G. S. A., Co, C, 3rd Maine Infantry, On Capt. W. E. Jarvis in the Battle

7 02 2020

Letter from the Third Maine Regiment.

We received, after our paper was ready for the press, a letter from a reliable source in the 3d Maine Regiment. We make room for the later and more important portion, omitting much that we would cheerfully have published, if received in season.

Clermont Place, Fairfax Co., Va.
Aug. 3d, 1861.

I wrote an account of the battle soon after the return of the regiment to Alexandria – but finding that your correspondent “Litchfield” had already sent an account of the battle, I threw my letter into the tent, and there it would have remained, had it not been for some of the iliesi that came back to us from Gardiner. In some of the letters that came to us to-night, from home, it is said that the report was current in Gardiner that Capt. Jarvis was not on the battle-field, and that he was in so great haste to get back to Alexandria, he run his horse over the retreating soldiers. So far as Capt. Jarvis himself is concerned, he needs no bolstering up by newspaper correspondents, but his friends “down East” may want to know the facts.

On that day, Capt. Jarvis acted as Lt. Col. of the 3d regiment, and I wish it understood at home, that if there is any man in the regiment who is always at his post, that man is Captain Jarvis. He was among the first on the field, and remained there until long after the flag was carried off. During the fight he was perfectly calm and always at his post.

In regard to running over men with his horse – I can dispose of that “double-quick” – Capt. Jarvis walked all the way to Manassas, all the way back to Alexandria. One thing is plain, the man who made the statement is either of the number, liars – or of that number who were unable to get on the field, and consequently did not know who was.

Capt. Jarvis stops in the tent of Co. C and is in good health and spirits, and one of the few officers of the regiment who asks no furlough to go home. He remarked to me yesterday, that he had rather lay his bones beneath the soil of old Virginia, than go home without whipping out secession. Capt. Jarvis can stand on his own bottom.

Wm. H. Peacock of West Gardiner, a member of Co. C, died yesterday in the hospital at Washington. He was one of our best soldiers – a man always ready to do his duty.

Rev. H. C. Leonard, our new chaplain, arrived Wednesday, and makes quite a favorable impression with the men. He lives on soldiers’ rations, and with his gray flannel shirt and plain clothes, he makes not a bad looking soldier.

Gardiner should raise another company for the war. They have all the material; but none are wanted unless they are able to endure some hardship, and live on soldiers rations. The least they can do is, to send twenty men, to fill the places of those unable to do duty in the companies at the seat of war.

All the rubber blankets presented to us by the citizens of Gardiner, were lost at Bull’s Run. They were left at Fairfax, and stolen by the negroes. We miss them much, as the men are obliged to sleep on the ground.

The citizens of Bath are going to send new ones to the two companies from that city – (Think the Gardiner folks will take the hint?)

Peaches, blackberries, tomatoes, and all kinds of fruit, are very plenty, and can be bought for almost nothing, from the negroes who come around our camp. The slaves in this part of the country live high this season. Their masters having gone to the war, they make free to sell whatever is wanted to the soldiers – and pocket the money.

Bye the by, the best joke of the season, was Beauregard’s order to his men. “Don’t shoot the officers, if you do they will get better ones.”

“Litchfield” will be at his post next week. He has been on special duty this week.

G. S. A.

Gardiner (ME) Home Journal, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

“A,” Co. I, 2nd Wisconsin, On the March, Blackburn’s Ford, Battle, and Retreat

7 02 2020

Letter from the Second Regiment.

Fort Corcoran, July 29, 1861

Messrs. Bliss & Son: I have delayed writing you anything in relation to the great battle, and great defeat as it is called, at Bull’s Run, supposing, in the first place, that some one else had written you, being desirous of getting information of the whereabouts of several members of our company who were missing. The full account with particulars you will find in the newspapers, most of which are nearly true. But there are many omissions of importance. For instance, in your paper of the 23rd, which we just received to-nigh, the 2nd Wisconsin is not mentioned as being in the fight at all. Now, the truth is, we were in both battles at Bull’s Run, on the 18th and 21st. But we did not spend $50.00 to hire reporters to blazon our deeds to the country through a venal press; and what is more, our officers actually refused to pay the $50.00 for doing so in one particular case.

I can only give you a condensed narration of our part in the proceedings,

“— quorum magna pars fui,” *

as I would say, had I the vanity of AEneas, when he told his story to the confiding ear of Dido.

We left our camp near this place on Tuesday, the 16th, in the afternoon, with three days’ rations in our haversacks and with no baggage except our blankets, which were strapped over our shoulders. We marched some fifteen miles and camped at Vienna, where the Ohio boys were attacked in the cars from a masked battery some weeks ago. Starting at daylight next morning we resumed the march, passing through Germantown, where we drew up for a fight, but one or two shots from our cannon sent the enemy flying in double quick time. Here we found batteries just deserted, and quite a quantity of provisions. The batteries, I must say, like most we encountered on the road as far as Centreville, seemed more to have been built to scare us than to injure us. The roads, however, were obstructed with fallen timber, which delayed us very much in removing. Here in Germantown, to the discredit of some of our troops, one or two houses were set on fire and consumed. We pushed on from here until within a short distance of Centreville, when we camped, and the boys had a taste of secession mutton, chicken, etc. The scene on the march, though tiresome, was gay. As far ahead and back as the eye could reach the road was crowded with men, horses, baggage wagons and artillery. It seemed the march of an army to certain victory.

We lay in this camp until 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning, when we heard the booming of cannon in advance on our left. This was Gen. Tyler’s first introduction to the masked batteries of the rebels. About four o’clock a courier came riding up, his horse covered in foam, with orders for Col. Sherman to advance immediately with his brigade, to which we were attached. Of course we lost no time, and in a few minutes were on the march, and soon arrived on the ground above the battery, and were drawn up in line in the woods. The balls from the rifled guns of the rebels flew around and over us lively, crushing trees in their path and killing one of our men and wounding two others. Finding it impossible to dislodge the enemy without great loss of life, we were ordered to return to a camp about a mile in advance of Centreville, on the main road. Our boys had shown their courage and coolness under fire without returning it, and were highly complimented by Col. Sherman. We met while going down to the attack the 12th New York and 2d Massachusetts, puffing and blowing, saying they were all cut to pieces and had left at least half of their regiments on the field. Their fear lent wings to their fancy; the whole loss of all engaged being only some forty killed, but many scattered. There was no reason to complain of the Miners’ Guards, – all being ready to “go in” and take a hand, and only dodging the balls which passed over our heads.

We now remained in camp quietly awaiting reinforcements until Saturday evening, when we received orders to prepare two days’ rations and to be ready to start at 2 o’clock the next morning. At this time every man was ready, his haversack filled with hard bread and cold tongue, and silently as possible we took up our line of march, over a hilly and timbered county. On the way we encountered several of the “contraband” whose masters had deserted their homes, having been impressed into the rebel army. They said that the slaves were kept quiet by the story that the Northern men only wanted to get them to sell in Cuba. They did not all believe the story, however. They gave us correct information in reference to the rebel batteries, as subsequent events proved.

Of the first attack by the left wing, and of the flanking movement of the right wing, I have not time to speak. We were in the center, and from the position we occupied could tell by the dust and smoke the progress of the other divisions. At first, although, after we were drawn into a line on the edge of the wood, we could see a large extent of the country, where not a man could be seen, and it was only after our artillery began to play with thin[?] shells and cannister shot that the men began to swarm out of their hollows, all of which were densely crowded.

About 10 o’clock, after the left wing had taken the first masked battery, and Hunter and Heintzelman had made their attack on the right flank of the enemy, we were ordered to advance, which we did in double-quick time; and after fording a stream and climbing a precipitous bluff, we formed in line of battle. The first sight that met our eyes was the enemy retreating before the gallant charge of the New York 71st, who were slaying them like sheep. The slaughter was awful. But we had no time to lose. We advanced over a rise of ground and found ourselves directly in front of the rebel batteries on the opposite ridge. We marched forward under this fire until we reached a hollow, when we were partially protected from their shot, but not from their shell. A piece from one dented my word, and others hit several of the men, but nobody was killed. We were soon ordered to cross a muddy stream and charge up the hill in the direction of one of the rebel batteries. This was gallantly done, and the regiment drawn up in a road, flanking the enemy. The Fire Zouaves were fighting gallantly on our right. Our men now went to work with a will, and stood under the direct fire of a strong body of infantry for more than an hour, and fought with a spirit and determination which was much admired by their neighbors, the Zouaves, who cheered the Wisconsin boys, and several of them afterward remarked that the Zouaves themselves did no better fighting.

A constant fire was kept up, only interrupted for an instant by the cry of some traitor in the camp, “Don’t shoot your friends!” The hoisting of the stars and stripes by the rebels deceived many until the delusion was dispelled by a volley of musketry. Soon a movement was discovered on our right which proved to be a reinforcement of fresh troops from Manassas. Up to this time the victory was with us. The enemy were giving away in every direction, and had lost several of their best batteries. We were now ordered to fall back for the purpose of reforming our line and renewing the attack, and at the same time evading the flank fire. We had now had over twenty men killed and some sixty wounded. The regiment fell back to the opposite ridge, and under the fire from the battery was thrown into some confusion, like all the others on the field. But the order was given to fall in, and a large number was collected around the flag under one of the regimental officers, who conducted them down the hill where the panic had commenced, and then without any officer they made their way with the crowd in the wake of the “glorious 69th” to Centreville. Near here the regiment was re-organized by several of the company officers, and marched in obedience to orders from Gen. McDowell to camp at this place, – a tedious march of thirty-five miles, after fighting and marching from 2 o’clock in the morning. We did not arrive here till 10 a. m. on Monday morning., having rested only two hours at Fairfax. Thousands were in camp before us. What caused the panic, I do not know. The newspapers may tell. I think it was a want of officers to rally the men. It certainly was not a want of courage in the men, for they had shown the contrary; it certainly was a want of organization that caused a disastrous retreat, after having at one time gained a glorious victory.

The loss of the Miners; Guards was small compared with that in two or three other companies. This was owing to the fact that Lt. Bishop was detailed, just as we started to make the charge, with thirty men, to assist in manning and putting in position the big thirty-two pound Parrot gun, and who found it impossible to rejoin the company under the raking fire to which they would have been exposed. They did good service, however, where they were.

William Owens, of Dodgeville, was killed by a shot through the head; Lieut. LaFleiche was wounded by a shot in the shoulder; Lieut. Bishop was injured internally by his exertions; Philip Lawrence was wounded by a shot in the breast; Emile Peterson was wounded by a shot in the hip; Christian Kessler was also wounded, and is yet among the missing. James Gregory, George W. Dilley and Walter P. Smith have not been heard from, and are probably taken prisoners, as they were well when last seen. They are brave boys, and we hope to see them again soon. The wounded are all doing well and will soon recover.

Of course, the boys were tired, and the more so that they stood around the whole of Monday, in the rain, waiting for accommodations at the Fort. They are recruiting rapidly now, though quite a number are unwell. They will go into the next fight with more coolness, but not with more courage. They fought like old soldiers, and won the praise of all spectators, hundreds of whom were looking on.

I neglected to mention the fact, that, soon after crossing Bull’s Run, on the retreat, the cavalry charged on the regimental colors. The Wisconsin boys rallied around and drive back the cavalry after emptying eight or ten saddles. The colors were not afterward disturbed.

We are now encamped within the walls of Fort Corcoran, ready to assist in the defense of the capital, which lies constantly in sight. How long we shall remain here we do not know. We hope to do our duty wherever we are, and to have a share in the good work of delivering our country from the conspirators who are seeking its destruction.

Hoping to have leisure to continue this brief correspondence, I must retire to my wearied pillow, as the snores of my companions remind me it is high time.


Mineral Point (WI) Weekly Tribune, 8/6/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* Translated “In which I played a great part.”

Pvt. Mattison C. Sanborn, Co. A, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, On the March and Battle

31 01 2020

Letters from the Army.

The following letter from a member of Company A, 2d N. H. Regiment, to his father, Dr. Caleb Danborn, of South Berwick, had been furnished us for publication:

Camp Sullivan, Washington, July 24th.

Dear Father, – Last Tuesday we left Washington with our Brigade, under command of Gen. Burnside, to join our Division, under Gen. McDowell, at Fairfax Court House. We arrived there at 11 o’clock, Thursday morning, the rebels retreating before us towards Manassas Junction. In their camp they left guns, ammunition, provisions, blankets and tents. They blocked up the road by falling the trees and piling up fences.

Our pioneers cleared the obstructions out of the roads, and the army consisting of about 19,000 men, proceeded about 4 miles from Fairfax Court House, where the flag of the 2nd N. H. Regiment floated in place of the Confederate Flag, and encamped there Friday night and Saturday and Sunday until 2 o’clock in the morning. Then the advance of the army commenced and we advanced near 18 miles from our previous encampment, and engaged the enemy at Blue Ridge, near 3 miles from Manassas Junction. By that time we had about 25,00 men in the field and the battle began in real earnest, and the bullets rained about us like hail. The cannon balls and shells of the enemy did great execution. Sherman’s and the R. I. battery played powerfully upon the enemy and once silenced their batteries. Then they displayed a flag of truce, which proved only to cause a delay so that reinforcements might come for them, and General James came from Manassas Junction with 13,000 for the rebels. The Ellsworth Zouaves made a noble charge upon the rebel cavalry and routed them. We were ignorant of the forces of the enemy and their position. There were so many of our artillery men shot that it was difficult to man the guns, our ammunition gave out and we then retreated. The enemy had at least 126,000 men engaged and we no mote at any time than 40,000. Col. Marston was shot by a cannon ball in the shoulder, but he is doing well. As soon as his wound was dressed he mounted his horse and being led on the battlefield by one of the boys he made a speech and told us to defend the Stars and Stripes at all hazards and to remember New Hampshire. Capt. Rollins was hit by a musket ball in the shoulder, and is getting along finely.

The cursed rebels bayoneted our men we left on the field. In our company 2 are killed 3 missing and 3 wounded.

We had a pretty hard journey, we marched 18 miles to the battle field, fought from 11 o’clock, till 4 then retreated, 56 miles without resting an hour at a time.

The enemy are now this side of Centreville, about 36 miles from Washington.

When we move on we shall sweep every thing before us, for we shall have an army of 75,000 or 100,000 men, and artillery enough.

Several pieces of the R. I. guns were spiked by the boys. All the rest our men had safe. Sherman’s battery came in to Washington complete with only one man killed.

The cry of the Ellsworth Zouaves every time one of their men was shot was Ellsworth, and then they rushed on like tigers.

When we first heard the whizzing of the balls we felt a little ticklish, but after we saw our friends fall by our side we feared neither man not the devil.

Our Regiment conducted bravely and left the field with colors flying. Give my love to mother and all my friends, and tell them I’ve killed one rebel sure.

M. C. Sanborn

Dover (NH) Enquirer, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Mattison Sanborn at Ancestry.com 

Mattison Sanborn at Fold3

AKA Mattson C. Sanborn – Bio sketch – Sanborn later was an officer in the 20th Maine Infantry

Mattson Caleb Sanborn at Ancestry.com

Mattson Caleb Sanborn at Fold3

Mattson Caleb Sanborn at Findagrave.com 

Lieut. Warren H. Parmenter, Co. D, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

29 01 2020

The following is an extract of a letter from Lieut. Parmenter of the Dover Company, to a friend in this city:

Washington, July 24th, 1861

I suppose by this time you have heard all about the great battle at Manassas, but you must not believe more than half you read. We received orders Saturday night to get ready to march at 2 o’clock and we started and traveled until 10 o’clock, and the first thing we knew of the rebels was a volley of musketry and a discharge of grape and canister. We were then drawn up in a line and such a shower of bullets you never read about as we received, and we returned them as fast as we could. At that time our Colonel was shot in the shoulder, and a great number of soldiers, but very few badly hurt. This was the first volley that was fired at them. – We then move to the centre and gave them another pop, and fell back to give the big guns a chance, and they did a good deal of damage and drove them from their battery; but we had not force enough to back up our line and they came back and started the big guns on us again, and we went round to the left and came up in rake with their battery and rifles. I thought we were in a hornet’s nest to hear the bullets fly around my ears. We staid there about half an hour and then returned, but every other regiment had left before us, even the U. S. Cavalry, which were put there to cover our retreat. So you see we were the first on and the last off the field, and by that time a regular stampede had commenced. Away they went, pell mell, army wagons, private carriages, horses, infantry and artillery, all together. I started for the hospital where Capt. Rollins was, he being shot on the field sometime before. We got him and the Colonel into the ambulance and started for camp, two miles below Centreville; it was nearly dark. We came along several miles until we reached Bull’s Run, when they opened a masked battery on us. We left the ambulance and started again for camp, which we reached about ten o’clock, laid down about fifteen minutes, and then were ordered to Washington, which we reached Monday afternoon, having marched and fought nearly forty-eight hours with nothing to eat but pilot bread, so hard that it was almost impossible to eat it, and nothing to drink but water we got from the puddles along the road side. We lost from our regiment, killed and wounded, about 40 men. There is missing from our Company, six, but I am in hopes some of them will come in yet.

Dover (NH) Enquirer, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Warren H. Parmenter at Ancestry.com 

Warren H. Parmenter at Fold3

Typo, Co. B, 5th Maine Volunteer Infantry, On the Battle

20 01 2020


Alexandria, Va., July 25th, 1862

Mr. Cowan – Sir: – The events of the last few days seem more like a gloomy dream than a reality. Only a few days since a splendid and well-appointed army left the vicinity of this place with light hearts and light footsteps, convinced that their cause was right – confident that the right would conquer – to-day, the men composing that army (some, tho’, lay stretched on the field of battle) are here – as an army they are gloomy and sad – as soldiers they are disgusted with the incapacity of some of those to whom their lives and honor were entrusted.

I do not know whether an account of the unfortunate engagement fought on Sunday last, of which this state of things is the result, will interest you.

The 5th Maine regiment left their camping-ground, 1 ½ miles from Centreville, at 2 o’clock on Sunday morning. No drum beat the reveille, but the men were quietly awakened and formed by companies with as little noise and confusion as possible. As soon as the ranks were formed, every man assured himself that his musket was properly loaded and capped, and that his equipments were all in order. – This done, each company formed a hollow square, for the purpose of receiving a few words of instruction and caution from the officers commanding them. The Biddeford company was this formed, and Capt. Goodwin, in a few brief words, impressed upon his men the necessity of maintaining their ranks intact, and of paying the strictest attention to every order given.

The command “forward” was soon given, and the 5th, preceded by the 4th Me. and followed by the 3d, took up the line of march for Centreville. The men were in good spirits, and full of pleasant anticipations of victory, and of a first rate time in Richmond. A march of 20 minutes brought us to the foot of the hill, upon which the dirty little collection of houses called Centreville is located, and here we were ordered to halt, in order to allow some regiments belonging to another division to pass to the front. We remained halted about an hour, then resumed our march. As we reached the top of the hill, and cast our eyes to the right, to the left, to our front, and to our rear, it was impossible not to be forcibly impressed with the grandeur of the scene around us. – The country, so far as the eye could reach, appeared literally covered with troops, dressed in every imaginable variety of uniforms, from the bright, glossy colors of the zouaves to the somber gray of the volunteers; while the incessant glittering and flashing of thousands and thousands of bayonets and sabres in the morning sunbeams, was perfectly dazzling. It was a sight calculated to inspire every heart with confidence, and out troops must not be too much blamed for anticipating an easy victory. It is not to be wondered at that the men who saw those columns advancing with the steadiness of veterans, should feel confident that the sun, just then rising in the East, would set with the stars and stripes waving from the rebel entrenchments. They did not know they had no General.

On our way through Centreville we passed the building used as a hospital for those wounded in the engagement of the Thursday previous. Many of the poor fellows were at the doors and windows; their pale, wan faces looking bright in anticipation of (as they believed) the splendid victory to be achieved that day. – “We should like to be with you,” said one, “but – “ and as he uttered the last word, he glanced down at his leg which had been shattered by a grape shot.

Passing a short distance beyond the village, the troops filed to the left. Our brigade proceeded about 2 ½ miles down the road, when the word “halt” was given, and the men received permission to fall out and rest under the shade of the trees which skirted the roadside. We were then in front of the enemy’s position, and about half a mile from them. We had remained here, some three-quarters of an hour, when the report of a cannon towards the front told us that the ball had been opened. It was soon followed by another – and another. – In half an hour the cannonading had become general, and the stillness of the Sabbath forenoon was broken by the booming of the heavy guns – the dull explosion of the shells, and the rattling of musketry. Our brigade soon became impatient, and cries such as “What are they stopping for?” “Why don’t they move us on?” was heard on all sides. Some of our mounted officers rode to the front, among them Major Hamilton of the 5th. He soon returned, and stated that he had seen our mortars plant three shells in the midst of the “devils,” at the same time expressing his belief that our artillery was “using them up” rapidly. Shortly after a mounted negro came from the direction of the front. His mouth was distended with the broadest of grins, as he yelled that the seccessionsists had run up a flag of truce. From that time our men made up their minds there was not fighting for them. All they would have to do would be to pursue the rebels at the close of the fight, and secure the prisoners; and this impression was uppermost in the minds of the men composing the brigade, until their arrival, two hours afterwards, upon the field of battle, in rear of enemy’s position. There, they found, unfortunately, that the prisoners were likely to be made on the wrong side.

We received orders at 10 ½ A. M. to proceed by a circuitous route in rear of the rebel position. In order to do this we had to traverse a distance of nine miles. This distance was accomplished in less than two hours. The day was intensely hot, the road was of the worst possible description, the troops were heavily laden with their arms, ammunition, equipments and blankets; they were worn out with want of sleep, and want of food, and out of the 900 men that commenced the march, only 150 were able at first to form in line of battle, and those more than half dead with fatigue.

We wish we could describe that march, but we can’t – it was perfectly indescribable. For the first four miles not a man fell out, though the dust almost choked us, and our tongues were parched with thirst; but when, on entering a field that had been recently plowed, the order “Double quick” was given for the third or fourth time, men who had struggled hard to keep up felt that they could do no more, and soon a long line of stragglers was seen in rear of the column, slowly dragging their weary bodies along, while many others lay gasping and fainting by the roadside. In vain our Adjutant exclaimed, “You’ll all be shot down like dogs.” In vain Col. Dunnell cried, “Not another man leave the ranks!” The voice of exhausted nature demanded rest. We left the ranks with one or two others, about two miles from the battle-field. After a tedious search, we found a thick mud puddle. No mine of gold, at the moment, could have more delighted our eyes. No fears of cholera morbus prevented us from drinking freely of the putrid, stagnant fluid. How it refreshed us! By its aid we were able to join the main body of the regiment about half a mile from the battlefield. The main body of the 5th then consisted of about 200 men ! the 4th probably had 300, and the 3d about the same number as the 5th.

As we neared the scene of action we were met by the remains of a Mass. Regiment which had just been severely handled by the seessionists. We asked them eagerly “How goes the battle?” They replied, for what reason we cannot tell, “the rebels are retreating. We have them whipped completely.” You should have heard the shout that went up from our too credulous brigade, “Onward! Onward! we heard on all sides, Onward, or we shall lose them.” All fatigue was forgotten, all other thoughts swallowed up in the desire to get one shot at the enemy before they could escape. But we were destined soon to be undeceived. An ambulance wagon, full of wounded and dying men, followed by another and another until the number swelled to twenty, making all haste to the rear, did not seem to us a very conclusive token of victory. As we emerged from the woods on our left which concealed us from the battle field, another disorderly squad of New Yorkers met us. Their faces were smeared with blood and blackened with gunpowder. There was an expression of sadness on their faces as they said, “Hurry up boys, they want you badly there.” Another moment and we were in the field. It is a hard thing to describe a battle-field. We saw a battery on our right and on our left and one in front, or rather we saw clouds of smoke and flashes of fire where those batteries were planted.

Thick volumes of smoke, flashes of fire, dead and wounded men, strewn thickly round, broken gun carriages, bullets singing and whistling in all directions, musketry rattling, cannons booming, shells bursting – this is what we saw and heard as we crossed the field towards the cover of a little wood, where we were to form for the attack. There was a little brook near the wood; several of us went there to drink, while the remainder rested for a few moments. We looked around us, as we have said, there was a battery on our right, on out left, and to our front, all playing with the greatest regularity and precision, while all of our troops in sight appeared to be disorganized and in confusion. For our artillery we looked in vain, that was in the hands of the rebels. We could not help coming to the conclusion that the battle was lost irretrievably.

We wondered what our task would be, whether they would lead our brigade of 800 or 900 against those almost invincible batteries, or whether they would suffer us to remain there until the enemy got our range and mowed us down like so much grass. We were glad when the command “5th fall in,” was given, for we were impatient to see what would be done next.

The regiment was formed in close column at half distance. Company B. had 32 men, and all its officers. Company F. we believe, had six men. Company B. was, by far, the strongest in the regiment. Almost as soon as we were formed, a tremendous rushing and crashing was heard in the woods on our left, and in an instant they appeared alive with men, belonging to several regiments. They were retiring in the utmost confusion. A cry arose, “It is the enemy retreating,” and in an instant a dozen men had left our ranks and sent as many bullets flying among them. Several fell. It was a sad mistake – a mistake too often made in this unhappy war. The retiring troops were the Ellsworth Zouaves and the Mass. 5th. “For God’s sake don’t fire upon your own men,” they cried. The firing ceased and we asked them why they fled. “We can do nothing with them,” said they. They passed to our rear; the secession troops following them, until they saw us, when they opened fire upon us, they, however, retreating to the cover of the bushes.

At this moment, a company of u. S. Cavalry retired in disorder, and their so doing occasioned a panic in our ranks. The 5th regiment, no, the colors of the 5th, flanked on either side by about 70 or 80 men, formed a line and commenced their advance through the woods. The balls flew thick, but the rebels committed the common mistake of firing high, hence our small loss. We traversed the wood and reached the open field beyond, there we expected to meet the enemy – no enemy was to be seen. The enemy had retired to a wood on the opposite side of the field, and from thence they sent numerous but ill-directed volleys (fortunately for us.) We halted in the middle of the field, and for fifteen minutes poured a continual storm of bullets into the woods, but of course we are utterly unable to estimate the effect of our shots. At length a battery of rifled cannon on our right having got in our range, it was thought best to retire; the order was given, and we retired, not in good order, nor in any particular order, but pell-mell, every man seeking his individual safety. When we reached the place where we had formed, we saw a sight which made us sick. Imagine five or six thousand men spread over a wide expanse of country in an inextricable state of confusion with dozens of shells and cannon balls flying in their midst; imagine four or five hundred men bleeding on the field, and you will have the last grand tableau of the battle of Bull Run. An account of the retreat in my next.

Yours, &c.


Biddeford (ME) Union & Journal, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Unknown, Co. B, 5th Maine Volunteer Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

17 01 2020


Alexandria, Va., July 22, 1862

Friend P. S. B. : – Without doubt you have ere this, hear of the battle that took place on the 21st, therefore I shall not be able to five you much news; but thinking you would like to know what I saw, I take this opportunity to give you some idea of the same.

We were encamped about one mile from Centreville, on the eve of the 21st we got orders to march the next morning at 2 o’clock, accordingly we prepared to do so. Our Brigade was composed of the 3d 4th and 5th Maine and 3d Vermont regiments under the command of Col Howard (of the 3d Maine) acting as Brigadier General. We did not get our Brigade ready to move as soon as we expected, but about sunrise we were in motion – we marched a short distance and were ordered to come to a halt, here we were delayed about one hour, for another Brigade to pass – then we passed on, and about 9 o’clock we could hear in the distance the booming of cannon. I cannot say that I was very much in favor of the sound, yet there is much in the sound that is grand and I longed to be with those of my Country’s brave sons who so noble stood the charge against such odds. We were at this time about 3 miles from the scene of action, on the east of the field, and here we came to a halt for one hour, after which we took up a line of march around to the north and came up the west side, a distance of about ten I should judge, and the last four miles we were marched double quick which caused on half to fall out from exhaustion. Each man had his blanket, gun and haversack with three days rations in it, and a canteen of water, making a luggage of over thirty pounds. A large proportion threw them away except their guns, but mine I hung to. You know that I am used to the double quick, therefore it did not use me up as it did many of our Co., who have never belonged to the Triumph Engine Co., of Biddeford. We were now within sight of the enemy, and from this place to the scene of action, the roadside was lined with men, some dead, some wounded, and some exhausted, it will be impossible for me to give you the faintest idea of what I saw from this time until our retreat was ordered, some were brought away in wagons, and some were led away by their friends, and many were left on the field, yet I hop and trust that they have the best of care, even if they have fallen into the hands of the enemy.

We now had to cross a hill where the enemy had a raking fire on us – they having guns on our right and left, and be assured if a soldier has any man about him he will require it at moment like that, for my part, there was a strife within between fear and courage, courage got the best of it, and I made up my mind if I was to die, to die like a Imani, and from that time I felt no more fear. While marching under their fire I saw many shots that took effect, and some cannon balls struck within a few feet of our company but not a man flinched one inch, but we did not stop under quick time and when we had crossed the hill and got into the valley, then we halted to form into a line of Battle. It was now found that there was but 500 of the 5th in the line. Company B. had the most of any company in the regiment, and that numbered but 32 men, company A. of Gorham next, and that numbered 24 men. How so many men stood this march is more than I can tell, for the day was very warm and not half of those that started in the morning were fit to go.

We were the last regiment that went into the field, after we had formed into a line the Cavalry came rushing down from the battle shouting for us to run, which caused the right of our regiment to flee, but the left stood fast, we had to clime a hill in order to get where could do some fighting, it was covered with a thick growth of scrub pines, which made it very hard to climb, and when we got to the top there was not a rebel to be seen, there being a piece of woods about one hundred yards beyond they fled into it. So we marched up within fifty yards and poured one volley into it, and soon we saw them come out on the other side in hot haste. If we had had some good field pieces at that time we would have cut them up in good shape, but we could not reach them with our guns – this was all the fighting that we did.

I will now speak of the conduct of our brave officers, and them I will give you a short account of our retreat. First, I will speak of Capt. Goodwin, he was well nigh used up before we got to the field, and was not able to take command, but he went into the field with us, and was with us until our retreat, and had our march been anything but such quick time he would have had command.

Lieut. R. M. Stevens, he is a perfect brick, he was as cool as ever, and took us into the field and stood in our column until we were twice ordered to retreat. I tell you he is a brave man. And he looked like a hero, while his voice could be heard above the din of the battle, plain and distinct.

Lieut. S. M. Pilsbury is also all courage, he stood at his post and did not flinch one inch, but was as cool as ever. I do not think I could ever ask for more courage in officers than there is in company B., of the 5th. I have heard it often remarked since we have been here, that the coolest men in the field were our first and second Lieutenants and Major Hamilton, and I cannot pass further without speaking of him, of his coolness and bravery you will doubtless learn by the papers before you receive this, therefore I will just say that he rode into the field, dismounted and took his post, and stood there until he was ordered back with us, then he was the last to leave the field. The Brigadier-Gen. paid him his best compliments for his coolness and courage. I do not think that any account of other companies will be of much interest to you, therefore I will give you the account of our retreat.

We were ordered to retreat to Centreville, but the cavalry followed us so closely with their column that we were ordered to Fairfax. Our journey in the forenoon so nearly used me up that I felt as though it would be impossible for me to go so far, and the retreat was in such disorder that no company was together, and after going a short distance I found Lieutenant Stevens and Pilsbury, and we concluded to gas as far as we could and camp for the night, and on our way we found some of our boys and when we came to a halt we had fourteen in all. We had now marched about three miles and found that our retreat was cut off by the enemy, who fired upon us from a masked battery, but their shot did not take effect and there being a piece of woods near by we went into them, and come to the conclusion we would camp for the night. I threw of my blanket about one mile from the battle field, and when I returned I found it in the same place, and as we all had blankets we had a very comfortable nights rest. I woke up at 4 o’clock and found it was raining very hard, I woke up the rest and as we did not have any toilet to make, we were soon on a march to find our way clear of the woods, and after roving round to clear their guards and battery, we cam to a halt and held council, and came to the conclusion to send out a scout to learn if we could where we were. Lieut. Pilsbury and myself being decided upon we started, and went about one mile and seeing a man in the distance I left my gun with Lieut. And drew my trusty revolver and approached him, he proved to be a Slave, but was as bright as any white man I have ever seen; I asked him if he would show us the main road that led to Centreville, he consented to do so, and we went back where the rest of our little company were, and our guide came within on mile of Centreville with us and after a “God bless you” he left us. After we got to the village we went into a house and got some hot coffee which did us much good, altho’ we had hard bread with us yet we had no appetite for it. I think if I could have been seated at some of your tables in good old Biddeford I could have done justice to any amount of eatables.

We now found that all of our troops had gone to Fairfax Court House, a distance of seven miles, so again we started. From this place there was many on the road, some were wounded, and some were frightened. I saw one of the N. Y. Fire Zouaves that was wounded three times, once in his hip, once in his other leg, the ball passed quite through, and one of his arms was badly wounded, and yet he had walked 16 miles and said he should go to Alexandria, but he had the good luck to get a ride; I have seen him since and he is getting along well. We arrived at Fairfax in good spirits; but when we learned that our troops had gone to Alexandria it rather discouraged me, but we concluded to push on. Here at this place there was any amount of baggage all broken open, and the natives were helping themselves. We now had a journey of 14 miles before us, and after a little rest we started. We saw nothing on our journey that was of much interest, about 6 o’clock we arrived here after a march of 28 miles. It rained all through the day and we got almost as wet as could be. I cam to the conclusion if there was a feather bed in this town I would sleep on one. Lieut. Stevens being very footsore, he and I left the rest and went along together, and when we came to a house that we liked the looks of, we stopped and rapped, and soon found that we had made the acquaintance of a mulatto family of respectability, they gave us permission to stop with them, and the free use of anything that we wanted. We got a tub of water, soap and towel, and after we got through they had supper all ready, their supper consisted of corn cake, biscuit, boiled eggs, and hot coffee. And if ever I felt good it was after I got through with that mean. – Lieut. Pilsbury and Major Hamilton found us and we had a fine time with them. It still continued to rain, but we did not mind that now as we had got dry, and bout ten we retired and a better nights rest I never expect to have, and this morning I write to you in our little room the sun shines in and makes me think of days that I have spent in a room much like this far away. We are much better than many of our boys, for they had to take quarters in Halls and different places, but they could not play any Halls on me when I was hungry and wet.

Major Hamilton and Lieut. Pilsbury came up this morning and took breakfast with us, although they stop at a Hotel they like our place best, next time I write I will tell you more about this family that we are with. I do not think that any of our boys were killed or wounded, but if I had not had my haversack with me I should have been, I had it slung over my right shoulder which brough it on my left hip, it had three days rations of hard bread, tin dipper and tin plate in it, and a cannister shot took me fain in the sack went through the dipper, but the force was so nearly gone that the tin plate stopped it, yet it came very near knocking me down. I picked the ball up and put it into my pocket and shall send it to you with a Sharps Sabine Rifle that I took from the field with me belonging to some of the rebels, and if I should never return you can think of me when you see the gun. I have just seen to Orderly Sergeant of Co. B. and he says every man is safe or accounted for, and not more than twenty of the 5th is lost.

Biddeford (ME) Union & Journal, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

An Eye Witness, Co. B, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle

10 01 2020

For the Advertiser.

A Letter from Capt. Gary’s Company

Headquarters C. S. A.
Manassas, Va, July 22nd ‘61

Mr. Editor: On Sunday morning the 21st instant, the Infantry of the Legion arrived at this place, a few hours before day break, having left the city of Richmond on Friday evening. We were out two nights and a day without provisions, having left in accordance with a sudden and unexpected order, thereby depriving us of the chance of preparing rations for the men. At the break of day we drank a hasty cup of coffee, and soon after were on the march for the field of battle, some seven miles distant. We hear the booming of cannon as we started, which continued until we reached the scene of action. The fight had commenced early in the day with Gen. A. G. Evans, who commanded, I believe, the 3rd and 4th Regiments from South Carolina. He held the enemy a hardly contested fight although he had only some fifteen hundred men, and they (the enemy) a very large force, several thousand.

The Legion arrived about ten o’clock and immediately backed up the General’s command. We formed in line of battle calmly and coolly. The men could not have been more composed than they were even if going to dress parade. The fight was opened with great vigor by the enemy with artillery and Infantry, armed with every kind of weapon known to modern warfare. They were in number about ten to one, but we began the fight regardless of all odds. Soon Lieut. Col. D. J. Johnson fell dead from his horse. He was an ornament to the Legion and his death will add another bright name to the historic record of the gallant men of South Carolina. So soon as his death was known, on motion of Capt. Adams and Capt. Austin, the command of the left wing was tendered to Capt. Gary. He immediately announced his willingness to take it, and told them “that he would lead them to death or victory,” – whereupon three cheers were given for the Captain, and they advanced upon the enemy. Capt. G. Soon gave the order to charge, and led his men some two hundred yards in advance of the line of battle on our side; by some mistake in the order, he was left alone with his gallant Company under a galling fire. Whilst in this position Willliam R. Dorn was shot down by a ball passing through the top of his cap, and stunning him severely, but he soon arose and continued to charge. John L. Coleman was also knocked down by a spent ball. At the same time we were mistaken by our own men and were fired on by our side and by the enemy. We then quickly fell back under cover of a ravine, regained our position on the left of the Legion, all the time subject to a hot fire. So soon as we rejoined the Legion, we were ordered to the front and were fired upon by an immense army, but were compelled after sustain a loss of several killed and many wounded to fall back, where we rallied and were honored by the presence of Gen. Beauregard, Gen. Bee and Gen. Evans. Gen Beauregard said “we must win the day.” Capt. Gary responded “we will followe wherever he leads.” We gave the General three cheers, and three more for our gallant Colonel, who is as brave a man as ever drew a sword in defense of his country, with a heart as soft and gentle as that of a woman. We were ordered to hold ourselves in reserve to charge a battery. Soon we were ordered to charge. We charged up to the house of Spring Hill Farm owned by John Henry; here Colonel Hampton was wounded and carried from the field. Captain Conner ordered the legion to fall back and form – announced that he would assume command as Colonel, and Lieut. Lowdnes immediately took charge of Company “A” – Capt. Gary as Lieut. Colonel, Lieut. Tompkins taking command of Company “B.” We again charged up the house and then upon the battery of Captain Rickett’s, which was taken possession of by Lieut. Col. Gary commanding in the name of the Legion. The enemy here retreated towards Stone Bridge and from there to centreville they were followed by Col. Kershaw’s and Cash’s Regiments and the Legion, with Artillery and Cavalry. The road was filled with every thing appertaining to camp life, and some unusual luxuries, such as champagne and lemons. The Cavalry pursued them and captured some 30 pieces of cannon and some five or six hundred prisoners. We then fell back and slept upon the bloody field of battle and returned next morning to this place.

There were thirty thousand of the enemy engaged, and some fifteen thousand on our side. We lost, I suppose, five hundred killed and wounded. The enemy some twenty-five hundred killed and wounded. It was a great pitched battle with West point officers against West Point, and we carried the day, having routed and demolished the flower of their army.

Our company lost killed and wounded as follows:

Thomas A. May, killed.
J. Milledge Hart, seriously wounded – now at Richmond.
Wm. C. Corely, mortally wounded – now at this place.
Davis Bodie, seriously wounded in the arm – now at Culpeper Court House.
Jesse Stone, seriously wounded – now in Richmond.
Sergeant J. T. Nicholson, slightly wounded.
J. W. Jennings,                      “              “
Corporal M. A. Padget,       “              “
R. J. Borknight,                     “              “
J. W. Rochell ,                        “              “
J. W. Rhodes,                         “              “
J. E. Burkhalter,                   “               “
R. T. Carroll,                          “               “
J. L. Coleman,                       “                “
M. A. Griffith,                       “                “
Wm. Jennings,                     “                 “
R. A. Turner,                        “                 “
Thadeus Freeman,             “                 “
John Jennings,                     “                 “

There are a few incidents of the battle that may interest the relatives of those concerned. M. A. Griffith had his canteen shot through. Wm. Jennings had his shot off and his gun knocked out of his hand. His brother, John Jennings, finding him down and almost senseless, dragged him to the shade of a tree. He then started to rejoin his company but soon discovered that his brother was being carried off by two Aouaves. He fired and killed one; fired again and missed; fired again and killed the other, whereupon he and his brother started back to us – met five Zouaves that were pursued by Cavalry, – Levelled their pieces at them and halted the five, and with the assistance of Cavalry brought them to this place as prisoners.

All of our commissioned and non-commissioned officers bore themselves as became volunteers from old Edgefield. Capt. Gary is supported by as fine a set of officers as ever belonged to any Company. Lieutenants Tompkins, Bates and Jennings, bore themselves with uncommon coolness and courage, always prompt in the execution of every order. Lieut. Tompkins, in command of the company after Col. Hampton was wounded, bore himself gallantly, in the whole engagement, and especially in the charge of Ricket’s battery, taken by Capt. Gary acting as Lieutenant Colonel. Lieut. Bates , as every one expected of him, proved himself as brave as the bravest. Lieut. Jennings at one time had command of the Company, – Capt. Gary acting as Lieut. Colonel – Lieuts. Tompkins and Bates having gone for water for the Company and coming very near losing their lives by being cut off – showed that he wielded the sword with as much facility as he did the scalpel.

The 1st Sergeant B. E. Nicholson, fought bravely and at last fainted and was born from the field by Virginians. 2nd. Sergeant R. A. Tompkins was always at his post and could not have acted better. He was at all times cool and brave. Sergeants J. T. Nicholson and J. W. Jennings were both wounded, which speaks for itself. Sergeant Corley was sick when he went on the field and was reluctantly compelled to leave the field with others towards the last of the battle. Corporal J. W. Tompkins particularly distinguished himself with his courage and soldierly bearing during the entire engagement. Corporal Medlock was in the whole fight, acted bravely and well. Corporal Eidson was one of the Color-guard to the flag and was always where the shot fell fastest and thickest. Corporal Herlong was sick and lame when he went into the engagement, and was overcome with heat and exhaustion. The other Corporals were wounded. Nothing need be added when men are wounded in the ranks – you know they are in the right place. In fact, all of the Company did well, and if I were permitted to particularize, I could name many of the privates whose courage could not be surpassed by any one.

The Cavalry and Artillery were not with the Legion.

Dr. Pollard has been appointed assistant Surgeon in the C. S. Army.

Dr. J. H. Jennings is here amputating limbs night and day, for friends and enemies.

I hope you will pardon this long account, as it is given for the benefit of those who are related to those in the Engagement.


Edgefield (SC) Advertiser, 8/7/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy