Surgeon Dr. Jacob Henry Stewart, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Sudley Church Field Hospital, Treatment of Wounded, Captivity, and Parole

11 11 2022

Statement by Dr. J.H. Stewart, Surgeon of the First Regiment of Minnesota Volunteers

In publishing the narrative of Dr. Stewart we have taken the liberty of interspersing a few head lines, for the eye to rest upon and relive the continuity of so long a document, interesting though it certainly is:

To the Public.

On the morning of the 13th of August, eleven surgeons of volunteer regiments arrived in Washington from Richmond, where they had been prisoners of war, and from which place they were allowed to depart on giving the Parole of Honor, usual in war, not to serve again in the Army of the United States, unless released or exchanged. I was one of those surgeons.

On the afternoon of the day of our arrival, an article appeared in the Washington Star, a small, cheap paper of Washington City, in terms as follows:

The oligarchy authorities are trying to get rid of the burden of feeding prisoners in their hands by discharging them on parole. This morning twenty-four (made prisoners after the battle of Bull Run) reached here. They left Richmond on the day before yesterday, and were sent by rail to our lines near Fortress Monroe. The following is a copy of the obligation forced on them, viz.:

“We, the undersigned officers, non-commissioned officers, privates and citizens of the United States, do make our unqualified parole of honor that we will not, by arms, information or otherwise, during the existing hostilities between the United States and the Confederate States of America, aid or abet the enemies of the said Confederate States, or any of them, in any form or manner whatsoever, until released or exchanged.

“Brig.-Gen. C.S.A.

“AUGUST 11, 1861.”

We presume that those who gave such a parole will be shipped to their homes without delay, as such men will clearly be worse than useless in any military service.

The following is a list of the returning Surgeons among the lot, viz.:

Foster Swift, Eighth New York; J.H. Stewart, First Minnesota; J.M. Lewis, Second Wisconsin; Eugene Benquet, Seventy-first New York; Chas S. De Graw, Eighth New York; and G.H. Winston, Eighth New York.

The Assistant-Surgeon of the First Minnesota Regiment refused, to his credit be it said, to accept the parole, and remains a prisoner at Richmond.

The whole party were threatened with popular violence repeatedly on their way from Richmond to Fortress Monroe.

Though the paragraph in the above article in relation to the “Assistant Surgeon of the Minnesota First” refusing to accept his parole, “to his credit be it said,” made it pretty transparent that the intention was principally to stab at the “Surgeon of the Minnesota First,” and by the comparison to discredit him, I nevertheless concluded to take no notice of the falsehood and inferential slander, knowing that time rights all things, and that truth generally prevails in the long run. But some of the other surgeons, however, thought it advisable to speak to the editor about it. They informed me that he apologized for its insertion, stating that the facts had been misrepresented to him; and the editor would have corrected it in his own columns if he had been required to do so; but, as the other papers, including the New York press, had made a more just and accurate representation of the circumstances under which we had given our parole, and had also omitted the personal stab aimed especially at me, it was not deemed of enough consequence to ask for a formal retraction in the Star.

It seems, however, that the same article, just as it originally appeared, was carefully saved up by some one here in St. Paul, who is the fit ally of the hidden slanderer in Washington, and that it is launched at me by a republication in the Pioneer the next morning after my arrival in St. Paul, no doubt intending it as my welcome home, after a tour of hard service in the field, in which I most certainly endeavored to perform my whole duty to the country and the men of the Regiment of which I was Surgeon, without counting risks, or halting at sacrifices, pecuniary or personal.


Now, Mr. Editor, I am not particularly thin-skinned, and can stand any moderate amount of ordinary newspaper abuse; but this imputation sought to be cast upon me is so outrageously unfair and unjust, that I cannot forbear asking you to grant me some considerable space in your paper for the detail of facts of an interesting character, which, I think, will exonerate me before the public, and show that I perhaps deserve their praise instead of censure.


On the 21st of July, the day of the battle of Bull Run, and some time after noon, as the Minnesota First was near the battle-field and just about entering upon it to assume the position where it fought so gallantly, the Chief Medical Director informed me that he wished me to establish my hospital at Sudley Church, situated near the battle-field, and where we could get plenty of water for the wounded, and also directed me to send forward my Assistant Surgeon, together with the hospital attendants, members of the Band, ambulances, litters, stretchers, &c., immediately in the rear of the regiment, so as to convey to me the wounded as soon as the temporary dressings had been applied on the field by my Assistant – as all the amputations, and such other operations as might be necessary, were to be performed exclusively at the hospital.


Having sent forward the assistants and ambulances, there being as yet no duty for me to perform, I went upon the battle field, and was immediately in the rear of my regiment when it first came under and returned fire.


The first man of our regiment brought to me wounded had his arm nearly shot off, and I took him in an ambulance and went with him to the Church Hospital; and before I got his arm dressed the wounded were poured in thick upon me, until I had all and more than I could attend to, especially as no temporary dressings had been applied to the men on the field!


While working among my wounded – there being at that time over fifty of our brave Minnesotians stretched bleeding and ghastly upon the grass, under the trees of the beautiful grove wherein the hospital was located, a mounted officer of Gen. McDowell’s staff suddenly rode up to the door of the church and loudly cried out to us: – “We’re whipped to death – a retreat has been ordered – retreat immediately!”


At this moment this was the condition of things at the church. There were in it, or lying immediately around it, on the grass, nearly five hundred wounded soldiers, nearly four hundred of which were our own men – all moaning and groaning with pain – some calling for “Water,” “Water,” “Just one drop of cold water!” Others, “O Doctor, come stop this bleeding or I’ll blead to death!” – “For God’s sake, Doctor, come and take off this arm,” or “this leg,” or “take out this ball,” &c.


When the officer was heard by them ordering the Surgeons and hospital attendants to “retreat” along with the army, I was in the midst of our Minnesota boys, attending to them, and the poor fellows cried out to me, “If you are going to leave us kill us first, the enemy will bayonet us as they did the wounded before” (referring to the skirmish of the 18th) and “Don’t let us live to be butchered by them;” while some of the enemies’ wounded, mainly Alabamians and Carolinians, also begged “For God’s sake, don’t leave us to die, without our wounds dressed, because we’re enemies.”


I replied to our Minnesota boys, that “I disbelieved the reports that the enemy bayoneted the wounded, and that in no event would I leave them or obey the order to retreat — this they might rely upon.”


Having thus calmed them somewhat, I went into the Church and got together with the other Surgeons, about twenty-five in all, and a brief consultation was had as to what we should do; when all but five or six concluded to run, and some of them forthwith went off at a double quick without so much as taking their instruments.


For myself I feel no regret that I deemed it my duty to be one of the few who deliberately stayed rather than the many who saved themselves from imprisonment, or from the necessity of giving their parole, by quickly retiring and leaving the wounded to bleed and expire unaided, at least by them.

If such conduct on my part be treason, the malignant souls, professional or what not, here, or at Washington, who covertly strike at me in newspapers or otherwise, may make the most of it.

I have only to say to those who were bereaved and afflicted in this State, by that awful battle, that their dear ones who were wounded received, night and day, every attention I could bestow; and of those of our brave boys who died at Sudley Church, it may comfort their wives, mothers and sisters a little to know that they died in my arms, and that no stranger wiped the death damp from their brows, and caught their last earthly gaze, and laid them tenderly and gently down into their humble graves beneath the tall cypress trees near the battle field where in every breeze are sung the requiems of Minnesota’s dead, who manfully fought to preserve the integrity of our Republic, and died under the “old flag.”


But it may be alleged that I staid because I had not time to escape, or the means of going. To this I would answer that I might have left along with our own regiment (the last to retreat), which did not reach the church on their way back in good order from the battle field, until the consultation among the surgeons before referred to was over, and most of the retreating doctors had already left. Long after our regiment had gone, there was, likewise, plenty of time for me to have retreated, as from this period fully an hour elapsed before the enemy appeared at the church door, and cut off all escape had any one still intended to fly. Not only was there thus plenty of time in which to get away, but I had the means of rapid locomotion away from all imprisonment and all danger, to where no parole would be required of me – to Washington, instead of to Richmond – on a good horse, which ready saddled and fully equipped for the road, was standing awaiting me at the church door. I had only to mount and away, and no doubt would have been praised for a lucky dog, by those meaner sort of people who now censure me for not doing that which they, no doubt, would have done – run away from their duty.


But, to continue. Between six and seven o’clock the enemy appeared, (having by that time, it seems, found out he had a victory, or, at all events, that our Army was falling back.) I was outside the church on my knees extracting a Minie ball out of the head of an Alabamian, when a squad of cavalry rode up to the church. It was commanded by Lieut. Cummings, of Col. Stewart’s Virginia Cavalry, who, leaning from his horse and placing a pistol at my head, and cocking it with a sort of disagreeable “click,” said: “I demand you to surrender.”


I had just cut down to the ball and felt indignant at his treatment, especially as he saw me engaged so busily. I drew my head out of the range of his pistol and said to him sharply: “Use a little more care in the handling of that article, as my experience the past few hours makes me extremely sensitive to the even careless use of fire arms.” He retorted, “God d — n your soul, answer me more civil, or I will put a bullet through your head!”

This piece of agreeable information, accompanied by his very prepossessing appearance and amiable manner, induced me to request him, politely, to defer that little operation until I had completed mine – my language being: “Just wait, Sir, first, until I extract this bullet out of this patient’s head, as he is one of your own men, of the Fourth Alabama.”

He immediately replied, “I beg your pardon,” and did manage to wait until I had extracted the ball.


In a few seconds I had the Minie in my hand, and the Lieutenant then very politely asked me if “I would give my word of honor not to escape.”

I replied, “I have voluntarily remained to take care of my wounded, and, of course, will not leave them,” and I so pledged myself.

He then wished me to pledge that “none of the other Surgeons and attendants would escape.”

I said, “they could speak for themselves – I would call them out of the church.”

I went in and called them out. He rode up to the door and asked them “to give their parole not to escape,” which they readily did.


I might as well here mention that, some fifteen minutes previous to Lieut. Cumming’s arrival, I had told my orderly, private Williams, to take my horse and make his escape, if he could, but the same cavalry had intercepted his retreat by a short cut, and brought both him and the horse to the hospital with them, which was the last I saw of either until I met Mr. Williams a prisoner in the tobacco warehouse at Richmond.


Having in this manner formally surrendered, the attending Surgeons busied themselves taking care of the wounded during all of Sunday night and all of Monday, but in the afternoon of Monday we were notified by Col. Stewart, of the Virginia Cavalry, that the orders from head-quarters were to take us to Gen. Beauregard, at Manassas Junction, some ten miles distant; for which point five or six of us were started at between five and six o’clock in a small one horse two wheeled, rickety old ambulance or cart, with the bottom partly out, no seats, over a miserable road, the night very dark, and the rain pouring down in torrents, as it had been doing ever since the latter part of Sunday night, and continued in fact to do so most incessantly until Tuesday morning. On our journey we were under the charge of Lieut. Cummings and a squad of his cavalry. Along with us, following in the rear, was another ambulance, a two horse, four-wheeled affair, loaded with other prisoners, non-medical officers of our army.


Our course of travel lay over the battle field and on the road leading from it. As long as daylight permitted us to see, which was until we reached to within three miles or so of Manassas, we noticed that the dead of the enemy, men and horses, were continually scattered, and yet unburied, over the whole route, and that squads of rebels were busy hunting up their wounded, placing them in common transportation wagons without springs, and sending them forward to the Junction.


At intervals we would be challenged by parties of their irregular cavalry, and two or three times were stopped, and it was demanded of us “who we were,” and “where we were going,” in every case meeting with the most gross, wanton and ferocious insults and curses from the “chivalry.” Nor did we receive this savage treatment from coarse, uneducated, uncultivated men. The worst case occurred while we were being driven some few rods in advance of our escort, which had stopped behind for a few moments, for some purpose or other. A horseman with a rifle slung across his shoulder, rode up in front and compelled us to stop, and asked who we were and where we were going; and, though by his language, evidently a man of education, and one who could probably, on a pinch, put on the outside manners of civilization, he commenced a barbarian tirade of abuse, calling us d — d lazy Yankee s–s of b —- s, “why don’t you go and bury your dead and gather up your wounded; you ought to be shot;” – making at the same time a motion as if he would unsling his rifle from his shoulder. Being prisoners, unarmed, in the midst of the enemy, several of his “chivalric” fellows, over whom he seemed to have some command, having come up in the meantime, of course there was nothing for us to do but explain, as we did, quietly and calmly, though our blood was boiling, that we were prisoners of war, without volition of our own, that we had solicited permission to go upon the field and attend to our wounded and dead, but the Confederate commanders had refused us.


I would here observe particularly that this was the fact – we had formally asked the rebel officers who came to us at Sudley Church, some of them of high position, to allow us to search the battle field over for our wounded and dead; but was peremptorily and altogether refused. I would likewise state in this connection, that the rebel loss in killed and wounded was very heavy – by their own admission to us surgeons, much heavier than our own, as well on account of the superiority of our arms, all minie rifles and muskets, and the more skillful practice of our artillery and small arms (they complimented the shooting of the Minnesotians) as from the fact that they thought they were going to be defeated in the early part of the battle and undertook to remove their wounded ten miles to Manassas, which, over such a road and in common lumber wagons, occasioned a great fatality, especially as minie bullets make no trifle of a wound. The refusal to let us go over the field was, perhaps, dictated somewhat by a reluctance to allow us to see the extent of their loss and, partly, that we should not view their position, which they did not know but they would require immediately again for another battle; for it is a fact, that they did not know of the panic which seized our whole army, nor the extent of its demoralization, and that for several days they were daily and nightly in expectation of our advance again, with reinforcements.


But to resume. Lieut. Cummings having come up, further explained our purpose in travelling to Manassas to the cowardly Virginian who could so grossly insult men in our situation; and we then proceeded on our journey without further molestation. It was about here we were told that two of our wounded men had been picked up, and were in one of the lumber wagons; from which we heard them ordered to be transferred to the covered ambulance behind us, and taken along with us to the Junction; but we did not see them, not being allowed to get out of our vehicle.


We reached Manassas about 10 o’clock; and, after waiting there in the cart about two hours, in the rain, were ordered to get out, and go up on the long porch of the little low, old fashioned country house, where Beauregard had his headquarters.


On the porch a table was set, and being invited to partake of viands, we sat down and drank of its coffee and eat of its crackers (all there was) with, on my part, an appetite slightly enhanced by my nearly forty hours of enforced abstinence from all food, and by our wet to the skin and shivering condition generally. Supper over, and mid-night having come, an Aid of Beauregard appeared and said he was very sorry we were brought down – it was done under a mistake – and as it was late the General could not see us before morning. Anathematizing such a “mistake” to the bottom of our hearts, we were next shown into a small neighboring barn, where, in the midst of wounded and dying Confederates, and of the members of the guard not on duty, we laid down on the barn floor, on which was a slight sprinkling of hay, and without covering of any kind, and our clothes all wet through, slept, or tried to sleep, until morning; but the cursing and quarreling amongst the guard, and the changing of sentinels every two or three hours, “murdered sleep” most effectually.


In the morning, on going from the barn over to Beauregard’s head-quarters, I passed in the barn-yard, the four wheeled ambulance which had accompanied us from the battle field the night before. Observing that two men were lying in it, I looked in curiously to see who they were, when to my astonishment, I found them to be two of our own “boys” – private Cannon, of Company I, (the same whose wounded leg Capt. Pell, when ordered so peremptorily to retreat, stopped behind to bind up before he left him) and Corporal Pierson, of Company B, of Stillwater, who had received two balls through his right thigh, fracturing the bone. The astonishment of the poor fellows even surpassed my own, for they did not imagine I was within fifty miles of them; and the joy of all three of us at the meeting cannot be adequately expressed. They had lain out in the rain on the field all Sunday night and managed to crawl during Monday between two and three miles from where they fell, towards Manassas, to the spot where the rebels had picked them up. They were the same two men we had ordered to be transferred to the ambulance, on our night journey, in which they were compelled to sleep all night, having their blankets to cover them. I immediately procured their removal to one of the Confederate hospitals, where I dressed their wounds, and left them pretty comfortable, and I did not behold them again until I saw them at a hospital in Richmond, some two weeks afterwards; and when I left the city to come home, Cannon was nearly recovered, and Pierson doing as well as could be expected of a man with a fractured thigh,


Returning to our quarters in the barn, we partook of breakfast, consisting of cold cooked flitch and crackers, but without drink, all of which we understood had been sent us from the General’s quarters.


We were now waited upon by Col. Preston, one of Beauregard’s staff, who brought the parole, before quoted, and so much carped at, for us to sign.

Holding the paper in his hand, Col. Preston said to us: “Gentlemen, I have here for your signatures, the parole usually required of prisoners of war; and the surgeons only are to be allowed to sign it.” (There were other of our Army officers present.)

He then read it to us. After he had finished the reading, the privilege was asked of examining and reading it for ourselves. It was handed to us, and being satisfied as to its exact nature, I asked for the rest that we might take it with us, and retire by ourselves and consult as to what we should do. Col. Preston replied, “Certainly, take what time you want.”


On this we went inside the barn, and in one corner of it, by ourselves, held our consultation. In about fifteen minutes we returned, and addressed him as follows:

“Sir, will you allow us to return to Sudley Church, and attend to our wounded there, and wait a few days before signing this parole, to see if our Government does not send to make arrangements for our protection, for the burial of our dead and the care of our wounded?”

Colonel P. – (with emphasis) answered, “No! I am authorized to present this parole for your signatures now – and cannot promise that another opportunity will be afforded for this purpose after this morning; the object of your signing it is to allow you to return and take care of your wounded if you desire to do so.”

The conversation was further carried on by myself, as senior Surgeon, speaking for the rest as follows:

Surgeon – “Is signing that parole the only condition on which we will be allowed to go back and attend to our wounded?”

Colonel P. – “It is, Sir.”

Surgeon – “What disposition is to be made of us if we do not sign it?”

Colonel P. – “I am not authorized to say – I am only authorized to speak with you as to your signing this parole – to the medical officers only.”

Surgeon – “We ask you, then (not in your official capacity in this particular duty but) as an officer, what will be done with us if we do not sign it?”

Colonel P. – “You are prisoners of war, and prisoners of war are placed under guard and sent to Richmond at once.”


We now asked and obtained permission to again retire and consult together.

A good deal of feeling entered into our private discussions.

Two questions presented themselves. Four or five hundred of our wounded were lying in a critical condition in the Hospitals near the battle field, needing all our care and attention. If we signed the parole we could go back and attend to them, relieve their sufferings, and save the most of them from dying the death otherwise most probably inevitable. But, on the other hand, if we signed it, it practically cuts us off from our positions in the Army; and our chances of being soon exchanged so as to resume them would be much less than if we remained prisoners of war in the enemy’s hands. If we refused, however, to sign at all, we would become such prisoners of war, would be removed to Richmond at once, and our wounded would be in a great degree sacrificed. Some of us felt that we would rather sacrifice ourselves than that; but before deciding we returned to Col. Preston, when this conversation took place:

Surgeon Stewart – “Colonel, we have as yet come to no decision; but the wounded of my regiment at the Sudley Church Hospital being as four to one of any other there – over fifty – and having followed them nearly 2,000 miles as their medical attendant, I feel that it is my duty to go back and attend to them at any and all sacrifices. I dislike very much to sign this parole; and though I will new do so, it is only and rather than leave my men to die uncared for, or to be attended to by strangers merely.”

Col. P. – “Doctor, this is a matter that rests entirely with you all – you understand, it is a voluntary matter.”

I made no reply to this cool observation of that being a voluntary act to which they forced us by a combination of inexorable circumstances; but proceeded at once to sign the parole, in which I was followed by all my colleagues, the Surgeons of the Sudley Church Hospital.


We were then returned to cur Hospital at the battle field, our return being made in a more comfortable vehicle, and by a different route from that by which we had come.


On our arrival we were distressed to find that during our absence of about twenty four hours only, nearly twenty of our men had died, some of whom would almost certainly have been saved if the surgeons had not been removed so long away from them; and this melancholy fact confirmed us in the opinion that we had pursued the true path of duty in subscribing to the only course by which we were still allowed to give these who yet remained alive the benefit of all the skill and nursing we could bestow.


Thus we continued to do for some two weeks longer, when the Confederates deemed them sufficiently recovered to be removed to Richmond; and the next day they also compelled us to follow to the same city.


It is possible there are some who will think this tour of duty at Sudley Church was a pleasant one. After the rebels took their wounded away, there still remained between three and four hundred of our men to be cared for. The rain being over by Tuesday morning, the weather grew exceedingly warm, and the sun very powerful, and the whole atmosphere became loaded with the odor of decaying mortality from the unburied dead of the battle field, to which was added for our own immediate discomfort, the fetor from so many festering wounds immediately around us in the hospital. Besides this inconvenience, we had severe and exhausting labor day and night, and we had besides, for days after the battle, to provide sustenance for ourselves and men by sending out and purchasing food in the neighboring country, the surgeons contributing of their own private means as a fund for this purpose – without which we should all have starved. It was nearly a week before the Confederate commissariat became sufficiently organized and plentiful to ration us.


I would here say, in the spirit of awarding sheer justice even to enemies and traitors, that the officers of the enemy who visited us at the Church, all treated us well and considerately; and I may say the same of all their officials, the military, with whom we came in contact everywhere, saving and excepting the senior official before mentioned, who was superintending the collection of the wounded on the battle field, and excepting also the lower state of their mob, and the women of all ranks.


On reaching Manassas on our way to Richmond, we were stopped at headquarters, and had an interview with Beauregard, by whom we were politely treated, and who ascribed the condition our wounded had so soon attained to our remaining to take care of them. He then endorsed upon our parole the following:


The parole of these surgeons was taken to prevent the necessity of guarding them while they were attending to the enemy’s wounded, with the understanding that it was to be continued by the War Department after leaving here, and that they were to be permitted to return to their homes when their service would be no longer required, on the ground that they were non-combatants, and might have got off if they had imitated their fellow-officers.

(Signed,) P.G.T. BEAUREGARD,
General Commanding.


We were then placed in charge of a Lieutenant, and conveyed by railroad to Richmond; and after remaining there some several days were forwarded to Norfolk, and thence from Fortress Monroe to Washington City.


Here our conduct was generally approved by the Government, and especially approved by our acting Surgeon General, who told us he “was proud of us – we had nobly sustained the honor and credit of the profession;” and he at once granted us a furlough to recruit our health and energies for three months, unless by an exchange of prisoners we could be sooner ordered into active service.


One more matter, and I have done. An invidious comparison has been attempted to be instituted between Dr. Le Boutillier, the Assistant Surgeon, and myself, to my disadvantage. The statement of a few facts will put this all right before the public. The last I saw of Dr. Le Boutillier, until I met him in Richmond, was on the day of the battle, just before I ordered up the ambulances, and just as the regiment was going on the battle field; at which time he had with him a knapsack containing bandages for temporarily dressing the wounded on the field, and some stimulating beverages to enable those wounded who were very faint to reach the hospital. When the wounded began to come in freely upon me, noticing that no temporary bandages had been applied, I asked “what the Assistant Surgeon was doing?” and was told that he was gallantly fighting, having a musket, and was cheering on and rallying the men. The next news that came reported him wounded, and the next, that he was killed; and in this last belief I rested until two or three days after the battle, when on being introduced to a Confederate cavalry officer as the “Surgeon of the Minnesota First,” he remarked, that on the evening of the battle, between the battle field and Centreville, and between two and three miles distant from the former he had captured a man who, on being taken stated that he was the “Assistant Surgeon of the Minnesota First,” but that, as he had no uniform or commission, he had not credited him, and had sent him on with other prisoners to Richmond. From his description, I had no doubt it was Dr. LeB., and so told the officer. On reaching Richmond, I was exceedingly glad to greet once more, in life and health, my missing medical colleague; for, though a prisoner in the tobacco warehouse, he was safe and sound, without a wound, and in seemingly excellent health; and being duly recognized as a medical man, was assisting in attending the Federal wounded, who had just been brought to Richmond from our hospital.

When he found the Surgeons of our party were about leaving for home on their parole, he very naturally evinced an anxiety to accompany us; and expressed the belief that as soon as the surgeons left behind had got the wounded further on, and in good condition, the same privilege would be extended to him, when he would promptly avail himself of it, and that he would “probably not be more than two or three weeks behind me.” I said I thought so, too; and we bid each other good by, and parted.

This is the truth; and no one will be more surprised, when he hears it, at the falsehood in relation to his “refusing his parole!” than will the brave Assistant Surgeon of the Minnesota First.


And this is all I have to say, except to recommend those jealous, carping, fault-finding busy bodies, who are ever suggesting something wrong in the First Regiment, in its officers, its organization, or something else, that they had better enlist to carry a musket in the service of their country, than to be thus cruelly damaging the cause by slandering its defenders.

Surgeon of the First Minnesota Regiment.

(St. Paul, MN) Pioneer and Democrat, 8/30/1861

Clipping image

Contributed and transcribed by John Hennessy

Dr. Jacob Henry Stewart at

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Account of Asst. Surgeon Charles W. Le Boutillier

Pvt. Walter Chambers, 1st Company Washington Artillery, On the Campaign

4 11 2022

[The following interesting letter was written by a nephew of Rev. P. Stout to his little brother, a member of brother Stout’s family. The writer is a member of the New Orleans Washington Artillery. Though written for the eyes of friends alone, it is so descriptive we do well to give it to the public:}

Camp Lou’a., near Manassas Junction,
July 30th, 1861.

My dear Frank: your letter of the 1st inst, was received and should have been answered ere this, but we have been moving about so much for the last few weeks that we have scarcely had time to cook our victuals, much less write letters. You have seen in the papers accounts of our battles of the 18th and 21st. Hugh and I were in the hottest part of both of them. Charlies was in the first, but was not with us on the 21st. Our Battalion of 13 pieces was split up and stationed at different points, and only five pieces were at the “Stone Bridge.” We went on the field about 10 o’clock, and Hugh’s and my pieces (rifled cannon) were ordered immediately to a position about 1500 yards from the famed “Sherman’s Battery” which was playing on 3 pieces of our “Staunton Artillery.” As soon as we shewed ourselves on the brow of the hill, the whole of the enemy’s fire was directed on us. We unlimbered and came into Battery as quick as possible, and in a few minutes had the satisfaction of seeing our shot strike one of their pieces, killing 3 horses and disabling the piece; the next moment a Battery of 4 more pieces was seen coming down the hill, their horses at a full gallop, they approached 300 or 400 yards neared than the first an commenced throwing shell at us, the other Battery had fired only round shot, and although they struck in front and around us none of our men or horses had been hurt. The “Staunton” on our left had not fared so well, for they lost 3 men and 5 horses. About this time we heard firing on our right, and saw our Infantry who had been stationed in a thick wood to protect us, falling back cut to pieces, and the next moment a tremendous column of the enemy filed down the hillside on the left to outflank us. (The battle ground was a large, narrow wheat field, and we could see each others movements distinctly.) I began to think that we were gone, but at that moment orders came for us to retreat, and if ever you saw fellows limber up and put over the hill, quickly, we did; when we got over the other side and were protected from the enemy, we halted and there saw about 6,000 of our men lying on their faces on the ground, protected by the hill from the shot that had been fired at us; – as soon as we halted the order was given them to “Forward double quick,” and then such a yell arose as you never heard before. They rushed through the woods, and then the battle began in earnest; we could hear the firing, but could see nothing; – in a few moments they began to bring in the wounded, and as the poor fellows were carried past to the hospital (a large framed house about three-fourths of a mile off,) it made us feel very sad. – About 2 o’clock a remnant of a Virginia Regiment passed us in perfect disorder, and reported our men cut to pieces and the enemy advancing. Our hearts sank, for we knew that their cavalry would soon be upon us, and there would be no chance to escape; each man examined his pistol, resolving to die on our posts around the pieces. Then I felt glad that Charlie was not with us. At this moment our gallant General Beauregard rode up and said, “Artillery, if you can hold a position on that hill (near where we were in the morning,) for an hour, the day is ours.” Then it was our turn to shout, – our horses were rested, and up the hill we went as fast as they could run, the shot and shell falling like hail around us. I can hardly recollect what happened after that, much less describe it. The roar of our 5 guns and 3 of another battery on our right, soon made us so deaf that our commands had to be given by signs. General Beauregard had his horse shot under him by my side, and took the horse of my Seargent. After firing some time, one of our drivers who was mounted and could see down the hill side, called out to the gunner of the piece on the extreme left, that the Infantry were coming up the hill, and the next moment a shower of minnie balls rained around us, cutting the leaves from the trees and killing one of our men, the only one we lost; the gunner immediately depressed his range, loaded with canister and gave them three rounds which caused them to fall back, and immediately our Infantry charged and drove them off the field, capturing the whole Battery and completely routing the whole army. The Regiment that charged us was the “New York Fire Zouaves”: they had been held in reserve all day for the express purpose, and their orders (so we learn from the prisoners) were to take the “Washington Artillery, and give no quarters.” Out of 900 men they marched against us, only 230 left the field. – After this we went up to a high hill in front of the hospital, about two miles from, and overlooking the Centreville road, along which they were retreating, and with one of our rifled guns gave them a shot whenever they appeared in sufficiently large numbers to afford an aim; with our glasses we could see them at every fire throw down their arms and scatter like black birds. Our cavalry pursued them that night, killing and taking prisoners.

We slept that night near the battle field in a hard rain and without supper, having had nothing since the night before but a hard biscuit and a little piece of fried shoulder. Next morning we went over the battle field and human eyes never witnessed a more awful sight. During the night our wounded men had been brought in, but the dead of both sides, and the wounded of the enemy were still there. It was distressing to hear the poor wretches beg for water. I soon emptied my canteen and then had to turn a deaf ear to their cries. The ground where the Zouaves charged us was most thickly covered and their bright red uniform made their bodies very conspicuous. Here, too, I saw the most awful sights – men wounded by cannon shot, heads completely cut off, one with his face only left. During the time of their retreat, we found the baggage of the whole army thrown away; our men furnished themselves with all they wanted. I got a splendid blanket, india rubber coat, haversack, &c. They were, without doubt, the best equipped troops that ever went into the field, – every thing they had was of the very best, and in their haversacks were more provisions than we had eaten for a week; each man had a little bag of ground coffee, and sugar, things, the taste of which we had almost forgotten. It poured down rain all that day.

We expected the enemy to send in a flag of truce to bury their dead, but none came, so we had to begin the work ourselves. We worked for two days and at the end of that time had to move our camp, there begin so many unburied and the smell making it impossible for us to do more. Every form house in the neighborhood is converted into a hospital, and a large church is used for the same purpose. We have several of their own surgeons attending them.

When the retreat began they threw the wounded who were in their wagons out by the road side so as to go faster. I cannot tell their loss or ours: before this reaches you, you will have seen the official report. We took 73 of their cannon, among them Gov. Sprague’s Rhode Island Battery, the finest in the world.

After the fight, Gen. Beauregard and President Davis made us little speeches. Gen’l. B. rode up to our Major saying: “Major, give me both of your hands; – I cannot thank you for the service you have done to-day.”

On the 28th, after being scattered about for two or three weeks, we were reunited at this camp, our tents were given to us again and we are now resting after our hardships of the last 20 days.

I have given you no account of our fight on the 18th at Blackburn’s Ford, for the reason that we saw nothing but tree tops. We were in a hollow between two hills, and the enemy above us concealed from sight by the bushes; we had to aim by the smoke of their fires, and notwithstanding their advantage of numbers and position, we whipped them badly. We had seven guns, but one of them became disabled early in the fight, so we were actually 6 against 13. We lost one killed and six wounded. One man was wounded on my piece. I was handing him a ball and just as he reached out his hands a shell bursted at our side and struck him in the mouth. I was sure that he was dead from the way he fell, but I could not stop to see; he lay on the ground until we stopped firing, and then we carried him off the field and sent him to Richmond where he is now recovering and will soon be well, though very much disfigured. In that fight there was a little fellow, who was in the office with me in New Orleans. Poor boy, he was wounded early in the fight. I saw him after the battle; he knew his wound was mortal; but said all he minded was, not being able to fire a single shot. He was not in the Artillery, but was under command of the Col. who we were assigned to that day. It will be a severe blow to his family; he was only 18 years old, and they thought him too young to go, but he insisted, and our employers told him that his situation should be kept open and his salary paid, so he came [*].

Your affectionate brother,
Walter ——–.

(Tuskegee, AL) South Western Baptist, 8/22/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Walter Chambers at

Walter Chambers at Fold3

*Likely Pvt. John Stacker Brooks, Co. H, 7th Louisiana, who was not yet 18 years old and in the employ of Messrs. W. M. Perkins & Co. See here.

Dr. Josiah C. Nott, Volunteer Surgeon, Army of the Potomac, On the Battle

14 10 2022

[From the Mobile Evening News.]

Letter From J. C. Nott




We are permitted to publish the following portion of a private letter from our eminent townsman, Dr. J. C. Nott, addressed by him to a friend in this city. It gives the most comprehensive and striking impression of the battle which has yet come to hand, and, aided by reference to the sketch which we publish the reader can arrive at a very correct idea of the plan and progress of the conflict. It will be realized that if we had all the army of Manassas on the ground, none of McDowell’s army would have returned to Washington to tell the tale. Those who escaped the slaughter would have been captured. The enemy’s feint on the centre was a masterly manoeuvre, which would have distracted heads less cool than Beauregard’s and Johnston’s, and they would have drawn all their forces to that point. They kept up a persistent attack there during most of the day and our generals were thus prevented from withdrawing their troops from the right and centre to aid their sorely pressed left which a few thousand wearied heroes were holding against the 35,000 fresh Federal troops.


Richmond, July 23, 1861.

Dear Harleston: – I have seen the great and glorious Battle of Manassas which brought a nation into existence, and the scene was grand and impressive beyond the power of language. We foresaw the action several days ahead- the enemy was known to be advancing in immense masses from Arlington towards Fairfax, and the master stroke was at once made to order Johnston down from Winchester by forced marches before Patterson could get down on the other side. Johnston’s troops marched all night, 26 miles, then crowded into the railroad and came down on successive trains without sleeping or eating. 15,000 of them arrived, many of them while the battle was raging.

I got to Manassas the morning of the day previous to the fight [July 20th] and knowing well both Generals Beauregard and Johnston and their staff officers, I went immediately to their headquarters. Zac Deas, among the rest, in full feather, and I, of course, felt home in his camp where I spent the night. General Beauregard determined to attack the enemy in several columns at once the next morning so as to cut them up before Patterson could arrive. But our scouts came early in the morning informing the Generals that the enemy had been in motion since two hours before daylight, which settled the question as to their intention to make the attack. Beauregard, who had studied the whole ground around knew every hill, ravine and pathway, and had made all the necessary arrangements and planned the battle. Not knowing at what point of a semi-circle ten miles around Manassas the enemy would attack, his forces had to be scattered in such a way as to guard all points, prevent a flank movement on either side, and guard his entrenchments and supplies in the center.

We got up in the morning at daylight, took a cup of coffee, and remained quietly laughing and talking at headquarters while the scouts were passing in and out bringing news from the enemy. At a quarter past 6 in the still, bright morning, we heard the first deep-toned sound of a cannon on the center of our line about three miles off. We waited until 9 for further information and at 9 the Generals ordered to horse and dashed to the hill overlooking the point at which cannon, like minute guns, had continued slowly to fire. The enemy could not see any of our troops but were firing at the dust kicked up along the road which they saw above the low trees. We were for some time at the point they were firing at, and some 20 or 30 balls of their rifled cannons whizzed through the air above us and I felt very forcibly the remark of Cuddy to his mother Mouse that “a straggling bullet has nay discretion” and might take my head off as well as that of anybody else. The firing at this point kept up slowly from 6:15 until 11 when we heard a gun fire on the extreme left of the semi-circle and we were then satisfied that the firing in front was a mere feint. In a few minutes, the cannon firing came in rapid succession as if one battery was answering another. The Generals then ordered “to horse” again and away we rode to the seat of battle about three miles off. When we arrived on the top of a hill in an old field, we could get glimpses of the fight through the woods. The cannons were roaring and the musketry sounded like a large bundle of fire crackers, and the constant roaring of the big guns, the sharp sound of the rifled cannons, Minie rifles, and muskets with the bursting of shells made one feel that death was doing his work with fearful rapidity.

The enemy had concentrated all his forces on this one point, while ours were scattered around a half circle of ten miles and the few regiments who received the first onset were terribly cut up. It was far greater odds than human nature could stand, the regiments were torn to pieces, driven back, and so overwhelmed in numbers that I feared the day was lost. At this stage of the game, the enemy was telegraphing to Washington that the battle had been won and secession was about to be crushed. My heart failed me as I saw load after load of our poor wounded and dying soldiers brought and strewn on the ground along the ravine where I was at work. Dr. Fanthray who belonged to General Johnston’s staff and myself were just getting fully at work when an old surgeon who I do not know came to use and said the enemy were carrying everything before them and ordered us to fall back to another point with the wounded as they were turning our flank and the battle would soon be upon us. Accordingly, the wounded were taken up and we fell back, but after following the ambulances for a mile, we found that they were to be taken all the way to Manassas, about four miles, where there were hospitals and surgeons to receive them and we returned to our position near the battle. The decisive moment at First Bull Run which in Dr. Nott’s opinion heralded the birth of the Confederate nation, describing the scene as “grand and impressive beyond the power of language.” At this juncture, I saw our reinforcements pouring in with the rapidity and eagerness of a fox chase and was satisfied that they would drive everything before them. No one can imagine such a grand, glorious picture as these patriots presented rushing to the field through the masses of wounded bodies which strewed the roadside as they passed along. For a half mile behind me the roar passed down a gradual slope and through an old field; as I looked back, I could see a regiment of infantry coming in at a trot with their muskets glittering in the sun. Then would come a battery of artillery, each gun carriage crowded with men and drawn by four horses at a full gallop. Next came troops of cavalry, dashing with the speed of Muratt; after these followed with almost equal speed wagons loaded with ammunition, screaming all the while “push ahead boys, pitch into the damned Yankees, drive them into the Potomac!” This kept up from about midday until dark and I felt as if the Alps themselves could not withstand such a roar. The cannon and small arms were roaring like a thunderstorm as they rushed to the field. One regiment, which had been driven back by overwhelming numbers, was now supported, and I soon perceived that the firing was getting further off as I had expected and knew that the “pet lambs” now could only be saved by their superior heels. About this time, too, the last of General Johnston’s command arrived on the cars opposite the battleground to the number of 3,000-4,000, and although they had been two nights without sleep, they jumped from the cars and cut across to the field. By this time, we had collected about 15,000 against their 35,000 and from all accounts no red fox ever made tracks so fast as did these cowardly wretches. They were all fresh and better accoutered in every respect than our men, one half or more of whom had to make forced marches to get at them. They had selected their position coolly and deliberately in the morning, while ours were scattered over ten miles and had to run through the midday sunshine. If our men had been equally fresh, they would have gone straight through into their entrenchments at Arlington. But I will not speculate on the future and weary you with details which will reach you through print long before this.

The victory was dearly bought but still blood is the price of freedom and we can at least, while we drop a tear over the graves of our fallen friends, feel the proud consolation that they have died like heroes and given liberty to unborn generations.

Our troops are pouring in every day from the South and if Beauregard and Johnston chose to lead them, they can plant the hated Palmetto tree besides the Bunker Hill Monument which was erected to commemorate the same principles for which we are now fighting, and to which a degenerate race has proved recreant. They have forced this fight upon us and after exhausting everything but honor for peace, it is their turn to sue for terms.

I never had any idea of military science before Beauregard and Johnston played it like a game of chess without seeing the board- when a messenger came and told the enemy’s move was immediately ordered to put him in check.

The times are so exciting here that I cannot yet foresee my movements. I found that they had surgeons enough for the wounded at Manassas, and having no commission, I left and came up to Richmond to send down many things needed for the patients, thinking I could serve them better in this way than any other.

The (Paulding, MS) Eastern Clarion, 8/2/1861

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Contributed and transcribed by Dan Masters

Josiah C. Nott at Ancestry

Josiah C. Nott at Fold3

Josiah C. Nott at FindAGrave

Josiah C. Nott at Wikipedia

Josiah C. Nott at Encyclopedia of Alabama

Josiah C. Nott at Dan Masters’ Civil War Chronicles

A Southern Reporter’s Visit to the Battlefield.

1 10 2020

The Battle Field.

The writer of this, on Monday last, passed over the scene of the battle of the 21st near Bull Run. It was gratifying to fins, contrary to rumors which have gained some circulation, that the dead, not only of our own army, but also of the enemy, have all been decently buried. In the whole area of that terrible onset, no human corpse, and not even a mangled limb was to be seen. The earth had received them all, and so far as the human combatants were concerned, nothing remained to tell of those who had fallen victims of the shock of the battle, save the mounds of fresh earth which showed where they had been laid away in their last sleep.

Many of these mounds gave evidence of the pious care of surviving comrades. Enclosures were built around the graves, and branches of evergreens cover the spot. Sometimes boards marked the head and foot on which were carved or painted the name and fellowship of the deceased. Sometimes boards nailed to a neighboring tree told that the ground adjacent contained the fallen of a certain regiment or company.

Numerous dead horses, scattered over the area, show where the batteries of flying artillery were captured or disabled, or where some officer was dismounted. The prostrate fences, too, served to mark the track of the battle. Where the infantry crossed, they were broken down so that a man might step over; and wide gaps showed where the artillery carriages had thundered along.

The ground, too, tramped by the feet of rushing men and horses, evidenced where the struggles had been fiercest.

Of relics of the battle, already but few remain. The field has been searched and gleaned by daily crowds of visitors, seeking for mementoes. A few bullets that had run their errand, some fragments of exploded bombs, and a few other things, were all that an extensive ramble brought under our view. Canes cut from the battle-field are also considerably in demand.

The enemy’s column of advance, as shown by the battle-ground, presented a front of about a mile. Their onward march from the point where they encountered our advance bodies to the limit where they met our full line, and the full battle was joined and the fate of the day decided, was about a mile and a half, therefore covers the scene of the great conflict.

In this area are included five dwelling houses. All of these which were visited bore evidences of the storm which raged around them. Many were killed in the yard of a house of Mr. J. De Dogan. A bullet hole in a chamber door remains a memento of the battle. His family escaped just as the battle joined.

But it was on the hill south of the turnpike road, where the enemy’s farthest advance was checked, and where the final issue was fought, that the inwrapped dwellings showed the most plainly the fury of the fight.

A house here, late the abode of a widow lady, Mrs. Judith Henry, was riddled with cannon and musket shot. Hissing projectiles from the cannon of our enemies had passed through walls and roof, until the dwelling was a wreck. It is a sad story that we tell. This estimable lady, who had spent her long life, illustrated by the graces that adorn the meek Christian, was now bed-ridden. There she lay amid the horrid din, and no less than three of the missiles of death that scoured through her chamber inflicted their wounds upon her. It seems a strange dispensation of Providence, that one whose life had been so gentle and secluded, should have found her end amid such a storm of human passions, and that the humble abode which had witnessed her quiet pilgrimage, should have been shattered over her dying bed! Yet, even amid such terrors Heaven vindicated its laws. When the combatants had retired, the aged sufferer was still alive, and she lived long enough to say that her mind was tranquil and that she died in peace – a peace that the roar of battle and the presence of death panoplied in all his terrors had not disturbed. Noble matron! The daughters of the South will emulate your virtues, and the sons of the South will avenge your sufferings! The heaps on heaps of the enemy that were piled around your doors when you died, are but the earnest. A hundred yards to the right of the house of Mrs. Henry, lay five horses in a heap, and near by, another heap of as many more. Here a portion of Sherman’s battery made its last advance. Just as it reached the top of the hill, our riflemen approaching in the other direction reached it too. At once they poured in a fire which cut down horses and men and made the pieces unmanageable. The gallant boys followed the fire with a bayonet charge, and the guns were taken. It was here that Lieut. Ward fell. The cannon were taken and retaken several times in a furious fight; but the horses had been killed, and they could not be removed nor used.

On the left of Mrs. Henry’s, distant about a fourth oaf a mile, is a neat house belonging to a colored man named Robinson. A cannon ball drove through this also. Between these two is an orchard of small trees where Hampton’s legion fought and suffered so severely. Their graves are here. One of them which covers the remains of the Hon. J. L. Orr, is marked by a broken musket panted as a head stone.

Away on the extreme northern verge of the battle-ground, is the pine grove in which the Georgia regiment met the enemy’s advance. The gallant band there withstood the enemy’s columns, until nearly surrounded. They then retreated, not from those in front, but from those who were closing around them. In this pine grove there seemed scarce a tree that was not struck by the enemy’s balls. A number of Georgians fell here, and their graves are close by. In the grove was pointed out the spot where Lamar fell. In the rear was the dead charger of the lamented Gen. Bartow, killed under him, himself to fall soon after. But the Georgians suffered not their heroes to fall unavenged, for they piled the ground before them with the slain of the enemy.

The Battle Field.

The visit to the battle-ground of the 21st, noticed in yesterday’s issue, included a call, buy the writer, at several of the hospitals in which the wounded are now receiving attention. – Near the ford of Bull Run where the Northern army crossed in their advance against us, (it is about two miles above the Stone Bridge,) is a large brick church, known as the Sudley Southern Methodist church. It has been appriated to the wounded of the enemy, and is still overflowing – some being under sheds erected for their shelter. The pews of the church have been taken out, and the pallets of the wounded fill the floor. The altar of the church is the medicine dispensatory. The writer had often seen this sacred building filled with devout worshippers, whose meditations were disturbed by no anticipations of such a scene as not presented; but the care here taken of the wounded and the suffering, and they our enemies, who had causelessly come to do us the most grievous injuries, illustrated more forcibly, it may be, then even pulpit ministrations, the spirit which it is the object of churches to promote. Here was seen the fruit of former teachings. The invalids were well cared for, and were in various stages of convalescence. One who sat bolt upright on a char near the front door, and who told us that they were “all doing very well,” was himself, however, a proof that his testimony needed qualification. His rolling eye, his wild unnatural look, the wheezy, gurgling voice in which he said that his wound was “in the right chest,” his labored breathing, and throbbing frame, seemed to point to the mounds in the rear of the church where many of the wounded had gone, as his own speedy resting place. In this hospital, but a little before, a very young man in his last hour, had asked a visiting Southerner to engage in prayer with him. He said he had been raised to better things than he was now evidencing, expressed his gratitude, and soon after died.

In short, in the various hospitals for the wounded enemy, we saw only exhibitions of neatness and careful attention, and of a kindness that elicits a free expression of thanks from the sufferers. We must make one exception. There was one hospital where the filth was so disgusting that out tarry was very brief. It was the stone house on the roadside, where a Northern surgeon had charge of his own people. Fortunately his victims were but few.

The writer is more particular to detail these things, because of the slanders which the Northern papers are publishing. While the Northern people desert or neglect the mangled agents and victims of their diabolical designs against us, our kind ladies and citizens are actin the part of the good Samaritan towards them – binding up their wounds, and caring for their comfort. The returns for this are fervent expressions of gratitude from the sufferers, but unblushing charges of atrocious inhumanity in the Northern press! Thus do the two sections [?]itly illustrate the vast moral difference which, like a great gulf, divides Northern and Southern character.

In the hospital at Mr. Dogan’s, we found one of our wounded officers, the gallant Major Caleb Smith, of the 49th Virginia Regiment. A ball passed through his thigh, in the terrible conflict which closed the battle. He is doing well.

Just without the verge of the battle-field is the dwelling of a widow lady, also of the name of Dogan, who performed a part in the incidents of the day. The writer knows her well, and a most estimable lady she is. A squad of the enemy’s soldiers – a lieutenant and three men – came to her door, after the battle was over, claiming to be friends, and asked for food. She detected their character, and offered what they asked, on condition, and only on condition, that they would surrender to her. After some parley, they made professions of gallantry, and yielded. She locked up their arms, and then locked up themselves, and of course supplied them with food. Another, who was crossing the field about the same time, was captured by the young ladies of the house, who threatened to turn their dogs upon him unless he submitted. The prisoners were afterward sent into camp, and General Beauregard pleasantly complimented the exploit of our heroines, by promising to send a commission to the lady of the house. These are the daughters of the land which the Northern despot thinks he can subjugate!

Some words on the battle shall close these observations. Remarks are indulged by many writers, some of them of the South, to the effect that at one period of the fight our army was fairly whipped. This statement is both inaccurate and mischievous. Our army was never whipped; and this we propose to show by a simple narration.

To illustrate what we have to say, we will in part repeat a late general description of the battle ground. Draw a line a little north of east; it will represent the turnpike road which leads from Gainesville to Centreville, a total distance of eight miles. Midway between these villages, Bull Run is crossed but the turnpike on the “Stone Bridge.” A mile and a half west of the Stone Bridge a road crosses the turnpike nearly at a right angle. Towards the south this road leads to Manassas Junction. Towards the north it leads by Sudley church to the Sudley mills ford of Bull Run, about two miles distant. The course of Bull Run makes a sweep between the Stone Bridge and the Sudley ford.

The turnpike and the cross road, above describe, almost bisect the field of battle, in their respective directions. The fight was on both sides of both roads. The enemy, by a well conceived and well executed maneouvre, marched up the east side of Bull Run, crossed at Sudley ford where we had no defences, marched up the road from Sudley, and made his appearance on the heights north of the turnpike road and about three fourths of a mile distant. His line was nearly parallel to the turnpike, and instantly spread to both sides of the cross road to which it was of course at right angles. The line of our army was then facing Bull Run, with our left flank near Stone Bridge. The enemy thus came with his line against our flank. Our defences, too, were all turned and valueless, and nothing remained but for our troops to change front as rapidly as they might, and meet the enemy in the open field.

The forces which formed the let of our line, were of course the first to feel the enemy, and fronting to him they gave heroic battle. But while they held back the foes in their immediate front, the unresisted portion of the enemy’s line moving on, would speedily get upon their flank and threaten to surround them. This would compel our men to fall back; but as they fell back, by successive stages, they were brought in concert with others of our forces, and also strengthened by the arrival of the troops which were being rapidly brought up from the centre and right of out line on Bull Run. – Thus it was our line of battle constantly grew its length; but so long as it was shorter than that of the enemy, it was compelled to recede to avoid the raking flank fire of the overlapping portion of the enemy’s line. In this manner we slowly fell back from a point about three fourths of a mile North of the turnpike, to the parallel hill about the same distance South of that road. Here it was that our line got a length equal to that of the enemy. The out flanking, therefore, ceased, and our falling back ceased, and the full battle was joined. The conflict was terrible, but victory soon declared in our favor. Artillery and musketry poured in their fatal storm, and hand to hand conflict and the irresistible bayonet charge soon broke the thinned ranks of the enemy. – The flight now commenced. They were pursued over the whole ground by which they had advanced, and hills and hollows were filled with their slain.

If, then, we have conveyed the intended idea, the enemy’s line of battle retained a pretty uniform length of about a mile, while ours began with a very small front and widened at last to an equal width with his. While this widening progressed, our incomplete line receded; and when its object was consummated we stood, and the final issue was joined.

The inference drawn by Gen. McDowell from the receding of our troops in the first instance, that we were defeated and flying, seems therefore utterly unworthy of a military man. The dispatches which were sent back to Centreville and which seduced the boozy Congressmen there into fresh imbibitions, and were forwarded to cheer the chamber where Scott and Lincoln and Seward sat awaiting tidings, are a discredit to the intelligence of those who sent them. Our receding regiments did, indeed, suffer serious loss; but they inflicted greater! They left the mark of their heroism wherever they fought; and they fell back, not from the enemies in front, but upon their flank. To call this a defeat – to say that we were whipped – is to show a poor conception of the real condition of the battle. The battle was then not even made up! We were never whipped!

The attempt of the Northern presses to excuse their defeat by charging bad management on the part of the generals, is unwarranted by the facts. We think they managed well. They deprived us by their maneouvre of all aid from the entrenchments which we had prepared, and drew us into the open field. They got their whole line into battle long before it was possible for us to meet it with a line of equal length, and they fought the battle with by far the larger portion of their army, against by far the smaller portion of ours. – Their feigned attacks, an the tall forests which bound Bull Run and concealed their movements, enabled them to compass this. What more could they have desired? If the battle had continued and their heavier numbers had made a breach in our full line, our men behind would have arrived and restored it, and our full strength would have told at last. But the battle, as it stood, left the adversary nothing to wish in the way of opportunity. He was whipped with great slaughter, routed, chased from the field, not by a defect in his plan of battle, but by the irresistible prowess, the marvelous courage, the invincible resolve of Southern heroes, fighting for their homes and liberties. He was whipped by hard fighting. Nor were the Northern troops deficient in courage. As long as their attack on the troops in front of them was encouraged by the continuous flanking movement of their line which we have described, they stood well. They pressed with spirit upon our receding forces; and even when the full battle met, the slaughter which they suffered before they took to flight, showed a good degree of bravery. If the Northern people wish to know the source of their defeat, they must seek it, not in the disparagement of their officers or men, but in the military prowess and sublime courage of a virtuous people determined to be free, and who have not once thought of being conquered; and above all upon the favor of Heaven upon our good cause. That flight and panic among their retreating troops, which their papers so minutely describe, what resembles it so much as the panic by which Samaria was delivered from the beleaguering host of Assyria?

If we were to venture a single remark, by way of kindly caution to our own noble officers, it would be this: It is possible that in the late battle some were betrayed by personal courage, too much into individual exploit. – While Captains were cutting down the enemy, companies were in some cases losing their line, and becoming mixed up. It is well to avoid this. But we design not even to suggest a criticism. Officers and men, our army is composed of champions and heroes, and have won a victory whose transcendent glory and priceless advantage to our country, shall be a crown of honor to every participant until his dying day. To have been in the battle of Bull Run will be praise enough to fill the ambition of most men, and to ensure them favor wherever they may roam.

Richmond (VA) Enquirer, 8/2/1861

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