“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

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