Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Archive Find: "We had troops enough there to eat up Secesh with out peper or salt"

Digging through the collections of archives or historical societies, I find that I get distracted easily by items that aren't always what I had intended to be searching for.  While these items can take you on time consuming detours, I don't really mind them too much.  I recently came across several letters written by 1st Sergeant James Carroll, Co. G 10th U.S. Infantry, and I thought I'd share a couple interesting and colorful lines from a couple of his letters.

In "camp near Rockville Md" on September 9, 1862, Carroll wrote of his experiences during the 2nd Battle of Bull Run.
"...After 2 days march we then proceed to Bull Run and was engaged in that Battle on the 30th of Aug.  it was purty hard fighting but not as well of a fight as it might  We had troops enough there to eat up Secesh with out peper or salt if they had beeing rightly handled   I seen one of the purtiest sights that day I ever saw   A Brigade of Secesh charged on one of our Battries through our [lines?]   the Battry opened grape and cannister on them and mowed them down like you would grass but they did not stop  they continued there journey and took the Battries..."

In another letter dated July 13, 1862, Carroll describes the situation for the Union troops at the Battle of Gaines' Mill, noting the appearance of one of the most famous fighting units, on both sides, in the Civil War. 
"...the odds we were fighting was tremindious  I dare say five to one for the greater part of the time however we keept them in check all day   We are greatly indepted to the Irish Brigade for there Servis in the eve   They came in fresh in the evening and drove Back the Secesh to there old Standered so they had no odds after all"* 

*Arriving on the battlefield at Gaines's Mill, in the fading daylight hours of June 27, 1862, just as the Rebel Army was seizing victory, the Irish Brigade succeeded in stemming the wild and confused rout of the entire Union 5th Corps.  They soon advanced to support the U.S. Regulars, and enabled them to move to the rear in an orderly fashion.  After the battle, Confederate Gen. Daniel H. Hill remembered wild cheering coming from the Union lines, which was, "...caused by the appearance of the Irish Brigade to cover the retreat."  Irish Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher wrote later that he considered it, "...the most successful and masterly achievement of the Brigade...all the more so that we didn't fire a shot."  The 88th New York, of the Brigade, was the last Union regiment to leave the field, crossing back over the Chickahominy River before setting fire to the bridge behind them.  Gaines's Mill was just one of the many battles on the Penninsula, in 1862, in which the Irish Brigade would become legendary.    

"Brothers of Ireland" by Don Troiani, depicting the Irish Brigade (right) arriving on the battlefield at Gaines's Mill, with Meagher on horseback (center).

Bilby, Joseph G. Remember Fontenoy!: The 69th New York and the Irish Brigade in the Civil War. Hightstown, NJ: Longstreet House, 1995.

"Letters concerning James Uhler," 1862. Manuscript Collection, Civil War Era Letters. Cumberland County Historical Society, Hamilton Library, Carlisle, PA. 

Wylie, Paul R. The Irish General: Thomas Francis Meagher. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007.

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