JCCW – Gen. James B. Ricketts

12 09 2009

Testimony of Gen. James B. Ricketts

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 242-246

WASHINGTON, April 3, 1862.

General JAMES B. RICKETTS sworn and examined.

By the chairman:

Question. What rank and position do you hold in the army?

Answer. I am at present a brigadier general of volunteers.

Question. What was your rank on the 21st of July last, the day of the battle of Bull Run?

Answer. I was a captain of the first regiment of artillery.

Question. In whose brigade?

Answer. General Franklin’s brigade.

Question. Will you please give us an account, in your own way, of what you saw of the battle?

Answer. I saw very little except what concerned myself. You must know that any one who has charge of six pieces of artillery has as much as he can attend to to manage them and obey orders. I went on the field at Sudley’s Spring, in General Heintzelman’s division, General Franklin’s brigade. After crossing the stream, where I watered my horses, my first order was to take to the right into an open field, to effect which I had to take down the fences. I then came into action about a thousand yards from the enemy, I should judge. There was a battery of smooth-bores opposed against me, doing some damage to us; it killed some horses and wounded some few of my men; I myself saw one man struck on the arm. My battery consisted of six rifled Parrott guns, consequently I was more than a match at that distance for the smooth-bore battery. It is difficult to judge of the passage of time under such circumstances, as we never look at our watches then. But after firing, I should judge, twenty minutes or a half an hour, I had orders to advance a certain distance. I moved forward, and was about to come into battery again, when I was ordered to proceed further on, up on a hill near the Henry House.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. About what time was it when you first came into action?

Answer. We had marched twelve miles. I should judge my first coming into action must have been somewhere about noon. That, of course, is a mere guess. I received this order to move forward. I told the officer that he must indicate the spot, so that there should be no mistake about it. I saw at a glance, as I thought, that I was going into great peril for my horses and men. But I did not hesitate to obey the order, merely asking to name the spot clearly indicated to me. The ground had not been reconnoitred at all, and there was a little ravine in front that I had to pass. As I marched at the head of my company with Lieutenant Ramsay, he said to me, “We cannot pass that ravine.” I told him that we must pass it. As we were under fire, to countermarch there would be fatal. The confusion consequent upon turning around there would expose us to great danger. As it was, we dashed across, breaking one wheel in the effort, which we immediately replaced. I called off the cannoniers and took down the fence and ascended the hill near the Henry House, which was at that time filled with sharpshooters. I had scarcely got into battery before I saw some of my horses fall and some of my men wounded by the sharpshooters. I turned my guns upon the house and literally riddled it. It has been said that there was a woman killed there by our guns. It was in that house that she was killed at the time I turned my battery on it and shelled out the sharpshooters there. We did not move from that position—that is, we made no important movement. We moved a piece one way or the other, perhaps, in order to take advantage of the enemy’s appearance at one point or another. But our guns were not again limbered up. In fact, in a very short time we were not in a position or a condition to move, on account of the number of our horses that were disabled. I know it was the hottest place I ever saw in my life, and I had seen some fighting before. The enemy had taken advantage of the woods and the natural slope of the ground, and delivered a terrible fire upon us.

Question. Was that the place where your battery was lost?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. And where you yourself was wounded and fell?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Who gave you the order to march forward there?

Answer. Lieutenant Kingsbury, of General McDowell’s staff, brought me the order. Lieutenant Snyder was also near, and I told him I wanted him to bear in mind that I had received that order, although no point was indicated.

Question. Had you a sufficient infantry support for your battery?

Answer. At that time I knew of no support. I was told a support was ordered. One regiment, the Fire Zouaves, I know came up to support me, and, when I saw them in confusion, I rode up to them and said something cheering to them. I had not much time to speak to them, but I thought I would say a little something cheering to them, as it might have some effect upon them.

Question. How long did you continue to operate your guns after you took that position?

Answer. Somewhere between a half an hour and an hour, I should judge.

Question. Was Griffin’s battery near you?

Answer. I do not know, except from what I have heard. I know there was a battery a little to the rear on my right, and from all accounts I suppose that to be Griffin’s battery. They were on my right in my first position, and moved up with me and took a position a little on my right.

By the chairman:

Question. How came they to order you to advance without infantry to support you? Is not that unusual?

Answer. The infantry came up directly afterwards. I do not know where the position of the infantry was. All I saw were the Fire Zouaves, who came up on my right to support me.

Question. In what number?

Answer. I should suppose, when my attention was called to them, that there were from two hundred to three hundred men.

Question. What number of infantry is supposed to be sufficient to support a battery?

Answer. To go into such a place as that, I should say there should have been two full regiments to have supported my battery.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Was the smooth-bore battery of the enemy supported?

Answer. Yes, sir; and we drove them away. They retired some distance as we advanced. They must have had a heavy support, judging from the amount of lead they threw from their muskets, for long after I was down the hail was tremendous. The ground was torn up all around me, and some bullets went through my clothes. I never expected to get off at all.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. How many of your men were hit?

Answer. I do not know. I was five months in Richmond as a prisoner. I, of course, made no report, and have made none yet. No report has been made, though I think it should have been made by the next officer, as I was virtually lost; was away from the battery, and knew nothing of what occurred to the men.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Who was in command of the artillery—the chief of artillery?

Answer. Major Barry—now General Barry.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Did he direct the movements of the artillery?

Answer. I did not see him.

By the chairman:

Question. Was the place where you were posted before you were ordered to advance more advantageous than the one to which you did advance?

Answer. I think it was, up to the time that I left it; and I think it would have been for a little longer time, considering that I had longer range guns than the enemy had.

Question. Could you have sustained yourself in your first position?

Answer. I think so. Yes, sir.

Question. From whom did the order to advance emanate?

Answer. General McDowell’s aid brought it to me. Major Barry had no aid. Whether it was Major Barry’s order or not, I could not tell. He had charge of the artillery, and was supposed to have directed its movements.

Question. Was it good generalship to order you to advance with your battery without more support than you had?

Answer. Do you mean the one regiment?

Question. Yes, sir; the Fire Zouaves you speak of.

Answer. No, sir; I do not think it was. I desire to state here that I have seen it mentioned that I made some mistake as to the enemy. Captain Griffin and myself are coupled together as having made some mistake on the field as to the character of the enemy. I wish to say that I made no mistake in regard to the enemy.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. You refer to mistaking a regiment of the enemy for one of our own troops?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. You are not connected with that in our testimony.

Answer. I am very glad to hear it. I had noticed that, among other things, in the papers; and when I came back from Richmond, I saw the President, and he said to me: “You thought you were going to certain destruction in going up there, so you said,” referring to our last position. I replied, “That is a mistake, I made no remark at all, except that I wanted the place clearly indicated to which I was to move.”

By the chairman:

Question. Were you present at the council of war the evening prior to the battle?

Answer. No, sir.

Question. At what time on the day of the battle did you learn that Johnston’s troops were coming down from Winchester?

Answer. Well, sir, I heard before we left little Rocky Run, this side of Centreville, that there was danger of meeting Johnston’s men on that day. I cannot tell you who told me.

Question. In your judgment, as a military man, after it was ascertained that Johnston would be down, was it prudent to fight that battle, unless you could have, for instance, Patterson’s army to follow Johnston’s down?

Answer. Yes, sir, I think so. I think we could have fought with the army we had. We had apparently as good men as ever were.

Question. Suppose that battle could have been fought two weeks before it was fought, what would have been the probable result?

Answer. I believe if we had fought it even two days before we would have walked over the field. I saw on the field of battle a number of officers who had resigned from our army, whom I had known; and while I was at Richmond some of them told me that at one time they were giving away, and that our panic was perfectly unaccountable to them. We gained the battle with the force we had. I believe there was a time when we had really won that battle, if we had only kept at it a little longer.

Question. As a military man, to what circumstances do you attribute our disaster on that day?

Answer. I impute it to the want of proper officers among the volunteers.

By Mr. Wright:

Question. Do you mean the colonels and generals?

Answer. I mean throughout. I cannot say particular colonels and particular captains, because some of them were excellent. But, as a general rule, many of the officers were inferior to the men themselves. The men were of as good material as any in the world, and they fought well until they became confused on account of their officers not knowing what to do.

By the chairman:

Question. Were you present and able to know the last charge of the enemy which was decisive?

Answer. Which charge was that?

Question. The same one that captured your battery, I believe. All the witnesses speak of a certain charge that was made there by the enemy.

Answer. My battery was taken and retaken three times. For a part of the time the struggle was going on over my body; and I think that for a part of the time I must have been insensible, for I bled very freely.

By Mr. Chandler:

Question. Which of our regiments fought over your body for the battery? Not the zouaves?

Answer. I did not know which regiment it was. It was not the zouaves. I saw a regiment, after I was down, move very near my battery, and I saw a shell explode among them, somewhere, I should judge, about the color company; and in speaking of it to Dr. Swan afterwards, the surgeon of the 14th New York regiment, who went over the field the next day, I concluded it was the 14th regiment, because he said he saw a great many of his regiment killed there. I therefore supposed that that was the regiment engaged in that struggle for the battery.

Question. Were you captured with your guns?

Answer. Yes, sir; I suppose I may say I was taken with my guns. When I was found I was asked my name, and I told them my name was Captain Ricketts. They asked if I was captain of that battery, pointing to one that was moving towards them, and I told them I was.

Question. Your guns were turned upon our troops after they were captured, were they not?

Answer. They say they were turned upon us; and I remember hearing one or two explosions.

By Mr. Julian:

Question. What kind of support did you receive from the Fire Zouaves?

Answer. Well, sir, these Fire Zouaves came up to the ground, but they soon got into confusion and left.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Was that in consequence of want of proper directions from their officers?

Answer. I should judge, from the manner in which the men stood there, and from their not being properly in line, that it was from want of officers; either that their officers were ignorant of their duty at that time, or that they were not there. I cannot say how that was. Our men really behaved very gallantly up to a certain time.

Question. Did the 14th New York regiment support you at all while you were in position?

Answer. That I cannot tell you. They were in the woods on my right, I know; because a number of officers told me about them, though they took them for the Fire Zouaves on account of their red uniform.

JCCW – Lt. Horatio B. Reed

8 08 2009

Testimony of Lt. Horatio B. Reed

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 220-221

WASHINGTON, January 28, 1862.

Lieutenant HORATIO B. REED sworn and examined.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. What is your rank in the army?

Answer. I am second lieutenant in the fifth regiment of United States artillery.

Question. Where are you now stationed?

Answer. Minor’s Hill, Virginia.

Question. Were you at the battle of Bull Run?

Answer. Yes, sir; I was chief of line of caissons in Griffin’s battery.

Question. Can you tell us the movements of the battery just before it was lost, the orders given, and what led to the loss of the battery?

Answer. Our battery was in battery five times. We first came in battery I do not know by whose orders. I had charge of six caissons, a battery wagon, and forge. I left the battery wagon and forge some distance below where we came in battery the first time. Our battery was again ordered in battery—by whose orders I do not know. General Barry—then Major Barry—came to my captain, and I am under the impression my captain made some protest against going forward on account of the want of support. But we then advanced in a field upon the right. We found that was not where we had been ordered, and we then went upon a hill and came in battery for the fourth time. That was on the left of the house there. We then came in battery on the right of the house. I was chief of the line of caissons, and my position was in the rear. As we advanced upon the hill I wanted to go with the battery, and I left the caissons and went forward. I think we came in battery with two pieces; Lieutenant Hasbrouck in command. There was a body of troops coming up, and I know there was something said about those troops being our own, sent by some one to support us. I have heard since that it was said General Heintzelman sent them, but I did not hear the name mentioned then. We did not fire there until the troops advanced so near that they fired upon us and cut us down.

Question. Why did you not fire upon them?

Answer. We had orders not to fire.

Question. Who gave those orders?

Answer. I am under the impression that General Barry gave them.

Question. Did you hear the order given by General Barry?

Answer. I heard the order given by some one to Captain Griffin and Lieutenant Hasbrouck—and I am under the impression that it was General Barry— not to fire upon that body of men, for the reason that they were troops sent up to support us. Just after that they fired upon us and cut us down.

Question. Was General Barry there at that time?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Could you have broken up that body of men by your battery if you had opened on them?

Answer. We could have done so unless they were better troops than we saw that day; I think we could have swept them off with canister; we could have scattered any body of troops, I think, no matter how efficient—that is, to the best of my belief.

Question. Was Ricketts’ battery captured at the same time?

Answer. I presume it was. My horse was shot from under me at the time, and I was somewhat stunned by falling on my breast. We advanced together, but I never met Captain Ricketts except on that occasion, and he rode up in advance of his battery, and I was in rear of ours.

Question. Did the panic on the field commence immediately after the capture of those batteries?

Answer. Well, sir, the Ellsworth zouaves were ordered to support us, but they ran away before that.

Question. Did you have any support at that time?

Answer. No, sir; we were ordered there without any support but these zouaves.

Question. Did not the marines support you?

Answer. No, sir; they could not get up there. When we first went into battery, we went ahead of them.

Question. Was your battery without support during the day?

Answer. Yes, sir. I went after the 14th New York, and they went up with us for a little time, and then they left; their officers did all they could.

Question. About what time did the loss of your battery happen?

Answer. I have a very faint idea of time on that day, for I did not exactly know what time we came into battery; I was without a watch. We left our camp about 12 o’clock at night, and I suppose we went into action about 11 o’clock; and if we did, I think this was about 4 o’clock.

JCCW – Lt. Charles E. Hazlitt (Hazlett)

6 08 2009

Testimony of Lt. Charles E. Hazlitt

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 218-219

WASHINGTON, January 28, 1862.

Lieutenant CHARLES E. HAZLITT sworn and examined.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. What is your rank in the army?

Answer. First lieutenant of artillery.

Question. Where are you now stationed?

Answer. On Minor’s Hill, over in Virginia.

Question. Were you at the battle of Bull Run?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Were you in Griffin’s battery?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What was your rank then?

Answer. The same as now.

Question. Can you tell what led to the loss of Griffin’s and Ricketts’ batteries in that battle?

Answer. As far as I am able to judge, it was in consequence of the battery being sent to such an advanced position without any support.

Question. Will you give us the particulars of the loss of that battery—what occurred just previous to the loss of it, and at the time?

Answer. I do not know what occurred just at the moment of the loss, as just before the time the battery was put in position they changed and took up the position where they were lost. Another officer and myself stayed where we were in order to get away two guns that were left there; one had two horses killed, and we had to send for horses; and another one that had a wheel which was broken, and we were engaged in putting on a spare wheel, so that we were not with the battery in the last position. All that I know is that we had been in action some time, and I understood that there was an order for us to move the battery forward up on a little hill where there was a house. I do not know who the order came from. I only knew we were to go there. The officers of the batteries were all averse to going there, as before that we had had no infantry with us that was put there as our support. We were told to go up to this place. We talked about having to go there for some time; and I know it was some time after I was told that we had an order to go that we had not gone. I heard Captain Griffin say that it was no use, and we had to go. We started to go up on this hill. I was in advance of the battery, leading the way, and I had to turn off to a little lane to go to the top of the hill. Just as we turned off the lane in the field, an officer of the enemy on horseback appeared about 100 paces in front. As he saw us turn in, he turned around and beckoned to some one on other side of the hill, and we supposed the enemy were just on the other side of the hill waiting for us, as they had been there just before. An officer hallooed up to me and said we were not to go there, that we had to go to another hill to the right, which was the place we had spoken of going to, where we wished to be sent instead of to the other position. We then started off towards the hill on the right, but I do not think we had got more than half-way up the hill when I was told to go back to the hill we had started for first. We then went back there and came into position. We had been in action there for some time; the fire was exceedingly hot; and being in such close range of the enemy we were losing a great many men and horses. We were in full relief on top of the hill, while they were a little behind the crest of the hill. We presented a better mark for them than they did for us. I do not think there was any order to move the battery around to the right of the little house on the hill. I remember asking Captain Griffin if I could not move the piece I was firing to another place, as it was getting almost too hot there, and I wanted to go to the left. The enemy had just got the range of my gun, and I wanted to move it out of range. The captain said I could do so. And then it is my impression that I asked him if we had better not move the whole battery away from there, as they had got our range so well. And then we started to move. Lieutenant Kensel and myself stayed back to get away the two guns I spoke of. .Just after we got them started off we saw the battery in this other place flying all around, and the horses with the caissons running in every direction. That was the time the battery was lost, but we were not there at the time.

Question. Did you see the regiment that fired at the battery when it was lost?

Answer. No, sir.

Question. You know nothing of the loss of the battery further than you have stated?

Answer. That is all.

Question. You do not know who gave Captain Griffin the order to move forward?

Answer. No, sir.

Question. And nothing of any orders given after that?

Answer. No, sir; only what I have stated that we had orders to go up to his place. We put it off for some time and it was repeated.

Romeyn B. Ayres

29 07 2009

During the First Bull Run campaign, Capt. Romeyn Ayres commanded Company (Battery) E, 3rd US Artillery, the famous Sherman’s Battery, which was attached to Sherman’s brigade of Tyler’s division (see here); this despite his official assignment with the 5th Artillery.  Being unable to cross Bull Run with his brigade, Ayres spent the day in reserve and covering the retreat, during which he repelled a cavalry charge.  Ayres sent a wagon, three caissons and his forge ahead when preparing for the retreat, and reported all of these, plus seven horses and five mules, lost when fleeing volunteers cut the traces and stole the mounts (see his report here).

Later, he would advance through artillery positions to infantry brigade and division command, participating in the major campaigns of the Army of the Potomac through Appomattox.  He was also sent with his division to put down the draft riots in New York City.  The army must have been impressed, because in 1877 he was sent with a battalion to Mauch Chunk, PA, home to the Molly Maguires, to suppress the railroad disturbance there.  I’m guessing Ayres was not popular with the AOH.

In Cullum’s Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of USMA (Ayres’s Cullum number is 1352), classmate Col. John Hamilton notes that (i)n the field his style was that of the brilliant executor, rather than of the plotting strategist.  He had withal a remarkable eye to at once take in the situation on the field, and was the quickest of tacticians.

Hamilton provided a few anecdotes, demonstrating a sometimes brutal wit:

On march in Texas, during a few days’ rest he [Ayres] happened to pitch his camp near the permanent command of an officer who ranked him.  The officer was a strict constructionist of Army Regulations, and had his reveille at daybreak.   Ayres had ever liked his morning nap; and his senior, very unnecessarily, considering the transientness of the junction, assumed command over Ayres, and ordered him to comply with the Regulations.

After the interview, Ayres retired to his camp and issued the following order, sending his senior a copy:

Headquarters, Co.-, 3rd Artillery,

Camp —,—, 185-

Company Orders.  Until further orders, daylight in this camp will be at six o’clock.


1st Lt., 3rd Artillery,

Commanding Co. –

During the Rebellion, a colonel of his brigade showed a timidity before the enemy too observable to the command to be overlooked by the brigadier.  What passed at the subsequent interview nobody will ever know, but the next day the colonel was found in the hottest part of the action.  Soon an officer of his regiment reported to Ayres, General, poor Colonel — is killed.  Thank God!  says Ayres, his children can now be proud of him.

I have some delightfully ironic trivia concerning Ayres’s grave, but will address that in a separate post later.  Stay tuned.

This article was origninally posted on 6/29/2007, as part of the Romeyn Beck Ayres biographical sketch.

JCCW – Maj. William F. Barry

10 07 2009

Testimony of Maj. William F. Barry

Report on the Conduct of the War, Vol. 2, pp. 142-149

WASHINGTON, January 7, 1862.

General WILLIAM F. BARRY sworn and examined.

By Mr. Gooch:

Question. Were you at the battle of Bull Run, as it is called?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. In what capacity?

Answer. As chief of artillery.

Question. Can you state to us what led to the rout of our army on the field that day?

Answer. There were a great many causes.

Question. We want to get at the causes, the most obvious causes?

Answer. I think the principal cause was the uninstructed state of our troops. The troops were raw; many of the officers were indolent, and they did not all behave themselves as they should have done on that day. I think that was one cause. All troops are liable to panics. But the great fault I found with our men was that after they had fallen back some distance, and were out of the enemy’s fire, they could not be rallied. I look upon that as a difficulty inseparable from green troops. And in rallying men we need the assistance of the regimental and company officers very much, and that assistance was not rendered in many cases.

Question. Can you tell us at what time of the day and at what point the panic first showed itself?

Answer. On the right of our line was the place that I thought the panic first took place.

Question. In whose division?

Answer. The troops were very much scattered. They had been moved from point to point. They had been successful on the left of us, and the enemy had been driven back pretty nearly a mile, and having nothing to do, several of the regiments had been brought up towards the right. I had been with the army but three days. I had just arrived from Fort Pickens with my battery of artillery, and found that I was promoted to be a major. I gave up my battery to my successor, and General McDowell appointed me chief of artillery. I joined them the second day of the march, and was not very familiar with the organization of the troops.

Question. Were you present near the place where Ricketts’s and Griffin’s batteries were when they were captured?

Answer. Yes, sir; I was there at that very spot.

Question. What led to the capture of those batteries by the enemy?

Answer. The infantry support abandoned them, and that enabled the enemy to advance and capture the guns, or a portion of them; they did not capture them all. Nearly all the horses were shot down, and it was nearly impossible for the moment to remove the guns.

Question. Were those batteries ordered forward immediately preceding their capture?

Answer. Yes, sir; I suppose a half an hour before.

Question. Did you convey the order?

Answer. I gave the order in person to Captain Perkins and Captain Griffin; and not only that, I superintended the movement.

Question. Were those batteries supported?

Answer. Yes, sir; two entire regiments were procured at my request; the 11th New York, commonly called the Fire Zouaves, and the 14th New York militia.

Question. This was about three o’clock, was it?

Answer. I did not look at my watch during the entire day. I should suppose it was about half past two o’clock, for I think we left the field about four o’clock.

Question. In what condition were the Fire Zouaves at that time?

Answer. In what order, do you mean?

Question. Were they then an efficient regiment?

Answer. I thought so. I knew very little of them, except by newspaper reports. I knew what New York firemen were, and I supposed there was fight and pluck in them. I was struck with the manner they marched forward, very handsomely in line of battle. I rode with the major of the regiment—now colonel of the regiment. They marched up very handsomely in line of battle, passed the various obstacles they met in the usual tactical manner. I thought they did very well, and was very much disappointed and surprised when they broke.

Question. How many men should you think there were in the regiment at that time?

Answer. It looked to me as though there were about seven hundred.

Question. They supported which battery?

Answer. Both. The two regiments went up together, one just after the other. They had to go down a declivity, cross a little stream, and then go up a sharp acclivity. The ground was a little heavy in one or two places, and the artillery moved up in column of pieces, and formed the battery after they got on the ground.

Question. Did they take position on the hill indicated for them?

Answer. Yes, sir; and commenced firing, and fired some time.

Question. Was there any objection made by the officers of those batteries to advancing when the order was given to them?

Answer. Not the slightest that I heard.

Question. Was there any complaint that they were not properly supported?

Answer. I never heard of such a thing.

Question. How many guns were there in Griffin’s battery?

Answer. Six guns in Griffin’s battery, and six in Ricketts’s battery.

Question. Twelve guns in all?

Answer. Yes, sir. However, I am under an impression that just at that moment one, if not two, of Griffin’s guns had been left behind. I think one of his guns had become choked by careless loading; the cartridge bag had become twisted, and it could not be got in or out. That gun, I think, was not brought forward; but I am not certain about that. I did not count the guns.

Question. How many infantry would be a proper support for the guns of those two batteries?

Answer. Two regiments, I suppose, would be amply sufficient. I think if those two regiments had stood firm and done their duty those guns would never have been captured.

Question. Is there not a rule, or an understanding. as to the number of infantry that should support a battery?

Answer. No, sir; that depends upon circumstances very much; upon the amount of force opposed. If they are opposed by a large force you must have a corresponding force. And in addition to these two regiments of infantry there was a squadron of cavalry sent up by General McDowell afterwards, but moving faster than the infantry they arrived almost at the same time.

Question. Were the enemy in position in front of those batteries?

Answer. We could not see them.

Question. When were they first seen?

Answer. After the firing commenced.

Question. How soon after the order to advance was given?

Answer. I should suppose twenty minutes or half an hour. It must have taken nearly fifteen minutes to get to the place, because after I had designated the place that had been designated to me by General McDowell, and had started the batteries there, I then went to this infantry support and moved up with it. While I was doing that both of the batteries mistook the place, came a little short of it. I went forward and corrected that mistake, which produced some little delay. So I suppose the batteries were fully fifteen minutes in getting in position where they finally opened fire, which was the position I first designated.

Question. When did you see the enemy first in front of these batteries?

Answer. I suppose it was fifteen or twenty minutes after the firing commenced. It is hard to mark the lapse of time under such circumstances. I had very much to do then, passing from one battery to another, and looking to the infantry regiments coming up.

Question. Was there any mistake as to the character of a regiment that appeared in front of these batteries?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What was that mistake?

Answer. It was a mistake in reference to a regiment that came out of a piece of woods into which one of the infantry regiments that supported the batteries had gone a few minutes before—this fourteenth regiment from Brooklyn.

Question. What was that mistake?

Answer. This regiment came out in line of battle, and a few minutes after they came out they delivered their fire upon us.

Question. Was it supposed by any one that that was one of our regiments?

Answer. I supposed it was. They had no colors. I supposed it was this same regiment that had gone into the woods, as they disappeared in that direction. Whether they went into the woods or not I do not know. The ground was somewhat rolling, and they would disappear from sight for a few moments.

Question: Did Captain Griffin suppose it was one of the regiments supporting him?

Answer. I do not know what he supposed. He directed my attention to it.

Question. Did he propose to open fire on that regiment?

Answer. Not that I remember. If he had chosen to do it, he was competent to do it.

Question. Did you give him orders?

Answer. No, sir; I gave no orders to either captain. They were both competent men.

Question. You say you have no knowledge that he did not receive orders not to fire upon that regiment?

Answer. No, sir; I gave no orders not to fire.

Question. That regiment opened fire directly upon these batteries?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. They captured these batteries?

Answer. No, sir; after they had produced a great deal of havoc, the troops immediately in front advanced—not that regiment which was on one side. There was nothing left for it then, for the infantry support broke in confusion and scattered in all directions.

Question. Was not this the first indication of a panic manifested?

Answer. No, sir; because I had seen regiments in the first part of the day break and fall back, and we were afterwards very handsomely successful.

Question. Do you not consider that the capture of these two batteries had a very decided influence on the fate of the battle on that day?

Answer. I think it had an influence, but I do not know whether it was a very decided influence. I think the circumstance that had the most decided influence was the arrival of those fresh troops on our right flank, after the men had become wearied. Our men had had a long march; been moving back and forth, and became very tired.

Question. Were not those fresh troops those that appeared in front of these batteries?

Answer. No, sir; I think not, because after that there were troops that came up on our right flank, almost at right angles, and those were the troops that I always took to be the fresh ones. Those that advanced on the guns when they were no longer supported, I have always supposed were the enemy’s left that we had driven back.

Question. You do not suppose those troops that took the batteries were Johnston’s men that had just come?

Answer. No, sir; I do not think they were. I am sure they were not. I think they were the enemy’s right, which we had driven back two or three times. I saw very plainly their batteries limber up and go off to the rear and take up a new position. I saw that twice. Finally they went back so far that Captain Ricketts and Captain Griffin could see nothing of the men to fire at. You could not see the horses even; only a puff of smoke.

Question. When was this?

Answer. Before the two batteries moved forward.

Question. I mean after the two batteries moved forward. Did not some regiments appear in front of and capture these batteries within ten or fifteen minutes after they opened fire at this last position?

Answer. No, sir. The infantry support broke and abandoned the batteries. Then they of course felt emboldened to advance, because there was no opposition to them. There were a great many men killed and wounded, and a large number of horses knocked over by that single discharge of that one regiment, which was to our front and right—not really in front. It came out of this piece of woods. There was a very tall Virginia fence, eight or nine rails high, and I could just see the tops of their bayonets—not the clothes of the men, at all, but perhaps ten inches of their bayonets. They had no colors.

Question. What did you suppose that regiment to be?

Answer. I supposed it to be one of our regiments. But if I had known it to be one of their regiments, it would have been no time to do anything before they delivered their fire; that is, after I saw them. It was almost instantaneous after I saw them. I did not see them until my attention was directed to them by Captain Griffin, who said, “See there!” or “Look there!” I was then looking at the direction the guns were firing, and I could see nothing in front, even then. I had been with Captain Ricketts’s battery, and just as I came to Captain Griffin’s battery he called my attention to this regiment. It was all the work of a moment. There was a high, tall fence, and looking at it obliquely, as we did, it made a very close fence to us where we were. If we had been looking at it in front, we could have seen more plainly. But I could see nothing except this line of bayonets, and they delivered their fire almost instantaneously after I first saw them.

Question. Was their fire delivered from behind the fence?

Answer. Yes, sir; right through the fence. It made but a small obstacle to them, because they were close to the fence and the rails were of the usual width apart in that kind of fence, so that they could very readily see through it and fire through it. But even if we had known they were the enemy there would have been no time to have turned the guns upon them before their fire was delivered. If the infantry support had stood, the force in front of us would not have advanced.

Question. Did you consider the batteries were properly supported at that time?

Answer. I did. I think two entire regiments were ample support, and this squadron of cavalry was with them.

Question. How many cavalry?

Answer. Two troops of cavalry. They were commanded by Captain Colburn, who is now a lieutenant colonel upon General McClellan’s staff. There were two troops of cavalry, commonly called a squadron, perhaps 100 men.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Did the cavalry stand?

Answer. Yes, sir; until General McDowell ordered them to fall back, for after the enemy advanced they were only too much exposed, as there was no opportunity for them to charge there. The enemy made a sort of charge down the road—30 or 40 men of them. The troops were very much exhausted, the fire zouaves called it the “black horse cavalry,” and spoke of the wonders they performed. But there were no black horses there or black uniformed men. They were ordinary bay and sorrel horses with single-rein snaffle-bits. I examined them very closely, because I had lost my pistol and wanted to get one of theirs, and I examined three or four very closely for that purpose. The fire zouaves fired upon them as they passed, for the cavalry could not be held, but ran by almost pell-mell.

Question. We never recovered the possession of Griffins’s battery, as I understand?

Answer. Yes, sir; the guns were retaken twice. The official report states that fully. They were taken the first time and the men tried to drag them off. But they were encumbered with dead horses, and there were no other horses to hitch to them. After dragging them some distance the enemy advanced in large force and drove us back. Then some other troops with those of the infantry support which could be rallied again came back once more, but there was a large force advancing, and they had nothing left but to fall back. The infantry fire had pretty much ceased towards the left. There were several regiments in the road and resting upon their arms, and they were ordered up. If those two regiments had held on a little while we would have had a strong force. It was impossible to rally the 11th regiment—the fire zouaves. I rode in among them and implored them to stand. I told them that the guns would never be captured if they would only stand. But they seemed to be paralyzed, standing with their eyes and mouths wide open, and did not seem to hear me. I then reminded them of all the oaths they had sworn at Alexandria, after the death of Ellsworth, and that that was the best chance they would ever have for vengeance. But they paid no attention to what I said at all.

Question. I suppose the mere fact that a panic had spread among the troops once should not create a distrust of those troops again?

Answer. O no, sir. General McDowell and myself took regimental flags which we saw and begged the troops to rally around them; and a few did, but not a sufficient number to warrant the hopes that we would have had with good troops.

Question. How many did you estimate the force in front, and this regiment on the right, together?

Answer. I could not tell. They covered themselves very well. That was a remarkable feature in that battle: they kept themselves remarkably well covered.

Question. The ground permitted them to do that?

Answer. Yes, sir; the ground they advanced over was not so level as that our troops went over. Our troops marched very handsomely in line of battle. One instance, I saw a whole brigade advance as handsomely as ever any troops did.

Question. So far as the whole fight was concerned, the enemy had infinitely the advantage of our troops in position?

Answer. Yes, sir; the ground was their own selection. I think if the battle had been fought at the hour it was expected to be fought at, 8 1/4 or 8 1/2 o’clock in the morning, we would have won it. There was a loss of three hours there, which I think had a very important effect upon the success of the day. It enabled those fresh troops to get up: it prevented our turning their flank so completely as we would have done by surprise; for when our columns halted, the enemy discovered the direction we were going to take, and prepared for it. And worse than that, the halting, the standing still, fatigued the men as much if not more than by marching that time.

Question. So that our men were really very much exhausted when they went into the field?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. But if the battle had been fought three or four hours earlier, then Johnston’s reserve would not have been up in time?

Answer. I think the fate of that day would have been decided before they got upon the ground. I look upon that delay as the most unfortunate thing that happened. The troops that ought to have been out of the way were in the way before we could get to the turning-off point of the road.

Question. You were to have marched at 6 o’clock on Saturday night under the first order?

Answer. No, sir; the only order I heard was to move at half-past 2 o’clock in the morning.

Question. Was not the first order to advance our troops on Saturday night at 6 o’clock, or a portion of them?

Answer. Not that I ever heard of.

Question. Was it not proposed—I do not know that the order was issued— that the troops should march at 6 o’clock on Saturday night?

Answer. Never that I heard of.

Question. Was not there some delay on account of rations—of provisions?

Answer. I never heard of any.

Question. I will ask you, as you were in General McDowell’s staff, whether the battle was not fought a day or two later than was first proposed?

Answer. I think not. The intervening time, from our arrival at Centreville and the time of advancing, was occupied by the engineers in observation. The affair of the 18th showed that the enemy was in great force at that position. I presume General McDowell’s next idea was to discover some place to cross Bull Run without this opposition and turn their flank. I know the time was taken up by reconnoitring by a party of engineers, and a great deal of it was occupied at night to escape the observation of the enemy.

Question. I think it has been stated that there was a delay of one or two days for want of provisions?

Answer. I do not know about that. I joined General McDowell only a day or two before. I arrived here at 8 o’clock in the evening, and had to take my battery down to the arsenal, fill up with ammunition, get fresh horses, &c. General McDowell had marched the day before, and I made two marches in one and overtook him at Fairfax Court-House, and the next day he had me relieved because I was promoted, and assigned me to a position on his staff. So that what his views and intentions were previously to that I do not know. Half past two in the morning was the hour appointed. When he had the assembly of all his division commanders, and explained to them the movements and everything, he was very particular in giving directions about General Tyler’s division being out of the way, as his division was the first to take the road, so as not to stop up the road for the others.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. You spoke of the delay of two or three hours being in your judgment a very serious one upon the success of the day?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. What was the occasion of that delay?

Answer. I always heard that it was occasioned by General Tyler not getting his division out of the way of the troops that were to follow. He was to lead, and was to march down the road past the point where they were to turn off to go up to the place with the other divisions, and his division did not get past in time to prevent that delay.

Question. Were not the other divisions waiting for him to pass?

Answer. I always heard so; always supposed so. We had to take one common road at first, and after crossing the little stream called Cub Run, where so much baggage and guns were lost on the retreat by the bridge being broken down, after crossing the little run a short distance we came to this turning off point.

Question. Have you any knowledge of the occasion of his delay?

Answer. I have not. There was some little firing ahead; was firing slowly at long intervals. I went down to where he had a large Parrott gun in the middle of the road in position. I asked the officer what he was firing at. He said they saw some small parties of men. I told him not to waste the ammunition of a heavy gun like that in firing at little parties of men.

By Mr. Odell:

Question. Was there the same difficulty in rallying the 14th New York regiment as in rallying the 11th regiment?

Answer. No, sir. But they were under the disadvantage of having lost their colonel. But they were rallied to some extent afterwards by General Heintzelman.

Note From the Family of Romeyn Ayres

23 06 2009

I received this email the other day:

Hello Harry,

Thanks so much for doing a blog entry on my father’s great great grandfather, Romeyn Beck Ayres.   Today, Father’s Day, he had just shown me a photo from a magazine of Lincoln at Antietam where he inquired to the editors and they read the caption claiming Romeyn was 5th over to the left from Lincoln, the only one not wearing a hat.   But I found a caption online that says it was Col. Alexander S. Webb.  The photos on your site seem to confirm it was not him.

I am printing out the information you posted to show my father tomorrow.  This may be what wins him over re the internet.

Thanks again,

Tim Ayres

p.s.  I have my own wordpress blog, where I produce and rotate host a long running poetry show on our local college station.   Small world. 


Here’s a cropped version of the photo to which I think Tim is referring – click the thumbnail for a larger image:


The bareheaded fellow bears more of a resemblance to Webb than to Ayres.  That’s George Custer on the far right, by the way.

I’m not done with Ayres, commander of Sherman’s Battery (E, 3rd US) at Bull Run.  There’s a pretty cool story regarding his plot in Arlington National Cemetery and another of Tim’s ancestors. 

New Map

4 12 2008

I know I haven’t posted much here or in the Bull Run Resources about the fight at Blackburn’s Ford on July 18, 1861.  I’ll get to that eventually, I promise.  But for now, I have updated the Maps page with the below image of a map of that action drawn by E. Porter Alexander.  Check it out.  Thanks to Jim Burgess of Manassas National Battlefield Park for sending me the image from the Park’s archives. 

Recently some e-quaintances and I were discussing the position of Ayres’ (Sherman’s) Battery during the fight.  It would appear from Alexander’s perspective the battery was situated somewhat to the east of the ford, but it’s not clear from the map to which of Ayres’ positions Alexander was referring.

You can leave comments here or on the Maps page, but here is probably better.



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