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    Union soldier threatens to shoot his "incompetent field officers" following the First Battle of Bull Run.

    Union Soldier Isaac N. Leonard Autograph Letters (Two) Signed Detailing the First Battle of Bull Run. The first letter is six pages, July 23, 1861, from "No Whare. Supposed to be in Virginia", reporting to his mother that he is "uninjured" after "our sad disaster", which was due in full to the "incompetent field officers." This letter includes a detailed account of the battle from this Connecticut private's point of view, along with the narrative of how he shot a Confederate cavalryman.

    With the horrors of battle only two days in the past, Private Isaac N. Leonard of the "3rd Reg't Conn. Voll. Com. D." seems anxious to unload the burden of his bloodstained memories onto his mother: "Our troops are scattered in all directions. . . . The 3d [Connecticut Infantry] Regt was in action for about 3 hours they broke their lines twice but formd again immediately and sent in a terrific sheet of fire upon them. About the middle of the action we saw a large body of the enemy on a hill to our left we had the order to charge them and drive them from their position so at them we went and they run for they cannot stand cold steel. They run 40 or 50 rods into some bushes and then showed the stars and stripes then Gen. [Daniel] Tyler thought they were our friends and ordered our colors out so they could see them. by this time our men had come to a halt right in front of them about 12 rods when they opened a Masqued battery of 8 pieces upon us it made terrible havock . . . their first fire shot off both legs of the man that stood next to me on my left and the one on my right had two balls put through his waist and arm. It was David Case, the son of Decon Case that lives on Beau Hill, that had his legs shot off by a cannon ball. He lived about an hour. The one on my right was John Breed his wounds were not dangerous. [Case, Breed, and Leonard were from the village of Norwich, Connecticut. They had enlisted in Connecticut's 3rd Infantry at the same time on April 25, 1861.]" Leonard continues with the particulars of his own close call: "I had a riffle ball pass between my left arm and side so high that it grazed the skin on my side slightly but did me no injury." His regiment then retreated "in good order." When they charged again, the enemy released a "terrible execution it was a dredful sight to see my comrads fall all around me some with their arms shot off some with the loss of a leg, some with their heads shot off or terribly mutilated." Again they retreated, but this time "the rout was complete, we retreated without any regard to order, every man for himself." During the retreat, Leonard's regiment was "attacked by the enemy's Cavalry in the rear. . . . At the time I was in one of the wagons driveing and I jumped off and left the team in the charge of a Boy and run out to the road just as they were retreating and lay down behind a large oak tree and took a good steady aim and fired at one of them. he fell from his horse and hung by one foot in the stirrup for about 20 rods. The horse was going like a streeke of lightning and if my ball did not hurt him I think the ground must for his head did not appear to strike very softly and he did not stir after he was clear from the horse. He droped his rifle and I went out and got it and am going to send it home by express."

    The private then lashes out at another Union regiment: "The Ohio troops acted shamefully for they was not in action but 1/2 hour and then the troops scattered and left for Washington." Leonard's "Conn. troops" rescued some of the scattered troops abandoned "equipage" and "brought it into camp." Threatening his commander, General Daniel Tyler, Leonard writes, "if I ever get into the [field] of [battle] again I [will shoot] him the first time I [fire] as Shure as I am writing this for he has abused us [shamefully]." (The words in brackets have been purposely damaged, perhaps by a remorseful Leonard, making them difficult to read.) Leonard's frustrations at the Union Army's performance on that disastrous day was later echoed by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton who wrote that the battle should "scarcely be mentioned." The letter is lightly soiled with folds. The sheet containing pages five and six has very slight separations beginning at some folds. A later handwritten transcription is included. Text is easily read; very good.

    The second letter, two pages, dated July 14, 1861 (a full week before the First Battle of Bull Run), from "Camp Tyler Fairfax Co. Virginia," contains Leonard's expectations for the "right smart prospect of a brush before us now." Like other Union soldiers, Leonard didn't expect much of a resistance from the rebels: "The enemy will not make much of a stand." The private reports intriguing information during the pre-battle maneuvers on some "Texans Rangers" among the Union Army: "The Texans Rangers have been so nigh some of them [the Rebels] that they were frightened and beat to quarters expecting to see some of the infernal Yankies comeing for them. . . . Some of the Texans Rangers took two prisoners. One of them was a Capt. in the Rebell army." This letter is toned and fine.


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    December, 2009
    12th Saturday
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