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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Pvt. John C. Hallock, Co. A, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

12 02 2018

Headquarters 2d Regiment,
Scott Life Guard,
38th Regt. N.Y.V.
Aug 13th 1861

Dear Cousins

According to my promise I will endeavor to give you a detailed account of the Battle at Bull’s Run, as far as coming under my observation.

We were ordered to leave our camp, (where we are at present bivouacked) on the 16th of July, in light marching order, that is with Musket and accoutrements, canteen and Haversack, and Blanket, with three days ration in our Haversacks, and march to Fairfax Station, we commenced our march at 11 o’clock, a.m. and march until 10 o’clock that night, through the most rough and unpleasant road, that I ever beheld, about 7. o’ck we arrived at a point, where a stream was running, which we crossed on a plank, one to time, with the night so dark as to scarcely discern the plank under our feet, a single misstep would have precipitated one in the stream beneath, we crossed without accident, and after marching until 10 oclock, we encamped in a rough field using a stone for a pillow, and blanket for a bed, with a heavy dew falling, we made a camp fire and lay ourselves down to rest. In the morning, being the 17 inst, we again started for our destination over rough roads, through valleys and over hills, stopping occasionally, to send out scouts, and reconoiter, for fear of masked batteries, being placed in suspicious looking places. during one of these stops, a man was shot accidentally. getting an order to move, the rear came to the front and in going in quick time one of the men fell, and his piece went off and lodged in the heart of his fellow soldier. he was buried when he fell, we then proceeded on our way, and when we got within say 3 miles of Fairfax, we learned that their Pickets had found we were coming, and has started to alarm the enemy at Fairfax. we proceeded, and found that the road had been blocked up by trees, which had been felled across it, our road running through a woods for about 4 miles. before we reached Fairfax, about a quarter of a mile before we came up however we came to a battery, which on our approach had been deserted, and we march into Fairfax without molestation, the enemy having left some 4 hours previous. We then started for Fairfax Court House a distance of 3 miles but had not proceeded for more than one mile, before we were halted and ordered to march back to the station and encamp for the night which we did, after shooting several Pigs, and taking a few fowls and 11 Secession prisoners.

On the afternoon of the 18th we again took up our line of march toward Centreville and after a very wearisome march, which was done in quick time we arrived at Centreville before dark. the Federal troops under Col Tyler had been a skirmishing during the afternoon with the rebels, and retreated, before we came up. We then encamped about a mile from Centreville, and remained there until the morning of the 21st the morning of the Battle. On Saturday afternoon an order came to be ready to march at 2 AM. On the 21st our men, and those and those of our own Brigade, we were up by 12 midnight and prepared to march by half past one. we were then kept standing or sitting with our arms in hand and accoutrements on, until 6 AM when we were started off in quick time over a hilly road and throug woods for a distance of nearly 8 miles. (We were ordered to the rear of the enemy. As we were between them and Manassas, with only one way of retreat and for a course of three miles, in reaching distance of their Batteries.) when we arrived on the ground we were out of water, and, what water we could get on the field was taken from the run, which was the color of water after having rusty iron washed in it. Then we were ordered to the battle field, and after marching for half a mile on double-quick time. throwing off our cats Blankets and Haversacks, we were marched in line of battle in direct range of the enemy’s battery. we marched in good order to the bottom of a slight eminence, when we were ordered to ascend the eminence and engage the enemy, which was done in food order. Finding that the enemy’s batteries were telling with dreadful effect on our ranks, we were ordered by a right flank movement to support Griffins battery which had taken a position on our right, which order was promptly executed. we got within supporting distance and remained until the battery was forced to leave, having been silenced from the fire of the enemy. On the right of us was Ricketts Battery supported by the Fire Zouaves, from which they were forced to retreat in disorder. seeing their movement and not knowing the cause, our regiment seemed to be about following, when our noble Col. J. H. Hobart Ward, and Lt Col Farnsworth with others of our brave officers ordered them to return, which was done in comparatively good order. the enemy had now shown themselves for the first time. On the brow of the Hill. our regiment was ordered to fire, which told we deadly effect on the ranks of the enemy, and they fled in the wildest confusion, to the wood from which they had previously emerged, leaving Ricketts battery in our possession, which seemed to be the principle object of their attack. after that our regiment like many other got mixed with others, and all fought manfully. The Black Horse Cavalry dashed out from among the trees, and many of them will never return to tell the tale. The Fire Zouaves and 38th Regt were the only Regt. at this time on that part of the field, after which detached portions of many might be seen. It was observable that our forces could not gain the day, and a retreat was ordered. while leaving the field I came up with one of our captains who was wounded, and assisted him toward getting off the field. another soldier relieved me from my duty in this case, and march ahead. I had not proceeded far however before I saw a Lt enquiring for some of the 38th Regt. I offered to assist him and help him until he was (as I considered) safe, in an ambulance. He afterwards was taken prisoner by the enemy. The army then was retreating in disorder, the enemy following with their Batteries from which all who did escape don so through the providence of God, not by any forsight of their own. A ball struck my cap which was the only narrow escape I had. They may have passed, (and no doubt they did) as near, or nearly so as that, but a miss is as good as a mile. we returned to the same ground that we started from on that morning, and after a rest of two hours joined the army who were on their way to Washington. we arrived at the camp from which we started on the 16th on the 22nd in the afternoon, foot sore and weary, with many left struggling on the road, or mixed with others found their way to Washington. word was sent to Cornelia Hart that I had been taken prisoner as many of my own company had not seen me since they had seen me assisting the Lt off the field. Thus ended my first scene in the action of War. A word or line to Cornelia convinced here I was safe. wish many wishes for your health and happiness. I remain yours with Love to all

Jno C Hallock

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Corp. William Pittenger, Company G, 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, On the Campaign

28 11 2017

Army Correspondence of the Steubenville Herald.

————

Washington, July 23d

Dear Herald: – It is with emotions of grief, shame, and sorrow that I again write a few lines for you. We have met the enemy and they are not ours. The chivalry has gained the first great victory of the campaign, and all we have gained for the last few weeks is lost, and the work is to be done once more. But I will try and tell the sad history in order.

On Monday it was announced to us at dress parade that we were to march at 3 o’clock the next day. Many disbelieved and others thought that the march would be to Washington to be discharged. But when the day came our tents were struck, our knapsacks piled up, and after the usual amount of confusion and noise, we started — marched up the hill to Fall’s Church, saw the forces that were to join us, and really believed we were to go forward. That night we marched as far as Vienna, (rendered famous by the attack on the First Ohio) and there slept for the night. Early in the morning we moved forward. The day was intensely hot, and the men suffered for want of water, which was very scarce and bad. — About 10 o’clock a.m., we reached Fairfax, and as the enemy was there in force, we deployed over the fields, in line of battle. All expected to hear the cannons roar, and all were anxious to march forward. They were gratified; we advanced, but it was a hard task. Such jamming and crowding I never saw. Part of the way lay through very thick woods, and between pushing through brush and stumbling over stumps we began to realize some of the beauties of war. But soon we saw the “Secesh” in full retreat at the double-quick. They left many things behind in their hurry. This was a bloodless victory.

We rested two or three hours, and then moved forward, camping for the evening in a road. All were extremely tired, but arose next morning, refreshed by a good night’s sleep, and again took up the line of march. We reached Centreville at 10 a.m., and our regiments halted for the rest of the day. Centreville was a Rebel camp and was slightly fortified. The head-quarters were on a high hill, commanding a fine view, bounded on the west by the rugged line of the Blue Ridge, and extending four miles to the east and south. I was stationed there with ten others under the command of Lieut. McCoy, as a guard to protect the property. From here we had an outline view of the battle and Bull’s Run on Thursday. First the signal gun was heard, then others in rapid succession. In about half an hour the firing ceased. At this time our troops had taken the batteries, and were in full tide of success. An officer rode by and announced that victory was won, but even while he was speaking the firing commenced much more warmly than before. For some time the roar was incessant, almost as quick as the tapping of a drum. Then it became fainter, one shot following another at long intervals, and soon ceasing altogether. The scattered men from the regiments which were most disorganized came straggling by, and reported a very severe fight, saying that more than half their men were left on the field. This was soon found to be an exaggeration. They said they were at first successful, but the enemy receiving reinforcements, rallied and won the day, though with severe loss.

By this time all the troops were in motion and as the Ohio regiments filed past, the guard fell in with them, fully expecting that we were going to attack the battery. At about two miles distance from it, we formed in line of battle and moved forward a short distance and there halted, stacked our muskets, and lay down beside them for the night. Friday passed off without any movement on our part. On Saturday we heard we were to march the next day. This produced much dissatisfaction, particularly in the first regiment, as they thought their time had expired. So much was said about it that Gen. Schenk called them together and made an address, appealing to their patriotism and promising them that before the rising of an other sun we would be marched to the battle-field. This had the desired effect, and he was enthusiastically cheered, the men declaring that they were ready and willing to meet the foe. We arose at two o’clock, and started to our post, being assured that we were under the immediate command of Gen. Scott. The plan of battle was a good one, though it was scarcely so well executed. In front of us lay the low brush-covered hills near the junction. These were all planted with batteries, and could only have been carried with a great loss of life. — Two columns were to engage these, but not to risk an advance. The third proceeded due west for three or four miles, and then formed in a long line, of which Schenk’s Brigade, consisting of the New York second and the Ohio boys, was the left division. It was intended that this division should engage the western batteries of the enemy, while the rest of the column swung around and took them in the flank and rear. The march was rather a tiresome one, but at 6 1/2 o’clock we were in position. Hitherto all had been deep silence, broken only by the crackling of branches as we forced our way through the woods. We lay down, and all was as quiet as if two mighty armies were not preparing to shed each other’s blood — when, boom went one of our cannon. The ball sung along and burst right over our heads. This would never do, and we were moved further down into a ravine, and again lay down. The skirmishers were ordered forward, and soon the muskets were ringing sharply around. — We paid little attention to this, listening to the deeper music of the cannon, and were soon gratified. The battle first opened on the eastern part of the line. — The cannonading was heavy for some time, but soon ceased. Out men had driven them back to their trenches, and then retreated. It was our turn next. An officer came and told us that our forces had got into the enemies’ rear, and that we must advance to prevent them from retreating eastward. We jumped up with alacrity and marched down the ravine, which rapidly became wider and more flat-bottomed. Just as we came to the edge of a partially cleared space, and without any previous warning, a masked battery opened fire upon us — at point blank range, being not more than two hundred yards from us. The whistling of the bullets was more loud than pleasant, and in the surprise many dodged from the ranks into the bushes, but soon returned to their places. It was amusing, in spite of the danger, to see the ranks all fall as the cannon exploded, and then rise again. The order was given to retreat back into the woods a short distance, which was done in perfectly good order, and then all lay down. So far our line was unbroken; but the New York 2d, finding their position too hot for them, rushed back, trampling over us, and falling down among us, which somewhat confused us. Meanwhile the shot was flying thick around, crashing through the trees in every direction. Every little while we could hear the scream of a wounded man, as the balls struck him. [Illegible sentence.] One poor fellow who was lying not far from me, was torn to pieces by a [?] shot. The bombs, of which only a few were thrown, were most destructive. After nearly an hour, the New Yorkers were called away, and soon after I heard what seemed the sweetest music I ever heard — our own men on the hill north of us opening fire. They plied the enemy so hard that they soon ceased firing on us. We were then formed into line, and marched to the rear of our battery.

The roar of the artillery by this time was awful. The heavy thundering of the guns, the bursting of the bombs, the sharp singing of the balls, and the rattle of musketry on the right, where the columns approached within striking distance, all mingled together like the music of some grand orchestra. We were still within full range of the enemy’s guns, and were compelled to lie down to avoid the shot that whistled over our heads in unpleasant proximity. All this time our forces were rapidly gaining ground, and taking one battery after another, by the most desperate fighting.

The Rhode Island battery, on the extreme right was working with great rapidity and effect. A charge of the enemy’s cavalry was made upon it. They approached within one hundred and fifty yards without being discovered. Then the battery opened on them with grape, killing many, but still they advanced, and discharged their carbines on the artillery with such effect as to kill or wound most of the men and horses. The Fire Zouaves then gave them a volley, which sent them back at full speed, with half their saddles empty. This regiment did some splendid charging, and several times put the chivalry to rout, even against great odds.

All this time our troops had been slowly but surely advancing, and we were sure that the battle would soon be won. A few sharp volleys were heard and then all was silent, while an officer rode along our line, that was drawn up behind the battery in imposing order, and announced that the day was ours. A wild cheer rent the air, but the echoes had scarcely died away, when the firing again began, and dense clouds of dust were seen in the distance. “It is Patterson in their rear,” was the first exclamation; — the next — “God grant it may be Patterson.” The confused files of a regiment were next seen, and then the teamsters and citizens in their carriages, wheeled about and drove off the field at the top of their speed. Schenk’s brigade stood firm, but was ordered to take up a position on the edge of an adjoining wood, where we awaited the progress of events in intense expectation.

Up to this time (about 4 p. m.) there was no panic among the soldiers, but just then a corps of officers rode along the line in a very excited manner. One of them said that there was an immense body of the enemy supported by artillery charging on us and asked, “How can we meet it?” The advice of each was different, but enough was heard to know that our officers had caught the panic, and of course it was shared to some degree by the soldiers, but still they stood firm. The order was given to retreat, which was done slowly and in good order. The 2d Ohio in particular retreated very slowly, without the slightest disorder, and halted repeatedly in columns prepared to form a hollow square, but was ordered forward by the general officers. The cavalry, probably deterred by our being prepared, did not charge us, but attacked the hospital. The artillery gave them a few vollies, and the stragglers shot down many. We all earnestly hoped that a stand would be made, but in vain. Our Generals had other ideas. We retreated several miles, and at a large creek with only one small bridge over it, were attacked again. This was just on the edge of our temporary camp, and in a very good position for defense. The troops were drawn up in two long lines and in as good order as when arrayed in the morning. The slight attack was repulsed with ease, and it seems to me there would not have been the slightest difficulty in defending ourselves against any force the enemy could have brought against us so late in the day, and before morning we could have received many thousand fresh men to aid us in renewing the battle. But a retreat was again ordered, and commenced in good order. Our regiment kept its ranks unbroken for ten miles after leaving the battle field, and then became disordered from teams driving among us in narrow lanes, and from the men, overcome by thirst and fatigue, lying down by the roadside. I am thus particular on this point because it was stated in some of the papers that we became infected with the panic, and were the first to change a retreat into a rout. The enemy’s batteries first opened on us and soldiers who remain nine hours under fire and then retreat ten miles with their files unbroken, do not deserve to be charged with being panic-stricken. But I must close now, only saying that we will all be home in a few days. I may give you some incidents of the battle and retreat in my next.

Wm. Pittenger

Steubenville Weekly Herald, 7/31/1861

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Contributed by Dan Masters

William Pittenger, Daring and Suffering: A History of the Great Railroad Adventure

William Pittenger at Wikipedia

William Pittenger at Ancestry

William Pittenger at Fold3

William Pittenger at FindAGrave 

 





Pvt. Thomas McQuade, Co. F, 69th New York State Militia, On Blackburn’s Ford and the Battle

15 11 2017

Letters from Members of the Sixty-ninth.

————

The Battle at Bull’s Run – Masked Batteries and Rifle Pits – Reinforcement of the Confederate Troops – The Fire Zouaves – The Retreat – Kind Treatment by the Twenty-Eighth Regiment.

Fort Corcoran, Arlington Heights, Va,
Monday Even, July 22.

Dear T— : Thanks to God, I am safe, at least for the present. We have had an awful fight. We left here on Tuesday last for Fairfax. Everything went on favorably, the rebels evacuating their camps and trenches on our approach. We encamped the first night at Vienna, and started next morning for Centerville, which we reached that night. We passed through Greenville on our way, where the rebels had erected a breastwork, but we found it deserted. Some of the troops set fire to a couple of houses on Thursday. Our advance came in sight of the enemy strongly entrenched at Bull’s Run. General Tyler, who commanded our division, opened fire on them. He sent out skirmishers, and backed them up by a regiment. The rebels kept still until the poor fellows walked right up to a masked battery; they were only about thirty yards from it, and could not see a soul. The battery then opened, and poured a murderous shower of grape amongst the brave fellows, who stood it manfully. The rebels had rifle pits dug in front of these masked batteries, and all one could see was their heads occasionally. They kept up a raking fire on our troops until they made their retreat. It was now our turn; we were ordered up to cover the retreat. We went at double quick (about four miles distance). The rebels’ guns commanded the road, and when we got within range, how they did pepper us. Fortunately, we were ordered to lie down in the woods; we could not see them at all. Three of our fellows were wounded, and one of the Wisconsin killed – the ball that struck him would have mowed down ten or twelve of our company, had we not been lying down; it passed right over our backs. We were ordered back to Centerville, where we spent two days.

On Saturday evening we had orders to be ready to march at midnight. In the meantime we had been strongly reinforced; and so must have been the rebels, for we could hear the cars running all night bringing troops from all points continually, and their cheers on the arrival of each successive train. I hear they numbered between 75,000 and 100,000 men. Against this army we had to contend with less than half their force, they having all the advantage of position, with innumerable masked batteries, and hidden behind breastworks, woods, and sand pits.

Well, we left our camp at half-past two o’clock on Sunday morning, feeling our way as we went along by throwing skirmishers into the woods each side of the road ahead of us. About five o’clock we found them, when there was pretty smart cracking on both sides, our fellows driving their skirmishers in. We formed in line of battle in a wood, supported by the artillery and a siege gun. We advanced the latter, and let them have a shell as a feeler. In the meantime General Johnston had come up with his whole force to the support of Beauregard, and advanced on our right. We advanced under fire to the foot of a hill upon top of which was a masked battery, we could not see farther than about ten yards through the trees on this hill, so thickly was it studded. Well, having been formed, up this hill we started with a cheer that made the woods ring. The enemy allowed us to advance near the top, when they opened a terrific fire on us, cutting our fellows like sheep. The Seventy-ninth, Thirteenth (Rochester), and two other regiments (Wisconsin and Ohio) were into it too. We stood it for half an hour, alone, having no back whatever, all the other troops having retreated. During this time we made two or three unsuccessful charges to the very mouths of the cannons. We were the last that left our position.

The New York Fire Zouaves fought like tigers, twenty of them went in with us when we charged up the hill, and only two of them came back. We were the only regiment that formed prepared for cavalry on our retreat, all the other regiments running here and there making their escape as best they could. There were officers, privates, regulars, doctors, cavalry, and artillery, on one disordered mass, all running for dear life as fast as they could. The enemy’s cavalry were nearing us rapidly. We kept our square retreating by the fourth front until we came to the river that we crossed in the morning, and on the other side of which was a steep hill, when we broke, the cavalry blazing away at us within a dozen yards or two, and cutting all stragglers off. I dashed through the water, over knee deep, holding on to my musket and bayonet, as my surest and only protection, though hundreds threw them away to lighten their heels. I mounted the hill “while you’d say Jack Robinson,” and it was then everybody for himself. I got into the wood where we were formed in the morning, and made for the road. Such a sight as this same road revealed to my view I never expected to behold, and never wish to see again in my life. Men, horses, artillery, baggage wagons, all rushing, clattering, tearing along lest the next would be their last moment. Off I started again through the fields, and came upon a farm house, where hundreds of our troops were endeavoring to get a mouthful of water from a well. I thought we were safe here, and had just got a tin cup full when crack went two or three rifles. The cry of “the cavalry” again arose, and off I started at a rattling pace. I made for another hill (my only safety from cavalry). I plainly saw them on our right striving to cut us off. I overtook our second lieutenant, and told him “to hurry up.” “Wait till I tie my shoe,” said he. “Your shoe be hanged,” said I, and off I went again. He is all right, however, I got into the wood and went astray; it was then and then only that I feared I would not get clear from the hounds in pursuit. I knew that the cavalry could not touch me whilst I remained in the wood, but I feared they would cut me off, or that night would fall before I could make out my whereabout. Fortunately I kept to the right, and struck upon a pathway which I followed, and soon had the satisfaction of getting out on the road a short distance from Centerville, and the same sight presented itself here as that which I had witnessed before. The commissary and sutler’s wagons were upset on the road, and our fellows availed themselves of the opportunity to get a mouthful or two, of which we all stood much in need. The whole road was strewed with belts, haversacks, caps, blankets, etc. Although we might have halted at Centerville if we liked, as several regiments had arrived there to reinforce us, but too late for the fight, a party of the Sixty-ninth, Seventy-ninth, Second, New York Zouaves, Wisconsin, and other regiments, under the leadership of Captain Thos. Francis Meagher and Lieut. Hart of our regiment, continued the retreat all night. Many dropped down on the roadside from sheer exhaustion, and straggled in in twos and threes next day. Lieut. Hart gave me a glass of brandy, which I considered worth a dollar a mouthful. We took the road from Fairfax to Falls Church, and found it blockaded by trees in three different places, one of which was so ingeniously done, that it took us some time to find the road again. We had to walk through a field for some distance. The leaves of the trees that were felled were quite fresh and green, showing that they were not long cut down. We arrived here about five o’clock this morning, after a march of between thirty and forty miles, without scarce anything to eat or drink. The Twenty Eighth Regiment (New York) treated us very kindly. The Colonel came out and ordered his men to prepare all the coffee they could, and gave us all the brandy he had, sending his officers and servants around with it.

I lost my cap in the morning, and came across a washhand basin which done me as well. I looked a picture – my face all blackened with powder and dust, and scratched with brambles and briars, my eyes bloodshot from want of sleep, lame, sore footed, and stiff, a piece of wet linen across my head surmounted by my tin basin, and limping at the rate of a mile an hour when I reached the fort. I had a look at myself in a glass, and was quite enamoured with my figure-head.

Thank God, however, I have got back safe; our regiment was specially favored with his blessing. It is a miracle that we were not cut to pieces, for the enemy’s fire was never off us.

We hold our position, as all the places we have taken from here to Centerville still remain in our possession.

Our Colonel is missing; he was wounded, and is supposed to be captured by the rebels.

Yours, &c.,

Thos. McQuade, Co. F.

P. S. – We expect to be home in a few days.

[We are sincerely sorry to hear that our correspondent has sustained serious damage through a railway accident on his way to this city, and now lies in a very precarious state in hospital in Baltimore. We are unable to relate the particulars; but it is certain that one of his legs was caught between two cars and crushed to atoms. We sincerely rust that he will recover from his injuries. – Ed. Record.]

Metropolitan Record and New York Vindicator, “A Catholic Family Newspaper,” 8/3/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

69th NYSM Roster

Note that there is a second Thomas McQuade listed in the regiment, in Co. C. He later enlisted in the 69th NYVI, and was killed at the Battle of Antietam. Thanks to reader Joseph Maghe for his assistance.





2nd Lt. Fred W. Shipman, Co. F, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

5 09 2017

OUR MILITARY BUDGET.
———————
A VIVID NARRATIVE OF THE CONFLICT.

The writer of the subjoined gives a graphic picture of what came under his observation in the battle of Bull Run:

Heintzelman’s division, in their move from Centreville to Bull Run, experienced one of the most sever marches known in modern times. I say this and it will appear palpable to all, when it is considered that the heat was intense, the distance twelve miles, the men loaded with their guns, blankets, canteens, forty rounds of ammunition in their cartridge-boxes, and nearly all the regiments wearing heavy blue jackets, and yet making it in about three hours and a half. Any one following in the rear of the division would find it hard to believe that it was advancing on the foe, but would rather incline to the opinion than an army in full retreat had passed over the road. Blankets and jackets were cast off as the heat grew more intense. Some of the men gave out and despairingly threw themselves down, lamenting their utter inability to proceed farther. Two miles this side of the enemy’s batteries, Wilcox’s brigade, with whom your correspondent is connected, were allowed a ten minutes halt to strip themselves of everything that would encumber them, and at the same time filled their canteens with water from a creek. They were then marched from the road across lots for about a mile, over fences, up hill, and at double-quick the whole way, until they found themselves in the presence of the enemy. At this time the men were so thoroughly used up that it seems impossible that the same men in five minutes from that time were fighting with all the desperation and valor of experienced veterans.

The scene at this point was most exciting. The brigade took its positions upon the field – the Zouaves to the right, the 38th regiment, Scott Life Guard, upon the left, and the Michigan regiment marching along the road and forming, ready to support any movement that might be made. About a mile directly in front we saw what appeared to be a volcano vomiting forth smoke and flame, while the rifle cannon ball and round shot fell thickly among us, as we were drawn up in line of battle. Towards the left, as we came within its range, another battery opened with shell upon us, changing now and then to round shot. Our own batteries were upon the field. Green’s being behind us throwing over our heads, while Arnold’s was to the right preparing to take position on the hill. Two others, consisting of light brass guns, were in position firing, but with little effect, the distance being too great. When the line was formed, Capt. Arnold received an order to take position upon the brow of the hill with his battery, and the Scott Life Guard was ordered forward to support him. When the enemy perceived the advance about being made they fired with redoubled energy, but our men moved steadily forward, crossing fences and coming in proper order upon the instant. They at last arrived at their proper place, just below the top of the hill, and were ordered to lay down, when Arnold’s battery took position on top and opened fire upon the enemy.

The Fire Zouaves in the meantime had received orders to advance and take position along the edge of the wood, on the right of Arnold’s battery. The fire came so heavy here that our battery had not been in position five minutes before one of the gunners had his legs shot off, four horses were killed, and every shot of the enemy was aimed in such an accurate manner, that it was useless for our battery to remain in such a position. They accordingly drew their pieces a little way down the hillside and left them. Upon this a furious charge was made upon the Zouaves by the enemy’s cavalry issuing from the wood. They were received by a volley from the regiment that emptied many a saddle, and sent the survivors to the right about in short order. Another charge was then made upon them by cavalry upon their right flank, and infantry in front, when they broke and ran down the hill in disorder. Col. Ward, of the Thirty-eighth, then gave his regiment orders to charge, when, with a cheer, the men dashed forward, driving the enemy into the woods, and covering the ground with the dead and wounded. A concealed battery on the right opened fire on the Thirty-eighth at this time, killing some thirty men and driving the regiment down hill again; but the officers rallied them and led again to the attack, and it was not until several of the officers and many of the men had fallen, that the Thirty-eighth Scott Life Guard, finding the odds too great to be combatted with, retreated to the road. That they retreated in good order, may be seen from the fact that they stopped, uncoiled the cannon ropes, and dragged Arnold’s battery away with them, thereby preventing its falling into the hands of the enemy.

In the meantime the Zouaves had formed again, marched to the extreme right of the wood and again beat off the Black Horsemen, making many a rider bite the dust. But valor was useless against such odds and strength of position, and they as well as the other regiments walked sadly from the field. Col. Wilcox had fallen early in the engagement while leading a party to the attack in the woods. About one mile from the field of battle a large stone building was used for a hospital, the scene around this place was truly harrowing, mutilated men, some without legs, or only one, arms torn off at the shoulder, deep and ghastly body wounds, some exposing the intestines, and in fact every kind of wound that could be inflicted by gunpowder, iron or steel. Most of the men were carried to the hospital seated upon a musket, one man seizing it by the stock, another by the barrel, the wounded being supported upon it by a third man walking behind,

Upon the retreat of the last regiments who went to the assault, the Sixty-ninth, Second Rhode Island, and the Sixty-ninth, a charge was made by the enemy in the direction of the Hospital, when a perfect stampeded took place; those who were carrying the wounded dropped them by the road side and consulted their own safety, the drivers of the ambulance wagons drove forward unloaded, men cast aside their guns, while the artillerymen drove headlong through the crowd. A scattered firing from men of different regiments at last drove the enemy back and the march was resumed at a pace more fitting for weary and dispirited men.

Nine o’clock p. m. brought them to their camp around Centerville. By 10 o’clock the different regiments were pretty well together; the men had built fires, and expressed the desire to make a stand, having confidence they could beat the enemy in the open field. In four hours an order came to retreat on Washington, and the weary march was resumed – some of the men crying with disappointment at our giving up without one more rally. Too much credit cannot be given the men, not only for their courage, but for their endurance under adverse circumstances. Lieut. Col. Farnsworth, of the Thirty-eighth N.Y.S.V., had been confined to his bed for over a week before the battle, was carried to field in an ambulance, and yet, sword in hand, mingled in the thickest of the fray. Fourteen wounded men of the same regiment walked the whole way from the field of battle to Shuter’s Hill; seven of them will probably die. Many of the wounded were brought in in common baggage wagons, which must have produced intense agony to the poor sufferers, the roads being in bad condition and very stony; others came upon horseback, supported by comrades sitting behind them; scores sat down by the roadside, bidding their friends good bye, as they could stand it no longer. But amid all this, the men looked forward to the time when they could again meet the foe, and may were the firmly-expressed resolves to thrash them yet.

F. W. S.*, Co. F, 38th Reg’t N.Y.S.V.

Washington Star, 8/1/1861

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*Likely 2nd Lt. Fred W. Shipman

38th New York Infantry roster 

Fred W. Shipman at Ancestry.com

Fred W. Shipman at Fold3

Contributed by John Hennessy





Lt. William Willis Blackford, AAG, 1st Virginia Cavalry, On the Battle

4 11 2015

Aug. 6th, 1861
Headquarters Fairfax C.H.

Dear Uncle John,

I have been intending to write to you for several days but have been kept very busy by my new duties as Adjutant of our Regiment. We have been here now since the second day after the battle of Manassas and from present appearances we will be here for some time longer. We had a hard time of it for two days before and two days after the battle. We made a march of about 80 miles during Friday and Saturday, from near Winchester to the battlefield, starting about the middle of the day and reaching Piedmont at eleven o’clock that night. We bivouacked in an orchard, gave our horses ½ doz. ears of corn, and ourselves nothing to eat; started at three the next morning in a hard rain, wet, cold & hungry and halted to [find] & breakfast at nine. Reached the battlefield at sundown, and had a good nights rest in the broom sedge under clumps of pine branches. The morning of the 21st we were up bright and early and scouted in advance of the lines for one hour or two, ran into an infantry scouting party of the enemy who ran away from us, and we from them – hearing the firing on our left becoming hot we fell back to the rear, where we listened with purest interest to the engagement as it thickened towards nine o’clock. Here we remained until about the middle of the day when an aid came at full gallop towards us with orders for ½ of the regiment to go to the right & ½ to the left. Our Col. (J. E. B. Stuart) went to the left with ½ of the men & I with him. This proved to be the main point of attack – not long after taking our position in rear of this hottest part of the fighting we were ordered to the front to charge the N.Y. Fire Zouaves who were about taking one of our batteries. We dashed through a skirt of woods and came upon their flanks as they were marching in column by fours, and before they could form and present bayonets we were into them like lightning. We were in column by fours in passing through the woods and they were about 100 yds. beyond as soon as the head of our column emerged from the woods the Colonel brought the rear around front into line so we went through like a wedge shooting them armed with our pistols. Those in front of us we swept off in a few seconds. Hot times on right & left poured a terrific fire upon our flanks, we lost in about one minute 9 men killed, 24 wounded & 20 horses killed. The horses were so thick on the ground, I could hardly keep my horse from falling over their bodies. It was very dangerous to attempt to leap over them as they were floundering like chickens when their heads are cut off, and it was very hard to avoid them. As we wheeled to return, a battery opened on us with grape and killed some of the horses some distance in the woods. [In writing I and my horse wasn’t hurt at all.] I was detached by the Col. in the afternoon, where we were in the pursuit with 10 men & captured 80 men and a four horse wagon & team loaded with ammunition, every man of them, with the exception of perhaps a dozen I found around a house full of wounded, had his musket in his hand and many of them side arms. I got ten pistols and any quantity of Bowie knives from them two of the pistols, large sized Navy, I have now & will keep and have my name engraved on when I get home, with the date & leave them to Wyndham in my will. There is a P.O. here now. Please write to me. Love to all cousin Meats Family.

Your aff. Nephew,

Wm. W. Blackford

P.S. Excuse my making you pay postage but change can’t be had here. (See over)

Direct to Lt. W. W. Blackford

Care of Col. J. E. B. Stuart

1st Regt Va Cavalry

Fairfax CH.

Transcription and images from auction site Museum Quality Americana

Specific letter

Contributed by John Hennessy





Sometimes I Wonder…

28 10 2015

…why I even bother.

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way. I know that not every single person researching the First Battle of Bull Run (or even, if you prefer, the First Battle of Manassas) is going to use this site. I know a lot of people do, but I’m certain there are some who do not. And even those who do may only use a part of it. But I also know that, while there are some major issues which I feel almost everyone who has written about the battle have misapprehended, there is at least one minor misconception I thought had been put to rest: the uniforms of the 11th New York, and specifically those worn on July 21, 1861.

I’m not going to rehash that here. You can find other stuff I’ve written on the topic by searching the tag 11th New York in the cloud at the bottom of the margin at right, but this post sums things up nicely, I think.

What brings me to remind you of this is a book I’m currently reading and recently previewed, Custer’s Trials, by T. J. Stiles. So far it’s been what I expected – very nice writing and some interesting takes in the way of storytelling based on facts already in evidence. Some instances of a lack of familiarity with military structure during the Civil War, both theoretical and practical. But one inconsequential passage set me off, and perhaps is more illustrative of the stuff that gets in the way of folks like us, who have perhaps read too much, enjoying non-fiction story telling. Here it goes:

The cavalry did not stand by the artillery. Instead, the 11th and 14th New York infantry regiments hustled up the hill – the 11th wearing the baggy red pants of Zouaves, patterned after Algerian troops serving in the French army and something of a craze in America in 1861.

Ugh. No footnote, of course.

I have kept and will continue to keep in mind that this is a book about George Armstrong Custer. A character study. It will get some things wrong, as the author is not a specialist. He will rely on some he considers to be specialists (one author of very popular books on the Peninsula Campaign and of the Union Army commander, for instance). And I may not be happy with the results as far as that goes. But I will be guided by the question of how an error affects the story being told about Custer, as opposed to falling into the “if he got that wrong, what else does he get wrong” trap. That’s just plain lazy.