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

9 06 2020

Arlington Heights, July 23.

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

Joseph Sands, Co. A, 14th Regt.

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

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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

Joseph Sands at Ancestry.com 

Joseph Sands at Fold3 

Joseph Sands at FindAGrave 

Lt. John H. Styles, Co. A, 14th New York State Militia, On the Fate of Col. Alfred M. Wood

9 06 2020

To the Editor of the Brooklyn Eagle:

I perceive there is [?] about the last whereabouts of Col. Wood, and who was with him; and myself being quite an interested party, [?] give you my version of the affair. That he was wounded and taken from the field is true, but by whom I know not, neither is it to the question; but in our retreating, after carrying the colonel on a stretcher for some mile, our party induced the driver of one of the 71st Regiment ambulances to take the colonel in, and the driver having a wounded soldier in with him desired to advance as fast as possible, in order to reach Centreville, to procure medical assistance, and in doing so, we got in advance of the most of our immediate party (except a few who kept close to the ambulance as a guard) and on emerging from the woods into Centreville road, we were suddenly surprised by being fired upon from the road. Of course this created a panic, and the driver started at a brisk pace, thinking to get clear by quick driving, but on arriving at the bridge, found it completely blocked up by teams completely wedged together, and every one trying to get away as quick as they could, and of course Colonel Wood was left to his fate in that ambulance; he was seriously wounded in the thigh, I think, and I think could not have gotten out of the ambulance without assistance. As to Doctors Homeston and Swalm being with him I deny, for if they had been, why such haste to get where medical assistance could be procured? also, had they been there, why should I not have seen them, being personally acquainted with both of them.

I assert again that Capt. W. L. B. Steers of Co. E and myself were with him until stern necessity compelled us to abandon him, and save our lives by flight, I myself being wounded in the foot.

Yours truly,
John H. Styles,
1st Lt. A Co. 14th Regt. N.Y.S.M.

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

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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

John H. Styles at Ancestry.com

John H. Styles at Fold3 

John H. Styles at FindAGrave 

E. T. W., 14th New York State Militia, On the Retreat and Aftermath.

8 06 2020

Willard’s Hotel, Washington, D. C.
July 25, 1861,

To the Editor of the Brooklyn Eagle:

I reached this city yesterday morning, in time to see many of the straggling soldiers as they returned from the advance of the Grand Army. Here one gets at the truth in the rough, unblemished by the sensation despatch mongers of the day. It has been a terrible rout. We have not suffered the enemy to rout us, but have performed the task ourselves. Up to 4 P. M., on the day of the last engagement, our troops were gradually unmasking the batteries and positions of the enemy. A heavy reinforcement came up from Manassas to the rebel side, for which, strange to say, no provision had been made by our commanders, and the word fall back was given by a division officer. Simultaneously a report started that Johnson, with his whole division, was flanking our men, when the run of the teamsters commenced, interspersed with members of Congress in all haste, adding to the confusion, and producing a panic such as probably the world ever saw. The roads were crowded with soldiers, civilians, cattle, horses and baggage, each trying to outdo the other in speed to save life. The panic extended to over half our forces, while strange to say those who did retreat in order, could not be prevailed upon to make a stand at Centreville, nor even to bring off the wounded. There was too, a fatal lack of ambulances, only litters carried by hand could be had, and thus our gallant colonel of the 14th Brooklyn Regiment was abandoned, after having been carried come distance, his friends claiming that the only ambulance they could procure was destroyed on the way; he was first carried from the field to the church, temporarily made a hospital, thence to a blacksmith’s shop, where he desired to be left; and finally, after being carried some little distance beyond in an ambulance, became separated from the soldiers, and has not been heard from since. From the best descriptions I can gather of his injury from intelligent parties, it was a flesh wound in the thigh, from which he lost much blood, but which was not of a dangerous character. He was in good spirits when last seen, suffering a little pain, but talkative and hopeful. The soldiers all say that he led them into action in the most gallant manner, and first had his hat shot off by a rifle ball; afterwards receiving the musket ball in the thigh; and even after receiving this sever injury, after nearly fainting from loss of blood, he ordered a soldier to hold him up, cheering on his men, utterly regardless of himself, and as determined as ever! Such a record is Col. Wood’s – may he yet be spared. The enemy sent in word that our wounded should receive the same attention as their own men. All here believe that the Colonel is beyond our lines, in their hands a prisoner, but carefully nursed by the two surgeons of the regiment, both of whom have not yet come in. No doubt they are with the wounded, and in a few days we shall see them again. Lieut. Col. Fowler came in, after having been given up as dead. He lay concealed in a thicket until dark, and then marched in on foot. All concur in this, that the 14th is entitled to great credit for their gallant fighting. They stormed and took an open battery three different times, each time being overwhelmed in numbers. Thirteen Colonel of other regiments are yet missing! – showing the desperate fighting done by our men, and that the enemy’s sharpshooters were especially ordered to pick off our officers. The Fire Zouaves performed prodigies of valor; the 69th, and especially the Rhode Island regiments, covered themselves with glory. An incident is given of Gov. Sprague, who was in command of the Rhode Island brigade, worth repeating – “Boys,” said he, rushing to the front ranks, during the hottest of the firing, when the regiment was like to be thrown into confusion by the thundering of iron hail about them. ”Boys, follow your Governor! give them the Devil!” And so they did. Military men on the field advance the opinion that the rebels suffered severe loss, probably three or four times greater than ours. They fired too high, while our men took deliberate aim. The Fire Zouaves killed at one volley, all but seven of their “Black Horse Cavalry” – a crack company. In an open field, our troops will overwhelm them. Nothing, however, can be clearer than that this advance upon Manassas was all wrong. Our troops did not want Manassas as a strategical point, why not then have passed around it, or have attacked it to the man. While Banks would make a Secretary of the Portfolio of War, worth the whole cabinet together. Meetings in New York and other northern cities could effect this change. There has been great energy in preparation lacking, to get ready our army. A second mistake can not be allowed, the present army is perfectly demoralized, not to say disorganized. A prominent military gentleman declared to me last evening that Beauregard could take Washington now in two hours time. – That the several regiments are not in condition or character to fight. All last night many rumors were flying about, that Beauregard was advancing for a night attack upon the city, and I will say that a majority of the people here believe in Beauregard’s advance very soon. The administration does not yet in my judgement realize fully the “situation.”

Nothing clearer shows this than the utter neglect to consider what should be done if defeated at Bull’s Run. No preparations of any kind contemplated a defeat, and had Beauregard followed our army he would have annihilated it, taken Washington, and dictated his orders from the White House that night. Providence seems to have protected us through many blunders. It will now take two or three months before any advance can be made; let us hope that General Greeley will learn a lesson of war by this defeat. I am sorry to say that the officers of our regiments instead of being in their several camps, are at any time to be seen lounging about our hotels and bar rooms; Wilson declared in the Senate today that one half of them “were not worth the powder to blow them to pieces.” I give his exact words. Not a few of them are intoxicated nightly. Strike their names from the roll, Mr. Lincoln, and do not place the Republic again in jeopardy through the culpable neglect of supine hands. Many of the officers outran their regiments, and some even changed their uniform to facilitate their flight as civilians! What a shameless disgrace! Incidents are related of whole regiments standing hours in the rain, awaiting a meal of victuals on their arrival here, while Colonels and officers were dining at hotels! And it is an absolute fact that the army at Bull’s Run too up the line of march at half past two o’clock in the morning, marched till ten, and men went into action without a mouthful to eat the whole day. One of the 14th boys told me he would and could have brought in our Colonel, but for his very exhaustion from hunger and thirst. And [?] plenty of baskets of champagne were known to have been sent down by brigades. These things will be corrected next time not doubt.

E. T. W.

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

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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

* The only E. W. located in the roster who was enlisted at the time of the battle was E. G. Wackeohagen (Wackerhagen) of Co. C.

Pvt. Joseph Marfing, Co. E, 14th New York State Militia, Parole of Honor

7 05 2020

Thanks to reader Bryan Ross for passing along this Parole of Honor for First Bull Run prisoner of war Joseph Marfing of the 14th New York (Brooklyn) State Militia. I’m not sure where Marfing went between signing this parole and being formally exchanged. The rules for prisoner exchanges varied, and for a good period of time paroled soldiers spent that period in a camp (you can read a pretty good account of one camp in Richard Moe’s The Last Full Measure), but he did wind up with his regiment again (the 14th NYSM became the 84th NYVI), and later still served in the Veteran Reserve Corps.

Click the link for an image of the actual document.

Transcription by Bryan Ross

Parole of Honor

We hereby pledge our word of Honor after our release from the Confederate States Military Prison at Tuscaloosa, Alabama to proceed forthwith to Norfolk Virginia by way of Petersburgh and City Point and report ourselves to General Huger. And that we will not under any circumstances take up arms against or do anything against the prejudice of the Confederate States, or any State composing said Confederacy, or the people thereof, until regularly exchanged, under such penalty as the Confederate States shall see proper to inflict for a violation of this Parole if taken thereafter. Transportation being furnished for this purpose.

Tuscaloosa Alabama February 26th 1862.

Joseph Marfing Company E 14th Regiment

Taken at battle of Manassas

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14th NYSM Co. E Roster

Joseph Marfing at Fold3

Joseph Marfing at FindAGrave (possible)

Unknown, Co. B (Tiger Rifles), 1st Special Louisiana Battalion, On the Battle

28 04 2020

The Tiger Rifles at Manassas.

We have before us a private letter from a member of the Tiger Rifles, who were in the thickest of the fight at Stone Bridge, and rendered efficient service as one of the companies of Wheat’s Battalion:

On Sunday, 21st, at sunrise, the enemy commenced throwing shot and shell among us. Our second platoon, under command of Lieutenant Adrian, ran a party of cavalry some distance towards their lines. We were then ordered to deploy towards the left, and hold them in check for reinforcements to prevent being outflanked on our left, and here we had the honor to open the ball and receive the first fire.

As we were crossing a field in an exposed situation, we were fired upon (through mistake) by a body of South Carolinians, and at once the enemy let loose as if all hell had been let loose. Flat upon our faces we received their showers of balls; a moment’s pause, and we rose, closed in upon them with a fierce yell, clubbing our rifles and using our long knives. This hand to hand fight lasted until fresh reinforcements drive us back beyond our original position, we carrying our wounded with us. Major Wheat was here shot from his horse; Capt. White’s horse was shot under him, our First Lieutenant was wounded in the thigh, Dick Hawkins shot through the breast and wrist, and any number of killed and wounded were strewn all about. The New York Fire Zouaves, seeing our momentary confusion, gave three cheers and started for us, but it was the last shout that most of them ever gave. We covered the ground with their dead and dying, and had driven them beyond their first position, when just then we heard three cheers for the Tigers and Louisiana. The struggle was decided. The gallant Seventh has “double-quicked” it for nine miles, and came rushing into the fight. They fired as they came within point blank range, and charged with fixed bayonets. The enemy broke and fled panic-stricken, with our men in full pursuit.

When the fight and pursuit were over, we were drawn up in line and received the thanks of Gen. Johnston for what he termed our “extraordinary and desperate stand.” Gen. Beauregard sent word to Major Wheat, “you, and your battalion, for this day’s work, shall never be forgotten, whether you live or die.”

At the close of his letter the writer speaks of some of the minor casualties in the following humorous vein:

Tom Williams got his in the jaw by a spent ball, which caused him to shift his chew of tobacco to the other side; Tom Malloy got the tip of his nose chipped off by a splinter from a rail, but says he can spare the piece, as he has plenty left; Old Kelly got it through the calf of the leg, and now he growls because he can’t have the limb cut off, so that he can peddle cigars on the levee; Ben White cursed his luck because he could not get shot, and concluded he’d cut himself, but when he looked for his knife, someone had stolen it, etc.

New Orleans (LA) Daily Crescent, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Pvt. Louis. L. Hingle, Co. E, 14th N. Y. S. M., On the Battle

3 03 2019

Company C*, 14th Regiment,
Camp Porter, July 23, 1861.

Friend Joe – I hasten to inform you that our boys are all well, not one of us shot, but some very narrow escapes, such as balls passing through our caps, coats, &c. I will now try and give you a description of the march and battle. When I wrote my last letter to you, we were about three miles from a small village named Centreville, then occupied by the rebels, but they left as soon as they heard we were coming, so we kept our camp all that day till 2 o’clock in the morning. We then marched towards Manassas, which is about twenty-six miles from Fairfax, but there was a masked battery on our way, which we must take, so we had to march about six miles around it, to get on the other side, which was through a dense woods. At the time the head of our Division arrived any way near the battery, they opened fire upon us, but they were darn poor shots, for nearly all of them went over our heads; but I tell you it was no fools-work to have these cannon balls come humming over our heads, and to see our boys keep their eyes open, so as to dodge them. As yet, we were about 2 ½ miles from their battery, so off went blankets, and all our knapsacks, with our grub, for ach man had to carry two days’ rations with him. So we right-shouldered our muskets and proceeded in double-quick time to the battery, and I tell you when we arrived there, our tongues hung out of our mouths like a parcel of half-choked men. – As we could not water or rest, it was pretty rough. Our cannon opened on their batteries, and our infantry charged on the woods, which were full of their infantry. – We drove them all up into the main battery on a hill. They then put us poor bummers on the side of a hill, in a ditch, for a mark of their rifle guns for about fifteen minutes. Then the First and Second Rhode Island made a charge with the Fire Zouaves on their right, and we on the left, but the Rhode Island boys got played out, and retired, so that there was none left but the Zouaves and us, when they charged on us with their cavalry, about eight hundred men. We shot, that is the Zouaves and us, about half of them, so that they ran back like thunder. So there would another regiment come up and relieve us, and son on, till the rebels got reinforced with about twenty thousand men from Manassas, which was only two hour’s ride from them, and the railroad in good working order, so we retreated to Arlington Heights. We marched altogether, sixty miles. But coming through the woods, they cut us off and took a great many prisoners. The report is that they killed all our wounded, for they shelled the Hospital with all our wounded in it. There are about twenty of our company killed and missing, and about three hundred of the regiment. I will write soon and give you all the particulars. Remember me and Henry to mother. – Write soon.

I remain yours,

L. L. H.*

Brooklyn Evening Star, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

84th New York Infantry (14th N. Y. S. M.) Roster

*Likely Pvt. Louis L. Hingle, enlisted 4/18/61. Although listed in the above roster as being in Co. E, there is also a Henry W. Hingle in that same company. Either the Evening Star mislabeled the letter, or the roster is incorrect. Ancestry.com shows L. L. Hingle as mustering into Co. E. A muster roll abstract at Fold3 shows Co. E as well. The evening Star appears to have either misprinted the company or read the “E” in the original letter as “C,” an easy enough mistake to make.

Louis L. Hingle at Ancestry.com

Louis L. Hingle at Fold3

Louis L. Hingle at FindAGrave 

J. S.*, Co. H, 14th N. Y. S. M., On the Battle

2 03 2019

Headquarters, 14th Regt., N. Y. S. M.,
Camp Porter, Co. H,
Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Father, Mother, and Sister: – I now take this opportunity to let you know the hardships I have gone through since writing my last letter. On last Tuesday, the 16th, we left our encampment, and marched to Fairfax, and on the Court House the rebel flag was flying; but it soon came down, and the stars and stripes were hoisted. The rebels fled as soon as we came in sight, leaving everything after them. We then pursued them to Centreville, and from there to Bull’s Run, where we opened fire on them from six different points, at to o’clock, Sunday morning, the 21st. The battle lasted for about six hours. There was a heavy loss on both sides. We marched thirty miles from Centreville, without sleep, and nothing but hard crackers, and dirty water to drink. When we had got ten miles from Bull’s Run, they had the road blocked up with trees and all the bridges torn down, which took us a long time to repair and resume our march. General McDowell headed our Brigade, which numbered about six thousand. General McDowell ordered the Fourteenth up a road to head the enemy off, when the Seventy-first Regiment of New York fired upon us, thinking that we were rebels, killing and wounded about forty of our Regiment. We were then ordered back to the rear of the field. We then loaded, and marched with the Fire Zouaves, and fired two volleys into the rebel troops, when they returned the fire, and we were mowed down like grass. I am very sorry to tell you that our Colonel was shot in that volley. I stepped out of the ranks, and lifted him up and put my musket under him, and helped carry him off the field. He was shot through the thigh. That was the last I saw of him after leaving the hospital. He has not returned to the camp since, and it is feared by the boys that he has been taken prisoner. As I was coming back after leaving the Colonel, a shell broke, killing and wounding sixteen of our Regiment. One piece of it struck my cap, and took it about 12 yards off my head. I wish you would tell Jimmy Doyle and the boys that Lewis Francis had his head taken off his shoulders. I managed to get off without a scratch, and I thank God for it; but my clothes were all torn to pieces. Our Major showed himself the smartest man on the field, and our Regiment has gained for itself a name which will never be forgotten. I am very glad to tell that we caved our Captain and Lieutenant Davie, and Mr. Weeks safe also, and Mr. McBride. It was the most heart-rending scene I ever witnessed, to see my comrades strewn dead under my feet. After retreating, which we did after advancing three times without success, we saw them advancing and killing our wounded men. Our gallant color bearer planted the stars and bars within ten feet of the rebels’ battery, when he was shot dead. When we were retreating, they came around at the back of us and tried to cut off our retreat, and I was taken prisoner and taken about half a mile from the rebel camp, when the cavalry headed them off through the woods, and saved me. I then made double quick time for about two miles, when I thought I was all safe, so I laid down and took a sleep for about four hours, when a man woke me up and told me that the enemy was about five miles off and coming toward us. All the things we had except our arms we had to throw away, and run, for fear of being captured again. There was an old house on the battle field, which we used for the hospital for our wounded, and the enemy threw a bomb shell into it and it is supposed killed all that were in it. There are very large bodies of men coming over from Washington now, and we expect to make another attack the week; but I don’t think we will go, as there is not more than half of the Regiment left. There is some talk here about sending us home for our gallant conduct during the battle of Sunday. Jim McNamara is all safe. As for Tome, in the Seventy-first, I did not see him. I will try and see him by my next letter.

J. S.

Brooklyn Evening Star, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

84th New York Infantry (14th N. Y. S. M.) Roster

*Possibly Pvt. James Seymour, enlisted 4/18/61, or Pvt. John Shannon, enlisted 4/18/61, or Pvt. John Smith, enlisted 5/23/61.

Pvt. Peter W. Ostrander, Engineer Corps, 14th N. Y. S. M., On the Battle

1 03 2019

14th Regiment of Brooklyn.

The following extract of a letter from one of this regiment will be interesting to his and its friends in this city:

Arlington Heights,
Wed. July 24, ’61.

We marched Sunday morning from our camp beyond Fairfax Court House in Brigade about 4 o’clock, arrived at Sutter’s Creek about 12, having made one or two little rests, and marching slowly through 5 or 6 miles of woods, throwing out skirmishers and stopping once ten minutes to fill canteens and eat a cracker. The Regiment was put into action at once and fought with the rest till after four – the enemy were reinforced, out numbered us, and were intrenched – they were 80,000 strong, and under Beauregard in person. The battle was fought obstinately, and with great loss on both sides, we finally retreated through the enemy’s woods 6 or 7 miles to a bridge which was so blocked I could not cross it, nor could one out of ten, I waded the stream, and marched all night and next morning steadily, with Newman, Scofield, McLear, Hull and self and others to Camp Porter on Arlington Heights, making with the morning’s march 60 miles continuous marching, except the time of the fight from 12 M., to 4 P. M. When I waded the Bull’s Run, six miles at least by our circuit from our battle ground, the bridge was shattered to pieces by shots from secession batteries fired at our retreating men. It was an awful battle and an exhausting retreat – forty miles marching on retreat – I came through straight to Camp Porter, and am used up, foot sore, blistered, limb weary and exhausted. Thank God alive and unhurt.

* * * * *

P. W. Ostrander,
Engineer Corps 14th Regt., N. Y. S. M.

Brooklyn Evening Star, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

84th New York Infantry (14th N. Y. S. M.) Roster

Peter Wilson Ostrander at Ancestry.com

Peter Wilson Ostrander at Fold3

Ostrander, Peter Wilson, A narrative of the work of the Commission appointed by an Act of the Legislature of the State of New York, passed in the session of 1906: In purchasing a site and erecting thereon a monument in memory of the men who fell in the battles of the First and Second Bull run, Gainesville and Groveton. 

Lieut. William H. Burnett, Co. C, 14th N. Y. S. M., On the Battle

19 02 2019

Camp Porter, Arlington, Va.,
July 23, 1861.

Dear Father: – I sit down to write you a few lines, to inform you of the condition of ourselves and our regiment. We have had a fearful battle. We started from our encampment on Saturday about 5 o’clock, to place a picket guard out all around the woods, so as to keep the enemy from coming on us unawares. We were out till about 2 o’clock Sunday morning, and then we were called in and joined our regiment, and then our regiment joined the main body of our army and took up our line of march for the battle field. We marched all night and part of Sunday morning, till we came up to the enemy’s masked batteries and then the cannonade commenced and then the different regiments were brought up in line of battle and charged on them, and then the musketry began terrible. Our regiment made three charges, and brave charges they were. We have some of our men killed, but we cannot tell how many they were. We had a march of 65 miles in twenty-four hours, and were fighting for at least four or five hours. Capt. Myers is all right, and Lieut. Bissitt and myself. – Capt. Jordan is wounded in the shoulder. Col. Wood is wounded. Capt. Baldwin is wounded in the foot. Lieut. Jones is wounded in the head. The color bearer is shot, but I do not know whether dead or alive or taken prisoner. The men are fagged out. Our feet were blistered, our legs swollen very much from the long walk. The enemy received great loss, and our army had a good many killed and wounded. Major Jourdan has shown himself a brave man. I do not know what we would have done without him. I think he has gained the confidence of the whole regiment, bot the officers and the privates. He led the regiment on bravely. – He was at the head of us all the time, and urges us on. You cannot have any idea of the feeling there is when there is a continual cannonading and musketry, and your friends falling all around you. It is an awful feeling. I, for my part, had more pluck than I thought. I was in the thickest of it, and by the providence of Almighty God, my life was spared to see the light of another day.

From your affectionate son,
Lieut. W. H. Burnett,
Co. C., 14th Regt., N. Y. S. M.

Brooklyn Evening Star, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

84th New York Infantry (14th N. Y. S. M.) Roster 

William H. Burnett at Ancestry.com 

William H. Burnett at Fold3 

Pvt. Thomas W. Colley, Co. L (Washington Mounted Rifles), 1st Virginia Cavalry, on the March to Manassas and the Battle

13 11 2018

The subject of this sketch, Thomas W. Colley was born in Washington County, Virginia, Nov. 30th, 1837 of poor but respectable “parentage.” I was sent to the old field schools [on the job training] until 14 years of age, when I was apprenticed to the “Blacksmith trade” at which I served for some two years and then by consent of my father decided to quit that trade and learn the Brick Masons trade which I continued to work at until April 1861. I learned to make & burn brick and to lay them up, and also learned the “Plasters business,” and became quite an expert in the Plasters part of his trade. The war between the States coming on in 1860 & 61 I volunteered on the 7th of April 1861 in a cavalry company then being organized at Abingdon, Va., the county seat of my county, by Captain Wm. E. Jones [William Edmondson Jones], {who had served] previously as a Lieut. in the Mounted Rifles U.S.A. In honor of his old command, Jones named this co. the Washington Mounted Rifles.

We were known as such until we merged into the 1st Regiment of Virginia Volunteer Cavalry [cavalry] first as Co. G and afterwards as Company D. This regiment was composed of companies from the upper and lower Valley of Virginia with one Co. from Amelia County and one from Maryland. At first the “Maryland Co” & the Washington Mounted Rifles formed the 1st squadron in the regiment and were armed with carbines and were used as sharpshooters. Afterwards all the companies were armed with rifles & the whole regiment were sharpshooters and continued in that line of service until the closing scenes around Appomattox C.H. April 9th 1865.

I was constantly with my command from the day I left home for Richmond until I was finally disabled and wholly unfit for any kind of duty. I was in the Valley of Virginia with my regiment in front of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston whose forces in June 1861 and up till July 21st were at Winchester. My command was on picket duty in the medical front [unclear the position Colley references as ‘Medical front’] and scouting in the country watching the movements of Gen. Patterson. [Major General Militia, Robert Patterson] Was on camp guard the morning Gen. Patterson advanced towards Winchester in his “first” movement to hold Johnston there, while he went to the aid of Gen. Banks [Major General Nathaniel Banks] at Manassas and in this advance , where I heard the first shell “fired” from an enemy gun; the thing most dreaded by raw recruits “the peculiar whizzing sound of those missiles of death” as they pass through the air caused the hair to rise on one’s head and a creepy horrible sensation run over his flesh and a great desire to be back at home with Ma. And at this particular time and place this horrible feeling seized almost the entire regiment and they started down the Pike, one co. actually going into Winchester 12 miles from the point they started from.

At the time the shell passed over us Co. D was drawn in marching order by 2, with horses heads turned toward Winchester. Captain Jones was on the front with the advance picket watching the enemy’s movements. Some of the boys were dismounted searching among a lot of blankets & other camp equipment that had been thrown away by a stampeded wagon driver. We had been hurried out of camp and left our baggage to the care of the wagoners. I was among the dismounted ones and would have sworn the shell that passed over the mounted mens heads some 50 or so feet in the air did not miss me 2 inches. This was a signal with out a word of command.

The whole mounted positions hit out down the pike. Captain Jones seeing or hearing the movements dashed up cursing the cowardly wretches for running away. Came in time to save me from running with the rest. Captain sent Lieut. Blackford [William Willis Blackford] after the boys, and he over hauled them and brought them back.

The captain gave us a lecture on the harmlessness of these terrible missiles, especially if they were as high in the air as that one was; in 12 months from that time the sound of artillery and the whizzing of shells would only lull a soldier to sleep. He ordered me to dismount and open a place in the fence so our company could be drawn up in line to oppose any forward movement of the enemy. General Johnston succeeded in deceiving Gen. Patterson after all his shrewd maneuvers and left him in the lower valley.

Whilst Johnston was rushing the whole force to Manassas to join Gen. Beauregard [Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard] Gen. Stuart [at the time, Colonel James Ewell Brown Stuart] took all the companies of the regt. and pressed on with Johnston except our co. under Captain Wm. E. Jones. We were left to hover around the front of Pattersons army and keep up a bold front until the line was joined at Manassas. We left for Manassas and arrived there Saturday, and were there, ready for the memorable 21st Sunday morning, a day never to be forgotten by any who participated in its terrible coverage. I shall never forget I know, until my eyes close in death. I was out on one of the advanced picket posts near Jermanna [Jermantown] Ford on Bull Run. Just as the sun was brightening the tops of the trees “the signal gun was fired.” A tremendous gun. I thought I never heard such a report and the whizzing and whining of that awful shell, “I thought it would never stop.”

It went far out across the Manassas Plains into the skirting forrest. I thought if we had to charge and capture such tremendous guns, there would be none of us left to tell the tale. But I was not permitted to summarize or reflect long on these terrible unforeseen results. The picket firing commenced all along the line and the cavalry were all drawn together and were moved here and there all day through clouds of road dust so thick we could not see the horse in front of us. We were finally ordered at about 2 pm to support Gen. Bartow’s [Colonel Francis Stebbins Bartow] & Be Brigades [Brigadier General Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr.] near Stone Bridge, and arrived there at the time they were both killed. My stirrup leathers broke and I had to fall out of ranks and repair them. As I came over a hill I could see the enemy’s batteries and masses of infantry to my left. Farther up on the hill I saw two or three officers and I rode up to them and asked where my regiment was, and Col. Thomas G. Preston pointed out to me the direction they went, and I was satisfied it was a soldier’s duty to be with his command.

When the fight was on, and about that time of day it was on in all its fury and fearfulness, the face of the hill in my front was literally rent and torn with shells and shot. How I was ever to pass through that spot I could not tell, but my duty led in that direction and I must go. So I put spurs to my horse and ran the gauntlet safely and soon found my command drawn up in line in a small ravine. I had hardly gotten over my run before the Hampass Legion [Brigadier General Wade Hampton’s Legion] of S.C., whose officers had been killed and who were badly cut up and stampeded, came running down through a clump of pines and our company commenced cursing and abusing them for running. I asked who they were & they said South Carolinians. Damn you. You were the first to secede, now you are the first to run. It was always shocking to me to see a soldier run and especially at that time, our first fight. They said we are whipped and ruined, our cause is gone. We told them they were liars, we were not whipped there.

About this time Col. Stuart took 3 companies of our regt. and charged the 14th Brooklyn Zouaves, “Red Briches” fellows[.]

He broke their lines, and fresh forces were coming on through the night. They soon gone away, and the greatest stampede and run for dear life that was ever imagined since history commenced recording the events of the various ages. We were soon in the chase. The first fellow I saw on crossing Bull Run Bridge was an ambulance driver; his horses had ran away with him and straddled a tree, broke the breast yoke and smashed the front end of the vehicle up against the tree and smashed the drivers face up and tumbled him out insensible. He was just coming to when we run up on him and we wanted to know what he was doing over here invading our country. Some of the boys wanted to kill him and others thought best not to hurt the poor fellow. We had not learned then that wagoners and ambulance drivers were not at all dangerous. As belligerents we soon left him and went on after the fleeing blue coats [underlined in original].

We followed them to Cub Run and there the bridge crossing that stream was blockaded with wagons and other vehicles disabled by our artillery. If we had known as much that night as we did 2 or 3 years later, not many of the boys would have ever reached Washington D.C. That night it was getting quite dark and we were brought back over the battlefield. The excitement of the dog “gone” and now it was our time to see and hear the shrieks and groans of the wounded and dying of both armies. I thought “oh horrors of horrors” is this war? It was a terrible scene. We could hear the awful groans and sighs and the calls for water and the torches going in every direction searching for friends. We were hurried on towards the junction where we started from.

From In Memory of Self and Comrades, pp.1-7

Contributed, annotated, and transcribed by Michael K. Shaffer

Thomas Wallace Colley at Ancestry.com

T. W. Colley at Fold3

Thomas Wallace Colley at FindAGrave