At First Bull Run with the First O.V.M.
One of joys (or frustrations) of writing books is that oftentimes you discover material after you’ve gone to press that you kick yourself for not finding prior to publication. “This would have made a great addition to the book,” is something I have said after discovering some account or nugget that would have enhanced each of the four Civil War books that I have published. The following account from First Lieutenant William H. Raynor of the 1st Ohio Volunteer Militia falls into that category- I would have gladly added a portion of it to Bull Run to Atlanta which was published last year, but as I didn’t come across it until last week and lack time traveling capability, so posting to the blog will have to suffice.
To give some context, the 1st Ohio Volunteer Militia was the first regiment to leave the state, traveling east with the 2nd O.V.M. in the heady days of April 1861 in response to President Lincoln’s initial call for 75,000 troops to suppress the rebellion. The regiment, led by Colonel Alexander McDowell McCook (later commander of the XX Corps in the Army of the Cumberland), left the state uniformed in the various militia outfits worn by each of the component companies and must have presented quite a sight when they arrived in Washington. The troops there received their arms, M1842 smoothbore rifles, arms that belonged to the Federal government and upon the regiment’s mustering out were returned to the Federal government. As public pressure mounted for the army to take the field and end the rebellion, in mid July 1861 General Irvin McDowell led his army of eager greenhorns to the fields of Manassas to confront the equally green Confederate army led by Pierre G.T. Beauregard.
|First Lieutenant William H. Raynor, Co. G, 1st Ohio Volunteer Militia. Later served as Colonel of the 56th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and saw extensive service in the western theater.|
In the ranks of Co. G (Portsmouth Guards from Portsmouth, Scioto Co., Ohio along the Ohio River) of the 1st Ohio Regiment, First Lieutenant William H. Raynor had suffered from sunstroke for several days, but with battle imminent, he stumbled onto the battlefield and assumed his place in line. The regiment formed part of the Second Brigade under Ohioan Colonel Robert Schenk, along with the 2nd O.V.M. and 2nd New York State Militia.
The following narrative, originally published in the Portsmouth Times and republished in its entirety by the Gallipolis Journal in January 1862, tells the story of Raynor’s experience at First Bull Run:
“At the engagement of First Bull Run July 21, 1861, the 1st Ohio Regiment, being in front, arrived at the battlefield about 6 or 7 A.M., deployed to the left of the road, and there waited for the attack to be commenced by other divisions on the enemy’s flank. About 10 o’clock, it was advanced and formed in line of battle in an open field where it was immediately fired upon by a battery of six guns in position on the opposite side of the creek about 300 yards distant. It was then ordered to fall back into the woods where it was exposed to the fire of the battery for some time. The whole brigade was then ordered back to its old position near the large Parrott guns, which had been at work all the morning doing deadly execution as was afterwards learned. The regiment remained here on the Warrenton Road which crosses Bull Run at the Stone Bridge- which brigade was reported to have been mined by the Rebels- until 3 P.M. when the brigade (Schenk’s) was ordered to cross the Run at a point one half mile below, and a corps of pioneers 300 strong were ordered to the brigade with a bridge already formed to throw across, the Run being unfordable. While waiting on the pioneers, they were exposed to a severe fire from a battery of the enemy stationed on a commanding eminence some distance to the left.
In order to shield the men as much as possible from this fire, Colonel McCook ordered the 1st Ohio to shield themselves under the bank and in the ravine along the road. The Colonel remarked that the men “would have to lay here two hours, exposed to this fire until the pioneers got the bridge up.” This precautionary movement of the Colonel in sheltering his men saved them from a heavy loss for the 2nd New York in the rear of the 1st Ohio lost a great number from being exposed unnecessarily. The men were exhausted from the heat and excitement of the day and their march in the morning and were suffering greatly from want of water. Lieutenant Raynor, being unwell (having been carried from the ranks during the review the Saturday previous from the effect of sunstroke and still suffering therefrom) asked permission to go for water to a pond at the left of the regiment which he had observed during the day. The Colonel told him to go by all means and remarked that he (Raynor) was foolish for coming to the field in his sick condition.
|Lieutenant Colonel Edwin A. Parrott (left) and Colonel Alexander McDowell McCook (right), commanding officers of the 1st Ohio Volunteer Militia from a photograph taken in May 1861. (Larry Strayer Collection)|
While on his way to this pond (some 200 yards distant), he met the Brigade Quartermaster Lowery and Assistant Adjutant General Donn Piatt, who directed him to a house a short distance further where they said was a well of good pure water. On the way, he was overtaken by Sergeants Henry S. Cox and Henry E. Jones of the Portsmouth company who, seeing his condition, assisted him along, Cox taking his sword and belt. As he was much exhausted, he stopped to rest under a tree, not far from the house then being used by the surgeons as a hospital. While sitting under the tree, the cry was raised, “The Rebels! The Rebels!” On looking up, he saw a long line of their cavalry coming at full charge making for the hospital, at which were probably 200 soldiers getting water at the pump. Lieutenant Raynor asked Sergeant Cox for his sword, took it, and buckled it on while Cox said, “Come on, come on, you can do nothing.” Raynor answered “I will do the best I can.” This was the last he spoke to any of his company. Sergeant Cox was taken prisoner in this charge, but escaped and joined his regiment as it marched back past the hospital.
Lieutenant Raynor then turned to face the enemy who were coming at full gallop. He drew his revolver, gained new strength, and felt ready for the encounter. When the Rebels arrived within 20 yards, several horsemen immediately in front discharged their shotguns at him. He singled one out, fired, and the horse fell suddenly, throwing his rider with his gun still to his shoulder, over his head. The other barrel went off as the rider struck the ground. It was loaded with buckshot, one of which passed through his clothing and another struck him in the foot and caused him to drop on his knees. In an instant, the cavalry dashed by like a whirlwind and as they passed, Lieutenant Raynor discharged his revolver again but with what effect he does not know. About the same time he was struck over the head with a gun as he supposed (they having no swords) which blow rendered him insensible. The next thing he remembers is his raising himself on his elbow when he found himself lying near a dead horse and a Rebel pulling his canteen off. As he raised up, the man (who was holding a horse by the bridle and had his revolver, sword, scabbard, cap, etc. under his arm) immediately mounted and rode away, apparently astonished as he no doubt thought he was robbing a dead man. The cavalry were not in sight, having rode on to the hospital at which place he heard considerable firing which was partly caused by their encounter with a portion of Schenk’s brigade, the left of which extended within a short distance of the hospital. (Colonel Schenk wrote of this action in his official report, stating that “a dashing charge was made upon the retreating column by a body of secession cavalry which was gallantly repelled and principally by two companies of the 2nd Ohio with loss on both sides.” Corporal William Pittenger of Co. G, 2nd O.V.M. stated that the Rebel cavalry was turned back because the 2nd O.V.M. “retreated very slowly and halted repeatedly in columns prepared to form a hollow square. The cavalry, probably deterred by our being prepared, did not charge us but attacked the hospital.”)
|Brigadier General Robert C. Schenk led the Ohio brigade at First Bull Run|
He had scarcely collected himself and, half-stunned, was holding on to a sapling when they came charging back. As they passed, an officer halted a moment on seeing him and asked, “Is that a Yankee?” One answering yes while another exclaimed “Blow his brains out then!” The officer replied, “No, bring him along.” He was at once seized by the arm, thrown across a horse in front of the rider, and in the manner carried back, probably about a mile and a half, our men pouring after them several sharp volleys. One cannon, which was at the hospital, was turned on them, and just before they reached a hill which sheltered them from its fire, a cannon ball struck an officer riding just in front between the shoulders and literally tore his right shoulder from his body, dreadfully mangling him and of course causing instant death.
As they arrived behind this hill, a halt was called and they proceeded to ascertain their loss. He observed seven horses riderless. He was taken from the horse and laid on the ground and told that the surgeon would attend to him as soon as he attended to their own men. A large number crowded around him with great curiosity to see the Yankee and began asking questions as to his name, residence, our force, and “What did you come down here for” was a common inquiry. To these questions he returned no answer. Some called out “Let’s hang him” or “Cut his God damn tongue out; as he don’t talk, he has no use for it!” and other similar expressions. Turning over on his side, he observed the surgeon dressing a man’s arm which had been broken above the elbow with such violence as to cause the bone to protrude through the flesh. He afterwards ascertained that this was the man whose horse he had shot, and the army had been broken by the suddenness of the fall.
After dressing his arm, the surgeon attended to the wounds of Lieutenant Raynor and this man with others crowded to see the Yankee prisoner. He observed Raynor closely and remarked “I believe this is the Yankee who shot my horse” and at the same time with his left hand drawing his pistol, he rushed forward and placed the muzzle at Raynor’s cheek and cocked it. His hand was grasped just in time to save the life of the lieutenant. An officer declared “It is a shame to shoot and wounded enemy and you have done that once.” He remarked “The other was not the right one; this is the man who shot at me and killed my horse.” Someone observed “it was done in a fair fight- never kill an unarmed prisoner.” The wounded man struggled and seemed determined to carry out his threat upon which the Rebel Colonel Radford (Richard C.W. Radford of the 30th Virginia Volunteers which later became the 2nd Virginia Cavalry) came up and ordered a corporal and two men to take Raynor down to the Junction saying “If the damned Yankees hang their prisoners, we will not do it until we give them a fair trial.” This result of this altercation caused the lieutenant little anxiety as his condition- being wounded, sick, stunned, and worst of all, a prisoner- that life seemed of little value and not worth preserving. He was at length mounted on one of the riderless horses and with a soldier on each side and one in the rear- all with shotguns loaded and cocked- safely escorted to Manassas Junction, a distance from this point of three miles.
On the way they met five different regiments and numerous small bodies coming fresh to the battlefield- and trains were still arriving bringing troops from Richmond and points further South. They were invariably stopped and eagerly asked “How goes the fight” and after inquiring if that was a Yankee prisoner, permission was generally sought to shoot him. “Let me have a crack at him” were the pleasant words that fell repeatedly upon the ear of the prisoner. The corporal who had in charge seemed much annoyed by these expressions and often replied, “No, he is not a Yankee.” His dress gave no indication of his character, having been relieved of sword, cap, and all marks of his rank. Riding, however, as he was unarmed and under guard, was suspicious and led them to believe that he was an invader of the scared soil. Lieutenant Raynor noticed a Masonic breastpin on the corporal and observed “I see you are a Mason.” He answered, “I travel on the square, do you?” Raynor said he did. The corporal replied, “We have cut loose from you and do not acknowledge Yankee Masons anymore.” Raynor told him he asked no favors on that account, and no other conversation relative to the matter passed. But his subsequent conduct was no doubt influenced by this fact. Afterwards he spoke in a kind tone and made personal inquiries, took the address of his family, and promised to endeavor to inform his friends of his condition and whereabouts.
When they arrived at the Junction, he was taken at once to a cavalry shed which the surgeons had converted into a hospital and which was then filled with the wounded brought from the battlefield. He was left alone for a few minutes and when the corporal returned with a basin of water and a sponge and accompanied by a surgeon, who washed the blood and dirt from his head, examined his foot, and remarked that they had men who needed attention more than he did, and that he was only a Yankee anyhow; but he would come back when he had time, put something on his head, and he would be all right in a few days. The corporal remained talking with Raynor some half hour, when he declared he would have him attended to anyhow and going off soon returned with another surgeon. This one examined his head, said it was nothing serious, only a stunning blow- rest only was needed and an application of cold water or ice would reduce the swelling and remove the pain.
The corporal left and soon he returned with about two pounds of ice, a portion of which he wrapped in his own handkerchief, pounded it fine, knelt down, and bound it carefully around Raynor’s head, giving him the other piece to relieve his thirst. Raynor, of course, was much affected by his kindness and asked his name and residence. His name, he replied, was J.H. Lemon and he hailed from Albemarle County, Virginia. The lieutenant shook hands with him and told him if they were alive at the end of the war they would meet again. He replied that he hoped that would be soon, but would never be until the independence of the South was recognized. The lieutenant told him he was sorry he was engaged on that side. “We are right,” he replied with earnestness, “We believe we are right. We have boys 16 years old in our regiment and men 75, all of whom will die before they acknowledge the Lincoln government.” And this was the general feeling he observed among the men. Before Lemon left, he asked Raynor if he had any money. He informed him that he had, for feeling in his pockets, he was surprised to find his watch and purse safe, which were no doubt saved from the Rebel who had robbed him on the field by his sudden and timely revival. He said he thought a few dollars would be of great benefit and if Raynor needed any, he would divide. The corporal then rode off, apparently solicitous for the prisoner’s comfort and Raynor now felt that he had lost his last friend.
He lay in the shed all night amid the wounded and dying- the surgeons operating immediately around him. The sufferers made the night hideous by their cries of anguish, some shrieking, some praying, some swearing. Long will he remember that night as he lay there wounded and sick-expecting that every moment would bring his friends and release him from this dreadful imprisonment. At the time of his capture, the enemy was supposed to be in retreat and he had no doubt that victory was with our forces. In the morning, a Negro came with a wheelbarrow, gathered up the limbs which had been amputated during the night, and wheeled them away for burial.
He was afterwards accosted by a surgeon with “Oh, you are the Yankee prisoner. I’ll have you attended to.” After an examination, he said he needed no medical attendance and thereupon procured a file of men who took him to a stable in which were about 20 Federal officers including Colonel Michael Corcoran (69th New York) and the Honorable Mr. Alfred Ely (R., New York). From these he received the first intelligence of our defeat. About 9 o’clock they were put aboard a car. At noon they were furnished with fat bacon and bread, the train being delayed until nearly 1 P.M. by the constant arrival of prisoners. The train took down about 600 prisoners, officers and privates. The latter were put in closed baggage cars while the first class passenger car was given to the officers who were under the charge of Major Praddes of Louisiana who treated them in an extremely gentlemanly manner. They went as far as Warrenton Junction where they remained all night to permit 12 trains loaded with soldiers to pass up to Manassas. They reached Gordonsville about noon on Tuesday where, as at other places, boys and girls, blacks and whites, came with trays filled with sandwiches, chickens, liquors, etc. for sale. Here Lieutenant Raynor procured something to eat, having eaten nothing since the Saturday night previous to the battle. They waited here over an hour for an up train. Meantime, some of the privates being without funds, offered buttons from their clothes in exchange for eatables. It took well: the people were willing to trade and buttons passed current for dimes- in consequence of which many arrived at Richmond buttonless.
Lieutenant Raynor soon arrived in Richmond, where he spent more than a month as a prisoner at the infamous Libby Prison. A second article from the Portsmouth Times gives an account of experience at Libby, but to close this story, suffice it to say that on the evening of September 5th, Raynor escaped from prison by wearing a red rosette on his collar (the Rebel authorities gave captured Federal surgeons freedom of the city, and used a red rosette so that guards would know that they could pass unhindered) and meeting up with a pair of prisoners, including Captain Jason R. Hurd of the 2nd Kentucky Infantry who had been captured (and whose story is told in this blog post http://dan-masters-civil-war.blogspot.com/2018/05/a-scary-affair-at-scary-creek.html) a few days before Raynor at the Battle of Scary Creek.
The three men tramped north through the wilds of eastern Virginia for eight days, living on purloined potatoes and wheat and crossed the Potomac River in a stolen boat. They then worked their way towards the Federal fleet blockading the Potomac River and turned themselves over to Captain Franks of the Howell Cobb. The captain transferred the men Commodore Craven aboard the U.S.S. Yankee, the flagship of the blockade. Captain Craven sent the men on to Captain Ulric Dahlgren at the Washington Navy Yard aboard the U.S.S. Resolute, where they arrived the evening of Friday, September 13, 1861.
|Captain Ulric Dahlgren, U.S. Navy|
“Captain Dahlgren ordered his carriage to convey them to Willard’s Hotel where they were soon surrounded by a corps of inquisitive newspaper reporters. Having fully carried out the demand of ‘On to Richmond,’ they were glad to be at home once more.” The following day, Lieutenant Raynor was given his discharge and went on to serve as the Colonel of the 56th Ohio Volunteer Infantry with such distinction that he was given a brevet promotion to brigadier general at the end of the war.
|Willard's Hotel, Washington, D.C. marked the end of this adventure for Lieutenant Raynor. (White House Historical Association)|
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