We are indebted to the kind courtesy of Governor Letcher for the opportunity of laying the following before our readers. It is an aged gentleman’s account of that glorious victory which is still thrilling the hearts of the aged and the young, and which spreads noble joy over our whole Commonwealth, from the mansion of our Governor to the humblest cabin in the most lonely mountain gorge; and over the whole vast extent of our beloved Confederacy:
Fauquier County, Virginia,
Recotortown, July 25, 1861.
To his Excellency, John Letcher, Gov. of Va.,
Dear Sir – Being an eye-witness to the battle fought at the Stone Bridge, on Bull Run, on the 21st inst. and the battle fought on the same day on Bull Run at the old battle ground, believing it may be interesting to you to get a history of these battles who has known all the ground fought over for the last 50 years, this, together with a rough diagram of the fields of battle, I enclose to you.
The favorable position I occupied during the day with a spy glass, enabled me to see the beginning and end of that day’s fighting. The firing at the old battle ground commenced at 20 minutes after 7 o’clock. A brisk cannonading was kept up until the battle commenced at the Stone Bridge, which lasted until 5 o’clock in the evening, at which time I saw the enemy in full retreat at double-quick time, closely pursued by our forces, the artillery, and cavalry – the artillery pouring their deadly fires into the ranks a every favorable opportunity, and the cavalry charging upon them and mowing them down like a scythe in the grass. In this retreat the enemy for about 3 1/2 miles was miserably slaughtered. The object no doubt of the enemy in opening their batteries at the old battle ground, was to draw our forces to this point. Gen. Beauregard took but little notice of this firing, but in a few minutes after the first fire at this point our forces were in full march for the Stone Bridge. We had only a small force at the ford on Bull Run, where the first battle was fought, but they were well fortified, and these batteries, at the distance they were from our forces, did us no injury during the day. What was the number of their forces at this point, we were unable to judge, because they were concealed in a woods immediately in the rear of their batteries (See diagram.) [Diagram not included.] At about five o’clock, and about the time the enemy made their retreat at the Stone Bridge, a reinforcement of about 10,000 hove in sight, which had, as I understand, been stationed at the Union Mill, to prevent their crossing a ford on Bull Run, near this point. They were travelling in double-quick time, as I supposed; they were aiming to cut off the enemy’s retreat from the Stone Bridge to Centreville. They were too late to effect that object, but not too late to attack and defeat the enemy at the old battle ground. But little has been said of this battle, because of its small importance when compared with the battle at the Stone Bridge. The distance from Camp Pickens to the Stone Bridge is 5 miles. The main battle did not commence at the Stone Bridge, but at least two miles west of it. The enemy, in large force, had moved up Bull Run in the direction of Sudley, and near that point crossed over an marched towards Dogan’s. – The high ground and woods between the Stone Bridge and Dogan’s, concealed them from our view. Dogan’s is on a high ridge, which continues until you get near the Stone Bridge. Near Dogan’s is where the enemy rushed from the woods and made their attack on the left wing of our army in such force that I cannot compare them in numbers to any thing else that a pigeon roost in a forest, when the pigeons are either coming in or going out. Our left wing in numbers could not have numbered one to ten of the enemy. Here our brave heroes sustained their position for one hour, repulsing the enemy whenever they attempted to extend their line to flank them. At this point was our greatest loss. As soon as our reinforcements came to the relief of our noble band, we soon repulsed the enemy. – They soon rallied and a more dearly fire kept up than tongue can express or imagination conceive. The enemy took a firm stand, and well did they maintain it for two hours. At this warmly contested stand the firing of the small arms reminded me of a long train of cars passing speedily over a bridge. I could not conceive how a single man could escape the fire. The enemy could not stand it, and again we repulsed them; but they soon rallied and made a desperate effort. We then gave way, but soon rallied, and the fight seemed to be still more desperate than before, and each party seemed as though it was death or victory on both sides. This state of things continued for two hours or more. Then the enemy gave way. Again they soon rallied and came into the fight as they had before, determined to die or be victorious. They stood the deadly fire of our noble and heroic and brave boys, led on and cheered on by our noble and brave Beauregard and Johnson, who were seen during the day in the thickest of the fight. The Yankees stood this hot and incessant fire until five o’clock, when they took their final leave of us in double-quick time, closely pursued by our artillery and cavalry, for a distance of between three and a half or four miles, to Cub Run. At Cub Run there is a high bridge to cross, and here the cavalry made a desperate charge upon them, capturing the last piece of their cannon, fifty horses and forty wagons, with a number of other valuables. Besides the killing and taking of prisoners, we have taken in cannon in sixty-three pieces, in small arms an immense quantity. – The precise number will never be known, as the country people around in every direction have well supplied themselves with arms to defend their homes, which they were very deficient in before this battle, for arms for the home guard. Now it seems that God, in His kind providence, has provided us with all the material comforts and arms for our defence. – Yes, on the Sabbath of the 21st instant, we received a refreshing shower of blessing; yet it had some hail mixed with it, which cut down many noble sons of the South. In clothing, arm, ammunition and war materials, we are abundantly supplied for the present. I have now closed my observations on the occurrences of the 21st instant. That night we returned to our camp, our bosoms filled to overflowing with joy at the result of the day. We knew that night we had driven the Yankees to Centreville, yet we were restless that night to know what would be the action on to-morrow. On the next day, early in the morning, I found the whole army marching in the direction of Centreville. The army was headed by the cavalry, they followed by the artillery, then the volunteers. Before the last of the volunteers had left camp I saw t first of the volunteers that I had passed returning. All were anxious to know the cause of this move. I was then at the Quartermaster’s department. An officer rode up in great haste, and said they had received a dispatch at headquarters informing them that the Yankees had fled from Centreville, and they had crossed over to Washington. Then all our force, except the cavalry and artillery, were ordered back. – They passed on to Fairfax Court House.
It was, or ought to have been, very pleasing to all Southerners to witness the cheerfulness of the soldiers in their line of march on Monday Morning for Centreville. It was raining incessantly, as it had been all the morning; the road which they were travelling, was about shoe-deep in mud, yet they looked cheerful, and seemed anxious to pursue the enemy. I must mention, while the volunteers were passing, I discovered in the ranks my old and esteemed friend Philip Pitman[*], of Shenandoah, who has been a member of both branches of the Virginia Legislature, and is still a member. He is about 60 years of age; his head as white as snow. He seemed happy and contented, as if he was on a deer hunt, which sport he very much enjoys. If all the Southern boys were made of such material as Philip Pitman the Yankee boys would not stand up long before us.
Richmond Enquirer, 8/5/1861
Contributed by John Hennessy
*Philip Pitman was a member of Co. F, 10th VA Infantry. He would be discharged for old age and return to the Virginia Legislature. See here.