Image: Capt. William Grosvenor Ely, Acting Commissary, Keyes’s Brigade

21 01 2022
William Grosvenor Ely (Source)

William Grosvenor Ely at Ancestry

William Grosvenor Ely at Fold3

William Grosvenor Ely at FindAGrave

Capt. William Grosvenor Ely, Keyes’s Brigade Commissary, On Col. Keyes’s Conduct

19 01 2022



From an officer at the battle of Bull Run we have the following:

Editor Star: On perusing your columns, as usual, on the 31st of July, my especial attention was called to an article entitled “An entirely different statement of the case,” purporting to come from a staff officer who served with distinction at Bull Run.

Having been with Col. E. D. Keyes all day in the hottest of the fight among the last in the retreat at Bull Run, I had an opportunity to notice some of the events of that day. I believe the adage “Give the devil his due,” would be a just one, and for that reason take my pen in hand to do justice to one who conducted himself in the coolest and most commendable manner in the battle and in the retreat at Bull Run. In doing this, I must refute some of the statements of the distinguished (nameless) staff officer.

It gives me pleasure to affirm that Col. Keyes was not seen in full gallop away from his men, between the hospital and Centreville; but that on my informing him that he was getting too far in rear of his brigade, he hastened forward to direct the movements of his brigade, and then rode at a slow pace, keeping his soldiers together as much as circumstances would permit.

On leaving the field of action, Colonel Keyes brought off his brigade in perfect order – in fact the soldiers did not know that they were retreating until they entered the main road to Centreville. As they passed the hospital, the influx of strayed soldiers and civilians was so great as to break the ranks of that, and every other brigade on the road.

After the first charge of cavalry, Gen. Schenck’s command passed by, leaving the rear guard of the retreating column to the last regiment of Col. Keyes’s brigade, viz: The Third Connecticut Regiment, commanded by Col. Chatfield. This regiment did efficient service in repulsing two charges of cavalry, and in assisting the artillery over the bridge, besides which service they brought into camp with them two deserted cannon and sixteen horses.

On the night of the battle, Col. Keyes’s brigade camped at Centreville. The next morning they arrived in good order at Fall’s Church, struck their own tents and sent them to Washington, and camped that night in the deserted camp of the Ohio brigade.

The next morning, by order of Col. Keyes, the Connecticut regiments struck to tents of the Ohio brigade, loaded them on the cars and forwarded them to Alexandria, and at sunset on the 23d ult. Bivouacked in good order near Fort Corcoran.

The above are facts which I can substantiate by high authority in Washington, and by at least 1,500 witnesses to the removals of the camp.

Before closing, let me recall to the distinguished staff officer the good old maxim, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Moral: Had he been in his place, his patriotic appeals to his own command might have availed much; whereas, out of place he added one to the number, thereby creating confusion.

Wm. G. Ely

(Washington, DC) Evening Star, 8/3/1861

Clipping Image

William Grosvenor Ely has records in both the 1st and 2nd Connecticut at this time. In his after-action report, Keyes refers to him as Lieutenant Ely, however below records show him as a captain.

William Grosvenor Ely at Ancestry

William Grosvenor Ely at Fold3

William Grosvenor Ely at FindAGrave