“P. J. R.”, Co. D, 69th NYSM, On the Fight at Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle

25 01 2012

The annexed letter was commenced before the engagement, but finished in Fort Corcoran after the unfortunate rout: –

Centreville, Va. , July 20th, 1861.

Our position is unchanged since 7 p. m,. Thursday, and I expect we will begin to fight about 10 this morning. Several very heavy guns were placed in position. The great trouble in all this affair is, that so many were brought up to be shot at without being permitted to approach the batteries of the enemy. One regiment after another were ordered to the front, and there they had to stand and be slaughtered like sheep. Not a shot did we fire, but had to receive all that came from our enemies. The reason we did not fire was because we could see no enemy. They had a trap or masked battery (their old trick). Our men are boiling to retrieve the disasters of yesterday; some of the men and regiments of our brigade disgraced themselves by their incendiaryism on their march hither; burning houses and sacking them, shooting, stealing and killing all the live pigs, turkeys, and ducks; and supplying themselves with all the edibles in their reach. Three of us found a barrel of flour, and we started for the woods, and baked four good cakes, which were of service to us from Wednesday night till yesterday. It was darkies who cooked for us and whom I paid. There are no white people left here, all have gone with the rebel army and left their slaves behind. Col. Sherman, who commanded our brigade, has the names of forty-five men who disgraced themselves as mentioned, but not one of them belongs to the 69th. Thank God there are so few Vandals among us. The homes were completely sacked, and every article of value stolen; what could not be taken away was torn up and destroyed. This is deserving of reprobation, and it will, besides, hurt our character with our friends and enemies. Gen. McDowell has issued general orders censuring such conduct and announcing penalties for any like offence.

It was awful to see men in the heat and perspiration of a long and tedious march, under a scorching meridian sun of July, rushing by the hundreds and fighting for as much water as would wet their lips, but to nineteen twentieths of them their efforts were in vain; water was only obtainable by a very few, and they were the ones who could fight for it the best. I tried in vain from earliest dawn to 3 p.m., to get a tin-full to quench my thirst, but failed; once, when I had a cup full in my hand and was already anticipating the reward of half an hour’s patience and perseverance, my cup was wrenched from me by an unseen hand, and both cup and water “faded from my view.” Thank God, I bore it well, but went sorrowfully after my regiment; this was the first and only time I left my regiment and staid behind.

We were ordered up the narrow road leading to the masked battery, the order was given to throw away blankets and knapsacks, but the later contained all my food, and a few little valuables which I prized next to my life, and therefore I retained it, but the blanket I left beside a tree and found it fortunately on my return. The India rubber blanket is my chief protection, as it has rained every night since we came here. I place my musket on the ground and cover myself and it with the rubber blanket. Last night and the previous I was awakened by the firing of musketry, in each case bullets falling right into the ranks of our company. In the day time I was much more cool and collected than I ever thought to be, even when expecting to die by the bullets of the enemy, but this night-work is not at all to my taste. I am pleased to tell you that not one of our boys have shown the white feather. Tyler, McDowell and every officer of rank in the regular army, said that our coolness and courage was beyond all praise. Let naught be said, though, in dispraise of others, for as far as I have seen, all behaved bravely and stood to their colors.

Lieut. Dalton, of ours, was grazed in the forehead by a ball – it even turned the hat on his head and struck the man next him and sounded him severely. The flag of Sherman’s Battery was torn to ribbons, leaving nothing but the staff: but one man was killed and another wounded of the entire battery. Many poor fellows who were found wounded begged to be killed outright; still I heard but few of these cry, save when jolted over the stoney road. Col. Corcoran says our remarkable preservation was owing to “the protection of Almighty God, vouchsafed to the prayers of our good women at home;” and I endorse his opinion, and hope they will continue to pray until we are all safe and our country free from rebellion and civil war. The time of many of the regiments expired this week and last week, but as yet none have returned home, and we all feel, since we marched, that our country really needs us, and, therefore, do not complain; action is all we want if we are to stay any longer.

Capt. Meagher is winning laurels and is appointed Provost Marshal of the brigade: his bravery since Thursday, is proved.

Some of the First Massachusetts, I hear, marched clear upon the masked battery before they knew it, and had to fight with knives and revolvers; they could not use their muskets and were terribly cut up.

My feet blistered the first night’s marsh. Men drank freely of the brooks and streams where dozens were washing their bodies and clothes; the mud too was as thick as in your roads after a rain, yet all drank as if it was milk or good soup; I trust I shall never again see men so eager for drink, even officers and educated men were as greedy for it as others. I fortunately got a little vinegar from the Captain before the fight, and mixed it with water, this I kept and gave to some poor artillerymen, who needed it, when retreating from the scene of our disaster; I swallowed a little myself, dust and all, and felt greatly relieved.

P. J. R.

————

Fort Corcoran, July 23d, 1861.

I have to record to total defeat of our forces yesterday, we fought twelve hours and were marching six hours previously. A remnant of our brave regiment saved themselves by a march of fifty miles last night among the rest. Thank God, I have not even a scratch, although all my best friends are either dead or wounded or in the hands of the enemy. I am laid up and only reached here at 4 a. m. to day (over forty miles in eight hours). We were taken to the shambles to be slaughtered; we got no chance to fight, but we stood until we were more than half thinned; all we have saved is our honor. We have lost our principal officers, and have made the bravest stand during the day, save the Second Rhode island and the Fire Zouaves.

A more disastrous affair could not well be imagined – eight or ten thousand of our troops flying panic stricken and firing upon each other. My feet are black and swollen, and I feat that I shall be unfit for duty for a long time. About a hundred of us started for this place, over forty miles distant. The road was blocked up by our enemies. Our men are straggling back to camp and all are as badly off as myself. We marched in quick and double quick time over ten miles, then fought twelve hours and then made our hasty retreat when we found every other regiment flying in disorder and confusion. I turned up my pantaloons and marched just so until this morning. I was nearly the last to leave the field, but fear I did not do much good while there, save to rally round our flag, which was completely riddled; and our Colonel could not be persuaded to leave until he saw all the rest leave us. The rebel scoundrels fired upon our ambulances and dragged out the wounded. Since then we have not seen the Colonel. I am at present unable to write a full account of the affair, but shall endeavor to prepare one soon. Only about eighty-seven of our company, which numbered on hundred and twenty-two, are left, Meagher was the bravest of the brave. Pray that God may avert the destruction of our Republic.

P. J. R.

New York Irish-American, 8/3/1863

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Contributed by Damian Shiels





“R.”, Co. K, 69th NYSM, On the Battle

24 01 2012

The following letter from a member of Captain Meagher’s Company, the “Irish Zouaves,” Co. K, 69th , was received by R. J. Lalor, Esq., by whom we have been kindly allowed its use: –

Fort Corcoran, Arlington Heights.

July 22, 1861

Doubtless you have heard, ere this, of the terrible engagement of last Sunday. The affair is of such  importance in out annals that I hasten to give you a succinct account of it.

After the ad affair of Thursday at Bull’s Run Ford, where we lost a good many man of the Union troops, our regiment, with all the others engaged and in the immediate vicinity, were encamped in and around Centreville, on each side of the road lead to that place and towards Manassas Gap. We remained perfectly quiet on our respective camping grounds, save when our pickets and those of the enemy met. That the rebels were receiving reinforcements, was proved by the constant arrival of trains every night, as well as by outside intelligence. We, too, were receiving reinforcements and by Saturday night were ready for making an attack. We were ordered to hold ourselves in readiness by midnight, and, accordingly, by that time we were awake, prepared to march. When we reached the road, we went double quick for nearly two miles. Then, having crossed a bridge safe and gained the hill top, which had been obstructed by the enemy, we turned into the woods and remained there for some time, drawn up in line of battle.

Our good chaplain, Father O’Reilly, blessed us; and many were the prayers sent up to heaven that our arms might be nerved to strike terror into our enemies, and this save our distracted country.

The large gun “Long Tom,” commenced to throwing shell at 6.30 a. m. The rebels did not answer, but reserved their fire for a more favorable opportunity. Failing to bring them out, and our regiment having the right of the line, or advance post, we were ordered to move our quarters and approach the front. In doing so, we were obliged to move at double quick most of the way, and to ford a stream or two, knee high. This was a serious disadvantage to us, but our brave boys seemed not to mind it. Still further on we had to defile along a narrow path way among trees and shrubbery. Even this we did in safety, and soon gained an open plain, where we could perceive the position of the enemy, from the constant discharge of heavy guns.

Again changing our locality, we had to move through some meadow; and, just nearly as we passed the last one, a murderous fire was opened upon us from a ravine to the left by the enemy’s sharp-shooters. Our entire regiment halted, and facing about, fired two volleys into them though, without seeing them. This stopped their fire, and upon examination afterwards, we found that terrible chastisement had been inflicted upon them by us. The pace was strewn with their dead, and one officer had no less than seventeen balls in him. But we paid well for this; for one of the first men to fall was our recently appointed Lieut. Colonel, Captain Haggerty, of Co. A. His loss to us was beyond repair, as he had proved himself a true soldier under every circumstance, and was endeared to us all. He was brimful of courtesy and kindness to the humblest as well as to the highest in rank or station, though seemingly rough at times in his manner.

Poor Costelloe of ours – C. K – a recent arrival from Waterford, Ireland, and beloved by us all for his amiability and tenderness of character, fell also in this first fire, with three balls in his left breast and right cheek. They both died easily, almost instantaneously, for their wounds were too near the seat of life to permit them to suffer long.

When we had rounded the house used by our skirmishers as an hospital, directly in the enemy’s front, we were permitted to halt and rest after our severe march, and to recruit for the coming struggle. We could see one regiment after another of our forces assault the enemy and advance upon his position, but it was evident to us that up to this time no effect had been produced upon his batteries, though death and destruction were dealt out to him by our brave volunteers.

At last the order came for the 69th to try and do what the others had failed in. We advanced with hopeful hearts in close line of battle, exposed to the hot shot and shell which were instantly poured in our ranks, though, fortunately, at first with little effect. One ball, however, came near killing our brave Colonel, who treated the matter quite coolly.

A field over a quarter of a mile had to be crossed, then a fence to be cleared, and then another field of equal length till we reached the foot of the hill and woods occupied by the enemy. Here we halted a few moments, and then flanked along to the right across another field of equal length, and through an entrenchment and high stream, and then up a hill, before we stopped to fire or give the enemy a proof of our storming capacities. Worn out by our long and quick march, still more so by the fatigue of clearing fences, ditches, and streams, we stopped for a moment and fired deliberately into the enemy. Then another volley, then another, and we charged up the heights to their battery with all the impetuosity of our race; but we were “like sheep sent to the slaughter”. The cannon belched forth their shells in our midst, killing our men in groups, and scattering them in all directions. But, even then, they halted, tried to close up, and fired again; and then, just as we seemed to be carrying our point, we found ourselves being fired into on the right flank and rear by the rebel cavalry, who emerged from the woods and struck down and picked off all the men near them. It is even said that we were fired into by our own troops – of course, by mistake. But of this I am certain; our own cavalry, who had partly broken our ranks, when charging up the hill, were not to be found when we needed their protection.

Our flag of the Stars and Stripes was well struck, and the standard-bearer of the dear old Green Flag was shot down; but the flag was instantly raised again. One of our wounded men who carried a flag was shot down, and the flag was torn from his grasp. Raising himself up, he again attacked his rebel antagonist, struck him down, and carried off one of the Secession flags; but this was not long permitted to remain with him, for he was again charged upon, and the trophy taken from him, besides being taken prisoner. However, having a concealed revolver, he shot down the two soldiers in charge of him, and captured a Captain’s sword and a prisoner, both of which he brought in safely to our camp. His name is John D. Keeffe, and he is worthy of being recorded among our truly brave men.

I could recite to you numerous other instances of bravery deserving of record, but it would not be possible to do justice to all.

Captain Thomas Francis Meagher gained the greatest credit of the day. His horse was shot when he first reached the field, the ball going farther and killing one of Company E, and when we reached the gap at the foot of the hill, he brandished his sword and called upon the brave Zouaves of the Sixty-ninth to follow him. His valor and bearing during the entire battle is the theme of every tongue. Lieut E. K. Butler also distinguished himself, and gained much in the favor of his scattered and decimated company. Our Colonel, too, showed the greatest coolness and bravery throughout the fight. He stood to the last, and rallied the remnant of his scattered forces, and took us off the field in a square and with our colors flying high; but he didn’t do this till after all other regiments had retired or were retiring. When we had gained the road, and had halted at the temporary hospital, we were charged by the cavalry again, who made sad havoc among the flying remnants of every regiment which had not gained the road. They broke and fled in all directions, and were pursued and cut down at all points. Such a scene was scarcely ever before witnessed.

This was the last point at which I saw our gallant Colonel, who, I am told, was wounded in the leg. He slipped quietly off his horse, and tried to rally his men; but the crowd and the pressure of the remnants of all the other regiments, rendered it impossible.

What remained of our regiment rallied round the Green Flag in Centreville, and after  consultation it was thought best to retire to Fort Corcoran and recruit, as we had not a field officer left to direct our movements. Captain Meagher here joined us and led us home, when we had to come to this decision.

This bold charge up that hill clean into the enemy’s batteries, will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it. Our company can only muster this morning about 80, with those who were left to guard the fort, out of 123. Lieutenant Conolly, a really brave man, has not been heard of since we rallied round our flag and formed the square. His loss will be deservedly regretted by us all.

Our Company suffered more than any in the regiment, on account of their red jackets, I suppose. Three men went out with me from the Fort to the battle fled [field?].  I alone returned. Many others of ours have the same story to tell. The Fire Zouaves, Fourteenth New York, and the Second Rhode Island, acted nobly and bravely in the grand charges they made upon the enemy when he showed himself before his batteries. So, also, did the Thirteenth New York. But it is safe to say that none made a bolder stand or a grander charge, and retired so slowly and steadily, and in such good order as did the 69th, when the fate of the battle was decided. The Herald and other papers may talk of a “great victory,” but by those engaged in the battle it cannot be considered anything but a great defeat. The generalship displayed was none of the highest, as you will believe when you learn that of the immense force of Union troops in the field, not more than one regiment at a time was ordered forward, and these at different points. We were not even protected by the cavalry and artillery. The former were not near us when we wanted them, though they were permitted to stand directly on our front, where they remained when we were advancing in line of battle, until Col. Corcoran, seeing that his line must inevitably be broken by them, ordered them off. They then moved to our right, and, strangest of all, it was from this point that the most terrible havoc was made upon us by the Rebel cavalry, who rushed out of the woods upon our men when their backs were turned, and they were engaged in charging upon the masked batteries, and cut down and trampled them to death. Most of the men lost by Company K were lost or taken prisoners here.

I blame none, censure none, for these blunders and omissions, nor do I offer any better plan of attack than that which was here adopted, but I must say that I expected better things of those who are appointed, and are supposed to possess the requisite qualifications of good generals. I trust they will be held responsible for the immense sacrifice of life on that terrible day.

Our artillery, too, was easily captured by the rebels. When the Virginia cavalry made their last charge at the hospital near the bridge and Centreville, the men in the foremost ranks of our artillery cut the traces and fled, leaving the guns an easy prize to the enemy. In accounts of battles previously read by hour humble servant it was always thought necessary to well protect, with cavalry or infantry, or both, the artillery companies. Yet Sherman’s Battery and “Long Tom,” a very heavy piece, brought up expressly to counteract the effect of the enemies’ heaviest guns, were permitted to fall into their hands without an effort being made to prevent it.

Of the many missing in our company, and in all the rest of the regiment several are known to be killed, many others only wounded – unless they have subsequently fallen into the hands of the Secessionists. Other are missing, of whom nothing at all is known. I trust that they may yet turn up, and that we shall be gratified by their safe restoration to their many friends in and out of the regiment. We deeply deplore their loss for we can attest to their courage and manly bearing on that day. I saw poor Maguire, for the last time, raise his piece aloft, waving it as if it were a sword, and calling upon the Zouaves to make one more bold charge and rout the Rebels. I fear he is lost.

R.

New York Irish-American, 8/3/1861

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Contributed by Damian Shiels





Sgt. George F. Saunders, Co. D, 2nd Wisconsin, On the Battle

1 12 2011

Letters from Members of the Janesville Volunteers.

Fort Corcoran, Va., July 25th, 1861.

Dear Wife and Family: – I have at last found something to write, and having a little leisure time, I will endeavor to give you the news.

The first engagement took place about one week ago; the notice was short, and the contest unequal: the enemy fell back towards Manassas, – but on Saturday last the order was issued to prepare for action. The bugles sounded, the drums beat to arms; swords, muskets, cannon, and revolvers were examined to see if they were all right. At two o’clock the order came to march. In less than an hour, two batteries, sixteen guns (one 32-pounder), 10,000 infantry, 500 cavalry, sappers, miners, Zouaves, &c., were under march. Some were talking of home and friends; some singing, but very low. We had a long and dreary march. Sunday morning came, and I shall remember it as long as I live; and with it we took our position. The 79th Highland regiment on our right, the Sherman battery in the centre of the first brigade; the second brigade then formed with Sprague’s battery to support them; the third was on the extreme left, with the cavalry to assist them, and son on till the whole army was disposed of.

At about six A. M., Sherman’s battery sent in some shot and shell to see what the enemy were made of, but received no answer. We then saw some cavalry advancing, but the battery soon put them to right about; they soon returned, however, to decoy us on. This they did till we came within about a mile of their masked fort, when their cavalry and infantry commenced firing on our artillery. On we went at a double-quick; their batteries opened on us, and the fight became general. We were pretty well exhausted, but after the first fire, we never thought of hunger.

In order to get a high position, we were obliged to ford a river, which made us feel much better; but on getting to the other side, we were nearly surrounded. The very heavens seemed to be on fire, and such a havoc of human life! The rebel force was, as stated, between 30,000 and 40,000, with 10,000 of our troops engaged at one time. You can form a faint idea.

I would stand for an instant pitying some friend who had just dropped by my side, forgetting my own safety, which depended on my loading and firing in the quickest possible manner. I twice picked up the musket of a dead comrade, my own having been shot out of my hands. We came to a charge of bayonets three distinct times. We tried to rally our troops, but at about half past 4 P. M., the order to retreat was given, which I regretted to hear; but nothing could be done to any better advantage under the poor generalship.

The Wisconsin Second has represented her state nobly. Although there were a great many of us killed, there are still enough left who are willing to fight under competent officers, which, if we had been blessed with in the start, the battle would have been carried in our favor. The Janesville Volunteers fought well, although Capt. Ely and Ensign Dodge became exhausted shortly after entering the field; but I do not blame them, as we were all pretty well exhausted. Lieut. McLean fought bravely and escaped all right; I also escaped. Mc and I attribute it to the interposition of a kind Providence, which we hope will protect us till we return home. At roll call this morning, there were 13 missing, with what is in the hospital. I would give you a list of the killed and wounded, but we are not allowed to send any.

I believe we were visited by the president and cabinet. They spoke highly of the Wisconsin Second as we deserve. We are now re-organizing, and at the next battle we intend to do the whipping. We are all feeling as well as can be expected, and as anxious for a fight as before. The men still keep coming in as fast as they can find their way back; but there is one consolation, and that is we retreated in pretty good order. I think I have got along very well so far, as John Hamilton, three others and myself were out on a picket guard, when the rebel pickets commenced firing at us, and we escaped without a scratch. We, however, silenced them by giving them a few shots with our Sharpe’s rifles. You must excuse all mistakes, as I am sitting on the ground with my paper on my knapsack, which you may guess is not a very comfortable mode of writing.

Yours Truly,

Geo. F. Saunders.

The Janesville Daily Gazette, 7/30/1861.

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The Washington Artillery at Blackburn’s Ford

14 10 2011

The Battle at Bull Run.
Special Correspondence of The Delta.
Richmond July 20th; 1861.

The battle of Bull Run was fought day before yesterday, and our Artillery were engaged from 2, O’clock in the afternoon until 5, P. M. At half past four Captain Eschelman was wounded in the lower portion of the calf of the leg. A musket ball passed through the muscle, making a very ragged wound, and was up to last night very painful, attended with some fever. To-day, 12, M. I have just left him, and he said he had been since daybreak comparatively free from pain, and felt quite well. He will soon recover, and it is hoped will suffer but little from this time.

He is very well situated, at Dr. Deane’s residence, having been brought here last evening, with all the Artillery men that were wounded.

Muse, of Muse Bros., who died last night, was struck near the shoulder. Henry H. Baker has a ball in the calf of the leg. A young man, whose brother is a partner of Hagerty & Bros., had a ball through the flesh of the thigh, and one other a cut in the face. All are doing well and will recover very soon.

Walton, Slocomb, and two companies of the command were stationed three miles off, where it was supposed the enemy would make the attack, and saw nothing of the fight, and consequently were all safe. Captain Garnett, of this State, and Captain Eschelman wee in command of the seven guns we had in service, and raked the enemy down like grass, especially at the  first fire; knocked one of Sherman’s guns into fragments, and sent some four shot directly into their solid advanced column, driving limbs and bodies sky high. Sherman’s great battery at 5, O’clock was silenced, and commenced their retreat. Our boys gave them a parting shot and then a tremendous yell which finished the fight.

None of the Artillery men were hurt until just before the battle ended, ,so that all had a fair chance that commenced the fight to show indomitable courage and coolness. The enemy had engaged in the battle from 5,000 to 6,000 men and we had 3,000. Our wounded and dead 60, theirs over 500. Drs. Drew, Choppin, Beard, and several others from the different regiments, were on the ground. Beauregard commanded in person on the field, being mounted, of course.

The Daily Delta, 7/27/1861.
Jackson Barracks – Historical Military Data on Louisiana Militia, Vol. 111, pp. 46-47.





“DeW”, 1st Rhode Island Infantry, On the March to Manassas

28 09 2011

Correspondence of the Journal
On the Way to Manassas
Four Miles West of Fairfax
Friday, July 19, 1861

Corresponding under difficulties certainly, with a cartridge box for a table, and forty-five drops of ink, all in the country, the drum likely to beat at any moment for an advance.

Tuesday at 1 p. m. we left Camp Sprague, marched through the city over the Long Bridge. I have no time to tell you of our fine appearance, or the enthusiasm which greeted our march. We went about 12 miles, and camped in a large field near Annandale, where we were presently joined by our old friends, the 71st New York and the 2d New Hampshire, the whole constituting Burnside’s brigade of the 2d division, commanded by Col. Hunter of the regular cavalry. Next morning the column advanced, led by the 2d Rhode Island, who acted as skirmishers, scouring the woods for half a mile each side of the road. About three miles from Fairfax Court House we came upon the first barricade, consisting of large trees felled across the road for the distance of one hundred yards. Our axemen were ordered to the front, and soon removed the obstruction. We found two similar ones before reaching the town, but they were easily surmounted. Near the town was an earthwork, recently occupied by a battery of light artillery, which had been hurriedly removed. Behind it, at some distance from the road, were three camps. Paymaster Sisson, who was detailed with a party of carbineers to visit them, found much valuable booty, swords, pistols, muskets, clothing, and provisions of every sort. Their flight had evidently been most hurried. Indeed, our advance saw a small party at a distance making off as they entered the fort.

We immediately pushed forward, and entered the town without opposition. A secession flag flying from the top of the Court House was torn down in a twinkling and the stars and stripes substituted, followed by a violent ringing of the bell.

The troops were quartered about the town, and the stores and houses whence the secession owners had fled were thoroughly ransacked. Quantities of camp equipage and hospital stores, mostly marked “South Carolina,” were found, – sabres and guns of the most fantastic and obsolete description. But it would be perfectly useless to attempt a description of the heterogeneous assortment of plunder with which every man who took the trouble to forage was adorned. To judge from the uniforms about the camp, we would seem to have many of the Palmetto Guard and other crack secession regiments in our midst. Articles of the most cumbrous and useless description were taken, only to be dropped by the way.

Later in the day sentinels were posted in front of all the houses, and the “loot” was confined to the rebels camps.

Our companies bivouacked in the yards and lanes about town. Yesterday morning we moved one mile west and remained till 4 p. m., after which we advanced to this point. On the way we found pots and kettles and all sorts of camp furniture, cast away by the rebels in their flight. They found time, though, to burn one or two houses on the way. On reaching here we learned that Gen. Tyler’s division had suddenly come up on a masked battery which poured in a destructive fire of shot and shell, causing our men to retire. Many were killed and wounded, but you have much better information on the subject than we have. It is reported this morning that the enemy have retired from the battery. We expect to advance upon the Junction shortly. As I write, 12 secession prisoners, one of them a sergeant, are passing, guarded by a double file of soldiers. They are sturdy fellows. Some look defiant some downcast. I understand the Fire Zouaves took them. Sherman’s Battery, the Massachusetts 1st and New York 12th took part in the engagement yesterday. I do not mention any of the thousand rumors afloat respecting the loss yesterday, or the next movement to be made, because no accurate information can be obtained, by me at least. One thing is certain, Manassas must be ours, and the Rhode Island men expect to do their part in its reduction. That done, we will return content. I have been talking with the Quartermaster of the Massachusetts 1st. He thinks about 50 of his brigade are killed. A negro, escaped from the rebel camp this morning, reports dreadful slaughter done by Sherman’s battery.

DeW.

Providence Journal 7/22/1861

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Unknown, Hampton’s Legion [?], On the Battle (3)

11 09 2011

Further Particulars of the Manassas Battle – The Capture of Sherman’s Battery

We have some very interesting and authentic accounts of the battle at Manassas, from an officer who was in the thickest of the action, and who testifies to the extremely courageous and devoted action of the Hampton Legion, that held one of the most important positions in the fight, in front of the deadly fire of Sherman’s Battery.

The infantry companies of the Legion joined the line of battle about 9 o’clock in the morning, having marched seven miles, after a hastily-snatched breakfast, to take their part in the general action. In a few moments after the line was formed, Col. Johnson fell by a shot from the battery. He was instantly killed, the ball striking and tearing away the upper portion of his head. Colonel Hampton himself, assisted by Surgeon Darby and Adjutant Barker, bore the body from the fire.

At this instant, the men missing for a moment the presence of their commander, cried out “We have no commander.” Capt. Garey, who was commanding the left wing, suddenly called out, “Follow me, Hampton Guards, follow to victory.” The effect of the tones of the command was instant. The noble and gallant Edgefield company made a rushing charge towards the enemy, in advance of the rest of the Legion nearly three hundred yards, and so far on the left flank that for a moment they were under the fire of the Washington Artillery. The Guards advanced to within 1– or 120 paces of the enemy. Unable to maintain their position, they retired, falling back upon the column of the Legion. It was then that Col. Hampton, after a few thrilling words at the head of the Legion, ordered its fire to be opened upon the deadly battery that was mowing down his ranks.

Nobly and gallantly did his men respond. Firing by file and maintaining their position, they stood steadily until three o’clock in the evening, under the deadly fire of one of the most destructive batteries in the Federal army.

At this time of the day, the Legion fell back about 200 yards, when Gen. Evans, of South Carolina, rode up to the line, and making himself known to the men, added his noble and patriotic encouragements to those of their gallant commander.  A shout rises as Beauregard himself rides to the line, and in stirring words appeals to the Legion to hold its devoted position but a few moments longer, and the victory would be won.
The men were suffering horribly from the most aging thirst, when a number of officers and privates volunteered on the desperate mission of bringing water from a ravine near by through the fire of the enemy. But three returned from the gallant errand. Lieuts. Bates and Tompkins, of the Watson Guards, and private N. N. Cartlidge, and they just in time to join Col. Hampton’s last and desperate charge upon the battery.

The Legion had advanced about thirty paces, when the charge was joined by the 49th Virginia Regiment, under command of Col. Smith, who led the charge on foot – his horse having been shot from under him. Col. Hampton offered his own horse. At that time, when within about 150 yards of the battery, Colonel Hampton received his wound. He was struck by a ball in the temple. As he was raised, the cool and self-possessed gallantry of the brave man was exhibited. In calm and affecting words he exhorted Co. Smith to stand by the Legion and to help to support its flag. The words added a new spirit to the combined charge. The Legion advance to it with its right wing under the command of Col. Conner, and the left under that of Capt. Garey – the command of the intrepid Watson Guards, who had so distinguished themselves in the opening of the action, being devolved upon Lieut. W. D. Jennings, until joined by Lieuts. Bates and Tompkins, who had undertaken the brave mission of bringing water to the suffering men through the thickest of the fire.

The slaughter of the enemy at the battery, as the combined charge of the Virginia Regiment and the Hampton Legion swept over it, is said to have been terrific. The fugitives were pursued by the companies of the Legion to near Centreville. For four or five miles, the pursuit is described to have been over dead bodies, which strewed the retreat of the enemy.

The Legion reports about thirty killed and mortally hurt, with the immense number of nearly three hundred wounded – truly a gallant record. Neither its cavalry companies nor artillery arrived in time for the action; had they done so, quicker work would have been made by the Legion. As it is, with the gallant record it has made, and the compliments of Beauregard given it the day after the victory, it may boast, indeed, to have had a distinguished part in the glorious day.

The names of Captains Conner, Garey, Adjutant Barker and Surgeons Darby and Taylor are mentioned among those who distinguished themselves heroically in the fight.

The escapes of many of the men through the storm of fire are described as almost miraculous. The South Carolinians are better shots than the enemy. At three fires from one of the Corporals, J. W. Tompkins, two Yankees were seen to bite the dust; and at one time in the action, Lieutenant Jenkins, with a revolver, fired into the enemy a number of shots, nearly each one of which struck its man. Many of the Legion had their clothes torn through with bullets.

Richmond Examiner, 7/25/1861

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Unknown, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (3)

3 09 2011

Extracts from a Private Letter

{From a Member of Hampton’s Legion}

Camp Johnston
Six Miles from Manassas, July 30.

I will endeavor to give you some particulars of the fight, although you will by this time have heard thousands of reports, as every man sees different on such occasions. We received orders on Friday, the 19th inst., to appear at the Central Depot in Richmond, at 5 o’clock, p. m. We found it impossible to be there so early, and, consequently, did not get there until 8 o’clock. We then stacked arms, and lay down on the ground and slept until two that night. We left Richmond at the last named hour, and arrived at Manassas on Sunday morning around four o’clock. Shortly after, we heard the roar of artillery. Col. Hampton then drew us up in line and addressed us, the substance of which was, that we were about to go into battle, and hoped we would prove ourselves South Carolinians worthy of our State and [?]. We then took up the line of march for the field, at which place we arrived about nine o’clock. Col. H. ordered us to take the extreme left, and stand until we were cut to pieces, or drive the enemy back.

We advanced steadily forward, shells bursting all around us. We were then dressed into line, and I never expect again to see cannon balls and shells fly as they did that morning. It is a mystery to me how one man escaped in the Legion. We stood our ground for one hour, alone, under one of the hottest fires Gen. B— says he ever saw. I gave myself up for gone, but still kept loading and firing. Poor Phelps was shot dead at my side; also a man by the name of Blankensee. Bomar was wounded just to my left. Finding it impossible to hold our position, we retreated to a small clump of woods, and then the cry was, “We are surrounded; we are outflanked.” At this critical moment, the Georgia and Mississippi regiments came to our assistance. We then not only maintained our position, but kept the enemy in check until about 2 o’clock. At this time, Gen. B. came up with Kershaw’s and Cash’s regiments, and Kemper’s Battery and Johnston’s column. His appearance was worth to us 10,000 men. It rallied the wounded as well as the others. Those that were unable to rise from the ground raised their hands and cheered him as he passed along the line. We were then at close quarters with the scattered remnants of the Legion, and I assure you it was hot work. The order was given to charge the enemy’s battery, which, upon the second charge, fell into the hands of our troops. It proved to be the famous Sherman Battery. After this charge, the enemy, completely routed, took to flight. Our men pursued them as far as Centreville. They left everything, in the shape of eatables and drinkables, that you can think of – champagne, lemons, sugar, etc. We took, among other things, some trunks, We captured 70 ambulances, fitted up in the most fancy style; also, a carriage and six horses, with a sword and trappings, supposed to have belonged to some general officer. The woods around were strewn with the dead and dying. A man who has never been upon a battle field can form no ideas of the horrors of one. The roar of musketry, combined with the shrieks of the wounded and dying, and the sight of mangled bodies, is truly horrible. I saw a ball from one of the enemy’s rifle cannon cut a man in two. I witnessed Bartow’s horse shot from under him. He (Bartow) was a noble fellow. When he fell, two of our men helped his men to carry him from the field. A regiment of our Zouaves was pitted against the Fire Zouaves of Ellsworth; they killed all but about 200 of them; the bloody bowie knife did ample work. The Washington Artillery, of New Orleans, is one of the noblest band of men I ever saw. I give them the credit of gaining the victory; they fought like lions, actually mowing down the ranks of the enemy. In our advance, one of our men saw a wounded Yankee lying down; he went up to him and gave him some water; when he turned to join the company the fellow coolly drew his pistol and fired at him, but missed; our men immediately turned round and bayoneted him. I escaped with a Minnie ball through my hat. It just grazed my head. I send you, by Mr. R., a piece of a bomb shell picked up on the battle field. The Yankees are a mean, contemptible people. They sent, under the white flag, to know if Gen. B. would allow them to bury their dead after the fight on Thursday at Bull Run. Gen. B. assented, and the scoundrels, instead of burying their dead, commenced to throw up entrenchments. We found it out and very soon run them off. I took a walk over the battle field a few days ago, and the dead Yankees are not all buried yet. The bodies are in a dreadful condition, and the whole atmosphere is filled with the most disgusting smell. The idea, to me the most lamentable, is that the best blood of the South is being spilled whilst fighting against the lowest, most despicable and degraded men, not only of the North, but I believe of the world. The prisoners are, nearly all of them, the most miserable looking creatures I ever saw. Ely, the member of Congress taken prisoner, is an exceedingly low looking man. The enemy resorted to all kinds of deception and chicanery to take advantage of us; they used both the Palmetto flag and the Confederate flag while advancing upon us, and for some time completely deceived our men. they also got and used our signs of recognition. It is very hard to distinguish our men from the enemy when at close quarters, their uniforms are so much like ours. I am now compelled to close my letter, as the mail is about to start for Manassas, but before doing so let me say that no women of any country could be more kind to the sick and wounded men than the women of Virginia. Our wounded are receiving every attention; they are sought after and carried to private residences, and all that can be done to make them comfortable is being done. The farmers around the country where we are now stationed carry, daily, as many as forty and fifty of our men at a time to dine with them. Give my love to all the boys, and tell them I never expect again to see them.

Charleston Mercury 8/7/1861

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