Letters From The Civil War
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Jul 13, 2005
Transcribed by James Burgess, 7-24-92, minor editing by Frank Harrell, 9-26-97. Paragraph spacing added to make reading easer.
Report of Lt. C.B. Brockway Concerning Bull Run Fight (Rough Copy)
Harrisburg, Pa. Oct. 18th 1862
You have asked me for a formal report of the part borne by me and my command in the action at Bull Run on the 30th Aug., with a brief account of my career, treatment, etc. among the rebels."
On the morning of the 30th of August we crossed the Centerville pike along the Sudley Church road and were placed on the extreme right of the line of artillery which occupied the ridge west of the turnpike. An almost level plain (ran along) in front of the ridge, woods were on our right and rear, and about 500 yards in front of us was another strip of woods. In this lay Gen. Duryea's Brigade and Gen. Carroll was on his right. In the afternoon the enemy opened on us from their extreme left but owing to the woods in front their aim was inaccurate. About 4 P.M. Lieut. Case's section was sent to the left to report to Gen. Stevens when the firing had become general.
The enemy had massed some 50 pieces of artillery under command of Col. S.D. Lee of S.C. on an eminence near the angle formed by the position of Jackson's and Longstreet's lines. His artillery opened on our line at the same time the enemy commenced charging our left flank. You then ordered me into the open field with directions to open on the enemies batteries. This changed our front somewhat to the left and put all the artillery in echelon, my right resting but a short distance from the woods where I had seen Gen. Duryea go in. We fired about 15 minutes when the smoke became so dense as to make objects almost indistinguishable 300 yards from us. The enemy several times slackened their fire though they had all the advantage of position. A battery to our extreme right also annoyed us because we could not see its position. Fortunately for us but very few of their shells burst.
While waiting for the smoke to clear away I discovered the battle-flag of the enemy coming out of the woods on my right, the men being invisible. Gen. Duryea's Brigade instead of falling back towards us when attacked had marched by the right flank and thus left the field unobserved by us. As soon as I discovered the enemy I opened on them with canister and I believe Thompson's Battery did the same. They then commenced firing and soon after charged.
Our fire first checked them, they then halted and fell back to the woods where they were reinforced by another Brigade as I afterwards learned. They again came steadily forward though their men fell in scores before our fire. I then saw for the first time that you were by me. The Infantry and Artillery on my left had ceased firing and fallen back and the guns on my left had been deserted and the horses were standing perfectly quiet though no man was near them.
Our support failing to come up, you ordered me to fall back to my original position and to open with canister again. I did so having sent my caisson off the field. The enemy came on with loud cheers, -and after placing their colors on the deserted guns made a left half wheel and with renewed confidence came yelling on. Thompson fell back to the rear and my guns were the only ones left on the field. Nearer and nearer they came, many of my men were scattered, three of my horses were shot, and to my dismay I learned that our infantry support had left the woods in our rear.
The enemy already held the Sudley Church road so that my only chance of escape lay in getting through the woods. We had only time to limber up one piece, and got into the woods but found it impossible to get through. While there one of the wheel horses was shot dead, and others severely wounded. One wheel horse could not pull the pieces, and the enemy were behind the trees picking off men and horses, so I told the few men left to save themselves. I got safely through the woods and rallied a few hundred men with the intention of going back and bringing my pieces off by hand but a General rode up and prevented me.
I then rode up to a frame hospital where I found you and Gen. Ricketts. You kindly placed at my disposal a detachment of the other section with instructions to use it as I saw best. I took it to the front of the hospital and fired until dark, assisted by the three men I found out of the 35 I took into action.
About dusk Gen. Hientzelman, who seemed to be in command at that point, ordered me to cease firing until further orders. I dismounted from my horse, and while talking to the men, there walked up to me out of the bushes in front a man in rebel uniform whom I first took to be a deserter. On questioning him I found that he belonged to the 16th Miss, Featherstone's Brigade. He supposed us to be friends. I immediately took him prisoner. He told me that I had better yield myself as prisoner to him as their Brigade was stretched along in my front, and Pender's Brigade in my rear. I turned to give this information to Gens. Hientzelman and Stevens who stood near me but a few moments before but they had gone, leaving a couple of aids in their place.
Not far from me Carroll's Brigade and Steven's were drawn up in line, apparently not expecting an attack. I ordered the gun to be limbered up quietly and proceeded nearer our lines. When going through the yard in which lay our wounded I saw a line of Infantry advancing towards our men. The challenge "who comes there" was given. "Pender" was answered. One of our men understanding it to be "Patrick" answered "all right; we're Union". No sooner was this answered than a volley was fired from the enemy after which they charged bayonet. Two of my horses were killed by the discharge and being in the yard among the wounded could not come into action.
The men I could get together I put into the cellar to escape the galling fire they poured into us. After our infantry ran they closed up around the building, and as resistance by a few unarmed artillerists against such numbers was madness, I surrendered to an officer of the 49th Ala. Under pretence of getting some little article for private use, I threw away the friction primers, pocketed the fuses, and with my knife ripped open the cartridge bags.
And now a few words in reference to our treatment.
We were then marched several miles and finally halted at Young's Branch where we met the prisoners taken in the preceding battles. The officers were placed on a stony side hill and were neither allowed room to lie down nor water to wash in. The wounded officers had no shelter from cold or storm or sun and their distress was terrible. No provision was given either well or wounded. On Monday, a flag of truce came over, and then our wounded received some attention. Many of them laid on the field from Friday till Monday without water, food or attention. Their loss, though fully equal to ours, seemed less to our surgeons who came over on Monday because for three days they had been engaged in burying the dead, and carrying away the wounded.
Monday afternoon we were marched across Bull Run, near Chantilly, and the privates, except Virginians, were paroled. They numbered about 2,000. On Tuesday night another terrible storm came on, and I had not even a blanket. Thursday morning the officers, Virginia privates, and about 200 negro men, women & children commenced their march "On to Richmond." We were very weak. The roads were filled with troops hurrying on to Centerville. We encountered nothing but insults and indignities from officers and men. Near Haymarket I fell down from exhaustion, not being used to walking, and not having had anything to eat for three days. I was at first threatened with the bayonet, but finally was allowed to ride nearly a mile. We stopped for the night at Thorofare Gap.
Four ounces of meat was dealt out to us. I there saw the terrible effects of our fire of the Thursday previous when we held the Gap against Longstreet's Corps. The large stone building was much shattered, and a frame house to the left almost demolished. The next morning we were again marched forward without breakfast. We were taken through cornfields and byways to Warrenton. Pres. Davis was there and from the reports I heard he expected to follow the victorious rebels into Washington. That night we stopped at Sulpher Springs. We got nothing to eat during the day.
The next day we were marched to Culpepper, and still recd no provision. The nights were very cold and chilly yet they compelled us to sleep without blankets on the bare ground, and among the negroes. Friday morning, though almost starved, foot sore, and very tired we were marched to the Rapidan, and had four ounces of meat and three crackers issued to us, the only regular ration for 6 days. We were then put on the cattle cars and taken to Gordonsville. There we were placed in a filthy shop, the floor of which was so filled with dirt and excrement as to cause disgust among the negroes.
The Provost Marshall searched our pockets for counterfeit-Confederate notes. On Saturday we reached Libby Prison, a discription of which is unnecessary. The floor was 1/2 inch covered with drainings from molasses barrells, etc. and though used as a prison for 18 mos. had never been cleaned. Without blankets or coverings we remained in this filth. The sink was a small box on the same floor, and gave forth a horrible stench. We were not allowed to look out of the windows; one man was killed for so doing the day we got there. We were fed twice a day; our soup was brought up in a swill-bucket, and we split our canteens for dishes, and whittled spoons from sticks. Some doubtful beef was furnished, but the bread was good, except it contained many cockroaches.
The prison comandante treated us brutally, and we were fully reminded of our sin in being papists or followers of Pope. McClellan's and Burnside's officers were paroled almost immediately; we were not until after the battles in Maryland, and then only on a distinct demand, and after the flag to truce had been sent for us five times. We got a glimpse of the Merrimac which was nearing completion. We could see but few troops in or around Richmond; - a few batteries along the James were manned.
There are many incidents I would like to record but I have occupied too much time already.