Lieut. Douglas French Forrest, Co. H,* 17th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

23 07 2020

A GRAPHIC PICTURE.
—————

We have been permitted to copy the following extracts from a letter written by a young officer who greatly distinguished himself at the battle of Manassas.

Should his modesty take offence at the publication of his frank expressions of feeling and unreserved narration of events, our apology is found in the fact that the original was placed at our disposal byt the courtesy of those to whom it was addressed.

The style is singularly copious, and the descriptive passages especially fine; and the more to be admired when we reflect that the letter was written, a la Pope**, upon fugitive scraps of paper, and currente calamo.***

THE NIGHT BEFORE THE BATTLE.

Saturday night was spent in watching. – The enemy’s bugle, his drum, the rumble of his baggage trains and artillery; not only these, but their very words of command, being distinctly audible in the silent night.

The next morning partly refreshed, we were ordered over the ford, (Bull Run,) as scouts in that direction. I was creeping over the field, when the enemy threw a shell at my party, which exploded just in advance of us. Here we passed a body, one of the Massachusetts slain, (shot the day before,) blackened and ghastly.

After a few hours we were ordered to our reserve, and, without breakfast, to deploy as skirmishers. The first reserve had been left in charge of Willie Fowle. I led the second further on, while the Captain placed himself in the skirt of wood, having established a line of sentries. Here we watched the enemy’s batteries, and would report their movements to the General. Becoming anxious about him, I left my reserve under Zimmerman, and advanced on the spot. The Captain said: “Don, I am awfully sleepy, and will just take a little nap, if you will watch those fellows there.” I cheerfully acquiesced, and relieved Jordan, one of our men who was the actual look-out at the fence. Here I lay on my face, my time pleasantly occupied with the proceedings at the batteries, the ceaseless explosions of the guns and rattle of musketry from the great fight below being in strange contrast with the quiet scenery of mountains and valleys!

SHOWING HOW YANKEE SPORTSMEN FLUSHED GAME AND THEMSELVES TOOK WING.

I unclasped my sword bet and yielded myself to the seductions of the scene, and was startled from my almost reverie by the cry of Lovelace, one of our men, posted on the right: “Look out, Lieutenant! Here they are!” Looking around I saw their skirmishers within about thirty yards with their pieces at a ready, and advancing, just as sportsmen approach a covey of partridges. I shouted to the Captain, and we dashed into the woods. I then asked him if we should fight them? He said, “he reckoned we had.” I then yelled to the boys, “Come on, Old Dominions! Now’s your chance! Now is the chance you’ve waited for!” This shout of mine was heard by our forces on the other side of the Run. The boys say I said “Isn’t it Glorious!” But I don’t remember. On came the boys. I led them, pointed out the Yankees, and we drove them out of the woods and completely put them to flight. As we drove them into the field, the enemy’s battery, about four hundred yards off, opened on us with grape and cannister, and we ordered a retreat; not, however, before our men returned it, firing right at the guns, wounding, as I have since learned from a prisoner, several of their men.

THE “IRON DICK” BATTLE.

We were exposed nearly half a mile without support. The enemy had our range completely, and we were in great peril – the balls whizzing and humming all around us. Fowle, who had advanced his reserve, and behaved with great coolness, says the line of skirmishers extended a long way and intended to cut us off; but we gave a yell, and as I have said, drove them home. Arthur was too slow in retreat even after he had given the order. I had to turn back twice too look for him.

How the balls rattled! Every man would sometimes have to get behind a tree to escape the “dreaded storm.”

A SOLDIER’S GRAVE.

McDermot, one of our men, was killed by a grape-shot. On yesterday I buried him. He had lain out all night, and our eyes filled with woman’s tears as we covered him with his blanket, and left him to sleep on the field where he had fallen. Hurdles put a head and foot mark at his grave, with the inscription in pencil:

Dennis McDermot, of the Old Dominion Rifles, of Alexandria, Va, died in battle, July 21, 1861, a gallant soldier and a good man.”

THE RETREAT OF THE “GRAND ARMY.”

What a glorious day Sunday was for the South! When the rout of the enemy came, down the long line of Bull Run (Yankee’s Run? Eds.) up went a shout! Oh! how grand it was! Imagine the quiet woods through which the watching bayonets glittered silently, suddenly alive with triumphant hurrahs! From right to left, and left to right, for seven miles they were repeated! Then came to order to advance, and as we left the woods and gained the high and open ground, the grandest spectacle I ever saw met my eyes. Company after company, regiment after regiment, brigade after brigade, army after army of our troops appeared We halted to enjoy the sight, and as our glorious artillery and dashing cavalry spurred by in pursuit, shout after shout rent the air. General Longstreet, our Brigade Commander, rode along our line with his staff and thousands of men flung their caps in the air, or swung them on their bayonets. Col. Corse our gallant little Colonel got his meed of hurrahs; next, an old negro who rode by with his gun, got no small salute. And then the sunset came in a perfect glory of light sifted through the leaves.

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/3/1861

Clipping Image

This letter also appears in History of the 17th Virginia Regiment, C.S.A, by George Wise

* Per Col. Montgomery Corse’s Official Report,  Co. H (Capt. Herbert) was advanced across Bull Run as skirmishers on the morning of the 21st. The roster in the above referenced regimental history lists three lieutenants in Co. H: Wm. H. Fowle, Jr; D. F. Forrest; and W. W. Zimmerman. As the letter writer identifies Fowle and Zimmerman in his narrative, and is identified as a lieutenant, this letter was likely written by 2nd Lt. D. F. Forrest.

** Alexander Pope wrote his translation of Homer’s Illiad on the backs of scraps of otherwise used paper.

*** Without deep reflection, extemporaneous, “off the cuff.”

Douglas French Forrest bio

Douglas French Forrest at Ancestry.com 

Douglas French Forrest at Fold3 

Douglas French Forrest at FindAGrave 

 





“An Eye-Witness,” 17th Virginia Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford

18 07 2020

THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN.

An “Eye-Witness” of this fight desires us to publish the following, and an act of justice to the troops who bore the brunt of the action. Though rather late in the day for a description of scenes with which the reader is familiar, we comply with the request:

Too much credit cannot be given to the 1st and 17th Regiments of Virginia Volunteers for their good conduct in the battle of Bull Run on Thursday, the 18th day of July. It was an experimental or test action in which the enemy first learned to run, and first discovered the necessity of so doing to save themselves from our steady fire and determined assault. It had a most important effect on the battle of Sunday, the 21st. In both cases the flight of the enemy was most precipitate and disastrous.

Gen. Longstreet’s Brigade, consisting of 1st Regiment Virginia Volunteers, commanded by Co. Moore, 17th Regiment, Col. Corse, and 11th Regiment, Col. Garland, were ordered under arms and marched in ten minutes out of camps at Manassas on the morning of the 17th, and in quick time reached Bull Run, some four miles distant. We were posted in a bend or horse-shoe of the run on the inner circle and along the bank. As the movement was designed as an ambuscade, silence and secrecy were observed by the troops. We slept on our arms that night, and early in the morning were ready for action. About eight o’clock our force was posted by regiment and divisions at the most available points for defense around the circle and flanking above and below Blackburn’s ford. It fell to the lot of the 17th to be posted mainly around this ford – one division was advanced across the ford to the opposite bank as skirmishers; the other divisions of the 17th were posted on the bank within the circle protected by trees and undergrowth, ready to meet the enemy as they advanced over the opposite bank, which was much higher than the ground occupied by us.

The Washington Artillery was some distance in the rear, and several regiments were posted near by in case of necessity. About 11 ½ A. M., the report of a rifle was heard from the other side of the run, then another and another. It was evident that the enemy were feeling for us in different directions. Then came the fire of a cannon, followed by many others in succession. This continued for half an hour without being noticed by us. We supposed by this that our position was discovered and all hope of the ambuscade was at an end, for very soon the enemy were seen advancing over the hill. Our artillery then opened fire, which was followed by the infantry around the ford. The rattling of musketry and the booming of cannon continued, with two slight pauses until about five o’clock in the afternoon, when the fire of the enemy ceased altogether; and it was afterwards discovered he had suddenly retreated, leaving many of his dead and wounded, several hundred muskets and two pieces of cannon on the field. The enemy fired their rifle cannon at the hospital, though protected by its flag, and struck it. They also fired at the ambulances with wounded men in them. Their sudden retreat was in no doubt owing, not only to the bloody repulse they had met with and the sad havoc made in their ranks, but to the appearance on the field of two Southern regiments coming shouting at double-quick. The shout was taken up by our brigade, and the horse shoes rung with the sound of human voices, that for a moment almost equalled the artillery. Certain it is, they fired but a few scattering shots after that, and had we known they were retreating we would have made a [?] of it. We were expecting the attack to be renewed every minute. As it was, their loss, in killed, wounded and missing, was over one thousand. Our loss did not exceed in [?] killed and about 60 wounded.

The Washington Artillery on that day immortalized itself. For coolness and courage, [?] of management of the guns, and rapidity and certainty of fire, it could not be excelled. Every man in the 1st and 17th did his whole duty. From position they, with the artillery, bore the brunt of the whole fight. Where every one fought so well, it were invidious to particularize.

Col. Moore, of the 1st, was wounded in the arm, and the commanded devolved on Lt. Col. Fry, who was assisted by Maj. Skinner. – Col. Corse, Lt. Col. Munford, and Adjutant Humphreys of the 17th, and Major Brent, were on the field in command in different parts of it. All these officers were in the thickest of the fight and displayed utmost coolness and courage. But nothing could exceed the cool determination and fearless daring of the officers and men of the line in the 17th Regiment. The writer could not obtain a list of the killed and wounded.

The Captains seemed to be marked by the enemy. Captain Dulaney, of the Fairfax Rifles, was shot in the shoulder by a musket ball. Captain Prestman was shot in the arm and side by buck-shot. These officers were taken from the field. Captain B. H. Shackelford, of the Warrenton Rifles, was shot in the ankle by a cannister ball. He bandaged the wound and remained upon the field till the close of the fight. O doubt is entertained that all of them will recover.

General Longstreet seemed to be everywhere, regardless of danger, and unconscious of what a conspicuous mark he presented to the enemy.

All praise, say we, to the [?] Regiments of Longstreet’s Brigade, and [?] of the first and seventeenth regiments.

An Eye-Witness

Richmond (VA) Dispatch, 8/3/1861

Clipping Image





Preview: Pfarr, “Longstreet at Gettysburg”

19 12 2019

b05c2ea8-f26f-4ee5-ab7b-1f3dfb9e7f71_1.e8282d87c195f3ff131d7793df1c2dd4A recent publication from McFarland & Co. is Cory M. Pfarr’s Longstreet at Gettysburg: A Critical Reassessment. Mr. Pfarr works for the Department of Defense and lives in Pikeville, MD.

From the back cover:

This is the first book-length analysis of Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s actions at Gettysburg. The author argues that Longstreet has been discredited unfairly, beginning with character assassination by his contemporaries after the war and, persistently, by historians in the decades since.

By a close study of the three-day battle and an incisive historiographical inquiry into Longstreet’s treatment by scholars, the author presents an alternative view of Longstreet as an effective military leader, and refutes over a century of negative evaluations.

I guess the key phrase here is “book-length,” because undoubtedly there have been other works that reassess Longstreet in general, stretching back to the first assessments, as well as modern works by folks like Jeffery Wert, Henry Knudsen and William Garrett Piston, to name just a few. How this singular focus on Lee’s Warhorse’s work at Gettysburg specifically differs from others is the question.

You get:

  • Foreword by Harold Knudsen
  • 186 pages of narrative in 25 chapters.
  • 12 pages of endnotes.
  • 4 1/2 page bibliography, primarily published sources.
  • Full index

 

 

 





Unknown, 5th North Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

31 08 2015

Col. McRae’s Regiment at Manassas.

We regret very much that a sprained ankle kept our friend McRae from the field at Manassas, for we know he would have been willing to risk his life a thousand times to have participated in that day’s work. But the Regiment was there and did noble work as will be seen from the following account.

The Fifth Infantry, North Carolina State Troops, forms a part of Brigadier General Longstreet’s command, and although crippled in its efficiency by the sickness of two of its field officers, nobly performed its part in the battle at Manassas, on the right wing, under the gallant lead of its Lieutenant Colonel, who was in sole command during the entire engagement.

Early in the morning the cannonading commenced from two batteries on the right flank of the position occupied by this regiment, supported by a full brigade of the enemy. Col. Jones, determined to ascertain the position of their batteries and the force of the enemy, detailed a small reconoitering force under the command of the Rev. James Sinclair, Chaplain of the Regiment, who had volunteered his services for the day. – This force crossed the Run, and attempted to penetrate the wood on the left of the enemy’s position, but was recalled in order to charge the batteries up the ravine on the right, the scouts having brought in the necessary information. – The Virginia Seventeenth was at the same time ordered to support the North Carolina fifth, which duty it gallantly discharged. General Longstreet, with characteristic valor, undertook now a movement which if the orders were understood generally, would have carried the day with a still greater lustre, if not a more complete victory.

Col. Jones was ordered to send four companies up the hill as skirmishers, and to draw the fire of the batteries, while Brigadier General Jones from our right was to flank the enemy on his left. The reserve companies of the 5th, supported by the 17th Virginia, was to attack the right. The skirmishers of the North Carolina 5th, headed by the Chaplain, charged up the hill, in the face of a storm of grape and canister which killed two and wounded five of his men. On the summit of that hill these man lay for two hours, receiving the enemy’s fire without flinching, while on every side the hoary monarches of the forest were being mown down like grass before the mower’s scythe. The brave commander himself seemed to be ubiquitous here, there and everywhere exposing himself in the hottest of the fire. It is hard for men to remain still and receive the fire of the enemy, without being permitted to return it; and this precisely was the condition of the North Carolina 5th on the 21st inst. Long and eagerly did those brave men watch for the signal of the attack upon the right, in order to advance and give the Northern hounds a tuch of the Southern steel.

After remaining on the hill for two hours, and losing in killed and wounded seven men, this gody received orders to retire to the ravine, which was done in good order.

But the tide of battle again rolled down the hill, and once more four companies of the 5th N. S. State troops were ordered to occupy the summit, and await orders to advance with the bayonet on the battery on the right of the enemy’s position. This was accomplished without any loss to the North Carolinians and although they were not privileged to advance upon the battery, we think the North Carolina Fifth Infantry has given good earnest that at no distant day she will carve for herself a name in the military annals of the Southern Confederacy. Had Col. Jones the other field officers of the Regiment with him, there would have probably been another bright spot in the glories of the 21st of July, 1861. But Bravely did he perform his duty, though his Lieutenant Colonel was a preacher, taking his first lesson in the art of war, and imparting the same to the enemy in the most impressive manner possible.

Gen. Longstreet, in token of his appreciation of Mr. Sinclair’s services on the occasion, presented him with one of the sabres captured from the enemy, and expressed his desire that he should go on his staff.

[New Bern, NC] Weekly Progress, 8/6/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

Rev. James Sinclair info Findagrave, post war Congressional testimony, defends his reputation in 1864 – all in all, an interesting fellow.

Joseph P. Jones resigned 10/24/1861