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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William C. File at Ancestry.com

William C. File at Fold3





A. C., Co. H, 11th North Carolina Infantry, On the Campaign

2 09 2020

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac,
Manassa, July 31st, 1861.

Dear Spirit: – Since we left Danville, we have gone through some degrees of a soldier’s life. We were hurried from D. to Richmond, remained there two days, and were then ordered to Winchester, but arrived at Manassa the evening before the battle at Bull Run on Thursday the 18th. We were ordered to Bull Run in order to take part in the fight. The Regiment, numbering eleven hundred and sixty, had to sleep in one train of freight cats (Wednesday night) on hard benches and the floor – about forty or fifty in a car. I suppose it was necessary to harden us a little before taking us to the field of action. We were up bright and early next morning, and Col. Kirkland soon had us in line and marched us to Bull Run, about four miles from Manassa. We were sent up the creek about a mile to keep the yankees from coming over on our side. The enemy’s cannon commenced firing, the balls were whizzing over, but without effect. The Colonel told us to stoop down behind the fence; we were soon down upon our knees with our guns through the cracks of the fence. We were close to a wooded swamp which was in our front, and were commanded to keep a sharp lookout for the yankees, and if one made his appearance, to pull trigger on him. Sometimes the boys would hear something in the woods or see a horse pass by, and there was a general clattering along the line, springing their locks ready for a fire. Unfortunately, a young man belonging to the third South Carolina Regiment went across to hunt a horse and came in the way we were looking for the[…] in the thick woods and three or four of them fired on him, but as he was rather protected by the trees, only two shot took effect, and they passed through the fleshy part of his arm without breaking the bone. The enemy did not get close enough to us to fire upon them – the advanced part of the army whipped them in a few hours.

We were ordered late in the evening to march down the creek about a mile and get behind the batteries – the batteries were not completed, but the several Captains soon had spades and mattocks and put us to work. – We worked night and day until we threw up splendid embankments, and were well protected by the morning of the 21st, at which time the great battle commenced – a battle that will be long remembered by both sections of the American Continent. That beautiful Sabbath day (before its close) told to the yankees that they had intruded upon the Lord’s day and an inoffensive people, and perhaps by this time they have learned that the Southern boys will not be so easily subjugated as they at first anticipated. We were placed about the centre of the line; the fight, was on the left wing. There was a battery of heavy artillery placed in front of us, about two miles off; they fired on us nearly all day with heavy slugs and bombshells, but we were so well fortified that they could do us no harm. Late in the evening we were ordered to pursue the enemy, which we did in “double quick,” for about three miles; but the yankees got so far the start on us, and were so badly scared, that we never caught up with them.

Our Regiment is stationed at Bull Run yet. A few of them are sick but not seriously so. As a general thing we are a healthy set of boys and I hope we well all do our duty, and be ready at all times to stand up in defence of our country. I believe our field officers are a brave, patriotic and competent set of men, and only require a chance to prove themselves worthy of promotion. Fin looking Regiments are coming in nearly every day. – There is a large body of fine looking troops here now.

May the God of battles soon send the time when we may be able to proclaim to each other, and to our friends whom we have left behind, that victory is ours, and peace and prosperity once more prevail in our land.

Prayer is still kept up in the “Mountain Tiger Camp,” and we are glad to inform our friends that in point of morals we are not retrograding.

A. C.,
Of the Mountain Tigers,
11th Reg. N. C. Vols.

(Raleigh, NC) The Spirit of the Age, 8/10/1861

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Unknown, 11th North Carolina Infantry, On the Campaign

31 08 2020

LETTERS
FROM OUR VOLUNTEERS.
—————

Manassas Gap, Va., July 23, 1861.

On last Thursday we met the enemy at a place called “Bull’s Run,” about four miles from Manassas, and repulsed them three times with a loss to ourselves of only six killed and nine wounded, while the enemy confess to a loss of about eight hundred killed & wounded. They sent a flag of truce to us and asked leave to bury their dead, which was granted, and it took them all the next day – Friday – to finish the task. But the greatest news is yet to come. The enemy fell back on Friday to Centreville about eight miles from Manassas, and on Saturday were reinforced by 30,000 men under Gen. Patters. This made their force about 90,000 altogether. We were reinforced about the same time by 15,000 men under Ben. Johnston, and afterwards by Jackson’s brigade of 5,000. Jeff. Davis came up from Richmond also with some 15,000 or 20,000 men, thus making our force about 65,000. On Sunday morning, just as I received your letter, the pickets came galloping in, announcing that the Yankees were advancing from Centreville to attack us, and in about ten minutes afterward we heard the heavy thunders of their batteries about five miles on our left wing. Our line was stretched about 15 miles from Manassas to the north-west. Our regiment was placed immediately in the centre; it being the post of honor, and was given to us in order to compliment North Carolina for the bravery of her sons at Bethel Church. We had splendid entrenchments, and had a field battery of 6 cannon to support us where our company was placed as that was the spot where it was thought the enemy would tug and break through. Along the line of our regiment, other than where the Rifles were place, where were about twelve or fifteen other pieces, loaded with canister, ready to belch forth death to the foe at every discharge. We had not waited long after firing commenced before we saw the enemy marching in front of us at a distance of two and a half or three miles, arranging their line of battle. Their design was to attack our right, left, and centre simultaneously, with 20,000 men at each point, keeping 30,000 reserve. We had about 5,000 on our right, 5,000 on our centre, and some 15,000 on our left, as it was shrewdly suspected by General Beauregard that the grand blow would be made upon our left, that being the point most weakly defended by breastworks. The remainder of our troops were kept in reserve. About 9 o’clock the batteries in front of us were opened and the Yankees bombarded and cannonaded us till noon without cessation. The shells burst over us and all around us. Our entrenchments were struck by no less than 132 bombs and balls. The air was kept full of them flying in every direction, but not a single man of our regiment was hurt. During all this time the enemy were too far distant for us to do any thing with our muskets, and our cannon were not large enough to compete with the heavy Armstrong guns, and rifled cannon of the enemy; so we kept ourselves snug in our trenches watching the effect of the shells and balls, and getting so used to them that we could only laugh when one came too near, and declare that it was but a chance shot.

About noon, the grand assault was made up on the left, and then commenced the slaughter. The Yankees advanced in a solid body, and our troops held their fire until the enemy were within 100 yards and then they let fly. From this time on the thunders of cannon and musketry were incessant, and the battle became general. – The sky was clouded with smoke. Cavalry was galloping in every direction, and infantry from the reserve kept filing in double quick as fast as they could go. This continued until four o’clock in the afternoon, when suddenly the Major of our Regiment galloped along our lines, and taking off his hat, he waved it, shouting “The Yankees are flying, and our men have captured all their batteries.”

Cheer after cheer burst from the North Carolina boys, who were wild with delight. It was true enough! The enemy had been repulsed at all points, and were routed, horse, foot and dragoons, leaving 30,000 killed and wounded upon the field. The order was next given for us to form into line, and pursue them. We did so with fixed bayonets, and at double quick. Three thousand of our Cavalry first galloped after them, and then our whole army of infantry and artillery rushed after the Cavalry. We could see the Yankees clipping it at 2.40 speed about a mile ahead of us. They threw away their guns, knapsacks, blankets, cartridge boxes, and oil cloths. They left their baggage wagons and horses. All their provisions were cast along side the road and they themselves scattered like frightened sheep. It was the grandest sight in the world to see 60,000 men flying before 40,000 all going it as hard as they could clip. We followed them two miles beyond Centreville, and our men then broke down with running, and we had to return. We reached our entrenchment about 9 o’clock at night, and then wrapped ourselves in our blankets to catch a few hours rest, after the excitements of the day. The next morning we were made aware of the of our victory – 30,000 of the enemy killed and wounded on the field, and left for us to bury and take care of; 6,000 of our men killed and wounded. The Sixth N. C. Regiment of State troops were nearly cut to pieces, and its Colonel, Chas. F. Fisher, shot through the brain, dead. Two South Carolina Regiments, two Virginia Regiments, one Mississippi and one Alabama Regiment, were also shot to pieces. One Regiment lost every officer from the rank of Captain up to Colonel, some of the South Carolina companies had only six men living when the battle was over.

The enemy was completely defeated. We captured all their cannon, 66 pieces including Sherman’s famous rifled battery; 108 baggage wagons, hundreds of horses, all their provisions and ammunition. We took about 1,500 prisoners among whom were 36 field officers that we know of. Such was the great battle of Manassas. It will be a day long to be remembered in history.

A portion of our army is now pursuing the enemy towards Alexandria, and out Regiment moves to night for the same place. There will no doubt, be another battle there, as it is the key to Washington City; but we will be the conquerors as our boys are inspirited by victory, and the Yankees are disheartened by their bitter and overwhelming defeat. I wish I had room to tell you all the incidents of the battle, but I must, per force, reserve the narrative till I return. It would take a god sized volume to tell the half I could tell.

(Winston-Salem, NC) The People’s Press, 8/2/1861

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Unknown Officer, 11th North Carolina Infantry, On the Campaign

30 08 2020

LETTERS
FROM OUR VOLUNTEERS.
—————

Bull’s Run, July 23, 1861.

Dear Father: –

I received your letter, with that of mother’s on last Sunday morning. I would have written as soon as I got back from Richmond, but have been so busy ever since, that I can’t possibly write as often as I would like.

We left Danville, for Richmond, the Saturday after we were there. I had a tolerably hard time at it too. I was officer of the baggage guard, and did not get a bit of sleep or rest from Friday morning till Sunday morning about one o’clock. We then staid in the old Fair Grounds at Richmond till Tuesday evening about sundown, when we took the train for Winchester. The first train under command of Lieut. Col. Leach and the Major, started about half past six, and the second about an hour afterwards. I stayed with the Colonel; he asked me to stay and go with him and some other officers in a passenger car, attached to the second train. We travelled pretty well till about 10 o’clock, then the car I was on stopped with a sudden jerk that nearly knocked us down. I started out and found the whole road lined with soldiers. At first I thought we were attacked, but our train had run into the train before us, and smashed to of the cars loaded with Capt. Connelly’s, Scott’s, and Gilmer’s Companies. We had some 7 or 8 hurt but not seriously. We had to stay here till after eight o’clock next morning, and reached Manassas about sundown the next day. When we arrived there we found the women and children from Fairfax Court House, passing by in crowds, running from the enemy. The camp was deserted with the exception of one New Orleans regiment left there to guard the baggage. We were to change cars here for Winchester, but Col. Kirkland concluded to offer our services to Gen. Beauregard, instead of going on to Johnston. Beauregard got back to the Junction about 9 o’clock, when he accepted us and promised to give us “a chance at them.” We were up all night preparing, giving out cartridge and instructing the men how to load, till 4 o’clock, when we formed in columns and commenced our march for Bull’s Run, a small stream about 4 miles from the Junction, where our forces had thrown up earth works the night before. We were first employed as skirmishers in a pine thicket on the left, for about an hour, when some of our scouts came in and reported the enemy about 40,000 strong, advancing directly on our centre. We were then called in and held as a reserve, on top of a hill about a mile from the ford. We were all resting after our march, when we heard the roll of the kettle drum calling the men unto the trenches. We were then ordered on to the extreme left. As we were marching through an old field about three miles from the enemy they opened a battery of rifled cannon on us, but no one was hurt, although several of the men got suddenly sick about that time. We went across the field about a quarter of a mile, double quick, until we came to the creek, when we took up our position on a long rail fence. It was not long before the firing grew warm on our right, and occasionally some one of out men would fire at a Yankee, but we were not sure of killing any. The musketry was very heavy for a while, but our men gave them a bayonet charge which settled them for a time. The artillery went at it then and fought for about an hour, when the enemy sent in a flag of truce and got permission to bury their dead. The loss of our men inn that fight was about 50 or 60 killed, wounded and missing; that of the enemy was 905 according to their own reports. We were ordered to shift to the centre which was considered the most dangerous position on the whole line. We slept on our arms all night without interuption. The next morning we all went to work, with all the spades, shovels, and picks we could find, and by night felt tolerably secure. About 8 o’clock the pickets commenced firing and retreating, and every man had to run to his post. We were called to arms about a dozen times that night, but were not attacked after all. Everything was quiet on Saturday. Our men were burying the dead Yankees by hundreds; after they had got permission to bury their dead they would not do it. We all slept well on Saturday night, but on Sunday morning, about half past 6 o’clock, they opened on our centre, where companies from Forsyth and Stokes were entrenched. The shells burst all around us without doing any injury to any of us. A regiment of Alabamians was stationed just behind us in the woods, and one of the balls from the rifled battery passed directly over our heads and killed one of those then wounded another. One passed within a foot of our flag staff which was planted on our breast-work; another struck our works, but we had made them so strong that it could not pass through. There was a very heavy column of the enemy directly in front of us all day, but did not advance close enough for us to fire into them. They kept up a continual fire of musketry on both our wings, but the principal attack was made on our left. Old Scott was there himself. The Yankees fought well but could not drive our men back. At about 4 o’clock we heard the men cheering on our left and Gen. Bonham with his staff came galloping up the line throwing up their hats and telling us that the Yankees were in full retreat. We no sooner heard it than our Colonel came dashing down the lines and ordered us in pursuit. We pitched out and formed a column, and pursued them about three miles, but they had the start of us too far for the 11th to overtake them. The Yankees left their baggage, gun wagons, and everything else in their retreat. The road was literally strewn with clothing, knapsacks, canteens and blankets and our cavalry were taking prisoners in every direction. Their loss was very heavy and it can not be less the 8,000, while ours, though large, was comparatively small.

I was at the Junction yesterday and saw about six hundred prisoners on their way to Richmond. Capt. Wharton’s company is out on picket guard and have just sent in two Yankees. – Corporal Hunter, the same who clerked for Mr. E. Belo, commanded the guard that brought them in.

We took all the enemy’s artillery and about all their baggage wagons and horses. They brought in 108 horses yesterday.

I guess we are the dirtiest set you ever saw in your life. I have not changed my clothes since I left Richmond, on week ago to-day. We have to sleep in the trenches with only a blanket on a board, if we can get it, if not, on the naked ground. It has rained three times since we have been here and you may know how we look. A well digger is not sight to what we are. I must close now, as we will have to march to Centreville this afternoon; it is about 5 or 6 miles from here, and the mud is about a foot deep.

P. S. – We do not march till tomorrow.

(Winston-Salem, NC) The People’s Press, 8/2/1861

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“An Eye-Witness,” 17th Virginia Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford

18 07 2020

THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN.

An “Eye-Witness” of this fight desires us to publish the following, and an act of justice to the troops who bore the brunt of the action. Though rather late in the day for a description of scenes with which the reader is familiar, we comply with the request:

Too much credit cannot be given to the 1st and 17th Regiments of Virginia Volunteers for their good conduct in the battle of Bull Run on Thursday, the 18th day of July. It was an experimental or test action in which the enemy first learned to run, and first discovered the necessity of so doing to save themselves from our steady fire and determined assault. It had a most important effect on the battle of Sunday, the 21st. In both cases the flight of the enemy was most precipitate and disastrous.

Gen. Longstreet’s Brigade, consisting of 1st Regiment Virginia Volunteers, commanded by Co. Moore, 17th Regiment, Col. Corse, and 11th Regiment, Col. Garland, were ordered under arms and marched in ten minutes out of camps at Manassas on the morning of the 17th, and in quick time reached Bull Run, some four miles distant. We were posted in a bend or horse-shoe of the run on the inner circle and along the bank. As the movement was designed as an ambuscade, silence and secrecy were observed by the troops. We slept on our arms that night, and early in the morning were ready for action. About eight o’clock our force was posted by regiment and divisions at the most available points for defense around the circle and flanking above and below Blackburn’s ford. It fell to the lot of the 17th to be posted mainly around this ford – one division was advanced across the ford to the opposite bank as skirmishers; the other divisions of the 17th were posted on the bank within the circle protected by trees and undergrowth, ready to meet the enemy as they advanced over the opposite bank, which was much higher than the ground occupied by us.

The Washington Artillery was some distance in the rear, and several regiments were posted near by in case of necessity. About 11 ½ A. M., the report of a rifle was heard from the other side of the run, then another and another. It was evident that the enemy were feeling for us in different directions. Then came the fire of a cannon, followed by many others in succession. This continued for half an hour without being noticed by us. We supposed by this that our position was discovered and all hope of the ambuscade was at an end, for very soon the enemy were seen advancing over the hill. Our artillery then opened fire, which was followed by the infantry around the ford. The rattling of musketry and the booming of cannon continued, with two slight pauses until about five o’clock in the afternoon, when the fire of the enemy ceased altogether; and it was afterwards discovered he had suddenly retreated, leaving many of his dead and wounded, several hundred muskets and two pieces of cannon on the field. The enemy fired their rifle cannon at the hospital, though protected by its flag, and struck it. They also fired at the ambulances with wounded men in them. Their sudden retreat was in no doubt owing, not only to the bloody repulse they had met with and the sad havoc made in their ranks, but to the appearance on the field of two Southern regiments coming shouting at double-quick. The shout was taken up by our brigade, and the horse shoes rung with the sound of human voices, that for a moment almost equalled the artillery. Certain it is, they fired but a few scattering shots after that, and had we known they were retreating we would have made a [?] of it. We were expecting the attack to be renewed every minute. As it was, their loss, in killed, wounded and missing, was over one thousand. Our loss did not exceed in [?] killed and about 60 wounded.

The Washington Artillery on that day immortalized itself. For coolness and courage, [?] of management of the guns, and rapidity and certainty of fire, it could not be excelled. Every man in the 1st and 17th did his whole duty. From position they, with the artillery, bore the brunt of the whole fight. Where every one fought so well, it were invidious to particularize.

Col. Moore, of the 1st, was wounded in the arm, and the commanded devolved on Lt. Col. Fry, who was assisted by Maj. Skinner. – Col. Corse, Lt. Col. Munford, and Adjutant Humphreys of the 17th, and Major Brent, were on the field in command in different parts of it. All these officers were in the thickest of the fight and displayed utmost coolness and courage. But nothing could exceed the cool determination and fearless daring of the officers and men of the line in the 17th Regiment. The writer could not obtain a list of the killed and wounded.

The Captains seemed to be marked by the enemy. Captain Dulaney, of the Fairfax Rifles, was shot in the shoulder by a musket ball. Captain Prestman was shot in the arm and side by buck-shot. These officers were taken from the field. Captain B. H. Shackelford, of the Warrenton Rifles, was shot in the ankle by a cannister ball. He bandaged the wound and remained upon the field till the close of the fight. O doubt is entertained that all of them will recover.

General Longstreet seemed to be everywhere, regardless of danger, and unconscious of what a conspicuous mark he presented to the enemy.

All praise, say we, to the [?] Regiments of Longstreet’s Brigade, and [?] of the first and seventeenth regiments.

An Eye-Witness

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/3/1861

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Ed, 12th New York Infantry, on Blackburn’s Ford

11 06 2020

The Onondaga Regiment in the Action of the 18th.

The following is an abstract from a private letter written by a young man of this city, who is attached to the 12th (Onondaga) Regiment. It gives an account of the part taken by the 12th in the Bull Run affair on the 18th last:

(Three miles from Manassas, in the woods, waiting for an order to advance on the enemy.)

July 19th, 1861.

Dear Father: – Yesterday we advance at the head of the brigade, which was the advance brigade of the column consisting of 40,000 troops. We can upon the enemy entrenched in thick woods. Our skirmishers were sent in and driven out three time, with great loss, when out Regiment was ordered in to attack them. The boys all went in well on the jump. Well, we reached a ravine a rod wide, and cleared, on the other side of which was a deep wood. When Our whole Regiment was on the edge, just where they wanted us, we received a terrible volley of musketry from concealed foes whom we had not seen. Our company dropped immediately on our backs, and commenced firing and loading in that position, which we kept p for 25 or 30 minutes; company J, and part of company E, keeping with us. The rest of the Regiment retreated on the first volley. We stood our ground until we found that we were not supported, and they had ceased firing, when we retreated slowly, and in good order, coming out of the woods in line. Our retreat was followed by showers of grape and canister. When we got out of the woods, our Regiment was not in sight, and we found them halted about two miles on the backward track. Our loss this morning in the Regiment is 120 killed, wounded and missing. The Massachusetts 2d went in right after us, and retreated in disorder, without firing a volley. There were probably from 5,000 to 10,000 men in ambush, where they sent one regiment to dislodge them. What folly! Gen. Tyler blamed the Colonel for the Regiment’s retreat, but said the two companies that stood, were brave, and did well. I have a chance to send this to Washington by a reporter. Many particulars I can give you another time. The enemy retreated before us but a few hours at Vienna, Fairfax, Germantown and Centreville. We have about 40,000 troops here, and will have to outflank the enemy to dislodge them. Can wrote many particulars at another time.

Ed.

Rochester (NY) Democrat and American, 7/25/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

12th New York Infantry roster





2nd Lieut. Charles E. Palmer, Co. F, 2nd Connecticut Infantry, On the Advance and Blackburn’s Ford

2 06 2020

OUR CORRESPONDENCE.
—————
From the Volunteers.
—————

Centreville, Va., near
Manassas Junction, July 19, 1861.

“Forward to Richmond!” seems at last to be the motto of Gen. Scott, and the movement has commenced. I wrote you a few weeks ago that the only sight we should get of the enemy at Fairfax, would be their coat-tails. Those who were fortunate enough to be in front of the line with telescopes, did, I believe, have that privilege, but the main column marched on in utter ignorance of that fact. But here we are, within seven miles of the far-famed Manassas Gap Junction, and two from the main body of the enemy at Bull’s Creek, who are strongly entrenched in a position which they evidently intended should become a second Thermopylae.

But to commence at the beginning. On Monday night last, at our evening parade, the order was given for each company to put three days’ rations in their haversacks, roll their blankets, and be ready to march at 3, P. M., next day. For once there was n countermand, and at the appointed time the Second Connecticut filed out into the road. The First fell into their rear, and in a few moments we were on the march toward Vienna, at the head of a division of ten thousand men. We went on without reconnoitering some two or three miles, when the Connecticut Brigade threw themselves off to the right and left as skirmishers, and we dashed on through the bushes and fields, without interruption till evening, when the column halted at Vienna, and we bivouacked for the night. Augmented during the night to twenty thousand, about sunrise we moved toward Fairfax. We took our position no the right as skirmishers, and for the first time evidences of the recent occupation by the enemy met our eyes. Temporary booths for pickets, haversacks and canteens, were occasionally found, while now and then the road was obstructed by fallen trees and other articles to impede our progress. By and by, a shout was occasionally heard along the line of our skirmishers, as they blazed away at some flying picket, and now and then a prisoner was carried back to the main body. These incidents grew more frequent, till a halt was sounded, just as the head of the column arrived at the top of a hill, commanding at a distance of a few miles, a view of Fairfax Courthouse. A battery of artillery was sent to the front, and we cautiously advanced till within about a mile, when our brigade was drawn up in line of battle, the cannon posted near a school-house on a little elevation , and a shell or two thrown over into the midst of the enemy. Then commenced a stampede. Baggage wagons could be seen moving rapidly forward, and the glitter of the arms of the enemy as they moved at a double quick out on the road toward Manassas Gao, showed that our first fight was not to be at Fairfax. Our column then obliqued to the right down the Germantown road, where the enemy were said to have entrenchments, and were determined to make a stand. But here again we were disappointed. After carefully feeling our way a few hundred yards, their pickets again came in sight, running in such haste as to leave their blankets, and in some cases their uncooked breakfasts on the fires at their posts. We passed several places where there had been masked batteries, and on emerging from a piece of woods, saw before us a long line of breastworks, in the rear of which was located a secession camp. There was no evidence of life around it except the flying pickets, who could still be seen at a distance, making off. – But understanding their ways, and not being inclined to fall into any trap by advancing our forces and suddenly finding a dozen cannon blazing at us, the skirmishers were ordered by Col. Keyes to halt till the artillery came up, who fired a couple of shots into it. This effected nothing, and a few men advanced cautiously and looked over, and soon our whole line was again in motion. There were evidences of a force having been at work during the morning at this entrenchment, which they had left in such haste as to leave their shovels, picks, and all their tools behind them. On advancing to their camp, we found camp equipage in such abundance that picking it up was out of the question with our limited supply of baggage wagons, and it was stored away to be taken care of at some future time. We pushed on to Germantown, (two houses, one pig-sty, and a pump.) planted the Stars and Stripes on a flag-staff, where once had floated the stars and bars; captured a baggage wagon full of army stores, with two horses attached; found lots of blankets, knapsacks, haversacks and canteens, which had been thrown away by the over-burdened John Gilpins. We halted at night at a point some ten miles from our position in the morning. The next day we moved on to our present position, where we arrived about 10 o’clock, A. M. The Connecticut regiments were relieved from skirmishing duty today, by the 2d Michigan and 12th New York, and we took a position near the center of the column. Scarcely had we came to a halt, when a report of artillery at the head of Col. Heintzelman’s division, which had been moving parallel with ours on a road about a mile to our left, showed us that we had engaged the enemy. This report was followed by another and another, till word was sent back along the line that the head of both columns had come up – to a strong position of the rebels at Bull’s Creek, and were now having a desperate conflict. Our brigade was filed into the woods as a reserve, and the rest of the division push-on to the scene. For three or four hours the booming of cannon was incessant, and we lay on our arms in line, expecting to be called on to march at any time, reports meanwhile coming back to us of the progress of the battle. Sometimes these were encouraging, but enough was learned to leave no doubt that the loss on our side was fearful, and that the enemy had not been dislodged from their position. The firing at length gradually ceased, and we were told that neither side had gained any advantage, but that both had lost a great number of men.

THURSDAY’S SKIRMISH AT BULL’S RUN.

The skirmishers at the head of our division were pushing into the woods – a dense pine growth – when they discovered a battery and retreated to rally on the reserve. For some reason this reserve was nearer than usual, and by the time they had reached it, were just pushing into the same place. At this moment the battery opened on them, throwing shell and shot with great execution. Our men retreated with as much regularity as possible, but another volley took effect, and made many a poor fellow bite the dust ere they were out of reach. Sherman’s battery of rifled cannon was then brought up and opened a fire of shell and canister into the place where the battery was located. No answer was returned, and a cloud of dust being seen rising in the rear, it was supposed by Gen. Tyler that the enemy had retreated, and he ordered the 2d Massachusetts to charge into the same place. They advanced, and the conflict commenced. The life-long hatred between these two States now had an opportunity of venting itself, and both sides seemed to feel that in them lay the issue. – South Carolina had the advantage, however, and Massachusetts was obliged to retreat, but only after repeated volleys from the battery. – The humanity of our enemy was shown by a Carolinian rushing out from his cover with fixed bayonet, and pinning a wounded man to the earth, who was attempting to crawl away. A lieutenant was seen to swing his sword and exclaim – “That’s it; kill every one of the d—-d Yankees!” Those were his last words, – the next moment he threw up his arms and fell a corpse.

The position of the enemy was such that but two regiments could be engaged at a time, and as it was deemed useless to throw more lives away, Gen. Tyler withdrew his forces to the woods and the firing on both sides ceased. The enemy attempted to cross a creek near by, but were driven back at the point of the bayonet by the New York 69th.

OUR LOSS.

I have made careful inquiry – not from officers who would have a motive in concealing the true number – but from sergeants and privates in the regiments engaged, who have the knowledge from the roll call of their different corps, and find the loss on our side to be from forty to forty-five killed, and about twice that number wounded. The regiments that suffered the most were the New York 12th, Massachusetts 2d, and Michigan 2d. Two were killed from Sherman’s battery. As the firing was mostly shell and grape, the proportion of the wounded was less than usual in engagements.

Heavy artillery seems to be what is wanted to dislodge the enemy from their position, and yesterday there arrived two large siege pieces – one a 64 pounder, drawn by fifteen horses – the other a 26, with bombs and tar-balls, the latter being intended to burn the rebels out from their present retreat. The attack cannot be postponed more than a day or two at most, and I have not much doubt they will be driven back to Manassas. It will be necessary to wait a few days, when they will be obliged from necessity, to fall further back, as the only water they have is obtained from their present position. Their force is reported as amounting to 40,000, and there may be a Water-loo here before the affair is ended.

Our present position is on the brow of a hill, where Beauregard evidently intended at one time to make a stand, as there is an earthwork here, pierced for several guns, which commands the main approach for two r three miles, and which could not be easily flanked. This is a splendid position for defense, and their deserting it for another is good evidence that they will not be easily dislodged.

Centreville is an old Virginia country town, – a place of some importance in the days of stage-coaches and toll-gates, but now run to dilapidation. I do not see a building which appears to have been built since the Revolution, and none have been repaired since their erection. Most of them have been deserted by their owners, and are now used for hospitals for our wounded.

At the old camp of the enemy here, there were many articles left which were siezed upon by our men as relics. I have been favored by the sight of several letters which were picked up. The following shows that they are not above the wants of us poor mortals in the Federal ranks: Sister Maria to her “Dear Chet,” invokes Heaven’s curses on those awful Yankees, and then says that she thinks it a shame that President Davis does not give them better food.

Here is a letter entire:

Centreville, Va., July 3d, 1861.

Dear Father – Send me at once a gallon of best whiskey. I have not time to write more.

Yours truly, —- —-.

Another from a lady to her brother requests him to “bring her home a Yankee captain so she can see what he looks like.” All either begin or end with curses on the Yankee Abolitionists. An order was found from the Adjutant General commanding every male citizen capable of bearing arms to report himself to General Beauregard, with such weapons as he could procure, within a week from July 11th. Their case is a desperate one.

The time of the First Connecticut Regiment expired to-day. They were called together this morning to see how many were willing to remain a few days to see the issue of the present operations. About fifty of the regiment were willing to stay, and they go home in a day or two. I understand that several regiments will follow them in a few days. Our (2d regt.) is out the 5th of August, and by that time I trust the immediate need for our presence will be through. We are now cooking three days’ rations, and are ordered to be ready to move by 5 o’clock this afternoon.

C. E. P.

Winsted (CT) Herald, 7/26/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

For the identity of C. E. P. see this post.

2nd Connecticut Infantry Roster

Charles E. Palmer at Ancestry.com

Charles E. Palmer at Fold3

Charles E. Palmer at Find-a-Grave





Byron, 13th New York Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford

17 05 2020

War Correspondence.
—————
The Battle of Thursday.

Ontario, July 21, 1860

Eds. Evening Express, Rochester: – Gents.:
Do me the favor to publish the enclosed letter from my son in the 13th Regiment Volunteers from Rochester. I am a reader of the Express, although no a subscriber at the office, but will be, for you paper is in the hearts of the soldiers and the people.

Very Respectfully yours,
G.

—————

Centreville, July 20, 1861.

Father: – We left Camp Union on the 16th at 2 o’clock, P. M., marching as far as Vienna, which the rebels had left but a few hours before. Early the next morning we took up our line of march, driving the enemy before us but a short distance. We stopped over night of the 17th at Camp Mason from which rebels had left rather hastily to all appearances. In the vicinity there were between three or four thousand rebels. We came the next day to Centreville reaching here about noon, while here a part of the division about noon, while here a part of the division passed us, when they had gone two miles they came upon a masked battery battery which allowed them to approach within a few feet before opening. The Michigan 1st and the New York 12th were the regiments engaged them first, discovered the rebels commenced retreating and cheering, and our troops advancing until within a few feet of the battery, when they rose up out of their entrenchments – sueli vollies of musketry perfectly terrific – opening the battery at the same time cutting down about 40 of our troops – they still advancing, and when within nearly bayonet reach, were ordered to retreat.

At this time we were on the way to the scene of action, meeting troops, some retreating, some wounded and lying aside the road. We asked them how they made out. Their reply was, “we had to back up.” About this time more artillery reached the spot, and began to fire, the rebels returning the fire promptly. We were flanked off one side of the road in the woods – in the din of battle, we being under cover of the woods moved forward, the shot from the enemy’s rifled cannon whistling over our heads rather lively. – We were soon commanded to halt, as we expected they were advancing upon us. We all dropped on our knees, and when a discharge was heard, we listened for the messengers that could soon be heard tearing through the timber, when we would fall on our faces; one ball struck right before us, and bounded over our heads, and struck behind us, we could see; it being a spent ball, one of the boys picked it up.

One poor fellow belonging to one of the regiments engaged, who was lying back of us in the woods, had the top part of his head blown completely off, a horrid sight. Our cannon ceased firing, the enemy being under cover, and fell back, waiting for mortars to come and shell them out. Yesterday there was no movement at all. Last night the guns came up, so to-day there will be awful work. They are going to throw out tar in shells, and burn them out. There are now three batteries within three miles of here. The division under Gen. Tyler is about 40,000 strong.

We are but six miles from Manassas Junction, after the battle we could hear the cars running all night, bringing troops from Manassas, so they must have a large force here. We shall certainly have a fight to-day, and many a poor fellow will never see the rising of to-morrows sun, but as they saying is, “We’re all in the same boat,” and must stand it. I never expect to see home again, but gloomy as the prospect is, I am not at all disheartened. I shall stand to the rack, fodder or no fodder. They say when our troops fell back, leaving the wounded, they came out of the trenches, and bayoneted the wounded. If this be true, we can expect no quarter, if we fall into their hands. This is the most God forsaken country I ever saw; the land is not worth a dollar per acre. Our pickets were firing all night long last night. The mail is about ready to leave, and I must close. My kindest regards to all the folks, and tell them to write. Direct to Washington, and it will come.

Respectfully yours,
Byron

Rochester (NY) Evening Express, 7/26/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Vivandiere, 7th Louisiana Infantry*, On Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle (2)

8 05 2020

Vivandiere, 7th Louisiana Infantry*, On Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle (2)

From the Seat of War in Virginia.
—————

Special to the New Orleans Crescent

Headquarters Seventh Regiment La. Vols.
2 ½ Miles from Centreville, VA, August 3.

Mr. Editor – My multitudinous duties of a military character have kept me so constantly employed for the past few days as to cause me, unwillingly, to delay the “continuation” of my letter of the 23rd ult., relative to the great battles of Bull Run and Stone Bridge, or “Manassas.” Of the full particulars of both these memorable battles, you are, ere this, fully informed through other correspondents, and the official returns published in the Richmond papers and the Northern press. Even the interesting episodes of which such tragic scenes are always so prolific have been ere this served upon the public platter, as food for the insatiable appetite, proceeding from the “animal which is in man,” and hashed and re-hashed until they have become insipid and tasteless.

A few incidents which either occurred under my own observation, or for the truthfulness whereof I will vouch, have thus far however escaped other argus-eyed correspondents for the press, and I will claim for the Crescent the honor of being fist in the field with them. Of one of these, the historian should make note, as a link forever binding the name of Beauregard to that of all that is truly great and honorable.

It was not until late in the afternoon of the eventful 21st that President Davis arrived on the battle-field, and Beauregard had from an elevated stand-point seen the last gallant horseman of our pursuing cavalry disappear in the distance after the retreating Federalists ere he was informed of the President’s coming. I was near him, as his staff and the field-officers of the day approached to congratulate him on his safety and his victory. He was thus occupied when one of his aids approached at the top of his horse’s speed and announced the fact of the President’s arrival and request to have the pleasure of seeing him immediately. The reply of Beauregard was firm and unimpassioned: “I cannot wait upon the President himself till I have first seen and attended to the wants of my wounded!” This saying he turned his horse in the direction of the most fatal portion of the bloody field. Such a man is our Beauregard.

In conversation with many apparently intelligent Yankee prisoners, and from letters picked up on the field of battle, we gain a much better idea of public sentiment at the North than is discoverable from the perusal of the hireling papers of that section. When asked why they had taken up arms against us and invaded our soil, many of the prisoners would reply that they had enlisted for three months with a view of protecting the “National Capital” against a “Southern mob,” and had been marched, against their wills and wishes, into Southern territory, and would prefer to remain prisoners at Richmond until the suspension of hostilities than to rejoin the “grand army” of Northern aggression and invasion. I was engaged, at Manassas Junction, a day or two after the battle of the 21st, in conversation with a prisoner, a Sergeant in a Connecticut regiment, when a large and good natured looking darkie, belonging to an officer from South Carolina, came in, having in charge two live Yankee prisoners, whom he had surprised, disarmed, and captured, unaided. The negro was much pleased with his exploit, and became the lion of the hour. My Connecticut sergeant appeared somewhat astonished that the negroes – the downtrodden, bechained, bestrapped, misused, maltreated and crushed – should thus turn upon their liberators and friends (?). Your correspondent “took occasion” to read Connecticut a homily, with the above mentioned circumstance for a text, and felt sufficiently repaid for my efforts, in my first lesson, in the assurance on the parted Nutmeg, that there had “no doubt been considerable fault on both sides.”

The regiment to which I am attached, the Seventh of Louisiana, under Col. Hays, is now encamped on the battle-field of Bull Run, abut two hundred yards from Blackburn’s Ford, across which the enemy attempted to force a passage – and did’nt. The Sixth, of Louisiana, (Col. Seymour’s,) is quartered to our left a few hundred yards, and the Washington Artillery about a mile farther up the Run. The Ninth is at Manassas Junction. All the Louisiana troops in this section have been formed into a Brigade, under command of Senior Colonel Seymour, which arrangement appears to be generally satisfactory to all.

I have just had placed in my hands the monthly reports of the several companies of the Seventh Regiment, from which I collate the following of the killed and wounded in the late battles:

Continental Guards, Capt. Geo. Clark – Killed, Wm. Maylau on the 18th ult., and Thos. R. Clay on the 21st. Wounded, Sergeant [?], and Privates Jno. Flynn and J. W. Kelly, all on the 21st.

Crescent Rifles, Company B, Capt H. T. Jett – Killed, Jno. S. Brooks, on the 18th ult. Wounded, Corporal Chas. V. Fisher, on the 21st, doing well.

American Rifles, Capt. Wm. D. Rickarby – Wounded, Wm. Stanton, slightly, in the battle of the 21st.

Irish volunteers, of Lafourche, Capt. W. B. Ratliff – Killed [?] Murphy, 21st; Wounded on the 21st. Corporal Fallan lost an arm, James Hammond, Jas. McCarty, Francis Manley and Timothy Noon.

Baton Rouge Fencibles – Wounded, 21st, J. T. [?] and W. H. Banks.

Virginia Blues, Capt. D. A Wilson, Jr. – Killed, Miles Smythe, July 18; Wounded, Patrick Cane and Jno. McMahan. Total killed, 5; wounded, 14.

Of the loss of the Eighth Regiment, I see you are already informed, and also relative to the cutting up of Wheat’s Battalion.

Our boys are in the best of spirits, and eager for more fighting.

I enclose you a discourse delivered by our Chaplain, Rev. Dr. Howard of New Orleans, on the Sunday succeeding the great battle of Stone Bridge, on the very spot where the battle raged the hottest on the ever memorable 21st of July. It was entirely extemporaneous, and written out afterwards from recollection. I send it to you by urgent request of nearly all our officers, and very many others who were present on the occasion of its delivery. It will well repay perusal. More anon.

Vivandiere

New Orleans (LA) Daily Crescent, 8/6/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*The writer’s enlistment in the 7th Louisiana is assumed, but not certain.





A Louisianan, 7th Louisiana Infantry*, On the Regiment’s (and the State’s) Role at Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle

6 05 2020

Letter from Camp Pickens, Va.
—————

Camp Pickens, Manassas Junction, July 26, 1861.

Mr. Editor –  No doubt by this time you are well acquainted with the particulars of the battles of the 18th and 19th instant. Virginians claim for themselves the honor of having gained both of them. I am a Louisianan. And as Louisiana was well represented on the field on both occasions, I wish to see given them the honor which is their just due. The Richmond papers give the first honors to their own citizens, of course, but to Louisiana, they have as yet barely mentioned her name. I am willing that Virginia should have the honor due them, but I am unwilling that Louisianans should be defrauded of their honors. They have come a long way to fight the battles of their country, and ought to be, at least, treated with due respect. In some statements of the battles, Louisiana receives no credit whatever, not even the presence of her sons being mentioned. They have given to the Washington Artillery and Major Wheat’s Battalion, a portion of their dues; but to the Louisiana Seventh they have rendered nothing, besides several independent Louisiana companies, which were in the thickest of the fight. Among them was the Crescent Blues.

On the 18th the Louisiana Seventh was in the hottest part of the battle, and was acknowledged to the best fighting regiment on the ground, by all but Virginians.

You have heard how the Tiger Rifles charged Ellsworth’s Zouaves with bowie-knives; you have heard how bravely the Washington Artillery fought; but have you seen any mention made of the Louisiana Seventh? If you have, I have not. No Virginia paper has spoken in any manner of the achievements of this regiment. They spoke of the Eighth, and gave that regiment credit for several brave and resolute charges, which I know were not made by it or any other regiment.

In this, as in everything else, Virginia is allowed first honors; but if you give her an inch, she wants an ell; so, she must needs claim all the honor, and leave her sister States go a begging. Although she does not deserve first honors, I am willing she should enjoy them; but I am still not willing that our State, old Louisiana, should lose her dues in this. While we were in Lynchburg, Va., I was conversing with a Virginian about the number of troops sent by the different States. He said that, after Virginia, Louisiana was the most prompt in sending troops. Said I, “Sir, I consider Louisiana second to no State, not even Virginia.” He was then willing to acknowledge that Louisiana was equal to Virginia.

I am one of those who like to see every one “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s;” so, you must excuse my egotism. I have not given Louisiana half she deserves. I only wish that Louisianans should know how she is honored in Virginia by Virginians.

Yours respectfully,

A Louisianan

New Orleans (LA) Daily Crescent, 8/6/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*The writer’s enlistment in the 7th Louisiana is assumed, but not certain.