A.O. South Letter

Private Abner O. South 2nd Miss. Infantry Co. F



 

     
This letter came from a direct descendant of A.O. South whose name I do not know through a third party.  Permission was granted to post it.  A(bner) O. South was a private in Co. F 2nd Miss. Infantry.  I received the letter in typewritten form and attempt to publish it as it was received with no corrections.  Some mistakes may have occurred in OCRing it although I did attempt to correct those.  Some may also have occurred when the letter was initially typed.  I do not know who James was nor to whom the letter was written.
 

 
                                          Camp Jones, near Manassas Junction, Va.
                                          August 7th, 1861
Dear Friend,
 
     James received your last letter yesterday and was sorry to hear of the death of his brother and of your being unwell. James is not very well at this time, but is able to be about. I have been very sick myself but have got so that I am able to do about half duty. There is 400 on the sick list at this time in our regiment none that are dangerous though.  We have a good deal of mumps.

     Before we left Winchester we though we would have a fight every day but could not get the enemy under General Patterson to meet us. The day before we left Winchester, Patterson sent forward 2 regiments to make us believe that he was going to attack Winchester, our pickets brought in the word and we were ready and willing. We had thrown up breast works and planted large canon on the side of the town that we expected him to come. We were ordered in front of our breast works and canon and lay on our arms all the night waiting him, but the next word our picket guard brought in was that he had retreated and gone toward Harpers Ferry with the intention of crossing the Potomac and going by Washington then to Manassas to whip Boreauguard. McDowell, the Genl in command of the Lincoln forces had had a fight on Thursday the 18th, 2 days before our fight when Boreauguard whiped him. Then it was fixed that the enemy forces were to be all concentrated on Manassas, and they would give us a real thrashing and move on to Richmond.  The whole army believed this, from McDowell down to the lowest private, but how uncertain such things are. The victory is not for the swift nor the battle to the strong. but to return to us at Winchester. as soon as it was discovered that Patterson had gone towards Manassas General Johnston ordered all his forces to cook 2 days provisions and be ready to march in a few hours. We were ready carrying nothing but our provisions, our blankets and coffee pot & frying pans were put in waggons. The road was full of waggons for miles we after them. you have no idea of the show we made, over twenty thousand men on the road at one time with wagons anough to carry our baggage. We marched all night until 2 Oclock in the morning, lying down on the side of the road without anything under us but rocks and nothing to cover with. We were on the march again at day break and stoped a little after sun up on the Shenandoah River to get breakfast the waggons had to cros the River, it is about 250 or 300 yards wide and waist deep. After eating and all the wagons had crossed, we commenced and such a sight nobody that has ever seen a large body of men move have no idea of it. There was one Ferry Boat below the ford but it was nothing in getting us acros, about as much as it would be for one waggon to carry everybody to the largest Camp Meeting you ever saw. We were marched down to the water's edge and took off our clothes some keeping on thore shirts to keep the sun from burning them and bulged in by hundreds one after another the diver was full of men hollowing creaming cursing & yelling for hundreds of yards, carrying our Gun Cartridge Box Cap Box and other things on our shoulder's. The bottom was rocky and them sharp Some one of us would drop in a hole & fall, then for a loud laugh from all in sight. We were hours in crossing and formed in line on the other side, and marched on again not stoping until we reached >Piedmont a Depot on the Manassas and Strassburg Rail Road. it was in the night when we reached this place, and it commenced poring down rain, we were ordered in a field where there was plenty of wheat in shocks we tore it down to lye on and spread our blankets over it lying down in the rain without any supper, not being able to cook any, we were so tired.

     The next morning we were up by 2 Oclock to start on the cars but did not get off untill day when we left.  there was thousands of soldiers waiting to get to Manassas, but we got off first being the oldest regiment on the ground.  We reached Manassas about 11 Oclock Saturday the day before the fight we rested at the junction 1 or 2 hours then marched out some 3 miles to camp and rested there until morning geting a loaf of light Bakers bread and a few crackers and a piece of shoulder meat for two rations.

     While eating our breakfast we herd canon booming to our right.  All started up and commenced looking up there guns catridge & cap boxes and were soon ordered in line and to march in a minute by our Genl Bee. he had charge of our brigade composed of the 2nd & 11 Mississippi the 4th Alabama the 1st Tennessee and one North Caroline regiment along with a Battery composed of several canon and a large force of Cavalry under Col. Stewart, the two last from Virginia.  We bore to the left all the time close to a creek called Bull Run as we advanced, we herd the canon and very often Muskety in swift succession bearing to the left also We kept on until we got some six miles from where we started, going all the time in quick and double quick time at last we were ordered to halt, then load and march again pulling down fences as we went along

                                            --------------------------------
 
                                            Keep this, I will want to see it
                                            when I come home
                                                      A. South
                                            (note in upper right hand. corner of page 4)
                                            ---------------------------------

Just before going into action while in the rode close to where we went action one of our ammunition waggons got destroyed by the horses running away. We were ordered up to a little skirt of woods, the enemy being over on the other hill in an open field. We lay down in the edge of the woods waiting for further orders. the 4th Alabama came up and passed through the woods stooping like they were close to there game. the went to our right in a little while we were ordered down through the woods to a fence and lay down behind it. in a little while thare was two of our Companys ordered over the fence and up the hill as skirmishers. as soon as the got high enough to see the enemy at the canon the fired some rounds and called attention of them to us. The battery commenced leveling there pieces at the Cannons for they were one of the companys that were skirmisking They fired too high to do much damage to them and there bumb shell and grape came in amongst us at the fence, wounding some cutting our clothes canteens and haversacks off from our sides. there was but few killed at the fence, but we had the narrowest escape in the world and it could be nothing but a Provedential escape in all not getting killed. besides the canon that was playing on us, we were fired on several times by the enemy's infantry who were to the right of us and in the rear of their own canon. the 4th Alabama were in shot of there infantry every time they would show there heads over the opposite slope of the hill. they Alabamians' being in full view of the enerny with nothing to protect them, they suffered severely, but stood it like heroes. We too were ordered over the fence to charge the canon and our boys shaved the top rails of and jumped over as if the enemy were ten miles off in place off 250 yards. after getting up the hill the enemy being on the other slope we were ordered back there canon & infantry firing on us all the time we then lay down again behind the fence. after a little while we were contending with there best battery Shermans and fifteen thousand infantry our force at this place was just our brigade, commanded by Genl. Bee who was killed composing 5 regiments averiging about 600 strong most of us not being able to get a shot at there place.  We stood this for nearly an hour. all behaved as if they were familiour to such sport. In our retiring up this hill we were fired on all the time, the enemy's battering allmost silencing our battery, giving them the time to play on us. In our retiring we became scattered like sheep and with all the head officers' Pains they could not be rallied together again Companys getting away from these regiments, the men getting lost from Companys from fatague and escaustion, and even regiments geting lost from the brigade, the enemy meeting us at every place. They fought well when we were particulary. Ellsworth's Zouave the 69 and 71 New York regiments they were there best troops, after going about 3/4 most of our men got together abain close to Shermans battery of 8 pieces and were ordered to charge and take it they done so but had to retire charged again destroying most of there horses and a good many of there men and thinking they took but others claim the credit of it particulary the Virginians it was here we lost most of our men. We lost 6 out of our company, our 2 Lieuts Smith and Bragleman John Green, J.A. Norton, Sam McBride and Ed Sullivan and when Wm A. Morgan got wounded they carried him some 200 yards to keep as a prisoner but were so tightly pressed that they had to leave him. This shows who took the battery for we lost more than any other Company.

     The fight was for 8 or 10 miles up and down Bull Run and back from it some two miles on our side about 3/4 on there side. bumbs shells, and mortars buzing and flying in evey direction all over the field and when faling bursting and spreading destruction all around. The fight commenced about 6 oClock in the morning and lasted until dark even in the night. They commenced retreating about 4 o Clock from where we were in the utmost confussion the first running over those behind they taking the alarm running back and so on until the reached Centreville our Cavalry pushing them all the time it was the most complete rout ever known in history. the panic became so terrable at Centreville where members of the Lincoln Cabinet, Member os Congress and other big bugs, along with Ladies and even children where congregated to witness our defeat and to go to Richmond. their hopes were all disappointed they had to fire on the teamsters to keep them from running over the Carriages with the Ladies and children.

     As near as I can ascertain the loss on both sides must have been some from 7 to 10 thousand. our loss was about 1500 or 2000. 4 or 500 killed and from 12 to 15 hundred wounded We took 60 canon a large amount of arms any amount of amunition and waggons and in fact every thing else that you can think off. President Davis came on the field about 4 o clock the retreat had commenced when he came on the field. Johnston commanded the left wing and Boreauguard the right wing.

     In the evening toward night our boys walked over the field to see what havoc had been done. they saw the most awful sights. some cry for water Our waggons and men were gathering up our dead and wounded bringing them into the junction about 5 miles from the field. it rained all the rest of day, but our dead and wounded came in canon gun with prisoners from one to fifty.  As fast as our guard house became full we sent them off to Richmond this was going on for days, we buried all of our boys at the junction.  Wednesday We were close to where the enemy were unburied and they became so offencesive that we had to move. We left and went about 2 miles on Bull Run after the first rains maggot came down the creek from the field of battle by millions and we had to leave there and come to this place some 8 miles off on the orange & Alexandria Rail Road. We have a fine camping ground and are doing very well. We have a good many sick but none very dangerous.  We do not know how long we will stay here there is a talk in camp of our having to go to Romney. all of our brigade was not in the battle, but 2 Regiments & 2 companys of the 11th Mississippians 2nd Miss & 4 ala.

     It was a great Victory and will be long remembered the north will never whip us. there is now talk of piece by some of the Northern papers, but they are raising troops fast.

     You must write to me and James as soon as you receive this No more

                                              Respectfully Yours

                                              A. O. South

P.S. you must read this to most of the neighbors as it will be news to them.


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