“L.V.H.”, Co. I, 4th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

30 07 2021

Manassas Junction, July 24, 1861.

Mr. Editor:

I will now give you a short account of the important events that have lately transpired at this point. On Sunday, the 21st, inst., we fought a bloody and one of the greatest battles ever fought on this side of the Atlantic. I cannot enter into the details of the battle, but can only give you a description of the part played by Jackson’s brigade, and our regiment specifically. Early on the morning of the eventful day it was reported that the enemy were advancing upon us and that a large column was attempting to flank us on our left wing. So our brigade was put in motion and marched off to support the point of attack. Soon after our departure from our camp, the impudent fellows opened a cannonade just opposite our encampment, actually throwing balls, shells, &c., into it, yet we pushed on, and after a good deal of marching, counter-marching, double-quicking, &c., we halted for a short time in a grove. At that time there were cannon firing all along our line, but the heaviest was on our left, where the sharp rattle of musketry plainly told us that there the work had begun. It was then about 11 o’clock, but the firing had been opened some time before. After waiting for a short time, an aid came riding up at full speed and we were ordered into the field, which was at least a mile distant. Away we went over the hills towards the scene, whilst the din of the battle grew louder and louder. On arriving there our brigade was posted on the extreme left of the line of battle. Our regiment was posted just a few yards in the rear of the celebrated “Washington Artillery,” from New Orleans, which was stationed on the summit of a small hill. This we had to support, and await the order to charge on the enemy’s battery, just on an opposite hill. In the meantime the enemy’s whole fire from his artillery on the left was directed on the batteries just in front of our regiment, and we had to throw ourselves flat on the ground as a protection against the balls, shot, shell, &c., of the enemy’s battery, which came thick as hail just a few feet above our heads, and completely cutting to pieces a grove in our rear. Sometimes they would strike in front of us, tear up the ground, and bounce over our heads, and others would just graze the tops of our bodies as we lay prostrate. Whilst laying there, a fatal shell burst in the midst of our company, killed three of our boys and wounded another. Also we had some others wounded there. We lay in that awful place for at least two hours, during which time the suspense was of the most agonizing character. For our inactivity was a burden, and we expected every moment to be swept into eternity. The batteries in front of us did noble and effective work; and Capt. Pendleton’s battery was there too. After a time the enemy moved some of their pieces still further over to our left, so as to obtain an enfilading fire on our lines. Some of our pieces returned the compliment to them with a deadly fire. And then the strife was fiercest and the thunder of the battle the loudest. A large body of the enemy then attempted to get around us on our left, to take the batteries. But the word was given to charge on their lines. And believe me it was a relief for our boys to go get up from their dangerous position behind those batteries and dash forward in the charge. The Yankees cannot stand a charge, so they did not stand firm, but deemed it prudent to retire a short distance. Then our regiment was ordered to halt and open fire upon them. After firing upon their column for a while – many of the shots telling well – we again charged on them, and that was the turning point of the day, for they broke and ran like fine fellows. We immediately took all of their artillery, there, the celebrated Rhode Island battery. Abut the same time the enemy’s ranks broke along the line and the day was won. Some reinforcements then came in and joining in with our troops, pursued the routed army for about two miles. Then our cavalry put out after them for many miles, captured about 20 pieces of cannon from them, many baggage wagons loaded, guns, &c., which they threw aside in their flight. Our gunners turned some of their own rifle pieces upon them and played most beautifully into their ranks for miles. The road along which they fled was filled with blankets, haversacks, canteens, &c., laid aside by them, as they run like brave fellows. It was a complete rout for them and a glorious victory for us. Those were proud moments for our boys when they beheld our regimental flag wave in triumph over the field of Stone Bridge (the name given to the battle). It was the same flag given to our company on the morning of our departure, by the ladies of Falling Spring, as we gave it to the regiment, being the nicest of any among our companies. Opposed to our regiment were the New York Zouaves of Ellsworth’s regiment and some of the Brooklyn Zouaves; but with such a motto as “Pro Aris et Focis” upon our banner, we struggled hard and finally won the day. Also the rest of our brigade had to engage with regulars, and hence had quite brisk work of it. We gained the day, but it was a bloody victory for some of us. Our company lost five, and had seven wounded. There were also others from Rockbridge who fell to rise no more. Our company buried our dead comrades on the morning after the battle, just where we were first stationed, on the edge of the grove. Poor boys! they now sleep their long sleep in their soldier graves amid the hills of Prince William, where they fell in the cause of Freedom, and in defence of all that is dear to the human heart. On the field of Stone Bridge some of the best and bravest blood of the South was shed in the cause of Southern Independence, sons of Virginia, of the Carolinas and of all the other Confederate States, were there sacrificed upon our common alter and in one common cause. But the enemy’s loss far exceeded ours. I walked over the field in the evening of the day of battle, and where they stood the ground was strewn thick their dead and wounded. Some of the wounded said that we Southern boys fought differently from what they had been led to suppose. And that difference is owing to the difference on our respective causes. Had I time and space I could enter more into the details of the battle. Some of our boys remarked on that beautiful Sabbath morning that we would on that day fight a second Waterloo; and I hope it will be to Lincoln what it was to Napoleon. That it will but herald the downfall of the usurper and the tyrant and inaugurate the bright era of Southern Independence, when peace and prosperity will reign over the land of the sunny South.

L.H.V.*

Lexington (VA) Gazette, 8/1/1861

Contributed by John Cummings. Transcribed by Eric Mink.

Co. I was comprised of the Liberty Hall Volunteers (L. H. V.)

Original Roll of Liberty Hall Volunteers, Co. I, 4th VA Infantry