Judith White Brockenbrough McGuire

Tuesday.—The victory is ours! The enemy was routed! The Lord be praised for this great mercy.

Evening.—Mr. _____ and myself have just returned from a neighbouring house where we heard the dread particulars of the battle. We saw a gentleman just from the battlefield, who brought off his wounded son. It is said to have been one of the most remarkable victories on record, when we consider the disparity in numbers, equipments, etc. Our loss, when compared with that of the enemy, was small, very small; but such men as have fallen! How can I record the death of our young friends, the Conrads of Martinsburg, the only sons of their father, and such sons! Never can we cease to regret Tucker Conrad, the bright, joyous youth of the “High School,” and the devoted divinity student of our Theological Seminary! Noble in mind and spirit, with the most genial temper and kindest manners I have ever known. Mr. _____ saw him on Thursday evening on his way to the battle-field, and remarked afterwards on his enthusiasm and zeal in the cause. Holmes, his brother, was not one of us, as Tucker was, but he was in no respect inferior to him—loved and admired by all. They were near the same age, and there was not fifteen minutes between their deaths. Lovely and pleasant in their lives, in their deaths they were not divided. But my thoughts constantly revert to that desolated home—to the parents and sisters who perhaps are now listening and waiting for letters from the battle-field. Before this night is over, loving friends will bear their dead sons home. An express has gone from Winchester to tell them all. They might with truth exclaim, with one of old, whose son was thus slain, “I would not give my dead son for any living son in Christendom.” But that devoted father, and fond mother, have better and higher sources of comfort than any which earthly praise can give! Their sons were Christians, and their ransomed spirits were wafted from the clash and storm of the battlefield to those peaceful joys, “of which it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive.” I have not heard which was there to welcome his brother to his home in the skies; but both were there to receive the spirit of another, who was to them as a brother. I allude to Mr. Peyton Harrison, a gifted young lawyer of the same village. He was lieutenant of their company, and their mother’s nephew, and fell a few moments after the last brother. He left a young wife and little children to grieve, to faint, and almost to die, for the loss of a husband and father, so devoted, so accomplished, so brave. Like his young cousins, he was a Christian; and is now with them rejoicing in his rest. Martinsburg has lost one other of her brave sons; and yet another is fearfully wounded. I thank God, those of my own household and family, as far as I can hear, have escaped, except that one has a slight wound.


We certainly routed the enemy, and already wonderful stories are told of the pursuit. We shall hear all from time to time. It is enough for us now to know that their great expectations are disappointed, and that we have gloriously gained our point. Oh, that they would now consent to leave our soil, and return to their own homes! If I know my own heart, I do not desire vengeance upon them, but only that they would leave us in peace, to be forever and forever a separate people. It is true that we have slaughtered them, and whipped them, and driven them from our land, but they are people of such indomitable perseverance, that I am afraid that they will come again, perhaps in greater force. The final result I do not fear; but I do dread the butchery of our young men.

Jane Eliza Neuton Woolsey

Tuesday Morning, July 23, ‘61.

God be praised for that telegram! What a day was yesterday to us; and what a day must it have been to you, my dear Eliza! The terrible news, the conflicting reports, the almost unendurable suspense we were in, the distance from you at such a time! Altogether it was a time to be remembered! We are thankful indeed, unspeakably so, to hear this morning by your nice letter, Georgy, of Joe’s quiet sleep upon the sofa at your side! How mercifully are we dealt with! when we think of the families in our land who are this day in sorrow as the result of this terrible battle. . . . There is a tremendous sensation throughout the city in consequence of this news—crowds are rushing continually to the news offices, and all we have seen are wearing looks of sadness and disappointment, following as this does so immediately upon the accounts of the easy manner in which Fairfax, Centreville and Bull’s Run were captured, and the flying of the enemy before our soldiers.


Tuesday.—Witnessed for the first time a military funeral. As that march came wailing up, they say Mrs. Bartow fainted. The empty saddle and the led war-horse —we saw and heard it all, and now it seems we are never out of the sound of the Dead March in Saul. It comes and it comes, until I feel inclined to close my ears and scream.

Yesterday, Mrs. Singleton and ourselves sat on a bedside and mingled our tears for those noble spirits—John Darby, Theodore Barker, and James Lowndes. To-day we find we wasted our grief; they are not so much as wounded. I dare say all the rest is true about them—in the face of the enemy, with flags in their hands, leading their men. “But Dr. Darby is a surgeon.” He is as likely to forget that as I am. He is grandson of Colonel Thomson of the Revolution, called, by way of pet name, by his soldiers, “Old Danger.” Thank Heaven they are all quite alive. And we will not cry next time until officially notified.

Rutherford B Hayes 1852

July 23. 6 A. M.—This extra¹ was handed me on our parade ground last evening about 6 P. M. by my brother-in-law, Dr. Joe Webb, who had just galloped out from the city on my sorrel. We had heard the first rumor of a great defeat, but this gave us the details. A routed army, heavy loss, demoralization, on our side; a great victory, confidence, and enthusiasm, on the other, were the natural results to be expected. Washington in danger, its capture probable, if the enemy had genius. These were the ideas I was filled with.

But so far as we were concerned all was readiness and energy. Colonel Matthews and myself superintended the opening and distribution of cartridge-boxes, etc., etc., until late at night that our regiment might be ready to march at a moment’s warning. Slept badly. Meditated on the great disaster. On Lucy probably hastening to Cincinnati to comfort and be with her mother. I dreamed I was in Washington, Union men leaving in haste, the enemy advancing to take the city, its capture hourly expected. My own determination and feelings when awake were all as I would wish. A sense of duty excited to a warmer and more resolute pitch.

This morning I rose at the first tap of reveille and went out on the parade-ground. Soon came the morning papers correcting and modifying the first exaggerated reports. There was a great panic, but if the morning report is reliable, the loss is not very heavy; the army is again in position. The lesson is a severe one. It may be a useful one. Raw troops should not be sent to attack an enemy entrenched on its own ground unless under most peculiar circumstances. Gradual approach with fortifications as they proceeded would have won the day.

Last evening Adjutant-General Buckingham took tea with Colonel Scammon. My mind was full of the great disaster. They talked of schoolboy times at West Point; gave the bill of fare of different days—beef on Sunday, fish on etc., etc.— anecdotes of Billy Cozzens, the cook or steward, never once alluding to the events just announced of which we were all full.

July 12, Lucy and Birch and Webb came up to Columbus. They spent a few days in camp, she remaining over night but once. They will probably remain until we leave here. Mrs. Matthews and Willie left today (23rd). With her daughter Jennie, they have spent two or three days in camp.

Continuing my narrative.—In the place of Colonel Rosecrans, promoted to brigadier-general, Colonel Scammon is appointed to command our regiment. He is a gentleman of military education and experience. Amiable and friendly with us—an intelligent, agreeable gentleman; but not well fitted for volunteer command; and I fear somewhat deficient in health and vigor of nerve. We shall find him an entertaining head of our mess of field officers.—After some ups and downs we have succeeded in getting for our surgeon my brother-in-law, Dr. Joseph T. Webb. Our field officers’ mess consists of Colonel Scammon, LieutenantColonel Matthews, Dr. Webb, and myself.


¹ Pasted in the Diary is the report of the disaster at Manassas Junction and the retreat of the Union army, clipped from the Ohio State Journal extra.

Susan Bradford Eppes

July 23rd, 1861.—Today we had a thanksgiving service at Mount Zion Church. Mr. Blake conducted the services and his text was “The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong but Thou, Oh Lord, giveth the victory.” He made the most beautiful prayer I ever listened to and he prayed so earnestly and tenderly for those who had fallen in battle and for those who had lost their loved ones.

A telegram this afternoon tells of the deaths of Generals Bee and Bartow, both Georgians and both relatives of the Whitehead family.

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rebellion record

—All classes of citizens of Virginia are called upon to contribute their quota of forage for Beauregard’s army, and with those who are forgetful of their obligations, the general says that “constraint must be employed.”— (Doc. 115.)

—The Missouri State Convention, in session at Jefferson City, passed a resolution this morning, by a vote of 65 to 21, declaring the office of President, held by Gen. Sterling Price at the last session of the Convention, as vacant. Gen. Robert Wilson, the former Vice-President, was unanimously elected President. He is a Union man.—A motion was made to declare the office of doorkeeper vacant, as the present incumbent was elected as a Union man, but has since been editing a secession paper.—Uriel Wright made a violent disunion speech, denouncing the Administration as revolutionary, desperate, and usurping unwarrantable powers, and denouncing the Union leaders at St. Louis and the State. The matter was referred to a committee of three. —A committee of seven—one from each Congressional district—was elected, whose duty it is to report to the Convention what action they deem it advisable to take in the present disturbed condition of the State. The following gentlemen were elected, all being Union men, from the seven Congressional districts : Messrs. Broadhead, Henderson, W. P. Hall, W. Douglas, Hendricks, and Bogy.—Philadelphia Press, May 21.

—Lieutenant-governor Arnold of Rhode Island issued a proclamation, paying a tribute to the dead soldiers of that State and calling for the enlistment of more men.—A large and spirited meeting was held this morning in Market Square, Providence, to express the determination of Rhode Island, to redouble its exertions in support of the Government. Mayor Knight presided, and eloquent speeches were made by Hon. L. A. Jenckes, Rev. Dr. Sears, Hon. C. A. Updyke, Bishop Clark, Rev. Dr. Caswell, Bishop McFarland, A. Payne, Governor Hoppin, Hon. Thos. Davis, P. A. Sennott, Dr. Wayland, ex-Mayor Rodman, Rev. Dr. Hall, Rev. Mr. Keyers, and Governor Arnold. -{Doe. 11C.)

—Tns Third and Fourth Regiments of Massachusetts Volunteers, who have been on duty at Fortress Monroe, Va., returned to Boston.— N. Y. Times, July 24.

—Major General McClellan, under instructions from the War Department at Washington, this morning left Beverly, Va., to assume the command of the Federal forces on the Potomac in Virginia, his departure was announced in the following order:—


Headquarters Department of the Ohio
and Western Virginia,
Beverly, July 22, 1861

In compliance with instructions which have been received from the War Department, the undersigned hereby relinquishes the command of the army of occupation of Western Virginia and the Department of Ohio. The same devolves upon Brigadier-General Rosecrans, United States Army.

Geo. B. McClellan, Major-General.

(illegible) Williams, Major and Act. Asst. Adjutant-General.

—Cincinnati Gazette, July 25.


—Caleb Lyon of Lyonsdale, presented to Mrs. Lincoln at Washington, a finely-wrought silk flag captured by the Zouaves from a Louisiana Regiment. The flag was 6 or 7 feet long, ln the union was an embroidered cotton bale, with the name of the regiment—”Tensas Rifles.” —Louisville Journal, July 26.

—General Banks requested the Massachusetts Sixth Regiment, at the Relay House, whoso time had expired, to remain in the service ten days longer, and the regiment, as one man, cheerfully acceded to his request. Among the first to go to the defence of their country’s honor, the gallant Sixth will be the last to leave the post of danger or of duty while their country needs their aid. All honor to them!—National Intelligencer, July 20.

—The First Regiment of the Excelsior Brigade, N. Y. S. V., under the command of Col. Daniel E. Sickles, left Staten Island, N. Y., for the seat of war.—N. Y. Times, July 23.

—The Twelfth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers under the command of Colonel Fletcher Webster, left Boston to-night for the seat of war. The streets along their line of march were densely thronged. It was the occasion of the greatest demonstration since the reception of Daniel Webster, in 1832.—Boston Transcript, July 24.

—The Twenty-Third Regiment of Pennsylvania State Militia returned to Philadelphia from the seat of war, their term of enlistment having expired on the 21st. The regiment is composed entirely of citizens of Philadelphia.— Philadelphia Press, July 24.

—Doctor Belt of Prince Georges County, Maryland, was arrested at Washington, D. C, on a charge of uttering treasonable language against the Government, he would have been hung by the mob, but for the active interference of army cavalry officers, a squad of whom assisted in taking him to jail. Henry Banon, and J. D. Catlin of Georgetown, were also arrested and jailed on a charge of conspiring against the Government.—National Intelligencer, July 24.

—Much severity is displayed against General Patterson, for not continuing the pursuit of the rebel General Johnston, and preventing his junction with General Beauregard at Manassas. General Patterson, in a letter from Harper’s Ferry, says :—”General Johnston retreated to Winchester, whore he had thrown up extensive intrenchments and had a large number of heavy guns. I could have turned his position and attacked him in the rear, but he had received largo reinforcements from Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, a total force of over thirty-five thousand Confederate troops, and five thousand Virginia Militia. My force is less than twenty thousand, nineteen regiments, whose term of service was up or will be within a week. All refused to stay one hour over their time, but four, viz.: two Indiana Regiments, Frank Jarrett’s, (the Eleventh Pennsylvania,) and Owen’s, (the Twenty-Fourth Pennsylvania.) Five regiments have gone home. Two more go to-day, and three more to-morrow. To avoid being cut off with the remainder, I fell back and occupied this place.”—(Doc. 117.)

A likeness of Jones when he was editor  and majority owner of the Daily Madisonian during President John Tyler's administration.

JULY 22D. —Both Col. B. and I were in a passion this morning upon finding that the papers had published a dispatch from their own agent at Manassas, stating that the President did not arrive upon the field until the victory was won; and therefore did not participate in the battle at all. From the President’s own dispatch, and other circumstances, we had conceived the idea that he was not only present, but had directed the principal operations in the field. The colonel intimated that another paper ought to be established in Richmond, that would do justice to the President; and it was conjectured by some that a scheme was on foot to elect some other man to the Presidency of the permanent government in the autumn. Nevertheless, we learned soon after that the abused correspondent had been pretty nearly correct in his statement. The battle had been won, and the enemy were flying from the field before the President appeared upon it. It had been won by Beauregard, who, however, was materially assisted by his superior in command, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. Gen. J. remained in the rear, and brought up the reinforcements which gained the day. Beauregard is, to-day, the most popular general in the service. Besides some 500 prisoners, the enemy, it is said, had 4500 killed and wounded. The casualties would have been much greater, if the enemy had not broken and fled. We lost some 2000 men, killed and wounded.

The President returned to-day and made a speech at the Spottswood Hotel, wherein he uttered the famous words: “Never be haughty to the humble, or humble to the haughty.” And he said that no doubt the Confederate flag then floated over Fairfax C. H., and would soon be raised at Alexandria, etc. etc. Never heard I more hearty cheering. Every one believed our banners would wave in the streets of Washington in a few days; that the enemy would be expelled from the District and from Maryland, and that a peace would be consummated on the banks of the Susquehanna or the Schuylkill. The President had pledged himself, on one occasion, to carry the war into the enemy’s country, if they would not let us go in peace. Now, in that belief, the people were well pleased with their President.

William Howard Russell

July 22nd.—I awoke from a deep sleep this morning, about six o’clock. The rain was falling in torrents and beat with a dull, thudding sound on the leads outside my window; but, louder than all, came a strange sound, as if of the tread of men, a confused tramp and splashing, and a murmuring of voices. I got up and ran to the front room, the windows of which looked on the street, and there, to my intense surprise, I saw a steady stream of men covered with mud, soaked through with rain, who were pouring irregularly, without any semblance of order, up Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capitol. A dense stream of vapour rose from the multitude; but looking closely at the men, I perceived they belonged to different regiments, New Yorkers, Michiganders, Rhode Islanders, Massachusetters, Minnesotians, mingled pellmell together. Many of them were without knapsacks, crossbelts, and firelocks. Some had neither great-coats nor shoes, others were covered with blankets. Hastily putting on my clothes, I ran down stairs and asked an “officer,” who was passing by, a pale young man, who looked exhausted to death, and who had lost his sword, for the empty sheath dangled at his side, where the men were coming from. “Where from? Well, sir, I guess we’re all coming out of Verginny as far as we can, and pretty well whipped too.” “What! the whole army, sir?” “That’s more than I know. They may stay that like. I know I’m going home. I’ve had enough of fighting to last my lifetime.”

The news seemed incredible. But there, before my eyes, were the jaded, dispirited, broken remnants of regiments passing onwards, where and for what I knew not, and it was evident enough that the mass of the grand army of the Potomac was placing that river between it and the enemy as rapidly as possible. “Is there any pursuit?I asked of several men. Some were too surly to reply; others said, “They’re coming as fast as they can after us.” Others, “I guess they’ve stopped it now—the rain is too much for them.” A few said they did not know, and looked as if they did not care. And here came one of these small crises in which a special correspondent would give a good deal for the least portion of duality in mind or body. A few sheets of blotted paper and writing materials lying on the table beside the burnt-out candles, reminded me that the imperious post-day was running on. “The mail for Europe, viâ Boston, closes at one o’clock, Monday, July 22nd,” stuck up in large characters, warned me I had not a moment to lose. I knew the event would be of the utmost interest in England, and that it would be important to tell the truth as far as I knew it, leaving the American papers to state their own case, that the public might form their own conclusions.

But then, I felt, how interesting it would be to ride out and watch the evacuation of the sacred soil of Virginia, to see what the enemy were doing, to examine the situation of affairs, to hear what the men said, and, above all, find out the cause of this retreat and headlong confusion, investigate the extent of the Federal losses and the condition of the wounded; in fact, to find materials for a dozen of letters. I would fain, too, have seen General Scott, and heard his opinions, and have visited the leading senators, to get a notion of the way in which they looked on this catastrophe.—”I do perceive here a divided duty.”—But the more I reflected on the matter the more strongly I became convinced that it would not be advisable to postpone the letter, and that the events of the 21st ought to have precedence of those of the 22nd, and so I stuck up my usual notice on the door outside of “Mr. Russell is out,” and resumed my letter.

Whilst the rain fell, the tramp of feet went steadily on. As I lifted my eyes now and then from the paper, I saw the beaten, foot-sore, spongy-looking soldiers, officers, and all the debris of the army filing through mud and rain, and forming in crowds in front of the spirit stores. Underneath my room is the magazine of Jost, negociant en vins, and he drives a roaring trade this morning, interrupted occasionally by loud disputes as to the score. When the lad came in with my breakfast he seemed a degree or two lighter in colour than usual. “What’s the matter with you?” “I ‘spects, massa, the Seceshers soon be in here. I’m a free nigger; I must go, sar, afore de come cotch me.” It is rather pleasant to be neutral under such circumstances.

I speedily satisfied myself I could not finish my letter in time for post, and I therefore sent for my respectable Englishman to go direct to Boston by the train which leaves this at four o’clock to-morrow morning, so as to catch the mail steamer on Wednesday, and telegraphed to the agents there to inform them of my intention of doing so. Visitors came knocking at the door, and insisted on getting in— military friends who wanted to give me their versions of the battle—the attaches of legations and others who desired to hear the news and have a little gossip; but I turned a deaf ear doorwards, and they went off into the outer rain again.

More draggled, more muddy, and down-hearted, and foot-weary and vapid, the great army of the Potomac still straggled by. Towards evening I seized my hat and made off to the stable to inquire how the poor horse was. There he stood, nearly as fresh as ever, a little tucked up in the ribs, but eating heartily, and perfectly sound. A change had come over Mr. Wroe’s dream of horseflesh. “They’ll be going cheap now,” thought he, and so he said aloud, “If you’d like to buy that horse, I’d let you have him a little under what I said. Dear! dear! it must a’ been a sight sure-ly to see them Yankees running; you can scarce get through the Avenue with them.”

And what Mr. W. says is quite true. The rain has abated a little, and the pavements are densely packed with men in uniform, some with, others without, arms, on whom the shopkeepers are looking with evident alarm. They seem to be in possession of all the spirit-houses. Now and then shots are heard down the street or in the distance, and cries and shouting, as if a scuffle or a difficulty were occurring. Willard’s is turned into a barrack for officers, and presents such a scene in the hall as could only be witnessed in a city occupied by a demoralised army. There is no provost guard, no patrol, no authority visible in the streets. General Scott is quite overwhelmed by the affair, and is unable to stir. General M’Dowell has not yet arrived. The Secretary of War knows not what to do, Mr. Lincoln is equally helpless, and Mr. Seward, who retains some calmness, is, notwithstanding his military rank and militia experience, without resource or expedient. There are a good many troops hanging on about the camps and forts on the other side of the river, it is said; but they are thoroughly disorganised, and will run away if the enemy comes in sight without a shot, and then the capital must fall at once. Why Beauregard does not come I know not, nor can I well guess. I have been expecting every hour since noon to hear his cannon. Here is a golden opportunity. If the Confederates do not grasp that which will never come again on such terms, it stamps them with mediocrity.

The morning papers are quite ignorant of the defeat, or affect to be unaware of it, and declare yesterday’s battle to have been in favour of the Federals generally, the least arrogant stating that M’Dowell will resume his march from Centreville immediately. The evening papers, however, seem to be more sensible of the real nature of the crisis: it is scarcely within the reach of any amount of impertinence or audacious assertion to deny what is passing before their very eyes. The grand army of the Potomac is in the streets of Washington, instead of being on its way to Richmond. One paper contains a statement which would make me uneasy about myself if I had any confidence in these stories, for it is asserted “that Mr. Russell was last seen in the thick of the fight, and has not yet returned. Fears are entertained for his safety.”

Towards dark the rain moderated and the noise in the streets waxed louder; all kinds of rumours respecting the advance of the enemy, the annihilation of Federal regiments, the tremendous losses on both sides, charges of cavalry, stormings of great intrenchments and stupendous masked batteries, and elaborate reports of unparalleled feats of personal valour, were circulated under the genial influence of excitement, and by the quantities of alcohol necessary to keep out the influence of the external moisture. I did not hear one expression of confidence, or see one cheerful face in all that vast crowd which but a few days before constituted an army, and was now nothing better than a semi-armed mob. I could see no cannon returning, and to my inquiries after them, I got generally the answer, “I suppose the Seceshers have got hold of them.”

Whilst I was at table several gentlemen who have entrée called on me, who confirmed my impressions respecting the magnitude of the disaster that is so rapidly developing its proportions. They agree in describing the army as disorganised. Washington is rendered almost untenable, in consequence of the conduct of the army, which was not only to have defended it, but to have captured the rival capital. Some of my visitors declared it was dangerous to move abroad in the streets. Many think the contest is now over; but the gentlemen of Washington have Southern sympathies, and I, on the contrary, am persuaded this prick in the great Northern balloon will let out a quantity of poisonous gas, and rouse the people to a sense of the nature of the conflict on which they have entered. The inmates of the White House are in a state of the utmost trepidation, and Mr. Lincoln, who sat in the telegraph operator’s room with General Scott and Mr. Seward, listening to the dispatches as they arrived from the scene of action, left it in despair when the fatal words tripped from the needle and the defeat was clearly revealed to him.

Having finally cleared my room of visitors and locked the door, I sat down once more to my desk, and continued my narrative. The night wore on, and the tumult still reigned in the city. Once, indeed, if not twice, my attention was aroused by sounds like distant cannon and outbursts of musketry, but on reflection I was satisfied the Confederate general would never be rash enough to attack the place by night, and that, after all the rain which had fallen, he in all probability would give horses and men a day’s rest, marching them through the night, so as to appear before the city in the course of to-morrow. Again and again I was interrupted by soldiers clamouring for drink and for money, attracted by the light in my windows; one or two irrepressible and irresistible friends actually succeeded in making their way into my room—just as on the night when I was engaged in writing an account of the last attack on the Redan my hut was stormed by visitors, and much of my letter was penned under the apprehension of a sharp pair of spurs fixed in the heels of a jolly little adjutant, who, overcome by fatigue and rum-and-water, fell asleep in my chair, with his legs cocked up on my writing-table—but I saw the last of them about mid-night, and so continued writing till the morning light began to steal through the casement. Then came the trusty messenger, and, at 3 A.M., when I had handed him the parcel and looked round to see all my things were in readiness, lest a rapid toilet might be necessary in the morning, with a sigh of relief I plunged into bed, and slept.

Rutherford B Hayes 1852

July 22.—Just received news of a dreadful defeat at Manassas, or beyond Centreville. General McDowell’s column pushed on after some successes, were met apparently by fresh troops, checked, driven back, utterly routed! What a calamity! Will not the secession fever sweep over the border States, driving out Kentucky, Missouri, (Baltimore) Maryland, etc., etc.? Is not Washington in danger? I have feared a too hasty pushing on of McDowell’s column into ground where the Rebels have camped and scouted and entrenched themselves for months. My brother-in-law, as surgeon, is with the Second Ohio Regiment in advance, and is doubtless among those in the worst position. But private anxieties are all swallowed up in the general public calamity. God grant that it is exaggerated!

Our regiments are now likely, I think, to be speedily needed at Washington or elsewhere. I am ready to do my duty, promptly and cheerfully. Would that I had the military knowledge and experience which one ought to have to be useful in my position! I will do my best, my utmost in all ways to promote the efficiency of our regiment. It is henceforth a serious business.

Jane Eliza Neuton Woolsey

Monday, July 22, 1861.

My dear Girls We have had an exciting night and morning. Just as we were going to bed last night we heard the distant sound of an “Extra;” it was very late; everybody in bed. We had been out to the meeting of the Evangelical Alliance at Dr. McAuley’s Church. We were all undressed, but waited with anxiety till the sound approached nearer and nearer; but made up our minds not to rush down and buy one, as it might be a hoax—till at last a tremendous howl of three boys through 10th street gave us the news of a “great battle at Bull’s Run.” “Rebels defeated! Batteries all taken!” We thanked God for this much, and went to our beds to try and sleep patiently till morning. We have now had the newspaper accounts as far as they go, but long for further and later. Your two letters of Saturday, Georgy, we have also this morning; many thanks for both; rejoiced to hear good news from Joe so direct, and that you are both well and busy. It is better so. I feel this morning as if I could fly right off to Washington, and can scarcely resist the impulse to start at once. Would you like to see me? . . .

The girls are packing a box for your distribution at the hospitals,—Jane rolling a fresh lot of bandages. Poor Kate, our housemaid, looks quite distressed to-day, thinking her brother may have been foremost in the ranks, as the paper stated “the First Massachusetts led in the advance, and had suffered much.” . . . Dr. Tyng made an inspiriting address last night to a densely crowded audience. He said he was greatly surprised to see such an assemblage when he had supposed the city deserted, and thought such an audience was a sufficient appeal without a word from him, as showing the deep interest manifested in this “righteous” cause— “I say righteous, for I firmly believe if there ever was a righteous, holy war, direct from the hand of God, this is one.” . . . There were some very interesting letters read from the different chaplains, and some from the men themselves of different regiments. Dr. Hoge has resigned, and left his charge to Dr. Spring, on account of his attachment to the South! and his desire to be there at this time. I say joy go with him, but some of the people are unwilling to receive his resignation. . . . I have no news for you; we see no one, and are supposed to be out of town. It is perfectly cool and comfortable here, and we are at present better satisfied to be here. By and by we may run off for a while. God bless you both, my dear children! I wish I were close at your side.

Your loving Mother.

Abby Howland Woolsey

July 22, 1861.

My dear Girls: Since Mother’s letter was sent this morning we have had some heavy hours. At noon we got the first extra with the despatch announcing the defeat and retreat of our troops—defeat, because retreat, or vice versa, whichever it was. It is a total rout of our grand army of the Union. All guns gone, etc.; but the saddest is the vast number of wounded and half dead. I have no doubt your hands are full, at some one of the hospitals. Hour after hour to-day went on and we heard nothing from you; had nothing but the horrible extras and our consciousness of your anxiety and suspense. We packed the trunk for you very busily and tried not to think too hard. At five p. m. your despatch came, dear E., and such a load was removed from our hearts. Joe not only was safe, but you had seen him. Thank Heaven! We could hardly make out from the confused papers what his position had been in the fight. . . .

Mary and Robert drove in at six to hear what we had heard, and met Ned at the Ferry, carrying out your despatch. Robert brought his valise in case Mother wanted him to escort her to Washington, but the immediate anxiety she felt for you having been relieved, she feels it is safest to wait till she gets a letter from you. So many troops will probably encumber the roads on the way to Washington to-morrow, and there is so much chance of a riot in Baltimore, as Robert suggests—that it is more prudent to wait. She wants to go for her own satisfaction as well as yours you know, so you must not think it desirable for you to oppose it. If she could only have been with you these two horrible days she would have been so glad. She is anxious to do something for the army and thinks she ought to go on and be matron in the Alexandria Hospital. We laugh, and remind her of her fortitude when Dr. Buck tried to vaccinate her! . . . And now for the boxes. Mrs. Willard Parker is ready to make the largest grants. Has packed one box to-day, and is anxious to have it go to you that she may know what disposition is made of the things. Let us know when you receive them—one French black trunk, one wooden packing box. Mrs. Parker has a huge box packed, but I shall advise that one going to the Sanitary Commission. Your box has six dozen sheets in it from her, and the trunk is filled with our shirts, slippers, etc.

In haste and with all love,

A. H. W.

P. S. Also one box of currant jelly. All will be directed to the Ebbitt House, except Mrs. Parker’s box.

Thread and needles are invaluable in camp. We hear that after every march bits of uniforms fly all over the camp, and that one man patched his black shoulder with a sky-blue scrap begged from a brother volunteer. You know the men haven’t always a sixpence to spare for the sutler every time a button is needed, and our two hundred thread cases will go very little way in a regiment. . . . Everybody is knitting yarn socks for the men—all the young girls and all the old women. Everybody means to make one pair each before winter. Cousin Margaret Hodge has set all her old ladies at work at the Asylum. We have set up four to-night for ourselves, and Kate and Mary the cook are to have their turn too.. . . But the deed of Mrs. Lowell of Boston, sister-in-law of the poet, puts all others to insignificance. She being a lady of means and leisure, took the Government contract for woolen shirts in Massachusetts and is having them cut and made under her own eyes by poor women at good prices, and the sum that would have gone into some wretched contractor’s pocket has already blessed hundreds of needy women.

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July 22d.—Mrs. Davis came in so softly that I did not know she was here until she leaned over me and said: “A great battle has been fought.¹ Joe Johnston led the right wing, and Beauregard the left wing of the army. Your husband is all right. Wade Hampton is wounded. Colonel Johnston of the Legion killed; so are Colonel Bee and Colonel Bartow. Kirby Smith² is wounded or killed.” I had no breath to speak; she went on in that desperate, calm way, to which people betake themselves under the greatest excitement: “Bartow, rallying his men, leading them into the hottest of the fight, died gallantly at the head of his regiment. The President telegraphs me only that ‘it is a great victory.’ General Cooper has all the other telegrams.”

Still I said nothing; I was stunned; then I was so grateful. Those nearest and dearest to me were safe still. She then began, in the same concentrated voice, to read from a paper she held in her hand: “Dead and dying cover the field. Sherman’s battery taken. Lynchburg regiment cut to pieces. Three hundred of the Legion wounded.”

That got me up. Times were too wild with excitement to stay in bed. We went into Mrs. Preston’s room, and she made me lie down on her bed. Men, women, and children streamed in. Every living soul had a story to tell. “Complete victory,” you heard everywhere. We had been such anxious wretches. The revulsion of feeling was almost too much to bear.

To-day I met my friend, Mr. Hunter. I was on my way to Mrs. Bartow’s room and begged him to call at some other time. I was too tearful just then for a morning visit from even the most sympathetic person.

A woman from Mrs. Bartow’s country was in a fury because they had stopped her as she rushed to be the first to tell Mrs. Bartow her husband was killed, it having been decided that Mrs. Davis should tell her. Poor thing! She was found lying on her bed when Mrs. Davis knocked. “Come in,” she said. When she saw it was Mrs. Davis, she sat up, ready to spring to her feet, but then there was something in Mrs. Davis’s pale face that took the life out of her. She stared at Mrs. Davis, then sank back, and covered her face as she asked: “Is it bad news for me.” Mrs. Davis did not speak. “Is he killed?” Afterward Mrs. Bartow said to me: “As soon as I saw Mrs. Davis’s face I could not say one word. I knew it all in an instant. I knew it before I wrapped the shawl about my head.”

Maria, Mrs. Preston’s maid, furiously patriotic, came into my room. “These colored people say it is printed in the papers here that the Virginia people done it all. Now Mars Wade had so many of his men killed and he wounded, it stands to reason that South Carolina was no ways backward. If there was ever anything plain, that’s plain.”


¹ The first battle of Bull Run, or Manassas, fought on July 21,1861, the Confederates being commanded by General Beauregard, and the Federals by General McDowell. Bull Run is a small stream tributary to the Potomac.

² Edmund Kirby Smith, a native of Florida, who had graduated from West Point, served in the Mexican War, and been Professor of Mathematics at West Point. He resigned his commission in the United States Army after the secession of Florida.

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Yesterday proved a disastrous day to our troops. They were compelled to retreat and remnants of Regts and squads of soldiers have been pouring into the City all day. Most of the Regts which I saw pass the long Bridge a week ago have returned badly cut up. The two RI, the NH 2nd, the 71st NY, and the NY 27th are here again, having lost at least 1/4 of their numbers. The Ellsworth Zuaves are all cut to pieces, only about 250 left out of 1100. My nephew Saml Androus of the Michigan 1st is said to be killed. That Regt suffered terribly.


The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of  Congress.

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Dora Richards Miller

July 22.—What a day! I feel like one who has been out in a high wind, and cannot get my breath. The news-boys are still shouting with their extras, “Battle of Bull’s Run! List of the killed! Battle of Manassas! List of the wounded!” Tender-hearted Mrs. F. was sobbing so she could not serve the tea; but nobody cared for tea. “O G.!” she said, “three thousand of our own, dear Southern boys are lying out there.” “My dear Fannie,” spoke Mr. F., “they are heroes now. They died in a glorious cause, and it is not in vain. This will end it. The sacrifice had to be made, but those killed have gained immortal names.” Then Rob rushed in with a new extra, reading of the spoils captured, and grief was forgotten. Words cannot paint the excitement. Rob capered about and cheered; Edith danced around ringing the dinner bell and shouting, “Victory!” Mrs. F. waved a small Confederate flag, while she wiped her eyes, and Mr. D. hastened to the piano and in his most brilliant style struck up “Dixie,” followed by “My Maryland” and the “Bonnie Blue Flag.”

“Do not look so gloomy, G.,” whispered Mr. S. “You should be happy to-night; for, as Mr. F. says, now we shall have peace.”

“And is that the way you think of the men of your own blood and race?” I replied. But an utter scorn choked me, and I walked out of the room. What proof is there in this dark hour that they are not right? Only the emphatic answer of my own soul. To-morrow I will pack my trunk and accept the invitation to visit at Uncle Ralph’s country-house.


Note: To protect Mrs. Miller’s job as a teacher in New Orleans, the diary was published anonymously, edited by G. W. Cable, names were changed and initials were often used instead of full names — and even the initials differed from the real person’s initials.
Susan Bradford Eppes

July 22nd, 1861.—Joy! Joy!! There has been a great victory for our side. Yesterday the Battle of Manassas was fought in Virginia and it was a complete victory for the Confederates. Our army chased the Yankees almost to Washington city. General Beauregard is the hero of the hour although there are so many who are heroic, it is hard to discriminate. Our loss has not yet been ascertained; nor do we know the enemy’s loss. The telegraph office is crowded all the time and day and night the people are flocking thither for news of the great battle.

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rebellion record

—The Confederate States Congress appointed a day of thanksgiving for the victory at Manassas, and “deeply deplored the necessity which has washed the soil of our country with the blood of so many of her sons.”—(Doc. 113.)

—General Sweeney’s command dispersed a band of one hundred and fifty rebels stationed at Forsythe, Mo., and took possession of the town. Five of the rebels were killed and several wounded. Three of the Federal troops were slightly wounded, but none killed. The first and second stories of the court-house were filled with blankets, provisions, camp equipage, etc., which, together with two tons of lead found in a well, and other articles secreted in different parts of the town, in all valued between eighteen and twenty thousand dollars, fell into the hands of General Sweeney.—N. Y. Times, July 80.—(Doc. 133.)

—Quartermaster-Sergeant Whitney of the Vermont Regiment, was shot this morning by the rebels at Newport News, only a short distance from the camp, while searching for a strayed bullock. The body was pierced with half a dozen bullets.—An infernal machine, intended to blow up some of the ships of war in Hampton Roads, washed ashore this morning within a few rods of Floyd’s house in Virginia. It is of an ingenious construction, and is the second attempt of the kind.—The Roanoke arrived at Fortress Monroe this morning. She has been as far south as St. Augustine, Fla. During her cruise she burnt a rebel privateer whose crew escaped to the shore.— Boston Transcript, July 23.

—The correspondence between the Chief of the Cherokee Nation and various rebel authorities and citizens of Arkansas, was published today. It exhibits the attitude that tribe intends to assume in reference to the present war.— (Doc. 114.)

—Colonel William D. Kennedy, commander of the Jackson Guard, Tammany Regiment N. Y. S. V., died at Washington of congestion of the brain.—Boston Post, July 23.

—At Louisville, Ky., John W. Tompkins, formerly Clerk of the Board of Aldermen, recently a violent secessionist and recruiting officer of the Southern Confederacy, was shot dead this afternoon by Henry Green, city watchman. Tompkins was hallooing for Jeff. Davis, and was requested to desist by Green, when he drew a knife on Green, but was retreating when Green shot him. Tompkins had been endeavoring to send contraband articles southward by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad during the past week, and has been the main cause of the midnight disturbances at the depot of that road. —Louisville Courier, July 23.

General George B. McClellan—Major-General McClellan has been summoned by the Government from Western Virginia to repair to Washington and take command of the Army of the Potomac. General Rosecrans takes his place in command of the Army of Western Virginia. The Corps d’ Armee at Washington is to be instantly re-organized and increased by the addition of 100,000 men. The necessary orders have already been given. —Offers of regiments already raised are being made and accepted with such rapidity as to ensure that this will be accomplished within a few days. Large reinforcements from various directions are already on their way to Washington, orders having been telegraphed for them yesterday while the battle was in progress. The Government entertains no apprehensions whatever for the safety of the Capital. Preparations not only for defensive but also for the speedy renewal of offensive operations are going on vigorously. General McDowell has returned to his head-quarters at Arlington Heights. The regiments composing his army are resuming their positions. Most of them have already done so.—Baltimore American, July 23.


The Battle Of Bull Run, between the Federal Army, Commanded by Major General McDowell, and the Confederate Army, under Generals Johnston and Beauregard, on July 21st, 1861—Advance of the Federal Troops.

The Battle Of Bull Run, between the Federal Army, Commanded by Major General McDowell, and the Confederate Army, under Generals Johnston and Beauregard, on July 21st, 1861—Advance of the Federal Troops.

(from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated History of the Civil War…, edited by Louis Shepheard Moat, Published by Mrs. Frank Leslie,New York, 1895)

“The first battle of Bull Run was fought on July 21st, 1861. It resulted in a loss on the Federal side of 481 killed, 1,011 wounded and 1,460 missing. The Confederate loss was estimated at nearly 2,000. The latter army in action and reserve, numbered over 40,000 men, while the Federal force in action was about 35,000. Although the Confederates won a great victory, they were in no condition to pursue the advantage they bad gained; had they done so they might have converted a repulse into a disastrous and total defeat. Our illustration shows the Federal troops advancing on the enemy’s lines.”

William Howard Russell

July 21st.—The calmness and silence of the streets of Washington this lovely morning suggested thoughts of the very different scenes which, in all probability, were taking place at a few miles’ distance. One could fancy the hum and stir round the Federal bivouacs, as the troops woke up and were formed into column of march towards the enemy. I much regretted that I was not enabled to take the field with General M’Dowell’s army, but my position was surrounded with such difficulties that I could not pursue the course open to the correspondents of the American newspapers. On my arrival in Washington I addressed an application to Mr. Cameron, Secretary at War, requesting him to sanction the issue of rations and forage from the Commissariat to myself, a servant, and a couple of horses, at the contract prices, or on whatever other terms he might think fit, and I had several interviews with Mr. Leslie, the obliging and indefatigable chief clerk of the War Department, in eference to the matter; but as there was a want of precedents for such a course, which was not at all to be wondered at, seeing that no representative of an English newspaper had ever been sent to chronicle the progress of an American army in the field, no satisfactory result could be arrived at, though I had many fair words and promises.

A great outcry had arisen in the North against the course and policy of England, and the journal I represented was assailed on all sides as a Secession organ, favourable to the rebels and exceedingly hostile to the Federal government and the cause of the Union. Public men in America are alive to the inconveniences of attacks by their own press; and as it was quite impossible to grant to the swarms of correspondents from all parts of the Union the permission to draw supplies from the public stores, it would have afforded a handle to turn the screw upon the War Department, already roundly abused in the most influential papers, if Mr. Cameron acceded to me, not merely a foreigner, but the correspondent of a foreign journal which was considered the most powerful enemy of the policy of his government, privileges which he denied to American citizens, representing newspapers which were enthusiastically supporting the cause for which the armies of the North were now in the field.

To these gentlemen indeed, I must here remark, such privileges were of little consequence. In every camp they had friends who were willing to receive them in their quarters, and who earned a word of praise in the local papers for the gratification of either their vanity or their laudable ambition in their own neighbourhood, by the ready service which they afforded to the correspondents. They rode Government horses, had the use of Government waggons, and through fear, favour, or affection, enjoyed facilities to which I had no access. I could not expect persons with whom I was unacquainted to be equally generous, least of all when by doing so they would have incurred popular obloquy and censure; though many officers in the army had expressed in very civil terms the pleasure it would give them to see me at their quarters in the field. Some days ago I had an interview with Mr. Cameron himself, who was profuse enough in promising that he would do all in his power to further my wishes; but he had, nevertheless, neglected sending me the authorisation for which I had applied. I could scarcely stand a baggage train and commissariat upon my own account, nor could I well participate in the system of plunder and appropriation which has marked the course of the Federal army so far, devastating and laying waste all the country behind it.

Hence, all I could do was to make a journey to see the army on the field, and to return to Washington to write my report of its first operation, knowing there would be plenty of time to overtake it before it could reach Richmond, when, as I hoped, Mr. Cameron would be prepared to accede to my request, or some plan had been devised by myself to obviate the difficulties which lay in my path. There was no entente cordiale exhibited towards me by the members of the American press; nor did they, any more than the generals, evince any disposition to help the alien correspondent of the Times, and my only connection with one of their body, the young designer, had not, indeed, inspired me with any great desire to extend my acquaintance. General M’Dowell, on giving me the most hospitable invitation to his quarters, refrained from offering the assistance which, perhaps, it was not in his power to afford; and I confess, looking at the matter calmly, I could scarcely expect that he would, particularly as he said, half in jest, half seriously, “I declare I am not quite easy at the idea of having your eye on me, for you have seen so much of European armies, you will, very naturally, think little of us, generals and all.”

Punctual to time, our carriage appeared at the door, with a spare horse, followed by the black quadruped on which the negro boy sat with difficulty, in consequence of its high spirits and excessively hard mouth. I swallowed a cup of tea and a morsel of bread, put the remainder of the tea into a bottle, got a flask of light Bordeaux, a bottle of water, a paper of sandwiches, and having replenished my small flask with brandy, stowed them all away in the bottom of the gig; but my friend, who is not accustomed to rise very early in the morning, did not make his appearance, and I was obliged to send several times to the legation to quicken his movements. Each time I was assured he would be over presently; but it was not till two hours had elapsed, and when I had just resolved to leave him behind, that he appeared in person, quite unprovided with viaticum, so that my slender store had now to meet the demands of two instead of one. We are off at last. The amicus and self find contracted space behind the driver. The negro boy, grinning half with pain and “the balance” with pleasure, as the Americans say, held on his rampant charger, which made continual efforts to leap into the gig, and thus through the deserted city we proceeded towards the Long Bridge, where a sentry examined our papers, and said with a grin, “You’ll find plenty of Congressmen on before you.” And then our driver whipped his horses through the embankment of Fort Runyon, and dashed off along a country road, much cut up with gun and cart wheels, towards the main turnpike.

The promise of a lovely day, given by the early dawn, was likely to be realised to the fullest, and the placid beauty of the scenery as we drove through the woods below Arlington, and beheld the white buildings shining in the early sunlight, and the Potomac, like a broad silver riband dividing the picture, breathed of peace. The silence close to the city was unbroken. From the time we passed the guard beyond the Long Bridge, for several miles we did not meet a human being, except a few soldiers in the neighbourhood of the deserted camps, and when we passed beyond the range of tents we drove for nearly two hours through a densely-wooded, undulating country; the houses, close to the road-side, shut up and deserted, window-high in the crops of Indian corn, fast ripening for the sickle; alternate field and forest, the latter generally still holding possession of the hollows, and, except when the road, deep and filled with loose stones, passed over the summit of the ridges, the eye caught on either side little but fir-trees and maize, and the deserted wooden houses, standing amidst the slave quarters.

The residences close to the lines gave signs and tokens that the Federals had recently visited them. But at the best of times the inhabitants could not be very well off. Some of the farms were small, the houses tumbling to decay, with unpainted roofs and side walls, and windows where the want of glass was supplemented by panes of wood. As we got further into the country the traces of the debateable land between the two armies vanished, and negroes looked out from their quarters, or sickly-looking women and children were summoned forth by the rattle of the wheels to see who was hurrying to the war. Now and then a white man looked out, with an ugly scowl on his face, but the country seemed drained of the adult male population, and such of the inhabitants as we saw were neither as comfortably dressed nor as healthy looking as the shambling slaves who shuffled about the plantations. The road was so cut up by gun-wheels, ammunition and commissariat waggons, that our horses made but slow way against the continual draft upon the collar; but at last the driver, who had known the country in happier times, announced that we had entered the high road for Fairfax Court-house. Unfortunately my watch had gone down, but I guessed it was then a little before nine o’clock. In a few minutes afterwards I thought I heard, through the eternal clatter and jingle of the old gig, a sound which made me call the driver to stop. He pulled up, and we listened. In a minute or so, the well-known boom of a gun, followed by two or three in rapid succession, but at a considerable distance, reached my ear. “Did you hear that?” The driver heard nothing, nor did my companion, but the black boy on the led horse, with eyes starting out of his head, cried, “I hear them, massa; I hear them, sure enough, like de gun in de navy yard;and as he spoke the thudding noise, like taps with a gentle hand upon a muffled drum, were repeated, which were heard both by Mr. Warre and the driver. “They are at it! We shall be late! Drive on as fast as you can!” We rattled on still faster, and presently came up to a farm-house, where a man and woman, with some negroes beside them, were standing out by the hedge-row above us, looking up the road in the direction of a cloud of dust, which we could see rising above the tops of the trees. We halted for a moment. “How long have the guns been going, sir?” “Well, ever since early this morning,” said he; “they’ve been having a fight. And I do really believe some of our poor Union chaps have had enough of it already. For here’s some of them darned Secessionists marching down to go into Alexandry.” The driver did not seem altogether content with this explanation of the dust in front of us, and presently, when a turn of the road brought to view a body of armed men, stretching to an interminable distance, with bayonets glittering in the sunlight through the clouds of dust, seemed inclined to halt or turn back again. A nearer approach satisfied me they were friends, and as soon as we came up with the head of the column I saw that they could not be engaged in the performance of any military duty. The men were marching without any resemblance of order, in twos and threes or larger troops. Some without arms, carrying great bundles on their backs; others with their coats hung from their firelocks; many foot sore. They were all talking, and in haste; many plodding along laughing, so I concluded that they could not belong to a defeated army, and imagined M’Dowell was effecting some flank movement. “Where are you going to, may I ask?”

“If this is the road to Alexandria, we are going there.”

“There is an action going on in front is there not?”

“Well, so we believe, but we have not been fighting.”

Although they were in such good spirits, they were not communicative, and we resumed our journey, impeded by the straggling troops and by the country cars containing their baggage and chairs, and tables and domestic furniture, which had never belonged to a regiment in the field. Still they came pouring on. I ordered the driver to stop at a rivulet, where a number of men were seated in the shade, drinking the water and bathing their hands and feet. On getting out I asked an officer, “May I beg to know, sir, where your regiment is going to?” “Well, I reckon, sir, we are going home to Pennsylvania.” “This is the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment, is it not, sir?” “It is so, sir; that’s the fact.” “I should think there is severe fighting going on behind you, judging from the firing” (for every moment the sound of the cannon had been growing more distinct and more heavy)?” “Well, I reckon, sir, there is.” I paused for a moment, not knowing what to say, and yet anxious for an explanation; and the epauletted gentleman, after a few seconds’ awkward hesitation, added, “We are going home because, as you see, the men’s time’s up, sir. We have had three months of this sort of work, and that’s quite enough of it.” The men who were listening to the conversation expressed their assent to the noble and patriotic utterances of the centurion, and, making him a low bow, we resumed our journey.

It was fully three and a half miles before the last of the regiment passed, and then the road presented a more animated scene, for white-covered commissariat waggons were visible, wending towards the front, and one or two hack carriages, laden with civilians, were hastening in the same direction. Before the doors of the wooden farm-houses the coloured people were assembled, listening with outstretched necks to the repeated reports of the guns. At one time, as we were descending the wooded road, a huge blue dome, agitated by some internal convulsion, appeared to bar our progress, and it was only after infinite persuasion of rein and whip that the horses approached the terrific object, which was an inflated balloon, attached to a waggon, and defying the efforts of the men in charge to jockey it safely through the trees.

It must have been about eleven o’clock when we came to the first traces of the Confederate camp, in front of Fairfax Court-house, where they had cut a few trenches and levelled the trees across the road, so as to form a rude abattis; but the works were of a most superficial character, and would scarcely have given cover either to the guns, for which embrasures were left at the flanks to sweep the road, or to the infantry intended to defend them.

The Confederate force stationed here must have consisted, to a considerable extent, of cavalry. The bowers of branches, which they had made to shelter their tents, camp tables, empty boxes, and packing-cases, in the debris one usually sees around an encampment, showed they had not been destitute of creature comforts.

Some time before noon the driver, urged continually by adjurations to get on, whipped his horses into Fairfax Court-house, a village which derives its name from a large brick building, in which the sessions of the county are held. Some thirty or forty houses, for the most part detached, with gardens or small strips of land about them, form the main street. The inhabitants who remained had by no means an agreeable expression of countenance, and did not seem on very good terms with the Federal soldiers, who were lounging up and down the streets, or standing in the shade of the trees and doorways. I asked the sergeant of a picket in the street how long the firing had been going on. He replied that it had commenced at half past seven or eight, and had been increasing ever since. “Some of them will lose their eyes and back teeth,” he added, “before it is over.” The driver, pulling up at a roadside inn in the town, here made the startling announcement, that both he and his horses must have something to eat, and although we would have been happy to join him, seeing that we had no breakfast, we could not afford the time, and were not displeased when a thin-faced, shrewish woman, in black, came out into the verandah, and said she could not let us have anything unless we liked to wait till the regular dinner hour of the house, which was at one o’clock. The horses got a bucket of water, which they needed in that broiling sun; and the cannonade, which by this time had increased into a respectable tumult that gave evidence of a well-sustained action, added vigour to the driver’s arm, and in a mile or two more we dashed in to a village of burnt houses, the charred brick chimney stacks standing amidst the blackened embers being all that remained of what once was German Town. The firing of this village was severely censured by General M’Dowell, who probably does not appreciate the value of such agencies employed “by our glorious Union army to develope loyal sentiments among the people of Virginia.”

The driver, passing through the town, drove straight on, but after some time I fancied the sound of the guns seemed dying away towards our left. A big negro came shambling along the roadside—the driver stopped and asked him,” is this the road to Centreville?” “Yes, sir; right on, sir; good road to Centreville, massa,” and so we proceeded, till I became satisfied from the appearance of the road that we had altogether left the track of the army. At the first cottage we halted, and inquired of a Virginian, who came out to look at us, whether the road led to Centreville. “You’re going to Centreville, are you?” “Yes, by the shortest road we can.” “Well, then—you’re going wrong—right away! Some people say there’s a bend of road leading through the wood a mile further on, but those who have tried it lately have come back to German Town and don’t think it leads to Centreville at all.” This was very provoking, as the horses were much fatigued and we had driven several miles out of our way. The driver, who was an Englishman, said, “I think it would be best for us to go on and try the road anyhow. There’s not likely to be any Seceshers about there, are there, sir?

What did you say, sir,” inquired the Virginian, with a vacant stare upon his face.

“I merely asked whether you think we are likely to meet with any Secessionists if we go along that road?”

“Secessionists!” repeated the Virginian, slowly pronouncing each syllable as if pondering on the meaning of the word—” Secessionists! Oh no, sir; I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a Secessionist in the whole of this country.”

The boldness of this assertion, in the very hearing of Beauregard’s cannon, completely shook the faith of our Jehu in any information from that source, and we retraced our steps to German Town, and were directed into the proper road by some negroes, who were engaged exchanging Confederate money at very low rates for Federal copper with a few straggling soldiers. The faithful Muley Moloch, who had been capering in our rear so long, now complained that he was very much burned, but on further inquiry it was ascertained he was merely suffering from the abrading of his skin against an English saddle.

In an hour more we had gained the high road to Centreville, on which were many buggies, commssiariat carts, and waggons full of civilians, and a brisk canter brought us in sight of a rising ground, over which the road led directly through a few houses on each side, and dipped out of sight, the slopes of the hill being covered with men, carts, and horses, and the summit crested with spectators, with their backs turned towards us, and gazing on the valley beyond. “There’s Centreville,” says the driver, and on our poor panting horses were forced, passing directly through the Confederate bivouacs, commissariat parks, folds of oxen, and two German regiments, with a battery of artillery, halting on the rising-ground by the road-side. The heat was intense. Our driver complained of hunger and thirst, to which neither I nor my companion were insensible; and so pulling up on the top of the hill, I sent the boy down to the village which we had passed, to see if he could find shelter for the horses, and a morsel for our breakfastless selves.

It was a strange scene before us. From the hill a densely wooded country, dotted at intervals with green fields and cleared lands, spread five or six miles in front, bounded by a line of blue and purple ridges, terminating abruptly in escarpments towards the left front, and swelling gradually towards the right into the lower spines of an offshoot from the Blue-Ridge Mountains. On our left the view was circumscribed by a forest which clothed the side of the ridge on which we stood, and covered its shoulder far down into the plain. A gap in the nearest chain of the hills in our front was pointed out by the bystanders as the Pass of Manassas, by which the railway from the West is carried into the plain, and still nearer at hand, before us, is the junction of that rail with the line from Alexandria, and with the railway leading southwards to Richmond. The intervening space was not a dead level; undulating lines of forest marked the course of the streams which intersected it, and gave, by their variety of colour and shading, an additional charm to the landscape which, enclosed in a framework of blue and purple hills, softened into violet in the extreme distance, presented one of the most agreeable displays of simple pastoral woodland scenery that could be conceived.

But the sounds which came upon the breeze, and the sights which met our eyes, were in terrible variance with the tranquil character of the landscape. The woods far and near echoed to the roar of cannon, and thin frayed lines of blue smoke marked the spots whence came the muttering sound of rolling musketry; the white puffs of smoke burst high above the treetops, and the gunners’ rings from shell and howitzer marked the fire of the artillery.

Clouds of dust shifted and moved through the forest; and through the wavering mists of light blue smoke, and the thicker masses which rose commingling from the feet of men and the mouths of cannon, I could see the gleam of arms and the twinkling of bayonets.

On the hill beside me there was a crowd of civilians on horseback, and in all sorts of vehicles, with a few of the fairer, if not gentler sex. A few officers and some soldiers, who had straggled from the regiments in reserve, moved about among the spectators, and pretended to explain the movements of the troops below, of which they were profoundly ignorant.

The cannonade and musketry had been exaggerated by the distance and by the rolling echoes of the hills; and sweeping the position narrowly with my glass from point to point, I failed to discover any traces of close encounter or very severe fighting. The spectators were all excited, and a lady with an opera-glass who was near me was quite beside herself when an unusually heavy discharge roused the current of her blood— “That is splendid. Oh, my! Is not that first-rate? I guess we will be in Richmond this time to-morrow.” These, mingled with coarser exclamations, burst from the politicians who had come out to see the triumph of the Union arms. I was particularly irritated by constant applications for the loan of my glass. One broken-down looking soldier observing my flask, asked me for a drink, and took a startling pull, which left but little between the bottom and utter vacuity.

“Stranger, that’s good stuff and no mistake. I have not had such a drink since I come South. I feel now as if I’d like to whip ten Seceshers.”

From the line of the smoke it appeared to me that the action was in an oblique line from our left, extending farther outwards towards the right, bisected by a road from Centreville, which descended the hill close at hand and ran right across the undulating plain, its course being marked by the white covers of the baggage and commissariat waggons as far as a turn of the road, where the trees closed in upon them. Beyond the right of the curling smoke clouds of dust appeared from time to time in the distance, as if bodies of cavalry were moving over a sandy plain.

Notwitstanding all the exultation and boastings of the people at Centreville, I was well convinced no advance of any importance or any great success had been achieved, because the ammunition and baggage waggons had never moved, nor had the reserves received any orders to follow in the line of the army.

The clouds of dust on the right were quite inexplicable. As we were looking, my philosophic companion asked me in perfect seriousness, “Are we really seeing a battle now? Are they supposed to be fighting where all that smoke is going on? This is rather interesting, you know.”

Up came our black boy. “Not find a bit to eat, sir, in all the place.” We had, however, my little paper of sandwiches, and descended the hill to a bye lane off the village, where, seated in the shade of the gig, Mr. Warre and myself, dividing our provision with the driver, wound up a very scanty, but much relished, repast with a bottle of tea and half the bottle of Bordeaux and water, the remainder being prudently reserved at my request for contingent remainders. Leaving orders for the saddle horse, which was eating his first meal, to be brought up the moment he was ready—I went with Mr. Warre to the hill once more and observed that the line had not sensibly altered whilst we were away.

An English gentleman, who came up flushed and heated from the plain, told us that the Federals had been advancing steadily in spite of a stubborn resistance and had behaved most gallantly.

Loud cheers suddenly burst from the spectators, as a man dressed in the uniform of an officer, whom I had seen riding violently across the plain in an open space below, galloped along the front, waving his cap and shouting at the top of his voice. He was brought up by the press of people round his horse close to where I stood. “We’ve whipped them on all points,” he cried. “We have taken all their batteries. They are retreating as fast as they can, and we are after them.” Such cheers as rent the welkin! The Congress men shook hands with each other, and cried out, “Bully for us. Bravo, didn’t I tell you so.” The Germans uttered their martial cheers and the Irish hurrahed wildly. At this moment my horse was brought up the hill, and I mounted and turned towards the road to the front, whilst Mr. Warre and his companion proceeded straight down the hill.

By the time I reached the lane, already mentioned, which was in a few minutes, the string of commissariat waggons was moving onwards pretty briskly, and I was detained until my friends appeared at the roadside. I told Mr. Warre I was going forward to the front as fast as I could, but that I would come back, under any circumstances, about an hour before dusk, and would go straight to the spot where we had put up the gig by the road-side, in order to return to Washington. Then getting into the fields, I pressed my horse, which was quite recovered from his twenty-seven mile’s ride and full of spirit and mettle, as fast as I could, making detours here and there to get through the ox fences, and by the small steams which cut up the country. The firing did not increase but rather diminished in volume, though it now sounded close at hand.

I had ridden between three and a half and four miles, as well as I could judge, when I was obliged to turn for the third and fourth time into the road by a considerable stream, which was spanned by a bridge, towards which I was threading my way, when my attention was attracted by loud shouts in advance, and I perceived several waggons coming from the direction of the battle-field, the drivers of which were endeavouring to force their horses past the ammunition carts going in the contrary direction near the bridge; a thick cloud of dust rose behind them, and running by the side of the waggons, were a number of men in uniform whom I supposed to be the guard. My first impression was that the waggons were returning for fresh supplies of ammunition. But every moment the crowd increased, drivers and men cried out with the most vehement gestures, “Turn back! Turn back! We are whipped.” They seized the heads of the horses and swore at the opposing drivers. Emerging from the crowd a breathless man in the uniform of an officer with an empty scabbard dangling by his side, was cut off by getting between my horse and a cart for a moment. “What is the matter, sir? What is all this about?” “Why it means we are pretty badly whipped, that’s the truth,” he gasped, and continued.

By this time the confusion had been communicating itself through the line of waggons towards the rear, and the drivers endeavoured to turn round their vehicles in the narrow road, which caused the usual amount of imprecations from he men and plunging and kicking from the horses.

The crowd from the front continually increased, the heat, the uproar, and the dust were beyond description, and these were augmented when some cavalry soldiers, flourishing their sabres and preceded by an officer, who cried out, “Make way there—make way there for the General,” attempted to force a covered waggon in which was seated a man with a bloody handkerchief round his head, through the press.

I had succeeded in getting across the bridge with great difficulty before the waggon came up, and I saw the crowd on the road was still gathering thicker and thicker. Again I asked an officer, who was on foot, with his sword under his arm, “What is all this for?” “We are whipped, sir. We are all in retreat. You are all to go back.” “Can you tell me where I can find General M’Dowell?” “No! nor can any one else.”

A few shells could be heard bursting not very far off, but there was nothing to account for such an extraordinary scene. A third officer, however, confirmed the report that the whole army was in retreat, and that the Federals were beaten on all points, but there was nothing in this disorder to indicate a general rout. All these things took place in a few seconds. I got up out of the road into a corn-field, through which men were hastily walking or running, their faces streaming with perspiration, and generally without arms, and worked my way for about half a mile or so, as well as I could judge, against an increasing stream of fugitives, the ground being strewed with coats, blankets, firelocks, cooking tins, caps, belts, bayonets—asking in vain where General M’Dowell was.

Again I was compelled by the condition of the fields to come into the road; and having passed a piece of wood and a regiment which seemed to be moving back in column of march in tolerably good order, I turned once more into an opening close to a white house, not far from the lane, beyond which there was a belt of forest. Two field-pieces unlimbered near the house, with panting horses in the rear, were pointed towards the front, and along the road beside them there swept a tolerably steady column of men mingled with field ambulances and light baggage carts, back to Centreville. I had just stretched out my hand to get a cigar-light from a German gunner, when the dropping shots which had been sounding through the woods in front of us, suddenly swelled into an animated fire. In a few seconds a crowd of men rushed out of the wood down towards the guns, and the artillerymen near me seized the trail of a piece, and were wheeling it round to fire, when an officer or sergeant called out, “Stop! stop! They are our own men.” and in two or three minutes the whole battalion came sweeping past the guns at the double, and in the utmost disorder. Some of the artillerymen dragged the horses out of the tumbrils; and for a moment the confusion was so great I could not understand what had taken place; but a soldier whom I stopped, said, “We are pursued by their cavalry; they have cut us all to pieces.”

Murat himself would not have dared to move a squadron on such ground. However, it could not be doubted that something serious was taking place; and at that moment a shell burst in front of the house, scattering the soldiers near it, which was followed by another that bounded along the road; and in a few minutes more out came another regiment from the wood, almost as broken as the first. The scene on the road had now assumed an aspect which has not a parallel in any description I have ever read. Infantry soldiers on mules and draught horses, with the harness clinging to their heels, as much frightened as their riders; negro servants on their masters’ chargers; ambulances crowded with unwounded soldiers; waggons swarming with men who threw out the contents in the road to make room, grinding through a shouting, screaming mass of men on foot, who were literally yelling with rage at every halt, and shrieking out, “Here are the cavalry! Will you get on?” This portion of the force was evidently in discord.

There was nothing left for it but to go with the current one could not stem. I turned round my horse from the deserted guns, and endeavoured to find out what had occurred as I rode quietly back on the skirts of the crowd. I talked with those on all sides of me. Some uttered prodigious nonsense, describing batteries tier over tier, and ambuscades, and blood running knee deep. Others described how their boys had carried whole lines of entrenchments, but were beaten back for want of reinforcements. The names of many regiments were mentioned as being utterly destroyed. Cavalry and bayonet charges and masked batteries played prominent parts in all the narrations. Some of the officers seemed to feel the disgrace of defeat; but the strangest thing was the general indifference with which the event seemed to be regarded by those who collected their senses as soon as they got out of fire, and who said they were just going as far as Centreville, and would have a big fight to-morrow.

By this time I was unwillingly approaching Centreville in the midst of heat, dust, confusions, imprecations inconceivable. On arriving at the place where a small rivulet crossed the road, the throng increased still more. The ground over which I had passed going out was now covered with arms, clothing of all kinds, accoutrements thrown off and left to be trampled in the dust under the hoofs of men and horses. The runaways ran alongside the waggons, striving to force themselves in among the occupants, who resisted tooth and nail. The drivers spurred, and whipped, and urged the horses to the utmost of their bent. I felt an inclination to laugh, which was overcome by disgust, and by that vague sense of something extraordinary taking place which is experienced when a man sees a number of people acting as if driven by some unknown terror. As I rode in the crowd, with men clinging to the stirrup-leathers, or holding on by anything they could lay hands on, so that I had some apprehension of being pulled off, I spoke to the men, and asked them over and over again not to be in such a hurry. There’s no enemy to pursue you. All the cavalry in the world could not get at you.” But I might as well have talked to the stones.

For my own part, I wanted to get out of the ruck as fast as I could, for the heat and dust were very distressing, particularly to a half-starved man. Many of the fugitives were in the last stages of exhaustion, and some actually sank down by the fences, at the risk of being trampled to death. Above the roar of the flight, which was like the rush of a great river, the guns burst forth from time to time.

The road at last became somewhat clearer; for I had got ahead of some of the ammunition train and waggons, and the others were dashing up the hill towards Centreville. The men’s great-coats and blankets had been stowed in the trains; but the fugitives had apparently thrown them out on the road, to make room for themselves. Just beyond the stream I saw a heap of clothing tumble out of a large covered cart, and cried out after the driver, “Stop! stop! All the things are tumbling out of the cart.” But my zeal was checked by a scoundrel putting his head out, and shouting with a curse, “If you try to stop the team, I’ll blow your ______ brains out.” My brains advised me to adopt the principle of non-intervention.

It never occurred to me that this was a grand debacle. All along I believed the mass of the army was not broken, and that all I saw around was the result of confusion created in a crude organisation by a forced retreat; and knowing the reserves were at Centreville and beyond, I said to myself, “Let us see how this will be when we get to the hill.” I indulged in a quiet chuckle, too, at the idea of my philosophical friend and his stout companion finding themselves suddenly enveloped in the crowd of fugitives; but knew they could easily have regained their original position on the hill. Trotting along briskly through the fields, I arrived at the foot of the slope on which Centreville stands, and met a German regiment just deploying into line very well and steadily—the men in the rear companies laughing, smoking, singing, and jesting with the fugitives, who were filing past; but no thought of stopping the waggons, as the orders repeated from mouth to mouth were that they were to fall back beyond Centreville.

The air of the men was good. The officers were cheerful, and one big German with a great pipe in his bearded mouth, with spectacles on nose, amused himself by pricking the horses with his sabre point, as he passed, to the sore discomfiture of the riders. Behind the regiment came a battery of brass field-pieces, and another regiment in column of march was following the guns. They were going to form line at the end of the slope, and no fairer position could well be offered for a defensive attitude, although it might be turned. But it was getting too late for the enemy wherever they were to attempt such an extensive operation. Several times I had been asked by officers and men, “Where do you think we will halt? Where are the rest of the army?” I always replied “Centreville,” and I had heard hundreds of the fugitives say they were going to Centreville.

I rode up the road, turned into the little street which carries the road on the right-hand side to Fairfax Courthouse and the hill, and went straight to the place where I had left the buggy in a lane on the left of the road beside a small house and shed, expecting to find Mr. Warre ready for a start, as I had faithfully promised Lord Lyons he should be back that night in Washington. The buggy was not there. I pulled open the door of the shed in which the horses had been sheltered out of the sun. They were gone. “Oh,” said I, to myself, “of course! What a stupid fellow I am. Warre has had the horses put in and taken the gig to the top of the hill, in order to see the last of it before we go.” And so I rode over to the ridge; but arriving there, could see no sign of our vehicle far or near. There were two carriages of some kind or other still remaining on the hill, and a few spectators, civilians and military, gazing on the scene below, which was softened in the golden rays of the declining sun. The smoke wreaths had ceased to curl over the green sheets of billowy forest as sea foam crisping in a gentle breeze breaks the lines of the ocean. But far and near yellow and dun-coloured piles of dust seamed the landscape, leaving behind them long trailing clouds of lighter vapours which were dotted now and then by white puff balls from the bursting of shell. On the right these clouds were very heavy and seemed to approach rapidly, and it occurred to me they might be caused by an advance of the much spoken-of and little seen cavalry; and remembering the cross road from German Town, it seemed a very fine and very feasible operation for the Confederates to cut right in on the line of retreat and communication, in which case the fate of the army and of Washington could not be dubious. There were now few civilians on the hill, and these were thinning away. Some were gesticulating and explaining to one another the causes of the retreat, looking very hot and red. The confusion among the last portion of the carriages and fugitives on the road, which I had outstripped, had been renewed again, and the crowd there presented a remarkable and ludicrous aspect through the glass; but there were two strong battalions in good order near the foot of the hill, a battery on the slope, another on the top, and a portion of a regiment in and about the houses of the village. A farewell look at the scene presented no new features. Still the clouds of dust moved onwards denser and higher; flashes of arms lighted them up at times; the fields were dotted by fugitives, among whom many mounted men were marked by their greater speed, and the little flocks of dust rising from the horses’ feet.

I put up my glass, and turning from the hill, with difficulty forced my way through the crowd of vehicles which were making their way towards the main road in the direction of the lane, hoping that by some lucky accident I might find the gig in waiting for me. But I sought in vain; a sick soldier who was on a stretcher in front of the house near the corner of the lane, leaning on his elbow and looking at the stream of men and carriages, asked me if I could tell him what they were in such a hurry for, and I said they were merely getting back to their bivouacs. A man dressed in civilian’s clothes grinned as I spoke. “I think they’ll go farther than that,” said he; and then added, “If you’re looking for the waggon you came in, it’s pretty well back to Washington by this time. I think I saw you down theere with a nigger and two men.” “Yes. They’re all off, gone more than an hour and a-half ago, I think, and a stout man—I thought was you at first—along with them.”

Nothing was left for it but to brace up the girths for a ride to the Capitol, for which, hungry and fagged as I was, I felt very little inclination. I was trotting quietly down the hill road beyond Centreville, when suddenly the guns on the other side, or from a battery very near, opened fire, and a fresh outburst of artillery sounded through the woods. In an instant the mass of vehicles and retreating soldiers, teamsters, and civilians, as if agonised by an electric shock, quivered throughout the tortuous line. “With dreadful shouts and cursings, the drivers lashed their maddened horses, and leaping from the carts, left them to their fate, and ran on foot. Artillerymen and foot soldiers, and negroes mounted on gun horses, with the chain traces and loose trappings trailing in the dust, spurred and flogged their steeds down the road or by the side paths. The firing continued and seemed to approach the hill, and at every report the agitated body of horsemen and waggons was seized, as it were, with a fresh convulsion.

Once more the dreaded cry, “The cavalry! cavalry are coming,” rang through the crowd, and looking back to Centreville I perceived coming down the hill, between me and the sky, a number of mounted men, who might at a hasty glance be taken for horsemen in the act of sabreing the fugitives. In reality they were soldiers and civilians, with, I regret to say, some officers among them, who were whipping and striking their horses with sticks or whatever else they could lay hands on. I called out to the men who were frantic with terror beside me, “They are not cavalry at all; they’re your own men”—but they did not heed me. A fellow who was shouting out, “Run! Run!” as loud as he could beside me, seemed to take delight in creating alarm; and as he was perfectly collected as far as I could judge, I said, “What on earth are you running for? What are you afraid of?” He was in the roadside below me, and at once turning on me, and exclaiming, “I’m not afraid of you,” presented his piece and pulled the trigger so instantaneously, that had it gone off I could not have swerved from the ball. As the scoundrel deliberately drew up to examine the nipple, I judged it best not to give him another chance, and spurred on through the crowd, where any man could have shot as many as he pleased without interruption. The only conclusion I came to was, that he was mad or drunken. When I was passing by the line of the bivouacs a battalion of men came tumbling down the bank from the field into the road, with fixed bayonets, and as some fell in the road and others tumbled on top of them, there must have been a few ingloriously wounded.

I galloped on for a short distance to head the ruck, for I could not tell whether this body of infantry intended moving back towards Centreville or were coming down the road; but the mounted men galloping furiously past me, with a cry of ” Cavalry! cavalry!” on their lips, swept on faster than I did, augmenting the alarm and excitement. I came up with two officers who were riding more leisurely; and touching my hat, said, “I venture to suggest that these men should be stopped, sir. If not, they will alarm the whole of the post and pickets on to Washington. They will fly next, and the consequences will be most disastrous.” One of the two, looking at me for a moment, nodded his head without saying a word, spurred his horse to full speed, and dashed on in front along the road. Following more leisurely I observed the fugitives in front were suddenly checked in their speed; and as I turned my horse into the wood by the road-side to get on so as to prevent the chance of another blockup, I passed several private vehicles, in one of which Mr. Raymond, of the New York Times, was seated with some friends, looking by no means happy. He says in his report to his paper, “About a mile this side of Centreville a stampedo took place amongst the teamsters and others, which threw everything into the utmost confusion, and inflicted very serious injuries. Mr. Eaton, of Michigan, in trying to arrest the flight of some of these men, was shot by one of them, the ball taking effect in his hand.” He asked me, in some anxiety, what I thought would happen. I replied, “No doubt M’Dowell will stand fast at Centreville to-night. These are mere runaways, and unless the enemy’s cavalry succeed in getting through at this road, there is nothing to apprehend.”

And I continued through the wood till I got a clear space in front on the road, along which a regiment of infantry was advancing towards me. They halted ere I came up, and with levelled firelocks arrested the men on horses and the carts and waggons galloping towards them, and blocked up the road to stop their progress. As I tried to edge by on the right of the column by the left of the road, a soldier presented his firelock at my head from the higher ground on which he stood, for the road had a deep trench cut on the side by which I was endeavouring to pass, and sung out, ” Halt! Stop —or I fire!” The officers in front were waving their swords and shouting out, “Don’t let a soul pass! Keep back! keep back!” Bowing to the officer who was near me, I said, “I beg to assure you, sir, I am not running away. I am a civilian and a British subject. I have done my best as I came along to stop this disgraceful rout. I am in no hurry; I merely want to get back to Washington to-night. I have been telling them all along there are no cavalry near us.” The officer to whom I was speaking, young and somewhat excited kept repeating, “Keep back, sir! keep back! you must keep back.” Again I said to him, “I assure you I am not with this crowd; my pulse is as cool as your own.” But as he paid no attention to what I said, I suddenly bethought me of General Scott’s letter, and addressing another officer, said, “I am a civilian going to Washington; will you be kind enough to look at this pass, specially given to me by General Scott.” The officer looked at it, and handed it to a mounted man, either adjutant or colonel, who, having examined it, returned it to me, saying, “Oh, yes! certainly. Pass that man!” And with a cry of “Pass that man !” along the line, I rode down the trench very leisurely, and got out on the road, which was now clear, though some fugitives had stolen through the woods on the flanks of the column and were in front of me.

A little further on there was a cart on the right hand side of the road, surrounded by a group of soldiers. I was trotting past when a respectable-looking man in a semi-military garb, coming out from the group, said, in a tone of much doubt and distress—” Can you tell me, sir, for God’s sake, where the 69th New York are? These men tell me they are all cut to pieces.” “And so they are,” exclaimed one of the fellows, who had the number of the regiment on his cap.

“You hear what they say, sir?” exclaimed the man.

“I do, but I really cannot tell you where the 69th are.”

“I’m in charge of these mails, and I’ll deliver them if I die for it; but is it safe for me to go on? You are a gentleman, and I can depend on your word.”

His assistant and himself were in the greatest perplexity of mind, but all I could say was, “I really can’t tell you; I believe the army will halt at Centreville tonight, and I think you may go on there with the greatest safety, if you can get through the crowd.” “Faith, then, he can’t,” exclaimed one of the soldiers.

“Why not?” “S hure, arn’t we cut to pieces. Didn’t, I hear the kurnel himsilf saying we was all of us to cut and run, every man on his own hook, as well as he could. Stop at Cinthreville, indeed!”

I bade the mail agent1 good evening and rode on, but even in this short colloquy stragglers on foot and on horseback, who had turned the flanks of the regiment by side paths or through the woods, came pouring along the road once more.

Somewhere about this I was accosted by a stout, elderly man, with the air and appearance of a respectable mechanic, or small tavern-keeper, who introduced himself as having met me at Cairo. He poured out a flood of woes on me, how he had lost his friend and companion, nearly lost his seat several times, was unaccustomed to riding, was suffering much pain from the unusual position and exercise, did not know the road, feared he . would never he able to get on, dreaded he might be captured and ill-treated if he was known, and such topics as a selfish man in a good deal of pain or fear is likely to indulge in. I calmed his apprehensions as well as I could, by saying, “I had no doubt M’Dowell would halt and show fight at Centreville, and be able to advance from it in a day or two to renew the fight again; that he couldn’t miss the road; whiskey and tallow were good for abrasions;” and as I was riding very slowly, he jogged along, for he was a burr, and would stick, with many “Oh dears! Oh! dear me!” for most part of the way joining me at intervals till I reached Fairfax Court House. A body of infantry were under arms in a grove near the Court House, on the right hand side of the road. The door and windows of the houses presented crowds of faces black and white; and men and women stood out upon the porch, who asked me as I passed, “Have you been at the fight?” “What are they all running for?” “Are the rest of them coming on?” to which I gave the same replies as before.

Arrived at the little inn where I had halted in the morning, I perceived the sharp-faced woman in black, standing in the verandah with an elderly man, a taller and younger one dressed in black, a little girl, and a woman who stood in the passage of the door. I asked if I could get anything to eat. “Not a morsel; there’s not a bit left in the house, but you can get something, perhaps, if you like to stay till supper time.” “Would you oblige me by telling me where I can get some water for my horse?” “Oh, certainly,” said the elder man, and calling to a negro he directed him to bring a bucket from the well or pump, into which the thirsty brute buried its head to the eyes. Whilst the horse was drinking the taller or younger man, leaning over the verandah, asked me quietly “What are all the people coming back for?—what’s set them a running towards Alexandria?”

“Oh, it’s only a fright the drivers of the commissariat waggons have had; they are afraid of the enemy’s cavalry.”

“Ah,” said the man, and looking at me narrowly he inquired, after a pause, “are you an American?”

“No, I am not, thank God; I’m an Englishman.”

“Well, then,” said he, nodding his head and speaking slowly through his teeth, “There will be cavalry after them soon enough; there is 20,000 of the best horsemen in the world in old Virginny.”

Having received full directions from the people at the inn for the road to the Long Bridge, which I was most anxious to reach instead of going to Alexandria or to Georgetown, I bade the Virginian good evening; and seeing that my stout friend, who had also watered his horse by my advice at the inn, was still clinging alongside, I excused myself by saying I must press on to Washington, and galloped on for a mile, until I got into the cover of a wood, where I dismounted to examine the horse’s hoofs and shift the saddle for a moment, wipe the sweat off his back, and make him and myself as comfortable as could be for our ride into Washington, which was still seventeen or eighteen miles before me. I passed groups of men, some on horseback, others on foot, going at a more leisurely rate towards the capital; and as I was smoking my last cigar by the side of the wood, I observed the number had rather increased, and that among the retreating stragglers were some men who appeared to be wounded.

The sun had set, but the rising moon was adding every moment to the lightness of the road as I mounted once more and set out at a long trot for the capital. Presently I was overtaken by a waggon with a small escort of cavalry and an officer riding in front. I had seen the same vehicle once or twice along the road, and observed an officer seated in it with his head bound up with a handkerchief, looking very pale and ghastly. The mounted officer leading the escort asked me if I was going into Washington and knew the road. I told him I had never been on it before, but thought I could find my way, “at any rate we’ll find plenty to tell us.” “That’s Colonel Hunter inside the carriage, he’s shot through the throat and jaw, and I want to get him to the doctor’s in Washington as soon as I can. Have you been to the fight?”

“No, sir.”

“A member of Congress, I suppose, sir?”

“No, sir; I’m an Englishman.”

“Oh indeed, sir, then I’m glad you did not see it, so mean a fight, sir, I never saw; we whipped the cusses and drove them before us, and took their batteries and spiked their guns, and got right up in among all their dirt works and great batteries and forts, driving them before us like sheep, when up more of them would get, as if out of the ground, then our boys would drive them again till we were fairly worn out; they had nothing to eat since last night and nothing to drink. I myself have not tasted a morsel since two o’clock last night. Well, there we were waiting for reinforcements and expecting M’Dowell and the rest of the army, when whish! they threw open a whole lot of masked batteries on us, and then came down such swarms of horsemen on black horses, all black as you never saw, and slashed our boys over finely. The colonel was hit, and I thought it best to get him off as well as I could, before it was too late; And, my God! when they did take to running they did it first-rate, I can tell you,” and so, the officer, who had evidently taken enough to affect his empty stomach and head, chattering about the fight, we trotted on in the moonlight, dipping down into the valleys on the road, which seemed like inky lakes in the shadows of the black trees, then mounting up again along the white road, which shone like a river in the moonlight—the country silent as death, though once as we crossed a small water-course and the noise of the carriage wheels ceased, I called the attention of my companions to a distant sound, as of a great multitude of people mingled with a faint report of cannon. “Do you hear that?” “No, I don’t. But it’s our chaps, no doubt. They’re coming along fine, I can promise you.” At last some miles further on we came to a picket, or main guard, on the roadside, who ran forward, crying out “What’s the news—anything fresh —are we whipped?—is it a fact?” “Well, gentlemen,” exclaimed the Major, reining up for a moment, “we are knocked into a cocked hat—licked to h__l.” “Oh, pray don’t say that,” I exclaimed, “It’s not quite so bad, it’s only a drawn battle, and the troops will occupy Centreville to-night, and the posts they started from this morning.”

A little further on we met a line of commissariat carts, and my excited and rather injudicious military friend appeared to take the greatest pleasure in replying to their anxious queries for news. “We are whipped! Whipped like h___.”

At the cross-roads now and then we were perplexed, for no one knew the bearings of Washington, though the stars were bright enough; but good fortune favoured us and kept us straight, and at a deserted little village, with a solitary church on the road-side, I increased my pace, bade good-night and good speed to the officer, and having kept company with two men in a gig for some time, got at length on the guarded road leading towards the capital, and was stopped by the pickets, patrols, and grand rounds, making repeated demands for the last accounts from the field. The houses by the road-side were all closed up and in darkness, I knocked in vain at several for a drink of water, but was answered only by the angry barkings of the watch-dogs from the slave quarters. It was a peculiarity of the road that the people, and soldiers I met, at points several miles apart, always insisted that I was twelve miles from Washington. Up hills, down valleys, with the silent, grim woods for ever by my side, the white roads and the black shadows of men, still I was twelve miles from the Long Bridge, but suddenly I came upon a grand guard under arms, who had quite different ideas, and who said I was only about four miles from the river; they crowded round me. “Well, man, and how is the fight going?” I repeated my tale. “What does he say?” “Oh, begorra, he says we’re not bet at all; it’s all lies they have been telling us; we’re only going back to the ould lines for the greater convaniency of fighting to-morrow again; that’s illigant, hooro!”

All by the sides of the old camps the men were standing, lining the road, and I was obliged to evade many a grasp at my bridle by shouting out “Don’t stop me; I’ve important news; it’s all well!” and still the good horse, refreshed by the cool night air, went clattering on, till from the top of the road beyond Arlington I caught a sight of the lights of Washington and the white buildings of the Capitol, and of the Executive Mansion, glittering like snow in the moonlight. At the entrance to the Long Bridge the sentry challenged, and asked for the countersign. “I have not got it, but I’ve a pass from General Scott.” An officer advanced from the guard, and on reading the pass permitted me to go on without difficulty. He said, “I have been obliged to let a good many go over to-night before you, Congress men and others. I suppose you did not expect to be coming back so soon. I fear it’s a bad business.” “Oh, not so bad after all; I expected to have been back to-night before nine o’clock, and crossed over this morning without the countersign.” “Well, I guess,” said he, “we don’t do such quick fighting as that in this country.”

As I crossed the Long Bridge there was scarce a sound to dispute the possession of its echoes with my horse’s hoofs. The poor beast had carried me nobly and well, and I made up my mind to buy him, as I had no doubt he would answer perfectly to carry me back in a day or two to M’Dowell’s army by the time he had organised it for a new attack upon the enemy’s position. Little did I conceive the greatness of the defeat, the magnitude of the disasters which it had entailed upon the United States or the interval that would elapse before another army set out from the banks of the Potomac onward to |Richmond. Had I sat down that night to write my letter, quite ignorant at the time of the great calamity which had befallen his army, in all probability I would have stated that M’Dowell had received a severe repulse, and had fallen back upon Centreville, that a disgraceful panic and confusion had attended the retreat of a portion of his army, but that the appearance of the reserves would probably prevent the enemy taking any advantage of the disorder; and as I would have merely been able to describe such incidents as fell under my own observation, and would have left the American journals to narrate the actual details, and the despatches of the American Generals the strategical events of the day, I should have led the world at home to believe, as, in fact, I believed myself, that M’Dowell’s retrograde movement would be arrested at some point between Centreville and Fairfax Court House.

The letter that I was to write occupied my mind whilst I was crossing the Long Bridge, gazing at the lights reflected in the Potomac from the city. The night had become overcast, and heavy clouds rising up rapidly obscured the moon, forming a most phantastic mass of shapes in the sky.

At the Washington end of the bridge I was challenged again by the men of a whole regiment, who, with piled arms, were halted on the chaussee, smoking, laughing, and singing. “Stranger, have you been to the fight?” “I have been only a little beyond Centreville.” But that was quite enough. Soldiers, civilians, and women, who seemed to be out unusually late, crowded round the horse, and again I told my stereotyped story of the unsuccessful attempt to carry the Confederate position, and the retreat to Centreville to await better luck next time. The soldiers alongside me cheered, and those next them took it up till it ran through the whole line, and must have awoke the night owls.

As I passed Willard’s hotel a little further on, a clock—I think the only public clock which strikes the hours in Washington—tolled out the hour; and I supposed, from what the sentry told me, though I did not count the strokes, that it was eleven o’clock. All the rooms in the hotel were a blaze of light. The pavement before the door was crowded, and some mounted men and the clattering of sabres on the pavement led me to infer that the escort of the wounded officer had arrived before me. I passed on to the livery-stables, where every one was alive and stirring. “I’m sure,” said the man, “I thought I’d never see you nor the horse back again. The gig and the other gentleman has been back a long time. How did he carry you?” “Oh, pretty well; what’s his price?” “Well, now that I look at him, and to you, it will be 100 dollars less than I said. I’m in good heart to-night.” “Why so? A number of your horses and carriages have not come back yet, you tell me.”

“Oh, well, I’ll get paid for them some time or another. Oh, such news! such news!” said he, rubbing his hands. “Twenty thousand of them killed and wounded! May-be they’re not having fits in the White House to-night!”

I walked to my lodgings, and just as I turned the key in the door a flash of light made me pause for a moment, in expectation of the report of a gun; for I could not help thinking it quite possible that, somehow or another, the Confederate cavalry would try to beat up the lines, but no sound followed. It must have been lightning. I walked up-stairs, and saw a most welcome supper ready on the table— an enormous piece of cheese, a sausage of unknown components, a knuckle-bone of ham, and a bottle of a very light wine of France; but I would not have exchanged that repast and have waited half an hour for any banquet that Soyer or Careme could have prepared at their best. Then, having pulled off my boots, bathed my head, trimmed candles, and lighted a pipe, I sat down to write. I made some feeble sentences, but the pen went flying about the paper as if the spirits were playing tricks with it. When I screwed up my utmost resolution, the “y’s” would still run into long streaks, and the letters combine most curiously, and my eyes closed, and my pen slipped, and just as I was aroused from a nap, and settled into a stern determination to hold my pen straight, I was interrupted by a messenger from Lord Lyons, to inquire whether I had returned, and if so, to ask me to go up to the Legation, and get something to eat. I explained, with my thanks, that I was quite safe, and had eaten supper, and learned from the servant that Mr. Warre and his companion had arrived about two hours previously. I resumed my seat once more, haunted by the memory of the Boston mail, which would be closed in a few hours, and I had much to tell, although I had not seen the battle. Again and again I woke up, but at last the greatest conqueror but death overcame me, and with my head on the blotted paper, I fell fast asleep.


1 I have since met the person referred to, an Englishman living in Washington, and well known at the Legation and elsewhere. Mr. Dawson came to tell me that he had seen a letter in an American journal, which was copied extensively all over the Union, in which the writer stated he accompanied me on my return to Fairfax Court-house, and that the incident I related in my account of Bull Bun did not occur, but that he was the individual referred to, and could swear with his assistant that every word I wrote was true. I did not need any such corroboration for the satisfaction of any who know me; and I was quite well aware that if one came from the dead to bear testimony in my favour before the American journals and public, the evidence would not countervail the slander of any characterless scribe who sought to gain a moment’s notoriety by a flat contradiction of my narrative. I may add, that Dawson begged of me not to bring him before the public, “because I am now sutler to the ____th, over in Virginia, and they would dismiss me.” “What! For certifying to the truth?” “You know, sir, it might do me harm.” Whilst on this subject, let me remark that some time afterwards I was in Mr. Brady’s photographic studio in Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, when the very intelligent and obliging manager introduced himself to me, and said that he wished to have an opportunity of repeating to me personally what he had frequently told persons in the place, that he could bear the fullest testimony to the complete accuracy of my account of the panic from Centreville down the road at the time I left, and that he and his assistants, who were on the spot trying to get away their photographic van and apparatus, could certify that my description fell far short of the disgraceful spectacle and of the excesses of the flight.

Rutherford B Hayes 1852

COLUMBUS, Sunday morning, July 21, 1861.

DEAR UNCLE:—I came in last evening to attend a little tea gathering at Mr. Andrews’; shall return this morning. We are now in condition to move on a few days’ notice, and expect to go soon—say a week or two. I constantly at camp am reminded of you. You would enjoy the company we have and the amusing incidents which are occurring. The colonel [Jacob Ammen] of the Twenty-fourth next us is a character. He has been an army officer (West Pointer) many years, a teacher of mathematics, etc., in different colleges, and has seen all sorts of life. He is a capital instructor in military things, and finding Matthews and myself fond of his talk, he takes to us warmly. Dr. Joe is now settled with us, and we are made up. We have had good visits from Mr. Giddings, David Tod, and other State celebrities. . . .

It would have been a great happiness to have spent the summer and fall fixing up around Spiegel Grove. But in this war I could not feel contented if I were not in some way taking part in it. I should feel about myself as I do about people who lived through the Revolution, seeing their neighbors leaving home, but doing nothing themselves—a position not pleasant to occupy. I hope you will be well enough to come down. If not, I do not doubt we shall be together again one of these days. All well here.





SUNDAY, JULY 21, 1861.

This has been the most exciting day yet. We have heard the guns all day from the battle which has been raging at or near Mannasses Junction. There is no news that can be relied on public tonight, only that a terrible fight has been going on all day. Reinforcements have been going over all day and last night. 12000 have left the City. A Regt passed the church during services this morning and a train of Artillery dashed by. A most excited crowd at Willards and all sorts of rumors afloat.


The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of  Congress.

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Joseph Howland
Joseph Howland

On The Battle-Field Near Bull Run,

Sunday, 21, 12.45 p. m.

Our brigade is making a demonstration in the face of the enemy and a fight is going on on the right of the line five or six miles off. The enemy’s batteries do not return our fire. We see immense masses of troops moving, and the supposition is that the enemy is trying to outflank us on the left. We started (from Centreville) at half-past two this morning.

– – – – – – –

The following little note, hardly legible now, written in pencil on a scrap of soiled and crumpled paper, made its way to us at Washington and told the rest of the story:

Evening. Half-past seven.

A complete rout. The Sixteenth safe. We are making a final stand.            J. H.


(July 21 & 22)

IN the order prescribed by the regulations, for a force feeling the enemy preparatory to an attack, we marched forward, passing over the open field and into a piece of full grown timber, apparently the slope of a considerable hill. As we slowly ascended the rising ground, suddenly a loud screeching noise overhead sent more than half the regiment pell mell the other side of a fence that ran along the road side. Here we crouched down flat on our bellies, our hearts in our mouths, just as a shell exploded a little beyond us. It was from the rebel batteries in front, and the first any of us had ever heard, and it certainly did seem a terrible thing, rushing through the air like an immense sky rocket, then bursting into a thousand pieces, carrying death and destruction to everything in its course. The stampede was only momentary, but very funny; the boys jumped back again; in fact, almost as quickly as they had dispersed, and then stood steady in the ranks, watching the advance of the Rhode Islanders. When the latter had emerged into the clearing, beyond the woods, our regiment wheeled to the right, into line of battle, and followed the advancing line. In the meantime, several shells came over the woods, generally passing far to the rear before bursting, doing no harm other than making us a little nervous. Just as we emerged from the woods, the Rhode Islanders reached the crest of the hill and immediately opened fire, and the rattle of musketry became so heavy we could hear no commands, and the smoke so thick, we could see nothing at all in front; away off to the right, however, we saw little white puffs of smoke, indicating the position of the rebel batteries, which began to drop their shells about us, much to our confusion; while we were peering into the dense smoke in front, wondering how the enemy looked, an order came directing us to move forward and go into action. We marched immediately, reached the crest of the hill, and amid the rattle of musketry, the booming of guns, and screeching of shells, lay down and commenced firing. Before we had time to get well at work, along came Griffith’s light battery at full gallop, scattering the right of our regiment badly; we got together again as quickly as possible, but were five and six files deep, narrowing the front of the regiment, and rendering about half of us useless. I was in this struggling crowd, and with many others, tried hard to get the line straightened out, but the objection many of the fellows had to take the front rank prevented our doing much of anything, so I crept up to the front, determined at least to get a sight of the enemy, and a shot if possible. I soon reached a position where I could look over the hill, and there sure enough, nearly at the bottom, just in front of a clump of trees, stood a long line of rebel infantry firing away at our men. I took a shot immediately, and then loaded and fired as quickly as I could, very much excited, but now not at all afraid, except of the men in rear who persisted in firing over our heads, although they could see nothing to fire at, and stood no possible chance of hitting anything, except the back of our heads, which was not comfortable to think of. The musket balls whistled around us, and every now and then, one of our fellows dropped his gun and rolled over, shot; however, the noise of the musketry, and booming of the cannon, drowned all cries, and kept up the excitement, so that we thought only of firing and trying to hit somebody. We lay in this position a good while, keeping up a rattling fire, when the order was passed along the line to stand up and fire; the regiment jumped to its feet, just as a wild unearthly yell rung out below, and the rebel line dashed forward, charging directly up the hill at us. We had a beautiful chance now and blazed away into the advancing line without let or hindrance, but still they came on until some of them got within thirty yards of us, and I really thought they were going to reach us and give us a chance to bayonet them, but suddenly they hesitated, then turned back, and ran away. Now we yelled, and together with our boat howitzers, poured a rattling fire into them, killing and wounding a good many; they ran until they reached the woods, then reformed, and actually tried it again, but this second attempt was a mere farce. The batteries shelled them until they completely disappeared, leaving us in undisputed possession of the field. Our fighting was done and very soon we were relieved by the Sixty-ninth New York and a New Hampshire regiment, who followed up the enemy, while we fell back to the edge of the woods, stacked arms, and answered to roll call. We had lost seventeen men killed outright, and forty wounded; all the rest were accounted for; we then buried the dead and carried such of the wounded as had not already been cared for back to the field hospital, after which we compared notes and congratulated each other on the success of the fight. There served with us throughout the whole fight a tall, elderly gentleman, wearing plain clothes and a tall silk hat, in the front rank, who loaded and fired away in the most deliberate manner, apparently wholly indifferent to danger; he must have done a good deal of execution, as the excitement did not seem to affect him in the least. They say he is a noted abolitionist, and desired to do his share in the field, as well as in the forum; I am sorry I cannot remember his name. With a regiment of such men as he, what might we not have done?

Soon after we retired, General McDowell rode up, dressed in full uniform, including white kid gloves, and told us we had won a great victory, and that the enemy were in full retreat; we cheered him vociferously, and felt like veritable heroes.

The enemy having disappeared, some of us concluded to walk over the battle field, see how it looked, and pick up something as a souvenir of the fight. The Sixty-ninth and Seventy-ninth New York and the splendid line of the marine corps, in their white cross belts, were moving without opposition, away off to the right, apparently intending to follow the enemy to Richmond. Butler and I strolled down the hill side, and were soon amongst the dead and dying rebels, who up to this time had been neglected. What a horrible sight it was! here a man, grasping his musket firmly in his hands, stone dead; several with distorted features, and all of them horribly dirty. Many were terribly wounded, some with legs shot off; others with arms gone, all of them, in fact, so badly wounded that they could not drag themselves away; many of the wretches were slowly bleeding to death, with no one to do anything for them. We stopped many times to give some a drink and soon saw enough to satisfy us with the horrors of war; and so picking up some swords, and bayonets, we turned about and retraced our steps. Suddenly a minnie ball whistled past us, making the dust fly just in front, where it lodged; we thought it must be from some of our men mistaking us for rebels, and so hurried along to join our regiment when, nearly at the summit of the hill, a whole volley of musket balls whizzed about us, one of them striking my companion, who dropped to the ground as though he had been killed, and I really thought he was; in looking him over, I found he was shot through the knee and quite unable to stand, or walk; promising to bring him assistance, I started on the run, found the regiment, and with several good fellows quickly returned, picked up our comrade and carried him to the rear, and left him with the surgeons. This turn in affairs greatly puzzled everybody, and the only conclusion arrived at was, that some of our troops had mistaken us for the enemy. About half an hour after this, our attention was attracted to the distant hills and open ground by long lines of infantry extending across the whole face of the battle ground; the sound of distant musketry came floating along, followed by an occasional cannon shot. Presently the lines grew more distinct, finally developing into well defined lines of battle, marching in our direction; everybody was now alert; wondering what was going to happen; at last the glittering bayonets, reflecting the summer sun, were easily distinguished, and there was no longer a doubt but what the rebels had reformed, and with new forces were going to renew the fighting. The musketry increased and several batteries opened in our direction, but there were no indications on our part of making any resistance to the rapidly advancing foe; so far as we could see over the wide extended fields, not a single line of battle on our side was in position; the regiments about us had been gradually withdrawing, until few were left. All the guns had gone, except our two howitzers, and there was no general officer on the ground. As the long line came nearer and nearer, Colonel Martin ordered us to fall in, and with muskets in hand, we stood, simply watching the gradual approach of this overwhelming force, and the disappearance of our troops; wondering what had become of all the masses of men we not long ago thought numerous enough to thrash the world; now there was nobody left, and our colonel at length ordered us to counter march to the rear, and follow the crowd. We still supposed there was a new line forming in rear of us, and that in the confusion, our regiment had escaped attention, consequently, at first were not much alarmed, but as we continued going to the rear and saw no signs of fresh dispositions, we came to the conclusion we were running away, following the route we had marched over with so much confidence in the morning; presently we came up with the rear of the troops that had preceded us, but looked in vain for new defensive dispositions. Everywhere was hurry and confusion, the wagons and batteries filled the roads, while the men spread out on either side, gradually losing their formations and fast becoming reckless. There was no rear guard, nor any arrangements for holding the enemy in check, and if they really had appeared, they might have captured us all without difficulty. Now every one was anxious to be first, and so by degrees, the men of various regiments got mixed up together, and thus, finding themselves without officers, accelerated their steps until at last it became a precipitate flight to the rear.

In the course of the afternoon, when the woods were one mass of men, without a semblance of order, a report spread that the Black Horse cavalry were advancing! instantly, every man of us backed up to a tree, and it was really wonderful how almost instantaneously the woods seemed clear of men; with three or four of us around a tree, bayonets fixed, awaiting in fearful suspense, we looked quite formidable, but were in fact, very weak kneed.

After waiting a time, and seeing nothing of the foe, we spread out again, hurrying along to get across the Bull Run stream. By this time the men were throwing away their blankets, knapsacks, and many of them their guns, in order to fly the faster; and when the enemy began shelling the woods we were in, the panic was complete, and all semblance of order was lost; at a bridge where the ambulances were crossing, several shells burst in succession, completing the disaster. Confusion became confounded; men, horses, mules, wagons, ambulances, and batteries were inextricably mixed together, and the mass rushed forward, abandoning everything in their flight; in many cases, the drivers of wagons and ambulances cut loose their teams and galloped to the rear, leaving their wagons and contents to block the road, thus cutting off all chance for escape for those in rear of them. On the bridge over the Bull Run were several ambulances, filled with wounded men, so jammed together that none of them could move. Some shells from the enemy’s guns dropped in amongst them, killing some of the wounded, scaring away the drivers, and effectually blockading the bridge for good. The panic was complete. The wounded, deserted in the ambulances, yelled for succor in vain; the whole crowd were utterly demoralized. Colonel Martin and the regiment up to this time had kept tolerably well together, but here the general frenzy took possession of us, too, and the cry of “every man for himself, and the devil take the hindmost,” was the only rule observed.

About the stream, the loss of material was immense; our two boat howitzers were abandoned here, after doing very effective service. There were hundreds of wagons, ambulances, forges, guns, muskets, myriads of blankets, knapsacks and every kind of accoutrement; the ground, in fact, being literally covered with material, the men throwing away indiscriminately all that they had to facilitate their flight. When we arrived at the stream the bridge was completely blockaded, so we took to the water with the crowd, and found it nearly up to our waists; we were almost dying with thirst and stopped to drink and fill our canteens; the water was liquid mud, but more precious to us just then than gold; standing amongst myriads of men and horses, I drank and drank, until I must have swallowed at least a quart; it did refresh us amazingly; we had marched all the previous night; fought all the morning, and had been running away all the afternoon, with nothing at all to eat since the evening before, and as the heat was intense, and the dust horrible, one may imagine our condition.

It did us good to see many batteries boldly ford the run, descending the steep bank and climb the opposite side in a most business like manner. I can truthfully say up to this time none of us had seen or heard of a general officer or aid-de-camp nor any one making any effort to stem the tide of disorder south of the stream.

After crossing the river, the crowd kept on in just the same disorder; but, as they got more fatigued they threw away more of their equipment, and so by degrees, about one half of them threw away their arms, as well as clothing. Amongst the infantry, there was no longer a pretense of formation; the crowd scattered over a wide area of fields and roads, observing only one rule, of keeping in the direction of Washington. As our organization fell to pieces at the run, half a dozen of us agreed for our own safety to stick together at all hazards, retain our arms and accoutrements, and pretend we were soldiers. The country was now open, giving an extended view of the situation as far as we could see; to the right and left, crowds of men, wagons and guns, all mixed together, were hurrying along spread all over the country.

We trudged along wearily enough, at last reaching Centreville, and then sat down to rest and eat, expecting the crowd would do the same, but their fears still urged them forward, and they surged through, and around the village, in one continuous mass of disorder. We rested about an hour, then started ahead again, keeping along with the crowd still as dense as ever. Not long after passing Centreville, the crowd in front suddenly halted as if by magic; right in front, drawn up in battle array, stretched a long dark line of infantry, completely blocking the way; to our disordered imagination there could be but one explanation, the enemy had in some way gotten in our rear, and cut us off; no man dared to advance, and for a time we were motionless, lost in amazement. Presently the men on the extreme right began a movement to slip around the flank, hoping in this way to elude the new danger; but just then several mounted men rode forward, and announced the troops in front as friends, being in fact, a line of New Jersey troops, formed to stem the surging tide of disorder, by offering a shelter, sufficiently strong to restore confidence. What a relief it was! we were now safe from pursuit, and could rest our weary feet. We marched along with the crowd, passed through the new line, and sat down, intending to go no further, utterly exhausted and demoralized. We threw ourselves on the ground, and watched with much anxiety, the efforts made to stop the fugitives. Staff officers, cavalrymen, and infantry, all exerted themselves strenuously to halt the crowd, and form them anew, in rear of the fresh men, but without success; the crowd continued pressing to the rear determined only to stop, under the forts at Washington. We remained till after dark getting a little rest, but keeping our eyes on the Jerseymen. About eight o’clock two of the regiments near us were ordered back to Vienna, so we fell in with them, and continued our retreat from this point, in much better company. We marched wearily along, foot sore, and since night set in, extremely nervous. In every piece of woods through which we marched we heard the dreaded sighing of the minnie ball, and saw dark shadowy forms, which took the shape of Black Horse Cavalry. We knew better, but our nerves gave out, I expect, and we could not help ourselves. As everything in life must come to an end sooner or later, so this trying march to Vienna ended also, something after midnight. The Jerseymen turned into a field to the right of the road, formed in close column of division, stacked arms, and lay down and slept. We begged some bread of them; half a loaf each, which we lost no time in eating, then lay down and slept. We had no covering, as our regiment was ordered to remove their blankets before the fight, and never had a chance to get them again, but we slept for all that, and only waked, after a vigorous shaking; about three o’clock in the morning, the Jerseymen were ordered to fall back on account of the advancing enemy, and there was nothing else to be done but go with them. What unwelcome news! My feet were so covered with blisters, and swollen, that at first I could not stand on them, and it seemed out of the question to use them at all, but we had heard of the guerillas, and feared capture, so were bound to move. I tore my pocket handkerchief into strips and bound each toe, separately; the soles, and heels, and in that shape started off; at first I could scarcely stand, but, as my feet warmed up they felt better, and I was able to keep up with the regiment, until we got to within about seven miles of Washington. There we parted with the Jerseymen, and went to a farm house, where after much parleying, we hired a man to carry us to the long bridge, for fifty cents apiece. As soon as the springless wagon was hitched up, we jumped in, and felt that our troubles were all over. In due time we arrived before the tete de pont at the long bridge, paid and dismissed our farmer friend, and started to cross over, but the sentry stopped us and refused to let us cross. The sergeant of the guard was deaf to our entreaties, and we fell back in dismay; presently, someone suggested that, by taking the tow path to the Georgetown bridge, about three miles up the river, we could cross, and so, nothing daunted by the pouring rain, we started off and for two hours struggled over the worst road, in the worst weather, imaginable. When we arrived, we were disgustingly covered with red clay mud, from head to foot, and altogether in a pitiful condition; filled with anxiety, we went up to the bridge and found a regiment apparently going over, and so fell in rear of it, but when nearly up to the entrance, it filed off to the right, leaving us in the lurch once more. Nothing remained now but to go up boldly and ask permission to cross, which we did, and were delighted when told to go ahead; we lost no time in passing the guard, and with light hearts, but dreadfully weary feet, trudged along, and were soon across and looking out for some means of getting to the Navy Yard, many miles away. Very soon afterward a couple of gentlemen rushed up to us, grasped us by the hand, and hustled us into a carriage; they said they were New Yorkers and had heard all about the gallant behavior of the Seventy-first, and that they were there for the express purpose of taking care of some of the boys. They were full of sympathy, and took great interest in us, and so we began to think a little better of ourselves. They took us to the Metropolitan Hotel, where they ordered dinner, wine, etc., and made us sit down, wet and muddy as we were, and eat and drink. It was wonderful how we recovered under this generous treatment, and in a couple of hours, were so refreshed that we took leave of our fellow townsmen with many and hearty thanks, and went straight to the Navy Yard, almost falling asleep on the way.

Arriving, I found my companion Dodd occupying our old bunk in tranquil security, not having heard of the misfortune that had befallen the army. He came to the rescue, and like the good fellow he was, never ceased till I was encased in dry clothes, and snugly packed away in my old place, and fast asleep.

A likeness of Jones when he was editor  and majority owner of the Daily Madisonian during President John Tyler's administration.

JULY 21ST.—The President left the city this morning for Manassas, and we look for a battle immediately. I have always thought he would avail himself of his prerogative as commander-in-chief, and direct in person the most important operations in the field; and, indeed, I have always supposed he was selected to be the Chief of the Confederacy, mainly with a view to this object, as it was generally believed he possessed military genius of a high order. In revolutions like the present, the chief executive occupies a most perilous and precarious position, if he be not a military chieftain, and present on every battle-field of great magnitude. I have faith in President Davis, and believe he will gain great glory in this first mighty conflict.

Early in the evening Secretary Walker returned from tea in great excitement. He strode to and fro in the room where we were sitting, d——g his office. He said a great battle was then going on, and he wished himself present participating in its perils. Again he denounced the office he filled—and seemed, for a time, almost frantic with anxiety. He said all young men ought to be in the field, and this was understood by those present, who had merely shouldered their pens.

Before long the hall of the department was filled with people eager to hear the news; and as successive dispatches were received, the excitement increased. All the cabinet were in our office; and Hon. Howell Cobb, President of Congress, making deductions from the dispatches, announced his belief that it was a drawn battle. This moved the wrath of Col. Bledsoe, and he denounced Cobb. Mr. Hunter did nothing but listen. It was night, now. Finally, Mr. Benjamin, who had gone to the Spottswood Hotel, where Mrs. Davis resided, returned with news that stopped every detracting tongue. Mrs. D. had just got a dispatch from the President announcing a dearly-bought but glorious victory. Some of the editors of the papers being present, and applying to me for a copy of the dispatch, Mr. Benjamin said he could repeat it from memory, which he did, and I wrote it down for the press. Then joy ruled the hour! The city seemed lifted up, and every one appeared to walk on air. Mr. Hunter’s face grew shorter; Mr. Reagan’s eyes subsided into their natural size; and Mr. Benjamin’s glowed something like Daniel Webster’s after taking a pint of brandy. The men in place felt that now they held their offices for life, as the permanent government would soon be ratified by the people, and that the Rubicon had been passed in earnest. We had gained a great victory; and no doubt existed that it would be followed up the next day. If so, the Federal city would inevitably fall into our hands; and this would soon be followed by the expulsion of the enemy from Southern soil. All men seemed to think that the tide of war would roll from that day northward into the enemy’s country, until we should win a glorious peace.

Judith White Brockenbrough McGuire

Sunday, 21.—We were at church this morning and heard Bishop Meade, on the subject of “Praise.” He and his whole congregation greatly excited. Perhaps there was no one present who had not some near relative at Manassas, and the impression was universal that they were then fighting. This suspense is fearful; but we must possess our souls in patience.