Anniversary Video with Civil War Times: Matthews Hill, 7/21/2021

23 07 2021

Our first stop on Thursday was the gun line on Matthews Hill. Until just recently, this meant the five James Rifles of Reynolds’s Rhode Island Battery. But just last week two 12-pdr Dahlgren Boat Howitzers were installed at the site of those of the 71st New York State Militia, then under the command of the Captain of Co. I, Augustus Van Horne Ellis (read his brother John’s account of the battle here).

Appearing in this video are Civil War Times Magazine editor Dana Shoaf, Manassas National Battlefield Park superintendent Brandon Bies, and myself. Civil War Times director of photography Melissa Winn is behind the camera.





Bull Run at Gettysburg: Augustus Van Horne Ellis

21 06 2021

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Capt. Augustus Van Horne Ellis, Co. I, 71st NYSM from FindAGrave

In a few weeks, the National Park Service will be placing two boat howitzers on the field at Manassas National Battlefield Park to represent the position occupied during the Frist Battle of Bull Run of two boat howitzers of Co. I, 71st New York State Militia. The tubes which are right now being prepared for placement at the left end of the James Rifles of Reynolds’s Rhode Island Battery on Matthews Hill have been relocated from a monument installation outside the Fairfax County Courthouse. You can read all about it here.

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From left, Brandon S. Bies, Andrew Bentley, Jim Burgess, and Jason Edwards, all with the National Park Service’s Manassas National Battlefield Park, disassemble two Civil War cannons that were given to the Manassas Battlefield. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

You can find the position on the D. B. Harris map here, but below is a smaller section of the map. Look at the far right of the line of guns (little crosses) farthest north.

Harris Map Matthews Hill Detail

Harris map detail courtesy of Manassas National Battlefield Park

This recent development reminded me that I have had a draft post sitting around for years – yes, literally years.

On December 3 of whatever year that was, I was at Gettysburg, tromping the field with friend John Banks. Our travels took us up Big Round Top, through the Triangular Field, along the old trolley path, and up through Devil’s Den. Not quite as many Bull Run connections on this route as on Hancock Avenue the day before, but I always manage to root them out. In this case, let’s take a look at the monument to the 124th New York Infantry that sits on Houck’s Ridge above the site of the regiment’s July 2, 1863 action, what Harry Pfanz dubbed “The Triangular Field.”

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Atop the monument sits the unmistakable likeness of the regiment’s commanding officer, Colonel Augustus Van Horne Ellis. I say unmistakable, because here is the most well known image of Ellis:

BS_EllisAV1863_01

I know, right?

As you’ve read in the link, at First Bull Run then Captain Ellis was in command of two 12-pdr Navy boat howitzers attached to the 71st New York Infantry. There were at least four Ellis brothers in the 71st at the battle: Julius E., Samuel C., and John S. all served in Co. F. Julius, the captain of the company, was mortally wounded. (You can read an account of the battle by brother John here.) The ultimate fate of Co. I’s boat howitzers that were lost at the battle is murky (mention of the “recovery” of the lost boat howitzers in the 71st NYSM Regimental History).

At Gettysburg, Ellis’s “Orange Blossoms,” as they were called due to the large number of recruits from Orange County, NY, were part of the Ward’s Brigade, Birney’s Division, Sickles’s Corps of the Army of the Potomac. On July 2, 1863, they were positioned along Houck’s Ridge above Devil’s Den. Across and up the triangular field in front of them came Texans of John Bell Hood’s division of James Longstreet’s First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. The “Orange Blossoms'” position and situation was critical. After slowing the advance of the 1st Texas Infantry at short range, Major James Cromwell, who explained that the field officers of the regiment, including Ellis, were mounted because “The men must see us today,” repeatedly requested permission to lead a charge. Initially denying him, Ellis finally assented. Unable to resist, he also joined in. The move stopped the enemy advance, but Cromwell was shot down when the reforming Texans fired another volley. Ellis encouraged his men to rescue their major, and as the Texans were pushed back, the colonel was killed instantly by a bullet to the head. His and Cromwell’s bodies were recovered and placed on a boulder to the rear of the regiment, and the 124th NY returned to their original position, the Confederate advance in that part of the field successfully, but expensively, repulsed. Of the 238 officers and men taken into battle, the “Orange Blossoms” lost 92 in killed and wounded.

Legend has it that the monument to the 124th New York on Houck’s Ridge (one of two monuments to the regiment on the field), with the full portrait sculpture of Colonel Augustus Van Horne Ellis, sits atop the boulder on which he and his major were placed by their men. If that legend isn’t true, it should be.

Augustus Van Horne Ellis at Fold3

Augustus Van Horne Ellis at FindAGrave

Augustus Van Horne Ellis at Wikipedia

71st New York State Militia Regimental History

An account of Ellis’s death at Gettysburg

Some info on this type of gun





“Georgie,” Co. I, 71st New York State Militia, On the Battle and Retreat

26 06 2020

Washington Navy Yard,
July 22, 1861.

Dear Father: – I telegraphed you yesterday that I was back safe and would write shortly. We had a pretty hard fight – carried most of their fortifications – when they were reinforced by twenty thousand of Johnson’s command, (which Gen. Patterson should have intercepted), and were compelled to retire before such an overwhelming force of fresh troops. – In Company I were lost but three men – one killed and two wounded. They must have been captured during our retreat, as we have heard nothing of them since they were sent to the Hospital. Capt. Ellis, of Co. F, (not our Captain,) was wounded by the explosion of a shell; his father, Dr. Ellis, of New York, is now on here attending to him and his other son who was also wounded. They were both carried off the field by their brother, the Colonel, from California, who came on here to lend a hand and see to his brothers. One was shot down along side of him, and the other he found wounded and senseless along the side of the road, and would have been crushed to death by the retreating teams had it not been for the timely assistance of his brother, who, being a remarkably stout and muscular man, carried him also to the place of safety, and they are now doing well under the medical prescription of their father, the Doctor. Our Captain got knocked down by a spent shot, but was not seriously injured. He is now attending to his brothers.

We have lost both our howitzers, but brought them six miles from the field of action, after the order for our retreat, and then the enemy threw a shell among us, upset the ammunition wagon, dismounted one of the howitzers, and we were compelled to abandon them. The fight commenced at 12 o’clock on Sunday, and lasted till four in the afternoon, when we were ordered to retire. We marched till 12 o’clock the next day with scarcely a halt till we got home, and I can tell you I was pretty well used up. – They say it is a distance of fifty-five miles, and I should say it was at least that, from the way I felt when we got back to our old quarters at the Navy Yard. It was the longest tramp I ever took, and I don’t care about taking such another, especially on a retreat. If it were in pursuit of the traitors, I think I could do it over again without even thinking of getting tired, and I am in hopes I shall yet have the opportunity of trying it.

Georgie*

Newburgh (NY) Daily News, 7/26/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* There were at least two men named George in Co. I: Pvt. George Moore, Pvt. George Sterling





Sgt. William H. Garrison, Co. I, 71st New York State Militia, On the Battle and Company Casualties

25 06 2020

Camp Correspondence.
—————

Washington, D. C., July 23.

Dear General: – We have arrived in Washington very much fatigued. We left our encampment at two o’clock on the morning of the 21st, and arrived at Bull’s Run about half past ten o’clock, A. M. – Then the enemy commenced an attack on our division. Our brigade was in charge of Colonel Burnside, of the Rhode Island 1st Regiment. He ordered us to advance to the top of the hill and commence work. The Seventy-first and the two Rhode Island Regiments made the first attack. The enemy cut down many of our brigade before we fired a shot, but when we did commence we made everything tell. Our company had two Dahlgren 12 pound Howitzers, and used cannister shot on the infantry, and shell on the battery. We drove the enemy down in the woods after they suffered a great loss of men. The 71st lost from fifty to a hundred men. Our company lost Samuel Bond, a little fellow who worked nobly, passing shot and shell, until a rifle shot passing right through his heart, killed him instantly. The wounded are James C. Taggart and John W. R. Mould. Taggart is safe. His wound is a flesh wound, and his is getting along as well as can be expected. Wm. McDonald is missing. When the enemy were reinforced we had to retreat very much against our will. We brought our pieces eight miles, when we had to leave them. We arrived at our old encampment at eight o’clock, P. M., very tired and glad to sit down. Capt. Ellis stood by us in the battle, and cheered the boys on. He sighted the pieces at every shot. He was in the heaviest part of the firing, and was unhurt. The papers have our loss very heavy, which is not correct, according to the reports from the different companies this morning. I will tell you some more of the particulars if I ever get home. Remember me to all enquiring friends.

Yours, &c.,
Wm. H. Garrison.

Gen. S C. Parmenter.

Newburgh (NY) Daily News, 7/26/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

William H. Garrison at Ancestry 

William H. Garrison at Fold3 

William H. Garrison at FindAGrave