as we ascended the slope of the hill in front of us. At the same time I realized that I was in front of a company of old and experienced soldiers, all of whom would have an eye upon their new lieutenant to see how he comported himself when under fire.

My pride received an additional incentive from the fact that while I was on duty with troops for the first time in my life, and was the junior officer of all present with the cavalry, there was temporarily assigned to duty with the company another officer of the same rank, who was senior to me by a few days, and having been appointed from civil life, was totally without military experience except such as he had acquired during the past few days. My brief acquaintance with him showed me that he was disposed to attach no little importance to the fact that I was fresh from West Point and supposed to know all that was valuable or worth knowing in regard to the art of war. In this common delusion I was not disposed to disturb him. I soon found that he was inclined to defer to me in opinion, and I recall now, as I have often done when in his company during later years in the war, the difficulty we had in deciding what weapon we would use in the charge to which we believed ourselves advancing.

As we rode forward from the foot of the hill, he in front of his platoon and I abreast of him, in front of mine, Walker (afterward captain) inquired in the most solemn tones, “Custer, what weapon are you going to use in the charge?” From my earliest notions of the true cavalryman I had always pictured him in the charge bearing aloft his curved sabre, and cleaving the skulls of all with whom he came in contact. We had but two weapons to choose from: each of us carried a sabre and one revolver in our belt. I promptly replied, “The Sabre”, and suiting the action to the word, I flashed my bright new blade from its scabbard, and rode forward as if totally unconcerned. Walker, yielding no doubt to what he believed was “the way we do it at West Point,” imitated my motion, and forth came his sabre. I may have seemed to him unconcerned, because I aimed at this, but I was far from enjoying that feeling.

As we rode at a deliberate walk up the hill, I began arguing in my own mind as to the comparative merits of the sabre and revolver as a weapon of attack. If I remember correctly, I reasoned pro and con about as follows: “Now, the sabre is a beautiful weapon; it produces an ugly wound; the term ‘sabre charge’ sounds well; and above all the sabre is sure; it never misses fire. It has this drawback, however: in order to be made effective it is indispensable that you approach very close to your adversary – so close that if you do not unhorse or disable him, he will most likely render that service to you. So much for the sabre.

“Now as to the revolver, it has this advantage over the sabre: one is not compelled to range himself alongside his adversary before beginning his attack, but may select his own time and distance. To be sure, one may miss his aim, but there are six chambers to empty, and if one, two, or three miss, there are still three shots left to fire at close quarters. As this is my first battle, had I not better defer the use of the sabre until I have acquired a little more experience?”

The result was that I returned my sabre to its scabbard, and without uttering a word drew my revolver and poised it opposite my shoulder. Walker, as if following me in my mental discussion, no sooner observed my change of weapon than he did likewise. With my revolver in my hand I put it upon trial mentally. First, I realized that in the rush and excitement of the charge it would be difficult to take anything like accurate aim. Then, might not every shot be fired, and without result…? In all probability we would be in the midst of our enemies, and slashing right and left at each other, in which case a sabre would be of much greater value and service than an empty revolver. This seemed convincing; so much so that my revolver found its way again to its holster, and the sabre was again at my shoulder. Again did Walker, as if in pantomime, follow my example.

How often these changes of purpose and weapons might have been made I know not – had the cavalry not reached the crest meanwhile and, after being exposed to a hot artillery fire and finding that no direct attack upon our battery was meditated by the enemy, returned to a sheltered piece of ground.

A little incident occurred as we were about to move forward to the expected charge, which is perhaps worth recording. Next to the company with which I was serving was one which I noticed as being in most excellent order and equipment. The officer in charge of it was of striking appearance, tall, well-formed, and handsome, and possessing withal a most soldierly air. I did not then know his name, but being so near to him and to his command, I could not but observe him.

When the order came for us to move forward up the hill, and to be prepared to charge the moment the crest was reached. I saw the officer referred to ride gallantly in front of his command, and just as the signal forward was given, I heard him say, “Now men, do your duty.” I was attracted by his soldierly words and bearing, and yet within a few days after the battle he tendered his resignation, and in a short time was serving under the Confederate flag as a general officer.

When the retreat began, my company and one other of cavalry, and a section of artillery, command by Captain Arnold, came under the personal direction and control of Colonel Heintzelman, with whome we moved toward Centreville. Colonel Heintzelman, although suffering from a painful wound, continued to exercise command, and maintained his seat in the saddle. The two companies of cavalry and the section of Arnold’s battery moved off the field in good order, and were the last organized Union troops to retire across Bull Run.

Within about two miles of Centreville, at the bridge across Cub Run, the crossing was found to be completely blocked up by broken wagons and ambulances. There being no other crossing available, and the enemy having opened with artillery from a position a short distance below the bridge, and commanding the latter, Captain Arnold was forced to abandon his guns. The cavalry found a passable ford for their purpose, and from this point no further molestation was encountered from the enemy After halting a few hours in some old camps near Centreville, it now being dark, the march was resumed, and kept up until Arlington was reached, during the forenoon of the 22d.

I little imagined when making my night ride from Washington to Centreville the night of the 20th, that the following night should find me returning with a defeated and demoralized army. It was with the greatest difficulty that many of the regiments could be halted on the Arlington side of Long Bridge, do determined were they to seek safety and rest under the very walls of the capital. Some of the regiments lost more men after the battle and retreat had ended than had been killed, wounded, and captured by the enemy. Three-fourths of one regiment, known as the Zouaves, disappeared in this way. Many of the soldiers continued their flight until they reached New York…

The press and people of the South accepted the result of the battle as forecasting if not already assuring the ultimate success of their cause, and marking, as they expressed it, the birth of a nation, and while this temporary advantage may have excited and increased their faith as well as their numbers, by drawing or driving into their ranks the lukewarm and those inclined to remain loyal, yet it was a source of weakness as well, from the fact that the people of the South were in a measure confirmed in the very prevalent belief which had long existed in the Southern states regarding the great superiority in battle of the Southron over his fellow countryman in colder climes. This impression maintained its hold upon the minds of the people of the South and upon the Southern soldiery until eradicated by months and years of determined battle.

The loyal North accepted its defeat in the most commendable manner, and this remark is true whether applied to the officials of the states and general government or to the people at large. There was no indulging in vain or idle regrets; there was no flinching from the support and defense of the Union; there was least of all hesitation as to the proper course to pursue. If the idea of compromise had been vainly cherished by any portion of the people, it had vanished, and but one sentiment, one purpose actuated the men of the North, as if acting under a single will.

Men were hurried forward from all the loyal states; more offered their services than the government was prepared to accept. The defeat of the Union arms forced the North to coolly calculate the immense task before it in attempting to overthrow the military strength of the insurgent states. Had Bull Run resulted otherwise than it did, had the North instead of the South been the victor, there would have been danger of a feeling of false security pervading the minds of the people of the North. Their patriotism would not have been awakened by success as it was by disaster; they would not have felt called upon to abandon the farm, the workshop, the counting room, and the pulpit in order to save a government tottering almost upon the brink of destruction.

Before passing from the consideration of the Battle of Bull Run, the plan of the battle is entitled to a few words. No subsequent battle of the war, no matter how successful or important in result, was more carefully or prudently planned; and so far as left to the accomplishment of what he had proposed to da and what he had expressly stipulated he would do – the overthrow of Beauregard’s army – McDowell did all and more than had been expected of him. He had asked that the Confederate forces in the Valley under Johnston should be prevented from reinforcing Beauregard, but this was not done. Johnston united most of his force with that of Beauregard before the battle began; and even over these combined armies McDowell’s plan of battle, after hours of severe struggle, was carried to successful execution and only failed in attaining final triumph by the arrival at a critical moment of fresh troops from the Valley.

From Civil War Times Illustrated (submitted there by Peter Cozzens), The Necessary Defeat, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 8, March 1999. Thanks to reader Jon-Erik Gilot

Part 1
Part 2

 





Pvt. Thomas McQuade, Co. F, 69th New York State Militia, On Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle

15 11 2017

Letters from Members of the Sixty-ninth.

————

The Battle at Bull’s Run – Masked Batteries and Rifle Pits – Reinforcement of the Confederate Troops – The Fire Zouaves – The Retreat – Kind Treatment by the Twenty-Eighth Regiment.

Fort Corcoran, Arlington Heights, Va,
Monday Even, July 22.

Dear T— : Thanks to God, I am safe, at least for the present. We have had an awful fight. We left here on Tuesday last for Fairfax. Everything went on favorably, the rebels evacuating their camps and trenches on our approach. We encamped the first night at Vienna, and started next morning for Centerville, which we reached that night. We passed through Greenville on our way, where the rebels had erected a breastwork, but we found it deserted. Some of the troops set fire to a couple of houses on Thursday. Our advance came in sight of the enemy strongly entrenched at Bull’s Run. General Tyler, who commanded our division, opened fire on them. He sent out skirmishers, and backed them up by a regiment. The rebels kept still until the poor fellows walked right up to a masked battery; they were only about thirty yards from it, and could not see a soul. The battery then opened, and poured a murderous shower of grape amongst the brave fellows, who stood it manfully. The rebels had rifle pits dug in front of these masked batteries, and all one could see was their heads occasionally. They kept up a raking fire on our troops until they made their retreat. It was now our turn; we were ordered up to cover the retreat. We went at double quick (about four miles distance). The rebels’ guns commanded the road, and when we got within range, how they did pepper us. Fortunately, we were ordered to lie down in the woods; we could not see them at all. Three of our fellows were wounded, and one of the Wisconsin killed – the ball that struck him would have mowed down ten or twelve of our company, had we not been lying down; it passed right over our backs. We were ordered back to Centerville, where we spent two days.

On Saturday evening we had orders to be ready to march at midnight. In the meantime we had been strongly reinforced; and so must have been the rebels, for we could hear the cars running all night bringing troops from all points continually, and their cheers on the arrival of each successive train. I hear they numbered between 75,000 and 100,000 men. Against this army we had to contend with less than half their force, they having all the advantage of position, with innumerable masked batteries, and hidden behind breastworks, woods, and sand pits.

Well, we left our camp at half-past two o’clock on Sunday morning, feeling our way as we went along by throwing skirmishers into the woods each side of the road ahead of us. About five o’clock we found them, when there was pretty smart cracking on both sides, our fellows driving their skirmishers in. We formed in line of battle in a wood, supported by the artillery and a siege gun. We advanced the latter, and let them have a shell as a feeler. In the meantime General Johnston had come up with his whole force to the support of Beauregard, and advanced on our right. We advanced under fire to the foot of a hill upon top of which was a masked battery, we could not see farther than about ten yards through the trees on this hill, so thickly was it studded. Well, having been formed, up this hill we started with a cheer that made the woods ring. The enemy allowed us to advance near the top, when they opened a terrific fire on us, cutting our fellows like sheep. The Seventy-ninth, Thirteenth (Rochester), and two other regiments (Wisconsin and Ohio) were into it too. We stood it for half an hour, alone, having no back whatever, all the other troops having retreated. During this time we made two or three unsuccessful charges to the very mouths of the cannons. We were the last that left our position.

The New York Fire Zouaves fought like tigers, twenty of them went in with us when we charged up the hill, and only two of them came back. We were the only regiment that formed prepared for cavalry on our retreat, all the other regiments running here and there making their escape as best they could. There were officers, privates, regulars, doctors, cavalry, and artillery, on one disordered mass, all running for dear life as fast as they could. The enemy’s cavalry were nearing us rapidly. We kept our square retreating by the fourth front until we came to the river that we crossed in the morning, and on the other side of which was a steep hill, when we broke, the cavalry blazing away at us within a dozen yards or two, and cutting all stragglers off. I dashed through the water, over knee deep, holding on to my musket and bayonet, as my surest and only protection, though hundreds threw them away to lighten their heels. I mounted the hill “while you’d say Jack Robinson,” and it was then everybody for himself. I got into the wood where we were formed in the morning, and made for the road. Such a sight as this same road revealed to my view I never expected to behold, and never wish to see again in my life. Men, horses, artillery, baggage wagons, all rushing, clattering, tearing along lest the next would be their last moment. Off I started again through the fields, and came upon a farm house, where hundreds of our troops were endeavoring to get a mouthful of water from a well. I thought we were safe here, and had just got a tin cup full when crack went two or three rifles. The cry of “the cavalry” again arose, and off I started at a rattling pace. I made for another hill (my only safety from cavalry). I plainly saw them on our right striving to cut us off. I overtook our second lieutenant, and told him “to hurry up.” “Wait till I tie my shoe,” said he. “Your shoe be hanged,” said I, and off I went again. He is all right, however, I got into the wood and went astray; it was then and then only that I feared I would not get clear from the hounds in pursuit. I knew that the cavalry could not touch me whilst I remained in the wood, but I feared they would cut me off, or that night would fall before I could make out my whereabout. Fortunately I kept to the right, and struck upon a pathway which I followed, and soon had the satisfaction of getting out on the road a short distance from Centerville, and the same sight presented itself here as that which I had witnessed before. The commissary and sutler’s wagons were upset on the road, and our fellows availed themselves of the opportunity to get a mouthful or two, of which we all stood much in need. The whole road was strewed with belts, haversacks, caps, blankets, etc. Although we might have halted at Centerville if we liked, as several regiments had arrived there to reinforce us, but too late for the fight, a party of the Sixty-ninth, Seventy-ninth, Second, New York Zouaves, Wisconsin, and other regiments, under the leadership of Captain Thos. Francis Meagher and Lieut. Hart of our regiment, continued the retreat all night. Many dropped down on the roadside from sheer exhaustion, and straggled in in twos and threes next day. Lieut. Hart gave me a glass of brandy, which I considered worth a dollar a mouthful. We took the road from Fairfax to Falls Church, and found it blockaded by trees in three different places, one of which was so ingeniously done, that it took us some time to find the road again. We had to walk through a field for some distance. The leaves of the trees that were felled were quite fresh and green, showing that they were not long cut down. We arrived here about five o’clock this morning, after a march of between thirty and forty miles, without scarce anything to eat or drink. The Twenty Eighth Regiment (New York) treated us very kindly. The Colonel came out and ordered his men to prepare all the coffee they could, and gave us all the brandy he had, sending his officers and servants around with it.

I lost my cap in the morning, and came across a washhand basin which done me as well. I looked a picture – my face all blackened with powder and dust, and scratched with brambles and briars, my eyes bloodshot from want of sleep, lame, sore footed, and stiff, a piece of wet linen across my head surmounted by my tin basin, and limping at the rate of a mile an hour when I reached the fort. I had a look at myself in a glass, and was quite enamoured with my figure-head.

Thank God, however, I have got back safe; our regiment was specially favored with his blessing. It is a miracle that we were not cut to pieces, for the enemy’s fire was never off us.

We hold our position, as all the places we have taken from here to Centerville still remain in our possession.

Our Colonel is missing; he was wounded, and is supposed to be captured by the rebels.

Yours, &c.,

Thos. McQuade, Co. F.

P. S. – We expect to be home in a few days.

[We are sincerely sorry to hear that our correspondent has sustained serious damage through a railway accident on his way to this city, and now lies in a very precarious state in hospital in Baltimore. We are unable to relate the particulars; but it is certain that one of his legs was caught between two cars and crushed to atoms. We sincerely rust that he will recover from his injuries. – Ed. Record.]

Metropolitan Record and New York Vindicator, “A Catholic Family Newspaper,” 8/3/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

69th NYSM Roster

Note that there is a second Thomas McQuade listed in the regiment, in Co. C. He later enlisted in the 69th NYVI, and was killed at the Battle of Antietam. Thanks to reader Joseph Maghe for his assistance.





2nd Lt. George Armstrong Custer, Co. G, 2nd U. S. Cavalry, On Travelling to the Field and the Battle (Part 2)

7 10 2017

In the preceding chapter I described my night ride from Washington to the camp of McDowell’s army at and about Centreville. After delivering my dispatches and concluding my business at headquarters, I remounted my horse, and having been directed in the darkness the way to the ground occupied by Palmer’s seven companies of cavalry, I set out to find my company for the first time, and report to the commanding officer for duty before the column should begin the march to the battleground.

As previously informed by a staff officer at headquarters, I found it necessary only to ride a few hundred yards, when suddenly I came upon a column of cavalry already mounted and in readiness to move. It was still so dark that I could see but a few lengths of my horse in any direction. I accosted one of the troopers nearest me., and inquired, “What cavalry is this?” “Major Palmer’s,” was the brief reply. I followed up my interrogations by asking, “Can you tell me where Company G, Second Cavalry, is?” the company to which I had been assigned, but as yet had not seen. “At the head of the column,” came in response.

Making my way along the column in the darkness, I soon reached the head, where I found several horsemen seated upon their horses, but not formed regularly in column. There was not sufficient light to distinguish emblems of rank, or to recognize the officer from the private soldier. With some hesitation I addressed the group, numbering perhaps a half dozen or so individuals, and asked if the commanding officer of my company, giving the designation by letter and regiment, was present. “Here his is,” promptly answered a voice, as one of the mounted figures rode toward me, expecting no doubt I was a staff officer bearing orders requiring his attention.

I introduced myself by saying, “I am Lieutenant Custer, and in accordance with orders from the War Department, I report for duty with my company, sir.” “Ah, glad to meet you Mr. Custer. We have been expecting you, as we saw in the list of assignments of the graduating class from West Point, that you had been marked down to us. I am Lieutenant Drummond. Allow me to introduce you to some of your brother officers.” Then, turning his horse toward the group of officers, he added, “Gentlemen, permit me to introduce you to Lieutenant Custer, who has just reported for duty with his company.” We bowed to each other, although we could see but little more than the dim outlines of horses and riders as we chatted and awaited the order to move “forward.” This was my introduction to service, and my first greeting from officers and comrades with whom the future fortunes of war was to cast me. Lieutenant Drummond, afterward captain, to whom I had just made myself known, fell mortally wounded at the Battle of Five Forks, nearly four years afterward.

While it is not proposed to discuss in detail the movements of troops during the Battle of Bull Run or Manassas, a general reference to the positions held by each of the contending armies the night preceding combat may be of material aid to the reader. Beauregard’s headquarters were at or near Manassas, distant from Centreville, where General McDowell was located in the midst of his army, about seven miles. The stream which gave its name to the battle runs in a southwest direction between Centreville and Manassas, somewhat nearer to the former place than to the latter.

The Confederate army was posted in position along the right bank of Bull Run, their right resting near Union Mill, the point at which the Orange and Alexandria Railroad crosses the stream, their center at Blackburn’s Ford, while their left was opposite the Stone Bridge, or crossing of the Warrenton Pike, at the same time holding a small ford about one mile above the Stone Bridge. Beauregard’s entire force that day numbered a few hundred over 23,000 with 55 pieces of artillery, notwithstanding that the president of the Confederacy, who arrived on the battlefield just before the termination of the battle, telegraphed to Richmond, “Our force was 15,000.” Ewell commanded on the Confederate right; Longstreet in the center, at Blackburn’s Ford; and Evans the left, at and above the Stone Bridge.

The Federal forces were encamped mainly opposite the left center of their adversary’s line. The numbers of the two contending armies were very nearly equal, the advantage, if any, in this respect, resting with the Union troops; neither exceeded the force of the other beyond a few hundred. General McDowell crossed Bull Run, in making his attack on the enemy that day, with only 18,000 men and 22 guns. But to this number of men and guns must be added nearly an equal number left on the east side of Bull Run for the double purpose of constituting a reserve and occupying the enemy’s attention. All of these troops were more or less under fire during the progress of the battle. Thus it will be seen that the number of men was about equal in both armies, while the Confederates had six pieces of artillery in excess of the number employed by their adversaries.

Reconnaissances and a skirmish with the enemy on the 18th had satisfied General McDowell that an attack on the enemy’s center or left did not promise satisfactory results. He decided, therefore, to make a feigned attack on the enemy’s center at Blackburn’s Ford, and at the same time to cross Bull Run at a point above that held by the enemy, and double his adversaries left flank back upon the center and right, and at the same time endeavor to extend his own force beyond Bull Run sufficiently far to get possession of and destroy the Manassas Gap Railroad, thus severing communications between Beauregard’s army and its supports in the valley beyond.

McDowell’s forces, those engaged in the battle…divided into four divisions, commanded by Brigadier General Daniel Tyler, Connecticut volunteers; Colonels David Hunter, S. P, Heintzelman, and D. S. Miles. Tyler’s division was to occupy the attention of the enemy by threatening movements in front of the Stone Bridge, while the divisions of Hunter and Heintzelman were to move up Bull Run, keeping beyond the observation of the enemy, cross that stream, and turn the enemy’s left flank. Miles’s division was to constitute the reserve of the Federal army, and to occupy ground near Centreville. Richardson’s brigade of Tyler’s division was to act in concert with the latter, under Miles, and to threaten with artillery alone the enemy stationed at Blackburn’s Ford. Still another division, Runyon’s, formed a part of McDowell’s forces, but was not made available at the battle of the 21st, being occupied in guarding the communication of the army as far as Vienna, and the Orange and Alexandria Railroad; the nearest regiment being seven miles in rear of Centreville. It will thus be seen that as McDowell only crossed 18.000 men over Bull Run to attack about 32,000 of the enemy, his reserve, not embracing Runyon’s division, was but little less in number than his attacking force.

One of the conditions under which General McDowell consented to the movement against the enemy at Manassas was that the Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley, under Johnston, who were then being confronted, and supposed to be held in check by the Federal army, under Major General Patterson of the Pennsylvania volunteers, should not be permitted to unite with the forces of Beauregard.

This was expecting more than could be performed, unless Patterson had been ordered to attack simultaneously with the movement of McDowell. As it was, Beauregard no sooner learned of McDowell’s advance on the 17th of July than Johnston was ordered by the Confederate authorities at Richmond to form an immediate junction at Manassas with Beauregard. Other troops, under Holmes, consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, amounting to about one brigade, were also ordered to join Beauregard.

The promised arrival of these heavy reinforcements induced Beauregard to depart from his resolution to act upon the defensive. He determined to attack General McDowell at Centreville as soon as he should be assured of the near arrival of Johnston’s and Holmes’s commands. His first plan was to have a portion of Johnston’s army march from the valley by way of Aldie, and attack McDowell in rear and upon his right flank, while his own army should make an attack directly in front. This plan was abandoned, and instead it was agreed between Beauregard and Johnston that the forces of both should be united west of Bull Run, and matched to the direct attack of the Federals.

In pursuance of this plan Johnston arrived at Manassas at noon on the 20th, the day preceding the battle, and being senior to Beauregard in rank, he nominally assumed command of both Confederate armies, but assented to Beauregard’s plans, and virtually conceded their execution to that general.

It is somewhat remarkable that the Federal and Confederate commanders had each determined to attack the other on the same day, the 21st. The Confederate general was induced to alter his plan, and act upon the defensive, but a few hours before his lines were assailed by McDowell; his decision in this matter being influenced by two circumstances. One was the detention of about 8,000 of Johnston’s men, whose presence had been relied upon; the other was the discovery several hours before daylight that the Federal army was itself advancing to the attack. Beauregard had ordered his forces under arms and was awaiting his adversary’s attack at half-past four o’clock the morning of the 21st.

Reasoning correctly that McDowell was not likely to attack his center at Blackburn’s Ford, not to operate heavily against his right near Union Mills, Beauregard no sooner discovered the movement of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions, to pass above and around his left flank at Sudley Springs, than he began moving up his reserves and forming his left wing in readiness to receive the attacking division as soon as the latter should cross Bull Run.

Hunter and Heintzelman were forced to make a much longer detour, in order to make the designated crossings of Bull Run, than had been anticipated.

The first gun announcing the commencement of the battle was fired from Tyler’s division in front of the Stone Bridge. It was not until nearly 10:00 A. M. that the troops of Hunter’s division came in contact with the enemy near Sudley Springs.

Once over the stream, both Hunter and Heintzelman promptly engaged the enemy, and slowly forced his entire left wing back until the troops under Tyler were able to cross and participate in the battle. Beauregard, soon after satisfying himself of the real character and direction of his adversary’s movement, decided upon a counter-attack by throwing his right wing and center across Bull Run at Blackburn’s and Union Mills fords, and endeavoring to do with his enemy exactly what the latter was attempting with him – to turn his right flank. By this movement he hoped to place a large force in rear of Centreville and ensure McDowell’s defeat.

The orders for this movement, which were sent to Ewell on the right, miscarried, and too much time was lost before the mistake could be rectified. It was fortunate for the Confederates that this was the case, as had this turning movement been attempted, the troops sent to the Federal side of Bull Run to execute it would in all probability have been held in check by the heavy Federal reserves under Richardson and Miles, and would have been beyond recall when, later in the day, Beauregard, finding his left giving way in confusion before the successful advance of Hunter’s, Heintzelman’s, and Tyler’s divisions, rapidly moved every available man from his right to the support of his broken left. Had Beauregard attempted to turn the position at Centreville, McDowell would have achieved a complete victory over all the Confederate forces opposed to him on the Confederate side of Bull Run several hours before the arrival upon the battlefield of the Confederate troops from the valley whose coming at a critical time decided the battle in the Confederates’ favor.

With the exception of a little tardiness in execution, something to be expected perhaps in raw troops, the plan of battle marked out by General McDowell was carried out with remarkable precision up till about 3:30 P.M. The Confederate left wing had been gradually forced back from Bull Run until the Federals gained entire possession of the Warrenton Turnpike leading from the Stone Bridge. It is known now that Beauregard’s army had become broken and routed, and that both himself and General Johnston felt called upon to place themselves at the head of their defeated commands, including their last reserves, in their effort to restore confidence and order; General Johnston at one critical moment charged to the front with the colors of the Fourth Alabama. Had the fate of the battle been left to the decision of those who were present and fought up till half-past three in the afternoon, the Union troops would have been entitled to score a victory with scarcely a serious reverse. But at this critical moment, with their enemies in front giving way in disorder and flight, a new and to the Federals unexpected force appeared suddenly upon the scene. From a piece of timber directly in rear of McDowell’s right a column of several thousand fresh troops of the enemy burst almost upon the backs of the half-victorious Federals.

From Civil War Times Illustrated (submitted there by Peter Cozzens), The Half-Victorious Federals, Vol. XXXVII, No. 7, February 1999

Part 1
Part 3





Recap: Brandy Station Foundation

30 09 2017

On this past Sunday, Sept. 24, I delivered my Kilpatrick Family Ties program to the Brandy Station Foundation down in Culpeper, Virginia. This is a pretty long (4.5 hours) drive for me, so I turned it into a weekend trip and stayed in Warrenton. So let me recap my trip, with special emphasis on items of First Bull Run interest. Click on any image for a larger one.

I got into Warrenton around 6:00 PM, checked into my room, then headed to the historic district. I’ve never visited Warrenton before, so it was all new to me. First up was what is touted as the post-war home of Col. John Singleton Mosby though, based on length of residence, it may better be described as the post-war home of General Eppa Hunton, colonel of the 8th Virginia Infantry regiment at First Bull Run (read his battle memoir here, and his after action report here). Hunton made “Brentmoor” his home from 1877 to 1902, after purchasing it from Mosby.

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In the “law complex” section I found California, the pre-war home of William “Extra Billy” Smith, who commanded the 49th Virginia battalion at First Bull Run (memoir here, official report here). After the war, this building housed Mosby’s law office. Smith was a pre-war and wartime governor of Virginia.

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A few blocks away at 194 Culpeper St. is “Mecca,” a private residence built in 1859. It served as a Confederate hospital to the wounded of First Bull Run, and later as headquarters to Union generals McDowell, Sumner, and Russell.

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The Warrenton Cemetery is the resting place for many Confederate soldiers, most famously Mosby. Also there is William Henry Fitzhugh “Billy” Payne, with Warrenton’s Black Horse Troop at First Bull Run.

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Saturday was spent touring the battlefield of Brandy Station and sites associated with the Army of the Potomac’s 1863-1864 winter encampment with two experts on both, Clark “Bud” Hall and Craig Swain of To the Sound of the Guns. I admit to knowing very little about either of topic, but was given a good foundation for further exploration. I also learned that some red pickup trucks can go absolutely anywhere, and there is good beer around Culpeper.

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L to R – Me, Bud Hall, Craig Swain

Not a whole lot of First Bull Run stuff on the field, though. But the first thing I saw when I got to Fleetwood Hill was “Beauregard,” the home in which Roberdeau Wheat of the First Louisiana Special Battalion recovered from his Bull Run wounds, first thought to be mortal. The name of the house at the time was “Bellevue.” Wheat recommended the name change, in honor of his commanding general and in recognition of the similar translation of both names.

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View of “Beauregard” from Fleetwood Hill

Sunday found me back in Culpeper at the Brandy Station Foundation where, as I said, I presented Kilpatrick Family Ties to a modest audience. I made some late changes to the program on Saturday night, adding one pertinent site from Warrenton (the Warren Green Hotel where one of the characters in the presentation lived for a year) and “Rose Hill,” the home Kilpatrick made his HQ during the winter of 1863-1864. But I did run into a couple of Bull Run items. First, the monument to John Pelham that was previously located near Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River (it was in a really bad location) has been relocated to the Graffiti House, home of the Brandy Station Foundation. Pelham, if you recall, was in command of Alburtis’s Battery (Wise Artillery) at First Bull Run (personal correspondence here).

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As most of you know, the Graffiti House at Brandy Sation was occupied by both Confederate and Union soldiers during the war. Over its course, soldiers of all stripes inscribed on its walls with charcoal signatures, drawings, and sayings of an astounding quantity. These were both obscured and preserved by whitewash after the return of its exiled owners, and were rediscovered in 1993. The Brandy Station Foundation has lovingly restored and preserved much of the dwelling, and you should make the Graffiti House a bullet point on you bucket list.

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Graffiti House, Brandy Station (Culpeper), VA

I’ll end this post with a shot of the signature of a prominent First Bull Run participant on one of the second floor walls. Can you see it? Here is his official report.

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Signature of Joe Johnston’s First Bull Run cavalry chief

 





2nd Lt. George Armstrong Custer, Co. G, 2nd U. S. Cavalry, On Traveling to the Field and the Battle (Part 1)

20 09 2017

I left West Point on the 18th of July for Washington, delaying a few hours that afternoon on my arrival in New York to enable me to purchase, of the well-known military firm of Horstman’s, my lieutenant’s outfit of sabre, revolver, sash, spurs, etc. Taking the evening train for Washington, I found the cars crowded with troops, officers, and men hastening to the capital.

At each station we passed on the road at which a halt was made, crowds of citizens were assembled provided bountifully with refreshments, which they distributed in the most lavish manner among the troops. Their enthusiasm knew no bounds, they received us with cheers and cheered us in parting. It was no unusual sight, on leaving a station surrounded by these loyal people, to see matrons and maidens embracing and kissing with patriotic fervor the men, entire strangers to them, whom they saw hastening to the defense of the nation.

Arriving at Washington soon after daylight, Saturday morning, the 20th of July, I made my way to the Ebbit House, where I expected to meet some of my classmates domiciled. Among others I found there was Parker, appointed from Missouri, who had been my room- and tent-mate at West Point for years. He was one of the few members of my class who, while sympathizing with the south, had remained at the Academy long enough to graduate and secure a diploma. Proceeding to his room without going through the formality of announcing my arrival by sending a card, I found him at that early hour still in bed. Briefly he responded to my anxious inquiry for news, that McDowell’s army was confronting Beauregard’s, and a general engagement was expected hourly. My next inquiry was as to his future plans and intentions, remembering his Southern sympathies. To this he replied by asking me to take from a table near by and read an official order to which he pointed.

Upon opening the document referred to, I found it to be an order from the War Department dismissing from the roles of the army Second Lieutenant James P. Parker, for having tendered his resignation in the face of the enemy. The names of two others of my classmates appeared in the same order. After an hour or more of discussing the dark probabilities of the future as particularly affected by the clouds of impending war, I bade a fond farewell to my former friend and classmate, with whom I had lived on terms of closer intimacy than with any other being. We had eaten day by day at the same table, had struggled together in the effort to master the same problems of study; we had marched by each other’s side year after year, elbow to elbow, when engaged in the duties of drill, parade, etc., and had shared our blankets with each other when learning the requirements of camp life. Henceforth this was all to be thrust from our memory as far as possible, and our paths and aims in life were to run counter to each other in the future.

We separated; he to make his way, as he did immediately, to the seat of the Confederate Government, and accept a commission under a flag raised in rebellion against the government that had educated him, and that he had sworn to defend; I to proceed to the office of the Adjutant General of the Army and report for such duty as might be assigned me in the great work which was then dearest and uppermost in the mind of every loyal citizen of the country.

It was not until after two o’clock in the morning that I obtained an audience with the Adjutant General of the Army and reported to him formally for orders, as my instructions directed me to do. I was greatly impressed by the number of officials I saw and the numerous messengers to be seen flitting from room to room, bearing immense numbers of huge-looking envelopes. The entire department had an air of busy occupation which, taken in connection with the important military events then daily transpiring and hourly expected, and contrasted with the humdrum life I had but lately led as a cadet, added to the bewilderment I naturally felt.

Presenting my order of instructions to the officer who seemed to be in charge of the office, he glanced at it, and was about to give some directions to a subordinate nearby to write out an order assigning me to some duty when, turning to me, he said, “Perhaps you would like to be presented to General Scott, Mr. Custer?” To which I of course joyfully assented.

I had often beheld the towering form of the venerable chieftain during his summer visits to West Point, but that was the extent of my personal acquaintance with him. So strict was the discipline at that Academy that the gulf which separated cadets from commissioned officers seemed greater in practice thant that which separated enlisted men from them. Hence it was rare indeed that a cadet ever had an opportunity to address or be addressed by officers, and it was still more rare to be brought into personal conversation with an officer above the grade of lieutenant or captain, if we except the superintendent of the Academy and the commandant of the corps of cadets. The sight of a general officer, let alone the privilege of speaking to one, was an event to be recounted to one’s friends. In those days the title of general was not so familiar as to be encountered on every hotel register. Besides, the renown of a long lifetime of gallantry in his country’s service had gradually but justly placed General Scott far above all contemporary chieftains in the admiration and hero worship of his fellow countrymen; and in the youthful minds of the West Point cadets of those days Scott was looked up to as a leader whose military abilities were scarcely second to those of a Napoleon, and whose patriotism rivaled that of Washington.

Following the lead of the officers to whom I had reported, I was conducted to the room in which General Scott received his official visitors. I found him seated at a table over which were spread maps and other documents which plainly showed their military character. In the room, and seated near the table, were several members of Congress, of whom I remember Senator Grimes of Iowa.

The topic of conversation was the approaching battle in which General McDowell’s forces were about to engage. General Scott seemed to be explaining to the congressmen the position, as shown by the map, of the contending armies. The adjutant general called General Scott’s attention to me by saying, “General, this is Lieutenant Custer of the Second Cavalry; he has just reported from West Point and I did not know but that you might have some special orders for him.”

Looking at me for a moment, the general shook me cordially by the hand, saying, “Well, my young friend, I am glad to welcome you to the service at this critical time. Our country has need of the strong arms of all her loyal sons in this emergency.” Then, turning to the adjutant general, he inquired to what company I had been assigned. “To Company G, Second Cavalry, now under Major Innis Palmer, with General McDowell,” was the reply. Then, addressing me, the general said, “We have had the assistance of quite a number of you young men from the Academy, drilling volunteers, etc. Now what can I do for you? Would you prefer to be ordered to report to General Mansfield to aid in this work, or is your desire for something more active?”

Although overwhelmed by such condescension upon the part of one so superior in rank to any officer with whom I had been brought in immediate contact, I ventured to stammer out that I earnestly desired to be ordered to at once join my company, then with General McDowell, as I was anxious to see active service. “A very commendable resolution, young man,” was the reply; then, turning to the adjutant general, he added, “Make out ;lieutenant Custer’s orders directing him to proceed to his company at once”; then, as if a different project had presented itself, he inquired of me if I had been able to provided myself with a mount for the field. I relpied that I had not, but would set myself about doing so at once.

“I fear you have a difficult task before you, because, if rumor is correct, every serviceable horse in the city has been bought, borrowed, or begged by citizens who have gone or are going as spectators to witness the battle. Beauregard may capture some of them and teach them a lesson. However, I what I desire to say to you is, go and provide yourself with a horse if possible, and call here at seven o’clock this evening. I desire to send some dispatches to General McDowell, and you can be the bearer of them. You are not afraid of a night ride, are you?”

Exchanging salutations, I left the presence of the general-in-chief, delighted at the prospect of being at once thrown into active service, perhaps participating in the great battle which everyone there knew was on the eve of occurring; but more than this my pride as a soldier was not a little heightened by the fact that almost upon my first entering the service I was to be the bearer of important official dispatches from the general-in-chief to the general commanding the principal army in the field.

I had yet a difficult task before me in procuring a mount. I visited all the prominent livery stables, but received almost the same answer from each, the substance of which was that I was too late; all the serviceable horses had been let or engaged. I was almost in despair of the idea that I was not to be able to take advantage of the splendid opportunity for distinction opened before me, and was at a loss what to do, or to whom to apply for advice, when I met on Pennsylvania Avenue a soldier in uniform, whom I at once recognizes as one of the detachment formerly stationed at West Point, who left with those ordered suddenly to the defense of Washington at the time of Mr. Lincoln’s inauguration, when it was feared attempts would be made to assassinate the president-elect.

Glad to encounter anyone I had ever seen before, I approached and asked him what he was doing in Washington. He answered that he belonged to Griffin’s battery, which was then with McDowell’s forces at the front, and had returned to Washington by Captain Griffin’s order, to obtain and take back with him an extra horse left by the battery on its departure from the capital. Here then was my opportunity, and I at once availed myself of it. It was the intention of this man to set out on his return at once; but at my earnest solicitation he consented to defer his departure until after seven o’clock, agreeing also to have the extra horse saddled and in readiness for me.

Promptly at seven o’clock I reported at the adjutant general’s office, obtaining my dispatches, and with no baggage or extra clothing to weigh down my horse, save what I carried on my person, I repaired to the point at which I was to find my horse and companion for the night. Upon arriving there I was both surprised and delighted to discover that the horse which accident seemed to have provided for me was a favorite one ridden by me often when learning the cavalry exercises at West Point. Those who were cadets just before the war will probably recall him to mind when I give the name “Wellington,” by which he was then known.

Crossing Long Bridge about nightfall, and taking the Fairfax Court House road for Centreville, the hours of night flew quickly past, engrossed as my mind was with the excitement and serious novelty of the occasion as well as occasionally diverted by the conversation of my companion. I was particularly interested with his description, given as we rode in the silent darkness, of a skirmish days before at Blackburn’s Ford, between the forces of the enemy stationed there and a reconnoitering detachment sent from General McDowell’s army; especially when I learned that my company had borne an honorable part of the battle.

It was between two and three o’clock in the morning when we reached the army near Centreville. The men had already breakfasted, and many of the regiments had been formed in column in the roads ready to resume the march; but owing to delays in starting, most of the men were lying on the ground, endeavoring to catch a few minutes more of sleep; others were sitting or standing in small groups smoking and chatting.

So filled did I find the road with soldiers that it was with difficulty my horse could pick his way among the sleeping bodies without disturbing them. But for my companion I should have had considerable difficulty in finding my way to headquarters, but he seemed familiar with the localities even in the darkness, and soon conducted me to a group of tents near which a large log fire was blazing, throwing a bright light over the entire scene for some distance around.

As I approached, the sound of my horse’s hoofs brought an officer from one of the tents nearest to where I halted. Advancing toward me, he inquired who I wanted to see. I informed him I was the bearer of dispatches from General Scott to General McDowell. “I will relieve you of them,” was his reply, but seeing me hesitate to deliver them, he added, “I am Major Wadsworth of McDowell’s staff.”

While I had hoped from ambitious pride to have an opportunity to deliver the dispatches in person to General McDowell, I could not decline longer, so placed the documents in Major Wadsworth’s hands, who took them to a tent a few paces distant, where, through half-open folds, I saw him hand them to a large, portly officer, whom I at once recognized to be General McDowell. Then, returning to where I still sat my horse, Major Wadsworth…asked me of the latest news in the capital, and when I replied that every person at Washington was looking to the army for news, he added, “Well, I guess they will not have to wait much longer. The entire army is under arms, and moving to attack the enemy today.” After inquiring at what hour I left Washington, and remarking that I must be tired, Major Wadsworth asked me to dismount and have some breakfast, as it would be difficult to say when another opportunity would occur.

I was very hungry, and rest would not have been unacceptable, but in my inexperience I partly imagined, particularly while in the presence of the white-haired officer who gave the invitation, that hunger and fatigue were conditions of feeling which a soldier, especially a young one, should not acknowledge. Therefore, with an appetite almost craving, I declined the kind proffer of the major. But when he suggested that I dismount and allow my horse to be fed I gladly assented.

While Major Wadsworth was kindly interesting himself in the welfare of my horse, I had the good fortune to discover in an officer at headquarters one of my recent West Point friends, Lieutenant Kingsbury, aide-de-camp to General McDowell. He repeated the invitation just given by Major Wadsworth in regard to breakfast, but I did not have the perseverance to again refuse.

Near the log fire already mentioned were some servants busily engaged in removing the remains of breakfast. A word from Kingsbury, and they soon prepared me a cup of coffee, a steak, and some Virginia corn bread, to which I did ample justice. Had I known, however, that I was not to have an opportunity to taste food during the next thirty hours, I should have appreciated the opportunity I then enjoyed even more highly.

As I sat on the ground sipping my coffee, and heartily enjoying my first breakfast inn the field, Kingsbury (afterward Colonel Kingsbury, killed at the Battle of Antietam) informed me of the general movement then begun by the army, and of the attack which was to be made on Beauregard’s forces that day.

Three days before, I had quitted school at West Point. I was about to witness the first grand struggle in open battle between the union and secession armies; a struggle which, fortunately for the nation, the Union forces were to suffer defeat, while the cause for which they fought was to derive from it renewed strength and encouragement.

From Civil War Times Illustrated (submitted there by Peter Cozzens), Custer’s First Stand, Vol. XXXVII, No. 6, December, 1998

Part 2
Part 3