Lt. William Mack Robbins, Co. G, 4th Alabama Infantry, On the Battle

25 11 2018

With Generals Bee and Jackson at the First Battle of Manassas

On the afternoon of July 18, 1861, the army of [Brigadier General Joseph E.] Johnston – about ten-thousand strong – which had been for some weeks manoeuvering up and down the [Shenandoah] Valley in front of [Major General Robert] Patterson and was then lying around Winchester, was hastily put in motion and marched off southeastwardly, going we knew not whither. Most of the men belonged to the class which may be described as “young bloods,” sons of planters, reared in ease and affluence – intelligent, merry hearted, high spirited, full of romance and enthusiasm. They had volunteered at the first call, not only from devotion to the cause, but love of adventure, and there was nothing they were so eager for as to get into battle, being somewhat tinctured with the idea that they “could whip at least three Yankees apiece,” and were rather afraid that the war might come to an end before they got the chance to prove it. In spite of their confidence in their general, they had been a good deal chagrined and disgusted at what they deemed his overwary strategy in not delivering battle to the enemy under Patterson. They were therefore greatly delighted to hear the general order which General Johnston caused to be read to each regiment as soon as we got well out of Winchester that summer evening. That order was about in these words: “Beauregard is attacked by overwhelming odds at Manassas. Your commanding general has full confidence in your zeal and devotion and asks every man to step out lively. You are going on a forced march over the mountains to reinforce your companions in arms and save the country.” Loud cheers welcomed the tidings. The prospect of an early encounter with the enemy loomed up ahead and stimulated the impatient spirits of the men to their best exertions. Heat, dust, and night-fall soon made the rapid march disagreeable enough, but it was pushed without a check till we reached the Shenandoah. This river, about waist deep, was waded at dawn of July 19, amidst songs, jokes, and general hilarity. The Blue Ridge was passed at Ashby’s Gap, and at evening of the same day the head of the column arrived at Piedmont Station on the Manassas Gap Railroad, whence Johnston’s forces were sent forward in detachments by rail as fast as transportation could be furnished.

So much has been said about Johnston’s troops appearing on the field in the nick of time after the battle had been long ranging that the impression extensively prevails that none of them were there at its beginning. This is a great mistake. Three brigades – [Brigadier General Thomas J.] Jackson’s, [Col.] F. S. Bartow’s and nearly all of [Brigadier General Barnard E.] Bee’s – were at hand when the battle opened and bore an important part in it all day. The Fourth Alabama and other regiments of Bee’s Brigade reached the Junction at noon of the twentieth and were among the very earliest in the conflict the next day. It was only the comparatively minor number of Johnston’s men under [Brigadier General Edmund] Kirby Smith and [Colonel Arnold] Elzey that leaped from the train when they heard the battle in progress, and, hastening down the Warrenton Pike, came in so luckily on the right rear of the Federals and caused the panic which gave the victory to the Confederates.

I have spoken of the eagerness of our inexperienced but enthusiastic soldiers to see and participate in the battle. The feeling did not diminish, but rather grew in intensity on this occasion, up to the time of actual engagement, and how much longer I cannot say; but one thing is certain – all of us by the time the day was over felt sufficiently amused. Thousands of soldiers on both sides know all about the experience of a first battle, and anything said on the subject would be but an old tale to them; but those who never took a hand, and especially young who have come up since the war would no doubt like to know how a battle looks and seems to a new soldier – its thrill, its thunder, its grandeur, its horror, and no lees its odd, absurd, and even grotesque features. I do not feel competent to paint an adequate picture and description of these things. I doubt if any pen can fitly paint them. A few hints about how this battle opened and proceeded – as the writer saw it – must suffice. The Fourth Alabama were busy with breakfast near the junction when the sudden boom of a gun in the direction of the railroad bridge over Bull Run drew our eyes that way and we saw for the first time the little dense round sphere of white vapor, high up in the air, produced by the bursting of a shell. This was quickly followed by others, the design of the Federals being to draw all attention to that part of the line while they were executing their shrewd flanking movement on our left. However, our regiment, with others of Bee’s Brigade, was at once moved at double-quick towards the Confederate left, to a position that had been allotted to us at one of the upper fords. But we had scarcely reached the designated point when we were again ordered to go at a rapid run for about two miles still further up the stream to meet the Federals – our commanders having just at that moment discovered that they had crossed the stream at Sudley’s Ford, entirely beyond the Confederate left, and were pouring down in heavy force on that flank. All depended on presenting a quick front to this unexpected movement. So we went  – a few battalions only – across the fields at out highest speed, and soon reached the plateau of the Henry House, around which the battle was afterward mainly fought. But Bee did not permit us to stop there. He marked that as the most favorable position for the Confederate line to form its new front on, but he knew his brigade alone could not hold it and he also saw that the enemy would reach it, unless checked and delayed by some means before an adequate force of Confederates could get there to oppose them. To gain the needed time it was necessary to risk the sacrifice of the two and a half regiments then with him by a bold movement still further to the front. He could not hesitate. So he ordered the Fourth Alabama, Second Mississippi, and Eleventh Mississippi (two companies) to move half a mile further forward to the next ridge to engage the enemy and delay them as long as possible. Down the slope we rushed, panting, breathless, but still eager because ignorant of the desperate crisis which had doomed us to probably destruction to save the whole army. As we passed the little rivulet below the Stone House, the duel of the artillery began and the shells of friend and foe shrieked wildly above our heads. Mounting the hill and entering the copse of timber north of the Stone House, we began to hear a sharp cracking of musketry ahead of us – a collision  between the Federals and some small bodies of Confederates we had not known were there before, among them [Major C. R.] Wheat’s Louisiana Tigers, wearing the zouave uniform.

As we emerged from the little wood we caught sight of these Tigers, utterly overwhelmed and flying pell-mell, most of them running off to our right and toward the stream (Bull Run). This and their zouave uniform, which we had never before seen, but had heard some of the enemy wore, for a minute caused us to mistake these “Tigers” for Federals and as they were flying in disorder, some of our men set up a loud yell and shout of victory, supposing the enemy were already routed and retreating, whereupon one ardent fellow of the Fourth Alabama, with his finger on the trigger and anxious to pull down on somebody before they all got away, burst out with: “Stop your darned hollerin’ or we won’t get a shot!” But the mistake was discovered just in time to prevent our firing on friends. A little way further up the hill beyond the timber and we struck the enemy and no mistake. Their long advancing line, with the Stars and Stripes waving above it (which made some of us feel sorry), began to peer over the crest, eighty yards in our front, and opened a terrific fire, which at first went mostly over us. It is proper to mention that the Mississippians, who had come with us, were halted at the edge of the wood behind us, and so did not get into the hot conflict that ensued, the whole brunt of which thus fell on the Fourth Alabama alone. On receiving the enemy’s first fire we lay down and waited till we could see their bodies to the waist, when we gave them a volley which was very effective, firing uphill. The Federals fell back and disappeared behind the crest. After some interval they advanced another and longer line; but the result was the same as before, only they held on longer this time and their fire hurt us badly. A third time they came on in a line which extended both our flanks, and now the conflict became bloody and terrible to us, their balls coming not only from the front but from the right and left oblique, cutting down our colonel (Egbert Jones) and stretching lifeless many a familiar form so recently full of hope and gayety. Then war began to show us his wrinkled front. But we thought of what they would say at home if we flinched and how ashamed we should feel if after all the big talk about whipping the enemy we let them whip us at the first chance. We could see, too, that they were as awkward at the business and enjoyed it as little as ourselves. Besides, it looked like they could hardly help killing every one of us if we got up and tried to run away. It seemed our safest chance to hug the ground and pepper away at them; and so from sheer desperation, as much as anything, we kept to it, until after awhile, to our great joy, the enemy fell back once more behind the crest, and their fire lulled. Our general, seeing we would be certainly overwhelmed at the next onslaught, gave us the order to retire, which we did before another attack. We had been at it for over an hour and had really rendered great service in gaining time for the Confederate army to change front and form the new line. But nearly one third of the Fourth Alabama had gone down in the effort and were left on the ground, including the colonel, mortally wounded. I should not omit to mention that the Seventh and Eight Georgia, of Bartow’s brigade, also came into our advanced position far to our right during our contest, and had a bloody collision with another column of the Federals, and though these Georgians were recalled some time before we were, they contributed materially to the delay of the Federal advance.

The two Mississippi regiments of our (Bee’s) brigade had also retired before us, so that the Fourth Alabama was going back alone. In this movement a bloody episode occurred to us. Retiring by the same route along which we had come, when we reached the little rivulet running near the stone house, we saw a regiment, in column by companies, marching down the rivulet toward us. Their flag was furled on the staff and so was ours. By the quarter we had just come from they thought us probably Federals, but were not sure. As for us, we felt the enemy had got so far around in rear of the place of our recent fight; their uniform also resembled that of the Sixth North Carolina, belonging to our brigade, and we hastily took them for that regiment coming to our aid. Thus encouraged we halted, faced about and reformed our line, intending with this supposed reinforcement to take another tilt with the enemy we had been fighting if they should pursue us as we expected. The unknown regiment also halted and deployed into line of battle at right angles with ours and less than 100 yards from our left flank. Their colonel signaled us with his handkerchief for the purpose of communicating  and learning who we were as it afterward appeared; but we never dreamed this was his purpose and made no haste to respond, feeling confident we knew him, and thinking of course he knew us. All this took place in a few moments. Having quickly rearranged our line, our flag was than unfurled and displayed – the Stars and Bars! Instantly a blaze of fire flashed along the line of our supposed friends (a New York regiment it really was), and an enfilading hailstorm of bullets tore through the Fourth Alabama from left to right, killing many and disabling more, among the rest Lieutenant Colonel [Evander M.] Law and Major Scott, leaving our regiment without field officers.

What does the reader suppose we did? We did not stay there. The position was too bad and the surprise too sudden. True, the enemy’s fire was once returned with considerable effect; but it is only frank to say that we resumed, without delay, our movement back to the main Confederate line, whither Bee had intended us to go when he first ordered us to retire. Having arrived there, even after all they had suffered, the Fourth Alabama still had pride enough left to rally again, and under the command of a captain fell in on the right of the line and fought to the end of the terrible day. I will not now attempt to detail all the incidents that befell the regiment in these later hours of the battle. I will give one, however, which will always be of special historic interest.

The position of our regiment being now on the right of the Confederate line as drawn on the plateau of the Henry House, and the leading design of the Federals during the entire day being to turn the Confederate left, the heaviest fighting gradually veered toward that flank. No one who was there can ever forget how the Federal musketry crashed and rolled in fresh outbursts as new troops poured in against the center and left. Farther and farther round its awful thunder seemed to encroach, as if it would never be stayed till it should rend and tear that part of our line to atoms. Our brigade comrades of the Sixth North Carolina, separated from us in the manouevres of the day, had rushed in single-handed and attempted to check it, but had been smitten as with fire by its overwhelming power and their gallant Colonel [C. F.] Fisher, with many of his men, were no more. Jackson, with brigade, was struggling desperately, and at length successfully, to arrest the Federal columns; but immovable as Jackson and his men stood, the surging tides of the enemy beating upon him with such a mighty momentum that it seemed as if he must give way. Just then the battle had entirely lulled in our front on the right. Our Brigadier, General Barnard E. Bee, at this moment came galloping to the Fourth Alabama and said: “My brigade is scattered over the field and you are all of it I can now find. Men, can you make a charge of bayonets?” Those poor battered and bloody-nosed fellows, inspired by the lion-like bearing of that historic officer, responded promptly: “Yes, general, we will go wherever you lead and do whatever you say.” Be then said, pointing toward where Jackson and his brigade were so desperately battling: “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall! Let us go to his assistance.” Saying that Bee dismounted and led the Fourth Alabama (what remained of them) to Jackson’s position and joined them on the right of his brigade. Some other reinforcements coming up a vigorous charge was made, pressing the Federals back. In this charge Bee fell mortally wounded. Bartow fell nearly at the same time and within a stone’s throw of the same spot. Before the Federals recovered from the impression made by this partial repulse they saw Kirby Smith’s men advancing down the Warrenton Pike upon their right rear, as before stated, and his unexpected appearance in that quarter struck them with an overpowering panic and caused their precipitate retreat from the field. The battle ended so suddenly that the Confederates could not understand and could scarcely believe it. When afterwards the doings of the day were recounted among is the above expression, uttered General Bee concerning Jackson, was repeated from mouth to mouth throughout the Confederate army, and that is how he came to be known everywhere as Stonewall Jackson.

In conclusion, as I have set down with an endeavor at entire frankness the achievements, the mistake and the misfortunes that day of the regiment to which I myself belonged (the Fourth Alabama), I may be pardoned for adding a word about how we looked back upon our experience after it was over as a curious illustration of the absurd notions of inexperienced soldiers. Our ideal was that we were to whip whatever we came across – no matter about numbers; many or few, we must put them to flight. To turn the back before any enemy would be disgraceful. Having, therefore, turned our backs to the enemy twice that day, as I have narrated, once under orders and once without, we of the Fourth Alabama, upon the whole, felt humiliated and rather ashamed of ourselves on reviewing what had occurred. It was some days after the battle that to our surprise we began to hear from our comrades if the army and to read in the papers that our regiment was thought to have distinguished itself greatly. Then we began to hold up our heads again and to recall the fact that we had lost more than any other regiment in the army. Finally, we go hold of the Northern newspapers and found where our gallant and generous adversary, [Brigadier General Samuel P.] Heintzelman, giving an account of what he termed our stubborn resistance in that opening conflict, which I have described, had praised us extravagantly, saying: “That Alabama regiment was composed of the most gallant fellows the world ever saw.” This restored our equanimity, and we concluded that if we had not come up to our previous ideas of our invincibility, maybe we had not done so badly after all, and perhaps our sweethearts at home would not scorn us as poltroons. One other profound inpression, however, was left on the minds, at least of some of us, by the events of that day, and especially when we came to gather up the mangled remains of so many of our late merry-hearted and beloved comrades – an impression which was not changed by all we saw in the succeeding four years, or by the lapse of time since, and that was – talk as men about great war-like deeds, heap plaudits on heroes and worship military glory how they will – war is from hell!

Transcribed from Peter Cozzens (ed.), Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 5, pp. 41-49. Brackets above are the editor’s. Per note therein, the original article first appeared in the Philadelphia Weekly Times, 2/26/1881, under the title First Battle of Bull Run.

William Mack Robbins at Ancestry

William Mack Robbins at Fold3

Interesting article on William Mack Robbins





Unknown, 8th Georgia Infantry, On the Battle

18 08 2015

PROGRESS OF THE WAR.
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Full and Reliable Details from Our Exchanges.
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The Eighth Georgia Regiment in the Battle at Stone Bridge.

The following graphic description of scenes on the battle field, and the gallant conduct of the Eighth Georgia Regiment, was written for the Richmond Dispatch by a gentleman who participated in the fierce conflict of the 21st of July.

Eighth Georgia Regiment

On Thursday, the 18th inst., about 2 P. M., this Regiment left Winchester for Manassas, under command of Lieut. Colonel Montgomery Gardner. Col. Bartow had been for some weeks acting Brigadier General of a Brigade, consisting of the 7th, 8th, 9th and 11th Georgia Regiments, and a battalion of Kentuckians.

The 8th marched 27 miles over the mountains, fording the Shenandoah, to Piedmont on the Manassas Gap Railroad, arriving there about 12 M., Friday. The march was fatiguing in the extreme. After a delay of a few hours they left for Manassas on the cars, and a slow, tedious ride brought them to this point late Saturday morning. They marched three and a half miles to camp in the woods, without tents, and without food. Early next morning they were ordered to the fight, where they arrived after a circuitous, wearisome, and at times double-quick tramp between ten and twelve miles.

Breathless, tired, faint and footsore, the gallant fellows were eager for the affray.

They were first ordered to support Pendleton’s Virginia Battery, which they did amid a furious storm of grape from the enemy. Inactive as they were, compelled to be under this fire, they stood cool and unflurried.

They were finally ordered to charge Sherman’s Battery. To do this it was necessary to cross and intervening hollow, covered by the enemy’s fire, and establish themselves in a thicket flanking the enemy’s battery. They charged in a manner that elicited the praise of Gen. Johnston.

Gaining the thicket they opened upon the enemy. The history of warfare probably affords no instance of more desperate fighting than took place now. – From three sides a fierce, concentrated, murderous, unceasing volley poured in upon this devoted and heroic “six hundred” Georgians. The enemy appeared upon the hill by thousands. Between six and ten regiments were visible. It was a hell of bullet-rain in that fatal grove. The ranks were cut down as grain by a scythe. Whole platoons melted away as if by magic. Cool, unflinching and stubborn, each man fought with gallantry, and a stern determination to win or die. Not one faltered. Col. Bartow’s horse was shot under him. Adjutant Branch fell, mortally wounded. Lieut. Col. Gardner dropped with a shattered leg. The officers moved from rank to rank, from man to man, cheering and encouraging the brave fellows. Some of them took the muskets of the dead and began coolly firing at the enemy.

It was an appalling hour. The shot whistled and tore through trees and bones. The ground became literally paved with the fallen. Yet the remnant stood composed and unquailing, carefully loading, steadily aiming, unerringly firing, and then quietly looking to see the effect of their shots. Mere boys fought like veterans – unexcited, save with that stern “white hear,” flameless exhilaration, that battle gives to brave spirits.

After eight or ten rounds the regiment appeared annihilated. The order was reluctantly given to cease firing and retire. The stubborn fellows gave no heed. It was repeated. Still no obedience. The battle spirit was up. Again it was given. Three volleys had been fired after the first command. At length they retired, walking and fighting. Owing to the density of the growth, a part of the regiment were separated from the colors. The other part formed in an open field behind the thicket. The retreat continued over ground alternately wood and field. At every open spot they would reform, pour a volley into the pursuing enemy and again retire.

From the accounts of the enemy who stopped to give water to the wounded and rifle the dead, it seems that the 8th cut to pieces the 6th Massachusetts, half demolished the Rhode Islanders, and made deadly havoc among the Regulars.

But a horrible mistake occurred at this point. – Their own friends, taking them for the enemy, poured a fatal fire upon their mutilated ranks.

At length they withdrew from the fight. Their final rally was with some sixty men of the six hundred they took in. Balaklava tells no more heroic tale than this: “Into the valley of death marched the six hundred.”

As they retired, they passed Gen. Beauregard. – He drew aside, fronted, raised his hat, and said, “I salute the 8th Georgia with my hat off.”

Of all the companies of the regiment, the Oglethorpe Light Infantry suffered most. They were on the extreme right nearest the enemy, and this were more exposed. Composed of the first young gentlemen of Savannah, their terrible loss will throw a gloom over their whole city.

An organization of five or six years’ standing, they were the favorite corps of Savannah. Colonel Bartow had long been Captain and was idolized by them, while he had a band of sons in them. It is supposed that his deep grief at the mutilation of his boys caused him to expose his life more recklessly than was necessary. He wished to die with them, if he could not take them back home.

They fought with heroic desperation. All young, all unmarried, all gentlemen, there was not one of the killed who was not an ornament to his community and freighted with brilliant promise.

In sending them to Virginia, Savannah sent her best to represent her, and their loss proves how well they stood up, ho well that city was represented upon a field where all were brave.

This company was the first one to offer its services to President Davis under the Confederate act authorizing him to receive independent companies, and had the honor of being first received. They left home in disobedience to the orders of their Governor, and brought away their arms in defiance of his authority, so eager were they to go where our country needed her best soldiers.

They were one of the two companies that took Fort Pulaski. When there was a riot expected in Savannah, early in the year, they were called out to quell it, with another corps.

Their whole history is one of heroism. First to seek peril, they have proved in their sad fate how nobly they can endure it.

The will inevitably make their mark during the continuance of this holy war. They have enlisted for the whole war, and not one will turn back who can go forward, until it is ended, or they are completely annihilated.

After the gallant 8th had retired with but a fragment, Col. Bartow, by Gen. Beauregard’s order, brought up the 7th Georgia, exclaiming, in reply to Col. Gartrell, of the 7th, who asked him where they should go – “Give me your flag, and I will tell you.”

Leading them to their stand amid a terrific fire, he posted the regiment fronting the enemy, and exclaimed in those eloquent tones so full of high feeling that his friends ever expected from him – “Gen. Beauregard says you must hold this position, and, Georgians, I appeal to you to hold it.”

Regardless of life, gallantly riding amid the hottest fire, cheering the men, inspiring them with his fervent courage, he was shot in the heart, and fell from his horse. They picked him up. With both hands clasped over his breast, he raised his head and with a God-like effort, his eye glittering in its last gleam with a blazing light, he said, with a last heroic flash of his lofty spirit, “They have killed me, but, boys, NEVER give up the field,” – emphasizing the “never” in his peculiar and stirring manner, that all who know him will do feelingly recall.

This perished as noble a soul as ever breathed. – He will long live in remembrance. He met the fate he most wished – the martyred patriot’s grave. He was a pure patriot, an able statesman, a brilliant lawyer, a chivalric soldier, a spotless gentleman. – His imperious scorn of littleness was one of his leading characteristics. His lofty patriotism will consign his name to an immortal page in his country’s history.

[Raleigh] North Carolina Standard, 8/3/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. James B. Grant, Co. B, 8th Georgia Infantry, On the March, the Battle, Capture, Escape, and Aftermath

29 07 2015

The Great Battle of Manassas.

A Graphic Account,

By One Who Participated.
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We are kindly permitted to publish, almost entire, the following letter from a surviving Oglethorpe to his mother. We think our readers will agree with us that it the most interesting yet published. Our young friend has proved himself an artist with the pan as well as the pencil. It is proper to remark that it was not written for publication, but it will be found all the more admirable for that reason:

Manassas Junction, July 22, 1861.

My Dear Mother: Sunday, July 21st, 1861, will be a day never to be forgotten. A more glorious victory, or a more decisive one, never occurred on the continent. What wailing there will be throughout the land; the wounded and the dead on every side. I have seen as much blood and as many awful scenes as would do for a lifetime! A battle! how awful!

On last Thursday we left our encampment near Winchester, and marched all that day and the succeeding night, with the exception of two hours, when we halted to rest. At half past 11 that night we crossed the Shenandoah, pulled off our clothes, put them with our accoutrements on our heads and shoulders, and forded the river. The most of us had nothing to eat on the march. Day before yesterday we were encamped about eight miles from this place. Yesterday morning, about six o’clock, we received orders to march, after having advanced about a mile, we could hear, every now and then, the report of a cannon. – We halted, inspected our arms, and loaded our muskets. Col Gardner said to us, “Men, I am no public speaker, but recollect to sustain the honor of the State from which you come.” We gave him three cheers, and then continued on our march. The firing became more distinct as we advanced, but it was only a single gun, and that at intervals of about fifteen minutes, but it was sufficient to show that the ball had commenced; after a while, we could see the smoke from the cannon.

We must have marched about eight miles up one hill, and down another, with the sun intensely hot and plenty of dust, when we were brought up on the brow of a hill in a corn field, from whence we could see the enemy advancing in immense numbers.

Then the firing commenced in good earnest, and appeared to be on every side. A battery began to play on us, the first shot passing just above our regiment. You can have no idea, not the slightest, of what a peculiar noise and at what a distance you can hear a ball passing through the air. Several balls and bombs struck within a few yards of us, tearing up the earth and making the dust fly.

Col. G. ordered us to lie down flat on the ground, I suppose a hundred bombs and balls passed over us, not more than ten feet above us, and very often bursting and falling very near us. One fell in the Macon Guards, the company next to ours, wounding two of their men. – They were the first men in our regiment to spill their blood. The balls would tear away the limbs from apple trees near us, and one bomb fell and exploded not over fifteen feet from where several of the boys and myself were lying. It threw the dust all over me. After we had laid there about three quarters of an hour a courier came, saying Gen. Bee wanted a regiment to assist him. We were ordered to rise, and marched down between the fire of both sides, the balls whizzing over us incessantly. It seemed as though one passed every second. Sometimes a shell would burst in the air, leaving a little cloud of white smoke, which looked beautifully. After passing the batteries, we were placed in a pine grove and small saplings, and then commenced the work. The enemy were not more than a hundred yards from us, and had the advantage in position, as also a house, fence and hay stacks as defense, while we had no protection, the trees being too small to prove such. There must have been several regiments against us, our own being not six hundred men, but all brave fellows. At the word fire we rushed to the edge of the thicket and fired. I took deliberate aim. We then laid down, loaded and fired. The balls from the enemy fall like hail around us, tearing the bark from the trees. Our company and the Rome Light Guards were exposed to the most galling fire; a great many men were behind us, and in firing I am certain wounded some of our men. While loading for my second discharge, a ball struck me and I believed myself wounded. It pained a good deal, I looked, but could see no blood. George Butler, noble fellow, who was lying by my side, loading his musket, my right arm touching him, was shot; he jumped up, ran to the rear, and died in a few minutes. Bob Baker then ran up, and, as I saw him, (I was then on my back loading) I said, “Hello, old fellow, is this you?” He said, “Yes, Jim,” and laughed, and was just in the act of firing when he was shot. The blood flew over my hand and the stock of my gun. He rolled over groaning, and I thought he was shot in the heart. He was not killed, however, but badly wounded in the arm. Several others were killed and wounded within a few feet of me. I continued at my position, expecting every moment to be killed, until I was nearly shot by one of our own men in the rear, when I retired ten or twelve feet back.

Col Gardner, who was in front of us, was ordering us to charge the enemy, but in the noise his voice could not be heard, and a Minie balls struck him in the leg, below the knee, passing entirely through, and fracturing the bone. Gen. Bartow ordered us to retreat under cover of one of our batteries, as he knew it was madness for us to stay there. Had we laid there a half our longer, I believe not a man would have survived. Col. G. says he never saw such firing. Another ball struck me on the sole of my shoe, but did not damage.

As we were retiring, I stopped to take a mouthful of mud – scarcely could it be called water – my mouth was awfully hot and dry; just then I met Capt McGruder, who, pointing to a clump of bushes, said, “Col. Gardner is wounded” – the first I knew of it. I immediately went there, and there lay our gallant Colonel, with several men around him. I threw down my musket, took his wounded leg in my arms, while the others supported his body; it was then I saw our own beloved commander, our Gen. Bartow, for the last time – very soon after he received his death-wound. We made all the haste we could to get the Colonel on, as the enemy were advancing. Seeing our regiment retreat they supposed we were defeated, and were pushing on rapidly, the balls still falling around us, but when the enemy were only a little distance behind us, we being in rear of our regiment going up a steep hill, only able to advance slowly, the enemy opened a terrific fire. It is amazing that we were not all cut to pieces, for the balls passed between our very legs. Three of us stuck to the Colonel, but finding it impossible to succeed in carrying him off, and his leg being very painful, we stopped, after having carried him about a quarter of a mile, and laid him down in a sort of gully, hoping thus to be protected from random shots. His head was on my arm; Heidt, of our company, and Banon, of the Rome Light Guard, were the two men who were with me. The Colonel entreated them to leave him and try to rejoin the regiment and save their lives., (I had told him I would remain with him) but they refused to go. I firmly believe, if found, that we would be bayoneted. We had one gun; the enemy about sixty yards off – three regiments distinctly seen. I told the Colonel I would load it, and fight it out, that we might as well kill as many as possible. Do not consider this any bravery on my part, the veriest coward would have done the same thing, believing, as I did, that he must be killed. The Colonel said “No, if we keep quiet we might not be observed.” The enemy, in the meantime, coming on in line of battle, one regiment came within twenty feet of us; one man raised his rifle and took aim at us, and I raised a white handkerchief on the ramrod, and told them, “We surrender.” The officers then came up. I asked permission to take the Colonel down the hill to a spring where we could get water. They said “certainly.” We did so, and several physicians came up. They all treated us honorably and as prisoners of war. Never was I more surprised; the physicians examined the Colonel’s leg, had a litter brought for him, gave us water, and in all respects treated us with every kindness. Several of our wounded were lying around, and all of them received the same kind attentions. They asked us if we did not know how utterly useless it was to attempt to resist; that they “could sweep us all away – that they had fifty thousand men as a reinforcement. At the time they felt confident of glorious victory. While there, the balls and shot of our batteries tore away the limbs of trees all around us. With the assistance of one of their men, we got the Colonel to their hospital – an old farm house – a quarter mile distant.

We laid him under a tree in the shade. Their wounded were being brought in in large numbers – the whole yard was strewn with them, lying all about in the shade. The old farm house appeared to be their headquarters as well as the hospital, and we had not been there more than a half hour before they began to prepare for a retreat, and then ensued a scene of the wildest confusion. But we had time to observe that their men are far better equipped, in all respects, for a campaign than ours. The wounded, believing they would surely be killed, begged earnestly not to be left. They ordered us to put the Colonel on board and carry him with them, but he told them he would rather that they should shoot him there and then than move him again, and tried to persuade them to leave their wounded, with the physicians to attend them, pledging his word that if they would raise a yellow flag not a shot would be fired in that direction, and that their wounded should receive every attention, but their confusion was too great to admit of their listening to reason. At length, however, the Colonel persuaded them to leave some of their wounded, as well as ours, and six of their men to attend them, pledging himself that they should not be considered not treated as prisoners, nor would ours; and that their men should be returned as soon as possible. To this they consented.

Our batteries were now beginning to open on the house. Col. G. ordered a white flag of some sort to be raised. Our handkerchiefs were all too badly soiled, so I took off a part of an undergarment and tied it to a bedstead post, and ran up stairs, but found no possible way of getting on the house, and stuck it out of one of the windows. I could distinctly see our battery – the balls came nearer. I expected momentarily to see the old house knocked down. The balls continued to whiz. I went down into the yard, and was convinced that they did not see the flag. I jerked off my blue shirt, tied my undershirt to a pole, and climbed the chimney to an out-house. It was very broad, and from our batteries looked like an embankment. Heidt was standing near the foot of the chimney. I had nothing on but my pants; while trying to fasten up the pole our batteries must have taken me for one of the enemy attempting to mount a battery. The first thing I knew I heard a ball coming. It could not have passed more than three feet above me – it whizzed through the trees beyond. I was rather scared. I then put up another flag out in the field, which as soon as they observed they ceased firing at the house.

The rest of the day I was busy unceasingly in giving water to the wounded, and trying to fix up their wounds the best way I could. There was no physician there – all had gone when the enemy fled. My hand was in blood all day; nothing but blood. About every half hour I would go round the yard, give each of them a drink of water – so grateful, poor fellows! On one of my rounds I found that two or three had died while I was away. They were shot in every conceivable place.

Towards night we procured and ambulance and brought Col Garner here, where he has a tent, and I am nursing him. He is a noble man – bears it so well – as cool as a cucumber. He sent me down to the battle field this morning on business. I did not get back until two hours ago, it now being half past twelve. I sit up with him till one, when Frank, the negro man, will take his turn. I saw Bob; he is quite well.

We took 78 men into the fight (the O.L.I.) To show how terrible was the firing: six were killed, twenty were wounded, twenty-nine struck but not hurt, leaving only sixteen untouched; and they, when he fell, gathered round our noble hero, our beloved Gen. Bartow. We have gained a glorious victory – taken sixty-two pieces of guns. But all this the papers have told you. But oh! it is impossible to begin to describe the horrors of a battle field for a day or two after or at the time. The most of the killed have been buried, and yet today (23d) when I rode over to the field the dead were still strewn about in every direction – dead horses all over the field. The stench was so intolerable I could scarcely force the horse I was riding to go. I must acknowledge I had but a faint idea of what a battle was, nor am I so anxious as before for a fight; and yet to-morrow, if our company were to go, and our country needed our services, I should not hesitate a moment. I would go.

You must excuse this wretched scrawl, I am so tired. I have been so busy I have not had time to write. I have washed my face but twice since the battle. Our brave boys, who so nobly died, were buried yesterday, 22d, in one grave – side by side – noble, glorious fellows – brothers in arms, brothers in death. John Branch first, George Butler second, Willie Crane third, Bryan Morel fourth, Tom Purse fifth, Julius Ferrill sixth. The wounded are most of them at Culpepper C. H.

That ball that struck my leg left a mark but did not draw blood. I was a little scared in the fight, though my hand was steady, and I think I killed one Yankee. It was through the mercy of Almighty God that I was spared. I never expected it. I had an idea that I should be shot, but I knew that I was fighting for my country in a just cause, and that God’s holy will must be done. Mother, I was thinking of it this evening as I rode along, ’twas those many, many earnest prayers of yours to a merciful God that spared us.

I saw Charlie Daniell and Steve Barnwell this evening.; they are both well. Rockwell is all right, tell his mother.

Your son,

J. B. G.

Savannah, Ga. Daily Morning News 7/31/1861.

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Contributed by Henry W. Persons & Rick Allen

Per Wilkinson and Woodworth, A Scythe of Fire, the author is James B. Grant and the letter was written on July 22, 1861 [though most likely begun that day, and finished no earlier than the 23rd, per the narrative – BR.] Per this roster, Grant was a private in Co. B at First Bull Run. In June 1863 he would be appointed 1st Lieutenant to serve as then General William Gardner’s ADC.

This post updates and earlier post of an abbreviated version of this letter published in the New Orleans Crescent on 8/8/1861, contributed by John Hennessy.





Pvt. E. Starke Law, Co. B, (Oglethorpe Light Infantry), 8th Georgia Infantry, On the Battle

23 07 2015

Letter from an Oglethorpe.

Stone Bridge, July 26th, 1861.

My Dear Father: – You have doubtless ere this received a brief note from me informing you of my safety. That was but a hurried line to relieve your anxiety. I now write to give you some idea of our action. On Thursday, the 18th inst., very much to our surprise, while waiting at the breast-works at Winchester, in hourly expectation of an attack from Patterson, we were ordered to prepare for a march without any information as to the cause or our destination. At 1 o’clock we commenced the march, and we were informed that Patterson was directing his column towards Manassas, intending to unite his force with McDowell’s in an attack upon Beauregard, and that it was necessary for us to make a forced march to Manassas. We arrived at the Shenandoah about dusk; having to ford it, we lost about four hours. – At 3 o’clock on Friday morning we reached a little town called Paris, here a halt was ordered, our guns were stacked in the street, the men threw themselves upon the side-walk, and in ten minutes all were asleep. At 5 o’clock the drums beat, and in five minutes we were again on the march. After marching six or seven miles, we arrived at the railroad; the wagons were ordered to the front, and we were allowed the very pleasant privilege of cooking; if ever you saw faces brighten and eyes sparkle, you ought to have seen our army just then, for we had marched about twenty five miles without any thing at all to eat. Arriving at Manassas we were marched out about three miles and waited until Sunday morning when we received orders to proceed to the battlefield. After going eight miles we came in sight of the enemy. – A halt was ordered, and our Lieut. Col. walked up to the brow of the hill to examine the position of the enemy; in a few moments he returned with the intelligence that Sherman’s celebrated Battery was stationed opposite, and would undoubtedly shell us. Scarcely had the words passed his lips, ‘ere the boom of the cannon was heard, and the next moment a bomb passed harmlessly over our heads. We were then ordered to lie upon our faces, in which position we remained about fifteen minutes. While lying here, the bombs came nearer and nearer, until one dropped about three feet in front of John Fleming and myself, covering us with dust, the next dropped on our left, in front of the Macon Guards, wounding two men, one of whom died to day. Just at this time Gen. Bee sent an aid over to Col. (then acting Brigadier General) Bartow, saying that he must have a Regiment to support his right. Bartow ordered Col. Gardner to take the 8th (our) Regiment. Though the shot and shell were falling thick and fast around us, when Gardner gave the order, “Eighth Regiment to your feet,” every man rose and stood erect, not one faltered, and we charged for at least one mile in the face of that battery, without firing a single gun. We then turned into a narrow strip of woods within about seventy yards of the enemy’s line, and opened fire upon them. Here our little band of five hundred and fifty-nine men, for thirty minutes, bore the fire of eight Regiments of the enemy, and it is my honest conviction that they would have stood there until the last man had fallen, had no order to retire been given; as it was, the order to retreat was repeated three of four times before it was obeyed. Col. Gardner, who was in the Mexican war, and who was wounded in this action, says that it was the heaviest fire to which men were ever exposed. We lost from our Regiment, in killed, wounded and missing, over two hundred men. To give you an idea of how thickly the bullets were showered upon us, I need only state that but sixteen out of the seventy-six men that the Oglethorpes carried into action, escaped being killed, wounded, or struck with spent balls or pieces of shell. I myself got two bullets through my pants, and was struck by a piece of shell upon the right knee, which lamed me for a day or two. I the little copse of woods in which we fought, there is not a tree or bush that hs not one or more bullets in it, and it is only surprising that any of us escaped. We can only account for it by remembering that there is an over-ruling Providence, whose protecting arm was doubtless thrown around us. Poor Ferrill was killed right at my side; little Frank Bevill, Lippman, and John Fleming, were shot down just around […]

Our wounded are all doing well and I trust they will all recover. Fleming is slightly wounded in the shoulder and not considered at all dangerous. A correct list of the killed and wounded has been sent to Savannah, so that it is not necessary for me to mention them. Poor Bartow felt and suffered all that a noble, generous, and brave heart could, when he saw his brave men falling fast around him. When Gardner was shot down, Bartow was heard asking him “In God’s name, what can I do to save my brave boys?” At this time the enemy were firing on our front, had flanked us upon our right, and were pouring in upon us a destructive fire from that quarter, when, to cap the climax, one of our own Regiments coming up, mistook us for the enemy and gave us a volley upon our left; under these circumstances Bartow seized the colors and called upon his men to rally around him, when a ball pierced his heart. He fell nobly struggling for our sacred rights, and long will his memory live fresh in the hearts of his soldiers.

Our troops now began to come up to the scene of action and in a short time the enemy were put to flight and our victory was complete. Our loss, I think, is put down at 2,000 men, whilst the enemy acknowledge a loss of from 5,000 to 6,000. Prisoners are still being brought in. We took 61 pieces of cannon and a number of horses. The enemy were so confident of victory that large numbers of citizens, among whom were, I understand, a good many ladies, came out to Centreville, where they were waiting for a signal from the battle field, when the rebels should be routed, to come on and see the ruin they had wrought; but, much to their mortification, they beheld only their own troops flying like sheep before about one-fourth their own numbers. Such is the fortune of ward. I have given you but a poor account of the battle, the observations of one man engaged in fight are confined to a small space. We are now about six miles from Manassas and cannot tell how long we shall remain here.

We have no Colonel and our Lieut. Colonel is wounded, and will not probably be able to take the field for six months, so that it is impossible to say what will be done with us. As anything is decided I will inform you. In the meantime direct to Manassas, 8th Georgia Regiment.

Yours, &c.,

E. S. L. *

Savannah Republican, 8/6/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*Likely E. Starke Law, per roster here

E. Starke Law at Ancestry.com 





More On the Bartow Monument

18 11 2014

If nothing is showing up, click on the post title.





Original Bartow Monument Then & Now

9 07 2014

For more on the Bartow monuments, see here.





The Bartow Monument

29 05 2014

I can’t recall that I’ve posted anything much on this item here before. On Henry Hill there is a monument to Colonel (identified as General on the plaque) Francis Bartow. Here it is:

Bartow Monument, Henry Hill, MNBP

Bartow Monument, Henry Hill, MNBP

Shortly after the battle, and long before the installation of the above, there was constructed the first monument on the field, to the same martyred Colonel Bartow:

Original Bartow Monument

Original Bartow Monument

Sometime after the Confederate withdrawal from the Manassas line in 1862, the monument disappeared, perhaps courtesy of souvenir-seeking or vindictive Yankee soldiers. Well, it mostly disappeared. Very near the current monument, in a cluster of tree-trunks, you can see its last vestiges:

Location of cluster of tree trunks relative to the current Bartow monument

Location of cluster of tree trunks relative to the current Bartow monument

Original Bartow Monument

Original Bartow Monument

Original Bartow Monument

Original Bartow Monument

Be sure to check it out next time you’re on the field.