Image: Col. Ambrose Everett Burnside, 1st Rhode Island Infantry

31 08 2022
Ninth-plate ambrotype by Manchester & Brother of Providence, R.I. (Courtesy Military Images Magazine, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

Ambrose Everett Burnside at Ancestry

Ambrose Everett Burnside at Fold3

Ambrose Everett Burnside at FindAGrave

Ambrose Everett Burnside at Wikipedia





Image: 1st Rhode Island Infantry Staff

27 08 2022
Col. Ambrose E. Burnside sits with arms folded in the center of officers and non-commissioned officers. He is flanked on the left by his gauntleted major, Joseph P. Balch, and on the right by cap holding Augustus Woodbury, the chaplain of the regiment. In 1862, Woodbury’s A Narrative of the Campaign of the First Rhode Island Regiment was published in Providence. Standing on the far right with cap in hand is Capt. William L. Bowers, the commissary officer. (Courtesy of Military Images Magazine)




Who Knew Revisionist History Was So Easy?

29 06 2022

This past weekend I gave a “shakedown” tour of First Bull Run on the blazing hot Plains of Manassas to two very good friends, Licensed Gettysburg Battlefield Guide Chris Army and battlefield tourist extraordinaire Mike Pellegrini. On Matthews Hill, Chris asked how many men were in Union Colonel David Hunter’s division, consisting of the brigades of Colonel’s Andrew Porter and Ambrose Burnside. I consulted my notes which include the table from The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 2, page 309, Abstract of the returns of the Department of Northeastern Virginia Commanded by Brigadier-General McDowell, U. S. A., for July 16 and 17, 1861. (View it here.) There it was, in black and white:

Aggregate present for duty for Hunter’s division = 2,648.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

But wait. That number made no sense to me. Hunter’s division consisted of seven volunteer regiments, one battalion each of regular infantry, cavalry, and marines, and two batteries of artillery. And this was the very beginning of the war. If we conservatively allow for the battalions and batteries to equate to just one regiment, that’s 8 regiments. Per regiment, just 331 men. Looking at casualties for the division, also from the ORs, of 829, that’s a pretty massive casualty rate of 31%.

And not only that, 2,648 flies in the face of the traditional narrative that the Confederates faced an overwhelming force on Matthews Hill.

I couldn’t figure it out, so I did what I often do – I asked a long-time Friend of Bull Runnings (FOBR), former NPS historian John Hennessy, about it, laying out the question much as I presented it above.

John took a deeper dive, and what follows are the fruits of his labor, not mine. All I did was ask a question.

Here’s what he came up with* (he also unknowingly contributed the title of this post): there is more in the ORs than meets – or has met, for the past 130 years – the eyes. Two revisions need to be made to McDowell’s estimate of 2,648 men for Hunter’s division, and by extension, to McDowell’s estimate of the strength of his army, 35,732 aggregate present for duty including Runyon’s reserve (from that same table on page 309).

The first adjustment comes from Porter’s report (see here) in Series I, Vol. 2, pp. 383-387, in which he states:

“I have the honor to submit the following account of the operations of the First Brigade, Second Division, of the Army, in the battle before Manassas, on the 21st instant.(*) The brigade was silently paraded in light marching order at 2 o’clock in the morning of that day, composed as follows, viz: Griffin’s battery; marines, Major Reynolds; Twenty-seventh New York Volunteers, Colonel Slocum; Fourteenth New York State Militia, Colonel Wood; Eighth New York State Militia, Colonel Lyons; battalion regulars, Major Sykes; one company Second Dragoons, two companies First Cavalry, four companies Second Cavalry, Major Palmer. Total strength, 3,700.”

I know, right? Porter says his brigade alone exceeded McDowell’s estimate of the strength of Hunter’s whole division.

But that’s not all.

There is a volume of the Official Records that’s pretty important, but often gets overlooked. It’s called the General Index and Additions and Corrections. On page 1,096 of that tome, we find this:

Page 309. Add foot-note to abstract from returns, etc., Burnside’s brigade, Hunter’s division, not accounted for. On July 12 it had present for duty 151 officers and 3,483 men. Total present, 3,692. Aggregate present 3,851.

Now, if we go back to McDowell’s estimate, the 2,648 estimate for Hunter’s division should be more like 3,700 for Porter and 3,692 for Burnside, a total of 7,392. John pointed out that for a total of 83 companies of men of all arms, that’s a more reasonable headcount (with these numbers, 89 per company). I’ll point out that it also makes more sense with the casualties, 829/7,392 = 11.2%

This alone conforms much more closely with the “outnumbered Confederates on Matthews Hill” narrative.

We need to do one more thing, though. McDowell’s estimate of the total strength of his army including Runyon’s reserve was 35,732. But that’s with only 2,648 for Hunter’s division. Take out that 2,648 (and 73 for Co. E, 2nd U. S. Cavalry, accounted for separately in McDowell’s estimate but attached to Porter) and replace it with 7,392 and we get a grand total aggregate present for duty of:

40,403.

So, for now, until someone convinces me otherwise, when asked how many men Hunter had, I’ll say “about 7,500” instead of “about 2,500.” And when someone asks how many men McDowell had, it will be “about 40,000” rather than “about 35,000,” both including Runyon’s reserve (or 35,000 rather than 30,000 without). This without ripping all of McDowell’s other numbers apart, which may also be in order.

Thoughts?

*A lot of the math above is mine. Keeping in mind that I scored much higher in verbal than math on my SATs, if there are any screw-ups in that regard, I alone made them.





Col. Ambrose Burnside to Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott on the Progress of the 1st Rhode Island Infantry to Brig. Gen. Patterson’s Command

23 10 2020

CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN MARYLAND, PENNSYLVANIA, VIRGINIA, AND WEST VIRGINIA FROM APRIL 16 TO JULY 31, 1861

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, pp. 715-716

Camp Sprague,
Washington, D. C., June 22, 1861.

Lieut. Gen. W. Scott, Headquarters U. S. Army:

Sir: I have the honor to report that the regiment under my command, in pursuance to orders from headquarters of the U. S. Army, departed from Washington on Monday, June 10, for the purpose of joining the column of Major-General Patterson, then moving from Chambersburg upon Harper’s Ferry. The battery of artillery attached to the command, with the baggage, preceded the main body of the regiment twelve hours.

Early upon Monday morning we left camp, and, marching to the station of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, entered the cars prepared for our transportation, and were carried to Baltimore. The command was composed of 1,128 men and 117 officers, accompanied by a long wagon train. The passage through Baltimore was peacefully made, and, taking the cars of the Northern Central Railroad, the entire regiment reached Chambersburg, Pa., on the morning of Tuesday, June 11, when I immediately reported to Major-General Patterson for duty. Still proceeding by rail, we reached Greencastle at noon, and encamped. The command remained in camp at Greencastle until Saturday morning, when, in conjunction with the First Brigade of Major-General Patterson’s column, under command of Colonel Thomas, the line of march was taken up for Williamsport, Md. That place was reached at noon, and occupied by the force of which this regiment formed a part.

On Sunday a portion of the battery of artillery was ordered across the Potomac to Falling Waters; but, in accordance with orders from Major-General Patterson, it was recalled on Monday, and the regiment, once more complete, commenced its march at an early hour for Frederick City. The route lay through Hagerstown, Boonsborough, and Middletown, and in these places the command was received with enthusiastic demonstrations of favor. The march continued through the entire day and a part of the following night, with an interval of three hours for rest at Boonsborough.

At 12.30 a. m. on Tuesday the regiment bivouacked in the immediate vicinity of Frederick, having accomplished a march of thirty-three miles. Soon after sunrise the regiment marched into the city, and remained there through the day.

At 7 p. m. we left Frederick by rail and proceeded to Washington, arriving at 6 o’clock on Wednesday morning, June 19. It gives me pleasure to assure the General-in-Chief of the gratification which I feel at the bearing and conduct of the command during this expedition. The fatigues of the way were endured with fortitude, and had any danger threatened I have no doubt that it would have been bravely met. As it is, I cannot avoid the expression of my satisfaction that the object of the expedition in which this regiment participated was attained in safety and without the loss of life. The command is now in an effective condition for the further service of the Government of the United States.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. E. BURNSIDE,
Colonel, Comdg. First Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers.





Burnside’s Belly Bedazzler

18 01 2019

I was recently invited to follow the Rhode Island Military History Facebook page. I’ve been scrolling through the posts, and came across three that are of First Bull Run interest. Page follower Patrick Donovan shared photos of an item recently received by the Varnum Memorial Armory Museum that was owned by Ambrose Burnside and was possibly worn by him at our favorite Civil War battle. Below are some pics, and Patrick’s description.
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THIS just came in on loan…a sash purported to be Ambrose Burnside’s and worn by him as Colonel of the RI Brigade in 1861. He later gave it to the RI Grand Army of the Republic organization after the War. Burnside would later go on to become commander of the 9th Corps and then head of the famed Army of the Potomac in 1862. Thank you, RI Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, for the loan.


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Behold, Burnside’s 1861 sash as Colonel…the sash will go to a professional conservator for evaluation. In the meantime, we can safely display it. The knots have supports underneath to eliminate any tension on the fabric. The sloped front also keeps the effects of gravity at bay. A special vac was used to clean it and a steamer for removing wrinkles. Climate is controlled and there’s no UV radiation in the room. I’m going to have a Plexiglas cover made for it this winter. Signage will be complete this week.

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Burnside display is coming together with signage…getting quote on a custom Plexiglas cover for the sash…





Photographic Miniatures of First Bull Run Participants

9 01 2015

A few weeks ago, Facebook friend and collector Joe Maghe sent me a few interesting images with First Bull Run connections. Included were some cool, rectangular miniatures, (Joe says they are “Abbott Types”), mementos more than likely purchased as a show of support for the men and cause. Click on the thumbs for larger images.

Fronts

Fronts

Backs

Backs

 

Col. Michael Corcoran of the 69th NYSM, captured at First Bull Run

Col. Michael Corcoran of the 69th NYSM, captured at First Bull Run

Capt. Francis T. Meagher, Co. K, 6th NYSM, acting Major of the regiment at First Bull Run

Capt. Francis T. Meagher, Co. K, 6th NYSM, acting Major of the regiment at First Bull Run

Rev. Father Thomas Mooney, Pastor of St. Brigid's R. C. Church in New York and Chaplain of the 69th NYSM at First Bull Run

Rev. Father Thomas Mooney, Pastor of St. Brigid’s R. C. Church in New York and Chaplain of the 69th NYSM at First Bull Run

Col. [James A.] Mulligan was not a member of the 69th NYSM and was not at First Bull Run. In Chicago, he raised the 23rd Illinois Infantry, which was also known as “Mulligan’s Irish Brigade.”

Below is a LOC photo of Father Mooney celebrating Mass with men and officers of the 69th NYSM in camp near Washington some time prior to the battle. On Father Mooney’s right is Col. Corcoran. Click here for the high def TIFF version.

Sunday Mass in camp of 69th NYSM, near Washington, June, 1861.

Sunday Mass in camp of 69th NYSM, near Washington, June, 1861.

Joe also sent these images of small, disc portraits. Their use is a little less certain.

Col. Michael Corcoran

Col. Michael Corcoran

Thomas F. Meagher

Thomas F. Meagher

Col. Ambrose Burnside, who commanded a brigade in David Hunter's Division of McDowell's Army at First Bull Run

Col. Ambrose Burnside, who commanded a brigade in David Hunter’s Division of McDowell’s Army at First Bull Run

Rhode Island Governor William Sprague, who accompanied Burnside's Brigade at First Bull Run.

Rhode Island Governor William Sprague, who accompanied Burnside’s Brigade at First Bull Run.

Thanks so much to Joe Maghe for sending these. Joe sent other items to share with you which I think you’ll find of interest as well. So stay tuned – and by that I mean check back here every single day.