Pvt. Mattison C. Sanborn, Co. A, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, On the March and Battle

31 01 2020

Letters from the Army.

The following letter from a member of Company A, 2d N. H. Regiment, to his father, Dr. Caleb Danborn, of South Berwick, had been furnished us for publication:

Camp Sullivan, Washington, July 24th.

Dear Father, – Last Tuesday we left Washington with our Brigade, under command of Gen. Burnside, to join our Division, under Gen. McDowell, at Fairfax Court House. We arrived there at 11 o’clock, Thursday morning, the rebels retreating before us towards Manassas Junction. In their camp they left guns, ammunition, provisions, blankets and tents. They blocked up the road by falling the trees and piling up fences.

Our pioneers cleared the obstructions out of the roads, and the army consisting of about 19,000 men, proceeded about 4 miles from Fairfax Court House, where the flag of the 2nd N. H. Regiment floated in place of the Confederate Flag, and encamped there Friday night and Saturday and Sunday until 2 o’clock in the morning. Then the advance of the army commenced and we advanced near 18 miles from our previous encampment, and engaged the enemy at Blue Ridge, near 3 miles from Manassas Junction. By that time we had about 25,00 men in the field and the battle began in real earnest, and the bullets rained about us like hail. The cannon balls and shells of the enemy did great execution. Sherman’s and the R. I. battery played powerfully upon the enemy and once silenced their batteries. Then they displayed a flag of truce, which proved only to cause a delay so that reinforcements might come for them, and General James came from Manassas Junction with 13,000 for the rebels. The Ellsworth Zouaves made a noble charge upon the rebel cavalry and routed them. We were ignorant of the forces of the enemy and their position. There were so many of our artillery men shot that it was difficult to man the guns, our ammunition gave out and we then retreated. The enemy had at least 126,000 men engaged and we no mote at any time than 40,000. Col. Marston was shot by a cannon ball in the shoulder, but he is doing well. As soon as his wound was dressed he mounted his horse and being led on the battlefield by one of the boys he made a speech and told us to defend the Stars and Stripes at all hazards and to remember New Hampshire. Capt. Rollins was hit by a musket ball in the shoulder, and is getting along finely.

The cursed rebels bayoneted our men we left on the field. In our company 2 are killed 3 missing and 3 wounded.

We had a pretty hard journey, we marched 18 miles to the battle field, fought from 11 o’clock, till 4 then retreated, 56 miles without resting an hour at a time.

The enemy are now this side of Centreville, about 36 miles from Washington.

When we move on we shall sweep every thing before us, for we shall have an army of 75,000 or 100,000 men, and artillery enough.

Several pieces of the R. I. guns were spiked by the boys. All the rest our men had safe. Sherman’s battery came in to Washington complete with only one man killed.

The cry of the Ellsworth Zouaves every time one of their men was shot was Ellsworth, and then they rushed on like tigers.

When we first heard the whizzing of the balls we felt a little ticklish, but after we saw our friends fall by our side we feared neither man not the devil.

Our Regiment conducted bravely and left the field with colors flying. Give my love to mother and all my friends, and tell them I’ve killed one rebel sure.

M. C. Sanborn

Dover (NH) Enquirer, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Mattison Sanborn at Ancestry.com 

Mattison Sanborn at Fold3

AKA Mattson C. Sanborn – Bio sketch – Sanborn later was an officer in the 20th Maine Infantry

Mattson Caleb Sanborn at Ancestry.com

Mattson Caleb Sanborn at Fold3

Mattson Caleb Sanborn at Findagrave.com 

Sgt. Lincoln Litchfield, Co. A, 3rd Maine Volunteer Infantry, On the Campaign

8 01 2020

Letter from the Third Maine Regiment.

No. 4.

Clermont Place, Head-quarters 3d
ME. Reg.
Alexandria, July 26th, 1861.

Mr. Editor: – I presume your many readers are anxious to learn of our welfare after the ill-fated battle at Manassas.

We left here on the 16th (I presumed in my last) at one o’clock, P. M. The brigade, under command of Col. Howard, marched until one o’clock that night, and then halted four miles in the rear of Fairfax Court House, to cut off the retreat of the rebels, when attacked by the command of Gen. McDowell. Much to our sorrow the “birds had flown.” The next morning we started with the whole brigade of for Fairfax Station, where some eight thousand of the rebels were in stand. We had marched some three hours when we found our way blocked by trees fallen across the road to hinder our advance. These obstacles were soon cleared away. After a delay of one hour, we resumed our march and arrived at the station just one hour too late. Again we were doomed to disappointment; the rebels had left in confusion, leaving camp stores, &c. We camped down for the night, but not until we had cooked our suppers in the same utensils that the rebels had cooked their dinners in. We remained until late in the next afternoon, and then started for Centreville some six miles, which had been taken by our troops that day just before the defeat of Gen. Tyler.

Arriving at Centreville at 10 o’clock, we camped down in a field. At this place we remained two days. Here the grand army of Gen. McDowell was made up. On Sunday morning, 21st, at 3 o’clock, we moved in column of forty-five thousand infantry, one thousand cavalry, and sixty-five field pieces, in the direction of Manassas Junction. Part of the division passed on the let and commenced storming some masked Bull’s Run batteries, from which the rebels retreated in direction of Manassas. Our brigade halted some six miles from Manassas to cut off their retreat. We remained two hours and then marched in direction of Manassas, at which place our artillery had been storming a battery some hours. We arrived on the field of battle about 4 o’clock, and when we marched on, some of the regiments had retired from the field, who called to us as we passed, “go on, boys, the rebels are retreating,” with which we passed on still stronger running at the height of our speed, nor did any seem daunted at the sight that met our eyes as we came in full view of the field. Even the hum of the cannon balles seemed to impart new courage to the now exhausted frame.

Our brigade, while in the field, was exposed to the cross fire of two batteries which were concealed in a wood, as also were their infantry. Our men rushed on the edge of the wood, exposed to the balls and shells of both batteries, and made their discharges of musketry into the wood, in the direction of the enemy’s fire. – The cannonading on our side had nearly ceased when we went onto the field; and why our brigade was pushed on for two miles at double quick to face grape and shell, without any artillery on our side, is more than I can say. We had been on the field but a short time ere our batteries commenced moving from the field, and then the infantry were alone to withstand the charge of the cavalry, as ours had left us to cover the retreat. The rebels did not choose to make the charge until the order had come to retreat; then the Black Horse Cavalry of Jeff. Davis & Co. made a grand charge upon the Maine boys and some other regiments on the field. At this moment a cannon on the hill in our front gave them a dose of grape, at which they concluded to retire. The rebels sent shell and balls after us without effect. A perfect panic seemed to prevail in the whole army, and in one confused mass they moved on, exposed to a cross fire of the enemy, without any artillery to protect them in the rear. Such a sight was never seen on this continent. Each one was so sure of success at the commencement of the engagement, that a defeat was enough to turn the reason of the most calm. The cry arose that the rebels were going to cut us off, making the panic still greater, and each one aroused himself for the last great struggle. Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island troops were all in a confused mass; baggage carts upset; ambulances broken down; – yet the Black Horse cavalry were stopped in their advance by a telling shot from Sherman’s battery.

The retreat was kept up until we reached Centreville, when a small force came to our relief, which gave the men new courage, and they then began to rally. Here companies proceeded to their various encampments. We had settled down for the night, when the order came to retreat to Alexandria; then came the weary march of seven miles, by night, without food or rest, to Fairfax Court House; at which place we arrived about 2 o’clock on the morning of the 22d. After two hours rest we continued the march to Alexandria, making the distance of the retreat twenty-seven miles. It was a hard march; some were lame from sore feet, others slightly wounded; yet life was dear, though in misery.

The wounded that were unable to get from the field were left behind with the dead, and many of them were slaughtered by the brutal enemy. – History does not record such outrages among civilized beings. They even threw shell into the hospital while a flag of truce was fling from the roof. I hope the time will come ere long when the brutes will be obliged to kneel and beg for life at the point of the bayonet, held in the hands of the sturdy son of the North. Still, I trust that humane feelings will prevail in the heart of each soldier, though many feel a revenge that must be satisfied.

The great defect and cause of our defeat, as near as we can judge, was a lack of ammunition for the batteries. Infantry could do but little in storming such fortifications. Again they had 80,000 men, nearly tow to our one. Their loss was very large, as out troops had driven them from three batteries with a large loss each time, and by their own account they were badly cut up.

The Maine and Vermont boys did honor to themselves. They stood a raking fire for one hour, and when the order came to retreat they were among the last to leave the field, – and for one mile were exposed to the shell of the rebels. The loss of the 3d Maine was light, when the exposed situation is taken into consideration. – Their officers acted coolly and bravely in leading on their men to the attack. I think the Maine troops showed true courage in the foolhardy contest, though the New Yorkers do not in their columns make mention of Maine troops. I judge it to be for this reason – that when our brigade went on the field the day was against us, and those who were not particularly engaged left – such as reports for instance. Company C. went on with as full ranks as any in the regiment, and the boys went into the work with a true will. – The officers behaved manfully, encouraging their men, and faced the same stuff of Southern export, in shape of shot and shell, that the soldier must face. We are happy to say that they brought off their swords, but their revolvers were empty. The boys are full of pride, and think after a few days rest, they can go in again.



Gardiner (ME) Home Journal, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

3rd Maine Roster 

Lincoln Litchfield at Ancestry.com 

Pvt. Louis. L. Hingle, Co. E, 14th N. Y. S. M., On the Battle

3 03 2019

Company C*, 14th Regiment,
Camp Porter, July 23, 1861.

Friend Joe – I hasten to inform you that our boys are all well, not one of us shot, but some very narrow escapes, such as balls passing through our caps, coats, &c. I will now try and give you a description of the march and battle. When I wrote my last letter to you, we were about three miles from a small village named Centreville, then occupied by the rebels, but they left as soon as they heard we were coming, so we kept our camp all that day till 2 o’clock in the morning. We then marched towards Manassas, which is about twenty-six miles from Fairfax, but there was a masked battery on our way, which we must take, so we had to march about six miles around it, to get on the other side, which was through a dense woods. At the time the head of our Division arrived any way near the battery, they opened fire upon us, but they were darn poor shots, for nearly all of them went over our heads; but I tell you it was no fools-work to have these cannon balls come humming over our heads, and to see our boys keep their eyes open, so as to dodge them. As yet, we were about 2 ½ miles from their battery, so off went blankets, and all our knapsacks, with our grub, for ach man had to carry two days’ rations with him. So we right-shouldered our muskets and proceeded in double-quick time to the battery, and I tell you when we arrived there, our tongues hung out of our mouths like a parcel of half-choked men. – As we could not water or rest, it was pretty rough. Our cannon opened on their batteries, and our infantry charged on the woods, which were full of their infantry. – We drove them all up into the main battery on a hill. They then put us poor bummers on the side of a hill, in a ditch, for a mark of their rifle guns for about fifteen minutes. Then the First and Second Rhode Island made a charge with the Fire Zouaves on their right, and we on the left, but the Rhode Island boys got played out, and retired, so that there was none left but the Zouaves and us, when they charged on us with their cavalry, about eight hundred men. We shot, that is the Zouaves and us, about half of them, so that they ran back like thunder. So there would another regiment come up and relieve us, and son on, till the rebels got reinforced with about twenty thousand men from Manassas, which was only two hour’s ride from them, and the railroad in good working order, so we retreated to Arlington Heights. We marched altogether, sixty miles. But coming through the woods, they cut us off and took a great many prisoners. The report is that they killed all our wounded, for they shelled the Hospital with all our wounded in it. There are about twenty of our company killed and missing, and about three hundred of the regiment. I will write soon and give you all the particulars. Remember me and Henry to mother. – Write soon.

I remain yours,

L. L. H.*

Brooklyn Evening Star, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

84th New York Infantry (14th N. Y. S. M.) Roster

*Likely Pvt. Louis L. Hingle, enlisted 4/18/61. Although listed in the above roster as being in Co. E, there is also a Henry W. Hingle in that same company. Either the Evening Star mislabeled the letter, or the roster is incorrect. Ancestry.com shows L. L. Hingle as mustering into Co. E. A muster roll abstract at Fold3 shows Co. E as well. The evening Star appears to have either misprinted the company or read the “E” in the original letter as “C,” an easy enough mistake to make.

Louis L. Hingle at Ancestry.com

Louis L. Hingle at Fold3

Louis L. Hingle at FindAGrave 

J. S.*, Co. H, 14th N. Y. S. M., On the Battle

2 03 2019

Headquarters, 14th Regt., N. Y. S. M.,
Camp Porter, Co. H,
Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Father, Mother, and Sister: – I now take this opportunity to let you know the hardships I have gone through since writing my last letter. On last Tuesday, the 16th, we left our encampment, and marched to Fairfax, and on the Court House the rebel flag was flying; but it soon came down, and the stars and stripes were hoisted. The rebels fled as soon as we came in sight, leaving everything after them. We then pursued them to Centreville, and from there to Bull’s Run, where we opened fire on them from six different points, at to o’clock, Sunday morning, the 21st. The battle lasted for about six hours. There was a heavy loss on both sides. We marched thirty miles from Centreville, without sleep, and nothing but hard crackers, and dirty water to drink. When we had got ten miles from Bull’s Run, they had the road blocked up with trees and all the bridges torn down, which took us a long time to repair and resume our march. General McDowell headed our Brigade, which numbered about six thousand. General McDowell ordered the Fourteenth up a road to head the enemy off, when the Seventy-first Regiment of New York fired upon us, thinking that we were rebels, killing and wounded about forty of our Regiment. We were then ordered back to the rear of the field. We then loaded, and marched with the Fire Zouaves, and fired two volleys into the rebel troops, when they returned the fire, and we were mowed down like grass. I am very sorry to tell you that our Colonel was shot in that volley. I stepped out of the ranks, and lifted him up and put my musket under him, and helped carry him off the field. He was shot through the thigh. That was the last I saw of him after leaving the hospital. He has not returned to the camp since, and it is feared by the boys that he has been taken prisoner. As I was coming back after leaving the Colonel, a shell broke, killing and wounding sixteen of our Regiment. One piece of it struck my cap, and took it about 12 yards off my head. I wish you would tell Jimmy Doyle and the boys that Lewis Francis had his head taken off his shoulders. I managed to get off without a scratch, and I thank God for it; but my clothes were all torn to pieces. Our Major showed himself the smartest man on the field, and our Regiment has gained for itself a name which will never be forgotten. I am very glad to tell that we caved our Captain and Lieutenant Davie, and Mr. Weeks safe also, and Mr. McBride. It was the most heart-rending scene I ever witnessed, to see my comrades strewn dead under my feet. After retreating, which we did after advancing three times without success, we saw them advancing and killing our wounded men. Our gallant color bearer planted the stars and bars within ten feet of the rebels’ battery, when he was shot dead. When we were retreating, they came around at the back of us and tried to cut off our retreat, and I was taken prisoner and taken about half a mile from the rebel camp, when the cavalry headed them off through the woods, and saved me. I then made double quick time for about two miles, when I thought I was all safe, so I laid down and took a sleep for about four hours, when a man woke me up and told me that the enemy was about five miles off and coming toward us. All the things we had except our arms we had to throw away, and run, for fear of being captured again. There was an old house on the battle field, which we used for the hospital for our wounded, and the enemy threw a bomb shell into it and it is supposed killed all that were in it. There are very large bodies of men coming over from Washington now, and we expect to make another attack the week; but I don’t think we will go, as there is not more than half of the Regiment left. There is some talk here about sending us home for our gallant conduct during the battle of Sunday. Jim McNamara is all safe. As for Tome, in the Seventy-first, I did not see him. I will try and see him by my next letter.

J. S.

Brooklyn Evening Star, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

84th New York Infantry (14th N. Y. S. M.) Roster

*Possibly Pvt. James Seymour, enlisted 4/18/61, or Pvt. John Shannon, enlisted 4/18/61, or Pvt. John Smith, enlisted 5/23/61.

Pvt. George L. Smith, Co. C, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle

20 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]


Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Brother: Fearing that you might hear a report of my being killed in the disastrous action of the 21st, I take this method of informing you and other friends that I am alive, and by the intervention of Providence, untouched – I have experienced a new sensation lately – that of hearing the rush of shot and shell, and of seeing friends and companions in arms falling by my side in the cold embrace of glorious death. We were driven – routed – but not until the ground was covered with the slain. We were not disheartened. We hope to regain and will regain our position, or die in the attempt. I can give no certain account of our loss, as we retired in disorder. Probably 100 killed outright and 250 wounded in this Regiment alone. Our wounded will, I fear be killed at last. I have heard that the house used as a hospital was burned and all killed. The enemy were in a strong force, and after the charge was made they had batteries which could not be seen until they opened fire, and then only by the smoke. We were rushed up in disorder to a masked battery, with a large number of the enemy in a concealed trench. We discovered them before they fired, but our officers refused to let us fire, because they said they were friends, but they fired, and many a gallant heart ceased beating. We dropped on the ground and fired, reloaded and fired, and kept firing. We were repulsed, and returned again; again separated and again rallied on our colors, which we brought with us from the field.

In our Company, C, the color Co., we lost about 25 killed, our Captain wounded, 2d Lieut. do, 3 Sergeants killed, or missing, and some 6 others slightly scratched. I was loading the 5th time, when a ball passed between my fingers, taking my ramrod from my hand, leaving me with a useless gun, until I could pick up another ramrod. I got one, but it was too large at the large end, and I had to load with the small end. Well, I gave them about 14 rounds, and then left with a mixed crowd of Fire Zouaves, Minnessota, and Massachusetts troops, Garibaldi Guards and U. S. Regulars.

They killed our wounded on the field, and we understand they killed all in our hospitals, They were in strong force, – and were reinforced by 10,000 men, just as we were marched on to them. * * * Please write, and send papers, and have others do so, for we are much pleased to get them in camp. Direct to Co. C, 1st Regiment Minnesota Volunteers, Washington, D. C.

Yours, &c.,

Geo. L. Smith

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

George L. Smith bio 

George L. Smith at Fold3

Pvt. Benjamin Franklin Spencer, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

19 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]


Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Father: It is with a feeling of the deepest sadness that I seat myself to write these few lines to you. Sunday last is a day that will for long be remembered by me and thousands of others. It was this day we had the fight at Bull Run. This place is in the hands of the rebels. We were marched out to the battle field about 10 o’clock in the morning, and the battle lasted until 4 in the afternoon. We were to have 60,000 men and had only 18,000. The rebels had [?]0,000 men. We fought till the order to retreat was given, then we retreated and left the field, much to our regret, to the rebels. In the first place we were in no order to fight. Most of our troops were tired completely out. Some of them marched 20 miles before we got there. Our regiment marched from 2 o’clock the night before till 10 the next day, and the last 2 miles we run. We were very tired, but not scared. Sufice it to say we were whipped, or drove back.

I will try to give you a list of the names of the wounded and dead in our company, for that is as far as I can go. I fear Bill Spencer is among the lost. William Henry Parker, is dead. Sam’l Estabrooks is dead.

The ensign of our company, his name is Parks, was shot through the heart by a Minnie rifle ball. O[?] M[?]awley was hit by a cannon ball in the foot. Probably he bled to death. Our Colonel was badly wounded in the thigh. It was broken twice; they think he will recover. I hope he will, for he is as fine a man as ever lived in the world. One Charles Fairchilds killed. Nelson came very near being killed by a grape shot. It just missed his arm and that is all. All of the wounded that were left on the field the rebels came out and killed, running their bayonets through them. Napoleon Elliott had the seat of his breeches shot off. He turned around to lead, and a cannon ball took of his breeches as clean across the right hip as it could be done with the shears. Out of 94 men in our company only 35 are gone. Some companies can’t count 40 men. We are those alive in Camp Anderson. After the fight they followed us most to Washington. Just think of marching 40 miles in about 18 hours, and being chased by some four times our number. What are alive are in Washington. I got hit in my thigh by a spent ball, not to hurt me very much, but it is very lame.

Your son,

Franklin Spencer

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Benjamin Franklin Spencer roster bio 

Benjamin Franklin Spencer at Fold3 

Pvt. Frederick Fowler, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

17 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]


Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Brother: Last Sunday was a day which I shall long remember, as will many others. We were marched to the place called Bull Run, where we fired into them and they at us as hard as they could, but they had such an advantage that they cut out troops all to pieces, and we retreated, they firing into us. We got back to a hill and laid down, and then we got up and went at them again. They were too much for us, for they drove us off the ground. Out of the regiment I am in there are 300 and over killed. The Colonel was shot but not killed. All the boys that went from Coventry have got back, but I don’t think there are any of them but what got hit somewheres. Pole Elliott got his pants most all shot off of him, and others were hit, but not bad enough to lay them up. I think the next battle will be at Arlington Heights but it is hard telling. * * * They have got more men than any one tho’t of, and they have got to be taken in a different shape. I don’t think our company will see any more action very soon, as it is badly cut up. I think it will be kept as a guard in camp. * *

* * It was the hardest fight ever fought in this country. No one knows how many were killed on either side, but I hope there is as many of them as of ours, for after the Doctors had dressed the wounds of our men and taken them to the hospitals, they came up and killed them all. That is enough to show what the devils will do.

Truly Yours,

Frederick Fowler

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Frederick Fowler roster bio 

Fredercik Fowler at Fold3