2nd Lieut. Charles E. Palmer, Co. F*, 2nd Connecticut Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

24 01 2017

OUR CORRESPONDENCE.
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From the Volunteers.
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Camp Keyes, Washington, D. C.,
July 27, 1861.

When I wrote you last, we were in the full tide of victory. The ebb was more sudden and overwhelming than the flow, and we have been thrown back in two short days to a point from which it will require weeks to regain our former position. We are now lying much in the same way we were at Camp Welles – waiting for orders. The enemy, meanwhile, are encamped on our old ground at Falls Church, and doubtless are as vigilant in their picket guard in our direction as we were in the other; and our side is as active in felling trees and obstructing roads on Arlington Heights, as the secessionists were a few weeks since in the roads to Fairfax. But such is the fortune of war, and it is not for me to criticise the actions of those who are responsible, – but will be content with giving the experience of the Connecticut regiments in the great battle of Bull’s Run, last Sunday.

We fell in at 3 o’clock P.M., on Saturday, expecting to march immediately, as the advance guard of Col. Hunter’s column. When we were ready to move, the order was countermanded, and we were instructed to be in readiness at 2 in the morning. At the time we were awakened by a succession of long rolls and bugle calls from the various regiments bivouacked near, and in a few moments the shining camp fires, the glittering bayonets and the multitudes of men as they moved about in confused masses, in all directions, as far as the eye could see, revealed the fact of a general movement. Order soon came out of this chaos, and directly the crowd was transformed into straight black columns, who stood in silence, awaiting the order to march. This was soon given, and with no other music than the tinkle of the soldiers’ canteen and cup, we marched on up the hill, and down through the little village of Centerville toward Manassas, and, as then we fondly hoped, to victory. Our position in column had been changed during the night, and most of the regiments that had been posted in advance of us – the 69th and 79th N. Y., and several others, were already ahead. After proceeding about two miles, the Connecticut brigade was halted, and the whole division filed past, and, with a regiment of regulars, we took the position of rear guard. – The narrow road (the roads in Virginia all seem to be scooped out to the width of one carriage,) did not allow any other style of marching than four abreast, and it was nearly 10 before the last regiment had passed, and the baggage wagons and ambulances began to make their appearance. We took our position, and had moved on nearly a mile, when off to our left, in the direction of the battle of Thursday, we heard the boom of a single cannon, which was soon followed by several others, apparently further to the left, a mile or so in advance of the first. As we had understood that other columns had advanced in that direction, we were not surprised, and as we had become accustomed from our Thursday’s experience to the distant roar of battle we were not startled, and marched on. There was considerable firing in that direction for half an hour, when on a sudden our division was halted, and in a few minutes the jar of Sherman’s 32 pounder at the front, announced to us that we had the enemy at bay, and that the battle had commenced. The firing soon became incessant, but that on the left ceased entirely. Our brigade was drawn into a piece of woods at the side of the road, and the men were soon seated at their ease in the shade, eating their dinners, and filling their canteens, awaiting their turn in the contest, which was then hotly raging in front. About noon and aid-de-camp came galloping down the road, with orders for our advance. From a quickstep with which we started, our pace soon changed to a double-quick, as we neared the scene of action, and the sharp rattle of musketry became audible in the intervals between the discharges of artillery. We soon came to the top of a hill, here stood a small white church, and one or two houses, and from which the battle could be distinctly seen. For a distance of perhaps three miles, there was a succession of hills, thickets and ravines, while at our feet lay the stream, small in size but great in historical importance, of Bull Run. Close at hand, in a piece of woods on our right, lay one of our batteries of rifled, cannon, which was playing on one of those of the enemy, located on a hill about half a mile off, which was answering, gun for gun, with great spirit. In the distance could be seen an ominous cloud of dust, which I noticed more than one general closely scrutinize with his glass, then consult with another, who in turn would take a long gaze in the same direction. Their anxious looks convinced me that the dust was not caused by the approach of Gen. Patterson’s division, as was generally given out among the soldiers, and the event proved the correctness of my surmise – that it was a reinforcement for the enemy from Manassas.

As we came in front of the church, the enthusiasm of the crowd of soldiers and civilians collected around, was without bounds. Every tree had its occupant, who shouted out each movement of the enemy to the spectators below, whose range of view was more limited. – One fellow cried out as we passed – “Hurry up, boys; we’ve got ‘em! They’re surrounded on three sides, and are running like the devil!. – You won’t get a chance at ‘em if you don’t look out!” Sure enough, the enemy could be seen – a hill full of them – running up its side toward some woods, with headlong speed. – the heat was excessive, but our men quickened their step, unslinging their blankets and throwing them one side, and some even throwing away their coats and haversacks as useless impediments to their progress. The enemy had got a view of us also, as was seen by a shell which exploded near, but fortunately doing no damage save covering us with dust. A change in the position of one of our own guns, threw us between it and the enemy, and we were obliged to file round to its rear, thus losing some fifteen minutes. We rushed on, however, and were soon on what had been the battle ground at the beginning of the fight, and from which the enemy had been driven. The desperate character of the action was now to be seen at every step. Dead, wounded, and sun struck men were scattered all along, sometimes singly, but oftener in groups, showing where a shell had exploded, or the ground of some desperate charge. “We won’t get a pop at ‘em.” was constantly heard along our lines, and our step increased from a double-quick into a run. We were soon close on to their left flank, and separated from them by a piece of woods, though which rifle, musket, and cannon balls were whistling constantly. The 1st Connecticut regiment was on the brow of a hill in front, at right angles with our line, and exchanging a fire of musketry with a line of the infantry of the enemy. Further on, the gallant 69th (Irish,) and 79th (Scotch,) New York regiments were engaged, while at our left the Fire Zouaves were at work, now charging some battery, now repelling a charge, but in all cases fighting desperately, and with tiger-like ferocity. Each of them had loose powder in his pocket, with which he besmeared his face, and as they rushed on with their peculiar Zouave cheer and Fireman’s tig a a-h, they seemed more like demons than men. No wonder their ranks were so thinned – as each one seemed to fight as though the whole issue of the day rested with him along.

The enemy soon retreated from this part of the field, and we filed off to the left down into a ravine where Gen. Keyes purposed to concentrate on his forces, make a charge on one of the enemy’s principal batteries, take it at the point of the bayonet, turn the guns upon them and thus decide the day. An order was given to an aid to bring the 2d Maine and 3d Conn. In for this purpose, but on his arriving where they were, found them under the direction of Gen. Tyler, charging on another battery. – This caused a delay, and before they could be brought around where we were, the enemy had planted three or four guns in such a position that the contemplated charge of Gen. K. was impossible, without subjecting us to a raging cross-fire which would have inevitably cut us to pieces before we could have accomplished our object. We moved cautiously up to reconnoiter, and finally pushed boldly through the woods into a notch of open field, to the support of the 14th New York, who were here engaging a force of twice their number. Hardly had our whole regiment got out, when a battery of rifled cannon at less than two hundred yards distance, and which had not before been seen, commenced pouring grape and canister into our ranks. The first fire was fortunately aimed so low that but one man, in Company I, was killed, and several wounded. The next was aimed as much too high as the first was too low, and passed harmlessly over our heads. We were under cover of the woods before the next fire, which was as ineffectual as the two first. The situation of ourselves and the 1st Connecticut was now very critical: The artillery and cavalry were evidently working around to cut us off from the rest of the army. Gen. Keyes held a consultation with Tyler, and it was decided to retreat, and, as we supposed, by a flank movement unite with other regiments and continue the battle. What was our surprise to find on filing back over our old ground, that a general movement of our forces was taking place in the same direction, and that amid a shower of shot and shell from the enemy, who seemed rapidly approaching. – Most of us then supposed that we were being withdrawn to commence some new movement, or at most to bivouac near, and renew the engagement in the morning.

We had nearly reached the little church – now used as a hospital for the wounded – and were moving off in good order through the woods, wondering where we should stop for the night – for at that time it was generally supposed that we were to do no more fighting that day – when all of a sudden there appeared to be a general movement of teams down the road, and immediately after, two pieces of our light artillery came dashing through the crowd, breaking up the ranks of several regiments that were between us and the road. These were followed by a body of the Black Horse cavalry, the sharp volley of whose carbines and crack of whose sabres could now be heard. The fire was answered with spirit from our side, and they were retreating with two-thirds of the number killed, when the cry arose, – “For God’s sake, hold on! You are firing on your own men!” The confusion was now at its height. Some cried one thing and some another, but all had something to say. The numerous regiments at our right, breaking through our ranks, and the stampeded of some few cowardly spirits, who, I am ashamed to say were in the Connecticut regiments, temporarily disorganized us, but through the efficiency of our leading officers our regiments were soon marching away in good order. We shortly crossed a small stream, and stood on the brow of a hill on the other side. At this point, some field officer, I did not understand what regiment, was vainly endeavoring to rally the broken masses, and form a line to command the retreat from more cavalry, which it was understood was rapidly approaching, accompanied by a piece of artillery. A shell which struck in our immediate vicinity made this almost certain, but all the effect it produced on the men was to make them run the faster. Our regiments wheeled into line on each side of the cannon, placed to cover the road where were the retreating soldiers and teams. The approaching cavalry was successful only in taking many of the stragglers to the rear, and attendants in the hospitals, prisoners. If our line had not commanded the rear, the havoc made by a charge of dragoons must have been tremendous. If it had been followed by a piece of artillery, as we are assured one was drawn up for that purpose, it is impossible to tell where it would have ended. Our whole army would have been at their mercy. Thus, if the Connecticut brigade cannot boast of having been in the hottest of the fight, it certainly was instrumental more than any other in saving our retreat from becoming an utter rout.

THE RETREAT.

One does not know his capability of enduring fatigue until he has been forced to a trial. Our men, when they left the field, seemed utterly prostrated. Owing to the intense heat of the day, and the peculiar thirst which is experienced nowhere but on the battle-field, caused by the sulphurous smell of powder, all seemed ready to drop in their tracks from sheer exhaustion, and when they arrived at Centreville, four miles back, and were marched on to our old place of bivouac, as we supposed to stop for the night, we lay down at once, supperless, to sleep. In less than fifteen minutes, however, we were again on the march, and at sunrise next morning we were at Falls Church – having marched thirty-one miles during the night, without stopping but once for rest, and then only a few minutes! There were no baggage-wagons or ambulances to pick up those who fainted by the way, they having either gone ahead, or been smashed by the mob, or the horses cut from them and mounted by the teamsters, in some cases leaving wounded men inside; and however foot-sore or weary one might become, he was obliged to keep up or fall by the road-side, and run his risk of being picked up by the cavalry who were hovering in the rear. One man who was wounded so as to be unable to stand alone, was supported by two men throughout the entire march, and reached Washington safely. Many fell out, however, most who came up in the morning, but some were undoubtedly captured.

We reached Falls Church, as before stated, about sunrise. The camp guard left at that place, had some coffee prepared, – but out rest was not to be there. We were the rear guard. Tents were struck, and everything packed for transportation, but there were no wagons. To obtain these according to the red-tape system we were to go through with the form of a requisition – receipt, and counter-check – and there we stood all that rainy day, with fixed bayonets, in momentary expectation of a charge of cavalry, reports of whose approach were brought us from time to time. – After dark we had the satisfaction of seeing pretty much all our camp equipage under way, and we started through mud, ankle deep, toward Ball Cross-roads, where the deserted Ohio and 2d New York camps were located. – The First and Third stopped at that occupied by the Ohio, and the Second pushed on half a mile further to that of the 2d New York. Wet to the skin as we were, yet all could sleep, and the night was passed without alarm. It took till the next night to get the camps we occupied cleared up and on our baggage-wagons, and we slept that night under the guns of Fort Corcoran, fagged out, but with the satisfactory thoughts of being the last regiment to leave an advanced position, and of being the means of saving the Federal Government at least $100,000 in stores and camp equipage. The next night we encamped on Meridian Hill, Washington, where we now are. We have named our encampment Camp Keyes, after our acting Brigadier General, who is beloved by us all, and to whom, more than anyone else, is due the credit of extricating us in safety from the clutches of the enemy.

Most of the stragglers who were put down as missing when our rolls were first called, have turned up since our arrival here. There are a few, however, who are without doubt in the hands of the enemy. Among these, we fear, is the Rev. Hiram Eddy. He was at the hospital with the wounded all day, and has not been seen since the last charge of cavalry. One of the best men in Company F is also missing, – Samuel A. Cooper, of West Winsted. He had been promoted to the post of General’s Orderly, and was not with the company during the action. The last seen of him was at the hospital, whither he had been sent on some errand by Gen. Keyes, just before the stampede. Both are probably prisoners, and ere this at Richmond. The loss of the army in this way will probably reach 1,000.

All the three months troops are to be mustered out at once, and our turn will probably come some time this week. All are a little loth to leave at this juncture, and many will re-enlist at once, or after a few week of furlough. There seems to be a general feeling as if our army had been disgraced, and a determination to retrieve our honor. U. S. soldiers will not run again.

INCIDENTS.

An instance of cool courage occurred in our Co. (Co. F). James Woodruff on our retreat dropped out of the ranks at Vienna, and lay down at the foot of a tree for a little rest, thinking to regain his company in the morning. He had not lain long, before a party of the enemy came up and made him prisoner. They took away his rifle and left two of their number to guard him, while the remainder of the company went on after more captives. One of the guard after a time left, charging the other to take good care “that the d—-d Yankee did not get away.” Jimmy had a pistol under his haversack which in disarming him was not discovered, and watching his opportunity he sent a ball whistling through the skull of his captor and made the best of his way on to Falls Church.

All agree that the “Boyd pistol” which you will recollect was to be presented to the bravest man in the company, is due to A. H. Conklin, of Mill River, Mass. From the effect of new boots his feet were so sore as to render it impossible for him to wear them. The second day of our march he went barefoot, and, determined not to be cheated out of his fight, on the day we went to battle, he wrapped them in a pair of coat sleeves, which he tied on with a string, and thus hobbled about all day, and at night marched with us to Falls Church, without a word of complaint. I venture to say that he is the only man in the regiment who would have done it.

Lieut. Morse of Co. K. was wounded early in the action by a cannon ball striking a rail fence and throwing a piece with violence against his back. Some one stopped to pick him up, but he told them to win the battle first, pick him up afterwards. He afterward got into a baggage wagon and was carried to Alexandria, and is now with his company.

Sergeant Major Jared B. Lewis of our regiment, who had but just donned the triangular chevron, was so frightened that he did not stop retreating until he arrived at New Haven. He was reduced to the ranks yesterday and the Grays to which company he belongs voted him out of the ranks. The best of it was that he was not on the field at all, and only got near enough to participate in the retreat. He spins a long yarn which I notice is published in the N. H. papers.

C. E. P.

Winsted [CT] Herald, 7/26/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

2nd Ct Roster 

*Alonzo H. Conklin mentioned herein was found in the roster under Rifle Company E, as was 2nd Lt. Charles E. Palmer, likely the author, C. E. P., of this letter. Rifle Company E appears to have also been known as Company F.

Charles E. Palmer at Ancestry.com 

Charles E. Palmer at Find-a-Grave 





Sgt. Eldon A. Tilden, Co. D*, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle, Retreat, and Sun-Stroke

21 12 2016

From the Second Vermont Regiment.

The following is an extract from a letter written by member of the Waterbury Company, to his parents in Barre. It gives some interesting details of the engagement at Bull run, about which all are so anxious to learn:

Bush Hill, near Alexandria,
Sunday, July 28, 1861.

Dear Parents: – Our detachment was sent as a reserve to cut off the retreat of the enemy, if there should be one in our directions, and if not, to be ready for any emergency or any duty which they might assign us.

We marched about four miles from Centreville, where we halted in a pleasant grove near Gen. McDowell’s quarters, and awaited further orders. While resting, we could distinctly hear the incessant reports of cannon and musketry from both sides, and (listening for ourselves the sound of charges) we were satisfied that our forces were gradually driving the enemy, when the order came to forward, which was promptly done. Gen. Howard gave the order to forward double-quick time, which pace was kept up for over four miles, through an open field, most of the way, and the sun pouring its melting rays directly in our faces. The result of this, (which was wholly unnecessary) was that many of the troops were obliged to leave the ranks; many of the men were sun-struck, some even died from the effects of it. I was one of the number that was sun-struck, I suppose, for I cannot tell what else it could be. I run as long as I could stand, when I fell perfectly insensible, and remained so for nearly an hour, I should judge; the first I knew, some one was pouring water upon my feet, wrists and head, who also gave me something to drink. I have since learned that it was the Hospital Sergeant, and he tells me there were over a hundred in the same situation that I was. After I came to a realizing sense of my situation, I threw away my blankets and tried to regain my feet, which I finally succeeded in doing, and started at a slow pace for the battle-ground. I passed several deserted (concealed) batteries, from which our troops had just drove the Rebels, and arriving upon a small hill, I had a distinct view of the grounds. Below was a small valley, from which the Rebels had but a few moment before retreated to another but a short distance. I passed to the opposite hill, looking for our Regiment, but could hear nothing from it until the retreat commenced, when I met one of the w[?]ers, who told me the Regiment was badly cut to pieces. Several Regiments passed me on their retreat, before I saw any of the boys from our Regiment. But at last I found one who told me the position of our brigade, which I immediately started for. I could not get much further, however, as the retreat had become general, and troops, artillery, and baggage wagons were rushing in all directions – Up to this moment I supposed victory was complete, and our troops were fast driving the enemy towards Manassas. But the truth was far from it. The Rebels had just received reinforcements, and were making a desperate charge upon us, which our forces, having been engaged a long time and being nearly exhausted, could not stand. I will not give a description of the retreat, as you probably have already as good an idea of it as I could give you, but suffice it to say, there was one general stampede. During our retreat we were cut off once near Bull run, where there was a small battery which opened upon us with some effect, but was soon silenced by a reserve of our troops who were [?] in the vicinity. The Rebel cavalry made a charge upon is at this point, but were met by ours, and out of eighty, only eight or ten succeeded in escaping our fire. I was in a small ravine through which all of our troops had to pass, and which was completely blocked up by the baggage and ammunition wagons. When the last attack was made, I had just passed one of the wagons to which there was two horses attached, when a shell burst near the wagon, which frightened the horses, and they, coming against me, knocked me down, when the horses, wagon and all passed over me. Three men were killed near, by the shell; one of them fell by my side. One musket ball passed through my pants, near the right ancle, and another hit my sword belt near my left hip.

We retreated to our old camp, from which we started in the morning, and should have made a stand there, but it seemed to me that the officers were more frightened than the troops, though I suppose they expected there would be an advance of the Rebels on Washington. We had stopped only a few moments, when the order came to march to Washington, which we did, arriving in Alexandria the next morning, making a march of over fifty miles in a little over twenty-four hours.

The Barre boys that were in the engagement were Strong, Jones, Beckley, Goodrich and Camp, who displayed wonderful coolness, taking deliberate aim. They receive especial praise from the officers. Willey was sick with the measles, and was left with several others at the hospital at Centreville. Smith was just getting over the measles, and was with the baggage team, but came very near being taken prisoner.

Our loss in the whole division is said to be about 500 or 600, but we cannot tell yet, as stragglers arrive every day. There has been an estimate of the loss in our Regiment made which will not exceed 40 killed. From our Company there are 4 missing, but we think they are only taken prisoners. I am informed from a reliable source that our Colonel was not near his command. He paraded his Regiment and retired to a large tree, and watched the proceedings. He has been branded as a coward in Washington, and probably will be in the papers over the signature of Col. Bowdish** of Vermont. The other Regimental officers conducted themselves in a manner which reflects credit upon them.

Troops are rushing into this vicinity by thousands, and the Departments are adopting the most vigorous measures for a thorough re-organization of our army, when I think there will be a desperate move, although I do not think we shall be called upon.

E. A. T.***

[Montpelier VT] Christian Messenger, 8/7/1861

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Contributed by John J. Hennessy

*Company D was raised in Waterbury

**Possibly I. B. Bodish, a leading Democrat of Burlington, VT See Vermont in the Civil War 

**Initials E. A. T. in Co. D correspond with Sgt. Eldon A. Tilden

Eldon A. Tilden bio 

Eldon A. Tilden at Fold3 





Pvt. George L. Smith, Co. C, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle

20 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.
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[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

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Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Brother: Fearing that you might hear a report of my being killed in the disastrous action of the 21st, I take this method of informing you and other friends that I am alive, and by the intervention of Providence, untouched – I have experienced a new sensation lately – that of hearing the rush of shot and shell, and of seeing friends and companions in arms falling by my side in the cold embrace of glorious death. We were driven – routed – but not until the ground was covered with the slain. We were not disheartened. We hope to regain and will regain our position, or die in the attempt. I can give no certain account of our loss, as we retired in disorder. Probably 100 killed outright and 250 wounded in this Regiment alone. Our wounded will, I fear be killed at last. I have heard that the house used as a hospital was burned and all killed. The enemy were in a strong force, and after the charge was made they had batteries which could not be seen until they opened fire, and then only by the smoke. We were rushed up in disorder to a masked battery, with a large number of the enemy in a concealed trench. We discovered them before they fired, but our officers refused to let us fire, because they said they were friends, but they fired, and many a gallant heart ceased beating. We dropped on the ground and fired, reloaded and fired, and kept firing. We were repulsed, and returned again; again separated and again rallied on our colors, which we brought with us from the field.

In our Company, C, the color Co., we lost about 25 killed, our Captain wounded, 2d Lieut. do, 3 Sergeants killed, or missing, and some 6 others slightly scratched. I was loading the 5th time, when a ball passed between my fingers, taking my ramrod from my hand, leaving me with a useless gun, until I could pick up another ramrod. I got one, but it was too large at the large end, and I had to load with the small end. Well, I gave them about 14 rounds, and then left with a mixed crowd of Fire Zouaves, Minnessota, and Massachusetts troops, Garibaldi Guards and U. S. Regulars.

They killed our wounded on the field, and we understand they killed all in our hospitals, They were in strong force, – and were reinforced by 10,000 men, just as we were marched on to them. * * * Please write, and send papers, and have others do so, for we are much pleased to get them in camp. Direct to Co. C, 1st Regiment Minnesota Volunteers, Washington, D. C.

Yours, &c.,

Geo. L. Smith

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

George L. Smith bio 

George L. Smith at Fold3





Pvt. Benjamin Franklin Spencer, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

19 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.
———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Father: It is with a feeling of the deepest sadness that I seat myself to write these few lines to you. Sunday last is a day that will for long be remembered by me and thousands of others. It was this day we had the fight at Bull Run. This place is in the hands of the rebels. We were marched out to the battle field about 10 o’clock in the morning, and the battle lasted until 4 in the afternoon. We were to have 60,000 men and had only 18,000. The rebels had [?]0,000 men. We fought till the order to retreat was given, then we retreated and left the field, much to our regret, to the rebels. In the first place we were in no order to fight. Most of our troops were tired completely out. Some of them marched 20 miles before we got there. Our regiment marched from 2 o’clock the night before till 10 the next day, and the last 2 miles we run. We were very tired, but not scared. Sufice it to say we were whipped, or drove back.

I will try to give you a list of the names of the wounded and dead in our company, for that is as far as I can go. I fear Bill Spencer is among the lost. William Henry Parker, is dead. Sam’l Estabrooks is dead.

The ensign of our company, his name is Parks, was shot through the heart by a Minnie rifle ball. O[?] M[?]awley was hit by a cannon ball in the foot. Probably he bled to death. Our Colonel was badly wounded in the thigh. It was broken twice; they think he will recover. I hope he will, for he is as fine a man as ever lived in the world. One Charles Fairchilds killed. Nelson came very near being killed by a grape shot. It just missed his arm and that is all. All of the wounded that were left on the field the rebels came out and killed, running their bayonets through them. Napoleon Elliott had the seat of his breeches shot off. He turned around to lead, and a cannon ball took of his breeches as clean across the right hip as it could be done with the shears. Out of 94 men in our company only 35 are gone. Some companies can’t count 40 men. We are those alive in Camp Anderson. After the fight they followed us most to Washington. Just think of marching 40 miles in about 18 hours, and being chased by some four times our number. What are alive are in Washington. I got hit in my thigh by a spent ball, not to hurt me very much, but it is very lame.

Your son,

Franklin Spencer

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Benjamin Franklin Spencer roster bio 

Benjamin Franklin Spencer at Fold3 





Pvt. Frederick Fowler, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

17 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.
———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Brother: Last Sunday was a day which I shall long remember, as will many others. We were marched to the place called Bull Run, where we fired into them and they at us as hard as they could, but they had such an advantage that they cut out troops all to pieces, and we retreated, they firing into us. We got back to a hill and laid down, and then we got up and went at them again. They were too much for us, for they drove us off the ground. Out of the regiment I am in there are 300 and over killed. The Colonel was shot but not killed. All the boys that went from Coventry have got back, but I don’t think there are any of them but what got hit somewheres. Pole Elliott got his pants most all shot off of him, and others were hit, but not bad enough to lay them up. I think the next battle will be at Arlington Heights but it is hard telling. * * * They have got more men than any one tho’t of, and they have got to be taken in a different shape. I don’t think our company will see any more action very soon, as it is badly cut up. I think it will be kept as a guard in camp. * *

* * It was the hardest fight ever fought in this country. No one knows how many were killed on either side, but I hope there is as many of them as of ours, for after the Doctors had dressed the wounds of our men and taken them to the hospitals, they came up and killed them all. That is enough to show what the devils will do.

Truly Yours,

Frederick Fowler

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Frederick Fowler roster bio 

Fredercik Fowler at Fold3 





Pvt. Charles N. Elliott, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

16 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.
———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Camp Anderson,
Washington, July 27, 1861.

Dear Friend James: Yours of the 24th was duly received and perused with pleasure. You stated that you was feeling discouraged, on account of the defeat of our forces on Sunday last, near Manassas; and you state that we lost some 3000 men. This is not so, for according to the last report, we only lost some 1300 in killed, missing and wounded. It is true we lost some arms in the action, but they have been recovered since, and the ammunition lost was rendered useless by the rain. There are 91 missing and killed in my Regiment. * * * The 27th Union Regiment was one of the first to take part in the battle. We were on the field from 10 A. M. to 4 P. M., doing our part I will assure you. Although we were very tired when we got there, having made a march of some fifteen miles without any rest, and going some of the way in double quick time, we were ordered to take the right of the batteries; to get there we were exposed to a galling fire from the enemy’s batteries, throwing shells and balls through our ranks at a great rate. For the first introduction, one ball from a cannon passed so close to my head that it staggered me. * * After we gained the right of the batteries, we advanced on them and met a body of them in a hollow, secreted by a stone house and a piece of woods. – They had a battery on the hill. They threw grape and shell at us, but we dove them from there about a mile. – They had planted their batteries on a hill so they could play on us from three positions, and the men made another stand. They ran up the American colors and sent a man to us stating that they would lay down arms. We then advanced toward them, and when near them they fired on us, mowing our men down on all sides. Of course we were all confusion, each man for himself, but we stood our ground, and they retreated again, but poured such a raking fire on us, and no Regiment coming to our relief, Col. Slocum ordered us to retreat. In the meantime I had got ahead of the rest, and took my station behind a large tree which sheltered me from their fire. I saw one of them stick his head around a hay-cock. I told him to come out or I would shoot him. He did not comply, but said “don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” but I had my gun to my eye, and when he showed his head I shot and took him in the head. He jumped about two feet high, uttered an awful groan, then fell, the blood gushing from his head in a stream. He was the poor sneak that said they would surrender, He got his due. I saw another off skulking in the grass. I shot him, and then I saw for the first time that the Regiment had left, so I turned and run to the best of my ability, and they poured a whole volley at me, putting three holes thro’ my pants, and cutting off a part of the seat of my trowsers as clean as if done with a pair of shears. My gun was struck by a ball, the stock part of it taken off and it was knocked clear from my hands, but I got another on the ground and brought it through with me. Our haversacks, containing our food, were all thrown off at the commencement of the action.

Sometimes it would seem as if the day was ours, but about 4 P. M., orders came to retreat, and we started and did not rest until we reached Washington, a distance of 47 miles. All I ate in the meantime was 4 crackers. The worst of all was the leaving of the wounded at the mercy of the enemy, as they would come along and thrust a bayonet through them; and the house where we carried the sounded was blown up by the rebels.

I was among the wounded, where of all the sights one ever saw, that beat all. Lead me up to a masked battery, face to face with the enemy, but deliver me from another such place as that. Those groans still ring in my ears, and always will. As you pass along you will see on just gasping for breath, another crying for water, another begging for you to blow his brains out, and put him out of his misery. Some have their limbs blown off, others part of their faces off, then you will pass by one already in the cold embrace of death. You may read but you cannot imagine a thing about it. You sent me a paper containing Dickinson’s speech, and I like it very much, and am glad you sent it to me and you state you sill send me money if I want it. To be sure it is hard for us to get hold of a cent now until the Government pays us what is our due, and we fare hard, but I return my thanks to you for offering such kindness, though I will not ask so much of you. If you want to come here tell C—– that you want the password, and be careful to hold your oats. * *

Your friend,

Chas N. Elliott

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Charles N. Elliott roster bio 

Charles N. Elliott at Fold3 





Pvt. Charles Winters, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

15 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.

———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Washington, July 23, 1861.

* * * The last time I wrote to you I believe I was in Fairfax C. H., near Centerville. Since then I have witnesses as terrible and bloody a battle as American history can boast of. We were routed up Sunday morning at two o’clock and marched towards Bull’s Run, a distance of about fifteen miles, where we arrived at twelve o’clock. The battle immediately commenced by cannonading on both sides. But this was too slow work, and we were marched up in musket distance. The first regiment we met we were going to fire into, but they told us not to fire into our own men, so we shouldered our muskets and had hardly done so when they poured into us with a whole volley of musketry, cutting down several of our men. They use all manner of stratagem, which was very effectual at first. They would send out little squads of men to get our men to chase them, and as soon as we got near enough, there would a whole regiment rise from behind some embankment and pour into us. Some would hoist the Stars and Stripes to make us think they were Union men. But these things finally played out. One regiment of cavalry tried to play this game on the New York Fire Zouaves. They allowed themselves to be fooled till a good opportunity presented itself, when they poured in upon them cutting them all to pieces. The report is that there were but six left. Bully for the New York boys – The rebels were very strongly fortified. They had embankments all around them, and a thick wood behind them where they could retreat and be in perfect safety. In short they had every advantage, but we made them retreat once and should have probably gained the day had they not been reinforced by a brigade from S. C. This was worse than we could stand so we had to retreat. They gained the day, but whether they gain the morrow is another thing. They have got to be routed out of there and Manassas Junction, their cake is dough*. There only hope of salvation is to keep these two places.

I never should or never could have suspected a people reared as they have been under the blessings of Christianity and civilization, to be possessed of such inhuman cruelty. I have often shuddered, and had my blood run cold when reading of the [?] of Indian wars, but I don’t know as I ever read of anything more cruel than to deliberately pull wounded men out of the wagons and cut their throats. I did not see this done, but there are boys in our company that did. Every wounded man they came across on the battle field, they would either cut his throat or run him through with the bayonet.

Our retreat march, before we could get in any kind of safety, was back to our old camp fifteen miles, and in this the rebel cavalry tried to outflank us, and they came very near doing so – Some ten or twelve of us stopped at a mudpuddle to get a drink, when we heard a great noise. On looking up to ascertain the cause we saw the rebel cavalry coming down a lane at right angles with the path we had to take. The boys scattered in every direction. I stopped half a second to see what to do, and finally ran for the woods. We came to a creek about the time the rebels got to a bridge where the creek crosses the main road. Our only chance was to jump in and wade through which we did in double quick time. They fired at us as we were crossing but did not hit us. After we had crossed, all the boys but myself ran for the woods. I suspected that part of the rebels had gone that way so I kept along the edge – Three or four balls were fired at me but without effect. We finally got to our camps where we stayed about two hours, when we were ordered to march, for it was not safe for us there. We came back to Washington where we arrived last night at four P. M., making almost forty eight hours without sleep, nothing to eat but sea crackers, a march of sixty miles, and a battle of five or six hours, You may judge for yourselves whether we were tired or not.

Charles Winters.

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*”Their cake is hoe” – One’s actions have failed or not led to the desired outcome. The phrase appears in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

Charles Winters roster bio 

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