Pvt. Green Berry Samuels, Co. F, 10th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

4 11 2015

Fairfax Station July 26th, 1861

My Dear Sister,

I wrote you such a hurried and confused letter the other day owing to the short time that was allowed me. Though I have concluded to write you another. I have been quite unwell the last few days but fortunately for now I am very comfortably quartered in my in my cousin’s tent and hope to be entirely well in a few days. No doubt you have heard by this time the full particulars of our splendid victory on last Sunday, but like all new soldiers I cannot help but say my say about it.

Colonel Elzey’s brigade of which I have the honor of being a member left Piedmont on the Manassas cars early in the morning and after landing at the Junction we ran some 5 miles to the field of battle and arrived just in time to change defeat into a glorious victory. We sustained 5 volleys of musketry within the small loss of 6 killed and 14 wounded in our regiment. The ground sheltered us and connected with our throwing ourselves flat on the ground no doubt saved many a gallant soldier’s life. I cannot describe my feelings as I came into battle and heard the shrill singing of the rifle cannon shell and the whistling of the Minnie balls. I was not afraid and I am proud to say that I think none in the company were frightened although many a pulse beat faster at the sight of death and the sound of the death dealing balls.

The hardest trial to one’s nerves is the sight of the wounded and the dead; in many cases the agony of the wounded was awful and their pitying cries for water heart-rending. As for the dead, some had died with their hands folded across their breasts with their eyes wide open looking up to Heaven with a sweet smile upon the face, some had evidently died in awful agony, with distorted faces, glaring eyes and clenched hands. I will write no more of this awful scene; it makes me sick to think of it. Would to God, Lincoln could have seen the horrors of last Sunday; we would have peace today instead of war. Our county, I understand, has lost some 20 killed, which has carried mourning into many a now fatherless home. Poor Milton Moore was engaged to be married; what must be the feelings of the young lady? The regiment to which your brother belongs, I believe, is stationed some three or four miles from Manassas; at least it was on the day of battle and the succeeding ones. I hope they will still be left at Manassas when we move on, so that your mother may not be so much concerned about his safety.

Our Brigade is stationed as you may see by the heading of my letter some 10 miles from Manassas. Whether we will move on soon or not I cannot say. Please answer my letters as soon as you receive them and direct to me at Fairfax Station…. You need feel no uneasiness about my sickness as I will certainly be well in a few days. I wish you could see us out here in the woods. We have such nice pleasant quarters with plenty of water and cool shade. I will send you a photograph of Colonel Ellsworth taken on the field of battle, please keep it safely as it will be a reminiscence for me in my old age should I live. Do not fail to keep it safely…

Yours devotedly,

G. B. Samuels

Transcription and images from auction site Museum Quality Americana, October 2015

Specific letter 

Contributed by John Hennessy

Green B. Samuels at Ancestry.com

Green B. Samuels at Fold3

Green B. Samuels at Findagrave.com

Lt. William Willis Blackford, AAG, 1st Virginia Cavalry, On the Battle

4 11 2015

Aug. 6th, 1861
Headquarters Fairfax C.H.

Dear Uncle John,

I have been intending to write to you for several days but have been kept very busy by my new duties as Adjutant of our Regiment. We have been here now since the second day after the battle of Manassas and from present appearances we will be here for some time longer. We had a hard time of it for two days before and two days after the battle. We made a march of about 80 miles during Friday and Saturday, from near Winchester to the battlefield, starting about the middle of the day and reaching Piedmont at eleven o’clock that night. We bivouacked in an orchard, gave our horses ½ doz. ears of corn, and ourselves nothing to eat; started at three the next morning in a hard rain, wet, cold & hungry and halted to [find] & breakfast at nine. Reached the battlefield at sundown, and had a good nights rest in the broom sedge under clumps of pine branches. The morning of the 21st we were up bright and early and scouted in advance of the lines for one hour or two, ran into an infantry scouting party of the enemy who ran away from us, and we from them – hearing the firing on our left becoming hot we fell back to the rear, where we listened with purest interest to the engagement as it thickened towards nine o’clock. Here we remained until about the middle of the day when an aid came at full gallop towards us with orders for ½ of the regiment to go to the right & ½ to the left. Our Col. (J. E. B. Stuart) went to the left with ½ of the men & I with him. This proved to be the main point of attack – not long after taking our position in rear of this hottest part of the fighting we were ordered to the front to charge the N.Y. Fire Zouaves who were about taking one of our batteries. We dashed through a skirt of woods and came upon their flanks as they were marching in column by fours, and before they could form and present bayonets we were into them like lightning. We were in column by fours in passing through the woods and they were about 100 yds. beyond as soon as the head of our column emerged from the woods the Colonel brought the rear around front into line so we went through like a wedge shooting them armed with our pistols. Those in front of us we swept off in a few seconds. Hot times on right & left poured a terrific fire upon our flanks, we lost in about one minute 9 men killed, 24 wounded & 20 horses killed. The horses were so thick on the ground, I could hardly keep my horse from falling over their bodies. It was very dangerous to attempt to leap over them as they were floundering like chickens when their heads are cut off, and it was very hard to avoid them. As we wheeled to return, a battery opened on us with grape and killed some of the horses some distance in the woods. [In writing I and my horse wasn’t hurt at all.] I was detached by the Col. in the afternoon, where we were in the pursuit with 10 men & captured 80 men and a four horse wagon & team loaded with ammunition, every man of them, with the exception of perhaps a dozen I found around a house full of wounded, had his musket in his hand and many of them side arms. I got ten pistols and any quantity of Bowie knives from them two of the pistols, large sized Navy, I have now & will keep and have my name engraved on when I get home, with the date & leave them to Wyndham in my will. There is a P.O. here now. Please write to me. Love to all cousin Meats Family.

Your aff. Nephew,

Wm. W. Blackford

P.S. Excuse my making you pay postage but change can’t be had here. (See over)

Direct to Lt. W. W. Blackford

Care of Col. J. E. B. Stuart

1st Regt Va Cavalry

Fairfax CH.

Transcription and images from auction site Museum Quality Americana

Specific letter

Contributed by John Hennessy

Capt. Simon G. Griffin, Co. B, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, on Capt. Ephraim Weston, Co. G, At the Battle

31 10 2015

Roanoke Island, N. C,
May 22, 1862

John C. Weston, Esq.:

Dear Sir,

Your letter, making inquiries in regard to your brother at the battle of Bull Run, was duly received through our friend, the Hon. Alvin Beard, and it will be a pleasure to me if I can afford any comfort or gratification to the family of him whom I valued so highly as a friend and associate. Captain Weston had not been well for many days, but when the order came to march he no longer complained of being sick, but was at his post, looking after his men and supplying their wants for the march and the fight. Soldiers are very much like children, needing some one constantly to look after them and attend to their personal wants, and a captain, if he is a good one, will supply the place of a father to them. Captain Weston was in this respect one of the best captains, and provided well for all the wants of his men as far as he was able. I saw him frequently on the march from Washington to Centreville, and to inquiries respecting his health he invariably returned a cheering answer, although he was so feeble as to be compelled to ride a part of the time in order to keep along with his company. We bivouacked each night, sleeping with no shelter but our blankets and perhaps a few boughs hastily thrown up by the soldiers and it must have been hard for him, suffering as he was at the time from diarrhoea.

One of the hardest marches I have ever seen, excepting, of course, the retreat on the same day, was that from Centreville to Bull Run field on the morning of the 21st of July, not so much on account of its length, for even our division, commanded by Hunter, did not probably march more than fifteen miles, as from its tediousness, caused by the inexperience of both officers and men in marching in a long column of troops, and also from the excessive heat and consequent thirst and fatigue. We started at 2 a.m., and went into the fight at 10:30 on the double-quick. During all this long march Captain Weston must have been on his feet, as none but mounted officers had any opportunity to ride, and when we debouched on the field all were nearly exhausted.

There was but one company (Co. I) between Captain Weston’s and mine, and I recollect seeing more of him than of any other captain in the line, though each of us had plenty to do to attend to our own companies. At one time, after we had countermarched from the right to the left of the Rhode Island battery, when we were receiving the hottest fire we saw that day, when the bullets were flying like hailstones and thinning our ranks at a terrible rate without our being able to return the fire on account of friends in front, and no enemy within sight of us, we were ordered to lie down to avoid the shot. Captain Weston probably did not hear the order, and I remember seeing him standing, erect and alone, in front of his men, waving his sword and urging his soldiers to ‘Stand up like men, and not lie down like cowards.’

It was here that Colonel Marston was wounded and nearly all our loss for the day sustained before the order came to lie down, and it was a wonder that the Captain, exposed as he was, escaped unhurt. Presently the fire slackened, and we all moved forward. At another time, when we had advanced nearly half a mile to the front and to the right, we were lying down again, unable to return the fire on account of uneven ground.

My company being armed with Sharp’s rifles, different from the rest, was on the left of the line and was a sort of independent corps, and seeing an advantageous position just in front of us at the top of the hill, where I could cover my men behind a fence and reach the enemy with our superior rifles, I moved my men forward at double-quick and seized the fence, pouring in a rapid and destructive fire.

A part of Co. I went with us, and Captain Weston, seeing the movement and supposing we had been sent forward, went to the field officers and begged of them to allow his company to go with us. But they had received no orders to advance, and as other regiments were retreating, they very properly refused and gave the order to retire, and reformed the line half a mile or more to the rear. Here seven captains of us met, with quite a respectable battalion, and exchanged expressions of chagrin and regret that we had not held the foe at that advanced position. Captain Weston rushed about to find some officer of sufficient courage and authority to lead us forward again, or at least to make a stand where we then were. But none were to be found. The day was lost. The retreat — the rout — had commenced.

Commanders who had that day lost the opportunity to make themselves heroes, with a few noble exceptions, were already far on the road to Washington. Our regiment, although on the extreme right of the line, and consequently brought in the rear of the retreating mass, came off the field in tolerably good order, but there were so many fugitives constantly mixing in our ranks, and the men were so dreadfully fatigued, it was im possible to keep them together, and we were soon irretrievably scattered. About two miles, however, from the field there was an attempt made to halt and make a stand. The Captain was with me there, and we made an effort to rally our men — he exhausting all his eloquence and using every endeavor to induce them to halt. But it was of no use. The stream of fugitives from all regiments poured past us like the waters of a reservoir broke loose, and we gave up in despair. We retreated together through the woods, keeping as many of our men with us as possible, — he calling out at intervals with stentorian voice, ‘Second New Hampshire,’ and I constantly answering in the same terms from a short distance away. After two or three hours, however, we became separated, and I saw very little more of him until we met near the close of that terrible march at the Long Bridge.

We marched into the city and into camp together with a part of our men, the only two captains who remained to the last with their men and returned to camp with their regiment.

This is all I remember of our noble and lamented brother more than you already know. I can bear testimony with all others who knew him well, that as a soldier he was brave, honorable, and patriotic in the highest degree, and as a citizen and a man it is impossible to speak of him in terms too exalted.

With great respect I have the honor to be,

Yours, etc.

S. G. Griffin

Source: The History of Hancock, New Hampshire, 1764 – 1889, by William Willis Hayward

Contributed by David Morin, Exeter, NH

Notes on Ephraim Weston and Simon G. Griffin

Pvt. Thomas Green, Co. B, 11th Massachusetts Volunteers, On the Battle

17 10 2015

Alexandria Virginia August 4th 1861

Dear Mother I have taken the pen in my hand to let you know that I am doing well. Perhaps you have heard of the late Battle of Manassas Gap or Bulls Run. Well in that battle I had got a wound on the right shoulder. Our regiment was drawn up into line when we got the order to fire I just pulled the trigger and fired and just as I was turning around to load the ball struck me in the shoulder the ball glancing down my arm. Just then we got the order to retreat and everything was thrown into confusion our own cavalry running over our own wounded men. Well we retreated back as far as Centreville where I slept in the hospital all night with a faithful friend of mine who walked with me all the way from the battlefield. The distance from the battlefield to the hospital where I slept was about 15 or 17 miles the way we came and we walked that distance in about two hours without running one single step because I could not run without my shoulder would pain me. When I reached Centreville that Sunday night July 21st the surgeon there could not find the ball and he told me to keep it wet with a cloth all night whitch my friend did for me while I was a sleep. When I woke up next morning I heard our troops moved on to Fairfax Court House during the night. When I learned this I put on my cartridge-box and other accoutrements and we walked on there a distance of seven miles which we walked in about 1 hour and a half. We learned at Fairfax Court House that our men moved on to Alexandria where we are now makeing 21 miles in 5 hours walking all the way. Our camp is on Shuters Hill where the N.Y. fire zouaves built a fort which is called Fort Ellsworth. It is a fort which a hundred thousand rebels could not take and we are building another one like it. The number of men we had in the battle that Sunday was 45 thousand men but half that number did was not in the battle. If you were there you would see some cowards laying down in some ditch afraid of his life where they were no safer than being out on the open field only when they would imagine themselves safer there would come a bomb shell from the Rebels. When we were on the march just before we got into battle they put us on double quick for about three miles with two blankets on our should. and lucky was the man that could get a drink of water and muddy water at that for our canteens were empty. But I shall write more about this another time. While I am here in the hospital our regiment got paid off it was on Saturday July 27th but the Wednesday after Capt Davis came down to the hospital and told me he would give me an order to go over to Washington to get my money when I would get well. I believe our regiment got 16 dollars and 43 cents and when I get paid I will send it home to you only what I want myself I wont want more than a few dolls. My shoulder is almost well or elsie I could not write to you, the ball that was in my shoulder worked out itself and I have got it. It is a carbine ball from the black horse cavalry (the Rebel Cavalry). When we were at Centrevill I wrote a letter the day befor the battle and the day we went into the field I lost it. I write this letter hopeing to fing you all well and write and let me know if Dannie is working yet and who for and write and let me know how much you get from the Releif of the Volunteers families. I have got the Boston Herald, it is the Sunday Herald of July 28th and my name is in it as being wounded. So this is all I will write this time

When you write your letter direct it to Thomas Green Co B. 11th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers

When you direct your letter direct it to Thomas Green Co. B. 11th Regiment Mass Volunteers Shuters Hill Alexandria Va

good bye and remember me to all at home

Excuse my bad writing as my hand is not quite well and write as soon as possible so good bye for the present. Perhap I shall not write again till I get some money

Thos. Greene

Tuesday August the 6th 1861

Mother I received your letter yesterday (Monday the 5th) and you need not think that I am goin to have my shoulder or arm or leg cut off. I am only glad of it I have got the bullet in my pocket now. I go out every day just as though nothing was the matter with me I do not have to carry my arm in a sling so you need not have any more trouble on that account. When that man wrote to you I told him not to say anything about my shoulder. He lives in Cambridge and he is I think a member of Congress. No more at present. T. Greene

Letter image

Contributed and transcribed by Damian Shiels

More on Thomas Green

Lieut. Benjamin Rush Smith, Co. G, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

3 09 2015

A Letter.

The following letter we copy from the Daily Bulletin, by request, and we think it worthy of a perusal:

Headquarters 6th Regt, N.C.
State Troops, Camp Bulls Run,
July 24th, 1861.

Dear Parents: – Once more I have an opportunity of writing you all, and that after having been exposed for nine hours on a battle field, strongly contested on each side. we achieved a glorious but dear bought victory on last Sunday (July 21st) about 5 miles from the Junction on Bulls Run Creek. Our whole force on the field amounted to near 60,000, while that of the enemy was not less than 80,000, though we only had about 15,000 engaged – the enemy 35,000. The contest began at 6 A. M. and continued with unabated vigor until 4 1/2 P. M., when I saw the enemy flying across the hills with rapid strides. It was the most beautiful sight that one ever beheld to see them retreating with their banners unfurled, and to hear the cheers and huzzas that went up from our ranks. We pursued them for several miles, and that night I slept in the camp that the Yankees occupied Saturday night. Only four Companies in our Regiment were in the chase, (my Company one of them,) the rest being cut off in the early part of the engagement. – We were at Winchester when we received orders to come to Manassas. We arrived here Sunday morning about 6 A. M. I heard the cannonading as soon as I left the cars. A fellow told me that the “Ball” was open, and that we would “get there in time to dance at least one set.” I must say I felt a little queer at first, but fear left me as soon as I got into it. We were immediately marched to the “Ball Room,” and formed into line of battle at 7 1/2 A. M. When we had formed a rifled cannon ball came whistling through my company and passed in between me and the 3rd Serg’t of our company. It was a 12 pounder. We saw it before it got to us and dodged it. You ought to have seen us all squat. It was the first that had been fired at us. I have it now lying by me and will send it home if I can. We were placed in a position where two Regiments had been cut to pieces. The enemy had possession of a hill and we had to advance up a ravine with 2 pieces of Sherman’s battery placed at the mouth of it. We however advanced and silenced the battery in short time. Our Regiment there lost 18 killed and 47 wounded and one prisoner. My company lost of that number 7 killed and 6 wounded, (all privates,) being in the hottest of the fight. After taking possession of it, Col. Fisher advanced beyond the battery some 30 yards, and it was there that he fell pierced with a rifle ball through the head. All the other Officers escaped in our Regiment except Lieut. Mangum, who was wounded; Captain Avery, and Lieut. Col. Lightfoot, slightly. Our Brigadier General (Bee,) was killed. Just before going into battle I put up the most earnest prayer that I ever did, and I know that it was answered, for the balls came by ma as thick as hail stones and the bomb shells bursted all around me, and none but the hand of God could have saved me. I got several trophies off the battle field, and will send some home the first opportunity. It is impossible to give a description of the field after the battle. For 7 miles it was strewed with the dead and dying. You couldn’t advance a step without seeing them; many times I had to step over them. I never thought I could stand such scenes, but it has little effect on me now. I cut a button off a dead Lieutenant (Yankee) Hitchcock’s coat and took his likeness out of his pocket. I got a great many guns but could not carry them. The boy that waits on me got a splendid shot gun and sword off the battle field. This sheet of paper came out of a dead Yankees pocket; it came in very good time as I am almost out. Our cavalry chased them through Centreville and Fairfax also our artillery killing them all the way. I was told this morning that the road from here to Alexandria where they went is lined with those killed on the way, and the wounded and dead they attempted to take from the battle field. Their loss was about 3,000 killed and wounded, and ours was not more than 800. We have taken about 1,500 of them prisoners and they are still coming in. Since I have commenced this letter a Yankee Officer had been brought by, taken this morning a short distance from our camp. We are now encamped on the very spot where we formed our line of battle.

When we left Winchester (July 18th,) we were so hurried that we couldn’t bring our tents, and have been sleeping without them ever since, though last night I had a very good tend made of yankee blankets that they had left on the battle field. Besides the prisoners we took we captured 62 pieces of artillery, 300 wagons, and knapsacks and canteens by the thousand. Our Regiment has the honor of taking two pieces of Shermans battery, the pride of the North. The whole army went to Alexandria with only two pieces of Artillery, the rest being in our possession, and many of the pieces rifled. I think that peace will soon be made now since this important victory. I talked with some of the prisoners, most of them told me that it was not their will to fight against the South; that they had been forced into it, and that they had intended to go home as soon as their time was out. Some said that their time would have been out 1st of August, though I found many who were enlisted for 3 years. We had certainly the flower of the Northern army to contend against; many of them being of the regular U. S. Army, commanded by Generals Scott, McDowell and Patterson. Scott was not on the field himself the day of the battle, but one of the wounded Yankees told me that he reconnoitered the day before, and that he told the soldiers to fight like men and on next Tuesday he would insure them a dinner in Richmond; that he intended to make that place his headquarters. Well he told the truth, for 1,500 will eat there but only as prisoners. We are under orders to march this evening for parts unknown to myself, though I think it very probable it is towards Alexandria.

Jeff Davis now commands the army in person. I saw him the evening after the battle; he made us a short speech.

It was remarked in camp this morning that a flag of truce had been sent by Scott to Davis proposing to treat of peace although it may only be a rumor. I hope it is not for I never want to see such another slaughter as was on last Sunday.

Our Colonel being killed Lieut. Colonel Lightfoot will take his place.

We buried our dead Monday evening on the battle field. The Yankees have been lying there till to day when part of them were buried, though there are now hundreds of them lying where they fell, and a great many horses.

Your affectionate son,

B. Rush Smith

[Charlotte] North Carolina Whig, 8/6/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

B. R. Smith in 6th NC Roster

B. R. Smith brief sketch here, and more detail here.

Handcuffs “For Officers”

2 09 2015

Handcuffs “For Officers.” – The Dispatch says:

A gentleman who has been over the battlefield where the abolition forces were recently routed, says that one of the captured wagons containing boxes holding 500 pairs of handcuffs, the cases being labled “for officers.” The enemy sought to relieve themselves of the infamy of carrying such impliments of war, but the above fixes the fact upon them. Noting would make the creaturs opposed to us ashamed of any one of their measures, but the above is one as entirely new and novel in the annals of war as it is infamous to those who sought to use it. Truly the bitter chalice is held to their own lips with a vengeance.

Newbern [NC] Weekly Progress, 8/6/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

For more on Handcuffs and Bull Run, click here.

Unknown, 5th North Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

31 08 2015

Col. McRae’s Regiment at Manassas.

We regret very much that a sprained ankle kept our friend McRae from the field at Manassas, for we know he would have been willing to risk his life a thousand times to have participated in that day’s work. But the Regiment was there and did noble work as will be seen from the following account.

The Fifth Infantry, North Carolina State Troops, forms a part of Brigadier General Longstreet’s command, and although crippled in its efficiency by the sickness of two of its field officers, nobly performed its part in the battle at Manassas, on the right wing, under the gallant lead of its Lieutenant Colonel, who was in sole command during the entire engagement.

Early in the morning the cannonading commenced from two batteries on the right flank of the position occupied by this regiment, supported by a full brigade of the enemy. Col. Jones, determined to ascertain the position of their batteries and the force of the enemy, detailed a small reconoitering force under the command of the Rev. James Sinclair, Chaplain of the Regiment, who had volunteered his services for the day. – This force crossed the Run, and attempted to penetrate the wood on the left of the enemy’s position, but was recalled in order to charge the batteries up the ravine on the right, the scouts having brought in the necessary information. – The Virginia Seventeenth was at the same time ordered to support the North Carolina fifth, which duty it gallantly discharged. General Longstreet, with characteristic valor, undertook now a movement which if the orders were understood generally, would have carried the day with a still greater lustre, if not a more complete victory.

Col. Jones was ordered to send four companies up the hill as skirmishers, and to draw the fire of the batteries, while Brigadier General Jones from our right was to flank the enemy on his left. The reserve companies of the 5th, supported by the 17th Virginia, was to attack the right. The skirmishers of the North Carolina 5th, headed by the Chaplain, charged up the hill, in the face of a storm of grape and canister which killed two and wounded five of his men. On the summit of that hill these man lay for two hours, receiving the enemy’s fire without flinching, while on every side the hoary monarches of the forest were being mown down like grass before the mower’s scythe. The brave commander himself seemed to be ubiquitous here, there and everywhere exposing himself in the hottest of the fire. It is hard for men to remain still and receive the fire of the enemy, without being permitted to return it; and this precisely was the condition of the North Carolina 5th on the 21st inst. Long and eagerly did those brave men watch for the signal of the attack upon the right, in order to advance and give the Northern hounds a tuch of the Southern steel.

After remaining on the hill for two hours, and losing in killed and wounded seven men, this gody received orders to retire to the ravine, which was done in good order.

But the tide of battle again rolled down the hill, and once more four companies of the 5th N. S. State troops were ordered to occupy the summit, and await orders to advance with the bayonet on the battery on the right of the enemy’s position. This was accomplished without any loss to the North Carolinians and although they were not privileged to advance upon the battery, we think the North Carolina Fifth Infantry has given good earnest that at no distant day she will carve for herself a name in the military annals of the Southern Confederacy. Had Col. Jones the other field officers of the Regiment with him, there would have probably been another bright spot in the glories of the 21st of July, 1861. But Bravely did he perform his duty, though his Lieutenant Colonel was a preacher, taking his first lesson in the art of war, and imparting the same to the enemy in the most impressive manner possible.

Gen. Longstreet, in token of his appreciation of Mr. Sinclair’s services on the occasion, presented him with one of the sabres captured from the enemy, and expressed his desire that he should go on his staff.

[New Bern, NC] Weekly Progress, 8/6/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Rev. James Sinclair info Findagrave, post war Congressional testimony, defends his reputation in 1864 – all in all, an interesting fellow.

Joseph P. Jones resigned 10/24/1861


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