Lt. Melvin Dwinell, Co. A, 8th Georgia Infantry, On the Dedication of the Bartow Monument and Revisiting the Field

1 12 2022

Camp Bartow, near Manassas, Va.,
September 5, 1861.

Dear Courier: The events of yesterday were exceedingly interesting to the second Brigade of this Division of the Confederate Army, and their memory, tinged with sacred tenderness, will ever be cherished, by the brave hearts who witnessed them, with feelings of hallowed joy.

The occasion was that of marking, in a proper way, and with suitable ceremonies, the place where Bartow fell. At the instance of some of their officers, the members of the 8th Georgia Regiment, had procured a small marble shaft for this purpose, and the other Regiments of the Brigade – the 7th, 9th, and 11th Georgia, and the Kentucky Regiments – had been invited to join them in this act of respect and commemoration. Accordingly, these commands left their respective encampments at about 8 o’clock, yesterday morning, and marched separately to the battle-ground – a distance of seven miles – where they arrived between 10 1/2 and 11 o’clock. After stacking arms, the various Regiments were dismissed until the necessary arrangements could be completed for raising the shaft, or, perhaps, it would be more properly called a post.

Only the 7th and 8th Regiments of this Brigade were in the battle of July 21st, and to the members of these corps, this re-visiting the place of their strife and glory, was on of deep and strange interest, with commingling emotions of joy and sorrow. As they walked over the field, the sight of nearly every point in it would, by association, bring to vivid remembrance, some exciting scene in the awful tragedies of that eventful day. Here one stood when he heard the first cannon ball pass in fearful nearness to himself; there he saw such a friend fall – his imploring look, and outstretched arms; yonder was the enemy’s battery, and how their angry mouths belched forth the livid streams; what a shout there was when such a Regiment advanced to that point; how the heart sunk when our forces fell back there, how the enemies balls made the dirt fly around us as we passed along here; how good the muddy water in this little branch looked when we double-quicked across it; what horrid anxiety there was to know whether the Regiment yonder were friends or foes; here a cannon ball was dodged; there a bursting shell avoided; there was seen A leading off B, who dragged one leg; here came C, supported between D and E, and so awful bloody in face; yonder laid F with his hand significantly on his breast, and at various points round about, were friends and strangers, lying fearfully still, some on their faces, some on their backs, some with folded arms and legs drawn up, and others with outstretched limbs. Still, we pass on, finding distances, strangely different from what they seemed on that fearful day, seeing several houses, not many hundred yards distant, that were not then noticed, and finding many natural objects strangely out of place. Each one, naturally, seeks the place where his own Regiment had its severest struggle. Arrived there, he sees and hears once again, the indescribable scenes of bloody carnage, and fearful horror, which his memory now presents with most painful distinctness. He imagines that he again hears the whiz-z-z-z of the cannon ball – the zip–zip-zip-p-p-p of the musketry charge, and the quick whist, whist of the rifles. He sees where this and that friend stood, and where the other fell.

But the roll of the drum reminds us of our wandering, both physical and mental, and we’re returned to the place where the gallant Bartow fell, to witness the interesting ceremonies that was about to be performed. It was 2 o’clock P.M., on the ever memorable 21st, when this gallant and much beloved commander, breathed his last, and his noble spirit took its flight from a field of bloodiest strive to realms of eternal peace and rest. He fell about 300 or 400 yards of the South-west corner of the battle-field, and within 100 yards of where his Regiment was first exposed to the enemy; just at the very crisis of the battle, after our forces had been compelled to give way again and again and was just there regaining some of their lost ground. But a moment before he was killed, he had taken the colors of the 7th Georgia Regiment in his own hands, advanced some distance toward the enemy, and in the face of their fire, planted them, and rallied the men forward to this new line, which he told them Beauregard had commanded that they should hold at all hazards. In this immediate vicinity and at that time, was the last desperate struggle before the final route of the enemy. Gen. Bee was killed about 150 yards to the right of where Bartow fell, and Col. Fisher, of one of the North Carolina Regiments, about 250 yards in front after the Lincolnites had commenced retreating. Those three brave officers all fell in a short space of time.

The preliminaries being arranged, a hollow square was formed around the place where the stone was to be erected, by the four regiments composing the 9th Brigade, commanded by Col. Bartow, with the staff officers in the centre. The officers were ordered in front and the Brigade brought to parade rest. The sight here presented, was duly impressive, grand and patriotic. There was something really exhilarating in the idea of these thousands of sun-burnt and hearty soldiers, who have endured the hardships and privations of a campaign already long; who have resolutely performed long, forced marches and murmured not at the attendant hunger and fatigue; and who, with unblanched cheeks have met the most unplacable of foes in the storm of battle, and, even against great odds, and put them to glorious flight – for such brave men, whose very appearance gives incontestable evidence of long and severe service, to assemble for the enobling and patriotic purpose, of honoring the memory and perpetuating the good deeds of their commander, is a fit crowning act of their many virtues. When those ranks stood, apparently, in serious contemplative mood, their sorrow was sweetened by heaven-borne music with its soft and mellow strains. The band played a beautiful funeral march, and the time and its fine execution were so completely in harmony with, and so tenderly touching to the finer feelings, that the “pearly drops were seen to course each other” down many a bronzed cheek.

The ceremonies were then continued in the following order:

2d – Prayers by Rev. John Jones, Chaplain of the 8th Georgia Regiment.
3d – Music – “Camping at Grenada.”
4th – Address by Hon. Mr. Semmes, Attorney General of the State of Louisiana.
5th – Music – “Let me kiss him for his mother.”
6th – Address by Maj. J. L. Cooper, of 8th Georgia Regiment.
7th – Music – “The Marseillais Hymn.”
8th – The putting of the Post in its place by Brig. Gen. Jones, assisted by the commanders and portion of the Staff Officers of the different Regiments.

The Music by the band, belonging to the 1st Regiment Georgia Regulars, was most excellent – by far better than any other band we have been in the habit of hearing in the service. The prayer was peculiarly appropriate, and offered in that chaste and pathetic style, so characteristic of our faithful and most beloved Chaplain. Of the speech by Mr. Semmes, I cannot give even a synopsis, without prolonging this letter to an unreadable length. He was pleased at having an opportunity to express the sympathy of Louisiana with Georgia, and all the other Confederate States, in their present troubles, and to assure the hearty co-operation of his own State, in all the necessary sacrifices, struggles and labors to secure our independence. He said our independence had been virtually achieved, by the bloody victory of July 21st, but we must maintain the prestige then gained, suffer no defeats but continue our onward march. He said England and France would not interfere in our behalf, until it should be known that we needed none of their help. He compared our privations and sufferings with those of our revolutionary ancestors, and showed how comparatively insignificant they are, while the independence we shall obtain will be almost transcendently more important, and prospectively glorious. The heroes of ’76 relieved themselves of the yoke of a single King, held in check by our enlightened christianity, and wholesome constitutional constraints. But we will be released from the tyrannies of a fanatical pagan, skeptical mob of abolitionists. He closed by paying a beautiful tribute to Col. Bartow, and said that in his death was particularly realized the beautiful saying of the Latin poet, “dulce et decora pro patria mori,” it is sweet and honorable to die for ones county.” He said he need not exhort Confederate soldiers not to prove recreant, but in times of severe struggle it be well to remember the dying words of their gallant commander and “never give up the fight.”

Maj. Cooper’s speech was short but full of pathos. He had not intended to speak, but thought some Georgian ought to raise his voice on this interesting occasion, in commemoration of the virtues of one of her most brave and gallant sons. He made a most interesting allusion to the dying words of our lamented commander, uttered, as they were, as the tide of battle was turning in our favor, and he exhorted the men that however severe their hardships might be, or however desperate the struggle, to remember the dying words of our late, lamented and much beloved commander, and “never give up the fight.”

The Shaft is plain white marble, six feet long, four feet above the ground and about eight inches in diameter at the top. The inscription on it is,

Francis S. Bartow
“They have killed me boys,
But never give up the fight.”

After lowering the stone into its place, each one of the Staff Officers, threw a few spades of dirt around it. When they were through, a beautiful young lad, Miss Barber, living in the vicinity, stepped forward, and taking up a handful of dirt, threw it in. This tribute, thus beautifully paid, was heartily cheered by the soldiers. Mrs. Branch, of Savannah, the mother of our lamented Adjutant, being present showed her appreciation of the departed hero in the same way.

These ceremonies being over, we soon took up our line of march for Camp Bartow, where we arrived about sundown, much fatigued, but well pleased with the manner in which the day had been spent.

Sept. 6. For the past two weeks our forces have been gradually moving on towards Washington. Adjutant Harper has gone out this morning with Gen. Jones to look or a camping ground in the vicinity of Centreville, some 8 miles from here, a little west of North and due North from Manassas. Centreville is 26 miles from Alexandria. There is more or less skirmishing every day, in the vicinity of Alexandria. A grand battle is expected soon.

M. D.

From Dear Courier: The Civil War Correspondence of Editor Melvin Dwinell, pp. 66-68

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