Edmund Ruffin, On the Battle and Aftermath

22 12 2022



Our Richmond Correspondence.


Richmond, July 61.

Edmund Ruffin – What he says of the Great Battle – His Part in the Fight – An Exciting Scene – The Field after the Fight, etc., etc.

I have, from an eyewitness of, and participator in, the closing scenes of the battle of Manassas, some details of an interesting character; especially so to South Carolinians, because they relate, in part, to the brave men of their State. My informant is well known to the people of Charleston, and to the people of South Carolina, and the whole South, by fame. He is the noble old Virginian who fired the first gun at Sumter, and the last gun at Manassas; he who had sworn he would never live under the Lincoln Government, and left his home in Virginia, before the inauguration of the Black Republican dynasty, and did not return till his State seceded. Edmund Ruffin, the venerable hero, truthful as he is brave, who saw, and participated in the glorious battle, gives me the subjoined facts, in part from memory, and in part from the notes in his private journal.

Mr. Ruffin does not presume to say what impression had been made, or was being made, when he entered the field where the action was going on, by other troops along the line, upon the enemy; he only mentions Kershaw’s command, to which he attached himself. He could not tell the precise time when he saw Kershaw’s brigade and reinforcements march by him to where the battle appeared to be the hottest, but he saw and recognised them, an suppose it was about three o’clock in the afternoon. There were at that time under Kershaw’s command, his own and Cash’s regiments, from South Carolina; Preston’s regiment, or part of a regiment, of Virginia; Kemper’s artillery, the Powhatan, the Hanover, and some of the Albermarle cavalry. – Having witnessed for some time the movements of the different bodies of men, of each side, surging to and fro; now in sight of the crest of a hill, and then hid from view in a valley; all amidst the thunder, and smoke, and dust of battle, he saw the enemy give way where Kershaw’s command was engaged. He could not say what other command, or what other troops than his, aided in breaking the enemy’s line, and turning the tide of battle; but he gives to Kershaw and his brave command the honor due to them.

I quote Mr. Ruffin’s own graphic language, describing scenes of the battle field: “I was told by many of these (troops that had fallen back) that our army had been driven by the enemy for miles (which was true, though falling back gradually, and in good order, and without ceasing fire), that the day was going against us, and that several companies and regiments had been nearly cut to pieces. In the few minutes consumed by these enquiries and answers, I perceived that reinforcements of infantry were passing on by us. (These were Kershaw’s and Col. Cash’s troops.) Stunned as I was by the unexpected and gloomy reports, I thought that these reinforcements might yet save the almost lost day; and that it was the duty of every man who could pull a trigger to lend his aid to their action. I hastily determined, feeble, and then fatigued as I was, that I would go, and try also to induce others who had before retired, to go. Therefore I called out to those around me, and asked those who would join me to go with the reinforcements. Not one replied, or made any indications of leaving, staring at me in silence. I said no more, but turned off and proceeded towards the battle.”

Here Mr. Ruffin describes the movements of troops in the fields and woods, falling back at one time, and advancing another, without naming them, and which would require a diagram to understand it.

He goes on to say: “All the engaged forces had passed out of my view before I had walked to the corn field. The reinforcing regiments of infantry (Col. Kershaw’s, of South Carolina, and some others, he in command of the brigade) marched along the path through the corn field to the position marked.”

“I had not gone one hundred yards from where I set out for the field, before meeting other skulkers who had withdrawn later from the battle. I heard from them repetitions of our disasters. I thought my advancing further to be useless and foolish, and that, in the inevitable speedy rout – for even in an orderly, though rapid retreat, I would not fail to be left behind – I would have turned back, but for sham. I still walked onward, until overtaken by one of Kemper’s field pieces, going the same way, and, as I did not doubt, it was going where it could do most service. The officers in command who knew me before, invited me to take a seat on the gun carriage, which I accepted most gladly. The carriage had proceeded but a short distance, when it was stopped, and, as if by new orders, turned round by the team, and trotted fast backward along the path, and then up the public road, on the left, where it was again stopped. I was entirely at a loss to guess what this movement meant. But I had full confidence in Capt. Kemper, and that he was doing whatever courage and good conduct directed. He was present; and he had his other three pieces close by. They remained still for a short time, during which and before we got there the firing of musketry was rapidly kept up in the direction of the wood alongside of us. Of course the nearest must have been the firing of the enemy, which seemed to me not more than 150 or 200 yards distant. I did not deem it proper at such a time to occupy the attention of Capt. Kemper, or any other officer to answer questions. So I remained under my late impressions, that defeat was inevitable, and that a retreat had already begun; until hearing that it was the enemy that was retreating, and that our army had, at last, by aid mainly of the reinforcements, turned the tide of battle, and gained a glorious victory.”

“We were soon joined by other troops, mostly from South Carolina, and began to march; where I did not know then; but, as it appeared afterwards, in pursuit of the enemy for a few miles only. The movement was by Col. Kershaw’s Brigade only, with Kemper’s Artillery, and some troops of cavalry. Our way was along roads, passing first through the field of battle. We crossed “Stone Bridge” over Bull Run, along the route of the fleeing enemy. Our progress was slow, with several stoppages, the reason of which I did not know, but suppose it was on account of the weariness of our men. We saw many of the killed, though our route was at first only on the outskirts of the hardest contested ground. Muskets and other arms were scattered along the road. Where we first stopped on the top of a hill, I saw our cavalry pursuing the enemy in different directions. While here some acquaintances of Col. Hampton’s Legion approached me. They had suffered severely. As we marched along and passed his corps, they gave three cheers in honor of me. The same was done by the Palmetto Guard, to which I belonged, as we passed them. No one of this company were killed, and only twelve wounded. As we proceeded farther, the indications of the haste and dispersion of the fleeing Yankees became more numerous. The road was strewn with articles thrown away by the fugitives. The haversacks were all filled with crackers or hard biscuit. The road was straight, and of great advantage for our artillery to fire upon the enemy. Several rounds of shot and shell were fired, but we could not tell the effect produced, except that the enemy, who appeared before to show a disposition to stand, made their escape by a lateral road to our left. The Palmetto Guard were sent out skirmishing, and fired two rounds upon the fugitives. They received some few shots in return. A company of the Albemarle cavalry was sent also in pursuit. Col. Kershaw received information that the Yankees had all fled. He then ordered the artillery, wagons, &c., the enemy had left behind, should be brought in. We then marched back.

“The following day, I borrowed a horse of Col. Kershaw, and rode over one portion of the battle field. The sight was horrible. The great number of dead were nearly all of the Yankee army, and were scattered over a field of some thirty acres, and probably extended in like manner for some three miles, over which the conflict had passed. Many were of the Zouave regiment. I saw some five or six of the wounded still alive. All of them lay quiet and motionless, until looking up as I approached near. The first I came near had a tin cup of water, but, as I thought, not within his reach. I alighted from my horse, and asked if he wished to drink, offering the cup to his lips. I was glad to see that all, or nearly all, that I afterwards visited, had been provided in like manner, by the kindness of our men. To one I said, that when placed in the hospital, he would be cared for as well as our own wounded men. To this he replied, he believed it, for he had been kindly treated since lying there.”

Mr. Ruffin, in making his statements, is very careful not to say more than he knows, and therefore, his testimony as to the part which Col. Kershaw and his South Carolina brigade took in the battle of Manassas, is perfectly reliable.

The Charleston (SC) Mercury, 8/5/1861

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Edmund Ruffin at Ancestry.com

Edmund Ruffin at Fold3

Edmund Ruffin at FindAGrave

Edmund Ruffin at Wikipedia

Obituary – Lt. Col. Benjamin J. Johnson

11 04 2022



Lieut. Col. Benj. J. Johnson

Lieut. Col. Benjamin J. Johnson, the second in command of the Hampton Legion, is a native of the town of Beaufort, S. C., and was about forty-five years of age at the period of his death. His brothers reside in this State – two of whom are clergymen of the Episcopal Church – one, the Rev. Rich’d Johnson, being the Chaplain of Hampton’s Legion.

Col. Johnson was educated at Williamsburgh, Virginia, and commenced life as a planter; but afterwards studied law with Col. DeTreville, and came to the bar of Beaufort, where he practiced a few years. During his residence in Beaufort he commanded the 12th Regiment of Infantry, and was highly esteemed as an officer.

In 1838, when barely eligible in years, he was elected a member of the House of Representatives from St. Helena Parish, where he served many years, until he was transferred to the Senate by the same constituency. Col Johnson served in the Senate for two terms, and until his removal to Christ Church Parish, about three years ago. Immediately upon his removal he was elected a member of the House of Representatives from the election district of Christ Church, and continued a member to the time of his death.

Col. Johnson’s career in the Legislature was marked by attention and intelligence. He frequently filled the position of Chairman of important committees, and was known as a working member. He participated fully in the debates of both Houses, and was always distinguished by fairness and ability in his mode of conducting them. He filled a high position in the politics of the State, as evidenced by the prominence of his name in the late election for Governor of South Carolina. His heart was always true to the honor of his State, as evidenced by the prominence of his name in the late election for Governor of South Carolina. His heart was always true to the honor of his State, as exhibited throughout his life and illustrated by his death.

Col. Johnson’s influence was largely owing to his personal characteristics. A man of strong will, strong temper, bold, self-reliant, imperturbable, energetic, he at once impressed upon those with whom he was thrown in contact, his thorough manhood. He won friends in the closest ties of regard and affection, In his life he sustained the measure of a Carolina gentleman, and in his death he has added to it that of the patriot.

The Charleston (SC) Mercury, 7/23/1861

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Lt. George W. Lester, Co. F, and Corp. W. Edmund O’Connor, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, And the Capture of “Sherman’s Battery”

9 04 2022

The Palmetto Flag Planted upon Sherman’s Battery. – A correspondent writes to the Richmond Enquirer correcting the statement that Gen. Beauregard had borne forward the flag of the Hampton Legion. He says:

The honor properly belongs to Lieut. G. W. Lester, of the “Davis Guards,” who, when the order for charge was given, bore the Palmetto colors about fifteen paces in front, calling on South Carolina to follow, which was promptly done. Corporal O’Connor, of the Washington Light Infantry, was the next to take it, and he it was who waved the first Southern flag over Sheman’s Battery.

The Charleston (SC) Mercury, 8/14/1861

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George W. Lester at Ancestry

George W. Lester at Fold3

George W. Lester at FindAGrave

W. Edmund O’Connor at Ancestry

W. Edmund O’Connor at Fold3

A. J. Hartley (“Old Texas”), And the Death of Col. James Cameron, 79th New York Infantry

9 04 2022

Who Killed Cameron? – A correspondent of the Richmond Whig lately attributed the killing of Col. Cameron, of the New York Seventy-ninth (Scotch) Regiment, to “Old Texas,” who is thus described by the South Carolinian:

“Old Texas” will be remembered by every one who was on Morris’ Island, during the eventful scenes there. His name is A. J. Hartley, a printer by trade, and a man of a good deal of intelligence. He resided formerly in Memphis, but left there several years since for a small town in Northern Texas, where he established a paper, which he had pushed up to the point of making a good living. Being a bachelor, he made his home in the office, and by industry and perseverance had surrounded himself with many comforts; all of which he saw destroyed in one night by the Abolitionists, he escaping with only the clothes he had on. Those who have heard him relate his story will not soon forget the flashing of his eye as he drew his tall form to its utmost height, and uttered his imprecations against the cowardly thieves who had destroyed the labor of years. It was not surprising that he was among the first to volunteer in defence of the South against those whom he considered his natural enemies. The above incident is characteristic of the man. We regret to learn that he is wounded, but trust he may soon be able to take his place again, and assist in cancelling some part of the debt of vengeance he owes the invaders of our soil.

Charleston (SC) Daily Courier, 8/28/1861

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A. J. Hartley at Ancestry

A. J. Hartley at Fold3

Death of Pvt. Robert Sweat, Co. I, Hampton’s Legion

8 04 2022

The Late Robert E. Sweat, of the Hampton Legion.


To the Editor of the Charleston Mercury:

Of the many young and brave spirts, who, on the battle field of Manassas, gave up their lives to their State and, over whom she now weeps with a deep and silent grief, none deserves more her gratitude and affection than the subject of this communication.

Among the very first to leave his Parish – St. Peter’s – to take part in the great struggle for his country’s freedom, he is the first to return to her, in strict obedience to her injunction, “upon his shield.”

A member of the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers, of the Hampton Legion, he was wounded when the battle was raging at its height, and when in the very act of firing his musket, said he to his comrades – “One more round,” – and before he could finish the sentences, a ball struck and shattered his left arm, and passed out at his right shoulder. He lingered in intense pain, in the hospital at Culpeper Court House, until the 19th of August, when death ended his sufferings. His father arrived but a short time before his death, and saw the last of his brave boy. He was interred at the family burial place, at Robertville, on Saturday, 24th inst., with all due and appropriate honors. All ages and classes were present to do honor to the brave and gallant dead, and wreaths of cypress and laurel strewed the pathway to his tomb.

Immediately after the burial, a meeting was called, and a resolution was unanimously adopted to erect a monument to the first of St. Peter’s sons who had fallen on the field of battle.

The Charleston (SC) Mercury, 8/30/1861

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Robert Sweat at Ancestry

Robert Sweat at Fold3

Robert Sweat at FindAGrave

Pvt. David Myers, Co. B, Hampton’s Legion

2 04 2022


“A Brave Soldier Boy!”

Among the many acts of heroic bravery, so widely circulated among the newspapers as stirring “scenes by blood and field” in the recent battle of Manassas Plain, on the 21st July, 1861, none more justly deserves a passing memento than the gallant deportment of young David Myers, of Louisiana, a grand son of Col. David Myers, deceased, formerly of Richland District, in South Carolina.

This grown soldier is only fourteen years old, and a member of Capt. Gary’s Company, in Hampton’s Legion, and is a nephew of the Hon. Tilman Watson, of Edgefield District, whose name that company bears (the Watson Guards).

This little fellow deserted his military school at Aiken, and contrived to enlist secretly in a Company for the defense of Charleston and the subjugation of Fort Sumter, without letting his father or any of his relatives know anything of his whereabouts, and lived so privately at Morris’ Island during the siege there, that although he had two uncles (Senators in the State Legislature) in that city during the month of January, who frequently visited the works and defences, they never dreamed that he was enrolled in the encampment as a soldier there, where he remained until the surrender by Major Anderson.

This so fired his young heart, that he then insisted on going to his grandmother’s, in Edgefield District, that he would be permitted to join the Watson Guards, under Capt. Gary, and said that he was determined to fight the Yankees to the end of the war, and his grandmother at last yielded, and sent a big strong negro fellow to take care of him.

On the day of the memorable battle Dave was sick, and had been several days; but, with a light breakfast, and a blister on him the size of a breakfast plate, he ran seven miles as well as any of them, and when in the midst of the severest part of the fighting, after being five ours on foot, shot an officer and advanced upon him under a heavy fire some distance in front of his company, and captured a sword from his person, which he now has in his own possession; he killed a soldier and took his gun, also, in another part of the fray; and at the outset of the battle, when Lieut. Col. Johnson fell dead, and his brother field officers were bearing him off the field to the rear, and the legion began to exclaim, “We have no officer left to lead us,” Capt. Gary, in a loud voice, said (waiving his sword), “Follow me!” when, among the fifteen or twenty who followed him, Dave was of that number, though they had eventually to fall back to the main body.

After the action and subsequently to the disastrous defeat and disorderly retreat of the Grand Army, when once more upon his sick pallet, Mr. John Nicholson, a brother soldier who had more experience, advised him to go back to Richmond to recruit his health, but turning over which his teeth firmly set, he declared that he would never do that until the Confederate Army had captured the City of Washington.

That nothing should deprive him of being present on that occasion, and true to his instincts he is still lingering in the field awaiting the slow but certain approaches of the army to that result.

Long life to the noble fellow, the gallant boy, whose grandfather fell mortally wounded by the Tories, near Orangeburg, in the Revolution of 1776, while leading a detachment of Whigs to the charge, and in the moment of victory!! Well done!! Our brave soldier boy!!

Charleston (SC) Daily Courier, 8/20/1861

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David Myers at Ancestry

David Myers at Fold3

“Legion,” Hampton’s Legion, On the Death of Col. James Cameron, 79th New York Infantry

2 04 2022

Who Killed Cameron – Near Manassas, August 16, 1861. – To the Editors of the Richmond Whig: I have seen several answers to the above interrogatory, but none which, I think, gives a true version of the affair. With your permission, I will give you what came under my own observations. On our march from Manassas Junction to the battle ground on the morning of the fight, we were joined by an individual, who was known in Charleston Harbor by the name of “Texas,” (he, I believe, hailing from that State,) who informed us that he had permission to volunteer during the battle, to fight where he pleased, and, seeing the Palmetto flag, he concluded to join us. During the heat of the battle, when the famous Seventy-ninth of New York were driven back in some confusion, their Colonel, who had paused as though contemplating the sad havoc of his regiment, was about three hundred yards in our front and between us and his retreating column. At this moment, “Texas” asked and obtained permission to advance in front and take a shot at the officer. Advancing some thirty or forty paces to a fence, he took deliberate aim with his rifle and fired, and the exclamation was made by several in the ranks, “He has brought him.” On coming back to the line, I remarked – “Well, Texas, have you killed a Yankee?” His reply was, striking his rifle, “She never lies.” Twice after that I saw him leave the ranks and advance in front and fire. There were many in the Legion, beside myself, who witnessed the above, and who have no doubt but that Cameron found his death from “Old Texas,” formerly of the Columbia, S. C. Artillery. I have not seen him since the battle, but have heard that he was slightly wounded.


Charleston (SC) Daily Courier, 8/22/1861

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Unit History – Hampton’s Legion

1 04 2022

Was organized by Wade Hampton during the spring of 1861. It contained a cavalry and infantry battalion, but they did not serve together. The cavalry battalion fought in the Seven Days’ Battles and in the summer of 1862 merged into the 2nd South Carolina Cavalry Regiment. The infantry battalion was active at First Manassas and later was assigned to W. Hampton’s, Hood’s, and Jenkins’s Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia. It was involved in various conflicts from Seven Pines to Sharpsburg, moved to North Carolina, then served with Longstreet at Chickamauga and Knoxville. In May, 1864, the unit was reorganized, mounted, and united with the 2nd South Carolina Cavalry Regiment. It lost thirty-seven percent of the 350 at Seven Pines and in April, 1862, contained 658 officers and men. It sustained 20 casualties at Gaines’ Mill, 74 at Second Manassas, 53 in the Maryland Campaign, and 85 at Wauhatchie. The field officers were Colonels Martin W. Gary, Wade Hampton, and Thomas M. Logan; Lieutenant-Colonels Robert B. Arnold, James B. Griffin, and Benjamin L. Johnson; and Majors Matthew C. Butler, James Conner, J. Hervey Dingle, Jr., Stephen D. Lee, and Benjamin F. Nicholson.

From Joseph H. Crute, Jr., Units of the Confederate States Army, pp. 268-269

Unknown (4), Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On Preparations to Move to Manassas

1 04 2022

The following letter is from a youth of nineteen years, a member of the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers:

Richmond, July 18, 1861.

My Dear Mother and Father: – Gen. Scott has attacked our forces at Manassas, and our Legion will march for Manassas on Saturday morning. We received orders to that effect to-day. I am willing to die. I have a presentiment that I will never see you all again; and if I should fall in battle you must not weep for me, but think of the cause in which I fell, and know that young as I am I did not dies as a boy, but like a man. And you may be sure that I will not be wanting when our company is called upon to fire, and when you think of this you cannot weep, but feel proud of him who has left every thing that was near and dear to him, to fight for the rights and independence of our noble and gallant South. There is no lack of courage in our noble land. I don’t think there is a man in our Legion who would not promptly reply to the bugle sound for the charge on our insolent foes.

Charleston (SC) Daily Courier, 7/23/1861

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Anniversary Video with Civil War Times: The Robinson Farm and Family, Hampton’s Legion, 7/21/2021

28 07 2021

Our sixth (penultimate) stop on Thursday was the site of the Robinson house and the farm lane/driveway down to the Warrenton Turnpike. Here Brandon Bies related the fascinating and complicated story of James Robinson and his family (here’s a website that discusses archaeology at the site). Then I spoke briefly and extemporaneously on the actions of Hampton’s Legion in this area. Appearing in this video are Civil War Times Magazine editor Dana Shoaf, Manassas National Battlefield Park superintendent Brandon Bies, and myself. The magazine’s director of photography Melissa Winn is behind the camera.