Pvt. Vardy Pritchard (Prichett) Sisson, Co. F, 8th Georgia Infantry, On the Campaign

18 11 2022

Captain V. P. Sisson Tells Vividly of

CLOSE CALLS

In Which Near 1,000 Men Participated

It was at Manassas, July 21, 1861. The “call” was not personal to the writer alone, and this brief narrative must not assume that phase.

It was a “close call” in which a full regiment of near a thousand men participated. The regiment was the memorable Eighth Georgia, organized at Richmond, in May, 1861., disciplined and commanded by that chivalrous sone of Georgia, Francis S. Bartow, of Savannah, who reached the capital of the Confederacy in command of the Oglethorpe Light Infantry of his city.

The writer left Atlanta as high private of the Atlanta Grays, Captain Thomas L. Cooper, on May 5, 1861. Other companies from the state went forward to Richmond at the same time, and an early formation of the regiment was accomplished, drilled and equipped for the arena of war.

It was an intrepid band, composed exclusively of Georgians. The regimental staff consisted of Colonel Bartow, Lieutenant Colonel Montgomery Gardner, Major Thomas L. Cooper and Lieutenant John Branch, adjutant. In the staff also was that distinguished and scholarly gentleman, Dr. H. V. M. Miller, the surgeon, familiar in ante-bellum Georgia politics, as the “Demosthenes of the Mountains.” The commissary was Major Charles H. Smith, known to literary fame as “Bill Arp.” The quartermaster was Lieutenant Ed Wilcox, of Macon. Gardner was in West Point, had been in the Mexican war, and was the thorough drill master and disciplinarian the regiment had need of. In this he had the ready assistance of the colonel, whose enthusiasm and ambition had no bounds. He had a personal pride in developing a regiment perfect in all things. The material was there assembled, and Colonel Bartow’s lofty character exercised a marked influence among company commanders and privates. Among the latter were men the peers of their ranking officers, men of high birth, education and refinement, bearing muskets and in cheerful submission to rigid military discipline.

Of the company officers it is impossible here to speak. It was a fine body of Georgia’s chivalry, many of whom as captains of local companies, like Bartow at Savannah, had given evidence of ability of a high order. If memory fails me in the long lists, I cannot forget Lucius M. Lamar, Magruder, Dawson, the Coopers, Tom Lewis, Seab Love, Towers, Fouche, Hall, Smith, Charley Lewis, Dunlap Scott and John C. Reed, now at the Atlanta bar and a member of our present city council, George C. Norton of Louisville, the Harpers and Dwinell.

A brief stay in camp at Richmond, and the regiment was sent forward, first to harper’s Ferry. The soldier prefers active service to the monotony of camp life.

Here it is in place to record my then impressions of Colonel Bartow, our Richard of the Lion Heart – sans peur et sans reproche – and his regiment as he rode at its head. He seemed an ideal knight, and the pages of crusade history can furnish nothing grander in conception of purpose or desire of achievement, as its beautiful banner first floated to the winds and its burnished guns flashed in the sunlight. Here was the pomp and pageantry of war, with the glistening blades of a Saladin. A thousand men in the bloom of youth, enthused with the righteousness of their cause, and an invincible determination to defend it. Thus propelled, they were fit champions for any cause or any age.

Alas, for the frailty of human hopes, when fate decrees otherwise! And how ambition treads the spider’s stair! The regiment reached Winchester from Harper’s Ferry, where General Joseph E. Johnston was confronting a Federal force menacing the valley of Virginia. Our stay at this point was without incident. It was severe drilling under a merciless July sun with light picket duty on the turnpike leading to Martinsburg. But the plot was thickening.

In the forenoon of July 18, and order came to be in readiness in two hours for a forced march to reinforce General Beauregard, at Manassas, and in that brief period of time the command of General Johnston was in motion.

We waded the Shenandoah river, and by midnight had reached the summit of the Blue Ridge, where for an hour or two rest was had in the village of Paris. Resuming the march, railway transportation at Piedmont awaited us, and in box and stock cars we landed at Manassas, much exhausted from wading a river, climbing over a rugged mountain, loss of sleep and in sore want of food. This was but a foretaste of what awaited the regiment on the following day. It proved a stimulant to courage, and created a dogged pertinacity to meet whatever issue the future might hold. And they did to a man!

It was now night at Manassas on July 20, the eve of an eventful day in the history of the Eighth Georgia. At daylight on Sunday morning, the 21st, the regiment was hurriedly ordered into line and sent forward to the left flank of General Beauregard’s line of battle where the enemy had made a heavy flank movement and attack. This was an exhaustive forced march of several hours under a pitiless July sun impeded by artillery and cavalry en route.

By 10 a. m. the scene of action had been reached, and the combat was on. Beauregard’s elaborate line of earthworks had been flanked.

Here the mastery of war had to come to issue on the field, and no advantage to any, save that the enemy had precipitated an emergency requiring military skill and quick action to meet.

To this Generals Johnston and Beauregard proved equal, as history will show. But The Journal asks for a recital of the “close call,” and my preface has lengthened out to weariness. Our talented litterateur, “Uncle Remus.” congratulated himself on one occasion whilst reading a piece to a friend, that the listener did not go to sleep!

And here comes the close call: Hampton’s Legion and other troops were engaged.

The first sight the Eighth had of the enemy was Rickett’s battery of six 10-pound pieces on a promontory, about a half a mile distant. So soon as the regiment entered an open field and got in line for action, that battery had a very fine target, and was quick to get the range. It was in a nicely cultivated cornfield, the growth being about waist high, that we loaded guns and fixed bayonets.

Colonel Gardner with his field glass surveyed the situation calmly for a moment, and ordered the regiment to “lie down,” which I remember to have done with great promptness and much satisfaction. Perhaps never before had I embraced mother earth so affectionately, as my weary head was softly laid in a freshly plowed furrow, and I pulled a stalk of succulent corn to slake my thirst. The regimental staff had dismounted and sent horses to the rear.

The federal infantry had not advanced to our immediate front, and not a shot had we fired. Colonel Bartow, having been promoted, was not in command of the regiment. He was not far distant, however, getting orders from General Johnston, whose other forces were moving up rapidly. A crisis was at hand. The rattle of musketry grew nearer, and Rickett’s gunners had an easy going affair in plowing up with solid shot and shell our cornfield. The soldier’s pride of character keeps his courage intact so long as he has a fighting chance, but the suspense is trying to the best nerve when he cannot strike back as he receives. In any event, however, he will do and dare in the face of the enemy as is known only to those who have been there.

Colonel Gardner was no novice on such occasions, and he stood as a statue in front of the regiment and calmly awaited orders.

At length the order came, and the “close call” followed in its wake.

General Bartow, attended by an aid, dashed up, and in a moment “attention” rang out in clear tones amid the wild din and confusion.

The Washington artillery of New Orleans, dashed by like the torrent of Niagara, and the clanking sabers of Stewart’s cavalry gave inspiration to the boys of the Eighth, ready to do their duty, and eager for release from their perilous position. The dogs of war were to be unleashed.

“Men, this regiment is ordered to capture yonder battery, forward, double-quick, march,” and Colonel Gardner sprang forward, flourishing an old cavalry saber he had used in the Mexican war. It was a half-mile on open ground to reach that battery, save a stunted pine thicket in its immediate front, from behind which its guns were in full play as we advanced.

Our quick movement and not having time to lower their guns for a correct range, much of the destructive fire of shot and shell failed in its deadly mission. Our loss in this half-mile was not serious. Rickett’s battery, as we learned later, was known as the “pride of the army,” and its work on that dire occasion was indeed beautiful, of one can descry anything in resemblance to aesthetics under such circumstances!

And yet close comes the “close call.” We thought it sufficiently near at hand in the cornfield under the fire of well directed guns, awaiting slaughter like sheep in the shambles.

But that was a picnic!

We entered the pine thicket in very good order, emerging from which into the open the regiment found itself some fifty yards distant from the battery, its position being a little elevated, and every gun in full chorus. Nothing remained but a last desperate sortie for those guns, and to silence them. Perhaps to turn them on the enemy. Up to that critical moment, the regiment had not suffered seriously, beyond the killing of a few men, and wounding not more than a dozen, so far as memory serves me.

It was thought we had the bird in hand, but it is the unexpected that happens, and certainly, it confronted us then and there with startling suddenness. As we began to pick off the gunners and end the havoc, there arose as if by magic from the ground, a full regiment of United States regulars in support of the battery, and we received a terrific volley along the entire line of our regiment. The aim was a trifle too high, but its effect was deadly enough. The blow was staggering and much confusion ensued. The regiment had lain flat on the ground in the rear of the battery, and was unseen by us until the blue flame belched forth as from one gun. As the volley was answered there was no infantry in sight. They had flattened upon the earth to reload, and in an instant another volley greeted us shattering our ranks and causing still further disorder.

The contest was unequal, and our charge for the guns was halted. Had the infantry aim been a little lower, our destruction would have been complete, for the old time United States regular had a dead aim.

Among the first to fall was Colonel Gardner and Adjutant Branch, with several company officers, and a third of the men wounded or killed. It was difficult to retrieve the regimental alignment and continue to contest, but there were no orders to fall back, the colors still floated defiantly in the hands of the color bearer, Charley Daniel, and there was no surrender, demand for one, or advance of the enemy. Human endurance finally reached the limit, and the Eighth Georgia retired to the base of the hill under a withering fire of shrapnel, where the remnant was reformed as reinforcements came up. The Pine thicket was a scene of ruin, stripped of its foliage, and presented a grime spectacle of war’s devastation.

At this juncture General Bartow brought up reinforcements and was wild at the unhappy fate of the regiment he loved as his own. It was in this act that he lost his own grand life. I make no effort to describe the death agony of our late colonel. He died with armor on and colors in hand.

It was now high noon, the sun burning down with tropical ferocity, and no man had tasted water since daylight. The dead lay upon the field, and the wounded had but indifferent care.

After the death of Bartow the Eighth and Seventh regiments were place in General Bee’s command. The enemy advanced in vast numbers on other parts of the battlefield, and the carnage had no abatement. The next great loss was that of General Bee, who fell with a mortal wound.

General Kirby-Smith reached us with his brigade, but was severely wounded as soon as his troops got into action, and his services lost to the Confederates.

Until about 4 p. m. the battle raged with great severity with the issue doubtful, when the enemy was seen to waver. The battery which the Eighth with such dire results sought to capture single-handed was now silenced, its commander wounded and a prisoner.

The field of Manassas was won, and the “on to Richmond” abandoned to a later period.

I am competent to speak of the one regiment only. Others had their close calls. In fact, it was an uncomfortably close transaction to all concerned on both sides.

After the third of a century memory becomes treacherous and perfection is not claimed in this brief sketch. The career of the Eighth ended at Appomattox, its ranks diminished to scarce one good company. Probably 75 percent of those who received their baptism of blood at Manassas have solved the great mystery.

From Yorktown and all through Virginia to Gettysburg and back, wherever a battle was fought, some member of that regiment reposes in an unknown grave. He followed wherever the immortal Lee led.

Let us hope that grand old Nature in her munificence at each returning springtime will decorate the turf over them with the beautiful wild flowers and the choristers in leafy branches overhead trill their choicest notes!

It should not be forgotten that the Confederate was not such soldier as comprise the regular army of a country. He was of a higher strain, and the purity of that strain finds no degeneracy in his issue. He claims lineage from:

“The knightliest of the knightly race
That, since the days of old,
Have kept the lamp of chivalry
Alight in hearts of gold;
The kindliest of the kindly band
That, rarely halting ease,
Yest rode with Spottswood round the land,
And Raleigh ’round the seas.”

Those who survive that regiment, and in weary steps pass to and fro amid the busy scenes of life, hold, as the French would express it, and embarrassment de richesse, resembling the sunlight and the shadow. Memories of picturesque scenes of jocund comradeship in the bivouac one day, and of death and burial the next.

And it is:
“Oh for the touch of a vanished hand –
The sound of a voice now stilled.”

V. P. SISSON.

Atlanta, February 1, 1901

Atlanta (GA) Journal, 2/2/1901

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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

ARP’S WEEKLY BUDGET.

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REMINISCENCES OF THE FIRST BATTLE OF MANASSAS

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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.

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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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Sgt. William Lochern, Co. E. 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle

16 11 2022

On July 3d the regiment embarked on steamers at the navy yard, and, landing on the “sacred soil” at Alexandria, went into camp something less than a mile west of that ancient and decaying town. Here, besides constant drilling, there were daily details of companies for picket duty, and frequent reconnaissances to the west and south. We were here brigaded with some other regiments, under the command of Col. W. B. Franklin, forming part of the division of Col. S. P. Heintzelman. Strict orders against meddling with private property of the inhabitants were promulgated; but as the rations were poor, and the people about us all secessionists, a few of the boys foraged a little, but with such address that other regiments, usually the New York Fire Zouaves, bore the suspicion and the blame. In a few days Oscar King, our enterprising sutler, appeared with a full stock of sutler’s goods, which he opened in a large hospital tent, and at once had a thriving trade with our men and those of other regiments. It was soon known that he had liquors, though none were sold to enlisted men ; and some of the men, by furtively feeling the packages through the tent cloth, located a barrel of whisky against the side of the tent ; and soon after dark one cloudy night they quietly drew a couple of the tent pins and rolled the barrel out and to an adjoining field that had been dug in places for various purposes, where it was tapped, and a dozen canteens and a couple of camp kettles filled, after which the barrel, still more than half full, was buried. The raiders were all from one Sibley tent, which contained fourteen men, in charge of a sergeant, and they had filled their own and most of their comrades’ canteens. Though the night was very dark, some one about the sutler’s tent soon observed the loosened pins, and the loss was discovered, complaint made to the colonel, and the lieutenant of the guard sent with a squad to detect the culprits. The delinquents had been on the watch, and, seeing this movement, at once confessed to their sergeant, and besought his aid in enabling them to escape detection. While disapproving their act, he was inclined to stand by his men, and even risk his chevrons to shield them from exposure and punishment. He therefore watched the proceeding of the lieutenant, observing that he stopped at the entrance of each tent, ascertained the number of its inmates, and called for and examined their canteens. Returning to his own tent, he found that but two canteens besides his own were empty, and getting these where they could be reached, and instructing a couple of men how to aid him, he awaited the officer, who soon approached and called, for him. ” Sergeant, how many men have you?” “Fourteen.” “Pass out their canteens.” With a peremptory order from the sergeant to the men to pass up their canteens rapidly, an empty canteen was handed to the officer, smelled of, and dropped at his feet as a second one was handed him, while a man, lying down where he could reach safely in the darkness, passed the dropped canteen back to the sergeant, to be presented to the officer again, and thus the three canteens were each examined five times and nothing found in the fifteen canteens supposed to have been searched. The camp kettles stood quietly at the rear of the tent and escaped suspicion; and as the search frightened the boys, and made them careful in the use of the liquor, they were never discovered.

BULL RUN.

For some time a general movement against the enemy had been expected, and on July 16th, leaving ten men of each company, mostly sick or ailing, in charge of the camp, the regiment joined in the advance of the army toward Manassas Junction, where the enemy was known to be in large force. The movement was slow, and we bivouacked that night near Fairfax Court House, on a ridge densely covered with young pine. The next day we reached Sangster’s Station, on the Orange & Alexandria railroad, where we halted early in the afternoon. Blackberries were plentiful, and eagerly gathered. The men had not yet come to relish hardtack and salt pork; and, although strictest orders against foraging had been issued, a squad of our men, bringing the dressed quarters of a young beef into camp, were accidentally met by Col. Franklin, the brigade commander, and his staff. Col. Gorman, who chanced to be mounted, rode up while Franklin was questioning the delinquents, and, in his magnificent, stentorian voice, overwhelmed the men with such denunciation and invective as no one but he was capable of, ending with an entreaty to Franklin to leave the men to him for such punishment as would be an effective example to the regiment. Franklin acceded to the request, and rode away, and Gorman, turning to the trembling culprits, said: “Now, you, take up that beef and goto your regiment, and don’t disgrace it by ever getting caught in any such scrape again.” The men were gleeful at escaping the punishment which seemed certain, and determined to profit by the colonel’s rather equivocal advice, at least to the extent of being more wary in the future.

On July 18th Capt. Bromley of Company B resigned, and Lieut. Mark W. Downie assumed command of that company, receiving soon after his commission as captain. Lieut. Geo. H. Woods of Company D succeeded Downie as regimental quartermaster. Companies A and B, with Lieut. Col. Miller in command, made a reconnaissance some five miles in advance, and till the rebel line was reached. During the same time the advance division of the army, under Col. Tyler, had a brisk engagement with the enemy near Bull Run. On July 19th our division (Heintzelman’s) marched to Centreville, where the entire army was concentrated, and remained the next day, while the enemy’s position along Bull Run was examined, and considerable skirmishing took place. On Sunday morning, July 21st, we were called up at one o’clock, and, an hour later, marched to the top of the hill at Centreville, where we were kept under arms until about six o’clock, while other troops, batteries and wagons were passing us. Congress men and other sight-seers, from Washington, began to throng the high ground near us, armed with field glasses. About six o’clock we moved through Centreville, and, on reaching Bull Run, turned to the right, and marched by a circuitous route, that seemed many miles in the sweltering heat, to the vicinity of Sudley Church, where we got the first extensive view of the battlefield, from which the continued roar of musketry and artillery had hastened our march. This view was obtained from Buck Hill, from which the Confederates had retired before our arrival. I have received from Gen. William Colvill, who was captain of Company F, a narrative of the battle, going into details more than I had purposed, but so interesting that I give it substantially entire:

Buck Hill was held by two Confederate brigades, Bee’s and Evans’, and the attack there was made by Hunter’s Division in front along the Bull Run slope. There was a series of attacks and repulses, and the end was long delayed, until a regiment of our (Heintzelman’s) division struck the enemy’s flank by way of the Sudley road, and, getting in a cross-fire, demoralized and broke
the Confederates, who fell back to Stonewall Jackson’s position, about a half mile to the rear. This position was almost the counterpart of the first, the right resting on the bluffs of Bull Run, and the left on the Sudley road, occupying the top of a long slope, screened all the way across by thickets of pine and oak. The distance across was about half a mile. In the thickets, and ex
tending across from valley to road, Beauregard says he had 6,500 men and fourteen guns about the time we reached Buck Hill. A study of his force in detail shows at least 8,000 men, and more guns, at the time we went in with Rickett’s Battery. Imboden says he counted twenty-six guns, saw them properly sighted and the fuses cut. These were in addition to his own battery, which had been retired from action. By order of Gen. Bee this battery had been placed at the Henry House, covering the Sudley road flank of the Buck Hill position, where it had done good service and exhausted its ammunition. Sherman’s Brigade came by the right flank of Buck Hill, from his crossing of Bull Run, about forty rods above Stone Bridge, just after the brush was over, and he assisted in the pursuit across Young’s creek. We arrived at Buck Hill soon after Sherman, and then saw his brigade, the Second Wisconsin, the Sixty-ninth New York (Irish) and the Seventy-ninth New York (Highlanders) drawn up across Young’s creek, close under the hill and out of fire, his line extending from the Warrenton pike nearly to the Henry House. At that time Griffin’s Battery of Porter’s Brigade, and Rickett’s Battery of our (Franklin’s) brigade, were pounding vigorously at a battery near the right of Stonewall’s position, the former from the northwest, and the latter from the northeast, angle of the cross-roads, and the enemy made but feeble reply. Stonewall had his trap set, and did not choose to disclose it. He was the strong man of that day. We drew up at Buck Hill, with eight other regiments, all screened from the enemy. There was our commanding general, and every division and brigade commander who had crossed Bull Run except Hunter, who was wounded, and Howard, who was held back at Sudley Ford. The commanders were all in consultation. The result was that Rickett’s Battery, supported by the First Minnesota, and Griffin’s Battery, supported by the Fourteenth New York of Porter’s Brigade, were sent to take position at the Henry House hill, within eighty rods of the enemy’s position. Near the Henry House a wood came down from the thicket, extending sixty rods along the left (east) of the Sudley road. This wood was surrounded by a rail fence, grown up on our side with scrub pine, so thick as to be impenetrable to the sight. We led off, marching by the flank, and followed by the batteries, coming under fire the first time, to the Warrenton pike, and then, on low ground, out of range, to the Sudley road again, which we followed across the creek (Young’s), and to the foot of the hill on the other side, when we filed left into the field, and then up the hill, coming by company into line, and then forward into line, with intent to form on the brink of the hill, the batteries to pass through the line at the centre, taking position a short distance in front.

When the first two companies on the right of the regiment came into line on the brink, we found ourselves about two rods from the Henry wood, the left of my company, the Second, about on a line with its northeast angle ; and, at the same time, Gen. Heintzelman, who had led our regiment to the foot of the hill, where it filed left, and then rode on by the road to the top, and across along the brink, gave our two companies the order, “Feel in the woods for the enemy,” to which we responded by volleys, and then by a continued fire. It would have been more sensible to have pushed a few skirmishers into the wood, who, in two minutes, would have notified us of the near approach of the enemy, although I suppose that within two, or at most three, minutes the regiment was in line at the brink, and the batteries in position, and the fate of the batteries determined. For they had barely unlimbered, and got in altogether but two or three shots, when the concentrated fire of all the enemy’s guns had killed all their horses and many of their men, practically disabling both the batteries. Griffin ascribes all his loss to the enemy in the woods, but the position of the dead horses close around the guns, and some barely detached from them, proves my account. There was, in fact, coming down the wood to meet us, at the time we opened our musketry fire, a brigade of the enemy, — that part of Stonewall’s masked line that had been stationed in the rear of this wood, — and which, on discovering the batteries, had pushed the Fourth Alabama Regiment to our front to cover that flank, and formed the other three regiments in close column, and advanced on the guns. Their advance from the woods was deliberate and quiet, and though perceived from the batteries, they were senselessly held by Griffin and Maj. Barry, the chief of artillery, as friends ; and so, coming close up, our regiment withholding its fire on account of the Griffin-Barry statement, delivered the first volley, which took effect in the centre of our regiment as well as the batteries, killing our color sergeant, and wounding three corporals of the color guard, and killing and wounding thirty men in the color company. Capt. Lewis McKune of Company G was killed, other companies suffered severely, and the colors were riddled with bullets.

The men of our regiment, at the centre and on the left, dropped on the slope and returned the fire, and we on the right, engaged in front, now for the first time discovering this enemy, turned our fire on his left rear at close range. But they pushed over the batteries, pretty well jammed up, and finally faced about toward us, and we expected their volley. Instead came a frantic waving of arms and fearful yells, of which we could not distinguish the words because of our-fire, which was kept up till the enemy faced to the rear, and after awhile gained distance enough to step out, and then to run, when we broke through the fence to follow alongside. We found the woods full of fleeing Alabamians, and picked up half a dozen too badly demoralized to run. I should have stated that before we crossed the fence, and at the height of our fire, we captured a mounted officer of the Second Mississippi, who had come around to us by the woods and Sudley road to “remonstrate against firing on our friends.” He was astonished on learning who we were. The Alabamians wore home-made clothing, — mostly red shirts ; and our red shirts, dim through the smoke, and in the supposed direction of the Alabamians, had misled the enemy’s charging column, and they got a taste of their own medicine. Beauregard says this charge was made by part of the Thirty-third Virginia. We saw distinctly three sets of colors — stars and bars — at the guns. We sent our prisoners to the Fourteenth New York, then drawn up very comfortably at ordered arms at the foot of the hill, with its right on the road. I never saw that regiment again, nor heard of the prisoners. Is it not strange that during all the while that our regiment was hotly engaged but a few rods in front, this regiment was held out of fire, to be stampeded (Griffin says), a few minutes later, by a few rebel horsemen? Generals of the regular army were there. The way was open, by the Sudley road and the thicket, to the enemy’s rear by a ten minutes’ march; and Beauregard’s charge or advance with his whole force, ten minutes after the repulse from our guns, above shown, left all his guns uncovered and unprotected for at least half an hour. After Griffin’s and Barry’s blunder in going into the concentrated fire of twenty-six guns at close range, and not un seen, and by the side of a wood filled with the enemy, their batteries were disabled in a minute. Yet they claim the guns were lost for lack of support. Were they not well supported when such an overwhelming and sudden attack was repulsed effectually by our regiment? Kirby of Rickett’s Battery was able to, and did, get off some of his guns. Could not Griffin have done the same? Beauregard says that just prior to the charge the Second Mississippi and Sixth North Carolina had been put in these woods, and engaged a large force, upon which they had inflicted severe loss on account of their superior marksmanship. Our two companies were the only men in the woods on our side who fired a shot above the brink of the hill prior to that charge. As for loss, one man in Company A was slightly wounded. The Eleventh Mississippi was brigaded with the Second Mississippi and Sixth North Carolina, and was probably with them in this charge: and the Thirty-third Virginia was in Stonewall’s Brigade. Gen. Bee and Col. Jones, Fourth Alabama, and Col. Fisher, Sixth North Carolina, were all killed about this time. Bee’s Brigade had rallied on Stonewall, which accounts for these regiments being together. To return: We followed the enemy to the thicket, where they disappeared. Our two companies then extended to a skirmish line, penetrating the thicket by cattle paths, and keeping up a lively skirmish fire as any of the enemy were seen dodging about. Then came the real rebel yell, as from their cover, down through the fields outside the woods, charged Beauregard’s whole command (except one brigade, still going the other way) to the guns. Now came the struggle between this force and Heintzelman, Sherman, Wilcox and Franklin for their possession. Beauregard says that from that time on he held our two batteries, as well as the plateau. The fact is not a man could stay on that plateau after the fight was over. It was covered effectually by the guns of both armies. I had forgotten to mention the Black Horse Cavalry, which passed and returned along the Sudley road, and were noticed as we penetrated the thicket. After the struggle for the guns, came Lieut. Col. Miller with reinforcements from the right companies of our regiment, which extended our skirmish line for some distance to the right across the road. Two or three regiments of the enemy appeared, but were held off by the skirmish fire, and disappeared. . After this came a charge of Howard’s Brigade into this wood, making a great racket, and firing, fortunately for us, overhead. Before they reached the front their fire subsided, and they were gone. The firing was heavier and more prolonged to the right. Beauregard says he sent then a brigade that cleared out Howard and Sykes’ regulars. I have no evidence of this. Long after this firing, and all sounds of battle, had ceased, being restive and anxious for news, I left my command and came back to the guns, which stood, powder-stained and grim, in the midst of slain men and horses. They looked forsaken; not a living creature was in sight in any direction. Soon, up the hill from behind the guns, came Gen. Wilcox, taking in the scene with sorrowful gaze. On inquiry I found he knew nothing of our troops or of the enemy. He then rode along the fence for the front. Hearing firing from my men, I left him at the southeast angle of the wood, at the edge of the thicket, and hastened toward them. They were watching the cattle paths, and now and then getting a shot. I explored for some distance, finally striking a field hospital, nurses and surgeons busy, and withdrew. Directly there was sharp firing in the wood across our rear, and, avoiding it, we drifted out to the road. Col. Miller, with the same feeling which had induced my visit to the guns, had moved toward them with his men, and met Preston’s Virginia regiment, and exchanged fire. Capt. Wilkin had joined him, and with my company I joined him as he came to the road, in a cut, where we made a good fight, and the enemy fell back toward our guns. We were now in some disorder, and got Company I’s flag (it is still preserved in Wabasha), borne by a gallant fellow, who, the next day, succeeded to the regimental colors, and formed upon it, counting off into two fair companies. We advanced along the fence toward the guns, driving the enemy into the thicket. Soon we got no reply, and, peering through the brush, found that the enemy had again relinquished the fight for the guns. Soon a lonesome feeling came over us — no other men in sight, and most of us suffering greatly from thirst. The men began to fall off, and Miller, with a reluctant glance toward the guns, gave the order to retire. Even then some lingered for a parting shot. The last, perched on a fence, and there himself a good mark, stayed till I insisted on his leaving. This poor fellow, Fred Miller of my company, had advanced furthest to the front of any man that day, and was at one time cut off from us by the enemy. On leaving the field he came across three of his comrades carrying a fourth to hospital, and, helping, was captured before the hospital was reached. He spent a long time in Southern prisons, and never rejoined the regiment. I had intended to omit some passages of my own adventure, but thinking one of them may shed some light on the general subject, I will give it. Gen. Beauregard mentions the last fight of the day, save some artillery firing from the Chinn house, as having occurred in the southwest angle of the cross-roads, where, as he says, Kershaw’s command attacked and drove off Sykes’ and Howard’s commands, who still lingered there. I suppose I was the force driven off. As I was about to start from the scene of the last action near the guns, I heard a man crying, and saw, about thirty rods to the right of the wood toward Chinn’s house, a soldier sitting on the ground, and went to him. He had dragged himself from the wood and was crying at seeing us leave, thinking himself abandoned. His leg was broken, the bone protruding. I quieted him, and, seeing a troop of our cavalry, hurried back. As I reached them I saw also what appeared to be a great force of our men advancing by the front of Buck Hill right about Dogan’s house. Just then one of the cavalry exclaimed, “The devils are coming,” and every horse whisked about, and the cavalry was off like a streak. I turned to see what was the matter, as a platoon of the enemy was making a left wheel out of the woods to the right into the road. Their sweep would have taken me in. Instinctively I broke for the ravine, putting into Chinn’s brook, the ravine being four or five rods from the angle of the woods. As I reached it I heard the chuck of the muskets, as they fell forward into the left hands, and dropped on my back on the slope, as the bullets buzzed like a nest of hornets past my head. I sprang up and, glancing back, saw a row of blank faces, astonished at seeing me break down the ravine, soon out of their fire. When I reached the brook three or four of our men were drinking. A Wisconsin man dropped dead in the brook as we started. A Fire Zouave jumped the brook at my side, and ran up the hill. He also dropped, but with my help reached the top and the shelter of a tree. The battery from Chinn’s house at this time threw shells down the brook, which is in line with the course of Young’s creek below their junction. My eye took in the course of the valley for half a mile, and there was not half a dozen men in the entire distance — boys lingering along the stream for water, whose retreat the shells expedited, and made ludicrous by their ducking to avoid them. This is the shelling which Beauregard describes as playing through, mangling and dispersing vast crowds of men. The platoon that routed myself was of Kershaw’s command, and was the only force of the enemy that, up to that time, had reached that angle. I soon reached the head of the column, near Dogan’s house, at the Warrenton pike. Gen. McDowell was there, his face turning alternately red and white with every pulsation, with Arnold’s Battery directed to the wood on the right of Chinn’s house, and its gunners ready to fire. Now, advancing in fine order down the plateau toward our abandoned guns, were two of the enemy’s brigades in line of battle, with cadenced step and bright uniforms, and arms glittering in the evening sun. Our own column, made up of men of all commands, was fast melting away, four men disappearing where one was put in line; and Gen. McDowell, on a suggestion that it was of no use to try to hold the place, with great staff officer dignity directed his aid “to please request Capt. Arnold to recede in this direction,” pointing to the Sudley road. Capt. Arnold was within six feet, heard the direction, and was ready, and had his horses on the gallop almost as soon as the message was transmitted, the general and staff following close after. Looking back, our column had disappeared, breaking across lots for Sudley Ford. As I passed along a fence a glance showed the enemy making a final charge on, and leaping with huzzas upon, our abandoned guns, from which they had been thrice driven, twice by our regiment alone. I will close by the observation, impressed on me at the time, that, except at the guns, on their first two advances, the enemy behaved timidly, and advanced with hesitation and seeming dread. This was apparent when they were held so long in the woods by a thin line of skirmishers, and when a whole regiment, making the third attack on the guns, was repulsed by not more than two companies. Company A brought in one captured officer, a Col. Coon of a Georgia regiment.

There is little to add to Gen. Colvill’s narrative, save some further account of the left companies of the regiment, which were separated from the right companies when Rickett’s guns were taken back through the centre of the regiment, and by the movements of the right companies, described by Colvill, which took them away from the left. In moving by company into line, in the brush, as we neared the top of the hill, the left companies were the last to get into line at the edge of a narrow clearing, into which the batteries had just passed. There was already firing at the right of the regiment, but the occasion was not understood. In a few minutes a strong body of infantry appeared in the edge of the wood just opposite us, and fifteen or twenty rods away, dressed in gray, but without showing colors. Many called out that this was the enemy, and prepared to fire. But from the batteries came the word that these were friends, and Col. Gorman forbade firing. Our Massachusetts volunteers and some others wore gray uniforms, which probably was the cause of the mistake. Almost at the moment of Gorman’s order we received the fire of this line, which extended far beyond, opposite us, on the left; and, at the same time, the enemy’s batteries, less than eighty rods away to our left, and in plain view, opened a heavy enfilading fire, and, between the two, the regiment and batteries with us suffered as detailed by Gen. Colvill. Kirby’s men got off a part of Rickett’s Battery, but all other guns were deserted by the surviving gunners, all the horses, and many of the men, being killed or disabled. The left companies dropped on their knees, and, as the enemy made a rush for the guns, poured in an effective fire, which, aided by the fire from, the right, described by Gen. Colvill, caused them to retire after the guns were reached. Getting again in the shelter of the wood, they returned our fire, which was steadily kept up, and their batteries again opened on our line. As this enfilading fire from the artillery was effective and well directed, and the enemy had mostly disappeared from our immediate front, we were ordered back, and retired in good order to the foot of the hill, where we remained for a considerable time, and were then ordered back to Buck Hill, where our knapsacks had been left. We were thence conducted across the Sudley Ford, and found the remains of several regiments which had been engaged. Here we were joined by a considerable part of the right companies of our regiment; and, as it grew late in the afternoon, Gov. Sprague, then commanding a Rhode Island regiment, rode up with information, confirming our fears, that the general result of the battle was disaster, and proposed retreat to Centreville. Gen. Gorman offered the First Minnesota as rear guard, but as Sprague insisted on taking that position, our regiment moved off next to the rear, in perfect order, in column by platoons. After awhile a large body of our cavalry came, in a disordered rush from the rear, along the road, and our men had to break to the right and left to let them pass, and did not afterward try to keep in regular order. All the way was found, in broken wagons and abandoned material, confirmation of the disaster; and at one place, not far from Centreville, the enemy was shelling the road over which we passed. Going through Centreville, we halted near our bivouac of the night before about dark, so much fatigued that most of the men dropped upon the ground, and were asleep at once, expecting a renewal of the battle the next day. In about half an hour the cooks called us up for coffee, and to receive the order to inarch at once for Alexandria. This was the hardest of all. We knew we had met with a repulse, but had not realized that it was to be accepted as defeat, and the prospect of a march of twenty-five miles, after such a day of phenomenal heat, long marches and hard fighting, seemed an impossible undertaking. How it was accomplished cannot be told. The writer, carrying knapsack, haversack, musket, and complete soldier’s outfit, was, on this march, several times awakened from deep sleep by stumbling against some obstruction. In the forenoon of the next day we were back in our tents at Alexandria, thoroughly exhausted and soon asleep, but in the afternoon were called up and marched to Washington, six miles or more, by way of Long Bridge. This was done in a heavy rain, and we were compelled to stand on the street more than an hour, in torrents of rain, when churches and halls were assigned for temporary shelter. Some, assigned to Bishop Mcllvaine’s church, were immediately supplied by the good bishop with coffee and plenty to eat, and, in other places, our constant friend, Col. Aldrich, appeared promptly with a troop of colored servants, bearing pails of hot coffee, baskets of eatables, and other comforts, most acceptable in our drenched and exhausted condition. The regiment never had a warmer or more efficient friend than Col. Aldrich. Generous and open-handed, he was always ready and alert to do everything in his power for the regiment, or for any man belonging to it, while his cheery voice and genial humor brought jollity and good-feeling whenever he appeared.

An obvious fault on the federal side in the battle of Bull Run consisted in putting the troops into action in small detached bodies, without properly ascertaining the position or strength of the opposing force, or even properly regarding what was in plain view. The result was that in almost every attack our force there was too small, and was beaten in detail. When we came upon Buck Hill we saw the New York Fire Zouaves, which had been sent from that position, alone go up to the attack of the enemy’s line, and it was of course defeated in brief time. There was no reason why several regiments there idle were not sent with it, or with us, when we were sent just after. Even the Fourteenth New York, which followed us, was not put into action with us, but left idle at the foot of the hill. And it is hard to understand why we and the two batteries were put on that plateau at all, swept as it was by so many Confederate batteries, so near and plainly in sight. Untenable as the position was, the men of the First Regiment fought like veterans, and it received special commendation in the reports of both Franklin and Heintzelman. The character of its fighting appears from its losses, which were forty-two killed, one hundred and eight wounded, and thirty missing, one hundred and eighty in all, being more than twenty percent of the men engaged, and the heaviest loss, in proportion to men engaged, of any regiment in that battle. The missing were nearly all wounded prisoners in the hands of the enemy. The surgeon and assistant surgeon remained in attendance upon the wounded on the field, when they might have escaped with the retreating troops, and were detained as prisoners. Their skillful care of our wounded doubtless saved many lives, and as they were treated with marked consideration by the Confederates during their captivity, and allowed to look after the welfare of their men to some extent, they attended to the cures, and alleviated, in many ways, the condition of their wounded comrades. They never returned to the regiment, as their places had to be filled before they were released, and for the time being they were nominally transferred to other organizations. Both were gentlemen of highest professional standing and skill, and of most genial, companionable traits. Surg. Stewart had been mayor of St. Paul, and, being a man of untiring energy, had, aside from his professional duties, always taken an active, intelligent part in all public affairs, in which his sagacity, disinterestedness and personal magnetism gave him great influence. After being exchanged he remained at St. Paul on duty connected with the mastering in of troops. After the war he was elected member of Congress, and afterward appointed United States surveyor general of Minnesota. He died at St. Paul, Aug. 25, 1884. Asst. Surg. C. W. Le Boutillier became surgeon of the Ninth Regiment Minnesota Volunteers, and died in the service, April 3, 1863.

William Lochren, “Narrative of the First Regiment,” in Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars 1861-1865, Minnesota. Board of Commissioners (Minneapolis: Pioneer Press Company, 1892), pp. 7-13.

Contributed by John Hennessy

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Capt. William Colvill, Co. F, 1st Minnesota, On the Battle, Retreat, and Revisiting the Battlefield

14 11 2022

BULL RUN.

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A Proud and Thrilling Reminiscence of the War – The First Minnesota on the Historic Field.

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Address of Col. Wm. Colvill at the Re-Union of the Survivors of the First Minnesota, June 21, 1877.

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The official reports of the first battle of Bull Run give a very vague idea of the plan of operations – of what was actually done, or of the part taken by different regiments; and there has been no account of it that does anything like justice to this regiment. While my account will be mainly confined to the part of our regiment in it, I will try to so connect it as to make the whole tolerably clear. I shall have to state it in great part from what I actually saw, and it will make the narrative somewhat person, but as such personal expression will give some notion of the individual experience of each of us, I hope it will be thought excusable.

The maps accompanying Gen. Pope’s report of the second battle of Bull Run, as published in the report of the Congressional committee on the conduct of the war, cover the ground that was the scene of the first battle, and will do for a study of it, although it must be borne in mind that at the time there were vast forests covering most of it, which at the time of the second battle had almost entirely disappeared.

Centreville is six miles north of Manassas, and four miles northeasterly, by the Warrenton pike, of the Stone Bridge. Bull Run is midway between Centreville and Manassas and flows southeasterly so that the Warrenton pike runs diagonally up the valley from Centreville and the bridge. The road to Sudley’s Springs turns off to the west, half way between Centreville and the bridge, and winds for four miles up and down the heights to the Springs, which are two miles above the bridge. The Warrenton pike pursues a straight course from Centreville to Gainesville at the crossing of the Manassas road six miles west from the bridge, and from the bridge follows the general course of Young’s creek – a small rivulet heading near Gainesville – which it crosses several times. The creek puts into the Run one mile below the level of the country, and just below the toll-gate where the fight commenced, and where the stream crosses the Manassas pike, blowing north is about forty rods wide. The hills are low and generally of easy slopes.

Roads diverge in all directions from Sudley’s Springs. Three of them cross the pike between the bridge and Gainesville – the most easterly of which runs due south to New Market and then passes southeasterly about a mile in the rear or to the west of Manassas. At the toll-gate, the point where it crosses the pike, this road is one and a half miles south of the Springs. From the toll-gate to Manassas is six miles. A direct road runs from the bridge to New Market. There is also a direct road six miles from the Springs – to Hay Market, which is two miles north of Gainesville on the Manassas railroad. The railroad runs almost due east from Manassas and therefore crosses the valley of Bull Run diagonally.

We struck the enemy’s outposts on the 18th of July, six to ten miles east of Bull Run, and they withdrew from both sides toward and along the railroad.

Centreville is on higher ground than Manassas, but the latter and Bull Run in that direction were at that time entirely hid by dense and seemingly interminable forests. To the south and east from Centreville we overlooked nothing but woods as far as the eye could see.

In these woods in the early part of the night of the 20th was a continuous roll of picket firing. At 2 o’clock of the morning of the 21st, when we drew up in Centreville ready to march, this had entirely subsided, and the sun rose out of the woods, as we still stood watching the passage of our noiseless columns, as it rises out of the sea revealing nothing of its gloomy and silent depths. Of itself this omen was sombre and saddening, and the thought that within these depths were thousands of enemies thirsting for our blood, made the solemnity awful. We turn our eyes to the west, to the long lines of our soldiers, with uniforms and arms bright and gleaming in the sun and become more cheerful.

Hunter’s division has passed, followed by a train of carriages containing headquarter officials and citizens. In the venerable form of some portly Senator some one has recognized General Scott, and with a thrill of enthusiasm at the thought that this grand old soldier is to direct the battle we step out on the march. Our Colonel’s face beams with excitement as he recalls the glories of Mexico, and our chaplain, with head bent forward, is dreaming of the campaigns of Alexander, Caesar and Napoleon – of the knightly adventures of the Crusaders, and whatever his historical reading recalls – and he has come actually to bear a part in such things. Our column of march, before and behind, as far as the eye can reach, is brilliant with the blue, gray, green and scarlet uniforms of the different regiments, trumpets and drums, artillery, cavalry, Highlanders, Moors, Turks, Germans, Irish – making up a lively scene and coming up to his most realistic ideas of the pomp and panoply of glorious war.

Following Hunter’s division, we strike the timber beyond Cub Run and turn off along the Sudley Springs road, winding up over the wooded heights, from which a great part of the way we overlook the valley of Bull Run to the left. Our march is slow. At length we hear the boom of the 32 pounder, announcing that Tyler’s column has come into position at the Stone Bridge. We see the smoke of the shell as it explodes high in the air. It is not answered, but miles away beyond we see the black smoke of a locomotive and hear the clatter of the cars – a long train, with speed accelerated by the shell, rushing towards the Blue Run mountains – misty in the distance – for reinforcements. After another hour Bull Run comes in sight in front, and we see our regiments – resting at ease in the meadow below – and the Sudley’s Church. The heat has become intense, and we anticipate our rest and lunch with great pleasure, but now comes the sound of quick cannonading – now sharp volleys of musketry. The enemy has attacked our advance beyond the Run and Burnside is pushing his brigade, which has to lead, to force him back down the stream. This he does by moving up ravines, flanking his – the enemy’s – position, when he falls back again and opens fire. This is again and again repeated, the fire becoming faster, and in the meantime we come to the stream and fill our canteens. Regiment after regiment, rushes over the Run – part of Hunter’s command – to Burnside’s support. We cross over and marc about a quarter of a mile down the valley, halt, unsling knapsacks and wait for orders. The fight grows more furious; wounded men are carried back to the church – now a hospital; our people are cheering; now the roaring of guns and musketry is constant. Who? the rebels! We are now fuming and fretting, our Colonel fidgety and swearing. “We are not going to have a chance at all.” “Keep cool, Col. Gorman,” says Gen. Franklin, riding by, “you will soon have enough of it.” After a few minutes, which seemed hours, an aid comes dashing back and we are ordered to the front – double quick. We leave our knapsacks in heaps and follow him along a bridle path, running through the woods, up the hill. We meet Hunter wounded, who cheers us on. After a mile or more, out of breath, we come out in a field, and to a halt, the head of the regiment near the toll gate on the Warrenton pike. In front of us to the east is the valley of Young’s Creek, in which are drawn up several regiments. We notice the Highlanders and Ellsworth’s Zouaves, conspicuous from their uniforms.

We see groups of officers at sheltered points watching the enemy. He has a battery half a mile away on the summit, between us and Stone Bridge. Another battery is upon a knoll and protected by earthworks, and is about forty rods to the south of the first battery and across the pike from it. A house with shrubbery and orchard is between it and the pike. Both batteries are firing over our men – out of their site in the valley of Young’s Creek – at Rickett’s battery of 12 pounder Napoleons, which is in our front, near the edge of the hill. It answers them, the gunners springing to their work with every nerve. To our right, across the pike and about 40 rods away, we see the New Market Road leading down to the valley of Young’s Creek and up the other side, where, as it rises the hill, it enters the woods and is soon lost to sight. The woods on the left of it are second growth pine; on the side fronting us, about 30 rods across – this wood is bounded on the left by the pasture extending from thence to the pike, in which is the entrenched battery. The wood on the right of the New Market road is a heavy growth of hard timber, extending indefinitely to the southwest.

It seems the plan is, for us, Hunter and Heintzelman, 20,000 strong, to follow this New Market road a sufficient distance to clear the Stone Bridge and then to join with Tyler, who is to cross when we are opposite and sweep down between the New Market road and Bull Run, on the rebel rear, stampede them with a rush to the direct road between Centreville and Manassas, then give the hand to our reserved division at that point 10,000 strong which has been all the time menacing that crossing of Bull Run, and together sweep over and gather up what is left of the enemy at Manassas, and end the war before night.

We must give the hand to Tyler and we are already several hours behind time, and these two batteries between us and Tyler, and commanding both positions, must be driven away.

McDowell, Heintzelman, Franklin, Wilcox, Burnside, Gov. Sprague and others are on the field, and at length have a consultation. Rickett’s smooth bores can’t reach the enemy’s guns. He is to move down the New Market road and then out into the field to the left, near the left corner of the pine wood, and open upon them at half distance, and the First Minnesota is to support him. Gen. Franklin has given Gorman his chance, and so notifies him. Gorman, with that decision which was his characteristic, immediately gave us the order “forward.” We gaily file across the pike, our banners – each company has one – fluttering. The chaplain rushes to the front, tears the fence away to let us through, and commences his speech. Each company as it passes picks up the sense of it. It is “to remember Minnesota, whose honor is in our keeping.” It is appreciated and our eyes gleam an answer. In the field across the pike we for the first time draw the enemy’s fire. Their shot came dropping down almost perpendicularly on account of the elevation of the guns, now one side and now the other, and we answer each with a bow – too low to be graceful – but you see we are an awkward squad. “Shame! stand up like men!” exclaims Lieut. Welch, indignantly. “The d—-dest politest regiment I ever saw,” says Orderly Maginnis. There was a laugh and no more ducking. We are in the New Market road hurrying down the hill. Our battery has limbered up and followed us and in its turn drawn the enemy’s fire. We cross the creek, file into the field towards the designated position. The leading company half way up the hill – we come company into line, then forward into line double quick. Capt. Wilkins, Co. A, now just beyond the brink, is halted, say two rods from and fronting the pine wood, which is so dense that we cannot see into it at all. Company F joins on his left, its left extending to a point opposite the corner of the wood; Company D is coming up; gen. Heintzelman, riding from the New Market road by the rear of the first two companies, directs to “feel in the woods for the enemy,” and we open with volleys fires low, repeated rapidly. There is no answer. Now the color company, C, is coming into line, when our battery gallops between it and the right color company, H. Rickett unlimbers his first gun to the front, fires one shot, and in answer the enemy concentrate the fire of their two batteries upon him. In an instant his guns are horseless and most of his men killed or wounded. We on the right, still firing into the woods, hear a tremendous volley to the left, and looking that way see where the guns stood in sight a moment ago a great mass of men in gray. They have come out of the woods – but a few rods to march – and with Union colors at their head, came up to the guns and fired almost in the faces of our center companies – till then in doubt whether they are friends or not. That fire caused awful destruction. One-third of the four center companies were laid prostrate. The remainder, with Company D on the right and K on the left, instantly fall as skirmishers on the slope of the hill and answer their fire; they still move obliquely to the left, but the left companies, E and B, have now come into line and with the two right companies pour an oblique fire through and through them. They are faced quartering towards the left of the regiment, and answer the fire in that direction; we fairly riddle them with bullets; they try to face about; they gesticulate desperately – we suppose they yell, but cannot hear them; we fire away. Along comes some one shouting “They are friends – it is all a mistake.” We point to the three sets of rebel colors now unfurled in a group directly opposite us, and answer with a volley. We keep firing, and they are in an awful state of desperation – still gesticulating frantically. As I look over the lines of Company F at the enemy some one touches my right shoulder, and looking up there is a horseman in gray. We have many regiments dressed in gray and I think nothing of it, but he says “why do you fire on your friends?” “Where do your belong?” Second Mississippi brigade.” “We are the First Minnesota.” The officer dismounts and is sent under guard to the Brookly Zouaves – 13th New York – which we now observe is drawn up at the foot of the hill. Directly the guard reports that he has been received by Capt. Butts of that regiment, who promises to take good care of him. We never saw the prisoner or that regiment afterwards.

We maintain our fire; the enemy gradually gain space and step out towards the rear, we following through the woods and along the fence on the left of it, but they soon get into a run and are out of sight. We find many men lying dead or wounded in the wood, some skulking. We pick up dozens of them, who are sent to Capt. Butts. In a moment we have learned the story. They belong to an Arkansas regiment that had been placed to hold the line of the wood, with instructions not to fire until the battery came up. Our volleys had surprised and stampeded them. The main force, to their left rear, supposed that this fire was that of this Arkansas regiment, and immediately started for the guns. Not being faced towards us on the right, and our six centre companies dropping instantly on to the slope of the hill, made such a gap that when they did see us we appeared to them to be a separate command, which they took to be the Arkansas regiment. This conviction was aided by the fact that that regiment had no regular uniform, except a red shirt like ours. Our two companies in the wood at length skirmished to the upper end of it, Capt. Wilkin extending his right to the New Market road. We came out upon a long brush and bramble pasture, intersected with sheep paths. A short distance up, but partially hidden by the brush, we see numbers of men, apparently resting, but in no regular order. At the same instant, with a terrific yell, up springs a large force of men at the left side of the brush lot, and charged in three lines – still yelling – past us towards our guns. They are soon lost to sight, but we hear their volleys and the answering fire. The firing soon receded towards their batteries, and soon was taken up with rapid volleys and yells and answering volleys and cheers towards the Stone Bridge, and in that direction is now a heavy and constant cannonading. There is lively skirmishing in the woods to the right of the New Market road, and from that direction and also from our rear there is a constant “whiz” of bullets. Numbers of our men are wounded here. After some time – in the excitement we have not taken note of it – all becomes quiet, the woods are dark and the silence dismal. We think it best to rejoin the regiment – half a dozen of us. We are so scattered and the woods so dense that the rest are out of sight, and we grope our way back to the point where we entered the woods. We find a few men walking about, piles of dead, and four of our guns, black and begrimed with powder, still in the same place and no one with them. They look desolate enough. While looking about in surprise and doubt at the silence and absence of troops, I will give an account of what I afterwards learned of the performance of our own and other regiments while we were in the woods. After the first regiment had been relived from the attack first mentioned it had its dead and wounded to carry back and care for and the left was drawn up further down the valley under the shelter of the hill, which was there more precipitous. The Fire Zouaves, the Highlanders, the Brooklyn Zouaves and a Michigan regiment, all in Wilcox’s command, had in turn charged the rebel batteries and been repulsed. Many of the Fire Zouaves in fleeing stopped with our left and with it and other troops repulsed the attack last mentioned. This last force of the enemy, either repulsed or ordered back, had retired in the direction of their batteries and soon, with other of their regiments, became engaged with the Irish brigade, part of Tyler’s command, which brigade had in the meantime forced the crossing of the Run. The Irish whipped the enemy beautifully and drove them clean from the field, artillery and all, but soon, for want of discipline and efficient commanders, had scattered and finally joined the rout back to Centreville – the panic having then commenced in Tyler’s command on the Centreville side of Bull Run, among those who had not fired a shot or seen an enemy. Our Colonel Miller had rallied the scattered men of our regiment, and with a number of Fire Zouaves advanced with them into the wood on the right of the New Market road and maintained a constant skirmish fight. Afterwards this command repulsed the charge of the Black Horse cavalry, which came down this road. This, I suspect, was very easily done.

But to return to my story. By this time a few more of the boys found their way out of the woods and joined us. Along came Gen. Wilcox from the left, quite forlorn, with perhaps a dozen of his command grouped about him, but inquiring for the enemy. Mentioning the position where we had seen the enemy “resting” we started up through the woods for the place, keeping near the fence on the left side, where the was more clear for his horse. We met skulkers in the way, who surrendered without resistance. A Zouave was about to bayonet one of them when Wilcox interfered and saved him. If living he may remember this incident. At length we came to the upper edge of the wood. The General continued straight on, going carefully, with a few men about him, while our boys started towards a large tree off to the right, which was a good post for observation. We found the place occupied as before, but in much greater numbers, and we open fire upon them. An officer approaches from their direction, waving his hand. It afterwards appeared that he was a surgeon, and this was a temporary field hospital. The number of wounded here must have been very large, as this field, as far as we could see it, was all occupied by the same purpose. Drawing back from the hospital we now looked for Wilcox, but could see nothing of him or his party. He was taken, as we afterwards learned, near this place. He was for a long time confined with Lt. Welch at Richmond. There was now a lively skirmish from towards the point where we had entered the woods – probably those who had taken Wilcox – and working to the New Market road and around it, we came down and found our brave Col. Miller hotly engaged with his independent command. His position was disadvantageous, being outside of the woods, while the enemy, less in numbers, were covered. His command was disheartened, and though the Colonel “rallied” incessantly at the top of his voice, was fast stealing away. Some one thought of a flag. Capt. Pell was also “rallying” with the greatest vigor some distance down to the left, and we observed the colors of his company and called the bearer to us, and advanced it to the wood, getting in line for a moment and pushing the enemy back. The color bearer, Sergeant Knight, behaved most gallantly. This flag under which the last stand was made and the last fighting done that day is preserved at Wabasha, and should be among the collections of our State Historical Society. To return. It was useless; before we realized it out men were mostly gone, and the Colonel with reluctance fell back with the flag. As for myself, stealing along the woods to the right to keep out of the line of fire, I found abundant evidence of a severe conflict in that direction – numbers of wounded and dead. The wounded, alarmed at the idea of being left, calling for aid. With a few words of assurance they are quieted. Happening at this point to catch a view of our old position at the toll gate, there appeared a large column of men, vast numbers apparently pushing up from the ford. At the same time a squadron of our cavalry gaily trotting across the valley from that direction. The impression received was that we were to make another and decisive advance. Getting back to the road along the line of the wood, this cavalry had then halted, and while I was trying to make out the movements of our large column at the toll gate, quick as a flash about turned this cavalry and off at the gallop. Stupidly gaping after them, I was aroused by the sound of footsteps, and looking around saw a platoon front of the enemy, marching double quick and within a few feet distance. This startled me out suddenly as a partridge, and my movement startled them as much. Instinctively I started for the slope of the hillside towards the creek and diagonally from the road. It was but a few rods, but that distance was never made more quickly by a race horse. You should have seen me with a secesh smooth bore on my shoulder, a large artillery sword in my hand, make my long shanks spin.

There was no sign of fatigue, although before I considered myself just about used up. Turning my head when about half way to the bank – the platoon was in the act of wheeling around the corner of the wood towards me; a step or two farther – I heard the chuck of the muskets brought briskly to the palm of the hand, and then with a mighty leap and feet thrown out I landed on my back with head crouched downwards, just below the top of the bank, and at the same instant, through the space I filled when they pulled trigger, buzzed a hundred bullets. You should have seen the surprise – the actual astonishment in their faces, as jumping up, I rushed down to and up the creek, out of fire behind the bank. Here were men, in spite of the fire, stooping to drink. A little further up we crossed the creek together and ran towards the hill, on the other side. As we ascend this hill a new battery opens down the creek from the southwest, firing at some stragglers near the pike, who quickly disappear. We rush over the hill, pass a house full of wounded men – where we find our regimental colors with part of the guard – hurry them out and take to the pike, to our large column, which we find to be a great mass of men without regimental or company organization. Here was Miller again, “rallying” fresh as ever. Everybody “rallying, but this last shelling was too much; back into the woods and out of sight our men were dropping away, but with a dogged, sulky look, as if they felt that this last rallying was beyond the limits of good sense. Looking towards the front, beyond the scene of our engagement in the forenoon, we saw three regiments of the enemy, marching to their front with perfect line and step, the setting sun gilding their uniforms and arms. It was a beautiful sight. In a moment, turning towards our men, not one was to be seen; they had vanished.

In the turnpike was Gen. McDowell; just beyond a section of artillery directed to the southwest. In a quizzical humor and looking towards the enemy’s regiments, I suggested that he had better rally in the woods. His face at that time was turning alternately red and white with each pulsation. A whole history could be read in it at a glance. He preserved his dignity, however, and paying no attention to my impudence, calmly directed an aid to request Capt. —–, the commander of the battery, to recede in this direction, pointing out the road to the ford. The gunners were prompt; never were horses put to and on the gallop more quickly. That is when it was a case of merely receding.

We are now at the ford – the church and space about it filled with the wounded, with our regimental surgeons and nurses nobly resolved to stay by their charge. We have hardly time to say good-bye, when a rapid skirmish fire from the direction of Hay Market urges us on, and were up over the hill, speeding our way to Centreville. Our loss in the fight was 280 men killed and wounded, thrice more than any other regiment on our side.

Here the story ends. Every one knows about the retreat that evening and our “masterly advance” on Washington the next day. Anything new about it would be a mere statement of personal incidents, of which you have already had a surfeit. One thing, however, I must mention, as I learned it subsequently. In that long, wavering line, extending from the toll gate almost to the ford that I before mentioned, and which so suddenly disappeared, far on the left, were three or four organized regiments – the First Minnesota and Burnside’s Rhode Islanders. Even these began to feel the wavering impulse common to the mass, and the men began to drop out. At this time our colors have rejoined. Gen. Sprague is lecturing the Rhode Islanders, telling them that their safety depends upon maintaining their organization. In van! Up to the First Regiment the whole mass has drifted away, when Gorman, with his clear and ringing tones, gives the order to form column by platoons, and this the First Regiment executes with the same precision as upon dress parade, and amid the cheers of the mob away it marches, bringing up the rear in good order.

The true story of Bull Run is of itself a sufficient criticism and commentary upon that battle.

The enemy spread out like a fan resting upon Manassas as its base, and extended behind Bull Run from the Stone Bridge to the Occonquan, twelve miles front with sides of six miles. This triangle, whether attacked from the south of the Occonquan – from the east by the railroad or on its left, as was done from Sudley’s Springs, would necessarily, as its lines were compressed, have presented a stronger front to the attacking force. Suppose that we had been well handled, and our whole right and centre put in on time, and had forced the enemy back two or three miles further; or as it was, suppose he had judiciously offered less resistance and voluntarily fallen back: – At evening, in case there had been no panic, we would have been that much further from our base and cut off from it by the march of Johnson directly from Hay Market, on our rear, and soon enveloped by double our force, would inevitably have been taken.

Again the enemy’s generalship – Beauregard with the bulk of his army, not exhausted as he pretended – for he had not moved it from its position fronting Centreville and the east, from which direction he expected the main attack, deeming our attack on his left as but a feint – had a line of advance on the railroad to Alexandria, more direct and nearer than ours from Centreville, and by that route he would have met no serious opposition. Such an advance, made with promptitude and decision, would have cut off the greater part of our army and probably have terminated the war in the enemy’s favor; at least Washington would have been an easy capture. He lost this decisive opportunity, and the moral effect of this battle upon our people and the lessons it taught our commanders and soldiers in the end, proved it to be the most important and valuable in results to us as any battle of the war.

Two years after, while we were at Manassas Gap watching Lee on his advance to Gettysburg, by leave I took a day to go over the old ground. The woods were all gone, even the stumps all hacked up for fuel, and the whole face of the country seemed to have been leveled off. I could not trace our line of march or recognize any starting point. At the mansion near which the rebel battery had been entrenched during the fight and which for some reason had been preserved with its orchard, garden and flowers in the original freshness – an oasis in the scene of desolation and death – a good natured darkey who had been a spectator of the fight, after answering my inquiries about it, offered to show me the place, the grand point in his mind of the whole fight, where the Zouaves and Tigers “had it.” It was but a short distance away, and when on the spot, all the surroundings arranged themselves in order in my mind, and I was at home. It was the place of the repulse of a whole brigade of the rebels from Ricketts’ battery by the First Minnesota regiment, and at which, from that regiment alone, the enemy sustained more loss on that day than from the whole army beside.

Our red shirts and blue pants had possessed the enemy with the idea that they had been engaged with the indomitable Fire Zouaves. But the record of course is that we supported the battery.

We had with us ever after, until his death, that greatest of artillery captains, Kirby, who after the repulse of the enemy, succeeded Ricketts – who was wounded – in the command, and by the greatest exertion succeeded in saving two of his guns and bringing them off; the other four, not through the courage of the enemy, for they remained for hours in possession, had to be abandoned for want of means to remove them. This Kirby ever after would have no other regiment to support his battery, and we afterwards did so on many a hard-fought field, standing fast, as at Bull Run, even when, as at Fair Oaks, the surging masses of gray had at the turning point of the fight, charged up to and been blown from the very muzzles of his guns.

Red Wing (MN) Argus, 7/5/1877

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy

Colvill appears to refer to the path taken from Cub Run to Sudley Springs Ford as the Sudley Springs Road, the Sudley Road as the New Market Road, and the Stone House as the Toll House. Ricketts’s battery was comprised of 10-pounder rifles, not smooth bore Napoleons.

William Colvill at Ancestry.com

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William Colvill at FindAGrave

William Colvill at Wikipedia





Pvt. William C. Ward, Co. G, 4th Alabama Infantry, On the Campaign

10 11 2022

FOURTH ALABAMA REGIMENT AT BATTLE OF MANASSAS, SUNDAY, JULY 21, 1861

By William C. Ward

At sundown, Jul 21, ,1861, the greatest battle ever fought on the American continent, to that time, had been won by the Southern Confederacy and lost by the United States of America. So widespread and deep was the exultation of the southern people, and so profound was the depression of the north, that everywhere and easy achievement of southern independence was confidently anticipated.

In June, 1861, General Patterson, with a large and well-equipped army, crossed the Potomac in the vicinity of Matinsburgh Va., and confronted the army of the valley of the Shenandoah commanded by General J. F. Johnston, making such demonstrations as to indicate an immediate battle. After awaiting the expected attack for about ten days, General Johnston withdrew to Winchester, Va., and his troops resumed drilling, of which they stood in need. General Jackson, however, with his brigade and some cavalry remained in the presence of the enemy, concealing the movements of his commanding general.

In the meantime, General Beauregard, flushed with the cheap laurels won in the capture of Fort Sumter, was in command of a splendid, thought not a large army, along the line of Bull Run creek, about three miles north of Manassas Junction. He was a splendid military engineer, and with the creek to protect his front had a well entrenched position. General McDowell, with the flower of the Federal army, strong in numbers and with all the most modern equipments of war, occupied a strong position confronting Beauregard. On the 18th of July, McDowell made a reconnaissance in force along Beauregard’s front, justly creating the impression that he intended to give battle. Over Beauregard was the shortest line of march to Richmond with a railroad to carry supplies. It thus became manifest that Patterson had not seriously intended to attack the army of the Shenandoah, but had made a strategic demonstration to amuse General Johnston. As soon as General Johnston, on the 18th, had information by telegraph that Beauregard been attacked, the army of the Shenandoah was mobilized and at once marched toward Manassas leaving Winchester that afternoon. Infantry, artillery, commissary and quartermaster wagons filled the highways all crowding toward the point of attack.

At noon, on the 20th of July, we reached Manassas and bivouaced in the woods about one mile north of the Junction. We were very tired and very much exhausted by the weary journey, on foot and in the cars, and the excessive heat. Early Sunday morning, off to the northwest, an occasional report of artillery could be heard, but soon that most alarming of signals, the dropping fire of skirmishers was heard. Directly a courier dashed up to General Bee, our brigade commander, who immediately mounted his little chestnut horse, and the order came to fall in. Sooner than it takes to write it, we were headed to the northwest at a double-quick guided by the artillery and skirmish fire Of the Third brigade commanded by General Bee, composed of the Fourth Alabama, Second and Eleventh Mississippi, First Tennessee and the Fifth North Carolina regiments, only the Fourth Alabama, Second Mississippi, and two companies of the Eleventh Mississippi were present in this movement, the others following later in the day. General Bee was at the head of the Fourth Alabama, and ever moving toward that skirmish firing. So rapid was the march, that many of the men, weak from measles, were being left behind, afterwards to take their places when the battle was on. Imboden’s rock brigade artillery, had unlimbered on a plateau, just north of the Robertson […] Rickett’s battery, 500 yards over the hill and beyond the valley intervening. Arriving at the point of attack, it was found that General Evans (Shank) in command of an outpost numbering about 600 men, had been struck by McDowell’s right brigade engaged in turning Beauregard’s left. Wheat’s battalion of Louisiana Tigers deployed as skirmishers, moved at the right oblique across our front and disappeared into the timeber. The Fourth Alabama was fronted into line of battle and ordered to load. It was then marched to the southwest for a short distance, partially behind a block of timber covering a steep hill side, when again fronting in line of battle marched up the hill and halted behind a low fence just in the edge of the timber.

General Bee from the left, rode up along our front and commanded, “Up Alabamians.” At once, every one sprang up and forward into the corn field about one hundred and fifty yards, halted and laid down in the corn, then about two feet high. Over a little ridge, just out of sight, was Rickett’s battery, near enough for us to hear the commands, “Load. Aim. Fire!” and the sound of the rammer as it drove the shot home, and the swab as it followed the shot sent across the valley to Imboden. We could on our right, see our men as they rose to fire and lay down to load. We could hear the commands of the Yankee officers, as they urged their men to advance. Every time the right of the Yankee regiment, immediately in our front, reached the crest of the ridge, we fired and the Yankees would fall back. On our right the men were more exposed, and the slaughter was terrible. The roar of musketry was fearful, and without intermission. It was, load, aim, fire, at will. The Second Mississippi had disappeared from our left. How long we were there, we never knew, but long enough to be left alone, and for Jackson to reach the plateau near the Henry house, a half mile in our rear and take a strong position; long enough for Bartow, great of soul, to form line to the right of the Robertson house, supporting Imboden’s battery, and long enough for Hampton, with his legion of infantry, cavalry and artillery to arrive from the right, and long enough to leave on the battle-field nearly one-third of the 650 men who went into battle.

Just who did it, was never known, but some one gave the command retreat. The regiment rose and faded as it were to the rear. Some men ran as they went by Colonel Egbert Jones, who stood by his horse supporting himself, having received his death wound. He said, “Men, do not run.” The men were demoralized. They fell backwards, through the woods, over the fence, down the hill, reformed facing the front, then faced to the rear, crossed the brook and again halted and faced to the front obliquing to the right. Colonel Jones having been left wounded, Lieutenant-Colonel Law took command. It was then seen that immediately on our left there was a Federal regiment that had turned our left in close column by division at a support arms, and that our right had been turned by a Union brigade. The left company of the Fourth, notwithstanding the cry, “Don’t shoot, they are Virginians,” delivered a fire left oblique into the faces of the regiment on the left. This was returned with interest. The Fourth was literally hanging in the air without support, enemies to the right of them, to the front of them and to the left of them. Again the men in front of the terrible fire fled up the hill. It was pitiful to see the poor fellows fall before the merciless hail. Chagrined, full of wrath and shame, some dragged themselves up the hill, and as they retired turned and emptied their muskets at short range into the faces of the foe.

Where was Shank Evans with his six hundred, where was Wheat with his Louisiana Tigers, where was Falkner with the Mississippians? Crossing the line of the Eighth Georgia, a shell exploded just over the head of Captain Clarke, who commanded the left rifle company, and immediately in front of this historian. The old captain fell, lay still on his face for a moment, rose, brushed the dirt from his clothes, and quietly continued to the rear. Here the celebrated Hampton’s legion came into view, with the assistant surgeon in front carrying a stretcher, and firing volleys or red hot oaths at the retreating men. Hampton must have formed on the left of the Eighth Georgia. Halting around the old cotton-bale flag, which Sergeant Frank Fitts had carried through the day, just in the rear of the Georgians, it was ascertained that about two hundred of the regiment had rallied.

It was just at this time that General Johnston and Beauregard, accompanied by their staffs, rode up to the regiment, having heard the firing from their position on the right, and concluded that McDowell had selected his own battle-ground and was giving battle. To General Johnston’s question, “What troops are these?” the answer was, “It is what is left of the Fourth Alabama.”

“Where are your field officers?” The answer was, “left on the battlefield.”

“Who is in command?”

Here it is understood that no one had thought it the duty of the senior captain to take command. We asked that the general either lead or give us a commander to take us again into the battle. He replied that he had just come on the field, and as soon as he could understand the situation he would place us again in battle.

Just at this point General Bartow, bleeding from a wound in the foot, his horse wounded and panting, rode up and said, “General Johnston, I am hard pressed on the right, and I cannot hold my positions without reinforcements. The General replied, “You must at all hazards hold your position, and you need reinforcements, this regiment here,” pointing to the Fourth Alabama, “will support you.” Bartow turned his horse and rode back to his command and to his death. General Johnston then, placing himself by the colors, moved the Fourth through the scrub pine timber, placed the regiment in a washout in the rear of the Georgians and left us shrouded by the thick pine bushes with orders to support Bartow.

There are some men who believe that a speech is always in order, and never lose an opportunity to fire an audience with their eloquence. Here was a great opportunity, and Captain, afterwards General Tracy rose to the occasion. The men were sad; their comrades had fallen; they had shown their backs to the foe, and they felt that hence forth they never would be able to wipe out the stain. They felt that they ought to have died on the battlefield. Tracy was eloquent. It is remembered that when he had exhausted all his native resources, he closed with Hallock’s lines, “Strike for your altars and fires; strike for the green graves of your sires, God and your native land.” Just then a minnie ball, apparently having lost its course, came singing that song that threatens to strike but does not indicate where, yet apparently near Captain Tracy’s head. He bowed low, saying, “and dodge boys, when you can.”

The battle raging from our right towards our left came nearer. Bullets fell fast into our covering. The captains, not knowing what had become of Bartow and his Georgians, moved us out into an open field, where we could see the danger that threatened. A water detail was sent out while the men rested in the sun. It was here that General Bee rode up to the regiment. Mortified at the results of the morning and feeling all was lost, he called out:

“What regiment is this?”

Captains King and Clarke answered, “General, do you not know your own men? This is what is left of the Fourth Alabama.” He said:

“Come with me and go yonder where Jackson stands like a stone wall.” The captains replied, “we have sent out details for water and as soon as they return, we will go with you.”

It was just before this that the Federal attack had become general. Advancing over the line of retreat of the Fourth Alabama, the Union army ascended the hill to the plateau in front of Jackson and Hampton and the Georgians, and as it uncovered the crest, there was a crash of musketry that can never be forgotten. The Yankees advanced, loading and firing, and their cartridge covers showed beautiful lines and magnificent drill.

When the water was distributed, General Bee mounted, placing himself on the left, and moved in rear of Jackson’s line of battle. Arbuthnot’s battery changing position, cut the regiment in two at the colors. When the right again joined the left, we were told that General Bee had fallen mortally wounded, while leading the regiment to a place where it could again go into battle. He died that night. While waiting in front of the Lewis house, where General Johnston had established his headquarters, General Jackson rode by, having his arm in a sling. For hours he had held his position and it was understood that he had saved the day.

Directly there was an indescribable roar of battle and shouting. The cavalry came from the rear charging to the front. The cry was that the Yankee army was in full retreat, and all over the vast plateau the glad shouts of victory went up to heaven. President Davis, at this time, rode on the field, hat in hand, receiving the plaudits of the men. Straglers were coming in. The happiest people ever seen were the negro mess servants, who laughed, shouted and wept. Steve., Captain King’s body servant, was uncontrollable in his joy that he had found his master alive. The Fourth went back to the Junction that night to gather up the fragments and sleep. We were so tired! We laid down to sleep feeling that we were disgraced; we waked on Monday morning to find the air vocal with our praise. That a great victory had been won was being ascribed to the fact that the Fourth Alabama had for an hour held the Federal right in check until brigades and regiments could be moved from the right to the left. As fast as the regiments came on the field, marching by the left flank they were fronted into line of battle and moved into action. McDowell, at the same time, was always moving by his right until having uncovered his front about 12 o’clock he advanced to the main attack. His flanking movement had been discovered by Evans and check by the Fourth Alabama. We never fully knew what the Fourth Alabama had done until General Heintzleman’s report to his commanding-general was made public. In that report he paid a very great compliment to the valor of the Fourth Alabama regiment that for an hour or more delayed his advance successively driving back his four regiments, so that he was unable to again bring them to the attack. From the position named, all knew the regiment so designated was the Fourth Alabama.

To prevent a short line march to the rear of our line of battle by the Union army, it was necessary to keep a large part of Beauregard’s army behind his earth works at Bull Run, when the day had been won. Colonel Cook’s Virginia regiment came on the battlefield, having all day listened to the roar of the great battle. The battle was fought by the southern generals without a plan, a rough and tumble fight made necessary by the splendid flanking movement of McDowell. As the day grew old, Generals Archer and Kirby Smith, coming by railroad train, when at a point equidistant from the battlefield and Manassas Junction, hearing the sound of battle, stopped the train and with their commands moved in the direction of the firing. They struck the Yankee right, squarely and doubled it back upon itself. Up to this time the Yankees had steadily advanced fighting with great confidence. This was too much and they fled from the field without order, never halting until under the shelter of Washington.

(Birmingham, AL) Age-Herald, 7/20/1902

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Contributed and transcribed in part by John Hennessy

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Lt. John Calvin Reed (Reid), Co. I, 8th Georgia Infantry, On the Battle and Aftermath

3 11 2022

Chapter 2

The First Manassas.

After we were in the road and well closed up, Bartow, raining in his horse, announced to us, with thrilling manner, as we passed by, “We are marching to succor General Bearegard, who is now fighting the enemy at Manassas”; and deafening cheers responded. We kept on twenty four hours, with but four hours’s rest, taking the railway train at Piedmont, where the shipment was tedious and wearing. Our regiment arrived at Manassas Junction early Saturday morning, July 20, and from Bartow’s words to us after breakfast, we supposed we were to meet the enemy immediately; but having stacked arms near Mitchell’s Ford, the way wore away without anything notable except loud complaints from the hungry. Our boys had many of them found their haversacks containing three days’ rations too burdensome, and so they had thrown away most of their contents. The next morning, in company with W. H. Clarke, the junior lieutenant, and McCall the second sergeant, I went to a neighboring home and bespoke a good breakfast. While it was preparing a cannonade commenced. The house chanced to be that of the man who was to be the guide of Lt. Col. Gardner, now in command of the regiment, Bartow commanding the brigade, to his position; and he saved us a long walk back over the ground we had come by showing us where we might fall in as the regiment came by. The cannon we heard were far towards the left. As we marched along the batteries quickened their fire, and I saw a shell explode for my first time. Because of the greater distance of the hostile batteries from us the explosion of the shell seed to be the echo of the report of the gun, and as the shell came toward us the echo seemed louder. Most of the men were still hungry, and but few had recovered from the exertion of getting to Piedmont from Winchester by forced march, now regarded as a great affair, though a year later we would have laughed at it. But the sound that promised battle fed the hungry and rested the weary. We went about and about, sometimes almost counter marching, often double quicking, and now and then on the run. The sun was blazing in fiercest heat. At last we were near the famous Henry house. Here we saw Bartow, who had not been with us during the morning and while we paused to amit some disposition of the 7th. Georgia that he was making as brigade commander, Hampton’s Legion came alongside of us and halted. In their best clothes and clean linen. How bravely they outshone us, who were in our shirt sleeves, and all bedraggled and soiled with the dirt of our hard march. And their ranks were full, while he had left two hundred behind at Winchester, most of them sick with measles. Here I first heard musketry. Rival batteries might dual it our at long taw, but I was as accurately impressed then as I could ever be Afterwards that musketry meant real fighting. The sound came from over the hill and seemed about half a mile away. Here I gave Lit. my colored servant, my coat and baggage, and took my canteen, and ordered him to go to the rear. As we started he was in a great struggle between his concern for me, and his fear, which had been showing plainly since the increase of artillery fire, and became abject when he heard the musketry. The rest here, – though out of the shade, and we were about to taste our first battle, – was very grateful. We marched a few hundred yards, surmounting a hill that rose with a steady slope, and the shock was stunning when on the crest from which we caught a view of two miles beyond, we came, as it seemed to us, all at once, in the midst of the fight. Under orders we laid down a short distance in rear of the Henry house. The Wise artillery was just beyond the house, and it was firing rapidly. Hostile guns were replying, but they did not have the range; and the shot and shell were passing far overhead. This was the most trying part of the day. The projectiles sung and whizzed and exploded over us, around us, and a very few among us. One of the Macon Guards was killed here. I shrank from the accursed things for several minutes. Once I saw dust rising from the roof of the house, indicating that a shot had passed through it. Major Cooper directed a brush fence, dividing the regiment between the right of our company and the next, to be pulled down. I was lying ten or fifteen yards distant, and as another officer was nearer, I did not heed the command. It was repeated. I looked up, and o my shame saw that nobody had stirred. I forgot the hostile battery; and in a minute a dozen of our men had enlarged a passage to our major’s satisfaction. The small affair was a great relief to me; and I think that with my springing up went the last of any nervousness that day. When I lay down again, I located the battery on the other side of the turn-pike, and about three fourths of a mile off. A long range of woods ran around the further limit of the field, and out of a place in this, as it seemed, I could see the smoke puff. Then I distinguished the report, and I have forgotten how many seconds I made it between the two. In a short while after I had heard the report, here came the shot or shell. Then I saw a long line of the enemy, far towards our left; and it rejoiced me to see them scamper as some of the shot of the wise artillery tore through their ranks. General Bee was fighting across the turn-pike, as we could hear, not see. After we had stood the fire of the distant battery about half an hour, Bartow started with us to reinforce Bee. As we moved off, another man was struck down by a shell – killed, I think. We kept behind rising ground, crossed the pike, went up a long steep red hill, and, when near the top, fronted in line and halted, – our commander seeming to expect an attack. Then we resumed our march. Just as we reached the corner of a square grove of oaks I descried the battery, and noted that were nearer to it by half than when on the hill. It sent a few ineffectual shot at us; and passing on around the rear of the oaks, we turned up the other side; and when we got to a fence running off to our right on a production of the front line of the oaks and leading to the famous pine thicket, we filed to the right, and proceeded along the fence. It was partially thrown down, and there was some small growth on each side, called in the south a hedgerow. As we turned away from the oaks a few men were wounded by Minie balls from the long fence, some three hundred yards off, to be described hereafter. Eight companies had passed on – the regiment was marching by the flank, with the right in front – and just as company I was turning from the woods, a shell from the battery, now hardly three hundred and fifty yards from us, knocked three men out of a file behind me. Some of Company K were also wounded here by a shell. Shortly afterwards I heard canister shot fly through the bushes, the marks of which I found the next day. Bartow was leading us to the thicket about a hundred and twenty yards distant from the oaks. A fence on the side of the oaks we were leaving reached on the produced side about 250 yards to the front, where it intersected with what I call the long fence, which last extended several hundred yards to the right. The 4th Alabama were lying on the ground, to the right of the fence running from the oaks, and I saw them in this position loading and firing upon the long fence. At the point where we left the oaks this regiment was between us and that fence. Now let me tell you of the latter and the thicket. It was evidently Bartow’s design, or Bee’s, that we should take advantage of the thicket in order to approach under its cover within good range of the long fence. The latter was about 125 yards from the front of the thicket, and our march was along the hedgerow to enter the rear of the thicket. We were foolishly carried over the last sixty yards of this route before and not behind the hedgerow, and a most galling fire was concentrated upon us from parts of three regiments. We made this last of the way on the run. I could hear the bullets zipping and zeeing among us like angry bees, and I knew that our men were falling fast. Two of our company were hit just here, – George Heard, one of them, falling dead as we entered the thicket. This with the tree wounded by a shell, made five. We slackened down to quick time, and I glanced up the regiment and was struck with the good order in which the files were dressed. We were in sight of the battery, and in position to be raked from end to end, but its canister came too high. When we moved forward, the ground concealed us from the guns. Just as we resumed quick time I looked back at the perilous place we had just passed. Jesse Dalton, of company K, a man over sixty, against who I had brought a suit for slander for Higgins, was coming over the ground running slowly and weasely. Thousands of bullets seemed to be striking up the dust around him, but he did not quicken his gait. He was too exhausted. I thought that he would run the gauntlet safely, but just as he got to the pines he received a serious wound. When I saw his fall I could not help thinking of the rule of law under which a personal action dies with a party*. I said we had dressed our files. Bartow, quivering with rage, shouted, “By the left flank, march.” That threw us in line, to the front. Everybody understood that it was ow our time; and there was a wild rush to the edge of the thicket. It was rectangular and contained about three acres, with a front of some 110 yards. We should have had a least three hundred yards. From the fence came a volley that roared more loudly than any I have ever heard afterwards, but it seemed to do no hurt. Huddled up in some place seven or eight deep, and even more, our firing commenced. I observed three colors at regular intervals, just on the other side of the long fence. A dwelling was a little beyond it, and four out-houses were on its lines, and some grains stacks besides. The dwelling and out-houses were opposite the left and right center of the regiment. The further side of the fence, the out-houses and stacks were lined with federals. An ice-house was a few yards nearer our side of the fence, and just a trifle to the left of the produced left line of the thicket, and more federals were around it; and they extended in rather desultory order, in front, to a point not far to its right. To the left of the ice-house, in an oblique line towards the fence, by which the 4th Alabama were lying, another regiment took position, just after our fighting commenced, and its musketry was very destructive to companies K and I, as it approached somewhat to an enfilade and many of the men f these companies were pushed out into the open. This last mentioned regiment fired buck and ball, as I discovered from the marks on the trees the next day, the other regiments fired Minie balls. Now, were we not in a pickle? The houses, the stacks, the fence, the line of the regiment on our left, – all seemed a continually playing flash. The trees were becoming white all around us, from having the bark cut away, though I noted that numerous bullets were going too high and bringing down leaves. Many of our men were being wounded, and there were frequent cries of pain, “O,! Lord!” becoming from that time on the ejaculation that I usually heard a man make when struck in battle. But the loading and firing kept up with eagerness. Jim Lewis, one of the company, came to me and told me goodbye. The brains and blood seemed to be running out of his forehead. I never expected to see him again, but the next day it appeared the ball had gone around and not through the skull. I shall never forget how pale, stiff and thoroughly dead Gus Daniel, another one of the company, looked as I glanced down when I had stumbled over him. This was the first dead man I saw. Our men were taking careful aim. McCall, a glorious fellow from New York State, our second sergeant, as already mentioned, was shooting at the color of the regiment on our left; and all of company K, and the left half of I, were aiming at that regiment. The weary and feeble were staying their muskets upon the pines, and each was selecting a mark. A federal in front of the thicket bravely rushed into an opening in the fence, where he raised his piece, but before it came to his shoulder it flew into the air and he fell. A second later I saw another adventurous man climbing and out-house, and down too he came. But we were under the concentrated fire of at least four regiments, and probably each was of fuller rank than ours. I was never afterwards in as hot a place. The men were so crowded as seriously to impede their work. Some few fired as many as fourteen rounds, but the most of them fired but seven or eight. And let me make you understand the peril of those few minutes. According to a count some of us made upon a careful study of the company roles, the regiment carried into the action 490 officers and men. Of these 41 were killed, 159 wounded, and seventeen reported missing ten or twelve days afterwards. It is probable that the most of the seventeen were wounded and captured. So out of 490 we lost 217 – not very far from half. I think it was 39 or 40 of dead in the thicket that I counted a little before sun down, and they lay within less than half an acre of ground. In our company six were killed in the thicket; and thirteen severely wounded. Two of the latter died soon afterwards. Our total of officers and men in the company at the commencement of the action was sixty-four, and adding to the killed and wounded those whose clothing was pierced by balls – and bear in mind hardly one of us had on a coat – and deducting the sum from the total, fourteen only was left. As those who heard him told me the next day, Bartow vociferated to the captain of the Atlanta Grays, “We must get these men out of here.” Several times he ordered us to fall back, but I was among those who did not hear. Nothing could be understood in the din to which our ears were so new. But some of the men at last, misunderstanding the order to fall back, began a disorderly retreat. On the right of the first platoon, close behind it, I was encouraging some of the men of our company to fire with more coolness, and I reminded them that the enemy’s fire was slackening. The regiment furthest to the left had disappeared – its smooth-bores probably being no match for the Mississippi rifles of company K – and the line before us looked thinner along the fence; and there was nobody standing on our side of it. Ransome, one of my men, lying on the ground, was keeping his musket quiet. He seemed very cool, and with much warmth I asked him why he had ceased to fire. He fired at once, begun to load, and shouted to me that he had been obeying orders; and he rolled his eyes in such a manner that I glanced to the left and then to the right. Nearly everybody was going back at about quick time. Of course I could not stay. I carried off my squad very doggedly. Their sulleness increased mine. At every step they seemed on the point of rushing back, and soon would turn and fire. I had got near the fence at the rear of the thicket, when I heard what seemed to be a severe slap, and looking towards it I saw a little fellow, of another company with his piece almost at a shoulder. He was facing to the right, and a ball had struck the barrel; and he told me afterwards he thought he was shot through his collar bone. His face showed great anxiety, until I said to him that it was his musket that was wounded. Bartow’s horse was killed in the thicket; and when I came to the fence dividing the pines from the wheat field, he was there dismounted, and ordering the colors to be planted near the fence. He was greatly excited, and he implored his men to rally. I went to him, and I thought his eye twinkled with pleasure as he saw that I was coming to the front. The last words that passed between him and me were my enquiring where he wished the line to form, to which he pointed with his arm along an open place running diagonally through the pines, and said, “Just there.” I was nearly ready to sink in the ground at what I too hastily conceived was the disgrace of the regiment, for I did not know that we had been ordered back. “Who is the officer that is leading off these men” said the colonel hoarse with rage, stamping his feet, and shaking his fist in the direction of our poor fellows going across the wheat field. Jake Phinizy, 1st lieutenant of company K, made great efforts to bring the men back. I shouted from the fence, calling everyone by name that I saw. We got back a few. But balls began to come hotly from the right, and the colonel commanded us to fall back. All organization was lost. My little band kept with me, and I told them we must go to the color. We crossed the ledge of small oaks, through which shot and shell were crashing, from a battery on the right which I could not see, and we came upon the color at the brook, at the foot of the hill, behind the grove of oaks. The men leaped into the water like thirsty men, It was muddy, but we drank copiously. A dashing cavalier, as he looked in his brilliant uniform, galloped up, and said, “Why, the Georgians are running while the South Carolinians (of Sloan’s regiment) are fighting.” Our color-bearer, Charley Daniels, cursed him, and threatened to shoot him; and many of us ran towards him, hurling the fiercest imprecations. “O,” said he, with an apologetic, but noble bearing, “I must admit that you are ready enough to fight; I withdraw the words that I should not have used;” and he rode away. Some days afterwards I saw a picture, and then for the first time I learned that the handsome stranger was General Bee. Bartow sent the color bearer on nearly to the pike, not far from the free negro Robinson’s house; and there the regiment tried to form. It was madness. The red hill side of the brook, hardly two hundred yards distant, was swarming with infantry, elated, huzzaing, and flaunting the United States flag so proudly that is seemed to cover the whole land. We mustered perhaps a hundred men. Bartow sent us word from a fence on which he was leaning, the he should die where he was or his regiment should rally. I saw Hampton’s Legion in position, in front of Robinson’s house, its right resting on the pike, and my judgement told me that we should reform behind the new line. But I could not disregard the appeal of Bartow. Our men fired about two rounds here, and it was returned more than five fold. In the midst of the smoke and dust thrown up by the musket balls shot at us I found myself between the two lines. But at last I got in place behind the remnant of our company. The company commanders led the men away; and I have always believed they did right. Just before I got to the pike, a fugitive passed me at a slow pounding trot. When he was about six or eight feet ahead a bullet whistled so close to my ear that I was startled. “Dip”, I heard it strike. The poor fellow fell forward, the blood and brains spouting from the back of his head in a red jet as long as my finger. We passed out behind Hampton’s Legion, and then behind the 7th Georgia. Here I noticed Fry, the old chaplain, patting the men on the back, and adjuring them to stand firm. Major Cooper in obedience to orders, carried the regiment off the field. I stayed behind; and I collected a few of my company and some others, whom I tried to induce to go with me into a regiment just arrived. A field officer angered me by saying they did not want stragglers, but one of his whole-souled captains told me softly not to mind a d—-d fool, saying he would make room for us. My poor fellows were fainting for water, and it seems to me some of them were letting their tongues out, and I was myself almost dead from thirst. We told the captain that we should rejoin him as soon as we had got some water; and we ran off for it. We hurried back, and the regiment had gone. Then it occurred to me that the remains of our own regiment might yet for ordered forward; and in that case I ought to be with it. So I sent one of the company to find and mark exactly where it was, and keep me informed of it; and I sat down on a stone and observed the fight. I cannot more definitely give the place than by saying it was a little to the left of a battery of ours that was on our right and firing vigorously. A Louisiana Tiger came along going to the rear. He was without his rifle and sabre bayonet, but he had not yet got rid of his loose attire, baggy trousers, and something on his head resembling a turban, – all of which made him look like a Turk. Every time a gun fired from our battery, which, as he was faced about, was to his left, and a little behind him, he would fall prostrate, manifestly believing that the shot was the enemy’s and aimed at him. This sight diverted me for the moment; and with a few minutes’ rest I was soon recovered from my extreme fatigue and thirst, and then returned my great concern for our fortunes. I saw a little and understood more of the first impact of our new line. Yes, the line really does stand. Then I discovered that an assault was repulsed. And as our men fighting were firm, and a few reinforcements were coming up with spirit, and rising columns of dust betokened more behind, the flush of hope came back to my pale cheek and I said to my companions, we shall conquer yet. All the struggle to keep the position where Jackson offered battle, and the taking and the loss of the ground about the Henry house – these I noted, heedless of the dangers that filled the air around me. I had unconsciously changed my position, and got nearly behind the center.

The fight had rolled further to the left, and my ear told me that we were not losing there. When the field around the Henry house was permanently occupied I decided that the day would soon be ours. In my verdancy I supposed that when the enemy went back all of us should be ordered forward; and so I returned to the regiment. The main field hospital was near it, where numbers of the wounded were stretched upon the ground. It was spirit-lifting to hear them bless the regiments double-quicking by, and see them wave their comrades forward with hands soon to be stilled in death. The reinforcement rushing past, replying to the wounded with cheers and vows to revenge them, the musketry plainly receding, the joy in the faces of all around and brightest in those of the dying as victory was surely coming – all this moving scene arises, and I am again an eager confederate, volunteered for the war. When our men advanced in the last charge, there came above the confused noise of the battle a shout – I was always told that it commenced with the 1st Maryland and the 3d Tennessee – and shaking the earth, rending the air, and piercing the ears, it followed Bull Run down on our right, until it died out in the far distance. There was born full-grown the southern battle-cry. I ran towards the Lewis House. I caught sight of the federal line going to pieces, and I saw Lieut. Dearing as he fired the farewell shots from our side. Officers were leaping for joy. One of these who was gray-headed, was clapping his hands with fury, and exclaiming rapturously and over and over, “We have whipped ‘em.” I dashed back to the regiment. In a short while orders were brought that Genl. Johnston wanted every man to come to the top of the hill that he might show his line to the retreating enemy. As I tell this now I feel a qualm of the nausea that it excited in me. It was about 5 P. M., and all of three hours until dark. I replied to myself, Is there to be no pursuit? I had been pleasing myself with the compensation our regiment was now to have for the awful loss in the morning, and gleefully had I quoted to some of my friends Shakespeare’s “Tis sport to maul a runner.” It was days before I fully recovered from the disappointment. Jake Phinzy always asserted that I never did.

President Davis galloped by on his way to the field. His high-crowned hat and citizen’s garb showed oddly. He was recognized, and everybody cheered, the wounded among them.

I got to the pine thicket as soon as I could. Thad Howell, the handsomest man in our company, was lying on his back, in the open field, just at the edge of the pine. A bullet had struck the top of his forehead, and the brains were oozing out. He heels drummed on the ground constantly, but I found that he was utterly unconscious. Those who could feel demanded all that I could do. There was Dawson Moore, one of our company, with his leg broken. I got him into an ambulance. But there were many other companies who were not removed that night. For a long while after the ambulance left I was there alone. I supplied all the wounded with water. Some drank as though they would burst, but I as not afraid to give it. As I started away with a poor fellow’s canteen the second time, he called me to him and made me swear that I would return. But their thirst was at last assuaged. Their teeth commenced to chatter, and I robbed the dead of blankets to cover them. Nearly all went to sleep. At a late hour that night, friends commenced to come in groups. It was raining. I threw an oil-cloth which I took off of a dead federal around men and went to camp, and, lying on the ground with my feet to the fire, slept until several hours after sunrise, when the men around me waked me by cheering some of the captured artillery that was going by. It was still raining; but with Charley Doherty, a lieutenant of the Pulaski Volunteers, I went over the field. First I studied the fence and stacks and out-houses in front of the thicket. It gratified me to find hardly a single mark of a bullet from our regiment which was too high; and the wounded federals in the house and yard, said our musketry had be devouring. Then we went to the other part of the field. It sickened me to find a frightened woman cowering in the Henry house. She showed me the body of her mother laid out. The old woman had been long bed-ridden, I think she said, and while in bed the day before she was killed with a musket ball, which came through the side of the house. The house was riddled with shot. To the left of the house – in a field of small pines of second growth – the dead were thickest. The red shirt generally marked the federal. As this spot had plainly been the fiercest and closest grapple, and both sides had shown the genuine Anglo-Saxon mettle. It pained me to see that our dead here equalled, if it did not exceed, those of the other side. But further on our left, the federal corpses indicated that surprise and swift destruction had darted upon them from the forest which I shall mention after a while as extending forward; and here our loss had been small.

As our camp was near I went over the field many times, and I studied it more closely than I ever had opportunity to do another afterwards. The map which accompanies this chapter was made just as my study of the field ended. Though I was without topographical training, It think it is practically accurate. I hope that the engraver will reproduce the rude diagram exactly. I regret now that I did not make it illustrate the rest of the battle field. But I was then too resolved upon showing the terrific results to the 8th Georgia of inexperienced conduct.

The foregoing account is mainly taken from my letters to Gennie, and it may be relied upon as thoroughly accurate. I have tried to set down mainly what I noticed myself, in my first battle. Many of the regiment further to the right told me that the federal line advanced from the log fence once in a charge, and arriving at the cedars, marked on the map, we thence driven back by our fire. I have not described this, simply because I did not see it. And I wish that I could say more of those who suffered. Especially should I be glad to tell of Col. Gardner, who was on the right, where he was sorely wounded. But I forbear. I fear that I have already detailed much that can never interest anybody but myself.

But if I have cut my narrative short, I have some philosophizing and reflections I cannot suppress.

Instead of reinforcing Evans’s right, Bee ought to have strengthened his left, using the square oak grove, the hedgerow to its right, and the hills to the left of the grove for cover and screen, and gradually have fallen back to the high plateau where we took our stand later. It was foolish in the extreme to advance the 4th Alabama into the bare field beyond the oaks. It was madness to send the 8th Georgia to the pines by the route I have told. We never should have been thrown so far out; but if it was decided that we must seize the opportunity offered by the thicket, we should have been led from the corner of the oaks directly to its rear, which would have been the shortest line, and one hidden by the hedgerow from the battery and the long fence. When arrived at the thicket, only the left half of the regiment should have been sent to the front, and the other companies should have been stationed along the right side, and ordered to lie down. And those sent forward should have been instructed to take advantage of all cover offered by the trees and the formation of the ground. When we gave way, the enemy advancing rapidly upon our right and rear, there was nothing to be expected from raw troops but a disorderly flight across the pike. But had Bee made use of the oaks and the hill to their left, and posted skirmishers to be retired into the oak grave behind it when pressed, such a stand could have been maintained much longer than ours was and the transcendent duty of the hour was to gain time to allow of reinforcement from our distant right. And the 4th Alabama, the Tiger Rifles, the 8th Georgia, and the other men of Bee and Evans would have reached the new line with but small loss. Such management would have made the fight across the pike the right preparation for our battle, instead of the route which proved very near our ruin, and which was retrieved only by a seeming miracle.

The longer we contemplate the plainer it appears that everybody else’s part on our side could have been better spared than Jackson’s. He really decided, and with the utmost wisdom, where our new line was to be formed. He who was afterwards the magician of surprise to flank and rear is now the very soul of the grand need, obstinate fighting. And yet his wariness shows. He pushes his artillery into the open, to be sacrificed to encourage the raw infantry that he is sheltering; and he charges when least expected and in the very nick of time. He has noble comrades, Bartow, Bee, Hampton and Evans are with him, and the heroes face imminent ruing with peerless courage. And General Johnston riding forward with the standard of a regiment! And the chivalric Beauregard having the officers to advance the colors and appeal to the men to come on! Where in all the annals of war were disheartened raw troops so quickly endowed with veteran steadiness against the countless odds of foes flushed with victory won as they believed? And the result! With the very last reinforcement of ours we had in all but twenty-five thin and weary regiments on the field, and we took prisoners of fifty-five regiments, full and fresh.

The field itself was great luck to us. Skits of forest and second-growth pine ran along our front; on the right, ,in the rear of Robinson’s house, there was a wooded ravine; and on our extreme left there was a long reach forward of forest – good for defence and for making our movements. The ground occupied by the enemy in his struggles to carry our position was nearly all open, and it sloped downward, behind him to the plain almost a hundred feet; and so it was highly favorable both for our observation defence and attack. And it is not to be over-looked that there was little shade for the enemy and much for us on this hot July day, especially trying to raw levies. While it is Jackson’s glory to have been the immovable fulcrum of the rally against defeat in the morning, it is Beauregard’s glory that after he arrived on the field the tactics of the battle were practically faultless. To me he has long suggested Luxemburg’s greatness in sudden straits; and I think he appreciated in time the entire resources of the field to which he had been unexpectedly driven. He made them at first serve for an insuperable defensive; and at this moment of ripeness his offensive swept the baffled and wearied for from before him. I am not aware of any other battle in which the ground was so well used and our troops disposed and handled better. The fault of our subsequent fighting was mainly tactical. Beauregard did so magnificently with a small army that he should have been trusted with a larger. Still I must say that there ought to have been a more vigorous pursuit till after dark.

And I cannot help thinking that we failed to learn another important lesson from the first Manassas. That less was to cultivate defensive tactics in pitched battles. I verily believe that had we forced a defensive battle in Pennsylvania the south would at least have got pay for her slaves.

I must not fail to observe upon General Johnston’s report. In the lively image which it calls up to the reader it is equalled, in my knowledge, only by Caesar’s account of the battle with the Nervii, or his picture of the battle which doomed Alesia.

And the last thing I have to say is that Beauregard is right, when he pronounces that we ought to have followed up the victory by crossing the upper Potomac. This would have given us Maryland, and lifted the pressure upon is in the west.

(Note: P. S. I see now, as I have explained in my book “The Brothers’ War” that we ought to have pursued the flying federals, pressing them the rest of the day and all the next night. The bridge over the Potomac hemmed their retreat so seriously that we could have captured nearly the whole of the Grand Army and its baggage. The foregoing was written 20 years ago. July 27, 08

*See 34 Ga. 433. I finally lost my case on another point.

John C. Reed Manuscript, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, AL, pp. 15-33

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Pvt. Robert Welch, Co. H,  71st New State Militia, On the Battle

25 03 2022

The 71st N. Y. AT BULL RUN.

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It Suffered Quite a Heavy Loss.

Editor National Tribune: I am and have been very much interested in your history of the different armies. In your issue of June 6, I your account of the losses of Burnside’s Brigade, you mention the losses of the 1st and 2d R. I. and 2d N. H., but not of the 71st N. Y. S. M. As I have the published report of Col. Martin of the 71st, in my possession, I can add to your record. The report is dated Aug. 1, 1861, and gives the name of every man; Killed in action: 10; died from wounds, five; wounded, 36; prisoners, 19; missing, 5; total, 75. I was wounded and lay at the Sudley Church when the retreat was made from the extreme right flank. When Johnston’s reinforcements arrived Co. I, Capt. Ellis (afterwards Colonel of the 124th N. Y.) commanded the battery of two Dahlgren howitzers and did effective work. Gen. Beauregard, in his account of the battle, says that the two howitzers did more damage than the Parrott guns. As far as my judgement, after the experience of over five years later service, the battle of Bull Run was miserably managed. Several thousand troops were not brot into action, and, as you say, the battle was fought by piece meals. I can say this, that Burnside’s Brigade went in action as a brigade. As the brigade marched out of the timber beyond Sudley Church and was clear of it the order was given “By the left flank,” and the brigade went into action as a unit. When they arrived at the top of the knoll on the left flank of the enemy a volley was poured into the enemy, we receiving one in return, buy which I was wounded, then taken to Sudley Church Hospital, not knowing of any further action of the brigade afterwards. I look back on the battle of Bull Run as a small affair compared with what I was in afterwards, more especially during the siege of Port Hudson and Sheridan’s Shenandoah campaign and the Red River campaign.

—–Robert Welch, Co. H, 71st N. Y. S. M. 203 Tompkins avenue, Brooklyn, N. Y.

National Tribune, 7/25/1907

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Pvt. William R. Murray, Co. E, 71st New State Militia, On the Battle

25 03 2022

REMINISCENCES OF BULL RUN.

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The Men Wanted a Chance to Try It Over the Next Day.

Editor National Tribune: I receive weekly much gratification on reading the National Tribune, and oftimes find myself wondering if we old fellows do not sometimes compel our memories to sustain as facts many events that we have imagined. The impossibility of our placing our squadron, battery or company just where it was renders the effort to do so by another simply absurd. There is something to be remembered in Gen. Grant dedicating his memoir to the soldiers and sailors, because none knew them better than he; yet, the Memoirs are often contradicted by those who must confess that no pen had sone all more justice than hi who let them to final victory. When spoken of by veterans, commanding armies, as the “greatest living soldier,” he never forgot those who enabled him to prove himself the man who could be thus spoken of with truth. I am not going to contradict anything that has been said by another. I am going to state what my mishaps and seeings were in my first battle. The regiment was moving to the front by a wood road in “column of fours” when first subjected to artillery fire, several projectiles going overhead and one ricocheting along the flank of the regimental column, knocking up a dust. I then hear a command of caution. “The first movement will be by the left flank,” and sure enough by a left face we were in line and “forward” brot us out of the wood and to a ridge where a fence had been and beyond a ravine. Then we were facing the enemy. It was a good line, that fired by volley and then “at will.” I have never seen a better. One man I must find fault with; a Sergeant got thru the ranks, advance about three yards and must have masked the fire of four men at least. Fighting as a mob is a crime. I saw no running away. I have had occasion a number of times to tell some that I have my doubts of veterans who have never seen any soldiers but “whose who were running away.” I was thrown forward on my toes by what appeared to me an awfully loud report of a gun at the back of my head, which caused a ringing in my ears, but no damage. The firing ceased and I heard the clear, ringing voice of Col. Henry P. Martin: “It has been reported that we are firing on friends! Advance the colors!” Out went the Stars and Stripes, and the volley that Old Glory got, too high for most of us, settled the question of friends. We advanced to the colors and began again. This time a battalion in gray was coming up the slope led by a field officer with a red sash and on a bay horse. He was bringing up his regiment in good style, was quite near and was, I think, about riding around his right flank to the rear, when his horse gave a pitch forward and both horse and man went down. I have never known what regiment it was, but it quick followed that it was forcibly put out of the fight. The Rhode Island boys were busty to the left of us, and one man in a fence corner, in advance of the general line, was doing remarkably well. The New Hampshire men were near our regiment, and when seen by me were doing well and in good order. I did my level best to fire as fast and often as possible, for we all know it does disconcert one’s aim to be under a direct fire of cannon and musketry. I believe I thought more of that than of killing any one. My only mishap was the dropping of a percussion cap when pulling it thru the lining of lambs-wool of my cap pouch, my finger and thumb being unused to articles so small. Some one at the left and rear said: “I can’t get those —– —– —– men out of that ditch.” I did not turn to see who it was, neither did I see a ditch nor men in one. The firing ceased, and most of the men were sitting, when I strayed over to where one of our howitzers was being worked for dear life, and passed a man lying on his face, dead, I suppose, uniformed with white felt hat, red shirt, and white pants. I know not his regiment. He was on our line near our howitzer and a little to the rear of where the Rhode Island boys were fighting. I did wrong in straggling, but did not do it under fire; besides, I was in plain view and would be taken for a battery support. The Newburg boys of the Howitzer, Co. I, ceased firing, and I had a view of the field that was grand. In front, in the hollow, was a squadron of cavalry as immovable as statues. To its left the marines – I judged it was they, from their white belts – were deployed and going for the timer up the sloe on the opposite side of the hollow. There was nothing in front of us in sight and no firing. Away to the right of the New Hampshire men a caisson team at a gallop was coming obliquely towards our line. Just then a comrade accompanied by a Zouave called to me to come, and I went with them.

I can never forget my mortification and disappointment that night. A begrimed, dirty private, my blouse first wet with perspiration and then covered with dust, the dust making it look like mudarmor. Food in my haversack and no thought of eating. If we could only have another chance! I did than and while life doth last will sympathize with Gen. McDowell, my General, for what must have been his feeling, in comparison, from others not realizing at the proper time where victory was for the taking of it. I was near to committing suicide when in some troops near Fairfax Court House a soldier bawled “Coward!” I did not know the troops. They were closed en masse, resting. There was a quick facing to the left, a Springfield brought to a “ready,” the silence that reigned for a second can be imagined, and the poor, defeated ones passed on – the Zouave, my comrade, and myself.

The presumption that the “Enemy could have marched into Washington that night was brilliant, but void of execution on account of its impracticability.” The men who fought that day would have fought better next day. They would have dropped “well enough” and pressed every advantage gained, aided by fresh troops. Johnston realized it and said it. When one thinks of the military talent and fame acquired after by men who were in that particular battle, it would have been glory enough to have died upon that field – Bull Run.

—– W. R. Murray, 71st N. Y. S. M., Burnside’s Brigade, Hunter’s Division, Army of Gen. McDowell, Brooklyn, N. Y.

National Tribune, 7/25/1907

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Pvt. Lyman E. Stowe, Co. F, 2nd Michigan Infantry, On the March to Washington and the Campaign

23 03 2022

The 2d Mich. Declined the Protection of the Police – On to Bull Run.

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Editor National Tribune: I am reading the National Tribune and noting carefully everything in it, and find it so interesting I can hardly wait for the day to come around for its weekly appearance.

You will please excuse me if I am stirred to give a little of my experience as one of Dear Old Uncle Sam’s boys. I must, however, give it as a private soldier. I was not a General, Colonel, Lieutenant or even a Corporal, but am proud to say I was the first man in the city of Flint, Genesee Co., Mich., to enlist under Lincoln’s first call. I have often longed to see the statement in The National Tribune of how some of the boys came to enlist and how they felt on that occasion.

My father was an old time Whig. I have before me a circular letter, date 1848, from Zach Chandler and others, to my father in regard to what should be done to elect Gen. Winfield Scott. My father was bitterly opposed to slavery, and, of course, as a boy I heard much concerning it.

When five years old, or in 1848, a brother but five years older than myself, in talking to another boy, said: “This slave question will surely bring on war. I may not live to see it, but my brother here will,” pointing to me. Well, yes, I did see it, and he, poor fellow, did not. I write this to call attention to the feelings among the children in the North at that time. You see, I was born an Abolitionist, too young to vote, but sang in a glee club for “John C. Fremont is the man we want. He’s the man, too, who can wear the traces,” etc., etc,

I was also too young to vote for Lincoln in 1860, but when Fort Sumter was fired on it set ablaze every drop of blood in my veins, and when our militia company, the Flint Union Grays, called a rallying meeting, I made a little speech, and begged that my name be the first on the list of enlistment for the war from that locality. We were sworn into State service April 20, 1861, for three months’ service, and rendezvoused at Detroit, Mich. Meantime the Government refused to accept any more three-months men. As Michigan had already one regiment of three-months men in the field we were compelled to disband and go home or enlist for three years or during the war. Many went home, but many of us remained, and the skeleton of our company was quickly filled up and became Co. F, 2d Mich. Col. Dick Richardson was our Colonel. Afterwards Gen. J. B. Richardson, killed at Antietam. Had this grand man and noble soldier lived he would have been made Commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Our regiment left the State June 6, 1861, and with much anxiety and expectation we arrived at the Relay House near Baltimore, Md., near sundown, June 9. It has been claimed ours was the first regiment to go through Baltimore after the hard usage of the 6th Mass. Whether so or not I do not know, but I do know our Colonel drew us up in line, division of two companies front, and addressed us as follows.

“Second Michigan, we may now meet our first engagement. You will at the command load at will, and be careful none of you let the ball down first. Let every man keep his head. Do not get excited, and do not fire unless you receive orders. We will march through the city company division front, where possible; where not, break into platoons. As you march let the first four men on the right and left flanks watch the roofs and windows, and if attacked see that you bring down the assailant, be it man or woman.”

At this point the Chief of Police came up with a large squad of men, and said he came to escort the regiment through the town. The Colonel answered with these words:

“You can march ahead if you want to, but my men came here prepared to take care of themselves.”

After carefully loading our old Harper’s Ferry muskets the Colonel remarked:

“Now let them attack us and we will show them what a ball and three buck-shot will do.”

We had no occasions to fire a shot; in fact, we hardly saw a person except the police and railroad men.

We took the train for Washington on the other side of town, and were all night pulling through, arriving at Washington at 7 o’clock on the morning of June 10. In the afternoon we marched in review before President Lincoln and Gen. Scott.

I wonder if any comrade could ever forget such an experience; in fact, could any person who ever saw either of those men once forget the event. Or could he doubt that God Almighty raises up the right man in the right place when wanted?

We went into camp just below Georgetown, and two days later moved down to Camp Scott at Chain Bridge, where we lay guarding the bridge until we took up our line of march out the Georgetown road for Bull Run.

To Bull Run.

It was the 16th of June, 1861, the Army of the Potomac, under Gen. Irvin McDowell, took up its line of march toward Richmond, 30,000 strong, in four divisions commanded by Brig.-Gen. Tyler and Cols. Hunter, Heintzelman and Miles; Miles on the extreme left on the old Braddock road, which becomes the Warrenton turnpike after passing through Fairfax Court House. Heintzelman, with the leading portion of the left wing, took the Little River turnpike, while Hunter, with the center, took the Leesburg and Centreville road; Tyler, with the right wing, took the Georgetown road. There could not have been much secrecy in regard to the order of march, because private soldiers were discussing it together with other phases of the campaign.

Col. Richardson had been placed in command of the brigade consisting of the 2d and 3rd Mich. and 12th Mass. Regiments. We were a part of Tyler’s Division.

We did not break camp until 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I having been sick with diarrhea since our arrival, but all the time doing duty, I was ordered to report to the hospital and remain behind, but after some pleading with my Captain, William R. Morse, he consented to let me go. We marched out as far as Vienna Station, where some weeks before Col. Hatch attempted to reconnoiter with a train of cars, and backed his train up and into a masked battery. Here was an experience, our first bivouac and our first field breakfast of coffee, hardtack and boiled salt pork.

When the sun was an hour high we moved out of Vienna and pursued our way toward Fairfax. About 1 o’clock we came in sight of Fairfax. As we came out of a woods road and onto a hill from which we could see a long distance, we saw troops moving in several lines, and to our right we saw burning buildings with great clouds of black smoke rising high in the heavens, and we could hear the crack, crack, crack of musketry in the distance. The burning buildings was Germantown. The division was drawn up in line of battle, bugles were sounding and a battery of artillery came dashing through a wheat field, where the wheat was cut and standing in shocks. The artillery drew into line and prepared for action. This was truly a magnificent sight. It was the spectacular side of war. But soon and Aid came dashing up to the General, and we then understood the columns to the left and in front were the left and center of our army, which had arrived at Fairfax ahead of us. The enemy had retreated, leaving every obstacle possible in our way, and many in their haste had left behind clothing, broken-down wagons, flour and a thousand and one things as evidence of their mad flight. To my mind this far exceeded the destruction of property by the retreat of our own army a few days later. We slowly moved on and finally went into camp three miles from Centreville. I must here relate the most ridiculous or funny experiences of my soldier life.

First Foraging.

After going into camp and a little before sundown, a Sergeant of my company was ordered to take a detail of men and go out and see if he could not pick up some fresh meat, as out wagon trains were not yet up. I very much desired to go too, but was not one of the detail, and the Captain refused to let me go. Finally the detail started, and I picked up my gun and stole out of camp in an opposite directions. After traveling some time I saw a barn in the distance, and made my way toward it. Noticing a small pen which contained a large fat hog, I fist thought of killing the hog, but upon thinking of how little of it I could carry to camp alone, I continued on to the barnyard. I now heard voices, and not knowing whom it might be, I stole cautiously along until I could get a view of the talkers, and there in the barnyard stood a fine, gentle steer and at his head were two boys in blue, one holding him by the horns and gently talking to him in a language I could not understand, but knew to be German, which told me those two men were some of our German-American soldiers. The second man seemed to be intently rubbing the steer’s throat with the supposed edge of one of the sheath knives Uncle Sam had furnished each soldier for the purpose of carving his meat, but was hardly sufficient an instrument for butchering and in that peculiar manner. The steer seemed to really enjoy the rubbing, for his stuck his nose out and stretched his neck as if to say, “Go ahead, boys; this is nice.” Well the boys went ahead until the old knife began to wear its way through the thick skin, when the steer’s tail and head went up and he gave a tremendous snort and bellow, and one soldier went one way, the other another way, but both rolling in the soft earth of the barnyard, while the steer sailed over a low bar and ran down the pasture bellowing at every jump. I stood laughing at this strange spectacle, until, hearing voices, I looked up and saw the Sergeant and his detail still in search of fresh meat. After expressing surprise upon seeing me and laughing at the recital of my story, I directed them to the pen of the fat hog, and we had fresh pork for supper.

Our camp was situated in the meadows on both sides of the road, my regiment on a little rise of ground where we could overlook the whole camp. I awoke just before dawn on the morning of the 18th. The horses and mules stood like statues, all fast asleep; not a soul of that vast camp was stirring. Long rows of men lay wrapped in their blankets, and the long rows of stacked arms seemed to be keeping guard alone, for if there was a camp guard there was not one that I could see. It is not possible for pen to describe such and imposing scene, much less the great transformation about to follow.

Blackburn’s Ford.

Away over on the other side of this camp was another eminence sill higher than ours. Here was pitched the General’s tents and the only ones to be seen. Midway between and along either side of the road the artillery and a company of cavalry were camped, while farther to the rear and right were camped the small wagon train we had with us, together with the ambulance. I saw a man step away from one of the tents and walk out to the edge of the hill, then lift his bugle to his lips and blow the reveille. The sound from his horn had not died away when bugle after bugle mingled their sounds with those of the cavalry and artillery and whinnying horses and braying mules. An army of men, like magic, seemed to be arising from the ground. The camp was full of orderly life and animation. When the sun was two hours high at the sound of the bugle this truly grand army seemed at once to be in motion, all taking their places in line, banners flying, bugles sounding and arms flashing under the bright morning sunlight. It was a sight once beheld could never be forgotten. Though I afterwards saw far greater numbers march in review, I never saw such an imposing sight as I beheld this July morning. And this was the armed mob we have read so much of since the first battle of Bull Run. We marched past Centerville and down the road to Blackburn’s Ford. Here we had our baptism under fire; though a mere skirmish, it was a pretty sharp one, and we lost a hundred men on our side. Where my regiment lay we could see a house with a rebel flag flying. I well remember how Ayres’s Battery came into position, and we were so close that we could hear Col. Richardson as he said, “Capt. Ayres, can you see the flag on that building?” “Yes sir,” was the reply. “Well, can you bring it down?” “I think so.” And he spoke to a Sergeant, and a gun was trained on the flag. The first shot went high, the second one went through the building and the third shot the flag went down. It was afterwards said Beauregard and his staff were at dinner in that house; whether so or not I do not know. While the skirmishing was going on our brigade was drawn up in line, expecting every moment to be called into action. Blackberries were thick all around us. We had been without dinner and were very hungry, and though bullets were spattering spitefully about us, we kept pretty busy picking and eating the berries, sometimes, of course, getting out of line; but there was no disorder that was not righted at the first command, notwithstanding frequent statements published to the contrary.

Finally we were ordered back to Centreville. The attack had been made by Gen. Tyler without authority. We bivouacked at Centerville and remained until Saturday night, drawing and cooking rations. We again moved down toward Blackburn’s Ford, and remained until after sunrise on the Sunday morning of the 21st. Finally the whole army was in motion and every heart beating with excitement, for now a great battle was to be fought.

In that great army was there a single soldier who thought defeat possible? I do not think so. Had we not a greater army than Gen. Scott had when he took the City of Mexico? Besides, was he not our General? To be sure he was not with us, but we had every confidence in McDowell. I believe every private soldier understood that Patterson was expected to hold Johnston’s forces at Winchester, yet among the private soldiers there were expressions of doubt of the loyalty of Patterson and that he might fail to keep Johnston busy, and we would have his forces to fight as well as Beauregard’s army. Yet there were no doubts concerning the outcome. Maj. Williams, in command of our regiment, ordered us to leave our blankets, rolled in light marching order at his headquarters under a large oak tree, so we would be unencumbered when ordered into the fight. But all day long we lay listening to the battle on our right, expecting every minute to be called into action. Occasionally we would go out on a hill overlooking the battlefield, and while watching the battle, discuss the wisdom of the plan of battle, or, rather, lack of plan, for there really seemed to be no plan of action but the sending in of a regiment or brigade and a helter-skelter fight until it became necessary to relieve them by others.

About 2 o’clock in the afternoon we heard a continual whistling and thundering of railroad trains, and we knew that Beauregard was being reinforced by Johnston’s forces. Patterson had failed to entertain Johnston.

Retreat From Bull Run.

About 6 o’clock orders came for us to move, and we expected to be ordered into battle. We marched past the Major’s headquarters, and could easily have taken our blankets, but still expecting to go into battle, we marched past them and turned down toward the ford, when Col. Richardson came riding up and cried, “Maj. Williams, where are you taking that regiment? About face!” Only for this we should soon have been game for the masked batteries. The Colonel was hatless, coatless and without his sword, for Col. Miles, whose commission was two hours older than Richardson’s, had ordered Richardson under arrest. But Miles was drunk, and Richardson would not see his regiment led to destruction. We were ordered to about face, and by the left flank we double-quicked back to Centerville. It was intensely hot, and the dust was so thick one could almost cut it with a knife.

Arriving at the heights of Centerville, we could look back and see the whole army in disorderly retreat and being pursues by cavalry. Col Richardson seemed to be in command of the rear guard, for as far as we could see all seemed to be disorder except our brigade, and we under the command of an officer not in possession of his sword, but under arrest.

Richardson ordered a battery of artillery to take position on a hill and send a few shots into the pursuing cavalry, which sent them back in a hurry. Our brigade now marched over the hill, regimental front, down into a ravine; then by the left flank around the hill, where we again faced the enemy, marched over the hill with colors flying, again by the flank and so on, repeating the maneuver at least a dozen times. This no doubt was the reason Johnston did not pursue us farther, as his report, published in Appleton’s Encyclopedia, says that because of his men being worn out and the Federals massing large forces at Centerville he did not think it expedient to follow the forces to Washington, what was well fortified and manned.

We now marched into a cornfield, and lay on our arms until about 2 o’clock the next morning. We then arose and in an orderly manner slowly marched out onto the road and stood until daylight, my regiment being the very last to leave the field; there was no running, no excitement, we never saw another reb in pursuit, nor was there any whirlwind retreat to Washington. There came up a light rain, and we marched very slowly back to Washington by the way of the Fairfax road, arriving at Arlington Heights at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, July 22. Col. Richardson was court-martialed for disobeying a superior officer, and was promptly promoted to Brigadier-General.

Lyman E. Stowe, 131 Catherine St., Detroit, Mich.

National Tribune, 1/4/1906

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Capt. (Acting Maj.) Thomas Francis Meagher, Co. K, 69th New York State Militia, On the Campaign (Part 3)

6 03 2022

LAST DAYS OF THE 69TH IN VIRGINIA.

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A NARRATIVE IN THREE PARTS.

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PART THE THIRD.

Retiring, by order of General McDowell, from under fire, the 69th halted on the road side, a little above the village of Centreville. Those who had haversacks opened them and shared their contents with their comrades. Several of the men, in impatient anticipation of coming into close quarters with the enemy, had freed themselves of these encumbrances, as they dashed down to the scene of action. They had flung them off along with their blankets. It was not the fault of the Commissariat that many of the men went to bed supperless. At the same time, it is not in the nature of an Irishman to fight with four or five pounds of boiled port and biscuit banging at his hip.

During this halt, the 79th and 2nd New York swept by us, heading for the enemy, so as to compel the latter to keep at a respectful distance from us, within his lines. Both of these Regiments looked staunch and splendid at that moment. There was Col. Cameron, at the head of his Highlanders, riding erect and resolute, with his broad-leafed hat, shadowed with a superb black ostrich feather, softening the outline of the strong, massive features, which the consciousness of his being on a noble service seemed to illuminate. There was Col. Tompkins, of the 2nd New York – young, calm, unostentatious, full of intelligence and perfectly dauntless – leading as bright and hearty a body of men as any Colonel in the Union Army has reason to be proud of. As with a swinging step, in compact ranks, they swept by, it was with a delighted heart I recognised my friends, Captain Huston, De Courcey, and many other generous and gallant fellows, and hurriedly shook hands with them.

The two Ohio Regiments came next, Col. McCook, radiant and jovial as though it were a pic-nic he was going to, being in command of the First. Mounted on a magnificent horse – black, fiery, solid, full of blood and power and beauty – the Colonel waved his had to us as he passed along, and wishing us all good-bye, and in a few seconds vanished from us in the dust and twilight.

The Ohio Regiments had passed us a little more than a quarter of an hour, on their way to Blackburn’s Ford, where the fighting had been all day, when the order came for the 69th to fall in and march. In something less than half an hour we were in the village of Centreville, on our way to the bivouac or camping-ground for the night, a mile beyond the village.

I have already spoken of this village as a dingy, aged, miserable little handful of houses. It is the coldest picture conceivable of municipal smallness and decreptitude. Set down on certain military maps in flaming capitals as CENTREVILLE, one is astounded on entering it, to find that a mole-hill has been magnified into a mountain. Southerners may sneer at New England – toss off their inspiring cock-tails, and contemptuously air the tips of their sensitive noses as they give vent to their disdain, repudiation, and defiance of the North; but in all of New England – in all the North – I wager there is not a village of shabbier aspect and such reduced resources, as that of Centreville. It looks, for all the world, as though it had done its business, whatever it was, if it ever had any, full eighty years ago, and since then, had bolted its doors, put out its fires and gone to sleep. Harry Lorrequer has never chilled us with so dismal picture of a denuded village in Ireland.

Most of the houses in Centreville are built with stone – rugged grayish, gloomily specked and mottled stone – and you follow them up and down two or three little hills and hollows, over a road or through a street which has ruts and rocks, boulders and pit-falls in it, enough t shake the shoes from off a thousand horses, and more than enough to rattle to pieces and disable a thousand waggons. Some of these houses retreat a little from the road or street, behind a dingy fence and two or three leafless and colorless and dwarfed old trees. Others break in with an uncouth and bold protuberance upon the road or street; and thus with a violent intrusion destroy the symmetrical effect of their more modest sisterhood.

There was, as usual, a rush of the 69th for the pumps. Utterly regardless and defiant of every remonstrance and warning, the soldiers broke from the ranks, and made fiercely for every door or gate-way that promised them an alleviation of their thirst. This was the mischief of the day. This the mischief of the two preceding days. It was impossible to keep the men in the ranks whenever they thought there was the slightest chance to slake their thirst. True it is, the distance they marched each day was not much over twelve miles at most; but each day’s march was under a seething and blistering sun, over a broken and rugged road, through clouds of stifling dust, after a comfortless and noisome night in swamp and dripping meadow, without one full and wholesome meal; and hence, mischievous as were the irregularities of the advance, they are easily to be explained and generously forgiven. Many a brave poor fellow of the 69th, who would have thrown himself against a rebel battery at that moment, and never given a thought to what the consequences to himself or his lonesome wife or his little ones, might be, used to expostulate with me, when, acting as I did as Major, and in that capacity endeavoring to keep the Regiment full and close, I used to urge and bid back those who threw themselves, every now and then, in search of water, from the line of march.

“Heavens! we’d die for you, Captain,” they used to exclaim, with agony, “but we can’t stand this drought.”

Exclamations such as these could find no answer, and certainly no rebuke; and hence it was that many a time I gave way, and silently, though vexed and maddened almost, suffered these outbreaks for water along the road.

General McDowell, in his report of the battle of Bull Run, mentions the few miles the Union forces had to march each day – lays particular stress, it seems to me, upon the fact, that General Tyler’s Division, of which the 69th was the pioneer Regiment, had marched 6 miles only from their bivouac at Germantown, to the intersection of the road from that village to the road from Fairfax, and that from this intersection there were but six miles and a half more to Centreville – mentions that he himself rode on and urged the advance that night to Centreville, and that, despite of all he could say or do, it was impossible for him to get the column to advance further than withing four miles of Centreville. All this is true. True as an honest, intrepid soldier – a gentleman and a chevalier, as Gen. McDowell unquestionably is – could write it.

But the General, whilst he enumerates, by the surveyor’s chain, the few miles we had to march, overlooks the scorching and disabling heat, the preparations for attack we had to make on our approach to and out-flanking Fairfax, the rush the 69th made to cut off the retreating Southerners – the halts, under an exhausting and deadening sun, whilst their barricades of trees were cut through and thrown aside – the fierce exposure to the same fierce sun which, drawn up in line of battle, the 69th had to stand in the fields after they had passed the abandoned earth-works of the enemy at Germantown – and, last of all, the frenzying heat, and dust and ruggedness of the road beyond the intersection of the roads from Germantown and Fairfax – all this Gen. McDowell overlooks, or considers it unnecessary to allude to, in his report.

For my part, I must say, that no soldiers could have rushed to battle with heartier elasticity and daring than did the soldiers of the 69th, on the evening of the 18th of July; and my admiration of them and my confidence in them were increased and intensified by the fact, that they had had the worst of treatment for five days previous, and that their Brigadier, Colonel Sherman, had no sympathy whatever with them. Despite of all their hunger, thirst, and exhaustion – keenly feeling, as Irishmen alone can feel, that they had been, somehow or other, played and trifled with and defrauded – that they had been precipitated into action when their term of service to the United States had expired – the 69th, bearing the Green Flag presented to them in recognition of their refusal to participate in the reception of the Prince of Wales – still heartily and enthusiastically pressed on. The 69th would not abandon the Stars and Stripes whatever injustice was done the Three Month’s Volunteers, or however violently interested parties, high or low, ambitiously or fearfully excited, expected or exacted their continuance in the campaign beyond the 20th of July. Those who left that day, however, I contend, have right and honor, and citizenship on their side. Is it manly, is it honorable, is it soldierly to force men into a conflict – into a fierce, desperate fight – into a fight which upsets their homes and unroofs and makes them desolate for ever – when they marched for one grand project alone – to defend the Capital – as the 7th, the 8th, the 71st – the very flower of the New York State Militia did – without the slightest hesitancy, persuasion or demur? But this is deviating from my narrative, and I must resume.

Leaving the village of Centreville a mile and a half behind us, we passed down the Winchester road, straight on for Manassas, and then struck into the fields on the left, stacked our arms and bivouacked for the night. Again, as on the first and second night of out advance, and all through those blistering and stifling days, there was not the least provision for our horses. There were cocks of hay and stacks of corn, to the right and left of the Division, as it flung itself off by regiments to this and the other side of the road; but, by a strange propriety, Brigadier Sherman forbade them to be touched. Two or three hours afterwards a few sheaves and bundles of fodder were hustled to the ground. But for this not a horse would have been able to stir the next day. Gen. McDowell speaks of the rations dealt out adequately and liberally to the men. But there is not a word in his report about the horses; and of this there can be no questions, that the Cavalry of the Federal Army flung themselves into the conflict in a starved condition. My noble little horse had not had one good feed for three days, when a spherical ball from the Southern batteries tore him to pieces. Hundreds of horses were in like condition. Col. Corcoran’s was greedily eating newspapers, in front of his hut, before he mounted him, the morning of the 21st. Col. Burnside, of the Rhode Island Regiment, has truthfully and emphatically told the story. In his speech at the Fillmore House, at Newport, he says that he protested against the attack on the 21st of July, advising patience and a more effective concentration of forces before such an attack was made – advising, indeed, a delay of six months, rather than what appears to have been, with all its impediments and checks, a vain and headstrong precipitation.

After the toils and perils of the day – our exposure to a blistering sun and a fire still deadlier – we slept soundly that night of the 18th of July, stretched in the deep, coarse grass the other side of Centreville. Captain Carlisle’s battery occupied the field on our right, across the road, and was protected by the 2d New York, under Colonel Tompkins. The 79th, Highlanders, lay in advance of us, a little to the right – the Wisconsin being in our rear – the Thirteenth, Rochester, immediately in front. During the night a few shots were exchanged between the outposts of both armies. They failed, however, to provoke any general alarm; and those who heard them took them for granted – as inevitable indications of approximating hostilities on a magnificent scale – and, thus satisfied, fell off to sleep again.

Friday, the 19th, dawned. And Friday faded into twilight, and night came on and blotted it out altogether, and left us where we were the night before – in that sloping meadow, buried in that deep, coarse grass, lazily and stupidly waiting for some new and pleasanter development of events. Nothing, however, was done that day. It was a dense stagnation in every camp. There was the Blue Ridge glowing and melting on the horizon. There were the beautiful and ample woods, spreading themselves between us and Manassas, covering in their green depths lines of the deadliest batteries and legions of fierce enemies. There were deserted farm-houses, few and far between, breaking through the sylvan scene, and reminding every one of home. It was a wearisome, hot, drawling, idle day – just a day to relax the staunchest nerves and make dolts and cowards of us all. Just such a day plays more mischief – breeds deadlier discontent and insubordination – amongst soldiers, than hours of storm and havoc. And this day to have been repeated! Saturday to have been just as vacant, just as listless, just as deadening, just as dreamily and sluggishly exhausting as Friday was!

Were it not for the visit of Father Scully, the young and devoted chaplain of Col. Cass’ Irish Regt. from Boston, who, having heard of Thursday’s fighting, dashed across from Washington, over five-and-thirty miles, to see and learn all about us, it would, despite of the glaring sunshine, have been a gloomy day indeed. His hearty words and presence lit up afresh the life and fire of the 69th; and he came in good time, and most kindly staid long enough, to relieve our own beloved chaplain, Father O’Reilly, in his duties at the confessional. There were few of the 69th who failed to confess and ask forgiveness on that day. Every one, officers as well as privates, prepared for death. Sincerely and devoutly they made their peace with God. This is the secret of their courage, and the high, bright spirit with which they bore all the hardships, the privations, the terrors, and the chastisement of the battle. It was, in truth, an affecting sight – that of strong, stalwart, rugged men – all upon their knees, all with heads uncovered, all with hands clasped in prayer and eyes cast down, approaching, one by one, the good dear priest, who, seated at the foot of an old bare tree, against which some of our boys had spread for him an awning of green branches, heard the confessions of the poor fellows, and bid them be at ease and fearless. Long as I live, I shall never forget that scene. It was not less impressive than that of Father O’Reilly’s passing along our line, as we knelt within range of the enemy’s batteries on one knee, bayonets fixed, expecting every instant to be swept upon, and the final benediction was imparted. Father O’Reilly has told me since, that the earnestness and devotion with which poor Haggerty received that benediction, singularly struck him, and that the attitude and expression of this truly honest and heroic soldier, at that solemn moment, could never leave his memory.

Of subsequent incidents and events, the world, by this time, has heard enough. Concerning the advance from Centreville, the battle, the retreat, the alarm and confusion of the Federal troops, columns and volumes have been filled. I can add nothing to the history of the day but my testimony, that wherever the Federal troops had a fair chance – wherever, indeed, they had the slightest opening even – there and then they whipped the Confederate forces, utterly overwhelmed and confounded them. In every instance, where the Federal infantry came in contact with the Seceding States, did this occur. In no one instance, not for a second, did it happen that the Federal forces were driven back by, or received the slightest check from, the Southern infantry. We yielded to their batteries, and despite of every effort and determination were compelled to do so. It was impossible for men to override that tempest. Three times, having plunged head-foremost into its deadliest showers, was it hurled back. We beat their men – their batteries beat us. That is the story of the day.

Repulsed the last time from the enemy’s works, following the Regiment as it was fiercely driven out, I was knocked head over heels and fell senseless on the field. A private of the United States Cavalry, galloping by, grasped me by the back of the neck, jerked me across his saddle, and carried me a few hundred yards beyond the range of the batteries. When I got upon my feet, I found myself in a group of Fire Zouaves and a number of the 8th and 71st, New York, who very quietly, without the least flurry or trepidation, were retracing their steps to the camping-ground at Centreville, I walked with them until an artillery wagon came up, when, from that out, until we came to the stream which crosses the road between Centreville and the field of battle – half-way between these two points – I had as hard a jolting as any one could well endure.

Here I was pitched into the water, one of the horses of the wagon being shot by the Black Horse which dashed upon us from the woods on our left, and the wagon tumbling over. Here, too, it was that the panic took place. Up to this point, there was no fright, no alarm, no confusion, not the least apparent uneasiness. These fragments of Regiments were coolly and steadily returning to the fields from which they had set out – as coolly and unconcernedly as though they were strolling along the Bloomingdale road on a Sunday evening in the Fall – when, all of a sudden, down came Commisariat wagons, ambulances, hospital carts, artillery forges, and every description of vehicle, dashing and smashing against each other, and with one fearful wreck blocking up the river. A few yards off, there were two or three hundred of the Black Horse sweeping into us with their carbines. But for a couple of guns of Ayre’s battery, which, dashing up from the crowd, were thrown with the quickness of lightning into position, and which flung on the enemy a torrent of cannister, there would, I believe, have been a terrible havoc wrought at that bridge and ford. As it was, the only dark episode of the battle was written there.

Struggling through the river, however, I fell in again with the throng of retreating soldiers, and soon after reached the field where we had encamped the three previous nights. Here I found Dr. Smith and about fifty of the 69th. Learning that three or four hundred of the Regiment were on the road to Fairfax, I hurried after them to ascertain their intentions, Dr. Smith having insisted on my taking his horse for the purpose. They were bound for Fort Corcoran – the Colonel, wounded and exhausted, had passed ahead in an ambulance – Colonel Sherman had told them so – and wherever the Colonel of the 69th was, there the 69th should be. At 3 o’clock, the morning of the 22d July, weary and worn, famished and naked almost, the 69th passed through the familiar gates of their old quarters, and after a battle which lasted for eight hours and more, and a march of five and thirty miles, laid themselves down to sleep.

Last Days of the 69th in Virginia

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