Letters From The Civil War
|Last update |
Jul 13, 2005
This letter has been edited by Park Superintendent Robert K. Sutton. In most instances, the original spelling and flavor have been retained. Our library copy is typed and was presented to the Park by Judge D.M. Byrd of Warm Springs, Va. who has possession of the original.
Co A. 27th Virginia
Buena Vista Va
Mr. Wm M. McAllister
My Dear Friend & Comrad.
Yours of 25th- yesterday- inclosing "Official Badge of Stonewall Brigade Just now 12 m handed me & I hasten to reply.
Nothing you could have sent me could have been more highly appreciated & prized than this "Souvenir" of the days which tried not only the souls but the stuff of which men were composed. Accept my thanks. I reached home wednesday evening from Jellico Tenn. Where I have been for the past year working on the K. S. & J Railroad. On a short leave of absence will return next week. Since coming home I have read with much interest the sketch of the life of your father- my friend- Capt. Thompson McAllister by Gray. On page "16" I find a verbatim quotation from a written paper he finds among Capt. Mc's papers- describing the part taken by our Co "A" 27th Va Regt. in the battle of Manassas July 21/61. My recollection doesn't taly altogether with the account. You remember on the morning of 21st after leaving "Blackburn Ford" in the direction of the Stone Bridge, after about 2 miles the 27th Regiment was halted at the path where cavalry could have crossed Bull Run. We remained there until near noon. We were withdrawn withdraw & ordered to doublequick to our position in line of battle near the Johnson house, where we laid down at the feet of the 4th Va Regt., lying behind some artillery, where we were permitted to catch our breath for an hour or two, when we could do so between the shot & shell & grape thrown at us by the Yankees. Capt. McAllister chose to perch himself on a high stump- that happened to be conveniently situated. He cautioned the boys, when one could sum up courage enough to raise his head to try to see what they could see, to keep low or they would get hit. Soon, however, we were ordered up & at them. Charging directly to the front for a short distance, we were then ordered to change front to the left, starting toward the "Henry House." The 4th Regt being in front, in the execution of this manouver, threw itself in column of Company to the left, attempting to pass through a gate across an old road that had worn down into a deep gully & through a pair of bars on the other side of the road.
We crossed from one field to another- which was too narrow for a Company front formation. This necessitated throwing Cos. into platoons, & again back ito Co. front after getting through the bars, preparatory to the Cos. forward by a right oblique into line of battle again. This resulted in forming a great huddle around Col. Preston & his regiment.
While all this is going on, the 27th- executes the manoever by swinging on the flag Company (our Company) for that day. At the urgent request & by the order of Col Echols, Our Co. "A" had been made flag company- right of Regiment by forward movement, left of Regiment by backward movement & the line of our front is now facing the new direction. We take the fence, then go down into the gully of the road, the up the bank & over fence on the other side. We pass the 4th regiment & soon are receiving fire from the New York Yankees on our left--those red britches fellows [probably the 11th New York Fire Zouaves]. But not withstanding every now & then a comrade is shot down, dead or wounded, We press for'd & are soon met with a volley from the front as we pass through that little old corn patch to the hill. Now as we are nearing the "Henry House," Artillery opens on us from behind the Robinson House across the plattoon to the right & now we have reached the summit on a line to the left, with the Henry House. To our astonishment & surprise we are upon the left of Ricketts' great 13 gun battery which opens on us with canister with great effect. It creates some confusion, though we stand to our post, when there comes sounding along the line, word to fall back over the brow of the hill out of range, to reform. When word reached Capt McAllister, he did not recognize the authority from which the word came, & in his own peculiar way, Cried out: "Never do, Never do- if you can't stand up, lie down, but keep on shooting- remember today we have the Flag." So when we go to the ground, the rest of the Regt does the same thing. But the fire is kept up. While in this position Capt. McA seeks to communicate with the colonel. He is unsuccessful, but seeing the acting adjutant, he asks what the orders are. The adjutant replaies that the only order he had heard was from Gen'1 Jackson, and that was to charge them. Then comes a scene which beggars description, Capt. McAllister places his foot between two of his men flat on the ground & with a bound throws himself in front & with his sword twirling above his head orders in Clarion tones "get up boys, get up, Come on, Come on, forward, charge them that's the order." Turning, facing those guns, the mouth of which, to us, look big as flour barrels, he starts towards them and now with a bound & a yell We ("Co A") spring to our feet, and throw our old flag to the breeze again. The rest of the regiment (remember the colonel is not in place, so there is no one to order the regt. And Maj Grigsby at left of regiment doesn't know that the colonel is not in place-) conforms to the same movement, with the 4th Regt which has already come up & has taken its place in the line on our left & Bee & Bartow's shattered, scattered remnant which had bore the heat & burden of the day rallying on our right after Genl Bartow appealed to them to "look at Jackson's Virginians standing like a stonewall."
Amidst a deluge of canister, which brings to the ground, in one fell swoop, well nigh one third of the Regiment, nothing daunted Closing up the gap. Being encouraged by the Capt. we make a rush for those guns, only to recieve another round of canister, just as we are in close proximity. But we must have them before they are loaded again & so with another encouraging--"Come on boys"--from Capt. McA. in our shattered, depleated condition, we spring for'd and have passed the muzzles of the guns & are safe from another reception of Cannister--a worse reception, if possible, than cannon--is right before us. Fortunately, we had before fixed our bayonets- in our very teeth is the 1st Michigan regt. disputing our right to take possession of these guns, our trophies. But, a discharge from our muskets, a few well directed blows with the bayonets & an attempt at a rush, the thing was done. The 1st Michigan was gone with the loss of their colours. The bearer thereof having attempted to run Jos. Glen through with the spear on the end of the staff, had it thrust from his hand by a twitch of Glen's bayonet, requiring the bearer to get behind him as a prisoner. Glen picked up the flag and handed it to Capt. McA. Turning, the captain discovers a Yankee under some weeds and demands that he come out. When the reply came: "bring me your Capt I will surrender," Glen had no time to hunt the Capt. Glen pulled his old bayonet down on him. The man appealed to him not to jab him for it could hurt him, saying he was wounded & couldn't come out. When helped out, the man turned out to be Union artillery officer, Capt. Ricketts & he had a broken leg. And now Lt. Jos. Carpenter, with Capt. McA consent, has taken one plattoon of the Co. to turn two of the captured guns loaded with canister & began firing them on the retreating enemy. Tremendous excitement now prevails among the Yankees. A hollow square is formed in easy range of our guns. The Black Horse Cavalry is coming over the hill looking towards toward Manassas Junction. The report of cannon is heard away to the right in rear. Kirby Smith has marched across country from M. Gap R.R. & struck them in that quarter. The collapse has come. The mist has raised, the dark clouds of blue coats have been vanquished & vanished & are running pelmell, helter skelter for Washington. O glorious day & what I wish to say right here is that no one man, more than Capt. Thompson McAllister, deserves the credit for this glorious day's work. When the 27th, in advance was without a commander, Capt. McAllister in manipulating his own company inadvertently manipulated the 27th regiment by the movement of the flag which his co. carried. The probably caused Bee to exclaim: "look at Jackson's Va's standing like a Stonewall," fixing thereby the sobriquet of "StonewalI" to Jacksons Brigade & to himself capturing the first Yankee Battery the 1st Yankee (1st Michigan) flag. His name was covered all over that day with glory.
Speaking of this Battle I notice in the Confederate Vet [magazine] for Sept., page 408 paragraph 2, where the claim is set up that Ricketts Battery was captured by 7th Geo & 8th Ga supported by the Blackhorse Cavalry.
If that be true then I don't know anything & was not there.
John C. Carpenter