Lt. Col. Stephen Miller, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the March to Centreville

10 05 2020

Col. Miller in private letters written in pencil before the great battle, says:

On the Rail Road
Near Manassas Junction,
July 17, 1861.

Just arrived here 12 or 13,00- strong at 4 P. M. this evening, and attempted to bring on a battle with the rebels.

They exhibited their usual discretion; abandoned their fortress, burned 500 Bbls flour, fires six or eight R. R. Bridges and left for Manassas Junction just an hour before we came.

The junction is six miles ahead of us, and we expect to visit it very soon – and make a good report.

This is the most cheerless, hopeless, waterless God-forsaken country I ever saw.

I would not give one acre of Minnesota soil for a thousand acres of this land.

We have twenty or thirty straggling prisoners picked up today.

Truly Yours, Stephen Miller.

Head Qur’s 1st Minn. Reg’t,
Camp near Centreville Va,.
July 19, 1861.

On yesterday at noon I was started with Capt. Wilkins and Capt. Downie and their two companies to examine a rebel camp 3 or 3 ½ miles below “Sangsters Station” where we were then encamped. I threw out scouts on either side of the road to prevent surprise – and with the reserve kept along the Rail road with spyglass in hand – passed over the still smoking ruins of four burnt bridges, and, when about 2 ½ miles from camp Capt. Wilkin in the advance discovered the enemy in force upon an elevation about ¾ or one mile in advance of us. He went ahead with a few well chosen scouts. I concealed the main body of my men carefully, and then with the glass watched the foe for an hour. They appeared to have about the same number of men as myself, say 150 to 200 – but by watching carefully I saw that they had cannon. In a little time I counted five of them – then six – then they loaded two and pointed them at the spot where I was standing when I left; and blew the retreat for my scouts, in obedience to instructions. My rangers had crept up to within a few hundred yards of the Rebels and counted about 600 of them, mostly behind trees.

The officers and men of both companies behaved with the coolness of veterans.

Near night when we got back to “Sangsters” and learned that one of our Generals had allowed himself to run upon a masked batter of Beauregards, and had lost a good many men and was retiring – and our Reg’t with the entire column had gone to his support. I started after them upon a fleet pony, leaving my two companies in charge of Capt. Wilkin who brought them along at double quick time, and got here after dark in the midst of a thunder storm ready to do battle for the old flag. We are now laying within two or three miles of the enemy. They have it is said 30,000, and we have 35,000 men: what the result will be I do not know, or whether we shall fight or not I cannot say, but if we do, we chall try to do our whole duty.

We have for the time dispensed with tents &c, and last night with wet clothing and two blankets and a soft rail for a pillow I slept sweetly, and awoke in health.

40,000 men make quite a crowd – and are very hard to provision – but we are followed by teams with food &c, and are getting along pleasantly. Good water scarce, very scarce.

Stephen Miller.

St. Cloud (MN) Democrat, 7/30/1861

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Lieut. Col. Stephen A. Miller, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle

11 04 2020

Our War Correspondence.
———————–
Interesting Letter from Lieut. Col. Miller
———————–

We give below extracts from a private letter received by Gov. Ramsey from Lieut Col. Miller dated at Washington, July 25th. He says:

I have just returned from one of the hardest fought and most disastrous battles in our history. Minnesota, with but few exceptions, did her duty well. We took 900 of the regiment into action. We were led like sheep into the carnage – had about 20,000 to 25,000 men on the road, and did not fight more than 15,000 of them at any one time. The enemy had probably 100,000, and all our officers were perfectly ignorant of the locality of the ground, the numbers of the foe, and the position of the numerous masked batteries. So insane an attack by civilized men I never heard of. While our officers generally behaved well, of those under my notice, Captains Wilkin and Pell were specially brave and active. We left upwards of 100 with the baggage. My pistols (state) were stolen out of my holsters, and one of my own I lost on the battle field. My men’s chests, blankets, &c., were thrown away on the route as our panic sticken teamsters fled before the foe. Our soldiers laid their blankets, coats, &c., in a pile just previous to the battle, and have lost the whole of them.

(St. Paul, MN) Weekly Pioneer and Democrat, 8/9/1861

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Private (2), Co. A, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Return to Washington and Incidents of the Battle

5 04 2020

Our War Correspondence.
———————–
From Another Regular Correspondent.
———————–

Camp Gorman.
Washington, D. C., July 26, 1861.

To the Editors of the Pioneer and Democrat

Day before yesterday that part of our regiment under command of Captain Wilkin, at Alexandria, broke camp and on the afternoon marched in obeyance to orders to Washington, leaving Camp Gorman, made familiar to us by many interesting incidents of camp life. There we had been vigorously engaged in quick and double-quick battalion drill, before the august eyes of distinguished military officers and civilians; there we had been lazily enjoying the cool shade during the hottest days; there we had mixed with the profanity incident to every trifling difficulty, so unavoidable in camp life, with the hurrahs and pledges of friendship and undisturbed magnanimity when under orders to march; and here we had found an asylum to rest our wearied and lame limbs, after returning from the battle at Bull’s Run, and the consequent march of about fifty miles, through a rainy day, subsiding on nothing but crackers and dirty water for forty-eight hours; and here, too, we found the first opportunity to calmly reflect on the struggles of Bull’s Run, and the loss of many a brave comrade, endeared to us by many acts of kindness. Who, then, could leave Camp Gorman, at Alexandria, without emotions of mingled pain and pleasure?

Leaving Camp Gorman, we marched up to the Railroad bridge, where we had had formerly guarded, and proceeded up on the Virginia side of the Potomac to Fort Remyan, located a dew rods back from the Long Bridge; and here we made a short pause to review the fort with its 22-pounders, with the usual supply of canister and grape, and talk with members of various regiments stationed there. The bridge was crowded with government wagons and troops passing both ways. Several New York regiments passed over the Virginia side while we waited for an opportunity to pass over; the question who we were and where we came from were usually answered by our boys with, “We are Minnesota First, from Bull’s Run!” We did not enter Washington City before it was dark, when we proceeded up various streets to the Old Representative Hall, where we had learned our regiment was stationed; but on arriving there we learned that Companies A, E and I were then quartered in an old church about two squares distant; and once there we were received by the cordial grasp and friendly greeting of out comrades of company A, with many mutual exclamations of surprise that we escaped safe from Bull’s Run when many of us had been reported victims of the bullets and shells of the enemy and left on the battle field; and we squatted on the steps forming the entrance of the church or on the pews inside to talk over the incidents of the battle field and the adventures on the retreat, and all uniting in praise of the bravery displayed by our cherished Lieutenant Colonel, and our gallant company officers in the stirring scenes on Sunday. Many were the expressions of sincere regret at the fall of Sergeant Wright, so universally esteemed in our company, as well as our other comrades who fell by our side.

That night companies A, E and F, were scattered in the pews, aisles, galleries and hall, and on the steps of the church, resting from days of extreme exertion. Yesterday morning we arose to partake of breakfast and prepare for removing to camping grounds where a Vermont regiment formerly camped, and about two squares back of our previous encampment in Washington – and once here we pitched our tents and passed the balance of the day in blissful idleness – our only duty here is to fall in ranks to answer to our names at reveille and tattoo.

Yesterday a report of the casualties in our regiment at Bull’s Run was made up, and I learn that it will be telegraphed and reach you long before my letter will be received in St. Paul; hence I will not recapitulate them here.

I will conclude this letter with a few incidents as they presented themselves to my own observation, or gathered from unquestionable authority, carefully avoiding any mention of such as are enshrouded in doubt. Incidents here related are perfectly reliable.

Among three prisoners taken by company A, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Rebel army, who dashed out of the woods to order us to stop firing, mistaking us for rebels. J. B. Irvine of St. Paul, who came into our camp at Centreville, when Lieut. Coates joined us, having shouldered a musket in the morning and joined with us to share in the struggles of the day, then approached him and asked him if he was a Major, and seeing his mistake and his position as prisoner at once, he frankly but reluctantly replied, “No sir, you have better game than that; I am a Lieut. Col. in a Georgia Regiment.” This is no less a person than Lieut. Boone, now a prisoner in Washington. Others have claimed the honor of taking him prisoner, but yesterday Lieut. Coates and J. B. Irvine visited him, when a mutual recognition took place, settling the disputed point beyond doubt.

When Col. Heintzelman ordered our Regiment to fall back into the woods, his Aid damning us for remaining in the open field to be slaughtered, our men rallied again under our flag and Lieut. Col. Miller, and a fierce struggle ensued to save our colors, which the enemy desperately assailed, but which resulted in saving our colors, none of which were lost during the engagement.

Our ever-gallant Captain commanding the Regiment once made a brilliant charge, repulsing the advancing Georgians, just as Lieut. Welch of the Red Wing company fell on the field. Captains Putnam and Acker also distinguished themselves on the field.

Downie of company B, on the left, besides the Fire Zouaves, rallying with a few of them in addition to his own command, made three distinct and successive charges on the enemy, with an energy that but for superior force would have routed them.

Dr. Steward remained at the hospital about one mile in the rear of the battle ground, and is no doubt taken prisoner; while the reports of the fate of the Assistant Surgeon and the Hospital are contradictory and their fate enshrouded in uncertainty.

A cannon ball struck the musket of one member of company “A” breaking it in two pieces, but without inflicting any injury to him. Many of the boys exhibit bullet holes through various of their garments, and if we ever live to see our friends at home, we can bring with us flags, guns, revolvers, swords, sabers, &c., as trophies of the late battle field. No doubt many incidents of interest transpired on the eventful day, and will reach you through other sources. I am not in possession of any more at present.

It is generally thought we will remain here some time to recruit, get some dimes from Uncle Sam, and have a little good times, before we again advance in the rebel States to fight the battles of our county.

Private

(St. Paul, MN) Weekly Pioneer and Democrat, 8/9/1861

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Chaplain Edward Duffield Neill*, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Regiment’s Casualties

18 03 2020

Our War Correspondence.
———————–
From the Chaplain of the Regiment.
———————–

Washington City, July 26, 1861.

The telegraph before this reaches you, no doubt, will flash before a sadden people the list of our killed and wounded, in the never to be forgotten conflict of last Sunday.

Every one feels that bad generalship was displayed on our side, and an improper day chosen to begin a battle, which, from the first, has been sustained by the religious sentiment of the world, at the same time all praise and heroism of the volunteers engaged in the conflict.

Yesterday the regiment left its quarters at the Assembly Rooms, and encamped about half a mile east of the Capitol, just beyond the spot where it was previous to our departure for Alexandria.

A despatch came from St. Paul to day stating that my friend, Dr. Hand, had been appointed Assistant Surgeon in the place of Le Boutillier, deceased. It is true that Dr. Le Boutillier has not been seen since the battle, but we have no authentic information that of his decease, and we still hope that we may see him alive. The last I saw of him was just as we entered on the battle field, when he told me to go and tell Dr. Stewart to bring the litters and hospital assistants.

Dr. Stewart is also missing, but we all feel that he is in the old church, near the battle ground, attending to our wounded, although he may be a prisoner, as the enemy have taken possession of that portion of the country.

I would have been with the Doctor had the hospital not been so full that I was obliged to hurry on with some wounded I picked up in an ambulance toward Centreville.

The only loss our correspondent sustained was his entire wardrobe, down to tooth brush, come and brush, amounting to about $200. All that I can wish is that my clothes may be given to some Couthern Chaplain, the sermons in the trunk perused by the captors.

Javan Irvine, of St. Paul, arrived at out camp on last Thursday evening, and shouldering a musket went forth to battle on Sunday morning, and after fighting valiantly succeeded in capturing a gentleman by the name of Lieut. Col. Boone, of Mississippi, who is a prisoner of war now in the old Capitol.

Ever since yesterday we have been in tents, and I notice that all of the St. Paul men are busy writing to their friends. I have no doubt that extracts from their letters would be interesting to your readers and that their friends would furnish them if requested.

LIST OF KILLED, ETC.
COMPANY “A,” CAPT. WILKIN.

Killed – Sergeant Henry C. Wright, of Pine Bend, shot in the thigh, and carried into the bushes, where he received other wounds.
Private Ernst Dresher and Chas. F. Clarke, Benton county. Since the latter’s death, a daguerreotype of a lady supposed to be one to whom he was engaged has arrived.
Wounded – James Malory in the foot; Robert Stephens in the arm and back; William Kramer in the face; David McWilliams slightly, and John T. Halsted in the head.
Wounded and missing – Frederick Braun, W. Dorley, Wm. Betcher.
Missing – Wm. Schmidler and Louis Keifer.

COMPANY “C,” CAPTAIN ACKER

Killed – Sergeant John Renshaw, Eugene Wilmer, and Corporal Sam Waterhouse.
Privates Cunningham, Randolph, Robertson, Cyrus Smith, Julius Smith, and Thompson.
Wounded and missing – Corporal Geo. McMullen.
Privates Twitchell, Haskell, Hough, Marr, Ladd, Richardson, McNally, Combs, and Mayence.

Recapitulation of killed and wounded in the whole regiment.
Com.   Killed   Wnded/Msg     Wounded   Missing       Total

A             5               4                      5              2            15
B             –              11                      –              3           14
C              9               9                     10            4           32
D              1              1                       –              –             2
E              1             12                      1              1           15
F              5               3                      4              9           21
G             4              14                      –              3           21
H           12              10                      –              2          24
I               6              16                     2              –            24
K             5                 3                     1              6           15
Killed…………………………………………………………………48
Wounded and missing………………………………………….105
Missing………………………………………………………………30
Total……………………………………………………………………….183

(St. Paul, MN) Weekly Pioneer and Democrat, 8/9/1861

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* Edward Duffield Neil of St. Paul was the regiment’s first chaplain.

Edward Duffield Neill biography

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Private, Co. A*, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

13 03 2020

Our War Correspondence.
———————–
March To the Battle Field – The Battle – Dreadful Scenes – Behavior of Col. Gorman and Lieut. Col. Miller – Defence of the Regiment, &c. &c.
———————–
From our Regular Correspondent.

Camp Gorman, Alexandria,
July 23, 1861.

I returned here last night with sore feet, lame limbs, wet through, indescribably exhausted, and a heart beating with rapid pulsations for our losses and reverses in the battle at Bull’s Run. Partaking of refreshments at the hands of our colored cook, we retired to rest, and this is the first opportunity I have had to address you a faint description of the scenes of terror through which we have passed.

I will begin with the beginning. On Saturday last we were all encamped at Centreville, and at noon we had orders to prepare for march at 6 P.M. At this hour we had our three days’ rations in our haversacks, our muskets discharged and reloaded, and standing in our ranks, when the orders were countermanded so far as to extend the time till 2 o’clock next morning, when after a good rest we rose and accoutered and quipped as usual for march.

The morning was bright and the moon cast its silvery rays over a beautiful landscape; the atmosphere cool and pleasant, and every thing around us calculated to make us buoyant and hopeful. The column formed in line and passing through Centreville, and we were at once upon our march for the battle field. The sun rose on Sunday in all its glory, and all nature, as we progressed through woodland and fields, seemed aglow with fragrance and beauty.

On arriving into an open field, the occasional reports of artillery which we had heard at intervals grew louder and more frequent; and in the distance we descried the smoke that arose from the battle field. Here we halted a little to fill our canteens with water – a highly commendable move as the day grew hot and sultry. Here we shook hands with some of the Company “C” Second Infantry Regulars, which we relieved at Fort Ripley just as they were about to proceed in advance to the battle field, then three miles distant. Instantly we were again ordered to fall in, and in quick and double quick time, under the burning rays of a July sun, over a rough rocky road, over hills and through valleys, we approached the battle field, the roar of artillery and musketry growing louder and louder every moment. We were first brought into a field in the rear of the battle, and afterwards under the lead of Col. Heintzelman brought right up into the battle, passing regiment after regiment, or rather remnants of them, after they were cut up under the destructive fire of the enemy; and as we passed along the edge of the hill where the battle had for hours been raging with fury, and cannon balls and shells still scattered about, we saw the field covered with dead horses, and men carrying away the dead, dying and wounded. It was a terrible sight to see, but at that time it made little or no impression on us. Our brigade was marched over a little hill, where we were formed into a line of battle, our regiment on the extreme right, and the Fire Zouaves on our left, with Rickett’s battery in the centre. Here the battle raged with fury for upwards of two hours, in the course of which two other regiments were brought to our aid; but the once retreating enemy was reinforced with fifteen thousand of a reserve force, and they became to formidable for our shattered ranks. Yet our brave men did not yield before an aid of General Heintzelman came up to order us to retreat into the woods, with the words, “Why do you stand there to be slaughtered by the enemy?” Simultaneously with our retreat the whole column began to move to the rear, and a precipitous retreat of an unorganized army was the result, the enemy pursuing to harass us in the rear. Rickett’s battery was left on the battle field. The sight that met every eye for a moment, when retreating down the hill, miraculously escaping from the stream of musketry, artillery and shells, which formed the parting salute from the enemy, was horrible beyond description. There lay the dead, riddled with musket balls, in every conceivable condition, some with the skull pierced and brains scattered on the ground; others severed in pieces with cannon balls, and the wounded and dying suffering intense agonies, who called in vain for succor from those who could but save themselves by flight. It was a sad picture, and will carry sadness and sorrow to the hearts and homes of thousands throughout the North, who have lost a father, a son, a husband, a brother or a friend, at the battle of Bull’s Run.

In the rear of the battle field the woods and fields were strewed with knapsacks, haversacks, blankets and other garments, thrown aside in the hurried march into the battle and in the hasty retreat. Broken wagons, provisions, and implements of war lined the road from Bull’s Run to Alexandria – a distance of forty or fifty miles. Boxes of crackers, barrels of bacon and other provisions, and useless garments thrown off to facilitate the hasty retreat of an army of exhausted and fatigued men, will furnish the colored population along the line – who were busily appropriating them to their own use – clothing and provision for years, while the Federal Treasury will lose thousands.

Two miles beyond Centreville the retreating column was again thrown into confusion by shells falling into their midst, and the artillery and cavalry accelerating their speed, heedlessly rushed through, and no doubt over, our own men – leaving a cloud of dust to mark their rapid progress. Our column scattered again into the woods, and an engagement took place with our rear, which lasted but a short time, and resulted in the death of one man on our side. The enemy did not pursue us farther, as we ascertained next morning after passing this night in the woods. The main body marched on and halted at their encampments in and around Centreville for a couple of hours. Here Col. Gorman was seen for the first time after marching us into the battle field, his boasted bravery not being observed by any one – and his voice, so bold and commanding on dress parade, was either drowned in the roar and noise of the battle field, or else he must have kept himself at a safe distance. I have good authority for this statement – authority that can be substantiated by evidence. Lieut. Col. Miller, however, was very active in rallying us, pointing to the Stars and Stripes, and calling on us to justify the fond expectations which Minnesotians have placed in our Regiment. He was in the thickest of the fight, and Minnesota should justly acknowledge his bravery.

After a lapse of about two hours, the retreating column again took up the line of march through Fairfax to their former encampments in Alexandria and Georgetown. A part of our regiment is encamped in Washington. Most of those who were left exhausted along the line, have come here. Stragglers will continue to come in – yesterday quite a number arrived. I learn that four hundred fo the Minnesota First are encamped at Washington. A few of our men are in the Alexandria Hospital. It is impossible to give you any reliable information as to the number of our dead and wounded, as yet; but as soon as I can ascertain it, to any degree of certainty, the statistics shall be immediately forwarded to you.

The telegraph makes some disparaging and unjust statements about our regiment, which I presume some reporter innocently made up from unreliable camp rumors – which are as numerous as they are unreliable. Thus I find in this morning’s Baltimore Clipper the following;

The panic was commenced in a light battery commanded by a fat lieutenant. He was porceeding under orders to flank one of the enemy’s batteries, when a detachment of their cavalry made a dash at them. Instead of unlimbering and essaying to receive the charge with grape or canister, he turned and instantly fled, leaving two of the pieces on the field.

The Second Connecticut and the Minnesota (of Gen. Schenck’s brigade, which were exposed to the fire of the battery which the fat lieutenant had started to flank) then broke and run into the bushes. Instantaneously it seemed that the panic was communicated in all directions.

The above is but a conctanation of misstatements. The first statement about the battery is an evident absurdity. Of the “fat lieutenant” was not “unlimbering to receive the charge with grape or canister,” how could he “leave two pieces on the field.” Secondly, the Minnesota regiment does not belong to Gen. Schenck’s brigade, and we did not “break and run into the bushes” before the proper order was communicated through the proper officers, and then simultaneously with the Fire Zouaves (who always receive so much praise) and the whole column. It is a base slander on the Minnesota First, every man of which fought side by side with the Zouaves, whose bravery is universally acknowledged.

According to the telegraph reports, the enemy’s force at Bull’s Run ws 120,000, while ours is set down at 25,000, which latter number is by many considered exaggerated. I learned from some volunteers who formed the reserve force that there were a number of regiments not called into the field at all; and when taken into consideration that the enemy had the advantages of strong fortifications and masked batteries, acting as they did on the defensive, how could we look for any other result than a disgraceful rout, acting as we did on the aggressive.

There is considerable talk among the boys of trophies taken during the engagement, while some have taken prisoners, some secession flags, some pistols, revolvers and other implements of war, &c., &c.

Considerable excitement exists among the soldiers and others as to the probable attack on Washington, or retaking Alexandria, but I rather think the enemy will have enough to do to bury their dead and nurse their wounded. If they had not force enough to send out from Bull’s Run to head us off our retreat, how could they dare an attempt on the offensive when their policy this far has been on the defensive? We are safe enough here; and the movement to concentrate troops at Washington and on the Potomac is only to organize a strong force for another advance on the rebels.

Later – July 24th. – Mail facilities were cut off to Alexandria yesterday, and I send by a messenger to day. We are ordered to Washington to day, and once there with our regiment, I shall collect further details for you. Captain Wilkin is with us. He estimates the killed and wounded of the company at twenty.

Private.

(St. Paul, MN) Weekly Pioneer and Democrat, 8/9/1861

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* Captain Alexander Wilkin, mentioned in the last paragraph, was in command of Co. A of St. Paul, and so the letter writer is assumed to be a member of that company.





Captain Alexander Wilkin, Co. A, 1st MN, On the Battle

3 08 2011

Camp Gorman
July 23, 1861

Dear Father

I telegraphed yesterday immediately upon our arrival supposing you would feel uneasy upon hearing the result of the action at Bull Run. I got in yesterday morning. The Colonel with the rest of the regiment proceeded to Washington and were stopped at Georgetown. I came on here and am in command of the Camp. The night before the action I could not sleep as I had no blanket and the weather was very cold. We started at 2 1/2 in the morning, marched 15 miles to the battle field (I having a severe cramp in the stomach and a sprained knee), fought for several hours and then walked back here 40 miles by the next morning and I am now as good as ever. I walked at least 60 miles in 26 hours. The day was disastrous but as for myself personally and in fact the Regiment is concerned have nothing to regret.

We were ordered to the support of Rickett’s battery but as we were passing around them and they were unlimbering their guns the batteries of the enemy commenced playing upon them. Not fifteen minutes after Capt. Ricketts, his 1st Lieut., about 100 out of the 120 men and the same number of horses were killed on the spot. Col. Heintzelman, the Commander of our brigade, rode up and said that he had ordered up a regiment (I did not understand which) which had refused to come up and ordered us up to a wood where a body of men lay. We fired into the woods and the enemy’s riflemen fired upon our left within 60 yards of us. A large number of our men fell but only 3 of mine were wounded. Heintzelman’s aid then ordered us to fall back upon the woods but I did not hear the command and supposed the regiment had got into a panic. I had determined before I went into action that my Co. should never retreat — by order. I gave the command, “Co. “A” stand fast” and part of my first platoon stood fast. We saw a Mississippi regiment on our left. We turned and fired upon them for some time knocking them down right and left when it was said that they were our friends. They were only about 75 yards from us. They raised their hands and said that they were friends. I ordered the men to cease firing. One of them came up and I went up and spoke to him and asked if they were friends. He said they were. I asked what regiment and he said Mississippi. Some one said they wanted to deliver themselves up. I again ordered the men to cease firing; but shortly after one of my men fell by my side. I told the men to fire away and I borrowed a musket and fired myself. The enemy retreated and I and a few of my men followed. We fell in with Major Larsen of the Zouaves and some of his men and went in together. I took one prisoner and sent him off after taking his gun, shortly after two of the enemy jumped up. I fired upon one of them and he fell dead. I met several wounded men whom the Zouaves wanted to kill but I ordered them off and called upon the Major to prevent them, telling him his regiment would be disgraced by such conduct — when he interfered. I took a loaded gun from one of the Mississippians and left mine. I fired shortly after and think I hit. I only fired three times as I was obliged to be constantly among the men giving them orders.

At length we came to a road and looking over the other side of the field beyond I saw a long body of Cavalry. Thinking however they might be our own men I ordered our men not to fire. I felt tolerably certain they were the enemy and drew up to fire once but desisted. About this time there was heavy firing in our rear which I supposed came from our friends as we had chased the enemy ahead of us. I called upon them to desist and told them they were firing upon their friends but the firing continued and I saw there was no chance to get through. I then told the Zouave Major that we had better follow up the road until we got beyond the line of firing. He told me to go on first which I did but finding the fire hotter the further we went, turned and went in the other direction, where the firing was less. After a while as I was going up a little hill I saw a large body of the enemy drawn up in a line. I stepped back out of sight and followed a lane up a ravine and looked to see who were ahead. Seeing a large body of men drawn up to the left and supposing them to be the same which had fired on us in the woods, I walked up to them passing a wounded officer of our army who begged me to help him up. I said my poor man I would but you are heavy and I am not strong enough, but I will endeavor to get you help. I then called to the troops nearby and told them they had been firing upon their friends. But just as I spoke I saw by their uniforms they were enemies. I then turned leisurely to the right when I found another body. I was hemmed in and had no resource but to go through the gap which I did with a cross fire upon me from both. I did not think it possible to escape, the balls were falling around me like hail. I was made exhausted and soon laid down under cover of the bank at a little stream, between the enemy and a body of our own men on the opposite hill.

After resting a while I went a little further to where there were several Zouaves and several Michigan men who were firing. One of them threw his canteen to me and I took a drink. Our men retreated or moved on. When I got up and moved on a little further to the woods, soon there was a general retreat. After a while I saw Col. Heintzelman and told him I did not know where the Regiment was and asked him if I could be of any service. He said no, and that he had seen our colors to the right. I went back and tried to find them bout could not. We saved our colors. Our Regiment was the farthest in the advance and bore the most severe fire. After the order to retreat they and the Zouaves got mixed up and rallied and charged three times sustaining sever loss. I never saw such coolness. The men with me were perfectly cool and took deliberate aim killing great numbers of the enemy, many of them smiling and laughing all the time. I had a good many hunters and troopers and scouts. I had but one officer along with me, Lieut. Welch who is of Co. “F” who rallied part of his men and fought with me. A braver, cooler little fellow I never saw. Some of our men killed 3, 4, and 5 of the enemy. Some of them as they fired would turn to me and say Captain, I dropped that fellow, and I would turn and see them fall. They must have killed or severely wounded most of them as they were good marksmen and took deliberate aim. In my shots I never took better aim at a bird.

Some of the Germans in the rear fired wild and I had constantly to caution them against shooting our own men in front. Poor Welch I am afraid is gone. He was wounded twice and I think must have been left. He may be a prisoner. One of my men took a lt. Col. of the Mississippi. He rode up supposing us to be Georgians. There is no doubt our Regiment and the Zouaves deserve more credit than any other troops in the field, but we are Western men and won’t get the credit. I have not seen Gorman after we drew up at the woods. Lt. Col. Miller behaved nobly. As far as I can learn more credit is given to me than any other officer, but I yield to young Welch. It is generally said that after the first fire men become reckless and do not realize their danger but I did not get enough excited and felt my danger all the while. Whenever I could conveniently get a tree or other object between me and the enemy I did so and probably save my life by it. A battle like that is a terrible affair. The firing of the artillery and musketry is perfectly fearful.

As we filed off from the road to support the battery a shell struck near me under the horses of one of the batteries. Going in a little further a six pound ball passed close to my feet. Many of our men and officers had very narrow escapes. Many of them having several balls through their clothes, canteens, etc. Capt. McCune was killed at the first fire. We do not know how many men and officers are lost. A great many are missing. Most of our regiment are at Washington, but I remain in our old camp in command with about 125. I have about 25 men missing and among those present quite a number are wounded.

Love to all.

Send to Weck.

Yours affly.

Alex

Transcription and letter image at Minnesota Historical Society