Image: Pvt. Balthasar Best, Co. K, 1st Minnesota Infantry

4 10 2022
Balthasar Best, Co. K, 1st Minnesota Infantry (Courtesy FindAGrave)

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Image: Pvt. Minor Atherton, Co. C, 1st Minnesota Infantry

26 08 2022
Minor Atherton (Courtesy Andy Kmiec)

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Unit History – 1st Minnesota Infantry

10 07 2022

Cols., Willis A. Gorman, Napoleon J. T. Dana, Alfred Sully, George N. Morgan, William Colville; Lieut.-Cols., Stephen Miller, Charles Powell Adams; Majs., William H. Dike, Mark W. Downie. This regiment, organized at Fort Snelling in April, 1861, was mustered into the three months’ service April 29, and the three years’ service May 10. On May 28 Cos. B and G, were ordered to Fort Ridgely to relieve the regulars at that point. Co. A was sent to Fort Ripley for similar service, for which point Co. E also started June 6. On June 1o Cos. C and D started for Fort Abercrombie. On the 14th the regiment was ordered to Washington, and the above six companies were recalled. The regiment left the state June 22 and went into camp at Washington on the 26th. It was ordered to Alexandria in July and brigaded with others in Heintzelman’s division. It fought like a veteran regiment at Bull Run, repulsed two charges unaided, but was compelled to fall back for want of support, losing 180 in killed, wounded and prisoners, the heaviest percentage of loss suffered by any regiment in that battle. It returned to Washington and on Aug. 2, marched for Camp Stone near Edwards’ ferry, where it was engaged in picket duty and drill work. On Oct. 1, Col. Gorman was appointed brigadier-general, being succeeded by N. S. T. Dana. The regiment engaged in some skirmishing near Edwards’ ferry, was in the battle at Ball’s bluff, and served as rear-guard in the night retreat across the river. On Jan. 16, 1862, Gen. Sedgwick assumed command of the division. Late in February the regiment left for Harper’s Ferry, then moved to Charlestown and on March 10, to Berryville, where Cos. B and K acted as skirmishers, aided to dislodge a body of cavalry and hoisted the flag on the court -house. Col. Dana was promoted to brigadier-general and Col. Sully took command on March 13. On the 15th the regiment camped on Bolivar heights, but returned to Washington a week later, thence to Alexandria and on the 29th moved toward Yorktown. It engaged in a skirmish at West Point and in the battle at Fair Oaks. It was joined by the 2nd Co. Minn. sharpshooters, Capt. W. F. Russell, on June 3, and was on picket duty during most of the month. It was engaged in the Seven Days’ battles, after which it encamped at Harrison’s landing. On July 22 it was reviewed by Gen. McClellan and pronounced to be one of the two model regiments. It moved to the rear of Malvern hill in August, its division driving the enemy from the field. It was then recalled from the Peninsula and formed the rear-guard at Chantilly, being under fire for some time. It fought at South mountain and at Antietam, formed the right line of the brigade at the opening of the action, but in the subsequent movements it was left without support on either flank. However, it held its position until ordered to retire, but lost 147 in killed and wounded. It then marched to Bolivar heights, where it went into camp, and in October joined in a reconnaissance to Charlestown, where a heavy force was dislodged. It then crossed the Shenandoah and moved towards Fredericksburg, where it held a steady line under heavy fire during the engagement. It was engaged at Chancellorsville and joined the movement toward Gettysburg in June. On July 2, while supporting a battery at Gettysburg, with but 262 men, it charged two brigades which had routed Sickles’ forces, drove them back and held its position until reserves came up and relieved it. Nearly every officer was killed or wounded and of the gallant 262 who went into action 215 lay on the field, 47 were in line, and not a man missing. Of this magnificent charge, Gen. Hancock said: “There is no more gallant deed recorded in history.” The percentage of loss was without an equal in the records of modern warfare. The following day Cos. C and F which had been detached for other duties, rejoined the regiment and it charged a portion of the advancing Confederate column, assisting in the capture of a large number of the enemy. It marched to Harper’s Ferry, thence to Kelly’s ford on the Rappahannock, and was sent to New York city in August to assist in quelling the draft riots. It returned to Alexandria in September, and in October was in the hot engagement at Bristoe Station, where it captured 322 prisoners, 5 cannon and 2 stands of colors. It was in the Mine Run campaign in November, was then in camp at Stevenburg until Feb. 5, 1864, when it was ordered to Fort Snelling and was mustered out April 29, 1864. Several having reënlisted as veterans, the time of recruits not having expired, and new recruits offering themselves, a battalion of two companies was formed, known as the 1st battalion Minn. infantry. The battalion left the state May 16, 1864, for Washington and from there went to White House on the Pamunkey river, where it was assigned to the 1st brigade, and division, and army corps. It moved to Petersburg; participated in the assault on June 18; drove the enemy’s skirmishers from their lines; was in the skirmish as on the Jerusalem plank road, the assault at Deep Bottom, the battle at Reams’ station, and the sharp encounter at Hatcher’s run in October. It was then in winter quarters until spring, being joined by recruits, forming Co. C. The new company joined in a successful charge on the enemy’s rifle-pits the morning after its arrival, in the final assault at Petersburg, and in the various actions in which the 2nd corps was engaged up to the surrender of Lee at Appomattox, after which the battalion was sent to Louisville. It was mustered out at Fort Snelling July 15, 1865.

From The Union Army, Vol. 4, pp. 98-99





Brig. Gen. Samuel P. Heintzelman, Diary Entries

21 02 2022

Alex. Mon. July 15, 1861

I got a telegraph to go to Wash. to meet Gen. McDowell & bring Col. Miles. Margaret & I went up with him in the 9 a.m. boat. We met Gen. McDowell & he changed for Col. Miles to go up the Little River Turnpike & my division on the Old Fairfax Road south of the railroad as far as Sangster’s & then probably cross the Occoquan at Wolf Shoals & so on to Brentsville & cut the rail road which communicates with Va.

I went to see Gen. Mansfield but did not find him in. I had dinner at one & came down at 3 p.m. I met Lt. Charles Norton of the Navy. He was on the Seminole & is detached. Matilda is better but not well. Margaret is coming down in the morning to see me start.

After I got down the order to march came. Col. Miles had to start at 3 p.m. We will have to start at 10 a.m. to make our distance to Bone Mill on the Accotink. I was busy till night, have been since 11 p.m. with the brigade commanders arranging the details of the march tomorrow. I believe that we have now done all we can do [in] the short time left us to prepare. The day after tomorrow we will probably meet the enemy. It has been rather cool today.

Five men who escaped a call in mass arrived in town late this afternoon & now after 11 p.m. eleven more. A large portion of the population wont be impressed to serve against the U. S.

Alex. Tues. July 16, 1861

I did not get to bed before midnight. There was an alarm of an attack on our pickets at Springfield. It did not amount to much. Margaret came down in the 8 a.m. boat. I telegraphed for a carpet bag & some things but she did not get it. The first Brigade commenced the march at 10 a.m. Some regts. will be delayed by the misconduct in Lt. Symonds in referring to some provisions at night. We expect to get off about 3 p.m. Mr. Durn of Indiana sent word by Margaret that he wants to go with me. I telegraphed for him to come. We have a pleasant day, though it threatens rain. No instructions have come yet.

Sangsters. Va. on rail road Thurs. July 18, 1861

My written instructions did not arrive on Tuesday till about one p.m. & no horses for the guides although I telegraphed in every direction. A heavy rifled gun was also still behind.

Towards 5 p.m. Gen. McDowell arrived & soon after the gun with jaded horses. It came from Arlington. I also learned that I could get no horses for the guides, so ordered six from the A. Q. M. at Alexandria. As soon as we got part of them we started. In the night some of our guides joined us & reported that only three horses were sent. Capt. Tyler is one of the most inefficient Qr. Ms. I have had to deal with.

We soon overtook the rear of the column & took our opportunities to push ahead.

Before we left Gen. McDowell recommended to go on to the Pohick, about two miles further. I got there before sundown & found most of the First Brigade, Col. Franklin there. It is fortunate that we went on, as we would have found it almost impossible to encamp on the Accotink, it is so hilly & woody.

We bivouacked on a high hill, with the troops around us. The 11th Mass. was detained so late by the neglect of Capt. Symonds to furnish them rations, that the[y] got behind everything & did not get in till 3 a.m. & we were up & ready to march at daylight. We did not however start till 5 a.m. as I had sent back horses for the big gun, as it had stalled on a high & difficult hill at the Accotink on this side. I finally started & left a guard for it. I had sent back some horses from the Artillery wagons to help up the hill & had to wait a little for their return.

We at last got started, but had a continual succession of delays. The road is very narrow & lined with thick wood almost all the way & was crowded with troops. I sent forward several times to hurry them, but Col. Franklin said it was impossible for the skirmishers to advance any faster & as we were told to consider an ambuscade unpardonable I could not hurry them any more.

When the advance reached Elzy’s where the road to Sangsters & the one to Fairfax Station fork they sent me word that they had surprised a picket & the men had fled, that there were two entrenchments on the road to Sangsters & one on that to Fairfax Sta. with the roads obstructed. I passed forward to the advance & got there about 11 a.m.

Col. Franklin took a road to turn his entrenchments & whilst he was clearing the road I sent & had Col. Wilcox take the road to the Station.

In the meantime I had sent three companies of the Zouaves to try & disperse 80 men I heard were at Brinstone Mill on our left. They went & found that 11 foot & 2 cav drafted men had left in the morning for Manassas.

In the meantime the troops filed by & when Col. Howard’s brigade arrived I posted it at Elsy’s with one advanced towards Wolf Run shoals. He reported the gun at hand & it soon arrived.

In an hour Wilcox sent a note that he had possession of Fairfax Station, that 1000 men ran up the r. r. & 1000 towards the Court House. I sent this note to Franklin with orders to push ahead. I also ordered the troops to be ready to march at 3 p.m. & join Franklin at SangstersXHoward’s Brigade. I went forward with Lowe’s Cavalry. As we took the road they turned the place said to have the entrenchments we saw them to the right & went to visit them. They are two lines a little camped, poorly made, for Infy & will hold about 500 men. Nearby we saw their campXGordon, burning. They fled after our troops reached Elys & set fire to their store houses of corn & provisions. We found 11 barrels of flour & a pile of cornXmarked Confederate States. Also many of their mens shirts & some fresh beef & bacon.

We reached here about 5 p.m. & found Col. Franklin in possession. He reported that the retreat commenced at 5 p.m. the day we started. The last train passed not a great while before he got here & men on foot. The last bridge in sight was just set on fire. At Elsy’s we saw several smokes & people reported some firing of musketry & cannon.

We encamped here last night & the Hd. Qrs. put up their tents. We got supper in the poor house of the county & poor enough it was. Coffee & salt & shad & poor, very poor biscuit. This morning we had a cup of coffee made by our men with sardines & bread. I was so tired I did not report to Gen. McDowell as I was under the impression he would be on his way here to make a flank march on this side. As I was writing a report this morning I got a note from Capt. Fry that they did not know where I was & that they were marching on Centreville. I left Wilcox at the Station which is but a couple of miles from here.

Mr. Dunn has gone back, whether to return to Washington or remain with the Army if we advance. I sent a note to Margaret. I also since wrote another & sent it to Alexandria by an officer going in. I am very much annoyed at not having sent forward a report last night, but I was so strongly impressed with the idea that we would proceed by the left flank that I might neglect it.

Near Centreville Va. Fri. July 19, 1861

About 11 a.m. yesterday Gen. McDowell & staff arrived. There was not much of an engagement as our troops advanced. Col. Miles had two men wounded. Our troops burned Germantown & I believe Fairfax Court House.

When the General came most of the troops were near this place, that is in striking distance. I had sent out to look for our supply train, which should have been in & towards Wolf Run Shoals & out the r. road to Bull Run. From the latter place a battery was reported on the r. r. & the bridge burned. I sent again, but I could not get any positive information. I am satisfied the battery is beyond the rear & the bridge burned.

Our position & prospects were discussed & the plan changed. We were ordered to be here by daylight with two days rations in haversacks. We waited till late in the afternoon & I was satisfied no train would arrive so we marched & the head of the column arrived at a creek half a mile from here. As Wilcox was here & water good I came here with Franklin’s brigade & left Howards at the run.

As far as I can learn all the Army is here but Hunters column. I presume they are not far off.

At Sangsters heavy firing of cannon was heard near the direction of this place.

On our arrival we learned that Gen. Tyler had attached a battery, first with Infy. 3 regts. & then with Arty & was repulsed with loss. It was without orders & against the advice of the Engineer & other officers.

Col. Richardson’s Bri. was engaged & the 12 N. Y. Vols. ran awayXnot Col. Butterfields. Our loss instead of being 60 killed & a piece of Arty is but 3 killed, 2 probably mortally wounded & but 30 wounded. It is a disgraceful affair & Gen. Tyler is not excusable.

Our provision trains have arrived & our men are cooking & killing beef. I last night ordered a lot of cattle seized for my Division fearing the train would not arrive. I have just learned that it started for Occoquan.

We had a thunder shower last evening before our baggage arrived but a deserted town afforded us shelter till our tents came.

The coffee kept me awake most of the night. Our pickets were firing at intervals all night. This morning there was firing for hours, so that it was really dangerous to be about. With these long range muskets & raw Vols. it is really dangerous to be near them.

We got some pork meat this morning, the first since we started. No orders yet.

Our loss I find is much greater than I stated before, though no one knows yet as the Vols. have not called their rolls yet. I heard Capt. Alexander of the Eng. & Brackett of the cavalry give an account of the affair. There must have been a large number of troops & the firing was very heavy.

Mr. Dunn was here this morning. He witnessed the battle yesterday. I also saw Mr. Hoard. He was also present. Quite a number of citizens have been about the camps.

I also met Col. Porter & Major Barry. The latter has been appointed Chief of the Arty. I also saw Major Parker of the cavalry.

Camp near Centreville Va. Sat. July 20, 1861

This has been a tolerably warm day. I have not felt very well, but am much better this evening.

Sec. Cameron was in camp & a number of members of Congress. Mr. Dunn & Mr. Hoard called & then Mr. Brady.

I rode up to Centreville to look at the earth works. They are very indifferent & have embrasure for five guns.

We got orders to be ready to march at six p.m. When near the hour it was put off till 2 a.m. tomorrow.

At Fairfax Station in the earth works Col. Wilcox’s men found the secession flag of the Tensaw Rifles. It was presented to me & I sent it to Gen. McDowell. I have made out my report of the march from Alexandria.

Washington Sun. Sept. 1st, 1861

It is six weeks today since the battle of Bull Run, in which I was wounded. I was hit on the right arm, a little below the elbow by a minie ball, nearly spent & it was cut out on the field by Dr. King. It hit me about two inches below the elbow, on the outside & struck the bone & I fear fractured it slightly. I was on horseback & the Doctor he commenced cutting the ball out, but found it difficult & he got off.

On the afternoon before the battle the general officers got orders to appear at Gen. McDowell’s Hd. Qrs. to receive instructions. I went & did not get home till 11 p.m. We found a number of citizens there, many members of Congress amongst them.

The plans were detailed, but no opinions asked. I asked a few questions to understand what I had to do.

Gen. Tyler was to go up the turnpike & attack with artillery the battery protecting the stone bridge across Bull Run. I was to follow Gen. Hunter who was to take a side road to Sudley’s Church, or spring, or millsXwhere it crosses Bull Run. About half way there was a ford I was to stop at & when Hunter turned it cross & we together follow down to the Stone Bridge & then I take position on Hunter’s left. The road for me to turn off did not exist & I had to follow on to Sudley’s Mills where I arrived at 11 a.m. Before we got there Tyler’s heavy guns were heard & the smoke seen at two points. I could also see two heavy clouds of dust indicating reinforcements approaching from Manassas.

Whilst waiting for the last brigade of Col. Hunter’s division to cross I heard his advance attack the enemy in his front. We could hear our men driving the enemy back. Before we could cross Gen. McDowell sent Capt. Wright of the engineers & Major McDowell, the Gen’s brother, to me for reinforcements to prevent the enemy’s out flanking them. I had stopped the first Brigade to fill their canteens, but now ordered the Minnesota Regt. to go with Capt. Wright & follow more to the right, with 5th Mass. having orders for the second brigade to follow, but leaving Arnold’s battery & the 11 Mass. to take post as reserve on the right bank of Bull Run.

In a mile we got on the battlefield & I did not find any one to give orders. Gen. McDowell & his staff had passed up about a mile from Sudley’s Springs. We found the enemy had been driven back & I stopped a few moments to see what was going on & to make inquiries. In the meantime I met the General. He ordered some of the batteries forward, nearer the enemy & me to push the 5th Mass. forward from a position they took on a side hill, where they were lying down.

I went but seeing I could do nothing there that the key of the position was on the enemy’s left I ordered up two regts to try & take the battery covering it. I went up in that direction to wait for the Zouaves & when they came up lead them towards some old fields with scattered pines. As I approached the crest of the ridge I saw a line drawn up in good order at a shoulder & in citizen’s dress. I checked my horse for an instant & surveyed them. I then turned to the Zouaves & said there are the Secession troops, charge them. They rushed forward & in a few steps both parties came in sight of each other & fired & the Zouaves ran & I believe the enemy also. I tried to rally the Zouaves but failed. At the instant the Zouaves fired a party of 30 or 40 Secession cavalry charged them & were fired upon & broke & ran, leaving some half dozen men & three dead horses on the ground. As they fled Capt. Colby’s regular cavalry gave them a volley, killing a few more. It is said this was the famous Black Horse Cavalry.

I next led up the Minnesota regt., Col. Gorman. They got close on a Mississippi regt. & were repulsed & some 150 of their men ran away.

Washington Thursday Sept. 5, 1861

I next brought up the 1st Mich. They also were repulsed. These two regts. went into the woods on the right & did good service. The Zouaves joined some other regt. & did service as skirmishers.

The 14th Brooklin [sic] Regt. came up. I joined it, but at the first fire they broke & ran. Here I was wounded. Ricketts’ & Griffin’s batteries we retook three times, but they were lost at last.

I retreated with the troops till I met Col. Howard with his Brigade. They were engaged with the enemy. I left them after a while & got my arm dressed. I then tried to rally some of the Regts. but not one would form, or advance. We finally had to retreat across the Run, but there they would not form.

I stopped a moment at the Hospital & tried to get off some of the wounded, but most of them were captured by the enemy.

When I got across Bull Run I found that not a Regt. could be rallied nor even a company. I had Capt. Arnold with a section of Artillery & five companies of regular cavalry & with them covered the retreat of the troops on our road of retreat. A few secession cavalry followed us, but a discharge of canister sent them scampering away & they did not molest us any more.

It was about sundown when we got to where the country road we were on joined the turnpike as we approached it, we met a battery of rifle cannon. Here Arnold lost his battery, but we took through the woods & fields & came on the turnpike beyond the range of the guns. We reached Centreville after it was quite dark. Such a rout I never saw before.

I was helped off my horse, but having been on him since 11 a.m., I was so benumbed in my feet I could not stand for a moment.

I got a good drink of Whiskey & took a sleep of half an hour. In the mean time our Doctor was arranging for me to continue on to Washington.

We soon got orders for the Army to retreat to Washington. We got a cup of coffee & had our horses fed & were soon off. We found the road full of fugitives & wagons, but not a regt. in good or any order. I had Capt. Low’s company of 2 Cav. with me, all the way. Some other companies also joined us.

It commenced to rain a little before we got in. At the other end of the Long Bridge was the Buffalo 21 Regt. Some of them knew me. Major Rogers gave me a tumbler of whiskey, helped me to get home. There were orders not to let us pass but as I was wounded they let me & my staff pass. I got to my door at 6 a.m. on Monday. Capt. Wright & Lt. Farquhar helped me off my horse & as soon as I got to my room, Margaret sent for Dr. Abadie.

Washington Fri. Sept. 6, 1861

Dr. Abadie soon came & dressed my arm. He made me stay in bed & required me to keep the elbow wet with cold water. This I continued for some three weeks or more. The wound healed in a few weeks without suppuration. My arm is till a little stiff & I cannot turn my wrist sufficiently. It was six weeks before I could write anymore than sign my name.

I had a great many visitors, the first day & since.

Capt. McKeever was soon relieved from my staff & then put on McDowell’s. From there he was sent to Gen. Fremont’s. I sent the officers to Alexandria to try & reorganize the Division, but they could not do much & in a few days they were all relieved. I dictated my report & Lt. Farquhar wrote it out for me. It was arranged on the 31 July & written out & sent in on the 1st of Aug.

In the mean time Gen. McClellan arrived & assumed command of both sides of the river. I was relieved from duty on the other side & ordered to report to him. On the 2 Aug. reported to him & am to have a Brigade. On the 5 Aug. was made a Brig. Gen. of Vols. on recommendation of Penn. Delegation in Congress.

I rode to the Capitol same day & met a great many Senators. Next day Congress adjourned.

On the 6th Aug. Lt. Col. Day & 3 cos. of 2 inf. arrived & are posted near here. I called on Day, the next day & the day after they went to Georgetown.

Mr. Jewett left for Buffalo [on the] 6th. He took us over to Arlington & the Buffalo regt. the day before.

On the 12 Aug. Dr. Tripler arrived & called. He is the Chief Med. Off. on Gen. McClellan’s staff.

On the 13th I got my commission as Brig. Gen. Vols. & accepted same day. I would have declined but the Penn. Delegation had recommended me. It adds but little to my pay as I get so many longevities.

On the 14th got news of the death of Gen. Lyon near Springfield, Mo. A gallant officer sacrificed from having an inferior force.

Had a photograph taken for Harpers Weekly at Mr. Leavin’s regiment.

On the 15th went to Alexandria to see Col. Davies about my Brigade & Staff. I have the 5th Maine & the 16, 26 & 27 N. Y. We are posted on the left of Ellsworth.

On the 16th Dr. Tripler examined my arm & says the head of the bone is fractured.

Capt. Griffin’s battery is from the other side & encamped near us. He belongs to Gen. Porter’s Brigade. The latter is Provost Marshall & has been for some time. He has cleared the city of straggling officers & soldiers. The disorganization after the battle was frightful. For seven days after I feared for the safety of the city. I believe that the Confederates could have taken the works on the other side if they had attacked us. We lost the 3 mos. men & the panic was great. The chance soon passed. The truth is the enemy suffered so greatly they could not pursue us with rigor & some of their regts were as badly disorganized as ours. On the 20th we had quite a stampede in town about an attack on the city. On the 24th the mayor of Wash. & some women secessionists were arrested. Mr. Phillips & Mrs. Greenhow.

On the 26th Mr. G. W. Eddy arrived. Wants to be a pay master. Has not got it yet & I fear wont.

Stamped[e] & constant alarm on other side.

I was down town & saw Mr. G. H. Penfield make bread & bake it in 30 minutes by Prof. Horsford’s method. It is the great desideratum of the age. Now bread making is reduced to a science. Any child can succeed in making good bread. The bran takes out some of the nutritive qualities & what makes the bread size. This is prepared in the shape of a powder of phosphates of or phosphoric acid & bicarbonate of soda. These are mixed with water & or rather dry mixed with the flour & then mixed with water & baked at once. He is trying to introduce it in the army.

Sept. 1st Heard of the success of the expedition to Hat[t]eras Inlet of Com. Stringham & Gen. Butler. This I hope inaugurates a new era is in our operations. It should have been done 3 mos. before.

The first week or ten days after the battle the weather was cool & then about as many very warm. Since then much rain. It must have been same in the Confederates & we learn they have much sickness.

A few nights ago Griffin’s battery with a Brigade (King’s) went & crossed the Chain bridge & established batteries on the other side. The night before more troops went out. We met them, as we returned from Mr. Young’s when we had been to eat fruit & met Col. & Mrs. Paulding.

I got letters almost every day from some one for my influence to get an office. Jacob Stauffer formerly of Manheim has called. Jno. Bastruff who lives near here & I have had letters from Dyer & Mayer of Manheim.

I got a letter from Andreas Heintzelman in Kansas who inquires whether we are relatives. I have a number of letters of congratulations on my escape from the battle & promotion.

I have been several times to see Gen. McClellan, but he is hard to see & two weeks ago I thought he stood on his dignity, so I have not been to see him since. I must try & go to duty next week.

It cleared off today & has been pleasant. I walked down town with Capt. Lathrop. He got a commission as Capt. in the 17 Infy. & draw my pay of Major McClure for Aug.X$330.63X12 days as Col. & 19 as Brig. General. We went to Express office & got a keg of crackers some one sent Margaret & a box of ointment sent me from western N. Y. for my arm.

———-

Samuel P. Heintzelman’s Diary resides at the Library of Congress

This transcription was made by and presented with the permission of Dr. Jerry D. Thompson, author of Civil War to the Bloody End: The Life and Times of Major General Samuel P. Heintzelman

Contributed by Daniel Winfield

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Lt. Col. Stephen Miller, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the March to Centreville

10 05 2020

Col. Miller in private letters written in pencil before the great battle, says:

On the Rail Road
Near Manassas Junction,
July 17, 1861.

Just arrived here 12 or 13,00- strong at 4 P. M. this evening, and attempted to bring on a battle with the rebels.

They exhibited their usual discretion; abandoned their fortress, burned 500 Bbls flour, fires six or eight R. R. Bridges and left for Manassas Junction just an hour before we came.

The junction is six miles ahead of us, and we expect to visit it very soon – and make a good report.

This is the most cheerless, hopeless, waterless God-forsaken country I ever saw.

I would not give one acre of Minnesota soil for a thousand acres of this land.

We have twenty or thirty straggling prisoners picked up today.

Truly Yours, Stephen Miller.

Head Qur’s 1st Minn. Reg’t,
Camp near Centreville Va,.
July 19, 1861.

On yesterday at noon I was started with Capt. Wilkins and Capt. Downie and their two companies to examine a rebel camp 3 or 3 ½ miles below “Sangsters Station” where we were then encamped. I threw out scouts on either side of the road to prevent surprise – and with the reserve kept along the Rail road with spyglass in hand – passed over the still smoking ruins of four burnt bridges, and, when about 2 ½ miles from camp Capt. Wilkin in the advance discovered the enemy in force upon an elevation about ¾ or one mile in advance of us. He went ahead with a few well chosen scouts. I concealed the main body of my men carefully, and then with the glass watched the foe for an hour. They appeared to have about the same number of men as myself, say 150 to 200 – but by watching carefully I saw that they had cannon. In a little time I counted five of them – then six – then they loaded two and pointed them at the spot where I was standing when I left; and blew the retreat for my scouts, in obedience to instructions. My rangers had crept up to within a few hundred yards of the Rebels and counted about 600 of them, mostly behind trees.

The officers and men of both companies behaved with the coolness of veterans.

Near night when we got back to “Sangsters” and learned that one of our Generals had allowed himself to run upon a masked batter of Beauregards, and had lost a good many men and was retiring – and our Reg’t with the entire column had gone to his support. I started after them upon a fleet pony, leaving my two companies in charge of Capt. Wilkin who brought them along at double quick time, and got here after dark in the midst of a thunder storm ready to do battle for the old flag. We are now laying within two or three miles of the enemy. They have it is said 30,000, and we have 35,000 men: what the result will be I do not know, or whether we shall fight or not I cannot say, but if we do, we chall try to do our whole duty.

We have for the time dispensed with tents &c, and last night with wet clothing and two blankets and a soft rail for a pillow I slept sweetly, and awoke in health.

40,000 men make quite a crowd – and are very hard to provision – but we are followed by teams with food &c, and are getting along pleasantly. Good water scarce, very scarce.

Stephen Miller.

St. Cloud (MN) Democrat, 7/30/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

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Image: Lieut. Col. Stephen A. Miller, 1st Minnesota Infantry

11 04 2020

Stephen_Miller,_1863 wiki

Lieut. Col. Stephen A. Miller, 1st Minnesota Infantry (from Wikipedia)





Lieut. Col. Stephen A. Miller, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle

11 04 2020

Our War Correspondence.
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Interesting Letter from Lieut. Col. Miller
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We give below extracts from a private letter received by Gov. Ramsey from Lieut Col. Miller dated at Washington, July 25th. He says:

I have just returned from one of the hardest fought and most disastrous battles in our history. Minnesota, with but few exceptions, did her duty well. We took 900 of the regiment into action. We were led like sheep into the carnage – had about 20,000 to 25,000 men on the road, and did not fight more than 15,000 of them at any one time. The enemy had probably 100,000, and all our officers were perfectly ignorant of the locality of the ground, the numbers of the foe, and the position of the numerous masked batteries. So insane an attack by civilized men I never heard of. While our officers generally behaved well, of those under my notice, Captains Wilkin and Pell were specially brave and active. We left upwards of 100 with the baggage. My pistols (state) were stolen out of my holsters, and one of my own I lost on the battle field. My men’s chests, blankets, &c., were thrown away on the route as our panic sticken teamsters fled before the foe. Our soldiers laid their blankets, coats, &c., in a pile just previous to the battle, and have lost the whole of them.

(St. Paul, MN) Weekly Pioneer and Democrat, 8/9/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

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Private (2), Co. A, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Return to Washington and Incidents of the Battle

5 04 2020

Our War Correspondence.
———————–
From Another Regular Correspondent.
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Camp Gorman.
Washington, D. C., July 26, 1861.

To the Editors of the Pioneer and Democrat

Day before yesterday that part of our regiment under command of Captain Wilkin, at Alexandria, broke camp and on the afternoon marched in obeyance to orders to Washington, leaving Camp Gorman, made familiar to us by many interesting incidents of camp life. There we had been vigorously engaged in quick and double-quick battalion drill, before the august eyes of distinguished military officers and civilians; there we had been lazily enjoying the cool shade during the hottest days; there we had mixed with the profanity incident to every trifling difficulty, so unavoidable in camp life, with the hurrahs and pledges of friendship and undisturbed magnanimity when under orders to march; and here we had found an asylum to rest our wearied and lame limbs, after returning from the battle at Bull’s Run, and the consequent march of about fifty miles, through a rainy day, subsiding on nothing but crackers and dirty water for forty-eight hours; and here, too, we found the first opportunity to calmly reflect on the struggles of Bull’s Run, and the loss of many a brave comrade, endeared to us by many acts of kindness. Who, then, could leave Camp Gorman, at Alexandria, without emotions of mingled pain and pleasure?

Leaving Camp Gorman, we marched up to the Railroad bridge, where we had had formerly guarded, and proceeded up on the Virginia side of the Potomac to Fort Remyan, located a dew rods back from the Long Bridge; and here we made a short pause to review the fort with its 22-pounders, with the usual supply of canister and grape, and talk with members of various regiments stationed there. The bridge was crowded with government wagons and troops passing both ways. Several New York regiments passed over the Virginia side while we waited for an opportunity to pass over; the question who we were and where we came from were usually answered by our boys with, “We are Minnesota First, from Bull’s Run!” We did not enter Washington City before it was dark, when we proceeded up various streets to the Old Representative Hall, where we had learned our regiment was stationed; but on arriving there we learned that Companies A, E and I were then quartered in an old church about two squares distant; and once there we were received by the cordial grasp and friendly greeting of out comrades of company A, with many mutual exclamations of surprise that we escaped safe from Bull’s Run when many of us had been reported victims of the bullets and shells of the enemy and left on the battle field; and we squatted on the steps forming the entrance of the church or on the pews inside to talk over the incidents of the battle field and the adventures on the retreat, and all uniting in praise of the bravery displayed by our cherished Lieutenant Colonel, and our gallant company officers in the stirring scenes on Sunday. Many were the expressions of sincere regret at the fall of Sergeant Wright, so universally esteemed in our company, as well as our other comrades who fell by our side.

That night companies A, E and F, were scattered in the pews, aisles, galleries and hall, and on the steps of the church, resting from days of extreme exertion. Yesterday morning we arose to partake of breakfast and prepare for removing to camping grounds where a Vermont regiment formerly camped, and about two squares back of our previous encampment in Washington – and once here we pitched our tents and passed the balance of the day in blissful idleness – our only duty here is to fall in ranks to answer to our names at reveille and tattoo.

Yesterday a report of the casualties in our regiment at Bull’s Run was made up, and I learn that it will be telegraphed and reach you long before my letter will be received in St. Paul; hence I will not recapitulate them here.

I will conclude this letter with a few incidents as they presented themselves to my own observation, or gathered from unquestionable authority, carefully avoiding any mention of such as are enshrouded in doubt. Incidents here related are perfectly reliable.

Among three prisoners taken by company A, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Rebel army, who dashed out of the woods to order us to stop firing, mistaking us for rebels. J. B. Irvine of St. Paul, who came into our camp at Centreville, when Lieut. Coates joined us, having shouldered a musket in the morning and joined with us to share in the struggles of the day, then approached him and asked him if he was a Major, and seeing his mistake and his position as prisoner at once, he frankly but reluctantly replied, “No sir, you have better game than that; I am a Lieut. Col. in a Georgia Regiment.” This is no less a person than Lieut. Boone, now a prisoner in Washington. Others have claimed the honor of taking him prisoner, but yesterday Lieut. Coates and J. B. Irvine visited him, when a mutual recognition took place, settling the disputed point beyond doubt.

When Col. Heintzelman ordered our Regiment to fall back into the woods, his Aid damning us for remaining in the open field to be slaughtered, our men rallied again under our flag and Lieut. Col. Miller, and a fierce struggle ensued to save our colors, which the enemy desperately assailed, but which resulted in saving our colors, none of which were lost during the engagement.

Our ever-gallant Captain commanding the Regiment once made a brilliant charge, repulsing the advancing Georgians, just as Lieut. Welch of the Red Wing company fell on the field. Captains Putnam and Acker also distinguished themselves on the field.

Downie of company B, on the left, besides the Fire Zouaves, rallying with a few of them in addition to his own command, made three distinct and successive charges on the enemy, with an energy that but for superior force would have routed them.

Dr. Steward remained at the hospital about one mile in the rear of the battle ground, and is no doubt taken prisoner; while the reports of the fate of the Assistant Surgeon and the Hospital are contradictory and their fate enshrouded in uncertainty.

A cannon ball struck the musket of one member of company “A” breaking it in two pieces, but without inflicting any injury to him. Many of the boys exhibit bullet holes through various of their garments, and if we ever live to see our friends at home, we can bring with us flags, guns, revolvers, swords, sabers, &c., as trophies of the late battle field. No doubt many incidents of interest transpired on the eventful day, and will reach you through other sources. I am not in possession of any more at present.

It is generally thought we will remain here some time to recruit, get some dimes from Uncle Sam, and have a little good times, before we again advance in the rebel States to fight the battles of our county.

Private

(St. Paul, MN) Weekly Pioneer and Democrat, 8/9/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy





Artifact of the Battle: Lt. Col. Bartley B. Boone, 2nd MS Infantry

22 03 2020

Most accounts from members of the 1st Minnesota Infantry mention the capture of the Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry, Bartley B. Brown. Look here for an interesting bit on his handgun, taken as a souvenir by Boone’s captor, Javan B. Irvine (who was attached to Co. A, but apparently had not yet enlisted). The photo below is from that site.

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Handgun of Lt. Col. B. B. Boone, 2nd MS Infantry, captured at First Bull Run by Javan B. Irvine, attached to Co. A, 1st MN Infantry.





Image: Chaplain Edward Duffield Neill, 1st Minnesota Infantry

19 03 2020

 

EdwardNeill

Chaplain Edward Duffield Neill, 1st MN. From this site.

EdwardDuffieldNeill

Neil later in life. From this site.