Lt. Col. John J. Reese, 3rd Tennessee Infantry, On the Battle

28 08 2020

Correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.
Honor to Whom Honor is Due.

Knoxville, Tenn., Aug. 1, 1861.

In the numerous accounts of the Battle of Manassas, published in the Richmond and other Southern papers, small mention is made of Col. Elzey (of Maryland,) and his brigade, which arrived upon the field in the nick of time, and, by a gallant charge, decided the fortunes of the day. A Northern paper justly says: “It is the last conflict of the day that decided the victory and defeat.” If it can be shown that the above-named officer and his brigade played this important part in the late battle, the fact should be widely known.

Letters have been received here from Col. Vaughn, Lieut. Col. Reese, and Capt. Parker, of the Third Tennessee Regiment, composing part of the brigade. They have been published in the Register, of this place – copies of which I send you, in verification of the extracts I propose to make. As gallant soldiers and actors in the closing scenes of the fight, they simply and modestly relate what occurred, and I merely reproduce their united and concurrent testimony as to the decisive charge referred to.

Col. Vaughn, with brevity and extreme modesty, says in a letter written the day after the fight: “I feel certain that the Brigade commanded by Col. Elzey, composed of the 10th and 13th Virginia Regiments, and the Maryland and East Tennessee Regiments, turned the scale in our favor. But let official reports speak of these things.

Lieut. Col. Reese, writing the same day, says: “Col. Elzey’s 4th Brigade, composed of the 1st Maryland Regiment; the 3d Tennessee Volunteers, under Col. Vaughn, Lieut. Col. Reese, and Major Morgan, and the 10th Virginia Volunteers, and one battery of four pieces of artillery, arrived at Manassas at 11 ½ o’clock, and we marched to the left wing at a double quick march. The fighting ground of the extreme left wing was seven miles from Manassas Junction, and our brigade was marched at a quick and double quick march for the whole distance. The Yankees, posted on a height, protected by a dense wood, poured upon our advancing columns a well directed fire of musketry, and their batteries, posted still further on our right, threw into our ranks bomb shells, some of which burst in the air, and some struck the ground within a few feet of us. We were kept under fire for some time without being allowed to fire a shot, as our flying artillery had not taken its position, and it was important that the enemy should be kept in ignorance of the extent and position of our brigade, until the artillery had commenced playing upon them. When the artillery of four pieces opened fire with tremendous effect, the first Maryland, on the extreme left, the third Tennessee, on their right, and the tenth Virginia, on our right, all abreast, charged bayonets up the height, and drove the enemy from the wood. When we reached the open field beyond, we opened upon their disordered and wavering ranks valleys of musketry. They turned and fled for their lives, throwing down their guns, knapsacks, and everything that would encumber their flight. The battle was fought and won. From that moment victory was ours. We drove the enemy from the field at every point. Immediately after the battle, General Beauregard meeting with our gallant Colonel Elzey, (late Captain in the U. S. A.,) who commanded the 4th Brigade, said to him on the battle-field, ‘Sir, your are the Blucher of the day, and have turned the tide of battle.’ On the same day, Co. Elzey was commissioned by President Davis Brigadier General.”


[Our correspondent appends an extract from a letter written by Captain Parker, a gallant young officer, bearing similar testimony. This was published yesterday. – Eds.]

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/6/1861

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John J. Reese (?) at Fold3 

Unidentified Officer, 3rd Tennessee Infantry, On the Battle

7 06 2015

In the Excitement of Battle. – An officer of the Cro[zi]er Guards, of Tennessee, who were with Co. Elzey’s Brigade in the gallant charge at the battle of Manassas, writes an interesting letter from Fairfax Court House, of which the following is an extract.

The distance from the junction to the point we occupied was at least six miles, and old officers who were with us say that the same time never was made by soldiers before. The dust was very deep in the road, and rendered it a perfect impossibility to see the man before you, so that we had to be guided by the shouts of the front men alone. The enemy had just raised their shouts of victory, as our cannon began thundering on them. Our infantry opening a moment afterward decided the day; for a few moments the enemy stood their ground, and attempted to rally for another fight, but it was impossible, their men broke and fled in the widest confusion. The day was won! Victory perched upon our standard. It was a proud moment for our commanders. Beauregard came dashing up our lines to Col. Elzey, complimenting him, ,remarked, “You, Col. Elzey, are the Blucher of the day” – a moment after, President Davis came up, and Col. Elzey was made a Brigadier General on the ground. You will hear many accounts of the carnage on the battle field, but the scene beggars all description. Around us and under our feet were piles upon piles of the dead and dying, horse and rider, carriage and driver, all in a confused mass, wounded men pulling you by the pants begging for water. The wails of dying men were unheeded, unnoticed by men who but a day before could not have looked upon a dead man without shuddering. I confess to having very weak n[er]ves in this respect, and yet I could stumble over dying or dead men with almost perfect indifference, so much does the excitement of the battle field change for the time man’s nature.

Macon Telegraph, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy