#4 – Col. Israel B. Richardson

17 02 2009

Report of Col. Israel B. Richardson, Second Michigan Infantry, of Action at Blackburn’s Ford

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 312-314


In Front of Blackburn’s Ford, on Bull Run, July 19, 1864

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that I left the camp at Germantown at an early hour yesterday morning, my brigade consisting of the Second and Third Michigan Regiments, the First Massachusetts Regiment, and Twelfth New York. A battalion of light infantry, consisting of forty men from each regiment, one hundred and sixty in all, and commanded by Capt. Robert Brethschneider, of the Second Regiment of Michigan Infantry, moved in front of the brigade some five hundred yards in advance, and threw pickets still farther in advance on the road. A section of 20-pounder rifled guns, commanded by Lieutenant Benjamin, of the Second Artillery, moved in rear of the light battalion. The march of the column was slow, so as to prevent surprise.  No enemy appeared at Centreville, three miles from camp, he having abandoned his intrenchments the night before.

On advancing one mile in front of Centreville, I came to a halt near some springs to procure water for the brigade, and General Tyler and myself left with a squadron of cavalry and two companies of infantry, for the purpose of making a reconnaissance to the front, which, on arriving one mile in front of Blackburn’s Ford, proved that the enemy had a battery in rear of the run, so as to enfilade the road. He had also strong pickets of infantry and skirmishing parties occupying the woods and houses in front of his position. The battalion of light infantry was now ordered to deploy five hundred yards in front of the eminence upon which this camp is situated, and a position at once taken by the rifled guns, which now opened their fire. This fire was not answered by the enemy until several rounds had been fired, and I pushed forward the skirmishers to the edge of the woods, they driving in those of the enemy in fine style, and then brought up the First Massachusetts Regiment to their support, the skirmishers still advancing into the woods.

Captain Brackett’s squadron of the Second Cavalry, and two 12-pounder howitzers, commanded by Captain Ayres, Fifth U.S. Artillery, now moved up into an opening in the woods in support. The enemy also opened another battery, more to our left, so as to cross-fire with the other upon the road. I ordered up at this time the Twelfth New York Regiment, Colonel Walrath, to the left of our battery, and it being formed in line of battle, I directed it to make a charge upon their position, the skirmishers still pushing forward and drawing the enemy’s fire, but keeping themselves well covered. I now left the position of the Twelfth New York Regiment, to place upon the right of the battery the Massachusetts and Second and Third Michigan Regiments, when a very heavy fire of musketry and artillery was opened by the enemy along his whole line. On moving towards our left, I found that the Twelfth New York Regiment had fallen back out of the woods in disorder, only parts of two companies, some sixty men in all, remaining in line, and retreating. The howitzers and also the cavalry had been withdrawn. Our left was thus exposed, although the skirmishers still held the ground in the woods, and the three remaining regiments on the right remained firm and determined.

I now reported to General Tyler that the main body of the New York regiment had fallen back in confusion, and I proposed to make a charge with the three remaining regiments for the purpose of carrying the enemy’s position. The general replied that the enemy were in large force and strongly fortified, and a further attack was unnecessary; that it was merely a reconnaissance which he had made; that he had found where the strength of the enemy lay, and ordered me to fall back in good order to our batteries on the hill, which we did, the enemy closing his fire before we left the ground, and not venturing to make an effort to follow us.

Our batteries on the hill now opened fire, sustained by the Second Michigan Regiment on the right, in close column by division, the other two regiments forming line of battle on the left. The New York regiment after some time formed under cover of the woods in rear. In this affair our skirmishers advanced so close to the enemy’s works and batteries that two mounted officers were killed inside the breastworks, and one of our men was shot through the shoulder with a revolver by one of the enemy’s officers, and one of their cannoneers was bayoneted by one of our men while the former was engaged in loading his gun. Our skirmishers also, in falling back, had several of their wounded bayoneted, by order of one of the enemy’s officers.

The enemy’s intrenchments and batteries appeared to be in rear of a creek called Bull Run. The batteries on the extreme right of their line were on high ground, and fired over the heads of their infantry in front. At night we fell back to Centreville for water and rations, and this morning have again occupied our ground upon the hill in front of the enemy, they being in large force, and having their pickets and skirmishers in the woods and in front of them, as yesterday. I have the honor also to inclose a statement of our loss incident to this affair.

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


Colonel, Commanding Fourth Brigade, First Division

Table – [USA] Casualties at Blackburn’s Ford [July 18, 1861]

#3 – Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler

16 02 2009

Report of Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler, Connecticut Militia, of Action at Blackburn’s Ford

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 310-312


Washington City, July 27, 1861

SIR: On the 18th instant you ordered me to take my division, with the two 20-pounder rifled guns, and move against Centreville, to carry that position. My division moved from its encampment at 7 a.m. At 9 a.m. Richardson’s brigade reached Centreville, and found that the enemy had retreated the night before – one division on the Warrenton turnpike in the direction of Gainesville, and the other, and by far the largest division, towards Blackburn’s Ford, on Bull Run. Finding that Richardson’s brigade had turned towards the latter point and halted, for the convenience of obtaining water, I took a squadron of cavalry and two light companies from Richardson’s brigade, with Colonel Richardson, to make a reconnaissance, and in feeling our way carefully we soon found ourselves overlooking the strong position of the enemy, situated at Blackburn’s Ford, on Bull Run. A moment’s observation discovered a battery on the opposite bank, but no great body of troops, although the usual pickets and small detachments showed themselves on the left of the position.

Suspecting from the natural strength which I saw the position to possess that the enemy must be in force, and desiring to ascertain the extent of that force and the position of his batteries, I ordered up the two rifled guns, Ayres’ battery, and Richardson’s entire brigade, and subsequently Sherman’s brigade in reserve, to be ready for any contingency. As soon as the rifled guns came up I ordered them into battery on the crest of the hill, nearly a mile from a single battery which we could see placed on the opposite side of the run. Ten or a dozen shots were fired, one of them seeming to take effect on a large body of cavalry, who evidently thought themselves out of range.

The battery we had discovered on our arrival fired six shots and discontinued fire. Finding that our battery did not provoke the enemy to discover his force and his batteries, I ordered Colonel Richardson to advance his brigade and to throw out skirmishers to scour the thick woods with which the whole bottom of Bull Run was covered. This order was skillfully executed, and the skirmishers came out of the wood into the road and close to the ford without provoking any considerable fire from the enemy.

Desiring to make a further attempt to effect the object of the movement, and discovering an opening low down on the bottom of the stream where a couple of howitzers could be put into battery, I ordered Captain Ayres to detach a section, post it himself on the ground I pointed out to him, and sent a squadron of cavalry to support this movement.

The moment Captain Ayres opened his fire the enemy replied with volleys, which showed that the whole bottom was filled with troops, and that he had batteries established in different positions to sweep all the approaches by the road leading to Blackburn’s Ford. Captain Ayres maintained himself most gallantly, and after firing away all his canister shot and some spherical case with terrible effect, as we afterwards learned, withdrew his pieces safely and rejoined his battery. This attack on Captain Ayres accomplished the object I desired, as it showed that the enemy was in force and disclosed the position of his batteries, and had I been at hand the movement would have ended here; but Colonel Richardson having previously given an order for the Twelfth New York to deploy into line and advance into the woods, in an attempt to execute this order the regiment broke, with the exception of two companies, A and I, who stood their ground gallantly, and was only rallied in the woods some mile and a half in the rear. The fire which the regiment encountered was severe, but no excuse for the disorganization it produced.

Having satisfied myself that the enemy was in force, and also as to the position of his batteries, I ordered Colonel Richardson to withdraw his brigade, which was skillfully though unwillingly accomplished, as he requested permission with the First Massachusetts and Second and Third Michigan Regiments to charge the enemy and drive him out. It is but justice to these regiments to say that they stood firm, maneuvered well, and I have no doubt would have backed up manfully the proposition of their gallant commander. After the infantry had been withdrawn, I directed Captain Ayres and Lieutenant Benjamin, who commanded the two 20-pounders, to open their fire both on the battery which enfiladed the road leading to the ford and on the battery which we had discovered in the bottom of Bull Run, which we knew to be surrounded by a large body of men. This fire was continued from 3.15 until 4 o’clock, firing 415 shots. The fire was answered from the enemy’s batteries, gun for gun, but was discontinued the moment we ceased firing.

The concentrated position of the enemy, and the fact that the elevation of our battery and the range were both favorable, induce the belief that the enemy suffered severely from our fire, and this belief is confirmed by the fact that the ensuing day, until 12 m., ambulances were seen coming and going from and to Manassas, two miles distant.
In closing this report, it gives me great pleasure to call to your attention the gallant conduct of Colonel Richardson; Captain Brethschneider, who commanded the skirmishers; Captain Ayres; Lieutenant Lorain, who, I regret to say, was wounded; Lieutenants Dresser, Lyford, and Fuller, attached to Ayres’ battery, and Lieutenants Benjamin and Babbitt, in charge of the two 20-pounder rifled guns, all of whom displayed great coolness, energy, and skill in the discharge of their official duties. Herewith you will find a list of casualties.(*)

With great respect, your obedient servant



Brigadier-General McDOWELL,

Commanding Department of Northeastern Virginia


For the nature of my instructions see copy herewith, marked A.

I. McD., B. G.



Between Germantown and Centreville, July 18, 1861–8.15 a.m.

GENERAL: I have information which leads me to believe you will find no force at Centreville, and will meet with no resistance in getting there.

Observe well the roads to Bull Run and to Warrenton. Do not bring on an engagement, but keep up the impression that we are moving on Manassas.

I go to Heintzelman’s to arrange about the plan we have talked over.

Very respectfully, &c.,



Brigadier-General TYLER

(*) See inclosure to No. 4, p. 314

Col. W. T. Sherman on Blackburn’s Ford

1 02 2009

To John Sherman

Camp near Centreville,

July 19, 1861

Hon. John Sherman

Dear Brother,

I started my Brigade at 2 P.M. the day I wrote you viz. Tuesday the men with 3 days cooked provision in their haversacks.  We passed Falls Church in about two hours, took the gravel road a couple of miles then turned left to the village of Vienna, which is hardly entitled to the name.  There we camped, and next morning at 5 1/2 started, marched very slowly toward Germantown.  The road was obstructed by fallen timber but no signs of an armed opposition we found at Germantown an Earth parapet thrown across the road, but very poor – at or near Germantown we came into the Main Road back of Farifax C. H. which had been abandoned by 5000 men.  Had we reached their rear in time we might have Caught them – but their Knowledge of the Roads – and extreme ease of obstructing them by simply cutting down trees prevented us reaching the point in time.  We followed on to Centreville where also we expected opposition, but it too was evacuated, though the Strongest place I have yet seen to make a stand.  This was the point arranged for the Concentration of the Columns from Alexandria, Geo[‘]town & Long Bridge.  Our Division reached it first.  Richardsons Brigade in advance mine next – Gen. Tyler took two 20 pr. Rifled guns, some Dragoons & Richardsons Brigade to follow to discover the line of Retreat – Bulls Run was only 3 miles distant and it was distinctly understood it was not to be attacked by the Route of usual travel, which had been carefully studied and commanded.  I went into a large meadow with my four Regts. and soon saw the heads of Miles & Heintzelmans columns showing the details had been well planned.  About noon I heard firing in the direction of the Ford at Bulls Run – very irregular and though I knew McDowell did not want it attacked I felt uneasy – The firing was quite sharp at time, and I continued uneasy though my duty was plain to Stand fast – about 2 I got orders to come forward, and about that time I heard heavy musketry firing.  In four minutes we were hastening[.]  The distance about 2 1/2 miles – the road la[y]ing on the {illegible} or Ridge divide between heavy wooded slopes making a narrow Rocky road – we met too many, far too many straggling soldiers and soon came to the ambulance & Doctors with their appliances at work – I led the head of my column till I came upon our Batteries – that of 2 20 prs. – and Ayers field Battery.  I asked Gen. Tyler for orders, and was told to deploy and cover Richardson who was down a Ravine to the left – front was a small house, and Right an open field in which Ayres Battery was unlimbered – the whole comprising a small open farm just where you could look across Bulls Run – It was Known to be fortified, yet the Batteries could not be clearly seen, it was full a mile & half off – the cannonading was quite brisk at the time of my arrival, but the shots mostly passed over us, the Batteries were simply firing at each other.  Richardson had previously pushed his Brigade down close to the Run, but was repulsed, his volunteers breaking and not rallying.  Then the fighting was very brisk, and our loss heavy.  That occurred some twenty minutes beofre my arrival and it was the dispersed troops we met – After arranging my four Regts. under cover of timber, ready for any movement.  I went forward again to the Batteries, and there learned that we were to return.  Receiving the order I drew out my Brigade on the Back track and marched to this Camp – Gen. McDowell arrived during the cannonading and I think did not like it – Tyler never intended to attack Bulls Run Ford, but wanted to experiment with Rifled cannon and got a Rowland for his Oliver.  We have to cross Bulls run by some Route and attack Manassas.  No doubt the enemy is there in all force.  We are only about 6 miles off in an air line, but the Country is wooded, and Bulls Run with ugly ragged banks well known to them, and imperfectly to us still lies between.  Some manoeuvering must still precede the final attack – The volunteers test my patience by their irregularities Robbing, shooting in direct opposition to orders, and like conduct showing a great want of Discipline – Twill take time to make soldiers of them.  Send this to Ellen, to assure her of my safety – day is hot, and we have little shade.  Yrs.

W. T. Sherman

[Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, pp. 119-121]

New Map

4 12 2008

I know I haven’t posted much here or in the Bull Run Resources about the fight at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18, 1861.  I’ll get to that eventually, I promise.  But for now, I have updated the Maps page with the below image of a map of that action drawn by E. Porter Alexander.  Check it out.  Thanks to Jim Burgess of Manassas National Battlefield Park for sending me the image from the Park’s archives. 

Recently some e-quaintances and I were discussing the position of Ayres’ (Sherman’s) Battery during the fight.  It would appear from Alexander’s perspective the battery was situated somewhat to the east of the ford, but it’s not clear from the map to which of Ayres’ positions Alexander was referring.

You can leave comments here or on the Maps page, but here is probably better.


The Two Shermans

24 11 2008

The New York Times, August 11, 1861 (see here)

The Two Shermans.

From the Cincinnati Commercial.

Not a little error and confusion has been created by writers in the newspapers, especially since the recent battle before Manassas Junction, by confounding the names of two meritorious officers in the Army.  There are two Col. Shermans in the Army: Col. William T. Sherman, of Ohio, and Col. Thomas W. Sherman, of Rhode Island.  The former is the only one of the two who was engaged in the battle at Bull Run.  He is a brother of John Sherman, Senator from Ohio.  He is not the Capt. Sherman who first organized the famous Sherman’s Battery.

There are some points of remarkable similarity in the case of the two Shermans, which have easily led those ignorant of their history and position into confounding them together.  Their initials are similar – one being W. T. and the other T. W. Sherman; they both graduated in the same class at West Point; both entered the same regiment – the Third Artillery; both served in the Mexican War; and both have been recently appointed Brigadier Generals.

It is T. W. Sherman, of Rhode Island, who commanded and gave his name to “Sherman’s Battery,” which he organized in Mexico, where he served under Taylor and Scott, and which was doing duty on the frontier (Minnesota) when the difficulties with the seceded States broke out.

W. T. Sherman, of Ohio, was found at the beginning of these troubles at the head of a State Military Academy in Louisiana, and upon the secession of that State he resigned, refusing to serve in a State disloyal to the Government.  When the new regiments of the regular Army were formed, Sherman, of Ohio, was appointed Colonel of the Thirteenth Infantry, and Sherman, of Rhode Island, was made Lieutenant-Colonel of the Fifth Artillery, and shortly after, by promotion of Col. Hunter, became Colonel of that regiment.

Sherman’s Battery, although it still retains the name, is now really Ayres’ Battery.  It was Col. Sherman, of Ohio, who commanded the Brigade in the battle fo Bull Run composed of the following regiments:

Seventy-ninth New-York (Highlanders,) Col. Cameron.

Sixty-ninth New-York, (Irish,) Col. Corcoran.

Thirteenth New-York.

Second Wisconsin.

He also had accompanying his Brigade, and under his orders, the Battery of Capt. Ayres, (Shermans Battery,) which was not captured by the enemy, as claimed by all the rebel newspapers, but after a desperate contest every gun was brought off in safety, and was replanted on Capitol Hill, from whence it has since been removed across the Potomac.

Col. Sherman, of Rhode Island, was not in the battle, but was on duty elsewhere.  Both of the Shermans are regarded in the Army as among its best officers.  Both are now Generals, and there is little doubt that they will distinguish themselves in the service, and very probably their actions will be confounded in future as in the past, and each receive the credit due the other.  At this, the two Shermans will not complain, for they are great friends, although not related to each other.

(See explanatory comments here).

Lieut. Patrick O’Rorke’s Account of the Campaign

11 05 2008

Private Correspondence – Lieut. P. H. O’Rorke (ADC to Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler) to his Brother, Thomas*

//Page 1//

Washington City, July 28th, 1861

Dear Brother

I saw P. J. Dowling and Mr. Buckley this morning over at fort Corcoran, and my heart was gladdened by the sight of some letters from home.  These are the first letters from my own family that I have received since I left West Point, a month ago.  I have been changing about from one place to another so much that my letters get lost in following me.  For instance I was told by one of Gen. McDowell’s Staff that there was a letter for me at their HeadQrs. on the other side of the river.  I went over there the next day and found that some of my friends had sent it to Alexandria thinking that I was there.  It will probably reach me in the course of a month.  You ask me for details of the Battle of last Sunday.  To give you a general plan of the Battle and its progress throughout the day would take more time than I have to spare, as I am now busily engaged in assisting Gen. Tyler to collect the reports of the several commanders in his Division, and engrossing them in one.  I shall limit myself to an account of my own experience since I left the Point.  On arriving in this city from the Academy, as you already know I was set to drilling a Reg’t of volunteers from N. Hampshire.  This continued about a week when I was ordered to //VERSO// report in person to Gen. McDowell at his Hd.Qrs. at Arlington.  He immediately sent me to Gen. Tyler at Falls Church a few miles this side of Fairfax to be one of his Aids.  Here we staid until the 16th, being all this time busily engaged in perfecting the organization of the different Brigades composing his division, inspecting Regiments etc.  The day after my arrival at Falls Church I went out with another member of my class Mr. Audenried on a scouting party towards Fairfax then strongly held by the enemy.  We approached to within two miles and a half of Fairfax when we came upon the pickets of the enemy and captured two of them.  I mention this to show that myself and Mr. Audenried were the first of our class within the enemy’s line of pickets, and that we had the first sight of the enemy.  On the 16th the forward movement of the army commenced.  Our Division moved on Vienna.  When we arrived there we found no enemy.  The next day, learning that the enemy had evacuated Fairfax we moved through Germantown and encamped beyond, towards Centreville.  Here we found a camp of the enemy which had just been deserted by them, and in which their fires were yet burning.  Our men picked up here quite a number of carbines and other arms left behind by the rebels in their haste to get out of our way.  The next morning at daylight we were again on the road on the track of the flying enemy, and on arriving at Centreville found that they were yet before us, having abandoned at this point a strongly entrenched position which fully commanded the road by which our Division //Page 2// arrived.  From this point roads diverged in various directions.  We learned here that the enemy had divided his forces, part of them taking a road which led to Blackburn’s Ford over Bull Run, in the direction of Manassas.  Now as we were approaching the strong position of the enemy, it was necessary to move with great caution.  Gen. Tyler now took a squadron of Cavalry and two companies of Infantry to make an armed reconnoisance in the direction of Blackburn’s Ford.

If you will take a good map of that vicinity you will easily follow me.  Well we proceeded without seeing anything of the enemy until we arrived on the crest of a hill overlooking the Ford and about half a mile from it.  From this point we could see the enemy pickets in the valley before us, and bodies of his troops on the high ground on the opposite side, but not in very large numbers.  Our object being to discover if possible something of the enemy’s numbers and the position of the Batteries we knew he had here, the General sent back one of his Aids to order up a couple of 20 pdr. rifled guns, and Richardson’s Brigade to support them.  These were soon on the ground and then we thought we would try to draw their fire, and thus make them discover to us their position.  A large body of Cavalry was standing in an open field about two miles and a half from us, who evidently thought they were beyond our range, from the confidence with which they showed themselves.  We aimed one of our 20 pdrs. carefully, and sent a shell whizzing towards them. //VERSO// In about ten seconds the shell fell and burst among them, and it certainly was amusing to see them scamper.  They got themselves out of sight in double quick time I can assure you.  We then aimed and fired at several prominent points, where the enemy could be seen, but for several minutes they maintained an obstinate silence.  At last when we had about concluded that they were determined not to show themselves, a battery of two pieces opened very unexpectedly, almost at the foot of the hill on the crest of which we were standing, sending their balls right amongst us as we were standing grouped around our pieces.  We immediately turned our pieces on this Battery whose position we could not see, but which we could determine approximately from the smoke rising through the trees.  In about four minutes they ceased firing and we heard nothing more from that point.

Our object being so far but very partially attained, Col. Richardson was directed to throw forward skirmishers into a small wood, between us and Bull Run, who were directed to feel their way cautiously forward, and see what they could discover, a couple of Regiments being marched forward and placed under cover in a ravine, within supporting distance.  In the meantime I had been sent back to Centreville to bring up Ayres’ Battery and Sherman’s Brigade so as to be prepared for any emergency, and I arrived on the ground with the Battery just as our skirmishers //Page 3// were entering the wood.  In a few moments we heard a scattered firing commence in this wood, as our skirmishers met those of the enemy.  The affair now began to get interesting.  Now men were thrown forward to  support our skirmishers, and as the General had discovered an opening in the wood in which  a couple of pieces of Art’y could be unlimbered, he now sent Capt. Ayres with two Howitzers to that point to open a fire upon the enemy within a short range.  Ayres took his pieces to the indicated point and sent a couple of charges of Canister among the enemy who appeard to be in great numbers a short distance in his front.  This was more than human nature could stand quietly, and the enemy answered by a thundering volley of musketry and artillery, thus showing us that they were in very great force, and also the positions of their Batteries.  This was all we wanted to know and the affair would have ended there, but before the General could interfere Col Richardson sent the 12th N. Y. Reg’t in line into the wood to clear it.  They went forward in excellent order, until they reached the edge of a ravine, in the bottom, and on the opposite side of which the enemy were posted.  Here they were exposed to the combined fire of three or four thousand troops, and two Batteries.  They returned the fire warmly for a few minutes, but the odds were too great, and they finally broke, and retreated in confusion.

Lt. Upton and myself had just ridden down into the woods to see how it felt to be under such a fire //VERSO// and we arrived behind our lines just before they broke and ran.  We rode about among the men and used every exertion to rally them and lead them again against the enemy.  We appealed to their pride and to their manhood.  We begged them for the honor of our state and of our flag to reform, and make another stand – but without effect.  Their officers I must say were worse than the men, and set them and example of tall running.  Only two companies stood their ground and were withdrawn in good order.  The object of our reconnoisance having now been attained the men were withdrawn to a safe position, while our two Batteries were directed upon the enemy whose position we now knew, and with terrible effect as we have since learned.  The enemy acknowledge a loss of 150 killed and more than twice that number wounded, at the same time claiming to have killed 1500 of our men.  The truth is we had but 19 killed and 38 wounded.  Col. Richardson remained in possession of the ground we occupied in the beginning of the engagement until the Battle on Sunday last.

I was now satisfied.  I had been under fire, and a pretty warm one too, and had felt no inclination to run.  The general and his staff returned to Centreville and I lay down that night and slept contented.  The next two days we lay encamped at that place.  On the night succeeding our action at Blackburn’s ford //Page 4// cars were heard constantly arriving at and departing from Manassas during the whole night.  Most of us felt confident that Johnston had effected a junction with Beauregard, and that we should have to fight their combined armies.  On Sunday morning we were ordered to march at half past two in the morning in the direction of Gainsville and take up a position just this side of Bull Run.  Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s columns took a road which crossed Bull Run about a mile and a half to our right, while Richardson’s Brigade remained to watch Blackburn’s Ford and prevent the enemy from flanking us.  Col. Miles was posted with the reserve at Centreville.  We arrived at the position assigned us about half past five – when I say “us”, I mean Tyler’s Division, about 12,000 men less Richardson’s Brigade – and fired the gun agreed upon to let the other column’s know that we were in position, and ready to sustain them.  In front of the centre of the line which we formed here was a Stone Bridge, obstructed by Abbattis and supposed to be mined, though it was not.  To the right and left were fords at short distances above and below the Bridge.  All these crossings were defended by Batteries placed so as to sweep them, and all the approaches to them, these Batteries being supported by large bodies of Infantry.  Our Division was composed of Sherman’s Brigade – in which were the 13th our Rochester Reg’t, the 69th, the 79th, and a Wisconsin Reg’t //VERSO// Gen. Schenck’s Brigade, and Col. Keyes’ Brigade.  We remained in position at this point until nearly 11 o’clock, amusing ourselves in the meantime by firing upon bodies of the enemy which we could see passing down the other side of the Run in the direction of Hunter’s column, of whose movement they seemed to be apprised.

The General sent me up into a large tree with a glass to see and report what was going on in that direction.  Using this tree as an observatory, I had a fine view of the beginning of the Battle and its continuance for half an hour before being engaged in it myself.  I saw Hunter’s column after it had crossed the Run, coming up towards us, or rather towards the enemy in our front.  The latter were at the same time moving large bodies of troops to meet him.

Finally they stopped in a open field, through which the road by which Hunter was advancing ran, and prepared to dispute his passage.  Here they placed a Battery to enfilade this road at the point at which it emerged from a wood, and posted their man in line of Battle on either side of their Battery, at the same time throwing out skirmishers into this wood to annoy him as he advanced.  Hunter advanced steadily driving the enemy’s skirmishers before him and deployed a portion of his column in the edge of a wood.  He then threw a section of one of his light Batteries up along this road into the open space in front, this Section being all this time under heavy fire from the enemy’s Battery.  As soon as it came out into the open space in front of the wood it unlimbered and opened its fire, the other sections coming up successively and opening as soo as they were in position.  At the //Page 5// same time Hunter opened a heavy musketry fire from the whole edge of the wood which he had occupied, and the engagement became general throughout the whole line.  The enemy stood it only for a few minutes when they broke and ran in the greatest confusion.  Hunter followed up his success and drove the enemy from one position to another, the enemy contesting every foot of the ground, until he arrived nearly opposite our position, when his column seemed to be arrested and I saw the enemy bringing down heavy reinforcements from the direction of Manassas.  I immediately reported these facts to Gen. Tyler when he at once ordered Sherman’s Brigade to cross the Run and support Hunter.  I then got down from my perch and joined the General.  In climbing the tree my cap had got knocked off, and when I came down I found some one had walked off with it.  I looked round and finally picked up an old straw hat, which some poor fellow had probably been killed in, as the inside and under side of the leaf was covered with blood & I wore that all day.  Pleasant, wasn’t it, wearing a dead man’s hat and expecting to follow suit every moment.  Sherman’s Brigade now crossed the run and on reaching the crest of the hill on the opposite side they encountered a portion of the enemy and routed them.  Here the Lt. Col. Of the 69th was killed.  This Brigade now joined Hunter’s column //VERSO// and I saw no more of them until the Retreat.  Consequently I can say nothing from personal observation as to the conduct of our Rochester Regiment in the action, though from all I can learn they behaved very handsomely.

Gen. Tyler, and of course myself, now crossed the Run under a heavy artillery fire at the head of Keyes’ Brigade.  We arrived on the high ground on the opposite side in good order and became immediately involved in the action.  We drove the enemy from point to point, until we finally arrived in front of a large house and its enclosure which the enemy had occupied with a large force and prepared for defence.  This position Keyes’ Brigade was ordered to carry, and in this operation Gen. Tyler and his staff assisted in person.  The Brigade was advanced in line, or rather in two lines nearly at right angles to each other against two sides of the position under a galling fire of musketry until within a short distance, when we opened a hot and continued fire upon the enemy.  Our men stood to their work bravely being entirely exposed while the enemy were sheltered.  Only once did they show any disposition to retire, and they were easily rallied.  We now made them lie down and continue their fire, which they did with a will for about five minutes.  During this time Lt. Abbott, Lt. Upton, and myself were the only mounted officers exposed to this fire and as we were necessarily very prominent, and only about fifty yards from the //Page 6// enemy were excellent marks for their riflemen.  Judging by the bullets which whistled by my ears, they must have taken particular care to fire at us, though we all escaped safely at that time.  I have got a hole in the skirt of my coat which I suppose was mae by one of their balls at this time.  The fire of the enemy now appearing to slacken a little, the order was given to charge with the bayonet which was done in splendid style, clearing the enclosure of the enemy and getting possession of the house in which we found a few of them, who could not get out in time and who were taken prisoners.  As soon as we found ourselves in possession of the house, a Battery which we had not seen before as it had been silent & was concealed, opened upon us and tore the old house all to pieces.  We found the place too hot to hold and retired into the road running in front of the house which happened to be cut down at this point thus giving us a shelter.  From this position we made a flank movement to turn this Battery intending to charge and take it if possible.  This movement was made under cover of a hill on which this Battery was placed.  We had just completed the movement and were about to charge up the hill on the Battery when we discovered that the other columns were retreating and a half mile distant, so that unless we took the back track instanter there was every probability of our being cut off.  The Retreat was consequently ordered //VERSO// and our Brigade joined the retreating column in good order.  I could scarcely believe the evidence of my senses when I saw that our army was retreating.  That portion of it with which I had been had been uniformely successful through the day, and I thought we were winning a glorious victory.  I was highly elated with success, and you can judge of the reversion of feeling which took place when I found we were retiring.

The Retreat was well enough and if it had been conducted with order there would be nothing to be ashamed of, for the number of fresh troops that the enemy had bought up to oppose us was overpowering, but after a short time when their cavalry charged upon our flank the Retreat degenerated into a rout.  It was at this time that my horse was killed under me.  We saw their cavalry coming down on us and tried to form enough men to repel the charge.  IN this, with considerably (sic) difficulty we were successful.  Some of the Ohio troops and Ayres’ Battery gave them a volley as they came down on us which emptied a good many of their saddles and sent them back again.  But they gave us one volley from their rifled carbines, one of the balls taking effect on my horse and killing him instantly.  He staggered forward a few steps and fell, throwing me on a pile of stones and bruising my right arm.  I got a Secession horse from a man in Ayres’ Battery, which he had just caught, and rode him to Centreville.  Of the Retreat from this point I do not care to speak.

I arrived a Falls Church at 5 o’clock the next morning having been in the saddle for twenty seven hours without anything to eat in the meantime, and without having eaten anything before going out, as I was sicj when we started.  I can assure you I //Page 7// was pretty well worn out.  After sleeping about three hours and getting a little breakfast I mounted my horse again and was out almost all day, in the midst of a heavy storm of rain bringing things down to Fort Corcoran and finally arrived here in Washington about 9 o’clock at night, having been thoroughly soaked to the skin for several hours.  I never slept so much in one night in my life as I did that night.  Since then I have been here in the City most of the time.  For the last two days I have been assisting Gen. Tyler to make out his official report.  He has been kind enough to mention me very honorably in it.  You will probably see it published in the N. Y. paper in a day or two.

Now, my dear Brother I have written here until I am tired and if you have read thus far I am sure you are too.  But I thought an account of the Battle by an eye-witness and an actor, would perhaps be more interesting to you than the newspaper accounts, particularly when the writer was your Brother.

I cannot find time to write any extended account of the Battle to all my friends, so if any of them want to know my experiences, you may show them this.  I saw Tom Bishop to-day he is all right.  I have not been able to see Charley Buckley but I hear that he is getting along very well.  Give my love to Mary, also to Mother and all our family.

Your affectionate

Brother Patrick

*For reference and citational info, see here

Central Ohio Civil War Round Table – Columbus

18 03 2008

This past Wednesday (March 12), I made the 3 hour drive to Columbus to deliver my Threads presentation to the Central Ohio Civil War Round Table.  Mike Peters, the round table’s group historian (programs director) and an old e-quaintance with whom I’ve stomped Civil War battlefields in North Carolina, met me at the Holiday Inn in Pickerington.  From there we went over to what’s left of Camp Chase, which served as a training camp, parole camp, and prison camp during the war.  It’s most famous as a facility in which both prisoners of war and civilian detainees were held, and over 2,200 of them rest in the cemetery that represents all that is left of the once vast camp (I reviewed in brief a new book on Camp Chase in the May 2008 issue of America’s Civil War ).  One of those buried there is an ancestor of Mike’s – that’s them in the last photo below (click on the thumbnail for a larger image):

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We spent a short while in the cemetery, and then drove to the offices of Blue & Gray Magazine.  There I was introduced to Jason Roth, who works with his father Dave, the founder of the magazine.  I was about 19 issues short of a full run of Blue & Gray, and had packed a list of all the issues I needed, which of course I left back at the hotel.  I remembered one of the issues off the top of my head (a rare occurrence) which Jason had in stock.  I also purchased a copy of Tom McGrath’s new book on the Battle of Shepherdstown, and told Jason I would try to stop by the next day before heading for home (I did return, and bought another three back issues – now just 15 to go!).  Here is the home of the magazine:

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 Next we drove to the Motts Military Museum in Groveport.  This place is a real jewel, with a wonderful collection of paraphernalia spanning American military history.  The museum is now the home of the Pickett’s Charge diorama formerly displayed in the Gettysburg Cyclorama; numerous edged weapons and firearms; uniforms; tanks; helicopters; a rare WWII Higgins boat; an exact replica of Columbus native Eddie Rickenbacker’s  boyhood home; and much more.  After wandering the grounds, Mike introduced me to the director, Warren Motts.  Many of you have met Wayne Motts, Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide and the Director of the Adams County Historical Society.  Warren is Wayne’s father, and all I can say is the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.  Talk about energy and enthusiasm!  Warren showed us the new (unopened) wing of the museum, which has lots of stuff from NASA (including a live feed!), an extensive collection of women’s uniforms, and the lens used by Matthew Brady to photograph Lee on his porch in Richmond after Appomattox.  The last photo below is of Mike (l) and Warren (r):

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 It was getting pretty late, and the meeting was to begin at 7:30, so Mike dropped me at the hotel where I changed.  About 10 minutes later I was back in Mike’s car and we met another member of the round table, author and fellow blogger Eric Wittenberg, at Max & Erma’s for dinner.  I’ve known Eric for about seven years, and realized that I hadn’t seen him in nearly three, so it was nice to have some time to catch up.  Check out his very kind comments regarding my presentation.  Thanks for the plug, Eric.

The meeting was held in Westerville, which is a pretty cool Victorian town.  I had a little time to schmooze with some of the members I had met a few years ago in North Carolina, and round table President Tim Maurice had some business to conduct, so I began my program around 7:45.  About 35 folks showed up, and  I started off by taking this picture (sorry, it’s out of focus):   


I think things went pretty well.  Mike had told me that the speaker usually goes 30-45 minutes.  I went to about 9:15, and only one person had to leave during the program.  I didn’t have any time for a formal Q&A (I think on a Wednesday night most folks had already had a long day), but there were quite a few questions during the presentation and three or four hung around afterward to chat.  Thanks to the fella (Jamie Ryan) who provided the probable identity of Colonel — whose death Romeyn B. Ayres felt would enable his family to be proud (see here) as Norval Welch of the 16th MI.  Welch’s actions at Little Round Top on July 2, 1863 had cast a shadow over his reputation.  He was killed at the head of his regiment at Peebles Farm on Sept. 30, 1864.  Here’s a photo of Welch that I found on this site:  


All in all, a good trip.  The reworking of the program really paid off, and the whole thing flowed a lot better.  Thanks to Tim Maurice, Mike Peters, Eric Wittenberg and everyone at the Central Ohio Civil War Round Table for a great time, and for their pledge of a donation to the Save Historic Antietam Foundation.



#23 – Lieut. Edward B. Hill

6 03 2008


Report of Lieut. Edward B. Hill, First U.S. Artillery

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 365-366

JULY 26, 1861

SIR: I have the honor to report that on Sunday, the 21st day of July, at 2.30 a.m., we left our camp at Centreville to proceed to Bull Run. At 5 o’clock we opened the action by firing the heavy rifled gun attached to our battery, eliciting no response. We then moved forward to the foot of the hill, and took a position in the woods on the right. A battery of the enemy presenting itself opposite us, doing much injury to one of our regiments, we opened upon it, and after an hour’s sharp firing completely destroyed it. We then used the heavy rifled gun with great advantage. In the afternoon we took a position on the left with Captain Ayres’ battery, but found it untenable on account of masked batteries of the enemy, the precise situation of which we could not ascertain. We then moved up the hill and halted. The enemy fired shell into this position, and we were ordered to go farther on. We then halted for a few moments, and soon after moved on over the hill. I was detained in the rear of the battery attending to one of the caissons which had lost a wheel. In the mean time Captain Ayres’ battery passed by me, so as to come between myself and our battery in front.

When I was ready to move on, I found Captain Ayres’ battery preparing for action at the brow of the hill. I then learned that our battery had been attacked by a body of secession cavalry, and all cut to pieces. Captain Ayres then advised me to attach my caisson, battery-wagon, and forge to his battery, and that I should go on and try to discover what had become of our own. On riding ahead I found a complete scene of destruction; wheels, limber-boxes, guns, caissons, dead and wounded men and horses were scattered all along the road. I was enabled, however, to find two pieces which I could bring along, and two men, Corporal Callaghan and Private Whitenech. I applied to the division commander for a detail of men to assist in bringing off these pieces, which he seemed indisposed to grant. Captain Ayres, on my applying to him, furnished me with men to act as teamsters, and placed my two pieces in his battery.

We thus arrived at the foot of the hill, when the enemy opened a fire of musketry upon us, which created the utmost confusion in our already retreating column. My men were obliged to leave the battery-wagon, forge, and caisson. At Centreville the retreating column made a stand, and I reported myself to Major Barry, chief of artillery, who attached me to Lieut. O. D. Greene’s battery at my request. My two pieces were then placed in position with the rest of the artillery to resist an attack. Colonel Jackson, of the New York Eighteenth Regiment, most kindly lent me a number of men to aid me as teamsters in place of those of Captain Ayres, whom I returned. We soon after received an order to retreat to Fairfax. Owing to the inexperience of my men I did not get my horses harnessed in time, and consequently when I started was nearly half a mile in rear of the whole retreating column. I finally caught up to Major Hunt’s battery, and was advised by him to push ahead, which I did. At Fairfax I received an order to proceed immediately to Washington. I reached Fort Albany, opposite Washington, at 11 o’clock Monday morning, July 22, where Lieutenant Cook, of the Twenty-fifth Regiment, kindly received me, and gave me all that was necessary to restore me after the fatigues of the march.

I feel particularly indebted to Captain Ayres and to the officers of his battery–Lieutenant Greene, Colonel Jackson, and Major Hunt–for their valuable aid through the difficulties and embarrassments of the retreat from Bull Run to Washington.

I have the honor to be, your most obedient servant,


Second Lieutenant, First Artillery


#19 – Brig. Gen. Robert C. Schenck

5 03 2008


Report of Brig. Gen. Robert C. Schenck, U.S. Army, Commanding Second Brigade, First Division

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 357-361


July 23, 1861

GENERAL: I have the honor to submit this report of the movements and service of my brigade in the battle of Bull Run, on the Gainesville road, on the 21st instant:

Leaving my camp, one mile south of Centreville, at 2.30 a.m. of that day, I marched at the head of your division, as ordered, with my command in column, in the following order: The First Regiment of Ohio Volunteers, Colonel McCook; the Second Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Mason; the Second New York State Militia, Colonel Tompkins, and Captain Carlisle’s battery of light artillery, six brass guns. To Captain Carlisle’s command was also attached the large Parrott gun (30-pounder), under direction of Lieutenant Hains, of the Artillery Corps.

Proceeding slowly and carefully, preceded by five companies of skirmishers of the First and Second Ohio, which I threw out on either side of the road, we approached the bridge over Bull Run, beyond which the rebels were understood to be posted and intrenched, and to within a distance, perhaps, of three-fourths of a mile of their batteries on the other side of the stream. In obedience to your command, on first discovery of the presence of the enemy’s infantry forming into line on the hill-side beyond the Run, I deployed my three regiments of infantry to the left of the road, and formed them in line of battle in front of his right. Thus my command was constituted–the left wing of our division, Colonel Sherman’s brigade, coming up and taking position to the right of the road.

After the fire had been opened by discharge of the large Parrott gun from the center in the direction of the enemy’s work, I moved my extended line gradually forward at intervals, taking advantage of the ground, until I had my force sheltered partly in a hollow, covered by a ridge and wood in front, and partly by the edge of the timber lying between us and the run. Here we lay, in pursuance of your orders, for, perhaps, two and a half or three hours, with no evidence of our nearness to the enemy except the occasional firing of musketry by our skirmishers in the wood in front, answered by the muskets or rifles of the enemy, to whom our presence and position were thus indicated, with a view to distract his attention-from the approach of Colonel Hunter’s force from above and in his rear. At this time I received your notice and order announcing that Hunter was heard from, that he had crossed, and was coming down about two miles above us, and directing that if I saw any signs of a stampede of the enemy in front I should make a dash with the two Ohio regiments, keeping the New York regiment in reserve. For this movement I immediately formed and prepared. Soon after, and when, by the firing of artillery and musketry in front at the right, it appeared that the rebels were actively engaged in their position by our forces on the other side of the stream, I received your order to extend my line still farther to the left, sending forward Colonel McCook’s regiment to feel the battery of the enemy, which was ascertained to be on the hill covering the ford, half a mile below the bridge, and supporting him with my two other regiments. This was immediately done. Colonel McCook advanced in that direction along the road, which we found to be a narrow track through a pine wood, thick and close with undergrowth, and flanked on either side by ambuscades of brush-work, which were now, however, abandoned. Reaching the head of this narrow road where it opened upon the stream, Colonel McCook found the battery to be a strong earthwork immediately opposite, mounted with at least four heavy guns, and commanding the outlet from the wood. An open space of hollow ground lay between, with a corn-field to the left, the direct distance across to the enemy’s battery being about three hundred and fifty yards. Behind this battery, and supporting it, were discovered some four regiments of the rebel troops, while rifle-pits were seen directly in front of it. The First Regiment was then deployed to the left in the edge of the woods and into the corn-field, one company (Captain Kell’s) being thrown forward towards the run up to within perhaps twenty yards of the battery.

While this was done I advanced the Second Ohio, followed by the Second New York, toward the head of the road, in supporting distance from the First Ohio, Lieutenant-Colonel Mason’s regiment filing also to the left. Receiving Colonel McCook’s report of the battery, and that it would be impossible to turn it with any force we had, I immediately dispatched a message to the center to bring up some pieces of artillery, to engage the enemy from the head of the road. In the mean time the enemy, discovering our presence and position in the woods, and evidently having the exact range of the road we were occupying, opened on us with a heavy fire of shells and round and grape shot. To avoid the effect of this as much as possible, I ordered the men to fall back into the woods on each side of the road, and was presently re-enforced by two guns of Ayres’ battery, under Lieutenant Ransom, which passed to the head of the road. A brisk cannonading was then opened, but a very unequal one, on account of the superior force and metal of the enemy. While this continued, I left my horse and passed through the woods, and remained some time by our guns, to be satisfied whether we were making any impression on the enemy’s work. I soon found that it was not thus to be carried, and such also was the opinion of the officer in charge of the guns. Retiring, I found that the most of my two regiments in the rear had fallen back out of range of the hot and constant fire of the enemy’s cannon, against which they had nothing to oppose. The suffering from this fire was principally with the Second New York, as they were in the line where most of the shell and shots fell that passed over the heads of the Second Ohio.

Taking with me two companies of the Second Ohio, which were yet in the woods maintaining their position, I returned to cover, and brought away Ransom’s guns. It was just at this place and point of time that you visited yourself the position we were leaving. I must not omit to speak with commendation of the admirable manner in which these guns of ours were handled and served by the officers and men having them in charge; and I may notice the fact also that, as we were withdrawing from this point, we saw another heavy train of the enemy’s guns arrive and move up the stream on the other side of their battery with which we had been engaged along what we supposed to be the road from Manassas towards where the battle was raging with our troops on the right.

My three regiments being all called in, then returned and rested in good order at the center of the front, near the turnpike. Here I was informed by Colonel McCook that you had crossed the run above with other portions of our division, and left with him an order for me to remain with my infantry in that position supporting Carlisle’s battery, which was posted close to the road on the right. This was about 1 o’clock p.m. Captain Carlisle, while we thus rested, was playing with much apparent effect upon the enemy’s works across the run with his two rifled pieces, as was also Lieutenant Hains with the large Parrott gun. Soon after, having successive and cheering reports, confirmed by what we could observe, of the success of our Army on the other side of the run, I discovered that bodies of the enemy were in motion, probably retreating to their right. To scatter these and hasten their flight I ordered into the road toward the bridge the two rifled guns, and had several rounds fired, with manifest severe effect. This, however, drew from the enemy’s batteries again a warm and quick fire of shell and with rifled cannon on our position in the road, which continued afterwards and with little intermission, with loss of some lives again in my New York regiment, until the close of the fight.

While this was going on, Captain Alexander, of the Engineer Corps, brought up the company of pioneers and axmen, which, with its officers and sixty men, had been entirely detailed from the regiments of my brigade, to open a communication over the bridge and through the heavy abatis which obstructed the passage of troops on our front beyond the run. To support him while thus engaged, I brought and placed on the road towards the bridge McCook’s and Tompkins’ regiments, detailing also and sending forward to the bridge a company of the Second New Yorkers, to cover the rear while cutting through the enemy’s abatis. A second company from Lieutenant-Colonel Mason’s command was also brought forward with axes afterwards, to aid in clearing the obstructions, and thus in a short time Captain Alexander succeeded in opening a passage.

Captain Carlisle’s battery was now posted on the hill-side in the open field to the left of the road toward the bridge. Very soon after, some reverse of fortune appearing to have taken place with our troops on the other side, who were falling back up the run, it was discovered and reported to me that a large body of the enemy had passed over the stream below the bridge, and were advancing through a wood in the low grounds at our left, with an evident purpose to flank us. To intercept this movement, I ordered forward into the road still lower down two of Carlisle’s brass howitzers, a few rounds from which, quickly served, drove the rebels from the wood and back to the other side of the stream. It was not long after this that the unpleasant intelligence came of our Army being in retreat from the front across the ford above, and the order was given to fall back on Centreville. The retreat of my brigade, being now in the rear of our division, was conducted in the reverse order of our march in the morning, the Second New York moving first, and being followed by the Second Ohio and First Ohio, the two latter regiments preserving their lines in good degree, rallying together and arriving at Centreville with closed ranks, and sharing comparatively little in the panic which characterized so painfully that retreat, and which seemed to me to be occasioned more by the fears of frightened teamsters, and of hurrying and excited civilians (who ought never to have been there), than even by the needless disorder and want of discipline of straggling soldiers.

Near the house which was occupied as a hospital for the wounded, about a mile from the battle-ground, a dashing charge was made upon the retreating column by a body of secession cavalry, which was gallantly repelled, and principally by two companies of the Second Ohio, with loss on both sides. Here also, in this attack, occurred some of the casualties to the Second New York Regiment. From this point to Centreville a portion of the First Ohio was detailed, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Parrott, and acted efficiently as a rear guard, covering the retreat.

Arrived at Centreville, I halted the two Ohio regiments on the hill, and proceeded to call on General McDowell, whom I found engaged in forming the reserve of the Army and other troops in line of battle to meet an expected attack that night of the enemy at that point. I offered him our services, premising, however, that unfed and weary troops, who had been seventeen hours on the march and battle-field, might not be very effective, unless it were to be posted as a reserve in case of later emergency. General McDowell directed me to take them to the foot of the hill, there to stop and encamp. This I did, establishing the two regiments together in the wood to the west of the turnpike. After resting here about two hours, I was notified that your division, with the rest of the forces under the general commanding, were leaving Centreville, and received your order to fall back on Washington. I took the route by Fairfax Court-House, and thence across to Vienna, arriving at the latter place at 3.30 a.m. of the 22d, and there resting the troops for two hours in an open field. During the march we did what was possible to cover the rear of the scattered column then on the road.

Two miles, or less, this side of Vienna, Colonel McCook, with the main body of his regiment, turned upon the road leading to the Chain Bridge over the Potomac, thinking it might be a better way, and at the same time afford by the presence of a large and organized body protection to any stragglers that might have taken that route. Lieutenant-Colonel Mason, with the Second Ohio, marched in by the way of Falls Church and Camp Upton.

The return of the Ohio regiments to Washington was made necessary by the fact that, their term of service having expired, they are at once to be sent home to be mustered out of service.

Not having been able to obtain yet complete or satisfactory returns of all the casualties in the battle in the different corps of my brigade, I shall reserve the list of them for a separate report, which I will furnish as soon as practicable.

I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,



Brigadier-General TYLER,

Commanding First Division

#15 – Maj. William F. Barry

14 02 2008


Report of Maj. William F. Barry, Fifth U.S. Artillery, Chief of Artillery

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp 345-348

ARLINGTON, VA., July 23, 1861

CAPTAIN: Having been appointed, by Special Orders, No. 21, Headquarters Department Northeastern Virginia, Centreville, July 19, 1861, chief of artillery of the corps d’armée commanded by Brigadier-General McDowell, and having served in that capacity during the battle of 21st instant, I have the honor to submit the following report:

The artillery of the corps d’armée consisted of the following-named batteries: Ricketts’ light company, I, First Artillery, six 10-pounder Parrott rifle guns; Hunt’s light company, M, Second Artillery, four light 12-pounders; Carlisle’s company, E, Second Artillery, two James 13-pounder rifle guns, two 6 pounder guns; Tidball’s light company, A, Second Artillery, two 6-pounder guns, two 12-pounder howitzers; Greene’s company, G, Second Artillery, four 10-pounder Parrott rifle guns; Arnold’s company, D, Second Artillery, two 13-pounder James rifle guns, two 6-pounder guns; Ayres’ light company, E, Third Artillery, two 10-pounder Parrott rifle guns, two 12-pounder howitzers, two 6-pounder guns; Griffin’s battery, D, Fifth Artillery, four 10-pounder Parrott rifle guns, two 12-pounder howitzers; Edwards’ company, G, First Artillery, two 20-pounder and one 30-pounder Parrott rifle guns. The Second Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers had with it a battery of six 13-pounder James rifle guns; the Seventy-first Regiment New York Militia two of Dahlgren’s boat howitzers, and the Eighth Regiment New York Militia a battery of six 6-pounder grins. The men of this last-named battery having claimed their discharge on the day before the battle because their term of service had expired, the battery was thrown out of service.

The whole force of artillery of all calibers was, therefore, forty-nine pieces, of which twenty-eight were rifle guns. All of these batteries were fully horsed and equipped, with the exception of the two howitzers of the Seventy-first Regiment New York Militia, which were without horses, and were drawn by drag-ropes, manned by detachments from the regiment.

General McDowell’s disposition for the march from Centreville on the morning of the 21st instant placed Tidball’s and Greene’s batteries (eight pieces) in reserve, with the division of Colonel Miles, to remain at Centreville; Hunt’s and Edwards’ (six pieces), with the brigade of Colonel Richardson, at Blackburn’s Ford; and Carlisle s, Ayres’, and the 30-pounder (eleven pieces), with the division of General Tyler, at the stone bridge; Ricketts’, Griffin’s, Arnold’s, the Rhode Island, and Seventy-first Regiment batteries (twenty-four pieces) accompanied the main column, which crossed Bull Run at Sudley Springs. As soon as this column came in presence of the enemy, after crossing Bull Run, I received from General McDowell, in person, directions to superintend the posting of the batteries as they severally debouched from the road and arrived upon the field.

The Rhode Island Battery came first upon the ground, and took up, at a gallop, the position assigned it. It was immediately exposed to a sharp fire from the enemy’s skirmishers and infantry posted on the declivity of the hill and in the valley in its immediate front, and to a well-sustained fire of shot and shell from the enemy’s batteries posted behind the crest of the range of hills about one thousand yards distant. This battery sustained in a very gallant manner the whole force of this fire for nearly half an hour, when the howitzers of the Seventy-first New York Militia came up, and went into battery on its left. A few minutes afterwards Griffin brought up his pieces at a gallop, and came into battery about five hundred yards to the left of the Rhode Island and New York batteries.

Ricketts’ battery came up in less than half an hour afterwards, and was posted to the left of and immediately adjoining Griffin’s.

The enemy’s right, which had been wavering from the moment Griffin opened his fire upon it, now began to give way throughout its whole extent and retire steadily, his batteries limbering up rapidly, and at a gallop taking up successively two new positions farther to his rear. The foot troops on our left, following up the enemy’s retiring right, soon left our batteries so far in our rear that their fire was over the heads of our own men. I therefore directed the Rhode Island Battery to advance about five hundred yards in front of its first position, accompanied it myself, and saw it open fire with increased effect upon the enemy’s still retiring right.

Returning to the position occupied by Ricketts’ and Griffin’s batteries, I received an order from General McDowell to advance two batteries to an eminence specially designated by him, about eight hundred yards in front of the line previously occupied by our artillery, and very near the position first occupied by the enemy’s batteries. I therefore ordered these two batteries to move forward at once, and, as soon as they were in motion, went for and procured as supports the Eleventh (Fire Zouaves) and the Fourteenth (Brooklyn) New York Regiments. I accompanied the former regiment, to guide it to its proper position, and Colonel Heintzelman, Seventeenth U.S. Infantry, performed the same service for the Fourteenth, on the right of the Eleventh. A squadron of U.S. cavalry, under Captain Colburn, First Cavalry, was subsequently ordered as additional support. We were soon upon the ground designated, and the two batteries at once opened a very effective fire upon the enemy’s left.

The new position had scarcely been occupied when a troop of the enemy’s cavalry, debouching from a piece of woods close upon our right flank, charged down upon the New York Eleventh. The zouaves, catching sight of the cavalry a few moments before they were upon them, broke ranks to such a degree that the cavalry dashed through without doing them much harm. The zouaves gave them a scattering fire as they passed, which emptied five saddles and killed three horses. A few minutes afterwards a regiment of the enemy’s infantry, covered by a high fence, presented itself in line on the left and front of the two batteries at not more than sixty or seventy yards’ distance, and delivered a volley full upon the batteries and their supports. Lieutenant Ramsay, First Artillery, was killed, and Captain Ricketts, First Artillery, was wounded, and a number of men and horses were killed or disabled by this close and well-directed volley. The Eleventh and Fourteenth Regiments instantly broke and fled in confusion to the rear, and in spite of the repeated and earnest efforts of Colonel Heintzelman with the latter, and myself with the former, refused to rally and return to the support of the batteries. The enemy, seeing the guns thus abandoned by their supports, rushed upon them, and driving off the cannoneers, who, with their officers, stood bravely at their posts until the last moment, captured them, ten in number. These were the only guns taken by the enemy on the field.

Arnold’s battery came upon the field after Ricketts’, and was posted on our left center, where it performed good service throughout the day, and by its continued and well-directed fire assisted materially in breaking and driving back the enemy’s right and center.

The batteries of Hunt, Carlisle, Ayres, Tidball, Edwards, and Greene (twenty-one pieces), being detached from the main body, and not being under my immediate notice during the greater portion of the day, I respectfully refer you to the reports of their brigade and division commanders for the record of their services.

The Army having retired upon Centreville, I was ordered by General McDowell in person to post the artillery in position to cover the retreat. The batteries of Hunt, Ayres, Tidball, Edwards, Greene, and the New York Eighth Regiment (the latter served by volunteers from Willcox’s brigade), twenty pieces in all, were at once placed in position, and thus remained until 12 o’clock p.m., when, orders having been received to retire upon the Potomac, the batteries were put in march, and, covered by Richardson’s brigade, retired in good order and without haste, and early next morning reoccupied their former camps on the Potomac.

In conclusion, it gives me great satisfaction to state that the conduct of the officers and enlisted men of the several batteries was most exemplary. Exposed throughout the day to a galling fire of artillery and small-arms: several times charged by cavalry, and more than once abandoned by their infantry supports, both officers and enlisted men manfully stood by their guns with a courage and devotion worthy of the highest commendation. Where all did so well it would be invidious to make distinctions, and I therefore simply give the names of all the officers engaged: viz: Major Hunt, Captains Carlisle, Ayres, Griffin, Tidball, and Arnold; Lieutenants Platt, Thompson, Ransom, Webb, Barriger, Greene, Edwards, Dresser, Wilson, Throckmorton, Cushing, Harris, Butler, Fuller, Lyford, Hill, Benjamin, Babbitt, Hains, Ames, Hasbrouck, Kensel, Harrison, Reed, Barlow, Noyes, Kirby, and Elderkin.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major, Fifth Artillery

Capt. J. B. FRY,

Assistant Adjutant-General, Hdqrs. Dep’t N. E. Virginia


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