Pvt. John F. “Fred” Gruber, Co. A, 7th Louisiana Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle

2 11 2016

The Continental Guards at Bull Run and Stone Bridge.

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The town having waited with much impatience for news of Capt. George Clark and his gallant Continentals, it affords us much pleasure to lay before our readers the following letter, descriptive of what the Continentals saw and did during the ever memorable battles of the 18th and 21st of July. It was addressed to Mr. J. M. Laborde, and by that gentleman kindly placed at our disposal. The fact that the letter is from our old friend, Fred Gruber, will render it especially interesting:

Stone Bridge, Virginia, July 24, 1861

J. M. Laborde, Esq. – My Old Friend: Having by note to my wife apprised you that I am still in the land of the living, I avail myself of this first opportunity to give you a rough sketch of our doings since my last. The camp life at Camp Pickens, at the Junction, went on in the usual routine of business – drill, parade, etc., – until the 9th inst., when our company was ordered a few miles from camp, on picket duty, where we remained up to the 12th, on the morning of which day we were ordered back to camp, on order to join our regiment in the march of advance on the enemy.

While on picket duty the life was pleasant enough, with the exception of the fare, which was rather scant, consisting of salt pork and bread, and one young hog, which lost its way and strolled into our camp, where, owing to an unmistakeable Abolition proclivities, it met with an untimely death, greatly to the gusto of the boys. On the morning after our return to camp we struck the tents and marched to Camp Wigfall, about five miles distant, and there took up our abode for the time being. Reports constantly reaching us from Manassas Junction of the frequent arrivals of large bodies of troops, at once admonished us that our stay there would not be a long one, and our surmises proved correct, as on the evening of the 16th we struck tents again, leaving them and knapsacks behind, and provided with three days’ provisions in our haversacks, forty rounds of cartridges and guns, we quartered for that night on the ridge of one of those romantic mountains with which Virginia abounds. Here we met, for the first time, the Washington Artillery, or at least a good portion thereof. Of course the courtesies of war were exchanged, without, however, that usual New Orleans appendix, “Let us take a drink” as we had ‘nary drop.” After having, during a pleasant night, inhaled a sufficient supply of cool Virginia breeze and indulged in sweet dreams on rather hard ground, we broke camp in the early morn, and joined by a Virginia regiment and a battery of Washington Artillery, went over hill and dale, until about 12 o’clock, when we halted and took up, very mysteriously, our quarters under cover of a point of woods. At first, I thought strange of the movement; but in a very short time, with my usual quickness of perception, sharpened by a number of rifled cannon balls of the enemy flying right and left of us, I fully discovered the propriety of this order. Balls continued whistling, and at intervals musketry could be heard. Finally, when the report of arms indicated the progress of a general engagement, the word “march” was given and the brigade under Col. Early, of which the 7th regiment formed a prominent part, went in double quick time to the scene of action. On the way we were continually saluted by shells and balls of the enemy’s artillery, and it was a real miracle that some of us did not get killed; but God seemed then, as he has up to this time, to have held his protecting hand over us.

Arrived at a small river. Bull’s Run, the line of contention, the enemy occupied the top and slope of a hill on one side, while we were on a plain on the other side of the stream. One Virginia regiment, stationed there before us, had repelled the enemy already three times, and actually crossed the river and driven them to the top of the hills, when again they had to retreat and give way to numerical odds twenty to one. It was then our brigade arrived; and of such volleys of musketry, and the roaring of six pieces of the Washington Artillery, one who never was in battle cannot form an idea. The commanding voices of their officers, the shouts and hurrahs of the boys, the bursting of shells and howling of balls, formed a concert which was rather calculated to strengthen nerves, no matter how weak, or else kill instanter. For more than two hours this state of affairs lasted, when finally, the Artillery, after then enemy had been driven up the infantry, so effectively poured their shells and rifle balls into the ranks and batteries of the same, that the former must have suffered a terrible loss, and the latter were completely silenced. Our loss on that day was comparatively small – ten killed and about twenty-five wounded; among the latter Ernest [Siball?], of whose fate you, no doubt, know more than I do. The boys, though in their first battle, showed great spirit and spunk, and not one seemed to realize the constant danger impending. The officers were cool and collected and led their men to the front. I should not particularize, but I cannot refrain from mentioning particularly big Captain Wilson, (tobacco merchant on Gravier street) of the Virginia Blues. He, by our marching by the left flank, held the post of honor, and well did he fill it; no sooner in front of the ford, than he exclaimed, in his characteristic style, “Light on me, blue birds;” and so they did; they fought like good fellows, while their gallant Captain crossed swords with a Yankee Lieutenant, when one of the men expedited him to the other side of the Jordan. To make this rather hasty sketch complete, you must imagine Capt. Wilson, with nothing on but a dirty woolen shirt and a pair of blue pants and a slouch hat. Shortly after the firing had ceased, the dead on our side removed, and the wounded been properly cared for, I went in a squad of about twenty, in command of Lieut. Harper, across the stream to the slope of the hill. The sight here beggared description; so precipitate was their flight that they even did not take time to carry their dead off, and even left wounded behind; who, after suffering and groaning all night, were finally brought over and cared for by us; their dead on the side of the hill, where only musketry reached, to the number of more than twenty five, were buried by us, while the ground was literally covered with clothing, haversacks, equipments of all descriptions, and thousands of other things. Over 160 stands of the most improved fire-arms fell into our hands, together with more than that number of soldier’s caps.

In searching over the effects thus suddenly acquired, we found that the main force of this army seemed to have been letter writers, specimens of which fell into our hands, testifying strongly that imagination, no matter how vivid, at a Southern standard, could compare with the poetical flight of these consummate liars. Envelopes with colored engravings of the most disgusting and fanatical character, and franked by some Abolition member of Congress, were to be found in every pocket, while the general outfit of all seemed to be more appropriate to a barbecue of three days duration, or a regular week of camp meeting, than for war purposes.

Our Colonel, Harry Hays, is a trump; so is Lieut Col. DeChoiseul; and young Major Penn has a veteran’s head on young shoulders; he is the coolest man I ever saw, while the Adjutant, Merriam, is good naturedly smiling, whether in battle or in jovial conversation. Their behavior throughout was such as only to increase the confidence of their men in their favor.

I cannot close this brief sketch of this skirmish without alluding to the trojan services rendered by the Washington Artillery. They are au fait in their business. Prisoners since captured acknowledge that they estimated the number of pieces engaged at eighteen, while only six were there, and sometimes only four in play. But it is useless to dwell now upon the precursory marks of that gallant band of New Orleans soldiery, as they have already won laurels since that occurrence, which eclipse any previous one of their or any other corps of a like number.

It was on that evening that poor Maylan, of No. 18, was out on picket guard, when a wrong alarm was given, and on the quick return of the picket the poor fellow was shot through the heart while crossing the stream. He was a good fellow, and was well liked by his fellow soldiers. During the same night we commenced throwing up entrenchments along the stream for nearly a half mile, in order to protect us against the attacks of the enemy, in case they should feel disposed to renew the play, but they did not. Over five hundred men slept on their arms, if sleeping it can be called, anxiously waiting, [?] nothing occurred except one or two false alarms. On the following morning work again commenced, until we were completely protected against the fire of the infantry of the enemy, some companies working as late as [?] o’clock. During the following night, two companies, who had been stationed at a ford about a mile further down the stream, were surprised by the enemy; they, however, returned the fire very promptly and with such telling effect, that everything was quiet on the following day. Feeling now rather secure and having recovered most of our blankets, canteens and other equipments, which we had thrown away in our quick march, we expected a few days rest and ease, but such was not our luck. ON the following morning we received orders to march and make room for another Virginia and one South Carolina regiment. In less than half an hour the whole brigade was under way, and we were moving in the direction of Camp Wigfall, when about half way the order was countermanded and we camped that day and the following, until 7 o’clock on the morning of the 21st, (Sunday,) at the very place the courier overtook us. From here we returned to where we had started from, only by a different road; arrived there, we were soon honored by shot and shell from the enemy, but did not return, as we had no artillery. About 9 o’clock that morning a regiment of Virginians, together with the Continentals and Baton Rouge Fencibles, crossed the stream to storm the battery if it should become too annoying to us, it having already then killed four and wounded several of our men. At that time, in fact from early daybreak, we heard cannonading at some distance, and well aware that a general engagement must necessarily soon take place, we came to the conclusion that the crisis had at length arrived. At about 1 1/2 o’clock we were ordered to recross the river, and the whole brigade took up march in the direction of the firing, namely, the great battle of Stone Bridge. The distance is about twelve miles, and was made principally running, over fields, through woods, not one hundred yards even soil. You may well imagine how we felt at mid-day, the thermometer ranging about 85 [degrees]. Of course we threw off knapsacks, provisions, blankets and everything calculated to lighten us, but, nevertheless, a good many lagged behind and some others actually gave out; as for myself, I never experienced such fatigue and heat in all my various exploits. But what was that in comparison to what was to come? Closer and closer sounded the artillery and vollies of the infantry. Miles distant from the battlefield, dead and wounded lay strewn about on both sides of the road, while not a step we could go without meeting some one returning from the battle wounded or assisting the wounded, or one whose appearance already indicated that the battlefield of this world was closed for him forever; but not one passed who was able to speak, who did not hail us with some words of encouragement – such as, hurry up, boys; you are just in time; or, we have got them, boys – hurrah! and at them; while some, actually despairing, encouraged and begged us to be quick, as their regiments had suffered terribly; and if no reinforcements had come soon, the battle would have been lost. Both appeals, though contradictory, had the desired effect – the last eminences were gained, and there lay before our view two armies in deadly combat, deciding whether a nation of freemen shall be free or be subjugated to the rule of their would-be oppressors; every prominent point occupied by batteries pouring forth their deadly missiles, while brigade after brigade marched to and fro to protect them and gain for themselves more advantageous positions. A more appropriate place, so far as name is concerned, could not have been selected than Stone bridge, as had the enemy been successful, the North would indeed have had a stone bridge to cross over to the very streams of Southern heart’s blood. But, to the battle. Before sunrise, the special battalion if Major Wheat, composed of the Tigers, Capt. Alex White, the Walker Guards, Capt. Harris, the Old Dominion Guards, Capt. O. P. Walker, the Delta Rangers, Capt. Gardner, and Catahoula Guerillas, Capt. Buhoup, numbering together about 460, rank and file, commenced paying their respects to the advanced guard of the enemy. In this they were assisted by companies of South Carolina Regiments; but, owing to the rapidity of the advance in overwhelming numbers, it became necessary to retreat and resort to all stratagems known to warfare to escape the deadly Minie balls of the enemy. It was when emerging from the woods on our side of the road, to await the arrival of the enemy, that the South Carolinians mistook this battalion for the enemy, and fired into them; and the fire was returned before the unfortunate mistake was discovered; but this accident, as it were, cemented both only closer together for the balance of the day; wherever the fight was the hottest, the gallant Wheat, with his battalion, was foremost, assisted and seconded by the captains and officers of the companies, who are too well known by all of you, to need any praise at my hands for personal courage and bravery. It was very near the close of the battle when Maj. Wheat was wounded. His command having suffered severely, he rallied once more all remnants and scattered factions, and brought them again before the enemy only to dare them once more to come on, and their refusal to charge, to fall mortally wounded.

The command of the battalion, which was on that day reduced from 460 to 260, fell on Capt. Harris – a soldier and gentleman well known to all of you – who, during the battle, had his horse shot from under him, and had, in fact, several narrow escapes from death. And, while on escapes, allow me to relate to you the escape of Henry S. Carey of New Orleans. He got shot in the leg, and being left by his company, very quietly laid down and awaited coming events. He did not wait long; for one of those chivalrous Yankee brigades soon retreated in the direction where he was lying, when a straggling lieutenant discovered him some distance off, ran to him and said, “Aw, we have got you, [?]” “Yes.” said Carey, “you have, and I hope you will treat me like we treat you.” With that the Yankee ran his sword through Carey’s thigh, having, of course, missed his aim, (the heart) when Carey very quietly drew his revolver and blowed off the whole back part of the head of this Northern ruffian. Such is their bravery.

In the fore part of the battle, and while the enemy had the regulars of the United States Army to push forward, the battle was very well contested; and, with numerical strength over us, well-drilled and battle-tried soldiers in front, and more artillery than we hat, they no doubt thought to have quite an easy thing of it, and on several occasions actually did have the advantage. But they lacked one thing – the spirit and spunk which animated every one on our side. Whenever a charge was made, our boys would make the welkin ring with their shouts and hurrahs – so much so, that in the latter portion of the battle, we had only to hallo and run towards them, when they would leave in a hurry without even firing a shot.

The Northern army was commanded by Gen. McDowell, with Gen. Scott at Centreville as the “power behind the throne,” etc., etc.; while Gens. Beauregard, Evans, Johnston and Jefferson Davis, Esq., managed the youngsters of the Young Republic. You cannot imagine that I could give you a full detail of all the movements of the different wings of the army; and I therefore confine myself to such abstracts as may be interesting. Of all the different portions of the Northern army, the New York Zouaves suffered most. They are completely burst up. What are not killed, are wounded or taken prisoners. I actually don’t think that, out of 1100, 200 left the field with sound hides. They fought well, and were the especial favorites of the South Carolinians, Tigers, and particularly of the Washington Artillery. The prisoners and wounded say that they never expected to meet an army here, but merely a concourse of people in open rebellion – something like a Centre street riot in New York. The episode of the battle, however, was the critical moment, when, in order to save the day, it became necessary to storm a battery at all hazards. This duty, dangerous and important, was entrusted to a Virginia regiment, assisted by another, of what State I do not recollect. Their charge was terrible, but of no avail. Again they charged, with the same result. Reinforced, they fought their way, inch by inch, to the top of the hill, and the battery was captured, not, however, before 700 noble lives on our side had been sacrificed. This gave the battle a decided inclination to our side, but notwithstanding this, regiments after brigades and reserves of infantry kept pouring in, and the plan was at once changed.

While their infantry in overwhelming numbers were to keep our infantry harmless, their artillery, which had taken prominent positions, were to operate against our strongholds; but they had, no doubt, forgotten that there was also Washington Artillery in the field at Stone Bridge. Through the thickest of a perfect shower of minie’ rifle balls, they moved their batteries to the point selected by Gen. Beauregard himself, and his horse just then having been shot from under him, he very quietly helped himself to the horse of one of the artillery band left them with the bare admonition, “don’t waste your powder, boys, but take good aim;” and they did take good aim. In less than a half hour, that battery, as well as the surrounding infantry, were rather quiet, while cannons, ammunition wagons, horses, drivers and soldiers were all piled up in one heap. All hope was now gone; the whole reserve of the infantry was now called into action, the enemy not having one cannon left. It was then that our brigade made its appearance on one hill, the Rockville Artillery and a squadron of cavalry on the next. We led off with a charge, supported by the artillery, and if mortal eye ever beheld a sunning set of cowards, it was the thousands then making their way through the fields, over fences, etc., etc., in the direction of Rhode Island and intermediate landings. Escaped from reach of infantry, these brave ones were once more rallied by their commander to resist the cavalry, which they feared would attack them in their flight. Two solid squares were formed on a hill on the very end of the woods, and no sooner formed than they were scattered to the winds by the shells of rifle balls of the artillery. This was too much; to stop the Mississippi would be an easy job to the one of attempting to stop the flying infantry of Abe and Scott. Pursuit was almost useless, as no one could catch them; but General Johnston met them a short distance on their way, giving them his farewell compliment by taking fifty wagons of all sorts of camp equipage and the remainder of their cannon, horses attached, together with a good supply of ammunition, and last, but not least, the private equipage of Gen. McDowell, unfortunately, however, without the General. The number of killed is very large on both sides; ours not less than 1500, while the enemy’s cannot be under 2500. All houses in the neighborhood are converted into hospitals, while even a church serves for the present the same purpose; and it is in it where over 400 Zouaves are now under the treatment and kind care of the rebels, as they call us. The prisoners thus far taken amount to over 1500, and every day some fellows turn up, wither from their own will or caught by our soldiers. The total killed, wounded and taken prisoners of the enemy cannot fall short of nine thousand, while we have about twenty-five hundred all told. What made our loss so great was, first, the great superiority of their fire-arms in the hands of regular troops; and secondly, the storming of that battery. While it is horrible to think of such loss of human life, it is also gratifying to know that a decisive blow has been struck, the enemy routed, driven back, and completely disorganized, and their fondest hopes of subjugating the South are blasted for the present, at least. How sure they were of gaining this battle, I can prove to you by letters found in their pockets to their relatives, where they tell them to direct their letters to Manassas Junction; and from the fact that two trains of ladies and gentlemen accompanied Gen. Scott to Centreville, in order to assist the old chieftain in his triumphant march to Manassas, the key of the valley of Virginia, and thence return by railroad to Washington. Another corroborating fact is stated by the prisoners, who say that their term of three months was out some days ago, but they were not allowed to leave until after this battle, when they were to have been paid off in Manassas, and sent to Washington by railroad: but alas! “There is many a slip between the cup and the lip.” It is almost a pity that a man like Gen. Scott, enshrined in life-long glory, should, at the very brink of the grave, follow the promptings of vindictiveness, and avarice, and destroy, with one blow, all affection, love and admiration a grateful country had for him; but “such is life,” as Bill Adams says.

In this battle, the Continentals suffered more than any other company in the regiment, and for a very plain reason: we were the first to come down the hill, after the Mississippi regiment had been flanked; close to the woods in the hollow we were halted; while the Virginia regiment , in our rear, was flanked close to the woods on the right. These having been scarcely posted, Col Early commanding, gave order to form in line of battle – not in the hollow – but half way up the hill, in full view of the enemy on the ridge of the other, who used the opportunity to shoot down five of our men in less time than you could count twenty, and in other companies in proportion. The first man shot in our company was Henry Clay. The ball struck him in the neck, severed the jugular vein, and went out on the other side, killing him instantly. He had scarcely reached the ground, before two others fell – Sergt. Clohey shot through the leg, and Flynn badly wounded in the groin. While they were being picked up, a ball struck a canteen of one, went through it, and took the rear file, Kelly, through the hand. During this short time the cry was, “Let us charge,” but Colonel Early said, very coolly, that it was all a mistake, that they on the hill were our friends, etc.; until, when the whole regiment became so clamorous for a charge, that Col. Hays said: “Boys, do you want to charge?” All hands hallooed “Yes,” and charge it was, our gallant officer in front, closely followed by the boys, just in time to see the running Yankees knocked by our artillery over fences, roads, and everything which was not much higher than a one story house. So much for Col. Early.

I would be recreant to all truth and justice were I not here to mention, with all the praise this feeble pen is able to bestow, the coolness and promptness of our captain and lieutenants. McFarland you know too well to need encomiums from me; but, as regards Davis, he has surely more than gratified the most sanguine expectations of his warmest friends; he is a brick, and no mistake.

And now, let me close this rather lengthy and dull epistle, badly written, and scraped together on three different kinds of paper, with a Yankee cartridge box as a desk; read it to some of the Continentals if you deem it of sufficient interest, and allow me to subscribe myself with my best wishes for you and your family’s prosperity and welfare.

Your obedient servant,

JOHN F. GRUBER, Corporal*

In justice to myself I must inform you that I have been promoted to that important post. Give my respects to Jim McGawly, Blessy, Slemmer, Capt. Hodgkins, Th. Murray, and all the boys, and tell them for particulars I must refer them to a verbal report.

J. F. G.

New Orleans Daily Crescent, 8/5/1861

Clipping image

*While Gruber signed this letter as a corporal, records indicate he mustered in and out of the 7th LA as a private.

John F. Gruber at Fold3

Contributed by John J. Hennessy





Soldier Images – USA

16 10 2016

1st Sgt. John Henry Austin, Co. G, 16th New York Infantry

Pvt. (Joseph or Lewis) Barnes, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

4th Sgt. Andrew Christie Bayne, Co. G, 16th New York Infantry

2nd Sgt. Edwin O. Betts, Co. G, 16th New York Infantry

Pvt. Jonathan Davidson, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Corp. David Douglass, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Lt. James P. Drouillard, Aide to Major George Sykes, U. S. Regulars

Corp. Samuel J. English, Co. D, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Lt. Col. Francis S. Fiske, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

Pvt. William Frazier, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Pvt. Charles Godfrey, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Capt. Simon G. Griffin, Co. B, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

Lt. Samuel M. Harmon, Co. I, 27th New York Infanty

Pvt. Charles Henry Howard, 3rd Maine Infantry, Howard’s Brigade Staff

Surgeon George H. Hubbard, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

Pvt. Benjamin Hughes, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Corp. Theodore Jenks, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Pvt. Robert Johnstone, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Sgt. George Kidder, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Pvt. John Manning, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Col. Gilman Marston, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

Surgeon John McGregor, 3rd Connecticut Infantry

Pvt. James Newell, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Pvt. John Newell, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Pvt. Samuel Newman, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Pvt. Francis Osgood, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

3rd Sgt. Luther Lee Partridge, Co. G, 16th New York Infantry

Lt. Joab N. Patterson, Co. H, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

Pvt. Thomas Potter, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Sgt. Hugh R. Richardson, Co. G, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

Pvt. Robert Robertson, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Corp. Francis Ronien, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Pvt. Smith Salisbury, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Corp. Benjamin F. Smart, Co. D, 2nd Maine Infantry

Pvt. Albert L. Smith, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Capt. Thomas P. Snow, Co. F, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

Maj. Josiah Stevens, Jr., 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

Cpl. Joseph S. Sweatt, Co. E, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

Pvt. Peter Taylor, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Capt. Ephraim Weston, Co. G, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

Corp. George Wood, Co. F, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

Pvt. William Worger, Co. F., 2nd Rhode Island Infantry

2nd Lt. Harrison D. F. Young, Co. F, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry





Preview: Mingus & Wittenberg, “The Second Battle of Winchester”

30 07 2016

SecondBattleofWinchester_LRGNew from Savas Beatie is a joint effort by Scott L. Mingus, Sr and Eric J. Wittenberg, The Second Battle of Winchester: The Confederate Victory that Opened the Door to Gettysburg. I’m looking forward to this mainly because I’ve always been struck by the inconsistencies between the old saw of Richard Ewell having lost his aggressiveness – and decisiveness – after his wounding at Brawner’s Farm and marriage, and his performance at this prelude to Gettysburg. I’ll be interested to see if and how the authors have addressed that conundrum.

Here’s what you get: 429 (!) pages of narrative, with Hal Jesperson maps and plenty of illustrations, including present day photos; a driving tour appendix with seven stops and an extended tour with six more; Orders of Battle for Second Winchester and Martinsburg; a list of surgeons and chaplains captured during Second Winchester who were sent on to Libby Prison; the March 14, 1863 Resolution of the 123rd Ohio; a bibliography with plenty of primary sources; a full index; and the usual Savas Beatie page-bottom footnotes.





Preview: Mackowski, White, & Davis – “Fight Like the Devil”

21 05 2015

51aBL53hU8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_New in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War Series is Fight Like the Devil: The First Day at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, by Chris Mackowski, Kristopher D. White, and Daniel T. Davis. Gettysburg nuts fall into one of three categories, typically: Day 1 guys; Day 2 guys; and Day 3 guys. If I fall into one of those categories (though I don’t consider myself a Gettysburg nut, or a more seriously afflicted Frassanidiot), it would have to be Day 1. And to prove it, I joined along with a couple hundred other folks a few weeks ago for an all day walking tour of the Day 1 battlefield. It would have been nice to have this little book along for the ride. It weighs in at 116 pages of text through the epilogue, with another eight (8!) appendices by such luminaries as Matt Atkinson, Dan Welch, and Eric Wittenberg. Nine maps and dozens of modern photos are sprinkled in. And this one’s not without some controversy. I have long wondered at the basis for John Reynolds’s now sterling reputation, given his performance up to July 1, 1863, and it appears Kris White thinks along the same lines for the same reasons in his appendix on the general. And John Cummings weighs in on the location of the famous Gardner “Harvest of Death” photos (I do believe that one has to be either all right or all wrong in these cases.) Other appendices look at Dick Ewell’s decision, J. E. B. Stuart’s ride, shoes, and Pipe Creek. Check it out.





150 Years Ago Today

2 04 2015

1506594_10202031686936001_8118502619450450512_nOn this day 150 years ago, my great-grandfather Pvt. John B. Smeltzer stepped off with his comrades of Co. C, 205th PA Volunteer Infantry, in their assault on Battery 30, part of the defenses of Petersburg near Ft. Mahone. John, of Hopewell Township, Bedford County, had enlisted on August 24th, 1864 at the age of 18 years 8 months, and served until mustered out with his regiment at Alexandria, VA, on June 2nd, 1865. He was wounded in the leg during the assault. After the war he was employed as a coal miner and steelworker, married Hannah Virginia Gates, and fathered 8 children including my grandfather, Harry Gates Smeltzer. He lived variously in Bedford County, McKeesport in Allegheny County, PA, and for 6 months at the Soldiers’ Home in Dayton, OH, before returning to Hopewell where he died on Sept. 22, 1923, at the age of 77. He is buried in St. Paul’s Cemetery in Yellow Creek, Bedford County, PA, next to his granddaughter Pauline.

Update: Friend and Sesquicentennial tourist extraordinaire Craig Swain took this photo of the site of Battery 30 today:

Site of Battery 30, Petersburg, VA, 04/02/2015.

Site of Battery 30, Petersburg, VA, 04/02/2015.

Apparently, (and according to Craig who also took these snaps) great-grandpa had to charge past the dumpster by the Pizza Hut,

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and through the playground,

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to take that flower bed.

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Wilderness – A Tale of Two Permelias

6 05 2014

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of the Wilderness and The Overland Campaign, here’s the original version of my Collateral Damage article that ran in the August, 2011 edition of Civil War Times. For real time tweets of the tours this week, be sure to follow Sesqui tourist extraordinaire Craig Swain @caswain01 on Twitter and look for the Overland150 hashtag.

The Higgerson and Chewning Farms in The Wilderness: The Widows Permelia

The Battle of the Wilderness, fought in early May 1864, marked the beginning of Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign. For two days, the Union Army of the Potomac and the Ninth Army Corps battled Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in a hellish tangle of thick, second-growth forest along and between the Orange Turnpike to the north and the Orange Plank Road to the south, in Virginia’s Spotsylvania County. Two farms, today located along Hill-Ewell Drive in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, were in 1864 situated at the center of the fighting; both were witness to singular events.

The northernmost farm, also known as “Spring Hill” and “Oak Hill”, was the home of Permelia Chewning Higgerson, 34. Her husband Benjamin, who was 20 years her senior, had died of smallpox in December 1862. One year later, Benjamin’s son from an earlier marriage, James, died in a Richmond hospital, also from smallpox, which he had contracted as a member of the Ninth VA Cavalry. Living with the Widow Higgerson were her five children – four boys and a girl aged two to eleven. In 1860, Benjamin Higgerson’s real estate was valued at $500, his personal properly was worth $1,370, and he owned two slaves. The house was a small, three room, one-and-a-half story frame structure which sat in a clearing about three quarters of a mile south of the Orange Turnpike.

Permelia Higgerson (umm, yeah, on the left)

Permelia Higgerson (umm, yeah, on the left)

About one mile to the south was the home of Permelia Higgerson’s parents, William and Permelia Chewning. Like her daughter, Permelia Chewning was a widow. William had died the previous June at the age of 73 as the result of an injury sustained in an accident at a local mill. In 1860, William Chewning’s real estate was valued at $1,500 and his personal estate at a respectable $14,400. He also owned thirteen slaves. The 72-year-old Widow Chewning lived with her 38-year-old daughter Jane and 30-year-old son Absalom in a two and one-half story frame house known as “Mount View”, situated in a clearing on a ridge on the 150-acre farm. The farm produced wheat, rye, corn, oats, potatoes, and tobacco. It also had a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.

Both farms played prominent roles in the battle. On May 5, Union general James Wadsworth’s division struggled westward through thick underbrush to keep pace with the rest of Union 5th Corps attack on Confederate General Richard Ewell’s lines. Colonel Roy Stone’s brigade passed through the clearing around the Higgerson house, tearing down a fence and laying waste to the garden despite the Widow’s loud objections and predictions of their impending defeat. After passing the house the men entered swampy ground near a tributary of Wilderness Run: “That’s a hell of a looking hole to send white men into”, shouted one soldier; another advised his comrades to “label” themselves, as death was certain. Soon they found themselves mired in waist-deep water, causing a gap to open in the Union line just as Confederate troops crashed into the isolated Pennsylvanians. Heavy casualties forced them to retire, and as they poured past the house, the Widow Higgerson again pelted them with taunts.

Higgerson HOuse

Higgerson HOuse

Farther south, the placement of the Chewning house on high ground from which enemy positions were clearly visible made it desirable to both sides, and possession changed hands over the two days. At one point, a group of Union soldiers had taken over the house and was inside vandalizing it and preparing dinner when Permelia Chewning flagged down her relative Markus Chewning (a scout for Confederate General Fitzhugh “Rooney” Lee), who was coincidentally riding alone along the road from Parker’s Store to the south. After the Widow Chewning filled him in about what was happening, Markus rode rapidly around the house to convince those inside that they were outnumbered and should give up. The ruse worked – leaving their weapons inside the Yankees surrendered to Markus. Nevertheless, the writing was on the wall: Mount View was soon to become a hot place. The Widow Chewning gathered some things and left the house soon after.

On May 6, Confederate General A. P. Hill and his staff rode into the unoccupied clearing. They dismounted and soon heard the sounds of a body of nearby Federal soldiers breaking down a fence. Hill remained calm, telling them: “Mount, walk your horses, and don’t look back.” Although the Rebels were within easy range, the Federals held their fire and the party made their escape at a leisurely pace. A captured Yankee later told one of the escapees, “I wanted to fire on you, but my colonel said you were farmers riding from the house.”

The Chewning house and farm was in a shambles after the battle. Absalom later testified: “Everything was gone – all the crops, all the stock, all the fences. Also, a tobacco house, a shop, and an ice-house were destroyed. I found some of the materials in the breastworks around the house.” The Widow Chewning filed a post-war claim with the Southern Claims Commission for just under $3,600, including lost fence rails, cordwood, and livestock. The disposition of the Chewning claim is unknown. Fire destroyed the Chewning house in 1947.

The younger Permelia – Higgerson – remarried in 1867. She and William Porter had two children, Cyrus and Ann, and moved to Missouri on the Mississippi River to a place they called “Higgerson Landing”, consisting of a house, a store, and a one-room schoolhouse that survives to this day. Permelia’s second marriage eventually fell apart. About 1871 William Porter ran off to Louisiana and Montana with Permelia Higgerson’s 16-year-old daughter, Jacqueline. After fathering four children with her, Porter deserted Jacqueline as well. The Widow Higgerson passed away in 1897 in Missouri. The Higgerson House disappeared in the 1930s, but remnants of its chimney survive today.

Higgerson House Chimney

Higgerson House Chimney

Thanks to Josef W. Rokus and Noel Harrison of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania NMP for their assistance in preparing this article.





Laura (Thornberry) Fletcher, On the Battle and Aftermath

3 04 2014

A few memories of the “War Between the States” by an eye witness, for my grandson, Westwood Hugh Fletcher. — Mrs. Laura Fletcher

On July 21st, Sunday, 1861 I sat on the hill side across the road from old Sudley Church and watched the firing of the muskets and the cannons, and the falling men. In a short time the army wagons began coming by piled as high as anyone would pile up wood, with the bodies of dead men that had been killed that day. They were taken to Sudley Church cemetery and dumped in a pit prepared for them. My Father, John F. Thornberry, Grandfather of Westwood Hugh, was in that great battle, was wounded and disabled for service any more. My father and mother with five little children (I was one of them) lived across the road from the church and two and a half miles from Manassas. On Saturday evening about 7 o’clock my uncle, William Wilkins came to my mother and insisted on taking her and us children to his house for the night as fighting would begin during the night. Mother said, “If you think so, I will get the children’s clothes for Sunday School and I will go.” He replied, “They will not need any clothes for Sunday School for there will be no Sunday School tomorrow.”

He was right, for 2 o’clock Sunday morning the Northern Army began pouring in about fifty feet from where my mother had just left. At Manassas they met the Southern Army from Richmond and the fighting began.

About 2 o’clock the Federal army began hauling off their dead and dumping them in the pit they had prepared for them at Sudley Church. As young as I was, I shall never forget the scene. I remember their faces yet.

Sunday night about 8 o’clock, my uncle heard someone whistling a long shrill whistle. He said, “That is someone in distress. I am going to look for him.” He found a young soldier boy about seventeen years old, lying in the woods. He asked him what he wanted. He said, “I want my mother.” He asked him where his mother was and he said at home in Michigan. He wanted to get him something to eat. He said no that he wanted water. Uncle went to the spring and filled his canteen. He drank it all. He went back to the spring and filled again and put it where he could get it, bade him goodbye, told him he would see him early the next morning. His reply was, “No, I will be gone before tomorrow.” When Uncle went back the next morning, he was dead.

When he related it, how my mother and aunt cried. I wondered why they cried, they did not know him. I know now why they cried!

That was Sunday evening. The next morning (Monday) my mother went to our home. It was desolate. She with us children left it Saturday evening as we had lived in it for 15 or 20 years, and there was not an article of anything in it. Ten men had bled to death in mother’s bedroom the night before. Carpets and all furniture were out and gone. We never saw any of it again, or anything else. The old farm well in the back yard was almost full of everything that would go in it. Such as china ware, cooking utensils, flat irons, and every thing you can imagine used in a family was thrown in it. Of course everything was broken. How we all cried over it; and no prospects of replacing any of it.

My father was brought to my Grandfather’s from the battlefield of Manassas, with typhoid fever (from a wound) and remained ill for eight weeks.

It was the Federal army that destroyed everything in its path. I don’t know how the Southern army did, as I am only writing from memory. This was the beginning of the war and terrible it was. They thought it was their duty to destroy everything they came to. My father lost in one day, over two thousand dollars worth of property. You may think I am exaggerating, but I will numerate some of the loss.

My father was a carpenter, wheel-wright, undertaker. Everything was made by hand. He also ran a blacksmith shop for his own work. I am writing that you might know how destructive everything was.

After my father got back, living in his own home, a terrible noise was heard one night about 2 o’clock. Ten Federal soldiers came to our home and burst the front door down. A piece of it struck my mother in the face and disfigured her very badly as well as hurting her. They arrested my father and oldest bother, who was 16 years old, for spies. They were not spies and never had been. They took them away to Washington, put them in the “old Capitol” prison, and it was three months before mother heard a word from them.

The next morning before taking them to Washington, the soldiers got a rope to hang my father, placing it around his neck. This did not occur in our house but just outside of our yard. My brother begged and cried like a baby not to hang his father, “He didn’t do anything.” One of the men said “Search his pockets before you draw that rope.” There they found a diary of his whereabouts. That saved him; he always kept one.

The Second battle of Manassas began the 26th of August, three years after. That was worse than the first. We were driven from our home by big cannons planted on the east and on the west of our home, and while we were at breakfast, two men soldiers on horses, came to our front door and said, “Get out of here. There are 12 cannons planted on two sides of your house, and you will be blown to pieces.” We got out as quickly as possible. We took refuge in the yard of “Uncle Tommie Hutchinson” and watched the firing all day.

About 12 o’clock the cannoning stopped, but the musketing kept on, until four o’clock in the afternoon. Such sights were never seen. My father hid in the ice-house all day. It was the 26th of August and the ice was low.

He walked out to the battlefield and tried to count the dead men, but could not. He got as far as one hundred and fifty and had to stop; he got sick and could go no farther. It was on the unfinished railroad between Alexandria and Manassas. The Southern Army ammunition train was cut off from their regiment and they had nothing to fight with and they used the crushed rock from the railroad. So many were killed with it.

Now this is true, every word that I have written.

Mrs. Laura Fletcher
December 12, 1936

NOTES

This account was written by Mrs. Laura (Thornberry) Fletcher (1854-1937), in December 1936 (age 82). She was the granddaughter of Rev. John Trone of Buckland Mills. Her mother was Martha (Trone) Thornberry. An aunt, Mary (Trone) Wilkins, was married to James Wilkins, a tenant farmer living on Stony Ridge, off the Groveton-Sudley Road. Laura had a son, Westwood Hugh Fletcher (grandson?), and three daughters: Boude Thompson, Estelle Blacketer, and Olive Carry.

Source: Norman M. Fletcher, Ft. Myers, FL

The following notes are provided by Museum Specialist, James Burgess:

1. The hillside on which Laura sat on July 21, 1861 was undoubtedly the Wilkins house site on Stony Ridge, which would have afforded a view of Sudley Church and the battlefield.

2. While not disputing the possibility of a wartime mass burial at Sudley Church, there was no established church cemetery at Sudley until 1896.

3. John F. Thornberry served briefly with the “Ewell Guards”, Company A, 49th Virginia Infantry.

4. William Wilkins was actually Laura’s older cousin (not uncle). He was 17 years old at the time of First Manassas. In 1862, he joined the Prince William Cavalry (Company A, 4th Virginia Cavalry). Laura may have him confused with his father, James Wilkins.

5. By most accounts Union forces did not arrive at Sudley Springs until 9:30 a.m. Since Laura’s mother had evacuated her and her siblings to the Wilkins home the night before, Laura’s knowledge of the Union army’s time of arrival is suspect. It is commonly known that the Union army broke camp in Centreville about 2 a.m. and this may have influenced her memory.

6. Laura’s mistaken belief that the Second Battle of Manassas began on August 26, three years after the first battle clearly reflects the effects of age on her memory. (It began on August 28, 1862, 13 months after the first battle.)

Contributed to Bull Runnings by James Burgess, Museum Specialist, Manassas National Battlefield Park

See here for more on the Thornberry children, including a photo of Laura.





Pvt. Robert R. Murray, Co. D, 7th Georgia Infantry, On the Battle

22 10 2013

Battle of Manassas

Messrs Editors: – Seeing in a recent issue a description of the scenes on the Battlefield of Manassas after the fight, has induced me to give an account of that battle as I saw it. The 21st of July, 1861, found the 7th Ga. Regiment after hard marching from Winchester through Piedmont Gap at Union Mills on Bull Run. Sunday morning we were all getting or eating breakfast, when the first boom of artillery broke upon our ears and told us of the bloody work that was coming to desecrate the Sabbath. The long roll was beaten quickly and the command was soon heard in each company to fall in. The regiment was quickly under arms and formed. The firing was up the stream and we headed that way at double quick. We halt after a short march and pile our knapsacks in one heap and press on. The first line of battle was along the stream, but the Federal’s crossing above caused the line to be changed to nearly a right angle with the stream. This caused the troops stationed down the stream to have to push rapidly to the left to keep from being flanked. The musketry commences on our right. We get orders to load and many hands tremble a they place the cartridge in the muskets. We are in sight of the guns on the opposite hills. The first shot passed over our ranks, and one fellow breaks ranks and goes to the rear a few steps and gets on his all fours like a scared shoat in a peach orchard. We move to the left, pass the open field, go through the pine and cedar and take our position near the log house and apple orchard. We are flat on the ground. Things are getting badly mixed, that is the shells, solid shot and bullets, are mixing at a lively rate. The 8th Ga. is heavily pressed on our right. We move to the right near the brick house to support them and fill up the gap between us. The wounded commence to pass out in our front, the 8th is badly cut up. Gen Bee is close by us. I see him encouraging the men who are unsteady. I hear him say “for the sake of Carolina, for the honor of Georgia, stand steady.” But it is clearly seen that we cannot hold the hill raked by such a storm of deadly missiles and the order comes to retire. We fall back about two hundred yards in a hollow in front of the Washington Artillery, we have turned their guns in the direction of the hill and we kneel in their front and they fire rapidly over our heads. The 8th Ga. is coming out. Gen. Beauregard salutes them with head uncovered for the fight they have made. Two hundred and fifty of their regiment killed and wounded. The roar of cannon and musketry has become a perfect storm. I see Gens. Bartow and Beauregard close together, the latter points up the hollow. We face in that direction and double quick. We go for a hundred yards or two and face square to the front, up the hill we go. Bartow snatches the colors of the 7th Ga. and leads the charge. We reach the top of the hill and halt an instant. The regiment fires and rush right among the guns. They are taken. Bee is killed to our right and Bartow goes down with colors in his hands. Ewell’s and Smith’s men are coming in rapidly on our left. The Federals commence to waver. There is a perfect storm of shot and shell. In a short time the blue coats commence to run and in a little time they are going pell mell towards Centreville in a complete stampede.

Yours truly,

R. R. Murray,

Co. D. 7th Ga. Regiment.

Powder Springs, Ga.

Marietta (GA) Journal, 4/19/1888

Clipping Image

Robert R. Murray at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Correspondent Peter Wellington Alexander On the Battle

5 10 2013

The Battle of Manassas

Army of the Potomac,

Manassas, July 22, 1861

Yesterday, the 21st day of July, 1861, a great battle was fought and a great victory won by the Confederate troops. Heaven smiled upon our arms, and the God of battles crowned our banners with the laurels of glory. Let every patriotic heart give thanks to the Lord of Hosts for the victory He has given His people on His holy day, the blessed Sabbath.

Gen. Johnston had arrived the preceding day with about half the force he had, detailed from Winchester, and was the senior officer in command. He magnanimously insisted, however, that Gen. Beauregard’s previous plan should be carried out, and he was guided entirely by the judgement and superior local knowledge of the latter. While, therefore, Gen. Johnston was nominally in command, Beauregard was really the officer and hero of the day. You will be glad to learn that he was this day advanced from a Brigadier to the rank of full General. But to the battle.

At half-past six in the morning, the enemy opened fire from a battery planted on a hill beyond Bull’s Run, and nearly opposite the center of our lines. The battery was intended merely to “beat the bush.” and to occupy our attention, while he moved a heavy column towards the Stone Bridge, over the same creek, upon our left. At 10 o’clock, another battery was pushed forward, and opened fire a short distance to the left of the other, and near the road leading North to Centreville. This was a battery of rifled guns, and the object of its fire was the same as that of the other. They fired promiscuously into the woods and gorges in this, the Southern side of Bull’s Run, seeking to create the impression thereby that our center would be attacked, and thus prevent us from sending reinforcements to our left, where the real attack was to be made. Beauregard was not deceived by the maneuver.

It might not be amiss to say, that Bull’s Run, or creek, is North of this place, and runs nearly due east, slightly curving around the Junction, the nearest part of which is about 3 1/2 miles. The Stone Bridge is some 7 miles distant, in a northwesterly direction, upon which our left wing rested. Mitchel’s ford is directly North, distant four miles, by the road leading to Centreville, which is seven miles from the Junction. Our right is Union Mills, on the same stream, where the Alexandria and Manassas railroad crosses the Run, and distant four miles. Proceeding from Fairfax Court House, by Centreville, to Stone Bridge, the enemy passed in front of our entire line, but at a distance ranging from five to two miles.

At 9 o’clock, I reached an eminence nearly opposite the two batteries mentioned above, and which commanded a full view of the country for miles around, except on the right. From this point I could trace the movements of the approaching hosts by the clouds of dust that rose high above the surrounding hills. Our left, under Brigadier-General Evans, Jackson and Cocke, and Col. Bartow, with the Georgia Brigade, composed of the 7th and 8th regiments, had been put in motion, and was advancing upon the enemy with a force of about 15,000 while the enemy himself was advancing upon our left with a compact column of at least 50,000. His entire force on this side of the Potomac is estimated at 75,000. These approaching columns encountered each other at 11 o’clock.

Meanwhile, the two batteries in front kept up their fire upon the wooded hill where they supposed our center lay. They sent occasional balls, from their rifled cannon, to the eminence where your correspondent stood. Gens. Beauregard, Johnston and Bonham reached this point at 12, and one of these balls passed directly over and very near them, and plunged into the ground  a few paces from where I stood. I have the ball now, and hope to be able to show it to you at some future day. It is an 18-pound ball, and about 6 inches long. By the way, this thing of taking notes amidst a shower of shells and balls is more exciting than pleasant. At a quarter past 12, Johnston and Beauregard galloped rapidly forward in the direction of Stone Bridge, where the ball had now fully opened. You correspondent followed their example, and soon reached a position in front of the battlefield.

The artillery were the first to open fire, precisely at 11 o’clock. By half-past 11, the infantry had engaged, and there it was that the battle began to rage. The dusky columns which had thus far marked the approach of the two armies, now mingled with great clouds of smoke, as it rose from the flashing guns below, and the two shot up together like a huge pyramid of red and blue. The shock was tremendous, as were the odds between the two forces. With what anxious hearts did we watch the pyramid of smoke and dust! When it moved to the right, we knew the enemy were giving way; and when it moved to the left, we knew that our friends were receding. Twice the pyramid moved to the right, and as often returned. At last, about two o’clock, it began to move slowly to the left, and this it continued to move for two mortal hours. The enemy was seeking to turn our left flank, and to reach the railroad leading hence in the direction of Winchester. To do this, he extended his lines, which he was able to do by reason of his great numbers. This was unfortunate for us, as it required a corresponding extension of our own lines to prevent his extreme right from outflanking us – a movement on our part which weakened the force of our resistance along the whole line of battle, which finally extended over a space of two miles. It also rendered it more difficult to bring up reinforcements, as the further the enemy extended his right, the greater the distance reserve forces had to travel to counteract the movement.

This effort to turn our flank was pressed with great determination for five long, weary hours, during which the tide of battle ebbed and flowed along the entire line with alternate fortunes. The enemy’s column continued to stretch away to the left, like a huge anaconda, seeking to envelope us within its mighty folds and crush us to death; and at one time it really looked as if he would succeed. But here let me pause to  explain why it was our reinforcements were so late in arriving, and why a certain other important movement was miscarried.

The moment he discovered the enemy’s order of battle, Gen. Beauregard, it is said, dispatched orders to Gen. Ewell, on our extreme right, to move forward and turn his left and rear. At the same time he ordered Generals Jones, Longstreet, and Bonham, occupying the center of our lines, to cooperate in this movement, but not to move until Gen. Ewell had made the attack. The order to Gen. Ewell unfortunately miscarried. The others were delivered, but as the movements of the center were to be regulated entirely by those on the right, nothing was done at all. Had the orders to Gen. Ewell been received and carried out, and our entire force brought upon the field, we should have destroyed the enemy’s army almost literally. Attacked in front, on the flank and in the rear, he could not possibly have escaped, except at the loss of thousands of prisoners and all his batteries, while the field would have been strewed with his dead.

Finding that his orders had in some way failed to be executed, Gen. Beauregard at last ordered up a portion of the forces which were intended to co operate with General Ewell. It was late, however, before these reinforcements came up. Only one brigade reached the field before the battle was won. This was led by Gen. E. K. Smith, of Florida, formerly of the United States Army, and was a part of General Johnston’s column from Winchester. They should have reached here the day before, but were prevented by an accident on the railroad. They dashed on the charge with loud shouts and in the most gallant style. About the same time, Maj. Elzey coming down the railroad from Winchester with the last of Johnston’s brigades, and hearing the firing, immediately quit the train and struck across the country, and as a gracious fortune would have it, he encountered the extreme right of the enemy as he was feeling his way around our flank, and with his brigade struck him like a thunderbolt, full in the face. Finding he was about to be outflanked himself, the enemy gave way after the second fire. Meanwhile, Beauregard rallied the center and dashed into the very thickest of the fight, and after him rushed our own brave boys, with a shout that seemed to shake the very earth. The result of this movement from three distinct points, was to force back the enemy, who began to retreat, first in good order, and finally in much confusion. At this point the cavalry were ordered upon the pursuit. The retreat now became a perfect rout, and it is reported that the flying legions rushed past Centreville in the direction of Fairfax, as if the earth had been opening behind them. It was when Gen. Beauregard led the final charge, that his horse was killed by a shell.

We captured thirty-four guns, including Sherman’s famous battery, a large number of small arms, thirty wagons loaded with provisions, &c., and about 700 prisoners. Among the latter, were Col. Corcoran, of the New York Irish Zouaves, Hon. Mr. Ely, member of Congress, from New York, Mr. Carrington, of this State, a nephew of the late Wm. C. Preston, who had gone over to the enemy, and thirty-two Captains, Lieutenants, &c. We cam near bagging the Hon. Mr. Foster, Senator from Connecticut.

The official reports of the casualties of the day have not yet come in, and consequently it is impossible to say what our loss is. I can only venture an opinion, and that is, that we lost in killed, wounded and missing, about 1,500 – of which about 400 were killed. The enemy’s loss was terrible, being at the lowest calculation, 3,000.

Thus far I have said but little of the part taken by particular officers and regiments; for the reason that I desire first to obtain all the facts. Nor have I said anything of the gallant seventh and eighth regiments from Georgia. This part of my duty is most melancholy. It may be enough to say, that they were the only Georgia regiments here at the time, that they were among the earliest on the field, and in the thickest of the fight, and that their praise is upon the lips of the whole army, from Gen. Beauregard on down. Col. Gartrell led the seventh regiment, and Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner the eighth, the whole under the command of Col. Bartow, who led them with a gallantry that was never excelled. It was when the brigade was ordered to take one of the enemy’s strongest batteries, that it suffered most. It was a most desperate undertaking, and followed by the bloodiest results. The battery occupied the top of a hill, on the opposite side of Bull’s Run, with a small piece of woods on the left. Descending the valley along the Run, he proceeded under cover of the hill to gain the woods alluded to, and from which he proposed to make a dash at the battery and capture it. On reaching the woods, he discovered that the battery was supported by a heavy infantry force, estimated at 4,000 men. The whole force, together with the battery, was turned upon the eighth regiment, which was in the van, with terrible effect. Indeed, he was exposed on the flank and in front to a fire that the oldest veterans could not have stood. The balls and shells from the battery, and the bullets from the small arms, literally riddled the woods. Trees six inches in diameter, and great limbs were cut off, and the ground strewn with the wreck. It became necessary to retire the eighth regiment, in order to re-form it. Meanwhile, Col. Bartow’s horse had been shot from under him. It was observed that the forces with which his movement was to be supported had not come up. But it was enough that he had been ordered to storm the battery; so, placing himself at the head of the seventh regiment, he again led the charge, this time on foot, and gallantly encouraging his men as they rushed on. The first discharge from the enemy’s guns killed the regimental color-bearer. Bartow immediately seized the flag, and gain putting himself in front, dashed on, flag in hand, his voice ringing clear over the battlefield, and saying, “On, my boys, we will die rather than yield or retreat.” And on the brave boys did go, and faster flew the enemy’s bullets. The fire was awful. Not less than 4,000 muskets were pouring their fatal contents upon them, while the battery itself was dealing death on every side.

The gallant Eighth Regiment, which had already passed through the distressing ordeal, again rallied, determined to stand by their chivalric Colonel to the last. The more furious the fire, the quicker became the advancing step of the two regiments. At last, and just when they were nearing the goal of their hopes, and almost in the arms of victory, the brave and noble Bartow was shot down, the ball striking him in the left breast, just above the heart. His men rallied behind him, and finding him mortally wounded and that the forces that had been ordered to support their charge had not yet come up, they gradually fell back, bearing him in their arms and disputing every inch of ground. I learn that they would never have retired but for the orders which were given in consequence of the non-arrival of the supporting force. It appears that the order to support our charge, like that to gen. Ewell, miscarried – a failure which had nearly cost us two of the best regiments in the army. Col. Bartow died soon after he was borne from the field. His last words, as repeated to me, were: “they have killed me, my brave boys, but never give up the ship – we’ll whip them yet.” And so we did!

The field officers of the Seventh Regiment escaped except Col. Gartrell who received a slight wound. All the superior officers in the Eighth Regiment, except Maj. Cooper, were killed or wounded. Lieut. Col. Gardner had his leg broken by a musket ball, and Adjutant Branch was killed. Capt. Howard of the Mountain Rangers from Merriwether county was also killed. But I shall not go into a statement of the killed and wounded preferring in delicate and painful a matter to await the official report, which I hope to get tomorrow, when I shall have more to say about our heroic regiments. I will add just here, that our loss in officers was very great. Among others may be mentioned Gen. Bee, Lieut. Col. Johnson of Hampton’s Legion, and Col. Thomas of Gen. Johnston’s Staff, and others. Gen. Jackson was wounded in the hand, and Col. Wheat of the New Orleans Tigers was shot through the body. Col Jones of the 4th Alabama Regiment it is feared was mortally wounded. The regiments that suffered most and were in the thickest of the fight, were the 7th and 8th Georgia, the 4th Alabama, 4th South Carolina, Hampton’s Legion, and 4th Virginia. The New Orleans Washington Artillery did great execution.

If we consider the numbers engaged and the character of the contest, we may congratulate ourselves upon having won, one of the most brilliant victories that any race of people ever achieved. It was the greatest battle ever fought on this continent, and will take its place in history by the side of the most memorable engagements. It is believed that General Scott himself was nearby, at Centreville, and that he directed as he had planned the whole movement. Gen. McDowell was the active commander upon the field.

President Davis arrived upon the field at 5 o’clock, just as the enemy had got into full retreat. His appearance was greeted with shout after shout, and was the equivalent to a reinforcement of 5,000 men. He left Richmond at 7 in the morning.

But “little Beaury” against the world.

P. W. A.

Savannah Republican, 7/27/1861

William B. Styple, Ed., Writing and Fighting the Confederate War: The Letters of Peter Wellington Alexander Confederate War Correspondent, pp 19-23





Cpl. Taliaferro N. Simpson, Co. A, 3rd South Carolina Volunteers, On the Battle

4 09 2013

Bull’s Run

July 23, 1861

Dear Pa

I write in great haste to ease your mind with reference to Brother [Richard Simpson – BR] and myself besides all of our friends – none killed. The 3d was not in the engagement. Only cannon shot and shell were thrown at us in our intrenchments, but no one hurt. The battle of Bull’s Run and the victory of the southern troops is the most celebrated that is recorded in the annals of American history. On account of an order from the Col to prepare to march I cannot go into detail, but give an outline of the fight as I heard it.

First we made a glorious retreat from Fairfax, the most glorious made in America, and took our stand at Bull’s Run where we were reinforced to the number of forty or fifty thousand. The enemy came upon us with  45,000 & with a reserve of 50 or 60,000, amounting in all to 110,000. They began the engagement by throwing shell and shot upon our center, the position the 3d with several others held, and with a very large force made an attack upon our right flank, but were beautifully thrashed. This was on Thursday, the 18th. Friday and Saturday they reinforced, and Sunday morning at 25 minutes past 11 o’clock they began throwing shot on our center to keep our strong forces in their position thereby deceiving us, and with a force of 45,000 made a tremendous attack upon our left wing. The fight was terrible, but southern valor never waned, and with only 20 or 25,000 defeated them completely. South Carolina, as ever, has cast around her name a halo of glory never to be diminished. Sloan’s, Kershaw’s, and Cash’s regiments were engaged. Sloan’s for an hour and a half fought against five thousand and at one time was entirely surrounded, but reinforcements came in time to prevent the last one from being cut off. The gallant Col acted with great coolness and courage. The fight on Thursday we lost 12 men, 30 wounded; the enemy 150 killed and many wounded. The battle on Sunday we had 500 killed and wounded, while the enemy lost between 2 and 5,000 killed with over 2,500 prisoners. They fled before us like sheep. Their officers confess it to be a total rout on their part.

Our regiment was called upon to pursue them but didn’t overtake them. They have cleared out for Washington. The citizens in the county say that many of their soldiers and officers have declared that they have fought their last time this side of the Potomac. You will see a complete description of the fight in the papers, and I expect more correct than what I can write since theirs is from headquarters and mine from camp reports. Gus Sitton wounded in the arm. Whit Kilpatrick in the hand. Sam Wilkes was killed. Gen. B. E. Bee shot through the body – not expected to live. Col. Johnson of Hampton’s Legion killed. Hampton slightly wounded. Uncle Davy, Gus Broyles, and Sam Taylor were in the thickest of the fight but came through unhurt. The report is that McClellan was killed, and Patterson taken prisoner. How true I cannot tell.

I since hear that Jim Sloan and Wilton Earl are mortally wounded – and that Sloan lost 20 killed besides the wounded. I heard the names of several, but recognized none but one, Bellotte.

We took Sherman’s battery in full. In all we have taken some 60 or 70 cannon. The plunder left by the enemy and taken by the rebels cannot be described – tremendous, tremendous, tremendous. Wagons, horses in abundance, in addition to mountains of other things. One prisoner said they had left every thing they had. Gen McDowal was seriously injured. The citizens say that Scott with many leading congressmen and a crowd of ladies was at Centreville enjoying themselves finely and ready to follow the army on and have a ball at Richmond tonight. But when they heard of their defeat, they all left pell mell.

We march today to Centreville. What will be in the future policy of our Government I cannot of course say, but it will take them – the enemy – months to equip another army. No more fighting for some time unless we march upon them. The time for 80,000 of the northern troops will soon be out, and a prisoner said he had no idea that one third of them would return.

Give my love to all. If you can find anyone to send me a negro boy do so quickly. I need one badly. I have lost nearly all my clothes. Do send me one. There is no danger – and no expense. I will look for one – Mose or anyone. Farewell. Believe me as ever

Your affectionate son

T. N. Simpson

You see, I write on paper taken from the enemy.

Everson & Simpson, eds., “Far, far from home”: The Wartime Letters of Dick and Tally Simpson, 3rd South Carolina Volunteers, pp 32-36

Tally N. Simpson at Ancestry.com