John E. Poyas, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (1)

11 08 2011

Extracts from a Private Letter

[From a Member of Hampton’s Legion]

We have also been favored with the following extracts of a letter from John E. Poyas, of the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers, Hampton Legion, written the day after the glorious battle of Stone Bridge.

Manassas Station, July 22, 1861

My Dear Mother

Our  Legion (now the Legion) arrived yesterday morning just before day. At 8 o’clock we took up the line of march, and about the time that you were all going to church, met the enemy, almost seven times our number, and with the assistance of one Georgia Regiment and two pieces of artillery, fought and kept back this immense force for three hours, until General Beauregard, who was fighting another detachment at a distant point. could come to our relief. When I say the Legion, I mean six companies of infantry for our artillery and cavalry have not come on yet. It was a hard fight but a glorious one, despite the heavy losses on our side. We would see our comrades falling around us, but, until forced to retire to rally, could not stop to take them from the field.

As you may well suppose, from the great disparity of numbers, we were sorely pressed, but as often as we were driven from one position would [rally?] on our Palmetto and meet them at another, and in this way kept them back until about two o’clock. Gen. Beauregard came on the field and told us, “Carolinians you have done well – go on, and the day will be ours.” Soon after, Col. Kershaw with the 2nd Regiment of S. C. Volunteers, came on, [then?] we took the park of artillery which had galled us so severely all the morning. Then Col. Cash with another South Carolina Regiment arrived, and was soon followed by others that had been fighting at Bull Run. The enemy having been driven from that point united with those opposed to us.  By sunset we had driven them miles away towards Washington, having taken thirty pieces of artillery, some five hundred prisoners, and ten thousand stand of arms. [Lt.] Colonel Johnson was shot through the head early in the engagement. George Phelps was shot on my right about the same time and instantly killed. Blankensee, another private, was killed much around the same time. Robert [Bo???] was severely wounded, and has been sent to Culpeper hospital, where the sick and som of the wounded are sent to be nursed. H. Middleton and J. W. Green were dangerously wounded. A great many are severely wounded. Scarcely any one escaped without a scratch or blow. Two of our men are still missing.

Col. Hampton was shot in the face, the wound is not considered dangerous, he fought bravely, and [when?] his horse was shot, took a musket in his hand and fought with his men.

Capt. Conner was struck by a spent ball, which did no more than cut his coat, but would have killed had it penetrated.  [?] it was in the left breast.

One of the first shots fired at us struck a [?], and sent splinters flying, one of which gave me a slight blow upon the forehead above the left eye, and another on the left arm, but caused me no inconvenience, another struck Henry Baker in the left eye injuring it seriously.

The rascals pretended to be making battle at Bull Run – only a ruse to draw attention from the larger body which was trying to get round this place to take the rail road leading to Richmond. They also raised a Palmetto flag under cover of which one portion of their force came very near our Legion and fired upon us, but on our return [?] they were brought to a halt, and we gave them as good as they gave us. We were under Beauregard, but Jeff. Davis was also on the field, and, I think, must have satisfied “Old Fuss and Feathers” that he can’t compete with him. Scot had [?,000] men. We never had, during the day, more than [13,000?] engaged.

The rout was a glorious one, and when we came up with the fugitives they attempted to make a stand. As [?] [?] [?] lines were formed, and the Washington Artillery of New Orleans opened upon them, they took to their heels, leaving 21 pieces of artillery, all that remained of the once famous Sherman’s Battery among them.

P. S. – The President and Gen. Beauregard have called on Col. Hampton th thank him for the action of the Legion yesterday.

Charleston Courier, 7/29/1861

Clipping image contributed by John Hennessy





More Hampton’s Legion

7 08 2011

John Hennessy of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park is the gift that keeps on giving. Yesterday he sent me some great letters by members of Hampton’s Legion that appeared in newspapers shortly after the battle. Look for them in the days ahead, and be sure to follow John and the other good folks at F&SNMP here and here.





Notes to Charles Woodward Hutson, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle

6 08 2011

The author of this stunning account of the battle, which he penned while recovering from his wound the day after the battle, became something of a celebrity late in life. Charles W. Hutson was born in McPhersonville, SC in 1840, and attended South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina). He served through the Civil War. After its end he was admitted to the bar, but eschewing the practice he taught throughout the south, including at the University of Mississippi, Louisiana State University, and Texas A&M. His subjects included Greek, metaphysics, moral philosophy, history, and modern languages. He also authored numerous books on civilization and languages.

After his teaching career ended, he settled in New Orleans and took up painting. Though his trained artist daughter offered to teach him the basics, he insisted on an amateur’s approach. In 1917, at the age of 77, his works were first shown publicly, in New York. His first one-man show came in 1931, at 91. He gained a solid national reputation, though his landscape artwork is hard to categorize. Here are some examples of his work.

Charles Woodward Hutson died in New Orleans in 1936, having proven you’re never to old to try something new.

Update – A friend in North Carolina left this comment, and it’s worth moving into the post:

Charles Woodward Hutson was a well-connected young man in South Carolina. His father, William Ferguson Hutson, was one of the framers/drafters of the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession. On September 9, 1862, the elder Hutson wrote a letter to the Confederate secretary of war requesting a promotion to lieutenant and transfer for his son to the “Regulars of the State of South Carolina.” I think you’ll recognize the names of the three men who signed the letter of recommendation: “It gives me great pleasure to recommend the most favorable consideration of the Secretary of War for C. Woodward Hutson for the appointment of lieutentnant.” Signed: James Chesnut, Jr., R.W. Barnwell, D. F. Jamison.

Thanks, Tonia Smith!





Charles Woodward Hutson, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle

6 08 2011

22d July, 1861, Monday
University at Charlottesville

Dear Father & Mother

I have been in a great & bloody battle & am wounded. Do not be at all alarmed. It is only a flesh wound in the head; and as the ball grazed the skull & glanced, there can be no danger. It is only through the Lord’s great mercy, that we were not cut to pieces to a man, so fearful were the odds opposed to our division. Friday night the six infantry companies of Hampton’s Legion took the train for Manassas. So slowly did we travel, that it was Sunday morning before we reached that point. Our breakfast was not cooked, when we heard the booming of artillery in the direction of Bull’s Run. Orders presently came, that we should hasten to the field, as soon as we had eaten something. In fifteen minutes more we commenced our march for the field of battle. We were taken around to the left of the place where the engagement began, in order that we might secure against a surprise of the Camp at Manassas. This was evidently the game of the enemy. They played us a ruse: the heavy cannonading near Bull’s Run was intended to deceive Beauregard into meeting them at that point with his whole force. Meanwhile an immense body of their troops advanced on the left with the intention of outflanking our main army, getting into our rear & seizing our fortified camp. They were held in check, however, by a few battalions, including our own & two Georgia regiments & perhaps one or two more. The whole battle was fought not far from the base of mountains, & the ground was very hilly; so that they were unable to perceive the immense disparity between their numbers & ours. Had they known how few were the forces between them & Camp Manassas; they would doubtless have advanced more confidently; & every man of us would have fallen upon the field. As it was, their movements were irresolute; they advanced & retreated alternately, & I suppose later in the day Beauregard must have come up with his main force to the assistance of our shattered columns; & then commenced the rout of the enemy. Terribly disproportioned as was our force, we held them in check for at least three hours. Nor was the disparity in numbers alone; the enemy were armed with the six-shooting revolving rifle, & their fire was incessant. Never have I conceived of such a continuous, rushing hailstorm of shot, shell & musketry as fell around & among us for hours together. We, who escaped, are constantly wondering how we could possibly have come out of the action alive. The words I used just now; “we, who escaped”, have a sad, sad sound to us; for we know not yet who are to be included in that category, & are filled with terrible anxieties as to the fate of dear friends. I must trace now to you my own course through the action, which I can or ought to do clearly enough, since, I was cool & confident from first to last, knowing where my trust was placed, that no real harm could befal me & that there was a duty before me which I must perform at every hazard. All of our men behaved gallantly, though few were free from excitement. After being marched & countermarched for some time almost within reach of the enemy’s missiles, we were thrown, by order of Gen. Bee who commanded us that part of the field, to the left of a corps of Flying artillery (I think the “Washington” of New Orleans), under shelter of a fence. Here we were first exposed to the hissing balls of the enemy; but the men took aim deliberately & stood fire beautifully. The artillery having then withdrawn from our side, we marched down the hill, unfortunately in disorder; we were halted halfway down in a hollow place, where we had the protection of a few trees & bushes. Here, seeing that our men hesitated to fire upon the force below, became doubtful whether they were not friends. I entreated the Captain to let me advance alone near enough to the ranks of those who were firing upon us to ascertain whether they were Federals or Confederate. But the Captain would not consent, & wished to go himself; this, however, Col. Hampton would not permit. Seeing, I could do nothing there, I attempted to persuade our men not to dodge, satisfied that we could never keep orderly ranks as long as the men persisted in dodging. But all my efforts in this line were unavailing; the men were fearless, & advanced undauntedly enough; but, I suppose, they thought dodging was a “help”, anyhow, to escape from the balls. Iredell Jones,& the officers kept erect; & neither they nor I were any the worse for it. Our next advance was to a fence in the valley at the bottom of the hill. Here we made a stand, & here our company fought absolutely alone, the other Legionary companies having retreated to a yard at the top of the hill, where houses gave them shelter. Here they reformed. Meanwhile our men were subjected to a raking fire. I was the first who fell. I had put on my spectacles, taken good aim & fired my first shot. As I was in the act of re-loading, a rifle-ball struck me in the head, a little above the forehead; & the violence of the concussion felled me to the earth immediately. I drew off my spectacles & flung them aside; & not believing my wound a bad one, as it was not painful, I attempted to reload. But the blood was gushing over my face & blinding my eyes; & I found it impossible to do so. I knew pretty well the extent of my wound, as I had probed it with my finger as I fell; & as the gash seemed to be a deep one, I feared faintness would ensue from loss of blood, especially as there was a large puddle of it where I first lay. So, I put aside my gun for a while, & put my white handkerchief inside my hat upon the wound & tied my silk one around the hat. By the time I had finished these precautions, the company were in retreat; & with Jones & a few others I made my way to the clump of trees, whence we had advanced. Here protected by the trees & squatted down, these few detached from the company continued the fire. Jones having given me some water from his canteen, & my eye being by this time wiped pretty dry of the blood, I again attempted to re-load. But before I could do so, a ball from the enemy shattered my rifle to pieces. I now made the best of my way to the shelter of the house on the hill, the shell & shot of the enemy ploughing up the ground at every step I took, & the musketry rattling like hail around me. I lay behind the house quite exhausted, & much pained by the sight of some of my comrades badly wounded. Dr. Taylor examined my wound here, & charged me to use all my strength to reach the Hospital. While I lay here the body of Lieut. Col. Johnson was brought into the yard & stretched at my side. He had been shot dead a few moments before, while riding fearlessly up & down the field. I remained at this place, until the companies there began to retreat yet farther back; when, seizing my smashed gun I hurried along by the gullies & other protecting places to a field beyond the line of the missles, which before flew so thick & fast around me. At the extremity of this field was a house used as a temporary hospital. This place I reached, & after resting awhile, walked to the wagons in the yard used to convey the wounded to the Camp. The ride in was a long & tedious one, & I very soon became aware that had I ventured to remain longer on the field, I should soon have dropped & been only a burden to retreating friends, or else have run the risk of falling into the enemy’s hands, a risk which I would have resolved, if possible, by forcing them to cut me down. When I reached the Camp, I found many wounded comrades there, who were under treatment. As the Hospital was crowded with groaning men, some undergoing the agonies of amputation, I very gladly accepted the kind attention of a gentleman named Lamotte, who soon proved that he understood well the art of dressing wounds. He trimmed closely the hair around mine, washed out the clotted blood, bathed the wound, ascertained that there was no split in the portion of skull exposed, & bound up my head nicely for me, strengthening me also with a glass of excellent whiskey. I felt much more comfortably, when this was done, & the encrusted blood, which stuck like a black mask to my face, was washed. Much of my hair is still clotted with blood. After getting a little supper & having deliberated on what would be our wisest course, most of us wounded who were safe in camp concluded, that, as no tents were pitched & we could not be cared for properly there, it would be best to go down on the evening train to Culpepper C.H. where the hospitals are. The cars were crowded with the wounded. At Culpepper we found that accommodations could not be had for all; & some of us came on to Charlottesville, where we already perceive that we shall not want for gentle tending. I am writing now on a marble table in the hall of the University, where the wounded are lodged. Two of my company, Atkinson & Gardner, are with me, the former wounded like myself in the head, the latter in the wrist & side. Before we left Camp we heard, that the enemy had suffered heavy loss, were in full retreat, & that Beauregard was in hot pursuit. Many regiments lost almost all their staff-officers; two Georgia ones lost all. Col. Hampton was, by one report, dangerously wounded; by another, dead. Our adjutant, Barker, was also said to be dead. The Legionary infantry was certainly much cut to pieces. Our cavalry & artillery were not in the action, not having arrived yet. All the forces, on both sides, must have been engaged; & if the enemy have met with a serious defeat, I imagine it will be the last general engagement. Patterson was taken & Col. Scott killed. Many prisoners were taken. Before we left, fifty eight were brought into the camp at Manassas. The battle lasted all day, & was very bloody. Early as it was when I was forced to retire, I met few, who were not hurt.

I brought off my knapsack with me, & will be quite comfortable. We are very uneasy about our friends yet unheard from. Many, I fear, whom I care greatly for, are now mangled or dead. At the last accounts, Conner was leading our shattered Legion & perhaps other officerless battalions, & pressing on the rear of the enemy within two miles of Centreville. I trust he yet survives. I long to hear how the Carolina regiments fare. Kershaw’s was in the battle; & you know I have many friends among them.

As soon as my wound permits, I intend returning to Manassas & making every effort to rejoin the army, wherever it may be. I hope to be able to bear arms again, before we enter Washington. You will see, by my writing so long a letter that I am in no danger from my wound. My head feels heavy, & the place throbs, that is all. I hope you are not too much troubled. My love to sisters & all the dear kinsfolk & friends.

Your Ever Loving Son
C. Woodward Hutson

How we ought continually to thank God for the mercies which he does so increasingly show us! The Dr. here has just dressed my wound, says it is an inch & a half long & would have gone deeper had it not struck the bone, says I am a very hard-headed fellow. He is a kindly, merry gentleman, & I like him much. He asked me if I was not related to Willy Wigg, knowing him well & knowing his middle name.

Transcription and Letter Image

Notes





#116 – Col. Wade Hampton

14 08 2008

Report of Col. Wade Hampton, Commanding Hampton Legion

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp.566-567

HEADQUARTERS HAMPTON LEGION,

Camp Johnson, Broad Run, July 29, 1861

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that with six hundred infantry of my command I reached Manassas on the morning of the 21st, after thirty hours’ detention on the cars from Richmond. In obedience to orders to take position in the direction of stone bridge, ready to support any of the troops engaged in that quarter, I advanced with six infantry companies to Lewis’ house, the headquarters of General Cocke. On my way to this point a scout informed me that the enemy in great force had turned our left flank and were rapidly advancing. I immediately turned to my left at a right angle to the course I had been pursuing, and guided by the sound of a heavy fire which had just opened, marched towards their advancing lines.

Finding one of our batteries engaging the enemy, I took position to support it and remained for some time near it, but seeing that the enemy were closing in on my right flank, I moved forward to a farm house belonging to a free negro named Robinson, and took possession of the ground immediately around it. After being exposed to a heavy fire from Ricketts’ battery and musketry, I formed my men on the turnpike road leading to stone bridge in front of the farm-yard. A large body of the enemy, who were in advance of the main column, and who were within two hundred yards of the turnpike, opened fire on me as the line was formed. Under this fire Lieut. Col. B. J. Johnson fell, and in his fall the service sustained a great loss, while the Legion has met with an irreparable misfortune. He fell as, with the utmost coolness and gallantry, he was placing our men in position. In his death Carolina is called to mourn over one of her most devoted sons. As soon as my men came into position they returned the fire of the enemy and drove them back with loss into the woods on the top of the hill in front of us.

Their right wing then opened upon us, but after a brisk exchange of fire they retreated and planted a battery in the position they had just left. After this had played upon us for some time a strong force was thrown out, apparently with the view of charging upon us, but a single volley dispersed them in great confusion. They then formed beyond the crest of the hill and moved down to the turnpike on my left flank out of the range of my rifles. As soon as they reached the road they planted a battery in it, enfilading my position. As I was entirely exposed, I made my men fall back and form over the brow of the hill, where they were protected from the fire of the guns but not from that of the rifles. Here we were attacked by a column which came from the direction of the headquarters of General Evans, almost on our right, and we were nearly surrounded, the enemy being on three sides of us, and Generals Bee and Evans having both advised me to fall back, I gave orders to this effect, having held this position unsupported for at least two hours in the face of the enemy, greatly superior in numbers and well provided with artillery.

A short time before we retired, General Evans and Bartow, with the remnants of their commands, came upon the ground, joined with us in our fire on the enemy, and fell back with us. My men retired in good order to the hill just in our rear, bearing off our wounded, and formed near a battery (Imboden’s and Walton’s), which was just then put in position. Here, after indicating the place you wished me to occupy, you directed me to remain until you sent for me. The order to charge soon came from you, and we advanced to the Spring Hill farm house, (Mrs. Henry’s) under a heavy fire of cannon and musketry. In the face if this my men advanced as rapidly as their worn-out condition would allow, and after delivering a well-directed fire, I ordered them to charge upon the battery under the hill.

In leading this charge I received a wound which, though slight, deprived me of the honor of participating in the capture of the guns which had done us so much injury during the day. After being wounded I gave command of the Legion to Capt. James Conner, the senior officer present. He formed the Legion on the right of the regiment of Colonel Withers (Eighteenth Virginia), advanced directly upon the battery, passing by the right of the farm house down upon the two guns, which were taken. Captain Ricketts, who had command of this battery, was here wounded and taken prisoner. The enemy being driven back at all points, began to retreat before the forces which were rapidly brought up, and in the pursuit which followed the Legion joined, advancing two miles beyond the stone bridge.

The death of Colonel Johnson in the early part of the day having deprived me of the only field officer who was on the ground, I was greatly embarrassed in extending the necessary orders, and but for the constant and efficient assistance given to me by my staff officers in the extension of these orders, my position would have been rendered as critical as it was embarrassing.

The unflinching courage of the brave men who sustained their exposed and isolated position under the trying circumstances of that eventful day inspires in me a pride which it is due to them I should express in the most emphatic terms, under the terrible uncertainty of the first half hour as to the positions of both friend and foe. Compelled frequently during the day from the same cause to receive an increasing fire from different quarters while they withheld their own, the self-devotion of these faithful soldiers was only equaled by the gallantry of the officers whom they so trustingly obeyed. To the officers and men who followed and upheld our flag steadfastly during the bloody fight which resulted so gloriously to our army I beg to express my warmest thanks. Their conduct has my unqualified approbation, and I trust it has met the approval of their general commanding.

I regret to report a loss of fifteen killed upon the battlefield, four since dead, one hundred wounded, and two missing.

I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

WADE HAMPTON,

Colonel, Commanding Legion

Brigadier-General BEAUREGARD,

Commanding Army of the Potomac