Observer, U. S. Marine Battalion, On the Battle

8 06 2015

U. S. Marines at the Battle of Bull Run.

Correspondence of the Traveller.

Washington, August 9.

The battalion of United States Marines, commanded by Major John Geo. Reynolds, were in the action from the commencement until the retreat sounded. During the day they supported Griffin’s Battery, and in the charges that they made, fought with desperation; and throughout the entire battle behaved with all the coolness of veterans. The most of these men were raw recruits some of them never having been instructed in the drill prior to their departure for the field. All honor is due to our noble and gallant Major (Reynolds), who in so short a space of time raised them to such a state of efficiency, that they could favorably compare with the best men on the field. I think there are very few officers in the United States service who have the art of imparting knowledge to recruits to such a degree as Major Reynolds. On the field he behaved with coolness, and bravely led his battalion against the rebel hordes. When I saw how gallantly he acted, his long white locks streaming in the wind, I felt that I would freely sacrifice my life to have saved his. God has spared him while others have been stricken down. Lieut. Hitchcock was struck dead with a rifled cannon shot. Our officers have all shown, that although young (some of them smelling powder for the first time), they inherit the natural bravery of their ancestors. I think after this the Confederates will give the Marines a wide berth.

Major Leilin[*] was shot through the arm while leading his Company in the final charge. Among others who distinguished themselves was Lieutenant William H. Hale, who acted in a gallant and heroic manner, rallying our men by examples of bravery seldom surpassed. After Sherman’s Battery was taken by the enemy, Gen. McDowell ordered the Marines to advance and retake the guns. Lieut. Hale seized the Battalion Colors, and , while urging the men forward, was struck in the leg with a Minie Rifle Ball, inflicting a severe and dangerous wound. Paying but little attention to the wound, he continued at his post until the order of retreat was given. After having regained the other side, where our own forces were drawn up, he gave up the Colors to his commanding officer, and fell from exhaustion.

The Marines were the last to leave the field, covering the retreat of our retiring forces, and bravely contesting the ground with the rebels, inch by inch. Major Leilin, Major Nicholson, Captain Allan Ramsey, Lieutenants Monroe, Grimes, Baker, and Huntington, all behaved in a gallant and meritorious manner. Fifty-two of the Marines are killed and missing, and 22 wounded.

Major Reynolds is very active at present (having recovered from the fatigues of our long march,) in promoting the proficiency of our corps, drilling the men early and late. The Major is the able constructor and designer of the new Marine Barracks in Boston, said to be convenient, comfortable, and superior to any other Barracks in the United States.

Our men are now ready for the field, and eager for the fray. Gen. McDowell and staff gave our Battalion great credit for the manner in which they conducted themselves while under fire.



[*] Edit – Jacob Zeilin, commanding Co. A of the battalion, would later become the seventh commandant of the U. S. Marine Corps, its first non-brevet general officer, and approved the corps’ eagle, globe, and anchor emblem.

Based on the narrative, it is assumed the author is a member of the battalion.

Boston Daily Evening Traveller, 8/13/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

The Marine Battalion’s Bull Run Flag

19 01 2011

Friend Craig Swain sent this image of the flag carried by the U. S. Marine Battalion at First Bull Run. 

The flag is in the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, VA.

Per Craig:

The caption under the flag reads:

Civil War Marine Corps Colors.

Maj. John Reynolds’ Marine Battalion reportedly carried this flag at the First Battle of Manassas, 21 July 1861.  The battalion, comprised primarily of raw recruits with three weeks’ service, suffered the same fate as the rest of the Federal army in their defeat by the Confederate Army.

Artifact tag number is 1974.2768.1.

You can view this and other images from Craig’s trip to the museum here.

Read more about the Marines at First Bull Run here, here, here, and here.

Robert Hitchcock

22 05 2010

The letters from Lt. Robert Hitchcock, USMC to his parents prior to the Battle of Bull Run were part of a larger article published in the March/April, 1992 Civil War Times Illustrated.  The article consisted of several Hitchcock letters, annotated by David M. Sullivan and including biographical information on Hitchcock.

Robert Emmett Hitchcock: born 9/29/1839 Shoreham, VT; B. S. Norwich University, 1859; appealed to Vermont congressional delegation for a Marine Corps commission 4/1861; drilled recruits of 2nd VT Volunteer Infantry, Waterbury, VT 4/61 – 5/61; reported to Marine Barracks, Washington DC 6/12/61, and appointed 2nd Lt. to date from 6/5/61; with 1st Lt. Alan Ramsey commanded Company C of four companies of the battalion assigned to Porter’s brigade of Hunter’s Division of McDowell’s Army, 7/16/61; while providing support to Hasbrouck’s section of Griffin’s Co. D, 5th U. S. Artillery on Henry House Hill during Battle of First Bull Run, struck in the face by a Confederate shell and killed instantly, 7/21/61; body assumed buried by Confederates on the field and not recovered; memorial in Lakeview Cemetery, Shoreham, VT.


Photos from

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2nd Lt. Robert Hitchcock, USMC to His Parents on the Eve of Battle

20 05 2010

U. S. Marine Barracks

Washington, D. C.

July 14, 1861

Dear Parents,

Your letter came to hand yesterday.  I was very happy to hear from you at this time in particular.  Last night, after I passed down the line to receive the reports of the companies, I was met by Capt. Jones, who said to me, “Mr. Hitchcock, prepare to take the field on Monday morning.”  So tomorrow morning will see me and five other Lieuts. with 300 Marines, raw recruits in every sense of the term, on our way to Fairfax Court House to take part in a bloody battle which is to take place, it is thought, about Wednesday.  This is unexpected to us, and the Marines are not fit to go into the field, for every man of them is raw as you please, not more than a hundred of them have been here over three weeks.  We have no camp equipage of any kind, not even tents, and after all this, we are expected to take the brunt of battle.  We are to be commanded by Major Reynolds, I suppose.  We shall do as well as we can under the circumstances: just think of it, 300 raw men in the field!  We shall drill all day and work hard.  I have been very busy all day thus far but have taken a little time to write you.  I have left my things with Lieut. Wm. H. Parker, and my watch also.  He has my address and will take good care of my clothes, watch, etc.  By writing to him you can find out about my matters.  In case anything happens to me, he will send my things to you, and you can do as you like with them.  Lieuts. Baker, Burrough and Parker will be left here at the Barracks, and any of them would be pleased to ive you information in regard to me or my matters.  I hope the God of Battles will give me strength and wisdom to act wisely, and do my duty well.  I am not prepared to die, but I am prepared to serve my country, and stand by the Stars and Stripes till the last.  I am well and in good spirits.  May God bless you all, is the wish of your

Affectionate Son,


P. S.  My love to all, and best regards to all my friends.  I am just informed that we leave tomorrow evening.


Camp near Centreville, Virginia

Head Quarters Battalion Marines

Col. Porter’s Brigade,

Corps Reserve

July 20th , 1861

Dear Parents,

We have been in the field nearly a week now and have not had an engagement yet.  The enemy has fled before us as we approached their different positions.  We expected to have a fight at Fairfax Court House but as we approached their works they fled leaving a great quantity of flour, Ham, Pork, spears, shovels, etc.  The works at Fairfax were good and they could have held us in check for a while, but would have been routed after a while by a flank movement.  The Confederates made a stand at Bull Run which is between our camp and Centreville an about two miles from us.

A fight took place at Centreville day before yesterday, the result of which we cannot get at, there are so many different reports.  We have been at this encampment about 36 hours waiting for Patterson’s and McClellan’s to come up with their columns in order to make a combined attack upon Manassas Junction where the rebels are collected in great force.  We shall bring a force of nearly 129,000 men against them: how the battle will terminate I know not.  At Centreville the  forces engaged were the N.Y. 69th and 12th Regts.  The 12th did not stand fire well after a little and went in.  They were in a tight spot.  They were in an angle in the road which was covered by a masqued battery that opened upon them rather unexpectedly.  The killed and wounded amt. to 29, six I think were killed.  I do not know when we shall advance, we may take up the line of march today, and may not leave here for a number of days.  We are without tents or anything of the kind, still we manage to live very well.  I am well.  This is rather a rough life after all, in the field as we are without the usual convenience of camp.  The 23rd Regulars are next to us commanded by Maj. Stiaso, I think.  Just now as I write, four men of the Regt. are receiving 50 lashes for desertion; rather hard I tell you.  I shall write as often as I can.  I cannot write more today.  I was on guard last night and must get rest as to be ready to advance.  I hope you are well at home.  Much love to you and the family.  Give my regards to all that inquire after me.

As every, your aft. son,


[Civil War Times Illustrated, March/April 1992 – courtesy of reader Mike Pellegrini]


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Marines at First Bull Run

23 07 2008

Yep, they were there, too.  If Reynolds’ report piqued your interest, you can read more about leathernecks at Manassas here.


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