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Title: The Bull-Run Rout - Scenes Attending the First Clash of Volunteers in the Civil War
Author: Clement, Edward Henry, 1843-1920
Language: English
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                           THE BULL-RUN ROUT

                            SCENES ATTENDING
                       FIRST CLASH OF VOLUNTEERS
                            IN THE CIVIL WAR

                          EDWARD HENRY CLEMENT

                          JOHN WILSON AND SON
                            University Press

                                FROM THE
                            FOR MARCH, 1909.

                           THE BULL-RUN ROUT

A LITTLE paper written years ago by a lately deceased brother of mine[1]
describing the rout of the battle of Bull Run as he saw it with the eyes
of a boy and a boy's love of the marvellous seems to me to possess some
value historically for the intimate, unconscious picturing, along with
it, of the state of the public mind on the eve of the so-called "great
uprising." It seems to illustrate well the truth that the great Civil
War, as a war, was really a surprise,--to the people of the North at
least; that the idea persisting up to the day of the battle of Bull Run
at the back of the mind of everybody was that in some way the war-cloud
would blow over, that the actual shock of contending armies and the
pouring out of blood of citizens in civil war would be prevented or in
some way avoided. The occasion of the trip to Washington, to carry
dainties to a soldier brother, the occasion of the extension of the
partly sight-seeing journey to the first battle-field of the great war,
the commission from the horror-struck authorities at home to find and
bring back from Virginia the body of the first Massachusetts soldier to
fall,--all prove the naïveté of the popular conceptions at that time of
what it was to enter upon war. This Chelsea boy,[2] whose body my
brother was bidden by the mayor of their native place to recover and
send home at all costs, was but the first of the fated host of three
hundred and sixty thousand young men about to die for their country in
the ensuing four years. I remember distinctly the consternation of the
community when it was found that the Chelsea company of the First
Massachusetts Infantry had been in the sharp action which was the first
engagement in the approaching collision of the main armies, and that men
had actually been shot and killed. The sickening realization was akin to
that feeling my eldest brother[3] in that regiment had confessed to me
when I was visiting him at the assembling and training camp at Readville
and the new army wagons in their fresh blue paint and white canvas
arrived on the scene in long array. "It looks as though we were really
going," he remarked ruefully.

[1] Andrew J. Clement, First Sergeant, Company M, First Massachusetts
Cavalry; died at Morton, Pennsylvania, February 27, 1908.

[2] Philander Crowell, Company H, First Massachusetts Volunteers.

[3] William B. Clement, Company H; died at Chelsea, July 18, 1896.

I find a pretty complete picture of the psychology of those bewildered
and dreadful weeks and months in two speeches of Wendell Phillips in
that series of wonderful orations in which he rode the storm seeking to
direct it to great issues. Some of these speeches I had the fortune to
hear. I have been looking up certain things I heard delivered in that
deliberate utterance of his with its polished periods, precise and
penetrating as rifle-shots, yet freighted with passion, white-hot with
intense conviction. It is only necessary to compare these two speeches
of Phillips's to show how men's minds tossed and turned and agonized in
those days,--the minds of honest, independent, fearless, conscientious
men, too. In a speech of April 9, 1861, at New Bedford, Wendell Phillips
was in Cassandra vein. Besides many other epigrammatic deliverances to
similar effect, he said:

     Inaugurate war, we know not where it will end; we are in
     no condition to fight. The South is poor; we are rich.
     The poor man can do twice the injury to the rich man
     that the rich man can do to the poor. War will start up
     every man whose livelihood hangs upon trade,
     intensifying him into a compromiser. Those guns fired on
     Fort Sumter are only to frighten the North into a
     compromise. If the Administration provokes war it is a
     trick,--nothing else. It is the masterly cunning of that
     devil of compromise, the Secretary of State. He is not
     mad enough to let the States run into battle. He knows
     that the age of bullets is over. If a gun is fired in
     Southern waters it is fired at the wharves of New York,
     at the bank-vaults of Boston, at the money of the North.
     It is meant to alarm. It is policy, not sincerity.

Thus in New Bedford, April 9; and no wonder that the local reporter
records that the lecture was interrupted with frequent hisses. Twelve
days later, on a Sunday, April 21, the same day that Fletcher Webster
addressed an out-door meeting in State Street, speaking from the Old
State House balcony, Phillips addressed an excited, crowded meeting in
Music Hall. That day Phillips was the prophet militant. He began by
saying that he gave this war a welcome "hearty and hot." He would not
recant or retract anything, he said; he needed everything he had been
saying to justify so momentous an evil as civil war.

     I rejoice before God to-day for every word that I have
     spoken counselling peace; but I rejoice also with an
     especially profound gratitude, that now, the first time
     in my anti-slavery life, I speak under the stars and
     stripes, and welcome the tread of Massachusetts men
     marshalled for war. No matter what the past has been or
     said; to-day the slave asks God for a sight of this
     banner, and counts it the pledge of his redemption.
     Hitherto it may have meant what you thought, or what I
     did; to-day it represents sovereignty and justice. The
     only mistake that I have made was in supposing
     Massachusetts wholly choked with cotton-dust and
     cankered with gold. The South thought her patience and
     generous willingness for peace were cowardice; to-day
     shows the mistake....

     All winter long I have acted with that party which cried
     for peace. The anti-slavery enterprise to which I belong
     started with peace written on its banner. We imagined
     that the age of bullets was over; that the age of ideas
     had come; ... The South opened this door [to the
     solution] with cannon-shot, and Lincoln shows himself at
     the door. The war, then, is not aggressive, but in
     self-defence, and Washington has become the Thermopylæ of
     Liberty and Justice. Rather than surrender that Capital,
     cover every square foot of it with a living body; crowd
     it with a million of men, and empty every bank vault at
     the North to pay the cost.[4]

[4] W. Phillips, Speeches (Boston, 1884), 396-400.

This speech was surely worth thousands of men to the government, but
such is the constitutional cowardice of professional managing
politicians that those of that day thought it prudent, for the sake of
winning over to loyalty the so-called War Democrats, to have the speech
suppressed, and all the docile daily papers did suppress it. It was
circulated to the number of a hundred thousand as a supplement extra of
the weekly called "The Anglo-African." Even so late as October of that
year the Republican State Convention, according to an exultant
editorial of the "Boston Daily Advertiser," "certainly disavowed any
intention of endorsing the fatal doctrines announced by Mr. Sumner in
that convention," and also buried Rev. James Freeman Clarke's resolution
in favor of freeing the slaves, as the esteemed contemporary of that day
predicted, "never to rise again." By another year the Emancipation
proclamation had issued, and three months later Massachusetts idealists
speaking through Wendell Phillips could say: "A blundering and corrupt
cabinet has made it at last an inevitable necessity,--Liberty or Death.
The cowardice of Webster's followers in the cabinet has turned his empty
rhetoric into solemn truth; and now honest men are not only at liberty,
but bound to live and die under his motto,--'Liberty and Union, now and
forever, one and inseparable.'" The country's baffling search to find
its ground, its rising determination to yield thus far and no farther,
the stand taken at last, the great defeat that first befell, the high
idealism, the spirit of the hour,--all are seen in the brief, intimate
account written for the family circle at home of the experiences and
feelings of one representative Boston youth of twenty, soon after to be
a full-fledged three years' man, a hero who rode in the First
Massachusetts Cavalry from Virginia to Florida and back again.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The First Massachusetts Infantry was the first regiment to leave the
State for three years' service in the national cause; and, indeed, is
said to have been the first three years' regiment in the service of the
United States." To the call from the War Department of May 8, 1861, for
volunteers for three years, "the First Regiment immediately and
unanimously responded," though the other regiments which had gone from
the State were enlisted for three months only. The First left Boston on
June 15, 1861, and reached Washington on the 18th, and the next day
marched, with the temperature at 90°, to a camp beyond Georgetown and
was at once put under strictly military discipline, being there in the
enemy's country. It was not till July 16 that the regiment marched into
Virginia with three other regiments, and the next night bivouacked at

The battle of Blackburn's Ford, July 18, in which the Chelsea soldiers
fell, was an affair of outposts, resulting from General McDowell's
purpose to "feel of the enemy." It was begun by shots from the Rebels
posted in the woods bordering Bull Run. Both sides were soon at work
with artillery. Companies G and H of the First Regiment had advanced
through a gully, or dry ravine, leading into Bull Run, until they found
themselves exposed to a murderous fire from three different directions.
For at least half an hour they remained in this position unable to
advance or retreat. The New York Twelfth on their flank fell back, and a
general retrograde movement soon followed, with a stand taken at
Centreville. The only valuable result of the reconnoissance was the
bringing under fire for the first time of some thousands of raw troops.
Thirteen men of the First Regiment were killed, and as many more wounded
and taken prisoners. Rev. Warren H. Cudworth, chaplain of the regiment,
published in 1866 a very full and lively history of its operations.

       *       *       *       *       *

                          THE BULL-RUN MUSKET.

     A single dead soldier of the Union army was an object of
     intense public interest up to the date of the battle of
     Bull Run in July, 1861.

     There were two lads of us who left Boston to visit our
     brothers--both of whom were in the army and in the same
     company. We expected to find the Army at Washington; and
     we each carried a box of dainties to delight our brothers
     with. On reaching Washington, we were sorely disappointed
     to find that the army had started on its march to
     Richmond; and that no civilians were allowed to
     follow--not even to cross the Potomac into Virginia. So
     there was nothing to do but see the sights in Washington
     and return to our homes. But we had been there only two
     days when the news came of a fight or skirmish on July
     18th at Blackburn's Ford, where several were killed,
     and one of the dead was the brother of my companion. It
     was a terrible blow to my friend, and a great shock for

     We immediately telegraphed home, and at once came the
     reply "Get the body, if you can, and send it home." Well,
     we two lads went to the War Department and I suppose our
     sorrowful tale moved them with compassion, for they gave
     each of us a pass to go to the front to get the body of
     the dead soldier. I've got that pass stowed away now,
     among my papers, as a War curiosity. It reads,

     Allow the bearer, Mr. Andrew J. Clement, to pass the
     lines and go to the Front for the body of a friend.

                                       DRAKE DE KAY
                                             _Aid de Camp._

     Later in the war, the death of a soldier was of too
     little importance to awaken such sympathy at
     Headquarters. Indeed, two days later, there were
     thousands killed within two miles of the spot where those
     killed in this skirmish were buried. After much
     difficulty, we hired a light wagon in which my friend
     rode, while I got a seat in an army wagon that was taking
     out supplies. It was just midnight on Saturday July
     20th when we started from Willard's Hotel on
     Pennsylvania Avenue. There was a full moon, and the night
     was lovely. I was all excitement. I was going to join the
     army. I should see my brother, and perhaps I should see
     the big battle everybody was talking about as soon to be

     Well, I saw all that I expected to see and a good deal
     more. As the horses toiled painfully all that night over
     the rough and hilly roads, I little thought that on the
     very next night I should be more painfully trudging back
     over that very route footsore and weary, a gun on my
     shoulder--and ready to fight if the victorious enemy came
     up with us. Yet such was the case, and the gun in the
     hall is the one that I carried to Washington after the
     battle of Bull Run, July 21st, 1861.

     Of course the ride that beautiful night was too exciting
     for sleep. It was just after daybreak, when we were
     taking a hasty breakfast at a small tavern, that we heard
     the first boom of a heavy gun. This was the gun that
     opened the great battle of Bull Run. We were yet six
     miles away from the army--and all were impatient to reach
     our destination. The horses were kept at their best
     working pace, and when we had gone three miles we met
     troops marching towards us. These were certain regiments
     that wouldn't fight because the ninety days of their term
     of service had just expired. They looked thoroughly
     ashamed of themselves, and marched in great disorder. The
     officer with our wagon, and the soldier who drove it,
     both scoffed at them and called them sneaks and cowards;
     and, cowards as they were, they didn't resent the
     insults. For myself, I felt as though they all deserved
     shooting when they got to Washington.

     An hour later we reached Centreville and looked down on
     the battle-field. Hastily finding where my friend's dead
     brother was buried, I left him to his mournful task of
     recovering the corpse while I went to find my own brother
     whom I yet hoped to meet alive. But it wasn't an easy
     task. The line of battle was long; and, in spite of my
     inquiries, I went wrong. I went to the right wing only to
     find that the regiment I sought was probably away off on
     the left wing. Nobody seemed able to give exact
     information, and everybody wanted to know what a boy in
     black clothes and a straw hat was doing on the
     battle-field. Once I went up and sat down in the rear of
     a battery of light artillery to watch the effect of the
     firing, and the Capt. drove me off with terrible oaths.
     But I went around a small farm house and crept back
     again, and saw the grapeshot scatter the "rebs." And so I
     went on from point to point, staring and asking
     questions, and being stared at and questioned in return.
     At length I learned that the regiment I wanted was at the
     extreme left. So off I started, already weary from loss
     of sleep, excitement and tramping under the hot sun.

     Arriving at the left, I again was attracted by a battery
     in action, and it was while I stood entranced with
     excitement that my brother discovered me. His regiment
     was lying in the bush close by supporting this very
     battery. Never was a man more surprised than was he at
     that moment. He supposed I was at home in Boston. But,
     before he would talk, he made me go into the woods and
     lie down with the soldiers so as to be in less danger.
     And there I crawled around and shook hands with nearly a
     hundred men whom I had known all my life. Many were the
     questions I answered, and scores of messages were given
     me to take home to parents and friends. The boys seemed
     very sad--for a member had been killed in this company
     only three days before, and they expected to be actively
     fighting again at any moment. At length my brother
     insisted that I should go back to Centreville out of
     danger, and I started with a heavy heart. But secretly I
     resolved to try to go to Richmond with the army, for I
     felt sure it would only take a few days. Up to that time
     it seemed to be victory for us; and I didn't believe it
     could possibly be otherwise. So I went back to
     Centreville. I was very hungry as well as tired. It was
     now past four o'clock in the afternoon.

     I soon found a group of sick officers who were about to
     dine off of boiled beef close by the army wagon in which
     I had come from Washington. They asked me to join them. I
     had just got fairly seated when the astounding news came
     that our army was defeated and was retreating. I didn't
     believe it; but I rushed to the hilltop to see for
     myself. Down there on the plain, where I had been in the
     morning, there was certainly much dust and confusion.
     Just then fresh troops, the reserves, started to go down,
     but even to my inexperienced eye it was plain that they
     went in bad order and went too late. It was there that I
     saw the general who wore two hats--one crushed over the
     other--and who was reported in newspaper accounts of the
     scene as being very drunk that day. He certainly appeared
     decidedly drunk at that moment.

     Wild with excitement, I rushed down hill too; but long
     before I got where I had been a few hours before, I met
     the rush of panic stricken men coming pell-mell from the
     field. To resist this rush was impossible and worse than
     useless. Wagons driven at full speed came with the men.
     Shouted curses filled the air. Wagons broke down, and,
     cutting the harnesses, men mounted the horses and rode
     off toward Centreville. Muskets were thrown away and
     filled the road for a long distance. It was there that I
     picked up my gun, begged a pocket full of ammunition, and
     resolved to do my share when the terrible Black Horse
     Cavalry reached us--for it was reported that they were
     coming at full speed. Ere long I reached Centreville
     again, and left the rush to look for my wagon. It had
     gone, long before, in the grand stampede for Washington.
     That didn't worry me much then--I thought I would find my
     brother again; and fight in company with the boys I grew
     up with. So I waited and waited at Centreville till the
     sun got low. I saw at length that it would be useless to
     try to find anybody. There were several roads; and all
     were full of disorganized troops.

     But the first mad rush was over. _All_ the army did not
     run. _I_ did not run a step. It was nearly sunset when I
     left Centreville; and, as I was terribly hungry, I
     stopped, after going about a mile, and joined two of N.
     Y. 69th regiment who were having a regular feast out of a
     broken down and abandoned sutler's wagon. I remember that
     I ate a whole can of roast chicken and many sweet
     biscuits, and washed the whole down with some sherry wine
     drank from the bottle--my first experience in wine

     Much refreshed, I took up my musket and started for
     Washington with an oddly mixed crowd of gay militia
     uniforms representing parts of many regiments. Yet there
     were still behind us good, orderly, full regiments, that
     stayed in Centreville till after midnight and came into
     Washington late the next day in fine marching order.
     _They_ did not run, and my brother's regiment was one of
     them. It was 10 P. M. when I reached Fairfax Court House.
     There I rested, sitting on a rail fence, as a motley
     crowd poured by, each squad saying that the Black Horse
     Cavalry was coming. So I clung to my musket, though my
     shoulders began to get a little sore. It was after
     midnight when I started again. The night was very dark,
     for heavy clouds obscured the moon. The road, very rough
     in itself, was now full of materials thrown out of
     wagons. There were shovels, pickaxes, boxes, barrels,
     iron mess-kettles, muskets, knapsacks, and all sorts of
     litter that soldiers could throw away, and over these and
     the loose stones of the rough road we stumbled in the
     dark, amid choking dust, and up and down the long rolling
     hills that the army marched over so often afterwards
     during that terrible war. Still, I well remember that it
     seemed to me a sort of wild picnic; and I would clutch my
     gun and feel of my cartridges in a very determined mood
     to defend Washington to the death.

     Wearily the night wore on; and steadily I tramped,
     talking in the dark, from time to time, with
     strangers--men from all parts of the Union whom I didn't
     see then and probably never saw afterwards. Bad as it was
     to march in the dust, it was still worse when it began to
     rain just before daybreak. Gently it came at first; and
     slowly the dust became a thick paste of slippery mud.
     Steadily the storm increased till it became a downpour. I
     had on a thin black summer suit, a straw hat, and a pair
     of low-cut thin shoes and white stockings. When day broke
     we were a bedraggled, thoroughly soaked, mud-stained
     party. Of all that vast crowd probably I presented the
     worst appearance, for I was the only citizen in that
     section of the crowd. I bantered jokes with such as were
     in joking mood, but most of the crowd were now silent and
     weary. All along the road lay men asleep in the pouring
     rain. There were blood blisters on my feet, but never
     once did I stop except to get a drink of water at a brook
     just after daylight. The rain now fell in torrents; we
     were literally wading in mud and water.

     The thirty miles from Centreville to Washington seemed
     three times that distance. My gun grew more and more
     heavy, and I shifted it constantly. It was about ten
     o'clock Monday forenoon when I reached the Virginia end
     of Long Bridge. A strong guard was posted there to stop
     the troops; for Washington was already full of fugitive
     soldiers. Forcing my way through a vast mob of shouting,
     cursing soldiers, I reached the officer in charge, and
     got a rough reception. First he doubted my pass; next he
     wanted to take away my musket, but I protested that I had
     saved it from the enemy; and at length he allowed me to
     pass carrying the gun I had so honestly won. I went down
     Pennsylvania Avenue much stared at as I limped along.
     Reaching my hotel, I took a bath and turned into a good
     bed, thinking of my brother and the thousands of other
     soldiers who were out in the rain and many of whom would
     perhaps have no bed to turn into for three years; for
     there were a few three years regiments even then.

     The next day, to my great joy, my brother's regiment
     marched in and over to Georgetown heights; and, after
     visiting them there, I sent my gun home by Adams Ex. and
     took the train for Boston. Said my father, when I got
     home, "Well, I think you have got enough of war now."
     "No, sir," I said, and in less than thirty days I had
     enlisted; and three years from the date of the first
     battle of Bull Run I was skirmishing about six miles from
     Richmond--three years--and yet I hadn't quite got to

     That Bull-Run musket is the only war weapon left in the
     family, and I hope you will keep it in memory of the good
     work I was willing to do with it, even before I was a

Dr. SAMUEL A. GREEN then said:

I have listened with intense interest to Mr. Clement's paper, as I was
not only present at the skirmish therein described, but as Assistant
Surgeon of the First Massachusetts Volunteers it was my professional
duty to look after the wounded on that occasion. I remember vividly the
events of that day, July 18, 1861, not only because it was the first
time that I ever was under fire, but because it was the greatest fight
that up to that time the Union army had fought. I remember, too, the
proud record made by the First Massachusetts in that preliminary
skirmish. In each of two companies,--G and H,--the regiment lost six
men; and Company H--to which Mr. Clement's paper relates--had more men
wounded than killed. Nor were these the only losses met by the Old First
in that memorable action. The wounded men came under my professional
charge, and they received such care as could be given them on the field
of battle, scanty though it was. The men who fell in that skirmish--some
of them my friends and all my acquaintances--left impressions on my mind
so deep that I have since accepted without hesitation the fact that "war
is hell." This action of July 18 was only a skirmish that preceded the
first battle of Bull Run, which was fought three days later on July 21.
The armies contending on that day were commanded, respectively, by
General McDowell and General Beauregard; and the result is now a matter
of history.

As an instance of the changes which the whirligig of time brings round,
I will relate a fact which is purely personal. In December, 1878, I was
appointed a member of the Commission authorized by Congress to
investigate the Yellow Fever Epidemic of that year, and sessions were
held in several southern cities, including New Orleans. While the
Commission was in session in that city, General Beauregard was a regular
attendant at the meetings, and for some days I was thrown much with him,
and we talked over together the campaign of 1861. In answer to one of my
questions, why the southern army did not follow up their victory and
capture the city of Washington, he replied that President Davis was
strongly of the opinion that such an event would produce a revulsion of
feeling on the part of northern sympathizers with the south and thus
would defeat their own purpose.

A few years later, in the summer of 1883, I was a member of the Board of
Visitors appointed by the President to make the annual examination at
Annapolis, Maryland, where I was thrown into intimate relations with
General McDowell. I slept under the same roof with him and ate at the
same table, and often we discussed military matters. These two episodes
in my life are now pleasant events to remember.

I was deeply impressed with General McDowell's strict abstinence from
the use of champagne and other alcoholic liquors. Receiving his early
education in France, one would suppose that, like the French boys who
were his companions, he would drink Bordeaux wine as freely as milk; but
he told me that never in Europe or here was he in the habit of taking
anything stronger than water. In my intercourse with him for a week I
saw nothing in his life to disprove this statement.


The reports in circulation after the Battle of Bull Run, regarding
McDowell, are an instance of the hasty and uncharitable judgment of
newspapers and their readers. It was at once said that the Union defeat
was due to McDowell's intoxication. As a matter of fact McDowell never
in his life drank a drop of beer, wine, or any alcoholic beverage, and
curiously enough too did not use tobacco in any form. The proof of this
is undoubted, but as part of it I may mention the positive assurances of
Dr. William H. Russell, the American correspondent of the London Times,
sometimes spoken of as "Bull-Run Russell," who knew McDowell well and
saw him on the day of the battle, and of Colonel Franklin Haven, who
served on his staff during the war. Dr. Russell told me that on the
morning of the battle McDowell ate watermelon for breakfast, and the
free indulgence in this succulent fruit made him ill, which was the sole
foundation for the cruel report.[5]

[5] Since my statement our associate Barrett Wendell has communicated to
me this information: "Edmund Clarence Stedman, who was present at Bull
Run as a reporter, told me that on the night before the battle McDowell,
hungry after his preparation, was served at his supper with canned
fruit,--I think peaches,--and ate heartily of them. The fruit was
probably tainted and brought on an attack of cholera morbus, from which
Stedman saw him acutely suffering while the battle was in progress." I
have no doubt that this is a more accurate version than Russell's.

Transcriber's Notes.

Passages in italics are indicated by _underscores_.

Passages in small caps are replaced by either Title case or ALL CAPS,
depending on how the words were used.

Handwritten comments on the page were ignored.

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we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.