Pvt. Wilbur D. Cook, Co. E, 13th New York Infantry, On the Return of the Regiment from the Field

19 03 2019

WAR CORRESPONDENCE.
———-
After the Battle – Letter from Wilbur D. Cook, of Capt. Schoeffel’s Company.

Mr. Cook, who was left in charge of the camp and the sick, writes his parents as follows.

Camp Union, Va.,
Monday, July 22 – 10 A.M.

I suppose you are aware that our troops have been beaten, and have retreated to their old camp. I never saw such hard looking men in my life, as those that came in this morning. – We have lost batteries, wagons, and many of our men are taken prisoners. Our loss in killed and wounded, as near as I can find out, is about 1,000. Only half our company have returned; but we know of but one of them being killed – Wallace Shove. He was shot in the breast.

Gen. Scott had made an order forbidding any of the troops crossing the river; and it is thought that Washington is now in danger of being taken.

Our regiment was the last one to leave the field, where they did good execution. Tell the people of Rochester that their colors are safe yet, though there are some bullet holes in them.

The sight of the returning troops was one I never saw before, and I never wish to see the like again. Apprehensions were entertained that Fort Corcoran will be attacked by the Rebels to-night or to-morrow night, and we shall all back into that place in an hour or two.

I am well, but greatly fatigued.

Your Son,
W. D. Cook

Rochester Evening Express, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

13th New York Infantry Roster (see Cook, Wilber D.) https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/rosters/Infantry/13th_Infantry_CW_Roster.pdf

Wilbur D. Cook at Ancestry.com  





Capt. Adolph Nolte, Co. C, 13th New York Infantry, On the March and Blackburn’s Ford

18 03 2019

WAR CORRESPONDENCE.
———-
The March from Camp Union, and the Battle of Thursday

Camp near Centreville,
July 20, 1861.

I wrote in my last that we left Camp Union on the 16th. The columns started at 2 P.M., during the greatest heat, and marched through a dense forest, that was interrupted only by a few farms, towards Vienna, where, as is well known, Gen. Schenck attacked a masked battery with a locomotive.

We encamped with our tents in a swampy meadow ground, and at 6 o’clock next morning started again. Our march was a very difficult and tiring one. Artillery, baggage, cavalry and infantry crowded each other in a miserably narrow and rough forest road, which was seldom wide enough for two wagons to pass each other. Every moment the column halted. They had to stop and start again on a trot, stop again, and then march for miles in the greatest heat of the sun without a drop of water. The march was executed without the least regard for the men. Where there was water, we passed by. – Where there was none, we halted for hours in the most burning heat. If a well or spring was found at a little distance from the road, they said there was no time to bring water, and when (???) an hour in the burning heat.

During the march we were informed that Fairfax Court House had been evacuated, and accordingly our column passed along more to the right on the direct road to Manassas Junction. – In the afternoon we passed a rebel intrenchment which had been abandoned. The wood was blocked up at several places, with fallen trees, and their removal took considerable time. Towards evening we passed a place of about 20 houses, from which all the inhabitants had left. Only a few negroes remained. It seems as if the inhabitants had left in the greatest haste, and detachments of the 79th regiment began knocking to pieces everything left, and finally set fire to a house, which burned down.

On the approach of night, we came to a place where, on the very same day, the rebel troops had been encamped. We found their fires still burning. That day we had gone at least 16 miles. In the greatest heat and heavily loaded, and we threw ourselves, completely tired, upon the ground. In the same night we were twice started up by false alarms. The next morning we marched upon Centreville, which is situated about seven miles from Manassas Junction. Before Centreville we found some intrenchments abandoned by the rebels. Most of the inhabitants had left the place, and nothing was to be got there. Even the pump handles had been removed from the pumps.

At the head of the column marched a Wisconsin and the 12th Syracuse regiments. The latter came out from the forest about a mile and a half from Centreville upon a plateau, which formed a hill towards the opposite forest. It as suddenly saluted with a hail of canister and musket balls, which, from a masked battery and position, fell suddenly upon them. In spite of the experience of Bethel and Vienna, our Syracuse friends had unheedingly fallen upon the enemy’s cannons and muskets. The command was given to advance in battle order. The regiment formed with difficulty and advance, but when it had come to within fifty paces of the enemy’s position it was received with such a shower of canister and musket balls that it dispersed in all directions. They scattered through the whole forest, and five hours later, when we met with the rest of the regiment, there were not 200 men together.

One will ask now, why was not this attack supported? The answer is, because the brigades which followed were nearly three miles be[hind?].

After the Syracuse regiment had been repulsed a light battery was pushed forward to disperse the enemy’s artillery.

Our regiment, with the rest of those that constituted the brigade, lay about three miles behind the scene of action. We heard the cannon fire for nearly two hours until about 2 o’clock we received orders to advance. We advanced by way of Centreville and then we marched in quick and double quick time for two miles upon a narrow path through the dense forest. The heat was horrible and the dust was so that we nearly suffocated. I washed my mouth several times with a draught from my canteen, and from the pap that I spit out, one might have baked together a whole German Principality. When we arrived at the border of the forest, before which our guns operated, our regiment was placed to right and left of the road in the wood to await further orders. We were about 20 paces from the border of the forest. The cannonading was redoubled and ball from 6 and 12 pounders and cannister, whizzed like hail over our heads and struck the ground a few paces behind us. The cannonading kept up about an hour, more or less. Take it all in all, our men behaved well under their first baptism of fire. – We lay flat on the ground. When the first balls struck the branches and trees above our heads, it is true that several polite bows were made to these coarse fellows. Once when a charge of cannister whizzed over the heads of the middle division, about half a dozen tried to fall back in the rear. But half a score [?] brought them back immediately into line. Several of the men made curious faces behind the trees, but most made fun of it; and more quietness and indifference was shown than could be expected from green troops. In this position, in which we received all the balls that were intended for our artillery, which was placed on the border of the forest, we remained for more than an hour. In vain we hoped for an order to advance and try our Remington Rifles. Toward four o’clock, the artillery fire on our part was stopped, ostensibly because our guns could find no position to fire with advantage upon those of the enemy.

At last we found our column again, and went slowly back through the forest without having lost a man. On the way we found the dead and wounded of the Syracuse Regiment, 15 or 20 in number. With those of other regiments, the Ohio and Wis. There may have been thirty. One of the Syracuse regiment had one half of his head torn away sideways by a 6 pounder, so that upwards from the under jaw, there was nothing to be seen but a mass of raw flesh, blood and crushed bones. Another had his abdomen torn by a piece of shell, in a most horrible manner. The poor fellow begged for a drink of brandy, which I gave to him, as the surgeon told me he could not live for another hour. Others had musket balls in their breast or shoulders, and some had their feet crushed.

We went back to Centreville and from there a mile in advance towards the right flank of the enemy, where we took up our position. We spent here the 19th of July under hits or bushes – and to-day the 20th, we are not likely to go further. Since yesterday considerable regiments have come from Washington, so that the army will be 60,000 or 70,000 strong. Some heavy howitzers have also arrived to enable us to fire upon the enemy’s batteries from a greater distance. Our regiment lies to-day at the extreme advance post of the right flank, and when we move will be the vanguard. We shall then see whether we shall fare any better than the Syracusans.

Manassas is about 7 miles from here, and the entrenchments of the enemy are not a mile from us. We do not expect any movement to-day, but tomorrow (Sunday) we shall have a horrible sacred concert in spite of the ordinances of his Honor the Mayor of Rochester. Until then, good bye.

Rochester Evening Express, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

13th New York Infantry Roster

Adolph Nolte at Ancestry.com

Adolph Nolte at Fold3

Adolph Nolte at FindAGrave 





Capt. Adolph Nolte, Co. C, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

13 03 2019

WAR CORRESPONDENCE.
———-
Important Letters from Capt. Adolph Nolte – A Graphic and Concise Description of the Great Battle – The Irrepressible Thirteenth in Action – Their Achievements – No Reinforcements – The Retreat, Etc.
———-

[Translated for the Evening Express, from the Rochester Observer]

Camp Union, July 23, 1861.

As you perceive from this letter, we have returned sooner from Virginia than we entered. – In entering we occupied three days; for leaving, one night. Nevertheless, we can maintain that we have lost the battle with honor, and that the cause of our defeat is owing to nothing but the defective disposition of our forces, in lack of ammunition, and to the fatigue of our troops. The general course of the battle you will learn in detail from the newspapers, and the official reports. So I will inform you briefly only as follows.

From 7 o’clock in the morning, till 3 in the afternoon, (of Sunday,) we drove the enemy out of every position. He made a stand nowhere in the open field. The flight and pursuit continued over hill and dale, through valley, defile and forest, until we came upon his strongest batteries, at 3 o’clock, three miles this side of Manassas.

Instead of resting the troops, who from 2 o’clock in the morning had been upon their legs, in the most terrible heat, almost unprovided with water, and very little biscuit, they were ordered to storm the batteries lying opposite. In the enthusiasm of victory they rushed fiercely upon them. However, they were received by a fearful fire from heavy artillery, and from firmly placed batteries, at which the company had (???) a stand. Our artillery, light six-pounders, began to play against the heavy artillery of the enemy. But their heavy caliber was immensely superior to ours, and our ammunition, which had been employed during the day, was lulling.

From this moment forth, we were in the hands of the enemy, who rained upon us a hail of balls, bombs and schrapnels, as far as their heavy artillery could reach. Nevertheless, we advanced one more, about half of a mile, and captured one of the nearest posted hostile batteries. However, we could not retain it without artillery, and were compelled to get out of reach of the enemy’s artillery, after being completely showered with a flood of balls.

Here we met with te severest blow. We had no reserve, neither infantry or artillery, which could have stood against the enemy, and behind which we could have reorganized. Our battalions were, singly, as they advanced, thrown against the batteries and driven back. Of a reserve no one had thought. Now every one knows, who has any knowledge of war, that dissolved battalions behind sufficient reserves, upon the battle field, can again be brought to a stand and to order – but never when they are upon the march. A retreat followed, and from this moment forth, were all the regiments and arms a promiscuous, irregular heap – tired to death, and retreating upon the narrow mainway, blockaded by hundreds of wagons, and through the close woods.

The Thirteenth Regiment.

Now, with reference to our regiment. We left our camp Sunday, the 21st, at 2 A.M. After we marched a few miles we met the enemy. Our position was at the extreme right wing – beside the 69th and 79th. After we marched a few miles, we met the enemy. After that the artillery had opened fire, and several regiments of the rebels had been scattered by well-thrown grenades, and after that Lieut. Hunter’s brigade had flanked the enemy on the left, we advanced and drove the enemy by our fire. They nowhere made a stand. They were defeated everywhere, and the pursuit was over hill and valley.

Having arrived at Bull’s Run – a river not deep, but shut in by steep banks – the most of our troops refused the pontoon bridge and sprang as if mad through the creek. Having reached the opposite hight, our fire commenced anew upon the flying and distracted columns of the enemy, until they got beyond reach of shot. Here Gen. McDowell and Col. Sherman, our Brigade commander, met and shook hands. In the salutations and our hurrah were a little too early. The command to advance was given. Our fatigued regiments, who from 2 A.M. till noon, had been in terrible heat upon their feet, stimulated by the enthusiasm of victory, ran down the mountain and up another hight, when, as we were crossing the summit of the same, we came within shooting distance of the enemy’s chief battery, and the balls began to fly around us thick as hail. We formed division columns and made an advance march down the hill. Here fell two of our company, (the German) the first in the Regiment, the shot striking about three yards from me in the rank. It shivered the right thigh of private Nauth, and the right foot of young Werner. The piece of the shell whirled about our ears like hail.

We marched under the continuous rain of balls – which tore down many others of the regiment– to the left over the way, and took position behind a small hight. The divisions of the regiment, changing positions, advanced to the top of the slope and from this fired upon the hostile position. Finally came the artillery, and posted itself upon the back of the hill, in order to answer the fire of the battery. We remained in our position in order to cover the artillery, and had the satisfaction of receiving all the shot which was intended for them. A mass of men fell here. Unfortunately, the artillery had exhausted its ammunition, and returned to the left. We began our fire afresh, advanced over the hill, and drove the enemy through a hollow lying behind, where we took possession of a stone house, which had served them as a protection.

From here we advanced through a hollow, up another hight, on whose left side a deserted block-house, surrounded by fences, also served as a defense for the enemy. While we were scaling the fences, Sergeant Becker received a ball in the right shoulder. I held him for a moment, with the assistance of Sergeant Major Schreiber, and whilst the latter was tying him up, I followed quickly to the remainder of our companies, which had just posted themselves behind the above mentioned block house.

Already on the advance, was our regiment, likewise the 69th and 79th – entirely separated! Our assault was made, not in column, lines, or any regular manner, but in a promiscuous and confused mass. I met here men from the companies of Capts. Lewis, Williams, Hyland and Lieut. Geck, in confusion. They had posted themselves partly behind the house, partly behind the fence, and fired upon the enemy, whose cannon and musket balls whizzed about us like hail. Here private Bauman fell, hit in the breast by a ball, and breathed his last. This last result WAS THE TURNING POINT OF THE BATTLE. The other wing was thrown back and fled, and so was our little heap – if it were not to be cut down entirely – compelled to seek safety in flight. We retreated across the field toward the defile, and it is a mystery to me to this hour, how one single man got away safely from the awful grape shot and muskety.

When I leapt the fence bordering the defile, I was compelled to remain for several minutes behind a small hill, before I could venture forth, for had I during this time only raised my head, it would have been riddled by a dozen balls.

At last we got through the valley behind the opposite heights, where the balls from the batteries could no longer reach us. Here I met private Stuermer, whose foot had been smashed, and who had been carried away by a few of his comrades. On the opposite plateau our troops reorganized to some extent, but as we had no reserve, it was impossible to bring order out of confusion. The retreat took place without the enemy’s daring to follow with his infantry. We dragged ourselves, fatigued almost to death, about twelve miles back, towards Centreville, and from thence in the same night, to camp Union.

So far as concerns the wounded of our company, we have brought with us but one, Sergeant Becker, who could march. The remainder have fallen into the hands of the enemy. NOT TWENTY OF OUR COMPANY WERE TOGETHER AT EVENING, and I fear that more have fallen than the above mentioned.

All the wounded of our company fell at the attack – none on the retreat. Of the whole regiment, I was not able to find together at evening iso much as fifty men.i The rest were scattered in every direction, like the other regiments; and on Monday noon there were not as many as eighty men in camp Union.

I regard to the retreat, I shall write in my next, since this letter will otherwise be too late for the mail. We were from Sunday morning to Monday morning on the march, without eating or drinking anything, except a little sea-biscuit and a little dirty water. We were during this time, from seven to eight hours, under fire, and had marched fifty miles. Let those answer for the result who have sent 20,000 exhausted troops, with light, half provided artillery, against an enemy of 60,000, well entrenched, and well provided with the heaviest artillery.

Rochester Evening Express, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

13th New York Infantry roster

Adolph Nolte at Ancestry.com

Adolph Nolte at Fold3

Adolph Nolte at FindAGrave  





“W,”* Co. E, 13th New York Infantry, On the Sick Left Behind in Camp

4 03 2019

Extract from a Private Letter.

Camp Union, Va. July 23, 18.

Dear Mother: The whole regiment left day before yesterday, with the exception of the sick and one able-bodied man from each company. I was detailed from our company to stay. I do the cooking for five sick men and do guard duty at night. The weather is warmer than I ever experienced in Rochester. The first potatoes I have seen since leaving Elmira, I obtained in a foraging expedition to-day. They were very acceptable. Last night one hundred and fifty wagons, loaded with provisions for the advancing army, passed this camp. When last heard from, our regiment was in the best of spirits and anxious for a fight. The army, as it marched from here, presented a fine sight. The column marched four abreast, and extended a distance of six miles. There were in all some 35,000 men. Some of our men came back sick to-day, unable to go any further. None of our company (Schoeffel’s) have returned. I would like to [???] more than those from the country. Nine out of ten of the sick in our regiment are from the country.

Blackberries are exceedingly plenty here. A few mornings since I picked a six quart pail full in half an hour. The nights are very cool, and the variations of temperature, day and night, are quite trying to the endurance of the men, who serve night and day. The heat at Panama I endured much better than I can this climate; still I am quite healthy. Some of the flies here are as large as honey bees, and annoy us very much. A fine creek near by gives us a chance to bathe, which I do as often as convenient. We have also a spring, which affords water equal to filtered water you have at home.

Tell F. that his old friend Major Terry has resigned, at the request of the Captains excepting Captain Smith, of the “Smith Rifles.” Government offers a bounty of $100 to three months volunteers who will re-enlist for the war.

W.

Rochester Evening Express, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*The author is possibly Wilbur D. Smith, who published another, post-battle letter in the same edition of the Evening Express, from Camp Union.





Pvt. Miles O. Wright, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

19 08 2014

From Miles O. Wright, Co. B.

———-

Camp Union, Va., July 23, 1861.

Dear Sister and Brother: — I am saved by the grace of God. On the 18th day of July we commenced our fight, and on the 21st we had a warm time, I tell you. There was about 1200 killed, of our men and theirs. They had 75,000 men and we had 20,000, but when we got them in the open fields we drove them. But they went in their masked battery, and we cut them down like grass. We fought from half-past seven till half-past three, and then we retreated and left the field. They chased us for 15 or 20 miles with 30,000 men and their cavalry, and run over our men and shot some. They run over James Adams and Wm. Goodwin, but did not kill them. It hurt them some. Two out of our company were wounded, and we expect Tom Jones in killed or taken prisoner. If he is taken prisoner we will get him again. After they had chased us 10 or 12 miles, Patterson and Butler came in behind and shot and took all of them.

Manassas Station and Manassas Gap is what we tried to take. The battle was fought on Bull’s Run, about 25 miles from Washington City. But the way we come it, was about 50 miles. We marched all night and got into camp next morning.

I am alive and well, but pretty sore and lame. I am sleepy, not having slept for 48 hours. I have just seen five rebel prisoners, in charge of Capt. Brown’s company in this regiment. I cannot write much more. I am so tired. The boys that are alive are here. Two of our boys are shot, one in the shoulder and one in the elbow. Their names are Smith and Ketchum.

You musty not feel bad for me. If I get home alive, all right; if not, I die for my country. But I guess our fighting is done with. We have had our share of it. There is not over 500 left in our regiment out of 840. It took 11 tents for each company, now it don’t take over 5.

Good bye for this time.

From your Brother,

MILES O. WRIGHT

Dansville [New York] Advertiser, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Bio Sketch of M. O. Wright, p. 381





Pvt. Clarence D. Hess, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

18 08 2014

From C. D. Hess, Scott’s Band.

———-

Washington, Monday, July 23

You have no doubt ere this received news of the terrible engagement that took place yesterday. I was a spectator of the whole from beginning to end. As newspaper accounts of it are rather mixed up, I will tell you all I saw. The band went with the regiment to the point that I mentioned in my last, and there was discovered the whole Southern army. Our large guns immediately opened upon them and stirred them up some, but brought no response for some time. At length the infantry went out and commenced firing upon them. Then the “ball” commenced. They opened their masked batteries upon our boys. Our whole artillery returned their fire, and at the same time continual vollies of musketry were kept up on both sides. The constant roar of the cannon, the rattle of the small arms, the bursting of shell and the screams of the wounded, made up one of the most horrible scenes I ever could have imagined. We had about 40,000 troops in the field, and the enemy about 125,000, including 5,000 cavalry. Our boys drove them for about six hours, when they received reinforcements, and after three hours more of hard fighting, the enemy made a charge with their cavalry, and scattered our forces in every direction. Every man for himself was then the order, and I immediately broke for the woods, Jim Newton following closely. I lost drum, sticks, music, blankets, revolver and haversack. I traveled all night, and reached Camp Union this morning. Five of the band boys have come in, viz: Alex., Myering, Tiffany, Newton and myself. The rest I have not seen yet. The loss of life was immense. I do not know yet who was killed in our regiment. We will know in a day or two. It is the last battle the band will go to. I never want to see such a sight again. Our regiment will now probably bee soon discharged. I write this in haste to let you know that I am safe, and hereafter shall look out that I remain so.

Dansville [New York] Advertiser, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Bio Sketch of C. D. Hess, p. 284





Sgt. Mark J. Bunnell, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Aftermath of the Battle

13 08 2014

From Orderly Bunnell.

———-

[We received a long and interesting letter from the Orderly on Wednesday last, in which he graphically describes some scenes of the battle-field, bit it came so late that we could not publish it. On Monday we received the following short letter.]

Camp Bennett, Arlington Heights,

August 1st, 1861

Dear Ace: — I received your letter this morning, and was glad to hear from home, and that you were all as well as usual. My health is good. The reasons that I did not write before, is, that I was so tired out when I got back from the battle, that I could not think of anything. Ace, that was a time long to be remembered. I have not got over it yet, but am very well rested. I can’t describe the battle with the pen, but when I get home, I will tell you all about it. I cannot tell you when we will come home. We have been turned over to the U. S. for the whole term of our enlistment, but the regiment has got to be filled up to one thousand and forty men. the regiment is in a bad condition now. almost all sick, and I think that we will be sent back to the State to recruit. If so, then I will come home. Almost all in the regiment say that wen their three months are up, they will go home. Quite a number have deserted already, but that is a bad plan. All of our boys are here, except two that are in the hospital; one is Dieter and the other is Ketchum. The boys are not very fast to go into the fight again. I don’t know who would like such a fight as that was. We did not have anything to eat for about thirty-six hours, and during that time were on the battle-field some nine hours, and marched 60 miles. Talk about being tired! I can’t tell you anything about it, but thank God I am alive and well. I cannot imagine how we got off as well as we did. It seems almost like a dream to me now. Just think of marching along and stepping over dead bodies, and seeing men fall down dead by your side! It is awful! I have a Bowie knife, which I got on the field which will keep me in remembrance of these scenes were anything needed – but I never shall forget that day as long as I live.

It has been raining all morning, but is clearing off bright now. Our camp is very pleasantly situated just outside the fort. We don’t have much to do now, and in fact the boys are not in condition to do anything. I think we shall come home before long, but it may be all for the best if we should stay. I don’t think that Col. Quinby will command; I understand that he has tendered his resignation to the War Department. Probably a great many soldiers in this regiment would go in for the war under some other commander.

We have not got any more pay yet, but suppose we shall before long.

From your brother,

Mark J. Bunnell

Dansville [NY] Advertiser, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Mark. J. Bunnell at Ancestry.com