Thirty-Third Virginia at first Manassas. From the Times-dispatch, June 4, 1905.Colonel Cummings takes liberties with his orders and does good work.
Colonel J. W. Allen's Report—Interesting recollections of deeds of valor at first Manassas battle.
The fame of ‘Stonewall Jackson’ overspread the Honey Hill combat at Manassas, 21st of July, 1861, but the reports of all his regimental commanders having been lost, no official record clarifies the movements and achievements of his five regiments on that day. The recent discovery and publication in The Times-Dispatch of Colonel Kenton Harper's report of the Fifth Virginia Infantry, have fixed the movements of that regiment, and various communications from reliable officers and men have well nigh completed the history of the brigade on that occasion. Colonel Arthur C. Cummings, of Abingdon, commanded the Thirty-third Virginia Infantry that day. He had served in the Mexican War, and was a highly accomplished soldier and gentleman, worthy of higher command than befel his lot. His recent death has brought the name of this modest and heroic man again before the public. He shunned notoriety of all kinds, and rested content in ‘the conscientiousness of duty faithfully performed.’ Captain John H. Grabill, of the Thirty-third, who was with his regiment in the Manassas battle, and has kindly furnished me a brief statement and also with a pretty full account from Colonel Cummings, contained in a letter addressed to Captain Grabill at Woodstock, where he lives, dated May 16, 1898. It is due to history that these memorials of a brave regiment and of valiant deeds that had no little to do with the Confederate victory, be published. Captain Grabill relates his distinct memory of the charge of the Thirty-third, and that it was against the Brooklyn Zouaves (the Fourteenth New York), and a Michigan Regiment (the Michigan then commanded by Colonel, afterwards Major-General Orlando B. Wetroy), who was at the front of the Federal battery. He says:  ‘ They were driven over their own battery by the charge of the Thirty-third,’ and the battery captured as related by General Cummings. After the battle was over, General Jackson rode to one of the field hospitals. As he sat upon his horse he looked steadily upon the dying Captain Lee, of the Thirty-third, who was propped against a small tree, and made this remark: ‘The work Colonel Cumming's regiment did today was worth the loss of the entire regiment.’
Location of the guns.It will be observed that in Colonel Cummings' description of the action, he says: ‘The pieces taken by the Thirty-third were situated considerably to the left (as we were facing) of the Henry House, and the pieces taken by the other regiments of the brigade were somewhat on the same line, but nearer the Henry House.’ I have no doubt that this statement as to the location of the guns is correct. Major R. W. Hunter, who was at that time first lieutenant and adjutant of the Second Virginia Infantry, which was immediately on the right of the Thirty-third, confirms Colonel Cummings' statement, and I have seen similar statements in other accounts of the battle. The History of the Ulster Guard, a New York regiment, by Colonel Gates, who commanded it, contains a description of the battle at this point very much like that of Colonel Cummings'. Confusion has arisen in some of the versions of this conflict by the writer's failing to distinguish between the separated guns that were taken by Colonel Cummings and those subsequently carried nearer to the Henry House, when the whole field was swept in the final Confederate charge.
Another Fitz Lee.The Captain Lee referred to by Colonel Cummings was William Fitzhugh Lee, born in Richmond, but then of Alexandria, the son of Rev. William F. Lee, and he was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute in the class of 1853. Two years later he became a lieutenant in the United States army. When the war broke out, he was on duty at the St. Louis arsenal, and he resigned to follow the fortunes of his State. He was soon appointed a captain in the Confederate army, and then lieutenant-colonel of the Thirty-third Virginia Infantry.
The Second to the front.Just after that sally of the Thirty-third, the Second Virginia Infantry, under Colonel James W. Allen, which was the next regiment to its right, advanced to the assault. Colonel Allen, born in Shenandoah, had moved with his father's family in boyhood to Bedford county, and had attended the old New London Academy. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1849, and became there an assistant professor of mathematics after first teaching at the Piedmont Institute in Liberty. No report from him appears in the war records, but an extract from it is found in ‘The Memorial of the Virginia Military Institute,’ by Charles D. Walker, p. 324, which indicates that it has been published in the press, and it happily preserves the continuity of the story of the Stonewall Brigade at Manassas. Colonel Allen had but one eye, and during the cannonade which preceded the infantry combat on that day, a shot cut off the limb of a pine tree and hurled it in his other eye, temporarily blinding him. He afterward greatly distinguished himself, and was killed while in command of the brigade at Gaines' Mill, June 27, 1862.
Colonel Allen's report.In the report of Colonel Allen of the action of his regiment on the occasion referred to, he says:
About 1 P. M. I was directed to station my regiment at the edge of a pine thicket to support the battery immediately on my right, with orders to fire when the enemy appeared in sight over the hill, then to charge and drive them back with the bayonet. In this position my men lay somewhat under the cover of the hill for more than an hour and a half, during all of which time they were exposed to the effects of shell and shot from the enemy's batteries, which had advanced, under cover of the hills, to my left flank. Many of my men and officers were wounded by explosions that took place immediately in their midst; yet they stood their ground, awaiting the approach of the infantry. Colonel Cummings, on my left, met them, endeavoring to turn their flank. After advancing, two of his companies fell back through my left, which was kept in position by the coolness of Captain Nelson, who gallantly maintained his position, though exposed to a front fire of grape and  shell, and a flank fire from the enemy's musketry. At this junctuer I was informed by Major Botts (whose coolness, energy and perseverance in rallying the men deserves special mention) that my left was turned. Not seeing the enemy in front, I directed that the three left companies be drawn back to meet them. This order was partially misunderstood by the centre companies for a general direction to fall back, and all the line turned. I at once gave the order to charge, but the thicket was so close and impenetrable that only a part of the right wing, under Lieutenant-Colonel Lackland, could be rallied about thirty yards in rear of the original position, the enemy having advanced to the position originally held by the left of the regiment, judging by their fire, for it was impossible to see them.
At this moment Colonel Preston, who was on my right, and in rear of the battery, advanced, and Lieutenant-Colonel Lackland, with about one hundred of my right, charged on the enemy's batteries, drove them from their pieces, and took position immediately in front of the guns, sheltering themselves as much as possible by them. Wishing to secure one of the rifle cannon, he ordered five or six men to take it to the rear, but had not proceded more than fifty yards, when the enemy opened on his right, which was unsupported, and he was compelled to retire with the few men under his command, having lost nine killed and thirty-four wounded in the charge. The line did not retire until after our battery was withdrawn. The list of killed and wounded having been handed in, it is unnecessary to repeat it. I cannot, however, close this report without again making honorable mention of Captain Nelson, who gallantly fell at his post, supposed to be mortally wounded, and to the gallantry of Lieutenant-Colonel Lackland, who, with but a handful of men, charged on the enemy's battery and actually brought one of their rifled guns to the rear, with but four men.Colonel Allen's reference to the appearance of Colonel Preston, ‘who was on the right and in the rear of the battery,’ denotes the time when Jackson's right centre advanced under his immediate direction. This was the third and effectual movement which  carried the position defended by Griffin's and Rickett's one of twelve guns, which were posted near the Henry House, some of them being turned on the front of the Second and Thirty-third Regiments, and the most of them on the batteries of Pendleton to the right of these regiments, and on the front of the other three regiments of the brigade; i. e., the Fourth, Twenty-seventh and Fifth. When Colonel James P. Preston went forward with the Fourth, the Twenty-seventh, under Lieutenant-Colonel John Echols, moved simultaneously, and the two regiments commingled at the captured guns, each losing heavily in the charge. From the material collected in the contribution to The Times-Dispatch, the historian, with the aid of the War Records, can now compute the complete story of the Stonewall Brigade at First Manassas.