Image: Capt. Romeyn Beck Ayres, Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery

30 03 2023
Romeyn Beck Ayres, Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery (Cowan’s Auction House)
Romeyn Beck Ayres, Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery (Cowan’s Auction House)
Romeyn Beck Ayres, Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery (Arlington National Cemetery)

Romeyn Ayres at Ancestry

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Romeyn Ayres at Wikipedia

Romeyn Ayres at Arlington National Cemetery





Emily Lewis Gerry Dearborn Ayres, On Capt. Romeyn Beck Ayres, Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery, In and After the Battle

30 03 2023

Sherman’s Battery at Bull Run – Interesting Letter From a Lady.

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The reports concerning the celebrated Sherman’s Battery at Bull Run were so conflicting that the impression has been left on the minds of many that some of the guns fell into the hands of the enemy. The Confederate reports all exulted over the alleged capture of the Battery, and such patriotic journals in this State as defended the rebellion, reiterated the statement with evident relish. The Battery was, it will be remembered, under the command of Captain Ayres. the wife of that gallant officer has an uncle residing in this city – a gentleman of high standing in this community, and a through going Union man. He has been kind enough to permit us to publish the following extract from a letter written him by Mrs. Ayres, dated Philadelphia, August 26. The lady was with her husband at Old Point until a short time after the destruction of the Norfolk Navy Tard. After describing the stirring times at Old Point, up to the time of her leaving, she writes as follows:

“Captain Ayres stayed there until the 7th of July, when he was promoted, and ordered to Washington to take command of ‘Sherman’s Battery’; was at both the battles of Bull Run – on the 18th and 21st of July, and was the only officer who saved his guns; brought off all his own and two others.”

So much for the pretence that the rebels had captured a portion of Sherman’s Battery. The following extract from the same letter will be read with interest:

“Since General McClellan has taken command of our army of the Potomac, affairs are assuming quite a different aspect. I hope something decisive will be done, the next time there is a fight, to give a chance for a settlement of this dreadful affair. I suppose you feel the effects of the war on your side of the continent, but have no idea of the excitement. Capt. Ayres is here in Philadelphia, to recruit a new company, as ‘Sherman’s Battery’ belonged to the 3d Artillery (our old Regiment) and the Captain is now in the 5th Artillery. He only had Sherman’s while Capt. Hamilton could get home from California. He came the first of the month.”

The lady writes as the wife of a soldier should, and speaks of “our regiment” in a manner evincing as much interest in it as that felt by her brave husband. Would that the wives of all our army officers had been as patriotic.

(Marysville, CA) Daily National Democrat, 9/20/1861

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Romeyn Ayres at Ancestry

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Romeyn Ayres at Arlington National Cemetery





Image: Lt. Lorenzo Lorain, Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery

29 03 2023
Lorenzo Lorain, Co. E, 3rd US Artillery (Source)

Lorenzo Lorain at Ancestry

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Lorenzo Lorain at Oregon History Project





Sherman’s Battery Corrective

28 03 2023

Sherman’s Battery.

This celebrated company of Artillery seems destined to immortality. Every item of Southern news has a new claimant for the honor of its capture at Bull run. It is scarcely exaggeration to say that there was not a single company, engaged on the side of the Rebels at Bull Run, that does not swear by all the gods of sescessiondom that to it alone is the honor due to taking Sheman’s Battery. A number of Army officers fresh from the seat of war – and among them Major, now General Sherman – have passed through Elkton within the last week, and their united testimony is, that Sherman’s Battery is now in Washington, every one of the six pieces is safe and sound; having been brought from the field by the skill and bravery of Captain Ayres and the noble men under his command., every one of whom loves the guns as dearly as sweetheart or wife.

The company lost twelve men in the battle and Lt. Lorain[1] was severely wounded by a rifle ball in the foot.

When Major Sherman arrived in Washington this spring, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and since then to Brigadier-General. His name is Thomas W. Sherman, and is often confounded with Col. W. T. Sherman, of Ohio.

Another error, which we see frequently in the papers, is, that this is Bragg’s or Ringgold’s Battery. It is neither, both of them being unfit for use, and long ago laid up.

The peace establishment of an Artillery company is four guns, which number Major Sherman had here last spring, all smooth bore. Two rifled guns were afterwards added to make up the war establishment.

These are facts.

The (Elkton, MD) Cecil Whig, 8/17/1861

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[1] Lt. Lorenzo Lorain at Oregon History Project





Co. D, 5th U. S. Artillery, Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery, Co. G, 1st U. S. Artillery, After the Battle

28 03 2023

Our Batteries.

The West Point Battery[1] is badly cut up, It loses all the caissons and equipments, five pieces, forty horses, and five men killed and seven wounded. All the guns were thoroughly disables before they were abandoned.

The Ayres Battery[2], formerly Sherman’s, was brought off without any loss of consequence.

The Seymour Battery[3] was all saved except one 30 pound rifled gun that was thrown off the bridge, and so lost.

Pittsburgh (PA) Gazette, 7/27/1861

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[1] Co. D, 5th U. S. Artillery

[2] Co. E, 3rd U. S. Artillery

[3] Co. G, 1st U. S. Artillery





U. S. Congressmen on Blackburn’s Ford

13 12 2022

THE BATTLE OF BULL RUN.

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ACCOUNT BY CONGRESSIONAL EYE-WITNESSES.

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Defeat of the Federals.

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JEALOUSY BETWEEN MILITARY AND CIVILIAN OFFICERS.

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TYLER AND McDOUGAL AT LOGGERHEADS.

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MASKED BATTERIES AND RIFLE PITS.

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RAPID RETREAT OF CONGRESSIONAL AMATEURS.

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SUPERIOR FIGHTING MATERIAL OF SOUTHERNERS.

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BEAUREGARD’S POSITION TOO STRONG TO BE TAKEN BY THE NORTHERN ARMY.

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Excesses Committed by Federal Troops.

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The following account comes through our occasional correspondent at Washington, on whom we have great reliance:

The following account on the battle of Bull’s Run is given by honorables Wm. A. Richardson, John A. McClernand, of Ill., and John W. Noel, of Missouri (all members of the house), qho were eyewitnesses of the battle, and aided in several instances of bearing from the field members of the New York 12th, who were wounded.

The action commenced under the direction of Gen. Tyler, of Connecticut, at half-past one o’clock on Thursday afternoon at Bull Run, three miles from Centreville, between several companies of skirmishers attached to the Massachusetts First, and a masked battery situated on a slight eminence. The skirmishers retreated rapidly and were succeeded in the engagement by Sherman’s battery and two companies of regular cavalry, which after continuing the contest for some time were supported by the New York 12th, First Maine, Second Michigan, First Massachusetts and a Wisconsin regiment, when the battle was waged, with great earnestness, continuing until five o’clock. The Federal troops were then drawn back in great confusion beyond the range of the Confederate batteries, here they bivouacked for the night.

During the conflict the Michigan, Maine and Wisconsin regiments held their ground with a fortitude which, in view of the galling fire to which they were exposed, was most remarkable, but […] regiments retired in great disorder from the field, a portion of them throwing away knapsacks, and even their arms in their flight. A number of members of the former regiments openly asserted that their confused retreat was the fault of their officers, who evinced a total lack of courage, and were the first to flee.

After the retreat had been commenced, Corcoran’s New York 69th (Irish) and Cameron’s New York 79th (Scotch) regiments were ordered up to the support, but arrived too late to take part in the action.

There were three batteries in all. The first to open fire, which was the smallest, was situated on the top of an eminence; the second and most destructive, in a ravine, The latter was totally concealed from view by brushwood, etc., and it was in attempting to take the first by assault that the Federal troops stumbled upon it. The battle occurred at a point in the declivity of the road, where it makes a turn, forming an obtuse angle, and the third battery was so placed as to enfilade with its fire the approaches towards the junction.

Much jealousy, it is stated by the same authority, existed between the regular officers and those of the volunteer corps, each appearing desirous of shifting to the other side the responsibility of any movement not advised by themselves, and the jealousy, it is feared, will seriously affect the efficiency of the “grand army.” Thus, General McDowell expressly states that the battle was not his own, but that of General Tyler. The former officer said that he would not advance further until he had thoroughly and carefully reconnoitered the position of the batteries, their capabilities, etc; and the inference derived by my informants from his remarks, it that he deems his present force entirely insufficient to carry the opposition before him.

One of the gentlemen mentioned at the commencement of this account, gives it as his opinion that Manassas Junction cannot be carried by 50,000 men in two months, and all agreed in saying that the force under Beauregard has been entirely underrated numerically, and that their fighting qualities are superior. The cheers with which they rushed to the fight frequently rang above the din of the battle. Their numbers were not ascertained, but it is estimated that upwards of 5,000 South Carolinians, under command of Gen. M. L. Bonham, of South Carolina.

Their artillery was of the bestkind. A shot from one of their batteries severed a bough from a tree quite 2 miles distant, and but a few feet from where the vehicle of two Congressmen was standing. Our ball fell directly in the midst of a group of Congressmen, among whom was Owen Lovejoy, but injured no one, the members scampering in different directions, sheltering among trees, &c.,

It is said to have been admirably served too, as the heavy list of killed, and the disabling of Sherman’s battery, amply testifies.

There were a number of rifle pits also in front of the batteries, from which much execution was done by expert riflemen.

The Congressmen were greatly impressed with the extent and magnitude of the earth-works, entrenchments, &c., erected by the Confederates from Alexandria to Centreville and beyond. They were all of the most formidable and extensive character.

It is thought by them that Manassas Junction is encircled by a chain of batteries, which can only be penetrated by severe fighting. All the entrenchments evidence consummate skill in their construction. The entire column under General McDowell fell back at 8 o’clock on Thursday evening, a short distance from Centreville, where they encamped. They were joined during the evening by Heintzelman’s command, and on the succeeding morning by that of Col. Burnside, all of which troops are now encamped here.

Early in the evening Gen. Schenck’s brigade of Ohio troops was sent forward on the Hainesville road to flank the batteries, but no tidings had been heard from them up to 8 o’clock yesterday (Friday) morning, when the Congressmen left Gen. McDowell’s headquarters, bring with them his despatches to the War Department.

These dispatches put the loss of the Federalists in killed at 5, but Mr. McClernand sates that he himself saw a greater number than that killed. All of these gentlemen agree in estimating the number of killed at one hundred. The disparity between the statements of these gentlemen and the official despatches is accounted for by the fact that the latter are based upon the returns of the surgeons, and that many of the killed are oftentimes never reported until after the publication of the official accounts.

One remarkable fact which commended the special attention of the members of Congress was the absence from the portion of Virginia visited by them of all the male inhabitants capable of bearing arms. They state that they saw but few people, and those were chiefly old women and children – The women seemed to regard the soldiers with bitter hostility, and, to quote the language of one of the Congressmen, their “eyes fairly flashed fire whenever they looked at a soldier.”

General McDowell expressed no fears of being attacked, but seemed apprehensive of some of the volunteer corps stumbling upon a masked battery, and this “precipitating a general engagement.”

The loss of the Confederates is not known, but is conjectured by the Federalists to have been heavy. Among the killed is said to be one Col. Fountain – at least, a negro, deserted, so stated.

The excesses of the Federal troops in Virginia are exciting general indignation among army officers. A member of Congress, who visited the scene this morning, states that the village of Germantown has been entirely burnt, with the exception of one house, in which lay a sick man, who had been robbed, he was told, by an army surgeon of nearly every article he possessed of the slightest value, even to his jack-knife.

Gen. McDowell has issued orders that the first soldier detected in perpetrating these depredations shall be shot, and has ordered that a guard be placed over the principal residences of any town the troops may enter.

The (Baltimore, MD) Daily Exchange, 7/20/1861

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John W. Noel at Wikipedia

John A. McClernand at Wikipedia

William A. Richardson at Wikipedia





Musician/Band Director Timothy Dwight Nutting, 13th Mississippi Infantry, On the Battle, Casualties, and Aftermath

7 12 2022

We publish below a very full and interesting letter descriptive of the battle of Manassas, from the pen of one of our townsmen, Prof. Nutting, Director of the Brass Band attached to the 13th Mississippi Regiment. The letter was addressed to his lady, who has kindly placed it at our disposal.

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Manassas Junction, July 23rd, 1861.

—————, If you have received my last letter (from Lynchburg,) you will be prepared to hear from me here. My head is so confused with the scenes of the last 48 hours, that it seems like moving a mountain, grain by grain, to attempt to give an account of it all. I will write away however, as ideas present themselves, and as long as I can to-day, as I do not know at what moment we may be ordered forward. Sunday morning at 2 o’clock we landed from the cars, having been cooped up in them for 11 days and nights, on our way from Union City, we spread our tents on the ground and laid down on them with nothing over us but the skies and our blankets, at daylight we were summoned to eat breakfast, (after cooking the same,) and holding ourselves in readiness for any orders from Gen. Beauregard. At 7 the Regiment was formed, and we were ordered to a point 4 miles nearly east, where a division of several thousand men was located under Gen. Longstreet, and an attack was expected from the “Yankees” at any moment. Before we had fairly started, the booming guns of the batteries announced that the services had commenced, and upon the way the smoke from their guns was plainly visible. – Our guide took us through a route that exposed us less to the fire of their guns, which they pointed at every moving mass of men or horses that they could discover. Much of the time we were walking in thickets of small pines, which made it very difficult to proceed at all. We finally, after 3 hours marching, took our position as reserve corps, not being in any condition to fight unless required by urgent necessity, being stationed on the south side of a deep ravine calle “Bull’s Run,” upon very high ground, but masked by a skirt of pine trees about 1/2 of a mile through. The batteries of the enemy were constantly playing upon the position which Gen. Longstreet’s troops occupied, and although we were only about 1/2 of a mile from them, (Longstreet’s men,) we had seen none of them, as thickets intervened. The enemy’s batteries now occupied a position nearly 1 1/2 miles north of us on the heights across Bull’s Run and were supported by a very strong force of infantry that had advanced from Centreville and Fairfax Court House, and were intending to take possession of Manassas before night, and proceed directly on to Richmond. By means of a traitor who is taken, they learned perfectly our position and force, and the best route of march to attack, which was to send an immense force west, about 5 miles down the Run, and take Stone Bridge, and march immediately here from the north west. It was for a diversion from this plan that the attack was commenced above and to the eastward, and we were not long halted in the place I have named, before a very strong attack was made at the Stone Bridge, which was sustained by our men at an odds of ten to one until reinforcements could be sent from Manassas consisting of Regiments from several States. Gen. Beauregard saw into the plan immediately, and ordered almost the entire force of artillery, cavalry and infantry, from the eastern wing to the scene of action. Our 13th Regiment was stripped of every thing, knapsacks, blankets, and all but muskets, and ordered to “double quick march” for 5 miles. In such a movement our field music was useless, and Col. Barksdale told us who had no muskets, to fall back and look after our baggage, tents, &c. In returning we passed over a height where we saw distinctly the battle raging about 3 miles to the north west, and a more sublime sight was never witnessed in America. The cannonading was terrific. Sherman’s battery of ten pieces of flying artillery being but a small part of the artillery opposed to our men. The fight lasted till 5 o’clock, which was 9 hours and over, after the attack commenced, and without any cessation of the roar of cannon and rattle of musketry, except for a moment or two, while some flank movements were being made. I cannot stop now to give you many details. the force of the enemy was by their own confession, about 70,000, against which we had at no time, over 35,000, and many of the reinforcements came too late for anything but to join in chasing them in retreat. Our cavalry and artillery followed them back to Fairfax C. H., and made sad havoc among them. They left muskets, rifles, knapsack and blankets on the road and made the best of their way, leaving all their dead and wounded behind on the battle field. Yesterday morning, day after the fight, I saw 500 of the prisoners put on a train for Richmond, who were taken in the battle without being wounded at all. The entire number of prisoners taken so far in this battle, is not less than 1500. Our Regiment and 5 others, went into action in time to make some bayonet charges, which caused the precipitate retreat. – Just at the moment this commenced, Jeff. Dabis arrived from Richmond, jumped on a horse and ordered the cavalry in pursuit, leading them for some time in person. He then returned in season to congratulate the troops on their brilliant victory, which produced the greatest joy and excitement. Now comes the sad part of the tale. Within a long shed not a stones throw from the spot where I am writing, are not less than 800 dead, dying and wounded men. Just before I began my letter, I walked through it, and spent an hour or more, in trying to alleviate suffering – all mingled together, are Southerners and Northerners, brought in from the field in wagons, which have been busy ever since Sunday night in moving those who could not walk. O, and what an idea, that men should be brought to face each other in such plight, who were ready to cut each others throats two days ago! Some would ask imploringly for water. Some to move a limb that was shot and mangled to pieces, others for a Surgeon to dress wounds already filled with living insects. I saw one poor fellow from Minasota with a musket ball wound through his left breast above the back which was swarming so thick with them, that he was trying to dip them out with the end of a large straw. These have all to wait for attention, until our men are attended to, and are in this plight because their men did not stop to take care of them, and all day yesterday, they lay on the battle field in a drenching could rain, till they were picked up by our wagons, and brought to our camps. This is only one of some half dozen places within a half hours walk, each one filled with the same. Twenty wagon loads of the enemy’s dead were taken off the field yesterday, and scarcely a perceptible difference was made in the number on the field., which extends over a distance of about seven miles along the Run, east and west. Our wounded men are sent to Culpeper for attention, so that most that are here now, are of the enemy, who are to be sent to Richmond as fast as possible. It is impossible to compute the number killed and wounded on each side, but it is immense, and I trust will be the last battle needed to bring our enemies to their senses. I have talked with more than twenty of them, and find the same account from them all. They say they came to Washington to defend the Capitol, and they have been ordered over here contrary to the terms of their enlistment. Most of these in this battle enlisted for three months, which expired on Saturday the 20th, their officers told them they should go into it or be branded as deserters, and the first one who grumbled would be shot down. They all say they will never be coaxed ot compelled to fight again.

Their expectations and the promises of their officers were that they would have possession of Manassas junction on Sunday and proceed to Richmond immediately and use up our Rebel organization in a hurry – all these things ae from such men as Dr. Powell of New York City, as good a Surgeon as is in their army, whom I saw and heard express these sentiments and many more like them. He was taken prisoner in the retreat Sunday night, with five assistants in his wagon, with the most splendid assortment of surgical instruments to be found anywhere. Not less than 30 officers of high rank were taken, all of them have paid their respects to Davis and Beauregard and gone to Richmond with a free pass. Sheran’s Battery was taken entire, and most of the men were killed and wounded, and nearly 50 pieces of artillery and 200 horses were taken and brought to this place yesterday morning. Ellsworth’s Zouaves, and the famous 69th New York Rigiment (Col. Corcoran’s Irish Regiment were Court Martialed for not honoring the Prince of Wales by ordering our his command.) were engaged and large numbers of Regulars and Marines all of their best forces from Maine to Minnisota in fact. I cannot stop to particularize further and will only say that the news has just come in that our men, Gen. Johnston’s command, 19,000 strong, are already on the march to Alexandria and we shall all follow to-morrow. We also hear that there is great disaffection existing in Washington and the troops are reported to be fighting among themselves. However this may be, we shall not rest until all of them are driven off our soil. The belief of all the prisoners is that Scott cannot organize and army to invade the Southern soil again, which is pretty near the truth in my opinion. At any rate I believe the question will be settled in less than two months, and we can be allowed to go to our homes once more in peace. God grant that no more blood shall be required to satisfy the craving appetite of Lincoln and Scott. We cannot be taken here by any force that can be brought against us. We have been reinforced by thousands upon thousands since the fight, who will be brought into the field in case of necessity. I suppose it will be best to direct your letters to Manassas Junction as it will be our head quarters for the present. Remember me kindly to all my friends and do not forget us in your prayers to our Heavenly Father.

Your ever affectionate husband,
T. D. Nutting.

The (Jackson, MS) Weekly Mississippian, 8/14/1861

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Lt. Melvin Dwinell, Co. A, 8th Georgia Infantry, On His Feelings Under Fire

30 11 2022

Camp Bartow, near Manassas,
August 13, 1861.

Dear Courier: As everything in the way of news, incidents, accidents, &c., pertaining to the great battle of the 21st, is eagerly sought for by all who have relatives or friends in the Confederate Army, and as this includes nearly every family member in the country, the writer of this is so presumptious as to undertake “a description of one’s feelings in the battle of Manassas – it being his first experience.”

Though at different times and places our Regiment had been, some six or eight times, drawn up in line of battle, and we had gone through all the little heart sinkings, trepidations and fearful apprehensions, which most men experience, upon the eve of entering the life and death contest, yet, when we knew that a great battle was about to be commenced, yet there was such a deep and thrilling earnestness in the cannon’s first booming, as convinced us of the certainty of the fearful work about to be done, and a deep seated apprehension of danger – though not generally shown by palid cheeks or trembling limbs – was experienced. The certainty of danger became still more apparent, when coming near the range of one of the enemy’s batteries, we heard the whizzing of the death dealing missiles, as they passed with a horrid significance of what we might expect from better aim.

The “pomp and circumstance of glorious war,” suddenly dwindled down to the severest kind of plain, common sense, and it very soon became apparent, that common sense rules must be the basis of all discreet actions. At the first sight of the enemy, all the bug bear delusions that may have existed in the fancy of any one, as to their appearance, were suddenly dispelled, and they looked at the distance of three hundred or four hundred yards, precisely like so many of our men.

Quite different from all my fancies of great battles; this was not fought in a broad open field, where the two grand armies could be drawn up in long, unbroken lines, and approach each other in heavy columns. There is no considerable extent of right level ground on this memorable field, but is completely broken with hills and dales, meandering branches and protecting groves. And in extent, the hottest part of the battle field was about one miles by three quarters in width. On such a field, of course, the awful grandeur of appearance of the approaching armies was lost. Then when the firing commenced, that wonderful, indefinite and superhuman grandeur of movements, that my imagination had painted, all faded out, and in its place I had an ugly, dusty, fatiguing and laborious realization of the actual in battle. I experienced most fear when the first cannon ball passed over, with a tremendous whizzing, about twenty yards off; and felt the most dread apprehension, when ordered immediately after, to take a position on a little eminence, in fearful proximity to the place the ball had just passed. After our Regiment had moved forward some 200 or 300 yards, we again came both in range and sight of Sherman’s celebrated Battery, about three-fourths of a mile from us. Their shell and balls came fearfully near, and as one passed through an apple tree just over my head, a cold chill ran over me, and I suffered from agonizing fear, for probably, three or four seconds, but after this, during the entire battle, though I was in almost constant expectation of being killed, yet there was no painful realization of fear, such as would make one hesitate to ge wherever duty called, or prevented a full and free exercise of all the faculties of body and mind. As the dangers really increased, and friends were seen falling thick upon either side, the apprehension, or rather the fear, of them became strangely less, and without feeling secure there was a sort of forced resignation to calmly abide whatever consequences should come.

At no time did I experience any feeling of anger, or discover any exhibition of it in others. A stern determination and inflexible purpose, was the predominant expression of countenance of all, so far as my observation extended, and any sudden exhibition of passion would have seemed ridiculous.

One of the most remarkable mental phenomena, was the sudden and strange drying up of sympathetic feeling for the suffering of the wounded and dying. I could never before look upon even small operations, or persons in extreme pain from any cause, especially when blood was freely flowing, without intense pain and generally more or less faintness. But on this occasion I beheld the most terrible mutilations, the most horrid and ghastly expression of men in the death struggle, men with one arm or a leg, shot off, others with the face horribly mutilated, heads shot through and brains lying about, bodies half torn into, and at the hospital, some 50 men with legs or arms jut amputated and a half cord of legs and arms, and men in all degrees of pain, from the slight flesh wound to those producing death in a few moments, and viewed all this with far less feeling that I would ordinarily have seen brutes thus mutilated. This obduracy I am truly glad, was only temporary. Only two days after the battle I caught myself avoiding the amputation of an arm.

I have written thus much of my own feelings, not because they were peculiar, but according to my best knowledge and belief, were nearly the same as those shared by a great majority of all those who were in the heat of battle, for the first time, on the “glorious 21st.”

Our Regiment is now having an easy time. There is considerable slight sickness, but none dangerous that I know of. Dr. Miller has been appointed General Director of the Medical Board for our Brigade – the 2nd – but he still retains the office of Surgeon of the 8th Regiment.

M. D.

From Dear Courier: The Civil War Correspondence of Editor Melvin Dwinell, pp. 66-68

Rome (GA) Tri-Weekly Courier, 8/24/1861

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Capt. Nathaniel H. R. Dawson, Co. C, 4th Alabama Infantry, On the Battle, Casualties, and Aftermath

28 11 2022

Manassas, Virginia, July 24, 1861

We have in some measure recovered from the excitement following the battle, and I prepare to write you this morning, seated in a thicket, pencil in hand, some of the details of the late engagement –

We, the 4th Ala., with the 2d Miss. and 6th N. C. Rg., under Gen. Bee commenced the fight by attacking the advancing column of Yankees. Our reg. was supposed to attack 5,000 men and after keeping them in check for one hour, retreated, fell back upon the reserve. I was injured by a sprain in the ankle and missed the Reg. which was in advance and was not further engaged. About 200 of the reg. was collected but took no further active part in the battle. We have but about 200 killed and wounded. Among the former is Lieut. Simpson, whom you saw last winter in Montgomery. He was to be married to Miss Collier. We lost about 1,000 killed and wounded. The loss of the Yankees is incalculable as they were [illegible] for fifteen miles, all of their artillery – 50 pieces – 10,000 stand of arms, all of their hospital wagons, a large number of their baggage wagons, and a large number of prisoners have been taken. Their dead line the road all the way.

I walked over the battlefield the next day after the fight. The scene presented was horrible. I counted in one small spot – where Sherman’s battery was taken – thirty-seven horses that were dead and near one hundred dead yankees, besides the wounded who had been removed. Near this place is a house, an old lady 90 years of age was killed by a cannon ball. Her daughter told me this herself at the house. The dead presented an awful appearance, and I thought perchance that the fortunes of man might place me in a similar position. I have learned it seems, however, to think philosophically of these things and am inclined to the opinion that I am hard-hearted.

I have thought of you all the time, my own dear Elodie, have prayed that I might be spared to see you again, and so far my prayer has been granted, and I am deeply grateful to God. I am afraid you have been troubled by rumors of my injury, as Mr. [illegible] and Mr. Smith, members of congress from Alabama who came up from Richmond yesterday told me that it was reported I was killed. I telegraphed the Selma Reporter the day after the battle and yesterday again and wrote you the night of the battle of my safety and hope your apprehensions were not excited, but I almost regret that I was not wounded that I might have had an excuse for giving harm. But I am deeply thankful that so far I have escaped. Col. Jones, Col. Law, and Major Scott are all wounded. Gen. Bee was killed. I send you a flower plucked by me this morning from the spot. He was at the head of our regiment at the time, or the remnant. We lost 185 killed and wounded out of about 700 who went to battle.

You must write me at Manassas Junction, and I will get your letters. I will write you as often as possible. I have sent to Winchester for my trunk and will then have facilities. Excuse this miserable scrawl, but we are in the woods without tents or baggage.

Remember me to Mr. and Mrs. White. You are the idol of my heart, and I am so grateful for your love.

Adieu, dearest Elodie,
Ever and affectionately yours,
N. H. R. Dawson

From Practical Strangers: The Courtship Correspondence pf Nathaniel Dawson and Elodie Todd, Sister of Mary Todd Lincoln. pp. 141-143

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Unknown, Aide to Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell, On the Retreat

21 11 2022

LETTER FROM ONE OF GENERAL McDOWELL’S AIDS

[From the Cincinnati Gazette, July 27]

From a letter of one of General McDowell’s aids, to his wife, we have been permitted to make some extracts, which are very creditable to the two Ohio regiments. The letter reveals something which we have not seen stated elsewhere. When the reserve advanced to support the advance, which at the time had driven the enemy some distance, it fired our own men and threw them into disorder. The writer says: –

The army was to move at two o’clock P. M., in two columns – one approaching the enemy direct and the other on his flanks. We all moved off in time, and the two columns reached their destined positions, as had been planned, and the engagement commenced in two places. The column in direct advance attacked them a long distance off, while the other column came around and commenced the attack on the side of the enemy. This flanking column drove the enemy from its place across the country for two miles, when our two columns made a junction. Then we made a general attack and drove the enemy off into the corner of open flats surrounded by woods. At this time our reserve came up, and opened their fire on our own men, which threw them into disorder; and just when we had completely whipped them from every position they had taken, our men were thrown into a panic by our troops firing on them, taking them for the enemy, for there was no way of telling friends from foes in the general engagement. And then came a sight – may I be spared from seeing such another! Two thousand men started, panic stricken, running through some five thousand who were on their way to assist them. The panic spread through the five thousand, and it was not in the power of human exertion to restrain them to form them into any kind of shape. Appeals of all kinds and threats were alike unheeded, and the only men unmoved were our regulars. They moved on in compact form, and fought the advancing enemy on one side, holding them in check, and on the other were our two Ohio regiments, supported by Captain Ayers’ battery, which kept the panic stricken men from being cut to pieces while trying to organize them into some shape on a plain opposite to where we had been so hotly engaged. I looked also on that plain and there was our small band of regulars, and the Ohio brigade, under Schenck, with Ayers’ battery, holding the enemy in check, and giving us time to draw off our disorganized mass of men, and then commenced a retreat. Our General is now subject to all the blame and disgrace a defeated General is made liable to. He is conscious of having done all that was in his power, and that, too, of the best officers in his army to assist him. In no one point did he allow any changes when he could by any means prevent. Two things he could not provide for: one was General Johnston’s army reinforcing Beauregard; and the other the undisciplined troops that were so easily demoralized and thrown into a panic. There is a vast difference between disciplined and undisciplined troops in a battle field. Our regulars and some of the volunteers, such as Burnsides’ brigade of Providence, Schenck’s Ohio brigade, the Connecticut brigade, and some of the Boston and New York Volunteer regiments did well, and all of these men were in the first of the engagement except the Ohio and Connecticut troops. The great mass of the troops were green men that had just come into the service, for the very morning we had our engagement some of the three months’ men marched from the field for home. This had a bad effect on our men.

We presume that this account will deepen the impression on every one’s mind that our men were required to do impossibilities. Their number was entirely inadequate for the undertaking. They beat the enemy wherever they met them, but they would have continued to fall back on successive lines of masked batteries and intrenchments, until our troops would have been overcome by fatigue and slaughter. The attack was brave and successful at the beginning, but it was an attack that never ought to have been made. Attacking formidable intrenchments with half the force may be heroic, but neither that nor waiting for their completion is strategy.

New York (NY) Herald, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy