Preview: Tagg, “The Generals of Shiloh”

7 02 2018

GeneralsShiloh_LRGAuthor Larry Tagg’s 1998 The Generals of Gettysburg: The Leaders of America’s Greatest Battle, is by now a pretty standard book in the libraries of countless Gettysburg geeks. Brief sketches of general officers and their involvement, arranged in order of battle format, with a photo and suggested readings after each bio. (I’ve long been working on a something similar, however, with so few actual “generals” involved at First Bull Run, I have it down to regimental and battery command level.) It’s a handy and useful guide.

Now from Savas Beatie we have a new, similar work from Mr. Tagg (whom I interviewed here about his The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln), The Generals of Shiloh: Character in Leadership, April 6-7, 1862. Same order of battle format. In a preview, I can’t really get into the thoroughness of these sketches but they are, keep in mind, sketches. So let’s focus on what you get.

  • 236 pages of narrative
  • A “Critical Bibliography,” that is, a bibliography of sorts, in narrative form.
  • No notes, end or foot. Also, no suggested readings at the end of each entry, as in the Gettysburg book.
  • No Index

Now, this last bit, the index, is perplexing. (Yes, I know the notes are perplexing too, however at least some explanation can be given by way of the bibliographic essay.) Despite arguments that “you can find whoever you want by the order of battle” you can’t find whatever you want without an index. This was a huge gripe about Generals of Gettysburg. In one discussion group, years ago, it was discussed so often that I finally contacted Mr. Tagg for an index, which he graciously sent, and which I forwarded to the discussion group for inclusion on their website. When Generals of Gettysburg was reprinted by a different publisher later, I believe an index was included. So, I’m not quite sure why the exclusion here. But, let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.

As a guide to the commanders of both armies at the Battle of Shiloh, The Generals of Shiloh is a nice addition to your Shiloh library. Albeit, maybe a little frustrating to use.





Sgt. Yerby Barneycastle (Cassel), Co. K, 11th North Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

6 02 2018

Manassas Station – July 24th/.61

Dear friends, I have a short spell this morning to pen you a few lines to let you know that we are still in the Land of the living but have but little assurance how long we may be here. This last Tuesday a week we started from Richmond for Winchester but got to the junction on wednesday evening and lay in the cars over night and next morning left for our entrenchments. We did not get into the Battle which was fought on Thursday, we holding a different point from where the attack was made but commenced between 12 & 1 oclock and lasted about 4 hours during which time cannon Balls & shell passed us tolerbly plenty I assure you But fortunately doing no damage in our Regiment. Then times being tolerbly still until Sunday morning, except the pickets who was firing occasionaly at each other, when the other Battle commenced about 7 oclock and lasted until about 5 oclock in the evening and terminated in routing the enemy and driving them back for the present and resulted in (so rumor say in camp and the best juges say) loss of from 2500 to 3000 on our side and between 8000 & 10,000 on the side of the enemy.

I don’t think we have missed a day but there was a number of Prisners brought in and we have taken quite a quantity of the enemies stores, Horses, Waggons, Artillery the best they have so rumored. Ammunitions quite a quantity. I saw four Horse load myself. I saw a great many Waggons & horses myself for we being right at the road we had good opportunity of seeing all that passed and some things passed on sunday that I had just as [?] had not passed for they throed cannon balls & shells right at our three companies & capt. Westmoreland’s. Nearly all day our company & Capt. Beloe. There was some half dozen in the evening of Balls in our encampment some shell or pieces fell nearly in our ditch not more than twenty feet from our company. Lieut. Zigler picked them up and we examined them. Such a sunday I never Witnessed before & hope may never be called on to Witness again. Our regiment held the right Wing of honor in the Battle for we had to lay and be shot at all the time and could not get a shot ourselves. We have entrenchments for about 12 miles now and still extending them so they say. Rumor is in camp that the enemy has left Centerville also Fairfax and Alexandria. Whether that is so or not I cannot say for you have no idea what tales are here in camp, you hear ten thousand tales here. The whole junction which covers about ten miles square is alive with soldiers, some coming, some going and some stationed. There is one little incident which occurred in coming from Richmond to this place I had like to have forgot to mention. I suppose about 12 oclock at night we had stopped to get water & wood. We were nearly all asleep on the train. There was another coming up behind and run into ours and had liked to have turned us topsy turvy But nobody was killed immediately and only one seriously injured. I have not heard whether he is dead or not. It smashed up things terably. I would be glad to see you all again and have some fun but alas that is denied me for the present and maybe forever on this earth the way things stands now. We are listening for marching orders any minuet. Ephraim has just come into the tent. He was out on Picket night before last and yesterday 24 hours. He says he saw a dead yankey shot right above the left eye in the Battle of Thursday. He said he was swollen up so tight that it looked like you could crack a tick on his belly. He is well & satisfied and wants to know how the boys are getting along and all the rest how his crop is getting along &c.

I don’t know where to tell you to direct your letters too for I don’t know where we shall go yet. If you write Back your letters to Manassas

Via
Care Cap Miller
11 Reg Vol
of NC

If we leave here the letters will be forwarded to us.

Please let Sandy & Amos & Martin Charles Henry Clinard see this letter and all write as soon as you can for I have but little time to write myself. Show this to Mother in particular & all the rest.

Y & E Cassels*

*Barneycastle went by Yerby Cassel and is found in the records under that name. His brother Ephraim is found under Barneycastle, and is likely the E referred to in the signature.

Letter Image (Including a biographical sketch of Yerby Barneycastle and a later war letter)

From the private collection of Maureen Tinnesz

Transcription by James Burgess [with slight variation by BR]

Contributed by John Hennessy

More on Barneycastles in the Civil War

Yerby Cassel at Ancestry.com

Yerby Cassel at FindAGrave





Bull Runnings Battlefield Tour 2018

31 01 2018
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Bull Runnings tour attendees 2016

Ladies and gentlemen! The moment you’ve been waiting for… the pride of, well, something…the not-very-regular Bull Runnings tour at Manassas National Battlefield Park (and environs)!!!!

Our last tour, in 2016, was, I think, a success, so I’ve decided to try another. A little different take this time, but one I think you’ll dig.

On Saturday, April 7, we’ll meet at the battlefield for a unique experience touring the field (and environs) through photographs. Our guest guides:

John Cummings is a Visual Historian with a primary focus on Civil War era image analysis. He is the author of three books on the Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania region. He has also written for several national and local magazines and newspapers, and provided historical research and commentary for four documentary films. He provides battlefield guide services, and research assistance to visitors. He served on the former Spotsylvania Courthouse Tourism and Special Events Commission, and is the chairperson for the Friends of the Fredericksburg Area Battlefields, (FoFAB). Originally from Fairfax, Virginia, where he spent a great deal of time on the Manassas battlefield, he now lives with his wife, Karen, in Spotsylvania County. He publishes a the Spotsylvania Civil War Blog.

Dennis Hogge is the author of Matthew Brady’s First Manassas: A Biography and Battlefield Tour. A lifelong resident of Northern Virginia, he is a member of the Bull Run Civil War Round Table, the Friends of Historic Centreville, the Historic Centreville Society, the Lane-Armistead Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the Williamsburg Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

John describes the tour thus:

We will discuss wartime photo documentation of the battlefield, examine camera locations, true and false, and place late 19th century images used to illustrate memoirs published by the Century Magazine in their “Battles and Leaders” series. From the battlefield we can regroup at Centreville, site of Confederate winter camps and fortifications.

I can make no promises, but if last time is any indication there should be plenty of very experienced and knowledgeable Civil War scholars in attendance. That will leave lots of opportunity for back and forth between not only attendees and guides, but between attendees themselves. Remember though that this tour is for folks with all levels of experience.

Caravan tour. Consolidation of passengers and vehicles is vital. No charge, but everything is on your own.

More details to follow. But for now, save the date, April 7, 2018. I’ll need to get a feel for how many folks are planning to attend, so I’ll set up an event page on Facebook. Facebook is free. If you’re reading this, you have access to a computer. Don’t be a curmudgeon.

Just for giggles, who thinks they’re in for this? Comment here.

 

 





Senator, On the Wounding of Col. Gilman Marston, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry

27 01 2018

Letter from a member of the United States Senate.

Senate Chamber,
July 25, 1861.

My Dear Sir: – It may be gratifying to you to learn something of your townsman, Col. Marston, and to hear of his heroic conduct at the terrible battle in the vicinity of Bull’s Run on Sunday last.

Col. Marston’s regiment belonged to Col Burnside’s Brigade, and with the two Rhode Island regiments and the N. Y. 71st, went early into the action.

Soon after the commencement of the action, Col. Marston, being then on foot, as most officers were on account of the rugged ground, was struck by a common musket ball, in the out side of the right arm, about two inches below the point of the shoulder – which fractured the bone, and passed through into the right side of the chest, where it was afterwards cut out. I have since seen the wound and ball. The ball is flattened into a half sphere by the force of the blow. When struck, Col. Marston fell over on his left side and face – saying to Lt. Col. Fisk, that he was shot. He was then carried back from his line into the woods, where he expressed the strongest desire that his regiment should not fall back.

Some one said, “we hope you will not lose your arm,” Col. – “Never mind my arm” said he, “I had rather lose both, than this regiment should run, or we be whipped.”

He was then carried to the hospital, and his wound was cared for. He then expressed his desire to take his place at the head of his regiment. The surgeon told him, he must take the responsibility if he did. His horse was then brought and he was helped into the saddle – a servant led him to the head of his regiment, where he remained until it came off the field. He steadied them by his presence, and brought them off in good order in the subsequent disastrous retreat. A like performance the world has seldom seen!

The next day he was brought to his old quarters in this city, and the ball was then extracted. Fears were at first entertained, that his arm would have to be amputated, but he has continued to improve since he came in, and it is now believed, it will be saved.

Young Mr. Sullivan is with him, and will take good care of him. I was at the camp of his regiment yesterday, and his men were loud in their acclamations in his praises. I am happy to be able to add, that his regiment behaved admirable. They fought well, and brought off all their wounded and wagons in the in their retreat. We are much mortified but not disheartened at the sad result of the late battle. Our men fought admirably, and performed prodigies of valor. Had they been cared for, and led as well, the result would have been different, in my judgment. We won the field and lost it, because the men were required to do more, and fight longer, than it was possible for them to do. The disorder of the retreat was mainly owing to the want of discipline and experience.

Yours truly.

Exeter News-Letter, 8/5/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





S. A., Personal Secretary to Secretary of the Senate, On Washington After the Battle

21 01 2018

Very Interesting Letters from Washington — Description of the Scene after the Battle of Bull Run.

———-

[We have been favored with the following copy of a highly interesting and descriptive letter from the private Secretary of Col. Forney, Secretary of the Senate, relative to the scenes which occurred at Washington during and after the battle at Bull Run. The letter was addressed to a personal friend of the writer, in a neighboring town, who has kindly placed it at our service. It will be read with deep interest. – Editor Am]

“Do you see, dear friend, where I am? Bodily here in my room, writing, near midnight, at the same little table. Mentally, trying to keep abreast of the grandest movement the world ever saw. The moral progress the Nation has made in the last six months is amazing.

Day before yesterday the Senate passed a bill setting free all slaves whom the rebels may use in any way for the furtherance of the war. On the 1st of January last the man would have been deemed crazy who should have said the Senate would pass such a bill in six years, even.

God is working in ways we never have dreamed of. I find no time here to read much but the papers – the new Atlantic is just out, and I must manage to edge that in somehow. My duty at the Senate commences at 9 o’clock and ends at 4. My dinner hour is 4 ½ — my breakfast hour is 8. I have but two meals daily.

What shall I tell you about the sad disaster of Sunday. You will get a history of it from the papers. The movement was unquestionably made before Gen. Scott was fully ready. Why, is one of the questions no one can answer. The day was also unquestionably ours up to about 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Our force in the battle was not over 25,000 men; yet though the rebels had the advantage of nearly double our number of men, added to that of an entrenched and strongly fortified position, we drove them from the field and won the day. Just in the moment of victory that strange panic sprung up and we lost all. It was utterly causeless –- no one can account for it. Our loss of artillery is not over twenty pieces. We saved nearly all of our army wagons and baggage. We threw away considerable ammunition, and some guns. Our loss of life is as yet impossible to tell. Each day reduces the general supposition, for men are constantly coming in. Tonight some 2,000 are unaccounted for and set down as killed, wounded and missing. I think 500 of them will yet report at camp – thus putting our killed and wounded at only 1500. I shall not be surprised if it is finally reduced to 1200. So far as we can judge, the loss of the enemy is at least double ours. We took 25 or 30 prisoners who have been brought here, and I judge the enemy did not get many of our men. Better than ours no men ever did on the field of battle.

Wednesday morning. Of course Sunday was a sad day here. Probably 200 people went out to the battle ground. I wanted very much to go, but my room-mate was sick and I did not try to get away. Sunday afternoon I went to service in the House by the chaplain of the Senate. At 6 in the evening I went to vespers in the Catholic Church. By 9 in the evening couriers began to arrive from the field of battle – and they kept coming in every half hour till after midnight. The general tone of the report was good – “severe fighting, but our men were gradually driving the rebels from the field.” Soon after midnight came in a rider who left a 5 o’clock. He brought report that “the day was ours – the firing had about ceased – the enemy was driven back some three miles.” You may be sure there was excitement. I us up town so cannot speak more in detail. Then everybody, generally, went home to sleep and pleasant dreams. The news of the disaster did not reach here till 2 o’clock. It was too awful, and no one placed the least credence, in the report. Half an hour more, and more messengers came in. Soon the panic stricken civilians and officers began to arrive. A newspaper reported tore up the avenue for the telegraph office – his horse badly wounded and gory with blood. Then soon came another who reported having a man shot from behind him on his own horse. The few people about the hotels were thunder-struck. At a quarter before 3 somebody called beneath my window. I recognized the voice as that of Col. Forney, Secretary of the Senate. Getting out of bed I went to the window when he struck me dumb with these words: “I am just in from Bull Run. We have been defeated. Our army is all retreating. We have lost nearly everything. Our killed and wounded are counted by the thousand. Some apprehensions are felt at the War Department that the city may be stormed before morning. Our men fought nobly, but it was of no use. They are awfully cut up. Col. Cameron is killed. Col. Burnside is wounded. Col. Hunter, is also wounded – his lower jaw is shot away – I have just left him. Our army is all in retreat in the most disordered manner.” Three hours before, I went to sleep with news of victory. What a tale to tell a man just roused from sound sleep! There was Col. Young, who rooms next door – it was his voice, and it was him. He was not wild or incoherent – he spoke calmly, but could it be true? Was I awake? O God, was it not all a fantasy of the brain! Before I could collect my senses – Col. Forney had passed into his room. There I stood with head stretched out the window. I remember looking to see if there was not a glare in the sky – it might be the enemy’s guns were already at work. By this time we were all awake – my room-mate and the gentlemen in the other rooms. The family were also astir. I could not speak – I lay down. But spoke my chum, “Sid, are we awake?” Surely, it was terrible. Presently he said, “It is awful!” repeating the three words every moment or two for sometime. First I thought of the ten-thousand homes in which there would be mourning on the morrow for the chosen one of the household. The great wail of wo swept over me like a thick tempest. Then came the full voice crying, “Vengeance!” and my thoughts sprung to the long line of a hundred thousand new men ready to die for Liberty and Law. But before one of them could get here the cannon would probably be upon us. Thousands of men must arm here to defend the city, to fight to the death if need be.

Was I ready? I am sure I did not hesitate an instant. I only considered, am I ready? Have I my business matters in such condition that a stranger could settle them? Is there any wrong I ought to repair before I go to another world – any farewell I must say? There were farewells to say, but I could say them in the moment of starting for the trenches. I lay and though. I did not see anything that required attention. I am sure I thanked God then that the hour had come when I was really wanted in the world – all these years of my life seemed to have been nurturing me just to carry a gun and use it nobly in the trenches and die for Humanity. Not doubting the full truth of all Col. Forney had said, in an hour I had given myself away. You had not friend – my mother had no son – my sister had no brother. My use and my life were passed over to the great cause, and I had no more concern for myself. God would deal with me as he pleased – in the end all would be well. I hope I may be as true when the real emergency does come, as I was that morning lying upon my bed. Resolving to get up and go down town as soon as I could well see, I turned over and went into a doze. I woke up to find myself saying aloud: I have fought the good fight, I kept the faith.” It was a quarter of 6 when I started up the street – just commencing to rain. Early as it was, the avenue was full of people – as many on the sidewalk as there usually are at 10 in the afternoon. By this time a few of the runaway soldiers were arriving. Each soiled, begrimed, red eyed man was instantly surrounded and made to tell his story. In the length of a square there were often a dozen of these grouped around some here. I didn’t care to hear details – the grand fact of a terrible defeat and of a probable attack upon the city was all I cared for. Having settled the case in my mind I was curious to see how the people felt. I stirred my blood strangely to hear a calm-faced man say, after hearing the story, “I have a wife and four little children – I am going home to put my house in order – I will be back in two hours – put my name down if men are wanted.” There was a hero, though fame may never catch his name. Scores of men would not believe the report of defeat – “it was impossible; these soldiers were deserters, cowards who deserved to be shot.” Here and there traitors appeared – their chuckle marked them. The stern faces of the loyal men promised harsh use of any man who spoke treason. One great man swore out roundly he was glad the government army was routed. In an instant a slight built private of the Massachusetts Sixth, stepped in front of him, and he lay sprawling on the sidewalk. It was done so quick I could hardly see it, but I know the blow was a neat one. The traitor got up and slunk away – the crowd clapped the soldier on the back and said, “Bully!” Good for you.”

At the hotel, men were getting up who had heard nothing of the disaster. First came into their faces a look of incredulous amazement – then every man’s face took on that look of stern determination to never yield. In some faces I saw as plainly as if the house-door had been open before me, all the home circle – wife and children, high hopes, desires, plans, promise of future years, and coming pride and joy. There was a look backward toward these, as it were, but in every eye was that calm decision which boded no good for an enemy who dare attack the city. On old man who appeared to be over sixty, heard the tale and said: “I have two sons in the Rhode Island First, I suppose they are both dead – I know what they were made of – I’m stout enough to handle a gun yet.” A few cowards there were – men ho had urgent business in Ohio or New York or somewhere else. Loyal men would not stay to hear their excuses. Every man was restless; there was not much talking. “Did you know Jim Harris?” said a man to one of the Michigan First. “Yes,” was the answer, he was shot dead.” Not a muscle quivered – “Where?” “In Front.” “That’s right, he was my son.” Before such heroism how mean I felt! I was ashamed of myself. I ought to have been in the field – my body might have stopped the ball which killed the son of such a father.

I am sure I came home to breakfast a better man than I was when I went away.

After breakfast we all went up street. It was the same scene. Every where knots of men around soldiers – the dreary rain pouring down – here a man standing out alone and solemnly and reverently calling God’s vengeance on the rebel fiends who came on the battle field, and bayonetted our wounded – there soldier friends rushing together, each having supposed the other dead – now a choleric old man swearing at himself for being so stiff with rheumatism that he could not march in a rank – elsewhere middle aged men shaking hands with each other, and saying almost gladly, “Now our time has come!” A beardless boy exclaiming, “I shall take Jack’s place in the 71st,” – an old man of seventy chiding one a few years younger for yielding to the fear of panic on the battle field – a coal-black negro touching his hat to me and asking, “Please, mass’sr, d’ye think we darkies can have a chance to fight dis yer day?” = one man swearing at the Tribune for urging on a battle before we were ready – another swearing at Patterson for letting Johnson escape him in the Harper’s Ferry neighborhood – the faint chuckle of some traitor – the faint chuckle of some traitor – the quick word “You are not wanted here, go away or you’ll get hurt” – in nearly every eye that strange light that never before was, which spoke in the same instant of home and friends, and consecration to the Stars and Stripes to the death. At ten I was at my post in the Senate. We could not work – we did only so much as we must. The wildest rumors were running about till near the middle of the afternoon. Every man kept an eye on Arlington Heights across the river if so be he might see the smoke of battle – crowds of soldiers poured into the city – reports of dead and wounded grew upon us – all waited in uneasy expectancy for the roar of cannon. The House was cast down and dispirited – the rain poured down faster and faster – everywhere except in the Senate was gloom – Trumbull of Illinois, Wilson of Massachusetts, Ten Eyck of New Jersey, each spoke a few nervous words in favor of the bill before mentioned, in relation to slaves – Charles Sumner’s responsive “aye!” when his name was called had the ring of an organ in it –old Ben Wade’s answer was as sharp as a sword – and when the vote was announced – “32 for, to 6 against” – the heats of the people in the galleries began to rise. Directly the bugle was heard and past the Capitol wound Sherman’s battery, which everybody supposed lost, only four men missing, and not a gun harmed. Bless me! How the people rushed out in the rain, swinging their hats and cheered! From that time things began to improve. Fact began to take the place of wild rumor – we began to comprehend and understand the great disaster. So the day wore away – rain and darkness everywhere, no booming of cannon, supposed dead men reporting themselves alive, fragments of regiments clustered in all parts of the city, everybody going to look after friends, private houses on every street opening to receive weary and hungry soldiers, stranger men giving soiled privates half dollars with which to get warm dinners. Five o’clock came and we went up town again. Straight to the quarters of the Michigan 2d, and found my friend Lester unhurt. My college mate, his is now assistant surgeon.

It was a long time before I could find a man of Company “F.” of the Minnesota First; there were not many of them left. At length, “Do you know anything of your First Lieutenant?” Dead.” That was all, then; so went down a rare nature, generous, chivalric, earnest. I saw him here and shook a “good bye” with him when the regiment crossed to Virginia, then days before the battle. His last words wot me were: “You now I’ve always been a Democrat, but I’m in for the war; I never can die in a better cause.” * *

War came home to me that evening as I moved about among the boys of Company “F.” I felt very much humiliated – they all seemed brothers to me, whom I had in some way wronged. Ah me that I could have given them twenty dollars instead of five so that they might all have put away their poor army ration, and had such a good warm meal!

* * * S.A.

Chenango American, 8/22/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

John W. Forney bio

More information on the identity of S. A. will update this post as it becomes available





Hiram Berdan Recruits His Sharpshooters

18 01 2018
Hiram Berdan sharpshooter

Colonel Hiram Berdan from this site

While skimming though one of the newspapers from which nearly all the soldier accounts archived on this site are gleaned, I came across this little bit regarding the recruitment (actually, the recruits in this case are applicants, so this is more like interviewing or auditioning than recruiting) of Col. Hiram Berdan’s famous sharpshooter regiment. I thought many of you might find it interesting, as did the Yates County Chronicle on 8/1/1861. I was unaware of the proposed winter grays, and got a kick out of Hiram going all Quigley Down Under on the whining applicants.

From the New York Herald.

Berdan’s Regiment of Sharpshooters — Interesting Examination of Applicants at Weehawken. – This corps of riflemen was some time since accepted by the government, and in the interval the selection of the men has proceeded with considerable activity. Col. Berdan, who is one of the best, if not the best, marksman in the United States, has restricted the qualifications for joining to the following terms: The candidate (who is allowed to use his own rifle), before being enrolled, is tested as to his skill, and required to shoot with precision enough to put ten consecutive balls within and average distance of five inches from the center of a target, placed at the distance of six hundred feet. The range of each shot is measured from the center point of the target to the center of the bullet hole, and the sum total of these distances must not exceed fifty inches. This precision is imperatively required, and no person is accepted into the regiment who cannot fulfil all that is set forth above. Upon this point Col. Berdan is decided, and an excess of even a small fraction of an inch beyond the limits prescribed, disqualifies the applicant. The regiment is being recruited from all the States, and will number about 1,500. The Governor of each State is charged with the selection and enrollment of the men, but in Missouri, where the gubernatorial department is rather in confusion, Frank Blair is to raise and command the quota of that State. — The number so far recruited in New York State does not exceed seventy, very few of whom are from our city. An agent is stationed at Albany for the examination of candidates there, and Colonel Berdan’s Secretary, Mr. J. Smith Brown, is the agent in New York. His targets and grounds are located on the heights back of Weehawken, where, for a few days past, the examination of candidates has been going on. Yesterday some twenty five or thirty Swiss riflemen from the city and vicinity proceeded to the ground and tried their skill. Many of them have already seen active service in the Alps, at the Crimea, and in the last Italian campaign; but whether on account of their disuse of firearms while engaged in business in New York, or other reasons, their marksmanship did not come up to the required standard. The shooting of course was excellent and seldom equaled; but as the Colonel exacts the very creme de la creme of skill, no one of them had the confidence enough in his abilities to submit to the rigid test. The weapons used were generally of exquisite workmanship, and may of them were the regulation Swiss ordnance rifle. Many complaints have been made that the requirements are too strict, and that such precise shooting could not be made by the Colonel himself. To stop these grumblers, Colonel Berdan, while on the ground Monday afternoon, leisurely took up the rifle and put ten balls in the target, at a total distance of eleven and a half inches from the center, or at an average distance of one inch and a half for each ball. Col. Berdan is at present in New York. He has telegraphed to Secretary Cameron for a mustering officer, and as soon as a reply is received the regiment will be rendezvoused at Weehawken, preparatory to their departure for the seat of war. The drill will not be according to the usual manual, inasmuch as the men are intended to deploy in small squads in the field of battle and manoeuvere at will in picking off commanders, officers and artillerists of the enemy. A code of signals will be adopted among the men to warn each other of the approach of the cavalry – the only effective branch of the service in cutting up riflemen. The men will also be drilled to load and fire in lying, sitting and other postures, and to make their weapons effective if possible at a range of five hundred to one thousand yards. The uniform will be green throughout for summer and gray for winter, without any appendages or brass buttons or plates that might serve to make the men targets. — The uniforms are intended to so assimulate to the colors of nature as to render the men almost indiscernable to the enemy, thus permitting them without any extra risk to themselves to approach and pick off their foes. Col. Berdan is devising a model for an improved rifle which, when manufactured, will be supplied to those of the regiment preferring them to their own private arms. It is expected that the men will be encamped at Weehawken in the beginning of next week.

Yates County Chronicle, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. James A. Coburn, Co. K, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle, Wounding, and Imprisonment

17 01 2018

Letter from a Volunteer, Prisoner at Richmond.

Richmond, Aug. 4th, ’61.

My Dear Wife: — It has been some time now since I have had an opportunity of letting you know where I am. We left camp at Shuter’s Hill July 16th; marched to Fairfax Station; stopped there one night; next, we marched to Centreville, where we stayed two days. On the morning of the 21st we were turned out at one o’clock, but did not march until sunrise, when we were told we were to storm a battery that day. — We took up our line of march, and soon heard the booming of cannon. — Our destination proved to be Bull Run, where we arrived about one o’clock; when we commenced fighting, after a quick march, and also some double quick. I was somewhat fatigued, but went into it as hard as I was able. I was in the hottest of it for about an hour. The bullets flew like hail. Men fell on every side, some within an arm’s length. Suddenly our men began to retreat. When nearly alone I gave them a farewell shot (the Confederates), and turned to run. Had gone about 10 rods when I was struck by a rifle ball in my right hip. I fell, but crawled a few rods to a hole in some bushes. By the help of some of our men, I took off my shirt, and with that and a handkerchief I succeeded in stopping the blood. They there left me, and I lay down again in the hole. I was then between the two fires for about an hour. Our men then retreated out of hearing, and I was told they had gone back to Centreville, leaving us to our fate. The Southerners soon came up, and instead of abusing me, gave me a blanket, water and some buiscet, which I needed very much. I crawled about 20 rods that night and lay down, suffering much pain from the ball, which was still in. The next morning I could walk a little; went about 100 rods and lay down. The sight was horrible – men dead and dying on every side.

I was picked up about four o’clock Monday evening by the Southerners, and taken to Manassas Junction; stayed there two days – here the ball was taken out of my hip – thence by railroad to this place. We have been treated very kindly by the Southern people. I cannot say too much in their praise; especially the Sisters of Charity, who compose a part of our nurses.

My wound is doing very well. I hope in a couple of weeks to be pretty well. I can walk some now, and dress my wound. I hope that we will be exchanged when we are well. I think my fighting is done for the war. Even if I get well, I shall be so crippled as to be unfit for service; therefore I hope to get a discharge.

This letter must answer for you all at present. I don’t know when I can send you another. You cannot write to me. I hope to enjoy home again. I have been spared thus far by the hand of Providence alone, and I trust in Him who ruleth all things for my restoration to you.

From your affectionate husband,

JAMES A. COBURN

Elizabethtown (NY) Post, 8/29/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

James A. Coburn at Ancestry

James A. Coburn at Fold3

38th NYSV roster