W. H. Foote, Co. D, 2nd Wisconsin, On the Battle

17 02 2012

The Battle of Bull’s Run.

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The following letters were written for the information of friends, by a member of the Janesville Volunteers, and not for publication. We are, however, permitted to publish them to satisfy the public anxiety for all the news that can be procured in relation to the Second Wisconsin regiment, which suffered quite severely in this battle. We hope the missing from the regiment may return, but the probabilities are that many of them never will. Our readers who have read the letters of Corporal Hamilton in our paper, will especially regret to learn that his name is among those placed on the list of those who have not been heard from.

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Fort Corcoran, Va.,

July 23d, 1861.

Dear Father: – We have at last had the long looked for fight. On Thursday, the 18th, our boys had a little fight at Bull’s Run. The contest was unequal, and the enemy fell back towards Manassas Junction. On Sunday last, our boys came up to a fort of masked batteries. The fight commenced about six in the morning, and lasted till five in the evening. Our men fought with the greatest bravery, and without a leader. The soldiers say that at the commencement of the fight, the officer in command ran away, and was not seen again in the battle field.

All allow that it has been one of the hardest battles ever fought on this continent. The celebrated Sherman’s battery was taken by the rebels, and retaken at the point of the bayonet. Our boys took a battery of six guns, but were afterwards compelled to retreat. At six o’clock, our troops were so badly cut up that the order was given for a general retreat; and a large portion of the federal army broke and ran for their lives, hotly pursued by the rebels. We lost a great many men killed, wounded and taken prisoners, and about one hundred wagons loaded with provisions.

The battle was fought about 25 miles from here. All night on the 21st, and all day Monday, the 22nd, our boys came straggling along, and even to-day, the 23d, some of them have just arrived. Many of our company have come in wounded, and some of them were left dead or wounded on the battle field. None of the officers were killed, and but one wounded slightly in the arm.

The President, Mr. Seward, Gov. Randall, Gen. Sherman and G. B. Smith, of Wisconsin, were all here a little while ago, and all made speeches to us. Lieut. McLain told the President that we had brave men, but no officers. The President said we should have officers before we went into another fight.

Gen. Tyler has been arrested for making the attack on Bull’s Run without orders. – When the first division were retreating, and the rebels were following in hot pursuit with their cannon, killing and wounding many of our men while running for their lives, the second division came upon the rebels, forcing them to retire, with much loss, to Manassas Junction, two miles south, where they will make another stand.

It rained all night, and many thousands were obliged to lay out in it. We are all in good cheer.

Camp Peck, July 24, 1861.

I have just written over two sheets of paper to you, but on receiving a letter from you, I thought I would write a little more, as the excitement here has somewhat abated. This afternoon, all that feel well enough are out to work building a brush fence around our camp. I think by the appearance of things the enemy are advancing on Washington. The man that went up in the balloon this morning, went southeast out of sight. He threw out several messages, but they were sealed, and directed to General Scott. Sergeant Sanders just came in and said the enemy were within twelve miles of here.

We can hear cannon roaring now, and have for several hours. One of our Captains has just returned from Vienna where they are fighting.

I think from what I have heard, we have thirty thousand troops between here and the rebels.

They (the rebels) are being reinforced all the time. The next battle will tell, as we will be about equal in numbers, but they will have to make the attack.

In retreating from Bull’s Run many of our boys threw away their guns and knapsacks. I have had the measles, and was not well enough to be in the battle, but was left with one hundred others to take care of the camp.

One regiment is going home this afternoon. They are called cowards by all who stay. There are many others whose time is up, but they say they will stay till old Jeff. is dead, and they have a piece of him. Good grit, don’t you think so?

If I live I am bound to have a lock of his hair. I am quite smart, and think I shall come out all right.

The enemy are fierce, and are quite sure they will whip us out, and I confess it looks as though it was going to be a hard struggle.

Wheat, corn, oats, and potatoes, and everything looks poor. I have not time now to give you a description of the country, but when the war excitement quiets down a little, I will give you a plain account of it.

We are two miles from Washington, and within two miles of a fort. We are building a brush fence around our camp. I have the rheumatism, and am excused. Many of our boys have bullet holes through their clothes and caps, and yet were not hurt. We are a hard looking set, all covered with dirt, as we have to lay in the mud. We have had hard work to get anything to eat, but we get plenty to-day.

July 25th.

This morning we find that thirteen of our men are missing: Corporals J. Hamilton and Sackett, Chas. Brown, S. McKay, McIntyre, Jason Brown, Perry, O. Wilcox and five others. We are the only regiment, so far as I can learn, but what had some of its commissioned officers killed. We have one wounded in his arm. One of our boys, after receiving a ball through his knee, got down on the other and fired over twenty times, and then retreated twenty-five miles.

We have lost out of our regiment about 200 men – a very small loss compared with some other regiments. The rebels came out and formed a line of battle with their backs toward our brigade, had the stars and stripes flying, and all supposed they were federal troops. One general told the boys not to kill their own men, and so they did not fire. All at once the rebel captain gave orders to about face, and they then fired on our men and killed many of them. The Zouaves pitched into them and cut them down. As soon as the rebels fired they raised the secession flag. F. Lee shot it down. The rebels caught it up and run. Our boys chased them until they ran into a masked battery, when they were forced to retreat.

One of our captains has a young negro slave who ran out of the rebel fort and came to him. The young darkey reports that the rebels have two regiments of slaves, but they had to be kept inside the fort to prevent their running away. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon the rebels came out with seven hundred cavalry, mostly black horses. They made a terrific charge on our men, and dashed through many regiments. The Zouaves made a stand to resist their fury, and with the help of others, killed nearly all the men, took as many of their horses as they could catch, mounted them and rode off. Our boys say the ground was strewed with swords, revolvers and implements of war. Chauncey Ehle shot a cavalry man just in time to save his own life. Clark Thomas shot one under nearly the same circumstances, but he was run over and cut off from the rest of his company. After wandering about for a while, he succeeded in securing a South Carolina charger, mounted him, and made his escape through the woods.

From your affectionate son,

W. H. Foote.

[A letter from the same writer, received to-day, dated the 26th, says: “All the officers are safe except Corporals Hamilton and Sackett. It is reported that Hamilton is in a Highland regiment, and that Sackett was shot in the chin and is in Georgetown hospital.”]

Janesville Weekly Gazette and Free Press, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





John Stacom, Co. E, 69th NYSM, On the Battle

27 01 2012

Mr. John Stacom, of the “Ivy Green,” Elm-street, now a member of the New-York 69th  Regiment, arrived home on Tuesday, having received a wound in the left hand. He says:-

I was in the fight on Sunday all day, until we got completely off the field, and were on the road toward Vienna. On Sunday morning we were within two or three miles of this place. We encamped by the side of a road close by a wood, and then formed in line of battle, and proceeded steadily down through a thick wood into a ravine (Bull’s Run), and kept firing continually, in order to draw out the enemy, and unmask his batteries. After a good deal of firing, they opened upon us. We then fought our way down into the plain. The Wisconsin Regiment and the 69th tacked a large party, estimated at a number of thousands, total about 17,000, partially hidden in some brushwood, and succeeded in driving them completely away at the point of the baynet. They were in great disorder all over the field. Gen. McDowell came in at the other end and headed them off, while Col. Hunter approached on the right with his division, and the action then became general. It continued until about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when all stood still and we thought the battle won. The Generals collected on the hill, and were cheering and shaking hands. General McDowell took his hat off, complimented Col. Corcoran, and said the victory had been won. All at once the reinforcements on the other side, under Johnston, as was supposed, came down upon us, and the men being completely exhausted, gave way, until they reached the road. Col. Corcoran had only Capt. Meagher with him after Lieut. Col. Haggery was killed, which hapened in the first engagement. I saw him fall by a musket ball. Thomas Francis Meagher was the most conspicuous man on the field, riding on a white horse, with his hat off, and going into the battle most enthusiastically. At one time our regimental color was taken, and Meagher seized the green flag of Ireland, went to the front, leading the men to the charge. The color was recaptured, the enemy was driven back, and we then formed in hollow square, by orders, and retreated steadily off the ground.

We got on the road all well, and in good order. Having got my hand hurt, I took a Secessionists horse, and rode among the civilians, of which a lot, including artists and reporters, were gathered in carriages and on horseback. They were viewing the battle from the hill. Soon after I left my regiment, the civilians got panic stricken, and from them panic seized the teamsters, who imagined they were going to be cut off. From the teamsters it spread into several Ohio regiments and then became general.

I rode back alone. If there was any more fighting, it must have been in the road after the retreat commenced. I think there was no more fighting. The reinforcements opened four or five batteries on us immediately. There was only one party (in the woods) that we fought at all. We did not see any more, except a complete cavalry regiment, that charged on the Zouaves. Among the cavalry about three companies were colored, and officered by white men.

Gen McDowell three times charged us on batteries. It appeared that the 69th and the Zouaves were all over the battle field, as there were Aids running all the time saying the General wanted us over here or over there, to take this or that battery.

There were many killed and wounded lying around on the field, like sheaves in a wheat-field. There was a house on the hill where wounded men were almost piled, and the rebels shelled it, as much as anywhere else, while they must have known, by seeing our ambulances, that they were only wounded. The Ohio, 71st, 8th, and others took part. The 71st made only one charge, and lost very few men. The 69th did all the charging.

New York Irish-American 8/3/1863

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Contributed by Damian Shiels





8th Louisiana Infantry and Crescent Blues In the Battle

31 10 2011

 From the Seat of War in Virginia.
Special Correspondence of The Delta
Manassas Junction, August 5th, 1861.
(Extract.)

Since the battle of the 21st ult, large numbers of troops have been sent forward to this place, many more than enough to counterbalance all our losses. Indeed this division of the army is much stronger now than when it achieved its triumph over the enemy. It is strong enough to assume the offensive, and probably will do so within a brief period, but the when and the where cannot be prophesied by any but those with whom vaticination would be only explanation. I cannot, consistently with the dictates of Military propriety, give you any specific statement of the situation of our forces now lying between Manassas Junction and the Potomac. I can only state, in general terms, that great masses of our troops are far in advance of this position, that we occupy Fairfax Court House, Leesburg, and Vienna, in force, our army this occupying the Arc of a great circle, on the chord of which is situated Alexandria and Arlington Heights. Within the entrenched camp at this place, of course, there are strong reserves. This includes some of our Louisiana troops, the 8th Regiment, Col. Kelly, and the Crescent Blues, Capt. Goodwyn. Col. Kelly is now in command of this post. His regiment is, generally, in good health. In the country companies there is some sickness, principally measles; but in the city companies there is no sickness whatever. Captain Larose, of the Bienville Rifles, assures me that, in his company, there has not been a case of sickness since he left home. The Captain himself is safe and sound, in spite of the report that he had lost both legs in the last battle.

There was not a single man of the 8th Regiment injured in that engagement. Six of its companies were stationed all day at Mitchell’s Ford, on Bull Run, and were under fire of the enemy’s Batteries for most of the time; but being entrenched, they met with no casualty. They were ordered to the left just at the end of the affair but did not have a chance at the flying foe. The Crescent Blues, though about half of the company were engaged in the heaviest of the fight, were almost equally fortunate. They had but one man wounded, none killed. The history of the part taken by their company in the great victory, though yet unwritten, possesses a romantic interest for Louisianans.

The Crescent Blues are an independent company. On the morning of the 21st, they were associated with the Beauregard Rifles, a Washington City company, and the New Market Guards, a Virginia company, all under the command of Captain Schaeffer, of the Beauregard Rifles, and ordered to support Latham’s Battery a company of Lynchburg Artillery. For some reason, yet unexplained, the commanding officer ordered a retreat; but was directed by General Cocke to reassume his position and support Latham’s Battery at all hazards.

A second and third time the acting Major of the Battalion directed a retreat, stating (so it is said) that the day was lost, and that to remain was to court swift and certain destruction. Captain Goodwyn then remarked that he and his company had come there to fight, and not to retreat, and begged to be permitted to remain. The permission was given, and Captain Goodwyn then called for volunteers. His call was responded to by about fifty members of his own company; including Lieutenants Saunders and De Lisle, and a portion of the Beauregard Rifles. The rest of the battalion retired under the orders of the commander. Captain Goodwyn and his followers continued to support Latham’s Battery until they charged and captured Griffin’s Battery (three piece) and turned its guns on the enemy. Gen. Beauregard witnessed this brilliant exploit, and evinced his delight and approbation by riding up to the spot and shaking hands with many of those who had participated in the capture of the battery. Afterwards Capt. Goodwyn fell in with Col. Kershaw’s South Carolina Regiment, just as it was making the final charge on the enemy, and participated in the pursuit of the flying federalists as far as Centreville. I shall say nothing here of the conduct of Captain Schaeffer, as charges have been preferred against him, and he has demanded a court of inquiry, which is now sitting. Another case now under consideration is that of Capt. White, of the Tiger Rifles, who shot Captain G. McCauslin in a duel tha day after the battle.

Major Wheat, I am happy to say, is now considered out of danger. He is improving rapidly, so much so that he has been removed to Culpeper Court-House.

The Daily Delta, 8/13/1861.
Jackson Barracks – Historical Military Data on Louisiana Militia, Vol. 113, pp. 43 – 45.

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Capt. James Conner, Hamtpon’s Legion, On the Battle (2)

27 10 2011

Manassas Virginia
Monday Night
July 22nd, 1861

My dear Mother,

Yesterday was a glorious and a sad day.  We have gained a great victory but lost many noble men.  Fortunately I came out of the battle unhurt.  On Friday morning we received orders to march the next day at 9.  At 12 the orders were given to leave by that nights train.  We packed up and started – marched into Richmond at 6 – but the cars were not ready, piled our arms and lay down in the streets until 12 – traveled all that night, all Saturday, all Saturday night and reached Manassas at 6 Sunday morning, starving all that time we had but one meal.  The cars should have made the trip in 12 hours – 7 is the usual time and we were ordered to take one meal cooked with us.  That of course gave out and we reached Manassas worn out from travel, and being cooped up in box cars, and hungry.  Fortunately I had started with 300 loaves of bread, (I fed the men with them on the road, that is my Company), and I also had four shoulders of raw bacon.  Sunday morning as soon as we landed I started fires, had the bacon cooked, gave the men a little, and a very little it was, breakfast.  We then had orders to move as the battle had begun, and while we eat our mouthful of food, the cannon were roaring in the distance.  We marched about 5 miles and were halted by the Colonel just under the brow of a hill.  I was sent forward to view the position or rather the Colonel permitted me to go.  Standing on the hill, I could see the battle going on in the valley below.  A battery of Artillery moved up at a gallop on our left and commenced firing on the U. S. troops.  This drew their fire in our direction and as we lay down behind the hill the grape shot and round shot came singing over our heads – sometimes so close you could feel the air as they passed.  The fight at this point was altogether an artillery one, and finding that we were exposed without doing any good, the Colonel ordered us back to the shelter of some woods.  We then moved forward some distance, when we received orders to advance to the support of some Georgia regiments.  They had been forced back, and we met them, and formed in front of them, we laying down behind a fence and commencing to fire at the Yankees.  At this moment a body of Yankees were seen moving around, and endeavoring to turn the flank of the army and get in our rear.  The order was given to us to outflank them and we moved down a lane running at right angles to that in which we were.  It was a yard lane or country road, with deep gullies on either side.  The troops opposed to us were Infantry, supported by Artillery.  I could see their numbers but could not estimate them.  Gen’l Beauregard told Hampton today that they were at least 4000.  As we commenced the movement, they opened a terrible fire of grape, canister and musketry.  The balls flew like hail, knocked the flint rocks whistling all around us.  I was in advance – my Company heading the Legion.  We faced to the right and ordered the men into the gully and under the cover of that and the fence on top of the bank, returned the fire.  It was here that we had the hardest fighting and met the heaviest loss.  At the very commencement of it, poor Col Johnson was killed, shot through the head.  He was in line with the 1st platoon of my company.  He threw his sword up, and fell back lifeless.  Hot and heavy the fire fell all around us.  By this time, I had gotten the rest of the men – the companies – down into the gully and at work, but for the first four or five minutes, maybe on half of that time, the Light Infantry were alone in the lane, and receiving the whole fire.  Hampton was in the centre, and I on the right, the men in the gully and he and I on the top of the bank, looking out at the enemy and cautioning the men to keep cool, and aim deliberately, and take resting shots, and above all to deploy out and not crowd.  Hampton’s horse had been shot under him and he was on foot.  Barker alone was on horseback, and he kept dashing between Hampton and me, carrying orders.  Theodore behaved splendidly; his conduct was above praise.  It was glorious, and how he escaped being shot was a miracle.  Once he reeled in the saddle as he went down the lane and I thought the poor fellow was gone, and I ran after him, taking one of my men with me, but found that it was his horse slipping on the rocks that had made him reel – neither he or his horse were hurt and yet his grey charger was always in the thickest of the fight.  All the Legion are loud in his praise.  How long we held the position I cannot tell, but we checked the flank movement of the enemy.  They then advanced from another point and we were in danger of being surrounded and fell back 100 or 150 yards under cover of a farm house.  Here again we made a stand and had an awful fight – the old body and the new body of the enemy opening fire upon us.  It was terrible and the men were falling all around us and fearing that they would be surrounded.

It was the only time in the day that the men looked dashed.  Hampton ordered the colors to the front, and I moved my Company up, met them [the colors] and all my boys came right up to them, moved up to the head of the lane, and exchanged fires.  Some artillery came up when we were nearly wiped out and relieved us – breaking and dispersing the new body which had advanced.  We then reformed – gathered the companies up, moved on, and halted in a deep hollow, thickly wooded, here another regiment, I forgot what, was attached to us or rather moved up to it.  It was a Virginia Regt, so my boys said.  Satisfied that we would not be moved, our men were there at least twenty minutes, and hearing that there was some water in the neighborhood, I had given my men leave to break when one of their officers came up and begged me for God’s sake not to break, else he could not hold his men together.  All the while the rattle of musketry and artillery were going on.  So instead of breaking, I detailed ten men to take all canteens.  You can’t imagine how we suffered for water.  I was hoarse with calling and parched with thirst and as I walked along picked blackberries to moisten my throat and tongue.  The men did the same, and when we could not find blackberries, we chewed grass.  We then advanced about half a mile and again engaged the enemy, driving him out of a farm yard, and taking possession of it myself.  They returned to retake it and the Light Infantry fight was hot and heavy.  Here it was that Hampton was shot. We were fighting from the house and behind the thick hedge and paling fence of the garden.  They brought up Artillery and we in time were driven out.  I was at this time in command of the Legion, and we fell back, closing well on the colors at the bottom of the hill and reforming.  We had got all mixed up in the scrimmage around the house and garden, and here it was that the flag was nearly shot away, the ball cutting nearly half way through the staff.  I reformed the Legion and we were supported by Withers’ Alabama Regiment, and then charged up the hill, drove the Yankees out of the house and garden, and drove back their artillery.  Advancing and leaving the house behind us, we kept forcing them back.  They broke and scattered as Kershaw’s Regiment came up, and I united with Kershaw, and sent Barker back for orders to Beauregard.  He told us to reunite with Kershaw.  It was now about 4 o’clock, the enemy in full retreat and Kershaw determined to pursue.  We were almost dead beat out, and only 160 strong.  We had gone into action in the morning 600 and more.  I could no longer form companies.  I massed the six companies and formed 3 divisions of them.  We pursued the enemy about four miles, he halted as we pursued him hard.  Kemper’s battery galloped up the road, and took position on the crest of the hill.  Wheat fields on each side of the road.  Kershaw’s and ours on the right of the roads, Coal’s S.C. regiment on the left, the Palmetto Guard thrown out as skirmishers.  The artillery opened and played havoc with them, and the cavalry came upon their flank and were preparing to charge them.  When they fled and the Cavalry captured 21 pieces of artillery and a lot of baggage.  We were then ordered by Beauregard to cease pursuit and fall back.  We fell back about 5 miles and bivouacked all night in a wheat field without anything to eat or drink, not even water in plenty.  Luckily we had captured some blankets which the Yankees threw away all about the road in their retreat, so we wrapped up in them and slept.  At daylight it commenced raining and we marched back in the rain, wet, weary, and dead beat out with a 7 mile march before us.  We reached camp and had breakfast.  I was so stiff and foot sore I could hardly walk, but a cup of coffee and clean socks helped me much, as I related to Hampton who was very complimentary to me individually and to the Company.  Spoke in the highest way of the manner in which the company had behaved.  Told me that Beauregard and Davis had both been to his tent to express their great delight at the way in which the Legion had acted in holding their position against a force so far superior, and supported by Artillery.  I ten got a horse and rode back to the battle field to look after my dead and wounded.  Raining all day and I came in about 5 o’clock, wet through after a days work as painful and infinitely more trying than yesterday.  A battle, the day after a battle, is a horrid sight.  Then you realize what war is.  I went of course through all the hospitals.  The most of our wounded are at Culpepper C. H.  The general Hospital is there.  I could not get there today.  Charlie Hutson is wounded, not mortally though – poor fellow.  I was within three feet of him when I saw him roll over, his face covered with blood.  I thought he was killed, but the ball went too high.  I had him moved to the rear.  Thompson was shot through the leg, but he refused to leave the ground and fought the battle out limping on one leg.  Poor Middleton was shot in the garden in the second fight.  I caught him as he fell – he is in a house near the battle ground, and I fear will die tonight.  I have been sad all day, doubly sad when I think of poor Col Johnson.  What a noble soul he had and how we all loved him and he was such a splendid officer.  All the men loved him and nick-named him the old Colonel and he pretended to dislike it but he knew it was the sweet indication that the men loved him.  We have lost a generous, gallant officer, and the State one of her wisest and best men.  Hampton rode up to me, his whole frame shook and his eyes filled with tears as he shook hands with men and said, “Have you seen Johnson?  Great God, how can I write home to his family.”  We sent his body down to Richmond today.  It is well.  I cautioned JM against rumors, for when I returned to camp this morning I found it generally reported that I was killed and Barker too and Spratt had telegraphed this fact to the papers.  Some of my own men it was said had seen me fall.  I at once telegraphed you, and made Spratt telegraph contradicting his report.  I hope the contradiction got there in time.  The whole thing arose from a disposition to magnify everything.  I was struck by a spent ball, which merely bruised me without even breaking the skin, and which I forgot five minutes after it occurred.  The blow was rather sharp, and knocked me back a little and the men reported I had been struck, then somebody added that I was shot, and then somebody said I was shot and killed and Spratt, eager for an item, had me down.  He also had it that the Legion was cut to pieces.   We did lose heavily but are good yet.  If we had had our cavalry and artillery we would have done better.  I do not know when I will have chance to write again.  I am in command and have a great deal to do, but will try and drop you a line if only to say all well.  I have written in a great hurry, on my lap, and only for yourself and the family.  As I was moving from the battle field with the Legion this morning, I got your letter sent by private hand from Richmond.  Love to all.

Yours affectionately,
James Conner

Source:  James Conner to Mother, 22 Jul 61, MSS letter (copy), James Conner Collection, South Caroliniana.

Notes (1)

Notes (2)





Capt. James Conner, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (1)

26 10 2011

July 24th, 1861, 10 thirty P.M.

My dear Mother:

At twelve o’clock the orders came to leave by that night’s train.  We packed up and started, marching into Richmond at six o’clock, but the cars were not ready.  We piled our arms and lay down in the street until twelve o’clock, traveled all night, all Saturday and all Saturday night, and reached Manassas at six o’clock Sunday morning.  The cars ought to have made the trip in twelve hours, seven hours is the usual time, and we were ordered to take one meal cooked with us.

We then had orders to move, as the battle had begun, and while we were eating our mouthful of food, the cannon were roaring in the distance.  We marched about five miles and were halted by the Colonel just under the brow of a hill.  I could see the fight going on in the valley below.  A battery of artillery moved up at a gallop on our left end, and commenced firing on the United States troops.  This drew their fire in our direction, and as we lay down behind the hill, the grape and round shot came singing over our heads, sometimes so close that you could feel the air as they passed.

We then moved forward some distance, when we received order to advance to the support of some Georgia regiment.  They had been forced back, and we met them and formed in front of them, we were lying behind a fence.  At that moment, a large body of Yankees were seen moving round, endeavoring to turn the flank of the army and get to our rear.  The order was given to us to outflank them, and we moved down a lane running at right angles to that in which we were.  It was a broad lane, or country road, with deep gullies on either side.  The troops opposed to us were infantry, supported by artillery.  I could see them, but could not estimate them.  General Beauregard told Hampton today that there were at least four thousand.

As we commenced the movement, they opened a terrible fire on us of grape and canister and musketry.  The balls flew like hail and knocked the flint rocks, whistling all around us.  I was in advance, my company heading the Legion.  We faced to the right, and I ordered my men into the gully, hid under cover of that, and the fence on top of the bank, and returned the fire.  It was here we had the hardest fighting and met the heaviest loss.

At the very commencement of it poor Colonel Johnson was killed shot through the head.  He was in line with the first platoon of my company; he threw his sword up, and fell back lifeless.

Hot and heavy the fire fell all around us.  By this time I had got the men of the other Companies down into the gully and to work, but for the first four or five minutes, maybe only one-half that time, the Washington Light Infantry were alone in that lane and receiving the whole fire.  Hampton was in the center and I was on the right, the men in the gully, and he and I on top of the bank, looking out at the enemy and cautioning the men to keep cool, aim deliberately and take resting shots, and above all, to deploy out and not crowd.

Hampton’s horse was shot under him and he was on foot.  Barker alone was on horseback, and he kept dashing between Hampton and myself carrying orders.  Theodore Barker behaved splendidly.  His conduct was above praise.  It was glorious, and how he escaped being shot was a miracle.  Once he reeled in the saddle as he went down the lane, and I thought the poor fellow was gone, and I ran after him, taking one of my men with me, but we found that it was his horse slipping on the rocks that had made him reel.  Neither he nor his horse was hurt, though his gray charger was always in the thickest of the fight.  All the Legion are loud in his praise.

How long we held the position I cannot tell, but we checked the flank movement of the enemy.  Then they advanced from another point, and we were in danger of being surrounded, and fell back about one hundred and fifty yards under cover of a farm house.  Here, again, we made a stand, and had an awful fight the new and old body of the enemy crossing fire upon us.  It was terrible, and the men were falling around, and fearing that they would be surrounded.  It was the only time of the day the men looked dashed.

Hampton ordered the colors to the front, and I moved my Company up with them, and all my boys came right up and moved up to the head of the lane and exchanged fire.  Some artillery then came up when we were nearly whipped out, and relieved us, breaking and dispersing the new body that had advanced.  We then returned and gather the companies up, moved on, and halting in a bottom thickly wooded, had another regiment, I forget which, attached to us.  It was some Virginia regiment, so my boys said.  We then advanced about half a mile, and again engaged the enemy, driving them out of a farm yard, and ourselves taking possession of it.  They returned to take it, and the firing was hot and heavy.  Here it was that Hampton was shot.  We were fighting from the house and behind the thick hedge and paling fence of the garden.  They brought artillery up, and we in turn were driven out.  I was at this time in command of the Legion, and we fell back, closing well on the colors, to the bottom of the hill, and reformed.

I reformed the Legion, and we were supported by Wither’s Alabama regiment, and we then charged up the hill, and drove the Yankees out of the house and garden, and drove back the artillery.  Advancing, and leaving the house behind us, we kept forcing them back.  They broke and scattered as Kershaw’s regiment came up, and I united with Kershaw and sent Barker off to Beauregard for orders.  He told us to unite with Kershaw.

It was now about four o’clock, the enemy in full retreat and Kershaw determined to pursue.  We were now only one hundred and sixty strong.  We had gone into action in the morning six hundred and odd.  We pursued the enemy about four miles.  They halted as we pressed them hard.  Kemper’s battery galloped up the road and took possession of the crest of the hill, wheat fields on each side of the road.  Cash’s South Carolina regiment on the left, Kerhsaw’s and ours on the right, and the Palmetto Guards thrown out as skirmishers.  The artillery opened and played havoc with them, and the cavalry came upon their flank, and were preparing to charge, when they fled, and the cavalry captured twenty-one pieces of artillery and lots of baggage.  We were then ordered by Beauregard to cease pursuit.

I am in command of the Legion, and have a great deal to do, but will try to drop you a line.

Yours, J.C.

Moffett, ed.,  Letters of General James Conner, CSA. pp. 40-43

Notes 1

Notes 2





Jackson Barracks Collection

13 10 2011

8th Louisiana Infantry and Crescent Blues In the Battle 8/13/1861

A Trophy From Manassas (Co. B, 8th Louisiana Infantry) – 8/7/1861

Crescent Blues In the Battle – 9/3/1861

L. D., Co. B, 7th Louisiana Infantry, On the Battle – 8/1/1861

How to Make a Zouave – 7/18/1861

“Louisiana”, on Wheat’s Battalion in the Battle – 7/31/1861

Obituary, John Stacker Brooks, 7th Louisiana Infantry – 8/6/1861

Tiger Rifles – Co. B, 1st Special Louisiana Battalion In the Battle – 8/1/1861

Trophies From the Field Sent to New Orleans – 7/30/1861

The Washington Artillery at Blackburn’s Ford – 7/27/1861

Wheat’s Battalion at Stone Bridge – 8/1/1861





“Tockwotton”, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle’s Toll

4 10 2011

Letters From The Second Rhode Island Regiment:

Camp Clark,  July 23, 1861.

To the Editors of the Evening Press: – Dear Sir: Among the vast crowd of facts and thoughts I hardly know that will be of the greatest relief to your readers. The Regiment is now mostly together again, and getting quietly settled in their quarters. Rations, blankets, &c., have been served out, and every possible thing will be done at once to make the men comfortable. New and spacious quarters are provided, where the wounded will at once be placed and carefully attended to .

The roll of the companies has just been called and the result is as follows: 28 killed, 56 wounded, and 30 missing. Total 115. This is even more favorable than I feared when I wrote last evening, and we trust that the missing ones will all return to us and that nearly if not all the wounded ones will recover.

Among the lost I include Col. Slocum, Major Ballou, and Captains Tower, and Smith. Of Col. Slocum I have spoken already. The whole camp mourns for him. His absence fills all with gloom, and has made the whole day seem to us like a funeral ceremony. ‘Tis not the loss of a skillful officer alone, that many of us mourn, but a warm-hearted and faithful personal friend whose place we see no means of filling. Major Ballou, also, showed himself among the bravest of the brave. He was constantly in the thickest of the fight, cheering the men by his voice and by his example, to yet greater valor. Even after he fell, he continued to shout to the men to press onward. He was as we know, a gentleman of most amiable character and high culture, and has now crowned his distinguished life, by a heroic fall, He was yet alive when the army retreated, but no hope was entertained by Dr. Wheaton that he would survive. Captain Tower, fell early in the battle, while boldly leading his men to the charge. He merely requested to be turned over, and died without a struggle. Captain Smith, after having led his company bravely through the strife, and performed all the duties of a gallant officer, was instantly killed by a ball from the masked battery which fired upon us on our retreat. To see him and others, thus literally mowed down in their defenceless condition, and to witness the crashing together of guns, wagons, carriages, horses and property of all sorts, into masses of hopeless confusion and ruin, was to me the most terrible part of the whole affair

The standard bearer of the regiment, John M. Durfee, who escaped unhurt, is deserving of special mention and praise. Though the balls were showering upon him like hailstones, and though the colors which the ladies presented to us was completely riddled by them, he not only bore it proudly aloft in the face of the foe, but waved it fearlessly far in advance and called constantly for the men to follow and defend it. An officer of another regiment shouted to me in his admiration – “That fellow alone is worth a thousand men!” Doubtless the steadiness of the men and the entire success of this part of the conflict are very much to be attributed to his bearing. It is no small part of the credit of the well disciplined and bravely led company of Capt. Viall that they furnished to us such a standard bearer.

But time and space would fail me to go into particulars. You may rest assured that the reputation of the State has been well sustained and that the high praise which is bestowed upon the 2d regiment has been richly earned. Had the decided advantage gained by them been followed up by others with half their promptness and valor, our defeat would have turned out a glorious victory. I am surprised to notice with what intelligence the men now discuss the incidents and the management of the combat. Also, with the vigor they are now recommending the work of preparation for renewed conflict. Do not imagine that there is the least discouragement here. We have only sowed the dragon’s teeth, and armed hosts are springing up like magic. The returned regiments with often all but trifling losses will soon be reorganized. A vastly larger army is already gathering about us, and when, with more experience, able general officers and in better discipline, it shall again take the offensive, woe to them upon whom shall fall its pent up vengeance.

I will only add that our men are rapidly regaining their strength and cheerfulness. The wounded (including Freeman) are doing well, and let our friends and all who mourn remember that their loved ones have fallen nobly and in the cause of freedom. In this and in the grace of God may they find consolation.

Yours, &c.,
Tockwotton

Providence Evening Press 7/26/1861

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Lt. John P. Shaw, Co. F, 2nd RI Infantry

3 10 2011

The Lieutenant Shaw who authored this account of his experience in the Battle of Bull Run is most likely John P. Shaw, who would die a captain in the regiment during the Overland Campaign in 1864. Here’s a photo of Shaw courtesy of the Library of Congress:

The LOC info on this image:

Title: Camp Brightwood, D.C.–Contrabands in 2nd R.I. Camp
Date Created/Published: [between 1861 and 1865]
Medium: 1 photographic print on carte de visite mount: albumen; 10×6 cm.
Summary: Capt. B.S. Brown (left); Lt. John P. Shaw, Co. F 2nd Regt. Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry (center); and Lt. Fry (right) with African American men and boy.

Notice the distinctive early war Rhode Island blouses and Shaw’s name stenciled on the folding camp stool at right. The regiment encamped in Camp Brightwood in the fall and winter of 1861-62.

Several sources, including the Official Army Register (which is probably the culprit), list Shaw as killed at the Wilderness on May 5, 1861. However, Augustus Woodbury’s history of the regiment has this memorial biography:

Captain John P. Shaw, son of General James Shaw, was born in Providence, January 3rd, 1834. He was instructed in the common schools of Providence, and became by occupation a jeweller. He was married, September 13th, 1854, to Amanda O., daughter of William P. Brightman. At the outset of the rebellion he joined the First Rhode Island, as sergeant-major, and, on the formation of the Second, was appointed second lieutenant of Company F. He was successively promoted to first lieutenant, July 22nd, 1861, and captain, July 24th, 1862, of Company K. He was particularly efficient as a drill and recruiting officer, and, while as lieutenant, during the absence of his captain, he received, in special orders, the congratulations and commendation of Colonel Wheaton, for the “entire success with which he had performed the duties of a higher grade.” In battle he was known as a brave and gallant officer, and was selected more than once to perform services of a peculiarly difficult kind. He fell in the bloody battle before Spottsylvania Court House, May 12th, 1864. The generous words of Colonel Edwards, in his farewell order to the Second, on the departure of the Regiment from Cold Harbor, have already been given. In a private letter to General Shaw the colonel rendered an additional testimony of his regard: “Captain Shaw died fighting so bravely, was so conspicuous among the bravest, that I could not help noticing him particularly. I and all that knew him are fellow mourners.”

And Elisha Hunt Rhodes describes Shaw’s death in his diary entry Line of Battle Near Spottsylvania Court House, May 13th 1864:

In front of our line there was an open plain for perhaps two hundred yards and then there were thick woods. The Rebels formed in the woods and then sent forward a small party with a white flag. As we saw the flag we ceased firing, and the officers jumped upon the parapet, but as the party approached they were followed by a line of battle who rushed upon us with yells. Our men quickly recovered from the surprise and gave them a volley which sent them flying to the woods. From the woods a steady fire was kept up until after midnight. The guns which I mentioned above were still standing idle in the angle and neither party could get them. A Brigade of New Jersey troops were brought up and attempted to enter the angle but were driven back. General Sickles’ old Brigade (the Excelsior) were then brought up, but the men could not stand the terrible fire and instead of advancing in line only formed a semicircle about the guns. Capt. John P. Shaw of Co. “K” 2nd R. I. Volunteers was standing upon a stump and waving his sword to encourage these men when he suddenly fell backwards. I shouted to Major Jencks that Shaw was down. I ran to him and found him lying with his head upon an ammunition box. I raised him up, and the blood spurted from the wound in his breast, and he was dead. As I had lost my pistol I took his and placed it in my holster and will, if I live, send it home to the Captain’s father.





“Tockwotton”, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle

1 10 2011

Letters  From The Second Regiment.

Camp Clark, July 22, 1861

To the Editors of the Evening Press: – Dear Sirs, I am oppressed with the long fatigue and overwhelmed with grief, but cannot rest until I have written a few lines to you.

Perhaps the best thing that I can do is to give you a simple narrative of what has transpired, so far as it has come under my own observation. According to orders issued the night before, we took our line of march yesterday morning at two o’clock. As in the advance upon Fairfax, the Second Regiment led the advance, under the command of General Hunter, who was constantly present to direct and to urge forward the Division. By a forced march of what could not have been less than eighteen miles, lasting from two until about nine o’clock, we reached, by a circuitous route through the wilderness, the place of conflict – a place called Bull’s Run. None of us had rested the night before, for more than an hour or two – some of us had not closed our eyes at all. All were greatly fatigued by the forced and lengthy march – during which we only halted a very few times, and then only for a moment or two. The Second Rhode Island Regiment not only led the advancing column, but, as before, performed all the flanking and skirmishing duty – their flanking lines extending for a great distance into the wilderness and the duties of it attended with great labor. About nine, as we were just coming to the edge of the woods through which we had been winding, the skirmishing commenced by our flanking companies, and word was brought to us that the enemy was waiting for us in force on the open space just beyond.

Without taking a moment to rest or to breathe; even without waiting for others in the rear to join them, the officers and men of the 2d regiment listened to a few sentences from Gen. Hunter, and, led by their brave Colonel, rushed with a shout into the open space, and found themselves face to face, and almost hand to hand, with a greatly superior force of the enemy. The battle commenced instantly and fiercely. I can compare it to nothing but the mysterious storm spoken of in the Apocalypse, only every drop was a ball, which mowed, and smote, and cut, with the force of lightning. I did not see a man falter. Led by their officers, who shouted forward, and showed themselves as brave and true as steel, and companies rushed through the storm of death and drove the superior force of the enemy before them. In a few moments the battery, led by the brave Capt. Reynolds, drove into the field, and wheeling, began to pour their death dealing missiles into the ranks of the foe. This seemed to me to be the most terrible moment of this terrific conflict. The enemy, close at hand, seemed to me to conceive the idea of driving our men back and taking the battery. The air seemed to grow dark and was rendered vocal with the storm of balls cutting through it and rending the trees in our rear. Still the officers, themselves among the foremost, shouted forward, and our men not only maintained the unequal conflict, but steadily drove the enemy before them. Perhaps it was not so long as that, but it seemed to me a full half hour before the other regiments came to our support and the enemy were repulsed and driven back. I supposed the day was gained, as I had not doubted but that it would be from the beginning. Of course there were dead and wounded on every side of us. Some of us had been constantly engaged in bearing them back into the edge of the wood and supporting and consoling them as best we could.

As soon as possible the carriages prepared for that purpose were brought up, and the wounded carried yet farther to the rear and placed in the charge of the surgeons. Our beloved Colonel fell gallantly leading on his regiment. He was instantly borne to a house near at hand, and then to the hospital below, and every exertion was made to revive him, but in vain. There was no consciousness, and he survived but a short time. I need not add that we are filled with the profoundest grief at his loss. May God bless and comfort his wife and mother and whole family.

Of the, to me perfectly mysterious, result of the general battle, I have neither time nor strength now to speak, nor of the retreat. I say result of the general battle, for our part of it was a victory. Our officers fought and fell like heroes, and the whole regiment has gained for itself and the State imperishable fame. Our beloved Governor has proved himself to be among the bravest of the brave. He was constantly in the front of the battle, and when his horse fell dead under him, he was instantly with drawn sword cheering on the men, and through the mercy of God he has escaped with only a scratch. The command of our regiment devolved upon Lieut. Col. Wheaton, son of our senior Surgeon, and he has in every way shown himself worthy to succeed Col. Slocum. I assure you he can ask no higher praise than this. By him and his officers our regiment was kept organized and controlled through nearly the entire retreat, while others were broken and scattered.

We know that we owe to him, and yet more to the cool and indefatigable exertions of our brave Governor, that the result of the conflict was not yet more disastrous. He was with us through the whole – forgetful of self – thoughtful only of the rest.

The beloved dead and wounded we were compelled to leave; not, however, until an arrangement had been made with a superior officer of the enemy who had fallen into our hands to have them most sacredly and tenderly cared for.

Of the extent of our loss I cannot now judge. In our regiment, of the dead and those who may be considered fatally wounded, the number I think will fall short of one hundred. This is all I have time to add. May God sanctify to us and the whole nation this great sorrow.

Yours, &c.,
Tockwotton.

Providence Evening Press 7/25/1861

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Unknown, 2nd Rhode Island Battery, On the Battle (1)

14 09 2011

The Second Battery

The following extract from a letter of a member of the second battery tells very clearly the part that battery played in the battle. Having described their march to the forest beyond Centreville, the writer says:

“The axmen of the 2nd New Hampshire regiment, some 25 strong, led the way; then followed the 2nd Rhode Island regiment, the light battery being immediately in the rear of the regiment, and the 1st regiment in our rear. We marched slowly but steadily, gradually working around to the left and rear of their batteries at Sutter’s Mills, till 11 o’clock, when upon the head of the column appearing through a grove, they were greeted with the compliments of a 10 gun battery on a hill to their left. ‘Forward’ was the word now, and forward we went, the horses on the jump, and came into ‘battery’ in a field on the left of our line of march, under a heavy fire from their battery and from a body of infantry concealed in a wood just to the left of our position. It was rather nervous business for one who had never seen anything but ‘muster day’ encounters to find the balls flying round his head, perfectly regardless of whom they might hit, and to see one of our horses shot dead before the gun he was harnessed to could be turned round and brought into position. The 2d regiment deployed  and drove the enemy’s riflemen from the wood, so that we could confined our attention to the battery in front, which we silenced after firing some 250 shell into it. Gen. McDowell came up just as they stopped firing, and said ‘Well done, Rhode Island boys!’. We were next sent to an open field on the right to engage another battery, and after firing a short time, the left section, under Lieut. Monroe, was sent to the extreme right to support Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries, while the right and centre sections were ordered to the front to support the battery of Captain R. Arnold.

When the left section reached its position, they were within 40 yards of the enemy’s lines, and their men and horses  completely exhausted. Capt. Reynolds seeing the enemy were about to charge, and the artillery being without support, ordered a retreat, and brought off both guns and one caisson. The other caisson was taken, the horses being killed. Our boys were particularly fortunate in saving their guns, for Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries were both taken at this time, and our guns were placed between theirs.

The other sections were busily engaged all this time with a battery of much heavier calibre, until their ammunition was nearly expended, when they were ordered to fall to the rear. One of our gun carriages was shattered, and we were obliged to have the piece slung under the limber to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy. We then formed our battery in regular column of sections, and moved off in the rear of the regiment. At this time our troops had been driven back at every point, and the order was given to retreat. Our column moved back over the road they had  travelled so proudly in the morning, in great confusion. Lieut. Col. Wheaton rallied the 2d, and Col. Burnside the 1st, and marched them off in good style.

When we reached the bridge across the Bull Run, the enemy opened on us a terrible fire of shot, shell and musketry, which caused a perfect stampede among the troops. The teamers on the government baggage wagons upset their wagons across the bridge and entrance to the ford, and we were obliged to abandon our guns. We only saved one piece, which was carried over just before the fire commenced. I was at the rear of the column when they opened their battery. The second shot they fired took off the head of a soldier who had his hand on the bridle of my horse. From the bridge we moved on the ‘double quick’ to Centreville, where we met the reserve column under Gen. Runyon, who protected the retreat of the flying troops. At Centreville I took —— on my horse and rode ‘double’ to our old camping ground, where we rested for a couple of hours and then turned towards Washington. We found our baggage wagons, three in number, at Utterbachs, and throwing out all the baggage, put our men in them, and so brought them through in quite good shape. I was glad enough to get some sleep when I reached camp. Twenty-six hours in the saddle and four on the battlefield is rather harder work than I have been accustomed to.

Lieut. Weeden had his horse shot under him. The ball struck about six inches from his leg. I was hit four or five times by spent balls. One dented my field glass so that the lower slide won’t work.

All our men worked like heroes, and one of their officers, who was carried to our hospital to have his wounds dressed, said ‘that Rhode Island battery cut up our men terribly.’
We are ready for another dash at them, and to morrow we start for Harper’s Ferry to take the place of the first battery.”

Providence Journal 7/31/1861

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