Pvt. Caleb H. Beal, Co. H, 14th New York State Militia, On the Battle

25 06 2012

Arlington Va, Camp Porter

July 23rd, 1861

Dear Parents,

Thank God my life is spared, which is a miracle I assure you. The last letter I wrote you was the day before we marched to the battle field we, started at 2 O Clock that night and marched until 10 O Clock the next morning, and then were engaged in one of the most terrific battles ever fought in this country without stopping to rest at all, and we were all tired out when we arrived, we dropped our blankets and haversacks tore down fences, and rushed right up a steep hill to the enemies batteries.

I have often read of battles but never thought I should see the horror of war, which I did yesterday. I have seen enough. I pray and hope I may never witness such a again, but we are in for the war and may have to be in another battle before 3 weeks.

We fought bravely and the 14th as hard as any other regiment, but we were all obliged to retreat with a great haste, we are all back to our old camps that is those who are alright, all jaggered out having marched all night and yesterday through woods swamps and a hard march it was as we were afraid we should be cut off by the enemy, and if we had been it would have made an awful for all of us. We were in such confusion my legs are all swollen and my feet blistered and if you could look at our camp this morning, you would see a lot of dirty tired and limping lot of soldiers. It rained when we reached our camp and we all laid down and slept just as we were having all lost our blankets.

The rebels are the most cowardly I’d ever heard of. They actually came out of the woods and bayoneted our wounded, and the report is this morning that they have burned up the building where our wounded quartered. The rebels were all concealed in what is called masked batteries being ditches 14 feet deep in the edge of woods and you can not see them until you come right upon them. They say they extend for 3 miles and every little way is a battery. If they had come out in the field in a fair fight we should have cut them up awfully, but they had every advantage of us, they are very tricky. They came out and waved the American Flag and enticed our men to rally thinking it was our troops and when we got near them they drop the flag and fired on us doing awful damage.

We did not have so many men as we expected as one brigade which was to attack the batteries at another front from us were led 10 miles out of the way by their guide. Our Colonel was wounded and I helped to carry him on a litter for a good ways, he I think is not dangerous, although he did not speak and looked like a corpse, every one in the regiment is rejoicing over his narrow escape.

As we fought for 5 hours amid shower of cannon balls, grape shot bomb shells and bullets, at one time we were slipping down and marching up a hill to avoid the fire, when the 71 st reg. of NY mistook us for the enemy and poured a volley in to us, which you can judge somewhat of when I tell you that 6 or 8 of us were all in a heap in the dirt and the bullets striking nothin’ a fool of us. One of my mess mates had his cap taken off by a cannon ball. We made 3 rallys up the hill. But the enemy could not be got at. The zouaves were cut up awful! Our Major Jourdan was one of the bravest officers on the field riding and leading us on with, now boys “recollect your uniform, Brooklyn, and the Flag of your country.” With cannon balls striking all about him, we all thought that the enemy took him for Gen’l Mc Dowell as they kept up a continual fire at him, but it was the will of divine Providence that he should not be shot.

You will see all the publications in the paper which will give you statistics of numbers more accurate than I can, get the NY Times or Herald if you can.

When I woke up last night I found your letter laying beside me and was glad to hear from you. I read it and fell back to sleep again, and slept till this morning. This is all I can write now. I’am so tired and exhausted, tell the girls I received their letter, but had not time to answer it. Give my love to all and when I get settled I will try and write a gain.

Your affectionate son C H Beal

Excuse haste

P.S. Send some newspapers if you please.

We have marched altogether for the last 3 days 70 miles.

One in the regiment is rejoicing over his narrow escape.


Transcription courtesy and with permission of The Red Legged Devil

Original in the private collection of Anthony Dellarocca, Genealogist and Historian with the 14th Brooklyn Co. E (Living History Group)

Contemporary Accounts of the Battlefield After Confederate Withdrawl

10 05 2012

In yesterday’s post I reproduced an 1865 account of what the 8th PA Reserves saw on the battlefield of Bull Run in the spring of 1862, and wondered whether there were any contemporary accounts to corroborate. Reader Vince, host of Lancaster at War, sent along this account published in a newspaper of the time describing the condition of the battlefield. Also included in the post is the above photo supposed to be a group of civilians posing in front of some disturbed remains on the battlefield of Bull Run (which can be found at Colgate University). I’ve never seen this photo before, and the year it was taken appears to be unknown, but if it is what it is thought to be, it’s the only such photo I know of. Thanks to Vince for pointing it out.

And right here on Bull Runnings, we have this letter. Not corroborative of everything, but of some things.

“Primary” Accounts, Chickens, and Eggs

9 05 2012

Friend Ron Baumgarten of All Not So Quiet Along the Potomac sent me a link to an apparently corroborating account of “rebel barbarities” at Bull Run. While the 8th PA Reserves (37th PAVI) were of course not involved in the battle, they had occasion later in the spring of ’62 to spend some time on the field:

Evan Woodward, Our Campaigns, p. 91 – While here many of us visited the Bull Run battle field, situated about seven miles distant, finding but few occupied houses on the road, most of the inhabitants having left, they believing the stories so freely promulgated in the Southern papers of our monstrosities. Where they remained at home a guard was furnished for their houses and their property protected. Near the battle-field were a number of huts lately occupied by the enemy, and over the door of one was found nailed the cross bones and skull of a human being. Leg bones were also found with the marrow but partially dried up in them, from which finger rings had been sawed off. What singular and refined tastes the chivalry of the South have! It was noticed that while there were quite a number of bibles and tracts left in their cabins, there were no cards to be found, but whether this was to be accounted for by the fact of their being conscientiously opposed to gaming, or considered the cards the most valuable of the two, we cannot say. The field, of course, possessed much interest to all, and the important positions were carefully examined. The bones of men and horses lay scattered about unburied although the enemy laid in the immediate neighborhood for eight months. Near the water courses were found the skeletons of many of the wounded who had crawled to them to quench their thirst.

So, is this an accurate account of what the 8th Reserves (my great-great-uncle’s regiment) saw on the battlefield, or a convenient working in of the testimony before the committee that was common knowledge by 1865, when this regimental history was published? Some primary material is more primary than others. The above is close enough to the JCCW testimony to raise an eyebrow or two. Contemporary correspondence would help firm this up.

JCCW Barbarities – John Kane

8 05 2012

Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 3, pp. 478 – 480

WASHINGTON, April 24, 1862.

JOHN KANE sworn and examined.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. Were you present at the battle of Bull Run?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What position did you occupy there?

Answer. I was sergeant in the 10th company of the 79th regiment, and acting orderly to Colonel Cameron.

Question. Were you near him when he was killed?

Answer. Yes, sir; not more than 15 or 20 yards from him.

Question. Will you state the circumstances of his death, and what was done with his body afterwards?
Answer. He was standing conversing with a lieutenant of the 10th company in relation to taking off the wounded, when he received a bullet in his left breast and fell while in the act of speaking. He endeavored to say something after he was shot, but the blood gushed out of his mouth and nose, and he fell, dying almost instantly. As soon as it was ascertained that he was dead, some eight men placed his body across their muskets, and carried it back off the field, and placed it in an ambulance of the second Maine regiment. The surgeon at first objected to our placing a dead man in the ambulance, saying it was needed for the wounded. But when we told him it was the body of Colonel Cameron, the brother of the Secretary of War, he said we could put it in there.

At that time General McDowell rode up and told me to order our men, who were scattering, to rally on the hill and try to form a square and prepare to repel some cavalry who were coming. I replied that I was in charge of Colonel Cameron’s body, and wanted to take it back to Washington. He then told me to pass the order to the first officer of the regiment I met, when I could return. I mounted Colonel Cameron’s horse and rode back, until I saw the major of the regiment, to whom I gave the orders of General McDowell. General McDowell coming along there, I informed him that I had given his orders to the major of the regiment, when I got permission to return to where I had left the body of Colonel Cameron.

When I got back I met the surgeon of the regiment, who informed me that the hospital had been taken possession of by the enemy, and several prisoners taken; and that if I went where we had left the ambulance with the body of Colonel Cameron I would also be taken prisoner. I replied that it would not much matter if I were, and that I should try to find the body. When I reached where the ambulance was I found that some ten or fifteen of the rebel cavalry— black horse cavalry, as I understood—had been there, thrown all the bodies out of the ambulance, and driven it off for their own wounded. One of the surgeons then told me that I had better make the best of my way to Washington, for if I remained there I should be taken prisoner. I accordingly returned.

I afterwards went out with a flag of truce from Colonel McCunn’s headquarters to endeavor to get the body. I saw a Lieutenant Barbour, who was the senior officer of the post at Fall’s Church, to whom I gave my papers. We were obliged to wait there until he communicated with Colonel Stewart. Towards evening the messenger returned and said that we could not have permission to go to Centreville, but they would forward the papers to headquarters, and would give me an answer the next day. The next day we returned, and were informed that we could not have the permission we asked, because the papers were addressed “to whom it may concern;” that it did not concern them, and if they were not officially addressed they would not recognize any papers sent to them. I asked Lieutenant Barbour to see that some mark was put upon the grave of Colonel Cameron so that it could be found, and he promised that he would do so.

When Centreville was evacuated in March last, I accompanied a party down there to obtain the body of Colonel Cameron, but we could find nothing to indicate where the grave was. We asked one man living there—Mr. Lewis, I believe—who we understood knew where the grave was, but he denied having any knowledge of it, which I have reason to believe was false. I took the party to where Colonel Cameron fell, and also to where the ambulance was that his body was placed in. We met a slave, who said he knew where the body was, because he had heard his mistress—a widow Donn—say it was his body; and he had seen a locket, with a picture in it, and some papers that had been taken from his body. The. negro said the body had remained on the field from Sunday till Thursday before it was buried, and that he had noted the place where it was buried particularly, as he had understood that a reward would be paid for finding the body.

We went to the place pointed out by the negro and opened the grave; we found several bodies there; they had to all appearance been thrown in in any way, just as they came to them; in endeavoring to remove the remains of Colonel Cameron without separating them any, which we did by inserting a board under the lower part of the body and pushing it gradually and carefully up towards the head, we had to take off one of his arms and the skull of another body that was lying on it; we recognized the body from the clothing on it; from a shirt that I had myself bought for him in Washington, and from a truss that we found on the body; several officers with us, who knew Colonel Cameron, also recognized the body; we placed the remains in a rough box coffin that we made there and brought them away with us; the other bodies in the same grave or ditch appeared to be bodies of private soldiers.

Question. Had anything been taken from the body?

Answer. Yes, sir; we found his pockets turned inside out, and his watch, ring, purse, locket, boots and spurs had been taken away; he had over $80 in his purse, for on the morning of the battle I had taken out of his valise and given to him four twenty dollar pieces and some smaller gold pieces; at the time he fell I took his revolvers and keys, and brought them back with me.

Question. Did you make any inquiry as to the rifling of the body?

Answer. Yes, sir; and I was told that the body was rifled by some of the black horse cavalry, and that some of the articles had been shown by one of Stewart’s cavalry.

Question. From whom did you learn that fact?

Answer. This negro said his mistress had told him so; and I heard others speak of it; Lieutenant Barbour said he had heard something of it from his own men.

Question. Who buried the body of Colonel Cameron?

Answer. This negro said that he and two other negroes had buried the bodies there; the other two negroes have been carried away, but this one managed to remain some way; an order was given by some one that each resident should see that the bodies near their houses were buried; that is the way these negroes came to bury them; they dug the hole and put in it all the bodies they found anywhere near.

Question. Did you ask this negro who had rifled Colonel Cameron’s body?

Answer. Yes, sir; he said he did not know, except that he had heard his mistress say that it was done by one of the black horse cavalry when they took it out of the ambulance in which we had left it; the negro said the pockets were turned inside out when he came across the body at the time they buried it.

JCCW Barbarities – Simon Cameron

7 05 2012

Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 3, p. 478

WASHINGTON, April 23, 1862.

Hon. SIMON CAMERON sworn and examined.

By the chairman :

Question. We have been directed by the Senate to inquire into the barbarous manner in which the wounded and dead of our army have been treated by the rebels. Will you state to the committee what you know in regard to their treatment of your brother, who was killed in the battle of Bull Run?

Answer. After my brother fell in that engagement, I am informed that his body was carried off by some of his men from the battle-field and placed, as was supposed, in a secure place, so that it could be recovered by his friends after the battle was over. There were eight men who took charge of the body and carried it back off the field, four of whom were killed. The body was placed in an ambulance and left there. When they returned, as I understand, they found that the body had been thrown out of the ambulance upon the ground, and his pockets rifled of his watch, purse, portraits, &c. The blanket that had been left over the body was taken away, and, as we have learned since, the body was thrown into a hole or ditch with several other bodies, and there covered up with earth.

The morning after I heard of his death, Mr. Magraw, of Pennsylvania, formerly State treasurer, called upon me and told me that he had some acquaintances among the rebels out there, and offered to go out and get the body of my brother. I told him that I thought it would be of no use for him to go out there. He went, however, and instead of being able to obtain the body, by order of Generals Johnston and Beauregard he was made prisoner and sent to Richmond, where he was kept four or five months.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. The rebels knew the body to be that of Colonel Cameron, your brother?

Answer. Yes, sir.

By the chairman :

Question. And they knew these messengers went out there solely for the purpose of obtaining the body?

Answer. Yes, sir. They had no other object in going.

Question. And they took them prisoners of war and sent them to Richmond and kept them there?

Answer. Yes, sir; and part of the time close prisoners. The body of my brother, when lately recovered, was recognized by means of a truss which he wore.

JCCW Barbarities – Lewis Francis

7 05 2012

Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 3, pp. 477 – 478

Brooklyn, NEW York, April 16,1862.

LEWIS FRANCIS, being sworn, testified that he resides in Hamilton street, near Park avenue, in the city of Brooklyn; was at the battle of Bull Run as a private in the 14th regiment New York volunteers. As I was loading my musket I was attacked by two rebel soldiers and wounded in the right knee joint with a bayonet, when I fell. As I lay on the ground they kept bayonetting me until I received fourteen wounds; one of them then left, the other remaining over me, when a Union soldier coming up shot him in the breast, and he fell dead. I lay on the ground until about 10 o’clock the next day. I was then removed in a wagon to a building used as a temporary hospital. My wounds were then examined and partially dressed. On the Saturday following we were removed to the Manassas depot, and from there we were removed to the general hospital at Richmond. In October, my leg having partially mortified, I consented that it should be amputated, which operation was performed by a young man. I insisted that they should allow Dr. Swalm to be present. I wanted one Union man to be present if I died under the operation. The stiches and the band slipped from neglect, and the bone protruded, and about two weeks after another operation had to be performed, at which time another piece of the thigh bone was sawed off. About six weeks after the amputation, and before it healed, I was removed from the general hospital to the tobacco factory. On my removal from the prison to Fortress Monroe another operation was performed, when five pieces of bone were removed. I remained five weeks at this hospital, when I was removed to Washington and spent a week in the hospital at that place, when I was removed to Brooklyn, where an operation was performed by Dr. Lewis Bauer, who removed two splinters of bone and sawed off another piece of the thigh bone. Whilst at Manassas I recived for food but a small amount of boiled rice and hard bread. At Richmond, whilst in the general hospital, I was well fed; at the tobacco factory I had a small amount of sour bread and tough fresh beef. I should have perished for want, but a lady named Van Lew sent her slave every other day with food, and supplied me with clothing until January, when the officer in charge of the prison prevented her from sending me any more provisions. After they had removed me from the general hospital to the tobacco factory, they returned and removed the bed from under me, and removed all the pillows and bed clothing, and laid me on a blanket on a cot, with another blanket to cover me. At this time I was covered with bed sores, having lain in bed from July up to this time, December.

JCCW Barbarities – Daniel Bixby, Jr.

5 05 2012

Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 3, pp. 476 – 477

WASHINGTON, April 11, 1862.

DANIEL BIXBY, jr., sworn and examined.

By Mr. Covode:

Question. Where do you reside?

Answer. I reside in this city.

Question. Have you been recently on a visit to Manassas and Bull Run?

Answer. I have.

Question. Will you state to the committee, in your own way, what you saw and learned in relation to the condition of our dead there?

Answer. I went out in company with Mr. Gr. A. Smart, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who went to look for the body of his brother, who fell at Blackburn’s Ford, in the action of the 18th of July. We took with us one who was there at the time, to point out where his brother fell. We found a grave there, which was opened. The clothes there found were identified as those of the brother of Mr. Smart, and were recognized from some peculiarities in the make; they were made by the mother. Other clothes of the same make, and with the same peculiarities, were taken with us, with which to compare those we might find in the grave. They were compared, and found to correspond exactly, We found no head in the grave, and no bones of any kind; nothing but the clothes and portions of the flesh of the body. We also saw the remains of three other bodies together that had not been buried at all, as we concluded from their appearance. The clothes were there, which we examined by cutting them open, and found some remains of flesh in them, but no bones. A Mrs. Pierce Butler, who lived near there, said that she had seen the rebels boiling portions of the bodies of our dead in order to obtain their bones as relics, the rebels not waiting for them to decay, so that they could take their bones from them. She said she had seen drum sticks made of “Yankee shin-bones,” as the rebels call them.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Are there any bones in a man’s body long enough to make drumsticks?

Answer. The lower leg bone, the shin-bone, was used for that.

By Mr. Covode:

Question. Did you see more than the one grave opened?

Answer. No, sir; that was the only grave we examined.

Question. You were satisfied from examination of the remains that the bones had all been taken away?

Answer. Yes, sir; we examined the clothes thoroughly and found but one small piece of bone, perhaps as large as your little finger; that was all.

Question. Did the body appear to have been taken up after it had been buried?

Answer. We could not tell positively about that, but we thought it probable that it had been.

Question. How deep was it buried?

Answer. Two feet, perhaps; just covered over fairly. Mrs. Butler also said she had seen a skull that one of the New Orleans artillery had, which he said he was going to send home and have mounted, and was going to drink a brandy punch out of it the day he was married. I understood Mrs. Butler to say that the rebels had a force of some 90,000 men at Manassas, Centreville, and Bull Run, until the middle of February, when they began to leave. The artillery and infantry that were stationed near where she lived she said went away on the Friday before our troops went out there. But on Friday night they sent back a regiment of cavalry to do picket duty, and on Saturday morning they went away, and on Saturday afternoon our pickets and scouts came up there.

Question. On Saturday afternoon?

Answer. I will not be certain whether it was Saturday or Sunday afternoon. They came up in the afternoon of the day the enemy left in the morning.

Question. Had you any conversation with any other parties relative to this matter?

Answer. No, sir; we saw none beside our own party, except Mr. Butler and his family.


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