South Carolina Claims Virginia Too Soft on Yankee Prisoners

20 12 2022


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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U. S. Congressmen on Blackburn’s Ford

13 12 2022





Defeat of the Federals.














Excesses Committed by Federal Troops.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John W. Noel at Wikipedia

John A. McClernand at Wikipedia

William A. Richardson at Wikipedia

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

5 12 2022


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

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

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

Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Edward Brush Fowler at

Edward B. Fowler at Fold3

Edward B. Fowler at FindAGrave

Edward Brush Fowler at Wikipedia

Pvt. Hans J. Gladney and Corp. William F. Wilson, Co. F, 11th New York Infantry, An Incident of the Battle

20 11 2022

At the battle of Bull’s Run, William Wilson, of New York, was carrying a wounded comrade, Hantz Gladden[*], from the field, when Gladden implored Wilson to leave him. “I shall die at any rate,” said he, “and the rebels may overtake and kill you; they will not hurt me when they see that I am wounded.” So he left him on the ground, and looking back when the rebels came up, he saw one of them take out his knife and deliberately cut Gladden’s throat from ear to ear, almost severing his head from his body. Wilson and Gladden were members of the Fire Zouaves Regiment.[**]

Wheeling (WV) Daily Intelligencer, 7/30/1861

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*Likely Hans J. Gladney (no Gladden found in regimental roster).

**Hans Gladney does not show as captured at First Bull Run. William Wilson does show as captured. It is possible that the news item flips the identities, and that Gladney (Gladden) was reporting on his last view of Wilson. Neither man shows as wounded in the roster. Both mustered out with the regiment on 6/2/1862.

Hans J. Gladney at

Hans J. Gladney at Fold3

William F. Wilson at

William F. Wilson at Fold3

William F. Wilson at FindAGrave

Ensign, Co. I, 2nd South Carolina Infantry, On the Battle, Pursuit, and Spoils

15 11 2022


Manassas Battle Ground, July 23.

Dear Editor: We have fought the great fight and the day is ours. One of the fiercest battles in the annals of American History has been fought and a signal victory gained; and now while I write, the dead and sounded and dying are being borne from the field – taken up from among the bushes, from the open field, and from among the corners of the fence, where the poor fellows have crawled to avoid being overridden by the cavalry and artillery. – What a terrible illustration of the horrors of war! what heart sickening evidence of the folly and wickedness of the enemy who seek our subjugation!

I will not attempt to give you all the details of the battle, for after dividing and sub dividing for exageration and misrepresentation, it would be hard to elicit from the net-work of rumors such a fabric of truth as would be proper and reasonable.

Bull Run is North of Manassas Junction. The nearest point is Mitchell’s Ford – distance about three miles, the place where, if you remember, we built breastworks in June. The creek runs due east. Some five or six miles in a North-westerly direction from the Ford and along it is the battle ground of the 21st.

The battle of Sunday commenced at the ford by a heavy cannonade from a battery of rifled cannon 6 pounders and a one 32 pounder. These opened at 8 o’clock in the morning and played incessantly on for three hours, the object being, if possible, to draw us from our position and show our force, and to divert our attention from the left wing of our army that Scott might be the better able to execute his well concocted plan. The enemy were in line of battle along the Run from Stone Bridge to Union Mills – a distance of eight or ten miles. Their army was supported by heavy artillery. Our forces were stationed in the same manner along the creek, supported by artillery. The main attack commenced on the left about 10 o’clock a.m., by an advance of Gen. Jackson. Our brave fellows fought gallantly. They maintained their ground for hours against a force of five to one; but at last being overpowered and worn out with fatigue, they were compelled to fall back on our own side of the creek, where they again made a bold stand, but were compelled to retreat again and this time left the field entirely, until Cols. Kershaw and Cash, Kemper’s Battery and Preston’s Virginia Battery came to their relief. Without doubt, when we arrived on the field the day was lost. Three regiments we met retreating in confusion.

These facts, together with having to march five miles and a great part of it double-quick, to get to the battle ground, are the discouragements under which we went into battle. I do not know as I can describe our fight exactly, as it was not a very seasonable time to make observations. We were first drawn up in line of battle along the brow of a hill, where we stood a galling fire from the enemy. At last we received the orders to advance and with a stern resolve to do or die, every man marched promptly forward. We met the foe in a narrow strip of woods; they were concealed behind the trees, brush and fence. We charged them from the woods, but some of the villains fooled us in one particular, by falling down upon their backs, beg us for a drink of water as we passed (which we gave them) and after we had passed, they would rise up and shoot us and run. We were engaged about 30 minutes in a sort of hand to hand fight. I had almost forgotten to tell you that those fellows we caught in the woods were old Abe’s “Pet Lambs.” But I have not forgotten that according to their own statement, only 200 out of 1200 are left to clothe his Majesty next winder. When those cut-throats were stationed at Falls Church, they would send word to the 2d (Kershaw’s) Regiment, particularly the Palmetto Guards, that we were the boys they wished to get hold of. Now, they have met us, and we are waiting patiently to hear their report.

We next met the Regulars at a distance of five or six hundred yards further on. – Our Col. formed his regiment in an old road which proved to be the very place for us, as we could lie down and load, rise and fire, – only being exposed long enough to get a good shot. Things went on in this manner for about an hour and a half, when we were ordered to cease firing and remain lying, so that the Artillery could play on them from our rear. A few rounds of grape and canister from Capt. Kemper’s well directed guns completely routed them. Then we pursued, playing on them with cannon at every opportunity. Such human destruction I never before witnessed; at every discharge of the cannon whole ranks would tumble to the ground. The pursuit lasted for three miles when we were drawn back to rest of the night, and that was my last sight of the enemy. I heard they went to Alexandria in the greatest confusion, their officers could not command them. – When they were ordered to go into the trenches and fight, they refused, saying, “It is no used to fight the rebels, they never can nor never will be conquered.

Between Stone Bridge and Centreville, a distance of three miles, the scene presented was indescribable. Your correspondent saw scattered every article that could enter into the composition of a well equipped army. Cannon, baggage wagons, ammunition wagons, ambulances, blankets, shoes, haversacks, knapsacks, muskets, cartridge boxes, medicine chests, and several thousand hand-cuffs, intended to be used upon their prisoners. One of the valuable articles captured was a batch of paper, evidently the property of a General officer. It contained […] campaign – stated that the attacking force should consist of fifty three thousand men, enumerating the regiments. We found at Centreville two boxes, one directed to Gen. Winfield Scott, Richmond, Va., the other to the Junction. He did not contemplate a defeat. He expected to march on our left wing, break it with ease, come up in our rear, cut us to pieces, have a pic nic same day at the Junction, and the following Wednesday night a big ball in the Capitol at Richmond. Another indication of his contemplated success was, that he had along a great many of ladies and gentlemen. Perhaps the former to welcome the “heroes” on their return and the latter to witness the fight. Many of them were members of Congress.

Our loss in Sunday’s fight is between 1500 and 2000 in killed and wounded, The enemy between 10 and 12,000 killed, wounded and prisoners. Kershaw’s Regiment lost about fifty killed and wounded – five killed and the rest wounded. Our company had four wounded – none killed. Capt. McManus, shot in the arm; D. A. Williams, color-bearer, shot in the leg; T. J. Welsh, shot in the arm, and Richard Kennington, shot in the groin – none are dangerous.

Everything is going right again. The health of the regiment is not so good, but I think it is caused by fatigue and exposure and will soon disappear.

Our men have not yet completed the burial of the enemy’s dead. They remain in scores on the field, where they fell, black, mangled and putrifying masses of what was once humanity, filling the atmosphere with stench. It is worthy of notice, that many of the enemy’s wounded had near them a pile of crackers and a cup of water given to them by our volunteers as sustenance until they could be removed from the field and better cared for. Wounds could be seen of every variety. The Surgeons say that our wounded are much worse than the enemy’s. Ours being shot with the oblong ball and theirs with the common long ball. The conical ball makes horrible ghastly openings, especially, if they hit anything hard they cause them to zigzag through the body. When this is the case mortification is also certain.

Your humble servant,

Lancasterville (SC) Ledger, 8/14/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Pvt. John B. Edson, Co. E, 27th New York Infantry, Revisits the Battlefield

25 08 2022

Manassas Junction
Sunday, April 6th 1862

Dear Father,

You no doubt will be surprised when you see this. We left Camp Franklin Thursday morning about 11 o’clock, marched to Alexandria & there took the cars for Manassas. Arrived all safe. As we came through the deserted camps of the Rebs, it was shameful to see the destruction of property. Locomotives & cars burnt right on the track.

Yesterday morning, Friday, I started for the old battle ground of the 21st of July last, arrived there about noon—it being about seven miles from where we are encamped. You cannot imagine my feelings when there & seeing the bones of our boys bleaching in the sun. It made my blood boil. There were a number of bones found of men belonging to our regiment which we buried over and there being a minister present, held a short service of the bones. His name was Parker. I went to the spot where Co. Ellsworth’s Fire Zouaves fought & there were the bones of nearly a dozen of them exposed to the gaze of the passers by. I helped cover them over again. I have now with [me] one of the ribs which was detached from the back bone & intend sending it home when convenient. I also have a piece of one of the Zouaves red shirts which I enclose in this and the girls can work it into a piece or needlework to keep in remembrance of those brave men.

I visited the old stone house where I carried John Clague. It looked natural—only has been torn to pieces pretty well. It still bears the mark of the cannon shot.

This is a rough sketch of the stone house. It was a tough sight to see these bones of our comrades thus exposed.

I suppose by the time you get this you will have received letters I sent by David Scott with the draft in. We expect to go on tomorrow towards the Rappahannock. The whole of McDowell’s Corps are now coming on. I will write again soon but you must answer this as soon as you get it. Give me all the news. So goodbye for the present. Your affectionate son, — John B. Edson

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Contributed and transcribed by William Griffing, Spared & Shared

John B. Edson at Fold3

Pvt. John B. Edson, Co. E, 27th New York Infantry, On the Eve of Battle

24 08 2022

In camp 5 Miles beyond Fairfax Court House
and within 2 Miles of the Rebel Batteries
July 20th [1861]

My Dear parents,

I’m writing this under peculiar trials and circumstances as I’m seated in one of the camp wagons trying to write to you, my ever loved and to be loved parents.

We left Washington last Tuesday afternoon at 4 o’clock. The order for marching came very suddenly. We marched until 11 o’clock that night to a place 11 miles from Fairfax, there encamped until the next morning at 7 when we started on and such a march it beggars description—one of the hottest days I ever saw, if not the hottest. Men [were] falling out of the ranks at every step exhausted. I stood it until the last when men who had worked in the harvest fields at home in the morning said said if they had had another mile to march, should have dropped in the road. The rebels having poisoned several wells and destroyed others made it very bad for us.

We arrived at Fairfax at two o’clock. We expected to find a large secession force there but they had eloped. Consequently we were disappointed. We stayed in Fairfax from 12 o’clock of that day until 4 o’clock of the next day. We lived on the spoils taken from the secessionists. While there the boys took their guns and shot chickens, geese, pigs and even bullocks. One party went to a farmer’s house some two miles off and found 7 bottles of wine, pies, cakes, &c. No one at home. Fairfax was a deserted hole.

Started at 4 o’clock for this camp where we arrived at 7 o’clock [and] set our picket guard that night. That was a night indeed to me. I can assure you, I laid down upon the ground with a blanket over me [and] it commenced raining soon after and I was wet through. About 12 o’clock we were awakened by the firing upon our pickets. We all jumped up and seized our arms. During that hour volley after volley came pouring in. Such a sight! Men standing whispering to one another. Our Colonel came around and told us to lie down by our guns which we did only to be awakened by another alarm.

While I’m writing I hear the artillery booming in the distance towards the rebels’ batteries. I suppose you have heard of the battle on the 18th [see Battle of Blackburn’s Ford]. It was a small affair [paper creased] troops they having to retreat. The Colonel who led them on did so contrary to the orders of Scott. We lost some two hundred men. Gen. Scott is expected to be here this evening to plan the attack. It is this—to shell the batteries, then pour in shot until they are burned out, then bring on the infantry and give them the bayonet. We are waiting now for the shells to come on so we can proceed wit hthe battle. There will be severe fighting. We will in all probability be in Richmond some time next week. Our Colonel told our Orderly when he asked him for a sword that he would scarcely need one for we would all be home in three weeks. I tell you, it is tough. We will have all of Virginia in our possession before another month. I hope I shall live to see you all again. I often think of home and all its comforts. Tell all my friends if they write to direct to Washington.

John B. Edson, Company E, 27th Regt. N. Y. S. V., Washington D. C.

I wrote to you when in Washington but have received no answer. I will get it if you write. I have received no money yet. Probably will not until we are again in Washington. Let me know how you are getting along and what the people think of the movement of the army in Virginia. I hope to see you before many months are passed. It is very warm today. My love to all. Ever your affectionate son, — J. B. E.

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Contributed and transcribed by William Griffing, Spared & Shared

John B. Edson at Fold3

Pvt. Alexander Whyte*, Co. B, 79th New York Infantry, On the Battle

22 03 2022




Arlington Heights, July 23, 1861.

Dear Brother: – We attacked the rebels on Sunday. We got ready to march at two o’clock in the morning, and marched along another road from the one where the battery we attacked before was situated. We crossed a bridge which they thought was undermined, where we were put on a double quick for about a mile, to get out of range of the battery – the Seventy-ninth, Sixty-ninth, and the two Indiana regiments. Generals Sherman and Tyler were in command. They filed us into the woods and marched us right forward in line, and we scoured the woods and hunted the cowardly dogs into their dens. We then opened our batteries on the rebels, who were in large force all around us. We had three or four batteries with us, including Sherman’s. They shelled the woods, in which they had dozens of masked batteries, which seems to be their forte. The Sixty-ninth followed them up the hills, through gulleys, across streams waist deep, and the enemy playing on us from a dozen points with cannister and shell, but we ran double quick up the hills, where their infantry was waiting for us, when we fired and charged upon them, and drove them from their position and followed them up the same way till we dislodged them from three positions, when we were for the first time as high as they were. We then brought forward two of our batteries and fired a few shells, when Sherman ordered the infantry forward to the charge. The Sixty-ninth were sent round to the right of it to flank the rebels, and the Seventy-ninth, with the Second Wisconsin to back us, were sent up to the charge. This was after nearly every regiment except us, had been sent up and cut to pieces. However, we went forward and charged them, when they poured shell, canister and balls into us like hail; but the Second Wisconsin ran back, except about twelve men of them, which stood with us. The cowardly rebels then hoisted the American flag on one of their forts, when our men supposed our friends had taken it which went around to flank them out. The men then ran forward to follow them up; but when within a few yards of them they opened their guns again, and poured shell and canister right into us, and then thousands of infantry, firing at the same time, every one of them armed with rifles and us with old muskets, we had to fall back, and while retreating another masked battery opened upon us, and I can assure you we had a very hard time of it. When we were so close to the fort we could have taken it had the Second Wisconsin stood by us. The rebels then poured their cavalry out of the woods after us, when we had to fall back on the main body. They shot all the horses from our batteries, and we were unable to take them back, so the rebels took them and turned them against us, when we had not a single piece hardly to cover our retreat. Then the rebels poured a large force of infantry, about 6,000, to follow us up, and we without a single regiment in reserve, as we had to retreat all in confusion. The United States regulars, and those of Sherman’s battery cut the traces of their horses and galloped off, leaving their guns to the rebels.

From where the battle was fought to this place is about thirty miles, so we had a pretty long march of it. We commenced our retreat about four P. M. Sunday afternoon, and arrived in our camp Monday morning, so you can imagine how we must feel. But I must not forget our dear old Colonel. He was shot dear before we fired our second round; he stood out in front of us, and waving his sword, ordered us to charge bayonets, which were the last words he said. Nearly all of our officers were either killed, wounded or taken prisoners. We have but about eight left out of our complement. Thirty-five of our company are missing. All the other companies in proportion. Our captain is missing. We believe he is captured. The Sixty-ninth had their colors taken, but they gallantly retook them, with heavy loss. Their Colonel was wounded, and we believe is taken prisoner. Malcom was shot in the head, but not very serious. I found him in the hospital, which was full of wounded men. The last report we heard was that they had set fire to it. I stood sentry there while our regiment was retreating, and when I left brought Malcom with me. He is now in Washington. John Stratton was also wounded and taken prisoner. They made him take hold of the saddle and run back with them, threatening to shoot him, but seeing some officers they dropped him and made after them, so he escaped, and is now safe. It would be well to let his wife know of this. Our company was the first to take prisoners. Our captain was entirely worn out, and uncle (John White, 13 Third avenue), had to lead on the company, and he did it well, I assure you. I saw him after the battle, all sound, but he staid behind to assist the Captain, and I suppose they were both taken prisoners by the rebel cavalry. They are very fond of taking officers, and I have no doubt that this has been their fate, as the regiment was pursued by the same cavalry for a considerable distance, and our officers were not seen afterwards. Uncle had about one hundred dollars in gold on him – the very thing the rebels like. I am sorry that I did not ask some of it from him.

P. S. – I have since learned that one of our men was talking to uncle his when taken by the regel cavalry.

A. W.*

New York (NY) Herald, 7/29/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

79th New York Infantry Roster

*Likely Alexander Whyte, Co. B. John Stratton, mentioned above, was also a member of Co. B. John White, mentioned above, is shown on the roster as a member of Co. H. The only other A. W.s found in the roster who was enlisted on July 21, 1861 are Andrew Whiteford of Co. K, and Andrew Walters, unassigned.

Alexander Whyte at

Alexander Whyte at Fold3

Pvt. Harry Rockafeller, Co. F, 71st New York State Militia, On His Captivity

23 02 2022

Letter from a Prisoner at Manassas. –

The following letter from a young Philadelphian serving in the New York Seventy-first, who was wounded and captured in the late battle, has been received in New York by his mother. As he was in the hospital at Sudley Church, this letter, giving assurance of his safety, also gives assurance that the report of the burning of the church is untrue:

Manassas Junction, July 26th, 1861.

Dear Mother: – Knowing your deep anxiety regarding my welfare, I am happy to say that I am well, except a wound in the left arm, which I may lose. I am in good spirits, treated in the best style, and am in hopes of seeing you all soon. If you have any opportunity of sending a change of clothing please, do so.

Truly your son,
Harry Rockafeller

The Baltimore (MD) Sun, 8/3/1861

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Records for Harry/Henry Rocka/efeller show below, but as a member of the 71st New York Infantry, Co. F. No Rockafeller shows on the roster of the 71st New York Infantry (not present at First Bull Run). State Militia records are notoriously spotty, particularly for militia units that did not enter 3 year service (like the 71st and 69th). As both records showing Rocka/efeller in the 71st NYVI are handwritten, and as Rockefeller’s FindAGrave notes that he was the post-war Colonel of the 71st NYSM, he is considered here a member of Co. F, 71st NYSM at the First Battle of Bull Run.

Henry Rockafeller at Ancestry

Henry Rockafeller at Fold3

Harry Rockefeller at FindAGrave

Sgt. Arthur T. Pickett, Co. I, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

19 02 2022


Editor Star: In perusing the journals, I barely see notice of the Thirty-eighth New York Regiment as being engaged on Sunday in defense of my country’s flag. Allow me, Mr. Editor, to say that I was there, being hurt seriously in the right leg and left hand and head. I think that I for one was in the action, and if credit is awarded, the Thirty-eighth are worthy of it. We covered Sherman’s battery bravely, and also covered the gallant firemen of New York when the Black Horse Cavalry charged upon them. Company I was three times driven from a battery, and I saw the secession flag lying in the dust. We marched on the field with 64 men, and we now number 30. Our officers led their men gallantly, and many a poor fellow lies dead on Virginia’s soil. While our regiment was advancing on the enemy our eyes were greeted by the glorious flag of our county, and we supposed that they were some of our own men. We marched at double quick to make a charge on a battery that was pouring a deadly fire upon us; but to our cost we found that the stars and stripes were used as a decoy, and under cover they mowed us down. We retreated, and laid down and loaded our pieces, and sir, our boys marched right ahead, and we avenged the deaths of our comrades. My humble opinion is, that if we had been then reinforced we could have whipped them and sent their black hearts to h—l! I hear it denied that the enemy butchered our wounded, and I beg leave to say that I saw the enemy deliberately bayonet our poor men, and they asking for mercy. Such cruelties are not on record, and my wish and prayer is that my wounds will speedily heal, and the remnant of the Thirty-eighth are ready for the field. We bore the regiment banner of the honored old chieftain, Gen. Winfield Scott, and the regiment did not disgrace the colors they bore. Please insert this in your paper, and you will oblige a type and a soldier.

Very respectfully,
Arthur T. Pickett
2d Sergt. Co. I, 38th regt. Scott Life Guard.

N. B. – Our flag shall wave. Boys of New York will always be ready.

(Washington, DC) Evening Star, 7/24/1861

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38th NYVI Roster

Arthur T. Pickett at Ancestry

Arthur T. Pickett at Fold3
Arthur T. Picket at Fold3

Arthur T. Pickett at FindAGrave