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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Unknown, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (2)

30 08 2011

Extract of a Private Letter

From a member of the Washington Light Infantry

Camp of the Legion
Manassas Junction, July 24,

On Friday afternoon, at [?] o’clock p. m., we left our camp at Richmond and started for this place. The distance is only a hundred and fifty miles, but as we were travelling as freight, and on a freight train, our progress was terribly slow. At some places we stopped three hours at a time, waiting for other trains to pass, but at last we reached the long wished for goal of our desires, Manassas Junction. Beauregard, as you are aware, commands here in person – the invincible, idolized Beauregard. When we reached this place, which was at daybreak Sunday morning, we understood that Gen. Beauregard was momentarily expecting an attack from the enemy, who were advancing on this place, in great force, via Centreville. Col. Hampton received a despatch ordering the advance of the Legion as soon as they had eaten breakfast. We pitched one large tent, crowded all our baggage into it, burned all our letters, eat a hasty breakfast, and took the road. Just as we were leaving camp we heard the artillery, about six miles distant, firing upon the enemy.

The morning was calm and beautiful; a clear, cool Sabbath morning; and while, at home, our friends were quietly preparing to go to Church, we were hurrying on to the field of battle. It was a strange Sabbath day! As we hurried along through the beautiful forest roads, the men in excellent spirits, conversing cheerfully and hopefully of the work before us, I was forcibly reminded of these lines from Byron’s Waterloo:

“And Ardennes waves above them her green leaves,
Grieving, if aught inanimate o’er grieves,
O’er the unreturning brave.”

Alas! how true of many of them – unretruning. At the first fire, two fell, who never spoke again, one of them, young Phelps, of Charleston, the other a brave Pole, whose name was Blankenzie.

About five miles from camp we first saw the enemy. A dense column of them were steadily moving up a lane, about half a mile off, upon which our artillery was playing with fearful effect. At each discharge of our pieces a wide break would suddenly appear in the long line of glittering bayonets, and ere they reached cover, many a foeman bit the dust. While on a hill, the enemy turned their artillery on us. The miserable scoundrels, contrary to the usage of civilized warfare, fired chain shot at us; but their aim was not good, and they flew over our heads, whistling like a flock of blackbirds. One round shot struck under the belly of Col. Hampton’s horse, covering him with the red clay. Finding that we were too far off to attack the enemy here, we wound around the base of the hill in order to cut them off. As we came out from the cover of the hill and reached a little hollow sparsely covered with trees, the enemy poured a withering fire upon us – round shot, chain shot, shell, musket and rifle balls fell like hail among us; it seemed as if a great hurricane was sweeping the valley; bushes and trees were cut to pieces. Here the Legion lost their first man. I cannot tell how many fell. The Manning Guards had three men killed  by one grape-shot; they were terribly mangled, but the poor fellows did not suffer, as they were immediately killed. Here we paused a few moments, then hastily forming mad a rush up the hill, but could find no enemy. We then filed down a lane, deploying the men at the same time under cover of a rail fence. We could now see their columns advancing – one immediately below us of three thousand, one to the left about five thousand, and to the right about ten thousand strong. The column nearest to us had a palmetto flag, and by this means completely deceived us. An old Texan scout, who was along with us, told us they were enemies, but our officers would not believe him; he, however, advanced to the fence, and laying his rifle on a gate post, took a long and steady aim, and when he fired the smile of satisfaction that lit his rugged countenance showed that his aim had been true. The Texan’s shot drew the fire of the enemy upon us, and the musket balls flew in clouds above us. Some ten of our men fell; two of them partially blinded by splinters – Ancrum and Bob Baker, from Charleston. Ancrum’s face was fearfully disfigured. Bob Bomar was reported mortally wounded, and so was old Mr. Ga. Jervey of Mount Pleasant; others were wounded badly, but are in a fair way to recover. We now poured a deadly volley amongst the Yankees, and, jumping the fence, charged them; but they were too fast for us, and succeeded in joining their column to the right. We took one prisoner, who came up voluntarily to Lieut. Logan and told him that he surrendered himself a prisoner. Logan took his rifle – a magnificent breech loading piece (one of Sharpe’s patent) – and gave it to old Calvert – our Texan scout – a splendid shot. Calvert ensconced himself in a little hollow, and, with the Yankee’s rifle, picked off fifteen of the enemy. We now advanced by the right flank to another lane, where we lay for an hour or two under the fire of twenty thousand men. The air was filled with balls. We were partially covered by a ditch about eighteen inches deep; and here my Zouave drill helped me a great deal in loading lying down. Lieut. Col. Johnson was killed here by a Minnie ball passing through his temple and out the back of his head. He fell without a groan. As we lay in this ditch, the balls flying over us sounded just as if we were in a swamp, with clouds of mosquitos about our ears. Several times, when I raised my head to fire, the balls would cut the edge of the ditch, and throw the dirt in my face. One spent ball cut my upper lip, but gave me no pain. Three times we were driven from this position, and twice, unsupported, regained it. The third time several other fresh regiments assisted us. We fought through lanes, over fences, around farm houses and in all sorts of places. Once we came near losing our colors, and when our company rallied to its support, only thirty out of ninety were left together. Col. Hampton was shot, and our gallant Capt. Conner, senior Captain, took command. About 3 O’clock Kershaw’s regiment, with several others, reached the field, when they gave a cheer and firing one volley advanced at the charge; the enemy’s column broke in confusion, and fled like dogs. The battle raged along a line of several miles, and everywhere our troops, though badly cut up, were victorious, and about five o’clock the rout became general. President Davis arrived at this time from Richmond with seven thousand fresh troops, they were, however, too late to take part in the fight. The five hundred cavalry pursued the enemy some miles. Infantry followed them as far as Centreville. Every now and then the flying artillery would wheel into line and pour a deadly volley into their ranks. The enemy threw away everything. We captured sixty-two pieces of artillery, among which were Sherman’s celebrated battery and Doubleday’s famous big rifle cannon; whether we got all his pieces or not, I cannot say. Cochrane, of New York, was killed, and a great many others of the big men either were killed or captured. About two thousand of the enemy were killed on the road to Centreville. The Louisiana Zouaves fought like tigers; a squad of them with bowie knives in hand, chased some twenty-five Yankees into a thicket, and there cut them up with their knives. They are terrible looking fellows; a great many of them are Frenchmen, savage-looking brown fellows, with black, cropped heads and wiry moustaches. I could relate much more that is horrible to think of, now that the excitement is over, but will refrain on account of the ladies. Such a battle was never before fought in America. For ten or eleven hours seventeen thousand men were opposed to seventy five thousand, and at the end of the time utterly routed them, capturing all their artillery and taking one thousand or more prisoners, and killing thousands of others. Seventeen thousand is the highest estimate of our men who were actually engaged, and seventy five thousand is the lowest estimate of the enemy. Some of the prisoners say that they had eighty-five thousand, and others ninety. The enemy were so confident of victory that they took only three days’ provisions, thinking that would suffice to take them to Richmond. Letters were found among their effects, written to their families, informing them that on Sunday they would attack Beauregard, and then push right on to Richmond. Alas for all human calculations, they never reached Manassas. About one thousand visitors [came from?] Washington to see us whipped, among them numbers of Congressmen. When the news reached them that their troops were in retreat, they fled like sheep, leaving wagons and carriages behind them, stored with champagne and good things of all kinds. I have not told a tenth part of the events of that day, but hope at some future day to tell you[all in person?]. The retreat of the enemy from Fairfax was very amusing. An old gentleman from there says that all of their [forces?] who were beaten here fell back on that place, together with Congressman, Members of the Cabinet, &c., and that at 12 o’clock at night a scout brought them word that our troops were advancing. He says that such fear and confusion were never seen before. In a few moments the place was deserted, baggage, arms, ammunition, everything was left behind. President Davis says that he has all the arms he could wish for, and that the 21st of July was Southern Independence day.

Among the wounded was Sweat, whom I have mentioned in one of my letters. He and I were in a ditch, when the Company was ordered to fall back. We both turned for a parting shot. Just as he fired he fell back wounded in two places, in the side and arm – severely but not mortally. There are not more than one-third of the Company who have not received a scratch of some sort. There are more holes through coat tails and hats, than one can count. But I have written enough.

Charleston Mercury 8/5/1861

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John E. Poyas, Co. A, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle (1)

11 08 2011

Extracts from a Private Letter

[From a Member of Hampton’s Legion]

We have also been favored with the following extracts of a letter from John E. Poyas, of the Washington Light Infantry Volunteers, Hampton Legion, written the day after the glorious battle of Stone Bridge.

Manassas Station, July 22, 1861

My Dear Mother

Our  Legion (now the Legion) arrived yesterday morning just before day. At 8 o’clock we took up the line of march, and about the time that you were all going to church, met the enemy, almost seven times our number, and with the assistance of one Georgia Regiment and two pieces of artillery, fought and kept back this immense force for three hours, until General Beauregard, who was fighting another detachment at a distant point. could come to our relief. When I say the Legion, I mean six companies of infantry for our artillery and cavalry have not come on yet. It was a hard fight but a glorious one, despite the heavy losses on our side. We would see our comrades falling around us, but, until forced to retire to rally, could not stop to take them from the field.

As you may well suppose, from the great disparity of numbers, we were sorely pressed, but as often as we were driven from one position would [rally?] on our Palmetto and meet them at another, and in this way kept them back until about two o’clock. Gen. Beauregard came on the field and told us, “Carolinians you have done well – go on, and the day will be ours.” Soon after, Col. Kershaw with the 2nd Regiment of S. C. Volunteers, came on, [then?] we took the park of artillery which had galled us so severely all the morning. Then Col. Cash with another South Carolina Regiment arrived, and was soon followed by others that had been fighting at Bull Run. The enemy having been driven from that point united with those opposed to us.  By sunset we had driven them miles away towards Washington, having taken thirty pieces of artillery, some five hundred prisoners, and ten thousand stand of arms. [Lt.] Colonel Johnson was shot through the head early in the engagement. George Phelps was shot on my right about the same time and instantly killed. Blankensee, another private, was killed much around the same time. Robert [Bo???] was severely wounded, and has been sent to Culpeper hospital, where the sick and som of the wounded are sent to be nursed. H. Middleton and J. W. Green were dangerously wounded. A great many are severely wounded. Scarcely any one escaped without a scratch or blow. Two of our men are still missing.

Col. Hampton was shot in the face, the wound is not considered dangerous, he fought bravely, and [when?] his horse was shot, took a musket in his hand and fought with his men.

Capt. Conner was struck by a spent ball, which did no more than cut his coat, but would have killed had it penetrated.  [?] it was in the left breast.

One of the first shots fired at us struck a [?], and sent splinters flying, one of which gave me a slight blow upon the forehead above the left eye, and another on the left arm, but caused me no inconvenience, another struck Henry Baker in the left eye injuring it seriously.

The rascals pretended to be making battle at Bull Run – only a ruse to draw attention from the larger body which was trying to get round this place to take the rail road leading to Richmond. They also raised a Palmetto flag under cover of which one portion of their force came very near our Legion and fired upon us, but on our return [?] they were brought to a halt, and we gave them as good as they gave us. We were under Beauregard, but Jeff. Davis was also on the field, and, I think, must have satisfied “Old Fuss and Feathers” that he can’t compete with him. Scot had [?,000] men. We never had, during the day, more than [13,000?] engaged.

The rout was a glorious one, and when we came up with the fugitives they attempted to make a stand. As [?] [?] [?] lines were formed, and the Washington Artillery of New Orleans opened upon them, they took to their heels, leaving 21 pieces of artillery, all that remained of the once famous Sherman’s Battery among them.

P. S. – The President and Gen. Beauregard have called on Col. Hampton th thank him for the action of the Legion yesterday.

Charleston Courier, 7/29/1861

Clipping image contributed by John Hennessy





2nd Lt. J. A. McPherson, Co. E, 6th NC, Account of the Battle

28 07 2011

Interesting Letter From Manassas. – We have been favored with the sight of a letter from 2d Lieut. J. A. McPherson, of this county, in Capt. Avery’s Company, of Col. Fisher’s Regiment [6th NCST], (lately a student at Col. Hill’s Military Institute at Charlotte,) dated at Manassas Station, July 22d, from which we are permitted to make the following extracts:-

“Leaving Richmond we went by railroad to Strawberry, and stayed there one night. Next morning we started for Winchester, 18 miles, on foot. We had to make a forced march of it, as Johnston was expected to he attacked by an overwhelming force. We arrived late in the evening, and were drawn out in line of battle. That night I lay in the corner of a fence with some wheat straw for a shelter. We stayed there till late next evening, when, not being attacked, we pitched our tents and slept in them one night.

News then came that Gen. Beauregard was attacked by a force of three to one, and that the forces threatening us had gone to unite with those against Beauregard. Early in the morning we struck our tents, and, with thousands of others, left Winchester late in the day. When out of town Col. Fisher read an order from the General to make a forced marched across the Blue Ridge. We marched till late in the night, and then all lay down by the road-side and slept. At day-break we started again, arrived at Piedmont that night and lay out in a wheat field all night. Next morning we were roused before day, and started for the cars, but did not get off till night. I stood it as well if not better than the most of them.

We reached Manassas early in the morning, and could hear the cannon firing. We got to the battle field about 12 o’clock, and were led into the fight, and that the hottest of it. Our front rank men fought bravely. We took two pieces of artillery that belonged to the brag battery of the U. S., Sherman’s battery.  We were standing around the pieces, when some one cried out that we had fired into our friends. The enemy fired upon us from the bushes, and we fell back, as we thought it was our friends. Then they fired on is worse than ever. Our men killed all their horses and they could not take off the guns; so we got them. Col. Fisher was killed near the battery. I did not see him fall and did not know he was killed till the next day. He was shot through the head.

I never thought I could stand the fire of bullets as I did that day; and how I escaped being killed I do not know. it was just an act of providence that we were not killed by hundreds. About 100 of our regiment were killed and wounded–17 killed and some mortally wounded.

After that fight about 145 of our men went with some other regiments to protect the Washington Artillery of New Orleans. We reached a high hill and could see the enemy drawn out in line of battle. We followed them two or three miles, and that is the last we have seen of them.

We were then about 8 miles from the Junction. The General told us he would attach is to a Mississippi regiment, and we could stay there for the night. I made my supper that night on berries that I picked about in the old fields. We laid that night on the ground in an old field. On Monday morning it began to rain. Our men said they knew where there were plenty of yankee blankets, over-coats and oil-cloths. Some were sent for them and came in loaded down with blankets, over-coats, india rubber tablecovers, oil cloths, and haversacks. I have a splendid yankee over-coat and so has Capt. Avery. I have also one of their india rubber table-covers. I found these useful, as we had to march 8 miles in the raid and mud. We took thousands of blankets, over-coats, &c.

We have fought the flower of the  Northern army, and I think they had a great many more men that we had. Some of the wounded told us that they were old U. S. regulars, and I think they must have been, for they fought bravely.

We have just received orders to leave this place, to go I know not where, but I suppose towards Alexandria. N. W. Ray [of Cumberland county] is very well. He was not hurt.

Fayetteville (NC) Observer, 7/29/1861

Clipping Image contributed by John Hennessy

Transcribed by Michael Hardy





Pvt. Drury P. Gibson, Company D, 1st Special Battalion Louisiana Infantry Before and After the Battle

31 07 2010

Camp Moore June 6, 1861

Dear Sister,

I again write to inform you that we are all well, and getting along tolerably well in drilling.

One of our men died yesterday with the pneumonia, his name was Patrick Sweeney. He was an Irishman and a good soldier, he was sick only five days, he died in his tent.

Several of the boys have been a little sick, though nothing serious, save that of poor Sweeney. One of the “Lafourche Guards” died a few days ago, he had the Typhoid Fever, those are the only deaths that we have had in camp since our arrival.

The “Catahoula Guerrillas” have been placed in the first Special Battalion, which when filled will be the 8th Regiment.

Two regiments left yesterday for Virginia. We will in all probability follow on in the course of two weeks.
 
One of our men deserted the other day. He was an unknown Irishman, our company numbers at the present, 100 Rank & File.

We have fine times, the men all seem to be well satisfied with the Camp life. We are quartered in a very healthy and pleasant country. There seems to be a disposition in some of our officers that has the subscription fund paid over to them, to get all they can, and keep all they get. The company have not been at any expense whatever since they left the shores of Catahoula and strange to say, there has not been one dime paid to any man in camp.

None of us are suffering or in particular need of money, but as it was paid into the treasury of the Company for the volunteers, I think it but just that it should be paid over to the company and some account rendered to the respecting contributions. At least such is my opinion of the matter. Other persons may perhaps think different notwithstanding.

I am going to keep my eyes open and watch passing events, and report to the public accordingly but, more some other time.

I am satisfied with the soldier’s life, but it is very confining and laborious to any one that has never been used to such a life.

The very flower of the South are engaged in this war. Companies are not formed of the lower classes in this war as in other wars. Men of intelligence, courage, and standing have taken up arms in defense of their homes, firesides and domestic institutions and they are invincible. We are bound to succeed or every man will perish in the effort.

I am well satisfied with my office 3rd Sergeant. I have all the benefits and privileges of an officer without such responsibilities and laborious duties that the higher officers have to go through with. We drill six hours every day, three hours in the morning and three in the evening. Nothing more at present.

————

August 1, 1861

I would have written before now, had a favorable opportunity presented itself; but owing to frequent movements and scarcity of writing materials, and all the time being in extreme outpost, I have delayed until the present leisure moment. We are stationary after cleaning out the Yankees on the memorable 21st of July 1861.

Previous to that battle we had been continually on the pact for two weeks. Maj. Wheat being an officer of experience and a noted character for scouting, we were placed on an outpost as soon as we arrived in Virginia, and kept there until Gen. Beauregard ordered us back to “Stone Bridge” to take a bold stand against the invading foe.

We were anxious to meet the enemy, in fact our hearts jumped for joy when we saw their bayonets glittering through the distant forrest. We were, especially the Guerillas, completely exhausted, we had been lying in ambush and marching around for two weeks, without tents or anything to cover us, save the canopy of heaven, it raining part of the time & at times with nothing to eat. I shall not pretend to give you an account of the battle of “Stone Bridge” as you no doubt have long since read all the particulars of that glorious victory in “your Delta”. Suffice to say that the “Catahoula Guerrillas” were the vanguard and had the honor and consolation of opening the battle on that occasion.

Catahoula has at last done something worthy of note, the names of her sons that were engaged in the battle of “Stone Bridge” will be handed down to future generations on the page of history, as souldiers and patriots, fighting for their homes, firesides, and to free our cherished sunny South of mercenary foes. Little did the avowed ________, foes of the Catahoula Guerrillas expect when we left Trinity that we would be identified and actors in one of the greatest victories that can be found in the annals of the nineteenth century.

All of the Louisiana troops are being concentrated at this place, Mitchell’s Ford on the Bull Run three miles below the Stone Bridge. We will rest here for awhile, if Davis don’t take a notion to march on Washington. We have got the Yankees whipped and I don’t think it will require much fighting to keep them so. We defeated the old regulars and best drilled men, and Sherman’s Artillery at Stone Bridge. It was not only a defeat but a route, a complete slaughter. Our total loss I suppose was about three hundred killed and one thousand wounded. The enemy lost some four or five thousand. The Battle field for miles was covered with dead and dying Yankees and our Cavalry completely slaughtered them when retreating or running. Every barn house, corner of the fence, and hollow top is full of dead, dying and wounded Yankees. I have had fine time of it, in cutting off their arms and legs, and dressing wounds. They seem to be very greatful for any attention for they know they deserve none. The northern army seems to be principally composed of foreigners, such as Elksworths Fire Zouaves, they are fighting for plunder. The New England states send native religious fanatics, especially Maine, Vermont and Michigan. None of the Lincolnites have been paid off and some of the prisoners say that they are not being well fed.

Among our prisoners I recollect of seeing several big buck Negroes marching in ranks, guns on sholdier as big as anybody. I reason it will be some time before you will see us if ever. I regretted very much the death of Hall and Elias Stone, they were both brave young men and fought like men and souldiers. Genticores was mortally wounded, he was sent to Richmond. I have not heard from him since. All the rest of our wounded are doing as well as could be expected. Maj. Wheat who at first was thought mortally wounded is improving some better. Our Battalion has been reported ready and willing for service. If you was to unknowingly happen into our camp I don’t think you would know any of us. We are so badly tan burnt and look so bad generally. Our health is tolerable good, but it makes one bear to be souldiers, marching around on half rations reduces all surplus fat, he is noting but bone and sinew. I have become so used to walking until I would rather walk than ride. I can lift three times as much now, as when I commenced souldiering. I think I have been considerably benefited.

————

August 12, 1861

…….the Catahoula Guerrillas are getting along tolerably well out here though several of the boys have been and are now sick. Four of our company has died from diseases, namely Sweeney, Peoples, Reinheardt and Ballard. We have had pretty warm times out here. You no doubt have long since heard of the great Battle of Stone Bridge on the 21st of July in which the Catahoula Guerrillas distinguished themselves for courage and bravery in maintaining firmly their position against overwhelming odds until we were sufficiently reinforced to shove the field of the mercenary and plundering Yankees. Wheat’s Battalion and five other regiments, in all numbering about five thousand effective men, held the enemy in check for two hours until our reinforcements came up; the enemy numbering at least fifty thousand, headed by all of the old United States regulars, Ellsworth Zouaves and Shermans celebrated light artillery. The Guerrillas fired the first guns, they opened the ball on that memorable occasion.

Poor Hall Stone and Elias Stone got killed in the battle. They were both mess-mates of mine. I very much regretted their untimely and premature deaths. Elias fell on the field during the action. When I saw that he was shot I asked if he was badly wounded. He said yes but I will give them another shot. He run his hand in his cartridge bag and fell dead in the act of loading his gun. Hall was mortally wounded, poor fellow, he struggled so hard against death. I never saw any one take death so hard, he said he wanted to live to revenge the death of Elias who fell by his side on the plains of Manassas. They were both buried with military honors side by side in the battlefield, in a beautiful place near some shade trees on a hill. We placed some stones at their heads to know the spot in future as a kind of a tomb stone. I think that we were very fortunate in getting only two killed and fifteen wounded, for I was shure or thought at one time that we would all be killed, and for my life even now. I don’t see how the remainder escaped unhurt. The balls came as thick as hail, grape bomb and canisters would sweep our ranks every minute, and strange to say the enemy only killed three hundred of our men.

One reason why they did not kill more of us, was because they overshot us. Their guns were ranged for a mile with raised sights so we closed in on the gentlemen, before they could lower their sights.

…….all of the Louisiana troops are here at Mitchell’s Ford on Bull Run on the main road between Manassas and Washington City. All of the Louisiana troops are under the command of Brigadier General Seymour of New Orleans. I have frequently heard of Mr. Cotton speak of Col., now Gen. Seymour. He is a fine officer and if the Yankees should take a fool notion and come this way, you will hear again from the Pelican State…..

Contributed by reader Stuart Salling, and published on his blog Louisiana in the Civil War on 7/24/10 (see here).  Originally published in the North Louisiana Historical Society newsletter in 1979.





Diary 7/21/1861 – Pvt. John Henry Cowin, Co. D, 5th AL

20 11 2009

Slept cold last night as I had only a single blanket whi[ch] was too small to sleep upon and cover with at the same time, besides the night was colder than usual.  Arose quite early this morning and found we had orders to prepare to take up our line of march.  We got breakfast as soon as possible, which occupied but little time as we had only to stick a little piece of meat on a stick, hold it over the fire a minute or two and breakfast was ready.  Soon after eating we began to hear the booming of cannon, apparently about two or three miles off, which still continues it now being about 12 o’clock.  There seems to be fighting at two points, on the extreme left and centre.  We soon got ready and the regiment crossed the creek.  We crossed and recrossed several times before we got upon the regular march.  We however got straight after a while and had a forced march of eleven miles to the battle field.  It was indeed a battle and a bloody one.  We passed on in sight of one place where they were fighting but did not stop, as we were going to  the assistance of the 4th Ala Regt. which we heard was being terribly cut up.  On the march we met many wounded returning from the field.  We marched on to avenge the blood of those who had fought so gallantly.  We witnessed sights we had never seen before.  The horrors of a battle field.  As we marched in sight the cowardly villains were retreating, we could see their guns glittering among the bushes as they moved off.  We heard that the 4th Ala was surrounded at one time by the overwhelming forces of the enemy, and cut up terribly.  General Bee was badly wounded.  Heard that Col Jones was killed, Lieut Col Law and Major Scott badly wounded.  Syd May was in the fight but came off unhurt.  It is said that the enemy came up with a Confederate flag, and our men thinking they were friends did not fire upon them, but as soon as they got within an hundred and fifty yards of our troops, turned loose both artillery and musketry, mowing them down like grass before a scythe.  It was the bloodiest battle ever fought on the continent.  We lost a great many in killed and wounded.  Their loss was tremendous.  The enemy were completely routed, losing fifty pieces of artillery, ten thousand stands of arms and a great many prisoners.  The Virginians did excellent fighting.  They charged their famous Shermans battery.  The Cavalry pursued the enemy under the command of President Davis in person.  The number of killed cannot yet be accurately ascertained.  Both sides lost heavily.  It is said that the enemy lost at the lowest calculation between four and five thousand in killed and wounded.  To night we have orders to march back to our bivouack.  Squire Griggs[,] Joe Grigg, and myself came to Manassas Junction to see Father, who is here with the baggage.  We found him well, but very uneasy as he was confident that we were in the fight.

Source – G. Ward Hubbs, ed. Voices from Company D, pp 22-23





Romeyn B. Ayres

29 07 2009

During the First Bull Run campaign, Capt. Romeyn Ayres commanded Company (Battery) E, 3rd US Artillery, the famous Sherman’s Battery, which was attached to Sherman’s brigade of Tyler’s division (see here); this despite his official assignment with the 5th Artillery.  Being unable to cross Bull Run with his brigade, Ayres spent the day in reserve and covering the retreat, during which he repelled a cavalry charge.  Ayres sent a wagon, three caissons and his forge ahead when preparing for the retreat, and reported all of these, plus seven horses and five mules, lost when fleeing volunteers cut the traces and stole the mounts (see his report here).

Later, he would advance through artillery positions to infantry brigade and division command, participating in the major campaigns of the Army of the Potomac through Appomattox.  He was also sent with his division to put down the draft riots in New York City.  The army must have been impressed, because in 1877 he was sent with a battalion to Mauch Chunk, PA, home to the Molly Maguires, to suppress the railroad disturbance there.  I’m guessing Ayres was not popular with the AOH.

In Cullum’s Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of USMA (Ayres’s Cullum number is 1352), classmate Col. John Hamilton notes that (i)n the field his style was that of the brilliant executor, rather than of the plotting strategist.  He had withal a remarkable eye to at once take in the situation on the field, and was the quickest of tacticians.

Hamilton provided a few anecdotes, demonstrating a sometimes brutal wit:

On march in Texas, during a few days’ rest he [Ayres] happened to pitch his camp near the permanent command of an officer who ranked him.  The officer was a strict constructionist of Army Regulations, and had his reveille at daybreak.   Ayres had ever liked his morning nap; and his senior, very unnecessarily, considering the transientness of the junction, assumed command over Ayres, and ordered him to comply with the Regulations.

After the interview, Ayres retired to his camp and issued the following order, sending his senior a copy:

Headquarters, Co.-, 3rd Artillery,

Camp —,—, 185-

Company Orders.  Until further orders, daylight in this camp will be at six o’clock.

R.B.Ayres

1st Lt., 3rd Artillery,

Commanding Co. –

During the Rebellion, a colonel of his brigade showed a timidity before the enemy too observable to the command to be overlooked by the brigadier.  What passed at the subsequent interview nobody will ever know, but the next day the colonel was found in the hottest part of the action.  Soon an officer of his regiment reported to Ayres, General, poor Colonel — is killed.  Thank God!  says Ayres, his children can now be proud of him.

I have some delightfully ironic trivia concerning Ayres’s grave, but will address that in a separate post later.  Stay tuned.

This article was origninally posted on 6/29/2007, as part of the Romeyn Beck Ayres biographical sketch.








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