Pvt. George W. Doty, Co. F, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle

28 01 2015

Letters From The Seat Of War

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Second Vt. Regiment, Co. F.,

Alexandria, July 23, 1861.

Mr. Editor: – I take this opportunity to inform you and my friends in Lamoille County the facts, as I understand them, in regard to the late battle of Bull’s Run and Manassas Junction. I know that exaggerated accounts of the fight are rife in the Northern papers. I propose to give a correct statement, as I saw and participated in the battle. The Third Brigade, composed of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Maine regiments, the Second Vermont, and Ellsworth’s Zouaves as scouts, who were encamped 5 miles from this place, on the road to Fairfax Court House, received marching orders on the 16th, with what they called 3 days rations. It consisted of about 1-2 lb. of hard crackers and 1-2 lb. of salt beef. Gen Howard commanded the Brigade. We advanced and made a circuit of 20 miles to the left, and completely around Fairfax Court House, to Fairfax Station, where we arrived on the 17th at 4 o’clock P. M. Meanwhile another Brigade under Gen. Wilcox, came directly down on the Court House and routed 1100 rebels and took a great deal of provisions and munitions of war, consisting in part of 100 bbs flour and 4 tons bacon, &c., without firing a gun. Our 3 days rations were gone, and we received a portion of the spoils, and having no cooking utensils we took such old dirty kettles and platters as the rebels left, and cooked our flour as best we could. We captured all the nice fat beef we wished for from the rebel farms around us. We stayed at this place until 12 o’clock M. of the 18th, when we commenced our march towards Centreville. We arrived within 2 1-2 miles of the place at 12 o’clock at night, where we formed a line of battle and camped on the fare ground, in our places with our single blanket over us. Our company was detailed as a picket Guard, in the rear. We were fired into twice during the night, and returned the fire in good spirit. they did not hit any of us, and whether we hit any of them I do not know, as it was dark and we were stationed in the woods.

At day light we joined the Brigade and before night other Brigades came in and formed with us, a Division of about 30,000 men and 3 batteries of artillery, the whole commanded by Gen. McDowell. On the 19th the Massachusetts Brigade fired on a drove the rebels from Centreville with a loss of 8 killed and 24 wounded, they captured a small battery from the rebels at this place, and planted their own cannon on the heights around.

A small battery was also taken at Bull’s Run the same day, with a small loss on our side. At 2 o’clock, A. M., of the 21st the long roll of each regiment was beaten and the whole Division commenced the advance, the Third Brigade bringing up the rear. The advance commenced the fight about 7 o’clock, A. M., on the pickets 1 1-2 miles in front of the fort at Manassas Junction. The main body of enemy were entrenched and strongly fortified with plenty of cannon and ammunition with 60,000 men, armed with Sharp’s and Minie rifles, on the highest point of land in the whole country, and surrounded by heavy timber. The land we had to pass over to get them, excepting in front was open ground for miles, exposed to their batteries. The Third Brigade was detached from the main body about 10 o’clock and put through on double quick time, and made a circuit of about 8 miles, and came up on the left of the enemy about 1 o’clock, P. M. At this time our men had driven the rebels one mile. Our Brigade passed over this ground, covered with the dead and dying, every rod of which presented some awful spectacle, and showed the ground had been given up only by inches. Wagon after wagon load of poor wounded prisoners were carried off to be cared for by the different surgeons of the regiments. They appropriated the secession houses for hospitals. The cry of the wounded was “Oh for God’s sake a drop of water;” “don’t step on me, boys;” and like expressions. Our Brigade marched in line of battle with charged bayonets, the smoke and dust was so thick that we could not see a rod ahead of us, the cannon balls and shells from the enemy’s battery fell thick around us; I speak no more particularly of the Vermont Second. We kept a good line, not a word, only from our officers, was heard the whole length of the line; we met parts of regiments coming away, they would say “God bless you boys, you are in time, we have fared hard; give it to them another 1-2 hour and the day is ours.” As we left the bushes and advanced over the hill on double quick time, within 1-2 mile of the battery, they poured in to us a storm of iron hail such as is seldom faced. The Vermont boys yelled, “Hurrah for the victory and glory of the Old Green Mountain State.” We got within about 40 rods of the battery, on the side hill, where we halted and formed a perfect line, during which time the rebels, about 4000 advanced within about 30 rods of us and commenced firing on us; the word was given us to fire; we fire under, then we were ordered to fire 2 feet above their heads, we did so, and noticed the effect. They commenced retreating. About this time our batteries ceased, as afterwards proved, for want of ammunition, and commenced retreating; this encouraged the rebels who fired on us with renewed vigor, but the Vermont boys stood their ground and drove them 1-2 mile; but their batteries then opened on us anew, and the order was given us to retreat. We were mad, however, and fired three volleys after the order was given, when Major Joyce run his horse down the line and said “Vermont boys, you have done well, but for God’s sake retreat, the artillery have run out of ammunition.” We slowly turned and picked up our wounded boys, but had to leave our dead on the bloody field. We had a good many wounded but only a few killed, considering the good chance they had of us. The main body were by this time under headway on the retreat. We retreated in good order until we got to Bull’s Run, where a narrow pass, a bridge and a deep creek, obstructed by our artillery, caused the line to halt. The bridge constantly covered with heavy cannon and horses gave way, making a perfect loss of 2 batteries. Most of them were disabled so as not to do the enemy any good. At this time the enemy came up in rear and fired a good many shells and grape shot, which cut us up dreadfully; and here among the rest, a carriage was taken, containing several wounded ones, among the rest was Orderly Sergeant U. A. Woodbury, of Fletcher Co., who had his hand blown off in the first charge, by a cannon ball. It was amputated by our surgeon, and he was doing well, but was too weak to walk. He is now, if alive, a prisoner among the rebels. Also Capt. Drew, of Co. G., from Burlington, and I presume many others. At this point the regiment broke up and companies followed their respective captains. Capt. Randall, of Co. F., showed great bravery and coolness, during the whole. He encouraged his men during the fight, and in one instance came in front of them, and told us to fire higher, we were doing well. At the bridge he said, “boys follow me, we won’t be taken prisoner,” and jumped into the creek above his middle, followed by his boys who stuck to him through the whole march. We kept up our march back to this place, a distance of 35 miles. We arrived here yesterday about 10 o’clock A. M., a hard looking set of fellows, covered with dust, powder, and blood. We are now quartered in the market house of Alexandria. We shall probably stay until we are sufficiently recruited to march again. Do not think that the rebels have retaken the ground we passed over; not by any means. There are bodies of men stationed all along the road to keep places we have captured. It is reported that Gen. McDowell made a premature attack, that he had ought to have waited the advance of Gen. Patterson; but wishing all the glory for himself, made the attack on his own hook. The result is not counted either a victory, or a defeat. I will say nothing of myself, but this: I was not shot in the back, nor front, that I know of, though hot lead flew a little nearer my head than was agreeable. Four of us, pretty good friends, stood in the front rank, and shouted, “give them a specimen of old Ethan Allen’s bravery.” I can form no estimate of the killed, but the loss must be heavy as the action lasted nearly all day. Only one of our company was killed; 10 are missing. As I am very tired I will close by saying: I am good for a good many more fights for Liberty and the Union.

Truly Yours,

George W. Doty.

Lamoille (Vermont) Newsdealer, 8/2/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

George W. Doty on Ancestry.com





J. T. P., Co. A, 2nd Connecticut Infantry, On the Battle

25 01 2015

[Correspondent of the Transcript.]

Camp Keyes. Washington, D. C.

July 31st, 1861.

To the Editor of the Transcript: – Since my note of last week, giving you as I did all the facts then in my posession concerning the loss of J. F. Wilkinson, I have taken every opportunity to make enquiries of those who were near the place when he fell at the time he received the wound, and of those who passed near there after our regiment had been ordered to a different part of the field but have not been able to learn anything of importance concerning him beyond what I communicated in my last letter, and his friends here entertain the strongest fears that he was unable to reach the hospital before the retreat, and therefore have but slight hopes of ever seeing him again. – I have been so intimately associated with him for the past three months that his loss has caused feelings of sorrow such as I never before experience. – We who had learned to appreciate his frank and generous qualities, wh had shared with him a soldier’s board, mourn for him as though he were a brother.

From one of our soldiers who was taken prisoner by the rebels and escaped, reaching this city yesterday we learn that Dr. McGregor is a Manassas attending to the sounded and no fears are entertained here but that he will soon be allowed to return to his regiment or his home.

It is also believed that the wounded and prisoners in their hands are well treated.

With regard to the engagement at Bull Run on the 21st, so much has been written and so many conflicting statements have been made that those who witnessed it hardly know what to believe themselves. There are some points however on which we all agree.

There can be no questioning the fact that we fought against a force greatly superior to ours in number that they were protected by scientifically constructed fortifications, that they had the advantage of position and a thorough knowledge of the field over which our troops must pass, that our troops maintained the unequal contest from 6 A. M. until 5 P. M., driving them from some of their strongest batteries that the arrival of reinforcements to the rebel forces compelled us to retreat, that many of our regiments retreated in disorder and that though obliged to retreat we left more than twice the number we lost from of the enemy dead and wounded on the field, also that our soldiers were suffering extremely for food and water having left Centreville at 2 o’clock A. M. with only a scanty supply of dry bread and many of them were without water even before they reached the field.

[Illegible line] water that day, I will only say that we drank from of muddy pool water deeply tinged with the blood of the dead and wounded who had crawled to its banks in hopes of quenching a thirst more painful that were the wound from which the life blood was flowing.

As we were passing this point, Maj. Warner of the 3d Regiment ordered one of his men to hand him a cup of water. – “It is muddy, and there is blood in it,” says the man. “Will it run out of the cup?” “Yes.” “Then give me a cup and be quick.”

Speaking of the major reminds me of an incident that took place early in the day. The 2d Maine and the 3d Connecticut regiments were ordered to charge one of the rebel batteries and to do so had to pass through a piece of woods, and up a steep hill. Finding it difficult to pass through the woods with his horse, he jumped off, leaving it to go where it pleased, and led on the regiment, the boys cheering him as he did so,

The Conn. regiments are thus noticed by the Washington Star:

“The Conn. regiments under Col. Keyes came from the field, in good order, and marched to their former encampment at Centreville, from which place after an hours rest they started for their old camp at Falls Church. Arriving there in the morning the men remained under arms all day exposed to a severe storm, and having secured all the camp equipage belonging to their regiments marched two miles to the camps of the Ohio and 2 New York regiments, which had been deserted, and remaining here until morning they secured and sent into the fort their tents and other valuables. The regiments came in to FOrt Corcoran in the evening of the 23d, in good order.

A correspondent of the New York Times says: – Within a half mile of Falls Church, we found Gen. Tler with the Connecticut regiments holding a position temporarily. They were the advance of the attack, their colors were the last to leave the field, and now seven or eight miles behind even the reserve, they were defending the rear in perfect good order.

The regiments enlisted for three years are coming at the rate of three or four a day and no fears are now entertained for the safety of the Capitol or that our forces under the able officers now in command will not soon be able to drive the rebels from Virginia.

I will close this hasty letter by relating a pleasing incident that took place near Fort Corcoran. We had been there but a short time when we met Mr. Daniel Warner of Woodstock with two large baskets filled with provisions which were soon distributed to his acquaintances making them forget that for three days they had hardly tasted of food. “May his shadow never be less.”

J. T. P.

Windham County (CT) Transcript, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Some biographical information on James F. Wilkinson, editor of the Windham County (CT) Transcript (wounded and captured at Bull Run) can be found here.

Biographical information on Wilkinson above indicates he was a member of the Buckingham Rifles, which was Co. A. of the 2nd CT (see here.) J. T. P. is likely Pvt. John T. Phillips, of Pomfret, CT, also of Co. A. (See roster here.)

John T. Phillips at Ancestry.com





Pvt. Miles O. Wright, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

19 08 2014

From Miles O. Wright, Co. B.

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Camp Union, Va., July 23, 1861.

Dear Sister and Brother: — I am saved by the grace of God. On the 18th day of July we commenced our fight, and on the 21st we had a warm time, I tell you. There was about 1200 killed, of our men and theirs. They had 75,000 men and we had 20,000, but when we got them in the open fields we drove them. But they went in their masked battery, and we cut them down like grass. We fought from half-past seven till half-past three, and then we retreated and left the field. They chased us for 15 or 20 miles with 30,000 men and their cavalry, and run over our men and shot some. They run over James Adams and Wm. Goodwin, but did not kill them. It hurt them some. Two out of our company were wounded, and we expect Tom Jones in killed or taken prisoner. If he is taken prisoner we will get him again. After they had chased us 10 or 12 miles, Patterson and Butler came in behind and shot and took all of them.

Manassas Station and Manassas Gap is what we tried to take. The battle was fought on Bull’s Run, about 25 miles from Washington City. But the way we come it, was about 50 miles. We marched all night and got into camp next morning.

I am alive and well, but pretty sore and lame. I am sleepy, not having slept for 48 hours. I have just seen five rebel prisoners, in charge of Capt. Brown’s company in this regiment. I cannot write much more. I am so tired. The boys that are alive are here. Two of our boys are shot, one in the shoulder and one in the elbow. Their names are Smith and Ketchum.

You musty not feel bad for me. If I get home alive, all right; if not, I die for my country. But I guess our fighting is done with. We have had our share of it. There is not over 500 left in our regiment out of 840. It took 11 tents for each company, now it don’t take over 5.

Good bye for this time.

From your Brother,

MILES O. WRIGHT

Dansville [New York] Advertiser, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Bio Sketch of M. O. Wright, p. 381





Pvt. Clarence D. Hess, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

18 08 2014

From C. D. Hess, Scott’s Band.

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Washington, Monday, July 23

You have no doubt ere this received news of the terrible engagement that took place yesterday. I was a spectator of the whole from beginning to end. As newspaper accounts of it are rather mixed up, I will tell you all I saw. The band went with the regiment to the point that I mentioned in my last, and there was discovered the whole Southern army. Our large guns immediately opened upon them and stirred them up some, but brought no response for some time. At length the infantry went out and commenced firing upon them. Then the “ball” commenced. They opened their masked batteries upon our boys. Our whole artillery returned their fire, and at the same time continual vollies of musketry were kept up on both sides. The constant roar of the cannon, the rattle of the small arms, the bursting of shell and the screams of the wounded, made up one of the most horrible scenes I ever could have imagined. We had about 40,000 troops in the field, and the enemy about 125,000, including 5,000 cavalry. Our boys drove them for about six hours, when they received reinforcements, and after three hours more of hard fighting, the enemy made a charge with their cavalry, and scattered our forces in every direction. Every man for himself was then the order, and I immediately broke for the woods, Jim Newton following closely. I lost drum, sticks, music, blankets, revolver and haversack. I traveled all night, and reached Camp Union this morning. Five of the band boys have come in, viz: Alex., Myering, Tiffany, Newton and myself. The rest I have not seen yet. The loss of life was immense. I do not know yet who was killed in our regiment. We will know in a day or two. It is the last battle the band will go to. I never want to see such a sight again. Our regiment will now probably bee soon discharged. I write this in haste to let you know that I am safe, and hereafter shall look out that I remain so.

Dansville [New York] Advertiser, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Bio Sketch of C. D. Hess, p. 284





Pvt. William H. McMahon, Co. G, 27th New York Infantry, On the Retreat

14 08 2014

From the 27th Regiment

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[We are allowed to make the following extracts from a letter written by Will H. McMahon, lately from Lima Seminary, to a friend in this village. Mr. McMahon is a talented young man and a ready penman, and we should be pleased to hear from him often.]

Washington, D. C., July 27, 1861.

I have but a few moments, the first I have had in a long while to devote to correspondence. I was, of course, in the battle at Bull’s Run, but mist reserve the description of that scene until some other time. I have only this to say as regards pictures in the papers, none of them that I have seen represent the field at all; and the reporters’ accounts are hardly to be relied on. We were about forty hours on the march and in battle, without food, sleep or water, except such as we took from some loathsome pools and thick muddy brooks. I drank water which your educated Irish hog who occupies the same room with the family would scorn to be in. None of our fellow students were injured. The retreat was a regular rout, owing mostly to the inefficiency off our officers. The South have better officers, artillery and cavalry. We the best men. * * * —— flunked when it came to the pinch of fight or run. Where he was hid I don’t know, but we did not get the sight of his lovely features during the battle. He is spotted. * * * We (the 27th) were exposed for three-fourths of an hour to the fire of three regiments and two large masked batteries, and we drove the regiments off in double quick time, but our Colonel being wounded we had no chance of taking the batteries.

In the middle of the rout the road was covered with every thing you can imagine. I might have picked up any thing that I wished on the field, but was too weak to carry more than my arms, and hat I ten thousand dollars I would willingly have given it all for one drink of ice water! I saw many truly horrible sights during the contest, but the shrieks of dying horses were much more shocking even than the groans of wounded and dying men. Our regiment lost heavily. If I live through our next engagement it will be almost a miracle. The two men who stood on each side of me were wounded, and the Col. was hit while I was yelling in his ear about a flag! * * But if I do live through it I intend to strip a rebel of something which I can mail and sent to you * * There is now (eight o’clock Saturday evening) heavy cannonading in the distance over the river. * * We can whip them every time, with good officers and two-thirds the men.

But I must stop writing and prepare for emergencies. Write immediately.

Yours in brotherhood,

WILL.

Dansville [NY] Advertiser, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

William H. McMahon – no entry at Ancestry.com. Found in roster of the regiment in History of the 27th Regiment New York Volunteers, p. 280: “promoted to Corporal, Nov. 7, 1861; to Second Lieutenant of Co. K, Sept. 11, 1862.”





Sgt. Mark J. Bunnell, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Aftermath of the Battle

13 08 2014

From Orderly Bunnell.

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[We received a long and interesting letter from the Orderly on Wednesday last, in which he graphically describes some scenes of the battle-field, bit it came so late that we could not publish it. On Monday we received the following short letter.]

Camp Bennett, Arlington Heights,

August 1st, 1861

Dear Ace: — I received your letter this morning, and was glad to hear from home, and that you were all as well as usual. My health is good. The reasons that I did not write before, is, that I was so tired out when I got back from the battle, that I could not think of anything. Ace, that was a time long to be remembered. I have not got over it yet, but am very well rested. I can’t describe the battle with the pen, but when I get home, I will tell you all about it. I cannot tell you when we will come home. We have been turned over to the U. S. for the whole term of our enlistment, but the regiment has got to be filled up to one thousand and forty men. the regiment is in a bad condition now. almost all sick, and I think that we will be sent back to the State to recruit. If so, then I will come home. Almost all in the regiment say that wen their three months are up, they will go home. Quite a number have deserted already, but that is a bad plan. All of our boys are here, except two that are in the hospital; one is Dieter and the other is Ketchum. The boys are not very fast to go into the fight again. I don’t know who would like such a fight as that was. We did not have anything to eat for about thirty-six hours, and during that time were on the battle-field some nine hours, and marched 60 miles. Talk about being tired! I can’t tell you anything about it, but thank God I am alive and well. I cannot imagine how we got off as well as we did. It seems almost like a dream to me now. Just think of marching along and stepping over dead bodies, and seeing men fall down dead by your side! It is awful! I have a Bowie knife, which I got on the field which will keep me in remembrance of these scenes were anything needed – but I never shall forget that day as long as I live.

It has been raining all morning, but is clearing off bright now. Our camp is very pleasantly situated just outside the fort. We don’t have much to do now, and in fact the boys are not in condition to do anything. I think we shall come home before long, but it may be all for the best if we should stay. I don’t think that Col. Quinby will command; I understand that he has tendered his resignation to the War Department. Probably a great many soldiers in this regiment would go in for the war under some other commander.

We have not got any more pay yet, but suppose we shall before long.

From your brother,

Mark J. Bunnell

Dansville [NY] Advertiser, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Mark. J. Bunnell at Ancestry.com





Sgt. Mark J. Bunnell, Co. B, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

9 08 2014

From Orderly Bunnell.

————

Splendid weather — Our volunteers dissatisfied — Don’t know what for — Threaten to come home anyhow — Resignation of Co. Quinby — Stephen in command – The Battle — In a tight spot — How he got out — One poor fellow shot — Evening parade — Expects to come home — Long yarns promised.

————-

Fort Bennett, Arlington Heights,

August 7, 1861.

We are having splendid weather now. Although it is quite hot, a nice breeze comes off the Potomac, and makes it pleasant. — Our regiment is in a bad state — the men all dissatisfied, and they don’t know what for! They say they will go home the 14th at all hazards. I think they are foolish to act and talk so. It won’t do any good. Our Col. has resigned and gone home, and Col. Stephan commands now.

I will give you further reasons why I did not write sooner after coming back from the battle. I was completely tired out, had the reports of the company to write up, and a good deal other work to do for a week; a number of the other boys wrote, and I thought that you would hear from us and not be alarmed. Still I ought to have written but is is all right now, and I feel to thank God for my life. It makes me shudder to think of the battle. I was in a bad place at one time. Our company and regiment got scattered, all was confusion, and we could hardly tell who the enemy was; and when we made a charge on one of their batteries, they rushed out and said that we were killing our own men, and we ceased firing. They looked so much like our own men that we did not known the difference until they opened a fire on us. That is the way they would fight. Some of their uniforms closely resembled ours, and we got so mixed up that we didn’t know what to do but to keep shooting and laying down and loading, &c. But I commenced telling was a place I got into. Almost choked to death for water, I rushed into and old stone building where the balls were flying like hail, and what do you think it was? It proved to be a rebels’ hospital, and there I stood surrounded by rebels. I said nothing. — They were very busy cutting off arms and legs and doing up wounds. I thought I would walk out a little ways and then start on a run. So I stepped in front of the building, when about a dozen balls, came spat! spat! at me, and I thought I had better dig out of that as fast as possible — and I told my legs to do their duty, and I guess they did. There was a perfect shower of balls after me, and if God did not save me, what did? — Wasn’t I thankful when I got out where our troops were? A poor fellow just in front of me when most to our men, was hit by one of the balls which I think were intended for me. He immediately dropped, saying, “Oh, God, I am shot.” Poor fellow, he died like a soldier.

The drum is beating for evening parade, and I must close. It is now reported that we shall go home when our time is up; you shall receive due notice. When I get home I will tell you some long yarns.

From your soldier brother,

M. J. Bunnell

Dansville [NY] Advertiser, 8/15/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Mark. J. Bunnell at Ancestry.com








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