Capt. William H. Mitchell, Co. A, 11th Georgia Infantry, On Movements from Atlanta to Manassas, the Battlefield, Prisoners, and Camp

26 01 2022

Interesting Letter.




Camp Bartow,
Near Manassas Junction, Va.,
August 12, 1861

Dear Doctor: I do not address this letter to you with any hope that what I write will be of much interest to you; but rather with the desire of eliciting a reply from which we may satiate the daily increasing desire to hear from old Hall county. We who are in the centre of the operations of the Army of the Potomac, really know less of what is going on here in the aggregate than you who are seven or eight hundred miles away. Looking out from our camp, we see, on every side, a wilderness of tents whitening the green hills as far as the eye can reach. Immediately around us are the 7th, 8th and 9th Georgia Regiments, and a Kentucky Battalion, which all belong to our brigade. Nearly a mile away, and in plain view, is the camp of the Georgia Regulars and the Georgia 13th; on the other side are the North Carolinians. The entire army, numbering not less than — men, according to the best information I can get, is now stationed in an extent of country equaling Hall county in area. In going over the country, on is always surrounded by camps, never losing sight of them. The troops are moving about every day; but we only know what we see, and have no idea what are the general movements of the army. We seldom see any newspapers; and, perplexed with continual camp rumors, we know nothing at all.

A North Carolina Regiment, stationed within two hundred yards of us, received orders, night before last, to cook provisions and prepare for going into battle in the morning. The preparations were accordingly made, but they have not marched yet. It is rumored that the Federal troops are maneuvering in the vicinity of Fairfax. Our higher officers anticipate hot work before the middle of September.

After being mustered into the service of the Confederate States, at Atlanta, on the 3d of July, we took the cars for Richmond by the Northern route, where we arrived about the 10th, having been detained a few days at Lynchburg. We remained a week in Richmond, during which time, we were reviewed by President Davis and staff. At that time, Gen. Patterson, with a large force, was manoeuvring before the army of the Shenandoah, commanded by Gen. Johnston; and an attack being anticipated, we were hurried off from Richmond on the 15th of July, for the supposed point of action. Without leaving the cars, we went for 36 hours, as fast as steam could carry us. Passing Manassas Junction, where Gen. Beauregard was strongly entrenched, during the night of the 16th, we arrived at Strasburg, and encamped, without pitching the tents, in the midst of a field; and, after cooking the scanty rations furnished by the Quartermaster at this point, we lay down to rest, with the blue, star-gemmed canopy of Heaven for a covering, and the cold ground for a bed. The scenery along the route from Manassas to Strasburg is very pretty. Crossing the mountains, into the celebrated valley of Virginia, and at Strasburg, the mountains rise picturesquely on every side. The next morning early we set out for Winchester, along a lonesome and hot turnpike road, on each side of which was an unending stone fence, and the richest lands in the world; but no shade. The water throughout this whole section of country is so strongly impregnated with limestone as to be almost undrinkable by those accustomed to good freestone water. The day was hot, and the men drank every time they could get water. To me it tasted exactly like epsom salts, and had the same effect; and I believe it was the same with all of our men. We marched about 20 miles, and arrived at Winchester. – After marching through the village, we encamped on a bleak hill, on the opposite side, where we again cooked and ate a scanty supper, and slept without tents. In the meantime, it had been discovered that Gen. Patterson’s operations were only a iruse de quere,i the real point of attack being at Manassas Junction. – We knew nothing of this, however, when, on the next morning, an order came for us to cook all the provisions we had, and to be in readiness for marching by 11 o’clock. Having been informed that our regiment had been attached to a brigade commanded (by seniority of commission) by Col. Bartow – three companies of which were encamped on the opposite side of the village, about three or four miles distant – I very naturally concluded that we were going to move our camp to the vicinity of theirs; but, upon arriving in the village, we found the streets crowded with a dense column of soldiery – the entire army of the Shenandoah, numbering many thousand men, were pressing forward with a rapid step. As we passed thru’ the streets, women with tears in their eyes upbraided us for leaving them to the mercy of the for; all of which was incomprehensible to us. We fell into the line of march at our place in Bartow’s brigade, which brought up the rear; and, after leaving the village some distance. Col. Bartow and staff halted and communicated to the regiments, that Gen. Beauregard was sorely pressed by an overwhelming Northern army, and that everything depended upon our speeding to assistance. The news was received with enthusiastic shouts, and the serried columns pressed forward at almost double-quick time. The men of our regiment, worn out by the want of food and loss of sleep, and exhausted by the toilsome march of the preceding day, marched on with step as light as the lightest. The Gainsville Light Infantry (being company A) was in front of the regiment; and well might Hall county have been proud on that day to see her sons, determined not to be outdone in the generous rivalry to go to the assistance of our General – their brave spirits striving with the weakness of the flesh, and determined to keep up with the older and fresher troops in advance of them. But this could not last long; Nature asserted her away, and the restless spirit, that would annihilate distance, was compelled to measure with slower and more unsteady steps the weary furlongs that seemed like miles. At one o’clock at night, we waded the Shenandoah, which was about as wide, and deeper, than the Chattahoochee at Shallow Ford. By this time, thousands even of the fresh and experienced troops before us had sunk exhausted by the roadside. Two only of our company had fallen off, and they had been sick. By daylight, we reached a small town call Paris, where we halted for the first time, and remained about an hour. Two more of our company had fallen off – making four in all – while some of the companies of our regiment could not muster more than ten or fifteen me, out of 80 or 90.

Before reaching Paris, while some wagoners were watering their horses, we halted for two or three minutes. The men were so weary, that, upon the command to rest, they lay flat down in the road, and, in a moment, they were all fast asleep. On each side of the road were large piles of limestone rocks, which had been thrown out to render the road passable. The men had scarcely lain for a moment when the alarm was given, and suddenly a party came thundering down the hills. Thus suddenly awakened, the men scrampled out of the road as quickly as possible. The cavalry, without stopping or slacking their speed, kept on, and run over the legs of some of the men who had not awakened. Fortunately, none were hurt. But one of our company, in trying to get out of the way, strained his ancle. Soon after daylight, we left Paris, and, after marching seven or eight miles, we arrived at a small railroad station, in the midst of the mountains, called Piedmont, which we had passed three days before on our way from Manassas to Strasburg. This forced march brought to my mind, very forcibly, the celebrated retreat of Napoleon from Moscow; and more than once I was satisfied that we were retreating before Gen. Patterson; and what encouraged the belief was the fact that, after night, fires were built at intervals along the route, in the shape of camp fires, and left burning, as if to confuse and perplex a pursuing enemy. Our brigade was in the rear, and I momentarily expected an attack. Although I was mistaken in the main, it was only a chance we did not have a collision, for I have since been informed that, during the same night, Gen. Patterson crossed the Shenandoah, within three miles of where we crossed it with an army of 40,000 men. About 8,000 men left Piedmont daily, crowded into every train, day and night, yet our time did not come until Monday morning, 22d July. A part of our brigade, the 7th and 8th regiments arrived at Manassas, in time to participate in the battle of the 21st, and were badly cut to pieces, as you will learn more fully by the newspapers. It was raining hard on the morning of the 22d, when we arrived at Manassas.

After arriving at Manassas, and during the time that Col. Anderson was gone to Gen. Johnston for orders, I had an opportunity of seeing some of the captured Yankee officers, cannons, and other trophies of the fight. Several hundred privates, who had been taken, were kept in a pen close by, but I did not go to see them. I also saw a great number of our own men who had been killed and wounded in the battle. Nearly all of our own wounded had been brought to the Junction. I also had an opportunity of looking over the wilderness of tents, surrounded on every side by strong sand batteries, with heavy guns of every calibre frowning from frowning from the embrasures, and bidding defiance to attack. Beauregard says that the camp at the Junction is impregnable, and expresses regret that the Yankees did not come within reach of his fortifications, where they would doubtless have been mowed down like grass. After waiting a short time, we were marched from the Junction towards the battle-field; the way led through an old field; but a holiday having been given in honor of the victory, the whole earth had been trodden to mortar by the thousands whom curiosity or booty had lured to the battle-field, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather. Soon after leaving the Junction, we began to meet the returning soldiers loaded with Yankee blankets, overcoats, knapsacks, canteens, rifles, pistols, and, in fact, every kind of equipment that could be conceived of. The further we went the deeper became the crowd, and we met hundreds of wagons returning with captured arms, &c. Some wagons that had been sent with us to carry our provisions (all of our blankets, knapsacks, tents, &c., had been left at Winchester) were forcibly pressed into the service by those who were sent to pick up arms, &c., and every vehicle, regardless of ownership, was taken in the same way. It was still raining hard when we stopped in a sort of swampy place, about a mile from the point where Sherman’s Battery was taken. We took up camp without tents, or blankets, or any sort of covering or convenience. Having had fires built, there being no provisions to cook, and, indeed, nothing to do but take the rain, Anderson, Dorsey and myself took a stroll over the battle-field. The first dead Yankee I saw had his head shot off by a grape shot, while kneeling behind a fence. After leaving him, we went but a short distance before we came to another and another, thicker and thicker, till the ground was literally strewn with them and their dead horses. All of the wounded of whom there was any hope of their recovery, had been removed, but I saw several who showed signs that life was not extinct. It was a sad sight to seem them laying there in the cold rain, with their gay uniforms disfigured with mud and blood. Once I paused to look at a handsome young man, clad in the gaudy uniform of the New York Zouaves – blue cloth jackets, trimmed with lace, and red trousers. His youthful and expressive countenance seemed to bear vestiges of the death struggle; but although the blue lines began to appear around his eyes, there was a sweet, generous expression about them that arrested my attention. He was lying on his back; his hand, withered by long saturation in the rain, resting on his breast, which had been pierced by a bullet. I had looked but a moment, when there came a convulsive shudder over his whole frame; his breast heaved tremulously, and with that momentary struggle the thick clotted blood burst from his mouth and nostrils, covering his whole face. From this horrid spectacle I turned away, but similar ones met the eye on every side. At the point where the Sherman Battery was taken, the slaughter was tremendous. From one stand point I counted the dead bodies of fifty splendid horses; and the men were so numerous that I did not think of counting them. In a house about fifty yards from this point, occupied by a Mrs. Henry, (said to have been the family of Patrick Henry,) the Yankees took refuge, and in a moment it was riddled by the Southern Artillery. Mrs. Henry, who is said to have been 90 years of age, was unfortunately killed. She was buried in her own garden.

After seeing more than enough to satisfy our curiosity, we returned to the camp, where we arrived near night, and where a cheerless prospect awaited us. The men had built large fires, but it was no protection from the cold rain, which fell incessantly throughout the dreary night. Some sat up all night, and others, overcome by fatigue, lay down in the mud and rain, and slept as composedly as if they had been in their comfortable homes – Towards morning the rain slackened, and by sunrise the clouds had dispersed. The warm sun now shone out, and as the water evaporated from the ground, there was an almost suffocating smell of fresh flesh – that sickening smell peculiar to a butcher’s pen. We remained at the same point till the wet weather springs and mud holes (our sole dependence for water) dried up. We suffered mostly from the scarcity of provisions, resulting from the sudden and unexpected concentration of so large a body of troops. We have moved several times, and are now only a few miles above Manassas, on the eastern side of the railroad, and about six miles from the battle field. The last time I passed through the battle field, it presented a horrible spectacle; the blackening and unburied bodies of the dead Yankees covered the ground, tainting the air with a stench that can only be imagined. The Yankees did not offer to bury their dead, and the weather favoring rapid decomposition, it soon became impossible to bury them all. Many were buried by our troops.

I have seen and talked with many of the prisoners taken in the battle. They speak highly of the Southern soldiers, saying that such fighting was never seen before, as was done on the 21st. There was a Mississippi Company which, after firing away all their cartridges, threw down their guns, and pitched in with their Bowie knives. I heard one of the prisoners say, that they had the Bowie knives fastened with a string to their arms, and threw it after the manner of the sling shot. He said nothing could resist such troops; every man fought on his own hook, and they did not know when they were whipped. Near one of the dead Yankees I found a letter, written the day before the battle, addressed to his sweet heart, and telling her that he was about to start for Richmond – that there would be a slight battle at Manassas, where they would gain the victory, and in two more days would breakfast in Richmond. Poor girl! If she loved him, it will grieve her heart to hear how his high hopes melted away, when Southern prowess turned the tide of invasion at Manassas. Some of the Yankees, however, were pretty saucy, and said that we had done nothing great in killing a few men and taking a few cannons – that there was plenty of the same sort left where those came from.

Notwithstanding the want of water and provisions, and the exposure of our men, little or no sickness has prevailed till within the past week, except occasional cases of diarrhea. At this time we have many cases of measles, mumps, and some typhoid fever. Out of 760 men composing our Regiment, not more than 250 men are fit for duty. Some of our Regiment have died – none of my company as yet. The sickness and mortality is not confined to our own Regiment; scarcely an hour passes without hearing a volley discharged over the grave of some deceased soldier. I trust, but it seems almost beyond hope, that our men may pass through this ordeal without a single death.

A few days ago, Col. Anderson told me he wished to adopt, as a regimental uniform, a suit of brown Jeans, and wished the Captains to make the arrangement. I find, upon the receipt of letters by some of the company, that the suit has been anticipated by the citizens of Hall County. They have truly been kind and liberal to my company, and I am sure they will feel satisfied when they know what our boys have undergone, and how much they have suffered without complaint, every trial and vexation incident to a soldier’s life. They have won the good will and esteem of all, and I am proud to say they have received in public and especial compliment from the regimental Chaplain.

I have now written you a long letter, and have in some sort given you a succinct history of the Gainsville Light Infantry, up to the present time, and I ask in return that you will give me a similar account of Gainsville.

Sincerely and truly yours,
Cpt. Company A., 11th Reg.
Georgia Volunteers

(Atlanta, GA) Southern Confederacy, 9/12/1861

Clipping Image

William H. Mitchell at Ancestry

William H. Mitchell at Fold3

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

Clipping Image

Judith Henry

9 12 2013