Sgt. John Vliet, Co. D, 14th New York State Militia, On the Battle and Retreat

17 06 2020

Camp Porter, Arlington Heights,
July 23d, 1861.

We left Camp Porter on Tuesday, July 16th, and slept in the open field until last night, as our tents did not go with us, on account of there being too much baggage when on a long march. On Sunday morning we got on our way at three o’clock for Bull’s Run, and marched until near 12 o’clock, without halting scarcely and of the way, and when we arrived within a mile and a half of the battle field they put us on the double quick march, which exhausted the men, it being a warm day and water scarce, so that they were unfit for the duty before them. But they managed to make three rallies with our regiment; the last one I was unable to move one foot before the other, and I laid or dropped down under a tree, which was struck three times with round shot from the enemy’s batteries; but that did not trouble me the least. I thought they would call me cowardly for leaving my post, but it was impossible for me to stand up, as our company had been on picket guard on Friday night, and kept on duty all Saturday; then getting ready on Saturday night to march early Sunday morning was enough to almost kill the stoutest among us. How I escaped God can only tell, for the two first rallies of our regiment the shot and shell fell like hail around us. We fought for five hours in the face of their batteries, and then were obliged to retreat, on account of the ammunition from our artillery giving out. Ad such a retreat you never saw nor heard tell of – the whole of our troops scattered in every direction, and scenes I witnessed are too horrible to relate. As I said before, it was impossible for me to walk, for I seemed to have a burning hot fever and was obliged to drink muddy water by the wayside; but my thirst could not be quenched, and I wished then they had shot me on the spot. I walked a short distance from the field and laid down to rest or die; then I got up and walked again, but could only travel a short space, and as the enemy’s cavalry was close to us I concluded to take my chances in the thick woods. I spread my blanket, which I had picked up by the road side, as all the troops threw their blankets and haversacks away before going into the field. I slept until 5 o’clock in the morning, and then started on my way, but felt very sick. There being a heavy white coating on my tongue, which showed I was in a fever, but the thought of being taken prisoner and hung kept me jogging along until I reached Centreville, when some kind hearted woman gave me a bowl of coffee, which revived me, and I was able to walk along through a heavy rain until I reached our camp in Arlington, having travelled for twelve hours without scarcely eating anything, except two crackers; but I had a good sleep last night. I think that water inside and out, with plenty of exercise, are food for fever. The only thing this morning is a slight stiffness in the calves of my limbs.

Sergt. Jno. Vliet, 14th Regt.

Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, 7/29/1861

Clipping image

Clear Copy at 

Contributed by John Hennessy

84th New York Infantry roster (the 14th NYSM became the 84th New York Volunteer Infantry 

John Vliet at Ancestry 

John Vliet at Fold3