Col. Philip St. George Cocke Updates Col. Robert S. Garnett on Troop Strengths and Dispositions

30 11 2020



O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, pp. 841-843

Headquarters Potomac Department,
Culpeper Court-House, Va., May 14,1861.

Col. R. S. Garnett, Adjutant-General:

Sir: I report, for the information of the General-in-Chief, that I returned to this place on Sunday morning, the 12th instant, from Manassas Junction, where I had gone to examine the position and the country around, and to make arrangements for gathering a force there for the defense of the place. My observations of the country were mainly directed towards the Potomac, on the right flank, and I find the head of tide, at Occoquan, approached within eighteen miles of Manassas. Mr. John Grant, my acting engineer and topographical draughtsman, was sent forward with a guide, to examine the roads towards Occoquan, while I myself rode over the most direct road, to a point where it crosses the Occoquan River, seven or eight miles to the right of Manassas Junction. Mr. Grant subsequently pursued this latter road to the village or landing of Occoquan, the head of tide, and I can report that the country upon these routes, covering the right flank of the position at Manassas Junction, is quite favorable for defensive operations, the same being broken or undulating, covered with dense forests of second-growth pines or of original oak, except here, and small fields or farms, the roads very narrow (mere ditches), and everywhere such as to render artillery and cavalry of our enemy on the march of little use to him, while the cover of forests, hills, and ravines make a fortress for brave men and riflemen in which to carry on the destructive guerrilla warfare upon any marching columns from that side. Nevertheless the proximity of the Potomac River, on that side, from Manassas Junction to Alexandria, will ever require extreme vigilance and precaution to cover the right of that line from flank attack at other points, where the ways may be more open and inviting.

The force that I have been enabled to assemble thus far at Manassas Junction consists of a detachment of artillery, under Capt. D. Kemper, with two 6-pounders; Capt. W. H. Payne’s company, numbering 76 men; Capt. J. S. Green’s company, numbering 57 men; Captain Hamilton’s company, numbering about 60, and two Irish companies, numbering, respectively, 54 and 58, and Colonel Garland’s force, arrived Sunday, consisting of 490 men. Altogether, about 830 men. Also Captain Marr’s company, 88 Warrenton Riflemen. Total, 918. The Powhatan Troop, under Captain Lay, has been ordered back here, and will arrive to-day.

Should Colonel Terrett make Manassas his headquarters, he will doubtless go on to strengthen it with forces to be gathered within the large and populous district assigned to his immediate command. I have advised Colonel Terrett, through a letter yesterday, addressed to him, not to leave Alexandria himself until he shall be well satisfied that his next in command there will be a man of cool, firm, and otherwise able character, to hold that important outpost so long as it be possible for brave men to hold it.

The General-in-Chief may be assured that I will make all practicable efforts to bring about the speedy assembling, mustering into service, organizing, drilling, and disciplining of the volunteers on my whole line, and to draw from this source as rapidly as possible, to strengthen the main positions on this line—a line which even now remains almost wholly open to the enemy, should he decide to march with any force upon it. Indeed, it would seem highly expedient, in view of the now openly acknowledged and accepted state of war on the part of the Confederate Congress, that this line, hitherto left wholly to its own feeble resources, and directly in front, as it is, of the enemy’s massed force at Washington, should immediately be put in an adequate attitude of defense by such exterior aid or re-enforcements of Southern troops as have been heretofore withheld from this line, while they have been concentrated at Richmond, Norfolk, and Harper’s Ferry, leaving absolutely at the mercy of the enemy the town of Alexandria, the gallant little band which now holds that post, and the whole system of railroads which, debouching from Alexandria, penetrates this noble country to its very heart, connected with the valley and strategically with Harper’s Ferry, and thus laying bare the very vitals of the State to a deadly attack or to a stunning blow. Verbum sap[*]. The hour for closing the mail is at hand, and the General-in-Chief will pardon the imposition of this. Germane subjects will be pursued in the next following dispatch.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Colonel, Commanding Potomac Department.

[*Enough said]

Headquarters Potomac Department,
Culpeper Court-Rouse, Va., May 14, 1861.

Col. R. S. Garnett, Adjutant-General:

Sir : I communicate herewith a paper for the information of the General-in-Chief, which may have a significance of some interest just at this juncture. I would also communicate to the general that I was yesterday informed by Major Brent, Virginia volunteers, and direct from Alexandria, that the enemy is prolonging himself along the canal, and has already reached Monocacy with his advanced post, which point is at the junction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad with the canal, so that already Colonel Jackson’s vedettes may be in sight of the enemy. Some of my cavalry being without pistols, I would be glad if they could be provided with lances.

Very respectfully, your most obedient,

Colonel, Commanding Potomac Department.


Washington Home Guard of Cavalry,
May 13, 1861.

Lieutenant-Colonel Terrett,
Commanding Post at Alexandria, Va.:

My vedettes of Saturday and Sunday reported “that, while upon their station, near the Aqueduct, at Georgetown, at noon of each day, they were fired upon from Georgetown, the balls striking the trees near them, forcing them to change their position, when the firing was repeated upon their new position.” To-day, with five men, selected and well armed, I proceeded upon the tow-path, on the Aqueduct, to the middle, when I summoned the corporal of the U. S. guard, and demanded an explanation of the firing. He stated that it was not from his men. His orders were to stop supplies, suspicious persons, and to act upon the defensive. I then sent a messenger to the mayor of Georgetown, demanding an explanation of him. Received in reply, through superintendent of police, that the corporate authorities would punish the offenders if found out; that my complaint had been brought before the military commandant, and that all ball-cartridges would be taken from the troops quartered in Georgetown. The mayor offered me an escort and protection if I would visit Georgetown for more explicit explanation, but I considered that received as sufficient.

Submitted by


Unknown, Munford’s Battalion, 30th Virginia (Cavalry), On the Pursuit

5 09 2020

For the Enquirer

Col T. T. Munford and his Cavalry.

Messrs. Editors: In all the accounts I have seen of the deeds of heroism and daring displayed in the battle of the 21st, no mention has been made of the squadron of cavalry commanded by Lieut. Col. Thomas T. Munford. It is far from the intention of the writer of this to detract on leaf from the well won wreathes that now deck the brows of those who participated in the struggles and perils of that eventful day. But simply to do what he considers an act of justice, to a modest gentleman and chivalrous soldier. One from whom it will never be known what part he played, and others who are acquainted with the facts, must do him justice.

Col. Munford commanded a squadron composed of the Chesterfield Troop, Capt. William B. Ball, and the Fauquier Black Horse, Capt. William H. Payne. Col. Munford formed his command early in the morning near Mitchell’s ford, the scene of the fight of the 18th. They were first drawn up in the public road, but, owing to the large quantity of dust, were ordered to fall back to a thicket near by. – Where for more than two hours the balls of the enemy’s long range guns, passed directly over their heads, making strange music, but the men stood it like war worn veterans. An order was not went that all the cavalry should proceed at once higher up the Run to the scene of action, which order Col. Munford executed at once. On reaching the point designated he found large bodies of cavalry drawn up in different parts of the field. He promptly stationed his command in a position to secure them from the enemy’s fire and quietly awaited further orders.

A little before five in the evening Captain Payne, who had ridden over the hill to see how the fight raged, met with Col. George W. Lay, of the Confederate army, on his way with an order from Gen. Beauregard for the cavalry to pursue the enemy; and, although hundreds of the wounded and dying had passed by, the blood upon their persons telling the tale of danger and suffering that those who participated in the fight might expect, there was no holding back or hesitation manifested on the part of officers or men. The squadron was formed in column of fours, facing in the direction of the turnpike over which the enemy were flying. The Colonel who was at the head of the column at once gave the order, “gallop, march,” which was instantly obeyed, and kept up for more than a mile and a half, when the squadron was halted and formed by platoons, not being able to effect the formation while in motion, being then in a thick wood. Colonel Munford now ordered Captain Payne to take twenty men and scout the turnpike road, thinking his command was ahead of the enemy. – Capt. Payne, upon reaching the turnpike, found that the enemy had advanced opposite Col. Munford’s force. Capt. Payne’s party arrested two men, who were sent immediately to Col. M., who ordered them to be taken to Manassa.

The order was now promptly given to charge in the direction of the turnpike. Each trusty blade waved above the strong arms and steady hearts that wielded them, and with a war whoop and Indian chief might have envied, they rushed to the scene of action. A good many of the enemy were killed in the first charge, but a greater portion of those first overtaken, threw down their arms, and asked for quarter, which was at once given. At this point, several wagons and ambulances, containing medical stores, were taken and sent back. A large number were now seen in a field some distance off, and the order to charge them was given. A good many prisoners were taken from this force, among them a Captain Griffin, of the Eighth New York Regiment. He was captured by Capt. Payne, whose charger carried him some distance in advance of his squadron. At this point, they fell into an ambuscade; but owing to the impetuous charge that had been made, which so alarmed the enemy that, although there was a full battalion concealed in the thicket, and opened a tremendous fire upon Col. Munford’s lines, not a man or horse was injured. He was prevented from charging this party, by a high staked and rydered fence. Just then, a large body of the enemy, with baggage wagons and artillery, were discovered a little distance to his left, and were bringing their guns to bear upon the squadron; and also a column of the enemy advancing in his rear. He then ordered his men to fall back over a hill out of sight, which was done quietly and in perfect order; and then conducted them under the cover of the hill, to a wood near by. Soon after reaching the wood, artillery was heard passing over the turnpike, coming in the direction of Col. Munford’s command. Several troopers were now detached to find out whether it was the enemy or our own troops, who had followed in pursuit.

His scouts soon returned and reported that the troops passing down the road were a portion of the Second South Carolina Regiment, under command of Col. Kershaw. And two pieces of artillery from Cap. Kemper’s battery, commanded by Capt. Kemper in person. The large force of the enemy seen to the left, evidently being alarmed by Col. Munford’s charge, quickened their march to reach Cub Run bridge, where they were forced to cross with their teams and artillery, the stream being a very rocky one and having few fords upon it. The enemy came into the pike a few hundred yards above the bridge just as Capt. Kemper got his guns in position. He immediately opened fire upon them with terrible effect. – Their consternation now became complete, and everything was abandoned – wagons, guns, ambulances were all deserted except by a few stragglers, who remained behind, and were put to flight by the Albemarle Light Horse, commanded by Major John Scott, of the Confederate army, who had followed on with Col. Kershaw and Captain Kemper, and were stationed on the side of the turnpike, when they could advance as soon as the artillery ceased firing. As soon as Capt. Kemper turned his guns to return to the Stone Bridge, Major Hill, of the Confederate army, rode up to Col. Munford’s command and asked for a troop of horse to assist Col. Kershaw to remove the guns from Cub Run bridge. Col. Munford, who had gone to the point from which the artillery tired, returned in a few minutes and promptly complied with Major Hill’s request, and proceeded at once to the bridge, which was found to be perfectly barricaded by the guns and wagons which had been left. When Col. Munford reached the bridge none of the guns had been removed. He immediately ordered his men to dismount and disengage the guns, saying to Major Scott that he would superintend the removal. A portion of his command, Capt. Payne’s troop, had been out on picked duty all day Saturday, and Saturday night, near the lines of the enemy; but worked without complaining until after two o’clock A. M., disengaging the guns, and caissons and taking them up the hill from the bridge, Col. Munford remaining all the time and working as hard as any trooper on the ground. They reached the Stone bridge with the prizes they had taken a little before dawn, which amounted to ten guns and their caissons, and among them the large siege gun called, I understand, Tom. There were several which had to be left for the want of teams to draw them. Leaving the Stone bridge just at dawn, the squadron got into Manassa about half-past nine Monday morning, and were greeted with cheer after cheer as they passed the different encampments along the rode from the Stone bridge to the Junction. It will be seen that some of the men had been over forty-eight hours without sleep and scarcely a mouthful to eat, and undergoing violent exercise nearly the whole time. Sixty odd waggon and artillery horses were taken at the bridge and on the road. It is due to the officers and men under Col. Munford’s command to state that never once during the whole day, was an order given the was not promptly and accurately obeyed, and it is also, due to Col. Munford to state that all of the prisoners, among whom there were several regular United States soldiers, who were taken after night, that it was the charge of Col. Munford’s squadron which disorganized them and caused the loss of their guns, then fired on by Kemper’s battery. The only accident that befell this command was caused by the accidental discharge of a pistol in the hand of young Taliaferro, of the Black Horse. That ball taking effect behind his horses ear, causing it to fall, and breaking its rider’s collar bone, but who immediately regained his feet and ran some two hundred yards and fired the remaining five barrels of his pistol at one of the enemy, who was running across the field. This is a simple and true account of the part Col. Munford had in that day’s work, given by one who was an eye witness to it all.

August 1, 1861.

Richmond (VA) Enquirer, 8/13/1861

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Recap: Brandy Station Foundation

30 09 2017

On this past Sunday, Sept. 24, I delivered my Kilpatrick Family Ties program to the Brandy Station Foundation down in Culpeper, Virginia. This is a pretty long (4.5 hours) drive for me, so I turned it into a weekend trip and stayed in Warrenton. So let me recap my trip, with special emphasis on items of First Bull Run interest. Click on any image for a larger one.

I got into Warrenton around 6:00 PM, checked into my room, then headed to the historic district. I’ve never visited Warrenton before, so it was all new to me. First up was what is touted as the post-war home of Col. John Singleton Mosby though, based on length of residence, it may better be described as the post-war home of General Eppa Hunton, colonel of the 8th Virginia Infantry regiment at First Bull Run (read his battle memoir here, and his after action report here). Hunton made “Brentmoor” his home from 1877 to 1902, after purchasing it from Mosby.


In the “law complex” section I found California, the pre-war home of William “Extra Billy” Smith, who commanded the 49th Virginia battalion at First Bull Run (memoir here, official report here). After the war, this building housed Mosby’s law office. Smith was a pre-war and wartime governor of Virginia.


A few blocks away at 194 Culpeper St. is “Mecca,” a private residence built in 1859. It served as a Confederate hospital to the wounded of First Bull Run, and later as headquarters to Union generals McDowell, Sumner, and Russell.


The Warrenton Cemetery is the resting place for many Confederate soldiers, most famously Mosby. Also there is William Henry Fitzhugh “Billy” Payne, with Warrenton’s Black Horse Troop at First Bull Run.


Saturday was spent touring the battlefield of Brandy Station and sites associated with the Army of the Potomac’s 1863-1864 winter encampment with two experts on both, Clark “Bud” Hall and Craig Swain of To the Sound of the Guns. I admit to knowing very little about either of topic, but was given a good foundation for further exploration. I also learned that some red pickup trucks can go absolutely anywhere, and there is good beer around Culpeper.


L to R – Me, Bud Hall, Craig Swain

Not a whole lot of First Bull Run stuff on the field, though. But the first thing I saw when I got to Fleetwood Hill was “Beauregard,” the home in which Roberdeau Wheat of the First Louisiana Special Battalion recovered from his Bull Run wounds, first thought to be mortal. The name of the house at the time was “Bellevue.” Wheat recommended the name change, in honor of his commanding general and in recognition of the similar translation of both names.


View of “Beauregard” from Fleetwood Hill

Sunday found me back in Culpeper at the Brandy Station Foundation where, as I said, I presented Kilpatrick Family Ties to a modest audience. I made some late changes to the program on Saturday night, adding one pertinent site from Warrenton (the Warren Green Hotel where one of the characters in the presentation lived for a year) and “Rose Hill,” the home Kilpatrick made his HQ during the winter of 1863-1864. But I did run into a couple of Bull Run items. First, the monument to John Pelham that was previously located near Kelly’s Ford on the Rappahannock River (it was in a really bad location) has been relocated to the Graffiti House, home of the Brandy Station Foundation. Pelham, if you recall, was in command of Alburtis’s Battery (Wise Artillery) at First Bull Run (personal correspondence here).


As most of you know, the Graffiti House at Brandy Sation was occupied by both Confederate and Union soldiers during the war. Over its course, soldiers of all stripes inscribed on its walls with charcoal signatures, drawings, and sayings of an astounding quantity. These were both obscured and preserved by whitewash after the return of its exiled owners, and were rediscovered in 1993. The Brandy Station Foundation has lovingly restored and preserved much of the dwelling, and you should make the Graffiti House a bullet point on you bucket list.


Graffiti House, Brandy Station (Culpeper), VA

I’ll end this post with a shot of the signature of a prominent First Bull Run participant on one of the second floor walls. Can you see it? Here is his official report.


Signature of Joe Johnston’s First Bull Run cavalry chief


Review: Arwen Bicknell, “Justice and Vengeance”

25 11 2016

justice_and_vengeance_with_coinI received Justice and Vengeance: Scandal, Honor, and Murder in 1872 Virginia from author Arwen Bicknell a while back, and intended on writing a brief preview. However, I was intrigued enough by the very limited details provided on the back cover (including a good blurb from John Hennessy) and website to read the whole thing. I don’t usually do this, but want to get the synopsis from Amazon out of the way so I can discuss the cooler parts of this book:

In Justice and Vengeance, Arwen Bicknell offers the first full account of the events leading up to the shooting of James Clark by Lucien Fewell and the sensational, headline-grabbing murder trial that followed. Set against the backdrop of Reconstruction, tumultuous Virginia politics, and the presidential election of 1872 featuring Ulysses Grant, Horace Greeley, and protofeminist Victoria Woodhull, the first female presidential candidate, Bicknell paints a vivid picture of the evolving South as she traces the families and fortunes of Lucien Fewell, a hellraiser with a passion for drink and for abusing Yankees and scalawags, and James Clark, a rising legal and political star with a wife, a daughter, and a baby on the way.

A marvelous work of historical re-creation, Justice and Vengeance is sure to fascinate anyone interested in crime drama, the Civil War and its aftermath, and the history of Virginia and the politics of the American South.

OK, so why would anyone interested in the First Battle of Bull Run be interested in this 51vvmjvwiel-_sx311_bo1204203200_work, concerning a murder and trial which occur a decade after the battle? First of all, the bulk of the story takes place in the general Manassas vicinity, and particularly in Brentsville, and in the Brentsville jail house which you can visit today. Second, two fairly prominent Confederate participants in First Bull Run, Eppa Hunton of the 8th Virginia Infantry and Billy Payne of the Black Horse Troop, play very prominent roles as attorneys for the defense of the accused, Confederate veteran Lucien Fewell, who openly shot and mortally wounded Confederate veteran James Clark. Former Virginia governor Henry Wise assisted the prosecution.

But what is particularly fun is how the author pulls strings, albeit sometimes tenuously connected, to weave a wide ranging tapestry of the times in which these local events took place. It’s difficult to describe, which I imagine is why I found available summaries so dissatisfying.

Regardless, I recommend you give this book a tumble, if post-war politics, gender roles, legal proceedings, and general roller-coasterly good times flip your switch.