Pvt. Robert Welch, Co. H,  71st New State Militia, On the Battle

25 03 2022

The 71st N. Y. AT BULL RUN.

—————

It Suffered Quite a Heavy Loss.

Editor National Tribune: I am and have been very much interested in your history of the different armies. In your issue of June 6, I your account of the losses of Burnside’s Brigade, you mention the losses of the 1st and 2d R. I. and 2d N. H., but not of the 71st N. Y. S. M. As I have the published report of Col. Martin of the 71st, in my possession, I can add to your record. The report is dated Aug. 1, 1861, and gives the name of every man; Killed in action: 10; died from wounds, five; wounded, 36; prisoners, 19; missing, 5; total, 75. I was wounded and lay at the Sudley Church when the retreat was made from the extreme right flank. When Johnston’s reinforcements arrived Co. I, Capt. Ellis (afterwards Colonel of the 124th N. Y.) commanded the battery of two Dahlgren howitzers and did effective work. Gen. Beauregard, in his account of the battle, says that the two howitzers did more damage than the Parrott guns. As far as my judgement, after the experience of over five years later service, the battle of Bull Run was miserably managed. Several thousand troops were not brot into action, and, as you say, the battle was fought by piece meals. I can say this, that Burnside’s Brigade went in action as a brigade. As the brigade marched out of the timber beyond Sudley Church and was clear of it the order was given “By the left flank,” and the brigade went into action as a unit. When they arrived at the top of the knoll on the left flank of the enemy a volley was poured into the enemy, we receiving one in return, buy which I was wounded, then taken to Sudley Church Hospital, not knowing of any further action of the brigade afterwards. I look back on the battle of Bull Run as a small affair compared with what I was in afterwards, more especially during the siege of Port Hudson and Sheridan’s Shenandoah campaign and the Red River campaign.

—–Robert Welch, Co. H, 71st N. Y. S. M. 203 Tompkins avenue, Brooklyn, N. Y.

National Tribune, 7/25/1907

Clipping Image

Robert Welch at Ancestry

Robert Welch at Fold3





Boat Howitzers of Co. I, 71st New York State Militia

7 08 2021

I wrote a bit about the newly installed boat howitzers to represent those of Co. I, 71st NYSM, on the left of the James Rifles of Reynolds’s Rhode Island battery on Matthews Hill (see here). And I shared a video I shot with Dana Shoaf of Civil War Times magazine and Manassas National Battlefield Park superintendent Brandon Bies at that site here. The day before that video, I stopped by the guns and took a few photos, which follow.

First, the wayside marker:

Next, a shot from the rear of each gun, looking towards Henry Hill.

You may notice the “hammer locks” on the breeches. One on the left of one gun, and on the right of the other. These guns didn’t use the friction primers that were inserted into holes in the breeches of most other guns you’ve seen. Instead, they had hammers which were brought down to fire these howitzers, similar to a musket. One lock being on the left and one on the right indicates that one of these guns was produced after 1864. Thanks to friend Craig Swain, who wrote about this type of cannon in a series of posts here. Below are a couple of images of the “hammer locks.”

Here’s a head on shot of one of the guns.

Last, here’s a view of the boat howitzers in line with Reynolds’s battery. Beyond is the Sudley Road, and beyond that, on Dogan Ridge, the first positions of Griffin’s and Ricketts’s guns. Take a look that way next time you’re out there. Few ever do.





Anniversary Video with Civil War Times: Matthews Hill, 7/21/2021

23 07 2021

Our first stop on Thursday was the gun line on Matthews Hill. Until just recently, this meant the five James Rifles of Reynolds’s Rhode Island Battery. But just last week two 12-pdr Dahlgren Boat Howitzers were installed at the site of those of the 71st New York State Militia, then under the command of the Captain of Co. I, Augustus Van Horne Ellis (read his brother John’s account of the battle here).

Appearing in this video are Civil War Times Magazine editor Dana Shoaf, Manassas National Battlefield Park superintendent Brandon Bies, and myself. Civil War Times director of photography Melissa Winn is behind the camera.





Bull Run at Gettysburg: Augustus Van Horne Ellis

21 06 2021

5844752_138322203831

Capt. Augustus Van Horne Ellis, Co. I, 71st NYSM from FindAGrave

In a few weeks, the National Park Service will be placing two boat howitzers on the field at Manassas National Battlefield Park to represent the position occupied during the Frist Battle of Bull Run by two boat howitzers of Co. I, 71st New York State Militia. The tubes which are right now being prepared for placement at the left end of the line of James Rifles of Reynolds’s Rhode Island Battery on Matthews Hill have been relocated from a monument installation outside the Fairfax County Courthouse. You can read all about it here.

Untitled

From left, Brandon S. Bies, Andrew Bentley, Jim Burgess, and Jason Edwards, all with the National Park Service’s Manassas National Battlefield Park, disassemble two Civil War cannons that were given to the Manassas Battlefield. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

You can find the position on the D. B. Harris map here, but below is a smaller section of the map. Look at the far right of the line of guns (little crosses) farthest north.

Harris Map Matthews Hill Detail

Harris map detail courtesy of Manassas National Battlefield Park

This recent development reminded me that I have had a draft post sitting around for years – yes, literally years.

On December 3 of whatever year that was, I was at Gettysburg, tromping the field with friend John Banks. Our travels took us up Big Round Top, through the Triangular Field, along the old trolley path, and up through Devil’s Den. Not quite as many Bull Run connections on this route as on Hancock Avenue the day before, but I always manage to root them out. In this case, let’s take a look at the monument to the 124th New York Infantry that sits on Houck’s Ridge above the site of the regiment’s July 2, 1863 action, what Harry Pfanz dubbed “The Triangular Field.”

IMG_20171203_134439941

Atop the monument sits the unmistakable likeness of the regiment’s commanding officer, Colonel Augustus Van Horne Ellis. I say unmistakable, because here is the most well known image of Ellis:

BS_EllisAV1863_01

I know, right?

As you’ve read in the link, at First Bull Run then Captain Ellis was in command of two 12-pdr Navy boat howitzers attached to the 71st New York Infantry (Co. I). There were at least four Ellis brothers in the 71st at the battle: Julius E., Samuel C., and John S. all served in Co. F. Julius, the captain of that company, was mortally wounded. (You can read an account of the battle by brother John here.) The ultimate fate of Co. I’s boat howitzers that were lost at the battle is murky (mention of the “recovery” of the lost boat howitzers in the 71st NYSM Regimental History).

A fifth Ellis brother was in the 79th New York Highlanders at the battle.

At Gettysburg, Ellis’s “Orange Blossoms,” as they were called due to the large number of recruits from Orange County, NY, were part of the Ward’s Brigade, Birney’s Division, Sickles’s Corps of the Army of the Potomac. On July 2, 1863, they were positioned along Houck’s Ridge above Devil’s Den. Across and up the triangular field in front of them came Texans of John Bell Hood’s division of James Longstreet’s First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. The “Orange Blossoms'” position and situation was critical. After slowing the advance of the 1st Texas Infantry at short range, Major James Cromwell, who explained that the field officers of the regiment, including Ellis, were mounted because “The men must see us today,” repeatedly requested permission to lead a charge. Initially denying him, Ellis finally assented. Unable to resist, he also joined in. The move stopped the enemy advance, but Cromwell was shot down when the reforming Texans fired another volley. Ellis encouraged his men to rescue their major, and as the Texans were pushed back, the colonel was killed instantly by a bullet to the head. His and Cromwell’s bodies were recovered and placed on a boulder to the rear of the regiment, and the 124th NY returned to their original position, the Confederate advance in that part of the field successfully, but expensively, repulsed. Of the 238 officers and men taken into battle, the “Orange Blossoms” lost 92 in killed and wounded.

Legend has it that the monument to the 124th New York on Houck’s Ridge (one of two monuments to the regiment on the field), with the full portrait sculpture of Colonel Augustus Van Horne Ellis, sits atop the boulder on which he and his major were placed by their men. If that legend isn’t true, it should be.

Augustus Van Horne Ellis at Fold3

Augustus Van Horne Ellis at FindAGrave

Augustus Van Horne Ellis at Wikipedia

71st New York State Militia Regimental History

An account of Ellis’s death at Gettysburg

Some info on this type of gun