2nd Lt. Fred W. Shipman, Co. F, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

5 09 2017

OUR MILITARY BUDGET.
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A VIVID NARRATIVE OF THE CONFLICT.

The writer of the subjoined gives a graphic picture of what came under his observation in the battle of Bull Run:

Heintzelman’s division, in their move from Centreville to Bull Run, experienced one of the most sever marches known in modern times. I say this and it will appear palpable to all, when it is considered that the heat was intense, the distance twelve miles, the men loaded with their guns, blankets, canteens, forty rounds of ammunition in their cartridge-boxes, and nearly all the regiments wearing heavy blue jackets, and yet making it in about three hours and a half. Any one following in the rear of the division would find it hard to believe that it was advancing on the foe, but would rather incline to the opinion than an army in full retreat had passed over the road. Blankets and jackets were cast off as the heat grew more intense. Some of the men gave out and despairingly threw themselves down, lamenting their utter inability to proceed farther. Two miles this side of the enemy’s batteries, Wilcox’s brigade, with whom your correspondent is connected, were allowed a ten minutes halt to strip themselves of everything that would encumber them, and at the same time filled their canteens with water from a creek. They were then marched from the road across lots for about a mile, over fences, up hill, and at double-quick the whole way, until they found themselves in the presence of the enemy. At this time the men were so thoroughly used up that it seems impossible that the same men in five minutes from that time were fighting with all the desperation and valor of experienced veterans.

The scene at this point was most exciting. The brigade took its positions upon the field – the Zouaves to the right, the 38th regiment, Scott Life Guard, upon the left, and the Michigan regiment marching along the road and forming, ready to support any movement that might be made. About a mile directly in front we saw what appeared to be a volcano vomiting forth smoke and flame, while the rifle cannon ball and round shot fell thickly among us, as we were drawn up in line of battle. Towards the left, as we came within its range, another battery opened with shell upon us, changing now and then to round shot. Our own batteries were upon the field. Green’s being behind us throwing over our heads, while Arnold’s was to the right preparing to take position on the hill. Two others, consisting of light brass guns, were in position firing, but with little effect, the distance being too great. When the line was formed, Capt. Arnold received an order to take position upon the brow of the hill with his battery, and the Scott Life Guard was ordered forward to support him. When the enemy perceived the advance about being made they fired with redoubled energy, but our men moved steadily forward, crossing fences and coming in proper order upon the instant. They at last arrived at their proper place, just below the top of the hill, and were ordered to lay down, when Arnold’s battery took position on top and opened fire upon the enemy.

The Fire Zouaves in the meantime had received orders to advance and take position along the edge of the wood, on the right of Arnold’s battery. The fire came so heavy here that our battery had not been in position five minutes before one of the gunners had his legs shot off, four horses were killed, and every shot of the enemy was aimed in such an accurate manner, that it was useless for our battery to remain in such a position. They accordingly drew their pieces a little way down the hillside and left them. Upon this a furious charge was made upon the Zouaves by the enemy’s cavalry issuing from the wood. They were received by a volley from the regiment that emptied many a saddle, and sent the survivors to the right about in short order. Another charge was then made upon them by cavalry upon their right flank, and infantry in front, when they broke and ran down the hill in disorder. Col. Ward, of the Thirty-eighth, then gave his regiment orders to charge, when, with a cheer, the men dashed forward, driving the enemy into the woods, and covering the ground with the dead and wounded. A concealed battery on the right opened fire on the Thirty-eighth at this time, killing some thirty men and driving the regiment down hill again; but the officers rallied them and led again to the attack, and it was not until several of the officers and many of the men had fallen, that the Thirty-eighth Scott Life Guard, finding the odds too great to be combatted with, retreated to the road. That they retreated in good order, may be seen from the fact that they stopped, uncoiled the cannon ropes, and dragged Arnold’s battery away with them, thereby preventing its falling into the hands of the enemy.

In the meantime the Zouaves had formed again, marched to the extreme right of the wood and again beat off the Black Horsemen, making many a rider bite the dust. But valor was useless against such odds and strength of position, and they as well as the other regiments walked sadly from the field. Col. Wilcox had fallen early in the engagement while leading a party to the attack in the woods. About one mile from the field of battle a large stone building was used for a hospital, the scene around this place was truly harrowing, mutilated men, some without legs, or only one, arms torn off at the shoulder, deep and ghastly body wounds, some exposing the intestines, and in fact every kind of wound that could be inflicted by gunpowder, iron or steel. Most of the men were carried to the hospital seated upon a musket, one man seizing it by the stock, another by the barrel, the wounded being supported upon it by a third man walking behind,

Upon the retreat of the last regiments who went to the assault, the Sixty-ninth, Second Rhode Island, and the Sixty-ninth, a charge was made by the enemy in the direction of the Hospital, when a perfect stampeded took place; those who were carrying the wounded dropped them by the road side and consulted their own safety, the drivers of the ambulance wagons drove forward unloaded, men cast aside their guns, while the artillerymen drove headlong through the crowd. A scattered firing from men of different regiments at last drove the enemy back and the march was resumed at a pace more fitting for weary and dispirited men.

Nine o’clock p. m. brought them to their camp around Centerville. By 10 o’clock the different regiments were pretty well together; the men had built fires, and expressed the desire to make a stand, having confidence they could beat the enemy in the open field. In four hours an order came to retreat on Washington, and the weary march was resumed – some of the men crying with disappointment at our giving up without one more rally. Too much credit cannot be given the men, not only for their courage, but for their endurance under adverse circumstances. Lieut. Col. Farnsworth, of the Thirty-eighth N.Y.S.V., had been confined to his bed for over a week before the battle, was carried to field in an ambulance, and yet, sword in hand, mingled in the thickest of the fray. Fourteen wounded men of the same regiment walked the whole way from the field of battle to Shuter’s Hill; seven of them will probably die. Many of the wounded were brought in in common baggage wagons, which must have produced intense agony to the poor sufferers, the roads being in bad condition and very stony; others came upon horseback, supported by comrades sitting behind them; scores sat down by the roadside, bidding their friends good bye, as they could stand it no longer. But amid all this, the men looked forward to the time when they could again meet the foe, and may were the firmly-expressed resolves to thrash them yet.

F. W. S.*, Co. F, 38th Reg’t N.Y.S.V.

Washington Star, 8/1/1861

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*Likely 2nd Lt. Fred W. Shipman

38th New York Infantry roster 

Fred W. Shipman at Ancestry.com

Fred W. Shipman at Fold3

Contributed by John Hennessy

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Corp. Samuel J. English, Co. D, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Advance, Battle, and Retreat

7 02 2017

Camp Clark, July 24th/61
Washington, D. C.

Dear Mother

I rec’d your letter of the 21st shortly after our return to camp and take the earliest opportunity of writing. Yes, we have been & gone and done it. Last Thursday the 16th our brigade consisting of the two Rhode Island regiments, the New York 71st and the New Hampshire 2nd took up our line of march for Fairfax Court House. We crossed Long Bridge about 3 o’clock and continued on for six miles where we bivouacked for the night. Nothing occurred of importance to disturb our slumbers except the passing of troops bound on the same expedition. We commenced our march early in the morning, the 2nd R. I. regiment taking the lead and acting as skirmishers, Co. A taking the advance on the right; Co. D acting as flankers; Co. F acting as rear advance on the right of the column, Co. K[?] acting as advance on the left. Co. C as flankers and Co. G as rear guard. I cannot state exactly the strength of our forces at the time, but should judge there were seven or eight thousand, including 1500 cavalry and two Batteries of artillery with two howitzers belonging to the New York 71st Regt. When within half a mile of the village of Fairfax, word was sent that the rebels’ battery was directly in our line of march. Our artillery was immediately ordered to the front and fired three shots into it, making the sand fly, and showing pretty conclusively that the birds had flown. All the time this was taking place your humble servant was skirting around in the woods as a skirmisher and arrived in the village ahead of the main column. As our company arrived the streets presented the scene of the wildest confusion: old negroes running around, some laughing, some crying and some swearing at a fearful rate. The streets were strewn with the knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, blankets, shirts and most every article pertaining to camp life. The houses were deserted and in some places the tables were set for dinner and coffee warm on the stove. After strolling around a short time we quartered ourselves in the park of G. Lee and made ourselves as comfortable as circumstances would permit. The cavalry in the meantime pursuing the retreating rebels and capturing 30 of their men. What particularly pleased me was that the company that lost the mess was the Palmetto Guards and Brooks Guards of South Carolina, having lost all of their camp equipage and barely escaped with their lives. But to continue, the next day our colors started for Manassas but halted and camped three miles this side of Centreville, waiting for our troops and reinforcements to come up; the second regiment being somewhat in advance of the main army; we stay here for about three days and Sunday the 21st about 2 o’clock the drums beat the assembly and in ten minutes we were on our march for Bull Run having heard the enemy were waiting to receive us, our troops then numbering 25 or 30 thousand which were divided into three columns ours under Col Hunter taking the right through a thick woods. About eleven o’clock as our pickets were advancing through the woods a volley was poured in upon them from behind a fence thickly covered with brush; the pickets after returning the shots returned to our regiment and we advanced double quick time yelling like so many devils. On our arrival into the open field I saw I should judge three or four thousand rebels retreating for a dense woods, firing as they retreated, while from another part of the woods a perfect hail storm of bullets, round shot and shell was poured upon us, tearing through our ranks and scattering death and confusion everywhere; but with a yell and a roar we charged upon them driving them again into the woods with fearful loss. In the mean time our battery came up to our support and commenced hurling destruction among the rebels. Next orders were given for us to fall back and protect our battery as the enemy were charging upon it from another quarter, and then we saw with dismay that the second R. I. regiment were the only troops in the fight; the others having lagged so far behind that we had to stand the fight alone for 30 minutes; 1100 against 7 or 8 thousand. It was afterwards ascertained from a prisoner that the rebels thought we numbered 20 or 30 thousand from the noise made by us while making the charge. While preparing to make our final effort to keep our battery out of their hands, the 1st R. I. regiment then came filing over the fence and poured a volley out to them that drove them under cover again; they were followed by the New York 71st and the New Hampshire 2nd regiments; with 2,000 regulars bringing up the rear who pitched into the “Sechers” most beautifully. Our regiments were then ordered off the field and formed a line for a support to rally on in case the rebels over powered our troops. When the line had formed again I started off for the scene of action to see how the fight was progressing. As I emerged from the woods I saw a bomb shell strike a man in the breast and literally tear him to pieces. I passed the farm house which had been appropriated for a hospital and the groans of the wounded and dying were horrible. I then descended the hill to the woods which had been occupied by the rebels at the place where the Elsworth zouaves made their charge; the bodies of the dead and dying were actually three and four deep, while in the woods where the desperate struggle had taken place between the U.S. Marines and the Louisiana zouaves, the trees were spattered with blood and the ground strewn with dead bodies. The shots flying pretty lively round me I thought best to join my regiment; as I gained the top of the hill I heard the shot and shell of our batteries had given out, not having but 130 [?] shots for each gun during the whole engagement. As we had nothing but infantry to fight against their batteries, the command was given to retreat; our cavalry not being of much use, because the rebels would not come out of the woods. The R.I. regiments, the New York 71st and the New Hampshire 2nd were drawn into a line to cover the retreat, but an officer galloped wildly into the column crying the enemy is upon us, and off they started like a flock of sheep every man for himself and the devil take the hindermost; while the rebels’ shot and shell fell like rain among our exhausted troops. As we gained the cover of the woods the stampede became even more frightful, for the baggage wagons and ambulances became entangled with the artillery and rendered the scene even more dreadful than the battle, while the plunging of the horses broke the lines of our infantry, and prevented any successful formation out of the question. The rebels being so badly cut up supposed we had gone beyond the woods to form for a fresh attack and shelled the woods for full two hours, supposing we were there, thus saving the greater part of our forces, for if they had begun an immediate attack, nothing in heaven’s name could have saved us. As we neared the bridge the rebels opened a very destructive fire upon us, mowing down our men like grass, and caused even greater confusion than before. Our artillery and baggage wagons became fouled with each other, completely blocking the bridge, while the bomb shells bursting on the bridge made it “rather unhealthy” to be around. As I crossed on my hands and knees, Capt. Smith who was crossing by my side at the same time was struck by a round shot at the same time and completely cut in two. After I crossed I started up the hill as fast as my legs could carry and passed through Centreville and continued on to Fairfax where we arrived about 10 o’clock halting about 15 minutes, then kept on to Washington where we arrived about 2 o’clock Monday noon more dead than alive, having been on our feet 36 hours without a mouthful to eat, and traveled a distance of 60 miles without twenty minutes halt. The last five miles of that march was perfect misery, none of us having scarcely strength to put one foot before the other, but I tell you the cheers we rec’d going through the streets of Washington seemed to put new life into the men for they rallied and marched to our camps and every man dropped on the ground and in one moment the greater part of them were asleep. Our loss is estimated at 1,000, but I think it greater, the rebels lost from three to five thousand.

Rhodes, Robert Hunt, All For the Union: The Civil War Diary and Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes, pp. 32-35

Samuel J. English at Find-A-Grave 

Samuel J. English at Ancestry.com 

Samuel J. English at Fold3 





Pvt. Charles Henry Howard*, Col O. O. Howard’s Brigade Staff, On the Battle and Retreat

28 01 2017

The Maine Regiments in the Battle. In the absence of a letter from our correspondent of the Third Regiment this week, we copy the material portion of a letter from a correspondent of the Boston Journal, written by a member of Colonel Howard’s staff, giving interesting details of the part taken by the Maine regiments in the battle at Manassas.

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The third night after leaving our encampment at Clermont – four miles from Alexandria – we bivouacked near Centerville, about one mile this side of the battle ground on that day, Friday.

Many of the officers got no sleep that night. All were awakened at 11 A. M. and marched at the appointed time. We were delayed soon after leaving camp for other divisions to pass, and did not leave Centerville till some time after sun rise.

Just after leaving Centerville, we passed Col. Keyes’ brigade, containing the Maine 2d. Many of our friends came to take us by the hand as we passed, and said there had been an unbroken column passing them since early dawn. About two miles further on we turned to the right in order to outflank the enemy’s position and attack in the rear. Gen. Tyler’s division, in which was the 2d Maine, attacked in front. By order of Gen. McDowell, our brigade halted at the turn and allowed Cols. Franklin and Wilcox to pass on. The Ellsworth Zouaves were the rear regiment of Wilcox’s brigade. The guns had now become quite frequent, and we saw the red-shirted and red-capped Zouaves disappear at double quick. We waited till noon, some improving the time to get a little sleep. An order then came to hurry us forward, and we marched at quick step for about four miles – then took a path through the woods – a shorter route than the others had taken. Messengers came back saying we were carrying the day, and at this point an order was brought from Gen. McDowell to go at double quick. This was unfortunate, for the men were tired and very much heated – but the order came from the scene of conflict and we pressed on. When we came neat the battle ground we began to meet ambulances with the wounded and dying. Col. Hunter was the first one severely wounded whom we met. We were then under cover of the woods where was a hospital. As soon as we came out the cannon balls began to fly about is in terrible profusion. Some of the officers left their horses here, preferring to be on foot. Col. Howard and aids rode at the head of the column – Maine 4th in advance, Vermont 2d next, Maine 5th, Maine 3d in the rear. The first two formed in line in a ravine and marched up a hill where there were some trees, but unfortunately the battery they were there to support retreated before they arrived, and met them as they came up. The 5th and 3d formed and awaited orders, but soon after a body of cavalry came dashing down the hill in retreat, and there a battery of the enemy opened nearly upon the right flank of the ravine. This accelerated the flight of the cavalry, and when the cannon balls began to strike among the ranks of these reserved regiments, they became somewhat scattered. The flight of the cavalry, which indicated a general retreat operated disastrously upon these men, but they afterward rallied, when Col. Howard returned for them to come up to the support of the two regiments already advanced to the brow of the hill. These two had fired about twenty rounds apiece, until their muskets became too hot to use. A part of the Vermont 2d had rifles, and their officers desired to halt, saying they could reach the enemy from that point. Col. Howard consented in this case, and the Vermont 2d were gratified to see a body of the enemy’s troops flee before their fire, and retreat along the road to Manassas Junction.

Col. Whiting, Vt. 2d, showed great coolness and courage as did Col. Berry, 4th. The Maine 4thhad halted in a line with the Vermont 2d, but the enemy were so sheltered and at such a distance their firing took little effect. The 3d and 5th came up, but advanced no further. No order to that effect had come from Col. H., but undoubtedly their officers supposed such to be the case. Col. h. made a strenuous attempt to move them, riding out in front and urging them on, but once halted it was impossible to advance them further, and they were exposed to a galling fire. Maj. Staples, commanding the 3d Maine, and Lieut. Burt, Brigade Quartermaster, conducted with heroic gallantry, leading on the regiment. Col Howard’s horse was shot, and shells were exploding about him. The fire of our musketry seemed so utterly useless and the ranks were so thin that no better course could be taken than to retreat, as all our forces were doing.

After we had reached the ravine again the battery began to pour down upon us a most destructive fire. We passed up the opposite hill. Troops were now flying in all directions, and our men started to run. Col. Howard distinctly said at this moment that he would not run away, he would be taken first. He therefore walked his horse with the few who still adhered to him, and a little further on we rallied all that could be found of the 3d brigade. The enemy now began to press upon the rear, and the order came to retreat to Centreville. Brave men regretted deeply this command, but it was transmitted to our brigade with the additional modification, “in good order.” A panic seemed to have taken hold of all our forces, and there was great confusion in the retreat. There was danger of our being cut off, and just before we reached Centreville another gun opened upon us; but evidently the enemy was too disabled and exhausted to secure the advantages which they might have had from our confused retreat had they been fully aware of our condition.

We found our reserve had had a battle at Centreville, but had succeeded in driving back the enemy, and now received our mass of flying soldiers in safety. Many kept right on toward Washington. Our brigade returned to their old camp, attended to the wounded we had brought away, made hot coffee, and the men for the most part went to rest. Our officers finding that the other troops were all leaving, were desirous of starting for Washington. There were rumors that the enemy were close upon us. Col. Howard, however, would not retreat further without orders, and sent to headquarters for instruction. The general order for retreat then came, and we set out in perfect order from Centreville. Our baggage had all fallen into the hands of the enemy, the train having attempted, by some misunderstanding, to follow too closely upon the column. The officers lost all except what they wore upon their persons.

We halted to rest a Fairfax Court House, but remained there only about an hour. Before daylight we were on our way again. Col. Howard determined to take the brigade back to our old encampment at Clermont, though all the other troops had gone either to Alexandria or Washington. After staying there a few hours, as there were alarming rumors, and many of the officers and men were anxious to come to town, Col. H. procured a train of cars and took them to Alexandria, where he obtained quarters for the four regiments. The 3d Maine returned to Clermont last night, and the others will do so immediately, as it is a healthy location, and much better than the narrow and filthy quarters afforded in the city.

The 3d Maine is farther advanced than any other regiment.

C. H. H.

Maine Farmer, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*Charles Henry Howard enlisted as a private in the 3rd ME Infantry, and at that time was assigned as a clerk to the colonel of the regiment, his brother Oliver Otis Howard. When Col. Howard was elevated to brigade command, Pvt. Howard joined his brigade staff.

Charles Henry Howard at Find-A-Grave 

Charles Henry Howard at Ancestry.com

“We Are in His Hands Whether We Live or Die”: The Letters of Brevet Brigadier General Charles Henry Howard 





2nd Lieut. Charles E. Palmer, Co. F*, 2nd Connecticut Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

24 01 2017

OUR CORRESPONDENCE.
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From the Volunteers.
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Camp Keyes, Washington, D. C.,
July 27, 1861.

When I wrote you last, we were in the full tide of victory. The ebb was more sudden and overwhelming than the flow, and we have been thrown back in two short days to a point from which it will require weeks to regain our former position. We are now lying much in the same way we were at Camp Welles – waiting for orders. The enemy, meanwhile, are encamped on our old ground at Falls Church, and doubtless are as vigilant in their picket guard in our direction as we were in the other; and our side is as active in felling trees and obstructing roads on Arlington Heights, as the secessionists were a few weeks since in the roads to Fairfax. But such is the fortune of war, and it is not for me to criticise the actions of those who are responsible, – but will be content with giving the experience of the Connecticut regiments in the great battle of Bull’s Run, last Sunday.

We fell in at 3 o’clock P.M., on Saturday, expecting to march immediately, as the advance guard of Col. Hunter’s column. When we were ready to move, the order was countermanded, and we were instructed to be in readiness at 2 in the morning. At the time we were awakened by a succession of long rolls and bugle calls from the various regiments bivouacked near, and in a few moments the shining camp fires, the glittering bayonets and the multitudes of men as they moved about in confused masses, in all directions, as far as the eye could see, revealed the fact of a general movement. Order soon came out of this chaos, and directly the crowd was transformed into straight black columns, who stood in silence, awaiting the order to march. This was soon given, and with no other music than the tinkle of the soldiers’ canteen and cup, we marched on up the hill, and down through the little village of Centerville toward Manassas, and, as then we fondly hoped, to victory. Our position in column had been changed during the night, and most of the regiments that had been posted in advance of us – the 69th and 79th N. Y., and several others, were already ahead. After proceeding about two miles, the Connecticut brigade was halted, and the whole division filed past, and, with a regiment of regulars, we took the position of rear guard. – The narrow road (the roads in Virginia all seem to be scooped out to the width of one carriage,) did not allow any other style of marching than four abreast, and it was nearly 10 before the last regiment had passed, and the baggage wagons and ambulances began to make their appearance. We took our position, and had moved on nearly a mile, when off to our left, in the direction of the battle of Thursday, we heard the boom of a single cannon, which was soon followed by several others, apparently further to the left, a mile or so in advance of the first. As we had understood that other columns had advanced in that direction, we were not surprised, and as we had become accustomed from our Thursday’s experience to the distant roar of battle we were not startled, and marched on. There was considerable firing in that direction for half an hour, when on a sudden our division was halted, and in a few minutes the jar of Sherman’s 32 pounder at the front, announced to us that we had the enemy at bay, and that the battle had commenced. The firing soon became incessant, but that on the left ceased entirely. Our brigade was drawn into a piece of woods at the side of the road, and the men were soon seated at their ease in the shade, eating their dinners, and filling their canteens, awaiting their turn in the contest, which was then hotly raging in front. About noon and aid-de-camp came galloping down the road, with orders for our advance. From a quickstep with which we started, our pace soon changed to a double-quick, as we neared the scene of action, and the sharp rattle of musketry became audible in the intervals between the discharges of artillery. We soon came to the top of a hill, here stood a small white church, and one or two houses, and from which the battle could be distinctly seen. For a distance of perhaps three miles, there was a succession of hills, thickets and ravines, while at our feet lay the stream, small in size but great in historical importance, of Bull Run. Close at hand, in a piece of woods on our right, lay one of our batteries of rifled, cannon, which was playing on one of those of the enemy, located on a hill about half a mile off, which was answering, gun for gun, with great spirit. In the distance could be seen an ominous cloud of dust, which I noticed more than one general closely scrutinize with his glass, then consult with another, who in turn would take a long gaze in the same direction. Their anxious looks convinced me that the dust was not caused by the approach of Gen. Patterson’s division, as was generally given out among the soldiers, and the event proved the correctness of my surmise – that it was a reinforcement for the enemy from Manassas.

As we came in front of the church, the enthusiasm of the crowd of soldiers and civilians collected around, was without bounds. Every tree had its occupant, who shouted out each movement of the enemy to the spectators below, whose range of view was more limited. – One fellow cried out as we passed – “Hurry up, boys; we’ve got ‘em! They’re surrounded on three sides, and are running like the devil!. – You won’t get a chance at ‘em if you don’t look out!” Sure enough, the enemy could be seen – a hill full of them – running up its side toward some woods, with headlong speed. – the heat was excessive, but our men quickened their step, unslinging their blankets and throwing them one side, and some even throwing away their coats and haversacks as useless impediments to their progress. The enemy had got a view of us also, as was seen by a shell which exploded near, but fortunately doing no damage save covering us with dust. A change in the position of one of our own guns, threw us between it and the enemy, and we were obliged to file round to its rear, thus losing some fifteen minutes. We rushed on, however, and were soon on what had been the battle ground at the beginning of the fight, and from which the enemy had been driven. The desperate character of the action was now to be seen at every step. Dead, wounded, and sun struck men were scattered all along, sometimes singly, but oftener in groups, showing where a shell had exploded, or the ground of some desperate charge. “We won’t get a pop at ‘em.” was constantly heard along our lines, and our step increased from a double-quick into a run. We were soon close on to their left flank, and separated from them by a piece of woods, though which rifle, musket, and cannon balls were whistling constantly. The 1st Connecticut regiment was on the brow of a hill in front, at right angles with our line, and exchanging a fire of musketry with a line of the infantry of the enemy. Further on, the gallant 69th (Irish,) and 79th (Scotch,) New York regiments were engaged, while at our left the Fire Zouaves were at work, now charging some battery, now repelling a charge, but in all cases fighting desperately, and with tiger-like ferocity. Each of them had loose powder in his pocket, with which he besmeared his face, and as they rushed on with their peculiar Zouave cheer and Fireman’s tig a a-h, they seemed more like demons than men. No wonder their ranks were so thinned – as each one seemed to fight as though the whole issue of the day rested with him along.

The enemy soon retreated from this part of the field, and we filed off to the left down into a ravine where Gen. Keyes purposed to concentrate on his forces, make a charge on one of the enemy’s principal batteries, take it at the point of the bayonet, turn the guns upon them and thus decide the day. An order was given to an aid to bring the 2d Maine and 3d Conn. In for this purpose, but on his arriving where they were, found them under the direction of Gen. Tyler, charging on another battery. – This caused a delay, and before they could be brought around where we were, the enemy had planted three or four guns in such a position that the contemplated charge of Gen. K. was impossible, without subjecting us to a raging cross-fire which would have inevitably cut us to pieces before we could have accomplished our object. We moved cautiously up to reconnoiter, and finally pushed boldly through the woods into a notch of open field, to the support of the 14th New York, who were here engaging a force of twice their number. Hardly had our whole regiment got out, when a battery of rifled cannon at less than two hundred yards distance, and which had not before been seen, commenced pouring grape and canister into our ranks. The first fire was fortunately aimed so low that but one man, in Company I, was killed, and several wounded. The next was aimed as much too high as the first was too low, and passed harmlessly over our heads. We were under cover of the woods before the next fire, which was as ineffectual as the two first. The situation of ourselves and the 1st Connecticut was now very critical: The artillery and cavalry were evidently working around to cut us off from the rest of the army. Gen. Keyes held a consultation with Tyler, and it was decided to retreat, and, as we supposed, by a flank movement unite with other regiments and continue the battle. What was our surprise to find on filing back over our old ground, that a general movement of our forces was taking place in the same direction, and that amid a shower of shot and shell from the enemy, who seemed rapidly approaching. – Most of us then supposed that we were being withdrawn to commence some new movement, or at most to bivouac near, and renew the engagement in the morning.

We had nearly reached the little church – now used as a hospital for the wounded – and were moving off in good order through the woods, wondering where we should stop for the night – for at that time it was generally supposed that we were to do no more fighting that day – when all of a sudden there appeared to be a general movement of teams down the road, and immediately after, two pieces of our light artillery came dashing through the crowd, breaking up the ranks of several regiments that were between us and the road. These were followed by a body of the Black Horse cavalry, the sharp volley of whose carbines and crack of whose sabres could now be heard. The fire was answered with spirit from our side, and they were retreating with two-thirds of the number killed, when the cry arose, – “For God’s sake, hold on! You are firing on your own men!” The confusion was now at its height. Some cried one thing and some another, but all had something to say. The numerous regiments at our right, breaking through our ranks, and the stampeded of some few cowardly spirits, who, I am ashamed to say were in the Connecticut regiments, temporarily disorganized us, but through the efficiency of our leading officers our regiments were soon marching away in good order. We shortly crossed a small stream, and stood on the brow of a hill on the other side. At this point, some field officer, I did not understand what regiment, was vainly endeavoring to rally the broken masses, and form a line to command the retreat from more cavalry, which it was understood was rapidly approaching, accompanied by a piece of artillery. A shell which struck in our immediate vicinity made this almost certain, but all the effect it produced on the men was to make them run the faster. Our regiments wheeled into line on each side of the cannon, placed to cover the road where were the retreating soldiers and teams. The approaching cavalry was successful only in taking many of the stragglers to the rear, and attendants in the hospitals, prisoners. If our line had not commanded the rear, the havoc made by a charge of dragoons must have been tremendous. If it had been followed by a piece of artillery, as we are assured one was drawn up for that purpose, it is impossible to tell where it would have ended. Our whole army would have been at their mercy. Thus, if the Connecticut brigade cannot boast of having been in the hottest of the fight, it certainly was instrumental more than any other in saving our retreat from becoming an utter rout.

THE RETREAT.

One does not know his capability of enduring fatigue until he has been forced to a trial. Our men, when they left the field, seemed utterly prostrated. Owing to the intense heat of the day, and the peculiar thirst which is experienced nowhere but on the battle-field, caused by the sulphurous smell of powder, all seemed ready to drop in their tracks from sheer exhaustion, and when they arrived at Centreville, four miles back, and were marched on to our old place of bivouac, as we supposed to stop for the night, we lay down at once, supperless, to sleep. In less than fifteen minutes, however, we were again on the march, and at sunrise next morning we were at Falls Church – having marched thirty-one miles during the night, without stopping but once for rest, and then only a few minutes! There were no baggage-wagons or ambulances to pick up those who fainted by the way, they having either gone ahead, or been smashed by the mob, or the horses cut from them and mounted by the teamsters, in some cases leaving wounded men inside; and however foot-sore or weary one might become, he was obliged to keep up or fall by the road-side, and run his risk of being picked up by the cavalry who were hovering in the rear. One man who was wounded so as to be unable to stand alone, was supported by two men throughout the entire march, and reached Washington safely. Many fell out, however, most who came up in the morning, but some were undoubtedly captured.

We reached Falls Church, as before stated, about sunrise. The camp guard left at that place, had some coffee prepared, – but out rest was not to be there. We were the rear guard. Tents were struck, and everything packed for transportation, but there were no wagons. To obtain these according to the red-tape system we were to go through with the form of a requisition – receipt, and counter-check – and there we stood all that rainy day, with fixed bayonets, in momentary expectation of a charge of cavalry, reports of whose approach were brought us from time to time. – After dark we had the satisfaction of seeing pretty much all our camp equipage under way, and we started through mud, ankle deep, toward Ball Cross-roads, where the deserted Ohio and 2d New York camps were located. – The First and Third stopped at that occupied by the Ohio, and the Second pushed on half a mile further to that of the 2d New York. Wet to the skin as we were, yet all could sleep, and the night was passed without alarm. It took till the next night to get the camps we occupied cleared up and on our baggage-wagons, and we slept that night under the guns of Fort Corcoran, fagged out, but with the satisfactory thoughts of being the last regiment to leave an advanced position, and of being the means of saving the Federal Government at least $100,000 in stores and camp equipage. The next night we encamped on Meridian Hill, Washington, where we now are. We have named our encampment Camp Keyes, after our acting Brigadier General, who is beloved by us all, and to whom, more than anyone else, is due the credit of extricating us in safety from the clutches of the enemy.

Most of the stragglers who were put down as missing when our rolls were first called, have turned up since our arrival here. There are a few, however, who are without doubt in the hands of the enemy. Among these, we fear, is the Rev. Hiram Eddy. He was at the hospital with the wounded all day, and has not been seen since the last charge of cavalry. One of the best men in Company F is also missing, – Samuel A. Cooper, of West Winsted. He had been promoted to the post of General’s Orderly, and was not with the company during the action. The last seen of him was at the hospital, whither he had been sent on some errand by Gen. Keyes, just before the stampede. Both are probably prisoners, and ere this at Richmond. The loss of the army in this way will probably reach 1,000.

All the three months troops are to be mustered out at once, and our turn will probably come some time this week. All are a little loth to leave at this juncture, and many will re-enlist at once, or after a few week of furlough. There seems to be a general feeling as if our army had been disgraced, and a determination to retrieve our honor. U. S. soldiers will not run again.

INCIDENTS.

An instance of cool courage occurred in our Co. (Co. F). James Woodruff on our retreat dropped out of the ranks at Vienna, and lay down at the foot of a tree for a little rest, thinking to regain his company in the morning. He had not lain long, before a party of the enemy came up and made him prisoner. They took away his rifle and left two of their number to guard him, while the remainder of the company went on after more captives. One of the guard after a time left, charging the other to take good care “that the d—-d Yankee did not get away.” Jimmy had a pistol under his haversack which in disarming him was not discovered, and watching his opportunity he sent a ball whistling through the skull of his captor and made the best of his way on to Falls Church.

All agree that the “Boyd pistol” which you will recollect was to be presented to the bravest man in the company, is due to A. H. Conklin, of Mill River, Mass. From the effect of new boots his feet were so sore as to render it impossible for him to wear them. The second day of our march he went barefoot, and, determined not to be cheated out of his fight, on the day we went to battle, he wrapped them in a pair of coat sleeves, which he tied on with a string, and thus hobbled about all day, and at night marched with us to Falls Church, without a word of complaint. I venture to say that he is the only man in the regiment who would have done it.

Lieut. Morse of Co. K. was wounded early in the action by a cannon ball striking a rail fence and throwing a piece with violence against his back. Some one stopped to pick him up, but he told them to win the battle first, pick him up afterwards. He afterward got into a baggage wagon and was carried to Alexandria, and is now with his company.

Sergeant Major Jared B. Lewis of our regiment, who had but just donned the triangular chevron, was so frightened that he did not stop retreating until he arrived at New Haven. He was reduced to the ranks yesterday and the Grays to which company he belongs voted him out of the ranks. The best of it was that he was not on the field at all, and only got near enough to participate in the retreat. He spins a long yarn which I notice is published in the N. H. papers.

C. E. P.

Winsted [CT] Herald, 7/26/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

2nd Ct Roster 

*Alonzo H. Conklin mentioned herein was found in the roster under Rifle Company E, as was 2nd Lt. Charles E. Palmer, likely the author, C. E. P., of this letter. Rifle Company E appears to have also been known as Company F.

Charles E. Palmer at Ancestry.com 

Charles E. Palmer at Find-a-Grave 





“Juvenis,” Battery A (Reynolds), 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, On the Battle and Retreat

22 11 2016

Army Correspondence.

Camp near Harper’s Ferry, Aug. 5th, 1861.

Mr. Editor: – I hope you have not thought that, because I have not contributed lately to your paper I was among the fallen at the battle of Bull Run. True, I was in that battle, and in the thickest of the fight for five long hours; but no missile of death was allowed by my Heavenly Father to strike me down. Members of my own company and of my own mess fell at my side, the shells burst at my feet, the spent musket balls struck me, but I am still unscathed, ready for another conflict with my country’s enemies; ready for the life long conflict with the enemy of souls, ready I hope to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to lost men.

It seems strange to me, that even the presence of death has no effect upon the minds of men. One can still hear the same coarse jests, the same profane language, the same taunts at those who speak to them of religion, as before they were surrounded by the dead and dying.

We are now encamped in a lovely place; the mountains of the Blue Ridge are on every side except where the Potomac winds through them. We have taken the 1st R. I. Battery, as their time is up, and our battery with the exception of one piece, was lost at the battle of Bull Run. Perhaps your readers would like to have a short account of that battle, which was one of the bloodiest in American history.

We were encamped between Fairfax and Centerville, and expected to remain there for some time. We had built our huts of branches, our fire places and cranes were ready for use. Sunday morning at on o’clock the bugle sounded, and the battery was harnessed up. We mounted the boxes and silently wound along the road towards Manassas Junction. There was no music, no loud command; our General wished to steal a march on the enemy. We were confident of victory, as we had confidence in our commander. We took a circuitous path through the woods, and without once having halted during the march of twelve miles, we reached the field of battle. The Rhode Island troops had the right of the line, the 2nd regiment in advance, the 1st next in order with our battery between. The first notice we had of the presence of the enemy was the volley of musketry from the woods upon our lines. The 2d regiment charged and drove them from the woods, down the hill. We were instantly ordered into action. We got into battery as quickly as possible and engaged a battery about a third of a mile from us. We soon silenced that and engaged the enemy in other parts of the field. The battle grew hotter and hotter – thicker and thicker flew the bullets, the shot, the shell. Our horses suffered severely, our men at the guns were entirely exhausted, wounded or dead. We were so thirsty that we threw ourselves into the mudy brooks and eagerly swallowed the mud and water. The enemy were retreating on every hand. Already Beauregard had sent a dispatch to Richmond, and even while we were fighting, Jeff Davis was packing up his State papers to send them to a place of safety. Bu all day there had been a constant stream of reinforcements pouring into the woods where the rebels had their head quarters. All at once the celebrated black horse cavalry charged upon us, their fresh infantry poured their volley into our ranks, their masked batteries opened upon our flank; thick as hail the shot flew; four hundred of the Zouaves were cut down. We retreated. We ran before that stream of lead and iron. No man could stand such a fire as that. The retreat became a rout; all were mingled together in dire confusion; the road was crowded with fugitives; the wounded, the wearied all rushed along together. We brought our battery off the field, and dozens of wounded men climbed upon our boxes and pieces, some with broken arms, some with broken legs, some with the blood flowing down their faces, some with their clothes red with blood. We were obliged to leave many a poor wounded, dying man who beseechingly begged us to take him upon our boxes. Those that were free from wounds were panic struck. At the least alarm every man almost would flee for his life, not knowing where he went. Thus we passed slowly along. We came out of those long woods, the dust in the road was so thick that nothing before us could be seen. We began to hope that the enemy would not disturb us, for now we had reached the direct road to Centerville, and our reserve was two or three miles before us. It began to grow dusky, for the thick dust and the woods on either side of the road hid the setting sun; all at once into that dense mass of men, horses and wagons, the enemy from a masked battery poured their shell; the musketry opened upon them; their cavalry charged upon them. What a scene! We were just at the bridge, but upon it was piled the government baggage wagons. We could not pass with our battery; for it was a narrow bridge, and there were deep gullies on each side. Our drivers cut the traces, we left the wounded men to save our own lives, and helter skelter we dashed on towards Centerville. The cavalry of the enemy charged upon us, and many a poor soldier fell before their sabres. We soon met the reserve coming up under Colonel Miles, but still we hurried on through that long dark night; morning dawned, and still we had not halted; Washington and the long bridge hove in sight, and we sank down upon the ground exhausted! for we had eaten nothing since Saturday. We had marched ten or twelve miles to the battle field without halting, we had fought through that hot day, we had marched nearly forty miles from the battle field to Washington. Thus we fought, thus we retreated.

I will not say upon whose head a terrible retribution should be visited. We long for an opportunity to wipe off the disgrace of that day.

O! how much pleasanter we spent the hours of the last Sabbath (the 4th inst.) Though separated from our regiment, we had religious services. We repaired to a huge pile of rocks shaded by tall trees, and there one of our number preached to to us the gospel of Christ. It seemed lik a heaven below.

Juvenis.*

Boston Christian Era, 8/16/1861

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*In Latin, Juvenis is a young man or a youth. The root of juvenile.

The History of Battery A, First Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery

Contributed by John J. Hennessy





Pvt. Edward F. Phelps, Co. G, 5th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Campaign

17 11 2016

Correspondence.

Washington, July 25th, 1861.

Head Quarters 5th Reg’t Infantry, M. V. M.

Mr. Sentinel: – I take up my pen, unwillingly, to give you an imperfect account of one of the most disastrous battles ever fought in this country; one which would seem, to every intelligent person, to be unequal, ill-timed, and to persons of ordinary understanding, foolish and fool-hardy. The only possible object apparent in this movement was the gratification of selfish politicians; and I hope they may profit by this lesson, which they have learned at the expense of the poor soldiers.

On Monday evening, July 15th, an order came to our camp to cook up three days rations, and take our haversacks, blankets, canteens, and round-about, with forty rounds of cartridges, and be ready to march at (?) o’clock on Tuesday, the 16th. On Tuesday morning Col. Franklin, commander of the brigade, sent to Col. Lawrence to know how soon he could be ready to move. The answer was, “At any time.” We were then informed that if we were ready to march at 10 o’clock we should have the honor of being the advance guard of the whole division. At just 10 o’clock we were on a line, ready to march, in consequence of which we were the advance guard 48 hours; 24 hours more than is usual.

Our first day’s march was not more than ten miles, and nothing occurred through the day to indicate that we were in the vicinity of the enemy. At sundown we were drawn up on a sloping hill, to camp, for the night, and after the main body of troops had arrived the guard (5th Mass.) was advanced about one mile to an opening in the woods, when we threw out our pickets, and called in our skirmishers. Then stationed a main guard around the camp, and had just laid down for the night, when firing was heard among the pickets. All hands were at once upon their feet, with musket in hand, expecting an attack; but it proved to be only two horsemen whom the pickets fired upon, thinking, probably, in the darkness and excitement, that there were more of them. They killed the horse of one poor fellow, and took him prisoner, after a desperate fight. I do not know what was done with him, but I think they let him go the next morning. The other horseman got away, but it was thought he was wounded.

We had more excitement that night, and slept soundly until daylight next morning, when we had a hasty breakfast of hard bread and salt horse, and got into marching order again. We marched several miles, taking byroads and lanes, sometimes going through pastures, and bridle-paths in the woods, as our division was not to make the attack, but to cut off the retreat of the rebels from Fairfax Court House. There was but very little excitement, except the taking of a prisoner occasionally, until about noon, when in going around through a piece of woods to avoid a battery, our skirmishers ran into a camp of about six hundred rebels, when their pickets fired upon them, and the whole camp beat a hasty retreat. They left their beef on the griddle and their camp kettles boiling, evidently thinking we might be hungry after our forenoon’s march. We got no prisoners here, but found in a house near by twelve knapsacks, the contents of which the boys appropriated to their own use. We had a very good dinner that day. It consisted of ducks, chickens, turkeys, mutton, corn-cake, and all the luxuries usually found in country farm houses in Virginia. The people were glad to see us, and I really believe three-quarters of the inhabitants of this state, honestly told, would go for the Union.

In our march from this place to Longster’s station, we took about 20 prisoners, but failed in cutting off the retreat of the troops from Fairfax. Although we had two hours to spare of the time given us to get to this place, we were one hour behind the retreating column of rebel troops.

We rested at this place until about 4 o’clock the next afternoon, when we got into line again and marched from there to Centreville, about seven miles this side of Manassas. Here we found the other two divisions, which had arrived in advance of us, and were obliged to stop, as the head of their column had unfortunately ran into one of those infernal machines, otherwise known as a masked battery. The Mass. 1st received nearly all the damage done by this battery, the Boston Fusiliers losing over twenty men. It was thought best to wait a few days more before making an attack on Manassas, in order to let the men rest and give the regiments that were cut up time to get in order again. We had in the meanwhile ample time to reconoitre the enemy’s position and look the country over. Nearly all of the two days we were at Centreville we could directly see, with a glass, that the rebels were being reinforced very fast, and it was apparent to almost every one that their force was very much larger than ours; but notwithstanding all this, we were ready and anxious to fight them at any odds. We did not for a moment think of defeat, and had all the forces been put in the field that we had in the vicinity, I do not think we should have been defeated.

At about 2 o’clock on Sunday morning we were called up, and by 3 were on a line ready to march; but did not march until sunrise, when we took the route for Manassas, which we kept for about a mile and a half, when we were led through the fields, north of the main division, which was to make the attack in front while we were to take the route around through the woods and attack the rear. We arrived near Bull’s Run about noon I should think, and then regiment after regiment were marched off and put in positions where they were needed the most.

I will not attempt to give you a description of the battle. I could not if I would, and I will only follow our own brave Fifth. I do not believe there were braver officers or braver soldiers on the field that day. We divested ourselves of our blankets, haversacks, canteens that had no water in them, and all useless baggage. We were then kept close to the woods to avoid the fire of their batteries, until we came to the foot of a hill which sheltered us from their fire; here we were ordered to lie down and rise, one company at a time, and go to the summit of a hill and fire; then file to the right and left to the rear and load; then march to the rear of the rest, and fire when the time came again.

Col. Lawrence commanded us in person, giving his orders with such distinctness and precision as to avoid the possibility of an accident. One regiment on the left of us, in the flurry and excitement, and absence of order, fired altogether, killing at least three of their own men; but such was the coolness of Col. Lawrence and Adj. Chambers that not a man in our regiment was shot in this way.

At the time we were stationed in this position, cannon balls and shells were flying over our heads thick and fact. One shell burst right over the centre of the regiment, and the pieces fell down among us like huge hail stones. One piece dropped beside myself; I picked it up and have it now. Almost every one has some kind of a trophy. We soon drove the rebels from this point, and then we had to march through the Run at ‘double quick,” in order to get at them at another point. We went upon another hill, and were placed along side of the Fire Zouaves, where we saw the best fighting that was probably done by our division. The rebels lay piled two and three deep in front of the gallant and brave Zouaves, many of whom followed poor Elsworth to his long, last home. Here a charge was made by the rebels on the battery which we were sent to protect, and our forces not being strong enough to withstand the charge, we were scattered in every direction. I did not see Sol. Lawrence after this, but was soon informed that he was wounded. After this, not being able to rally all the men around the colors, Capt. Wardwell, of Co. F, and Capt. Geo. L. Prescott, of Co. G., (Concord Artillery,) rallied all the men they could and went into the battle on their own account. They were cool and calm, and fought bravely. Soon after this our color bearer was shot, but the colors were safe.

Our regiment made several rallies after that, and were just forming when they opened their fresh batteries, right upon us, and we were obliged, with everyone else, to retreat. After the order had come for us to retreat, we got together as many as we could, and Capt. Prescott tried hard to make the regiment return to the conflict again. but the rebel force was so large that it was finally thought not best to go back alone, and at this time another battery opened upon us, and we agreed to meet and form again at Centreville; expecting, of course, that we could make a stand there, but just before we got to Centreville another battery opened upon us, cutting us to pieces, and scattering us in every direction. Many of us did not reach Centreville until the next morning, and some poor fellows did not reach there at all. Those who did reach there that night did not stop, but kept on until they reached Washington or Alexandria. We do not pretend to count the killed yet, for almost every hour some one arrives who was so much exhausted that he could not reach home sooner. Our loss is not near so large as we at first supposed, and we hope yet to see many alive who have been counted dead.

We are stationed, by companies, in different parts of the city, and at present are only taking care of the sick and wounded. There are at present only five missing from the Concord company, and we hope to see some, if not all of them yet. The Waltham boys are all alive and well.

Our army will not be ready to march again for several months; but when they do go it is to be hoped, for the sake of the poor soldiers, that all politicians will be kept from having anything to do with it. Gen. Scott says that he fought the battle against his own judgment; and it was evident to every one, by the swarm of politicians in our camp at Centreville, that the whole thing was gotten up by this class of men, many of whom have less principle than brains.

The time for which our regiment enlisted expires in just one week from to-day, and we shall probably return home as soon as we can be mustered out of service. After that, if anything transpires of account, I will give you the benefit of it.

In the mean time I remain as ever,

Yours Truly,

E. F. P.*

Waltham (MA) Sentinel, 8/2/1861

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*Likely Private Edward F. Phelps, Co. G., the only E. F. P. I could find in the roster.

Edward F. Phelps at Ancestry.com

The Fifth regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in its Three Tours of Duty 1861, 1862-’63, 1864

Contributed by John J. Hennessy





Pvt. Augustus E. Bronson, Co. I, 3rd Connecticut Infantry, On the Advance and Blackburn’s Ford

10 11 2016

War News.

——————

From the manuscript of our valuable and attentive correspondent, we should judge it was written while capturing one of the batteries at the battle of Bull’s Run. We hope he survives, and will continue to dot the incidents of the war.

Near Centreville, Va.,

July 18th, 1861.

We left “Camp Tyler” at 3 P. M. on Tuesday, with provisions for three days, and no other baggage but one pair of socks. The First, Second, and Third Connecticut Regiments Connecticut Volunteers, with the Second Regiment Maine Volunteers, constituted the advance. We marched by a circuitous route to Vienna, near which we camped for the night in an open field. Soon after we halted, the other brigades began to come in, and kept coming until the fields in all directions were covered with infantry, horsemen, and artillery. At about 5 o’clock A. M., on Wednesday, we again took up the line of march, in the direction of Fairfax. After marching about a mile we came to a road which had been obstructed by having trees felled across it. Removing the obstructions we continued our march, and when nearly in sight of Fairfax our scouts reported the enemy in sight. We formed and marched in double quick time across the fields, and came into line in time to see the rebels going off at the same pace. A brass band consisting of six pieces, belonging to the New York 8th, gave them a note or two of Yankee music, which increased their speed to a full run, and then struck into the woods and scoured them as far as Germantown, where we learned that the rebels had been in full retreat past there all day. They had a masked battery near Germantown, but had deserted it. Their baggage was scattered all along the road. I believe that some buildings in the place, and to belong to “seceshers,” accidentally caught fire soon after the Ellsworth Zouaves had passed. (I am sorry, but accidents will happen.) We again bivouaced in the fields on Wednesday night, about 3 miles from Germantown, towards Manassas. This A. M., at about 3 o’clock, we were aroused by the sound of the bugle, and were speedily in line, expecting an attack, but it did not come. At about 6:30 A. M., the army was again in motion, and as our brigade had formed the advance for two days, we were allowed to take the rear to-day. It was a grand sight, as regiment after regiment moved, until I should judge that at least 40,000 troops must have been in motion. It was an hour and a half after the march commenced, before it became our turn to move. We continued to see blankets, coats, etc., which in their haste the seceshers had thrown away.

We are now halted in the woods near Centreville, which I believe is eight miles from Manassas. There was a very strong battery near here, but the rebels ran about an hour before our advance came up. We have taken a few prisoners, but have had no fighting as yet. Our cavalry have just brought in a few prisoners, and report the enemy coming back. It is supposed Gen. Patterson is on the other side, driving them back, so we may have a fight to-day, yet.

3 o’clock P. M. There is a report now that our boys are getting the worst of it, and reinforcements are arriving amid the roar of cannon and the rattle of muskets.

4 o’clock P. M. Our men have carried their entrenchments, and the seceshers have fallen back into the woods. It is said that the 69th went at double quick time and stormed the battery without stopping. Bully for the 69th. One report is 4000 prisoners taken, but I don’t believe it. Another report is that Sherman’s battery was taken; but nobody believes that. Another report is that there was a masked battery in front of an open battery. Sherman’s battery silenced the open battery, and the N. Y. 12th then charged, when the masked battery opened upon them, and our men retreated.

5 o’clock P. M. A report has just reached us that our troops have the enemy surrounded in the woods. The last report is that both armies occupy the same positions they did at the commencement of the engagement. The action will be resumed in the morning, if the rebels do not retreat during the night. – About 50 of our men are killed, Sherman’s battery played into a train of cars filled by rebel troops, but how many were killed I do not know.

I have written down the reports, a few of them, as they came in, that you might see how much we can depend on reports in the midst of battle. The long and short of it is that our men were defeated.

6 o’clock, A. M., Friday. – Troops have been pouring in here all night. Gen. Tyler had command of our troops yesterday. The Fire Zouaves have taken eleven prisoners. One of the number was one who had taken the oath of allegiance at Fall’s Church. – When our roll call was handed in at the close of the first day’s march, not one of the 3rd was missing.

7:30 A. M. They are now hanging the man who was taken prisoner after having taken the oath.

A. E. Bronson

The Danbury Times, 7/25/1861

Clipping image

Letters of Augustus E. Bronson as a member of the 17th CT 

Augustus E. Bronson at Fold 3 

Augusts E. Bronson at Findagrave.com 

Augustus E. Bronson at Ancestry.com 

Bronson was captured on July 21, 1861. After he was exchanged 9 months later, he enlisted in Co. C. of the 17th CT. He was mortally wounded at Gettysburg and died on July 5, 1863.

Contributed by John J. Hennessy