Pvt. Harry Rockafeller, Co. F, 71st New York State Militia, On His Captivity

23 02 2022

Letter from a Prisoner at Manassas. –

The following letter from a young Philadelphian serving in the New York Seventy-first, who was wounded and captured in the late battle, has been received in New York by his mother. As he was in the hospital at Sudley Church, this letter, giving assurance of his safety, also gives assurance that the report of the burning of the church is untrue:

Manassas Junction, July 26th, 1861.

Dear Mother: – Knowing your deep anxiety regarding my welfare, I am happy to say that I am well, except a wound in the left arm, which I may lose. I am in good spirits, treated in the best style, and am in hopes of seeing you all soon. If you have any opportunity of sending a change of clothing please, do so.

Truly your son,
Harry Rockafeller

The Baltimore (MD) Sun, 8/3/1861

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Records for Harry/Henry Rocka/efeller show below, but as a member of the 71st New York Infantry, Co. F. No Rockafeller shows on the roster of the 71st New York Infantry (not present at First Bull Run). State Militia records are notoriously spotty, particularly for militia units that did not enter 3 year service (like the 71st and 69th). As both records showing Rocka/efeller in the 71st NYVI are handwritten, and as Rockefeller’s FindAGrave notes that he was the post-war Colonel of the 71st NYSM, he is considered here a member of Co. F, 71st NYSM at the First Battle of Bull Run.

Henry Rockafeller at Ancestry

Henry Rockafeller at Fold3

Harry Rockefeller at FindAGrave

Pvt. Bernard Reynolds, Co. A, 69th New York State Militia, On the Battle and Captivity

20 02 2022

An Irish Prisoner.

A member of the 69th regiment, (Col. Corcoran’s) now a prisoner in Richmond, writes the following letter to his brother in Augusta, Georgia:

New Alms Hospital,
Richmond, Va., July 30, 1861.

Dear Pat: I wrote you a few lines last week, which a gentleman either posted or took with him, as he resided near Augusta. I know you were surprised to hear that I was in Richmond wounded; but if we had got our rights I would have been in New York the day the battle was fought, our term of service having expired the day the before, but old Abe or Scott would not let the regiment go home. Well, it served us right, when we were fools enough to fight in such a cause; but I hope the time will come when Irishmen will mind their own business.

Early in the fight I got a ball in the thigh, which broke the bone. I lay on the field 35 hours, a rain falling most of the time, and might have laid there since, if it was not for the kindness of the Southerners – enemies I cannot call them, for they have treated us more like brothers than anything else. I got a hard shaking on the railroad, but now, thank God! I am very comfortable here. I expect to have my leg set to-day. If it is, I hope to recover soon, when I will be a much wiser man.

Owing to the great number of wounded I could not be attended sooner; besides the doctor was afraid of mortification; but I think I am now safe, and that, with God’s help, I will have the use of my leg.

Dear Pat, you could not believe the way our soldiers were treated by Scott. There were eight regiments on the field whose time was up, but could not get home. – But, worse than all, they left the dead and wounded on the field, and never sent a flag of truce in to know how or what would become of us. It is Colonel Corcoran I blame for keeping us; he is now a prisoner here. Many is the heavy curse he got from wounded and dying men. I wish you could send a letter to my wife, poor creature; probably thinks me dead. She lives at 212, West 26th street. Direct, care of Thos. Kiernan. Tall her I hope to be with her soon; also, that I am well treated; get meat three times a day, and splendid soup at dinner time.

I remain, dear Pat, your affectionate brother,
B. R.*

Yorkville (SC) Enquirer, 8/15/1861

* Pvt. Bernard Reynolds is the only 69th NYSM POW found with these initials.

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69th NYSM Roster

Bernard Reynolds at Ancestry

Bernard Reynolds at Fold3

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

18 02 2022


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

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

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

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27th NYVI Roster

William H. Merrill at Ancestry

William H. Merrill at Fold3

William H. Merrill at FindAGrave (Possibly)

Pvt. (Dr.) William C. Humphreys, Co. F, 8th Georgia Infantry, On His Captivity (2)

22 01 2022

Letter from Dr. Humphreys.

Washington, D. C., August 12, 1861.

To the Editor of the Richmond Examiner;

Having permission to write a few lines to my friends, and being desirous to give information to the friends of all who are held here as prisoners, to our condition and treatment, I address my letter to you with the request you publish it. There are sixty one of us confined in the old Capitol building, a list of whose names you will find enclosed. The authorities have placed over us as General Superintendent Mr. McDurmit, of New York, a kind and affable gentleman who does everything in his power to render our situation comfortable. The officers and guard under Mr. McDurmit are kind and gentlemanly in their deportment to us. Dr. Greenleaf, the attending prison surgeon, is very kind to us. I have a disposition to say, in behalf of the regular Federal officers with whom I have had anything to do, that they treated us as prisoners of war should be, and not as some of their papers have stated they ought to be.

The statements which frequently appear in the Northern papers, from anonymous writers, about inhuman and barbarous treatment by the Confederate Government of their prisoners are simply ridiculous, as no man of common sense could or would believe them. I am forced to believe the editors of papers who publish these anonymous articles of bad treatment of prisoners by our Government, do so to engender a spirit of revenge in the minds of the Northern people, which they know cannot be done otherwise. It may be, for aught I know, that reports of ill treatment of our prisoners are circulated through our Government. If so, I can say, as far as those confined here are concerned, it is a mistake, except in the instance of the mob on Pennsylvania Avenue, while we were being conveyed to our present place of confinement. In this instance we were shamefully and barbarously treated. We were dogged from one end of the Avenue to the other, by an infuriated mob, yelling “hang the rebels – shoot the d—n Secessionists,” and throwing stones, by which several of us came near losing our lives. – Some received severe and painful wounds on their heads, – others were hit in different places by stones – none of the party, twelve or fifteen in number, escaped being hit. Had it not been for the powerful exertions of the officer and his men, who had us in charge, driving back the mob, no doubt all would have been killed.

The officer in charge of us proved himself to be a man of firmness and bravery – his own men, as well as we, were being felled to the ground by stones, he himself in the midst of a continual shower of rocks; still undismayed, he urged his men to be firm and defend us at the sacrifice of their lives; this they did. The mob consisted of men and boys, white and black. A few drunken soldiers could occasionally be seen rushing toward us with drawn knives, but neither the general mob or the few soldiers seemed inclined to come in close proximity to the bayonets of our guard. With this exception our treatment has been good. I am glad to say the Government officials have guarded against any more such scenes being enacting by detailing a larger force to guard the prisoners through the streets of the city to their place of confinement. Our friends in this city and Baltimore have been very kind in furnishing us with clothing and food of a different kind from that usually furnished to soldiers. The Government furnishes us with two meals a day – soldiers fare. Our friends furnish us with such as can be furnished by friends. We long to be exchanged – we had rather be with our comrades in arms on the tented field, ready to help battle for our country and homes than the revel in the luxuries of princely mansions! How long are we to remain prisoners? It is a miserable life to lead even under favorable circumstances; but to know our countrymen are contending for theirs and our homes, and we unable to aid them, is almost insufferable. We beg you urge our Government to have us exchanged.

Respectfully, yours, &c.,

(Atlanta, GA) Southern Confederacy, 8/21/1861

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William C. Humphreys at Ancestry

William C. Humphreys at Fold3

William C. Humphreys at FindAGrave (possible)

Pvt. Edward P. Doherty, Co. A, 71st New York State Militia, On the Battle, Capture, and Escape – With Casualty List

12 06 2020


The Regiment left the Navy-yard Tuesday, July 16, at 10 o’clock, and marched up the Avenue over the Long Bridge, to their camping grounds, within five miles of Fairfax, where, at 9 P.M., they stacked and bivouacked for the night in the open field, together with Col. BURNSIDE’s Brigade, consisting of the First and Second Rhode Island Infantry, Second Rhode Island Battery, and Second New-Hampshire Volunteers. At 5 A.M., July 17, (Wednesday,) the brigade formed a line of march, and proceeded to Fairfax Court-house, where they arrived at 10 A.M., and found the breastworks of the enemy deserted, as well as the town, of all secession troops. Halted in the town before the Court-house; the flag was hoisted upon the Court-house by the Rhode Island Regiments, the band saluting it with the National airs.

The march was then resumed; the whole Brigade proceeded half a mile beyond Fairfax, and bivouacked on the old camp-ground of the rebels, which they had abandoned that morning between 6 and 9 o’clock. Large quantities of blankets were found burning, having been destroyed by them in this manner in their hasty retreat; also, a store-room of military clothing was found by them, as well as a dozen or more tents, which were immediately put to good use, and a bullock just dressed, which furnished rations for the Seventy-first, as far as it went.

In this encampment the Brigade remained till 7 A.M. Thursday, July 18, the Brigade again marched one mile, and halted by command of Gen. MCDOWELL. Here the Brigade remained till 3 P.M., on an old camp-ground of the enemy, when the march was again taken up, under a scorching sun, till within a mile and a half of Centreville, where we bivouacked once more, the men making pleasant huts of the boughs of trees.

During the night the regiment was called to arms, in consequence of the firing of pickets on our left. Friday and Saturday was passed in this place very pleasantly, the regiments of the brigade having a regimental drill each day, and also being served with good rations of fresh meat and plenty of coffee and sugar.

On Saturday, orders were issued to prepare to march at 1 A.M., Sunday, each man to take two days’ rations of good salt beef, salt pork and crackers in haversack, with positive instructions to fill his canteen with water, and not to use it on the route, as water was scarce. This was done, and the regiment marched with the brigade Sunday morning at 2 A.M., for the battle-field, passing through Centreville just before sunrise.

After proceeding a mile and a half beyond Centreville we were ordered to halt and cap our pieces. We then crossed a bridge, mounted a hill in the vicinity, and to the right of Gen. MCDOWELL’s head-quarters, and then turned to the right into a field, at a double quick, which was kept up about a quarter of an hour, passing through a wood and halting in a field, where we remained about twenty minutes. Gen. MCDOWELL and his Staff came into the field. This was between 6 and 7 o’clock. The march was then resumed by a circuitous route through the woods, passing several dry brooks, until we reached Bull Run, which we waded in great confusion, every one being anxious to get water. Company lines were immediately formed on the other side, and an advance was made up the road at a quick step, firing being heard upon our left.

After a mile’s marching at quick step, we were put upon double-quick up the hill, wheeling to the left, into an old stubble-field, where we halted, and our arrival was announced by a shot from a rifle cannon whistling over our heads. The halt did not last two minutes, when Col. BURNSIDE led the different regiments into their positions on the field. The Second Rhode Island entered the field first, to the extreme right, then the Rhode Island Battery, six pieces, and the two howitzers, of the Seventy-first, and then to the left the Seventy-first, and after it, on its left the First Rhode Island, and then the Second New-Hampshire, all formed in line of battle on the top of the hill. This movement was done at double-quick. We were immediately ordered to fall back and lie down, as the discharge from the enemy’s battery was very severe.

The First and Second Rhode Island Regiments, the Rhode Island Battery, and the two howitzers, opened fire on the enemy. One of the Rhode Island guns was immediately disabled by a shot from the enemy, and was carried off the field. The Seventy-first lay there as ordered, when an Aid from Col. BURNSIDE rode up and asked for the field officers. Col. MARTIN then ordered us forward.

Prior to this some of the Seventy-first had gone over to the First Rhode Island, and were fighting in their ranks. BURROUGHS, Commissary of the Seventy-first, rode up in front of us, dismounted from his horse, and told the boys to go in and fight on their own account, which they did with a will. Just prior to this Capt. HART, of Company A, had been wounded and carried from the field; also Capt. ELLIS, of Company F. Then Lieut. OAKLEY came on. Going forward to the brow of the hill he received a shot in the leg of his pantaloons from one of his own men.

Some time after this the firing ceased upon both sides. MCDOWELL, with his staff, then rode through our lines, receiving a cheer from the Seventy-first, and passed down the hill to the left, within 600 feet of the enemy’s line. After that the brigade fell back into the woods and rested, taking care of the wounded, and removing them to the hospital; some straggling about over the fields without their muskets, looking on at the fight in other parts of the engagement, which they supposed was the end of the battle, thinking the day was ours.

At about 3 o’clock we formed in line again, on the brow of the hill. It was at this time that a shell fell over my left shoulder, and striking the ground behind me, rebounded upon the foot of private WM. N. SMITH, of Brooklyn, tearing it open. He threw his arms around my neck, and I assisted in carrying him to the hospital.

I returned from the hospital towards my regiment, and met other troops retreating, who informed me that my regiment had gone across the fields. I ran back past Sudley Church, then used as the hospital, up the hill, saw a regiment about half a mile ahead, which I supposed was the Seventy-first; took a short cut across the fields, when the cavalry galloped up and arrested me.

They took me back to the hospital, where, during the confusion, I managed to conceal myself under a blanket, which was saturated with blood. Col. BARKER, of the Virginia Cavalry, then galloped up, and ordered all the unwounded prisoners to be driven to the Junction.

I should think there were about 50 prisoners in all at that point. They left me, supposing I was wounded. A guard was left to guard me hospital. I arose to go in quest of Dr. PEUGNET, and him engaged in amputating the arm of HARRY ROCKAFELLOW, of S.-street, Philadelphia, of Company F, Seventy-first Regiment. Dr. PEUGNET requested me to assist him, and he having completed his operation, then amputated the arm at the shoulder-joint of a Sergeant of a Maine or a New-Hampshire Regiment, who had a brother, about 17 years of age, who had remained behind to take care of him. This man died under the operation. The next operation was that my friend WM. SMITH, of Brooklyn, whom I had conveyed to the hospital. His foot was amputated.

During this time Drs. FOSTER, SWIFT and WINSTON, of the Eighth New-York; Dr. DE GRANT, Dr. GRISWOLD, Dr. BUXTON, and the doctor of the Fourth Maine.; Dr. STEWART, of Minnesota; HARRIS, of Rhode Island, and four others whose names I did not learn, one of whom, I believe, was the surgeon of the West Point Battery, were attending in the wounded of their respective regiments. Private TYLER, of the West Point Battery, had his thigh wounded and died that night. Cornelius, Col. MARTIN’s servant, who was wounded while assisting the Colonel to dismount, also died. MULLEN, Second Rhode Island, and two of the Seventy-first, whose names I do not know, were found dead next morning.

Gen. BEAUREGARD and Col. BARKER came up about 7 1/2 o’clock that evening with 150 prisoners of different regiments, most of whom were Fire Zouaves. He stopped and inquired how our wounded were getting along, while the prisoners were driven towards the Junction by the cavalry. During the night a number of prisoners were brought in, and on Monday morning 30 were sent on, their hands tied together in front with Manila rope; among them was the lad of 17, from Maine, who plead bitterly to be left to see his brother buried, but was refined.

During the forenoon an order was issued by Gen. JOHNSTON for every one to be removed from Sudley Church to Richmond, via the Junction. All who were not wounded were taken under a tree and tied, as an attack was anticipated. Our doctors strongly remonstrated against this order, as the greater part of our wounded, 280 in number, had not received any attention. Capt. PATRICK, of Virginia Cavalry, stated these were his instructions, and he meant to carry them out. We were accordingly all seized, hands bound, except the doctors who were in ambulances. It was then raining in torrents, and some 80 of the wounded were laying in the vicinity of the church and black-smith shop without any shelter excepting a blanket. The doctors were hurriedly taken away, we being told that our wounded would be cared for by themselves.

Here we waited till 12 o’clock at night in the rain, awaiting orders, when I requested Capt. PATRICK to allow me to go down to the hospital to see a relative who was badly wounded, telling him it would be better to shoot our wounded at once than to allow them to die off by inches; they were all calling for water, and no one there to give it to them. He then said, “Well, my man, choose another man with you and go down.” I chose SMITH, of Company H, Seventy-first Regiment. Capt. PATRICK, then inquired if there were any more men who had brothers or relatives among the wounded. A general rush took place among the prisoners — they all stepping forward. He then allowed ATWOOD CROSBY, of Maine, to take care of his brother, who was wounded in the back, and five others: TOMPKINS, Company C, Seventy-first; JOHN HAND, of Massachusetts; a young boy of the Second Rhode Island, about 17 years old; DEEGAN, of the Twenty-seventh, and another, an assistant to a Maine surgeon, and his servant, who cooked for the prisoners, under the direction of TOMPKINS. The rest were kept out in the rain all night, and the following morning were sent to Richmond.

During Monday night a man from Wisconsin died, calling for his mother. He had a daguerreotype of his wife and two children. He called me to give him some water, which I did very frequently. He called for his “Dear mother” — these were his last words. He was a man about 5 feet 6 inches, with a light moustache, and was wounded in the groin. A boy about 18 years old, dressed in the uniform of the Eighth Regiment, about 5 feet 10 inches in height, sandy complexion, shot in the head; had $21 in his pocket-book, and a white silk badge, marked “Parker Guard,” died Monday night. Lieut. DEVERS, of Ellsworth Zouaves, wounded in the arm. He laid down to rest, and in the morning, when I went to bandage his arm, I found him dead. Also, a man from Rockland, Me., named FLETCHER.

On Tuesday, ALLEN, of Company C, Seventy-first, died. He was wounded in the abdomen. BUTLER, of Company C, Seventy-first. Elizabethtown, N.J., also died; wounded in legs. Doctors were not there to amputate. GEORGE SAYNE and JOHN P. MORRISSEY, both of the Seventy-first, also died Wednesday morning, within one hour of each other, lying side by side. MEAD, of Massachusetts, a wealthy shoe manufacturer, died while having his thigh amputated. Several others died, whose names I could not learn, numbering in all 32.

On Tuesday evening, six of the Doctors came back on parole — Drs. PEUGNET, SWIFT, WINSTON, DE GRAW, BUXTON and STEWART — and immediately commenced attending to the wounded. Their exertions were unremitting; their time day and night was given to the wounded until all the wounds were properly dressed and all cared for.

On Wednesday morning, Dr. PEUGNET put me in charge of the hospital, and allowed me to choose 20 from the prisoners and wounded, who were able to take care of the wounded, to assist me.

The same morning a lady of the neighborhood brought us a bottle of wine and two dozen eggs, and we bought at noon twelve dozen of eggs from a sutler. Thursday morning a number of secession doctors made their appearance, bringing with them some luxuries which they gave to our doctors. Some time during the day NOBLE, of Company F, and GILLETTE, of the Engineer Corps, both of the Seventy-first, were brought in as prisoners, and were retained as assistants at the hospital. They were not wounded. This day a number of ladies and farmers of the surrounding country visited our hospitals, bringing with them milk, soup and cakes.

On Friday, they commenced removing the prisoners and wounded, amongst them Capt. GORDON, of the Eleventh Massachusetts; Lieut. HAMLIN, Scott Life Guard, and all the Non-Commissioned Officers, leaving instructions with us to be prepared to follow the ambulances containing the wounded, who had undergone operations, on Saturday. In the meantime, Capt. ALLEN, of the Eleventh Massachusetts, disguised as a private and wounded prisoner, a Wisconsin boy, named WORLDORF, and myself, planted an escape, which was successfully accomplished between 5 and 10 P.M. Friday night. We ran the guard, and crawled on our hands and feet out of hearing distance of the sentinels; proceeded in a northeast direction until 3 1/2 A.M.; met two pickets of the enemy in a small tent on the main road, which we had to cross to accomplish our escape; the pickets cowed at our appearance, and hid behind a tree, and we backed some one hundred feet with sticks pointed in the direction of the pickets, and then turned and ran about two miles, keeping a little to the north.

At 2 P.M., not knowing where we were, we determined to approach a house and inquire. We met two women at the gate, and told them we belonged to the Fourth Alabama Regiment. They asked for Messrs. GREY of that regiment — if we knew them — and a number of others, all of whom we told them were shot at Bull Run. They asked where we came from, and where were our arms. These questions we evaded, and asked them to show us the way to Centreville, which they did. We took an opposite direction, and at 4 P.M. halted at another house, where an old man came out and asked if we were soldiers. We replied in the affirmative, and added that we belonged to the Fourth Alabama Regiment, and had been picking blackberries and strayed away from our camp. He then said, “Are you the regiment that is waiting for artillery?” I replied, the same. “Then, boys,” said he, “you are stationed at Ball’s Mill, three miles from here, (pointing in the direction of Leesburgh,) half way from here to Leesburgh.” He then said, “Were you in the fight Sunday?” “Yes.” “I am glad, boys, you escaped from the slaughter. These d — d Yankees, I would like to see every man of them strung up. I never could bear them. I will send EDWARD to show you the way to the main road.” We thanked him and left.

At 5 P.M., came to a railroad. I saw a little boy and girl, and asked them what road it was. They replied they did not know, but if we would go to the house, JEFF. would tell us. After some further inquiries, without getting any information, we crossed the track and took to the woods, and continued our march until 6 P.M., when we saw a house standing alone in the bushes. We determined to go there, and get something to eat. Arriving at the gate, we inquired if they had something to sell us. They said they had, and we lost no time in investing in 50 cents’ worth of hoe-cake and milk.

While we were devouring these (to us) luxuries, a horseman galloped up to the door, and the lady of the house called the man with whom we were conversing, “Cousin GEORGE,” (his name is EDWARDS.) We suspected something wrong, and took a precipitate leave down the hill, and continued our march. Half an hour after leaving this house, we crossed the main road, and crossed the field, in order to reach a wood which we supposed was a forest, but which turned out to be nothing but a small thicket. Soon after crossing the thicket, we espied eight mounted troopers at full speed, passing along the road, some fifteen yards ahead; not supposing they were in search of us, we continued on our way, when, upon looking round, we found they had halted at the foot of the hill, and were looking in all directions; at last they saw us, and commanded us to hall and come back. This we had no desire to do, and knowing the fence along the road to be impassable on horseback, we thought our chances of escape were good. We accordingly ran, and they fired, one or two of them dismounting simultaneously with the discharge of the others’ guns, to let the rails of the fence down in order that they might pursue us into the woods.

In the meantime we had gained the wood and found another fence surrounding it. This fence was equally as wide as the first one. They galloped off to the edge of the woods where we should have to pass to make our escape, and surrounded the woods. Here they dismounted, took down the rails and entered the bushes, and commenced their search, in the meantime we had run back to where we entered the bush and hid under two large elm trees, Capt. ALLEN clipping the branches in order that we might pull them down over us with more facility; it was perhaps five minutes before they reached this portion of the thicket, and these trees being so much exposed, they concluded no person was there, and went away to the other end of the woods, but soon returned, and on passing one of these trees, one of the horses, ridden by one of our pursuers grazed my right leg with his hoof, and so close were they upon us that we overheard all their conversation.

During this time, some twelve or fifteen of the inhabitants of Milford turned out with their guns and pistols to assist the troopers to find the Yankees; and an order was given, by an old man in citizen’s dress, for the horsemen to follow up in the next woods, with orders to the men who had come together, to look in all the bushes and to turn over all the old legs, and leave nothing undone which they might suppose would tend to our capture. Here one of them reckoned the Yankee — had got away; another said that if they were in those woods, they would give us a right warming, and they commenced discharging their guns in the bushes in every direction, but happily, did not aim in the direction of our tree.

In about an hour the old man returned, and ordered a boy about 18 years of age to remain beside us on a log, with instructions to fire at us the moment he saw as — “Even,” said he, “if you do miss them.” It was now 9 P.M., and the long prayed-for darkness came to our rescue, and helped to cover our retreat. For nearly another hour the old wretch kept prowling about the woods, and finally went away. At about 11 o’clock we were so exhausted that we fell asleep, and rested until 12, when ALLEN crawled over to me and said, “They haven’t got us yet.”

I had dreamt, during my short slumber, that I was a captive, and he had some difficulty in persuading me to the contrary. Being reassured, I arose from my retreat, and, as we emerged from beneath the branches which had just saved our lives, we beheld the youth who, two hours before, had been placed to watch for us; he was in a deep slumber, and had his gun grasped between his folded arms, in a horizontal position. I drew my knife to dispatch him, but Capt. ALLEN prevented me.

We then retraced our steps for nearly a mile and a half, and struck over for the Potomac, which we reached at 4 1/2 o’clock Sunday morning, having kept up a quick and double-quick step all along the road.

Having reached the Potomac, we sat down to rest; but we were hardly seated before we saw a man on horseback approaching us by the road. He walked his horse past us as though he was unaware of our presence, until he reached the corner of a fence surrounding a corn-field, when he put spurs to his horse and went up the hill at full speed. We suspected something in this movement, and looking for shallow water, but finding none, we immediately plunged into the stream and swam the river. When within twenty feet of opposite shore we heard firing and cries of “Come back,” and on turning round we saw ten or fifteen men, in their shirt sleeves, ordering us back, and firing several shots at us. Of course we did not obey this command, but started off at a good pace into what we supposed was Maryland. We had not gone far before we came to another stream, which we waded.

We afterwards ascertained that we had crossed Edward’s Island about 17-miles from Washington. Before losing eight of our pursuers, Capt. ALLEN showed his pistol, and shook it in defiance of them. This was the only weapon, with the exception of the knife, we had among us. This was about half-past five Sunday morning. Finding ourselves among friends, we walked five miles to Great Falls, where we laid down and rested till noon. On waking we resumed our march, and reached the arsenal at nine at night, where we found our picket-guard of Second Vermont Regiment. They received us kindly, provided us with supper, and furnished us with a bed. The next morning we all hurried on to Washington, and telegraphed our safe arrival to our friends.

I may here state that on Wednesday I visited the field of battle on horseback, in company with Capt. WHITE, of the Virginia Cavalry. I saw there numbers of our comrades, unburied, principally in the uniform of the Fourteenth Brooklyn and ELLSWORTH’s Zouaves. I asked the reason; the reply was they had not yet reached them. The smell was very offensive. I galloped up to count their numbers, but was obliged to turn back on this account. I counted 14 of the Fourteenth Regiment in one spot. We were uniformly treated with kindness by both soldiers and people. There remained in hospitals and tents, which were erected for the wounded, at the time of my leaving about 246, all doing very well, and are, I presume, by this time removed to Richmond.

Of those taken prisoners, who afterwards died of their wounds in the hospital at Sudley Church, were the following:
John P. Morrissey, Seventy-first Regiment.
George Sayre, Seventy-first Regiment.
C.A. Allen, Seventy-first Regiment.
— Butler, Company C, Seventy-first Regiment, (Elizabethtown, New-Jersey.)
— Series, drummer boy.
— Cornelius, Col. Martin’s servant.
Lieut. Divver, Fire Zouaves.
— Fletcher, Rockland, Maine.
— Mullen, Second Rhode Island.
— Mead, Massachusetts, shoe manufacturer.
— Tyler, United States Artillery.
— Seargeant, Vermont Regiment, had a brother, seventeen years old, with him.
Three of Seventy-first Regiment were dead, whose names I did not get.
Sergeant Wooster, Co. B, Seventy-first Regiment, wounded in the arm; doing well.
Harry Rockafellow, Co. F, Seventy-first Regiment, left arm amputated; doing well.
George Green, Co. F, Seventy-first Regiment, shot in both arms; doing well.
J.H. Sands, Co. F, Seventy-first Regiment, wounded in arm; doing well.
Nickerson, Co. F, Seventy-first Regiment, shot through left lung; severe wound.
Demorest, Co. F, Seventy-first Regiment, shot in arm; doing well.
Stambler, Co. F, Seventy-first Regiment, finger shot off; doing well.
Burroughs, Co. F. Seventy-first Regiment, (Adams’ Express,) shot in leg; doing well.
A.A. Hyde, Co. A, Seventy-first Regiment, shot through left shouldeer; doing well.
W. Smith, Co. A. Seventy-first Regiment, foot amputated; doing well.
Mould, Co. I, Seventy-first Regiment, spent cannon ball struck left thigh; doing well.
Vaughan, Co. D. Seventy-first Regiment, wounded in face; doing well.
Dravy, Co. F, Seventy-first Regiment, not badly wounded; doing well.
–, Co. G, Seventy-first Regiment, wounded ingroin; lives at No. 27 Henry-street, New-York.
Hand, Massachusetts, slightly wounded.
Head, standard bearer Fourteenth Regiment, slightly wounded.
Richmond, Fourteenth Regiment, slightly wounded.
Middleton, Fourteenth, slightly wounded.
Capt. McQuade, Scott Life Guard, wounded in thigh.
Lieut. Hamblin, Scott Life Guard, wounded in leg — doing well.
A.G. Straw, Oxford, Wasker, Shaw, Second Maine, I think, doing well.
Gracie, of Maine, doing well.
Graham, Seventy-ninth Regiment, doing well.
Colligan, Seventy-ninth Regiment, doing well.
Sullivan, Seventy-ninth Regiment, doing well.
Torry, front Maine, old man about 60, slightly wounded.
Wheeler, slightly wounded.
Bowman, Twenty-seventh New-York, leg amputated below knee; doing well.
Welsh, (carriage-maker, near Rochester,) shot in mouth.
Sergeant of the Twenty-seventh; name something like Stollman; shot in leg; doing well.
Capt. Gordon, Eleventh Massachusetts, spent cannon ball in side.
Dugan, Twenty-seventh New-York, slightly wounded; doing well.
Crosby, from China, Me., shot in the body; his brother, Atwood Crosby, unhurt, unending on him.
Tompkins, Co. C, Seventy-first.
Smith, Co. H, Seventy-first.
Noble, Co. F, Seventy-first.
Gillette, Engineer Corps.
Dr. Peugnet, Surgeon, Seventy-first.
Dr. Winston, Surgeon, Eighth.
Dr. Swift, Surgeon, Eighth.
Dr. Buxton, Surgeon, Maine Regiment.
Dr. Stewart, Surgeon, Minnesota Regiment.
Dr. Griswold.
Dr. Swalm.
Dr. De Graw.
Dr. Harris.
Surgeon of Third West Point Battery.
Surgeon of a Maine regiment, his servant and assistant, whom we called Dr. John.
Ryan, of Rhode Island, musician.
Kelly and Thompson, wounded slightly, to what regiment I don’t know.
In all there were 283, of whom 32 died, a portion of whose names I have given; the rest were living, and most of them doing well, when I left.

New York (NY) Times, 8/6/1861

Contributed and transcribed by John Hennessy

Edward P. Doherty at Wikipedia 

Edward P. Doherty at Ancestry.com 

Edward P. Doherty at Fold3 

Edward P. Doherty at FindAGrave 

Edward P. Doherty at Arlington National Cemetery 

Pvt. Joseph Marfing, Co. E, 14th New York State Militia, Parole of Honor

7 05 2020

Thanks to reader Bryan Ross for passing along this Parole of Honor for First Bull Run prisoner of war Joseph Marfing of the 14th New York (Brooklyn) State Militia. I’m not sure where Marfing went between signing this parole and being formally exchanged. The rules for prisoner exchanges varied, and for a good period of time paroled soldiers spent that period in a camp (you can read a pretty good account of one camp in Richard Moe’s The Last Full Measure), but he did wind up with his regiment again (the 14th NYSM became the 84th NYVI), and later still served in the Veteran Reserve Corps.

Click the link for an image of the actual document.

Transcription by Bryan Ross

Parole of Honor

We hereby pledge our word of Honor after our release from the Confederate States Military Prison at Tuscaloosa, Alabama to proceed forthwith to Norfolk Virginia by way of Petersburgh and City Point and report ourselves to General Huger. And that we will not under any circumstances take up arms against or do anything against the prejudice of the Confederate States, or any State composing said Confederacy, or the people thereof, until regularly exchanged, under such penalty as the Confederate States shall see proper to inflict for a violation of this Parole if taken thereafter. Transportation being furnished for this purpose.

Tuscaloosa Alabama February 26th 1862.

Joseph Marfing Company E 14th Regiment

Taken at battle of Manassas

Document image

14th NYSM Co. E Roster

Joseph Marfing at Fold3

Joseph Marfing at FindAGrave (possible)

Photo: Members of 69th NYSM

16 04 2020

Reader Matt Regan has provided this image of members of the 69th New York State Militia, post battle, as officers in the later-formed Irish Brigade. Photo IDs are per Mr. Regan.


L to R, Pvt. Peter Kelly (Co. I), Pvt. James McKay Rorty (Co. G), and Sgt. William O’Donohue (Co. K), as officers of units in the Irish Brigade, post Bull Run and 69th NYSM

These three were captured at First Bull Run, and subsequently escaped and returned north together, as recounted by Rorty here.

The photograph is in the possession of Mr. Regan’s family. Kelly is Mr. Regan’s “great-uncle.” He was commissioned in Co. K, 69th NYVI. Rorty, as discussed here, was commissioned in the 14th NY Independent Battery, as was O’Donohue. Rorty was KIA at Gettysburg, O’Donohue KIA at Chancellorsville (with Battery C, 4th US Artillery) and Kelly resigned in 1862.

Here’s some more research into the photo by reader Jason Cheol Spellman.

Peter Kelly at Ancestry.com

Peter Kelly at Fold 3

Peter Kelly Bio

James Rorty at Ancestry.com

James Rorty at Fold 3

James Rorty at FindAGrave

James Rorty Bio

William O’Donohue (as William O. Donohue) at Ancestry.com

William O’Donohue (as William O. Donohue) at Fold 3

Pvt. James A. Coburn, Co. K, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle, Wounding, and Imprisonment

17 01 2018

Letter from a Volunteer, Prisoner at Richmond.

Richmond, Aug. 4th, ’61.

My Dear Wife: — It has been some time now since I have had an opportunity of letting you know where I am. We left camp at Shuter’s Hill July 16th; marched to Fairfax Station; stopped there one night; next, we marched to Centreville, where we stayed two days. On the morning of the 21st we were turned out at one o’clock, but did not march until sunrise, when we were told we were to storm a battery that day. — We took up our line of march, and soon heard the booming of cannon. — Our destination proved to be Bull Run, where we arrived about one o’clock; when we commenced fighting, after a quick march, and also some double quick. I was somewhat fatigued, but went into it as hard as I was able. I was in the hottest of it for about an hour. The bullets flew like hail. Men fell on every side, some within an arm’s length. Suddenly our men began to retreat. When nearly alone I gave them a farewell shot (the Confederates), and turned to run. Had gone about 10 rods when I was struck by a rifle ball in my right hip. I fell, but crawled a few rods to a hole in some bushes. By the help of some of our men, I took off my shirt, and with that and a handkerchief I succeeded in stopping the blood. They there left me, and I lay down again in the hole. I was then between the two fires for about an hour. Our men then retreated out of hearing, and I was told they had gone back to Centreville, leaving us to our fate. The Southerners soon came up, and instead of abusing me, gave me a blanket, water and some buiscet, which I needed very much. I crawled about 20 rods that night and lay down, suffering much pain from the ball, which was still in. The next morning I could walk a little; went about 100 rods and lay down. The sight was horrible – men dead and dying on every side.

I was picked up about four o’clock Monday evening by the Southerners, and taken to Manassas Junction; stayed there two days – here the ball was taken out of my hip – thence by railroad to this place. We have been treated very kindly by the Southern people. I cannot say too much in their praise; especially the Sisters of Charity, who compose a part of our nurses.

My wound is doing very well. I hope in a couple of weeks to be pretty well. I can walk some now, and dress my wound. I hope that we will be exchanged when we are well. I think my fighting is done for the war. Even if I get well, I shall be so crippled as to be unfit for service; therefore I hope to get a discharge.

This letter must answer for you all at present. I don’t know when I can send you another. You cannot write to me. I hope to enjoy home again. I have been spared thus far by the hand of Providence alone, and I trust in Him who ruleth all things for my restoration to you.

From your affectionate husband,


Elizabethtown (NY) Post, 8/29/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

James A. Coburn at Ancestry

James A. Coburn at Fold3

38th NYSV roster

Wounded Bull Run Prisoner Returns Home

27 12 2013

Pvt. James Rorty, Co. G, 69th NYSM, On the Battle, Imprisonment, and Escape

16 01 2012

The 69th at Bull Run.


The annexed letter from one of the gallant 69th, who was taken prisoner with Colonel Corcoran at the Battle of Bull Run, gives some interesting details regarding that event, and the subsequent treatment of the prisoners by the Confederates, which have not heretofore been laid before the public: –

New York, Oct. 12, 1861

To the Editor of the Irish-American:

Sir – As anything relating to the late campaign of the 69th, and the present unfortunate position  of its brave Colonel and some of its members, must be interesting to your readers. I desire to lay before them through the medium of your wide spread columns, the following sketch as well to correct certain prevalent erroneous impressions as to present some facts on the subject hitherto unpublished, and unknown to the public.

Popular as the corps was, it had many grievances (most of which were owing to the hastiness of the organization, and the shortness of its term of service), but it seems to me that the report of Brigadier General Sherman after the battle of Bull Run, contains a statement which does the greatest injustice to the Regiment, and which has become the heavier grievance from being borne in silence and thereby tacitly admitted. He says, “after the repulse of the 2d Wisconsin regiment, the ground was open for the 69th, who advanced and held it for some time, but finally fell back in confusions.” He omitted saying what many witnessed, and what Col. Corcoran, confirmed in Richmond (when we first saw the report) that he rode up and ordered Col. Corcoran to draw off his men, while we were still obstinately maintaining our ground, not only against the main strength of the Confederates hitherto engaged, but, also, while pressed hard on the right flank by the fresh troops (Johnson’s) which Gen. Smith and Col. Elzey had just brought from Manassas, and which, according to the official report of these officers, numbered 8,000 men. I do not pretend to say that we could have held the position against such overwhelming odds, but as we did so until ordered to abandon it, simple justice and fair play should have prompted Sherman to tell the whole truth. The manner in which he managed, or rather mismanaged his brigade, is more open to comment than the conduct of any regiment during the day. Inferior in numbers as we were to the enemy, he increased the disadvantage by keeping one excellent corps idle (th 18th N. Y. V.), and bringing the others into action separately and successively, allowing one to be broken before another was brought to its support, and thus throwing away the only chance of success that remained. Notwithstanding the heavy reinforcements the Confederates had received, they were so badly beaten and disheartened up to this time that there can scarcely be a doubt but that a vigorous, simultaneous, and combined attack of Sherman’s brigade and Keyes’ would have carried their position. Instead of this, after our regiment (leading the column) had turned their right under Gen. Evans, dispersed and almost destroyed the crack corps of the south – the N. O. Zouaves, instead of following up our advantage and pushing home the flying foe we gave them time to change their position, concentrate their strength, and deploy their fresh troops. We have reason to be thankful that our ill timed delay was not entirely fatal to us, as it would have been had not Beauregard’s order to General Ewell to get [in our rear mis]carried. Again, when our attack failed, and the retreat began, Col. Corcoran endeavored to cover it by forming his men in square, in which order it moved to the point at which we crossed Bull Run, where on account of the woods and the narrowness of the path down the bluffs that formed the west bank, it had to be reduced to a column. Sherman, who was in the square, told the men to get away as fast as they could as the enemy’s cavalry were coming. This prevented Col. Corcoran from reforming the men on the other side of the Run, a movement which would have not only effectually repelled the enemy, but would also have covered the retreat of every battery lost subsequently. It was in his efforts to remedy the disorder and straggling caused by this “license to run,” that Col. Corcoran (who, from the unfortunate and irreparable loss of Haggerty, and the absence of all his staff, was obliged to be somewhat in the rear) was cut off from the main body of the regiment, by the enemy’s horse, and being able to rally only nine men, moved into a small house, to make a better defence, but was induced by some of his officers to surrender as resistance was hopeless. Meantime about half a dozen men had joined him at the house, of whose arrival he was ignorant. Trifling as the reinforcement was, he surrendered so reluctantly that I verily believe had he known of it he would not have surrendered without a desperate fight. As I shared all his subsequent misfortunes, and witnessed the manly fortitude with which he bore them, the consistent dignity with which he repelled all overtures for any parole that would tie up his hands from the Union cause, and repulsed some Southern friends who endeavored to seduce him from it, it may not be improper to sketch his prison life. Owing to the inadequate arrangements for our accommodation in Richmond it was afternoon on the 24th, before some of us got anything to eat, so that we had eaten only once in four days. The colonel was extremely exhausted, but desired all his men to be brought to him “that he might take a look at – and know,” as he said, “those who had done their duty to the last.” Learning that some had no money, and wanted clothing badly, he gave $20 out of his own scanty resources to be laid out for their use. He also purchased and sent a number of shirts to the wounded of his corps, and sent some money to many of them also. He was never allowed to go out, not even to the hospital, to see his wounded men, which latter I heard him complain somewhat of. He was kept quite apart even from us how were in the same building, although some of us managed to see him daily or oftener. I wish to contradict, however, a statement which has obtained universal currency about him which is an unmitigated falsehood. He never was in irons, nor was he threatened with them from his capture until his removal to Charleston on the 10th ult., when we last saw him. Rigidly as he was watched, and great as was the importance attached to his safe keeping – the consistent bearing of which I have already spoken, had won for him the respect of every Southerner, and though it at first drew on him the virulent abuse of the Richmond press, even it ultimately changed its tone and declared “that the consistent obstinacy of that most impudent and inveterate of Yankee prisoners, Col. Corcoran, was preferable by far to the repentant professions and cringing course of some prisoners to obtain parole.” As to our general treatment it was harsh, although as long as any hope of the Government making an exchange remained, our guards were courteous and communicative, and I feel bound to say that the cavalry to whom we surrendered (the Clay Dragoons) acted in every respect like chivalrous and honorable men. Latterly, however, some regiments of raw recruits – mere conscript boys, whom the 10 per cent levy had drawn out, committed great atrocities on the prisoners, firing through the window at us on the slightest pretence of breach of the regulations. Several shots were fired into the room where the 69th were confined, and one man of the 2d N. Y. S. M. was wounded in the arm. Shots fired into the buildings were said to have resulted fatally, but as we could not get to them I cannot vouch for the fact positively. Atrocities like these, coupled with the prospect of being sent further South, induced many to try to escape, but the great majority failed, and were put in irons. As, however, none of the 69th, save two who were unsuccessful, had tried, your correspondent thought it became the honor of the corps to make an attempt, and accompanied by Sergeant O’Donohue, of Co. K, and Peter Kelly, of Co. J, left Richmond on the 18th ult., passing the sentries in disguise. Captain McIvor, who intended to accompany us, was unfortunately suspected by the guard, and put in irons. I regret to see he has since been sent to New Orleans. Our provisions (2 lbs. of crackers) soon ran out, but Virginia is full of corn, and we lived on the enemy. After travelling a week (solely at dead of night) we came on the Confederate lines on the Potomac, above Aquia Creek, and after running into the most advanced cavalry outpost, from which we escaped narrowly, and coming in contact with sentries for miles along the river, we at length found shelter and concealment in a deserted fishing house. Having built a raft to reach the Potomac fleet which was in sight, it turned out to be too small, and O’Donohue embarked alone on it, and reached the Seminole, the captain of which, however, refused to send a boat for us who remained on the Virginia shore, and insisting on sending O’Donohue to Washington, we were left to our own resources, and built another raft on which we reached the Penguin during the following night, and were sent aboard the Yankee. The engineer, Mr. Carpenter, and one of the crew furnished me with a complete suit of clothing which took away my naked, half savage appearance, and the steward, Mr. Fitzpatrick, attended to our famished and ravenous appetites with similar humanity. As this aid was no way official, and came solely from a generous and humane spirit we shall always cherish grateful feelings towards these gentlemen. From Lieutenant Ross(?), of the Navy Yard, Washington, and the captain of the Philadelphia steamer, we received similar kind treatment. Trusting that the length of this communication, will not render it objectionable,

I am, sir, yours truly,

James M. Rorty.

Irish-American Weekly, 10/26/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

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