Image: Col. Michael Corcoran, 69th New York State Militia

8 07 2020
OIP

Colonel Michael Corcoran, 69th NYSM (Source)

69history1861_clip_image001

Col. Michael Corcoran, 69th NYSM (Source)





Col. Michael Corcoran, 69th New York State Militia, On the Advance

7 07 2020

LETTER FROM COLONEL CORCORAN.

The Herald says:

The following letter was sent to Capt. Jas. B. Kirker*, of this city, by Col. Corcoran, of the 69th Regiment, which is at present on the advance movement with the grand army of the Union:

Headquarters Sixty-ninth Reg’t,
Near Centreville, Va., July 18, 1861.

Capt. James B. Kirker:

My Dear Friend: The night of the 16th we remained at Vienna, and left next morning at six o’clock. Our march from there was very slow indeed, caused by the obstructions placed on the road by the rebels, who had felled trees at several points, and through which we had to cut our way. Coming in view of Fairfax Court-House, the enemy fled, leaving many articles behind them in their very hurried retreat. Three of their Cavalry were made prisoners. We cam along in double-quick time for about a mile, and many threw away blankets and haversacks. One column pushed on towards Germantown, where the enemy had breastworks and four guns mounted, with about nine hundred infantry; but as soon as out battery opened upon them, they retired. From there we pushed on to this point, where the enemy were about 8,000 strong, but retired on our advance. From what we can learn, they are at Centreville, about 15,000 strong, and we start for there in a few minutes. The regiment is in good health and spirits, although they suffered much yesterday for want of water, as the enemy cut the ropes at all the wells along our line of march. Captain Breshle** received a flesh wound in the right shoulder, by the accidental discharge of one of our own muskets yesterday. He will be quite well in about a week. I will have him sent back to the fort as soon as I can. I must close, as the regiment is falling into line. I remain, ever yours truly.

Michael Corcoran, Colonel.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 7/26/1861

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69th New York State Militia Roster 

* James B. Kirker was attached to the regimental staff as an engineer.

** Likely Capt. John Breslin, Co. F.

Michael Corcoran at Wikipedia 

Michael Corcoran at Ancestry 

Michael Corcoran at Fold3 

Michael Corcoran at FindAGrave 





A. [?.] C., Co. A, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

15 06 2020

Fort Bennett, Va. July 22, 1861.

Friend C. – Yesterday (Sunday) was a day that will long be remembered. At 2 o’clock we were called up by the bugle notes of our brigade, to march. About 7 o’clock Sherman’s battery and a thirty two pounder opened fire upon the rebels, who were first found sneaking in and around the woods, near where we were formed in battle order. A few men of the 13th were permitted to get water, and while filling their canteens were fired upon by the enemy, but none of them were hurt. Almost immediately, the first division of the 13th (Capt. Putnam’s and Smith’s Companies*) were ordered on to the hill as scouts, and quite a number of shots were exchanged. Presently, a large number of rebels were seen flying over the hills in all directions – a few shells from our battery helping them along. S. P. Allen was with us, busily engaged with the glass, giving decisive information, and discovered a large body of troops advancing, who were supposed to be Col. Hunter’s column, who shortly engaged the rebels with a very warm and destructive fire.

The 69th, 13th, 79th and 2d Wisconsin, were then ordered to the scene of action – about two miles to the left of us. On went these four regiments. The 13th stripped off all their blankets, &c, and marched on [?] double quick, through the woods and fields of grain, till we came to the stream called Bull’s Run – a nasty, filthy creek at the foot of a very steep and rocky hill, about 95 feet wide and 3 feet deep. Here the 69th were detained somewhat, notwithstanding the exhortations of officers to dash through it. The 13th went through it with a hop, skip and jump movement. Here came the cry that the rebels were running! On, on went our men, with the Stars and Stripes over our heads. Arriving upon the hill, the 69th opened a tremendous fire upon the enemy, as they were flying in all directions, and the 13th did great execution with their rifles. The enemy, of course, took to the woods where their damnable masked batteries were.

Our forces were immediately drawn up in order, and marched up to the work like veterans, under a tremendous cross-fire from the enemy’s batteries, grape, balls, canisters and shell falling like hail stones among us; but down the hill we advanced – double quick – and drove them off into the woods again. The enemy then rallied with renewed vigor, and succeeded in scattering our forces terribly. Just then the 13th advanced, and held the hill against a tremendous fire, for some time. Thank God we were the very last to leave, retreating gradually – after being ordered the second time – loading and firing as we did so. At this point the 13th suffered considerable loss. Our officers – God bless them – were true and brave.

The whole of our army was finally driven off, completely routed and broken up, amid the greatest confusion; and was followed as far back as Centerville, and I don’t know but further. – Just before we reached Centerville, the enemy opened one of their masked batteries upon the wounded, who were being conveyed in carriages to the Centerville hospital. Here one of the most wicked and heart-rending scenes took place, I think, that was ever known. No living man can describe it. We had no cannon to return the fire, and our rifles and muskets were of no use. The only thing we could do was to run. – The horses attached to the wagons, which were loaded with wounded, became frightened, and ran like so many deer through the woods, smashing the carriages, and dashing the wounded against the stones, stumps and trees. Oh, how the heart cried for revenge.

After getting out of the woods, and into another road, I found a small flag, which I seized, and gaining a position on an open hill, (supposing the enemy were following us,) I called out aloud to the soldiers to stand, and fight till the last breath of life was gone, rather than out wounded should be butchered by such devils. – They rallied! Yes, they stood, and we got about one hundred and fifty men together, and with our little flag we marched on till we found we were safe, and then we parted, each to find his own regiment.

Chas. C. Buckley, of Company A, who had been my right hand man ever since the company was organized, was wounded. He was shot twice – in the neck and arm – at the time the 13th advanced up the hill, where the enemy’s fire was so severe. His friends got him a horse, upon which he was conveyed, under a guard, to the Centreville Hospital. His wounds were dressed, and he is not considered dangerously wounded.

There are a great many of the 13th missing, but I don’t think there are many killed, compared to some other regiments. In Company A, I think none were killed. After leaving the battle field, I saw only a few of the 13th, as they, like all the rest, were scattered along the roads during the entire retreat back to Washington, which was ordered, as an attack upon the Capital was anticipated by the Generals in command.

This was a hard day’s work, I assure you; but there was no grumbling. We were obliged to march all night, arriving in camp about 7 or 8 o’clock the next morning, and immediately packed up our traps and started for Fort Bennett, which lies just back of Georgetown, and a little to the left of Fort Corcoran. It is the same that the 13th worked upon.

The 13th lost none of its officers, that I know of. As regards myself, I am all right, only a little sore and stiff. There were a great many officers of different companies, killed – the work of the enemy’s sharpshooters.

There are various reports in circulation – Some say that Mr. Allen was killed, but it is not generally believed.

A. [?.] C. **

Rochester (NY) Democrat and American, 7/27/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* Companies A and F

** Possibly Albert G. Cooper of Company A (the only A. C. found in the roster). The letter writer is assumed a member of Company A due to the mention of Chas. Buckley of that company.

13th New York Infantry roster https://dmna.ny.gov/historic/reghist/civil/rosters/Infantry/13th_Infantry_CW_Roster.pdf





Fifer Sherman Greig, Co. A 13th New York Infantry, On the Campaign

27 05 2020

War Correspondence.
—————

Letter from Sherman Greig – Graphic Description of the Fight at Bull’s Run – How the “Milk-Sops” Behaved – The Pet Regiments of New York – The Rout and Arrival – The 13th “Turned Over” and the Federal Government – What is Thought of the “Impressment.”

Fort Bennett, Va., July 26.

Eds. Express: – I suppose the Rochesterians are awaiting news from the “milk [?] –. And though much worn by the labors of the past week, I will essay to enlighten them as much as possible concerning things past and present. If I remember rightly, my last letter was dated at Camp Union – just above here – (Fort Bennett lies to the right of Fort Corcoran, on the bank of the Potomac. It was mainly built by the 13th – our Regiment.) In it I made no mention of our expected march, but the next day we received our rifles, and shortly after, orders to march. We left the Camp about noon on the 15th, and reported at Vienna at 7 P. M. having marched a distance of perhaps fifteen miles. The next morning we moved forward – passing “Germantown” (containing three houses) and halted at Centreville. Here we found an earthwork, thrown up by the rebels, which they had deserted. It was a strong position, and offered, as a Southerner would say – a “right smart chance for a fight.” We spread our blankets on the east side of the hill, in hopes of getting a night’s rest, but we were doomed to disappointment.

Late in the day the skirmish commenced at Bull’s Run, and about five o’clock, our Brigade, consisting of the 13th, 69th and 79th New York and 2d Wisconsin, was ordered to the scene of action. When we arrived on the ground, we found the New York 2d badly cut up and dispirited. We were deployed to the right and left of the main road in the woods, and were under a hot fire for half an hour. We had nothing to do but “grin and bear it,” as no order was issued either “forward” or back. The 13th came off without a scratch, being so near the enemy’s guns that the shot passed over; but the 69th, being behind us, received some injury, several being wounded and two killed outright.

The order soon came to retreat, and we moved back to Centreville, “pensive and dripping.” – Here we lay two days to “recruit,” when the forward movement began. The men being supplied with “two days rations” and everything in readiness, we arose at 5 o’clock Sunday morning, and after a march of two hours duration, halted in sight of the enemy. A shell from Sherman’s battery announced our visit, and the enemy appeared in force on the right, seemingly to offer us a welcome.

THE FIGHT.

On the right, too, Hunter’s Division was coming in from Harper’s Ferry, and it appeared to us probable that an engagement might take place with them before we “got a hand in,” which haplessly was the case. Having already deployed to the right through the woods, our division, or brigade, emerged into the open fields just in time to hear the first roar of musketry and to charge on the enemy’s flank, which was done with a shout and a shot – shot first. Before we had time to draw up in line of battle the rebels were in full retreat across the fields.

Here we found ourselves in an open space of country – perhaps a mile square – completely surrounded by woods. The road from Centreville enters this square on the east side, and turns near the center in a southerly direction. Up this road the rebels run, and disappeared in the long line of woods to the south. Our officers were sanguine that “the day was ours,” and we were accordingly ordered to charge across the open square. This, I think, was exactly what Beauregard wanted. He had thrown out a few regiments as a feint, for us to attack, which drew us around in front of his position. And now, as we follow up his regimental “stool-pigeon,” (which lost some of its feathers by the way,) he opens his stationary batteries upon us, and crosses the fire with flying artillery.

Our batteries now responded, in our rear, and we were thus placed between two fires. The enemy’s shot cutting us down at every discharge, and out own shell frequently bursting overhead and sinking its missiles among us. Still the shout, was that very sentimental one, “Go in boys!” and though the whir of the bullet was incessant, and the roar of the musketry deafening, though they frequently stumbled over a corpse or passed a riderless steed, still they went in! Far up the southern slope, and within fifty rods of the masked batteries stood a log house surrounded by fruit trees. The house was filled with rebels, whose rifles brought down many officers in our division. To the right, and a little below this house by the southern road, the West Point Battery, of six rifled cannon had been stationed in the hope of silencing the masked batteries in the woods, but their horses were piled dead on the limbers, and the men cut down at the guns! They could not withstand the withering fire that devoured them as a flame.

The 13th Regiment of “milksops” were ordered forward to sustain that battery – and they went. Over dead horses, and over dead men, up the road – plowed by the cannon shot – nor did they pause until they were at the foot of the log house, and their balls had emptied the trees of the assassin “tigers” of the south. Here we lay flat upon the ground, under a fire two murderous to describe. Whenever a rebel showed his head in the house, or among the trees a Remington rifle spoke, and he gave no answer!

We saw on chasing a wounded man, with his bayonet poised to strike, when Charlie Buckley, one of our best men, arose full length, and taking deliberate aim, fired. The would-be murderer sprang into the air and fell. As a German remarked, close by – “I didn’t see him get up any more.” Edward Searl, of Co. F, ran up to the house, thinking it occupied by our men, and was taken prisoner. They “mashed” his gun, called him an abolitionist, and rifled his pockets. Searl, not liking the style, resolved on a “leap for life,” and went through a window, with a full volley of rifles after him. He came off without a scratch!

We now discovered that we were fired upon from the rear! and turning, beheld a scattered body of the much puffed-up 69th banging away at us, perfectly wild! All the troops behind us were now in full retreat, and we found that we had got to “git” or be taken. So away we went – double quick – down the hill, the bullets coming after us with the roar of a hail storm. We formed around our colors (which have been ventilated by the enemy’s bullets) and prepared for a general retreat, which was ordered.

Now, a word or two about the Fire Zouaves, 69th and other New York City regiments, which have been lauded to the skies, while the 13th “milksops” were not seen by the New York reporters. The story about the Zouaves “fooling the Black Horse Cavalry,” is an exaggeration, to say the least. The Black Horse Cavalry did charge upon the Zouaves, but were fired upon by two or three other regiments. The Zouaves seemed to be the special favorites of the rebel gunners, who dropped their shot among them in a most loving manner. The Zouaves were fearfully cut up. The New York 69th charged into the field with the perfect “Irish cry,” and, as I am informed, shot one of their own men through the back of the head the first fire. The next thing we heard from them they were firing into us near the log house I have mentioned! – The 79th Scotch regiment charged nobly, and their Colonel fell from his horse which shouting to his men and waving them on like a Colonel. – We had a beautiful lot of cavalry along with us. They sat on their horses during the fight, and made a fine retreat when the retreat was ordered.

THE ROUT.

Ambulances containing the wounded and dying, baggage wagons, men and horses, were mingled together in one dense mass – stretching along the road for miles – all in full flight, and apparently every one seeking his own safety. We had been beaten, cut to pieces, and outnumbered – three to one. The men were disheartened, and a panic overspread the whole dense throng! The accidental overturning of a wagon was sufficient to scatter the men in the wildest confusion. I saw full grown men throw down their arms – their only defence and hope of salvation – and run into the woods, screaming like affrighted women. Horrible and humiliating! It almost made me believe the Southern saying that “Northerners will not stand.” The rout continued on a circuitous road through the woods until it reached the bridge at Pugg’s Run,” just beyond Centreville, where the enemy had anticipated us an planted a cannon; and, I think, weakened the bridge. When the train had partially crossed the bridge, and was winding over the hill, their guns opened upon us at the same time their cavalry charged upon our baggage wagons, and a scene here ensued that beggars description.

The rush on the bridge broke it down, and cannon horses and men were buried in one wrangling mass. An ambulance containing wounded persons, fell into the creek, and it is said that the driver cut his horse loose, mounted his back and rode away, leaving the maimed and dying in the creek. The large iron gun was lost at this point but I have since heard that it was retaken by the Jersey Brigade, which we met at Centreville. Here we encamped for the night, after having placed our wounded in the hospital under the efficient care of the surgeons. We had scarcely lain down, before an order came for another retreat, and we immediately started, en-masse for the Potomac. We arrived at our old quarters in the forenoon of the next day, completely worn out. We had marched all night and had fought the whole day before! The first shot was fired at seven in the morning, and the last at sunset near Centreville bridge.

We ae back again after having participated in one of the hardest fights recorded in American history. We report ten killed, twenty-three wounded and twenty-nine missing. None of Company A have been killed; one is missing and two are wounded. The loss in our regiment is astonishingly small, considering the heavy fire we sustained. There were many “hair-breadth ‘scapes,” and the men are now engaged in relating them. I am happy to report myself “without a scratch.”

“TURNED OVER.”

There is a subject which deeply agitates our camp at the present moment, and one that will not be lightly passed over. We were informed last night that the State of New York had turned us over to the United States to serve for the term of two years! Now this is the sense of the men: They volunteered to serve the United States to serve for the term of three months, to meet the emergency of the times. Many of them left wives whom they could not possible leave for a longer period, and support. Many of them left old fathers and mothers who depend upon their children’s labor for bread, but who could spare them three months for their country’s sake. – These husbands and children have come – they have served faithfully their three months – they have fought, and many of them have fallen. And now, as their contract with the government is fulfilled, they wish to return home, with honor – as they deserve. Now they are told that the Government proposes to hold them for two years! – an act which they consider impressment, and a great wrong. They have thus far brought honor upon themselves but should the government impress them, they will be a disgrace to the service, and a great grief to Rochester! I say this, because I hear the men talk, and I know their feelings upon the subject.

If Rochesterians desire that the 13th Regiment sustain its present good name, they had better sue for its honorable discharge on the 14th of August next, at the War Department in Washington. Rochester papers should discuss the subject, and bring it before the people. Soldiers forced into battle will not fight, and their gloomy spirits dent to dampen those of other troops. I consider it very impolitic on the part of the Government to force men into this campaign who cannot well go, and who have already done as much as their circumstances will allow. Remember what I say: If the Rochester Regiment is forced into the service for two years, Rochester may cease to be proud of it.

Our men at present are completely worn out, and many of them sick. I had the pleasure of meeting C. D. Tracy, of the Express, Collins of the Democrat, and Hon. Alfred Ely, at Centreville, just before the fight – have not seen them since. Wonder what they thing of the Old Dominion and the “F. F. V.’s?”

I will write again as soon as I get recuperated. At present I am played out.

S.G.

Rochester (NY) Evening Express, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

13th New York Infantry Roster 

Sherman Greig at Ancestry.com 

Sherman Greig at Fold3 





Pvt. Charles W. Farrand, Co. F, 1st Michigan Infantry, On the Battle

11 05 2020

The Michigan First at Bull Run.
———-

We are favored with the following account of the battle at Bull Run by Mr. Charles Farrand, of this city. He belonged to Capt. Horace S. Roberts’ company in the 1st regiment, and describes things as he saw them. The reader will see how false is the assumption that the New York Zouaves fought more desperately than others. Mr. Farrand declares that they, they Michigan 1st, and New York 69th, were mingled together, and fought promiscuously thro’ all the fiercest of the conflict. He was “one of ‘em,” and had two guns struck and ruined in his hands.

No person could see all the battle; and this letter-writers disagree in many things; but Mr. F. states only what came under his own observation, and therefore reliance may be placed in his record. He says Bull Run was several miles from the field of battle.

Commencing with the attack, he says:

In the first charge upon the masked battery, in line of battle, the 69th New York were in front, then the Zouaves, and in the rear the 1st Michigan. Rising to the top of the hill, about thirty rods from the rebels, we fired, intending to fall back a little and load, as previously ordered. Just then this order was countermanded, and we were ordered to rush on, unloaded. This new order was imperfectly understood, and a portion fell back; upon which all did the same, but not more than two or three rods, creating some disorder; but we were in no sense “driven back.” After loading, we rushed forward, crossed a road, a deep ditch and a fence, descending the hill, firing as we advanced. Bu the time we reached the foot of the hill – the rebels having fallen back – the men of the three regiments were mingled together, every man trying to get in front, as though fighting on his own hook.* The din of battle was so terrific that no orders coud be heard. We were in this position nearly stationary perhaps half an hour.

We then changed, not to retreat, but to take up a new position, more to the right, to get at those who were firing at us from that quarter. We were not followed by the enemy on the left. We were in this vicinity, constantly engaged, between four and five hours; though it did not seem an hour.

Ricket’s battery of eight guns was stationed on the right of our division, and was taken by the rebels. A portion of all three of the regiments without any orders, rushed promiscuously to retake the battery, which was done. Here was some hand to hand fighting. The horses were all killed, or had run away, and we could not take off the guns, till the rebels rallied with an increased force, and, after spiking the guns, we fell back to our former position. Facing again to the rebels I saw them falling back, trying to draw away a gun into which I had myself driven a spike; but ere they had got it many rods, our bullets had made such havoc they abandoned it.

In a few moments I saw two rebels advancing to the gun – one with a rifle, and one with a flag, which he was in the act of planting by the gun. The man standing next to me and the rebel rifleman drew upon each other, and both fell at the same moment, killed, as I believe, by each other. At the same time I took deliberate aim at the flag bearer, and he fell as I fired.

By the time I had reloaded, another rebel was seizing the flag, and he too fell as I fired. Two more fell at this point in a similar manner as fast as I could load. I was some fifteen rods distant, and nearer the gun than most of my comrades, though in other parts of the line others were in advance.

At this moment the black horse cavalry made its appearance obliquely from the right – all the while the masked battery, as well as infantry, was pouring upon us a fearful fire of shot, shells, canister, &c. As the cavalry appeared, 600 strong, upon the full gallop, carbine in hand, our firing for the moment mostly ceased – each man reserving his charge to receive them with suitable honors.

The horses of the cavalry were all black or grey. Their front showed a line of perhaps ten rods. Our fire was reserved until the left of their front was within five or six rods of our right, killing most of the horses in front and many on their sides. As they fell, pitching their riders to the ground, those following fell over them and from our bullets, and in five minutes we had sent them probably four thousand pills, and they piled upon each other, a mangled, kicking, struggling, dying mass of man and horses – a sight of horror, to which no description could do justice! Our aim was mostly at the horses, and I doubt not many more of the men were killed by horses than by our bullets.

The story that all this fighting was done by the Zouaves is false. The three regiments were mingled together, and all fought equally well. I here speak what I know, for I was directly in front of the cavalry, and nearly in the centre. It was the general opinion that not over half a dozen of the cavalry escaped alive, though there may have been more.

During this brief but horrible work the masked battery and large bodies of infantry were pouring their fire into our ranks, and our men were falling on every hand. We again returned their fire, and soon after, Lieut Mauch having been struck down, I and two others assisted him back, and on returning, we found our men still standing their ground.

Soon after this, a flag of truce was raised by the rebels twenty or thirty yards in our front, and our fire slackened. Immediately the white flag fell, and out colors were raised. We knew not what to make of it at the moment, unless they were about to surrender, but supposed afterwards the design was to lure us into a more deadly range of their batteries. In a few minutes the rebel flag was again flying in their place. The contest raged for a time longer, when the firing of the rebels ceased, and we supposed the victory was ours. The rebels were seen to fall back, but very soon Johnson’s army was approaching. We had fought incessantly for four or five hours, without food or drink, almost exhausted at the beginning, our ranks were thinned and broken, we saw no prospect of support, and we retreated in disorder; but the was little running.

Just about this time the general stampede of the army took place, and we returned to Washington and vicinity, feeling that we had won a glorious victory, only snatched from us by the arrival of Johnson’s army, and the failure of proper officers to bring up the reserve force to our relief.

—————

*Col. Heintzelman says part of the Zouaves left the field and took no further part in the action. His report fully corroborates Mr. Farrand’s statement, save that he gives the Zouaves less credit.

Lansing (MI) State Republican, 8/14/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Charles W. Farrand at Ancestry.com 

Charles W. Farrand at Fold3 

Charles W. Farrand at FindAGrave





Photo: Members of 69th NYSM

16 04 2020

Reader Matt Regan has provided this image of members of the 69th New York State Militia, post battle, as officers in the later-formed Irish Brigade. Photo IDs are per Mr. Regan.

PKellyHiRes1

L to R, Pvt. Peter Kelly (Co. I), Pvt. James McKay Rorty (Co. G), and Sgt. William O’Donohue (Co. K), as officers of units in the Irish Brigade, post Bull Run and 69th NYSM

These three were captured at First Bull Run, and subsequently escaped and returned north together, as recounted by Rorty here.

The photograph is in the possession of Mr. Regan’s family. Kelly is Mr. Regan’s “great-uncle.” He was commissioned in Co. K, 69th NYVI. Rorty, as discussed here, was commissioned in the 14th NY Independent Battery, as was O’Donohue. Rorty was KIA at Gettysburg, O’Donohue KIA at Chancellorsville (with Battery C, 4th US Artillery) and Kelly resigned in 1862.

Peter Kelly at Ancestry.com

Peter Kelly at Fold 3

Peter Kelly Bio

James Rorty at Ancestry.com

James Rorty at Fold 3

James Rorty at FindAGrave

James Rorty Bio

William O’Donohue (as William O. Donohue) at Ancestry.com

William O’Donohue (as William O. Donohue) at Fold 3





“A,” Co. I, 2nd Wisconsin, On the March, Blackburn’s Ford, Battle, and Retreat

7 02 2020

Letter from the Second Regiment.

Fort Corcoran, July 29, 1861

Messrs. Bliss & Son: I have delayed writing you anything in relation to the great battle, and great defeat as it is called, at Bull’s Run, supposing, in the first place, that some one else had written you, being desirous of getting information of the whereabouts of several members of our company who were missing. The full account with particulars you will find in the newspapers, most of which are nearly true. But there are many omissions of importance. For instance, in your paper of the 23rd, which we just received to-nigh, the 2nd Wisconsin is not mentioned as being in the fight at all. Now, the truth is, we were in both battles at Bull’s Run, on the 18th and 21st. But we did not spend $50.00 to hire reporters to blazon our deeds to the country through a venal press; and what is more, our officers actually refused to pay the $50.00 for doing so in one particular case.

I can only give you a condensed narration of our part in the proceedings,

“— quorum magna pars fui,” *

as I would say, had I the vanity of AEneas, when he told his story to the confiding ear of Dido.

We left our camp near this place on Tuesday, the 16th, in the afternoon, with three days’ rations in our haversacks and with no baggage except our blankets, which were strapped over our shoulders. We marched some fifteen miles and camped at Vienna, where the Ohio boys were attacked in the cars from a masked battery some weeks ago. Starting at daylight next morning we resumed the march, passing through Germantown, where we drew up for a fight, but one or two shots from our cannon sent the enemy flying in double quick time. Here we found batteries just deserted, and quite a quantity of provisions. The batteries, I must say, like most we encountered on the road as far as Centreville, seemed more to have been built to scare us than to injure us. The roads, however, were obstructed with fallen timber, which delayed us very much in removing. Here in Germantown, to the discredit of some of our troops, one or two houses were set on fire and consumed. We pushed on from here until within a short distance of Centreville, when we camped, and the boys had a taste of secession mutton, chicken, etc. The scene on the march, though tiresome, was gay. As far ahead and back as the eye could reach the road was crowded with men, horses, baggage wagons and artillery. It seemed the march of an army to certain victory.

We lay in this camp until 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning, when we heard the booming of cannon in advance on our left. This was Gen. Tyler’s first introduction to the masked batteries of the rebels. About four o’clock a courier came riding up, his horse covered in foam, with orders for Col. Sherman to advance immediately with his brigade, to which we were attached. Of course we lost no time, and in a few minutes were on the march, and soon arrived on the ground above the battery, and were drawn up in line in the woods. The balls from the rifled guns of the rebels flew around and over us lively, crushing trees in their path and killing one of our men and wounding two others. Finding it impossible to dislodge the enemy without great loss of life, we were ordered to return to a camp about a mile in advance of Centreville, on the main road. Our boys had shown their courage and coolness under fire without returning it, and were highly complimented by Col. Sherman. We met while going down to the attack the 12th New York and 2d Massachusetts, puffing and blowing, saying they were all cut to pieces and had left at least half of their regiments on the field. Their fear lent wings to their fancy; the whole loss of all engaged being only some forty killed, but many scattered. There was no reason to complain of the Miners’ Guards, – all being ready to “go in” and take a hand, and only dodging the balls which passed over our heads.

We now remained in camp quietly awaiting reinforcements until Saturday evening, when we received orders to prepare two days’ rations and to be ready to start at 2 o’clock the next morning. At this time every man was ready, his haversack filled with hard bread and cold tongue, and silently as possible we took up our line of march, over a hilly and timbered county. On the way we encountered several of the “contraband” whose masters had deserted their homes, having been impressed into the rebel army. They said that the slaves were kept quiet by the story that the Northern men only wanted to get them to sell in Cuba. They did not all believe the story, however. They gave us correct information in reference to the rebel batteries, as subsequent events proved.

Of the first attack by the left wing, and of the flanking movement of the right wing, I have not time to speak. We were in the center, and from the position we occupied could tell by the dust and smoke the progress of the other divisions. At first, although, after we were drawn into a line on the edge of the wood, we could see a large extent of the country, where not a man could be seen, and it was only after our artillery began to play with thin[?] shells and cannister shot that the men began to swarm out of their hollows, all of which were densely crowded.

About 10 o’clock, after the left wing had taken the first masked battery, and Hunter and Heintzelman had made their attack on the right flank of the enemy, we were ordered to advance, which we did in double-quick time; and after fording a stream and climbing a precipitous bluff, we formed in line of battle. The first sight that met our eyes was the enemy retreating before the gallant charge of the New York 71st, who were slaying them like sheep. The slaughter was awful. But we had no time to lose. We advanced over a rise of ground and found ourselves directly in front of the rebel batteries on the opposite ridge. We marched forward under this fire until we reached a hollow, when we were partially protected from their shot, but not from their shell. A piece from one dented my word, and others hit several of the men, but nobody was killed. We were soon ordered to cross a muddy stream and charge up the hill in the direction of one of the rebel batteries. This was gallantly done, and the regiment drawn up in a road, flanking the enemy. The Fire Zouaves were fighting gallantly on our right. Our men now went to work with a will, and stood under the direct fire of a strong body of infantry for more than an hour, and fought with a spirit and determination which was much admired by their neighbors, the Zouaves, who cheered the Wisconsin boys, and several of them afterward remarked that the Zouaves themselves did no better fighting.

A constant fire was kept up, only interrupted for an instant by the cry of some traitor in the camp, “Don’t shoot your friends!” The hoisting of the stars and stripes by the rebels deceived many until the delusion was dispelled by a volley of musketry. Soon a movement was discovered on our right which proved to be a reinforcement of fresh troops from Manassas. Up to this time the victory was with us. The enemy were giving away in every direction, and had lost several of their best batteries. We were now ordered to fall back for the purpose of reforming our line and renewing the attack, and at the same time evading the flank fire. We had now had over twenty men killed and some sixty wounded. The regiment fell back to the opposite ridge, and under the fire from the battery was thrown into some confusion, like all the others on the field. But the order was given to fall in, and a large number was collected around the flag under one of the regimental officers, who conducted them down the hill where the panic had commenced, and then without any officer they made their way with the crowd in the wake of the “glorious 69th” to Centreville. Near here the regiment was re-organized by several of the company officers, and marched in obedience to orders from Gen. McDowell to camp at this place, – a tedious march of thirty-five miles, after fighting and marching from 2 o’clock in the morning. We did not arrive here till 10 a. m. on Monday morning., having rested only two hours at Fairfax. Thousands were in camp before us. What caused the panic, I do not know. The newspapers may tell. I think it was a want of officers to rally the men. It certainly was not a want of courage in the men, for they had shown the contrary; it certainly was a want of organization that caused a disastrous retreat, after having at one time gained a glorious victory.

The loss of the Miners; Guards was small compared with that in two or three other companies. This was owing to the fact that Lt. Bishop was detailed, just as we started to make the charge, with thirty men, to assist in manning and putting in position the big thirty-two pound Parrot gun, and who found it impossible to rejoin the company under the raking fire to which they would have been exposed. They did good service, however, where they were.

William Owens, of Dodgeville, was killed by a shot through the head; Lieut. LaFleiche was wounded by a shot in the shoulder; Lieut. Bishop was injured internally by his exertions; Philip Lawrence was wounded by a shot in the breast; Emile Peterson was wounded by a shot in the hip; Christian Kessler was also wounded, and is yet among the missing. James Gregory, George W. Dilley and Walter P. Smith have not been heard from, and are probably taken prisoners, as they were well when last seen. They are brave boys, and we hope to see them again soon. The wounded are all doing well and will soon recover.

Of course, the boys were tired, and the more so that they stood around the whole of Monday, in the rain, waiting for accommodations at the Fort. They are recruiting rapidly now, though quite a number are unwell. They will go into the next fight with more coolness, but not with more courage. They fought like old soldiers, and won the praise of all spectators, hundreds of whom were looking on.

I neglected to mention the fact, that, soon after crossing Bull’s Run, on the retreat, the cavalry charged on the regimental colors. The Wisconsin boys rallied around and drive back the cavalry after emptying eight or ten saddles. The colors were not afterward disturbed.

We are now encamped within the walls of Fort Corcoran, ready to assist in the defense of the capital, which lies constantly in sight. How long we shall remain here we do not know. We hope to do our duty wherever we are, and to have a share in the good work of delivering our country from the conspirators who are seeking its destruction.

Hoping to have leisure to continue this brief correspondence, I must retire to my wearied pillow, as the snores of my companions remind me it is high time.

A.

Mineral Point (WI) Weekly Tribune, 8/6/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

* Translated “In which I played a great part.”





Pre-Tour Reading: 69th NYSM Command

9 04 2019

Head on over to Damian Shiels’s Irish in the American Civil War for this read on The Men Who Led the 69th New York on the Bull Run Battlefield.

The tour is May 11. Remember, rain or shine. We’ll meet at the Stone Bridge parking lot at 9 AM. Dress for the weather.





Pre-Tour Reading: Families of the Fallen

1 01 2019

Head on over to Damian Shiels’s site and read about the efforts of the 69th NYSM officers to provide for the families of the fallen of First Bull Run.

Casualties

 





Bull Runnings Spring 2019 Battlefield Tour

1 12 2018

“This will be a great, great tour. Very strong. Very special. Other tours at other battlefields? Disasters. But this one will be huge. Believe me. Everyone agrees.” – Anonymous chief executive.

69th New York State Militia

The Regiment prays for good weather on May 11, 2019.

Save the date: May 11, 2019. 9:00 AM. Manassas National Battlefield Park. Free tour. Will make a most excellent Mother’s Day gift.

For this fourth Bull Runnings Battlefield Tour, we’ll follow in the footsteps of the Fighting Irishmen of Col. Michael Corcoran’s 69th New York State Militia at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. We’ll start at the Stone Bridge, make our way (by foot) to Henry House Hill, and then follow the regiment in retreat back to Bull Run. Out and back is a five-mile walk, but tourists can opt out at the halfway point (or anywhere else, for that matter).

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Henry Hill – The Halfway Point

That’s cool enough. But check out these guides:

Harry Smeltzer – You already know me (if not check out the About Me link). Don’t let my last name fool you – mom was a Power.

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John J. Hennessy – Widely respected historian and battlefield guide, he is the author of First Battle of Manassas: An End to Innocence, and Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas. He guided the first ever Bull Runnings Battlefield Tour in 2016.

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Damian Shiels – Irishman, professional battlefield archaeologist, and host of the blog Irish in the American Civil War. He is the author of The Irish in the American Civil War and The Forgotten Irish: Irish Emigrant Experiences in America.

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Joseph Maghe – Civil War artifact collector extraordinaire, he has amassed a truly impressive array of artifacts, with a special focus on regiments with Irish/Irish American affiliations.

As we traverse the field, your guides will share extracts from after action reports, personal correspondence, and memoirs of participants. We’ll also discuss the experiences of the soldiers’ families in New York and Ireland, and the backgrounds of the men. Along the way Mr. Maghe will have various artifacts with ties to the regiment to view.

Logistics: This is a free tour. Everything is on your own: transportation, lodging, meals. We’ll break for lunch, probably at the visitor’s center, so you’ll probably want to carry your meal or have it waiting in a vehicle there in the parking lot. Dress for the weather. Tour will be rain or shine, barring flood waters.

There are no formal plans for apres-tour, but The Winery at Bull Run is a pretty neat place, and I’ll give updates about whether or not it’s going to be open.

Keep an eye out here and on the Facebook Event Page for updates, handouts, and other news.