Lieutenant Rinaldo B. Wiggin, Co. A, 2nd Maine Infantry, On the Battle

13 11 2012

Letter from the Regiment.

The following letter received on Saturday will be found of much interest. The incidents of the charge made by the gallant Second are given in some detail.

Arlington Heights,

Near Fort Corcoran, July 29, 1861

To B. C. Frost and other friends, who generously contributed in making up the box to the B. L. I.’s.*

Comrades – We have received you generous donation, and wish, as far as words are able, to express to you our thanks. We did not, (as was you intention), receive it in season for the 4th of July, but it came to us at a time when of all others we most needed it…it came to us after the battle, when we were “war worn and weary.” It came just as we had returned from burying one of our comrades, (Chamberlain). We had been on our feet for thirty-six hours, had fought a hard battle, and marched in all a distance of sixty miles, soaked with rain, our clothes ragged, and some without shoes. If you could have seen the crowd that gathered around that box as it was opened, and could have heard the fervent “God bless the boys at home!” as the generous presents made their appearance, I know you would have been amply compensated!

I will endeavor to tell you a little of the part we had in the affair, as I have not yet seen in correctly stated in the papers. In most accounts which I have seen the Second Maine is put down as the Second Wisconsin. We were in Col. Keyes’ brigade with the three Connecticut regiments, and in Gen. Tyler’s division. We [?] our camp at 2 o’clock Sunday morning, the 21st, at Centreville, when we were halted while the whole column marched past us, leaving us in the rear as a reserve. About 10 o’clock the order came for us to march to the front, which we did, coming up to the point where Sherman’s battery was engaging one of the rebel batteries. Here we threw off our coats and packs, and marched by the right flank in double quick time through the woods, across fields, over streams and ditches, a distance of over three miles, coming up to the enemy’s battery on the flank, coming on right line we charged the battery up a steep hill. The battery had just been reinforced by the arrival of Gen. Johnston’s fresh troops, and as we charged up the hill, a storm of iron and lead came down upon us, which nothing but the overruling hand of God prevented from sweeping us from the face of the earth.

Twice we charged almost to the muzzles of their cannon, and twice we were driven back, when the order came to retreat. William Deane was among the first who fell, carrying the California flag which had been presented to us the day before. We got him on board an ambulance of the New York 69th, and I suppose he fell into the hands of the enemy. John F. Reed was taken prisoner in the cavalry charge, and Edward R. Chamberlain of Bangor, died of exhaustion, two days after reaching Alexandria. This is the whole loss of the B. L. I.

On the retreat, shot and shell flew thick and fast amongst us, but fortunately none of us were hurt. The enemy’s cavalry made a dashing charge upon our rear, but we formed the best lines we could, and kept them at bay. At Centreville, we dropped on the ground for a few minutes to rest, when the order came to retreat to Fairfax, and once more we took up our weary line of march, retreating a distance of 28 miles, without food or rest, the last three or four hours through a heavy rain, till we reached Alexandria. We stopped two days in Alexandria, and were then ordered to this place.

Poor Chamberlain died the day after we left Alexandria, and it was while Capt. Bartlett was there making arrangements for his funeral, that the long looked for box was found in the Alexandria express office. You can perhaps imagine something of our feelings upon receiving it. All I can say to B. C. Frost, Levi March, John Lowell, C. C. Prescott, H. E. Sellers, H. G. Thaxter, O. R. Patch, and all others who contributed in making “our box”, is, that a soldier’s blessing will follow you.

On my own behalf, and in behalf of the officers and members of the Bangor Light Infantry,

I am, Gentlemen, yours truly,

R. B. Wiggin

*B. L. I. – Bangor Light Infantry, Company A of the 2nd Maine Infantry Regiment.

Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, 8/5/1861

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Rinaldo B. Wiggin on Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





P. W. A., Co. B, 8th Georgia Infantry, On the Battle

13 06 2012

The 7th and 8th Georgia Regiments at Manassas.

From the correspondence of the Savannah Republican, we take the following interesting narrative of the part borne by the 7th and 8th Georgia Regiments in the great battle at Manassas:

Manassas, Va., July 23d.

Dear Republican — I had only time yesterday to give you a list of the killed and wounded in our company, without detailing the incidents of the portion of the fight in which we were engaged.

Last Thursday we were in Winchester. At 2 o’clock we left that place. We marched over the mountains, forded the Shenandoah, and arrived at Piedmont, a station on the Manassas Gap Railroad, about ten o’clock, Friday, having footed it twenty seven miles. All the baggage was left at Winchester. We took the cars after a few hours’ delay, and came slowly here, where we arrived late Saturday morning after a tedious ride. Then marching three miles and a half we encamped in a wooded ravine beyond Manassas, and slept that night on the open ground. After a meagre breakfast Sunday morning we received orders to march for the place of fight, which we reached by a long, weary, woody, hilly, circuitous tramp of between 10 and 15 miles, often going at double quick. We halted, breathless, foot sore and exhausted, but eager for the fray.

With a few moments rest the regiments were posted behind Pendleton’s Virginia Battery, exchanging shots with the famous Sherman’s Battery of the Federalists. Ball and shell fell around us like hail. The Col. ordered the men to lay down until they were needed to charge, which they did. For some time we lay in this perilous position, losing, however, but one man – a member of the Macon Guards – when we received the order to charge the enemy’s battery. To do this it was necessary to charge across an intervening hollow and establish ourselves in a small pine thicket, flanking the enemy’s position. This cold and fearful movement was made through a perfect storm of grape and in a manner that General Johnson specially praised.

Gaining the grove with the loss of Thos. Purse killed, and James Car??? wounded, we opened fire on a large detachment of the Federal Infantry, stationed on the edge of the hill above the thicket some fifty or a hundred yards off who had been put there for the assistance of the battery. At the same time a large force of the enemy moved up until we were surrounded on three sides. Our grove was one hundred or more yards long and a quarter as wide, and as dense as nature…to near ten thousand, who poured a murderous fire upon us, concentrated, well aimed, and continuous. It was a whirlwind of bullets. Our men fell constantly. The deadly missives rattled like hail among the boughs of trees. Never veterans fought more coolly than the whole regiment. Not a man flinched. Carefully loading, each one took special aim, fired, and composedly repeated the same again.

Adjutant Branch was shot almost immediately, and Col. Gardner wounded, and Col. Bartow’s horse shot under him soon after. The ground was in a few minutes covered – paved with the dead and wounded. After seven or eight volleys were fired by us it became necessary to retire. No support was given; half of the regiment were down, and the enemy increasing in numbers. Even when the order to cease firing and retire had been given, so unyielding were the men, that several additional volleys were poured upon the foe.

In retiring a large portion of the regiment became separated from the colors by the density of the growth and were unable to recover them, but another portion, consisting among others of all the officers of the Ogelthorpes, clustered around it, and slowly retired at a walk, from point to point, towards the reserve. At every step the storm of balls mowed us down, and with their decreasing force we returned it. The ground over which we passed consisted of a series of woods and small fields, and at each open space the officers would reform the men, and the fight would be renewed with the pursuing enemy advancing in strength. A horrible mistake at this point occurred. Our own friends, taking us for the enemy, directed a galling fire upon our mutilated ranks. The Carolinians, Louisianians, and 7th Georgians turn…terrible effect.

The regiment finally withdrew out of reach of the shot, which the 7th Georgia took our place. The remnants formed, consisting of about 60 men, with Major Cooper, Capts. Magruder, Lamar, West, Dawson and Ryan, and Lieuts. Wilcox, Hall, Lumpkin, Dwinnel, Harper, Cooper, and Butler, and Sergt. Major Menard, and marched back

As this small remnant of the gallant six hundred marched, they passed Gen. Beauregard, who stopped, fronted, and raising his hat said, “I salute the gallant 8th Georgia Regiment!” – Every bosom thrilled with the proud compliment.

When the 7th Georgia Regiment reinforced us, Colonel Bartow took the lead of that. He has been for some weeks Brevet Brigadier General, commanding the 2d brigade of Johnston’s division, the brigade consisting of the 7th, 8th, 9th and 11th Georgia Regiment and a battalion of Kentuckians.

Deeply cut by the destruction of his own heroic but ill fated Regiment, Col. Bartow sprang forward to lead the 7th Georgia Regiment, whose Colonel met him, asking where they should go. Seizing the regimental standard, Col. Bartow turned to the enemy, saying “Follow me, and I will show you where,” and led on into the midst of the terrible fire of the Federalists. The men began to fall; the bullets whistled by in countless numbers. On kept the brave fellows with unquailing sternness, the Colonel leading impetuously to the enemy, encouraging and cheering the men until they arrived at their appointed position, when he turned and exclaimed, “Gen. Beauregard expects us to hold this position, and, Georgians, I appeal to you to hold it.” The leaden storm poured with increasing strength. Hot and heavy it came. Bartow turned to give of the standard to the proper officer, when a bullet passed through his heart and he fell from his horse. Several men sprang forward and lifted him up with both hands clasped over his wound. The only words he spoke – which were his last, and which deserve to be remembered as the last words of…that fame has ever commemorated – were “They have killed me: but, boys, never give up.” He was taken from the field and died in a few moments.

Thus perished, in the prime of his noble manhood, a lofty gentleman, a pure patriot, an able statesman, and a chivalric soldier. His bitterest enemies could charge him with no worse shortcomings than those which result from a high-strung spirit, impatient of meanness, sensitive to injustice, and noble to a chimera. The manner of his death would eternalize a thousand less lofty souls than his, and…less holy cause than the one in which he so fervently engaged – for which he so eagerly gave up everything, and in which he so willingly and resplendently died.

His body was…yesterday. He was not the only one of our finest officers that perished. General Bee was killed; Gen. Smith was severely wounded; Col. Fisher of a North Carolina regiment, was shot dead; also, Col. Jones, from the same state.

It has been estimated that the loss of our army is 2,000 killed and wounded; for the enemy it must be over 5,000. the numbers engaged were probably 15,000 on ours, with an unused reserved of 15,000; while the enemy numbered, at least, 60,000. They were under General Tyler. They have fled beyond Alexandria. A gentleman from there this morning said that the fugitives in miserable plight were streaming through, and that all military discipline in the place…over.

I am convinced of one thing – that all this talk about the Federalists being starved, unclothed, and unenthusiastic is absolute fudge. We cannot compare with them in the perfection of equipments and general preparations. Their haversacks were full; their blankets are magnificent; their canteens and other conveniences are ingenious, their medical accommodations are superb.

It is all fudge, too, about their enlisting from coercion, and not knowing they are to fight us. They tell us such…to mitigate their imprisonment. They are…shrewdness is a Yankee characteristic.

I have many particulars to tell you, but I must close this for …your regular correspondent here,…will give you a general view of the battle.

The remaining Ogelthorpes send love to their friends. They mourn for their gallant comrades who have so nobly died.

Oglethorpe Light Infantry

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July 25 – There was another error in my letter of yesterday, in relation to the…which the lamented Bartow and the 7th and 8th Georgia regiments took in the fight. Gallant as I represented…conduct to be it now appears that only the half was told. Gen. Evans’s brigade occupied the extreme left along the line of Bulls Run. Next came Gen. Bee’s brigade, and next to his Gen. Bartow’s, and after his Gen. Jackson’s. The enemy opened a battery upon Gen. Evans by way of feint, but continued to push on his flank movement. Gen. Bee was dispatched to hold him in check, but so great were the numbers opposed to him the he was gradually forced back, while the enemy slowly but surely advanced along our flank. It was at this point that Col. Bartow’s brigade was ordered up. Meanwhile a battery of six guns had been planted to our left to protect the steady march of the Federal column, and to drive back our forces as they endeavored to head it off. As Col. Bartow was proceeding to take his position he met Gen. Beauregard, who told him that everything depended on his taking the position to which he had been ordered and checking the advance of the enemy…if possible. Upon this bloody duty he immediately started at the head of the heroic 8th. He was exposed to a galling fire for nearly an hour, from which the enemy suffered terribly. His horse was killed under him by one ball, while his sword…pierced by another. His horse came near falling upon Capt. Dawson of the Stephens Light Guards, who behaved with great gallantry, as did the whole company. At length it became necessary to retire the 8th, so much had it suffered, in order to give it time to reform in line.

At this point Col. Bartow brought up the Seventh, which had been ordered to lie flat upon the ground until called for. During this time the enemy’s line continued to stretch away to the left and gradually to force ours back, when Gen. Jackson was ordered to bring his brigade into position. Placing himself at the head of the Seventh and taking the colors in his own hands, (the color bearer having been wounded, not killed as represented,) Col. Bartow proceeded again to occupy the position to which he had been ordered. He had procured another horse, and was not on foot when he fell, as I stated yesterday. The Seventh was exposed to the same raking fire from which the Eighth had suffered so much, though not for so long a time. Indeed the fighting along the entire line in this part of the field was terrific. It was here that the fortunes of the day vibrated first to one side and then to the other, and nothing but the almost superhuman exertion of the Confederate troops gave us the victory. You will be glad to learn that even the prisoners taken from the enemy pay the highest tribute to the Georgia brigade. They say they never saw men fight as they did, and when told that there were only two regiments of them, they were utterly astonished, for, judging by the terrible execution of our muskets, they had supposed them to number four times as many. I…part of the field the night of the battle was fought, in search of Bartow’s body, and the heaps of the dead on the enemy’s side, as seen by the pitiful moonlight, and the groans and cries that everywhere saluted my ears, told but too plainly that good old Georgia had that day dealt a giant’s blow at the head of the…

The Seventh, aided by the Eighth, which had been partially restored to order, continued to hold their position with varying fortunes, and never did quit the field until the battle was won. Bartow had promised Gen. Beauregard to maintain his position, and he did it as long as he lived, and the brigade did it after he had fallen. And the result was the capture of the battery (Sherman’s) that had decimated our forces by its fire, and the final route of the adversary. To no two regiments on the field is the country more indebted than to the glorious Seventh and Eighth from Georgia. Every man was a lion-hearted hero, and every company a wall of fire.

I have not attempted to furnish you an account of the individual acts of heroism, or the gallant conduct of other regiments; for the reason that the military rules adopted here render it difficult to get access to the proper sources of information. Besides, you will find in the papers of the other…more satisfactory account of what their particular regiments did, than I could possibly give you.

Thus far I have not been able to obtain a list of the killed and wounded in the Eighth Georgia Regiment, but should be able to do so to-morrow. It suffered considerably more than the Seventh. – Appended hereto is a statement of the casualties in the Seventh, which Col. Gartrell has kindly furnished me, and which may therefore be considered reliable. Let our people never forget their brave brothers who have fallen in the defense of the liberties of the country.

President Davis returned this morning. No man in the Confederacy regrets the death of Col. Bartow more than the President, who cherished a strong friendship for him. Immediately on his return to Manassas, Sunday night, he sent a telegram to Mrs. Davis, to break the sad news to Mrs. Bartow, who had come on to Richmond, to be as near her husband as possible.

One of the prisoners says that Gen. McDowell was the active officer upon the field but that Gen. Scott who took his position at Centreville, was the director of the whole battle. If such were their positions, the latter must have come near to be captured; for notwithstanding the failure to execute…to strike at the rear of the enemy, a bold dash was made from our centre at Centreville but it was late in the day and after the retreat had commenced. Had old “fuss and feathers” been there then he would have had the pleasure of being…to Richmond sooner than his army will ever take him. …prisoner says that Senator Wilson of Massachusetts and Bob Lincoln had driven out in a carriage to see…Federalists could whip us, and that they, as well as Senator Foster barely saved themselves. I have already mentioned that Mr. Ely, M. C., from New York, was taken prisoner. Another prisoner whom I did not mention in my last letter was Col. Wilcox, of the Michigan Regiment.

P. W. A.

Augusta Chronicle, 7/30/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





1st Sgt. John Tobin, Co. E, 6th Louisiana, On the Retreat from Fairfax Station, Blackburn’s Ford, and the Battle

6 06 2012

Battle of Bull’s Run and Manassas

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Letter from One of the Mercer Guard, 6th Louisiana Volunteers

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We have been favored with the following letter from a private of Col. Seymour’s Regiment, Mr. John Tobin, of this city, belonging to the Mercer Guard, who was promoted from the ranks to a lieutenant for his gallantry. The letter was written in pencil to a friend, with all the freshness and frankness of the true soldier, and will be found highly interesting, as everything must be to us at this time on this subject:

Union Mills, Va., July 31, 1861.

Dear Friend — We are now encamped at this point, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, five miles from Manassas Junction and five miles from Fairfax Station.

We have passed through many scenes and since I last wrote you, and have seen as hard duty as is common to volunteers. We have, for a week at a time, slept on the bare ground, without any shelter or covering except what the heavens saw fit to bestow upon us. We have been on duty during heavy rains, all night and day, unable to change our wet uniforms for clothing more dry and comfortable, for the simple reason that we were without a change of wearing apparel – our baggage having been transported to some place unknown to high privates and subalterns. Such is the life of a soldier; his toils, trials, and privations are our every-day experience.

At w o’clock on the morning of July 17, while encamped at Fairfax station, we were aroused from our peaceful dreams by the morning reveille. We were taken unawares by this unthought for alarm; however, we willingly performed the first duty of a soldier, (to obey orders,) and took our respective places in line to receive orders. Tents were struck, and baggage of all kinds, cooking utensils, &c., packed in double-quick time, and ’twas then we understood that the enemy were advancing on our position, and ’twas our intention to give them a warm reception. Our baggage, and every moveable and cumbersome article being packed into our camp wagons, our men proceeded to take their position behind the breastworks they had a few days before erected.

Our company (Mercer Guard) and Calhoun Guard composed the reserve, and were detached from our regiment, and entrusted with the honorable position of covering the retreat. We were expecting the attack every moment, when Brig. Gen. Ewell, commanding this brigade, (6th Louisiana and 5th Alabama Regiments,) ordered a retreat; the enemy were then within a few minutes’ march of our late encampment, and had we remained to give them battle we would have been completely cut to pieces, or compelled to surrender.

The reserve of which we were a part brought up the rear of the retreating party, and halted at Union Mills, where we are now encamped. We retreated along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and took the precaution to burn some four or five bridges between this point and Fairfax Station, to prevent the enemy’s artillery from coming by this road. Twenty minutes after our retreat the enemy, consisting of some 20,000 men, were upon our late camp ground. They rent the air with their shouts of exultation, and were so elated with their victory that they immediately took up their march, expecting to overtake and slaughter us. To our regiment is due the honor of decoying and misleading the enemy, and drawing them on to Bulls Run, where they suffered so inglorious a defeat. Too much praise cannot be bestowed upon the officers commanding our regiment. I would make mention of Col. Seymour, but he is too well known a soldier to receive any praise from my pen, either for bravery or capacity.

On the night of the 17th, both armies slept on their arms, being stationed about one mile from each other. On the morning of the 18th, the enemy advanced towards Bull’s Run, and attempted to cross at Mitchell’s Ford, and as you know ere this reaches you, with what success. Our company, on the night of the 19th, were posted as picket guard for two miles along Bull’s Run, it rained incessantly all night, and we were compelled to lay flat on the ground to prevent the enemy seeing our position, and most important of all to keep our powder and muskets dry. Occasionally you could hear the sharp report of a musket, then probably a volley, and you might bet your life that every report told its tale of death, and the returning echo seemed to answer that every shot had accomplished its purpose. On the morning of the 20th, we were relieved from picket guard by another company, and went to our quarters to take whatever rest the wet ground afforded us. Nothing eventful occurred until the morning of the 21st, the day was beautiful, the sun shone in all its splendor, and to make our cause more holy, it was Sunday, and the battle of Stone Bridge, the greatest battle ever fought on this continent was enacted. On the morning of the 21st, at sunrise, the battle was opened by the enemy’s artillery; it is impossible for me to give you anything like a correct idea of this well contested battle, but will confine myself to such facts as I know to be true.

Neither party had any advantage up till 3 o’clock, P.M., when the battle looked very gloomy for our side. Our troops at one time were panic stricken, and we would have lost the day had not the reserve taken their position so as to receive the enemy’s fire, and cover our retreating forces. Our troops were reformed and again led on. They were ordered to charge bayonet, and with one yell they charged, and great God! what havoc and butchery there ensued! The enemy were formed thirteen deep around their batteries, but had they been ten times that they could never have withstood that charge. Our forces came down upon them like a thunderbolt, and with one cry of despair the enemy broke and ran – the day was ours. The sun, which had been concealed by dark clouds a few hours before, now peeped forth upon this scene of carnage and death. The dying looked upon its radiant brightness, and felt its healing influences for the last time. The groans of the dying and wounded could be heard on every side, the living too eager for the fray to be of any service to their dying comrades. So much for a soldier’s experience. Let us drop the curtain on this appalling picture, and return to something more interesting.

The enemy retreated towards Centreville, closely pursued by our forces; they were pursued with great slaughter as far as Alexandria. All of their artillery, consisting of 67 pieces, were captured. Among them were several Armstrong guns and Sherman’s crack battery. The battle-ground covers a space of some ten miles along Bull’s Run. The loss on both sides must have been immense. We took almost 1000 prisoners, and some 500 cavalry horses, and captured about 10,000 stand of arms – truly, a great victory.

Our regiment arrived just as the enemy were retreating. President Jeff. Davis was on the ground in time to see the enemy disappear from sight.

Such was the glorious victory achieved by our forces at Stone Bridge, July 21, 1861.

I would not attempt to give the strength of either party; it is currently stated here that their force was 60,000, and ours 35,000. I give you this for what it is worth. It is true that they were the best equipped army that ever went into the battle field; they were clad from top to bottom in the best — all the money in Christendom could not have given them a more complete outfit.

It will soon be dress parade, and I must bring this long episode to an end.

New Orleans Times Picayune, 8/7/1861

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John Tobin on Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. William Z. Mead, Co. C, 1st VA Cavalry, On the Battle

16 05 2012

The First Virginia Cavalry.

Copy of a letter from a member of Col. Stuart’s 1st Virginia Cavalry Volunteers, to his friend on James River, after the battle of Bull’s Run, on 21st July, in which he was engaged:

Fairfax Station, Camp Lee,

Fairfax C. H., Va., 26th July 1861

My Dear Sir: It has occurred to me to-day (the first day of anything like rest, we have had for several weeks,) that I could not do better than to try and entertain my friends with some account of the battle of “Bull’s Run,” the grandest blow, probably, ever struck for freedom, and certainly the most complete, which hard won victory ever achieved on the American continent. If no one else, your little sons, who, I understand, are training themselves for the field of some future day, will surely be interested in knowing about the great and bloody struggle, by which the liberties of their country were preserved and secured to them forever. I say preserved, for the effect of the battle has certainly been to demoralize throughout the armies of the invader, and to change the public opinion of the North; perhaps, also, to win the sympathy of the great powers of Europe. You and the ladies must also have looked to the issue of that day, with anxious hearts,, for many of your friends were there – all to share in the glory – and some to give their blood in our holy cause. And still others, though I trust few, to yield their lives, to protect the homes, and the mothers, and the little ones there.

Friday, 19th July, was a stirring day in the camp at Winchester, occupied as you know, by the army of the Shenandoah, under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. At 4 A.M. the division was put in motion, 25,000 strong, with our Cavalry 750 strong., under Col. J. E. B. Stuart at the head of the column.

The roll of the drums, and the sound of the bugles, awoke the whole town; and as the solid columns moved rapidly away, the astonishment and consternation of the people were plainly perceptible – for not one, civilian or soldier, knew the meaning of that sudden movement.

Gen. Patterson, with 30,000 men, was within twelve miles of the city, which was thus to be left to its fate, unprotected, save by a few thousand new troops. What could it mean? The end will show the consummate generalship which planned, and the patriotic zeal which perfect the manoeuvre. For at that very moment, Patterson was marching for Harper’s Ferry, there to embark on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad for Washington – there to unite with McDowell, Crush Beauregard at Manassas, and advance to Richmond. Johnston saw through it all, and hastened by a forced march to join Beauregard, before Patterson could reach Washington, and there crush McDowell, and hurl his broken columns back on the Federal city. This he did. On Saturday night, Beauregard and Johnston had united – and that night the troops intended for the engagement, 35,000 in number, slept on their arms, on the North side of Bull’s Run, three miles North of Manassas Junction. Many thousand of the Confederate troops, who were to be in action, we detained by railroad collision, caused by the criminal conduct of a treacherous conductor, who was shot by order of the Commanding General.

On the following day, Sunday July 21, at 6 A.M., the troops were formed in line of battle, in the shape of the letter V, the apex toward the enemy. Gen. Beauregard took command of the right wing, Gen. Johnston of the left, and late in the day, President Davis, in person, took charge of the centre. He rode a splendid grey charger, and inspired the troops to almost frenzied enthusiasm, by his noble bearing and stirring words of encouragement. At 9 1/2 A.M. precisely, the first gun was fired by the enemy from a 32 pounder upon our right. The enemy were in three divisions, the right and left of 15,000 each, and the centre of 25,000 men. Gen. Scott himself was at Centreville, four miles off; and nearer in view of the battle field, were many members of the Northern Cabinet and Congress, and large numbers of ladies from Washington, who had driven out in elegant equipages to witness the demolition of the rebels, as one would look upon a game of chess.

The battle opened with artillery on both sides, commencing on our right and spreading rapidly to the distance of over three miles, from wing to wing. In about an hour the infantry were in position, and Jackson’s brigade fired the first volley. The cavalry was stationed on the wings. Our cavalry, 1st Regiment, under Col. Stuart, in rear of the left, and Col. Radford’s Regiment in rear of the right. We were then placed, and ordered to dismount and stand by our horses until needed. The battle commenced raging, with deadly ferocity, all along the lines – the roar of artillery and the rattle of musketry being almost deafening. By the large number of wounded and dead, brought by the ambulances to the rear, it was evident that the enemy were fighting well. For five hours, the storm of shot and shell raged, column after column being hurled in vain against our intrepid young heroes – so largely outnumbered and out disciplined, as they were, they never for a moment faltered or retreated. At half-past 2 o’clock it was rumored that the enemy was defeated on the right by Beauregard – not so, however, on the left, where, it id conceded, the hardest fighting was done. General Johnston saw that his division was being terribly mutilated, and was about to be surrounded by the New York Zouaves, and the New York 8th Regiment, with several other regiments of Regulars covered […]. At 3. P.M., Johnston saw that he must withdraw his exhausted troops, for the enemy were, even then, deploying far over to the left, to surround and cut them to pieces. Then it was that he sent for Elzy’s brigade, consisting of the Maryland Regiment, the 1st Tennessee, and the 17th Virginia, and one Louisiana Infantry, Beckman’s small battery of artillery and Stuart’s Regiment of Cavalry. He told the officers that the day would be decided in 15 minutes, and they could turn the scale. The devoted column, in whose hands rested the great issues of the conflict, moved rapidly forward. Regiment after regiment, mutilated and exhausted, passed us with mingled looks of despair and hope. Not even the piles of dead and rows of wounded on the way, made one of those young spirits quail or fall from the ranks. As we approached the field, the victorious shouts of the enemy were heard behind the woods. The arrangement was as follows: To first break the column of flanking troops, by a cavalry charge, and thus give the infantry and artillery time to form – the first in front, and the last on the left flank. The brigade which we were about to relieve, was fighting on a wooded ridge, on the side of which, and running at right angles to our lines and the enemy’s was a lane through the woods, and emerging therefrom on the enemy’s right flank. Along this road, four regiments, headed by Ellsworth’s Zouaves, were deploying successfully, thus:

Just as the head of the flanking brigade of our enemy appeared in the wood, the bugle of our cavalry sounded “to the charge,” and on we dashed, with the heroic Stuart at our head. As we emerged from the woods, Sherman’s battery opened on us with grape, killing at the first fire 19 horses and 11 men, and wounding many. But there was no stopping, nor did the bugle sound “to the rear,” until we had completely broken the enemy’s lines.

The brigade of Elzy then formed on the hill, in the place of the noble Bee’s, and the artillery opened with terrible execution on the extreme left. Ten minutes more, and Gen. Johnston said the day was decided, the enemy routed, and one of the most precipitate and terror-stricken flights began, to be found in the history of warfare. The pursuit was conducted by Gen. Cocke’s Brigade with the entire body of cavalry, piously called by the Yankees, “those infernal hell-hounds,” and Beckman’s artillery. We pursued eight miles on the left flank. We cut off an immense number of prisoners, and found scattered along the line of the retreat, cannon, flags, arms, wagons, ambulances, provisions, haversacks, horses, saddles, &c., in any quantity. All the roads from Bull Run to Fairfax Court House, and beyond, were lined with articles thrown away by the panic stricken enemy.

At the latter place we captured several hundred stands of arms, and several loads of ammunition. They were at the depot, destined for Richmond. In fact, most of the prisoners say that they expected to go directly through Richmond.

The lines of our army now extend from Fairfax Court House off to the right and left, to a great distance. What the next move will be, nobody knows, but all agree that if Lincoln determines on prosecuting the war, the next battle will be fierce and more bloody than the last.    *   *   *

Last Sunday I was on the battle field where we fought so hard, as Sergeant of an escort for Gen. Beauregard. All the great chiefs of the Revolution were there to pay their respects to the comparatively young hero of the day. You have heard our Generals described so often, that I will not undertake a further description. I reviewed with mournful awe the hushed and peaceful fields which so lately re-echoed to the deadly roar of battle. I stood where the terrible Sherman battery stood and surrendered. I paused by the graves of many a dear, young and cherished friend, with its modest slab of wood and its simple inscription. I rode through the silent lane, down which Stuart’s terrible charge of light cavalry was made. I saw the mangled horses – and the graves of those who so heroically fell at the head of the column. And as I witnessed all this in the peaceful sunlight of the Sabbath, I could not restrain those tears which God has granted to relieve the pent up sorrow of human bosoms. Oh! this cruel war, those desolate hearth stones; those weeping mothers! where, where will it end? The glow of our victory is great – the lustre of our arms shines forth before the world; but I would give my right hand to-day if God would dry the weeping eyes of mothers and sisters, by permitting the war to cease.

W. Z. Mead

Augusta (GA) Daily Constitutionalist, 8/20/1861

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William Zacharia Mead on Ancestry.com

Contributed by John Hennessy





Pvt. John W. Day, Co. H, 1st Massachusetts, On the March, Blackburn’s Ford, and the Battle

26 02 2012

The First Conflict at Bull Run.

The following letter was received by Capt. Wm. Day, in this city, from his nephew, who was connected with the 1st Massachusetts Regiment: –

Fort Albany, Arlington Heights, Va.,

July 27, 1861.

This is the first opportunity which has presented itself for some time, and I improve it in writing to you. We have had a hard battle since last I wrote.

On Tuesday afternoon, July 16th, we received orders to march into Virginia, and crossed chain bridge about four o’clock, en route for Vienna where we arrived after a long night’s march. – Here we snatched a few hours’ repose, and at about, 8 A. M. we started for Fairfax Court House. – Our brigade was thrown on the left to outflank the enemy in the town, but they fled at the approach of the entire column, headed by Sherman’s Battery. They ran all that day till at night we were glad to desist from the pursuit and rest in Centreville. As we passed through Germantown the rebels set fire to the houses. It was a terrible sight; the houses flaming everywhere, amid the dense woods, on the plains, and upon the distant hills. The rebels knocked in the heads of the flour barrels and stirred it in the mud rather than we should have it, and kegs of crackers and barrels of salt beef were mingled on every side, with cartridges, broken wheels, wagon bodies, etc. &c. They kept only half an hour ahead of us the whole way. When our brigade halted for the night, our company was appointed to do picket duty, and we marched off in the direction of the enemy for about a mile, then separated into squads of four, and hid ourselves in the bushes, where we awaited their coming, but were not attacked, although the pickets of the Ohio regiment were. On Thursday morning the Massachusetts First led the van, and we pushed forward for Bull Run, five or six miles distant. Halting about two miles off, our Company and Company G, were detailed to support two companies of Cavalry on a reconnoisance. We hurried rapidly forward under a blazing sun, and suddenly found ourselves in the face of the enemy’s batteries. A precipitate retreat was ordered, and we fell back on the main body. Sherman’s battery advanced at a quick trot, and fired the first gun at about 2 o’clock. The enemy commenced his reply and then retreated. We followed after in full feather, but as our skirmishers on the left were rushing on through the under brush they were saluted by a raking fire from a masked battery in the ravine below. They were scattered and nearly annihilated. The Boston Fusileers were ordered up to support them, and finding the place too hot for them, our Company and the National Guards were sent to their support. Our company crossed the ravine and ascended the hill, densely covered with wood, and passing the crest, found themselves on a comparatively open plateau sloping down to a pond of water, surrounded by a dense wood. From the wood the rifles and cannon belched forth their fires, and bullets screamed over our heads like a hornet’s nest. As we rushed down the hill at the battery, two men, Sergeant Thomas Harding, and George Bacon, were killed at my side one on my right, and the other on my left. We were broken by the fire, and obliged to retire to the crest of the hill under cover of the trees, leaving four men, two dead and two wounded on the field, beside those whom we were able to carry off – some six or eight. Twice we charged down the hill, and twice we returned, and then the word “retreat!” was passed along the line. Our Lieut. Col. Wells, fought like a common soldier – he rushed from man to man, grasping their muskets, and firing them, and shouting for another loaded one. So did our Captain, and the men, encouraged by their example, fought like devils, as was said by an officer in the regiment of artillery, who had been in the Mexican army. But what could three companies do against four thousand men who were in the battery and woods? Nothing, and we were obliged to retreat. Just as we leaped the fence, the Lieut. Col. called for volunteers to go down the hill and try to bring up our two wounded men. I said I would go, and handing my musket to the captain, ran down the hill as fast as I could amid a perfect storm of bullets, which made me bend over almost double in order that they might go over my head, as the enemy aimed most astonishingly high. Whole platoons fired at once, but the bullets passed over the heads of our men. I reached the nearest man, both threw up their hands and begged me for Christ’s sake not to leave them to the enemy who were bayonetting the wounded. I looked behind me, and judge of horror and peril to find myself alone; not a man had followed me down hill. I was not one hundred feet from the enemy, and without arms. I threw myself down on my face and grasped his hand, bidding him good bye. I told him I was so weak I could scarce get off myself, and that I was alone and must leave him. I then sprang up and ran as fast as I could up the hill, waving my cap and shouting friend! as loud as possible in order to keep the skirmishers of the New York 12th from firing on me – for amid the confusion of the hour it was almost impossible to distinguish friend from foe. the enemy shot my canteen off my neck as I ran up the hill, but I reached the N. Y. regiment in safety, and sank on the ground inside their line utterly exhausted. The other regiments now moved to the line of battle, but none entered the wood again. The men were much exhausted by their hard marching and the poor food they had had for the past three days; and we had been living on raw salt pork and hard bread. Finding retreat inevitable, Gen. Tyler ordered us to  retire to Centreville, where we arrived about 8 o’clock, and dropped down to sleep under a pouring rain. We lost 15, viz: killed, 5; wounded, 9; missing 1; – from whom we have heard nothing; no doubt he is dead. It is also believed that one of our company, who was dying of a cannon shot in his leg, was burned to death at Fairfax when the enemy burnt the hospital after the retreat of the second battle. This ended the first battle of Bull Run. We lay at Centreville all night, and at earliest dawn were marched to within two miles of the enemy, where we rested the next two days, till on Saturday night we were thrown out to sustain our pickets; our regiment laid down on a fresh ploughed field, and being much exhausted, went to sleep, waked every now and then by the sound of the enemy marching in with reinforcements to Bull Run. – They came with rolling drums and bugles playing martial airs, so close to us that we felt the jarring of the ground. But we lay still without noise, and they apparently knew not that on the other side of the wall in the corn-field lay a regiment of their sworn and deadly foes. I fell asleep and dreamed of faces left behind, till called up in the grey of the morn, when we rushed forward to take a position on the right bivouac in order to support the Artillery of the left battery of the central division.

It was a fair and lovely Sabbath morning when we filed into the woods, in the rear of our cannon, and sat down to await the commencement of the battle! Bang – went our cannon – echoing through the startled wood, and a rifle shell went crashing off like and express train in the direction of the enemy! Far away like distant thunder came the answer of our other batteries along the line. Then on the right large bodies of our troops charged on the foe; whole regiments fired at once, and whole squadrons of the enemy’s horse tore over the groaning ground. For nine hours the battle continued, and we sat there in those woods waiting the order to advance, but none came. As I reclined half dozing on my blanket I could not realize the awful scene only two miles distant. The cannon seemed to my mind a tolling bell calling to worship, as a thousand Sabbath bells were doing then in my far off Northern home, and spiritually I worshipped at the olden altar, as I read from my little Testament and Psalms:

“Lord make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is, that I may know how frail I am! Behold Thou hast made my days as an hand’s breadth, and mine age is nothing before thee; verily every man at his best estate is but vanity.

Lord! what I wait for? my hope is in thee; O! spare me that I may recover strength before I go hence and be here no more!”

At 4 P. M. up galloped an aid-de-camp, and a hurried retreat was ordered; while the enemy’s fire came pelting on our rear, we retired hastily to Centreville. Thence by a forced march to Arlington Heights, thirty miles. Here we are now, but know not how long we shall remain.

J. W. D.[*],

Co. H. Mass. 1st Reg.

Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics,  8/10/1861

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* Most likely John W. Day, a 23-year-old printer from Chelsea, MA, who enlisted in Co. H on 5/22/1861 and received a disability discharge in Bladensburg, MD on 8/29/1861. Per Ancestry.com.

Contributed by John Hennessy





Uncle of E. J. Goodspeed, A Civilian’s Eyewitness Account of the Battle

23 02 2012

Correspondence of the Daily Gazette.

Another Account of the Battle.

———-

Messers. Editors: — The Following is the main body of a letter just received by the family of my uncle, which I copy and send to you. As it deeply interested me I think it may interest your readers, and send it on.

Respectfully yours,

E. J. Goodspeed.

——-

Willard’s Hotel,

Washington, July 24th, 1861.

My Dear Son: — [Here follows a description of the appearance of our army in their entrenchments and of the general confidence of the troops that victory would be theirs.]

“Centreville is within one mile of the first battle ground.  The enemy held the ground and were encamped on the other side of Bull’s Run; ranging over an extent of about five miles. Centerville being a little to the left of the centre of their lines in front, with a glass I could distinctly see their several encampments on the slopes of the hills beyond, and still beyond the long range of the blue mountains of Virginia, ,stretching each way as far as the eye could see. The scene was most beautiful, and the contemplation of the conflict on the morrow most exciting. The certainty that hundreds of the brave boys of the magnificent army encamped around me, were building their last camp fires, and that anxious friends whom they had left and who were doubtless then praying for their safety in the coming fight, would be stricken with sorrow so soon, made it anything but pleasant to contemplate. We camped with the 14th of Brooklyn in the tent of their brave and lamented Col. Wood. I was recognized by several of the boys of the 14th. By two o’clock Sunday morning every regiment was ready for the march, each with two days rations in their haversacks. By three they began to move from about two miles this side of Centreville. My party and myself remained in Centerville and saw every regiment pass through. The sight was imposing and grand in the extreme. The boys were in good spirits, and, with us, were all certain of victory. I shook hands with many of them, and with Edward Appleton of the Vermont 2d, for the last time. His head was shot off before noon. He was from Bennington.

From the hills about Centreville, we had a view of the whole extent of the distant battle field, though the clumps of forest hid the combatants from our view. The smoke however from the cannonading told us of the positions of the contending forces; and the thick and lengthy clouds of dust away in the distance told us of the rapid approach of reinforcements to the enemy, and of the combination of the several divisions of our own forces. About 11 o’clock the cannonading seemed to be most fearful and rapid in the centre some three miles distant. — But all were hid from our view by the smoke. We could stand it no longer. My friend Watkin of the Express (N.Y.) and myself determined on a closer and more satisfactory view. By half past 11 we found ourselves with General Schenck and his staff, whose brigade was held in reserve, just on this side of Bull’s Run, and inside of one mile of the main battle ground, though hid from the enemy by a forest. We occupied a position which with our glasses gave us a full view of the battle, for at least 4 1/2 hours. We saw every charge of the glorious 71st, the 69th, the 14th, the Fire Zouaves, Sherman’s Battery, the Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Michigan, Rhode Island, Maine and Minnesota regiments. We were in constant receipt of the effect of their fire on our troops, by couriers who were going to Gen. McDowell and Schenck, up to four o’clock, at which time we were shelled out of our position and forced to an inglorious flight (I mean us civilians). Up to that time the victory was unmistakably ours, with a loss that could not have exceeded 300 killed. Our boys captured position after position of their murderous masked batteries until we supposed the victory was ours beyond a doubt. We distinctly saw their baggage train in full retreat, and cheered ourselves hoarse at our glorious victory. At this time a battery of five pieces, which had been pouring a cross fire into our boys on the other side of the Run, was turned upon us and gave us a more practical realization of the terrors of war. Several were killed very near me. I did not ask permission to leave, or stand upon the order of my going, but went at once. a half mile’s travel placed a heavy forest between me and their murderous shells, but not in season to prevent my being captured by the enemy’s cavalry, who had out-flanked Schenck’s brigade and who were just making a dash upon the hospital in front of me. As I emerged from the woods they drove us back and made a terrific sweep after the scattered soldiery and ambulance wagons in front of us. the 8th battalion of artillery opened a fire upon them and they were annihilated – horses riders and all – not more than six made their escape. This opened the way for me and several others to escape, and we improved it in double quick time. I left the woods mounted, though I entered on foot. I will explain when I see you. On reaching Centreville I found the entire baggage train in utter rout. I have no patience to describe the disgraceful scene and I will forbear. – On looking back from Centreville the ground over which I had just passed (Centreville is considerably elevated above the country intervening between it and the battle ground) I saw our victorious army in ignominious retreat – flight, rout, and no one in pursuit. I felt so outraged at this unaccountable panic that I determined not to leave Centreville until the disgraceful rout had passed on. – When they had all gone on, I left with the reserve brigade, composed of one battalion of artillery, the German Rifles, and the Garibaldi Guards, who marched on the Washington in perfect order – the rear guard of the Grand Army of the Potomac – with no one to pursue save a few scattering horsemen, the enemy being so badly cut up that he has not yet scarcely moved this side of Bull’s Run. I cannot explain the cause of this unexampled, shameful retreat. No matter what the newspapers say, do not believe that our loss in killed, wounded and prisoners will reach 1,500. The killed will fall short of 500, and for myself, I do not believe it will reach 300. So much for the first exploit of the army of the Potomac. I await with no little anxiety its further movements.”

He adds that the boys he has met since the conflict are eager for another engagement.

Janesville Daily Gazette, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





“C.”, 2nd Wisconsin, On the Battle

22 02 2012

From the Milwaukee Sentinel.

Interesting Letter from the Second Regiment.

———-

Camp Corcoran,

Monday Night, July 22, ’61.

Once again, we are back in the vicinity of Washington, having passed through a battle that will ever have a full page in the history of battles. The full report of it you may have seen, and my work will be to give only a few scenes connected with the Second Wisconsin Regiment, which from the many who narrowly watched us, has received not a few encomiums.

On Sunday morning, July 21st, at 2 o’clock A. M., our camp near Centerville, was aroused by the cry of “Fall in to march.” – The men were ready and eager to be up, it being supposed that the commander-in-chief of the division had made preparations for us to go on and complete a victory which we felt sure was before us. The Second Wisconsin, 79th, 69th, and 13th New York, with Sherman’s battery and Capt. Thompson’s troop of 100 horse, formed one brigade, while two Connecticut and two Ohio regiments, with company E. U. S. artillery, and a troop of 100 horse, formed another. Both were under the command of Gen. Tyler, and formed the centre of McDowell’s grand army. The right wing was under the command of Gen. Hunter, and the left, under Gen. Heintzleman. The right and left were to close on the wings of the enemy’s fortifications, extending to a distance of six miles, while the centre was to attack their principal fortresses.

Our wing waited until nearly daylight before starting, as the others had a much longer distance to go; but at length we were under way. To Bull’s Run was only a distance of three miles, which was soon reached. Here we felt ourselves in the midst of the enemy’s works. The ground we were approaching was known to be full of masked batteries but a few days before, and now the march was necessarily slow and tedious.

The 2nd Wisconsin and the 79th New York to the right of the road and filing off through the woods, flanked with the left on the road, while the balance of the brigade took the left hand side, and Sherman’s battery, with “President Lincoln’s Baby-waker,” as a large 32-pound rifle cannon was called, took the road, the infantry acting as a support to the battery. The column, in this order, worked its way up gradually to the edge of the woods, and came to a halt. Just beyond the woods was an opening some 500 rods in extent; then came Bull’s Run, a deep ravine, and beyond this, high up, rose the natural fortifications of the rebels. No better place could have been selected, and no other natural fortification so easy of self-support could have been found.

On the enemy’s side, as we drew near, nothing out of the usual course of events could be seen. All seemed as natural as though the roads were not alive with armed men and filled with masked batteries.

After reconnoitering a while, the large rifle cannon began picking out some good marks. Sever shots were made, but they were not returned, when some one suggested that in a deep ravine, which could be seen, was a good seclusion. A shot directed there, sent forth into the open field at least 500 cavalry, who scattered like chaff in every direction, but soon returned. The big gun continued its work, and the riderless horses that came flying out, several of which came over to our lines, showed that it was no idle play. Sherman, too, opened his battery, and, at the same time, a masked battery, almost within musket shot of the Connecticut regiments, opened upon them, and then battery after battery poured in, and the shower of lead came out from every clump of trees.

The men threw themselves upon the ground, with their arms ready to come to a charge, and although the fire was hat and heavy, only one man was killed and two wounded, both of the Connecticut. The fire of the big gun and of Sherman’s and Co. E batteries was directed against those of the enemy, and in a remarkably short space of time, so accurate was the aim, they were all silenced.

Almost the same instant our battery commenced, that of the left wing opened in the stronghold we had attempted to take a few days before. They were soon silenced, and when the guns of Gen. Hunter’s wing opened, the other wings started on the march, the right pressing, formed in line, the center making the circuit around, in order to aid Hunter. On the route and in crossing Bull’s Run, fires from batteries opened on the columns, and in this movement several were killed. The rebels seemed to possess innumerable batteries. They had them everywhere, and no point where a gun could be planted to have an effect upon our column, seems to have been neglected. The column soon crossed, and we went up the mountain road, we could see the enemy flying in companies, in squads and in regiments, before Gen. Hunter’s men, towards a long and narrow piece of woods, while from the right they came pouring down in the same hasty manner before Gen. Heintzleman’s men. The ravine, against which fire had at first been directed, seemed filled with dead. Bodies were laying in every directions, showing that the loss from shot and shell was terrific. With a loud shout for the “stars and stripes” our boys pushed forward, in pursuit of the flying rebels until we reached Hunter’s command, it having halted to be recruited. The open plain before us had been the enemy’s camping ground, and muskets, blankets, knapsacks, canteens, haversacks and dead bodies, were lying about indiscriminately. Our boys threw off everything, down to clothing and cartridge boxes, when the battle line was formed so as to completely hem in the rebel stronghold.

Now the work commenced in earnest. — All along the line of woods batteries opened one after the other, and shot, shell, canister and grape poured in upon us. From the position we occupied it did but little serious damage, although it whistled with so shrill a series of noises as to startle the most brave. By some neglect we had little artillery with us, it having remained behind. — The Rhode Island battery opened on one of the enemy’s, but it had taken a position so near them that before it could be brought into actual service it was used up. Carlisle’s battery and Sherman’s opened a heavy fire, and as far as two batteries could be of use they were. They silenced gun after gun, and at length got out of ammunition. By this time the federal troops got ready for a charge at the point of the bayonet, the battle line being extended all along the enemy’s lines, with the regular cavalry and marines, together with Ellsworth’s Zouaves on the right. The Wisconsin Second occupied about the center of the line. They lay for some time under cover of a hill, while the shot was pouring over them, and then, when the charge was ordered, filed on up a narrow lane, and came into line, It was a dangerous position, as they were subject to a cross fire, and many of them fell wounded.

The grand body now moved forward at a double-quick, until they came within musket shot of the enemy, and the was poured in upon them a most murderous fire of musketry. Never was there anything like it. — Together with the musketry, three batteries were pouring in grape and canister, while our own batteries were silenced from want of ammunition. Had we had our usual amount of artillery, their batteries could have been silenced, but as we had no support from this source, the order was given to fall back, and the regiments fell back a few rods to rally, all in hopes that the enemy would withdraw from their ambush, and follow to give a fair fight.

The command to fall back was given by Gen. Tyler, who it is supposed acted from the order of Gen. McDowell.

The fortress behind which the enemy was entrenched was built of crossed railroad bars and logs, and behind these was an army of 70,00 men, arrayed so as fill up the whole line in front, the rear column loading and the front, two deep firing continually.

Before the order for retreat was given the battle was fairly won, and victory would have been surrendered to the federal flag, but as the rebels were about giving up, Gen. Johnston arrived from Manassas Gap, with 18,000 fresh troops. It was supposed that Gen. Patterson was close upon him, but such was not the case, he, for some reason, which I have not yet learned, having left the track.

When the order to fall back was given, the regiments of the army gave way, then rallied, and as the rebel troops showed themselves outside the entrenchments, poured in upon them volley after volley, but finding it fruitless to continue the fight, they received orders to give way, and take up their line of retreat. They did this by regiments and companies in admirable order, but hundreds fell out, and forming in squads fell behind, and seeking shelter, behind logs and trees, commenced an Indian fight upon the rebel cavalry, which came out of the woods, to the number of 1,000, to pursue the stragglers. They dropped from the saddle in squads under the fire. This Indian skirmishing was a protection to the retreating army; but many of those who were giving the aid, suffered in consequence, as they were taken prisoners, when they got down so few in numbers as to offer little resistance to the rebels.

Among the prisoners known to be taken is S. P. Jackson of La Crosse, a member of Co. B. He had his arm broken by a musket ball and was taken by the cavalry, together with t squad of seven Wisconsin boys. Then they were being taken off, a few of the boys rallied and fired into the cavalry, calling upon the Union prisoners to escape. They all did so but Jackson, who was taken off. Before the others escaped Jackson told the officer of the cavalry that he was useless to them, as his arm was broken. The reply was that he should be taken care of. “yes,” replied Jackson, “the same as our wounded men at Bull’s Run the other day. You bayoneted all our wounded men.” “It’s a lie,” replied the officer. “It is not,” replied Jackson, “you killed every one of our wounded men.” — “Our orders were to take care of the wounded, and we fight humanely. To be sure there are some d—-d rascals in every army who fight like tigers, and kill the wounded, but we prevent it when we can.” At this, one of them spoke up and said, “Not by a d—-d sight; we shall kill every hell-hound of them we take.” The New Orleans Zouave who was taken prisoner, also said, “You may kill me if you please, and you may win the battle to-day, but we will whip you to-morrow when our recruits get in, and then every one of you that falls into our hands will be butchered.” This appeared to be the general sentiment, that no mercy was to be shown, and that all who fell into their hands would have no pleasant situation.

Many of those captured afterwards escaped by a ruse or trick. Ruby, of the Oshkosh company, was kept some time, but escaped by playing Indian, while Whiting, of the La Crosse company escaped by yelling that the artillery was upon them, and they must retreat. The cavalry thought it one of their own officers who gave the command, and scattered, when Whitney escaped. A number of just such cases occurred. Capt. Colwell, of Co. B acted the hero all the way through. He rallied his men and led them on to positions where it would scarcely be deemed men could go. He captured one piece of artillery, he and his men taking the piece by main force and hauling it a long distance off, and then returned to the fight. The Wisconsin regiment was the last body off the field, and their run was caused by the rebel cavalry. Had they been less brave their loss in prisoners would have been greater, as they remained in squads and charged upon the cavalry every time they approached. The retreating column also had to contend against a raking fire of artillery. As they crossed the Run the rebels had a fine rake with their guns, and kept up a constant fire of grape and canister. The loss from this sortie, however, was not heavy.

The enemy did not follow up the retreat, which shows conclusively that they did not consider it a great victory. The retreat was continued to Centreville, when a halt was made for an hour’s rest. The regiments were then re-formed, and continued their march to their old rendezvous, some to Washington, others to Alexandria, and others to Fort Corcoran; the retreat being covered by two regiments who were not in the field.

It is certain that just before Gen. Johnston arrived with his troops, the rebels were whipped, although at no one time did the federal army have more than fifteen regiments in the field; and but for Johnston’s arrival, they would have left very suddenly for Manassas Gap. The federal troops are not disheartened at the result of the conflict. They feel that they have fought bravely, and that they had not well disciplined men to lead them on. After the conflict had commenced, but little was seen of them; but after the retreat was sounded, and while the column was marching until it had got beyond all danger, very few of the field officers were to be seen. Many of the captains and lieutenants of companies exhibited a courage and intuitive knowledge of military matters that was deserving of a better fate.

We lost most of our blankets, haversacks, &c., that were thrown off when we started to join Hunter, and we lost many of our muskets in the field, but their places were supplied with Sharpe’s rifles, with which the enemy were well supplied. I think the trade is about even. They were well supplied with fighting material, having all that is necessary, all bearing the trade mark of the United States.

Just as I am finishing the present, a member of Capt. Langworthy’s  company has come in from the enemy. He was taken prisoner, and set to work digging graves for the dead. Fearful are the preparations made, so immense is the number. All will be huddled together in common graves, friend and foe together, without prayers or service. It is asserted that a determination was expressed by many to bayonet such of our men who were badly wounded, and some proceeded to execute the threat, when stopped by an officer. Dr. Irwin, of our medical staff, is among them as a prisoner, and is looking after our wounded who are prisoners.

C.

Janesville Weekly Gazette and Free Press, 8/2/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy








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