Pvt. Benjamin Franklin Spencer, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

19 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.
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[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Father: It is with a feeling of the deepest sadness that I seat myself to write these few lines to you. Sunday last is a day that will for long be remembered by me and thousands of others. It was this day we had the fight at Bull Run. This place is in the hands of the rebels. We were marched out to the battle field about 10 o’clock in the morning, and the battle lasted until 4 in the afternoon. We were to have 60,000 men and had only 18,000. The rebels had [?]0,000 men. We fought till the order to retreat was given, then we retreated and left the field, much to our regret, to the rebels. In the first place we were in no order to fight. Most of our troops were tired completely out. Some of them marched 20 miles before we got there. Our regiment marched from 2 o’clock the night before till 10 the next day, and the last 2 miles we run. We were very tired, but not scared. Sufice it to say we were whipped, or drove back.

I will try to give you a list of the names of the wounded and dead in our company, for that is as far as I can go. I fear Bill Spencer is among the lost. William Henry Parker, is dead. Sam’l Estabrooks is dead.

The ensign of our company, his name is Parks, was shot through the heart by a Minnie rifle ball. O[?] M[?]awley was hit by a cannon ball in the foot. Probably he bled to death. Our Colonel was badly wounded in the thigh. It was broken twice; they think he will recover. I hope he will, for he is as fine a man as ever lived in the world. One Charles Fairchilds killed. Nelson came very near being killed by a grape shot. It just missed his arm and that is all. All of the wounded that were left on the field the rebels came out and killed, running their bayonets through them. Napoleon Elliott had the seat of his breeches shot off. He turned around to lead, and a cannon ball took of his breeches as clean across the right hip as it could be done with the shears. Out of 94 men in our company only 35 are gone. Some companies can’t count 40 men. We are those alive in Camp Anderson. After the fight they followed us most to Washington. Just think of marching 40 miles in about 18 hours, and being chased by some four times our number. What are alive are in Washington. I got hit in my thigh by a spent ball, not to hurt me very much, but it is very lame.

Your son,

Franklin Spencer

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Benjamin Franklin Spencer roster bio 

Benjamin Franklin Spencer at Fold3 





Pvt. Frederick Fowler, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

17 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.
———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Brother: Last Sunday was a day which I shall long remember, as will many others. We were marched to the place called Bull Run, where we fired into them and they at us as hard as they could, but they had such an advantage that they cut out troops all to pieces, and we retreated, they firing into us. We got back to a hill and laid down, and then we got up and went at them again. They were too much for us, for they drove us off the ground. Out of the regiment I am in there are 300 and over killed. The Colonel was shot but not killed. All the boys that went from Coventry have got back, but I don’t think there are any of them but what got hit somewheres. Pole Elliott got his pants most all shot off of him, and others were hit, but not bad enough to lay them up. I think the next battle will be at Arlington Heights but it is hard telling. * * * They have got more men than any one tho’t of, and they have got to be taken in a different shape. I don’t think our company will see any more action very soon, as it is badly cut up. I think it will be kept as a guard in camp. * *

* * It was the hardest fight ever fought in this country. No one knows how many were killed on either side, but I hope there is as many of them as of ours, for after the Doctors had dressed the wounds of our men and taken them to the hospitals, they came up and killed them all. That is enough to show what the devils will do.

Truly Yours,

Frederick Fowler

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Frederick Fowler roster bio 

Fredercik Fowler at Fold3 





Pvt. Charles N. Elliott, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

16 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.
———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Camp Anderson,
Washington, July 27, 1861.

Dear Friend James: Yours of the 24th was duly received and perused with pleasure. You stated that you was feeling discouraged, on account of the defeat of our forces on Sunday last, near Manassas; and you state that we lost some 3000 men. This is not so, for according to the last report, we only lost some 1300 in killed, missing and wounded. It is true we lost some arms in the action, but they have been recovered since, and the ammunition lost was rendered useless by the rain. There are 91 missing and killed in my Regiment. * * * The 27th Union Regiment was one of the first to take part in the battle. We were on the field from 10 A. M. to 4 P. M., doing our part I will assure you. Although we were very tired when we got there, having made a march of some fifteen miles without any rest, and going some of the way in double quick time, we were ordered to take the right of the batteries; to get there we were exposed to a galling fire from the enemy’s batteries, throwing shells and balls through our ranks at a great rate. For the first introduction, one ball from a cannon passed so close to my head that it staggered me. * * After we gained the right of the batteries, we advanced on them and met a body of them in a hollow, secreted by a stone house and a piece of woods. – They had a battery on the hill. They threw grape and shell at us, but we dove them from there about a mile. – They had planted their batteries on a hill so they could play on us from three positions, and the men made another stand. They ran up the American colors and sent a man to us stating that they would lay down arms. We then advanced toward them, and when near them they fired on us, mowing our men down on all sides. Of course we were all confusion, each man for himself, but we stood our ground, and they retreated again, but poured such a raking fire on us, and no Regiment coming to our relief, Col. Slocum ordered us to retreat. In the meantime I had got ahead of the rest, and took my station behind a large tree which sheltered me from their fire. I saw one of them stick his head around a hay-cock. I told him to come out or I would shoot him. He did not comply, but said “don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” but I had my gun to my eye, and when he showed his head I shot and took him in the head. He jumped about two feet high, uttered an awful groan, then fell, the blood gushing from his head in a stream. He was the poor sneak that said they would surrender, He got his due. I saw another off skulking in the grass. I shot him, and then I saw for the first time that the Regiment had left, so I turned and run to the best of my ability, and they poured a whole volley at me, putting three holes thro’ my pants, and cutting off a part of the seat of my trowsers as clean as if done with a pair of shears. My gun was struck by a ball, the stock part of it taken off and it was knocked clear from my hands, but I got another on the ground and brought it through with me. Our haversacks, containing our food, were all thrown off at the commencement of the action.

Sometimes it would seem as if the day was ours, but about 4 P. M., orders came to retreat, and we started and did not rest until we reached Washington, a distance of 47 miles. All I ate in the meantime was 4 crackers. The worst of all was the leaving of the wounded at the mercy of the enemy, as they would come along and thrust a bayonet through them; and the house where we carried the sounded was blown up by the rebels.

I was among the wounded, where of all the sights one ever saw, that beat all. Lead me up to a masked battery, face to face with the enemy, but deliver me from another such place as that. Those groans still ring in my ears, and always will. As you pass along you will see on just gasping for breath, another crying for water, another begging for you to blow his brains out, and put him out of his misery. Some have their limbs blown off, others part of their faces off, then you will pass by one already in the cold embrace of death. You may read but you cannot imagine a thing about it. You sent me a paper containing Dickinson’s speech, and I like it very much, and am glad you sent it to me and you state you sill send me money if I want it. To be sure it is hard for us to get hold of a cent now until the Government pays us what is our due, and we fare hard, but I return my thanks to you for offering such kindness, though I will not ask so much of you. If you want to come here tell C—– that you want the password, and be careful to hold your oats. * *

Your friend,

Chas N. Elliott

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Charles N. Elliott roster bio 

Charles N. Elliott at Fold3 





Pvt. Charles Winters, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

15 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.

———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Washington, July 23, 1861.

* * * The last time I wrote to you I believe I was in Fairfax C. H., near Centerville. Since then I have witnesses as terrible and bloody a battle as American history can boast of. We were routed up Sunday morning at two o’clock and marched towards Bull’s Run, a distance of about fifteen miles, where we arrived at twelve o’clock. The battle immediately commenced by cannonading on both sides. But this was too slow work, and we were marched up in musket distance. The first regiment we met we were going to fire into, but they told us not to fire into our own men, so we shouldered our muskets and had hardly done so when they poured into us with a whole volley of musketry, cutting down several of our men. They use all manner of stratagem, which was very effectual at first. They would send out little squads of men to get our men to chase them, and as soon as we got near enough, there would a whole regiment rise from behind some embankment and pour into us. Some would hoist the Stars and Stripes to make us think they were Union men. But these things finally played out. One regiment of cavalry tried to play this game on the New York Fire Zouaves. They allowed themselves to be fooled till a good opportunity presented itself, when they poured in upon them cutting them all to pieces. The report is that there were but six left. Bully for the New York boys – The rebels were very strongly fortified. They had embankments all around them, and a thick wood behind them where they could retreat and be in perfect safety. In short they had every advantage, but we made them retreat once and should have probably gained the day had they not been reinforced by a brigade from S. C. This was worse than we could stand so we had to retreat. They gained the day, but whether they gain the morrow is another thing. They have got to be routed out of there and Manassas Junction, their cake is dough*. There only hope of salvation is to keep these two places.

I never should or never could have suspected a people reared as they have been under the blessings of Christianity and civilization, to be possessed of such inhuman cruelty. I have often shuddered, and had my blood run cold when reading of the [?] of Indian wars, but I don’t know as I ever read of anything more cruel than to deliberately pull wounded men out of the wagons and cut their throats. I did not see this done, but there are boys in our company that did. Every wounded man they came across on the battle field, they would either cut his throat or run him through with the bayonet.

Our retreat march, before we could get in any kind of safety, was back to our old camp fifteen miles, and in this the rebel cavalry tried to outflank us, and they came very near doing so – Some ten or twelve of us stopped at a mudpuddle to get a drink, when we heard a great noise. On looking up to ascertain the cause we saw the rebel cavalry coming down a lane at right angles with the path we had to take. The boys scattered in every direction. I stopped half a second to see what to do, and finally ran for the woods. We came to a creek about the time the rebels got to a bridge where the creek crosses the main road. Our only chance was to jump in and wade through which we did in double quick time. They fired at us as we were crossing but did not hit us. After we had crossed, all the boys but myself ran for the woods. I suspected that part of the rebels had gone that way so I kept along the edge – Three or four balls were fired at me but without effect. We finally got to our camps where we stayed about two hours, when we were ordered to march, for it was not safe for us there. We came back to Washington where we arrived last night at four P. M., making almost forty eight hours without sleep, nothing to eat but sea crackers, a march of sixty miles, and a battle of five or six hours, You may judge for yourselves whether we were tired or not.

Charles Winters.

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*”Their cake is hoe” – One’s actions have failed or not led to the desired outcome. The phrase appears in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

Charles Winters roster bio 

Charles Winters at Fold3 





Sgt. Albert G. Northrup, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

14 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.

———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Camp Anderson,
Washington, July 29, 1861

Editor American: You have probably seen the full particulars of the great battle at Bull’s Run, in which our forces were defeated, and I will give you some of my own experience.

Our company was on picket guard the night before the action, and at 2 o’clock, A. M., we were called in, and in an hour were on the march for the scene of action. We marched about 12 miles when we began to hear the boom of cannon, and we knew that the strife had commenced. We pressed forward at a double quick rate and were soon in sight of the rebel batteries. Our regiment was one of the first to charge the enemy in our column. We drove them from their battery, and followed them into a deep valley, where they displayed a white flag, and our Colonel, supposing them to be our men, ordered us not to fire, but we soon found out our mistake and fired upon them. They returned the fire, killing our ensign and two privates. Our brave fellows fell all around me, and I expected it would be my turn next; but, thank Heaven I escaped without a wound. We were soon compelled to retreat, and we became separated and each one had to take care of himself. After four hours of hard fighting we were all on the retreat. Our men were nearly exhausted, not having had anything to eat or drink except sea biscuit and muddy water for two days.

We [?] filled our canteens with water from Bull’s Run that was thick with mud, glad to get even that. After we had retreated about 5 miles, the rebels fired upon us again, and we scattered in the woods, in confusion. I was completely exhausted and laid down in the woods and in less than ten minutes I was sound asleep. When I awoke I was alone and [?] was {?}. I knew not which way to go, but started as near as I could judge in the direction of our army. I soon came to where I heard [?] at [?] and supposing them to be rebels I did not dare approach them and lay down under a brush heap and staid there til morning.

When it was light enough to see, I started again and went directly toward the battle field again. I inquired of a slave which way it was to Centerville, and was told that it was in an opposite direction from that which I was travelling. I soon retraced my steps toward Washington, with faint of seeing it alive, as I was almost certain the enemy were between me and our army. I threw away everything that I had, made a breakfast of whortleberries, and amid a drenching rain commenced my march. The first man I saw, stood in the road directly before me with a musket in his hand. I supposed him to be a rebel, but went up to him and bade him “good morning.” He proved to be one of our soldiers from the State of Maine. At Centerville I fell in with three men from one of the Binghamton companies, and remained with them during the rest of the day. We were about the last on the road, and expected at any moment to see the enemy’s cavalry approaching, but we did not see them. Several times during the day I was on the point of giving up in despair, but my companions urged me on, and after one of the hardest days of my life I succeeded in getting to Alexandria, Va., where I staid at the hut of a slave – glad to get as good shelter as that. The next day I took a boat and came to Washington where I found our regiment, in their old quarters. Our boys thought I was either killed or taken prisoner, and when I made my appearance among them I was greeted with many a hearty shake of the hand.

Your townsman Delos Payne, was in thickest of the fight, and fought valiantly, and is anxious to get another chance to “pepper” them. I am unable to say how long we shall remain here, probably three or four weeks.

Oscar Phelps is with us, having done his duty faithfully on the field of battle.

Our defeat is a bad one, but we hope to do better the next time.

Yours truly,

A. G. Northrup.

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Albert G. Northrup roster bio 

Albert G. Northrup at Fold3 





Portraits of Bull Run Participants

23 01 2015

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Albert Armstrong, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry. “Age, 20 years. Enlisted, May 2, 1861, at Binghamton, to serve two years; mustered in as private, Co. D, May 21, 1861; promoted corporal, date not stated; discharged, September 1, 1862, by order War Department.” From here.

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Private Amos Bowen, Co. A, First Rhode Island Infantry. “Born at Providence, R. I., January 22, 1838, died at his home in Providence, June 3, 1907, and is buried in Lakeside Cemetery, Rumford, R. I.  He enlisted from Brown University as private, Company A, First Regiment, Rhode Island Detached Militia, April 17, 1861, was mustered in May 2, following, taken prisoner at Bull Run, July 21, 1861; paroled, May 22, 1862, at Salisbury, N. C.; discharged July 22, 1862. He reenlisted and was commissioned first lieutenant, Company C, Second Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry, February 10, 1863, and was acting aide-de-camp to Brigadier General Eustis, September, 1863, until May, 1864; honorably discharged and mustered out, June 17, 1864.  For six years he was a member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and for nineteen years member of the Providence school committee. ” From here.

Photos courtesy of Joe Maghe.





Pvt. William H. McMahon, Co. G, 27th New York Infantry, On the Retreat

14 08 2014

From the 27th Regiment

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[We are allowed to make the following extracts from a letter written by Will H. McMahon, lately from Lima Seminary, to a friend in this village. Mr. McMahon is a talented young man and a ready penman, and we should be pleased to hear from him often.]

Washington, D. C., July 27, 1861.

I have but a few moments, the first I have had in a long while to devote to correspondence. I was, of course, in the battle at Bull’s Run, but mist reserve the description of that scene until some other time. I have only this to say as regards pictures in the papers, none of them that I have seen represent the field at all; and the reporters’ accounts are hardly to be relied on. We were about forty hours on the march and in battle, without food, sleep or water, except such as we took from some loathsome pools and thick muddy brooks. I drank water which your educated Irish hog who occupies the same room with the family would scorn to be in. None of our fellow students were injured. The retreat was a regular rout, owing mostly to the inefficiency off our officers. The South have better officers, artillery and cavalry. We the best men. * * * —— flunked when it came to the pinch of fight or run. Where he was hid I don’t know, but we did not get the sight of his lovely features during the battle. He is spotted. * * * We (the 27th) were exposed for three-fourths of an hour to the fire of three regiments and two large masked batteries, and we drove the regiments off in double quick time, but our Colonel being wounded we had no chance of taking the batteries.

In the middle of the rout the road was covered with every thing you can imagine. I might have picked up any thing that I wished on the field, but was too weak to carry more than my arms, and hat I ten thousand dollars I would willingly have given it all for one drink of ice water! I saw many truly horrible sights during the contest, but the shrieks of dying horses were much more shocking even than the groans of wounded and dying men. Our regiment lost heavily. If I live through our next engagement it will be almost a miracle. The two men who stood on each side of me were wounded, and the Col. was hit while I was yelling in his ear about a flag! * * But if I do live through it I intend to strip a rebel of something which I can mail and sent to you * * There is now (eight o’clock Saturday evening) heavy cannonading in the distance over the river. * * We can whip them every time, with good officers and two-thirds the men.

But I must stop writing and prepare for emergencies. Write immediately.

Yours in brotherhood,

WILL.

Dansville [NY] Advertiser, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

William H. McMahon – no entry at Ancestry.com. Found in roster of the regiment in History of the 27th Regiment New York Volunteers, p. 280: “promoted to Corporal, Nov. 7, 1861; to Second Lieutenant of Co. K, Sept. 11, 1862.”