Lt. William Mack Robbins, Co. G, 4th Alabama Infantry, On the Battle

25 11 2018

With Generals Bee and Jackson at the First Battle of Manassas

On the afternoon of July 18, 1861, the army of [Brigadier General Joseph E.] Johnston – about ten-thousand strong – which had been for some weeks manoeuvering up and down the [Shenandoah] Valley in front of [Major General Robert] Patterson and was then lying around Winchester, was hastily put in motion and marched off southeastwardly, going we knew not whither. Most of the men belonged to the class which may be described as “young bloods,” sons of planters, reared in ease and affluence – intelligent, merry hearted, high spirited, full of romance and enthusiasm. They had volunteered at the first call, not only from devotion to the cause, but love of adventure, and there was nothing they were so eager for as to get into battle, being somewhat tinctured with the idea that they “could whip at least three Yankees apiece,” and were rather afraid that the war might come to an end before they got the chance to prove it. In spite of their confidence in their general, they had been a good deal chagrined and disgusted at what they deemed his overwary strategy in not delivering battle to the enemy under Patterson. They were therefore greatly delighted to hear the general order which General Johnston caused to be read to each regiment as soon as we got well out of Winchester that summer evening. That order was about in these words: “Beauregard is attacked by overwhelming odds at Manassas. Your commanding general has full confidence in your zeal and devotion and asks every man to step out lively. You are going on a forced march over the mountains to reinforce your companions in arms and save the country.” Loud cheers welcomed the tidings. The prospect of an early encounter with the enemy loomed up ahead and stimulated the impatient spirits of the men to their best exertions. Heat, dust, and night-fall soon made the rapid march disagreeable enough, but it was pushed without a check till we reached the Shenandoah. This river, about waist deep, was waded at dawn of July 19, amidst songs, jokes, and general hilarity. The Blue Ridge was passed at Ashby’s Gap, and at evening of the same day the head of the column arrived at Piedmont Station on the Manassas Gap Railroad, whence Johnston’s forces were sent forward in detachments by rail as fast as transportation could be furnished.

So much has been said about Johnston’s troops appearing on the field in the nick of time after the battle had been long ranging that the impression extensively prevails that none of them were there at its beginning. This is a great mistake. Three brigades – [Brigadier General Thomas J.] Jackson’s, [Col.] F. S. Bartow’s and nearly all of [Brigadier General Barnard E.] Bee’s – were at hand when the battle opened and bore an important part in it all day. The Fourth Alabama and other regiments of Bee’s Brigade reached the Junction at noon of the twentieth and were among the very earliest in the conflict the next day. It was only the comparatively minor number of Johnston’s men under [Brigadier General Edmund] Kirby Smith and [Colonel Arnold] Elzey that leaped from the train when they heard the battle in progress, and, hastening down the Warrenton Pike, came in so luckily on the right rear of the Federals and caused the panic which gave the victory to the Confederates.

I have spoken of the eagerness of our inexperienced but enthusiastic soldiers to see and participate in the battle. The feeling did not diminish, but rather grew in intensity on this occasion, up to the time of actual engagement, and how much longer I cannot say; but one thing is certain – all of us by the time the day was over felt sufficiently amused. Thousands of soldiers on both sides know all about the experience of a first battle, and anything said on the subject would be but an old tale to them; but those who never took a hand, and especially young who have come up since the war would no doubt like to know how a battle looks and seems to a new soldier – its thrill, its thunder, its grandeur, its horror, and no lees its odd, absurd, and even grotesque features. I do not feel competent to paint an adequate picture and description of these things. I doubt if any pen can fitly paint them. A few hints about how this battle opened and proceeded – as the writer saw it – must suffice. The Fourth Alabama were busy with breakfast near the junction when the sudden boom of a gun in the direction of the railroad bridge over Bull Run drew our eyes that way and we saw for the first time the little dense round sphere of white vapor, high up in the air, produced by the bursting of a shell. This was quickly followed by others, the design of the Federals being to draw all attention to that part of the line while they were executing their shrewd flanking movement on our left. However, our regiment, with others of Bee’s Brigade, was at once moved at double-quick towards the Confederate left, to a position that had been allotted to us at one of the upper fords. But we had scarcely reached the designated point when we were again ordered to go at a rapid run for about two miles still further up the stream to meet the Federals – our commanders having just at that moment discovered that they had crossed the stream at Sudley’s Ford, entirely beyond the Confederate left, and were pouring down in heavy force on that flank. All depended on presenting a quick front to this unexpected movement. So we went  – a few battalions only – across the fields at out highest speed, and soon reached the plateau of the Henry House, around which the battle was afterward mainly fought. But Bee did not permit us to stop there. He marked that as the most favorable position for the Confederate line to form its new front on, but he knew his brigade alone could not hold it and he also saw that the enemy would reach it, unless checked and delayed by some means before an adequate force of Confederates could get there to oppose them. To gain the needed time it was necessary to risk the sacrifice of the two and a half regiments then with him by a bold movement still further to the front. He could not hesitate. So he ordered the Fourth Alabama, Second Mississippi, and Eleventh Mississippi (two companies) to move half a mile further forward to the next ridge to engage the enemy and delay them as long as possible. Down the slope we rushed, panting, breathless, but still eager because ignorant of the desperate crisis which had doomed us to probably destruction to save the whole army. As we passed the little rivulet below the Stone House, the duel of the artillery began and the shells of friend and foe shrieked wildly above our heads. Mounting the hill and entering the copse of timber north of the Stone House, we began to hear a sharp cracking of musketry ahead of us – a collision  between the Federals and some small bodies of Confederates we had not known were there before, among them [Major C. R.] Wheat’s Louisiana Tigers, wearing the zouave uniform.

As we emerged from the little wood we caught sight of these Tigers, utterly overwhelmed and flying pell-mell, most of them running off to our right and toward the stream (Bull Run). This and their zouave uniform, which we had never before seen, but had heard some of the enemy wore, for a minute caused us to mistake these “Tigers” for Federals and as they were flying in disorder, some of our men set up a loud yell and shout of victory, supposing the enemy were already routed and retreating, whereupon one ardent fellow of the Fourth Alabama, with his finger on the trigger and anxious to pull down on somebody before they all got away, burst out with: “Stop your darned hollerin’ or we won’t get a shot!” But the mistake was discovered just in time to prevent our firing on friends. A little way further up the hill beyond the timber and we struck the enemy and no mistake. Their long advancing line, with the Stars and Stripes waving above it (which made some of us feel sorry), began to peer over the crest, eighty yards in our front, and opened a terrific fire, which at first went mostly over us. It is proper to mention that the Mississippians, who had come with us, were halted at the edge of the wood behind us, and so did not get into the hot conflict that ensued, the whole brunt of which thus fell on the Fourth Alabama alone. On receiving the enemy’s first fire we lay down and waited till we could see their bodies to the waist, when we gave them a volley which was very effective, firing uphill. The Federals fell back and disappeared behind the crest. After some interval they advanced another and longer line; but the result was the same as before, only they held on longer this time and their fire hurt us badly. A third time they came on in a line which extended both our flanks, and now the conflict became bloody and terrible to us, their balls coming not only from the front but from the right and left oblique, cutting down our colonel (Egbert Jones) and stretching lifeless many a familiar form so recently full of hope and gayety. Then war began to show us his wrinkled front. But we thought of what they would say at home if we flinched and how ashamed we should feel if after all the big talk about whipping the enemy we let them whip us at the first chance. We could see, too, that they were as awkward at the business and enjoyed it as little as ourselves. Besides, it looked like they could hardly help killing every one of us if we got up and tried to run away. It seemed our safest chance to hug the ground and pepper away at them; and so from sheer desperation, as much as anything, we kept to it, until after awhile, to our great joy, the enemy fell back once more behind the crest, and their fire lulled. Our general, seeing we would be certainly overwhelmed at the next onslaught, gave us the order to retire, which we did before another attack. We had been at it for over an hour and had really rendered great service in gaining time for the Confederate army to change front and form the new line. But nearly one third of the Fourth Alabama had gone down in the effort and were left on the ground, including the colonel, mortally wounded. I should not omit to mention that the Seventh and Eight Georgia, of Bartow’s brigade, also came into our advanced position far to our right during our contest, and had a bloody collision with another column of the Federals, and though these Georgians were recalled some time before we were, they contributed materially to the delay of the Federal advance.

The two Mississippi regiments of our (Bee’s) brigade had also retired before us, so that the Fourth Alabama was going back alone. In this movement a bloody episode occurred to us. Retiring by the same route along which we had come, when we reached the little rivulet running near the stone house, we saw a regiment, in column by companies, marching down the rivulet toward us. Their flag was furled on the staff and so was ours. By the quarter we had just come from they thought us probably Federals, but were not sure. As for us, we felt the enemy had got so far around in rear of the place of our recent fight; their uniform also resembled that of the Sixth North Carolina, belonging to our brigade, and we hastily took them for that regiment coming to our aid. Thus encouraged we halted, faced about and reformed our line, intending with this supposed reinforcement to take another tilt with the enemy we had been fighting if they should pursue us as we expected. The unknown regiment also halted and deployed into line of battle at right angles with ours and less than 100 yards from our left flank. Their colonel signaled us with his handkerchief for the purpose of communicating  and learning who we were as it afterward appeared; but we never dreamed this was his purpose and made no haste to respond, feeling confident we knew him, and thinking of course he knew us. All this took place in a few moments. Having quickly rearranged our line, our flag was than unfurled and displayed – the Stars and Bars! Instantly a blaze of fire flashed along the line of our supposed friends (a New York regiment it really was), and an enfilading hailstorm of bullets tore through the Fourth Alabama from left to right, killing many and disabling more, among the rest Lieutenant Colonel [Evander M.] Law and Major Scott, leaving our regiment without field officers.

What does the reader suppose we did? We did not stay there. The position was too bad and the surprise too sudden. True, the enemy’s fire was once returned with considerable effect; but it is only frank to say that we resumed, without delay, our movement back to the main Confederate line, whither Bee had intended us to go when he first ordered us to retire. Having arrived there, even after all they had suffered, the Fourth Alabama still had pride enough left to rally again, and under the command of a captain fell in on the right of the line and fought to the end of the terrible day. I will not now attempt to detail all the incidents that befell the regiment in these later hours of the battle. I will give one, however, which will always be of special historic interest.

The position of our regiment being now on the right of the Confederate line as drawn on the plateau of the Henry House, and the leading design of the Federals during the entire day being to turn the Confederate left, the heaviest fighting gradually veered toward that flank. No one who was there can ever forget how the Federal musketry crashed and rolled in fresh outbursts as new troops poured in against the center and left. Farther and farther round its awful thunder seemed to encroach, as if it would never be stayed till it should rend and tear that part of our line to atoms. Our brigade comrades of the Sixth North Carolina, separated from us in the manouevres of the day, had rushed in single-handed and attempted to check it, but had been smitten as with fire by its overwhelming power and their gallant Colonel [C. F.] Fisher, with many of his men, were no more. Jackson, with brigade, was struggling desperately, and at length successfully, to arrest the Federal columns; but immovable as Jackson and his men stood, the surging tides of the enemy beating upon him with such a mighty momentum that it seemed as if he must give way. Just then the battle had entirely lulled in our front on the right. Our Brigadier, General Barnard E. Bee, at this moment came galloping to the Fourth Alabama and said: “My brigade is scattered over the field and you are all of it I can now find. Men, can you make a charge of bayonets?” Those poor battered and bloody-nosed fellows, inspired by the lion-like bearing of that historic officer, responded promptly: “Yes, general, we will go wherever you lead and do whatever you say.” Be then said, pointing toward where Jackson and his brigade were so desperately battling: “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall! Let us go to his assistance.” Saying that Bee dismounted and led the Fourth Alabama (what remained of them) to Jackson’s position and joined them on the right of his brigade. Some other reinforcements coming up a vigorous charge was made, pressing the Federals back. In this charge Bee fell mortally wounded. Bartow fell nearly at the same time and within a stone’s throw of the same spot. Before the Federals recovered from the impression made by this partial repulse they saw Kirby Smith’s men advancing down the Warrenton Pike upon their right rear, as before stated, and his unexpected appearance in that quarter struck them with an overpowering panic and caused their precipitate retreat from the field. The battle ended so suddenly that the Confederates could not understand and could scarcely believe it. When afterwards the doings of the day were recounted among is the above expression, uttered General Bee concerning Jackson, was repeated from mouth to mouth throughout the Confederate army, and that is how he came to be known everywhere as Stonewall Jackson.

In conclusion, as I have set down with an endeavor at entire frankness the achievements, the mistake and the misfortunes that day of the regiment to which I myself belonged (the Fourth Alabama), I may be pardoned for adding a word about how we looked back upon our experience after it was over as a curious illustration of the absurd notions of inexperienced soldiers. Our ideal was that we were to whip whatever we came across – no matter about numbers; many or few, we must put them to flight. To turn the back before any enemy would be disgraceful. Having, therefore, turned our backs to the enemy twice that day, as I have narrated, once under orders and once without, we of the Fourth Alabama, upon the whole, felt humiliated and rather ashamed of ourselves on reviewing what had occurred. It was some days after the battle that to our surprise we began to hear from our comrades if the army and to read in the papers that our regiment was thought to have distinguished itself greatly. Then we began to hold up our heads again and to recall the fact that we had lost more than any other regiment in the army. Finally, we go hold of the Northern newspapers and found where our gallant and generous adversary, [Brigadier General Samuel P.] Heintzelman, giving an account of what he termed our stubborn resistance in that opening conflict, which I have described, had praised us extravagantly, saying: “That Alabama regiment was composed of the most gallant fellows the world ever saw.” This restored our equanimity, and we concluded that if we had not come up to our previous ideas of our invincibility, maybe we had not done so badly after all, and perhaps our sweethearts at home would not scorn us as poltroons. One other profound inpression, however, was left on the minds, at least of some of us, by the events of that day, and especially when we came to gather up the mangled remains of so many of our late merry-hearted and beloved comrades – an impression which was not changed by all we saw in the succeeding four years, or by the lapse of time since, and that was – talk as men about great war-like deeds, heap plaudits on heroes and worship military glory how they will – war is from hell!

Transcribed from Peter Cozzens (ed.), Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 5, pp. 41-49. Brackets above are the editor’s. Per note therein, the original article first appeared in the Philadelphia Weekly Times, 2/26/1881, under the title First Battle of Bull Run.

William Mack Robbins at Ancestry

William Mack Robbins at Fold3

Interesting article on William Mack Robbins





Corp. Samuel J. English, Co. D, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Advance, Battle, and Retreat

7 02 2017

Camp Clark, July 24th/61
Washington, D. C.

Dear Mother

I rec’d your letter of the 21st shortly after our return to camp and take the earliest opportunity of writing. Yes, we have been & gone and done it. Last Thursday the 16th our brigade consisting of the two Rhode Island regiments, the New York 71st and the New Hampshire 2nd took up our line of march for Fairfax Court House. We crossed Long Bridge about 3 o’clock and continued on for six miles where we bivouacked for the night. Nothing occurred of importance to disturb our slumbers except the passing of troops bound on the same expedition. We commenced our march early in the morning, the 2nd R. I. regiment taking the lead and acting as skirmishers, Co. A taking the advance on the right; Co. D acting as flankers; Co. F acting as rear advance on the right of the column, Co. K[?] acting as advance on the left. Co. C as flankers and Co. G as rear guard. I cannot state exactly the strength of our forces at the time, but should judge there were seven or eight thousand, including 1500 cavalry and two Batteries of artillery with two howitzers belonging to the New York 71st Regt. When within half a mile of the village of Fairfax, word was sent that the rebels’ battery was directly in our line of march. Our artillery was immediately ordered to the front and fired three shots into it, making the sand fly, and showing pretty conclusively that the birds had flown. All the time this was taking place your humble servant was skirting around in the woods as a skirmisher and arrived in the village ahead of the main column. As our company arrived the streets presented the scene of the wildest confusion: old negroes running around, some laughing, some crying and some swearing at a fearful rate. The streets were strewn with the knapsacks, haversacks, canteens, blankets, shirts and most every article pertaining to camp life. The houses were deserted and in some places the tables were set for dinner and coffee warm on the stove. After strolling around a short time we quartered ourselves in the park of G. Lee and made ourselves as comfortable as circumstances would permit. The cavalry in the meantime pursuing the retreating rebels and capturing 30 of their men. What particularly pleased me was that the company that lost the mess was the Palmetto Guards and Brooks Guards of South Carolina, having lost all of their camp equipage and barely escaped with their lives. But to continue, the next day our colors started for Manassas but halted and camped three miles this side of Centreville, waiting for our troops and reinforcements to come up; the second regiment being somewhat in advance of the main army; we stay here for about three days and Sunday the 21st about 2 o’clock the drums beat the assembly and in ten minutes we were on our march for Bull Run having heard the enemy were waiting to receive us, our troops then numbering 25 or 30 thousand which were divided into three columns ours under Col Hunter taking the right through a thick woods. About eleven o’clock as our pickets were advancing through the woods a volley was poured in upon them from behind a fence thickly covered with brush; the pickets after returning the shots returned to our regiment and we advanced double quick time yelling like so many devils. On our arrival into the open field I saw I should judge three or four thousand rebels retreating for a dense woods, firing as they retreated, while from another part of the woods a perfect hail storm of bullets, round shot and shell was poured upon us, tearing through our ranks and scattering death and confusion everywhere; but with a yell and a roar we charged upon them driving them again into the woods with fearful loss. In the mean time our battery came up to our support and commenced hurling destruction among the rebels. Next orders were given for us to fall back and protect our battery as the enemy were charging upon it from another quarter, and then we saw with dismay that the second R. I. regiment were the only troops in the fight; the others having lagged so far behind that we had to stand the fight alone for 30 minutes; 1100 against 7 or 8 thousand. It was afterwards ascertained from a prisoner that the rebels thought we numbered 20 or 30 thousand from the noise made by us while making the charge. While preparing to make our final effort to keep our battery out of their hands, the 1st R. I. regiment then came filing over the fence and poured a volley out to them that drove them under cover again; they were followed by the New York 71st and the New Hampshire 2nd regiments; with 2,000 regulars bringing up the rear who pitched into the “Sechers” most beautifully. Our regiments were then ordered off the field and formed a line for a support to rally on in case the rebels over powered our troops. When the line had formed again I started off for the scene of action to see how the fight was progressing. As I emerged from the woods I saw a bomb shell strike a man in the breast and literally tear him to pieces. I passed the farm house which had been appropriated for a hospital and the groans of the wounded and dying were horrible. I then descended the hill to the woods which had been occupied by the rebels at the place where the Elsworth zouaves made their charge; the bodies of the dead and dying were actually three and four deep, while in the woods where the desperate struggle had taken place between the U.S. Marines and the Louisiana zouaves, the trees were spattered with blood and the ground strewn with dead bodies. The shots flying pretty lively round me I thought best to join my regiment; as I gained the top of the hill I heard the shot and shell of our batteries had given out, not having but 130 [?] shots for each gun during the whole engagement. As we had nothing but infantry to fight against their batteries, the command was given to retreat; our cavalry not being of much use, because the rebels would not come out of the woods. The R.I. regiments, the New York 71st and the New Hampshire 2nd were drawn into a line to cover the retreat, but an officer galloped wildly into the column crying the enemy is upon us, and off they started like a flock of sheep every man for himself and the devil take the hindermost; while the rebels’ shot and shell fell like rain among our exhausted troops. As we gained the cover of the woods the stampede became even more frightful, for the baggage wagons and ambulances became entangled with the artillery and rendered the scene even more dreadful than the battle, while the plunging of the horses broke the lines of our infantry, and prevented any successful formation out of the question. The rebels being so badly cut up supposed we had gone beyond the woods to form for a fresh attack and shelled the woods for full two hours, supposing we were there, thus saving the greater part of our forces, for if they had begun an immediate attack, nothing in heaven’s name could have saved us. As we neared the bridge the rebels opened a very destructive fire upon us, mowing down our men like grass, and caused even greater confusion than before. Our artillery and baggage wagons became fouled with each other, completely blocking the bridge, while the bomb shells bursting on the bridge made it “rather unhealthy” to be around. As I crossed on my hands and knees, Capt. Smith who was crossing by my side at the same time was struck by a round shot at the same time and completely cut in two. After I crossed I started up the hill as fast as my legs could carry and passed through Centreville and continued on to Fairfax where we arrived about 10 o’clock halting about 15 minutes, then kept on to Washington where we arrived about 2 o’clock Monday noon more dead than alive, having been on our feet 36 hours without a mouthful to eat, and traveled a distance of 60 miles without twenty minutes halt. The last five miles of that march was perfect misery, none of us having scarcely strength to put one foot before the other, but I tell you the cheers we rec’d going through the streets of Washington seemed to put new life into the men for they rallied and marched to our camps and every man dropped on the ground and in one moment the greater part of them were asleep. Our loss is estimated at 1,000, but I think it greater, the rebels lost from three to five thousand.

Rhodes, Robert Hunt, All For the Union: The Civil War Diary and Letters of Elisha Hunt Rhodes, pp. 32-35

Samuel J. English at Find-A-Grave 

Samuel J. English at Ancestry.com 

Samuel J. English at Fold3 





New Orleans Visit – Confederate Memorial Hall

1 09 2016

In this post, I hipped you to my recent trip to New Orleans. After our stop outside at Lee Circle, we paid the small ($8) fee to tour Confederate Memorial Hall – Louisiana’s Civil War Museum. The exterior is nice, but the inside is very impressive – lots of wood and open timbers. Way old-school, outside of the 20 minute video presented at the end of a hallway on a flat-screen TV. So much to see, and you can check out the history of the place at their website. As with anything that is Confederate in NOLA, don’t put off seeing it until your “next trip,” as it may very well be “lost in time, like tears in rain.” Lots and lots of manicuring going on in the town.

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One odd thing – the video mentioned a vast store of documents in the basement. When I asked the attendant how one gains access for research purposes, I was told one does not. I asked why and was told the documents are historic, hence no access. Ummm, OK, I guess.

Here are some photos, and I’ll try to let them do the talking for the most part. Click on any image for great big giant versions.

First, the exterior:

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The interior:

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Jefferson Davis ephemera:

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This is the crib used by Jeff Davis as a child, also used for his children.

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First Bull Run stuff:

  • Rob Wheat and the First Special Battalion:

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Stars and Bars of the First Special Battalion

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The story goes that, after his wounding at First Bull Run, Wheat was wrapped in these colors and borne from the field…

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…and that his bloodstains are still visible today

  • 6th Louisiana Infantry

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  • 7th Louisiana Infantry

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  • 8th Louisiana Infantry

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  • Washington Artillery

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About that piece of wood (click on the image to enlarge) – it was not likely taken from Sherman’s Battery at First Bull Run, as the battery was not captured there.

  • P. G. T. Beauregard

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Odds and Ends:

  • Benjamin Butler

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  • A Piano, confiscated – or rescued – at Jackson, MS in 1863

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  • Braxton Bragg

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Any Masons in the house?

Lee Circle

Metairie Cemetery





Some Little First Bull Run Uniform Illustrations

13 11 2015

WARNING – Fun stuff ahead. If you are easily offended, that is, super-easily offended, or if you’re just looking for a fight, run away now.

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Thanks to fellow blogger Robert Moore for directing me to some fine illustrations of Civil War uniforms by Bartek Drejewicz. Here’s his blog, and here’s his Facebook page. With his permission, lets take a look at this imagined soldier of the 1st Louisiana Special Battalion, a Tiger Zouave:

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And here’s a cannoneer of the Washington Artillery:

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And people ask me “why the interest in First Bull Run?” But really, take a look at the uniforms, if you can. He got more right than he got wrong, don’t you think? On the Tiger – gaiters, Bowie knife. And check out the WA on the artillerist’s kepi, and the short artillery sword.





“W.”, Co. E, 1st Special Louisiana Battalion, On the Battle

12 11 2012

More on the Manassas Battle.

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The following interesting letter from an officer in Major Wheat’s Battalion, addressed to his father, in this city, will be read with interest:

Battle-Field, Near Manassas Junction,

Wheat’s Battalion, July 2[?], 1861.

Dear Father — I received yours of 16th inst. yesterday night. I wrote you about same date from camp “Stuart,” and expect that you are in receipt of it, long ere the date of this.

We have been for the past week or ten days constantly on duty, our position, as the advance portion of the army, necessarily involved incessant and unflinching duties from officers and men. The enemy, previous to the 21st inst., were ubiquitous. The three or four battle previous to that date were well contested, but all resulted in their defeat. The camp equipage, baggage, &c., of our command were sent to the rear on the morning of the date of my last letter, and since then till now your son has been innocent of a change of linen or water to wash himself, except what the Heavens furnished in the shape of rain and dews, and they only contribute to render his dusty habiliments of the hue and character of the soil and road, with variegations of colors fixed and indelible.

Our duties have tried the mettle of our men; without covering, without blankets, half clothed, scarcely half fed, bivouacked where duty demanded our pickets to be placed, our men have stood it all, and bravely. I have seen them night after night lying uncovered in woods and fields, hungry and half-naked, (officers faring the same,) expecting the advance of the enemy every moment, without a murmur. Day after day, exposed to rains and an almost intolerable heat, they unflinchingly performed their duties. After marching and counter-marching, without tents, clothing or anything to render them at all comfortable, they  were led on the glorious morning of Sunday, 21st inst., to beat back Lincoln’s horde of northern barbarians, when for forty-eight hour previously they had not tasted food. Most gloriously did our battalion acquit itself. We have earned an undying fame.

The enemy, variously estimated at from 40,000 to 60,000, made a feint upon our front, which was easily and readily understood. Our battalion being in advance, and holding the post of honor on the left, were ordered to meet them as they endeavored to flank us. Our whole force did not number on the field 1800 men. Marching to take our position, we were fired upon by the South Carolina regiment and one of our company shot down; he fell at my feet. After the fire of the South Carolina regiment upon us from a point blank distance, concealed as they were in the woods, the enemy opened upon us a most terrific storm of shell, canister shot, chain shot, &c., taking position with only our little battalion, about 420 strong, the balance of our force of 1800 being under cover, we charged the enemy at the point of the bayonet and maintained, under the most incessant and murderous fire, for fully one hour, our position; and had our little battalion been supported we could have captured the enemy’s batteries and soon given another turn to events as they transpired.

I am anxious that you should hear from me, and cannot enter into a lengthened detail of the battle of the 21st. I write in a great hurry, but this I can say, that but for our battalion assuming the position it did, crossing a field at the charge, under the fire of eight thousand of the enemy, in position, protected by artillery, armed with the most improved weapons, the field would have been lost. All kinds of praise is accorded us. From Gen. Beauregard to the humblest private it is a source of wonderment how, being volunteers and unaccustomed to battle, we stood the fire we did. i can only say, personally, I endeavored to do my duty. I escaped most miraculously; fully one hundred shots were fired at me in a single instant. I entered into the engagement in my short sleeves, and showing a conspicuous mark, was fired upon from all points; just at the moment, at a deliberate aim, with my little carbine, I killed and officer or a man in front of their standard. The order to us being to fall back, as I retreated, being all alone, openly exposed, my white shirt a mark, I thought the eight thousand men opposed to our little battalion had opened upon me. Such an avalanche of shot, shell, &c., I do not care very soon to experience or risk the hazard of facing.

Our battalion was terribly cut up, seven commissioned officers of the eighteen who engaged in the battle being wounded. Our company lost half of its numbers in wounded. The flag we bore – ours being the centre flag company – evidences the fire we stood, there being no less than fifteen to eighteen perforations from the enemy’s bullets. I have not time to enumerate the wounded and killed, except of our company, and even this I may err in recapitulating, as returns are not complete:  Capt. Miller, small bone of leg broken; Lieutenant Dickinson, acting adjutant, shot through the thigh; Lieut Care, son of Dr. Carey, shot in the foot, and when lying on the field stabbed through the thigh by a Yankee officer, whom he killed; Major Wheat was shot early after the opening of the engagement, through the body, the bullet going entirely through his body, just back of both nipples; we thought he was killed, but he was brought from the field alive, and though pronounced mortally wounded he is fast recovering, and we only hope for him to live to lead us to millions of such glorious victories. We can whip the Yankees. At no time did we have more the 15,000 men engaged. Our battalion have earned their laurels. I cannot write more. I will send details, though I may have to copy many things embraced in this letter.

Thank God for my escape.

W.*

Daily True Delta, 8/8/1861

Clipping Image

*Possibly 1st Lt. William D. Foley

Contributed by John Hennessy





Tiger Rifles – Co. B, 1st Special Louisiana Battalion In the Battle

30 11 2011

News From The Tiger Rifles

The vivandier of the Tiger Rifles yesterday returned to this city from Manassas, and brought letters from two or three of the Tigers to their friends in this city. These letters give a detailed history of the Tiger’s sayings and doings since their departure hence, and especially their participation in the battles of Bull Run and Manassas. The loss of life among them, we are pleased to say, is much less than has been reported. They have twenty-six of their seventy-six, wholly uninjured, and several more who are but slightly wounded. That they fought like real tigers everybody admits and Gen. Johnston, it is said complimented them especially on the brave and desperate daring which they had exhibited. Lieut. Ned Hewitt reported here as having been killed, did not receive the slightest wound. Moreover, none of the officers of the Company were killed. Two of the Tigers who had been missing for several days after the fight, made their way to Manassas on Thursday last, one being slightly and other pretty badly wounded. The kindness of the Virginia ladies to the wounded soldiers is said to be beyond all praise – like that of a mother to a child or a wife to a husband. Soldiers so nursed and attended can never be anything else than heroes and conquerors.

The Daily True Delta, 8/1/1861.

Jackson Barracks – Historical Military Data on Louisiana Militia, Vol. 113, p. 16.





Wheat’s Battalion at Stone Bridge

29 11 2011

Wheat’s Battalion at Stone Bridge

Although we have made great exertions to procure for the readers of the Bee a full report of the killed and wounded Louisianians in the great battle of Manassas Plains, it has been impossible as yet to obtain it at any outlay of trouble or expense of the Washington Artillery, all of heard; of Hayes Seventh Regiment we have scattering information of different companies; the Sixth, Colonel Seymour has few or no casualties; we know nothing concerning Colonel Kelly’s  Eight, but believe it suffered very little. Of the special battalion, under Major Robert C. Wheat, we know, also, that from its position and the necessities of the crisis, it was called upon to sacrifice itself. How it answered to the call of duty, its decimated ranks and shattered column can better tell. Its only two field officers, Major Wheat and Adjutant Dickinson, are both badly wounded at Richmond. Dickinson reported that of its four hundred men, only a quarter are left, but a correspondent who had better [means] of information writes that at roll-call, after the battle, less than half answered to their names, and that many of those who did were wounded. With the gallant Georgia Eight who suffered nearly as bad, our dauntless man charged a whole division of the enemy, composing their picked men, regulars Fire Zouaves, and their onset is described by an eye-witness “terrific”. The Tiger Rifles having no bayonets to their Mississippi Rifles, threw them away when ordered to charge, and dashed upon the Fire Zouaves with bowie knives. They are said to have been surrounded and cut to pieces.

As we have been unable up to this time to get the names of the killed and wounded we present to-day the names of the gallant men who have won for [themselves] such imperishable laurels, nearly half, [again], finding the cypress entwined with them. This spartan band will never be forgotten to Louisiana or to the South. We have an additional reason for publishing this list in the fact that a great many people do not know and are anxious to ascertain which companies composed the battalion that has been so prominently brought into notice. Wheat’s Battalion comprised five companies of bold and sturdy men who were well known to be panting for just such an opportunity as that in which they found a field for their valor at the Stone Bridge. This spirit was exhibited by one of the companies choosing their name – Tigers – which they have upheld with their knives. While in Camp here they were accounted “hard nuts to crack”, and no none doubted that they would signalize themselves in battle. Their spirit so pleased A. Keene Richards, Esq. that he fitted them out in a dashing Zouave uniform at their expense. The Catahoula Guerillas, from Trinity, were all animated with the same resolve, to win a name, even if in death. The Walker Guards were a hardy, experienced band of Nicaraguan boys who took their title from General W. Walker. The Delta Rangers and the Old Dominion Guard were crack companies of fighting men. Major Wheat has been Captain of the Old Dominions, and he took his Adjutant  from that company. We take the following list from the State muster rolls.

[Roster of Special Battalion of Louisiana Volunteers follows, see link below.]

New Orleans Bee, 8/1/1861.

Jackson Barracks – Historical Military Data on Louisiana Militia, Vol. 113, pp. 3 – 4.