Pvt. John C. Hallock, Co. A, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

12 02 2018

Headquarters 2d Regiment,
Scott Life Guard,
38th Regt. N.Y.V.
Aug 13th 1861

Dear Cousins

According to my promise I will endeavor to give you a detailed account of the Battle at Bull’s Run, as far as coming under my observation.

We were ordered to leave our camp, (where we are at present bivouacked) on the 16th of July, in light marching order, that is with Musket and accoutrements, canteen and Haversack, and Blanket, with three days ration in our Haversacks, and march to Fairfax Station, we commenced our march at 11 o’clock, a.m. and march until 10 o’clock that night, through the most rough and unpleasant road, that I ever beheld, about 7. o’ck we arrived at a point, where a stream was running, which we crossed on a plank, one to time, with the night so dark as to scarcely discern the plank under our feet, a single misstep would have precipitated one in the stream beneath, we crossed without accident, and after marching until 10 oclock, we encamped in a rough field using a stone for a pillow, and blanket for a bed, with a heavy dew falling, we made a camp fire and lay ourselves down to rest. In the morning, being the 17 inst, we again started for our destination over rough roads, through valleys and over hills, stopping occasionally, to send out scouts, and reconoiter, for fear of masked batteries, being placed in suspicious looking places. during one of these stops, a man was shot accidentally. getting an order to move, the rear came to the front and in going in quick time one of the men fell, and his piece went off and lodged in the heart of his fellow soldier. he was buried when he fell, we then proceeded on our way, and when we got within say 3 miles of Fairfax, we learned that their Pickets had found we were coming, and has started to alarm the enemy at Fairfax. we proceeded, and found that the road had been blocked up by trees, which had been felled across it, our road running through a woods for about 4 miles. before we reached Fairfax, about a quarter of a mile before we came up however we came to a battery, which on our approach had been deserted, and we march into Fairfax without molestation, the enemy having left some 4 hours previous. We then started for Fairfax Court House a distance of 3 miles but had not proceeded for more than one mile, before we were halted and ordered to march back to the station and encamp for the night which we did, after shooting several Pigs, and taking a few fowls and 11 Secession prisoners.

On the afternoon of the 18th we again took up our line of march toward Centreville and after a very wearisome march, which was done in quick time we arrived at Centreville before dark. the Federal troops under Col Tyler had been a skirmishing during the afternoon with the rebels, and retreated, before we came up. We then encamped about a mile from Centreville, and remained there until the morning of the 21st the morning of the Battle. On Saturday afternoon an order came to be ready to march at 2 AM. On the 21st our men, and those and those of our own Brigade, we were up by 12 midnight and prepared to march by half past one. we were then kept standing or sitting with our arms in hand and accoutrements on, until 6 AM when we were started off in quick time over a hilly road and throug woods for a distance of nearly 8 miles. (We were ordered to the rear of the enemy. As we were between them and Manassas, with only one way of retreat and for a course of three miles, in reaching distance of their Batteries.) when we arrived on the ground we were out of water, and, what water we could get on the field was taken from the run, which was the color of water after having rusty iron washed in it. Then we were ordered to the battle field, and after marching for half a mile on double-quick time. throwing off our cats Blankets and Haversacks, we were marched in line of battle in direct range of the enemy’s battery. we marched in good order to the bottom of a slight eminence, when we were ordered to ascend the eminence and engage the enemy, which was done in food order. Finding that the enemy’s batteries were telling with dreadful effect on our ranks, we were ordered by a right flank movement to support Griffins battery which had taken a position on our right, which order was promptly executed. we got within supporting distance and remained until the battery was forced to leave, having been silenced from the fire of the enemy. On the right of us was Ricketts Battery supported by the Fire Zouaves, from which they were forced to retreat in disorder. seeing their movement and not knowing the cause, our regiment seemed to be about following, when our noble Col. J. H. Hobart Ward, and Lt Col Farnsworth with others of our brave officers ordered them to return, which was done in comparatively good order. the enemy had now shown themselves for the first time. On the brow of the Hill. our regiment was ordered to fire, which told we deadly effect on the ranks of the enemy, and they fled in the wildest confusion, to the wood from which they had previously emerged, leaving Ricketts battery in our possession, which seemed to be the principle object of their attack. after that our regiment like many other got mixed with others, and all fought manfully. The Black Horse Cavalry dashed out from among the trees, and many of them will never return to tell the tale. The Fire Zouaves and 38th Regt were the only Regt. at this time on that part of the field, after which detached portions of many might be seen. It was observable that our forces could not gain the day, and a retreat was ordered. while leaving the field I came up with one of our captains who was wounded, and assisted him toward getting off the field. another soldier relieved me from my duty in this case, and march ahead. I had not proceeded far however before I saw a Lt enquiring for some of the 38th Regt. I offered to assist him and help him until he was (as I considered) safe, in an ambulance. He afterwards was taken prisoner by the enemy. The army then was retreating in disorder, the enemy following with their Batteries from which all who did escape don so through the providence of God, not by any forsight of their own. A ball struck my cap which was the only narrow escape I had. They may have passed, (and no doubt they did) as near, or nearly so as that, but a miss is as good as a mile. we returned to the same ground that we started from on that morning, and after a rest of two hours joined the army who were on their way to Washington. we arrived at the camp from which we started on the 16th on the 22nd in the afternoon, foot sore and weary, with many left struggling on the road, or mixed with others found their way to Washington. word was sent to Cornelia Hart that I had been taken prisoner as many of my own company had not seen me since they had seen me assisting the Lt off the field. Thus ended my first scene in the action of War. A word or line to Cornelia convinced here I was safe. wish many wishes for your health and happiness. I remain yours with Love to all

Jno C Hallock

How is my watch coming on?

Letter image

Contributed by Don Caughey

From Heritage Auction Site

John C. Hallock at Ancestry

John C. Hallock at Fold3

38th NYSV Roster





Pvt. James A. Coburn, Co. K, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle, Wounding, and Imprisonment

17 01 2018

Letter from a Volunteer, Prisoner at Richmond.

Richmond, Aug. 4th, ’61.

My Dear Wife: — It has been some time now since I have had an opportunity of letting you know where I am. We left camp at Shuter’s Hill July 16th; marched to Fairfax Station; stopped there one night; next, we marched to Centreville, where we stayed two days. On the morning of the 21st we were turned out at one o’clock, but did not march until sunrise, when we were told we were to storm a battery that day. — We took up our line of march, and soon heard the booming of cannon. — Our destination proved to be Bull Run, where we arrived about one o’clock; when we commenced fighting, after a quick march, and also some double quick. I was somewhat fatigued, but went into it as hard as I was able. I was in the hottest of it for about an hour. The bullets flew like hail. Men fell on every side, some within an arm’s length. Suddenly our men began to retreat. When nearly alone I gave them a farewell shot (the Confederates), and turned to run. Had gone about 10 rods when I was struck by a rifle ball in my right hip. I fell, but crawled a few rods to a hole in some bushes. By the help of some of our men, I took off my shirt, and with that and a handkerchief I succeeded in stopping the blood. They there left me, and I lay down again in the hole. I was then between the two fires for about an hour. Our men then retreated out of hearing, and I was told they had gone back to Centreville, leaving us to our fate. The Southerners soon came up, and instead of abusing me, gave me a blanket, water and some buiscet, which I needed very much. I crawled about 20 rods that night and lay down, suffering much pain from the ball, which was still in. The next morning I could walk a little; went about 100 rods and lay down. The sight was horrible – men dead and dying on every side.

I was picked up about four o’clock Monday evening by the Southerners, and taken to Manassas Junction; stayed there two days – here the ball was taken out of my hip – thence by railroad to this place. We have been treated very kindly by the Southern people. I cannot say too much in their praise; especially the Sisters of Charity, who compose a part of our nurses.

My wound is doing very well. I hope in a couple of weeks to be pretty well. I can walk some now, and dress my wound. I hope that we will be exchanged when we are well. I think my fighting is done for the war. Even if I get well, I shall be so crippled as to be unfit for service; therefore I hope to get a discharge.

This letter must answer for you all at present. I don’t know when I can send you another. You cannot write to me. I hope to enjoy home again. I have been spared thus far by the hand of Providence alone, and I trust in Him who ruleth all things for my restoration to you.

From your affectionate husband,

JAMES A. COBURN

Elizabethtown (NY) Post, 8/29/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

James A. Coburn at Ancestry

James A. Coburn at Fold3

38th NYSV roster





Unknown Sgt., Co. K, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

5 01 2018

Correspondence.

————————

We have been permitted to publish the following letter from a sergeant of Company K, to his friends. — The letter was not intended for publication, but it cannot fail to interest most of our readers.

Camp Scott, Alexandria,

July 23, 1861.

Dear Friends in E’town:

You will doubtless see, or have seen, in the Papers, ere this, the account of the battle fought on Sunday the 21st at Bulls Run, Va., a short sketch of which I here give you, until I have more time to give the account in detail.

We were ordered to march on the enemy at two o’clock, Sunday morning, from our Brigade encampment at Centerville, or near there, a distance of some eight miles by the way we marched.

Our march was countermanded until six o’clock, and accordingly, at six, or seven, we left for the Field; marching by a circuitous route, reaching the battle ground about noon.

We were immediately formed into line of battle and marched under cover of our Artillery, within musket shot of the enemy, where we poured into them a few volleys, and then we were ordered to change our position, and were changing positions on the enemy often until about three o’clock, when we took our position in front of their batteries, where we stood our ground for an hour and a half, or more I should think; sometimes driven back and then again advancing, with terrible loss on our side. None claim to know the loss on the side of the rebels, though we think we did not throw away our fire. Although we were scattered in different Companies we claim to have been cool; and at this moment, while reviewing the battle and its events in my mind, I experience more tremor and excitement than on the battle field. But the most lamentable part of the affair is, that we were finally driven off the Field, and our guns captured by the Rebels, and we compelled to make a forced march back to our encampment near Alexandria; and do this all on Sunday night, making a march of nearly 40 miles and I don’t know but I might say 50 in one day and night.

Our Regiment has lost near one third of its men, either killed, wounded, or taken prisoners, for one is the same as the other, as we were obliged to leave our wounded on the field to the mercy of the Rebels.

It would be needless for me to digress from the truth now, as it will soon be known.

In our company we have some nine or ten missing, whom we hope to hear from yet. O. B. Whitney was wounded in the commencement of the action, and carried off the field by Henry Palmer, and placed under charge of a surgeon. A man by the name of Waters, who had been transferred to our company since leaving New York, was also fatally wounded. Henry Vanorum also badly wounded. The above named were left on the field, and no doubt are prisoners, if not dead. A number of our Captains and Lieutenants, together with our Surgeon were taken prisoners. Our Surgeon was advised to retreat, but replied, if his wounded were to be taken prisoners, it was his duty to remain with them.

A number of our men are missing, whom we hope have strayed into other Regiments and will yet come in; among which are James A. Coburn, George Boutwell, Wesley Sumner, Wm. Todd and Russell Sanders.

Pitt Wadhams was wounded in the thigh, on the outside, merely a flesh wound; the ball entering from the front, midway of the pant’s pocket, and going under the skin about three inches, leaving a space of about 8 inches between the place where it entered and came out. He walked all the way from the field to our present camp with the aid of a man to help him along. We could get no chance for him to ride, as the wagons were all full of the wounded who were unable to foot it. I walked by his side some 20 miles. John Glidden was slightly hurt by a splinter torn from a tree by a cannon ball. It struck him on the back of the head. He says it is a mere pin scratch beside of the wound he got last spring in E’town. Loyal E. Wolcott slightly wounded on the little finger by a ball.

The remainder of our men are safe and sound, with occasionally a bullet hole in their coats, pants, &c.

We consider that we have seen quite a hard battle. Whether we shall get the praise due our Regiment I can’t say, but it seems to me that the 38th Regiment must merit some credit, and certainly do I know that Company K is made up generally of brave men by the way they stood the fire of the rebels.

Our officers, Smith and Livingston, are brave boys, and cheered on their company to the last; using muskets themselves, as swords were of no account.

Capt. Dwyer was left behind, sick, but has since recovered, and will no doubt be with us in our next battle.

Albert Mitchell had his cap knocked off by a piece of rail struck by a cannon ball from a fence near by. The same ball threw a rail which struck my shoulder bruising it slightly. Our boys are some tired, foot-sore and lame, but in time will get over it.

Yours &c.

Elizabethtown (NY) Post, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

38th NYSV roster





Unknown, Co. K, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

4 01 2018

Correspondence.

————————

Camp Scott, July 23d, 1860.

Friend E: — I now have time to write to you. I hope you will excuse me for not writing to you before. I wrote to —- and had not more than finished my letter before we received orders to march. We went tp Fairfax Station, and there drove the rebels from two different batteries. If we had arrived two hours sooner we would have taken them all prisoners; we took 17 as it was, and also the richest flag I ever saw. A large quantity of blankets and camp equipage fell into our hands.

We stayed at Fairfax one day, and then started for Manassas Junction. We met the enemy four miles this side of the Junction. I cannot tell how many there were of the enemy – they were very numerous. They would come out in sight, and our men would charge and fall into their masked batteries – the batteries were dug out like cellars. In the woods there were seven or eight of their batteries.

Our Regiment (38th N. Y. S. V.) and the 1st Regiment of Fire Zouaves led the way to the battlefield. As near as I can find out, we lost about three hundred out of our regiment, and three certain out of our Company, viz: Alvah Coburn, Patrick Waters and Orlando Whitney.[*] Several are missing that were that were seen after the fight, but we think they are with other regiments. The worst of all is, that we were beaten. Their cavalry raised fury with our men. We retreated – some to Alexander, some to Washington, some to Arlington Heights, and others to Fort Ellsworth, which latter place is about 100 rods from our camp. We are right under their guns. We lost 25 baggage wagons and about all our blankets and haversacks. Some threw away their guns and all run for dear life. I was on the field, and when the retreat was sounded, I seized a Secession drum and an officers canteen and run with the rest! For pity’s sake, don’t tell any one! The cavalry were almost on me – I jumped into a wagon and rode about a mile, then walked the rest of the way to Alexandria.

There were five bullets put through our flag. Those that are missing are George Boutwell, James McCormick, Russell Sanders, William Todd, Henry Vanorum, and John and Alexander McDougal; but they have all been seen this side of the battlefield. John Glidden received a slight wound on the back of his neck; Pit Wadhams was shot through the thigh; it is a flesh wound, and he will be well soon. The rest are all well.

Yours truly,

* * *

P. S. Joseph Tromblee and Russell Sanders, who were among the missing, have come to light lately, all right and rugged as bears.

* All three are listed in 38th NYSV roster as members of Co. K; all three wounded and captured at First Bull Run [BR].

Elizabethtown (NY) Post, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Asst. Quartermaster Ensign Jacob Leonard, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

3 01 2018

The Second Scott Life Guard.

Their Conduct in the Fight – The Killed and Wounded – Major Potter Missing.

Jacob Leonard, Assistant Quartermaster of the Thirty-eighth Regiment, N.Y.S.V., writes to Mr. Thomas Picton, Paymaster, among other things, as follows:

Lieut. Col. Farnsworth had been confined to his tent for several days, and was taken to the battle-field in an ambulance. He remained in the hottest of the fight throughout the day on his feet. The Major, James Decatur Potter, is missing. He was struck twice by a spent ball, and on the retreat he could go no further than three or four miles from Bull’s Run; that was the last seen of him. Capt. McQuade had his leg shot off. Lieut. Thomas S. Hamlin was shot in the knee – both the latter were taken prisoners. Lieut Brady was shot through the wrist. Dr. Griswold, Assistant Surgeon, refusing to leave the sick and wounded, was likewise taken a prisoner. Our loss amounts to about 100 men, killed, wounded and missing. Col. War compliments the men highly on their courageous behavior.

The Fire Zouaves accord to the Thirty-eighth, in the support of the West Point and Griffin Batteries, more credit than they take to themselves. We have fourteen men wounded in the hospital in this camp, some of them mortally. The regiment did not arrive here until 5 o’clock in the morning, being the last to leave the field. Quartermaster Newton preceded them but a few minutes, and fell from his horse in a state of exhaustion.

Capt. Harrold has been disgraced for cowardice, but was permitted to resign. Capt. George F. Briton and Eugene McGrath distinguished themselves for coolness and bravery. Both were seriously ill in the hospital, but are now rapidly recovering. It is reported that Col. Ward will be appointed Brigadier in place of Wilcox, said to be killed.

Every effort has been made to discover the whereabouts of the Major, who is a universal favorite with the regiment and the whole Army.

Elizabethtown (NY) Post, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Jacob Leonard at Fold3

Jacob Leonard at Ancestry.com





2nd Lt. Fred W. Shipman, Co. F, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

5 09 2017

OUR MILITARY BUDGET.
———————
A VIVID NARRATIVE OF THE CONFLICT.

The writer of the subjoined gives a graphic picture of what came under his observation in the battle of Bull Run:

Heintzelman’s division, in their move from Centreville to Bull Run, experienced one of the most sever marches known in modern times. I say this and it will appear palpable to all, when it is considered that the heat was intense, the distance twelve miles, the men loaded with their guns, blankets, canteens, forty rounds of ammunition in their cartridge-boxes, and nearly all the regiments wearing heavy blue jackets, and yet making it in about three hours and a half. Any one following in the rear of the division would find it hard to believe that it was advancing on the foe, but would rather incline to the opinion than an army in full retreat had passed over the road. Blankets and jackets were cast off as the heat grew more intense. Some of the men gave out and despairingly threw themselves down, lamenting their utter inability to proceed farther. Two miles this side of the enemy’s batteries, Wilcox’s brigade, with whom your correspondent is connected, were allowed a ten minutes halt to strip themselves of everything that would encumber them, and at the same time filled their canteens with water from a creek. They were then marched from the road across lots for about a mile, over fences, up hill, and at double-quick the whole way, until they found themselves in the presence of the enemy. At this time the men were so thoroughly used up that it seems impossible that the same men in five minutes from that time were fighting with all the desperation and valor of experienced veterans.

The scene at this point was most exciting. The brigade took its positions upon the field – the Zouaves to the right, the 38th regiment, Scott Life Guard, upon the left, and the Michigan regiment marching along the road and forming, ready to support any movement that might be made. About a mile directly in front we saw what appeared to be a volcano vomiting forth smoke and flame, while the rifle cannon ball and round shot fell thickly among us, as we were drawn up in line of battle. Towards the left, as we came within its range, another battery opened with shell upon us, changing now and then to round shot. Our own batteries were upon the field. Green’s being behind us throwing over our heads, while Arnold’s was to the right preparing to take position on the hill. Two others, consisting of light brass guns, were in position firing, but with little effect, the distance being too great. When the line was formed, Capt. Arnold received an order to take position upon the brow of the hill with his battery, and the Scott Life Guard was ordered forward to support him. When the enemy perceived the advance about being made they fired with redoubled energy, but our men moved steadily forward, crossing fences and coming in proper order upon the instant. They at last arrived at their proper place, just below the top of the hill, and were ordered to lay down, when Arnold’s battery took position on top and opened fire upon the enemy.

The Fire Zouaves in the meantime had received orders to advance and take position along the edge of the wood, on the right of Arnold’s battery. The fire came so heavy here that our battery had not been in position five minutes before one of the gunners had his legs shot off, four horses were killed, and every shot of the enemy was aimed in such an accurate manner, that it was useless for our battery to remain in such a position. They accordingly drew their pieces a little way down the hillside and left them. Upon this a furious charge was made upon the Zouaves by the enemy’s cavalry issuing from the wood. They were received by a volley from the regiment that emptied many a saddle, and sent the survivors to the right about in short order. Another charge was then made upon them by cavalry upon their right flank, and infantry in front, when they broke and ran down the hill in disorder. Col. Ward, of the Thirty-eighth, then gave his regiment orders to charge, when, with a cheer, the men dashed forward, driving the enemy into the woods, and covering the ground with the dead and wounded. A concealed battery on the right opened fire on the Thirty-eighth at this time, killing some thirty men and driving the regiment down hill again; but the officers rallied them and led again to the attack, and it was not until several of the officers and many of the men had fallen, that the Thirty-eighth Scott Life Guard, finding the odds too great to be combatted with, retreated to the road. That they retreated in good order, may be seen from the fact that they stopped, uncoiled the cannon ropes, and dragged Arnold’s battery away with them, thereby preventing its falling into the hands of the enemy.

In the meantime the Zouaves had formed again, marched to the extreme right of the wood and again beat off the Black Horsemen, making many a rider bite the dust. But valor was useless against such odds and strength of position, and they as well as the other regiments walked sadly from the field. Col. Wilcox had fallen early in the engagement while leading a party to the attack in the woods. About one mile from the field of battle a large stone building was used for a hospital, the scene around this place was truly harrowing, mutilated men, some without legs, or only one, arms torn off at the shoulder, deep and ghastly body wounds, some exposing the intestines, and in fact every kind of wound that could be inflicted by gunpowder, iron or steel. Most of the men were carried to the hospital seated upon a musket, one man seizing it by the stock, another by the barrel, the wounded being supported upon it by a third man walking behind,

Upon the retreat of the last regiments who went to the assault, the Sixty-ninth, Second Rhode Island, and the Sixty-ninth, a charge was made by the enemy in the direction of the Hospital, when a perfect stampeded took place; those who were carrying the wounded dropped them by the road side and consulted their own safety, the drivers of the ambulance wagons drove forward unloaded, men cast aside their guns, while the artillerymen drove headlong through the crowd. A scattered firing from men of different regiments at last drove the enemy back and the march was resumed at a pace more fitting for weary and dispirited men.

Nine o’clock p. m. brought them to their camp around Centerville. By 10 o’clock the different regiments were pretty well together; the men had built fires, and expressed the desire to make a stand, having confidence they could beat the enemy in the open field. In four hours an order came to retreat on Washington, and the weary march was resumed – some of the men crying with disappointment at our giving up without one more rally. Too much credit cannot be given the men, not only for their courage, but for their endurance under adverse circumstances. Lieut. Col. Farnsworth, of the Thirty-eighth N.Y.S.V., had been confined to his bed for over a week before the battle, was carried to field in an ambulance, and yet, sword in hand, mingled in the thickest of the fray. Fourteen wounded men of the same regiment walked the whole way from the field of battle to Shuter’s Hill; seven of them will probably die. Many of the wounded were brought in in common baggage wagons, which must have produced intense agony to the poor sufferers, the roads being in bad condition and very stony; others came upon horseback, supported by comrades sitting behind them; scores sat down by the roadside, bidding their friends good bye, as they could stand it no longer. But amid all this, the men looked forward to the time when they could again meet the foe, and may were the firmly-expressed resolves to thrash them yet.

F. W. S.*, Co. F, 38th Reg’t N.Y.S.V.

Washington Star, 8/1/1861

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*Likely 2nd Lt. Fred W. Shipman

38th New York Infantry roster 

Fred W. Shipman at Ancestry.com

Fred W. Shipman at Fold3

Contributed by John Hennessy





George Palmer Putnam, Publisher, On the Retreat, With Incidents of the Battle

29 08 2014

The Affair of the Twenty-First.

George P. Putnam, the publisher, was an eye witness of the retreat of Sunday and Monday, and says:

The reports of a disorderly retreat of our main army are grossly untrue. A brief statement of a small part of what I witnessed will show this.

Mr. Tilley of Rhode Island and myself accompanied the De Kalb Regiment[*] from Alexandria in the cars to the Fairfax station on the Manassas Gap Railroad; we reached there at 10 A.M. Heavy cannonading was steadily going on. While the regiment waited for orders we walked forward on the track till within five miles of Manassas Junction. A scout was there sending hourly reports to General Scott of the firing. Returning, as the regiment still halted, a party of four of us, with a soldier, walked on the Fairfax Court House three miles, and thence on the road to Centreville.

About f o’clock we began to meet buggies and wagons with visitors returning to Washington. All reported that the day was ours, and rode on jubilant, until, at half past 4, an officer on horseback, riding fiercely, said, with emphasis, “No, no, it’s going against us.” The firing had ceased.

Near Centreville, between two long hills, we suddenly saw army wagons and private vehicles coming down before us in hot haste – a few soldiers on horseback mixed in with the crowd. Looking back we w found a regiment coming fresh from Fairfax in “double quick.”

Mr. Russel, of the London Times, was on horseback among the first from the battle.

The New Jersey Colonel instantly formed his men across the road, and resolutely turned back every soldier in the road, and in twenty minutes perfect order was restored, and the whole flight of the vehicles was shown to be absurd, so much so that we waited two hours at that spot, drawing water for the poor wounded men, who began to limp along from the field; only two or three ambulances to be seen.

At half past six, two hours after the battle was over, we started [?] [?] back to Fairfax Court House, [?] [?] [?] four wounded soldiers into the wagon.

Those who were [?] [?] [?] [?] got by the Jersey boys, were stopped by a company of the Michigan Fourth, from Fairfax, and compelled to turn back.

At Fairfax Court House we quietly took supper at the tavern, and never [dreaming] of any disorderly retreat, we were supplied with good beds; we undressed and went to sleep at 11 P.M. At three o’clock Monday morning, finding the wagons were moving on the Alexandria, we started again and walked quietly along with them to Alexandria, doing what little we could to aid the men more or less slightly wounded, or worn out, including some from the hospital – for still there was scarcely an ambulance to be seen.

But on the whole road from Centerville to Alexandria, I am confident that there were not five hundred soldiers in all, between 6 P.M. and day-light; so that it is grossly untrue that the whole army made a hasty retreat. On the contrary, all seemed to be certain that a stand was made at Centerville, of the whole of our main body, excepting only the stragglers from this first panic. The panic was explained by several who agreed it was purely accidental.

I talked with at least forty from Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin regiments who gave me some thrilling incidents of different parts of the field – which I have no time to tell now – many grumbled at [?] [?], but all seemed plucky, and said that our troops could beat the rebels easily in an open fight, and would do it yet – but the masked batteries on one side and the blunders on ours had “done for us this time.” I reached Alexandria at seven – having walked forty miles.

— The following incidents of the battle form the first chapter of the volume of history and legend that will grow out of it:

— A spectator of the [?] tells me that the Zouaves literally decimated the Black Horse Cavalry, the celebrated rebel troop. About the middle of the battle the Zouaves fired by platoon upon the rebel infantry stationed in the woods. After they had fired they discovered a troop of horse coming down on their rear. — They carried the American flag, which deceived Col. Heintzelman, and made him believe they were United States Cavalry, and  he so told the Zouaves. As they came nearer, their true character was discovered, but too late for all the Zouaves to reload. The regiment faced and received the cavalry as they came down, with leveled bayonets which threw them into confusion. Then away went muskets, and the Zouaves went in withe their knives and pistols. They seized horses and stabbed their riders. In this hand-to-hand conflict the Black Horse Troop were handled in their own preferred way of fighting. — The [?] showed the Zouaves to be the most expert handlers of the knife. When the fight was over, there were not twenty of the four hundred cavalry left alive. Men and horses had been cut to pieces by the infuriated red-shirts. This troop of cavalry had boasted they would picket their horses in the grounds of the White House.

— Mr. Russel of The London Times, who witnessed at Inkerman and elsewhere in the Crimea the fiercest infantry charges on record, says they were surpassed by those of our Firemen Zouaves, Sixty-ninth, and other regiments. The best fighting ever done on the globe was that by a large portion of the defenders of the [?] at Bull’s Run.

— Our greatest deficiency was in cool and [???]. The men fought [?] and were ready for anything which experienced commanders would order them to do. Gen. McDowell behaved admirably. He was active, [?] and attended to everything in person as far as possible; but he had not a sufficient staff, and was not properly supported by his subordinates. — Major Wadsworth of New York, one of his aids, showed the utmost gallantry and devotion. He exerted himself to rally the forces when they first fell back, and towards the close, after having his horse shot under him, seized the colors of the wavering New York Fourteenth, and called on the boys to rally once more for another charge, but without success. Major Wadsworth, as the Army retreated, remained at Fairfax Court House, and devoted himself to purchasing everything needful for the wounded. of whom about a hundred and fifty were at that place.

— A number of the Second New York saw the rebel sharp-shooters fire upon and kill two vivandieres who were giving [?] and [?] to the wounded. The rebels also shout at ambulances bringing off the wounded. They also fired point blank at the buildings used as hospitals, and it is said by some that they fired the buildings.

— Lieut. Col. Haggerty of the Sixty-ninth, was killed in a charge. When his body was found, his throat was cut from ear to ear, and his ears and nose were cut off. Many of the sounded were found thus disfigured.

— A member of the New York Sixty-ninth says:

Thos. Francis  Meagher was the most conspicuous man on the field, riding on a white horse, with his hat off, and going into the battle most enthusiastically. At one time our regimental color was taken, and Meagher seized the green flag of Ireland, and went to the front, leading the men to the charge. The color was recaptured, the enemy was driven back, and the we formed in hollow square, by orders, and retreated steadily off the ground.

— A Union man living near Fairfax assured our informants he had seen the intrenchments at Manassas, and that there were nine miles of batteries there.

— The number of killed and wounded is got by Gen. Mansfield at less than 1,000, and by Gen. McDowell at from 500 to 700.

— Senator Lane, of Indiana, gives it as his opinion that the reason of the panic was an order given to the batteries to return to a certain point for ammunition, and this apparently retreating movement of batteries produced consternation and panic. By other the order to retreat, which assisted to change the fortunes of Sunday, is ascribed to Gen. Miles, of the Army, who commanded the fifth division.

— The Zouaves, after taking one battery, were rushing upon another , when those behind it cried out, “For God’s sake, don’t shoot your brothers.” Upon this, the Zouaves reserved their fire, until artillery was poured in upon them by the battery from which the supplications had come.

— It is well authenticated that in several instances our men fired upon each other. Company [?] of the Thirty-eighth Regiment New York Volunteers, suffered severely form such a mischance.

— When the colors of the Sixty-ninth were captured by the Virginians, two of them seized the flags and were going off with them, when Lieut. Matthews, of Company K, Fire Zouaves, fired and killed both the Virginians, and recovered the flags.

— Capt. Wildey, of Company I, Zouaves, killed two out of four Mississippians who were dragging a gun. All our men agree in representing that the rebel infantry will not stand a fair fight, even with three to our one. They gave way whenever attacked, when not supported by artillery.

— There is every reason now to believe, from concurrent reports, that a retreating panic seized the confederate army at the same time some of our regiments began their hasty and wild exodus from the scene of carnage.

— Capt. T. F. Meagher had a horse shot under him, but is untouched. All out losses were in advancing – none in falling back. There was no panic in front. This was confined mainly to the wagon drivers, straggling soldiers and fugitive officers, and the rear of the column.

— Our loss in field pieces is not so great as heretofore estimated. Every gun of Capt. Ayres’ battery, formerly Sherman’s, was brought off safe – only some caissons being lost. The loss of baggage wagons will not exceed fifty. In small arms, our loss is at least three thousand.

— The Colonels of our regiments appear to have been in the thickest of the fight, if we may judge by the casualties. The returns show four killed and seven wounded. There were thirty-six in the engagement, which gives a ratio of one in three killed or wounded.

— Gen. Cameron, who went to Manassas intending to witness the battle, was so impressed with  the doubtful character of the attempt to force the enemy’s position, that he returned in haste to Washington to [?], if possible, the orders which had been issued for an attack, but arrived too late. He immediately pressed forward, however, all the available troops to strengthen the Reserve Corps. Our officers had little hope of winning the battle, on Saturday night. A prominent Member of Congress who was there, after an interview with General McDowell and his aids, wrote down his conviction that we should lose it, and that the commanding General was hopeless at the commencement of the battle. We learn from another source that this was the general feeling among the officers. One captain remonstrated against the madness of the assault. Gen. McDowell said that a victory at this juncture was so important, that a great risk must be run to win it.

— It is believed the loss of the Fire Zouaves will not exceed 100, and that of the N.Y. 71st 60. Stragglers are continually coming in, but they are scattered through the different camps, so that the muster roles of different regiments can not yet be arranged, and the exact losses ascertained.

— A prisoner who was brought in, in the course of the battle, declared that Gen. Johnston was shot, and fell from his horse at his feet. When Col. Burnside fell from his killed horse, he conversed for a moment with a rebel officer, who asked him whether he was wounded, when he replied, “Only slightly.” “I am mortally wounded,” said the rebel, “and can have no object in deceiving you. I assure you that we have 90,000 men in and within forty minutes of Manassas Junction.”

— The New York Herald’s dispatch says:

The whole of Sherman’s battery is saved.

Col. Blenker, commanding a brigade in the division of Col. Miles, which brought up the rear of the retreating column, picked up on the way the guns of Burnside’s R.I. regiment that had been left behind, and brought them in. The horses had been detached for the purpose of bringing in the wounded.

Hon. Alfred Ely, of the Rochester district, and his companion on the field, Mr. Bing, have not been heard of since the battle. They were last seen near one of the batteries, and are supposed to have been taken prisoners.

Capt. Griffin lost 60 of the horses attached to his battery, but brought away one gun and the forge.

If a stand had been made at Centerville, the enemy would probably never have discovered the advantage accidentally gained.

Col. McCunn, of the 37th N.Y. regiment, is in command at Fort Ellsworth. His brigade consists of the 37th New York, Lieut Col. Burke commanding, the 14th, 16th, 26th, 15th and [?] New York [???].

Col. Corcoran, of the 69th Irish Regiment, and Capt Edward A. Wild, Massachusetts regiment, are missing. It is feared that Corcoran is dead.

Lieut. Chandler, Co. A., Massachusetts 1st, is not dead as reported.

Ellsworth Zouaves punished the Black Horse Rangers very severely by lying flat on the ground feigning death, until they were almost upon them, when rising and giving one of their fiendish war yells, each Zouave picked his man and fired, decimating the detachment, and stampeding their horses without riders.

Oneida [Utica, New York] Weekly Herald, 7/30/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

George P. Putnam Wikipedia (G. P. was the grandfather of his namesake publisher, who was also husband of aviator Amelia Earhart.)

* 41st New York Infantry, in Runyon’s Division





Pvt. William J. Crossley, Co. C, 2nd Rhode Island Infantry, On the Battle and Captivity

31 12 2013

Extracts from my Diary, and from my Experiences while Boarding with Jefferson Davis, in Three of His Notorious Hotels, in Richmond, Va., Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Salisbury, N. C, from July, 1861, to June, 1862.

By WILLIAM J. CROSSLEY.

[Late Sergeant Company C, Second Rhode Island Infantry Volunteers.]

July 17th, we arrived at Fairfax, where some of the smart ones made themselves conspicuous in a few of the houses evacuated by the Confederates, by smashing portraits, pianos, mirrors and other furniture, without cause or provocation.

Thursday, 18th, bought a hoecake and went a mile to milk a cow, with and from which I had a rare supper. The boys are shooting pigs and hens to kill. At 7 p. m. we marched away three or four miles to a place we named “Brush Camp,” where four men came to us from the fight we had heard two of three miles beyond, at a place called Centreville. They were gunless and hatless, and two of them were wounded. On the 19th, with rails and brush, we made a shelter from the fierce sun. Fresh meat was issued to-day; I made a soup, first in the campaign; rather but not awful salt, — for a fresh-made soup. Dress parade tonight. Sent a letter Home. Have to begin Home now with a capital “H” since we have seen rebel-made blood.

Sunday, July 21st. This is the day we celebrate the occasion of this melodrama. Left camp about 2 a. m., arrived at Bull Run about 9 a. m. Here the Confederacy received us with open arms and refreshments galore. We had barely time to exchange the compliments of the season with them, when one of the Johnnies with much previousness passed me a pepperment drop in the shape of a bullet that seemed to be stuffed with cayenne. Out of courtesy, of course, I returned a similar favor, with but little satisfaction however, for he was so completely hidden down in the grainfield that his colors and the smoke from his guns were all we had for a target. Well, the cayenne was getting warmer, and the blood was getting out of my eyes into my trousers’ leg, so I was taken to the rear, and down to where Surgeons Wheaton and Harris were dressing wounds, and had mine dressed; and, as the rebs began just then dropping shot and shell so near to us as to be taking limbs from the trees over our heads the doctors ordered that the wounded be moved away. I was put in a blanket and taken to another part of the woods and left. Soon after, an old friend of mine, Tom Clark, a member of the band, came along, and, after a chat, gave me some whiskey, from the effects of which, with fatigue, loss of blood and sleep, I was soon dozing, notwithstanding the roar of fierce and murderous battle going on just over the hill. When I awoke a tentmate of mine was standing over and telling me we were beaten and on the run. I wanted to tell him what Pat told the Queen of Ireland, Mrs. Keller, but after looking into his ghostly, though dirty face, I said nothing, but with his help and a small tree tried to get up. That was a failure, so I gave him my watch, said good-bye to him, and he left. Up to date it was also good-bye to the watch. Well, after this little episode, I turned over, and, on my hands and one knee, crawled down to the road, four or five hundred yards away, and tried to get taken in, or on an ambulance, but they were all full (though not the kind of full you are thinking about). Then I crawled up to a rail fence close by a log cabin, and soon the rebs came along, took account of stock, i. e., our name, regiment and company, and placed a guard over us. Being naturally of a slender disposition (I weighed one hundred and eleven pounds just before leaving Washington) and from the fracas of the last twelve hours, was, perhaps, looking a little more peaked than usual, so when one of the rebel officers asked me how old I was, and I told him twenty-one, maybe he was not so much to blame for smiling and swearing, “He reckoned I had got my lesson nearly perfect.” I didn’t know then what he meant, but it seems they had heard we were enlisting boys, and I suppose he thought, in my case at least, the facts were before him.

Monday, July 22d. Well, here I am, a prisoner of war, a lamb surrounded by wolves, just because I obeyed orders, went into a fight, and, by Queensbury rules, was punctured below the belt. So much for trying to be good. And just here I would like to add a few lines pertaining to that (to us, then) strange expression, “Prisoner of war.” From the day of my enlistment to the morning of this notorious battle I had never heard the word mentioned, nor had I even thought of it. I had been told before leaving Providence that I would be shot, starved or drilled to death, that with a fourteen-pound musket, forty rounds of cartridge, a knapsack of indispensables, a canteen of, — of fluid, a haversack of hard-tack, a blanket and half a tent I would be marched to death under the fierce rays of a broiling sun, with a mule’s burden of earth — in the shape of dust — in my hair, eyes, and ears, up my nose and down the back of my neck, or, wading through miles of mud so thick that I must go barefoot or leave my shoes. That I would return home — if at all — with but one leg, one arm, one eye, or one nose, and with but very little of the previous large head; but with all this gabble about war and its alluring entertainments not a solitary word about “Prisoner of war.” So you see, it was not merely a surprise to us, a little something just out of the ordinary, but it was a shock, and not an every day feeble and sickly shock either, but a vigorous paralyzing and spine-chilling shock, that we couldn’t shake off for days or weeks after we were captured. But to continue.

It rained all of last night; I got thoroughly soaked. This morning the rebs made our able ones go out on the battlefield and get rubber blankets, put them over rails and make a shelter for us in the yard of the cabin. The cabin is full of wounded and dying, and I don’t know how many are in the yard. When the surgeon was dressing my wound to-day, we found the bullet inside the drawers where they were tied around my ankle. Oh, but wasn’t I lucky; there was but one puncture and that one below wind and vitals. That’s where the infantry lap over the navy, you see, Mr. Shell-back.

July 23d. Colonel Slocum died at one o’clock this morning. Penno, of the First, had his leg cut off. The major had both of his taken off.

We had some porridge made from meal the men brought in from the woods.

July 24th. Colonel Slocum was buried this morning at the lower end of the garden. Major Ballou’s and Penno’s legs in same place. The Major is getting better; so am I. As the men were going past me here with the Colonel’s body, I was allowed to cut a button from his blouse (I have it yet), at the same time they found another bullet wound in one of his ankles.

July 26th. Had ham and bread for dinner right from the field, and gruel for supper. T. O. H. Carpenter, another of my friends, and of my company, died to-day, up at the church.

July 27th. No bread to-day, only gruel. McCann, of Newport, died.

July 28th. Major Ballou died this p. m.

Gruel for supper, with a fierce tempest.

July 29th. The major was buried beside the colonel at dark.

July 31st. Have had an elegant headache the past two days; to-day it’s singing. Started for Manassas Junction about noon, in ammunition wagons, and with those infernal drivers hunting around for rocks and stumps to drive over; it did seem as if the proprietors of the bullet holes and stumps in the wagons were getting “on to Richmond” with a vengeance. At the Junction we were put into freight cars and started at dark for Richmond.

August 1st. When we arrived at Gordonville this morning, the most of us hoped to be delivered from another such night, for the way that engineer twitched and thumped those cars all night long would have made Jeff Davis & Co. smile, if they could have heard the cursing and groans of the tortured and dying in those cars. This afternoon some are scraping the maggots from their rotten limbs and wounds, for the heat has been sweltering all day, and the stench almost unbearable, as you know, there is no ventilation in the ends of a box freight car; but the most of us lived through it, and finally arrived at Richmond, one hundred and fifty miles from Manassas, at the speed of nearly seven miles an hour. Did you ever hear of Uncle Sam treating a train load of gasping and dying strangers quite so beastly and leisurely as that? As we were being unloaded from the cars to wagons a nice looking old gentleman with a white necktie, standing nearby, said to me, “How old are you, my little man?” I told him twenty-one, but from his insinuating that I must be a near relative of Ananias, I did not pretend to be over seventeen after that while in the Confederacy. From the cars we were taken to a tobacco factory, near the lower end of the city, and on the left bank of the James River, afterwards known as the famous “Libby.” We were dumped on the first floor, among the tobacco presses for the night, and next morning taken upstairs, and, “bless my stars,” put on cots, and given bread and coffee for breakfast. What was the coffee made of do you ask? I don’t know, and, as you didn’t have it to drink it need not concern you; and we had soup for dinner, and it’s none of your affairs what that was made of either. And now we are allowed to send letters home, but have to be very careful as to quality and quantity, for Mr. Reb has the first perusal and will throw them in the waste basket if a sentence or even a word is not to his liking. I tell you if we needed a capital “H” for home, when at Brush Camp, the entire word should be written in capitals here, for there we were surrounded by friends, not an enemy in sight, while here we are surrounded by thousands of enemies and bayonets and not a solitary friend within miles.

While writing this paper I have tried to think of some parallel or similar case to that of ours, that I might give you an idea in a more condensed and comprehensive form what that life was, but I can think of none. Possibly some of you may think that board and lodgings at “Viall’s Inn” for a few months might be comparable. I don’t think so; but as we are cramped for time I will not argue the matter with you, but drop it after a single comparison. If you were to be sent to General Viall’s you would be told before leaving the Court House how long you were to stay. There is where much of the agony, the wear and tear came to us, that everlasting longing, yearning and suspense.

When settled down to our daily routine, I find on the cot beside mine a little Belgian Dutchman, about thirty-five years old, with a head round as a pumpkin, eyes that would snap like stars in January, and a moustache that puts his nose and mouth nearly out of sight. He was seldom murmuring, but flush with sarcasm. His name was Anthony Welder, and he belonged to the Thirty-Eighth New York. He was wounded the same as I, just above the knee, so he could not walk, but he did not lack for friends and fellow countrymen to call on him and help use up many weary hours with their national and lively game of “Sixty-Six.” I wish you could have seen them play it. I was a real nice boy at that time and didn’t know even the name of a card, but seeing them getting so much fun out of it I asked Anthony one day to show me how to play, but with a very decided No, he said, “I tell you; I show you how to play, and you play awhile for fun, then you play for a little money, you win, then you play for a pile, and you win, then you play for a big pile, and you lose him all, then you say, ‘Tarn that Tutchman, I wish the tevil had him before he show me how to play cards.’ ” But there wasn’t much peace for Dutchie until I knew how to play Sixty-Six.” And just here is another illustration of the havoc my evaporated memory has made with some of the tidbits of those days, that I would occasionally like to recall ; for to-day I know no more about that game of “Sixty-Six” than the Chaplain of the Dexter Asylum.

August 4th. A First regiment man died, and on the 6th Esek Smith, also three other Rhode Island men died. And her[e] I should say I make no mention of the dozens and scores belonging to other states and regiments that are carried out daily. One day as a body was being taken out past us I said to Welder, “There goes another poor fellow that’s had to give up the ghost,” and Welder says, “Well, that is the last thing what he could do.”

August 7th. Had services this p. m. by an Episcopal clergyman.

August 10th. Grub very scarce. Cobb of the Second died, and H. L. Jacques, of Company E, from Wakefield, bled to death this evening.

August 13th. Johnnie is whitewashing the walls. It makes the dirty red bricks look a little more cheerful.

August 21st. To-day we are a month away from Bull Run, and a month nearer home.

Hat-tip to reader Bill Kleppel

William J. Crossley at Ancestry.com

While presented in diary format, it is apparent that the above was subsequently edited by the author.





Capt. Calvin S. DeWitt, Co. I, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

18 12 2012

Letter from Capt. DeWitt

———-

Full Description of the Action of the Horseheads Company in the Great Battle at Bull’s Run.

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We are permitted to publish the following interesting letter from Capt. C. S. DeWitt, describing particularly the part taken by the Horseheads Company in the great battle at Bull’s Run.

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Head Quarters 38th Regiment N. Y. V.

Camp Scott, Shuters Hill, Fairfax Road,

Near Alexandria, Va., July 27, 1861.

Dear Sister:

This has been a very short week indeed to me. Here it is Saturday, six days since the battle of Bull Run, of which I suppose you have heard long before this, although I think, you have not heard much from our regiment as our Col. has not sent in his report yet and then our regiment is not a newspaper regiment, as you may have seen by the papers before this.

I looked for the New York papers the next day and was glad to hear that our regiment was not mentioned in the report, for I expected to see it in the papers that I was killed, for it was reported on the field that I was killed or badly wounded, but I am not. I escaped with the exception of a few light scratches. I was struck on the hand by a piece of a bomb and was pricked in the back of the head accidentally by one of my own men, but these are nothing.

But I will now attempt to give you an account of the battle, which is said to have been the most desperate one ever fought in the United States.

Imagine if you can our army on last Saturday night encamped in a pleasant valley near Centreville, Va., with orders to march in the morning at 2 o’clock, with 3 days provisions in our haversacks, no one knew where except the General in command. You might have seen me at 7 o’clock going through inspection of arms, seeing that all my men were fully equipped and had the requisite amount of ammunition. Finding every thing right I broke ranks for the night, telling the men I had orders to march at 2 in the morning, and they must get all the rest they could before that time. Then after arranging all my affairs about camp, at 10:30 I took my blanket and laid down to sleep. I slept until 12 when Col. Ward, wh was going round the camp tapped me on the should and said, “Capt. fall in your men right away as silently as possible. We move from here at one o’clock.” So I got up, spoke to the men, and they were all up and in the ranks in ten minutes.

The whole division of the army was in rank and commenced moving out of camp, but we had to stand there until f o’clock which was more tiresome than marching. Then we took up our march for the field of action which was 16 miles from our camp, which me marched in quick time, and reached the field about 12 M. You may judge what condition the men were in for fighting by this time. They were nearly exhausted by the heat of the day and the long march, and then were hurried into the fight without a moment’s rest.

The battle had been going on two hours when we arrived. We came on the field in double quick and then we were in for it. We were to take a masked battery and fight an unseen enemy. When we first came on the field we saw the rebels, but we gave them one volley, and they run for the woods which were on two sides of the field, and there were their batteries were concealed in the thick woods pouring out upon us their deadly shower of shell and canister, and volley after volley of rifle and musket balls, and as they were concealed in the wood and in entrenchments we could not see a man, and had to march up to their batteries through one of the most steady and the sharpest fire ever known to soldiers. We only had to judge where to fire from where the fire came from, which we did with considerable effect.

We soon however had a chance to see the rebels for we charged on them and run right into their battery. The 38th and the Zouaves charged together, side by side, which made a bad hole in them I can tell you. We laid them in piles, but we were driven back by far greater numbers and greater advantages of ground. There was surely never a more brave lot of men in any filed. My Company has received great praise for the bravery of both officers and men, and for the dangerous position we took.

I kept perfectly cool and composed, and went right in I tell you. My men stuck like good fellows, and if I do say it, was in the thickest and done some of the best fighting. I thought once it was all up with me. I was far in advance in the open field with a few men around men. From our position every shot told upon the rebels. But at this moment came a shower of bullets. The balls whistled past my ears like hail, and a corporal of my company was shot. He was not two feet from me. A ball struck him in the throat and went straight through his neck, low at the breast. He fell on his side and said, “O dear, I am shot!: This did not stop me much. I laid him in an easy position and urged the men on, but it was hard to keep them in that place. They were falling like rain. I looked round at McBride and he was not dead. I thought to carry him back a little from the field. I spoke to my Orderly Sergeant, who was near me, to take hold and we would carry him back a little. So we both took hold of him, but no sooner had we started with him than a ball struck the Orderly in the breast and went right through his body. He fell with a groan on my feet. This made my heart sick. Here lay two of the very nicest boys in the regiment. The Orderly Sergeant was Wm. F. Straight of Elmira, and the Corporal was John McBride of N. York. But no time to waste here. I looked around me and scarcely a man could be seen standing, and the ground was strewn with the dead and dying. Oh, it was an awful sight. I cannot describe it.

Imagine, if you can, a field strewn with  dead and wounded, and in many instances the black hearted rebels were known to cut the throats and mangle with their bayonets the wounded men left on the field.

Our loss is not so much by far as it was reported. I awfully hate to own we were whipped, but it was no victory, for the rebel loss was much greater than ours. There was two darkies run out of the enemy’s lines when we were retreating. They say that the enemy’s loss is far greater than ours. They say they had 500 darkies at work carrying away the dead and wounded. These niggars came out after some dead on the field and run over to our lines.

There was no use of losing the battle if we had the right management of the thing. The attack was not made right, nor in the right place. It was nothing but suicide to march those men before an unseen enemy and masked batteries. We were compelled to retreat after a desperate battle of six hours and a quarter, by far superior numbers, masked batteries and great advantage of ground – But we are here yet. Let them come out of their trenches and attack us, or stand up in sight or any way only so that we can see them, and we will show you how soon we can clean them out. We can whip two to one, and had them whipped, only for a panic amongst the teamsters, that was taken for a retreat by some of our troops, and this routed the men so that they could not be rallied in time to save themselves.

The great sacrifice in this battle is blamed on the commanding officer Gen. McDowel. – There was no use to have had so many killed. Men’s lives are too precious to be thrown away in that way. There was no necessity to hurry the thing along so fast, when we knew that the enemy had been in this place for months, and that they would stay there as long as possible. It is one of their strongest posts. They had three batteries, one on the right, left and centre. The Southern account of their numbers say that they had twelve thousand in the fight and sixty thousand in the reserve at Manassas Junction. Well now, McDowel’s command is only forty thousand, and we had only seven thousand men in the fight that attacked Bull Run, (now the papers may say what they please). The force was divided to attack another place but did not do it. At tow o’clock the victory seemed to be ours, and would have been could we have had a reserve of a few fresh troops to have come in to help. But no, there was two regiments in reserve in the woods a mile off waiting, but were never ordered to the field.

The 38th and the Fire Zouaves were fighting side by side, when a whole company of the rebel Black Horse Cavalry made a furious charge on us at the time when they tho’t us nearly whipped. But we gave them a warm reception, for only one horseman of the whole troop went back to tell the tale. We dropped them from their saddles like rain.

But I have written enough – you will be sick of reading more, although the half is not told you. But talk of being tired. I thought I had been tired before, but I did not know what it was to be so. We marched from five o’clock on Sunday morning until 8 o’clock on Monday morning, a distance of sixty two miles without rest, and had six hours hard fighting in the time. I had nothing to eat in this time except a couple of hard crackers or sea biscuits.

We arrived at our old camp at 8 o’clock next morning, and got breakfast at a farm house near by, which it is needless to say I relished very well. I have boarded at this house ever since.

I had two men killed, five wounded and eleven missing out of my company. Our whole loss was six to eight hundred.

Cr. Murdoch’s son is our Chaplain.

Yours, &c.,

Capt. C. S. DeWitt,

38th Regiment

Elmira Weekly Advertiser, 8/10/1861

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Calvin S. DeWitt at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. John H. Morrison, Co. H, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

17 12 2012

[The following letter was received from private John H. Morrison, of Co. H, (Captain Baird,) by his father. It is replete with interesting incidents of the part taken by the Geneva boys in the great battle at Bull’s Run:

Alexandria, Va., July 23d.

Dear Father:

I sit down to write you a few lines, and it is a great task to do it, for I am so fatigued that I can hardly sit up. We have just returned from a march of about 32 hours in the rain. Sunday morning – (o, what a Sunday that was! it was one that I shall never forget) – we were called from our rest. We were about two miles from a place called Centreville: we had marched to Fairfax Court House the day before that, and routed the enemy. They left their camps and the most of their provisions in a great hurry. We stayed there one day and took 11 prisoners. The next day we marched to Centreville, and as I said, were aroused at 1 o’clock and started for Manassas Junction. We were on a forced march the most of the rime, and just before we got to the field of battle we got to the field of battle we had to move at “double quick.” We were drawn up in line of battle, and marched direct to the front of the enemy. They were in masked batteries, and we could not see them fairly. But we gave them a few vollies, and then our regiment was detailed to cover a battery of artillery. We were a few yards behind the picket battery, which was awfully cut up by the enemy’s artillery. We were then ordered to sustain a charge of the Fire Zouaves, which we did; and our regiment and the Fire Zouaves marched directly up within five rods of the rebel battery, and stood a galling fire for the space of 15 or 20 minutes, but had to retreat. We rallied again, and stood their fire for a long time, and had to retreat again. They may say what they please in the papers, but the Thirty-eighth and the Fire Zouaves were the only regiments that went any where near the enemy’s batteries.

While we stood there, I was wondering all the while that a ball did not hit me; but I got off without a scratch! Why I saw men fall all around me. Some had their head shot off clean from the body; some had both legs and arms taken off; and others fell with balls in their heads. It was one continual whiz around my head. Men would drop next to me; but although I always thought I would feel a little fear on entering a field of battle, yet I was never more cool and steady in my life, notwithstanding the hot weather and fatigue.

A great many of our men were sunstruck, including our Colonel; and if it had not been for Capt. Baird, we would not have a Colonel now. Capt. B. was the only officer of his rank in our regiment that I saw at the head of his men. You may read a great deal in the papers in regard to this battle. I cannot estimate the number of men lost on either side, but the slaughter was great. I have heard men that were in the Crimean war and in a dozen battles say, that they never saw men stand before such galling fire as we did.

You can put down the Brooklyn Phalanx (Henry Ward Beecher’s pets) as cowards! And you may not credit any of the State troops except those of New York for any great display of bravery.

I will not undertake to say how many men our regiment lost; but I will say that most of our Geneva boys are safe – that is, as far as I know. I expect that Johnny Orman is killed, and several wounded. Harry L. Stainton got a ball through his right hand; he may lose it, and he may not.

I will not attempt to give all the particulars until I can do so without causing needless alarm to the friends of the 38th.

I will mention the Fire Zouaves, as I think they stood the brunt of the battle. As for the “seceshers,” we will “polish” them off yet. Charley Dorchester, Clark McMillan of Phelps, and I, are in our tents, all sound. John Baker, Fred Andrus and young Tim Clare are safe.

I have just heard that we are cut off from Washington, and I must quit. I will give more particulars in my next. This in a hurry.

John.

Geneva Gazette, 8/2/1861

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John H. Morrison at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy