Image: Lt. Douglas French Forrest, Co. H, 17th Virginia Infantry

24 07 2020
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Douglas French Forrest as Paymaster, CS Navy (Source)





Lieut. Douglas French Forrest, Co. H,* 17th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

23 07 2020

A GRAPHIC PICTURE.
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We have been permitted to copy the following extracts from a letter written by a young officer who greatly distinguished himself at the battle of Manassas.

Should his modesty take offence at the publication of his frank expressions of feeling and unreserved narration of events, our apology is found in the fact that the original was placed at our disposal byt the courtesy of those to whom it was addressed.

The style is singularly copious, and the descriptive passages especially fine; and the more to be admired when we reflect that the letter was written, a la Pope**, upon fugitive scraps of paper, and currente calamo.***

THE NIGHT BEFORE THE BATTLE.

Saturday night was spent in watching. – The enemy’s bugle, his drum, the rumble of his baggage trains and artillery; not only these, but their very words of command, being distinctly audible in the silent night.

The next morning partly refreshed, we were ordered over the ford, (Bull Run,) as scouts in that direction. I was creeping over the field, when the enemy threw a shell at my party, which exploded just in advance of us. Here we passed a body, one of the Massachusetts slain, (shot the day before,) blackened and ghastly.

After a few hours we were ordered to our reserve, and, without breakfast, to deploy as skirmishers. The first reserve had been left in charge of Willie Fowle. I led the second further on, while the Captain placed himself in the skirt of wood, having established a line of sentries. Here we watched the enemy’s batteries, and would report their movements to the General. Becoming anxious about him, I left my reserve under Zimmerman, and advanced on the spot. The Captain said: “Don, I am awfully sleepy, and will just take a little nap, if you will watch those fellows there.” I cheerfully acquiesced, and relieved Jordan, one of our men who was the actual look-out at the fence. Here I lay on my face, my time pleasantly occupied with the proceedings at the batteries, the ceaseless explosions of the guns and rattle of musketry from the great fight below being in strange contrast with the quiet scenery of mountains and valleys!

SHOWING HOW YANKEE SPORTSMEN FLUSHED GAME AND THEMSELVES TOOK WING.

I unclasped my sword bet and yielded myself to the seductions of the scene, and was startled from my almost reverie by the cry of Lovelace, one of our men, posted on the right: “Look out, Lieutenant! Here they are!” Looking around I saw their skirmishers within about thirty yards with their pieces at a ready, and advancing, just as sportsmen approach a covey of partridges. I shouted to the Captain, and we dashed into the woods. I then asked him if we should fight them? He said, “he reckoned we had.” I then yelled to the boys, “Come on, Old Dominions! Now’s your chance! Now is the chance you’ve waited for!” This shout of mine was heard by our forces on the other side of the Run. The boys say I said “Isn’t it Glorious!” But I don’t remember. On came the boys. I led them, pointed out the Yankees, and we drove them out of the woods and completely put them to flight. As we drove them into the field, the enemy’s battery, about four hundred yards off, opened on us with grape and cannister, and we ordered a retreat; not, however, before our men returned it, firing right at the guns, wounding, as I have since learned from a prisoner, several of their men.

THE “IRON DICK” BATTLE.

We were exposed nearly half a mile without support. The enemy had our range completely, and we were in great peril – the balls whizzing and humming all around us. Fowle, who had advanced his reserve, and behaved with great coolness, says the line of skirmishers extended a long way and intended to cut us off; but we gave a yell, and as I have said, drove them home. Arthur was too slow in retreat even after he had given the order. I had to turn back twice too look for him.

How the balls rattled! Every man would sometimes have to get behind a tree to escape the “dreaded storm.”

A SOLDIER’S GRAVE.

McDermot, one of our men, was killed by a grape-shot. On yesterday I buried him. He had lain out all night, and our eyes filled with woman’s tears as we covered him with his blanket, and left him to sleep on the field where he had fallen. Hurdles put a head and foot mark at his grave, with the inscription in pencil:

Dennis McDermot, of the Old Dominion Rifles, of Alexandria, Va, died in battle, July 21, 1861, a gallant soldier and a good man.”

THE RETREAT OF THE “GRAND ARMY.”

What a glorious day Sunday was for the South! When the rout of the enemy came, down the long line of Bull Run (Yankee’s Run? Eds.) up went a shout! Oh! how grand it was! Imagine the quiet woods through which the watching bayonets glittered silently, suddenly alive with triumphant hurrahs! From right to left, and left to right, for seven miles they were repeated! Then came to order to advance, and as we left the woods and gained the high and open ground, the grandest spectacle I ever saw met my eyes. Company after company, regiment after regiment, brigade after brigade, army after army of our troops appeared We halted to enjoy the sight, and as our glorious artillery and dashing cavalry spurred by in pursuit, shout after shout rent the air. General Longstreet, our Brigade Commander, rode along our line with his staff and thousands of men flung their caps in the air, or swung them on their bayonets. Col. Corse our gallant little Colonel got his meed of hurrahs; next, an old negro who rode by with his gun, got no small salute. And then the sunset came in a perfect glory of light sifted through the leaves.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/3/1861

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This letter also appears in History of the 17th Virginia Regiment, C.S.A, by George Wise

* Per Col. Montgomery Corse’s Official Report,  Co. H (Capt. Herbert) was advanced across Bull Run as skirmishers on the morning of the 21st. The roster in the above referenced regimental history lists three lieutenants in Co. H: Wm. H. Fowle, Jr; D. F. Forrest; and W. W. Zimmerman. As the letter writer identifies Fowle and Zimmerman in his narrative, and is identified as a lieutenant, this letter was likely written by 2nd Lt. D. F. Forrest.

** Alexander Pope wrote his translation of Homer’s Illiad on the backs of scraps of otherwise used paper.

*** Without deep reflection, extemporaneous, “off the cuff.”

Douglas French Forrest bio

Douglas French Forrest at Ancestry.com 

Douglas French Forrest at Fold3 

Douglas French Forrest at FindAGrave 

 





“An Eye-Witness,” 17th Virginia Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford

18 07 2020

THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN.

An “Eye-Witness” of this fight desires us to publish the following, and an act of justice to the troops who bore the brunt of the action. Though rather late in the day for a description of scenes with which the reader is familiar, we comply with the request:

Too much credit cannot be given to the 1st and 17th Regiments of Virginia Volunteers for their good conduct in the battle of Bull Run on Thursday, the 18th day of July. It was an experimental or test action in which the enemy first learned to run, and first discovered the necessity of so doing to save themselves from our steady fire and determined assault. It had a most important effect on the battle of Sunday, the 21st. In both cases the flight of the enemy was most precipitate and disastrous.

Gen. Longstreet’s Brigade, consisting of 1st Regiment Virginia Volunteers, commanded by Co. Moore, 17th Regiment, Col. Corse, and 11th Regiment, Col. Garland, were ordered under arms and marched in ten minutes out of camps at Manassas on the morning of the 17th, and in quick time reached Bull Run, some four miles distant. We were posted in a bend or horse-shoe of the run on the inner circle and along the bank. As the movement was designed as an ambuscade, silence and secrecy were observed by the troops. We slept on our arms that night, and early in the morning were ready for action. About eight o’clock our force was posted by regiment and divisions at the most available points for defense around the circle and flanking above and below Blackburn’s ford. It fell to the lot of the 17th to be posted mainly around this ford – one division was advanced across the ford to the opposite bank as skirmishers; the other divisions of the 17th were posted on the bank within the circle protected by trees and undergrowth, ready to meet the enemy as they advanced over the opposite bank, which was much higher than the ground occupied by us.

The Washington Artillery was some distance in the rear, and several regiments were posted near by in case of necessity. About 11 ½ A. M., the report of a rifle was heard from the other side of the run, then another and another. It was evident that the enemy were feeling for us in different directions. Then came the fire of a cannon, followed by many others in succession. This continued for half an hour without being noticed by us. We supposed by this that our position was discovered and all hope of the ambuscade was at an end, for very soon the enemy were seen advancing over the hill. Our artillery then opened fire, which was followed by the infantry around the ford. The rattling of musketry and the booming of cannon continued, with two slight pauses until about five o’clock in the afternoon, when the fire of the enemy ceased altogether; and it was afterwards discovered he had suddenly retreated, leaving many of his dead and wounded, several hundred muskets and two pieces of cannon on the field. The enemy fired their rifle cannon at the hospital, though protected by its flag, and struck it. They also fired at the ambulances with wounded men in them. Their sudden retreat was in no doubt owing, not only to the bloody repulse they had met with and the sad havoc made in their ranks, but to the appearance on the field of two Southern regiments coming shouting at double-quick. The shout was taken up by our brigade, and the horse shoes rung with the sound of human voices, that for a moment almost equalled the artillery. Certain it is, they fired but a few scattering shots after that, and had we known they were retreating we would have made a [?] of it. We were expecting the attack to be renewed every minute. As it was, their loss, in killed, wounded and missing, was over one thousand. Our loss did not exceed in [?] killed and about 60 wounded.

The Washington Artillery on that day immortalized itself. For coolness and courage, [?] of management of the guns, and rapidity and certainty of fire, it could not be excelled. Every man in the 1st and 17th did his whole duty. From position they, with the artillery, bore the brunt of the whole fight. Where every one fought so well, it were invidious to particularize.

Col. Moore, of the 1st, was wounded in the arm, and the commanded devolved on Lt. Col. Fry, who was assisted by Maj. Skinner. – Col. Corse, Lt. Col. Munford, and Adjutant Humphreys of the 17th, and Major Brent, were on the field in command in different parts of it. All these officers were in the thickest of the fight and displayed utmost coolness and courage. But nothing could exceed the cool determination and fearless daring of the officers and men of the line in the 17th Regiment. The writer could not obtain a list of the killed and wounded.

The Captains seemed to be marked by the enemy. Captain Dulaney, of the Fairfax Rifles, was shot in the shoulder by a musket ball. Captain Prestman was shot in the arm and side by buck-shot. These officers were taken from the field. Captain B. H. Shackelford, of the Warrenton Rifles, was shot in the ankle by a cannister ball. He bandaged the wound and remained upon the field till the close of the fight. O doubt is entertained that all of them will recover.

General Longstreet seemed to be everywhere, regardless of danger, and unconscious of what a conspicuous mark he presented to the enemy.

All praise, say we, to the [?] Regiments of Longstreet’s Brigade, and [?] of the first and seventeenth regiments.

An Eye-Witness

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/3/1861

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