“Sergeant”, 2nd Rhode Island Battery, On the Battle

14 09 2011

Letter from the Second Battery

Camp Clark, Washington
July 27, 1861

Messrs. Editors: – With your permission I will endeavor to give some account of the part taken by our battery in the battle of Bull Run.

Saturday, July 20, we were encamped near Centreville, with the regiments of the brigade. In the evening we received orders to march at half past one o’clock the next morning. We were ready at that time and proceeded to the encampment of the Second Regiment, where we halted until Col. Slocum’s voice was heard forming the regiment into line, and in a few moments we were on the march for the battle field. The road was very rough indeed, and quite hilly – so much so that we had to chain the wheels on the gun carriages as we descended. When we came to the bridge over Bull Run Creek, the order was given for one carriage to pass at a time, as it was very weak. Soon after daylight we left this rough and dusty road, and turned to the right in through the woods, and came out upon a large field or plain. Here the cavalry advanced and the picket guard extended some half a mile to the right and left of us. While we were crossing this plain, or soon after entering upon it, we heard the report of a large gun, and the explosion of a shell, as many thought a signal. The cavalry galloped alongside the wood, on the opposite side of the plain and pointed out the path for us to pursue.

After marching some four or five miles we seemed to bear to the left towards Manassas Junction, and soon entered the woods again and marched in a Southerly direction some two or three miles. I heard no one caution us that we were near the battle field; but was somewhat startled by two reports of cannon and then by volleys of musket bullets flying all around us. I looked ahead for orders, thinking that it was time we should receive them. I saw our General and the Engineer Corps as I supposed coming as fast as their horses would carry them, and soon one of them said “Forward, Battery.”  I heard Capt. Reynolds ask “In what position,” and again came the order “Forward, Battery.” I cautioned my men to keep cool, and whip their horses into a run, for it looked like warm work. In going some ten or twelve rods, we came out into the main road; our men dismounted, and tore down the fence and turned to the left into an open field amid the shower of bullet and cannon balls. Then came Capt. Reynolds’ order, “Forward into line of action, front.” We got into action very quick, some twenty yards from the edge of the woods on an elevation, and within thirty yards of several regiments of the rebels, (who were firing upon us as fast as possible) and a battery about one and half miles directly in front of us on a high elevation of land.

My lead horses on the guns were somewhat frightened when we came on to the field, and I took the reins of my lead horse to get him at his post. About the same time a cannon ball went through my blanket that lay across the shoulders of my own horse, and entered the breast of my leader, killing him instantly, and about the same time, the driver, Joshua Brown, was shot, one ball entering his thigh and another the calf of his leg. He was left on the field, but not dead. Before I could get my horses in position three of them were killed, my own horse shot in the hind leg by the explosion of a shell, but as for myself I did not get a scratch. I dismounted my own horse and ran to the fun. Within twenty yards of us were the rebels, advancing. I thought for a moment our Battery was lost; but the 2d Rhode Island Regiment made a fearful charge and gave a most hideous scream, and never will I forget how that rebel flag looked as it bobbed out of sight under the hill.

We opened fire first upon the rebel infantry and then upon their battery. The latter was silenced in something less than an hour. Again a reinforcement of the enemy’s infantry advanced, and the day looked dark. But a regiment from Maine was ordered to protect our battery, and came up to the rear of our caissons in the utmost confusion. I ran up and asked for the Colonel. No one knew where he was. I asked for the Captains of companies but there were none in front. I said your officers are cowards. Why don’t you come support our battery? Some of them said they would if they had any one to lead them. I then said, “Follow me,” and they did so. As we came near our guns on the right, the Colonel came running up and said, “Halt, Maine regiment; I have command here.” I said “Why don’t you take it then.” He gave the order to march to the right flank. Then came Gen. Burnside and ordered to march to the left flank and support the Rhode Island men.

Gov. Sprague was foremost in the fight, and inspired the men with coolness and courage. When asked about the character of several regiments that were coming up on the left, he said, “Give them a shot and make them show their colors.” The shot and shell were falling around him thick and fast, and his horse was shot under him as he was leading his men into the battle.

The loss of our brave Colonel Slocum, Major Ballou, Captain Tower and Lieutenant Prescott, enraged the soldiers so much that we gained our position and held it. After we ceased firing, Col. Hunter came up with the blood running down his neck, and said, “Well done, Rhode Island, you shall be remembered forever.” We thought we had won the battle, but the enemy were reinforced, and we were ordered to assist Ricket’s Battery, some twenty rods to the right. Here we were so much exposed that we were ordered to a concealed position some sixty rods nearer. We soon silenced the masked battery to which we were opposed.

It was soon discovered that our army was falling back. I asked a regiment of Regulars that lay flat on the ground in the rear of our Battery to relieve my men, who were perfectly exhausted. I begged and entreated them, but it was of no use. We fixed the last shot of shell, when the Colonel of the Regulars marched them from the field. We did not leave this position with the Battery until our support was gone. We fell in the rear of the retreat. Regiment after regiment and other batteries passed us. The field and the road were strewn with provisions, muskets, blankets, pistols, swords, axes, shovels, wagons overthrown, and everything you can imagine, while the wounded were begging in vain for a chance to ride. The enemy here brought their artillery to bear upon our rear. On arriving at the bridge they commenced to shell us. One horse was killed near me, and several men, and I told my command to get away as best they could. There were about forty killed at the bridge. The rebel cavalry charged on Sergeant Hammond, as he was bearing a wounded man, but he escaped them with the loss of his cap. We arrived at our camp of the night before about 8 o’clock and, after resting awhile, took up our march to Washington. The streets were crowded with citizens, although it rained hard as we marched through, and many eyes were dimmed with tears for the loss of the Rhode Islanders.

Yours, truly,
Sergeant

Providence Evening Press 7/31/1861

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Unknown, 2nd Rhode Island Battery, On the Battle (1)

14 09 2011

The Second Battery

The following extract from a letter of a member of the second battery tells very clearly the part that battery played in the battle. Having described their march to the forest beyond Centreville, the writer says:

“The axmen of the 2nd New Hampshire regiment, some 25 strong, led the way; then followed the 2nd Rhode Island regiment, the light battery being immediately in the rear of the regiment, and the 1st regiment in our rear. We marched slowly but steadily, gradually working around to the left and rear of their batteries at Sutter’s Mills, till 11 o’clock, when upon the head of the column appearing through a grove, they were greeted with the compliments of a 10 gun battery on a hill to their left. ‘Forward’ was the word now, and forward we went, the horses on the jump, and came into ‘battery’ in a field on the left of our line of march, under a heavy fire from their battery and from a body of infantry concealed in a wood just to the left of our position. It was rather nervous business for one who had never seen anything but ‘muster day’ encounters to find the balls flying round his head, perfectly regardless of whom they might hit, and to see one of our horses shot dead before the gun he was harnessed to could be turned round and brought into position. The 2d regiment deployed  and drove the enemy’s riflemen from the wood, so that we could confined our attention to the battery in front, which we silenced after firing some 250 shell into it. Gen. McDowell came up just as they stopped firing, and said ‘Well done, Rhode Island boys!’. We were next sent to an open field on the right to engage another battery, and after firing a short time, the left section, under Lieut. Monroe, was sent to the extreme right to support Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries, while the right and centre sections were ordered to the front to support the battery of Captain R. Arnold.

When the left section reached its position, they were within 40 yards of the enemy’s lines, and their men and horses  completely exhausted. Capt. Reynolds seeing the enemy were about to charge, and the artillery being without support, ordered a retreat, and brought off both guns and one caisson. The other caisson was taken, the horses being killed. Our boys were particularly fortunate in saving their guns, for Griffin’s and Rickett’s batteries were both taken at this time, and our guns were placed between theirs.

The other sections were busily engaged all this time with a battery of much heavier calibre, until their ammunition was nearly expended, when they were ordered to fall to the rear. One of our gun carriages was shattered, and we were obliged to have the piece slung under the limber to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy. We then formed our battery in regular column of sections, and moved off in the rear of the regiment. At this time our troops had been driven back at every point, and the order was given to retreat. Our column moved back over the road they had  travelled so proudly in the morning, in great confusion. Lieut. Col. Wheaton rallied the 2d, and Col. Burnside the 1st, and marched them off in good style.

When we reached the bridge across the Bull Run, the enemy opened on us a terrible fire of shot, shell and musketry, which caused a perfect stampede among the troops. The teamers on the government baggage wagons upset their wagons across the bridge and entrance to the ford, and we were obliged to abandon our guns. We only saved one piece, which was carried over just before the fire commenced. I was at the rear of the column when they opened their battery. The second shot they fired took off the head of a soldier who had his hand on the bridle of my horse. From the bridge we moved on the ‘double quick’ to Centreville, where we met the reserve column under Gen. Runyon, who protected the retreat of the flying troops. At Centreville I took —— on my horse and rode ‘double’ to our old camping ground, where we rested for a couple of hours and then turned towards Washington. We found our baggage wagons, three in number, at Utterbachs, and throwing out all the baggage, put our men in them, and so brought them through in quite good shape. I was glad enough to get some sleep when I reached camp. Twenty-six hours in the saddle and four on the battlefield is rather harder work than I have been accustomed to.

Lieut. Weeden had his horse shot under him. The ball struck about six inches from his leg. I was hit four or five times by spent balls. One dented my field glass so that the lower slide won’t work.

All our men worked like heroes, and one of their officers, who was carried to our hospital to have his wounds dressed, said ‘that Rhode Island battery cut up our men terribly.’
We are ready for another dash at them, and to morrow we start for Harper’s Ferry to take the place of the first battery.”

Providence Journal 7/31/1861

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Capt. James B. Ricketts’s Capture by the 7th GA

13 09 2009

Capt. Maddoe letter*

The 7th Ga. Inf. was the regiment that took the first battery of the enemy on position in the field – capturing the battery of Capt., since Mag. Gen’l., Rickett, U.S.A.  It was stationed near the Henry house.  Gen’l. Bartow was leading the regiment at that time, and was shot through the heart while he had the colors of the 7th Ga. in his hand. 

We  (illegible word) found Capt. Rickett in the rear, shot through the leg & very much frightened, thinking that we would kill him, as he had reportedly told his men we serve them, if we captured any of them.

He immediately denounced his own cause & justified ours by saying he was an honest man, because he belonged to the Regular army and was honor-bound to obey orders, no matter what the cause. 

“Have you had any water, sir?”

“Yes thank you, I am an honest man.”

Others came up

“Gentlemen, I am an honest man.”

An old comrade came up, dressed in Confederate uniform.

“Why Cap’t. Rickett!  How do you do, sir?”

“You know I am an honest man.”

The Capt. Was nearly frightened to death & in momentary expectation of being bayoneted.

From South Carolina Department of Archives & History, Columbia SC.

Misc. Records

1864-1903  Box 9

[Contributed by Dr. Thomas Clemens, Keedysville, Md]

[*The writer may be Captain Charles K. Maddox of the 7th Georgia]





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.

R.B.Ayres

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.