Unknown, 71st New York State Militia, On the Battle

28 11 2016

Letters from the Army and Navy.

The Bull Run Battle.

The following letter was written by a gentleman, a member of the 71st Regiment, N. Y. S. M., who took an active part in the great battle at Bull Run on the 21st inst., to a relative in this village, and handed us for publication:

Washington, Navy Yard, July 23, 1861

I have no doubt you have heard of my safe arrival from the battle; it was a terrible one, one of the greatest ever fought in this country. After we had marched between 9 and 10 hours, starting 1 o’clock A. M. Sunday, and a good part of the distance was made in a double quick, we arrived on the battle ground. We were immediately drawn up in line of battle and marched up to within fifty rods of the enemy, in as good order as we ever did on a parade. All the time the enemy was firing into us, but doing little damage. The enemy was just over a hill and we had to march up to the top in order to get at them. As fast as we advanced the enemy retreated. We gained the top of the hill before they reached the woods and made sad havoc among them, killing about 100. After they reached the woods, they stood and kept up a brisk fire, most of the time their shots going over our heads. After we stood up at the top of the hill firing very sharp, the rebels raised an American flag; our officers gave us word to cease firing, saying we were fighting with our own men. We ceased, but the enemy did not; we raised our flag, and at that moment a whole volley was sent at us, riddling our flag terribly. Our men, without orders, blazed at them fiercely, completely driving them out of the woods, and as they went out they were exposed to us; we again opened on them and you could see dozens fall at a time. The 1st and 2d Rhode Island regiments and the 71st ‘New York were the first to open the battle. After we had driven them away from those woods we were ordered to fall back from the top of the hill, all the time their batteries were playing upon us. We could hear their balls pass our heads, it seemed as if it was hailing only there was more noise. While I was in the act of capping my musket a shell struck it and shattered it in a thousand pieces, one piece killing a man a few feet from me. I immediately ran and picked up his piece and fired with that the balance of the time. My haversack was also cut off my back, and strange to say I never received a wound. We were intended to be the reserve, but instead of that we were the advance, and opened the fire. We were upon a masked battery before we knew it and they opened upon us killing and wounding about eight. We fired on them silencing it and killed all in it, about 30 or 40 in all. If we had a re-enforcement in time we would have carried everything before us. We were doing so until the rebels were re-enforced by about forty or fifty thousand men, that number being too great for ours (about 20,000). The enemy’s whole force was upwards of ninety thousand strong.

Long Island Farmer & Queens Co. Advertiser, 7/30/1861

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History of the 71st Regiment, N. G, N. Y., American Guards

Contributed by John Hennessy





“M”, 2nd South Carolina Infantry, On the Retreat from Fairfax Court House, Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle

7 11 2016

Virginia Correspondence.

The Retreat from Fairfax C. H. – The Battle of the 18th – The Great Battle – The Killed and Wounded – The Captured Arms and Munitions – Our Wounded.

Virginia University, July 24.

Mr. Editor: On Wednesday last the Federal forces made their appearance in sight of Fairfax Village, upon which information Gen. Bonham made hasty preparations to five tem a warm reception, though as soon as the rifle companies of the 2d Regiment had reached the position they were to occupy as skirmishers, it was ascertained that the enemy were attempting to flank and cut off the Regiments at the Village, the order to retreat was given which was reluctantly obeyed by 4 Regiments of Carolinians. It seems that the enemy were marching to Fairfax in four or five columns of ten or fifteen thousand troops in each, and the arduous task of covering a retreat devolved upon the 2d Regiment. The retreat was conducted in an orderly, military and masterly manner, with only one or two missing and one to die en route. Though many weary limbs had given way to the hot and fatiguing double quick march, and on reaching Centreville our company mustered only forty-five men; among the absent was your correspondent who completely exhausted had been taken up behind our gallant and kind Commissary, Vellipigue. At Centreville our forces halted until midnight, when they again took up the line of march for Bull Run, on reaching which place our boys quickly repaired to the entrenchments which had cost them such hard labor a few weeks previous.

About 7 o’clock Thursday morning it was ascertained that the enemy were approaching, our company and the Palmetto Guards were sent out about one mile with Capt. Kemper’s battery to five our foe the breakfast welcome at Bull Run, and here our boys were first taught to quickly embrace the earth on the sound of a shell or cannon ball. Their balls passed harmlessly by while a dozen well directed volleys from Capt. Kemper’s battery mowed down their columns like so many pond weeds and caused them to change their plan of attack. The cannonading was soon stopped at this point and about 11 o’clock an exchange of musket shots began about a mile below our position accompanied by heavy cannonading, which was vigorously and actively continued for four consecutive hours, after which the enemy were put to flight with much loss of life and with three pieces of artillery left upon the field. Our loss was small, about six killed and forty odd wounded, while that of the enemy is variously estimated at from five hundred to three thousand in killed and wounded. The troops engaged in this battle were about three thousand on our part, the Washington Artillery, and Gen. Longstreets Brigade, the enemy are supposed to have had about ten thousand in the engagement. This ended the first battle at Bull Run with victory perched upon the Southern standard.

After dusk on the same evening it being believed that the enemy would not make an attack at the direct ford our Regiment was ordered to a weak point on the creek towards the left wing, where we remained upon arms during the following day. On Friday night an attack was momentarily expected and our men still retained their position in rank, while our company was ordered to the defence of Kemper’s battery, but the night passed in quietude save the interchange of a few picket guard shot; Saturday and night glided by in the same state of peace and quietude, but the harmony was broken s Sunday morning by a heavy fire of artillery on the center of our forces and on the extreme left wing. Our company was again sent out a mile and a half to ascertain in what direction the enemy were moving, but our mission was too late, the great body of their troops had been removed to the extreme left the night previous and the cannonading in the centre was only to deceive us as to the point of attack. While on the scout we were greeted with a goodly quantity of shell, balls and grape, thought they passed harmlessly over our heads. On returning to our camp we found that the regiment had been hastily despatched to the scene of battle and in haste we followed after them, though we were unable to find our Regiment, not knowing their position on the battle ground, so we attached ourselves to a Louisiana Regiment and went into the scene of action a the enemy only rallied twice after our arrival. – While going to our position in battle three hundred yards we were warmly peppered with Minnie musket balls, wounding Mr. Harrison of our company and killing several of the Regiment to which we were attached. on approaching near the enemy and preparing to charge bayonets a few volleys from one of batteries dispersed them to rally no more. After the flight of the enemy we were dispatched by our Captain to look after Mr. Harrison whom we found severely wounded in forearm and knee. Our troops pursued the enemy for miles, slaughtering and capturing them, and we understand that the Secession Guards took a respectable number of prisoners. The battle was terrific and strongly contested during the whole day, though the entire and complete route of the enemy somewhat alleviates the cost of so many gallant sons. The enemy attacked the wing of Gen. Johnson who had just completed his brilliant movement from Winchester to Manassas and for seven hours his wearied soldiers gallantly struggled with the heavy columns of the enemy when Gen. Beauregard came to his relief and after a few hours of hard struggling gained a signal and brilliant victory.

The heavy odds against whom Johnson had been contending were soon scattered and chased by the gallant hero of Sumter, who would dash before the thickest and hottest of the fire – leading our men to a bayonet charge and then directing the enemy’s cannon upon their own columns. The victory though decisive was a costly one; Carolina has to mourn the loss of the brave Johnson of Hampton’s Legion, and of Bernard Bee. Other distinguished officers fell in the field. The whole Confederate loss may be estimated at 450 dead, 250 mortally wounded and 1200 wounded more or less severely. This is the best estimate I can make by rough guess – it may be too large. In my own Regiment only 6 were killed and 15 or 20 wounded; though we were not in the hottest of the fight. Among those who suffered most severely was the 4th Alabama Regiment, the 7th and 8th Georgia Regiments, Hampton’s Legion and Col. Sloan’s Regiment of our own State, they having to oppose heavy columns of the enemy four hours until reinforcements could be brought to their relief. Among the wounded in our Regiment may be mentioned the gallant Capt. Hoke of Greenville.

[?????] their final retreat the panic became so great that the whole army was completely disorganized. Gen. McDowell undertook to make a stand near Centreville though it was impossible to make a rally of them either at that place or Fairfax. The whole road from Bull Run to Fairfax was covered with dead, wounded and exhausted soldiers, it was also strewn with knapsacks and small arms, which were discarded by the Federals in order to facilitate their retreat. I have only heard of about 1200 prisoners among whom are several field officers, though none of them of higher rank than Colonel.

It is said that we captured over two million dollars worth of property. Over one hundred baggage wagons loaded with army stores fell into our position. Sherman’s, Carlisle’s, Griffin’s and the West Point Batteries numbering from 50 to 100 pieces, all fell into our possession. Also the 32 pounders rifled cannon and several thousand stand of small arms, also the Rhode Island battery. It was a mistake about the Yankees not fighting; they fought manfully and gallantly, and some of their regiments were literally destroyed. The Fire Zouaves, the 69th, 71st, 14th and 28th New York Regiments, and the Michigan Regiments suffered frightfully. The outfit of the enemy was splendid and extravagant. The knapsacks and haversacks of the soldiers were filled with eatables and comforts. The wagons and ambulances were stored with luxuries for the officers that would astonish any frugal, warfaring people, fighting for liberty. Notwithstanding the complete route of the enemy they are still in strong force and much hard fighting is yet before us.

Our wounded suffered greatly for the first day or two after the battle as there are no accommodations at Manassas, in fact only two or three houses were there which could not contain them. Though they have all been sent to this place, Culpepper, Orange, Richmond, &c., where they will receive every attention at the hands of surgeons, nurses and ladies – of the kindness to the wounded by the ladies I cannot speak too much in praise – they supply them with every luxury, comfort, and conceivable necessity. So all persons who have wounded friends at the hospital at this place need not feel the least anxiety as to their treatment, as they are better provided for than they possibly could be in the most comfortable home. Having deposited Mr. Harrison in the most desirable quarters, I hasten back to rejoin my company this morning, though I shall not soon forget to contrast one night’s comfort at this place to the privations of camp.

This letter is written in great haste and hurry though I think the accounts of the battle are generally acurate. However your readers will receive the official reports before this reaches you.

M

The Abbeville Press, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John J. Hennessy





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

29 08 2014

The Affair of the Twenty-First.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— The New York Herald’s dispatch says:

The whole of Sherman’s battery is saved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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

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





J. H. G., Co. H, 71st NYSM, On the Battle (2)

24 04 2013

New York, August 3, 1861.

Permit me to contradict, through the medium of your extensively circulated journal, the assertion made by the Washington correspondence of the Daily Times, that Col. Martin, of the Seventy-first Regiment, did not fully attend to his duties on the field of battle at Bull Run, on Sunday, the 21st ult. Until he lost his horse, he never left the immediate presence of his regiment; and even after, when his duties were performed on foot, he encouraged and ordered his regiment wherever their duty called them. Few regiments maintained their position so well as ours – although others have been more highly praised. We were in the hottest of the fight, and among the first in the field, and certainly the last to leave it, and know not of the full retreat until we reached the road, having left the field in regular military order. The First and Second Rhode Island regiments fought by our side, and did bravely, having lost many killed and wounded. Among the latter was Lieutenant Prescott. I saw him struck with a ball on the upper part of his head. He probably died in ten minutes from the time the ball struck him. Morrissey, of our company, I learn has had his leg taken off – he, too, having been struck by a ball from a rifled cannon. Cobb, poor fellow, has lost his upper jaw, and a portion of his nose. Others in the regiment that were wounded are doing well. It was an awful sight to see the dead and dying, and to hear the wounded cry for water and assistance – enough to chill the heart’s-blood. One poor fellow, of an Alabama regiment, crawled to our lines wounded in the left thigh. He asked me for water. I gave him a drink from my canteen, rebel though he was.

I asked how many were in his regiment; he said some nine hundred. I told him all we asked was, a fair shot at them. He said he was compelled to take up arms against us, but I thought of the same old story; so I let that pass, for what it was worth. He was uniformed in a pair of blue overalls, no coat, a straw hat, and had a double-barreled shot gun. A poor specimen of a soldier, I thought, although he was some thirty-five years of age. He said we would have had fighting at those batteries, and so it proved. In my opinion, the torch to those woods would have smoked them out, and given us a fair chance to try Northern steel and Southern chivalry; but the cowards fought in the woods and behind entrenchments. Some one or two regiments came forward, and were soon cut to pieces by us. There was no general order given to retreat; and the supposition is, that the civilians, in a great measure, started the panic. It is certain, that it was no place for them, unless they did some fighting and not take the lead in running.

Our position was very much exposed; and for an hour and a half we were ordered to lie down, and load and fire! pretty close work, I assure you – with bullets whistling around you in endless number and variety, together with the dull roar of a cannon ball, and the shrill whistle of a shell, bursting within a few feet of where you were. I will now close: but before doing so, I would state that any and all statements made by papers, in detriment to the Seventy-first, are wholly false and unwarranted; and, as far as I am aware of, we each and all did our duty as upholders of the Stars and Stripes; and many of us are willing to return again, to teach a rebel foe a loyal lesson.

J. H. G., Seventy-first Regiment, N.Y.S.M.

New York Sunday Mercury, 8/4/1861

William B. Styple, ed., Writing and Fighting the Civil War: Soldier Correspondence to the New York Sunday Mercury, pp. 38-39





J. H. G., Co. H, 71st NYSM, On the Battle (1)

27 03 2013

Washington Navy Yard, July 23, 1861.

To the Editors of the Sunday Mercury:

Since my last from here, we have had a terrific battle, which, you will learn by the telegraphic accounts, resulted in our being repulsed, although the loss on our side is small in comparison with that of the enemy. The battle commenced at 9 A.M., on Sunday, 21st inst., the first engaged being the Seventy-first and the Rhode Island First and Second Regiments. We opened a heavy fire of musketry on the Alabamians, and slaughtered them badly. We could see them fall one after another very fast. They returned our fire with great activity and killed many of us, and wounded some thirty of our boys; and, the killed is supposed to be about ten, although we were at first reported badly cut up. We stood our ground well, and were the last to leave the field. Our colors were completely riddled, and a shell passed through the centre of the flag, just above the color-bearer’s head. We had almost succeeded in taking the battery on our left, when, by a ruse, the rebels stopped our firing by raising the Stars and Stripes. We thought they were our friends, and stopped firing, whereby a great advantage was gained by them. We were marched some twenty miles, and then entered the fight much worn out, but, nevertheless, we sustained the previous good reputation of the gallant Seventy-first, of Gotham. One of our Company H was struck by a cannon-ball in the face, which carried away his upper jaw and part of the nose – a horrid sight indeed. Another was struck by a ball in the thigh; he fell near me, and exclaimed: “My God, I’m shot!” One other was wounded in the left hand; and our gallant Lieut Embler was also wounded in the fleshy part of the leg, but it will not prove serious, we all hope. He is a brave man and gentleman. Col. Martin lost his horse, and had to foot it during the engagement. He walked up and down, cheering the boys and encouraging us on to victory. We finally all retreated in order, and reached Washington on Monday. Capt. Ellis was wounded slightly. Only four of our boys are missing. The rebels were seen cutting the throats of our wounded and bayoneting them to death. Oh, what a terrible sight! I hope never to see it again. The groans and cries of the wounded were too horrible to be depicted, amid the roaring cannon and the bursting of shell over and around us. Our total loss is about thirty in all. But few balls fell among us, as they were fired too high as a general thing. We expect to be home on Friday. The boys are under orders to leave for home to-morrow (Thursday), and all is bustle and confusion. I can write no more at present, but hoping you will set matters all right with relatives and friends of the regiment, believe me, yours, as ever, in the Union cause.

J. H. G.

Co. H, Seventy-first Regiment N.Y.S.M.

New York Sunday Mercury, 7/28/1861

William B. Styple, ed., Writing and Fighting the Civil War: Soldier Correspondence to the New York Sunday Mercury, pp. 34-35





John Ellis and the 71st NY at Bull Run

20 07 2011

[Via Pony Express]
The Battle of Bull Run *
—-
Personal Narrative of a San Franciscan
Col. John S. Ellis and his Four Brothers in Battle

Col. John S. Ellis of the 1st Regiment of California State Militia, and Sheriff elect of San Francisco – who is now on a visit to the East – served as a volunteer (attached, for the [ponce?], to the 71st New York Regiment) during the battle of Bull Run. Four of his brothers were also members of the same regiment. Col. Ellis has written a private letter to a friend of this city, giving a graphic account of the battle, which we are permitted to publish. The narrative will be read with deep interest by the personal friends of the gallant Colonel, and the public at large. He writes as follows:

New York, August 2, 1861.

I have had such an exciting time of it since I arrived [24th June] that this is the first fair opportunity I have had to write a letter.

* * *

I immediately proceeded to Washington in uniform, and took with me the flag which the National Guard commissioned me to present to the Massachusetts 1st. I found them encamped on Georgetown Heights. I fixed the 6th of July, for the presentation to come off. The regiment formed a hollow square to receive my party and myself. We had four carriage loads. Among others, were Senators McDougal, Wilson of Massachusetts, Colonel Hooker, Judge Satterlee, and George Smiley. They had a fine band playing patriotic airs. McDougal made a speech; also Senator Wilson, and the Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment made a beautiful one. The regiment gave me nine cheers. In the evening we had a grand “blow-out” in Washington.

I was all through the battle of Bull Run as a volunteer, attached to the 71st Regiment, armed with a rifle and sabre-bayonet. All my brothers were there also – five of us. We started at 2 o’clock on Sunday morning; marched none hours without resting three minutes at a time, and having in that period traversed about 15 miles, went right into action without breakfast; fought until 6 o’clock Sunday night; then retreated, marched all night and did not reach our camp till 9 o’clock Monday morning – all without anything for food except a hard, dry cracker, which I could not eat. We marched over 50 miles.

My brother Julius was shot in the foot while at the head of his company, waving his sword and cheering on his men. When he fell, I was with Gus on the howitzers. I heard the cry “Captain Ellis is killed!” and immediately rushed to the spot. The cannon balls were ploughing up the earth all around; shells were bursting and crashing through the trees directly in our rear, and the Minie balls were battering and humming in all directions. I immediately carried him off the field, and for nearly a quarter of a mile in direct range of the enemy’s guns; but, through God’s providence, our party were not hit. I finally found a doctor and ambulance, and put him in, and told my brother Sam not to leave him a moment. Fortunately I did so, as Sam did not allow him to remain at the hospital, but got him on the road. The hospital later in the day was shelled by the enemy and the wounded killed or taken prisoners.

I then went back to the fight and rejoined Gus, who was doing fearful execution with his 12 pounder howitzers. The 71st drove back the enemy three times, and completely cut up the Alabama regiment; and Sherman’s battery on our right silenced one of the enemy’s batteries until they got out of ammunition. We did our share; we drove back the enemy whenever he showed his face, and for a long time thought we had gained the victory. But alas! how much were we mistaken! Other regiments were ordered to charge into the woods and were met by masked batteries which poured into their bosoms the most terrific fire. The enemy had planted his guns in every conceivable position on the very points our troops had to advance by. No one knew where these batteries were located, how many guns were mounted, nor in what force were the enemy. No men unsupported as we were could advance without being annihilated. The regiments of our brigade were withdrawn from the unenviable situation, and formed in a large field; when, over the distant hills, came the enemy in force – a line of battle a mile long – outflanking us in all directions, with other parallel lines of lesser strength. Every blade of grass gleamed with a bayonet. This was too much for our unsupported troops, and they gave way. The 71st, however, was the last to leave the field, and retreated in line of battle, (with the enemy not 500 yards off,) until we reached the woods, when we flanked into the narrow road, and kept good order until the flying artillery came tearing through our ranks in full retreat. Their baggage wagons and ambulances so choked up the road that we could not keep the ranks for several miles. At Bull Run Crossing the enemy had allowed us to pass, and we never dreamed they had a masked battery there; but in the evening they shelled us, and a good many men were killed close to us (Gus and me). A shell exploded near us, and a spent fragment hit Gus under his arm and blackened it for nearly the whole length.

I cannot here relate all the scenes I saw, the horrible wounds inflicted, and all the incidents of this most shameful and unnecessary battle – for which the troops feel they were sacrificed by the stupidity of their generals. Suffice it to say our men fought bravely; and I can only account for the panic with which they were seized by the facts that the teamsters took fright and drove their wagons pell mell through them, and that many of the regiments had totally incompetent field and company officers – many of hwom acted cowardly – and the most of whom didn’t know what to do. We only had about 12,000 men engaged, and the enemy had all the way from 60,000 to 90,000 – out of sight, behind masked batteries, and in the woods. As it is, we routed them whenever they came out, until their reinforcements came down upon us, as I have related.

My brother Ash (Captain of Company K, 70th N.Y.S.T.,) just off a sick bed, was physically prostrated by the exertions of the day, and was carried into battle between two of his men, one of whom was shot dead. His Colonel was shot through the heart, and a majority of the Captains killed and wounded. He was hit by a spent ball which paralyzed his left leg. I subsequently met him on the road limping between two men and got a seat for him in one of the Rhode Island wagons. I was not even scratched – a most wonderful escape, as men were knocked over in every direction. The hum of the shells and whiz of the Minies filled my ears for the next 24 hours.

My father came down to the Navy Yard and he and I brought Julius home. The day before yesterday the Regiment returned here – sop all our boys are now at home except Ash, who is in for three years. Julius has received a very severe wound neat the tendon Achilles. I think a fragment of a shell must have struck him with its pointed end and passed on, as the surgeons cannot discover any foreign body lodged.

Remember me to all my good friends; you know very well I cannot write to them all, so when you meet them, say that I desired you to say that I am lively and hope to be among them before long.

Through the effects of this battle we have lost much of our prestige, but I think it is a lesson we my profit by. It has wonderfully raised the spirits of the Rebels, and men say they are preparing for an attack on Washington. If they should, and are repulsed, they would find it difficult to recover. We can lose battles and it only makes us mad – they cannot afford reverses.

By the way, I was also in Washington on the 4th of July and saw the parade of 23 New York regiments – a fine sight truly.

I leave for San Francisco on the 11th instant – solus.

Your old friend,
John S. Ellis

* San Francisco Bulletin August 20, 1861

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And Yet Another

20 07 2011

And here’s another piece on a letter to a newspaper from a Bull Run participant, this time from John Ellis of the 71st New York and on Scott Patchan’s blog. I’ll get this one from the 8/20/61 San Francisco Bulletin transcribed ASAP.

I intend to include all the letters and newspaper accounts coming to light now in the resources section of Bull Runnings, but in order to do so I must have as much information as possible. Ellis is a good example of enough information. Full metadata, or as far as I’m concerned an image of the source document, is best. If it’s published, I need to have all the information that would be included in a footnote. Snippets of letters without dates or citation info, which is what many bloggers post, won’t be included here.