Image: Sgt. William Lochern, Co. E, 1st Minnesota Infantry

16 11 2022
William Lochern, Co. E, 1st Minnesota Infantry (FindAGrave)

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Sgt. William Lochern, Co. E. 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle

16 11 2022

On July 3d the regiment embarked on steamers at the navy yard, and, landing on the “sacred soil” at Alexandria, went into camp something less than a mile west of that ancient and decaying town. Here, besides constant drilling, there were daily details of companies for picket duty, and frequent reconnaissances to the west and south. We were here brigaded with some other regiments, under the command of Col. W. B. Franklin, forming part of the division of Col. S. P. Heintzelman. Strict orders against meddling with private property of the inhabitants were promulgated; but as the rations were poor, and the people about us all secessionists, a few of the boys foraged a little, but with such address that other regiments, usually the New York Fire Zouaves, bore the suspicion and the blame. In a few days Oscar King, our enterprising sutler, appeared with a full stock of sutler’s goods, which he opened in a large hospital tent, and at once had a thriving trade with our men and those of other regiments. It was soon known that he had liquors, though none were sold to enlisted men ; and some of the men, by furtively feeling the packages through the tent cloth, located a barrel of whisky against the side of the tent ; and soon after dark one cloudy night they quietly drew a couple of the tent pins and rolled the barrel out and to an adjoining field that had been dug in places for various purposes, where it was tapped, and a dozen canteens and a couple of camp kettles filled, after which the barrel, still more than half full, was buried. The raiders were all from one Sibley tent, which contained fourteen men, in charge of a sergeant, and they had filled their own and most of their comrades’ canteens. Though the night was very dark, some one about the sutler’s tent soon observed the loosened pins, and the loss was discovered, complaint made to the colonel, and the lieutenant of the guard sent with a squad to detect the culprits. The delinquents had been on the watch, and, seeing this movement, at once confessed to their sergeant, and besought his aid in enabling them to escape detection. While disapproving their act, he was inclined to stand by his men, and even risk his chevrons to shield them from exposure and punishment. He therefore watched the proceeding of the lieutenant, observing that he stopped at the entrance of each tent, ascertained the number of its inmates, and called for and examined their canteens. Returning to his own tent, he found that but two canteens besides his own were empty, and getting these where they could be reached, and instructing a couple of men how to aid him, he awaited the officer, who soon approached and called, for him. ” Sergeant, how many men have you?” “Fourteen.” “Pass out their canteens.” With a peremptory order from the sergeant to the men to pass up their canteens rapidly, an empty canteen was handed to the officer, smelled of, and dropped at his feet as a second one was handed him, while a man, lying down where he could reach safely in the darkness, passed the dropped canteen back to the sergeant, to be presented to the officer again, and thus the three canteens were each examined five times and nothing found in the fifteen canteens supposed to have been searched. The camp kettles stood quietly at the rear of the tent and escaped suspicion; and as the search frightened the boys, and made them careful in the use of the liquor, they were never discovered.


For some time a general movement against the enemy had been expected, and on July 16th, leaving ten men of each company, mostly sick or ailing, in charge of the camp, the regiment joined in the advance of the army toward Manassas Junction, where the enemy was known to be in large force. The movement was slow, and we bivouacked that night near Fairfax Court House, on a ridge densely covered with young pine. The next day we reached Sangster’s Station, on the Orange & Alexandria railroad, where we halted early in the afternoon. Blackberries were plentiful, and eagerly gathered. The men had not yet come to relish hardtack and salt pork; and, although strictest orders against foraging had been issued, a squad of our men, bringing the dressed quarters of a young beef into camp, were accidentally met by Col. Franklin, the brigade commander, and his staff. Col. Gorman, who chanced to be mounted, rode up while Franklin was questioning the delinquents, and, in his magnificent, stentorian voice, overwhelmed the men with such denunciation and invective as no one but he was capable of, ending with an entreaty to Franklin to leave the men to him for such punishment as would be an effective example to the regiment. Franklin acceded to the request, and rode away, and Gorman, turning to the trembling culprits, said: “Now, you, take up that beef and goto your regiment, and don’t disgrace it by ever getting caught in any such scrape again.” The men were gleeful at escaping the punishment which seemed certain, and determined to profit by the colonel’s rather equivocal advice, at least to the extent of being more wary in the future.

On July 18th Capt. Bromley of Company B resigned, and Lieut. Mark W. Downie assumed command of that company, receiving soon after his commission as captain. Lieut. Geo. H. Woods of Company D succeeded Downie as regimental quartermaster. Companies A and B, with Lieut. Col. Miller in command, made a reconnaissance some five miles in advance, and till the rebel line was reached. During the same time the advance division of the army, under Col. Tyler, had a brisk engagement with the enemy near Bull Run. On July 19th our division (Heintzelman’s) marched to Centreville, where the entire army was concentrated, and remained the next day, while the enemy’s position along Bull Run was examined, and considerable skirmishing took place. On Sunday morning, July 21st, we were called up at one o’clock, and, an hour later, marched to the top of the hill at Centreville, where we were kept under arms until about six o’clock, while other troops, batteries and wagons were passing us. Congress men and other sight-seers, from Washington, began to throng the high ground near us, armed with field glasses. About six o’clock we moved through Centreville, and, on reaching Bull Run, turned to the right, and marched by a circuitous route, that seemed many miles in the sweltering heat, to the vicinity of Sudley Church, where we got the first extensive view of the battlefield, from which the continued roar of musketry and artillery had hastened our march. This view was obtained from Buck Hill, from which the Confederates had retired before our arrival. I have received from Gen. William Colvill, who was captain of Company F, a narrative of the battle, going into details more than I had purposed, but so interesting that I give it substantially entire:

Buck Hill was held by two Confederate brigades, Bee’s and Evans’, and the attack there was made by Hunter’s Division in front along the Bull Run slope. There was a series of attacks and repulses, and the end was long delayed, until a regiment of our (Heintzelman’s) division struck the enemy’s flank by way of the Sudley road, and, getting in a cross-fire, demoralized and broke
the Confederates, who fell back to Stonewall Jackson’s position, about a half mile to the rear. This position was almost the counterpart of the first, the right resting on the bluffs of Bull Run, and the left on the Sudley road, occupying the top of a long slope, screened all the way across by thickets of pine and oak. The distance across was about half a mile. In the thickets, and ex
tending across from valley to road, Beauregard says he had 6,500 men and fourteen guns about the time we reached Buck Hill. A study of his force in detail shows at least 8,000 men, and more guns, at the time we went in with Rickett’s Battery. Imboden says he counted twenty-six guns, saw them properly sighted and the fuses cut. These were in addition to his own battery, which had been retired from action. By order of Gen. Bee this battery had been placed at the Henry House, covering the Sudley road flank of the Buck Hill position, where it had done good service and exhausted its ammunition. Sherman’s Brigade came by the right flank of Buck Hill, from his crossing of Bull Run, about forty rods above Stone Bridge, just after the brush was over, and he assisted in the pursuit across Young’s creek. We arrived at Buck Hill soon after Sherman, and then saw his brigade, the Second Wisconsin, the Sixty-ninth New York (Irish) and the Seventy-ninth New York (Highlanders) drawn up across Young’s creek, close under the hill and out of fire, his line extending from the Warrenton pike nearly to the Henry House. At that time Griffin’s Battery of Porter’s Brigade, and Rickett’s Battery of our (Franklin’s) brigade, were pounding vigorously at a battery near the right of Stonewall’s position, the former from the northwest, and the latter from the northeast, angle of the cross-roads, and the enemy made but feeble reply. Stonewall had his trap set, and did not choose to disclose it. He was the strong man of that day. We drew up at Buck Hill, with eight other regiments, all screened from the enemy. There was our commanding general, and every division and brigade commander who had crossed Bull Run except Hunter, who was wounded, and Howard, who was held back at Sudley Ford. The commanders were all in consultation. The result was that Rickett’s Battery, supported by the First Minnesota, and Griffin’s Battery, supported by the Fourteenth New York of Porter’s Brigade, were sent to take position at the Henry House hill, within eighty rods of the enemy’s position. Near the Henry House a wood came down from the thicket, extending sixty rods along the left (east) of the Sudley road. This wood was surrounded by a rail fence, grown up on our side with scrub pine, so thick as to be impenetrable to the sight. We led off, marching by the flank, and followed by the batteries, coming under fire the first time, to the Warrenton pike, and then, on low ground, out of range, to the Sudley road again, which we followed across the creek (Young’s), and to the foot of the hill on the other side, when we filed left into the field, and then up the hill, coming by company into line, and then forward into line, with intent to form on the brink of the hill, the batteries to pass through the line at the centre, taking position a short distance in front.

When the first two companies on the right of the regiment came into line on the brink, we found ourselves about two rods from the Henry wood, the left of my company, the Second, about on a line with its northeast angle ; and, at the same time, Gen. Heintzelman, who had led our regiment to the foot of the hill, where it filed left, and then rode on by the road to the top, and across along the brink, gave our two companies the order, “Feel in the woods for the enemy,” to which we responded by volleys, and then by a continued fire. It would have been more sensible to have pushed a few skirmishers into the wood, who, in two minutes, would have notified us of the near approach of the enemy, although I suppose that within two, or at most three, minutes the regiment was in line at the brink, and the batteries in position, and the fate of the batteries determined. For they had barely unlimbered, and got in altogether but two or three shots, when the concentrated fire of all the enemy’s guns had killed all their horses and many of their men, practically disabling both the batteries. Griffin ascribes all his loss to the enemy in the woods, but the position of the dead horses close around the guns, and some barely detached from them, proves my account. There was, in fact, coming down the wood to meet us, at the time we opened our musketry fire, a brigade of the enemy, — that part of Stonewall’s masked line that had been stationed in the rear of this wood, — and which, on discovering the batteries, had pushed the Fourth Alabama Regiment to our front to cover that flank, and formed the other three regiments in close column, and advanced on the guns. Their advance from the woods was deliberate and quiet, and though perceived from the batteries, they were senselessly held by Griffin and Maj. Barry, the chief of artillery, as friends ; and so, coming close up, our regiment withholding its fire on account of the Griffin-Barry statement, delivered the first volley, which took effect in the centre of our regiment as well as the batteries, killing our color sergeant, and wounding three corporals of the color guard, and killing and wounding thirty men in the color company. Capt. Lewis McKune of Company G was killed, other companies suffered severely, and the colors were riddled with bullets.

The men of our regiment, at the centre and on the left, dropped on the slope and returned the fire, and we on the right, engaged in front, now for the first time discovering this enemy, turned our fire on his left rear at close range. But they pushed over the batteries, pretty well jammed up, and finally faced about toward us, and we expected their volley. Instead came a frantic waving of arms and fearful yells, of which we could not distinguish the words because of our-fire, which was kept up till the enemy faced to the rear, and after awhile gained distance enough to step out, and then to run, when we broke through the fence to follow alongside. We found the woods full of fleeing Alabamians, and picked up half a dozen too badly demoralized to run. I should have stated that before we crossed the fence, and at the height of our fire, we captured a mounted officer of the Second Mississippi, who had come around to us by the woods and Sudley road to “remonstrate against firing on our friends.” He was astonished on learning who we were. The Alabamians wore home-made clothing, — mostly red shirts ; and our red shirts, dim through the smoke, and in the supposed direction of the Alabamians, had misled the enemy’s charging column, and they got a taste of their own medicine. Beauregard says this charge was made by part of the Thirty-third Virginia. We saw distinctly three sets of colors — stars and bars — at the guns. We sent our prisoners to the Fourteenth New York, then drawn up very comfortably at ordered arms at the foot of the hill, with its right on the road. I never saw that regiment again, nor heard of the prisoners. Is it not strange that during all the while that our regiment was hotly engaged but a few rods in front, this regiment was held out of fire, to be stampeded (Griffin says), a few minutes later, by a few rebel horsemen? Generals of the regular army were there. The way was open, by the Sudley road and the thicket, to the enemy’s rear by a ten minutes’ march; and Beauregard’s charge or advance with his whole force, ten minutes after the repulse from our guns, above shown, left all his guns uncovered and unprotected for at least half an hour. After Griffin’s and Barry’s blunder in going into the concentrated fire of twenty-six guns at close range, and not un seen, and by the side of a wood filled with the enemy, their batteries were disabled in a minute. Yet they claim the guns were lost for lack of support. Were they not well supported when such an overwhelming and sudden attack was repulsed effectually by our regiment? Kirby of Rickett’s Battery was able to, and did, get off some of his guns. Could not Griffin have done the same? Beauregard says that just prior to the charge the Second Mississippi and Sixth North Carolina had been put in these woods, and engaged a large force, upon which they had inflicted severe loss on account of their superior marksmanship. Our two companies were the only men in the woods on our side who fired a shot above the brink of the hill prior to that charge. As for loss, one man in Company A was slightly wounded. The Eleventh Mississippi was brigaded with the Second Mississippi and Sixth North Carolina, and was probably with them in this charge: and the Thirty-third Virginia was in Stonewall’s Brigade. Gen. Bee and Col. Jones, Fourth Alabama, and Col. Fisher, Sixth North Carolina, were all killed about this time. Bee’s Brigade had rallied on Stonewall, which accounts for these regiments being together. To return: We followed the enemy to the thicket, where they disappeared. Our two companies then extended to a skirmish line, penetrating the thicket by cattle paths, and keeping up a lively skirmish fire as any of the enemy were seen dodging about. Then came the real rebel yell, as from their cover, down through the fields outside the woods, charged Beauregard’s whole command (except one brigade, still going the other way) to the guns. Now came the struggle between this force and Heintzelman, Sherman, Wilcox and Franklin for their possession. Beauregard says that from that time on he held our two batteries, as well as the plateau. The fact is not a man could stay on that plateau after the fight was over. It was covered effectually by the guns of both armies. I had forgotten to mention the Black Horse Cavalry, which passed and returned along the Sudley road, and were noticed as we penetrated the thicket. After the struggle for the guns, came Lieut. Col. Miller with reinforcements from the right companies of our regiment, which extended our skirmish line for some distance to the right across the road. Two or three regiments of the enemy appeared, but were held off by the skirmish fire, and disappeared. . After this came a charge of Howard’s Brigade into this wood, making a great racket, and firing, fortunately for us, overhead. Before they reached the front their fire subsided, and they were gone. The firing was heavier and more prolonged to the right. Beauregard says he sent then a brigade that cleared out Howard and Sykes’ regulars. I have no evidence of this. Long after this firing, and all sounds of battle, had ceased, being restive and anxious for news, I left my command and came back to the guns, which stood, powder-stained and grim, in the midst of slain men and horses. They looked forsaken; not a living creature was in sight in any direction. Soon, up the hill from behind the guns, came Gen. Wilcox, taking in the scene with sorrowful gaze. On inquiry I found he knew nothing of our troops or of the enemy. He then rode along the fence for the front. Hearing firing from my men, I left him at the southeast angle of the wood, at the edge of the thicket, and hastened toward them. They were watching the cattle paths, and now and then getting a shot. I explored for some distance, finally striking a field hospital, nurses and surgeons busy, and withdrew. Directly there was sharp firing in the wood across our rear, and, avoiding it, we drifted out to the road. Col. Miller, with the same feeling which had induced my visit to the guns, had moved toward them with his men, and met Preston’s Virginia regiment, and exchanged fire. Capt. Wilkin had joined him, and with my company I joined him as he came to the road, in a cut, where we made a good fight, and the enemy fell back toward our guns. We were now in some disorder, and got Company I’s flag (it is still preserved in Wabasha), borne by a gallant fellow, who, the next day, succeeded to the regimental colors, and formed upon it, counting off into two fair companies. We advanced along the fence toward the guns, driving the enemy into the thicket. Soon we got no reply, and, peering through the brush, found that the enemy had again relinquished the fight for the guns. Soon a lonesome feeling came over us — no other men in sight, and most of us suffering greatly from thirst. The men began to fall off, and Miller, with a reluctant glance toward the guns, gave the order to retire. Even then some lingered for a parting shot. The last, perched on a fence, and there himself a good mark, stayed till I insisted on his leaving. This poor fellow, Fred Miller of my company, had advanced furthest to the front of any man that day, and was at one time cut off from us by the enemy. On leaving the field he came across three of his comrades carrying a fourth to hospital, and, helping, was captured before the hospital was reached. He spent a long time in Southern prisons, and never rejoined the regiment. I had intended to omit some passages of my own adventure, but thinking one of them may shed some light on the general subject, I will give it. Gen. Beauregard mentions the last fight of the day, save some artillery firing from the Chinn house, as having occurred in the southwest angle of the cross-roads, where, as he says, Kershaw’s command attacked and drove off Sykes’ and Howard’s commands, who still lingered there. I suppose I was the force driven off. As I was about to start from the scene of the last action near the guns, I heard a man crying, and saw, about thirty rods to the right of the wood toward Chinn’s house, a soldier sitting on the ground, and went to him. He had dragged himself from the wood and was crying at seeing us leave, thinking himself abandoned. His leg was broken, the bone protruding. I quieted him, and, seeing a troop of our cavalry, hurried back. As I reached them I saw also what appeared to be a great force of our men advancing by the front of Buck Hill right about Dogan’s house. Just then one of the cavalry exclaimed, “The devils are coming,” and every horse whisked about, and the cavalry was off like a streak. I turned to see what was the matter, as a platoon of the enemy was making a left wheel out of the woods to the right into the road. Their sweep would have taken me in. Instinctively I broke for the ravine, putting into Chinn’s brook, the ravine being four or five rods from the angle of the woods. As I reached it I heard the chuck of the muskets, as they fell forward into the left hands, and dropped on my back on the slope, as the bullets buzzed like a nest of hornets past my head. I sprang up and, glancing back, saw a row of blank faces, astonished at seeing me break down the ravine, soon out of their fire. When I reached the brook three or four of our men were drinking. A Wisconsin man dropped dead in the brook as we started. A Fire Zouave jumped the brook at my side, and ran up the hill. He also dropped, but with my help reached the top and the shelter of a tree. The battery from Chinn’s house at this time threw shells down the brook, which is in line with the course of Young’s creek below their junction. My eye took in the course of the valley for half a mile, and there was not half a dozen men in the entire distance — boys lingering along the stream for water, whose retreat the shells expedited, and made ludicrous by their ducking to avoid them. This is the shelling which Beauregard describes as playing through, mangling and dispersing vast crowds of men. The platoon that routed myself was of Kershaw’s command, and was the only force of the enemy that, up to that time, had reached that angle. I soon reached the head of the column, near Dogan’s house, at the Warrenton pike. Gen. McDowell was there, his face turning alternately red and white with every pulsation, with Arnold’s Battery directed to the wood on the right of Chinn’s house, and its gunners ready to fire. Now, advancing in fine order down the plateau toward our abandoned guns, were two of the enemy’s brigades in line of battle, with cadenced step and bright uniforms, and arms glittering in the evening sun. Our own column, made up of men of all commands, was fast melting away, four men disappearing where one was put in line; and Gen. McDowell, on a suggestion that it was of no use to try to hold the place, with great staff officer dignity directed his aid “to please request Capt. Arnold to recede in this direction,” pointing to the Sudley road. Capt. Arnold was within six feet, heard the direction, and was ready, and had his horses on the gallop almost as soon as the message was transmitted, the general and staff following close after. Looking back, our column had disappeared, breaking across lots for Sudley Ford. As I passed along a fence a glance showed the enemy making a final charge on, and leaping with huzzas upon, our abandoned guns, from which they had been thrice driven, twice by our regiment alone. I will close by the observation, impressed on me at the time, that, except at the guns, on their first two advances, the enemy behaved timidly, and advanced with hesitation and seeming dread. This was apparent when they were held so long in the woods by a thin line of skirmishers, and when a whole regiment, making the third attack on the guns, was repulsed by not more than two companies. Company A brought in one captured officer, a Col. Coon of a Georgia regiment.

There is little to add to Gen. Colvill’s narrative, save some further account of the left companies of the regiment, which were separated from the right companies when Rickett’s guns were taken back through the centre of the regiment, and by the movements of the right companies, described by Colvill, which took them away from the left. In moving by company into line, in the brush, as we neared the top of the hill, the left companies were the last to get into line at the edge of a narrow clearing, into which the batteries had just passed. There was already firing at the right of the regiment, but the occasion was not understood. In a few minutes a strong body of infantry appeared in the edge of the wood just opposite us, and fifteen or twenty rods away, dressed in gray, but without showing colors. Many called out that this was the enemy, and prepared to fire. But from the batteries came the word that these were friends, and Col. Gorman forbade firing. Our Massachusetts volunteers and some others wore gray uniforms, which probably was the cause of the mistake. Almost at the moment of Gorman’s order we received the fire of this line, which extended far beyond, opposite us, on the left; and, at the same time, the enemy’s batteries, less than eighty rods away to our left, and in plain view, opened a heavy enfilading fire, and, between the two, the regiment and batteries with us suffered as detailed by Gen. Colvill. Kirby’s men got off a part of Rickett’s Battery, but all other guns were deserted by the surviving gunners, all the horses, and many of the men, being killed or disabled. The left companies dropped on their knees, and, as the enemy made a rush for the guns, poured in an effective fire, which, aided by the fire from, the right, described by Gen. Colvill, caused them to retire after the guns were reached. Getting again in the shelter of the wood, they returned our fire, which was steadily kept up, and their batteries again opened on our line. As this enfilading fire from the artillery was effective and well directed, and the enemy had mostly disappeared from our immediate front, we were ordered back, and retired in good order to the foot of the hill, where we remained for a considerable time, and were then ordered back to Buck Hill, where our knapsacks had been left. We were thence conducted across the Sudley Ford, and found the remains of several regiments which had been engaged. Here we were joined by a considerable part of the right companies of our regiment; and, as it grew late in the afternoon, Gov. Sprague, then commanding a Rhode Island regiment, rode up with information, confirming our fears, that the general result of the battle was disaster, and proposed retreat to Centreville. Gen. Gorman offered the First Minnesota as rear guard, but as Sprague insisted on taking that position, our regiment moved off next to the rear, in perfect order, in column by platoons. After awhile a large body of our cavalry came, in a disordered rush from the rear, along the road, and our men had to break to the right and left to let them pass, and did not afterward try to keep in regular order. All the way was found, in broken wagons and abandoned material, confirmation of the disaster; and at one place, not far from Centreville, the enemy was shelling the road over which we passed. Going through Centreville, we halted near our bivouac of the night before about dark, so much fatigued that most of the men dropped upon the ground, and were asleep at once, expecting a renewal of the battle the next day. In about half an hour the cooks called us up for coffee, and to receive the order to inarch at once for Alexandria. This was the hardest of all. We knew we had met with a repulse, but had not realized that it was to be accepted as defeat, and the prospect of a march of twenty-five miles, after such a day of phenomenal heat, long marches and hard fighting, seemed an impossible undertaking. How it was accomplished cannot be told. The writer, carrying knapsack, haversack, musket, and complete soldier’s outfit, was, on this march, several times awakened from deep sleep by stumbling against some obstruction. In the forenoon of the next day we were back in our tents at Alexandria, thoroughly exhausted and soon asleep, but in the afternoon were called up and marched to Washington, six miles or more, by way of Long Bridge. This was done in a heavy rain, and we were compelled to stand on the street more than an hour, in torrents of rain, when churches and halls were assigned for temporary shelter. Some, assigned to Bishop Mcllvaine’s church, were immediately supplied by the good bishop with coffee and plenty to eat, and, in other places, our constant friend, Col. Aldrich, appeared promptly with a troop of colored servants, bearing pails of hot coffee, baskets of eatables, and other comforts, most acceptable in our drenched and exhausted condition. The regiment never had a warmer or more efficient friend than Col. Aldrich. Generous and open-handed, he was always ready and alert to do everything in his power for the regiment, or for any man belonging to it, while his cheery voice and genial humor brought jollity and good-feeling whenever he appeared.

An obvious fault on the federal side in the battle of Bull Run consisted in putting the troops into action in small detached bodies, without properly ascertaining the position or strength of the opposing force, or even properly regarding what was in plain view. The result was that in almost every attack our force there was too small, and was beaten in detail. When we came upon Buck Hill we saw the New York Fire Zouaves, which had been sent from that position, alone go up to the attack of the enemy’s line, and it was of course defeated in brief time. There was no reason why several regiments there idle were not sent with it, or with us, when we were sent just after. Even the Fourteenth New York, which followed us, was not put into action with us, but left idle at the foot of the hill. And it is hard to understand why we and the two batteries were put on that plateau at all, swept as it was by so many Confederate batteries, so near and plainly in sight. Untenable as the position was, the men of the First Regiment fought like veterans, and it received special commendation in the reports of both Franklin and Heintzelman. The character of its fighting appears from its losses, which were forty-two killed, one hundred and eight wounded, and thirty missing, one hundred and eighty in all, being more than twenty percent of the men engaged, and the heaviest loss, in proportion to men engaged, of any regiment in that battle. The missing were nearly all wounded prisoners in the hands of the enemy. The surgeon and assistant surgeon remained in attendance upon the wounded on the field, when they might have escaped with the retreating troops, and were detained as prisoners. Their skillful care of our wounded doubtless saved many lives, and as they were treated with marked consideration by the Confederates during their captivity, and allowed to look after the welfare of their men to some extent, they attended to the cures, and alleviated, in many ways, the condition of their wounded comrades. They never returned to the regiment, as their places had to be filled before they were released, and for the time being they were nominally transferred to other organizations. Both were gentlemen of highest professional standing and skill, and of most genial, companionable traits. Surg. Stewart had been mayor of St. Paul, and, being a man of untiring energy, had, aside from his professional duties, always taken an active, intelligent part in all public affairs, in which his sagacity, disinterestedness and personal magnetism gave him great influence. After being exchanged he remained at St. Paul on duty connected with the mastering in of troops. After the war he was elected member of Congress, and afterward appointed United States surveyor general of Minnesota. He died at St. Paul, Aug. 25, 1884. Asst. Surg. C. W. Le Boutillier became surgeon of the Ninth Regiment Minnesota Volunteers, and died in the service, April 3, 1863.

William Lochren, “Narrative of the First Regiment,” in Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars 1861-1865, Minnesota. Board of Commissioners (Minneapolis: Pioneer Press Company, 1892), pp. 7-13.

Contributed by John Hennessy

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Image: Capt. William Colvill, Co. F, 1st Minnesota Infantry

14 11 2022
William Colvill, Co. F, 1st Minnesota Infantry (Wikipedia)

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Capt. William Colvill, Co. F, 1st Minnesota, On the Battle, Retreat, and Revisiting the Battlefield

14 11 2022



A Proud and Thrilling Reminiscence of the War – The First Minnesota on the Historic Field.


Address of Col. Wm. Colvill at the Re-Union of the Survivors of the First Minnesota, June 21, 1877.


The official reports of the first battle of Bull Run give a very vague idea of the plan of operations – of what was actually done, or of the part taken by different regiments; and there has been no account of it that does anything like justice to this regiment. While my account will be mainly confined to the part of our regiment in it, I will try to so connect it as to make the whole tolerably clear. I shall have to state it in great part from what I actually saw, and it will make the narrative somewhat person, but as such personal expression will give some notion of the individual experience of each of us, I hope it will be thought excusable.

The maps accompanying Gen. Pope’s report of the second battle of Bull Run, as published in the report of the Congressional committee on the conduct of the war, cover the ground that was the scene of the first battle, and will do for a study of it, although it must be borne in mind that at the time there were vast forests covering most of it, which at the time of the second battle had almost entirely disappeared.

Centreville is six miles north of Manassas, and four miles northeasterly, by the Warrenton pike, of the Stone Bridge. Bull Run is midway between Centreville and Manassas and flows southeasterly so that the Warrenton pike runs diagonally up the valley from Centreville and the bridge. The road to Sudley’s Springs turns off to the west, half way between Centreville and the bridge, and winds for four miles up and down the heights to the Springs, which are two miles above the bridge. The Warrenton pike pursues a straight course from Centreville to Gainesville at the crossing of the Manassas road six miles west from the bridge, and from the bridge follows the general course of Young’s creek – a small rivulet heading near Gainesville – which it crosses several times. The creek puts into the Run one mile below the level of the country, and just below the toll-gate where the fight commenced, and where the stream crosses the Manassas pike, blowing north is about forty rods wide. The hills are low and generally of easy slopes.

Roads diverge in all directions from Sudley’s Springs. Three of them cross the pike between the bridge and Gainesville – the most easterly of which runs due south to New Market and then passes southeasterly about a mile in the rear or to the west of Manassas. At the toll-gate, the point where it crosses the pike, this road is one and a half miles south of the Springs. From the toll-gate to Manassas is six miles. A direct road runs from the bridge to New Market. There is also a direct road six miles from the Springs – to Hay Market, which is two miles north of Gainesville on the Manassas railroad. The railroad runs almost due east from Manassas and therefore crosses the valley of Bull Run diagonally.

We struck the enemy’s outposts on the 18th of July, six to ten miles east of Bull Run, and they withdrew from both sides toward and along the railroad.

Centreville is on higher ground than Manassas, but the latter and Bull Run in that direction were at that time entirely hid by dense and seemingly interminable forests. To the south and east from Centreville we overlooked nothing but woods as far as the eye could see.

In these woods in the early part of the night of the 20th was a continuous roll of picket firing. At 2 o’clock of the morning of the 21st, when we drew up in Centreville ready to march, this had entirely subsided, and the sun rose out of the woods, as we still stood watching the passage of our noiseless columns, as it rises out of the sea revealing nothing of its gloomy and silent depths. Of itself this omen was sombre and saddening, and the thought that within these depths were thousands of enemies thirsting for our blood, made the solemnity awful. We turn our eyes to the west, to the long lines of our soldiers, with uniforms and arms bright and gleaming in the sun and become more cheerful.

Hunter’s division has passed, followed by a train of carriages containing headquarter officials and citizens. In the venerable form of some portly Senator some one has recognized General Scott, and with a thrill of enthusiasm at the thought that this grand old soldier is to direct the battle we step out on the march. Our Colonel’s face beams with excitement as he recalls the glories of Mexico, and our chaplain, with head bent forward, is dreaming of the campaigns of Alexander, Caesar and Napoleon – of the knightly adventures of the Crusaders, and whatever his historical reading recalls – and he has come actually to bear a part in such things. Our column of march, before and behind, as far as the eye can reach, is brilliant with the blue, gray, green and scarlet uniforms of the different regiments, trumpets and drums, artillery, cavalry, Highlanders, Moors, Turks, Germans, Irish – making up a lively scene and coming up to his most realistic ideas of the pomp and panoply of glorious war.

Following Hunter’s division, we strike the timber beyond Cub Run and turn off along the Sudley Springs road, winding up over the wooded heights, from which a great part of the way we overlook the valley of Bull Run to the left. Our march is slow. At length we hear the boom of the 32 pounder, announcing that Tyler’s column has come into position at the Stone Bridge. We see the smoke of the shell as it explodes high in the air. It is not answered, but miles away beyond we see the black smoke of a locomotive and hear the clatter of the cars – a long train, with speed accelerated by the shell, rushing towards the Blue Run mountains – misty in the distance – for reinforcements. After another hour Bull Run comes in sight in front, and we see our regiments – resting at ease in the meadow below – and the Sudley’s Church. The heat has become intense, and we anticipate our rest and lunch with great pleasure, but now comes the sound of quick cannonading – now sharp volleys of musketry. The enemy has attacked our advance beyond the Run and Burnside is pushing his brigade, which has to lead, to force him back down the stream. This he does by moving up ravines, flanking his – the enemy’s – position, when he falls back again and opens fire. This is again and again repeated, the fire becoming faster, and in the meantime we come to the stream and fill our canteens. Regiment after regiment, rushes over the Run – part of Hunter’s command – to Burnside’s support. We cross over and marc about a quarter of a mile down the valley, halt, unsling knapsacks and wait for orders. The fight grows more furious; wounded men are carried back to the church – now a hospital; our people are cheering; now the roaring of guns and musketry is constant. Who? the rebels! We are now fuming and fretting, our Colonel fidgety and swearing. “We are not going to have a chance at all.” “Keep cool, Col. Gorman,” says Gen. Franklin, riding by, “you will soon have enough of it.” After a few minutes, which seemed hours, an aid comes dashing back and we are ordered to the front – double quick. We leave our knapsacks in heaps and follow him along a bridle path, running through the woods, up the hill. We meet Hunter wounded, who cheers us on. After a mile or more, out of breath, we come out in a field, and to a halt, the head of the regiment near the toll gate on the Warrenton pike. In front of us to the east is the valley of Young’s Creek, in which are drawn up several regiments. We notice the Highlanders and Ellsworth’s Zouaves, conspicuous from their uniforms.

We see groups of officers at sheltered points watching the enemy. He has a battery half a mile away on the summit, between us and Stone Bridge. Another battery is upon a knoll and protected by earthworks, and is about forty rods to the south of the first battery and across the pike from it. A house with shrubbery and orchard is between it and the pike. Both batteries are firing over our men – out of their site in the valley of Young’s Creek – at Rickett’s battery of 12 pounder Napoleons, which is in our front, near the edge of the hill. It answers them, the gunners springing to their work with every nerve. To our right, across the pike and about 40 rods away, we see the New Market Road leading down to the valley of Young’s Creek and up the other side, where, as it rises the hill, it enters the woods and is soon lost to sight. The woods on the left of it are second growth pine; on the side fronting us, about 30 rods across – this wood is bounded on the left by the pasture extending from thence to the pike, in which is the entrenched battery. The wood on the right of the New Market road is a heavy growth of hard timber, extending indefinitely to the southwest.

It seems the plan is, for us, Hunter and Heintzelman, 20,000 strong, to follow this New Market road a sufficient distance to clear the Stone Bridge and then to join with Tyler, who is to cross when we are opposite and sweep down between the New Market road and Bull Run, on the rebel rear, stampede them with a rush to the direct road between Centreville and Manassas, then give the hand to our reserved division at that point 10,000 strong which has been all the time menacing that crossing of Bull Run, and together sweep over and gather up what is left of the enemy at Manassas, and end the war before night.

We must give the hand to Tyler and we are already several hours behind time, and these two batteries between us and Tyler, and commanding both positions, must be driven away.

McDowell, Heintzelman, Franklin, Wilcox, Burnside, Gov. Sprague and others are on the field, and at length have a consultation. Rickett’s smooth bores can’t reach the enemy’s guns. He is to move down the New Market road and then out into the field to the left, near the left corner of the pine wood, and open upon them at half distance, and the First Minnesota is to support him. Gen. Franklin has given Gorman his chance, and so notifies him. Gorman, with that decision which was his characteristic, immediately gave us the order “forward.” We gaily file across the pike, our banners – each company has one – fluttering. The chaplain rushes to the front, tears the fence away to let us through, and commences his speech. Each company as it passes picks up the sense of it. It is “to remember Minnesota, whose honor is in our keeping.” It is appreciated and our eyes gleam an answer. In the field across the pike we for the first time draw the enemy’s fire. Their shot came dropping down almost perpendicularly on account of the elevation of the guns, now one side and now the other, and we answer each with a bow – too low to be graceful – but you see we are an awkward squad. “Shame! stand up like men!” exclaims Lieut. Welch, indignantly. “The d—-dest politest regiment I ever saw,” says Orderly Maginnis. There was a laugh and no more ducking. We are in the New Market road hurrying down the hill. Our battery has limbered up and followed us and in its turn drawn the enemy’s fire. We cross the creek, file into the field towards the designated position. The leading company half way up the hill – we come company into line, then forward into line double quick. Capt. Wilkins, Co. A, now just beyond the brink, is halted, say two rods from and fronting the pine wood, which is so dense that we cannot see into it at all. Company F joins on his left, its left extending to a point opposite the corner of the wood; Company D is coming up; gen. Heintzelman, riding from the New Market road by the rear of the first two companies, directs to “feel in the woods for the enemy,” and we open with volleys fires low, repeated rapidly. There is no answer. Now the color company, C, is coming into line, when our battery gallops between it and the right color company, H. Rickett unlimbers his first gun to the front, fires one shot, and in answer the enemy concentrate the fire of their two batteries upon him. In an instant his guns are horseless and most of his men killed or wounded. We on the right, still firing into the woods, hear a tremendous volley to the left, and looking that way see where the guns stood in sight a moment ago a great mass of men in gray. They have come out of the woods – but a few rods to march – and with Union colors at their head, came up to the guns and fired almost in the faces of our center companies – till then in doubt whether they are friends or not. That fire caused awful destruction. One-third of the four center companies were laid prostrate. The remainder, with Company D on the right and K on the left, instantly fall as skirmishers on the slope of the hill and answer their fire; they still move obliquely to the left, but the left companies, E and B, have now come into line and with the two right companies pour an oblique fire through and through them. They are faced quartering towards the left of the regiment, and answer the fire in that direction; we fairly riddle them with bullets; they try to face about; they gesticulate desperately – we suppose they yell, but cannot hear them; we fire away. Along comes some one shouting “They are friends – it is all a mistake.” We point to the three sets of rebel colors now unfurled in a group directly opposite us, and answer with a volley. We keep firing, and they are in an awful state of desperation – still gesticulating frantically. As I look over the lines of Company F at the enemy some one touches my right shoulder, and looking up there is a horseman in gray. We have many regiments dressed in gray and I think nothing of it, but he says “why do you fire on your friends?” “Where do your belong?” Second Mississippi brigade.” “We are the First Minnesota.” The officer dismounts and is sent under guard to the Brookly Zouaves – 13th New York – which we now observe is drawn up at the foot of the hill. Directly the guard reports that he has been received by Capt. Butts of that regiment, who promises to take good care of him. We never saw the prisoner or that regiment afterwards.

We maintain our fire; the enemy gradually gain space and step out towards the rear, we following through the woods and along the fence on the left of it, but they soon get into a run and are out of sight. We find many men lying dead or wounded in the wood, some skulking. We pick up dozens of them, who are sent to Capt. Butts. In a moment we have learned the story. They belong to an Arkansas regiment that had been placed to hold the line of the wood, with instructions not to fire until the battery came up. Our volleys had surprised and stampeded them. The main force, to their left rear, supposed that this fire was that of this Arkansas regiment, and immediately started for the guns. Not being faced towards us on the right, and our six centre companies dropping instantly on to the slope of the hill, made such a gap that when they did see us we appeared to them to be a separate command, which they took to be the Arkansas regiment. This conviction was aided by the fact that that regiment had no regular uniform, except a red shirt like ours. Our two companies in the wood at length skirmished to the upper end of it, Capt. Wilkin extending his right to the New Market road. We came out upon a long brush and bramble pasture, intersected with sheep paths. A short distance up, but partially hidden by the brush, we see numbers of men, apparently resting, but in no regular order. At the same instant, with a terrific yell, up springs a large force of men at the left side of the brush lot, and charged in three lines – still yelling – past us towards our guns. They are soon lost to sight, but we hear their volleys and the answering fire. The firing soon receded towards their batteries, and soon was taken up with rapid volleys and yells and answering volleys and cheers towards the Stone Bridge, and in that direction is now a heavy and constant cannonading. There is lively skirmishing in the woods to the right of the New Market road, and from that direction and also from our rear there is a constant “whiz” of bullets. Numbers of our men are wounded here. After some time – in the excitement we have not taken note of it – all becomes quiet, the woods are dark and the silence dismal. We think it best to rejoin the regiment – half a dozen of us. We are so scattered and the woods so dense that the rest are out of sight, and we grope our way back to the point where we entered the woods. We find a few men walking about, piles of dead, and four of our guns, black and begrimed with powder, still in the same place and no one with them. They look desolate enough. While looking about in surprise and doubt at the silence and absence of troops, I will give an account of what I afterwards learned of the performance of our own and other regiments while we were in the woods. After the first regiment had been relived from the attack first mentioned it had its dead and wounded to carry back and care for and the left was drawn up further down the valley under the shelter of the hill, which was there more precipitous. The Fire Zouaves, the Highlanders, the Brooklyn Zouaves and a Michigan regiment, all in Wilcox’s command, had in turn charged the rebel batteries and been repulsed. Many of the Fire Zouaves in fleeing stopped with our left and with it and other troops repulsed the attack last mentioned. This last force of the enemy, either repulsed or ordered back, had retired in the direction of their batteries and soon, with other of their regiments, became engaged with the Irish brigade, part of Tyler’s command, which brigade had in the meantime forced the crossing of the Run. The Irish whipped the enemy beautifully and drove them clean from the field, artillery and all, but soon, for want of discipline and efficient commanders, had scattered and finally joined the rout back to Centreville – the panic having then commenced in Tyler’s command on the Centreville side of Bull Run, among those who had not fired a shot or seen an enemy. Our Colonel Miller had rallied the scattered men of our regiment, and with a number of Fire Zouaves advanced with them into the wood on the right of the New Market road and maintained a constant skirmish fight. Afterwards this command repulsed the charge of the Black Horse cavalry, which came down this road. This, I suspect, was very easily done.

But to return to my story. By this time a few more of the boys found their way out of the woods and joined us. Along came Gen. Wilcox from the left, quite forlorn, with perhaps a dozen of his command grouped about him, but inquiring for the enemy. Mentioning the position where we had seen the enemy “resting” we started up through the woods for the place, keeping near the fence on the left side, where the was more clear for his horse. We met skulkers in the way, who surrendered without resistance. A Zouave was about to bayonet one of them when Wilcox interfered and saved him. If living he may remember this incident. At length we came to the upper edge of the wood. The General continued straight on, going carefully, with a few men about him, while our boys started towards a large tree off to the right, which was a good post for observation. We found the place occupied as before, but in much greater numbers, and we open fire upon them. An officer approaches from their direction, waving his hand. It afterwards appeared that he was a surgeon, and this was a temporary field hospital. The number of wounded here must have been very large, as this field, as far as we could see it, was all occupied by the same purpose. Drawing back from the hospital we now looked for Wilcox, but could see nothing of him or his party. He was taken, as we afterwards learned, near this place. He was for a long time confined with Lt. Welch at Richmond. There was now a lively skirmish from towards the point where we had entered the woods – probably those who had taken Wilcox – and working to the New Market road and around it, we came down and found our brave Col. Miller hotly engaged with his independent command. His position was disadvantageous, being outside of the woods, while the enemy, less in numbers, were covered. His command was disheartened, and though the Colonel “rallied” incessantly at the top of his voice, was fast stealing away. Some one thought of a flag. Capt. Pell was also “rallying” with the greatest vigor some distance down to the left, and we observed the colors of his company and called the bearer to us, and advanced it to the wood, getting in line for a moment and pushing the enemy back. The color bearer, Sergeant Knight, behaved most gallantly. This flag under which the last stand was made and the last fighting done that day is preserved at Wabasha, and should be among the collections of our State Historical Society. To return. It was useless; before we realized it out men were mostly gone, and the Colonel with reluctance fell back with the flag. As for myself, stealing along the woods to the right to keep out of the line of fire, I found abundant evidence of a severe conflict in that direction – numbers of wounded and dead. The wounded, alarmed at the idea of being left, calling for aid. With a few words of assurance they are quieted. Happening at this point to catch a view of our old position at the toll gate, there appeared a large column of men, vast numbers apparently pushing up from the ford. At the same time a squadron of our cavalry gaily trotting across the valley from that direction. The impression received was that we were to make another and decisive advance. Getting back to the road along the line of the wood, this cavalry had then halted, and while I was trying to make out the movements of our large column at the toll gate, quick as a flash about turned this cavalry and off at the gallop. Stupidly gaping after them, I was aroused by the sound of footsteps, and looking around saw a platoon front of the enemy, marching double quick and within a few feet distance. This startled me out suddenly as a partridge, and my movement startled them as much. Instinctively I started for the slope of the hillside towards the creek and diagonally from the road. It was but a few rods, but that distance was never made more quickly by a race horse. You should have seen me with a secesh smooth bore on my shoulder, a large artillery sword in my hand, make my long shanks spin.

There was no sign of fatigue, although before I considered myself just about used up. Turning my head when about half way to the bank – the platoon was in the act of wheeling around the corner of the wood towards me; a step or two farther – I heard the chuck of the muskets brought briskly to the palm of the hand, and then with a mighty leap and feet thrown out I landed on my back with head crouched downwards, just below the top of the bank, and at the same instant, through the space I filled when they pulled trigger, buzzed a hundred bullets. You should have seen the surprise – the actual astonishment in their faces, as jumping up, I rushed down to and up the creek, out of fire behind the bank. Here were men, in spite of the fire, stooping to drink. A little further up we crossed the creek together and ran towards the hill, on the other side. As we ascend this hill a new battery opens down the creek from the southwest, firing at some stragglers near the pike, who quickly disappear. We rush over the hill, pass a house full of wounded men – where we find our regimental colors with part of the guard – hurry them out and take to the pike, to our large column, which we find to be a great mass of men without regimental or company organization. Here was Miller again, “rallying” fresh as ever. Everybody “rallying, but this last shelling was too much; back into the woods and out of sight our men were dropping away, but with a dogged, sulky look, as if they felt that this last rallying was beyond the limits of good sense. Looking towards the front, beyond the scene of our engagement in the forenoon, we saw three regiments of the enemy, marching to their front with perfect line and step, the setting sun gilding their uniforms and arms. It was a beautiful sight. In a moment, turning towards our men, not one was to be seen; they had vanished.

In the turnpike was Gen. McDowell; just beyond a section of artillery directed to the southwest. In a quizzical humor and looking towards the enemy’s regiments, I suggested that he had better rally in the woods. His face at that time was turning alternately red and white with each pulsation. A whole history could be read in it at a glance. He preserved his dignity, however, and paying no attention to my impudence, calmly directed an aid to request Capt. —–, the commander of the battery, to recede in this direction, pointing out the road to the ford. The gunners were prompt; never were horses put to and on the gallop more quickly. That is when it was a case of merely receding.

We are now at the ford – the church and space about it filled with the wounded, with our regimental surgeons and nurses nobly resolved to stay by their charge. We have hardly time to say good-bye, when a rapid skirmish fire from the direction of Hay Market urges us on, and were up over the hill, speeding our way to Centreville. Our loss in the fight was 280 men killed and wounded, thrice more than any other regiment on our side.

Here the story ends. Every one knows about the retreat that evening and our “masterly advance” on Washington the next day. Anything new about it would be a mere statement of personal incidents, of which you have already had a surfeit. One thing, however, I must mention, as I learned it subsequently. In that long, wavering line, extending from the toll gate almost to the ford that I before mentioned, and which so suddenly disappeared, far on the left, were three or four organized regiments – the First Minnesota and Burnside’s Rhode Islanders. Even these began to feel the wavering impulse common to the mass, and the men began to drop out. At this time our colors have rejoined. Gen. Sprague is lecturing the Rhode Islanders, telling them that their safety depends upon maintaining their organization. In van! Up to the First Regiment the whole mass has drifted away, when Gorman, with his clear and ringing tones, gives the order to form column by platoons, and this the First Regiment executes with the same precision as upon dress parade, and amid the cheers of the mob away it marches, bringing up the rear in good order.

The true story of Bull Run is of itself a sufficient criticism and commentary upon that battle.

The enemy spread out like a fan resting upon Manassas as its base, and extended behind Bull Run from the Stone Bridge to the Occonquan, twelve miles front with sides of six miles. This triangle, whether attacked from the south of the Occonquan – from the east by the railroad or on its left, as was done from Sudley’s Springs, would necessarily, as its lines were compressed, have presented a stronger front to the attacking force. Suppose that we had been well handled, and our whole right and centre put in on time, and had forced the enemy back two or three miles further; or as it was, suppose he had judiciously offered less resistance and voluntarily fallen back: – At evening, in case there had been no panic, we would have been that much further from our base and cut off from it by the march of Johnson directly from Hay Market, on our rear, and soon enveloped by double our force, would inevitably have been taken.

Again the enemy’s generalship – Beauregard with the bulk of his army, not exhausted as he pretended – for he had not moved it from its position fronting Centreville and the east, from which direction he expected the main attack, deeming our attack on his left as but a feint – had a line of advance on the railroad to Alexandria, more direct and nearer than ours from Centreville, and by that route he would have met no serious opposition. Such an advance, made with promptitude and decision, would have cut off the greater part of our army and probably have terminated the war in the enemy’s favor; at least Washington would have been an easy capture. He lost this decisive opportunity, and the moral effect of this battle upon our people and the lessons it taught our commanders and soldiers in the end, proved it to be the most important and valuable in results to us as any battle of the war.

Two years after, while we were at Manassas Gap watching Lee on his advance to Gettysburg, by leave I took a day to go over the old ground. The woods were all gone, even the stumps all hacked up for fuel, and the whole face of the country seemed to have been leveled off. I could not trace our line of march or recognize any starting point. At the mansion near which the rebel battery had been entrenched during the fight and which for some reason had been preserved with its orchard, garden and flowers in the original freshness – an oasis in the scene of desolation and death – a good natured darkey who had been a spectator of the fight, after answering my inquiries about it, offered to show me the place, the grand point in his mind of the whole fight, where the Zouaves and Tigers “had it.” It was but a short distance away, and when on the spot, all the surroundings arranged themselves in order in my mind, and I was at home. It was the place of the repulse of a whole brigade of the rebels from Ricketts’ battery by the First Minnesota regiment, and at which, from that regiment alone, the enemy sustained more loss on that day than from the whole army beside.

Our red shirts and blue pants had possessed the enemy with the idea that they had been engaged with the indomitable Fire Zouaves. But the record of course is that we supported the battery.

We had with us ever after, until his death, that greatest of artillery captains, Kirby, who after the repulse of the enemy, succeeded Ricketts – who was wounded – in the command, and by the greatest exertion succeeded in saving two of his guns and bringing them off; the other four, not through the courage of the enemy, for they remained for hours in possession, had to be abandoned for want of means to remove them. This Kirby ever after would have no other regiment to support his battery, and we afterwards did so on many a hard-fought field, standing fast, as at Bull Run, even when, as at Fair Oaks, the surging masses of gray had at the turning point of the fight, charged up to and been blown from the very muzzles of his guns.

Red Wing (MN) Argus, 7/5/1877

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy

Colvill appears to refer to the path taken from Cub Run to Sudley Springs Ford as the Sudley Springs Road, the Sudley Road as the New Market Road, and the Stone House as the Toll House. Ricketts’s battery was comprised of 10-pounder rifles, not smooth bore Napoleons.

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Surgeon Dr. Jacob Henry Stewart, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Sudley Church Field Hospital, Treatment of Wounded, Captivity, and Parole

11 11 2022

Statement by Dr. J.H. Stewart, Surgeon of the First Regiment of Minnesota Volunteers

In publishing the narrative of Dr. Stewart we have taken the liberty of interspersing a few head lines, for the eye to rest upon and relive the continuity of so long a document, interesting though it certainly is:

To the Public.

On the morning of the 13th of August, eleven surgeons of volunteer regiments arrived in Washington from Richmond, where they had been prisoners of war, and from which place they were allowed to depart on giving the Parole of Honor, usual in war, not to serve again in the Army of the United States, unless released or exchanged. I was one of those surgeons.

On the afternoon of the day of our arrival, an article appeared in the Washington Star, a small, cheap paper of Washington City, in terms as follows:

The oligarchy authorities are trying to get rid of the burden of feeding prisoners in their hands by discharging them on parole. This morning twenty-four (made prisoners after the battle of Bull Run) reached here. They left Richmond on the day before yesterday, and were sent by rail to our lines near Fortress Monroe. The following is a copy of the obligation forced on them, viz.:

“We, the undersigned officers, non-commissioned officers, privates and citizens of the United States, do make our unqualified parole of honor that we will not, by arms, information or otherwise, during the existing hostilities between the United States and the Confederate States of America, aid or abet the enemies of the said Confederate States, or any of them, in any form or manner whatsoever, until released or exchanged.

“Brig.-Gen. C.S.A.

“AUGUST 11, 1861.”

We presume that those who gave such a parole will be shipped to their homes without delay, as such men will clearly be worse than useless in any military service.

The following is a list of the returning Surgeons among the lot, viz.:

Foster Swift, Eighth New York; J.H. Stewart, First Minnesota; J.M. Lewis, Second Wisconsin; Eugene Benquet, Seventy-first New York; Chas S. De Graw, Eighth New York; and G.H. Winston, Eighth New York.

The Assistant-Surgeon of the First Minnesota Regiment refused, to his credit be it said, to accept the parole, and remains a prisoner at Richmond.

The whole party were threatened with popular violence repeatedly on their way from Richmond to Fortress Monroe.

Though the paragraph in the above article in relation to the “Assistant Surgeon of the Minnesota First” refusing to accept his parole, “to his credit be it said,” made it pretty transparent that the intention was principally to stab at the “Surgeon of the Minnesota First,” and by the comparison to discredit him, I nevertheless concluded to take no notice of the falsehood and inferential slander, knowing that time rights all things, and that truth generally prevails in the long run. But some of the other surgeons, however, thought it advisable to speak to the editor about it. They informed me that he apologized for its insertion, stating that the facts had been misrepresented to him; and the editor would have corrected it in his own columns if he had been required to do so; but, as the other papers, including the New York press, had made a more just and accurate representation of the circumstances under which we had given our parole, and had also omitted the personal stab aimed especially at me, it was not deemed of enough consequence to ask for a formal retraction in the Star.

It seems, however, that the same article, just as it originally appeared, was carefully saved up by some one here in St. Paul, who is the fit ally of the hidden slanderer in Washington, and that it is launched at me by a republication in the Pioneer the next morning after my arrival in St. Paul, no doubt intending it as my welcome home, after a tour of hard service in the field, in which I most certainly endeavored to perform my whole duty to the country and the men of the Regiment of which I was Surgeon, without counting risks, or halting at sacrifices, pecuniary or personal.


Now, Mr. Editor, I am not particularly thin-skinned, and can stand any moderate amount of ordinary newspaper abuse; but this imputation sought to be cast upon me is so outrageously unfair and unjust, that I cannot forbear asking you to grant me some considerable space in your paper for the detail of facts of an interesting character, which, I think, will exonerate me before the public, and show that I perhaps deserve their praise instead of censure.


On the 21st of July, the day of the battle of Bull Run, and some time after noon, as the Minnesota First was near the battle-field and just about entering upon it to assume the position where it fought so gallantly, the Chief Medical Director informed me that he wished me to establish my hospital at Sudley Church, situated near the battle-field, and where we could get plenty of water for the wounded, and also directed me to send forward my Assistant Surgeon, together with the hospital attendants, members of the Band, ambulances, litters, stretchers, &c., immediately in the rear of the regiment, so as to convey to me the wounded as soon as the temporary dressings had been applied on the field by my Assistant – as all the amputations, and such other operations as might be necessary, were to be performed exclusively at the hospital.


Having sent forward the assistants and ambulances, there being as yet no duty for me to perform, I went upon the battle field, and was immediately in the rear of my regiment when it first came under and returned fire.


The first man of our regiment brought to me wounded had his arm nearly shot off, and I took him in an ambulance and went with him to the Church Hospital; and before I got his arm dressed the wounded were poured in thick upon me, until I had all and more than I could attend to, especially as no temporary dressings had been applied to the men on the field!


While working among my wounded – there being at that time over fifty of our brave Minnesotians stretched bleeding and ghastly upon the grass, under the trees of the beautiful grove wherein the hospital was located, a mounted officer of Gen. McDowell’s staff suddenly rode up to the door of the church and loudly cried out to us: – “We’re whipped to death – a retreat has been ordered – retreat immediately!”


At this moment this was the condition of things at the church. There were in it, or lying immediately around it, on the grass, nearly five hundred wounded soldiers, nearly four hundred of which were our own men – all moaning and groaning with pain – some calling for “Water,” “Water,” “Just one drop of cold water!” Others, “O Doctor, come stop this bleeding or I’ll blead to death!” – “For God’s sake, Doctor, come and take off this arm,” or “this leg,” or “take out this ball,” &c.


When the officer was heard by them ordering the Surgeons and hospital attendants to “retreat” along with the army, I was in the midst of our Minnesota boys, attending to them, and the poor fellows cried out to me, “If you are going to leave us kill us first, the enemy will bayonet us as they did the wounded before” (referring to the skirmish of the 18th) and “Don’t let us live to be butchered by them;” while some of the enemies’ wounded, mainly Alabamians and Carolinians, also begged “For God’s sake, don’t leave us to die, without our wounds dressed, because we’re enemies.”


I replied to our Minnesota boys, that “I disbelieved the reports that the enemy bayoneted the wounded, and that in no event would I leave them or obey the order to retreat — this they might rely upon.”


Having thus calmed them somewhat, I went into the Church and got together with the other Surgeons, about twenty-five in all, and a brief consultation was had as to what we should do; when all but five or six concluded to run, and some of them forthwith went off at a double quick without so much as taking their instruments.


For myself I feel no regret that I deemed it my duty to be one of the few who deliberately stayed rather than the many who saved themselves from imprisonment, or from the necessity of giving their parole, by quickly retiring and leaving the wounded to bleed and expire unaided, at least by them.

If such conduct on my part be treason, the malignant souls, professional or what not, here, or at Washington, who covertly strike at me in newspapers or otherwise, may make the most of it.

I have only to say to those who were bereaved and afflicted in this State, by that awful battle, that their dear ones who were wounded received, night and day, every attention I could bestow; and of those of our brave boys who died at Sudley Church, it may comfort their wives, mothers and sisters a little to know that they died in my arms, and that no stranger wiped the death damp from their brows, and caught their last earthly gaze, and laid them tenderly and gently down into their humble graves beneath the tall cypress trees near the battle field where in every breeze are sung the requiems of Minnesota’s dead, who manfully fought to preserve the integrity of our Republic, and died under the “old flag.”


But it may be alleged that I staid because I had not time to escape, or the means of going. To this I would answer that I might have left along with our own regiment (the last to retreat), which did not reach the church on their way back in good order from the battle field, until the consultation among the surgeons before referred to was over, and most of the retreating doctors had already left. Long after our regiment had gone, there was, likewise, plenty of time for me to have retreated, as from this period fully an hour elapsed before the enemy appeared at the church door, and cut off all escape had any one still intended to fly. Not only was there thus plenty of time in which to get away, but I had the means of rapid locomotion away from all imprisonment and all danger, to where no parole would be required of me – to Washington, instead of to Richmond – on a good horse, which ready saddled and fully equipped for the road, was standing awaiting me at the church door. I had only to mount and away, and no doubt would have been praised for a lucky dog, by those meaner sort of people who now censure me for not doing that which they, no doubt, would have done – run away from their duty.


But, to continue. Between six and seven o’clock the enemy appeared, (having by that time, it seems, found out he had a victory, or, at all events, that our Army was falling back.) I was outside the church on my knees extracting a Minie ball out of the head of an Alabamian, when a squad of cavalry rode up to the church. It was commanded by Lieut. Cummings, of Col. Stewart’s Virginia Cavalry, who, leaning from his horse and placing a pistol at my head, and cocking it with a sort of disagreeable “click,” said: “I demand you to surrender.”


I had just cut down to the ball and felt indignant at his treatment, especially as he saw me engaged so busily. I drew my head out of the range of his pistol and said to him sharply: “Use a little more care in the handling of that article, as my experience the past few hours makes me extremely sensitive to the even careless use of fire arms.” He retorted, “God d — n your soul, answer me more civil, or I will put a bullet through your head!”

This piece of agreeable information, accompanied by his very prepossessing appearance and amiable manner, induced me to request him, politely, to defer that little operation until I had completed mine – my language being: “Just wait, Sir, first, until I extract this bullet out of this patient’s head, as he is one of your own men, of the Fourth Alabama.”

He immediately replied, “I beg your pardon,” and did manage to wait until I had extracted the ball.


In a few seconds I had the Minie in my hand, and the Lieutenant then very politely asked me if “I would give my word of honor not to escape.”

I replied, “I have voluntarily remained to take care of my wounded, and, of course, will not leave them,” and I so pledged myself.

He then wished me to pledge that “none of the other Surgeons and attendants would escape.”

I said, “they could speak for themselves – I would call them out of the church.”

I went in and called them out. He rode up to the door and asked them “to give their parole not to escape,” which they readily did.


I might as well here mention that, some fifteen minutes previous to Lieut. Cumming’s arrival, I had told my orderly, private Williams, to take my horse and make his escape, if he could, but the same cavalry had intercepted his retreat by a short cut, and brought both him and the horse to the hospital with them, which was the last I saw of either until I met Mr. Williams a prisoner in the tobacco warehouse at Richmond.


Having in this manner formally surrendered, the attending Surgeons busied themselves taking care of the wounded during all of Sunday night and all of Monday, but in the afternoon of Monday we were notified by Col. Stewart, of the Virginia Cavalry, that the orders from head-quarters were to take us to Gen. Beauregard, at Manassas Junction, some ten miles distant; for which point five or six of us were started at between five and six o’clock in a small one horse two wheeled, rickety old ambulance or cart, with the bottom partly out, no seats, over a miserable road, the night very dark, and the rain pouring down in torrents, as it had been doing ever since the latter part of Sunday night, and continued in fact to do so most incessantly until Tuesday morning. On our journey we were under the charge of Lieut. Cummings and a squad of his cavalry. Along with us, following in the rear, was another ambulance, a two horse, four-wheeled affair, loaded with other prisoners, non-medical officers of our army.


Our course of travel lay over the battle field and on the road leading from it. As long as daylight permitted us to see, which was until we reached to within three miles or so of Manassas, we noticed that the dead of the enemy, men and horses, were continually scattered, and yet unburied, over the whole route, and that squads of rebels were busy hunting up their wounded, placing them in common transportation wagons without springs, and sending them forward to the Junction.


At intervals we would be challenged by parties of their irregular cavalry, and two or three times were stopped, and it was demanded of us “who we were,” and “where we were going,” in every case meeting with the most gross, wanton and ferocious insults and curses from the “chivalry.” Nor did we receive this savage treatment from coarse, uneducated, uncultivated men. The worst case occurred while we were being driven some few rods in advance of our escort, which had stopped behind for a few moments, for some purpose or other. A horseman with a rifle slung across his shoulder, rode up in front and compelled us to stop, and asked who we were and where we were going; and, though by his language, evidently a man of education, and one who could probably, on a pinch, put on the outside manners of civilization, he commenced a barbarian tirade of abuse, calling us d — d lazy Yankee s–s of b —- s, “why don’t you go and bury your dead and gather up your wounded; you ought to be shot;” – making at the same time a motion as if he would unsling his rifle from his shoulder. Being prisoners, unarmed, in the midst of the enemy, several of his “chivalric” fellows, over whom he seemed to have some command, having come up in the meantime, of course there was nothing for us to do but explain, as we did, quietly and calmly, though our blood was boiling, that we were prisoners of war, without volition of our own, that we had solicited permission to go upon the field and attend to our wounded and dead, but the Confederate commanders had refused us.


I would here observe particularly that this was the fact – we had formally asked the rebel officers who came to us at Sudley Church, some of them of high position, to allow us to search the battle field over for our wounded and dead; but was peremptorily and altogether refused. I would likewise state in this connection, that the rebel loss in killed and wounded was very heavy – by their own admission to us surgeons, much heavier than our own, as well on account of the superiority of our arms, all minie rifles and muskets, and the more skillful practice of our artillery and small arms (they complimented the shooting of the Minnesotians) as from the fact that they thought they were going to be defeated in the early part of the battle and undertook to remove their wounded ten miles to Manassas, which, over such a road and in common lumber wagons, occasioned a great fatality, especially as minie bullets make no trifle of a wound. The refusal to let us go over the field was, perhaps, dictated somewhat by a reluctance to allow us to see the extent of their loss and, partly, that we should not view their position, which they did not know but they would require immediately again for another battle; for it is a fact, that they did not know of the panic which seized our whole army, nor the extent of its demoralization, and that for several days they were daily and nightly in expectation of our advance again, with reinforcements.


But to resume. Lieut. Cummings having come up, further explained our purpose in travelling to Manassas to the cowardly Virginian who could so grossly insult men in our situation; and we then proceeded on our journey without further molestation. It was about here we were told that two of our wounded men had been picked up, and were in one of the lumber wagons; from which we heard them ordered to be transferred to the covered ambulance behind us, and taken along with us to the Junction; but we did not see them, not being allowed to get out of our vehicle.


We reached Manassas about 10 o’clock; and, after waiting there in the cart about two hours, in the rain, were ordered to get out, and go up on the long porch of the little low, old fashioned country house, where Beauregard had his headquarters.


On the porch a table was set, and being invited to partake of viands, we sat down and drank of its coffee and eat of its crackers (all there was) with, on my part, an appetite slightly enhanced by my nearly forty hours of enforced abstinence from all food, and by our wet to the skin and shivering condition generally. Supper over, and mid-night having come, an Aid of Beauregard appeared and said he was very sorry we were brought down – it was done under a mistake – and as it was late the General could not see us before morning. Anathematizing such a “mistake” to the bottom of our hearts, we were next shown into a small neighboring barn, where, in the midst of wounded and dying Confederates, and of the members of the guard not on duty, we laid down on the barn floor, on which was a slight sprinkling of hay, and without covering of any kind, and our clothes all wet through, slept, or tried to sleep, until morning; but the cursing and quarreling amongst the guard, and the changing of sentinels every two or three hours, “murdered sleep” most effectually.


In the morning, on going from the barn over to Beauregard’s head-quarters, I passed in the barn-yard, the four wheeled ambulance which had accompanied us from the battle field the night before. Observing that two men were lying in it, I looked in curiously to see who they were, when to my astonishment, I found them to be two of our own “boys” – private Cannon, of Company I, (the same whose wounded leg Capt. Pell, when ordered so peremptorily to retreat, stopped behind to bind up before he left him) and Corporal Pierson, of Company B, of Stillwater, who had received two balls through his right thigh, fracturing the bone. The astonishment of the poor fellows even surpassed my own, for they did not imagine I was within fifty miles of them; and the joy of all three of us at the meeting cannot be adequately expressed. They had lain out in the rain on the field all Sunday night and managed to crawl during Monday between two and three miles from where they fell, towards Manassas, to the spot where the rebels had picked them up. They were the same two men we had ordered to be transferred to the ambulance, on our night journey, in which they were compelled to sleep all night, having their blankets to cover them. I immediately procured their removal to one of the Confederate hospitals, where I dressed their wounds, and left them pretty comfortable, and I did not behold them again until I saw them at a hospital in Richmond, some two weeks afterwards; and when I left the city to come home, Cannon was nearly recovered, and Pierson doing as well as could be expected of a man with a fractured thigh,


Returning to our quarters in the barn, we partook of breakfast, consisting of cold cooked flitch and crackers, but without drink, all of which we understood had been sent us from the General’s quarters.


We were now waited upon by Col. Preston, one of Beauregard’s staff, who brought the parole, before quoted, and so much carped at, for us to sign.

Holding the paper in his hand, Col. Preston said to us: “Gentlemen, I have here for your signatures, the parole usually required of prisoners of war; and the surgeons only are to be allowed to sign it.” (There were other of our Army officers present.)

He then read it to us. After he had finished the reading, the privilege was asked of examining and reading it for ourselves. It was handed to us, and being satisfied as to its exact nature, I asked for the rest that we might take it with us, and retire by ourselves and consult as to what we should do. Col. Preston replied, “Certainly, take what time you want.”


On this we went inside the barn, and in one corner of it, by ourselves, held our consultation. In about fifteen minutes we returned, and addressed him as follows:

“Sir, will you allow us to return to Sudley Church, and attend to our wounded there, and wait a few days before signing this parole, to see if our Government does not send to make arrangements for our protection, for the burial of our dead and the care of our wounded?”

Colonel P. – (with emphasis) answered, “No! I am authorized to present this parole for your signatures now – and cannot promise that another opportunity will be afforded for this purpose after this morning; the object of your signing it is to allow you to return and take care of your wounded if you desire to do so.”

The conversation was further carried on by myself, as senior Surgeon, speaking for the rest as follows:

Surgeon – “Is signing that parole the only condition on which we will be allowed to go back and attend to our wounded?”

Colonel P. – “It is, Sir.”

Surgeon – “What disposition is to be made of us if we do not sign it?”

Colonel P. – “I am not authorized to say – I am only authorized to speak with you as to your signing this parole – to the medical officers only.”

Surgeon – “We ask you, then (not in your official capacity in this particular duty but) as an officer, what will be done with us if we do not sign it?”

Colonel P. – “You are prisoners of war, and prisoners of war are placed under guard and sent to Richmond at once.”


We now asked and obtained permission to again retire and consult together.

A good deal of feeling entered into our private discussions.

Two questions presented themselves. Four or five hundred of our wounded were lying in a critical condition in the Hospitals near the battle field, needing all our care and attention. If we signed the parole we could go back and attend to them, relieve their sufferings, and save the most of them from dying the death otherwise most probably inevitable. But, on the other hand, if we signed it, it practically cuts us off from our positions in the Army; and our chances of being soon exchanged so as to resume them would be much less than if we remained prisoners of war in the enemy’s hands. If we refused, however, to sign at all, we would become such prisoners of war, would be removed to Richmond at once, and our wounded would be in a great degree sacrificed. Some of us felt that we would rather sacrifice ourselves than that; but before deciding we returned to Col. Preston, when this conversation took place:

Surgeon Stewart – “Colonel, we have as yet come to no decision; but the wounded of my regiment at the Sudley Church Hospital being as four to one of any other there – over fifty – and having followed them nearly 2,000 miles as their medical attendant, I feel that it is my duty to go back and attend to them at any and all sacrifices. I dislike very much to sign this parole; and though I will new do so, it is only and rather than leave my men to die uncared for, or to be attended to by strangers merely.”

Col. P. – “Doctor, this is a matter that rests entirely with you all – you understand, it is a voluntary matter.”

I made no reply to this cool observation of that being a voluntary act to which they forced us by a combination of inexorable circumstances; but proceeded at once to sign the parole, in which I was followed by all my colleagues, the Surgeons of the Sudley Church Hospital.


We were then returned to cur Hospital at the battle field, our return being made in a more comfortable vehicle, and by a different route from that by which we had come.


On our arrival we were distressed to find that during our absence of about twenty four hours only, nearly twenty of our men had died, some of whom would almost certainly have been saved if the surgeons had not been removed so long away from them; and this melancholy fact confirmed us in the opinion that we had pursued the true path of duty in subscribing to the only course by which we were still allowed to give these who yet remained alive the benefit of all the skill and nursing we could bestow.


Thus we continued to do for some two weeks longer, when the Confederates deemed them sufficiently recovered to be removed to Richmond; and the next day they also compelled us to follow to the same city.


It is possible there are some who will think this tour of duty at Sudley Church was a pleasant one. After the rebels took their wounded away, there still remained between three and four hundred of our men to be cared for. The rain being over by Tuesday morning, the weather grew exceedingly warm, and the sun very powerful, and the whole atmosphere became loaded with the odor of decaying mortality from the unburied dead of the battle field, to which was added for our own immediate discomfort, the fetor from so many festering wounds immediately around us in the hospital. Besides this inconvenience, we had severe and exhausting labor day and night, and we had besides, for days after the battle, to provide sustenance for ourselves and men by sending out and purchasing food in the neighboring country, the surgeons contributing of their own private means as a fund for this purpose – without which we should all have starved. It was nearly a week before the Confederate commissariat became sufficiently organized and plentiful to ration us.


I would here say, in the spirit of awarding sheer justice even to enemies and traitors, that the officers of the enemy who visited us at the Church, all treated us well and considerately; and I may say the same of all their officials, the military, with whom we came in contact everywhere, saving and excepting the senior official before mentioned, who was superintending the collection of the wounded on the battle field, and excepting also the lower state of their mob, and the women of all ranks.


On reaching Manassas on our way to Richmond, we were stopped at headquarters, and had an interview with Beauregard, by whom we were politely treated, and who ascribed the condition our wounded had so soon attained to our remaining to take care of them. He then endorsed upon our parole the following:


The parole of these surgeons was taken to prevent the necessity of guarding them while they were attending to the enemy’s wounded, with the understanding that it was to be continued by the War Department after leaving here, and that they were to be permitted to return to their homes when their service would be no longer required, on the ground that they were non-combatants, and might have got off if they had imitated their fellow-officers.

(Signed,) P.G.T. BEAUREGARD,
General Commanding.


We were then placed in charge of a Lieutenant, and conveyed by railroad to Richmond; and after remaining there some several days were forwarded to Norfolk, and thence from Fortress Monroe to Washington City.


Here our conduct was generally approved by the Government, and especially approved by our acting Surgeon General, who told us he “was proud of us – we had nobly sustained the honor and credit of the profession;” and he at once granted us a furlough to recruit our health and energies for three months, unless by an exchange of prisoners we could be sooner ordered into active service.


One more matter, and I have done. An invidious comparison has been attempted to be instituted between Dr. Le Boutillier, the Assistant Surgeon, and myself, to my disadvantage. The statement of a few facts will put this all right before the public. The last I saw of Dr. Le Boutillier, until I met him in Richmond, was on the day of the battle, just before I ordered up the ambulances, and just as the regiment was going on the battle field; at which time he had with him a knapsack containing bandages for temporarily dressing the wounded on the field, and some stimulating beverages to enable those wounded who were very faint to reach the hospital. When the wounded began to come in freely upon me, noticing that no temporary bandages had been applied, I asked “what the Assistant Surgeon was doing?” and was told that he was gallantly fighting, having a musket, and was cheering on and rallying the men. The next news that came reported him wounded, and the next, that he was killed; and in this last belief I rested until two or three days after the battle, when on being introduced to a Confederate cavalry officer as the “Surgeon of the Minnesota First,” he remarked, that on the evening of the battle, between the battle field and Centreville, and between two and three miles distant from the former he had captured a man who, on being taken stated that he was the “Assistant Surgeon of the Minnesota First,” but that, as he had no uniform or commission, he had not credited him, and had sent him on with other prisoners to Richmond. From his description, I had no doubt it was Dr. LeB., and so told the officer. On reaching Richmond, I was exceedingly glad to greet once more, in life and health, my missing medical colleague; for, though a prisoner in the tobacco warehouse, he was safe and sound, without a wound, and in seemingly excellent health; and being duly recognized as a medical man, was assisting in attending the Federal wounded, who had just been brought to Richmond from our hospital.

When he found the Surgeons of our party were about leaving for home on their parole, he very naturally evinced an anxiety to accompany us; and expressed the belief that as soon as the surgeons left behind had got the wounded further on, and in good condition, the same privilege would be extended to him, when he would promptly avail himself of it, and that he would “probably not be more than two or three weeks behind me.” I said I thought so, too; and we bid each other good by, and parted.

This is the truth; and no one will be more surprised, when he hears it, at the falsehood in relation to his “refusing his parole!” than will the brave Assistant Surgeon of the Minnesota First.


And this is all I have to say, except to recommend those jealous, carping, fault-finding busy bodies, who are ever suggesting something wrong in the First Regiment, in its officers, its organization, or something else, that they had better enlist to carry a musket in the service of their country, than to be thus cruelly damaging the cause by slandering its defenders.

Surgeon of the First Minnesota Regiment.

(St. Paul, MN) Pioneer and Democrat, 8/30/1861

Clipping image

Contributed and transcribed by John Hennessy

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Account of Asst. Surgeon Charles W. Le Boutillier

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

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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