Pvt. Rufus H. Peck, Co. C, Botetourt Dragoons, Attached to 30th Virginia Cavalry*, On the Battle

12 03 2017

We remained at Fairfax C. H. until the 17th of July, and I was sent with fourteen other men, commanded by Serg. Garret, three miles below Fairfax C H. on the Falls Church road to stand picket, and at 9 o’clock a. m. we found that McDowell was moving on Manassas Junction by three roads, viz.: Falls Church road, Little River turnpike, and Flint Hill road. Serg. Garret returned to notify the General of McDowell’s movement, but the Gen. had already learned from other pickets, of his advance, so he ordered the army to retreat immediately. As Serg. Garret did not return to us, Corporal McCue sent me back 3 miles to Fairfax C. H., and when I arrived our Adjt. told me of the retreat and from there I could see Col. Kershaw’s regiment already engaged with the enemy, so I had to return to notify the other pickets to join the command, which we could only do by a flank movement and came very near being cut off entirely by the enemy. When I returned I found that two of our pickets on the Flint Hill road, John Mays and William Mailer had been captured. We continued our retreat to Centerville and remained there until night. Gen. Beauregard’s plan was to throw sky rockets to let us know when to retreat further towards Manassas Junction, and when we called in the last pickets, we were, fired upon by the enemy and two of our horses were killed from under their riders, Edward Hayth and WilHam Walton.

During the night we marched across Bull Run at Mitchel’s Ford and laid down for the remainder of the night in front of the guns at Manassas Junction. We were awakened next morning by the fireing of one of the enemy’s guns called ”Long Tom.” As this was the first big gun I had seen fired, I remember well the appearance of that shell to me. It looked more like a gate-post flying through the air than any thing else I could compare it to. After hissing through the air about a mile it exploded and I told the boys I knew it had blown Manassas Junction to “kingdom come” and she would need no more protection. It wasn’t many days after this though, until we became more accustomed to the big guns, so we didn’t jump at such hasty conclusions and the fireing wasn’t so exciting or terrifying. I hadn’t seen much of the infantry until that day and when they began double quicking and crossing Bull’s Run at Mitchel’s Ford in order to meet the enemy, I imagined we had men enough to whip the North right there.

At 9 o’clock on the 18th, the two armies met and for two hours a raging battle followed and when the Southerners made a charge ‘all along the line, they drove the enemy back with considerable slaughter, into the timber back of the lowlands, where the battle was fought, and they remained there until Sunday, with ”Long Tom” occasionally saluting us. Our line of battle extended from Blackburn’s Ford up nearly to Stone Bridge, a distance of 10 miles.

Sunday morning at about 8 o’clock Long Tom began fireing and we all thought the enemy meant to renew the attack, but about 9 o’clock we heard fireing at Stone Bridge about six miles above Manassas Junction.

The cavalry was immediately ordered to make a force march to Stone Bridge and when we got their we found that the 8th Georgia Regiment, commanded by Col. Huntington, in trying to hold the ford had lost nearly all their men and their commander. The 2nd Va. Regiment arrived to go to their rescue, but failed on account of the thick pines. About this time Jackson came in and with Gen. Bee and others, turned defeat into victory. Gen. Bee rushed to Jackson and said ‘General they are beating us back,” and Jackson said “we will give them the bayonet.” Gen. Bee encouraged by Jackson’s response shouted to his men: “Look! there is Jackson and his men standing like a stone wall.” He was ever afterward called “Stonewall Jackson.”

Gen. Bee was killed in a few minutes after making the remark to his men. The enemy, under McDowell’s command, was driven back with dreadful slaughter to Washington.

As we of the 2nd Va. regiment were unable to get to Stone Bridge to aid in the battle there and were in a dangerous position, being between the fires of both armies. Gen. Beauregaurd ordered us to the rear. Just at that time Gen. Jos. E. Johnson, coming in from the valley, rode up to Beauregaurd’s head-quarters and took command, he being a senior officer. He immediately sent a courier to Col. Radford to halt the 2nd Va Cavalry. Col. Radford told the courier to go to the D – – that he was acting under Beauregaurd’s orders. We were not aware of Johnston being near, but as soon as Johnston saw we didn’t halt he galloped down and shouted : “In the name of Jos. E. Johnston I command you to halt.” Of course, it wasn’t any trouble for Col. Radford or his men to halt, then.

He commanded us to cross Bull Run and go toward Cub Run Bridge to intersect the enemy’s line as it passed on retreat, and to shoot all the horses drawing the artillery and wagons. There being 1,000 of us. we held the road for nearly a mile, coming on their right flank and being so near before they knew jt that we succeeded in capturing 24 pieces of artillery and the men commanding same. The road was lined with dead horses for nearly a mile, a sight no one would want to witness again, but we were only carrying out orders

Our captain ordered the fences to be pulled down and 3 other men and I dismounted and tore them down on both sides. When we mounted we happened to look to our left and saw a house with a crowd of men standing around a well. I proposed to these three comrades that we could go up and fill our canteens as it was such a hot day. When we arrived, there were 60 or 70 of the finest looking men I ever saw. about middle-aged and finely dressed. More gold-headed canes, gold glasses and gold teeth than I had ever seen before on that number of men. We asked them to fill our canteens, which they did and just as they filled the last canteen, one of the men said to us that our command was retreating and I road around the house to where I could see our line and it had passed nearly out of sight. Just then two guns that we hadn’t captured with the other 24 pieces of artillery, and a regiment of infantry also, opened fire on our regiment, and Capt. Radford of 2nd Va. regiment and Serg. Ervin were killed and several others wounded

Just as we four men arrived to recross the road, a cannister of grape shot passed down the road striking two of our horses. We rode on about a half mile under a heavy fire, but they were over shooting us, just stripping the leaves from the trees, when one of the horses fell dead from his wound and the other one was still running on three legs. I took the saddle from the dead horse and carried it on my horse that was called the “Flying Artillery” and wouldn’t carry two men, and another comrade took the rider of the horse that was killed.

We overtook our regiment just as they were ready to recross Bull Run, and were held in readiness the remainder of the day, but no order for action was given and near night fall marched back to our camp ground of the proceeding night.

Just after dark a heavy rain began and continued all night and about half the next day, so we were thoroughly drenched by this time. Shortly after day break we started toward Centerville and our skirmish line captured several prisoners on the way. We moved very cautiously through the woods in the downpour of rain, thinking the enemy was at Centerville. But instead of the enemy being at Centerville, we found the homes deserted. Tables were set with the most delicious victuals, fine drinks, etc , having been prepared for a general jubilee after the supposed victory. Some of the houses were locked, but the majority were so that we could easily enter and some of the owners soon returned, so we enjoyed a bountiful repast that was intended for the northern soldiers. After the victory at Stone Bridge and the capture of the artillery at Cub Run Bridge, as they were retreating, the enemy rushed on to Washington panic-stricken. Had we realized the condition of the enemy then, as we afterward knew it to be, we could have pursued them and easily captured them, but we didn’t know the conditions.

Reminiscences of a Confederate Soldier of Co. C, 2nd VA. Cavalry, by R. H. Peck

*The 2nd Virginia Cavalry, while formed in May of 1861, was known as the 30th Regiment Virginia Volunteers until the end of October, 1861.

R. H. Peck at Fold3

R. H. Peck at Ancestry.com 





Notes on “Early Morning of War” – Part 3

21 02 2017

51gm8atoyol-_sx329_bo1204203200_To recap, here’s how this works: as I read Edward Longacre’s study of the First Battle of Bull Run, The Early Morning of War, I put little Post-Its where I saw something with which I agreed or disagreed, or which I didn’t know, or which I did know and was really glad to see; essentially, anything that made me say “hmm…” So I’ll go through the book and cover in these updates where I put the Post-It and why. Some of these will be nit-picky for sure. Some of them will be issues that can’t have a right or wrong position. Some of them are, I think, cut and dry. So, here we go:

Chapter 2: The Fretful Virginian and the Hesitant Irishman

I see the actions in the Shenandoah Valley at this time as much less important to the story of First Bull Run than does pretty much everyone else, primarily because it figured so little in Federal planning, and even in the failure of that planning (more on that later, but I’ve written about it often). Needless to say, Mr. Longacre is not of the same opinion, and provides substantial coverage of that area of operations. I didn’t skip over this when reading the book, so I won’t skip over it here.

P. 45 – I was unaware that Joseph Johnston resigned from the army in 1837, to take a civilian position with the Topographical Bureau in Washington. This is similar to a tact taken by George Meade, who, like Johnston, was assigned to the artillery upon graduation from West Point and who, like Johnston, felt he was stagnating there, and who, like Johnston, moved to a civilian position in the Topographical Bureau, and who, like Johnston, used this as a backdoor later to return to the army in the more prestigious  Topographical Engineers. I did not know that about Johnston (Longacre does not make the Meade connection, which is neither here nor there).

P. 61 – On this page, Longacre becomes the first author other than Russel Beatie to emphasize, in foreshadow, the influence that the character of Fitz John Porter may have had on his superior officer in the Shenandoah Valley, Robert Patterson.

P. 62 – The plan of how to move recruits to secure Washington in May of 1861 was devised by Patterson.

Chapter 3: Awaiting the Invader

P. 71 – A nice description of the geography around Bull Run, noting the convergence of major roads at Centreville, the Centreville Ridge, the thin population and poor soil.

P. 73 – The author points out the significance of the railroad junction at Manassas to both armies, and discussed the concerns of Robert E. Lee, who as Virginia’s head military honcho played a major role in the development of defenses in the area.

Pp. 74-75 – A nice description of the less than attractive personality of Beauregard’s predecessor in command Milledge Luke Bonham. At the end of the campaign, every member of his staff transferred elsewhere.

P. 79 – The author points out several times the importance of interior lines in the planning and disposition of Confederate forces, in the thinking of folks like Lee and Beauregard.

P. 81 – The author notes that, while Beauregard’s failure to form any organization larger than a brigade was an “unwieldy decentralization of authority,” at the same time it kept “things simple and avoid[ed] extra levels of command. Then too, ‘Old Bory’ was not sufficiently acquainted with his subordinates to pronounce them deserving of leading more than a brigade.”

P. 89 – On much maligned Confederate Commissary General Lucious B. Northrup: “A dispassionate evaluation of the evidence, however, must conclude that while he made mistakes, they were mainly due to inexperience rather than obstinacy and that too many of the problems that beset him and, to a lesser degree, Lieutenant Colonel Myers – especially the slow and erratic shipment of rations and equipment by overburdened railroads – were beyond their ability to solve.”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 4

Part 5

 





Notes on “Early Morning of War” – Part 2

9 12 2016

51gm8atoyol-_sx329_bo1204203200_I know, it’s been eight months since Part 1 of this series. Life goes on. To recap, here’s how this works: as I read Edward Longacre’s study of the First Battle of Bull Run, The Early Morning of War, I put little Post-Its where I saw something with which I agreed or disagreed, or which I didn’t know, or which I did know and was really glad to see; essentially, anything that made me say “hmm…” So I’ll go through the book and cover in these updates where I put the Post-It and why. Some of these will be nit-picky for sure. Some of them will be issues that can’t have a right or wrong position. Some of them are, I think, cut and dry. So, here we go:

Chapter 1: The Great Creole and the Obscure Ohioan

The biographical sketch of McDowell is pretty good here, more in-depth than you’ll find pretty much anywhere else. It touches on McDowell’s familial political connections, his broad education, experiences as a staff officer, alcohol abstention, and generally favorable impression upon military and political figures. This all contributes to making his ultimate appointment to command of an army more understandable and less serendipitous. I would have preferred a little more on McDowell’s actual rank (while a brevetted major, his actual rank prior to appointment as a full Brigadier General U. S. A. was as First Lieutenant) affected his relationship with other officers and his boss, Winfield Scott.

This chapter (p. 29) also gives the first glimpses into McDowell’s planning process, primarily with very preliminary plans he presented to his benefactor, Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase, in May, 1861. These plans far exceeded McDowell’s areas of influence, and I think should not be given too much weight in examining the plans he would later develop, under changed circumstances, for moving on Manassas. It seems to me some of the assumptions and conditions in these earlier, larger plans get conflated by analysts into McDowell’s later, more narrow plans.

The background provided on Beauregard in this chapter is pretty standard, with a little more discussion of his pre-war politics than one normally finds in general sketches. One surprise here is a description of Beauregard’s character (p. 22) provided by South Carolina Governor Pickens in a 7/7/1861 letter to fellow South Carolinian Milledge Luke Bonahm, whom Bory had succeeded in command of the Bull Run line. In that letter, which may have been written in part as salve for the wounded pride of the recipient, Beauregard is described  in terms usually applied to his comrade Joe Johnston (“His reputation is so high that he fears to risk it”).

Also in this chapter is a brief recap of General Scott’s “offering” of “command” of “the” Union army to Robert E. Lee which left me as dissatisfied as most accounts of the meeting.

Check back here often for the next installment. I’m going to make an effort to put up a couple chapters per month from here on out.

Part 1 

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5





Cpl. Joseph S. Sweatt, Co. E, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, On the Battle (2)

26 11 2016

Letter from the 2d New Hampshire Regiment.

———-

Washington, D. C. July 25, 1861

Dear Brother: – I yesterday received a letter from you and sister and was very glad to hear from you. I am well, and have helped to fight one of the greatest battles ever fought in this country. I suppose that by this time you have the account of the fight and retreat of the army. We fought hard but in vain. What was the use of 25,000 or 30,000 men against 100,000? We had men enough, but they were not brought in to the field. At every point the enemy had masked batteries, and they would raise the stars and stripes or do anything to deceive out men, and that was one reason so many men were lost. But we did fight the best we could. They were commanded on the right by Johnston, on the left by Beauregard, and at noon Davis came and took command of the center.

I tell you Charley it was an awful day for all of us; men with all kinds of wounds begging for water and to be taken off, but we could do these poor fellows no good, for it was all a man could do to look out for himself. Men were mowed down like grain but we did the best we could as it was. I was under the fence after the regiment left me as you know I told you in Father’s letter, that I gave out and was where the balls came like hail-stones, and the regiment had gone ahead. I was almost asleep, for I was about dead when a cannon ball came and knocked a rail off the fence over my head and sent it across the road; I thought it time to get up; so I got up and went to find my gun; I could not see the regiment and started up the hill but gave out; I got into a wagon and went up the hill; then the retreat commenced. I got a drink of whiskey or I never could have got off the field; for it was men and horses, wagons and cannon rushing all ways, the dead and wounded at every step; It was as much as a man could do to carry his body over 40 miles with nothing to drink or eat; I could have taken a good horse but I thought the forces would not all retreat and the owner might be close by, so I kept on; but I called myself a fool afterwards for not getting a horse, for I never came so near dying as at that time. I had got but three miles, I could neither swallow nor spit; I drank water much blacker than your boots. We had to drink where all above and below were washing their wounds in it, and men going through mud, blood and all. It was good. Every mud hole we came to was at once in a centre of men dying of thirst. But I am alive and that is more than many a poor fellow can say; wounded men and those that gave out were left along the road and were probably killed or taken prisoners. But a man cannot tell much about anything, after a battle, for it is all a whirl, but it did not seem so in battle; I thought I could tell everything, but cannot; I was not scared, but never should have got home if it had not been that life depended on it. I was put among the missing but have returned safe.

J. S. S.*

Concord Independent Democrat, 8/8/1861

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*Likely Cpl. Joseph S. Sweatt, Co. E.

Biographical information provided by reader David Morin

Sweatt, Joseph S. Co. E; b. Boscawen; age 17; res. Boscawen (Fisherville, now Penacook); enl. Apr. 18, ’61, for 3 mos.; not must. in; paid by State; re-enl. May 21, ’61, for 3 yrs.; must. in June 3, ’61, as Corp.; disch. disab. Aug. 1, ’61, Washington, D. C.

Residence Boscawen NH; a 17-year-old Student. Enlisted on 5/21/1861 at Boscawen, NH as a Corporal. On 6/3/1861 he mustered into “E” Co. NH 2nd Infantry. He was discharged for disability on 8/1/1861 at Washington, D.C.

On 9/4/1862 he mustered into “G” Co. RI 7th Infantry. He died of disease on 3/6/1863 at Boscawen, N.H. (Enlisted at Woonsockett, R.I. Died of typhoid fever.) He was listed as:

Wounded 12/13/1862 Fredericksburg, VA

Hospitalized 12/15/1862 Windmill Point, VA

Promotions: 1st Sergt 9/4/1862 (As of Co. G 7th RI Infantry)

Other Information: born 10/28/1843 in Boscawen, NH

(Parents: Ira & Mary S. Sweatt)

Sources; used by Historical Data Systems, Inc.

JOSEPH S. SWEATT.

Sergeant Joseph Sawyer Sweatt, eldest son of Ira and Mary S. Sweatt, was born in the town of Boscawen, N. H., Oct. 28, 1843. He was fitted in the schools of that town and of Fisherville (now Pena cook) for the Tilton (N. H.) Seminary, which he left for the purpose of enlisting in the Second New Hampshire, a three months’ regiment. He was thus present at the First Bull Run. During the retreat he was one of the many who were lost from their regiment and was reported killed, but, at length, he found his way back to his command. Upon his muster out he immediately joined the Second New Hampshire (three years) Volunteers, but soon after was taken sick, discharged, and sent home.

A little later he went to “Woonsocket, R. I., where an uncle resided, the late Enoch Sweatt, railroad contractor, and was by him employed as an assistant civil engineer. When the call came for “three hundred thousand more,” he enlisted as an orderly sergeant in the Seventh Rhode Island. He was wounded at Fredericksburg Dec. 13, 1862, and was taken to Windmill Point Hospital, Md. There his father visited him, and, after fourteen days, was able to remove him to Washington. After a brief rest he took him home to New Hampshire, but he lived only ten days after his arrival. Yet he was very thankful to gaze once more upon familiar scenes, and to die among his friends. His final and fatal illness was typhoid fever, to which he succumbed March 6, 1863. Three older sisters survive.

Source: The Seventh Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers in the Civil War, 1862-1865 by Hopkins, William Palmer, 1845-; Peck, George Bacheler, 1843-1934, ed

A History of the Second Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry

Contributed by John Hennessy





“Juvenis,” Battery A (Reynolds), 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, On the Battle and Retreat

22 11 2016

Army Correspondence.

Camp near Harper’s Ferry, Aug. 5th, 1861.

Mr. Editor: – I hope you have not thought that, because I have not contributed lately to your paper I was among the fallen at the battle of Bull Run. True, I was in that battle, and in the thickest of the fight for five long hours; but no missile of death was allowed by my Heavenly Father to strike me down. Members of my own company and of my own mess fell at my side, the shells burst at my feet, the spent musket balls struck me, but I am still unscathed, ready for another conflict with my country’s enemies; ready for the life long conflict with the enemy of souls, ready I hope to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to lost men.

It seems strange to me, that even the presence of death has no effect upon the minds of men. One can still hear the same coarse jests, the same profane language, the same taunts at those who speak to them of religion, as before they were surrounded by the dead and dying.

We are now encamped in a lovely place; the mountains of the Blue Ridge are on every side except where the Potomac winds through them. We have taken the 1st R. I. Battery, as their time is up, and our battery with the exception of one piece, was lost at the battle of Bull Run. Perhaps your readers would like to have a short account of that battle, which was one of the bloodiest in American history.

We were encamped between Fairfax and Centerville, and expected to remain there for some time. We had built our huts of branches, our fire places and cranes were ready for use. Sunday morning at on o’clock the bugle sounded, and the battery was harnessed up. We mounted the boxes and silently wound along the road towards Manassas Junction. There was no music, no loud command; our General wished to steal a march on the enemy. We were confident of victory, as we had confidence in our commander. We took a circuitous path through the woods, and without once having halted during the march of twelve miles, we reached the field of battle. The Rhode Island troops had the right of the line, the 2nd regiment in advance, the 1st next in order with our battery between. The first notice we had of the presence of the enemy was the volley of musketry from the woods upon our lines. The 2d regiment charged and drove them from the woods, down the hill. We were instantly ordered into action. We got into battery as quickly as possible and engaged a battery about a third of a mile from us. We soon silenced that and engaged the enemy in other parts of the field. The battle grew hotter and hotter – thicker and thicker flew the bullets, the shot, the shell. Our horses suffered severely, our men at the guns were entirely exhausted, wounded or dead. We were so thirsty that we threw ourselves into the mudy brooks and eagerly swallowed the mud and water. The enemy were retreating on every hand. Already Beauregard had sent a dispatch to Richmond, and even while we were fighting, Jeff Davis was packing up his State papers to send them to a place of safety. Bu all day there had been a constant stream of reinforcements pouring into the woods where the rebels had their head quarters. All at once the celebrated black horse cavalry charged upon us, their fresh infantry poured their volley into our ranks, their masked batteries opened upon our flank; thick as hail the shot flew; four hundred of the Zouaves were cut down. We retreated. We ran before that stream of lead and iron. No man could stand such a fire as that. The retreat became a rout; all were mingled together in dire confusion; the road was crowded with fugitives; the wounded, the wearied all rushed along together. We brought our battery off the field, and dozens of wounded men climbed upon our boxes and pieces, some with broken arms, some with broken legs, some with the blood flowing down their faces, some with their clothes red with blood. We were obliged to leave many a poor wounded, dying man who beseechingly begged us to take him upon our boxes. Those that were free from wounds were panic struck. At the least alarm every man almost would flee for his life, not knowing where he went. Thus we passed slowly along. We came out of those long woods, the dust in the road was so thick that nothing before us could be seen. We began to hope that the enemy would not disturb us, for now we had reached the direct road to Centerville, and our reserve was two or three miles before us. It began to grow dusky, for the thick dust and the woods on either side of the road hid the setting sun; all at once into that dense mass of men, horses and wagons, the enemy from a masked battery poured their shell; the musketry opened upon them; their cavalry charged upon them. What a scene! We were just at the bridge, but upon it was piled the government baggage wagons. We could not pass with our battery; for it was a narrow bridge, and there were deep gullies on each side. Our drivers cut the traces, we left the wounded men to save our own lives, and helter skelter we dashed on towards Centerville. The cavalry of the enemy charged upon us, and many a poor soldier fell before their sabres. We soon met the reserve coming up under Colonel Miles, but still we hurried on through that long dark night; morning dawned, and still we had not halted; Washington and the long bridge hove in sight, and we sank down upon the ground exhausted! for we had eaten nothing since Saturday. We had marched ten or twelve miles to the battle field without halting, we had fought through that hot day, we had marched nearly forty miles from the battle field to Washington. Thus we fought, thus we retreated.

I will not say upon whose head a terrible retribution should be visited. We long for an opportunity to wipe off the disgrace of that day.

O! how much pleasanter we spent the hours of the last Sabbath (the 4th inst.) Though separated from our regiment, we had religious services. We repaired to a huge pile of rocks shaded by tall trees, and there one of our number preached to to us the gospel of Christ. It seemed lik a heaven below.

Juvenis.*

Boston Christian Era, 8/16/1861

Clipping image

*In Latin, Juvenis is a young man or a youth. The root of juvenile.

The History of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery

Contributed by John J. Hennessy





Soldier Images – CSA

8 11 2016

Capt. John Dabney Alexander, Alexander’s Troop, 30th Virginia Cavalry

Pvt. George W. Bagby, 11th Virginia Infantry, Aide to Col. Thomas Jordan, AAG to Beauregard

Pvt. Rufus H. Peck, Co. C, Botetourt Dragoons, Attached to 30th Virginia Cavalry

Pvt Edward R. Simms, Co. D, 2nd South Carolina Infantry

 





“M”, 2nd South Carolina Infantry, On the Retreat from Fairfax Court House, Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle

7 11 2016

Virginia Correspondence.

The Retreat from Fairfax C. H. – The Battle of the 18th – The Great Battle – The Killed and Wounded – The Captured Arms and Munitions – Our Wounded.

Virginia University, July 24.

Mr. Editor: On Wednesday last the Federal forces made their appearance in sight of Fairfax Village, upon which information Gen. Bonham made hasty preparations to five tem a warm reception, though as soon as the rifle companies of the 2d Regiment had reached the position they were to occupy as skirmishers, it was ascertained that the enemy were attempting to flank and cut off the Regiments at the Village, the order to retreat was given which was reluctantly obeyed by 4 Regiments of Carolinians. It seems that the enemy were marching to Fairfax in four or five columns of ten or fifteen thousand troops in each, and the arduous task of covering a retreat devolved upon the 2d Regiment. The retreat was conducted in an orderly, military and masterly manner, with only one or two missing and one to die en route. Though many weary limbs had given way to the hot and fatiguing double quick march, and on reaching Centreville our company mustered only forty-five men; among the absent was your correspondent who completely exhausted had been taken up behind our gallant and kind Commissary, Vellipigue. At Centreville our forces halted until midnight, when they again took up the line of march for Bull Run, on reaching which place our boys quickly repaired to the entrenchments which had cost them such hard labor a few weeks previous.

About 7 o’clock Thursday morning it was ascertained that the enemy were approaching, our company and the Palmetto Guards were sent out about one mile with Capt. Kemper’s battery to five our foe the breakfast welcome at Bull Run, and here our boys were first taught to quickly embrace the earth on the sound of a shell or cannon ball. Their balls passed harmlessly by while a dozen well directed volleys from Capt. Kemper’s battery mowed down their columns like so many pond weeds and caused them to change their plan of attack. The cannonading was soon stopped at this point and about 11 o’clock an exchange of musket shots began about a mile below our position accompanied by heavy cannonading, which was vigorously and actively continued for four consecutive hours, after which the enemy were put to flight with much loss of life and with three pieces of artillery left upon the field. Our loss was small, about six killed and forty odd wounded, while that of the enemy is variously estimated at from five hundred to three thousand in killed and wounded. The troops engaged in this battle were about three thousand on our part, the Washington Artillery, and Gen. Longstreets Brigade, the enemy are supposed to have had about ten thousand in the engagement. This ended the first battle at Bull Run with victory perched upon the Southern standard.

After dusk on the same evening it being believed that the enemy would not make an attack at the direct ford our Regiment was ordered to a weak point on the creek towards the left wing, where we remained upon arms during the following day. On Friday night an attack was momentarily expected and our men still retained their position in rank, while our company was ordered to the defence of Kemper’s battery, but the night passed in quietude save the interchange of a few picket guard shot; Saturday and night glided by in the same state of peace and quietude, but the harmony was broken s Sunday morning by a heavy fire of artillery on the center of our forces and on the extreme left wing. Our company was again sent out a mile and a half to ascertain in what direction the enemy were moving, but our mission was too late, the great body of their troops had been removed to the extreme left the night previous and the cannonading in the centre was only to deceive us as to the point of attack. While on the scout we were greeted with a goodly quantity of shell, balls and grape, thought they passed harmlessly over our heads. On returning to our camp we found that the regiment had been hastily despatched to the scene of battle and in haste we followed after them, though we were unable to find our Regiment, not knowing their position on the battle ground, so we attached ourselves to a Louisiana Regiment and went into the scene of action a the enemy only rallied twice after our arrival. – While going to our position in battle three hundred yards we were warmly peppered with Minnie musket balls, wounding Mr. Harrison of our company and killing several of the Regiment to which we were attached. on approaching near the enemy and preparing to charge bayonets a few volleys from one of batteries dispersed them to rally no more. After the flight of the enemy we were dispatched by our Captain to look after Mr. Harrison whom we found severely wounded in forearm and knee. Our troops pursued the enemy for miles, slaughtering and capturing them, and we understand that the Secession Guards took a respectable number of prisoners. The battle was terrific and strongly contested during the whole day, though the entire and complete route of the enemy somewhat alleviates the cost of so many gallant sons. The enemy attacked the wing of Gen. Johnson who had just completed his brilliant movement from Winchester to Manassas and for seven hours his wearied soldiers gallantly struggled with the heavy columns of the enemy when Gen. Beauregard came to his relief and after a few hours of hard struggling gained a signal and brilliant victory.

The heavy odds against whom Johnson had been contending were soon scattered and chased by the gallant hero of Sumter, who would dash before the thickest and hottest of the fire – leading our men to a bayonet charge and then directing the enemy’s cannon upon their own columns. The victory though decisive was a costly one; Carolina has to mourn the loss of the brave Johnson of Hampton’s Legion, and of Bernard Bee. Other distinguished officers fell in the field. The whole Confederate loss may be estimated at 450 dead, 250 mortally wounded and 1200 wounded more or less severely. This is the best estimate I can make by rough guess – it may be too large. In my own Regiment only 6 were killed and 15 or 20 wounded; though we were not in the hottest of the fight. Among those who suffered most severely was the 4th Alabama Regiment, the 7th and 8th Georgia Regiments, Hampton’s Legion and Col. Sloan’s Regiment of our own State, they having to oppose heavy columns of the enemy four hours until reinforcements could be brought to their relief. Among the wounded in our Regiment may be mentioned the gallant Capt. Hoke of Greenville.

[?????] their final retreat the panic became so great that the whole army was completely disorganized. Gen. McDowell undertook to make a stand near Centreville though it was impossible to make a rally of them either at that place or Fairfax. The whole road from Bull Run to Fairfax was covered with dead, wounded and exhausted soldiers, it was also strewn with knapsacks and small arms, which were discarded by the Federals in order to facilitate their retreat. I have only heard of about 1200 prisoners among whom are several field officers, though none of them of higher rank than Colonel.

It is said that we captured over two million dollars worth of property. Over one hundred baggage wagons loaded with army stores fell into our position. Sherman’s, Carlisle’s, Griffin’s and the West Point Batteries numbering from 50 to 100 pieces, all fell into our possession. Also the 32 pounders rifled cannon and several thousand stand of small arms, also the Rhode Island battery. It was a mistake about the Yankees not fighting; they fought manfully and gallantly, and some of their regiments were literally destroyed. The Fire Zouaves, the 69th, 71st, 14th and 28th New York Regiments, and the Michigan Regiments suffered frightfully. The outfit of the enemy was splendid and extravagant. The knapsacks and haversacks of the soldiers were filled with eatables and comforts. The wagons and ambulances were stored with luxuries for the officers that would astonish any frugal, warfaring people, fighting for liberty. Notwithstanding the complete route of the enemy they are still in strong force and much hard fighting is yet before us.

Our wounded suffered greatly for the first day or two after the battle as there are no accommodations at Manassas, in fact only two or three houses were there which could not contain them. Though they have all been sent to this place, Culpepper, Orange, Richmond, &c., where they will receive every attention at the hands of surgeons, nurses and ladies – of the kindness to the wounded by the ladies I cannot speak too much in praise – they supply them with every luxury, comfort, and conceivable necessity. So all persons who have wounded friends at the hospital at this place need not feel the least anxiety as to their treatment, as they are better provided for than they possibly could be in the most comfortable home. Having deposited Mr. Harrison in the most desirable quarters, I hasten back to rejoin my company this morning, though I shall not soon forget to contrast one night’s comfort at this place to the privations of camp.

This letter is written in great haste and hurry though I think the accounts of the battle are generally acurate. However your readers will receive the official reports before this reaches you.

M

The Abbeville Press, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John J. Hennessy





Pvt. John F. “Fred” Gruber, Co. A, 7th Louisiana Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle

2 11 2016

The Continental Guards at Bull Run and Stone Bridge.

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The town having waited with much impatience for news of Capt. George Clark and his gallant Continentals, it affords us much pleasure to lay before our readers the following letter, descriptive of what the Continentals saw and did during the ever memorable battles of the 18th and 21st of July. It was addressed to Mr. J. M. Laborde, and by that gentleman kindly placed at our disposal. The fact that the letter is from our old friend, Fred Gruber, will render it especially interesting:

Stone Bridge, Virginia, July 24, 1861

J. M. Laborde, Esq. – My Old Friend: Having by note to my wife apprised you that I am still in the land of the living, I avail myself of this first opportunity to give you a rough sketch of our doings since my last. The camp life at Camp Pickens, at the Junction, went on in the usual routine of business – drill, parade, etc., – until the 9th inst., when our company was ordered a few miles from camp, on picket duty, where we remained up to the 12th, on the morning of which day we were ordered back to camp, on order to join our regiment in the march of advance on the enemy.

While on picket duty the life was pleasant enough, with the exception of the fare, which was rather scant, consisting of salt pork and bread, and one young hog, which lost its way and strolled into our camp, where, owing to an unmistakeable Abolition proclivities, it met with an untimely death, greatly to the gusto of the boys. On the morning after our return to camp we struck the tents and marched to Camp Wigfall, about five miles distant, and there took up our abode for the time being. Reports constantly reaching us from Manassas Junction of the frequent arrivals of large bodies of troops, at once admonished us that our stay there would not be a long one, and our surmises proved correct, as on the evening of the 16th we struck tents again, leaving them and knapsacks behind, and provided with three days’ provisions in our haversacks, forty rounds of cartridges and guns, we quartered for that night on the ridge of one of those romantic mountains with which Virginia abounds. Here we met, for the first time, the Washington Artillery, or at least a good portion thereof. Of course the courtesies of war were exchanged, without, however, that usual New Orleans appendix, “Let us take a drink” as we had ‘nary drop.” After having, during a pleasant night, inhaled a sufficient supply of cool Virginia breeze and indulged in sweet dreams on rather hard ground, we broke camp in the early morn, and joined by a Virginia regiment and a battery of Washington Artillery, went over hill and dale, until about 12 o’clock, when we halted and took up, very mysteriously, our quarters under cover of a point of woods. At first, I thought strange of the movement; but in a very short time, with my usual quickness of perception, sharpened by a number of rifled cannon balls of the enemy flying right and left of us, I fully discovered the propriety of this order. Balls continued whistling, and at intervals musketry could be heard. Finally, when the report of arms indicated the progress of a general engagement, the word “march” was given and the brigade under Col. Early, of which the 7th regiment formed a prominent part, went in double quick time to the scene of action. On the way we were continually saluted by shells and balls of the enemy’s artillery, and it was a real miracle that some of us did not get killed; but God seemed then, as he has up to this time, to have held his protecting hand over us.

Arrived at a small river. Bull’s Run, the line of contention, the enemy occupied the top and slope of a hill on one side, while we were on a plain on the other side of the stream. One Virginia regiment, stationed there before us, had repelled the enemy already three times, and actually crossed the river and driven them to the top of the hills, when again they had to retreat and give way to numerical odds twenty to one. It was then our brigade arrived; and of such volleys of musketry, and the roaring of six pieces of the Washington Artillery, one who never was in battle cannot form an idea. The commanding voices of their officers, the shouts and hurrahs of the boys, the bursting of shells and howling of balls, formed a concert which was rather calculated to strengthen nerves, no matter how weak, or else kill instanter. For more than two hours this state of affairs lasted, when finally, the Artillery, after then enemy had been driven up the infantry, so effectively poured their shells and rifle balls into the ranks and batteries of the same, that the former must have suffered a terrible loss, and the latter were completely silenced. Our loss on that day was comparatively small – ten killed and about twenty-five wounded; among the latter Ernest [Siball?], of whose fate you, no doubt, know more than I do. The boys, though in their first battle, showed great spirit and spunk, and not one seemed to realize the constant danger impending. The officers were cool and collected and led their men to the front. I should not particularize, but I cannot refrain from mentioning particularly big Captain Wilson, (tobacco merchant on Gravier street) of the Virginia Blues. He, by our marching by the left flank, held the post of honor, and well did he fill it; no sooner in front of the ford, than he exclaimed, in his characteristic style, “Light on me, blue birds;” and so they did; they fought like good fellows, while their gallant Captain crossed swords with a Yankee Lieutenant, when one of the men expedited him to the other side of the Jordan. To make this rather hasty sketch complete, you must imagine Capt. Wilson, with nothing on but a dirty woolen shirt and a pair of blue pants and a slouch hat. Shortly after the firing had ceased, the dead on our side removed, and the wounded been properly cared for, I went in a squad of about twenty, in command of Lieut. Harper, across the stream to the slope of the hill. The sight here beggared description; so precipitate was their flight that they even did not take time to carry their dead off, and even left wounded behind; who, after suffering and groaning all night, were finally brought over and cared for by us; their dead on the side of the hill, where only musketry reached, to the number of more than twenty five, were buried by us, while the ground was literally covered with clothing, haversacks, equipments of all descriptions, and thousands of other things. Over 160 stands of the most improved fire-arms fell into our hands, together with more than that number of soldier’s caps.

In searching over the effects thus suddenly acquired, we found that the main force of this army seemed to have been letter writers, specimens of which fell into our hands, testifying strongly that imagination, no matter how vivid, at a Southern standard, could compare with the poetical flight of these consummate liars. Envelopes with colored engravings of the most disgusting and fanatical character, and franked by some Abolition member of Congress, were to be found in every pocket, while the general outfit of all seemed to be more appropriate to a barbecue of three days duration, or a regular week of camp meeting, than for war purposes.

Our Colonel, Harry Hays, is a trump; so is Lieut Col. DeChoiseul; and young Major Penn has a veteran’s head on young shoulders; he is the coolest man I ever saw, while the Adjutant, Merriam, is good naturedly smiling, whether in battle or in jovial conversation. Their behavior throughout was such as only to increase the confidence of their men in their favor.

I cannot close this brief sketch of this skirmish without alluding to the trojan services rendered by the Washington Artillery. They are au fait in their business. Prisoners since captured acknowledge that they estimated the number of pieces engaged at eighteen, while only six were there, and sometimes only four in play. But it is useless to dwell now upon the precursory marks of that gallant band of New Orleans soldiery, as they have already won laurels since that occurrence, which eclipse any previous one of their or any other corps of a like number.

It was on that evening that poor Maylan, of No. 18, was out on picket guard, when a wrong alarm was given, and on the quick return of the picket the poor fellow was shot through the heart while crossing the stream. He was a good fellow, and was well liked by his fellow soldiers. During the same night we commenced throwing up entrenchments along the stream for nearly a half mile, in order to protect us against the attacks of the enemy, in case they should feel disposed to renew the play, but they did not. Over five hundred men slept on their arms, if sleeping it can be called, anxiously waiting, [?] nothing occurred except one or two false alarms. On the following morning work again commenced, until we were completely protected against the fire of the infantry of the enemy, some companies working as late as [?] o’clock. During the following night, two companies, who had been stationed at a ford about a mile further down the stream, were surprised by the enemy; they, however, returned the fire very promptly and with such telling effect, that everything was quiet on the following day. Feeling now rather secure and having recovered most of our blankets, canteens and other equipments, which we had thrown away in our quick march, we expected a few days rest and ease, but such was not our luck. ON the following morning we received orders to march and make room for another Virginia and one South Carolina regiment. In less than half an hour the whole brigade was under way, and we were moving in the direction of Camp Wigfall, when about half way the order was countermanded and we camped that day and the following, until 7 o’clock on the morning of the 21st, (Sunday,) at the very place the courier overtook us. From here we returned to where we had started from, only by a different road; arrived there, we were soon honored by shot and shell from the enemy, but did not return, as we had no artillery. About 9 o’clock that morning a regiment of Virginians, together with the Continentals and Baton Rouge Fencibles, crossed the stream to storm the battery if it should become too annoying to us, it having already then killed four and wounded several of our men. At that time, in fact from early daybreak, we heard cannonading at some distance, and well aware that a general engagement must necessarily soon take place, we came to the conclusion that the crisis had at length arrived. At about 1 1/2 o’clock we were ordered to recross the river, and the whole brigade took up march in the direction of the firing, namely, the great battle of Stone Bridge. The distance is about twelve miles, and was made principally running, over fields, through woods, not one hundred yards even soil. You may well imagine how we felt at mid-day, the thermometer ranging about 85 [degrees]. Of course we threw off knapsacks, provisions, blankets and everything calculated to lighten us, but, nevertheless, a good many lagged behind and some others actually gave out; as for myself, I never experienced such fatigue and heat in all my various exploits. But what was that in comparison to what was to come? Closer and closer sounded the artillery and vollies of the infantry. Miles distant from the battlefield, dead and wounded lay strewn about on both sides of the road, while not a step we could go without meeting some one returning from the battle wounded or assisting the wounded, or one whose appearance already indicated that the battlefield of this world was closed for him forever; but not one passed who was able to speak, who did not hail us with some words of encouragement – such as, hurry up, boys; you are just in time; or, we have got them, boys – hurrah! and at them; while some, actually despairing, encouraged and begged us to be quick, as their regiments had suffered terribly; and if no reinforcements had come soon, the battle would have been lost. Both appeals, though contradictory, had the desired effect – the last eminences were gained, and there lay before our view two armies in deadly combat, deciding whether a nation of freemen shall be free or be subjugated to the rule of their would-be oppressors; every prominent point occupied by batteries pouring forth their deadly missiles, while brigade after brigade marched to and fro to protect them and gain for themselves more advantageous positions. A more appropriate place, so far as name is concerned, could not have been selected than Stone bridge, as had the enemy been successful, the North would indeed have had a stone bridge to cross over to the very streams of Southern heart’s blood. But, to the battle. Before sunrise, the special battalion if Major Wheat, composed of the Tigers, Capt. Alex White, the Walker Guards, Capt. Harris, the Old Dominion Guards, Capt. O. P. Walker, the Delta Rangers, Capt. Gardner, and Catahoula Guerillas, Capt. Buhoup, numbering together about 460, rank and file, commenced paying their respects to the advanced guard of the enemy. In this they were assisted by companies of South Carolina Regiments; but, owing to the rapidity of the advance in overwhelming numbers, it became necessary to retreat and resort to all stratagems known to warfare to escape the deadly Minie balls of the enemy. It was when emerging from the woods on our side of the road, to await the arrival of the enemy, that the South Carolinians mistook this battalion for the enemy, and fired into them; and the fire was returned before the unfortunate mistake was discovered; but this accident, as it were, cemented both only closer together for the balance of the day; wherever the fight was the hottest, the gallant Wheat, with his battalion, was foremost, assisted and seconded by the captains and officers of the companies, who are too well known by all of you, to need any praise at my hands for personal courage and bravery. It was very near the close of the battle when Maj. Wheat was wounded. His command having suffered severely, he rallied once more all remnants and scattered factions, and brought them again before the enemy only to dare them once more to come on, and their refusal to charge, to fall mortally wounded.

The command of the battalion, which was on that day reduced from 460 to 260, fell on Capt. Harris – a soldier and gentleman well known to all of you – who, during the battle, had his horse shot from under him, and had, in fact, several narrow escapes from death. And, while on escapes, allow me to relate to you the escape of Henry S. Carey of New Orleans. He got shot in the leg, and being left by his company, very quietly laid down and awaited coming events. He did not wait long; for one of those chivalrous Yankee brigades soon retreated in the direction where he was lying, when a straggling lieutenant discovered him some distance off, ran to him and said, “Aw, we have got you, [?]” “Yes.” said Carey, “you have, and I hope you will treat me like we treat you.” With that the Yankee ran his sword through Carey’s thigh, having, of course, missed his aim, (the heart) when Carey very quietly drew his revolver and blowed off the whole back part of the head of this Northern ruffian. Such is their bravery.

In the fore part of the battle, and while the enemy had the regulars of the United States Army to push forward, the battle was very well contested; and, with numerical strength over us, well-drilled and battle-tried soldiers in front, and more artillery than we hat, they no doubt thought to have quite an easy thing of it, and on several occasions actually did have the advantage. But they lacked one thing – the spirit and spunk which animated every one on our side. Whenever a charge was made, our boys would make the welkin ring with their shouts and hurrahs – so much so, that in the latter portion of the battle, we had only to hallo and run towards them, when they would leave in a hurry without even firing a shot.

The Northern army was commanded by Gen. McDowell, with Gen. Scott at Centreville as the “power behind the throne,” etc., etc.; while Gens. Beauregard, Evans, Johnston and Jefferson Davis, Esq., managed the youngsters of the Young Republic. You cannot imagine that I could give you a full detail of all the movements of the different wings of the army; and I therefore confine myself to such abstracts as may be interesting. Of all the different portions of the Northern army, the New York Zouaves suffered most. They are completely burst up. What are not killed, are wounded or taken prisoners. I actually don’t think that, out of 1100, 200 left the field with sound hides. They fought well, and were the especial favorites of the South Carolinians, Tigers, and particularly of the Washington Artillery. The prisoners and wounded say that they never expected to meet an army here, but merely a concourse of people in open rebellion – something like a Centre street riot in New York. The episode of the battle, however, was the critical moment, when, in order to save the day, it became necessary to storm a battery at all hazards. This duty, dangerous and important, was entrusted to a Virginia regiment, assisted by another, of what State I do not recollect. Their charge was terrible, but of no avail. Again they charged, with the same result. Reinforced, they fought their way, inch by inch, to the top of the hill, and the battery was captured, not, however, before 700 noble lives on our side had been sacrificed. This gave the battle a decided inclination to our side, but notwithstanding this, regiments after brigades and reserves of infantry kept pouring in, and the plan was at once changed.

While their infantry in overwhelming numbers were to keep our infantry harmless, their artillery, which had taken prominent positions, were to operate against our strongholds; but they had, no doubt, forgotten that there was also Washington Artillery in the field at Stone Bridge. Through the thickest of a perfect shower of minie’ rifle balls, they moved their batteries to the point selected by Gen. Beauregard himself, and his horse just then having been shot from under him, he very quietly helped himself to the horse of one of the artillery band left them with the bare admonition, “don’t waste your powder, boys, but take good aim;” and they did take good aim. In less than a half hour, that battery, as well as the surrounding infantry, were rather quiet, while cannons, ammunition wagons, horses, drivers and soldiers were all piled up in one heap. All hope was now gone; the whole reserve of the infantry was now called into action, the enemy not having one cannon left. It was then that our brigade made its appearance on one hill, the Rockville Artillery and a squadron of cavalry on the next. We led off with a charge, supported by the artillery, and if mortal eye ever beheld a sunning set of cowards, it was the thousands then making their way through the fields, over fences, etc., etc., in the direction of Rhode Island and intermediate landings. Escaped from reach of infantry, these brave ones were once more rallied by their commander to resist the cavalry, which they feared would attack them in their flight. Two solid squares were formed on a hill on the very end of the woods, and no sooner formed than they were scattered to the winds by the shells of rifle balls of the artillery. This was too much; to stop the Mississippi would be an easy job to the one of attempting to stop the flying infantry of Abe and Scott. Pursuit was almost useless, as no one could catch them; but General Johnston met them a short distance on their way, giving them his farewell compliment by taking fifty wagons of all sorts of camp equipage and the remainder of their cannon, horses attached, together with a good supply of ammunition, and last, but not least, the private equipage of Gen. McDowell, unfortunately, however, without the General. The number of killed is very large on both sides; ours not less than 1500, while the enemy’s cannot be under 2500. All houses in the neighborhood are converted into hospitals, while even a church serves for the present the same purpose; and it is in it where over 400 Zouaves are now under the treatment and kind care of the rebels, as they call us. The prisoners thus far taken amount to over 1500, and every day some fellows turn up, wither from their own will or caught by our soldiers. The total killed, wounded and taken prisoners of the enemy cannot fall short of nine thousand, while we have about twenty-five hundred all told. What made our loss so great was, first, the great superiority of their fire-arms in the hands of regular troops; and secondly, the storming of that battery. While it is horrible to think of such loss of human life, it is also gratifying to know that a decisive blow has been struck, the enemy routed, driven back, and completely disorganized, and their fondest hopes of subjugating the South are blasted for the present, at least. How sure they were of gaining this battle, I can prove to you by letters found in their pockets to their relatives, where they tell them to direct their letters to Manassas Junction; and from the fact that two trains of ladies and gentlemen accompanied Gen. Scott to Centreville, in order to assist the old chieftain in his triumphant march to Manassas, the key of the valley of Virginia, and thence return by railroad to Washington. Another corroborating fact is stated by the prisoners, who say that their term of three months was out some days ago, but they were not allowed to leave until after this battle, when they were to have been paid off in Manassas, and sent to Washington by railroad: but alas! “There is many a slip between the cup and the lip.” It is almost a pity that a man like Gen. Scott, enshrined in life-long glory, should, at the very brink of the grave, follow the promptings of vindictiveness, and avarice, and destroy, with one blow, all affection, love and admiration a grateful country had for him; but “such is life,” as Bill Adams says.

In this battle, the Continentals suffered more than any other company in the regiment, and for a very plain reason: we were the first to come down the hill, after the Mississippi regiment had been flanked; close to the woods in the hollow we were halted; while the Virginia regiment , in our rear, was flanked close to the woods on the right. These having been scarcely posted, Col Early commanding, gave order to form in line of battle – not in the hollow – but half way up the hill, in full view of the enemy on the ridge of the other, who used the opportunity to shoot down five of our men in less time than you could count twenty, and in other companies in proportion. The first man shot in our company was Henry Clay. The ball struck him in the neck, severed the jugular vein, and went out on the other side, killing him instantly. He had scarcely reached the ground, before two others fell – Sergt. Clohey shot through the leg, and Flynn badly wounded in the groin. While they were being picked up, a ball struck a canteen of one, went through it, and took the rear file, Kelly, through the hand. During this short time the cry was, “Let us charge,” but Colonel Early said, very coolly, that it was all a mistake, that they on the hill were our friends, etc.; until, when the whole regiment became so clamorous for a charge, that Col. Hays said: “Boys, do you want to charge?” All hands hallooed “Yes,” and charge it was, our gallant officer in front, closely followed by the boys, just in time to see the running Yankees knocked by our artillery over fences, roads, and everything which was not much higher than a one story house. So much for Col. Early.

I would be recreant to all truth and justice were I not here to mention, with all the praise this feeble pen is able to bestow, the coolness and promptness of our captain and lieutenants. McFarland you know too well to need encomiums from me; but, as regards Davis, he has surely more than gratified the most sanguine expectations of his warmest friends; he is a brick, and no mistake.

And now, let me close this rather lengthy and dull epistle, badly written, and scraped together on three different kinds of paper, with a Yankee cartridge box as a desk; read it to some of the Continentals if you deem it of sufficient interest, and allow me to subscribe myself with my best wishes for you and your family’s prosperity and welfare.

Your obedient servant,

JOHN F. GRUBER, Corporal*

In justice to myself I must inform you that I have been promoted to that important post. Give my respects to Jim McGawly, Blessy, Slemmer, Capt. Hodgkins, Th. Murray, and all the boys, and tell them for particulars I must refer them to a verbal report.

J. F. G.

New Orleans Daily Crescent, 8/5/1861

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*While Gruber signed this letter as a corporal, records indicate he mustered in and out of the 7th LA as a private.

John F. Gruber at Fold3

Contributed by John J. Hennessy





Pvt. Franklin E. Gates, Co. G, 12th New York Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle

27 10 2016

 

A CANASTOTA VOLUNTEER’S EXPERIENCE IN BATTLE.

—The Following letter from Frank Gates, a Volunteer in Col. Walrath’s regiment, is communicated by his father for publication:

Washington, July 23, 1861.

DEAR PARENTS:—To relieve your anxiety, I hasten to inform you that Frank is still in the land of the living. We arrived in this city yesterday, and I should have written to you then if I had not been completely exhausted. Until yesterday afternoon I had not received half an hour’s sleep for eighty hours; so you may well imagine that I was pretty well worn out when we came here. After reaching this city I made my way straight to the Capitol, where, by the kindness of one of the Congressmen, I was enabled to get a little rest. He took me into a room where nil was quiet, and provided me a good sofa to lie on.

I suppose you are anxious to hear an account of the battle in which I have been engaged; therefore I will begin now to give you a description of it: We left chain bridge last Tuesday afternoon and proceeded on our way to Fairfax, where the rebels had stationed a force (as near as I can ascertain) of about 5,000. At this place they had thrown up breastworks, blockaded the roads, &c. But as soon as they found our troops were advancing, they left as fast as their heels could carry them, and we took possession of the place. We then proceeded some six miles from Fairfax, and stopped for the night.—In the morning we resumed our march, and after going some two miles we came upon a strong rebel battery. Here we expected to have a ….brush, but on examination we found that the rebels had fled and deserted their posts here. So on we went. Thursday, at half-past twelve, we arrived at the place called Bull’s Run, which is but a short distance this side of Manassas. As soon as we came here our brigade, consisting of four regiments, which was in the advance of the main column, was drawn up in battle array. At ten minutes past one our regiment received orders to march down to the left to ascertain, if possible, the position of the enemy. We were marched in double quick time through ravines and over hills, until we came to a dense thicket which we immediately entered. Suddenly a heavy volley of musketry was poured in upon us but very fortunately it was aimed so high that the most of passed above our heads. We could not see a person in the direction from which we received the fire, although our left flank had approached within three rods of the spot from which the charge was made. The enemy, some five or six thousand strong, had concealed themselves behind a masked battery, and as soon as they fired, dropped down out of sight, and the only way that we could direct our fire was by aiming at the spot where we saw the flash of their guns. We at once charged upon them and then fell flat upon the ground and loaded again. Before we arose, their second volley was fired, which came a little lower and did us more injury than the first. If we had not fallen upon the ground I am sure we could not have escaped utter destruction. We arose to our feet and again charged upon them, and as before, fell and loaded. At this moment the rebels opened upon us from another battery a terrific fire of grape shot and shell. We charged again and then fell back to the first ravine in our rear. Here we were ordered by the Colonel to form in line again and make another charge upon them, but one of our batteries of flying artillery returned the charge we had received from theirs, and this brought us in range of the fire of both batteries, theirs and ours; therefore it was impossible to carry out our plan, and we were ordered to fall back. A heavy cannonade was kept up from both batteries until near sundown.

Then our whole force formed in a body and marched back to Centerville, a distance of two miles and stopped for the night. Nothing of much importance took place from that time until Sunday, when a hard battle was fought in the morning. Our batteries began to shell the woods for the purpose of routing them out of their strongholds and finding out where they were. During the whole of the fight we tried every possible scheme to draw them out of the woods into an open field, but this could not be done. They have adopted the Indian mode of warfare, and whenever they can be drawn out of their entrenchments and ambuscades they prove themselves the veriest cowards in the world. During the fore part of the day our batteries kept up a constant fire while our infantry scoured the woods off at the right. As soon as we begun the fire, they commenced pouring in reinforcements from Manassas, so that by the middle of the afternoon they had a force which more than doubled ours. But notwithstanding this, we kept driving them back, until our batteries had exhausted their ammunition and were compelled to cease firing. Then they began to follow us, and we saw that they were working to outflank us. To avoid this, we fell back to Centerville and drew up our forces in an open field, planting our batteries on a hill in the center of our troops. Here we expected an attack, but to our surprise they did not stir from the woods. We remained here from sundown until midnight, and then commenced our retreat back to this city. If we could have had more artillery, and plenty of ammunition, this movement would not have been made, but as it was, we could not do otherwise. The loss of life was great on both sides. As near as I can ascertain the loss on our side was between 1,500 and 2,000. Theirs was much greater. Ellsworth’s Zouaves suffered more than any other regiment, and about half their number was killed. [Our loss has since been shown to be much less than here stated.—ED.] No body of men ever fought more nobly and bravely than they did. They did not leave the field until they had laid one thousand of the rebels dead before them. Their brave Colonel fell from his horse at the first fire. I believe he was not mortally wounded. Beauregard commanded the rebel forces in person. His horse was seen to fall from under him. F. A. Darling stood by my side, and had the crown of his hat torn off by a grape shot. Another struck the bayonet of his gun and broke it off about two inches from the muzzle of his gun. A. Stone, of Peterboro, had a ball pass through his hat. G. Hammond had his gun knocked out of his hand by a grape shot. Several others in our company escaped in the same way, and there was but one killed, this was a young man by the name of John Markham. When we marched into the thicket, he was exactly in front of me, but when we formed a line and made the charge, he was a little to my left. I will now tell you of the narrow escape I had, and then close for the present. I had just entered a little hollow when I heard the whizzing of a cannon ball from one of the rebel’s guns; I dropped flat upon my face, when the ball passed directly over me and struck in a bank a few feet back of where I lay. If I had not fallen the instant I heard the sound, it would have torn me in pieces. Preparations are being made to attack them again. Whether it will be done before our time is out, I do not know, but I hope it will, for I want to meet them again.—We will have a much stronger force, both of infantry and artillery, which is the most needed. Give my respects to all my friends.

From your affectionate son,

FRANK GATES.

Utica Morning Herald amd Daily Gazette (unknown date)

Transcription per New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center

Franklin E. Gates in Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of New York For the Year 1899

Thanks to reader Will Hickox





Wilmer McLean – The Rest of the Story

15 10 2016

fig62We all know how it went. Wilmer McLean owned a farm (Yorkshire Plantation) near Manassas that P. G. T. Beauregard used for his headquarters prior to and during the First Battle of Bull Run. We know that a projectile from a Union cannon struck his chimney, and that it ruined a dinner cooking in the fireplace. We know from Bory’s report that Wilmer helped out the Confederate forces as a guide. We know that later on Wilmer relocated to Appomattox Court House, and that his residence was used for the proceedings of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia in April, 1865. But here are a couple of tidbits I learned, or perhaps was reminded of, in Arwen Bicknell’s Justice and Vengeance: Scandal, Honor, and Murder in 1872 Virginia, which I’m currently reading. Things like why he moved to Appomattox in the first place, and what he did and where he went after the surrender. Since she spent good time writing them, I’ll let her words speak for themselves, with my own emphasis:

McLean, who was too old to fight, made a nice living during the war as a sugar broker supplying the Confederate States Army, and moved his operations Appomattox County, partly because his commercial activities were centered mostly in Southern Virginia and partly to protect his family from a repetition of their combat experience…In 1869, bankruptcy forced the family back to the farm in Manassas, during which time he served as justice of the peace. He secured a job under [President Ulysses S.] Grant working as a tax collector in 1873 and moved his family to Alexandria, transferring to the U. S. Bureau of Customs in 1876 …

A little less romantic than the story of a poor farmer’s failure to avoid the war and being ultimately ruined by it with which many are familiar. But that’s often the case with beloved tales.

The author cites Biography of Wilmer McLean, May 3, 1814 – June 5, 1882, by Frank P. Cauble.