J. T. P., Co. A, 2nd Connecticut Infantry, On the Battle

25 01 2015

[Correspondent of the Transcript.]

Camp Keyes. Washington, D. C.

July 31st, 1861.

To the Editor of the Transcript: – Since my note of last week, giving you as I did all the facts then in my posession concerning the loss of J. F. Wilkinson, I have taken every opportunity to make enquiries of those who were near the place when he fell at the time he received the wound, and of those who passed near there after our regiment had been ordered to a different part of the field but have not been able to learn anything of importance concerning him beyond what I communicated in my last letter, and his friends here entertain the strongest fears that he was unable to reach the hospital before the retreat, and therefore have but slight hopes of ever seeing him again. – I have been so intimately associated with him for the past three months that his loss has caused feelings of sorrow such as I never before experience. – We who had learned to appreciate his frank and generous qualities, wh had shared with him a soldier’s board, mourn for him as though he were a brother.

From one of our soldiers who was taken prisoner by the rebels and escaped, reaching this city yesterday we learn that Dr. McGregor is a Manassas attending to the sounded and no fears are entertained here but that he will soon be allowed to return to his regiment or his home.

It is also believed that the wounded and prisoners in their hands are well treated.

With regard to the engagement at Bull Run on the 21st, so much has been written and so many conflicting statements have been made that those who witnessed it hardly know what to believe themselves. There are some points however on which we all agree.

There can be no questioning the fact that we fought against a force greatly superior to ours in number that they were protected by scientifically constructed fortifications, that they had the advantage of position and a thorough knowledge of the field over which our troops must pass, that our troops maintained the unequal contest from 6 A. M. until 5 P. M., driving them from some of their strongest batteries that the arrival of reinforcements to the rebel forces compelled us to retreat, that many of our regiments retreated in disorder and that though obliged to retreat we left more than twice the number we lost from of the enemy dead and wounded on the field, also that our soldiers were suffering extremely for food and water having left Centreville at 2 o’clock A. M. with only a scanty supply of dry bread and many of them were without water even before they reached the field.

[Illegible line] water that day, I will only say that we drank from of muddy pool water deeply tinged with the blood of the dead and wounded who had crawled to its banks in hopes of quenching a thirst more painful that were the wound from which the life blood was flowing.

As we were passing this point, Maj. Warner of the 3d Regiment ordered one of his men to hand him a cup of water. – “It is muddy, and there is blood in it,” says the man. “Will it run out of the cup?” “Yes.” “Then give me a cup and be quick.”

Speaking of the major reminds me of an incident that took place early in the day. The 2d Maine and the 3d Connecticut regiments were ordered to charge one of the rebel batteries and to do so had to pass through a piece of woods, and up a steep hill. Finding it difficult to pass through the woods with his horse, he jumped off, leaving it to go where it pleased, and led on the regiment, the boys cheering him as he did so,

The Conn. regiments are thus noticed by the Washington Star:

“The Conn. regiments under Col. Keyes came from the field, in good order, and marched to their former encampment at Centreville, from which place after an hours rest they started for their old camp at Falls Church. Arriving there in the morning the men remained under arms all day exposed to a severe storm, and having secured all the camp equipage belonging to their regiments marched two miles to the camps of the Ohio and 2 New York regiments, which had been deserted, and remaining here until morning they secured and sent into the fort their tents and other valuables. The regiments came in to FOrt Corcoran in the evening of the 23d, in good order.

A correspondent of the New York Times says: – Within a half mile of Falls Church, we found Gen. Tler with the Connecticut regiments holding a position temporarily. They were the advance of the attack, their colors were the last to leave the field, and now seven or eight miles behind even the reserve, they were defending the rear in perfect good order.

The regiments enlisted for three years are coming at the rate of three or four a day and no fears are now entertained for the safety of the Capitol or that our forces under the able officers now in command will not soon be able to drive the rebels from Virginia.

I will close this hasty letter by relating a pleasing incident that took place near Fort Corcoran. We had been there but a short time when we met Mr. Daniel Warner of Woodstock with two large baskets filled with provisions which were soon distributed to his acquaintances making them forget that for three days they had hardly tasted of food. “May his shadow never be less.”

J. T. P.

Windham County (CT) Transcript, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Some biographical information on James F. Wilkinson, editor of the Windham County (CT) Transcript (wounded and captured at Bull Run) can be found here.

Biographical information on Wilkinson above indicates he was a member of the Buckingham Rifles, which was Co. A. of the 2nd CT (see here.) J. T. P. is likely Pvt. John T. Phillips, of Pomfret, CT, also of Co. A. (See roster here.)

John T. Phillips at Ancestry.com





“G.”, 2nd Connecticut Volunteers, On the Battle

10 11 2012

From 2d Regiment.

Camp Keyes, Washington City,

July 28, 1861

Messrs. Editors – It is Sabbath morning – just one week since the memorable conflict at Bull’s Run, and oh! how different this moment are the feelings, the anxieties, the doubts and fears of the future. Then all was excitement, what is now quietude; and our worst fears, instead of our most sanguinary hopes, have been realized. We entered the field with hurried step, and [?] panting, and eager for the fray. We considered our cause sure to win, for its justice was undoubted. We doubted not for a moment the capabilities of our leaders or the stamina of their followers. And though the death-shots fell thick and fast around us, yet for a time they were as harmless as ashes of fire in the bosom of the great deep. Our troops pressed forward, shouting and cheering each other on in their holy mission, until we flanked and finally gained the rear of the enemy. Here we halted for a moment to rest and refresh ourselves, when our position was discovered, and once more we moved forward. We again halted, and delivered a few random shots at the enemy, as they retreated under the double fire of our brigade and the gallant 69th. While at a halt, it was my lot to witness a very painful scene. I captured a prisoner, (a German) belonging to the 8th South Carolina Regiment, and took him to Major Colburn for instructions as how to dispose of him. The prisoner requested one privilege as his last, which the Major very humanely granted. He said his brother lay a short distance off, in a dying condition, and he wished to see him. I bade him lead the way, and I followed.

He took me to an old log hut a few [?] from where our regiment was halted. On the north side, in the shade, we found the wounded man. The prisoner spoke to him – he opened his eyes – and the film of death had already overspread them, and the tide of life was fast ebbing. He was covered with blood, and the swarms and flies and mosquitoes which were fattening upon his life’s blood, indicated that he had lain there for some time. They clasped hands together, muttered a few words in the German language, supplicated the Throne of Grace for their families at home, kissed, and bade each a final adieu; the prisoner remarking as I took him by the arm to lead him away, for the column was moving, “Brother, you are dying, and I am a prisoner.” The man was shot with a musket ball, in the back, just over the hip, from which fact I inferred that he was on the retreat when the deadly ball overtook him.

The country round about seemed to be peculiarly adapted for a defensive position. It was very hilly, and on each elevation a battery was planted, strongly guarded by infantry, whose bayonets we could distinctly see gleaming in the sunlight. So well did they understand the position of matters inside their lines, that if they retreated, it was done for a decoy, and our brave fellows in pursuing them found themselves surrounded, or cut down like blades of grass before the scythe, by the rapid and terrible discharges of grape and canister from concealed batteries. At about 2 o’clock, Lieut. Upton, aid de camp, rode up, and took position in the center of our regiment. He addressed us in essence as follows: “Boys of old Connecticut, there is a battery on the brow of yonder hill. I want you to follow me, and you shall have the right of capturing it. Will you follow?” In a moment we were wild with delight and determination, cheering and placing our caps on our bayonets, waving them in the air, and exhibiting in gratifying tones the patriotism that [?] our arms for the ordeal. Just at that moment the considerate Col. Keyes rode up and on learning the cause of the enthusiasm, remarked that  it must not be attempted with a less number of troops than the entire Brigade. As the rest of the command were otherwise engaged the project was abandoned, and a subsequent reconnoiter showed us the madness of the idea, for, on emerging from the woods, we encountered another battery, which the rebels immediately brought to bear upon us. Gen. Tyler, however, payed no attention to the firing, until Col. Keyes ordered the men to take refuge in the woods, where we lay concealed for a quarter of an hour. And it is a fact, that not a soldier in the ranks had any idea that the order to “retreat” was to abandon the field. When we left our concealment we came away side by side with the Fire Zouaves, the 79th, and others, who were bearing off their killed and wounded. Of course, the great disaster of the day was the manic which spread itself with such velocity through our ranks. Our troops were in good order, and, as far as I observed, in cheerful spirits. The first indication that I noticed was the rapid retreat and disorganized condition of a battery, which I supposed to be Sherman’s. This was communicated to the baggage wagons, ambulances, &c., and such a scene of confusion and terror as followed, is utterly indescribable. Yet I trust our people will not construe this act as one of cowardice. Panics like that are by no means unparalleled. The memorable retreat of the French and Sardinians from Castiglione to Brescia, furnishes another instance of how complete a powerful army may be routed sometimes by the most trivial circumstance. The allies then were not as we were at the Run, just leaving the field of carnage, tired, weary, and jaded with long marching, our stomachs empty, and our lips parched with raging thirst. On the contrary, they had rested, and refreshed themselves with wine and cordials, which every French soldier is provided with, previous to an engagement. The occurrence must be fresh in the minds of all your readers.

The only real act of cowardice, unpardonable, unfortunately falls upon the New Haven Grays. — joined the company as a private. After we encamped at Glenwood, he was assigned a position as clerk for the Colonel. He remained in that position for about six weeks, when he was appointed by Col. Terry to fill a vacant post in the non-commissioned Staff. Here he remained until his disgraceful flight from the vicinity of Bull’s Run into Washington – where, after many acts of kindness by our Congressman, Hon. James F. English, he was enabled to reach home. Col. Terry, on hearing of the circumstance, immediately reduced him to the ranks, the order being publicly read at dress parade on Saturday evening, which threw him back into the ranks of the “Grays” – which company, before dismissing ranks unanimously voted him out of their ranks, and also instructed their Secretary to notify the young gentleman and all the Press of the City of Elms. A feeling of just indignation was aroused when we read his description given of our retirement from Centerville. The facts of the case are: Col. Terry’s horse becoming unmanageable, he gave it to — who had once within my hearing solicited the privilege of riding, to retain until he called for it, whereupon he started for the former bivouac, and from thence he continued his fight until he delivered “news” to the New Haven Palladium. But I will not follow the theme further. If we are fortunate enough to return home, we can tell the story with our own lips. I cannot close this epistle without thanking you for the free gift of the Journal and Courier, which has come to hand so promptly since our departure from home. Hon. John Woodruff has been very kind to us in supplying reading matter, but of course his gifts could not be as fresh as those that came direct from the office. The coarse fare incident to camp life, affected materially the health of some of our men, but now they are where they can buy fresh food, and are fast recovering their former health. Hoping anon to see you face to face,

I remain yours, truly,

G.

New Haven Daily Journal, 7/31/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy








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