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    "Impatient bombs rushed through the air, singing a strange song that none of us had ever heard before. I did some firstrate dodging and took the best possible care of myself."

    Civil War: First Battle of Bull Run Confederate Soldier's Letter, complete but unsigned and written only four days after the battle. Three pages, 7.75" x 9.75", July 25, 1861, n.p. [Virginia]. The letter's author, an unnamed soldier, gives a truly riveting eyewitness account of the battle from his viewpoint, likely an artillery unit in one of General Beauregard's brigades. Only describing himself as "hardy as any of the soldiers", the soldier clearly understood the magnitude of that first major battle of the Civil War: "The great battle has been fought, and this military necessity is now removed. Great events have transpired since I wrote you. The political world has shook to its centre. Many of freedom's hopeful children have stooped down to bite the dust. The whole South has been made to weep bitter tears over her fallen sons, but mingled with those tears, she swells the song of joy at the grandest achievement of the present age a complete victory over the combined and mighty thousands of the North."

    That "complete victory" came on July 21, 1861, at Bull Run, when the largest army yet assembled on the North American continent, under the command of Union General Irvin McDowell, gathered in preparation for its advance to Richmond. Standing in its path was a large Confederate force commanded by Brigadier Generals Joseph E. Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard. This Confederate soldier's narration of what took place next provides important details of one of the most important battles of the Civil War: "All was quiet untill the 21st, Sunday morning. . . . Instead of preparing for church, we rubed up our guns, and prepared for the greatest battle ever fought on the Continent of America. Two great armies, numbering nearly two hundred thousand and bitter enemies, slept in hearing of each other. About seven in the morning, the cannonade opened. . . . For a long time the battle was doubtful. Thousand after thousand of our men rushed into the deepening conflict; and were cut to pieces. . . . Impatient bombs rushed through the air, singing a strange song that none of us had ever heard before. I did some firstrate dodging and took the best possible care of myself. . . . As soon as they came in range of our guns, we opened a heavy fire. The very heavens seemed falling down. I can never tell my feelings. . . . At last, the great army in our front began to tremble . . . their canon was hushed. . . . They fled from the glory field."

    When the smoke cleared, losses for the North were near 3,000 and for the South, near 2,000. This eyewitness, writing with the horrible convulsions of battle still fresh in his mind, reported the losses this way to his unnamed recipient: "I cannot tell their loss of life. They variously estimate it at from fifteen hundred to ten thousand. Our loss in killed and wounded will not exceed 2,500." As if foreshadowing that the war was far from over, the letter ends, "We have advanced again." The letter is well-preserved on toned paper. Fine.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2009
    16th-17th Friday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
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