Image: Cpl. Guilford Wiley Wells, Co. G, 27th New York Infantry

24 06 2020

Guilford Wiley Wells, US Representative from Mississippi, 1875-1877 (Source)

Cpl. Guilford Wiley Wells, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

24 06 2020

Another Letter from the 27th.

The following letter descriptive of the Battle of Bull Run and incidents pertaining thereto is from a member of the Lima company, in the 27th regiment. We have already published a number of letters from members of that regiment who took an active part in the bloody work, but we venture to five one more.

Camp Anderson,
Washington, July 2[?], 1861.

Dear Father, Mother, Brother and Sister: I now take my pencil to write you, that your uneasiness in reference to me may be quieted, as you no doubt ere this have heard that our regiment was all cut to pieces in the Battle at Bull Run, and probably think that I was either killed or wounded. But I am not, though I am all fagged out, as I was on the march and in the battle from 2 o’clock Sunday morning until 7 o’clock Monday night, and not having anything to eat except four or five crackers in the forenoon of Sunday.

As I suppose you and my friends of Conesus are anxious to hear, I will give you a short description, as I saw it, and I was in it from beginning to the end. Our regiment was the first which charged on the enemy, notwithstanding the papers said it was another regiment, which the Washington papers corrected this morning.

I will give you the details of the battle. We marched in the morning for Bull Run, which was about ten miles from where we were encamped. We passed around the enemy’s batteries and succeeded in outflanking them, and arrived on the ground at 11 o’clock. On our march we did not find but one drop of water, and then it was dirty water – so dirty that it was not fit to drink even by a beast, but as our canteens were empty we filled them. When we reached Bull Run we did not have time to get water or anything to eat. We then marched down to the woods, where the enemy were all alone, but when we arrived at the woods we saw a regiment who swung their handkerchiefs and showed our colors, and we supposed them to be our friends, but our suppositions were all false, for when we reached the end of their line and they were about twenty rods from us, they flanked us and fired, which of course surprised us, but we returned the fire and charged upon them, and drove them into the woods. Our loss was very great. They killed or wounded over half at the first fire. We rallied around our colors, and were ordered to retreat. As the batteries opened fire upon us with large cannon and shell, we fell down flat, loaded, then charged upon them again, when another regiment entered the field to our aid. Then followed the whole force. We then drove them out of the woods on the hill beyond. Then commenced one of the hardest fought battles, I think, ever fought on this continent. First one retired, then the other, but still we drove them. At the same time the groans of the wounded and dying were singularly blended with the roaring of cannon and the rattle of musketry. Oh, such a sight I never want to see again. You can have some idea of it if for once you will imagine the people of Conesus all together, and all wailing and groaning, and each covered with blood, while the people of Livonia were there, and there lying dead. This would be something like the sight which I gazed upon Sunday.

O, mother, you never saw suffering like that which is exhibited on the battle field I saw one man who had five balls put through him, and yet was alive, but there was no doctor to dress his wounds, and he walked [?] miles and fell down exhausted and died. I saw many upon our retreat who could not have walked had it not been that the enemy were following them with the intention of taking all prisoners that they could reach. This served to inspire them with energy sufficient to keep on the march until from utter exhaustion they dropped down.

But I am wandering from my story. We fought for [?] hours. Some of the time we thought victory was just coming, but at that time a new battery would open on us. We would then work to silence it, and then another would open, and in that way we fought until our ammunition gave out, and we found the enemy had plenty left, and were using it to the very best advantage. We then were ordered to rally once more around our flag, but the regiments were too much broken, yet they succeeded in rallying about 1,000, but the Black Horse Cavalry made a charge on us and we were obliged to leave on a run. We left many valuable things on the ground. I for one left may coat and haversack with all I had to eat. As we left, we overtook the Rhode Island Regiment with their cannons, and as most of the horses were shot, they were obliged to cut the [?] and leave the pieces on the ground for the enemy. We left scattered all over the ground, with men running in every direction. We left at the hospital all out wounded, and we did not have wagons enough to draw them. The doctor remained until the commenced to throw shell upon the hospital, something which was never known before. As the building caught fire the doctor took his horse and cut through the cavalry. They then made a charge upon the hospital killing all who were so unfortunate as to be wounded in it. We had a number of our company – three or four – from East Bloomfield, one from Honeoye Falls, two from Lima, and the 1st Corporal. How many more we can’t say, as we know of many who are missing, but do not know whether they were killed or wounded. We did not succeed in getting a wounded man away or burying those who were killed. They used us worse than ever man was used by Indians, as they skulked behind trees, fences, and whenever we left a wounded man on the field, they rushed out and cut his throat.

But again, after we arrived on top of the hill, we marched to a house. Upon arriving on the other side, the first thing we knew, they commenced throwing shell at us. They fell among us like hail, without much harm. I found I could not go much further. A wagon came along and I put everything – gun and accoutrements – in it and left as fast as I could, which was not very fast, being without anything to east from 2 o’clock in the morning – without rest, and running most of the way. We found two regiments at Centreville, but they were so close upon us we were obliged to leave en masse.

The drivers commenced to run their horses – flipping over and breaking the wagons. Our loss of wagons must have been 30 or 40 left filled, [?] a [? ?] which they took from us. As I passed along the road I found many who wished me to give them something to eat, saying that they had had nothing for 24 hours. As I was in the same fix I could not administer to their wants. I had nothing to eat until a black woman gave me a small piece of biscuit, which tasted as good as anything I had ever had. I arrived at Washington Monday night at 7 o’clock in the rain, wet through and cold as I could well be. I went into Willard’s Hotel and they gave me something to eat, and I found a fire to dry myself. I then went to my barracks, found a hard board to lie on, which seemed much better than the cold ground. I am well now. A lady here gave me plenty to eat and some salt and water to wash my feet in, as they were very much swollen. She seemed to take as much interest in me as though I were her own boy. She came up this morning and took me down to her house for breakfast. I write this on a board on the ground. I will try and write a more [?] letter next time.

G. Wiley Wells

Rochester (NY) Union Advertiser, 7/31/1861

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Pvt. John Alden Copeland, Co. G, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

23 06 2020


Washington, July 24, 1861.

Dear Father – When I left Washington a week ago yesterday I did not expect to see it again under such circumstances as surround me at present. I arrived here last night, direct from the battle field, tired and foot sore, but in good spirits. I was the last almost to return, and found that my name had been entered upon the list of the killed.

Sunday morning, at [?] o’clock, our division left camp, three miles north of Centreville, and marched till noon – about [?] miles – when the battle commenced. After we emerged from the woods – the greatest forest I ever traveled, our route through it being about [?] miles – we were drawn up in battle front, our regiment being the leader. We then went on a run for three miles to the battle field. One of our boys stopped to fill several canteens before we started, and I carried his gun to the field, in addition to my own, and at the same time I was loaded with my haversack, containing three day’s provisions, two blankets, and 40 rounds of cartridges. When I got to the field I threw aside everything except my gun and cartridge box, and took my place in the ranks under heavy fire from the enemy’s artillery, and charged up the hill with the boys, but when half way up, I fell from exhaustion, with several others. I staid about fifteen minutes, and then summoned strength to rejoin our regiment, and crawled over the hill, the balls flying like hail around me. I met our Lieut. Col. Chambers galloping back to get help for our regiment, and he rushed up to one of the field officers and in his stuttering way called for aid, for heaven’s sake, to relieve our boys. He said that they were surrounded in the woods below. When I heard this I ran down in the woods and found our regiment retreating, carrying back our Col., wounded in the thigh, with several of our company wounded but none killed. – Other companies had some of their members killed. Here we made a stand, the balls of the artillery and musketry whizzing over our heads in a perfect storm. Our Major took command and led us out of the woods, to make, as we thought, a second charge. Our Colonel nearly wept when he could not lead us further, and ordered that we should be taken from the field, as we had already had our share of the fight, and were enough cut up without hazarding further loss of life. We left the woods, the fight raging all around us, and lay down behind the banks of a creek, as it was almost instant death to lose cover, as the enemy were continually unmasking new and unseen batteries upon us, and all well planned with good engineers. They had nearly 100,000 men arrayed against us, and they had reinforcements pouring in continually from Manassas, four miles distant.

The battle was in reality the long, long looked for struggle which was to come off at Manassas, although it took place at Bull Run. We had scarcely 15,000 troops to oppose them, and with this odds against us, we drove them from the field three times, forcing their batteries into the woods. But the woods were filled with their troops, and they could lead fresh men to the attack continually. More than that, there was on our side no order whatever. Each Col. attacked or withdrew from field when he pleased, and that is the way the fight was carried on. Our regiment and another went first into the fight, and after driving the enemy from the field, unsustained, were driven back by the guerilla hordes, who never gave us a chance to use the bayonet. Notwithstanding their superiority of numbers, they fled to the cover, and played Indian through it all. Thus the fight continued until the retreat was ordered. I was never in a battle before, but I never saw a braver set of men in my life, than our volunteers. The regulars were less enthusiastic, and seemed to be pushed to the charge, while the volunteers would come rushing along, hurrahing with all their might, driving the enemy into their thicket fast[?], when they were only forced back by the murderous fire of masked batteries and concealed musketry, leaving their wounded to be butchered by the boasted chivalry of the South. Our artillery did terrible execution, but the enemy would bring two pieces to our one, against us. Sherman’s battery was first on the field and mowed down whole ranks of the retreating enemy, and as the remnants came flying past our regiment, we were about to fire upon them when they hoisted the Stars and Stripes, and they were suffered to pass. After getting by, they put up their true colors, and poured a whole broadside into our regiment. Our Colonel, when he saw them, said, “Boys, there are the rascals, fire!” But another countermanded the order, supposing them to be our friends, and thus they escaped. Our boys were mad at this deception, as they were entirely in our power.

Ellsworth’s and Brooklyn Zouaves were about the last to leave the field, and received the special attention of the enemy. The white cap South Carolina Zouaves charged upon them, and the way they routed the Carolinians was a treat to see. They are large swarthy fellows, and hung to each other like brothers, and the enemy have a great terror of them.

When we left the field we expected to encamp on the ground we had taken, and the bold front we showed on our retreat undoubtedly saved us from utter destruction. They did not dare to follow us, having seen too much of our fight during the day, to attack us. But we had not proceeded three miles before it was known throughout the line that we were in a full retreat to the [?], and then the rout commenced. Instead of [?], the regiment broke up, and there was nothing to be seen but a long line of fugitives hurrying to the North. Before we entered the woods the cry arose that the cavalry were upon us, and such a scramble I never saw. The officers ordered the men to the cover to save themselves. Baggage-wagons, artillery, ambulances and carriages of every description, thundered on by us, and the whole route was strewn with broken wagons, or [?] men filled [? ? ?] and all the appurtenances of war, [?] large [?] of private property belonging to the officers.

Thus the road continued through the forest, and when we emerged from the woods we were attacked by a masked battery and the Black Horse Cavalry. Our cavalry rushed on with our artillery in order to save it, and it was saved. Where we came out of the woods there was a deep gully, and here the battery poured down upon the stream of fugitives. The Zouaves charged upon the battery, took two rifled cannon, and cut up the Black Horse Cavalry terribly, thus saving Sherman’s battery and adding two pieces to it. The loss of Sherman’s battery would have been worse than losing a battle to the United States. When they fired upon us I turned to the left and waded a creek three feed deep and passed on toward Centreville; but before I reached the road I came upon the encampment of the New York 69th Regiment, and found them united with the 14th for mutual safety. They were expecting a night attack and lay upon their arms all night. They had secured guides who were to lead them early in the morning to Alexandria, and I concluded to stay and go with them. A soldier of another regiment laid down with me and went to sleep. I woke twice during the night, and the regiments were still on the ground; but, finally, I got into a sound sleep and did not wake up until my comrade awoke me, when he told me the whole body of troops were gone, and we were alone beyond Centreville. I must say that things looked tickelish, but I was determined to pick my way through if such a thing were possible. It was cloudy and raining some when we started, and, inasmuch as I went to bed on the bar ground the night before, after wading the creek, soaking wet and also after marching all day from two o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night, with the battle thrown in, I did not feel much like taking a [?] march of some twenty miles to Washington, as I knew I must, a point of safety. We avoided Centreville by crossing the fields and came on in the highway leading from Alexandria to Richmond, but being uncertain of this we took another road leading to Manassas, and I know not how far we should have followed it but for a farmer, who put us on the right track. This was quite a delay as we went about two miles out of the way, and it was about seven o’clock in the morning. When we reached the road we found to our dismay that we were nearly the last of the returning fugitives. I felt very hungry, and although the road was strewed with crackers, bread, sugar and coffee, I did not have time to sit down, build a fire and cook a good dish of coffee, which I might have done at every rod of the way between Centreville and Fairfax. Beef, pork, crackers, bread and sugar lined the roadsides, and the farmers along the route must have picked up enough plunder to feed them for that year, while the enemy, who followed us, must have seized a large number of fine baggage wagons and large amounts of military stores.

I kept up spunk and a quick pace, and I reached Fairfax about three o’clock, P. M. After resting a little, I pushed on, and having overtaken some boys of our regiment, we got a good cup of coffee some four miles this side of Fairfax. It rained in the afternoon steady, but I kept the India Rubber blanket you sent me, and it was of great service to me. I too the road to Alexandria and others went to Arlington Heights. I reached Alexandria about seven P. M., and found Lieut. Hall, and some twenty boys of our regiment. As we could not get to Washington by boat that night, we took up our quarters in the building of the famous Alexandria library. The next day, P. M., went to Washington on foot, and found our regiment out on dress parade, and when our lieutenant marched us into camp before their eyes, it was a joyful sight for both.

This was probably one of the hardest fought battle we have ever had in America, and the rout beats anything I ever read of in our history. Braddock’s defeat, or Green’s retreat, did not begin with it. The Rebels will never give us a fair field fight, and we must bring the heaviest artillery in order to shell them out of their masked batteries. Our Colonel is loved by all the regiment, but the general movement of the army was in unskillful hands. I am a little foot sore and stiff after marching some sixty miles in two days, but I want to get at those rebels again.

J. A. Copeland

Later. – We have just been favored with the perusal of an interesting letter from a volunteer in the 27th regiment, attached to a Binghamton company. He describes minutely the progress of his regiment from Washington to Bull Run and back so far as he understands the movements.

At the point where the 27th went into battle they were the second regiment to engage the enemy, and drove them before them. Suddenly a regiment came out of a piece of woods and the men waved their caps. Col. Slocum thought they were Federal troops and would not fire upon them. They marched up within pistol shot, threw out a secession flag, and opened fire upon the 27th with rifles, the latter being armed with muskets. The 27th returned the fire sharply and compelled them to retire, but when they got out of musket range they poured in the bullets from their rifles and made bloody work. Col. Slocum sent to the New York 14th, near by, for help, but it was refused. At length he ordered his men to retreat to a cover of woods for protection and rest. While on the retreat the Colonel received a shot in his thigh and was borne away to the hospital. Soon after the 27th was ordered to join in a general assault, and went in with other regiments bravely, driving the rebels back to the cover of their masked batteries. Finally the retreat of the Federal army commenced. The 27th left the field in good order, but were charged upon by the rebel cavalry, which broke them up and each man took care of himself.

Rochester (NY) Union Advertiser, 7/30/1861

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Hospital Steward Daniel W. Bosley, Co. E, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

12 06 2020

From the Twenty-Seventh.

Mr. Daniel W. Bosley, of the 27th Regiment, Company E, who was employed assisting the Surgeons during the engagement between Bull’s Run and Manassas, writes to a friend as follows:

Washington, July 25th, 1861.

I received your welcome letter on Tuesday, the second day after the battle of Bull’s Run, which, I suppose, you have already heard of. – Sunday and Monday were two of the hardest days I ever experienced. We left our camp at 4 o’clock, Sunday morning, and marched fourteen miles to the battle ground. I did not have to fight. I remained in the back ground with the Doctor. The enemy was situated on a hill, behind masked batteries. Our troops took position on another hill, with a fine valley between them, the batteries playing from each hill. The federal troops behaved nobly; but for want of proper officers, (not outs,) ammunition, and besides that the boys were so tired that they could hardly walk, they were compelled to retreat. The battle lasted from 12 till 4 o’clock, when we retreated from the field, and marched to Washington, a distance of 40 miles. We carried some provisions with us, but the men threw all encumbrances away as they went into battle; therefore we had to march from Sunday morning to Monday morning, without resting over five minutes at a time, and without any sleep or anything to eat, going nearly sixty miles, and drank water that you would not wash your hands in.

I felt very stiff for one or two days afterwards, but now I feel first rate, and am anxious to go back, for the rest of the boys are willing to go. We will clean them out yet.

Only four of Wanzer’s company are missing; John Clague – Instantly killed. W. H. Merrill – wounded. Taken to the hospital, and the hospital was afterward burned by the rebels – Hamlin – foot shot off. Left to the tender mercies of the foe, and McGettrick – “sun struck.” I helped him a mile, when the cavalry charged on us, and I had to leave him.

I had to dodge cannon balls right and left, when from curiosity I ventured too near the fight. I captured a “secesh musket,” and the other boys took some swords, muskets and revolvers.

From your affectionate friend,
Daniel W. Bosley.

Rochester (NY) Democrat and American, 7/29/1861

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Pvt. Duncan L. Brown, Co. E, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

29 05 2020

War Correspondence

Letter from Duncan Brown, of Captain Wanzer’s Company – Description of the Battle – Col. Slocum Wounded – Corporal W. H. Merrill Twice Wounded and Removed to the Hospital – Death of John Clague and Wm. Hanlon – The Retreat and Arrival in Washington – Return of Missing Privates, &c.

Camp Anderson, Washington
July 23d, 1861

You have heard ere this of the battle at Manassas Junction. I have seen a battle field before, but I hope never to see another like that of last Sunday. The entire division was ordered to march at two o’clock on Sunday morning. They were encamped about eight miles from Manassas, and had nothing to eat except pilot bread and some fresh beef, but neither coffee not tea to nourish them. But, notwithstanding, they started in the finest spirits, and marched to the scene of the action. About eleven in the morning they came in sight of the rebels. But instead of three divisions, ours was the only one which was there to engage the enemy. But there was no thought of backing out on our part. Under a broiling sun the 27th were put to the double quick up a hill, and held their own until five o’clock, when McDowell, gave the order to retreat. Col. Slocum, (a braver man never lived) was seriously wounded and carried off the field by Capt. Wanzer and Lieut. Baker. He was conveyed to Washington, where he is now doing as well as can be expected. The doctors think he will be able to be with us in about six weeks.

But my hand trembles as I write you the disasters in our company. Poor Merrell, the regular correspondent of the Express, who was one of the color guard, stood by the flag until twice wounded – once in the arm and in the groin – when he was carried off the field and taken to a house used as a hospital for the wounded. But how can I tell you the remainder?

[The writer proceeds in the narration of incidents, which, for humanity’s sake, and especially in consideration of the feelings of those who are nearly related to the sufferer named, we feel it is our duty to suppress. He continues as follows:]

But there is a day of retribution at hand, and we will be revenged.

My pen again fails me to tell you of another who fell – one whom I loved more than a brother – John Clague, formerly a clerk in Rochester’s banking office, who was shot in the back, the ball passing out at the right breast. He lived about an hour, in the most horrible agony. He was only in his 19th year, but he fell, doing his duty under the flag he had sworn to protect. – The greatest regret is felt in the company, for he was beloved by all. The night before the battle, I was getting provisions for the regiment, (being in the Quartermaster’s department,) and being very busy, I could not go to supper; and he being fearful that I would have to go without, came to me and told me where I could find it, when I could get a chance to eat. Before parting, he told me that the regiment had orders to move before morning, and in a playful manner said: “Good bye, Brown, I may not have a chance to speak to you again.” These were the last word I ever heard him utter. But, although dead, he never will be forgotten by me.

Another boy, named William Hanlon, had his leg shot off, while trying to get around the brow of a hill. The poor fellow asked to be run through the heart with a bayonet, to put him out of his misery. He was taken to the same building as Merrell. * * * There are about 20 missing out of our company, but I hope they will mostly all turn up.

Hon. Alfred Ely was on the field as a spectator, and although urged not to expose himself, determined on crossing to the 13th. He was accompanied by Dist. Attorney Huson, and their rashness has probably cost them their lives.

There was a report in the city yesterday that Mr. Ely has been killed, and his body brought to Arlington. This is untrue. I saw three of Capt. Brown’s company this morning, and they say that the report at Arlington is that he is a prisoner. C. D. Tract, of the Express, was also present. I have endeavored to learn something of him, but without success. I can only hope he is safe.

I was not engaged in the field, being guard over the provision train, which halted [illegible…] whistled around like hail. I arrived at Long Bridge on Monday morning, with the train safe but tired and hungry. Col. Rogers, of Buffalo, with his usual kindness, had hot coffee and cooked meat in readiness for us, which, I tell you, came just in time, for hundreds could not have marched a mile farther, having had nothing to eat for nearly 72 hours, and having marched over 70 miles during 21 hours. We will probably march again in a few weeks, when our battle-cry will be “revenge.”

Although the scene was horrible, there were many laughable incidents, one of which I will mention. Horace Hibbard, and a chap we call “Black Tom,” members of our company, while on the retreat, came across a wagon drawn by four horses. The teamster was in the act of cutting the traces, when Hibbard seized him by the neck and started him for the woods. He then mounted the saddle horse, and Black Tom one of the leaders, and started, as they thought, for Washington, but instead brought up at Alexandria. Hibbard had made up his mind to sell the leaders to get something to eat, but you can imagine his disappointment, when he found they were branded with the U. S. mark.

The men who are missing in our company, beside the dear, are Jenks, Ambrose, Burbank, and Hosmer. The dead are Merrell, Clague, and Hanlon. It was Bull’s Run instead of Manassas where the battle took place.

I saw Smith and Bronson, two printers from your city, who belong to the cavalry.

Sergeant Webster, on the retreat up the hill, never turned his back upon the enemy, but kept a bold face and loaded and fired until darkness set in. The enemy’s artillery was loaded by niggers, and fired by white rebels.

Later. – Burbank, Jenks, and Hosmer have come in, leaving only two missing, exclusive of the dear. Hon. A. Ely is a prisoner at Bull’s Run.

Rochester (NY) Evening Express, 7/29/1861

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Surgeon Norman S. Barnes, 27th New York Infantry, On the Retreat

28 05 2020

War Correspondence

[Our special dispatches of yesterday, 4 P. M., announced that Norman S. Barnes, of this city, Surgeon of the 27th regiment, was among the “wounded and missing.” At a later hour the following communication was received by Mrs. Barnes, from which we are permitted to make the following extracts. It will be seen that Surgeon B., although wounded, effected his escape, and is now in safety.]

Extracts from a Private Letter from Surgeon Barnes of 27th Regiment.

Camp Anderson
Washington, July 23d, 1861.

I am only slightly wounded, not so bad that I can sit up and attend to or superintend the care of the wounded.

Indeed, we have had a most terrific battle; the details of it you will get in the papers. The N. Y. Times’ reporter was near the scene of action, and retreated with us. Their papers will be a more reliable one on that account.

It was impossible to keep out of the way of danger. Cannon balls, grape, cannister and musket balls flew thick and fast about us; men and horses were killed all around me.

One horse was killed under me; I lost my coat, belt, sash, sword, &c; all my instruments and medicines. I amputated twenty five limbs. But the poor fellows were afterwards shoot, or bayoneted, or had their throats cut. ‘Twas a sorry sight.

As soon as I found that no respect was to be paid to Surgeons or to their wounded, I made up my mind to take care of myself. Up to this time I had not fired a shot; m revolver now did its duty. After that I took from a rebel soldier, somewhat against his will, a minie rifle – this served me better.

As I now had become a fighting man, I was compelled to join the ”rear guard” of the now rapidly retiring army. My horse Prince, that had been careering over the battle field on his own account, having broken away from the man in whose charge I left him, was no where to be seen; and with balls flying thick around me, and the rebels at our heels, I thought that on your account as well as my own, I’d take to the woods. Fourteen miles we – tired, hungry and thirsty fellows, fifteen or twenty thousand – pushed our way through the woods on foot.

We had not ne mouthful to eat or drink, except from mud-puddles. About fourteen miles from the battle-filed, my horse came along on a full run, with two men on him, fleeing for dear life. They dismounted, and I had it somewhat easier, but with a tired horse, bleeding at his sides, covered with foam and almost exhausted. After getting on him, and proceeding four or five miles, we were charged in the rear, where I still was, by a numerous body of the rebels, a large number on horse, and also by their flying artillery. About three hundred were killed, as nearly as we can calculate, from recent inspection.

A bridge which was just before us was blown to pieces, while I was fording the stream. Dr. Morse kept close to my side, and how we were saved I do not know, except it be through God. One thing, I do not remember that I once felt the least frightened, but made my calculations without confusion.

We left out camp, about forty miles from Washington, at 2 o’clock Sunday morning; overtook the enemy, strongly entrenched, about 18 miles distant; commenced action at 1:00; and after six hours hard fighting against more than twice our number; retreated to Washington, 58 miles. During all this time our men had been without food. We reached here yesterday morning at 8 o’clock. Since then a few stragglers have come in.

I’ve written in haste, surrounded by wounded soldiers, and giving directions to my assistants, unless in some important cases.

N. S. B.

Rochester (NY) Evening Express, 7/27/1861

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Pvt. Thomas Westcott. Co. F, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

21 05 2020

Letter from W. H. Westcott.

Eds. Express: – As the Express has a large circulation in Clarendon, its readers may be pleased to read this letter from Thos. Westcott, private in Capt. H. Smith’s Company.

Truly yours,

Camp Union, July 21, 1861

Dear Brother: – Yesterday I returned to this Camp from a hard, long and bloody battle. The Clarendon boys have all arrived safe and sound. Tell Mr. Copeland that I saw Alden after the fight; he is alive and well.

I will now try and give a little account of the fight. We started from Fairfax, or near there, Sunday morning at 2 ½ o’clock. I assure you it was the most awful Sunday I have ever seen or hope to see again. After marching six miles beyond Centreville, we filed off the main road into a large wood, then marched at left flank until we reached the edge again. Here we lay about two hours, then Gen. Tyler ordered two companies of our regiment to a hill. Those ordered were ours (Capt. Smith’s) Co. G. and Co. A. – Upon arriving on the hill, we then caught first sight of the enemy. We commenced firing on them as soon as they opened on us, but without any effect. While we were there the enemy marched towards the east and way off to the right. We saw one of our divisions advancing towards them, soon two batteries of our Brigades belched forth furiously on them, but they did not return the fire.

On this little hill we remained two hours, then returned to our regiment, and staid about half an hour; now the heavy cannon thundered, the long and steady cracking of musketry told plainly the work had commenced. Orders came for us to march forward as fast as possible. We did so, making good time, until we reached a wide creek, which we forded without much delay. No place could be found to get the batteries across, as the banks of the creek were high and steep. This caused us to fight with great disadvantages. On this eminence could be seen the batteries playing from both sides; soon the enemy began to retreat in great confusion, and the principal thing going on, was taking rebel prisoners.

Forward, march! – and now we are in the thickest of the fight. O, the destruction of men and horses! What a sight! I revolt to tell particulars. Stopping a few moments urged the enemy to open on us a terrific fire. The ground was heaving and flying in every direction. We were ordered to march toward the battery – but halted in a gully. Here we lay until one of our batteries passed up the hill to play on the enemy. While we were here, Col. Slocum and regiment passed. I watched for Alden Copeland; soon he came along looking pretty hard. I asked him how he liked the “fellers” whistling over us, and whether they made him dodge or no. He said the shells from cannon he dreaded, but the bullets he got along with well enough.

While marching along, I looked up and saw two balls coming that had struck the ground and were on the bound. They were about 20 feet in the air and [?] feet apart. Says I to Clinton, “Look at those balls!” They passed over our heads and struck in Capt. Nolte’s Company. – They hit the first men I saw fall in our Regiment. The battery of the enemy now ceased firing and we were ordered to march across the creek and up the hill, passing along for 40 rods, were ordered to the left flank, right wheel; we did so,, halted, dropped down, and waited for the enemy. While laying here, the 27th marched on up the road to support our battery, working on the enemy whose battery raked ours, killing all the horses that were to draw the pieces. Two regiments supporting the rebel battery, moved towards us on the brow of a hill. Here, for the first time, I saw the rebel flag or rag, as it soon became when in sight of our regiment. – Here our company suffered; two were wounded – one in the arm, the other in the neck and arm. The closest call I got, was by the ball that took effect in the poor fellow’s neck; it passed through my cape which was wound around my blanket, and slung across my shoulder. We lay there pouring bullets on them like hail. I was our rebel flag bearers shot down. Our cartridges were nearly gone so we retreated a short distance and made a stand, firing away our last cartridge.

About this time the enemy received large reinforcements – what an awful volley of balls were poured down on us – we were compelled to retreat, leaving many dead and wounded on the field. We were not scratched, but to see horses running away, tearing everything to pieces, was frightful.

We left for Centreville about six o’clock, ad there met reinforcements which went on to Bull Run to guard the wagons. That evening we marched to Fairfax, where I fell out of rank and made up my mind to go no further that night. I soon found a barn, a buffalo skin, and laid down for the night, not caring for the consequences. At six in the morning I awoke hungry and sore.

I made up my mind I never could walk to camp, so a conveyance was found, and I rode into camp about noon. The most of the boys returned bare-footed, their feet being much blistered. I think the loss in our Regiment is about 50 killed and wounded.

I have always had a strong desire to see a fight. I have now seen it. Now I have a desire to have just one more chance at them, then I am done. I don’t like to fight where the balls are only bullets. They are of no consequence.

I staid last night in a corn house with some Couth Carolina prisoners. Our force brought away many such fellows; some New Orleans Zouaves are here. I have no more time to write, so wait a little while longer.


Rochester (NY) Evening Express, 7/29/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

13th New York Infantry Roster 

Thomas Westcott at 

Thomas Westcott at Fold3 

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Pvt. John W. Burrows, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

2 01 2018

The Gallant 27th — Letters from our Volunteers.


Much praise is awarded the 27th Regiment of N. Y. State Volunteers for their heroic conduct on the field at Bull Run. While our citizens will feel a thrill of patriotic pride as they rehearse the noble deeds of all those fighting in their country’s cause, they will look with peculiar interest upon the doings of the particular regiment in which most of those who have left this vicinity have enrolled. The three Companies formed at Binghamton, and in which several residents of this and adjoining towns enlisted, are in the 27th regiment. This regiment was one of the last to leave Elmira for the seat of war, and they had scarcely formed camp at Washington before they were ordered to proceed with the grand army towards Manassas. They were the first in the field on the battle of Sunday, having marched 15 miles, (the last mile and a half in double-quick time.) They had no breakfast, and while weary and faint, were ordered under fire. They went gallantly into action, and performed wondrous deeds of valor, fighting constantly throughout the day, and being among the last to leave the field when the retreat took place. Their Colonel, Slocum, was wounded, and the whole regiment terribly cut up. Their fighting was harder and their loss greater than any other regiment except the 69th and the Fire Zouaves. The following are among the killed in this regiment: Norman S. Miller, (Chenango Forks;) Wesley Randall and Asa Parks, (Binghamton;) Frank Spencer, (Coventry;) Col. Slocum, and Lieut. Col. Chambers.

There may be other names familiar in this vicinity but we have learned of none. Sergt. A. G. Northrup, (formerly of this village,) reported missing, has turned up. He fell asleep from exhaustion, during the retreat, and was two days getting into camp.

There have been several letters received from the seat of war by the friends of our volunteers. We have been furnished with two, from which we make copious extracts. The first is from Delos Payne, of this village, a member of Company D, Capt. Rogers, 27th regiment, to his wife. * * * The following extracts are from a letter from John W. Burrows, of this town, a member of the same company:

Washington, July 24, 1861

Dear Brother and Sister: * * * We have had a hard battle since I wrote you last. Last Sunday will long be remembered. Our regiment was a picket guard on Saturday night, until 2 o’clock, when we were ordered to march. We were encamped between Fairfax and Centerville, Va. We marched within six miles of the battle field, when six regiments were sent six miles around to flank the enemy, while the main force attacked them in front. We marched around to the field. Here McDowell ordered us to take the right of the battery. We marched half a mile to do it, while the enemy poured shell and chain shot and grape and cannon balls into our midst. We were the first on the ground. We marched down into a small hollow, to take a battery, the enemy on both sides of us. Here the battle commenced in good earnest. We returned the fire on both sides, until one party run up the stars and stripes and surrendered. We marched up to take them when they opened fire on us again, on both sides. We stood and fought as long as there was any chance for us. Napoleon B. Elliot, Frank Spencer, Pardee, and myself got in a file. We fought so until Pardee was shot, and the whole regiment was broken up. We loaded and fired as fast as we could. The infantry fell back a little and we tried to form a line. Our Captain was wounded, and he spoke to me to help, but we could only get eight or ten in line. The firing again commenced on both sides, and we saw the cavalry was going to attack us. We were in no shape to meet them and had to retreat.

Another regiment came to assist us. We met them on the top of the hill, just marching into the field. Our Colonel, Lieut. Col. and our Captain, were wounded, and Ensign was shot dead. We tried to get into other regiments, as ours was so badly cut up it had orders not to attempt to form, but they were all numbered and would not take us in. Elliott was almost melted. We found some water which was muddy, and a dog lay asleep in it. We drank what we dared to, and then went to the woods where the wounded were carried. There was a hard sight. Some had their legs shot to pieces; some had their legs off; some their arms; some were shot through the neck; one sat leaning against a tree spitting large mouthfuls of blood. They were dying in all shapes. One had a bullet put through his head; it come out just between the eyes, and he still breathed; some had their faces blown all to pieces; some had their heads cut off. The living ones bore their pain well.

Our whole force retreated. When we came back to where we left the main road to flank them, their cavalry attacked us at the bridge, and killed quite a number. What become of the main force that was to attack them in front I don’t know; they didn’t help us. We had nothing to cover our retreat and were driven back to Washington. The Southern army was twice as large as ours. They had three masked batteries; one behind the other, and their men in the woods. They would retreat from one to have our men come up and take it; then they would open on us with another and the infantry; then the cavalry would cut us down. They had their whole force there – about 100,000 men. Beauregard was there himself.

I never heard any thing sound better than the chain shot, shell and cannon balls did when they passed over and by us. They sounded so good I was almost willing to be hit by them, though of course I know it would be all day with me if they did. I had no fear of them – they sounded like a jay bird.

We had a hard tramp of it. We went two nights without sleep, and marched 15 miles to battle without eating breakfast or dinner, only what little sea biscuit we could eat on the road. We fought in this way until the retreat.

* * * I never saw tired men before. I would not have carried my body ten miles further, for it. The roads were lined with soldiers that were tired out. Some gave out before we reached the field of battle. When Elliott and I got inside the fort at Washington we lay down and slept, until we were wakened by officers, when we got some supper. * * *

Elliott and I went in together and came out together. We were not separated only once, then he was behind a tree shooting some Secessionists who were hid behind bunches of hay. When we retreated they crowded up the hill after us, and as I was getting over a fence, one man was shot by my side, and a ball passed over my shoulder. There were but a few that did not get holes shot through their clothes, but I did not get hit. Pardee was shot in the hollow. He wou’d look up and say “give it to the cowards.” He was shot just above the knee. He had good grit, and got away, though nearly melted.

* * * I don’t know how long we shall stay here. It will take some time to recruit again, and then we shall give them another try. We only got out “puppy teeth” pulled this time, but some of them came awful hard. It is pleasant while in battle, but it is hard to see what had been done, afterwards. I want to meet them once more even-handed; that is all I desire. We had a hard time of it. They would hoist our flag, and they were dressed so near like us, that we could not tell them from our men. They are worse than Indians, for they had no more principle than to murder our wounded and prisoners. Daniel Hawkins is all right. I saw him last night. Our boys from your way are all sound except some bruises.

Yours, &c.,


Chenango American, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

John W. Burrows at Fold3

John Burrows at

History of the 27th Regiment N.Y. Vols

Pvt. Delos Payne, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

1 01 2018

The Gallant 27th — Letters from our Volunteers.


Much praise is awarded the 27th Regiment of N. Y. State Volunteers for their heroic conduct on the field at Bull Run. While our citizens will feel a thrill of patriotic pride as they rehearse the noble deeds of all those fighting in their country’s cause, they will look with peculiar interest upon the doings of the particular regiment in which most of those who have left this vicinity have enrolled. The three Companies formed at Binghamton, and in which several residents of this and adjoining towns enlisted, are in the 27th regiment. This regiment was one of the last to leave Elmira for the seat of war, and they had scarcely formed camp at Washington before they were ordered to proceed with the grand army towards Manassas. They were the first in the field on the battle of Sunday, having marched 15 miles, (the last mile and a half in double-quick time.) They had no breakfast, and while weary and faint, were ordered under fire. They went gallantly into action, and performed wondrous deeds of valor, fighting constantly throughout the day, and being among the last to leave the field when the retreat took place. Their Colonel, Slocum, was wounded, and the whole regiment terribly cut up. Their fighting was harder and their loss greater than any other regiment except the 69th and the Fire Zouaves. The following are among the killed in this regiment: Norman S. Miller, (Chenango Forks;) Wesley Randall and Asa Parks, (Binghamton;) Frank Spencer, (Coventry;) Col. Slocum, and Lieut. Col. Chambers.

There may be other names familiar in this vicinity but we have learned of none. Sergt. A. G. Northrup, (formerly of this village,) reported missing, has turned up. He fell asleep from exhaustion, during the retreat, and was two days getting into camp.

There have been several letters received from the seat of war by the friends of our volunteers. We have been furnished with two, from which we make copious extracts. The first is from Delos Payne, of this village, a member of Company D, Capt. Rogers, 27th regiment, to his wife.

Washington, July 27, 1861

* * * I am well and safe after the great battle at Bull’s Run. The march and retreat has made my knee worse. [He injured his knee while on a visit home from Elmira – Ed.] We have not got a correct account of the killed and wounded. Men fell to the right and left of me. We drove two regiments into the woods, and they opened a masked battery on us. Our Colonel (Slocum) was shot in the thigh. He was not two feet from me. I carried him off the field. There are twelve killed and missing in our company. I have just heard that there are 94 killed in the regiment. There are about 150 who are not able to drill, from wounds, or sickness.

It was a horrible sight to see men with their legs shot off, their faces mangled, and wounded in all different ways. They shot very careless. I asked one man who lay down beside me, why he did not get up and use his gun, and before the words were out of my mouth he was shot dead, while I escaped. When I left the field I carried one fellow off on my back who was wounded in the knee. After that I got three canteens of water, and returned and gave it to those who were wounded. Their only call was for water. The balls whistled around my head all the time I was doing it. I did not mind it any more than if they were pop-guns. The fear was all gone. * * * When any one fell we were all faster than ever. I shall live to come home yet, all right. I shall not be able to do any more service until my knee gets well. We have not got our pay yet. When I do I shall send it all home. * * *



The prediction that Payne would not shrink from performing his whole duty seems to be verified. The act of going back to the field alone, under the fire of the rebels, to give water to the wounded, is characteristic and highly commendable.

Chenango American, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Delos Payne at Fold3

Five Months in Rebeldom, or Notes from the Diary of a Bull Run Prisoner, at Richmond

History of the 27th Regiment N.Y. Vols

Image: Lt. Samuel M. Harmon, Co. I, 27th New York Infanty

25 02 2017