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Home > Civil War Sesquicentennial > John French Horrors at Bull Run Transcript

John French Horrors at Bull Run Transcript

Fairfax County, VA July 25 1861
Dear Parents and Friends

I once more seat myself to inform you that I am well safe and sound you have probaly before this heard of the fight of the 20 at Bull’s Run and of our defeat but although we had a terable fight was obliged to retreat we was not whiped & our loss is not near as large as it is reppresented in the papers. The attack was not made as it was intended to be for it was intended to be made on three points at once by three divisions but instead of that our division rushed on & was the only division that was in the fight it consisted of 25 or 30 thousand and was not one third of the army while the rebels had as near all we can find out over 100,000 men well armed & covered by a heavy wood and a battery over a mile long while we had but few peices of artley & the open field beside, we were wore out with marching in the heat & dust without water or food we started early in the morning & marched about 10 miles & the last six we ran half of the way so that we were ready to lay down when we got there we fought smart for a while but they had such an advantage over us that we became broken up & had to retreat we made a poor retreat & mixed all up so that when we got back it was hard to tell who was lost & who was not the rebels pursued us a piece but gave it up, the most of our troops went clear back to Alexandria & some to Washington, Alexandria is strong 20 miles & Washington which is 5 miles farther. the reason why they went so far is because they had no fort any nearer to protect them in case they were pursued the cusses had the advantage of us as they were receiving fresh troops from Manassas junction all day by cars so that they had their whole force concentrated there & if they know if it was thier last chance if we had beat them there we should have had them I am told the atack was made contrary to Scot’s wishes but that he for once gave way to his friends But he won’t again he is now getting the big guns and shells togeather & is going to pay them in their own coin he now knows their force & will act accordingly. I suppose they tell big stories down there in maine but don’t believe to much of them for we are bound to wipe out this stain before long I cannot give the particulars as our forces are so scattered that it is impossible to find out our regiment has not lost many men not more than eight or ten. I and one of my comrades staid in the woods within 6 miles of the rebels & in the night the rebels was all around us we laid still till morning & then as we could not see any of the enemy we started & about three o’clock in the afternoon we got whare I am now it is about three miles from Alexandria whare our tents are our regiment is still in the City & I believe they are going to Washington to get recruited we shant have to fight again soon I guess as thare is fresh men enough. my boys thought we was dead shure & when we sent word to our Captain that we was here he & all the rest of the boys was quite pleased. I recieved a letter from Nathan & Ann was glad to hear that you was all well but was sorry to hear that there was some secessionism at work in Maine. I wrote a letter last Saturday it is said that the battle of Sunday was the was the hardest battle that was ever fought in this country as it lasted some eight hours & was over 400 rounds fired by the artillery & they say that three hundred is the most that is on record and I must say that I had not a very correct idea of a battle but I have now for I have heard the tireful roar of cannons the sharp of thousands of muskets & the peircing schrieaks and groans of the dying & wounded. I thought I had seen suffering but I never did before but the worst of it was we had to leave our wounded in the field & the secession sons of bitches killed and tortured them in the worst way they could but we’ll pay them for it, I have not much more to write this time the fourth regiment is encamped close by here & I was over there last night and saw all the folks that I know, Timothy Abott, Joseph Libby, Otis Hegray, Silas Perkins, Eben Whitcomb. They have not lost many men out of their regiment let the secession fools in Maine talk if they want to for they will hear a different story. Before long I got eight shots at the cusses & I think I fixed some of them I have no doubt but what the first news that gets to you will be rather discouraging but it will be greatly exaggerated for it was only a small part of the army that was beat & if they had not a fresh reinforcing we should have beat them for we did silence their battery twice & if our Artillery had not got out of ammunition we should have given them fits. But I can’t write anymore this time but write soon for the present  goodby  Nahum wanted to know if our letters had to be inspected by an officer. They do not it is all humbug they are not inspected & we write what we want and if I know that any man should look into my letters I’d fix him but no more this time so good by

From your son
J.S. French