G. S. A., Co, C, 3rd Maine Infantry, On Capt. W. E. Jarvis in the Battle

7 02 2020

Letter from the Third Maine Regiment.

We received, after our paper was ready for the press, a letter from a reliable source in the 3d Maine Regiment. We make room for the later and more important portion, omitting much that we would cheerfully have published, if received in season.

Clermont Place, Fairfax Co., Va.
Aug. 3d, 1861.

I wrote an account of the battle soon after the return of the regiment to Alexandria – but finding that your correspondent “Litchfield” had already sent an account of the battle, I threw my letter into the tent, and there it would have remained, had it not been for some of the iliesi that came back to us from Gardiner. In some of the letters that came to us to-night, from home, it is said that the report was current in Gardiner that Capt. Jarvis was not on the battle-field, and that he was in so great haste to get back to Alexandria, he run his horse over the retreating soldiers. So far as Capt. Jarvis himself is concerned, he needs no bolstering up by newspaper correspondents, but his friends “down East” may want to know the facts.

On that day, Capt. Jarvis acted as Lt. Col. of the 3d regiment, and I wish it understood at home, that if there is any man in the regiment who is always at his post, that man is Captain Jarvis. He was among the first on the field, and remained there until long after the flag was carried off. During the fight he was perfectly calm and always at his post.

In regard to running over men with his horse – I can dispose of that “double-quick” – Capt. Jarvis walked all the way to Manassas, all the way back to Alexandria. One thing is plain, the man who made the statement is either of the number, liars – or of that number who were unable to get on the field, and consequently did not know who was.

Capt. Jarvis stops in the tent of Co. C and is in good health and spirits, and one of the few officers of the regiment who asks no furlough to go home. He remarked to me yesterday, that he had rather lay his bones beneath the soil of old Virginia, than go home without whipping out secession. Capt. Jarvis can stand on his own bottom.

Wm. H. Peacock of West Gardiner, a member of Co. C, died yesterday in the hospital at Washington. He was one of our best soldiers – a man always ready to do his duty.

Rev. H. C. Leonard, our new chaplain, arrived Wednesday, and makes quite a favorable impression with the men. He lives on soldiers’ rations, and with his gray flannel shirt and plain clothes, he makes not a bad looking soldier.

Gardiner should raise another company for the war. They have all the material; but none are wanted unless they are able to endure some hardship, and live on soldiers rations. The least they can do is, to send twenty men, to fill the places of those unable to do duty in the companies at the seat of war.

All the rubber blankets presented to us by the citizens of Gardiner, were lost at Bull’s Run. They were left at Fairfax, and stolen by the negroes. We miss them much, as the men are obliged to sleep on the ground.

The citizens of Bath are going to send new ones to the two companies from that city – (Think the Gardiner folks will take the hint?)

Peaches, blackberries, tomatoes, and all kinds of fruit, are very plenty, and can be bought for almost nothing, from the negroes who come around our camp. The slaves in this part of the country live high this season. Their masters having gone to the war, they make free to sell whatever is wanted to the soldiers – and pocket the money.

Bye the by, the best joke of the season, was Beauregard’s order to his men. “Don’t shoot the officers, if you do they will get better ones.”

“Litchfield” will be at his post next week. He has been on special duty this week.

G. S. A.

Gardiner (ME) Home Journal, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

“A,” Co. I, 2nd Wisconsin, On the March, Blackburn’s Ford, Battle, and Retreat

7 02 2020

Letter from the Second Regiment.

Fort Corcoran, July 29, 1861

Messrs. Bliss & Son: I have delayed writing you anything in relation to the great battle, and great defeat as it is called, at Bull’s Run, supposing, in the first place, that some one else had written you, being desirous of getting information of the whereabouts of several members of our company who were missing. The full account with particulars you will find in the newspapers, most of which are nearly true. But there are many omissions of importance. For instance, in your paper of the 23rd, which we just received to-nigh, the 2nd Wisconsin is not mentioned as being in the fight at all. Now, the truth is, we were in both battles at Bull’s Run, on the 18th and 21st. But we did not spend $50.00 to hire reporters to blazon our deeds to the country through a venal press; and what is more, our officers actually refused to pay the $50.00 for doing so in one particular case.

I can only give you a condensed narration of our part in the proceedings,

“— quorum magna pars fui,” *

as I would say, had I the vanity of AEneas, when he told his story to the confiding ear of Dido.

We left our camp near this place on Tuesday, the 16th, in the afternoon, with three days’ rations in our haversacks and with no baggage except our blankets, which were strapped over our shoulders. We marched some fifteen miles and camped at Vienna, where the Ohio boys were attacked in the cars from a masked battery some weeks ago. Starting at daylight next morning we resumed the march, passing through Germantown, where we drew up for a fight, but one or two shots from our cannon sent the enemy flying in double quick time. Here we found batteries just deserted, and quite a quantity of provisions. The batteries, I must say, like most we encountered on the road as far as Centreville, seemed more to have been built to scare us than to injure us. The roads, however, were obstructed with fallen timber, which delayed us very much in removing. Here in Germantown, to the discredit of some of our troops, one or two houses were set on fire and consumed. We pushed on from here until within a short distance of Centreville, when we camped, and the boys had a taste of secession mutton, chicken, etc. The scene on the march, though tiresome, was gay. As far ahead and back as the eye could reach the road was crowded with men, horses, baggage wagons and artillery. It seemed the march of an army to certain victory.

We lay in this camp until 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning, when we heard the booming of cannon in advance on our left. This was Gen. Tyler’s first introduction to the masked batteries of the rebels. About four o’clock a courier came riding up, his horse covered in foam, with orders for Col. Sherman to advance immediately with his brigade, to which we were attached. Of course we lost no time, and in a few minutes were on the march, and soon arrived on the ground above the battery, and were drawn up in line in the woods. The balls from the rifled guns of the rebels flew around and over us lively, crushing trees in their path and killing one of our men and wounding two others. Finding it impossible to dislodge the enemy without great loss of life, we were ordered to return to a camp about a mile in advance of Centreville, on the main road. Our boys had shown their courage and coolness under fire without returning it, and were highly complimented by Col. Sherman. We met while going down to the attack the 12th New York and 2d Massachusetts, puffing and blowing, saying they were all cut to pieces and had left at least half of their regiments on the field. Their fear lent wings to their fancy; the whole loss of all engaged being only some forty killed, but many scattered. There was no reason to complain of the Miners’ Guards, – all being ready to “go in” and take a hand, and only dodging the balls which passed over our heads.

We now remained in camp quietly awaiting reinforcements until Saturday evening, when we received orders to prepare two days’ rations and to be ready to start at 2 o’clock the next morning. At this time every man was ready, his haversack filled with hard bread and cold tongue, and silently as possible we took up our line of march, over a hilly and timbered county. On the way we encountered several of the “contraband” whose masters had deserted their homes, having been impressed into the rebel army. They said that the slaves were kept quiet by the story that the Northern men only wanted to get them to sell in Cuba. They did not all believe the story, however. They gave us correct information in reference to the rebel batteries, as subsequent events proved.

Of the first attack by the left wing, and of the flanking movement of the right wing, I have not time to speak. We were in the center, and from the position we occupied could tell by the dust and smoke the progress of the other divisions. At first, although, after we were drawn into a line on the edge of the wood, we could see a large extent of the country, where not a man could be seen, and it was only after our artillery began to play with thin[?] shells and cannister shot that the men began to swarm out of their hollows, all of which were densely crowded.

About 10 o’clock, after the left wing had taken the first masked battery, and Hunter and Heintzelman had made their attack on the right flank of the enemy, we were ordered to advance, which we did in double-quick time; and after fording a stream and climbing a precipitous bluff, we formed in line of battle. The first sight that met our eyes was the enemy retreating before the gallant charge of the New York 71st, who were slaying them like sheep. The slaughter was awful. But we had no time to lose. We advanced over a rise of ground and found ourselves directly in front of the rebel batteries on the opposite ridge. We marched forward under this fire until we reached a hollow, when we were partially protected from their shot, but not from their shell. A piece from one dented my word, and others hit several of the men, but nobody was killed. We were soon ordered to cross a muddy stream and charge up the hill in the direction of one of the rebel batteries. This was gallantly done, and the regiment drawn up in a road, flanking the enemy. The Fire Zouaves were fighting gallantly on our right. Our men now went to work with a will, and stood under the direct fire of a strong body of infantry for more than an hour, and fought with a spirit and determination which was much admired by their neighbors, the Zouaves, who cheered the Wisconsin boys, and several of them afterward remarked that the Zouaves themselves did no better fighting.

A constant fire was kept up, only interrupted for an instant by the cry of some traitor in the camp, “Don’t shoot your friends!” The hoisting of the stars and stripes by the rebels deceived many until the delusion was dispelled by a volley of musketry. Soon a movement was discovered on our right which proved to be a reinforcement of fresh troops from Manassas. Up to this time the victory was with us. The enemy were giving away in every direction, and had lost several of their best batteries. We were now ordered to fall back for the purpose of reforming our line and renewing the attack, and at the same time evading the flank fire. We had now had over twenty men killed and some sixty wounded. The regiment fell back to the opposite ridge, and under the fire from the battery was thrown into some confusion, like all the others on the field. But the order was given to fall in, and a large number was collected around the flag under one of the regimental officers, who conducted them down the hill where the panic had commenced, and then without any officer they made their way with the crowd in the wake of the “glorious 69th” to Centreville. Near here the regiment was re-organized by several of the company officers, and marched in obedience to orders from Gen. McDowell to camp at this place, – a tedious march of thirty-five miles, after fighting and marching from 2 o’clock in the morning. We did not arrive here till 10 a. m. on Monday morning., having rested only two hours at Fairfax. Thousands were in camp before us. What caused the panic, I do not know. The newspapers may tell. I think it was a want of officers to rally the men. It certainly was not a want of courage in the men, for they had shown the contrary; it certainly was a want of organization that caused a disastrous retreat, after having at one time gained a glorious victory.

The loss of the Miners; Guards was small compared with that in two or three other companies. This was owing to the fact that Lt. Bishop was detailed, just as we started to make the charge, with thirty men, to assist in manning and putting in position the big thirty-two pound Parrot gun, and who found it impossible to rejoin the company under the raking fire to which they would have been exposed. They did good service, however, where they were.

William Owens, of Dodgeville, was killed by a shot through the head; Lieut. LaFleiche was wounded by a shot in the shoulder; Lieut. Bishop was injured internally by his exertions; Philip Lawrence was wounded by a shot in the breast; Emile Peterson was wounded by a shot in the hip; Christian Kessler was also wounded, and is yet among the missing. James Gregory, George W. Dilley and Walter P. Smith have not been heard from, and are probably taken prisoners, as they were well when last seen. They are brave boys, and we hope to see them again soon. The wounded are all doing well and will soon recover.

Of course, the boys were tired, and the more so that they stood around the whole of Monday, in the rain, waiting for accommodations at the Fort. They are recruiting rapidly now, though quite a number are unwell. They will go into the next fight with more coolness, but not with more courage. They fought like old soldiers, and won the praise of all spectators, hundreds of whom were looking on.

I neglected to mention the fact, that, soon after crossing Bull’s Run, on the retreat, the cavalry charged on the regimental colors. The Wisconsin boys rallied around and drive back the cavalry after emptying eight or ten saddles. The colors were not afterward disturbed.

We are now encamped within the walls of Fort Corcoran, ready to assist in the defense of the capital, which lies constantly in sight. How long we shall remain here we do not know. We hope to do our duty wherever we are, and to have a share in the good work of delivering our country from the conspirators who are seeking its destruction.

Hoping to have leisure to continue this brief correspondence, I must retire to my wearied pillow, as the snores of my companions remind me it is high time.


Mineral Point (WI) Weekly Tribune, 8/6/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* Translated “In which I played a great part.”

Pvt. Mattison C. Sanborn, Co. A, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, On the March and Battle

31 01 2020

Letters from the Army.

The following letter from a member of Company A, 2d N. H. Regiment, to his father, Dr. Caleb Danborn, of South Berwick, had been furnished us for publication:

Camp Sullivan, Washington, July 24th.

Dear Father, – Last Tuesday we left Washington with our Brigade, under command of Gen. Burnside, to join our Division, under Gen. McDowell, at Fairfax Court House. We arrived there at 11 o’clock, Thursday morning, the rebels retreating before us towards Manassas Junction. In their camp they left guns, ammunition, provisions, blankets and tents. They blocked up the road by falling the trees and piling up fences.

Our pioneers cleared the obstructions out of the roads, and the army consisting of about 19,000 men, proceeded about 4 miles from Fairfax Court House, where the flag of the 2nd N. H. Regiment floated in place of the Confederate Flag, and encamped there Friday night and Saturday and Sunday until 2 o’clock in the morning. Then the advance of the army commenced and we advanced near 18 miles from our previous encampment, and engaged the enemy at Blue Ridge, near 3 miles from Manassas Junction. By that time we had about 25,00 men in the field and the battle began in real earnest, and the bullets rained about us like hail. The cannon balls and shells of the enemy did great execution. Sherman’s and the R. I. battery played powerfully upon the enemy and once silenced their batteries. Then they displayed a flag of truce, which proved only to cause a delay so that reinforcements might come for them, and General James came from Manassas Junction with 13,000 for the rebels. The Ellsworth Zouaves made a noble charge upon the rebel cavalry and routed them. We were ignorant of the forces of the enemy and their position. There were so many of our artillery men shot that it was difficult to man the guns, our ammunition gave out and we then retreated. The enemy had at least 126,000 men engaged and we no mote at any time than 40,000. Col. Marston was shot by a cannon ball in the shoulder, but he is doing well. As soon as his wound was dressed he mounted his horse and being led on the battlefield by one of the boys he made a speech and told us to defend the Stars and Stripes at all hazards and to remember New Hampshire. Capt. Rollins was hit by a musket ball in the shoulder, and is getting along finely.

The cursed rebels bayoneted our men we left on the field. In our company 2 are killed 3 missing and 3 wounded.

We had a pretty hard journey, we marched 18 miles to the battle field, fought from 11 o’clock, till 4 then retreated, 56 miles without resting an hour at a time.

The enemy are now this side of Centreville, about 36 miles from Washington.

When we move on we shall sweep every thing before us, for we shall have an army of 75,000 or 100,000 men, and artillery enough.

Several pieces of the R. I. guns were spiked by the boys. All the rest our men had safe. Sherman’s battery came in to Washington complete with only one man killed.

The cry of the Ellsworth Zouaves every time one of their men was shot was Ellsworth, and then they rushed on like tigers.

When we first heard the whizzing of the balls we felt a little ticklish, but after we saw our friends fall by our side we feared neither man not the devil.

Our Regiment conducted bravely and left the field with colors flying. Give my love to mother and all my friends, and tell them I’ve killed one rebel sure.

M. C. Sanborn

Dover (NH) Enquirer, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Mattison Sanborn at Ancestry.com 

Mattison Sanborn at Fold3

AKA Mattson C. Sanborn – Bio sketch – Sanborn later was an officer in the 20th Maine Infantry

Mattson Caleb Sanborn at Ancestry.com

Mattson Caleb Sanborn at Fold3

Mattson Caleb Sanborn at Findagrave.com 

Lieut. Warren H. Parmenter, Co. D, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

29 01 2020

The following is an extract of a letter from Lieut. Parmenter of the Dover Company, to a friend in this city:

Washington, July 24th, 1861

I suppose by this time you have heard all about the great battle at Manassas, but you must not believe more than half you read. We received orders Saturday night to get ready to march at 2 o’clock and we started and traveled until 10 o’clock, and the first thing we knew of the rebels was a volley of musketry and a discharge of grape and canister. We were then drawn up in a line and such a shower of bullets you never read about as we received, and we returned them as fast as we could. At that time our Colonel was shot in the shoulder, and a great number of soldiers, but very few badly hurt. This was the first volley that was fired at them. – We then move to the centre and gave them another pop, and fell back to give the big guns a chance, and they did a good deal of damage and drove them from their battery; but we had not force enough to back up our line and they came back and started the big guns on us again, and we went round to the left and came up in rake with their battery and rifles. I thought we were in a hornet’s nest to hear the bullets fly around my ears. We staid there about half an hour and then returned, but every other regiment had left before us, even the U. S. Cavalry, which were put there to cover our retreat. So you see we were the first on and the last off the field, and by that time a regular stampede had commenced. Away they went, pell mell, army wagons, private carriages, horses, infantry and artillery, all together. I started for the hospital where Capt. Rollins was, he being shot on the field sometime before. We got him and the Colonel into the ambulance and started for camp, two miles below Centreville; it was nearly dark. We came along several miles until we reached Bull’s Run, when they opened a masked battery on us. We left the ambulance and started again for camp, which we reached about ten o’clock, laid down about fifteen minutes, and then were ordered to Washington, which we reached Monday afternoon, having marched and fought nearly forty-eight hours with nothing to eat but pilot bread, so hard that it was almost impossible to eat it, and nothing to drink but water we got from the puddles along the road side. We lost from our regiment, killed and wounded, about 40 men. There is missing from our Company, six, but I am in hopes some of them will come in yet.

Dover (NH) Enquirer, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Warren H. Parmenter at Ancestry.com 

Warren H. Parmenter at Fold3

Image: Pvt. Ezra C. Goodwin, Co. D, 2nd New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry

22 01 2020

From FindAGrave.com. Publication source not known.

Pvt. Ezra C. Goodwin*, Co. D, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, On the March, Battle, and Retreat

21 01 2020

We have been furnished for publication with the following interesting letter which was received in this city on Friday last, from one of our Dover Boys, Co. D, 2d Regiment.

Washington, July 15th [sic]

Dear Father and Mother: – I will improve the few leisure moments I have in writing to you, to give you an account of one of the most bloody battles ever fought on this continent. We left out camp at Washington one week ago to-day, in Col. Burnside’s Brigade, and marched to Fairfax Court House, where we arrived at 12 o’clock the next day. We stayed until 7, the next morning, when we left for Centreville. We had not gone more than one mile, when we received orders to wait for orders from General McDowell. We stayed there until five o’clock in the afternoon and then marched within 1 ½ miles of Centreville, where we remained until Sunday morning, 2 o’clock. Then we left for Bull’s Run, and followed the road to Bull’s Run Bridge, where we went into a piece of woods, in order to come up in the enemy’s rear, supposing that General Patterson would come up in their front. We came up to their batteries about 12 o’clock, having marched ten hours without food or water, and tired most to death. Our artillery being ahead, commenced the fight. Our regiment was ordered to support the R. I. battery, and we marched to the right of it. We were exposed to the fire of two batteries, and from six to seven thousand men. They commenced firing at us, with cannon and musket balls, but, we soon stopped their fun. When we commenced firing at them, they began to run for the woods. We drove them two miles, when they were reinforced by 30,000 men, which was more than we had, they having three to our one. But they could never have driven us back, if it had not been for their masked batteries, and the woods, which were alive with the rebels. We had to charge up a steep hill, with not a thing to cover us, while they were on the top of the hill in the thick woods, and behind earthworks.

I was in the engagement four hours, and only got my head grazed by a musket ball; it just brought blood. When we got back to Bull’s Run Bridge, their cavalry and flying artillery had cut us off, and they thought they had a sure thing on us; but they got much mistaken. One old nigger, came up to me and said “Lay down your arms,” I drew my pistol and put a ball through his head, and he laid down his arms, in double quick time. A cannon ball cut my gun off four inches over my head. Out of 300 that attacked us, not over 12 returned. I had to buy my food on the road or starve. I must now close my letter, and will give you more particulars next time.

E. C. G.

Dover (NH) Enquirer, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* Ezra C. Goodwin is the only E. C. G. in Co. D found in this roster.

Ezra C. Goodwin at Fold3

Ezra C. Goodwin at Findagrave.com 

Typo, Co. B, 5th Maine Volunteer Infantry, On the Battle

20 01 2020


Alexandria, Va., July 25th, 1862

Mr. Cowan – Sir: – The events of the last few days seem more like a gloomy dream than a reality. Only a few days since a splendid and well-appointed army left the vicinity of this place with light hearts and light footsteps, convinced that their cause was right – confident that the right would conquer – to-day, the men composing that army (some, tho’, lay stretched on the field of battle) are here – as an army they are gloomy and sad – as soldiers they are disgusted with the incapacity of some of those to whom their lives and honor were entrusted.

I do not know whether an account of the unfortunate engagement fought on Sunday last, of which this state of things is the result, will interest you.

The 5th Maine regiment left their camping-ground, 1 ½ miles from Centreville, at 2 o’clock on Sunday morning. No drum beat the reveille, but the men were quietly awakened and formed by companies with as little noise and confusion as possible. As soon as the ranks were formed, every man assured himself that his musket was properly loaded and capped, and that his equipments were all in order. – This done, each company formed a hollow square, for the purpose of receiving a few words of instruction and caution from the officers commanding them. The Biddeford company was this formed, and Capt. Goodwin, in a few brief words, impressed upon his men the necessity of maintaining their ranks intact, and of paying the strictest attention to every order given.

The command “forward” was soon given, and the 5th, preceded by the 4th Me. and followed by the 3d, took up the line of march for Centreville. The men were in good spirits, and full of pleasant anticipations of victory, and of a first rate time in Richmond. A march of 20 minutes brought us to the foot of the hill, upon which the dirty little collection of houses called Centreville is located, and here we were ordered to halt, in order to allow some regiments belonging to another division to pass to the front. We remained halted about an hour, then resumed our march. As we reached the top of the hill, and cast our eyes to the right, to the left, to our front, and to our rear, it was impossible not to be forcibly impressed with the grandeur of the scene around us. – The country, so far as the eye could reach, appeared literally covered with troops, dressed in every imaginable variety of uniforms, from the bright, glossy colors of the zouaves to the somber gray of the volunteers; while the incessant glittering and flashing of thousands and thousands of bayonets and sabres in the morning sunbeams, was perfectly dazzling. It was a sight calculated to inspire every heart with confidence, and out troops must not be too much blamed for anticipating an easy victory. It is not to be wondered at that the men who saw those columns advancing with the steadiness of veterans, should feel confident that the sun, just then rising in the East, would set with the stars and stripes waving from the rebel entrenchments. They did not know they had no General.

On our way through Centreville we passed the building used as a hospital for those wounded in the engagement of the Thursday previous. Many of the poor fellows were at the doors and windows; their pale, wan faces looking bright in anticipation of (as they believed) the splendid victory to be achieved that day. – “We should like to be with you,” said one, “but – “ and as he uttered the last word, he glanced down at his leg which had been shattered by a grape shot.

Passing a short distance beyond the village, the troops filed to the left. Our brigade proceeded about 2 ½ miles down the road, when the word “halt” was given, and the men received permission to fall out and rest under the shade of the trees which skirted the roadside. We were then in front of the enemy’s position, and about half a mile from them. We had remained here, some three-quarters of an hour, when the report of a cannon towards the front told us that the ball had been opened. It was soon followed by another – and another. – In half an hour the cannonading had become general, and the stillness of the Sabbath forenoon was broken by the booming of the heavy guns – the dull explosion of the shells, and the rattling of musketry. Our brigade soon became impatient, and cries such as “What are they stopping for?” “Why don’t they move us on?” was heard on all sides. Some of our mounted officers rode to the front, among them Major Hamilton of the 5th. He soon returned, and stated that he had seen our mortars plant three shells in the midst of the “devils,” at the same time expressing his belief that our artillery was “using them up” rapidly. Shortly after a mounted negro came from the direction of the front. His mouth was distended with the broadest of grins, as he yelled that the seccessionsists had run up a flag of truce. From that time our men made up their minds there was not fighting for them. All they would have to do would be to pursue the rebels at the close of the fight, and secure the prisoners; and this impression was uppermost in the minds of the men composing the brigade, until their arrival, two hours afterwards, upon the field of battle, in rear of enemy’s position. There, they found, unfortunately, that the prisoners were likely to be made on the wrong side.

We received orders at 10 ½ A. M. to proceed by a circuitous route in rear of the rebel position. In order to do this we had to traverse a distance of nine miles. This distance was accomplished in less than two hours. The day was intensely hot, the road was of the worst possible description, the troops were heavily laden with their arms, ammunition, equipments and blankets; they were worn out with want of sleep, and want of food, and out of the 900 men that commenced the march, only 150 were able at first to form in line of battle, and those more than half dead with fatigue.

We wish we could describe that march, but we can’t – it was perfectly indescribable. For the first four miles not a man fell out, though the dust almost choked us, and our tongues were parched with thirst; but when, on entering a field that had been recently plowed, the order “Double quick” was given for the third or fourth time, men who had struggled hard to keep up felt that they could do no more, and soon a long line of stragglers was seen in rear of the column, slowly dragging their weary bodies along, while many others lay gasping and fainting by the roadside. In vain our Adjutant exclaimed, “You’ll all be shot down like dogs.” In vain Col. Dunnell cried, “Not another man leave the ranks!” The voice of exhausted nature demanded rest. We left the ranks with one or two others, about two miles from the battle-field. After a tedious search, we found a thick mud puddle. No mine of gold, at the moment, could have more delighted our eyes. No fears of cholera morbus prevented us from drinking freely of the putrid, stagnant fluid. How it refreshed us! By its aid we were able to join the main body of the regiment about half a mile from the battlefield. The main body of the 5th then consisted of about 200 men ! the 4th probably had 300, and the 3d about the same number as the 5th.

As we neared the scene of action we were met by the remains of a Mass. Regiment which had just been severely handled by the seessionists. We asked them eagerly “How goes the battle?” They replied, for what reason we cannot tell, “the rebels are retreating. We have them whipped completely.” You should have heard the shout that went up from our too credulous brigade, “Onward! Onward! we heard on all sides, Onward, or we shall lose them.” All fatigue was forgotten, all other thoughts swallowed up in the desire to get one shot at the enemy before they could escape. But we were destined soon to be undeceived. An ambulance wagon, full of wounded and dying men, followed by another and another until the number swelled to twenty, making all haste to the rear, did not seem to us a very conclusive token of victory. As we emerged from the woods on our left which concealed us from the battle field, another disorderly squad of New Yorkers met us. Their faces were smeared with blood and blackened with gunpowder. There was an expression of sadness on their faces as they said, “Hurry up boys, they want you badly there.” Another moment and we were in the field. It is a hard thing to describe a battle-field. We saw a battery on our right and on our left and one in front, or rather we saw clouds of smoke and flashes of fire where those batteries were planted.

Thick volumes of smoke, flashes of fire, dead and wounded men, strewn thickly round, broken gun carriages, bullets singing and whistling in all directions, musketry rattling, cannons booming, shells bursting – this is what we saw and heard as we crossed the field towards the cover of a little wood, where we were to form for the attack. There was a little brook near the wood; several of us went there to drink, while the remainder rested for a few moments. We looked around us, as we have said, there was a battery on our right, on out left, and to our front, all playing with the greatest regularity and precision, while all of our troops in sight appeared to be disorganized and in confusion. For our artillery we looked in vain, that was in the hands of the rebels. We could not help coming to the conclusion that the battle was lost irretrievably.

We wondered what our task would be, whether they would lead our brigade of 800 or 900 against those almost invincible batteries, or whether they would suffer us to remain there until the enemy got our range and mowed us down like so much grass. We were glad when the command “5th fall in,” was given, for we were impatient to see what would be done next.

The regiment was formed in close column at half distance. Company B. had 32 men, and all its officers. Company F. we believe, had six men. Company B. was, by far, the strongest in the regiment. Almost as soon as we were formed, a tremendous rushing and crashing was heard in the woods on our left, and in an instant they appeared alive with men, belonging to several regiments. They were retiring in the utmost confusion. A cry arose, “It is the enemy retreating,” and in an instant a dozen men had left our ranks and sent as many bullets flying among them. Several fell. It was a sad mistake – a mistake too often made in this unhappy war. The retiring troops were the Ellsworth Zouaves and the Mass. 5th. “For God’s sake don’t fire upon your own men,” they cried. The firing ceased and we asked them why they fled. “We can do nothing with them,” said they. They passed to our rear; the secession troops following them, until they saw us, when they opened fire upon us, they, however, retreating to the cover of the bushes.

At this moment, a company of u. S. Cavalry retired in disorder, and their so doing occasioned a panic in our ranks. The 5th regiment, no, the colors of the 5th, flanked on either side by about 70 or 80 men, formed a line and commenced their advance through the woods. The balls flew thick, but the rebels committed the common mistake of firing high, hence our small loss. We traversed the wood and reached the open field beyond, there we expected to meet the enemy – no enemy was to be seen. The enemy had retired to a wood on the opposite side of the field, and from thence they sent numerous but ill-directed volleys (fortunately for us.) We halted in the middle of the field, and for fifteen minutes poured a continual storm of bullets into the woods, but of course we are utterly unable to estimate the effect of our shots. At length a battery of rifled cannon on our right having got in our range, it was thought best to retire; the order was given, and we retired, not in good order, nor in any particular order, but pell-mell, every man seeking his individual safety. When we reached the place where we had formed, we saw a sight which made us sick. Imagine five or six thousand men spread over a wide expanse of country in an inextricable state of confusion with dozens of shells and cannon balls flying in their midst; imagine four or five hundred men bleeding on the field, and you will have the last grand tableau of the battle of Bull Run. An account of the retreat in my next.

Yours, &c.


Biddeford (ME) Union & Journal, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy