First battle of Manassas.Dash and heroism of the Maryland line-stonewall Jackson's flank saved-recollections revived by the 45th anniversary.
A paper read before the Isaac R. Trimble Camp, no. 1035, United Confederate Veterans, Baltimore, Md., October 2, 1906, by Colonel Winfield Peters, Maryland member of the Historical Committee, and on Southern School history, U. C. V.
In the first Battle of Manassas, July 21, 1861, our First Maryland Regiment lastly and hotly engaged a brigade of the enemy from the edge of a woods overlooking a declivity, then a dry ditch at the foot, then a hill, on the crest of which the enemy was formed in battle line. We fired at point-blank range of, perhaps, 500 yards, awaiting reinforcements. The regiment was well dressed on the colors and the firing unobstructed, but the heat was intense, and the absence of wind prevented the smoke from rising; hence the view of the enemy's line was now and then obscured.
Hairbreadth escape.In Murray's company (second from the right) were Privates Geo. Lemmon, N. J. Watkins and W. Peters. Watkins was my file leader, and Lemmon was next on my right in the rear rank. Watkins knelt and fired, thus facilitating my firing, but shortly he rose to his feet, and in rising Lemon fired, sending the charge from his musket through Watkins' cap, from back to front, and likely it passed through his hair. Seeing his cap flying in front of him, Watkins stepped forward at the risk of being shot, picked it up, and as coolly retook his place in the ranks. George Lemmon afterward told me—in his sly way—that he had two cartridges in his musket! Our cartridges contained a bullet and three buckshot (‘ buck and ball ’). The firing was so deafening that no one could tell whether his piece was discharged. This was particularly so on our immediate  right, where Jackson's men were fighting desperately. It has been jocosely remarked that this was the only ‘wound’ Nick Watkins got during the war.
Splendid charge by Confederates.Soon the Third Tennessee Regiment came up and promptly aligned on our right, and thereupon we were told that we must charge and carry the hill in our front. Immediately the two regiments—numbering together some 1,200—well aligned, charged out of the woods at ‘Double-quick,’ ‘Charge bayonets,’ with a ringing yell. At once the Yankees seemed to cease firing, and after we clambered out of the ditch they disappeared from the hill, the top of which we reached as speedily as possible. We expected, of course, to receive their fire at short range. Gaining the crest of the hill, a magnificent battle view was disclosed. Covering the hill were the wounded and dead of the enemy, and in our immediate front the Yankees we had fought were fleeing down the hill at a gait that we tired fellows could not duplicate. They must have started for the rear when we got out of the ditch and began to climb the hill in their front. One of them said, after the war, that he did not stop running until he reached his home, Bangor, Maine. Another Yankee soldier, who was wounded in the face, was asked how that happened, as they all run at Bull Run. He said he ‘run a mile and looked back!’ As we swept over the ridge, looking to the left, we could see the Tenth Virginia rallying upon the left of the First Maryland; thus precipitating the three regiments upon the enemy's right flank, in the general assault that drove them in flight from the field. While engaging the enemy from the woods, two six-pounder guns under Lieutenant Beckham, of Pelham's Battery, took position on our left and fired effectively; also a squadron or two of Stuart's cavalry were seen charging at the distance of perhaps 1,000 yards from our left, and on capturing the hill we could still see the cavalry sweeping toward the left front, following and charging the retreating Yankees. As stated, the Tenth Virginia Regiment, having reached the field and united with the Maryland and Tennessee regiments, we moved toward the Henry  House, where the heaviest fighting had occurred, and halted at the captured guns of Rickett's Battery, (U. S. regulars), which were being turned upon the retreating foe.
Carnage was awful.The charge of the Maryland and Tennessee regiments, with the Virginia regiment aligned thereon; with a simultaneous advance of the Confederate lines; broke the enemy, who then began the famous Bull Run rout. The carnage here (the Henry House plateau) was awful, the first of many sanguinary battles to follow. Fatigued almost to exhaustion, without food or water, we were yet marched after the retreating Yanks, across the stone bridge, then back to the battlefield in the night, where we slept upon the ground as soundly and satisfiedly as victorious soldiers ever did under like stress. The first Maryland Battalion, infantry, was formed at Harper's Ferry in May, 1861, and became a regiment in June following, by the addition of more companies. They participated in the Valley campaign under Gen. Jos. E. Johnston, ending in the sudden movement of Johnston's army, July 18, and the forced march to the support of General Beauregard at Manassas. The Fourth Brigade (under Colonel Arnold Elzey, of the First Maryland) was the last to reach the field of battle, July 21. Under the personal command of Gen. E. Kirby Smith, the Maryland regiment, upon detraining near Manassas Junction, was quickly started at double-quick to reinforce Stonewall Jackson, (who received his soubriquet that day), and the distance, about five miles, was made (it was said, in three-quarters of an hour) under the blazing sun, over a road so dusty that the clouds of dust raised by the brigade caused the enemy to conclude that large reinforcements were moving to the Confederate left, while on the other hand, the Confederate generals, not expecting Elzey's brigade so soon, were apprehensive that the enemy was in their rear. Moreover, the colors could not be described, which dilemma resulted in the Stars and Bars giving place to the renowned Confederate battle-flag, having a St. Andrew's cross on a red field—symbolical of suffering and blood—and was designed by General Beauregard, a Catholic. Most conspicuous and inspiriting was the activity and manifest  skill of General Smith, at the railroad. Seizing upon the First Maryland, when alighting, we were hurried into the road, ordered to place jackets and knapsacks under a nearby cherry tree, then formed column and moved off at ‘double-quick.’ The General's curt command was ‘ Forward to the firing: The password is Sumter.’ The Maryland regiment (battalion of direction) nearing the battlefield was turned from the road into an open field, when, immediately, while in column of fours, they met a severe musketry fire, which disabled General Smith and others. Instantly, at double-quick, the column was deployed into line (right in front), and, charging, rushed to the woods from which the enemy were firing, causing them to retreat, and preventing them from forming in Jackson's left rear.
Private Swishers Rashness fatal.Halting here, at the edge of the pine thicket, we were ordered to lie down, hence were protected from the enemy's desultory fire, directed principally toward the colors, but, Private Swisher. of ‘A’ company—next to the color company—more curious than the others, failing to obey the order to lie down, was killed by a bullet through his forehead. So anxious was Elzey to contribute to save the day and speedily, that, without waiting for reinforcements, we were soon ordered to ‘Attention,’ and the regiment moved off by the left flank, in twos, then formed in battle line and advanced to support Jackson's left, which they did and most opportunely.
Falling from ranks perilous.Men famishing with thirst and hunger dropped in the rear to gather blackberries we were marching over, but instantly the gallant Geo. H. Steuart, lieutenant-colonel commanding, ran at them, with his sabre raised very ominously, yelling at them. ‘Get back in ranks: We may be cut to pieces,’ and there was no more falling out of ranks. But, escaping the possible enfilading fire, the regiment pressed on until the enemy was met and defeated, as first related.
Smith left for dead: Elzey Succeeds him.Colonel Elzey was chagrined at General Smith's superceding  him and leading the Maryland regiment to the battle. Seeing Smith fall, Elzey—oblivious to the perilous situation—exclaimed to Major Bradley T. Johnson: ‘God is just; Smith is dead! Johnson, get his horse. This means for me six feet of ground, or a yellow sash ’-worn only by generals. The horse ran off and the gallant major was suffering from scurvy. Elzey, though brave, was presumptive; moreover, he did not possess the calibre of Smith. Smith had immortalized himself, and recovering from his almost fatal wound, he returned to us a Major-General. The sequence is strange: Almost a year thereafter, Elzey, commanding his brigade in the battle of Cold Harbor, received just such a wound as Smith's, which likewise made him a Major-General.
Maryland regiment reached the battlefield President Davis also arrived, having come from Richmond by railroad and ridden on horseback from Manassas. He was first seen among the troops fighting on Jackson's right, encouraging and rallying them. Jackson sent to inquire what civilian was rallying his men, and the information brought back was satisfactory. Jefferson Davis at that period was rated among the elite of living American soldiers. Having learned of the conduct of the Maryland regiment, the President promptly rode over, and saluting our colonel, addressed him as General Elzey, and General Beauregard dubbed him the Blucher of the day. Nevertheless, had we been 15 minutes later in checking the enemy, advancing, there would, probably, have been no Blucher of Manassas, because they would have enveloped Jackson's left flank, which, with the extreme left—two regiments under Colonel Jubal A. Early—must have retired, and quite likely not in the best order, judging from the evidences of demoralization we witnessed during the last half of our march. A regiment was seen resting by the roadside, and scores of men were leisurely making for the rear, who, replying to anxious questions as to the progress of the battle, answered, to a man, that our army was defeated. General Smith (riding at a trot, we at double-quick step), would now and then turn to us and in a commanding tone exclaim: ‘Pay no attention to those skulkers and poltroons.  Follow me to the firing!’ In truth, the energy and brave example of the General inspirited us, despite our well nigh exhausted condition, to arrive at the right time, at the right place, make the dash, follow it up and drive the enemy from the field. And it was the first display of the skill and bravery in battle characteristic of the Southern West Pointers. Johnston planned, Smith, Elzey and Steuart led. With the three typical regiments, at the critical juncture of the day, the Yankees were fated on that field. Jackson would gladly have led us on to Washington, and he said so, but was not permitted, nor perhaps consulted, but the fatal mistake was discovered 'ere long. And victory always followed Jackson. A word as to this a little further on. That the loss in killed and wounded in the First Maryland was not greater was because of their promptness, energy and dash in responding to orders, and the ready skill of our leaders. A noteworthy case of a badly wounded man was that of Sergeant John B. Berryman, (a file closer) of ‘C’ company, (first from the right), who fell simultaneously with General Smith. He kept his bed during nearly the entire war, and the ill-effects from wound never ceased until he died, on January 21, 1898, 36 years and 6 months from the day he was wounded, the anniversary of the birth of Stonewall Jackson, to whose aid Berryman was hurrying when shot.