New in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War Series is Fight Like the Devil: The First Day at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, by Chris Mackowski, Kristopher D. White, and Daniel T. Davis. Gettysburg nuts fall into one of three categories, typically: Day 1 guys; Day 2 guys; and Day 3 guys. If I fall into one of those categories (though I don’t consider myself a Gettysburg nut, or a more seriously afflicted Frassanidiot), it would have to be Day 1. And to prove it, I joined along with a couple hundred other folks a few weeks ago for an all day walking tour of the Day 1 battlefield. It would have been nice to have this little book along for the ride. It weighs in at 116 pages of text through the epilogue, with another eight (8!) appendices by such luminaries as Matt Atkinson, Dan Welch, and Eric Wittenberg. Nine maps and dozens of modern photos are sprinkled in. And this one’s not without some controversy. I have long wondered at the basis for John Reynolds’s now sterling reputation, given his performance up to July 1, 1863, and it appears Kris White thinks along the same lines for the same reasons in his appendix on the general. And John Cummings weighs in on the location of the famous Gardner “Harvest of Death” photos (I do believe that one has to be either all right or all wrong in these cases.) Other appendices look at Dick Ewell’s decision, J. E. B. Stuart’s ride, shoes, and Pipe Creek. Check it out.
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Tags: ACW Books, Articles, Emerging Civil War, Gettysburg, Savas-Beatie
Categories : Articles, Books
About ten years ago I took a little trip down to North Carolina for a series of tours with an email group to which I still belong. We hit up Monroe’s Crossroads, Averasboro, Bentonville, and Forts Anderson and Fisher. (You can read a bit about the Bull Run connections to Bentonville here.) It would have been nice to have had Daniel Davis’s and Philip Greenwalt’s Calamity in Carolina: The Battles of Averasboro and Bentonville, March 1865, from Savas Beatie, along on that trip. Yet another of the ever growing Emerging Civil War series, Calamity covers those closing battles that pitted the forces of William T. Sherman against the who’s who of the Confederacy presided over by Joe Johnston. The convoluted movements of the armies before, during, and after these engagements could use considerably more than the six maps provided in this slim volume, but let’s keep in mind these are overviews, and you can always pick up a copy of Mark Moore’s Historical Guide to The Battle of Bentonville, which includes Averasboro, if you need to visualize.
Along with numerous period and contemporary illustrations and compact narratives of the actions (91 pages), Calamity includes driving tours and orders of battle for both battles, and appendices on Sherman’s March, Mower’s Attack, a sketch of Joseph A. Mower, the road to Bennett Place, the relationship between Sherman and Johnston, and the story of the preservation of Bentonville Battlefield.
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Tags: ACW Books, Articles, Averasboro, Bentonville, Emerging Civil War, Savas-Beatie
Categories : Articles, Books
This article ran in my Collateral Damage column in Civil War Times back in December, 2010, as Bennett Place, Where the War Really Ended. Click on the thumbnails for larger images I recorded over the years.
The knock came unexpectedly at just about noon that sunny spring day, April 17, 1865. James Bennett and his wife, Nancy, opened the door to their modest three-room, two-story home and were greeted by Union Major General William T. Sherman and Confederate General Joseph Johnston, along with their staffs and escorts, several hundred soldiers in all. Johnston thought the farm which he had passed earlier looked like an appropriate place for them to sit down and talk and Sherman had deferred to his judgment. The Bennetts left their guests and repaired to their detached kitchen, leaving the two men in possession of the main room, which was described as “scrupulously neat, the floors scrubbed to a milky whiteness, the bed in one room very neatly made up, and the few articles of furniture in the room arranged with neatness and taste”. What followed was the first of three meetings between the army group commanders; three meetings that would end – after no little drama – with the surrender on April 26th of nearly 90,000 Confederate soldiers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
James Bennett (he would change the spelling from “Bennitt” after 1860: to avoid confusion the later spelling will be used here) was born in Chatham County, NC on July 11, 1806. In the 1820s he moved to Orange County, and on May 23, 1834 he married Nancy Leigh Pearson. The union produced three children: son Lorenzo in 1832, daughter Eliza Ann in 1834, and son Alphonzo in 1836. After years of struggling financially, in 1846 James was finally able to borrow $400 and purchase a 325 acre farm with an existing cabin along the Hillsboro Road outside Durham, NC, in eastern Orange County. They added siding to the cabin, and by 1854 James was able to pay off the loan, later selling 133 acres for $250.
James had several sources of income. He did some contract hauling; sold food, liquor and lodging to travelers on the Hillsboro Road; and made and sold shoes and clothing. But the family’s primary business was agriculture, and they grew corn which they both consumed and sold. The Bennett farm also produced cantaloupe, watermelon, oats, wheat, and sweet potatoes. Bennett owned no slaves, but hired helpers, including slaves, when he was able.
The war was hard on the Bennetts. Lorenzo, who had enlisted in the 27th NC, fell sick and died in a Winchester, VA army hospital in October 1862. Alfonso died that same year, though it isn’t clear if he died in military service. In August 1864 Eliza’s husband Robert Duke – a brother of Washington Duke for whom Duke University is named – of the 46th NC died of illness in a hospital in Lynchburg, VA. Soon after, Eliza returned to live at Bennett Place with her and Robert’s son, James.
When the “Terms of a Military Convention” were signed by Sherman and Johnston on April 26th, James Bennett was invited to join the generals and their staffs in a celebratory toast. Afterwards, a Union private offered to purchase the table cover on which the agreement had been signed, but Bennett refused. One reporter wrote that relic hunters were so thorough that there would soon be little left to indicate where the house stood.
Two days later, a detail from Kilpatrick’s cavalry division arrived and made Bennett an offer of $10 and a horse for the signing table and cover, with the caveat that they were under orders to take them if he declined the offer. Not surprisingly, he accepted, but despite turning over the table the payment never materialized. In 1870, after learning that the table had subsequently sold for $3,000, Bennett wrote to the governor of North Carolina seeking compensation for it and other items taken from his home, but to no effect. In 1873 he filed a claim with the Southern Claims Commission, but was denied restitution because he had supported the Confederacy.
While his land was spared the ravages of fighting, after the war the productivity of Bennett’s farm dropped off significantly. By 1875 sales of various parcels of his land left him with 175 acres, all of which he sharecropped out in early 1876. James Bennett died in 1879, followed not long after by his wife. By 1889 Eliza’s daughter Roberta Shields was the sole owner of the farm: she sold 35 acres including the house to Brodie L. Duke, a black-sheep son of Washington Duke, in 1890.
By the early 1900’s the farm was reported as deserted, the house in a state of severe disrepair. A protective structure was erected around the house in the latter half of the first decade of the 20th century. Richmond businessman Samuel T. Morgan purchased 31 acres and the house around 1908, but he died in 1920 before anything was done to preserve the structure. In 1921, the Surrender site burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances. All that remained was the stone chimney.
In 1923 a 3 ½ acre plot including the Surrender site and a new monument (Unity) was donated to a non-profit organization, The Bennett Place Memorial Commission, by the Morgan family in return for its promise to maintain the site in perpetuity. But while small improvements were made in the first decade, the site was relatively unvisited for more than 20 years. In 1961, Bennett Place became an official NC State Historic Site. The reconstructed house, kitchen, smokehouse and split rail fence lining the historic Hillsboro Road trace were dedicated, and Bennett Place’s life as a public historic landmark began. Today the site also includes a visitor center with theater, museum, and gift shop, the Everett-Thissen Research Library, and a bandstand.
Thanks to Tonia Smith for her assistance in the preparation of this article. See Arthur C. Menius, James Bennitt: Portrait of an Antebellum Yeoman in The North Carolina Historical Review, October 1981 and the same author, The Bennett Place, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, July 1979
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Tags: Articles, Bennett Place, Civilians, Collateral Damage, In Harm's Way, Joseph Johnston, William Sherman
Categories : Articles, Civil War Magazines, Civilians
Donald Williams, author of Shamrocks and Pluff Mud, sent along this bit from the May 7, 1861 edition of the Charleston Mercury, explaining the actions of the Charleston Meagher Guards militia regarding the individual in whose honor they took their name (see here):
At a meeting of the Meagher Guards, held at the Military Hall on the evening of the 6th inst., the following preamble and resolutions were unanimously adopted:
The report of the committee appointed to inquire into the truth of the rumor that THOMAS FRANCIS MEAGER, Esq. (in honor of whose patriotic efforts for the liberation of Ireland this company was named) had joined the crusade against the Southern States, having been heard—
1. Resolved, That the same be confirmed.
And, whereas, from the said Report, it appears to be true that Mr. Meagher has been carried away by the fanaticism of the North, and has enrolled himself in the ranks of our enemies, taking arms against us in this most unholy war, in support of usurpation and oppression, thus proving himself recreant to the sacred principles of liberty, of which he was hitherto an uncompromising an advocate; therefore,
2. Resolved, That, remembering the services of Mr. MEAGHER in the cause of freedom in Ireland, this Company have learned with infinite disappointment and regret that he too, should have joined the oppressors of this their adopted land.
3. Resolved, That under these circumstances this company can no longer, consistently with its position and dignity, bear his name, and that the same be and hereby is repudiated by them.
4. Resolved, That the name of THOMAS FRANCIS MEAGHER be erased from the roll of the honorary members of this Company.
5. Resolved, That it be referred to a Committee to suggest some suitable name by which this Company shall hereafter be known.
6. Resolved, That a copy of these preamble and resolutions be published in the daily papers of this city, and in the New York, Day Book
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Tags: Articles, Charleston, Irish Soldiers, Meagher Guards, Thomas Francis Meagher
Categories : Articles, Soldiers
Savas-Beatie continues its series of 150th Anniversary revised editions with a rework of John Horn’s 1991 Howard Battles and Leaders Series study, Destruction of the Weldon Railroad Deep Bottom Globe Tavern and Reams Station August 14-25, 1864. The new title is The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864, just so you don’t get confused. The subject is what’s known as Grant’s Fourth Offensive, dubbed the longest and most costly offensive of the Petersburg Campaign, and involved the battles of Second Deep Bottom, Globe Tavern, and Second Reams’s Station.
What you get is 313 pages of text, plus four statistical tables, and three Orders of Battle. The tables are new to this edition, as are the maps by Hampton Newsome (there appear to be plenty of them, but whether or not they serve to illuminate the text remains to be seen.) The text has also been updated with more than 20 years of new research, most notably provided by what has been published as Civil War Talks: The Further Reminiscences of George S. Bernard and His Fellow Veterans, co-edited by Horn, the memoir of a Petersburg lawyer who was a member of the 12th Virginia Infantry.
As usual, you also get a quality hardback binding, real-live footnotes, and a sturdy and colorful jacket. And all for $32.95. Not too shabby!
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Tags: ACW Books, Articles, John Horn, Petersburg, Savas-Beatie
Categories : Articles, Books
I recently received from publisher Savas-Beatie a copy of Stephen M. Hood’s The Lost Papers of Confederate General John Bell Hood. This can be viewed as support, so to speak, for some of Hood’s earlier John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General (see my review here.) In this new, 269 page book author Hood presents and annotates his collateral ancestor’s (mostly) post war private correspondence which has been held by the family since his death (these are separate from his “war papers” which were mysteriously acquired by the National Archives in 1938.) Many of these were composed during the General’s writing of his autobiography, Advance and Retreat. Author Hood has presented the documents by topic, chronologically. Some of the topics: Dr. John Darby’s medical reports concerning Hood’s Gettysburg and Chickamauga wounds; The Atlanta Campaign; Cassville; War strategy after the fall of Atlanta; Spring Hill, Franklin, & Nashville; and Advance and Retreat. An appendix, Laudanum, Legends, and Lore, wraps things up. Richard McMurry provides a foreword. Also included are facsimiles of many of the 126 documents transcribed.
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Tags: ACW Books, Articles, John Bell Hood, Savas-Beatie
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Friend Jim Morgan sent the following message this morning.
Dear friends of historic preservation in Northern Virginia,
As many of you know, the Department of Historical Resources historical marker about the battle of Ball’s Bluff was recently stolen from its location near the intersection of the Route 15 Bypass and Battlefield Parkway. The Friends of Ball’s Bluff have taken on the task of raising funds to replace it. It was one of the very earliest of these markers in the state, as it was first installed in 1928 (though its original location was on Route 15, King Street, near the entrance to the Leesburg Union Cemetery).
Please click on this link to the story in Leesburg Today for all the background and details:
As you will see in the story, we are taking this opportunity to update the text in the new sign. The old one did not provide much information beyond the mere fact of the battle. The updated text is included in the story.
As of today, we have raised about $350 of the $1630 needed for a new sign and we really have just begun this fund-raising campaign. I’m confident that the historical community in this area will come through as it so often does for the various kinds of projects in which we all try to get involved.
Please send any donations to the Friends of Ball’s Bluff at the address noted in the newspaper story. And feel free to pass this appeal along to anyone whom you think might be interested.
Thanks in advance to all of you who can help. Please contact me with any questions.
Best to all,
Chairman, Friends of Ball’s Bluff
UPDATE 2/13/2015: Jim Morgan sends along this info:
I want to let you know that our fund-raising campaign has been a success and we have raised the $1630 necessary to pay for a replacement sign. Thanks to all of you who donated and helped spread the word.
We await the final approval of the text by the DHR board on March 19 but we don’t anticipate any problem with that. Once that’s done, we’ll order the sign. Getting it manufactured and then installed will take a couple of months. We will be holding a dedication ceremony probably in June but I’ll be in touch with final details once everything is arranged.
This campaign went much more quickly than any of us had anticipated. We on the Friends of Ball’s Bluff board deeply appreciate the generosity of the Civil War and historic preservation communities. Again, my sincere thanks.
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Tags: Articles, Ball's Bluff, Jim Morgan, Preservation
Categories : Articles, Preservation
Letter From The 2nd Regiment
Camp Life—The March to the Battle of Bull’s Run—Conduct of the Regiment in the Battle—The Bravery of Officers and Men.
Camp of Sec. Vt. Reg., Clermont, 6 miles
from Alexandria, Va., 1861.
Editors of the Times: I am aware that when I left Burlington I promised to write you often in regard to all matters pertaining to the Vermont Second, and I am equally aware that I have not kept my promise; but when you reflect a moment upon my duties in camp and position in our Regiment, you will, I know, forgive me. The history of our triumphant route from Burlington to Washington has, by this time, become exhausted; and I shall pass over that and take you to the hill east of the Capitol in the most terrible shower of rain that was ever known, and there you may see our boys, wet to their skins, pitching their tents and preparing their supper, on the afternoon of the 26th of June. Of our stay in the city it is enough to say that we had a grand time, and enjoyed ourselves hugely. But at last the order came to “strike tents,” and we packed up “duds” and started for some point, the exact location of which we were not informed; but time, which always brings us out somewhere, brought us, about sun down, and in an awful thunder shower, out at Commodore DeForrest’s estate, about six miles west of Alexandria. – Here, wet through as rats, we pitched into the mud and went to sleep. I was so perfectly worn out by the labors of the day that I had not strength to raise my tent, and by invitation from Capt. Dillingham, whose tent was up, I turned into his mud-hole, wrapped my overcoat around me a laid down to pleasant dreams!
The next morning we arose under a scorching Virginia sun, which soon dried us off, and we found ourselves in a very pleasant location; and here let me say, that during all the rain, toil and fatigue of the day, not a murmur or word of complaint was heard from one of our men. They bore themselves, as they always have. We now learned that our Regiment was the advance guard towards Manassas Junction, and that we were occupying a post of danger as well as honor. Here we commenced our first lessons in active field operations. We were immediately in the enemy’s country, and our time was pretty well occupied in guard and picket duty. Of all our adventures I have not time or space to write. Others have given you the history of them, and I will only say that our boys were always on hand and ready to do their duty, however difficult or dangerous.
About this time we were advised that we were joined in Col. Howard’s Brigade, which was composed of three Maine Regiments and our own. We found Col. Howard to be one of the finest of men, and a perfect gentleman in every sense of the word, and we have since found out that he is as brave and noble as he is good. I cannot pass without also bearing testimony to the kind acts and gentlemanly deportment of the Colonel’s Aids. One is his brother, and a splendid fellow; the others are Lieutenants Buel and Mordecai, from West Point. We have all received many kindnesses at their hands. But we must pass along and come down to the time when we received orders from headquarters to put ourselves in light marching order, to move with all the grand army upon the enemy, entrenched at Manassas. The morning we were to march was Monday, and we all arose with light hearts at an early hour, and had our “traps” all on and ready for the encounter. We did not receive orders to march until about noon when we left our camp with three days rations in our haversacks and started on that fatal journey.
We marched all the afternoon and most of the night and finally brought up on a side hill where we had the extreme pleasure of laying down on the damp ground with our clothes all on for sleep and repose. In the course of the after noon I bought me a horse, as we had no horses, which aided me very much in the march, and that together with now and then a cheering word from Col. Howard spurred us on in good spirits. The next morning, Tuesday, we started early and marched all day and encamped in a fine piece of woods that night where we stopped until Thursday morning. Tuesday we routed about 700 rebels from their camp and they left in such a hurry that they had not time to gather up their provisions which were eagerly seized by our boys and appropriated with a relish. Thursday morning we weighed anchor for Centerville and arrived there after dark and went into camp. When we started Thursday I was ordered by Col. Howard to take two companies of our regiment to act as rear guard of the brigade, which means to march behind all the baggage wagons and see that they were brought into camp safe. Just at dark we came to a very steep hill about one half mile long and attempted to ascend it, but lo and behold, of all the horses and mules which were hitched to that long train of wagons, not one would go up that hill. Here was a question for a lawyer. The main body of the army was far in advance and we left behind with the pleasing reflection that we were liable at any moment to be pitched into by the enemy and all our baggage taken and ammunition appropriated to blowing out our brains. We raved like mad bulls and you may not be at all surprised if before we left that delightful spot there was considerable tall extemporaneous swearing. The result was we unloaded the wagons, carried the baggage all up the hill on our backs, pushed the teams up, loaded and went on our way rejoicing. When we arrived in camp we found the boys all anxious about us and fearing some evil had befallen us. I am deeply indepted to Capts. Drew and Hope and their gallant boys for their assistance on that occasion. We remained at Centerville until Sunday morning at 2 o’clock A. M. July 21st, when we started for Bull’s Run.
Saturday evening at Dress Parade the chaplain of one of the Maine regiments made a most affecting prayer after which Col. Howard addressed us upon the events of the morrow and told us that in all human probability that was the last time we should all meet on parade and expressed the hope that we should all behave like men and never turn our back to the foe in the hour of conflict. He was answered with a cheer and a “never,” which echoed through the woods of old Virginia for miles. At two o’clock A. M. Sunday morning we started and after marching about one mile we were halted and remained there until nearly seven. We were now advised of our destination which we were told was to march around Bull’s Run between that and Manassas and cut off the retreat of the rebels if they should attempt to retreat on the latter place. About seven we marched on some three miles and halted near the cross road. Here we found Gen. McDowell and staff and all the other notables of the general army. They all put on airs and looked as wise as sheep and so did we. Here we stayed until about ten o’clock when a dispatch came for Colonel Howard to move his brigade out to Bull’s Run, at “double quick” as our services were likely to be needed there very much before sun down. The order came “fall in” and so we went on a dead run for about ten miles, through woods, over fences, ditches, rivers and everything else – soon our men began to give out – it was hat as the thermometer would allow and no water but stagnant pools, which a frog would not live in, to drink – during this time we could hear the loud roar of the batteries as they answered each other in rapid succession, and we knew our boys were at them. Soon we could hear the musketry and as we approached nearer we could hear the clash of arms and we came to the conclusion that it would not be necessary for us to cut off any body’s retreat until somebody began to retreat.
On, we went upon the run and our poor boys were dropping out by dozens, yet no halt or slack. Now we have arrived, at a road which leads up along the skirt of a piece of woods, we enter it and go on upon the run. Now, Oh God! what sights meet our eyes! Here are the hospitals for friends and foes, all thrown in together; here are the surgeons in the woods sawing off legs and arms from the poor fellows who have been wounded – some they have on the ground and some on a board; they shriek, they groan, they swear, in their delirium of agony; here comes the carts bringing in the wounded; the blood running from the cart like water from your street sprinkler. It is awful; it is terrible, but yet our brave boys press on. Now comes a messenger saying to us, go on boys; they need your help. Then another saying go ahead boys, the rebels are flying. We heed them not but with steady step move on. Now we have arrived at the corner of the woods where we must break off to the right through a corn-field which had been occupied by the enemy’s lines in the forenoon – here is our first lesson – we march along the ridge of a hill exposed to the raking fire of three batteries, all in plain sight of use. When I stepped over the fence into the field the first thing which greeted my entrance was a shell which went screaming past my head in a manner neither pleasant nor tranquilizing. I involuntarily dodged down my head and let the unwelcome visitor pass by. On we went while the shot and shell from those rifled cannon tore up the ground around us with perfect impunity – soon we came to to a stone house, and here we bore to the left and passed into another field, still in point blank range of those accursed batteries. As yet I had seen none of our boys fall, but just as I entered this field, I saw my friend, Lieut. Sharpley, of the Burlington company, fall flat on his face. The air was full of the deadly missiles and my fears were that he had been struck by a rifle cannon shot – I ran to him and picked him up and was happy to find that it was only the effects of a shot having passed so near his mouth as to take his breath from his body. I called a private to take care of him and went on glad in my heart that he was not hurt, for a braver man and kinder friend does not live than he.
About this time Col. Howard rode up and ordered our regiment to form line of battle in a deep ravine and march up a steep bank covered with brush wood, on to an inclined plain in full sight of the enemy. The order was given to Col. Whiting, who was near me at the time, completely exhausted and worn out – he immediately ordered me to give the order and see that it was executed, which I did to the sound of music which could be heard but not seen. We found in the ravine our boys, as cool as when on parade, and the order was given to “Forward the Second,” and you may depend it was done nobly. Oh, who would not have given a world at that moment to have been a Vermonter. Not a man but what felt that they carried the honor of Vermont upon their bayonets. On they went – the orders come, “Captains in rear of your companies,” “Boys keep cool,” “Take good aim and mark your man,” – not a pale face appeared in the line; lips were compressed and hearts were as firm as the granite in their native hills. The air was full, even to darkness, with iron and lead, yet I felt a pride in being with the noble Second on that day; and, although I was not born upon Vermont’s soil, yet I was proud of her and her gallant sons, and gloried in the State of my adoption. When we arrived on the brow of the hill we were in plain sight of the enemy’s lines. We marched down the hill about half way, and halted in line of battle. – Between us and the enemy was a deep ravine, and on the other side, on the hill pitching towards us were the rebels, behind a Virginia rail fence. The order now came to open fire on the whole line. Our boys drew up their guns, took deliberate aim at the fence, and then it would have done your soul good to see the devils jump. At the second volley they all cut and run into the woods on their left flank. Soon they made their appearance at the edge of the woods, and at them we went again like bulldogs. We were now in a very uncomfortable situation at least. They were shooting at us with three batteries, and all the rifles and muskets in the Southern States – I thought.
Our regiment loaded and fired with the rapidity of lightning for about two hours, when the word came to retreat. The remainder is unpleasant to reflect upon. I will not describe it our attempt to. I have only to say that, although our entire lines were routed and fled in confusion, yet no stain of dishonor or disgrace rests upon Vermont or any of her brave and noble sons on that day. We marched from the field and formed in the ravine from which we started, and made the best of our way to Centerville. I cannot close this letter, although it is too long already, without bearing testimony to our brave men on that day. In the first place no men in any battle or in any age of the world ever evinced more true courage and down-right bravery.
It would, perhaps, be invidious to call names, but I must be permitted to mention Captains Dillingham, Eaton, Hope and Randall, and Lieutenants Henry, Gregg, Campbell, Johnson, Howe, Tracy, Hugh and Tyler, as men who were under my eye during the whole battle. – With Captain Dillingham I have always been acquainted, and have felt a sort of pride in his success. I have watched him, and I saw him in the midst of the carnage on that bloody day. He was as cool and self-possessed as when on Company parade. I could hear him give his orders to his men; I noticed his face as he passed back and forth, speaking words of encouragement to his brave boys, and by his example inspiring them with courage and fortitude. In a moment I saw him fall! O, God! I sprang towards him and caught him in my arms, lifted him up, and, to my great joy, discovered that a Minnie ball had only just grazed his temple and stunned him for a moment. – I set him on his feet and left him in charge of his men, and started for my post on the left of the line, and scarcely had I gone ten paces then, with a voice that could be heard beyond the enemy’s lines, I hear him say: “They have not killed me yet; give it to them, boys!”
Capt. Drew, of the Burlington Company, fell out sick by the way before we reached the field of battle, and the company was led on to the field and fought under the brave and gallant Lieut. Weed, who conducted himself throughout that bloody day in a manner which did honor to himself and glory to his State. He was the only commissioned officer in company G on the field.
Capts. Smith, Fullam, Walbridge, Todd, and others, behaved in a manner worthy of Vermont, while Capt. Randall greatly distinguished himself by his cool courage and self-possession; he was determined not to leave the field, and did not until compelled to do so by the commander. Of the field officers, it is not for me to speak. One word about our Color-bearer: he is a man from Company G, I do not recollect his name. – He is 6 feet 5 1-2 inches high – he carried his banner upon the field and stood by it during the whole battle, like Goliath of old. Not a limb trembled or a muscle moved, while six of the enemy’s bullets pierced the sacred flag, not one touched the noble bearer. He is truly a brave man, and deserves to be remembered.
Of our surgeons, Drs. Ballou and Carpenter, too much praise of them cannot be said. – We all like Dr. Ballou, because he is always a perfect gentleman, and uses us so kindly, and that fatal Sunday he laid aside all fear of danger to himself, and thought only of our poor boys who were sick and wounded. We shall remember his bravery and repay him with our prayers and good wishes as long as we live. – Dr. Carpenter, of course, every body likes; he is always kind and attentive to our men, and does all in his power to cheer them up, and alleviate their sufferings. His extensive knowledge of his profession, qualifies him in an eminent degree to fill the post which he holds; and his conduct at Bull’s Run, when with revolver in hand, he stopped the crazy tide of the retreat, and made them take in our wounded, who were lying on the battle field, shows that he is a brave soldier, as well as a good surgeon. In connection with the doctors, we must mention our friend, E. Z. Stearns, our Hospital steward, who has greatly endeared himself to us all, by his kind offices and sharp repartees. He is well versed in his duties and performs them to the entire satisfaction of every body.
Our Quartermaster’s Department is managed on a scale not to be surpassed by any regiment in the service. Mr. Pitkin is untiring in his efforts to make us all comfortable, and he is nobly sustained by the Quarter-master’s Sergeant Cain, and the Messrs. Stone. Cain is a young man who thoroughly understands whatever he takes hold of, and his even temper and natural goodness of heart make him a general favorite of us all. We cannot but speak in the highest terms of praise of Mr. Hatch, the agent of the governor in New York. From the moment we arrived in New York, down to the present time, he has been with us like a guardian angel – only last night he was out here to our camp to see if there was not something he could do for us. We shall all remember him, for we appreciate his labors. He seems to possess the right business talent for this place, and devotes his whole time and attention to our wants and necessities. We are greatly indebted also, to Col. T. B. Bowdish of Burlington, and to Mr. Canfield for their kindness and the interest they have taken in our welfare. Our Chaplain, Rev. Mr. Smith, is laboring industriously for our welfare, and does us many acts of kindness, which will always be remembered.
Vermont Phoenix, 8/15/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy
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Tags: 2nd Vermont Infantry, Major C. H. Joyce, Resources, Soldier's Letters
Categories : Private Correspondence, Resources
Letters From The Seat Of War
Second Vt. Regiment, Co. F.,
Alexandria, July 23, 1861.
Mr. Editor: – I take this opportunity to inform you and my friends in Lamoille County the facts, as I understand them, in regard to the late battle of Bull’s Run and Manassas Junction. I know that exaggerated accounts of the fight are rife in the Northern papers. I propose to give a correct statement, as I saw and participated in the battle. The Third Brigade, composed of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Maine regiments, the Second Vermont, and Ellsworth’s Zouaves as scouts, who were encamped 5 miles from this place, on the road to Fairfax Court House, received marching orders on the 16th, with what they called 3 days rations. It consisted of about 1-2 lb. of hard crackers and 1-2 lb. of salt beef. Gen Howard commanded the Brigade. We advanced and made a circuit of 20 miles to the left, and completely around Fairfax Court House, to Fairfax Station, where we arrived on the 17th at 4 o’clock P. M. Meanwhile another Brigade under Gen. Wilcox, came directly down on the Court House and routed 1100 rebels and took a great deal of provisions and munitions of war, consisting in part of 100 bbs flour and 4 tons bacon, &c., without firing a gun. Our 3 days rations were gone, and we received a portion of the spoils, and having no cooking utensils we took such old dirty kettles and platters as the rebels left, and cooked our flour as best we could. We captured all the nice fat beef we wished for from the rebel farms around us. We stayed at this place until 12 o’clock M. of the 18th, when we commenced our march towards Centreville. We arrived within 2 1-2 miles of the place at 12 o’clock at night, where we formed a line of battle and camped on the fare ground, in our places with our single blanket over us. Our company was detailed as a picket Guard, in the rear. We were fired into twice during the night, and returned the fire in good spirit. they did not hit any of us, and whether we hit any of them I do not know, as it was dark and we were stationed in the woods.
At day light we joined the Brigade and before night other Brigades came in and formed with us, a Division of about 30,000 men and 3 batteries of artillery, the whole commanded by Gen. McDowell. On the 19th the Massachusetts Brigade fired on a drove the rebels from Centreville with a loss of 8 killed and 24 wounded, they captured a small battery from the rebels at this place, and planted their own cannon on the heights around.
A small battery was also taken at Bull’s Run the same day, with a small loss on our side. At 2 o’clock, A. M., of the 21st the long roll of each regiment was beaten and the whole Division commenced the advance, the Third Brigade bringing up the rear. The advance commenced the fight about 7 o’clock, A. M., on the pickets 1 1-2 miles in front of the fort at Manassas Junction. The main body of enemy were entrenched and strongly fortified with plenty of cannon and ammunition with 60,000 men, armed with Sharp’s and Minie rifles, on the highest point of land in the whole country, and surrounded by heavy timber. The land we had to pass over to get them, excepting in front was open ground for miles, exposed to their batteries. The Third Brigade was detached from the main body about 10 o’clock and put through on double quick time, and made a circuit of about 8 miles, and came up on the left of the enemy about 1 o’clock, P. M. At this time our men had driven the rebels one mile. Our Brigade passed over this ground, covered with the dead and dying, every rod of which presented some awful spectacle, and showed the ground had been given up only by inches. Wagon after wagon load of poor wounded prisoners were carried off to be cared for by the different surgeons of the regiments. They appropriated the secession houses for hospitals. The cry of the wounded was “Oh for God’s sake a drop of water;” “don’t step on me, boys;” and like expressions. Our Brigade marched in line of battle with charged bayonets, the smoke and dust was so thick that we could not see a rod ahead of us, the cannon balls and shells from the enemy’s battery fell thick around us; I speak no more particularly of the Vermont Second. We kept a good line, not a word, only from our officers, was heard the whole length of the line; we met parts of regiments coming away, they would say “God bless you boys, you are in time, we have fared hard; give it to them another 1-2 hour and the day is ours.” As we left the bushes and advanced over the hill on double quick time, within 1-2 mile of the battery, they poured in to us a storm of iron hail such as is seldom faced. The Vermont boys yelled, “Hurrah for the victory and glory of the Old Green Mountain State.” We got within about 40 rods of the battery, on the side hill, where we halted and formed a perfect line, during which time the rebels, about 4000 advanced within about 30 rods of us and commenced firing on us; the word was given us to fire; we fire under, then we were ordered to fire 2 feet above their heads, we did so, and noticed the effect. They commenced retreating. About this time our batteries ceased, as afterwards proved, for want of ammunition, and commenced retreating; this encouraged the rebels who fired on us with renewed vigor, but the Vermont boys stood their ground and drove them 1-2 mile; but their batteries then opened on us anew, and the order was given us to retreat. We were mad, however, and fired three volleys after the order was given, when Major Joyce run his horse down the line and said “Vermont boys, you have done well, but for God’s sake retreat, the artillery have run out of ammunition.” We slowly turned and picked up our wounded boys, but had to leave our dead on the bloody field. We had a good many wounded but only a few killed, considering the good chance they had of us. The main body were by this time under headway on the retreat. We retreated in good order until we got to Bull’s Run, where a narrow pass, a bridge and a deep creek, obstructed by our artillery, caused the line to halt. The bridge constantly covered with heavy cannon and horses gave way, making a perfect loss of 2 batteries. Most of them were disabled so as not to do the enemy any good. At this time the enemy came up in rear and fired a good many shells and grape shot, which cut us up dreadfully; and here among the rest, a carriage was taken, containing several wounded ones, among the rest was Orderly Sergeant U. A. Woodbury, of Fletcher Co., who had his hand blown off in the first charge, by a cannon ball. It was amputated by our surgeon, and he was doing well, but was too weak to walk. He is now, if alive, a prisoner among the rebels. Also Capt. Drew, of Co. G., from Burlington, and I presume many others. At this point the regiment broke up and companies followed their respective captains. Capt. Randall, of Co. F., showed great bravery and coolness, during the whole. He encouraged his men during the fight, and in one instance came in front of them, and told us to fire higher, we were doing well. At the bridge he said, “boys follow me, we won’t be taken prisoner,” and jumped into the creek above his middle, followed by his boys who stuck to him through the whole march. We kept up our march back to this place, a distance of 35 miles. We arrived here yesterday about 10 o’clock A. M., a hard looking set of fellows, covered with dust, powder, and blood. We are now quartered in the market house of Alexandria. We shall probably stay until we are sufficiently recruited to march again. Do not think that the rebels have retaken the ground we passed over; not by any means. There are bodies of men stationed all along the road to keep places we have captured. It is reported that Gen. McDowell made a premature attack, that he had ought to have waited the advance of Gen. Patterson; but wishing all the glory for himself, made the attack on his own hook. The result is not counted either a victory, or a defeat. I will say nothing of myself, but this: I was not shot in the back, nor front, that I know of, though hot lead flew a little nearer my head than was agreeable. Four of us, pretty good friends, stood in the front rank, and shouted, “give them a specimen of old Ethan Allen’s bravery.” I can form no estimate of the killed, but the loss must be heavy as the action lasted nearly all day. Only one of our company was killed; 10 are missing. As I am very tired I will close by saying: I am good for a good many more fights for Liberty and the Union.
George W. Doty.
Lamoille (Vermont) Newsdealer, 8/2/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy
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Tags: 2nd Vermont Infantry, Resources, Soldier's Letters
Categories : Private Correspondence, Resources
[Correspondent of the Transcript.]
Camp Keyes. Washington, D. C.
July 31st, 1861.
To the Editor of the Transcript: – Since my note of last week, giving you as I did all the facts then in my posession concerning the loss of J. F. Wilkinson, I have taken every opportunity to make enquiries of those who were near the place when he fell at the time he received the wound, and of those who passed near there after our regiment had been ordered to a different part of the field but have not been able to learn anything of importance concerning him beyond what I communicated in my last letter, and his friends here entertain the strongest fears that he was unable to reach the hospital before the retreat, and therefore have but slight hopes of ever seeing him again. – I have been so intimately associated with him for the past three months that his loss has caused feelings of sorrow such as I never before experience. – We who had learned to appreciate his frank and generous qualities, wh had shared with him a soldier’s board, mourn for him as though he were a brother.
From one of our soldiers who was taken prisoner by the rebels and escaped, reaching this city yesterday we learn that Dr. McGregor is a Manassas attending to the sounded and no fears are entertained here but that he will soon be allowed to return to his regiment or his home.
It is also believed that the wounded and prisoners in their hands are well treated.
With regard to the engagement at Bull Run on the 21st, so much has been written and so many conflicting statements have been made that those who witnessed it hardly know what to believe themselves. There are some points however on which we all agree.
There can be no questioning the fact that we fought against a force greatly superior to ours in number that they were protected by scientifically constructed fortifications, that they had the advantage of position and a thorough knowledge of the field over which our troops must pass, that our troops maintained the unequal contest from 6 A. M. until 5 P. M., driving them from some of their strongest batteries that the arrival of reinforcements to the rebel forces compelled us to retreat, that many of our regiments retreated in disorder and that though obliged to retreat we left more than twice the number we lost from of the enemy dead and wounded on the field, also that our soldiers were suffering extremely for food and water having left Centreville at 2 o’clock A. M. with only a scanty supply of dry bread and many of them were without water even before they reached the field.
[Illegible line] water that day, I will only say that we drank from of muddy pool water deeply tinged with the blood of the dead and wounded who had crawled to its banks in hopes of quenching a thirst more painful that were the wound from which the life blood was flowing.
As we were passing this point, Maj. Warner of the 3d Regiment ordered one of his men to hand him a cup of water. – “It is muddy, and there is blood in it,” says the man. “Will it run out of the cup?” “Yes.” “Then give me a cup and be quick.”
Speaking of the major reminds me of an incident that took place early in the day. The 2d Maine and the 3d Connecticut regiments were ordered to charge one of the rebel batteries and to do so had to pass through a piece of woods, and up a steep hill. Finding it difficult to pass through the woods with his horse, he jumped off, leaving it to go where it pleased, and led on the regiment, the boys cheering him as he did so,
The Conn. regiments are thus noticed by the Washington Star:
“The Conn. regiments under Col. Keyes came from the field, in good order, and marched to their former encampment at Centreville, from which place after an hours rest they started for their old camp at Falls Church. Arriving there in the morning the men remained under arms all day exposed to a severe storm, and having secured all the camp equipage belonging to their regiments marched two miles to the camps of the Ohio and 2 New York regiments, which had been deserted, and remaining here until morning they secured and sent into the fort their tents and other valuables. The regiments came in to FOrt Corcoran in the evening of the 23d, in good order.
A correspondent of the New York Times says: – Within a half mile of Falls Church, we found Gen. Tler with the Connecticut regiments holding a position temporarily. They were the advance of the attack, their colors were the last to leave the field, and now seven or eight miles behind even the reserve, they were defending the rear in perfect good order.
The regiments enlisted for three years are coming at the rate of three or four a day and no fears are now entertained for the safety of the Capitol or that our forces under the able officers now in command will not soon be able to drive the rebels from Virginia.
I will close this hasty letter by relating a pleasing incident that took place near Fort Corcoran. We had been there but a short time when we met Mr. Daniel Warner of Woodstock with two large baskets filled with provisions which were soon distributed to his acquaintances making them forget that for three days they had hardly tasted of food. “May his shadow never be less.”
J. T. P.
Windham County (CT) Transcript, 8/8/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy
Some biographical information on James F. Wilkinson, editor of the Windham County (CT) Transcript (wounded and captured at Bull Run) can be found here.
Biographical information on Wilkinson above indicates he was a member of the Buckingham Rifles, which was Co. A. of the 2nd CT (see here.) J. T. P. is likely Pvt. John T. Phillips, of Pomfret, CT, also of Co. A. (See roster here.)
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Tags: 2nd Connecticut, J. F. Wilkinson, John T. Phillips, Resources, Soldier's Letters
Categories : Private Correspondence, Resources