Pvt. Eugene H. Fales*, Co. E, 14th New York State Militia, On the Battle

31 08 2021

OUR WAR CORRESPONDENCE.

—————-

From a Soldier in the 14th.

Arlington Heights, Va. July 28.

We did a harder 31 hours work last Sunday and part of Monday than I ever thought I was able to do, or ever expect to do again. We marked 65 miles between 2 o’clock Sunday morning, and 11 Monday A. M., besides fighting and manoeuvring on the battle-field. Previous to coming up with the enemy, which we did at a quarter of 12, we had marched 15 miles, with nothing to eat but a few crackers, which we ate as we went along. We emerged from the cover of the woods on a double quick step, throwing away blankets, and haversacks containing rations, to relieve ourselves of the burden we were no longer able to endure, and reaching the hill where Griffin’s West Point Battery was stationed, we sat down amid the flying balls for a few moment’s rest, being almost completely exhausted. The ball was now fairly opened, and the rebels getting proper range of us, our position became too hot, and rendered a change necessary, as a number of our boys had been wounded, but none killed. We then went into a deep gulch, through which ran a muddy stream, the identical Bull Run, the only water we saw after getting three miles beyond Centreville. We rushed into it, bathed our hands and heads, and filled our canteens. Stopping a few moments, the Fire Zouaves passed and formed in line behind their battery, on the top of a hill. They had been there but a few moments, when they were fired upon, with deadly effect, from a concealed battery, not more than 20 yards to their right, and a little to the rear. The fire was so sudden and unexpected that the Zouaves’ tanks were broken and forced part way down the hill, and before they had time to recover, the enemy had dashed out, took their battery, and carried it behind their breastworks in the bushes. The Zouaves made two or three desperate charges, and then retreated down the hill, the 14th marching up and taking its place. We had scarcely reached the top of the hill when a bomb-shell came crashing through our company, striking down eight – three were killed instantly. After firing two or three shots, I was struck down by a spent grape shot, but merely stunned. I came to just in time to take part in the third charge, which was the most desperate of all. We carried our flag up to the very muzzle of their guns, and would have entered their works had they not at that moment opened a cross fire on us from a thicket, on our right, which compelled us to retreat. The 69th came to our relief and taking our place, fought desperately, but our artillery leaving the field at the top of their speed tended much to create a panic that was impossible to check. But one thing is true of all the regiments with one or two exceptions; the men remained on the field after their officers had left.

Our brave Major, (Major Jordan) was the conspicuous man on the field. Seated on a handsome grey horse, he seemed to be every where present, giving orders and cheering on the men – was among the last to leave the field and kept in the rear until we reached Centreville. When taken Capt. Jordan, who was severely wounded in his arm put spurs to his horse and dashed between two regiments – which were drawn up in line of battle, on either side of the road, and which we at first took for a body of the enemy trying to cut of our retreat, but who proved to be friends – at the top of his speed.

We left the battle field at 8 o’clock and reached our camping ground at Centreville about 9 p. m. – laid down and rested about an hour, and continued our march without stopping more than a moment or two at a time till we reached here at 11 o’clock the next morning. All did not get in till late of Tuesday, having lain down exhausted by the road side. For two or three days we were so stiff that it was difficult to stir around much, although we are all about right again now.

A few nights before the battle, I caught a severe cold by lying out in a rain storm, on the wet ground, but have got most over it now.

Our regiment is now stationed where the 8th were, on the heights, at Gen. Lee’s house, the Headquarters of Gen. McDowell and staff.

Having heard so much of the natural wealth of Virginia, I took particular notice on our march, that I might find out in what it consisted. The first thing that attracted my attention was a few deserted houses on the road to Centreville, few and far between, plenty of “niggers,” some fine patches of Indian-corn, wide extended forests, and masked batteries. From my observations I drew the conclusion that the natural productions of the sod are: first, “masked batteries,” second, “Niggers,” third, forests, fourth, Indian corn, fifth, unmitigated scamps.

Two of our mess are missing. Charles E. Davenport, mentioned in the papers, was one, and was also one of those struck down by the shell I mentioned in my letter, but he was not killed, only slightly wounded in the neck; the last that was seen of him was about three miles from the battle field, coming through the woods; he is probably a prisoner. The other, Malcolm Stone, a very fine young fellow, was wounded in the shoulder by a cannon ball. I found him when I was leaving the battle ground, and carried him to Sudley’s church which was used as a hospital, and staid with hm until every one that was able to walk was compelled to leave. I first got a promise from one of the doctors, that every attention would be given him that was possible, but I feel that he was killed by the shells which were fired at the church. It was well that I left as I did, for I was not more than a few minutes from the place, when the firing commenced on the church.

Our Colonel was wounded in the thigh, and was brought safely as far as the bridge, three miles beyond Centreville, where he arrived just as the firing from the masked battery, which there opened on us, was the heaviest. He was in an ambulance, many of which were blown to pieces.

When the first shot was fired there, I, with Jno. York, one of our mess, was walking quite leisurely towards the bridge, and some tow hundred feet from it – the shot, a twelve pounder, struck behind us, bounded over our heads, and rolled down the road into the stream; then came a perfect shower of shot and shell. York took to the stream on the left, and dashing to his arm-pits, waded across. I dashed over the bridge, it being easier and quicker accomplished, and too to the woods on the right, where the shot did not seem to fall, most of it going to the left. There were dead horses, ambulances, baggage, wagons, and cannon all in a heap on the bridge. Walker is well and safe. York came into camp about the same time I did. A very heavy thunder storm is now raging, but we have just about the best arranged tent in the camp, and manage to keep dry – board floor, table in the center, &c.

Yours, truly,
Eugene H. Foley.

Brooklyn (NY) Times Union, 8/1/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

* While the name in the paper is Foley, that name is not listed in the roster of the 14th NYSM (84th NYVI). However, Eugen H. Fales is listed in Co. E, and other soldiers mentioned by Foley as messmates (York, Davenport, Stone) are all found as having enlisted in Co. E. No information on Eugene H. Foley located other than a pension application for Eugene H. Foley noted as having served in the 69th New York Infantry. Hat tip to reader James McLean.

14th NYSM (84th NYVI) Roster

Eugene H. Fales at Ancestry

Eugene H. Fales at Fold3

Eugene H. Fales at FindAGrave





Corp. William Howard Merrell, Co. E, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle, Wounding, Capture, and Treatment

16 01 2021

In compliance with the request of friends in Rochester, and in pursuance of a resolution previously formed, I propose to publish a few reminiscences of my involuntary sojourn in the “Old Dominion.”

The events which I am about to narrate are of so recent occurrence, that a retentive memory would suffice to recall them with all due exactness and circumstantiality; but were it otherwise, I have only to turn to a little pocket diary, which has been a faithful and indelible reflector of all important occurrences, as they transpired, during a five months’ imprisonment in the Rebel Capital.

In presenting this narrative, I claim for it nothing but TRUTHFULLNESS – “a plain and unvarnished tale,” wherein I shall

“Nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice;”

and may safely appeal to my late prison associates for the confirmation of any statement that is likely to be called into question.

With a view to form a connected narrative, I shall relate events in the order in which they transpired, commencing with my personal observations at the battle of Bull Run; yet, as it is no part of my design to describe that memorable engagement, I shall wholly confine myself to facts and incidents relating to my own regiment, the 27th N. Y. S. V. This regiment was organized at the Elmira Rendezvous in the month of May, and was ordered to Washington on the 10th of July. It consisted of three companies from Binghamton, one from Rochester, one from Albion, one from Lyons, one from Lima, one from Angelica, one from White Plains, and one from Mt. Morris. The field officers were Col. H. W. Slocum of Syracuse, Lt Col. J. J. Chambers of White Plains, and Maj. J. J. Bartlett of Binghamton. The regiment had the reputation of being one of the best officered in the service, and notwithstanding that it was newly recruited and but partially inured to the hardships of camp life, it was believed to be as effectually disciplined as any volunteer corps in the army of the Potomac.

The 27th did not participate in the action of Thursday the 18th of July, but in that of the Sunday following their mettle was fully tested, and I believe that no impartial eye-witness of the battle of Bull Run will maintain that any regiment, whether regular or volunteer, exhibited a greater degree of gallantry on the field, maneuvered with better regularity or precision, were more exposed to the enemy’s fire, or suffered more severely from its effects, than the one which has been facetiously christened the “Mutual Admiration Society” of Elmira. Notwithstanding the unaccustomed fatigue of an early and protracted march on Sunday morning, the feeling of the troops was animated, and they literally went on their way rejoicing. The enemy seemed hastily to abandon every position as we advanced, and the fact that the progress of the Union army from Washington had been marked only by a succession of light skirmishes, the less reflecting felt assured that we should not encounter a sufficient resistance on the way to Manassas, or even to Richmond, to furnish an appetite for rations. Yet how sadly different was the result.

Glancing back upon the interminable line of the Grand Army, as its several columns crept gradually toward Centreville – the sunlight flashing upon the serried bayonets, the regimental banners fluttering in the morning breeze, and the huge masses moving steadily, noiselessly and with the beautiful regularity of a street parade – the view was grand and imposing in the extreme, and though momentary, seemed worth the sight-seeing experience of an entire life. But the eventful scenes were to come, and the predictions of those who assumed that the enemy were disposed to let us “onward to Richmond” without contesting our ability to force a passage, were speedily silenced by the sound of heavy artillery from the batteries to which we had been lured. There was no longer doubting the fact that we were approaching the field of battle. The roar of cannon was succeeded by the roll of musketry, which at every step became more and more audible, and it was easy to perceive that though not with us, yet elsewhere the work of carnage and of death had already commenced in earnest.

As I before intimated, I shall attempt no general description of our engagement, but rather confine myself in this connection to a narrative of events, as they transpired, in my immediate vicinity, and within the scope of my own observation.

It was my good fortune to be selected as one of the color-guard of the 27th. Soon after entering the field, we saw at a distance what appeared to be our National Flag, but which was in reality that of the enemy. While we were still in doubt, but advancing, Adjutant Jenkins rode forward, with the remark that he would soon determine whether they were friends or foes. He placed his havelock on the point of his sword, which he held aloft as a flag of truce, but as he approached them he was greeted with a volley of musketry. Unharmed, however, he rode quickly back to his regiment, exclaiming, with considerable emphasis, “Give ‘em —, boys.” The 27th responded by opening their hottest(!) fire, and the enemy scattered. We subsequently learned that they were the 27th Virginia volunteers.

We continued to advance till confronted by the 8th Georgia, who stood their ground manfully for a time, loading and firing with great rapidity. They could not, however, withstand the regular and accurate discharges of the 27th, and we finally drove them back to a considerable distance, where they were reinforced. We were then in turn repulsed, and took refuge under a hill, where we remained until another advance was ordered.

(It was while resting here that one of my comrades, William Hanlon, of Rochester, Co. E, was most severely wounded. He was struck in the right leg by a cannon ball, and was thought to be killed outright. He survived, however, a cripple, to become a prisoner at Richmond, and was released and sent home on the 6th of October.)

Soon after this event Col. Slocum, our gallant commander, was ordered to charge a battery stationed on a knoll to our left, and was fearlessly leading on his regiment, in the midst of a tremendous fire, when he fell, severely wounded, and was immediately taken from the field. The occurrence was a severe blow to the regiment, who regarded their brave commander with a feeling of boundless affection. Happily he was spared to receive the appointment of Brigadier General, and the 27th is still under his charge.

The first member of the color-guard who was “stuck” was Corporal Fairchild. The regiment had for a moment halted, when the Corporal staggered back, crying, “O, boys, I am struck!” Placing his hand upon his breast, with the expectation, as he afterwards said, of finding it “covered with blood,” he accidently felt the ball (a grapeshot) in his shirt pocket! He immediately pulled it out, exclaiming, “Thank God, I am safe!” It was a spent ball. The Corporal survived the battle to become a prisoner at Richmond.

In the meantime the action had become fierce and sanguinary, and every soldier in the ranks realized that his regiment was quite as severely “exposed” as the most ardent-minded and valorous could desire. Our numbers were greatly diminished, and though our discharges were rapid, they had become irregular, and the men loaded and fired promiscuously. An incident may be related in this connection of rather a novel character. Corporal S—-s, of Rochester, a young man, who, since his enlistment, had been somewhat distinguished among his comrades for a religious zeal, fought manfully with the “full assurance of faith.” With every load of his musket he uttered an audible prayer to this effect: “O, Lord, send this bullet to the heart of a rebel, and spare my life!” A Manxman, who stood beside him, and who was quite as energetically engaged in the “discharge” of duty, censoriously retorted: “Hoot mon – shoot more and pray less!” Shooting was evidently the most pressing business in hand, but our Manxman, was probably not aware that a Yankee seldom attempts to do one thing at a time, and that it was quite proper to put two irons in the fire when the conflagration was so general and so extensive.

The 27th Regiment continued to march unflinchingly forward, literally amid a storm of “leaden rain and iron ball.” Indeed, it seemed as though we were confronting an avalanche of bullets. Many were mowed down. I think that but one of our line officers then deserted his post of duty, and a few days since I met him in the streets of Rochester, wearing the uniform of a private. To my inquiring upon this subject, he admitted that he had been cashiered in consequence of his behavior on that occasion, and that he afterward returned home. “But,” said he, “I could not help it; I ran despite of myself, for we were marching into the jaws of death. I am not a coward, and I mean to prove it. Therefore I have enlisted as a private soldier, and if I ever participate in another battle, I mean to stand my ground.”

In less than half an hour after the fall of General Slocum, the ranks of the color-guard were reduced from nine to two. The colors were large and weighty, and Sergeant Freeman having become quite exhausted, and myself too much so to relieve him, Major (now Colonel) Bartlett, who perceived the situation of affairs, came to our assistance. Riding along the line, and waving the colors above his head, he shouted, “Boys, will you fight for this?” The response was general and enthusiastic.

A large number of the enemy were discovered in the front, and the 27th advanced towards them, Sergeant Freeman again being in possession of the colors. At this conjuncture, while my piece was leveled, I received a ball in the breast and fell, remarking to my comrade that I should have to leave him. The Sergeant gave me a glance so full of sympathy at my misfortune that I never can forget it, and with the regiment passed on to meet the enemy. I crept to a rail fence near by, and lay insensible about fifteen or twenty minutes, as I should judge, and upon regaining consciousness, discovered that I was surrounded by numbers of dead and wounded. The immediate vicinity was not then occupied by troops. The first notable object that excited my attention was a Union soldier, who was wounded in the left arm, which lay powerless at his side. He was standing beside the fence, his piece resting upon the rail, and which, after taking deliberate aim, he discharged at the enemy. He then dropped his musket, and came a laid down beside me. No more passed between us, but I imagined he had obtained “satisfaction” for his own grievances.

While still lying in my position, I beheld another Union soldier at a short distance, climbing the fence. He held his musket in his right hand, but while astride of the fence, and in the act of getting down, a cannon-shot struck the rail, shattering it in pieces, and sending its rider whirling and summersetting in the air, with a velocity that would have astonished the most accomplished acrobat. He gathered himself up with almost an equal degree of alacrity, and started on “double quick” toward our own forces. He had proceeded but a few feet, however, when he came to a halt. Casting his eyes over his shoulder, and perceiving that he was unpursued, he scratched his head thoughtfully for a moment, and then ran back and recovered his musket and started again for his regiment. I was in too much pain and bewilderment at the time to fully appreciate the comicality of this performance, but have since enjoyed many a hearty chuckle upon its reflection.

There was a great deal of skirmishing upon the field, and many instances of personal bravery particularly worthy of remark. I noticed, for example, one soldier leave his regiment, and crossing the field and leaping the fence, load and fire several times at a squad of cavalry. He was finally discovered, and three or four of their number rode down upon him. One who was in advance of the rest, came upon “our hero” as he was in the act of loading. He had driven the ball home, but had not withdrawn the ramrod. The horseman raised his sabre, and the next instant, as it appeared to me, the volunteer was to be short by a head; but suddenly inverting his musket, he dropped out the ramrod, and in the twinkling of an eye emptied the saddle and started back to his regiment. After proceeding a few rods, and finding that the enemy had given up the chase, he started back to recover his ramrod, and with it returned in triumph to his regiment, where he was greeted with rousing cheers.

But it is needless to multiply instances of this nature, so many of which have been already published by the press. The movements upon the field had in the meantime changed in such a manner that I found the spot where I lay exposed to the cross firing, and accordingly crept to the cellar of “the old stone house.” The passage was not unattended with danger, the rebels making a target of every living object upon that section of the field, (from which our troops had retreated,) and their balls whizzed briskly about me. The cellar in which I found refuge was already occupied by many other wounded Union soldiers, who had likewise sought its shelter. They were lying in the mud and water upon the ground. Upon entering, I discovered Corporal Fairchild, (above mentioned, of the 27th,) who was moving about among the wounded, exerting himself to relieve their sufferings by stanching their wounds, etc. Their distracted and agonizing cries would have moved the most obdurate heart to pity. “Water, water!” was the prayer upon every tongue, but it was unavailing. To linger upon such a scene is to recall one of the most painful experiences of my life, and one which no words can adequately depict. The floor above was also covered with wounded soldiers, whose cries could be distinctly heard. I was not then aware that my comrades, Clague and Hanlon, of Rochester, were among the occupants of the upper floor.

The cross firing of the troops continued, and the rattle of musket balls against the walls of the building was almost incessant. A number of them entered the windows, wounding three of the inmates.

A cannon-shot also passed through the building, but inflicted no bodily injury. Pending these occurrences, two rebel soldiers entered the cellar, one of them seeking shelter in the fire-place. They were both unwounded. The occupant of the fire-place, however, had not fairly ensconced himself when a musket ball passed through his leg. The other, who was lying by my side, was also severely wounded – fitting penalty for their cowardice and desertion.

Finding that the building was likely to be destroyed by the continued firing, one of our number went to the door, and placing a havelock on his bayonet waved it aloft in the air. This hospital signal was greeted with a shower of balls from the Confederates, and he was compelled to retire. Subsequently a yellow flag was displayed from the floor above, but it was likewise disregarded.

The wounded were perishing with thirst. At the distance of about two rods from the building was a pump, and one noble fellow (whose name I regret that I have forgotten) took two canteens and went out to obtain water. While do doing he received five or six musket balls, in different portions of his body, from the rebel forces – yet was not fatally injured. Though very low he was still alive, an inmate of prison hospital No. 2, when I left Richmond. He will ever be remembered with gratitude and affection by those who witnessed his noble conduct, and shared in the benefits of his exploit. It is my opinion that between fifty and sixty men fell in the immediate vicinity of the pump and “the old stone house.”

From the position in which I lay, glancing outward, I could discover the movements of troops upon the field, and at times with tolerable distinctness. The battle seemed general, but irregular, and I witnessed no bayonet charges, or murderous hand-to-hand conflicts. The thrilling pictures by “our special artist, taken upon the spot,” subsequently to adorn the pages of our enterprising illustrated weeklies, must have been “through a glass, darkly,” or in the heated imaginations of that ubiquitous class of correspondents who simultaneously indite at Hong Kong, Constantinople and Salt Lake City, and invariably reach the sanctum in time to read the proof of their own missives.

The observations and impressions of another spectator of the same field, are thus truthfully and graphically described:

I’ll tell you what I heard that day:
I heard the great guns, far away,
Boom after boom. Their sullen sound
Shook all the shuddering air around.

“What saw I?” Little. Clouds of dust;
Great squares of men, with standards thrust
Against their course; dense columns crowned
With billowing steel. Then, bound on bound,
The long black lines of cannon poured
Behind the horses, streaked and gored
With sweaty speed. Anon shot by,
Like a long meteor of the sky,
A single horseman; and he shone
His bright face on me, and was gone.
All these, with rolling drums, with cheers.
With songs familiar to my ears,
Passed under the far hanging cloud.
And vanished, and my heart was proud!

At length a solemn stillness fell
Upon the land. O’er hill and dell
Failed every sound. My heart stood still,
Waiting before some coming ill.
The silence was more sad and dread,
Under that canopy of lead,
Than the wild tumult of the war
That raged a little while before.
All nature, in her work of death,
Paused for one last, despairing breath;
And, cowering to the earth, I drew
From her strong breast, my strength anew.

When I arose, I wondering saw
Another dusty vapor draw
From the far right, its sluggish way
Towards the main cloud, that frowning lay
Against the westward sloping sun;
And all the war was re-begun,
Ere this fresh marvel of my sense
Caught from my mind significance.
O happy dead, who early fell,
Ye have no wretched tale to tell
Of causeless fear and coward flight,
Of victory snatched beneath your sight,
Of martial strength and honor lost,
Of mere life brought any cost.
Ye perished in your conscious pride,
Ere this misfortune opened wide
A wound that cannot close or heal
Ye perished steel to leveled steel,
Stern votaries of the god of war,
Filled with his godhead to the core!

While our forces were on the retreat, pursued by the rebels, a body of troops halted at the stone building, entered with bayonets, and demanded a surrender! They were to all appearances as much intimidated as though they had anticipated a successful resistance. None was made, however. No violence was offered to the prisoners, and in this connection, I may state that I saw no “bayoneting” whatever committed by the enemy at Bull Run. Our arms were delivered up, and a few moments afterward I was led and half-carried away to the quarters of Gen. Beauregard, situate at a distance of perhaps half a mile. Before reaching there, we encountered Gen. Beauregard, flanked by Johnson and Davis, riding across the field. Their countenances were illuminated with a mingled feeling of joy and exultation, and they could well afford, as they did, to salute an unfortunate prisoner. The head-quarters consisted of a large white house. It was filled with wounded soldiers, undergoing surgical attention. Fragments of human bodies were strewed upon the verandah and about the building, and large numbers of both Union and rebel wounded lay outside upon the ground.

On arriving at head-quarters, my guard, who was a private soldier, pointed me out to a “Louisiana Tiger,” and performed the ceremony of introduction by saying, “Here’s one of our Tigers!” – and – “Here’s a d—-d Yankee!” I expected a savage growl, not to say the roughest of embraces at the hands of the savage forester, and was not a little surprised when he approached me kindly, with the remark, “Are you wounded, sir?” I replied in the affirmative, when he resumed, “I am sorry for you. I hope you will soon recover, and be restored to your friends,” My companion, the guard, appeared to be quite as much astonished as myself; though less agreeably so, I have no doubt.

The case above may have been exceptional, for I was afterwards subjected to frequent insults from private soldiers, though kindly treated, in general, by the “Confederate” officers.

Night closed in with a pouring rain, and the wounded lay upon the ground unsheltered. I slept soundly, after these unaccustomed hardships, and was awakened by the sound of the morning reveille. My arm was stiff, my wound extremely painful, and my physical powers quite exhausted. A Lieutenant approached me and inquired as to my condition, and I begged him to find me a shelter. He absented himself for a short time, and then returned to say that there was but one place to be had, and that was a tent which was already filled with Confederate wounded, but if I was content to lay in the water for the sake of a shelter overhead, he would try to provide for me. I gladly accepted the offer, and soon found myself at the place indicated. As I entered, a wounded Confederate soldier, who had a blanket above and another beneath him, offered me one of them, which I at first politely declined. He however insisted, and I was soon enjoying its protection. Soon after, I observed a young man standing at the opening of the tent and looking within. As he glanced at me I nodded, and stooping down he kindly inquired if he could do anything to relieve me. After some conversation, I gave him the address of my wife, begging him to write and inform her of my misfortune, etc. He was, it appears, a Methodist student, and though a private soldier in the ranks of the rebels, was then acting in the capacity of Chaplain, and administering consolation to the wounded. I should occupy too much space in reporting our discussions at length. Before leaving, he kneeled in the water at my side and offered one of the most eloquent and moving applications to which I have ever listened. He soon after fulfilled his promise to notify my family of my condition, and subsequently, during my imprisonment, called upon me and placed in my hand five dollars and a copy of the Bible. I shall ever treasure it as a memento of our brief acquaintance, and of my heartfelt gratitude toward William E. Boggs, of Wainsboro, South Carolina.

While I was lying in the tent of the wounded “Confederates,” a private soldier who had just received his ration, (consisting of half a pint of coffee, a hard biscuit, and a small piece of bacon,) brought it to me, saying “You need this more than I do.” I at first hesitated to accept it, but he urged it upon me, remarking “We were enemies yesterday, in the field, but we are friends to-day, in misfortune.”

I would again state that these are exceptional instances of the feeling generally manifested by the rebels toward their prisoners, and the fact rather enhances my feeling of gratitude for the kind-hearted treatment, of which, at times, I was so singularly the recipient.

While the above was transpiring, a number of officers were standing near, convening, and one of them asked me how it was that men who fought so bravely could retreat, when the day was fairly their own? The speaker said it was at first believed to be a “Yankee trick” or the Confederates would have followed up their advantage! He solicited my opinion on this subject, and I assured him (of what I fully believed) that our forces would unquestionably return, and quite as unexpectedly as they had retired.

I was soon informed that all of the prisoners whose condition was such as to withstand the fatigues of the journey, would be immediately removed to Manassas; and soon after I was placed in a lumber wagon, beside one other prisoner and three wounded rebels, and we reached our destination after about an hour’s drive through a forest road. It struck me as rather significant that the direct road was avoided, and hence no prisoner transported in this manner was afforded an inspection of the enemy’s defenses.

The rain continued to poor in torrents, and without intermission. As we arrived opposite the depot at Manassas, I was afforded a glimpse of the place. The most prominent was the hospital, a large frame structure, opposite to which was the only battery to be seen in the vicinity. The only mounted piece was a shell-mortar. There were perhaps a dozen small frame buildings, which comprised the “Junction” proper. All of these seemed to have been appropriated to the accommodation of the Confederate wounded. Numerous tents had been pitched for a similar purpose, and temporary sheds were also in process of erection.

The Confederates were assisted from the wagon; my fellow-prisoner also descended and went off to obtain shelter, and even the guard and driver, thoroughly drowned out by the deluge, deserted their posts of duty, and left me to

“Bide the pelting of the pitiless storm”

in solitude. I finally managed to get out upon the ground, and crept along, “swimmingly,” to the hospital. There I was refused admission, on account of its over-crowded state, but finally prevailed upon the steward to let me within the hall, where with a number of others, I remained for about one hour. As formerly, when I had reached almost the lowest depth of despondency, I was so fortunate to secure a friend in a wounded rebel soldier. In the course of our conversation, he informed me that all of the prisoners were to be conveyed to Richmond. He was going as far as Culpepper, where his parents resided, and he assured me that if I desired to go with him, I should receive the best of medical care and attention. I accepted the kind offer conditionally, as I did not wish to be separated from my wounded comrades. He then – upon receiving my parole of honor – assumed the responsibility of my custody, and we were soon among the passengers of a crowded train, and speeding “on to Richmond.”

The journey occupied two days, the train being required to halt at every station from one to three hours. All along the route great crowds of people were assembled, consisting mostly of women and children, and at almost every place large numbers of Confederate wounded were removed from the cars, followed by weeping and distracted relatives. Some of these scenes were very affecting.

Davis, Lee, and other Confederate magnates, accompanied us as far as Orange Court House, and at intervening points the first named was called out upon the platform to speak to the multitudes. At some villages, the women thronged about the cars, offering refreshments to the wounded, both Union and Confederate, but more particularly to the former, whom they seemed to regard with mingled curiosity and favor. I suspected that the sympathies of some were even more deeply enlisted than they dared to avow. We were invariably addressed as “Yankees,” and there were frequent inquiries respecting “Old Scott, the traitor,” and “Old Lincoln, the tyrant.” The ladies generally expressed a benevolent desire to “get hold” of the hero of Lundy’s Lane, in order to string him up.

Arriving at Culpepper, the daughter of Major Lee, a young and beautiful damsel, came up to the window from which I leaned, and asked if she could do anything for me; and added, “What did you come down here for?” (This had become a stereotyped query.) I replied, “To protect the Stars and Stripes and preserve the Union.”

My questioner then proceeded, after the uniform custom, to berate Gen. Scott. “That miserable old Scott – a Virginian by birth – a traitor to his own State – we all hate him!” And the heightened color, the vindictive glance and the emphatic tones of the excited maiden, furnished assurance that her anger was unfeigned. But it quickly subsided, and after some further conversation, she took from her bonnet a miniature silken secession flag, which she handed to me, remarking she thought I could fight as well for the “Stars and Bars,” as for the Stars and Stripes. I playfully reminded her that she had just denounced Gen. Scott as a traitor to his own State, and if I should fight for the “Stars and Bars,” I should be a traitor to the State of New York! This trivial argument was evidently a poser. “Oh!” responded she, “I had not thought of that!” – But she insisted upon my acceptance of the emblem of disloyalty, and I still retain it as a memento of the occurrence, and with a feeling of kindly regard for the donor. She cut the buttons from my coat sleeve, and I consented to the “formal exchange,” though not exactly recognizing her as a “belligerent power.”

As Miss Lee retired, another young lady came forward, and glancing at my companion, the Confederate guard, addressed him as a “Yankee prisoner,” expressing her indignant surprise that he should have invaded their soil to fight them. He corrected her mistake, stating that I, not he, was the “Yankee prisoner.”

“No – no – you can’t fool me; I know the Yankees too well,” insisted the lady. I corroborated the assertion of my custodian, but it was some time before her prejudices could be overcome.

At almost every station on the route, one or more dead bodies were removed from the train, and placed in charge of their friends. The University at or near Culpepper, and the Church at Warrenton, had been fitted up for hospital purposes, and large numbers of the Confederate wounded were conveyed to them from the train. Of the six or seven cars which started from Manassas, there were but two remaining when we reached the rebel capital. We arrived there about 9 o’clock in the evening. After the cars had halted, I heard a low voice at my window, which was partly raised. It was quite dark, and I could not distinguish the speaker, who as evidently and Irish woman.

“Whist, whist?” said she; “are ye hungry?”

I replied that I was not, but that some of the boys probably were.

“Wait till I go to the house,” she answered, and a moment afterward I heard her again at the window. She handed me a loaf of bread, some meat, and about a dozen baker’s cakes, saying – as she handed me the first – “That was all I had in the house, but I had a shillin’, and I bought the cakes wid it; and if I had more, sure you should have it , and welcome! Take it, and God bless ye!”

I thanked here, and said, “You are very kind to enemies.”

“Whist,” said she, “and ain’t I from New York meself?” and with this tremulous utterance she retired as mysteriously as she had come.

This was the first “Union demonstration” that I witnessed in Old Virginia. I thanked God for the consolation which the reflection accorded me, as on the third night I lay sleeplessly in cars, my clothing still saturated and my body thoroughly chilled from the effects of the deluge at Manassas. I could have desired no sweeter morsel than the good woman’s homely loaf; and proud of the loyal giver, I rejoiced that “I was from New York meself.”

The following morning the prisoners were all removed to the hospital and provided with quarters and medical attendance.

From Five Months in Rebeldom; or Notes from the Diary of a Bull Run Prisoner, pp. 5-17

27th New York Infantry roster

William Howard Merrell at Fold3





Unknown Officer, Co. F, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, On the Battle

5 01 2021

LETTER FROM WASHINGTON.

We are permitted to make the following extracts from a letter received in this city yesterday, written by an officer in the 2d New Hampshire regiment:

Camp Sullivan, 2d N H. regiment,
Washington, D. C., Jul 28.

Dear —-; — “Everything for the cause; nothing for men,” thought we as the bullets and bombs whisted Hail Columbia around out devoted heads at Bull Run on Sunday, but still we fought regardless of the danger for nine long and bloody hours; and if the order had not come for us to retreat, we should have remained on the battle field until no one was left to tell the tale. Yes, all hail 2d New Hampshire. You fought well, and if you were not successful in this, your first action, we thank God that there is a day of reckoning coming, and God pity the poor rebels when next we get at them – they that refused mercy to our wounded and dying will receive an awful retribution, and the day of retribution is not far distant.

Our poor company, F, was sadly shattered, and it seems as if ours was the unfortunate company in the regiment. We had fifteen brave boys killed and wounded, and quite a number missing. One of our lost, Sergeant Brackett, was my particular friend, and it seems hard to have him cut down thus early in his glorious career. His was a noble death! Peace to his ashes.

It seems as if our best men were picked out to be slaughtered. I wish it were otherwise, but I suppose it was so ordered, and all too for the best.

Our regiment was the first on the field and the last one to retire, and we did not want to go then, but the order was peremptory and we must obey, so with heavy hears and not very christian expressions we left the field to the traitors and rebels.

I would rather ten thousand times have been shot down like a dog than been obliged to retreat in such confusion – ‘twas a fight without a leader – and thank Heaven we have now a true General in McClellan. McDowell did not know his business.

Our Colonel, Marston, was severely wounded, and I don’t think he will resume command again. He was very brave on the field. After he was wounded he was brought on to the field and held upon his horse till the last shot was fired.

A Member of our company died yesterday at the hospital here. He has never seen a well day since he left New Hampshire. He was from Laconia, and leaves a widowed mother to mourn his untimely fate. His disease was consumption that fell destroyer of the North. He was not in the fight of course, not being able to set up.

A member of our company[*] is to be hung tomorrow for murdering a woman at Alexandria, yesterday. He was drunk; when sober he was a good soldier; he never has been in camp since the battle, having stayed out and kept drunk all the while. Poor fellow, what a pity he could not have died on the battle field.

New Bedford (Massachusetts) Evening Standard, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John J. Hennessy

*Per regimental history, William F. Murray of Co. F was hanged 8/2/1862 for the murder of Mary Banks A history of the Second regiment, New Hampshire volunteer infantry, in the war of the rebellion : Haynes, Martin A. (Martin Alonzo), 1845-1919 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive





McDowell Admonishes His Command Re: Depredations

1 11 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. 743-744

General Orders,
No. 18.

Hdqrs. Dep’t Northeastern Virginia,
Fairfax Court-House, July 18,1861.

It is with the deepest mortification the general commanding finds it necessary to reiterate his orders for the preservation of the property of the inhabitants of the district occupied by the troops under his command. Hardly had we arrived at this place when, to the horror of every right-minded person, several houses were broken open and others were in flames by the act of some of those who, it has been the boast of the loyal, came here to protect the oppressed and free the country from the domination of a hated party.

The property of this people is at the mercy of troops who we rightfully say are the most intelligent, best-educated, and most law-abiding of any that were ever under arms. But do not, therefore, the acts of yesterday cast the deeper stain upon them?
It has been claimed by some that their particular corps were not engaged in these acts. This is of but little moment; since the individuals are not found out, we are all alike disgraced.

Commanders of regiments will select a commissioned officer as regimental provost-marshal, and ten men as a permanent police force under him, whose special and sole duty it shall be to preserve the property from depredation, and arrest all wrong doers, of whatever regiment or corps they may be. Any one found committing the slightest depredations, killing pigs or poultry, or trespassing on the property of the inhabitants, will be reported to headquarters, and the least that will be done to them will be to send them to the Alexandria jail.

It is again ordered that no one shall arrest or attempt to arrest any citizen not in arms at this time, or search or attempt to search any house, or even to enter the same, without permission.

The troops must behave themselves with as much forbearance and propriety as if they were at their own homes. They are here to fight the enemies of the country, not to judge and punish the unarmed and helpless, however guilty they may be. When necessary, that will be done by the proper persons.

By command of Brigadier-General McDowell:

JAMES B. FRY,
Assistant Adjutant-General.





Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell Reports Outrages

7 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. 654-655

Hdqrs. Department Northeastern Virginia,
May 29,1861.

Lieut. Col. E. D. Townsend,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Hdqrs. Army, Washington, D. C.:

Colonel: There have been rumors of outrages committed by volunteers in Alexandria. Colonel Butterfield, of the Twelfth New York, has reported several cases of trespass, depredations, and attempts at burglary in his vicinity.

I am aware we are not, theoretically speaking, at war with the State of Virginia, and we are not, here, in an enemy’s country; but if the ordinary courts and officers of the State, against whose peace and dignity it is these acts have been committed, are not in the exercise of their functions, shall not these cases be punished, as similar ones were in Mexico, by military commission? It is a question of policy which, being so near at hand, I beg to submit to the General-in-Chief.

In connection with this subject I will mention that the battalion of Georgetown Volunteers at the head of the Chain Bridge are reported as acting harshly towards the inhabitants on this side, whom they charge with being secessionists; that, coming themselves from so near their present station, they have stronger personal feelings in this matter and are more liable to be influenced by them than troops coming from a distance. The plea that a man is a secessionist is set up in some cases by persons depredating on property as a justification of their acts.

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

IRVIN MCDOWELL,
Brigadier- General, Commanding.





S. D. S., Co. K, 18th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

9 09 2020

Correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch.
The Charlotte Rifles.

Charlotte C. H., Va., Aug.2d.

With your permission, I avail myself of the opportunity to return my grateful and heartfelt thanks to the kind ladies of Orange and Culpeper Court-House, who met me with many other poor wounded soldiers on the cars, with blackberry wines, warm teas and many other delicacies too numerous to mention, (but all calculated to soothe and refresh a worn out soldier,) while on our way from the battle ground of Manassas. Crowds of ladies assembled at the depots of the above mentioned places to await the arrival of the train which was to convey us from the scene of action, bringing with them kind words of comfort which almost made me thankful that I received the wound.

May God bless them – that God who so graciously protected us in our time of danger and turned aside the missiles of death hurled against us by the hands of the brutal, but cowardly foe. When I first commenced my journey I thought that I was far from friends and home, but I was greatly mistaken, for a wounded soldier will always find relief and comfort whenever and wherever he may meet with the ladies of the Old Dominion.

I received my wound in the early part of the engagement whilst attempting to shoot a cowardly Yankee, who was dodging behind a bush; the ball passed through the calf of my left leg, and was cut out behind. I was carried under a large tree to have the ball cut out, and whilst there a cannon ball shattered the top of the tree into a thousand pieces, without injuring me in the least. One of my company, James A. Thomas, was shot dead at my side by a Yankee, who pretended to be in the agonies of death. Our gallant Major George Cabell, seeing the deception practiced upon poor Thomas, (than whom a braver and better man never lived,) drew his revolver and sent the Yankee scoundrel to his last account.

Our regiment (the Eighteenth) was soon ordered to charge upon a portion of Sherman’s Battery, which they did with the greatest coolness and bravery, having taken it with the loss of but few men. The company to which I belonged, (the Charlotte Rifles, Capt. T. J. Spencer,) I am happy to say, acted with great coolness and bravery throughout the whole engagement. Our noble Captain is as brave and good a man as ever lived, rallying his men throughout the whole battle. First Lieutenant Matthew Lyle, of the Charlotte Rifles, distinguished himself by killing six of the scamps wand taking several prisoners. Among them was Capt. Jack Downey, of the New York Zouaves, who, with the true spirit of a Yankee after he was captured, threw up his hands and cried for mercy, when he was told he should not be harmed. A Minnie musket, a brace of pistols, and a sword, with his name on it, were taken from him. If ever a man deserved promotion, Lieut. L. does.

S. D. S., a Member of the Charlotte Rifles.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/5/1861

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Unknown, 5th South Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

5 08 2020

LETTER FROM THE BATTLE FIELDS.

A lady in this town who has a cousin in the 1st South Carolina Regiment* at Manassas, having received from him a letter about the battles in that vicinity, has kindly permitted us to extract from it the following:

Manassas Junction, July 24th, 1861.

My Dear Cousin:

* * * * * *

“I have often seen battles fought in poetry, and it all seemed very grand; but I never had the faintest idea of the reality until Thursday and Sunday last. – On Thursday there was an attack made on us which lasted from 12 to 3 ½ o’clock. It was a desperate fight and resulted in a victory for us. Our loss was about forty killed and wounded; the killed and wounded of the enemy, as near as we could ascertain, was about 500. The cowardly scoundrels ran and left behind their dead and wounded, and we had to bury what we could of their slain. They lay all the next day on the field.

On Saturday night, I and one of General Jones’ aids were sent out to reconnoiter. We reached the ground assigned us about dusk. The moon was shining brightly. We climbed a tall tree on a hill, near the road by which the enemy were expected to pass; and we could see them passing, and hear them singing, rattling [?], cursing, and cheering, as regiment after regiment joined them. They approached within about one mile of the Creek (Bull Run,) and camped, and planted their batteries. About 7 o’clock, Sunday morning, they commenced the firing; and in an hour afterwards, the whole creek for the distance of 3 or 4 miles was in a perfect blaze, from the fire of cannon, bursting shells and musketry.

{Here follows an account of the part taken in the fight by the troops to which the writer belonged – too long for our columns, at present.}

“We had but three killed – one by a shell, one by the fire of the Mississippians, and one in some other way, unknown. There were about 20 wounded. I got a scratch from a ball which did not do more than cut the skin. There were tens of thousands of balls flying around me, but my kind, merciful Father, in whom I trust, did not permit me to be harmed; and the first thing I did after I got off the field, was to return my heartfelt thanks for his kind preservation. I visited the field the next day, and then, horror of horrors! There lay the yankees, mangled in every possible form. And this morning I went around to see the wounded; they have been brought in after lying there on the field from Sunday afternoon – day and night – Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. – They were broken and mangled in every way. Oh! my cousin, it makes my heart-sick when I think of it!

“They shot at our hospital – with yellow flag over it – all day, while their own wounded were there with ours. They also raised our state flag, Confederate and white flag; when we would march up, would pour a deadly volley into us. The poor deluded fellows – the wounded – told me that Scott had ordered the Adjutants of each regiment to read out that they (the yankees) had possession of Richmond, and had only to pass this way to get there, when they would pay them off and disband them.

“Our killed dwindled down to 350; wounded, 900; but near two-thirds of them are like me, just scratched. IT was the most complete victory ever won.”

(Salisbury, NC) Carolina Watchman, 8/5/1861

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*The 1st S. C. Regiment was not present. From the letter’s contents, it appears the regiment in question was the 5th S. C., in Brigadier General David R. Jones’s Brigade. Jones’s report estimated the 5th S. C. loss at 3 killed, 23 wounded, which also generally conforms to the contents of the letter.





Unknown Irishman, Co. B, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

29 06 2020

From the Manchester Journal
A CHARACTERISTIC LETTER.

From an Irishman in the Castelton Company of the 2d Vt. Regiment:

Bush Hill, Fairfax Co.
July 26, 1861.

Dear Friend Patrick, – I received your letter last night with the greatest pleasure. It is the first word I have heard from any of my old friends since I have been here, and anything that comes from Vermont seems worth more to me than the whole Southern States. Patrick you asked me if I was in that fight. Oh, yes indeed I was, and God only knows what a fight we had to: it was one of the hardest battles ever fought. It was a very hot day, and we were very much furtuiged on so long a march, but we fought very brave, but all in vain. There were only 20,000 of our men, and they had about 90,000, and was fresh and hid in the woods, and had 48 rifel cannon behind heavy breastworks. We only had 20 pieces of cannon, and in an open field, and after we got out of ammunitions we was forced to retreat for our lives, and left them in possession of the field, and as the d–d savages ralied on us they run our wounded men through with their bayornets, and burned an old house where there was a good many of our wounded caried to have their wounds dressed. They took all the advantage they could. They raised the stars and stripes once, and we thought they were going to give up, but when we got clost up to them drawed it down and raised their d—l—h palmetto, then opened upon us with a volley of grape which killed about 200 of the Michigan First Regiment and then run into the woods. They took every way to whip us, but we killed more of there men, yes 3 times as many. They tried to surround us, but did not succeed. They made an atact on us as we returned. In those long woods they had a company of 400 black horses; it is called the black horse cavalry; we killed a good part of them, and the rest was glad to retreat and leave us. I wish you had been there to have picked up some of the swords and revolvers and rifuls. I picked up as many as I could carry, but we had to cross over a bridge, and there they had some cannon that was worked by the infernal black Nigars, and weakened the bridge, and it broke down with us and we lost our cannon in the stream, and I was forsed to drop my load of stuff. They killed about 500 men in all. To the bridge we lost our tents and every thing we had onley what we had on our back, and we marched all that night and the next day till noon. It commenced to rain the next morning, and we were as wet as a drouned rat; our feet was a soiled blister and we was so lame and tiard that I could lain down by the road-side and died with the greatest pleasure. – We all went to Alexandria. We got together and went down to Bush Hill last night, about four miles from Alexandria, to camp and recruit for another fight, which will be before long. We have been for the last 2 weeks where money was of no use; we shot hogs and cows and hens and every thing we could get, and stuck it on a stick, and roasted it and eat it without eny salt or eny bread, but we are in hopes of better times now, and I hope we shall have better times. I never saw hard times before, and I hope I never shall again, but I never will run away. I will fight as long as I can.

I wish you could see some of the women here; they are very poor and lean, with ragged clothes, and have no hoops on – nothing but a shirt and an old nasty torne dress, with four or five nasty young ones hanging on to her. Se puts me in mind of an old setting turkey that has sot about eight weeks on rotten eggs – and they cannot read or write; live in the woods in little old log house, and thier men hunt and fish and gamble and drink champaigne and whiskey; some are married and some are not married. I did not see any stoves; all of them has an old-fashioned fire-plase. The hogs run wild here. The water is very poor. You do not know how the country is covered with woods; it is a k—d wild barberaus place; the timber is mostly oak, white. How many is killed from our Regiment I do not know; four from our company. It is agoing to be an awful hard job to whip them, if we ever do. Give my best respects to all my acquaintances.

In haste, yours truly.

Vermont Watchman, 8/23/1861

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2nd Vermont Infantry Roster 





Cpl. Guilford Wiley Wells, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

24 06 2020

Another Letter from the 27th.
—————

The following letter descriptive of the Battle of Bull Run and incidents pertaining thereto is from a member of the Lima company, in the 27th regiment. We have already published a number of letters from members of that regiment who took an active part in the bloody work, but we venture to five one more.

Camp Anderson,
Washington, July 2[?], 1861.

Dear Father, Mother, Brother and Sister: I now take my pencil to write you, that your uneasiness in reference to me may be quieted, as you no doubt ere this have heard that our regiment was all cut to pieces in the Battle at Bull Run, and probably think that I was either killed or wounded. But I am not, though I am all fagged out, as I was on the march and in the battle from 2 o’clock Sunday morning until 7 o’clock Monday night, and not having anything to eat except four or five crackers in the forenoon of Sunday.

As I suppose you and my friends of Conesus are anxious to hear, I will give you a short description, as I saw it, and I was in it from beginning to the end. Our regiment was the first which charged on the enemy, notwithstanding the papers said it was another regiment, which the Washington papers corrected this morning.

I will give you the details of the battle. We marched in the morning for Bull Run, which was about ten miles from where we were encamped. We passed around the enemy’s batteries and succeeded in outflanking them, and arrived on the ground at 11 o’clock. On our march we did not find but one drop of water, and then it was dirty water – so dirty that it was not fit to drink even by a beast, but as our canteens were empty we filled them. When we reached Bull Run we did not have time to get water or anything to eat. We then marched down to the woods, where the enemy were all alone, but when we arrived at the woods we saw a regiment who swung their handkerchiefs and showed our colors, and we supposed them to be our friends, but our suppositions were all false, for when we reached the end of their line and they were about twenty rods from us, they flanked us and fired, which of course surprised us, but we returned the fire and charged upon them, and drove them into the woods. Our loss was very great. They killed or wounded over half at the first fire. We rallied around our colors, and were ordered to retreat. As the batteries opened fire upon us with large cannon and shell, we fell down flat, loaded, then charged upon them again, when another regiment entered the field to our aid. Then followed the whole force. We then drove them out of the woods on the hill beyond. Then commenced one of the hardest fought battles, I think, ever fought on this continent. First one retired, then the other, but still we drove them. At the same time the groans of the wounded and dying were singularly blended with the roaring of cannon and the rattle of musketry. Oh, such a sight I never want to see again. You can have some idea of it if for once you will imagine the people of Conesus all together, and all wailing and groaning, and each covered with blood, while the people of Livonia were there, and there lying dead. This would be something like the sight which I gazed upon Sunday.

O, mother, you never saw suffering like that which is exhibited on the battle field I saw one man who had five balls put through him, and yet was alive, but there was no doctor to dress his wounds, and he walked [?] miles and fell down exhausted and died. I saw many upon our retreat who could not have walked had it not been that the enemy were following them with the intention of taking all prisoners that they could reach. This served to inspire them with energy sufficient to keep on the march until from utter exhaustion they dropped down.

But I am wandering from my story. We fought for [?] hours. Some of the time we thought victory was just coming, but at that time a new battery would open on us. We would then work to silence it, and then another would open, and in that way we fought until our ammunition gave out, and we found the enemy had plenty left, and were using it to the very best advantage. We then were ordered to rally once more around our flag, but the regiments were too much broken, yet they succeeded in rallying about 1,000, but the Black Horse Cavalry made a charge on us and we were obliged to leave on a run. We left many valuable things on the ground. I for one left may coat and haversack with all I had to eat. As we left, we overtook the Rhode Island Regiment with their cannons, and as most of the horses were shot, they were obliged to cut the [?] and leave the pieces on the ground for the enemy. We left scattered all over the ground, with men running in every direction. We left at the hospital all out wounded, and we did not have wagons enough to draw them. The doctor remained until the commenced to throw shell upon the hospital, something which was never known before. As the building caught fire the doctor took his horse and cut through the cavalry. They then made a charge upon the hospital killing all who were so unfortunate as to be wounded in it. We had a number of our company – three or four – from East Bloomfield, one from Honeoye Falls, two from Lima, and the 1st Corporal. How many more we can’t say, as we know of many who are missing, but do not know whether they were killed or wounded. We did not succeed in getting a wounded man away or burying those who were killed. They used us worse than ever man was used by Indians, as they skulked behind trees, fences, and whenever we left a wounded man on the field, they rushed out and cut his throat.

But again, after we arrived on top of the hill, we marched to a house. Upon arriving on the other side, the first thing we knew, they commenced throwing shell at us. They fell among us like hail, without much harm. I found I could not go much further. A wagon came along and I put everything – gun and accoutrements – in it and left as fast as I could, which was not very fast, being without anything to east from 2 o’clock in the morning – without rest, and running most of the way. We found two regiments at Centreville, but they were so close upon us we were obliged to leave en masse.

The drivers commenced to run their horses – flipping over and breaking the wagons. Our loss of wagons must have been 30 or 40 left filled, [?] a [? ?] which they took from us. As I passed along the road I found many who wished me to give them something to eat, saying that they had had nothing for 24 hours. As I was in the same fix I could not administer to their wants. I had nothing to eat until a black woman gave me a small piece of biscuit, which tasted as good as anything I had ever had. I arrived at Washington Monday night at 7 o’clock in the rain, wet through and cold as I could well be. I went into Willard’s Hotel and they gave me something to eat, and I found a fire to dry myself. I then went to my barracks, found a hard board to lie on, which seemed much better than the cold ground. I am well now. A lady here gave me plenty to eat and some salt and water to wash my feet in, as they were very much swollen. She seemed to take as much interest in me as though I were her own boy. She came up this morning and took me down to her house for breakfast. I write this on a board on the ground. I will try and write a more [?] letter next time.

G. Wiley Wells

Rochester (NY) Union Advertiser, 7/31/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

27th New York Infantry roster 

Guilford Wiley Wells at Wikipedia

Guilford Wiley Wells Ancestry 

Guilford Wiley Wells at Fold3 

Guilford Wiley Wells at FindAGrave





Pvt. John Alden Copeland, Co. G, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

23 06 2020

FROM A PRIVATE OF THE LIMA COMPANY, 27TH REGIMENT, TO HIS FATHER, G. W. COPELAND, OF CLARENDON, N. Y.

Washington, July 24, 1861.

Dear Father – When I left Washington a week ago yesterday I did not expect to see it again under such circumstances as surround me at present. I arrived here last night, direct from the battle field, tired and foot sore, but in good spirits. I was the last almost to return, and found that my name had been entered upon the list of the killed.

Sunday morning, at [?] o’clock, our division left camp, three miles north of Centreville, and marched till noon – about [?] miles – when the battle commenced. After we emerged from the woods – the greatest forest I ever traveled, our route through it being about [?] miles – we were drawn up in battle front, our regiment being the leader. We then went on a run for three miles to the battle field. One of our boys stopped to fill several canteens before we started, and I carried his gun to the field, in addition to my own, and at the same time I was loaded with my haversack, containing three day’s provisions, two blankets, and 40 rounds of cartridges. When I got to the field I threw aside everything except my gun and cartridge box, and took my place in the ranks under heavy fire from the enemy’s artillery, and charged up the hill with the boys, but when half way up, I fell from exhaustion, with several others. I staid about fifteen minutes, and then summoned strength to rejoin our regiment, and crawled over the hill, the balls flying like hail around me. I met our Lieut. Col. Chambers galloping back to get help for our regiment, and he rushed up to one of the field officers and in his stuttering way called for aid, for heaven’s sake, to relieve our boys. He said that they were surrounded in the woods below. When I heard this I ran down in the woods and found our regiment retreating, carrying back our Col., wounded in the thigh, with several of our company wounded but none killed. – Other companies had some of their members killed. Here we made a stand, the balls of the artillery and musketry whizzing over our heads in a perfect storm. Our Major took command and led us out of the woods, to make, as we thought, a second charge. Our Colonel nearly wept when he could not lead us further, and ordered that we should be taken from the field, as we had already had our share of the fight, and were enough cut up without hazarding further loss of life. We left the woods, the fight raging all around us, and lay down behind the banks of a creek, as it was almost instant death to lose cover, as the enemy were continually unmasking new and unseen batteries upon us, and all well planned with good engineers. They had nearly 100,000 men arrayed against us, and they had reinforcements pouring in continually from Manassas, four miles distant.

The battle was in reality the long, long looked for struggle which was to come off at Manassas, although it took place at Bull Run. We had scarcely 15,000 troops to oppose them, and with this odds against us, we drove them from the field three times, forcing their batteries into the woods. But the woods were filled with their troops, and they could lead fresh men to the attack continually. More than that, there was on our side no order whatever. Each Col. attacked or withdrew from field when he pleased, and that is the way the fight was carried on. Our regiment and another went first into the fight, and after driving the enemy from the field, unsustained, were driven back by the guerilla hordes, who never gave us a chance to use the bayonet. Notwithstanding their superiority of numbers, they fled to the cover, and played Indian through it all. Thus the fight continued until the retreat was ordered. I was never in a battle before, but I never saw a braver set of men in my life, than our volunteers. The regulars were less enthusiastic, and seemed to be pushed to the charge, while the volunteers would come rushing along, hurrahing with all their might, driving the enemy into their thicket fast[?], when they were only forced back by the murderous fire of masked batteries and concealed musketry, leaving their wounded to be butchered by the boasted chivalry of the South. Our artillery did terrible execution, but the enemy would bring two pieces to our one, against us. Sherman’s battery was first on the field and mowed down whole ranks of the retreating enemy, and as the remnants came flying past our regiment, we were about to fire upon them when they hoisted the Stars and Stripes, and they were suffered to pass. After getting by, they put up their true colors, and poured a whole broadside into our regiment. Our Colonel, when he saw them, said, “Boys, there are the rascals, fire!” But another countermanded the order, supposing them to be our friends, and thus they escaped. Our boys were mad at this deception, as they were entirely in our power.

Ellsworth’s and Brooklyn Zouaves were about the last to leave the field, and received the special attention of the enemy. The white cap South Carolina Zouaves charged upon them, and the way they routed the Carolinians was a treat to see. They are large swarthy fellows, and hung to each other like brothers, and the enemy have a great terror of them.

When we left the field we expected to encamp on the ground we had taken, and the bold front we showed on our retreat undoubtedly saved us from utter destruction. They did not dare to follow us, having seen too much of our fight during the day, to attack us. But we had not proceeded three miles before it was known throughout the line that we were in a full retreat to the [?], and then the rout commenced. Instead of [?], the regiment broke up, and there was nothing to be seen but a long line of fugitives hurrying to the North. Before we entered the woods the cry arose that the cavalry were upon us, and such a scramble I never saw. The officers ordered the men to the cover to save themselves. Baggage-wagons, artillery, ambulances and carriages of every description, thundered on by us, and the whole route was strewn with broken wagons, or [?] men filled [? ? ?] and all the appurtenances of war, [?] large [?] of private property belonging to the officers.

Thus the road continued through the forest, and when we emerged from the woods we were attacked by a masked battery and the Black Horse Cavalry. Our cavalry rushed on with our artillery in order to save it, and it was saved. Where we came out of the woods there was a deep gully, and here the battery poured down upon the stream of fugitives. The Zouaves charged upon the battery, took two rifled cannon, and cut up the Black Horse Cavalry terribly, thus saving Sherman’s battery and adding two pieces to it. The loss of Sherman’s battery would have been worse than losing a battle to the United States. When they fired upon us I turned to the left and waded a creek three feed deep and passed on toward Centreville; but before I reached the road I came upon the encampment of the New York 69th Regiment, and found them united with the 14th for mutual safety. They were expecting a night attack and lay upon their arms all night. They had secured guides who were to lead them early in the morning to Alexandria, and I concluded to stay and go with them. A soldier of another regiment laid down with me and went to sleep. I woke twice during the night, and the regiments were still on the ground; but, finally, I got into a sound sleep and did not wake up until my comrade awoke me, when he told me the whole body of troops were gone, and we were alone beyond Centreville. I must say that things looked tickelish, but I was determined to pick my way through if such a thing were possible. It was cloudy and raining some when we started, and, inasmuch as I went to bed on the bar ground the night before, after wading the creek, soaking wet and also after marching all day from two o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night, with the battle thrown in, I did not feel much like taking a [?] march of some twenty miles to Washington, as I knew I must, a point of safety. We avoided Centreville by crossing the fields and came on in the highway leading from Alexandria to Richmond, but being uncertain of this we took another road leading to Manassas, and I know not how far we should have followed it but for a farmer, who put us on the right track. This was quite a delay as we went about two miles out of the way, and it was about seven o’clock in the morning. When we reached the road we found to our dismay that we were nearly the last of the returning fugitives. I felt very hungry, and although the road was strewed with crackers, bread, sugar and coffee, I did not have time to sit down, build a fire and cook a good dish of coffee, which I might have done at every rod of the way between Centreville and Fairfax. Beef, pork, crackers, bread and sugar lined the roadsides, and the farmers along the route must have picked up enough plunder to feed them for that year, while the enemy, who followed us, must have seized a large number of fine baggage wagons and large amounts of military stores.

I kept up spunk and a quick pace, and I reached Fairfax about three o’clock, P. M. After resting a little, I pushed on, and having overtaken some boys of our regiment, we got a good cup of coffee some four miles this side of Fairfax. It rained in the afternoon steady, but I kept the India Rubber blanket you sent me, and it was of great service to me. I too the road to Alexandria and others went to Arlington Heights. I reached Alexandria about seven P. M., and found Lieut. Hall, and some twenty boys of our regiment. As we could not get to Washington by boat that night, we took up our quarters in the building of the famous Alexandria library. The next day, P. M., went to Washington on foot, and found our regiment out on dress parade, and when our lieutenant marched us into camp before their eyes, it was a joyful sight for both.

This was probably one of the hardest fought battle we have ever had in America, and the rout beats anything I ever read of in our history. Braddock’s defeat, or Green’s retreat, did not begin with it. The Rebels will never give us a fair field fight, and we must bring the heaviest artillery in order to shell them out of their masked batteries. Our Colonel is loved by all the regiment, but the general movement of the army was in unskillful hands. I am a little foot sore and stiff after marching some sixty miles in two days, but I want to get at those rebels again.

J. A. Copeland

Later. – We have just been favored with the perusal of an interesting letter from a volunteer in the 27th regiment, attached to a Binghamton company. He describes minutely the progress of his regiment from Washington to Bull Run and back so far as he understands the movements.

At the point where the 27th went into battle they were the second regiment to engage the enemy, and drove them before them. Suddenly a regiment came out of a piece of woods and the men waved their caps. Col. Slocum thought they were Federal troops and would not fire upon them. They marched up within pistol shot, threw out a secession flag, and opened fire upon the 27th with rifles, the latter being armed with muskets. The 27th returned the fire sharply and compelled them to retire, but when they got out of musket range they poured in the bullets from their rifles and made bloody work. Col. Slocum sent to the New York 14th, near by, for help, but it was refused. At length he ordered his men to retreat to a cover of woods for protection and rest. While on the retreat the Colonel received a shot in his thigh and was borne away to the hospital. Soon after the 27th was ordered to join in a general assault, and went in with other regiments bravely, driving the rebels back to the cover of their masked batteries. Finally the retreat of the Federal army commenced. The 27th left the field in good order, but were charged upon by the rebel cavalry, which broke them up and each man took care of himself.

Rochester (NY) Union Advertiser, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

27th New York Infantry roster 

John Alden Copeland at Ancestry 

John Alden Copeland at Fold3 

John Alden Copeland at FindAGrave