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

14 12 2016

Letters of Volunteers.

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[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:]

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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 





Lieut. Prentice B. Wager, Co. I, 32nd New York Infantry, On the Campaign

12 12 2016

ANOTHER ACCOUNT.
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[Correspondence of the Journal]
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Station near Alexandria, Va.,
Sunday, July 28, 1861.

My Dear Selkreg –

The calendar indicates that a week has passed since the great battle. Nothing else shows it, for in war the sun rises with no clearer or holier light on the Sabbath than on any other day. The gentle and serene influences which have hallowed this day in our minds through all our lives, are unknown, unseen and unfelt here, save as our memory goes back to our homes in the far-off North, and imagination brings before our spirit’s backward gaze a christian people moving to the music of the Sabbath bells toward the place where the God of our fathers is worshipped. Other than this and an occasional war discourse from our Chaplain, we know no Sunday.

I wrote you a hasty sketch of the fight the other day, and have been endeavoring since to collect the facts as to the number of men actively engaged – the loss in killed, wounded and prisoners, – and other circumstances necessary to a complete and intelligent account of the affair; but I have given up the attempt in utter despair. In the first place I enquired of members of different regiments as to how many they had lost, and their stories were so conflicting that nothing could be gathered from there. Statements made by members of the same regiment would differ immensely. One would say about twenty of their men were killed, and another would assert that not fifty of the whole regiment was left. I have no doubt, judging from the accounts in the dailies, that the New York reporters asked these same fellows about it and sent on their answers as the exact figures. It is of no use to try to give any accurate statistics as to numbers and losses at present. Stragglers supposed to be lost are constantly coming in. Regiments totally broken up are being rapidly re-organized. Cannon reported captured turn up all right in Washington and Alexandria.

One thing is certain. On Tuesday, July 16th, 1861, the Grand American Army in solid column, with firm step, proud heart, drums beating and banners streaming on the breeze, marched on Manassas Junction via Fairfax Court House, and on the following Monday that same army returned via. Fairfax Court House in a very unsolid column, rapid step, humiliated hearts, with folded banners and ‘nary sound of drum. The causes which led to this sad reverse have already been largely canvassed in the newspapers. Some of them I know – many of them are known to almost everybody.

That somebody was to blame is very evident. It is very evident too that Gen. Scott thinks so, for high military officers who commanded on that battle-field won’t have a chance to unsheathe their inglorious swords at the head of our columns again very soon. Abler hands and wiser heads will guide and control our future operations. But I did not intend to say a word about this.

There ae a thousand conflicting opinions as to the cause which led to this defeat, and enough of them have already been printed so that your readers have had a good chance for selection in the premises, and each can pick out an opinion for himself. Aside from bad manoeuvering and gross imprudence on the part of officers commanding, our defeat is mainly to be attributed to a regular licking received at the hands of the rebels who had more men, were behind strong fortifications, in woods, well furnished with artillery which was well served, and rifles which were handled with as much dexterity and by men fully as brave and well disciplined as ourselves. For other and further causes of the disaster see articles in the New York papers written by parties who were not within three hundred miles of the fight.

The manner in which an army starts off to war may not be uninteresting to many of your readers, and the friends of the volunteers who have to stay at home, and consequently cannot see for themselves. The incidents on the march are also many times worth detailing. You will remember that early in July we moved from Camp McDougal, near Washington, across the Potomac into Virginia, and encamped about one and a half miles south-west of Alexandria, on the Fairfax turnpike. Several other regiments did the same thing about the same time, and we knew that something was going to be done. On the 15th of July, couriers on horseback were seen riding through all the camps, and immediately each company received orders to cook three days rations, and be ready to march at an hour’s notice. Forty rounds of ball cartridges were distributed to each man, and everybody was busy getting ready to march. That afternoon our regiment – and we did what all the others did – formed in column by company, and our arms and ammunition were duly inspected by the Colonel in person, to see that everything was in good working order. We were then dismissed. The next day we again fell in line, and the Colonel made a few stirring remarks, when our regimental colors were brought out, and he asked us if we would follow and defend them. We unanimously agreed that we would. Meanwhile the movement of the army had already commenced. Long trains of artillery had moved past our camp, and regiment after regiment had filed along the road towards Fairfax. The soldiers were in eminent spirit, and cheered loudly as they passed, and we hurrahed and tigered in response. At last our turn came to fall in column, and our line was put in motion. It was now past four o’clock P. M., and the army was fairly on its forward march. The order of march was in four ranks, or four men abreast, with files closely closed, and arms at will. The column this formed extended both to the advance and rear, further than the eye could reach, and as it moved slowly and steadily forward over the hills and down into the valleys, beneath the glittering bayonets and shining arms, which seemed to cover it like a steel armor, it resembled in the distance and immense serpent, with a shining metal back, and from its proportions one might imagine that its length was sufficient to wrap around the entire rebellion, and that a single tightening up of its folds would squeeze secession out of the Old Dominion. We moved on through a thinly settled country, finding few of the natives at home, and these principally women and slaves, and in many instances, these were gone also. Few were friendly to us, tho’ the boys would break from the ranks and fill their canteens with water at their wells, and help themselves to such fruit and things as they could find. We marched until about ten o’clock at night, and then encamped about three miles from Fairfax Court House. That night we slept on our arms, and posted a strong picket guard. The next morning our division was ordered to the left for the purpose of executing a flank movement on the rebels, who were in force at Fairfax. This took us three miles out of our direct route, and brought our line of march over the old military road cut by Gen. Braddock, thro’ to Western Virginia, for the purpose of the old French war. This road is very narrow, not wide enough for teams to pass each other, and cut through a dense forest, and much of the way it is dug out like a cut through a hill for a rail road. We soon came to trees lately felled across the road by the rebels. These our pioneers were obliged to cut away, and as we had to wait for them to clear the road, our progress was very slow. But we pushed on, momently expecting and attack, until we came to a deserted earthwork.

We then moved more cautiously and re-inforced our skirmishers in advance. – Pretty soon we heard sharp firing ahead, and a courier came dashing back, stating that a party of rebels had fired on our advance and fled. It was a good place for an attack, being where our route lay through a deep cut. Two hundred resolute men could have held the position against almost anything but a regular siege. This over, we moved on with an occasional skirmish, until we suddenly came in sight of an extensive earth work directly across the road. From behind this the enemy fired a volley upon us wounding two of our men. Their fire was returned and several of their men were seen to fall, when they fled carrying off their dead. – We then marched directly through their fortifications, and the boys picked up several things in their camp and among them some pistols and a sword or two. Blankets were scattered about in great abundance. We pressed on and found that the enemy had precipitately fled. We found their sick, hospital stores, provisions, liquors and some arms. The boys also captured a storehouse filled with drygoods, tobacco, cigars, shoes, ammunition, &c. – These they rapidly appropriated and distributed in a very liberal and profuse manner, cigars and tobacco being the most desirable plunder. A guard was soon placed over the storehouse however, and the fun stopped. While this was going on intelligence came that the rebels had left Fairfax and that it was occupied by the American troops. We immediately marched into a neighboring field, stacked arms and broke ranks for the men to rest. In company with Capt. Whitlock I immediately started for the celebrated Fairfax Court House, half a mile distant. Found the village full of the American army, and the Court House a very ordinary looking building. It is built of brick, and is about as magnificent as a country school house, and the interior arrangements quite similar. Fairfax is about the size of Dryden village. Most of the citizens had fled, and the soldiers had taken possession of the deserted house which were generally well furnished, and they had the darkies making hoe cake and roasting bacon which they had served up in good style on the tables where rebel families had that morning taken their breakfast. I regret to say that much property was wantonly destroyed, but it was impossible to wholly prevent outrages. The Zouaves especially broke things, generally. We encamped that night near Fairfax and the next day moved on to Centreville distant about ten miles, and five miles from Manassas, and there encamped. We had stacked our arms when heavy firing was heard to the right, indicating that our advance had engaged the enemy. This proved to be the battle of Bull Run, fought on Thursday, a short account of which I have already given you. Our loss was not so great as I then reported.

Friday and Saturday morning the army marched out to the battle. It was a magnificent spectacle, grand and awe-inspiring beyond the power of language to describe. Such a display of human power thus terribly manifested in the mighty and outstretched arm of war, is rarely witnessed in any clime or in any age, and must be seen with the living eye to be even faintly comprehended or understood. Those who gazed upon that brilliant yet terrible array, as with all the “pomp and circumstance of war” it went out to write a bloody page upon the book of time, will carry with them to the end of life the memory in pictures of living fire, of that host of freemen, as with floating banners and glistening arms it stood and moved in the early sunlight of that beautiful Sabbath morning. Our regiment was assigned a position on the left, and we were in the reserve while the main body moved to the right towards Manassas, where the principal attack was to be made. We quickly took up our position on the road to Bull’s Run – the right of our regiment resting on the road, and the left extending into the woods. Directly in advance of us, on the brow of the hill, we had a battery of rifled cannon, which commanded the rebel battery at Bull’s Run, where the battle of the previous Thursday was fought. The land lays around where the battle was fought some as it does around Ithaca, only there is no village or lake there and the valley and hill sides are thickly wooded. Our forces occupied what corresponds to the East hill (at Ithaca,) and the rebels occupied the West hill and the intervening valley. The rebels were strongly fortified in their position, and the woods were full of their masked batteries. At 7 o’clock A. M., the fight was commenced by shots from our cannon. These were from our battery in advance of our regiment. Soon we heard heavy firing on the extreme right, followed by the sharp reports of musketry and rifles, announcing that the battle had commenced in earnest.

The cannonading and the fire of small arms now became terrific and continued almost without intermission until nearly two P. M., when it decreased considerably. Meanwhile our reserve lay waiting, impatient for their chance in, knowing nothing of the result of the battle on the right. At last we received orders, and our regiment being in advance and in fact alone, moved rapidly down towards the brow of the hill, where our battery above spoken of, was stationed. What was our surprise to meet our pickets running towards us in the greatest confusion, and closely followed by our battery of flying artillery in full retreat. Not a man in our company flinched, but pressed steadily forward and formed in line of battle. The Colonel passed along the line, telling the men to “keep cool, fire low, and aim at the centre of their bodies.” The enemy were now seen charging out of the woods, and filling a little open field in the valley below us, a little beyond the range of our muskets. The artillery was called back by the bugle, and being quickly placed in position, poured a terrible fire of grape upon them, which did immense execution in their ranks. They charged forward, but the cannon was too much for them, and they retreated after firing a volley of grape and musketry, which killed one of our officers attached to the artillery.

Another body of the enemy then charged on our battery, and the gunners firing a few rounds, hitched on their horses and fled with their pieces, thus leaving us unsupported by artillery. The captain of the battery remarked as he fled past us, “Boys, it is too hot for us, you must take them now.” Our boys stood fast, only grasping their muskets tighter, and waited for the rebels to come up. But the enemy evidently not liking the looks of things, fell back, and then we were ordered to fall back too, of which movement, we couldn’t any of us see the point. We marched rapidly to a hill near Centreville, and there for the first time learned that the main body of our army had been defeated and had already retreated past Centreville and that the rebel cavalry was rapidly pursuing. We formed in hollow square on hearing this and awaited the charge of Cavalry. Presently a body of horsemen appeared emerging from the woods over the road where we had just retreated. A couple of shells from our battery sent them flying, and one of their horses, minus a rider, galopped up the road towards where we stood, and was immediately secured. He was equipped with a good saddle and a splendid pair of revolvers. It was now sundown. Meanwhile the rest of our brigade consisting of six or seven thousand man, had taken position on the hill, and we lay down on our arms in order of battle, ready for an attack whenever it should come. Instead of an attack, at about 11 o’clock we were waked up with and order to retreat and we were huriedly marched back to Fairfax, over a road literally covered with the arms and cast-away equipments of our army. We halted and rested at Fairfax, and then continued our retreat to our camp near Alexandria, where we arrived at about 11 A. M., on Monday, tired almost to death, and heartbroken over our sad reverse. But we are all right now and feel as well as ever, save the gloom caused by the humiliating discomfiture of our army. Although not engaged in the hottest of the battle, and though none of them fell on the field, yet the Ithaca volunteers were placed under circumstances well calculated to try their nerve and courage, and I am proud to be able to say that for their conduct on that trying occasion, none of their friends at home need ever blush.

Yours very truly,

P. B. Wager, Lieut. Co. I, 32d Reg.

Ithaca [N. Y.] Journal and Advertiser, 8/7/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Prentice B. Wag[n]er bio sketch 

Prentice B. Wager at Fold3





Capt. Jerome Rowe, Co. A, 32nd New York Infantry, On the Retreat

9 12 2016

Letters from the Battle-Field.
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[Correspondence of the Journal]
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Headquarters 32d Regiment,
Alexandria, Va.,
July 27, 1861.

Friend Selkreg: – I cannot help, as one of the many military men engaged in the ill-fated conflict at Bull’s Run, to feel slandered by the public press as regards the operations of that day. It is enough upon the poor soldiers that they were defeated, without making them accountable for the loss of half a million of property, strewn, as wrecks of defeat in the indecent haste with which that great army retired to camp that day; without charging upon the whole army a panic that carried them past Centreville in their rout; that lost that place, Fairfax Court House, and all the territory we had occupied by victorious arms, which is now given back to enemies and is being fortified, and must be retaken perhaps with loss of life.

The withdrawing our forces from the conflict at Bull’s Run, as the fight was then progressing, was doubtless eminently proper. The general rout following is the fault of the Commander, and one of the most infamous things, as it was conducted, in military history. If Gen. McDowell had ordered the army to fall back and form at Centreville, instead of ordering the men promiscuously to run for their lives to their camps, the command would have been well executed, our Government property saved, the territory saved, the moral and credit of the army saved, and neither the world nor our enemies have known that we were defeated. What reason was there for a panic among thirty thousand men, who were formed in divisions remote from the actual conflict, who had not fired a musket all day, who, when they retired from the woods, retired as they would have moved to a fourth of July parade. If all possible panics had been generated among the men in the fight, it would not have affected more than the six or eight regiments actually engaged in it, bating the stupid blunder of moving a train of baggage wagons into the inextricable passes of Bull Run, to be wedged in and block up the rear.

That thirty thousand men would have remained and held Centreville had they been permitted to have done so. So far from the army’s having taken flight, in an uncontrollable panic, I have seen several of the regiments who supposed when ordered to retreat that they were simply changing position for better effect. Ninety-nine out of every hundred of the troops, had they known that they were being withdrawn as defeated, would have refused to have left the woods. Fifteen thousand men, ourselves included, in a selected position natural for defence, were quietly asleep on the grass, and were awakened at 11 o’clock at night to march home. That single fifteen thousand could easily have held Centreville and have recovered all the property and saved the credit of the army. They would have done it if permitted. Re-enforcements would have reached us, and nothing would have pleased them more in the world than to have had Jeff Davis come out from his fastnesses and retreat behind masked batteries in the woods, and have attempted to have driven them from that position. Yet those men are now demoralized by the fright communicated to them by general officers, and by being marched, between 11 o’clock at night and 11 o’clock the next day, thirty miles to avoid some terrible grim-visaged enemy that would hang on their rear and worry and destroy them.

The Colonel of the 32d Regiment, when the enemy appeared and opened a tremendous fire upon our division, (which fire we suppose was simply to divert the attention of the remainder of the army from their own retreat at the place where the battle was, for they ran from our troops faster than our’s from them,) insisted on staying and giving them sturdy battle, and to that end induced some of the artillery, which the regiment protected, to stay after the other pieces had left, and give the enemy a few more rounds of grape and cannister. A young United States officer, a lieutenant of artillery, had just fallen and was carried in rear of our lines, and then retreat was ordered. The bugle, whose notes they must obey, then sounded a peremptory retreat which they obeyed, and left us to our duty to cover that retreat and save their horses and guns from the enemy. We did this, and our regiment came orderly the last out of the woods, with confederate cavalry hanging upon its rear, and audacious enough to show some of their horsemen after we got in line of battle in the open field. The cannon firing late in the day, which the New York papers speak of as a probable diversion, was the artillery of our own Brigade, formed by the side of our regiment, giving these cavalry hollow shot and setting them flying for the woods. When the enemy were at the right of our column, and driven by the artillery were expected to file around to the front and charge upon us at Bull’s Run, and the men stood with pieces cocked to receive them, I passed down the line to see how the men behaved, and my judgement is they would in action give a good account of themselves.

Yours, &c.,

JEROME ROWE, Capt. Co. A.

Ithaca [N. Y.] Journal and Advertiser, 8/7/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Jerome Rowe at Fold3 

Bio sketch of Judge Jerome Rowe (thanks to reader Chris Van Blargan)





Unknown, 32nd New York Infantry, On the Battle

7 12 2016

The Battle at Bull’s Run.
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[Correspondence of the Journal]
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Camp McDougal, near Alexandria, Va.,
Wednesday, July 24, 1861.

Dear Sir: – Yours of the 19th of July has just been received and read with pleasure. Our Regiment reached our old camp at Alexandria the forenoon of Monday last, on our retreat from the battle of Bull’s Run, and Manassas, of the day before. – We had been encamped near Bull’s Run, and within two miles of the masked batteries of the Rebels for the two last days previous, making, as I supposed, every preparation for a great battle and certain victory, and I to-day firmly believe that the victory was as certainly won and that but for the cowardice, knavery or imbecility of our acting Generals the federal troops would to-day occupy those important points instead of being as they are, repulsed, under the disgrace of retreat, and in the camps they occupied a week ago, or further back even in Washington.

We went forth to battle on the morning of the 21st of July. We reposed much confidence in our strength, and we were strong and the day would have been ours, but for the lack of some one to lead or direct our movements, having the necessary skill and qualifications to entitle him to be styled General of the New York State army. But this was not our case. The left of the line where our Brigade was stationed as a support of the batteries planted at that end of the line, our General seemed either crazy, badly scared or drunk, and our regiment (I understand it was so with others) was moving from place to place continually, to what end or for what purpose nobody seemed to know. Our artillery (two batteries on the left) blazed away all day at the enemy or their masked batteries – (those doing such fearful work among our men but a few days before) – without receiving a single shot from the enemy in return during the whole day, newspaper reports to the contrary notwithstanding. The only fight on the left of the line where our regiment was stationed, was the cannonade of our guns unanswered by the rebels, and the occasional exchange of shots between our skirmishers and theirs, whereby less than half a dozen men were killed and wounded, except that just at dark a body of rebel infantry marched from the woods on the left and fired upon the gunners killing one of the Lieutenants and for the time driving them from their guns. They rallied again, however, and poured into the rebels successive doses of shot and shell that sent them flying and enabled our men to take away their guns before they could rally again.

It was at this time that the 32nd Regiment was for the first time called upon to do active duty, although we had been constantly on the field and ready at all times. When the attack was made upon our battery on the left our Regiment was ordered down to resist it and cover the retreat of the artillery. When we reached the ground the artillery was already retreating, having previously poured into the rebels such a volley of grape and canister, that before they could rally the horses had been harnessed to the guns and they were safely drawn from the field, which we then occupied, covering the retreat. The rebels did not again show themselves; we were not fired into, nor did we fire a shot during the day.

We were soon after ordered to fall back to Centreville, where several regiments were forming to resist the imagined attack from thousands of rebel cavalry, supposed to be in pursuit of our now retreating army. As we took our position in line, some acting General, probably drunk or half scared to death, shouted out in a very loud, excited voice: “The cavalry are upon us; we shall all be cut to pieces; for God Almighty’s sake move out here, or we shall all be cut to pieces!” And then addressing himself to the artillerymen he commanded, “Why in h—l don’t you fire?” And they did, and away went the cavalry, which was to cut us all to pieces, and which consisted, as near as I could see, of some few dozen horsemen just emerged from the woods we had left, and certainly were not so formidable as to call out an expression of fear or terror made use of by our acting General, and which, I have no doubt did much towards unnerving many who could not of themselves see that what their General told them was untrue, and added materially to the general confusion that followed in our horrid retreat shortly afterwards. As we were not molested during the evening by the enemy of any sort, we were allowed to lay down on our arms in line of battle, ready to resist an attack at a moment’s warning, on the damp, cold ground (for the dew had commended to fall, and all the nights are quite cold in Virginia,) to rest and sleep. I know not how it was with my comrades, but I never slept more soundly in my life than I did there in the open air upon the battle-field, where our General would have us believe we were liable to be attacked and utterly cut to pieces at any moment. I could not realize that we were in any such great danger; and to-day, after looking the ground all over, I cannot bring myself to believe there was the least danger imagined; and when at eleven o’clock we were aroused up and ordered to fall back to Fairfax Court House, and finally to Alexandria, it seemed to me that orders were being issued by secessionists, who were having the thing all their own way by merely ordering it so, and, I am sorry to say, this belief has not entirely left me yet. Our Regiment reached our old camp ground at noon of the next day, nearly used up from excessive travel, but not a man had received a scratch from the hands of the rebels. Most of the fighting was done at the right of the line and not in our vicinity. A few wounded men, skirmishers, were carried off the field on the left, and but a few; and in addition to these, the first sight that met our eyes, when we went to the relief of the artillery, was the almost lifeless body of a dying lieutenant of the artillery company, who was mortally wounded by a musket ball at the first attack upon the battery.

I must confess that when I again reached camp I felt somewhat rheumatic, as well as a good deal used up. For a whole week we had lived upon the hardest kind of fare, and often too little of that. At night we slept upon the ground, without the least shelter, no matter though the rain fell, as it did occasionally, and lucky was the man who had both his rubber and blanket. As for myself, by chance I had no blanket or overcoat, but as the boys were some of them very kind to me, I managed to get along very well, and in a fe days I shall be ready, under a new leadership, to march again to the scene of action with, I trust, a different result. One of our Generals told me on our return that our probable loss was from four to six thousand, but this is all nonsense; straggling soldiers have not yet ceased coming in, and already the reliable estimated loss is reduced to some six hundred.

I really believe that if we had maintained our ground at Centreville the enemy would have retreated much faster towards Richmond the next morning than we did towards Alexandria. But as it is it may all be for the best.

You will please say to the citizens of Tompkins through our papers, that not a man of our two Ithaca companies as yet has been harmed by a secessionist bullet.

Ever truly yours,

——

Ithaca [N. Y.] Journal and Advertiser, 7/31/1861

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Maj. Buel Palmer, 16th New York Infantry, On the Battle

29 11 2016

We are permitted to make the followin extracts from a letter from Maj. Buel Palmer, 16th Regt. To his wife, dated.

Camp near Alexandria, July 22.

My Dear Wife: You will see by the heading of this short note that I am again back at the old Camp. All of the 16th Regiment are safe, only one wounded. Lieut. Hopkins was shot in the foot, a slight wound; he will be about again in a few days. * * *

Thursday we took up our line of march for Centreville where Gen. McDowell’s army was to concentrate before any further advance on the rebels. Our Regiment arrived there about noon on Thursday last, and bivouaced in an open tract of country around and about Centreville, together with about 35,000 other troops. We remained there until yesterday morning when the army took up its line of march. The 1st Division left about 2 o’clock A. M. Our Division being the 5th and last, did not get under way before 7 o’clock A. M. We marched to the ground where Gen. Tyler two days before had a hard brush with the rebels. Here we planted our battery and immediately opened fire on the masked batteries of the rebels just below us; a ravine called the Bull’s Run. They did not return the fire, still we kept up ours occasionally stopping for a short time. The battle soon became general all along the Bull’s Run for 3 or 4 miles from us to the right. The most of the battle was fought on our right, the rebels trying to flank us, that is trying to get around our right wing; but did not succeed. — News came to us about 3 o’clock that the rebels were in retreat which at one time was actually the case, but owing to some blundering our victory was turned into a defeat or retreat back to Centreville. Of this our Division knew nothing until about 6 o’clock, when our Reg’t was attacked by about 3000 rebel Infantry and some Horse. We had at the time a battery of 4 guns, brass, and 2 iron, the 16th and 31st Regts. We supposed that the rebels were in retreat all the time. The first intimation we had to the contrary was by seeing a long line of bright bayonets glittering in the sun; they were on our left and were right on us. We immediately changed the position of our battery, formed our infantry in line of battle, the right wing of the 16th on the right of the battery, the left wing on the left and the 31st on the left of our left wing. Lt. Col. Marsh, in command of the right wing, I in command of the left wing of the 16th, and Col. Pratt in command of the 31st. As soon as formed our battery opened upon them & must have done dreadful execution, as they scattered and ran in every direction. They soon reformed and advanced again; and again our batteries let them have it; our ammunition gave out, but the battery still stood in position. The enemy came up at last through a dense thicket of underbrush. In the mean time we had ordered our men flat on their faces so when their volley came it generally passed over our heads, some fell short; it was a perfect hail storm of bullets. We could see them tear up the turf on all sides of us, but providentially none of our boys were hurt. – A Lieut of the battery was killed, a ball struck him in the forehead and killed him almost instantly. The artillery and the 31st at last withdrew from the field, leaving our right alone. We fell back about ten rods still keeping our line of battle perfect. This movement was made in hopes that the rebels would leave their cover so that we could get a chance to pepper them, but they still kept behind the trees and in the bushes. We remained in this position until Col. Davies sent peremptory orders by his aid to leave the field and fall behind the battery that was in the woods in our rear and right. – When we received this order, we formed in two ranks and marched off the field in common time, our Reg’t being in the rear. We then marched up on the hill near Centreville and remained there until near 11 o’clock at night when Gen. McDowell ordered us to fall back on Fairfax and thence to our old Camp. The 16th and 31st were the rear guard of the Grand Army and arrived in camp this morning about 9 o’clock. The reason of our falling back is a mystery to me. I think our troops should have stayed at Centreville; still all the Divisions except ours were very badly disorganized and much cut up.

Plattsburgh Republican, 7/27/1861

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From Bull Run to Chancellorsville: The Story of the Sixteenth New York Infantry together with Personal Reminiscences

Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown, 71st New York State Militia, On the Battle

28 11 2016

Letters from the Army and Navy.

The Bull Run Battle.

The following letter was written by a gentleman, a member of the 71st Regiment, N. Y. S. M., who took an active part in the great battle at Bull Run on the 21st inst., to a relative in this village, and handed us for publication:

Washington, Navy Yard, July 23, 1861

I have no doubt you have heard of my safe arrival from the battle; it was a terrible one, one of the greatest ever fought in this country. After we had marched between 9 and 10 hours, starting 1 o’clock A. M. Sunday, and a good part of the distance was made in a double quick, we arrived on the battle ground. We were immediately drawn up in line of battle and marched up to within fifty rods of the enemy, in as good order as we ever did on a parade. All the time the enemy was firing into us, but doing little damage. The enemy was just over a hill and we had to march up to the top in order to get at them. As fast as we advanced the enemy retreated. We gained the top of the hill before they reached the woods and made sad havoc among them, killing about 100. After they reached the woods, they stood and kept up a brisk fire, most of the time their shots going over our heads. After we stood up at the top of the hill firing very sharp, the rebels raised an American flag; our officers gave us word to cease firing, saying we were fighting with our own men. We ceased, but the enemy did not; we raised our flag, and at that moment a whole volley was sent at us, riddling our flag terribly. Our men, without orders, blazed at them fiercely, completely driving them out of the woods, and as they went out they were exposed to us; we again opened on them and you could see dozens fall at a time. The 1st and 2d Rhode Island regiments and the 71st ‘New York were the first to open the battle. After we had driven them away from those woods we were ordered to fall back from the top of the hill, all the time their batteries were playing upon us. We could hear their balls pass our heads, it seemed as if it was hailing only there was more noise. While I was in the act of capping my musket a shell struck it and shattered it in a thousand pieces, one piece killing a man a few feet from me. I immediately ran and picked up his piece and fired with that the balance of the time. My haversack was also cut off my back, and strange to say I never received a wound. We were intended to be the reserve, but instead of that we were the advance, and opened the fire. We were upon a masked battery before we knew it and they opened upon us killing and wounding about eight. We fired on them silencing it and killed all in it, about 30 or 40 in all. If we had a re-enforcement in time we would have carried everything before us. We were doing so until the rebels were re-enforced by about forty or fifty thousand men, that number being too great for ours (about 20,000). The enemy’s whole force was upwards of ninety thousand strong.

Long Island Farmer & Queens Co. Advertiser, 7/30/1861

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History of the 71st Regiment, N. G, N. Y., American Guards

Contributed by John Hennessy





Cpl. Joseph S. Sweatt, Co. E, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry, On the Battle (2)

26 11 2016

Letter from the 2d New Hampshire Regiment.

———-

Washington, D. C. July 25, 1861

Dear Brother: – I yesterday received a letter from you and sister and was very glad to hear from you. I am well, and have helped to fight one of the greatest battles ever fought in this country. I suppose that by this time you have the account of the fight and retreat of the army. We fought hard but in vain. What was the use of 25,000 or 30,000 men against 100,000? We had men enough, but they were not brought in to the field. At every point the enemy had masked batteries, and they would raise the stars and stripes or do anything to deceive out men, and that was one reason so many men were lost. But we did fight the best we could. They were commanded on the right by Johnston, on the left by Beauregard, and at noon Davis came and took command of the center.

I tell you Charley it was an awful day for all of us; men with all kinds of wounds begging for water and to be taken off, but we could do these poor fellows no good, for it was all a man could do to look out for himself. Men were mowed down like grain but we did the best we could as it was. I was under the fence after the regiment left me as you know I told you in Father’s letter, that I gave out and was where the balls came like hail-stones, and the regiment had gone ahead. I was almost asleep, for I was about dead when a cannon ball came and knocked a rail off the fence over my head and sent it across the road; I thought it time to get up; so I got up and went to find my gun; I could not see the regiment and started up the hill but gave out; I got into a wagon and went up the hill; then the retreat commenced. I got a drink of whiskey or I never could have got off the field; for it was men and horses, wagons and cannon rushing all ways, the dead and wounded at every step; It was as much as a man could do to carry his body over 40 miles with nothing to drink or eat; I could have taken a good horse but I thought the forces would not all retreat and the owner might be close by, so I kept on; but I called myself a fool afterwards for not getting a horse, for I never came so near dying as at that time. I had got but three miles, I could neither swallow nor spit; I drank water much blacker than your boots. We had to drink where all above and below were washing their wounds in it, and men going through mud, blood and all. It was good. Every mud hole we came to was at once in a centre of men dying of thirst. But I am alive and that is more than many a poor fellow can say; wounded men and those that gave out were left along the road and were probably killed or taken prisoners. But a man cannot tell much about anything, after a battle, for it is all a whirl, but it did not seem so in battle; I thought I could tell everything, but cannot; I was not scared, but never should have got home if it had not been that life depended on it. I was put among the missing but have returned safe.

J. S. S.*

Concord Independent Democrat, 8/8/1861

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*Likely Cpl. Joseph S. Sweatt, Co. E.

Biographical information provided by reader David Morin

Sweatt, Joseph S. Co. E; b. Boscawen; age 17; res. Boscawen (Fisherville, now Penacook); enl. Apr. 18, ’61, for 3 mos.; not must. in; paid by State; re-enl. May 21, ’61, for 3 yrs.; must. in June 3, ’61, as Corp.; disch. disab. Aug. 1, ’61, Washington, D. C.

Residence Boscawen NH; a 17-year-old Student. Enlisted on 5/21/1861 at Boscawen, NH as a Corporal. On 6/3/1861 he mustered into “E” Co. NH 2nd Infantry. He was discharged for disability on 8/1/1861 at Washington, D.C.

On 9/4/1862 he mustered into “G” Co. RI 7th Infantry. He died of disease on 3/6/1863 at Boscawen, N.H. (Enlisted at Woonsockett, R.I. Died of typhoid fever.) He was listed as:

Wounded 12/13/1862 Fredericksburg, VA

Hospitalized 12/15/1862 Windmill Point, VA

Promotions: 1st Sergt 9/4/1862 (As of Co. G 7th RI Infantry)

Other Information: born 10/28/1843 in Boscawen, NH

(Parents: Ira & Mary S. Sweatt)

Sources; used by Historical Data Systems, Inc.

JOSEPH S. SWEATT.

Sergeant Joseph Sawyer Sweatt, eldest son of Ira and Mary S. Sweatt, was born in the town of Boscawen, N. H., Oct. 28, 1843. He was fitted in the schools of that town and of Fisherville (now Pena cook) for the Tilton (N. H.) Seminary, which he left for the purpose of enlisting in the Second New Hampshire, a three months’ regiment. He was thus present at the First Bull Run. During the retreat he was one of the many who were lost from their regiment and was reported killed, but, at length, he found his way back to his command. Upon his muster out he immediately joined the Second New Hampshire (three years) Volunteers, but soon after was taken sick, discharged, and sent home.

A little later he went to “Woonsocket, R. I., where an uncle resided, the late Enoch Sweatt, railroad contractor, and was by him employed as an assistant civil engineer. When the call came for “three hundred thousand more,” he enlisted as an orderly sergeant in the Seventh Rhode Island. He was wounded at Fredericksburg Dec. 13, 1862, and was taken to Windmill Point Hospital, Md. There his father visited him, and, after fourteen days, was able to remove him to Washington. After a brief rest he took him home to New Hampshire, but he lived only ten days after his arrival. Yet he was very thankful to gaze once more upon familiar scenes, and to die among his friends. His final and fatal illness was typhoid fever, to which he succumbed March 6, 1863. Three older sisters survive.

Source: The Seventh Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers in the Civil War, 1862-1865 by Hopkins, William Palmer, 1845-; Peck, George Bacheler, 1843-1934, ed

A History of the Second Regiment, New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry

Contributed by John Hennessy