“Pequot,” 2nd New York State Militia, On the Campaign

27 06 2020

Letter from Washington – The Great Battle Near Manassas.

Camp Powell (2d Reg’t N. Y. S. M.)
Washington, July 29, 1861.

Friend Irish: – You have probably heard or read so many statements in regard to the great battle at Bull (or Bloody) Run, that perhaps it is rather late for me to give my version of it, but as every one who participated has an experience to relate, I will give you mine, and as our regiment was in the same division and near the Connecticut boys throughout the eventful day, it may be of some interest. – Our march from our old encampment at Ball’s Cross Road to Vienna, and from thence to Fairfax and Centreville is what every correspondent has pictured. It was a very slow movement, owing to the many obstructions on the road. We came upon half made forts and entrenchments, abandoned camps with the food still cooking, and camp utensils lying about in confusion, and we flattered ourselves that the enemy were cowards and would not show fight. The sequel proved they were too sharp for us, and this apparent hasty retreat was only a bait to draw us still further into the trap.

We came before Centreville on Thursday, and with twenty thousand more Union troops rested on a hill-side all day, while less than three thousand men of Col. Richardson’ brigade were getting badly cut up by the Rebels at Bull’s Run, on the southern road. Just before sundown we were ordered up the hill and started at double quick, all “spoiling for a fight” and eager to avenge the slaughter of our brave friends of the N. York 12th Reg’t with whom we were neighbors for a long time in camp, but when we arrived in the town we found we were to take position on the northern road leading to Manassas, by the way of Gainesville, and about a mile from the battle field of that day. We bivouacked in a large field of oats, without any tents or protection from sun or rain, and worse than this, with half rations, (only one meal a day) until Sunday morning. The country seemed to have been cleared of everything eatable or drinkable, except a little stream near us called Rocky Run, and with hard bread (or iron crackers as the boys call them) and water, we were compelled to content ourselves. Hunger will make men desperate, and not withstanding the strict orders of Gen. McDowell, sundry cattle, sheep, chickens, pigs, &c, did disappear from the neighboring fields, and no one could account for them. We were ordered when starting, each man to take only his musket, canteen, one blanket and three day’s cooked rations. In this country, marching under a burning sun, no man can carry food enough for three days in addition to musket, blanket and a quart canteen of water, consequently much was thrown aside, and some water. Not until Saturday evening – four and a half day’s in all – did we see any thing more furnished by our venerated Uncle Samuel. Saturday noon we were informed by our brigade Quartermaster that we would be immediately served with rations for three day, which we must cook and pack to be ready for a march forward (and a probable fight) at 6 o’clock that evening. The order was a afterward countermanded, because we did not receive provisions until 6 o’clock, and then we had no utensils to cook with. But the junk beef, bacon, &c., was cut up and packed raw, coffee was made in our drinking cups, and agreeably with new orders we marched silently out into the road at about 2 ½ o’clock A. M. It was a bright moonlight night, and as we filed up the hill we could look back for a couple of miles and see the ten thousand bayonets of our division, with Col. Hunter’s division following. It was a splendid sight, and it was enough to inspire the weakest soul to see so many keeping step to the music of the Union; but with it came the sad reflection that so many of these brave soldiers would, never return. The truth is the officers on our side went into the fight with no confidence whatever in the result, but were careful not to say so to the men under their command. Most of the officers in our brigade at least, expected to be badly whipped, for an army never went into the field in worse condition for a successful fight. One trouble was our empty stomachs, and this probably influenced the result of the battle as much as any one thing except bad generalship. Our brigade was commanded by Gen. Schenck, and consisted of the 1st and 2d regiments of Ohio Volunteers, 2d regiment N. Y. S. M., and Carlisle’s battery of 2d artillery, – in all about twenty-five hundred men, and we were the advance of the army. About two miles from our starting point we were deployed into the woods n our left in line of battle, and advanced in this way, preceded by skirmishers for about two miles, occasionally getting a sight of a rebel picket running from us. In our rear were the 69th N. York, the 1st, 2d and 3d Conn, while the 2d Wisconsin was thrown into the woods on the right of the road. We were on what is called the Warrentown turnpike, a northern road to Manassas, and about two miles north of the battle ground of Thursday, but on the same creek or run. Col. Hunter’s division, consisting of the N. Y. 71st regiment, the two Rhode Island regiments, and others, took a side road, taking them still farther north so as to come round and attack the enemy on the flank, for we had ascertained that they were intrenched on the opposite side of the creek. The battle was commenced by shots from our long Parrott gun which throws 32 lb balls and shells. We were ordered to lie in the woods out of range or fire, and to be ready for a charge. About 10 o’clock we were ordered to advance into a pine grove, but o getting into it by a nice little road evidently cut for us (as we afterward ascertained) we were met by a tremendous discharge from a four gun masked battery, which we could feel but not see. It was barely two hundred yards from us, and we could distinctly hear their officers giving orders and cursing the damned Yankees! The fire was terrible, and we lost eight or ten men killed and as many wounded within fifteen minutes. This was all bourne by our 2d N. Y. regiment (the Ohio boys having gone forward to try and take the battery) and the General seeing that by remaining we must be cut to pieces, ordered us to retire. The sensation of lying flat on the ground to avoid a shower of shot, shell and canister cutting through the trees about breast high, is anything but pleasant, although very exciting. The third shot killed one of our lieutenants and a poor drummer boy, whose scream of agony as the shell tore him in pieces still rings in my ears. The men were firm and did not flinch, and I think exhibited other qualities surpassing courage, that of endurance, for they lay down expecting a death shot every instant, and remained there until ordered to retire. The wounds our men received in the woods at this time were of a very severe kind, caused mostly by shell and rape shot. I had a very narrow escape while sitting in a group of four; one of them received a grape shot through the shoulder and breast, and another, one through the leg and ankle, the third had his hat cut into fragments, while your humble servant was untouched, save by the branches and splinters of a little tree which stood beside us. While we were out of the fight I crossed the road and witnessed the operation of the big gun, noting the effects of the shot upon the enemy’s entrenchments. From the top of the high hill I could see the whole battle field at a glance. The valley was full of our men, all pushing forward attacking batteries on the opposite bank of the river, and Hunter’s division, on the extreme north, were doing some tall firing, though a full view of their operations was obstructed by the woods. Long clouds of dust are seen to arise from the roads leading from Manassas, as well as from Winchester, and with a good glass it could be seen that a steady stream of reinforcements was pouring in to the aid of the enemy. The battle was now hotly contested and for about two hours the volleys of musketry were incessant – one long roll of firing broke in upon only by the thundering notes of the heavy cannon. Just then we were ordered into the woods to support a portion of Sherman’s battery, which endeavored to silence the saucy little masked battery just opposite. After a brisk firing of fifteen minutes our battery was forced to retire, having lost half of its men and horses. The General who ordered us in to the wood to support the battery, forgot to order us out, after the battery was withdrawn, and but for our commander taking the responsibility, ten minutes longer would have finished our regiment. As we came up into the road again we met the three Connecticut regiments going down into the fight. They were full of pluck and anxious for a chance at the enemy.

At 3 o’clock we were ordered to take a new position down the road in full view of all the enemy’s batteries, ostensibly to support a battery of two guns, but in reality to draw the fire from our enemy’s batteries so our storming parties could have a better chance of success. The tow Ohio regiments were somewhat sheltered by a cleft in the road, but ours was terribly exposed. Grape shot, shell, round shot and canister were rained upon us without mercy. Great gaps appeared in our ranks caused by three missiles; four of our men were torn in pieces and as many wounded by the explosion of a single shell! Grape and round shot struck all around in front and behind us; in fact we seemed to be a target for two batteries, and how any of us came out alive from such an infernal cross-fire no man can tell. But flesh and blood could not stand it and we were ordered out of fire again. Up to this time we had not an opportunity to fire a single musket. We now began to see stragglers come up the hill from the battle, and by half past four the remains of the different regiments commenced filing past us in retreat. We saw the 69th with the brave Col. Corcoran at the head looking sad enough. He said he thought 500 of his boys were missing. Our regiment with the three Connecticut regiments were posted along the road covering the retreat, when suddenly above us a terrible panic was created by a charge of cavalry which had outflanked our lines, and came along the road sabreing and shooting every body. We tried to rally, and did give them a good many shots, but were obliged to retire into the woods followed by the troopers. Here legs did their duty, and a good pair saved one life as I can testify. Picking up a loaded rifle laid beside a dead secessionist, your friend took careful aim at the waist belt of one of the troopers and pulled the trigger, and it is a matter of firm belief with the undersigned that the said trooper will ever make another charge. (The rifle was covered with secession blood when I took it, but I have had it carefully cleaned and will send it to you as a souvenir. I took it from a dead Georgian. His revolver I have also, which I retain for future operations.) After our run from the cavalry we cleared a high fence and came upon an open field. We saw the Zouaves running a mile ahead of us, pursued in some cases by the horsemen. I first saw Col. Terry with the Connecticut Second emerging from the woods, and joined him with a number of our men, and shortly our men headed by our Lieut. Col. came out with both colors flying (state and national.) which were received with cheers. The 1st Conn. came out headed by Col. Burnham, and we formed in three lines of battle and marched in good order to Centreville.

The road to Centreville was a scene of the wildest confusion and disorder. Baggage and ammunition wagons loaded, were thrown over the embankments; ambulances filled with wounded soldiers were pushed aside, heavy pieces of artillery were lying by the road, the gunners having cut loose the horses and ridden them away, and the ground was covered with muskets, knapsacks, haversacks, blankets, canteens, &c. The rout was complete, and all discipline was lost. Every impediment to flight was cast aside, and it was every man for himself.

Our brigade attempted to rally at Centreville protected by the skirmishers of Col. Mile’s division (who although armed with Enfield rifles had acted as a reserve all day, while those in the hottest of the fight had nothing but smooth bore muskets,) but our General was missing, and we had no other alternative but to continue our retreat. When we arrived at Fairfax Court House our body of fugitives numbered about three thousand and was constantly increasing. We took a different route and I arrived at camp between two and three o’clock a. m. Provisions were immediately cooked for our famished men, who after being somewhat refreshed were ordered to march to the city the same day in the midst of a pouring rain.

We are now located in a camp at 7th st, about two miles from Pennsylvania Avenue, and the 2nd and 3d Connecticut regiments are within a stones throw of us. There are some twenty thousand troops in camp here, within two miles of us. I see Capt. Chapman daily, he is well and his company also.

We find in footing up our losses (2nd reg.) that we have 23 killed, 25 wounded and 17 prisoners, and about 100 missing – among the killed are our Surgeon and 2 first lieutenants, our two assistant Surgeons are prisoners. The soldiers bestow great blame on General Tyler, who may be brave but certainly lacks judgement and places little value on the lives of his command. A captain of the 2nd informs me that in the retreat the General threw away his sword – travelled off as fast as his horse could carry him. Certain it is, (for I saw it myself,) the cavalry and artillery of the regular U. S. Army was the first and foremost in the retreat. Gen. Miles commanding the reserve is said to have been beastly drunk all day. He is under arrest. This battle learned us all a lesson – that we have underrated the means and spirit of the south; that we went into battle without the precautions for a safe retreat if repulsed, which is quite as likely to be necessary as preparations for advancing; also the bad policy of sending half starved and exhausted soldiers into a battle under leaders in whom they have no confidence. I deeply regret that the most unpopular general officer in this locality is from Connecticut, and bitter threats are made against him for the failure of the battle on the 21st.

But I see I have spun this out to an unendurable length and it will tire you to read it. The story could be condensed in a few words, ”We went, we saw, and we were badly beaten.”

Pequot.

New London (CT) Weekly Chronicle, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

82nd New York Infantry Roster (the 2nd NYSM became the 82nd NYVI)





Unknown, 2nd NYSM, On the Battle

2 04 2013

{Extract from a private letter}

Virginia, July 22, 1861.

Dear –: – I write to inform you that I am alive, unhurt and well. We have just got out of a severe battle, in which many of our brave boys were slaughtered.; but I have not time now to five you many particulars. We were marched up a road made expressly for us by the rebels. They opened their battery at the head of this road, and drove us back to the woods. We rallied, and, by the mismanagement of our incompetent general – Schenck – we were brought back on the same masked battery. We could not see any obstruction, or an enemy to fire at. The ground seemed to vomit out grape and canister in torrents. It is the general opinion among the men, that we were betrayed by our commanding general of division. Indeed, Col. Tompkins was under that impression, although he did not express it; for, when he received orders to attack the hole where these infernal machines were, he told the general he would not, and commanded his men to obey no orders that they did not receive from him – he would lead them to victory, and not to needless slaughter. When the order to lie down was given, a battery opened on the edge of a wood, tearing everything before it. Had our colonel followed the order of the general, we ould have been all cut to pieces. The Eight suffered severely, as also did the gallant Sixty-ninth, and brave boys of the Zouave regiment. They deserve immortal honor for their many gallant deeds.

This was no battle – it was a wholesale slaughter. The very ground opened, and blew us to atoms. Col. Tompkins deserves great praise. He saved two-thirds of our regiment by flanking us into the woods. The enemy seemed to understand our move; for, in less time than I can write, the Black Horse Cavalry dashed out on us; but O God! what a bloody reception they got from us. Nearly, if not quite, one hundred of them were left dead upon the field of their exploit.

I was attacked on the way from Vienna by a few straggling dragoons. We had provisions for our men, and I was in command. We made two horses by the operation, and I lost the little pistol which you presented to me. I missed it when two miles from the place where we were attacked; but I went back with ten men and a dark lantern and recovered it. This was very risky; but it was your gift.

We cut the Eight Regiment of Georgia all to smash. We have several prisoners. We were badly beaten, but not defeated or discouraged in the least. We will give it to them again. We are ordered to Washington, for the reason that this temporary success may encourage the enemy to attack the city. Our battle-flag is pretty well used up. I will send it home as a memento of what we have gone through. An infernal scoundrel on horseback tried to capture it from our sergeant; but he fell to the earth like lead. The pole and spear is broken, and the flag is all in ribbons.

As I said before, it is the opinion of the men that some of our generals were in league with the secessionists; if they were not, they are inexcusable on the ground of utter incompetency for their positions. Give us better officers in command, and we will face the devil and all his hosts in secessiondom.

Yours, etc.,

*****

New York Sunday Mercury, 7/28/1861

William B. Styple, ed., Writing and Fighting the Civil War: Soldier Correspondence to the New York Sunday Mercury, pp. 35-36





Unknown Captain, 2nd New York State Militia, On the March to Manassas, the Battle, and the Retreat

2 10 2012

A Soldier’s Letter.

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Description of the Battle by a Captain of the Second Regiment of New York.

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The following letter from a captain in the Second regiment of this city gives a vivid description of the battle at Bull Run, and the real nature of the panic:

Camp Powell,

Headquarters Second Regt. N. Y. S. M.,

Washington, D. C., July [?], 1861

Dear —-:  Your favor of the 2[?]th instant, as well as the previous one, were duly received; circumstances, as you are no doubt aware, prevented an answer to the first.

On Monday, the 15th instant, we received orders to be ready with three days, rations, and without knapsacks, carrying blankets only, to move in advance at five P. M. the next evening. At the appointed hour the line was in motion, and soon after reached the Ohio volunteers’ camp, who fell in our rear, giving New York the honor of the advance. We then moved off for Vienna, having been in the meantime joined by the Connecticut Brigade, which completed our division (Tyler’s).

The enemy’s pickets and advance guard rapidly fell back upon our approach, and after passing Fall’s Church pressed on Fairfax at an early hour in the morning, and, being on the left of the division, we deployed towards Germantown, while the right entered Fairfax. After a short rest the right joined us, and we marched on in column and entered Germantown, the enemy being in sight and hastily running out of reach of our guns. At this point we were informed that the enemy, to the number of fifteen thousand, were on the retreat and only one and a-half hours ahead of our advance. Our scouts having brought us this information, the news having been confirmed by Lieutenant Tompkins of the dragoons, we again took up the line of march, the heat being dreadful, and the men suffering terribly. After marching until late afternoon, the men being fairly exhausted, our advance suddenly came on the enemy’s camp, and easily pounced on the few remaining secessionists, as well as considerable of their rations, which were left behind in their hasty flight; in fact some of our mean found a watch or two, besides epaulettes, as well as any quantities of correspondence, in which the fair southern damsels begged their lovers to get pieces of a “Yankee’s hide” for them, etc., and on other themes too numerous to mention. The men being exhausted and night approaching, as well as the road barricaded by fallen trees, we halted, threw out our pickets and camp guard, and after hastily disposing of an insufficient meal, (being the first since morning,) we wrapped ourselves in our blankets, and with no other covering save the trees, were soon sound asleep. During the night we had several alarms, on account of the enemy’s cavalry trying to pass our pickets, in which efforts they suffered severely. At an early hour in the morning (Thursday 17th,) line was again formed, and the whole army of the Potomac moved on our right, in the centre and in the advance.

Centreville was soon after reached; line of battle being formed, and the scouts sent out. They soon after arrived with the intelligence that the enemy had again fallen back from their intrenchments, and at this stage I must say that I never saw a better place to make a stand, as the hill commanded all the approaches for over two miles around; however, subsequent occurrences have satisfied me that they had far superior locations at their command. The heat being terrible, and our men exhausted, we were halted to rest, and after an hour or so we heard heavy firing on the other side of Centreville, and very soon learned that our General (Tyler) had attacked the enemy’s masked batteries at the head of Rocky Run, about two miles from Centreville, which, as the papers have ere informed you, was the celebrated proceeding of the 18th instant.

During the heat of the engagement our brigade was ordered up, and upon reaching the scene, the Sixty-ninth and other regiments had been withdrawn. That affair at once destroyed both Tyler and others of his kind, in the estimation of the men, especially as Tyler had received orders to remain at Centreville – until further orders.

We then marched outside of that point about two miles, and encamped on the left of the road, (Warrenton,) while the Sixty-ninth and others were opposite. We remained here, in sight of the enemy’s advance posts, from that time until two o’clock Sunday morning when the advance took place. Both before reaching this point, and when we reached it, my command was engaged in that hazardous business of skirmishing, and on Thursday night in particular I was in advance of the lines a mile at least, and remained out until ten o’clock at night, when I was called in; and while out, however, and about sunset, I arrested three men in citizens’ clothes, who were hovering around our lines and satisfied me upon an examination that they should be detained. I accordingly brought them in and were duly examined by our Brigadier, General Schenck, who being in bed and rather sleepy, made a hasty examination and postponed the matter till the following morning, when after another examination, he discharged them.

After their discharge some of us who were dissatisfied took the trouble to search their houses, and succeeded in finding passes therein of a very recent date signed by our General Mansfield’s Aide-de-Camp, Captain Drake De Kay, which showed that they were spies, and had used them for that purpose in our lines. From that I made up my mind that I should take not more prisoners, but if, while prisoners, they should be accidentally shot, I would not complain of my men.

While we remained at Rocky run, and before advancing, I was led to suppose that we were waiting reinforcements of both men and heavy guns. At the appointed hour, two A. M. Sunday morning, and before prayers, we moved off at a quick pace but without making any unnecessary noise. Our division, (Tyler’s,) consisting of the Second New York, First and Second Ohio, Sixty-ninth, Seventy-ninth and others, took the lead, in the meantime our scouts and pickets being thrown out. At five A. M. the line halted and our regiment was thrown forward in advance, while the Sixty-ninth and Seventy-ninth took a position on our right. After reconnoitering the enemy’s position with our glasses, and waiting for the signal gun to be fired, we drew up by the flank so as not to be under cover of the woods, and at the same time near enough to make a charge on the enemy’s battery. A little after six we first drew the fire of the enemy by imprudently showing our command, or rather a portion of them. Supposing it to be a small battery, as it was, we quietly passed on for the purpose of outflanking it, and in doing so, we took an apparently new made road, and marched by the left flank, and very soon after, within three hundred feet of us, we espied the enemy in large force (about 8,000 infantry). We took immediate steps to attack them, but to our astonishment the enemy planked by the left, and hastily moving off unmasked eight rifled guns on our brigade (Schenck’s) with terrific effect.

The scene that follows beggars description; for fully over a half hour we stood a perfect shower of grape, canister and round shot. Upon my honor I have never been in a hail storm where the shots fell as thick and fast. Our General (Schenck) left us there and looked out for himself, whereupon our Colonel, upon his own responsibility, ordered us to withdraw from such a murderous man-trap – in fact I may call it nothing save a slaughter-house. He we suffered most.

The brigade then took up another position on the Warrenton road, to defend our batteries – Carlisle’s battery, and a heavy 32-pounder being in position. The strife continued; the right consisting of the Sixty-ninth, Seventy-ninth, Eleventh, Zouaves, [??]., having forced the enemy from their positions across the Warrenton road, while we were outflanking them on the left, at the same time exposed to a terrific cross fire from their batteries, which fairly riddled us. At 2 P. M. we accomplished our purpose by getting on their flank and throwing our right in front of their [????] – their [????] the whole time [????……].

[????…..] up under cover of the woods, but skirting the road, and while here the Sixty-ninth, Seventy-ninth and Eight Zouaves and others came straggling along, thoroughly exhausted and used up. At this point I had the pleasure of shaking hands with Colonel Corcoran of the Sixty-ninth and other officers of the same and other regiments with whom I was acquainted. At this time the batteries of our brigade had ceased firing, and were drawn up standing in the road, the pieces being limbered up. Our brigade were about getting ready to fall in by the left flank for the purpose of marching off to cover the retreat, when, quick as a flash, we heard terrible yells up the road in our rear, a great dust flying – the cracking of pistols and rifles without number. Looking up I saw Captain Carlisle, U. S. A., and his battery in full retreat as fast as they could go. I very soon after saw that the Black Horse Cavalry were upon us, to the number of three or four hundred. Seeing that our line was broken, and some officers in full retreat, several of the officers, particularly Lieutenant-Colonel Wilcox, Lieutenant Downey, Captain Hueston and others, rallied the men, and gave them a terrible volley, which caused great scattering among them, having emptied a number of their saddles, and reduced their number before the third volley to about fifty or sixty men.

In that charge we lost several of our men, and as we did not see some of them fall, these that are now missing have been taken prisoners, but as I saw them cutting right and left with sabre, carbine and pistol, apparently not caring to take prisoners, I am of the opinion that those or most of those now among the missing who were not officers in uniform will never be heard from again.

I am confirmed in this opinion from the fact that they not only bayonetted the wounded on the field, as I saw myself, but attacked our hospitals, containing the dead and wounded of their own as well as our side; and not satisfied with that I distinctly saw them set fire to the same, and shoot and cut those endeavoring to escape. My blood boils to think of their atrocities, and makes my feelings savor of hate and revenge for fallen comrades. We mourn the loss of our physician, Dr. Alfred Powell, a noble man, who refused to leave those under his care, and was brutally murdered by them while engaged in placing our wounded in the ambulance and our Assistant Surgeons Ferguson and Connolly (son of Charles W. Connolly, of the firm of Chas. W. Connolly & Co., New York,) after a brief defence, were taken prisoners.

During the excitement our Colonel (Tompkins) was cut off from his regiment by a party of the cavalry, and, together with Colonel Corcoran, was chased and fired at by them for some distance, and our Colonel says that he saw them shoot at Colonel Corcoran and thinks he was wounded and taken prisoner, as not being as well mounted as our Colonel (who was on the Lieutenant-Colonel’s magnificent black horse), he was undoubtedly rode down.

At the time of the rally I speak of Lieutenant-Colonel John A. Wilcox was in command, and bravely stood his ground, and reformed the regiment in good order, and was ably assisted therein by the major (J. J. Dimock), Captain Hueston, Lieutenant Downey and a few other brave spirits. Those that know me can easily determine where I must have been, as I do not believe in one blowing his own horn too much. I will leave my actions to be praised or censured by others than myself.

After the charge was disposed of the regiment being formed under good order, by Lieutenant-Colonel Wilcox and assisted by Adjutant Rea, the Zouaves, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Maine regiments being in advance of us, we slowly retreated, the Zouaves having beaten back another attack of the Black Horse Cavalry while on another road and before meeting us. Whatever others may say I emphatically say that our line withdrew in good order, and that the New York Second was the last to leave, as they were the first in the battle-field. As an instance to show the falsity of any panic being in existence among the men, some of our men engaged themselves picking blackberries on the road side, while others were occupied endeavoring to spike with their own ramrods the deserted pieces of Carlisle’s battery. If that looks like a panic or a stampede I am very much mistaken. The fact is, that the men were exhausted by eleven hours of the severest fighting that ever took place on the continent; and, as some European officers have been heard to say, surpassed anything they ever saw. I do not think history can show an instance where 25,000 men attacked upwards of 100,000, and fought them in an entrenched camp with concealed batteries, as well as men for that time. The whole panic was outside of five miles from the battlefield, and in the neighborhood of Colonel Miles’s reserves at Centreville. Otherwise we should have been cut to pieces before reaching the reserve, as has been testified to by several experienced officers, that the good order of Schenck’s brigade in retreating saved the whole army.

After falling back to Centreville and taking our position behind the reserve we received orders to fall back to our old camp, a distance of thirty miles, (Ball’s Cross Roads,) which we reached in food order at 6 o’clock next morning. About 10 o’clock Sunday night orders were issued for the whole line to fall back – the reserve and all which they did in good order, and without being annoyed by the enemy save by numerous barricades on the road, which had to be removed.

We were subsequently removed to Washington, and are now in camp recruiting as well as reorganizing the regiment. We number all told now only 700, so you see this campaign has pretty well used us up. We named our camp Powell, in honor of our noble Surgeon. As far as I can ascertain the enemy lost four times as much as our side, otherwise their main body would not have fallen back on Manassas Gap to recruit; however some of their advanced cavalry are still hovering around our pickets at Vienna and Fall’s Church, but will not dare advance nearer.

In conclusion I must say that although repulsed we are not disgraced, but have taught those cowardly scoundrels, that though in entrenched camps and behind masked batteries, and hid in the woods, they were whipped twice that day by one-quarter their number, and that our side withdrew from Exhaustion only, in fact, I must say that at a convivial party of the officers of our regiment held during Saturday night, the probability of a defeat was confessed, and firmly believed in by a majority of us who were present.

Our party sang a different tune on the following night (Sunday), although on account of our fortunate escape we were joyful in the extreme. Our loss will be heavy, but at present, on account of the number missing, we are unable to make out a full report.

Our men behaved nobly and surpassed the finest troops in the world, bout our volunteer (political) generals, as well as some favorite political colonels, behaved shamefully, and in many instances exhibited both cowardice and inefficiency – the exceptions, otherwise, were very few.

I shall await the re-organization of the regiment before taking steps, but if we are again placed under the command of politicians I shall resign my position and return to civil life. However, in the interval I will endeavor to obtain a furlough for a while, and see you again before entering upon another campaign.

I omitted saying that I did one thing for effect during the heavy fire, which had the best influence on the men, when I tried them by giving them orders, and that was the little trick of quietly smoking a cigar. While the men were falling around me I must confess my coolness was rather forced, but it had the desired effect on the men and I was satisfied.

New York Evening Post, 7/29/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy