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 Maj. T. Winthrop, were sacrificed; and the discouragement of a first defeat formed the beginning of the war.1 When, on July 18, 1861, the Army of the Potomac made its first reconnaissance at Blackburn's Ford, the duty was chiefly performed by the 1st Mass. Infantry (Col. Robert Cowdin), the first three years regiment to leave the State, and the first in the service of the United States to report at Washington. In this engagement died Lieut. W. H. B. Smith of Cambridge, the first of two hundred and eight volunteer lieutenants from Massachusetts who fell in the war; and the manner of his death was curiously illustrative of that early period of playing with edge-tools. The uniforms of the two armies were as yet so much alike that, as in the early days of the English civil war, it was almost impossible to tell friend from foe when a few hundred yards distant; and it was only when Lieutenant Smith had announced to the Confederate skirmishers that he was from Massachusetts that he was killed by an immediate volley. In another part of the same field the same explanation, given by Captain Carruth, was all that prevented a Michigan regiment from firing on the 1st Mass.2 Three Massachusetts regiments only took part in the battle of Bull Run or Manassas (July 21, 1861), these being the 1st Infantry (Colonel Cowdin), the 5th (Colonel Lawrence) and the 11th (Col. George Clark, Jr.). It is something to say that neither of the three did itself discredit in the way of cowardice on a day where so many failed. The 5th remained a day beyond its term of service to take part in the affair, and its colonel was wounded, his life being saved through the prompt action of a friend and
1 ‘The several detachments of infantry, with a section of regular artillery, in command of Lieutenant Greble, left Newport News rather late the night before the Big Bethel affair. Colonel Phelps, Major Stuart of the Engineers and the writer accompanied Lieutenant Greble, who had the left in the line of march for about three miles. During the walk back to camp Colonel Phelps stated that, in his opinion, the detachments coming from Camp Hamilton and those going from Newport News, commanded by inexperienced officers, would meet in the early dawn, mistake each other for the enemy, then a contest between friendly troops, resulting in a slaughter of our own men, the alarm of the enemy, their escape and the total failure of the expedition. The writer parted with him at his tent about one o'clock in the morning. He said that he was sure that the anticipated blunder would be made, and that the writer, as soon as he heard the firing, must get his regiment ready to move. At early dawn two of the detachments met. Townsend's 3d and Bendix's 7th New York Volunteers fired into each other, and all the bad results anticipated were realized. The echo of this musketry had hardly died away when Colonel Phelps stood at the entrance of the tent of the writer and said, “It is as I thought it would be, they are firing into each other; get your regiment ready, and report as a reinforcement to General Peirce.” The account of the affair of the two Bethels has passed into history. This, however, is the first time that this singular example of intuition on the part of General Phelps has ever been written for publication.’ (Report of Association of Graduates, U. S. Military Academy, 1885, p. 77.)
2 History of the 1st Regiment Mass. Infantry, by Warren H. Cudworth, pp. 43, 47. For the blue uniforms of Confederates, see Walcott's 21st Mass., p. 146, and Colonel Cowdin in Official War Records, XI, 125.
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