Preview: Powell, “Battle Above the Clouds”

3 07 2017

BattleClouds_LRGIf you’ve been reading Bull Runnings for a while, you know that I’ve previewed all of the titles in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War series. And you also know how these books work. Concise histories, lots of maps and illustrations, tough paperbacks, suitable for the field. The really interesting parts, to me anyway, are the appendices. So, for this newest publication, I’m going to give you the bare minimum, and flesh out those appendices for you.

Battle Above the Clouds: Lifting the Siege of Chattanooga and the Battle of Lookout Mountain, October 16 – November 24, 1863, by David A. Powell

  • Foreword by William Lee White
  • Five page prelude
  • Narrative 107 pages
  • Six Hal Jespersen maps
  • Ten page driving tour 1 – Wheeler’s Raid and the Chattanooga Campaign, seven stops
  • Fourteen page driving tour 2 – Brown’s Ferry, Wauhatchie, and Lookout Mountain, nine stops
  • Appendix A: The Myth of the Cracker Line – Frank Varney
  • Appendix B: A Tale of Two Paintings – Powell
  • Appendix C: Civil War Tourism: Lookout Mountain – Powell
  • Orders of Battle
  • No footnotes, bibliography, or index in this volume

David A. Powell is a VMI graduate and author of numerous works and articles on the Chickamauga Campaign, most recently Barren Victory.

 

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Preview: Davis, “All the Fighting They Want”

1 07 2017

Layout 1If you’ve been reading Bull Runnings for a while, you know that I’ve previewed all of the titles in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War series. And you also know how these books work. Concise histories, lots of maps and illustrations, tough paperbacks, suitable for the field. The really interesting parts, to me anyway, are the appendices. So, for this newest publication, I’m going to give you the bare minimum, and flesh out those appendices for you.

All the Fighting They Want: The Atlanta Campaign from Peachtree Creek to the City’s Surrender, July 18-September 2, 1864, by Stephen Davis

  • Four page prologue
  • Narrative 115 pages, fourteen chapters
  • Eight page epilogue
  • Seven Hal Jesperson maps
  • Eight page driving tour, with twelve stops
  • Appendix A: Confederate Monuments In and Around Atlanta – Gould Hagler
  • Appendix B: Civil War Collections at the Atlanta History Center – Gordon Jones
  • Appendix C: The Battle of Atlanta on Canvas: A Brief History of the Atlanta Cyclorama – Gordon Jones
  • Order of Battle

No footnotes, bibliography, or index in this volume

Stephen Davis is, among other things, former book review editor for Blue & Gray magazine and the author of a previous Emerging Civil War volume on the Atlanta Campaign, A Long and Bloody Task.

 





Preview: McMillan, “Gettysburg Rebels”

14 06 2017

51Zo8aLJtsL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Fresh off the presses is Tom McMillan’s Gettysburg Rebels, a signed copy of which arrived in my mailbox while I was away this past weekend in, you guessed it, Gettysburg. (I only live three and a half hours away from the place, but don’t get out there nearly as often as one might think.)

As you can see from the cover, Gettysburg Rebels is the story of five former citizens of the town who returned as Confederate soldiers in July, 1863. The stories of Wesley Culp and Henry Wentz may be familiar to many of you, but some of you are surely wondering who the other three men were. No spoilers here – you’ll have to read the book.

The author has researched the stories of all five men and presented them in flowing style. He also ponders why, with 5 former residents of the town in his Army of Northern Virginia, its commander was not made aware of their presence and could not rely on them for more accurate intelligence on the environs than he ultimately received from his staff.

You get: 234 pages of narrative; bibliography; descriptive end notes (that is, read them, there’s good stuff in them); and an index.

Mr. McMillan is the author of Flight 93: The Story, the Aftermath, and the Legacy of American Courage on 9/11. He’s been the VP of Communications for the defending, back-to-back NHL Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins for the past 21 years. I sure hope he takes it easy at the parade today.





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





Good News, Bad News

18 04 2017

I eat what I kill. That is to say, the more work I do, the more I get paid. When I don’t have a lot of work to do – that is, work that pays – I generally have more time to post things here. But I’ve been slammed lately. And since my work requires I sit and type and stare at three monitors all day, when I put in a long day it’s tough to wind down by sitting and typing and staring at a monitor. And so you get what you’ve got this past month – one stinking post, before this one. But rest assured, I have a lot of stuff to come. I’m working on two posts right now: another installment in the review of Early Morning of War; and some really interesting stuff from a book I’m reading in preparation for a trip to Little Big Horn and points west this summer (this is a once in a lifetime trip, I think – I’m really looking forward to it), a book on archaeology at that battlefield that includes some great stuff applicable to any researcher. I find it particularly applicable to what I’ve been doing with First Bull Run. It hasn’t changed my thinking, but it’s helped to express it a little better, I think. Ultimately, it’s affirming. Reassuring.

In addition, readers have been sending me more stuff, mostly letters from participants in the battle. Friend John Banks just sent me two tonight, from the 11th Massachusetts. Keep an eye out for a related story from him. (If any of you run across anything to add to my letter/diary/memoir/image database, please forward it!) And I have a huge backlog of Hennessy letters, and more portrait images, and things I haven’t even mentioned yet, and things I have mentioned but…well, you get the picture.

You’d think after ten years I’d be closer to the end than I am. I mean, I could be. But I’d also be flat broke (remember, I make nothing from this site – I don’t want to crap it up or otherwise compromise it with advertising, and don’t even have a deal with Amazon for click-throughs). Thanks for sticking with me. There’s more good stuff to come. I’ll run out of me before I run out of it.





Preview: Reardon & Vossler, “Field Guide to Gettysburg”, 2nd Edition

10 04 2017

1525028608Hot off the presses is a second edition of A Field Guide to Gettysburg: Experiencing the Battlefield through Its History, Places, and People, the wildly successful, ground-breaking, and critically acclaimed work of Dr. Carol Reardon and Col. (Ret.) Thomas Vossler. Dr. Reardon sent this descriptive note:

We added two new stops. The first offers a brief walking tour of the Harmon farm on the first day’s battlefield. This is the property that used to be the old Gettysburg Country Club. When we began writing the first edition, this property had just come into possession of Gettysburg National Military Park, and there were no basic amenities, such as public parking. Once they opened a small gravel lot, we knew we wanted to share the story of the Iron Brigade’s first fight at Gettysburg and the capture of General Archer. Similarly, at Powers Hill, the clearing of the viewshed was underway, but it had not been completed and no public parking existed. The opening of a small lot on Granite Schoolhouse Road made it possible to create a stop for that site. The view from the summit is super! Indeed, I think we will learn more and more about this under-emphasized part of the battlefield as the park interpretive staff integrates the action on newly acquired properties on both sides of the Baltimore Pike into the broader Gettysburg narrative. We also improved many of the maps so they mesh more clearly with the text.

Thanks to the editors at the University of North Carolina Press, we were able to do something special in the e-book version of the second edition. Since technology made it possible to add new text easily, they gave us back 10,000 words we could not find room for in the book editions. These elements had been part of our original vision, but we had had to cut them from the first edition due to space limitations. Some of those cuts were very painful to make, but now we were able to restore them. So, now, in addition to the two new stops and improved maps, readers of the e-book will get a lot more stories about the soldiers who fell in battle. In addition to some additional leader vignettes, we’ve added some of the most useful and relevant leadership lessons–some good, some bad–that we use in field programs and on staff rides for military audiences. We’ve added a few mini-stops to cover McGilvery’s artillery in support of Sickles’ III Corps on July 2 and the stand of the 9th Massachusetts battery. We also added an element to the stop on Seminary Ridge at the end of July 1 to encourage visitation to Mrs. Thompson’s house (aka Lee’s headquarters). There’s a LOT of new material in the e-book version of the field guide’s second edition.

Get the hard copy version here.

Get the ebook here.





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 





Unknown, Col. Radford’s Squadron, Co. G, Radford Rangers, Attached to 30th Virginia Cavalry*, On the Battle

7 03 2017

WITH THE SECOND VIRGINIA CAVALRY AT BULL RUN – RECOLLECTIONS OF A FIGHTER WHO WAS IN THE EARLY BATTLE.

WRITTEN FOR SUNDAY REPUBLIC

I have never seen a more beautiful sunrise than that which occurred on the 21st day of July, 1861.

The approach of the “King of Day” on a midsummer morning, is hardly announced by [?] beautiful blushes on the eastern horizon, before his bright rays begin to dart through the trees and convert the dew-drops on the grass into sparkling diamonds. The limp dress of nature has been freshened since she torrid heat of yesterday, and the smiles in inexpressible loveliness at the approach of the morning light. What a pity this beautiful panorama is of so short duration! But the sun climbs so rapidly toward the meridian that we soon are panting again for breath. I can never forget this particular sunrise.

We left our camp at Fairfax Court House early on the morning of the 17th, marched slowly up the grade through Germantown on the Warrenton Pike. We were green and raw in military matters and threw away our ham and bread to lighten the load of our horses. How we wished got them before the long day’s march was over! But dewberries were ripe and, during the frequent halt, we found means of appeasing the urgent demands of our appetite. We passed Centerville in the early evening, and late at night crossed the since famous “Bull Run.” As we passed up the long hill on the south of the stream a weird sight was presented by the silent ranks of Bonham’s South Carolina Brigade stationed near the foot of the hill. A little higher up the hill was a battery of artillery, the pieces all unlimbered and pointing toward Mitchell’s Ford which we had crossed in our march from Centreville. The ropes at the end of the rods (linstocks**) were ignited and ready to “light off” the cannon, should the enemy attempt to cross the ford during the night.

We proceeded to the summit of the hill and bivouacked on the open plateau of the crest. Our position commanded a full view of the heights on the north side of the stream and as we were not on duty, we spent the next day watching for the approach of the Army of the North. It was several miles from our position to the top of the hill on the other side. In the afternoon of the 18th, we could discern the enemy debouching from the road where it came into open view from the woods.

In a short time a puff of smoke was seen and in a few moments a cannon ball hissed past, high up over our heads, and struck in the open plateau behind us. Again, another hissed past and then another. Under the circumstances, it was difficult for them to estimate how far their balls overshot our position. But we were soon called to the woods below the road where soon we could not be exposed to the view of the artillerists. Pretty soon the booming of cannon from both armies was heard and not long after, volleys of musketry were added to the display of war at the fort below use (Blackburn’s) * * * All was quiet the next day, which was spent in restless lounging by our men. It was hard to get a drink of fresh water. There was a very faint stream, or, rather, ooze of water from the side of the hill, and it required a deal of patience to wait until a small excavation in the mud should be sufficiently filled with muddy water to enable us to dip up a cupful to drink. Captain Radford spent the day apart from us all. He had a presentiment that he would be killed in the approaching battle and wrote letters and papers most of the time.

On the 20th we were sent to do picket duty for General Cooke at the ford above us. So, Sunday morning, July 21, found J. Pleasant Dawson and myself stationed under a large water oak in the edge of a green meadow that skirted “Flat Run” near where it entered the “Bull Run.” It was hard for us to resist the temptation to dismount and loll on the carpet of green verdure spread so temptingly beneath our feet.

As the sun rose on this beautiful spot, so calm and so peaceful, our thoughts reverted to our homes, our loved ones and our neighbors, then to “Old Trinity” back in Bedford County, the church we had attended for worship all of our lives. We spoke in low and tender tones of our girl friends who would be likely to attend church that day, wishing from the bottom of our hearts that we could be there in person as we were in spirit; and then we grew silent, for our talk had conjured up a multitude of sweet memories of the past on which our hungry hearts silently feasted with delight.

A call to camp put an end to our entrancing reveries – love, peace and beauty must soon give place to the horrors of battle. We had hardly gotten to camp and taken our place in the regiment before the booming of cannon was shaking the earth and balls were tearing and whizzing through the pine woods in which we were concealed. Several hours were spent in ranks, during which it was hard to banish the thought of the terrible havoc one of these deadly missiles would make should it pass from front through to the rear of our column. As the day advanced cannon began to boom northwest of us, and those that annoyed us ceased. We then formed in line in the open field on the crest of the hill.

Ever fresh in memory is the sight of a South Carolina regiment that passed by to take a position in the line in rear of the fort. In their ranks was the tall figure of old Mr. Ruffin, who fired the first shot at Fort Sumpter. His long snow-white locks hung down below the collar of his coat from under the fur (silk) hat so often worn by elderly gentlemen of that day. The regiment passed in silence and the firm and stately tread of the men showed that the spirit that animated every bosom was of the “do-or-die” type.

After we had been in ranks for some time with the noonday sun beating down upon us from the cloudless sky, we were allowed to dismount and stand by our horses. We strained our eyes toward the northwest, where the battle was now fiercely raging, and tried to see some hoped for signs of victory for the noble band of Southrons but there was little to encourage us, although our painful interest in the scene made us forget the intense heat that enveloped us. We had no means of knowing the time of day, but the sun had some time passed the zenith, when the clear ringing voice of Colonel Radford gave forth the cautionary command, “Attention!” Then “Prepare to mount!” and then, “Mount!” We were well-drilled and the simultaneous rattle of sabers showed that we were all in the saddle. “From the right by fours, gallop, march!” In a moment, the whole column of 700 or 800 horsemen shook the earth in their gallop towards the battlefield. The dust was so thick that we could not see our file leaders, but our horses kept us right and we rapidly covered the distance between our camp and the Lewis House. Before we reached that point our gallop had been changed to a trot, so that we could pass the regiments of infantry which were also making their way to the scene of battle. A regiment of Tennessee troops attracted my attention as we passed. They were of the race of “Ana[?],” tall muscular men, with mouth firmly set, nostrils expanded and faces lit up with the light of battle, they gave us a lofty inspiration for the work we expected to be called upon to perform in a few moments. I must not forget to say that in one set of fours a jet-black negro, as large as the white giants with whom he marched, filled his place with all the dignity and determination of a born soldier.

After passing the Lewis House we began to see the effects of battle. The wounded men on the stretchers and in the “ambulances,” with cheerful voices would encourage us. “We are whipping them,” said they, “go on and make the victory a complete rout.” The stragglers, however dirty and dusty, and with down and out and rueful looks, told us their regiment had been cut all to pieces, and they were all that were left.

We rode rapidly forward and halted in column on the north side of Holkum’s Branch in rear of Stonewall Jackson’s command, and under shelter of the intervening hill.

The rising clouds of dust had given our movement and position to the enemy’s batteries and immediately they began to fire on us from the north, from the northeast and from the northwest. Shells burst on our flanks – our left flanks as we stood in column being toward the northwest.

After using shells for some time, they tried to reach us by solid shot in ricochet firing. These would strike the brow of the hill on our left and rebounding over our column would bury themselves with a dull thud in the hill beyond the branch. As we heard the hissing and screaming of the balls and shells, nearly every man would duck his head instinctively down the neck of his horse, which stood with that subdued and resigned look they always have when standing out in a thunderstorm or in the battle’s rage.

It seemed that we stood in that spot for many hours, but I know it could not have been actually much more than half an hour. Then the firing of musketry from Jackson’s line began. It would begin on the right, not in volleys but in succession and sounded as the grinding of coffee – only magnified a thousand times. Before the wave of reports would reach half way to the left flank, it would begin again on the right – the cannon of both armies playing a bass to the tenor of the musketry. Suddenly there was a yell – as unmistakable as the tocsin of the rattlesnake or the vindictive [?] of the bumble-bee as he thrusts his sting into you – and we knew the Rebels were charging the Army of Coercion. The terrible ordeal was soon over and we had to duck our heads no more. In a short time we began to march back toward the Lewis House. As our rear was approaching the top of the hill on the south of Holkum’s Branch, and old or elderly man called out: “General Johnson says ‘the cavalry must halt.’” We stood there some time. At length we were ordered to take position in a kind of natural amphitheater on the west of the Lewis House. While stopping on this hill several of our horses were wounded by bullets from parting shots of the retreating foes.

The tide of battle was now changing rapidly and our spirits were rising correspondingly. Cheer after cheer went up as Adjutant Burks told us that the “Sherman” and “Ricketts” batteries which had just worried us so much, had been captured. Then other and louder cheers when he told us a Virginia regiment had captured them. Presently Lindsay Walker and his “derringers,” as he called them, passed and took position on the hill northeast of the Lewis House, whence they fired with deliberation and regularity. In a short time, we were ordered to charge.

As we reached the top of the hill at the Lewis House and galloped down to the Lewis Ford, we could see the road to Centerville lined with the retreating enemy, whose pace was rapidly hastening to a run by the balls from Walker and the other batteries. The exultation of the moment reached the utmost limit of human endurance. Our men yelled and cheered as they galloped and the horses shared in the enthusiasm of their riders. As we came to the Warrenton pike a few scattering enemy were seen scampering about, and our men began to fire their shotguns, some at random into the air and some taking aim. The men so nearly beside themselves that I had to watch those behind me, to prevent being shot myself. Many men left the ranks to ride down those who were trying to escape. While I gazed on the confusion around me, I asked myself mentally, “Why all of our drilling and study of the ‘Manual’ if we were to do this way in battle?” Suddenly before I could make reply, in clear and clarion tones, the command was given by our Colonel, to “form and charge that battery.” About thirty men promptly took their position in line – the rest were too much occupied in chasing the fugitives. They did not hear the command. I looked up the road toward Stone Bridge and saw several pieces unlimbered. One or two were pointed toward us; the others down the pike toward Centerville. We were within a hundred yards, and they overshot our little knot of men. A terrific report like the noise of a train of cars passing over our heads almost deafened us and we left in full gallop. A run of half a mile brought me to the squadrons under our Lieutenant Colonel Munford, who was to strike the pike farther east. I took my place at the rear of his column and we advanced but the enemy finding that our cavalry had cut them off became panic-stricken and were scattered to the four winds [?] so we did not find any more of them in ranks. I captured a tall, lean and lank Irishman of a New York regiment and ended the day escorting him back to the provost guard. It was raining as I went back to camp the next morning. My “mess” were glad to see me for I had been reported killed. I learned with sorrow, that our noble captain Winston Radford, and our Color Sergeant the manly Edley Irvine were among the slain. Painful, indeed, was the loss of those princely spirits which went out with our first triumphant shouts of victory. But, “Their glory dies not and the grief is past.”

St. Louis Sunday Republic, 1900

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

* Unit designation determined by the narrative, which identifies the colonel as Radford, and the captain as Winston Radford. The 2nd Virginia Cavalry, while formed in May of 1861, was known as the 30th Regiment Virginia Volunteers until the end of October, 1861.

** Linstocks are rods, the ends of which can be fitted with lighted fuses, used to fire a cannon when friction primers were not available or otherwise not used. While we imagine their use in artillery of an earlier time, linstocks were part of standard U. S. artillery equipage as late as 1890. Hat tip to Craig Swain.





Preview: Shultz – “Double Canister at Ten Yards”

5 03 2017

51gaj1jk6pl-_sy445_ql70_Double Canister at Ten Yards”: The Federal Artillery and the Repulse of Pickett’s Charge, by David L. Shultz, was originally published back in 1995, and has been updated by Savas Beatie this year. The title is self-explanatory, so let’s get to the meat and the differences between the two editions.

You get: 86 pages of text (1995 – 67 pp, but fonts, maps, and illustrations have changed significantly); a foreword by Charles Hathaway (who wrote the same for the 1995 edition); an introduction that was included in the 1995 edition’s page total; 13 short chapters and a postscript (1995 – no chapters); order of battle; end notes; a full index (1995 – no index); six large, clear Phil Laino maps (1995 – five busier, darker Shultz maps); and lastly, this new edition includes more photographs.

The author bio says Mr. Shultz is working on a “comprehensive tactical study of the artillery at Gettysburg,” while the 1995 edition noted that he was “preparing a more comprehensive book for future publication on the Union artillery during the entire Battle of Gettysburg.”