We can lose battles and it only makes us mad

The First Battle of Bull Run was fought 150 years ago today by the Union Army of Northern Virginia under Irvin McDowell and Confederate forces under Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (Army of the Potomac) and Joseph Johnston (Army of the Shenandoah).

The excellent Bull Runnings blog posted a letter written by Colonel John Ellis and published in the San Francisco Bulletin:

Col. John S. Ellis of the 1st Regiment of California State Militia, and Sheriff elect of San Francisco – who is now on a visit to the East – served as a volunteer (attached, for the [ponce?], to the 71st New York Regiment) during the battle of Bull Run…

I was all through the battle of Bull Run as a volunteer, attached to the 71st Regiment, armed with a rifle and sabre-bayonet. All my brothers were there also – five of us. We started at 2 o’clock on Sunday morning; marched none hours without resting three minutes at a time, and having in that period traversed about 15 miles, went right into action without breakfast; fought until 6 o’clock Sunday night; then retreated, marched all night and did not reach our camp till 9 o’clock Monday morning – all without anything for food except a hard, dry cracker, which I could not eat…

I then went back to the fight and rejoined Gus, who was doing fearful execution with his 12 pounder howitzers. The 71st drove back the enemy three times, and completely cut up the Alabama regiment; and Sherman’s battery on our right silenced one of the enemy’s batteries until they got out of ammunition. We did our share; we drove back the enemy whenever he showed his face, and for a long time thought we had gained the victory. But alas! how much were we mistaken! Other regiments were ordered to charge into the woods and were met by masked batteries which poured into their bosoms the most terrific fire…

Through the effects of this battle we have lost much of our prestige, but I think it is a lesson we my profit by. It has wonderfully raised the spirits of the Rebels, and men say they are preparing for an attack on Washington. If they should, and are repulsed, they would find it difficult to recover. We can lose battles and it only makes us mad – they cannot afford reverses.

The “Alabama regiment” mentioned in Colonel Ellis’ letter was the 4th Alabama Regiment led by Colonel Egbert Jones, part of the Third Brigade commanded by Barnard Bee in the Army of the Shenandoah:

After that struggle, if there was one man idolized by the 4th Alabama, it was Egbert Jones. Amid the shock and surge of the conflict, he sat with his leg carelessly thrown across the pommel of his saddle, and gave his orders with perfect composure. The 4th Alabama never forgot that immobile figure.

Jones was an Athens lawyer and State Representative who moved to Huntsville in 1853.  Jones was elected Captain of the Huntsville Guards company which was one of the ten companies that formed the 4th Alabama Regiment; Jones was elected Colonel of the 4th Alabama when it formed. 

Jones died as a result of his wounds received at Bull Run and is buried at Maple Hill Cemetary.

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