More on Dr. John McGregor at Ron Coddington’s blog here.
From the manuscript of our valuable and attentive correspondent, we should judge it was written while capturing one of the batteries at the battle of Bull’s Run. We hope he survives, and will continue to dot the incidents of the war.
Near Centreville, Va.,
July 18th, 1861.
We left “Camp Tyler” at 3 P. M. on Tuesday, with provisions for three days, and no other baggage but one pair of socks. The First, Second, and Third Connecticut Regiments Connecticut Volunteers, with the Second Regiment Maine Volunteers, constituted the advance. We marched by a circuitous route to Vienna, near which we camped for the night in an open field. Soon after we halted, the other brigades began to come in, and kept coming until the fields in all directions were covered with infantry, horsemen, and artillery. At about 5 o’clock A. M., on Wednesday, we again took up the line of march, in the direction of Fairfax. After marching about a mile we came to a road which had been obstructed by having trees felled across it. Removing the obstructions we continued our march, and when nearly in sight of Fairfax our scouts reported the enemy in sight. We formed and marched in double quick time across the fields, and came into line in time to see the rebels going off at the same pace. A brass band consisting of six pieces, belonging to the New York 8th, gave them a note or two of Yankee music, which increased their speed to a full run, and then struck into the woods and scoured them as far as Germantown, where we learned that the rebels had been in full retreat past there all day. They had a masked battery near Germantown, but had deserted it. Their baggage was scattered all along the road. I believe that some buildings in the place, and to belong to “seceshers,” accidentally caught fire soon after the Ellsworth Zouaves had passed. (I am sorry, but accidents will happen.) We again bivouaced in the fields on Wednesday night, about 3 miles from Germantown, towards Manassas. This A. M., at about 3 o’clock, we were aroused by the sound of the bugle, and were speedily in line, expecting an attack, but it did not come. At about 6:30 A. M., the army was again in motion, and as our brigade had formed the advance for two days, we were allowed to take the rear to-day. It was a grand sight, as regiment after regiment moved, until I should judge that at least 40,000 troops must have been in motion. It was an hour and a half after the march commenced, before it became our turn to move. We continued to see blankets, coats, etc., which in their haste the seceshers had thrown away.
We are now halted in the woods near Centreville, which I believe is eight miles from Manassas. There was a very strong battery near here, but the rebels ran about an hour before our advance came up. We have taken a few prisoners, but have had no fighting as yet. Our cavalry have just brought in a few prisoners, and report the enemy coming back. It is supposed Gen. Patterson is on the other side, driving them back, so we may have a fight to-day, yet.
3 o’clock P. M. There is a report now that our boys are getting the worst of it, and reinforcements are arriving amid the roar of cannon and the rattle of muskets.
4 o’clock P. M. Our men have carried their entrenchments, and the seceshers have fallen back into the woods. It is said that the 69th went at double quick time and stormed the battery without stopping. Bully for the 69th. One report is 4000 prisoners taken, but I don’t believe it. Another report is that Sherman’s battery was taken; but nobody believes that. Another report is that there was a masked battery in front of an open battery. Sherman’s battery silenced the open battery, and the N. Y. 12th then charged, when the masked battery opened upon them, and our men retreated.
5 o’clock P. M. A report has just reached us that our troops have the enemy surrounded in the woods. The last report is that both armies occupy the same positions they did at the commencement of the engagement. The action will be resumed in the morning, if the rebels do not retreat during the night. – About 50 of our men are killed, Sherman’s battery played into a train of cars filled by rebel troops, but how many were killed I do not know.
I have written down the reports, a few of them, as they came in, that you might see how much we can depend on reports in the midst of battle. The long and short of it is that our men were defeated.
6 o’clock, A. M., Friday. – Troops have been pouring in here all night. Gen. Tyler had command of our troops yesterday. The Fire Zouaves have taken eleven prisoners. One of the number was one who had taken the oath of allegiance at Fall’s Church. – When our roll call was handed in at the close of the first day’s march, not one of the 3rd was missing.
7:30 A. M. They are now hanging the man who was taken prisoner after having taken the oath.
A. E. Bronson
The Danbury Times, 7/25/1861
Bronson was captured on July 21, 1861. After he was exchanged 9 months later, he enlisted in Co. C. of the 17th CT. He was mortally wounded at Gettysburg and died on July 5, 1863.
Contributed by John J. Hennessy
Camp Keyes, Washington
August 1st, 1861.
Mr. J. McGregor:
Your letter came to hand last evening, and I hasten to give you the information you desire. Your son, Dr. McGregor, was surgeon of our regiment. The morning of July 21st, he went with his regiment to the battle field, and there stopped at a house which was to be used as a hospital for our wounded. He remained there through the day, faithfully attending his duties. When the retreat was ordered, I rode up to the hospital. The doctor came to the door, all besmeared with blood. I told him that a retreat was ordered, and, for his own safety, he had better leave at once. He asked me if there was any preparation for removing the wounded men. I told him there was not. He then turned and went into the hospital. As he turned, he said, ‘Major, I cannot leave the wounded men, and I shall stay with them, and let the result follow.’ That was the last time I saw him, and I did not know what had become of him until, a day or two ago, a prisoner, belonging to the fourth Maine regiment, made his escape from Manassas; and he saw the doctor there, attending to our wounded men. I have no doubt but that, in due time, the doctor will return to us. I am very happy to be able to give you the above information as to the whereabouts of your son: and anything I can do for you in relation to him, I shall be most happy to do. We miss the doctor very much, as he was highly respected by all of our regiment. I shall see the doctor’s wife as soon as I get home, and give her all the particulars. If there is anything I can do for you, in any way, please let me know.
Yours very truly,
Major of the third Connecticut regiment
Part of this letter posted to Manassas National Battlefield Park Facebook Page, 9/15/2016
Life and Deeds of Dr. John McGregor – this full letter is transcribed on pp. 39-40
As we are in the midst of the sesquicentennial of the assault on Battery/Fort Wagner outside Charleston, SC, you can find a lot of new articles, posts, and opinions on the web right about now. Some of them are even concerned with what actually happened there. For a good example of this, see this post from Craig Swain. If you’re a true First Bull Run geek (I’m not sure there are more than two of us, though) you’ll see a link to our little battle in Craig’s post: the name John Chatfield. This is the same John Lyman Chatfield (at left, from Hunt, Colonels in Blue: The New England States) who was the colonel of the 3rd CT in Erasmus Keyes’s brigade of John Tyler’s Division. At the assault on Wagner, he was in command of the 6th CT of George Strong’s brigade, and was mortally wounded, as was Strong. You can read more on Seymour’s death in Colonel Chatfield’s Courage, or A Share of “Glory” .
Washington, D. C., July 30, 1861.
On Sunday morning at two o’clock, the long roll (the battle signal) beat, and up we started, with gun and blanket, and three days’ provisions, and fell into line. We were then about four miles from the battle-ground. We took up the march ahead, as were in the advance; and after going, under a most beautifully-bright moon, for about three miles half the time up hill, stony, rough, and at double-quick, we were halted, and let the “Grand Army” file past us. It was such a splendid sight! – artillery parks, a few cavalry, and then regiment after regiment of infantry, until some thirty thousand had passed, when we again fell in.
About ten o’clock the cannonading commenced, and we could see regiment after regiment fall back, but, at the same time, we steadily advanced and drove back the enemy; and about half-past eleven we were called upon to advance, still under a load of blankets and provisions. We were the reserve of the brigade and know it meant something. They took us a mile at least, through fields, over fences, through the broiling sun, heavily loaded, at the double-quick. Our men now and then fell down exhausted. If there were any cowards, they had a good excuse. Suddenly we faced the enemy – then, laid aside only our blankets, formed in line of battle, and then the Second Maine (with whose officers I was well acquainted) and Third Connecticut went in together. The First and Second formed further off to our right. We advanced, again up hill, firing at the retreating army. Some of our regiment dropped back; not many – two or three of our company. Presently we were staggered just on the brow of the hill, by a thundering discharge of musketry from two houses. We rushed on, up the lane, my company directly in front of it, but all circling around it. The enemy left it and fell back. We gained the houses and were rushing in, when we saw the American flag hoisted by what we supposed the enemy. The cry ran along: “Cease firing; you’re killing our men!” There was a slack on our part; we hoisted our American flag and Connecticut Third Regiment colors on the house; and, “honor to whom honor is due,” Major Warner and Capt. Jack Nelson did it (so let it be recorded), when instantly there was the most terrific fire of grape, canister, shell, and rifled cannon, from what we afterward found to be a masked battery of sixteen guns (ten in front and six on the flank.) We charged at the point of the bayonet; a shell burst within six feet of me; cannon-balls, musketry, fire, flame, smoke, and noise; something struck me on the side; I fell heels over head forward, and lay bewildered for a minute, then up again. There lay some ten or twelve men all cut up to pieces, John H. Sellick shot through both legs; Thomas Winton, through one leg; the others (not of my company) mangled here and there. Another rifled shot came through the house, tearing everything, and it passed within four feet of where I stood in the opening, cutting down eight or ten men. Another shell struck the roof of the house, tearing it all to pieces; and then the order was given to fall back. We did so, under the brow of the hill, under a terrific discharge of shot, which cut us fearfully, so that when I mustered my company in again, thirty were missing. As I left the field, I picked up a very pretty sword, which I gave to one of my men to carry, but which he finally threw away. We brought off Sellick and Winton, badly shot. Just as we were lying down flat to avoid the shot, which were flying around (and I lay flat on my face, panting like a dog – no water, and wet through with perspiration), I saw an officer gallop across the field, I started up (at first supposing, from the gray uniform, that it was one of my Maine friends). He said: “Where’s the rest of ’em?” Says I: “What regiment do you belong to?” Said he: Oh, yours. Hallo! where did you get that sword?” Says I: “Why that’s mine.” That made me smell a mice; and, at the same time, I saw S. C. with a palmetto tree on his buttons. I seized him by the collar and jerked him off his horse, and said: “You’re my prisoner!” and brought him, horse and all, in. He was the aide-de-camp of Gen. Johnston, coming to give us orders, supposing, from the position which we held, that we were rebels. I delivered him up to head-quarters. His sword I still carry. Presently up dashed another horseman from our rear, who also mistook us for a Georgia regiment. We took him prisoner. We saw then that we (the Third Connecticut Regiment alone) were surrounded and unsupported. We fell back, as we all supposed, to recruit our energies, and go in again; but suddenly a panic seemed to take hold of the troops (not ours); they scattered, an d started in all directions. The fight became general; the enemy followed up; our reserves were not there to cover our retreat; every opening or road we crossed we were fired at with shell and grape, and men fell back exhausted, and were cut off by cavalry. I came along and found poor Winton abandoned; he called on me to save him. Curtis and I took him in our arms and bore him along; we each handed our sword to one of our men to carry; we have not seen them since, and never will. The men ran away and abandoned us, and lost our swords; but we got Winton along to a horse, and he is safe. Poor Sellick! I have not seen since; we carried him under a tree and left him. We got, of course, behind, and separated. I got separated from Curtis, and lost in the woods.
I found two of my men, and some eight or ten of other regiments. We went along together; and just as we emerged into a road, alongside of a stream (Bull Run), some twenty feet wide, and about three feet deep, down dashed a large body of rebel cavalry. Of course, there was nothing to be done but to leap into the stream, which we did, from the bank, some eight or ten feet high. They fired a few shots as they went by, and one of our party fell dead in the water. Poor fellow! I thought for a few moments, “Have we been spared thus far to fall in such a miserable hole as this?” I went up to my waist, and waded through, dragging my canteen as I went along to get a little water in it, as I was almost gone with exhaustion. We got on to the opposite bank, and along about five hundred yards, and there we found Lieutenant Gray (honor to him for it) had made a stand, with what he could find of my company and some others. We stood the charge of cavalry, and drove them back; they charged again with three cannon. Gray led the boys, and took one of the cannon and brought it into camp; and the cavalry fled, with considerable loss of life. We finally came along, leaving the baggage-wagons, etc., and got into our fields at Centreville, where we lay down to rest without anything to eat; nothing under us, nothing over us, having lost all our blankets. We lay down at about 8 P. M. At 10 P. M. we were ordered up, fell in, and were marched to Falls Church, twenty miles, the way we took – via Vienna – without a halt of one hour, all told, during the entire route, and most of it double-quick.
Twenty-eight hours steady fighting; double-quick marching; nothing to eat; mud to drink – for I was glad to get a little moisture from where the horses drank – and the men tramped through, and we arrived at Falls Church a little after 6 A. M., put up our tents, which we had left there, in a heavy rain, and I lay down to sleep.
In two hours we were ordered to strike our tents and be ready to march. We did so. The cars to take our baggage to Alexandria got off the track, and we waited, in a pelting rain, until dark. We then marched, leaving a guard to look after the baggage, etc., and went along about three miles, through mud up to our knees – without exaggeration – when we turned into the Ohio camp, which they had abandoned. I lay down wet through, as I went into a stream up to my knees to wash off the mud, this being the eighth night I had lain on the ground in the open air without taking off my clothes or boots.
About 6 A. M. the colonel called the captains, and said it would be necessary to send back to Falls Church to bring our baggage; the guard left there had been frightened away by the enemy, and all would be lost. I jumped out and told him I would go back; Gray also. We got thirty-five privates (volunteers), all told, out of the Third Regiment. And we went back, through mud and mire, got to the camp, loaded up our (Third) baggage, then the Second Maine’s, and then the First and Second Connecticut’s, and brought back everything off all right. Of these thirty-five men, twenty were from my own company; twelve from Capt. Brook’s; two from Capt. Moore’s; one from Capt. Cook’s. So let it be recorded.
Our few Union friends treated us very kindly; but, at the same time, packed up and abandoned everything they couldn’t carry. It was melancholy.
When we came into Washington yesterday, amid here and there a cheer – though I held my head up, and my company came along proudly in good order, for they did their duty – I felt sad at the result.
Well, we got back to our regiment safely; immediately took up the line of march (though we had been six miles without a halt) and again at double-quick. I kept my company in order and steadily in rank.
We got to Arlington, through mud, soaked through, and again had to lie out on the wet ground with no covering, or walk all night; and the dew which came down was like a rain.
Yesterday, about five P.M., we again started, and marching (still double-quick) about eight miles, arrived at Washington, where we turned in, weary and hungry, into tents vacated by the New York Twenty-sixth. At about 11 P.M., our colonel (Chatfield) took the responsibility of giving each company crackers and cheese and a gallon of whisky – the first that had been dealt to us since we left Hartford – and if ever men needed it, it was after that battle. We stayed here last night, and now to-day we are pitching our own tents close by, and are moving in; but how long to stay, or what to do, we cannot tell.
I do not ask to take more credit to my company than they deserve; but they certainly had the thickest of that fight, as they went up a lane where they were most exposed. But I do say that the Third, together with the Second Maine, stood the brunt.
Speidel performed feats of valor; he was attacked by three horsemen, and had his sword knocked out of his hand, but he jumped from his horse. At the same time a foot soldier shot one of the horsemen. Speidel seized the dead horseman’s sword, killed the second man, and the third ran away.
Our friend Singer (and a better soldier never lived) is gone. He was wounded, and put into a wagon; but they fired into the wagon and killed him.
Our surgeon and the Second Maine surgeon were taken prisoners while attending the wounded.
Frederick Frye, Captain, Third Connecticut Regiment
New York Sunday Mercury, 8/11/1861
William B. Styple, ed., Writing and Fighting the Civil War: Soldier Correspondence to the New York Sunday Mercury, pp. 39-41
Third Connecticut Regiment —- A reliable Statement from Rev. J. M. Willey, its Chaplain
We visited the encampment of the 2d and 3d Connecticut Regiments, and witnessed their dress parade on Thursday afternoon last, and were gratified at their general good appearance. The Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Welles, Senator Dixon, and chief clerk Faxon, were present to witness the parade, and to show their interest in the volunteers from this State. We heard an excellent report of Mr. Willey, the chaplain of the 3d Regiment. He has been untiring in his efforts for the welfare of the men, and will ever be held in grateful remembrance by them.
Mr. Willey is disposed to forgive the rebels for stealing several of his manuscript sermons at Bull Run, provided they will read and profit by them; still they are such a rebellious people, that he has but little hopes of their salvation, with any weapon short of shot and shell. The following addressed by him to the Waterbury American, will be read with interest. We give it at his request.
I don’t think that I should now intrude upon you, except to ask you to put little reliance upon the newspaper reports of the great battle of the 21st. The accounts of “hair-breadth escapes and wonderful exploits” are most ridiculous and absurd. So far as my observation aids me, the reporters have obtained many of their startling particulars from those who were first to run away from the fight – whose lightness of foot enabled them to present full reports of the battle as much in advance of Government dispatches as they were in advance of men of courage in their stampede to Washington. On my arrival at Willard’s Hotel, on Tuesday morning, I heard men recounting their own daring achievements, whom, with my own eyes, I saw practicing the “double quick” from the battle field before it was known through the army that a retreat was ordered. Regiments are praised for their bravery, who were not ordered to fire a gun, and encomiums are bestowed upon officers for rallying their regiments, when for hours the Regiments had not the slightest idea where their officers were.
For the sake of common honesty, I must insist that the 3d Connecticut Regiment, which was the only Connecticut Regiment who made on charge on that memorable day, should not be entirely ignored for the simple reason that none of its officers ran away to “post up” reporters as to its daring deeds.
About half-past two, p. m., the 3d Connecticut and 2d Maine were ordered to charge upon a battery of rebels. The Colonel of the 3d did not send but led his Regiment to one of the most perilous labors of the day. Amid a shower of bullets and grape shot that sounded like the humming of bees, the work was done; the enemy was driven back and the possession of the place obtained. Our officers were determined to mark the place as our own, and Major Warner called for the Regimental Flag. The Stars and Stripes were advanced. “Not that one,” shouted the Major, “give me the Connecticut Flag!” and I tell you, Mr. Senior Editor, that your old blood would have coursed in quicker currents could you have seen the Major and Color Sergeant erecting on that spot, amid a leaden storm, the “Qui Trans. Sust.” of old Connecticut.
This was not all. When at length the column was ordered to retire from the field, it became necessary for some Regiment to cover the retreat. Col. Chatfield was ordered to do it. Had he and his Regiment been on their way to Washington, this laborious and dangerous duty might have been avoided, but the 3d Connecticut happened to be on the field and their confidence in the coolness and discretion of a Colonel who could walk down the lines with a smile upon his face, as he informed them how he should lead them in a charge that must end in the bloody death of some for whom he felt a brother’s solicitude, inspired them with courage to which some of the Regiments were strangers.
One of our officers seemed ubiquitous. I mean Adjutant Duryee. In any part of the regiment where he was needed he always appeared. Before the battle he had secured the love of the Regiment – after the battle the mention of his courage and bravery was on every lip. He rendered incalculable service to the Colonel in keeping the lines in order.
The field and staff lost most of their baggage. – The officers had laid aside their dress uniforms and everything that could encumber them. The Col. retains his sword and horse; all else is gone, but in exchange he has secured a military reputation of which Waterbury may be justly proud.
Very truly yours,
J. M. W.
Hartford Daily Courant,8/7/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy
From the Third Connecticut Volunteers.
An Account Of The Panic By A Member.
Arlington Heights, Wednesday,
July 24, 1861.
Dear Brother: – I have a letter written two days for you, but could find no way to send it to the city. We left our camp on Tuesday, the 16th, for the field of battle, and the past week’s endurance and hard labor, has been the greatest week of my life. Leaving Falls Village at 8 o’clock, marched to Vienna, and put up for the night. The next day we marched through Fairfax, in a round-about way; then to Centerville; most of the way through dense woods; tired and worn, we turned into a lot. At this time, Thursday, I think was the fight at Bull’s Run. The boys were very anxious to be in it, but we were held in reserve. We encamped in this lot, in the burning sun in the day, and the almost freezing dew at night, for a cover, Friday night and Saturday, until 1 o’clock Sunday morning, when our brigade moved about a mile, then halted [?] [?] hours, and let our grand division pass. We then fell in the rear, and marched about five miles, then halted again for an hour or more, when our brigade was ordered to march up to the battle field, and help the remainder of the division, which was about an hour’s march, at quick and double quick time. You can imagine what condition we were in to engage in a fight; tired and worn out, we were marched into the field; shot and shell pouring on us from the enemy, from one of their many masked batteries; their shots fell a great deal short of us, which was very fortunate. Our heavy guns were pouring in on them, with good effect. We could see them drop in crowds, as out shells struck in among them. We were ordered to take to the woods, which were a few rods in the rear of us. We were then ordered to charge on them, which we did, but without accomplishing much, for it was a pretty difficult matter for a brigade of infantry to take a battery, that we could not see, and pouring into us all the time. The enemy fell back, to draw us into the trap. The Maine 2d, being on the left, was cut up awfully; they got the worst of it; but our whole brigade did nobly; they stood together like men, advancing every time they were ordered, until towards night, we missed the division, except the three Connecticut and 2d Maine regiments, which composed our brigade. It was reported that a hasty retreat was ordered. We immediately turned and fled, as we saw that a number of rebel cavalry, with infantry to back them, were charging on us. Wearied and almost dead from fatigue, we were obliged to retreat, as the enemy were being reinforced all day, and we had no reinforcement. There was some mismanagement on the part of our officers, that we should be in this situation. Tyler was censured by both men and officers, for being so rash as to put us before a battery, when the rest were marched in a by way. He was bound to win, cost as many lives as it would. But the enemy being all fresh, we were whipped. Our brigade was the last to leave the field, and they left in good order; yet the road before us was the greatest scene of excitement that I ever witnessed. The lots were full of men, the roads crowded with artillery wagons, their horses on a dead run, colliding with freight wagons, and smashing hacks containing gentlemen spectators. I cannot begin to describe the confusion. Such a spectacle was never seen. There were troops at Centerville, who took a stand on the top of the hill, to prevent the advance of the enemy, and, with a few pieces of artillery, they gave our men a chance to escape. Everything that we had on, which had the least tendency to stop our progress, was thrown away. I was behind a man who was carrying a rifle. A shot passed by me, and knocked his piece out of his hand. I thought it about time to get out of the road. I took to the woods, threw off my haversack, which contained a number of eatables, writing materials, and many other things I would liked to have saved, next my belt, cartridge box, etc.; then went my blankets. It was hard to do it; but we were scattered, and running for dear life. The road and lots were covered with articles of this kind, which we were obliged to cast off, including muskets and all kinds of arms; but I hung to my canteen of water, for I thought that I could live longer without eating, than without drinking. I never knew what it was to want water, until this day. We drank water that, at any other time, we would not have washed our feet in. One man kicked a hog out of a mud puddle, and drank some water out of it. I saw a man riding a horse, when a ball came and cut the hind parts of the horse completely off. Many other incidents I shall reserve until my return home.
We escaped to Vienna, and turned in about one o’clock Monday morning, on the bare ground, slept about two hours, and started for our camp, at Falls Village. A party of three of us got strayed from the rest of our company, and when we arrived into camp, we found them all there, they having taken a more direct route. The three Connecticut regiments were the only ones that marched to their camps in a body. The rest of the soldiers having gone in squads of a dozen or more. We had to strike our tents, and wait all day in a drenching rain, for our wagons. At night we left the baggage with a guard, and started for the Ohio camp, about a mile towards Washington, where we remained all night, when the wagons came. We loaded them, and, with the 2d New York camp, started for Arlington. We got a good deal of credit for saving these camps, which the cowards had left, supposing the enemy would follow them up closely. We are top of the heap.
We intend to start for Washington some time today, about four miles off. We were very fortunate; not having lost but a very few men. Our mail came up to the battle field, and was taken by the enemy. I had four letters in it. That Sunday is long to be remembered. I would write much more, but I am so worn out that I cannot. I thought that you would feel anxious about me, and have scribbled these few line. I am as well as ever I was, but fatigued by long marches and hard work. A little recruiting will bring me all right again. We have not lost a man in our Company, and but one killed in our Regiment, as near as can be accounted for.
G. W. B.,
Rifle Co. C., Third Regiment Ct. Vol.
New Haven Daily Morning News, 7/26/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy