The Battle of Bull Run - The Confederate view. Letter by R...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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DescriptionThe Battle of Bull Run - The Confederate view. Letter by Richard W. Wyatt, 1st Virginia Howitzers Light Artillery - "Dead Yankees lying piled up two or three deep....".
A 6 page letter which comes with its original Confederate cover with PAID markings is written in ink and headed, "Centreville Fairfax Co. Sunday morning July 28/61". The writer Richard Wyatt was a member of the famous Richmond Howitzer's. Reads in part:
"Our Battery Sunday morning and in fact for several days previous was stationed in the entrenchments at the ford, which was the center of the fortification and a very important point to guard. About 6 1/2 o'clock we heard the distant roar of heavy artillery at intervals however, for an hour or two."
"At 8 1/2 the battle commenced in earnest, heaviest firing on our left. Pretty soon the enemy stationed on the hill and about 1 1/2 miles distant from and in front of our works, commenced heavy cannonading on us. Over the way the shell and shot flew around us, was a caution to all concerned."
"We were unfortunate in being in their range more particularly as we could not return their fire. We stood our ground manfully for 9 successive hours without the slightest injury to any of our own men, though several in the same entrenchments were wounded and two men in our rear and up in the woods were killed."
"One poor fellow was getting dinner for his Co. when a ball from a rifle cannon put an end to his mortal career."
"We had many narrow escapes from death by the explosion of their shell. One bursted in a few steps of me and the way the limbs and shrubbery flew and fell around was curious. Nothing but the interposition of a kind providence saved us all from instant death."
"I never witnessed such a day or ever expected to be engaged in such work and can but say that it was a day of the most awful grandeur and solemnity I ever conceived of."
"Two of our pieces, mine among them, were ordered to follow on through retreat which we did with much alacrity, only for a few miles, however, as night soon overtook us, and we had to return."
"You never in all your life saw such desolation and wastefulness as seemed to have taken possession of them in their flight. Knapsacks, blankets, oil cloths, overcoats, commissary stores, every conceivable thing necessary to fully equip an army, lay scattered in every direction along the road, and in the woods, wagons, horses, ambulances, surgical instruments, etc. were found and taken back to camp."
"I visited the battle field Monday and such a sight as met my gaze. Oh! It was enough to make a man's blood run cold in his veins. The dead Yankees lying piled up in some places two or three deep."
"Some wounded and stretched out, crying for help and mercy, begging as we approached not to kill them, that they could not tell what they had been fighting for. We told them not to be alarmed. We would not hurt them and then passing on to others until soon I could stand it no longer and had to leave in disgust."
"The dead looked very natural. Much more so than if they had died a natural death. Their eyes wide open and turn whichever way you would, they seemed to be staring you in the face."
"It did me good, really afforded me a pleasure, to see so many of them regulars lying dead and those famous pet "Lambs" of Ellsworth, of an entire regiment only about 200 were left. I wish all could have been killed."
"We have had a very hard time since the 17th of this month. On that day we had a glorious retreat from Fairfax C. H. Left in sight and in front of the enemy. We rushed this place (Centreville) about 10 o'clock, remained until 12 at night and went on to Bull Run where we arrived about day break. The enemy following on and pretty close, near enough to be shot at by them within 1/2 mile. A few hours after arriving at the Run, the enemy opened fire on us and kept it up until night, when they left with considerable loss, the Washington artillery firing into them and playing great havoc."
"So you see we have been on the march most of the time and in adulation to all, we have been sleeping out doors with no covering but the blue canopy of heaven. No downy bed but the hard earth. We do not complain of our lot. We know that our fore fathers before us suffered even more than we do."
"We are now with Longstreet's Brigade. Would not be surprised to march in Lee's Brigade in Winchester at any moment.... Yours, R. W. Wyatt."
The letter and cover are in fine condition. Confederate letters of this caliber are extremely rare. From the Calvin Packard Collection
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