Comments : Leave a Comment »
Tags: 2nd New Hampshire, Capt. Thomas Snow, Resources, Soldier Photos
Categories : Photos, Resources, Uncategorized
Letter from Capt. Snow of the Lancaster Company.
Full Particulars of the Participation of the 2nd N. H. Regiment in the Fight at Manassas, with an Accurate Account of the Killed, Wounded and Missing
The following, from a letter from Capt. Snow of our company, to the editor of this paper, will be read with particular interest as containing information regarding the share that the 2nd N. H. Regiment and the Company from Coos had in the great fight of Manassas. During the engagement and the subsequent retreat, Capt. Snow himself, behaved with the most determined bravery and exhibited throughout, the qualities of a soldier. Brave and decided on the battle field, kind an considerate to his command, [?] has proved himself an officer worthy [?] brave soldiers. His company [?] of him in terms of the warmest [?]. But to the letter:
Camp Sullivan, Washington, D. C.,
August 3d, 1861.
Our Regiment left camp, Tuesday, July 16th.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Of our march to our encampment, near Centerville, you have been informed, so I will not rehearse the matter. We left our camp Sunday morning at 2 o’clock, without breakfast, and marched, I should judge, 16 miles, going the last mile at double quick. Our stock of water was nearly, if not quite expended and we were better fitted for a bed-room than a battle field, notwithstanding which we were ordered to take a position on a hill, where the enemy played into us with their batteries and rifles. We were soon ordered to retire a few rods, which we did and waited there until we were ordered to leave that position and support the R. I. Battery, which was menaced by the enemy. In this movement my company was on the left of the regiment. We went through a perfect hailstorm of bullets; and not hearing any order to march in any different direction, I kept on, while the Regiment moved off by the right flank. Finding my company separated from the Regiment, and not being able to see where our Regiment was, I marched my men down to a fence, (Virginia, of course,) near a large hay-stack, where we had a good view of a portion of the rebels and I told them to blaze away, which they did. We remained here in connection with the Rhode Island 1st, I think it was, until fearing that we could not find our Regiment, and seeing the rebels retreat to the woods, I ordered the company back and sent them, in charge of Lieut. Littlefield, to find it. In the meantime I remained in search of my sword, which had, by a bullet, been knocked from my scabbard; I could not find it and returned with a musket instead. Our boys, with one or two exceptions, behaved well. Sergeants Crafts, Rhodes, Fletcher and Brackett were at the fight and all did nobly. We were sorry to have Charley (Fletcher) leave us; he is a fine fellow and a good soldier. Sergt. Louville W. Brackett, who is among the missing, was not injured in the battle, and started with us on the retreat; he might have been killed, wounded or taken prisoner when the rebels attacked our retreating, worn-out forces; but we cannot tell which. He was beloved by the whole company for his amiable disposition, and we miss his pleasant countenance very much; I am in hopes he will turn up all right by and by. I found the Regiment under another iVirginia fencei waiting orders. The battery had shifted or advanced as the rebels retreated toward their stronghold. Soon Col. Marston appeared with his arm in a sling, his horse being led by his hostler, and announced his intention to go with us to the end. “He meant to see this thing through.” We soon had orders to march again. We started down the hill toward the enemy, entered the hollow, were ordered again to halt for orders. Here we were exposed to another murderous fire. It was on approaching this place that Capt. Rollins was shot. We lost a number of men here, and still we stopped waiting for orders. No orders came; but there was no flinching of the New Hampshire boys. Soon Col. Fisk ordered us up over another hill. We had a few shots at them, but they were apparently harmless, while their rifles and cannon were making great havoc in our ranks. We were forced to retreat to a small run, close by which grew some small trees. – These sheltered us from the scorching rays of the sun, but afforded us no shelter from the enemy’s bullets. But we were thankful for small favors, and so as Maj. Ben. Perley Poore commanded his savages, so did we – “squat.” We were not permitted to enjoy even this luxury for long, for in a few moments an Aid came rushing up to Maj. Stevens, saying, “The retreat is ordered. Be quick or you will be cut off by the enemy’s cavalry.” We got up over the next hill, shot and shell flying over our heads, and on the top of the hill we formed our line in full view of the rebels as they threw out their legions of fresh soldiers, infantry and cavalry to pursue us. Thus began the retreat of which enough has been written. The report that the rebels shelled and burned our hospital, I have good reason to believe is untrue, and I really believe that Clark Stevens, who was in the hospital, (not severely wounded as has been reported, having received a flesh wound to the thigh,) is now a prisoner in the hands of the rebels. Cyrus W. Merrill also in the hospital, was wounded in the breast; I think from the nature of his wound he could not survive. These are the only two we left behind, known to have been wounded, and if any of our missing are killed or wounded, it must have been done on our retreat. I will give you a correct list of the killed, wounded and missing for the entire Regiment; it is as follows:
Co. A – John L. Rice.
Co. C – Lewis N. Relation, W. H. Quimby.
Co. H – Frank H. Eastman, Parrish Kearnes, Geo. Langtrey, Henry S. Morse.
Co. A – Geo S. Heaton, Dana S. Jaquith, Geo. A. Whiteman, Chas. Sebastian, Dan’l S. Brooks, John F. Wheeler.
Co. B – Thomas E. Barker, Wells C. Haynes, Geo. H. Clay, Geo. C. Emerson, John S. Fitts, Wyman W. Holden, Charles H. Perry, Henry Morse, Cha’s S. Cooper.
Co. C – Frank K. Tucker, Dan’l Martin, Thurlow A. Emerson, John Davis, J. A. Barker, Hannibal Ball, Joseph Barly, Frank F. Wetherbee.
Co. D – 1st Sergt. Jacob Hall, Privates Henry H. Emerson, Alden T. Kidder, Christel L. Jones, Henry West, Alphonzo D. Leathers.
Co. E – W. Colcord, Cha’s H. Chase, Simon N. Heath, Joseph R. Morse.
Co. F – Sergt. Louville W. Brackett, Private Geo. E. Dow, Cyrus W. Merrill, Clark Stevens.
Co. G – Alonzo B. Bailey, Henry A. Bowman, Wilson Hurd.
Co. H – Henry Allen, Lewis G. Barber, Galen A. Grant, Sam’l M. Joy, Timothy Saxton, Wm. H. Connor, Woodbury Lord, Albion Lord, Andrew J. Straw, Wm. H. Walker.
Co. I – Albert B. Robinson, John H. Barry, Albert L. Hall, Moses L. Eastman, Reuben F. Stevens.
Co. K – Wm. T. Spinney, Lewis Blaisdell, Geo, Sawyer, Cha’s Ridge, Oliver S. Allen, Wm. T. Orford, Christopher Marshall, Sam’l Adams.
Co. A, Keene – I. M. Derby, D. W. Whittemore.
Co. B, Concord – 1st Sergt. Cha’s Holmes, Cha’s Hosmer, Cha’s Wilkins
Co. C, Manchester – Andrew M. Connell, L. D. Shurburne
Co. D, Dover – Capt. Hiram Rollins, James N. Venner, Stephen M. Deshor, Joseph F. Ayers, John O. Hayes, John F. Lord.
Co. E, Concord – Sergt. H. M. Gordon, Privates Wm. Hurly, James C. Meserve, Wm. H. Story, Wm. H. Merrill.
Co. F, Lancaster – Geo. F. Chase, 2 fingers shot off left hand; Wm. H. F. Staples, in forearm, arm broken; Stephen R. Tibbetts, thro’ the hand; Cha’s Buck, in left shoulder, is at Alexandria hospital doing well.
Co. G, Petersborough – John Hagan, Geo. F. Lawrence.
Ch. H, Contoocook – Hugh Looby, James B. Silver, John Straw, Tho’s Finnegan.
Co. I – Manchester – Frank C. Wesley, Geo. F. Lawrence.
Co. K, Portsmouth – W. H. Goodwin, James E. Seavy, Alexander Steward, Wm. S. King, Dan’l Kelegan
Total – Killed, 9
Lancaster, NH, Coos Republican, 8/13/1861
Contributed by John J. Hennessy
Comments : Leave a Comment »
Tags: 2nd New Hampshire, Atrocities, Hospital Burning, Resources, Soldier's Letters
Categories : Private Correspondence, Resources
July 29, 1861
I have just returned from a fight where steel met steel and war in earnest reigned. I have experienced the sensations of General Jacksons celebrated passages across Canada lived in all its reality and can truly say it’s enough. Geo. I have heard cannon balls, bomb shells & bullets fly about my ears like hail, seen the dead & dying in every direction, heard the groans of the wounded and witnessed all the horrors of a battle field — been on a march and returned to camp unharmed. The troops which composed the grand army that crossed the long bridge and envaded (sic) VA’s sacred soil on the 10th inst. singing Dixie’s land and otherwise manifesting their joy in leaving the dull monotony of camp like to enter upon the active duties of a campaign have returned with broken ranks and saddened hearts…. Our regt. was placed on a knowl directly in front of a masked battery whose fire we could not return & there remained nearly half an hour, their shots making sad havock (sic) among the men — they however stood up like heroes until ordered to change our position — the fight was desperate on both sides. At one time we supposed the day was ours, and a hurrah arose along our whole line, but the reinforcements of Johnston coming up the reserve failing to appear and a sudden & unaccountable panic arising among our troops turned a victory into a disgraceful defeat and will leave a sorry page in the history of the Republic. There was a lack in some of the Generals. Some say Gen. McDowell was drunk — others that he lost his self-possession and many other vague reports — the fact is the Federal Army was not ready — it numbered not over 40,000 in all including the reserve, while the rebel forces amounted to 90,000, in a strong position chosen by themselves, strongly fortified by nature & art. They have shown themselves cowards in not meeting us in the open field — they would not stand against our charges, and only behind trees, in rifle pits & bushes did they stand, the retreat was disorderly and everyone looked out for himself.
I was behind our regt. and among the last to come in. Crossing a bridge a masked battery opened a destructive fire & a company of cavalry charged. Several of our men were killed, but only six of their horseman returned.
In the rush I left the road & took a roundabout path in the woods — at one time I imagined the cavalry was in pursuit with no idea of being taken I concealed myself in a clump of bushes & drew out the old revolver, determined to give some of them a pil, but it proved to be some of our own fugitives.
Write soon. Direct as before. Co. H. 2nd Regt. N.H.V.
J. N. Patterson
Joab N. Patterson Letters, 1888-1889, MC 119, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.
Joab N. Patterson, 2nd New Hampshire, Co. H; born in Hopkinton, NH; age 26; resided in Hopkinton; enlisted Apr. 22, ’61, for 3 months as a Private.; not mustered in; re-enlisted May 11, ’61, for 3 yrs.; appointed 1st Lt. June 4, ’61; mustered in June 5, ’61, as 1st Lt.; appointed Capt. May 23, ’62; wounded July 2, ’63, Gettysburg, Pa.; appointed Lt. Col. June 21, ’64 ; Col. Jan. 10, ’65; mustered out Dec. 19, ’65. Brevet Brig. General, U. S. V., to date Mar. 13, ’65, for courage in battle and good conduct throughout the war. P. O. address. Washington, D.C.
Contributed by David Morin
Comments : 1 Comment »
Tags: 2nd New Hampshire, Joab N. Patterson, Resources, Soldier's Letters
Categories : Private Correspondence, Resources
The Goodwin Rifles. Capt. S. G. Griffin of the Goodwin (Concord) Rifles, 2nd N. H. Regiment, writes to his sister in Nelson a letter from which we are permitted to make the following extract. The letter was not designed for publication, but is none the less valuable on that account: –
Washington, July 23.
Dear Sister: I write you a line just to let you know that I am alive and unharmed, for you will hear that we have had a battle and been defeated. God knows it was no fault of ours that we lost the battle. but through some terrible mismanagement on the part of higher officers. Fifteen or twenty thousand of us were set to attack a force which proved to be more than fifty – some say eighty thousand strong – with ten pieces of artillery to our one. Our men behaved nobly, but it was of no use. They rushed us into the fight when we were all beat out after a fatiguing march – then for want of competent commanders, we were marched and counter marched on the field of battle, right in the fire of the enemy’s batteries without being able to reach them with our bullets, and to cap the whole they failed to supply our batteries with ammunition.
I begged our field officers to allow me to move forward with my riflemen and get behind a fence within reach of them, but they gave me no leave to do so. I finally gave the order myself, and my boys went up upon the run, with part of another company with us, and poured in the bullets with good effect. The rest of the regiment retreated and left us, and after remaining as long as was prudent, we retreated at double quick and joined them. The regiment finally came off the field in good order, excepting that some of the men were scattered away, – losing in killed and wounded about one hundred men. About a dozen men from my company are missing, – two we know of were killed, five wounded, and probably others of the missing killed. – Keene Sentinel.
Manchester, NH Mirror and Farmer, 8/10/1861
Simon G. Griffin became a brigadier general. Biographical Sketch
Contributed by John J. Hennessy
Comments : 1 Comment »
Tags: 2nd New Hampshire, Resources, Simon Goodell Griffin, Soldier's Letters
Categories : Private Correspondence, Resources
Camp Keyes, Washington
August 1st, 1861.
Mr. J. McGregor:
Your letter came to hand last evening, and I hasten to give you the information you desire. Your son, Dr. McGregor, was surgeon of our regiment. The morning of July 21st, he went with his regiment to the battle field, and there stopped at a house which was to be used as a hospital for our wounded. He remained there through the day, faithfully attending his duties. When the retreat was ordered, I rode up to the hospital. The doctor came to the door, all besmeared with blood. I told him that a retreat was ordered, and, for his own safety, he had better leave at once. He asked me if there was any preparation for removing the wounded men. I told him there was not. He then turned and went into the hospital. As he turned, he said, ‘Major, I cannot leave the wounded men, and I shall stay with them, and let the result follow.’ That was the last time I saw him, and I did not know what had become of him until, a day or two ago, a prisoner, belonging to the fourth Maine regiment, made his escape from Manassas; and he saw the doctor there, attending to our wounded men. I have no doubt but that, in due time, the doctor will return to us. I am very happy to be able to give you the above information as to the whereabouts of your son: and anything I can do for you in relation to him, I shall be most happy to do. We miss the doctor very much, as he was highly respected by all of our regiment. I shall see the doctor’s wife as soon as I get home, and give her all the particulars. If there is anything I can do for you, in any way, please let me know.
Yours very truly,
Major of the third Connecticut regiment
Part of this letter posted to Manassas National Battlefield Park Facebook Page, 9/15/2016
Life and Deeds of Dr. John McGregor – this full letter is transcribed on pp. 39-40
Comments : 2 Comments »
Tags: 3rd Connecticut, Dr. John McGregor, Major Alexander Warner, Medicine, Resources, Soldier's Letters
Categories : Private Correspondence
Camp Pickens July 23 1861
Through the benevolence of a just and merciful God, I am spared to communicate to you this morning in brief the particulars of one of the most bloody battles ever fought upon the Continent of America; On last Sunday morning we were drawn up in a line of battle & ammunition distributed to the Company and as soon as that was done, we marched to the field of battle where we witnessed a conflict that the bloody pages of history does not furnish a parallel.
The first shot was fired by the enemy. But the gallant and brave sons of Virginia returned the fire immediately after the first shot & then we could not hear anything but bombs whishing during the day.
Our company was reserved to the last moment when three of the Regiments were cut to pieces, And exhausted, some running to the woods and branches, some with one leg, one arm, one eye and some with no legs, when we saw them was enough to discourage any one. But General Beauregard called on the 8th Virginia Regiment, and led them through grape and bombs and in the charge, General Beauregard had his horse shot from under him and all his staff killed. He dismounted and loaded the cannon himself and made a lane through them at every shot. They then retreated a mile off. Then the Loudoun Company charged on them. Welby Carter was in the battle & his men were cut all to pieces. Robert Fletcher had his arm shot badly, John deButts had two fingers shot off and several others I could not learn their names were wounded.
We have just received orders to hold ourselves in readiness to march at any moments warning. we know not where. Write soon and give me all the news at home.
Your affectionate son
Contributed and transcribed by T. J. Smith
Comments : 2 Comments »
Tags: 8th Virginia, Milton Robinson, Resources, Soldier's Letters
Categories : Private Correspondence, Resources
Centreville, July 22d 1861
My Dearest Wife,
For the last four days we have never been longer in one place than two hours – have slept every night upon the ground in good weather and bad, eaten nothing but hard crackers and fried bacon, and rested little at any time. For all of which privations, and a thousand others, we have been more than compensated – thanks to the just God who governs the courses of history, and decrees the destiny of nations – in the glorious results of yesterday. My last was from Fairfax Court House.
On the morning of the 17th we had received reliable information that the enemy were advancing, over 50,000 strong, and were not surprised at 5 o’clock in the morning to hear the fire of our pickets who were slowly retiring before the advancing foe. The order was given to pack – in ten minutes baggage was packed, tents struck, and the wagons driven to the rear, and the whole command formed in line of battle. In a few moments the glittering bayonets of the enemy lined the neighboring hills. From the heavy signal guns being fired at intervals along our line commencing at Germantown, and stretching along to Fairfax Court House, it was evident that the enemy were endeavoring to surround our little band. But our “little Trump,” as the men call Beauregard, was not to be taken by any such game.
Every preparation was made to deceive the enemy by inducing him to believe that we meditated a vigorous resistance – meantime our column defiled through a densely wooded road, and was for on the road to Centreville when the enemy discovered his mistake. He followed on very cautiously. Our troop, with Kemper’s battery, was assigned to post of honour, and charged with the duty of covering the retreat. We were the last to leave the village, and as we went out at one end of the street, his column appeared at the other. We halted at this place (Centreville) about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, again made show of battle, slept until 12 o’clock at the heads of our horses, and silently left the place, the enemy’s pickets being within talking distance of ours.
At daybreak we were across Bull Run, having marched very slowly to keep pace with the infantry. We found beds of leaves in the woods, wrapped ourselves in our blankets, and slept for an hour or two, until roused by the roar of the enemy’s guns, as he opened his batteries upon our lines. For two mortal hours, shot and shell flew thick along our whole line. This day’s work was evidently intended only to draw the fire of our artillery and show where our batteries were. In consequence of which, our gunners were ordered not to fire a single shot until within point blank range. After thus opening the ball, two dense masses of infantry were seen to defile to the right and left, to make two separate attacks. It was indeed a beautiful sight, as they came down in perfect order, and with the steady step of veterans. They came nearer and yet nearer, and yet no shot from our guns. Men began to mutter and say that we were preparing for another retreat. But, in a few moments, the appointed time arrived, a single shot from the Washington Artillery gave the signal of death, and for half an hour there was nothing but a continuous sheet of flame along the right of our line. The enemy fell back, rallied and charged again with a like result; again they rested and rushed forward; but old Virginia was true to herself, and the gallant 1st and 17th regiments met them, though twice their numbers, charged them with the bayonet, and drove them back in utter confusion.
The cavalry were held in reserved, and although within range of the artillery and continually experiencing the sensations which men may be supposed to indulge, who know there is a hidden danger hovering in the air, without knowing where it is to light, took no part in the action. Our time came yesterday, however. Our troop was for four hours in the hottest of the fight, and every man in it won the applause and approbation of the whole camp.
The action commenced at 8 o’clock of a sweet Sabbath morning. The enemy commenced with quite a heavy cannonade upon our right, which proved to be a mere feint to distract our attention, as his main attack was directed to our left wing. At ten o’clock the enemy had crossed the river on our left, and the fight commenced in earnest. From the hill on which we stood, we could see the smoke and dust, although at the distance of several miles from the fight waged on our left. Some thought our men had fallen back; others, that the enemy were retreating. It was an hour of painful interest.
At eleven o’clock, and aid-de-camp rode up in a gallop, and said our men were retiring, and the cavalry was ordered to the left. We were temporarily attached to Radford’s regiment. Ours was the first company, and mine the front platoon. On we dashed at a gallop. As we passed within range of a battery of rifled cannon, a ball was fired at us, and passed just between W___ and myself, knocking up clouds of dust. Without wavering in their ranks, the men and horses dashed forward at a gallop. As we reached the scene of action, the sight was discouraging in the extreme. The enemy had a first the advantage of every attacking party. He had concentrated all his forces for an attack upon one point. The 1st Louisiana regiment and the 4th Alabama were assailed in flank and center by 30,000 men, and literally cut to pieces. They refused to surrender but retired slowly, disputing every inch of the ground. As we rode up, we met parts of companies which had literally been overwhelmed, the men wounded, heir arms broken, while some of them were carrying off their dead in blankets. Every thing looked like retreat.
We were ordered up to within 500 yards of the enemies artillery, behind a hill which afforded some protection against their destructive fire. For an hour the firing raged with incessant fury, a ball passed over the hill and through our ranks, grazing one of our men; a shell exploded right under Radford’s horse, and every moment shot and shell were continually whistling by us. I can give you no conception of that awful hour. Not a man shrank from his post; two of our men were taken deadly sick, one fainting from heat and excitement; such calmness and composure I never witnessed. To make the matter worse, despondency, if not despair was fast writing itself on every face. The fire was evidently approaching us, and our friends were retiring, and the whispered rumour passed from lip to lip that our artillery ammunition was running low.
In a moment, however, a cloud of dust in our rear showed the approach of our wagons coming up at a dashing rate with a fresh supply. Our reinforcements now commenced pouring in. Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi swept by in their glittering array with the calm light of battle on their faces, and their bayonets gleaming in the quiet Sabbath sunshine. No man faltered, no man lagged behind. Neither the groans of the dying, nor the shrieks of the wounded, as they passed to the rear in crowded ambulances, seemed to produce any impression, except to fix the determination upon the countenance of all – to win or die upon the field.
The tide now seemed to ebb just enough to keep us from despair. The firing did not advance, although the explosion of their shell was terrific in the extreme. A gleam of hope, too, gradually broke in upon us when Kemper’s battery, which had been posted in our centre, galloped up and opened a destructive fire upon our extreme left. The advance was evidently checked, when a loud cheer in the front told us that something unusual had happened. What was it? Was it the triumph of our enemies over our stricken friends, or was it some advantage gained in defence of right? The suspense was awful. Men stood straight in their stirrups and stretched their eyes as if they would pierce the rugged bosom of the barren hill which raised its sc[?]rred front before them.
An aid passes up – his message is written on his face, and, before he speaks a word, a wild shout breaks from the throats of thousands. When he speaks, another, and another, and another round of cheers told the story of our hitherto sinking hearts. The 4th Virginia regiment had taken Sprague’s Rhode Island battery of six pieces at the point of the bayonet. Scarcely had the echo of our cheers died upon the air, when again the noise of shouting broke upon us. What was it? Had the enemy rallied and retaken the guns? Fear struggled with hope. But, no! the gallant 27th, envious of the glorious achievement of the 4th, at a sing[?]e dash, had charged a regiment of regulars, swept them from the field, and taken every gun in Sherman’s battery. The firing of musketry and the rattling of bayonets was now terrific beyond description. For an hour there was an incessant crackling of rifles, without a single moment’s pause. The enemy were evidently retiring, and, unless reinforced from their left and centre, the day was ours.
To prevent this, our field telegraph had already given the signal for movement upon our own right, and a heavy fire of musketry and artillery told us that Bonham’s brigade, to which we had been attached in the morning, had crossed the run and were pouring it into the enemy’s centre. The South Carolina boys dashed up the hill, in the face of a murderous fire, bayoneted the gunners, and took quiet possession of their centre battery. It was now 3 o’clock, and the day was ours. The Washington Artillery galloped up the hill on which we were posted and opened a perfect Vesuvius of shot and shell upon the receding foe.
Colonel Lay now galloped up and told us the time for us to act had arrived – our whole force of cavalry – now rushed like the wind to the front. It was indeed a brilliant spectacle, as with slackened reins and sabres drawn, the whole command dashed past. The whole line resounded with continued cheering. The force was divided into different detachments. Col. Radford, with six companies, was ordered to cross a short distance below the enemy’s extreme right, and intercept his column; our company was in front, ,and I was riding in front of my platoon – when after crossing the swamp we came suddenly upon a detachment of the enemy concealed in the bushes, with their pieces levelled. The Colonel ordered the charge, and our boys dashed on. (1)
Poor E. F. was at my side when we rode over two of them, and they grounded their arms to E. W. just in our rear. We galloped on in pursuit of the rest, who retreated across a field toward the road on which the enemy was retreating. F. was just behind me; Saunders, a fine young fellow, just 24, and splendidly mounted, rushed past us. The enemy had concealed themselves behind a fence. We rode up and I demanded their surrender. They made no reply. I ordered Saunders to fire. Before he levelled his carbine, the whole squad poured in a volley. Saunders fell dead at my feet, and Fontaine reeled in his saddle, and exclaimed, “save me, boys, I am killed.” He was caught in the arms of his cousin, who was in the rear. Three of my platoon fired, and the two who had shot Saunders and Fontaine fell dead in their tracks. (2)
We were now in full view of the enemy’s line, passing in rapid and disordered retreat along the road, with two pieces of artillery, a large number of baggage wagons and some officers’ carriages. – Col. Radford, who is a soldier of experience, knew the strength of the enemy, and ordered a halt, commanding the men to form; but such a thing as forming was utterly impossible. The men seemed perfectly delirious with excitement, and with a wild shout of the guns, the guns,” our whole company rushed on pell-mell upon the battery, which proved to be another detachment of the Rhode Island Artillery. Such a scene of wild excitement I never witnessed.
My platoon had become detached from the company, and the company from the regiment. There were two caissons and two guns; the guns behind the caissons. My platoon, which was furthest down the road, rushed upon the men who guarded them – one fellow, standing upon the caisson, whipping the horses to make them run. They had become so much alarmed that they stood perfectly still and trembled. I made a blow at him with my sabre, knocked him off the caisson, and he was shot twice by our men before he hit the ground.
Meantime W., (who, by the way, performed admirably,) with the main body, crossed the road higher up and when the main body of the regiment came up, our company, with some of the Alexandria cavalry, had killed and wounded every man at the guns and driven their infantry supports into rapid retreat. When we left, we expected to be supported by infantry and artillery, and you may imagine our astonishment when, with not quite 300 men, we found that we had merely cut into the enemy’s column, and upon looking one hundred yards down the road, we found them preparing to open upon us with two guns, supported by six regiments of infantry. The Colonel at once ordered a retreat, so we shot the horses to the caissons, so as to block up the road, and retreated, not, however, before they had poured in upon us four rounds of grape and canister at 150 yards distance. How we escaped a perfect massacre I cannot say. Had they not been so close to us, the slaughter would have been terrible. Four of our men were killed, and Captain Radford, brother of the Colonel, was literally blown to pieces, I escaped without a scratch (as did all the rest of the officers), excepting quite a severe bruise, caused by my horse’s pressing my leg against the wheel of the gun carriage. We brought off several prisoners, a great many pistols, and several horses. (3)
Just ahead of the guns was an open carriage, very handsome; as soon as they saw us – such a rush you never saw. It is suspected, or rather hoped, that Wilson, of Massachusetts (who was, it is known, on the field,) was in it; for one of our men, Lindsay by name, took it into his head that Scott was in it, pursued and overtook it, and, at the distance of thirty steps, fired his musketoon, with eighteen buckshot, into the back window. (4)
As we returned to camp, a melancholy mistake occurred. B (our Second Lieutenant,) who was carrying poor F. to the hospital, with one or two others, met with a detachment of four of the Appomattox Cavalry, who hailed him. It is said that, instead of giving the signal agreed upon in our camp, by raising the hand to the top of the head, he took them for the enemy, and answered, Federal troops – they fired and he fell dead. (5)
Our company received, upon its return, the congratulations of every officer in General Bonham’s staff, to whom Colonel Radford had spoken of the conduct of our men.
To-day it has been raining all day. Our column pushed on this morning to this place. Our company was assigned the advanced guard; and this morning at 10 o’clock, I had the honor, with eight mounted men, of “occupying” the city of Centreville. The citizens tell us, that about 12 o’clock last night, the cry passed throughout the camp that the d—-d Virginia horsemen were upon them, when they left in utter confusion.
Our triumph has been complete. In two days our noble army has driven them back to Alexandria, captured 42 guns, many colors, and taken how many prisoners I will not venture to say. After we reached here we were ordered to explore the surrounding country in quest of fugitives. We took eighteen prisoners, and got back just at night, very wet. Such a collection of property left in their flight, you never saw. Hundreds of muskets, wagons, horses, gun carriages, thousands of knapsacks, oil-cloths, blankets, hogsheads of sugar, barrels of pork, beans – in short, everything you can conceive. We found to-day over five hundred splendid army over-coats in one pile, at one of their deserted camps, besides many tents, not struck. I helped myself to a magnificent officer’s blanket and oi-cloth to fit over the head, and the men all got over-coats.
The men are amusing themselves to-night with reading their letters, of which there are thousands left on the road. Many of them were directed to Mr. So-and so, expected at Manassas Junction. Some asked for a piece of the floor of the house on which Ellsworth was killed, with blood on it; others confidently express the belief that Beauregard’s scalp will be taken to Washington. When I tell you that we supped to-night on Yankee crackers – Yankee coffee, and nice beef tongue, actually left on the hearth of one of the officers quarters, in a kettle, ready to set on the fire – that this is written in pencil given me by one of the men, upon paper taken from their baggage wagons, that I am sitting on a Yankee camp stool, writing by a Yankee candle, you can form some idea of their utter route.
I send K a pincushion, picked up on the field, and L a needlecase. Tell W I have a nice sword for him, taken from one of the Vermont volunteers. I came very near taking a drum for him, of which we found six yesterday, but thought of the noise, and declined. (6)
Our troops occupy Fairfax Court House, to-night. – Good night; God bless and protect you, as I feel he has protected me in the last few days, in answer to your prayers. I hope I feel sufficiently grateful for my preservation.
W. B. N.
I had secured a beautiful Enfield rifle for uncle William, but it was paced in charge of one of the men, who has lost it. I will endeavor to procure another for him. Bowyer Brockenbrough, in command of a part of Pendleton’s battery, was knocked off his horse by a fragment of a shell, and slightly wounded. Raleigh Colston, who was a captain on one of the Berkely companies, had his pants perforated, and his leg grazed by a ball while advancing on Sherman’s battery. Willoughby Brockenbrough escaped untouched.
Richmond Daily Whig, July 29, 1861
From transcription in Civil War Times magazine, July 2007, Used with Permission. The letter was annotated by Joseph Pierro, who identified some of the lesser known or cryptically referenced individuals described by Newton, and they are listed below:
1 – Col. George W. Lay, Bonham’s AAG
2 – E. F. – Sgt. Maj. Edmond Fontaine, Jr.; Saunders – Pvt. Richard W. Saunders
3 – Captain Radford – Edmund W. Radford
4 – Wilson, of Massachusetts – Sen. Henry Wilson.
5 – B – Boldman H. Bowles
6 – K, L, & W – Newton’s children, Kate (3), Lucy (4), and Willoughby (7)
Comments : 2 Comments »
Tags: 30th Virginia Cavalry, Blackburn's Ford, CSA Cavalry, Hanover Light Dragoons, Resources, Richard C. W. Radford, Sherman's Battery, William Brockenborough Newton
Categories : Private Correspondence, Resources