Sgt. William Sidney Mullins, Adjutant, 8th South Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

16 02 2018

Vienna 6th August, 1861

My dear Sir,

I received yours of the 27th ult day before yesterday: your first also came safely to hand. I had been thinking of writing to you for some time, but our facilities for writing here are very poor, & until to day, I have hardly found time & convenient arrangements for writing a long & detailed account of any thing. Besides for a month all our correspondence has been under military surveillance & they open our letters without scruple: after the war, if some of us do not get killed, there will be some private war on this account. I hold the claim as against S.C. Volunteers to be insulting & infamous & I will shoot any man without scruple whom I have good reason to believe guilty of opening my correspondence, be his position that of President, General, or what not, when my service has ended & I can meet him as an equal. Of this hereafter.

You have by this time doubtless seen Capt. Evans, & read in the papers many accounts of the Battle. I will however give you a brief statement of what I know, & my opinions about what I have heard. There never will be any fair & just statement of the whole battle. No man living ever can make it. There are many conflicting statements here & even as regards our own Regiment there are facts asserted & denied, about which I am entirely in doubt this day. The ground was broken: there was no position from which the whole could be seen & in some cases Regiments were for hours without orders fighting on their own hook. I will give you now what I think to be the most probable story of the affair – as I go along I will tell you the facts that I know. We were not at all engaged in the first battle: they cannonaded us & the balls fell around us occasionally that day, but no body was hurt. Capt. Harrington was on picket in a wood in front of our unit on Saturday night, & between daylight & sunrise he sent in a man to Col. Cash to say that the enemy were retreating: that from one oclock that morning the sound of their artillery & waggons going off had been heard. These sounds were distinctly audible in our Camp. Col. Cash ordered me to report the fact to Bonham & I gallopped there at once. Gen. B. sent back word to Col. C. by me that it was not a retreat, but that the enemy were moving to attack the left & to be on our guard as the attack might begin on own front. By eight oclock they commenced firing all along our lines with their artillery, which we found afterwards to be only four pieces kept behind to deceive us & prevent us from moving up to the left. Between eight & nine heavy cannonading began on our left in the direction of Stone Bridge & soon afterwards very heavy rollings of musquetry & this continued without intermission save for brief intervals all day. We lay in our trenches quietly. Between eleven & twelve Col. Cash sent me with a good glass to a high hill in the rear of the Camp a mile to see if I report any thing of the Battle. I found there Beauregard, Bonham, & their Staff. The sight was magnificent. We could not see the troops but the smoke indicated the position of the batteries & the whole length of the line. I staid there half an hour, & though I could not make out anything myself, a member of the Staff told me that the enemy had turned our flank & that our friends were giving back. I gallopped back to Col. C. & as I arrived an aid came to order, Kershaw, Kemper & Cash to hurry forward to the battle. As I left the hill, Beauregard & Staff gallopped towards the battle – Bonham back to the right where another attack was expected. We immediately started under a terrible sun to the battlefield at the double quick: it was a terrible thing to run four miles at midday. As we started two regiments of cavalry darted on before us & our own drums beat: this informed the enemy exactly of our position & they directed their batteries exactly at us. The balls fell all around us: many within four or five feet of our line, wonderful it was that no one was hurt. Several I assure you fell so close to me that the rushing & hiss seemed to be felt against my cheek. Believe me – it aint a pleasant feeling. The double quick run carried us out of this. Within a mile or perhaps a mile & a half of the battle field we commenced meeting the wounded & the flying. One man wounded accompanied by four or five perfectly unhurt: we met more than a hundred such parties. All told the same tale: the enemy were cutting our friends to pieces. Hamptons legion cut all to pieces Hampton & Johnson & Bartow all killed – Sloans Regiment utterly cut – these statements were repeated us by nearly as many men as both Kershaws & Cash Regiments contained. Besides these cowards there were many along the way side wounded fatally & writhing in agony & uttering cries of agony. The effect of this upon the Regiment was not inspiriting. As we came upon the field – or in sight of it – artillery at once opened fire upon us & soon afterwards musquetry. Asa Evans, Genl. Evans aid told me next day that this was from our own friends & ordered by Beauregard. He mistook us for the enemy flanking & Asa says he said “we shall have to retire from the field.” They soon discovered who we were however – they knew the white Palmetto & an aid of Genl. Johnson dashed up to us to order us to the left of the point where we had first been ordered. And now let me pause from my story of what I saw to tell you the history of what had happened up to this time, as I learn it from others. Genl. George Evans was in command at Stone Bridge with fourteen hundred men, as he states them: Sloans Reg. Wheats Bat. & some companies: he was drawn up on a high hill near Stone Bridge, expecting the attempt to cross there: with only two pieces of artillery, one of which was disabled before the action began. Fifteen hundred men came up on the other side of the stream at the Bridge and commenced a heavy artillery fire: he forbade his piece to open at all but deployed a few skirmishers on the banks of the stream & waited. For more than an hour it went on thus: heavy artillery playing upon him but without effect, & his line silent & waiting: but from the high hill where he was posted, he finally saw emerging from the wood in his rear & on his flank columns with the sunlight on their bayonets a mile & half off: he knew his flank was turned: that the attack in front was but a faint to deceive him & that the battle was to begin in earnest now on a fair field & with no advantage of position on his side. With Maj. Wheat he rode forward to select a position, hastily did so, changed his whole position & the battle began. The enemy in this column were twenty thousand strong at the lowest calculation: fourteen hundred was Evans force, & so the real fight began. The enemy had crossed at an old ford four miles above unknown to Beauregard. If they had known Evans weakness then, I think they would have swept him from the field in an hour & won the field. But they were afraid of masked batteries & opening their artillery, their infantry kept well back. Evans sent to Gen. Cocke for reinforcements: he refused telling Evans to fall back upon him. To do this was to leave the Road to Manassas open & Evans refused & sent a more urgent message to Cocke, but meantime Bee – I know not how – came upon the field. Slowly, cautiously & but steadily the enemy drove us back: the field – the dead – the path of the enemy showed this the next day: more than a mile our side had fallen back. Of what occurred during all this time read the papers & judge for yourself. Each Regiment claims all the glory of holding the field: let history decide: judge for yourself. But I resume my own story now. Soon after two – perhaps a little before two we came upon the field, Kershaw & ourselves formed in one line & advanced obliquely to the left. All day the enemy had played this game flanking continually: whenever the front was engaged new troops spread out beyond, & attempted to take us in flank & in rear: twas thus their numbers told. Our march brought us into a thick wood: Kershaw kept on in old field & thus met the enemy before us & opened fire: he changed his front at once bringing his Regiment at once at right angles to us thus __| [Cash horizontal, Kershaw vertical] the enemy pursuing his game came down Kershaws line to the same wood where we were advancing intending to go round Kershaw but met us & we gave him along our whole line one deadly sheet of fire at at about fifty yards distance before which they broke & ran like the devil. They were the N.Y. Fire Zouaves & Kershaw himself who could see the effect of our fire better than we could ourselves says they fell before us, trees in a hurricane. We gave them another at a greater distance & a part of our line a third, but by this time they had found shelter in another wood & were safe from us. They formed in this wood & came out upon a hill about 350 or 400 yards from us with two Regts of Volunteers & opened upon us a deadly fire: their Minie Rifles & Muskets reached us perfectly: ours were too short of range & Cash at once ordered us to lie down. For fifteen minutes the balls fell around us thicker than hail. Every tree in that wood is struck with balls: many have five or ten & next day the ground was strewn with leaves cut from the trees. Why we did not lose there one or two hundred men is to me incomprehensible. To look at the trees where we lay even now you would hardly believe that we lay there so long & lost so few men. The fire became galling finally & Col. Cash undertook to move us further down to the left thus ___| [Cash horizontal, ? vertical, enemy hypotenuse] Cash desired to go down as I have dotted [left of diagram] but the woods were thick, his orders were misunderstood, our Regiment fell into confusion for a brief while: meantime Kemper, glorious Kemper, was playing upon them with as rapid & deadly fire as ever flashed – what music it was to us! & before we came out on the left their Regulars fled: the Zouaves & Regulars whipped, the volunteers concluded that they had no call to try it further & the day was won. Now in all this part of the field, Kirby Smith nor any one else had any part of the fight, but Kershaw, Cash & Kemper: that they overrated us in in number I am sure: that they fled under a panic, I am sure for the Regulars & Zouaves, outnumbered us then & if they had come boldly upon us we should have been very glad to see some help, but they fled. Jeff Davis came upon the field late that day and there gave us the credit of turning the day. He has changed his opinion since, they tell me. We were at once ordered to pursue & went onward. Kershaw, Cash, & Kemper. Col. Withers Va. Reg was on the road as we went on & was asked to go on with us: he said he was ordered to stop at Stone Bridge & damned if he went on & not a step did he go. But on we went & yet faster before us went five or ten times our number. Finally we came up with the enemy & glorious Kemper opened once more: they staid not to try muskets, but abandoned to us every gun, their waggons & fled in one inglorious rush for safety. Yes! McDowell was there covering the retreat & his prisoners say at the first fire of Kemper led the race although they utterly overwhelmed us in numbers & artillery. We did not know until the cavalry came in what a capture we had made: nearly thirty guns – among them that long ten foot rifled thirty two pounder, drawn by ten horses, & guns, ammunition, etc. We stayed upon the field guarding these things alone – even Kershaws Regt had left – until two oclock & within three miles of us five thousand troops fresh who had not been in the battle, besides the disomfitted hosts who had fled. My dear sir never did whiskey & champagne taste as sweet as the copious draughts of the enemys stores that night. I was sure they had had not time to poison them & I drank freely & joyously. But shall I tell you now of the battlefield? Of the dead hideous in every form of ghastly death: heads off – arms off – abdomen all protruding – every form of wound: low groans: sharp cries: shrieks for water & convulsive agonies as the soul took flight. It is useless to write. I know something of the power of words to paint & I tell you that a man must see all this to conceive it. One soon becomes callous. We were thirsty ourselves: a slight breakfast – a four miles run – the excitement of battle – the roar of artillery & burning thirst – all this hardens the heart & before we left the field our men were gathering Colts Revolvers & Sharps Rifles from dying & wounded men with utter indifference to their bitter cries. Yet we gave them water when we could get it. On an acre square I saw sixty five dead men – near Shermans battery – mostly Zouaves: how many times it was taken & retaken, Heaven knows, but when we came upon the field the Zouaves had it again, although it was not firing. Kershaw drove them from it & as they fell along his left intending to fall upon his flank they met us as I have told you already. I shall enclose you in another envelope Cashs Report, with his consent. Dont publish this, but he says you may give his report to the Southerner, not to publish but to complete a statement from it as from a witness. They may publish that. Do write me often. Tell me what you have heard at home about us all. If I ever live to see you, I will tell you many things I cannot write. But this I say – if it please God, to stop this war, I will unfeignedly thank him. It wasnt the battle, but the next day – in a heavy rain their wounded & our wounded – lying in their agony – without food or care – nobody to help – nothing to eat & drink – this filled my heart with terror. I heard men imploring the passers by to kill them to relieve their agony. I saw the parties who were out to bury discussing whether to bury a man before he was dead. He could not live & some proposed to bury him any how. Says a sergeant set down a minute & he will be dead & we wont have to come back! This is war!

Genl. Evans proposed to Beauregard (Evans told me himself) as soon as they left the field to take a Regiment, & a battery & by a short country road dash ahead post him himself in front while the whole army advanced in rear & cut them off. Beauregard said “No! our loss of life is great: I will not risk such soldiers as these.” The feeling was noble but it was a terrible mistake of judgment. If it had been done, not a man of that army would have escaped. Such an utter panic in an army is unknown in the history of two centuries. Our brigade could have driven every soldier of the Federal Army from our side of the Potomac.

Davis is not the man for the next President. Beauregard has implored for weeks & weeks most piteously more troops. He has told them that he was crippled for men & during this very time Davis has rejected Regt. after Regt. because they would not volunteer for the war & because he had not appointed the Field Officers. He has been appealed to overlook his objections – to take things as he could & he has let his temper overrule his judgment & risked all our lives. If they the enemy, I mean, had had a great general, our Regiments would not have brought a man away from Fairfax C. H. on our first retreat. Fifteen thousand men deployed in one hundred & fifty yards of our Regiment alone, & but for a wholesome fear of masked batteries, not one man of us would have ever seen home again.

Again, there has not been any provision made for the sick & wounded that is even decent. The offices of the Surgeons department are crammed with utter incapables. In the volunteers, this is bad enough but in the Regular service it is intolerable. I heard the day before the Battle an officer of intelligence say “Well, whoever is wounded seriously will die. There has not been an army in Christendom during this century, where provisions for the wounded was so entirely neglected.” This was a man of intelligence who knew of what he was speaking.

I might say many other things to you of inefficiency & incapacity: of drunkenness, in high places at critical periods: of blunder & ignorance that would disgust you. But I will not close discouragingly. Let me say this, that with all this our army will win our triumph. They our leaders may foolishly fling away many of our lives: our cause will triumph. The soldiers discriminate between the blunders & follies of our leaders & the cause itself, & by that they will stand. I hope some day to talk these things over with you: till then adieu.

Dont let my scribblings get into the papers. You may show them to any discreet friends you choose, but on no account let any word get to a newspaper. Beauregards orders are stringent & a violation would expose me to trouble & danger. Perhaps you had better not show them at all. My regards to Mr. Millin & your sons if they are with you. Present my respectful remembrances to Mrs. Charles & believe me very truly yours

Will S. Mullins

W.S. Mullins 6 Aug 1861 Report of the Battle of Manassas

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From South Caroliniana Library

A full annotated transcription can be found at the above site, including biographical information regarding the author and persons mentioned in the letter. The transcription was compared to the letter image prior to posting here – those serve as its basis. Per that transcription, this letter was addressed to Edgar Welles Charles of the Darlington District, South Carolina.

William Sidney Mullins at Ancestry

William Sidney Mullins at FindAGrave

E. B. C. Cash’s report, which mentions Mullins and the capture of Congressman Alfred Ely.





“4th”, 4th Maine Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat, With Regimental Casualties

16 01 2018

Military Correspondence.
———-

Camp Knox, Clermont, Fairfax Co.
Va., July 20, 1861.

Some one has denominated this “Happy Valley.” This was before we went to Bull’s Run – before we had sore feet – before we lost our baggage – before we were beaten – before we returned – before we had seen service. It was when we were “on our way to Richmond” – big with fight – hadn’t seen a rebel.

We are about twenty-six miles farther from “Dixie” than when at Bull Run,” i.e. nearer the undiscovered northwest passage. But we are here on the old spot again. Here we have collected the fragments of our regiment – have had the roll; and as the silent echo of some oft repeated name dies away in the deep shadows of the overhanging, forest, there often comes a long pause, which is followed by no response – “present.” Then the soldiers stand closer together – utter nothing – only look away vacantly, at the creeping shadows of the coming evening, seemingly straining the vision after some object which the imagination is pointing at. Others, with blistered feet – bruised, ragged – with no blanket or coat, too weary and worn to be curious about the living or lament the dead, are stretched upon the open field, in sweet repose, dreaming a happy hour away. In his dream the weary soldier continues the march till he arrives at home – till his lips move to give utterance to his thankfulness, or receive and give back the welcome salutation, — when he is aroused to answer his name, and finds, alas, that he is living and only dreaming.

This is not fancy. There are few instances of severer efforts than that of Sunday. For five days previous we had been almost constantly on the move — with little or nothing to eat save what we took from the enemy; sleeping in the open air, without tents, in sunshine and storm. From some cause our baggage train was always too far in the rear to bring up our rations, till the day of battle, when with the same excellent management and skill which had hitherto marked its movements, it did not stop till it found itself in the hands of the enemy.

You have had so many accounts of the battle that you will not expect it from me. Those eye witnesses who tan away at the commencement, have given a glowing account, picked up from straggling soldiers, all of whom were the heroes of the fight.

Up to Sunday morning (July 21,) our whole force was encamped in and about Centreville. Bull’s Run is a range of hills about ten miles in length, (some miles this side of Manassas Gap,) running southeast and northwest. The southeast point, or the right of the enemy’s lines is about three miles from Centreville. The northwest, or left wing of the enemy’s line, is about nine miles from the place above named. We were ordered forward at two o’clock Sunday morning. Gen. Tyler, (he who blundered into an attack without orders, on Friday,) went to the right to make a feint, while the main column under Gen. McDowell, went around to their left in order to turn them. This we reached by a newly cut road through a forest, and commenced the attack about 8 o’clock in the forenoon. Our brigade was held in reserve. After the enemy had been driven from one position to take up another on the brow of a hill, in a word, after the New York Zouaves had made an assault and were scattered in disorder, we were called upon. We went forward, under a perfect shower of shot and shell for more than a mile, over the dead and wounded, in double quick, till we reached a valley beyond. The enemy stood concealed by a thick wood. Here we formed our line. The 4th (our own 4th, we are proud of her,) together with the 2nd Vermont, were ordered forward to make the assault and support a battery on the hill above. When we arrived there our battery had been silenced, and we were received by the enemy from a concealed thicket with volley after volley of rifle, while on our right and left were batteries in position to rake our lines both ways. Nothing but their rapid, and consequently inaccurate firing saved us from being cut all up. We maintained out position in this situation, unsupported by a single battery, for more than three quarters of an hour, when we were ordered to retreat. The 4th was the last to leave the field, and acquitted itself, as I predicted it would, most nobly.

Many regiments…[significant missing text]…of our boys did nobly, whose names in due time, will come before the public.

I regret that Capt. Bean was wounded before we made our charge, by a spent cannon ball, which bruised his leg considerably. He is doing well. Lt. Burd was also slightly wounded in the head, and is taken prisoner. Lt. Clark of company G, was killed while retreating, and just before reaching Centreville. Sergeant Major S. H. Chapman was instantly killed by a rifle ball through the heart. He fell by my side, and I watched the death shadow as it passed over his face, driving the blush of life from his cheek, and mantling it with the hue of death. It was the work of a moment. He never spoke. He was a noble fellow, and popular with the regiment. E. O. Maddocks, of company I, was wounded in the leg and left on the field. We hope he was cared for. He was a brave fellow. R. H. Gray, also of company I, was wounded in the arm and side, and left within their lines. We hope he is safe. It was impossible to bring them off. These were all good men and true.

The following is a list of the killed, wounded and missing in the 4th regiment M. V. M., as correctly as I can obtain them:

KILLED.

Lieut. Clark, Co G.
Lt. Major S. H. Chapman, (Staff)

Co. A.

Privates Sanford Sylvester, Geo S Sylvester and Elisha W Ellis.

Co. B.

Privates Ashael Towne, W B Fletcher and C C Fernald.

Co. C.

Privates Chas Smart and Dennis Canning

Co. D.

Privates J E Sparkhawk, W B Foss, Joseph E Starbird and Thos Horne.

Co. E.

Privates E E Hall, F J Stetson and Enos Clark

Co. G.

Privates Jos Wright and Freeman Shaw

Co. H.

Privates G F Cunningham, Jos Trim, —- West, W Cooper, G W Anderson, Miles Jackson and H B Washburn.

Co. I.

Privates E O Maddox severely wounded and missing, R H Gray, do., [since escaped.]

WOUNDED.

Co. A.

Privates Wm Kenduck and —- Bullen.

Co. B.

Privates —- Titus, Chas Sawyer and —- Marshall.

Co. C.

Privates S P Vose, S Heath and S P Pease.

Co. D.

Privates J A Simmons and Jos Norton, Jr.

Co. E.

Privates E J Hilton and H A Calligan.

Co. F.

Capt. Bean, Lieut. Burd, H A Calligan and E J Barlow.

Co. G.

Privates Freeman Shaw, J. Clark, Lorenzo Brigdon, Edward Jones, Sewall Seavy and E. B. Carr.

Co. H.

Privates William Fointai, J L Young and D Clough.

Co. I.

Privates Frank Forbes, Roscoe Trivet, L Temple, Joan Malano, C C Grey, James Trimbell, F W Porter and J M Wiswell, (all slightly.)

Co. K.

Privates E Redman and —- Bisbee.

MISSING.

Patrick Black, —- Lamb, M G Gowen, W D Woodcock, Thos S Grey, C F Merrill, D J Melay, G W Chatton, C P Perry, L Richards, H B Story, H Haskell, A Robinson, F Hull, Geo Osgood, Wm Packard, Joseph Mahoney, R G Bickford, E H Rowell, H A Delano, S Marston, C R Brookings, S P Dickerson, J E Boynton, Freeman Shaw, Thomas Knights, Miles Jackson and H Washburn.

The above is a complete list of the killed, wounded and missing in our regiment. I have no need to write more. The result of the day you have read and had from a thousand sources. It was bad enough. Our loss would have been small in material, had not the panic seized our men. It was mainly got up by members of congress and senators, assisted by reporters for the press. We have suffered quite enough already from these gentlemen, and if we cannot put a stop to their further interference, we shall force them to stop at home. As soon as the battle grew thick, they began a retreat. This frightened the teamsters, and they cut loose from wagons, and soon the panic became general. On M. C. (Ely) was taken. If we could exchange the balance at Washington for the poor soldiers captured, I think it might be for the advantage of the country. Why do they not go home? I hope another expedition will not be started till they do, and leave Gen, Scott free to manage the campaign to his liking. If congress would adjourn and the N. Y. Tribune could be suppressed, we might go forward with some hope of success. Till then I will make no further prediction. A great feeling is arising against the present cabinet among the republicans, which may tend to a revolution in it.

It is unnecessary for me to say that McDowell blundered. This is the old story. If these blunders are to be often repeated we had better go home. Gen. McClellan is coming, and great confidence is reposed in him. We trust that matters will now take a turn.

4th.

Republican Journal (Belfast, ME), 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. Henry Harrison Comer*, Co. A, 1st Ohio Infantry, On the Battle

11 01 2018

For the Lancaster Gazette

Our Army Correspondence.

Washington City, D.C.

July 24, 1861

Messrs. Editors: – Since writing to you last, stirring scenes and startling events have transpired. Leaving Camp Upton at 2 p.m. on Friday July 15, with bright hopes of a speedy reunion with friends and relatives, we joined regiment after regiment, brigade after brigade, division after division until the Grand Army of Occupation, filed in ranks of four numbering 50,000 men, were marching toward Manassas Junction, the bands playing national airs, banners floating in the breeze, voices singing Union anthems, and myriad bayonets gleaming in the sun. High and sanguine hopes were entertained that the horde of political blacklegs, bankrupt politicians, refugees from foreign climes and crimes, murderers, thieves pick pockets and assassins who composed the Southern rebel army would be most effectually wiped out and the Stars and Stripes float in glory and beauty o’er Vienna Station, Germantown, Fairfax Court House, Manassas Gap and Junction, and at last have a crowning glory by waving in majesty and beauty on the Capitol at Richmond. The station at Vienna was taken possession of, our national emblem placed on the track where one month before the 1st Ohio was fired into be a masked battery of the enemy. Germantown, Fairfax and Centreville fell before the stern front and steady march of the army of freedom, until we brought up at the northern fork of Bull’s Run, on July 20. Here a masked battery within an entrenchment was stormed, but with ill success, and both sides got off with considerable loss. Sunday morning dark and early, 2 o’clock, our column, under the command of Gen. McDowell, marched to the since scene of conflict; Schenk’s Brigade, composed of the 1st and 2d Ohio and the 2d New York, was given the post of honor and were thrown out as advance skirmishers in order to detect and draw forth the enemy’s fire of the masked batteries. The enemy lay strongly entrenched in unseen trenches, under cover of the woods and in the long grass. The 1st Ohio made the opening charge of musketry, the 2d New York followed at a double quick, which brought forth the enemy’s fire and regiment of riflemen who were finely repelled by the 2d Ohio. Our brigade loss was comparatively small, considering the dangerous position assigned us, and as you have heard by the newspapers, telegraphic reports and rumors probably more than iIi know of the details, I leave the matter to the official report of our very worthy and efficient Brigadier who has, after a considerable lapse of time, and by keeping us boys over their time, avenged the slaughter of Vienna and gained a reputation for Ohio!

The battle of Bloody Run will never be effaced from the O.V.M.’s memory; the mounds of dead and dying, the heroic charges, the rivers of blood, the death-groans of comrades, the ghastly visage, the faintly articulated cry for water, the booms bursting, the cannon’s flash, the impetuous rush, the Grecian stolidity, the Roman courage, the army of enthusiastic, impetuous, devoted and courageous soldiers who rushed into the jaws of death and charged into the cannon’s mouth, will live vividly in their memories long after the rebels who caused the disaster and death, have expired their crimes by an ignominious death on earth, and a torturing life among the spirits of the damned!

The precipitate retreat, the hurried flight from the field of action, was owing to a misconstrued order, and it is estimated that 15,000 U.S. Troops were in close proximity who were not in the engagement at all. Up to 3 P.M., the battle was ours, when Johnston’s rebel reinforcements turned the tide and compelled a retreat, which, although not compulsory, was a necessity. We were ordered to retreat which we lost time in doing! and starting at the double quick came, a distance of over 30 miles, our muskets, canteens, blankets, haversacks, cartridge boxes, etc., still a component of our baggage. At Fort Corcoran, Arlington Heights, we were kept in a drenching rain for six mortal hours, while regiment after regiment moved past us to shelter, food, and repose. We are now here in Washington City, barracked at Union Block, corner of 6th and Pennsylvania Avenue, while your correspondent has taken rooms at the Avenue House, doffed his soldier clothes, donned clean toggery, and imagines himself once more a icitizen!i

The order has been given to march to camp at 10 o’clock to-day, at the end of 7th st., to attend to roll call, see who are killed, wounded and missing, and to make arrangements for getting home as soon as troops now in waiting for orders are marched to this city to fill our places.

L.M. Dayton and Myron H. Gregory are here, together with Gen. W.T. Sherman of our city, who was commandant of a brigade. Company A has lost none of its members, with, possibly, the exception of William Swygert, who was substituted in place of Kitty Linn as a Pioneer. – He has not yet reported himself at headquarters.

Yours, as ever,

Harry Comer.

The Lancaster [OH] Gazette, 8/1/1861

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Contributed and transcribed by Dan Masters

* Records found for Henry Comer and Harry Comer in 1st Ohio. ID of Henry Harrison Comer is per contributor.

Harrison Comer is listed as a private in Co. A. in the Official Roster of Ohio Troops in the War of the Rebellion found at Ancestry.com

Harrison Comer at Ancestry.com

Harrison Comer at Fold3 





Pvt. John W. Burrows, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

2 01 2018

The Gallant 27th — Letters from our Volunteers.

———-

Much praise is awarded the 27th Regiment of N. Y. State Volunteers for their heroic conduct on the field at Bull Run. While our citizens will feel a thrill of patriotic pride as they rehearse the noble deeds of all those fighting in their country’s cause, they will look with peculiar interest upon the doings of the particular regiment in which most of those who have left this vicinity have enrolled. The three Companies formed at Binghamton, and in which several residents of this and adjoining towns enlisted, are in the 27th regiment. This regiment was one of the last to leave Elmira for the seat of war, and they had scarcely formed camp at Washington before they were ordered to proceed with the grand army towards Manassas. They were the first in the field on the battle of Sunday, having marched 15 miles, (the last mile and a half in double-quick time.) They had no breakfast, and while weary and faint, were ordered under fire. They went gallantly into action, and performed wondrous deeds of valor, fighting constantly throughout the day, and being among the last to leave the field when the retreat took place. Their Colonel, Slocum, was wounded, and the whole regiment terribly cut up. Their fighting was harder and their loss greater than any other regiment except the 69th and the Fire Zouaves. The following are among the killed in this regiment: Norman S. Miller, (Chenango Forks;) Wesley Randall and Asa Parks, (Binghamton;) Frank Spencer, (Coventry;) Col. Slocum, and Lieut. Col. Chambers.

There may be other names familiar in this vicinity but we have learned of none. Sergt. A. G. Northrup, (formerly of this village,) reported missing, has turned up. He fell asleep from exhaustion, during the retreat, and was two days getting into camp.

There have been several letters received from the seat of war by the friends of our volunteers. We have been furnished with two, from which we make copious extracts. The first is from Delos Payne, of this village, a member of Company D, Capt. Rogers, 27th regiment, to his wife. * * * The following extracts are from a letter from John W. Burrows, of this town, a member of the same company:

Washington, July 24, 1861

Dear Brother and Sister: * * * We have had a hard battle since I wrote you last. Last Sunday will long be remembered. Our regiment was a picket guard on Saturday night, until 2 o’clock, when we were ordered to march. We were encamped between Fairfax and Centerville, Va. We marched within six miles of the battle field, when six regiments were sent six miles around to flank the enemy, while the main force attacked them in front. We marched around to the field. Here McDowell ordered us to take the right of the battery. We marched half a mile to do it, while the enemy poured shell and chain shot and grape and cannon balls into our midst. We were the first on the ground. We marched down into a small hollow, to take a battery, the enemy on both sides of us. Here the battle commenced in good earnest. We returned the fire on both sides, until one party run up the stars and stripes and surrendered. We marched up to take them when they opened fire on us again, on both sides. We stood and fought as long as there was any chance for us. Napoleon B. Elliot, Frank Spencer, Pardee, and myself got in a file. We fought so until Pardee was shot, and the whole regiment was broken up. We loaded and fired as fast as we could. The infantry fell back a little and we tried to form a line. Our Captain was wounded, and he spoke to me to help, but we could only get eight or ten in line. The firing again commenced on both sides, and we saw the cavalry was going to attack us. We were in no shape to meet them and had to retreat.

Another regiment came to assist us. We met them on the top of the hill, just marching into the field. Our Colonel, Lieut. Col. and our Captain, were wounded, and Ensign was shot dead. We tried to get into other regiments, as ours was so badly cut up it had orders not to attempt to form, but they were all numbered and would not take us in. Elliott was almost melted. We found some water which was muddy, and a dog lay asleep in it. We drank what we dared to, and then went to the woods where the wounded were carried. There was a hard sight. Some had their legs shot to pieces; some had their legs off; some their arms; some were shot through the neck; one sat leaning against a tree spitting large mouthfuls of blood. They were dying in all shapes. One had a bullet put through his head; it come out just between the eyes, and he still breathed; some had their faces blown all to pieces; some had their heads cut off. The living ones bore their pain well.

Our whole force retreated. When we came back to where we left the main road to flank them, their cavalry attacked us at the bridge, and killed quite a number. What become of the main force that was to attack them in front I don’t know; they didn’t help us. We had nothing to cover our retreat and were driven back to Washington. The Southern army was twice as large as ours. They had three masked batteries; one behind the other, and their men in the woods. They would retreat from one to have our men come up and take it; then they would open on us with another and the infantry; then the cavalry would cut us down. They had their whole force there – about 100,000 men. Beauregard was there himself.

I never heard any thing sound better than the chain shot, shell and cannon balls did when they passed over and by us. They sounded so good I was almost willing to be hit by them, though of course I know it would be all day with me if they did. I had no fear of them – they sounded like a jay bird.

We had a hard tramp of it. We went two nights without sleep, and marched 15 miles to battle without eating breakfast or dinner, only what little sea biscuit we could eat on the road. We fought in this way until the retreat.

* * * I never saw tired men before. I would not have carried my body ten miles further, for it. The roads were lined with soldiers that were tired out. Some gave out before we reached the field of battle. When Elliott and I got inside the fort at Washington we lay down and slept, until we were wakened by officers, when we got some supper. * * *

Elliott and I went in together and came out together. We were not separated only once, then he was behind a tree shooting some Secessionists who were hid behind bunches of hay. When we retreated they crowded up the hill after us, and as I was getting over a fence, one man was shot by my side, and a ball passed over my shoulder. There were but a few that did not get holes shot through their clothes, but I did not get hit. Pardee was shot in the hollow. He wou’d look up and say “give it to the cowards.” He was shot just above the knee. He had good grit, and got away, though nearly melted.

* * * I don’t know how long we shall stay here. It will take some time to recruit again, and then we shall give them another try. We only got out “puppy teeth” pulled this time, but some of them came awful hard. It is pleasant while in battle, but it is hard to see what had been done, afterwards. I want to meet them once more even-handed; that is all I desire. We had a hard time of it. They would hoist our flag, and they were dressed so near like us, that we could not tell them from our men. They are worse than Indians, for they had no more principle than to murder our wounded and prisoners. Daniel Hawkins is all right. I saw him last night. Our boys from your way are all sound except some bruises.

Yours, &c.,

JOHN W. BURROWS

Chenango American, 8/1/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

John W. Burrows at Fold3

John Burrows at Ancestry.com

History of the 27th Regiment N.Y. Vols





2nd Lt. George Armstrong Custer, Co. G, 2nd U. S. Cavalry, On Travelling to the Field and the Battle (Part 3)

18 11 2017

I was standing with a friend and classmate at the moment on a high ridge near our advancing line. We were congratulating ourselves upon the glorious victory which already seemed to have been ours, as the Confederates were everywhere giving way, when our attention was attracted by a long line of troops suddenly appearing behind us upon the edge of the timber already mentioned. It never occurred to either of us that the troops we then saw could be any but some of our reinforcements making their way to the front.

Before doubts could arise we saw the Confederate flag floating over a portion of the line just emerging from the timber; the next moment the entire line leveled their muskets and poured a volley into the back s of our advancing regiments on the right. At the same time a battery which had also arrived unseen opened fire, and with the cry of “We’re flanked! We’re flanked!” passed from rank to rank, the Union lines, but a moment before so successful and triumphant, threw down their arms, were seized by a panic, and begun a most disordered panic.

All this occurred almost in an instant of time. No pen or description can give anything like a correct idea of the rout and demoralization that followed. Officers and men joined in one vast crowd, abandoning, except in isolated instances, all attempts to preserve their organizations. A moderate force of good cavalry at that moment could have secured to the Confederates nearly every man and gun that crossed Bull Run in the early morning. Fortunately the Confederate army was so badly demoralized by their earlier reverses, that it was in no mood or condition to make pursuit, and reap the fill fruits of victory. The troops that had arrived on the battlefield so unexpectedly for the Federals, and which had wrought such a disaster on the Union arms, were Elzey’s brigade of infantry and Beckham’s battery of artillery, the whole under command of Brigadier General Kirby Smith, being a detachment belonging to Johnston’s Army of the Shenandoah, just arrived from the valley. Had this command reached the battlefield a few minutes later, the rout of Beauregard’s army would have been assured, as his forces seemed powerless to check the advance of the Union troops.

General McDowell and his staff, as did many of the higher officers, exerted themselves to the utmost to stay the retreating Federals, but all appeals to the courage and patriotism of the latter fell as upon dumb animals. One who has never witnessed the conduct of large numbers of men when seized by a panic such as that was cannot realize how utterly senseless and without apparent reason men will act. And yet the same men may have exhibited great gallantry and intelligence but a moment before.

The value of discipline was clearly shown in the crisis by observing the manner of the few regular troops, as contrasted with the raw and undisciplined three months’ men. The regular soldiers never for a moment ceased to look to their officers for orders and instructions, and in retiring from the field, even amid the greatest disorder and confusion of the organizations near them, they preserved their formation, and marched only as they were directed to do.

The long lines of Union soldiery, which a few minutes before had been bravely confronting and driving the enemy, suddenly lost their cohesion and became one immense mass of fleeing, frightened creatures. Artillery horses were cut from their traces, and it was no unusual sight so see three men, perhaps belonging to different regiments, riding the same horse, and making their way to the rear as fast as the dense mass of men moving with them would permit.

The direction of the retreat was toward Centreville, by way of the Stone Bridge crossing, and other fords above that point. An occasional shot from the enemy’s artillery, or the cry that the Black Horse cavalry, so dreaded in the first months of the war in Virginia, were coming, kept the fleeing crowd of soldiers at their best speed.

Arms were thrown away as being no longer of service in warding off the enemy. Here and there the state colors of a regiment, or perhaps the national standard, would be seen lying on the ground along the line of retreat, no one venturing to reclaim or preserve them, while more than on full set of band instruments could be observed, dropped under the shade of some tree in rear of the line of battle, and where their late owners had probably been resting from the fatigues of the fight when the panic seized them and forced them to join their comrades in flight. One good regiment composed of such sterling material as made up the regiments of either side at the termination of the war could have checked the pursuit before reaching Bull Run, and could have saved much of the artillery and many of the prisoners that as it was fell into the enemy’s hands simply for want of owners.

The rout continued until Centreville was reached; then the reserves posted under Miles gave some little confidence to the retreating masses, and after the latter had passed the reserves, comparative order began in a slight degree to be restored. General McDowell at first decided to halt and make a stand on the heights near Centreville, but this was soon to be discovered to be inadvisable, if not impracticable, so large a portion of the army having continued in their flight toward Washington. Orders were then given the various commanders to conduct their forces back to their former camps near Arlington opposite Washington, where they arrived the following day.

The cavalry, on the Federal side consisting of only seven companies of regulars under Major Palmer, were not employed to any considerable extent during the battle except as supports to batteries of artillery. One charge was made in the early part of the battle near the Warrenton Turnpike by Colburn’s squadron. In advancing in the attack in the morning, Palmer’s companies accompanied Hunter’s division in the long and tedious movement through an immense forest by which Bull Run was crossed at one of the upper fords, and the left flank of the Confederates successfully turned.

After arriving at Sudley Springs, the cavalry halted for half an hour or more. We could hear the battle raging a short distance in our front. Soon a staff officer of General McDowell’s came galloping down to where the cavalry was waiting, saying that the general desired us to move across the stream and up the ridge beyond, where we were to support a battery.

The order was promptly obeyed, and as we ascended the crest I saw Griffin with his battery galloping into position. The enemy had discovered him, and their artillery had opened fire upon him, but the shots were aimed so high that the balls passed overhead. Following the battery, we also marched within plain hearing of each shot as it passed over Griffin’s men. I remember well the strange hissing and exceedingly vicious sound of the first cannon shot I heard as it whirled through the air. Of course I had often heard the sound made by cannon balls while passing through the air during my artillery practice at West Point, but a man listens with changed interest when the direction of the balls is toward instead of away from him. They seemed to utter a different language when fired in angry battle from that put forth in the tamer practice of drill.

The battery whose support we were having reached its position on an advanced crest near the right of the line, the cavalry massed near the foot of the crest and sheltered by it from the enemy’s fire. Once the report came that the enemy was moving to the attack of the battery which we were specially sent to guard, the order was at once given for the cavalry to advance from the base to the crest of the hill and repel the enemy’s assault.

We were formed in column of companies, and were given to understand that upon reaching the crest of the hill we would probably be ordered to charge the enemy. When it is remembered that but three days before I had quitted West Point as a schoolboy, and as yet had never ridden at anything more dangerous or terrible than a three-foot hurdle, or tried my sabre upon anything more combative than a leather head stuffed with tan bark, it may be imagined that my mind was more or less given to anxious thoughts as we ascended the slope of the hill in front of us. At the same time I realized that I was in front of a company of old and experienced soldiers, all of whom would have an eye upon their new lieutenant to see how he comported himself when under fire.

My pride received an additional incentive from the fact that while I was on duty with troops for the first time in my life, and was the junior officer of all present with the cavalry, there was temporarily assigned to duty with the company another officer of the same rank, who was senior to me by a few days, and having been appointed from civil life, was totally without military experience except such as he had acquired during the past few days. My brief acquaintance with him showed me that he was disposed to attach no little importance to the fact that I was fresh from West Point and supposed to know all that was valuable or worth knowing in regard to the art of war. In this common delusion I was not disposed to disturb him. I soon found that he was inclined to defer to me in opinion, and I recall now, as I have often done when in his company during later years in the war, the difficulty we had in deciding what weapon we would use in the charge to which we believed ourselves advancing.

As we rode forward from the foot of the hill, he in front of his platoon and I abreast of him, in front of mine, Walker (afterward captain) inquired in the most solemn tones, “Custer, what weapon are you going to use in the charge?” From my earliest notions of the true cavalryman I had always pictured him in the charge bearing aloft his curved sabre, and cleaving the skulls of all with whom he came in contact. We had but two weapons to choose from: each of us carried a sabre and one revolver in our belt. I promptly replied, “The Sabre”, and suiting the action to the word, I flashed my bright new blade from its scabbard, and rode forward as if totally unconcerned. Walker, yielding no doubt to what he believed was “the way we do it at West Point,” imitated my motion, and forth came his sabre. I may have seemed to him unconcerned, because I aimed at this, but I was far from enjoying that feeling.

As we rode at a deliberate walk up the hill, I began arguing in my own mind as to the comparative merits of the sabre and revolver as a weapon of attack. If I remember correctly, I reasoned pro and con about as follows: “Now, the sabre is a beautiful weapon; it produces an ugly wound; the term ‘sabre charge’ sounds well; and above all the sabre is sure; it never misses fire. It has this drawback, however: in order to be made effective it is indispensable that you approach very close to your adversary – so close that if you do not unhorse or disable him, he will most likely render that service to you. So much for the sabre.

“Now as to the revolver, it has this advantage over the sabre: one is not compelled to range himself alongside his adversary before beginning his attack, but may select his own time and distance. To be sure, one may miss his aim, but there are six chambers to empty, and if one, two, or three miss, there are still three shots left to fire at close quarters. As this is my first battle, had I not better defer the use of the sabre until I have acquired a little more experience?”

The result was that I returned my sabre to its scabbard, and without uttering a word drew my revolver and poised it opposite my shoulder. Walker, as if following me in my mental discussion, no sooner observed my change of weapon than he did likewise. With my revolver in my hand I put it upon trial mentally. First, I realized that in the rush and excitement of the charge it would be difficult to take anything like accurate aim. Then, might not every shot be fired, and without result…? In all probability we would be in the midst of our enemies, and slashing right and left at each other, in which case a sabre would be of much greater value and service than an empty revolver. This seemed convincing; so much so that my revolver found its way again to its holster, and the sabre was again at my shoulder. Again did Walker, as if in pantomime, follow my example.

How often these changes of purpose and weapons might have been made I know not – had the cavalry not reached the crest meanwhile and, after being exposed to a hot artillery fire and finding that no direct attack upon our battery was meditated by the enemy, returned to a sheltered piece of ground.

A little incident occurred as we were about to move forward to the expected charge, which is perhaps worth recording. Next to the company with which I was serving was one which I noticed as being in most excellent order and equipment. The officer in charge of it was of striking appearance, tall, well-formed, and handsome, and possessing withal a most soldierly air. I did not then know his name, but being so near to him and to his command, I could not but observe him.

When the order came for us to move forward up the hill, and to be prepared to charge the moment the crest was reached. I saw the officer referred to ride gallantly in front of his command, and just as the signal forward was given, I heard him say, “Now men, do your duty.” I was attracted by his soldierly words and bearing, and yet within a few days after the battle he tendered his resignation, and in a short time was serving under the Confederate flag as a general officer.

When the retreat began, my company and one other of cavalry, and a section of artillery, command by Captain Arnold, came under the personal direction and control of Colonel Heintzelman, with whome we moved toward Centreville. Colonel Heintzelman, although suffering from a painful wound, continued to exercise command, and maintained his seat in the saddle. The two companies of cavalry and the section of Arnold’s battery moved off the field in good order, and were the last organized Union troops to retire across Bull Run.

Within about two miles of Centreville, at the bridge across Cub Run, the crossing was found to be completely blocked up by broken wagons and ambulances. There being no other crossing available, and the enemy having opened with artillery from a position a short distance below the bridge, and commanding the latter, Captain Arnold was forced to abandon his guns. The cavalry found a passable ford for their purpose, and from this point no further molestation was encountered from the enemy After halting a few hours in some old camps near Centreville, it now being dark, the march was resumed, and kept up until Arlington was reached, during the forenoon of the 22d.

I little imagined when making my night ride from Washington to Centreville the night of the 20th, that the following night should find me returning with a defeated and demoralized army. It was with the greatest difficulty that many of the regiments could be halted on the Arlington side of Long Bridge, do determined were they to seek safety and rest under the very walls of the capital. Some of the regiments lost more men after the battle and retreat had ended than had been killed, wounded, and captured by the enemy. Three-fourths of one regiment, known as the Zouaves, disappeared in this way. Many of the soldiers continued their flight until they reached New York…

The press and people of the South accepted the result of the battle as forecasting if not already assuring the ultimate success of their cause, and marking, as they expressed it, the birth of a nation, and while this temporary advantage may have excited and increased their faith as well as their numbers, by drawing or driving into their ranks the lukewarm and those inclined to remain loyal, yet it was a source of weakness as well, from the fact that the people of the South were in a measure confirmed in the very prevalent belief which had long existed in the Southern states regarding the great superiority in battle of the Southron over his fellow countryman in colder climes. This impression maintained its hold upon the minds of the people of the South and upon the Southern soldiery until eradicated by months and years of determined battle.

The loyal North accepted its defeat in the most commendable manner, and this remark is true whether applied to the officials of the states and general government or to the people at large. There was no indulging in vain or idle regrets; there was no flinching from the support and defense of the Union; there was least of all hesitation as to the proper course to pursue. If the idea of compromise had been vainly cherished by any portion of the people, it had vanished, and but one sentiment, one purpose actuated the men of the North, as if acting under a single will.

Men were hurried forward from all the loyal states; more offered their services than the government was prepared to accept. The defeat of the Union arms forced the North to coolly calculate the immense task before it in attempting to overthrow the military strength of the insurgent states. Had Bull Run resulted otherwise than it did, had the North instead of the South been the victor, there would have been danger of a feeling of false security pervading the minds of the people of the North. Their patriotism would not have been awakened by success as it was by disaster; they would not have felt called upon to abandon the farm, the workshop, the counting room, and the pulpit in order to save a government tottering almost upon the brink of destruction.

Before passing from the consideration of the Battle of Bull Run, the plan of the battle is entitled to a few words. No subsequent battle of the war, no matter how successful or important in result, was more carefully or prudently planned; and so far as left to the accomplishment of what he had proposed to da and what he had expressly stipulated he would do – the overthrow of Beauregard’s army – McDowell did all and more than had been expected of him. He had asked that the Confederate forces in the Valley under Johnston should be prevented from reinforcing Beauregard, but this was not done. Johnston united most of his force with that of Beauregard before the battle began; and even over these combined armies McDowell’s plan of battle, after hours of severe struggle, was carried to successful execution and only failed in attaining final triumph by the arrival at a critical moment of fresh troops from the Valley.

From Civil War Times Illustrated (submitted there by Peter Cozzens), The Necessary Defeat, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 8, March 1999. Thanks to reader Jon-Erik Gilot

Part 1
Part 2

 





Bull Runnings at West Point

6 11 2017

On Friday, October 20, my family toured the grounds of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. Thanks to our mutual friend Dr. Carol Reardon, we were given a guided tour of the post cemetery by military history instructor Lt. Col. David Siry (Dave’s efforts bring us the wonderful West Point Center for Oral History features, which you can also follow on its Facebook page). It was all a little overwhelming – in such a small plot of land, you’re pretty much tripping over U. S. Army history with every step. Cemeteries have the most significant emotional impact of any historic sites for me – not only are they the resting places of the mortal remains of the people I’ve read so much about, but the gravesites were often the last place where loved ones gathered with them, where they were remembered and “sent off” to, well, wherever we think they go. I could have spent a week in the West Point Cemetery. But, of course, I couldn’t. Now, we only had the one day, and it was a football weekend (Army beat Temple on a pass play the next day…A COMPLETED PASS!!!), so before you say “Oh, you should have seen X, Y, or Z” we saw as much as we could see in the time we had. Below, I’ll recap the day via photos of First Bull Run related items. (I took about 275 photos, and they’re not all BR1 related, but this is a First Bull Run site. I’ll post other Civil War related shots on the Bull Runnings Facebook page if you’re interested.)

First thing, if you want to visit the Academy, you’ll need to get clearance and an ID at the off post visitor’s center, where the museum is (we didn’t get back there until after 4:00, when the museum closed.) It’s not too bad – you need your driver’s license and your social security number. Our process took a little longer because it was a football weekend, and alumni and cadet parents get preference. The photo ID is good for up to a year, and it makes a cool souvenir too. Just be patient and don’t try to make too much small talk with the processors.

We picked up Dave near his office in Thayer Hall, and it was off to the cemetery, with our guide describing points of interest along the way. One thing’s for sure: the Academy is very, very gray. Gray, stone, imposing buildings predominate. This stood out in stark contrast to the amazing Fall colors of the Hudson Valley. And we had a beautiful, clear day. (Click on any image for a great-big-giant one.)

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Gray – I think that is Thayer Hall to the right.

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Not gray – The Hudson Valley from Trophy Point

Here are the Fist Bull Runners as we came across them in the cemetery:

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Alonzo Cushing, who was with Co. G, 2nd U. S. Artillery. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in June, 2014

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Erasmus Keyes, Brigade Commander, Tyler’s Division

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Keyes rear

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George Sykes, commanded the U. S. Regular Battalion

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General-in-Chief Winfield Scott

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Mrs. Scott

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Sylvanus Thayer – 5th Superintendent and “Father” of the U. S. Military Academy

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Joseph Audenried – ADC to Brig. Gen. Daniel Tyler

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George Armstrong Custer – 2nd U. S. Cavalry

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George Armstrong Custer – 2nd U. S. Cavalry

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George Armstrong Custer – 2nd U. S. Cavalry

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George Armstrong Custer – 2nd U. S. Cavalry

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Elizabeth Bacon Custer

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Lt. Col. Siry and I discuss the history of the Custer memorial as my son listens in

Dennis Hart Mahan and his ideas on engineering and military theory had perhaps the greatest influence on the cadets at West Point. In 1871, after the Board of Visitors recommended he retire, he leapt into the paddlewheel of a Hudson River steamboat.

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The Old Cadet Chapel served as the Academy’s place of worship from 1836 until it was replaced by the current Cadet Chapel and moved to the cemetery from its original location, brick by brick through the efforts of alumni, in 1910. It was in this building that cadets gathered in 1861, in the wake of resignations of cadets from southern states, to take a new Oath of Allegiance to the United States and its constitution. Mounted on the walls inside are war trophies and plaques to various individuals, including past superintendents, the first graduating class (2 cadets), and one plaque that lists no name, in non-recognition of former post commander Major General Benedict Arnold (the day before, in Tarrytown, NY, I visited a couple of sites pertaining to the capture of the treacherous Arnold’s British contact, Major John Andre).

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Winfield Scott’s pew used in his retirement. He sat next to a column at the far end, which obscured his often dozing form from the view of the officiant.

The new (107-year-old) Cadet Chapel is adorned with representative flags of various Civil War regular units, some of which were present at First Bull Run. It’s also home to the world’s largest chapel pipe organ, with 23,511 pipes. Despite having played – in church, no less – as a youth, I was not going to embarrass myself…

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This pew is not used, and the candle remains lit in remembrance of those cadets who did not return home (per an overheard tour guide)

Trophy Point overlooks the Hudson Valley and offers one of the most scenic views in the nation. For many years it was the site of graduation ceremonies, and now is home to a large artillery display (many prizes of war, hence “Trophy Point”) and one of the tallest polished granite columns (46 feet tall, 5 feet in diameter) in the world, the Battle Monument. Designed by architect Stanford White, the Battle Monument displays the names of regular army officers and men who perished in the Civil War. The column is topped by the figure of “Fame.” The names of fallen Regular officers encircle the column, first those on staff, then those in the regular regiments and batteries. Enlisted men’s names are inscribed around eight globes placed around the column.  There are over 2,200 names in all. Each of the eight globes is adorned with two cannons, each muzzle inscribed with the name of a Civil War battle. Here are a few shots of the monument, with particular attention to First Bull Run related items.

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Capt. Otis H. Tillinghast, Acting Assistant Quartermaster, McDowell’s Staff, mortally wounded at First Bull Run

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Lt. Patrick H. O’Rorke, ADC to B. G. Daniel Tyler; Cadet John R. Meigs, attached to staff of Maj. Henry Hunt, 2nd U. S. Artillery

I’m sure there are names I missed, but again, this was on the fly. Maybe next time.

All-in-all, a great trip. We saw a great deal in addition to what I included above, yet I can’t imagine leaving this place, particularly on such a beautiful fall day, without wishing I had more time. Thanks so much to Lt. Col. David Siry for his fine tour of the cemetery. If you get the chance to visit the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, definitely do it. And give it as much time as possible. It’s an informative and even moving experience.

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Lt. Col. David Siry at the grave of Capt. Ronald Zinn, Class of 1962, whose unusual gait led him to race walking and the 1960 & 1964 U. S. Olympic teams

 





2nd Lt. George Armstrong Custer, Co. G, 2nd U. S. Cavalry, On Travelling to the Field and the Battle (Part 2)

7 10 2017

In the preceding chapter I described my night ride from Washington to the camp of McDowell’s army at and about Centreville. After delivering my dispatches and concluding my business at headquarters, I remounted my horse, and having been directed in the darkness the way to the ground occupied by Palmer’s seven companies of cavalry, I set out to find my company for the first time, and report to the commanding officer for duty before the column should begin the march to the battleground.

As previously informed by a staff officer at headquarters, I found it necessary only to ride a few hundred yards, when suddenly I came upon a column of cavalry already mounted and in readiness to move. It was still so dark that I could see but a few lengths of my horse in any direction. I accosted one of the troopers nearest me., and inquired, “What cavalry is this?” “Major Palmer’s,” was the brief reply. I followed up my interrogations by asking, “Can you tell me where Company G, Second Cavalry, is?” the company to which I had been assigned, but as yet had not seen. “At the head of the column,” came in response.

Making my way along the column in the darkness, I soon reached the head, where I found several horsemen seated upon their horses, but not formed regularly in column. There was not sufficient light to distinguish emblems of rank, or to recognize the officer from the private soldier. With some hesitation I addressed the group, numbering perhaps a half dozen or so individuals, and asked if the commanding officer of my company, giving the designation by letter and regiment, was present. “Here his is,” promptly answered a voice, as one of the mounted figures rode toward me, expecting no doubt I was a staff officer bearing orders requiring his attention.

I introduced myself by saying, “I am Lieutenant Custer, and in accordance with orders from the War Department, I report for duty with my company, sir.” “Ah, glad to meet you Mr. Custer. We have been expecting you, as we saw in the list of assignments of the graduating class from West Point, that you had been marked down to us. I am Lieutenant Drummond. Allow me to introduce you to some of your brother officers.” Then, turning his horse toward the group of officers, he added, “Gentlemen, permit me to introduce you to Lieutenant Custer, who has just reported for duty with his company.” We bowed to each other, although we could see but little more than the dim outlines of horses and riders as we chatted and awaited the order to move “forward.” This was my introduction to service, and my first greeting from officers and comrades with whom the future fortunes of war was to cast me. Lieutenant Drummond, afterward captain, to whom I had just made myself known, fell mortally wounded at the Battle of Five Forks, nearly four years afterward.

While it is not proposed to discuss in detail the movements of troops during the Battle of Bull Run or Manassas, a general reference to the positions held by each of the contending armies the night preceding combat may be of material aid to the reader. Beauregard’s headquarters were at or near Manassas, distant from Centreville, where General McDowell was located in the midst of his army, about seven miles. The stream which gave its name to the battle runs in a southwest direction between Centreville and Manassas, somewhat nearer to the former place than to the latter.

The Confederate army was posted in position along the right bank of Bull Run, their right resting near Union Mill, the point at which the Orange and Alexandria Railroad crosses the stream, their center at Blackburn’s Ford, while their left was opposite the Stone Bridge, or crossing of the Warrenton Pike, at the same time holding a small ford about one mile above the Stone Bridge. Beauregard’s entire force that day numbered a few hundred over 23,000 with 55 pieces of artillery, notwithstanding that the president of the Confederacy, who arrived on the battlefield just before the termination of the battle, telegraphed to Richmond, “Our force was 15,000.” Ewell commanded on the Confederate right; Longstreet in the center, at Blackburn’s Ford; and Evans the left, at and above the Stone Bridge.

The Federal forces were encamped mainly opposite the left center of their adversary’s line. The numbers of the two contending armies were very nearly equal, the advantage, if any, in this respect, resting with the Union troops; neither exceeded the force of the other beyond a few hundred. General McDowell crossed Bull Run, in making his attack on the enemy that day, with only 18,000 men and 22 guns. But to this number of men and guns must be added nearly an equal number left on the east side of Bull Run for the double purpose of constituting a reserve and occupying the enemy’s attention. All of these troops were more or less under fire during the progress of the battle. Thus it will be seen that the number of men was about equal in both armies, while the Confederates had six pieces of artillery in excess of the number employed by their adversaries.

Reconnaissances and a skirmish with the enemy on the 18th had satisfied General McDowell that an attack on the enemy’s center or left did not promise satisfactory results. He decided, therefore, to make a feigned attack on the enemy’s center at Blackburn’s Ford, and at the same time to cross Bull Run at a point above that held by the enemy, and double his adversaries left flank back upon the center and right, and at the same time endeavor to extend his own force beyond Bull Run sufficiently far to get possession of and destroy the Manassas Gap Railroad, thus severing communications between Beauregard’s army and its supports in the valley beyond.

McDowell’s forces, those engaged in the battle…divided into four divisions, commanded by Brigadier General Daniel Tyler, Connecticut volunteers; Colonels David Hunter, S. P, Heintzelman, and D. S. Miles. Tyler’s division was to occupy the attention of the enemy by threatening movements in front of the Stone Bridge, while the divisions of Hunter and Heintzelman were to move up Bull Run, keeping beyond the observation of the enemy, cross that stream, and turn the enemy’s left flank. Miles’s division was to constitute the reserve of the Federal army, and to occupy ground near Centreville. Richardson’s brigade of Tyler’s division was to act in concert with the latter, under Miles, and to threaten with artillery alone the enemy stationed at Blackburn’s Ford. Still another division, Runyon’s, formed a part of McDowell’s forces, but was not made available at the battle of the 21st, being occupied in guarding the communication of the army as far as Vienna, and the Orange and Alexandria Railroad; the nearest regiment being seven miles in rear of Centreville. It will thus be seen that as McDowell only crossed 18.000 men over Bull Run to attack about 32,000 of the enemy, his reserve, not embracing Runyon’s division, was but little less in number than his attacking force.

One of the conditions under which General McDowell consented to the movement against the enemy at Manassas was that the Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley, under Johnston, who were then being confronted, and supposed to be held in check by the Federal army, under Major General Patterson of the Pennsylvania volunteers, should not be permitted to unite with the forces of Beauregard.

This was expecting more than could be performed, unless Patterson had been ordered to attack simultaneously with the movement of McDowell. As it was, Beauregard no sooner learned of McDowell’s advance on the 17th of July than Johnston was ordered by the Confederate authorities at Richmond to form an immediate junction at Manassas with Beauregard. Other troops, under Holmes, consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, amounting to about one brigade, were also ordered to join Beauregard.

The promised arrival of these heavy reinforcements induced Beauregard to depart from his resolution to act upon the defensive. He determined to attack General McDowell at Centreville as soon as he should be assured of the near arrival of Johnston’s and Holmes’s commands. His first plan was to have a portion of Johnston’s army march from the valley by way of Aldie, and attack McDowell in rear and upon his right flank, while his own army should make an attack directly in front. This plan was abandoned, and instead it was agreed between Beauregard and Johnston that the forces of both should be united west of Bull Run, and matched to the direct attack of the Federals.

In pursuance of this plan Johnston arrived at Manassas at noon on the 20th, the day preceding the battle, and being senior to Beauregard in rank, he nominally assumed command of both Confederate armies, but assented to Beauregard’s plans, and virtually conceded their execution to that general.

It is somewhat remarkable that the Federal and Confederate commanders had each determined to attack the other on the same day, the 21st. The Confederate general was induced to alter his plan, and act upon the defensive, but a few hours before his lines were assailed by McDowell; his decision in this matter being influenced by two circumstances. One was the detention of about 8,000 of Johnston’s men, whose presence had been relied upon; the other was the discovery several hours before daylight that the Federal army was itself advancing to the attack. Beauregard had ordered his forces under arms and was awaiting his adversary’s attack at half-past four o’clock the morning of the 21st.

Reasoning correctly that McDowell was not likely to attack his center at Blackburn’s Ford, not to operate heavily against his right near Union Mills, Beauregard no sooner discovered the movement of Hunter’s and Heintzelman’s divisions, to pass above and around his left flank at Sudley Springs, than he began moving up his reserves and forming his left wing in readiness to receive the attacking division as soon as the latter should cross Bull Run.

Hunter and Heintzelman were forced to make a much longer detour, in order to make the designated crossings of Bull Run, than had been anticipated.

The first gun announcing the commencement of the battle was fired from Tyler’s division in front of the Stone Bridge. It was not until nearly 10:00 A. M. that the troops of Hunter’s division came in contact with the enemy near Sudley Springs.

Once over the stream, both Hunter and Heintzelman promptly engaged the enemy, and slowly forced his entire left wing back until the troops under Tyler were able to cross and participate in the battle. Beauregard, soon after satisfying himself of the real character and direction of his adversary’s movement, decided upon a counter-attack by throwing his right wing and center across Bull Run at Blackburn’s and Union Mills fords, and endeavoring to do with his enemy exactly what the latter was attempting with him – to turn his right flank. By this movement he hoped to place a large force in rear of Centreville and ensure McDowell’s defeat.

The orders for this movement, which were sent to Ewell on the right, miscarried, and too much time was lost before the mistake could be rectified. It was fortunate for the Confederates that this was the case, as had this turning movement been attempted, the troops sent to the Federal side of Bull Run to execute it would in all probability have been held in check by the heavy Federal reserves under Richardson and Miles, and would have been beyond recall when, later in the day, Beauregard, finding his left giving way in confusion before the successful advance of Hunter’s, Heintzelman’s, and Tyler’s divisions, rapidly moved every available man from his right to the support of his broken left. Had Beauregard attempted to turn the position at Centreville, McDowell would have achieved a complete victory over all the Confederate forces opposed to him on the Confederate side of Bull Run several hours before the arrival upon the battlefield of the Confederate troops from the valley whose coming at a critical time decided the battle in the Confederates’ favor.

With the exception of a little tardiness in execution, something to be expected perhaps in raw troops, the plan of battle marked out by General McDowell was carried out with remarkable precision up till about 3:30 P.M. The Confederate left wing had been gradually forced back from Bull Run until the Federals gained entire possession of the Warrenton Turnpike leading from the Stone Bridge. It is known now that Beauregard’s army had become broken and routed, and that both himself and General Johnston felt called upon to place themselves at the head of their defeated commands, including their last reserves, in their effort to restore confidence and order; General Johnston at one critical moment charged to the front with the colors of the Fourth Alabama. Had the fate of the battle been left to the decision of those who were present and fought up till half-past three in the afternoon, the Union troops would have been entitled to score a victory with scarcely a serious reverse. But at this critical moment, with their enemies in front giving way in disorder and flight, a new and to the Federals unexpected force appeared suddenly upon the scene. From a piece of timber directly in rear of McDowell’s right a column of several thousand fresh troops of the enemy burst almost upon the backs of the half-victorious Federals.

From Civil War Times Illustrated (submitted there by Peter Cozzens), The Half-Victorious Federals, Vol. XXXVII, No. 7, February 1999

Part 1
Part 3





Recap: Brandy Station Foundation

30 09 2017

On this past Sunday, Sept. 24, I delivered my Kilpatrick Family Ties program to the Brandy Station Foundation down in Culpeper, Virginia. This is a pretty long (4.5 hours) drive for me, so I turned it into a weekend trip and stayed in Warrenton. So let me recap my trip, with special emphasis on items of First Bull Run interest. Click on any image for a larger one.

I got into Warrenton around 6:00 PM, checked into my room, then headed to the historic district. I’ve never visited Warrenton before, so it was all new to me. First up was what is touted as the post-war home of Col. John Singleton Mosby though, based on length of residence, it may better be described as the post-war home of General Eppa Hunton, colonel of the 8th Virginia Infantry regiment at First Bull Run (read his battle memoir here, and his after action report here). Hunton made “Brentmoor” his home from 1877 to 1902, after purchasing it from Mosby.

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In the “law complex” section I found California, the pre-war home of William “Extra Billy” Smith, who commanded the 49th Virginia battalion at First Bull Run (memoir here, official report here). After the war, this building housed Mosby’s law office. Smith was a pre-war and wartime governor of Virginia.

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A few blocks away at 194 Culpeper St. is “Mecca,” a private residence built in 1859. It served as a Confederate hospital to the wounded of First Bull Run, and later as headquarters to Union generals McDowell, Sumner, and Russell.

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The Warrenton Cemetery is the resting place for many Confederate soldiers, most famously Mosby. Also there is William Henry Fitzhugh “Billy” Payne, with Warrenton’s Black Horse Troop at First Bull Run.

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Saturday was spent touring the battlefield of Brandy Station and sites associated with the Army of the Potomac’s 1863-1864 winter encampment with two experts on both, Clark “Bud” Hall and Craig Swain of To the Sound of the Guns. I admit to knowing very little about either of topic, but was given a good foundation for further exploration. I also learned that some red pickup trucks can go absolutely anywhere, and there is good beer around Culpeper.

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L to R – Me, Bud Hall, Craig Swain

Not a whole lot of First Bull Run stuff on the field, though. But the first thing I saw when I got to Fleetwood Hill was “Beauregard,” the home in which Roberdeau Wheat of the First Louisiana Special Battalion recovered from his Bull Run wounds, first thought to be mortal. The name of the house at the time was “Bellevue.” Wheat recommended the name change, in honor of his commanding general and in recognition of the similar translation of both names.

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View of “Beauregard” from Fleetwood Hill

Sunday found me back in Culpeper at the Brandy Station Foundation where, as I said, I presented Kilpatrick Family Ties to a modest audience. I made some late changes to the program on Saturday night, adding one pertinent site from Warrenton (the Warren Green Hotel where one of the characters in the presentation lived for a year) and “Rose Hill,” the home Kilpatrick made his HQ during the winter of 1863-1864. But I did run into a couple of Bull Run items. First, the monument to John Pelham that was previously located near Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River (it was in a really bad location) has been relocated to the Graffiti House, home of the Brandy Station Foundation. Pelham, if you recall, was in command of Alburtis’s Battery (Wise Artillery) at First Bull Run (personal correspondence here).

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As most of you know, the Graffiti House at Brandy Sation was occupied by both Confederate and Union soldiers during the war. Over its course, soldiers of all stripes inscribed on its walls with charcoal signatures, drawings, and sayings of an astounding quantity. These were both obscured and preserved by whitewash after the return of its exiled owners, and were rediscovered in 1993. The Brandy Station Foundation has lovingly restored and preserved much of the dwelling, and you should make the Graffiti House a bullet point on you bucket list.

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Graffiti House, Brandy Station (Culpeper), VA

I’ll end this post with a shot of the signature of a prominent First Bull Run participant on one of the second floor walls. Can you see it? Here is his official report.

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Signature of Joe Johnston’s First Bull Run cavalry chief

 





2nd Lt. George Armstrong Custer, Co. G, 2nd U. S. Cavalry, On Traveling to the Field and the Battle (Part 1)

20 09 2017

I left West Point on the 18th of July for Washington, delaying a few hours that afternoon on my arrival in New York to enable me to purchase, of the well-known military firm of Horstman’s, my lieutenant’s outfit of sabre, revolver, sash, spurs, etc. Taking the evening train for Washington, I found the cars crowded with troops, officers, and men hastening to the capital.

At each station we passed on the road at which a halt was made, crowds of citizens were assembled provided bountifully with refreshments, which they distributed in the most lavish manner among the troops. Their enthusiasm knew no bounds, they received us with cheers and cheered us in parting. It was no unusual sight, on leaving a station surrounded by these loyal people, to see matrons and maidens embracing and kissing with patriotic fervor the men, entire strangers to them, whom they saw hastening to the defense of the nation.

Arriving at Washington soon after daylight, Saturday morning, the 20th of July, I made my way to the Ebbit House, where I expected to meet some of my classmates domiciled. Among others I found there was Parker, appointed from Missouri, who had been my room- and tent-mate at West Point for years. He was one of the few members of my class who, while sympathizing with the south, had remained at the Academy long enough to graduate and secure a diploma. Proceeding to his room without going through the formality of announcing my arrival by sending a card, I found him at that early hour still in bed. Briefly he responded to my anxious inquiry for news, that McDowell’s army was confronting Beauregard’s, and a general engagement was expected hourly. My next inquiry was as to his future plans and intentions, remembering his Southern sympathies. To this he replied by asking me to take from a table near by and read an official order to which he pointed.

Upon opening the document referred to, I found it to be an order from the War Department dismissing from the roles of the army Second Lieutenant James P. Parker, for having tendered his resignation in the face of the enemy. The names of two others of my classmates appeared in the same order. After an hour or more of discussing the dark probabilities of the future as particularly affected by the clouds of impending war, I bade a fond farewell to my former friend and classmate, with whom I had lived on terms of closer intimacy than with any other being. We had eaten day by day at the same table, had struggled together in the effort to master the same problems of study; we had marched by each other’s side year after year, elbow to elbow, when engaged in the duties of drill, parade, etc., and had shared our blankets with each other when learning the requirements of camp life. Henceforth this was all to be thrust from our memory as far as possible, and our paths and aims in life were to run counter to each other in the future.

We separated; he to make his way, as he did immediately, to the seat of the Confederate Government, and accept a commission under a flag raised in rebellion against the government that had educated him, and that he had sworn to defend; I to proceed to the office of the Adjutant General of the Army and report for such duty as might be assigned me in the great work which was then dearest and uppermost in the mind of every loyal citizen of the country.

It was not until after two o’clock in the morning that I obtained an audience with the Adjutant General of the Army and reported to him formally for orders, as my instructions directed me to do. I was greatly impressed by the number of officials I saw and the numerous messengers to be seen flitting from room to room, bearing immense numbers of huge-looking envelopes. The entire department had an air of busy occupation which, taken in connection with the important military events then daily transpiring and hourly expected, and contrasted with the humdrum life I had but lately led as a cadet, added to the bewilderment I naturally felt.

Presenting my order of instructions to the officer who seemed to be in charge of the office, he glanced at it, and was about to give some directions to a subordinate nearby to write out an order assigning me to some duty when, turning to me, he said, “Perhaps you would like to be presented to General Scott, Mr. Custer?” To which I of course joyfully assented.

I had often beheld the towering form of the venerable chieftain during his summer visits to West Point, but that was the extent of my personal acquaintance with him. So strict was the discipline at that Academy that the gulf which separated cadets from commissioned officers seemed greater in practice thant that which separated enlisted men from them. Hence it was rare indeed that a cadet ever had an opportunity to address or be addressed by officers, and it was still more rare to be brought into personal conversation with an officer above the grade of lieutenant or captain, if we except the superintendent of the Academy and the commandant of the corps of cadets. The sight of a general officer, let alone the privilege of speaking to one, was an event to be recounted to one’s friends. In those days the title of general was not so familiar as to be encountered on every hotel register. Besides, the renown of a long lifetime of gallantry in his country’s service had gradually but justly placed General Scott far above all contemporary chieftains in the admiration and hero worship of his fellow countrymen; and in the youthful minds of the West Point cadets of those days Scott was looked up to as a leader whose military abilities were scarcely second to those of a Napoleon, and whose patriotism rivaled that of Washington.

Following the lead of the officers to whom I had reported, I was conducted to the room in which General Scott received his official visitors. I found him seated at a table over which were spread maps and other documents which plainly showed their military character. In the room, and seated near the table, were several members of Congress, of whom I remember Senator Grimes of Iowa.

The topic of conversation was the approaching battle in which General McDowell’s forces were about to engage. General Scott seemed to be explaining to the congressmen the position, as shown by the map, of the contending armies. The adjutant general called General Scott’s attention to me by saying, “General, this is Lieutenant Custer of the Second Cavalry; he has just reported from West Point and I did not know but that you might have some special orders for him.”

Looking at me for a moment, the general shook me cordially by the hand, saying, “Well, my young friend, I am glad to welcome you to the service at this critical time. Our country has need of the strong arms of all her loyal sons in this emergency.” Then, turning to the adjutant general, he inquired to what company I had been assigned. “To Company G, Second Cavalry, now under Major Innis Palmer, with General McDowell,” was the reply. Then, addressing me, the general said, “We have had the assistance of quite a number of you young men from the Academy, drilling volunteers, etc. Now what can I do for you? Would you prefer to be ordered to report to General Mansfield to aid in this work, or is your desire for something more active?”

Although overwhelmed by such condescension upon the part of one so superior in rank to any officer with whom I had been brought in immediate contact, I ventured to stammer out that I earnestly desired to be ordered to at once join my company, then with General McDowell, as I was anxious to see active service. “A very commendable resolution, young man,” was the reply; then, turning to the adjutant general, he added, “Make out ;lieutenant Custer’s orders directing him to proceed to his company at once”; then, as if a different project had presented itself, he inquired of me if I had been able to provided myself with a mount for the field. I relpied that I had not, but would set myself about doing so at once.

“I fear you have a difficult task before you, because, if rumor is correct, every serviceable horse in the city has been bought, borrowed, or begged by citizens who have gone or are going as spectators to witness the battle. Beauregard may capture some of them and teach them a lesson. However, I what I desire to say to you is, go and provide yourself with a horse if possible, and call here at seven o’clock this evening. I desire to send some dispatches to General McDowell, and you can be the bearer of them. You are not afraid of a night ride, are you?”

Exchanging salutations, I left the presence of the general-in-chief, delighted at the prospect of being at once thrown into active service, perhaps participating in the great battle which everyone there knew was on the eve of occurring; but more than this my pride as a soldier was not a little heightened by the fact that almost upon my first entering the service I was to be the bearer of important official dispatches from the general-in-chief to the general commanding the principal army in the field.

I had yet a difficult task before me in procuring a mount. I visited all the prominent livery stables, but received almost the same answer from each, the substance of which was that I was too late; all the serviceable horses had been let or engaged. I was almost in despair of the idea that I was not to be able to take advantage of the splendid opportunity for distinction opened before me, and was at a loss what to do, or to whom to apply for advice, when I met on Pennsylvania Avenue a soldier in uniform, whom I at once recognizes as one of the detachment formerly stationed at West Point, who left with those ordered suddenly to the defense of Washington at the time of Mr. Lincoln’s inauguration, when it was feared attempts would be made to assassinate the president-elect.

Glad to encounter anyone I had ever seen before, I approached and asked him what he was doing in Washington. He answered that he belonged to Griffin’s battery, which was then with McDowell’s forces at the front, and had returned to Washington by Captain Griffin’s order, to obtain and take back with him an extra horse left by the battery on its departure from the capital. Here then was my opportunity, and I at once availed myself of it. It was the intention of this man to set out on his return at once; but at my earnest solicitation he consented to defer his departure until after seven o’clock, agreeing also to have the extra horse saddled and in readiness for me.

Promptly at seven o’clock I reported at the adjutant general’s office, obtaining my dispatches, and with no baggage or extra clothing to weigh down my horse, save what I carried on my person, I repaired to the point at which I was to find my horse and companion for the night. Upon arriving there I was both surprised and delighted to discover that the horse which accident seemed to have provided for me was a favorite one ridden by me often when learning the cavalry exercises at West Point. Those who were cadets just before the war will probably recall him to mind when I give the name “Wellington,” by which he was then known.

Crossing Long Bridge about nightfall, and taking the Fairfax Court House road for Centreville, the hours of night flew quickly past, engrossed as my mind was with the excitement and serious novelty of the occasion as well as occasionally diverted by the conversation of my companion. I was particularly interested with his description, given as we rode in the silent darkness, of a skirmish days before at Blackburn’s Ford, between the forces of the enemy stationed there and a reconnoitering detachment sent from General McDowell’s army; especially when I learned that my company had borne an honorable part of the battle.

It was between two and three o’clock in the morning when we reached the army near Centreville. The men had already breakfasted, and many of the regiments had been formed in column in the roads ready to resume the march; but owing to delays in starting, most of the men were lying on the ground, endeavoring to catch a few minutes more of sleep; others were sitting or standing in small groups smoking and chatting.

So filled did I find the road with soldiers that it was with difficulty my horse could pick his way among the sleeping bodies without disturbing them. But for my companion I should have had considerable difficulty in finding my way to headquarters, but he seemed familiar with the localities even in the darkness, and soon conducted me to a group of tents near which a large log fire was blazing, throwing a bright light over the entire scene for some distance around.

As I approached, the sound of my horse’s hoofs brought an officer from one of the tents nearest to where I halted. Advancing toward me, he inquired who I wanted to see. I informed him I was the bearer of dispatches from General Scott to General McDowell. “I will relieve you of them,” was his reply, but seeing me hesitate to deliver them, he added, “I am Major Wadsworth of McDowell’s staff.”

While I had hoped from ambitious pride to have an opportunity to deliver the dispatches in person to General McDowell, I could not decline longer, so placed the documents in Major Wadsworth’s hands, who took them to a tent a few paces distant, where, through half-open folds, I saw him hand them to a large, portly officer, whom I at once recognized to be General McDowell. Then, returning to where I still sat my horse, Major Wadsworth…asked me of the latest news in the capital, and when I replied that every person at Washington was looking to the army for news, he added, “Well, I guess they will not have to wait much longer. The entire army is under arms, and moving to attack the enemy today.” After inquiring at what hour I left Washington, and remarking that I must be tired, Major Wadsworth asked me to dismount and have some breakfast, as it would be difficult to say when another opportunity would occur.

I was very hungry, and rest would not have been unacceptable, but in my inexperience I partly imagined, particularly while in the presence of the white-haired officer who gave the invitation, that hunger and fatigue were conditions of feeling which a soldier, especially a young one, should not acknowledge. Therefore, with an appetite almost craving, I declined the kind proffer of the major. But when he suggested that I dismount and allow my horse to be fed I gladly assented.

While Major Wadsworth was kindly interesting himself in the welfare of my horse, I had the good fortune to discover in an officer at headquarters one of my recent West Point friends, Lieutenant Kingsbury, aide-de-camp to General McDowell. He repeated the invitation just given by Major Wadsworth in regard to breakfast, but I did not have the perseverance to again refuse.

Near the log fire already mentioned were some servants busily engaged in removing the remains of breakfast. A word from Kingsbury, and they soon prepared me a cup of coffee, a steak, and some Virginia corn bread, to which I did ample justice. Had I known, however, that I was not to have an opportunity to taste food during the next thirty hours, I should have appreciated the opportunity I then enjoyed even more highly.

As I sat on the ground sipping my coffee, and heartily enjoying my first breakfast inn the field, Kingsbury (afterward Colonel Kingsbury, killed at the Battle of Antietam) informed me of the general movement then begun by the army, and of the attack which was to be made on Beauregard’s forces that day.

Three days before, I had quitted school at West Point. I was about to witness the first grand struggle in open battle between the union and secession armies; a struggle which, fortunately for the nation, the Union forces were to suffer defeat, while the cause for which they fought was to derive from it renewed strength and encouragement.

From Civil War Times Illustrated (submitted there by Peter Cozzens), Custer’s First Stand, Vol. XXXVII, No. 6, December, 1998

Part 2
Part 3





Notes on “Early Morning of War” – Part 5

30 06 2017

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

Chapter 5: Escaping the Deathtrap (In which we go back to the Valley. As I said before, I’m not of the school that the Valley is integral to the story of First Bull Run, but the author is, so let’s take a look.)

P. 116 – To bolster his argument that the retention of Harper’s Ferry was vital, Jefferson Davis argued that it’s loss would “interrupt our communication with Maryland, and injure our cause in that state.”

P. 121 – Early on, Col. Ambrose Burnside’s 1st Rhode Island Infantry was part of George Thomas’s brigade of Patterson’s command. This of course would change and Burnside and the 1st RI would have a prominent role at Bull Run.

P. 124 – After taking Harper’s Ferry in mid-June “without firing a shot,” Patterson determined that Johnston’s retreat was so rapid he could not overtake him before Winchester.

P. 124-125 – Part and parcel to the mixed signals Patterson was receiving from Winfield Scott all during his foray into the Valley, after taking Harper’s Ferry, seeing no need for Patterson to press Johnston, Scott ordered the U. S. Regulars and the 1st RI returned to Washington. This left Patterson “with an army composed almost entirely of three-months’ volunteers, half of whose service terms had already expired or were about to.” The author theorizes that part of Scott’s reasoning was “a belated realization that the present campaign would be won or lost in McDowell’s theater. Scott had finally come to see Patterson’s operations as supportive of McDowell’s.” Would he ever communicate this realization to Patterson?

P. 130 – On June 20, on Johnston’s ordered the not-as-yet “Stonewall” Jackson destroyed B&O train cars and tracks at Martinsburg, to deny the resources to the enemy. Johnston ordered this as he understood it in conformance with directives from Richmond. However, the reaction from those quarters was far from laudatory. Maryland politicians and citizens, and especially B&O shareholders, were livid. Johnston’s stock in the Confederacy was now losing value as well.

PP. 135-137 – Also on the 20th, Scott ordered Patterson to submit a plan for moving his army east to support Col. Charles P. Stone’s brigade’s move on Confederate outposts between Leesburg and Washington. Patterson submitted plans for just such a move, which he later argued would have changed events considerably in favor of the Union.But on the 25th, Scott changed his mind and told Patterson to stay at Harper’s Ferry. Scott continued to mix signals [IMO (in my opinion)] by cautioning Patterson to engage Johnston only “if you are in superior or equal force,” but that it “would not due to pursue them as far as Winchester.” In light of later events and Scott’s assertions to the contrary, the General-in-Chief’s directives to Patterson were as clear as mud [again, IMO].

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