69th New York: First Bull Run 21st July 1861

Report of Captain James Kelly, Sixty-Ninth New York Militia.

Hdqrs. Sixty-Ninth Regiment, N.Y.S.M., Fort Corcoran, Arlington Heights, Va., July 24, 1861.

Sir: I have the honor, in the absence of Colonel Corcoran, missing, and Acting Lieutenant-Colonel Haggerty, killed in action, to report to you that on Sunday morning, July 21, at 3.30 o’clock a.m., under orders of Major General McDowell, and the immediate command of Brigadier-General Tyler, the Sixty-ninth Regiment New York State Militia moved forward from their camp at Centreville, and proceeded by steady march to within a mile and a half of the enemy’s battery, situated on the south bank of the creek or ravine known as Bull Run. At this point we halted, Colonel Corcoran commanding, Lieutenant-Colonel Haggerty being second in command, Captain Thomas Francis Meagher acting as major, and Captain John Nugent as adjutant. The regiment numbered one thousand muskets, and was attended by one ambulance only, the other having broken down. The Sixty ninth had good reason to complain that whilst regiments of other divisions were permitted to have baggage and provision wagons immediately in the rear, the regiment I have the honor to command was peremptorily denied any facilities of the sort. The consequence was that the Sixty-ninth arrived in the field of action greatly fatigued and harassed, and but for their high sense of duty and military spirit would not have been adequate to the terrible duties of the day.

Under your orders, the Sixty-ninth deployed into line of battle on the left, and, occupying the woods in that direction, there awaited the attack of the skirmishers of the enemy, who were reported in advance upon our right. No change was effected in our position on the left of the road leading to the battery of the enemy, which position, in conformity with your orders, we determined to maintain at every cost, and whatever the consequences might be, until orders were given for our regiment to advance by close column by division, and take the enemy in rear and flank. This they did with the utmost alacrity and precision, advancing through every obstacle until the regiment reached Bull Run. Here they crossed the stream and ravine in single file, and, ascending to the meadow where the enemy lay close and thick, poured in by successive companies an effective fire upon the rebels. The regiment, having formed in the meadow, marched in two-rank formation until the command “Front” was given, when they halted in line of battle, and steadily awaited the order to charge upon the batteries in front.

In the mean while Acting Lieutenant-Colonel Haggerty was killed by a Louisiana zouave, whom he pursued as the latter was on his retreat with his regiment into the woods, and several of our men were severely wounded.

After sustaining and repelling a continuous fire of musketry and artillery, directed on us from the masked positions of the enemy, our regiment formed into line directly in front of the enemy’s battery, charged upon it twice, were finally driven off, owing principally to the panic of the regiment which preceded us, and then, under a desperate fire, retired to the line from which we had advanced on the battery, and then endeavored to reform. The panic was too general, and the Sixty-ninth had to retreat with the great mass of the Federals.

In this action I have to record, with deep regret, the loss of Colonel Corcoran (supposed to be wounded and a prisoner), Acting Lieutenant-Colonel Haggerty, and others, of whom a corrected list will be speedily forwarded.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,

James Kelly,

Captain, Acting Colonel, Sixty-ninth Regiment.

Colonel W.T. Sherman

Commanding Brigade.

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