Unknown Irishman, Co. B, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

29 06 2020

From the Manchester Journal
A CHARACTERISTIC LETTER.

From an Irishman in the Castelton Company of the 2d Vt. Regiment:

Bush Hill, Fairfax Co.
July 26, 1861.

Dear Friend Patrick, – I received your letter last night with the greatest pleasure. It is the first word I have heard from any of my old friends since I have been here, and anything that comes from Vermont seems worth more to me than the whole Southern States. Patrick you asked me if I was in that fight. Oh, yes indeed I was, and God only knows what a fight we had to: it was one of the hardest battles ever fought. It was a very hot day, and we were very much furtuiged on so long a march, but we fought very brave, but all in vain. There were only 20,000 of our men, and they had about 90,000, and was fresh and hid in the woods, and had 48 rifel cannon behind heavy breastworks. We only had 20 pieces of cannon, and in an open field, and after we got out of ammunitions we was forced to retreat for our lives, and left them in possession of the field, and as the d–d savages ralied on us they run our wounded men through with their bayornets, and burned an old house where there was a good many of our wounded caried to have their wounds dressed. They took all the advantage they could. They raised the stars and stripes once, and we thought they were going to give up, but when we got clost up to them drawed it down and raised their d—l—h palmetto, then opened upon us with a volley of grape which killed about 200 of the Michigan First Regiment and then run into the woods. They took every way to whip us, but we killed more of there men, yes 3 times as many. They tried to surround us, but did not succeed. They made an atact on us as we returned. In those long woods they had a company of 400 black horses; it is called the black horse cavalry; we killed a good part of them, and the rest was glad to retreat and leave us. I wish you had been there to have picked up some of the swords and revolvers and rifuls. I picked up as many as I could carry, but we had to cross over a bridge, and there they had some cannon that was worked by the infernal black Nigars, and weakened the bridge, and it broke down with us and we lost our cannon in the stream, and I was forsed to drop my load of stuff. They killed about 500 men in all. To the bridge we lost our tents and every thing we had onley what we had on our back, and we marched all that night and the next day till noon. It commenced to rain the next morning, and we were as wet as a drouned rat; our feet was a soiled blister and we was so lame and tiard that I could lain down by the road-side and died with the greatest pleasure. – We all went to Alexandria. We got together and went down to Bush Hill last night, about four miles from Alexandria, to camp and recruit for another fight, which will be before long. We have been for the last 2 weeks where money was of no use; we shot hogs and cows and hens and every thing we could get, and stuck it on a stick, and roasted it and eat it without eny salt or eny bread, but we are in hopes of better times now, and I hope we shall have better times. I never saw hard times before, and I hope I never shall again, but I never will run away. I will fight as long as I can.

I wish you could see some of the women here; they are very poor and lean, with ragged clothes, and have no hoops on – nothing but a shirt and an old nasty torne dress, with four or five nasty young ones hanging on to her. Se puts me in mind of an old setting turkey that has sot about eight weeks on rotten eggs – and they cannot read or write; live in the woods in little old log house, and thier men hunt and fish and gamble and drink champaigne and whiskey; some are married and some are not married. I did not see any stoves; all of them has an old-fashioned fire-plase. The hogs run wild here. The water is very poor. You do not know how the country is covered with woods; it is a k—d wild barberaus place; the timber is mostly oak, white. How many is killed from our Regiment I do not know; four from our company. It is agoing to be an awful hard job to whip them, if we ever do. Give my best respects to all my acquaintances.

In haste, yours truly.

Vermont Watchman, 8/23/1861

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2nd Vermont Infantry Roster 





Sgt. Harrison Dewey*, Co. E, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Campaign

29 06 2020

INTERESTING ACCOUNT OF THE SECOND REGIMENT IN THE BULL RUN BATTLE
By a Member of the Turnbridge Company.

Bush Hill, Va., Aug. 5, 1861.

I will endeavor to give you a true and faithful description of our march from Washington to this place after the battle at Bull Run. We left our encampment at Capitol Hill July 16th, and encamped at Bush Hill. At the time of our encamping here we were in the most advanced post on this line in Virginia. We were here formed into a Brigade with the 3d, 4th and 5th Maine regiments, under Col. Howard of Maine. We remained here but a few days when our Brigade were ordered to gain the rear of Fairfax Court House, for the purpose of cutting off the retreat of the rebels from that place, while a more powerful force advanced against it in front. We started at 4 o’clock P. M., and marched until w A. M. We then encamped about two hours. During this march we passed an unfordable stream about thirty feet wide, on a single string-piece. It is said 15,000 troops crossed at this place in two hours. The army here divided; our brigade and one other marched to the rear, the remainder to the attack in front. After marching until 1 o’clock P. M., and gaining a good position in the rear of the rebels, we learned that they had evacuated the place about two hours previous. After resting a few hours, we took up our march for Centreville, where we arrived at 9 o’clock P. M. We here encamped in the open air, as we had done for the three previous nights. Here we remained three nights. Saturday evening we were ordered to be prepared to march to Bull Run at 2 o’clock the next morning. We were all ready before the hour appointed, and every one appeared at least to be eager for the fray. We did not get under way until some time after daylight. About six o’clock, A. M., we heard the roar of cannon. The sounds were like a shock of electricity throughout our regiment, and all seemed to exert themselves to gain the battle field. After marching 4 miles from Centreville, we were halted in a woods three miles from Bull Run. We were now within two miles of the nearest combatants, whose guns and cannonading made the earth tremble where we were halted; but notwithstanding our eagerness to press forward, we were detained here nearly two hours. Had we been permitted to have pressed forward against their right flank, as we afterwards did against their left, the battle would have been decided in our favor. But we lost the opportunity by this unjustifiable delay. At length a messenger arrived for us to march on to the field with all possible dispatch. When the order arrived, at least one-third of our brigade were asleep; but the alarm sounded and in four minutes we were in line and on our march. From this place to where we commenced firing, was three miles, and we marched most of the way on double quick time. On arriving within about one hundred rods of where we formed our line of battle, the rebels threw a tremendous sight of anon balls and bomb shells among us, the shells bursting in our midst scattering death and wounds on all sides. – The orderly sergeant of Company H, who was marching by my side, fell with his right arm broken in two places. One of the color guards was badly wounded in the leg, and a private by the name of Streeter was wounded in both legs. All these wounds were from the same shell. This, however, was but one of the many shells thrown amongst us. It was perhaps as destructive as any one. All the above wounded are missing. We did not slack our march in the least until we arrived on the field, which was already strewn with the dead and wounded. We formed our line behind a hill and marched on to the lines, which were formed within about forty rods of the rebel lines. After our second fire, the rebels hid themselves in the wood and behind stumps and trees. We stood our ground without flinching until we were ordered to retreat. The right wing of our regiment immediately obeyed the order, but the left wing still maintained their ground until they were twice more ordered to retreat. Our guns were now too hot for use, and we left the field.

During the battle the rebels displayed the Stars and Stripes, and also made our private signals when we were ordered to cease firing, but quickly discovering the mistake, we fired a volley and the rebel bearer of the Stars and Stripes fell dead, as did many others. A spent musket ball struck me on the right knee, but did no injury. As we walked (not run) up the slope that carried us up to the plain where the first shells burst among us, I was by the side of Capt. Smith. We heard a cannonball in our rear, when we both sprang aside, the ball passing between us, and not more than fifteen or eighteen inches from either of us. It struck the ground but a few feet forward of us. I picked it up, intending to save it, but it was too heavy to carry.

One of the most splendid displays in this or any other battle was the charge made by the Black Horse Cavalry, supported by the Texas Rangers, upon the Ellsworth Zouaves. They were about 500 strong, the Zouaves nearly 400. They rushed upon them at the height of their speed and with horrible yells. The Zouaves formed themselves into a hollow square and received them at the point of the bayonet. For a few moments it appeared as tho’ the Zouaves were being cut to pieces without mercy. The firing on both sides ceased and the greatest anxiety was apparent; but in less than five minutes the splendid body of cavalry was more than half stretched out in death. The Zouaves were not satisfied, but continued to make partial attacks upon them until not fifty of the cavalry remained unharmed. It is stated that the most deadly hatred existed between the cavalry and the Zouaves, and that they were determined to destroy them or die themselves, and the result is as above stated. I notice contradictory accounts in the papers respecting the above cavalry, but no doubt exists here but they are, as above states, the Texas Rangers.

We continued our retreat across the plain where the first shells and balls were fired at us. As we passed over this plain, if it were possible the balls and shells fell thicker and faster than when we passed over it in the battle, but no flinching or dodging was visible among the officers and men. We passed the plain, however, without extra loss. I did not notice a single gun fired by the retreating soldiers after they commenced their retreat, which is something very remarkable. I have heard that in some regiments they did fire [?] to the rear.

It is very gratifying indeed to reflect upon the bearing, steadiness and bravery of our regiment on the field of battle. No troops ever stood firmer. I did not see one that went on to the field tremble or flinch in the least. Capt. Smith was as cool, apparently at least, as when sitting in his own house, but not more so than were Lieutenants Whitney and Bixbey. After retreating about 4 miles we were suddenly attacked on our right flank by the enemy’s cannon. The excitement now became intense in the extreme and and the panic and confusion was inextricable. The rear was cut off and fled in confusion to the left. I was in the rear of our company at this time and did not see it again until the next Friday night. I continued to bear to the left until about eleven o’clock p. m. with two others. We then lay down on the ground until 3 o’clock a. m., when we started for Centreville, but soon learned that it was in the hands of the rebels. I see by the papers that I was last seen at Centreville*. This is not correct, Wiggins and Godale fled with me and continued with me until we arrived in Washington. At the time of our separation from the regiment we had two days rations for one man, making six meals, when we ought to have had forty. The remainder was supplied with black and blue berries which grow in great abundance. About 8 o’clock Monday morning it commenced raining and continued over twenty-four hours. I may here remark that the storms and nights here are very chilly. We were exposed to this long rain without going under any kind of shelter whatever. We dared not go to any house for fear of armed rebels, nor into any barn or shed in the night because of dogs; so that we did not go under any cover whatever until we arrived in Washington. When we left the regiment we were about fifty miles from the Potomac, but the course we traveled to get there could not have been less than 125 miles. The last day we traveled 23 hours, and the last 8 hours did not even halt. The first thing I recognized was the Capitol at Washington, and I assure you it was a beautiful sight to us. We arrived at six o’clock p. m. on Thursday. I immediately recognized a gentleman in the street from something particular about him; he took us home with him and treated us in the kindest manner until Friday. I then left for the camp at this place, (the others stopping in Alexandria.) where I arrived in the evening, when I was received by the company with hearty cheers, the Captain giving the order. On our journey to the Potomac we were six times headed off by the rebel cavalry and obliged to turn back and flee. I am now detailed as Clerk of a Court Martial and must close but will write again as soon as I can find time and give farther particulars and incidents.

Vermont Watchman, 8/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* Harrison Dewey of Co. E was reported as “last seen at Centreville” in the letter of “T. H. C.”, published in “Waltons Daily Journal (Montpelier, VT), 7/29/1861. The letter also mentions Wiggins and “Goodale.” Thus the extraordinary assumption that the letter writer is indeed Sgt. Harrison Dewey. See transcription here.

2nd Vermont Infantry Roster 

Harrison Dewey at Ancestry 

Harrison Dewey at Fold3 

Harrison Dewey at FindAGrave 





T. H. C., On the 2nd Vermont Infantry In the Battle

14 05 2020

Correspondence of the Journal
The Second Vermont Regiment.

“T. H. C.” writing from Washington, July 24, to the Burlington Times, furnishes additional particulars respecting the Vermont Regiment, from which it will be seen that they were not furnished with the new Enfield guns which were promised, but went into the battle with their old “smooth bores.” Some luck regiment undoubtedly had the nice rifled guns which we understand were offered to Vermont by parties in Canada, but refused. – The War Department had given no authority to purchase them, and of course it could not be done! We give the principal portion of the letter as follows:

Our men, wearied and fatigued by the long march in the sun, without breakfast and water, and being attacked at once upon their arrival, it will be seen they fought at great disadvantages. In fact it seems almost incredible that they could have endured it half the time they did. – The Vermont regiment was the first in the brigade, as I am informed, to commence the action, and were kept in the hottest of the battle most of the time, and were the last to leave the field, and never during the whole engagement did they exhibit any dissatisfaction, until the order came to retreat. With this they were very much displeased.

The enemy used the best rifled cannon, mostly, bringing their infantry and cavalry into action only when necessary to make a charge. It must be evident to every one that under these circumstances, armed as our regiment was with the poorest arms, they could not do great execution against an enemy thus protected, however brave and determined they might be. I have seen every captain and officer of our regiment since the engagement, and received from each their statement as to their particular commands, and the wonder is that they were not completely annihilated, and I have yet to see the first soldier who was not cool and fearless during the whole time, and who is not dissatisfied that they were called away. – The Battleboro Company, Captain Todd, being the Company carrying the flag, received the most injury, their captain receiving a ball through the throat in the early part of the action and was carried from the field.

While some companies were in worse positions than others and of course were called upon to do more, still there were none of them but what fought desperately and until the last moment.

Probably the Bennington Company, Capt. Walbridge, did more execution than the others, from the fact that they were the only company to have Minnie muskets or rifles. In every instance, Capt. W. told me, whenever he came into fair action with a company of rebels, he silenced them after four rounds. The other companies fought at a great disadvantage, their muskets being a poor weapon to contend with the rifles of the enemy. – Every Captain gives his men much credit for their obedience to orders and bravery during the whole action, and our whole regiment came from the field to Centreville in perfect order. Lieut. Col. Stannard, (although not well when he came on to the field) and Major Joyce behaved most nobly, gallantly and bravely – being at their posts in the midst of a perfect shower of balls and shot, rallying their men, and issuing their orders with coolness and dispatch. The men are universal in their expressions of praise and admiration of the conduct of these officers, as well as that of Adjutant Ladd, who passed from company to company in the midst of the thickest fight. Assistant Surgeon Carpenter remained at the Hospital, some two miles from the battle field to take care of the sick and wounded as they were brought in, and so remained in active discharge of his duties until the general rout, when the hospital was fired into by the rebels and destroyed – the sick escaping in every possible way they could – Surgeon Carpenter was the last to leave it, and not until every man was away. No man upon the field was more cool in the performance of his duties than Surgeon Ballou. He took upon himself the duty of going upon the field with the ambulances, to pick up the wounded and take them to the hospital, which proved to be the most dangerous part of all.

The enemy firing on the ambulances, in a short time every one which Dr. Ballou had was shot to pieces, with the wounded in them, he narrowly escaping many times, and finally, when he came in with the last one, it was struck by a ball, separating it from the horses, and about the same time a charge was made by the Black Horse cavalry, of Alexandria, which created a stampede, when the Doctor, mounting one of the horses, left the field. – This was after the whole army was in retreat, and there was general consternation. He soon found a wounded soldier, whom he put on the horse, and being separated from the regiment, made his way back to Alexandria walking through the woods 30 miles.

I regret to say that there is dissatisfaction with Col. Whiting, whether justly or unjustly in not for me to say. If all reports are correct it is due to him, and to the brave sons of Vermont who have fought so gallantly, that the matter should be investigated. Every soldier who survived is ready and anxious to march to the battle-field again; but under their present impression respecting the Col. they will enter a battle with little confidence.

Col. Bowdish, Wm. G. Shaw, John B. Page, F. Chaffee and myself spent Friday and Saturday last with the army at Centreville, and left about six hours before they were ordered to prepare for battle. Yesterday Col. B. and myself spent at Alexandria, gathering a list of the missing, which as near as we can ascertain up to the hour of writing, is as follows:

Company A, Capt. Walbridge, Bennington.

Andrew J. Noyes – Flesh wound below hip, was in ambulance coming from the field.
Wm. E. Murphy – Left on the field to take care of Noyes.
Thomas Morissey – Sick before the battle and supposed to be a prisoner.

Company B, Capt. Hope, Castleton.

Warren Gifford, Danby – Wounded in the hand, left camp at Centreville.
Jeremiah Bolton, Hydeville – Flesh wound in thigh, last seen at hospital near field.
H. L. Breckensaid, Rutland – Killed.

Company C, Capt. Todd, Brattleboro’.

This is the only company which we have not full returns. The Capt. is at the National Hotel in this city and will soon be out. He says that about a dozen of his company are missing.

iCo. D, Capt. Dillingham, Waterbury.i

P. F. Flaherty – gave out on the field.
John Gwoing – wounded in the foot – last seen on the field.
John H. Murray, Duxbury, seen on field.
Dan. K. Stickey, Berling, seen on field.
These are supposed to be prisoners.

Co. E, Capt. Smith, Tunbridge.

Harrison Dewey, Royalton – last seen at Centreville, weary.
S. L. D. Goodale – last seen on retreat.
Edson Wiggins, Chelsea – last seen on retreat.
George A. Martin fell out before reaching the field.
A. Waldo, Royalton – left in the hospital at Centreville sick.

Co. F, Capt. Randall, Montpelier.

Victory Goodrich, Roxbury – Killed.
Benj. Taylor, Montpelier – last seen on the field.

Co. G, Capt. Drew, Burlington.

Capt. J.T. Drew was sick Saturday and when they were ordered to march insisted on going, and was last seen by Sergeant Bliss of Bennington Co. about 2 miles from the field at the hospital, probably prisoner.
Sergeant Geo. W. Woodward, Westford – last seen on retreat before the cavalry attack.
H. W. Conroe, South Hero – last seen on retreat before the cavalry attack.
Benj. Martin, South Hero – last seen on retreat before the cavalry attack.
John Redmond – last seen on field.
L. M. Wilson stopped at his fathers in Fairfax and probably Woodward may be with him.

Co. H, Capt. Burham, Fletcher.

Sergeant Woodbury, arm shot off and amputated, left the hospital near the field.
Geo. Streeter, Milton – wounded below knee pan in both legs, in Stone Church at Centreville.
Jehiel S. Bailey, Bakersfield – last seen on the field.
N. B. Lathrop, Cambridge – last seen on the field.
A. Paris, Fairfax – last seen on the field.
Eugene C. Sleeper, Fairfax – last seen on the field.

Co. I, Capt. Fullam, Ludlow.

John A. Leonard, Shrewsbury – wounded I the arm, last seen o the field.
Geo. H. Lewis, fifer, not seen since he went into the field.

Co. K, Capt. Eaton, Vergennes.

Henry Huntly, seen on retreat.

From this it will be seen there are but about 46 missing and but 8 known to be dead. Soldiers are constantly coming in, and as it is about 30 miles from the Potomac to the field of battle, and the country intervening being covered more or less with woods it will take some time for them to come in. I have no doubt the missing will be reduced to 20. I may ot be correct in all my account but have given from the best authority I could get.

Walton’s Daily Journal (Montpelier, VT), 7/29/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





J. B. L., Co. F, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle

14 05 2020

Correspondence of the Journal
From The Second VT. Regiment

Wednesday, July 24, 1861.

Last Sunday morning at 2 o’clock we received orders to march immediately towards Manassas Junction. The Vermont Second is in the third Brigade and under Brig. General Howard of Me., occupying the left flank of the brigade. The number of brigades were divided into three divisions, ours under General Heintzelman, the whole force being commanded by Gen. McDowell and amounting to about forty thousand men, who were encamped at Centreville, Va., about fourteen miles from Manassas Junction and about twenty-five from Washington. The whole column extended some two miles and it was near 5 A. M. before our regiment moved. We were provided with one days’ rations and supposed that when we advanced they would fall back; also expecting victory as a matter of course. Through carelessness on my part I got separated from the Second and went with Ellsworth’s Zouaves, advancing on the right while the Second went to the left, making Manassas as our concentrating point. But our scouts composed of the Rhode Island 1st and 2d, and New York 71st, encountered two rebel regiments advancing from Winchester, Va., towards a point a little below what is called Bull’s Run, an after a little severe fighting the rebel’s retreated, and as Governor Sprague appeared before his regiments he was enthusiastically cheered with cries – “The day is ours!” Sprague is said to have had two horses shot from under him, and the 2d R. I. lost their Colonel (Slocum). Soon after, as we advanced in column, the repeated discharges of cannon and the showers of grape that we found thrown among us, told that the enemy was not ours, but that we had one of their noted masked batteries to capture.. Soon again, we heard the rapid firing of musketry on the other side and we drew up by brigades and advanced towards the summit, where we could see the smoke from their battery, under the protection of our artillery. We found the attention of their guns to be drawn toward the R. I. Artillery, which the were endeavoring to silence. Our brigade advanced within ten rods of their infantry and each fired nearly at the same moment. The Zouaves suffered terribly; also the Minnesota regiment, wounding or killing a quarter of each. From a wounded Georgian I learned that the force stationed at this point amount to 65,000 men, under command of Gen. Barlow, and that Beauregard had 75,000 more at Manassas ready at any moment to reinforce him. He said that both Generals know that our force amounted to only forty or fifty thousand, and that it was insufficient, and intended to cut us all up, and cut off our retreat, to make our total defeat certain. After desperately fighting against such fearful odds we were ordered to retreat. – As soon as the enemy found we were leaving, they fired it seemed, three times where they did once in the hottest of the action, and our soldiers scattered in every direction to avoid the grape and cannister, as well as the long ranged rifled cannon. After harassing us thus and during the time, they cut us off when we least expected it, by about a thousand cavalry, who were upon us, charging fearfully. It created such a havoc and panic that the whole army fled in all directions; some however taking the main road to Centreville, whereupon they were again cut off, and dropped everything, even their coats, so panic stricken were they. I got over a fence and laid very quiet until the black horsemen had passed on. Our cavalry or artillery did us no good, the former rushing passed us and going ahead.

I never saw a sett of men so afraid before. They all run, no one dared to stop three minutes even to rest, they expected the whole force after them as they saw the infantry about to follow, but nothing could have caught us in our flight. They had no regard at all to the orders of their officers but all seemed to the eager in looking out for this individual self.

Gen. McDowell was insane in marching 35 or 40,000 men, right up to a masked battery defended by some 65,000, reinforced by some 30 or 40,000 more, making in all about 100,000, almost three to one. This was fearful odds, and one could expect nothing but sure defeat. If we had not been allowed to arrive safely and garrison the fort on Arlington Hights, what would have been the consequence to Washington? It would certainly have been captured. Fairfax Court House and Centreville are at present occupied by rebels. They thought we had a larger army near them than we really had and left some of the best fortified entrenchments, that we have yet seen. All our artillery with the exception of two pieces fell into the hands of the rebels. Our incampment now is some four miles from Alexandria near their pickets, and the forts opposite here expected an attack yesterday and prepared against it.

I should judge that about 2,000 of our men were killed or wounded all falling into the hands of the rebels. Our baggage wagons; muskets; equipments, knapsacks and tents, besides all our provisions, horses, and no doubt many men were taken charge of by the rebels. Company F. lost Victor Goodrich who was shot at the first volley, as I have not seen my regiment yet I do not know of others that were shot.

J. B. L.

Walton’s Daily Journal (Montpelier, VT), 7/39/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

2nd Vermont Infantry Co. F Roster





Sgt. Abraham Ford, Co. H, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle

12 05 2020

From the Second Vermont Regiment.

Alexandria, Va., July 23, 1861.

Dear Sir – * * * * When the head of our column came up to theirs, they opened on us with their artillery. We had then marched fifteen miles, were all out of breath, had no breakfast except hard crackers which we eat on the march, had drank nothing but muddy water, and the last two miles of our march we had made on the “double-quick;” but notwithstanding all that, we went into them, and drove them back to their stronghold. There they drew on us and gave us the best whipping an army ever had. But we fought until we were ordered to retreat, and then came bitter disappointment to crown a day of severe fighting, hard labor and dreadful misery. – They followed us up with artillery and cavalry in the rear, while they sent a force around to cut off our retreat where we had to cross a bridge; but they did not cut us up very badly there, for we took to the woods. We could not return fire, for we had no ammunition.

The number of killed and wounded is not known, for we had to leave them all, poor fellows. Only two of them, in a shed that I stopped in on our retreat, had their wounds dressed. I think there must have been fifty in that shed, and they were only a small portion of what were on the field. – Our Orderly Sergeant [of the Fletcher Company] had his arm shot through. I took him off the field and helped our surgeon perform the amputation; and just as we had got through and got it done’up the order came to retreat to our old quarter; but when we got there we found no place would be safe for us short of Alexandria, and so we kept on; and a longer road, for one that had no more miles in it, I think I never saw. We arrived here about 11 o’clock on Monday forenoon, making about thirty-six hours that we were under arms, marching in the time at least fifty miles, and fighting severely about half an hour. When I say this, I mean the Vermont regiment; you will see by the papers how long the fight lasted, from 7 A. M. to 4 P. M., I think.

When we arrived here we were tired, hungry and wet; our feet were blistered and bleeding. – All the wounded came on that were able. To-day we are all sore and lame; not a man of us can walk without limping.

We expect the wounded that we left are all murdered; for we showed a flag of truce on the field, and they fired into it. I nailed a white flag on the door of the shed where some of the wounded were, and left with our orderly two canteens of water, a filter to drink through and some hard crackers – all I had. Then I had to leave or be taken prisoner. The poor fellow begged of me to get a team and take him along, but that was impossible. I had to leave him to the mercy of a southern chivalry. I have heard since that the building was blown to pieces by their artillery and the wounded all killed.

Our Surgeon lost all his instruments and had to run for dear life. I could write a whole week of incidents which came under my observation, but I am tired and weak, and must close. More anon.

Yours Truly,
Abraham Ford.

The above letter inclosed a photograph of Col. Ellsworth, which the author found near the body of a fire Zouave who had been killed in the battle. It was taken in New York, by J. Gurney & Son, as their card is on the back of it.

Walton’s Daily Journal (Montpelier, VT), 7/23/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Abraham Ford at Ancestry.com 

Abraham Ford at Fold3 





Unknown Captain*, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

24 02 2020

From the Daily Freeman.
The Vermont 2d at Bull Run.
———————–

The Vermont Second were on the left wing, which brought us directly opposite a portion of the enemy’s line stationed behind a fence; but in about ten minutes we had the pleasure of seeing their line give away, and they fled to the woods. But at the same instant I discovered a movement of a large body of their troops towards us, with the evident design of outflanking our right. We seemed to have the battle now immediately before us, and the necessity of a change of position of our Regiment was apparent to all. We had nearly ceased fire when I noticed Capt. Walbridge, who was on my right, and on the right of the Regiment, facing his men to deploy to the right. I inferred from this that the general order had been given to deploy, although I heard no such order. But it was impossible to hear, and we had to go by signs, and guess our way through. I immediately gave orders to my Company to face to the right, and we marched around so as to prevent their outflanking us. I discovered at this time that Capt. Walbridge and myself were alone in this maneuver, and I have since learned that no order was given to this effect; but the movement saved a part of our artillery at least. All concerned had by this time discovered that, on account of superior numbers of the enemy’s reserve, we should not be able to hold the ground against them; but the Fourth Maine, which was not on our left, and the Vermont Regiment – part on the left and part on the right – held the position a long time, retiring slowly, while our wounded, baggage, and artillery mostly gained the line of retreat. It was nearly night, and God save me from another such scene as followed. The ground where we were, was so situated that we could only retreat along one road, which passed through a dense wood, and that vast array of wounded and whole, baggage and artillery, all rushed for this pass. Why we were not all cut to pieces, I do not know. The Rebels did not see our entire defeat, and did not pursue us as promptly as they might have done, and we gained a very fair start on them. But night was setting in, and we could not get Companies together, much less Regiments, and every one retreated on his own hook. Horses were unhitched from baggage trains, and turned back, covered with riders, and the wagons left to block the already narrow pass. Horses and wagons were often overturned, and left piled pell-mell in the gutters. At one place we had a bridge to cross and I never saw such confusion. There we lost most of our baggage. I counted as many as twenty dead horses, with wagons innumerable, piled in this ravine, and troops actually crossed over this mass of horse flesh and wagons, boxes and barrels, cannon, &c., rather than over the bridge. I had thus far kept the most of my Company together, and from the fact of our being last off the field, and in the rear, I was every moment expecting an attack on our retreating columns. But the delay here was so great that I rallied my men, and we passed to the left into the woods to a point above the bridge some few rods, where we crossed by wading the creek, which was about waist deep. This carried us to about the middle of the column, and we stopped a moment to witness the dreadful scene at the bridge. I saw an ambulance, in which were several wounded troops, run off the bank, killing the horses, but leaving the men still alive. All sorts of horrible sights, too shocking to contemplate, were before us. We now proceeded to the top of the hill, where we sat down to empty the water from our boots and ring it out of our clothes. While this engaged, the report of a cannon to the rear but too plainly told that we were pursued and overtaken, Our cavalry, however, it seems, were expecting this, and a gallant charge from them saved us from utter annihilation.

We were now ten miles from the camp we had left in the morning, and thirty-five miles from Alexandria, the only point where we could count ourselves safe. If we had stopped the retreating column here, and formed in some order we might have made a successful stand, but this was impossible. If I had now had all my company together, I would have given all the money I ever saw in Vermont, or ever expect to. You may perhaps faintly appreciate my feelings in thinking that out of my whole company who were anxiously looking to me for advice and direction only about twenty could be counted; and among the missing was my own boy. I halted and we held a counsel as to whether we would proceed or wait and try to gather in the rest. We concluded that we could not aid them by remaining, and having with us all that we knew were wounded, we concluded to keep along and pick up what we could. Our march was now direct to Alexandria, thirty-five miles, and we did not make any long halt till we reached here about ten o’clock this morning, a terribly tired and worn out set of fellows. We ate some luncheon from our haversacks about eleven yesterday, just before going into the battle, and that was the last we had until some time after noon to-day. I have been trying to get up life enough with the boys to have them wash and improve their looks a little, but all except one or two are still sleeping in the dirt, so black you could not recognize them. We succeeded to-day in getting some bread and butter, which is all we have had to eat, but the men are so tired they all lie around me unconscious of hunger.

(Barton, VT) Independent Standard, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* The writer mentions a son in his company. Using this roster, this captain could be – Co. D, Capt. Charles D. Dillingham (there is also a Martin L.); Co. E, Capt. Richard Smith (also Edward H. and Nathan F.); Co. H, Capt. William T. Burnham (also Andrew J.).

Dillingham was born in 1837, and would not likely have a son of age.

Smith was 40 years old at the time. Fold3 

Burnham was 43 years old at the time. Fold3

I’ve been unable to positively establish links between the Smiths or between the Burnhams.





Sgt. Eldon A. Tilden, Co. D*, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle, Retreat, and Sun-Stroke

21 12 2016

From the Second Vermont Regiment.

The following is an extract from a letter written by member of the Waterbury Company, to his parents in Barre. It gives some interesting details of the engagement at Bull run, about which all are so anxious to learn:

Bush Hill, near Alexandria,
Sunday, July 28, 1861.

Dear Parents: – Our detachment was sent as a reserve to cut off the retreat of the enemy, if there should be one in our directions, and if not, to be ready for any emergency or any duty which they might assign us.

We marched about four miles from Centreville, where we halted in a pleasant grove near Gen. McDowell’s quarters, and awaited further orders. While resting, we could distinctly hear the incessant reports of cannon and musketry from both sides, and (listening for ourselves the sound of charges) we were satisfied that our forces were gradually driving the enemy, when the order came to forward, which was promptly done. Gen. Howard gave the order to forward double-quick time, which pace was kept up for over four miles, through an open field, most of the way, and the sun pouring its melting rays directly in our faces. The result of this, (which was wholly unnecessary) was that many of the troops were obliged to leave the ranks; many of the men were sun-struck, some even died from the effects of it. I was one of the number that was sun-struck, I suppose, for I cannot tell what else it could be. I run as long as I could stand, when I fell perfectly insensible, and remained so for nearly an hour, I should judge; the first I knew, some one was pouring water upon my feet, wrists and head, who also gave me something to drink. I have since learned that it was the Hospital Sergeant, and he tells me there were over a hundred in the same situation that I was. After I came to a realizing sense of my situation, I threw away my blankets and tried to regain my feet, which I finally succeeded in doing, and started at a slow pace for the battle-ground. I passed several deserted (concealed) batteries, from which our troops had just drove the Rebels, and arriving upon a small hill, I had a distinct view of the grounds. Below was a small valley, from which the Rebels had but a few moment before retreated to another but a short distance. I passed to the opposite hill, looking for our Regiment, but could hear nothing from it until the retreat commenced, when I met one of the w[?]ers, who told me the Regiment was badly cut to pieces. Several Regiments passed me on their retreat, before I saw any of the boys from our Regiment. But at last I found one who told me the position of our brigade, which I immediately started for. I could not get much further, however, as the retreat had become general, and troops, artillery, and baggage wagons were rushing in all directions – Up to this moment I supposed victory was complete, and our troops were fast driving the enemy towards Manassas. But the truth was far from it. The Rebels had just received reinforcements, and were making a desperate charge upon us, which our forces, having been engaged a long time and being nearly exhausted, could not stand. I will not give a description of the retreat, as you probably have already as good an idea of it as I could give you, but suffice it to say, there was one general stampede. During our retreat we were cut off once near Bull run, where there was a small battery which opened upon us with some effect, but was soon silenced by a reserve of our troops who were [?] in the vicinity. The Rebel cavalry made a charge upon is at this point, but were met by ours, and out of eighty, only eight or ten succeeded in escaping our fire. I was in a small ravine through which all of our troops had to pass, and which was completely blocked up by the baggage and ammunition wagons. When the last attack was made, I had just passed one of the wagons to which there was two horses attached, when a shell burst near the wagon, which frightened the horses, and they, coming against me, knocked me down, when the horses, wagon and all passed over me. Three men were killed near, by the shell; one of them fell by my side. One musket ball passed through my pants, near the right ancle, and another hit my sword belt near my left hip.

We retreated to our old camp, from which we started in the morning, and should have made a stand there, but it seemed to me that the officers were more frightened than the troops, though I suppose they expected there would be an advance of the Rebels on Washington. We had stopped only a few moments, when the order came to march to Washington, which we did, arriving in Alexandria the next morning, making a march of over fifty miles in a little over twenty-four hours.

The Barre boys that were in the engagement were Strong, Jones, Beckley, Goodrich and Camp, who displayed wonderful coolness, taking deliberate aim. They receive especial praise from the officers. Willey was sick with the measles, and was left with several others at the hospital at Centreville. Smith was just getting over the measles, and was with the baggage team, but came very near being taken prisoner.

Our loss in the whole division is said to be about 500 or 600, but we cannot tell yet, as stragglers arrive every day. There has been an estimate of the loss in our Regiment made which will not exceed 40 killed. From our Company there are 4 missing, but we think they are only taken prisoners. I am informed from a reliable source that our Colonel was not near his command. He paraded his Regiment and retired to a large tree, and watched the proceedings. He has been branded as a coward in Washington, and probably will be in the papers over the signature of Col. Bowdish** of Vermont. The other Regimental officers conducted themselves in a manner which reflects credit upon them.

Troops are rushing into this vicinity by thousands, and the Departments are adopting the most vigorous measures for a thorough re-organization of our army, when I think there will be a desperate move, although I do not think we shall be called upon.

E. A. T.***

[Montpelier VT] Christian Messenger, 8/7/1861

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Contributed by John J. Hennessy

*Company D was raised in Waterbury

**Possibly I. B. Bodish, a leading Democrat of Burlington, VT See Vermont in the Civil War 

**Initials E. A. T. in Co. D correspond with Sgt. Eldon A. Tilden

Eldon A. Tilden bio 

Eldon A. Tilden at Fold3 





Major Charles Herbert Joyce, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Advance and Battle

2 02 2015

Letter From The 2nd Regiment

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Camp Life—The March to the Battle of Bull’s Run—Conduct of the Regiment in the Battle—The Bravery of Officers and Men.

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Camp of Sec. Vt. Reg., Clermont, 6 miles
from Alexandria, Va., 1861.

Editors of the Times: I am aware that when I left Burlington I promised to write you often in regard to all matters pertaining to the Vermont Second, and I am equally aware that I have not kept my promise; but when you reflect a moment upon my duties in camp and position in our Regiment, you will, I know, forgive me. The history of our triumphant route from Burlington to Washington has, by this time, become exhausted; and I shall pass over that and take you to the hill east of the Capitol in the most terrible shower of rain that was ever known, and there you may see our boys, wet to their skins, pitching their tents and preparing their supper, on the afternoon of the 26th of June. Of our stay in the city it is enough to say that we had a grand time, and enjoyed ourselves hugely. But at last the order came to “strike tents,” and we packed up “duds” and started for some point, the exact location of which we were not informed; but time, which always brings us out somewhere, brought us, about sun down, and in an awful thunder shower, out at Commodore DeForrest’s estate, about six miles west of Alexandria. – Here, wet through as rats, we pitched into the mud and went to sleep. I was so perfectly worn out by the labors of the day that I had not strength to raise my tent, and by invitation from Capt. Dillingham, whose tent was up, I turned into his mud-hole, wrapped my overcoat around me a laid down to pleasant dreams!

The next morning we arose under a scorching Virginia sun, which soon dried us off, and we found ourselves in a very pleasant location; and here let me say, that during all the rain, toil and fatigue of the day, not a murmur or word of complaint was heard from one of our men. They bore themselves, as they always have. We now learned that our Regiment was the advance guard towards Manassas Junction, and that we were occupying a post of danger as well as honor. Here we commenced our first lessons in active field operations. We were immediately in the enemy’s country, and our time was pretty well occupied in guard and picket duty. Of all our adventures I have not time or space to write. Others have given you the history of them, and I will only say that our boys were always on hand and ready to do their duty, however difficult or dangerous.

About this time we were advised that we were joined in Col. Howard’s Brigade, which was composed of three Maine Regiments and our own. We found Col. Howard to be one of the finest of men, and a perfect gentleman in every sense of the word, and we have since found out that he is as brave and noble as he is good. I cannot pass without also bearing testimony to the kind acts and gentlemanly deportment of the Colonel’s Aids. One is his brother, and a splendid fellow; the others are Lieutenants Buel and Mordecai, from West Point. We have all received many kindnesses at their hands. But we must pass along and come down to the time when we received orders from headquarters to put ourselves in light marching order, to move with all the grand army upon the enemy, entrenched at Manassas. The morning we were to march was Monday, and we all arose with light hearts at an early hour, and had our “traps” all on and ready for the encounter. We did not receive orders to march until about noon when we left our camp with three days rations in our haversacks and started on that fatal journey.

We marched all the afternoon and most of the night and finally brought up on a side hill where we had the extreme pleasure of laying down on the damp ground with our clothes all on for sleep and repose. In the course of the after noon I bought me a horse, as we had no horses, which aided me very much in the march, and that together with now and then a cheering word from Col. Howard spurred us on in good spirits. The next morning, Tuesday, we started early and marched all day and encamped in a fine piece of woods that night where we stopped until Thursday morning. Tuesday we routed about 700 rebels from their camp and they left in such a hurry that they had not time to gather up their provisions which were eagerly seized by our boys and appropriated with a relish. Thursday morning we weighed anchor for Centerville and arrived there after dark and went into camp. When we started Thursday I was ordered by Col. Howard to take two companies of our regiment to act as rear guard of the brigade, which means to march behind all the baggage wagons and see that they were brought into camp safe. Just at dark we came to a very steep hill about one half mile long and attempted to ascend it, but lo and behold, of all the horses and mules which were hitched to that long train of wagons, not one would go up that hill. Here was a question for a lawyer. The main body of the army was far in advance and we left behind with the pleasing reflection that we were liable at any moment to be pitched into by the enemy and all our baggage taken and ammunition appropriated to blowing out our brains. We raved like mad bulls and you may not be at all surprised if before we left that delightful spot there was considerable tall extemporaneous swearing. The result was we unloaded the wagons, carried the baggage all up the hill on our backs, pushed the teams up, loaded and went on our way rejoicing. When we arrived in camp we found the boys all anxious about us and fearing some evil had befallen us. I am deeply indepted to Capts. Drew and Hope and their gallant boys for their assistance on that occasion. We remained at Centerville until Sunday morning at 2 o’clock A. M. July 21st, when we started for Bull’s Run.

Saturday evening at Dress Parade the chaplain of one of the Maine regiments made a most affecting prayer after which Col. Howard addressed us upon the events of the morrow and told us that in all human probability that was the last time we should all meet on parade and expressed the hope that we should all behave like men and never turn our back to the foe in the hour of conflict. He was answered with a cheer and a “never,” which echoed through the woods of old Virginia for miles. At two o’clock A. M. Sunday morning we started and after marching about one mile we were halted and remained there until nearly seven. We were now advised of our destination which we were told was to march around Bull’s Run between that and Manassas and cut off the retreat of the rebels if they should attempt to retreat on the latter place. About seven we marched on some three miles and halted near the cross road. Here we found Gen. McDowell and staff and all the other notables of the general army. They all put on airs and looked as wise as sheep and so did we. Here we stayed until about ten o’clock when a dispatch came for Colonel Howard to move his brigade out to Bull’s Run, at “double quick” as our services were likely to be needed there very much before sun down. The order came “fall in” and so we went on a dead run for about ten miles, through woods, over fences, ditches, rivers and everything else – soon our men began to give out – it was hat as the thermometer would allow and no water but stagnant pools, which a frog would not live in, to drink – during this time we could hear the loud roar of the batteries as they answered each other in rapid succession, and we knew our boys were at them. Soon we could hear the musketry and as we approached nearer we could hear the clash of arms and we came to the conclusion that it would not be necessary for us to cut off any body’s retreat until somebody began to retreat.

On, we went upon the run and our poor boys were dropping out by dozens, yet no halt or slack. Now we have arrived, at a road which leads up along the skirt of a piece of woods, we enter it and go on upon the run. Now, Oh God! what sights meet our eyes! Here are the hospitals for friends and foes, all thrown in together; here are the surgeons in the woods sawing off legs and arms from the poor fellows who have been wounded – some they have on the ground and some on a board; they shriek, they groan, they swear, in their delirium of agony; here comes the carts bringing in the wounded; the blood running from the cart like water from your street sprinkler. It is awful; it is terrible, but yet our brave boys press on. Now comes a messenger saying to us, go on boys; they need your help. Then another saying go ahead boys, the rebels are flying. We heed them not but with steady step move on. Now we have arrived at the corner of the woods where we must break off to the right through a corn-field which had been occupied by the enemy’s lines in the forenoon – here is our first lesson – we march along the ridge of a hill exposed to the raking fire of three batteries, all in plain sight of use. When I stepped over the fence into the field the first thing which greeted my entrance was a shell which went screaming past my head in a manner neither pleasant nor tranquilizing. I involuntarily dodged down my head and let the unwelcome visitor pass by. On we went while the shot and shell from those rifled cannon tore up the ground around us with perfect impunity – soon we came to to a stone house, and here we bore to the left and passed into another field, still in point blank range of those accursed batteries. As yet I had seen none of our boys fall, but just as I entered this field, I saw my friend, Lieut. Sharpley, of the Burlington company, fall flat on his face. The air was full of the deadly missiles and my fears were that he had been struck by a rifle cannon shot – I ran to him and picked him up and was happy to find that it was only the effects of a shot having passed so near his mouth as to take his breath from his body. I called a private to take care of him and went on glad in my heart that he was not hurt, for a braver man and kinder friend does not live than he.

About this time Col. Howard rode up and ordered our regiment to form line of battle in a deep ravine and march up a steep bank covered with brush wood, on to an inclined plain in full sight of the enemy. The order was given to Col. Whiting, who was near me at the time, completely exhausted and worn out – he immediately ordered me to give the order and see that it was executed, which I did to the sound of music which could be heard but not seen. We found in the ravine our boys, as cool as when on parade, and the order was given to “Forward the Second,” and you may depend it was done nobly. Oh, who would not have given a world at that moment to have been a Vermonter. Not a man but what felt that they carried the honor of Vermont upon their bayonets. On they went – the orders come, “Captains in rear of your companies,” “Boys keep cool,” “Take good aim and mark your man,” – not a pale face appeared in the line; lips were compressed and hearts were as firm as the granite in their native hills. The air was full, even to darkness, with iron and lead, yet I felt a pride in being with the noble Second on that day; and, although I was not born upon Vermont’s soil, yet I was proud of her and her gallant sons, and gloried in the State of my adoption. When we arrived on the brow of the hill we were in plain sight of the enemy’s lines. We marched down the hill about half way, and halted in line of battle. – Between us and the enemy was a deep ravine, and on the other side, on the hill pitching towards us were the rebels, behind a Virginia rail fence. The order now came to open fire on the whole line. Our boys drew up their guns, took deliberate aim at the fence, and then it would have done your soul good to see the devils jump. At the second volley they all cut and run into the woods on their left flank. Soon they made their appearance at the edge of the woods, and at them we went again like bulldogs. We were now in a very uncomfortable situation at least. They were shooting at us with three batteries, and all the rifles and muskets in the Southern States – I thought.

Our regiment loaded and fired with the rapidity of lightning for about two hours, when the word came to retreat. The remainder is unpleasant to reflect upon. I will not describe it our attempt to. I have only to say that, although our entire lines were routed and fled in confusion, yet no stain of dishonor or disgrace rests upon Vermont or any of her brave and noble sons on that day. We marched from the field and formed in the ravine from which we started, and made the best of our way to Centerville. I cannot close this letter, although it is too long already, without bearing testimony to our brave men on that day. In the first place no men in any battle or in any age of the world ever evinced more true courage and down-right bravery.

It would, perhaps, be invidious to call names, but I must be permitted to mention Captains Dillingham, Eaton, Hope and Randall, and Lieutenants Henry, Gregg, Campbell, Johnson, Howe, Tracy, Hugh and Tyler, as men who were under my eye during the whole battle. – With Captain Dillingham I have always been acquainted, and have felt a sort of pride in his success. I have watched him, and I saw him in the midst of the carnage on that bloody day. He was as cool and self-possessed as when on Company parade. I could hear him give his orders to his men; I noticed his face as he passed back and forth, speaking words of encouragement to his brave boys, and by his example inspiring them with courage and fortitude. In a moment I saw him fall! O, God! I sprang towards him and caught him in my arms, lifted him up, and, to my great joy, discovered that a Minnie ball had only just grazed his temple and stunned him for a moment. – I set him on his feet and left him in charge of his men, and started for my post on the left of the line, and scarcely had I gone ten paces then, with a voice that could be heard beyond the enemy’s lines, I hear him say: “They have not killed me yet; give it to them, boys!”

Capt. Drew, of the Burlington Company, fell out sick by the way before we reached the field of battle, and the company was led on to the field and fought under the brave and gallant Lieut. Weed, who conducted himself throughout that bloody day in a manner which did honor to himself and glory to his State. He was the only commissioned officer in company G on the field.

Capts. Smith, Fullam, Walbridge, Todd, and others, behaved in a manner worthy of Vermont, while Capt. Randall greatly distinguished himself by his cool courage and self-possession; he was determined not to leave the field, and did not until compelled to do so by the commander. Of the field officers, it is not for me to speak. One word about our Color-bearer: he is a man from Company G, I do not recollect his name. – He is 6 feet 5 1-2 inches high – he carried his banner upon the field and stood by it during the whole battle, like Goliath of old. Not a limb trembled or a muscle moved, while six of the enemy’s bullets pierced the sacred flag, not one touched the noble bearer. He is truly a brave man, and deserves to be remembered.

Of our surgeons, Drs. Ballou and Carpenter, too much praise of them cannot be said. – We all like Dr. Ballou, because he is always a perfect gentleman, and uses us so kindly, and that fatal Sunday he laid aside all fear of danger to himself, and thought only of our poor boys who were sick and wounded. We shall remember his bravery and repay him with our prayers and good wishes as long as we live. – Dr. Carpenter, of course, every body likes; he is always kind and attentive to our men, and does all in his power to cheer them up, and alleviate their sufferings. His extensive knowledge of his profession, qualifies him in an eminent degree to fill the post which he holds; and his conduct at Bull’s Run, when with revolver in hand, he stopped the crazy tide of the retreat, and made them take in our wounded, who were lying on the battle field, shows that he is a brave soldier, as well as a good surgeon. In connection with the doctors, we must mention our friend, E. Z. Stearns, our Hospital steward, who has greatly endeared himself to us all, by his kind offices and sharp repartees. He is well versed in his duties and performs them to the entire satisfaction of every body.

Our Quartermaster’s Department is managed on a scale not to be surpassed by any regiment in the service. Mr. Pitkin is untiring in his efforts to make us all comfortable, and he is nobly sustained by the Quarter-master’s Sergeant Cain, and the Messrs. Stone. Cain is a young man who thoroughly understands whatever he takes hold of, and his even temper and natural goodness of heart make him a general favorite of us all. We cannot but speak in the highest terms of praise of Mr. Hatch, the agent of the governor in New York. From the moment we arrived in New York, down to the present time, he has been with us like a guardian angel – only last night he was out here to our camp to see if there was not something he could do for us. We shall all remember him, for we appreciate his labors. He seems to possess the right business talent for this place, and devotes his whole time and attention to our wants and necessities. We are greatly indebted also, to Col. T. B. Bowdish of Burlington, and to Mr. Canfield for their kindness and the interest they have taken in our welfare. Our Chaplain, Rev. Mr. Smith, is laboring industriously for our welfare, and does us many acts of kindness, which will always be remembered.

Vermont Phoenix, 8/15/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Charles Herbert Joyce (future member of Congress) at WikiTree 





Pvt. George W. Doty, Co. F, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle

28 01 2015

Letters From The Seat Of War

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Second Vt. Regiment, Co. F.,

Alexandria, July 23, 1861.

Mr. Editor: – I take this opportunity to inform you and my friends in Lamoille County the facts, as I understand them, in regard to the late battle of Bull’s Run and Manassas Junction. I know that exaggerated accounts of the fight are rife in the Northern papers. I propose to give a correct statement, as I saw and participated in the battle. The Third Brigade, composed of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Maine regiments, the Second Vermont, and Ellsworth’s Zouaves as scouts, who were encamped 5 miles from this place, on the road to Fairfax Court House, received marching orders on the 16th, with what they called 3 days rations. It consisted of about 1-2 lb. of hard crackers and 1-2 lb. of salt beef. Gen Howard commanded the Brigade. We advanced and made a circuit of 20 miles to the left, and completely around Fairfax Court House, to Fairfax Station, where we arrived on the 17th at 4 o’clock P. M. Meanwhile another Brigade under Gen. Wilcox, came directly down on the Court House and routed 1100 rebels and took a great deal of provisions and munitions of war, consisting in part of 100 bbs flour and 4 tons bacon, &c., without firing a gun. Our 3 days rations were gone, and we received a portion of the spoils, and having no cooking utensils we took such old dirty kettles and platters as the rebels left, and cooked our flour as best we could. We captured all the nice fat beef we wished for from the rebel farms around us. We stayed at this place until 12 o’clock M. of the 18th, when we commenced our march towards Centreville. We arrived within 2 1-2 miles of the place at 12 o’clock at night, where we formed a line of battle and camped on the fare ground, in our places with our single blanket over us. Our company was detailed as a picket Guard, in the rear. We were fired into twice during the night, and returned the fire in good spirit. they did not hit any of us, and whether we hit any of them I do not know, as it was dark and we were stationed in the woods.

At day light we joined the Brigade and before night other Brigades came in and formed with us, a Division of about 30,000 men and 3 batteries of artillery, the whole commanded by Gen. McDowell. On the 19th the Massachusetts Brigade fired on a drove the rebels from Centreville with a loss of 8 killed and 24 wounded, they captured a small battery from the rebels at this place, and planted their own cannon on the heights around.

A small battery was also taken at Bull’s Run the same day, with a small loss on our side. At 2 o’clock, A. M., of the 21st the long roll of each regiment was beaten and the whole Division commenced the advance, the Third Brigade bringing up the rear. The advance commenced the fight about 7 o’clock, A. M., on the pickets 1 1-2 miles in front of the fort at Manassas Junction. The main body of enemy were entrenched and strongly fortified with plenty of cannon and ammunition with 60,000 men, armed with Sharp’s and Minie rifles, on the highest point of land in the whole country, and surrounded by heavy timber. The land we had to pass over to get them, excepting in front was open ground for miles, exposed to their batteries. The Third Brigade was detached from the main body about 10 o’clock and put through on double quick time, and made a circuit of about 8 miles, and came up on the left of the enemy about 1 o’clock, P. M. At this time our men had driven the rebels one mile. Our Brigade passed over this ground, covered with the dead and dying, every rod of which presented some awful spectacle, and showed the ground had been given up only by inches. Wagon after wagon load of poor wounded prisoners were carried off to be cared for by the different surgeons of the regiments. They appropriated the secession houses for hospitals. The cry of the wounded was “Oh for God’s sake a drop of water;” “don’t step on me, boys;” and like expressions. Our Brigade marched in line of battle with charged bayonets, the smoke and dust was so thick that we could not see a rod ahead of us, the cannon balls and shells from the enemy’s battery fell thick around us; I speak no more particularly of the Vermont Second. We kept a good line, not a word, only from our officers, was heard the whole length of the line; we met parts of regiments coming away, they would say “God bless you boys, you are in time, we have fared hard; give it to them another 1-2 hour and the day is ours.” As we left the bushes and advanced over the hill on double quick time, within 1-2 mile of the battery, they poured in to us a storm of iron hail such as is seldom faced. The Vermont boys yelled, “Hurrah for the victory and glory of the Old Green Mountain State.” We got within about 40 rods of the battery, on the side hill, where we halted and formed a perfect line, during which time the rebels, about 4000 advanced within about 30 rods of us and commenced firing on us; the word was given us to fire; we fire under, then we were ordered to fire 2 feet above their heads, we did so, and noticed the effect. They commenced retreating. About this time our batteries ceased, as afterwards proved, for want of ammunition, and commenced retreating; this encouraged the rebels who fired on us with renewed vigor, but the Vermont boys stood their ground and drove them 1-2 mile; but their batteries then opened on us anew, and the order was given us to retreat. We were mad, however, and fired three volleys after the order was given, when Major Joyce run his horse down the line and said “Vermont boys, you have done well, but for God’s sake retreat, the artillery have run out of ammunition.” We slowly turned and picked up our wounded boys, but had to leave our dead on the bloody field. We had a good many wounded but only a few killed, considering the good chance they had of us. The main body were by this time under headway on the retreat. We retreated in good order until we got to Bull’s Run, where a narrow pass, a bridge and a deep creek, obstructed by our artillery, caused the line to halt. The bridge constantly covered with heavy cannon and horses gave way, making a perfect loss of 2 batteries. Most of them were disabled so as not to do the enemy any good. At this time the enemy came up in rear and fired a good many shells and grape shot, which cut us up dreadfully; and here among the rest, a carriage was taken, containing several wounded ones, among the rest was Orderly Sergeant U. A. Woodbury, of Fletcher Co., who had his hand blown off in the first charge, by a cannon ball. It was amputated by our surgeon, and he was doing well, but was too weak to walk. He is now, if alive, a prisoner among the rebels. Also Capt. Drew, of Co. G., from Burlington, and I presume many others. At this point the regiment broke up and companies followed their respective captains. Capt. Randall, of Co. F., showed great bravery and coolness, during the whole. He encouraged his men during the fight, and in one instance came in front of them, and told us to fire higher, we were doing well. At the bridge he said, “boys follow me, we won’t be taken prisoner,” and jumped into the creek above his middle, followed by his boys who stuck to him through the whole march. We kept up our march back to this place, a distance of 35 miles. We arrived here yesterday about 10 o’clock A. M., a hard looking set of fellows, covered with dust, powder, and blood. We are now quartered in the market house of Alexandria. We shall probably stay until we are sufficiently recruited to march again. Do not think that the rebels have retaken the ground we passed over; not by any means. There are bodies of men stationed all along the road to keep places we have captured. It is reported that Gen. McDowell made a premature attack, that he had ought to have waited the advance of Gen. Patterson; but wishing all the glory for himself, made the attack on his own hook. The result is not counted either a victory, or a defeat. I will say nothing of myself, but this: I was not shot in the back, nor front, that I know of, though hot lead flew a little nearer my head than was agreeable. Four of us, pretty good friends, stood in the front rank, and shouted, “give them a specimen of old Ethan Allen’s bravery.” I can form no estimate of the killed, but the loss must be heavy as the action lasted nearly all day. Only one of our company was killed; 10 are missing. As I am very tired I will close by saying: I am good for a good many more fights for Liberty and the Union.

Truly Yours,

George W. Doty.

Lamoille (Vermont) Newsdealer, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

George W. Doty on Ancestry.com





Unknown, Co. K, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle

5 02 2014

Letter from the 2d Regiment

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The Late Battle.

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[A friend allows us to pint the following private letter, which was written by one who was in the battle at Manassas. Although have already given a good deal of space to this battle, this letter from one who participated will be read with interest by all.]

“At this late day, amid the thousand and one exciting things I have had to think of, I am wholly unable to tell whether I have written you since the great battle or not. Since we returned to Alexandria we have not had much to do, and indeed we are so tired and lame that we could not do much at the best. Such tired, hungry, worn out boys never were seen before as the troops were when they returned. You have probably had all the accounts of the battle ere this, ‘by our special correspondent,’ or by an eye-witness, and have got more real information undoubtedly than an actor in the strife could boast of.

I was on guard Saturday last (20th July) at our camp near Bull Run. At 2 A. M. of Sunday we started on our march. There were the same long lines of soldiers that I have spoken of, but this morning we took different roads. It was pleasant in the morning’s uncertain darkness, to watch the wide spread array of camp fires where hot coffee had been made for thousands of men in the various encampments. The joyous shouts of the men rang out upon the air, the hoarse commands of the officers would ring in, and the pattering of the horse’s feet, rear and front, right and left, made a scene of bustle and confusion that was calculated to excite and arouse one if anything would do it. Those long lines with gleaming arms, banners bright soon returned, tarnished, tattered and torn. We did not make much advance for some time, and the light began to grow more and more certain. At last dawn broke in the east. Officers and men were loud in the denunciations of a delay, but the cause soon became known: the battery in front could get no good position to open fire upon the first rebel battery at Bull Run, whose vicinity and effect had been tested the Thursday before. This stopped the whole line of infantry this side of Centreville, but at last the loud opening peals of cannon told that the scene of death and havoc had commenced, – the gauntlet had been thrown down and the fortunes of the world in one sense were staked upon the issue of the hour, – upon the burning of gun-powder and the clash of steel. We were not in the main divisions by which the fighting was to be done, but were to go around and attack them in the rear. Our brigade numbered five regiments: three from Maine, one from Vt., and Ellsworth’s Zouaves. We did not mix in the heat of the battle but took a round about road and all day the heavy roar of cannon sounded in our ears and we could see our brother soldiers in deadly strife. You may imagine the anxiety with which we listened to the roar of the guns. We could see that the enemy was falling back by the onward movement of the roar of battle, and occasional couriers would bring us good news from the field. The reports were favorable to our side, but the march was very hard; we ran five or six miles going out on the double quick and in the afternoon when we finally got into the field we were so exhausted that we were far from being what we otherwise should have been. About the middle of the afternoon we were rushed into the field. We passed directly by one of the batteries of the rebels that had been captured by our troops, and from there to the field, about a mile and a half, it was an indescribable scene. I never saw such a site before and if such a thing could be, I wish never to see anything of the kind again. We met many returning from the battle wounded and dripping with blood, asking pitifully for aid and for water. Ambulances were passing filled with those unable to walk and the dead, some mangled in a most shocking manner, but we turned neither to the right or the left, but on we marched; soon the balls began to whiz; we could not only hear the guns but see them, and see the effects also; we were in a dangerous place; we charged up to a battery and stood the whole fire of the artillery for a long time, but bravery was no charm against shot and shell; the tide had turned, and the most desperate sacrifices now could not stay the current. – The enemy had retreated all day, three of four large batteries were deserted by them, until we got down upon their strong-hold close upon Manassas and they brought out their whole force, fresh and fierce, to meet us few exhausted infantry. For a long time we were upon a side hill in plain view of the enemy and in good rifle shot. I cannot commend their sharp shooters, they might have picked off every man of us seemingly, but their cannon shot and shells mostly went over and the rifle balls did but poor execution compared with what they might have done; ’tis a miracle that so many of us came off safe. I was hit by a spent ball upon the arm but it did no serious injury; my arm was senseless for a while and was blackened and burned, that was all.

By this time the ammunition for our artillery had given out, and their horses were disabled, the cavalry were fearful of meeting the Black Horse regiment, their hosts appeared countless and the folly of sending a few exhausted infantry had about played out, it was also known that one other division had withdrawn, and we slowly left the field and obtained shelter from the iron hail behind a hill. The enemy then made a flank movement with cavalry and light artillery which we successfully evaded, and we withdrew to the road. I was standing near Col. Howard, commander of the brigade, when McDowell’s order came to retreat to Centreville. I shall never forget the painful expression that passed over his face. He is a fine officer, but has had no experience, yet no one could have done more than he did in his place; the battle was lost before we were in the field. They showered down the cannon shot and shell like hail; we stood it until further exposing ourselves seemed folly and were among the last to retreat.

The rout that some papers have told do much about, I do not know of; the retreat was precipitate, but many regiments marched back in pretty good order. Stragglers ran wild everywhere like sheep; out of our regiment I think on-half were so tired that they could not go on to the field, but they were the fastest to retreat. If it had not been so serious it would have been quite amusing.

Just imagine how it must look to see thousands of men who have never met before, and who have no particular animosity against each other as individuals, rushing into the death field and mangling and hacking each other until you could hardly tell whether the object before you was made in God’s image or not; but it is the principle of the thing we are fighting for. A battle is a hard thing by which to decide the abstract question of right and wrong. I’m not growing cowardly, but the more I reason the more I see the folly of war. But there are men enough, and if the rebels can afford to stand it, surely when we have such a heritage to fight for we should not shrink from the meeting, be it amid the roar and clash of battle or in diplomatic halls where equal justice is dispensed.

I had felt confident all day of the victory, because I supposed our head men knew that Manassas was the enemy’s strong-hold and that once taken the victory was almost done, and yet they rushed and hurried us on with nothing to eat, no cavalry, no artillery, and not one-tenth part enough to compete with their batteries. We had few men and nothing to support them when they gave out. – There has been some cool swearing among the troops since last Sunday. I hear McDowell has been placed in arrest for his gross mismanagement; there are dark whisperings about his loyalty; some say he has two sons in the southern army, but I doubt its truthfulness; one thing I know, with the unbounded resources of the North, it is a shame to suffer the reverse we have, we might just as well have had 10,000 men as 30,000; 10,000 cavalry instead of 300 or 400, and 200 cannon as well as the few guns we had. We had better been a month in battering down batteries and in making gradual approaches than to have lost the day. For my part, if my life would have turned the current of the battle, I would willingly have made the sacrifice. I trust you know me well enough to know that I never forsake my country in the hour of her adversity. I have no fears of the final result of this contest, but this has retarded the onward movement vastly. – Beauregard said himself that if Manassas had been taken, he could have done no more, ,the war would have been decided. I scarcely expect to live through; certain it is that my proud spirit can never stand another defeat – ’tis ‘victory or death.’ I had rather die than run again, and will do it.

McClellan takes command of this division soon and he is a man we can trust, and when we get organized again we will wipe out this stain. Our next battle will be a hard one and I shall not flinch from my post for friend or foe. I never came here to run.

I am disgusted with Virginia; the soil is nearly all red, the land level and covered for miles with low dwarf pines; there are some fine forests, but you may travel all day and not see a house, and the houses and villages are just the reverse of neat Vermont homes. Our defeat the other day was near the place where General Braddock suffered so severely in the early wars. If my memory serves me right, his attack was made on Sunday also; certainly he fell into the traps of the enemy much like McDowell. We are always in danger on Sunday – in truth those are the days they take for war purposes. Waterloo was fought that day and a hundred others I might mentions.

We know something of the little scenes exacted just around us in battle – the truth is no one sees a battle – we hear the roar and see the smoke and know when the death struggle is going on. The Generals get a little wider view, but they depend mostly on the reports of their aids and couriers. ‘Tis true no one sees except Him who sees all things. It must have been the direct agency of Providence to save so many of us from that fiery tempest that rained over us. As we came up among the whistling balls I took one long look at the sky and the smoking hills, then fixed my eyes on the enemy’s lines, looked at my gun and rushed in. I have no further recollection of any care for the world or personal safety. I never was cooler when firing at a target than I was aiming my old musket at the rebels. I may not have killed a man of them, but I pitched the some cold lead, I know that much. I lost all my baggage, except what I had in my pockets. Our wagon broke down and our baggage was abandoned by the teamster. In thinking of our defeat I have grated my teeth to the quick through very madness. Be the war one month or ten years, ‘I am in for it;’ have no fears for me, for I am well and in a fighting condition.

One of the ‘Tigers'”

The [St. Johnsbury, Vermont] Caledonian, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy