“W. P. S.,” On Brig. Gen. Barnard Bee and the Campaign

12 04 2022

REMINISCENCES
OF THE LATE GEN. BARNARD E. BEE.

———-

On the fifteenth day of July the hills and valleys around Winchester, Va., were white with the tents of Gen. Johnston’s army, which consisted of the commands of Brigadier Generals Barnard E. Bee and E. Kirby Smith, and of Colonels Elzy, Bartow and Jackson, acting Brigadier Generals, and the cavalry command of Lieut. Colonel Stuart.

The town was all excitement under the information that Gen. Patterson had advanced from Martinsburg four miles in the directions of Winchester. Early the next morning the strains of martial music were heard on every side; the entire camp was in motion; and soon, out of the apparent disorder and confusion, came fort the regularly ordered columns, stretching along the roads leading in the direction of the enemy. The troops were in high spirits at the prospect of an engagement; but as it was well ascertained that such could not take place for a least several hours, while some of the commands took their positions in line of battle to await intelligence, General Bee availed himself of the opportunity to give the brigade some practical instruction, and spent most of the morning in “evolutions of the line.” Nothing further having been heard from the enemy, the troops were returned to their camps; but, in the evening, a courier from the ever-watchful Col. Stuart announced the enemy at Bunker’s Hill, nine miles from Winchester, and advancing. Orders were immediately issued to advance our troops to their respective positions and take up line of battle. As the order passed from camp to camp, it was received by the soldiers with the wildest enthusiasm, and the joyous shouts from determined men rang through the valleys. Every man sprang promptly to his position, and at night the men laid upon their arms in expectation of the attack, which was looked for with the first dawn of morning. The morning came; and, as hour after hour passed silently by, and still no signs of the enemy, disappointment was seen on every face. At last a messenger from Col. Stuart tells the story: “Patterson has fallen back on Bunker’s Hill, and commenced a movement to his right, which will take him to Charlestown and beyond our reach.” The lines were again retired, and the men moved sullenly back to camp. They had confidently expected to annihilate Patterson’s army of thirty thousand, notwithstanding our army numbered but little over half his force. At daybreak on Wednesday, the 18th, orders were issued that the troops should be supplied with two day’s cooked rations, and be ready to move at a moment’s notice. Early in the day orders to commanders of Brigades announced that Gen. Beauregard was being attacked at Manassas by overwhelming numbers, and that our army would be immediately moved to his support. This order was published to the troops after they were on the march, and several miles out of Winchester.

The object of Gen. Patterson in so suddenly abandoning what seemed to have been his purpose in moving on Bunker Hill, could not be certainly known. It might be to pass around and attack the unfortified side of Winchester, or it might be to get between Johnston’s army and Manassas, and prevent him from reinforcing Gen. McDowell. In either event, it was more than likely that we should encounter him en route to Manassas; and it was therefore important that the army should move with its appointments looking to an attack. Gen. Bee was in command of the rear division, consisting of his own brigade of five regiments and a Virginia battery of four brass field pieces, under the gallant Imboden; also, the brigade of Col. Elzy and Col. Stuart’s command of thirteen companies of Virginia cavalry.

The manly and soldierly bearing of General Bee, together with his constant efforts to secure for the troops of his command all the comforts that circumstances would allow, had won from them an admiration amounting to affection, which was demonstrated by the wildest and most enthusiastic cheering, as regiment after regiment defiled past him, where he stood dismounted on a slight eminence by the road side, watching to see that all was in order with the rear guard. But these men were yet to know him better and appreciate him more amid the storm of battle, the shrill sound of the enemy’s shells, and the sharp whistle of their Minnie balls filling the air – the dead and the dying strewed all around him – his cool steady courage as he moved from battalion to battalion of his command, a living, speaking example, [?]ing “death rather than defeat.”

It was late in the afternoon of the 18th July when the last regiment (the 6th North Carolina, commanded by Colonel Fisher,) left the town of Winchester. The troops were in the highest spirits, and their anxiety to reach Manassas could illy brook the frequent delays to which they were subjected by the trains of wagons extending for miles along the road between the advanced and rear columns. Hour after hour during the night the rumbling of heavy wagons and the steady tramp of soldiers echoed along the rugged road, reaching away in the direction of the Shenandoah. It was long past midnight when the exhausted teams were halted for food and rest, and the wearied soldiers stretched themselves and slept in the very roads. With the first streaks of dawn General Bee, who, with his staff, had obtained some two hours’ rest under a tree by the road side, was moving among his troops, and the column again on the march, soon reached the banks of the Shenandoah River. While the wagon train was crossing the stream the men despatched a scanty breakfast, and then themselves fording the river waist-deep, were quickly ascending the Blue Ridge Mountains through Ashby’s Gap. The scenery of this mountain pass is beautiful beyond description, but the men who then moved along it had not time or thought for the fairest beauties of nature. There was life and death on their movements, and, more than that, there was victory or defeat to our national arms, and each man strained his every nerve in the march. On reaching Paris, at the foot of the mountains, orders were received from General Johnston, who had reached Piedmont, on the Manassas Gap railroad, directing General Bee to march with his Division directly to Manassas, while the main body of the army should proceed thither by Railroad. General Bee at once issued an order detaching and organizing his command as separate from that of Genera Johnston, and commenced his march as directed. We had proceeded but a few miles, when Captain Randolph brough orders countermanding those received at Paris, and directing a junction with General Johnston at Piedmont. This was accomplished by the close of the day. When near Piedmont, a courier was met with orders for General Bee to report himself at headquarters as soon as possible. On returning from this interview Gen. Bee said, “I would have given anything in the world could I have said to Gen. Johnston, ‘my troops are in condition to march immediately to Manassas.’” That march would have taken him, as he supposed, within reach of Patterson’s force, and successfully to execute his orders in the face of such danger and obstacle, was an honor well worth the venture. He knew, however, that his men were in no condition for such a march without rest, and could not possibly make it in the time required. They had been on their feet for twenty-eight hours, most of the time under a burning sun, and without water, and not they absolutely required rest. Therefore, though with deep regret, he found himself compelled to admit that he could not go on that night, His care and solicitude for his soldiers was remarkable. He knew their wants, and made every effort to relieve them. When his column reached Piedmont he might have been seen, regardless of the drenching rain, moving everywhere among his troops, doing everything in his power which could contribute to their comfort. His gallantry, and patriotism had a parallel only in his kindness of heart.

At three o’clock in the morning the troops were ordered on board the cars for Manassas. Of General Bee’s command the Second Mississippi, the Fourth Alabama and two companies of the Eleventh Mississippi, under Lieutenant Colonel Liddell, obtained places in the train, while Imboden, with his Battery, resumed his march for Manassas. Generals Johnston and Bee, with their respective staff officers, completed the detachment which filled the train, and we proceeded to Manassas, arriving about 9 o’clock. Colonel Bartow had preceded us the evening before, with two regiments of his brigade.

We were scarcely well clear from the cars when a report was brought in that the enemy was advancing, and General Bee received orders to march his command to Camp Walker, about three miles from Manassas, in the direction of Centreville. Here he occupied only a supporting position, and it was evident to those around that a shadow overcast the face of our General. He had hoped for a post of honor, which, in his view, was in the front and nearest the enemy.

In this position our troops bivouacked during the night of Saturday, the 20th. At about 12 o’clock that night Captain Imboden reported his Battery just in from Piedmont.

At sunrise on the 21st July the booming of the enemy’s guns awoke the echoes along our whole line, and ushered in the bloody battle of Manassas Plains. I know write only of

GENERAL BEE ON THE BATTLE FIELD.

It was immediately evident that General Bee had not been overlooked, but that great confidence was placed in his judgement and military capacity, for at six o’clock he received orders to take his own command, with that of Colonel Bartow and Pendleton’s Battery (supposing Imboden’s too much exhausted), and move to the extreme left, in the vicinity of Stone Bridge, giving him a large discretion in co-operating with the Generals Cocke and Jackson of that wing.

Immediately on the receipt of these instructions the General sent for Captain Imboden, and said to hem, “Captain I have been ordered to take into battle a battery supposed to be fresher than yours; will you stand that?” “Not if I can help it,” was the reply. “Harness up, then,” was the order, “and I will leave my guide to bring you up.” Despatching an order to Colonel Bartow to follow, the General then placed himself at that head of the column, and with only a chart to guide him, started for his position on the extreme left. Advancing in the direction of Stone Bridge, or more directly on a line for Sudley’s Ford, he passed first General Jackson, and then General Cocke.

Upon communicating with these officers and learning their position, Gen. Bee at once perceived that the discretion in his orders, as senior officer, could be used to attack the enemy in advance of those with whom he had been directed to co operate. Disregarding, therefore, the suggestion of Gen. Jackson to take position between himself and Gen. Bonham, and directing that he (Jackson) had better extend towards Bonham, he passed on to the exposed left of General Cocke, where he rightly divined was the post of danger. Continuing to advance until the enemy came into full view, he quickly detected their extension to the right to turn our left flank, when, directing his march in a parallel directions, he checked the movement and compelled them to take position and form line of battle.

Imboden, with his battery, came up most opportunely, and was established on our left just as Rickett’s Battery of the enemy was advancing to their front. Leaving Col. Bartow with two regiments to support the gallant Imboden, the General, at the head of the 2d Mississippi and the 4th Alabama Regiments, advanced on the right whilst the two companies of the 11th Mississippi had been sent forward to the support of the battery under General Evans. The command of Gen. Evans had been engaged with the enemy as he advanced, but now fell back through our ranks. Our line was then advanced close on the enemy, and opened a terrible fire on Rickett’s Battery and the divisions under the command of Cols. Hunter and Heintzelman.

A portion of Gen. Evans’ command rallied in our read, and returned to the charge, co-operating with our force. That General, reporting in person that a column of the enemy was about to turn our right, an order was sent to Col. Bartow to advance one regiment to the support of that point. The Colonel obeyed, and himself led the regiment into position. The 4th Alabama was thrown forward up the face of a hill, and there held their position close up, delivering a terrible fire, from which the enemy reeled and shook. The thunder of artillery, the heavy sound of bursting shells, around, above and below us, the sharp and incessant rattle of musketry, and the constant whizzing of the balls as the storm burst upon our little handful, was enough to shake the nerves of veterans; but our men stood firm, and time and again were the enemy hurled back, bleeding and shrinking from the well directed fire. But the storm raged on; and, as the advanced lines of the enemy melted away, new troops moved up to fill their places until overpowered by superior numbers. The Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels of both the Mississippi Regiments, killed or wounded, and many gallant officers besides, stretched upon the bloody field, our brave troops, unable longer to stay the tide, began slowly to give way. Gen. Bee, in the midst of the storm, was seen everywhere that the danger most threatened – riding up and down the lines; encouraging the troops by his voice and example; urging them, by all they held most dear, to stand up and resist the tide which threatened them with destruction. Forming his lines wherever the field offered an advantage, and in the last extremity falling back to a new position, for three mortal hours he bore the brunt of this terrible battle, disputing with his small force, inch by inch, the bloody ground, and only yielding to overwhelming numbers. Now our reserved began to come up. The first was a regiment unknown to us. The General at once assigned it position. Then came Hampton’s Legion. Still all were compelled to fall back until Jackson’s Brigade moved up. Riding up to the commanding officer, Gen. Bee remarked: You see, General, we have been overwhelmed by superior numbers, and driven back.” “Let them come on, sir, we will give them the bayonet,” was the reply. Confident that Jackson would do all that a brave man could do, the General turned from him, and once more forming his own command, now dwindled to a mere handful, addressed them briefly. I think he used these words: “Soldiers, you have fought gallantly, and have only been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers; now we are strongly reinforced; there is Gen. Jackson standing like a stone wall; if we determine to die here, we will conquer. Follow me!” And that devoted band did follow him to the death.

The impression made upon the writer by Gen. Bee, while delivering this brief address, is one which time cannot efface. Of commanding figure, with an eye of unusual expression and brilliancy, and a voice at once manly and commanding, as he rose in his saddle and uttered those memorable words, “If we determine to die here” – words which make him a patriot-martyr – he presented a picture truly sublime. His determination had been made, and near that spot he fell. He had passed safely through eight hard fought fields on the soil of Mexico, fearlessly exposing his life at the head of a company of the Third U. S. Infantry, fighting under the banner of what was then a great and glorious Union; but here, on his first battle field for his beloved South, fighting for her rights and her honor, he fell; fell, perhaps, by a ball from his own commanded ranged among his enemies on the bloody field. While advancing at the head of his troops, the fatal ball struck him from his horse, inflicting a mortal wound, and he was borne from the field by the officers of his staff. Though suffering severely, he roused himself on the succeeding morning and asked the fate of the day; when told that the enemy was totally routed, and expression of satisfaction passed across his features, and a few hours afterwards the spirit of the patriot soldier passed calmly away.

In the death of General Bee the country sustains the loss of a gallant and accomplished officer, and to he bereaved family and friends the loss is irreparable; but to him it was all that he would have asked. In his youth it is said he was ever fond of the quotation –

“The life that others pay let us bestow,
And give to glory what we to nature owe!”

He fell as a soldier should fall – amid the shock of battle, in a just cause, fighting for all the rights that man holds most dear, not for himself, but for us and for all that will come after us. And his bright example will teach others how do die in defence of their country’s honor. Many brave and noble spirits will follow him, but none more brave, more noble, or more worthy than General Barnard Elliott Bee.

W. P. S.

The Charleston (SC) Mercury, 9/7/1861

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Obituary – Brig. Gen. Barnard Bee

10 04 2022

Obituary.

———-

Gen. Barnard E. Bee.

Upon the wings of shining Victory comes the dark shaft of Death. And with the first impulsive leapings of the heart in the glad shout of triumph for our arms and our cause, the breath of Carolinians is stilled in mourning for our gallant dead. In that they lived, they were ours – int that they are dead, it was for use they died. Upon each heart in Carolina they have levied a tribute. The bitter, bitter tears of those who loved them dearest in life, the little hands of pleading children, demand of us, even in the rush of life, and the fierce cry of victory, to pause in silence over their biers, and to mingle our sorrows with the unutterable grief of hearts that cannot be comforted. And to-day South Carolina, like a Spartan mother, mourns her lost sons.

Perhaps there was no man of his age in the Confederate service who had won for himself a fairer fame, both as an accomplished officer and high-toned gentleman, than the late Gen. Barnard E. Bee, of this State. Upon the desperate field of battle, where more than once his gallant blade had won him the applause of the army and of his native state, sword in hand, he perished – an untimely death.

Gen. Bee, descended from an old Carolina family of gentlemen, was about 35 years of age, and leaves a widow and an infant son.

He entered West Point a Cadet in 1841; was made Brevet Second Lieutenant, 3d Infantry, in 1845. Curing the Mexican war he served with marked distinction, winning two brevets before the close of the war – that of First Lieutenant, “for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of Cerro Gordo, on the 18th April, 1847,” in which he was wounded, and that of Captain, in the storming of Chepultepec, on the 13th of September, 1847, “for gallant and meritorious conduct.” Since 1848 he acted as Adjutant, and rose to a full First Lieutenancy in March, 1851.

His achievements, since that time, in wars amongst the Indians, were such as to attract towards him the attention of his State, and in his dying hand, on the field in which he fell, he grasped the sword which South Carolina had taken pride in presenting him.

Few men of his age had attracted more attention in his profession, and such was his reputation, that President Davis, at once raising him from the rank of Captain, appointed him a Brigadier-General in the Provisional Army.

It will not be easy to fill his place in the Confederate service; but South Carolina, more especially, mourns his loss, for he was a true representative of her race. Mild, modest, amiable of deportment, open, generous, bold and dashing in achievement, nice of honor and punctilious of fame, winning friends by sterling conduct, as fearless of foes as sensitive of regard, he was all that his State could ask of a Gentleman, a soldier and a patriot. South Carolina will ever bend in honor over the tomb of such a son.

The Charleston (SC) Mercury, 7/23/1861

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The Death of Brig. Gen. Barnard Bee

10 04 2022

Barnard Bee.

The death of this pure chevalier will ever be esteemed one of the brightest yet saddest incidents of the present great war. The very embodiment (as he was) of Carolina chivalry, he deeds of valor on the plains of Manassas astonished even the general in command, accustomed as he was to Southern fervor and acquainted as he had recently become with Carolina enthusiasm. But in the midst of his heroic efforts, the fatal ball was numbered which assigned him a soldier’s grave. It has long been said and sung, that “to die for one’s country” is “sweet” as well as “honorable;” the thought was never more fully verified than in the death scene of this hero. We quote a touching account of General Bee’s last moments from a letter addressed to the Charleston Courier;

“While participating in the thickest of the fight, a ball penetrated the groin and passed upwards in the region of the stomach. He was at once borne from the field to a neighboring hospital, and after a temporary rest there, removed to Manassas, where an apartment was provided for him in the hotel. Among those who called upon the wounded General on the day following, was his old friend, Col. Tupper, of Charleston, who was on the Staff of General Smith, and himself slightly hurt. Bee was lying on a mattress, calm, composed, and evidently not in much pain. Aware of his approaching end, he was engaged in dictating to one of his Staff his last missive to his family, being so absorbed in this task that he appeared not to observe the slightest movement which transpired around him. At intervals he would drop away into a dreamy kind of repose and seem to sleep, by a preconcerted arrangement his Aid would touch him slightly in the centre of his forehead with the point of his pencil, when the General would recover his faculties and proceed. In due time his labor of love was finished, and he turned his attention to the company present. Col. Tupper was among these, and as the hands of the two friends met for the last time, Bee gently drew him down so as to be more distinctly heard, while Col. Tupper bent upon his knee and laid his face upon that of the dying man. The latter then said: “Colonel, our acquaintance has been of a very pleasant nature. It’s hard to part where friends are so dear, but I must soon leave you. God bless and protect you.” With others of his friends he also exchanged brief words of parting.

“Shortly afterwards, the dying General asked to be raised in his bed, which being done, with his hands clasped, eyes burning with an almost supernatural light as if he already looked upon the glories of another world, he repeated a verse, but unfortunately I can only give the last two lines:

My spirit soars to meet its God,
I die in the arms of victory.

“With these upon his lips, the hero was laid back upon his pillow and without a struggle sank into his eternal rest.

“He had emphatically carried his life in his hand and the grace of God in his heart, and when the messenger came, it found him ready and willing to obey the summons. Death to him was no rugged path. He had

No earthly clinging
No lingering gaze
No strife at parting
No sore amaze;
But sweetly, gently,
He passed away
From the world’s dim twilight
To endless day.

Edgefield (SC) Advertiser, 8/21/1861

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Unknown Officer, Bonham’s Brigade, On the Battle and the Death of Bee

8 04 2022

Richmond, July 24. – The following is the account of the action on Sunday, at Stone Bridge, got from and officer of Gen. Bonham’s Staff:

Bonham’s Brigade was in the centre, at Mitchell’s Ford. This Brigade was composed of Kershaw’s, Williams’, Cash’s and Bacon’s Regiments of South Carolinians, Colonel Keller’s Louisiana Regiment, and Col. Kirkland’s North Carolina Regiment.

On the left of Bonham was Gen. Cocke, at Stone Bridge. This was when the fight began. After the battle had been raging for some time at Stone Bridge, General Beauregard, ordered up two regiments from Bonham’s Brigade to assist in repelling the enemy.

Gen. McGowan bore Gen. Bonham’s order for his troops to advance. Kershaw’s and Cash’s Regiments, with Kemper’s Battery, were sent forward. This was at the crisis of the battle – probably about two o’clock. As these troops passed on, they were joined by Col. Preston’s Regiment of Virginians, of Cocke’s Brigade. They made a dashing charge on the enemy over everything. In this onslaught, being comparatively fresh, these troops pursued the enemy upon the hills. They kept close upon the heels of the flying foe down the road, almost along the whole distance to Centreville, and in this pursuit, in conjunction with Radford’s Cavalry, of Virginia, they captured twenty-one pieces of field artillery.

About sunset, the other regiments of Bonham’s Brigade started, also, in pursuit of the flying for, by the Mitchell’s Ford Road, towards Centreville, and took many prisoners and some cannon.

The remains of Gen. Barnard E. Bee leave here tomorrow for Charleston. The name of this officer deserves a place in the highest niche of fame. He displayed a gallantry that scarcely has parallel in history. The brunt of the morning’s battle was sustained by his command until past 2 o’clock. Overwhelmed by superior numbers, and compelled to yield before a fire that swept everything before it, Gen. Bee rode up and down his lines, encouraging his troops, by everything that was dear to them, to stand up and repel the tide which threatened them with destruction. At last his own Brigade dwindled to a mere handful, with every field officer killed or disabled. He rode up to Gen. Jackson, and said: “General, they are beating us back.”

The reply was: “Sir, we’ll give them the bayonet.”

Gen. Bee immediately rallied the remnant of his Brigade, and his last words to them were: “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Follow me!”

His men obeyed the call; and, at the head of his column, the very moment when the battle was turning in our favor, he fell, mortally wounded. Gen. Beauregard was heard to say he had never seen such gallantry. He never murmured at his suffering, but seemed consoled by the reflection that he was doing his duty.

Yorkville (SC) Enquirer, 8/1/1861

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Anniversary Video with Civil War Times: Bartow Monument, 7/21/2021

24 07 2021

Our second stop on Thursday was the monument to COLONEL (NOT Brigadier General) Francis Bartow on Henry Hill. There we spoke about the first monument on a Civil War battlefield (I think), the man in whose memory it was erected, as well as a little about the incidents surrounding the naming of “Stonewall” Jackson and his brigade. See here for a nice article on that by John Hennessy. You can also read more about the Bartow monument in the April 1991 issue of Blue & Gray Magazine (the one with friend Clark “Bud” Hall on the cover), in an article titled The Civil War’s First Monument: Bartow’s Marker at Manassas. Appearing in this video are Civil War Times editor Dana Shoaf and myself. The magazine’s director of photography Melissa Winn is behind the camera.





Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston to Brig. Gen. Samuel Cooper on Need for Cavalry and Staff

29 12 2020

CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN MARYLAND, PENNSYLVANIA, VIRGINIA, AND WEST VIRGINIA FROM APRIL 16 TO JULY 31, 1861

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – CONFEDERATE

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, pp. 962-963

Headquarters,
Winchester, July 2, 1861.

General S. Cooper:

General: I become more convinced daily of the great value of cavalry, compared with infantry, for service on this frontier. The quantity we have is entirely insufficient for mere scouting and outpost duty. If you can send companies enough to make up another regiment under such an officer as Colonel Stuart, you will add vastly to the strength of this force. We cannot observe the river with one regiment.

Do send me Pemberton immediately, or, if he cannot be spared, Major Rhett. I have no adjutant-general. Can you not appoint and send to me two more such as Bee and Smith ? They are to be found—Pemberton, for instance.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. E. JOHNSTON,
Brigadier-General, C. S. Army.





Lt. William Mack Robbins, Co. G, 4th Alabama Infantry, On the Battle

25 11 2018

With Generals Bee and Jackson at the First Battle of Manassas

On the afternoon of July 18, 1861, the army of [Brigadier General Joseph E.] Johnston – about ten-thousand strong – which had been for some weeks manoeuvering up and down the [Shenandoah] Valley in front of [Major General Robert] Patterson and was then lying around Winchester, was hastily put in motion and marched off southeastwardly, going we knew not whither. Most of the men belonged to the class which may be described as “young bloods,” sons of planters, reared in ease and affluence – intelligent, merry hearted, high spirited, full of romance and enthusiasm. They had volunteered at the first call, not only from devotion to the cause, but love of adventure, and there was nothing they were so eager for as to get into battle, being somewhat tinctured with the idea that they “could whip at least three Yankees apiece,” and were rather afraid that the war might come to an end before they got the chance to prove it. In spite of their confidence in their general, they had been a good deal chagrined and disgusted at what they deemed his overwary strategy in not delivering battle to the enemy under Patterson. They were therefore greatly delighted to hear the general order which General Johnston caused to be read to each regiment as soon as we got well out of Winchester that summer evening. That order was about in these words: “Beauregard is attacked by overwhelming odds at Manassas. Your commanding general has full confidence in your zeal and devotion and asks every man to step out lively. You are going on a forced march over the mountains to reinforce your companions in arms and save the country.” Loud cheers welcomed the tidings. The prospect of an early encounter with the enemy loomed up ahead and stimulated the impatient spirits of the men to their best exertions. Heat, dust, and night-fall soon made the rapid march disagreeable enough, but it was pushed without a check till we reached the Shenandoah. This river, about waist deep, was waded at dawn of July 19, amidst songs, jokes, and general hilarity. The Blue Ridge was passed at Ashby’s Gap, and at evening of the same day the head of the column arrived at Piedmont Station on the Manassas Gap Railroad, whence Johnston’s forces were sent forward in detachments by rail as fast as transportation could be furnished.

So much has been said about Johnston’s troops appearing on the field in the nick of time after the battle had been long ranging that the impression extensively prevails that none of them were there at its beginning. This is a great mistake. Three brigades – [Brigadier General Thomas J.] Jackson’s, [Col.] F. S. Bartow’s and nearly all of [Brigadier General Barnard E.] Bee’s – were at hand when the battle opened and bore an important part in it all day. The Fourth Alabama and other regiments of Bee’s Brigade reached the Junction at noon of the twentieth and were among the very earliest in the conflict the next day. It was only the comparatively minor number of Johnston’s men under [Brigadier General Edmund] Kirby Smith and [Colonel Arnold] Elzey that leaped from the train when they heard the battle in progress, and, hastening down the Warrenton Pike, came in so luckily on the right rear of the Federals and caused the panic which gave the victory to the Confederates.

I have spoken of the eagerness of our inexperienced but enthusiastic soldiers to see and participate in the battle. The feeling did not diminish, but rather grew in intensity on this occasion, up to the time of actual engagement, and how much longer I cannot say; but one thing is certain – all of us by the time the day was over felt sufficiently amused. Thousands of soldiers on both sides know all about the experience of a first battle, and anything said on the subject would be but an old tale to them; but those who never took a hand, and especially young who have come up since the war would no doubt like to know how a battle looks and seems to a new soldier – its thrill, its thunder, its grandeur, its horror, and no lees its odd, absurd, and even grotesque features. I do not feel competent to paint an adequate picture and description of these things. I doubt if any pen can fitly paint them. A few hints about how this battle opened and proceeded – as the writer saw it – must suffice. The Fourth Alabama were busy with breakfast near the junction when the sudden boom of a gun in the direction of the railroad bridge over Bull Run drew our eyes that way and we saw for the first time the little dense round sphere of white vapor, high up in the air, produced by the bursting of a shell. This was quickly followed by others, the design of the Federals being to draw all attention to that part of the line while they were executing their shrewd flanking movement on our left. However, our regiment, with others of Bee’s Brigade, was at once moved at double-quick towards the Confederate left, to a position that had been allotted to us at one of the upper fords. But we had scarcely reached the designated point when we were again ordered to go at a rapid run for about two miles still further up the stream to meet the Federals – our commanders having just at that moment discovered that they had crossed the stream at Sudley’s Ford, entirely beyond the Confederate left, and were pouring down in heavy force on that flank. All depended on presenting a quick front to this unexpected movement. So we went  – a few battalions only – across the fields at out highest speed, and soon reached the plateau of the Henry House, around which the battle was afterward mainly fought. But Bee did not permit us to stop there. He marked that as the most favorable position for the Confederate line to form its new front on, but he knew his brigade alone could not hold it and he also saw that the enemy would reach it, unless checked and delayed by some means before an adequate force of Confederates could get there to oppose them. To gain the needed time it was necessary to risk the sacrifice of the two and a half regiments then with him by a bold movement still further to the front. He could not hesitate. So he ordered the Fourth Alabama, Second Mississippi, and Eleventh Mississippi (two companies) to move half a mile further forward to the next ridge to engage the enemy and delay them as long as possible. Down the slope we rushed, panting, breathless, but still eager because ignorant of the desperate crisis which had doomed us to probably destruction to save the whole army. As we passed the little rivulet below the Stone House, the duel of the artillery began and the shells of friend and foe shrieked wildly above our heads. Mounting the hill and entering the copse of timber north of the Stone House, we began to hear a sharp cracking of musketry ahead of us – a collision  between the Federals and some small bodies of Confederates we had not known were there before, among them [Major C. R.] Wheat’s Louisiana Tigers, wearing the zouave uniform.

As we emerged from the little wood we caught sight of these Tigers, utterly overwhelmed and flying pell-mell, most of them running off to our right and toward the stream (Bull Run). This and their zouave uniform, which we had never before seen, but had heard some of the enemy wore, for a minute caused us to mistake these “Tigers” for Federals and as they were flying in disorder, some of our men set up a loud yell and shout of victory, supposing the enemy were already routed and retreating, whereupon one ardent fellow of the Fourth Alabama, with his finger on the trigger and anxious to pull down on somebody before they all got away, burst out with: “Stop your darned hollerin’ or we won’t get a shot!” But the mistake was discovered just in time to prevent our firing on friends. A little way further up the hill beyond the timber and we struck the enemy and no mistake. Their long advancing line, with the Stars and Stripes waving above it (which made some of us feel sorry), began to peer over the crest, eighty yards in our front, and opened a terrific fire, which at first went mostly over us. It is proper to mention that the Mississippians, who had come with us, were halted at the edge of the wood behind us, and so did not get into the hot conflict that ensued, the whole brunt of which thus fell on the Fourth Alabama alone. On receiving the enemy’s first fire we lay down and waited till we could see their bodies to the waist, when we gave them a volley which was very effective, firing uphill. The Federals fell back and disappeared behind the crest. After some interval they advanced another and longer line; but the result was the same as before, only they held on longer this time and their fire hurt us badly. A third time they came on in a line which extended both our flanks, and now the conflict became bloody and terrible to us, their balls coming not only from the front but from the right and left oblique, cutting down our colonel (Egbert Jones) and stretching lifeless many a familiar form so recently full of hope and gayety. Then war began to show us his wrinkled front. But we thought of what they would say at home if we flinched and how ashamed we should feel if after all the big talk about whipping the enemy we let them whip us at the first chance. We could see, too, that they were as awkward at the business and enjoyed it as little as ourselves. Besides, it looked like they could hardly help killing every one of us if we got up and tried to run away. It seemed our safest chance to hug the ground and pepper away at them; and so from sheer desperation, as much as anything, we kept to it, until after awhile, to our great joy, the enemy fell back once more behind the crest, and their fire lulled. Our general, seeing we would be certainly overwhelmed at the next onslaught, gave us the order to retire, which we did before another attack. We had been at it for over an hour and had really rendered great service in gaining time for the Confederate army to change front and form the new line. But nearly one third of the Fourth Alabama had gone down in the effort and were left on the ground, including the colonel, mortally wounded. I should not omit to mention that the Seventh and Eight Georgia, of Bartow’s brigade, also came into our advanced position far to our right during our contest, and had a bloody collision with another column of the Federals, and though these Georgians were recalled some time before we were, they contributed materially to the delay of the Federal advance.

The two Mississippi regiments of our (Bee’s) brigade had also retired before us, so that the Fourth Alabama was going back alone. In this movement a bloody episode occurred to us. Retiring by the same route along which we had come, when we reached the little rivulet running near the stone house, we saw a regiment, in column by companies, marching down the rivulet toward us. Their flag was furled on the staff and so was ours. By the quarter we had just come from they thought us probably Federals, but were not sure. As for us, we felt the enemy had got so far around in rear of the place of our recent fight; their uniform also resembled that of the Sixth North Carolina, belonging to our brigade, and we hastily took them for that regiment coming to our aid. Thus encouraged we halted, faced about and reformed our line, intending with this supposed reinforcement to take another tilt with the enemy we had been fighting if they should pursue us as we expected. The unknown regiment also halted and deployed into line of battle at right angles with ours and less than 100 yards from our left flank. Their colonel signaled us with his handkerchief for the purpose of communicating  and learning who we were as it afterward appeared; but we never dreamed this was his purpose and made no haste to respond, feeling confident we knew him, and thinking of course he knew us. All this took place in a few moments. Having quickly rearranged our line, our flag was than unfurled and displayed – the Stars and Bars! Instantly a blaze of fire flashed along the line of our supposed friends (a New York regiment it really was), and an enfilading hailstorm of bullets tore through the Fourth Alabama from left to right, killing many and disabling more, among the rest Lieutenant Colonel [Evander M.] Law and Major Scott, leaving our regiment without field officers.

What does the reader suppose we did? We did not stay there. The position was too bad and the surprise too sudden. True, the enemy’s fire was once returned with considerable effect; but it is only frank to say that we resumed, without delay, our movement back to the main Confederate line, whither Bee had intended us to go when he first ordered us to retire. Having arrived there, even after all they had suffered, the Fourth Alabama still had pride enough left to rally again, and under the command of a captain fell in on the right of the line and fought to the end of the terrible day. I will not now attempt to detail all the incidents that befell the regiment in these later hours of the battle. I will give one, however, which will always be of special historic interest.

The position of our regiment being now on the right of the Confederate line as drawn on the plateau of the Henry House, and the leading design of the Federals during the entire day being to turn the Confederate left, the heaviest fighting gradually veered toward that flank. No one who was there can ever forget how the Federal musketry crashed and rolled in fresh outbursts as new troops poured in against the center and left. Farther and farther round its awful thunder seemed to encroach, as if it would never be stayed till it should rend and tear that part of our line to atoms. Our brigade comrades of the Sixth North Carolina, separated from us in the manouevres of the day, had rushed in single-handed and attempted to check it, but had been smitten as with fire by its overwhelming power and their gallant Colonel [C. F.] Fisher, with many of his men, were no more. Jackson, with brigade, was struggling desperately, and at length successfully, to arrest the Federal columns; but immovable as Jackson and his men stood, the surging tides of the enemy beating upon him with such a mighty momentum that it seemed as if he must give way. Just then the battle had entirely lulled in our front on the right. Our Brigadier, General Barnard E. Bee, at this moment came galloping to the Fourth Alabama and said: “My brigade is scattered over the field and you are all of it I can now find. Men, can you make a charge of bayonets?” Those poor battered and bloody-nosed fellows, inspired by the lion-like bearing of that historic officer, responded promptly: “Yes, general, we will go wherever you lead and do whatever you say.” Be then said, pointing toward where Jackson and his brigade were so desperately battling: “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall! Let us go to his assistance.” Saying that Bee dismounted and led the Fourth Alabama (what remained of them) to Jackson’s position and joined them on the right of his brigade. Some other reinforcements coming up a vigorous charge was made, pressing the Federals back. In this charge Bee fell mortally wounded. Bartow fell nearly at the same time and within a stone’s throw of the same spot. Before the Federals recovered from the impression made by this partial repulse they saw Kirby Smith’s men advancing down the Warrenton Pike upon their right rear, as before stated, and his unexpected appearance in that quarter struck them with an overpowering panic and caused their precipitate retreat from the field. The battle ended so suddenly that the Confederates could not understand and could scarcely believe it. When afterwards the doings of the day were recounted among is the above expression, uttered General Bee concerning Jackson, was repeated from mouth to mouth throughout the Confederate army, and that is how he came to be known everywhere as Stonewall Jackson.

In conclusion, as I have set down with an endeavor at entire frankness the achievements, the mistake and the misfortunes that day of the regiment to which I myself belonged (the Fourth Alabama), I may be pardoned for adding a word about how we looked back upon our experience after it was over as a curious illustration of the absurd notions of inexperienced soldiers. Our ideal was that we were to whip whatever we came across – no matter about numbers; many or few, we must put them to flight. To turn the back before any enemy would be disgraceful. Having, therefore, turned our backs to the enemy twice that day, as I have narrated, once under orders and once without, we of the Fourth Alabama, upon the whole, felt humiliated and rather ashamed of ourselves on reviewing what had occurred. It was some days after the battle that to our surprise we began to hear from our comrades if the army and to read in the papers that our regiment was thought to have distinguished itself greatly. Then we began to hold up our heads again and to recall the fact that we had lost more than any other regiment in the army. Finally, we go hold of the Northern newspapers and found where our gallant and generous adversary, [Brigadier General Samuel P.] Heintzelman, giving an account of what he termed our stubborn resistance in that opening conflict, which I have described, had praised us extravagantly, saying: “That Alabama regiment was composed of the most gallant fellows the world ever saw.” This restored our equanimity, and we concluded that if we had not come up to our previous ideas of our invincibility, maybe we had not done so badly after all, and perhaps our sweethearts at home would not scorn us as poltroons. One other profound inpression, however, was left on the minds, at least of some of us, by the events of that day, and especially when we came to gather up the mangled remains of so many of our late merry-hearted and beloved comrades – an impression which was not changed by all we saw in the succeeding four years, or by the lapse of time since, and that was – talk as men about great war-like deeds, heap plaudits on heroes and worship military glory how they will – war is from hell!

Transcribed from Peter Cozzens (ed.), Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 5, pp. 41-49. Brackets above are the editor’s. Per note therein, the original article first appeared in the Philadelphia Weekly Times, 2/26/1881, under the title First Battle of Bull Run.

William Mack Robbins at Ancestry

William Mack Robbins at Fold3

Interesting article on William Mack Robbins





Sgt. William Sidney Mullins, Adjutant, 8th South Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

16 02 2018

Vienna 6th August, 1861

My dear Sir,

I received yours of the 27th ult day before yesterday: your first also came safely to hand. I had been thinking of writing to you for some time, but our facilities for writing here are very poor, & until to day, I have hardly found time & convenient arrangements for writing a long & detailed account of any thing. Besides for a month all our correspondence has been under military surveillance & they open our letters without scruple: after the war, if some of us do not get killed, there will be some private war on this account. I hold the claim as against S.C. Volunteers to be insulting & infamous & I will shoot any man without scruple whom I have good reason to believe guilty of opening my correspondence, be his position that of President, General, or what not, when my service has ended & I can meet him as an equal. Of this hereafter.

You have by this time doubtless seen Capt. Evans, & read in the papers many accounts of the Battle. I will however give you a brief statement of what I know, & my opinions about what I have heard. There never will be any fair & just statement of the whole battle. No man living ever can make it. There are many conflicting statements here & even as regards our own Regiment there are facts asserted & denied, about which I am entirely in doubt this day. The ground was broken: there was no position from which the whole could be seen & in some cases Regiments were for hours without orders fighting on their own hook. I will give you now what I think to be the most probable story of the affair – as I go along I will tell you the facts that I know. We were not at all engaged in the first battle: they cannonaded us & the balls fell around us occasionally that day, but no body was hurt. Capt. Harrington was on picket in a wood in front of our unit on Saturday night, & between daylight & sunrise he sent in a man to Col. Cash to say that the enemy were retreating: that from one oclock that morning the sound of their artillery & waggons going off had been heard. These sounds were distinctly audible in our Camp. Col. Cash ordered me to report the fact to Bonham & I gallopped there at once. Gen. B. sent back word to Col. C. by me that it was not a retreat, but that the enemy were moving to attack the left & to be on our guard as the attack might begin on own front. By eight oclock they commenced firing all along our lines with their artillery, which we found afterwards to be only four pieces kept behind to deceive us & prevent us from moving up to the left. Between eight & nine heavy cannonading began on our left in the direction of Stone Bridge & soon afterwards very heavy rollings of musquetry & this continued without intermission save for brief intervals all day. We lay in our trenches quietly. Between eleven & twelve Col. Cash sent me with a good glass to a high hill in the rear of the Camp a mile to see if I report any thing of the Battle. I found there Beauregard, Bonham, & their Staff. The sight was magnificent. We could not see the troops but the smoke indicated the position of the batteries & the whole length of the line. I staid there half an hour, & though I could not make out anything myself, a member of the Staff told me that the enemy had turned our flank & that our friends were giving back. I gallopped back to Col. C. & as I arrived an aid came to order, Kershaw, Kemper & Cash to hurry forward to the battle. As I left the hill, Beauregard & Staff gallopped towards the battle – Bonham back to the right where another attack was expected. We immediately started under a terrible sun to the battlefield at the double quick: it was a terrible thing to run four miles at midday. As we started two regiments of cavalry darted on before us & our own drums beat: this informed the enemy exactly of our position & they directed their batteries exactly at us. The balls fell all around us: many within four or five feet of our line, wonderful it was that no one was hurt. Several I assure you fell so close to me that the rushing & hiss seemed to be felt against my cheek. Believe me – it aint a pleasant feeling. The double quick run carried us out of this. Within a mile or perhaps a mile & a half of the battle field we commenced meeting the wounded & the flying. One man wounded accompanied by four or five perfectly unhurt: we met more than a hundred such parties. All told the same tale: the enemy were cutting our friends to pieces. Hamptons legion cut all to pieces Hampton & Johnson & Bartow all killed – Sloans Regiment utterly cut – these statements were repeated us by nearly as many men as both Kershaws & Cash Regiments contained. Besides these cowards there were many along the way side wounded fatally & writhing in agony & uttering cries of agony. The effect of this upon the Regiment was not inspiriting. As we came upon the field – or in sight of it – artillery at once opened fire upon us & soon afterwards musquetry. Asa Evans, Genl. Evans aid told me next day that this was from our own friends & ordered by Beauregard. He mistook us for the enemy flanking & Asa says he said “we shall have to retire from the field.” They soon discovered who we were however – they knew the white Palmetto & an aid of Genl. Johnson dashed up to us to order us to the left of the point where we had first been ordered. And now let me pause from my story of what I saw to tell you the history of what had happened up to this time, as I learn it from others. Genl. George Evans was in command at Stone Bridge with fourteen hundred men, as he states them: Sloans Reg. Wheats Bat. & some companies: he was drawn up on a high hill near Stone Bridge, expecting the attempt to cross there: with only two pieces of artillery, one of which was disabled before the action began. Fifteen hundred men came up on the other side of the stream at the Bridge and commenced a heavy artillery fire: he forbade his piece to open at all but deployed a few skirmishers on the banks of the stream & waited. For more than an hour it went on thus: heavy artillery playing upon him but without effect, & his line silent & waiting: but from the high hill where he was posted, he finally saw emerging from the wood in his rear & on his flank columns with the sunlight on their bayonets a mile & half off: he knew his flank was turned: that the attack in front was but a faint to deceive him & that the battle was to begin in earnest now on a fair field & with no advantage of position on his side. With Maj. Wheat he rode forward to select a position, hastily did so, changed his whole position & the battle began. The enemy in this column were twenty thousand strong at the lowest calculation: fourteen hundred was Evans force, & so the real fight began. The enemy had crossed at an old ford four miles above unknown to Beauregard. If they had known Evans weakness then, I think they would have swept him from the field in an hour & won the field. But they were afraid of masked batteries & opening their artillery, their infantry kept well back. Evans sent to Gen. Cocke for reinforcements: he refused telling Evans to fall back upon him. To do this was to leave the Road to Manassas open & Evans refused & sent a more urgent message to Cocke, but meantime Bee – I know not how – came upon the field. Slowly, cautiously & but steadily the enemy drove us back: the field – the dead – the path of the enemy showed this the next day: more than a mile our side had fallen back. Of what occurred during all this time read the papers & judge for yourself. Each Regiment claims all the glory of holding the field: let history decide: judge for yourself. But I resume my own story now. Soon after two – perhaps a little before two we came upon the field, Kershaw & ourselves formed in one line & advanced obliquely to the left. All day the enemy had played this game flanking continually: whenever the front was engaged new troops spread out beyond, & attempted to take us in flank & in rear: twas thus their numbers told. Our march brought us into a thick wood: Kershaw kept on in old field & thus met the enemy before us & opened fire: he changed his front at once bringing his Regiment at once at right angles to us thus __| [Cash horizontal, Kershaw vertical] the enemy pursuing his game came down Kershaws line to the same wood where we were advancing intending to go round Kershaw but met us & we gave him along our whole line one deadly sheet of fire at at about fifty yards distance before which they broke & ran like the devil. They were the N.Y. Fire Zouaves & Kershaw himself who could see the effect of our fire better than we could ourselves says they fell before us, trees in a hurricane. We gave them another at a greater distance & a part of our line a third, but by this time they had found shelter in another wood & were safe from us. They formed in this wood & came out upon a hill about 350 or 400 yards from us with two Regts of Volunteers & opened upon us a deadly fire: their Minie Rifles & Muskets reached us perfectly: ours were too short of range & Cash at once ordered us to lie down. For fifteen minutes the balls fell around us thicker than hail. Every tree in that wood is struck with balls: many have five or ten & next day the ground was strewn with leaves cut from the trees. Why we did not lose there one or two hundred men is to me incomprehensible. To look at the trees where we lay even now you would hardly believe that we lay there so long & lost so few men. The fire became galling finally & Col. Cash undertook to move us further down to the left thus ___| [Cash horizontal, ? vertical, enemy hypotenuse] Cash desired to go down as I have dotted [left of diagram] but the woods were thick, his orders were misunderstood, our Regiment fell into confusion for a brief while: meantime Kemper, glorious Kemper, was playing upon them with as rapid & deadly fire as ever flashed – what music it was to us! & before we came out on the left their Regulars fled: the Zouaves & Regulars whipped, the volunteers concluded that they had no call to try it further & the day was won. Now in all this part of the field, Kirby Smith nor any one else had any part of the fight, but Kershaw, Cash & Kemper: that they overrated us in in number I am sure: that they fled under a panic, I am sure for the Regulars & Zouaves, outnumbered us then & if they had come boldly upon us we should have been very glad to see some help, but they fled. Jeff Davis came upon the field late that day and there gave us the credit of turning the day. He has changed his opinion since, they tell me. We were at once ordered to pursue & went onward. Kershaw, Cash, & Kemper. Col. Withers Va. Reg was on the road as we went on & was asked to go on with us: he said he was ordered to stop at Stone Bridge & damned if he went on & not a step did he go. But on we went & yet faster before us went five or ten times our number. Finally we came up with the enemy & glorious Kemper opened once more: they staid not to try muskets, but abandoned to us every gun, their waggons & fled in one inglorious rush for safety. Yes! McDowell was there covering the retreat & his prisoners say at the first fire of Kemper led the race although they utterly overwhelmed us in numbers & artillery. We did not know until the cavalry came in what a capture we had made: nearly thirty guns – among them that long ten foot rifled thirty two pounder, drawn by ten horses, & guns, ammunition, etc. We stayed upon the field guarding these things alone – even Kershaws Regt had left – until two oclock & within three miles of us five thousand troops fresh who had not been in the battle, besides the disomfitted hosts who had fled. My dear sir never did whiskey & champagne taste as sweet as the copious draughts of the enemys stores that night. I was sure they had had not time to poison them & I drank freely & joyously. But shall I tell you now of the battlefield? Of the dead hideous in every form of ghastly death: heads off – arms off – abdomen all protruding – every form of wound: low groans: sharp cries: shrieks for water & convulsive agonies as the soul took flight. It is useless to write. I know something of the power of words to paint & I tell you that a man must see all this to conceive it. One soon becomes callous. We were thirsty ourselves: a slight breakfast – a four miles run – the excitement of battle – the roar of artillery & burning thirst – all this hardens the heart & before we left the field our men were gathering Colts Revolvers & Sharps Rifles from dying & wounded men with utter indifference to their bitter cries. Yet we gave them water when we could get it. On an acre square I saw sixty five dead men – near Shermans battery – mostly Zouaves: how many times it was taken & retaken, Heaven knows, but when we came upon the field the Zouaves had it again, although it was not firing. Kershaw drove them from it & as they fell along his left intending to fall upon his flank they met us as I have told you already. I shall enclose you in another envelope Cashs Report, with his consent. Dont publish this, but he says you may give his report to the Southerner, not to publish but to complete a statement from it as from a witness. They may publish that. Do write me often. Tell me what you have heard at home about us all. If I ever live to see you, I will tell you many things I cannot write. But this I say – if it please God, to stop this war, I will unfeignedly thank him. It wasnt the battle, but the next day – in a heavy rain their wounded & our wounded – lying in their agony – without food or care – nobody to help – nothing to eat & drink – this filled my heart with terror. I heard men imploring the passers by to kill them to relieve their agony. I saw the parties who were out to bury discussing whether to bury a man before he was dead. He could not live & some proposed to bury him any how. Says a sergeant set down a minute & he will be dead & we wont have to come back! This is war!

Genl. Evans proposed to Beauregard (Evans told me himself) as soon as they left the field to take a Regiment, & a battery & by a short country road dash ahead post him himself in front while the whole army advanced in rear & cut them off. Beauregard said “No! our loss of life is great: I will not risk such soldiers as these.” The feeling was noble but it was a terrible mistake of judgment. If it had been done, not a man of that army would have escaped. Such an utter panic in an army is unknown in the history of two centuries. Our brigade could have driven every soldier of the Federal Army from our side of the Potomac.

Davis is not the man for the next President. Beauregard has implored for weeks & weeks most piteously more troops. He has told them that he was crippled for men & during this very time Davis has rejected Regt. after Regt. because they would not volunteer for the war & because he had not appointed the Field Officers. He has been appealed to overlook his objections – to take things as he could & he has let his temper overrule his judgment & risked all our lives. If they the enemy, I mean, had had a great general, our Regiments would not have brought a man away from Fairfax C. H. on our first retreat. Fifteen thousand men deployed in one hundred & fifty yards of our Regiment alone, & but for a wholesome fear of masked batteries, not one man of us would have ever seen home again.

Again, there has not been any provision made for the sick & wounded that is even decent. The offices of the Surgeons department are crammed with utter incapables. In the volunteers, this is bad enough but in the Regular service it is intolerable. I heard the day before the Battle an officer of intelligence say “Well, whoever is wounded seriously will die. There has not been an army in Christendom during this century, where provisions for the wounded was so entirely neglected.” This was a man of intelligence who knew of what he was speaking.

I might say many other things to you of inefficiency & incapacity: of drunkenness, in high places at critical periods: of blunder & ignorance that would disgust you. But I will not close discouragingly. Let me say this, that with all this our army will win our triumph. They our leaders may foolishly fling away many of our lives: our cause will triumph. The soldiers discriminate between the blunders & follies of our leaders & the cause itself, & by that they will stand. I hope some day to talk these things over with you: till then adieu.

Dont let my scribblings get into the papers. You may show them to any discreet friends you choose, but on no account let any word get to a newspaper. Beauregards orders are stringent & a violation would expose me to trouble & danger. Perhaps you had better not show them at all. My regards to Mr. Millin & your sons if they are with you. Present my respectful remembrances to Mrs. Charles & believe me very truly yours

Will S. Mullins

W.S. Mullins 6 Aug 1861 Report of the Battle of Manassas

Letter image

From South Caroliniana Library

A full annotated transcription can be found at the above site, including biographical information regarding the author and persons mentioned in the letter. The transcription was compared to the letter image prior to posting here – those serve as its basis. Per that transcription, this letter was addressed to Edgar Welles Charles of the Darlington District, South Carolina.

William Sidney Mullins at Ancestry

William Sidney Mullins at FindAGrave

E. B. C. Cash’s report, which mentions Mullins and the capture of Congressman Alfred Ely.





Capt. Hugh R. Miller, Co. G, 2nd Mississippi Infantry, On the Battle

8 07 2015

THE GREAT BATTLE OF MANASSAS.

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Report of Capt. Hugh R. Miller

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Hon. W. S. Bates:

It was due to the friends of the “Pontotoc minute men” that I should give them some account of the part performed by us on the 21st of July in the battle of Manassas; but this duty is now rendered doubly incumbent, by certain grossly erroneous statements recently published in the Examiner, purporting to give an account of our conduct on that memorable day. Justice to the men, as well as to the officers, demands that those statements shall be corrected.

We were led into battle by General Bee early in the morning. We went upon the field with 68 men, rank and file, with all the commissioned and non-commissioned officers at their posts – a larger number than any other company in the regiment turned out that day.

As we approached the enemy’s front, and neared the point where we were formed into line-of-battle Col. Falkner was detached with three companies, (not seven) to-wit; the Tishomingo Rifles, I-u-ka Rifles and Town Creek Rifles, about two hundred yards from the other seven companies of the regiment. The object was to endeavor to silence, or force back a battery of the enemy with these three companies, and succeeding or failing in this, that they should unite with the body of the regiment.

The other seven companies, including our own, were led up by Gen. Bee and formed on the side of a fence inclosing a corn field in our front, through which the enemy were advancing. – We were ordered by Gen. Bee, who posted us, to lie down behind the fence and to await the approach of the enemy – throwing down the fence so as not to obstruct our fire or advance, if it became advisable. The seven companies were thus posted – the 4th Alabama regiment being on our right, and about 300 yards in advance of our position, on the hill-side, and in the open cornfield. After we had formed thus behind the fence, the O’Conner Rifles, Captain Buchanan, who were on our left, were ordered forward by General Bee as skirmishers. They deployed in the open field in our front, abreast with the line of the 4th Alabama regiment, and became immediately engaged in a brisk fire with the enemy, which they [kept?] up, until compelled by overwhelming numbers, to rally upon the companies remaining at the fence, bringing one of their men badly wounded. They came down and formed on our right.

In the meantime an incessant fire had been kept up between the 4th Alabama and the enemy. From the time we had been posted at the fence, the enemy had been throwing shot and shell about 30 feet over our heads, cutting trees and limbs that fell amongst us. Having discovered the error in their aim, they gradually lowered the range of their guns until their shot and shell passed immediately over our heads and about us. At last a shell fell about 20 paces in front of the left of our company, scattering fragments and dust in every direction. At this moment all the companies of our regiment, posted at the fence, except the Pontotoc Minute Men and the Cherry Creek Rifles, (the O’Conner Rifles being still engaged in skirmishing in our front) sprang to their feet and retreated across the woods in our rear. Three men on the left of my company rose to their feet, supposing from the movement of the other companies that there was an order to retreat. None of them “fled” or moved a pace. Seeing the movement of the others I instantly sprang to my feet and said, “down men, stand to your posts, there is no order to retreat”. I was instantly obeyed and those who had risen to their feet, every men remaining at his post; although, by this time, the minie balls, as well as shot and shell, from the artillery, rained thick around us. No other officer of my company gave any command whatever – none was necessary. What Lieut. Fontaine may have done by “calls” and “signals” to those of other companies who “fled”, I know not – I heard nothing of it then, or since, until I saw the publication in the Examiner. It is due to the Cherry Creek Rifles to say that they did not partake of the panic, and did not leave their post, but the few of them who had arisen to their feet promptly assumed their original position, Capt Herring expressing his concurrence with me that there had been given no order to retreat.

It is proper to remark that this was the first occasion on which my men had been subjected to the fire of the enemy, and nothing occurred during that terrible day, that inspired me with such a high degree of confidence in their firmness and bravery, and in their readiness to obey my commands in the midst of peril, as the promptness with which they obeyed my orders and remained at their posts. They did not fly, or need to be rallied; but remained at their post with unblanched cheeks, until they were ordered to change position by the officer in command of them.

The 4th Alabama regiment, after withstanding a heavy fire for about half an hour, was compelled to file to the right to avoid being outflanked by vastly superior numbers, and retreated in good order far to our right, leaving only our three companies to face an advancing column of from three to five thousand men supported by artillery. As they advanced over the hill we fired a few rounds and retired though the wood in our rear. Here, as at all times during the day it was the constant aim and effort to Lieut. Palmer and myself, as previously agreed upon in conference, to keep our company together – compact. And in retiring across the wood, they did preserve good order – the O’Conner and Cherry Creek Rifles leaving us far in their rear. As we approached an open field in the rear of the wood, and after we were without the range of the enemy’s shot, I commanded “halt – about face – right dress,” all of which was promptly done; and to compose and reassure the men, as much as to secure good order when we advanced into the open field, I caused the company to tell off by twos. All this was done by my command, and not by the command of Lieut. Fontaine or any one else. It was not necessary for me to “come up;” I was all the time up, and immediately with the company, and so was my second in command, Lieut. Palmer.

We then filed by the right flank into the open field, passing down a hillside to a small creek, or “run” as they are called here, until we came up with the O’Conner and Cherry Creek Rifles. – We now discovered a large body of the enemy coming over the ridge in our rear and to the right of the line over which we had just passed. Our three companies immediately crossed the run and formed fronting the enemy. We could not retreat up the opposite hill-side without being under the fire of the enemy for several hundred yards. The enemy had fired a few shots at us, and had wounded one of Capt. Herring’s men. After a moments conference with Capts. Buchanan and Herring, we determined to form our men in the channel of the creek, and if forced to do so to retreat down the channel. The command was immediately given, and the men sprang into the water – the banks affording a fine breastwork and protection.

We opened fire upon the enemy within good musket range, and the dead bodies found upon the hillside afterwards, attest the effect of our shots. – The enemy were advancing in column of division, and immediately in the rear of the regiment nearest to us, another loomed up over the ridge with a flaunting flag of stars and stripes. – They were in full United States uniform, and there was no reason whatever, from their appearance and position, to doubt that they were the enemy; yet a silly clamor was raised by some as to whether they were friends or enemies. This was silenced by the command to form in this creek and to fire upon them.

To our surprise and gratification the regiment in advance, fell back under our fire up the hill out of the range of our guns, uniting with the regiment in their rear. This afforded us an opportunity to avoid being swallowed up by overwhelming numbers, and we retired across the ridge in our rear. Here we became separated from the O’Conner and the Cherry Creek Rifles, and did not see the latter company again during the day.

We retired across the ridge and through a skirt of woods to the [south?] side of the Warrenton road, where we met with Gen. Bee, who inquired of me for Col. Falkner; I replied that I had not seen, or been able to find him, or the regiment, since we were posted in the morning, and that I desired orders. Gen. Bee immediately led us forward near a house, known as Robinson’s – a free negro – and posted us on the hill-side on the right of a Virginia regiment, and passed on to the house on the top of the hill. In a few moments he returned and appealed to us and the regiment on our left, to move up to the house and aid in holding an important position that a few men had held for some time. We immediately sprang up, and so did the men of the regiment on our left, but their colonel springing to their front ordered them to remain where they were, that he (Gen. Bee) was not their commander. Gen Bee expressed his indignation at this, and turning to us said “come on Mississippians,” and led us up to the right of the house and formed us in the lane directly in front of the line of the enemy who were not yet within musket range. – The Cherry Creek Rifles were not with us at this time at all, as stated in the publication in the Examiner. Archibald Clark, II. McPherson and Mr. Gaillard of the Coonawah Rifles had come and joined us when the [company?] left the fence where we were posted in the morning, and were the only persons with us, not of our own company.

The infantry of the Hampton’s Legion were formed in the yard and about the house on our left. Gen. Bee succeeded in bringing up a few companies of a Virginia regiment who formed on our left in the lane. We had been posted here but a few minutes when we discovered a regiment of the enemy emerging from the woods upon an open ridge directly upon our right and within three hundred yards of us – my company being on our right flank and nearest to them. Their appearance and position at once demonstrated that they were of the enemy. Capt. Herring was not there to make any suggestion, nor did I think for a minute they were friends. The entire statement in the publication by Lieut. Fontaine on this part of the subject is a mass of error and confusion. If any signals were exchanged with the enemy here, I heard nothing and saw nothing of it. It was evident that they had come up to take us on the flank by a quick and unexpected attack. Col. Harper of the Va. regiment passed along the lane in our rear a short distance, and returning quickly, remarked to me as he passed, “they are certainly the enemy and will be upon us immediately.” His companies I discovered immediately withdrew along the lane to the left of the house and I saw no more of them.

I pause here for a moment to correct a few immaterial errors. I did not order the men here or elsewhere during the day, to “cease firing.” I was at no time bothered with doubts, which seemed to afflict others, as to the character of the troops around us. I did not fire my rifle here as stated. I did not have it with me at this time. I first fired at the fence where we were first posted in the morning, and when the enemy were at least five hundred yards from us. Before doing so, I cautioned the men not to fire because I did, as the enemy were entirely beyond the range of their guns. I then elevated the sight and took aim at a man on horseback whose head and body I could just see over the ridge – the enemy’s line being entirely out of view. I reloaded it, and again, when we formed in the channel of the creek, as before stated, I then fired at the enemy again, when on the reloading and attempting to cock it I found it out of the order so that I could not do so, and as we were led up to our position by Gen. Bee, in passing through the woods, I met a Georgia soldier, leading off another whom I took to be wounded, and asking him merely what troops and regiment he belonged to, I requested him to take my gun to his camp as it was an useless incumbrance to me, which he readily agreed to do. – I delivered it to him and that is the last of it.

To return to the narrative of events. We were left alone in the lane, our men had fired a few ineffectual shots at the column of the enemy in our front, just before we discovered the regiment flanking us on our right. In a very few moments after this regiment first made its appearance, it advance upon us at the double-quick, firing. I immediately ordered a retreat, without hearing any suggestion from any one – it was a necessity obvious to everyone. The greater portion of the company jumped over the fence in our rear, and forming the enclosure on that side of the lane, retiring diagonally from the front of the approaching regiment. Some few passed directly from the enemy down the lane into the yard. Of this last number was John M. Ward, who was last seen standing in a broken panel of the yard paling loading and firing. – Here he received his mortal wound. – My men continued to halt and fire as they retreated through the orchard down the hill. William E. Wiley received his mortal wound about thirty paces from the fence we had just crossed, and where he must have halted and have been firing at the enemy, as the shot entered his face and came out at the back part of his head. Both he and Ward were killed instantly. As we retreated down the hill, in the orchard, and about fifty yards from where Ward stood, Spotswood Dandridge had his thigh broken, and appealing to me as I passed him with the rear of the company, not the leave him, I turned and called to two or three men to assist John F. Wray who had already got to him, and they carried him from the field. In the mean time Archibald Clark of Capt. Taylor’s company, and Berry M. Ellzy of my company, were wounded – Clark mortally. The advance of the enemy was retarded and our escape secured by the firing of a portion of my men, which was kept up longer perhaps then was prudent or consistent with their safety. When my attention was called by Dandridge to himself, I saw Ward and hallooed to him to come on, but the distance and noise were so great that he could not have heard me. He was then alone, and no one of our company was near him when he fell. – Nearly the entire company passed through the orchard, and down the hill, having left the lane at the start, and did not form again until we had retreated about three hundred yards and without the range of the enemy’s guns. Here I halted the company and reformed it – the wounded being carried to the rear, except Ellzy who was wounded when none of his comrades were near him, and who was taken prisoner by the enemy, but afterwards abandoned by them from alarm, thereby affording him the means to escape.

We were again without orders and without a field officer to lead us, and moved across the field toward the left of our line of battle until we came upon a South Carolina regiment, with which, at the suggestion of Lieut. Palmer, I had determined to remain during the day. We had formed on their right but a short time when we discovered the O’Conner Rifles on another part of the same field, Lieut. Palmer and myself, after consultation, concluded that it was our duty to unite with them, and if possible find our own regiment. We accordingly drew off and joined the O’Conner’s, and with them moved up to a point near our left wing, and above and to the left of a portion of the 4th Alabama regiment which we found there without a field officer and in great confusion. Our men had just sat down for the first time during the day to rest, and some had started to a ravine nearby to get water, when Gen. Bee came dashing down the hill, exhibiting intense anxiety and addressing himself to us and the Alabamians on our right and below us, he said “men, there is a position here important to be held, move up quickly and support it.” Instantly our men were on their feet, and my company being on the left, and our route being to the left, I faced the company to the left and marched off by the left flank, the O’Conner’s who were on our right did the same and followed us, Gen. Bee leading us at a canter, whilst we moved at “double-quick.” It is proper to state here that Lieut. Leland had remained with us during the day until his strength was completely exhausted. He was so feeble from protracted illness that he scarcely ought to have gone upon the field at all. When we had halted to rest, as above stated, others said to me that they were broken down and unable to go further. Of this number was Wm. Barr who was quite feeble from a recent illness. As we moved up the hill, having near a half a mile to pass over, Mr. Barr gave out, not knowing where or how far we were called on to march, and turned to the left down a road leading towards Manassas, whilst our course was nearly in the opposite direction. Here, as he informs me, he was soon joined by Lieut. Fontaine and another, a private, of my company.

There was no other regiment, or considerable body of troops on our side anywhere to be seen on or near the field over which we passed. I had occasion to look back after we had advanced several hundred yards up the hill, and discovered that the Alabamians, although they appeared to be moving, were yet in confusion, and several hundred yards in our rear. The O’Conner’s were close up with us, and continued so until we approached the brow of the hill and formed into line – they forming on our right.

There was no regiment then on the field upon which we were formed, nor were we formed upon the flank of any regiment, as stated by Lieut. Fontaine. He did not reach that part of the field, and therefore knew nothing about it.

As we advanced toward the hillside and before we were nearer than four hundred yards of the enemy’s line, which was not yet visible from where we were, I discovered the last stragglers of a Virginia regiment, which had just been repulsed from this position, retreating across our front toward Manassas. It was the repulse of this regiment that caused Gen. Bee’s anxiety when he came for us.

Hitherto we had been led up to positions to await the approach of the enemy, now we had to advance upon the enemy, with the balls whistling around us like a hail storm. The Minute Men and the O’Conner’s moved steadily forward, loading and firing rapidly as they advanced, until we were within seventy-five yards of the enemy’s line. No other troops came up on the field, the Alabamians having fallen back, or turned towards Manassas. Just after we had formed into line and came within range of the enemy’s guns, Gen. Bee wheeled around our left flank, and to our rear, and in a few seconds received his death wound from a point of woods to our left, where some of the enemy had concealed themselves. A few minutes afterwards Lieut. Palmer received his death wound by a shot from the same quarter, and from the nature of the wounds of many of my men, they must have been shot from the same direction. – Our attention was directed exclusively to the front, and we apprehended no danger from this quarter. This party had pursued our retreating forces across the ridge, and had ensconsed themselves there after Gen. Bee had come down the ridge for us. The artillery on both sides had ceased to fire sometime before we were led up, and it was now a contest solely of the infantry in and about the silenced guns of Sherman’s and Rickett’s battery. We were led up immediately in front of the left gun of this battery. The enemy’s shot did not reach within three hundred yards of the road taken by Mr. Barr and others towards Manassas. Men never exhibited greater firmness and fearlessness, than did the Minute Men whilst under fire of the enemy. I had, I suppose, about fifty men at this time some had been wounded, some had gone to carry the wounded to places of safety and to attend to them, and a very few had become faint by the wayside. As it was, we had Lieut. Palmer killed here, and fourteen men wounded, including Mr. Gaillard, of Capt. Taylor’s company, who had fought with us all day. Andrew J. Clements here received a wound that has since proved mortal. In a little while the enemy began to retreat and the firing ceased, We had no numbers to justify pursuit –  the O’Conner’s had suffered severely –  and I called back my men who were most advanced, and as I turned back myself, I heard the voice of Charlie Earle calling me to the aid of Lieut. Palmer. I turned to him and discovered that he was badly wounded. Calling upon Manahan, Barksdale, E.L. Earle, Cooper and some others to assist me, we bore him slowly from the field. Our other wounded men were borne from the field by their comrades. The enemy had fled; – not another gun was fired, and we were last upon the field.

I have no space for eulogy; but a better man, a more skillful and faithful officer, or a braver soldier then Lieut. Palmer never drew a blade. Andrew J. Clements, William E Wiley, and Jno. M. Ward, had, by their uniform good conduct, in camp and upon the battlefield, commanded my highest approbation.

Josephus J. Pickens was temporarily separated from the company as formed into line in front of the enemy, by a gun of our artillery in retreat, running immediately across our rear. He diverged a little to our right, and took a position near an old apple or cherry tree where he had a fine chance at, and did good service upon the enemy, but unfortunately was too much exposed to another body of the enemy, and received a severe wound through both thighs. He fell where he was shot, and was unable to move – one thigh being badly broken. –  There I found him, and had him carried on a door-shutter to the place of rendezvous for the wounded. He is reported to be doing well, as all our wounded are – tho’ several of them, Pickens, Ellzy, Alexander, and McMicken, are badly wounded

Archibald Clark, who received his mortal wound whilst fighting with my company, was a brave and gallant soldier.

This much I have felt that justice of the company demanded of me. It is not intended as a full report of all that we did on that day. We were near the enemy’s front all day, and were repeatedly complimented by Gen. Bee for our firmness and bravery. He was the only field officer who witnessed our conduct, and unfortunately for us, and for the truth of the history, this gallant officer did not live to make a report. We achieved a great victory, and are content. If the part preformed by the Minute Men is not misrepresented, they are willing to wait and let their good deeds herald themselves.

HUGH R. MILLER

Capt. Pontotoc Minute Men.

——–

The facts as stated above are true as fat as they are within the recollection of the undersigned, and we were in the battle of the 21st July, the entire day.

Thomas J. Crawford, Jno. W. Dillard, Allen Moore, Wm. H. Toipp, W. E. Manahan, G. B. Mears, T. J. Rye, W. C. Nowlin, J. W. Combs, J. M. Barksdale, E. L. Earle, John McCurley, J. J. Donaldson, Dichard Drake.

The (Pontotoc, MS) Examiner, 9/13/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by Cameron Stinnett

Hugh Reid Miller bio sketch

Hugh Reid Miller at Ancestry.com





Bee Monument, ca 1939

29 05 2014