Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for War Diary and Letters of Stephen Minot Weld.

War Diary and Letters of Stephen Minot Weld.

September 2, 2012

War diary and letters of Stephen Minot Weld

[The beginning of the next letter is lost, but I remember the circumstances which occasioned it. Colonel Webb, of McClellan’s staff, came up to see the Army, and he was invited to breakfast by Ruggles, who was on Pope’s staff. The rest explains itself.]

. . . Webb was quite hungry. Pretty soon he saw Pope call Ruggles aside and begin to scold at him. He thought from Pope’s manner that he was displeased at Ruggles asking him to breakfast, and so he took up his hat and bid them good morning. Ruggles came up to him and said: “The truth is, Webb, that General Pope don’t like my asking you to breakfast. He says that he won’t have any of General McClellan’s staff at his table.”Pretty small for Pope.

There is a rumor that General Porter is to take command of the Army of the Potomac. I hope it is so.

In regard to my being rash in going out so far that day, I wish to say a few words. I have always made it my intention to do everything the general has told me to do, and not come back and tell him that I could not find any one I was sent for or do anything I was sent to do. So this time I did not want to come back and tell him that I could not find the rear guard. The position of some of our troops and of the enemies’ batteries confused me, and made me go out too far. I will try and give you the position of our forces on the 2nd Bull Run field.

A was where the enemy had a battery placed during the day, that fired at us and finally withdrew, leaving only two pieces there. We advanced from the hills, B , and went across the plain into the woods A’. The enemy had a strong force in the woods C, and in the railroad gap in which they were posted. We tried to advance from the woods A’ across to C, and were repulsed by a terrible fire of grape, canister and musketry which mowed down the men like sheep. They had their batteries posted along the edge of woods C, and got a cross fire on us. The railroad gap served as a breastwork for them. Our left was turned by them and we were compelled to retreat to another range of hills behind the first, where towards night they were held in check by the Regulars, and time given us to retreat to Centreville, which was done in good order.


Some of the troops straggled dreadfully, but were all picked up by Franklin’s division. I will get a map of the country and show it to you as soon as I can. The general and staff were in the skirt of woods A; and when the enemy began shelling, it was a hot place. Their case-shot would burst and come whizzing around us, knocking the dust up under our horses and on all sides of us. Then would come the sharp zip of the bullet, and the fearful screech of the shot and shell. I saw at least a dozen round shot and pieces of shell, come flying towards us, and then only could one get an idea of the fearful force with which they were propelled. To see this dark object come by like a flash, strike the ground, and go ricochetting along with enormous bounds was fearful. Then our artillery on the hills B would open and the noise of the cannon, the whizzing of the shot and the sharp buzz of the bullets seemed to make the place a perfect hell. I saw more than a half a dozen men knocked down by these round shot but not injured, the ball knocking the ground from under them or covering [them] with dirt. After a while the wounded men who could walk came straggling out, and others were carried by their comrades. Soon well ones came running out by squads, and the general sent me to General Bayard of the cavalry to order him to form a line and stop them. We soon, however, had to abandon our position and fall back to the hills. Two batteries were lost during the fight, none of them from our corps. . . .

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