Chaplain, W[ashington]. L[ight]. I[nfantry]., Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle and Aftermath

24 08 2011

Camp Johnson, Va., August 5

Hardships of our Volunteers – Cooking – Need of Rice and Grist – Sunday after the Battle – Incidents of the Camp – Shooting with one Eye – Gen. Beauregard’s Address – Strict Discipline, etc, etc.

In  commencing this letter, I would, through you, urge upon all those who are sending contributions to the sick soldiers, to remember, as well, whose who are not; for, believe me, the fighting part is but a portion of all our brothers are enduring for the sake of home and honor. The Department furnishes flour, salt and water; and the fried, heavy fritters, and the raw, doughy biscuits, are doing as much damage as Minnie balls and patent shells. Send our men rice and grist in flour barrels. In that size it is more easily moved. Send it, and pay the expenses to Manassas, cost what it will. Also send peas and beans. Send them each week; it will save the lives of many who, else, will perish under the present fare and wretched water they are compelled to use. Our wounded are all doing well. Sweat, poor fellow, has lost his arm. Bomar is recovering. Green is getting on well; he is still at Manassas. We have not been able to move him yet. Chapin is well cared for in Richmond. I saw him yesterday; he says he wants for nothing. Sergeant Gardner, whose gallantry I have heard much of, is also there, getting on well. George Wear is improving, and will return to camp this week. Baker’s eye has recovered; he has gone back to camp; also, Hutson and Atkinson. They report on the well list again. Thompson is at Gordonsville, with a relative, doing well.

Sunday before last we gathered together under the shade trees which skirt our camp in the rear, and there offered our prayers and praises to Almighty God. The contrast between the two Lord’s days, and the difference of occupation, seemed to strike impressively the whole congregation, and I have seldom preached or prayed with a more solemnized people. I hear there has been a marked difference in the Legion since the fight. I am sure all at home will join me in the prayer that the impression may be lasting, and God’s work may be blessed by Him among them.

You may judge the coolness of some of our men on the day of battle by the following incident: Corporal Baker was shot in the eye, and , unable to see, he remarked to the Colonel, “My eye is shot out; what am I to do?” “Shoot with the other eye,” said the Colonel. “But I always shut one eye when I shoot.” “Well,” said the Colonel, “you are saved that trouble; one is shut for you; open the other and shoot.” Baker tried, but finding it impossible to see, he left the field; worn out, he took his seat at the foot of a tree, where, a few moments after, he found a companion. “Neighbor, where are you from?” said the Corporal, “Massachusetts,” said the fellow. “O, you are a Yankee, are you?” “Yes,” was the reply. Baker looked at the man, and, as well as he could see, he had no wound, and was armed. The Corporal had not even a pen-knife with him; he looked all around for a weapon, and his vision being very short, he could find nothing. After being in this disagreeable proximity for some minutes, he, in his usual quiet way, informed the Yankee he was going, and the fellow making no objections, the Corporal retired. There was a narrow escape. Gen. Beauregard’s remarks to the Legion, as near as I can remember them, were: Soldiers: You are all Carolinians, and it is not the custom of Carolinians to be conquered – forward!” One of the Zouaves said he had been wounded and taken prisoners, and carried to the rear of a South Carolina regiment, and while lying on the ground he saw one of the South Carolinians, who was severely wounded himself, crawl up to a stump, and load and fire his gun eleven times as he sat there waiting to be taken from the field. Who can conquer such a spirit as this? There is a very amusing anecdote told of Adjutant B. When in full pursuit, near Centreville, and officer appeared among them, moving around quite briskly. The Adjutant was quite suspicious of the stranger. “Who are you, sir, and what are you doing here?” “Me, sir, I am General S—, of Virginia.” “You may be General S—, but I don’t know you, sir.” “Don’t know me, sir?” looking around with great indignation, “why, everybody knows me about here. I am General S—.” “That may be, sir,” said the Adjutant, “but for the present you must keep in the rear.” At length a happy thought suggested itself. “Show me your shirt, sir.” “My shirt, sir, my shirt!” and with boiling indignation the General showed his shirt where the name was written in full, and the General received the apologies and the pass from the Adjutant. A hint to the home folks to mark all the clothes in convenient places. We don’t know when some more of us may find the same useful.

I am sending you these little incidents as I hear them well authenticated. They form, to the friends of the parties, part of the history of the glorious 21st. More anon,

Yours, the
Chaplain W[ashington]. L[ight]. I[nfantry].

Charleston Mercury 8/9/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

William C. Heriot, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle

23 08 2011

Hampton’s Legion

We have been furnished with the following extract from our fellow-citizen, William C. Heriot, Esq., of the Washington Light Infantry, Hampton’s Legion, to his father in this city. It is dated:

Manassas Junction, July 23, 1861

My Dear Father: – I wrote to sister from Richmond, two days previous to our departure for this place, stating that Hampton’s Legion would move forwards for the seat of war in a few days. The Legion experienced very rough times on the passage to this place. We were two days and nights on our journey. The fare was very bad, but we had an abundance of water, which, you know, (being an old soldier) is a great desideratum. The inhabitants of the country were very loud in their demonstrations of joy on hearing that the Legion was on board the cars.

The face of the country is certainly grand and picturesque. You have a very fine view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The eye, as it ranges over the beautiful fields, is greeted everywhere with the sight of green foliage. This is a very abundant country. The stocks of cattle and sheep are equal to any in Kentucky or Tennessee. Large fields of clover are to be seen on all sides. The original soil is extremely fertile, and immense quantities of guano are used annually.

But I must endeavor to give you an account of the greatest battle ever fought in America, which occurred on Sunday, 21st July, 7 miles from this place. The battle commenced at daylight on Sunday morning at Bull Run. Hampton’s Legion arrived here at daylight on that morning, while the battle was going on. We partook of a cup o coffee and some dry bread, and marched immediately for the scene of action. We arrived on the battle field at 8 o’clock, and immediately commenced operations. Oh, what an awful day! The heart sickens at the sight of so much misery. We literally had to walk over the bodies of the living and dying. The force of the enemy is variously estimated. Some say 45,000 and I have heard it put down at 60,000. The Confederate forces consisted of about 20,000 men, commanded in person by Gen. Beauregard. What a noble fellow he is. We came very near losing him. His horse was shot under him. The immediate scene of operations extended about eight or nine miles. The battle continued until night put an end to the dreadful scene. Oh what a glorious, though dearly bought, victory for us. I, thank God, escaped with a little scratch over my nose, and a bullet struck me on the finger – pretty close shooting, don’t you think?

I have some Yankee trophies to show you, if I live to see you again, in the shape of a splendid overcoat and pistol case. The enemy fled in great confusion. We followed them as far as Centreville. We lost our noble Colonel, B. J. Johnson, and Col. Hampton was badly wounded in the face. I was standing within six feet of him when he was shot.

We expect to leave for Alexandria to morrow, when I will write you. God bless you, my dear father, sisters and brothers – guide and protect you. And should it be His will that we may meet on earth again, what pleasure, infinite pleasure, will it afford me to again shake the hands of those I love so affectionately. But these are dangerous times, and life is very, very uncertain. Again, God bless you all.

Affectionately, your son,


Charleston Courier 8/7/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

John E. Poyas, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (2)

12 08 2011

From Virginia.

We have been favored with another letter from Mr. J. E. Poyas, a member of the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers, Hampton’s Legion, to his sister in this city, which we publish (even at the risk of repetition,) believing that every thing concerning the Stone Bridge battle will be interesting to our readers

Manassas Junction, July 24, 1861.

My Dear Sister –

I trust my letter of Monday has flown to mamma on the wings of the lightning. I should have sent a telegram, but there were so many ahead of me, I thought it would be lost, or delayed until of no use.

The Legion has been baptized in blood, and have now a name to sustain, not to make. Would that we had been complete on Sunday, for with our artillery and cavalry we should have been equal to the hordes opposed to us, and instead of holding them in check, which we did for three hours, with scarcely any assistance, we would have driven them back or cut them to shreds before General Beauregard saw us on the field, and he would have been still more proud of his Carolinians.

On Sunday, 21st of July, at 7 A. M., the report of cannon was hard in the distance, and we knew that the battle had commenced. At eight we were formed into line and marched for the field.  After marching about four miles a scout came to us, saying the enemy were approaching in numbers on our left. The Georgia Regiment and a small battery (two pieces) of artillery were near us, and first engaged the enemy. We approached under cover of a slight elevation of the ground, but not unobserved, for before we were well in sight their batteries opened upon us, and we lay upon the ground with balls, grapeshot and fragments of shell falling thick and fast around us. Of course, our small force could not stand before their hordes in open field, and the Georgians with the artillery were forced back. We then approached, skirting a small wood on our right, and opened fire upon them. At our first fire their colors were shot down, and it was here than Bankensee and Phelps met their end.

We were soon obliged to fall back to a fence, and behind that to fight as long as we could stand, then to retire to a road in our rear, take to a ditch, and with a rail fence before us, to hold our position as long as possible.

It was here [Lt.] Col. Johnson was shot by the wretches who approached us with a Palmetto flag, and many of our men were wounded, but we made them pay dearly for their deception, by leaving hundreds of them stretched upon that portion of the field. Whilst we were in that ditch, Colonel Hampton, who had one horse shot, dismounted from his other, and joining us in the ditch, took a musket from one of the wounded men, and from that time until wounded late in the afternoon, fought with his men. I am happy to say that he is doing well, and was walking out yesterday. From that ditch and the fences around we fought from 11 A. M. to 5 P. M. At that time we took a park of nine pieces of artillery. The Richmond papers say the Virginians took it, but Gen. Beauregard says that ours is the credit, and it is certain that the Legion flag was the first over it, taken there by Corporal O’Conner, of our company – Sergeant Darby having become tired had given it to carry until he rested. Our company flags we were obliged to leave in Richmond. The staff of our Legion banner was struck by a ball. Colonel Kershaw’s regiment first came to our assistance from Bull Run. They were followed by Col. Cash’s regiment and (I think) Col. Jenkins’ regiment in the course of the afternoon. Old Jeff. [Davis] came upon the field at the head of a large body of cavalry, and completed the route of the enemy. Cols. Kershaw and Cash’s, one Mississippi regiment, Kemper’s battery from Alexandria, and a body of cavalry, with the Legion started in pursuit. Near Centreville they had halted – we formed the line of battle and Kemper opened upon them – and the Palmetto Guard, who were thrown out as skirmishers, gave them a volley, which sent them off howling, leaving their cannon and everything they had. As it was after sunset and cloudy, we could follow them no further, though the cavalry still kept up the chase. We have taken 1300 prisoners, 400 horses, 71 pieces of artillery, and property to an immense amount, in fact, I doubt if there has ever been so hard fought a battle or so complete a rout of an army on this Continent; perhaps never on either where there was such disparity of numbers.

According to the newspapers Gen. Johnston commanded our wing, but we never saw him, nor did we see Beauregard until 2 o’clock. Up to that hour, we could have been crushed at any moment, for the Yankees had ten to our one at the lowest calculation.

A Virginia traitor had furnished them with our countersign, and they had furnished themselves with a bogus Palmetto flag; had also recognized the Legion as soon as it appeared on the field, and paid it particular attention, but had not the pluck to press on and crush us.

Gen. Bonham, when last heard of, was in possession of Fairfax Court House, and is probably at this time in Alexandria, as a portion of our army has advance upon it, and report says taken it without firing a gun.

My opinion is that if we take Arlington Heights at once, we may be able to take Washington, and by so doing put an end to the war; but I am quite willing to leave the whole affair under God in the hands of those in whose care he has placed it.

As I have not mentioned Theo. G. Barker, our Adjutant, I must not close this rambling account of our first battle without saying, he was as cool and brave as it was possible for a man to be. After the fight we shook hands and congratulated each other on our safety. Our Captain is a trump – the ace of trumps – and we are all much troubled to think that he will be taken from us to be made a Major. Our Lieutenants all acted nobly; they told me they did not think I could have gone through with so much fatigue. I am very glad to say that Henry Middleton is doing well, ,and it is hoped he will recover. There is also hope for Green. Our frequent moves when the lines would necessarily be broken, made it particularly trying, for men when thrown into confusion are very apt to become panic stricken.

Virginians, Georgians, Alabamians, Mississippians, Louisianians and Carolinians, all did their duty, and entirely routed the Grand Army of the United States.

Charleston Courier 7/30/1861

Clipping Image

John E. Poyas, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (1)

11 08 2011

Extracts from a Private Letter

[From a Member of Hampton’s Legion]

We have also been favored with the following extracts of a letter from John E. Poyas, of the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers, Hampton Legion, written the day after the glorious battle of Stone Bridge.

Manassas Station, July 22, 1861

My Dear Mother

Our  Legion (now the Legion) arrived yesterday morning just before day. At 8 o’clock we took up the line of march, and about the time that you were all going to church, met the enemy, almost seven times our number, and with the assistance of one Georgia Regiment and two pieces of artillery, fought and kept back this immense force for three hours, until General Beauregard, who was fighting another detachment at a distant point. could come to our relief. When I say the Legion, I mean six companies of infantry for our artillery and cavalry have not come on yet. It was a hard fight but a glorious one, despite the heavy losses on our side. We would see our comrades falling around us, but, until forced to retire to rally, could not stop to take them from the field.

As you may well suppose, from the great disparity of numbers, we were sorely pressed, but as often as we were driven from one position would [rally?] on our Palmetto and meet them at another, and in this way kept them back until about two o’clock. Gen. Beauregard came on the field and told us, “Carolinians you have done well – go on, and the day will be ours.” Soon after, Col. Kershaw with the 2nd Regiment of S. C. Volunteers, came on, [then?] we took the park of artillery which had galled us so severely all the morning. Then Col. Cash with another South Carolina Regiment arrived, and was soon followed by others that had been fighting at Bull Run. The enemy having been driven from that point united with those opposed to us.  By sunset we had driven them miles away towards Washington, having taken thirty pieces of artillery, some five hundred prisoners, and ten thousand stand of arms. [Lt.] Colonel Johnson was shot through the head early in the engagement. George Phelps was shot on my right about the same time and instantly killed. Blankensee, another private, was killed much around the same time. Robert [Bo???] was severely wounded, and has been sent to Culpeper hospital, where the sick and som of the wounded are sent to be nursed. H. Middleton and J. W. Green were dangerously wounded. A great many are severely wounded. Scarcely any one escaped without a scratch or blow. Two of our men are still missing.

Col. Hampton was shot in the face, the wound is not considered dangerous, he fought bravely, and [when?] his horse was shot, took a musket in his hand and fought with his men.

Capt. Conner was struck by a spent ball, which did no more than cut his coat, but would have killed had it penetrated.  [?] it was in the left breast.

One of the first shots fired at us struck a [?], and sent splinters flying, one of which gave me a slight blow upon the forehead above the left eye, and another on the left arm, but caused me no inconvenience, another struck Henry Baker in the left eye injuring it seriously.

The rascals pretended to be making battle at Bull Run – only a ruse to draw attention from the larger body which was trying to get round this place to take the rail road leading to Richmond. They also raised a Palmetto flag under cover of which one portion of their force came very near our Legion and fired upon us, but on our return [?] they were brought to a halt, and we gave them as good as they gave us. We were under Beauregard, but Jeff. Davis was also on the field, and, I think, must have satisfied “Old Fuss and Feathers” that he can’t compete with him. Scot had [?,000] men. We never had, during the day, more than [13,000?] engaged.

The rout was a glorious one, and when we came up with the fugitives they attempted to make a stand. As [?] [?] [?] lines were formed, and the Washington Artillery of New Orleans opened upon them, they took to their heels, leaving 21 pieces of artillery, all that remained of the once famous Sherman’s Battery among them.

P. S. – The President and Gen. Beauregard have called on Col. Hampton th thank him for the action of the Legion yesterday.

Charleston Courier, 7/29/1861

Clipping image contributed by John Hennessy

More Hampton’s Legion

7 08 2011

John Hennessy of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is the gift that keeps on giving. Yesterday he sent me some great letters by members of Hampton’s Legion that appeared in newspapers shortly after the battle. Look for them in the days ahead, and be sure to follow John and the other good folks at F&SNMP here and here.

Notes to Charles Woodward Hutson, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle

6 08 2011

The author of this stunning account of the battle, which he penned while recovering from his wound the day after the battle, became something of a celebrity late in life. Charles W. Hutson was born in McPhersonville, SC in 1840, and attended South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina). He served through the Civil War. After its end he was admitted to the bar, but eschewing the practice he taught throughout the south, including at the University of Mississippi, Louisiana State University, and Texas A&M. His subjects included Greek, metaphysics, moral philosophy, history, and modern languages. He also authored numerous books on civilization and languages.

After his teaching career ended, he settled in New Orleans and took up painting. Though his trained artist daughter offered to teach him the basics, he insisted on an amateur’s approach. In 1917, at the age of 77, his works were first shown publicly, in New York. His first one-man show came in 1931, at 91. He gained a solid national reputation, though his landscape artwork is hard to categorize. Here are some examples of his work.

Charles Woodward Hutson died in New Orleans in 1936, having proven you’re never to old to try something new.

Update – A friend in North Carolina left this comment, and it’s worth moving into the post:

Charles Woodward Hutson was a well-connected young man in South Carolina. His father, William Ferguson Hutson, was one of the framers/drafters of the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession. On September 9, 1862, the elder Hutson wrote a letter to the Confederate secretary of war requesting a promotion to lieutenant and transfer for his son to the “Regulars of the State of South Carolina.” I think you’ll recognize the names of the three men who signed the letter of recommendation: “It gives me great pleasure to recommend the most favorable consideration of the Secretary of War for C. Woodward Hutson for the appointment of lieutentnant.” Signed: James Chesnut, Jr., R.W. Barnwell, D. F. Jamison.

Thanks, Tonia Smith!

Charles Woodward Hutson, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle

6 08 2011

22d July, 1861, Monday
University at Charlottesville

Dear Father & Mother

I have been in a great & bloody battle & am wounded. Do not be at all alarmed. It is only a flesh wound in the head; and as the ball grazed the skull & glanced, there can be no danger. It is only through the Lord’s great mercy, that we were not cut to pieces to a man, so fearful were the odds opposed to our division. Friday night the six infantry companies of Hampton’s Legion took the train for Manassas. So slowly did we travel, that it was Sunday morning before we reached that point. Our breakfast was not cooked, when we heard the booming of artillery in the direction of Bull’s Run. Orders presently came, that we should hasten to the field, as soon as we had eaten something. In fifteen minutes more we commenced our march for the field of battle. We were taken around to the left of the place where the engagement began, in order that we might secure against a surprise of the Camp at Manassas. This was evidently the game of the enemy. They played us a ruse: the heavy cannonading near Bull’s Run was intended to deceive Beauregard into meeting them at that point with his whole force. Meanwhile an immense body of their troops advanced on the left with the intention of outflanking our main army, getting into our rear & seizing our fortified camp. They were held in check, however, by a few battalions, including our own & two Georgia regiments & perhaps one or two more. The whole battle was fought not far from the base of mountains, & the ground was very hilly; so that they were unable to perceive the immense disparity between their numbers & ours. Had they known how few were the forces between them & Camp Manassas; they would doubtless have advanced more confidently; & every man of us would have fallen upon the field. As it was, their movements were irresolute; they advanced & retreated alternately, & I suppose later in the day Beauregard must have come up with his main force to the assistance of our shattered columns; & then commenced the rout of the enemy. Terribly disproportioned as was our force, we held them in check for at least three hours. Nor was the disparity in numbers alone; the enemy were armed with the six-shooting revolving rifle, & their fire was incessant. Never have I conceived of such a continuous, rushing hailstorm of shot, shell & musketry as fell around & among us for hours together. We, who escaped, are constantly wondering how we could possibly have come out of the action alive. The words I used just now; “we, who escaped”, have a sad, sad sound to us; for we know not yet who are to be included in that category, & are filled with terrible anxieties as to the fate of dear friends. I must trace now to you my own course through the action, which I can or ought to do clearly enough, since, I was cool & confident from first to last, knowing where my trust was placed, that no real harm could befal me & that there was a duty before me which I must perform at every hazard. All of our men behaved gallantly, though few were free from excitement. After being marched & countermarched for some time almost within reach of the enemy’s missiles, we were thrown, by order of Gen. Bee who commanded us that part of the field, to the left of a corps of Flying artillery (I think the “Washington” of New Orleans), under shelter of a fence. Here we were first exposed to the hissing balls of the enemy; but the men took aim deliberately & stood fire beautifully. The artillery having then withdrawn from our side, we marched down the hill, unfortunately in disorder; we were halted halfway down in a hollow place, where we had the protection of a few trees & bushes. Here, seeing that our men hesitated to fire upon the force below, became doubtful whether they were not friends. I entreated the Captain to let me advance alone near enough to the ranks of those who were firing upon us to ascertain whether they were Federals or Confederate. But the Captain would not consent, & wished to go himself; this, however, Col. Hampton would not permit. Seeing, I could do nothing there, I attempted to persuade our men not to dodge, satisfied that we could never keep orderly ranks as long as the men persisted in dodging. But all my efforts in this line were unavailing; the men were fearless, & advanced undauntedly enough; but, I suppose, they thought dodging was a “help”, anyhow, to escape from the balls. Iredell Jones,& the officers kept erect; & neither they nor I were any the worse for it. Our next advance was to a fence in the valley at the bottom of the hill. Here we made a stand, & here our company fought absolutely alone, the other Legionary companies having retreated to a yard at the top of the hill, where houses gave them shelter. Here they reformed. Meanwhile our men were subjected to a raking fire. I was the first who fell. I had put on my spectacles, taken good aim & fired my first shot. As I was in the act of re-loading, a rifle-ball struck me in the head, a little above the forehead; & the violence of the concussion felled me to the earth immediately. I drew off my spectacles & flung them aside; & not believing my wound a bad one, as it was not painful, I attempted to reload. But the blood was gushing over my face & blinding my eyes; & I found it impossible to do so. I knew pretty well the extent of my wound, as I had probed it with my finger as I fell; & as the gash seemed to be a deep one, I feared faintness would ensue from loss of blood, especially as there was a large puddle of it where I first lay. So, I put aside my gun for a while, & put my white handkerchief inside my hat upon the wound & tied my silk one around the hat. By the time I had finished these precautions, the company were in retreat; & with Jones & a few others I made my way to the clump of trees, whence we had advanced. Here protected by the trees & squatted down, these few detached from the company continued the fire. Jones having given me some water from his canteen, & my eye being by this time wiped pretty dry of the blood, I again attempted to re-load. But before I could do so, a ball from the enemy shattered my rifle to pieces. I now made the best of my way to the shelter of the house on the hill, the shell & shot of the enemy ploughing up the ground at every step I took, & the musketry rattling like hail around me. I lay behind the house quite exhausted, & much pained by the sight of some of my comrades badly wounded. Dr. Taylor examined my wound here, & charged me to use all my strength to reach the Hospital. While I lay here the body of Lieut. Col. Johnson was brought into the yard & stretched at my side. He had been shot dead a few moments before, while riding fearlessly up & down the field. I remained at this place, until the companies there began to retreat yet farther back; when, seizing my smashed gun I hurried along by the gullies & other protecting places to a field beyond the line of the missles, which before flew so thick & fast around me. At the extremity of this field was a house used as a temporary hospital. This place I reached, & after resting awhile, walked to the wagons in the yard used to convey the wounded to the Camp. The ride in was a long & tedious one, & I very soon became aware that had I ventured to remain longer on the field, I should soon have dropped & been only a burden to retreating friends, or else have run the risk of falling into the enemy’s hands, a risk which I would have resolved, if possible, by forcing them to cut me down. When I reached the Camp, I found many wounded comrades there, who were under treatment. As the Hospital was crowded with groaning men, some undergoing the agonies of amputation, I very gladly accepted the kind attention of a gentleman named Lamotte, who soon proved that he understood well the art of dressing wounds. He trimmed closely the hair around mine, washed out the clotted blood, bathed the wound, ascertained that there was no split in the portion of skull exposed, & bound up my head nicely for me, strengthening me also with a glass of excellent whiskey. I felt much more comfortably, when this was done, & the encrusted blood, which stuck like a black mask to my face, was washed. Much of my hair is still clotted with blood. After getting a little supper & having deliberated on what would be our wisest course, most of us wounded who were safe in camp concluded, that, as no tents were pitched & we could not be cared for properly there, it would be best to go down on the evening train to Culpepper C.H. where the hospitals are. The cars were crowded with the wounded. At Culpepper we found that accommodations could not be had for all; & some of us came on to Charlottesville, where we already perceive that we shall not want for gentle tending. I am writing now on a marble table in the hall of the University, where the wounded are lodged. Two of my company, Atkinson & Gardner, are with me, the former wounded like myself in the head, the latter in the wrist & side. Before we left Camp we heard, that the enemy had suffered heavy loss, were in full retreat, & that Beauregard was in hot pursuit. Many regiments lost almost all their staff-officers; two Georgia ones lost all. Col. Hampton was, by one report, dangerously wounded; by another, dead. Our adjutant, Barker, was also said to be dead. The Legionary infantry was certainly much cut to pieces. Our cavalry & artillery were not in the action, not having arrived yet. All the forces, on both sides, must have been engaged; & if the enemy have met with a serious defeat, I imagine it will be the last general engagement. Patterson was taken & Col. Scott killed. Many prisoners were taken. Before we left, fifty eight were brought into the camp at Manassas. The battle lasted all day, & was very bloody. Early as it was when I was forced to retire, I met few, who were not hurt.

I brought off my knapsack with me, & will be quite comfortable. We are very uneasy about our friends yet unheard from. Many, I fear, whom I care greatly for, are now mangled or dead. At the last accounts, Conner was leading our shattered Legion & perhaps other officerless battalions, & pressing on the rear of the enemy within two miles of Centreville. I trust he yet survives. I long to hear how the Carolina regiments fare. Kershaw’s was in the battle; & you know I have many friends among them.

As soon as my wound permits, I intend returning to Manassas & making every effort to rejoin the army, wherever it may be. I hope to be able to bear arms again, before we enter Washington. You will see, by my writing so long a letter that I am in no danger from my wound. My head feels heavy, & the place throbs, that is all. I hope you are not too much troubled. My love to sisters & all the dear kinsfolk & friends.

Your Ever Loving Son
C. Woodward Hutson

How we ought continually to thank God for the mercies which he does so increasingly show us! The Dr. here has just dressed my wound, says it is an inch & a half long & would have gone deeper had it not struck the bone, says I am a very hard-headed fellow. He is a kindly, merry gentleman, & I like him much. He asked me if I was not related to Willy Wigg, knowing him well & knowing his middle name.

Transcription and Letter Image


#116 – Col. Wade Hampton

14 08 2008

Report of Col. Wade Hampton, Commanding Hampton Legion

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp.566-567


Camp Johnson, Broad Run, July 29, 1861

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that with six hundred infantry of my command I reached Manassas on the morning of the 21st, after thirty hours’ detention on the cars from Richmond. In obedience to orders to take position in the direction of stone bridge, ready to support any of the troops engaged in that quarter, I advanced with six infantry companies to Lewis’ house, the headquarters of General Cocke. On my way to this point a scout informed me that the enemy in great force had turned our left flank and were rapidly advancing. I immediately turned to my left at a right angle to the course I had been pursuing, and guided by the sound of a heavy fire which had just opened, marched towards their advancing lines.

Finding one of our batteries engaging the enemy, I took position to support it and remained for some time near it, but seeing that the enemy were closing in on my right flank, I moved forward to a farm house belonging to a free negro named Robinson, and took possession of the ground immediately around it. After being exposed to a heavy fire from Ricketts’ battery and musketry, I formed my men on the turnpike road leading to stone bridge in front of the farm-yard. A large body of the enemy, who were in advance of the main column, and who were within two hundred yards of the turnpike, opened fire on me as the line was formed. Under this fire Lieut. Col. B. J. Johnson fell, and in his fall the service sustained a great loss, while the Legion has met with an irreparable misfortune. He fell as, with the utmost coolness and gallantry, he was placing our men in position. In his death Carolina is called to mourn over one of her most devoted sons. As soon as my men came into position they returned the fire of the enemy and drove them back with loss into the woods on the top of the hill in front of us.

Their right wing then opened upon us, but after a brisk exchange of fire they retreated and planted a battery in the position they had just left. After this had played upon us for some time a strong force was thrown out, apparently with the view of charging upon us, but a single volley dispersed them in great confusion. They then formed beyond the crest of the hill and moved down to the turnpike on my left flank out of the range of my rifles. As soon as they reached the road they planted a battery in it, enfilading my position. As I was entirely exposed, I made my men fall back and form over the brow of the hill, where they were protected from the fire of the guns but not from that of the rifles. Here we were attacked by a column which came from the direction of the headquarters of General Evans, almost on our right, and we were nearly surrounded, the enemy being on three sides of us, and Generals Bee and Evans having both advised me to fall back, I gave orders to this effect, having held this position unsupported for at least two hours in the face of the enemy, greatly superior in numbers and well provided with artillery.

A short time before we retired, General Evans and Bartow, with the remnants of their commands, came upon the ground, joined with us in our fire on the enemy, and fell back with us. My men retired in good order to the hill just in our rear, bearing off our wounded, and formed near a battery (Imboden’s and Walton’s), which was just then put in position. Here, after indicating the place you wished me to occupy, you directed me to remain until you sent for me. The order to charge soon came from you, and we advanced to the Spring Hill farm house, (Mrs. Henry’s) under a heavy fire of cannon and musketry. In the face if this my men advanced as rapidly as their worn-out condition would allow, and after delivering a well-directed fire, I ordered them to charge upon the battery under the hill.

In leading this charge I received a wound which, though slight, deprived me of the honor of participating in the capture of the guns which had done us so much injury during the day. After being wounded I gave command of the Legion to Capt. James Conner, the senior officer present. He formed the Legion on the right of the regiment of Colonel Withers (Eighteenth Virginia), advanced directly upon the battery, passing by the right of the farm house down upon the two guns, which were taken. Captain Ricketts, who had command of this battery, was here wounded and taken prisoner. The enemy being driven back at all points, began to retreat before the forces which were rapidly brought up, and in the pursuit which followed the Legion joined, advancing two miles beyond the stone bridge.

The death of Colonel Johnson in the early part of the day having deprived me of the only field officer who was on the ground, I was greatly embarrassed in extending the necessary orders, and but for the constant and efficient assistance given to me by my staff officers in the extension of these orders, my position would have been rendered as critical as it was embarrassing.

The unflinching courage of the brave men who sustained their exposed and isolated position under the trying circumstances of that eventful day inspires in me a pride which it is due to them I should express in the most emphatic terms, under the terrible uncertainty of the first half hour as to the positions of both friend and foe. Compelled frequently during the day from the same cause to receive an increasing fire from different quarters while they withheld their own, the self-devotion of these faithful soldiers was only equaled by the gallantry of the officers whom they so trustingly obeyed. To the officers and men who followed and upheld our flag steadfastly during the bloody fight which resulted so gloriously to our army I beg to express my warmest thanks. Their conduct has my unqualified approbation, and I trust it has met the approval of their general commanding.

I regret to report a loss of fifteen killed upon the battlefield, four since dead, one hundred wounded, and two missing.

I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Colonel, Commanding Legion

Brigadier-General BEAUREGARD,

Commanding Army of the Potomac

Interview: John J. Hennessy – The First Battle of Manassas: “An End to Innocence,” July 18-21, 1861

4 12 2015

!cid_2CF4249F-126F-4782-8A7B-1674CF1815FE@hsd1_va_comcast_netBy now you’ve read enough here to know that John J. Hennessy’s anticipated reworking of his 1989 H. E. Howard Virginia Civil War Battles and Leaders Series book, The First Battle of Manassas: “An End to Innocence,” July 18-21, 1861, is available from Stackpole Books. Mr. Hennessy has graciously answered a few questions to provide a little more information about the book and himself. Please feel free to make observations or ask questions in the comment section. Also pay close attention to Mr. H’s closing paragraph. UPDATE: If you’d like a signed copy of the book for your collection (and who wouldn’t?) drop John a note at


BR: I’m pretty sure most Bull Runnings readers are familiar with your work, and many to some extent with you, but for those who aren’t, what’s the thumbnail sketch of John Hennessy up to this point?

JH: My career might constitute the most successful and enduring adolescent delaying tactic in history. When I got out of college (I studied both history and management), I wanted to get a job I liked for a summer before I entered the slog of the real world (thinking I would ultimately pursue finance or some such lucrative-but-un-thrilling path). So, I got a job at Manassas Battlefield, hired by Mike Andrus and Dave Ruth (now the superintendent at Richmond NB). That whirlwind summer changed my life. One summer turned into most of a year, then another….and finally a career. I haven’t entered the real world yet.

Since those happy Manassas days, I have worked for the New York State Historic Preservation Office, the NPS Interpretive Design Center at Harpers Ferry (doing interpretive and exhibit planning for parks throughout the NPS), and finally at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP. I arrived there in 1995 as Assistant Superintendent and in 2001 transitioned to the Chief Historian’s position. There I still reside, challenged every day and the beneficiary of a truly outstanding staff of history professionals.

Along the way I have written a few books, most notably Return to Bull Run, which came out in 1993. Most years my professional duties with the NPS have been so consuming that I have had little time for writing of my own. I still punch out a few articles and essays each year, but not nearly as much as I would like.

BR: So, why history, and why the Manassas?

JH: Rainy days inspired my interest in history as a kid. Rainy days gave me the chance to read, and I found I loved biographies and history. I am not alone in pointing to two books as inspiration for an interest in the Civil War: McKinlay Kantor’s Gettysburg and the American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War. I still remember vividly the trill of reading Kantor’s book on a dark, drippy afternoon with my bedside light on. And I do believe I came to know every one of those tiny men in the great landscape portrayals in American Heritage. Every one.

Transforming an interest in history to a career in history honestly never occurred to me until I arrived at Manassas. My determination that first summer was to leave behind at the park some piece of research that mattered—something that told us things we didn’t already know. As I dug deeper, I realized that a great deal remained to be understood about the battles and field–especially Second Manassas. At that time, for me, one thing drove me more than any other: the desire to accord significance to the ground—to be able to give visitors the experience of understanding what happened RIGHT HERE at a given moment more than a century ago.

That rather narrow quest spun up into efforts to better understand the battles in a larger sense. In 1983, I floated the idea to the park of using the research I was then doing as the basis for a set of troop movement maps for Second Manassas. I can see now that that was my great career break. That work got the attention and support of Ed Bearss, who was then the Chief Historian of the NPS, and it gave me a chance to do a level of research that quite honestly has been the foundation for everything I have done since. For me, those were exciting days that few historians will ever have a chance to match.

I left the NPS for a time in 1986, and only then did I decide to write books about Manassas. For most of five years I worked on both An End to Innocence and what would become Return to Bull Run.

A funny thing about An End to Innocence: when I worked at the park, I wasn’t much intrigued by First Manassas. Only after I left the NPS did I start to think seriously about the battle, its significance, and the conventional wisdom that governs it. I wrote the book over about a six-month period in 1988-89. Its scope is fairly narrow–closely focused on the battle itself. There is a reason for that: at the time, the best book on First Manassas was William C. Davis’s Battle at Bull Run. Davis is a beautiful writer and a thoughtful historian. He did a tremendous job on the campaign at large and the battle’s context. But at the park, we always felt like he didn’t quite get right the battle itself. And so I wrote my book to fill that gap, and to avoid treading on subject matter he had already handled so well.

BR: Are there any writers/historians who influence your writing?

JH: When I get stuck in my writing, I pull out Freeman or Furgurson to get my literary mind working again. As for inspiration, there’s no question that Sears’s Landscape Turned Red helped shape my vision of what a battle or campaign study should be. Beautifully written and organized.

BR: An End to Innocence has been out, what? over 25 years now, and it’s recognized as a standard (to me, THE standard) tactical study of the First Battle of Bull Run. What prompted you to do a new edit?

JH: Stackpole Books inquired about reprinting the book at about the same time I had started thinking that I should do something new with it. At that point I envisioned only small edits and additions—nothing major.

But then I started reading it again. I doubt most authors spend much time reading their own books, and I honestly hadn’t read anything but pieces of the book in years (mostly to prepare for tours). I had always liked it fairly well, but now…. Didn’t like the opening. Rewrote that. Found a good deal of passive voice and some awkward constructions. Slayed those. And as I went, I increasingly felt the narrative lacked richness, power. In some places a vagueness betrayed my uncertainty; in other places I knew I had, since 1989, gathered more powerful source material that could be woven in.

Pretty quickly a two-week edit turned into a three-month rewrite. I didn’t rewrite the whole book, but probably 80% of it.

BR: So, what IS new in this edition? Was there anything that really surprised you along the way? And how much was that affected by the availability of material, or by a maturation in your own thought processes?

JH: I shudder when I think how little I really knew about the Civil War and American history when I wrote this book in the late ‘80s. Then, my (and many others’) focus was on the accumulation of knowledge—adding detail, incorporating new sources. Today, I think we prize understanding to a far greater degree, and we demand that knowledge and understanding be interwoven.

I think I understand the First Battle of Manassas far better today than I did then—its fabric, its nature, and why it mattered.

Back then, I saw the battlefield landscape as mere tableau—a playing field for armies. Today, and in this edition, I pay a good deal more attention to the people who lived there, recognizing that this was a living space whose residents were deeply affected by what happened there. This is a general trend in Civil War historiography, and it’s a good one.

Since 1989, we have accumulated probably 150-200 new sources on the battle, many of which are now posted on Bull Runnings (more on that later). We are at a point in the historiography of the Civil War that most of the new sources that emerge simply reinforce things we already know. But sometimes they prompt some re-thinking, and a re-examination of sources one might not have given a thought to in years. An example: we have always presumed that the 11th New York and 1st Minnesota were the only two Union regiments atop Henry Hill at the first exchange of infantry fire. But we now know that the 38th NY was there too—farther off to the left, but without question engaged with Jackson’s line at the same time the Fire Zouaves were suffering their fall from fame and grace. Similarly, we have always presumed, as Burnside asserted, that Sykes’s Regulars played a major role in averting Union disaster at the height of the fighting on Matthews Hill. A closer look makes clear that’s all wrong, and there is little question about it. The Hampton Legion, the Mississippians with Bee, Barnard’s reconnaissance on July 19-20—all emerge with a slightly different hue thanks to new sources and a forced reconsideration.

By far the biggest challenge in the rewrite revolved around Irvin McDowell. In the original, I treated McDowell as something of a caricature –embracing conventional wisdom and the relentless cascade of simplicities that seem to revolve around him. This time around I took more time and, I think, a more thoughtful approach.

You had something to do with that. Your writings on the blog about McDowell, elusive though they may yet be, helped push me to take a close, second look at this much maligned man (I was really hard on him in my Second Manassas book) and, especially, his plan for battle. I wait anxiously to learn if you agree with my conclusions about McDowell (all of us of course want to stay on Harry’s good side), but in any event, my treatment of McDowell, the circumstances he faced, and his response as the battle progressed amount to probably the most important substantive revision of the book—less simplistic, more nuanced, more intent on understanding rather than simply narrating.

Some other new things: I include a good deal about the civilian spectators, both Union and (yes) Confederate. If Americans know one thing about Manassas, it’s that civilians came out to watch. I look closely at their experience, their role in affecting the Union retreat, and the important legacy produced by their bearing witness to Union disaster.

I also take a much closer look at the aftermath of battle. The combat itself shocked the soldiers. The aftermath shocked the nation. On this field were the first major field hospitals of the Civil War. Here were buried the first great numbers of dead. To this place came hundreds of curious onlookers and souvenir seekers. All these things tell us a great deal about how this battle reverberated across the nation, North and South.

And finally, really, how did the battle affect the people of the North and the Confederacy? Is the conventional wisdom that it shocked the nation to action true? Did Southerners really believe victory meant independence? I touched on these things only slightly in the original. These questions get more rigorous treatment in the new edition.

BR: What types of sources did you rely on most, and how did that change between the first edition and this one?

JH: For the new edition, I did only a bit of targeted research (most of that when I was preparing for the 150th in 2011). Instead, over the years I accumulated First Manassas things as I found them, throwing them into my files or, more recently, turning them into digital files (about half my research is now in digital form, and I hope eventually to phase out my 15 or so boxes of 5 x 8 cards entirely). I regularly check sites online for new material, and I have always been a bit of a maniac about wartime newspapers. The number of wartime papers online increases all the time, and many of them include primary sources worth looking at. (In fact, since I sent off the manuscript just four months ago, another dozen or so new sources have tumbled onto my desk).

Of course by far the best website for new material on First Manassas is Bull Runnings. In fact, it’s the best compilation of online material related to a specific Civil War engagement ANYWHERE (you can quote me on that).

One thing I surely noticed: Back in the 1980s, it was simply impossible to lay hands on some published sources. Today, many of those elusive sources are available digitally. As an example, my treatment of Extra Billy Smith and the 49th VA benefitted greatly from access to his writings, which I could not get in 1988. The digital age is a boon.

As I worked through the rewrite, I went back and re-examined literally every source I used or quoted in the original. Often I found I had overlooked a good passage or an important point my first time through. This process of reassessing sources prompted a good deal of the rewriting I did.

BR: Can you describe your writing process?

JH: I just write. I suppose I have in my brain an outline of what I am going to do, but I am not usually conscious of it, and I never put it on paper in outline form. My life is pretty busy, so I often got only small snatches of time for writing each day—often only 30 or 40 minutes. Once was, that would have been a disaster. But my writing “voice” has developed enough that I can fairly easily jump in and out of writing as circumstances command.

When I did get blocks of time to write, on a typical night I might get in 800 words. If I had a day, maybe 2,000. Writing is like building a brick wall. If you imagine the whole thing, it’s daunting. All you can do is the little bit in front of you—put the thoughts and sentences and passages together one-by-one.

BR: What’s next for you?

JH: My writing career has always been an inverse indicator of the fulsomeness of my career: when I have been challenged greatly at work, I hardly have the energy to write at home. But when those periods come along when 9-5 work is less stimulating (remember, I work for the government, so it happens), I look to get my intellectual jollies by writing. For the moment, my NPS work is pretty demanding. I will do occasional articles or essays, but likely not much more in the near term.

But, I am only a few years from retirement, and writing is what I plan to do when it comes. My great interest is the Army of the Potomac, and especially its relationship with the government and people it served. I am also much interested in its subordinate command. I expect I will write about both those topics. I also have an emerging itch to write a book about the artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia. I’ll also someday write about the town of Fredericksburg during the war, slavery and freedom hereabouts, and perhaps a few things well outside the well-trod intellectual and literary terrain of the Civil War period.

One last thing: sometime, perhaps in the spring, we ought to convene a Bull Runnings outing at Manassas for you, your readers, or anyone else who wants to come along–walk the ground, and hash through some of the mysteries and conundrums that remain. It’d be fun. I’m game if you and your people are.

BR: What do you think, Bull Runners? Does that sound like fun? Something you’d be interested in? Maybe the first ever Bull Runnings muster! We’ll see how it plays out, but your feedback is key.

Capt. Hugh R. Miller, Co. G, 2nd Mississippi Infantry, On the Battle

8 07 2015



Report of Capt. Hugh R. Miller


Hon. W. S. Bates:

It was due to the friends of the “Pontotoc minute men” that I should give them some account of the part performed by us on the 21st of July in the battle of Manassas; but this duty is now rendered doubly incumbent, by certain grossly erroneous statements recently published in the Examiner, purporting to give an account of our conduct on that memorable day. Justice to the men, as well as to the officers, demands that those statements shall be corrected.

We were led into battle by General Bee early in the morning. We went upon the field with 68 men, rank and file, with all the commissioned and non-commissioned officers at their posts – a larger number than any other company in the regiment turned out that day.

As we approached the enemy’s front, and neared the point where we were formed into line-of-battle Col. Falkner was detached with three companies, (not seven) to-wit; the Tishomingo Rifles, I-u-ka Rifles and Town Creek Rifles, about two hundred yards from the other seven companies of the regiment. The object was to endeavor to silence, or force back a battery of the enemy with these three companies, and succeeding or failing in this, that they should unite with the body of the regiment.

The other seven companies, including our own, were led up by Gen. Bee and formed on the side of a fence inclosing a corn field in our front, through which the enemy were advancing. – We were ordered by Gen. Bee, who posted us, to lie down behind the fence and to await the approach of the enemy – throwing down the fence so as not to obstruct our fire or advance, if it became advisable. The seven companies were thus posted – the 4th Alabama regiment being on our right, and about 300 yards in advance of our position, on the hill-side, and in the open cornfield. After we had formed thus behind the fence, the O’Conner Rifles, Captain Buchanan, who were on our left, were ordered forward by General Bee as skirmishers. They deployed in the open field in our front, abreast with the line of the 4th Alabama regiment, and became immediately engaged in a brisk fire with the enemy, which they [kept?] up, until compelled by overwhelming numbers, to rally upon the companies remaining at the fence, bringing one of their men badly wounded. They came down and formed on our right.

In the meantime an incessant fire had been kept up between the 4th Alabama and the enemy. From the time we had been posted at the fence, the enemy had been throwing shot and shell about 30 feet over our heads, cutting trees and limbs that fell amongst us. Having discovered the error in their aim, they gradually lowered the range of their guns until their shot and shell passed immediately over our heads and about us. At last a shell fell about 20 paces in front of the left of our company, scattering fragments and dust in every direction. At this moment all the companies of our regiment, posted at the fence, except the Pontotoc Minute Men and the Cherry Creek Rifles, (the O’Conner Rifles being still engaged in skirmishing in our front) sprang to their feet and retreated across the woods in our rear. Three men on the left of my company rose to their feet, supposing from the movement of the other companies that there was an order to retreat. None of them “fled” or moved a pace. Seeing the movement of the others I instantly sprang to my feet and said, “down men, stand to your posts, there is no order to retreat”. I was instantly obeyed and those who had risen to their feet, every men remaining at his post; although, by this time, the minie balls, as well as shot and shell, from the artillery, rained thick around us. No other officer of my company gave any command whatever – none was necessary. What Lieut. Fontaine may have done by “calls” and “signals” to those of other companies who “fled”, I know not – I heard nothing of it then, or since, until I saw the publication in the Examiner. It is due to the Cherry Creek Rifles to say that they did not partake of the panic, and did not leave their post, but the few of them who had arisen to their feet promptly assumed their original position, Capt Herring expressing his concurrence with me that there had been given no order to retreat.

It is proper to remark that this was the first occasion on which my men had been subjected to the fire of the enemy, and nothing occurred during that terrible day, that inspired me with such a high degree of confidence in their firmness and bravery, and in their readiness to obey my commands in the midst of peril, as the promptness with which they obeyed my orders and remained at their posts. They did not fly, or need to be rallied; but remained at their post with unblanched cheeks, until they were ordered to change position by the officer in command of them.

The 4th Alabama regiment, after withstanding a heavy fire for about half an hour, was compelled to file to the right to avoid being outflanked by vastly superior numbers, and retreated in good order far to our right, leaving only our three companies to face an advancing column of from three to five thousand men supported by artillery. As they advanced over the hill we fired a few rounds and retired though the wood in our rear. Here, as at all times during the day it was the constant aim and effort to Lieut. Palmer and myself, as previously agreed upon in conference, to keep our company together – compact. And in retiring across the wood, they did preserve good order – the O’Conner and Cherry Creek Rifles leaving us far in their rear. As we approached an open field in the rear of the wood, and after we were without the range of the enemy’s shot, I commanded “halt – about face – right dress,” all of which was promptly done; and to compose and reassure the men, as much as to secure good order when we advanced into the open field, I caused the company to tell off by twos. All this was done by my command, and not by the command of Lieut. Fontaine or any one else. It was not necessary for me to “come up;” I was all the time up, and immediately with the company, and so was my second in command, Lieut. Palmer.

We then filed by the right flank into the open field, passing down a hillside to a small creek, or “run” as they are called here, until we came up with the O’Conner and Cherry Creek Rifles. – We now discovered a large body of the enemy coming over the ridge in our rear and to the right of the line over which we had just passed. Our three companies immediately crossed the run and formed fronting the enemy. We could not retreat up the opposite hill-side without being under the fire of the enemy for several hundred yards. The enemy had fired a few shots at us, and had wounded one of Capt. Herring’s men. After a moments conference with Capts. Buchanan and Herring, we determined to form our men in the channel of the creek, and if forced to do so to retreat down the channel. The command was immediately given, and the men sprang into the water – the banks affording a fine breastwork and protection.

We opened fire upon the enemy within good musket range, and the dead bodies found upon the hillside afterwards, attest the effect of our shots. – The enemy were advancing in column of division, and immediately in the rear of the regiment nearest to us, another loomed up over the ridge with a flaunting flag of stars and stripes. – They were in full United States uniform, and there was no reason whatever, from their appearance and position, to doubt that they were the enemy; yet a silly clamor was raised by some as to whether they were friends or enemies. This was silenced by the command to form in this creek and to fire upon them.

To our surprise and gratification the regiment in advance, fell back under our fire up the hill out of the range of our guns, uniting with the regiment in their rear. This afforded us an opportunity to avoid being swallowed up by overwhelming numbers, and we retired across the ridge in our rear. Here we became separated from the O’Conner and the Cherry Creek Rifles, and did not see the latter company again during the day.

We retired across the ridge and through a skirt of woods to the [south?] side of the Warrenton road, where we met with Gen. Bee, who inquired of me for Col. Falkner; I replied that I had not seen, or been able to find him, or the regiment, since we were posted in the morning, and that I desired orders. Gen. Bee immediately led us forward near a house, known as Robinson’s – a free negro – and posted us on the hill-side on the right of a Virginia regiment, and passed on to the house on the top of the hill. In a few moments he returned and appealed to us and the regiment on our left, to move up to the house and aid in holding an important position that a few men had held for some time. We immediately sprang up, and so did the men of the regiment on our left, but their colonel springing to their front ordered them to remain where they were, that he (Gen. Bee) was not their commander. Gen Bee expressed his indignation at this, and turning to us said “come on Mississippians,” and led us up to the right of the house and formed us in the lane directly in front of the line of the enemy who were not yet within musket range. – The Cherry Creek Rifles were not with us at this time at all, as stated in the publication in the Examiner. Archibald Clark, II. McPherson and Mr. Gaillard of the Coonawah Rifles had come and joined us when the [company?] left the fence where we were posted in the morning, and were the only persons with us, not of our own company.

The infantry of the Hampton’s Legion were formed in the yard and about the house on our left. Gen. Bee succeeded in bringing up a few companies of a Virginia regiment who formed on our left in the lane. We had been posted here but a few minutes when we discovered a regiment of the enemy emerging from the woods upon an open ridge directly upon our right and within three hundred yards of us – my company being on our right flank and nearest to them. Their appearance and position at once demonstrated that they were of the enemy. Capt. Herring was not there to make any suggestion, nor did I think for a minute they were friends. The entire statement in the publication by Lieut. Fontaine on this part of the subject is a mass of error and confusion. If any signals were exchanged with the enemy here, I heard nothing and saw nothing of it. It was evident that they had come up to take us on the flank by a quick and unexpected attack. Col. Harper of the Va. regiment passed along the lane in our rear a short distance, and returning quickly, remarked to me as he passed, “they are certainly the enemy and will be upon us immediately.” His companies I discovered immediately withdrew along the lane to the left of the house and I saw no more of them.

I pause here for a moment to correct a few immaterial errors. I did not order the men here or elsewhere during the day, to “cease firing.” I was at no time bothered with doubts, which seemed to afflict others, as to the character of the troops around us. I did not fire my rifle here as stated. I did not have it with me at this time. I first fired at the fence where we were first posted in the morning, and when the enemy were at least five hundred yards from us. Before doing so, I cautioned the men not to fire because I did, as the enemy were entirely beyond the range of their guns. I then elevated the sight and took aim at a man on horseback whose head and body I could just see over the ridge – the enemy’s line being entirely out of view. I reloaded it, and again, when we formed in the channel of the creek, as before stated, I then fired at the enemy again, when on the reloading and attempting to cock it I found it out of the order so that I could not do so, and as we were led up to our position by Gen. Bee, in passing through the woods, I met a Georgia soldier, leading off another whom I took to be wounded, and asking him merely what troops and regiment he belonged to, I requested him to take my gun to his camp as it was an useless incumbrance to me, which he readily agreed to do. – I delivered it to him and that is the last of it.

To return to the narrative of events. We were left alone in the lane, our men had fired a few ineffectual shots at the column of the enemy in our front, just before we discovered the regiment flanking us on our right. In a very few moments after this regiment first made its appearance, it advance upon us at the double-quick, firing. I immediately ordered a retreat, without hearing any suggestion from any one – it was a necessity obvious to everyone. The greater portion of the company jumped over the fence in our rear, and forming the enclosure on that side of the lane, retiring diagonally from the front of the approaching regiment. Some few passed directly from the enemy down the lane into the yard. Of this last number was John M. Ward, who was last seen standing in a broken panel of the yard paling loading and firing. – Here he received his mortal wound. – My men continued to halt and fire as they retreated through the orchard down the hill. William E. Wiley received his mortal wound about thirty paces from the fence we had just crossed, and where he must have halted and have been firing at the enemy, as the shot entered his face and came out at the back part of his head. Both he and Ward were killed instantly. As we retreated down the hill, in the orchard, and about fifty yards from where Ward stood, Spotswood Dandridge had his thigh broken, and appealing to me as I passed him with the rear of the company, not the leave him, I turned and called to two or three men to assist John F. Wray who had already got to him, and they carried him from the field. In the mean time Archibald Clark of Capt. Taylor’s company, and Berry M. Ellzy of my company, were wounded – Clark mortally. The advance of the enemy was retarded and our escape secured by the firing of a portion of my men, which was kept up longer perhaps then was prudent or consistent with their safety. When my attention was called by Dandridge to himself, I saw Ward and hallooed to him to come on, but the distance and noise were so great that he could not have heard me. He was then alone, and no one of our company was near him when he fell. – Nearly the entire company passed through the orchard, and down the hill, having left the lane at the start, and did not form again until we had retreated about three hundred yards and without the range of the enemy’s guns. Here I halted the company and reformed it – the wounded being carried to the rear, except Ellzy who was wounded when none of his comrades were near him, and who was taken prisoner by the enemy, but afterwards abandoned by them from alarm, thereby affording him the means to escape.

We were again without orders and without a field officer to lead us, and moved across the field toward the left of our line of battle until we came upon a South Carolina regiment, with which, at the suggestion of Lieut. Palmer, I had determined to remain during the day. We had formed on their right but a short time when we discovered the O’Conner Rifles on another part of the same field, Lieut. Palmer and myself, after consultation, concluded that it was our duty to unite with them, and if possible find our own regiment. We accordingly drew off and joined the O’Conner’s, and with them moved up to a point near our left wing, and above and to the left of a portion of the 4th Alabama regiment which we found there without a field officer and in great confusion. Our men had just sat down for the first time during the day to rest, and some had started to a ravine nearby to get water, when Gen. Bee came dashing down the hill, exhibiting intense anxiety and addressing himself to us and the Alabamians on our right and below us, he said “men, there is a position here important to be held, move up quickly and support it.” Instantly our men were on their feet, and my company being on the left, and our route being to the left, I faced the company to the left and marched off by the left flank, the O’Conner’s who were on our right did the same and followed us, Gen. Bee leading us at a canter, whilst we moved at “double-quick.” It is proper to state here that Lieut. Leland had remained with us during the day until his strength was completely exhausted. He was so feeble from protracted illness that he scarcely ought to have gone upon the field at all. When we had halted to rest, as above stated, others said to me that they were broken down and unable to go further. Of this number was Wm. Barr who was quite feeble from a recent illness. As we moved up the hill, having near a half a mile to pass over, Mr. Barr gave out, not knowing where or how far we were called on to march, and turned to the left down a road leading towards Manassas, whilst our course was nearly in the opposite direction. Here, as he informs me, he was soon joined by Lieut. Fontaine and another, a private, of my company.

There was no other regiment, or considerable body of troops on our side anywhere to be seen on or near the field over which we passed. I had occasion to look back after we had advanced several hundred yards up the hill, and discovered that the Alabamians, although they appeared to be moving, were yet in confusion, and several hundred yards in our rear. The O’Conner’s were close up with us, and continued so until we approached the brow of the hill and formed into line – they forming on our right.

There was no regiment then on the field upon which we were formed, nor were we formed upon the flank of any regiment, as stated by Lieut. Fontaine. He did not reach that part of the field, and therefore knew nothing about it.

As we advanced toward the hillside and before we were nearer than four hundred yards of the enemy’s line, which was not yet visible from where we were, I discovered the last stragglers of a Virginia regiment, which had just been repulsed from this position, retreating across our front toward Manassas. It was the repulse of this regiment that caused Gen. Bee’s anxiety when he came for us.

Hitherto we had been led up to positions to await the approach of the enemy, now we had to advance upon the enemy, with the balls whistling around us like a hail storm. The Minute Men and the O’Conner’s moved steadily forward, loading and firing rapidly as they advanced, until we were within seventy-five yards of the enemy’s line. No other troops came up on the field, the Alabamians having fallen back, or turned towards Manassas. Just after we had formed into line and came within range of the enemy’s guns, Gen. Bee wheeled around our left flank, and to our rear, and in a few seconds received his death wound from a point of woods to our left, where some of the enemy had concealed themselves. A few minutes afterwards Lieut. Palmer received his death wound by a shot from the same quarter, and from the nature of the wounds of many of my men, they must have been shot from the same direction. – Our attention was directed exclusively to the front, and we apprehended no danger from this quarter. This party had pursued our retreating forces across the ridge, and had ensconsed themselves there after Gen. Bee had come down the ridge for us. The artillery on both sides had ceased to fire sometime before we were led up, and it was now a contest solely of the infantry in and about the silenced guns of Sherman’s and Rickett’s battery. We were led up immediately in front of the left gun of this battery. The enemy’s shot did not reach within three hundred yards of the road taken by Mr. Barr and others towards Manassas. Men never exhibited greater firmness and fearlessness, than did the Minute Men whilst under fire of the enemy. I had, I suppose, about fifty men at this time some had been wounded, some had gone to carry the wounded to places of safety and to attend to them, and a very few had become faint by the wayside. As it was, we had Lieut. Palmer killed here, and fourteen men wounded, including Mr. Gaillard, of Capt. Taylor’s company, who had fought with us all day. Andrew J. Clements here received a wound that has since proved mortal. In a little while the enemy began to retreat and the firing ceased, We had no numbers to justify pursuit –  the O’Conner’s had suffered severely –  and I called back my men who were most advanced, and as I turned back myself, I heard the voice of Charlie Earle calling me to the aid of Lieut. Palmer. I turned to him and discovered that he was badly wounded. Calling upon Manahan, Barksdale, E.L. Earle, Cooper and some others to assist me, we bore him slowly from the field. Our other wounded men were borne from the field by their comrades. The enemy had fled; – not another gun was fired, and we were last upon the field.

I have no space for eulogy; but a better man, a more skillful and faithful officer, or a braver soldier then Lieut. Palmer never drew a blade. Andrew J. Clements, William E Wiley, and Jno. M. Ward, had, by their uniform good conduct, in camp and upon the battlefield, commanded my highest approbation.

Josephus J. Pickens was temporarily separated from the company as formed into line in front of the enemy, by a gun of our artillery in retreat, running immediately across our rear. He diverged a little to our right, and took a position near an old apple or cherry tree where he had a fine chance at, and did good service upon the enemy, but unfortunately was too much exposed to another body of the enemy, and received a severe wound through both thighs. He fell where he was shot, and was unable to move – one thigh being badly broken. –  There I found him, and had him carried on a door-shutter to the place of rendezvous for the wounded. He is reported to be doing well, as all our wounded are – tho’ several of them, Pickens, Ellzy, Alexander, and McMicken, are badly wounded

Archibald Clark, who received his mortal wound whilst fighting with my company, was a brave and gallant soldier.

This much I have felt that justice of the company demanded of me. It is not intended as a full report of all that we did on that day. We were near the enemy’s front all day, and were repeatedly complimented by Gen. Bee for our firmness and bravery. He was the only field officer who witnessed our conduct, and unfortunately for us, and for the truth of the history, this gallant officer did not live to make a report. We achieved a great victory, and are content. If the part preformed by the Minute Men is not misrepresented, they are willing to wait and let their good deeds herald themselves.


Capt. Pontotoc Minute Men.


The facts as stated above are true as fat as they are within the recollection of the undersigned, and we were in the battle of the 21st July, the entire day.

Thomas J. Crawford, Jno. W. Dillard, Allen Moore, Wm. H. Toipp, W. E. Manahan, G. B. Mears, T. J. Rye, W. C. Nowlin, J. W. Combs, J. M. Barksdale, E. L. Earle, John McCurley, J. J. Donaldson, Dichard Drake.

The (Pontotoc, MS) Examiner, 9/13/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by Cameron Stinnett

Hugh Reid Miller bio sketch

Hugh Reid Miller at