Charles H. Pierce, Co. D, Marine Battalion, On the Eve of the Battle

7 09 2017

Encampment of U. S. Marine Battalion
14 miles north of Manassas Junction, Virginia
Saturday July 20, 1861

Mother,

We crossed the Potomac last Tuesday and joined the advancing army. We marched all day & encamped at night near Fairfax Court House where the enemy were located in numbers to the amount of 10,000. Next morning we took the town after a short contest. The Southern Troops under General Beauregard fell back to a place two miles from where we now are.

We remained all day at Fairfax & next morning marched to attack Beauregard. We were repulsed and had to fall back. The 69th New York Regiment, it is said, had 40 men killed. We are now encamped in an old field by the side of the road, awaiting guns to come up from Washington, before we make another attack. They will be here tomorrow. We should take Manassas Junction next week and then push on to Richmond. I have suffered dreadfully since I have been on the march. The roads are hot & dusty, water is scarce, & I have often wished I could get shot to get clear of the intolerable thirst. My feet are all blistered & sore. We have to rest at night & every morning I feel almost unable to get up off the ground upon which we all have to sleep. I am writing this letter on my knee sitting in the shade under a tree. Write as soon as you get this and direct the letter as follows:

Company D Marine Battalion
Near Manassas Junction, Virginia

Tell me what the papers say about us. I mean what accounts do they give of our intentions.

We are within five miles of the enemy who are very numerous and strong, entrenched (they say but no one knows anything about their strength.)

Charles H. Pierce

I do not have an idea that I shall get shot. But I do not believe I can stand the hardships of the march much longer. You may consider this a letter from the battlefield, for mighty is war going on between our advanced guards & the enemy at a place called Centreville.

Museum Quality Americana auction site, Sept. 2017

Letter image and transcription

Contributed by John Hennessy





“Charge of the ‘Georgia Eighth'”

20 06 2017

On a recent visit to Gettysburg, friend Craig Swain gifted me a nifty little book, Memoirs of the War Between the States, by Ethel Maddox Byrd and Zelda Haas Cassey. The book was published in 1961. It contains the poem below, written by “an Unknown Lady in Maryland,” which I thought you all might find interesting.

CHARGE OF THE “GEORGIA EIGHTH” AT THE BATTLE OF MANASSAS

The morning shines gaily
On proud Manassas’ height.
Six Hundred gallant Georgians
Are ready for the fight.

Each heart beats high and holy,
As with measured step they go,
For they stand between their firesides
And the invading foe.

The battle rages fiercely;
Has raged since break of day; And Sherman’s fatal battery,
With corpses, strews the way.

Cries Beauregard, with thrilling voice,
As the trumpets call,
“Forward, Brave comrades, to the charge,
That battery must fall!”

Six Hundred gallant Georgians –
With quickened step they go;
And fearlessly they follow
Their leader, brave Bartow.

Oh! Georgia’s stainless chivalry,
God speed you in the fight!
Your cause is just, your arms are strong,
Sweep onward in your might.

The setting sun sinks slowly
On the gory battlefield;
And to Southern rights and valor
The Northern hirelings yield.

The setting sun looks sadly,
Where the dead and dying lay,
On the ghastly field of battle,
The Six Hundred! Where are they?

Five deep round Sherman’s battery
They lie at set of sun!
But the battery is taken
And the red field is won!

Sixty of the Six Hundred
Stand round their leader now,
But death’s eternal shadow, clouds
His vainly-laureled brow.

Oh! Georgia’s glorious chivalry!
The loved ones and the brave!
Who poured their blood like water out,
And died that they might save!

And Beauregard, the Conqueror,
Rides up and bares his head –
“Uncovered, I salute
The Georgia Eighth,” he said.

When history shall reckon
Of this day’s deeds and fame,
Oh! whose shall be the glory!
And whose shall be the shame!

Memoirs of the War Between the States, pp. 28-29

 

 





1st Lt Clarke Henry Thompson, Co. G, 7th Virginia Infantry, On the Campaign

26 05 2017

Near Centreville, Fairfax Co.

Friday, August 2, 1861

Dear Aunt:

According to promise, I take this opportunity to write you a few lines. I am in camp near the above named place, and have been ever since last Sunday, at which time our regiment marched here from within on mile from the great and ever memorable battlefield of the 21st. I have thus far been spared from the bullets of the enemy, though subject to their fire in both battles.

I left Culpeper C. H. on the 26th of June, arriving in camp at a place called Wigfall, some two miles from Manassas, stayed there six or seven days, then marched with the regiment (which is called the 7th Va. Regt) to a place called Occoquan, a distance of eighteen miles.

We remained there a week and returned. In some five or seven days after our return we were ordered out to meet the enemy, a distance of about two miles, where we camped on the ground and many of us without blankets. On the next day which was Thursday the 18th, we marched some three or four miles in a different direction where we met the severest volly of musketry from the enemy, who were some thirty yards upon the hill, hidden completely from view. As luck would have it, not many of our regiment were killed or got wounded, but many of the enemy were slain. It was really a sight to find the blankets and clothes and things scattered over the field after their defeat.

You may think strange, but many of our men went upon the field the next morning and got off the dead bodies of the yankees, money, cards, likenesses, and many other little notions, many things no doubt had been stolen from our private citizens upon their route from Washington to the field.

We then stayed in our trenches for two whole days and nights waiting for them to return, but they did not return and they brought up a flag of truce for permission to bury their dead. Instead of acting honorably, they left their dead and wounded and went two miles up the run, where they threw up the most tremendous breast-work against us.

We took up the wounded and had them cared for, and believe me, General Beauregard had the dead buried.

On Saturday we were ordered out of the trenches and marched two miles, where we rested until Sunday morning, when we marched ten and a half miles to meet the enemy again. The battle commenced before seven in the morning and lasted until late in the evening. Our Regt. got upon the field about three o’clock in the afternoon at which time the enemy retreated.

We lost out of our regiment and fifty killed and wounded. They fired upon us very heavily for, I suppose fifteen minutes, we marched after them but not very far, as their retreat was in such haste and confusion that our Cavalry could hardly keep up with them, such a defeat was never known.

They scattered thousands of dollars worth of blankets, oil cloths, hats, coats and shoes. They actually threw away trunks filled with surgical instruments. Besides these there were silk dress patterns, bonnets and underskirts, found marked to to the wives of the men in New York, as trophies gotten from the “Rebels” as they term us. These things were stolen from private individuals in Alexandria and Fairfax C. H. How could a young man, dear Aunt, help volunteering to fight such a mob of heartless wretches as they? They actually killed the stock, burned houses, destroyed furniture of the people as they advanced.

We whipped them very decently, and they went back to the spot from which it took them six months to march, in six hours. They were seen to pass the streets begging the citizens for private clothing, thinking that they could escape, and that we were still after them. They fell in the streets and died of exhaustion. I had the audacity to think last Sunday, that I was not made to be struck by a bullet. It is, I think, the hand of the All-wise One that prevents the balls from striking me, for they whistled around like hail.

All history to a battle is mere fiction to the reality. It is an indescribable sight to see bodies mutilated in every manner in quantities all over the place, and arm here, a head there, a leg in another place. There were many cut up in this way. Some of the bodies actually laid out of the ground for six days. Hundreds of the finest horses were slaughtered upon the enemy side.

We took some 12,000 guns, 71 pieces of cannon, 1000 men and 500 horses.

I had no idea that I could stand what I have, but I can now walk over a dead “Yankee” with as good grace as I would a dog.

I hope that our Country may soon be at peace, but from the present movements of our regiments, I fear not, some four or five have passed down in the last few days. It is thought that we will advance upon Washington in a short time, how true this is I am not able to say, you can hear more news than we. The soldier’s life is not a pleasant one by any means, but when one knows the duty that he owes his Country, he will make any sacrifice. I shall ever consider the service that I have done the most noble act of my life. You will excuse this epistle as I am writing very fast. I will close. Remember me most affectionately to Uncle Albert, Cousin Fountaine and family, and all my relatives and friends.

Your most affectionate nephew,

C. H. Thompson

N. B. Write soon and address your letters to Manassas, in the care of Captain Walden, 7th Va. Regiment.

Library of Virginia

Transcription Image

Contributed by Keith Yoder

Clarke H. Thompson at Fold3 





Notes on “Early Morning of War” – Part 4

14 05 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 4: Green and Green Alike (Don’t get me started on this quote – some view it as an indication of Lincoln’s raw, common sense. I see it as evidence of his poor grasp of military realities – if, in fact, he said it.)

P. 91 – The first sentence of this chapter is one of my great pet peeves: “On the day Irvin McDowell assumed command of the Army of Northeastern Virginia…”

The footnote for this paragraph cites Starr’s Bohemian Brigade and Warner’s Generals in Blue. Neither of these are primary sources (nothing wrong with that), and neither of them discuss the origin of the name Army of Northeastern Virginia (this is the first time the name is used in this book.) Why does this note not cite some order creating the army, or some report referring to it for the fist time? Because, as far as I’ve been able to determine, there never was any organization on the books called The Army of Northeastern Virginia. The moniker was only applied post-battle, and post formation of The (Federal) Army of the Potomac. Why is this important? What difference does it make? Maybe none. But it bugs the heck out of me when I see it. OK, enough on that, let’s move on.

Pp. 93-94 – The author notes that McDowell was hampered not only by “inadequate communications” south of the Potomac, but also faced a shortage of wagons to carry rations for his army when on the march. He had to deal with a “lack of cooperation from superiors and colleagues alike,” and that McDowell would later attribute this to Winfield Scott’s dissatisfaction with his elevation to command of the army in the field. General J. K. F. Mansfield was an instrument in Scott’s obstruction of McDowell’s efforts.

P. 101 – In the same vein, McDowell later claimed that he “had no opportunity to test my machinery…” That is, he couldn’t drill his new regiments in battlefield, brigade sized evolutions. When he did exercise a group of eight regiments together, Scott accused him of “trying to make some show.” The author points out that failure to drill regiments as brigades and divisions resulted in the inability to use them as such in practice. This gives some insight into the time-honored opinion that the “piece-meal” insertion of units into the battle was key to Union defeat.

P. 103 – The author raises a good question: Why was Daniel Tyler, who held no volunteer or regular army rank, and who had been out of the army for almost 30 years, given command of the largest division in McDowell’s army? Other than a generally favorable remark from W. T. Sherman (“has a fair reputation”), a good reason isn’t offered. The author notes and provides evidence that the men in the ranks were left unimpressed by Edith Carow (Mrs. Theodore) Roosevelt’s grandfather. [As a side note, I found some evidence in Alan Gaff’s If This is War that, despite having personally drilled the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteers of his division at least once, the men were less than familiar with Tyler, as some of them believed he attempted to rally the men on Henry House Hill, when he was nowhere in the vicinity. I’m guessing they confused him with another white-haired officer, Samuel Heintzelman.]

P. 108 – The author notes that the June 1 raid on Fairfax Court House by Lt. Charles H. Tompkins, and his “wildly inflated estimate of the troops” there “inhibited McDowell from making further reconnaissances.” He also states that “some historians” claim this also resulted in a postponement on the eventual movement on Manassas and allowed more time for Beauregard to strengthen the defenses there. [Delays leading to defeat, and separately to plan failure, will be a recurring theme.]

PP. 108-112 – On June 3, Scott directed McDowell to give an estimate of the number of troops he would need to make a move on the Bull Run Line (and maybe Manassas Gap), in conjunction with Patterson’s movement against Harper’s Ferry. McDowell’s was to be a supporting role. McDowell returned a number that was very low, a total of 17,000 men including a 5,000 man reserve. McDowell felt this would perhaps compel Beauregard to fall back on Richmond. Even when credible reports established that Beauregard had 20,000 on the line, McDowell still thought the move (and men), which would bypass Fairfax Court House, could succeed via a move toward Vienna. [The author does not explore this line of thought, but here we see an indication that McDowell is thinking along the lines of Scott’s campaign in Mexico, a series of turning movements by smaller forces, in the face of which the enemy would withdraw.]

As a test, McDowell ordered a foray to Vienna. The misfortune that befell Brig. Gen. Schenck at that place seemed “to have infected his men with a deep-seated fear of ‘masked batteries,’ one that politicians and newspaper editors would play up.” [All of which may be true, but I have yet to find any creditable evidence that this in any way impacted the orders to and dispositions of McDowell’s force when it eventually moved out. There are more practical reasons for those than some “fear” of masked batteries, a theme that runs through many chronicles of the campaign.]

P. 112 – The author notes that as of June 24, McDowell had access to fewer than 14,000 troops in his department [a much better term to use than a formal army name, by the way], but that he remained confident that if he could properly train, organize, and motivate all the men he would receive over the next few weeks they could defeat the rebels “if they needed to fight them at all. He [McDowell] continued to believe that a well-mounted advance might persuade” the rebels to fall back to better defenses nearer the Rappahannock River. [And here it is: I don’t think McDowell ever stopped believing that.]

P. 113 – By late June, those in power were getting anxious for a move. McDowell would say later that whenever he mentioned the obstacles he was facing, he received the same response regarding the relative “green-ness” of his men and those of the enemy [it’s tough sometimes to nail down just who first flung this classic, but misguided, comeback McDowell’s way – I’ve seen it attributed to both Scott and Lincoln]. The author correctly points out that it was the “government’s” lack of patience that was pressuring for a move, not that of “the people” or “the press.” [Of course, that buck stops with POTUS.] And so on June 21, Scott directed McDowell to present a “finished plan to ‘sweep the enemy from Leesburg to Alexandria’ in cooperation with a column from Patterson’s army.”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7





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

Part 6

Part 7

 





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

Part 6

Part 7





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

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*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