Unknown, Hampton’s Legion [?], On the Battle (3)

11 09 2011

Further Particulars of the Manassas Battle – The Capture of Sherman’s Battery

We have some very interesting and authentic accounts of the battle at Manassas, from an officer who was in the thickest of the action, and who testifies to the extremely courageous and devoted action of the Hampton Legion, that held one of the most important positions in the fight, in front of the deadly fire of Sherman’s Battery.

The infantry companies of the Legion joined the line of battle about 9 o’clock in the morning, having marched seven miles, after a hastily-snatched breakfast, to take their part in the general action. In a few moments after the line was formed, Col. Johnson fell by a shot from the battery. He was instantly killed, the ball striking and tearing away the upper portion of his head. Colonel Hampton himself, assisted by Surgeon Darby and Adjutant Barker, bore the body from the fire.

At this instant, the men missing for a moment the presence of their commander, cried out “We have no commander.” Capt. Garey, who was commanding the left wing, suddenly called out, “Follow me, Hampton Guards, follow to victory.” The effect of the tones of the command was instant. The noble and gallant Edgefield company made a rushing charge towards the enemy, in advance of the rest of the Legion nearly three hundred yards, and so far on the left flank that for a moment they were under the fire of the Washington Artillery. The Guards advanced to within 1– or 120 paces of the enemy. Unable to maintain their position, they retired, falling back upon the column of the Legion. It was then that Col. Hampton, after a few thrilling words at the head of the Legion, ordered its fire to be opened upon the deadly battery that was mowing down his ranks.

Nobly and gallantly did his men respond. Firing by file and maintaining their position, they stood steadily until three o’clock in the evening, under the deadly fire of one of the most destructive batteries in the Federal army.

At this time of the day, the Legion fell back about 200 yards, when Gen. Evans, of South Carolina, rode up to the line, and making himself known to the men, added his noble and patriotic encouragements to those of their gallant commander.  A shout rises as Beauregard himself rides to the line, and in stirring words appeals to the Legion to hold its devoted position but a few moments longer, and the victory would be won.
The men were suffering horribly from the most aging thirst, when a number of officers and privates volunteered on the desperate mission of bringing water from a ravine near by through the fire of the enemy. But three returned from the gallant errand. Lieuts. Bates and Tompkins, of the Watson Guards, and private N. N. Cartlidge, and they just in time to join Col. Hampton’s last and desperate charge upon the battery.

The Legion had advanced about thirty paces, when the charge was joined by the 49th Virginia Regiment, under command of Col. Smith, who led the charge on foot – his horse having been shot from under him. Col. Hampton offered his own horse. At that time, when within about 150 yards of the battery, Colonel Hampton received his wound. He was struck by a ball in the temple. As he was raised, the cool and self-possessed gallantry of the brave man was exhibited. In calm and affecting words he exhorted Co. Smith to stand by the Legion and to help to support its flag. The words added a new spirit to the combined charge. The Legion advance to it with its right wing under the command of Col. Conner, and the left under that of Capt. Garey – the command of the intrepid Watson Guards, who had so distinguished themselves in the opening of the action, being devolved upon Lieut. W. D. Jennings, until joined by Lieuts. Bates and Tompkins, who had undertaken the brave mission of bringing water to the suffering men through the thickest of the fire.

The slaughter of the enemy at the battery, as the combined charge of the Virginia Regiment and the Hampton Legion swept over it, is said to have been terrific. The fugitives were pursued by the companies of the Legion to near Centreville. For four or five miles, the pursuit is described to have been over dead bodies, which strewed the retreat of the enemy.

The Legion reports about thirty killed and mortally hurt, with the immense number of nearly three hundred wounded – truly a gallant record. Neither its cavalry companies nor artillery arrived in time for the action; had they done so, quicker work would have been made by the Legion. As it is, with the gallant record it has made, and the compliments of Beauregard given it the day after the victory, it may boast, indeed, to have had a distinguished part in the glorious day.

The names of Captains Conner, Garey, Adjutant Barker and Surgeons Darby and Taylor are mentioned among those who distinguished themselves heroically in the fight.

The escapes of many of the men through the storm of fire are described as almost miraculous. The South Carolinians are better shots than the enemy. At three fires from one of the Corporals, J. W. Tompkins, two Yankees were seen to bite the dust; and at one time in the action, Lieutenant Jenkins, with a revolver, fired into the enemy a number of shots, nearly each one of which struck its man. Many of the Legion had their clothes torn through with bullets.

Richmond Examiner, 7/25/1861

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Unknown, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (3)

3 09 2011

Extracts from a Private Letter

{From a Member of Hampton’s Legion}

Camp Johnston
Six Miles from Manassas, July 30.

I will endeavor to give you some particulars of the fight, although you will by this time have heard thousands of reports, as every man sees different on such occasions. We received orders on Friday, the 19th inst., to appear at the Central Depot in Richmond, at 5 o’clock, p. m. We found it impossible to be there so early, and, consequently, did not get there until 8 o’clock. We then stacked arms, and lay down on the ground and slept until two that night. We left Richmond at the last named hour, and arrived at Manassas on Sunday morning around four o’clock. Shortly after, we heard the roar of artillery. Col. Hampton then drew us up in line and addressed us, the substance of which was, that we were about to go into battle, and hoped we would prove ourselves South Carolinians worthy of our State and [?]. We then took up the line of march for the field, at which place we arrived about nine o’clock. Col. H. ordered us to take the extreme left, and stand until we were cut to pieces, or drive the enemy back.

We advanced steadily forward, shells bursting all around us. We were then dressed into line, and I never expect again to see cannon balls and shells fly as they did that morning. It is a mystery to me how one man escaped in the Legion. We stood our ground for one hour, alone, under one of the hottest fires Gen. B— says he ever saw. I gave myself up for gone, but still kept loading and firing. Poor Phelps was shot dead at my side; also a man by the name of Blankensee. Bomar was wounded just to my left. Finding it impossible to hold our position, we retreated to a small clump of woods, and then the cry was, “We are surrounded; we are outflanked.” At this critical moment, the Georgia and Mississippi regiments came to our assistance. We then not only maintained our position, but kept the enemy in check until about 2 o’clock. At this time, Gen. B. came up with Kershaw’s and Cash’s regiments, and Kemper’s Battery and Johnston’s column. His appearance was worth to us 10,000 men. It rallied the wounded as well as the others. Those that were unable to rise from the ground raised their hands and cheered him as he passed along the line. We were then at close quarters with the scattered remnants of the Legion, and I assure you it was hot work. The order was given to charge the enemy’s battery, which, upon the second charge, fell into the hands of our troops. It proved to be the famous Sherman Battery. After this charge, the enemy, completely routed, took to flight. Our men pursued them as far as Centreville. They left everything, in the shape of eatables and drinkables, that you can think of – champagne, lemons, sugar, etc. We took, among other things, some trunks, We captured 70 ambulances, fitted up in the most fancy style; also, a carriage and six horses, with a sword and trappings, supposed to have belonged to some general officer. The woods around were strewn with the dead and dying. A man who has never been upon a battle field can form no ideas of the horrors of one. The roar of musketry, combined with the shrieks of the wounded and dying, and the sight of mangled bodies, is truly horrible. I saw a ball from one of the enemy’s rifle cannon cut a man in two. I witnessed Bartow’s horse shot from under him. He (Bartow) was a noble fellow. When he fell, two of our men helped his men to carry him from the field. A regiment of our Zouaves was pitted against the Fire Zouaves of Ellsworth; they killed all but about 200 of them; the bloody bowie knife did ample work. The Washington Artillery, of New Orleans, is one of the noblest band of men I ever saw. I give them the credit of gaining the victory; they fought like lions, actually mowing down the ranks of the enemy. In our advance, one of our men saw a wounded Yankee lying down; he went up to him and gave him some water; when he turned to join the company the fellow coolly drew his pistol and fired at him, but missed; our men immediately turned round and bayoneted him. I escaped with a Minnie ball through my hat. It just grazed my head. I send you, by Mr. R., a piece of a bomb shell picked up on the battle field. The Yankees are a mean, contemptible people. They sent, under the white flag, to know if Gen. B. would allow them to bury their dead after the fight on Thursday at Bull Run. Gen. B. assented, and the scoundrels, instead of burying their dead, commenced to throw up entrenchments. We found it out and very soon run them off. I took a walk over the battle field a few days ago, and the dead Yankees are not all buried yet. The bodies are in a dreadful condition, and the whole atmosphere is filled with the most disgusting smell. The idea, to me the most lamentable, is that the best blood of the South is being spilled whilst fighting against the lowest, most despicable and degraded men, not only of the North, but I believe of the world. The prisoners are, nearly all of them, the most miserable looking creatures I ever saw. Ely, the member of Congress taken prisoner, is an exceedingly low looking man. The enemy resorted to all kinds of deception and chicanery to take advantage of us; they used both the Palmetto flag and the Confederate flag while advancing upon us, and for some time completely deceived our men. they also got and used our signs of recognition. It is very hard to distinguish our men from the enemy when at close quarters, their uniforms are so much like ours. I am now compelled to close my letter, as the mail is about to start for Manassas, but before doing so let me say that no women of any country could be more kind to the sick and wounded men than the women of Virginia. Our wounded are receiving every attention; they are sought after and carried to private residences, and all that can be done to make them comfortable is being done. The farmers around the country where we are now stationed carry, daily, as many as forty and fifty of our men at a time to dine with them. Give my love to all the boys, and tell them I never expect again to see them.

Charleston Mercury 8/7/1861

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Unknown, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (2)

2 09 2011

The Manassas Battle

A young member of the Hampton Legion sends the following interesting letter in reference to the Manassas battle:

Camp neat Manassas, July 30, 1861

Dear Mother, – I have not as yet given you a sketch of the battle, and really I feel unequal to the task. At any rate I will give you my personal experience. About 10 o’clock, Friday, a dispatch came that the Legion must leave for Manassas that evening. We struck tents at 3 o’clock and by 10 were on our way for the Junction. After a tedious journey in box cars we arrived at daylight Sunday morning. We found orders awaiting us to eat breakfast and proceed to the battle ground. I, assisted by one who has since died of his wounds (Middleton), ground the coffee. We eat a hasty meal. loaded our pieces, and started for the battle field. After a march of seven miles we reached the place where the bloody scene was to be enacted. It was then about the time of morning service, and it occurred to me that while we were about to  engage in the conflict prayers were ascending in our behalf. Soon we were addressed by our Colonel as follows: “Men of the Legion, I am happy to inform you that the enemy are in sight.” He then exhorted us to strike boldly, to remember the cause in which we were fighting, to stand up for South Carolina. We were then marched to the top of a hill and ordered to lie on our faces, so as not to attract the notice of the enemy, as they were too far off for our muskets to reach them. By the imprudence of some, who stood up, we attracted their attention and soon a shower of balls fell among us, and the shells burst within a few feet of some of us – the balls from the rifled cannon hissing like serpents. We left this position, and now comes the part we took in this fight. The Legion was formed in a narrow lane. In front of us could be seen, in large columns, the enemy advancing. Dropping on our knees in a gully we awaited their attack. Soon we were met by a tremendous volley of musketry and artillery, whose effect was terrible. It was by this volley our brave Lieutenant Colonel was killed – Col. Johnson was brave to a fault. Immediately to my left was poor Phelps; a ball passed clean through him, striking me in the leg, but it had performed its mission and only gave me slight pain. I turned to Phelps, thinking he might have a parting word to deliver, but he was dead, without a groan he had passed away. A bullet passed very near, grazing my temple and causing the blood to flow. In every direction could be heard the groans of the wounded. We in our turn poured a volley into the enemy. At this time I made up my mind for the worst; the sickening feeling which at first came over me when beholding the wounded wore away; I saw we had a terrible struggle and could have met death calmly. We struggled with a greatly superior force all day, sometimes sorely pressed. We were opposed to ten thousand men. After a hard fight all day seven thousand troops came to our rescue under Beauregard, and we routed the enemy. It is almost impossible for you to conceive what a terrible sight it was. The battle field next day was covered with the dead of the enemy who lay in hundreds. I do not know how I escaped. A feel very thankful.

I mentioned in my last that we were going to move camp. We started on Saturday and marched eight miles from the Junction to a pleasant camp. We are about four miles from Manassas. I felt very tired, but was obliged to go on guard.

Charleston Courier  8/8/1861

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Unknown, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (1)

1 09 2011

Hampton’s Legion

The following is an extract from a letter, written by a member of Hampton’s Legion, received in this city, dated Manassas, July 23: –

“I have survived a fearful day for the Legion. We arrived in sight of the enemy just as they had forced Gen. Bee back. We were ordered to sustain a battery posted on the extreme left. We formed round a farm house on the top of a hill at the right of the field battery, and found ourselves in advance of the rest of our line, and immediately opposite to a powerful battery of the enemy stationed to the right of a thick wood which protected the infantry on his left. For half an hour we were in total uncertainty where to fire, amidst the whistling of bullets. Conner’s company and the next company on the right of the Legion made a stand bravely under a galling fire. We succeeded in rallying the rest of the men, when Gen. Bee came on the ground and ordered us to fall back on Gen. Jackson’s position.  His order to retreat carried off a large proportion of the companies. Those that remained fought nobly in the most exposed position. Col. Johnson fell near me, very soon after we got into the fight, from a ball in the head. He died instantly. His loss is irreparable to the Legion. We succeeded in maintaining our position after one or two partial retreats and rallies, and until Gen. Beauregard came on the ground and ordered us to retire to a position taken up in our rear by the artillery.

We brought off Col. Johnson’s body and the wounded, and after a little while received another order to advance to meet the enemy, who had nearly turned our left. Reinforcements came up in the midst of a struggle against fearful odds, and the battery on the left was saved.

I have nearly used up my gray horse, and find a shot grazed his fetlock.

In reply to Gen. Beauregard’s enthusiastic praises of the Legion, the President replied in his calm manner, “I knew they would fight.”

Conner and the remnant of the Legion, after the pursuit, remained near the day’s fight.

Col. Hampton, late in the day, received a bullet on the side of the temple. The wound is not dangerous, though the ball is under the skin.

We will re-form the scattered Legion to-day and play our part out. It has made its mark beyond our utmost expectation, though it has suffered severely in Col. Johnson’s death. I cannot pretend to open the volume of sensations crowded into one day. I feel quite well and fresh today and ready for another start.”

Charleston Courier  7/29/1861

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Unknown, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (2)

30 08 2011

Extract of a Private Letter

From a member of the Washington Light Infantry

Camp of the Legion
Manassas Junction, July 24,

On Friday afternoon, at [?] o’clock p. m., we left our camp at Richmond and started for this place. The distance is only a hundred and fifty miles, but as we were travelling as freight, and on a freight train, our progress was terribly slow. At some places we stopped three hours at a time, waiting for other trains to pass, but at last we reached the long wished for goal of our desires, Manassas Junction. Beauregard, as you are aware, commands here in person – the invincible, idolized Beauregard. When we reached this place, which was at daybreak Sunday morning, we understood that Gen. Beauregard was momentarily expecting an attack from the enemy, who were advancing on this place, in great force, via Centreville. Col. Hampton received a despatch ordering the advance of the Legion as soon as they had eaten breakfast. We pitched one large tent, crowded all our baggage into it, burned all our letters, eat a hasty breakfast, and took the road. Just as we were leaving camp we heard the artillery, about six miles distant, firing upon the enemy.

The morning was calm and beautiful; a clear, cool Sabbath morning; and while, at home, our friends were quietly preparing to go to Church, we were hurrying on to the field of battle. It was a strange Sabbath day! As we hurried along through the beautiful forest roads, the men in excellent spirits, conversing cheerfully and hopefully of the work before us, I was forcibly reminded of these lines from Byron’s Waterloo:

“And Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,
Grieving, if aught inanimate o’er grieves,
O’er the unreturning brave.”

Alas! how true of many of them – unretruning. At the first fire, two fell, who never spoke again, one of them, young Phelps, of Charleston, the other a brave Pole, whose name was Blankenzie.

About five miles from camp we first saw the enemy. A dense column of them were steadily moving up a lane, about half a mile off, upon which our artillery was playing with fearful effect. At each discharge of our pieces a wide break would suddenly appear in the long line of glittering bayonets, and ere they reached cover, many a foeman bit the dust. While on a hill, the enemy turned their artillery on us. The miserable scoundrels, contrary to the usage of civilized warfare, fired chain shot at us; but their aim was not good, and they flew over our heads, whistling like a flock of blackbirds. One round shot struck under the belly of Col. Hampton’s horse, covering him with the red clay. Finding that we were too far off to attack the enemy here, we wound around the base of the hill in order to cut them off. As we came out from the cover of the hill and reached a little hollow sparsely covered with trees, the enemy poured a withering fire upon us – round shot, chain shot, shell, musket and rifle balls fell like hail among us; it seemed as if a great hurricane was sweeping the valley; bushes and trees were cut to pieces. Here the Legion lost their first man. I cannot tell how many fell. The Manning Guards had three men killed  by one grape-shot; they were terribly mangled, but the poor fellows did not suffer, as they were immediately killed. Here we paused a few moments, then hastily forming mad a rush up the hill, but could find no enemy. We then filed down a lane, deploying the men at the same time under cover of a rail fence. We could now see their columns advancing – one immediately below us of three thousand, one to the left about five thousand, and to the right about ten thousand strong. The column nearest to us had a palmetto flag, and by this means completely deceived us. An old Texan scout, who was along with us, told us they were enemies, but our officers would not believe him; he, however, advanced to the fence, and laying his rifle on a gate post, took a long and steady aim, and when he fired the smile of satisfaction that lit his rugged countenance showed that his aim had been true. The Texan’s shot drew the fire of the enemy upon us, and the musket balls flew in clouds above us. Some ten of our men fell; two of them partially blinded by splinters – Ancrum and Bob Baker, from Charleston. Ancrum’s face was fearfully disfigured. Bob Bomar was reported mortally wounded, and so was old Mr. Ga. Jervey of Mount Pleasant; others were wounded badly, but are in a fair way to recover. We now poured a deadly volley amongst the Yankees, and, jumping the fence, charged them; but they were too fast for us, and succeeded in joining their column to the right. We took one prisoner, who came up voluntarily to Lieut. Logan and told him that he surrendered himself a prisoner. Logan took his rifle – a magnificent breech loading piece (one of Sharpe’s patent) – and gave it to old Calvert – our Texan scout – a splendid shot. Calvert ensconced himself in a little hollow, and, with the Yankee’s rifle, picked off fifteen of the enemy. We now advanced by the right flank to another lane, where we lay for an hour or two under the fire of twenty thousand men. The air was filled with balls. We were partially covered by a ditch about eighteen inches deep; and here my Zouave drill helped me a great deal in loading lying down. Lieut. Col. Johnson was killed here by a Minnie ball passing through his temple and out the back of his head. He fell without a groan. As we lay in this ditch, the balls flying over us sounded just as if we were in a swamp, with clouds of mosquitos about our ears. Several times, when I raised my head to fire, the balls would cut the edge of the ditch, and throw the dirt in my face. One spent ball cut my upper lip, but gave me no pain. Three times we were driven from this position, and twice, unsupported, regained it. The third time several other fresh regiments assisted us. We fought through lanes, over fences, around farm houses and in all sorts of places. Once we came near losing our colors, and when our company rallied to its support, only thirty out of ninety were left together. Col. Hampton was shot, and our gallant Capt. Conner, senior Captain, took command. About 3 O’clock Kershaw’s regiment, with several others, reached the field, when they gave a cheer and firing one volley advanced at the charge; the enemy’s column broke in confusion, and fled like dogs. The battle raged along a line of several miles, and everywhere our troops, though badly cut up, were victorious, and about five o’clock the rout became general. President Davis arrived at this time from Richmond with seven thousand fresh troops, they were, however, too late to take part in the fight. The five hundred cavalry pursued the enemy some miles. Infantry followed them as far as Centreville. Every now and then the flying artillery would wheel into line and pour a deadly volley into their ranks. The enemy threw away everything. We captured sixty-two pieces of artillery, among which were Sherman’s celebrated battery and Doubleday’s famous big rifle cannon; whether we got all his pieces or not, I cannot say. Cochrane, of New York, was killed, and a great many others of the big men either were killed or captured. About two thousand of the enemy were killed on the road to Centreville. The Louisiana Zouaves fought like tigers; a squad of them with bowie knives in hand, chased some twenty-five Yankees into a thicket, and there cut them up with their knives. They are terrible looking fellows; a great many of them are Frenchmen, savage-looking brown fellows, with black, cropped heads and wiry moustaches. I could relate much more that is horrible to think of, now that the excitement is over, but will refrain on account of the ladies. Such a battle was never before fought in America. For ten or eleven hours seventeen thousand men were opposed to seventy five thousand, and at the end of the time utterly routed them, capturing all their artillery and taking one thousand or more prisoners, and killing thousands of others. Seventeen thousand is the highest estimate of our men who were actually engaged, and seventy five thousand is the lowest estimate of the enemy. Some of the prisoners say that they had eighty-five thousand, and others ninety. The enemy were so confident of victory that they took only three days’ provisions, thinking that would suffice to take them to Richmond. Letters were found among their effects, written to their families, informing them that on Sunday they would attack Beauregard, and then push right on to Richmond. Alas for all human calculations, they never reached Manassas. About one thousand visitors [came from?] Washington to see us whipped, among them numbers of Congressmen. When the news reached them that their troops were in retreat, they fled like sheep, leaving wagons and carriages behind them, stored with champagne and good things of all kinds. I have not told a tenth part of the events of that day, but hope at some future day to tell you[all in person?]. The retreat of the enemy from Fairfax was very amusing. An old gentleman from there says that all of their [forces?] who were beaten here fell back on that place, together with Congressman, Members of the Cabinet, &c., and that at 12 o’clock at night a scout brought them word that our troops were advancing. He says that such fear and confusion were never seen before. In a few moments the place was deserted, baggage, arms, ammunition, everything was left behind. President Davis says that he has all the arms he could wish for, and that the 21st of July was Southern Independence day.

Among the wounded was Sweat, whom I have mentioned in one of my letters. He and I were in a ditch, when the Company was ordered to fall back. We both turned for a parting shot. Just as he fired he fell back wounded in two places, in the side and arm – severely but not mortally. There are not more than one-third of the Company who have not received a scratch of some sort. There are more holes through coat tails and hats, than one can count. But I have written enough.

Charleston Mercury 8/5/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (1)

29 08 2011

Private Letters

Extract of a letter from a member of the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers

Manassas Junction, July 23, 1861

We were thirty six hours coming from Richmond without any food or sleep. Arrived at Manassas Sunday morning, swallowed a few morsels and immediately proceeded to the field of battle. Arriving there we were placed in the advance position. We saw the enemy approaching as in solid columns. As soon as they came within musket distance we gave them a volley which caused them to retreat. They again rallied, and supported by Ellsworth’s Zouaves, advanced an poured a volley of fire amongst us which was most disastrous. Johnson was then killed, and we were compelled to retreat. Beauregard then appeared amongst us, inspired us, and volunteered to lead us if we would follow. We gave him cheer after cheer. The order was then given to charge, which the men obeyed, and carried Doubleday’s batteries of six guns at the point of the bayonet.

The flower of the U. S. Army were against us. The Legion has the honor of carrying the day, and keeping 18,000 men at bay for two hours, subjected to the most galling fire of musketry, shells and cannonry. We went upon the field with six hundred and returned with three hundred.

We pursued the enemy as far as Centreville. The road along which they retreated was strewn with their dead and dying – horses, guns, ammunition, clothing, baggage, provisions, &c., literally covered the ground – fifty-three pieces of artillery captured.

I had the honor of bearing our banner, when we captured the celebrated Doubleday battery. My gun is torn up, and I escaped almost miraculously. None of the boys are hurt. Our Company lost thirty-nine killed, wounded and missing. Captain Conner behaved gallantly. I am sorry we lose him, as he now commands the legion.

Charleston Courier 8/7/1861

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Still More Hampton’s Legion Resources Coming

29 08 2011

I still have a few more letters from members of Hampton’s Legion to post. However, the writer’s of these letters were not identified in the newspapers in which they were printed. So, if you’re one of the Legion’s devoted, umm, legions and can help me out with some ID’s, I’d really appreciate it. And it’s a way for you to live forever on the internet. So , you’ll have that going for you. Which is nice.





Chaplain, W[ashington]. L[ight]. I[nfantry]., Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle and Aftermath

24 08 2011

Camp Johnson, Va., August 5

Hardships of our Volunteers – Cooking – Need of Rice and Grist – Sunday after the Battle – Incidents of the Camp – Shooting with one Eye – Gen. Beauregard’s Address – Strict Discipline, etc, etc.

In  commencing this letter, I would, through you, urge upon all those who are sending contributions to the sick soldiers, to remember, as well, whose who are not; for, believe me, the fighting part is but a portion of all our brothers are enduring for the sake of home and honor. The Department furnishes flour, salt and water; and the fried, heavy fritters, and the raw, doughy biscuits, are doing as much damage as Minnie balls and patent shells. Send our men rice and grist in flour barrels. In that size it is more easily moved. Send it, and pay the expenses to Manassas, cost what it will. Also send peas and beans. Send them each week; it will save the lives of many who, else, will perish under the present fare and wretched water they are compelled to use. Our wounded are all doing well. Sweat, poor fellow, has lost his arm. Bomar is recovering. Green is getting on well; he is still at Manassas. We have not been able to move him yet. Chapin is well cared for in Richmond. I saw him yesterday; he says he wants for nothing. Sergeant Gardner, whose gallantry I have heard much of, is also there, getting on well. George Wear is improving, and will return to camp this week. Baker’s eye has recovered; he has gone back to camp; also, Hutson and Atkinson. They report on the well list again. Thompson is at Gordonsville, with a relative, doing well.

Sunday before last we gathered together under the shade trees which skirt our camp in the rear, and there offered our prayers and praises to Almighty God. The contrast between the two Lord’s days, and the difference of occupation, seemed to strike impressively the whole congregation, and I have seldom preached or prayed with a more solemnized people. I hear there has been a marked difference in the Legion since the fight. I am sure all at home will join me in the prayer that the impression may be lasting, and God’s work may be blessed by Him among them.

You may judge the coolness of some of our men on the day of battle by the following incident: Corporal Baker was shot in the eye, and , unable to see, he remarked to the Colonel, “My eye is shot out; what am I to do?” “Shoot with the other eye,” said the Colonel. “But I always shut one eye when I shoot.” “Well,” said the Colonel, “you are saved that trouble; one is shut for you; open the other and shoot.” Baker tried, but finding it impossible to see, he left the field; worn out, he took his seat at the foot of a tree, where, a few moments after, he found a companion. “Neighbor, where are you from?” said the Corporal, “Massachusetts,” said the fellow. “O, you are a Yankee, are you?” “Yes,” was the reply. Baker looked at the man, and, as well as he could see, he had no wound, and was armed. The Corporal had not even a pen-knife with him; he looked all around for a weapon, and his vision being very short, he could find nothing. After being in this disagreeable proximity for some minutes, he, in his usual quiet way, informed the Yankee he was going, and the fellow making no objections, the Corporal retired. There was a narrow escape. Gen. Beauregard’s remarks to the Legion, as near as I can remember them, were: Soldiers: You are all Carolinians, and it is not the custom of Carolinians to be conquered – forward!” One of the Zouaves said he had been wounded and taken prisoners, and carried to the rear of a South Carolina regiment, and while lying on the ground he saw one of the South Carolinians, who was severely wounded himself, crawl up to a stump, and load and fire his gun eleven times as he sat there waiting to be taken from the field. Who can conquer such a spirit as this? There is a very amusing anecdote told of Adjutant B. When in full pursuit, near Centreville, and officer appeared among them, moving around quite briskly. The Adjutant was quite suspicious of the stranger. “Who are you, sir, and what are you doing here?” “Me, sir, I am General S—, of Virginia.” “You may be General S—, but I don’t know you, sir.” “Don’t know me, sir?” looking around with great indignation, “why, everybody knows me about here. I am General S—.” “That may be, sir,” said the Adjutant, “but for the present you must keep in the rear.” At length a happy thought suggested itself. “Show me your shirt, sir.” “My shirt, sir, my shirt!” and with boiling indignation the General showed his shirt where the name was written in full, and the General received the apologies and the pass from the Adjutant. A hint to the home folks to mark all the clothes in convenient places. We don’t know when some more of us may find the same useful.

I am sending you these little incidents as I hear them well authenticated. They form, to the friends of the parties, part of the history of the glorious 21st. More anon,

Yours, the
Chaplain W[ashington]. L[ight]. I[nfantry].

Charleston Mercury 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





William C. Heriot, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle

23 08 2011

Hampton’s Legion

We have been furnished with the following extract from our fellow-citizen, William C. Heriot, Esq., of the Washington Light Infantry, Hampton’s Legion, to his father in this city. It is dated:

Manassas Junction, July 23, 1861

My Dear Father: – I wrote to sister from Richmond, two days previous to our departure for this place, stating that Hampton’s Legion would move forwards for the seat of war in a few days. The Legion experienced very rough times on the passage to this place. We were two days and nights on our journey. The fare was very bad, but we had an abundance of water, which, you know, (being an old soldier) is a great desideratum. The inhabitants of the country were very loud in their demonstrations of joy on hearing that the Legion was on board the cars.

The face of the country is certainly grand and picturesque. You have a very fine view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The eye, as it ranges over the beautiful fields, is greeted everywhere with the sight of green foliage. This is a very abundant country. The stocks of cattle and sheep are equal to any in Kentucky or Tennessee. Large fields of clover are to be seen on all sides. The original soil is extremely fertile, and immense quantities of guano are used annually.

But I must endeavor to give you an account of the greatest battle ever fought in America, which occurred on Sunday, 21st July, 7 miles from this place. The battle commenced at daylight on Sunday morning at Bull Run. Hampton’s Legion arrived here at daylight on that morning, while the battle was going on. We partook of a cup o coffee and some dry bread, and marched immediately for the scene of action. We arrived on the battle field at 8 o’clock, and immediately commenced operations. Oh, what an awful day! The heart sickens at the sight of so much misery. We literally had to walk over the bodies of the living and dying. The force of the enemy is variously estimated. Some say 45,000 and I have heard it put down at 60,000. The Confederate forces consisted of about 20,000 men, commanded in person by Gen. Beauregard. What a noble fellow he is. We came very near losing him. His horse was shot under him. The immediate scene of operations extended about eight or nine miles. The battle continued until night put an end to the dreadful scene. Oh what a glorious, though dearly bought, victory for us. I, thank God, escaped with a little scratch over my nose, and a bullet struck me on the finger – pretty close shooting, don’t you think?

I have some Yankee trophies to show you, if I live to see you again, in the shape of a splendid overcoat and pistol case. The enemy fled in great confusion. We followed them as far as Centreville. We lost our noble Colonel, B. J. Johnson, and Col. Hampton was badly wounded in the face. I was standing within six feet of him when he was shot.

We expect to leave for Alexandria to morrow, when I will write you. God bless you, my dear father, sisters and brothers – guide and protect you. And should it be His will that we may meet on earth again, what pleasure, infinite pleasure, will it afford me to again shake the hands of those I love so affectionately. But these are dangerous times, and life is very, very uncertain. Again, God bless you all.

Affectionately, your son,

William

Charleston Courier 8/7/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





John E. Poyas, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (2)

12 08 2011

From Virginia.

We have been favored with another letter from Mr. J. E. Poyas, a member of the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers, Hampton’s Legion, to his sister in this city, which we publish (even at the risk of repetition,) believing that every thing concerning the Stone Bridge battle will be interesting to our readers

Manassas Junction, July 24, 1861.

My Dear Sister –

I trust my letter of Monday has flown to mamma on the wings of the lightning. I should have sent a telegram, but there were so many ahead of me, I thought it would be lost, or delayed until of no use.

The Legion has been baptized in blood, and have now a name to sustain, not to make. Would that we had been complete on Sunday, for with our artillery and cavalry we should have been equal to the hordes opposed to us, and instead of holding them in check, which we did for three hours, with scarcely any assistance, we would have driven them back or cut them to shreds before General Beauregard saw us on the field, and he would have been still more proud of his Carolinians.

On Sunday, 21st of July, at 7 A. M., the report of cannon was hard in the distance, and we knew that the battle had commenced. At eight we were formed into line and marched for the field.  After marching about four miles a scout came to us, saying the enemy were approaching in numbers on our left. The Georgia Regiment and a small battery (two pieces) of artillery were near us, and first engaged the enemy. We approached under cover of a slight elevation of the ground, but not unobserved, for before we were well in sight their batteries opened upon us, and we lay upon the ground with balls, grapeshot and fragments of shell falling thick and fast around us. Of course, our small force could not stand before their hordes in open field, and the Georgians with the artillery were forced back. We then approached, skirting a small wood on our right, and opened fire upon them. At our first fire their colors were shot down, and it was here than Bankensee and Phelps met their end.

We were soon obliged to fall back to a fence, and behind that to fight as long as we could stand, then to retire to a road in our rear, take to a ditch, and with a rail fence before us, to hold our position as long as possible.

It was here [Lt.] Col. Johnson was shot by the wretches who approached us with a Palmetto flag, and many of our men were wounded, but we made them pay dearly for their deception, by leaving hundreds of them stretched upon that portion of the field. Whilst we were in that ditch, Colonel Hampton, who had one horse shot, dismounted from his other, and joining us in the ditch, took a musket from one of the wounded men, and from that time until wounded late in the afternoon, fought with his men. I am happy to say that he is doing well, and was walking out yesterday. From that ditch and the fences around we fought from 11 A. M. to 5 P. M. At that time we took a park of nine pieces of artillery. The Richmond papers say the Virginians took it, but Gen. Beauregard says that ours is the credit, and it is certain that the Legion flag was the first over it, taken there by Corporal O’Conner, of our company – Sergeant Darby having become tired had given it to carry until he rested. Our company flags we were obliged to leave in Richmond. The staff of our Legion banner was struck by a ball. Colonel Kershaw’s regiment first came to our assistance from Bull Run. They were followed by Col. Cash’s regiment and (I think) Col. Jenkins’ regiment in the course of the afternoon. Old Jeff. [Davis] came upon the field at the head of a large body of cavalry, and completed the route of the enemy. Cols. Kershaw and Cash’s, one Mississippi regiment, Kemper’s battery from Alexandria, and a body of cavalry, with the Legion started in pursuit. Near Centreville they had halted – we formed the line of battle and Kemper opened upon them – and the Palmetto Guard, who were thrown out as skirmishers, gave them a volley, which sent them off howling, leaving their cannon and everything they had. As it was after sunset and cloudy, we could follow them no further, though the cavalry still kept up the chase. We have taken 1300 prisoners, 400 horses, 71 pieces of artillery, and property to an immense amount, in fact, I doubt if there has ever been so hard fought a battle or so complete a rout of an army on this Continent; perhaps never on either where there was such disparity of numbers.

According to the newspapers Gen. Johnston commanded our wing, but we never saw him, nor did we see Beauregard until 2 o’clock. Up to that hour, we could have been crushed at any moment, for the Yankees had ten to our one at the lowest calculation.

A Virginia traitor had furnished them with our countersign, and they had furnished themselves with a bogus Palmetto flag; had also recognized the Legion as soon as it appeared on the field, and paid it particular attention, but had not the pluck to press on and crush us.

Gen. Bonham, when last heard of, was in possession of Fairfax Court House, and is probably at this time in Alexandria, as a portion of our army has advance upon it, and report says taken it without firing a gun.

My opinion is that if we take Arlington Heights at once, we may be able to take Washington, and by so doing put an end to the war; but I am quite willing to leave the whole affair under God in the hands of those in whose care he has placed it.

As I have not mentioned Theo. G. Barker, our Adjutant, I must not close this rambling account of our first battle without saying, he was as cool and brave as it was possible for a man to be. After the fight we shook hands and congratulated each other on our safety. Our Captain is a trump – the ace of trumps – and we are all much troubled to think that he will be taken from us to be made a Major. Our Lieutenants all acted nobly; they told me they did not think I could have gone through with so much fatigue. I am very glad to say that Henry Middleton is doing well, ,and it is hoped he will recover. There is also hope for Green. Our frequent moves when the lines would necessarily be broken, made it particularly trying, for men when thrown into confusion are very apt to become panic stricken.

Virginians, Georgians, Alabamians, Mississippians, Louisianians and Carolinians, all did their duty, and entirely routed the Grand Army of the United States.

Charleston Courier 7/30/1861

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