Capt. John C. Tidball, Co. A, 2nd U. S. Artillery, On Battle and Retreat

6 02 2021

As previously stated I was with Blenker’s brigade of Miles’s division, the duty of which was to guard Blackburn’s and other fords. Early on the forenoon of the 21st (July) I took post on a prominent knoll overlooking the valley of Bull Run. Here I remained in readiness to move my battery quickly to any point where its service might be required. Stretched out before me was a beautiful prospect. To the south, directly in front of me, distance about five miles, was Manassas Junction, where we could perceive trains arriving and departing. Those coming from the direction of Manassas were carrying Johnston’s troops from the Shenandoah. Around towards our right was the Sudley Springs country, nearing which the turning column now was. All the country in that direction appeared from our point of view, to be a dense forest, and a good of it was in woods, the foliage and buildings only were discernible. Among these were the Robinson and Henry houses, and the fields upon the plateau soon to become famous in history as the scene of deadly strife. Still further around to our right and rear, distant about a mile was Centreville, a mere village of the “Old Virginny” type. Through it ran the old dilapidated turnpike from Alexandria to Warrenton. By this road soon commenced to arrive a throng of sightseers from Washington. They came in all manner of ways, some in stylish carriages, others in city hacks, and still others in buggies, on horseback and even on foot. Apparently everything in the shape of vehicles in and around Washington had been pressed into service for the occasion. It was Sunday and everybody seemed to have taken a general holiday; that is all the male population, for I saw none of the other sex there, except a few huxter women who had driven out in carts loaded wit pies and other edibles. All manner of people were represented in this crowd, from most grave and noble senators to hotel waiters. As they approached the projecting knoll on which I was posted seemed to them an eligible point of view, and to it they came in throngs, leaving their carriages along side of the road with the horses hitched to the worm fence at either side, When all available space along the road was occupied they drove into the vacant fields behind me and hitched their horses to the bushes with which it was in a measure overgrown. As a rule, they made directly for my battery, eagerly scanning the country before them from which now came the roar of artillery and from which could occasionally be heard the faint rattle of musketry. White smoke rising here and there showing distinctly against the dark green foliage, indicated the spot where the battle was in progress. I was plied with questions innumerably. To those with whom I thought it worth while I explained, so far as I could, the plan of the operation then in progress. But invariably I was asked why I was posted where I was, and why I was not around where the fighting was going on. To all of which I could only reply that the plan of the battle required that we should guard the left until the proper time came for us to engage. To make my explanation more lucid I said if the enemy were allowed freedom to break through here where would you all be. Most of the sightseers were evidently disappointed at that they saw, or rather did not see. They no doubt expected to see a battle as represented in pictures; the opposing lines drawn up as on parade with horsemen galloping hither and thither, and probably expecting to see something of the sort by a nearer view of the field they hurried on in the direction of the sound of battle, leaving their carriages by the roadside or in the fields. These were the people that made such a panic at the Cub Run bridge.

Among those who thus halted a little while with me were several that I knew. One party in particular attracted my attention. This was Dr. Nichols, then in charge of the government Insane Asylum; Senator Wilson from Massachusetts, Chairman of the Senate Military Committee; “Old Ben” Wade, Senator from Ohio, and a wheel horse of the Republican part; and “Old Jim” Lane, senator from Kansas, and another political war horse. All of these were full of the “On to Richmond” fever, and were impatient to see more of the battle. I endeavored to dissuade them from proceeding further, that if they would only remain awhile they would probably see as much of it as they would care to see. But Old Jim was firey, he said he must have a hand in it himself. His friends not wishing to go so far as that tried to convince him that he could do no good in the fight without a gun. “O never mind that,” he said, “I can easily find a musket on the field. I have been there before and know that guns are easily found where fighting is going on. I have been there before and know what it is.” He had been colonel of an Indiana regimt during the Mexican ware, and this was the old war fire sparkling out again. Nothing could hold him back and off the parted started down the slope and over the fields in the direction of the firing. I saw nothing more of them until late in the afternoon.

About 4. P. M. an aid (Major Wadsworth) came hurredly to me with instructions from General McDowell, to hasten with my battery down the turnpike towards the Stone Bridge. I supposed this was simply in accordance with the developments of the battle, and that the turning movemt had now progressed so far that we could now cross over and take part in it. To get on the turnpike I had to go through Centreville, where I saw Colonel Miles, our division commander, airing himself on the porch of the village inn. By this time the road was pretty well crowded with ambulances carrying the wounded, and other vehicles, all hurredly pressing to the rear. Miles, evidently in ignorance of what was transpiring at the front, asked me what was up. I could only answer that I had been ordered to proceed down towards the Stone Bridge; and then I proceeded, but the farther I proceeded the thicker the throng because of wagons, ambulances and other vehicles. The road being cut on the side of a hill had a steep bank up on its left and a steep bank down on the left, so that I could not take to the fields on either side. My horses were scraped and jammed by the vehicles struggling to pass me in the opposite direction. As far as I could see ahead the road was crowded in like manner. Finally it became impossible for me to gain another inch, and while standing waiting for a thinning out of the struggling mass, a man came riding up towards me, inquiring excitedly, “whose battery is this.” I told him that I commanded it. “Reverse it immediately and get out of here, I have orders from General McDowell to clear this road” and added that the army had been ignominiously and was now retreating. He was curious, wild looking individual. Although the day was oppressively hot he had on an overcoat – evidently a soldier’s overcoat dyed a brownish black. On his head he wore a soft felt hat the broad brim of which flopped up and down at each of his energetic motions. But notwithstanding the broadness of the brim it did not protect his face from sunburn, and his nose was red and peeling from the effects of it. He had no signs of an officer about him and I would have taken him for an orderly had he not had with him a handsome young officer whom I subsequently came well acquainted with, as Lieutenant afterwards Colonel Audenried. Seeing this young officer was acquainted with my lieutenant, afterwards General Webb, of Gettysburg game, I sidled up to them and inquired of him who the stranger was giving me such peremptory orders. He told me that he was Colonel Sherman, to whom I now turned and begged him pardon for not recognizing him before. I told him what my orders were, but he said it made no difference, the road must be cleared, and added that I could do no good if I were up at the Stone Bridge. I then reversed my battery by unlimbering the carriages, and after proceeding a short distance to the rear, where the bank was less steep, turned out into the field, where I put my guns in position on a knoll overlooking the valley towards Cun Run. In the distance I could see a line of skirmishers from which proceeded occasional puffs of smoke. This was Sykes’ battalion of regulars covering the rear.

I had not been in this position long before I saw three of my friends of the forenoon, Wilson, Wade and Lane, hurrying through the field up the slope toward me. Dr. Nichols was not now part of the party. Being younger and more active than the others he had probably outstripped them in the race. Lane was the first to pass me; he was mounted horsebacked on an old flea-bitten gray horse with rusty harness on, taken probably from some of the huxter wagons that had crowded to the front. Across the harness lay his coat, and on it was a musket which, sure enough, he had found, and for ought I know may have done valorous deeds with it before starting back in the panic. He was long, slender and hay-seed looking. His long legs kept kicking far back to the rear to urge his old beast to greater speed. And so he sped on.

Next came Wilson, hot and red in the face from exertion. When young he had been of athletic shape but was now rather stout for up-hill running. He too was in his shirt sleeves, carrying his coat on his arm. When he reached my battery he halted for a moment, looked back and mopping the perspiration from his face exclaimed, “Cowards! Why don’t they turn and beat back the scoundrels?” I tried to get from him some points of what had taken place across the Run, but he was too short of breath to say much, Seeing Wade was toiling wearily up the hill he halloed to him, “Hurry up, Ben, hurry up”, and then without waiting for “Old Ben” he hurried on with a pace renewed by the few moments of breathing spell he had enjoyed.

Then came Wade who, considerably the senior of his comrades, had fallen some distance behind. The heat and fatigue he was undergoing brought palor to his countenance instead of color as in the case of Wilson. He was trailing his coat on the ground as though too much exhausted to carry it. As he approached me I thought I had never beheld so sorrowful a countenance. His face, naturally long, was still more lengthened by the weight of his heavy under-jaws, so heavy that it seemed to overtax his exhausted strength to keep his mouth shut, I advised him to rest himself for a few minutes, and gave him a drink of whiskey from a remnant I was saving for an emergency. Refreshed by this he pushed on. Of these three Senators two, Wade and Wilson, became Vice Presidents of the United States, while the third, Lane, committed suicide, ad did also, before him, his brother, an officer in the army, who in Florida, threw himself on the point of his sword in the Roman fashion. One of the statesmen who had come out to see the sights, a Mr [Ely], a Representative in Congress from [New York], was captured and held in [duress?] vile as a hostage to force the liberation of certain Confederates then held by the United States governmt.

Among the notables who passed through my battery was W. H. Russell, L.L.D. the war correspondent of the London Times. He was considered an expert on war matters through his reports to the Times during the Crimean war and subsequently from India during the Sepoy mutiny. Of average stature he was in build the exact image of the caricatures which we see of John Bull – short of legs and stout of body, with a round chubby face flanked on either side with the muttin chop whiskers. His, like all others, was dusty and sweaty but, notwithstanding, was making good time, yet no so fast that his quick eye failed to note my battery, which he described in his report as looking cool and unexcited. He bounded on like a young steer – as John Bull he was, but while clambering over an old worm fence in his path the top rail broke, pitching him among the brambles and bushes on the farther side. His report of the battle was graphic and full, but so uncomplimentary to the volunteers that they dubbed him Bull Run Russell.

Each of the picknickers as they got back to where the carriages had been left took the first one at hand, or the last if he had his wits about him enough to make a choice. This jumping into the carriages, off they drove so fast as lash and oaths could make their horses go. Carriages collided tearing away wheels or stuck fast upon saplings by the road-side. Then the horses were cut loose and used for saddle purposes, but without the saddles. A rumor was rife that the enemy had a body of savage horsemen, known as the Black Horse Cavalry, which every man now thought was at their heels; and with this terrible vision before them of these men in buckram behind them they made the best possible speed to put the broad Potomac between themselves and their supposed pursuers.

Learning that McDowell had arrived from the field and was endeavoring to form a line of troops left at Centreville (and which were in good condition) upon which the disorganized troops could be rallied, I moved my battery over to the left where I found Richardson had formed his brigade into a large hollow square. A few months later on I don’t think he would have done so silly a thing. McDowell was present and so was Miles, who was giving some orders to Richardson. For some reason these orders were displeasing to Richardson, and hot words ensued between him and Miles, ending, finally, in Richardson saying “I will not obey your orders sir. You are drunk sir.” The scene, to say the least of it, was an unpleasant one, occurring as it when we expected to be attacked at any moment by the exultant enemy. Miles turned pitifully to McDowell as though he expected him to rebuke Richardson, but as McDOwell said nothing he rode away crestfallen and silent.

Miles did look a little curious and probably did have a we dropie in the eye, but his chief queerness arose from the fact that he wore two hats – straw hats, on over the other. This custom, not an uncommon one in very hot climates he had probably acquired when serving in Arizona, and certainly the weather of this campaign was hot enough to justify the adoption of any custom. The moral of all this is that people going to the war should not indulge in the luxury of two hats.

What Richardson expected to accomplish with his hollow square was beyond my military knowledge. He affected to be something of a tactician and this was probably only and effervescence of this affectation. Looking alternately at the hollow square and the two hats it would have been difficult for any unprejudiced person to decide which was the strongest evidence of tipsiness. A court of inquiry subsequently held upon the matter was unable to decide the question.

Richardson, formerly an officer of the 3d. infantry of the “Old” army, was a gallant fighter. He was mortally wounded at Antietam. Miles was killed at Harper’s Ferry the day before Antietam, and his name had gone into history loaded with opprobrium because of few minutes before his death he caused the white flag of surrender to be hung out. He was neither a coward nor a traitor, but too strict a constructionist of one of General Halleck’s silly orders.

Miles’s division together with Richardson’s brigade, and Sykes battalion of regulars, and four regular batteries and sever fragments of batteries made a strong nucleus for a new line on the heights of Centreville, but the demoralized troops drifted by as though they had no more interest in the campaign. And as there were again no rations it became necessary for even the troops not yet demoralized to withdraw.

A rear guard was formed of Richardson’s and Blenker’s brigade with Hunt’s and my batteries, which, after seeing the field clear of stragglers, took up the line of march at about two o’clock of the morning of July 22d, (1861) The march back was without incident so far as being pursued was concerned. For some distance the road was blocked with wrecked carriages, and wagons from which the horses had been taken. These obstructions had to be cleared away, and it was not until sometime after daylight that we reached Fairfax Court House. This village the hungry soldiers had ransacked for provisions, and as we came up some cavalrymen were making merry over the contents of a store. Seizing the loose end of a bolt of calico or other stuff they rode off at full speed allowing it to unroll and flow behind as a long stream.

The Fire Zouaves were into all the deviltry going on; they had been educated to it in New York. The showiness of their uniforms made them conspicuous as they swarmed over the county, and although less than a thousand strong they seemed three times that number, so ubiquitous were they. Although they had not been very terrifying to the enemy on the battlefield they proved themselves a terror to th citizens of Washington when they arrived there.

The first of the fugitives reached Long Bridge about daybreak on the 22d. Including the turning march around by Sudley Spring and back again this made a march of 45 miles in 36 hours, besides heavy fighting from about 10 A.M. until 4 P.M. on that hot July day – certainly a very good showing for unseasoned men, proving that they had endurance and only lacked the magic of discipline to make of them excellent soldiers. Many of them upon starting out on the campaign had left their camps standing, and thither they repaired as to a temporary home where they could refresh themselves with rations, rest and a change of clothing. This was a temptation that even more seasoned soldiers could scarcely have withstood. It was a misfortune that the battle had to take place so near Washington. More than anything else this was the reason why the demoralized troops could not be rallied at Centreville.

John C. Tidball Papers, U. S. Military Academy

Memoir images

Contributed by John J. Hennessy

John C. Tidball at Wikipedia

John C. Tidball at Fold3

John C. Tidball at FindAGrave





Col. William T. Sherman to Army Headquarters, From Ft. Corcoran

15 11 2020

CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN MARYLAND, PENNSYLVANIA, VIRGINIA, AND WEST VIRGINIA FROM APRIL 16 TO JULY 31, 1861

CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – UNION

O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, p. 755

Fort Corcoran, July 22,1861—10.11.

Adjutant-General[*]:

I have this moment ridden in [with], I hope, the rear men of my brigade, which, in common with our whole Army, has sustained a terrible defeat and has degenerated into an armed mob.

I know not if I command, but at this moment I will act as such, and shall consider as addressed to me the dispatch of the Secretary of this date.

I propose to strengthen the garrisons of Fort Corcoran, Fort Bennett, the redoubt on Arlington road, and the block-houses; and to aid me in stopping the flight, I ask you to order the ferry to transport no one across without my orders or those of some superior.

I am, &c.,

W. T. SHERMAN,
Colonel, Commanding.

[* Likely Col. Lorenzo Thomas]





“A,” Co. I, 2nd Wisconsin, On the March, Blackburn’s Ford, Battle, and Retreat

7 02 2020

Letter from the Second Regiment.

Fort Corcoran, July 29, 1861

Messrs. Bliss & Son: I have delayed writing you anything in relation to the great battle, and great defeat as it is called, at Bull’s Run, supposing, in the first place, that some one else had written you, being desirous of getting information of the whereabouts of several members of our company who were missing. The full account with particulars you will find in the newspapers, most of which are nearly true. But there are many omissions of importance. For instance, in your paper of the 23rd, which we just received to-nigh, the 2nd Wisconsin is not mentioned as being in the fight at all. Now, the truth is, we were in both battles at Bull’s Run, on the 18th and 21st. But we did not spend $50.00 to hire reporters to blazon our deeds to the country through a venal press; and what is more, our officers actually refused to pay the $50.00 for doing so in one particular case.

I can only give you a condensed narration of our part in the proceedings,

“— quorum magna pars fui,” *

as I would say, had I the vanity of AEneas, when he told his story to the confiding ear of Dido.

We left our camp near this place on Tuesday, the 16th, in the afternoon, with three days’ rations in our haversacks and with no baggage except our blankets, which were strapped over our shoulders. We marched some fifteen miles and camped at Vienna, where the Ohio boys were attacked in the cars from a masked battery some weeks ago. Starting at daylight next morning we resumed the march, passing through Germantown, where we drew up for a fight, but one or two shots from our cannon sent the enemy flying in double quick time. Here we found batteries just deserted, and quite a quantity of provisions. The batteries, I must say, like most we encountered on the road as far as Centreville, seemed more to have been built to scare us than to injure us. The roads, however, were obstructed with fallen timber, which delayed us very much in removing. Here in Germantown, to the discredit of some of our troops, one or two houses were set on fire and consumed. We pushed on from here until within a short distance of Centreville, when we camped, and the boys had a taste of secession mutton, chicken, etc. The scene on the march, though tiresome, was gay. As far ahead and back as the eye could reach the road was crowded with men, horses, baggage wagons and artillery. It seemed the march of an army to certain victory.

We lay in this camp until 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning, when we heard the booming of cannon in advance on our left. This was Gen. Tyler’s first introduction to the masked batteries of the rebels. About four o’clock a courier came riding up, his horse covered in foam, with orders for Col. Sherman to advance immediately with his brigade, to which we were attached. Of course we lost no time, and in a few minutes were on the march, and soon arrived on the ground above the battery, and were drawn up in line in the woods. The balls from the rifled guns of the rebels flew around and over us lively, crushing trees in their path and killing one of our men and wounding two others. Finding it impossible to dislodge the enemy without great loss of life, we were ordered to return to a camp about a mile in advance of Centreville, on the main road. Our boys had shown their courage and coolness under fire without returning it, and were highly complimented by Col. Sherman. We met while going down to the attack the 12th New York and 2d Massachusetts, puffing and blowing, saying they were all cut to pieces and had left at least half of their regiments on the field. Their fear lent wings to their fancy; the whole loss of all engaged being only some forty killed, but many scattered. There was no reason to complain of the Miners’ Guards, – all being ready to “go in” and take a hand, and only dodging the balls which passed over our heads.

We now remained in camp quietly awaiting reinforcements until Saturday evening, when we received orders to prepare two days’ rations and to be ready to start at 2 o’clock the next morning. At this time every man was ready, his haversack filled with hard bread and cold tongue, and silently as possible we took up our line of march, over a hilly and timbered county. On the way we encountered several of the “contraband” whose masters had deserted their homes, having been impressed into the rebel army. They said that the slaves were kept quiet by the story that the Northern men only wanted to get them to sell in Cuba. They did not all believe the story, however. They gave us correct information in reference to the rebel batteries, as subsequent events proved.

Of the first attack by the left wing, and of the flanking movement of the right wing, I have not time to speak. We were in the center, and from the position we occupied could tell by the dust and smoke the progress of the other divisions. At first, although, after we were drawn into a line on the edge of the wood, we could see a large extent of the country, where not a man could be seen, and it was only after our artillery began to play with thin[?] shells and cannister shot that the men began to swarm out of their hollows, all of which were densely crowded.

About 10 o’clock, after the left wing had taken the first masked battery, and Hunter and Heintzelman had made their attack on the right flank of the enemy, we were ordered to advance, which we did in double-quick time; and after fording a stream and climbing a precipitous bluff, we formed in line of battle. The first sight that met our eyes was the enemy retreating before the gallant charge of the New York 71st, who were slaying them like sheep. The slaughter was awful. But we had no time to lose. We advanced over a rise of ground and found ourselves directly in front of the rebel batteries on the opposite ridge. We marched forward under this fire until we reached a hollow, when we were partially protected from their shot, but not from their shell. A piece from one dented my word, and others hit several of the men, but nobody was killed. We were soon ordered to cross a muddy stream and charge up the hill in the direction of one of the rebel batteries. This was gallantly done, and the regiment drawn up in a road, flanking the enemy. The Fire Zouaves were fighting gallantly on our right. Our men now went to work with a will, and stood under the direct fire of a strong body of infantry for more than an hour, and fought with a spirit and determination which was much admired by their neighbors, the Zouaves, who cheered the Wisconsin boys, and several of them afterward remarked that the Zouaves themselves did no better fighting.

A constant fire was kept up, only interrupted for an instant by the cry of some traitor in the camp, “Don’t shoot your friends!” The hoisting of the stars and stripes by the rebels deceived many until the delusion was dispelled by a volley of musketry. Soon a movement was discovered on our right which proved to be a reinforcement of fresh troops from Manassas. Up to this time the victory was with us. The enemy were giving away in every direction, and had lost several of their best batteries. We were now ordered to fall back for the purpose of reforming our line and renewing the attack, and at the same time evading the flank fire. We had now had over twenty men killed and some sixty wounded. The regiment fell back to the opposite ridge, and under the fire from the battery was thrown into some confusion, like all the others on the field. But the order was given to fall in, and a large number was collected around the flag under one of the regimental officers, who conducted them down the hill where the panic had commenced, and then without any officer they made their way with the crowd in the wake of the “glorious 69th” to Centreville. Near here the regiment was re-organized by several of the company officers, and marched in obedience to orders from Gen. McDowell to camp at this place, – a tedious march of thirty-five miles, after fighting and marching from 2 o’clock in the morning. We did not arrive here till 10 a. m. on Monday morning., having rested only two hours at Fairfax. Thousands were in camp before us. What caused the panic, I do not know. The newspapers may tell. I think it was a want of officers to rally the men. It certainly was not a want of courage in the men, for they had shown the contrary; it certainly was a want of organization that caused a disastrous retreat, after having at one time gained a glorious victory.

The loss of the Miners; Guards was small compared with that in two or three other companies. This was owing to the fact that Lt. Bishop was detailed, just as we started to make the charge, with thirty men, to assist in manning and putting in position the big thirty-two pound Parrot gun, and who found it impossible to rejoin the company under the raking fire to which they would have been exposed. They did good service, however, where they were.

William Owens, of Dodgeville, was killed by a shot through the head; Lieut. LaFleiche was wounded by a shot in the shoulder; Lieut. Bishop was injured internally by his exertions; Philip Lawrence was wounded by a shot in the breast; Emile Peterson was wounded by a shot in the hip; Christian Kessler was also wounded, and is yet among the missing. James Gregory, George W. Dilley and Walter P. Smith have not been heard from, and are probably taken prisoners, as they were well when last seen. They are brave boys, and we hope to see them again soon. The wounded are all doing well and will soon recover.

Of course, the boys were tired, and the more so that they stood around the whole of Monday, in the rain, waiting for accommodations at the Fort. They are recruiting rapidly now, though quite a number are unwell. They will go into the next fight with more coolness, but not with more courage. They fought like old soldiers, and won the praise of all spectators, hundreds of whom were looking on.

I neglected to mention the fact, that, soon after crossing Bull’s Run, on the retreat, the cavalry charged on the regimental colors. The Wisconsin boys rallied around and drive back the cavalry after emptying eight or ten saddles. The colors were not afterward disturbed.

We are now encamped within the walls of Fort Corcoran, ready to assist in the defense of the capital, which lies constantly in sight. How long we shall remain here we do not know. We hope to do our duty wherever we are, and to have a share in the good work of delivering our country from the conspirators who are seeking its destruction.

Hoping to have leisure to continue this brief correspondence, I must retire to my wearied pillow, as the snores of my companions remind me it is high time.

A.

Mineral Point (WI) Weekly Tribune, 8/6/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

* Translated “In which I played a great part.”





Capt. Adolph Nolte, Co. C, 13th New York Infantry, On the Battle

13 03 2019

WAR CORRESPONDENCE.
———-
Important Letters from Capt. Adolph Nolte – A Graphic and Concise Description of the Great Battle – The Irrepressible Thirteenth in Action – Their Achievements – No Reinforcements – The Retreat, Etc.
———-

[Translated for the Evening Express, from the Rochester Observer]

Camp Union, July 23, 1861.

As you perceive from this letter, we have returned sooner from Virginia than we entered. – In entering we occupied three days; for leaving, one night. Nevertheless, we can maintain that we have lost the battle with honor, and that the cause of our defeat is owing to nothing but the defective disposition of our forces, in lack of ammunition, and to the fatigue of our troops. The general course of the battle you will learn in detail from the newspapers, and the official reports. So I will inform you briefly only as follows.

From 7 o’clock in the morning, till 3 in the afternoon, (of Sunday,) we drove the enemy out of every position. He made a stand nowhere in the open field. The flight and pursuit continued over hill and dale, through valley, defile and forest, until we came upon his strongest batteries, at 3 o’clock, three miles this side of Manassas.

Instead of resting the troops, who from 2 o’clock in the morning had been upon their legs, in the most terrible heat, almost unprovided with water, and very little biscuit, they were ordered to storm the batteries lying opposite. In the enthusiasm of victory they rushed fiercely upon them. However, they were received by a fearful fire from heavy artillery, and from firmly placed batteries, at which the company had (???) a stand. Our artillery, light six-pounders, began to play against the heavy artillery of the enemy. But their heavy caliber was immensely superior to ours, and our ammunition, which had been employed during the day, was lulling.

From this moment forth, we were in the hands of the enemy, who rained upon us a hail of balls, bombs and schrapnels, as far as their heavy artillery could reach. Nevertheless, we advanced one more, about half of a mile, and captured one of the nearest posted hostile batteries. However, we could not retain it without artillery, and were compelled to get out of reach of the enemy’s artillery, after being completely showered with a flood of balls.

Here we met with te severest blow. We had no reserve, neither infantry or artillery, which could have stood against the enemy, and behind which we could have reorganized. Our battalions were, singly, as they advanced, thrown against the batteries and driven back. Of a reserve no one had thought. Now every one knows, who has any knowledge of war, that dissolved battalions behind sufficient reserves, upon the battle field, can again be brought to a stand and to order – but never when they are upon the march. A retreat followed, and from this moment forth, were all the regiments and arms a promiscuous, irregular heap – tired to death, and retreating upon the narrow mainway, blockaded by hundreds of wagons, and through the close woods.

The Thirteenth Regiment.

Now, with reference to our regiment. We left our camp Sunday, the 21st, at 2 A.M. After we marched a few miles we met the enemy. Our position was at the extreme right wing – beside the 69th and 79th. After we marched a few miles, we met the enemy. After that the artillery had opened fire, and several regiments of the rebels had been scattered by well-thrown grenades, and after that Lieut. Hunter’s brigade had flanked the enemy on the left, we advanced and drove the enemy by our fire. They nowhere made a stand. They were defeated everywhere, and the pursuit was over hill and valley.

Having arrived at Bull’s Run – a river not deep, but shut in by steep banks – the most of our troops refused the pontoon bridge and sprang as if mad through the creek. Having reached the opposite hight, our fire commenced anew upon the flying and distracted columns of the enemy, until they got beyond reach of shot. Here Gen. McDowell and Col. Sherman, our Brigade commander, met and shook hands. In the salutations and our hurrah were a little too early. The command to advance was given. Our fatigued regiments, who from 2 A.M. till noon, had been in terrible heat upon their feet, stimulated by the enthusiasm of victory, ran down the mountain and up another hight, when, as we were crossing the summit of the same, we came within shooting distance of the enemy’s chief battery, and the balls began to fly around us thick as hail. We formed division columns and made an advance march down the hill. Here fell two of our company, (the German) the first in the Regiment, the shot striking about three yards from me in the rank. It shivered the right thigh of private Nauth, and the right foot of young Werner. The piece of the shell whirled about our ears like hail.

We marched under the continuous rain of balls – which tore down many others of the regiment– to the left over the way, and took position behind a small hight. The divisions of the regiment, changing positions, advanced to the top of the slope and from this fired upon the hostile position. Finally came the artillery, and posted itself upon the back of the hill, in order to answer the fire of the battery. We remained in our position in order to cover the artillery, and had the satisfaction of receiving all the shot which was intended for them. A mass of men fell here. Unfortunately, the artillery had exhausted its ammunition, and returned to the left. We began our fire afresh, advanced over the hill, and drove the enemy through a hollow lying behind, where we took possession of a stone house, which had served them as a protection.

From here we advanced through a hollow, up another hight, on whose left side a deserted block-house, surrounded by fences, also served as a defense for the enemy. While we were scaling the fences, Sergeant Becker received a ball in the right shoulder. I held him for a moment, with the assistance of Sergeant Major Schreiber, and whilst the latter was tying him up, I followed quickly to the remainder of our companies, which had just posted themselves behind the above mentioned block house.

Already on the advance, was our regiment, likewise the 69th and 79th – entirely separated! Our assault was made, not in column, lines, or any regular manner, but in a promiscuous and confused mass. I met here men from the companies of Capts. Lewis, Williams, Hyland and Lieut. Geck, in confusion. They had posted themselves partly behind the house, partly behind the fence, and fired upon the enemy, whose cannon and musket balls whizzed about us like hail. Here private Bauman fell, hit in the breast by a ball, and breathed his last. This last result WAS THE TURNING POINT OF THE BATTLE. The other wing was thrown back and fled, and so was our little heap – if it were not to be cut down entirely – compelled to seek safety in flight. We retreated across the field toward the defile, and it is a mystery to me to this hour, how one single man got away safely from the awful grape shot and muskety.

When I leapt the fence bordering the defile, I was compelled to remain for several minutes behind a small hill, before I could venture forth, for had I during this time only raised my head, it would have been riddled by a dozen balls.

At last we got through the valley behind the opposite heights, where the balls from the batteries could no longer reach us. Here I met private Stuermer, whose foot had been smashed, and who had been carried away by a few of his comrades. On the opposite plateau our troops reorganized to some extent, but as we had no reserve, it was impossible to bring order out of confusion. The retreat took place without the enemy’s daring to follow with his infantry. We dragged ourselves, fatigued almost to death, about twelve miles back, towards Centreville, and from thence in the same night, to camp Union.

So far as concerns the wounded of our company, we have brought with us but one, Sergeant Becker, who could march. The remainder have fallen into the hands of the enemy. NOT TWENTY OF OUR COMPANY WERE TOGETHER AT EVENING, and I fear that more have fallen than the above mentioned.

All the wounded of our company fell at the attack – none on the retreat. Of the whole regiment, I was not able to find together at evening iso much as fifty men.i The rest were scattered in every direction, like the other regiments; and on Monday noon there were not as many as eighty men in camp Union.

I regard to the retreat, I shall write in my next, since this letter will otherwise be too late for the mail. We were from Sunday morning to Monday morning on the march, without eating or drinking anything, except a little sea-biscuit and a little dirty water. We were during this time, from seven to eight hours, under fire, and had marched fifty miles. Let those answer for the result who have sent 20,000 exhausted troops, with light, half provided artillery, against an enemy of 60,000, well entrenched, and well provided with the heaviest artillery.

Rochester Evening Express, 7/25/1861

Clipping image

Contributed by John Hennessy

13th New York Infantry roster

Adolph Nolte at Ancestry.com

Adolph Nolte at Fold3

Adolph Nolte at FindAGrave  





And Now, a Song about R. E. M. and W. T. Sherman…

26 10 2015

This weekend, friend Mike DelNegro of Ashburn, VA, hipped me to an old song by the band Pavement, which ties together the band R. E. M. (see here for more on them and the Civil War) and First Bull Run participant William T. Sherman. Enjoy!

Some bands I like to name check,
And one of them is REM,
Classic songs with a long history
Southern boys just like you and me.
are – E – M
Flashback to 1983,
Chronic Town was their first EP
Later on came Reckoning
Finster’s art, and titles to match:
South Central Rain, Don’t Go Back To Rockville,
Harbourcoat, Pretty Persuasion,
You were born to be a camera,
Time After Time was my least favourite song,
Time After Time was my least favourite song.
The singer, he had long hair
And the drummer he knew restraint.
And the bass man he had all the right moves
And the guitar player was no saint.
So lets go way back to the ancient times
When there were no 50 states,

And on a hill there stands Sherman
Sherman and his mates.
And they’re marching through Georgia,
we’re marching through Georgia,
we’re marching through Georgia
G-G-G-G-Georgia
They’re marching through Georgia,
we’re marching through Georgia,
marching through Georgia
G-G-G-G-Georgia
and there stands REM

(Aye Sir, Aye Sir, Aye Sir they’re coming, Aye Sir, move those wagons, Aye
Sir, Artillery’s in place Sir, Aye Sir, Aye Sir, hide it, hide it, Aye
Sir, run, run.)





On the Anniversary of the Surrender at Bennett Place

21 04 2015

This article ran in my Collateral Damage column in Civil War Times back in December, 2010, as Bennett Place, Where the War Really Ended. Click on the thumbnails for larger images I recorded over the years.

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Original road trace

Original road trace

The knock came unexpectedly at just about noon that sunny spring day, April 17, 1865. James Bennett and his wife, Nancy, opened the door to their modest three-room, two-story home and were greeted by Union Major General William T. Sherman and Confederate General Joseph Johnston, along with their staffs and escorts, several hundred soldiers in all. Johnston thought the farm which he had passed earlier looked like an appropriate place for them to sit down and talk and Sherman had deferred to his judgment. The Bennetts left their guests and repaired to their detached kitchen, leaving the two men in possession of the main room, which was described as “scrupulously neat, the floors scrubbed to a milky whiteness, the bed in one room very neatly made up, and the few articles of furniture in the room arranged with neatness and taste”. What followed was the first of three meetings between the army group commanders; three meetings that would end – after no little drama – with the surrender on April 26th of nearly 90,000 Confederate soldiers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

353James Bennett (he would change the spelling from “Bennitt” after 1860: to avoid confusion the later spelling will be used here) was born in Chatham County, NC on July 11, 1806. In the 1820s he moved to Orange County, and on May 23, 1834 he married Nancy Leigh Pearson. The union produced three children: son Lorenzo in 1832, daughter Eliza Ann in 1834, and son Alphonzo in 1836. After years of struggling financially, in 1846 James was finally able to borrow $400 and purchase a 325 acre farm with an existing cabin along the Hillsboro Road outside Durham, NC, in eastern Orange County. They added siding to the cabin, and by 1854 James was able to pay off the loan, later selling 133 acres for $250.

Reconstructed Bennett Farm

Reconstructed Bennett Farm

James had several sources of income. He did some contract hauling; sold food, liquor and lodging to travelers on the Hillsboro Road; and made and sold shoes and clothing. But the family’s primary business was agriculture, and they grew corn which they both consumed and sold. The Bennett farm also produced cantaloupe, watermelon, oats, wheat, and sweet potatoes. Bennett owned no slaves, but hired helpers, including slaves, when he was able.

The war was hard on the Bennetts. Lorenzo, who had enlisted in the 27th NC, fell sick and died in a Winchester, VA army hospital in October 1862. Alfonso died that same year, though it isn’t clear if he died in military service. In August 1864 Eliza’s husband Robert Duke – a brother of Washington Duke for whom Duke University is named – of the 46th NC died of illness in a hospital in Lynchburg, VA. Soon after, Eliza returned to live at Bennett Place with her and Robert’s son, James.

Interior of reconstructed farm house

Interior of reconstructed farm house

When the “Terms of a Military Convention” were signed by Sherman and Johnston on April 26th, James Bennett was invited to join the generals and their staffs in a celebratory toast. Afterwards, a Union private offered to purchase the table cover on which the agreement had been signed, but Bennett refused. One reporter wrote that relic hunters were so thorough that there would soon be little left to indicate where the house stood.

Two days later, a detail from Kilpatrick’s cavalry division arrived and made Bennett an offer of $10 and a horse for the signing table and cover, with the caveat that they were under orders to take them if he declined the offer. Not surprisingly, he accepted, but despite turning over the table the payment never materialized. In 1870, after learning that the table had subsequently sold for $3,000, Bennett wrote to the governor of North Carolina seeking compensation for it and other items taken from his home, but to no effect. In 1873 he filed a claim with the Southern Claims Commission, but was denied restitution because he had supported the Confederacy.

While his land was spared the ravages of fighting, after the war the productivity of Bennett’s farm dropped off significantly. By 1875 sales of various parcels of his land left him with 175 acres, all of which he sharecropped out in early 1876. James Bennett died in 1879, followed not long after by his wife. By 1889 Eliza’s daughter Roberta Shields was the sole owner of the farm: she sold 35 acres including the house to Brodie L. Duke, a black-sheep son of Washington Duke, in 1890.

The chimney is all that remains of the original dwelling

The chimney is all that remains of the original dwelling

By the early 1900’s the farm was reported as deserted, the house in a state of severe 359disrepair. A protective structure was erected around the house in the latter half of the first decade of the 20th century. Richmond businessman Samuel T. Morgan purchased 31 acres and the house around 1908, but he died in 1920 before anything was done to preserve the structure. In 1921, the Surrender site burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances. All that remained was the stone chimney.

"Unity"

“Unity”

In 1923 a 3 ½ acre plot including the Surrender site and a new monument (Unity) was donated to a non-profit organization, The Bennett Place Memorial Commission, by the Morgan family in return for its promise to maintain the site in perpetuity. But while small improvements were made in the first decade, the site was relatively unvisited for more than 20 years. In 1961, Bennett Place became an official NC State Historic Site. The reconstructed house, kitchen, smokehouse and split rail fence lining the historic Hillsboro Road trace were dedicated, and Bennett Place’s life as a public historic landmark began. Today the site also includes a visitor center with theater, museum, and gift shop, the Everett-Thissen Research Library, and a bandstand.

358357DCP_0040DCP_0039

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Thanks to Tonia Smith for her assistance in the preparation of this article. See Arthur C. Menius, James Bennitt: Portrait of an Antebellum Yeoman in The North Carolina Historical Review, October 1981 and the same author, The Bennett Place, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, July 1979





W. T. Sherman’s Boyhood Home

6 08 2014

While I’m posting these letters of W. T. Sherman (there are a few more to come), it’s about time a share of few of the photos I took earlier this year on my visit his boyhood home in Lancaster, OH. The trip was made the day after my presentation to the Central Ohio Civil War Roundtable on March 12, courtesy of friend Mike Peters.

The Sherman House Museum is located at 137 East Main St. This is the main drag of the town, and it’s not until you actually stand there on the street that you realize how proximate are the sites familiar to students of Sherman and the Ewing family to one another. Sherman’s father Charles was a lawyer, as was Thomas Ewing, with whom Cump went to live after his father passed away. The homes of Sherman and Ewing, and the courthouse where they did business, are all located within a block of each other. The two houses are separated by two lots, on one of which Cump’s sister and her lawyer husband built their home.

The Sherman House was not scheduled to be open that day, but Mike called ahead and the Fairfield Heritage Association, which maintains the museum, graciously opened up for us anyway. I believe it was FHA Executive Director Andrea Brookover who guided us through the home. No interior photos were allowed, but below are a few shots of the exterior and of the Ewing house. Click on the thumbnails for larger images.

The house was expanded over the years, and not all is as it was when Uncle Billy lived there. There are some items that are original to the home at the time of the general’s occupancy, and some of his furnishings from later homes. The second floor includes a pretty cool – and large – collection of Sherman memorabilia and ephemera. We were also treated to a look at the basement, which always gives me a better idea of a structure, although I’m not sure the original dwelling had a basement, and it certainly did not have this particular basement.

The Sherman House Museum is definitely worth the trip if you’re in the Columbus area.

Sherman House Front

Sherman House Front

Sherman House Rear

Sherman House Rear

Sherman House Yard

Sherman House Yard

Sherman House Plaque

Sherman House Plaque

Ewing House

Ewing House





Col. W. T. Sherman, to His Wife, On Blackburn’s Ford

4 08 2014

Camp – 1 m. West of Centreville

26 from Washington

July 19, 1861.

Dearest Ellen,

I wrote to John yesterday, asking him to send you my letter that you might be assured of my safety.  Thus far the enemy has retired before us – yesterday our General Tyler made an unauthorized attack on a battery over Bull Run – they fired Gun for Gun – and on the whole had the best of it – the Genl. finding Centreville a strong place evacuated, followed their tracks to Bull Run which has a valley deeply wooded admitting only of one narrow column. I was sent for and was under fire about half an hour, the Rifled Cannon shot cutting the trees over head and occasionally pitching into the ground. 3 artillerists – 1 infantry a & 3 horses in my Brigade with several wounded – I have not yet learned the full extent of damage – and as it was a Blunder, dont care – I am uneasy at the fact that the Volunteers do pretty much as they please, and on the Slightest provocation bang away – the danger from this desultory firing is greater than from the Enemy as they are always so close whilst the latter keep a respectful distance. We were under orders to march at 2 1/2 A.M. – the Division of Tyler to which my Brigade belongs will advance along a turnpike Road, to a Bridge on Bull Run – This Bridge is gone – and there is a strong Battery on the opposite shore of the River – here I am summoned to a council at 8 P.M at General McDowell’s camp about a mile distant – I am now there, all the Brigade commanders are present and only a few minutes intervene before they all come to this table.

I know tomorrow & next day we hall have had hard work – and I will acquit myself as well as I can – with Regulars I would have no doubts, but these Volunteers are subject to Stampedes[.] Yesterday there was an ugly stampede of 800 Massachusetts men – the Ohio men claim their discharge and so do others of the 3 months men – of them I have the Irish 69th New York which will fight.

I am pretty well, up all night and sleeping a little by day – Prime [,] Barnard, Myers & others of your acquaintance are along – Prime slept in my camp last night.

My best love to all – my faith in you & children is perfect and let what may befal me I feel they are in a fair way to grow up in goodness and usefulness. Goodby for the present yrs. ever

Sherman

Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, pp. 118-119

 





Col. W. T. Sherman, to His Brother, On Preparations to March

3 08 2014

Camp opposite Georgetown,

July 16, 1861.

Dear Brother,

We start forth today –  camp tonight at or near Vienna – tomorrow early, we attack the enemy at or near Fairfax C. H., Germantown, and Centreville – thereabouts we will probably be till about Thursday when movement of the whole force some 35,000 men on Manassas, turning the position by a wide circuit. You may expect to hear of us about Aquia Creek or Fredericksburg (secret absolute)

I leave your saddle & bridle with the Commissary Gray with orders to Send it with my large trunk over to you – I take your saddle bags, along – and will have my small trunk to follow.

If anything befal me, my pay it drawn to embrace June 30 – and Ellen has full charge of all other interests. Goodbye, Yr. brother,

W. T. Sherman

(over)

Ellen will write to your care and you can enclose her letters. This will give me a better assurance of receiving them. Send the enclosed to her. Yrs.

W. T. Sherman

Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, p 118





Col. W. T. Sherman, to His Wife, On Preparations to March (2)

17 07 2014

Camp opposite Georgetown.

July 16, 1861.

Dearest Ellen,

We start forth today at 2 P.M. move forward 10 miles to Vienna, there sleep – and tomorrow morning expect to fight some six or eight thousand of the enemy, at or near Fairfax, Germantown or Centreville – There we may pause for a few days & then on Manassas Junction, Beauregards Hd. Qrs. distant from here about 30 miles. I think we shall make a wide circuit, to come on his rear.

I am going to mind my own Brigade – not trouble myself about General plans – McDowell commands the whole – Brig. Gen. Tyler our column of 4 Brigades of about 10, or 11,000 men. I will have 3,400 – New York 13, 69 & 79th & Wisconsin 2nd with Shermans Battery now commanded by Capt. Ayres.

I take with me a few clothes in the valises & saddle bags – leave my small trunk to follow – have about 50 dollars in money, a Boy named John Hill as servant – have drawn pay to June 30 – and you know all else.

I think Beauregard will probably fall back tomorrow on Manassas, and call by R. R. from the neighborhood of Richmond & Lynchburg all the men he can get, and fight us there, in which case we will have our hands full.

Yesterday I went to the convent to bring the Girls over to see a drill – I found India Turner over visiting John Lee – Miss Whittington out in the country – so I brot over Miss Patterson and a Miss Walker of New Orleans – and after drill took them back – I saw Sister Bernard, and another who said she was your drawing teacher – She had a whole parcel of little prayers, and relics to keep me from harm – I told her you had secured about my neck as it were with a Silk cable a little medal which would be there, and her little relics I would stow away in my holsters.

Whatever fate befalls me, I Know you appreciate what good qualities I possess – and will make charitable allowances for defects, and that under you, our children will grow up on the safe side. About the Great Future that Providence that gives color and fragrance to the modest violet will deal justly by all – knowing the Secret motives & impulses of every heart. In the noise, confusion, hustle and [crises] of these thousand volunteers, my tongue and pen may be silent henceforth about you and our children, but I confide them with absolute confidence to you and the large circle of our mutual friends & relations.

I still regard this as but the beginning of a long war, but I hope my judgment therein is wrong, and that the People of the South may yet see the folly of their unjust Rebellion against the most mild & paternal Government ever designed for men – John will in Washington be better able to judge of my whereabouts and you had better send letters to him. As I read them I will tear them up, for every ounce on a march tells.

Tell Willy I have another war sword, which he can add to his present armory – when I come home again – I will gratify his ambitions on that score, though truly I do not choose for him or Tommy the military profession. It is too full of blind chances to be worthy of the first rank among callings.

Watch well your investments – the note you left with Turner, as well as you others lest you may be necessitated to fall back on them. Always assure Maj. Turner and Mr. Lucas of the unbounded respect I feel for them. Give your father, mother, sis & all my love. Tell Henrietta it has been an impossibility for me to go over to see her father & mother without neglecting my command which I never do. Good bye – and believe me always most affectionately yrs.

W. T. Sherman

Simpson, Brooks D.& Berlin, Jean V. Sherman’s Civil War: Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1860-1865, pp. 116-118