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

THE BATTLE AT BULL RUN.

———-

LETTER FROM A MEMBER OF THE SEVENTY-NINTH REGIMENT

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 Ancestry.com

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

THE THIRTY-EIGHTH NEW YORK REGIMENT

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





Lt. Henry Simpson, Co. B, 2nd New York State Militia, On the Battle

16 02 2022

Lieutenant Simpson’s Account of the Battle of Bull’s Run

The following very interesting statement of several unpublished facts concerning the battle of Bull’s Run has been very kindly furnished us by Lieutenant Simpson, and officer of the Union army, connected with the Second New York regiment, which took an important part in the battle.

The statement of Lieutenant Simpson is a plain, unvarnished tale of a portion of the hot action of the 21st inst. He says.

The Black Horse regiment made a fierce attack on the regimental colors of the Second regiment, the design being undoubtedly to capture them and carry them off as a trophy for their side. The Second regiment, both officers and men, saw at once what the enemy wished to do. But as much as the rebels had resolved to take our colors the men of the Second were determined that they should not be taken. – We well knew that they had an overwhelming force, but they did not intimidate us in the least. The fight was very smart but there was no one to sustain us. Had we had a few good and experienced generals, it is my opinion that the disastrous retreat which ensued would never have occurred. Not that I wish or could blame General McDowell. He is an excellent officer, but his force was entirely too small to cope with the enemy. But other officers were entirely behind what their county expected and hoped from them. There was only three of four wounded in Company B, to which I belonged. The orderly Sergeant of our company was shot through the shoulder, the same ball breaking the leg of the man next to him. Two men of company K, were killed. One man of company A, was also killed, whose name was Maxwell, and two or three of company I were severely wounded, who have since most probably died.

I saw the whole action myself, but although I cannot state that I saw all the facts that have been published, I believe the Union forces suffered very severely – Our regiment certainly lost in killed and wounded some forty or fifty men. The regiment stood its ground manfully, and if we had had an open field, and no favor, we would have made the rebels scamper in double quick time.

The Sixty-ninth Regiment New York State Militia, performed prodigies of valor. They stripped themselves and dashed into the enemy with the utmost fury. The difficulty was to keep them quiet. While the Second was engaging a rebel regiment they retreated into a thick hay field, to draw the Northerners into a trap. The Second continued firing into them, while the Sixty-ninth, by a flank movement, took them in the rear, and pouring a deadly fire into their ranks, and afterwards charged them with the bayonet. The slaughter was terrible, and the defeat complete, for not a man stirred of the whole five or six hundred. In this attack there were very few of the Sixty-ninth wounded.

The enemy fired very rapidly and very well. They were apparently well supplied with artillery, and were not sparing in its use. The balls flew about us very thickly. During the heat of the fire our men had to lay on the ground, and thus endeavor to escape the tremendous result of the enemy’s fire. We kept as silent as possible all the while. For more than an hour the fire of the rebels continued in the most furious manner. One man was shot in the head and his face injured in the most frightful manner. His suffering was most awfully severe. For an hour and a half the Second regiment was under a most galling fire, without once having an opportunity of returning a single discharge. Had it not been for the Colonel’s prudence, or whatever it might be called, every man would doubtless have been killed. In my opinion, the army is very badly officered; there are very few good generals in the service. We are not in want of men. – They are in abundance everywhere, but we want good commanders. I have frequently heard the men say that they would never again serve under such men as Schenck and Taylor. The statement concerning the gallant repulse of the Black Horse cavalry by the Zouaves is entirely wrong. Not a man of the Zouaves was in sight when the terrible regiment came up. They dashed right down on the Second regiment, and out gallant fellows had as much as they could do to keep their ground against them. They seemed to be wile with hate and rage, rushing right on use with drawn swords – Our men took deliberate aim, and firing killed nearly every one of them. Their splendid black horses went galloping over the field. Privates Gilmore and Perry behaved very bravely. They killed from eight to twelve men and thus saved our colors. The retreat was conducted under the Lieutenant-Colonel and Major. The Colonel was most hotly pursued by the enemy and was compelled to make a precipitous retreat. The second went into the action 850 strong and lost about fifty men in the fight. I lost a very valuable black servant, a most intelligent and excellent man. His name was Charles Gilmore, and perhaps he is in the hands of the rebels.

The reports concerning the atrocious conduct of the rebel troops are quite true. They acted worse than could be expected from the Fejee Islanders. They fired into our hospital and killed our surgeons while dressing the wounds of our soldiers. The whole army is intensely excited on account their barborous acts. They fired on the hospital while the flag was hoisted. Those surgeons whom they did not kill they made prisoners and carried off.

Wheeling (WV) Daily Intelligencer, 7/27/1861

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2nd NYSM (82nd NYVI) Roster

Henry Simpson at Ancestry

Henry Simpson at Fold3





Asst. Surg. Thomas Alexander Means, 11th Georgia Infantry, After the Battle (2)

3 02 2022

Our Special Correspondence.

———-

LETTER FROM DR. MEANS.

———-

VISITS RICHMOND – PROFESSIONAL LABORS – TREATMENT OF WOUNDED FEDERAL PRISONERS – GOD BLESS THE WOMEN – HORRORS OF WAR – A SLANDER REFUTED – SACRILEGE AND ITS REWARD – THE FLOWER OF YANKEEDOM BLIGHTED AND THE RABBLE NOW TO CONTEND WITH.

———-

Richmond, Virginia, July 29, 1861.

Messrs. Adair & Smith:

GENTS: After a sojourn of one busy and anxious week at Manassas, I returned to this city on last afternoon, only that I might complete my outfit for camp-life in the surgeon’s department. Dr. Colley* and Rev. Wm. H. Simmons** arrived here safely after several days since, but could not make arrangements for leaving here until yesterday (Sunday) morning.

I failed to see them – our respective trainshaving passed on the way without an opportunity for recognition.

My labor on the battle field has been arduous but profitable to my professional experience, from the vast number and variety of important surgical cases which have been thrown under my treatment, while I humbly trust my services have been, at least in some degree, useful to my country and to many a suffering soldier. I dressed, while there, 200 Federal prisoners (besides scores of our own) whose sufferings were heart-rending. Some were brought in shot through the head; others through the neck, arms and legs; some with thigh bones shattered, and the limbs hanging suspended by skin, muscle or ligament. The miseries of many were intensified by the want of covering, food and water for which they piteously begged. Scarcely a portion of the human body was exempt from the violence of some weapon of war.

When I moved in the midst of such a melting scene, my Southern heart grew too large for the indulgence of hatred, and I therefore dressed their wounds and nursed them in their sufferings, as willingly as though they had been our own dear people.

I have been occasionally mortified at the cold heartlessness with which some who boasted a Southern birth, could ridicule and abuse these suffering creatures, before their faces, even when Death was about to perform his fatal work.

We have shipped 286 to the hospital in this city, 350 to Culpepper Court House, and some 400 to Charlottesville. Indeed, they are scattered over the county far and wide. Some of the wounded Federals are lodged in the costly and comfortable dwellings of the rich; others committed to the hospital, and hundreds more to the cheerless enclosures of a prison.

Too much praise cannot be bestowed upon the generous inhabitants of this Queen City of the Old Dominion. They have voluntarily offered to take to their private residences, as many as their rooms can accommodate and their means comfortably sustain. Woman, lovely, sympathizing woman – God bless her! is ever ready, with her heart in her hand, to relieve their sufferings.

The battle-field, when we visited it, presented a horrifying spectable. Yet, this is the legitimate fruit of war, and Liberty must be purchased even at this high premium, as our enemies are not content that we should enjoy it at a less cost of human life.

A request was made of Gen. Beauregard, by Gen. McDowell, that they might be permitted to bury their dead, which, notwithstanding slanderous rumors to the contrary, was readily granted. Yet, in such hot haste was the task performed, that, perhaps two-thirds of their number were left upon the surface with a few spades of earth carelessly thrown over them. – Numbers were traced by the bloody track along which they had crawled to the stream – Bull’s Run – where they had gone to seek water and died.

The vandal barbarism and blasphemy of some of the Federal troops are characterized by the following incident: Wile quartered but for one day in the little village of Centreville, they destroyed a magnificent Episcopal Church, desecrated the alter with profuse inscriptions, tore up the carpets from the aisles, scattered the mutilated leaves of the Holy Bible to the four corners of the building, wrote, in large letters, just over the pulpit, the following diabolical sentence: :Death to the d—-d Rebels and Jeff. Davis. So saith the Lord and Abe Lincoln.” Many scurrilous devices, obscene figures, vulgar caricatures, and profane denunciations, were scratched upon the walls of the gallery, and left as melancholy memorials of the infernal spirit which actuated them. Many similar scenes were witnessed by the citizens of the place, whose hands were motionless, and whose mouths were closed, for they dared not resist. They have since, however, “reaped the whirlwind” as the fearful reward of their wickedness, and are now at our feet pleading for mercy – attributing their defeat to the Government at Washington. Many Colonels, Captains and privates – all, indeed, with whom I have conversed, say that they had no idea there would be any fighting on our side, but now acknowledge that we fought well, and desperately – more like demons than men – saying that all the combined powers of the world could not subdue a people of such undying courage. Many of them had been forced to stay beyond the time for which they had volunteered, that having expired two or three days before the battle. One intelligent officer – a Lieutenant – told me that we had, hereafter, to contend with the rabble; that those we routed were mainly their picked men – the very flower of the North, and the idols of old “fuss, feathers and foibles,” and his royal cub – Old Abe.

Manassas is now one wild waste. Farm houses stand deserted, the green orchards parched and beaten to the earth by the tread of horses and men. Surely, never in modern days, has there been such a complete rout of confident, vainglorious hosts. Even Napoleon, in his great campaigns of 1814, could claim of no such glorious victory as that over which we now rejoice. – Heaven will yet continue to smile upon us, and crown our efforts with Independence.

T. A. MEANS,

(Atlanta, GA) Southern Confederacy, 8/8/1861

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  • Dr. Francis S. Colley, Surgeon, 11th Georgia Infantry.

** Chaplain William A. Simmons, 11th Georgia Infantry.

Thomas Alexander Means at Ancestry

Thomas Alexander Means at Fold3

Thomas Alexander Means at FindAGrave





Surgeon David Little, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

17 11 2021

A Letter from the Battle-Field.

The following letter from our late townsman, Dr. Little, Surgeon of the 13 Regiment New York Volunteers, will be read with the deepest interest. It was hastily written, immediately after his return from the horrors and dangers it describes, and was intended for his family alone, but at the request of several of their friends, it is given to the public, as it is of great public interest. To our readers, who known the writer, noting could be more authentic and conclusive as to the facts stated, as to the courage and power of our soldiers on the battle field, and as to the uncivilized and savage character of the enemy. On our side we see our young surgeon attending to their wounded, and soothing them by kind words, and on their side our wounded, and even our surgeons bayonetted, and our hospitals fired.

The horrible picture this letter presents of carnage and death, can have only one effect on the outraged and indignant sentiment of our people, – it must tend to arouse all, as one man, against an enemy which has brought such woe and disgrace on our beloved country, We have had that – our day of humiliation, – other days like it may be impending but the fearful retribution must come. From such testimony as this letter, we realize that we are in bloody, barbarous war. We had hoped, we had believed, we had prayed, that this scourge might never visit our dear land, but it is on us. We cannot obey our impulse and instinct to shrink from it in disgust. – We are all of us called upon to take part in hellish war. The memory of the bloody rout of that Sunday must be washed out in blood. We must not shut our eyes to this dread necessity. The cup is forced to our lips. The maxims of peace, of humanity, of civilization, which we have so long cherished, are of no avail now. The even seem to be in our way and a hindrance to us. The cannon balls which shrieked around David Little’s head, as exhausted he slept during the battle, are now our only resort. We have but one duty now – that to our country, which has made us all we are. We can serve here only in one way – by helping on the war. Our women weep over these calamities; our men must help retrieve them. The sight of young David Little drinking ditch water, and fainting on the heroic retreat, appeal to all others to do their part likewise in these days of sorrow.

As we are permitted to give to the public this private letter in which the writer speaks of his exhaustion and fainting, but modestly forbears, even to his mother, to dwell on the hardships he endured, it is due to him that it should be accompanied by the statement of one fact well known to all his associated. Among the athletic young men of this town, he has a reputation for his great powers of endurance. He was a hunter. Wiry, hardy, and muscular, he has no superiors in a tramp, and some of the young friends who have heard this letter read, have remarked that if he fainted, it is no wonder so few of his regiment were left.

M.

Ft. Bennett, near Washington,
July 24, 1861.

Dear Mother: – My mind is so confused with the scenes I have gone through the last week, that it is doubtful if I shall be able to write anything connectedly. I certainly can not give anything like a detailed account of what happened to me. The general account of our disaster you will have learned before this by the papers. One general observation I will hazard though, that is, that superior numbers, and fighting on their own ground from behind masked batteries, won the battle for the enemy. Their boasted superiority in pluck is all nosir. I saw with my own eyes, our 13th drive twice their number, like a flock of sheep before them. I saw the Ellsworth Fire Zouaves doing the same thing. – Afterwards, when reinforcements to the enemy came up, the retreat was inevitable, again and again were their cavalry repulsed by a handful of determined northerners. But then a panic came, and oh, such a scene. It defies description. Such a confused mass of men, horses, cannon, and vehicles of every description, jamming and crowding into each other in precipitate flight, and all the while grape and shells falling into its midst, while the chasing cavalry murdered all the stragglers, yes, and all wounded men! Oh, talk of Southern nobility. I shall never hear it named again without sickening disgust. Yes, they murdered our wounded – bayoneted our surgeons, and shelled and burned the hospital where our wounded were taken, while the hospital flag was flying in full view! They seemed to be filled with devilish hatred. – The fight waged from 7 o’clock in the morning until 5 ½ in the evening, when the flight commenced. The first part of the day, until reinforcements came up, was all against the enemy. For they were driven from one strong hold to another.

But I am filling up my sheet with what you have already from the papers. Now I am going to write my own little history just for your private pleasure and interest.

On Saturday last, word came from headquarters to our camp, that we must be ready to march at 2 o’clock Sunday morning. – This we did, thought the command was not given to march until 3 o’clock. Then we started with the purpose of out-flanking and taking two masked batteries. I mounted and rode “Kittie,” who, by-the-way, behaved splendidly under fire. Then when the battle began, we Doctors took a place in the rear of the column. For a long while the fighting was limited to unimportant skirmishing, and all that time I lay in the woods (it was a beautiful day) asleep and dreaming on you all at home. Waking, I heard close to me the barking of a squirrel. That seemed like a friend, and with the dream, made me for a time just the least bit home-sick. – The increasing fire, and the whirling of balls, soon cured me though, by making me forget my disease. After this, ie. 10 o’clock a. m., I was busy every moment, until the flight, dressing wounds. Then when the flight came, I looked from my ambulances and horse – they were all gone! Then I was indeed in a fix. The ambulances in which our wounded were to be carried, in which lay my blankets, bedding, dress uniform, surgical appliances and sword, my horse, “Kittie,” whose back I had come to think belonged exclusively to me, with my little other luggage and haversack of provisions, all gone, and poor, tired, hungry, thirsty me, left to walk in a hot sun a distance of thirty miles. It was hard, and I was inclined to be a good deal angry, but remembering that this would do no good, and thinking how much better off than many other poor fellow I was, I got into better spirits and started off with the remaining of our little regiment, some of whom were killed, some wounded, and many scattered, so that a mere handful remained together as we left the field. Our regiment, by-the-by, was the last to leave the field, and was the only one that could be made to rally to the support and protection of the retreating column. Once in particular, I remember, when a little band, we stood out in a field to resist cavalry, and saw all out own troops leaving us behind, while the enemy was hurrying upon us, and I thought it was wicked to keep us there. Again orders came for us to march on, and as you may imagine, we did so, in double quick-time too. How hungry and thirsty I was. Puddles in the road were eagerly swallowed. I drank water that 10,000 men and horses must have marched through, and so muddy that it was fairly thick. No sooner was it down than my dry throat craved more. We marched this eight miles, and just began to think we were at length out of the enemies’ reach, when crash came a bomb-shell in our midst. They had out-marched is and posted a battery just where they could rake us to great advantage. I think I came nearest to being killed just there. It was by a bridge on “Cub Run.” The bridge was blocked over with overturned vehicles and we had to wade waist-deep across the stream; just as I was ascending the hill on this sire, I heard a bomb come screaming through the air. I had just time to drop flat on the ground, when it passed over me, and struck about four feet in advance and bursted, instantly killing two poor fellows who were farther from it than I was, but who neglected the precaution of throwing themselves down. All the harm I received was being almost buried in dirt, Three miles from there we rested, about half an hour, when it was decided to hasten back Arlington, as it was learned that the enemy were endeavoring to head us off and take us prisoners – this was about 10 ½ o’clock in the evening – 21 miles to walk for us who had been at work since 3 o’clock in the morning. I started, and carried a wounded man’s gun. How the steps did drag, and how hunger knawed – finally, about 6 miles back, I fell down, fainting. The next thing I remember was swallowing some milk that a woman brought me. The enjoyment of drinking that milk exceeded anything I ever experienced before in the eating line. They put me into a lumber wagon and sent me here – and now after two days rest, I feel pretty well, excepting a little soarness left.

I should have telegraphed you at once, but not an officer or soldier was allowed to cross the river to Washington. I learn, however, that Henry Benjamin sent a dispatch to Rochester, to the effect that no officer was injured, and hope you may have seen it. – Our regiment is in a pitiable condition, and almost to a man those who are here are sick from fatigue and exposure. The disaster to Government is fearful, and it must take a long time to repair it. It must and will be done though, and terrible will be the retributions to the South. But I have said enough. Prospects are better again for me to see you this summer. * * I dressed many a poor fallen Southerner’s wounds, and found them to be generally grateful, and they seemed fairly astonished when I told them the North had no hatred towards the South – that it was a war to protect the Government and not of depredations on the South. We have a Lieutenant prisoner. He told me that the Washington artillery were there. – I can give them credit for one thing, that is, they are all splendid marksmen. Their balls had terrible effect. The prisoner said, one of our regiments, with their rifles, were a terror to them – that whenever they raised to fire they knew many must fall. This he told to our Brigadier General. * * * *

Affectionately yours,
DAVID LITTLE

Cherry Valley (NY) Gazette, 7/31/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

David Little at Ancestry

David Little at Fold3

David Little at FindAGrave

Roster of 13th New York Infantry





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

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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