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.


The New York Times Tackles the Sherman’s Battery Controversy

24 11 2008


Thanks so much to reader Linda Mott for once again coming up with a link to a topical newspaper article, this time a New York Times piece from August 11, 1861 (see here).  A couple of things: 

Note that T. W. and W. T. were not classmates at West Point.  T. W. graduated 18th of 49 cadets in 1836.  W. T. was 6th of 42 four years later, 1840. (Cullum)

During the Bull Run campaign, T. W. was in Pennsylvania recruiting for the 5th U. S. Artillery. (Cullum)

As for the two men being “great friends”, they did serve together at Ft. Moultrie in Charleston, SC in 1846.  T. W. rejoined W. T. in the Army of the Tennessee very briefly after Shiloh, and ran into him again briefly in New Orleans in March, 1864.  W. T.’s references to T. W. in his memoirs are cursory, giving no hint that they were ever “great” anythings, friends or otherwise. (Memoirs of General William T. Sherman)

Notice too that the article refers to the famous Sherman’s Battery.

I wish I could figure out that mouseover trick of Robert’s – it would save me having to make these explanatory posts.

The Two Shermans

24 11 2008

The New York Times, August 11, 1861 (see here)

The Two Shermans.

From the Cincinnati Commercial.

Not a little error and confusion has been created by writers in the newspapers, especially since the recent battle before Manassas Junction, by confounding the names of two meritorious officers in the Army.  There are two Col. Shermans in the Army: Col. William T. Sherman, of Ohio, and Col. Thomas W. Sherman, of Rhode Island.  The former is the only one of the two who was engaged in the battle at Bull Run.  He is a brother of John Sherman, Senator from Ohio.  He is not the Capt. Sherman who first organized the famous Sherman’s Battery.

There are some points of remarkable similarity in the case of the two Shermans, which have easily led those ignorant of their history and position into confounding them together.  Their initials are similar – one being W. T. and the other T. W. Sherman; they both graduated in the same class at West Point; both entered the same regiment – the Third Artillery; both served in the Mexican War; and both have been recently appointed Brigadier Generals.

It is T. W. Sherman, of Rhode Island, who commanded and gave his name to “Sherman’s Battery,” which he organized in Mexico, where he served under Taylor and Scott, and which was doing duty on the frontier (Minnesota) when the difficulties with the seceded States broke out.

W. T. Sherman, of Ohio, was found at the beginning of these troubles at the head of a State Military Academy in Louisiana, and upon the secession of that State he resigned, refusing to serve in a State disloyal to the Government.  When the new regiments of the regular Army were formed, Sherman, of Ohio, was appointed Colonel of the Thirteenth Infantry, and Sherman, of Rhode Island, was made Lieutenant-Colonel of the Fifth Artillery, and shortly after, by promotion of Col. Hunter, became Colonel of that regiment.

Sherman’s Battery, although it still retains the name, is now really Ayres’ Battery.  It was Col. Sherman, of Ohio, who commanded the Brigade in the battle fo Bull Run composed of the following regiments:

Seventy-ninth New-York (Highlanders,) Col. Cameron.

Sixty-ninth New-York, (Irish,) Col. Corcoran.

Thirteenth New-York.

Second Wisconsin.

He also had accompanying his Brigade, and under his orders, the Battery of Capt. Ayres, (Shermans Battery,) which was not captured by the enemy, as claimed by all the rebel newspapers, but after a desperate contest every gun was brought off in safety, and was replanted on Capitol Hill, from whence it has since been removed across the Potomac.

Col. Sherman, of Rhode Island, was not in the battle, but was on duty elsewhere.  Both of the Shermans are regarded in the Army as among its best officers.  Both are now Generals, and there is little doubt that they will distinguish themselves in the service, and very probably their actions will be confounded in future as in the past, and each receive the credit due the other.  At this, the two Shermans will not complain, for they are great friends, although not related to each other.

(See explanatory comments here).

Sorry – Sherman’s Battery Yet Again.

2 11 2008

For some reason that escapes me now, I was looking at this site today, specifically at this picture:

This picture isn’t new to me.  I’ve used it in my round table program, and I’ve posted it here before.  It appeared in the June 8, 1861 issue of Harper’s Weekly.  The caption reads SHERMAN’S BATTERY OF LIGHT ARTILLERY, NOW IN VIRGINIA.  The word SHERMAN’S is hyperlinked to another issue of Harper’s Weekly featuring a story on William T. Sherman.  You’ll also notice that the Son of the South page is titled General William T. Sherman’s Artillery.  As you may recall from this series of posts, I contend that this battery, which is undoubtedly Company (Battery) E of the 3rd US Artillery, and which was undoubtedly attached to William T. Sherman’s brigade at Bull Run, was referred to as Sherman’s Battery not because of the commander of the brigade to which it was attached, but rather because of its commander in the War with Mexico, Thomas W. Sherman, who was not with McDowell’s army.  Seeing this link on this particular web page today set me off, and I had to find more to support my belief that people making this I.D. get it wrong.

It doesn’t seem that anyone at the time got it wrong – the mistakes get made later, by historians and other writers, including big shots like C. Vann Woodward.  On page 105 of Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, editor Woodward footnoted Chesnut’s mention of the capture of Sherman’s Battery, explaining that she probably meant Ricketts’s battery, “which was not a part of the brigade commanded by Col. William Tecumseh Sherman”.  She probably DID mean Sherman’s Battery, which was famous for its Mexican War service and just happened to be part of Sherman’s brigade, because ill-informed Confederate reports of its capture abounded.  But she probably never heard of the obscure colonel at the head of the brigade to which the battery was attached.

At the time, people writing about Sherman’s Battery knew just what they were talking about.  It seems obvious to me that artillery batteries simply were not named for the commanders of the infantry brigade to whom they may have been temporarily attached – can you imagine an artilleryman happily serving in a battery named for an INFANTRY commander?  But I wanted to see if I could find any mention of the battery in the ORs prior to the battle.

I found two, in the same volume of the ORs (Series I, Vol. 2) that contains the Bull Run reports and correspondence.  On page 39, NY militia Major General Charles W. Sandford wrote in a report on the advance of Federal forces to Arlington Heights and Alexandria, dated May 28, 1861:

Sherman’s battery of light artillery rendered prompt and efficient service throughout the movement, and one of the sections captured the troop of Virginia Cavalry at Alexandria.

On page 40, Samuel Heintzelman’s report of the same action mentions Sherman’s battery again, but that report is dated July 20:

Captain Brackett commanded the company of cavalry (I, Second Cavalry) that crossed the Long Bridge, and the artillery, I think, belonged to Maj. T. W. Sherman’s battery.

That seals it for me, in two ways.  First, Heintzelman refers to the battery (which was indeed Battery E, 3rd US: even the compilers knew that, because I found these two pages in the index under that heading) as T. W. Sherman’s.  Second, Sandford’s report, in which he mentions Sherman’s battery, was written on May 28, 1861.  William T. Sherman didn’t receive a brigade to command until a month later, on June 30.

#61 – Lieut. Oliver D. Greene

28 10 2008

Report of Lieut. Oliver D. Greene, Second U.S. Artillery

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 436-437

ALEXANDRIA, VA., July 24, 1861

SIR: In compliance with your circular order of this date, just received, I have the honor to report that, on the morning of the 21st instant, my battery was placed in position in reserve near Centreville by Colonel Miles, commanding division, in person. Shortly afterwards, I received an order to hasten to the front with it, at Bull Run, as the enemy were there in force, and supposed to be attempting to turn our left flank. I took it forward as rapidly as possible, and came into action on the crest of a hill about six hundred yards from the enemy’s line of skirmishers. I opened fire immediately upon a fixed battery partially masked by the woods, at a distance of about fifteen hundred yards, and also upon a point where it was known another masked battery was placed. The enemy were congregated in considerable force inside of the first battery, but as soon as I got the range the spherical case shot dispersed them and they disappeared from that position for nearly three hours. I then ceased firing, while skirmishers were thrown to the front from Colonel Richardson’s brigade to feel the strength of the enemy in the edge of the woods in front of us. They were found to be in overwhelming force, and as our skirmishers retired theirs advanced in very strong force, but incautiously presented their flank to my battery. I threw in canister and spherical case as rapidly as possible, killing and wounding several, the first shot knocking over three. I kept up this fire for about five minutes, when I supposed the enemy were driven from that immediate vicinity. I then turned the fire of the battery upon columns of dust seen rising above the woods and indicating the march of troops in mass. Whether any effect was produced or not by this fire I cannot say.

At this time Lieutenant Prime, of the Engineers, directed my attention to a group of thirty or forty horsemen, evidently officers, on the plateau opposite, who, with maps on their horses’ necks, were apparently taking a view of our position and strength at a safe distance. By digging a hole under the trail I got two pieces bearing upon them at an angle of twenty-five or thirty degrees. The distance must have been two and one-half or three miles, but the first shot sent the center figure of the group to the rear; the second scattered the remainder in all directions. Firing was then ordered to cease at all the guns, for some time nothing appearing worth attention, until finally a cloud of dust was seen approaching our position from the direction of Manassas upon a road that was entirely concealed by woods from our sight except at one bare spot within our best range, and the range of this point we had got accurately before. The guns were all prepared with shell and spherical case, and pointed upon this spot. When the head of the column appeared it proved to be a battery of light artillery. I opened fire upon it instantly, and fired with the utmost rapidity. The smoke of the guns obscured my sight, so that I saw none of the effect produced, but Colonel Richardson, who was looking with a glass, informed me afterwards that I cut them up badly, and forced them to turn back. We saw them no more. Shortly after this one of my men called my attention to the battery we first fired upon. The enemy were endeavoring to plant field piece, the horses of which were just passing to the rear as I looked with my glass. I opened upon them with spherical case, firing several rounds. When the smoke cleared away there was no gun to be seen, and the battery gave me no more trouble during the day.

About this time heavy re-enforcements commenced being sent into the main action from Manassas, passing along the plateau opposite, and at about two miles distance. I fired upon them as often as large masses could be seen to justify firing at such a distance. Not much effect was produced, so far as I could see. One column of cavalry was, however, scattered in all directions by a solid shot. Very little firing was done by us for the next two hours, at which time we were ordered to Centreville to protect our left flank and our retreat. I chose a position on the crest of a hill, which from its shape gave me command of the ground to our left, and also of the road along which our division was retiring. From the position I could perfectly sweep with my fire 180 degrees front right and left down a gentle slope. Four regiments were placed as my supports, and the force at the point could have stopped double its number.

At this time an unauthorized person gave the order to retreat. I refused to obey the order, but all my supporting regiments but one (Colonel Jackson’s Eighteenth New York) moved off to the rear. Colonel Jackson most gallantly offered his regiment as a support for the battery, saying “that it should remain by me as long as there was any fighting to be done there.” The above-mentioned unauthorized person again made his appearance at this time and again ordered me to retreat, and ordered Colonel Jackson to form in column of division on my right and retreat with me, as all was lost. The order was, of course, disregarded, and in about two minutes the head of a column of the enemy’s cavalry came up at a run, opening out of the woods in beautiful order. I was prepared for it, and the column had not gone more than a hundred yards out of the woods before four shells were burst at their head and directly in their midst. They broke in every direction, and no more cavalry came out of the woods. Shortly after my battery was ordered to fall a little farther to the rear, to form in a park of artillery. At that point the battery remained until about 12 o’clock at night, when it was ordered to take up the line of march for Washington, which point it arrived at in perfect order, although much exhausted, men and horses having been hard at work for thirty hours, almost without food and water and without sleep.

My officers, Lieutenants Cushing, Harris, and Butler, were coolly and assiduously attentive to their duties during the day. The accuracy of our fire was mainly owing to their personal supervision of each shot. The men of the company behaved well, and every one seemed to try and do his duty in the best possible manner. My only trouble was to keep the drivers from leaving their horses to assist at the guns.

To Lieutenant Prime, of the Engineers, and Colonel Richardson, of the Third Michigan Regiment, I am indebted for the most valuable assistance in securing the best effect from the firing.

One of the officers and one of the men were struck by spent balls, but I am happy to say we had no loss either in men or horses.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


First Lieutenant, Second Artillery, Comdg. Light Co.

G. F. H. COWDREY, Acting Asst. Adjt. Gen.,

Second Brig., Fifth Div., Colonel Davies, Comdg.

#50 – Capt. Richard Arnold

1 10 2008

Report of Capt. Richard Arnold, Fifth U. S. Artillery

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 416-417

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 25, 1861

SIR: In compliance with your order, I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of Light Company D, Second Artillery, in the battle of the 21st instant, at Bull Run:

The brigade to which my battery was attached halted, on arriving to the right and rear of the enemy to rest the men and prepare for action, and the battery was placed under cover in a ravine to await further orders. As soon as the brigades in advance became engaged, I was ordered to place my battery to the left and rear, to guard well that flank, and prevent its being turned and the enemy gaining our rear. Scarcely was this position reached when orders came to move forward as quickly as possible to the support of Captain Ricketts, then warmly engaged in front and in great peril. The pieces were immediately limbered, and the battery run up under whip and spur, and placed in position about eight hundred yards from the enemy’s lines, to support and give confidence to the volunteers. A rapid and incessant fire was kept up for one hour and a half, throwing at least four hundred rounds of shot, shell, spherical case, and some canister, and I was informed did good execution. Their loss from artillery must have been very heavy. During all this time the battery was exposed to a severe and most accurate artillery fire.

Owing to the great loss of horses, the exhaustion of the men, and the fear that I should not be able to bring my pieces off the field, the volunteers supporting me having left the position assigned them very soon after I commenced firing, I was induced, after consultation with my officers, to withdraw to the left and rear, when Lieutenant Barriger was dispatched to Colonel Heintzelman. He returned without finding him. I then, in the absence of any superior officers, moved to the right, where I thought I could be of great service, and at once received orders from Captain Fry to cover the retreat, as I was informed the order to retreat had been given.

During the rest of the day I commanded the left section and brought up the rear, the right section, under Lieutenant Barriger, being in advance of the regular cavalry. At one time a body of the enemy’s cavalry threatened our rear, but two rounds of canister dispersed them, and we were not again threatened until we arrived near Cub Run, when the battery was exposed to a severe flank and enfilading fire from artillery and infantry to a bridge across that stream, which had been destroyed or broken in by the advanced trains and artillery. Seeing at once that it was impossible to push forward or extricate the guns, I gave orders to spike them and clear as many horses as possible. Had my battery not been detailed in the rear, it might have been saved; but it was sacrificed to prevent a total rout and great loss, which would certainly have ensued had not the display of cavalry and artillery given the impression that the Army was retiring in good order.

Too much praise cannot be bestowed upon the officers of my company, Lieutenants Barriger and Throckmorton, for their gallantry and efficiency during the action. The non-commissioned officers and privates all to a man stood to their posts and performed their duties most gallantly.

From fifteen to twenty horses were killed and wounded on the battlefield and at Cub Run.

The following is a list of the killed, wounded, and missing.(*)

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain, Fifth Artillery, Comdg. Light Co. D, Second Artillery


Second Brigade

(*) Embodied in division return, p. 405

#45 – Lieut. Edmund Kirby

28 09 2008

Report of Lieut. Edmund Kirby, First U.S. Artillery

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, p. 407

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 1861

SIR: I submit the following report:

On Sunday, July 21, Capt. J. B. Ricketts was ordered to place his battery in position at about one thousand five hundred yards from the enemy. An order was afterwards received to advance about one thousand yards, which was executed at a trot, and where we remained in battery, firing as fast as possible, until obliged to retreat, leaving six rifled guns on the field.

Capt. J. B. Ricketts was severely wounded at this critical moment, and First Lieut. Douglas Ramsay was killed.

Lieut. W. A. Elderkin conducted the limbers and caissons to the rear, as I was separated from the battery at the moment the retreat became general. I joined the battery soon after and continued the retreat, but was obliged to abandon everything at Bull Run except three limbers and fifty-six horses.

The non-commissioned officers and privates acted with great bravery, and remained on the field as long as possible. Our casualties are: Left on the field, 6 rifled guns and 49 horses; abandoned on the read, 6 caissons, 3 limbers, 1 battery-wagon, and 1 forge.

Killed: 1 officer and 11 men; wounded, 1 officer and 14 men. Total 27.(*)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My present station is the Park House, foot of Seventh street, Washington, D. C.

Respectfully submitted.


Second Lieutenant, First U.S. Artillery, Comdg. Light Company I

(*) Nominal lis of casualties omitted.


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