Private (2), Co. A, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Return to Washington and Incidents of the Battle

5 04 2020

Our War Correspondence.
———————–
From Another Regular Correspondent.
———————–

Camp Gorman.
Washington, D. C., July 26, 1861.

To the Editors of the Pioneer and Democrat

Day before yesterday that part of our regiment under command of Captain Wilkin, at Alexandria, broke camp and on the afternoon marched in obeyance to orders to Washington, leaving Camp Gorman, made familiar to us by many interesting incidents of camp life. There we had been vigorously engaged in quick and double-quick battalion drill, before the august eyes of distinguished military officers and civilians; there we had been lazily enjoying the cool shade during the hottest days; there we had mixed with the profanity incident to every trifling difficulty, so unavoidable in camp life, with the hurrahs and pledges of friendship and undisturbed magnanimity when under orders to march; and here we had found an asylum to rest our wearied and lame limbs, after returning from the battle at Bull’s Run, and the consequent march of about fifty miles, through a rainy day, subsiding on nothing but crackers and dirty water for forty-eight hours; and here, too, we found the first opportunity to calmly reflect on the struggles of Bull’s Run, and the loss of many a brave comrade, endeared to us by many acts of kindness. Who, then, could leave Camp Gorman, at Alexandria, without emotions of mingled pain and pleasure?

Leaving Camp Gorman, we marched up to the Railroad bridge, where we had had formerly guarded, and proceeded up on the Virginia side of the Potomac to Fort Remyan, located a dew rods back from the Long Bridge; and here we made a short pause to review the fort with its 22-pounders, with the usual supply of canister and grape, and talk with members of various regiments stationed there. The bridge was crowded with government wagons and troops passing both ways. Several New York regiments passed over the Virginia side while we waited for an opportunity to pass over; the question who we were and where we came from were usually answered by our boys with, “We are Minnesota First, from Bull’s Run!” We did not enter Washington City before it was dark, when we proceeded up various streets to the Old Representative Hall, where we had learned our regiment was stationed; but on arriving there we learned that Companies A, E and I were then quartered in an old church about two squares distant; and once there we were received by the cordial grasp and friendly greeting of out comrades of company A, with many mutual exclamations of surprise that we escaped safe from Bull’s Run when many of us had been reported victims of the bullets and shells of the enemy and left on the battle field; and we squatted on the steps forming the entrance of the church or on the pews inside to talk over the incidents of the battle field and the adventures on the retreat, and all uniting in praise of the bravery displayed by our cherished Lieutenant Colonel, and our gallant company officers in the stirring scenes on Sunday. Many were the expressions of sincere regret at the fall of Sergeant Wright, so universally esteemed in our company, as well as our other comrades who fell by our side.

That night companies A, E and F, were scattered in the pews, aisles, galleries and hall, and on the steps of the church, resting from days of extreme exertion. Yesterday morning we arose to partake of breakfast and prepare for removing to camping grounds where a Vermont regiment formerly camped, and about two squares back of our previous encampment in Washington – and once here we pitched our tents and passed the balance of the day in blissful idleness – our only duty here is to fall in ranks to answer to our names at reveille and tattoo.

Yesterday a report of the casualties in our regiment at Bull’s Run was made up, and I learn that it will be telegraphed and reach you long before my letter will be received in St. Paul; hence I will not recapitulate them here.

I will conclude this letter with a few incidents as they presented themselves to my own observation, or gathered from unquestionable authority, carefully avoiding any mention of such as are enshrouded in doubt. Incidents here related are perfectly reliable.

Among three prisoners taken by company A, was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Rebel army, who dashed out of the woods to order us to stop firing, mistaking us for rebels. J. B. Irvine of St. Paul, who came into our camp at Centreville, when Lieut. Coates joined us, having shouldered a musket in the morning and joined with us to share in the struggles of the day, then approached him and asked him if he was a Major, and seeing his mistake and his position as prisoner at once, he frankly but reluctantly replied, “No sir, you have better game than that; I am a Lieut. Col. in a Georgia Regiment.” This is no less a person than Lieut. Boone, now a prisoner in Washington. Others have claimed the honor of taking him prisoner, but yesterday Lieut. Coates and J. B. Irvine visited him, when a mutual recognition took place, settling the disputed point beyond doubt.

When Col. Heintzelman ordered our Regiment to fall back into the woods, his Aid damning us for remaining in the open field to be slaughtered, our men rallied again under our flag and Lieut. Col. Miller, and a fierce struggle ensued to save our colors, which the enemy desperately assailed, but which resulted in saving our colors, none of which were lost during the engagement.

Our ever-gallant Captain commanding the Regiment once made a brilliant charge, repulsing the advancing Georgians, just as Lieut. Welch of the Red Wing company fell on the field. Captains Putnam and Acker also distinguished themselves on the field.

Downie of company B, on the left, besides the Fire Zouaves, rallying with a few of them in addition to his own command, made three distinct and successive charges on the enemy, with an energy that but for superior force would have routed them.

Dr. Steward remained at the hospital about one mile in the rear of the battle ground, and is no doubt taken prisoner; while the reports of the fate of the Assistant Surgeon and the Hospital are contradictory and their fate enshrouded in uncertainty.

A cannon ball struck the musket of one member of company “A” breaking it in two pieces, but without inflicting any injury to him. Many of the boys exhibit bullet holes through various of their garments, and if we ever live to see our friends at home, we can bring with us flags, guns, revolvers, swords, sabers, &c., as trophies of the late battle field. No doubt many incidents of interest transpired on the eventful day, and will reach you through other sources. I am not in possession of any more at present.

It is generally thought we will remain here some time to recruit, get some dimes from Uncle Sam, and have a little good times, before we again advance in the rebel States to fight the battles of our county.

Private

(St. Paul, MN) Weekly Pioneer and Democrat, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Artifact of the Battle: Lt. Col. Bartley B. Boone, 2nd MS Infantry

22 03 2020

Most accounts from members of the 1st Minnesota Infantry mention the capture of the Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry, Bartley B. Brown. Look here for an interesting bit on his handgun, taken as a souvenir by Boone’s captor, Javan B. Irvine (who was attached to Co. A, but apparently had not yet enlisted). The photo below is from that site.

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Handgun of Lt. Col. B. B. Boone, 2nd MS Infantry, captured at First Bull Run by Javan B. Irvine, attached to Co. A, 1st MN Infantry.





Chaplain Edward Duffield Neill*, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Regiment’s Casualties

18 03 2020

Our War Correspondence.
———————–
From the Chaplain of the Regiment.
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Washington City, July 26, 1861.

The telegraph before this reaches you, no doubt, will flash before a sadden people the list of our killed and wounded, in the never to be forgotten conflict of last Sunday.

Every one feels that bad generalship was displayed on our side, and an improper day chosen to begin a battle, which, from the first, has been sustained by the religious sentiment of the world, at the same time all praise and heroism of the volunteers engaged in the conflict.

Yesterday the regiment left its quarters at the Assembly Rooms, and encamped about half a mile east of the Capitol, just beyond the spot where it was previous to our departure for Alexandria.

A despatch came from St. Paul to day stating that my friend, Dr. Hand, had been appointed Assistant Surgeon in the place of Le Boutillier, deceased. It is true that Dr. Le Boutillier has not been seen since the battle, but we have no authentic information that of his decease, and we still hope that we may see him alive. The last I saw of him was just as we entered on the battle field, when he told me to go and tell Dr. Stewart to bring the litters and hospital assistants.

Dr. Stewart is also missing, but we all feel that he is in the old church, near the battle ground, attending to our wounded, although he may be a prisoner, as the enemy have taken possession of that portion of the country.

I would have been with the Doctor had the hospital not been so full that I was obliged to hurry on with some wounded I picked up in an ambulance toward Centreville.

The only loss our correspondent sustained was his entire wardrobe, down to tooth brush, come and brush, amounting to about $200. All that I can wish is that my clothes may be given to some Couthern Chaplain, the sermons in the trunk perused by the captors.

Javan Irvine, of St. Paul, arrived at out camp on last Thursday evening, and shouldering a musket went forth to battle on Sunday morning, and after fighting valiantly succeeded in capturing a gentleman by the name of Lieut. Col. Boone, of Mississippi, who is a prisoner of war now in the old Capitol.

Ever since yesterday we have been in tents, and I notice that all of the St. Paul men are busy writing to their friends. I have no doubt that extracts from their letters would be interesting to your readers and that their friends would furnish them if requested.

LIST OF KILLED, ETC.
COMPANY “A,” CAPT. WILKIN.

Killed – Sergeant Henry C. Wright, of Pine Bend, shot in the thigh, and carried into the bushes, where he received other wounds.
Private Ernst Dresher and Chas. F. Clarke, Benton county. Since the latter’s death, a daguerreotype of a lady supposed to be one to whom he was engaged has arrived.
Wounded – James Malory in the foot; Robert Stephens in the arm and back; William Kramer in the face; David McWilliams slightly, and John T. Halsted in the head.
Wounded and missing – Frederick Braun, W. Dorley, Wm. Betcher.
Missing – Wm. Schmidler and Louis Keifer.

COMPANY “C,” CAPTAIN ACKER

Killed – Sergeant John Renshaw, Eugene Wilmer, and Corporal Sam Waterhouse.
Privates Cunningham, Randolph, Robertson, Cyrus Smith, Julius Smith, and Thompson.
Wounded and missing – Corporal Geo. McMullen.
Privates Twitchell, Haskell, Hough, Marr, Ladd, Richardson, McNally, Combs, and Mayence.

Recapitulation of killed and wounded in the whole regiment.
Com.   Killed   Wnded/Msg     Wounded   Missing       Total

A             5               4                      5              2            15
B             –              11                      –              3           14
C              9               9                     10            4           32
D              1              1                       –              –             2
E              1             12                      1              1           15
F              5               3                      4              9           21
G             4              14                      –              3           21
H           12              10                      –              2          24
I               6              16                     2              –            24
K             5                 3                     1              6           15
Killed…………………………………………………………………48
Wounded and missing………………………………………….105
Missing………………………………………………………………30
Total……………………………………………………………………….183

(St. Paul, MN) Weekly Pioneer and Democrat, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* Edward Duffield Neil of St. Paul was the regiment’s first chaplain.

Edward Duffield Neill biography

Edward Duffield Neill in the news 

Edward Duffield Neill at Ancestry.com

Edward Duffield Neill at Fold3

Edward Duffield Neill at FindAGrave.com





Cpl. James A. Wright, Co. F, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle

3 04 2012

I am not sure what time it was when we were called, but it could not have been very long after midnight. My recollection is that the moon was shining when we formed for the march. Soon after forming, it was evident that there was some hindrance to the program of arrangements – whatever it was – and, after several attempts to move on, it was learned that some other troops (Hunter’s division) were crossing our line of march – apparently from our right to our left. We – being the flanking column with nearly three times the distance to march – should have had the right of way, but we did not get it, and I have never learned why.

While waiting here, we ‘rested at will’ and there was a mingling of the boys of other companies, who were getting acquainted, and I think also some from other regiments in the brigade. I recall that there was a feeling of dissatisfaction that we had been called so much earlier than was really necessary, but there was a general feeling of determination and hopefulness. I think none of us knew at that time that we were to make a long march to turn the enemy’s right flank. If we had, ordinary common sense would have suggested that we should not have been wasting precious hours on that hillside. We were all so new to the war – and absolutely inexperienced in battle – that we had no basis for a judgment, and our opinions were only reflections of our wishes.

Just when the coming light of day began to make things distinctly visible, while talking with Charley Harris, he was accosted by William A. Croffut, who was – or recently had been – connected with a Minneapolis paper, but who was there as a representative of some paper for the occasion. After an introduction, there was a short talk with Croffut, who questioned us as to the “state of our minds” at the near-approaching hour of battle. Neither of us could truthfully affirm that we were not somewhat disturbed as to our individual safety for the day – though we both tried to consider the matter hopefully and referred lightly to what might happen. We each left a message for our friends and, in case of “an accident,” requested a complimentary obituary notice. After that we shook hands and parted.

Charley got his obituary and – as it was a little premature – lived to read it. A privilege granted to but few. The long, anxious delay had tried us. It was sometime after sunrise, possibly six o’clock, when the road was clear, and we were fairly moving, following after some other division.

We marched for some distance in the rear of other troops over a good road, the Warrenton Turnpike. Soon after crossing a small stream, Cub Run, we turned to the right on a woods road. We – the regiment – were now at the head of the column and were followed by Ricketts’s Battery. Behind the battery were the 11th Massachusetts and 5th Massachusetts, completing the brigade. The 4th Pennsylvania, being a three months’ regiment and its time being out that day, had remained at Centreville or returned to Washington. It was said of them that they “marched to the rear to the tune of the enemy’s guns,” but their colonel, Hartranft, remained – acting as an aide on the staff of Colonel Franklin.

Soon after getting on this by-road, arrangements were made to deploy the first two companies – A and F – if desirable, but it was not found necessary. Our march was now much more rapid than it had been. The day was very hot and, in the woods, on the narrow roads, exceedingly close. From these conditions and out rapid marching, we were sweating profusely, and the march was taxing the men severely. About this time, we began to hear the report of a cannon occasionally, which continued for some time and increased in frequency. This firing seemed to be to our left and rear, and we appeared to be marching away from it.

When still some distance from the ford, near Sudley Springs Church, the artillery firing was heard again and increased to quite a rapid discharge. Musketry firing was also heard. About this time, our regiment was hurried forward at the double quick, and, when we reached the crossing, we were badly winded. As soon as we reached the ford, there was a rush to get water – wading in to fill our canteens and pouring it onto our heads. Meantime there was a pretty lively artillery fire going on and intermittent musketry firing.

There was but a short halt at the ford, when we reformed and waded the stream, following the road up a little rise, and then leaving it by turning to the left into a small, open wood. The other regiments of the brigade remained – for a time – on the other side of the stream, but the battery followed us over. During this time, there was rapid firing going on, and we laid down for a few minutes in this wood.

Here we could smell the smoke and hear firing out in the field in front. Near us in this wood was the Second Rhode Island, which had been in the fight and for some reason retired into this wood. They had some of their wounded with them. While here, Frank Bachelor told some of us that he had always had a great curiosity to know how one would feel in battle, but that had all passed now. He expressed himself as “satisfied, now, that his curiosity had carried him too far.” I do not recall any other attempt at ‘jesting in the face of death’ on that occasion – though it was not uncommon as we became more familiar with war. While here, Lieutenant Minor T. Thomas climbed a tree to make and observation, and when he came down reported the enemy retreating. We stopped in this wood but a few minutes, and while here the battery – Ricketts’s – had passed to the right of wood and began firing. When we left this wood we – Company F at least – left our blankets in a pile in the woods, but I do not know by whose order. They were hot and in the way.

Coming out of this wood, the regiment was formed in ‘column of division’ and marched almost directly to the front. The first division was composed of Companies A and F, and, being small, I was the corporal on the left of the first division. As we advanced to the front – far enough to see over the brow of the hill – I got a glimpse of what was in front of us. There was a valley, half a mile or more in width, through which ran a road and a crooked stream. There were some houses, fields, orchards or groves, clumps of bushes along the stream, and wooded hills beyond the valley. There were some troops down in the valley along the road, and I think some were across the stream. I did not observe that they were firing, and I presume that they were sheltered by the hill from the rebel batteries. there were some guns of the enemy on the hill across the valley – in the edge of the wood – which were throwing shell our way, but I think they were intended for the battery to our right, which was firing in that direction.

The ridge we were on, I presume, was Buck Hill. there were several regiments along the ridge to our left which had been engaged and, I believe, had driven some of the enemy from that position.

We remained here but a very short time, and, when we moved, marched by the right flank – in fours – obliquely to the right – across the fields down the hill to a road, which we followed across the stream (Young’s Branch) for a little distance, then turned to the left into a pasture or field, marching toward the hill on which the rebel battery was situated. Coming up a little rise, we crossed the road and were ordered to form line of battle ‘on right by file into line.’ While coming across the fields and down the hill, we were subject to the fire of their artillery. But when we reached the low ground we were sheltered from it, and – at the point where we were forming – were not exposed, except to the shells bursting in the air above us.

The distance marched must have been a mile or more. A part of the time we moved at double quick, and there was considerable dodging as the shells screeched over our heads. It was a new and trying ordeal that strained the nerves and hurt our feelings, but I am not aware that any other hurt was done. The formation of the line of battle was at right angles to the direction we were marching and brought the first two companies in front of a wood and but a short distance from it. The advance was led by Company A – Captain Alexander Wilkin – and was followed immediately by Company F – Captain William Colvill – and was made without any deployment of skirmishers or advance guard.

A good many things happened in the ‘thin space of time’ we were getting into line, and I do not think that I can give them consecutively.

Just as we were beginning the movement, I heard a shouting, the thunder of hoofs, and ‘chucking’ of wheels behind us. Looking backwards, I saw the artillery coming towards us – apparently over nearly the same route we had come. The horses had their noses and tails extended, and the drivers were lying low over their necks, yelling and plying their whips. It was a splendid, thrilling sight. It was Ricketts’s and Griffin’s batteries racing into position – and to destruction. Judged by results, they had much better remained on the other side and fired from a safer distance, but ‘all the same’ the movement was splendidly made. Crossing the stream, they broke through the regiment before it was half formed and separated the first division from the rest of the regiment. I had only time for a glance as we hurried into line, when other things absorbed my attention, and I thought no more of the batteries until we were later taken to the left to try to recover them – then a wreck on the plateau and covered by the enemy’s guns.

Just as I came into line, a mounted officer came from somewhere to the right and halted in front of Company A and inquired if it belonged to an Alabama regiment. Being questioned as to where he belonged, he mentioned the Second Mississippi Regiment, and was invited to dismount – at once. He slid off his horse on the opposite side – as if to shield himself – but came around his head and gave himself up. There was a young man with Company A, Javan B. Irvine, who had not then enlisted, but had come along out of interest, curiosity, or some other motive, and had kept with the company up to this time. He was not armed, except a revolver, but to him Captain Wilkin gave the prisoner, instructing him to keep him safe. Irvine proved a resolute, trusty fellow, and the next day delivered his prisoner to the authorities in Washington. He proved to be Lieutenant Colonel Boone of the Second Mississippi and was the highest rank of any prisoner taken and delivered in Washington, and, so far as I know, the only commissioned officer brought in.

The most of the regiment – except the two companies, A and F – now followed in support of the batteries. At the same time (possibly a minute earlier or later) there was a commotion in front of the two companies – in the edge of the woods and scarce a stone’s throw distant. Orders were given by Gen. Heintzelman, who had just ridden up, to “feel in the woods,” and – at almost the same instant – shots began to come from the brush,  now and then a head was seen. As quickly as possible, we turned our old smooth-bores toward the woods and fired. Then ‘things broke loose,’ and we were immediately enveloped in a dense smoke that for a little time did not permit us to see anything clearly, but bullets were hissing above our heads, and we could see red flashes through the smoke in front of us – at which we directed our fire. Our fire seemed the most effective, and, after a few volleys, the enemy retired into the woods; our firing ceased; and by someone’s order we were advanced into the woods.

It was not long after the firing began that I had a very narrow escape from serious wounds or possible death. I will first explain that our waist belts were made of ordinary harness leather and were a little less than two inches in width. They had a single hole in one end and multiple holes in the other, and were fastened with  a brass plate with hooks on the under side – and could be adjusted to the size of the person.

A bullet – coming almost directly from the front – struck my belt plate with such force as to knock the breath out of me and tumble me over. At first I am not sure that I thought of anything, but, when I did think, imagined that I was ‘done for’ and thought of everything – all mixed up. Then I heard someone – I think it was Oscar Williams – call my name. About that time, returning breath made me feel better and take a more hopeful view of the case, and I rolled over and got on to my feet. When I found that I was not killed, I was so glad that I felt first rate for a time and thought no more about it until the fighting was over.

The force if the blow was sufficient to bend and dent the plate, and left a discolored spot on the flesh as large as the palm of the hand. I have always considered this one of my narrowest escapes. It was a heavy bullet, and had lost some of its initial force, but if it had struck anywhere except on that plate (with the leather underneath it), it would have mangled and bruised and might have gone half through me. An inch or so – to the right or left – up or down – would have missed the plate, and then I would have ‘got it’ in the ‘bread basket,’ and it might have proved entirely too much for my digestion.

Lively skirmishing followed, and we were for a time separated from the other companies of the regiment. Our advance was opposed by the enemy, firing from behind trees and other protection, but we advanced in the same manner, drove them back into the woods, and captured a few prisoners – Alabamians. In advancing, we had crossed a fence and went for some distance into the woods. Meantime, though we were making a pretty lively racket ourselves, we heard very heavy firing to our left where the batteries and the rest of the regiment had gone.

We were now brought out of the woods – I suppose for the purpose of connecting with the regiment, as that would have been the natural thing to do.

Several of the boys had been hit while in the woods or at the first firing, but I do not believe that our loss was severe. Henry R. Childs, of the company, while advancing into the woods, was wounded in the head and shoulder, and was left insensible in the bushes. He afterwards ‘came to himself’ and, finding the company gone, started to follow it. Coming out of the woods to the open ground, he saw an advancing line of the enemy’s skirmishers, who ordered him to halt and fired on him, but he ran for it and managed to escape, believing – as he said – in the old adage that ‘he that fights and runs away may live to fight another day.’

Coming out of the woods at a point near where we entered, we formed in a close skirmish line and – advancing among the young pines and bushes, which were scarcely as high as our heads – we moved towards the higher ground that was on our left when we first began firing. There was cannonading going on at this time, but only a weak and irregular fire of small arms.

When we reached the crest of the hill, we were greeted with a sharp fire which came from the woods to the right oblique – as we could tell by the smoke, but we could see nothing but an occasional head. We answered this fire and laid down there among the little pines along the crest of the hill – loading while laying down and rising to fire. While lying on my right side – ramming a cartridge, which was lodged part way down the barrel – I had my feet crossed to hold the butt of the musket and my left knee bent – when a bullet cut through my pants and across the inside of my left knee, but did no serious damage. It was a pretty close call for a leg. An increasingly hot fire came from the woods on the right front, and a number were hit. A body of the enemy came along the fence as if to get to our right, and we retired to the shelter of the hill.

About this time, Lieut. Col. Miller came – with some of the other companies of the right wing – to our assistance., and we were formed in the road. We then joined with some other troops in an attempt to recover the guns of the batteries. It was successful on so far as it drove the enemy from the immediate vicinity of the guns, and, after suffering severe loss, we retired again to the cut in the roadway.

The wreck of the batteries was at the crest of the hill to our left, surrounded by dead men and horses. It was a position that ought not to have been taken by a battery, exposed as it was to a close fire of artillery and infantry, and, I presume, it would not have been taken if the true condition of things had been understood. The guns were at a point between the two forces and covered by the guns of both sides from sheltered positions, but neither side could maintain a position, where they were, long enough to remove them.

After our retirement to the road, there was a considerable time when matters were comparatively quiet.  Then we were advanced to meet a force of the enemy coming out of the woods to our right front, and there was more sharp fighting. We retired to the shelter of the road and soon drove them off – after which there was another period of quiet.

In all of these movements there was more or less confusion and disorder. We had not reached a stage of discipline when anything else could be reasonably expected. Especially of men under fire for the first time and subjected to severe losses. We were human, and, therefore, we were all more or less excited, confused, and uncertain as to what had been accomplished and hat more we were expected to attempt. A good many had left to care for the wounded, and others had gone to the stream to get water, for we were all suffering greatly from the heat, thirst, and exhaustion. When it is remembered that we had but little rest the night before; that the morning march of 12 miles had been a severe test to our powers of endurance; that our subsequent movements had been hurried – down hill and up – over fences and through woods;  also, that we were under the severe mental strain of battle, which is more exhausting than physical action – then our condition can be partly comprehended.

We were in a pitiable condition that under more favorable circumstances would have called for immediate relief. There did not seem to be a breath of air stirring; the early afternoon sun was shining directly into the roadway; we were sweating profusely and suffering from the heat – clothing torn and disordered – and our faces smeared with powder and dirt. We cared nothing for looks just then, but the feel of the situation was very unsatisfactory as we waited to see what was next on the program.

Sherman had not then defined war in a single brief sentence, but I heard the one important word in it uttered several times that day – suggested, no doubt, by the day’s experiences. We had read that ‘to make war was to be hungry and thirsty’; that it ‘was to suffer and to dies’; that it was ‘to obey.’ We had been trying to do all those of those things and assumed that we were getting ‘about what was coming to us’ and we naturally wondered if there was any more ‘coming.’ I think that all there realized that we had been hit pretty hard, but I do not think that any of us supposed that we were beaten. At least I recall no suggestion to that effect.

We remained for some time in this position, when we were disturbed by some cannon shots that came from the right and a little to our rear. At first we supposed it was some of our batteries that did not realize that we were so far to the front – but a little observation showed a line of battle advancing on our right flank. There was great anxiety to know if they were friends or enemies. About this time, there was a dash of cavalry coming out of a crossroad to our right, but it was repulsed before it reached us. The conviction now began to assert itself that those fellows coming in on our right were enemies and, if so, entirely too strong for us to contend with.

Lieutenant Colonel Miller was the highest officer present with that portion of the regiment, and he gave the order to retire and indicated the direction – directly to the rear.

James Wright Papers, Minnesota Historical Society, as quoted on pp. 51 – 58 in Keillor, No More Gallant a Deed: A Civil War Memoir of the First Minnesota Volunteers. Used with permission.





#44a – Col. Willis A. Gorman

25 09 2008

Report of Col. Willis A. Gorman, First Minnesota Infantry

O.R.–SERIES I–VOLUME 51 Part 1 [S# 107] pp. 20-23

HEADQUARTERS FIRST MINNESOTA REGIMENT,

Washington, July 26, 1851

SIR: I have the honor to communicate, as colonel of the First Minnesota Regiment of Volunteers, the events connected with the movements of my command, comprising a part of your brigade:

On Tuesday morning, the 16th instant, in obedience to your order, we took up the line of march, and on the evening of Thursday arrived at Centerville and bivouacked until Sunday morning, the 21st instant, at 2.30 o’clock, when we again took up our line of march, in obedience to your orders, to meet the enemy, then known to be in large force between Bull Run and Manassas Station, Va. Our march from Centerville to Bull Run was not marked by any extraordinary event, my regiment leading the advance of your brigade. On arriving at Bull Run the battle began to rage with great warmth with the advance column of infantry and artillery of another division, both being hotly engaged. Here Captain Wright, of the military engineers, serving as an aide upon the staff of Colonel Heintzelman, commanding our division, informed me that my regiment was needed to flank the enemy upon the extreme left; whereupon I moved forward at “quick” and “double-quick” time, until we arrived at an open field looking out upon the enemy’s lines. After holding this position a short time, Captain Wright, by your direction, ordered me through the woods, to take position near the front and center of the enemy’s line, in an open field, where we came under the direct fire of the enemy’s batteries, formed in “column by division”. After remaining in this position for some ten minutes I received orders from both your aides and those of Colonel Heintzelman to pass the whole front of the enemy’s line, in support of Ricketts’ battery, and proceed to the extreme right of our line and the left of the enemy, a distance of about a mile or more. The movement was effected at “quick” and “double-quick” time, both by the infantry and artillery, during which march the men threw from their shoulders their haversacks, blankets, and most of their canteens, to facilitate their eagerness to engage the enemy. On arriving at the point indicated, being the extreme left of the enemy, and the extreme right of our line, and in advance of all other of our troops, and where I was informed officially that two other regiments had declined to charger we formed a line of battle, our right resting within a few feet of the woods and the left at and around Ricketts’ battery and upon the crest of the hill, within fifty or sixty feet of the enemy’s line of infantry, with whom we could have conversed in an ordinary tone of voice. Immediately upon Ricketts’ battery coming into position, and we in “line of battle,” Colonel Heintzelman rode up between our lines and that of the enemy, within pistol shot of each, which circumstance staggered my judgment whether those in front were friends or enemies, it being equally manifest that the enemy were in the same dilemma as to our identity. But a few seconds, however, undeceived both, they displaying the rebel and we the Union flag. Instantly a blaze of fire was poured into the faces of the combatants, each producing terrible destruction owing to the close proximity of the forces, which was followed by volley after volley, in regular and irregular order as to time, until Ricketts’ battery was disabled and cut to pieces and a large portion of its officers and men had fallen, and until Companies H, I, K, C, G, and those immediately surrounding my regimental flag were so desperately cut to pieces as to make it more of a slaughter than an equal combat, the enemy manifestly numbering five guns to our one, besides being intrenched in the woods and behind ditches and pits, plainly perceptible, and with batteries on the enemy’s right enfilading my left flank and within 350 yards direct range. After an effort to obtain aid from the Fire Zouaves, then immediately upon our left, two or three different orders came to retire, as it was manifest that the contest was too deadly and unequal to be longer justifiably maintained. Whereupon I gave the command to retire, seeing that the whole of our forces were seemingly in retreat. Every inch of ground, however, was strongly contested by skirmishers through the woods, by the fences, and over the undulating ground until we had retired some 400 yards in reasonably good order, to a point where the men could procure water, and then took up a regular and orderly retreat to such point as some general officer might indicate thereafter.

I feel it due to my regiment to say that before leaving the extreme right of our line the enemy attempted to make a charge with a body of perhaps 500 cavalry, who were met by my command and a part of the Fire Zouaves and repulsed with considerable loss to the enemy but without any to us. I am more than gratified to say that I kept the large body of my regiment together and marched from the field in order and on the march, and near an open space where Colonel Heintzelman’s column left the Centerville and Manassas road in the morning and passed to the right we, in conjunction with others, repulsed the enemy’s cavalry, who attempted to charge. Before leaving the field a portion of the right wing, owing to the configuration of the ground and the intervening woods, became detached, under the command of LieutenantColonel Miller, whose gallantry was conspicuous throughout the entire battle and who contested every inch of the ground with his forces thrown out as skirmishers in the woods and succeeded in occupying the original ground on the right after the repulse of a body of cavalry. I deem it worthy of remark that during a part of the engagement my regiment and that of the enemy at some points became so intermingled as scarcely to be able to distinguish friends from foes and my forces made several prisoners, among whom was Lieutenant-Colonel Boone, of Mississippi, who is now in Washington and fully recognizes his captors. I regard it as an event of rare occurrence in the annals of history that a regiment of volunteers not over three months in the service marched up without flinching to the mouth of batteries of cannon supported by thousands of infantry and opened and maintained a fire until one-fifth of the whole regiment was killed, wounded, or made prisoners before retiring, except for purposes of advantage of position. My heart is full of gratitude to my officers and men for their gallant bearing throughout the whole of this desperate engagement, and to distinguish the merits of one from another would be invidious and injustice might be done. Major Dike and my adjutant bore themselves with coolness throughout. My chaplain, Rev. E. D. Neill, was on the field the whole time and in the midst of danger, giving aid and comfort to the wounded. Doctor Stewart, while on the field, was ordered to the hospital by a medical officer of the army. Doctor Le Boutillier continued with the regiment and actually engaged in the fight, neither of whom have been heard from since. That I have not unfairly or unjustly to the truth of history stated the facts in regard to the gallant conduct of my regiment is fully proved by the appended list of killed and wounded, showing 49 killed, 107 wounded, and 34 missing. The names and companies to which they belong, in detail, will more fully appear in the accompanying list and abstracts.(*) Among the incidents of the engagement my command took several prisoners, among whom was Lieutenant.Colonel Boone, of the Mississippi regiment, taken personally by Mr. Irvine, of my regiment, and since said prisoner’s confinement in the Capitol at Washington City Mr. Irvine, in company with Hon. Morton S. Wilkinson, U.S. Senator from Minnesota, visited him, when he promptly recognized Mr. Irvine as his captor and thanked him very cordially for his humane treatment and kindness to him as a prisoner. I deem it but just that this fact should be officially known, as Lieutenant-Colonel Boone was an officer of the highest rank taken in the battle.

The humble part which I have performed as an officer commanding one of the regiments of your brigade, individually and otherwise, is now left to you and those commanding the division.

Respectfully,

W. A. GORMAN,

Colonel First Regiment of Minnesota

Colonel FRANKLIN,

Comdg. First Brigade Colonel Heintzelman’s Div.,

Northeastern Virginia

Supplement to the official report of Colonel Gorman, of the First Regiment of Minnesota

CAMP MINNESOTA, July 26, 1861

The regimental flag borne by my color-bearer has through its folds one cannon ball, two grape-shot, and sixteen bullets, and one in the staff. The color guard were all wounded but the color-bearer, one mortally. The company flag of Company I was pierced with five balls and one on the spear head. Please attach this to my report.

Very respectfully,

 W. A. GORMAN,

Colonel First Regiment of Minnesota

(*) Omitted