Asst. Surg. Thomas Alexander Means, 11th Georgia Infantry, After the Battle (2)

3 02 2022

Our Special Correspondence.






Richmond, Virginia, July 29, 1861.

Messrs. Adair & Smith:

GENTS: After a sojourn of one busy and anxious week at Manassas, I returned to this city on last afternoon, only that I might complete my outfit for camp-life in the surgeon’s department. Dr. Colley* and Rev. Wm. H. Simmons** arrived here safely after several days since, but could not make arrangements for leaving here until yesterday (Sunday) morning.

I failed to see them – our respective trainshaving passed on the way without an opportunity for recognition.

My labor on the battle field has been arduous but profitable to my professional experience, from the vast number and variety of important surgical cases which have been thrown under my treatment, while I humbly trust my services have been, at least in some degree, useful to my country and to many a suffering soldier. I dressed, while there, 200 Federal prisoners (besides scores of our own) whose sufferings were heart-rending. Some were brought in shot through the head; others through the neck, arms and legs; some with thigh bones shattered, and the limbs hanging suspended by skin, muscle or ligament. The miseries of many were intensified by the want of covering, food and water for which they piteously begged. Scarcely a portion of the human body was exempt from the violence of some weapon of war.

When I moved in the midst of such a melting scene, my Southern heart grew too large for the indulgence of hatred, and I therefore dressed their wounds and nursed them in their sufferings, as willingly as though they had been our own dear people.

I have been occasionally mortified at the cold heartlessness with which some who boasted a Southern birth, could ridicule and abuse these suffering creatures, before their faces, even when Death was about to perform his fatal work.

We have shipped 286 to the hospital in this city, 350 to Culpepper Court House, and some 400 to Charlottesville. Indeed, they are scattered over the county far and wide. Some of the wounded Federals are lodged in the costly and comfortable dwellings of the rich; others committed to the hospital, and hundreds more to the cheerless enclosures of a prison.

Too much praise cannot be bestowed upon the generous inhabitants of this Queen City of the Old Dominion. They have voluntarily offered to take to their private residences, as many as their rooms can accommodate and their means comfortably sustain. Woman, lovely, sympathizing woman – God bless her! is ever ready, with her heart in her hand, to relieve their sufferings.

The battle-field, when we visited it, presented a horrifying spectable. Yet, this is the legitimate fruit of war, and Liberty must be purchased even at this high premium, as our enemies are not content that we should enjoy it at a less cost of human life.

A request was made of Gen. Beauregard, by Gen. McDowell, that they might be permitted to bury their dead, which, notwithstanding slanderous rumors to the contrary, was readily granted. Yet, in such hot haste was the task performed, that, perhaps two-thirds of their number were left upon the surface with a few spades of earth carelessly thrown over them. – Numbers were traced by the bloody track along which they had crawled to the stream – Bull’s Run – where they had gone to seek water and died.

The vandal barbarism and blasphemy of some of the Federal troops are characterized by the following incident: Wile quartered but for one day in the little village of Centreville, they destroyed a magnificent Episcopal Church, desecrated the alter with profuse inscriptions, tore up the carpets from the aisles, scattered the mutilated leaves of the Holy Bible to the four corners of the building, wrote, in large letters, just over the pulpit, the following diabolical sentence: :Death to the d—-d Rebels and Jeff. Davis. So saith the Lord and Abe Lincoln.” Many scurrilous devices, obscene figures, vulgar caricatures, and profane denunciations, were scratched upon the walls of the gallery, and left as melancholy memorials of the infernal spirit which actuated them. Many similar scenes were witnessed by the citizens of the place, whose hands were motionless, and whose mouths were closed, for they dared not resist. They have since, however, “reaped the whirlwind” as the fearful reward of their wickedness, and are now at our feet pleading for mercy – attributing their defeat to the Government at Washington. Many Colonels, Captains and privates – all, indeed, with whom I have conversed, say that they had no idea there would be any fighting on our side, but now acknowledge that we fought well, and desperately – more like demons than men – saying that all the combined powers of the world could not subdue a people of such undying courage. Many of them had been forced to stay beyond the time for which they had volunteered, that having expired two or three days before the battle. One intelligent officer – a Lieutenant – told me that we had, hereafter, to contend with the rabble; that those we routed were mainly their picked men – the very flower of the North, and the idols of old “fuss, feathers and foibles,” and his royal cub – Old Abe.

Manassas is now one wild waste. Farm houses stand deserted, the green orchards parched and beaten to the earth by the tread of horses and men. Surely, never in modern days, has there been such a complete rout of confident, vainglorious hosts. Even Napoleon, in his great campaigns of 1814, could claim of no such glorious victory as that over which we now rejoice. – Heaven will yet continue to smile upon us, and crown our efforts with Independence.


(Atlanta, GA) Southern Confederacy, 8/8/1861

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  • Dr. Francis S. Colley, Surgeon, 11th Georgia Infantry.

** Chaplain William A. Simmons, 11th Georgia Infantry.

Thomas Alexander Means at Ancestry

Thomas Alexander Means at Fold3

Thomas Alexander Means at FindAGrave

Asst. Surg. Thomas Alexander Means, 11th Georgia Infantry, After the Battle (1)

2 02 2022

Letter from Dr. Thomas A. Means to his Father.


The Wounded – Medical Department Poorly supplied – Doctors and nurses wanted – An ungainly Michigan woman – Federal Doctors with lugubrious countenances – Artillery and munitions captured – Those handcuffs – A letter written by an enemy – The Zouaves a set of bloodthirsty thieves and brutes – Robbing houses and insulting the inmates – Mr. Hills and Mr. Yarborough – Col. Anderson – His Regiment and Col. Gartell’s advance towards Alexandria.

Manassas Junction, Jul 23, 1861.

Dear Father: The pressure of active professional duties, since my arrival here on the day of battle, (21st instant,) has prevented me from giving earlier attention to you claims, and even now while I write, my services are demanded.

The great victory of Sunday last, cost us many lives, while thousands of the conquered foe yet lie wounded, dying, or dead, and uncared for, upon the battle-field and the surrounding grounds, about three and a half miles distant from this place.

One hundred and ninety victims of the fight are under our charge, 123 of whom are Federalists, hailing mostly from Manie, Wisconsin, and New York.

I have faithfully devoted myself night and day to their relief and comfort, with unremitting toil, while my couch is any spot, however inconvenient, which I may for a time incidentally secure.

I regret exceedingly, to find the medical department so poorly supplied with fixtures, blankets, water, wine, brandy, &c. Indeed it may be said to be almost entirely destitute of these neccessary appliances. I have been constrained, therefore, to tax my ingenuity in overcoming many obstacles which would otherwise have greatly embarrassed successful treatment. Physicians are still needed, notwithstanding that many have offered their services; while of nurses there are none, save one ungainly woman from Michigan, whose homely features and broad dialect, sometimes provoke a smile. She is busy, however, in the culinary department. Even her own people seem to claim but little of her sympathies or attention, as she considers them to have acted foolishly, and to have been greatly deceived. Four Federal physicians are in camp, serving their men; but exhibit much “don’t-carishness” upon their lugubrious countenances, as to render them anything but agreeable. All of us, with one heart and one accord, pay their wounded, as much attention as our own, for suffering knows no distinction of caste, kindred or condition; and christian charity, under which circumstances, should make none.

A gentleman, at my side, just from the field, says that the famous Billy Wilson’s Aid and two privates, have been taken prisoner. They were found after the battle, wounded and unable to make their way to camp, having been probably left by their panic stricken friends to meet their fate, while they were effecting their “brilliant retreat.”

The wild waste and general scattering of munitions of war, baggage wagons, ambulances, cannon, &c., were almost without a parallel in the history of warfare. I counted, and have, therefore seen with my own eyes, 98 pieces of artillery. In addition to these, we have taken guns, knapsacks, cartridges, balls, &c., to out fit an army twice as large as our own.

One of the most interesting articles of the capture, was the load of hand cuffs (several thousand, it is said,) which the thoughtful and benevolent invaders brought with them, perhaps (?) for the purpose of making the attachment of the Southern “rebels” to the Union stronger than their own Punic faithlessness have ever been able to effect. Might not a few of these specimens of Northern artisanship, sent o every town and village in the South, produce striking results upon the minds of our people?

I have just read an interesting letter found upon the field, written in pencil, over the signature of J. H. H., and addressed to his sister in Milwaukee, Wis., a brief extract from which I give you. He says “When they” (the “Grand Army”) “reached Centreville, on Saturday night, (20th,) they numbered 50,000 men, whilst a reinforcement of 40,000 came in from Alexandria and other places.” He further says, it is “an easy matter to conquer the South; but I suspect the rebels will make a stand, as their forces are numerous, and exceedingly well armed and equipped. Three days rations were put in our haversacks, with the understanding that the fourth day should be spent in Richmond.”

He gave some interesting accounts of the New York Zouaves, whom he denounces, in his own language as a “set of blood-thirsty thieves, having less sympathy than brutes.” They entered an old Virginia mansion on this side of Alexandria – the inoffensive inmates of which were about seating themselves to dine – took possession of the table, devoured the outspread meal, and then bade them “good day,” some of them placing their thumbs contemptuously upon the tip of their noses and scornfully twitching their little fingers as they passed off. * * * * * *

I supposed that here and at Bull’s Run, not less than 15,000 were killed and missing of the enemy, while our loss, so far as known, may amount to 2,500.

I have two you men from Georgia, now by my side, belonging to the 8th Georgia Regiment, Co. Bartow – who were badly wounded. Mr. T. J. Hills, of Rome, Ga., and Mr. Yarborough, of Floyd county, cousin to Rev. John Yarborough, our excellent minister. The latter died, in great pain, last night, but was resigned to his fate, and sent many words of consolation, by members of his company, to his friends and relations. Young Hills, notwithstanding my constant attention, is, I regret to say, at this date, still in a dangerous condition. His wounds were inflicted by two Minnie balls, which struck him on the left side below the fifth rib, penetrating his body. I have his effects, and will promptly turn them over to any authorized friend, should he not recover.

I have just this moment, for the first time, since my arrival, seen Col. Anderson. He is well, and hearty; but chafing over his disappointment in not having shared in the fight – arriving, as he did, three days after the battle. The Regiment (10th**) is encamped six miles North-East of this place, ”en route” for Alexandria. Col. Gartrell’s Regiment, it is said, leaves this afternoon for the same place.

Assistant Surgeon 10th** Regiment
Georgia Volunteers

(Atlanta, GA) Southern Confederacy, 8/6/1861

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* Thomas J. Means and Lewis G. Yarborough, both of Co. E, 8th GA Infantry.

** Early on there was some confusion, even among members of the units, regarding the numbering of the Georgia regiments.

Thomas Alexander Means at Ancestry

Thomas Alexander Means at Fold3

Thomas Alexander Means at FindAGrave