Brian Pohanka’s Vortex of Hell provides a pretty good account of the Battle of Big Bethel, in which the 5th New York Infantry played a prominent role. And typically those are the types of books you need to read to find out about the fight; Big Bethel, or Bethel Church, or Great Bethel, is a battle most often covered in works covering a wider time frame. Messrs. Cobb, Hicks, and Holt, with Battle of Big Bethel: Crucial Clash in Early Civil War Virginia, have turned a magnifying glass on this June, 1861 meeting of forces under Benjamin Butler and John Magruder. At 266 pages, it dwarfs any previous study of which I am aware (and if one exists out there, please let me know about it.) Cobb and Hicks are affiliated with the Hampton (Va) History Museum (the battle was fought near the York County town), while Holt is an attorney. The book includes numerous photographs and illustrations and clear Hal Jesperson maps describe the action. Footnotes – at the bottom of the page – have become a Savas Beatie staple. The bibliography lists a respectable number of unpublished primary sources and contemporary newspaper accounts, as well as the expected published primary and secondary sources (though not Vortex, which I imagine was published too late in the process.) I try not to give too much weight to blurbs (hell, even I wrote one, once), but endorsements from R. E. L. Krick and Edward L. Ayers bode well.
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Tags: ACW Books, Articles, Big Bethel
Categories : Articles, Books
The Battle of Manassas
Army of the Potomac,
Manassas, July 22, 1861
Yesterday, the 21st day of July, 1861, a great battle was fought and a great victory won by the Confederate troops. Heaven smiled upon our arms, and the God of battles crowned our banners with the laurels of glory. Let every patriotic heart give thanks to the Lord of Hosts for the victory He has given His people on His holy day, the blessed Sabbath.
Gen. Johnston had arrived the preceding day with about half the force he had, detailed from Winchester, and was the senior officer in command. He magnanimously insisted, however, that Gen. Beauregard’s previous plan should be carried out, and he was guided entirely by the judgement and superior local knowledge of the latter. While, therefore, Gen. Johnston was nominally in command, Beauregard was really the officer and hero of the day. You will be glad to learn that he was this day advanced from a Brigadier to the rank of full General. But to the battle.
At half-past six in the morning, the enemy opened fire from a battery planted on a hill beyond Bull’s Run, and nearly opposite the center of our lines. The battery was intended merely to “beat the bush.” and to occupy our attention, while he moved a heavy column towards the Stone Bridge, over the same creek, upon our left. At 10 o’clock, another battery was pushed forward, and opened fire a short distance to the left of the other, and near the road leading North to Centreville. This was a battery of rifled guns, and the object of its fire was the same as that of the other. They fired promiscuously into the woods and gorges in this, the Southern side of Bull’s Run, seeking to create the impression thereby that our center would be attacked, and thus prevent us from sending reinforcements to our left, where the real attack was to be made. Beauregard was not deceived by the maneuver.
It might not be amiss to say, that Bull’s Run, or creek, is North of this place, and runs nearly due east, slightly curving around the Junction, the nearest part of which is about 3 1/2 miles. The Stone Bridge is some 7 miles distant, in a northwesterly direction, upon which our left wing rested. Mitchel’s ford is directly North, distant four miles, by the road leading to Centreville, which is seven miles from the Junction. Our right is Union Mills, on the same stream, where the Alexandria and Manassas railroad crosses the Run, and distant four miles. Proceeding from Fairfax Court House, by Centreville, to Stone Bridge, the enemy passed in front of our entire line, but at a distance ranging from five to two miles.
At 9 o’clock, I reached an eminence nearly opposite the two batteries mentioned above, and which commanded a full view of the country for miles around, except on the right. From this point I could trace the movements of the approaching hosts by the clouds of dust that rose high above the surrounding hills. Our left, under Brigadier-General Evans, Jackson and Cocke, and Col. Bartow, with the Georgia Brigade, composed of the 7th and 8th regiments, had been put in motion, and was advancing upon the enemy with a force of about 15,000 while the enemy himself was advancing upon our left with a compact column of at least 50,000. His entire force on this side of the Potomac is estimated at 75,000. These approaching columns encountered each other at 11 o’clock.
Meanwhile, the two batteries in front kept up their fire upon the wooded hill where they supposed our center lay. They sent occasional balls, from their rifled cannon, to the eminence where your correspondent stood. Gens. Beauregard, Johnston and Bonham reached this point at 12, and one of these balls passed directly over and very near them, and plunged into the ground a few paces from where I stood. I have the ball now, and hope to be able to show it to you at some future day. It is an 18-pound ball, and about 6 inches long. By the way, this thing of taking notes amidst a shower of shells and balls is more exciting than pleasant. At a quarter past 12, Johnston and Beauregard galloped rapidly forward in the direction of Stone Bridge, where the ball had now fully opened. You correspondent followed their example, and soon reached a position in front of the battlefield.
The artillery were the first to open fire, precisely at 11 o’clock. By half-past 11, the infantry had engaged, and there it was that the battle began to rage. The dusky columns which had thus far marked the approach of the two armies, now mingled with great clouds of smoke, as it rose from the flashing guns below, and the two shot up together like a huge pyramid of red and blue. The shock was tremendous, as were the odds between the two forces. With what anxious hearts did we watch the pyramid of smoke and dust! When it moved to the right, we knew the enemy were giving way; and when it moved to the left, we knew that our friends were receding. Twice the pyramid moved to the right, and as often returned. At last, about two o’clock, it began to move slowly to the left, and this it continued to move for two mortal hours. The enemy was seeking to turn our left flank, and to reach the railroad leading hence in the direction of Winchester. To do this, he extended his lines, which he was able to do by reason of his great numbers. This was unfortunate for us, as it required a corresponding extension of our own lines to prevent his extreme right from outflanking us – a movement on our part which weakened the force of our resistance along the whole line of battle, which finally extended over a space of two miles. It also rendered it more difficult to bring up reinforcements, as the further the enemy extended his right, the greater the distance reserve forces had to travel to counteract the movement.
This effort to turn our flank was pressed with great determination for five long, weary hours, during which the tide of battle ebbed and flowed along the entire line with alternate fortunes. The enemy’s column continued to stretch away to the left, like a huge anaconda, seeking to envelope us within its mighty folds and crush us to death; and at one time it really looked as if he would succeed. But here let me pause to explain why it was our reinforcements were so late in arriving, and why a certain other important movement was miscarried.
The moment he discovered the enemy’s order of battle, Gen. Beauregard, it is said, dispatched orders to Gen. Ewell, on our extreme right, to move forward and turn his left and rear. At the same time he ordered Generals Jones, Longstreet, and Bonham, occupying the center of our lines, to cooperate in this movement, but not to move until Gen. Ewell had made the attack. The order to Gen. Ewell unfortunately miscarried. The others were delivered, but as the movements of the center were to be regulated entirely by those on the right, nothing was done at all. Had the orders to Gen. Ewell been received and carried out, and our entire force brought upon the field, we should have destroyed the enemy’s army almost literally. Attacked in front, on the flank and in the rear, he could not possibly have escaped, except at the loss of thousands of prisoners and all his batteries, while the field would have been strewed with his dead.
Finding that his orders had in some way failed to be executed, Gen. Beauregard at last ordered up a portion of the forces which were intended to co operate with General Ewell. It was late, however, before these reinforcements came up. Only one brigade reached the field before the battle was won. This was led by Gen. E. K. Smith, of Florida, formerly of the United States Army, and was a part of General Johnston’s column from Winchester. They should have reached here the day before, but were prevented by an accident on the railroad. They dashed on the charge with loud shouts and in the most gallant style. About the same time, Maj. Elzey coming down the railroad from Winchester with the last of Johnston’s brigades, and hearing the firing, immediately quit the train and struck across the country, and as a gracious fortune would have it, he encountered the extreme right of the enemy as he was feeling his way around our flank, and with his brigade struck him like a thunderbolt, full in the face. Finding he was about to be outflanked himself, the enemy gave way after the second fire. Meanwhile, Beauregard rallied the center and dashed into the very thickest of the fight, and after him rushed our own brave boys, with a shout that seemed to shake the very earth. The result of this movement from three distinct points, was to force back the enemy, who began to retreat, first in good order, and finally in much confusion. At this point the cavalry were ordered upon the pursuit. The retreat now became a perfect rout, and it is reported that the flying legions rushed past Centreville in the direction of Fairfax, as if the earth had been opening behind them. It was when Gen. Beauregard led the final charge, that his horse was killed by a shell.
We captured thirty-four guns, including Sherman’s famous battery, a large number of small arms, thirty wagons loaded with provisions, &c., and about 700 prisoners. Among the latter, were Col. Corcoran, of the New York Irish Zouaves, Hon. Mr. Ely, member of Congress, from New York, Mr. Carrington, of this State, a nephew of the late Wm. C. Preston, who had gone over to the enemy, and thirty-two Captains, Lieutenants, &c. We cam near bagging the Hon. Mr. Foster, Senator from Connecticut.
The official reports of the casualties of the day have not yet come in, and consequently it is impossible to say what our loss is. I can only venture an opinion, and that is, that we lost in killed, wounded and missing, about 1,500 – of which about 400 were killed. The enemy’s loss was terrible, being at the lowest calculation, 3,000.
Thus far I have said but little of the part taken by particular officers and regiments; for the reason that I desire first to obtain all the facts. Nor have I said anything of the gallant seventh and eighth regiments from Georgia. This part of my duty is most melancholy. It may be enough to say, that they were the only Georgia regiments here at the time, that they were among the earliest on the field, and in the thickest of the fight, and that their praise is upon the lips of the whole army, from Gen. Beauregard on down. Col. Gartrell led the seventh regiment, and Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner the eighth, the whole under the command of Col. Bartow, who led them with a gallantry that was never excelled. It was when the brigade was ordered to take one of the enemy’s strongest batteries, that it suffered most. It was a most desperate undertaking, and followed by the bloodiest results. The battery occupied the top of a hill, on the opposite side of Bull’s Run, with a small piece of woods on the left. Descending the valley along the Run, he proceeded under cover of the hill to gain the woods alluded to, and from which he proposed to make a dash at the battery and capture it. On reaching the woods, he discovered that the battery was supported by a heavy infantry force, estimated at 4,000 men. The whole force, together with the battery, was turned upon the eighth regiment, which was in the van, with terrible effect. Indeed, he was exposed on the flank and in front to a fire that the oldest veterans could not have stood. The balls and shells from the battery, and the bullets from the small arms, literally riddled the woods. Trees six inches in diameter, and great limbs were cut off, and the ground strewn with the wreck. It became necessary to retire the eighth regiment, in order to re-form it. Meanwhile, Col. Bartow’s horse had been shot from under him. It was observed that the forces with which his movement was to be supported had not come up. But it was enough that he had been ordered to storm the battery; so, placing himself at the head of the seventh regiment, he again led the charge, this time on foot, and gallantly encouraging his men as they rushed on. The first discharge from the enemy’s guns killed the regimental color-bearer. Bartow immediately seized the flag, and gain putting himself in front, dashed on, flag in hand, his voice ringing clear over the battlefield, and saying, “On, my boys, we will die rather than yield or retreat.” And on the brave boys did go, and faster flew the enemy’s bullets. The fire was awful. Not less than 4,000 muskets were pouring their fatal contents upon them, while the battery itself was dealing death on every side.
The gallant Eighth Regiment, which had already passed through the distressing ordeal, again rallied, determined to stand by their chivalric Colonel to the last. The more furious the fire, the quicker became the advancing step of the two regiments. At last, and just when they were nearing the goal of their hopes, and almost in the arms of victory, the brave and noble Bartow was shot down, the ball striking him in the left breast, just above the heart. His men rallied behind him, and finding him mortally wounded and that the forces that had been ordered to support their charge had not yet come up, they gradually fell back, bearing him in their arms and disputing every inch of ground. I learn that they would never have retired but for the orders which were given in consequence of the non-arrival of the supporting force. It appears that the order to support our charge, like that to gen. Ewell, miscarried – a failure which had nearly cost us two of the best regiments in the army. Col. Bartow died soon after he was borne from the field. His last words, as repeated to me, were: “they have killed me, my brave boys, but never give up the ship – we’ll whip them yet.” And so we did!
The field officers of the Seventh Regiment escaped except Col. Gartrell who received a slight wound. All the superior officers in the Eighth Regiment, except Maj. Cooper, were killed or wounded. Lieut. Col. Gardner had his leg broken by a musket ball, and Adjutant Branch was killed. Capt. Howard of the Mountain Rangers from Merriwether county was also killed. But I shall not go into a statement of the killed and wounded preferring in delicate and painful a matter to await the official report, which I hope to get tomorrow, when I shall have more to say about our heroic regiments. I will add just here, that our loss in officers was very great. Among others may be mentioned Gen. Bee, Lieut. Col. Johnson of Hampton’s Legion, and Col. Thomas of Gen. Johnston’s Staff, and others. Gen. Jackson was wounded in the hand, and Col. Wheat of the New Orleans Tigers was shot through the body. Col Jones of the 4th Alabama Regiment it is feared was mortally wounded. The regiments that suffered most and were in the thickest of the fight, were the 7th and 8th Georgia, the 4th Alabama, 4th South Carolina, Hampton’s Legion, and 4th Virginia. The New Orleans Washington Artillery did great execution.
If we consider the numbers engaged and the character of the contest, we may congratulate ourselves upon having won, one of the most brilliant victories that any race of people ever achieved. It was the greatest battle ever fought on this continent, and will take its place in history by the side of the most memorable engagements. It is believed that General Scott himself was nearby, at Centreville, and that he directed as he had planned the whole movement. Gen. McDowell was the active commander upon the field.
President Davis arrived upon the field at 5 o’clock, just as the enemy had got into full retreat. His appearance was greeted with shout after shout, and was the equivalent to a reinforcement of 5,000 men. He left Richmond at 7 in the morning.
But “little Beaury” against the world.
P. W. A.
Savannah Republican, 7/27/1861
William B. Styple, Ed., Writing and Fighting the Confederate War: The Letters of Peter Wellington Alexander Confederate War Correspondent, pp 19-23
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Tags: 7th Georgia Infantry, 8th Georgia Infantry, Beauregard-Ewell Controversy, Francis Bartow, Newspaper Accounts, Resources, Sherman's Battery
Categories : Newspaper Accounts, Resources
Our Correspondent Arrives at Manassas
Army of the Potomac,
Manassas Junction, July 20, 1861
I arrived here late this afternoon, having left Richmond early this morning and been on the road nearly the whole day. The use of the road for the past few days has been surrendered up almost entirely to the military authorities, and so great is the demand for transportation by the War Department, that it is with difficulty that the trains can manage to get through under less than ten to twelve hours.
As the great battle of the campaign will, in all probability, have been fought and decided before this reaches you, it will not be amiss, especially since the fact is already known to the enemy, to say that General Johnston has arrived here from Winchester with the greater part of his forces recently stationed at that place. What is the precise number of the troops brought with him, I am unable to say. Some of them are still on the road, and are expected to get in some time to-night. Among those who reached here to-day, were the 7th, 9th, and 11th Georgia Regiments, under Colonel Bartow, Gartrell, and Goulding, the brigade under the command of Col. Bartow. I have not been able to see any one who is attached to the brigade, owing to the lateness of the hour at which I arrived, but I learn that all three of the regiments were, immediately upon their arrival, ordered forward to an advanced position upon Bull’s Run, near Union Mills, where the Alexandria & Manassas Railroad crosses the creek. That they will give a good account of themselves in the great battle that is impending, you may feel perfectly assured.
Gen. Johnston ranks Gen. Beauregard, and consequently he will succeed to the command, at least nominally, in the approaching conflict. This seems to have occasioned some regret among the troops who have been stationed here, since Gen. Beauregard has had all the labor of arranging the camp, perfecting the works and preparing the ground for what we all believe will be a great victory. It would be impossible, however, for any officer to supersede him in fact, though he may be outranked under the rules of the War Department. Whatever may be the result, therefore, to “little Beaury” will belong the honor, now and hereafter.
In addition to the forces brought down by Gen. Johnston, I learn that 2,300 men arrived here this morning from Aquia Creek under command of Brig. Gen. Holmes. They marched across the country a distance of 30 miles since yesterday morning. This force is composed chiefly of Tennesseeans, with some companies from Arkansas. The men are said to look very much as if they would not ask for more than one bite at a Yankee.
It is generally conceded that Patterson has moved down the Potomac from Martinsburg to the relief of Gen. McDowell, and that he took with him his entire force. The number of the enemy now before us cannot be less than 75,000. That Gen. Scott will risk such an army in the hands of either McDowell or Patterson, or both of them, is not believed for one moment. When the great contest does take place, he will take the command of the Federal forces himself. If he does not, it will be because he expects defeat. Our own forces are believed to be at least a third less than those which are arrayed against us.
The impression prevails here that there will be a grand battle to-morrow, and that we will be the attacking party this time. I have been here too short a time to venture and opinion myself, but I should not be surprised if, in the next few days, we did not witness a series of active operations, culminating by or before the middle of next week in a pitched battle, in which all the forces on both sides will be engaged.
I have said nothing so far of the Battle of Bull’s Run, for the reason that you will find, in the Richmond papers this morning, and especially the Examiner, a better account of it than I could possibly give you. A few facts may be mentioned, however, that will not fail to interest your readers. The first is, that the battle was opened by Sherman’s famous battery, under the protection of whose fire the enemy’s infantry advanced upon our lines. Nearly all the shells passed over our men and exploded beyond them. Not so with the New Orleans Washington Artillery which was opposed to Sherman’s Battery, and whose guns did horrible execution. Indeed, it is believed that but for the precision and destructiveness of their fire, the enemy would have approached nearer and in greater numbers, and that our victory would have been greater than it was. The Federal battery changed its position fifteen times during the engagement, and at last left the field minus one of its guns which we captured, together with 501 small arms.
Soon after getting here, I encountered a little drummer boy of fourteen summers from Lynchburg., who says he went over the field soon after the battle with the hope of getting a little revolver. He examined the pockets of a score or more of the dead without finding a solitary “red,” his only trophy being an odd looking dirk with a buckhorn handle and a due bill for seven dollars from one Dutchman to another.
Another lad, a marker for the Alexandria Rifles, appearing upon the field, was ordered to the hospital by his Captain as a place of safety. The little fellow was not pleased with the order, though he obeyed it, but when the battle began to wax warm, he stole back and seizing the gun of a disabled soldier he succeeded in killing one Hessian and wounding the second.
Some of the officers have furnished their servants with revolvers, and it is asserted to be a fact that these negroes made several captures during the fight on Thursday. One of them, Dick Langhorn, from Lynchburg; a strapping fellow, shot down one man, his ball taking effect through the shoulder; and when all his barrels had been discharged, he rushed upon another whom he knocked down with his pistol. Seizing the two by the collars, he started to carry them to his master, when one of them showed a disposition to resist; whereupon Dick turned to him and said: “See here, Massa, you’d better come ‘long, or dis here nigger will hurt you, see ef he don’t.” Seeing the d—l in Dick’s eye, he submitted, and the two were carried prisoners to the Colonel of the Regiment, the Eleventh Virginia.
Hampton’s Legion and the 13th Mississippi Regiment have just arrived, and the 11th Mississippi is expected some time to-night. A few days would increase our forces materially. North Carolina is sending up some of the finest regiments I have seen, and about three a week.
P. W. A.
Savannah Republican, 7/26/1861
William B. Styple, Ed., Writing and Fighting the Confederate War: The Letters of Peter Wellington Alexander Confederate War Correspondent, pp 18-19
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Tags: Black Confederates, Newspaper Accounts, Resources, Sherman's Battery, Washington Artillery
Categories : Newspaper Accounts, Resources
July 23, 1861
I write in great haste to ease your mind with reference to Brother [Richard Simpson – BR] and myself besides all of our friends – none killed. The 3d was not in the engagement. Only cannon shot and shell were thrown at us in our intrenchments, but no one hurt. The battle of Bull’s Run and the victory of the southern troops is the most celebrated that is recorded in the annals of American history. On account of an order from the Col to prepare to march I cannot go into detail, but give an outline of the fight as I heard it.
First we made a glorious retreat from Fairfax, the most glorious made in America, and took our stand at Bull’s Run where we were reinforced to the number of forty or fifty thousand. The enemy came upon us with 45,000 & with a reserve of 50 or 60,000, amounting in all to 110,000. They began the engagement by throwing shell and shot upon our center, the position the 3d with several others held, and with a very large force made an attack upon our right flank, but were beautifully thrashed. This was on Thursday, the 18th. Friday and Saturday they reinforced, and Sunday morning at 25 minutes past 11 o’clock they began throwing shot on our center to keep our strong forces in their position thereby deceiving us, and with a force of 45,000 made a tremendous attack upon our left wing. The fight was terrible, but southern valor never waned, and with only 20 or 25,000 defeated them completely. South Carolina, as ever, has cast around her name a halo of glory never to be diminished. Sloan’s, Kershaw’s, and Cash’s regiments were engaged. Sloan’s for an hour and a half fought against five thousand and at one time was entirely surrounded, but reinforcements came in time to prevent the last one from being cut off. The gallant Col acted with great coolness and courage. The fight on Thursday we lost 12 men, 30 wounded; the enemy 150 killed and many wounded. The battle on Sunday we had 500 killed and wounded, while the enemy lost between 2 and 5,000 killed with over 2,500 prisoners. They fled before us like sheep. Their officers confess it to be a total rout on their part.
Our regiment was called upon to pursue them but didn’t overtake them. They have cleared out for Washington. The citizens in the county say that many of their soldiers and officers have declared that they have fought their last time this side of the Potomac. You will see a complete description of the fight in the papers, and I expect more correct than what I can write since theirs is from headquarters and mine from camp reports. Gus Sitton wounded in the arm. Whit Kilpatrick in the hand. Sam Wilkes was killed. Gen. B. E. Bee shot through the body – not expected to live. Col. Johnson of Hampton’s Legion killed. Hampton slightly wounded. Uncle Davy, Gus Broyles, and Sam Taylor were in the thickest of the fight but came through unhurt. The report is that McClellan was killed, and Patterson taken prisoner. How true I cannot tell.
I since hear that Jim Sloan and Wilton Earl are mortally wounded – and that Sloan lost 20 killed besides the wounded. I heard the names of several, but recognized none but one, Bellotte.
We took Sherman’s battery in full. In all we have taken some 60 or 70 cannon. The plunder left by the enemy and taken by the rebels cannot be described – tremendous, tremendous, tremendous. Wagons, horses in abundance, in addition to mountains of other things. One prisoner said they had left every thing they had. Gen McDowal was seriously injured. The citizens say that Scott with many leading congressmen and a crowd of ladies was at Centreville enjoying themselves finely and ready to follow the army on and have a ball at Richmond tonight. But when they heard of their defeat, they all left pell mell.
We march today to Centreville. What will be in the future policy of our Government I cannot of course say, but it will take them – the enemy – months to equip another army. No more fighting for some time unless we march upon them. The time for 80,000 of the northern troops will soon be out, and a prisoner said he had no idea that one third of them would return.
Give my love to all. If you can find anyone to send me a negro boy do so quickly. I need one badly. I have lost nearly all my clothes. Do send me one. There is no danger – and no expense. I will look for one – Mose or anyone. Farewell. Believe me as ever
Your affectionate son
T. N. Simpson
You see, I write on paper taken from the enemy.
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Tags: 3rd South Carolina Volunteers, Resources, Sherman's Battery, Soldier's Letters, Tally Simpson
Categories : Private Correspondence, Resources
Dr. Allen Carl Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce III Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, and Director of the Civil War Era Studies Program there. Perhaps best known for his works on Abraham Lincoln, he has twice been awarded the Lincoln Prize (for Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America). Recently he authored a single volume history of the Civil War, Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction. His new book, Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, is available – pretty much everywhere – now.
ACG: Dr. Johnson, the first great dictionary-maker of the English language, once defined a lexicographer as “a maker of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.” Substitute “a writer of history” for the bit about dictionaries, and I think you can say the same about me: a harmless drudge. I am an Army brat (born in Yokohama, Japan; when I discovered in 5th grade that this disabled me constitutionally from being president, I was left with nothing better to do in life than write history), with a son now an officer in the U. S. Army. I had strong musical interests, and was even a composition major in my first year in college – until I discovered that I wasn’t really any good at it – then went to seminary with a view toward the ministry. But I still has a certain itch to write history, so I went and obtained a PhD in history from the University of Pennsylvania.
BR: What got you interested in the study of history and the Civil War period?
ACG: I can scarcely remember a time when I wasn’t interested in history, an interest sparked mostly by the training I got as a small boy at my grandmother’s knee in reading, memorizing, and so forth. As a girl, she could remember Union veterans coming round to her school on Memorial Day to talk about the war, and I suppose that gives me one living link to the Civil War. Otherwise, I had no ancestors of any sort in the war (they all arrived in the decades afterwards, from Sweden, Prussia, and Ireland). My first encounter with the Civil War in print was the Classics Illustrated version of The Red Badge of Courage, with its capsule history of the war at the back. That was followed by the American Heritage Golden Book of the Civil War, a Christmas present from 1960 – just in time for me to be taken to the hospital with a double case of encephalitis and meningitis.
Bruce Catton was then, and always has been, a great model for me as a writer. I recall walking home from school, reading A Stillness at Appomattox.
I did not actually get to visit Gettysburg until 1975. When I did, I had read so much about it that it was like déjà vu. Even so, never saw myself as having more than a polite amateur’s interest in the subject. I wrote my PhD dissertation on Jonathan Edwards and the problem of free will in American thought, and have always considered myself primarily an American intellectual-history person. That was how I backed-into writing about Abraham Lincoln. And one thing has led to another, so that here I am, teaching at – and writing about – Gettysburg and the Civil War. No one could be more surprised than I am. Through all of this, I’ve never taken a course on the Civil War or Lincoln, either as an undergraduate or a graduate student.
BR: Here are the $64,000 questions: Why another book on Gettysburg? What makes your study stand out – what does it contribute to the literature that has not already been contributed?
ACG: Because it’s there. (That’s what Mallory said when the New York papers asked him why he was planning to climb Mt. Everest; it works here, too, especially since it took almost as much time to write Gettysburg: The Last Invasion as it took Mallory on Everest). I do think, however, that there are some important things about Gettysburg that I think need saying. First of all, I think Gettysburg (and the Civil War in general) could benefit hugely from being understood in a larger international context, especially when it comes to military thinking and tactical doctrine (which is, after all, a species of intellectual history). The Civil War did not occur in a vacuum; the experiences of the Crimean War (1854-56), the Sepoy Mutiny (1857-58), the North Italian War (1859) all offer important illumination for why Civil War generals thought as they did. That’s why Gettysburg: The Last Invasion is constantly invoking comparisons to the Alma, Solferino, and Koniggratz. In that sense, I’m trying to claw away from the blinkered view imposed on the Civil War by American exceptionalism.
That’s what lets me call into doubt the conclusions that have been repeated over-and-over again for decades about the significance of cavalry (and especially Stuart’s ride), about the practicality of Pickett’s Charge, uses of staff, and the weapons technology of the period.
I think you’ll also see the hidden (or not-so-hidden) hand of John Keegan, Paddy Griffith, Richard Holmes, and other examples of the British ‘new military history’ – which, come to think of it, is not actually so new any more. The Face of Battle made a terrific impact on me when I read it in the 1970s, and Griffith shaped my thinking about Civil War tactics more than any other writer.
BR: Can you describe how long it took to write The Last Invasion, what the stumbling blocks were, what you discovered along the way that surprised you or went against the grain, and when you knew you were “done”?
ACG: It took four years, if you count the research time devoted solely to Gettysburg. In a larger sense, I suppose I’ve been writing this book ever since 1975. I cannot say I encountered anything that looked like a stumbling block. People have been extraordinarily generous with time and resources – and I think here especially of John Rudy and Bill Frassanito, not to mention the quartet of manuscript readers recruited for this project, Greg Urwin, Chuck Teague, Scott Bowden and Joe Bilby. My biggest surprise was in the Meade Papers, which I’ll explain in a minute. My sense of being “done” was on August 21, 2012, when I sent off the Epilogue. The publishers, Knopf/Random House, were determined to have this out for the Sesquicentennial of the battle, and they smiled, threatened, and cajoled all the way down to the last minute. A waterpipe in the house then broke and ruined the main-floor of the house. It must have been feeling the strain.
BR: Can you summarize for potential readers your assessment of George Meade’s performance at Gettysburg?
ACG: George Meade does not seem to have been on many people’s A list for commander of the Army of the Potomac. A reserved, haughty and testy officer, he could be meaner than a badger in a barrel. On the other hand, no one could doubt either his competence or his personal courage, which he demonstrated in spades on the Peninsula and at Fredericksburg, where his attack on Prospect Hill was nearly the only thing which went right for the Army of the Potomac. Meade’s chief deficit in the eyes of the Lincoln administration was that he was a McClellan Democrat, very much like Porter, Hancock and Sedgwick. In the years after the war, Meade’s son, George jnr., struggled to airbrush his father’s politics out of the picture (Meade junr.’s Life and Letters of his father carefully bowdlerized the letters reproduced there to produce an image of a plain, no-nonsense, apolitical professional). But in fact, Meade grew up in the same neighborhood in Philadelphia as the McClellans, shared the same conservative Whig-cum-Democrat politics, owed his initial promotion to brigadier-general of volunteers to McClellan, and received a “very handsome” congratulatory message from McClellan after Gettysburg. And the evidence lay in the Meade correspondence, archived at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
I have to admit that, coming into this project, I was pretty well disposed to regard Meade as man unjustly humiliated by Lincoln after winning a great victory. What I read in the Meade letters gave me a wholly different image of the man: angry, vain, contemptuous of abolitionists (he had two sisters who had married slaveowners), thin-skinned and passionate in the search for promotion and attention. He regarded the war (and I’m using material here that I did not have room for in the book) as “this unnatural contest” which, after eleven months, “the people of the North will be prepared to yield the independence of the South.” Even in August, 1863, he was willing to “say make terms of some kind or other with the South.” It was the Radical Republicans who were deliberately prolonging the war: “I believe Peace could be made but not on the terms that the rulers of the North would require.” The final break came, in my mind, when I read a letter he wrote on January 20, 1865, describing a meeting he had in passing with the three Confederate peace commissioners – R.M.T. Hunter, John Campbell and Alexander Stephens – who were en route to their meeting with Lincoln and Seward at Hampton Roads. Meade “plainly” set out “what I thought was the basis on which the people of the North would be glad to have peace.” This would have to include “restoration of the Union.” But “a settlement of the slavery question” could be reached which would ensure “that they must have labor & the negroes must have support,” since “it was well known they would not work unless compelled.” After reading this, the first question which burned through my mind was, Whose side are you on? What Union major-general gives talking points to Confederate negotiators as they are on their way to meet with Lincoln and Seward? No wonder Meade concluded the letter with the injunction, “all this I have written you, must be confidential, as it would not do to let it be known I had been talking with them, or what I have said.” This letter appears nowhere in young Meade’s Life and Letters, or Freeman Cleaves’ well-known biography of Meade.
BR: Can you describe the reactions of other historians and enthusiasts to your assessment of Meade?
ACG: This portrait of Meade has generated some vehement responses, based largely (I think) on the assumption that since Robert E. Lee was a genius, and since Robert E. Lee lost the battle, ergo, George Meade must be a genius, too. Questioning Meade’s “genius” is nearly as offensive on those grounds as questioning the virtue of Robert E. Lee among the Southern Heritage partisans. But the fact is that Meade was not at Gettysburg for a third of the battle, was taken utterly by surprise by Longstreet’s flank attack on July 2nd, and miscalled the point at which the Confederates would attack on July 3rd. despite the Meade equestrian statue’s location, Meade was nowhere near the apex of Pickett’s Charge at the time it happened. Meade did not so much win the battle, as Lee lost it; or rather, it was the near-miraculous initiative taken by individual officers on the line – Samuel Sprigg Carroll, “Pappy” Greene, Strong Vincent, Gouveneur Warren, Patrick O’Rorke, Norman Hall, and (yes) Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain – that over-and-over again saved the Union position at Gettysburg. But the biggest black-mark beside Meade’s name remains his failure to follow-up after the battle. Yes, I know that the Army of the Potomac was battered and mostly used-up; but so was the Army of Northern Virginia. The lesson of every commander in history worth remembering is this: in victory, follow up. I don’t know that I can entirely blame Meade. He was conscious of the fact that if he attacked Lee and won, he would probably receive little if any credit; if he attacked and lost, his head would be on a pike. In that respect, he may have felt that Lincoln had no one to blame but himself for creating such an atmosphere of mistrust. But this was to allow personal and political considerations to interfere with a military decision, considerations which the American military tradition has always been supposed to eschew.
One objection which has surprised me much more has been about the title: The Last Invasion. Some people wonder whether I’ve forgotten about Early’s or Morgan’s raids. Well, that’s the point: they were raids. They were short-term events intended to disrupt communications and infrastructure, but not to offer a full-scale challenge to battle or to occupy and feed off territory for a substantial length of time. Lee intended to do much more in 1863. He planned to remain in Pennsylvania until the fall, letting Pennsylvania rather than Virginia feed his army, or bring the Army of the Potomac to a head-on battle. That’s an invasion. It’s all the difference between a transatlantic crossing and a Caribbean cruise. Besides, I’m unapologetically borrowing the phrase about ‘the last invasion’ from Melville’s poem, Gettysburg, which appears on the opening page.
BR: Can you describe your research and writing process?
ACG: I do not know that I have a method, per se. I simply wade into the literature, scan archives for collections, and go to it with a will. It’s taken me quite far afield – from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Charlottesville, Virginia, and a few other points beyond.
BR: Has the process of writing this book impacted you in any profound ways?
ACG: It has made me feel very glad that it’s done.
BR: How has the book been received so far?
ACG: I am much too humble to say (snark, snark…) But it did make the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list [per publisher notice of June 2, 2013 list – ed.]
BR: What’s next for you?
ACG: Back to Lincoln.
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Tags: ACW Books, Allen Guelzo, Articles, Gettysburg, Interviews
Categories : Articles, Books, Interviews
July 19 – News arrived today of the battle at Manassas Junction, which lasted four hours & a half in which the Federalists were severely beaten with great loss, while ours was very slight.
July 22 – The telegraph this morning announces a great and glorious victory gained yesterday at Bull’s Run after ten hours hard fighting. The enemy were completely routed, with tremendous slaughter; the loss on either side is of course not yet known, but ours is light compared to theirs. They have besides lost the whole of the celebrated Sherman’s Battery, two or three others, and a quantity of ammunition, baggage, etc. Their whole force amounted to about 80,000 while ours was only 35,000; only our left wing, however, command by Gen. Johnson, 15,000 against 35,000 of the enemy, were mostly engaged. The entire commanded by the President, who arrived on the field about noon, & the right wing, led by Beauregard, were only partially engaged. The Georgia Regiment commanded by Col. Francis S. Bartow seems to have suffered very severely, the Oglethorp Light I.[nfantry] from Savannah especially. Col. Bartow was killed and also Gen. Barnard Bee and Col. B. F. Johnson of the Hampton Legion. The latter arrived only three hours before the battle and seem to have taken conspicuous part in it. In Gen. Bee the Confederate Army lost an officer whose place cannot readily be supplied. He stood so high in his profession that, immediately after his arrival quite late from the distant western frontiers, a captain, he was raised to the rank of Brigadier General; he was one of Carolina’s noblest sons, and, though we glory in the victory won by the prowess of our gallant men, tears for the honored dead mingle with our rejoicings. Col Bartow was one of the most talented and prominent men in Savannah and very much beloved; he left Congress to go to Va. with the O.[gelthorpe] L.[ight] I.[nfantry] as their captain, but was made Col. & was acting Brigadier Gen. during the battle. Col. Johnson’s loss will also be much felt; he leaves a wife & eight children. A great many Charlestonians are wounded but only three of Kershaw’s R.[egiment] which must have been in the right wing…Rumors are, of course, flying in every direction, none of which are to be relied on, but Willie Heyward went on tonight to see after some of his friends, who he hears are wounded.
July 23 – The telegraph today only confirms what we heard yesterday without additional information, as the wires from Manassas to Richmond were down for some hours. Several gentlemen went on last night with servants & nurses to attend our wounded, and societies for their relief are being organized in the city. The northern account of the battle & dreadful panic which seized their troops, followed by complete demoralization, is most graphic. They admit that the carnage was fearful. The “brag” regiment of N. Y., the 69th, was cut to pieces; the infamous Fire Zouaves went into battle 1100 strong and come out 206. The New Orleans Zouaves were let loose on them & most amply were the murder of [James] Jackson & the outrages on women avenged on these fiends; 60 pieces of artillery were taken including Sherman’s which was celebrated as Ringgold’s during the Mexican War[,] Carlisle’s, Griffins, the West Point Batteries, & the 8 siege 32-pounder rifled cannon, with which Scott was marching upon Richmond. The Federal army left Washington commanded by Scott in all the pomp & pageantry of the panoply of war – all so grand and impressive in their own eyes that they did not dream that we would strike a blow but would lay down our arms in terror. They carried 550 pair of handcuffs & invited immense numbers of ladies to follow and see Beauregard and Lee put into irons, expecting to march directly on to Richmond. The contrast of the picture may be imagined – gloom and terror reign in Washington, and they are multiplying fortifications and reinforcing the city.
Today, by Col. [Richard] Anderson’s order, a salute was fired of twenty-one guns, from Forts Moultrie & Sumter, at 12 o’clock, in honor of the victory, & tomorrow their flags will be placed at half-mast and guns fired hourly from 6:00 A. M. till sunset in honor of the illustrious dead. Preparations are being made to receive the bodies in state; the City Hall is draped in mourning as when Calhoun lay in state, & now his statue gleams intensely white through the funeral hangings surrounding the three biers. I have not yet visited the hall but those who have say the impression is awfully solemn. It seems really the “Chamber of the Dead.” The bodies were expected today, but a delay occurred & they may not come till Friday. This afternoon the Ladies Charleston Volunteer Aid Society held a meeting at the S. C. Hall, 192 ladies were there and nearly $1,000 collected from subscriptions and donations, Miss Hesse [T.] Drayton was appointed Superintendent, & Hesse [D. Drayton], Assistant, Emily Rutledge, Secy. & Treasurer, & 12 Managers to cut out the work & distribute it. We are to have monthly as well as quarterly meetings. The ladies all seemed to enjoy seeing their friends as well sa the purpose for which they came. Mrs. Geo. Robertson & Mrs. Amy Snowden have got up another called Soldiers’ Relief Assn. not only for sending clothes, but comforts & necessaries for the sick and wounded, while the ladies interested in the Y. M. C. A. have got up another& already sent on supplies for the hospitals. All are most liberally supported…
July 25 – Gen. McClellan has superseded McDowell, U. S., who was defeated at Bull Run on the 21st. He had telegraphed to Washington announcing a signal victory & by the time the news arrived his troops were routed and flying for their lives.
Mr. [Robert] Bunch of the English Consul says he considers this one of the most remarkable victories ever gained. Not only were the Lincolnites double our number, but all their batteries were manned by regulars, well trained and experienced as well as commanded by experienced officers. Those batteries were almost all taken by infantry at the point of the bayonet, a thing which has never been done before – cavalry always being sent to charge them.
The new French Consul, Baron St. Andre’, has lately arrived here. He was instructed to avoid Washington & to present his credentials to the Mayor, so at least we hear, and seems probable it is but the preparatory step to recognizing us.
July 26 – [Aunt] Carrie [Blanding] & myself went up today to Mrs. [Anna Gaillard] White’s to bid Mary Jane and herself goodbye as they expect to leave at midday for Summersville on their way Winnsboro. We found a number of the Dragoons collected there, waiting the arrival of the bodies; the train was expected at eight and again at ten, but a telegram announced that a delay had occurred & it would not arrive till one. Mr. [John] White invited some of the dragoons to wait there instead of returning home. A funereal car had been sent to Florence to meet the bodies & another draped in mourning bore the committee appointed to meet it. Business was generally suspended, all the flags were at half-mast & the Liberty pole had crape upon it; everybody was out to see the procession. The Dragoons in their summer uniform of pure white, the German Hussars, & Charleston Mounted Guard met the bodies at the depot and escorted them to the City Hall, four from each company being detailed as especial body guard & the City Guard marching in single file on either side of the hearses; the bodies lay in state for three hours; at four the procession moved again, the Dragoons first, Col. Anderson commanding and leading the way, with nearly a thousand regulars trailing arms. The W.[ashington] L.[ight] I.[nfantry] was the only volunteer company carrying ars in respect to Col. Johnson, but every infantry company in the city turned out; the pall bearers were all high officers in brilliant uniforms, some on foot others on horseback immediately around the hearses; the flags were furled, at least some were, & draped in crape. There was but little music. The R.[utledge] M.[ounted] R.[ifles] ending the procession on foot leading their horses, a body of artillery in their way to Va. commanded by Willie Preston were also in the procession. Col. Bartow’s body had been escorted to the Savannah R. R. by the Mounted Guard.
Carrie & myself dined at Mrs. W[hite]’s; then all went to St. Paul’s [Episcopal Church] where the services were performed by cousin Christopher [Gasden] except Mrs. W and myself – our carriage came for me, and she and I rode out to see the procession. We got a position at the head of Calhoun [St.], and saw it as it turned into Coming [St.] Many of the companies could not get as far as the corner. After the services were over, the bodies were brought out and three volleys fired over them. They were then carried to Magnolia Cemetery, where Col. Johnson was buried & Gen. Bee’s remains placed until tomorrow, when they would be carried to Pendleton where all his family are buried. Gen. Bee was mortally wounded in the stomach by grape or chain shot and did not die till eleven o’clock on Monday and , though he suffered fearfully he never uttered a murmur. Col. J. and Col. B. were both instantly killed, the former dreadfully mangled in the face. Thus it was impossible to allow the family a last look ere they were consigned to the tomb, & oh, how harrowing to their feelings to think those loved forms so near and yet unable to obtain one last agonizing look.
July 27 – …[After Bull Run] 1500 of the Virginia Cavalry pursued the enemy beyond Fairfax till two o’clock in the morning. At that place, they found Gen. Scott’s carriage & six horses, with his sword and epaulettes, his table set with silver, champagne, wines and all sorts of delicacies, to celebrate their intended victory. But the arrival of the panic stricken troops, flying from close pursuit, had compelled “old fuss and Feathers” to follow their humiliating example…
July 29 – A letter was received from Rutledge today written from Stone Bridge on the 22nd. It was merely a few lines in pencil, telling us that the battle had taken place and that Kershaw’s & Cash[‘s] regiment had the honor of turning the tide of battle to victory. President Davis said they had done so. It was a mistake to say that he commanded the centre; he did not arrive till the enemy were in full retreat. To Beauregard belongs the honor of planning the battle & commanding the army – he has just been made a Confederate General. Col. Richard Anderson has been raised to the rank of Brigadier General.
Cowen Barnwell says the road to Centreville was strewed not only with arms, knapsacks & soldiers’ clothing, but delicacies of all sorts and ladies bonnets and shawls. For, a great many Lincolnite Congressmen with their wives and friends had gone to witness the ‘great race’ between Federals and Confederates. One of the prisoners said they were told by their officers that we would not fight or at least it would be a mere brush, for our men were so few compared to theirs & they did not believe they would face the regulars, Scott’s chosen 10,000, but would yield or run and their army would march immediately on Richmond. The papers which were taken prove the man’s assertion true. A bill of fare among other things was found of a dinner McDowell intended to give yesterday in Richmond. [Alfred] Ely [of New York], a member of Congress, also Col. Corcoran of the N. Y. 69th, the latter was captured by a mere boy. The P[almetto] G[uard] have captured a flag & two drums. Every Southerner was a hero on that battlefield; every day we learn some new deed of valor, but the taking of Sherman’s battery at the point of the bayonet is the most wonderful. Beauregard said it was the greatest the world has ever seen.
Our troops suffered awfully for want of water. Exhausted from want of food, & hard fighting, their thirst was intense and caused severe suffering.
July 31 – We have heard nothing further from R[utledge] or Mr. T. S[umter] B[rownfield] since their notes dated Stone Bridge 22nd, but Mr. Stephen Elliott received a very interesting letter from Willie [Elliott] who is 1st Lieut. Brooks Guard, Kershaw’s R., giving a sketch of the battle. I fell very proud to think they had such a prominent position and should have had the universally acknowledged honor in connection with Cash’s R. and Kemper’s four-gun battery from a defeat into a glorious victory. For when they rushed to the charge, they met wounded men going to the rear who told them we were beaten & everything which met their sight seemed to confirm it, but undisheartened they rushed onward to victory, to Kershaw’s battle cry “Boys remember Butler, Sumter and your homes.”
It is very difficult to obtain accurate information about either the whereabouts of our friends or those who are wounded, as Beauregard will not allow any but those who are going to join the army to go on to Manassas and the Carolina Regiments are continually on the move…
August 1 – Among other articles captured have been several wagons loaded with handcuffs – 30,000 pairs, to deck their intended victims. I suppose the Lincolnites expected to have a triumphal entry to Washington in the old Roman style.
John F. Marszalek, ed., The Diary of Miss Emma Holmes, 1861-1866, pp. 65-74
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Tags: Atrocities, Barnard Bee, Charleston, Citizens' Diaries, Civil War Citizens, Francis Bartow, Handcuffs, Resources, Sherman's Battery
Categories : Diaries, Resources
Savas Beatie has recently published The Petersburg Campaign Volume I: The Eastern Front Battles June-August, 1864, by Edwin C. Bearss with Bryce A. Suderow. Bull Runnings has previously interviewed Mr. Bearss here. You may or may not be familiar with his partner in this effort, Bryce Suderow, but you’ve likely read works which have benefitted from his efforts.
BAS: I was born in Chicago in 1950 and grew up in one of its suburbs, South Holland. I attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois and moved to California in 1973 to attend graduate school at Sonoma State University where I got a Masters in American History. Although my focus was on early American History, my thesis was on a Civil War battle.
My career as a writer began in 1973 when I published an article in the Westport Historical Quarterly. Since that time I have published articles in Civil War Times Illustrated, North and South and other magazines.
My first book was actually my thesis on the Battle of Pilot Knob, Thunder in Arcadia Valley. After that I was co-editor for theSupplement to the Official Records. My third book is Volume 1 of The Petersburg Campaign.
My career as a researcher began in 1991 when Noah A. Trudeau hired me to do some research. I liked the work so much that I decided to switch over to doing research for a living. Over the next twenty years I did research at the Library of Congress and the National Archives for J.D. Petruzzi, Eric Wittenberg, Gordon Rhea and many others. I was among the first researchers to use Civil War era newspapers as sources and now the practice is quite common.
BR: What got you interested in studying the American Civil War?
BAS: When the Civil War Centennial arrived, I was at the very impressionable age of eleven. Chicagoans took the Civil War very seriously. Ralph Newman and some others started the first Civil War Round Table. Newman’s nationally known bookstore attracted Civil War writers and Civil War buffs from all over the country, including Bruce Catton.
Newman was a local legend, so the Chicago Tribune persuaded him to write a weekly column on the Civil War called Ralph Newman’s Scrapbook for their Sunday magazine section. The Trib even published a comic strip series every Sunday called Old Glory at the Crossroads which dealt with the events that had occurred one hundred years ago that week. The Newman Scrapbook and the Old Glory series were among my earliest influences. About the same time I was also influenced by two comic books on the Civil War published by Classics Illustrated and by the multi-part Life Magazine series on the Civil War.
The greatest influence from an individual came from my Social Studies teacher, Ted Gunaka, who was a Civil War buff. He assigned each of his fifth grade students a Civil War battle and required us to write a paper and deliver an oral speech on it. I chose the Battle of the Crater and the Siege of Petersburg. Gunaka thus put me on the path to researching the Civil War.
All this occurred when I was a pre-teen.
As a teenager I read all of Bruce Catton’s Civil War books. His writings thrilled me and instilled in me a deep love of the Civil War. When I was in my twenties I moved to California and majored in History and got my Masters Degree at Sonoma State University. I decided to specialize in the war west of the Mississippi and it was then that I became aware of Edwin C. Bearss and his writings taught me and inspired me. Also important were two other writers, Richard Brownlee and John R. Margreiter, both of whom wrote about the battle of Pilot Knob, Missouri. I wrote my Master’s Thesis on that battle and it was published as a book in 1985 under the title Thunder in Arcadia Valley.
BR: Why Petersburg?
BAS: After years of studying and writing about the war in the Trans-Mississippi, I changed my focus to the Siege of Petersburg because the 1864-65 campaigns in Virginia won the war. I wrote a series of articles on the early battles of the siege for a long-defunct magazine called The Kepi. I also began research on the First Battle of Deep Bottom and even wrote a manuscript on the battle. Unfortunately, though this was 25 years ago, it has not yet been published.
BR: What makes this work on Petersburg stand out from others?
BAS: There are a number of books that deal with particular battles or offensives of the Siege of Petersburg, the Crater being the most popular topic. However, there are only two books that cover the entire Siege of Petersburg. One of them is Noah A. Trudeau’s The Last Citadel. The other is John Horn’s The Petersburg Campaign. Both books have their strengths and weaknesses, but both are far too short to cover the siege in the detail it deserves.
The Bearss book stands out for two reasons. One of the book’s strengths is that deals with the entire siege in-depth. Each chapter is devoted to one battle and each chapter is around 70 pages long. No one has ever done this. For the first time people who want to walk the battlefields will know where to go.
Another strength is Bearss’ writing style. He writes so clearly that any layman can understand him and so dramatically that readers are hooked on the story he tells.
BR: What is your role in The Petersburg Campaign project?
BAS: I had two roles when I worked on Vol. I. First, I was editor of the material that Bearss wrote and second I was co-author since I wrote the introductions and conclusions to each chapter. In Vol. II I am also the editor. My writer role has expanded. In addition to the intros and conclusions, I am adding material to some chapters, material that came to light after Bearss wrote his ms.
At the request of the Federal Government Bearss wrote a series of studies on the Petersburg battles in the mid-1960s. He never intended to publish them. For years the only people who knew about them were the employees at Petersburg battlefield park and scholars of the battle. I obtained copies of some of the studies and was impressed by them.
Five or six years ago I decided they should be published, but first I needed to obtain copies of all the studies. The park employees were kind enough to provide those.
Next I needed volunteers to type the chapters into their computers. On a site called The Civil War Message Board Portal I posted a message calling for volunteers to help publish a book by Edwin C. Bearss. The effect of his name was magical and a surprisingly large number of people volunteered to do the typing. Once the computer version of the book was typed, I called for volunteers to make certain each chapter followed the same format. Again the volunteers came forward. This phase was completed three years ago.
Finally, I approached Ted Savas and told him about the manuscript. He was enthusiastic and immediately agreed. The biggest obstacles to publishing were finding someone to create the maps and finding authors to write about two battles Bearss did not cover, the Battle of the Crater and the Battle of Fort Stedman. This took a couple of years. Finally this year we found two experts who were eager to co-author a book with Edwin C. Bearss. Patrick Brennan wrote the Crater chapter and Bill Wyrick wrote the Stedman chapter. Also this year I chose George Skoch to create the maps. He did a score of superb maps in just a few months.
BR: Can you describe your research and writing process?
BAS: To write the introductions and conclusions in Vol. I I used John Horn’s book, The Petersburg Campaign. For Vol. II I am using that book, plus the Official Records, the Supplement to the Official Records and various published and unpublished accounts.
People who read this book are in for a real treat. Most Civil War enthusiasts have a completely wrong idea about the siege. They think the siege consisted of static warfare and doomed Union attacks against Confederate trenches. Nothing could be further from the truth. Of the ten battles that took place during the siege, only three involved Union attacks on the Confederate lines. There were the initial Union assaults of June 15-18, 1864, the assault at the Crater on July 30, 1864, and the Union attack that led to a breakthrough on April 2, 1865. All the other battles took place in the woods and fields around the city and occurred because Grant was sending portions of his army to seize and/or destroy the Weldon and Southside Railroads.
Each of the battles is interesting because different corps and corps commanders were engaged in the various battles and they commanded their men differently. For example contrast the union generalship in two battles for the Weldon Railroad. On August 18 Warren seizes the railroad and quite prudently wants to fortify his position against the inevitable Confederate attacks. Grant and Meade insist that he press up against the Confederate fortifications which places him in dense woods where he can’t see the Confederates coming. As a result on August 18 and 19 the Confederates attack his flanks, surprise his men and rout them, so he suffers tremendous losses, mostly in prisoners. On August 20 Grant and Meade allow him to do what he asked permission to do. He fortifies and the next day a big Confederate attack is repulsed.
Hancock fights a battle at ream’s station four days later and his style is quite different. He occupies a badly planned and laid out fortification constructed in June by the VI Corps and is seemingly indifferent to improving the strength of his position. Instead he spends his time destroying the railroad. As a result the Confederates attack him while he’s holding this weak position and the II Corps is routed and driven from the field with a large loss in prisoners. The difference between the two generals is clear. Warren was more astute than Hancock so he was acutely aware of the danger Lee’s army posed and Hancock was not. Warren was also aware that fortifications were necessary because the quality of his men had deteriorated because of excessive casualties.
The book is also fascinating because it shows the rise and fall of fortunes of Confederate high commanders at Petersburg. A.P. Hill was so ill that he often turned over command to Henry Heth or William Mahone. Mahone rose to the occasion and became one of the two most outstanding commanders on the Confederate side. The other stellar commander was Wade Hampton. It was he who persuaded Lee to attack the isolated Hancock at Ream’s Station and he played a key role in the victory.
I guarantee that anyone who reads this book will end up fascinated by the Siege of Petersburg.
BR: What’s next for you?
BAS: I hope to co-author a book on Five Forks with Mike McCarthy. Mike wrote a dissertation on the battle and on the Warren Court of Inquiry. I found him a publisher and we’ve become friends. And I want to publish my Deep Bottom manuscript.
Good luck with your future work, Bryce. We’re all looking forward to Volume II of The Petersburg Campaign.
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Tags: ACW Books, Articles, Bryce Suderow, Interviews, Petersburg
Categories : Articles, Books, Interviews
This day I spent lying down and taking remedies. By night I was so much better I determined to go back to my company reaching them about nine o’clock much worn down by my ride. The men welcomed me gladly. They had seen no yankees and very little expected the storm that was to break over our heads so soon. A bed of leaves was made for me and I laid down to rest. My own opinion was that a great battle was going to be fought the next day. The thoughts of a thinking man the day before a battle are necessarily solemn, he may be buoyant and hopeful, yet there is a dread uncertainty that comes over his thoughts both as to himself and those dependent on him which makes him grave and almost sad. I was tired and despite the thoughts of the next day’s work I soon dropped off to sleep and never moved until roused by my servant, John Scott, early Sunday morning. He told me to get up, something was going on, he did not know what but I’d better get up and make ready. I soon discovered what was about to happen. All the troops around me were up and cooking their breakfast, though it was scarcely light, and every one seemed to think an attack was about to be made upon our lines, but no one knew where. We supposed it would be made down towards the center where it was made on the 18th.
The bivouac of our squadron was on the extreme left near the Henry house as it was called. Mrs. Henry, who lived in it, and was so very old and infirm she refused to be moved out of it. She was said to have been a Miss Carter, and to have been one of the family who once owned the Sudley farm nearby. Mrs. Henry’s house during the day became a strategic point of great importance and was much torn up by shot and shell, by one of which she was killed. In her yard General Bee was killed and near it Colonel Bartow. Near it also it was that General Jackson formed his heroic brigade and received the baptism of fire during which he received the immortal name of “Stonewall”. A few days after the battle I got a piece of cedar post from the ruins of the house, and cut some crosses and other things which I sent home as mementos, and which I still have.
We were thrown into line about sunrise on the brow of a hill which overlooked Bull Run, with quite a wide valley (two hundred yards at least), below us. On the other side the bluff rose quite steeply, but on the top of it there was an open field. We were placed in that position to support a battery of artillery, whose I did not find out for it was moved very soon after the battle began to rage on our extreme left above the stone bridge.
I was still weak and John Scott brought me out to the one of battle another cup of coffee. He also brought some oats for my horse, which had not finished eating when I mounted him. He got an ammunition box to put the oats in and the horse was eating while I drank the coffee. We could distinctly hear the rumble of the yankee artillery on the pike beyond run, and there was no doubt they were moving in force toward the stone bridge and the Sudley farm and proposed to turn our left wing and sweep down on our side the run and our line. While we stood thus listening to the rumbling artillery and watching the dust as it arose from many hostile feet, we noticed a Federal battery of four guns suddenly dash out of the woods and throw itself into battery in the open space on the other side of the run above the bluff. We were much interested in the beauty of the movement, all of which we could see plainly, as it was not more than five hundred yards distant, but in a moment they opened upon our lines. The first shells went high above us, but the second were better aimed, and one of them struck the box out of which my horse was eating and shattered it to fragments, and then went on amongst the infantry behind us. John Scott did not move, or show any signs of fear. Having fired those two rounds they limbered up and left us as quickly as they came, and before our battery had done them any injury. When I noticed the first fire in some way I never dreamed the creatures were firing at us, so I went on drinking my coffee, but I was very rudely awakened from the dream by the second round when my indifference was changed to indignation, that they should actually have the impudence to fire at us on our own ground, and when we were doing them no harm.
After this there was a lull for a half hour while we remained in line of battle, but with no enemy in sight, then we heard the sound of cannon and musketry on our left, towards the stone bridge. We were moved up nearer the fighting, two other companies having joined us, and the whole thing being under the command of Lieut.-Col. Thomas T. Munford, of our regiment. The sounds indicated that the battle was growing fast and furious on our left, and that our lines were slowly being driven back, at which we were not surprised, as we knew we had but a small force on our left, and it was then obvious that the enemy was hurling upon it their whole force. We waited orders with great impatience and anxiety, for we saw our people were giving way and we could not see why we could not be of use. The battery we were supporting had been moved and there were no other troops very near us. I think Colonel Cocke forgot us, at all events we remained in the same position until near three o’clock in the evening.
About nine o’clock Generals Beauregard and Johnston, with their respective staffs, dashed by us, about fifty persons, handsomely dressed and mounted, and making a very grand show, and one which appealed to our enthusiasm very much, though all of us thought that one of the two generals should have been up with Colonel Cocke much earlier. Doubtless, however, they had good cause for the delay. Immediately behind them, at a sweeping gallop, came the “Washington Artillery,” a battalion of sixteen guns. This was the most inspiring sight I ever saw, and fills me with emotion whenever I think of it now. One not familiar with artillery can little imagine how grand a sight it was. Each gun had four horses, with outriders and officers on horseback and several men mounted on the gun; then the caisson of each gun with its four horses and the like equipment of men, making thirty-two in all. their ammunition wagons, forges and ambulances, all at full speed, making a processions, which under the circumstances, was very inspiring. Following the battalion next camp “Hampton’s Legion” of infantry under Col. Wade Hampton. Then a long and continuous line of infantry came pouring by as our troops were moved from the center and right wing to meet the attack on the left.
It is very easy, of course to criticise the conduct of the battle, and it is very unfair, as the critic does not know the inside causes, but while we stood there in nervous anxiety we all concluded our generals had been out-generaled, and the enemy had gained a great point upon them in transferring so many troops without their knowledge to the left, and forcing that wing back as they did. Our troops were put to a great disadvantage when run directly into a fight after moving at almost double-quick from six to ten miles on a hot July day, yet many of them were put to the test. We wondered also why, after it was discovered how the attack was made and that the enemy had stretched out his column from Centreville parallel to our front in the march towards Sudley, an attack was not made on his column, or upon the rear of his column, cutting him off from his base. Instead large forces, even after sending troops to the left, were idle all day at Mitchell’s and Blackburn’s Fords. No use was made of the cavalry until late in the day and then it was scattered about in small detachments, each acting under different orders, its attack was of little avail except to increase the panic of the enemy inducing a greater loss to them of the material of war. If when the enemy commenced to break, a column of cavalry had crossed Bull Run half way between Manassas and the stone bridge, and opened fire upon them as they moved back on the Warrenton Pike the victory would have been far more disastrous to the enemy and our gain in material so much the greater.
As these troops were passing towards the enemy another dismal line was moving back in the opposite direction. I shall never forget them. They were the wounded, some walking, some on stretchers, some in ambulances, all seeking the field hospital, which was near us in the woods, and all giving proof of their persons as well as their tongues of the terrible carnage on the left, and many giving discouraging tidings that our line was slowly giving way. Troops, certainly none but veterans, should never, if possible, be taken into action so as to see a field hospital or to meet the wounded or demoralized men. It has a bad effect and renders them unsteady.
The news given by the wounded men made us very impatient. We felt there was certainly something for us to do but no orders came. About eleven o’clock we were moved again further to the left, but though within range of artillery we had no actual fighting. The enemy continued to advance and at last, about mid-morning we saw signs of demoralization on the part of some of our troops; but about that time we saw a long column of troops in the same direction moving towards us, which, at first, we thought was the enemy, but to our infinite relief we found was General Jackson’s brigade which had just been put off a train of cars on the Manassas road. They doubled quick into action and met the enemy’s line and were soon heavily engaged. I was not near enough to mark the fighting, or rather my view was too much obstructed to get a view, but we could tell by the constant roar of cannon and musketry that the contest was severe. It was soon after this that Jackson won his “Stonewall,” as I have stated before. I got permission to ride a little distance from our command to get a closer view, and while out in an open field viewing the contest the best I could a bright-eyed boy of some sixteen years of age came up to me with a wounded hand and arm and spoke to me by name. I did not remember ever having seen him before, but he said he remembered me when I was a student at the University of Virginia and that his name was Everett B. Early of Charlottesville. He had run away from home and gone into the fight and been wounded. He had dressed his wound and was on his way back to take a hand again. He gave me a very intelligent account of the battle.
I was kept in a state of great excitement all day and found it hard to set on my horse from weakness induced by my recent sickness. We had nothing to eat. About four it became obvious that the advance of the enemy had been stopped. Then there was a sudden pause in the firing on their side, and when we could hear cheers and shouts on our lines. We were told by a wounded man that Sherman’s and Ricketts’ battery had been captured and that the enemy were slowly retiring. Still we were kept waiting though the sound of firing showed us the enemy was now in full retreat and the time for the cavalry had come. About five o’clock an officer came up and told Col. Munford the enemy were in full retreat across Bull Run, and ordered him to cross the stream and make for the pike to cut them off if possible and that Col. Radford with the rest of the regiment had already gone. Both parts of the regiment crossed about the same time, and we dashed up the hill, but the order had come too late for much good to be done. We were received by a scattering fire from the routed column, but they had generally thrown away their arms, and those who had not done so did so as soon as they saw us. It was a terrible rout and the face of the earth was covered with blankets, haversacks, overcoats, and every species of arms. We joined Col. Radford and the other six companies of the regiment as we reached the pike and followed the fleeing yankees, capturing many prisoners, until we came to a block in the road made by a great number of abandoned wagons, cannon and caissons, ambulances and other material at a bridge over a creek about two miles of Centreville. Further advance was checked, or at all events we went no further. From the other side of the creek and on top of the hill the enemy had been able to halt a battery long enough to fire one or two shots at our column, one of which killed Captain Winston Radford, of Bedford, a most excellent man and citizen and the brother of our Colonel. Beyond this our loss was very small and my company had only one or two wounded slightly.
Just as we crossed Bull Run I saw Edmund Fontaine, of Hanover, resting on a log by the roadside. I asked him what was the matter, and he said he was wounded and dying. He said it very cheerfully and did not look as if anything was the matter. As we came back we found him dead and some of his comrades about to remove the body. It was a great shock to me, as I had known him from boyhood, and though he was younger than I was we had met during many visits to Hanover when I was younger. We went into bivouac a little after dark, for it had become cloudy and was very dark.
It was a day long to be remembered, and such a Sunday as men seldom spend. To all but a scattered few it was our first battle, and its sights and wonders were things of which we had read but scarcely believed or understood until seen and experienced. The rout of the enemy was complete but our generals showed much want of skill in not making the material advantages greater. The Federal army was equipped with every species of munition and property, while ours was wanting in everything. They were stricken with a panic; wherever the panic was increased by the sight of an armed rebel it discovered itself by the natural impulse to throw away arms and accoutrements and to abandon everything in the shape of cannon, caissons, wagons, ambulances and provisions that might impede their flight, yet they managed, despite their flight, to carry off much. They only lost some thirty-odd cannon, for example, while with proper management on our part they would not have reached the Potomac with two whole batteries and so with other properties.
Had there been even a slight demonstration on Centreville that evening the panic would have been so increased that we would have made more captures in cannon, small arms and wagons.
During the evening, as I was riding over part of the field where there were many dead yankees lying who had been killed, I thought by some of Stuart’s regiment, I noticed an old doll-baby with only one leg lying by the side of a Federal soldier just as it dropped from his pocket when he fell writhing in the agony of death. It was obviously a memento of some little loved one at home which he had brought so far with him and had worn close to his heart on this day of danger and death. It was strange to see that emblem of childhood, that token of a father’s love lying there amidst the dead and dying where the storm of war had so fiercely raged and where death had stalked in the might of its terrible majesty. I dismounted, picked it up and stuffed it back into the poor fellow’s cold bosom that it might rest with him in the bloody grave which was to be forever unknown to those who loved and mourned him in his distant home.
The actual loss of the enemy I do not know but their dead extended for miles and their wounded filled every house and shed in the neighborhood. The wounded doubtless suffered much. Their own surgeons abandoned their field hospitals and joined the fleeing cohorts of the living, and our surgeons had all they could do to look after their own wounded, who of course were the first served. They received kind treatment however, and as soon as our surgeons were free they rendered all the aid in their power.
The enemy had permitted no doubt of the result to cross their minds, and had not kept it a secret in Washington that the final attack was to be made on Sunday. The day was therefore made a gala day by all the classes, and they came in great numbers in every possible conveyance to enjoy the rebel rout and possible share in the rebel spoils. Members of Congress and cabinet ministers, department clerks and idle citizens followed the advancing column in all the confidence of exhorting confidence, and there were not wanting many of the hack-load of the demi-monde with their admirers to compete the motley drew. Along the road and amidst abandoned cannon and wagons we found many a forsaken carriage and hack with half-eaten lunches and half-used baskets of champagne, and we received most laughable accounts from the citizens on the roadside of the scenes they saw and the sharp contrast between the proud and confident advance and the wild panic of the flight. The men of our company got many a spoil not known to the ordnance department or used by those who filled the ranks.
We bivouacked in the field and without tent or any shelter but the oilcloths, a vast supply of which we had laid in from those upon which our foes had slept the night before. They were of the very best material and we gladly abandoned ours or kept them to throw over our saddle in the rain. A battle is not a sanitarium for the sick or the cold ground a good bed for a feverish and chilly man. I was so worn and weary that I had no doubt whatever that when I awoke in the morning I would be very ill. Before I laid down I fortunately found an opportunity to send a telegram to my wife and owing to a fortunate accident it got off the next morning and relieved the minds of my people at home and the friends of all my men.
Despite my gloomy anticipations as to the effect of my health I slept like a top and awoke the next morning after daylight feeling very much better. I was aroused by a hard rain falling on my face. I got up at once and crawled into my wagon, which fortunately had come up during the night, and then I had my breakfast owing to John Scott’s thoughtfulness. I had heard nothing about my brothers, Capt. Eugene Blackford of the Fourth Alabama and Lieut. W. W. Blackford, of Stuart’s regiment of Cavalry. Both, I knew, had been engaged but I could not hear anything of them.
About eight o’clock, a staff officer from somewhere rode up and delivered an order calling for details to gather up arms and spoils from the field and to carry prisoners to the rear. I was sent with twenty men to report to Colonel Evans on the latter duty. When I reported I found also a small detail of infantry and the colonel put me in charge of the whole detachment and turned over to me several hundred prisoners, who looked very uncomfortable in the rain, with orders to take them to Manassas, six miles to the rear. Before we started Colonel Evans took me into a house in the yard of which he had his headquarters and introduced me to Colonel O. B. Willcox and Captain Ricketts of the Federal army, both of whom were wounded and prisoners. Willcox and Evans seemed very good friends and called each other Orlando and Shanks respectively – “Shanks” being Evans’ nickname at West Point. Willcox was courteous but Ricketts was surly and bitter and complained about his accommodations, which were very much better than those of his captor in the yard or than those of the vast proportion of our wounded men and officers. He had a comfortable room and bed and two surgeons to attend his wounds. One would suppose he expected the rebels to have a first-class hotel on the battlefield ready to receive him and that they had violated all the rules of civilized warfare in failing to do so.
We carried the two officers, placed under my care, in an ambulance, and we made them as comfortable as possible. We made rapid progress and I soon delivered my charge to some officer at General Beauregard’s headquarters. I had some pleasant chats with Colonel Willcox.
The sights of this day were terrible and more heartrending than those of the day before. Our preparations for the battle, so far as the care of the wounded was concerned, were very imperfect and we were called on to provide for those of both sides. The result was that many of both sides suffered much, but no difference was shown them save in the matter of priority of service. The surgeons were busy all day but still many wounds remained undressed for fully twenty-four hours. Luckily it was not very hot and the rain was a comfort.
Blackford, S. L., Blackford, C. M., Blackford, C. M. III, Letters from Lee’s Army or Memoirs of Life In and Out of The Army in Virginia During the War Between the States, pp. 26-36.
*While this “letter” discusses incidents that occurred on July 21, Blackford may have started writing it on the 20th. Keep in mind that this collection had been edited twice – the last time by Blackford’s grandson – by the time it appeared in this publication. It is apparent that this account is not wholly a contemporary letter, and so has been classified here as a memoir.
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Tags: Charles Minor Blackford, James Ricketts, Memoirs, Nathan Evans, Resources, Willcox, Wise Troop
Categories : Reminiscences, Resources
WASHINGTON, April 7, 1862.
FREDERICK SCHOLES sworn and examined.
By Mr. Odell:
Question. Where is your residence?
Answer. City of Brooklyn, New York.
Question. What do you know in relation to the burial of our dead at Bull Bun, and the treatment of those of our soldiers who fell there?
Answer. I proceeded to the battle field of Bull Run on Friday last, the 4th of this month. We passed across the battle field, and proceeded to the place where I supposed my brother’s body was buried, which was on a knoll on Chinn’s farm. We found a trench there where bodies had evidently been buried. I then proceeded to a stone house on Young’s branch. The owner of that house told me that on the Tuesday after the battle he saw two men sitting by a stone fence, both of them wounded. One of them opened his waistcoat and showed him a gash down the whole of his breast, and begged him for some water. The other one was also badly wounded, and he wanted some water. He could not tell me how the men were dressed, as he was very much excited from what he had passed through. He told me about the number buried, and pointed out the locality of several bodies buried in the yard of his house and in the vicinity. We then proceeded over to the house of a free negro, named Simon or Simons, and had a long conversation with him. He said he was a sutler, or rather kept a little store, and supplied the rebel soldiers with eatables. He said the rebel soldiers would come in his store with bones in their hands, which they showed to him, and said they were bones of Yankees which they had dug up. He said it was a common thing for the soldiers to exhibit the bones of “the Yankees.” From there we proceeded to the portion of the battle-field where Ricketts’s battery was. Near there I found a part of what I supposed, from the description I had heard, to be the uniform of one of Ricketts’s men. The ball had gone through the left breast. On examining it I found a piece of the shirt sleeve, and there was still some flesh in the sleeve. I found portions of the uniforms of the Ellsworth Zouaves in the same state. In the bushes in the neighborhood I found a part of a Zouave uniform with a sleeve sticking out of the grave, and a portion of the pantaloons sticking out. On attempting to pull it up I found that the two ends of the grave were still unopened, but the middle had been pried up, pulling up the extremities of the uniform in some places, and pulling up the sleeves of the shirts and a portion of the pantaloons. There were portions of flesh, as I found, remaining there. I found likewise the remains of one of the 14th New York regiment in the same condition, the grave having been pried open. There were pieces of the backbone and some of the ribs sticking up in the middle of the grave, where the centre had been pried up, the two ends of the grave being unopened. Back in the bushes we found some appearances of where bodies had been buried and washed out by the rains. But those I have been speaking of had evidently been dug up. Doctor Swalm, who was with me, pointed out the trenches where the secessionists had buried their own dead, almost immediately adjoining where our dead had been buried. Their remains had not been disturbed at all. After examining there I went over to the house of a free negro named Hampton, as I understood he had assisted in burying some of our dead. He told me he had buried the bodies on the Chinn farm, in the trenches that we first found. He had been notified by a man named Benjamin Franklin Lewis to proceed over there and bury the bodies there. They were buried on the Tuesday after the battle. I spoke to him about the manner in which these bodies had been dug up. He said he knew it had been done, and said it was most shameful. He said the rebels had commenced digging up the bodies two or three days after they were buried for the purpose, at first, of obtaining the buttons on their uniforms; afterwards they dug them up as they decayed to get their bones. I asked him how they had dug up the bodies. He said they had taken rails and pushed the ends down in the centre under the middle of the bodies and then pried them up in that way. He said that Lewis’s men also knew about it. I went over where some of Lewis’s negro men were and inquired of them. Their information corroborated fully the statement of this man Hampton. They also stated that a great many of the bodies had been stripped naked on the field before they were buried, and some were buried naked; others were buried with their clothes on. They said that numbers of them had been dug up through the winter, and even shortly after they had been buried. I went to Mr. Lewis’s house, and after waiting some time he came in. I spoke to him about the manner in which the bodies had been dug up. He said that their whole army should not be blamed for that. He admitted it was infamous, but said a few men had done it who could not be controlled.
Question. Did he say what soldiers they were who had treated the bodies of our dead in this way?
Answer. He condemned principally the New Orleans Tigers, of General Wheat’s division; the Louisiana Tigers, I believe they were called. He said they were the men who had done the principal part of it. He said that after the battle the men went over the field and robbed all indiscriminately, both friend and foe. He said they had all along been the cause of a great deal of trouble, and that two or three of them had been shot during the winter for mutiny. He said that the most of them had deserted their cause and were over on our side now. He said our wounded had been very badly treated; and Doctor Swalm told me about the unnecessary amputations that had been performed by the rebel surgeons. He said that limbs had been taken off unnecessarily and in a very bad manner; that, after the confederates had taken possession of the hospital, they would not allow our surgeons to use the knife at all, but used it themselves, and that some of the men had died in consequence of their bad treatment, and from want of the necessary nourishment. He mentioned a number of instances of men who had been actually murdered by bad treatment. I spoke to Mr. Lewis about that, and he admitted that it was so. He spoke of doctors on their own side who had spoken about the manner in which the wounded had been cut and neglected and treated badly after the battle. He said that he had become afraid that a pestilence would break out there in the neighborhood, in consequence of the dead being left unburied. And accordingly, on the Tuesday following the battle, finding the dead still unburied, he had gone out and warned out the neighborhood and had them buried, sending his own men to assist in doing so. On Sunday morning (yesterday) I collected a party of men and went to the trench where I supposed my brother might have been buried, and dug down to the bodies. We found them covered by some eighteen inches to two feet of earth, just tumbled in any way, some on their sides and some on their backs. I found one body entirely naked. Upon digging at one end of the trench we found, not more than two inches below the surface, the thigh-bone of a man that had evidently been dug up after burial; and in digging at the other end of the trench, in throwing out the first shovelful of earth, we found the detached shin-bone of a man, which had been struck by a musket ball and split; a part of the thigh-bone was still attached to it. The bodies at the ends had been pried up, the clothing at each end of the body still in the ground, where the middle of the body had been pried up. The other bodies were perfect. While we were digging there a party of soldiers came up and showed us a part of a shin-bone five or six inches long, which had the end sawed off. They said they had found it among many other pieces in one of the cabins that the rebels had deserted. From the appearance of it, pieces had been sawed off, out of which to make finger-rings. As soon as the negroes saw it, they said that the rebels had had rings made of the bones of our dead that they had dug up; that they had had them for sale in their camps. As soon as Doctor Swalm saw the piece of bone the soldier had, he said that it was a part of a shin-bone of a man; and I compared it with the detached shin-bone we had dug up—the one split by a musket ball—and they corresponded exactly. The soldiers said there were lots of these bones scattered all through the rebel huts, sawed into rings, &c. One of the men said he had been looking for the body of his lieutenant, and had found where it had been left in the bushes unburied. He had found the bones and portions of the clothing scattered around by the hogs. They had buried the remains that they gathered up on Sunday last, together with other remains that they had collected. Mr. Lewis and the negroes all spoke of Colonel Cameron’s body, and knew about its being stripped, and where it had been buried. They said that General Johnston, I think, had sent around and collected some of the things taken from the body; among others, a locket, and had endeavored to find his coat. Some of the things had been found. He knew exactly where Colonel Cameron’s body had been buried. All the negroes and those in the neighborhood seemed to know all about it. I talked in the presence of the ladies in Mr. Lewis’s house of the manner in which our dead had been treated. Some of them denied it; it seemed to be well understood in the neighborhood that these things had been done.
By Mr. Covode:
Question. Did you find your brother’s remains?
Answer. I do not know that they were in either of the trenches that we examined, unless it was the body that was naked and could not be recognized. I am not certain that he is dead. I know that he was wounded.
By Mr. Odell:
Question. Did you see any difference in the manner in which the confederates had buried our dead and their own?
Answer. I saw where one of their dead had been buried in a box, and afterwards his remains taken up and removed. A portion of the box was still there. I saw a number of the graves of the confederate soldiers that had little headboards placed at the head and marked. None of them have any appearance of having been disturbed. I noticed in one of the graves where the body had been pried up a shoe with some of the remains still in it.
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Tags: 14th Brooklyn, Atrocities, JCCW, Resources
Categories : Joint Committee Testimony, Resources
WASHINGTON, April 3, 1862.
General JAMES B. RICKETTS sworn and examined.
By the chairman:
Question. Did you observe any barbarous treatment on the part of the enemy towards our prisoners and wounded soldiers
Answer. On the field?
Question. On the field or elsewhere.
Answer. A party of rebels passed by where I was lying, and called out. “Knock out his brains, the damned Yankee,” referring to me. I said nothing to them. When we were taken to this house there was a general want of everything for our men. Of course I was on my back and could not see much.
By Mr. Odell:
Question. The house to which you were taken was what is known as the Lewis House?
Answer. Yes, sir; I was taken there in a blanket, and on the way I met General Beauregard. Some one asked who that was, and the reply was that it was Captain Ricketts. When General Beauregard heard my name he jumped off his horse and spoke to me. He was an old acquaintance, but a. year my senior at the Military Academy. I had been a great deal at the south-—in New Orleans, Texas, and other places-—and had been thrown a number of times in his company. He told me my treatment would depend upon the treatment that their privateers should receive.
Question. He told you that at that early period?
Answer. Yes, sir. I was much struck with what he said. I asked him where we were to be taken, and what they were going to do with us. He said: “Your treatment will depend upon that of the privateers,” and then directed me to be taken to the Lewis House.
By the chairman:
Question. How long were you a prisoner in the hands of the rebels?
Answer. I was two weeks at the Lewis House, and then I was in Richmond up to the 18th of December.
Question. It has been said that the rebels mutilated our dead and killed our wounded prisoners. Do you know anything about that?
Answer. I know this: that Lieutenant Ramsay, my first lieutenant, who was killed at my battery, was entirely stripped. The first one of the rebels who asked my name was a Lieutenant Colonel Harman. He was a lieutenant in the Mexican war, where I had known him very well. As soon as he heard my name he asked me if I knew him; and when he mentioned his name, of course I knew him. He said to the men with him, “Respect the captain’s person; he is an old friend of mine; don’t take anything from him.” And I had nothing taken from me, on account of Harman, I suppose.
Question. But your lieutenant was stripped?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. What do you mean by that—stripped of his clothing?
Answer. Yes, sir; he had nothing left on him but his socks, so one of our surgeons who saw him told me.
By Mr. Chandler:
Question. Do you know anything about their method of burying our dead?
Answer. I know nothing except about their manner of burial in Richmond. I could from my room overlook the place where they buried our dead. I know they were buried in the negro burying-ground among the negroes. They had no funeral service over them, but they were just taken out and put in the ground in the most unfeeling manner. At the Lewis House there was a great want of everything in the way of supplies, medicines, bandages, &c.
By the chairman:
Question. That may have been the case with their own men as well as ours.
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. What was their general treatment of prisoners in Richmond?
Answer. The general treatment of the prisoners there, I thought, was very bad, indeed. We were very much crowded. Our diet was very meagre, indeed. I subsisted mainly upon what I purchased with my own money, which my wife brought me. That is the way I got along, and I assisted the others all I could. For instance, we had at times what they called bacon soup, soup made from boiled bacon, the bacon being a little rancid, which you could not possibly eat, and the bacon was served with the soup; and that for a man whose system is being drained by a wound is no diet at all. Then we had some thin beef soup, so thin that we were induced to ask one of the assistants how it happened to be so, and we were told that it was first served to their own people in the hospitals, and afterwards it was watered for us. They stopped giving us tea and coffee, and we had to buy them for ourselves. We had to buy our butter and eggs, and everything of that sort, beyond the mere prison fare that they gave us.
Question. It has been said that they shot some of our prisoners while looking out of the windows?
Answer. I was not in the prison. I was too lame to be taken to the tobacco factory. I was in the hospital all the time.
Question. Did you hear anything about that while you were there?
Answer. Yes, sir; there were a number of our men shot. On one occasion there were two shot, one was killed and the other wounded, by a man on the outside, who rested his gun on the window-sill while he capped it; while drawing back the hammer, in this position, it escaped from his fingers, came down upon the cap, and the gun went off.
Question. That was an accident, was it?
Answer. Well, sir, it was a very singular accident. If I should point a gun towards you, instead of towards the ceiling, when I went to put a cap on, and it should go off, it would, to say the least, be regarded as a very unpardonable accident.
By Mr. Chandler:
Question: You thought it was intentional?
Answer. Yes, sir; I did think so.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. Do you know whether that man received any punishment?
Answer. The man was taken up, but he made some explanation and was let go again. I considered it very bad treatment, also, to be selected as a hostage for the privateers, when I was so lame I could not walk; while my wounds were still open and unhealed. General Winder came to see me. He had been an officer in my regiment, and I had known him for twenty-odd years. He came to see me on the 9th of November; he saw my wounds, that they were still unhealed; he saw my condition. He that very day received an order to select hostages for the privateers; and, notwithstanding he knew what my condition was, the next day, on Sunday, the 10th of November, I was selected as one of the hostages. I heard of a great many of our prisoners who had been bayonetted and shot. I saw three of them, two of them had been bayonetted and one of them had been shot. One of them was named Lewis Francis, of the New York 14th. He had received fourteen bayonet wounds, one through his privates, by which he lost one of his testicles. And he had one wound, very much like mine, on the knee, in consequence of which his leg was amputated after some twelve weeks had passed. And I would state here that, in regard to his case, when it was determined to amputate his leg, I heard Dr. Peachy, the surgeon, remark to one of his young assistants, “I won’t be greedy, you may do it;” and the young man did it.
Mr. Odell: I would state here that he has just had his leg amputated the second time in consequence of the faulty manner in which it was done the first time.
The witness: It is surprising how that man lived through it all, old as he was. I should take him to be over forty years of age.
Mr. Odell: He is over fifty years of age; fifty-three or four, I should think.
The witness: I did not think he was as old as that. That only renders his recovery the more surprising. I saw him, and my wife was with him, down where he was, doing what she could for him; she gave him some of my clothes. Then there was a man named Briggs, of a Michigan regiment, who has a scar on his hand now from a bayonet wound. He says he saw the rebels coming, bayonetting our men and pillaging their pockets. He had a little portmonnaie, with about eight dollars in it. He put it inside his shirt, and let it fall down his back, and laid down on it. He was wounded, shot below the knee somewhere. When they came to him they asked for his money, and commenced thrusting a bayonet at him. He caught it in his hand, and as they withdrew it his hand was cut by it.
By Mr. Chandler:
Question. Did this man who received so many bayonet wounds receive them after he was a prisoner?
Answer. He was not wounded at all at first. That was their method of taking him prisoner, piercing him as much as possible. He was in their power entirely; there was no necessity for their doing any such thing, as there was one man against several.
Question. Instead of demanding his surrender they bayonetted him?
Answer. Yes, sir; it was entirely wanton on their part.
By Mr. Julian:
Question. And they supposed they had killed him?
Answer. Yes, sir. Another man was shot through the body, and he fell, and they supposed he was killed. Many of those men came into my room, and I saw them there and talked with them; and many of our men were badly amputated; the laps over the stump were drawn too tight, and soon the bones protruded. A man by the name of Prescott was amputated twice, and was then moved to Richmond before the laps were healed. He died from lockjaw after he reached Richmond, and always said that it was the railroad that killed him.
By Mr. Odell:
Question. Do you know anything more about the treatment of our prisoners?
Answer. I heard a doctor on the steps below my room say that he wished he could take out the hearts of the damned Yankees as easily as he could take off their legs. Those little things show exactly the state of feeling on their part.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. What was their treatment of you, personally?
Answer. I had no particular consideration shown me personally, excepting from some persons whom I knew. I had a great many acquaintances in Richmond, and a great many among those in the field, for I had been a great deal in the south. I had met many at Newport, a great many from South Carolina. Those Charleston gentlemen treated me very handsomely. Wade Hampton, who was opposed to my battery, came to see me, and behaved towards me as a generous enemy should. He brought me a couple of bottles of ale, riding seven miles to bring it to me.
By Mr. Odell: Question. The papers have criticised their treatment of your lady, alleging that they evinced a lack of respect towards the sex.
Answer. My wife, in the first place, joined me while I was at the Lewis House, on the field of battle. The first rumor she had heard was that I was killed. When she heard that I was alive, but wounded, she started with her carriage and horses to come to me. She almost had to fight her way out there, but succeeded finally in reaching me on the fourth day after the battle. There were eight persons in the Lewis house in the room where I lay, and my wife for two weeks slept in that room on the floor by my side without a bed. When we got to Richmond there were six of us in a room, among them Colonel Wilcox, who remained with us until he was taken to Charleston. There we were, all in that one room. There was no door to it. It was very much as it would be here if you should take away the door of this committee room, and then fill up the passage with wounded soldiers. And in the hot summer months the stench from their wounds and from the utensils they used was fearful. There was no privacy at all, because there being no door the room could not be closed. The hospital was an unfinished building, one half the windows being out of it; and there we were, a common show. There was a general interest to see Colonel Wilcox and myself, as though they expected to see a couple of savages.
Question. Did not the officers of the southern army protect you from that sort of indignity?
Answer. They made some attempt to do it.
Question. But they did not use the means they might have used?
Answer. No, sir; and the people would come in there and say all sorts of things to us and about us. In fact, people that I knew would come in and commence discussions, until I was obliged to tell them that I was a prisoner, and had nothing to say. When we went down to Richmond in the cars from Manassas, wherever we stopped crowds of people would gather around and stare at us. At Gordonsville, particularly, crowds of women came around there to see the prisoners and the Yankee woman. They would ask my wife if she cooked, if she washed, and how she got there. Finally, Mrs. Ricketts appealed to the officer in charge, and told him that it was not the intention that we should be subjected to this treatment, and that if it was continued she would make it known to the authorities. He then said he would stop it. General Johnston took my wife’s carriage and horses away from her at Manassas, and kept them, and has them yet, for aught I know. When we got down to Richmond I spoke to several gentlemen about it, and so did Mrs. Ricketts. They said that of course the carriage and horses would be returned. But they never were. Instead of that, when I was exchanged, and we were about to leave, they refused Mrs. Ricketts a transportation ticket to Norfolk, obliging her to purchase it. Dr. Gibson, who was in charge of the hospital, when he heard of it, said that such a thing was very extraordinary in General Winder, and that he would speak to him about it. I said that it made no difference, though I thought as General Johnston had taken her carriage and horses and left her on foot, it would be nothing more than fair to give her a ticket to Norfolk. Our prisoners were treated very badly there, and I am surprised that some of them lived through it, like that man Lewis Francis.
Mr. Odell. He is recovering, and though he has lost one leg, he is very anxious to get back into the field again.
The witness. I must say that I have a debt that I desire very much to pay, and nothing troubles me so much now as the fact that my wounds prevent me from entering upon active service again at once.
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Tags: 14th Brooklyn, Atrocities, James Ricketts, JCCW, Resources
Categories : Joint Committee Testimony, Resources