Brig. Gen. Philip St. George Cocke to Maj. Gen. Robert E. Lee on Status and Needs

18 11 2020

CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN MARYLAND, PENNSYLVANIA, VIRGINIA, AND WEST VIRGINIA FROM APRIL 16 TO JULY 31, 1861

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – CONFEDERATE

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, pp. 786-787

Headquarters Potomac Department,
Culpeper Court-House, Fa., April 28, 1861—12.30 p. m.

General Lee, Commander-in-Chief, Richmond, Va.:

Having completed the requisite arrangements at Alexandria, and succeeded in informing myself of the actual state of things at that outpost of my command, in sight of the enemy, I proceeded this morning, by the 7 o’clock train, accompanied by the assistant adjutant-general, my aide, and secretary, towards this place, which I reached at 10 a. m., and where I propose, for some time to come, to establish my headquarters. I left all quiet and composed at Alexandria, where by my presence, during the suddenly augmented flow of Northern vandalism through Annapolis, I was so fortunate as to avert alarm and panic.

Intelligence first reached me, ever finding a solution through my knowledge of and confident faith in the existing status, not immediately, in my opinion, threatened to be overthrown, so long as there is nothing more than a mere persistence in a course on the part of the enemy, long ago initiated, and even now only intensified and strengthened; thus solving, as I did, the thousand sensations, rumors, and accounts that poured in upon me during my whole stay in Alexandria.

I have been enabled to infuse the same confidence into the minds of the leading citizens of the place, to have secured their confidence, and to have left them for the present tranquil and firm; whilst at the same time I have provided to organize the few troops in that extreme outpost; to provide for strengthening the same for the present up to about one thousand men; to establishing my communications in every direction, and thence to these headquarters; to throw myself in connection with various persons and sources of information at Alexandria; to inform myself as correctly as possible as to the number, efficiency, movements, and animus of the enemy, and by every means in my power to urge on such an organization, drilling, and discipline of the troops of that post as would best prepare them for the trying position they occupy.

In coming here, sir, I find myself, as upon my first arrival in Alexandria, “with naked hands.”

Colonel Jones [*], fortunately assigned to me as assistant adjutant-general, is the first Army officer to report for duty within my command. He promptly arrived in Alexandria last evening, and is with me here to-day. He will know what to do with his department, but I want an assistant quartermaster-general, a chief of the medical department, an ordnance officer, a chief of military engineering of talent. I had heretofore insinuated a preference in this last connection. I want arms. I am expecting from fifteen hundred to two thousand guns from Harper’s Ferry, when they shall be able to fit them up from the wreck of that place. I want a chief of artillery ; I want powder; two or three batteries of field artillery (6-pounders), with caissons, ammunition, complete for service, &c.

My part now will be to rally the men of the fine country around me, to establish camps of instruction, to wit: Leesburg, Warrenton, headquarters, and at or near Dangerfield, in supporting distance of Alexandria. I want camp equipage for the various encampments above indicated.

In regard to Harper’s Ferry, that most important strategic point on my left, and in connection with which I have not yet been able to place myself in a satisfactory attitude and connection owing to the lack of telegraph communication; of continued rail; for want of full understanding with the chief of command at that position; for want of the requisite and reliable information of all the various circumstances and conditions affecting the present military state of things at that post.

I have, since my arrival here, indicated the plan of sending Assistant Adjutant-General Jones, by rail, to-morrow, to that point, to obtain all such information, and to report to me accurately and fully the present condition of things there with as little delay as possible.

PHILIP ST. GEO. COCKE,
Brigadier- General, Potomac Department, Commanding.

[*David R. Jones]





Brig. Gen. Philip St. George Cocke to Maj. Gen. Robert E. Lee on Moving Headquarters to Culpeper Court-House

17 11 2020

CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN MARYLAND, PENNSYLVANIA, VIRGINIA, AND WEST VIRGINIA FROM APRIL 16 TO JULY 31, 1861

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – CONFEDERATE

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, p. 785

Alexandria, Va., April 27, 1861.

General Lee, Commander-in-Chief:

Having succeeded in accomplishing the objects of taking up my temporary headquarters at this place, I proceed to-morrow morning to Culpeper Court-House, by the 6 o’clock train, which, as at present advised, will be my headquarters for some time to come. Colonel Jones[*], having arrived, will accompany me to Culpeper Court-House. I have arranged for my communications, through the medium of rail, wire, and courier, to headquarters, and I have, also, through a private chain of couriers (hence through Maryland to Baltimore), connected with General Steuart, in that city. My first volunteer aid, John S. Barbour, jr., remaining here, will receive dispatches at Alexandria.

PHILIP ST. GEO. COCKE.

[*David R. Jones]





Unknown, 5th South Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

5 08 2020

LETTER FROM THE BATTLE FIELDS.

A lady in this town who has a cousin in the 1st South Carolina Regiment* at Manassas, having received from him a letter about the battles in that vicinity, has kindly permitted us to extract from it the following:

Manassas Junction, July 24th, 1861.

My Dear Cousin:

* * * * * *

“I have often seen battles fought in poetry, and it all seemed very grand; but I never had the faintest idea of the reality until Thursday and Sunday last. – On Thursday there was an attack made on us which lasted from 12 to 3 ½ o’clock. It was a desperate fight and resulted in a victory for us. Our loss was about forty killed and wounded; the killed and wounded of the enemy, as near as we could ascertain, was about 500. The cowardly scoundrels ran and left behind their dead and wounded, and we had to bury what we could of their slain. They lay all the next day on the field.

On Saturday night, I and one of General Jones’ aids were sent out to reconnoiter. We reached the ground assigned us about dusk. The moon was shining brightly. We climbed a tall tree on a hill, near the road by which the enemy were expected to pass; and we could see them passing, and hear them singing, rattling [?], cursing, and cheering, as regiment after regiment joined them. They approached within about one mile of the Creek (Bull Run,) and camped, and planted their batteries. About 7 o’clock, Sunday morning, they commenced the firing; and in an hour afterwards, the whole creek for the distance of 3 or 4 miles was in a perfect blaze, from the fire of cannon, bursting shells and musketry.

{Here follows an account of the part taken in the fight by the troops to which the writer belonged – too long for our columns, at present.}

“We had but three killed – one by a shell, one by the fire of the Mississippians, and one in some other way, unknown. There were about 20 wounded. I got a scratch from a ball which did not do more than cut the skin. There were tens of thousands of balls flying around me, but my kind, merciful Father, in whom I trust, did not permit me to be harmed; and the first thing I did after I got off the field, was to return my heartfelt thanks for his kind preservation. I visited the field the next day, and then, horror of horrors! There lay the yankees, mangled in every possible form. And this morning I went around to see the wounded; they have been brought in after lying there on the field from Sunday afternoon – day and night – Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. – They were broken and mangled in every way. Oh! my cousin, it makes my heart-sick when I think of it!

“They shot at our hospital – with yellow flag over it – all day, while their own wounded were there with ours. They also raised our state flag, Confederate and white flag; when we would march up, would pour a deadly volley into us. The poor deluded fellows – the wounded – told me that Scott had ordered the Adjutants of each regiment to read out that they (the yankees) had possession of Richmond, and had only to pass this way to get there, when they would pay them off and disband them.

“Our killed dwindled down to 350; wounded, 900; but near two-thirds of them are like me, just scratched. IT was the most complete victory ever won.”

(Salisbury, NC) Carolina Watchman, 8/5/1861

Clipping Image

*The 1st S. C. Regiment was not present. From the letter’s contents, it appears the regiment in question was the 5th S. C., in Brigadier General David R. Jones’s Brigade. Jones’s report estimated the 5th S. C. loss at 3 killed, 23 wounded, which also generally conforms to the contents of the letter.





“Justice,” 4th Alabama Infantry, On the Battle

13 07 2020

The Fourth Alabama Regiment.

Culpeper C. H., July 28, 1861.

To the Editors of the Dispatch: – Knowing that you would not intentionally allow injustice done through your columns to any of the brave soldiers engaged in achieving the glorious victory of the 21st at Manassas, I ask sufficient space for a brief statement of facts. In a late number of your paper appears a voluminous letter from an “eye-witness,” of the scenes enacted on the field, with somewhat minute detail of incidents and evolutions, and yet a regiment occupying the extreme left, in front of our entire line of battle nearly two hundred yards, exposed to a most murderous fire of musketry on both flanks, and of artillery in front, which held its position for nearly two hours, and by its obstinate courage contributed in no little degree toward the brilliant results achieved, is not even mentioned. I do not supposed and disparagement was designed, but it is difficult to imagine how a body of men so conspicuously exposed and so terribly decimated, (losing in killed and wounded just half of their whole number,) could have so entirely escaped the attention of your correspondent.

But once during nine long hours of incessant struggle and conflict did this little band even stagger, and then they rallied promptly at the command of their officers. Twice, under orders from their superiors, they retreated a short distance, but re-formed and renewed the fight without confusion or disorder. Some of the privates, in the fierceness of one of the charges, were separated from their company, but they never left the field. They formed with the first advancing column, and fought until the shout of victory arrested their forward footsteps. Their Colonel , Lieutenant Colonel and Major were shot down, and yet the Fourth Regiment of Alabama Volunteers maintained both its position and organism on the field throughout the fight. Colonel E. J. Long*, wounded in both hips by separate shots from opposite directions, now lies at Orange C. H., it is hoped, out of immediate danger. – Lieutenant Colonel Law is here, suffering from a shattered arm, which the surgeons think can be cured without amputation. – Major Scott, (C. S. A., formerly M. C. of the U. S. Congress from California,) is, I believe, in Richmond or its vicinity, with a Minnie ball through his leg.

Thus much I have felt impelled by a sense of justice to say.

Justice.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/1/1861

Clipping image

Col. E. J. JONES was mortally wounded in the battle and died at Orange Court House on 9/1/1861.





“Ensis,” Co. C*, 18th Mississippi Infantry, On the Battle and Aftermath

30 06 2020

Correspondence of the Citizen.
—————

Camp Near Stone Bridge, Va.,
July 30, 1861.

Dear Citizen: – The 17th and 18th Regiments now find themselves at this new encampment, after much marching and exposure to the weather, and are attached to a new brigade. This re-organization, so decidedly agreeable to us, has been brought about, we suspect, by the freely expressed dissatisfaction which was felt by the two regiments, both in rank and file, towards our former Brigadier (D. R. Jones,) and we have now the pleasure to claim as our official head, the cool, chivalrous and experienced Gen. Evans.

You have doubtless been fully informed that the partial failure of our attack upon the enemy’s left wing battery, in the engagement on Sunday last, was entirely owing to the mismanagement, ignorance, and, I must say, military incompetence of our immediate leader. Being ordered to charge bayonets when at a distance of five hundred yards from an overwhelming enemy posted and entrenched upon and almost inaccessible hill, with two tremendous hills and a ravine at least seventy-five feet between us, we think displayed too rash and an indifference about the welfare of his men and too little of the general to be borne by regiments which, by their integral composition and proficiency in drill, are in every way prepared to sustain the high honor of their State. The ravine was utterly impassible in the charge; and to have stood there upon it’s brink, in the midst of the deadly and terrific storm of grape, canister and bombs which about ten heavy pieces of artillery thundered upon them, would have been sheer madness. The order to retire was therefore given, and although the Yankees immediately retreated and joined the general rout, yet, in the minds of some persons, uninformed as to the facts, our regiments sustained some discredit.

Our 2nd Lieutenant was a few days ago taken from us by the “Camden Rifles,” to supply the place of their lamented Captain (Adam McWillie); and the result of an election in the “Confederates,” to fill the place of Judge Hill, has just this moment been announced in favor of our popular Sergeant Hugh Love, for whose gallantry in action and agreeability in camp, every soldier can vouch. The unsuccessful aspirant was our worthy friend Sergeant Rucker.*

We are now encamped upon the edge of the main battle field. There remains to mark the spot only a few dead horses, the scars of the cannon-shot and graves of the fallen. The marks of the enemy’s flight are all over the country, and most remarkably did they exemplify the scriptural assertion, “the wicked flee when no man pursueth.” No idea of the utter consternation which attended their flight can be formed till the broken wheels and guns, the scattered clothes and provisions, the deserted tents and the tremendous quantity of relinquished booty of every description, all along the route from Bull’s Run to Alexandria is seen.

I have seen sixty-one pieces of the fine artillery which we took; and every wayside house has been converted into an arsenal, prison and hospital for their deserted equipments, the terror-stricken captives and poor wounded wretches. The moral force and the exaltation of the South, and her holy self-defence, which the news of this victory and unequaled defeat will carry throughout America and into the ears of astonished Europe (which the bragging North has ever attempted to deafen to the truth). Is the most grateful blessing which a kind God could grant to the Southern patriot and soldier.

The health of our company and regiment is only tolerable. We start soon for Leesburg, about twenty-five miles distant.

Mr. Hardy is still with us.

Dr. Divine, who has won the golden opinion of the regiment by his readiness in camp and upon the field, with his instruments and his rifle, is yet the welcome confrere of the company.

We miss the luxury of fruit and vegetables, which our friends at home are enjoying about now; but we, here, have this honorable war.

In haste, your friend,
Ensis.**

(Canton, MS) American Citizen, 8/10/1861

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy

18th Mississippi Infantry Roster 

* Hugh Love and William W. Rucker, both in Co. C per roster above. Co. C was raised in Canton, Madison County, MS.

** An ensis is a saltwater clam.





Pvt. Robert S. Parker, Co. G (1st)*, 13th New York Infantry, On the Death of Pvt. Ferdinand Willson

27 05 2020

The Death of Ferdinand Willson of Company G.

The following is a copy of a letter received by Mr. John M. Willson, this morning.

Washington, July 30, 1861.

Mr. J. M. Willson – Dear Sir: – I saw yesterday, a letter from you to Warren C. Jones, making inquiries in regard to your brother Ferd’s death, and as I carried him from the ranks when he fell, and stayed with him until he died, I thought it my duty, as his particular friend, (we have messed together since we went into camp,) to write to you in regard to the particulars, which are few. He was shot by a ball that had killed the man in front of him, and afterward passed into his (Ferd’s) breast, near the shoulder, and went through him, coming out considerably lower down than it entered, as he was probably stooping a little when it struck. I saw him drop, and immediately went to him, and as soon as he had shook hands with Capt. Lewis, and bid him “good bye,” (the most earnest farewell I ever saw) I carried him away, intending to take him to a log building about half a mile distant, which was used as a hospital.

But seeing that he would not have time to reach there, and the man who was assisting me being killed, I got him in a small trench near the fence, where he was safe from the flying balls, and stayed with him until he died. He recognized me, but did not say much. He asked me to take a ring from his pocket book and carry to his folks. But I could not as he laid on that side, and our regiment were on the retreat and closely pursued. I had to leave him to save my own life, which I barely did.

Yu spoke of recovering his body. It is impossible. If it could be done I would walk there and carry it home, and consider I was doing not more than my duty. The body of Col. Cameron, who was killed there, cannot be procured, and he is brother to the Secretary of War. But if peace is ever restored, so we can go there, I can show you the spot where he was shot and where he died. I have his knapsack and contents just as he left them, which I shall bring to you when we return, which I hope is in a few days.

I would have written you before this, but I expected we would be in Rochester before this time, and I know you would hear of his death from other sources.

Efforts are being made to have us held for two years, against the wishes of both officers and privates, but I don’t think they will be successful.

Truly your friend,
R. S. Parker,
Co. G, 13th Regt. N. Y. V.

Rochester (NY) Evening Express, 8/1/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

* This company transferred to the 3rd New York Cavalry on 9/1/1861

13th New York Infantry Roster 

Robert. S. Parker at Ancestry.com 

Robert. S. Parker at Fold3 





Lieut. William H. Burnett, Co. C, 14th N. Y. S. M., On the Battle

19 02 2019

Camp Porter, Arlington, Va.,
July 23, 1861.

Dear Father: – I sit down to write you a few lines, to inform you of the condition of ourselves and our regiment. We have had a fearful battle. We started from our encampment on Saturday about 5 o’clock, to place a picket guard out all around the woods, so as to keep the enemy from coming on us unawares. We were out till about 2 o’clock Sunday morning, and then we were called in and joined our regiment, and then our regiment joined the main body of our army and took up our line of march for the battle field. We marched all night and part of Sunday morning, till we came up to the enemy’s masked batteries and then the cannonade commenced and then the different regiments were brought up in line of battle and charged on them, and then the musketry began terrible. Our regiment made three charges, and brave charges they were. We have some of our men killed, but we cannot tell how many they were. We had a march of 65 miles in twenty-four hours, and were fighting for at least four or five hours. Capt. Myers is all right, and Lieut. Bissitt and myself. – Capt. Jordan is wounded in the shoulder. Col. Wood is wounded. Capt. Baldwin is wounded in the foot. Lieut. Jones is wounded in the head. The color bearer is shot, but I do not know whether dead or alive or taken prisoner. The men are fagged out. Our feet were blistered, our legs swollen very much from the long walk. The enemy received great loss, and our army had a good many killed and wounded. Major Jourdan has shown himself a brave man. I do not know what we would have done without him. I think he has gained the confidence of the whole regiment, bot the officers and the privates. He led the regiment on bravely. – He was at the head of us all the time, and urges us on. You cannot have any idea of the feeling there is when there is a continual cannonading and musketry, and your friends falling all around you. It is an awful feeling. I, for my part, had more pluck than I thought. I was in the thickest of it, and by the providence of Almighty God, my life was spared to see the light of another day.

From your affectionate son,
Lieut. W. H. Burnett,
Co. C., 14th Regt., N. Y. S. M.

Brooklyn Evening Star, 7/25/1861

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy

84th New York Infantry (14th N. Y. S. M.) Roster 

William H. Burnett at Ancestry.com 

William H. Burnett at Fold3 





Lt. William Mack Robbins, Co. G, 4th Alabama Infantry, On the Battle

25 11 2018

With Generals Bee and Jackson at the First Battle of Manassas

On the afternoon of July 18, 1861, the army of [Brigadier General Joseph E.] Johnston – about ten-thousand strong – which had been for some weeks manoeuvering up and down the [Shenandoah] Valley in front of [Major General Robert] Patterson and was then lying around Winchester, was hastily put in motion and marched off southeastwardly, going we knew not whither. Most of the men belonged to the class which may be described as “young bloods,” sons of planters, reared in ease and affluence – intelligent, merry hearted, high spirited, full of romance and enthusiasm. They had volunteered at the first call, not only from devotion to the cause, but love of adventure, and there was nothing they were so eager for as to get into battle, being somewhat tinctured with the idea that they “could whip at least three Yankees apiece,” and were rather afraid that the war might come to an end before they got the chance to prove it. In spite of their confidence in their general, they had been a good deal chagrined and disgusted at what they deemed his overwary strategy in not delivering battle to the enemy under Patterson. They were therefore greatly delighted to hear the general order which General Johnston caused to be read to each regiment as soon as we got well out of Winchester that summer evening. That order was about in these words: “Beauregard is attacked by overwhelming odds at Manassas. Your commanding general has full confidence in your zeal and devotion and asks every man to step out lively. You are going on a forced march over the mountains to reinforce your companions in arms and save the country.” Loud cheers welcomed the tidings. The prospect of an early encounter with the enemy loomed up ahead and stimulated the impatient spirits of the men to their best exertions. Heat, dust, and night-fall soon made the rapid march disagreeable enough, but it was pushed without a check till we reached the Shenandoah. This river, about waist deep, was waded at dawn of July 19, amidst songs, jokes, and general hilarity. The Blue Ridge was passed at Ashby’s Gap, and at evening of the same day the head of the column arrived at Piedmont Station on the Manassas Gap Railroad, whence Johnston’s forces were sent forward in detachments by rail as fast as transportation could be furnished.

So much has been said about Johnston’s troops appearing on the field in the nick of time after the battle had been long ranging that the impression extensively prevails that none of them were there at its beginning. This is a great mistake. Three brigades – [Brigadier General Thomas J.] Jackson’s, [Col.] F. S. Bartow’s and nearly all of [Brigadier General Barnard E.] Bee’s – were at hand when the battle opened and bore an important part in it all day. The Fourth Alabama and other regiments of Bee’s Brigade reached the Junction at noon of the twentieth and were among the very earliest in the conflict the next day. It was only the comparatively minor number of Johnston’s men under [Brigadier General Edmund] Kirby Smith and [Colonel Arnold] Elzey that leaped from the train when they heard the battle in progress, and, hastening down the Warrenton Pike, came in so luckily on the right rear of the Federals and caused the panic which gave the victory to the Confederates.

I have spoken of the eagerness of our inexperienced but enthusiastic soldiers to see and participate in the battle. The feeling did not diminish, but rather grew in intensity on this occasion, up to the time of actual engagement, and how much longer I cannot say; but one thing is certain – all of us by the time the day was over felt sufficiently amused. Thousands of soldiers on both sides know all about the experience of a first battle, and anything said on the subject would be but an old tale to them; but those who never took a hand, and especially young who have come up since the war would no doubt like to know how a battle looks and seems to a new soldier – its thrill, its thunder, its grandeur, its horror, and no lees its odd, absurd, and even grotesque features. I do not feel competent to paint an adequate picture and description of these things. I doubt if any pen can fitly paint them. A few hints about how this battle opened and proceeded – as the writer saw it – must suffice. The Fourth Alabama were busy with breakfast near the junction when the sudden boom of a gun in the direction of the railroad bridge over Bull Run drew our eyes that way and we saw for the first time the little dense round sphere of white vapor, high up in the air, produced by the bursting of a shell. This was quickly followed by others, the design of the Federals being to draw all attention to that part of the line while they were executing their shrewd flanking movement on our left. However, our regiment, with others of Bee’s Brigade, was at once moved at double-quick towards the Confederate left, to a position that had been allotted to us at one of the upper fords. But we had scarcely reached the designated point when we were again ordered to go at a rapid run for about two miles still further up the stream to meet the Federals – our commanders having just at that moment discovered that they had crossed the stream at Sudley’s Ford, entirely beyond the Confederate left, and were pouring down in heavy force on that flank. All depended on presenting a quick front to this unexpected movement. So we went  – a few battalions only – across the fields at out highest speed, and soon reached the plateau of the Henry House, around which the battle was afterward mainly fought. But Bee did not permit us to stop there. He marked that as the most favorable position for the Confederate line to form its new front on, but he knew his brigade alone could not hold it and he also saw that the enemy would reach it, unless checked and delayed by some means before an adequate force of Confederates could get there to oppose them. To gain the needed time it was necessary to risk the sacrifice of the two and a half regiments then with him by a bold movement still further to the front. He could not hesitate. So he ordered the Fourth Alabama, Second Mississippi, and Eleventh Mississippi (two companies) to move half a mile further forward to the next ridge to engage the enemy and delay them as long as possible. Down the slope we rushed, panting, breathless, but still eager because ignorant of the desperate crisis which had doomed us to probably destruction to save the whole army. As we passed the little rivulet below the Stone House, the duel of the artillery began and the shells of friend and foe shrieked wildly above our heads. Mounting the hill and entering the copse of timber north of the Stone House, we began to hear a sharp cracking of musketry ahead of us – a collision  between the Federals and some small bodies of Confederates we had not known were there before, among them [Major C. R.] Wheat’s Louisiana Tigers, wearing the zouave uniform.

As we emerged from the little wood we caught sight of these Tigers, utterly overwhelmed and flying pell-mell, most of them running off to our right and toward the stream (Bull Run). This and their zouave uniform, which we had never before seen, but had heard some of the enemy wore, for a minute caused us to mistake these “Tigers” for Federals and as they were flying in disorder, some of our men set up a loud yell and shout of victory, supposing the enemy were already routed and retreating, whereupon one ardent fellow of the Fourth Alabama, with his finger on the trigger and anxious to pull down on somebody before they all got away, burst out with: “Stop your darned hollerin’ or we won’t get a shot!” But the mistake was discovered just in time to prevent our firing on friends. A little way further up the hill beyond the timber and we struck the enemy and no mistake. Their long advancing line, with the Stars and Stripes waving above it (which made some of us feel sorry), began to peer over the crest, eighty yards in our front, and opened a terrific fire, which at first went mostly over us. It is proper to mention that the Mississippians, who had come with us, were halted at the edge of the wood behind us, and so did not get into the hot conflict that ensued, the whole brunt of which thus fell on the Fourth Alabama alone. On receiving the enemy’s first fire we lay down and waited till we could see their bodies to the waist, when we gave them a volley which was very effective, firing uphill. The Federals fell back and disappeared behind the crest. After some interval they advanced another and longer line; but the result was the same as before, only they held on longer this time and their fire hurt us badly. A third time they came on in a line which extended both our flanks, and now the conflict became bloody and terrible to us, their balls coming not only from the front but from the right and left oblique, cutting down our colonel (Egbert Jones) and stretching lifeless many a familiar form so recently full of hope and gayety. Then war began to show us his wrinkled front. But we thought of what they would say at home if we flinched and how ashamed we should feel if after all the big talk about whipping the enemy we let them whip us at the first chance. We could see, too, that they were as awkward at the business and enjoyed it as little as ourselves. Besides, it looked like they could hardly help killing every one of us if we got up and tried to run away. It seemed our safest chance to hug the ground and pepper away at them; and so from sheer desperation, as much as anything, we kept to it, until after awhile, to our great joy, the enemy fell back once more behind the crest, and their fire lulled. Our general, seeing we would be certainly overwhelmed at the next onslaught, gave us the order to retire, which we did before another attack. We had been at it for over an hour and had really rendered great service in gaining time for the Confederate army to change front and form the new line. But nearly one third of the Fourth Alabama had gone down in the effort and were left on the ground, including the colonel, mortally wounded. I should not omit to mention that the Seventh and Eight Georgia, of Bartow’s brigade, also came into our advanced position far to our right during our contest, and had a bloody collision with another column of the Federals, and though these Georgians were recalled some time before we were, they contributed materially to the delay of the Federal advance.

The two Mississippi regiments of our (Bee’s) brigade had also retired before us, so that the Fourth Alabama was going back alone. In this movement a bloody episode occurred to us. Retiring by the same route along which we had come, when we reached the little rivulet running near the stone house, we saw a regiment, in column by companies, marching down the rivulet toward us. Their flag was furled on the staff and so was ours. By the quarter we had just come from they thought us probably Federals, but were not sure. As for us, we felt the enemy had got so far around in rear of the place of our recent fight; their uniform also resembled that of the Sixth North Carolina, belonging to our brigade, and we hastily took them for that regiment coming to our aid. Thus encouraged we halted, faced about and reformed our line, intending with this supposed reinforcement to take another tilt with the enemy we had been fighting if they should pursue us as we expected. The unknown regiment also halted and deployed into line of battle at right angles with ours and less than 100 yards from our left flank. Their colonel signaled us with his handkerchief for the purpose of communicating  and learning who we were as it afterward appeared; but we never dreamed this was his purpose and made no haste to respond, feeling confident we knew him, and thinking of course he knew us. All this took place in a few moments. Having quickly rearranged our line, our flag was than unfurled and displayed – the Stars and Bars! Instantly a blaze of fire flashed along the line of our supposed friends (a New York regiment it really was), and an enfilading hailstorm of bullets tore through the Fourth Alabama from left to right, killing many and disabling more, among the rest Lieutenant Colonel [Evander M.] Law and Major Scott, leaving our regiment without field officers.

What does the reader suppose we did? We did not stay there. The position was too bad and the surprise too sudden. True, the enemy’s fire was once returned with considerable effect; but it is only frank to say that we resumed, without delay, our movement back to the main Confederate line, whither Bee had intended us to go when he first ordered us to retire. Having arrived there, even after all they had suffered, the Fourth Alabama still had pride enough left to rally again, and under the command of a captain fell in on the right of the line and fought to the end of the terrible day. I will not now attempt to detail all the incidents that befell the regiment in these later hours of the battle. I will give one, however, which will always be of special historic interest.

The position of our regiment being now on the right of the Confederate line as drawn on the plateau of the Henry House, and the leading design of the Federals during the entire day being to turn the Confederate left, the heaviest fighting gradually veered toward that flank. No one who was there can ever forget how the Federal musketry crashed and rolled in fresh outbursts as new troops poured in against the center and left. Farther and farther round its awful thunder seemed to encroach, as if it would never be stayed till it should rend and tear that part of our line to atoms. Our brigade comrades of the Sixth North Carolina, separated from us in the manouevres of the day, had rushed in single-handed and attempted to check it, but had been smitten as with fire by its overwhelming power and their gallant Colonel [C. F.] Fisher, with many of his men, were no more. Jackson, with brigade, was struggling desperately, and at length successfully, to arrest the Federal columns; but immovable as Jackson and his men stood, the surging tides of the enemy beating upon him with such a mighty momentum that it seemed as if he must give way. Just then the battle had entirely lulled in our front on the right. Our Brigadier, General Barnard E. Bee, at this moment came galloping to the Fourth Alabama and said: “My brigade is scattered over the field and you are all of it I can now find. Men, can you make a charge of bayonets?” Those poor battered and bloody-nosed fellows, inspired by the lion-like bearing of that historic officer, responded promptly: “Yes, general, we will go wherever you lead and do whatever you say.” Be then said, pointing toward where Jackson and his brigade were so desperately battling: “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall! Let us go to his assistance.” Saying that Bee dismounted and led the Fourth Alabama (what remained of them) to Jackson’s position and joined them on the right of his brigade. Some other reinforcements coming up a vigorous charge was made, pressing the Federals back. In this charge Bee fell mortally wounded. Bartow fell nearly at the same time and within a stone’s throw of the same spot. Before the Federals recovered from the impression made by this partial repulse they saw Kirby Smith’s men advancing down the Warrenton Pike upon their right rear, as before stated, and his unexpected appearance in that quarter struck them with an overpowering panic and caused their precipitate retreat from the field. The battle ended so suddenly that the Confederates could not understand and could scarcely believe it. When afterwards the doings of the day were recounted among is the above expression, uttered General Bee concerning Jackson, was repeated from mouth to mouth throughout the Confederate army, and that is how he came to be known everywhere as Stonewall Jackson.

In conclusion, as I have set down with an endeavor at entire frankness the achievements, the mistake and the misfortunes that day of the regiment to which I myself belonged (the Fourth Alabama), I may be pardoned for adding a word about how we looked back upon our experience after it was over as a curious illustration of the absurd notions of inexperienced soldiers. Our ideal was that we were to whip whatever we came across – no matter about numbers; many or few, we must put them to flight. To turn the back before any enemy would be disgraceful. Having, therefore, turned our backs to the enemy twice that day, as I have narrated, once under orders and once without, we of the Fourth Alabama, upon the whole, felt humiliated and rather ashamed of ourselves on reviewing what had occurred. It was some days after the battle that to our surprise we began to hear from our comrades if the army and to read in the papers that our regiment was thought to have distinguished itself greatly. Then we began to hold up our heads again and to recall the fact that we had lost more than any other regiment in the army. Finally, we go hold of the Northern newspapers and found where our gallant and generous adversary, [Brigadier General Samuel P.] Heintzelman, giving an account of what he termed our stubborn resistance in that opening conflict, which I have described, had praised us extravagantly, saying: “That Alabama regiment was composed of the most gallant fellows the world ever saw.” This restored our equanimity, and we concluded that if we had not come up to our previous ideas of our invincibility, maybe we had not done so badly after all, and perhaps our sweethearts at home would not scorn us as poltroons. One other profound inpression, however, was left on the minds, at least of some of us, by the events of that day, and especially when we came to gather up the mangled remains of so many of our late merry-hearted and beloved comrades – an impression which was not changed by all we saw in the succeeding four years, or by the lapse of time since, and that was – talk as men about great war-like deeds, heap plaudits on heroes and worship military glory how they will – war is from hell!

Transcribed from Peter Cozzens (ed.), Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 5, pp. 41-49. Brackets above are the editor’s. Per note therein, the original article first appeared in the Philadelphia Weekly Times, 2/26/1881, under the title First Battle of Bull Run.

William Mack Robbins at Ancestry

William Mack Robbins at Fold3

Interesting article on William Mack Robbins





Pvt. Thomas W. Colley, Co. L (Washington Mounted Rifles), 1st Virginia Cavalry, on the March to Manassas and the Battle

13 11 2018

The subject of this sketch, Thomas W. Colley was born in Washington County, Virginia, Nov. 30th, 1837 of poor but respectable “parentage.” I was sent to the old field schools [on the job training] until 14 years of age, when I was apprenticed to the “Blacksmith trade” at which I served for some two years and then by consent of my father decided to quit that trade and learn the Brick Masons trade which I continued to work at until April 1861. I learned to make & burn brick and to lay them up, and also learned the “Plasters business,” and became quite an expert in the Plasters part of his trade. The war between the States coming on in 1860 & 61 I volunteered on the 7th of April 1861 in a cavalry company then being organized at Abingdon, Va., the county seat of my county, by Captain Wm. E. Jones [William Edmondson Jones], {who had served] previously as a Lieut. in the Mounted Rifles U.S.A. In honor of his old command, Jones named this co. the Washington Mounted Rifles.

We were known as such until we merged into the 1st Regiment of Virginia Volunteer Cavalry [cavalry] first as Co. G and afterwards as Company D. This regiment was composed of companies from the upper and lower Valley of Virginia with one Co. from Amelia County and one from Maryland. At first the “Maryland Co” & the Washington Mounted Rifles formed the 1st squadron in the regiment and were armed with carbines and were used as sharpshooters. Afterwards all the companies were armed with rifles & the whole regiment were sharpshooters and continued in that line of service until the closing scenes around Appomattox C.H. April 9th 1865.

I was constantly with my command from the day I left home for Richmond until I was finally disabled and wholly unfit for any kind of duty. I was in the Valley of Virginia with my regiment in front of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston whose forces in June 1861 and up till July 21st were at Winchester. My command was on picket duty in the medical front [unclear the position Colley references as ‘Medical front’] and scouting in the country watching the movements of Gen. Patterson. [Major General Militia, Robert Patterson] Was on camp guard the morning Gen. Patterson advanced towards Winchester in his “first” movement to hold Johnston there, while he went to the aid of Gen. Banks [Major General Nathaniel Banks] at Manassas and in this advance , where I heard the first shell “fired” from an enemy gun; the thing most dreaded by raw recruits “the peculiar whizzing sound of those missiles of death” as they pass through the air caused the hair to rise on one’s head and a creepy horrible sensation run over his flesh and a great desire to be back at home with Ma. And at this particular time and place this horrible feeling seized almost the entire regiment and they started down the Pike, one co. actually going into Winchester 12 miles from the point they started from.

At the time the shell passed over us Co. D was drawn in marching order by 2, with horses heads turned toward Winchester. Captain Jones was on the front with the advance picket watching the enemy’s movements. Some of the boys were dismounted searching among a lot of blankets & other camp equipment that had been thrown away by a stampeded wagon driver. We had been hurried out of camp and left our baggage to the care of the wagoners. I was among the dismounted ones and would have sworn the shell that passed over the mounted mens heads some 50 or so feet in the air did not miss me 2 inches. This was a signal with out a word of command.

The whole mounted positions hit out down the pike. Captain Jones seeing or hearing the movements dashed up cursing the cowardly wretches for running away. Came in time to save me from running with the rest. Captain sent Lieut. Blackford [William Willis Blackford] after the boys, and he over hauled them and brought them back.

The captain gave us a lecture on the harmlessness of these terrible missiles, especially if they were as high in the air as that one was; in 12 months from that time the sound of artillery and the whizzing of shells would only lull a soldier to sleep. He ordered me to dismount and open a place in the fence so our company could be drawn up in line to oppose any forward movement of the enemy. General Johnston succeeded in deceiving Gen. Patterson after all his shrewd maneuvers and left him in the lower valley.

Whilst Johnston was rushing the whole force to Manassas to join Gen. Beauregard [Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard] Gen. Stuart [at the time, Colonel James Ewell Brown Stuart] took all the companies of the regt. and pressed on with Johnston except our co. under Captain Wm. E. Jones. We were left to hover around the front of Pattersons army and keep up a bold front until the line was joined at Manassas. We left for Manassas and arrived there Saturday, and were there, ready for the memorable 21st Sunday morning, a day never to be forgotten by any who participated in its terrible coverage. I shall never forget I know, until my eyes close in death. I was out on one of the advanced picket posts near Jermanna [Jermantown] Ford on Bull Run. Just as the sun was brightening the tops of the trees “the signal gun was fired.” A tremendous gun. I thought I never heard such a report and the whizzing and whining of that awful shell, “I thought it would never stop.”

It went far out across the Manassas Plains into the skirting forrest. I thought if we had to charge and capture such tremendous guns, there would be none of us left to tell the tale. But I was not permitted to summarize or reflect long on these terrible unforeseen results. The picket firing commenced all along the line and the cavalry were all drawn together and were moved here and there all day through clouds of road dust so thick we could not see the horse in front of us. We were finally ordered at about 2 pm to support Gen. Bartow’s [Colonel Francis Stebbins Bartow] & Be Brigades [Brigadier General Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr.] near Stone Bridge, and arrived there at the time they were both killed. My stirrup leathers broke and I had to fall out of ranks and repair them. As I came over a hill I could see the enemy’s batteries and masses of infantry to my left. Farther up on the hill I saw two or three officers and I rode up to them and asked where my regiment was, and Col. Thomas G. Preston pointed out to me the direction they went, and I was satisfied it was a soldier’s duty to be with his command.

When the fight was on, and about that time of day it was on in all its fury and fearfulness, the face of the hill in my front was literally rent and torn with shells and shot. How I was ever to pass through that spot I could not tell, but my duty led in that direction and I must go. So I put spurs to my horse and ran the gauntlet safely and soon found my command drawn up in line in a small ravine. I had hardly gotten over my run before the Hampass Legion [Brigadier General Wade Hampton’s Legion] of S.C., whose officers had been killed and who were badly cut up and stampeded, came running down through a clump of pines and our company commenced cursing and abusing them for running. I asked who they were & they said South Carolinians. Damn you. You were the first to secede, now you are the first to run. It was always shocking to me to see a soldier run and especially at that time, our first fight. They said we are whipped and ruined, our cause is gone. We told them they were liars, we were not whipped there.

About this time Col. Stuart took 3 companies of our regt. and charged the 14th Brooklyn Zouaves, “Red Briches” fellows[.]

He broke their lines, and fresh forces were coming on through the night. They soon gone away, and the greatest stampede and run for dear life that was ever imagined since history commenced recording the events of the various ages. We were soon in the chase. The first fellow I saw on crossing Bull Run Bridge was an ambulance driver; his horses had ran away with him and straddled a tree, broke the breast yoke and smashed the front end of the vehicle up against the tree and smashed the drivers face up and tumbled him out insensible. He was just coming to when we run up on him and we wanted to know what he was doing over here invading our country. Some of the boys wanted to kill him and others thought best not to hurt the poor fellow. We had not learned then that wagoners and ambulance drivers were not at all dangerous. As belligerents we soon left him and went on after the fleeing blue coats [underlined in original].

We followed them to Cub Run and there the bridge crossing that stream was blockaded with wagons and other vehicles disabled by our artillery. If we had known as much that night as we did 2 or 3 years later, not many of the boys would have ever reached Washington D.C. That night it was getting quite dark and we were brought back over the battlefield. The excitement of the dog “gone” and now it was our time to see and hear the shrieks and groans of the wounded and dying of both armies. I thought “oh horrors of horrors” is this war? It was a terrible scene. We could hear the awful groans and sighs and the calls for water and the torches going in every direction searching for friends. We were hurried on towards the junction where we started from.

From In Memory of Self and Comrades, pp.1-7

Contributed, annotated, and transcribed by Michael K. Shaffer

Thomas Wallace Colley at Ancestry.com

T. W. Colley at Fold3

Thomas Wallace Colley at FindAGrave





“4th”, 4th Maine Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat, With Regimental Casualties

16 01 2018

Military Correspondence.
———-

Camp Knox, Clermont, Fairfax Co.
Va., July 26, 1861.

Some one has denominated this “Happy Valley.” This was before we went to Bull’s Run – before we had sore feet – before we lost our baggage – before we were beaten – before we returned – before we had seen service. It was when we were “on our way to Richmond” – big with fight – hadn’t seen a rebel.

We are about twenty-six miles farther from “Dixie” than when at Bull Run,” i.e. nearer the undiscovered northwest passage. But we are here on the old spot again. Here we have collected the fragments of our regiment – have had the roll; and as the silent echo of some oft repeated name dies away in the deep shadows of the overhanging, forest, there often comes a long pause, which is followed by no response – “present.” Then the soldiers stand closer together – utter nothing – only look away vacantly, at the creeping shadows of the coming evening, seemingly straining the vision after some object which the imagination is pointing at. Others, with blistered feet – bruised, ragged – with no blanket or coat, too weary and worn to be curious about the living or lament the dead, are stretched upon the open field, in sweet repose, dreaming a happy hour away. In his dream the weary soldier continues the march till he arrives at home – till his lips move to give utterance to his thankfulness, or receive and give back the welcome salutation, — when he is aroused to answer his name, and finds, alas, that he is living and only dreaming.

This is not fancy. There are few instances of severer efforts than that of Sunday. For five days previous we had been almost constantly on the move — with little or nothing to eat save what we took from the enemy; sleeping in the open air, without tents, in sunshine and storm. From some cause our baggage train was always too far in the rear to bring up our rations, till the day of battle, when with the same excellent management and skill which had hitherto marked its movements, it did not stop till it found itself in the hands of the enemy.

You have had so many accounts of the battle that you will not expect it from me. Those eye witnesses who tan away at the commencement, have given a glowing account, picked up from straggling soldiers, all of whom were the heroes of the fight.

Up to Sunday morning (July 21,) our whole force was encamped in and about Centreville. Bull’s Run is a range of hills about ten miles in length, (some miles this side of Manassas Gap,) running southeast and northwest. The southeast point, or the right of the enemy’s lines is about three miles from Centreville. The northwest, or left wing of the enemy’s line, is about nine miles from the place above named. We were ordered forward at two o’clock Sunday morning. Gen. Tyler, (he who blundered into an attack without orders, on Friday,) went to the right to make a feint, while the main column under Gen. McDowell, went around to their left in order to turn them. This we reached by a newly cut road through a forest, and commenced the attack about 8 o’clock in the forenoon. Our brigade was held in reserve. After the enemy had been driven from one position to take up another on the brow of a hill, in a word, after the New York Zouaves had made an assault and were scattered in disorder, we were called upon. We went forward, under a perfect shower of shot and shell for more than a mile, over the dead and wounded, in double quick, till we reached a valley beyond. The enemy stood concealed by a thick wood. Here we formed our line. The 4th (our own 4th, we are proud of her,) together with the 2nd Vermont, were ordered forward to make the assault and support a battery on the hill above. When we arrived there our battery had been silenced, and we were received by the enemy from a concealed thicket with volley after volley of rifle, while on our right and left were batteries in position to rake our lines both ways. Nothing but their rapid, and consequently inaccurate firing saved us from being cut all up. We maintained out position in this situation, unsupported by a single battery, for more than three quarters of an hour, when we were ordered to retreat. The 4th was the last to leave the field, and acquitted itself, as I predicted it would, most nobly.

Many regiments…[significant missing text]…of our boys did nobly, whose names in due time, will come before the public.

I regret that Capt. Bean was wounded before we made our charge, by a spent cannon ball, which bruised his leg considerably. He is doing well. Lt. Burd was also slightly wounded in the head, and is taken prisoner. Lt. Clark of company G, was killed while retreating, and just before reaching Centreville. Sergeant Major S. H. Chapman was instantly killed by a rifle ball through the heart. He fell by my side, and I watched the death shadow as it passed over his face, driving the blush of life from his cheek, and mantling it with the hue of death. It was the work of a moment. He never spoke. He was a noble fellow, and popular with the regiment. E. O. Maddocks, of company I, was wounded in the leg and left on the field. We hope he was cared for. He was a brave fellow. R. H. Gray, also of company I, was wounded in the arm and side, and left within their lines. We hope he is safe. It was impossible to bring them off. These were all good men and true.

The following is a list of the killed, wounded and missing in the 4th regiment M. V. M., as correctly as I can obtain them:

KILLED.

Lieut. Clark, Co G.
Lt. Major S. H. Chapman, (Staff)

Co. A.

Privates Sanford Sylvester, Geo S Sylvester and Elisha W Ellis.

Co. B.

Privates Ashael Towne, W B Fletcher and C C Fernald.

Co. C.

Privates Chas Smart and Dennis Canning

Co. D.

Privates J E Sparkhawk, W B Foss, Joseph E Starbird and Thos Horne.

Co. E.

Privates E E Hall, F J Stetson and Enos Clark

Co. G.

Privates Jos Wright and Freeman Shaw

Co. H.

Privates G F Cunningham, Jos Trim, —- West, W Cooper, G W Anderson, Miles Jackson and H B Washburn.

Co. I.

Privates E O Maddox severely wounded and missing, R H Gray, do., [since escaped.]

WOUNDED.

Co. A.

Privates Wm Kenduck and —- Bullen.

Co. B.

Privates —- Titus, Chas Sawyer and —- Marshall.

Co. C.

Privates S P Vose, S Heath and S P Pease.

Co. D.

Privates J A Simmons and Jos Norton, Jr.

Co. E.

Privates E J Hilton and H A Calligan.

Co. F.

Capt. Bean, Lieut. Burd, H A Calligan and E J Barlow.

Co. G.

Privates Freeman Shaw, J. Clark, Lorenzo Brigdon, Edward Jones, Sewall Seavy and E. B. Carr.

Co. H.

Privates William Fointai, J L Young and D Clough.

Co. I.

Privates Frank Forbes, Roscoe Trivet, L Temple, Joan Malano, C C Grey, James Trimbell, F W Porter and J M Wiswell, (all slightly.)

Co. K.

Privates E Redman and —- Bisbee.

MISSING.

Patrick Black, —- Lamb, M G Gowen, W D Woodcock, Thos S Grey, C F Merrill, D J Melay, G W Chatton, C P Perry, L Richards, H B Story, H Haskell, A Robinson, F Hull, Geo Osgood, Wm Packard, Joseph Mahoney, R G Bickford, E H Rowell, H A Delano, S Marston, C R Brookings, S P Dickerson, J E Boynton, Freeman Shaw, Thomas Knights, Miles Jackson and H Washburn.

The above is a complete list of the killed, wounded and missing in our regiment. I have no need to write more. The result of the day you have read and had from a thousand sources. It was bad enough. Our loss would have been small in material, had not the panic seized our men. It was mainly got up by members of congress and senators, assisted by reporters for the press. We have suffered quite enough already from these gentlemen, and if we cannot put a stop to their further interference, we shall force them to stop at home. As soon as the battle grew thick, they began a retreat. This frightened the teamsters, and they cut loose from wagons, and soon the panic became general. On M. C. (Ely) was taken. If we could exchange the balance at Washington for the poor soldiers captured, I think it might be for the advantage of the country. Why do they not go home? I hope another expedition will not be started till they do, and leave Gen, Scott free to manage the campaign to his liking. If congress would adjourn and the N. Y. Tribune could be suppressed, we might go forward with some hope of success. Till then I will make no further prediction. A great feeling is arising against the present cabinet among the republicans, which may tend to a revolution in it.

It is unnecessary for me to say that McDowell blundered. This is the old story. If these blunders are to be often repeated we had better go home. Gen. McClellan is coming, and great confidence is reposed in him. We trust that matters will now take a turn.

4th.

Republican Journal (Belfast, ME), 8/9/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy