Brig. Gen. Samuel P. Heintzelman, Diary Entries

21 02 2022

Alex. Mon. July 15, 1861

I got a telegraph to go to Wash. to meet Gen. McDowell & bring Col. Miles. Margaret & I went up with him in the 9 a.m. boat. We met Gen. McDowell & he changed for Col. Miles to go up the Little River Turnpike & my division on the Old Fairfax Road south of the railroad as far as Sangster’s & then probably cross the Occoquan at Wolf Shoals & so on to Brentsville & cut the rail road which communicates with Va.

I went to see Gen. Mansfield but did not find him in. I had dinner at one & came down at 3 p.m. I met Lt. Charles Norton of the Navy. He was on the Seminole & is detached. Matilda is better but not well. Margaret is coming down in the morning to see me start.

After I got down the order to march came. Col. Miles had to start at 3 p.m. We will have to start at 10 a.m. to make our distance to Bone Mill on the Accotink. I was busy till night, have been since 11 p.m. with the brigade commanders arranging the details of the march tomorrow. I believe that we have now done all we can do [in] the short time left us to prepare. The day after tomorrow we will probably meet the enemy. It has been rather cool today.

Five men who escaped a call in mass arrived in town late this afternoon & now after 11 p.m. eleven more. A large portion of the population wont be impressed to serve against the U. S.

Alex. Tues. July 16, 1861

I did not get to bed before midnight. There was an alarm of an attack on our pickets at Springfield. It did not amount to much. Margaret came down in the 8 a.m. boat. I telegraphed for a carpet bag & some things but she did not get it. The first Brigade commenced the march at 10 a.m. Some regts. will be delayed by the misconduct in Lt. Symonds in referring to some provisions at night. We expect to get off about 3 p.m. Mr. Durn of Indiana sent word by Margaret that he wants to go with me. I telegraphed for him to come. We have a pleasant day, though it threatens rain. No instructions have come yet.

Sangsters. Va. on rail road Thurs. July 18, 1861

My written instructions did not arrive on Tuesday till about one p.m. & no horses for the guides although I telegraphed in every direction. A heavy rifled gun was also still behind.

Towards 5 p.m. Gen. McDowell arrived & soon after the gun with jaded horses. It came from Arlington. I also learned that I could get no horses for the guides, so ordered six from the A. Q. M. at Alexandria. As soon as we got part of them we started. In the night some of our guides joined us & reported that only three horses were sent. Capt. Tyler is one of the most inefficient Qr. Ms. I have had to deal with.

We soon overtook the rear of the column & took our opportunities to push ahead.

Before we left Gen. McDowell recommended to go on to the Pohick, about two miles further. I got there before sundown & found most of the First Brigade, Col. Franklin there. It is fortunate that we went on, as we would have found it almost impossible to encamp on the Accotink, it is so hilly & woody.

We bivouacked on a high hill, with the troops around us. The 11th Mass. was detained so late by the neglect of Capt. Symonds to furnish them rations, that the[y] got behind everything & did not get in till 3 a.m. & we were up & ready to march at daylight. We did not however start till 5 a.m. as I had sent back horses for the big gun, as it had stalled on a high & difficult hill at the Accotink on this side. I finally started & left a guard for it. I had sent back some horses from the Artillery wagons to help up the hill & had to wait a little for their return.

We at last got started, but had a continual succession of delays. The road is very narrow & lined with thick wood almost all the way & was crowded with troops. I sent forward several times to hurry them, but Col. Franklin said it was impossible for the skirmishers to advance any faster & as we were told to consider an ambuscade unpardonable I could not hurry them any more.

When the advance reached Elzy’s where the road to Sangsters & the one to Fairfax Station fork they sent me word that they had surprised a picket & the men had fled, that there were two entrenchments on the road to Sangsters & one on that to Fairfax Sta. with the roads obstructed. I passed forward to the advance & got there about 11 a.m.

Col. Franklin took a road to turn his entrenchments & whilst he was clearing the road I sent & had Col. Wilcox take the road to the Station.

In the meantime I had sent three companies of the Zouaves to try & disperse 80 men I heard were at Brinstone Mill on our left. They went & found that 11 foot & 2 cav drafted men had left in the morning for Manassas.

In the meantime the troops filed by & when Col. Howard’s brigade arrived I posted it at Elsy’s with one advanced towards Wolf Run shoals. He reported the gun at hand & it soon arrived.

In an hour Wilcox sent a note that he had possession of Fairfax Station, that 1000 men ran up the r. r. & 1000 towards the Court House. I sent this note to Franklin with orders to push ahead. I also ordered the troops to be ready to march at 3 p.m. & join Franklin at SangstersXHoward’s Brigade. I went forward with Lowe’s Cavalry. As we took the road they turned the place said to have the entrenchments we saw them to the right & went to visit them. They are two lines a little camped, poorly made, for Infy & will hold about 500 men. Nearby we saw their campXGordon, burning. They fled after our troops reached Elys & set fire to their store houses of corn & provisions. We found 11 barrels of flour & a pile of cornXmarked Confederate States. Also many of their mens shirts & some fresh beef & bacon.

We reached here about 5 p.m. & found Col. Franklin in possession. He reported that the retreat commenced at 5 p.m. the day we started. The last train passed not a great while before he got here & men on foot. The last bridge in sight was just set on fire. At Elsy’s we saw several smokes & people reported some firing of musketry & cannon.

We encamped here last night & the Hd. Qrs. put up their tents. We got supper in the poor house of the county & poor enough it was. Coffee & salt & shad & poor, very poor biscuit. This morning we had a cup of coffee made by our men with sardines & bread. I was so tired I did not report to Gen. McDowell as I was under the impression he would be on his way here to make a flank march on this side. As I was writing a report this morning I got a note from Capt. Fry that they did not know where I was & that they were marching on Centreville. I left Wilcox at the Station which is but a couple of miles from here.

Mr. Dunn has gone back, whether to return to Washington or remain with the Army if we advance. I sent a note to Margaret. I also since wrote another & sent it to Alexandria by an officer going in. I am very much annoyed at not having sent forward a report last night, but I was so strongly impressed with the idea that we would proceed by the left flank that I might neglect it.

Near Centreville Va. Fri. July 19, 1861

About 11 a.m. yesterday Gen. McDowell & staff arrived. There was not much of an engagement as our troops advanced. Col. Miles had two men wounded. Our troops burned Germantown & I believe Fairfax Court House.

When the General came most of the troops were near this place, that is in striking distance. I had sent out to look for our supply train, which should have been in & towards Wolf Run Shoals & out the r. road to Bull Run. From the latter place a battery was reported on the r. r. & the bridge burned. I sent again, but I could not get any positive information. I am satisfied the battery is beyond the rear & the bridge burned.

Our position & prospects were discussed & the plan changed. We were ordered to be here by daylight with two days rations in haversacks. We waited till late in the afternoon & I was satisfied no train would arrive so we marched & the head of the column arrived at a creek half a mile from here. As Wilcox was here & water good I came here with Franklin’s brigade & left Howards at the run.

As far as I can learn all the Army is here but Hunters column. I presume they are not far off.

At Sangsters heavy firing of cannon was heard near the direction of this place.

On our arrival we learned that Gen. Tyler had attached a battery, first with Infy. 3 regts. & then with Arty & was repulsed with loss. It was without orders & against the advice of the Engineer & other officers.

Col. Richardson’s Bri. was engaged & the 12 N. Y. Vols. ran awayXnot Col. Butterfields. Our loss instead of being 60 killed & a piece of Arty is but 3 killed, 2 probably mortally wounded & but 30 wounded. It is a disgraceful affair & Gen. Tyler is not excusable.

Our provision trains have arrived & our men are cooking & killing beef. I last night ordered a lot of cattle seized for my Division fearing the train would not arrive. I have just learned that it started for Occoquan.

We had a thunder shower last evening before our baggage arrived but a deserted town afforded us shelter till our tents came.

The coffee kept me awake most of the night. Our pickets were firing at intervals all night. This morning there was firing for hours, so that it was really dangerous to be about. With these long range muskets & raw Vols. it is really dangerous to be near them.

We got some pork meat this morning, the first since we started. No orders yet.

Our loss I find is much greater than I stated before, though no one knows yet as the Vols. have not called their rolls yet. I heard Capt. Alexander of the Eng. & Brackett of the cavalry give an account of the affair. There must have been a large number of troops & the firing was very heavy.

Mr. Dunn was here this morning. He witnessed the battle yesterday. I also saw Mr. Hoard. He was also present. Quite a number of citizens have been about the camps.

I also met Col. Porter & Major Barry. The latter has been appointed Chief of the Arty. I also saw Major Parker of the cavalry.

Camp near Centreville Va. Sat. July 20, 1861

This has been a tolerably warm day. I have not felt very well, but am much better this evening.

Sec. Cameron was in camp & a number of members of Congress. Mr. Dunn & Mr. Hoard called & then Mr. Brady.

I rode up to Centreville to look at the earth works. They are very indifferent & have embrasure for five guns.

We got orders to be ready to march at six p.m. When near the hour it was put off till 2 a.m. tomorrow.

At Fairfax Station in the earth works Col. Wilcox’s men found the secession flag of the Tensaw Rifles. It was presented to me & I sent it to Gen. McDowell. I have made out my report of the march from Alexandria.

Washington Sun. Sept. 1st, 1861

It is six weeks today since the battle of Bull Run, in which I was wounded. I was hit on the right arm, a little below the elbow by a minie ball, nearly spent & it was cut out on the field by Dr. King. It hit me about two inches below the elbow, on the outside & struck the bone & I fear fractured it slightly. I was on horseback & the Doctor he commenced cutting the ball out, but found it difficult & he got off.

On the afternoon before the battle the general officers got orders to appear at Gen. McDowell’s Hd. Qrs. to receive instructions. I went & did not get home till 11 p.m. We found a number of citizens there, many members of Congress amongst them.

The plans were detailed, but no opinions asked. I asked a few questions to understand what I had to do.

Gen. Tyler was to go up the turnpike & attack with artillery the battery protecting the stone bridge across Bull Run. I was to follow Gen. Hunter who was to take a side road to Sudley’s Church, or spring, or millsXwhere it crosses Bull Run. About half way there was a ford I was to stop at & when Hunter turned it cross & we together follow down to the Stone Bridge & then I take position on Hunter’s left. The road for me to turn off did not exist & I had to follow on to Sudley’s Mills where I arrived at 11 a.m. Before we got there Tyler’s heavy guns were heard & the smoke seen at two points. I could also see two heavy clouds of dust indicating reinforcements approaching from Manassas.

Whilst waiting for the last brigade of Col. Hunter’s division to cross I heard his advance attack the enemy in his front. We could hear our men driving the enemy back. Before we could cross Gen. McDowell sent Capt. Wright of the engineers & Major McDowell, the Gen’s brother, to me for reinforcements to prevent the enemy’s out flanking them. I had stopped the first Brigade to fill their canteens, but now ordered the Minnesota Regt. to go with Capt. Wright & follow more to the right, with 5th Mass. having orders for the second brigade to follow, but leaving Arnold’s battery & the 11 Mass. to take post as reserve on the right bank of Bull Run.

In a mile we got on the battlefield & I did not find any one to give orders. Gen. McDowell & his staff had passed up about a mile from Sudley’s Springs. We found the enemy had been driven back & I stopped a few moments to see what was going on & to make inquiries. In the meantime I met the General. He ordered some of the batteries forward, nearer the enemy & me to push the 5th Mass. forward from a position they took on a side hill, where they were lying down.

I went but seeing I could do nothing there that the key of the position was on the enemy’s left I ordered up two regts to try & take the battery covering it. I went up in that direction to wait for the Zouaves & when they came up lead them towards some old fields with scattered pines. As I approached the crest of the ridge I saw a line drawn up in good order at a shoulder & in citizen’s dress. I checked my horse for an instant & surveyed them. I then turned to the Zouaves & said there are the Secession troops, charge them. They rushed forward & in a few steps both parties came in sight of each other & fired & the Zouaves ran & I believe the enemy also. I tried to rally the Zouaves but failed. At the instant the Zouaves fired a party of 30 or 40 Secession cavalry charged them & were fired upon & broke & ran, leaving some half dozen men & three dead horses on the ground. As they fled Capt. Colby’s regular cavalry gave them a volley, killing a few more. It is said this was the famous Black Horse Cavalry.

I next led up the Minnesota regt., Col. Gorman. They got close on a Mississippi regt. & were repulsed & some 150 of their men ran away.

Washington Thursday Sept. 5, 1861

I next brought up the 1st Mich. They also were repulsed. These two regts. went into the woods on the right & did good service. The Zouaves joined some other regt. & did service as skirmishers.

The 14th Brooklin [sic] Regt. came up. I joined it, but at the first fire they broke & ran. Here I was wounded. Ricketts’ & Griffin’s batteries we retook three times, but they were lost at last.

I retreated with the troops till I met Col. Howard with his Brigade. They were engaged with the enemy. I left them after a while & got my arm dressed. I then tried to rally some of the Regts. but not one would form, or advance. We finally had to retreat across the Run, but there they would not form.

I stopped a moment at the Hospital & tried to get off some of the wounded, but most of them were captured by the enemy.

When I got across Bull Run I found that not a Regt. could be rallied nor even a company. I had Capt. Arnold with a section of Artillery & five companies of regular cavalry & with them covered the retreat of the troops on our road of retreat. A few secession cavalry followed us, but a discharge of canister sent them scampering away & they did not molest us any more.

It was about sundown when we got to where the country road we were on joined the turnpike as we approached it, we met a battery of rifle cannon. Here Arnold lost his battery, but we took through the woods & fields & came on the turnpike beyond the range of the guns. We reached Centreville after it was quite dark. Such a rout I never saw before.

I was helped off my horse, but having been on him since 11 a.m., I was so benumbed in my feet I could not stand for a moment.

I got a good drink of Whiskey & took a sleep of half an hour. In the mean time our Doctor was arranging for me to continue on to Washington.

We soon got orders for the Army to retreat to Washington. We got a cup of coffee & had our horses fed & were soon off. We found the road full of fugitives & wagons, but not a regt. in good or any order. I had Capt. Low’s company of 2 Cav. with me, all the way. Some other companies also joined us.

It commenced to rain a little before we got in. At the other end of the Long Bridge was the Buffalo 21 Regt. Some of them knew me. Major Rogers gave me a tumbler of whiskey, helped me to get home. There were orders not to let us pass but as I was wounded they let me & my staff pass. I got to my door at 6 a.m. on Monday. Capt. Wright & Lt. Farquhar helped me off my horse & as soon as I got to my room, Margaret sent for Dr. Abadie.

Washington Fri. Sept. 6, 1861

Dr. Abadie soon came & dressed my arm. He made me stay in bed & required me to keep the elbow wet with cold water. This I continued for some three weeks or more. The wound healed in a few weeks without suppuration. My arm is till a little stiff & I cannot turn my wrist sufficiently. It was six weeks before I could write anymore than sign my name.

I had a great many visitors, the first day & since.

Capt. McKeever was soon relieved from my staff & then put on McDowell’s. From there he was sent to Gen. Fremont’s. I sent the officers to Alexandria to try & reorganize the Division, but they could not do much & in a few days they were all relieved. I dictated my report & Lt. Farquhar wrote it out for me. It was arranged on the 31 July & written out & sent in on the 1st of Aug.

In the mean time Gen. McClellan arrived & assumed command of both sides of the river. I was relieved from duty on the other side & ordered to report to him. On the 2 Aug. reported to him & am to have a Brigade. On the 5 Aug. was made a Brig. Gen. of Vols. on recommendation of Penn. Delegation in Congress.

I rode to the Capitol same day & met a great many Senators. Next day Congress adjourned.

On the 6th Aug. Lt. Col. Day & 3 cos. of 2 inf. arrived & are posted near here. I called on Day, the next day & the day after they went to Georgetown.

Mr. Jewett left for Buffalo [on the] 6th. He took us over to Arlington & the Buffalo regt. the day before.

On the 12 Aug. Dr. Tripler arrived & called. He is the Chief Med. Off. on Gen. McClellan’s staff.

On the 13th I got my commission as Brig. Gen. Vols. & accepted same day. I would have declined but the Penn. Delegation had recommended me. It adds but little to my pay as I get so many longevities.

On the 14th got news of the death of Gen. Lyon near Springfield, Mo. A gallant officer sacrificed from having an inferior force.

Had a photograph taken for Harpers Weekly at Mr. Leavin’s regiment.

On the 15th went to Alexandria to see Col. Davies about my Brigade & Staff. I have the 5th Maine & the 16, 26 & 27 N. Y. We are posted on the left of Ellsworth.

On the 16th Dr. Tripler examined my arm & says the head of the bone is fractured.

Capt. Griffin’s battery is from the other side & encamped near us. He belongs to Gen. Porter’s Brigade. The latter is Provost Marshall & has been for some time. He has cleared the city of straggling officers & soldiers. The disorganization after the battle was frightful. For seven days after I feared for the safety of the city. I believe that the Confederates could have taken the works on the other side if they had attacked us. We lost the 3 mos. men & the panic was great. The chance soon passed. The truth is the enemy suffered so greatly they could not pursue us with rigor & some of their regts were as badly disorganized as ours. On the 20th we had quite a stampede in town about an attack on the city. On the 24th the mayor of Wash. & some women secessionists were arrested. Mr. Phillips & Mrs. Greenhow.

On the 26th Mr. G. W. Eddy arrived. Wants to be a pay master. Has not got it yet & I fear wont.

Stamped[e] & constant alarm on other side.

I was down town & saw Mr. G. H. Penfield make bread & bake it in 30 minutes by Prof. Horsford’s method. It is the great desideratum of the age. Now bread making is reduced to a science. Any child can succeed in making good bread. The bran takes out some of the nutritive qualities & what makes the bread size. This is prepared in the shape of a powder of phosphates of or phosphoric acid & bicarbonate of soda. These are mixed with water & or rather dry mixed with the flour & then mixed with water & baked at once. He is trying to introduce it in the army.

Sept. 1st Heard of the success of the expedition to Hat[t]eras Inlet of Com. Stringham & Gen. Butler. This I hope inaugurates a new era is in our operations. It should have been done 3 mos. before.

The first week or ten days after the battle the weather was cool & then about as many very warm. Since then much rain. It must have been same in the Confederates & we learn they have much sickness.

A few nights ago Griffin’s battery with a Brigade (King’s) went & crossed the Chain bridge & established batteries on the other side. The night before more troops went out. We met them, as we returned from Mr. Young’s when we had been to eat fruit & met Col. & Mrs. Paulding.

I got letters almost every day from some one for my influence to get an office. Jacob Stauffer formerly of Manheim has called. Jno. Bastruff who lives near here & I have had letters from Dyer & Mayer of Manheim.

I got a letter from Andreas Heintzelman in Kansas who inquires whether we are relatives. I have a number of letters of congratulations on my escape from the battle & promotion.

I have been several times to see Gen. McClellan, but he is hard to see & two weeks ago I thought he stood on his dignity, so I have not been to see him since. I must try & go to duty next week.

It cleared off today & has been pleasant. I walked down town with Capt. Lathrop. He got a commission as Capt. in the 17 Infy. & draw my pay of Major McClure for Aug.X$330.63X12 days as Col. & 19 as Brig. General. We went to Express office & got a keg of crackers some one sent Margaret & a box of ointment sent me from western N. Y. for my arm.

———-

Samuel P. Heintzelman’s Diary resides at the Library of Congress

This transcription was made by and presented with the permission of Dr. Jerry D. Thompson, author of Civil War to the Bloody End: The Life and Times of Major General Samuel P. Heintzelman

Contributed by Daniel Winfield

Samuel P. Heintzelman at Wikipedia

Samuel P. Heintzelman at Ancestry

Samuel P. Heintzelman at Fold3

Samuel P. Heintzelman at FindAGrave





“W”, Co. I, 5th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

24 06 2020

Washington City, July 24th, 1861.

Letter From One of the Massachusetts Fifth.

Dear Brother; The great battle has been fought, and our forces have retreated, but are not conquered. On the evening of the 20th we received three days rations, and at 2 A. M. were called into line, but his was half-past 5 before we got fairly started. After a long and tedious march we reached the position assigned us. Throwing off our superfluous equipments, Colonel Lawrence in a few words cautioned us not to take orders from anyone but himself, and above all things to keep perfectly cool. Our station was on the brow of a hill where a perfect storm of shot and shell was being directed. Lying down on our faces to avoid its effect, the order soon came – “commence firing.” Ours, the first company, fired and went to the rear, loading on our backs, the second company followed suit, and so on. We fired into their rifle pits and batteries, and could not see what execution we had done.

Soon the Fire Zouaves were called upon to make a charge, and we were directed to support them. Instantly forming into double files “double quick” was the word, and away we dashed off the hill, down the road, through the Run, nearly to our waists in water, and took our position in their rear. Here the fire was terrific, but too high to harm us. The charge was made and most nobly was it done, but our unseen foes were as yet too much for us. At this point our Colonel was wounded, exclaiming as he fell, Don’t mind me, boys, go back and fight; but all our fighting for the day as a regiment was at an end. By the cowardly retreat of a cavalry corps who were to support us, the companies were separated beyond hope of reorganization. Some of them rallied under their captains and others under their lieutenants. Our old hero, Capt. Brastow, led us until he was trampled under foot by the flying cavalry, when he was obliged to retire. After this we linked our fortunes with the Fire Zouaves, and fought with them the rest of the day until the retreat. Here was a scene past all description, which even no makes my hear sick to think off.

Our brave army officers were not anywhere to be found, and we were left to act for ourselves. Joining Gov. Sprague we slowly retreated. After we got some two miles, the enemy’s cavalry charged upon us, but were repulsed; soon they opened a battery, throwing shell into us very lively. Getting out of the range of that we made good our retreat to Centreville. Here we made preparations to remain for the night, when orders came for a retreat toward Washington. Much against our inclinations at half past 10 P. M. we started, and I trust that such another scene may never be witnessed by mortal man; one wild confusion of baggage wagons, ambulances filled with the wounded, and broken and discouraged troops dragging their weary feet along. The retreat at this point was without any order whatever, and it was with great difficulty the men could be forced along.

Our regiment, again organized, made a short halt at Alexandria, and then received orders to proceed to Washington. AS if to add to our suffering, a cold, drenching rain storm here commenced, which soaked us to the skin. At last we found rest for our weary bones, having marched from fifty to sixty miles, and fought five hours, in less than forty-eight hours. The Massachusetts Fifth answered all my expectations, and did as much as could be hoped from them under the circumstances. It is impossible to ascertain the exact number of our killed. There are in all, killed, wounded, and missing, about fifty. But one missing from our company, Somerville Light Infantry. I think we shall soon be at home.

W.

Boston (MA) Evening Transcript, 7/26/1861

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy





Edward S. Barrett, Civilian, On the Battle (2)

15 09 2014

Scenes on the Battle Field – – – Personal Adventures at the Battle of Bull Run.

From The Boston, Traveller, Aug. 1.

[Concluded.]

Most of these rebels had gray outfits, with black trimmings, very similar to the uniforms of some of our men. Scattered all through this wood were our men and the Alabamians, dead and wounded mingled together. I noticed a splendid bay horse nibbling the leaves from a tree, and was thinking what a fine animal he was, when I saw that one fore leg was shot off, clean as though cut by a knife, and bleeding a stream. Until this time I supposed that everything was being swept before us, as the fire from the batteries had been nearly silenced on the right, and only an occasional discharge was heard. On the enemy’s left the firing was not nearly as vigorous as half an hour previous. I came out of the woods, and to my utter astonishment saw our whole body retreating in utter confusion and disorder – no lines, no companies, no regiments could be distinguished. I stood still a few moments, unable to comprehend the extraordinary spectacle.

I heard my name called, and turning round a lieutenant of the Massachusetts Fifth came towards me. “My God, Ed., what are you here for?” he exclaimed. Without replying, I asked if the Fifth had suffered much; he said that it had, and that the colonel was dangerously wounded. I waited to find others of my friends, but the whole line was drifting back through the valley. I fell in with them and went slowly up the hill, occasionally halting and looking back. I stopped on the brow of a hill while the volume drifted by, and I can compare it to nothing more than a drove of cattle, so entirely broken and disorganized were our lines. The enemy had nearly ceased firing from the batteries on their right and centre, but upon our extreme right, beyond a patch of woods, the fight was going on, and their cannonading was kept up with vigor.

The line where the main battle was fought was a half to three-quarters of a mile in length, the ground uneven and broken by knolls and patches of wood. At no time did we have a fair chance at the enemy in the open field. – They kept behind their intrenchments or under cover of the woods. Our comparatively slight loss may be attributed to the fact that the great body of our troops were posted in the valley in front of the enemy’s batteries, but by keeping as close to the ground as possible, the enemy’s shot passed over their heads, while the cross fire of infantry from their flanks caused us the most damage.

I did not leave the hill until the enemy’s infantry came our from their intrenchments, and slowly moved forward, their guns glistening in the sun; but they showed no disposition to charge, and only advanced a short distance. Had they precipitated their columns upon our panic-stricken army the slaughter would have been dreadful, for so thorough was the panic that no power on earth could have stopped the retreat and make our men turn and fight. They were exhausted with twelve hours marching and fighting, having had little to eat, their mouths parched with thirst, and no water in their canteens; what could be expected of them then? Our men did fight like heroes, and only retreated when they had no officers to control and command them.

I found my horse tied to the tree where I had left him in the morning. Mounting him, I rode up to the hospital headquarters, and stopped some time watching the ambulances bringing their loads of wounded, fearing I might discover a friend or acquaintance. As these loads of wounded men were brought up, blood flowed from the ambulances like water from an ice cart, and their mutilated limbs protruding from the rear had no semblance of humanity.

I left these scenes of blood and carnage and fell into this retreating mass of disorderly and confused soldiery. Then commenced my retreat. None who dragged their weary limbs through the long hours of that night will ever  forget it. Officers of regiments placed themselves in front of a body of their men and besought them to halt and form, for if they did not make a stand their retreat would be cut off. But they might as well have asked the wind to cease blowing; the men heeded them not, but pressed on in retreat. The regiments two or three miles to the rear, which had not been in action, exhorted our men to stop, but all to no purpose; no power could stop them. The various regiments tried to collect as many of their regiment and their State. In some instances they collected together two or three hundred men.

At a narrow place in the road the baggage wagons and artillery got jammed together in a dead lock, and in trying to get through I was hemmed in so completely that for fifteen minutes I could not move in either direction, and in this way I became separated from a remnant of the Fifth, ,and did not see them again till I reached Centreville. I finally extricated myself by breaking down a rail fence, and driving my horse over it, struck across a large corn field, thus cutting off a considerable distance and reaching the road at a point where it entered the oak forest. Shortly after entering the woods the column in front of me suddenly broke and ran into the woods on the left; the panic spread past me and soldiers ran pell mell into the woods, leaving me alone on my horse. I was afraid that in their fright they might shoot me and I shouted lustily “false alarm.”

Turning my horse about not a man could I see, but soon a soldier thrust his head from behind a large oak. I asked him “what the matter was;” he replied “the enemy are in front.” Somewhat provoked at the scare, I made some reflection on his courage, and shouted again still louder, “false alarm,” which was soon taken up along the road, and in five minutes we were going along as before. This was between five and six o’clock in the afternoon. Shortly after I overtook two soldiers helping along a disabled lieutenant; they asked me to take him up behind me, to which I readily assented, although my horse was already encumbered with a pair of saddle-bags and several blankets. The poor man groaned as they lifted him up behind me. – I was fearful he might fall off, and I told him to put both arms round me and hold on tight. Leaning his head upon my shoulder we started on.

He soon felt better, gave me his name, and informed me that he was a first lieutenant of the Marines, and belonged to Connecticut. – He stated that they had in the fight four companies of eighty men each and that Lieutenant Hitchcock (a very dear friend) was killed by his side. A cavalry officer with his arm in a sling, came riding along, and drawing up near me, I asked him if he was much hurt. He replied “that he had received a rifle ball through the fleshy part of his arm.” He also told me that during the fight he had two horses shot under him, and the one on which he was then riding he caught on the field. I questioned him as to the cause of our disaster, and he answered “that our light troops and light batteries could make no headway against the heavy guns of the enemy strongly intrenched.” I asked him how the enemy’s works could be carried; he replied, “by allowing the cavalry to charge, supported by infantry.” He also informed me that we had about one thousand cavalry in the field during the battle.

As we continued our retreat through the wood, the men overcome with weariness, dropped by the roadside, and immediately fell asleep – some completely exhausted, begged to be carried, the wagons being already overloaded with those being unable to walk; and some shrewd ones quietly bargained with the driver of an ordnance wagons for a seat by his side. Passing through this wood we came in sight of the hills of Centreville. I noticed that the column mostly left the road and bore off through and open field, leaving the bridge we had crossed in the morning some distance on our right. I could not account for this deviation from the morning’s course, and I left the main body and continued along some distance farther, determined to keep the main road, as I knew of no other way to cross the creek except by the bridge we had crossed in the morning, but coming up to a line of broken down wagons, it occurred to me that the bridge might be blocked up, as I recollected the passage was quite narrow. I then started off to the left across a level field, but upon looking back I perceived that the wagons still continued on toward the bridge; in fact there was no other way for them to cross. I followed the crowd of soldiers through the field and into some low woods.

Here they scattered in every direction, as there was no path, and each one was compelled to choose his own route. I picked my way among the tangled underbrush till I came to the creek; the bank down to the water was very steep, and I feared my horse could not carry us both down safely; so, dismounting, I led him slowly down, and then mounting, I drove into the stream. The bottom was soft and miry, and my horse sunk in to its belly. I began to think we all should be floundering in the stream; then urging him to his utmost strength we reached the opposite bank in safety. Twice my gallant horse started up the bank and fell back. After crossing this creek I came into a corn field, and soon struck a road leading to Centreville, which village I soon reached, and there my companion met with his captain and he dismounted. Never was a man more grateful for a favor than was this lietenant. With tears in his eyes he thanked me a thousand time, and, wringing my hands, walked away with his friends.

From Centreville I could see the disordered army winding on for some two miles; a portion of the men and all the wagons and artillery took the road over the bridge, while another portion came in nearly the direction I had taken. It was now nearly eight o’clock, and as it grew darker our retreating army kept the main road over the bridge. About two miles from Centreville, on the Southern road was a rebel battery where the fight had taken place the Thursday previous. This battery commanded the bridge above mentioned. Suddenly a cannon shot was fired from the battery and struck our column, crowding across the narrow bridge. The utmost consternation was created by this fire. In their haste wagons and gun carriages were crowded together and overturned; the drivers cut their horse loose who galloped, they scarcely knew whither. Our men plunged into the stream waist deep, and were scattered in every direction, and some who were seen up to this time have not been heard of since.

The enemy still fired from the battery but did not dare sally out, as they were kept in check by our reserve on the heights of Centreville. I reached our camp that we had left in the morning a little after eight o’clock and found that a few of the Fifth had arrived before me. It was then expected we should encamp for the night, but about nine o’clock we received orders to march to Alexandria. We had already travelled from ten to twelve miles, and now our weary soldiers were ordered to march twenty-five or thirty miles farther.

Slowly the fragment of our regiment fell into line and began this dreadful night march. – I took a sick man behind me and followed in the rear of our regiment, and crossing a field to the main road we fell in with the drifting mass. A friend of mine from the Fifth, who could hardly walk, approached me. I offered him my horse if he would hold the sick man, who was groaning at every step. Tho this he readily assented, so I dismounted. I saw no more of my horse till morning, but trudged along all night without once sitting down to rest, only occasionally stopping to get water.

I felt comparatively fresh when compared with my companions. The dust was intolerable, and, not having any canteen, I suffered exceedingly from thirst. Men dropped down along the road by scores; some, completely exhausted, pleaded piteously to be helped along; some took hold of the rear of the wagons, which was considerable support to theme, and many a horse had two men on his back, with another helped along by its tail; in fact, a horse carrying but one was an exception. – I assisted one fine fellow along for a long distance, who told me he was taken with bleeding at the lungs while on the field; he was very weak, and in vain I tried to find an opportunity for him to ride, but he bore up manfully through the night, and I saw him the next day in Washington.

After passing Fairfax Court House some of the regiments, or such a portion as could be collected together, bivouacked for the night., but the men were so scattered that I doubt if half a regiment halted at any one spot. I still walked on, never once resting, fearing if I did I should feel worse when I started again. Towards morning my feet began to be blistered and the cords of my legs worked like rusty wires, giving me great pain at every step. – Gladly did I hail the first faint streak of light in the East.

At daylight we were within five miles of Alexandria. About this time we came to where the Washington road branches off from the main road to Alexandria, and here our column divided. I continued on towards Alexandria, and in about an hour came in sight of Shuter’s hill. I then felt my journey was nearly accomplished, but the two miles seemed needless.

I stopped at a small house just back of Fort Ellsworth and asked the old negro woman for some breakfast. Two Zouaves were there when I entered, and soon four more came in. She knew them all, as they had paid her frequent visits while encamped in that neighborhood. She gladly got us the best she had, and those six Zouaves and myself, nearly famished as we were, sat down to that breakfast of fried port, hoe cake and coffee, served to us by this old slave woman, with greater delight than ever a king seated himself at a banquet.

The Zouaves each had their story of the battle to relate, but the charge of the Black Horse Cavalry was their especial theme. One of the, pulling a large Colt’s pistol from his pocket, said, “There, I gave that fellow h–l, and he wasn’t the only one, either.” I coveted this pistol, and soon bargained for it, and now have it in my possession. One barrel only had been fired. The Zouaves gradually dropped off, and after paying the slave woman for the meal I started over the hill for the camp of the Fifth, where I arrived about half past eight o’clock, and found that my horse, with his riders, had arrived safely some time before.

Part 1

New London (CT) Chronicle, 8/7/1861

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Edward S. Barrett* bio

Edward S. Barrett* at Ancestry.com

Barrett, Edwin Shepard What I Saw at Bull Run

Contributed by John Hennessy

*Likely the letter writer





“R”, 5th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Battle

21 11 2012

The following is a letter  from another member of the Massachusetts Fifth:

Our brigade under Col. Franklin, consisting of the First Minnesota, Fifth Massachusetts, and Fourth Pennsylvania Regiments, with a battery of six guns and a company of cavalry, left Alexandria on Tuesday morning, 16th inst., and arrived at Centreville on Friday night. We bivouacked in an oat field until Sunday morning at two o’clock, when we formed and stood in the road until five, at which time the column moved on. While we were at Centreville we were allowed but three hard brad a day, or one for each meal. True, we had some fresh beef on Saturday morning, but it was eaten so soon after being butchered that it made the men sick, and was thrown away. Even water could hardly be obtained, and a guard was stationed at the two or three miserable puddles to allow the men but one dipperful at a time. In consequence of this, two thirds of the men started for the battle field without any water in their canteens. The men from the first had slept upon the ground and had been half starved – not only our own brigade, but the entire division – and were more fit to be marched to the hospital than the battle field. Hungry and thirsty we marched until 12 o’clock, at which time we reached the field. The last two miles we traveled on the “doublequick.” About half a mile before reaching the field a halt was made for a moment and we divested ourselves of our haversacks and blankets, and advanced with full company front, close column.

The 11th Massachusetts, who had been ahead on the march, here halted while we passed but followed and took their position on our left, being the extreme left of the line of battle, the 5th being next. To our right were the Zouaves, who we supported. The position of the 5th was in the thickest of the fight as was also the 11th. To the left of the 11th was a piece of woods, from which stray bullets from the rebel skirmishers were fired into the ranks of the 11th. The 5th was ordered to halt upon the side of a hill, and lie down upon their faces. No sooner was this order obeyed than a shower of bullets came whistling over the heads of the men, ,but no one was hurt. Col. Lawrence gave the order for the first company to fire and then fall to the rear and load, when the second company was to fire and fall to the rear. After several volleys had been fired in this way, the enemy retreated from their position. The first man injured in the 5th was by a cannon ball, which injured two men in the Charlestown City Guard.

Col. Franklin rode up and asked, “What regiment is that lying on the hill?” When told they were the 5th Massachusetts, he replied, “I thought you were regulars you lay so still.” He then said to the Colonel, “Can you take that house? If you can the day is ours.” The Colonel shouted that we could, and we immediately fell into “sets of fours,” and proceeded to a road at a short distance, which led to the house referred to, behind which was a large force of rebels. The 5th and 11th had almost reached the house, passing through a dreadful fire to reach it, when the riderless horses attached to Rickett’s battery came dashing down upon us, the Zouaves following and the United States Cavalry following them. For a time a fearful confusion prevailed, and the 5th were obliged to halt and, and received our own cavalry at the point of the bayonet to prevent them from running over the men who were advancing. At this time Colonel Lawrence was wounded and carried from the field. The command then devolved upon the Lieutenant Colonel, but as he was not to be seen, the men were rallied by Sergeant Major Quincy, and Lieutenant Everett of the Charlestown City Guards; Lieutenant Tebbets of the Charlestown Artillery also exerted himself to the utmost to rally the men. After the cavalry had passed and left the field, the Fifth then rallied around the colors and reached the top of the hill, supporting the Zouaves, whose numbers were fast being diminished. A few moments after reaching the top of the hill, Color Sergeant Lawrence was shot through the breast by two bullets, another bullet passing through his head. Corporal Wallace, who carried the State banner, threw it on the ground and raised the stars and stripes again. Sergeant Major Quincy picked up the State flag and bore it aloft until the retreat had sounded. On his way he met a civilian on horseback, who he requested to take it for safe keeping and carry it to Centreville. He did so, but when he reached Centreville he had come to the conclusion that he had rescued the flag from the enemy and made himself a hero, and told his story accordingly.

After the retread had commenced, the Fifth rallied several times in squads of three or more, and were the last to leave the field, retiring with the Zouaves, 11th Massachusetts, and one other, in as good order as the confusion of the different regiments would admit. For the last half hour of the battle every man in most of the regiments was fighting “on his own hook,” firing wherever a rebel showed his head or his heels.

There were many men who deserve particular mention. Capt. Wardwell was very brave and cool, as was Adjutant Chambers, who was smoking a pipe during a part of the engagement. Sergeant Major Quincy deserves great praise for rallying the men when the field officers could not be found. Col. Lawrence was brave even to rashness, during the action, and did everything in his power to save the lives of his men by good management and care that one company not fire into the others, as was unfortunately the case with many other regiments.

R.

Boston Evening Journal, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown, Co. I, 5th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Battle

16 11 2012

The Massachusetts Fifth in the Fight.

The following is an extract from a letter furnished to the Journal from a member of the 5th Massachusetts Regiment, and gives an interesting account of the gallant conduct of that regiment in the recent fight: –

Washington, July 26, 1861.

It will be impossible for me to give you a description of the battle of Sunday, as I saw it in a different light from others close beside me. I can, however, tell you the part our regiment took in the battle. Was, as you know, were in Heintzelman’s division and in Franklin’s brigade. Our brigade consisted of the 1st Minnesota Regiment, 5th of Massachusetts, and 11th of Massachusetts, and we marched in that order. We left Centreville camp at about daylight, with three or four brigades in advance of us. The battle opened about two hours before we reached the field. On arriving there the 1st Minnesota took a position out of our sight. We were told to go to the support of one of our batteries, playing on the rebels. We at once started on the double quick, and halted on the top of the hill, directly in front of the enemy’s batteries. We were flanked by the 11th Massachusetts on the left. Col Franklin ordered us to charge down the valley, on to the enemy’s batteries. Col. Lawrence told us to wait for his orders; we did. He then ordered us to charge to the brow of the hill by companies, fire and retreat to the rear of the regiment, load and await our turn. Before the entire regiment had time to follow his instructions, we were ordered to cross the ravine and support the Zouaves, who then were in the thickest of the fight. In as good order as any double quick movement was ever made, did our regiment countermarch and form on the left flank of the Zouaves, who, according to all accounts, were subject to a galling fire. We did this, then halted for the word of command, which did not come. (Col. Lawrence had fallen while we were changing positions.) After a few moments delay we rushed to the support of the Zouaves, and held our ground as well as any regiment on the field; three several times we charged and only retreated when the whole field in our rear was crowded with flying soldiers, cavalry, artillery and citizens. We were utterly astounded at the flight of those in our rear, and even while the Zouaves were hurrying from the field the men cried loudly for their officers to lead them forward. I tried to do my duty during the fight. I walked off the field slower than I ever walked State street.

Our regiment formed under Capt. Brastow and filed to the rear of the Rhode Island brigade, and marched in good order to our old camp at Centreville. We had been there and hour or more when Col. Franklin ordered us to retreat instantly to Washington. I have no desire to praise our regiment. I know that the Zouaves say we were the only regiment who supported them well. Adjutant Fairbanks, aide to Heintzelman, told Capt. Brastow that our regiment stood their ground as well as any regiment on the field; that if others had done as well we could have held our ground.

The New York and other regiments were praised very highly, but they did not lose as many men in proportion to numbers as we did. We had 531 fighting men on the field and lost fifty-nine, which is over 10 per cent. So you see we must have had some work to do. In reference to our colors, the State flag was brought from the field by our Sergeant Major, the stars and stripes by the Color Corporal. Our defeat was caused by the want of a proper and prompt reinforcement. We won the field and it was for the reserve to keep it. The regiments facing the batteries did not retreat until the forces in our rear were entirely and completely broken up. In changing our position we were subject to a terrific fire, directed to sweep the road.

In our charges the balls flew around us like hail stones, and God only knows how we ever escaped as we did. The army officers could not stand the fire, but hastened from the field. There was no order or regularity displayed by any one. I saw a whole regiment refuse to obey the order to support the Zouaves. We did our best, that is all I have to say. The Washington papers speak well of us. The men rallied around the colors and stuck to them to the last. Every man of the Fifth would have preferred to have died then and there than to have returned to Massachusetts without our colors. We expect to return within a few days. The boys would like another chance at the rebels, and I think most of them will reenlist after a visit home.

Capt. Brastow is recovering from his bruises. I thought we had lost the old hero at one time, when he was thrown down and rolled in the dust by a charge from the cavalry, but he was on his feet and at our head, sooner than you can read this. He inspired us all.

The army is nearly organized; but few stragglers can be seen. The Zouaves are nearly all in camp. Our regiment could be called out in thirty minutes.

Boston Daily Advertiser, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown, 5th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Battle

16 11 2012

Letter From The Fifth Regiment.

We are permitted to publish the following letter from a member of the Massachusetts Fifth, giving his account of the battle of Bull Run: –

Washington, D. C., July 25, 1861.

My dear Father, – On Tuesday I sent you a few lines to inform you that I was still in the land of the living, which is something that I can account for but through the protection of Providence.  I was in the thickest of the fight; my company did nobly and charged the enemy three times. Our Colonel was cool, and well able to lead a regiment in the field. I cannot say as much for other field officers. Our Captain was like a tiger, in the fight. Your son endeavored to do his duty. The whole battle was, in my opinion, a poorly managed affair, and was fought against Gen. Scott’s wishes. I hope in future, they will let him alone.

To give you an idea of what was done in 24 hours, I will state, at 2 A. M., on Sunday, we left camp at Centerville (that is our division the third), marched ten miles through a circuitous route, to take a position on the enemy’s right flank. When we arrived, about 11 A. M., we halted only long enough to throw off our blankets and haversacks, then marched by a flank, double quick, about 1 1/2 miles to a swell of land and in front of Arnold’s Battery formed by company in close order and commenced firing by company, that is, the 1st company delivered their fire, advanced to the brow of the hill, then fall back, load and be replaced by the next company, and so on; Arnold’s Battery, as well as the enemy, all the time firing over our heads, and balls were thick enough to satisfy any one. Soon after the Mass. 11th were sent to support us on the left and the N. Y. 28th on the right. After being in this position about an hour, we were ordered to file off to the right to the road crossing the Bull Run, and support the N. Y. Zouaves and Rickets’s Battery. We had just got into position when the enemy made a charge on the Zouaves and the battery, driving them through our ranks and taking Captain Rickets prisoner. A good part of the Zouaves rallied on our rear, and with some of the Mass. 11th, we retook the battery and carried it off the field.

The battery had advanced to within 200 yards of the enemy’s works, which I think was wrong, as they (the enemy) had splendid batteries, and they were more rapidly served than ours. Their infantry were much inferior to ours. We drove them every time they made their appearance with fearful loss. We were at last obliged to retire to the hill where we had left our blankets; here we formed on the left of the Rhode Island boys, under Gov. Sprague and Col. Burnside, with a battalion of the 11th on our left, and endeavored to stop the retreat but it was too much for us, and what commenced as a withdrawal in good order soon became a mad flight. Gov. Sprague seeing there was then no hope of arresting it, marched around the right and on the outside of the woods in sight of the enemy’s batteries which was the only thing that saved us, as they, seeing us going off in good order, supposed the rest in the woods must be in like good order, and as they were evidently very glad to see us go, thought best not to trouble us. We have since understood that they were actually retreating when we were.

As we were coming out of the woods about five miles from the battle-field, one of their batteries opened on us with shell, doing great damage, and piling the road with ambulances and baggage-wagons, and preventing the artillery passing the bridge, and four of Arnold’s guns fell into their hands.

At about 7 P. M. I got into camp at Centerville, tired and hungry. There I found all the officers, three sergeants, three corporals, and twenty-five privates. I immediately threw myself on the ground, and went to sleep, not having eaten anything since morning. After about an hour’s sleep was called up by the Adjutant, and ordered to fall in as noiselessly as possible. An order had been given to fall back on Washington. For about three miles the regiment marched in good order by the flank, but after that the cavalry passed us, and the regiments began to crowd by each other and got mixed up, and some command was lost. My company kept their position with great difficulty until we arrived at Fairfax, when they dropped off from exhaustion by the road side.

I kept on with the hardy ones and before I reached Camp Mass. at 11 A. M., was overtaken by those that had rested. Here I found all but 18 or 20 of the Co. I took a cup of coffee and laid down to rest tired enough I assure you. I could not have slept more than half an hour when we were aroused by the order to fall in, it was raining big guns. Water and mud to our knees. Tired and hungry we marched to Washington a distance of 8 miles over a road that is bad enough in dry weather, and perfectly horrible in wet.

On reaching Washington, who should I meet but Dan —, John’s old friend who put money in my hands to get a new pair of pants and clean underclothes, my pants being covered with mud and cut in two places by shot. I then went to his room had a wash, took supper with him, and slept the night in his bed.

I do’nt care about breaking any of the articles of war, or I might tell a hard story about some of our high officers.

Boston Daily Advertiser, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy