Report of the Conduct of the War, Volume 3, pp. 478 – 480
WASHINGTON, April 24, 1862.
JOHN KANE sworn and examined.
By Mr. Gooch:
Question. Were you present at the battle of Bull Run?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. What position did you occupy there?
Answer. I was sergeant in the 10th company of the 79th regiment, and acting orderly to Colonel Cameron.
Question. Were you near him when he was killed?
Answer. Yes, sir; not more than 15 or 20 yards from him.
Question. Will you state the circumstances of his death, and what was done with his body afterwards?
Answer. He was standing conversing with a lieutenant of the 10th company in relation to taking off the wounded, when he received a bullet in his left breast and fell while in the act of speaking. He endeavored to say something after he was shot, but the blood gushed out of his mouth and nose, and he fell, dying almost instantly. As soon as it was ascertained that he was dead, some eight men placed his body across their muskets, and carried it back off the field, and placed it in an ambulance of the second Maine regiment. The surgeon at first objected to our placing a dead man in the ambulance, saying it was needed for the wounded. But when we told him it was the body of Colonel Cameron, the brother of the Secretary of War, he said we could put it in there.
At that time General McDowell rode up and told me to order our men, who were scattering, to rally on the hill and try to form a square and prepare to repel some cavalry who were coming. I replied that I was in charge of Colonel Cameron’s body, and wanted to take it back to Washington. He then told me to pass the order to the first officer of the regiment I met, when I could return. I mounted Colonel Cameron’s horse and rode back, until I saw the major of the regiment, to whom I gave the orders of General McDowell. General McDowell coming along there, I informed him that I had given his orders to the major of the regiment, when I got permission to return to where I had left the body of Colonel Cameron.
When I got back I met the surgeon of the regiment, who informed me that the hospital had been taken possession of by the enemy, and several prisoners taken; and that if I went where we had left the ambulance with the body of Colonel Cameron I would also be taken prisoner. I replied that it would not much matter if I were, and that I should try to find the body. When I reached where the ambulance was I found that some ten or fifteen of the rebel cavalry— black horse cavalry, as I understood—had been there, thrown all the bodies out of the ambulance, and driven it off for their own wounded. One of the surgeons then told me that I had better make the best of my way to Washington, for if I remained there I should be taken prisoner. I accordingly returned.
I afterwards went out with a flag of truce from Colonel McCunn’s headquarters to endeavor to get the body. I saw a Lieutenant Barbour, who was the senior officer of the post at Fall’s Church, to whom I gave my papers. We were obliged to wait there until he communicated with Colonel Stewart. Towards evening the messenger returned and said that we could not have permission to go to Centreville, but they would forward the papers to headquarters, and would give me an answer the next day. The next day we returned, and were informed that we could not have the permission we asked, because the papers were addressed “to whom it may concern;” that it did not concern them, and if they were not officially addressed they would not recognize any papers sent to them. I asked Lieutenant Barbour to see that some mark was put upon the grave of Colonel Cameron so that it could be found, and he promised that he would do so.
When Centreville was evacuated in March last, I accompanied a party down there to obtain the body of Colonel Cameron, but we could find nothing to indicate where the grave was. We asked one man living there—Mr. Lewis, I believe—who we understood knew where the grave was, but he denied having any knowledge of it, which I have reason to believe was false. I took the party to where Colonel Cameron fell, and also to where the ambulance was that his body was placed in. We met a slave, who said he knew where the body was, because he had heard his mistress—a widow Donn—say it was his body; and he had seen a locket, with a picture in it, and some papers that had been taken from his body. The. negro said the body had remained on the field from Sunday till Thursday before it was buried, and that he had noted the place where it was buried particularly, as he had understood that a reward would be paid for finding the body.
We went to the place pointed out by the negro and opened the grave; we found several bodies there; they had to all appearance been thrown in in any way, just as they came to them; in endeavoring to remove the remains of Colonel Cameron without separating them any, which we did by inserting a board under the lower part of the body and pushing it gradually and carefully up towards the head, we had to take off one of his arms and the skull of another body that was lying on it; we recognized the body from the clothing on it; from a shirt that I had myself bought for him in Washington, and from a truss that we found on the body; several officers with us, who knew Colonel Cameron, also recognized the body; we placed the remains in a rough box coffin that we made there and brought them away with us; the other bodies in the same grave or ditch appeared to be bodies of private soldiers.
Question. Had anything been taken from the body?
Answer. Yes, sir; we found his pockets turned inside out, and his watch, ring, purse, locket, boots and spurs had been taken away; he had over $80 in his purse, for on the morning of the battle I had taken out of his valise and given to him four twenty dollar pieces and some smaller gold pieces; at the time he fell I took his revolvers and keys, and brought them back with me.
Question. Did you make any inquiry as to the rifling of the body?
Answer. Yes, sir; and I was told that the body was rifled by some of the black horse cavalry, and that some of the articles had been shown by one of Stewart’s cavalry.
Question. From whom did you learn that fact?
Answer. This negro said his mistress had told him so; and I heard others speak of it; Lieutenant Barbour said he had heard something of it from his own men.
Question. Who buried the body of Colonel Cameron?
Answer. This negro said that he and two other negroes had buried the bodies there; the other two negroes have been carried away, but this one managed to remain some way; an order was given by some one that each resident should see that the bodies near their houses were buried; that is the way these negroes came to bury them; they dug the hole and put in it all the bodies they found anywhere near.
Question. Did you ask this negro who had rifled Colonel Cameron’s body?
Answer. Yes, sir; he said he did not know, except that he had heard his mistress say that it was done by one of the black horse cavalry when they took it out of the ambulance in which we had left it; the negro said the pockets were turned inside out when he came across the body at the time they buried it.