W. P. P., 2nd South Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

11 09 2020

From Camp Gregg.
[Correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.]

Advance Forces, Army of the Potomac,
Camp Gregg, July 31, 1861

Perhaps a letter from this quarter would not be altogether uninteresting to your readers. The Brigade of Gen. Bonham, including Capt. Kemper’s battery, are stationed at this point. We arrived here on Wednesday morning after the engagement of the 21st at Stone Bridge. The health of the troops generally is good. We have fine water, plenty of healthful food, (much of which at one time belonged to the enemy,) a large quantity of wood for cooking, and last, though by no means the least of our comforts, we are once more in possession of our tents. This important article had been dispensed from the time we left Fairfax until our arrival at this place, with the exception of one night.

The Yankee settlers in this neighborhood cut stick as soon as they found that their friends were whipped, and that the South Carolinians were coming. Many of them had raised the Union flag when the Yankees marched through here to Fairfax C. H. – Now their houses are deserted, and their possessors are perhaps safely on the other side of the Potomac.

I presume the details of the battle of Stone Bridge have reached you; but there are thousands of interesting incidents, perhaps insignificant in themselves, but which, collectively, went far towards turning the tide of battle. All the troops engaged, so far as my observations extended – and I was an eye-witness to much that occurred on that day – acted nobly. But as some newspaper correspondents have failed to do proper justice to the Second Palmetto Regiment, under Col. Kershaw, I trust you will permit me to say a few words in reference to the part it performed in that action.

During the first part of the engagement, the Second Regiment was stationed to the left of Gen. Bonham’s Brigade, about three miles below the Stone Bridge. About 12 o’clock Col. Kershaw, with Col. Cash (8th S. C. Regiment,) were ordered to repair to the battle-ground and take position on the left. – When we arrived in the neighborhood of the battle-ground, we met detached portions of Sloan’s S. C. Regiment, Hampton’s Legion, and a North Carolina Regiment, whose Colonel had been killed, leaving the field before superior numbers. So thickly flew the canister, grape, and Monnie balls of the enemy, that we were compelled to be flat upon the ground while the line of battle was being formed. It was whilst in this position we sustained a galling fire from the Fire Zouave Regiment, stationed behind a fence in our front. We also discovered at this time that there was a park of rifle cannon playing upon us from the right. At length the line of battle was formed, consisting of the 2d and 8th South Carolina Regiments and Preston’s Virginia Regiment, all under command of Col. Kershaw. Riding to the front and right of his own regiment, Col. Kershaw inquired of his men if they would follow him. Replying in the affirmative, he gave the order to charge, and with a shout they arose and broke the enemy’s line. So sudden did we spring on them and pass them, that more than a hundred Zouaves were left in our rear, and were made prisoners of by our straggling soldiers. The right wing of the Second Regiment came square upon the rifle cannon, which were in a short time turned upon the enemy. I have never ascertained the name of the battery; but a wounded enemy under one of the pieces informed us that it had once been commanded by Colonel Magruder, now of the Confederate army. It was in advancing upon this battery that the Zouaves displayed the Confederate flag, which caused us to reserve our fire for several minutes. Finally, they emerged from the woods with the Stars and Stripes, when they were fired into by the Butler Guards, the right flaking company of Kershaw’s Regiment, whose trusty Enfield rifles made many of them bite the dust. The rifle cannon were removed from the field, by order of General Beauregard, by men from the Second Regiment.

The enemy were pursued by the brigade under Col. Kershaw to within a short distance of Centreville, capturing a great number of pieces of artillery. Captain Kemper’s battery also performed a conspicuous part in the pursuit. The enemy was frequently in sight, large bodies of them flying in almost every direction. It was in the pursuit that the celebrated Rhode Island battery was captured. The small loss sustained by the Second Regiment, in killed and wounded, must not be taken as an indication that they were not in the hottest of the fight. When it is remembered that much of their fighting was accomplished whilst lying on the ground, and the enemy’s balls going over their heads, the reason why co few were killed is rapidly understood.

W. W. P.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/5/1861

Clipping image





“Palmetto,” Bonham’s Brigade, On the Battle

20 07 2020

The Battle of Manassas.

Richmond, Va., July 29th, 1861.

To the Editors of the Dispatch: – Among the many incidents of the battle of Manassas which have been reported in the city press since the fight, there was one important fact which should not be passed over in silence, and I am surprised that it has not before this time been mentioned, viz: the share which two South Carolina regiments had in the affair.

These regiments (the 2d South Carolina, Col. Kershaw, and the 3d* South Carolina, Col. Cash) reached the scene of action about 1 ½ o’clock P. M. Just before they caught sight of the enemy, they were met by at least fifteen hundred of our men – many of them wounded – coming away from the field of battle, who told them “the day was lost!” that “we could do nothing with the enemy, for their artillery was too strong for us!” that “Col. Hampton and all his officers were killed, and the enemy were driving our forces back!” This was the tenor of the information received by these two Palmetto regiments, who had already gone over four miles of hilly and broken ground at the double-quick step, and were, of course, in no plight to plunge into a contest with twenty times their force, probably flushed with the prospect of victory, and excited to madness by the contest. But, the gallant Palmettos, although believing they were marching on to certain destruction – upon a worse than forlorn hope – never faltered a moment, except to inquire the nearest way to the scene of combat, and hurried on. They soon heard a sharp volley from a wood in front, and the balls whistled through their ranks, cutting down many of their number, while the air overhead was alive with the hoarse scream of shells and the hum of cannon shot, as they crashed through the branches around.

Charging through the wood, they came in sight of the enemy – the N. Y. Fire Zouaves and the Chasseurs – and with a cheer that was heard above the din of battle, rushed upon the foe, firing as they went! The enemy immediately broke and fled across fields, fences and ditches for about a mile; but five or six regiments of them rallied on a high hill opposite. The Palmettos made at them, but were ordered to halt. Why this order was given we could not at first see, for our ranks were being rapidly thinned by the long range Minnie and Maynard guns of the Yankees. But while asking each other what it meant, we heard the clear voice of Col. Kershaw tinging over the field, “Boys, lie down and let the artillery fire over you!” – We immediately fell upon our faces, and the artillery (consisting of two pieces of Kemper’s Alexandria Battery,) sent death and desolation among the well-drawn up lines of the foe on the opposite hill, while our men picked off the officers or individuals occupying the prominent places among them. They began to waver, and a few more shots from Kemper and a volley or two between the pauses of the artillery from the deadly Mississippi rifles of the Palmetto boys completed the rout, and the enemy fled in confusion. Their own artillery, (six splendid rifled pieces of Griffin’s Battery) was turned upon them, and lent additional terror to their flight. But the fact to which I referred in the beginning of this slight outline was this: – These two South Carolina regiments, together with Kemper’s Battery and a detachment of the Va. Black Horse Cavalry, pursued the enemy for six miles beyond the field of battle and captured over twenty pieces of artillery, besides arms and stores innumerable, which otherwise would have been carried off!

Palmetto

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/2/1861

Clipping Image

* The 3rd Carolina was commanded by Col. J. H. Williams. The 8th South Carolina was commanded by Col. E. B. C. Cash. Both regiments were in Bonham’s Brigade along with the 2nd and 7th South Carolina. The action described appears to coincide with that of the 2nd and 8th SC, which operated together. This mistake could have been made by the editors (mistaking an 8 for a 3), or by the letter writer, who may have been unfamiliar with the command of the 8th or 3rd SC, or may not have been an eyewitness and was reporting second-hand information. It is assumed the letter writer was a participant, but not known.





Sgt. Harrison Dewey*, Co. E, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Campaign

29 06 2020

INTERESTING ACCOUNT OF THE SECOND REGIMENT IN THE BULL RUN BATTLE
By a Member of the Turnbridge Company.

Bush Hill, Va., Aug. 5, 1861.

I will endeavor to give you a true and faithful description of our march from Washington to this place after the battle at Bull Run. We left our encampment at Capitol Hill July 16th, and encamped at Bush Hill. At the time of our encamping here we were in the most advanced post on this line in Virginia. We were here formed into a Brigade with the 3d, 4th and 5th Maine regiments, under Col. Howard of Maine. We remained here but a few days when our Brigade were ordered to gain the rear of Fairfax Court House, for the purpose of cutting off the retreat of the rebels from that place, while a more powerful force advanced against it in front. We started at 4 o’clock P. M., and marched until w A. M. We then encamped about two hours. During this march we passed an unfordable stream about thirty feet wide, on a single string-piece. It is said 15,000 troops crossed at this place in two hours. The army here divided; our brigade and one other marched to the rear, the remainder to the attack in front. After marching until 1 o’clock P. M., and gaining a good position in the rear of the rebels, we learned that they had evacuated the place about two hours previous. After resting a few hours, we took up our march for Centreville, where we arrived at 9 o’clock P. M. We here encamped in the open air, as we had done for the three previous nights. Here we remained three nights. Saturday evening we were ordered to be prepared to march to Bull Run at 2 o’clock the next morning. We were all ready before the hour appointed, and every one appeared at least to be eager for the fray. We did not get under way until some time after daylight. About six o’clock, A. M., we heard the roar of cannon. The sounds were like a shock of electricity throughout our regiment, and all seemed to exert themselves to gain the battle field. After marching 4 miles from Centreville, we were halted in a woods three miles from Bull Run. We were now within two miles of the nearest combatants, whose guns and cannonading made the earth tremble where we were halted; but notwithstanding our eagerness to press forward, we were detained here nearly two hours. Had we been permitted to have pressed forward against their right flank, as we afterwards did against their left, the battle would have been decided in our favor. But we lost the opportunity by this unjustifiable delay. At length a messenger arrived for us to march on to the field with all possible dispatch. When the order arrived, at least one-third of our brigade were asleep; but the alarm sounded and in four minutes we were in line and on our march. From this place to where we commenced firing, was three miles, and we marched most of the way on double quick time. On arriving within about one hundred rods of where we formed our line of battle, the rebels threw a tremendous sight of anon balls and bomb shells among us, the shells bursting in our midst scattering death and wounds on all sides. – The orderly sergeant of Company H, who was marching by my side, fell with his right arm broken in two places. One of the color guards was badly wounded in the leg, and a private by the name of Streeter was wounded in both legs. All these wounds were from the same shell. This, however, was but one of the many shells thrown amongst us. It was perhaps as destructive as any one. All the above wounded are missing. We did not slack our march in the least until we arrived on the field, which was already strewn with the dead and wounded. We formed our line behind a hill and marched on to the lines, which were formed within about forty rods of the rebel lines. After our second fire, the rebels hid themselves in the wood and behind stumps and trees. We stood our ground without flinching until we were ordered to retreat. The right wing of our regiment immediately obeyed the order, but the left wing still maintained their ground until they were twice more ordered to retreat. Our guns were now too hot for use, and we left the field.

During the battle the rebels displayed the Stars and Stripes, and also made our private signals when we were ordered to cease firing, but quickly discovering the mistake, we fired a volley and the rebel bearer of the Stars and Stripes fell dead, as did many others. A spent musket ball struck me on the right knee, but did no injury. As we walked (not run) up the slope that carried us up to the plain where the first shells burst among us, I was by the side of Capt. Smith. We heard a cannonball in our rear, when we both sprang aside, the ball passing between us, and not more than fifteen or eighteen inches from either of us. It struck the ground but a few feet forward of us. I picked it up, intending to save it, but it was too heavy to carry.

One of the most splendid displays in this or any other battle was the charge made by the Black Horse Cavalry, supported by the Texas Rangers, upon the Ellsworth Zouaves. They were about 500 strong, the Zouaves nearly 400. They rushed upon them at the height of their speed and with horrible yells. The Zouaves formed themselves into a hollow square and received them at the point of the bayonet. For a few moments it appeared as tho’ the Zouaves were being cut to pieces without mercy. The firing on both sides ceased and the greatest anxiety was apparent; but in less than five minutes the splendid body of cavalry was more than half stretched out in death. The Zouaves were not satisfied, but continued to make partial attacks upon them until not fifty of the cavalry remained unharmed. It is stated that the most deadly hatred existed between the cavalry and the Zouaves, and that they were determined to destroy them or die themselves, and the result is as above stated. I notice contradictory accounts in the papers respecting the above cavalry, but no doubt exists here but they are, as above states, the Texas Rangers.

We continued our retreat across the plain where the first shells and balls were fired at us. As we passed over this plain, if it were possible the balls and shells fell thicker and faster than when we passed over it in the battle, but no flinching or dodging was visible among the officers and men. We passed the plain, however, without extra loss. I did not notice a single gun fired by the retreating soldiers after they commenced their retreat, which is something very remarkable. I have heard that in some regiments they did fire [?] to the rear.

It is very gratifying indeed to reflect upon the bearing, steadiness and bravery of our regiment on the field of battle. No troops ever stood firmer. I did not see one that went on to the field tremble or flinch in the least. Capt. Smith was as cool, apparently at least, as when sitting in his own house, but not more so than were Lieutenants Whitney and Bixbey. After retreating about 4 miles we were suddenly attacked on our right flank by the enemy’s cannon. The excitement now became intense in the extreme and and the panic and confusion was inextricable. The rear was cut off and fled in confusion to the left. I was in the rear of our company at this time and did not see it again until the next Friday night. I continued to bear to the left until about eleven o’clock p. m. with two others. We then lay down on the ground until 3 o’clock a. m., when we started for Centreville, but soon learned that it was in the hands of the rebels. I see by the papers that I was last seen at Centreville*. This is not correct, Wiggins and Godale fled with me and continued with me until we arrived in Washington. At the time of our separation from the regiment we had two days rations for one man, making six meals, when we ought to have had forty. The remainder was supplied with black and blue berries which grow in great abundance. About 8 o’clock Monday morning it commenced raining and continued over twenty-four hours. I may here remark that the storms and nights here are very chilly. We were exposed to this long rain without going under any kind of shelter whatever. We dared not go to any house for fear of armed rebels, nor into any barn or shed in the night because of dogs; so that we did not go under any cover whatever until we arrived in Washington. When we left the regiment we were about fifty miles from the Potomac, but the course we traveled to get there could not have been less than 125 miles. The last day we traveled 23 hours, and the last 8 hours did not even halt. The first thing I recognized was the Capitol at Washington, and I assure you it was a beautiful sight to us. We arrived at six o’clock p. m. on Thursday. I immediately recognized a gentleman in the street from something particular about him; he took us home with him and treated us in the kindest manner until Friday. I then left for the camp at this place, (the others stopping in Alexandria.) where I arrived in the evening, when I was received by the company with hearty cheers, the Captain giving the order. On our journey to the Potomac we were six times headed off by the rebel cavalry and obliged to turn back and flee. I am now detailed as Clerk of a Court Martial and must close but will write again as soon as I can find time and give farther particulars and incidents.

Vermont Watchman, 8/30/1861

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy

* Harrison Dewey of Co. E was reported as “last seen at Centreville” in the letter of “T. H. C.”, published in “Waltons Daily Journal (Montpelier, VT), 7/29/1861. The letter also mentions Wiggins and “Goodale.” Thus the extraordinary assumption that the letter writer is indeed Sgt. Harrison Dewey. See transcription here.

2nd Vermont Infantry Roster 

Harrison Dewey at Ancestry 

Harrison Dewey at Fold3 

Harrison Dewey at FindAGrave 





“W”, Co. I, 5th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

24 06 2020

Washington City, July 24th, 1861.

Letter From One of the Massachusetts Fifth.

Dear Brother; The great battle has been fought, and our forces have retreated, but are not conquered. On the evening of the 20th we received three days rations, and at 2 A. M. were called into line, but his was half-past 5 before we got fairly started. After a long and tedious march we reached the position assigned us. Throwing off our superfluous equipments, Colonel Lawrence in a few words cautioned us not to take orders from anyone but himself, and above all things to keep perfectly cool. Our station was on the brow of a hill where a perfect storm of shot and shell was being directed. Lying down on our faces to avoid its effect, the order soon came – “commence firing.” Ours, the first company, fired and went to the rear, loading on our backs, the second company followed suit, and so on. We fired into their rifle pits and batteries, and could not see what execution we had done.

Soon the Fire Zouaves were called upon to make a charge, and we were directed to support them. Instantly forming into double files “double quick” was the word, and away we dashed off the hill, down the road, through the Run, nearly to our waists in water, and took our position in their rear. Here the fire was terrific, but too high to harm us. The charge was made and most nobly was it done, but our unseen foes were as yet too much for us. At this point our Colonel was wounded, exclaiming as he fell, Don’t mind me, boys, go back and fight; but all our fighting for the day as a regiment was at an end. By the cowardly retreat of a cavalry corps who were to support us, the companies were separated beyond hope of reorganization. Some of them rallied under their captains and others under their lieutenants. Our old hero, Capt. Brastow, led us until he was trampled under foot by the flying cavalry, when he was obliged to retire. After this we linked our fortunes with the Fire Zouaves, and fought with them the rest of the day until the retreat. Here was a scene past all description, which even no makes my hear sick to think off.

Our brave army officers were not anywhere to be found, and we were left to act for ourselves. Joining Gov. Sprague we slowly retreated. After we got some two miles, the enemy’s cavalry charged upon us, but were repulsed; soon they opened a battery, throwing shell into us very lively. Getting out of the range of that we made good our retreat to Centreville. Here we made preparations to remain for the night, when orders came for a retreat toward Washington. Much against our inclinations at half past 10 P. M. we started, and I trust that such another scene may never be witnessed by mortal man; one wild confusion of baggage wagons, ambulances filled with the wounded, and broken and discouraged troops dragging their weary feet along. The retreat at this point was without any order whatever, and it was with great difficulty the men could be forced along.

Our regiment, again organized, made a short halt at Alexandria, and then received orders to proceed to Washington. AS if to add to our suffering, a cold, drenching rain storm here commenced, which soaked us to the skin. At last we found rest for our weary bones, having marched from fifty to sixty miles, and fought five hours, in less than forty-eight hours. The Massachusetts Fifth answered all my expectations, and did as much as could be hoped from them under the circumstances. It is impossible to ascertain the exact number of our killed. There are in all, killed, wounded, and missing, about fifty. But one missing from our company, Somerville Light Infantry. I think we shall soon be at home.

W.

Boston (MA) Evening Transcript, 7/26/1861

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. John Alden Copeland, Co. G, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

23 06 2020

FROM A PRIVATE OF THE LIMA COMPANY, 27TH REGIMENT, TO HIS FATHER, G. W. COPELAND, OF CLARENDON, N. Y.

Washington, July 24, 1861.

Dear Father – When I left Washington a week ago yesterday I did not expect to see it again under such circumstances as surround me at present. I arrived here last night, direct from the battle field, tired and foot sore, but in good spirits. I was the last almost to return, and found that my name had been entered upon the list of the killed.

Sunday morning, at [?] o’clock, our division left camp, three miles north of Centreville, and marched till noon – about [?] miles – when the battle commenced. After we emerged from the woods – the greatest forest I ever traveled, our route through it being about [?] miles – we were drawn up in battle front, our regiment being the leader. We then went on a run for three miles to the battle field. One of our boys stopped to fill several canteens before we started, and I carried his gun to the field, in addition to my own, and at the same time I was loaded with my haversack, containing three day’s provisions, two blankets, and 40 rounds of cartridges. When I got to the field I threw aside everything except my gun and cartridge box, and took my place in the ranks under heavy fire from the enemy’s artillery, and charged up the hill with the boys, but when half way up, I fell from exhaustion, with several others. I staid about fifteen minutes, and then summoned strength to rejoin our regiment, and crawled over the hill, the balls flying like hail around me. I met our Lieut. Col. Chambers galloping back to get help for our regiment, and he rushed up to one of the field officers and in his stuttering way called for aid, for heaven’s sake, to relieve our boys. He said that they were surrounded in the woods below. When I heard this I ran down in the woods and found our regiment retreating, carrying back our Col., wounded in the thigh, with several of our company wounded but none killed. – Other companies had some of their members killed. Here we made a stand, the balls of the artillery and musketry whizzing over our heads in a perfect storm. Our Major took command and led us out of the woods, to make, as we thought, a second charge. Our Colonel nearly wept when he could not lead us further, and ordered that we should be taken from the field, as we had already had our share of the fight, and were enough cut up without hazarding further loss of life. We left the woods, the fight raging all around us, and lay down behind the banks of a creek, as it was almost instant death to lose cover, as the enemy were continually unmasking new and unseen batteries upon us, and all well planned with good engineers. They had nearly 100,000 men arrayed against us, and they had reinforcements pouring in continually from Manassas, four miles distant.

The battle was in reality the long, long looked for struggle which was to come off at Manassas, although it took place at Bull Run. We had scarcely 15,000 troops to oppose them, and with this odds against us, we drove them from the field three times, forcing their batteries into the woods. But the woods were filled with their troops, and they could lead fresh men to the attack continually. More than that, there was on our side no order whatever. Each Col. attacked or withdrew from field when he pleased, and that is the way the fight was carried on. Our regiment and another went first into the fight, and after driving the enemy from the field, unsustained, were driven back by the guerilla hordes, who never gave us a chance to use the bayonet. Notwithstanding their superiority of numbers, they fled to the cover, and played Indian through it all. Thus the fight continued until the retreat was ordered. I was never in a battle before, but I never saw a braver set of men in my life, than our volunteers. The regulars were less enthusiastic, and seemed to be pushed to the charge, while the volunteers would come rushing along, hurrahing with all their might, driving the enemy into their thicket fast[?], when they were only forced back by the murderous fire of masked batteries and concealed musketry, leaving their wounded to be butchered by the boasted chivalry of the South. Our artillery did terrible execution, but the enemy would bring two pieces to our one, against us. Sherman’s battery was first on the field and mowed down whole ranks of the retreating enemy, and as the remnants came flying past our regiment, we were about to fire upon them when they hoisted the Stars and Stripes, and they were suffered to pass. After getting by, they put up their true colors, and poured a whole broadside into our regiment. Our Colonel, when he saw them, said, “Boys, there are the rascals, fire!” But another countermanded the order, supposing them to be our friends, and thus they escaped. Our boys were mad at this deception, as they were entirely in our power.

Ellsworth’s and Brooklyn Zouaves were about the last to leave the field, and received the special attention of the enemy. The white cap South Carolina Zouaves charged upon them, and the way they routed the Carolinians was a treat to see. They are large swarthy fellows, and hung to each other like brothers, and the enemy have a great terror of them.

When we left the field we expected to encamp on the ground we had taken, and the bold front we showed on our retreat undoubtedly saved us from utter destruction. They did not dare to follow us, having seen too much of our fight during the day, to attack us. But we had not proceeded three miles before it was known throughout the line that we were in a full retreat to the [?], and then the rout commenced. Instead of [?], the regiment broke up, and there was nothing to be seen but a long line of fugitives hurrying to the North. Before we entered the woods the cry arose that the cavalry were upon us, and such a scramble I never saw. The officers ordered the men to the cover to save themselves. Baggage-wagons, artillery, ambulances and carriages of every description, thundered on by us, and the whole route was strewn with broken wagons, or [?] men filled [? ? ?] and all the appurtenances of war, [?] large [?] of private property belonging to the officers.

Thus the road continued through the forest, and when we emerged from the woods we were attacked by a masked battery and the Black Horse Cavalry. Our cavalry rushed on with our artillery in order to save it, and it was saved. Where we came out of the woods there was a deep gully, and here the battery poured down upon the stream of fugitives. The Zouaves charged upon the battery, took two rifled cannon, and cut up the Black Horse Cavalry terribly, thus saving Sherman’s battery and adding two pieces to it. The loss of Sherman’s battery would have been worse than losing a battle to the United States. When they fired upon us I turned to the left and waded a creek three feed deep and passed on toward Centreville; but before I reached the road I came upon the encampment of the New York 69th Regiment, and found them united with the 14th for mutual safety. They were expecting a night attack and lay upon their arms all night. They had secured guides who were to lead them early in the morning to Alexandria, and I concluded to stay and go with them. A soldier of another regiment laid down with me and went to sleep. I woke twice during the night, and the regiments were still on the ground; but, finally, I got into a sound sleep and did not wake up until my comrade awoke me, when he told me the whole body of troops were gone, and we were alone beyond Centreville. I must say that things looked tickelish, but I was determined to pick my way through if such a thing were possible. It was cloudy and raining some when we started, and, inasmuch as I went to bed on the bar ground the night before, after wading the creek, soaking wet and also after marching all day from two o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night, with the battle thrown in, I did not feel much like taking a [?] march of some twenty miles to Washington, as I knew I must, a point of safety. We avoided Centreville by crossing the fields and came on in the highway leading from Alexandria to Richmond, but being uncertain of this we took another road leading to Manassas, and I know not how far we should have followed it but for a farmer, who put us on the right track. This was quite a delay as we went about two miles out of the way, and it was about seven o’clock in the morning. When we reached the road we found to our dismay that we were nearly the last of the returning fugitives. I felt very hungry, and although the road was strewed with crackers, bread, sugar and coffee, I did not have time to sit down, build a fire and cook a good dish of coffee, which I might have done at every rod of the way between Centreville and Fairfax. Beef, pork, crackers, bread and sugar lined the roadsides, and the farmers along the route must have picked up enough plunder to feed them for that year, while the enemy, who followed us, must have seized a large number of fine baggage wagons and large amounts of military stores.

I kept up spunk and a quick pace, and I reached Fairfax about three o’clock, P. M. After resting a little, I pushed on, and having overtaken some boys of our regiment, we got a good cup of coffee some four miles this side of Fairfax. It rained in the afternoon steady, but I kept the India Rubber blanket you sent me, and it was of great service to me. I too the road to Alexandria and others went to Arlington Heights. I reached Alexandria about seven P. M., and found Lieut. Hall, and some twenty boys of our regiment. As we could not get to Washington by boat that night, we took up our quarters in the building of the famous Alexandria library. The next day, P. M., went to Washington on foot, and found our regiment out on dress parade, and when our lieutenant marched us into camp before their eyes, it was a joyful sight for both.

This was probably one of the hardest fought battle we have ever had in America, and the rout beats anything I ever read of in our history. Braddock’s defeat, or Green’s retreat, did not begin with it. The Rebels will never give us a fair field fight, and we must bring the heaviest artillery in order to shell them out of their masked batteries. Our Colonel is loved by all the regiment, but the general movement of the army was in unskillful hands. I am a little foot sore and stiff after marching some sixty miles in two days, but I want to get at those rebels again.

J. A. Copeland

Later. – We have just been favored with the perusal of an interesting letter from a volunteer in the 27th regiment, attached to a Binghamton company. He describes minutely the progress of his regiment from Washington to Bull Run and back so far as he understands the movements.

At the point where the 27th went into battle they were the second regiment to engage the enemy, and drove them before them. Suddenly a regiment came out of a piece of woods and the men waved their caps. Col. Slocum thought they were Federal troops and would not fire upon them. They marched up within pistol shot, threw out a secession flag, and opened fire upon the 27th with rifles, the latter being armed with muskets. The 27th returned the fire sharply and compelled them to retire, but when they got out of musket range they poured in the bullets from their rifles and made bloody work. Col. Slocum sent to the New York 14th, near by, for help, but it was refused. At length he ordered his men to retreat to a cover of woods for protection and rest. While on the retreat the Colonel received a shot in his thigh and was borne away to the hospital. Soon after the 27th was ordered to join in a general assault, and went in with other regiments bravely, driving the rebels back to the cover of their masked batteries. Finally the retreat of the Federal army commenced. The 27th left the field in good order, but were charged upon by the rebel cavalry, which broke them up and each man took care of himself.

Rochester (NY) Union Advertiser, 7/30/1861

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy

27th New York Infantry roster 

John Alden Copeland at Ancestry 

John Alden Copeland at Fold3 

John Alden Copeland at FindAGrave





Cpl. John Fulton, Co. L (Engineers), 14th New York State Militia, On the Campaign

17 06 2020

JACK FULTON GIVES HIS VERSION OF THE BULL RUN FIGHT.

Camp Porter, Arlington Heights, July 25, 1861.

There is no doubt ere this you have heard about the battle at Bull’s Run. I want to give you some idea about our regiment from the time we left Arlington until we returned back again. We left Camp Porter at half-past 3 P. M. on the 16th, and marched 12 miles where we came to halt withing 7 miles of Fairfax, when we laid down and had some rest. Nothing of any note transpired during our march. We took up the line of march at 8 A. M. on the 17th for Fairfax. About three miles on the road the rebels had cut down a large number of trees to obstruct our march, but our division took the fields. We arrived at Fairfax at 1 P. M. The rebels left Fairfax in double quick time two hours before we got there. We passed four intrenchments that they vacated. We remained at Fairfax until 4 P. M. of the 18th, then took up our line of march for Centreville. We passed a number of encampments that they had set on fire. They left all their food and camp utensils, so you can judge the hurry they were in. We had a good dinner of the fresh beef that they left behind. We came to a halt 1 ½ miles from Centreville; you must understand we had no tents since we left our camp, all we had was the clear blue sky above us. Thank God we had good weather, but the dear lord how hot it was, soaking wet all the time, but we stand it like men so far, not a man lagged behind and all feel anxious to meet the enemy. But last night was the hardest of all nights, such firing of muskets by the ‘great man’ I never heard before, we were up and down all night. We have in our Brigade the 8th N. Y. S. M., Mart Owens’ Regt. 27th New York Volunteers, one regiment of regular and 600 marines from the Navy Yard besides the gallant 14th; also Griffin’s West Point Battery and a troop of cavalry under the command of Brig. Gen. Porter; the division under Gen. McDowell. Tell Mart Owen that Abe Beatty was in our camp on the 19th; Babcock is sick yet, he is not with his regiment. On the 20th two regulars were flogged for desertion one got thirty-five lashes the other fifty, and in ten days to be drummed out of camp. Now comes the tug of war; we left camp at 2 ½ A. M., for Bull’s Run. Nothing of any importance transpired for about three miles, until we came to a bridge that the rebels hart partly destroyed; but we soon repaired it enough to cross. Shortly after we got on the other side of the bridge we met Gen. McDowell; he put us in quick time for two and a half miles, then came to a halt for about ten minutes, and sent scouting parties. Here we were within 1 ½ miles of the enemy – that is, on a line – but we were to march about six miles, so as to surround them. Here we heard the first gun about 8 A. M., and we kept scouting until we passed Bull’s Run stream. Here we saw Gen. McDowell again; we were within 2 ½ miles of the enemy. Now comes the hot time; the order was double-quick, which we kept up for some time, until, pretty nearly played out, we came to another stream, that we had to cross knee-deep. Here all hands took a drink and filled their canteens. We could hear the guns firing like the very devil only half a mile from the enemy; then double-quick again until we arrived on the field of battle; here we took everything off except undershirts and pants; while doing this, the balls were dropping around us like hail. Then it was double-quick again, until we were in front of the enemy. All out things that we left on the field are lost. Our regiment was ordered on the left flank of the enemy. Griffin’s, Sherman’s, and the Rhode Island batteries were doing good work. The 27th Regiment, New York Volunteers, were the first to engage the enemy’s infantry, but had to fall back; then came the orders for the gallant 14th; Gen. McDowell calls on us to charge the enemy, which we did, and drove them to the woods, where they had entrenchments for their men; our men followed them up to the woods; here a number of our men got wounded; then came an order to retreat, which we did in handsome style, but could not draw them from the woods. We now had a rest for about 15 minutes. Then came the 71st and 8th (the 8th reserve for the 71st), when they opened fire with their howitzers, two in number, on the woods where the enemy had retreated, and drove them out towards their masked battery; here was a complete slaughter-house. As soon as our regiment opened fire on their infantry, the masked battery opened fire on them; such slaughter I never want to see again; our men had to lay down to load and fire. Just before we got this position, a shell wounded John Smith and Dick Coles. Inform Louis Buckman about Smith; tell him he is wounded in the knee, but not very serious. Poor Music, I am afraid, is dead; he was seen wounded in two places, on the right shoulder and leg; this I got from one of his messmates, now in the hospital, also wounded. Our hospital is full of wounded. But to return to the battle – at the time our regiment were lying down loading and firing, the Marines were ordered to cover our men, but they made a hasty retreat and left our men to be slaughtered; but the 71st came up and gave our men a chance to retreat, which we did in good order. The fire was too strong for the 71st, and they had to retreat. Shortly after this our regiment was fired into, some say by the 71st, others say the 8th, and our boys returned it, and made them come out of the woods mighty quick. All this time we were carrying the wounded off the field, I had just carried a wounded man up to the hospital when there came news that our Colonel was wounded. Burtis, Briss, Connor, Ritchie and myself went and brought him off the field amid showers of bullets, but, thank God, we came off safe. It was at this time that our army began to retreat, and it became general throughout our lines. We carried our Colonel about two miles on a litter, when we became exhausted and had to set him down, and some of our men took him up and carried him to the bridge that we had repaired when the rebels cut off our retreat, and that is the last we saw of him. Drs. Homiston and Swalm were with him at the time, also Lewis Phillips, Charles Phillips’ brother, and that is the last we saw of them. Bob Webb had his rifle shot out of his hand at the same place. Thank God, our regiment did their duty, they were the last of our division to leave the field; they made 7 distinct charges on the batteries. Our regiment has not been represented in the proper light; I understand the Zouaves got all the credit; they made but one charge, and that was when the Black Horse Cavalry charged upon them, and that was the last. Some of their men were in our ranks and some in the 71st, and others in the 8th, all the rest were up to the hospital, and you could not get them on the field again; they said they would not go on account of having no one to lead them; that their officers were not worth a d—n, that was the expression of them all. Those that were with the 71st, it is said, did very well, but I did not see them. I must close this letter, for the mail is about starting for Washington. There are about 140 men that we cannot account for, and 60 or 70 that we can, which makes 210, yet we have some hopes that these figures will be reduced, and I hope they will. I suppose we will remain here some time to recruit.

Yours,
John Fulton.

Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, 7/29/1861

Clipping image

Clear Copy at Newspapers.com 

Contributed by John Hennessy

84th New York Infantry roster (the 14th NYSM became the 84th New York Volunteer Infantry 

John Fulton at Ancestry 

John Fulton at Fold3





Pvt. Henry W. Link, Co. E, 11th New York Infantry, On the Battle

12 06 2020

The Zouaves in Battle.
—————

We are kindly permitted to publish the following letter from a well known member of the Fire Zouaves to his father in this village:

New York, July 30, 1861.

Dear Father,
You will be as much surprised at knowing I am in N. Y. as mother was when I rushed in upon her. I wish I had time to run up, and see you, but it is impossible as my absence would be noticed if I remain away over a certain time. In the confusion many of us took the opportunity to run home a day, before reporting ourselves at headquarters, knowing our services would not be wanted immediately, for I tell you, although the papers talk so much of our defeat, the secessionists got as much fight as they can bear for a time to come, and if they dare to attack us at Washington you will hear of such a fight as you have never heard of – ours was bad enough.

The papers gave you a better description of the battle than I could, but I can tell you my feelings: One has no thought of danger and death while fighting. It is load, aim and fire with a “take that” every time you fire. We had made three attacks capturing a battery, but we had no support, or not enough, or we never would have been driven back while a man of us could stand. The sixty ninth fought with us like tigers, and the 1st Rhode Islanders. Had other field officers been like the gallant courageous men that led us we would not talk of defeat now. No, it would be victory, victory which shall be the word next time. Well, we were driven back and then comes scenes that make the heart sick, crawling, limping, running over dead and dying, wounded men and horses, upset wagons, broken down carriages, muskets, arms of all kinds, knapsacks, clothing that the men pulled off and threw away – such a sight! It is impossible to describe it. I carried every thing back with me, besides a bayonet, and two pistols that I took from a rebel soldier on the field, and our Col’s. cap, which I picked up and wore back as proudly as though I was the Col. myself. My coming back to the boys with his cap made a good deal of fun for them, but we lost so many of our brave comrads that I can assure you there was real grief among us. I helped two of our boys carry our surgeon nearly two miles to the first hospital, and when within a short distance the enemy pressed us so close he begged us to drop him and save ourselves. At that moment one of their shells hit the old building used as a hospital, and full of our poor soldiers, and blew it to pieces. Many died from fatigue on the way before they got back to Washington. Curse the dishonest, avaricious politicians that run the Union! One thing I can tell them they can appoint as many commanders as they please, the men are not going to battle again unless they themselves are satisfied with their leaders.

I should never stop writing if I attempted to relate all I saw and experienced. I shall save it until I get back from the war and we meet peace restored by the union of the United States. God grant this may be the result, yet I can tell you we will have to fight for it; the Southerners can fight as well as we. It is no use to underrate the. This is one reason of our late defeat.

I must close. With much love and respect,

I am your Son,
H. M. Link

Herkimer County (NY) Journal, 8/8/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

11th New York Infantry roster

Henry W. Link at Ancestry.com 

Henry W. Link at Fold3 





Pvt. Joseph Sands, Co. A, 14th New York State Militia, On the Battle

9 06 2020

Arlington Heights, July 23.

I write you these few lines to let you know that I am safe, but scarcely able to stir from the effects of our marching and our exertions in the battle. Pretty much all of our men are in the same condition. That is, all that is left of us. I am very sorry to tell you we lost the battle, but I hope you and your friends won’t blame us, for God knows that we did our best to win, and particularly the New York troops; they fought manfully; and Brooklyn need not be ashamed of the 14th Regiment, for they did what no others dare do. It was when the Fire Zouaves were in the advance and laying for the rascals to come out, that we charged right upon the battery – in the very cannon’s mouth – and gave them volley after volley, and all of a sudden they opened their guns upon us, and plowed us down with grape and canister. Not only this but their cavalry charged upon us, when we were compelled to retreat. As we were retreating I saw my compatriots fall thick and fast around me, but I hadn’t any chance to help the wounded on the gory field. As we were going over, one of the Generals stepped up and said, “14th are you tired?” We told him no. Said he, “you have done your part.” He shouts out for the other troops to rally. For our part we could not rally without support, and all our officers were shot. We stood firm, and we saw even the regulars retreating. The general shouts out “Give one more rally.” They would not. Said he [illegible] musket, and shot him off his horse. As soon as he fell one of the Fire Zouaves jumped on the horse and galloped away; when, all of a sudden, the fellows turned and fled as fast as they could go. This, you may think, is flattery, but it is not, it is a correct statement as far as I can remember. They have taken an immense number of prisoners, and the wounded they kill, as far as I can understand. They have 150,000 men stationed there. There was 90,000 men there first, and reinforcements coming in all the time, and if we had staid much longer they would most likely have surrounded us and taken us all prisoners. We lost our Colonel and a good many of our officers; our regiment is pretty well cut up. They are talking of sending us home to recruit again. They are going to give us new uniforms, for we are in need of them; mine was bad enough before the battle, but after the battle I notice they were pretty well riddled up. The bayonet belonging to my musket was knocked clean off with a shot.

Joseph Sands, Co. A, 14th Regt.

Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, 7/25/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

14th New York State Militia (84th New York Infantry) roster 

Joseph Sands at Ancestry.com 

Joseph Sands at Fold3 

Joseph Sands at FindAGrave 





Fifer Sherman Greig, Co. A 13th New York Infantry, On the Campaign

27 05 2020

War Correspondence.
—————

Letter from Sherman Greig – Graphic Description of the Fight at Bull’s Run – How the “Milk-Sops” Behaved – The Pet Regiments of New York – The Rout and Arrival – The 13th “Turned Over” and the Federal Government – What is Thought of the “Impressment.”

Fort Bennett, Va., July 26.

Eds. Express: – I suppose the Rochesterians are awaiting news from the “milk [?] –. And though much worn by the labors of the past week, I will essay to enlighten them as much as possible concerning things past and present. If I remember rightly, my last letter was dated at Camp Union – just above here – (Fort Bennett lies to the right of Fort Corcoran, on the bank of the Potomac. It was mainly built by the 13th – our Regiment.) In it I made no mention of our expected march, but the next day we received our rifles, and shortly after, orders to march. We left the Camp about noon on the 15th, and reported at Vienna at 7 P. M. having marched a distance of perhaps fifteen miles. The next morning we moved forward – passing “Germantown” (containing three houses) and halted at Centreville. Here we found an earthwork, thrown up by the rebels, which they had deserted. It was a strong position, and offered, as a Southerner would say – a “right smart chance for a fight.” We spread our blankets on the east side of the hill, in hopes of getting a night’s rest, but we were doomed to disappointment.

Late in the day the skirmish commenced at Bull’s Run, and about five o’clock, our Brigade, consisting of the 13th, 69th and 79th New York and 2d Wisconsin, was ordered to the scene of action. When we arrived on the ground, we found the New York 2d badly cut up and dispirited. We were deployed to the right and left of the main road in the woods, and were under a hot fire for half an hour. We had nothing to do but “grin and bear it,” as no order was issued either “forward” or back. The 13th came off without a scratch, being so near the enemy’s guns that the shot passed over; but the 69th, being behind us, received some injury, several being wounded and two killed outright.

The order soon came to retreat, and we moved back to Centreville, “pensive and dripping.” – Here we lay two days to “recruit,” when the forward movement began. The men being supplied with “two days rations” and everything in readiness, we arose at 5 o’clock Sunday morning, and after a march of two hours duration, halted in sight of the enemy. A shell from Sherman’s battery announced our visit, and the enemy appeared in force on the right, seemingly to offer us a welcome.

THE FIGHT.

On the right, too, Hunter’s Division was coming in from Harper’s Ferry, and it appeared to us probable that an engagement might take place with them before we “got a hand in,” which haplessly was the case. Having already deployed to the right through the woods, our division, or brigade, emerged into the open fields just in time to hear the first roar of musketry and to charge on the enemy’s flank, which was done with a shout and a shot – shot first. Before we had time to draw up in line of battle the rebels were in full retreat across the fields.

Here we found ourselves in an open space of country – perhaps a mile square – completely surrounded by woods. The road from Centreville enters this square on the east side, and turns near the center in a southerly direction. Up this road the rebels run, and disappeared in the long line of woods to the south. Our officers were sanguine that “the day was ours,” and we were accordingly ordered to charge across the open square. This, I think, was exactly what Beauregard wanted. He had thrown out a few regiments as a feint, for us to attack, which drew us around in front of his position. And now, as we follow up his regimental “stool-pigeon,” (which lost some of its feathers by the way,) he opens his stationary batteries upon us, and crosses the fire with flying artillery.

Our batteries now responded, in our rear, and we were thus placed between two fires. The enemy’s shot cutting us down at every discharge, and out own shell frequently bursting overhead and sinking its missiles among us. Still the shout, was that very sentimental one, “Go in boys!” and though the whir of the bullet was incessant, and the roar of the musketry deafening, though they frequently stumbled over a corpse or passed a riderless steed, still they went in! Far up the southern slope, and within fifty rods of the masked batteries stood a log house surrounded by fruit trees. The house was filled with rebels, whose rifles brought down many officers in our division. To the right, and a little below this house by the southern road, the West Point Battery, of six rifled cannon had been stationed in the hope of silencing the masked batteries in the woods, but their horses were piled dead on the limbers, and the men cut down at the guns! They could not withstand the withering fire that devoured them as a flame.

The 13th Regiment of “milksops” were ordered forward to sustain that battery – and they went. Over dead horses, and over dead men, up the road – plowed by the cannon shot – nor did they pause until they were at the foot of the log house, and their balls had emptied the trees of the assassin “tigers” of the south. Here we lay flat upon the ground, under a fire two murderous to describe. Whenever a rebel showed his head in the house, or among the trees a Remington rifle spoke, and he gave no answer!

We saw on chasing a wounded man, with his bayonet poised to strike, when Charlie Buckley, one of our best men, arose full length, and taking deliberate aim, fired. The would-be murderer sprang into the air and fell. As a German remarked, close by – “I didn’t see him get up any more.” Edward Searl, of Co. F, ran up to the house, thinking it occupied by our men, and was taken prisoner. They “mashed” his gun, called him an abolitionist, and rifled his pockets. Searl, not liking the style, resolved on a “leap for life,” and went through a window, with a full volley of rifles after him. He came off without a scratch!

We now discovered that we were fired upon from the rear! and turning, beheld a scattered body of the much puffed-up 69th banging away at us, perfectly wild! All the troops behind us were now in full retreat, and we found that we had got to “git” or be taken. So away we went – double quick – down the hill, the bullets coming after us with the roar of a hail storm. We formed around our colors (which have been ventilated by the enemy’s bullets) and prepared for a general retreat, which was ordered.

Now, a word or two about the Fire Zouaves, 69th and other New York City regiments, which have been lauded to the skies, while the 13th “milksops” were not seen by the New York reporters. The story about the Zouaves “fooling the Black Horse Cavalry,” is an exaggeration, to say the least. The Black Horse Cavalry did charge upon the Zouaves, but were fired upon by two or three other regiments. The Zouaves seemed to be the special favorites of the rebel gunners, who dropped their shot among them in a most loving manner. The Zouaves were fearfully cut up. The New York 69th charged into the field with the perfect “Irish cry,” and, as I am informed, shot one of their own men through the back of the head the first fire. The next thing we heard from them they were firing into us near the log house I have mentioned! – The 79th Scotch regiment charged nobly, and their Colonel fell from his horse which shouting to his men and waving them on like a Colonel. – We had a beautiful lot of cavalry along with us. They sat on their horses during the fight, and made a fine retreat when the retreat was ordered.

THE ROUT.

Ambulances containing the wounded and dying, baggage wagons, men and horses, were mingled together in one dense mass – stretching along the road for miles – all in full flight, and apparently every one seeking his own safety. We had been beaten, cut to pieces, and outnumbered – three to one. The men were disheartened, and a panic overspread the whole dense throng! The accidental overturning of a wagon was sufficient to scatter the men in the wildest confusion. I saw full grown men throw down their arms – their only defence and hope of salvation – and run into the woods, screaming like affrighted women. Horrible and humiliating! It almost made me believe the Southern saying that “Northerners will not stand.” The rout continued on a circuitous road through the woods until it reached the bridge at Pugg’s Run,” just beyond Centreville, where the enemy had anticipated us an planted a cannon; and, I think, weakened the bridge. When the train had partially crossed the bridge, and was winding over the hill, their guns opened upon us at the same time their cavalry charged upon our baggage wagons, and a scene here ensued that beggars description.

The rush on the bridge broke it down, and cannon horses and men were buried in one wrangling mass. An ambulance containing wounded persons, fell into the creek, and it is said that the driver cut his horse loose, mounted his back and rode away, leaving the maimed and dying in the creek. The large iron gun was lost at this point but I have since heard that it was retaken by the Jersey Brigade, which we met at Centreville. Here we encamped for the night, after having placed our wounded in the hospital under the efficient care of the surgeons. We had scarcely lain down, before an order came for another retreat, and we immediately started, en-masse for the Potomac. We arrived at our old quarters in the forenoon of the next day, completely worn out. We had marched all night and had fought the whole day before! The first shot was fired at seven in the morning, and the last at sunset near Centreville bridge.

We ae back again after having participated in one of the hardest fights recorded in American history. We report ten killed, twenty-three wounded and twenty-nine missing. None of Company A have been killed; one is missing and two are wounded. The loss in our regiment is astonishingly small, considering the heavy fire we sustained. There were many “hair-breadth ‘scapes,” and the men are now engaged in relating them. I am happy to report myself “without a scratch.”

“TURNED OVER.”

There is a subject which deeply agitates our camp at the present moment, and one that will not be lightly passed over. We were informed last night that the State of New York had turned us over to the United States to serve for the term of two years! Now this is the sense of the men: They volunteered to serve the United States to serve for the term of three months, to meet the emergency of the times. Many of them left wives whom they could not possible leave for a longer period, and support. Many of them left old fathers and mothers who depend upon their children’s labor for bread, but who could spare them three months for their country’s sake. – These husbands and children have come – they have served faithfully their three months – they have fought, and many of them have fallen. And now, as their contract with the government is fulfilled, they wish to return home, with honor – as they deserve. Now they are told that the Government proposes to hold them for two years! – an act which they consider impressment, and a great wrong. They have thus far brought honor upon themselves but should the government impress them, they will be a disgrace to the service, and a great grief to Rochester! I say this, because I hear the men talk, and I know their feelings upon the subject.

If Rochesterians desire that the 13th Regiment sustain its present good name, they had better sue for its honorable discharge on the 14th of August next, at the War Department in Washington. Rochester papers should discuss the subject, and bring it before the people. Soldiers forced into battle will not fight, and their gloomy spirits dent to dampen those of other troops. I consider it very impolitic on the part of the Government to force men into this campaign who cannot well go, and who have already done as much as their circumstances will allow. Remember what I say: If the Rochester Regiment is forced into the service for two years, Rochester may cease to be proud of it.

Our men at present are completely worn out, and many of them sick. I had the pleasure of meeting C. D. Tracy, of the Express, Collins of the Democrat, and Hon. Alfred Ely, at Centreville, just before the fight – have not seen them since. Wonder what they thing of the Old Dominion and the “F. F. V.’s?”

I will write again as soon as I get recuperated. At present I am played out.

S.G.

Rochester (NY) Evening Express, 7/30/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

13th New York Infantry Roster 

Sherman Greig at Ancestry.com 

Sherman Greig at Fold3 





Sgt. William L. Fleming, Co. G (1st), 13th New York Infantry*, On the Battle

19 05 2020

From Lieut.** Wm. L. Fleming.

Washington, D. C. July 24.

Dear Father – You are doubtless, ere this, advised of the great battle on Thursday last, and of course feel anxious to know if I am still among the living. I hope this will speedily reach you, and relive you of your fears and anxieties concerning me.

It is impossible for me at present to give you the details of that terrible battle, in which I participated, but I will give you a glimpse of the most important parts.

When our regiment came up to the scene of action, the rebels were out in the field, on and even footing with our troops, but they did not stand their ground long, as our fire mowed them down like grass, and they fled to their covers. The next move we made was to support our (Sherman’s) battery, where we lay some time, the shot and shell whistling around us thick and fast. We next made a charge at a house, close to their masked batteries, where they were shielded by bushes and trees. Here we stood some ten or fifteen minutes under a galling fire, our poor fellows dropping around us like falling leaves. We were told to stop firing, as those in the house were our troops. The infamous rebels displayed the American flag there to deceive us, which infamy they perpetrated several times during the day, to deceive and get the advantage of us. Such was the confusion thus induced, that our own troops commenced firing into us, supposing we were the enemy, killing several. This, together with a galling fire from the enemy’s masked batteries and muskets, compelled us to retreat, under a heavy cavalry charge. I was thrown down and trampled on, which induced an hemorrhage of the nose and mouth, but I shall, I trust, be all right again in a few days. Our boys did nobly throughout the fight. The Fire Zouaves, the 69th and 79th did bravely. The Zouaves made charge after charge till very many of them were killed and all much exhausted. It is impossible for me to tell at present how many of our regiment were killed, but our loss must have been heavy, 200 or more, I judge. It is a perfect marvel to me how I escaped being shot. I had made up my mind that I should unquestionably fall; but I resolved to do my duty, live or die. As I think of it now, it seems a miracle that so many balls, coming like a shower of hail around me, could all miss me. My garments were untouched with them, though like a hail storm they whistled the requiem of many a noble fellow by my side. This for the present must suffice. I am stopping for a few days here in Washington with brother Walter, who is doing finely now.

In haste, yours faithfully,
William.

Rochester (NY) Evening Express, 7/27/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

* This company transferred to the 3rd NY Cavalry after the battle.

** Records indicate William L. Fleming was First Sergeant of Co. G. His brother Walter M. Fleming enlisted as an Ensign and was commissioned 2nd Lt. 7/4/1861.

13th New York Infantry Roster 

William L. Fleming at Ancestry.com 

William L. Fleming at Fold3