Alfred Davenport.

Camp and field life of the Fifth New York volunteer infantry. (Duryee zouaves.) online

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a hill in sight at the front. Our brigade (the 5th and loth
New York) took a position well to the front, on the borders
of a hill running up in front of them. The Warrenton turn-
pike, at the point where the engagement took place, known
as the Second Bull Run, or Afanassas Plains, intersected the
Union lines at their center, and ran in a westerly direction.
It was the great highway, in this immediate vicinity, by wliich
the army must advance, or, if defeated, retreat, as it led in
their rear over Bull Run Creek across a stone bridge, the
river being difficult to ford, and die banks on each side quite
steep, "As the road approaches the battlf-field. going west,
it goes up the valley of a little rivulet of Young's Branch,
and through the battle-field is mostly close to the stream.
The ground rises from the stream on both sides ; in souie
places, quite into hills. The Sudley Springs road, in cross-
ing the spring at right angles, passes directly over one of
these hills, just south of the Warrenton pike, and this hill
has on it a detached road, with fields stretching back away
from it some hundreds of yards to the forest. This is the
hill on which the Henry House stood," which was the key
to the Union position, particularly in case of a retreat.
If the enemy could gain possession of it, the result would
be disastrous to the Union forces, as it would drive them
from access to the turnpike. To the west of this hill was the
Bald Hill, so called ; between the two hills was a suiali
stream, a tributary of Young's Branch.

The Confederate line of battle was in the shape of an
'•obtuse crescent," at least five miles long, the apex of the
crescent con\'exity toward the west. Jackson was on tiif
Confederate left, his extreme right about one-fourth of a
mile from th,- W'arrcnt.'ii turnpike; l.un^strcel s comma;:':-
fifteen brigades, extended I'rom a point north of the tumi'ikc
near Jackson's right, far to the right beyond the line of M;^-
nassas Gap Railroad. In the interval, to the rear, between

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Second Battle of Bull Run 271

Jackson's right and I,ongstreet's left, the Confederate artil-
lery was placed, eight batteries, on coninianding elevations
behind a ridge ; front of it was open ground between two
forests, which stretched on each side of tiie Warrenton turn-
pike, the s[)ace between opening like the letter V, and about
half a mile between theni. At the apex facing the open
ground the Confederate artillery was placed.

General Pope's army, comprising, besides batteries, at
least one hundred and forty skeleton regiments of infantry,
was in the following position :

General Heintzelaian (3d cori^s) was on the extreme right
of the Union forces; General AfcDowell (1st corps) on the
extreme left ; Fitz John Porter, Sigel's corps, and a divibion
of Burnside's corps (Reno's) were placed in the center north
of the pike. Porter's corp.s, composed of less than two di-
visions, Morell's (Griffin's brigade not being present) was
on the left center, pushed forward in the concave crescent,
facing west, and on the north side of the pike, with two
brigades (Sykes' regulars), their left resting on the Warren-
ton i)ike ; Morell's tvvo brigades, Butterfield's and Martin-
dale's, were on the right of the regulars ; Warren's brigade
was held in reserve, with the batteries of \Veed, Smead, and
RandolL Reynolds' division of Pennsylvania reserves was
on the left, or south of the pike.

As Warren's brigade remaiiied in this position, batteries
posted on the left and the right of them were throwing their
shot and shell in the direction of the enemy. They returned
the fire, and their shot and shell came whi/zing about us,
sometimes compelling the men to lie down. While this was
transpiring they made their little fires and boiled coffee \w
their tin cups, which was their nourishment during
fix-ir long and tedious marches. Alter Iviiig in this position
>^'inc time, they were advanced to the top of the hill in fiont,
s>"Pportirrg a battery wliich still kept up a raj)id fire on ihe

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2/2 Fifth New York Volunteer Infantry.

enemy. The regulars were now further to the right, sup-
porting batteries.

General l*oiter having received orders from General Pope
to attack Jackson, on the supposition that he was retreating
from his position, ordered General Butterfield to attack. Wiiile
ht: was n^aking his preparations to do so, General Reynolds,
who held the left of the line, withdrew, by orders, two of his
brigades (Meade's and Seymour's) to a ppsition in the rear,
nearer the pike. It was. at this juncture that Warren, seeing
the wide gap on the left tlank of Porter, leaving tlie ap-
proaches to the turnpike open and exposed, advanced his
little brigade, about one thousand strong, to occupy the po-
sition, and also to protect Hazlitt's battery, whicli had been
ordered to the left and was without support. The brigade,
accordingly, was marched to a hill on the left, and in ad-
vance of the former jiosition.*

While marching up the slope of this hill they met a stray
skirmisher, belonging to Reynolds' division, who was una-
ware that his division had moved ; he came from the wood
in front, and as he passed on to the rear, he reported that
the enemy were advancing in force. A battery was posted

* General Sykcs* Report, " Pope's Campciij^ " (No. 35, p. 146^ : " The rennsyl-
vania reser\'f'^, under Genenl Reynoids, Jind been posted on my left, south of the
Warrenton pike. Just previous to the attack these troops were withdrawn, leaving
my left flank entirely iinovered, and the Warrenton rond open. Colonel Warron,
5th New York Volunteers, commandinij my 3d briij.ide, seeing the paramount ne-
cessity of holdin;; this point, threw himself there with his britjade, the remnants if
two regiments, and endeavored to fill the gap crettcdby the remo.alof Reynolds "

Swintoii (p. i9ot : "General Reynolds' division was detached from the left of
Porter by McDowell, and. with a portion of Rickctt's division. pK-jcod sc as to clieck
a flank maneuver that menaced to seize the Warrenton turnpike, which wa-. the
line cf retreat of the whole army. Some other troops shotdd have been taken
rather than remove Reynold, from that position. Rut the detachment of Reynolds
from Porter's lo.''t fur that purpose, had an unfortunate result ; for it exposed the
key-point of Porter's line.

"Colonel O. K. Warren, whi5 thci^r.dod one of I'ortcr's br:^.-ides.
the imniii-.c:ice of '.be d,in.;cr, at oii.:c, and without waiting fi;r orders, moved i- .'-
ward \wlh his, but brave brig;idc of about one thousand men, and otcuiM'-d
the important position abandoned by Reynolds," etc.

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Sc ond Battle of Bull Run. 273

on the right of the brigade, and a Httle to the rear, and con-
tinued its fire o\cr the open s[)ace, between tlie woods be-
fore mentioned, on the enemy's batteries beyond.

This new move of Warren's placed the brigade on the
south side of the turnpike, which was on his right, and some
distance from it, to the extreme left of our assauhing col-
umns. On a hill to the rear, commonly called Bald Hill
or Ridge, about twelve hundred feet away, was CoUiiel
Mcl.ean, commanding a brigade, consisting of four regi-
ments and a battery of four guns, and in his viciniiv was
Colonel Anderson, in command of Jackson's brigade, Rey-
nolds' division, composed of four regiments and a battery.

The 5th Regiment was drawn up facing a wood which
ran down near their position to a distance of from thiitv to
ten feet, and again to the rear on the left ran along at nearly
right angles. . Company I, on the lel't, were mostl\ in the
wood ; a little to the right of the regiment was the boimdary
of the timber land, and then came the ojien space stretcliing
back some distance, and also across to the wood on the
north side of the pike.

Directly to the rear was an open field, which. sloped down
to a brook, the banks of which were quite steep. The
water varied in depth from one to six or eight feet, and
was skirted by some light timber on the other side of the
stream ; then came Bald Hill or Rulge, on the slopes of
which was scattered a scant growth of bushes.

Six companies of the loth New York were posted in tlie
woods, in front of the left wing of the regiment. The re-
njaining four companies were sent out as skii nii:,hcrs.
About this lime Butterfield, on the north side of the pike.
having made his arrangements, moved toward the eiiemv
with his own .uid .Martindale's brigade, uf .Mniell's <iivi-.j.,.i;.
and attacked them wi'h great >i.iiit, supi'Drted by.->\ke>'
regulars ; but instead of being on the retreat, the enemv
were strongly posted in an old railroad cut, which shielded
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them to a great extent from his fire ; and although he main-
tained himself with great gallantry for some time, aided bv
the regulars, and made three assaults, lie was finally obliged
to retire, suftering a loss of one-third of his command. At
the most critical moment of this attack, the Confederates
on the left, under Longstreet, who had been 'masked, biding
their time, opened a heavy fire of shot and shell from a bat-
tery posted on a commanding eminence, which enfiladed his
line, and which decided the contest, so far as his attack was

As we have seen, nearly all of Longstreet's command,
lying in concealment, was south of the pike, facing the left
wing and tlank of the Union troojjs ; and, according to Con-
federate reports, the general disposition of their troops was
as follows: Law's brigade, of Hood's command, four regi-
ments, was on the north side of the pike, his right resting
on the pike. During the subsequent charge it crossed over
to the south of the pike and joined Hood's Own brigade.
Hood's Own, composed of the ist, 4th, and 5th Texas, iSth
Qeorgia, and the Hampton Legion, was lying south of the
pike, its left a short distance from it ; and Plans' brigade,
under the command of Colonel P. F. Stevens, was a little in
the rear, with the left resting on the pike and in support of
Hood. These three brigades were closely supported bv
Anderson's division of three brigades. On the right of
Hood were the divisions of Kemper and Jones, three brig-
ades each. The remaining three brigades were advantage-
ously placed, and also took 'part in the action.

At the decisive moment of the repulse of the attack by
Porter's troops on Jackson's right and center, Longstreet's
phalanx counnenced its terrible charge, under cover of a

* rolbrJ's History (p. 463) : " TIio liir,iiury .ittacUcd J^ickson, who^e men were
coiicciletl behind .\n excavation on the railroad, two crack corps of the
army, Svke>' and!l's, but it wx^ not in h.iman nature to -tand unfli.iciiumly
before tJKit h.iirric.ine of firo."

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Second Battle of Bull Run. 275

heavy fire from all his batteries posted on the comnmndin:;
ridges on his right and rear, and which played over the heads
of the charging columns. This charge was only checked at
night, after nearly all our whole army, and many batteries,
had been engaged. The first to meet it was Warren's little
brigade, which happened, by the exigencies of war, to be oc-
cupying the position of a forlorn hope* being pitted against
overwhelming numbers, and obliged to hold on to the last to
enable the rest of Porter's corps to withdraw from Jackson's

The enemy had kept so quiet on the left, that it struck the
men that either some mischief was brewing, or that they were
retreating. A few riile-balls had struck the ground a little
while previous, pretty well spent. It looked njysterious, as
not a Confederate was to be seen. It was not long before
some shots were heard close in front, fired rapidly. A body
of the Tenth came in all in a huddle, excited and somewhat
demoralized, breaking through the lines of the Fifth, on their
left, and cried out that the et^emy had come out of the
ground, as it were, and were coming on in heavy force, and
were right on top of them and on the llank. An order was
given by Colonel Warren to change position, but the thoughts
of the men were so intensely engrossed on the movements
of the enemy, that their principal anxiety was for the 'i'enth
to get out of their way as soon as possible, so that they couM
make tlieir fire tell, and get to close quarters ; they pretended
not to hear any orders, or did not wish to com[)rehend them.

The balls began to lly like hail from the woods, and the
Texans ware yelling like fiends ; their fire directly increasing
into one unceasing rattle, the air was full of deadly missiles ;

• Poll.ird (p. 4^.) : " la the pi?autime, J.ickson's left hail ni'.vanc-J r.iorc r ,t ■ ilv
ll>.m the rig'ct, rmd wen; pressing tlie federals back toward the turnpike. It "..i?
now the opportunity fur Loiigstrect to attack the exposed left Hank of tlie enemy ia
front of it."

I^c's R'-port : " Iluod'i two brlgudcs, followed by Evans, led the attack."

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2/6 Fifth Nciv York Volunteer Infantry.

it was a continual hiss and slack, the last sound telling that
the bullet had gone into some man's body. On account of
the companies of the Tenth who were in front of the left
wing, and who had not all got away from their front, the
Fifth returned the fire with difficulty, and that only by
obliquing their aim, but Company I, on the extreme left, with
their Sharp's rifles, and G Company, were doing well, and
could not fail to bring their man every time, they were so

The Tenth having thus been surprised by overwhelming
numbers, without any warning, were forced to fall back to
save themselves from annihilation or capture. Themajority
of them passed through the right and center of the Fifth 5
but before they could extricate themselves from their perilous
position they suffered a loss in a few short minutes, killed,
wounded, and missing, of one hundred and fifteen. Owing
to the very heavy fire, and being somewhat scattered in
breaking out of the woods, it was impossible for them to
rally and re-form on that ij^rt of the field. But no blame
should be attached to them for retiring, as no regiment in
the service would have hesitated to do the same, under sim-
ilar circumstances ; moreover, they would have received the
fire of the Fifth if they had not fallen back.

But notwithstanding the desperate situation, which was
enough to deinoralize almost any regiment, particularly un-
der the heavy tire they were receiving, and their own men
falling like autumn leaves, not an able man- in the Fifth left
the raiiks, and the regiment stood as firm as a stone wall.
In fact, they had so much i>ride in their organization, and
were so well disciplined, that they did not require any offi-
cers to urge them on.

About tins time Sergeant Andrew 1'. Allison, formerly a
soldier of the IJritish army, who carried the United States
flag, received a ball through his wrist, and gave the Hag to
one of the color Corporals, but immediately took it again.

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Second Battle of Bull Run. 277

and fell shot through the heart, the colors falHng with him.*
They were immediately raised again, and how many took them
during the seven minutes that the regiment stood alone, to be
t^laughtered, and before they were brouglit off the field, will
never be known. Lucien B. Swain, of Company K, was the
brave hero who brought them oft", holding them on high, but
was wounded in the attempt, and went to the hospital, where
he remained until mustered out. The Hag came to the regi-
ment the next day. Around the colors nearly all were cut
down ; it looked like a slaughter pen. Four of the color
guard besides Allison were lying dead ; two others of the
eight were wounded, and the color Company K was almost
wiped out ; the men kept closing up toward them, trying to
fill up the gaps, but it was in vain ; they were swept down as
if mown by a scythe. Sergeant Francis Si)ellman, of Com-
pany G, who carried the reginiental flag, was bleeding at
every pore, yet regardless of pain or his own life, still clung
to his tlag.

All along the line the fire was murderous ; the enemy were
on the front and flanks, and were pouring in a terrible cross
fire on the men, and were endeavoring to surround and take
prisoners the remnant of the regiment. Captain Winslow. in
command of the regiment, who v.-as acting nobly, fell wiili
his horse, which had received seven v.ounds, but fortunately
the brave Winslow was spared. Cai)tain Lewis, of Company
D, acting as field officer, who a few moments b<iore had
been begged by his men to dismount, fell from his horse.
dead, while one foot was still in the stirrup, and his liotly was
being dragged over the field. Lieutenant Wright, of tlie same
company, its only remaining officer, had rcceivctl his moit.d
wound. Adjutant Fred Sovereign and Captain H.ig^T, of
Company F", and its only remaining olhccr. were botii eUad.

* It is to be reiircttecl thut a likcnes-i of Ser^ Allison could nut have luen
preserved in this work, as he was equally deserving as Spellman. lUit .ill elTorts
I'j olitain his photograph were futile.


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2/8 Fifth A'fz:' York Volunteer Infantry.

Lieutrnitit Martin, of Company G, and its only officer, was
wounded in the leij, but scorned to leave his coniaiand.
Lieutenant Raymond, of Company H, wounded, and with
Captain McConnell, the remaining officer, soon to become
prisiMKTS. Captain }5oyd, of Company A, wounded, and
soon to become a prisoner. Lieutenant Keyser, the re-
maining officer of the company, wounded and left the field.
Captain Montgomery, of Company I, also soon to become
a prisoner, and Lieutenant Hoffinan, the remaining officer
of the company, suffering from three wounds. The forego-
ing include, with Colonel Warren and one other officer, all
the officers that were present with the regiment. Colonel
Warren still stood by the regiment which he had cherished
with so much care, and was not the man to forsake his troops
in tlie liour of need, although he would have been justified
in doing so, as he was only exposing his life to no purpose,
before as murderous a fire as ever fell to the lot of soldiers
to endure. It was not in his power to aid them, and he was
forced to look on and see the flower of his regiment swept
away. Nearly all of -the new recruits who had just joined
had fallen, and the remainder broke out to the rear. Some
of the non-commissioned officers at first attempted to shove
them in again, until Sergeant Forbes sung out: '• Let theni
go ! let them go ! " and the men were receiving deadly vol-
leys frnni an unseen enemy on -their left and rear, at close
quarters, as well as on their front, into their faces, from
Hood's brave, but ragged, barefooted, half-starved Texans,
who now swarmed in their front within twenty paces, yelling
like hrnd-^. Had the l-'ifth not been overwhelmed by such
vastly disi)roporti()nate numbers, they would have -hown
them a tiick with the bayonet which they did not uiider-
s\xn I. 0,ir men \\m\ siieh confidrnce in themselves tVoni
Ih.e ii-id training in the jiractical use of the I.ayonet, first in-
troduced, b) Colunel Warren, and such pride in the honor oi

Second Battle of Bull Run. 279

their regiment, that it never entered into their heads that
any force could drive them, nor could they have been forced.
except under the circumstances in which they were placed.
Here was a regiment of 490 men standing alone, without sup-
port, against two choice brigades of Confederate troops, meet-
ing the tirst onset of Longstreet's famous charge, that drove
several divisions of our army before it was finally checked
on Henry House Hill by Sykes' regulars, who were the bul-
wark of the army on many a field. They belonged to the
Fifth corps, General Fitz John Porter, who had saved the
Army of the Potomac by his skill and obstinacy in fighting
at the battle of Gaines' Mill. His military sagacity had
saved his corps from useless slaughter, and perhaps annihi-
lation, on the afternoon of the 29th, only to be ordered for-
ward the next day, without support, to be slaughtered, while
the efforts of the innocent victims were treated by those re-
sponsible with slight and dis[)aragement. If General Porter
committed a fault on the 29-th, who was responsible for the
disaster of the 30th, when a small force was ordered to attack
an enemy supposed to be retreating, while an immense re-
serve was held back in the rear at a safe distance ?

It now became apparent that the only hope of saving a
man was to tly and run the gauntlet, for in three minutes
more there would not have been a man standing. The only
alternative was to tly or to surrender. Put the men of the
Fifth did not understand the latter movement ; they had
never been taught it by their officers. All hope having van-
ished, and being without officers, the remnant of the once
proud regiment broke and ran for their lives. They were
nearly annihilated, but not conquered or disgraced, and boie
away with them all of their fiags, and many of their wountictl.
'I'ii>:ir heroic stand had- not been in vain. Hut tei field on th ■
ri^nt had been enabled to withdraw, as well as ila/hn's
battery, which the regiment was supporting. '"'The latter

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28o Fifth N'eiu York Volunteer Infantry.

had greatly impeded the enemy's movements on our right
by an enfilading fire."*

As soon as Colonel W^irren saw that his men were tiyin^'
to save themselves, wliich he had ordered them to do before,
he put spurs to his horse and escaped by dashing down tlie
slope and jumi^ing him over tlie brook at the foot of the hiil,
but turned again as soon as over to meet his men.

When the remnant of the regiment turned toward the rear,
the enemy were coming on in a long line without a break,
and were not over twenty feet distant, witli others pouring
out of the woods that ran along on the left and rear of their
position. It was ascertained afterward from wounded men
left on the field, and who subsequently returned to the
regiment, that they were followed closely by a second and
third line. On the right toward the turnpike was another
long line of Confederates, led on by their officers. But here
and there were some of the Fifth who scorned to turn their
backs or to surrender, and fought to the last. They were
all shot down.

The Confederates came charging on, a division snong.
with yells and cheers for Jelf. Davis and the Soiuiicrii
Confederacy, and giving vent to all kinds of proflane and ob-
scene epithets. x\.ll this time they were ])ouring in their
deadly fire at short range, picking out their victims as they
ran down the slope to the brook ; men were tailing on ail
sides, canteens were struck and tiying to pieces, haversacks
cut off, rifles knocked to pieces, and still the enemy came on
and swept everything before them.

Alluding to General }5utterfield's attack, General Sykes
says :

"The enemy seeing its failure, and that our weak point lay oii
my left in front of Warren, !)oured upon his liule conunaivi.

« A. H, G.i-;rus'-y ;,iy-, in " Hnrper's Pictonal History of the " : " WnrriiN
desperate st.-ind had not, however, been unavailing. To all seeminj:, it saxfi i"=
defeat fruni bccomiiiir a rout. '

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Second Battle of Bull Run. 281

under cover of the forest, a mass of infantry that enveloped —

Online LibraryAlfred DavenportCamp and field life of the Fifth New York volunteer infantry. (Duryee zouaves.) → online text (page 23 of 39)