Pvt. Henry W. Link, Co. E, 11th New York Infantry, On the Battle

12 06 2020

The Zouaves in Battle.
—————

We are kindly permitted to publish the following letter from a well known member of the Fire Zouaves to his father in this village:

New York, July 30, 1861.

Dear Father,
You will be as much surprised at knowing I am in N. Y. as mother was when I rushed in upon her. I wish I had time to run up, and see you, but it is impossible as my absence would be noticed if I remain away over a certain time. In the confusion many of us took the opportunity to run home a day, before reporting ourselves at headquarters, knowing our services would not be wanted immediately, for I tell you, although the papers talk so much of our defeat, the secessionists got as much fight as they can bear for a time to come, and if they dare to attack us at Washington you will hear of such a fight as you have never heard of – ours was bad enough.

The papers gave you a better description of the battle than I could, but I can tell you my feelings: One has no thought of danger and death while fighting. It is load, aim and fire with a “take that” every time you fire. We had made three attacks capturing a battery, but we had no support, or not enough, or we never would have been driven back while a man of us could stand. The sixty ninth fought with us like tigers, and the 1st Rhode Islanders. Had other field officers been like the gallant courageous men that led us we would not talk of defeat now. No, it would be victory, victory which shall be the word next time. Well, we were driven back and then comes scenes that make the heart sick, crawling, limping, running over dead and dying, wounded men and horses, upset wagons, broken down carriages, muskets, arms of all kinds, knapsacks, clothing that the men pulled off and threw away – such a sight! It is impossible to describe it. I carried every thing back with me, besides a bayonet, and two pistols that I took from a rebel soldier on the field, and our Col’s. cap, which I picked up and wore back as proudly as though I was the Col. myself. My coming back to the boys with his cap made a good deal of fun for them, but we lost so many of our brave comrads that I can assure you there was real grief among us. I helped two of our boys carry our surgeon nearly two miles to the first hospital, and when within a short distance the enemy pressed us so close he begged us to drop him and save ourselves. At that moment one of their shells hit the old building used as a hospital, and full of our poor soldiers, and blew it to pieces. Many died from fatigue on the way before they got back to Washington. Curse the dishonest, avaricious politicians that run the Union! One thing I can tell them they can appoint as many commanders as they please, the men are not going to battle again unless they themselves are satisfied with their leaders.

I should never stop writing if I attempted to relate all I saw and experienced. I shall save it until I get back from the war and we meet peace restored by the union of the United States. God grant this may be the result, yet I can tell you we will have to fight for it; the Southerners can fight as well as we. It is no use to underrate the. This is one reason of our late defeat.

I must close. With much love and respect,

I am your Son,
H. M. Link

Herkimer County (NY) Journal, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

11th New York Infantry roster

Henry W. Link at Ancestry.com 

Henry W. Link at Fold3 





Sgt. William L. Fleming, Co. G (1st), 13th New York Infantry*, On the Battle

19 05 2020

From Lieut.** Wm. L. Fleming.

Washington, D. C. July 24.

Dear Father – You are doubtless, ere this, advised of the great battle on Thursday last, and of course feel anxious to know if I am still among the living. I hope this will speedily reach you, and relive you of your fears and anxieties concerning me.

It is impossible for me at present to give you the details of that terrible battle, in which I participated, but I will give you a glimpse of the most important parts.

When our regiment came up to the scene of action, the rebels were out in the field, on and even footing with our troops, but they did not stand their ground long, as our fire mowed them down like grass, and they fled to their covers. The next move we made was to support our (Sherman’s) battery, where we lay some time, the shot and shell whistling around us thick and fast. We next made a charge at a house, close to their masked batteries, where they were shielded by bushes and trees. Here we stood some ten or fifteen minutes under a galling fire, our poor fellows dropping around us like falling leaves. We were told to stop firing, as those in the house were our troops. The infamous rebels displayed the American flag there to deceive us, which infamy they perpetrated several times during the day, to deceive and get the advantage of us. Such was the confusion thus induced, that our own troops commenced firing into us, supposing we were the enemy, killing several. This, together with a galling fire from the enemy’s masked batteries and muskets, compelled us to retreat, under a heavy cavalry charge. I was thrown down and trampled on, which induced an hemorrhage of the nose and mouth, but I shall, I trust, be all right again in a few days. Our boys did nobly throughout the fight. The Fire Zouaves, the 69th and 79th did bravely. The Zouaves made charge after charge till very many of them were killed and all much exhausted. It is impossible for me to tell at present how many of our regiment were killed, but our loss must have been heavy, 200 or more, I judge. It is a perfect marvel to me how I escaped being shot. I had made up my mind that I should unquestionably fall; but I resolved to do my duty, live or die. As I think of it now, it seems a miracle that so many balls, coming like a shower of hail around me, could all miss me. My garments were untouched with them, though like a hail storm they whistled the requiem of many a noble fellow by my side. This for the present must suffice. I am stopping for a few days here in Washington with brother Walter, who is doing finely now.

In haste, yours faithfully,
William.

Rochester (NY) Evening Express, 7/27/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* This company transferred to the 3rd NY Cavalry after the battle.

** Records indicate William L. Fleming was First Sergeant of Co. G. His brother Walter M. Fleming enlisted as an Ensign and was commissioned 2nd Lt. 7/4/1861.

13th New York Infantry Roster 

William L. Fleming at Ancestry.com 

William L. Fleming at Fold3 





Sgt. Abraham Ford, Co. H, 2nd Vermont Infantry, On the Battle

12 05 2020

From the Second Vermont Regiment.

Alexandria, Va., July 23, 1861.

Dear Sir – * * * * When the head of our column came up to theirs, they opened on us with their artillery. We had then marched fifteen miles, were all out of breath, had no breakfast except hard crackers which we eat on the march, had drank nothing but muddy water, and the last two miles of our march we had made on the “double-quick;” but notwithstanding all that, we went into them, and drove them back to their stronghold. There they drew on us and gave us the best whipping an army ever had. But we fought until we were ordered to retreat, and then came bitter disappointment to crown a day of severe fighting, hard labor and dreadful misery. – They followed us up with artillery and cavalry in the rear, while they sent a force around to cut off our retreat where we had to cross a bridge; but they did not cut us up very badly there, for we took to the woods. We could not return fire, for we had no ammunition.

The number of killed and wounded is not known, for we had to leave them all, poor fellows. Only two of them, in a shed that I stopped in on our retreat, had their wounds dressed. I think there must have been fifty in that shed, and they were only a small portion of what were on the field. – Our Orderly Sergeant [of the Fletcher Company] had his arm shot through. I took him off the field and helped our surgeon perform the amputation; and just as we had got through and got it done’up the order came to retreat to our old quarter; but when we got there we found no place would be safe for us short of Alexandria, and so we kept on; and a longer road, for one that had no more miles in it, I think I never saw. We arrived here about 11 o’clock on Monday forenoon, making about thirty-six hours that we were under arms, marching in the time at least fifty miles, and fighting severely about half an hour. When I say this, I mean the Vermont regiment; you will see by the papers how long the fight lasted, from 7 A. M. to 4 P. M., I think.

When we arrived here we were tired, hungry and wet; our feet were blistered and bleeding. – All the wounded came on that were able. To-day we are all sore and lame; not a man of us can walk without limping.

We expect the wounded that we left are all murdered; for we showed a flag of truce on the field, and they fired into it. I nailed a white flag on the door of the shed where some of the wounded were, and left with our orderly two canteens of water, a filter to drink through and some hard crackers – all I had. Then I had to leave or be taken prisoner. The poor fellow begged of me to get a team and take him along, but that was impossible. I had to leave him to the mercy of a southern chivalry. I have heard since that the building was blown to pieces by their artillery and the wounded all killed.

Our Surgeon lost all his instruments and had to run for dear life. I could write a whole week of incidents which came under my observation, but I am tired and weak, and must close. More anon.

Yours Truly,
Abraham Ford.

The above letter inclosed a photograph of Col. Ellsworth, which the author found near the body of a fire Zouave who had been killed in the battle. It was taken in New York, by J. Gurney & Son, as their card is on the back of it.

Walton’s Daily Journal (Montpelier, VT), 7/23/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Abraham Ford at Ancestry.com 

Abraham Ford at Fold3 





Pvt. Charles W. Farrand, Co. F, 1st Michigan Infantry, On the Battle

11 05 2020

The Michigan First at Bull Run.
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We are favored with the following account of the battle at Bull Run by Mr. Charles Farrand, of this city. He belonged to Capt. Horace S. Roberts’ company in the 1st regiment, and describes things as he saw them. The reader will see how false is the assumption that the New York Zouaves fought more desperately than others. Mr. Farrand declares that they, they Michigan 1st, and New York 69th, were mingled together, and fought promiscuously thro’ all the fiercest of the conflict. He was “one of ‘em,” and had two guns struck and ruined in his hands.

No person could see all the battle; and this letter-writers disagree in many things; but Mr. F. states only what came under his own observation, and therefore reliance may be placed in his record. He says Bull Run was several miles from the field of battle.

Commencing with the attack, he says:

In the first charge upon the masked battery, in line of battle, the 69th New York were in front, then the Zouaves, and in the rear the 1st Michigan. Rising to the top of the hill, about thirty rods from the rebels, we fired, intending to fall back a little and load, as previously ordered. Just then this order was countermanded, and we were ordered to rush on, unloaded. This new order was imperfectly understood, and a portion fell back; upon which all did the same, but not more than two or three rods, creating some disorder; but we were in no sense “driven back.” After loading, we rushed forward, crossed a road, a deep ditch and a fence, descending the hill, firing as we advanced. Bu the time we reached the foot of the hill – the rebels having fallen back – the men of the three regiments were mingled together, every man trying to get in front, as though fighting on his own hook.* The din of battle was so terrific that no orders coud be heard. We were in this position nearly stationary perhaps half an hour.

We then changed, not to retreat, but to take up a new position, more to the right, to get at those who were firing at us from that quarter. We were not followed by the enemy on the left. We were in this vicinity, constantly engaged, between four and five hours; though it did not seem an hour.

Ricket’s battery of eight guns was stationed on the right of our division, and was taken by the rebels. A portion of all three of the regiments without any orders, rushed promiscuously to retake the battery, which was done. Here was some hand to hand fighting. The horses were all killed, or had run away, and we could not take off the guns, till the rebels rallied with an increased force, and, after spiking the guns, we fell back to our former position. Facing again to the rebels I saw them falling back, trying to draw away a gun into which I had myself driven a spike; but ere they had got it many rods, our bullets had made such havoc they abandoned it.

In a few moments I saw two rebels advancing to the gun – one with a rifle, and one with a flag, which he was in the act of planting by the gun. The man standing next to me and the rebel rifleman drew upon each other, and both fell at the same moment, killed, as I believe, by each other. At the same time I took deliberate aim at the flag bearer, and he fell as I fired.

By the time I had reloaded, another rebel was seizing the flag, and he too fell as I fired. Two more fell at this point in a similar manner as fast as I could load. I was some fifteen rods distant, and nearer the gun than most of my comrades, though in other parts of the line others were in advance.

At this moment the black horse cavalry made its appearance obliquely from the right – all the while the masked battery, as well as infantry, was pouring upon us a fearful fire of shot, shells, canister, &c. As the cavalry appeared, 600 strong, upon the full gallop, carbine in hand, our firing for the moment mostly ceased – each man reserving his charge to receive them with suitable honors.

The horses of the cavalry were all black or grey. Their front showed a line of perhaps ten rods. Our fire was reserved until the left of their front was within five or six rods of our right, killing most of the horses in front and many on their sides. As they fell, pitching their riders to the ground, those following fell over them and from our bullets, and in five minutes we had sent them probably four thousand pills, and they piled upon each other, a mangled, kicking, struggling, dying mass of man and horses – a sight of horror, to which no description could do justice! Our aim was mostly at the horses, and I doubt not many more of the men were killed by horses than by our bullets.

The story that all this fighting was done by the Zouaves is false. The three regiments were mingled together, and all fought equally well. I here speak what I know, for I was directly in front of the cavalry, and nearly in the centre. It was the general opinion that not over half a dozen of the cavalry escaped alive, though there may have been more.

During this brief but horrible work the masked battery and large bodies of infantry were pouring their fire into our ranks, and our men were falling on every hand. We again returned their fire, and soon after, Lieut Mauch having been struck down, I and two others assisted him back, and on returning, we found our men still standing their ground.

Soon after this, a flag of truce was raised by the rebels twenty or thirty yards in our front, and our fire slackened. Immediately the white flag fell, and out colors were raised. We knew not what to make of it at the moment, unless they were about to surrender, but supposed afterwards the design was to lure us into a more deadly range of their batteries. In a few minutes the rebel flag was again flying in their place. The contest raged for a time longer, when the firing of the rebels ceased, and we supposed the victory was ours. The rebels were seen to fall back, but very soon Johnson’s army was approaching. We had fought incessantly for four or five hours, without food or drink, almost exhausted at the beginning, our ranks were thinned and broken, we saw no prospect of support, and we retreated in disorder; but the was little running.

Just about this time the general stampede of the army took place, and we returned to Washington and vicinity, feeling that we had won a glorious victory, only snatched from us by the arrival of Johnson’s army, and the failure of proper officers to bring up the reserve force to our relief.

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*Col. Heintzelman says part of the Zouaves left the field and took no further part in the action. His report fully corroborates Mr. Farrand’s statement, save that he gives the Zouaves less credit.

Lansing (MI) State Republican, 8/14/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Charles W. Farrand at Ancestry.com 

Charles W. Farrand at Fold3 

Charles W. Farrand at FindAGrave





Unknown, Co. B (Tiger Rifles), 1st Special Louisiana Battalion, On the Battle

28 04 2020

The Tiger Rifles at Manassas.
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We have before us a private letter from a member of the Tiger Rifles, who were in the thickest of the fight at Stone Bridge, and rendered efficient service as one of the companies of Wheat’s Battalion:

On Sunday, 21st, at sunrise, the enemy commenced throwing shot and shell among us. Our second platoon, under command of Lieutenant Adrian, ran a party of cavalry some distance towards their lines. We were then ordered to deploy towards the left, and hold them in check for reinforcements to prevent being outflanked on our left, and here we had the honor to open the ball and receive the first fire.

As we were crossing a field in an exposed situation, we were fired upon (through mistake) by a body of South Carolinians, and at once the enemy let loose as if all hell had been let loose. Flat upon our faces we received their showers of balls; a moment’s pause, and we rose, closed in upon them with a fierce yell, clubbing our rifles and using our long knives. This hand to hand fight lasted until fresh reinforcements drive us back beyond our original position, we carrying our wounded with us. Major Wheat was here shot from his horse; Capt. White’s horse was shot under him, our First Lieutenant was wounded in the thigh, Dick Hawkins shot through the breast and wrist, and any number of killed and wounded were strewn all about. The New York Fire Zouaves, seeing our momentary confusion, gave three cheers and started for us, but it was the last shout that most of them ever gave. We covered the ground with their dead and dying, and had driven them beyond their first position, when just then we heard three cheers for the Tigers and Louisiana. The struggle was decided. The gallant Seventh has “double-quicked” it for nine miles, and came rushing into the fight. They fired as they came within point blank range, and charged with fixed bayonets. The enemy broke and fled panic-stricken, with our men in full pursuit.

When the fight and pursuit were over, we were drawn up in line and received the thanks of Gen. Johnston for what he termed our “extraordinary and desperate stand.” Gen. Beauregard sent word to Major Wheat, “you, and your battalion, for this day’s work, shall never be forgotten, whether you live or die.”

At the close of his letter the writer speaks of some of the minor casualties in the following humorous vein:

Tom Williams got his in the jaw by a spent ball, which caused him to shift his chew of tobacco to the other side; Tom Malloy got the tip of his nose chipped off by a splinter from a rail, but says he can spare the piece, as he has plenty left; Old Kelly got it through the calf of the leg, and now he growls because he can’t have the limb cut off, so that he can peddle cigars on the levee; Ben White cursed his luck because he could not get shot, and concluded he’d cut himself, but when he looked for his knife, someone had stolen it, etc.

New Orleans (LA) Daily Crescent, 8/1/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown, 6th North Carolina Infantry, On the Battle

26 04 2020

The North Carolina Sixth Regiment.

Camp Bee, 4 Miles N. E. Manassas
Junction, Va., July 28, 1861.

Gentlemen: – I know you would like to hear from us, and as I have a leisure moment now, and a [?] to send a letter, (for we have no mails,) I drop you this scroll. We of the Sixth N.C. State Troops, Col. Fisher, were ordered to Gen. Johnson’s command at Winchester, where we arrived in time to join in the celebrated “forced march” across the mountains to Gen. Beauregard’s aid, and which has been spoken of by President Davis as the great military achievement of the age. Yes, sir, we travelled on foot, day and night, without stopping to eat! We arrived Sunday morning of the memorable 21st., at the Junction, about 8 o’clock, and while Col. Fisher was calling at Headquarters for orders we heard the opening fire. Soon after, Col. F. returned and ordered us to “forward,” and at a rapid pace we set out for the battle field, without rest, water or food for 36 hours. As we approached, the musketry opened on the enemy, (the fire before was that of Artillery) when we quickened our step ‘till within range of the enemy’s guns. Under cover of some timber we formed our line and for a few minutes practiced the men in manner of firing – then loaded and went on.

Owing to the position of the enemy the skirts of timber and the manner of carrying up the Regiment into action by the right flank, three of the extreme rear Companies never could get to “open” on the enemy, although exposed to a heavy fire of musketry and rifles all the while. The other seven Companies of the Regiment getting in, had the work to do, and right well did they do it.

In our rear was posted a Regiment of the enemy’s riflemen and in front Michigan Marine, Regular and Zouave Regiments in almost endless number, while to our left on tops of the hell, some 50 paces distant was the Sherman Battery.

On receiving fire from so many directions at the same time our men were thrown into temporary confusion and were ordered to “fall back” into the timber just in the rear and reform. Col. Fisher again ordered the to “forward” in the direction of the Battery, he leading, some distance in advance. When found, the poor Colonel was dead, 25 yards beyond the battery. About this time Lieut. Col. Lightfoot was wounded and an officer mounted came up and ordered the men to “cease firing.” Just here there was great confusion, for there was scarcely any telling friends from foes. Yet the Zouaves with their red breeches could always be distinguished, and they kept pouring in a murderous fire. Capt. Avery saw it would not do to remain there inactive and took the responsibility to order a charge upon the Battery and with a yell the men moved rapidly on and driving the enemy from the guns, took possession – our Mississippi and South Carolina friends could not believe but they were the enemy and opened fire on them compelling the gallant Captain and his brave North Carolinians to abandon the guns – which were afterwards gained by other Southern men. This much is certainly true, that after Capt. Avery took the Battery no enemy ever used it, or was near it, for soon after the Yankees [remainder illegible]…

An Eyewitness

The (NC) State Journal, 8/8/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Unknown, 5th Virginia Infantry, On the Battle

19 04 2020

The Fifth Virginia Regiment in the Battle of Manassas.

Early Sunday we were aroused by the drum beating the long roll, and we immediately formed inline of battle. Soon the enemy commenced a heavy cannonading on our right, which our accomplished General soon discovered to be a feint made by the enemy to attract our attention in that quarter, while their real attack would be made on the extreme left. We were immediately ordered to take position several miles to the left. We had not been in position long, before it became evident we were in a warm neighborhood. The enemy’s artillery, just in our front, but hid from our sight by a skirt of woods and an eminence between us, thundered forth it deadly missiles, and presently, too, the sharp, ringing crack of the rifle was heard, showing that the advance guard of skirmishers had met. Cavalry scouts could be seen, galloping within the lines, when a terrible volley of musketry, immediately in our front, assured us that the ball had been opened, and the fight had commenced in right good order.

Between 9 and 10 o’clock A. M., the enemy, in tremendous force, advanced his right against our left, with the view of turning our left wing and getting position in the rear of the “Junction.” They were met by several South Carolina regiments (including Hampton’s Legion) and the Alabama 4th, our regiment (the 5th Virginia) being held in reserve; but soon we were ordered forward to support the 4th Alabama. On our way to take position on a hill we were met by a person from a South Carolina regiment who had been compelled to fall back by an overwhelming force, and who informed us that the 4th Alabama was being literally cut to pieces. Here, also, we met two pieces of the Washington (La.) Artillery retiring, having expended their stock of ammunition. This was by no means encouraging, but we felt the necessity of greater exertion on our part, and forward we rushed to the assistance of our friends. Amid a perfect shower of musketry and cannon balls the command to halt and lie down was given, as it was impossible for us to return the enemy’s fire, they being completely sheltered by the hill. Not being able to return the enemy’s fire, or even see them our men cried out to be led forward or taken back to the foot of the hill; but out gallant Col. Harper assured us that he had no orders to advance, but was ordered to occupy this position until the enemy should make their appearance, when we were to fire and charge bayonets.

Finally, the order to advance was given, and under a perfect shower of shell and shot we arose and started up the hill. A portion of our regiment misunderstanding the order, we were thrown into temporary confusion; but soon rallied, and our gallant Major Wm. S. H. Baylor, taking the lead we rushed forward and gained the position on the hill behind some old houses. Before we gained the position, however, the Fourth Alabama Regiment had been compelled to retreat, and we found ourselves face to face with a powerful force of the enemy, and conspicuous among them was the famous Ellsworth Zouaves. Just in front was the Second New York Regiment. On the left of them the Zouaves were stationed, while on our right, and completely flanking us, was the First or Second Maine Regiment. We fired a telling volley of musketry into the regiment in our front, which drove them rapidly to the rear. This drew the fire of those on our left upon us, and we engaged with them, the Maine regiment on our right, (whom we supposed at first to be friends,) advanced rapidly upon us, and sheltering themselves by lying down behind a fence, they poured a most destructive fire into our ranks, and here some of our best and bravest men fell. Here the noble and brave Billy Wodward exclaimed, “I will never retreat. ‘Give me liberty or give me death.’” His lips had scarcely given utterance to these heroic words, when a ball pierced his brave heart. It soon became evident that with our single regiment it was impossible to maintain this position, exposed as we were to a centre and two raking flank fires from at least four times out number.

We therefore fell back to a skirt of woods some hundred yards in the rear, where we were joined by a portion of the Alabama 4th, who had fought so gallantly and suffered so terribly at the house on the hill before we came up. A portion of a South Carolina regiment also joined in with us here, and during the rest of the evening we fought side by side.

In every part of the field the contest now raged, and desperate efforts were made by each party to gain some decided advantage, without apparent success, though they greatly outnumbered us, and I looked on at the terribly and desperate strife without being able in my own mind to determine which would be victorious.

Greatly to the encouragement of our brave troops, who were so heroically struggling against superior numbers, several fresh batteries made their appearances and took position on an eminence just to our left.

These opened upon the enemy, whose main column was sheltered behind a gradually sloping hill, thickly covered by small timber, and protected by a part of the celebrated Sherman Battery. A tremendous cannonading now took place that far surpassed anything I ever imagined. It appeared to me as if Heaven and earth were being rent asunder, so terrible was the crash and roar of the monster instruments of death. Several times the enemy attempted to rally for a charge on our batteries; but whenever their lines came within the terrible discharges of round shot and canister from our batteries swept them like chaff before the wind, their long and splendidly formed lines fairly melting away. Yet the tremendous force before us seemed not to diminish, and every inch of ground was contested with sullen and determined force, our brave troops fighting with renewed energy and vigor. Being parched with thirst and almost exhausted, I ran down to what appeared to be a branch or mud hole, and drank copiously of the muddy water, and was just returning to my regiment when I met Gen. Johnston, who inquired of me to what regiment I belonged. – I told him. He then inquired how Gen. Jackson’s Brigade was getting along. I told him we were fighting bravely and well, but against large odds, and needed help. He at once said, go join your regiment and tell then to hold their position, and in a few moments I will send reinforcements to their aid. I hurried back to my regiment with a lighter heart than I left it.

On reaching the top of the hill, I could see in the direction of Manassas Junction a large column of men approaching, and filing past then, with the swiftness of the wind, was a splendid body of cavalry, numbering possibly a thousand. These came rushing on like a mighty torrent, with drawn sabres glittering in the evening’s bright sunbeams, mounted on steeds which seemed to be maddened by the contest that was being waged by man against fellow man. I soon recognized this to be the splendid body of Cavalry commanded by the gallant Col. Stuart, of which the excellent company from Augusta (Capt. Patrick’s) forms a part. In the meantime, Gen. Beauregard appeared on the field in person and approaching our regiment inquired who we were, and on being informed, he addressed is in the following cheering language: “Fight on, beave Virginia boys; the day is ours everywhere else, and it must be here also.” He then commanded us to follow him, and, with a loud cheer, we rushed forward, determined to do as commanded, or die.

By this time Sherman’s battery had evidently become somewhat disabled, and had slackened its fire a little. Our course was turned directly in that direction. We reached the top of an eminence, fired a volley and at a charge bayonets rushed down upon it. We found that every horse attached to a battery was either killed or disabled and not a man, except the dead and wounded were left within the guns.

Almost every company of the regiment claim the credit of first reaching the battery. I would not do injustice to any. But a proper regard to truth, and honor to whom honor is due in this particular act, compels me to say that the left of the regiment, under command of Major Baylor, was the first to reach the immediate vicinity of the battery, and corporals R. T. Bucher, of the West Augustus Guards, Capt. Waters, and John Sutz, of the Augusta Rifles, Capt. Antrim, were the first men to reach the captured guns. – Corporal Pucher* sprang astride one of the pieces and fired his musket at the retreating enemy.

By this time the reinforcements I referred to coming from the direction of Manassas, had arrived on the ground, and, unperceived either by us or the enemy, marched rapidly to our left and to the right of the Federal forces under cover of a skirt of woods. These troops consisted of three Tennessee and one Virginia regiments; from this position they poured into the ranks of the enemy (who were partly concealed by thick undergrowth,) the most terrible and deadly volley of musketry I ever witnessed; and then, with a shout that rent the air, they rushed in one grand sweeping charge upon them. The enemy, terror stricken, broke ranks and fled in the wildest confusion over the hill; the cavalry charged upon them, sending terror and dismay among their already confused and broken ranks; the guns of the captured batteries were turned against them; batteries were run upon eminences which commanded roads along which they retreated, and which raked and crushed their disordered columns dreadfully, and shout after shout rent the air from the victorious Southern troops.

Staunton (VA) Spectator, 8/27/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

*Misspelled Bucher (Robert F. from preceding sentence, KIA Spotsylvania, 5/12/64).





Private, Co. A*, 1st Minnesota Infantry, On the Battle and Retreat

13 03 2020

Our War Correspondence.
———————–
March To the Battle Field – The Battle – Dreadful Scenes – Behavior of Col. Gorman and Lieut. Col. Miller – Defence of the Regiment, &c. &c.
———————–
From our Regular Correspondent.

Camp Gorman, Alexandria,
July 23, 1861.

I returned here last night with sore feet, lame limbs, wet through, indescribably exhausted, and a heart beating with rapid pulsations for our losses and reverses in the battle at Bull’s Run. Partaking of refreshments at the hands of our colored cook, we retired to rest, and this is the first opportunity I have had to address you a faint description of the scenes of terror through which we have passed.

I will begin with the beginning. On Saturday last we were all encamped at Centreville, and at noon we had orders to prepare for march at 6 P.M. At this hour we had our three days’ rations in our haversacks, our muskets discharged and reloaded, and standing in our ranks, when the orders were countermanded so far as to extend the time till 2 o’clock next morning, when after a good rest we rose and accoutered and quipped as usual for march.

The morning was bright and the moon cast its silvery rays over a beautiful landscape; the atmosphere cool and pleasant, and every thing around us calculated to make us buoyant and hopeful. The column formed in line and passing through Centreville, and we were at once upon our march for the battle field. The sun rose on Sunday in all its glory, and all nature, as we progressed through woodland and fields, seemed aglow with fragrance and beauty.

On arriving into an open field, the occasional reports of artillery which we had heard at intervals grew louder and more frequent; and in the distance we descried the smoke that arose from the battle field. Here we halted a little to fill our canteens with water – a highly commendable move as the day grew hot and sultry. Here we shook hands with some of the Company “C” Second Infantry Regulars, which we relieved at Fort Ripley just as they were about to proceed in advance to the battle field, then three miles distant. Instantly we were again ordered to fall in, and in quick and double quick time, under the burning rays of a July sun, over a rough rocky road, over hills and through valleys, we approached the battle field, the roar of artillery and musketry growing louder and louder every moment. We were first brought into a field in the rear of the battle, and afterwards under the lead of Col. Heintzelman brought right up into the battle, passing regiment after regiment, or rather remnants of them, after they were cut up under the destructive fire of the enemy; and as we passed along the edge of the hill where the battle had for hours been raging with fury, and cannon balls and shells still scattered about, we saw the field covered with dead horses, and men carrying away the dead, dying and wounded. It was a terrible sight to see, but at that time it made little or no impression on us. Our brigade was marched over a little hill, where we were formed into a line of battle, our regiment on the extreme right, and the Fire Zouaves on our left, with Rickett’s battery in the centre. Here the battle raged with fury for upwards of two hours, in the course of which two other regiments were brought to our aid; but the once retreating enemy was reinforced with fifteen thousand of a reserve force, and they became to formidable for our shattered ranks. Yet our brave men did not yield before an aid of General Heintzelman came up to order us to retreat into the woods, with the words, “Why do you stand there to be slaughtered by the enemy?” Simultaneously with our retreat the whole column began to move to the rear, and a precipitous retreat of an unorganized army was the result, the enemy pursuing to harass us in the rear. Rickett’s battery was left on the battle field. The sight that met every eye for a moment, when retreating down the hill, miraculously escaping from the stream of musketry, artillery and shells, which formed the parting salute from the enemy, was horrible beyond description. There lay the dead, riddled with musket balls, in every conceivable condition, some with the skull pierced and brains scattered on the ground; others severed in pieces with cannon balls, and the wounded and dying suffering intense agonies, who called in vain for succor from those who could but save themselves by flight. It was a sad picture, and will carry sadness and sorrow to the hearts and homes of thousands throughout the North, who have lost a father, a son, a husband, a brother or a friend, at the battle of Bull’s Run.

In the rear of the battle field the woods and fields were strewed with knapsacks, haversacks, blankets and other garments, thrown aside in the hurried march into the battle and in the hasty retreat. Broken wagons, provisions, and implements of war lined the road from Bull’s Run to Alexandria – a distance of forty or fifty miles. Boxes of crackers, barrels of bacon and other provisions, and useless garments thrown off to facilitate the hasty retreat of an army of exhausted and fatigued men, will furnish the colored population along the line – who were busily appropriating them to their own use – clothing and provision for years, while the Federal Treasury will lose thousands.

Two miles beyond Centreville the retreating column was again thrown into confusion by shells falling into their midst, and the artillery and cavalry accelerating their speed, heedlessly rushed through, and no doubt over, our own men – leaving a cloud of dust to mark their rapid progress. Our column scattered again into the woods, and an engagement took place with our rear, which lasted but a short time, and resulted in the death of one man on our side. The enemy did not pursue us farther, as we ascertained next morning after passing this night in the woods. The main body marched on and halted at their encampments in and around Centreville for a couple of hours. Here Col. Gorman was seen for the first time after marching us into the battle field, his boasted bravery not being observed by any one – and his voice, so bold and commanding on dress parade, was either drowned in the roar and noise of the battle field, or else he must have kept himself at a safe distance. I have good authority for this statement – authority that can be substantiated by evidence. Lieut. Col. Miller, however, was very active in rallying us, pointing to the Stars and Stripes, and calling on us to justify the fond expectations which Minnesotians have placed in our Regiment. He was in the thickest of the fight, and Minnesota should justly acknowledge his bravery.

After a lapse of about two hours, the retreating column again took up the line of march through Fairfax to their former encampments in Alexandria and Georgetown. A part of our regiment is encamped in Washington. Most of those who were left exhausted along the line, have come here. Stragglers will continue to come in – yesterday quite a number arrived. I learn that four hundred fo the Minnesota First are encamped at Washington. A few of our men are in the Alexandria Hospital. It is impossible to give you any reliable information as to the number of our dead and wounded, as yet; but as soon as I can ascertain it, to any degree of certainty, the statistics shall be immediately forwarded to you.

The telegraph makes some disparaging and unjust statements about our regiment, which I presume some reporter innocently made up from unreliable camp rumors – which are as numerous as they are unreliable. Thus I find in this morning’s Baltimore Clipper the following;

The panic was commenced in a light battery commanded by a fat lieutenant. He was porceeding under orders to flank one of the enemy’s batteries, when a detachment of their cavalry made a dash at them. Instead of unlimbering and essaying to receive the charge with grape or canister, he turned and instantly fled, leaving two of the pieces on the field.

The Second Connecticut and the Minnesota (of Gen. Schenck’s brigade, which were exposed to the fire of the battery which the fat lieutenant had started to flank) then broke and run into the bushes. Instantaneously it seemed that the panic was communicated in all directions.

The above is but a conctanation of misstatements. The first statement about the battery is an evident absurdity. Of the “fat lieutenant” was not “unlimbering to receive the charge with grape or canister,” how could he “leave two pieces on the field.” Secondly, the Minnesota regiment does not belong to Gen. Schenck’s brigade, and we did not “break and run into the bushes” before the proper order was communicated through the proper officers, and then simultaneously with the Fire Zouaves (who always receive so much praise) and the whole column. It is a base slander on the Minnesota First, every man of which fought side by side with the Zouaves, whose bravery is universally acknowledged.

According to the telegraph reports, the enemy’s force at Bull’s Run ws 120,000, while ours is set down at 25,000, which latter number is by many considered exaggerated. I learned from some volunteers who formed the reserve force that there were a number of regiments not called into the field at all; and when taken into consideration that the enemy had the advantages of strong fortifications and masked batteries, acting as they did on the defensive, how could we look for any other result than a disgraceful rout, acting as we did on the aggressive.

There is considerable talk among the boys of trophies taken during the engagement, while some have taken prisoners, some secession flags, some pistols, revolvers and other implements of war, &c., &c.

Considerable excitement exists among the soldiers and others as to the probable attack on Washington, or retaking Alexandria, but I rather think the enemy will have enough to do to bury their dead and nurse their wounded. If they had not force enough to send out from Bull’s Run to head us off our retreat, how could they dare an attempt on the offensive when their policy this far has been on the defensive? We are safe enough here; and the movement to concentrate troops at Washington and on the Potomac is only to organize a strong force for another advance on the rebels.

Later – July 24th. – Mail facilities were cut off to Alexandria yesterday, and I send by a messenger to day. We are ordered to Washington to day, and once there with our regiment, I shall collect further details for you. Captain Wilkin is with us. He estimates the killed and wounded of the company at twenty.

Private.

(St. Paul, MN) Weekly Pioneer and Democrat, 8/9/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* Captain Alexander Wilkin, mentioned in the last paragraph, was in command of Co. A of St. Paul, and so the letter writer is assumed to be a member of that company.





An Eye Witness, Co. B, Hampton’s Legion, On the Battle

10 01 2020

For the Advertiser.

A Letter from Capt. Gary’s Company

Headquarters C. S. A.
Manassas, Va, July 22nd ‘61

Mr. Editor: On Sunday morning the 21st instant, the Infantry of the Legion arrived at this place, a few hours before day break, having left the city of Richmond on Friday evening. We were out two nights and a day without provisions, having left in accordance with a sudden and unexpected order, thereby depriving us of the chance of preparing rations for the men. At the break of day we drank a hasty cup of coffee, and soon after were on the march for the field of battle, some seven miles distant. We hear the booming of cannon as we started, which continued until we reached the scene of action. The fight had commenced early in the day with Gen. A. G. Evans, who commanded, I believe, the 3rd and 4th Regiments from South Carolina. He held the enemy a hardly contested fight although he had only some fifteen hundred men, and they (the enemy) a very large force, several thousand.

The Legion arrived about ten o’clock and immediately backed up the General’s command. We formed in line of battle calmly and coolly. The men could not have been more composed than they were even if going to dress parade. The fight was opened with great vigor by the enemy with artillery and Infantry, armed with every kind of weapon known to modern warfare. They were in number about ten to one, but we began the fight regardless of all odds. Soon Lieut. Col. D. J. Johnson fell dead from his horse. He was an ornament to the Legion and his death will add another bright name to the historic record of the gallant men of South Carolina. So soon as his death was known, on motion of Capt. Adams and Capt. Austin, the command of the left wing was tendered to Capt. Gary. He immediately announced his willingness to take it, and told them “that he would lead them to death or victory,” – whereupon three cheers were given for the Captain, and they advanced upon the enemy. Capt. G. Soon gave the order to charge, and led his men some two hundred yards in advance of the line of battle on our side; by some mistake in the order, he was left alone with his gallant Company under a galling fire. Whilst in this position Willliam R. Dorn was shot down by a ball passing through the top of his cap, and stunning him severely, but he soon arose and continued to charge. John L. Coleman was also knocked down by a spent ball. At the same time we were mistaken by our own men and were fired on by our side and by the enemy. We then quickly fell back under cover of a ravine, regained our position on the left of the Legion, all the time subject to a hot fire. So soon as we rejoined the Legion, we were ordered to the front and were fired upon by an immense army, but were compelled after sustain a loss of several killed and many wounded to fall back, where we rallied and were honored by the presence of Gen. Beauregard, Gen. Bee and Gen. Evans. Gen Beauregard said “we must win the day.” Capt. Gary responded “we will followe wherever he leads.” We gave the General three cheers, and three more for our gallant Colonel, who is as brave a man as ever drew a sword in defense of his country, with a heart as soft and gentle as that of a woman. We were ordered to hold ourselves in reserve to charge a battery. Soon we were ordered to charge. We charged up to the house of Spring Hill Farm owned by John Henry; here Colonel Hampton was wounded and carried from the field. Captain Conner ordered the legion to fall back and form – announced that he would assume command as Colonel, and Lieut. Lowdnes immediately took charge of Company “A” – Capt. Gary as Lieut. Colonel, Lieut. Tompkins taking command of Company “B.” We again charged up the house and then upon the battery of Captain Rickett’s, which was taken possession of by Lieut. Col. Gary commanding in the name of the Legion. The enemy here retreated towards Stone Bridge and from there to centreville they were followed by Col. Kershaw’s and Cash’s Regiments and the Legion, with Artillery and Cavalry. The road was filled with every thing appertaining to camp life, and some unusual luxuries, such as champagne and lemons. The Cavalry pursued them and captured some 30 pieces of cannon and some five or six hundred prisoners. We then fell back and slept upon the bloody field of battle and returned next morning to this place.

There were thirty thousand of the enemy engaged, and some fifteen thousand on our side. We lost, I suppose, five hundred killed and wounded. The enemy some twenty-five hundred killed and wounded. It was a great pitched battle with West point officers against West Point, and we carried the day, having routed and demolished the flower of their army.

Our company lost killed and wounded as follows:

Thomas A. May, killed.
J. Milledge Hart, seriously wounded – now at Richmond.
Wm. C. Corely, mortally wounded – now at this place.
Davis Bodie, seriously wounded in the arm – now at Culpeper Court House.
Jesse Stone, seriously wounded – now in Richmond.
Sergeant J. T. Nicholson, slightly wounded.
J. W. Jennings,                      “              “
Corporal M. A. Padget,       “              “
R. J. Borknight,                     “              “
J. W. Rochell ,                        “              “
J. W. Rhodes,                         “              “
J. E. Burkhalter,                   “               “
R. T. Carroll,                          “               “
J. L. Coleman,                       “                “
M. A. Griffith,                       “                “
Wm. Jennings,                     “                 “
R. A. Turner,                        “                 “
Thadeus Freeman,             “                 “
John Jennings,                     “                 “

There are a few incidents of the battle that may interest the relatives of those concerned. M. A. Griffith had his canteen shot through. Wm. Jennings had his shot off and his gun knocked out of his hand. His brother, John Jennings, finding him down and almost senseless, dragged him to the shade of a tree. He then started to rejoin his company but soon discovered that his brother was being carried off by two Aouaves. He fired and killed one; fired again and missed; fired again and killed the other, whereupon he and his brother started back to us – met five Zouaves that were pursued by Cavalry, – Levelled their pieces at them and halted the five, and with the assistance of Cavalry brought them to this place as prisoners.

All of our commissioned and non-commissioned officers bore themselves as became volunteers from old Edgefield. Capt. Gary is supported by as fine a set of officers as ever belonged to any Company. Lieutenants Tompkins, Bates and Jennings, bore themselves with uncommon coolness and courage, always prompt in the execution of every order. Lieut. Tompkins, in command of the company after Col. Hampton was wounded, bore himself gallantly, in the whole engagement, and especially in the charge of Ricket’s battery, taken by Capt. Gary acting as Lieutenant Colonel. Lieut. Bates , as every one expected of him, proved himself as brave as the bravest. Lieut. Jennings at one time had command of the Company, – Capt. Gary acting as Lieut. Colonel – Lieuts. Tompkins and Bates having gone for water for the Company and coming very near losing their lives by being cut off – showed that he wielded the sword with as much facility as he did the scalpel.

The 1st Sergeant B. E. Nicholson, fought bravely and at last fainted and was born from the field by Virginians. 2nd. Sergeant R. A. Tompkins was always at his post and could not have acted better. He was at all times cool and brave. Sergeants J. T. Nicholson and J. W. Jennings were both wounded, which speaks for itself. Sergeant Corley was sick when he went on the field and was reluctantly compelled to leave the field with others towards the last of the battle. Corporal J. W. Tompkins particularly distinguished himself with his courage and soldierly bearing during the entire engagement. Corporal Medlock was in the whole fight, acted bravely and well. Corporal Eidson was one of the Color-guard to the flag and was always where the shot fell fastest and thickest. Corporal Herlong was sick and lame when he went into the engagement, and was overcome with heat and exhaustion. The other Corporals were wounded. Nothing need be added when men are wounded in the ranks – you know they are in the right place. In fact, all of the Company did well, and if I were permitted to particularize, I could name many of the privates whose courage could not be surpassed by any one.

The Cavalry and Artillery were not with the Legion.

Dr. Pollard has been appointed assistant Surgeon in the C. S. Army.

Dr. J. H. Jennings is here amputating limbs night and day, for friends and enemies.

I hope you will pardon this long account, as it is given for the benefit of those who are related to those in the Engagement.

AN EYE WITNESS

Edgefield (SC) Advertiser, 8/7/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy





Lt. William Mack Robbins, Co. G, 4th Alabama Infantry, On the Battle

25 11 2018

With Generals Bee and Jackson at the First Battle of Manassas

On the afternoon of July 18, 1861, the army of [Brigadier General Joseph E.] Johnston – about ten-thousand strong – which had been for some weeks manoeuvering up and down the [Shenandoah] Valley in front of [Major General Robert] Patterson and was then lying around Winchester, was hastily put in motion and marched off southeastwardly, going we knew not whither. Most of the men belonged to the class which may be described as “young bloods,” sons of planters, reared in ease and affluence – intelligent, merry hearted, high spirited, full of romance and enthusiasm. They had volunteered at the first call, not only from devotion to the cause, but love of adventure, and there was nothing they were so eager for as to get into battle, being somewhat tinctured with the idea that they “could whip at least three Yankees apiece,” and were rather afraid that the war might come to an end before they got the chance to prove it. In spite of their confidence in their general, they had been a good deal chagrined and disgusted at what they deemed his overwary strategy in not delivering battle to the enemy under Patterson. They were therefore greatly delighted to hear the general order which General Johnston caused to be read to each regiment as soon as we got well out of Winchester that summer evening. That order was about in these words: “Beauregard is attacked by overwhelming odds at Manassas. Your commanding general has full confidence in your zeal and devotion and asks every man to step out lively. You are going on a forced march over the mountains to reinforce your companions in arms and save the country.” Loud cheers welcomed the tidings. The prospect of an early encounter with the enemy loomed up ahead and stimulated the impatient spirits of the men to their best exertions. Heat, dust, and night-fall soon made the rapid march disagreeable enough, but it was pushed without a check till we reached the Shenandoah. This river, about waist deep, was waded at dawn of July 19, amidst songs, jokes, and general hilarity. The Blue Ridge was passed at Ashby’s Gap, and at evening of the same day the head of the column arrived at Piedmont Station on the Manassas Gap Railroad, whence Johnston’s forces were sent forward in detachments by rail as fast as transportation could be furnished.

So much has been said about Johnston’s troops appearing on the field in the nick of time after the battle had been long ranging that the impression extensively prevails that none of them were there at its beginning. This is a great mistake. Three brigades – [Brigadier General Thomas J.] Jackson’s, [Col.] F. S. Bartow’s and nearly all of [Brigadier General Barnard E.] Bee’s – were at hand when the battle opened and bore an important part in it all day. The Fourth Alabama and other regiments of Bee’s Brigade reached the Junction at noon of the twentieth and were among the very earliest in the conflict the next day. It was only the comparatively minor number of Johnston’s men under [Brigadier General Edmund] Kirby Smith and [Colonel Arnold] Elzey that leaped from the train when they heard the battle in progress, and, hastening down the Warrenton Pike, came in so luckily on the right rear of the Federals and caused the panic which gave the victory to the Confederates.

I have spoken of the eagerness of our inexperienced but enthusiastic soldiers to see and participate in the battle. The feeling did not diminish, but rather grew in intensity on this occasion, up to the time of actual engagement, and how much longer I cannot say; but one thing is certain – all of us by the time the day was over felt sufficiently amused. Thousands of soldiers on both sides know all about the experience of a first battle, and anything said on the subject would be but an old tale to them; but those who never took a hand, and especially young who have come up since the war would no doubt like to know how a battle looks and seems to a new soldier – its thrill, its thunder, its grandeur, its horror, and no lees its odd, absurd, and even grotesque features. I do not feel competent to paint an adequate picture and description of these things. I doubt if any pen can fitly paint them. A few hints about how this battle opened and proceeded – as the writer saw it – must suffice. The Fourth Alabama were busy with breakfast near the junction when the sudden boom of a gun in the direction of the railroad bridge over Bull Run drew our eyes that way and we saw for the first time the little dense round sphere of white vapor, high up in the air, produced by the bursting of a shell. This was quickly followed by others, the design of the Federals being to draw all attention to that part of the line while they were executing their shrewd flanking movement on our left. However, our regiment, with others of Bee’s Brigade, was at once moved at double-quick towards the Confederate left, to a position that had been allotted to us at one of the upper fords. But we had scarcely reached the designated point when we were again ordered to go at a rapid run for about two miles still further up the stream to meet the Federals – our commanders having just at that moment discovered that they had crossed the stream at Sudley’s Ford, entirely beyond the Confederate left, and were pouring down in heavy force on that flank. All depended on presenting a quick front to this unexpected movement. So we went  – a few battalions only – across the fields at out highest speed, and soon reached the plateau of the Henry House, around which the battle was afterward mainly fought. But Bee did not permit us to stop there. He marked that as the most favorable position for the Confederate line to form its new front on, but he knew his brigade alone could not hold it and he also saw that the enemy would reach it, unless checked and delayed by some means before an adequate force of Confederates could get there to oppose them. To gain the needed time it was necessary to risk the sacrifice of the two and a half regiments then with him by a bold movement still further to the front. He could not hesitate. So he ordered the Fourth Alabama, Second Mississippi, and Eleventh Mississippi (two companies) to move half a mile further forward to the next ridge to engage the enemy and delay them as long as possible. Down the slope we rushed, panting, breathless, but still eager because ignorant of the desperate crisis which had doomed us to probably destruction to save the whole army. As we passed the little rivulet below the Stone House, the duel of the artillery began and the shells of friend and foe shrieked wildly above our heads. Mounting the hill and entering the copse of timber north of the Stone House, we began to hear a sharp cracking of musketry ahead of us – a collision  between the Federals and some small bodies of Confederates we had not known were there before, among them [Major C. R.] Wheat’s Louisiana Tigers, wearing the zouave uniform.

As we emerged from the little wood we caught sight of these Tigers, utterly overwhelmed and flying pell-mell, most of them running off to our right and toward the stream (Bull Run). This and their zouave uniform, which we had never before seen, but had heard some of the enemy wore, for a minute caused us to mistake these “Tigers” for Federals and as they were flying in disorder, some of our men set up a loud yell and shout of victory, supposing the enemy were already routed and retreating, whereupon one ardent fellow of the Fourth Alabama, with his finger on the trigger and anxious to pull down on somebody before they all got away, burst out with: “Stop your darned hollerin’ or we won’t get a shot!” But the mistake was discovered just in time to prevent our firing on friends. A little way further up the hill beyond the timber and we struck the enemy and no mistake. Their long advancing line, with the Stars and Stripes waving above it (which made some of us feel sorry), began to peer over the crest, eighty yards in our front, and opened a terrific fire, which at first went mostly over us. It is proper to mention that the Mississippians, who had come with us, were halted at the edge of the wood behind us, and so did not get into the hot conflict that ensued, the whole brunt of which thus fell on the Fourth Alabama alone. On receiving the enemy’s first fire we lay down and waited till we could see their bodies to the waist, when we gave them a volley which was very effective, firing uphill. The Federals fell back and disappeared behind the crest. After some interval they advanced another and longer line; but the result was the same as before, only they held on longer this time and their fire hurt us badly. A third time they came on in a line which extended both our flanks, and now the conflict became bloody and terrible to us, their balls coming not only from the front but from the right and left oblique, cutting down our colonel (Egbert Jones) and stretching lifeless many a familiar form so recently full of hope and gayety. Then war began to show us his wrinkled front. But we thought of what they would say at home if we flinched and how ashamed we should feel if after all the big talk about whipping the enemy we let them whip us at the first chance. We could see, too, that they were as awkward at the business and enjoyed it as little as ourselves. Besides, it looked like they could hardly help killing every one of us if we got up and tried to run away. It seemed our safest chance to hug the ground and pepper away at them; and so from sheer desperation, as much as anything, we kept to it, until after awhile, to our great joy, the enemy fell back once more behind the crest, and their fire lulled. Our general, seeing we would be certainly overwhelmed at the next onslaught, gave us the order to retire, which we did before another attack. We had been at it for over an hour and had really rendered great service in gaining time for the Confederate army to change front and form the new line. But nearly one third of the Fourth Alabama had gone down in the effort and were left on the ground, including the colonel, mortally wounded. I should not omit to mention that the Seventh and Eight Georgia, of Bartow’s brigade, also came into our advanced position far to our right during our contest, and had a bloody collision with another column of the Federals, and though these Georgians were recalled some time before we were, they contributed materially to the delay of the Federal advance.

The two Mississippi regiments of our (Bee’s) brigade had also retired before us, so that the Fourth Alabama was going back alone. In this movement a bloody episode occurred to us. Retiring by the same route along which we had come, when we reached the little rivulet running near the stone house, we saw a regiment, in column by companies, marching down the rivulet toward us. Their flag was furled on the staff and so was ours. By the quarter we had just come from they thought us probably Federals, but were not sure. As for us, we felt the enemy had got so far around in rear of the place of our recent fight; their uniform also resembled that of the Sixth North Carolina, belonging to our brigade, and we hastily took them for that regiment coming to our aid. Thus encouraged we halted, faced about and reformed our line, intending with this supposed reinforcement to take another tilt with the enemy we had been fighting if they should pursue us as we expected. The unknown regiment also halted and deployed into line of battle at right angles with ours and less than 100 yards from our left flank. Their colonel signaled us with his handkerchief for the purpose of communicating  and learning who we were as it afterward appeared; but we never dreamed this was his purpose and made no haste to respond, feeling confident we knew him, and thinking of course he knew us. All this took place in a few moments. Having quickly rearranged our line, our flag was than unfurled and displayed – the Stars and Bars! Instantly a blaze of fire flashed along the line of our supposed friends (a New York regiment it really was), and an enfilading hailstorm of bullets tore through the Fourth Alabama from left to right, killing many and disabling more, among the rest Lieutenant Colonel [Evander M.] Law and Major Scott, leaving our regiment without field officers.

What does the reader suppose we did? We did not stay there. The position was too bad and the surprise too sudden. True, the enemy’s fire was once returned with considerable effect; but it is only frank to say that we resumed, without delay, our movement back to the main Confederate line, whither Bee had intended us to go when he first ordered us to retire. Having arrived there, even after all they had suffered, the Fourth Alabama still had pride enough left to rally again, and under the command of a captain fell in on the right of the line and fought to the end of the terrible day. I will not now attempt to detail all the incidents that befell the regiment in these later hours of the battle. I will give one, however, which will always be of special historic interest.

The position of our regiment being now on the right of the Confederate line as drawn on the plateau of the Henry House, and the leading design of the Federals during the entire day being to turn the Confederate left, the heaviest fighting gradually veered toward that flank. No one who was there can ever forget how the Federal musketry crashed and rolled in fresh outbursts as new troops poured in against the center and left. Farther and farther round its awful thunder seemed to encroach, as if it would never be stayed till it should rend and tear that part of our line to atoms. Our brigade comrades of the Sixth North Carolina, separated from us in the manouevres of the day, had rushed in single-handed and attempted to check it, but had been smitten as with fire by its overwhelming power and their gallant Colonel [C. F.] Fisher, with many of his men, were no more. Jackson, with brigade, was struggling desperately, and at length successfully, to arrest the Federal columns; but immovable as Jackson and his men stood, the surging tides of the enemy beating upon him with such a mighty momentum that it seemed as if he must give way. Just then the battle had entirely lulled in our front on the right. Our Brigadier, General Barnard E. Bee, at this moment came galloping to the Fourth Alabama and said: “My brigade is scattered over the field and you are all of it I can now find. Men, can you make a charge of bayonets?” Those poor battered and bloody-nosed fellows, inspired by the lion-like bearing of that historic officer, responded promptly: “Yes, general, we will go wherever you lead and do whatever you say.” Be then said, pointing toward where Jackson and his brigade were so desperately battling: “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall! Let us go to his assistance.” Saying that Bee dismounted and led the Fourth Alabama (what remained of them) to Jackson’s position and joined them on the right of his brigade. Some other reinforcements coming up a vigorous charge was made, pressing the Federals back. In this charge Bee fell mortally wounded. Bartow fell nearly at the same time and within a stone’s throw of the same spot. Before the Federals recovered from the impression made by this partial repulse they saw Kirby Smith’s men advancing down the Warrenton Pike upon their right rear, as before stated, and his unexpected appearance in that quarter struck them with an overpowering panic and caused their precipitate retreat from the field. The battle ended so suddenly that the Confederates could not understand and could scarcely believe it. When afterwards the doings of the day were recounted among is the above expression, uttered General Bee concerning Jackson, was repeated from mouth to mouth throughout the Confederate army, and that is how he came to be known everywhere as Stonewall Jackson.

In conclusion, as I have set down with an endeavor at entire frankness the achievements, the mistake and the misfortunes that day of the regiment to which I myself belonged (the Fourth Alabama), I may be pardoned for adding a word about how we looked back upon our experience after it was over as a curious illustration of the absurd notions of inexperienced soldiers. Our ideal was that we were to whip whatever we came across – no matter about numbers; many or few, we must put them to flight. To turn the back before any enemy would be disgraceful. Having, therefore, turned our backs to the enemy twice that day, as I have narrated, once under orders and once without, we of the Fourth Alabama, upon the whole, felt humiliated and rather ashamed of ourselves on reviewing what had occurred. It was some days after the battle that to our surprise we began to hear from our comrades if the army and to read in the papers that our regiment was thought to have distinguished itself greatly. Then we began to hold up our heads again and to recall the fact that we had lost more than any other regiment in the army. Finally, we go hold of the Northern newspapers and found where our gallant and generous adversary, [Brigadier General Samuel P.] Heintzelman, giving an account of what he termed our stubborn resistance in that opening conflict, which I have described, had praised us extravagantly, saying: “That Alabama regiment was composed of the most gallant fellows the world ever saw.” This restored our equanimity, and we concluded that if we had not come up to our previous ideas of our invincibility, maybe we had not done so badly after all, and perhaps our sweethearts at home would not scorn us as poltroons. One other profound inpression, however, was left on the minds, at least of some of us, by the events of that day, and especially when we came to gather up the mangled remains of so many of our late merry-hearted and beloved comrades – an impression which was not changed by all we saw in the succeeding four years, or by the lapse of time since, and that was – talk as men about great war-like deeds, heap plaudits on heroes and worship military glory how they will – war is from hell!

Transcribed from Peter Cozzens (ed.), Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume 5, pp. 41-49. Brackets above are the editor’s. Per note therein, the original article first appeared in the Philadelphia Weekly Times, 2/26/1881, under the title First Battle of Bull Run.

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