U. S. Congressmen on Blackburn’s Ford

13 12 2022





Defeat of the Federals.














Excesses Committed by Federal Troops.


The following account comes through our occasional correspondent at Washington, on whom we have great reliance:

The following account on the battle of Bull’s Run is given by honorables Wm. A. Richardson, John A. McClernand, of Ill., and John W. Noel, of Missouri (all members of the house), qho were eyewitnesses of the battle, and aided in several instances of bearing from the field members of the New York 12th, who were wounded.

The action commenced under the direction of Gen. Tyler, of Connecticut, at half-past one o’clock on Thursday afternoon at Bull Run, three miles from Centreville, between several companies of skirmishers attached to the Massachusetts First, and a masked battery situated on a slight eminence. The skirmishers retreated rapidly and were succeeded in the engagement by Sherman’s battery and two companies of regular cavalry, which after continuing the contest for some time were supported by the New York 12th, First Maine, Second Michigan, First Massachusetts and a Wisconsin regiment, when the battle was waged, with great earnestness, continuing until five o’clock. The Federal troops were then drawn back in great confusion beyond the range of the Confederate batteries, here they bivouacked for the night.

During the conflict the Michigan, Maine and Wisconsin regiments held their ground with a fortitude which, in view of the galling fire to which they were exposed, was most remarkable, but […] regiments retired in great disorder from the field, a portion of them throwing away knapsacks, and even their arms in their flight. A number of members of the former regiments openly asserted that their confused retreat was the fault of their officers, who evinced a total lack of courage, and were the first to flee.

After the retreat had been commenced, Corcoran’s New York 69th (Irish) and Cameron’s New York 79th (Scotch) regiments were ordered up to the support, but arrived too late to take part in the action.

There were three batteries in all. The first to open fire, which was the smallest, was situated on the top of an eminence; the second and most destructive, in a ravine, The latter was totally concealed from view by brushwood, etc., and it was in attempting to take the first by assault that the Federal troops stumbled upon it. The battle occurred at a point in the declivity of the road, where it makes a turn, forming an obtuse angle, and the third battery was so placed as to enfilade with its fire the approaches towards the junction.

Much jealousy, it is stated by the same authority, existed between the regular officers and those of the volunteer corps, each appearing desirous of shifting to the other side the responsibility of any movement not advised by themselves, and the jealousy, it is feared, will seriously affect the efficiency of the “grand army.” Thus, General McDowell expressly states that the battle was not his own, but that of General Tyler. The former officer said that he would not advance further until he had thoroughly and carefully reconnoitered the position of the batteries, their capabilities, etc; and the inference derived by my informants from his remarks, it that he deems his present force entirely insufficient to carry the opposition before him.

One of the gentlemen mentioned at the commencement of this account, gives it as his opinion that Manassas Junction cannot be carried by 50,000 men in two months, and all agreed in saying that the force under Beauregard has been entirely underrated numerically, and that their fighting qualities are superior. The cheers with which they rushed to the fight frequently rang above the din of the battle. Their numbers were not ascertained, but it is estimated that upwards of 5,000 South Carolinians, under command of Gen. M. L. Bonham, of South Carolina.

Their artillery was of the bestkind. A shot from one of their batteries severed a bough from a tree quite 2 miles distant, and but a few feet from where the vehicle of two Congressmen was standing. Our ball fell directly in the midst of a group of Congressmen, among whom was Owen Lovejoy, but injured no one, the members scampering in different directions, sheltering among trees, &c.,

It is said to have been admirably served too, as the heavy list of killed, and the disabling of Sherman’s battery, amply testifies.

There were a number of rifle pits also in front of the batteries, from which much execution was done by expert riflemen.

The Congressmen were greatly impressed with the extent and magnitude of the earth-works, entrenchments, &c., erected by the Confederates from Alexandria to Centreville and beyond. They were all of the most formidable and extensive character.

It is thought by them that Manassas Junction is encircled by a chain of batteries, which can only be penetrated by severe fighting. All the entrenchments evidence consummate skill in their construction. The entire column under General McDowell fell back at 8 o’clock on Thursday evening, a short distance from Centreville, where they encamped. They were joined during the evening by Heintzelman’s command, and on the succeeding morning by that of Col. Burnside, all of which troops are now encamped here.

Early in the evening Gen. Schenck’s brigade of Ohio troops was sent forward on the Hainesville road to flank the batteries, but no tidings had been heard from them up to 8 o’clock yesterday (Friday) morning, when the Congressmen left Gen. McDowell’s headquarters, bring with them his despatches to the War Department.

These dispatches put the loss of the Federalists in killed at 5, but Mr. McClernand sates that he himself saw a greater number than that killed. All of these gentlemen agree in estimating the number of killed at one hundred. The disparity between the statements of these gentlemen and the official despatches is accounted for by the fact that the latter are based upon the returns of the surgeons, and that many of the killed are oftentimes never reported until after the publication of the official accounts.

One remarkable fact which commended the special attention of the members of Congress was the absence from the portion of Virginia visited by them of all the male inhabitants capable of bearing arms. They state that they saw but few people, and those were chiefly old women and children – The women seemed to regard the soldiers with bitter hostility, and, to quote the language of one of the Congressmen, their “eyes fairly flashed fire whenever they looked at a soldier.”

General McDowell expressed no fears of being attacked, but seemed apprehensive of some of the volunteer corps stumbling upon a masked battery, and this “precipitating a general engagement.”

The loss of the Confederates is not known, but is conjectured by the Federalists to have been heavy. Among the killed is said to be one Col. Fountain – at least, a negro, deserted, so stated.

The excesses of the Federal troops in Virginia are exciting general indignation among army officers. A member of Congress, who visited the scene this morning, states that the village of Germantown has been entirely burnt, with the exception of one house, in which lay a sick man, who had been robbed, he was told, by an army surgeon of nearly every article he possessed of the slightest value, even to his jack-knife.

Gen. McDowell has issued orders that the first soldier detected in perpetrating these depredations shall be shot, and has ordered that a guard be placed over the principal residences of any town the troops may enter.

The (Baltimore, MD) Daily Exchange, 7/20/1861

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John W. Noel at Wikipedia

John A. McClernand at Wikipedia

William A. Richardson at Wikipedia

Pvt. Walter Chambers, 1st Company Washington Artillery, On the Campaign

4 11 2022

[The following interesting letter was written by a nephew of Rev. P. Stout to his little brother, a member of brother Stout’s family. The writer is a member of the New Orleans Washington Artillery. Though written for the eyes of friends alone, it is so descriptive we do well to give it to the public:}

Camp Lou’a., near Manassas Junction,
July 30th, 1861.

My dear Frank: your letter of the 1st inst, was received and should have been answered ere this, but we have been moving about so much for the last few weeks that we have scarcely had time to cook our victuals, much less write letters. You have seen in the papers accounts of our battles of the 18th and 21st. Hugh and I were in the hottest part of both of them. Charlies was in the first, but was not with us on the 21st. Our Battalion of 13 pieces was split up and stationed at different points, and only five pieces were at the “Stone Bridge.” We went on the field about 10 o’clock, and Hugh’s and my pieces (rifled cannon) were ordered immediately to a position about 1500 yards from the famed “Sherman’s Battery” which was playing on 3 pieces of our “Staunton Artillery.” As soon as we shewed ourselves on the brow of the hill, the whole of the enemy’s fire was directed on us. We unlimbered and came into Battery as quick as possible, and in a few minutes had the satisfaction of seeing our shot strike one of their pieces, killing 3 horses and disabling the piece; the next moment a Battery of 4 more pieces was seen coming down the hill, their horses at a full gallop, they approached 300 or 400 yards neared than the first an commenced throwing shell at us, the other Battery had fired only round shot, and although they struck in front and around us none of our men or horses had been hurt. The “Staunton” on our left had not fared so well, for they lost 3 men and 5 horses. About this time we heard firing on our right, and saw our Infantry who had been stationed in a thick wood to protect us, falling back cut to pieces, and the next moment a tremendous column of the enemy filed down the hillside on the left to outflank us. (The battle ground was a large, narrow wheat field, and we could see each others movements distinctly.) I began to think that we were gone, but at that moment orders came for us to retreat, and if ever you saw fellows limber up and put over the hill, quickly, we did; when we got over the other side and were protected from the enemy, we halted and there saw about 6,000 of our men lying on their faces on the ground, protected by the hill from the shot that had been fired at us; – as soon as we halted the order was given them to “Forward double quick,” and then such a yell arose as you never heard before. They rushed through the woods, and then the battle began in earnest; we could hear the firing, but could see nothing; – in a few moments they began to bring in the wounded, and as the poor fellows were carried past to the hospital (a large framed house about three-fourths of a mile off,) it made us feel very sad. – About 2 o’clock a remnant of a Virginia Regiment passed us in perfect disorder, and reported our men cut to pieces and the enemy advancing. Our hearts sank, for we knew that their cavalry would soon be upon us, and there would be no chance to escape; each man examined his pistol, resolving to die on our posts around the pieces. Then I felt glad that Charlie was not with us. At this moment our gallant General Beauregard rode up and said, “Artillery, if you can hold a position on that hill (near where we were in the morning,) for an hour, the day is ours.” Then it was our turn to shout, – our horses were rested, and up the hill we went as fast as they could run, the shot and shell falling like hail around us. I can hardly recollect what happened after that, much less describe it. The roar of our 5 guns and 3 of another battery on our right, soon made us so deaf that our commands had to be given by signs. General Beauregard had his horse shot under him by my side, and took the horse of my Seargent. After firing some time, one of our drivers who was mounted and could see down the hill side, called out to the gunner of the piece on the extreme left, that the Infantry were coming up the hill, and the next moment a shower of minnie balls rained around us, cutting the leaves from the trees and killing one of our men, the only one we lost; the gunner immediately depressed his range, loaded with canister and gave them three rounds which caused them to fall back, and immediately our Infantry charged and drove them off the field, capturing the whole Battery and completely routing the whole army. The Regiment that charged us was the “New York Fire Zouaves”: they had been held in reserve all day for the express purpose, and their orders (so we learn from the prisoners) were to take the “Washington Artillery, and give no quarters.” Out of 900 men they marched against us, only 230 left the field. – After this we went up to a high hill in front of the hospital, about two miles from, and overlooking the Centreville road, along which they were retreating, and with one of our rifled guns gave them a shot whenever they appeared in sufficiently large numbers to afford an aim; with our glasses we could see them at every fire throw down their arms and scatter like black birds. Our cavalry pursued them that night, killing and taking prisoners.

We slept that night near the battle field in a hard rain and without supper, having had nothing since the night before but a hard biscuit and a little piece of fried shoulder. Next morning we went over the battle field and human eyes never witnessed a more awful sight. During the night our wounded men had been brought in, but the dead of both sides, and the wounded of the enemy were still there. It was distressing to hear the poor wretches beg for water. I soon emptied my canteen and then had to turn a deaf ear to their cries. The ground where the Zouaves charged us was most thickly covered and their bright red uniform made their bodies very conspicuous. Here, too, I saw the most awful sights – men wounded by cannon shot, heads completely cut off, one with his face only left. During the time of their retreat, we found the baggage of the whole army thrown away; our men furnished themselves with all they wanted. I got a splendid blanket, india rubber coat, haversack, &c. They were, without doubt, the best equipped troops that ever went into the field, – every thing they had was of the very best, and in their haversacks were more provisions than we had eaten for a week; each man had a little bag of ground coffee, and sugar, things, the taste of which we had almost forgotten. It poured down rain all that day.

We expected the enemy to send in a flag of truce to bury their dead, but none came, so we had to begin the work ourselves. We worked for two days and at the end of that time had to move our camp, there begin so many unburied and the smell making it impossible for us to do more. Every form house in the neighborhood is converted into a hospital, and a large church is used for the same purpose. We have several of their own surgeons attending them.

When the retreat began they threw the wounded who were in their wagons out by the road side so as to go faster. I cannot tell their loss or ours: before this reaches you, you will have seen the official report. We took 73 of their cannon, among them Gov. Sprague’s Rhode Island Battery, the finest in the world.

After the fight, Gen. Beauregard and President Davis made us little speeches. Gen’l. B. rode up to our Major saying: “Major, give me both of your hands; – I cannot thank you for the service you have done to-day.”

On the 28th, after being scattered about for two or three weeks, we were reunited at this camp, our tents were given to us again and we are now resting after our hardships of the last 20 days.

I have given you no account of our fight on the 18th at Blackburn’s Ford, for the reason that we saw nothing but tree tops. We were in a hollow between two hills, and the enemy above us concealed from sight by the bushes; we had to aim by the smoke of their fires, and notwithstanding their advantage of numbers and position, we whipped them badly. We had seven guns, but one of them became disabled early in the fight, so we were actually 6 against 13. We lost one killed and six wounded. One man was wounded on my piece. I was handing him a ball and just as he reached out his hands a shell bursted at our side and struck him in the mouth. I was sure that he was dead from the way he fell, but I could not stop to see; he lay on the ground until we stopped firing, and then we carried him off the field and sent him to Richmond where he is now recovering and will soon be well, though very much disfigured. In that fight there was a little fellow, who was in the office with me in New Orleans. Poor boy, he was wounded early in the fight. I saw him after the battle; he knew his wound was mortal; but said all he minded was, not being able to fire a single shot. He was not in the Artillery, but was under command of the Col. who we were assigned to that day. It will be a severe blow to his family; he was only 18 years old, and they thought him too young to go, but he insisted, and our employers told him that his situation should be kept open and his salary paid, so he came [*].

Your affectionate brother,
Walter ——–.

(Tuskegee, AL) South Western Baptist, 8/22/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Walter Chambers at Ancestry.com

Walter Chambers at Fold3

*Likely Pvt. John Stacker Brooks, Co. H, 7th Louisiana, who was not yet 18 years old and in the employ of Messrs. W. M. Perkins & Co. See here.

Lt. Nathaniel Rollins, Co. H, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford

26 10 2022

Extract from a Private Letter from Lt. Rollins of the Second Regiment

Battle Field.
July 18, 1861, 6 P. M.

This forenoon I wrote you a note. – Shortly after I sealed it, a heavy cannonading commenced to the West of us. We waited for a while. At about two P. M. nothing was doing, and I went to the grove after some water. As I returned, the line was forming. Several regiments formed as quick as possible, and pushed forward at double quick time to the scene of action. A sharp musketry fire had been kept up for some time. As we neared the place, we met a number of ambulances and other conveyances bringing wounded and dead men from the field. We pushed on still farther at double quick time, and filed to the right into the line of battle, across the road. All this was in thick woods. Cannon balls whistled through the air, and cut through the trees in all directions. One struck the ground about forty feet ahead of our line and bounded over us about two or three feet above our heads, and directly over mine. We were then ordered to sit down. One ball struck the La Crosse company, and wounded three or four men very badly. – We stayed here about one and a half hours. Rifled cannon balls were flying all the time; most of them too high, but some covering us with dirt. We were then ordered to retreat, as we could be of no use where we were. The rebels are in a ravine, with cannon, where we cannot reach them without very great exposure. Since we have halted by the roadside, several regiments have passed – First and Second Ohio, and some others – towards the field again.

8 o’clock P. M. – When I had got so far in the above, the bugle sounded “to arms,” and we fell in, and started again towards the enemy. We are now encamped for the night in a field, where we are to sleep again by our arms in the open air. The New York Twelfth was cut up this afternoon very badly. We shall most likely try them again in the morning. – Through so much of the battle, Col. COON has acted in the capacity of aid to Gen. SHERMAN, our Brigadier, and behaved very bravely. Lt. Col. PECK appears as cool as on parade.

N. R.

The (WI) State Journal, 7/24/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Nathaniel Rollins at Ancestry.com

Nathaniel Rollins at Fold3

Nathaniel Rollins at FindAGrave

More on Nathaniel Rollins here and here and here.

Corp. Samuel Leitch West, Co. I, 3rd South Carolina Infantry. On the Campaign

25 10 2022


The following letter was written by Samuel L. West, of Co. K*, 3rd S. C. Reg., to his father after the first battle of Manassas and is printed here for its most accurate description of the incidents in connection with that fierce struggle in which it was revealed to the whole world that the South could only be overcome by force and funds. Through the remaining years of the war Mr. West proved himself a good soldier. After the war he returned to his home near West Springs, where he died a few years ago greatly beloved by all who knew him.

Camp at Vienna, Va., Aug. 8, 1861

Dear Father: I received yours and Sallie’s (Miss Sallie West, sister of the writer) most welcome letters yesterday with a thankful heart. It always affords me a great deal of pleasure to hear from home, and what grieves me most is that I do not hear as often as I wish to.

You stated in your letter that you wished me to give you a detailed account of the late battle (First Manassas or Bull Run). I shall proceed to do so in a brief manner, although no doubt you have heard as much or more possibly more concerning the battle than I have. Yet what I have to say is certainly true; and it may be relied on as being authentic in every respect.


On the morning of the 17th of July I arose from my tent, after having a good night’s sleep, and went outside. I was surprised to see a wagon and horses standing in our street, ready to receive our baggage. Upon making proper inquiries, I found that we were expecting an attack from the enemy, which information did not cause me to feel the least uneasiness from the fact that we had several false alarms before, and we had slept on our arms a good many nights previous to this in expectation of an attack.

Time wore along, the sun had risen about two hours high when suddenly the report of a volley of musketry fell on my ears. It was the advance guard of the enemy, which had fired on Kershaw’s pickets, who were stationed on the Falls Church road. The firing was done for a two-fold purpose. It was done to kill the pickets; and also to let the enemy know their position. The advancing body of the enemy were coming along by the Alexandria road on which our regiment was stationed. Everything was in a stir as soon as the firing was heard. All our tents were struck immediately and put in the wagon together with all our camp equipage, and started off with the rest of the wagons (each company has its own wagon) to Bull Run. We thought that the wagons had been sent off in order to have our baggage a safe distance from the enemy in case we were defeated, for we were expecting to have to fight in a few minutes as the Yankees were not more than a mile off at this time. So soon as our wagons were all started off we were formed as though we were going on a dress parade, with the exception of its being done in a more hurried manner. As soon as the parade was formed, Col. Williams rode to the front of the regiment and raising his cap, said: “Fellow soldiers, let us remember what we have come here to do; let us remember where we are from, and let ‘victory or death’ be our motto.” That was all he said. When he had finished we raised out hats and gave such a shout that no doubt it was heard in the ranks of the enemy.

We were then marched off in double quick time to take our place in the line of battle which was already forming some two hundred yards from the court house building and west of it, on front of the long extended lines of the Yankee troops which could be distinctly seen about a half mile off with their bright bayonets glistening in the sun. We stood in front of the Yankees for about 15 minutes, when for some reason which I never could understand, our position was changed. A Virginia regiment was marched out from behind a breastwork, and made to take its place in the open field.; and we were marched from off the field and made to occupy the breastworks. We had not more than stationed ourselves behind the works, and I had laid my musket down on top of the breastwork for a rest, and took sight along the barrel to see if my place as a good one for bringing a Yankee down every shot, for I was determined to take aim and make my shots tell, when in looking around me I saw a courier coming on a horse all covered with foam and sweat. He came up to General Bonham and gave him an order from General Beauregard, who is our commander-in-chief. As soon as Bonham read the order, he extended it to the officers of his command, and in a few minutes we were going toward Centerville in double quick time.

Here permit me to digress in order to give you the positions of the opposing armies. The Federal army was composed of 45,000 men who were disposed in three different columns of 15,000 men each. The first was to attack us on the east, or front; the second was to attack us on the north, or left flank; the third was to fall in our rear and cut off our retreat. All these troops were under the command of General McDowell. Our troops, which were the only ones to oppose the Federal forces at Fairfax, consisted of two brigades, viz; General Bonham’s, which was made up of Kershaw’s Williams’ Bacon’s and Cash’s regiments of South Carolina volunteers, and General Boone’s two Alabama, one Louisiana and one Virginia regiment, making in all about 7,000 men.


It was General Beauregard’s intention for us to engage the enemy at Fairfax, but his keen perceptive eye finding out the superior generalship they displayed, and the overwhelming numbers they were bringing against us, thought it prudent not to risk an engagement for fear of being cut off and made prisoners. Hence the retreat to Centerville, which many of us, not knowing the cause of our flight, thought that we Carolinians whose names were synonymous with that of the brave, would be forever disgraced; and all the bright hopes of laurels which were expected to be won by many a gallant heart on the soil of Virginia, were about to be vanquished. We set out for Centerville about 9 o’clock in the morning, and as I stated before in double quick time. The day was extremely hot. Many of our men fell down by the roadside perfectly exhausted. One of Kershaw’s men was so overheated and wearied by the fatigues of the march that he died, the same evening. Poor fellow, he died a long way from home without the soothing had of a mother to administer to his wants or the kind words of a sister to alleviate the sufferings of his sinking nature. However, he died a martyr to his country, surrounded by warm-hearted brothers in arms who dropped a soldiers’ tear over his grave. Soon after his death we buried him there at Centerville by digging a grave and lowering his body in without any coffin.

We arrived at Centerville at 2 o’clock in the afternoon after having run a distance of eight miles without resting more than long enough at a time to get breath. Many of our men, who gave out on the road, were picked up by the cavalry and artillery wagons that covered our retreat. Those who were not picked up came in after resting an hour or so. Happily, none of them fell into the hands of the enemy, who were in pursuit. It was Beauregard’s intention for us to stay all night at Centerville and make a stand next morning to hold the enemy until 10 o’clock, at which time he expected re-inforcements to arrive, which would enable us to meet the Federals with no so much odds against us. It was also his determination to fight at Bull Run, let the consequences be what they might.


We were to have left Centerville for Bull Run the next day at 10 o’clock, but after the sun had gone down and darkness had covered the earth, a low rumbling sound was heard in the direction of the lower road leading from Fairfax to Manassas. It was easily accounted for; the rumbling was artillery wheels going over the turnpike road, the roaring was the tramp, tramp of an army, who was aware of a stand being made at Centerville by our troops. The enemy had sent a division around to endeavor to again cut us off.

General Bonham, in the darkness of the night, with a command not above a whisper, had his brigade formed with a deathlike stillness and set out in the same manner for Bull Run, where we arrived about 3 o’clock in the morning. At daylight McDowell closed his divisions on Centerville, where we expected to find and crush us. Bonham’s shrewdness though had evaded this move, and consequently they were again sadly disappointed.

About 10 o’clock McDowell appeared in front of our lines and displayed his columns to the right and left of the road. He began to move forward to the attack at 10:30 o’clock no doubt believing that we would do as we had been in the habit of doing before – run. Poor fellow, he did not understand the game at all, he little thought that the very ground he occupied was to be the scene of his disaster and defeat, and that out maneuvres were the means of drawing him to the place where Beauregard wished him to give us battle.

It was McDowell’s intention at first to move on our right wing and centre, but an old lady who lived on top of the hill in our front told him as he was moving forward of the strong position we occupied and the vast amount of cannon we laid at the ford. Having received this information regarding our position, he changed his plan of moving on our centre and began to marshal his forces entirely on our right wing.

Sherman’s battery moved in front and opened on our right at 11 o’clock with a heavy fire of grape and canister. Captain Kemper advanced from our centre to the support of the right wing with two pieces of his battery, and returned the fire briskly, doing terrible damage, mowing down whole ranks of the enemy at every fire. The destructive cannonade was kept up for about one hour, when, by this time, the Federal infantry had marched up within musket shot of our lines and opened fire.

The firing on our side was simultaneous with theirs. Such a roaring of artillery and musketry at this time, is beyond description. It was one continual thunder upon thunder until the earth seemed to shake to its very foundations. The battle raged with great fury for three hours after this. Our brave boys drove them back three times in succession at the point of the bayonet. The last time the enemy retired, leaving us in full possession of the field.

The regiments engaged on our side were the 1st Virginia, one Alabama, and one Louisiana, with several scattering men from other regiments of the line, make in all around 3,000 men. Our loss was thirty killed and some forty or fifty wounded. (Above statement refers to the number of men under General Beauregard). The enemy’s force engaged was between 7,000 and 10,000 men. Their loss was 1,000 killed and 1,500 wounded.

I should have stated in the outset that our company (Co. I, 3rd Reg., S. C. V.) received the first fire. We wee on picket duty at the commencement of the battle, or rather sent forward in front of our line of battle to watch the movements of the enemy more than anything else. After the enemy had planted its battery and had fired two shots at our right wing, they discovered our position, which was about a mile from our line and three-quarters of a mile from the enemy’s battery. They only fired at us twice. The first was a round shot, which came within about forty feet of us. The second shot was grape, which flew thick around us. Happily none of us were touched. We retired back to our place in the line, for it would have been the height of folly for us to have remained and been cut to pieces without being able to fire a musket, for we were out of musket shot distance, while they were in good grape shot range and could have shot is to pieces in a little while. We were not in musket shot distance all the day, but had to stand and endure a fire of shot and shell from the enemy all the time without the privilege of returning the compliment. Through the providence of the god of battles, to whom the glory and praise forever, none of us were harmed.

Toward night, after the guns had hushed their thunder and the drama lay in silence, every man was ordered to throw down his arms and gather the entrenching tools and get to work. Although the Yankees were soundly thrashed, yet we were aware that all their forces had not been engaged and that they intended to try us again. We worked all night and till the middle of the next day, when by that time we had finished a strong breastwork of solid earth. We remained the balance of the day, which was the day after the battle, in our trenches with muskets in hand, but there was no sign of an attack. We slept on our arms in the trenches that night. The day following was Saturday. Nothing new turned up. McDowell was evidently awaiting reinforcements. Beauregard became aware of it and showed that that was a game two could play at. He sent immediately to Winchester for Johnston, who arrived that same evening with his command. That night we slept on our arms again in the trenches.

Next day was Sunday – memorable day – I will always remember it as the greatest day of my life. Early in the morning the enemy commenced playing its batteries on our right, centre and left wing as though they were going to attack our entire line. The firing commenced at 7 o’clock, but gradually died away on our right, while it was kept up furiously on our centre, and began to strengthen and grow more alarming on the left wing. It was soon ascertained that the enemy intended to outflank us if it was in their power, for this purpose, they directed their whole force against our left flank. Johnston’s forces were stationed in our rear, as a reserve, but when it was found out that we were about to be outflanked, he was sent immediately to the left to prevent it. Being the senior officer on the left, he was given full command of the left wing. Beauregard commanded the right wing, and President Davis the centre. This was our order of battle when the enemy poured forth his legions like so many thunderbolts on our gallant left wing. As I said before, the cannonading commenced at 7 o’clock and was kept up till 10:30 o’clock, doing great damage on both sides, but a great deal more on the side of the enemy as our gunners seemed to understand their business better than the Yankees.

When the infantry on both sides opened with such a terrific fire, it seemed to me as though the heavens and the earth were coming together. For six long hours I could hear nothing but the thunder of musketry and artillery. The opposing armies, it seemed, would fight for about a half an hour every moment growing more fierce in the work of death, when suddenly they would almost stop, as if to get breath; a few occasional shots could only be heard, then again the firing would commence from rank to rank and resume its thunder for another period. Thus it was from 10:30 o’clock till sundown, when the enemy, fully convinced that we could not be whipped, broke and fled like so many scared rabbits.

The only part we played in this fight was to charge the enemy’s batteries in front of the centre. We were stationed at Mitchell’s Ford on the road leading directly from Manassas to Fairfax Court House. This was looked upon as being the most important post in our line, and it is regarded by our regiment as a great compliment to have been assigned to so important a position. But back to the charge I spoke of. The charging column was made up of our regiment, Bacon’s, Kelly’s, and one from Louisiana. We set out in double quick time, with a shout at every step, and went up to the ground where the enemy’s guns had been planted and from where they had been shooting at us all day, but they had made good their escape with the exception of a few poor fellows who, I suppose, were too scared to run. We took them prisoners. They told ys that their pickets came running in as soon as they heard us shout on the charge and told them to run for their lives as the Rebels were coming like so many bloodhounds.

This was about sundown, and the flight of the enemy was general from our centre to the extreme left wing. They ran helter-skelter, through the woods and over each other. A great many of their own men were killed by the artillery wagons and cavalrymen running over them. We pursued them for three miles and the cavalry pursued them father, killing some and taking a large number of prisoners. By this time it was very dark, and we stopped our pursuit and went back to Bull Run, where we slept on our arms the balance of the night. Next morning it was raining but we set out to gather the fruits of the victory. We were all day in gathering up that the enemy had left. The spoils consisted of provisions of all kinds for the army, a large amount of guns of improved pattern, four excellent brass cannon and thousands of oilcloths and blankets. To the last mentioned articles we helped ourselves to the best we could find, and left the rest for those who might chance to find them. What I speak of as being taken was by our fellows. The army took in all about 20,000 stand of arms, 61 pieces of cannon, a great deal of provisions and other things that space will not permit me to mention. I have heard men, experienced in military affairs, say that the Yankee army was the best equipped army that was ever raised on this continent. They were fully prepared for a three years’ campaign. But, thank God, they were hurled back from Virginia’s fair land almost as soon as they had polluted it by their presence. Their loss in the battle was from five to eight thousand killed, with an innumerable number of wounded. Out total loss was somewhere about 500 killed and 15,000 wounded.

The Yankees evidently expected a great victory, as their congress adjourned the day previous. Many of the members, together with a great many ladies from Washington, came out to see us whipped and carried back with them in chains. One of One of their number was taken prisoner by Capt. Carrington, of Cash’s regiment.

The stampede among the ladies and members of congress was as great as it was among the soldiers. It is said that the screams of the ladies was frightful indeed, for so eager were the men to get off that they ran and left the ladies to shift for themselves. But they were borne along in some way by the resisltess throng of fugitives, who were making their way to Washington.

After we had done gathering up the fruits of the victory, we marched to this place, where we have been staying ever since. Our regiment has the measles in it now. A great many men are beginning to take them. It is thought that our brigade will be moved back from our advanced position till we get through the measles.

I might speak a great deal more about the battle, giving account of the actions of prominent characters, but time and space will not permit.

You must excuse my hurried writing. Tell Sallie I will write soon.


Write soon. Give my respects to all,


Confederate Veterans Edition of the Spartanburg (SC) Herald, 8/17/1910

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*Records and letter text indicate that West was a member of Co. I.

Samuel L. West at Ancestry.com

Samuel L. West at Fold3

Samuel L. West at FindAGrave

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


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,


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.


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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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


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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