Capt. Henry B. Williams, Co. H (1st), 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

19 06 2020

Capt. Williams of the Thirteenth – Interesting Account of the Battle.

The following letter from Capt. Williams to his mother, will doubtless be perused with interest by our readers. A more graphic description of the terrible dangers our soldiers were in, and [?] the noble manner in which is was met, could hardly have been written:

Arlington Heights, Va.,
July 24th, 1861.

Dear Mother: – Here I am, alive and comparatively sound. I feel rather nervous, as my writing will show. It is not from fear, however, but from exhaustion. When last I wrote you, it was after our first battle of Bull’s Run. I am now writing you after our defeat at Manassas Junction and Bull’s Run. It was the most terrible battle ever fought in this country. We were called out a half past 2 o’clock, Sunday morning, and were marched three miles before we came to the field of action. It is impossible to describe the battle on paper, more than that it was dreadful.

The 13th Regiment have covered themselves with glory. We were ordered to support [?] battery, that was playing on a [?] masked battery, on the summit of a high hill. – We lay for two hours on our faces, and had our men torn to pieces by the shell and grape shot that came into us, as fast as 20 or 30 cannon could pour it in. Our battery being all torn to pieces, we were ordered to charge on the enemy, who were on the top of a hill. There was a chance to try men. We charged up the hill to the summit, and if you look at the official report you will see that we charged at leas 20 rods further than any regiment on the ground. We were about 10 rods from the enemy, a portion of whom were behind a stone house. They [?} out the stars and stripes, and by so doing, deceived us, and we stopped firing.

The rebels in front kept pouring in a murderous fire into us from the front, and the 69th and [?] were behind us, commenced firing into [?] dreadfully. [?]. The Colonel then saw that [?] other way, ordered a retreat when we started. I started with the rest, and as I got up to run a rifle ball struck me on the sole of my foot, bruising it pretty bad, causing me exquisite pain and tumbling me down into a little ditch. As soon as I fell, I sprang up again, intending to leave, when a shell came into the ditch with a horrid roar. It struck the ground and bounded up, striking me on the thigh, and sending me up in the air about three feet. I fell on my back, stunned. I supposed that my hip as all torn to pieces, and when I recovered enough to think of myself, I put my hand to my hip and found no blood. I then began to think of escape. They had a company of riflemen whose sole business it was to pick off the officers, and I saw that there was no chance for my life. Where I was I had to fairly burrow into the earth to get clear of the balls. I lay there some 15 minutes, all the northern forces being three-fourths of a mile away from me at the time, except four of my men, who would not leave till they saw the last of me. – There were five or six boys laying dead by the side of me, and one alive. He started after a while to run, when a shot passed through his head, killing him. I stuck my head out above the grass and saw the rebels advancing, and I saw that I must run for it. I had to take off my belt and scabbard and pistol case. I took a gun from one of my men who had been shot, and with my sword in my teeth, and my pistol in my hand, I commenced drawing myself along on my stomach, down the ditch. I went that way about 6 rods, till I came to the end of it, when I cautiously raised my head enough to see them coming. The man in advance was about 10 rods from me. I raised the gun as gently as I could, and took deliberate aim for his heart, and drew the trigger. He dropped his gun, sprang up in the air and fell like a log.

As soon as I had fired I sprang up and started on my race for life. Being an officer, as they co’d see by my shoulder strap, drew upon me a tremendous fire. I hear the bullets zip past my ears, close enough to almost take away my breath.

I ran a zigzag course, and by doing so saved my life. I had to run nearly half a mile at a pace that would have shamed Flora Temple. Our regiment was on the right of the brigade, and we consequently were in front. To show you what we did I refer you to the enclosed paragraph cut from the Washington Star. We were at least 20 rods ahead of the 69th and 79th regiments, and we retreated in good order, and was the only regiment that rallied to cover the retreat.

Our loss is not as large as we supposed at first. The loss in my company is the larges in our regiment, being five killed, three wounded (not including myself,) and three missing. Our retreat was dreadful Dead men and horses, wagons, artillery and ambulances stopped the way. Masked batteries opened upon me at every turn. As I said before, that Sunday morning at half-past two we started for the fight. I fought all day and marched all night, and was so lame that I could hardly step. Next day (Monday) it rained as hard as it could, and I was wet through to the skin. I had to pass the night in a cold, wet tent, without any blanket. I drank water out of mud-puddles in the road, where the men and horses were rushing through, and I drank once in a pool that was as thick as butter, and a dead man lay with one half of his body in it, his whole head being shot off. It makes me shudder to think of it. The cause of our defeat was bad Generalship. The boys are so badly jammed up, and are so weary, that we can do no service for two weeks at least. We are not allowed to cross the river into Washington under any pretense whatever, and are, by that, deprived of any of the comforts of life.

But we are to be sent across the river to-day or to-morrow, and we will be all right then. – General McDowell said that we would be honorably discharged, and sent home, for that charge we made. Where I have my tents pitched now I can see Washington and its surroundings. It is right on the bank of the Potomac River, and is, indeed, a lovely place. Our colors have several shot holes through them, and look pretty hard.

Col. Quinby has no one to say anything against him. He has plenty of courage.


Rochester (NY) Democrat and American, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

79th New York Infantry roster 

Henry B. Williams at Ancestry 

Henry B. Williams at Fold3 

A. [?.] C., Co. A, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

15 06 2020

Fort Bennett, Va. July 22, 1861.

Friend C. – Yesterday (Sunday) was a day that will long be remembered. At 2 o’clock we were called up by the bugle notes of our brigade, to march. About 7 o’clock Sherman’s battery and a thirty two pounder opened fire upon the rebels, who were first found sneaking in and around the woods, near where we were formed in battle order. A few men of the 13th were permitted to get water, and while filling their canteens were fired upon by the enemy, but none of them were hurt. Almost immediately, the first division of the 13th (Capt. Putnam’s and Smith’s Companies*) were ordered on to the hill as scouts, and quite a number of shots were exchanged. Presently, a large number of rebels were seen flying over the hills in all directions – a few shells from our battery helping them along. S. P. Allen was with us, busily engaged with the glass, giving decisive information, and discovered a large body of troops advancing, who were supposed to be Col. Hunter’s column, who shortly engaged the rebels with a very warm and destructive fire.

The 69th, 13th, 79th and 2d Wisconsin, were then ordered to the scene of action – about two miles to the left of us. On went these four regiments. The 13th stripped off all their blankets, &c, and marched on [?] double quick, through the woods and fields of grain, till we came to the stream called Bull’s Run – a nasty, filthy creek at the foot of a very steep and rocky hill, about 95 feet wide and 3 feet deep. Here the 69th were detained somewhat, notwithstanding the exhortations of officers to dash through it. The 13th went through it with a hop, skip and jump movement. Here came the cry that the rebels were running! On, on went our men, with the Stars and Stripes over our heads. Arriving upon the hill, the 69th opened a tremendous fire upon the enemy, as they were flying in all directions, and the 13th did great execution with their rifles. The enemy, of course, took to the woods where their damnable masked batteries were.

Our forces were immediately drawn up in order, and marched up to the work like veterans, under a tremendous cross-fire from the enemy’s batteries, grape, balls, canisters and shell falling like hail stones among us; but down the hill we advanced – double quick – and drove them off into the woods again. The enemy then rallied with renewed vigor, and succeeded in scattering our forces terribly. Just then the 13th advanced, and held the hill against a tremendous fire, for some time. Thank God we were the very last to leave, retreating gradually – after being ordered the second time – loading and firing as we did so. At this point the 13th suffered considerable loss. Our officers – God bless them – were true and brave.

The whole of our army was finally driven off, completely routed and broken up, amid the greatest confusion; and was followed as far back as Centerville, and I don’t know but further. – Just before we reached Centerville, the enemy opened one of their masked batteries upon the wounded, who were being conveyed in carriages to the Centerville hospital. Here one of the most wicked and heart-rending scenes took place, I think, that was ever known. No living man can describe it. We had no cannon to return the fire, and our rifles and muskets were of no use. The only thing we could do was to run. – The horses attached to the wagons, which were loaded with wounded, became frightened, and ran like so many deer through the woods, smashing the carriages, and dashing the wounded against the stones, stumps and trees. Oh, how the heart cried for revenge.

After getting out of the woods, and into another road, I found a small flag, which I seized, and gaining a position on an open hill, (supposing the enemy were following us,) I called out aloud to the soldiers to stand, and fight till the last breath of life was gone, rather than out wounded should be butchered by such devils. – They rallied! Yes, they stood, and we got about one hundred and fifty men together, and with our little flag we marched on till we found we were safe, and then we parted, each to find his own regiment.

Chas. C. Buckley, of Company A, who had been my right hand man ever since the company was organized, was wounded. He was shot twice – in the neck and arm – at the time the 13th advanced up the hill, where the enemy’s fire was so severe. His friends got him a horse, upon which he was conveyed, under a guard, to the Centreville Hospital. His wounds were dressed, and he is not considered dangerously wounded.

There are a great many of the 13th missing, but I don’t think there are many killed, compared to some other regiments. In Company A, I think none were killed. After leaving the battle field, I saw only a few of the 13th, as they, like all the rest, were scattered along the roads during the entire retreat back to Washington, which was ordered, as an attack upon the Capital was anticipated by the Generals in command.

This was a hard day’s work, I assure you; but there was no grumbling. We were obliged to march all night, arriving in camp about 7 or 8 o’clock the next morning, and immediately packed up our traps and started for Fort Bennett, which lies just back of Georgetown, and a little to the left of Fort Corcoran. It is the same that the 13th worked upon.

The 13th lost none of its officers, that I know of. As regards myself, I am all right, only a little sore and stiff. There were a great many officers of different companies, killed – the work of the enemy’s sharpshooters.

There are various reports in circulation – Some say that Mr. Allen was killed, but it is not generally believed.

A. [?.] C. **

Rochester (NY) Democrat and American, 7/27/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* Companies A and F

** Possibly Albert G. Cooper of Company A (the only A. C. found in the roster). The letter writer is assumed a member of Company A due to the mention of Chas. Buckley of that company.

13th New York Infantry roster

Pvt. Robert S. Parker, Co. G (1st)*, 13th New York Infantry, On the Death of Pvt. Ferdinand Willson

27 05 2020

The Death of Ferdinand Willson of Company G.

The following is a copy of a letter received by Mr. John M. Willson, this morning.

Washington, July 30, 1861.

Mr. J. M. Willson – Dear Sir: – I saw yesterday, a letter from you to Warren C. Jones, making inquiries in regard to your brother Ferd’s death, and as I carried him from the ranks when he fell, and stayed with him until he died, I thought it my duty, as his particular friend, (we have messed together since we went into camp,) to write to you in regard to the particulars, which are few. He was shot by a ball that had killed the man in front of him, and afterward passed into his (Ferd’s) breast, near the shoulder, and went through him, coming out considerably lower down than it entered, as he was probably stooping a little when it struck. I saw him drop, and immediately went to him, and as soon as he had shook hands with Capt. Lewis, and bid him “good bye,” (the most earnest farewell I ever saw) I carried him away, intending to take him to a log building about half a mile distant, which was used as a hospital.

But seeing that he would not have time to reach there, and the man who was assisting me being killed, I got him in a small trench near the fence, where he was safe from the flying balls, and stayed with him until he died. He recognized me, but did not say much. He asked me to take a ring from his pocket book and carry to his folks. But I could not as he laid on that side, and our regiment were on the retreat and closely pursued. I had to leave him to save my own life, which I barely did.

Yu spoke of recovering his body. It is impossible. If it could be done I would walk there and carry it home, and consider I was doing not more than my duty. The body of Col. Cameron, who was killed there, cannot be procured, and he is brother to the Secretary of War. But if peace is ever restored, so we can go there, I can show you the spot where he was shot and where he died. I have his knapsack and contents just as he left them, which I shall bring to you when we return, which I hope is in a few days.

I would have written you before this, but I expected we would be in Rochester before this time, and I know you would hear of his death from other sources.

Efforts are being made to have us held for two years, against the wishes of both officers and privates, but I don’t think they will be successful.

Truly your friend,
R. S. Parker,
Co. G, 13th Regt. N. Y. V.

Rochester (NY) Evening Express, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* This company transferred to the 3rd New York Cavalry on 9/1/1861

13th New York Infantry Roster 

Robert. S. Parker at 

Robert. S. Parker at Fold3 

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.


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.


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.”


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.


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

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Contributed by John Hennessy

13th New York Infantry Roster 

Sherman Greig at 

Sherman Greig at Fold3 

Unknown, Co. E, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

25 05 2020

From Company E, Thirteenth Regiment —About Those Colors.

We extract from a private letter written by a member of Company E, Capt. Schoeffel, to a friend in this city, he says: It is useless for me to attempt a description of the battle. It is enough to say that we disputed every inch of ground with them, although the rebels were in the proportion of three to one. I did not expect that we should stand it as we did. I wish you could have seen the 13th sail in. The colors given to us by the ladies of Rochester were borne through the fight and safely back to camp by the color-bearers, not however without receiving a few bullet holes in them. We rallied around them three times for their defence, and it was plain to see that, sooner than let those colors go, they would die.

When we retreated it was done in good style, with colors flying. I understand that our regiment has been turned over by Gov. Morgan to the President for our remaining two years of service. We were expecting to be mustered out of the service in a few days, and plenty of long faces are to be seen in the camp to-day. Well, it is probably for the best, for what would half the regiment do if they should come home. Why, lay around useless and idle.

Our boys feel indignant at those New York City Reporters, for giving other regiments the credit of a large share of the work done by the Bloody Thirteenth, but I suppose they mistook us for rebels in our “Shoddy Grey” uniforms, which now look shoddier than ever. Give my best respects to the Lone Star boys.

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

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Contributed by John Hennessy

13th New York Infantry Roster 

Image: Lt. Edwin S. Gilbert, Co. D, 13th New York Infantry

24 05 2020

Lt. Edwin S. Gilbert as Lt. Col. of the 25th New York Infantry (Source)


Lt. Edwin S. Gilbert as Lt. Col. of the 25th New York Infantry (Source)

Lt. Edwin S. Gilbert, Co. D, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

23 05 2020

Interesting Letter from Ensign Gilbert, Of Co. D.

Fort Bennett, July 26, 1861.

Dear P – : I am here on the Potomac again. We have been through the fight. We left our camp at Centreville at 2 a. m., Sunday morning, and marched on until we met a masked battery, when we halted, and our battery was put in position, and commenced firing. The enemy would not respond. Our artillery then fired across the field into the enemy in the field. Company A, Capt. Putnam, and Company F, Capt. Smith, went forward as skirmishers, and exchanged shots with the enemy. One poor fellow shouted across the hill, “Come on, you damned abolitionists! We’ll attend to you!” We soon heard that Col. Hunter was coming up on our right. The enemy were in full retreat in that direction. Hunter met them, and put them to fight. The fighting was severe. We lay in the woods waiting. Soon orders came for us to reinforce Col. Hunter. The 69th took the lead – the 13th followed; then came the 79th. We soon came to Bull’s Run. It was quite deep, and the bank some four feet high. We jumped from the bank into the stream, shouting at the top of our voices. The enemy on the hill fled. As we came up, we fired across the field at them. I cam across a negro, fleeing with a gun. He said he lived near by. I made him deliver his gun. I found it loaded. We went on a half mile or more, the enemy fleeing, when we were drawn up in line of battle. Major General McDowell rode along saying that the day was ours. We cheered him heartily.

At this moment, the two batteries opened upon us. Our regiment marched down in front of them. – The balls flew in among us, cutting down several of our men. We halted under the hill awhile, and while here, I was struck by a shell, and thrown to the ground, but not injured. James L. Wadsworth rode along our line, saying that the enemy were flying. Our artillery were playing upon them. The balls from the enemy’s batteries flew across the hills, making sad work among the U. S. troops. I could see some four or five thousand of our troops engaged, now driving the enemy, now being driven back. Horses were running riderless over the field, and dead and wounded strewed the ground.

Soon the order came for us to advance. We went forward at double quick, across the brook, and up the hill towards the battery. Gen. McDowell came along and said: The 13th will go up near the house, to support the left wing; the home is in possession of our troops. We went forward to within two hundred feet of the house. We lay down on our faces. I went forward, towards the house. As I stepped forward, I saw a secession flag over in a valley, or gully, at the right. I drew up my rifle, and fired at the color-bearer, and struck one of the color-guard. Waiting to see whether he was killed or not, I received a shot from another secessionist. The ball went through a sleeve of my arm, making two holes in my coat, and two in my shirt, and just grazing my arm. The boys then fired without waiting for orders, killing this fellow, and many others.

A man soon came running down from the house, and gave up his sword and pistol to Lieut. McNutt. Then the firing continued, and we soon found that there were some 1500 rebel troops behind the house. We looked around and saw that all had fled. We then withdrew. Some thirty men remained with me by the fence, and checked the approach of the rebels. Men of all companies were with me. One of our men, John King, shot the color-bearer. We fought for a long time, then withdrew to our colors, formed, and came from the field. I stopped to get water, and lost the regiment. I then went on alone. At night I overtook lieut. Fuller and the lieutenant prisoner. We stopped together near Centreville, about one mile on the other side, in our morning camps. There we remained until morning, when we came on our way. We soon found that the whole army had gone to Washington the same night. I came the next day. The road was strewed for miles with baggage of all kinds, and straggling soldiers. At Centreville I tried to form a company of the straggling soldiers, but could not do it. Our regiment is in a distracted condition, the men are worn, sick and weary. They fought well, and distinguished themselves. The colors have ball holes through them.

We received an order yesterday to go home. We supposed it is because all the three months’ men were to be discharged. To-day we don’t know what is to be done. Our time will expire in a little more than two weeks, and then you may expect to see us. About fifty killed, wounded and missing in our regiment.

We have charge of Fort Bennett, near Fort Corcoran. We have five large guns in it. We can hold it. Good bye till I hear from you.

E. S. G.

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

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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Pvt. Anson Hobart, Co. G (1st) F, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle*

22 05 2020

From a “Broth of a Boy” in the 13th.

We have been shown a letter from private Anson Hobart, to his mother, in which he describes the events of Sunday, and the share which his own company took in the engagement. We copy a single paragraph verbatim:

“In the first place we stopped on a hill where we did not have a fair fight with the rebels. We thought to take them, when they run, but we got sucked in, for we could not see them nowhere. Well, then, we run four miles further, when we got a fair swing at them – then we gave them h—l on all sides, until balls flew about our heads like hailstones. Then our Captain gave the order to retreat, which made all of us as mad as so many crazy devils, but we had to do it. We are going to try them again in a few days, and I hope the Lord will spare my life till I see the Stars and Stipes flying all over the whole world. If He does, I shall feel happy when I die.”

Rochester (NY) Evening Express, 7/29/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* While no Hobart is listed in the roster source below, records for Anson Hobart were found in the 3rd New York Cavalry, to which Co. G (1st) of the 13th New York Infantry transferred on 9/1/1861.

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Pvt. Thomas Westcott. Co. F, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

21 05 2020

Letter from W. H. Westcott.

Eds. Express: – As the Express has a large circulation in Clarendon, its readers may be pleased to read this letter from Thos. Westcott, private in Capt. H. Smith’s Company.

Truly yours,

Camp Union, July 21, 1861

Dear Brother: – Yesterday I returned to this Camp from a hard, long and bloody battle. The Clarendon boys have all arrived safe and sound. Tell Mr. Copeland that I saw Alden after the fight; he is alive and well.

I will now try and give a little account of the fight. We started from Fairfax, or near there, Sunday morning at 2 ½ o’clock. I assure you it was the most awful Sunday I have ever seen or hope to see again. After marching six miles beyond Centreville, we filed off the main road into a large wood, then marched at left flank until we reached the edge again. Here we lay about two hours, then Gen. Tyler ordered two companies of our regiment to a hill. Those ordered were ours (Capt. Smith’s) Co. G. and Co. A. – Upon arriving on the hill, we then caught first sight of the enemy. We commenced firing on them as soon as they opened on us, but without any effect. While we were there the enemy marched towards the east and way off to the right. We saw one of our divisions advancing towards them, soon two batteries of our Brigades belched forth furiously on them, but they did not return the fire.

On this little hill we remained two hours, then returned to our regiment, and staid about half an hour; now the heavy cannon thundered, the long and steady cracking of musketry told plainly the work had commenced. Orders came for us to march forward as fast as possible. We did so, making good time, until we reached a wide creek, which we forded without much delay. No place could be found to get the batteries across, as the banks of the creek were high and steep. This caused us to fight with great disadvantages. On this eminence could be seen the batteries playing from both sides; soon the enemy began to retreat in great confusion, and the principal thing going on, was taking rebel prisoners.

Forward, march! – and now we are in the thickest of the fight. O, the destruction of men and horses! What a sight! I revolt to tell particulars. Stopping a few moments urged the enemy to open on us a terrific fire. The ground was heaving and flying in every direction. We were ordered to march toward the battery – but halted in a gully. Here we lay until one of our batteries passed up the hill to play on the enemy. While we were here, Col. Slocum and regiment passed. I watched for Alden Copeland; soon he came along looking pretty hard. I asked him how he liked the “fellers” whistling over us, and whether they made him dodge or no. He said the shells from cannon he dreaded, but the bullets he got along with well enough.

While marching along, I looked up and saw two balls coming that had struck the ground and were on the bound. They were about 20 feet in the air and [?] feet apart. Says I to Clinton, “Look at those balls!” They passed over our heads and struck in Capt. Nolte’s Company. – They hit the first men I saw fall in our Regiment. The battery of the enemy now ceased firing and we were ordered to march across the creek and up the hill, passing along for 40 rods, were ordered to the left flank, right wheel; we did so,, halted, dropped down, and waited for the enemy. While laying here, the 27th marched on up the road to support our battery, working on the enemy whose battery raked ours, killing all the horses that were to draw the pieces. Two regiments supporting the rebel battery, moved towards us on the brow of a hill. Here, for the first time, I saw the rebel flag or rag, as it soon became when in sight of our regiment. – Here our company suffered; two were wounded – one in the arm, the other in the neck and arm. The closest call I got, was by the ball that took effect in the poor fellow’s neck; it passed through my cape which was wound around my blanket, and slung across my shoulder. We lay there pouring bullets on them like hail. I was our rebel flag bearers shot down. Our cartridges were nearly gone so we retreated a short distance and made a stand, firing away our last cartridge.

About this time the enemy received large reinforcements – what an awful volley of balls were poured down on us – we were compelled to retreat, leaving many dead and wounded on the field. We were not scratched, but to see horses running away, tearing everything to pieces, was frightful.

We left for Centreville about six o’clock, ad there met reinforcements which went on to Bull Run to guard the wagons. That evening we marched to Fairfax, where I fell out of rank and made up my mind to go no further that night. I soon found a barn, a buffalo skin, and laid down for the night, not caring for the consequences. At six in the morning I awoke hungry and sore.

I made up my mind I never could walk to camp, so a conveyance was found, and I rode into camp about noon. The most of the boys returned bare-footed, their feet being much blistered. I think the loss in our Regiment is about 50 killed and wounded.

I have always had a strong desire to see a fight. I have now seen it. Now I have a desire to have just one more chance at them, then I am done. I don’t like to fight where the balls are only bullets. They are of no consequence.

I staid last night in a corn house with some Couth Carolina prisoners. Our force brought away many such fellows; some New Orleans Zouaves are here. I have no more time to write, so wait a little while longer.


Rochester (NY) Evening Express, 7/29/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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Image: Lt. Walter M. Fleming, Co. G (1st), 13th New York Infantry

21 05 2020

Walter Millard Fleming, 13th New York Infantry, co-founder of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (Source)