Pvt. Perry Mayo, Co. C, 2nd Michigan Infantry, On the Campaign

13 06 2022

Camp Winfield Scott
Washington, D. C
July 8, 1861

Dear Father and Mother: I again take my pen in hand to send a few lines in haste as this is the last opportunity I shall have of writing from here and maybe the last you will hear from me in some time. Before you hear from me again, we shall have an engagement as we are under orders to march into Virginia immediately. As our orders are sealed, no one knows where we are going, but I presume it is Fairfax Court House. All the troops here are moving forward now with utmost dispatch except just enough for the defense of the Capitol.

There was an attack on the picket guards last night and two were killed. I saw their bodies this morning.

I wrote to you yesterday, but I thought I would let you know we were gone. My health and spirits are first rate and I feel able to do my duty in action any moment, but I guess Dana Bostwick will be sick when the pinch comes.

Nothing more at present. I shall write again just as soon as there is any chance of getting anything through.

P.S. I rec[eive]d a letter from grandmother this afternoon. They are all well. I have also rec[eive]d one from S[teadman] Lincoln in Hancock. He desires me to give his best respects to you and mother. Nothing more at present but my love and best respects to you all for the moment.

I remain yours in haste.

P[erry] Mayo

—————

Georgetown, [D.C]
July 23, 1861

Dear Father and Mother: I take my pen in hand to let you know that I still live. I have just arrived from that terrible battlefield and am now safe again in the land of freedom. I was in the field during both the engagements and escaped with no other injury than a sprained ankle and two ball holes in my clothes, one in my cap and the other in my blanket which was done up in a roll and passed over my right shoulder. This was done on the first day of the engagement at Bull Run.

We left camp Scott on the 16th and marched to Vienna (the town where the cars were fired into sometime since) where we slept in a marsh, and I caught a very heavy cold. The next day we marched within 4 miles of Centreville, and after our days march I was so overcome that the doctor was called. The next morning I got a ride and kept along with the company until noon when I stopped to rest and got about a mile and a half behind when I heard the cannonading commence and hurried up as fast as I could and got up so as to go into action with the N[ewl Y[ork] 12th which was next to us in the brigade.

We marched down a long hill through a wheat field and attacked them in a piece of woods where they had a masked battery and some 20,000 men hid in the scrub pines like so many “ingins.” At the first fire we rushed in, I supposing the whole time that our boys were in ahead of us which did not prove to be the fact as they had gone farther along out of our sight and laid down. After the first volley we got behind trees and took them at their own game and fired four rounds when we retreated over a knoll under cover of our cannon. In the retreat my ankle was hurt so I could scarcely walk, but when my company came around, [I] got off, with a little help, out of danger. We then went back some two miles and camped to await that terrible Sunday, long to be remembered.

On the morning of the 21st we were called out at sunrise expecting to go into the hottest part of the engagement. The Capt[ain] told me, as I was too lame to make a quick movement, to remain, but, as I did not like the notion of having anyone else fill my place, I formed in and marched on the field where we were held from morning till night in a suspense that cannot be described. We imagined the fight was raging in the most terrible manner on our right, with a volley every few minutes on our left, and a heavy cannonade from four of our batteries within eighty rods of our front. The smoke would frequently settle over the knoll on our lines. We were formed three lines in line of battle but did not get near enough to fire a shot.

Our brigade and Col[onel] Richardson were complimented for saving the whole army, after our forces gave way on the right and were retreating in the utmost confusion. The enemy made an attempt to break our left and cut off our retreat, but the Col[onel] withdrew his brigade and threw it into a field and formed us all behind a large stone wall. The enemy came to the edge of the woods just out of range of our guns and as they did not like the looks of our bayonets sticking over the wall they very prudently retreated. Had they come out, we would have shown them some tall specimens of Michigan marksmanship.

After their retreat we formed in line along a piece of woods where our men slept on their arms until midnight and then the division retreated toward Washington (the rest of the army had a left unbeknown to the Capt[ain] or ourselves). As the exertion of the day was too much for me, I was soon left behind to fall a prisoner in the hands of the enemy. After getting along for about two miles, I fell in with a member of one of the Conn[ecticut] Reg[imen]ts who was wounded in the head, and we made out to find an old horse which carried us both safe through to Arlington Heights. I do not know where the regiment or division is but presume I shall find it in time. There was two or three of Co[mpany] C sick down there, and I do not know what became of them. The rest were together. None of them were hurt. I am able to walk around a little by using my gun for a crutch and will probably not be able to get around much for some time. My health otherwise is better than could be expected. Our loss in the first engagement was about 60 killed and wounded, but I can form no estimation of our loss in the last battle.

I saw Con Nickerson the day before the last fight but have not heard from the regiment since. I understand they are badly cut up and their Col[onel] killed. I rec[eive]d your letter of July 5th just before starting.

The manner of disposing of my money that you spoke of suits me well enough as I suppose it safe there and hereafter. In regard to any of my business there, act to the best of your judgement and you may depend on its gro[w]ing satisfaction on my part.

I would write more but do not feel able so I must close for the present by sending my love and best wishes to you all while I remain your son.

Perry Mayo

—————

Washington City, D. C.
August 2, 1861

Dear Father and Mother: I rec[eive]d your very welcome letter of July 26th yesterday and was very glad to hear from you as I had begun to think you were all dead or had forgotten to write.

I wrote home the next day after the retreat from the field of Bull Run. In a few moments after writing to you I found one of our baggage wagons and was carried to our camp where I have been lying for the past ten days in the hospital receiving treatment for my ankle which had by that time become very much swol[l]en and somewhat painful. I am hap[p]y to inform you that I am now much better and was discharged from the hospital yesterday. I can get around now very well with a cane but cannot do duty yet. When I arrived in camp I found the company bad counted me among the prisoners and that Capt[tain] Byington had sent a company back 15 miles in hopes of finding me, but as they went on a different road from the one I came, they did not arrive in camp until sometime after I did.

The reg[imen]t retreated to Alexandria, some ten miles from our camp at the Chain Bridge, and afterwards moved to Arlington Heights where our camp now is.

We are all in first rate health and spirits once again, and the boys have some lively games of ball in which I hope to be able to take a part.

I am very glad to hear that you have the wheat in safe, but I am sorry to hear of the damage done by Gordon’s stock, and as to damages, I know him so well that I never expect the first cent in that line. I send you, however, by this letter full power of attorney and you must do the best you can in the premises.

In regard to the expenses of harvesting my wheat, I expect you to take a sufficient amount from any money belonging to me which may come into your hands to indemnify you against all loss. I sent home $25 of my wages by express which you will get of A. Noble of B[attle] Creek. This is my U[nited] S[tates] pay from the 25th of May to the 25th of June, together with my mileage. There is now over a month’s pay due me beside my state money. I can send it all home as soon as I get it.

You wish me to state a few of the particulars of the fight but you have no doubt seen more correct and elaborate accounts than I can possibly give you. You seem to doubt the reports of their loss being equal to or greater than ours. Of this you need have no doubt, as from a hill just in front of our lines, we could see the whole battle. At one time, about 1 P.M., the enemy sent a very strong force of infantry up a long lane to attack our center, and Major Hunt’s Battery of Flying Artillery was sent from our side to intercept them. The Battery kept concealed behind a small hill in the road until the rebel columns had advanced nearly within pistol shot, when the guns were moved up as quick as lightning to the top of the hill. And before the enemy could form in line, they rec[eive]d such a shower of grape and canister that it seemed as though their whole column was struck to the ground as by one stroke from the hand of the Almighty.

This Battery (Hunt’s) consists of six pieces of brass cannon, 12 pounders, and in this engagement they were assisted by two 32 pounders from another battery. Whet few was left after the first two rounds from the battery made good their escape to the woods, but their number was few.

There was partial successes on both aides during the day but our men had the field fairly gained and had driven the enemy in nearly every point, but owing to some bungle and an affright amongst our teamsters, caused
by a charge from their cavalry, we were obliged to stand and see the whole lost without firing a gun. Our loss was perhaps 1,000 killed and wounded and their loss must have been greater. They were too much crippled to make an attempt to follow up the retreat.

I do not think of anything more of interest just now.

I am in receipt of a letter from grandmother, also one from Aunt Charlotte and S[teadman] Lincoln of Hancock, [New York]. He desires me to send his respects to you and mother. They are all well.

Write as often as you can, and next time write me a good long letter if you can find time.

Nothing more at present from your son.

Perry Mayo

Contributed by Jon-Erik Gilot with the following annotation: I found a file of these letters… in the archives at Wheeling University… These transcripts were apparently sent to a former historian at Wheeling College, Rev. Cliff Lewis, for his review prior to publication. The letters are held in the archives at Michigan State University, and were published by Michigan State in 1967.

Transcription images

2nd Michigan Infantry, Co. C roster

Perry Mayo at Fold3

Perry Mayo at FindAGrave





Pvt. William Rhadamanthus Montgomery, Co. I, 2nd South Carolina Infantry, On the Campaign

6 04 2022

Waifs from the War.

We have before us a most interesting letter from Wm. R. Montgomery Esq., a member of the Palmetto Guards, Capt. Cuthbert’s company, Kershaw’s South Carolina regiment, written from Vienna, Loudoun county Virginia on the 31st July, (from which it appears that our army is advancing). Mr. Montgomery though in a South Carolina regiment is a citizen of Marietta and is extensively known in this city also.

The letter is lengthy and gives a great many interesting details of the battles of Bull’s Run and Manassas Plains. We would like to publish it all, but out space will not permit, as most of the facts mentioned by him have been anticipated. We make the following extracts:

“On Wednesday morning of the 17th instant, Lincoln’s army advanced on us, numbering, in all, about 55,000 (as was stated by an officer, taken prisoner) and afterwards received reinforcements. We all struck tents and retreated to Bull’s Run immediately, as we had orders from Gen. Beauregard, several days previous. It seems we were placed at Fairfax only as a bait to the Yankees, and they bit well at it. The Palmetto Guards had the honor of being the rear guard of 6000 men on the retreat, which was at one point a somewhat dangerous position. As we passed Germantown the enemy were in sight, and lacked only a few moments in cutting us off. Being rear guard, we had to go through woods and fields most of the way.

We arrived at Centreville at 12 o’clock in the night and rested, and kept the enemy in check till 1 o’clock. While at Centreville one of our company – Mr. Brown, died from being overheated. We left Centreville, and arrived at Bull’s Run about day light, and took our position in the old trenches. About 12 o’clock we received intelligence that the enemy were advancing on us. Out company and two pieces of Artillery were ordered to take position just beyond the River on the first hill. We had not been there long till the Yankees sent at us shot and shell in abundance. They fell all among us but no one was hurt. Our two pieces then opened on them, and soon succeeded in silencing them in that quarter.

Soon after 2 o’clock a cannonading commenced below us on the Run followed by musketry which lasted four long hours. Our side repulsed them three times and took two large cannon. The Louisiana Artillery played fearfully upon them, and did much towards winning the day.

About dark the Yankees sent in a flag of truce for leave to bury their dead, which was granted. I do not know what their loss was. Their papers acknowledge a loss of 1500. – We found 72 bodies on the field next morning, which they had left.”

[Next follows a description of the battle of Manassas Plains, and many incidents connected therewith. He states that he was within a few feet of Bartow when he fell; he then says:]

“We have had no tents since the 17th, but have been exposed to all the weather. Sunday night we slept on the field of battle. – Monday was spent in burying our dead. It rained very hard Monday night. I spent Monday night with the Georgia boys at Manassas on the open field in the rain. We had noting to eat from Saturday evening until late Monday evening, except a few crakers taken from the Yankees’ haversacks which we were obliged to eat or starve.”

This letter of Mr. Montgomery’s is written on Yankee paper taken from the enemy. One sheet has a fine engraving of the U. S. Capital in it. Another has a grand triumphal arch with the words “Constitution and Laws” sacrilegiously inscribed thereon, surmounted by the temple of liberty and crowned with a constellation of twenty four stars, while the Yankees are represented below in great numbers waving the stars and stripes and saluting the stars and stripes and saluting the emblems with shouts of enthusiasm.

The letter also had inclosed a Yankee envelope. It has a representation of the camp of a Yankee army with the stars and stripes waving high, and these words for a motto. – “Traitorous breath shall not taint American Air.” The envelope had the address of a dead Yankee on it as follow: “Lieut. Jas. N. Fowler, 4th Maine Regiment company I. care Col. H. G. Berry, Washington D. C.,” and was mailed at Searsport, Maine.

(Atlanta, GA) Southern Confederacy, 8/16/1861

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Georgia Sharpshooter : The Civil War Diary and Letters of William Rhadamanthus Montgomery 1839-1906

William R. Montgomery biography

William R. Montgomery at Ancestry

William R. Montgomery at Fold3

William R. Montgomery at FindAGrave





Capt. Elbert Bland, Co. H, 7th South Carolina Infantry, On the Campaign

3 04 2022

For the Advertiser
Interesting Particulars from the 96 Rifles.

Vienna, Va., Aug 2, 1861.

Dear Colonel.- I will give you an account of the movements and operations of my Company during the exciting days from the 17th to the 24th July inclusive.

On the 16th, my Company was ordered to complete an unfinished rifle-pit on the Flint Hill road, which we were to occupy. I was in command of a Regimental working-party on the 15th; so this was double duty for man and some of my men, but we went at it with spirit and finished by night. On the morning of the 17th, the cry of wolf was again heard, and the wolf appeared. We loaded our Company wagon and the train moved off towards Centreville (the Captains knowing that we were to retire.) The Regiment then formed. The 96 Riflemen turned out 106 strong with new uniforms. W. P. Butler, S. S. Tompkins, Dr. Walker Samuel and J. T. Bacon joined us at the Camp. Maj. H. C. Williams and his son Frank Williams, of Fairfax C. H., joined us in the pit. We double-quicked to the trenches by order. Soon one of Capt. Kemper’s guns appeared at the pit, but there being no embrasure for it, we grabbled one in short order. In a half hour Co. Kershaw’s Regiment filed into our trenches and we out of them. Then commenced the retreat for Bull Run in real earnest. Capt. Hodges’ and my Company, with Col. Radford’s Dragoons, covered the retreat of the 7th Regiment, by the old Braddock road. We are under a thousand obligations to Col. Radford’s command, officers and men of which gave up their horses to the broken down men – walked themselves, and carried our knapsacks and guns. At last we arrived at Centreville about 12, M. My Company and Capt. Hodges’ were deployed on the old Braddock road to retard the onward march of the enemy. At 12,30, A. M. (at night) it was discovered that the enemy was about to cut us off. Mah. Seibels came up and ordered us to move towards Bull Run quietly, silently – which place we reached at 2 ½ A. M., our Companies yet covering the retreat. We fell upon the ground and slept.

At 7 o’clock I was ordered to deploy my Company as skirmishers, near the Butler house, on the road, three-quarters of a mile in advance. We occupied a beautiful grove of chesnut oaks under cover of an old fence. Capt. Wallace, of Kershaw’s Regiment, was deployed on my right, [?] yards in advance of me, at the Butler house. We had agreed to support each other. It was he, at this place and time, that killed the spy, with $750 in his pocket. At 8 o’clock, ordered back by Brig. Gen. Bonham. I formed my Company, on half of it on the Bluff under command of Lieuts. Harrison and Wever; the other half was deployed under the bluff to join the left of Capt. Sander’s Company, which was upon the left of the 11th Virginia Regiment. I did this to complete our line. The fight opened at 9, A. M., lasting six hours, and reached the right of Capt. Sander’s Company. We expected every [?] to become engaged; but it never came nearer. The battle of the 18th closed with an artillery fight of an hour’s length, during which Capt. Escherman of the New Orleans Washington Artillery was severely wounded. He, with another officer, rode up to my Company under the bluff and asked for a Surgeon. I presented myself, and with the assistance of W. P. Butler and S. S. Tompkins, raised him from his horse and dressed his wound under the enemy’s fire of shot and shell. During the dressing, the Officer who accompanied the Captain asked for Dr. — of the Palmetto Regiment. Being informed of his whereabouts, he was satisfied. I sent the wounded Officer upon a litter to the General Hospital.

At 8 o’clock we were ordered out on picket, and occupied the battle field; I posted sentinels in the rain, and had a watchful night of it. A Captain of an advanced picket came to me for instruction, saying that he had never been upon picket before. In two minutes after he left, his Company fired and double quicked towards us. I formed Company and ordered my sentinels in the road to halt them, which Dick Turner did well. I persuaded them to go back.

At 7 in the morning of the 19th, I was ordered to relieve this Company at the Chesnut grove; here we had fine sport. I sent to Butler’s house Sergt. Addison and ten men and they exchanged several shots with the enemy’s pickets. This being rather an exposed position, Col. Lay ordered me to call them in, but the temptation to kill being very great, I slipped up Corp. Fair and two men with long range guns, each of whom got a shot. At 12 M. the enemy was reported in a ravine on our right – I formed Company but they failed to appear, and Capt. Hester reporting about this time for picket duty, we marched back to the bluff. The other Companies were all this time working upon their trenches. We slept this day.

On the 20th went to work upon our Rifle-Pit, which we nearly completed by 10 A. M.

On the 21st we worked all of the morning under fire of shot and shell. At 12 M, a detail of eight men was ordered from the 96 Rifles, as sharp shooters to fire fuse balls into the caissons of the enemy’s batteries, to blow them up. The call was answered by Corp. Mathis, Corp. Ryan, J. P. Robinson, Jas. Early, M. Grice, Thos. Stevenson, A. Swearengin, C. M. Gray, jr., and ninety others; but the above names were first out of the pit. About 3 o’clock P. M. we were ordered to advance and attack the enemy in front. We filed out of the pit for fifty yards, when the order was countermanded. What a mistake! The future of the battle proved this the moment to strike them in front. At 4 P. M. the Regiment or Brigade was ordered to force the Centre. We yelled, and such a yell! It of itself was sufficient to break the centre without bayonets. We moved forward to within one mile of Centreville, capturing several prisoners. We halted. Gen. Bonham approached me and said he wanted a reliable Company for picket, and detailed the 96 Rifles for the service. We moved towards Centreville, and posted sentinels, but the Brigade being ordered back, we were relieved by one of Longstreet’s Companies; – marched back to Bull Run; – ordered forward on the 22nd; – as soon as we crossed the Run, the 96 and Capt. Hodges’ Company were deployed as skirmishers upon each side of the road, – 96 on the right, Company B. on the left. When we deployed we reached for a half mile through the woods. It rained hard all day. Did you ever [?] through the woods on a rainy day? If so, you know something about it. Several more prisoners were taken by Company B on the left. Arriving at Centreville, I called in the skirmishers and was ordered to occupy the old ground on the Braddock road and send forward ten men under Lt. Bland, who reported a deserted enemy’s camp. It is [?…] I am now wearing a [?] Regiment Marine cap found in a trench at that Camp.

Ordered back to the [?] Bull Run at [?] P. M. I marched over the Pedregal at Contreras, on the night of the 19th August, 1847, but it was not more severe than this. The mud was half leg deep and slippery [?]. The Captain of Company E measured his length twice. We slept in our wet clothes all night; ordered to advance on the morning of the 23d; arrived at Centreville at [?] A. M., and halted for the day.; at 9 P. M., we moved forward to Vienna, where we arrived at day break or a little after. Of all the forced marches I ever made, this was the most fatiguing; when we halted, I could and did lean against the fence and sleep.

On the morning of the 25th, Gen. Bonaham sent for the 96 and ordered us [? ?] towards Fall’s Church to capture the Gray Horse Company – the same that charged through Fairfax C. H. Captain Powell’s Company of Cavalry were to decoy them into our net. They failed to be and appear at the appointed dime.

We are now at Vienna Station, or Camp Gregg, and if the Commissary department was well conducted, would be doing well. Our Company refused to do duty this morning because they are not fed. Several of my men missed morning drill being in the country in search of breakfast. We are in advance again. We worked hard at Fairfax – made a splendid retreat, and occupied the post of honor at the Run – the centre of the lines. The battle ranged within one Company of me; – yet I have never had the pleasure of giving the command Fire, in the face of the enemy; but when I do, you will not see it stated that we were scattered like sheep, and “fought in knots of ten and fifteen.” We have been drilled!

Elbert Bland

Edgefield (SC) Advertiser, 8/14/1861

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Elbert Bland biography

Elbert Bland at Ancestry

Elbert Bland at Fold3

Elbert Bland at FindAGrave





“Our Corporal”, 5th South Carolina Infantry, On the Campaign

28 03 2022

EDITORIAL CORRESPONDENCE.

Fairfax Station, Fairfax County, Va.
Tuesday Evening, July 23, 1861.

Dear Enquirer: – Last Sabbath, the 21st, was perhaps the most solemn, stirring and eventful day ever witnessed on the American continent. We have fought a long and hotly, even desperately contested battle; and won a great and signal victory, by the stout arms of our soldiery, the towering genius of Johnston, Davis and Beauregard, and the gracious blessing of Heaven. Though thousands of tender hearts must bleed at the South, yet a thrill of joy at the success of our arms will pervade millions. We pray that it may teach our enemies the utter folly of their bloody designs, and lead them to the paths of peace.

To give you a just conception of the “stupendous whole,” we must begin with the beginning. On Wednesday morning the contending hosts began to “mobilize,” in order to make and resist the onset. About 10 o’clock on that morning, the 5th Regiment received orders to march forward: and by 1 o’clock, leaving knapsack, clothing and every impediment behind, except a single blanket and three days provisions, crossed Bull’s Run, where the 17th and 18th Mississippi Regiments, constituting the remainder of Gen. Jones’ brigade, encamped for the night. Our regiment filed up Rocky Run, a small stream that flows down among rugged hills from the northward, and two miles farther on lay all night on their arms in an ambush, in expectation of the advancing enemy. They failed, however, to reach us during the night; but were so close upon us next morning that some of our rear guard came very near being picked off, as we retreated to the Mississippi Regiments on the Run.

I may as well here, by way of episode, tell you, that McDowell’s plan was to make a false and a real attack; and that the field of the two extended from McLane’s ford, where our brigade was posted, up to the Stone bridge, a distance of from 5 to 7 miles upon a rough estimate. About a ¼ mile above McLane’s ford is Blackburn’s, where the fight occurred on the afternoon of the 18th; above that, say 1 mile, is Mitchell’s ford, where Col. Williams’ Regiment lay nearly all day Sunday under cover of their entrenchments, receiving at intervals a heavy cannonading, without being near enough to use musketry. The next crossing place of any importance, is the Stone Bridge itself, some 3 or 4 miles above Mitchell’s ford.

The first design of the enemy seems to have been to force a passage at Blackburn’s ford, which they attempted on Thursday evening, with every advantage of numbers, position and artillery. The first gun was fired precisely at 12 o’clock, and a sharp artillery fight was kept up on both sides till near one, when the infantry began to participate on both sides. As we were only a very short distance from the field, and expecting a flank attempt upon our ford every moment, we lay still under cover of bushes at the foot of the hills, bordering upon the south side of the Run, and had every opportunity to take notes of the engagement. The first volley of musketry made an impression which will never be eradicated from memory. It was sublime and inspiring beyond description. Volley after volley was poured by each into the other for ½ or ¾ of an hour with astonishing rapidity. The enemy was repulsed, but rallied again; and had succeeded in crossing the Run, when the 18th Virginia regiment came at double quick upon the field, drove them back and won the day. The loss on our side was 15 or 20 killed – and more; some say 12, some 7 – and from 40 to 60 wounded; the loss on the side of the enemy being not less, perhaps more, than 100 killed, and 200 or 300 wounded. The honor of the victory is due to Gen. Longstreet’s brigade, and 4 pieces of the Washington artillery under Lieut. Garnett. The number engaged was about 3,000 on our, and from 7,000 to 10,000 on their side. The firing lasted 4 ½ hours.

Failing so signally in this direct attack, when so confident of success, Gen. McDowell concluded that it was not beneath his genius to employ the “oblique order” – in other words to plan a battle; and for this purpose he consumed Friday and Saturday. His plan was to make a feigned attack upon Blackburn’s ford, ad a real attack somewhere else – higher up as it turned out. But the plat was so badly concealed that it was discovered in our camp as early as an hour by sun, Saturday afternoon. At this hour their drums began to beat in high style, up the ravines around the head of Rocky Run. We were out in company with Capt. Fernandez, an old Texas ranger who fought from ’34 to ’37, through the bloody and stormy days of the “Lone Star,” and was also in the campaign against the Indians on the Texas frontier. We passed beyond our line of picquets, and even heard them shouting and cheering; and it took no time for the Captain, experienced in the wilds and strategies of a more cunning enemy, to discover that all this fuss was mere “gammon.” We climbed a tall tree, and with a marine glass, scoured the open fields beyond the chain of ravines, but saw no foe – the main column evidently debouching beyond the hills below Centreville. In vain do you set a net in sight of the bird; and so it proved in the sequel.

During the night of Saturday, large bodies of the enemy reached the neighborhood of Stone Bridge, and their artillery fell into entrenchments which they were base enough to throw up while there a few days before under a flag of truce, pretending to bury their dead of the previous fight at that place. Sharp shooting began as early as 4 or 5 o’clock between skirmishing parties of the two armies. The first cannon fired was a Parrot gun from an eminence opposite Blackburn’s ford; and this gun, assisted at intervals by two or three others, poured a hot fire into McLane’s, Blackburn’s and Mitchell’s fords all the day – giving solemn cadence by its leisurely and monotonous thunder, to the terrific and furious uproar of the battle. During the day there could not have been much less than 35,000 or 40,000 on our side; and between 60,000 and 75,000 on the side of the enemy. Gen. Johnson commanded our left wing; and “the glorious Beauregard,” the right wing. Gen. McDowell led on the Yankees. Gen. Scott was on the field at a safe distance – we sit now in a beautiful clovered apple orchard, in full view of the house where he ate his dinner; and Lincoln, a large number of Senators and Congressmen, and two or three hundred Washington ladies, are said to have been ear witnesses of the engagement. Some give the credit of turning the tide of battle to Davis who drove a wedge into the enemy’s centre, and dislodged portion of them; others give it to Beauregard, who arriving on the field in the very niche of time when all seemed lost, rallied his men and headed the charge in person, producing wherever he went a thrill of hope and ardor, that won the smile of heaven and called down victory. Gen. Johnson towered a terror to the foe. To his friends a magnificent attraction, and a beacon star. Each of these great men was equal to the post; and their followers were every whit worthy of their leaders. Nothing less than Spartan valor, Roman firmness and French ardor, guided and sustained by the genius of a Pericles, a Scipio and a Napoleon, won the field. The route was complete; the loss must have been heavy on both sides, but we have no means of telling even the probable number. Gen. Bartow of Georgia, Gen. B. E. Bee of S. C., Lieut. Col. B. J. Johnson of Hamtpon’s legion, and Lieut. Col. Wilkes of Sloan’s Regiment, are the prominent officers slain. A Yankee shot Col. Wilkes while watering his foaming horse, and stole his boots, leaving a pair of dilapidated shoes beside the corpse. Lieut. E. A. Palmer, well known in your town, fell pierced through in two or three places. He was greatly prized in his regiment. None of the S. C. regiments suffered severely. Five, Sloan’s, Kershaw’s, Hampton’s, Williams’ and Jenkins’, were more or less engaged, yet 100 to 150 will cover the killed, and from 300 to 400, the wounded. The Georgia 7th suffered much, and is entitled to the honor of charging and taking six pieces of Sherman’s battery.

Notwithstanding the glorious rout of the enemy at and below Stone Bridge, the triumph of the day was not complete till their reserve were driven from their rallying point, opposite Blackburn’s ford; and the honor of this daring and hazardous enterprise is emphatically due, and is given by all who know anything about it, to Col. Jenkins’ regiment. The ever vigilant and discerning eye of Beauregard himself, saw both the extreme importance and the extreme danger of this assault; and early in the morning had ordered three brigades, Jones’, Ewell’s and one other, to advance, meet beyond the Run and make the charge, with the reserved purpose, if successful, of flanking the enemy’s left in the general engagement. There can be no doubt that the fight would have ended hours sooner if this plan had succeeded; but it did not. From causes unknown to us, the other brigades failed to meet ours at the appointed rendezvous, and Gen. Jones after lying with his men in the woods for hours, hearing that a large body of cavalry were coming up on our right, and an overwhelming corps of infantry were arriving to cut us off on our left, hastily retreated to Bull’s Run. The boys had scarcely time to munch their dinner of crackers and bacon, however, before they were put upon the march again. This time it had been planned to make the charge with General Longstreet. The day was waning rapidly, and there was not time to lose. We made a forced and circuitous march of some 5 miles, up and down rugged hills, through forests rendered almost impenetrable by dense undergrowth, and over yawning ravines. When we reached the place from which the long and apparently desperate assault was to be made, the men were nearly exhausted from their thirst and fatigue. Nevertheless the untameable spirit which burned in their bosoms, urged them on to deeds of dauntless heroism. The 5th were drawn up in line of battle and crouched at a “ready” on an open hill side; the Mississippi 18th , were drawn up in a ravine behind them; and the Mississippi 17th, were on the left, lower down the ravine. Skirmishers were thrown forward to scour the field, and drive in the outposts of the enemy. No sooner had these received and returned a galling fire, than our Colonel gave the order to advance, when a shout arose from our line, and the men went forward with a rush over the hill.

We crossed an open field in bull blaze of a rapid fire from the enemy’s sharp shooters and artillery. Then came the astonishing part of this almost unprecedented charge. We now had to descend a steep hill side covered very densely with the crooked and serpentine laurel – a place which the bear, panther and wild cat themselves would delight to haunt. This hill-side was from 25 to 50 yards in extent, and took the swiftest of us 5 to 10 minutes to descend it. This had to be done, too, when we could not fire a gun with effect, and when we were in full blaze of a tripple fire – from the enemy’s cannon, their musketry, and a tremendous flank fire from the Mississippians, who, unfortunately, mistook us for the advancing enemy. Yet our men never faltered. They mounted the fence, and in two minutes the whole hill-side was stirring like a bee hive. Being a corporal of the color-guard, and a smaller man than the sergeant, and only having a gun instead of a long flag staff to carry through the jungle, we reached the font of the hill before the colors, and had a moment to turn and survey the scene. You never say a hail storm descend with more relentless and stormy fury. The Yankees used “buck and ball,” and every musket, consequently, discharged four deadly missiles; and their columns, also, now began to open fire upon us. We caught the gleam of our glorious tri-color about half way down the hill; and the groans of the wounded fell harshly upon our ears.

Our regiment crossed the creek at the bottom of the hill, some of them wading the water to almost waist deep, passed the flat, and advanced midway the next ascent; when the Colonel halted us, in order to put a top to the unfortunate fire of the Mississippians, which now increased in fury as they mistook us for the retreating enemy. Our shout in charging, and the promiscuous fire which went up from our whole line, put the foe to a precipitous fight; and General Longstreet came upon the field just in time to see the action close, and possess himself of the guns which they left behind; though he gives all the honor of driving the gunners from them to our regiment.

Our force was from 2,500 to 2,700, with two pieces of the Washington Artillery; which, however, after almost superhuman effort, owing to the utter roughness of the ground, made to themselves, a mortifying failure to get into position. The enemy had, it is thought, at least 5,000 musketeers, two or three companies of sharp shooters, 500 cavalry, a field battery of 3 pieces, and 3 other pieces in a masqued battery. The loss on our side were 3 men killed, and 19 wounded; on that of the enemy about 40 men. General Jones in his official report said that he was happy to report his brigade as contributing “a little” to the general success; General Beaurgard said “not a little, but a great deal,” and President Davis, who was among the Mississippians on Sunday night, says he knows nothing equal to the long and stormy charge in triumphant daring, except the double quacking of the French over the walls of Sebastopol. A friend writing to us from another regiment, says – “Glorious 5th! – worthy sons of King’s Mountain! You have already won enough laurels for a campaign.” The General who was in feeble health and languished on his bed all the night before and consequently could not throw himself body and soul into the fight, and Captain Coward, his aid-de-camp, than whom a more masculine military intellect and spirit, with a gentler heart and more genuine modesty, cannot be found easily, were both, when we returned, bathed in tears. Both the Mississippi regiments had left the field under the overwhelming fire; and they thought we were surrounded and cut to pieces. When we arrived where the other regiments rallied, Captain Coward with a swelling heart rode by, and in tones trembling with generous emotion said: “Thank God, men! I see you safe; I thought you were cut to pieces.” Mark you, if the war continues, he will reach an enviable distinction. When the Mississippians learned what they had done, they bowed their heads, and wept like children.

Nothing can exceed the devoted love and enthusiastic confidence with which our gallant Colonel inspired his men by his collected, intrepid, prudent and manly conduct during this hour to try his capacity. No colonel ever had a severer trial of his strength, in his “maiden effort;” and none, we believe, ever acquitted himself more handsomely. Col. Jenkins has proven himself an intrepid, yet a rapidly thinking leader, whose presence of mind and ability to guide forsake him not un the most trying emergency. – And too great praise cannot be given to his men. They have shown themselves more than willing to go anywhere duty calls.

Gov. McWillie, of Mississippi, lost a son in this encounter, and President Davis a nephew. H. A. McCrary of the Spartan Rifles, William Little, of Captain Carpenter’s Company, and T. W. Fowler, of Captain Glenn’s Company, were killed in our regiment. Of the Spartan Rifles, Leander Noland was wounded in the right arm; S. L. Lands, a flesh wound in the thigh; and Rev. J. E. Watson, in the left wrist. Of Captain Carpenter’s Company, Geo. Bomar received a severe but not dangerous contusion in the thigh from a spent ball; R. S. Webb, grazed along the back and wounded through the humerus muscle of the right arm; and O. C. Sarrat had a ball to pass sheer over his head, cutting out a lock from forehead to crown without touching the skin. A. S. Spears of Captain Glenn’s company, received a slight ball-cut on the side of the head – not at all dangerous. In Capt. Giles’ company, Thomas C. Wilson, had his left hand shot off; Thomas Elson both arms broken and slightly wounded in the breast; and Samuel Parker, a severe flesh sound in the thigh. C. B. Mintz, of Capt. Jackson’s company, lost the middle finger of the left hand. The Catawba’s had no one injured in the least. The Jasper’s lost no one killed, but suffered pretty severely. Our Orderly Sergeant, James Mason, was shot in the right shoulder, and the ball lodged somewhere about the shoulder joint. Felix Mullinax lost the forefinger of his left hand. W. F. Davidson was shot so severely through the right wrist, that his hand had to be amputated. W. B. Enloe, very early in the engagement, was shot through the left foot; yet he went on with his company, and was deployed with them as skirmishers, in a woods on the summit of the last hill. J. T. McKnight was slightly cut by a ball along the back of the neck. There were remarkable and hair-breadth escapes, too numerous to mention, in the engagement.

This great victory will go far to bring peace. Rev. Mr. Leftwich, who left Alexandria after the retreat of the foe, says that such a rout was never known. They rushed on through Alexandria to the boat landing, filled very boat present till they began to sink; and then the rush from behind was so great, that a number of the foremost were pushed into the Potomac and drowned. The draw-bridge opposite Georgetown was drawn up to prevent the column from passing, which retreated in that direction. It is said that those which reached Washington did not stop even there; but pushed through the city, took the cars, and went home. About fifty pieces of cannon, every piece the enemy had on this side of the Potomac, except one – a large quantity of guns and ammunition, and a perfectly enormous amount of baggage of every description, were taken.

Pray excuse our prodigious prolixity. We have written in sheer exhaustion, after a week of such fatigue, exposure and hardships, as we never experienced before; and we could not for the life of us, pack up our bundle of ideas closely.

Please say to your readers that Rev. J. H. Bryson, of Tennessee, is with our brigade, and will remain for an indefinite period of time. He has many personal friends among them.

Our Post Office is Manassas still – or properly, Tudor Hall, Prince William County, Virginia.

With the hope that we have given you a little light on the great battle and victory of Sunday, we close,

Gladly,
OUR CORPORAL.

Yorkville (SC) Enquirer, 8/1/1861

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Pvt. Lyman E. Stowe, Co. F, 2nd Michigan Infantry, On the March to Washington and the Campaign

23 03 2022

The 2d Mich. Declined the Protection of the Police – On to Bull Run.

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Editor National Tribune: I am reading the National Tribune and noting carefully everything in it, and find it so interesting I can hardly wait for the day to come around for its weekly appearance.

You will please excuse me if I am stirred to give a little of my experience as one of Dear Old Uncle Sam’s boys. I must, however, give it as a private soldier. I was not a General, Colonel, Lieutenant or even a Corporal, but am proud to say I was the first man in the city of Flint, Genesee Co., Mich., to enlist under Lincoln’s first call. I have often longed to see the statement in The National Tribune of how some of the boys came to enlist and how they felt on that occasion.

My father was an old time Whig. I have before me a circular letter, date 1848, from Zach Chandler and others, to my father in regard to what should be done to elect Gen. Winfield Scott. My father was bitterly opposed to slavery, and, of course, as a boy I heard much concerning it.

When five years old, or in 1848, a brother but five years older than myself, in talking to another boy, said: “This slave question will surely bring on war. I may not live to see it, but my brother here will,” pointing to me. Well, yes, I did see it, and he, poor fellow, did not. I write this to call attention to the feelings among the children in the North at that time. You see, I was born an Abolitionist, too young to vote, but sang in a glee club for “John C. Fremont is the man we want. He’s the man, too, who can wear the traces,” etc., etc,

I was also too young to vote for Lincoln in 1860, but when Fort Sumter was fired on it set ablaze every drop of blood in my veins, and when our militia company, the Flint Union Grays, called a rallying meeting, I made a little speech, and begged that my name be the first on the list of enlistment for the war from that locality. We were sworn into State service April 20, 1861, for three months’ service, and rendezvoused at Detroit, Mich. Meantime the Government refused to accept any more three-months men. As Michigan had already one regiment of three-months men in the field we were compelled to disband and go home or enlist for three years or during the war. Many went home, but many of us remained, and the skeleton of our company was quickly filled up and became Co. F, 2d Mich. Col. Dick Richardson was our Colonel. Afterwards Gen. J. B. Richardson, killed at Antietam. Had this grand man and noble soldier lived he would have been made Commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Our regiment left the State June 6, 1861, and with much anxiety and expectation we arrived at the Relay House near Baltimore, Md., near sundown, June 9. It has been claimed ours was the first regiment to go through Baltimore after the hard usage of the 6th Mass. Whether so or not I do not know, but I do know our Colonel drew us up in line, division of two companies front, and addressed us as follows.

“Second Michigan, we may now meet our first engagement. You will at the command load at will, and be careful none of you let the ball down first. Let every man keep his head. Do not get excited, and do not fire unless you receive orders. We will march through the city company division front, where possible; where not, break into platoons. As you march let the first four men on the right and left flanks watch the roofs and windows, and if attacked see that you bring down the assailant, be it man or woman.”

At this point the Chief of Police came up with a large squad of men, and said he came to escort the regiment through the town. The Colonel answered with these words:

“You can march ahead if you want to, but my men came here prepared to take care of themselves.”

After carefully loading our old Harper’s Ferry muskets the Colonel remarked:

“Now let them attack us and we will show them what a ball and three buck-shot will do.”

We had no occasions to fire a shot; in fact, we hardly saw a person except the police and railroad men.

We took the train for Washington on the other side of town, and were all night pulling through, arriving at Washington at 7 o’clock on the morning of June 10. In the afternoon we marched in review before President Lincoln and Gen. Scott.

I wonder if any comrade could ever forget such an experience; in fact, could any person who ever saw either of those men once forget the event. Or could he doubt that God Almighty raises up the right man in the right place when wanted?

We went into camp just below Georgetown, and two days later moved down to Camp Scott at Chain Bridge, where we lay guarding the bridge until we took up our line of march out the Georgetown road for Bull Run.

To Bull Run.

It was the 16th of June, 1861, the Army of the Potomac, under Gen. Irvin McDowell, took up its line of march toward Richmond, 30,000 strong, in four divisions commanded by Brig.-Gen. Tyler and Cols. Hunter, Heintzelman and Miles; Miles on the extreme left on the old Braddock road, which becomes the Warrenton turnpike after passing through Fairfax Court House. Heintzelman, with the leading portion of the left wing, took the Little River turnpike, while Hunter, with the center, took the Leesburg and Centreville road; Tyler, with the right wing, took the Georgetown road. There could not have been much secrecy in regard to the order of march, because private soldiers were discussing it together with other phases of the campaign.

Col. Richardson had been placed in command of the brigade consisting of the 2d and 3rd Mich. and 12th Mass. Regiments. We were a part of Tyler’s Division.

We did not break camp until 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I having been sick with diarrhea since our arrival, but all the time doing duty, I was ordered to report to the hospital and remain behind, but after some pleading with my Captain, William R. Morse, he consented to let me go. We marched out as far as Vienna Station, where some weeks before Col. Hatch attempted to reconnoiter with a train of cars, and backed his train up and into a masked battery. Here was an experience, our first bivouac and our first field breakfast of coffee, hardtack and boiled salt pork.

When the sun was an hour high we moved out of Vienna and pursued our way toward Fairfax. About 1 o’clock we came in sight of Fairfax. As we came out of a woods road and onto a hill from which we could see a long distance, we saw troops moving in several lines, and to our right we saw burning buildings with great clouds of black smoke rising high in the heavens, and we could hear the crack, crack, crack of musketry in the distance. The burning buildings was Germantown. The division was drawn up in line of battle, bugles were sounding and a battery of artillery came dashing through a wheat field, where the wheat was cut and standing in shocks. The artillery drew into line and prepared for action. This was truly a magnificent sight. It was the spectacular side of war. But soon and Aid came dashing up to the General, and we then understood the columns to the left and in front were the left and center of our army, which had arrived at Fairfax ahead of us. The enemy had retreated, leaving every obstacle possible in our way, and many in their haste had left behind clothing, broken-down wagons, flour and a thousand and one things as evidence of their mad flight. To my mind this far exceeded the destruction of property by the retreat of our own army a few days later. We slowly moved on and finally went into camp three miles from Centreville. I must here relate the most ridiculous or funny experiences of my soldier life.

First Foraging.

After going into camp and a little before sundown, a Sergeant of my company was ordered to take a detail of men and go out and see if he could not pick up some fresh meat, as out wagon trains were not yet up. I very much desired to go too, but was not one of the detail, and the Captain refused to let me go. Finally the detail started, and I picked up my gun and stole out of camp in an opposite directions. After traveling some time I saw a barn in the distance, and made my way toward it. Noticing a small pen which contained a large fat hog, I fist thought of killing the hog, but upon thinking of how little of it I could carry to camp alone, I continued on to the barnyard. I now heard voices, and not knowing whom it might be, I stole cautiously along until I could get a view of the talkers, and there in the barnyard stood a fine, gentle steer and at his head were two boys in blue, one holding him by the horns and gently talking to him in a language I could not understand, but knew to be German, which told me those two men were some of our German-American soldiers. The second man seemed to be intently rubbing the steer’s throat with the supposed edge of one of the sheath knives Uncle Sam had furnished each soldier for the purpose of carving his meat, but was hardly sufficient an instrument for butchering and in that peculiar manner. The steer seemed to really enjoy the rubbing, for his stuck his nose out and stretched his neck as if to say, “Go ahead, boys; this is nice.” Well the boys went ahead until the old knife began to wear its way through the thick skin, when the steer’s tail and head went up and he gave a tremendous snort and bellow, and one soldier went one way, the other another way, but both rolling in the soft earth of the barnyard, while the steer sailed over a low bar and ran down the pasture bellowing at every jump. I stood laughing at this strange spectacle, until, hearing voices, I looked up and saw the Sergeant and his detail still in search of fresh meat. After expressing surprise upon seeing me and laughing at the recital of my story, I directed them to the pen of the fat hog, and we had fresh pork for supper.

Our camp was situated in the meadows on both sides of the road, my regiment on a little rise of ground where we could overlook the whole camp. I awoke just before dawn on the morning of the 18th. The horses and mules stood like statues, all fast asleep; not a soul of that vast camp was stirring. Long rows of men lay wrapped in their blankets, and the long rows of stacked arms seemed to be keeping guard alone, for if there was a camp guard there was not one that I could see. It is not possible for pen to describe such and imposing scene, much less the great transformation about to follow.

Blackburn’s Ford.

Away over on the other side of this camp was another eminence sill higher than ours. Here was pitched the General’s tents and the only ones to be seen. Midway between and along either side of the road the artillery and a company of cavalry were camped, while farther to the rear and right were camped the small wagon train we had with us, together with the ambulance. I saw a man step away from one of the tents and walk out to the edge of the hill, then lift his bugle to his lips and blow the reveille. The sound from his horn had not died away when bugle after bugle mingled their sounds with those of the cavalry and artillery and whinnying horses and braying mules. An army of men, like magic, seemed to be arising from the ground. The camp was full of orderly life and animation. When the sun was two hours high at the sound of the bugle this truly grand army seemed at once to be in motion, all taking their places in line, banners flying, bugles sounding and arms flashing under the bright morning sunlight. It was a sight once beheld could never be forgotten. Though I afterwards saw far greater numbers march in review, I never saw such an imposing sight as I beheld this July morning. And this was the armed mob we have read so much of since the first battle of Bull Run. We marched past Centerville and down the road to Blackburn’s Ford. Here we had our baptism under fire; though a mere skirmish, it was a pretty sharp one, and we lost a hundred men on our side. Where my regiment lay we could see a house with a rebel flag flying. I well remember how Ayres’s Battery came into position, and we were so close that we could hear Col. Richardson as he said, “Capt. Ayres, can you see the flag on that building?” “Yes sir,” was the reply. “Well, can you bring it down?” “I think so.” And he spoke to a Sergeant, and a gun was trained on the flag. The first shot went high, the second one went through the building and the third shot the flag went down. It was afterwards said Beauregard and his staff were at dinner in that house; whether so or not I do not know. While the skirmishing was going on our brigade was drawn up in line, expecting every moment to be called into action. Blackberries were thick all around us. We had been without dinner and were very hungry, and though bullets were spattering spitefully about us, we kept pretty busy picking and eating the berries, sometimes, of course, getting out of line; but there was no disorder that was not righted at the first command, notwithstanding frequent statements published to the contrary.

Finally we were ordered back to Centreville. The attack had been made by Gen. Tyler without authority. We bivouacked at Centerville and remained until Saturday night, drawing and cooking rations. We again moved down toward Blackburn’s Ford, and remained until after sunrise on the Sunday morning of the 21st. Finally the whole army was in motion and every heart beating with excitement, for now a great battle was to be fought.

In that great army was there a single soldier who thought defeat possible? I do not think so. Had we not a greater army than Gen. Scott had when he took the City of Mexico? Besides, was he not our General? To be sure he was not with us, but we had every confidence in McDowell. I believe every private soldier understood that Patterson was expected to hold Johnston’s forces at Winchester, yet among the private soldiers there were expressions of doubt of the loyalty of Patterson and that he might fail to keep Johnston busy, and we would have his forces to fight as well as Beauregard’s army. Yet there were no doubts concerning the outcome. Maj. Williams, in command of our regiment, ordered us to leave our blankets, rolled in light marching order at his headquarters under a large oak tree, so we would be unencumbered when ordered into the fight. But all day long we lay listening to the battle on our right, expecting every minute to be called into action. Occasionally we would go out on a hill overlooking the battlefield, and while watching the battle, discuss the wisdom of the plan of battle, or, rather, lack of plan, for there really seemed to be no plan of action but the sending in of a regiment or brigade and a helter-skelter fight until it became necessary to relieve them by others.

About 2 o’clock in the afternoon we heard a continual whistling and thundering of railroad trains, and we knew that Beauregard was being reinforced by Johnston’s forces. Patterson had failed to entertain Johnston.

Retreat From Bull Run.

About 6 o’clock orders came for us to move, and we expected to be ordered into battle. We marched past the Major’s headquarters, and could easily have taken our blankets, but still expecting to go into battle, we marched past them and turned down toward the ford, when Col. Richardson came riding up and cried, “Maj. Williams, where are you taking that regiment? About face!” Only for this we should soon have been game for the masked batteries. The Colonel was hatless, coatless and without his sword, for Col. Miles, whose commission was two hours older than Richardson’s, had ordered Richardson under arrest. But Miles was drunk, and Richardson would not see his regiment led to destruction. We were ordered to about face, and by the left flank we double-quicked back to Centerville. It was intensely hot, and the dust was so thick one could almost cut it with a knife.

Arriving at the heights of Centerville, we could look back and see the whole army in disorderly retreat and being pursues by cavalry. Col Richardson seemed to be in command of the rear guard, for as far as we could see all seemed to be disorder except our brigade, and we under the command of an officer not in possession of his sword, but under arrest.

Richardson ordered a battery of artillery to take position on a hill and send a few shots into the pursuing cavalry, which sent them back in a hurry. Our brigade now marched over the hill, regimental front, down into a ravine; then by the left flank around the hill, where we again faced the enemy, marched over the hill with colors flying, again by the flank and so on, repeating the maneuver at least a dozen times. This no doubt was the reason Johnston did not pursue us farther, as his report, published in Appleton’s Encyclopedia, says that because of his men being worn out and the Federals massing large forces at Centerville he did not think it expedient to follow the forces to Washington, what was well fortified and manned.

We now marched into a cornfield, and lay on our arms until about 2 o’clock the next morning. We then arose and in an orderly manner slowly marched out onto the road and stood until daylight, my regiment being the very last to leave the field; there was no running, no excitement, we never saw another reb in pursuit, nor was there any whirlwind retreat to Washington. There came up a light rain, and we marched very slowly back to Washington by the way of the Fairfax road, arriving at Arlington Heights at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, July 22. Col. Richardson was court-martialed for disobeying a superior officer, and was promptly promoted to Brigadier-General.

Lyman E. Stowe, 131 Catherine St., Detroit, Mich.

National Tribune, 1/4/1906

Contributed by John Hennessy

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Books by Lyman E. Stowe

Lyman E. Stowe at Ancestry

Lyman E. Stowe at Fold3





Pvt. William Boardman Reed, Co. C, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford and the Eve of Battle

20 03 2022

Letter from 2d Regiment

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Camp Near Centreville, Va.
July 19, 1861.

Dear Parents: – You will have heard before receiving this that we have had a battle, and knowing that you would feel concerned about my safety, I have thought best to write to you, though I think it is doubtful whether this letter can be sent to Washington very soon. Yesterday about noon some of our advanced regiments were drawn into and ambuscade where the rebels had a masked battery and several thousand men. This was in some very heavy timber where the underbrush was very thick and they had belled trees before it and so fortified their position that it was impossible to see either their guns or men. When the firing commenced our main army, some fifteen or twenty thousand men, were lying in camp about two miles back. We heard the cannonading distinctly, and occasionally the volleys of musketry I continued over an hour when our brigade (Col Sherman’s) was ordered to the assistance of those engaged. This brigade consists of the New York 13th, 69th, 79th, and our regiment. We formed into a line in a few minutes and proceeded towards the scene of action, going most of the way on a run. As we neared the place the cannon balls whistled over our heads and struck the woods all around us. We met the cavalry returning, saying that there was no chance for them to do anything in the thick woods. A little further along we met the ambulances bringing back the dead and wounded. One officer was lying wounded by the roadside, and as we passed him, his attendant begged us to give him a little water. One of the men stepped out and gave him some from his canteen. I tell you it was a dreadful scene for new volunteers to look upon, but we marched steadily forward as coolly as you could expect of us when cannon balls are falling all around us. One man whom we met riding a horse was wounded in the foot, others we could see lying and bleeding in the ambulances. When we got within a short distance of the scene of action we turned to the right into the woods and formed into line. There was not room in the woods for but a few to fight at a time, and we understood that we were to take the place of those who had been fighting and who were much fatigued. We waited then in the ranks for some time while cannon balls were whizzing over our heads knocking the limbs off trees and striking the ground both before and behind us. One of the La Crosse Company which is on the left of our regiment was struck near the knee by a cannon shot; his leg was afterwards amputated at the hip, and this morning at 4 o’clock he died. Two others of that company were wounded, one in the foot and the other in the face. The cannon ball came so near the eyes of the latter that he has since become blind. The woods were so thick that we could see but a few rods towards the rebel battery. Men were continually coming back past our line who had been fighting. We asked them how it was going; they replied that some of our regiments were badly cut up, that they came right upon the rebel battery before they knew where they were, and that the brush was so thick that they could keep no lines, and consequently they became scattered while the rebel batteries kept playing upon them, killing many of them. After we had been there exposed to their fire without being able to return it for nearly half an hour we retreated.

You will get much more reliable accounts of the battle from the papers than I can give you, for we have no means of hearing the exact number of men engaged or all the circumstances attending it, for the men are not supposed to know all these things. We retreated to our present camp, about 2 ½ miles from the battle field, last evening. We were reinforced last night by about fifteen thousand men, and some heavy artillery, and report says that Gen. Scott is here with them. I have not heard how many of our men were killed. A negro who came into camp to-day says that “dead rebels were lying about there as hail” and that the cars were running all night carrying them back to Manassas, which place is said to be about six miles from here. We hear that the rebels have about forty thousand men around here but this is probably much exaggerated. We shall probably attack their position again this afternoon or to-morrow, if we do we are bound to take it.

There are many exciting incidents which I could tell you about this battle if I had the time and space. Those who were in the battle say that when any of our men were wounded and fell near the battery the savage fiends leaped over the breast-works and stabbed them; this has so exasperated our men that some of them swear that they will never give the rebels any quarter.

The enemy has retreated before us all the way until we got here, and we should certainly have driven them from their batteries yesterday if we could have brought even on-fourth of our men to bear on them. When the firing first commenced one or two batteries of flying artillery started from the camp to their assistance, but after they had gone but a short distance they were ordered back, as there was no chance to use any more cannon than they had.

You never saw men in such high spirits as we were when we heard the firing. Every one inquired why they did not march us over there, so we could have a hand in. It was the first cannonading that most of us had ever heard and we could hardly continue ourselves; we were so anxious to see and fight the rebels. When we heard the volleys of small arms Jeff. Dillon remarked that it sounded like a lot of “darkies dancing on an oak floor.”

When we started for the fight we were carrying our blankets, haversacks and canteens, besides our belt and cartridge boxes and forty rounds of cartridges and heavy woolen coats. When we got to the top of a hill we started down on a “double quick” with loud yells and hurrahs; the road was crowded with dust and the air was sultry hot so that some of the weaker ones began to give out. Before we had gone far the boys commenced throwing off their blankets and haversacks and even their canteens until the road was fairly filled with them. Two or three of our company, one of whom was John Cahill, gave out entirely and sat down by the roadside. I carried all of my things until the balls began to fly around us when an order was given to throw off the blankets and haversacks.

I then threw mine off, but before I had got them fairly off the order was countermanded and I put them on again. Our position in the woods was a most trying one even for old soldiers, but we all stood it like majors. When the great six pound balls come near our heads some of our boys rather squatted to dodge them, and Col. Peck, who was riding coolly along before the line seeing them dodging the balls laughed at them and asked if they were afraid of a few cannon balls. Capt. McKee too, stood at the head of our company but a few feet from me apparently as calm and collected as he would be pleading law in the old court-house.

Col. Coon, our former Colonel, is one of the aids to Col. Sherman, the commander of our brigade; he came down our line once in a while with orders to Col. Peck; he showed more courage than we supposed him capable of, for he rode along in the most unconcerned manner possible, asking as he passed, how we felt; we replied that we were ”all right” and asked him how he felt; he answered that he was perfectly cool and hoped he would remain so. I have just heard that our loss was 25 killed and 40 wounded, the rebel loss must have been more than this, for our artillery kept up all most an incessant fire upon their battery for about three hours. And many of our riflemen assert that they concealed themselves behind trees close to their works and picked off many of their officers and men. It is said General Beauregard was there and directed the battle. I don’t know how true it is.

It is now about 2 o’clock in the afternoon and we have been lying here all day. We are sure that our Generals are at work. It is said that a part of our army had gone around towards Manassas to cut of the enemies retreat. We have now got some heavy columbiads and rifled cannon and arrangement for firing hot-shot and shell, so that without exposing our men to much danger we can soon make their position too hot for them. I expect this letter will last you a long time, for it is written so poorly that you cannot read it in a week, but you ought not to expect it to be very elegant for the paper has been crumple in my pocket for days, and then I have to write on a it of board, or cracker box or any thing else I can get. Our Col. and Major, are both writing letters, and I notice they do not have any more conveniences than I do; the Col. is sitting on the ground writing on a board placed across his knees; the Major is partly reclining upon the ground writing on a low box. I intend, if I can get it finished in time, to send this letter to Washington by J. F. Potter, member of Congress from Wis., who is in camp to-day; he is around with the bowie knife that he made to fight Pryor, with several pistols; for, as you may suppose, it is not very safe travelling the road from here to Washington without being well armed.

We have taken quite a number of prisoners along the road; three of the rebel cavalry deserted and came to us; they say that they were pressed into the rebel service. One of them has been furnished with a musket and has gone into our ranks. At one of the houses we passed I saw two rebel soldiers who were left behind sick; they did not seem to be near as intelligent as many of the slaves.

We have slept out upon the ground for three nights and have lived almost entirely upon hard bread or crackers, and though the nights here are very chilly and the dew very heavy, we stand it very well. It is a grand sight to see our army over the hills and along the road; it might be called a river of bayonets flowing along glistening in the sun, seeming to one who is in the middle of it, to have neither beginning nor end. And then when we encamped for the night we are divided according to the brigades, each regiment being formed in a line by itself, the cavalry generally occupying one field, the artillery another, and as far as the eye can reach in every direction the fields are fill of men and horses, with the covered U. S. wagons scattered over the whole. It is indeed a grand view, and especially to us, who never saw a company of soldiers before leaving home. Our chief trouble on the march is want of water. Evey time we halt a few men are allowed to go from each company with a lot of canteens for water; they immediately break for the nearest well or spring, and on getting there never fail to find it surrounded by twenty or thirty soldiers, each one of whom tries to crowd himself as near the water as possible. If it is a spring, in less than five minutes it is converted into a regular mud puddle and the men ladle up the dirty with water an eagerness which can be only caused by thirst. If it is a well, one of the soldiers winds up a pailful, but before the bucket gets to the top a score of cups ae plunged into it, and the bucket is quickly drained. I have not suffered very much from thirst, for by standing my ground and gradually working my way into the crowd I have generally succeeded in getting a drink, though I was seldom fortunate enough to fill my canteen.

July 20 – It is said that Gen. Scott condemns most severely the action of Gen. Tyler in so needlessly exposing his men in the battle day before yesterday. Last night our company was detailed as part of the picked guard, and consequently I got but little sleep. We heard firing in the direction of our advance at intervals during the whole night. I have not heard what it was but presume that our flanks were pushing forward and driving in the enemy’s pickets. I have never seen our company in better spirits than they are now and in fact the whole army is composed of as jolly a lot of men as could be got together. Gen. Tyler and staff came riding along our line of ”gun stacks,” and as he passed where several of us were writing he remarked to one on his staff, “what a difference you see between this and the 69th (Irish) Regiment; these men are all writing letters.” He then asked us if we were writing home; we replied that we were; “tell them,” said he, “we shall have some good news for them before long.”

I want you to write to me oftener; I have received but one letter from you since leaving Madison; direct to Washington, the same as before. You will no doubt hear all kinds of reports about my being killed, &c., enough to keep you in a worry all the time if you believe them, but just consider them all false until you hear from me.

Your son,
Wm. Boardman Reed.

Grant County (Lancaster WI) Herald, 7/31/1861

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Capt. (Acting Maj.) Thomas Francis Meagher, Co. K, 69th New York State Militia, On the Campaign (Part 2)

5 03 2022

LAST DAYS OF THE 69TH IN VIRGINIA.

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A NARRATIVE IN THREE PARTS.

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PART THE SECOND.

Defiling through the deserted earthworks at Germantown, our Brigade bore off to the left, taking position in line of battle in the open fields spreading northward from the village. Skirmishers were thrown forward, and the village also being found deserted, the march was renewed, the position of the Regiments being altered – the First Wisconsin taking the right and the 69th bringing up the rear of the Brigade.

Over the streaming bayonets, through the swaying colors and clouds of dust rolling densely upwards from the trampled earth, riding at the head of the 69th beside our Colonel, I saw a handful of little wooden houses, known as Germantown, rise up and dilate before us. One house, however, particularly struck me, even at the distance, and notwithstanding the dust, confusion and tumult through which I noticed it. A two-storied house, well proportioned, with a white, cheerful face, roses and woodbine, as I took them to be, coiling and clustering about the trelissed porch, young ornamental trees in front of it, a clear and handsome feature in the clouded picture against which we were moving – it was the first pleasant object, of the quieter and friendlier order of things, we had fallen in with since we pushed on that morning from Vienna.

“That house is on fire,” Father O’Reilly, our Chaplain, hurriedly observed as he whipped his horse up beside the Colonel.

The words had scarcely fallen from his lips when a round mass of black smoke rolled out of the windows of the house and buried it in darkness. Another moment, the red flames were leaping through the smoke, and the crackling of timbers, pieced and rifted with the fire, was heard distinctly above the tramp and tumult of the march. The only ornament of the village, in hot haste and fury, was plunging into ashes. In half an hour it would be, at best, a heap of smoldering charcoal. Whose was the scurvy and malignant hand that fired the deserted homestead? It is for the Regiments of the Brigade, in advance of the 69th, to answer. With them rests the responsibility of this savage riotousness and mischief. The house was doomed irrevocably when the 69th came up. The Irish Regiment swept by the blazing ruin, cursing the ruffians who had played the barbarous prank, and maddened with the thought of the disgrace it would bring upon the Federal Flag.

Nor did the wickedness of the moment content itself with the destruction of an unprotected dwelling. Pigs were shot down and cut to pieces, the dripping fragments being pounced upon and carried off in triumph by the butchers. Turkeys and chickens shared the same fate. Everything left behind them in the village by the retreating inhabitants, whether useful or otherwise, was seized and swept away. I saw a private of the Wisconsin Regiment stumbling along with a feather bed across his soldiers. I saw another with a sledge hammer taken from a vacant forge. A third had a large looking-glass under his arm. A fourth had a patched quilt or counterpane wrapped about him – a curious piece of needle-work, gaudy enough to please a Carib prince, and sufficiently heavy for a winter’s night in Nova Scotia. A frenzy of depredation seemed to have seized many of the soldiers in advance of us; and the wanton passion appeared to grasp at everything with an utter disregard of its usefulness or absurdity. In vain did the officers of the offending Regiments strive to check the lawlessness of the men. The raw levies looked on Germantown – the abandoned bantling of a village – as their lawful prey, and the flames of the burning house, widening rapidly and fiercely, alone compelled them to desist.

Hurrying past the scene – leaving the house a bursting pile of smoke and fire, for it was impossible for us to save it, and having assured two South Carolina soldiers, who lay in an adjoining shed, sweltering in the dirtiest of blankets and deadly sick with measles, that they should have our protection and whatever relief we could render them, and to fear no harm – the 69th in a few minutes gained the road from Fairfax to Centreville. It was now close on one o’clock – the sun was fierce – the dust blinding and stifling – we had been trampling it since a little after sunrise – tramping it on the paltriest allowance of biscuit and coffee – no time for any further refreshment had been allowed – and here, parched and blistered, most of their canteens empty, not a drop of water within reach, the men were ordered to close ranks and in double-quick time sweep ahead. The belief that the Confederates were not more than an hour, at most, the better of us, and that following them this rapidly and incessantly, we should soon be up with them, alone encouraged the soldiers in that headlong pursuit and held them to work. But for that belief, hundreds of them, at all events, must have staggered from the column and thrown themselves against the trees and fences, either side of the road, utterly baffled and overpowered. As it was, hundreds used to break from the ranks whenever a farm-house held out to them the promise that water was at hand, and not merely disregarding, but defying, every effort of their officers to restrain them, made fiercely for the spot where their agonies were to be assuaged. In many instances the poor fellows were ruthlessly doomed to disappointment, the retreating Southerners having cut the ropes which held the buckets in the wells, or broken the chains, as the case might be. It was enough to force hot tears from the sternest eye to see the sufferers, panting and breathless almost after their wild race, looking hopelessly down those dark, deep wells, the forbidden water glimmering sixty feet or more below, and the fevered and crusted lip quivering with a redoubled pang. Nevertheless, it was a splendid panorama, those four miles of armed men – the sun multiplying, it seemed to me, the lines of flashing steel, bringing out plume and epaulette and sword, and all the finery of war, into a keener radiance, and heightening the vision of that vast throng with all its glory. The sun which parched those quivering lips, which drew the sweat in streams from many and many a scorching brow, which drank the blood of thousands on that desperate march, and bred from van to rear a mutinous thirst – the same stood there above us steeping all those swaying banners and all those haughty arms in a flood of splendor, and blending in one long wonderous wave of dazzling light all the gay deceptions and the worst privations of a soldier’s life. Most of the Regiments were accompanied by their bands; and as the bold music sprang up at intervals along the line, many a drooping heart leaped up with it, and despite of the heat and dust and thirst, it was, after all, a cheerful crowd that sped along.

About five o’clock in the afternoon, the toils and troubles of the day were at an end. Before the sun went down, and army of 12,000 had stretched itself to rest in a wide, deep valley, in the shadow of lofty woods which held it in a perfect zone.

Batteries of flying artillery – troops of cavalry – huge weapons with white awnings – ambulances and hospital carts – a farm-house here and there – these, dispersed at different points throughout the valley, relieved the monotonous masses of infantry with which the ground was darkened. A cool and abundant stream flowed through the sloping meadows over which these masses were extended, to the right and left of the road to Centreville; and the long fresh, covering the meadows, furnished a luxurious bedding for the heated and harassed forces of the Union. The night, however, was not without its discomforts and alarms.

There was a very heavy dew, which, though not as dense and drenching as the one we had to sleep through in the marshes outside Vienna, was bad enough for the toughest soldier to endure. It was all the worse for us, inasmuch as many of the 69th had that morning, during the flanking movement upon Fairfax, which they went through with a rush, flung off their blankets, whilst several of them flung off their coats as well. How these poor fellows managed to keep their bones from aching, and how, with light hearts and lighter limbs they leaped into the ranks next morning, as though they had been comfortably housed instead of being wringing wet all night, it would be difficult for me to say. That two or three men were violently seized with cramps, and that the doctor had to be hunted up and the regimental medicine chest explored, just a little after midnight, and that there were moans and writhings mingled with the healthier snorings of that densely crowded and encumbered valley, from that out till sunrise – all this I know, for I myself felt sick and restless all that night, and failed to have one hour’s unbroken sleep.

It was, also, a little after midnight, that one of the horses belonging to a Commissariat waggon broke loose, and, dashing furiously through the camp, heedless of where he struck, sent hundreds of stacked muskets rattling and flying along the lanes or rows in which our soldiers lay. In an instant, five thousand men were on their feet, ready to grapple with the cavalry of the enemy, for that a dash of dragoons had been made against the federal camp, and that they were tearing and slashing through it, a thousand strong at least, was the conviction which at first flashed through the startled ranks. The jingling of the bayonets, as the stacked muskets tumbled one after another, confirmed for a few minutes this conviction, the sound was so like that of sabres slapping against the heels and spurs of charging troopers. The darkness of the hour, moreover, and the difficulty of discovering what to guard against or what to strike, heightened the alarm and threw the camp into the vaguest and wildest uproar. Several shots were fired at random – the trumpets of the artillery and cavalry rang out clear and piercingly through the agitated valley. It was fully half an hour before the alarm passed off – an hour, at least, before the disordered troops sank into deep sleep again.

The thick, gray vapor one always sees in lowlands in hot climates, was still sluggishly rising from the bed of the valley, and the air was still damp and raw, when a squadron of United States dragoons trotted out briskly on the road to Centreville, heading the division under General Tyler, of which the First Wisconsin, the 13th Rochester, the Sixty-Ninth and Seventy-Ninth Regiments formed the Second Brigade. In less than two hours – our march having been through those same interminable woods we had known the last two days – the column halted. To the right and left of our Regiment were marshy bottoms and coarse meadow-lands, flanked by lofty thickets and seamed with running waters, clear and sweet and plentiful; and sweeping right before us in a bold curve were the high hills, on the southern slope of which, looking towards Manassas, lay the dingy, aged little village of Centreville. To the left of the road stood what seemed to be a large and massive house. Between this house and the road – a space of three hundred yards – a formidable earth-work frowned upon the advancing troops. To the right, cresting the hills of Centreville, were the huts of the Confederate Camp; and just above these withered structures, but miles away, blending softly and glowingly with the richly-tinted sky, the loftier undulations of the Blue Ridge met the view. The Brigade, under Colonel Hunter, from Alexandria, pouring down the valley from the belt of woods behind us on the extreme left, with its varied uniforms and waving colors, suddenly threw a glittering stream of life into the solemn picture where it was needed most. Every part of it was now lit up – lit up with broad veins of bayonets – lit up with sacred ensigns studded with the symbolic Stars of the Republic – lit up with the glorious sun which seemed to turn everything in the vast landscape into gold – the green woods, the brown waters, the red hills, the yellowish wastes of wilted pasturage and meadow which formed the valley, in the heart of which we halted, awaiting the return of the dragoons who had galloped towards earth-works on the hill.

A shout, hearty and prolonged, soon told us that Centreville, also, had been vacated. The huts, creating the rising ground on the left, were stripped to the very leaves and branches of which they had been built. The redoubt between the house and the road was emptied, too, nothing falling into the possession of the Federal troops but a few ammunition boxes. It was a clean sweep the Confederates made, as they fell back, abandoning position after position, until they fiercely stood their ground in that fatal labyrinth bristling, four miles a-head, between us and Manassas. It was there they wanted us; and their abandoned positions – at Vienna, at Fairfax, at Germantown, at Centreville, wherever they had been grouped between Bull Run and Fall’s Church up to the evening of our advance – were but so many artifices, elaborately arranged along our line of march, to entice us headlong, breathless and breadless almost, to destruction.

At noon, the 18th of July, the Stars and Stripes were flying over Centreville. The regiments under Colonel Keyes, accompanied by Brigadier General Tyler, moved down the southern slope of the hills already mentioned and disappeared. Sherman’s Brigade broke into the fields to the right of where we halted on the road – arms were stacked – haversacks and canteens were brought into play – and the sore-footed volunteers, their blankets spread above them on rails and muskets, so as to shade them somewhat, enjoyed a lunch of biscuit and hot water, and four hours’ repose.

Little they seemed to heed the cannon which at long intervals – intervals of from ten to twenty minutes – when it first began to boom, off there in the hazy woods below, told them the enemy was found at last. One might have thought that every man of the 69th had been a hardened and callous veteran, so coolly, so indifferently, so lazily did they take those dread intimations that death had commenced his havoc amid the lightenings and with all the pomp of war. Not a pulse seemed to quicken – not an eye to flash – not a heart to quail – not a mirthful thought or word to falter – as those subdued thunders rolled upward from those enormous masses of foliage under which hill and valley, ravine and river, lay buried about four miles in advance of it, for a league at least. Nor was it that the fatigue, occasioned by those swealtering marches of the last three days, had deadened them so thoroughly that they had become insensible to the excitements and dangers of the conflict now actually begun, and were incapable of emotion or activity. Harrassed, indeed, they were. Weakened, too, they were for want of sufficient food, it being impossible for them, on such a stretch of road as they had to take with such rapidity, to carry their three days’ rations far – the more especially as once or twice upon the march they were ordered to prepare for action, and with the instinct of their race – as, for instance, when bearing down on Fairfax – they stripped themselves of everything but their muskets and cartridge boxes for the fight.

The fact is – what with constant alarms at Fort Corcoran, forced marches and precipitate expeditions two or three times a week, being under arms upon the ramparts every second night or so, lying in ambuscade at the Alexandria and Loudon railway from midnight until dawn, and undergoing all the hardships, violences, and most of the shocks of war – the men of the 69th had become familiarized by anticipation and analogy with the scent which, at that moment, was being played out with such terrible effect amid the beautiful green trees of Virginia, and on one of the oldest high-roads to her capital. Hence the strange coolness with which they heard those deep bellowings of the conflict, awaiting the summons that would fling them into its fierce currents, and whirl their banner into the blackest and wildest eddies of the storm.

At four o’clock in the afternoon that summons came. Sherman’s Brigade was ordered up to relieve the Regiments that had been under fire for five hours and more. The 69th led the way, and as they hurried up the hill, the elasticity and enthusiasm of their race seemed to pervade them thoroughly. Of those thousand men, sweeping on to battle, through choking clouds of dust and under that smiting sun, there was not one but carried himself right gallantly – not one who did not feel that the color of his race and its military character was staked that hour upon the conduct of the 69th, and who, feeling this and lifting his eyes in rapture to the Green Flag as it danced above the rushing column, did not swear to meet the thrusts of battle with a fearless heart. An hour’s rushing – for the marching of the 69th to Bull Run that evening cannot otherwise be described – brought the Regiment to the brow of the hill descending into the little meadow where the Federal troops, Regiment after Regiment, had faced and stood a tempestuous fire from batteries of rifled cannon – masked as well as naked batteries – the fire of rifle-pits – a downright torrent and whirlwind of balls and shot, all of the deadliest cunning and ripest pattern.

And here they encountered several of the 12th Regiment of New York Volunteers hurrying from the bloody arena in the woods below, some of them dragging dead or bleeding comrades along with them, others with bandaged heads or legs or arms, staggering through the dust and the vengeful storm from the rifled cannon which still pursued them. Here, too, they met the 14th Rochester on its retreat, this fine young Regiment having stood its ground until broken and overpowered. Seeing a body of men making through the woods from where the murderous hail was pouring in upon them thick and sharp and fast, and taking them to be the Southerners in pursuit of the 12th New York, the boys of the 69th instinctively brought their bayonets to the charge, and were on the point of plunging upon the 13th when Capt. Haggerty dashed along the line a struck the bayonets upward with his sword. It was the bold act of a cool. Strong, decisive brain, and in an instant it stayed the 69th with an iron hand, as it were, and held it in a masterly suspense. The next moment we were ordered to lie down in double file, in the wood overlooking the field of battle, with our faces and muskets to the road, and in that position, keeping perfectly silent and collected, to await further orders. For more than three-quarters of an hour did the Regiment keep its position there – without a word from the ranks – without a breath almost – whilst shot and shell, and every sort of hellish missile, swept and tore, whizzed and jarred, smashed and plunged through the trees all about and close to us, overheard in hurtling and deafening showers, on either flank, in front and rear.

In the meantime the troop of United States dragoons that had been sent down the hill to protect our battery, wept up the road back to Centreville at their top-most speed, and were quickly followed by the battery itself – that commanded by Captain Ayres – his ammunition having given out. For three hours did this gallant officer keep his guns hot upon the Southern batteries. For three hours did he sustain the heroic regiments, which in that deadly maze of forest relived each other, and swept on every side by the fiercest fire, held their footing against a foe, which visible nowhere, seemed to be thick as the very leaves that sheltered them. For us, it was fighting in the dark. Worse than this, it was fighting an enemy who had full view and command of us, whilst we had to strike at random, not knowing for a second even where he was. The battery lost two men, and had its flag shorn to a ribband with rifle shots. Captain Ayres’ Lieutenant was painfully wounded in the foot. I spoke to him as he quietly rode back to camp, the wounded foot dangling below the stirrup, stripped of its boot, bandaged and bleeding freely.

Whilst we lay under the torrent and hurricane of round-shot, spherical ball, shell and cannister, which rent and spilt the sturdiest trees all round, struck deep into the earth, and harrowed it far and wide, knocking over the Wisconsin men who were drawn up in line across the road at right angles with the left of the 69th, and shaving the ear clean off one of our own boys – whilst we patiently submitted to this butcherly rain, Captain Haggerty stood upon our extreme right, contemplating with undisguised satisfaction the perfect coolness and subordination of the men, the Colonel taking it just as coolly in the centre as though he had been dictating some unimportant order in his imarqueei at fort Corcoran, with a pitcher of ice water close at hand. On the left of the Regiment stood Paymaster Kehoe, Quarter-Master Tully and one or two other officers of the Staff, smilingly commenting upon the perplexities and chances of our situation. In the meantime, the Surgeons, Doctors Pascal Smith, Barron, and Nowlan, were to be seen at their post, a few yards in the wood, above the left of the Regiment – Father O’Reilly standing with them – the poor fellow who had lost his ear, moaning on a mattress in the rear of the ambulance, his wound dressed and every comfort possible at the moment given him – while adjutant McKeon, who had been all day completely disabled by an attack of gastric fever, was making the best of his way down the road to take his share of whatever was going. In the meantime, moreover, Gen. Tyler, accompanied by his Staff, used now and then leisurely ride past our line, and pulling up just about where poor Haggerty stood, bend in the saddle, raise his field glass to his eyes, pry into the raging woods, and then, grinning very curiously, as leisurely ride back. Colonel Sherman, too, used to take and observation at moderate intervals, and having satisfied himself – or rather having failed to satisfy himself – used to ride back up the road a-bit, grinning likewise, and apparently giving way to a private and exclusive snarl. Between six and seven o’clock, General McDowell came upon the ground with a brilliant escort, including the young and chivalrous soldier, Governor Sprague, of Rhode Island, and he, comprehending at a glance the situation of affairs, the sheer deadliness of the conflict and the utter fatuity of attacking the hidden enemy in his lair, ordered the 69th to return to the hill overlooking the little village of Centreville, and there await further orders, which would be forthwith issued.

Last Days of the 69th in Virginia

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Pvt. Randolph Phillips, Co. H, 12th New York Infantry, On the Blackburn’s Ford

17 02 2022

In relation to this battle, we have also received the following communication:

To the Editor of the National Republican:

Permit me through your columes to disabuse the public mind, of a gross reflection cast upon the New York twelfth regiment, volunteers, by some unknown “eye-witness” in his account of the battle of Bull Run, on Thursday of last week. I am a member of that regiment and confess I am pained at this false statement, and aware that my membership may place me in a light of partiality to it will simply make a brief statement, which I vouch for on the honor of a man and a soldier.

Three companies of the Massachusetts first, entered the gully as skirmishers, and encountered the rebels by whom they were cheered to induce them onward, and who our troops mistook for Michigan troops in that they were dressed nearly the same. Coming directly upon a masked battery they were fired upon, and lost heavily before they could retreat.

Two guns were then made to bear upon the rebel battery, sustained by Capt. Brocket of the cavalry.

The gallant captain rushed up to where we were in possession of a winding ravine, crying “for God’s sake help me to sustain that battery, or it is lost – we can drive those dogs out of that.” Our Colonel at that moment was absent, but our men rushed up and met the battery retreating, in doing which it broke our ranks. We, however, rushed up the hill and down into the thick underbrush, and were checked by a fire from a masked battery, not six yards in our front. Fortunately the aim was too low, the next two high, and we suffered no loss, but discharged two rounds, loading upon our backs. When the rebel fire became too terrible for any regiment to withstand, and not being supported right or left, we were forced to retire. Not a soldier of our brigade was to be seen when we emerged from the thickets. The centre of our regiment rallied and discharged seven more rounds – others were carrying off the dead and wounded, while others were prostrate from fatigue of the several days preceding march and the encounter.

Col. Walrtath stood bravely by his men, and acting the part of a discreet commander, did not permit his men to return to a conflict which would be nothing less than suicide.

It is in evidence that the rebel force secreted in the battery at the time of our attack not less than 10,000 – certain it is that the fire poured upon our regiment was more than thrible our own number, and the result has shown that the order sending our brigade into the strong hold of the enemy, unsupported by either right or left flanks, was highly censurable. It is highly desirable that the act of our soldiers be hereafter judged by men of military education, instead of reporters for sensation sheets.

Very truly,
Randolph Philips,
Private, Company H, 12th reg., N. Y. V.

(Washington, DC) National Republican, 7/24/1861

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12th NYVI Roster

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Corp. Philip B. Simms, Co. K, 7th Georgia Infantry, On the Morning of the Battle

5 02 2022

Letter to Col. Simms from his Son.

Manassas, July 21st, 1861.

Dear Father: I write you a few lines before going into the battle-field. The cannon is now loudly pealing forth its thunders, and our Regiment is under orders to move. Friday there was a fight here. We killed 1,000, took 500 muskets, 100 knapsacks, 150 hats, 23 prisoners, killed a Lieutenant Colonel, and took seven hundred dollars in gold, with a map of the surrounding country, having all its roads and paths plainly laid down. At Winchester, we received orders to march to this point, and immediately set out, marching all night, and reached here Saturday night. * * * * * * Everything is now in an uproar and confusion, so that I can’t write.

Give my love to my dear mother, sister and brother. I may never see you again, but I hope to do so, as I do not believe that I shall get killed.

Write me and give me the news from my dear old State, and especially from my friends at home.

Truly and ever, your son,
Philip B. Simms

N. B. We had ten killed in the fight the other day. The news comes that we are whipping them this morning.

P. B. S.

(Atlanta, GA) Southern Confederacy, 7/28/1861

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Pvt. William C. File, Co. G, 18th Mississippi Infantry, On the Campaign

10 09 2020

The following private letter from a private in one of the Mississippi Regiments, was handed us for publication. Many of our readers are doubtless quite familiar with the author, as he was once a cititzen of this place. As it may afford some information to our readers, we give it publicity:

Camp near Fairfax, Va.
July 24th, 1861.

Dear Farther and all at Home:

If you received my last letter, you may not be surprised at getting this one. It is now one week since we left our camp at the Junction, shifting about from one place to another. We are now farther off than we have been yet. I will tell you what we have been doing the past week. About 10 o’clock A. M., last Wednesday, our whole Brigade was suddenly called to march. We got ready in a short time, taking nothing with us but our blankets, provisions, (raw meet and crackers) and marched out about one and a half miles to Bulls Run. Here we remained all day. The next day, three companies, (including ours) crossed the creek, lying in the bushes all day as scouts. About noon they commenced fighting in our rear, a mile or so off, and for about 3 ½ hours, cannon and small arms kept an incessant firing. We heard the cannon balls but were out of their range. The Yankees were routed and fled in confusion. We heard that our loss was 45 killed and wounded, that of the enemy, 7 or 800. At night, we had very thick bushes to cover us, and taking dry oats from a field near by, made a first rate bed, but just as we had got in a good way for sleeping, a little shower of rain fell, wetting our blankets and beds, so we had the pleasure of sleeping under wet blankets the balance of the night, but we managed to pass a tolerable comfortable night. – Next day we remained lying about in the bushes. At night we heard a good deal of firing. We crossed and re-crossed the Creek again, and took our stand in the pine bushes, lying on our arms all night. We were roused up several times during the night, by firing, but the enemy did not come. Leaning up against a pine, gun in hand, I slept until sun up. We remained here during Saturday. On the next day, (Sunday,) the enemy, some two miles distant, commenced throwing bombs but all fell over our encampment or exploding in the air, doing us no damage. Our Brigade then crossed the creek, and lay in the woods some 3 or 4 hours. We could from this time until in the evening, hear the roar of cannon and small arms, at Stone Bridge, some eight miles distant. Jeff. Davis and Beauregard were there, The Yankees were again driven off the field with great loss. We have heard they had some 60,000 engaged: ours only 18 or 20,000; their loss some 15,000; ours about 5,000. We took about 500 prisoners, some 30 pieces of their best artillery, and a great quantity of baggage, &c. But I wish to tell you of our little fight.

In the evening our Brigade advanced upon the Battery that had been playing on us in the morning. We advanced to a steep hill, and were forming a line of battle at its foot, our left flank exposed to the enemy’s batty, when suddenly they opened upon us and cannon balls and grape shot, fell upon us like hail. Some of the men in front commenced hollowing like the victory was won, and at one wild rush, the whole brigade rushed up the hill – all confusion – every one became his own captain – great many shooting at their own men. Our officers tried hard to rally them, but in vain. We were where we could not see the enemy for the bushes in front of us, while we were exposed to a severe fire all the time. I saw a great many shooting but finding they were firing at our own men, I did not fire my gun.

All then run to the foot of the hill, where we first formed, and ran to an old pne field in our rear, to rally. I followed some of our company to the pines, the balls whistling around my head, plowing up the ground all around me. As I crossed the fence I saw our flag-bearer fall, exclaiming, “I’m dead.” Our captain was found dead near by, the next day, also another of our company, with 8 or 10 others. I made my way to our Regiment again. We made the attack in a bad manner. We have the honor of taking the place. Col. Longstreet came up on the other side, as we were leaving, and they run without firing hardly a gun. Our company lost two killed, three wounded; our flag-bearer dangerously. The whole brigade lost 13 killed; I don’t know how many wounded.

On Monday we paid our last respects to our captain; it was raining all day, but we buried him with military honors, firing three rounds over his grave. Yesterday we came to this place. The enemy have all left the country; gone over the river, and I expect our troops have possession of Alexandria, at this time. But I must close. – Write soon and direct as before.

Remaining till death,
W. C. File

The Carolina Flag (Concord, NC), 8/2/1861

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