Incidents at the First Manassas Battle
By James Franklin, Jr., 1894
On the morning of July 17, 1861, the Eleventh Virginia Regimental Infantry did not, as was usual, do any drilling. We boys thought strange that no sound of tho drum had called us to our usual daily avocation. It had been drill, drill, drill, three times a day. We very soon found that there was something going on, as the orderly couriers and staff officers were moving from one headquarters to another. Very soon an orderly approached Col. Garland and handed in a paper. Our adjutant, J. Lavance Meen, ordered us to prepare for marching. In a very short time the regiment was in line in light marching order, and the head of the column in the direction of Bull Run. We were joined by the First and Seventeenth Virginia Regiments. These three regiments composed Gen. Longstreet's Brigade. We had been camped at Manassas for near two months, and several of the boys had gotten a dog or so. We marched direct to Bull Run, and halted just on the hill in a clover field, and the dogs jumped an old rabbit; the boys of the Eleventh joined in the chase, but Col. Garland ordered us, back into line in double-quick and gave us a severe reprimand, saying he was astonished that is regiment should so far forget their duties as soldiers, as to leave their places right in the face of the enemy and go rabbit hunting; that he very much feared that if we were to be engaged with the enemy we would want to go rabbit hunting. I remember vividly the impression he made upon me, which was that he feared our courage.
We were moved down in the undergrowth and give strict orders that we must make no noise and have no lights. There we remained all night. About daybreak of the 18th we were "chunked " up by the sergeants and corporals, with strict injunctions to be quiet. The First and Seventeenth Regiments were placed on each side of the lord (Blackburn's Ford). The Eleventh was marched up the stream some five hundred yards, and six companies were deployed on the hank of the stream, the left resting on the right of the Seventeenth Regiment. The other four were held in reserve under a bluff. The deployed companies commenced at once to fortify our lines. We used rails, logs, and what dirt we could get with our bayonets.
One of my company, Jake, said to another: ”Dick, help me with this log."
Dick replied: "Jake, what are you going to do with that rotten log?"
"It is the best thing in the world to resist a bullet."
To this day, Dick tells tho story on Jack.
About nine o'clock while still making breastworks, the first cannon I had ever heard was fired from the Yankee line. Tho shot struck the ground very near a piece of the Washington Artillery, just on the hill to our right and very near the place of the rabbit chase of the evening before. The artillery at once moved back toward Manassas and the old McLean House. The second shot struck just to our left, and immediately in front of Gen. Bonham's South Carolina Brigade, and very near Kemper's Virginia Battery of Artillery. Tho third shot was a shell and exploded. In a short time we heard the bugle order of forward from the yankee line, and then it advanced. The enemy marched right down to the edge of the water, and his two lines did the best they could, but it only lasted a few minutes, when the enemy retreated, then all was as still as midnight.
In a very short time the enemy made the second attempt to force their way across the stream; both sides held their ground for a few moments, when the enemy plunged into the stream and our boys met them. One of Company E, I think it was Tom Sears, an Irishman, dropped his gun and grappled with a Yankee Irishman, and with the help of another he brought his prisoner into our lines. He was evidently the first prisoner captured. Maj. Harrison rode into the river. leaving his men, and was the first man killed on our side. While this was going on, our lamented Gen. J. A. Early came from our right with his old regiment, the Twenty-fourth Virginia, and I think a Mississippi regiment to reenforce Longstreet just as their line approached the edge of the bushes they mistook our men for the yanks, and some of them fired. Gen. Longstreet, being between his brigade and Gen. Early's line, jumped off of his horse to keep from being shot. His horse ran out and we thought the General had been killed.
We laid there in this line on the 19th and 20th. All the forenoon of the 21st we did nothing but listen to the fighting on our extreme right; but in the evening we heard cheer after cheer, which seemed to be in our rear, and we feared that our lines had been forced back. O, it was an awful feeling. Finally some one appeared as if riding for his life, and as he passed he tossed his head and exclaimed: "We have whipped them!" Then a great shout went up. We immediately advanced through the stream and up the hill to see the fleeing Yankees. Just in the road in the edge of the woods, we came across the cannon that had done the first firing on us. It was a long, black, steel gun. Just here, Col. Garland rode down the line and cautioned the boys not to pick up anything—if we saw a gold dollar, let it alone; that we were soldiers following a retreating enemy; that they might at any time make a stand and turn on us, and if we were disorganized they might whip us.
This article is from the Confederate Veteran, Vol. II, No. 10, Nashville, Tenn., October, 1894.