Western Pennsylvania Civil War Roundtable, 5/17/2023

28 05 2023

Last week I spoke to 40 members and guests of the Western Pennsylvania Civil War Roundtable at the Quaker Valley Elementary School in Osborn, PA. Sorry, I forgot to take my usual selfie with the group. It happens sometimes. This group was the first to which I ever presented, 16 years ago!

The program is a new one that I put together at the request of President Dave Fisher, Atrocities at First Bull Run. If you’re a regular reader, you’re aware of plenty of posts tagged with “Atrocities.” At first, I thought I would just assemble a few accounts by category of “atrocity,” but decided instead to focus on the testimonies of witnesses before the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War’s hearings on “Rebel Barbarities.” You can find those testimonies here, toward the bottom of the page. Chasing down the details of the witnesses and individuals mentioned in their testimonies was productive and helped flesh things out, so I had plenty of material of the 50 minute show. This was the “shake-down cruise” for this program, and I think it will get better the more often I present it (so, if you think this would be of interest your group, you know where to find me). Also, I think this topic merits a “part two.” Maybe an essay or article as well.

Thanks to Dave, founder Gary Augustine, techie Scott Krebs, and the membership for having me, and for the apres parler Eat ‘n Park ice cream.

Lt. John C. Robertson, Co. I, 11th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Battle

21 03 2023

Camp Wilson
Shooters Hill, VA
July 27, 1861

My Dear Wife:

I commence this letter today but it is uncertain if I shall be able to finish it as the long delayed time has come, and our Regiment is being paid off today, and it involves some additional duties upon me as Capt Wright[1] is unwell and has been for several days, with dysentery and other derangement of the bowels, Gammell[2] and myself are quite well. Your two letters of last Sunday and Tuesday came duly to hand and gladdened my heart as usual. I shall not attempt to answer them in detail so if I omit speaking of things you have desired me to now I will do so in some other letter.

Well dear wife I have at last “been in battle” and you ask me to give you the full particulars, that is more easily asked than complied with for an active participator cannot discribe a scene of that kind like one who is a looker on, and has nothing to distract his attention from the great scene before him I wrote you from our Camp at Centreville last Saturday and I had not closed my letter a half hour before we were ordered to be ready to march at 2 1/2 P.M. but that order was countermanded and the time changed to 2 OClk Sunday morn’g at the same time “we” officers were told that there was to be an engagement on Sunday but where we did not know, and I suspect officers high in command were more ignorant than they should have been, well at 1 OClk Sunday morn’g Lt-Col Blaisdell came to our “bower” and told us to call our men without noise and have them fall in, in perfect silence and not even to brighten up our Camp Fires which had nearly died out, (this precaution was necessary as we know the rebels were all round us, and must be watching our movements), all this was done and about half past one we commenced our silent dark march without beat of drum or other noise save the tramping of thousands of feet and the rumbling noise of the Artillery wheels, we moved forward about two miles and were then halted for some reason or other and remained sitting and lying by the roadside untill sunrise when the orders were forward again, and we made no more halts except for a few moments at a time untill we reached the scene of action about 11 OClk Sunday forenoon. Our march was a most tiresome one up hill and down through dense woods and over barren tracts of open country the men suffered much from want of water and I can say for myself that one swallow of muddy water as thick as Molasses was most delicous, we were also tired out from being often ordered forward at “double quick” time which was continued until the men would stop from utter exhaustion and you must know the day was very hot and we had our two blankets a haversack with three days provisions in it (and the men their cartridge boxes with 40 rounds of ammunition in them) slung on our backs, so you can judge some yourself of how fit we were to go into battle when we arrived (the distance we had gone over since starting in the morn’g was not less than 15 miles) well without giving us any time to rest each Regiment was formed into column and advanced to the fight, and now I can speak little more than generally of the battle as all who attended to their duty were sufficiently occupied with their own companies, we first went into action through an opening in the woods and have as soon as we cleared the woods I realized that I was on a “field of battle” cannon ball & shells, were whistling over our heads mingled with the peculiar “singing” buzz of rifleball, all intended for us but mostly just clearing our heads, on we advanced with no one faltering up a rising ground till we nearly reached the brow of the elevation when the command was “down on your knees and wait for their fire” this we did and almost instantly a perfect storm of bullets swept over and amongst us. Oh! Sarah it was a fearful scene I cannot describe it one must experience it to feel it, our Reg’mt had two killed and several wounded in this first fire, we instantly arose advanced to the brow of the hill and delivered our fire, we then fell back a few rods reloaded and advanced again, this movement was gone through with several times in all this the 5th Mass and another Reg’mt were on our right, going through the same movements, after a while, a battery of Artillery came up and took position between “ours” and the 5th then the firing on both sides became hotter, finally the battery retired from its position and “ours” with the 5th and another were ordered to follow and support it, in the new position it was to take, which was upon another eminence farther to the right, to get there we had to pass through a narrow gully or ravine, and here came the time during the engagement when through a miraculous power I was saved from being lost to you dear Sarah in this world. (I say “the time”! there were probably thousands of moments when I escaped as narrowly for during the whole of the fight which lasted about 5 Hours our Regmt was constantly engaged and under the hottest fire a perfect “leaden rain and iron hail” the bullets were whistling about my ears so close it seems strange I was not hit) we were rushing down this ravine upon the keen run. I alongside of my platoon (and at this time we were passing directly between the fire of one of our own batteries on the right and one of the enemies on the left) when I heard a “firing” and simultaneously an explosion and over I went backwards to the ground for a second I was partially stunned and the thought passed through me that I was “hurt” but instantly I got on my hands and knees and found I could move I could see that the blood was running down my face but I jumped up and rushed after my company, and overtook them at the bottom of the gully before they had got fifty rods from where I fell in a few minutes we were halted and a Sargeant in Capt Butters[3] company gave me some water from his Canteen and upon washing the blood from my face, I found I had received only a slight wound on the side of my nose which bled freely but was not much of a cut and now to show you what a narrow escape I had (although I did not know it at the time) a piece of the shell which burst and knocked me down struck the man who was touching me in my platoon and tore away all the lower part of his abdomen making a most horrible wound he was carried to the rear to the temporary hospital but Doct Bell who dressed the wound says he could not possibly have lived more than three or four hours his name was John P Mead and he belonged in So Reading he had a wife and one child I am told, he with another man of our company named Geo D Torrey were left at the hospital when we retreated (as there were no means of taking our wounded with us) and we have heard nothing from them since, for I will state here what you have probably seen in the papers, that we have it from what seems good authority that after our retreat the rebels blew up the Hospital and inhumanly murdered every wounded man they found. for the sake of humanity I trust this may not be true, but this is certain, up to this moment we have had no tidings of any of our wounded or missing in addition to the two I have named above one of our men by the name of Newell is missing, this comprises the whole “loss” of our Comp’y although we have two or three in camp who were slightly “hurt” the Capt Gordon[4] you speak of was the large stout man you saw at Camp Cameron that we called the “child of the Regmt” he was not killed but only slightly wounded and his fate is as uncertain as that of the rest of the wounded, and while upon this subject let me state that the loss to our Reg’mt in Officers is two Captains and one Lieut missing and one Lieut killed, I have rather digressed and will now resume this somewhat indefinite account of my experience of the day. After having washed the blood from my face we remained in the gully ten or fifteen minutes, the Artillery had gone on and taken position upon the hill but they only retained it a few minutes they were obliged to give way, and came tearing down the gully at a fearful rate to get out of thier way we had to clamber up a steep bank 15 or 20 feet high and over a rail fence into a field while doing this I lost my sword my scabbord got caught in the fence and the sword dropped out and I could not regain it at the moment I went back in a few minutes alone over the fence although the balls were flying merrily around me but it was gone, soon after I got Capt Gordons sword (he had just been carried from the field) and I carried that until we arrived back here in Camp. After the Artillery had passed down the gully we formed in column and crossed over it charged up the hill and drove the rebels from thier position and this particular part of the battlefield we remained in till the retreat commenced sometimes charging and then falling back (it would take more time than I can now give to continue the account of the battle further and besides the more I write about it the more I seem to make it unintelligble so I will begin to draw to a conclusion) till finally from some unexplained cause all the columns engaged seemed to break at once and a retreat commenced and it finally became such that the men from the different Regiments became so mixed up that it was impossible to collect them together again. You will hear and see in the papers all sorts of accounts of the battle the retreat and the causes which produced this or that result, how this Regiment behaved gallantly and that one did not, how if this thing had been done the battle would not have been lost etc. all I have got to say is this that “our Eleventh” went into the fight as soon as it arrived and continued in it without any cessation, and the whole time under such a perfect storm of cannon balls shells and musket balls as might have appalled the stoutest heart yet there was no flinching and I venture to say veterans of a hundred fights could not have done better this may sound like egotism in one so directly interested, but I write this not for publicity but only for the eye of one dearer to me than the life so often in deadly peril on that day I did my duty faithfully and I know others did. And now I know the question that has arisen to your lips many a time while you have been reading this. How did you feel when you first went into action? and this question I cannot answer to my own satisfaction I am concious of no feeling of fear or a wish to be out of it there was a sort of feeling of indifference mingled with the thought of how light a hold I had upon life amid such a storm and then my thoughts were so concentrated upon the fight that I thought of little else most of the time it somehow seemed as if I was but taking part in an ordinary occurance of everyday life. Of our retreat from the field I must say but little now, it was harder to bear than the fight, worn out with fatigue hunger and thirst we reached our Camp at Centreville about 8OClk in the evening and it seemed utterly impossible to proceed further but we had hardly thrown ourselves down on the ground before orders came to break up the Camp instantly and fall back on Washington great Heavens we all said it cannot be done what march 23.5 miles more tonight it is utterly impossible.” yet by half past nine we had started (in all about 5000 troops) and can you believe it? most of us accomplished that journey that night. I walked every step of the way and with other Officers & men arrived at the end of the “Long Bridge” which crosses the Potomac into Washington at 8OClK Monday morn’g, then we were detained by orders from Head Quarters till Tuesday noon, when wagons came for us and we rejoined our Regmt here that afternoon. Now just see what we accomplished from Centreville to the battle ground 15 miles; back again 15 more making 30 and from Centreville to Washington 25 miles in all 55 miles added to this the ground travelled over during the fight of 5 Hours and I don’t think 70 miles too high a mark all this done between 1 OClk Sunday morn’g and 8 OClk Monday morn’g, 31 Hours without food or rest. I have told you how I lost my sword on the battlefield, well just before going into it we were ordered to unsling our blankets and Haversacks as they would encumber us, this we did leaving them in a pile intending to take them again after the day was finished but we retreated by another way so we lost all them, and on our march from Centreville to Washington my Revolver was stolen from me. (Gammell also had his stolen) so you see this was an unfortunate day every way. Since our arrival here we have been very quiet recruiting our strength by rest. My ankles are very much swollen yet but otherwise I am in excellent health, what or when our next movement may be we know not, there are all sorts of rumors but none reliable, troops are arriving in great numbers and another battle is not improbable, but we wo’nt anticipate. I have written so much that I fear you will hardly make sense of it, and I have probably omitted a great many things I should have spoken of, but I have not time to revise it, write me as soon as you get this without waiting for Sunday. Since I commenced we have been paid off up to the 1st of July and as soon as I can get to Washington I shall send you home money enough to make you very comfortable. I shall be obliged to buy another sword and a revolver which is unfortunate just now. Say to Tommy that I rec’d his letter with much pleasure and will send his things home as soon as possible. Those curiosities he asks for were both hard and easy to obtain a rebel bullet was easy enough got but they were rather hard to bring away from the field, and the piece of Bulls Run Bridge was on our retreat rather hard to get as a rebel battery walked that same bridge and we were obliged to give it a [illegible] and forded the stream some distance down up to our waists in water, and now I must leave off although I could say a great deal more, what would I not give to see you.

I kiss you in spirit love and kisses to the children and remembrances to all

Your loving Husband

See letter images and original transcription at Massachusetts Historical Society.

Contributed by John Hennessy

[1] Capt. B. F. Wright, Co. I

[2] Lt. Albert M. Gammell, Co. I

[3] Capt. J. W. Butters, Co. D

[4] Capt. L. Gordon, Co. F

John C. Robertson at Ancestry

John C. Robertson at Fold3

Outrage Over Alleged Atrocities Against the 69th New York State Militia

5 03 2023

Among the reports got up to inflame the Irish population and encourage enlistment, was one that Col. Corcoran, of the 69th, had been found lying wounded in a house, to which the rebels at once set fire, and burned up the gallant colonel. Another was that the body of acting Lieut-Col. Haggerty, who was killed on the first charge, was found on the field badly mutilated. The throat was cut, the eyes gorged our, the nose and ears taken clean off, &c. The object of the inventors of this canard is apparent from the following, which was printed on an immense placard and posted round the streets of New York:

Erin Go Braugh. – Irishmen – Haggerty must be avenged. Our gallant countrymen of the immortal 69th have covered themselves with imperishable glory. They proved themselves not only heroes, but Christian men – as generous to wounded foes and prisoner as they were invincible in battle. But how were they treated by the barbarous enemy? Let the fate of the gallant Captain Haggerty, who, lying wounded on the field, rendered immortal by the heroic deeds of the 69th, had his throat cut from ear to ear by a dastard rebel hand, attest. Irishman! the heroic Corcoran is in the power of these cutthroats! Shall he meet with such a fate as that dealt out by the rebels on his brave comrade in arms? Forbid it, genius of Erin! The grass would wither on the tortured bosom of our green mother Isle, should we permit it. Sons of Erin! countrymen of Corcoran to arms! Let there be ten thousand Irishmen on the south bank of the Potomac in twenty days, there battle cry being “Corcoran, resettled if living, avenged if dead.”

Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, 7/26/1861

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2023 Speaking Schedule So Far

25 02 2023

I just booked my eighth talk for 2023 (one having already been given in January). I have three more in March – all within 9 days – and one each in April, May, June, and July. Nothing else after that. Three topics (all First Bull Run related) in six states. If you’re interested in attending any, see my schedule here. If you’d like me to visit your group, my contact info is in the right-hand column (down below, if you’re using your phone) or you can leave a comment on this post or on the Book Me Danno! page. Here’s a taste of what to expect:

“Blockhead,” Co. D*, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

21 02 2023



Correspondence of the Union News.

Washington, July 23d, 1861.

Friend Benedict, – I am writing to you to-day from the District Committee’s Room in the Senate wing of the Capitol, after one of the fiercest battles and most disastrous defeats ever known to the armies of the General Government. Although our Regiment has not even an honorable mention in the papers this morning, yet ’twas the first in the field, holding it for an hour and a half without any support, and was utterly cut to pieces before the remnant retreated, which we did when our Col. fell. But I will give you the things as they occurred, and you may judge for yourself whether we deserve any praise or not for our conduct.

Well, to commence where I left off when last I wrote, the 20th. That night our company (Capt. Rodgers*) was drafted for picket guard. When about midnight we were called in, the Colonel having received orders to march to Manassas Junction. In about an hour we were on the road. Two and one half miles brought us to a town called Centerville, which was already in the hands of our troops. After passing Centerville one and one half miles perhaps, we took a road leading to the right, and passed through one of the Southern oak forests, about eight miles in width, when we came to an opening, where, on the distant hill-side, we saw a line of secession troops, upon which our Cavalry gave chase, but did not go far, for the enemy’s batteries of rifled cannon opened upon them, when they retired to a cover of woods on the left. The main body of the enemy were stationed on a ridge of land about two miles from where the advance met, separated by a small stream known as Run. Our Regiment (the 27th) was then ordered to advance, which did so on a double quick for two miles; we were all out of breath, and the cannon shots were tearing away at a great rate; my hat was shot off the first thing. Then the Captain ordered us to throw off our haversacks and blankets and many of them did their coats, when we charged on them down the hill-side, and drove them to the other side of the stream. Our lines were broken in climbing a fence, and it took the officers some minutes to rally and get them into order, amid such an incessant firing from the hill opposite. – Numbers of the boys were shot down here. Our ranks were soon formed, and our noble Colonel shouted, “Come on boys, let us silence that battery – come strike for your country and your God.” We hastened to obey, when about 3,000 rebels issued from the woods from the left, and we had to turn our attention to them. We did not know at first whether they were enemies or not as they had a small Union flag with which to decoy us, and they succeeded pretty well, as their uniforms are nearly the same as the Washington Greys of New York. One of their men came over to us and proposed to surrender, as they had concealed their guns. Our Col. ordered the Adjatant to ride over with a white signal. he waved his handkerchief and rode within five rods of them, when half a dozen fired upon him, but he, by a dexterous move to one side of his horse, avoided the shots, which went over him. At that one of our men ran his bayonet through the rebel who came with proposals of surrender; they then fired a volley without much effect, which we returned and run up the hill, although they were two to one of us. While this was going on, a strong detachment of rebels, 1500 strong, commenced firing upon us from a ravine to the right, and they were so effectually covered by the trees and bank, that we could not return it with much effect. They thinned out our ranks terribly, and after we had lost nearly one-half our men, the Colonel, for the safety of the rest, ordered a retreat back to the top of the hill. I was the last but one to leave the ground, and the rebels advancing shot and run their bayonets through our wounded. ‘Twas more than I could bear; there were two muskets loaded (with their owners dead beside them) which I siezed, and, at a distance of six rods, cooly shot the foremost as they proceeded in their damnable work. Can God grant success to such diabolical acts against his atributes of mercy?

One instance, in particular, came under my observation, which shows their hearts; Two men of the 69th Reg. took a prisoner. One of the boys were wounded as well as the prisoner severely. The rebel asked for some water and the sound man of the 69th gave him the last drink of water in his canteen; he happened to turn around, when the rebel drew a knife and stabbed the wounded soldier in the back, which killed him on the spot. When the other saw what had been done, he ran him through with his bayonet.

As we reached the top of the hill, our Colonel was shot; two men and myself carried him into the woods and called medical aid; then we immediately formed with our fearless Major to lead us, but just at this time two more Regiments came to our relief. We were ready to sink with fatigue, (what there was left of us,) but the boys (many of whom could hardly crawl) were calling on their officers to lead them on. But our wounded Colonel sent orders for us to retire immediately, saying we had done our part for the present, and we should not go and be cut to pieces without he was with us. We accordingly retired, [??] fighting for two hours before any more force was brought to relieve us. In the course of the afternoon, fifteen Regiments took part in the engagement. The enemy were three times driven from their batteries and as often retaken. Our troops fought like tigers, but who could hope for success. I could not when I saw that they not only understood their business but had a least three to one in the engagement, together with a larger reserve than our whole force. By some mistake, McDowell, the Gen. of our Division, commenced one day too soon, and the Divisions of Patterson and McLeland did not arrive in time to engage in the fray. Beauregard commanded the right of the rebel force; Pes’t Jeff. Davis arrived at noon and took command of the center in person. The name of the commander on the left of their line, I could not learn. Their whole force could not vary much from 90,000 men after Johnson arrived with his reinforcements. What could our little Division do, only between 14,000 and 15,000, with such an army and strongly entrenched at that? At about seven o’clock, nearly every man’s ammunition was spent, and also, all the shot and shell were disposed of, and ’twere worse than suicide to think of staying on the ground. Major Bartlett drew the remnant of our regiment up into line on the top of the rise of ground, opposite the enemy’s works, twice, (to make a show of fight to scare the advance of the enemy back,) after we had not one load to put in our guns, that we might cover our retreat. We all left the ground in midling order considering the magnitude of the movement. After marching about eight miles on our retreat, the rebel cavalry fell upon our rear, and a bridge broke through and stopped their passage. – They captured six of the guns of the Rhode Island Artillery and lost a few men. At Centerville, the troops stationed there formed into line and protected our retreat. After leaving Centerville we were not attacked, although we expected it at every moment. We reached Washington at 8 o’clock yesterday morning, more dead than alive, having marched from our camp at Fairfax to the battle field, 14 miles – fought half a day like tigers, and made a forced retreat to Washington, just 40 miles from the field of strife, going forty hours with nothing to eat – you can imagine what sort of men we are to-day. Howard of Maine, Whittlesey and Van Dusen of union, come out of the field uninjured. They are lick men. The sun is setting and I can write no longer now; but more anon.

Yours respectfully, BLOCKHEAD.

Union (NY) News, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*H. C. Rodgers was captain of Co. D, 27th New York Infantry.

Pvt. Henry M. Crocker, Co. C, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

18 02 2023




Again in Camp Anderson,
Tuesday afternoon July 28, 1861

Dear Father and Mother, Brothers and Sisters and all – I again take a seat in the old barracks at Washington, to say a few words to you which may be a little interesting, although it may not be very pleasing news in some respects. You are undoubtedly aware by the letter I wrote you the morning I marched, that we had been over in the enemy’s country (Virginia) and also my march until I reached the regiment, which was last Friday morning, about three miles beyond the Fairfax Court-House, which house you have heard of many a time. We staid in said Camp until Sunday morning about 8 o’clock, when our Brigade was ordered to march. We all fell in and marched about fourteen miles, when we heard reports from the enemy – we struck in double quick and marched on the same time into the battle field, which was at a place called Bull’s Run, about two miles from the place where we struck into double quick, which makes our march that day sixteen miles, and more than that, our Company was stationed in the woods as
picket guard Saturday night, being the night before we marched consequently we did not feel very rugged for marching Sunday morning but we marched on, eating our breakfast and dinner on the march. We arrived at the battle field about 1 o’clock – our Regiment being the head one of our Brigade, we were the first Regiment in the field.

We fought about three hours, and by not having only about half of our troops there and the rebel troops were eighty thousand which was as many again as we expected they had and they being fortified in several batteries on different hills, with large guns which they could, standing behind their batteries throw their cannon balls and bomb shells at us from every direction, keeping themselves perfectly shielded from our shots, not withstanding that, and the immense majority of men they had we killed several of their men and officers that ventured to stick out their heads but how many we cannot tell.

Out of our company including wounded and all, are sixteen missing, as we were obliged to retreat so sudden with the exception of one whom I picked up from beside the fence – he was shot through the thigh and I fortunately saw our Quarter master at a short distance and succeeded in hailing him and getting him into the wagon. I left him to come with the Quarter master, and ran on ahead to overtake the Company who were on the retreat, but they being so mixed up in the Regiment, that I did not overtake any of them until they got some six miles from the battle field, and then only about a dozen of our Company the rest being scattered. There I fell in the ranks and marched on a short distance the road then being through the woods, and we had not got more than half through when we heard that the cavalry and artillery were following us up. We then struck into a double quick and retreated as fast as we could, which was not the fastest as we had such a hard march to get them along, besides all the fighting, which was an awful dangerous fight for us, I tell you – The men fell on every side of me, and the bomb shells, cannon balls &c whizzed over and around my head almost blowing my cap off but some way or other I cannot tell why I escaped them all.

Our Colonel was shot through the leg between the knee and thigh. He was immediately picked up by a couple of our men and carried into the woods, and laid on a blanket in care of our Doctor, at the same time our Captain and First Lieutenant were wounded in the shoulder and our Ensign was shot dead on the spot, and we were so crowded we did not have time to even
take his sword or revolver or pick up our wounded except one or two which we ran upon but were obliged to leave them by the side of the fence to be run through with the bayonet, as their barbarous hearts ran our wounded and prisoners.

I will now give you some account of my travel back. At the alarm of the rebels chasing us hundreds of our men were scattered in the woods myself included in the Company. The rest of the men ran on in the road – being overtaken in a hollow they were obliged to unhitch their horses from their cannon and baggage wagons and leave them for the rebels – The most of them that kept in the road marched on all night, all of them feeling ready to drop down but we that turned into the woods lay down on the ground and slept quite soundly after the rebels got through thundering by us. I happened to lie down away from any of our men, and did not
see one of our Regiment until I got to Washington about 1 o’clock this afternoon. I arose about 3 o’clock in the morning and marched on through the woods about twelve miles before we dare come into the road. I traveled through the rain all day. I came out of the woods in company with a captain of one of the Maine Regiments and some others. We came out to a slaveholders house – the old boss was a widower and his slaves said he left for the woods to secrete himself about the day we marched. We got the boss slave to hitch up his horses and carry us a piece and while he was getting his horses the wenches got us some milk and corn bread, which went good I tell you as we had not eaten anything but a dry cracker for the last forty eight hours.

I came within seven miles of here last night where one of the Maine Regiments were camped. They occupied an old log house with a fire place at each end, where I dried myself and rested considerably. The place of the battle was about thirty-five miles from here. Just before entering the battle field, I, like a great many others, threw off our canteens and haversacks, and in mine I had all my stationary and lost the whole, but after the fight I picked up one in the field. A great many of the boys were so weary they threw away their guns and some other equipments while in Virginia. We suffered considerably from thirst. Sunday afternoon we drank out of a brook with the horses. I do not know when we shall attack them again, but not until we have reinforcement. With my love to you all

I close

Union (NY) News, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Henry M. Crocker at Ancestry

Henry M. Crocker at Fold3

Henry M. Crocker at FindAGrave

A clipping indicates Crocker was “the last living pall-bearer of Abraham Lincoln,” however no confirmation was found.

Pvt. Lucius H. Whittlesay, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

17 02 2023

Correspondence of the “News”

Battle near Manassas


A Letter form L.H. Whittlesey


Camp Anderson, Washington, D.C.,
July 23d, 1861

Mr. Benedict – Probably ere this you have heard of the Battle near Manassas Gap and the result. I was one of the participants, and, although in the warmest of the fight, came off uninjured. On the morning of the 21st (Sunday,) our Regiment was ordered to march to some point not mentioned, and at 2 o’clock on that morning, we joined Gen. McDowall’s Division and started from our camp, seven miles West of Fairfax Court House. Our Regiment was the 4th in the division, and so we were in the first part of the column. We marched until 10 o’clock, passing through woods about seven miles in length – the distance being about 15 miles – when we heard a heavy and distinct firing to the south west. – Most of the Regiment was nearly “tuckered out” by the rapid march so that, under any other circumstances, we could have gone no further; but as we were “aching” to engage in anything like a fight we pushed ahead, at double quick – the distance remaining being about five miles. We came in sight of our batteries, on the top of a hill, in about an hour, and were nearly the first on the battlefield, for such it seriously proved to be. The enemy was stationed on the opposite hill side, concealed in thick heavy woods, with their batteries well protected on the top of the hill beyond them. Our guns were already at work, and theirs kept up a steady response. Col. Slocum, our leader, conceived the idea of taking the enemy’s batteries with his regiment, and accordingly the order was given to forward – and forward we went.

In the valley was a stone house. and our Regiment filed to the right, no enemy as yet being seen. As we advanced, a steady fire was opened on us from the forest, which we were unable to return. Facing it as best we might, we formed in battle order in front of the building. While we were doing this, a Regiment of the enemy marched into line directly opposite, and waved the American Flag. One of the number then advanced to our lines, and informed Col. Slocum that the Regiment wished to surrender. Our Adjatant seized a havelock, and riding a short distance, waved it in the air repeatedly. The rebels answered by waving handkerchiefs, which they continued until the Adjatant was quite near them, when they opened a most destructive fire upon our front. This took us by surprise, and quite staggered us; but recovering under the order of the Col., we answered with a well-directed volley from our old Harper’s Ferry muskets, which caused considerable confusion in their ranks. The first volley from them brought Asa Park, our
second lieut., to the ground – the ball passing through his heart. I stood immediately by his side and was engaged in ramming down a bullet at the time. He barely gasped, “Save me,” and dropped to the ground. I forgot everything then, and calling for aid from one or two of our boys, I succeeded in getting his body out of the reach of bullets. I returned to the front for my musket, but could not find it, and so appropriated a dead comrade’s, who was killed while engaged in loading it.

I saw many brave fellows down on every side, some of whom were already dead and others nearly so. I tell you, Mr. B., that was a moment I can never forget. Friends, whose acquaintances I had formed in my short life in camp, were dropping on every side. Our party was considerably cut up; but still our Colonel was firm in his purpose. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he would cry out, “For God’s and your Country’s sake, men, if not for your own, take those batteries!” – Our men fought hard and bravely – cheered on by the zeal of the officers and earnestness of those who were wounded – and it was not until a large body of the rebels
appeared close at hand that we were ordered to retreat. We formed on top of the hill, and missed many of our bravest men. Just after the order was given to retreat, a Minnie ball struck our Colonel on the leg just below the thigh, breaking the bone and disabling him from further service.

A number of other Regiments now came up, and immediately marched to the place lately occupied by us. Among these was the regiment of Fire Zouaves, lately commanded by the lamented Col. Ellsworth. They marched directly in front of the batteries, and fought desperately enough. Two batteries were carried and more of our Regiments came up to their relief. – The Black Horse Cavalry – so noted in connection with the praise of Gov. Wise, – charged upon their rear, carrying the American Flag. At first the Zouaves were deceived, but shortly after, perceiving the deceit, fired into them. The Cavalry was 200 strong and every saddle but six was emptied! But the brave Zouaves suffered intensely. The fire of the batteries raked them severely – men falling at every fire. The New York 71st and other Regiments soon after came to their relief. There were eight or ten Regiments on the enemy’s ground, which were doing fearful execution, when a large detachment filed out from the woods in the rear of the enemy, where upon all the Federal troops retreated but a Regiment of regulars who dared not about. They would fall back into the woods and load their pieces and then sally out, form a square, and drop a score of men at every fire. The battle continued until [?] o’clock; when the army was ordered to retreat, which they did. We marched all night and until 10 o’clock a.m. the day following, when we reached Arlington Heights. The distance was 45 miles, making in all 65 miles steady march and a fight of six hours We did not sleep a wink for 60 hours and we felt considerably used up […?

?…] was in the rear of his men and that he received a severe wound in the leg. Our loss was about 700 killed and 1500 wounded. The loss of the enemy was as large – perhaps larger. I can attach blame to nobody. Our men all acted like heroes and retreated from
strength of force. There are 20 missing from our Company and others in the Regiment suffered as severely.

William Sampson, son of J.E. Sampson, of Binghamton, has not yet turned up. He was wounded on the field, and was probably afterwards butchered by the cavalry of the enemy, who killed every surviving man left on the field. Corporal Fairchild, Corporal Spencer and others are among the missing.

Sergeant Comstock was set upon by four cavalry men, when he shot the one nearest him, a second caught him by the hair of his head, and threw him over the saddle bow. He soon after came in sight of friends, and shouted to draw their attention, when the captor dropped him and fled. Others of our company met with narrow escapes, but I will not stop to write them here. Every body engaged in the battle says it was the fiercest and most terrible of any ever fought. I tell you to see the cannon balls and shells flying in every direction, and hear the whizzing of the bullets as they passed close to your head, created no very pleasant emotion. You can form no correct opinion of the affair.

We were kindly treated by the ladies of this place, upon our arrival. I was treated to a good substantial dinner by the family of a Mrs. Leake. I shall always remember them with the highest feelings of respect.

An attack is partially anticipated on Alexandria. The 23d (Southern Tier) crossed over Long Bridge to that place this morning.

Many of our officers may resign. If they do, the Regiment will probably be disbanded, but if they don’t, we will “recruit” to fill up. I will come to Union if I can.

Give my respects to all inquiring friends, and tell them I shall be happy to hear from them at any time.

Before long I shall write again. “Blockhead” sends his compliments this week. Both he, Asa Howard and Charles VanDusen are “alive and kicking,” though considerably used up.

Yours, HIB

Union (NY) News 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*Name appears variously as Lucius Heibbard Whittlesay, Lucius Hebard Whittlesey, and Lucius Hibbard Whittlesey

L. H. Whittlesay/Whittlesey at Ancestry

L. H. Whittlesay at Fold3

L. H. Whittlesey at FindAGrave

South Carolina Claims Virginia Too Soft on Yankee Prisoners

20 12 2022


We have been provoked, for the last two or three days, beyond further endurance, by reading, in certain Virginia papers, the most complacent and gratulatory comments on the charming charity and benevolence displayed by certain citizens and officials, in Virginia, towards the invaders of their soil – the plunderers of their estates – the destroyers of their homes and firesides, and the polluters of their women. Most humane and christian individuals! Below we copy, from the Richmond Examiner, its timely strictures upon these strange proceedings. In Alexandria, the very site of their inhuman and brutal outrages, upon the evening of the very day when the flaunting hosts of the enemy marched forth insolently, in all the pride of confident ferocity, with thirty thousand manacles in charge, to slaughter the kindred of her citizens, crush their country, and enslave their race, with all the brutalities of wild barbarians – upon that very evening of their precipitate return, what do we hear but boastings of the tenderness of these sweet people of Alexandria, in extending every kindness in their power to these exhausted and fatigued ravishers and destroyers! And why? Because, forsooth, they were foiled in their amiable expedition of rapine and murder, and driven back in haste, and were, consequently, somewhat soiled, wearied and thirsty from their long and hot run. This we learn from the papers of Alexandria, and how, also, water and food, and comforts generally, were humanely offered them. Verily does it stir the gall within a man to find our counsels and our proceedings marred by such milksop folly. If men’s weak bowels will gush out with such incontinent compassion, why, in the name of common decency, can they not, in secret and in darkness, perform such offices as ill befit the public vision?

Even in Richmond, we are sorry, very sorry to say, we have seen indications of this same parading of a sickly humanitarianism, and boastings of what extreme kindness is extended to these Northern plunderers. Are there no crying brutalities to be stopped on the part of our enemies? Is there no comprehension of the potency of retribution? Are we so weak as to not see the saving efficacy of requiring an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth? For what other law is left us? Where will this folly end? There are now in the Tombs of New York, manacled in loathsome dungeons, fifteen citizens of South Carolina, who were taken prisoners of war, bearing arms under the commission of President Davis. They have been for two months dragged through the streets of New York, backwards and forwards, almost weekly, manacled like slaves, to be hooted at, at the pleasure of a greasy rabble – beasts on exhibition. They are now, we repeat, in manacles, in loathsome dungeons. Two of Carolina’s citizens have just been hung, like malefactors, to tree-tops upon the high road. How long are these things to continue, whilst Northern prisoners are to be treated “with the most distinguished consideration”? Not only are their persons most carefully made comfortable (as we are so repeatedly assured), but even their tenderest sensibilities are not to be ruffled. They are distinguished but unfortunate gentlemen, and require all the courtesies due their romantic misfortunes and distinguished positions. In the meantime, our poor boys hang swinging the tree-tops, or lie immersed in dungeons, pining away in chains. Is it supposed that all this is soothing to the minds of Carolinians? Is this further to be tolerated? Why is not every prisoner in Richmond already incarcerated and lying now in irons? How long is this mode of warfare to be permitted and encouraged? Are our troops to be driven to a murderous desperation? If so, let it at once be understood – let the Government inform them that they must redress themselves. For they most assuredly will shortly do it.

In reference to what we have said, we wish to be distinctly understood upon two points:

1st. We have no reflection whatever to make upon Virginia or the people of that State in this matter. She is now doing all that patriotism and honor and gallantry and her ancient renown require at her hands. None more cordially appreciate this than ourselves. But there are mawkish milksops in Virginia, as there are here, and elsewhere – people whom it is doing great public wrong, at this time, to countenance in any way, far less to encourage and commend – people whose weak natures and lukewarm feelings in this matter, give them no stomach for this fight.

2d. We wish it to be understood that we regard this as no matter of mere feeling, either for pity or revenge. Justice, humanity, civilization alike cry aloud for the stern execution of retribution. All this barbarity and outrage on the part of our enemy must be stopped. The sternest retribution is the quickest and surest method to enforce humanity, and compel a christian mode of warfare. Justice must be executed or lawlessness will run riot, and violence and vengeance will take the place of judgment. It is the peculiar privilege of women to forgive – it is the duty of man to execute justice.

In affairs of this sort between nations, there is but one law in operation under the sun. The lex talionis can alone protect the people and achieve humanity – for between nations we come back to first principles.

We sincerely hope we shall not be compelled to speak further upon this subject, for we have long felt it.

In this connection, it is a matter of gratification to learn that our great general, Beauregard, is, at last, bringing traitors to accountability. We learn that he “has caused three traitors to be hung recently, having first received the most indubitable evidence of their treachery. One of the parties was an engineer on the Manassas Gap Railroad, another a preacher of the Gospel, and the third a farmer. They had all furnished valuable aid to the enemy.”

Had this mode of procedure been inaugurated six weeks ago, the enemy would not have learned our countersign in the battle of the 21st, which caused so much loss of life in our own ranks at the hands of our own men. Hundreds of gallant men have fallen at the hands of their own friends, because a few traitors were not previously shot. The very battle itself was very nearly lost – a battle involving thousands of lives, millions of property. and the very integrity of the State of Virginia, imperiling, in fact, the whole cause – by the bold treachery of a railroad conductor. How many valuable lives has this cost? Let the mourners over the sad tombs of Bee, Bartow and Johnson answer. War is the rule of iron. And for that work we must have men of iron nerve, and none other. We have too long been dallying in kid glove and pump-boot diplomacy, and ginger-bread politeness. What we want is hard steel – not sentimental stuff. So far as Gen. Beauregard is concerned, we have no doubt he has seen enough, and knows how to cure that disease. He is the man to do it. We are fatigued, exhausted, sick, disgusted, ad nauseam, with all such unmitigated trifling as here described by the Examiner:

Every pains seems to be taken for the comfort and consolation of our Yankee prisoners. It is not sufficient that their physical comfort should be consulted, but the finer feelings of these unfortunate men and the affectionate anxieties of their families are also consulted and assuaged by a new system of custody. Certainly, General Winder deserves great credit for his humanity. – While he debars all access to the prisoners on the part of reporters of the press, perhaps to protect the unfortunate men from the annoyance and mortification of being too freely spoken of in the newspapers, he has not found it in his heart to hesitate to give permits for visits to carry messages from Northern relatives to the prisoners, and to satisfy inquiries about their “health,” or any other little interesting circumstances of their condition. What delicacy of humanity! It is positively a refreshing circumstance in the hardships and asperities of war – an oasis in a moral desert – a kind return of the rude jokes of the Yankee in treating our prisoners as “pirates” and jestingly threatening to murder them in the streets of Washington.

We are assured of the happening of our little incident of humanity that shows that the tenderest charity may dwell beneath a military uniform, however that garb may be a stranger to the common intercourse of politeness among civilians. It was but a few minutes before the request of a reporter to visit the Federal prisoners was refused, and the polite note making the application [?] shoved back to him, that there happened in the office, where permits are granted, the charming instance of humanity of granting a permit to a person to see one of the prisoners, that he might telegraph his health and condition, and any other interesting circumstance, to the anxious father of the unfortunate man in New York. It was deprecatingly mentioned by the applicant that the young Yankee had “got into a bad box” – certainly a mild and considerate way of putting the circumstance of a murderer having been taken in arms.

These delicacies of consideration to our Yankee prisoners, we trust, will not be lost on the North. Let the citizens of Richmond immediately send on their messages of comfort and consolation to our prisoners in New York and Washington. they will be constantly advised of their health. Their custodians will protect them from the painful curiosity of the newspapers and from the irreverent visits of the reporters. They will be treated with all the refinements of humanity; and all enquiries, except from their families, will be repulsed as impertinent, and denied with the emphasis of military impoliteness. What happy exchanges of humanity we are to have! What good fortune to fall into the hands of Yankees after they have been edified by the improved system of prison discipline inaugurated by the military humanitarians of Richmond!

The Charleston (SC) Mercury, 8/2/1861

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U. S. Congressmen on Blackburn’s Ford

13 12 2022





Defeat of the Federals.














Excesses Committed by Federal Troops.


The following account comes through our occasional correspondent at Washington, on whom we have great reliance:

The following account on the battle of Bull’s Run is given by honorables Wm. A. Richardson, John A. McClernand, of Ill., and John W. Noel, of Missouri (all members of the house), qho were eyewitnesses of the battle, and aided in several instances of bearing from the field members of the New York 12th, who were wounded.

The action commenced under the direction of Gen. Tyler, of Connecticut, at half-past one o’clock on Thursday afternoon at Bull Run, three miles from Centreville, between several companies of skirmishers attached to the Massachusetts First, and a masked battery situated on a slight eminence. The skirmishers retreated rapidly and were succeeded in the engagement by Sherman’s battery and two companies of regular cavalry, which after continuing the contest for some time were supported by the New York 12th, First Maine, Second Michigan, First Massachusetts and a Wisconsin regiment, when the battle was waged, with great earnestness, continuing until five o’clock. The Federal troops were then drawn back in great confusion beyond the range of the Confederate batteries, here they bivouacked for the night.

During the conflict the Michigan, Maine and Wisconsin regiments held their ground with a fortitude which, in view of the galling fire to which they were exposed, was most remarkable, but […] regiments retired in great disorder from the field, a portion of them throwing away knapsacks, and even their arms in their flight. A number of members of the former regiments openly asserted that their confused retreat was the fault of their officers, who evinced a total lack of courage, and were the first to flee.

After the retreat had been commenced, Corcoran’s New York 69th (Irish) and Cameron’s New York 79th (Scotch) regiments were ordered up to the support, but arrived too late to take part in the action.

There were three batteries in all. The first to open fire, which was the smallest, was situated on the top of an eminence; the second and most destructive, in a ravine, The latter was totally concealed from view by brushwood, etc., and it was in attempting to take the first by assault that the Federal troops stumbled upon it. The battle occurred at a point in the declivity of the road, where it makes a turn, forming an obtuse angle, and the third battery was so placed as to enfilade with its fire the approaches towards the junction.

Much jealousy, it is stated by the same authority, existed between the regular officers and those of the volunteer corps, each appearing desirous of shifting to the other side the responsibility of any movement not advised by themselves, and the jealousy, it is feared, will seriously affect the efficiency of the “grand army.” Thus, General McDowell expressly states that the battle was not his own, but that of General Tyler. The former officer said that he would not advance further until he had thoroughly and carefully reconnoitered the position of the batteries, their capabilities, etc; and the inference derived by my informants from his remarks, it that he deems his present force entirely insufficient to carry the opposition before him.

One of the gentlemen mentioned at the commencement of this account, gives it as his opinion that Manassas Junction cannot be carried by 50,000 men in two months, and all agreed in saying that the force under Beauregard has been entirely underrated numerically, and that their fighting qualities are superior. The cheers with which they rushed to the fight frequently rang above the din of the battle. Their numbers were not ascertained, but it is estimated that upwards of 5,000 South Carolinians, under command of Gen. M. L. Bonham, of South Carolina.

Their artillery was of the bestkind. A shot from one of their batteries severed a bough from a tree quite 2 miles distant, and but a few feet from where the vehicle of two Congressmen was standing. Our ball fell directly in the midst of a group of Congressmen, among whom was Owen Lovejoy, but injured no one, the members scampering in different directions, sheltering among trees, &c.,

It is said to have been admirably served too, as the heavy list of killed, and the disabling of Sherman’s battery, amply testifies.

There were a number of rifle pits also in front of the batteries, from which much execution was done by expert riflemen.

The Congressmen were greatly impressed with the extent and magnitude of the earth-works, entrenchments, &c., erected by the Confederates from Alexandria to Centreville and beyond. They were all of the most formidable and extensive character.

It is thought by them that Manassas Junction is encircled by a chain of batteries, which can only be penetrated by severe fighting. All the entrenchments evidence consummate skill in their construction. The entire column under General McDowell fell back at 8 o’clock on Thursday evening, a short distance from Centreville, where they encamped. They were joined during the evening by Heintzelman’s command, and on the succeeding morning by that of Col. Burnside, all of which troops are now encamped here.

Early in the evening Gen. Schenck’s brigade of Ohio troops was sent forward on the Hainesville road to flank the batteries, but no tidings had been heard from them up to 8 o’clock yesterday (Friday) morning, when the Congressmen left Gen. McDowell’s headquarters, bring with them his despatches to the War Department.

These dispatches put the loss of the Federalists in killed at 5, but Mr. McClernand sates that he himself saw a greater number than that killed. All of these gentlemen agree in estimating the number of killed at one hundred. The disparity between the statements of these gentlemen and the official despatches is accounted for by the fact that the latter are based upon the returns of the surgeons, and that many of the killed are oftentimes never reported until after the publication of the official accounts.

One remarkable fact which commended the special attention of the members of Congress was the absence from the portion of Virginia visited by them of all the male inhabitants capable of bearing arms. They state that they saw but few people, and those were chiefly old women and children – The women seemed to regard the soldiers with bitter hostility, and, to quote the language of one of the Congressmen, their “eyes fairly flashed fire whenever they looked at a soldier.”

General McDowell expressed no fears of being attacked, but seemed apprehensive of some of the volunteer corps stumbling upon a masked battery, and this “precipitating a general engagement.”

The loss of the Confederates is not known, but is conjectured by the Federalists to have been heavy. Among the killed is said to be one Col. Fountain – at least, a negro, deserted, so stated.

The excesses of the Federal troops in Virginia are exciting general indignation among army officers. A member of Congress, who visited the scene this morning, states that the village of Germantown has been entirely burnt, with the exception of one house, in which lay a sick man, who had been robbed, he was told, by an army surgeon of nearly every article he possessed of the slightest value, even to his jack-knife.

Gen. McDowell has issued orders that the first soldier detected in perpetrating these depredations shall be shot, and has ordered that a guard be placed over the principal residences of any town the troops may enter.

The (Baltimore, MD) Daily Exchange, 7/20/1861

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John W. Noel at Wikipedia

John A. McClernand at Wikipedia

William A. Richardson at Wikipedia

Lt. Col. Edward Brush Fowler, 14th New York State Militia, On Looting in Fairfax

5 12 2022


Head-Quarters 14th Regt., N.Y.S.M.
Arlington Heights, July 24, 1861.

To the Editor of the Brooklyn Eagle: A base falsehood has been circulated by the Washington papers, in relation to our Regiment breaking open and robbing houses in Fairfax as we passed through that place. The facts are that our Regiment was near the rear of the advancing column, and when the right of our Regiment reached the village, I stationed a reliable officer and proper guard to prevent any departure from the ranks at that place, and the Regiment marched through the village without halting until we had passed about one-half mile beyond it. There was no pillaging done by the 14th Regiment.

Yours, truly,
E. B. Fowler,
Lt. Col. 14th Regt., N.Y.S.M.

Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Edward Brush Fowler at Ancestry.com

Edward B. Fowler at Fold3

Edward B. Fowler at FindAGrave

Edward Brush Fowler at Wikipedia