Sgt. Eldon A. Tilden, Co. D*, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle, Retreat, and Sun-Stroke

21 12 2016

From the Second Vermont Regiment.

The following is an extract from a letter written by member of the Waterbury Company, to his parents in Barre. It gives some interesting details of the engagement at Bull run, about which all are so anxious to learn:

Bush Hill, near Alexandria,
Sunday, July 28, 1861.

Dear Parents: – Our detachment was sent as a reserve to cut off the retreat of the enemy, if there should be one in our directions, and if not, to be ready for any emergency or any duty which they might assign us.

We marched about four miles from Centreville, where we halted in a pleasant grove near Gen. McDowell’s quarters, and awaited further orders. While resting, we could distinctly hear the incessant reports of cannon and musketry from both sides, and (listening for ourselves the sound of charges) we were satisfied that our forces were gradually driving the enemy, when the order came to forward, which was promptly done. Gen. Howard gave the order to forward double-quick time, which pace was kept up for over four miles, through an open field, most of the way, and the sun pouring its melting rays directly in our faces. The result of this, (which was wholly unnecessary) was that many of the troops were obliged to leave the ranks; many of the men were sun-struck, some even died from the effects of it. I was one of the number that was sun-struck, I suppose, for I cannot tell what else it could be. I run as long as I could stand, when I fell perfectly insensible, and remained so for nearly an hour, I should judge; the first I knew, some one was pouring water upon my feet, wrists and head, who also gave me something to drink. I have since learned that it was the Hospital Sergeant, and he tells me there were over a hundred in the same situation that I was. After I came to a realizing sense of my situation, I threw away my blankets and tried to regain my feet, which I finally succeeded in doing, and started at a slow pace for the battle-ground. I passed several deserted (concealed) batteries, from which our troops had just drove the Rebels, and arriving upon a small hill, I had a distinct view of the grounds. Below was a small valley, from which the Rebels had but a few moment before retreated to another but a short distance. I passed to the opposite hill, looking for our Regiment, but could hear nothing from it until the retreat commenced, when I met one of the w[?]ers, who told me the Regiment was badly cut to pieces. Several Regiments passed me on their retreat, before I saw any of the boys from our Regiment. But at last I found one who told me the position of our brigade, which I immediately started for. I could not get much further, however, as the retreat had become general, and troops, artillery, and baggage wagons were rushing in all directions – Up to this moment I supposed victory was complete, and our troops were fast driving the enemy towards Manassas. But the truth was far from it. The Rebels had just received reinforcements, and were making a desperate charge upon us, which our forces, having been engaged a long time and being nearly exhausted, could not stand. I will not give a description of the retreat, as you probably have already as good an idea of it as I could give you, but suffice it to say, there was one general stampede. During our retreat we were cut off once near Bull run, where there was a small battery which opened upon us with some effect, but was soon silenced by a reserve of our troops who were [?] in the vicinity. The Rebel cavalry made a charge upon is at this point, but were met by ours, and out of eighty, only eight or ten succeeded in escaping our fire. I was in a small ravine through which all of our troops had to pass, and which was completely blocked up by the baggage and ammunition wagons. When the last attack was made, I had just passed one of the wagons to which there was two horses attached, when a shell burst near the wagon, which frightened the horses, and they, coming against me, knocked me down, when the horses, wagon and all passed over me. Three men were killed near, by the shell; one of them fell by my side. One musket ball passed through my pants, near the right ancle, and another hit my sword belt near my left hip.

We retreated to our old camp, from which we started in the morning, and should have made a stand there, but it seemed to me that the officers were more frightened than the troops, though I suppose they expected there would be an advance of the Rebels on Washington. We had stopped only a few moments, when the order came to march to Washington, which we did, arriving in Alexandria the next morning, making a march of over fifty miles in a little over twenty-four hours.

The Barre boys that were in the engagement were Strong, Jones, Beckley, Goodrich and Camp, who displayed wonderful coolness, taking deliberate aim. They receive especial praise from the officers. Willey was sick with the measles, and was left with several others at the hospital at Centreville. Smith was just getting over the measles, and was with the baggage team, but came very near being taken prisoner.

Our loss in the whole division is said to be about 500 or 600, but we cannot tell yet, as stragglers arrive every day. There has been an estimate of the loss in our Regiment made which will not exceed 40 killed. From our Company there are 4 missing, but we think they are only taken prisoners. I am informed from a reliable source that our Colonel was not near his command. He paraded his Regiment and retired to a large tree, and watched the proceedings. He has been branded as a coward in Washington, and probably will be in the papers over the signature of Col. Bowdish** of Vermont. The other Regimental officers conducted themselves in a manner which reflects credit upon them.

Troops are rushing into this vicinity by thousands, and the Departments are adopting the most vigorous measures for a thorough re-organization of our army, when I think there will be a desperate move, although I do not think we shall be called upon.

E. A. T.***

[Montpelier VT] Christian Messenger, 8/7/1861

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Contributed by John J. Hennessy

*Company D was raised in Waterbury

**Possibly I. B. Bodish, a leading Democrat of Burlington, VT See Vermont in the Civil War 

**Initials E. A. T. in Co. D correspond with Sgt. Eldon A. Tilden

Eldon A. Tilden bio 

Eldon A. Tilden at Fold3 





Pvt. George L. Smith, Co. C, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle

20 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.
———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Brother: Fearing that you might hear a report of my being killed in the disastrous action of the 21st, I take this method of informing you and other friends that I am alive, and by the intervention of Providence, untouched – I have experienced a new sensation lately – that of hearing the rush of shot and shell, and of seeing friends and companions in arms falling by my side in the cold embrace of glorious death. We were driven – routed – but not until the ground was covered with the slain. We were not disheartened. We hope to regain and will regain our position, or die in the attempt. I can give no certain account of our loss, as we retired in disorder. Probably 100 killed outright and 250 wounded in this Regiment alone. Our wounded will, I fear be killed at last. I have heard that the house used as a hospital was burned and all killed. The enemy were in a strong force, and after the charge was made they had batteries which could not be seen until they opened fire, and then only by the smoke. We were rushed up in disorder to a masked battery, with a large number of the enemy in a concealed trench. We discovered them before they fired, but our officers refused to let us fire, because they said they were friends, but they fired, and many a gallant heart ceased beating. We dropped on the ground and fired, reloaded and fired, and kept firing. We were repulsed, and returned again; again separated and again rallied on our colors, which we brought with us from the field.

In our Company, C, the color Co., we lost about 25 killed, our Captain wounded, 2d Lieut. do, 3 Sergeants killed, or missing, and some 6 others slightly scratched. I was loading the 5th time, when a ball passed between my fingers, taking my ramrod from my hand, leaving me with a useless gun, until I could pick up another ramrod. I got one, but it was too large at the large end, and I had to load with the small end. Well, I gave them about 14 rounds, and then left with a mixed crowd of Fire Zouaves, Minnessota, and Massachusetts troops, Garibaldi Guards and U. S. Regulars.

They killed our wounded on the field, and we understand they killed all in our hospitals, They were in strong force, – and were reinforced by 10,000 men, just as we were marched on to them. * * * Please write, and send papers, and have others do so, for we are much pleased to get them in camp. Direct to Co. C, 1st Regiment Minnesota Volunteers, Washington, D. C.

Yours, &c.,

Geo. L. Smith

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

George L. Smith bio 

George L. Smith at Fold3





Pvt. Benjamin Franklin Spencer, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

19 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.
———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Father: It is with a feeling of the deepest sadness that I seat myself to write these few lines to you. Sunday last is a day that will for long be remembered by me and thousands of others. It was this day we had the fight at Bull Run. This place is in the hands of the rebels. We were marched out to the battle field about 10 o’clock in the morning, and the battle lasted until 4 in the afternoon. We were to have 60,000 men and had only 18,000. The rebels had [?]0,000 men. We fought till the order to retreat was given, then we retreated and left the field, much to our regret, to the rebels. In the first place we were in no order to fight. Most of our troops were tired completely out. Some of them marched 20 miles before we got there. Our regiment marched from 2 o’clock the night before till 10 the next day, and the last 2 miles we run. We were very tired, but not scared. Sufice it to say we were whipped, or drove back.

I will try to give you a list of the names of the wounded and dead in our company, for that is as far as I can go. I fear Bill Spencer is among the lost. William Henry Parker, is dead. Sam’l Estabrooks is dead.

The ensign of our company, his name is Parks, was shot through the heart by a Minnie rifle ball. O[?] M[?]awley was hit by a cannon ball in the foot. Probably he bled to death. Our Colonel was badly wounded in the thigh. It was broken twice; they think he will recover. I hope he will, for he is as fine a man as ever lived in the world. One Charles Fairchilds killed. Nelson came very near being killed by a grape shot. It just missed his arm and that is all. All of the wounded that were left on the field the rebels came out and killed, running their bayonets through them. Napoleon Elliott had the seat of his breeches shot off. He turned around to lead, and a cannon ball took of his breeches as clean across the right hip as it could be done with the shears. Out of 94 men in our company only 35 are gone. Some companies can’t count 40 men. We are those alive in Camp Anderson. After the fight they followed us most to Washington. Just think of marching 40 miles in about 18 hours, and being chased by some four times our number. What are alive are in Washington. I got hit in my thigh by a spent ball, not to hurt me very much, but it is very lame.

Your son,

Franklin Spencer

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Benjamin Franklin Spencer roster bio 

Benjamin Franklin Spencer at Fold3 





Pvt. Frederick Fowler, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

17 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.
———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Washington, July 23, 1861.

Dear Brother: Last Sunday was a day which I shall long remember, as will many others. We were marched to the place called Bull Run, where we fired into them and they at us as hard as they could, but they had such an advantage that they cut out troops all to pieces, and we retreated, they firing into us. We got back to a hill and laid down, and then we got up and went at them again. They were too much for us, for they drove us off the ground. Out of the regiment I am in there are 300 and over killed. The Colonel was shot but not killed. All the boys that went from Coventry have got back, but I don’t think there are any of them but what got hit somewheres. Pole Elliott got his pants most all shot off of him, and others were hit, but not bad enough to lay them up. I think the next battle will be at Arlington Heights but it is hard telling. * * * They have got more men than any one tho’t of, and they have got to be taken in a different shape. I don’t think our company will see any more action very soon, as it is badly cut up. I think it will be kept as a guard in camp. * *

* * It was the hardest fight ever fought in this country. No one knows how many were killed on either side, but I hope there is as many of them as of ours, for after the Doctors had dressed the wounds of our men and taken them to the hospitals, they came up and killed them all. That is enough to show what the devils will do.

Truly Yours,

Frederick Fowler

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Frederick Fowler roster bio 

Fredercik Fowler at Fold3 





Pvt. Charles N. Elliott, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle

16 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.
———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Camp Anderson,
Washington, July 27, 1861.

Dear Friend James: Yours of the 24th was duly received and perused with pleasure. You stated that you was feeling discouraged, on account of the defeat of our forces on Sunday last, near Manassas; and you state that we lost some 3000 men. This is not so, for according to the last report, we only lost some 1300 in killed, missing and wounded. It is true we lost some arms in the action, but they have been recovered since, and the ammunition lost was rendered useless by the rain. There are 91 missing and killed in my Regiment. * * * The 27th Union Regiment was one of the first to take part in the battle. We were on the field from 10 A. M. to 4 P. M., doing our part I will assure you. Although we were very tired when we got there, having made a march of some fifteen miles without any rest, and going some of the way in double quick time, we were ordered to take the right of the batteries; to get there we were exposed to a galling fire from the enemy’s batteries, throwing shells and balls through our ranks at a great rate. For the first introduction, one ball from a cannon passed so close to my head that it staggered me. * * After we gained the right of the batteries, we advanced on them and met a body of them in a hollow, secreted by a stone house and a piece of woods. – They had a battery on the hill. They threw grape and shell at us, but we dove them from there about a mile. – They had planted their batteries on a hill so they could play on us from three positions, and the men made another stand. They ran up the American colors and sent a man to us stating that they would lay down arms. We then advanced toward them, and when near them they fired on us, mowing our men down on all sides. Of course we were all confusion, each man for himself, but we stood our ground, and they retreated again, but poured such a raking fire on us, and no Regiment coming to our relief, Col. Slocum ordered us to retreat. In the meantime I had got ahead of the rest, and took my station behind a large tree which sheltered me from their fire. I saw one of them stick his head around a hay-cock. I told him to come out or I would shoot him. He did not comply, but said “don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” but I had my gun to my eye, and when he showed his head I shot and took him in the head. He jumped about two feet high, uttered an awful groan, then fell, the blood gushing from his head in a stream. He was the poor sneak that said they would surrender, He got his due. I saw another off skulking in the grass. I shot him, and then I saw for the first time that the Regiment had left, so I turned and run to the best of my ability, and they poured a whole volley at me, putting three holes thro’ my pants, and cutting off a part of the seat of my trowsers as clean as if done with a pair of shears. My gun was struck by a ball, the stock part of it taken off and it was knocked clear from my hands, but I got another on the ground and brought it through with me. Our haversacks, containing our food, were all thrown off at the commencement of the action.

Sometimes it would seem as if the day was ours, but about 4 P. M., orders came to retreat, and we started and did not rest until we reached Washington, a distance of 47 miles. All I ate in the meantime was 4 crackers. The worst of all was the leaving of the wounded at the mercy of the enemy, as they would come along and thrust a bayonet through them; and the house where we carried the sounded was blown up by the rebels.

I was among the wounded, where of all the sights one ever saw, that beat all. Lead me up to a masked battery, face to face with the enemy, but deliver me from another such place as that. Those groans still ring in my ears, and always will. As you pass along you will see on just gasping for breath, another crying for water, another begging for you to blow his brains out, and put him out of his misery. Some have their limbs blown off, others part of their faces off, then you will pass by one already in the cold embrace of death. You may read but you cannot imagine a thing about it. You sent me a paper containing Dickinson’s speech, and I like it very much, and am glad you sent it to me and you state you sill send me money if I want it. To be sure it is hard for us to get hold of a cent now until the Government pays us what is our due, and we fare hard, but I return my thanks to you for offering such kindness, though I will not ask so much of you. If you want to come here tell C—– that you want the password, and be careful to hold your oats. * *

Your friend,

Chas N. Elliott

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Charles N. Elliott roster bio 

Charles N. Elliott at Fold3 





Pvt. Charles Winters, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

15 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.

———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Washington, July 23, 1861.

* * * The last time I wrote to you I believe I was in Fairfax C. H., near Centerville. Since then I have witnesses as terrible and bloody a battle as American history can boast of. We were routed up Sunday morning at two o’clock and marched towards Bull’s Run, a distance of about fifteen miles, where we arrived at twelve o’clock. The battle immediately commenced by cannonading on both sides. But this was too slow work, and we were marched up in musket distance. The first regiment we met we were going to fire into, but they told us not to fire into our own men, so we shouldered our muskets and had hardly done so when they poured into us with a whole volley of musketry, cutting down several of our men. They use all manner of stratagem, which was very effectual at first. They would send out little squads of men to get our men to chase them, and as soon as we got near enough, there would a whole regiment rise from behind some embankment and pour into us. Some would hoist the Stars and Stripes to make us think they were Union men. But these things finally played out. One regiment of cavalry tried to play this game on the New York Fire Zouaves. They allowed themselves to be fooled till a good opportunity presented itself, when they poured in upon them cutting them all to pieces. The report is that there were but six left. Bully for the New York boys – The rebels were very strongly fortified. They had embankments all around them, and a thick wood behind them where they could retreat and be in perfect safety. In short they had every advantage, but we made them retreat once and should have probably gained the day had they not been reinforced by a brigade from S. C. This was worse than we could stand so we had to retreat. They gained the day, but whether they gain the morrow is another thing. They have got to be routed out of there and Manassas Junction, their cake is dough*. There only hope of salvation is to keep these two places.

I never should or never could have suspected a people reared as they have been under the blessings of Christianity and civilization, to be possessed of such inhuman cruelty. I have often shuddered, and had my blood run cold when reading of the [?] of Indian wars, but I don’t know as I ever read of anything more cruel than to deliberately pull wounded men out of the wagons and cut their throats. I did not see this done, but there are boys in our company that did. Every wounded man they came across on the battle field, they would either cut his throat or run him through with the bayonet.

Our retreat march, before we could get in any kind of safety, was back to our old camp fifteen miles, and in this the rebel cavalry tried to outflank us, and they came very near doing so – Some ten or twelve of us stopped at a mudpuddle to get a drink, when we heard a great noise. On looking up to ascertain the cause we saw the rebel cavalry coming down a lane at right angles with the path we had to take. The boys scattered in every direction. I stopped half a second to see what to do, and finally ran for the woods. We came to a creek about the time the rebels got to a bridge where the creek crosses the main road. Our only chance was to jump in and wade through which we did in double quick time. They fired at us as we were crossing but did not hit us. After we had crossed, all the boys but myself ran for the woods. I suspected that part of the rebels had gone that way so I kept along the edge – Three or four balls were fired at me but without effect. We finally got to our camps where we stayed about two hours, when we were ordered to march, for it was not safe for us there. We came back to Washington where we arrived last night at four P. M., making almost forty eight hours without sleep, nothing to eat but sea crackers, a march of sixty miles, and a battle of five or six hours, You may judge for yourselves whether we were tired or not.

Charles Winters.

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*”Their cake is hoe” – One’s actions have failed or not led to the desired outcome. The phrase appears in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

Charles Winters roster bio 

Charles Winters at Fold3 





Sgt. Albert G. Northrup, Co. D, 27th New York Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

14 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.

———-

[We take pleasure in giving herewith, letters and extracts from letters of our brave Volunteers, who were in the battle at Bull Run. One of these letters is from Minnesota Volunteer, to his brother in Smithville; the rest are all from men from this town and Coventry, all of whom are members of the 27th Regiment, which performed such heroic deeds on the field of battle, they will be read with peculiar interest, as being graphic and truthful accounts of the battle, spiced with many instances of personal adventure, and hairbreadth escapes:]

———-

Camp Anderson,
Washington, July 29, 1861

Editor American: You have probably seen the full particulars of the great battle at Bull’s Run, in which our forces were defeated, and I will give you some of my own experience.

Our company was on picket guard the night before the action, and at 2 o’clock, A. M., we were called in, and in an hour were on the march for the scene of action. We marched about 12 miles when we began to hear the boom of cannon, and we knew that the strife had commenced. We pressed forward at a double quick rate and were soon in sight of the rebel batteries. Our regiment was one of the first to charge the enemy in our column. We drove them from their battery, and followed them into a deep valley, where they displayed a white flag, and our Colonel, supposing them to be our men, ordered us not to fire, but we soon found out our mistake and fired upon them. They returned the fire, killing our ensign and two privates. Our brave fellows fell all around me, and I expected it would be my turn next; but, thank Heaven I escaped without a wound. We were soon compelled to retreat, and we became separated and each one had to take care of himself. After four hours of hard fighting we were all on the retreat. Our men were nearly exhausted, not having had anything to eat or drink except sea biscuit and muddy water for two days.

We [?] filled our canteens with water from Bull’s Run that was thick with mud, glad to get even that. After we had retreated about 5 miles, the rebels fired upon us again, and we scattered in the woods, in confusion. I was completely exhausted and laid down in the woods and in less than ten minutes I was sound asleep. When I awoke I was alone and [?] was {?}. I knew not which way to go, but started as near as I could judge in the direction of our army. I soon came to where I heard [?] at [?] and supposing them to be rebels I did not dare approach them and lay down under a brush heap and staid there til morning.

When it was light enough to see, I started again and went directly toward the battle field again. I inquired of a slave which way it was to Centerville, and was told that it was in an opposite direction from that which I was travelling. I soon retraced my steps toward Washington, with faint of seeing it alive, as I was almost certain the enemy were between me and our army. I threw away everything that I had, made a breakfast of whortleberries, and amid a drenching rain commenced my march. The first man I saw, stood in the road directly before me with a musket in his hand. I supposed him to be a rebel, but went up to him and bade him “good morning.” He proved to be one of our soldiers from the State of Maine. At Centerville I fell in with three men from one of the Binghamton companies, and remained with them during the rest of the day. We were about the last on the road, and expected at any moment to see the enemy’s cavalry approaching, but we did not see them. Several times during the day I was on the point of giving up in despair, but my companions urged me on, and after one of the hardest days of my life I succeeded in getting to Alexandria, Va., where I staid at the hut of a slave – glad to get as good shelter as that. The next day I took a boat and came to Washington where I found our regiment, in their old quarters. Our boys thought I was either killed or taken prisoner, and when I made my appearance among them I was greeted with many a hearty shake of the hand.

Your townsman Delos Payne, was in thickest of the fight, and fought valiantly, and is anxious to get another chance to “pepper” them. I am unable to say how long we shall remain here, probably three or four weeks.

Oscar Phelps is with us, having done his duty faithfully on the field of battle.

Our defeat is a bad one, but we hope to do better the next time.

Yours truly,

A. G. Northrup.

Chenango [N. Y.] American, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Albert G. Northrup roster bio 

Albert G. Northrup at Fold3