B. B. Breazeale.

Co. J, 4th South Carolina infantry at the first battle of Manassas online

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at tki Sixst battle
of THianassas

Company J, 4th South Carolina Infantry

Go. J, 4th South Carohna Infantry

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Fir^ Battle of Manassas

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4th Sergeant Co. J, 4th S. C. Infantry



Co. J, 4th South Carohna Infantry at the
Fir^ Battle of Manassas

A Letter Written by B. B. Breazeale to His Son at Manassas

Belton, S. C, June 1, 1912.
My Dear Son :

I am afraid that I shall not be able to come to Manassas
this summer. I would like to go over the old battle ground
again, but fifty-one years is a long time, and I am not quite
as active as I was in 1861. We were all boys then— I was
only 24.

My regiment was one of the first Southern regiments to
reach Northern Virginia. I was, as you know, 4th sergeant
of Company J, Capt. William Anderson, of the 4th South
Carolina Infantry, Col. J. B. E. Sloan. We left Columbia,
South Carolina, June 15, 1861, and when we reached Vir-
ginia it was our good fortune to go into camp at the "fair
and beauteous Leesburg. " Company J was detailed to
guard Edward's Ferry on the Potomac, some three miles
east of Leesburg. We remained there, living on the fat of
the land and basking in the smiles of the good women, until
early in July.

All kinds of rumors had been rife in camp. Patterson
had come down into the Shenandoah Valley with 15,000 Union
troops. Jackson, who was only a Brigadier at the time, to-
gether with Bee, Bartow and Elzey, had been sent to Win-
chester to keep watch on his movements. McDowell had
left Washington, had taken up position around Alexandria

and was preparing to move upon Richmond by way of Fair-
fax Courthouse. We knew of these movements and all of
us were anxious to meet them. How little did we know of

We broke camp about July 7th and moved down the
turnpike in the direction of Centreville. As McDowell did
not seem to be very act-
ive, we took our time,
often going into camp and
resting two or three days.
We were joined at Frying
Pan by Major Wheat with
his battalion of Louisiana
Tigers. Wheat's bat-
talion and the 4th South
Carolina, less than 1500
men alto:i:ether, were
formed as a brigade and
Gen. N. G. Evans took
command. We arrived
at the Stone Bridge on
Wednesday evening, July
17th, and went into camp
in a little grove on the
left hand side of the War-
renton turnpike, just
across Bull Run from Cen-
treville. My company was

on the extreme left, and so when the Tigers were brought
up and attached to our regiment it threw us next to them.
I got enough of them in short order. They were not afraid
of God or man, and no one but Robert Wheat could manage
them. I have often seen him tie them hand and foot, gag
them and pour water down their throats to make them stop
fighting among themselves. This was possibly the original
water cure, but even this did not always work. A day or
two after we got into camp two of his captains, both named


White, fought a duel with their rifles, but neither was killed.
In the maantime McDowell had brought his army down in
the neighborhood of Cen-
tre ville, and Beai^'egard
had massed his troops at
Mitchell's and Black-
burn's fords and at Union
Mills, further down Bull
Run in the direction of
Manassas. We after-
wards learned that Beau-
regard had planned to
cross Bull Run at one of
these fords below us and
strike McDowell's left at
Centre ville, whileMcDow-
ell had planned to cross
Bull Run atSudley's ford,
three miles above the
Stone Bridge, and strike
Beauregard's left. Of
course we did not know

of McDowell's plans, and as Gen. Evans had orders to "hold
the Stone Bridge at all hazards," we set to work early in
the morning of the 18th to make our position secure. We
cut every tree that was near enough to the road to fall across
it, from the Stone Bridge to the hill near the Van Pelt house.
You spoke of some large trees standing near the road about
half way from the Stone Bridge to the Van Pelt hill. These
must have been only little saplings fifty-one years ago, and
too small to be of any consequence in stopping up the road.
We cut off and sharpened the limbs of these felled trees and
made it practically impossible for anything but infantry to
get through.

In the afternoon we went back to camp, and while I
was lying down upon the leaves I heard the boom of a can-
non in the direction of Mitchell's ford. McDowell was

GEN. IRWIN Mcdowell

making a feint upon our right in order to conceal his move-
ments around our left flank, Bonham and Longstreet were
at Blackburn's ford, and Early, Ewell and Jones were further
down the run. Cocke's brigade was stationed at Lewis
ford, about a mile below us, Jackson, Bee, Bartow and El-
zey had been ordered from the valley, but as yet had not
arrived. I began counting the cannon shots, "Boom, boom,
boom, boom;" thev came slowly at first, and I had no diffi-
culty in counting them. The shots came faster and faster,
and when they reached a hundred I lost count. I afterwards
learned that this was Tyler's division trying to drive Long-
street from Mitchell's ford.

We were, as you see, the first troops upon the battle
field of Manassas. On the 19th Jackson, Bee and Bartow

arrived from the Val-
ley and took up their
position at Blackburn's
ford with Bonham and
Longstreet. I well re-
member that Friday
night. Lieut. Brown
and I went up to the
Robinson house and
spent the night there.
This was one of the
two nights that I spent
in a dwelling house
during the four years
of service. We had
some mutton for break-
fast, and it was about
half spoiled. It would
kill me now, but a sol-

GEN. G. T. BEAUREGARD ^^^^ ^^^ ^^^ anything.

On Saturday morn-
ing Beauregard came to the conclusion that McDowell was
massing his troops down at Blackburn's ford, and confidently

expected an attack from that quarter. Our brigade fell in,
leaving the Stone Bridge unprotected, and marched toward


ofth/ rounlri^ oc^upud

on lhel8*»2^'July^86l

I WA/iD£fl iCATieTT.


Manassas. We took up a position on the hill back of Mitch-
ell's Ford, I suppose as a reserve to Longstreet. Nothing


came of this, so in the afternoon we marched back to the

Stone Bridge and went into camp.

We all slept well that night, as none of us expected an

attack. About four
o'clock Sunday morn-
ing, I was awakened
by the rumbling of can-
non wheels on the turn-
pike in the direction of
Centreville. It was
McDowell's army in
motion. In a few min-
utes our camp was up
and in arms. We fell
in and Captain Ander-
son divided Co. J into
squads. He ordered
me, with Silas Eree-
zeale. Press Cowan, E.
M. Griffin and Pink
Haynie to guard a lit-
tle ford about 200 yards
below the Stone Bridge.
He himself carried the
rest of the company up
to the bridge, but they
did not cross the run.
I, with my squad.


crossed the run on a foot log and took a position on the
Centreville side. This was before day.

Just about daylight I nociced two of the enemy's vedettes
coming over the hill through the broomsedge. They were
carrying their guns at trail arms, and, although coning in
our direction, they did not see us, for they had their atten-
tion on the men at the Stone Bridge. Press Cowan and I
left the other three men by the foot log and walked up to
the fence by the edge of the field, about 40 feet from the

bank of Bull Run. The vedettes came on until they were
within a hundred yards of us. I laid my gun down across
the top rail and ran my eye down the barrel. At that in-
stant Press Cowan, who was standing a step behind me,
fired. This was the first musket fired at the Battle of Ma-
nassas. It was fired by Press Cowan, a private of Co. J,
of the 4th South Carolina Infantry. It was about £00 yards
below the Stone Bridge and about 40 feet from the bank of
Bull Run, on the Centreville side, about 6 o'clock in the

I did not fire, but set my gun down and jumped upon
the fence to see what had happened to the two vedettes.
At the crack of the gun
both went down in the
broomsedge. I had no
more than reached the
top of the fence when
"zip" a bullet went by
my head. This was the
first intimation I had that
a Yankee would shoot you
if he had a chance, and I
lost no time in getting
down from the fence and
getting under cover. I
do not know whether
Press hit his man or not.
Only one shot was fired
at me, and we never saw
anything more of the two

McDowell had crossed Cub Run and was movingnorth ward
in the direction of Sudley 's ford, but Beauregard still expected
an attack at Blackburn's ford. About 8 o'clock, Major
Alexander, chief of the Confederate signal service, who
was stationed on a high hill two miles east of Manassas,
seven miles from the Stone Bridge, saw clouds of dust in



the direction of Centreville, and caught the glimmer of the
morning sun on McDowell's caissons. He made out through
his field glasses that the enemy was in motion, and sent this
message by signal flags to General Evans, who was at the
Van Pelt house. "Lookout for your left. You are being
turned. ' ' This was the first message ever sent by signal flags
in actual warfare.

About this time the enemy brought up four pieces of
artillery on the hill I etween Bull Run and Cub Run aid
commenced to shell our position. Company B was stationed
on the hill between Bull Run and Young's branch. The first
shell struck among them and killed Wilton Earle. Later in
the day, this same battery opened fire upon our hospital
flag, which floated over the Henry House. I do not think

they intended firing
upon our wounded, but
they were possibly raw
troops like ourselves,
and did not know a
hospital fljig when t hey
saw one.

Beauregard had
now awakened to the
fact that McDowell was
swinging around h i s
left flank, so he began
moving his troops in
our direction. The
Loudoun battery, Cap-
tain Rodgers, took up
position on the Van Pelt
hill and began to re-
turn the fire of the
enemy's battery on the
other side of the run. We were between the fires, but ex-
cept tearing off the tree tops over our heads no damage was



About 11 o'clock Burnside, with two Rhode Island regi-
ments, crossed Sudley's ford and appeared upon the top of
Mathew's hill. Gen.
Evans took the Louisi-
ana Tigers and six
companies of the 4th
regiment and moved at
a double quick across
the ravine and up the
hill to meet them. Ev-
ans had less than a
thousand men with him
at this time. My com-
pany still held its posi-
tion on the run, while
three other companies
were left on the pike
and below the Van
Pelt house and Robin-
son hill.

The Tigers outran
the South Carolina boys
and reached the top of
the hill first. We could

hear the musketry rattling and the men cheering when they
got to the top of the hill. Evans, single-handed, was hold-
ing in check the Federal advance. We did not know what
was happening over there beyond our sight. The musketry
got louder and the artillery began taking a hand. Presently
cannon began firing from the Henry House hill. This was
Imboden, with his Staunton battery, w^ho was attached to
Bee's Brigade.

We stuck to our post until about 1 o'clock. A Federal
brigade of three regiments (Schenck's) came up the turn-
pike from the direction of Centreville. We could hear their
bands playing "The Star Spangled Banner" and "Yankee
Doodle," and we began to get a little uneasy. Another bri-



gade (Sherman's) had already crossed the run a little way
above us and was coming- into action from the direction of
the Pittsylvania house. We were rav^ troops, and dreaded
being captured u'orse than anything else. The br'gade in
front halted in the woods about 400 yards above the bridge,
and took off their knapsacks and prepared for action. We
knew that we could not hold the bridge against them, and
as they approached us Captain Anderson withdrew his men
from the bridge and brought them down the run toward
where my squad was stationed. He called to us that we
were being cut off; so we ran across the run and joined
them, and together we ran up the hill into the woods toward
the Lewis house. We were completely cut off from our
regiment and knew not which way to turn.

The firing had now shifted to the Henry Hill, so Cap-
tain Anderson headed us in that direction. We came out of

the woods just above
the Lewis house and
ran into hundreds of
stragglers, wounded
men and soldiers that
had been beaten back
in the fight on Math-
ews' hill. Bee and
Bartow had now come
up and were fighting
furiously below the
Henry house. Jackson
had gotten there also,
but had not yet gone
into the fight.

We had no more
than gotten out of the
woods when a young
officer rode up shout-
ing: "Rally, men, rally. Fall in and stand by your colors."
We marched out in the open and joined an Alabama and a



Mississippi company. A little Irishman took command of
these three companies and marched us up and formed us in
line of battle and stationed us on the extreme left of our




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line that was already there supporting our artillery, our
artillery being- on the extreme right of this line. A portion
of our company was in the head of a gulley just over the
ridge on the Henry hill, directly between the Henry house
and Manassas.

All this time the minnies were singing above our heads
and shells were exploding above us. Rodger's battery had


bean broug:ht up from the Van Pelt house, one gun break-
ing down on the way. These, with Imboden's battery (the
Staunton Artillery), the Rockbiidge Artillery, the Alexan-
dria Artillery and two smooth-bore New Orleans guns,
making 17 cannon in all, were stationed in the edge of the
woods, near the road leading from the Lewis house to the
Warrenton turnpike, almost on a line with the crest of the
Henry house hill.

We had been in line of battle only a few minutes when
General Beauregard rode along our front in the direction of
the Lewis house. This was the first time that I had ever
seen him. A staff officer with him shouted: "Men, this is
General Beauregard." "Yes," said he, taking off his hat,
"and fight for General Beauregard. When they put their
heads over that hill they are ours." He rode on out of sight
down the line. We could hear the men cheering him as he

Rickett's battery of six pieces had been moved by Mc-
Dowell from the Mathews hill and had taken a position in
our front, about fifty yards from the Henry House. Some
of our sharpshooters were in the house at this time and they
opened fire upon him and killed several of his horses. He
turned his guns upon the house and riddled it with shells.
This was the volley that killed the Widow Henry. She was
85 years old at the time and was confined to her bed. After
Ricketts had dislodged the sharpshooters he turned his at-
tention to our batteries stationed in the edge of the woods,
not over three hundred yards away, on our extreme right.

About this time another Federal battery of five pieces
under Captain Griffin came up the hill and unlimbered be-
tween Ricketts and the Henry House. Griffin's position was
now on the left of Ricketts. Both these batteries were
shelling our artillery while we were taking our position,
over the crest of the Henry hill.

All this was almost within a hundred yards of us, but
over the hill and out of our sight.

After they had been firing for about half an hour. Cap-












^ ffi




tain Griffin decided to move two of his pieces to the eleva-
tion on the right of Ricketts, in order to give himself more


room. They limbered up and came charging up the hill
directly in our front. They did not see us, for their atten-


tion was directed toward the artillery on our right. When
they got within 22 steps of our line and brought their horses
half way around preparing to unlimber, Captain Anderson
shouted ' 'Fire ! ' ' We rose up from the gulley and gave them a
volley. Sam Emerson and I ran through the smoke to
within 16 steps of them to see what had happened. Every
horse had been killed and only one man was in sight. He
was crouching behind a wheel of one of the caissons. I
fired at him, but in the excitement of the battle I do not
know whether I hit him or not. This was the first repulse
the enemy had met with that day.

Captain Griffin afterwards testified before a committee
investigating the conduct of the war, that he had moved
these two pieces up there and that they had been in position
about five minutes and had been firing when they were shot
down. In this he was mistaken. They did not even get
unlimbered. Captain Griffin remained down the hill with
the rest of his battery, and no mounted officer accompanied
the two guns to the top of the hill. One of the caissons ex-
ploded a few minutes afterwards and shell flew through the
air in every direction. The wheel horses were partly

We got down into the gulley again and waited for the
Federal advance. None of us knew where our regitXient
was nor who our present commander was. We only knew
that the enemy was in front and that a terrible conflict was
taking place in the ravine below us.

About this time Company B of the 4th South Carolina—
the Palmetto Riflemen— came marching along the top of the
hill, between us and the Henry House. The color-bearer
stopped a moment and planted our flag upon the two pieces
of artillery that we had just disabled. Then they marched
on in the direction of the Lewis house. They were also cut
off, and were looking for their command. Amid the smoke
and confusion no one recognized them until they had passed.

By this time Hampton had gotten into action. He had
unloaded his Legion— 600 strong— at Manassas that morning


and had come to Evans' support. He took up a position near
the Robinson house, with, his right over near the Warrenton


The brigades of Bartow, Bee and Evans had been pretty
well cut to pieces in the ravine below the Henry House and
were now coming up the Henry Hill in a disorganized mass.
At this time we were badly whipped, but Jackson, who had
been stationed in the woods behind the artillery, had come
into action. He had formed a line of battle along the crest
of the Henry Hill in the face of the enemy's artillery fire.
The South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and
Louisana troops were in a panic. It was then that General
Bee rode in front of th m and shouted: "Look, there stands
Jackson like a stone wall. Rally behind the Virginians."
He presented a magnificent spectacle, with his long hair and
brilliant sash, on his magnificent roan. He was shot immedi-
ately afterwards and fell from his horse. Four of his men


picked him up and brought him out toward the Lewis House.
As they psssed me I fired cfT my gun which I remember
was loaded with 12 buckshot and a ball, and put it under him
as a support. The four other men and I then carried him
back toward the Lewis House. Some others joined us on
the way. He was suffering terribly from a wound in his
groin. We laid him down and I took off his boots. We then
turned him over to the surgeons. He died that night. I
then went back to my company.

The battle now seemed to center on the Confederate left,
a few hundred yards from where my company was stationed.
The batteries of Ricketts and Griffin, stationed in front of
the Henry House, had confined their attention to our artil-
lery, but, as I remember it, with very little effect as they
had fired too high and had cut their fuses too long. About
two o'clock, after the brigades of Bee, Bartow and Evans
had rallied on the Henry Hill, General Beauregard ordered a
charge against the batteries of Ricketts and Griffin and their
supporting columns. Sherman's brigade had come up
Young's Branch to where the Sudley road crosses the War-
renton turnpike and had followed the Sudley road up oppo-
site to and within 150 yards of the Henry House. The road
along here was worn deep enough to furnish shelter to his
troops from our fire. He had now left this shelter and his
troops were swarming over the plateau in front of the Henry
House, when Beauregard ordered the charge. When our
man swept down upon them the enemy broke and fled, but
three times they formed and came back. The enemy's bat-
teries seemed to be the object of the charges. I believe that
Ricketts' battery was taken and retaken three times but
they were badly disabled and neither side had ammunition
to work them. It was in front of these batteries that
General Bartow was killed while leading the 7th Georgia.
Some Mississippians also fell here. I saw 17 of them lying
side by side in front of the Henry House after the battle.
They were tall, handsome fellows with high boots on. They
were the first dead men I saw during the war.


This movement of the enemy against our extreme left
and the destruction of their artillery left our batteries free
to increase their fire on the enemy's left and rear. They
must have done good shooting from the number of dead
men, horses, ambulances and muskets left on the field below
the Henry House.

McDowell now brought in Heintzelman's division and
began executing his final flank movement against Jackson's
left. Jackson was hard pressed and for a long time held



back the enemy's advances. They then began moving
towards the woods on his extreme left southwest of the
Henry House, on the edge of the Sudley road. Jackson was
changing his front to meet this movement when Kirby Smith
arrived from the Valley with Elzey's brigade. He had
unloaded his troops on the Manassas Gap Railroad about four
miles from Manassas, and had come across the country at a
double quick, guided by the sound of the cannon. He was











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not a minute too soon. He struck the advancing columns of
Heintzelman in the edge of the woods and they brol^e and
fled. General Smith was wounded here and also Colonel
Wilcox, one of McDDwell's brigade commanders.

This was the beginning of the route. I went upon the
crest of the hill where I could see the retreating enemy.
Elzey followed up his attack with a charge, and the enemy
fled down the ravine west of the Henry House, across the
Warrenton turnpike and went over the hill in the direction
from which they had come, toward Sudley Ford. Our
infantry made little effort to pursue them.

The brigade (Schenck's) that had driven us away from
the Stone Bridge had not gotten into battle. They had
crossed the bridge without opposition, worked their way
through our obstructions, come up the Warrenton turnpike
and had begun to deploy below the Robinson Hill when the
retreat began. They also broke and fled. A few of our
artillerymen wheeled one of our cannon around and fired
two solid shots at this retreating brigade. The shots struck
the ground over by the Van Pell House and did no damage.
I wa-; standing a few yards from our guns and to my knowl-
edge these were the only shots fired at the retreating enemy
who were in plain view for a good many minutes. This
brigade (Schenck's) was the only one to retreat by way of
the Stone Bridge. They did not stop for their knapsacks
which they had left on the other side of the run. The 4th
South Carolina picked them up a few hours later and inci-
dentally in them we made acquaintance with friends that
stuck by us through the balance of the war— greybacks.

After the retreating enemy had pretty well gotten out
of sight, my company marched back down to the Lewis
House. We reached there just in time to meet President
Davis. He had come up from Richmond to Manassas and
with his staff, had ridden across to the battle field in time
to see the victory. He rode up to the house, spoke to General


Online LibraryB. B. BreazealeCo. J, 4th South Carolina infantry at the first battle of Manassas → online text (page 1 of 2)