Pvt. Edward F. Phelps, Co. G, 5th Massachusetts Infantry, On the Campaign

17 11 2016

Correspondence.

Washington, July 25th, 1861.

Head Quarters 5th Reg’t Infantry, M. V. M.

Mr. Sentinel: – I take up my pen, unwillingly, to give you an imperfect account of one of the most disastrous battles ever fought in this country; one which would seem, to every intelligent person, to be unequal, ill-timed, and to persons of ordinary understanding, foolish and fool-hardy. The only possible object apparent in this movement was the gratification of selfish politicians; and I hope they may profit by this lesson, which they have learned at the expense of the poor soldiers.

On Monday evening, July 15th, an order came to our camp to cook up three days rations, and take our haversacks, blankets, canteens, and round-about, with forty rounds of cartridges, and be ready to march at (?) o’clock on Tuesday, the 16th. On Tuesday morning Col. Franklin, commander of the brigade, sent to Col. Lawrence to know how soon he could be ready to move. The answer was, “At any time.” We were then informed that if we were ready to march at 10 o’clock we should have the honor of being the advance guard of the whole division. At just 10 o’clock we were on a line, ready to march, in consequence of which we were the advance guard 48 hours; 24 hours more than is usual.

Our first day’s march was not more than ten miles, and nothing occurred through the day to indicate that we were in the vicinity of the enemy. At sundown we were drawn up on a sloping hill, to camp, for the night, and after the main body of troops had arrived the guard (5th Mass.) was advanced about one mile to an opening in the woods, when we threw out our pickets, and called in our skirmishers. Then stationed a main guard around the camp, and had just laid down for the night, when firing was heard among the pickets. All hands were at once upon their feet, with musket in hand, expecting an attack; but it proved to be only two horsemen whom the pickets fired upon, thinking, probably, in the darkness and excitement, that there were more of them. They killed the horse of one poor fellow, and took him prisoner, after a desperate fight. I do not know what was done with him, but I think they let him go the next morning. The other horseman got away, but it was thought he was wounded.

We had more excitement that night, and slept soundly until daylight next morning, when we had a hasty breakfast of hard bread and salt horse, and got into marching order again. We marched several miles, taking byroads and lanes, sometimes going through pastures, and bridle-paths in the woods, as our division was not to make the attack, but to cut off the retreat of the rebels from Fairfax Court House. There was but very little excitement, except the taking of a prisoner occasionally, until about noon, when in going around through a piece of woods to avoid a battery, our skirmishers ran into a camp of about six hundred rebels, when their pickets fired upon them, and the whole camp beat a hasty retreat. They left their beef on the griddle and their camp kettles boiling, evidently thinking we might be hungry after our forenoon’s march. We got no prisoners here, but found in a house near by twelve knapsacks, the contents of which the boys appropriated to their own use. We had a very good dinner that day. It consisted of ducks, chickens, turkeys, mutton, corn-cake, and all the luxuries usually found in country farm houses in Virginia. The people were glad to see us, and I really believe three-quarters of the inhabitants of this state, honestly told, would go for the Union.

In our march from this place to Longster’s station, we took about 20 prisoners, but failed in cutting off the retreat of the troops from Fairfax. Although we had two hours to spare of the time given us to get to this place, we were one hour behind the retreating column of rebel troops.

We rested at this place until about 4 o’clock the next afternoon, when we got into line again and marched from there to Centreville, about seven miles this side of Manassas. Here we found the other two divisions, which had arrived in advance of us, and were obliged to stop, as the head of their column had unfortunately ran into one of those infernal machines, otherwise known as a masked battery. The Mass. 1st received nearly all the damage done by this battery, the Boston Fusiliers losing over twenty men. It was thought best to wait a few days more before making an attack on Manassas, in order to let the men rest and give the regiments that were cut up time to get in order again. We had in the meanwhile ample time to reconoitre the enemy’s position and look the country over. Nearly all of the two days we were at Centreville we could directly see, with a glass, that the rebels were being reinforced very fast, and it was apparent to almost every one that their force was very much larger than ours; but notwithstanding all this, we were ready and anxious to fight them at any odds. We did not for a moment think of defeat, and had all the forces been put in the field that we had in the vicinity, I do not think we should have been defeated.

At about 2 o’clock on Sunday morning we were called up, and by 3 were on a line ready to march; but did not march until sunrise, when we took the route for Manassas, which we kept for about a mile and a half, when we were led through the fields, north of the main division, which was to make the attack in front while we were to take the route around through the woods and attack the rear. We arrived near Bull’s Run about noon I should think, and then regiment after regiment were marched off and put in positions where they were needed the most.

I will not attempt to give you a description of the battle. I could not if I would, and I will only follow our own brave Fifth. I do not believe there were braver officers or braver soldiers on the field that day. We divested ourselves of our blankets, haversacks, canteens that had no water in them, and all useless baggage. We were then kept close to the woods to avoid the fire of their batteries, until we came to the foot of a hill which sheltered us from their fire; here we were ordered to lie down and rise, one company at a time, and go to the summit of a hill and fire; then file to the right and left to the rear and load; then march to the rear of the rest, and fire when the time came again.

Col. Lawrence commanded us in person, giving his orders with such distinctness and precision as to avoid the possibility of an accident. One regiment on the left of us, in the flurry and excitement, and absence of order, fired altogether, killing at least three of their own men; but such was the coolness of Col. Lawrence and Adj. Chambers that not a man in our regiment was shot in this way.

At the time we were stationed in this position, cannon balls and shells were flying over our heads thick and fact. One shell burst right over the centre of the regiment, and the pieces fell down among us like huge hail stones. One piece dropped beside myself; I picked it up and have it now. Almost every one has some kind of a trophy. We soon drove the rebels from this point, and then we had to march through the Run at ‘double quick,” in order to get at them at another point. We went upon another hill, and were placed along side of the Fire Zouaves, where we saw the best fighting that was probably done by our division. The rebels lay piled two and three deep in front of the gallant and brave Zouaves, many of whom followed poor Elsworth to his long, last home. Here a charge was made by the rebels on the battery which we were sent to protect, and our forces not being strong enough to withstand the charge, we were scattered in every direction. I did not see Sol. Lawrence after this, but was soon informed that he was wounded. After this, not being able to rally all the men around the colors, Capt. Wardwell, of Co. F, and Capt. Geo. L. Prescott, of Co. G., (Concord Artillery,) rallied all the men they could and went into the battle on their own account. They were cool and calm, and fought bravely. Soon after this our color bearer was shot, but the colors were safe.

Our regiment made several rallies after that, and were just forming when they opened their fresh batteries, right upon us, and we were obliged, with everyone else, to retreat. After the order had come for us to retreat, we got together as many as we could, and Capt. Prescott tried hard to make the regiment return to the conflict again. but the rebel force was so large that it was finally thought not best to go back alone, and at this time another battery opened upon us, and we agreed to meet and form again at Centreville; expecting, of course, that we could make a stand there, but just before we got to Centreville another battery opened upon us, cutting us to pieces, and scattering us in every direction. Many of us did not reach Centreville until the next morning, and some poor fellows did not reach there at all. Those who did reach there that night did not stop, but kept on until they reached Washington or Alexandria. We do not pretend to count the killed yet, for almost every hour some one arrives who was so much exhausted that he could not reach home sooner. Our loss is not near so large as we at first supposed, and we hope yet to see many alive who have been counted dead.

We are stationed, by companies, in different parts of the city, and at present are only taking care of the sick and wounded. There are at present only five missing from the Concord company, and we hope to see some, if not all of them yet. The Waltham boys are all alive and well.

Our army will not be ready to march again for several months; but when they do go it is to be hoped, for the sake of the poor soldiers, that all politicians will be kept from having anything to do with it. Gen. Scott says that he fought the battle against his own judgment; and it was evident to every one, by the swarm of politicians in our camp at Centreville, that the whole thing was gotten up by this class of men, many of whom have less principle than brains.

The time for which our regiment enlisted expires in just one week from to-day, and we shall probably return home as soon as we can be mustered out of service. After that, if anything transpires of account, I will give you the benefit of it.

In the mean time I remain as ever,

Yours Truly,

E. F. P.*

Waltham (MA) Sentinel, 8/2/1861

Clipping image

*Likely Private Edward F. Phelps, Co. G., the only E. F. P. I could find in the roster.

Edward F. Phelps at Ancestry.com

The Fifth regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in its Three Tours of Duty 1861, 1862-’63, 1864

Contributed by John J. Hennessy





2nd Lt. Gustav Kast, Co. A, 2nd Michigan Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford

16 11 2016

The Scott Guards (Company A, Second Regiment) In The First Battle At Bull Run.

Extract from a Private Letter.

Bull Run, July 20.

You see now that I am on the battle field. We left Camp Winfield Scott last Tuesday at 3 o’clock P.M., and arrived at Vienna at 9 P.M. We remained there over night, and in the morning I saw the place where the rebels had their masked battery and fired upon the Ohio troops. We left Wednesday morning at 7 o’clock, and marched towards Fairfax Court House. When we came within sight of the place and saw the rebels leave there. We then took the road towards Germantown, where we arrived at 2 0’clock P.M. The rebels had left there, thought their camp fires were burning, and we found a good many articles which they had left behind. They were only a mile ahead of us. We took up our march again and drove the rebels right before us until we arrived at Centreville. We staid there a short time, and marched again towards the place where we are now, two miles from Centreville.

Here the rebels made a stand in a hollow by a road and small river which they call Bull Run. We were drawn up in line of battle, the Massachusetts First, then the New York, then our regiment, and the Third Michigan last. Our artillery commenced a fire at them from the hill where they were situated, and firing commencing at 2 o’clock. After we had fired for about half an hour our skirmishers, of which we furnished twenty privates, two Corporals, and one Sargeant, under command of Lieutenant J. V. Ruehle, went in the woods to see where the rebels were stationed. Our force went down hill till all at once they stood before the enemy within twenty rods, they commenced firing and the enemy fired by plattoons, but this did not stop our man from going ahead; they kept up their firing and came within four rods of the enemy, where they all at once discovered a masked battery with at least ten guns. The rebels then commenced to fire with the cannon at us. We were in the fire from 2 1/2 o’clock till 5, when the balls whistled around us in every direction. Musket balls whistled around us in every direction. Musket balls we could not dodge, but the cannon balls we could.

Wallen Weber of our Company is severely, and Marx is but slightly wounded. They are both privates – these two men are the only ones injured in our company. Wallen Weber will not be fit for duty after he gets well, for he received a shot in the side; but Marx will be able to do duty again in a few days.

We could not take the battery. We have got some 12, 16 and 32 pounders, which did good service. Two slaves that escaped, say that we killed from 200 to 300 rebels. Our brigade lost fifteen killed and twenty-five wounded. Colonel Richardson said the he never saw such heavy firing before. We have to sleep on the ground without tents; all we have is our blankets. There is now a large number of troops here, and we expect to attack the enemy to-day or to-morrow.

Gustav Kast

Lieutenant Company A, Second Regiment Michigan.

Detroit Free Press, 7/25/1861

Clipping image not available due to copyright.

Gustav Kast at Ancestry.com

Gustav Kast at Geocities.ws

2nd Michigan Infantry roster

Contributed by John J. Hennessy





Image: Surgeon John McGregor, 3rd Connecticut Infantry

15 11 2016

 

17480123094_4a10092527_c

Dr. John McGregor, courtesy of Ron Coddington’s Faces of War blog

Life and Deeds of Dr. John McGregor

More on Dr. John McGregor at Ron Coddington’s blog here.





Pvt. John T. Phillips, Co. A, 2nd Ct Infantry, On the Wounding of James F. Wilkinson 

14 11 2016

Camp of the Second Regiment.

Washington, July 25th, 1861.

Editor Transcript: – Long before this letter reaches you, you will have learned that your assistant editor, J. F. Wilkinson, was wounded in the battle at Bull Run, on Sunday last. I was close by him when he fell, yet I can give you only the following particulars concerning his fate:

The battle had continued about four hours, and our regiment had been stationed in a deep ravine, covered with wood, where the balls from the rebels’ battery on the hill above us, were flying over our heads like hail, when we received orders to change our position. We had commenced marching, when he fell, exclaiming, as he did so, “My God, I am shot!” and soon after fainted. He appeared to be wounded just above the ankle.

His comrades asked for permission to leave the ranks, and convey him to a place of safety, if possible. The privilege of doing so was not granted, but corporal Jennings was detailed to assist him to the hospital. Our regiment moved on, and as nothing has been heard from either of them since, we are forced to the belief that if living, they are prisoners in the rebel camp.

Several times during the battle he had expressed the opinion that he could not endure the heat and labor we were subjected to, and should be compelled to leave the ranks. His comrades, knowing what his fate would be if he did so, encouraged him to renewed efforts, and he fell at his post, nobly doing his duty. You are so intimately acquainted with him that it is almost unnecessary to add, that no man was more ready to meet the enemies of his country, or would have braved more dangers to have secured a victory.

Dr. McGregor, of the 3rd Connecticut, is also a prisoner. He was attending to the wounded in the hospital at the time of the charge, and could have secured his safety by flight, but refused to leave the wounded.

I have not time to write more at present, s the mail is about to close.

Yours, &c.

J. T. P. *

P. S. The Second Regiment will probably leave for home in a few days.

Windham County (CT) Transcript, 8/1/1861

Clipping image

Catalogue of Connecticut Volunteer Organizations (Roster)

Some biographical information on James F. Wilkinson, editor of the Windham County (CT) Transcript and member of Co. A, (wounded and captured at Bull Run) can be found here.

*J. T. P. is likely Pvt. John T. Phillips, of Pomfret, CT, also of Co. A.

Surgeon John McGregor was attached to the 3rd CT Infantry. Life and Deeds of Dr. John McGregor

John T. Phillips at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. David Sloane, Co. E, 1st Connecticut Infantry, On Blackburn’s Ford

11 11 2016

From the First Regiment, C. V.

Centreville, Saturday, July 20th.

We came up to the enemy at Boonsville, and they retired, leaving in a hurry. Our regiment was skirmishing in advance of the column, after which we were placed in the reserve, falling back and letting the next brigade take the lead. At about half-past eleven o’clock we came up with the enemy, and made a bold stand. Our brigade fought for five hours, and we could not dislodge them. We lost Five Hundred men, killed and wounded, the enemy One Thousand. – They came out of their works and bayoneted our wounded. The N. Y. 12th and the Mass. 1st, fought hard, and were cut up very badly. So, you see, we have had some hard fighting. To-morrow we engage them and will drive them. I saw some of the men buried yesterday.

D. A. Sloane

The Danbury Times, 7/25/1861

Clipping image

Catalogue of Connecticut Volunteer Organizations 

David Sloane at Ancestry.com

Contributed by John J. Hennessy





Pvt. Augustus E. Bronson, Co. I, 3rd Connecticut Infantry, On the Advance and Blackburn’s Ford

10 11 2016

War News.

——————

From the manuscript of our valuable and attentive correspondent, we should judge it was written while capturing one of the batteries at the battle of Bull’s Run. We hope he survives, and will continue to dot the incidents of the war.

Near Centreville, Va.,

July 18th, 1861.

We left “Camp Tyler” at 3 P. M. on Tuesday, with provisions for three days, and no other baggage but one pair of socks. The First, Second, and Third Connecticut Regiments Connecticut Volunteers, with the Second Regiment Maine Volunteers, constituted the advance. We marched by a circuitous route to Vienna, near which we camped for the night in an open field. Soon after we halted, the other brigades began to come in, and kept coming until the fields in all directions were covered with infantry, horsemen, and artillery. At about 5 o’clock A. M., on Wednesday, we again took up the line of march, in the direction of Fairfax. After marching about a mile we came to a road which had been obstructed by having trees felled across it. Removing the obstructions we continued our march, and when nearly in sight of Fairfax our scouts reported the enemy in sight. We formed and marched in double quick time across the fields, and came into line in time to see the rebels going off at the same pace. A brass band consisting of six pieces, belonging to the New York 8th, gave them a note or two of Yankee music, which increased their speed to a full run, and then struck into the woods and scoured them as far as Germantown, where we learned that the rebels had been in full retreat past there all day. They had a masked battery near Germantown, but had deserted it. Their baggage was scattered all along the road. I believe that some buildings in the place, and to belong to “seceshers,” accidentally caught fire soon after the Ellsworth Zouaves had passed. (I am sorry, but accidents will happen.) We again bivouaced in the fields on Wednesday night, about 3 miles from Germantown, towards Manassas. This A. M., at about 3 o’clock, we were aroused by the sound of the bugle, and were speedily in line, expecting an attack, but it did not come. At about 6:30 A. M., the army was again in motion, and as our brigade had formed the advance for two days, we were allowed to take the rear to-day. It was a grand sight, as regiment after regiment moved, until I should judge that at least 40,000 troops must have been in motion. It was an hour and a half after the march commenced, before it became our turn to move. We continued to see blankets, coats, etc., which in their haste the seceshers had thrown away.

We are now halted in the woods near Centreville, which I believe is eight miles from Manassas. There was a very strong battery near here, but the rebels ran about an hour before our advance came up. We have taken a few prisoners, but have had no fighting as yet. Our cavalry have just brought in a few prisoners, and report the enemy coming back. It is supposed Gen. Patterson is on the other side, driving them back, so we may have a fight to-day, yet.

3 o’clock P. M. There is a report now that our boys are getting the worst of it, and reinforcements are arriving amid the roar of cannon and the rattle of muskets.

4 o’clock P. M. Our men have carried their entrenchments, and the seceshers have fallen back into the woods. It is said that the 69th went at double quick time and stormed the battery without stopping. Bully for the 69th. One report is 4000 prisoners taken, but I don’t believe it. Another report is that Sherman’s battery was taken; but nobody believes that. Another report is that there was a masked battery in front of an open battery. Sherman’s battery silenced the open battery, and the N. Y. 12th then charged, when the masked battery opened upon them, and our men retreated.

5 o’clock P. M. A report has just reached us that our troops have the enemy surrounded in the woods. The last report is that both armies occupy the same positions they did at the commencement of the engagement. The action will be resumed in the morning, if the rebels do not retreat during the night. – About 50 of our men are killed, Sherman’s battery played into a train of cars filled by rebel troops, but how many were killed I do not know.

I have written down the reports, a few of them, as they came in, that you might see how much we can depend on reports in the midst of battle. The long and short of it is that our men were defeated.

6 o’clock, A. M., Friday. – Troops have been pouring in here all night. Gen. Tyler had command of our troops yesterday. The Fire Zouaves have taken eleven prisoners. One of the number was one who had taken the oath of allegiance at Fall’s Church. – When our roll call was handed in at the close of the first day’s march, not one of the 3rd was missing.

7:30 A. M. They are now hanging the man who was taken prisoner after having taken the oath.

A. E. Bronson

The Danbury Times, 7/25/1861

Clipping image

Letters of Augustus E. Bronson as a member of the 17th CT 

Augustus E. Bronson at Fold 3 

Augusts E. Bronson at Findagrave.com 

Augustus E. Bronson at Ancestry.com 

Bronson was captured on July 21, 1861. After he was exchanged 9 months later, he enlisted in Co. C. of the 17th CT. He was mortally wounded at Gettysburg and died on July 5, 1863.

Contributed by John J. Hennessy





Image: Pvt. Edward R. Simms, Co. D, 2nd South Carolina Infantry

8 11 2016
14915682_1406250769399906_7160119846473032555_n

Pvt. Edward R. Simms, Co. D, 2nd SC Infantry

Private Edward R. Simms was born March 14, 1837, in Sumter County, SC. On April 8, 1861, he enlisted, (Sumter Volunteers) which later became Company D, 2nd South Carolina Infantry. He was with that company during the firing on Fort Sumter, April 12- 14, 1861, stationed on Morris Island. Pvt. Simms transferred to Company K, South Carolina, Infantry, (Brooks Guards) on August 26, 1861. On January 28, 1862, sixty one members of the Brooks Guard voted to become light Artillery and Pvt. Sims mustered in with the Brooks Artillery. Pvt. Simms was wounded September 17, 1862, at Sharpsburg, Maryland, (Antietam) present at Gettysburg, PA, re-enlisted at Beams Station, TN, December 28, 1863, promoted Corporal September 1, 1864, furlough 45 days January, February 1865, according to his pension that was filed with the state of South Carolina, he was wounded 4 times, was deaf in one ear, had back injuries and was surrendered at Appomattox.

Image and bio sketch provided by reader David Hann.