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

2 01 2018

The Gallant 27th — Letters from our Volunteers.

———-

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

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

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

Washington, July 24, 1861

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours, &c.,

JOHN W. BURROWS

Chenango American, 8/1/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

John W. Burrows at Fold3

John Burrows at Ancestry.com

History of the 27th Regiment N.Y. Vols





Pvt. Delos Payne, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

1 01 2018

The Gallant 27th — Letters from our Volunteers.

———-

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

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

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

Washington, July 27, 1861

* * * I am well and safe after the great battle at Bull’s Run. The march and retreat has made my knee worse. [He injured his knee while on a visit home from Elmira – Ed.] We have not got a correct account of the killed and wounded. Men fell to the right and left of me. We drove two regiments into the woods, and they opened a masked battery on us. Our Colonel (Slocum) was shot in the thigh. He was not two feet from me. I carried him off the field. There are twelve killed and missing in our company. I have just heard that there are 94 killed in the regiment. There are about 150 who are not able to drill, from wounds, or sickness.

It was a horrible sight to see men with their legs shot off, their faces mangled, and wounded in all different ways. They shot very careless. I asked one man who lay down beside me, why he did not get up and use his gun, and before the words were out of my mouth he was shot dead, while I escaped. When I left the field I carried one fellow off on my back who was wounded in the knee. After that I got three canteens of water, and returned and gave it to those who were wounded. Their only call was for water. The balls whistled around my head all the time I was doing it. I did not mind it any more than if they were pop-guns. The fear was all gone. * * * When any one fell we were all faster than ever. I shall live to come home yet, all right. I shall not be able to do any more service until my knee gets well. We have not got our pay yet. When I do I shall send it all home. * * *

Yours,

DELOS PAYNE

The prediction that Payne would not shrink from performing his whole duty seems to be verified. The act of going back to the field alone, under the fire of the rebels, to give water to the wounded, is characteristic and highly commendable.

Chenango American, 8/1/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

Delos Payne at Fold3

Five Months in Rebeldom, or Notes from the Diary of a Bull Run Prisoner, at Richmond

History of the 27th Regiment N.Y. Vols





Bull Run at Gettysburg: James McKay Rorty

10 12 2017

On Dec. 2, I was in Gettysburg for a gathering of friends. Arriving on Saturday afternoon and the meeting not set to begin until 6 pm, I decided to “get my steps in” and did a little loop on Hancock Ave. from the Alexander Hays statue to the First Minnesota July 2 monument and back, stopping at each marker along the way. This meant there was a lot of back and forth and backtracking. While there were plenty of Bull Run connections along the way, let’s just take a look at one: Battery B, 1st New York Light Artillery.

IMG_20171202_153801553_HDR

Battery B, 1st New York Light Artillery, at Gettysburg

You’ll recall that Private James McKay Rorty of the 69th New York State militia was captured at First Bull Run, escaped from prison in Richmond and made his way back to Washington (read his Bull Run account here, and also read a more complete biography of Rorty here). Mustered out of the militia, he subsequently enlisted in what was designated the 5th Regiment of Thomas Francis Meagher’s Irish Brigade (read his letter to his father explaining his rationale for enlistment here). This turned out to be a battery of New York Light artillery – he had expected it would be cavalry – though his record of formal attachment to specific batteries thenceforth is murky. Regardless, by May of 1862 Lt. Rorty was serving as ordnance officer on the staff of Major General Israel B. Richardson.

At Gettysburg, now Captain Rorty was ordnance officer on the staff of Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, who had succeeded Richardson upon the latter’s mortal wounding at Antietam and was then in command of the Army of the Potomac’s Second Corps. Technically, Rorty was in command of the non-existent 14th New York Independent Battery of the Irish Brigade. At the same time, Rorty maintained his association with Irish Nationalist organization the Fenian Brotherhood, and was recording secretary in the group’s Potomac Circle. You can read about Fenians in the Civil War here – there’s a lot to it, and it’s not always what you think. Long story short, Rorty was a big deal in “the movement.”

9e7732c71d504513f30daf5b7691401d

Artillery officers on the Peninsula, 1862. Rorty is seated on the right. Fellow Bull Run vet Alonzo Cushing is standing, center. From LOC.

On the afternoon of July 2, Rorty became anxious to join in the fighting, and petitioned his boss for assignment to a combat unit. Hancock acquiesced, and some time that day Rorty was placed in command of the 122 men and four 10 pounder Parrot rifles of Battery B, 1st New York Light Artillery, 2nd Corps’ Artillery Brigade. Late in the day, the battery was in place in the Plum Run Line that helped repulse the assault of Longsteet’s Corps’ assault on the Peach Orchard salient. The battery lost one man killed, eight wounded, and 13 horses rendered unserviceable.

On the morning of July 3rd, Rorty’s command was moved to a point about 250 yards south of the now famous “copse of trees” believed by most to be the focal point of General Robert E. Lee’s assault known as Pickett’s Charge. During the artillery barrage that preceded the infantry advance, Rorty advanced his guns to the stone wall in front of his position, and returned fire. His command began to suffer casualties, and Rorty moved from gun to gun, issuing orders and encouragement. Eventually three of his four rifles were out of action, and Rorty himself stripped down to his shirtsleeves, grabbed a sponge staff, and joined the crew of his last gun. The Captain called for help from the nearby 19th Massachusetts Infantry, and received about 20 men in reply. Then, the Confederate infantry moved out from the tree line to the west.

Rorty’s lone gun continued to fire on the advancing rebels, until the men of Brigadier General James Kemper’s brigade came past the barn of the Codori farm and into canister range. Some time before the advance petered out at the stone wall, Capt. James McKay Rorty was dead, killed instantly by a shot to the head or heart. Nine more of his command lay dead; another eight were wounded.

Two weeks after the battle, Rorty’s brother Richard gathered his remains from where he had been buried on the field and returned them to New York. He was reinterred in Calvary Cemetery on July 19, 1863.

6016383_1113996429586016383_1399684971Rorty’s grave in Calvary Cemetery, Woodside, New York, from FindAgrave

 





Preview: Ayers, “The Thin Light of Freedom”

1 12 2017

51kX8OoXrAL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

The Thin Light of Freedom: The Civil War and Emancipation in the Heart of America is Edward Ayers’s follow-up or companion to 2003’s In the Presence of Mine Enemies. Both works benefit from and are in part a product of Ayers’s groundbreaking Valley of the Shadow project (watch a video presentation of it here).

The Thin Light of Freedom follows the story of the people of The Great Valley, basically that area of Virginia and Pennsylvania comprising the Shenandoah and Cumberland valleys, through the latter stages of the Civil War and Reconstruction to Virginia’s return to statehood in 1870.

The focus here is not just on military voices but on those of the people of the area, who lived through the war and its privations and the social upheaval attendant to emancipation. Diarists and letter writers north and south are featured, with a heavy reliance on manuscript sources. Follow all the links I’ve given you above and you’ll get an idea of the extent.

You get:

  • 501 pages of text in 11 chapters plus prologue and epilogue, starting with “The Great Invasion” of 1863 and ending up in 1902 (though we go from 1868 to 1902 in one chapter)
  • 25 maps and illustrations
  • No bibliography but rather “A Note on the Documentation”
  • 45 pages of end notes
  • A full index

It’s a big honkin’ book.

Edward L. Ayers is Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities and president emeritus at the University of Richmond

 

 

 

 

 





Preview: Scales, “The Battles and Campaigns of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, 1861-1865”

30 11 2017

Layout 1The Battles and Campaigns of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, 1861-1865 is John R. Scales’s study not of the man, the myth, or the legend, but rather of his wartime activities. (Is it possible to examine these events without discussing the morals and politics of the man? Ummm, yeah, it is — don’t be fatuous.)

Essentially, this book serves as a staff ride of Forrest’s career. Each chapter discusses a particular raid or battle or campaign, for the most part. Each starts with a discussion of the operational environment. Then decisions made are examined. Each includes a driving tour, and each concludes with a review and evaluation of Forrest as commander.

You get:

  • 435 pages of text in 12 chapters, with plenty of charts and graphs, and 109 (one hundred and nine!!!) Hal Jesperson maps.
  • An epilogue with Scales’s assessment of Forrest.
  • A bibliography (primarily published works)
  • A full index
  • Bottom of page footnotes

John R. Scales is a retired brigadier general who served in Viet Nam and Afghanistan. He is the author of Sherman Invades Georgia and A Reluctant Hero’s Footsteps.





Preview: Savas Beatie Reprints Coco

29 11 2017

New from Savas Beatie are paperback reprints of two Gregory A. Coco titles, 1988’s A Vast Sea of Misery: A History and Guide to the Union and Confederate Field Hospitals at Gettysburg, and 1995’s A Strange and Blighted Land: Gettysburg The Aftermath of Battle. Each reprint includes a new preface by author and Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide James A. Hessler. These are must-haves for every Gettysburg student, and A Strange and Blighted Land appears regularly on general Civil War “Best Of” lists.

Layout 1A Vast Sea of Misery is a guide to 162 field hospitals that treated more than 26,000 wounded soldiers during and after the Battle of Gettysburg (an additional 14 identified after the 1st printing are listed as well). Nine maps show relative locations to help the tourist. The field hospital sites are broken down in three parts: Borough of Gettysburg area; Union Army areas; and Confederate Army areas. Additional sites are described in three additional parts:  other important sites; hospital sites in nearby towns; and Camp Letterman. Four appendices cover surgeons and physicians, how field hospital sites were selected, how wounded were moved to field hospitals, and general medical observations. There are seven pages of end notes and a full index.

Layout 1A Strange and Blighted Land is a detailed, heart-wrenching study of what came after the battle – the wounding, gathering, treating, assisting, obstructing, suffering, dying, interring, and remembering. I listed this as one of my ten favorite Gettysburg books. Relying mostly on eyewitness accounts, the reader learns of the scale of the suffering, the treatment of the wounded, the disposition of the dead, the establishment of the National Cemetery, the handling of prisoners and stragglers, and the preservation and establishment of the battlefield and its guides. This promotional passage sums this book up nicely, so I see no reason to rephrase:

Coco’s prose is gripping, personal, and brutally honest. There is no mistaking where he comes down on the issue: There was nothing pretty or glorious or romantic about the battle — especially once the fighting ended.

You get 377 pages of text, 27 pages of end-notes, a 14 page bibliography including three pages of manuscript sources, and a full index.

Gregory A. Coco was an army veteran who served in Vietnam, a degreed historian, a Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide, and a National Park Service Interpretive Ranger at GNMP. He  authored or edited of numerous books and articles on Gettysburg and the Civil War (I have had occasion to use his papers located in the Park’s archives). He died in 2009 at the age of 62.





Image: Corp. William Pittenger, Co. G, 2nd Ohio Infantry

28 11 2017
DSCF1685

Corp. William Pittenger, 2nd Ohio Infantry (from this site)