Image: Asst. Surg. Dr. George Miller Sternberg, U. S. Infantry Battalion

7 01 2023
Dr. George Miller Sternberg, U. S. Infantry Battalion (Wikipedia)
Dr. George Miller Sternberg, U. S. Infantry Battalion (Wikipedia)

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Musician/Band Director Timothy Dwight Nutting, 13th Mississippi Infantry, On the Battle, Casualties, and Aftermath

7 12 2022

We publish below a very full and interesting letter descriptive of the battle of Manassas, from the pen of one of our townsmen, Prof. Nutting, Director of the Brass Band attached to the 13th Mississippi Regiment. The letter was addressed to his lady, who has kindly placed it at our disposal.


Manassas Junction, July 23rd, 1861.

—————, If you have received my last letter (from Lynchburg,) you will be prepared to hear from me here. My head is so confused with the scenes of the last 48 hours, that it seems like moving a mountain, grain by grain, to attempt to give an account of it all. I will write away however, as ideas present themselves, and as long as I can to-day, as I do not know at what moment we may be ordered forward. Sunday morning at 2 o’clock we landed from the cars, having been cooped up in them for 11 days and nights, on our way from Union City, we spread our tents on the ground and laid down on them with nothing over us but the skies and our blankets, at daylight we were summoned to eat breakfast, (after cooking the same,) and holding ourselves in readiness for any orders from Gen. Beauregard. At 7 the Regiment was formed, and we were ordered to a point 4 miles nearly east, where a division of several thousand men was located under Gen. Longstreet, and an attack was expected from the “Yankees” at any moment. Before we had fairly started, the booming guns of the batteries announced that the services had commenced, and upon the way the smoke from their guns was plainly visible. – Our guide took us through a route that exposed us less to the fire of their guns, which they pointed at every moving mass of men or horses that they could discover. Much of the time we were walking in thickets of small pines, which made it very difficult to proceed at all. We finally, after 3 hours marching, took our position as reserve corps, not being in any condition to fight unless required by urgent necessity, being stationed on the south side of a deep ravine calle “Bull’s Run,” upon very high ground, but masked by a skirt of pine trees about 1/2 of a mile through. The batteries of the enemy were constantly playing upon the position which Gen. Longstreet’s troops occupied, and although we were only about 1/2 of a mile from them, (Longstreet’s men,) we had seen none of them, as thickets intervened. The enemy’s batteries now occupied a position nearly 1 1/2 miles north of us on the heights across Bull’s Run and were supported by a very strong force of infantry that had advanced from Centreville and Fairfax Court House, and were intending to take possession of Manassas before night, and proceed directly on to Richmond. By means of a traitor who is taken, they learned perfectly our position and force, and the best route of march to attack, which was to send an immense force west, about 5 miles down the Run, and take Stone Bridge, and march immediately here from the north west. It was for a diversion from this plan that the attack was commenced above and to the eastward, and we were not long halted in the place I have named, before a very strong attack was made at the Stone Bridge, which was sustained by our men at an odds of ten to one until reinforcements could be sent from Manassas consisting of Regiments from several States. Gen. Beauregard saw into the plan immediately, and ordered almost the entire force of artillery, cavalry and infantry, from the eastern wing to the scene of action. Our 13th Regiment was stripped of every thing, knapsacks, blankets, and all but muskets, and ordered to “double quick march” for 5 miles. In such a movement our field music was useless, and Col. Barksdale told us who had no muskets, to fall back and look after our baggage, tents, &c. In returning we passed over a height where we saw distinctly the battle raging about 3 miles to the north west, and a more sublime sight was never witnessed in America. The cannonading was terrific. Sherman’s battery of ten pieces of flying artillery being but a small part of the artillery opposed to our men. The fight lasted till 5 o’clock, which was 9 hours and over, after the attack commenced, and without any cessation of the roar of cannon and rattle of musketry, except for a moment or two, while some flank movements were being made. I cannot stop now to give you many details. the force of the enemy was by their own confession, about 70,000, against which we had at no time, over 35,000, and many of the reinforcements came too late for anything but to join in chasing them in retreat. Our cavalry and artillery followed them back to Fairfax C. H., and made sad havoc among them. They left muskets, rifles, knapsack and blankets on the road and made the best of their way, leaving all their dead and wounded behind on the battle field. Yesterday morning, day after the fight, I saw 500 of the prisoners put on a train for Richmond, who were taken in the battle without being wounded at all. The entire number of prisoners taken so far in this battle, is not less than 1500. Our Regiment and 5 others, went into action in time to make some bayonet charges, which caused the precipitate retreat. – Just at the moment this commenced, Jeff. Dabis arrived from Richmond, jumped on a horse and ordered the cavalry in pursuit, leading them for some time in person. He then returned in season to congratulate the troops on their brilliant victory, which produced the greatest joy and excitement. Now comes the sad part of the tale. Within a long shed not a stones throw from the spot where I am writing, are not less than 800 dead, dying and wounded men. Just before I began my letter, I walked through it, and spent an hour or more, in trying to alleviate suffering – all mingled together, are Southerners and Northerners, brought in from the field in wagons, which have been busy ever since Sunday night in moving those who could not walk. O, and what an idea, that men should be brought to face each other in such plight, who were ready to cut each others throats two days ago! Some would ask imploringly for water. Some to move a limb that was shot and mangled to pieces, others for a Surgeon to dress wounds already filled with living insects. I saw one poor fellow from Minasota with a musket ball wound through his left breast above the back which was swarming so thick with them, that he was trying to dip them out with the end of a large straw. These have all to wait for attention, until our men are attended to, and are in this plight because their men did not stop to take care of them, and all day yesterday, they lay on the battle field in a drenching could rain, till they were picked up by our wagons, and brought to our camps. This is only one of some half dozen places within a half hours walk, each one filled with the same. Twenty wagon loads of the enemy’s dead were taken off the field yesterday, and scarcely a perceptible difference was made in the number on the field., which extends over a distance of about seven miles along the Run, east and west. Our wounded men are sent to Culpeper for attention, so that most that are here now, are of the enemy, who are to be sent to Richmond as fast as possible. It is impossible to compute the number killed and wounded on each side, but it is immense, and I trust will be the last battle needed to bring our enemies to their senses. I have talked with more than twenty of them, and find the same account from them all. They say they came to Washington to defend the Capitol, and they have been ordered over here contrary to the terms of their enlistment. Most of these in this battle enlisted for three months, which expired on Saturday the 20th, their officers told them they should go into it or be branded as deserters, and the first one who grumbled would be shot down. They all say they will never be coaxed ot compelled to fight again.

Their expectations and the promises of their officers were that they would have possession of Manassas junction on Sunday and proceed to Richmond immediately and use up our Rebel organization in a hurry – all these things ae from such men as Dr. Powell of New York City, as good a Surgeon as is in their army, whom I saw and heard express these sentiments and many more like them. He was taken prisoner in the retreat Sunday night, with five assistants in his wagon, with the most splendid assortment of surgical instruments to be found anywhere. Not less than 30 officers of high rank were taken, all of them have paid their respects to Davis and Beauregard and gone to Richmond with a free pass. Sheran’s Battery was taken entire, and most of the men were killed and wounded, and nearly 50 pieces of artillery and 200 horses were taken and brought to this place yesterday morning. Ellsworth’s Zouaves, and the famous 69th New York Rigiment (Col. Corcoran’s Irish Regiment were Court Martialed for not honoring the Prince of Wales by ordering our his command.) were engaged and large numbers of Regulars and Marines all of their best forces from Maine to Minnisota in fact. I cannot stop to particularize further and will only say that the news has just come in that our men, Gen. Johnston’s command, 19,000 strong, are already on the march to Alexandria and we shall all follow to-morrow. We also hear that there is great disaffection existing in Washington and the troops are reported to be fighting among themselves. However this may be, we shall not rest until all of them are driven off our soil. The belief of all the prisoners is that Scott cannot organize and army to invade the Southern soil again, which is pretty near the truth in my opinion. At any rate I believe the question will be settled in less than two months, and we can be allowed to go to our homes once more in peace. God grant that no more blood shall be required to satisfy the craving appetite of Lincoln and Scott. We cannot be taken here by any force that can be brought against us. We have been reinforced by thousands upon thousands since the fight, who will be brought into the field in case of necessity. I suppose it will be best to direct your letters to Manassas Junction as it will be our head quarters for the present. Remember me kindly to all my friends and do not forget us in your prayers to our Heavenly Father.

Your ever affectionate husband,
T. D. Nutting.

The (Jackson, MS) Weekly Mississippian, 8/14/1861

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Corp. William H. Merrell, Co. E, 27th New York Infantry, On His Captivity (2)

25 11 2022

The Wounded Prisoners at Richmond.

Mr. W. H. Merrill, one of the wounded prisoners at Richmond, writes as follows to the Rochester Express. His letter is dated August 20th:

“I assure you that I am indeed grateful to God for the preservation of my life, and that I have fallen into the hands of those who have left nothing undone that would contribute to my health or comfort.

“I was wounded about two hours after we entered the field at Bull Run, in the breast, near the heart, and fell soon after. * * * *

“We have had the best surgeons to be had, who have labored hard for our comfort. Many amputations have been necessary, which have been performed with skill. I think the wounded prisoners would endorse what I say when I give our foes credit for doing for us all that can possibly be done. I hope all who have friends here will be at ease about them, for they are in good, kind hands. The Sisters of Mercy (or Charity) are with us to cheer and nurse us. They labor hard, day and night. I have been much pained to read some of the contemptible false slanders of the Northern press about the Federal prisoners being treated with inhumanity. All such statements are false.

“I speak in strong terms because the Virginians have treated us well; for one I shall never forget them. I write just as it it, without fear or favor.”

The (Baltimore, MD) Daily Exchange, 9/9/1861

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Maj. Charles Henry Smith (Bill Arp), Commissary, 8th Georgia Infantry, On Casualties, Medical Treatment, the Tragedy of War, and the March to Manassas

17 11 2022





A Vivid and Realistic Description of the Scene at Bull Run – The Sunday After the Fight – The Surgeon’s Work – Burying the Dead – Marching With Stonewall Jackson.


Twenty five years! A quarter of a century has passed since the first battle of Manassas. A battle that made a more lasting impression upon the nation than any that occurred during the war. It was the first shock of the earthquake. The first blood, the first glory and the first grief. We had read about wars all our lives and about the bloody battles where thousands and thousands were slain. We had in earliest childhood looked at the pictures and wondered and wondered. The few books that had them were almost all worn out with our thumbing the leaves and we would talk over the same old heroes and wonder again. Our mothers made us read the Bible every Sunday and when we came to a big battle our minds were filled with awe at the contemplation of bloody things. What a wonderful hero was Samson who seized an old jawbone of an ass and like a mighty giant went thrashing around smiting the Philistines hip and thigh, and never stopped until he had slain a thousand men. Then we came down to the revolution where our forefathers fought, and there were the pictures of Bunker Hill and Lexington and Yorktown, that were neared kin. But still it was all a fanciful dream. Nearly fifty years had passed since Jackson fought at New Orleans and those heroes were dead. Here and there was a man who fought in Mexico, but they were of a past generation, and that war was not intensified by a long quarrel among brethren – people of the same blood and nation. The north and south had been quarreling for more than fifty years, and at last had come to blows and to blood. The chip on the hat had been knocked off.

What an awful scene it was, that first battle. At home it was awful when one man was suddenly killed. It startled a whole community, and the news of it was carried from nabor to nabor until it was the talk of the county. My elder brother was a doctor, and I was permitted to look on once when Dr. Wildman cut a man’s leg off, and I saw the quivering flesh and the arteries, and the blood, and the thigh bone severed with the saw, and heard the poor man’s groans, and I had not forgotten that. But here were men, young men, healthy and strong and brave, shot down by the score. Many were dead and many were dying, and they were all around me. The pine thicket and the open field close by, where the Eighth Georgia and Fourth Alabama fought side by side, was specked with them. That pine grove and field was a terrible shock to me, for my friends were there and some of my kindred, The dead seemed asleep with their arms near by. The wounded asked for water. Their surviving comrades had left them to pursue an enemy that was still fighting, though retreating. We hurried to the branch for water. We rode to the rear for help – for ambulances. We found the wounded all along the route and the news that Bartow and Bee were killed and Colonel Gardner was wounded, and a prisoner. Shout after shout was heard as the front advanced and the enemy retreated. Everywhere there was wild hurrying to and fro. Ambulances went on the run to the battle field. Couriers with orders flew in hot haste over hill and plain. Generals with their staff galloped from hill to hill to overlook the movements of their troops who were surging and swaying at double quick and yelling like wild Comanches as they drove back the enemy and broke their columns. The air was filled with smoke. The minnie balls rattled through the pines or spent their force against the fences or upon the ground. The cannonading was incessant and was continued long after the enemy was out of reach. The terrible sound of it lent wings to their flight and they left everything behind them. Night shut down upon the scene and brought rest – rest to the weary, but not to the wounded. All night long we watched and waited, and nursed and comforted them as best we could. the surgeon’s knife was busy, and as one poor fellow was attended to a moved aside the doctor worked the perspiration from his brow and hurriedly said, “next.” There was not a groan or a moan as arms and legs were hastily amputated. I don’t believe that the boys had much feeling then. The excitement and the victory had wrought them up to a pitch that smothered feeling. They talked and laughed and cried as the surgeons dressed their wounds. I saw Dr. Miller cut a ball from Jet Howard’s hip that had come nearly through the other side, and Jet stood up to have it done, and as the ball dropped into the doctor’s hand he seized it and said, “I wouldn’t take a thousand dollars for this.” It was Sunday. What a day for such deeds of carnage. The next day was devoted to the dead. Our own dead were buried in spots selected by their friends and some rude headboard marked the name. The federals were lined in trenches with head to feet in nameless graves. They were thick in some places, so thick that one could step from corpse to corpse. It was the third day before some of them were buried, and they had swollen and looked fat and bloated, and some of their clothing had bursted with swelling flesh. There was a company of Zouaves in Turkish costume, who looked like a race of giants sleeping there. Dead horses strewed the ground, and they were swollen too and their legs stood out without touching the ground, and the buzzards sat upon their heads and feasted upon their eyeballs as the sweetest morsel to begin with. Artillery horses fell dead upon each ither and were crass and piles and the harness had to be cut away.

This battle was insignificant when compared with those that came after, but it was so that the soldiers and the nation could get used to blood. Within a year the shock of it had passed. The horror of it was gone. The army wagons marched over the field of Sevan Pines a month or so later, after it was fought and as the wheels crashed across the shallow trenches where the dead were buried, one could see an arm or a leg shoot up or hear the bones crack with the passing weight. The teamsters looked back a smiled or cracked a heartless joke – blood and death and corpses are nothing in war – nothing when one gets hardened to them. It is all business and destiny. No wonder that Bonaparte fought and felt no sympathy. He was used to it and the dead were nothing. It was no more than a game of chess and the people were the pawns. The anguish of a dying man on the field, strife is enough. But more than this is the silent grief of widowed wife and fatherless children, and of the mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers whose unbidden tears flow on and flow ever for the lost one. Is there a remedy for this curse? Oh why will nations fight? Why will people fight? Here in a time of peace one man kills another and brings a woe and a grief that, like Banquo’s ghost, will never, never down. Could it not have been avoided? When a man is crazed by liquor is it courage to hunt hm down like he was a beast and slay him? or is it not a better courage to avoid him and give his friends and kindred a chance to save him? What is our country coming to that every young man carries a weapon of death in his pocket? They did not use to do so. I understand that most every lad in our community carries a pistol. What for and why? Are our laws and our courts powerless to protect our people? Have we no judge nor juries? Have even the boys got to protect and defend themselves? A man may be constrained to carry a pistol on some emergency, but I believe Judge Hammond was right when he charged the grand jury that a man who habitually carried a pistol was a coward. The pistol may make a bully of him and then he is still more contemptible, for he is a dangerous fool. I heard a young man confess that he carried a pistol for two years and one morning he forgot it and he felt so helpless that if a feller had have crooked his finger at him he would have run like a turkey. This made him ashamed of himself and he discarded it for good. Whisky and pistols ate in copartnership, and it is a bad firm.

Twenty-five years ago General Johnston’s army left Winchester on the sly and hurried to Manassas, while Patterson was waiting for a fight at Buckletown, a few miles out from Winchester. For days and weeks they had been sparring each other, and we thought every day they would fight. Old Joe left enough troops skirmishing around to keep Patterson from suspecting any trick, but the bulk of his splendid army got marching orders in a still, quiet way, and by night were near the Shenandoah. We crossed the river by torch light. It was a wild, exciting scene to see the boys wading through at the ford and holding their guns and cartridge boxes over their heads. There were some little fellows along in our crowd and they had to tip toe to keep the water out of their mouths, but they got there all the same. There were no dry clothes for next day, but they rested on the grass around Paris and let the morning sun give them a dry suit. I remember that there was a child born to us at my house on that eventful night, and a year after when I went home on furlough I travelled with a man who was very inquisitive, and when he asked me how many children I had I told him six, but I had never seen one of them. He pondered over it a few minutes and said: “That is very strange, and I would like to ask how it has happened that you have never seen your children.” Said I, “My friend, I said that I had never seen one of them, for one was born after I left home last June.” He saw the point, and troubled me no more.

The soldiers are having reunions now, and I am glad to see they are becoming so universal at the south. It is sad to see how few of a company have survived the perils of the war and the surer perils of death since the war. One by one they go. But let them meet and take comfort, and let their hearts twine together as they talk over the sad but glorious past. A regiment – will make about a company now, but in a few more years it will take a brigade. But few are under forty-five, and many have a wound that has never healed or a disease that will not cure. God bless them all, and inspire their children to love their country as their fathers did.

Bill Arp.

Atlanta (Ga.) Constitution, 7/2/1886

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Surgeon Dr. Jacob Henry Stewart, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Sudley Church Field Hospital, Treatment of Wounded, Captivity, and Parole

11 11 2022

Statement by Dr. J.H. Stewart, Surgeon of the First Regiment of Minnesota Volunteers

In publishing the narrative of Dr. Stewart we have taken the liberty of interspersing a few head lines, for the eye to rest upon and relive the continuity of so long a document, interesting though it certainly is:

To the Public.

On the morning of the 13th of August, eleven surgeons of volunteer regiments arrived in Washington from Richmond, where they had been prisoners of war, and from which place they were allowed to depart on giving the Parole of Honor, usual in war, not to serve again in the Army of the United States, unless released or exchanged. I was one of those surgeons.

On the afternoon of the day of our arrival, an article appeared in the Washington Star, a small, cheap paper of Washington City, in terms as follows:

The oligarchy authorities are trying to get rid of the burden of feeding prisoners in their hands by discharging them on parole. This morning twenty-four (made prisoners after the battle of Bull Run) reached here. They left Richmond on the day before yesterday, and were sent by rail to our lines near Fortress Monroe. The following is a copy of the obligation forced on them, viz.:

“We, the undersigned officers, non-commissioned officers, privates and citizens of the United States, do make our unqualified parole of honor that we will not, by arms, information or otherwise, during the existing hostilities between the United States and the Confederate States of America, aid or abet the enemies of the said Confederate States, or any of them, in any form or manner whatsoever, until released or exchanged.

“Brig.-Gen. C.S.A.

“AUGUST 11, 1861.”

We presume that those who gave such a parole will be shipped to their homes without delay, as such men will clearly be worse than useless in any military service.

The following is a list of the returning Surgeons among the lot, viz.:

Foster Swift, Eighth New York; J.H. Stewart, First Minnesota; J.M. Lewis, Second Wisconsin; Eugene Benquet, Seventy-first New York; Chas S. De Graw, Eighth New York; and G.H. Winston, Eighth New York.

The Assistant-Surgeon of the First Minnesota Regiment refused, to his credit be it said, to accept the parole, and remains a prisoner at Richmond.

The whole party were threatened with popular violence repeatedly on their way from Richmond to Fortress Monroe.

Though the paragraph in the above article in relation to the “Assistant Surgeon of the Minnesota First” refusing to accept his parole, “to his credit be it said,” made it pretty transparent that the intention was principally to stab at the “Surgeon of the Minnesota First,” and by the comparison to discredit him, I nevertheless concluded to take no notice of the falsehood and inferential slander, knowing that time rights all things, and that truth generally prevails in the long run. But some of the other surgeons, however, thought it advisable to speak to the editor about it. They informed me that he apologized for its insertion, stating that the facts had been misrepresented to him; and the editor would have corrected it in his own columns if he had been required to do so; but, as the other papers, including the New York press, had made a more just and accurate representation of the circumstances under which we had given our parole, and had also omitted the personal stab aimed especially at me, it was not deemed of enough consequence to ask for a formal retraction in the Star.

It seems, however, that the same article, just as it originally appeared, was carefully saved up by some one here in St. Paul, who is the fit ally of the hidden slanderer in Washington, and that it is launched at me by a republication in the Pioneer the next morning after my arrival in St. Paul, no doubt intending it as my welcome home, after a tour of hard service in the field, in which I most certainly endeavored to perform my whole duty to the country and the men of the Regiment of which I was Surgeon, without counting risks, or halting at sacrifices, pecuniary or personal.


Now, Mr. Editor, I am not particularly thin-skinned, and can stand any moderate amount of ordinary newspaper abuse; but this imputation sought to be cast upon me is so outrageously unfair and unjust, that I cannot forbear asking you to grant me some considerable space in your paper for the detail of facts of an interesting character, which, I think, will exonerate me before the public, and show that I perhaps deserve their praise instead of censure.


On the 21st of July, the day of the battle of Bull Run, and some time after noon, as the Minnesota First was near the battle-field and just about entering upon it to assume the position where it fought so gallantly, the Chief Medical Director informed me that he wished me to establish my hospital at Sudley Church, situated near the battle-field, and where we could get plenty of water for the wounded, and also directed me to send forward my Assistant Surgeon, together with the hospital attendants, members of the Band, ambulances, litters, stretchers, &c., immediately in the rear of the regiment, so as to convey to me the wounded as soon as the temporary dressings had been applied on the field by my Assistant – as all the amputations, and such other operations as might be necessary, were to be performed exclusively at the hospital.


Having sent forward the assistants and ambulances, there being as yet no duty for me to perform, I went upon the battle field, and was immediately in the rear of my regiment when it first came under and returned fire.


The first man of our regiment brought to me wounded had his arm nearly shot off, and I took him in an ambulance and went with him to the Church Hospital; and before I got his arm dressed the wounded were poured in thick upon me, until I had all and more than I could attend to, especially as no temporary dressings had been applied to the men on the field!


While working among my wounded – there being at that time over fifty of our brave Minnesotians stretched bleeding and ghastly upon the grass, under the trees of the beautiful grove wherein the hospital was located, a mounted officer of Gen. McDowell’s staff suddenly rode up to the door of the church and loudly cried out to us: – “We’re whipped to death – a retreat has been ordered – retreat immediately!”


At this moment this was the condition of things at the church. There were in it, or lying immediately around it, on the grass, nearly five hundred wounded soldiers, nearly four hundred of which were our own men – all moaning and groaning with pain – some calling for “Water,” “Water,” “Just one drop of cold water!” Others, “O Doctor, come stop this bleeding or I’ll blead to death!” – “For God’s sake, Doctor, come and take off this arm,” or “this leg,” or “take out this ball,” &c.


When the officer was heard by them ordering the Surgeons and hospital attendants to “retreat” along with the army, I was in the midst of our Minnesota boys, attending to them, and the poor fellows cried out to me, “If you are going to leave us kill us first, the enemy will bayonet us as they did the wounded before” (referring to the skirmish of the 18th) and “Don’t let us live to be butchered by them;” while some of the enemies’ wounded, mainly Alabamians and Carolinians, also begged “For God’s sake, don’t leave us to die, without our wounds dressed, because we’re enemies.”


I replied to our Minnesota boys, that “I disbelieved the reports that the enemy bayoneted the wounded, and that in no event would I leave them or obey the order to retreat — this they might rely upon.”


Having thus calmed them somewhat, I went into the Church and got together with the other Surgeons, about twenty-five in all, and a brief consultation was had as to what we should do; when all but five or six concluded to run, and some of them forthwith went off at a double quick without so much as taking their instruments.


For myself I feel no regret that I deemed it my duty to be one of the few who deliberately stayed rather than the many who saved themselves from imprisonment, or from the necessity of giving their parole, by quickly retiring and leaving the wounded to bleed and expire unaided, at least by them.

If such conduct on my part be treason, the malignant souls, professional or what not, here, or at Washington, who covertly strike at me in newspapers or otherwise, may make the most of it.

I have only to say to those who were bereaved and afflicted in this State, by that awful battle, that their dear ones who were wounded received, night and day, every attention I could bestow; and of those of our brave boys who died at Sudley Church, it may comfort their wives, mothers and sisters a little to know that they died in my arms, and that no stranger wiped the death damp from their brows, and caught their last earthly gaze, and laid them tenderly and gently down into their humble graves beneath the tall cypress trees near the battle field where in every breeze are sung the requiems of Minnesota’s dead, who manfully fought to preserve the integrity of our Republic, and died under the “old flag.”


But it may be alleged that I staid because I had not time to escape, or the means of going. To this I would answer that I might have left along with our own regiment (the last to retreat), which did not reach the church on their way back in good order from the battle field, until the consultation among the surgeons before referred to was over, and most of the retreating doctors had already left. Long after our regiment had gone, there was, likewise, plenty of time for me to have retreated, as from this period fully an hour elapsed before the enemy appeared at the church door, and cut off all escape had any one still intended to fly. Not only was there thus plenty of time in which to get away, but I had the means of rapid locomotion away from all imprisonment and all danger, to where no parole would be required of me – to Washington, instead of to Richmond – on a good horse, which ready saddled and fully equipped for the road, was standing awaiting me at the church door. I had only to mount and away, and no doubt would have been praised for a lucky dog, by those meaner sort of people who now censure me for not doing that which they, no doubt, would have done – run away from their duty.


But, to continue. Between six and seven o’clock the enemy appeared, (having by that time, it seems, found out he had a victory, or, at all events, that our Army was falling back.) I was outside the church on my knees extracting a Minie ball out of the head of an Alabamian, when a squad of cavalry rode up to the church. It was commanded by Lieut. Cummings, of Col. Stewart’s Virginia Cavalry, who, leaning from his horse and placing a pistol at my head, and cocking it with a sort of disagreeable “click,” said: “I demand you to surrender.”


I had just cut down to the ball and felt indignant at his treatment, especially as he saw me engaged so busily. I drew my head out of the range of his pistol and said to him sharply: “Use a little more care in the handling of that article, as my experience the past few hours makes me extremely sensitive to the even careless use of fire arms.” He retorted, “God d — n your soul, answer me more civil, or I will put a bullet through your head!”

This piece of agreeable information, accompanied by his very prepossessing appearance and amiable manner, induced me to request him, politely, to defer that little operation until I had completed mine – my language being: “Just wait, Sir, first, until I extract this bullet out of this patient’s head, as he is one of your own men, of the Fourth Alabama.”

He immediately replied, “I beg your pardon,” and did manage to wait until I had extracted the ball.


In a few seconds I had the Minie in my hand, and the Lieutenant then very politely asked me if “I would give my word of honor not to escape.”

I replied, “I have voluntarily remained to take care of my wounded, and, of course, will not leave them,” and I so pledged myself.

He then wished me to pledge that “none of the other Surgeons and attendants would escape.”

I said, “they could speak for themselves – I would call them out of the church.”

I went in and called them out. He rode up to the door and asked them “to give their parole not to escape,” which they readily did.


I might as well here mention that, some fifteen minutes previous to Lieut. Cumming’s arrival, I had told my orderly, private Williams, to take my horse and make his escape, if he could, but the same cavalry had intercepted his retreat by a short cut, and brought both him and the horse to the hospital with them, which was the last I saw of either until I met Mr. Williams a prisoner in the tobacco warehouse at Richmond.


Having in this manner formally surrendered, the attending Surgeons busied themselves taking care of the wounded during all of Sunday night and all of Monday, but in the afternoon of Monday we were notified by Col. Stewart, of the Virginia Cavalry, that the orders from head-quarters were to take us to Gen. Beauregard, at Manassas Junction, some ten miles distant; for which point five or six of us were started at between five and six o’clock in a small one horse two wheeled, rickety old ambulance or cart, with the bottom partly out, no seats, over a miserable road, the night very dark, and the rain pouring down in torrents, as it had been doing ever since the latter part of Sunday night, and continued in fact to do so most incessantly until Tuesday morning. On our journey we were under the charge of Lieut. Cummings and a squad of his cavalry. Along with us, following in the rear, was another ambulance, a two horse, four-wheeled affair, loaded with other prisoners, non-medical officers of our army.


Our course of travel lay over the battle field and on the road leading from it. As long as daylight permitted us to see, which was until we reached to within three miles or so of Manassas, we noticed that the dead of the enemy, men and horses, were continually scattered, and yet unburied, over the whole route, and that squads of rebels were busy hunting up their wounded, placing them in common transportation wagons without springs, and sending them forward to the Junction.


At intervals we would be challenged by parties of their irregular cavalry, and two or three times were stopped, and it was demanded of us “who we were,” and “where we were going,” in every case meeting with the most gross, wanton and ferocious insults and curses from the “chivalry.” Nor did we receive this savage treatment from coarse, uneducated, uncultivated men. The worst case occurred while we were being driven some few rods in advance of our escort, which had stopped behind for a few moments, for some purpose or other. A horseman with a rifle slung across his shoulder, rode up in front and compelled us to stop, and asked who we were and where we were going; and, though by his language, evidently a man of education, and one who could probably, on a pinch, put on the outside manners of civilization, he commenced a barbarian tirade of abuse, calling us d — d lazy Yankee s–s of b —- s, “why don’t you go and bury your dead and gather up your wounded; you ought to be shot;” – making at the same time a motion as if he would unsling his rifle from his shoulder. Being prisoners, unarmed, in the midst of the enemy, several of his “chivalric” fellows, over whom he seemed to have some command, having come up in the meantime, of course there was nothing for us to do but explain, as we did, quietly and calmly, though our blood was boiling, that we were prisoners of war, without volition of our own, that we had solicited permission to go upon the field and attend to our wounded and dead, but the Confederate commanders had refused us.


I would here observe particularly that this was the fact – we had formally asked the rebel officers who came to us at Sudley Church, some of them of high position, to allow us to search the battle field over for our wounded and dead; but was peremptorily and altogether refused. I would likewise state in this connection, that the rebel loss in killed and wounded was very heavy – by their own admission to us surgeons, much heavier than our own, as well on account of the superiority of our arms, all minie rifles and muskets, and the more skillful practice of our artillery and small arms (they complimented the shooting of the Minnesotians) as from the fact that they thought they were going to be defeated in the early part of the battle and undertook to remove their wounded ten miles to Manassas, which, over such a road and in common lumber wagons, occasioned a great fatality, especially as minie bullets make no trifle of a wound. The refusal to let us go over the field was, perhaps, dictated somewhat by a reluctance to allow us to see the extent of their loss and, partly, that we should not view their position, which they did not know but they would require immediately again for another battle; for it is a fact, that they did not know of the panic which seized our whole army, nor the extent of its demoralization, and that for several days they were daily and nightly in expectation of our advance again, with reinforcements.


But to resume. Lieut. Cummings having come up, further explained our purpose in travelling to Manassas to the cowardly Virginian who could so grossly insult men in our situation; and we then proceeded on our journey without further molestation. It was about here we were told that two of our wounded men had been picked up, and were in one of the lumber wagons; from which we heard them ordered to be transferred to the covered ambulance behind us, and taken along with us to the Junction; but we did not see them, not being allowed to get out of our vehicle.


We reached Manassas about 10 o’clock; and, after waiting there in the cart about two hours, in the rain, were ordered to get out, and go up on the long porch of the little low, old fashioned country house, where Beauregard had his headquarters.


On the porch a table was set, and being invited to partake of viands, we sat down and drank of its coffee and eat of its crackers (all there was) with, on my part, an appetite slightly enhanced by my nearly forty hours of enforced abstinence from all food, and by our wet to the skin and shivering condition generally. Supper over, and mid-night having come, an Aid of Beauregard appeared and said he was very sorry we were brought down – it was done under a mistake – and as it was late the General could not see us before morning. Anathematizing such a “mistake” to the bottom of our hearts, we were next shown into a small neighboring barn, where, in the midst of wounded and dying Confederates, and of the members of the guard not on duty, we laid down on the barn floor, on which was a slight sprinkling of hay, and without covering of any kind, and our clothes all wet through, slept, or tried to sleep, until morning; but the cursing and quarreling amongst the guard, and the changing of sentinels every two or three hours, “murdered sleep” most effectually.


In the morning, on going from the barn over to Beauregard’s head-quarters, I passed in the barn-yard, the four wheeled ambulance which had accompanied us from the battle field the night before. Observing that two men were lying in it, I looked in curiously to see who they were, when to my astonishment, I found them to be two of our own “boys” – private Cannon, of Company I, (the same whose wounded leg Capt. Pell, when ordered so peremptorily to retreat, stopped behind to bind up before he left him) and Corporal Pierson, of Company B, of Stillwater, who had received two balls through his right thigh, fracturing the bone. The astonishment of the poor fellows even surpassed my own, for they did not imagine I was within fifty miles of them; and the joy of all three of us at the meeting cannot be adequately expressed. They had lain out in the rain on the field all Sunday night and managed to crawl during Monday between two and three miles from where they fell, towards Manassas, to the spot where the rebels had picked them up. They were the same two men we had ordered to be transferred to the ambulance, on our night journey, in which they were compelled to sleep all night, having their blankets to cover them. I immediately procured their removal to one of the Confederate hospitals, where I dressed their wounds, and left them pretty comfortable, and I did not behold them again until I saw them at a hospital in Richmond, some two weeks afterwards; and when I left the city to come home, Cannon was nearly recovered, and Pierson doing as well as could be expected of a man with a fractured thigh,


Returning to our quarters in the barn, we partook of breakfast, consisting of cold cooked flitch and crackers, but without drink, all of which we understood had been sent us from the General’s quarters.


We were now waited upon by Col. Preston, one of Beauregard’s staff, who brought the parole, before quoted, and so much carped at, for us to sign.

Holding the paper in his hand, Col. Preston said to us: “Gentlemen, I have here for your signatures, the parole usually required of prisoners of war; and the surgeons only are to be allowed to sign it.” (There were other of our Army officers present.)

He then read it to us. After he had finished the reading, the privilege was asked of examining and reading it for ourselves. It was handed to us, and being satisfied as to its exact nature, I asked for the rest that we might take it with us, and retire by ourselves and consult as to what we should do. Col. Preston replied, “Certainly, take what time you want.”


On this we went inside the barn, and in one corner of it, by ourselves, held our consultation. In about fifteen minutes we returned, and addressed him as follows:

“Sir, will you allow us to return to Sudley Church, and attend to our wounded there, and wait a few days before signing this parole, to see if our Government does not send to make arrangements for our protection, for the burial of our dead and the care of our wounded?”

Colonel P. – (with emphasis) answered, “No! I am authorized to present this parole for your signatures now – and cannot promise that another opportunity will be afforded for this purpose after this morning; the object of your signing it is to allow you to return and take care of your wounded if you desire to do so.”

The conversation was further carried on by myself, as senior Surgeon, speaking for the rest as follows:

Surgeon – “Is signing that parole the only condition on which we will be allowed to go back and attend to our wounded?”

Colonel P. – “It is, Sir.”

Surgeon – “What disposition is to be made of us if we do not sign it?”

Colonel P. – “I am not authorized to say – I am only authorized to speak with you as to your signing this parole – to the medical officers only.”

Surgeon – “We ask you, then (not in your official capacity in this particular duty but) as an officer, what will be done with us if we do not sign it?”

Colonel P. – “You are prisoners of war, and prisoners of war are placed under guard and sent to Richmond at once.”


We now asked and obtained permission to again retire and consult together.

A good deal of feeling entered into our private discussions.

Two questions presented themselves. Four or five hundred of our wounded were lying in a critical condition in the Hospitals near the battle field, needing all our care and attention. If we signed the parole we could go back and attend to them, relieve their sufferings, and save the most of them from dying the death otherwise most probably inevitable. But, on the other hand, if we signed it, it practically cuts us off from our positions in the Army; and our chances of being soon exchanged so as to resume them would be much less than if we remained prisoners of war in the enemy’s hands. If we refused, however, to sign at all, we would become such prisoners of war, would be removed to Richmond at once, and our wounded would be in a great degree sacrificed. Some of us felt that we would rather sacrifice ourselves than that; but before deciding we returned to Col. Preston, when this conversation took place:

Surgeon Stewart – “Colonel, we have as yet come to no decision; but the wounded of my regiment at the Sudley Church Hospital being as four to one of any other there – over fifty – and having followed them nearly 2,000 miles as their medical attendant, I feel that it is my duty to go back and attend to them at any and all sacrifices. I dislike very much to sign this parole; and though I will new do so, it is only and rather than leave my men to die uncared for, or to be attended to by strangers merely.”

Col. P. – “Doctor, this is a matter that rests entirely with you all – you understand, it is a voluntary matter.”

I made no reply to this cool observation of that being a voluntary act to which they forced us by a combination of inexorable circumstances; but proceeded at once to sign the parole, in which I was followed by all my colleagues, the Surgeons of the Sudley Church Hospital.


We were then returned to cur Hospital at the battle field, our return being made in a more comfortable vehicle, and by a different route from that by which we had come.


On our arrival we were distressed to find that during our absence of about twenty four hours only, nearly twenty of our men had died, some of whom would almost certainly have been saved if the surgeons had not been removed so long away from them; and this melancholy fact confirmed us in the opinion that we had pursued the true path of duty in subscribing to the only course by which we were still allowed to give these who yet remained alive the benefit of all the skill and nursing we could bestow.


Thus we continued to do for some two weeks longer, when the Confederates deemed them sufficiently recovered to be removed to Richmond; and the next day they also compelled us to follow to the same city.


It is possible there are some who will think this tour of duty at Sudley Church was a pleasant one. After the rebels took their wounded away, there still remained between three and four hundred of our men to be cared for. The rain being over by Tuesday morning, the weather grew exceedingly warm, and the sun very powerful, and the whole atmosphere became loaded with the odor of decaying mortality from the unburied dead of the battle field, to which was added for our own immediate discomfort, the fetor from so many festering wounds immediately around us in the hospital. Besides this inconvenience, we had severe and exhausting labor day and night, and we had besides, for days after the battle, to provide sustenance for ourselves and men by sending out and purchasing food in the neighboring country, the surgeons contributing of their own private means as a fund for this purpose – without which we should all have starved. It was nearly a week before the Confederate commissariat became sufficiently organized and plentiful to ration us.


I would here say, in the spirit of awarding sheer justice even to enemies and traitors, that the officers of the enemy who visited us at the Church, all treated us well and considerately; and I may say the same of all their officials, the military, with whom we came in contact everywhere, saving and excepting the senior official before mentioned, who was superintending the collection of the wounded on the battle field, and excepting also the lower state of their mob, and the women of all ranks.


On reaching Manassas on our way to Richmond, we were stopped at headquarters, and had an interview with Beauregard, by whom we were politely treated, and who ascribed the condition our wounded had so soon attained to our remaining to take care of them. He then endorsed upon our parole the following:


The parole of these surgeons was taken to prevent the necessity of guarding them while they were attending to the enemy’s wounded, with the understanding that it was to be continued by the War Department after leaving here, and that they were to be permitted to return to their homes when their service would be no longer required, on the ground that they were non-combatants, and might have got off if they had imitated their fellow-officers.

(Signed,) P.G.T. BEAUREGARD,
General Commanding.


We were then placed in charge of a Lieutenant, and conveyed by railroad to Richmond; and after remaining there some several days were forwarded to Norfolk, and thence from Fortress Monroe to Washington City.


Here our conduct was generally approved by the Government, and especially approved by our acting Surgeon General, who told us he “was proud of us – we had nobly sustained the honor and credit of the profession;” and he at once granted us a furlough to recruit our health and energies for three months, unless by an exchange of prisoners we could be sooner ordered into active service.


One more matter, and I have done. An invidious comparison has been attempted to be instituted between Dr. Le Boutillier, the Assistant Surgeon, and myself, to my disadvantage. The statement of a few facts will put this all right before the public. The last I saw of Dr. Le Boutillier, until I met him in Richmond, was on the day of the battle, just before I ordered up the ambulances, and just as the regiment was going on the battle field; at which time he had with him a knapsack containing bandages for temporarily dressing the wounded on the field, and some stimulating beverages to enable those wounded who were very faint to reach the hospital. When the wounded began to come in freely upon me, noticing that no temporary bandages had been applied, I asked “what the Assistant Surgeon was doing?” and was told that he was gallantly fighting, having a musket, and was cheering on and rallying the men. The next news that came reported him wounded, and the next, that he was killed; and in this last belief I rested until two or three days after the battle, when on being introduced to a Confederate cavalry officer as the “Surgeon of the Minnesota First,” he remarked, that on the evening of the battle, between the battle field and Centreville, and between two and three miles distant from the former he had captured a man who, on being taken stated that he was the “Assistant Surgeon of the Minnesota First,” but that, as he had no uniform or commission, he had not credited him, and had sent him on with other prisoners to Richmond. From his description, I had no doubt it was Dr. LeB., and so told the officer. On reaching Richmond, I was exceedingly glad to greet once more, in life and health, my missing medical colleague; for, though a prisoner in the tobacco warehouse, he was safe and sound, without a wound, and in seemingly excellent health; and being duly recognized as a medical man, was assisting in attending the Federal wounded, who had just been brought to Richmond from our hospital.

When he found the Surgeons of our party were about leaving for home on their parole, he very naturally evinced an anxiety to accompany us; and expressed the belief that as soon as the surgeons left behind had got the wounded further on, and in good condition, the same privilege would be extended to him, when he would promptly avail himself of it, and that he would “probably not be more than two or three weeks behind me.” I said I thought so, too; and we bid each other good by, and parted.

This is the truth; and no one will be more surprised, when he hears it, at the falsehood in relation to his “refusing his parole!” than will the brave Assistant Surgeon of the Minnesota First.


And this is all I have to say, except to recommend those jealous, carping, fault-finding busy bodies, who are ever suggesting something wrong in the First Regiment, in its officers, its organization, or something else, that they had better enlist to carry a musket in the service of their country, than to be thus cruelly damaging the cause by slandering its defenders.

Surgeon of the First Minnesota Regiment.

(St. Paul, MN) Pioneer and Democrat, 8/30/1861

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Contributed and transcribed by John Hennessy

Dr. Jacob Henry Stewart at

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Account of Asst. Surgeon Charles W. Le Boutillier

Dr. Josiah C. Nott, Volunteer Surgeon, Army of the Potomac, On the Battle

14 10 2022

[From the Mobile Evening News.]

Letter From J. C. Nott




We are permitted to publish the following portion of a private letter from our eminent townsman, Dr. J. C. Nott, addressed by him to a friend in this city. It gives the most comprehensive and striking impression of the battle which has yet come to hand, and, aided by reference to the sketch which we publish the reader can arrive at a very correct idea of the plan and progress of the conflict. It will be realized that if we had all the army of Manassas on the ground, none of McDowell’s army would have returned to Washington to tell the tale. Those who escaped the slaughter would have been captured. The enemy’s feint on the centre was a masterly manoeuvre, which would have distracted heads less cool than Beauregard’s and Johnston’s, and they would have drawn all their forces to that point. They kept up a persistent attack there during most of the day and our generals were thus prevented from withdrawing their troops from the right and centre to aid their sorely pressed left which a few thousand wearied heroes were holding against the 35,000 fresh Federal troops.


Richmond, July 23, 1861.

Dear Harleston: – I have seen the great and glorious Battle of Manassas which brought a nation into existence, and the scene was grand and impressive beyond the power of language. We foresaw the action several days ahead- the enemy was known to be advancing in immense masses from Arlington towards Fairfax, and the master stroke was at once made to order Johnston down from Winchester by forced marches before Patterson could get down on the other side. Johnston’s troops marched all night, 26 miles, then crowded into the railroad and came down on successive trains without sleeping or eating. 15,000 of them arrived, many of them while the battle was raging.

I got to Manassas the morning of the day previous to the fight [July 20th] and knowing well both Generals Beauregard and Johnston and their staff officers, I went immediately to their headquarters. Zac Deas, among the rest, in full feather, and I, of course, felt home in his camp where I spent the night. General Beauregard determined to attack the enemy in several columns at once the next morning so as to cut them up before Patterson could arrive. But our scouts came early in the morning informing the Generals that the enemy had been in motion since two hours before daylight, which settled the question as to their intention to make the attack. Beauregard, who had studied the whole ground around knew every hill, ravine and pathway, and had made all the necessary arrangements and planned the battle. Not knowing at what point of a semi-circle ten miles around Manassas the enemy would attack, his forces had to be scattered in such a way as to guard all points, prevent a flank movement on either side, and guard his entrenchments and supplies in the center.

We got up in the morning at daylight, took a cup of coffee, and remained quietly laughing and talking at headquarters while the scouts were passing in and out bringing news from the enemy. At a quarter past 6 in the still, bright morning, we heard the first deep-toned sound of a cannon on the center of our line about three miles off. We waited until 9 for further information and at 9 the Generals ordered to horse and dashed to the hill overlooking the point at which cannon, like minute guns, had continued slowly to fire. The enemy could not see any of our troops but were firing at the dust kicked up along the road which they saw above the low trees. We were for some time at the point they were firing at, and some 20 or 30 balls of their rifled cannons whizzed through the air above us and I felt very forcibly the remark of Cuddy to his mother Mouse that “a straggling bullet has nay discretion” and might take my head off as well as that of anybody else. The firing at this point kept up slowly from 6:15 until 11 when we heard a gun fire on the extreme left of the semi-circle and we were then satisfied that the firing in front was a mere feint. In a few minutes, the cannon firing came in rapid succession as if one battery was answering another. The Generals then ordered “to horse” again and away we rode to the seat of battle about three miles off. When we arrived on the top of a hill in an old field, we could get glimpses of the fight through the woods. The cannons were roaring and the musketry sounded like a large bundle of fire crackers, and the constant roaring of the big guns, the sharp sound of the rifled cannons, Minie rifles, and muskets with the bursting of shells made one feel that death was doing his work with fearful rapidity.

The enemy had concentrated all his forces on this one point, while ours were scattered around a half circle of ten miles and the few regiments who received the first onset were terribly cut up. It was far greater odds than human nature could stand, the regiments were torn to pieces, driven back, and so overwhelmed in numbers that I feared the day was lost. At this stage of the game, the enemy was telegraphing to Washington that the battle had been won and secession was about to be crushed. My heart failed me as I saw load after load of our poor wounded and dying soldiers brought and strewn on the ground along the ravine where I was at work. Dr. Fanthray who belonged to General Johnston’s staff and myself were just getting fully at work when an old surgeon who I do not know came to use and said the enemy were carrying everything before them and ordered us to fall back to another point with the wounded as they were turning our flank and the battle would soon be upon us. Accordingly, the wounded were taken up and we fell back, but after following the ambulances for a mile, we found that they were to be taken all the way to Manassas, about four miles, where there were hospitals and surgeons to receive them and we returned to our position near the battle. The decisive moment at First Bull Run which in Dr. Nott’s opinion heralded the birth of the Confederate nation, describing the scene as “grand and impressive beyond the power of language.” At this juncture, I saw our reinforcements pouring in with the rapidity and eagerness of a fox chase and was satisfied that they would drive everything before them. No one can imagine such a grand, glorious picture as these patriots presented rushing to the field through the masses of wounded bodies which strewed the roadside as they passed along. For a half mile behind me the roar passed down a gradual slope and through an old field; as I looked back, I could see a regiment of infantry coming in at a trot with their muskets glittering in the sun. Then would come a battery of artillery, each gun carriage crowded with men and drawn by four horses at a full gallop. Next came troops of cavalry, dashing with the speed of Muratt; after these followed with almost equal speed wagons loaded with ammunition, screaming all the while “push ahead boys, pitch into the damned Yankees, drive them into the Potomac!” This kept up from about midday until dark and I felt as if the Alps themselves could not withstand such a roar. The cannon and small arms were roaring like a thunderstorm as they rushed to the field. One regiment, which had been driven back by overwhelming numbers, was now supported, and I soon perceived that the firing was getting further off as I had expected and knew that the “pet lambs” now could only be saved by their superior heels. About this time, too, the last of General Johnston’s command arrived on the cars opposite the battleground to the number of 3,000-4,000, and although they had been two nights without sleep, they jumped from the cars and cut across to the field. By this time, we had collected about 15,000 against their 35,000 and from all accounts no red fox ever made tracks so fast as did these cowardly wretches. They were all fresh and better accoutered in every respect than our men, one half or more of whom had to make forced marches to get at them. They had selected their position coolly and deliberately in the morning, while ours were scattered over ten miles and had to run through the midday sunshine. If our men had been equally fresh, they would have gone straight through into their entrenchments at Arlington. But I will not speculate on the future and weary you with details which will reach you through print long before this.

The victory was dearly bought but still blood is the price of freedom and we can at least, while we drop a tear over the graves of our fallen friends, feel the proud consolation that they have died like heroes and given liberty to unborn generations.

Our troops are pouring in every day from the South and if Beauregard and Johnston chose to lead them, they can plant the hated Palmetto tree besides the Bunker Hill Monument which was erected to commemorate the same principles for which we are now fighting, and to which a degenerate race has proved recreant. They have forced this fight upon us and after exhausting everything but honor for peace, it is their turn to sue for terms.

I never had any idea of military science before Beauregard and Johnston played it like a game of chess without seeing the board- when a messenger came and told the enemy’s move was immediately ordered to put him in check.

The times are so exciting here that I cannot yet foresee my movements. I found that they had surgeons enough for the wounded at Manassas, and having no commission, I left and came up to Richmond to send down many things needed for the patients, thinking I could serve them better in this way than any other.

The (Paulding, MS) Eastern Clarion, 8/2/1861

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Contributed and transcribed by Dan Masters

Josiah C. Nott at Ancestry

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Josiah C. Nott at FindAGrave

Josiah C. Nott at Wikipedia

Josiah C. Nott at Encyclopedia of Alabama

Josiah C. Nott at Dan Masters’ Civil War Chronicles

Corp. William H. Merrell, Co. E, 27th New York Infantry, On His Captivity (1)

18 02 2022


The following extract from a letter received by Mrs. W. H. Merrill, wife of one of the wounded Federal officers at Richmond, is published in the Rochester (N. Y.) Express. It shows how utterly false have been the statements of the northern press that the Virginians were treating the Federal prisoners with inhumanity:

“I received a wound from a musket ball in my left breast, the ball lodging in my left side. It was a very narrow escape from instant death, but only Heavenly Father willed it otherwise. I was taken prisoner with hundreds of others, and brought to Richmond, where my wound was dressed and where I have received nothing but kindness, the best of care and good treatment. God bless the doctors and Sisters of Mercy, and all the kindhearted people of Virginia. I could not have been treated better among my own friends than I have been here. I am recovering rapidly, and will be about in a week or two. I expect I will be exchanged in due time.”

The Baltimore (MD) Sun, 8/13/1861

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27th NYVI Roster

William H. Merrell at Ancestry

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Surgeon David Little, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

17 11 2021

A Letter from the Battle-Field.

The following letter from our late townsman, Dr. Little, Surgeon of the 13 Regiment New York Volunteers, will be read with the deepest interest. It was hastily written, immediately after his return from the horrors and dangers it describes, and was intended for his family alone, but at the request of several of their friends, it is given to the public, as it is of great public interest. To our readers, who known the writer, noting could be more authentic and conclusive as to the facts stated, as to the courage and power of our soldiers on the battle field, and as to the uncivilized and savage character of the enemy. On our side we see our young surgeon attending to their wounded, and soothing them by kind words, and on their side our wounded, and even our surgeons bayonetted, and our hospitals fired.

The horrible picture this letter presents of carnage and death, can have only one effect on the outraged and indignant sentiment of our people, – it must tend to arouse all, as one man, against an enemy which has brought such woe and disgrace on our beloved country, We have had that – our day of humiliation, – other days like it may be impending but the fearful retribution must come. From such testimony as this letter, we realize that we are in bloody, barbarous war. We had hoped, we had believed, we had prayed, that this scourge might never visit our dear land, but it is on us. We cannot obey our impulse and instinct to shrink from it in disgust. – We are all of us called upon to take part in hellish war. The memory of the bloody rout of that Sunday must be washed out in blood. We must not shut our eyes to this dread necessity. The cup is forced to our lips. The maxims of peace, of humanity, of civilization, which we have so long cherished, are of no avail now. The even seem to be in our way and a hindrance to us. The cannon balls which shrieked around David Little’s head, as exhausted he slept during the battle, are now our only resort. We have but one duty now – that to our country, which has made us all we are. We can serve here only in one way – by helping on the war. Our women weep over these calamities; our men must help retrieve them. The sight of young David Little drinking ditch water, and fainting on the heroic retreat, appeal to all others to do their part likewise in these days of sorrow.

As we are permitted to give to the public this private letter in which the writer speaks of his exhaustion and fainting, but modestly forbears, even to his mother, to dwell on the hardships he endured, it is due to him that it should be accompanied by the statement of one fact well known to all his associated. Among the athletic young men of this town, he has a reputation for his great powers of endurance. He was a hunter. Wiry, hardy, and muscular, he has no superiors in a tramp, and some of the young friends who have heard this letter read, have remarked that if he fainted, it is no wonder so few of his regiment were left.


Ft. Bennett, near Washington,
July 24, 1861.

Dear Mother: – My mind is so confused with the scenes I have gone through the last week, that it is doubtful if I shall be able to write anything connectedly. I certainly can not give anything like a detailed account of what happened to me. The general account of our disaster you will have learned before this by the papers. One general observation I will hazard though, that is, that superior numbers, and fighting on their own ground from behind masked batteries, won the battle for the enemy. Their boasted superiority in pluck is all nosir. I saw with my own eyes, our 13th drive twice their number, like a flock of sheep before them. I saw the Ellsworth Fire Zouaves doing the same thing. – Afterwards, when reinforcements to the enemy came up, the retreat was inevitable, again and again were their cavalry repulsed by a handful of determined northerners. But then a panic came, and oh, such a scene. It defies description. Such a confused mass of men, horses, cannon, and vehicles of every description, jamming and crowding into each other in precipitate flight, and all the while grape and shells falling into its midst, while the chasing cavalry murdered all the stragglers, yes, and all wounded men! Oh, talk of Southern nobility. I shall never hear it named again without sickening disgust. Yes, they murdered our wounded – bayoneted our surgeons, and shelled and burned the hospital where our wounded were taken, while the hospital flag was flying in full view! They seemed to be filled with devilish hatred. – The fight waged from 7 o’clock in the morning until 5 ½ in the evening, when the flight commenced. The first part of the day, until reinforcements came up, was all against the enemy. For they were driven from one strong hold to another.

But I am filling up my sheet with what you have already from the papers. Now I am going to write my own little history just for your private pleasure and interest.

On Saturday last, word came from headquarters to our camp, that we must be ready to march at 2 o’clock Sunday morning. – This we did, thought the command was not given to march until 3 o’clock. Then we started with the purpose of out-flanking and taking two masked batteries. I mounted and rode “Kittie,” who, by-the-way, behaved splendidly under fire. Then when the battle began, we Doctors took a place in the rear of the column. For a long while the fighting was limited to unimportant skirmishing, and all that time I lay in the woods (it was a beautiful day) asleep and dreaming on you all at home. Waking, I heard close to me the barking of a squirrel. That seemed like a friend, and with the dream, made me for a time just the least bit home-sick. – The increasing fire, and the whirling of balls, soon cured me though, by making me forget my disease. After this, ie. 10 o’clock a. m., I was busy every moment, until the flight, dressing wounds. Then when the flight came, I looked from my ambulances and horse – they were all gone! Then I was indeed in a fix. The ambulances in which our wounded were to be carried, in which lay my blankets, bedding, dress uniform, surgical appliances and sword, my horse, “Kittie,” whose back I had come to think belonged exclusively to me, with my little other luggage and haversack of provisions, all gone, and poor, tired, hungry, thirsty me, left to walk in a hot sun a distance of thirty miles. It was hard, and I was inclined to be a good deal angry, but remembering that this would do no good, and thinking how much better off than many other poor fellow I was, I got into better spirits and started off with the remaining of our little regiment, some of whom were killed, some wounded, and many scattered, so that a mere handful remained together as we left the field. Our regiment, by-the-by, was the last to leave the field, and was the only one that could be made to rally to the support and protection of the retreating column. Once in particular, I remember, when a little band, we stood out in a field to resist cavalry, and saw all out own troops leaving us behind, while the enemy was hurrying upon us, and I thought it was wicked to keep us there. Again orders came for us to march on, and as you may imagine, we did so, in double quick-time too. How hungry and thirsty I was. Puddles in the road were eagerly swallowed. I drank water that 10,000 men and horses must have marched through, and so muddy that it was fairly thick. No sooner was it down than my dry throat craved more. We marched this eight miles, and just began to think we were at length out of the enemies’ reach, when crash came a bomb-shell in our midst. They had out-marched is and posted a battery just where they could rake us to great advantage. I think I came nearest to being killed just there. It was by a bridge on “Cub Run.” The bridge was blocked over with overturned vehicles and we had to wade waist-deep across the stream; just as I was ascending the hill on this sire, I heard a bomb come screaming through the air. I had just time to drop flat on the ground, when it passed over me, and struck about four feet in advance and bursted, instantly killing two poor fellows who were farther from it than I was, but who neglected the precaution of throwing themselves down. All the harm I received was being almost buried in dirt, Three miles from there we rested, about half an hour, when it was decided to hasten back Arlington, as it was learned that the enemy were endeavoring to head us off and take us prisoners – this was about 10 ½ o’clock in the evening – 21 miles to walk for us who had been at work since 3 o’clock in the morning. I started, and carried a wounded man’s gun. How the steps did drag, and how hunger knawed – finally, about 6 miles back, I fell down, fainting. The next thing I remember was swallowing some milk that a woman brought me. The enjoyment of drinking that milk exceeded anything I ever experienced before in the eating line. They put me into a lumber wagon and sent me here – and now after two days rest, I feel pretty well, excepting a little soarness left.

I should have telegraphed you at once, but not an officer or soldier was allowed to cross the river to Washington. I learn, however, that Henry Benjamin sent a dispatch to Rochester, to the effect that no officer was injured, and hope you may have seen it. – Our regiment is in a pitiable condition, and almost to a man those who are here are sick from fatigue and exposure. The disaster to Government is fearful, and it must take a long time to repair it. It must and will be done though, and terrible will be the retributions to the South. But I have said enough. Prospects are better again for me to see you this summer. * * I dressed many a poor fallen Southerner’s wounds, and found them to be generally grateful, and they seemed fairly astonished when I told them the North had no hatred towards the South – that it was a war to protect the Government and not of depredations on the South. We have a Lieutenant prisoner. He told me that the Washington artillery were there. – I can give them credit for one thing, that is, they are all splendid marksmen. Their balls had terrible effect. The prisoner said, one of our regiments, with their rifles, were a terror to them – that whenever they raised to fire they knew many must fall. This he told to our Brigadier General. * * * *

Affectionately yours,

Cherry Valley (NY) Gazette, 7/31/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

David Little at Ancestry

David Little at Fold3

David Little at FindAGrave

Roster of 13th New York Infantry

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

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