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

13 03 2019

WAR CORRESPONDENCE.
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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.
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[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