Franklin County: Thomas F. McCoy to A. L. Russell, October 3, 1862
Thomas McCoy's detailed and extensive letter to Adjutant General Russell and Governor Curtin describes his regiment's movements in northern Virginia leading up to the second battle of Manassas of August, 1862 and describes his regiment's heroic participation in the battle.
Adjt Genl of Penna
Head Quarters 107th Regt P. V.
Camp near Mercerville MD
I have the honor to briefly present for you information & for that of his Excellency Governor Curtin, an account of the opperation of the 107th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, from the period I assumed the command until it arrived at Centreville on Sunday the 21st day of August, 1862.
I lost no time after receiving the Commission of his Excellency in proceeding to join the Regiment, which I found in Camp at Cedar Mountain about seven miles South of Culpepper Virginia. I found it organized into the Brigade, commanded by General A. Duryea, in the Division commanded by General Ricketts in the 3d Army Corps commanded by Maj. Genl [unclear: Jhn] Pope.
It was late in the night of August 13th, 1862 that I succeeded after great labor and dilligent search amongst the multitude of camps that lined the hills and vallies of that region to find the Regiment. I found it under marching orders, and assumed the command in the morning, and at once took up the line of march for the Rapidan.
On the evening of the 17th we encamped on the outer line of our Army and near the Rapidan beyond which it was known that the enemy was in very strong force. On the next day after the usual inspections of the Sabbath & the Guard mounting, we rested quietly in camp for a few hours, when exciting intelligence was re- ceived at Head Quarters of the Division and followed by prompt orders for the march, which was soon taken up northward, and continued far into the night, when a halt was ordered and the weary soldiers sunk upon the ground in order of battle -- This rest although surrounded by none of the usual comforts, was refreshing & greatly needed, for the following days and nights taxed their energies and strength still more thoroughly. Having attained the north bank of the Rappahannock, after being a whole night & day on the way, a day or two's rest were obtained with some fresh supplies of rations.
Whilst at this point (the Rappahannock station) the enemy appeared on the 20th as was supposed in force from the direction of Culpepper. There was some skirmishing. We had batteries on both sides of the river. Genl Pope, took his position on a little [unclear: eminence] in front of our Division, from which by signal flags he formed his line of battle. The enemy did not advance, and our Army bivouacked in the order of battle - the infantry drawn up in supporting columns, so as to be a sure & convenient support to the batteries. The morning of the 21st found us in the same order which with but slight changes, was maintained during the day. The cannonading commenced about 10 oclock A.M. and continued with intervals during the whole day, but it was principally north west of our position, and with a different corps of our Army. During the 22nd most of the cannonading was in about the same quarter with the addition of some on our Regt. The enemy however, having secured positions during the night, opened on the morning of the 23d with all their power directly on our point. This artillery battle continued for three hours, almost unabated, and with considerable effect on both sides. The enemy I think suffering considerably more than ourselves, as they advancing appeared more at a disadvantage, and our Artillery was better served. Lieut. Godbold of Mathews Penna battery lost a limb by the Explosion of a shell just a little to our right and front. A shell exploded almost in the ranks of Co. F of my Regiment, and fortunately only mortally wounded one & very slightly one or two others of that company. Many narrow escapes were made during these three hours of Artillery battle. The soldiers stood it with a becoming courage. After it I felt a greater degree of confidence in my Regiment. This was the first time in which they had been very considerable length of time under fire.
There being a flood in the Rappahannock, and the temporary bridges having given way & here coming down threatening to carry off the Rail Road Bridge, the point our Division was depending, our troops were under the necessity of evacuating the other side of the river, and withdrawing to the north side which was done in good time & in good order and with little if any, loss on our side.
Soon we again took up the line of March (they were known to be flanking as in large force) and in the direction of Warrenton, understood as being in the hands of the enemy. The march was continued all day and up to about Eleven oclock at night, when we again bivouacked in a wood and forbidden from having any fires. The enemy had evacuated Warrenton, or had been driven out by our advance. We directed our march past the Town and towards the White Sulphur Springs about four miles south west of Warrenton, and encamped about three miles from the latter place. All day yesterday and to-day an Artillery fight was in progress several miles to the west or north west of us, understood to be with the corps of Burnside or Sigel. For two or three days McDowells Army corps kept possession of the region around about Warrenton, the White Sulphur Springs, and Waterloo, during which our men were short of rations, but making up the deficiency, so far as could be done by securing green corn, green apples, &c.
On the 27th we left our camp west of Warrenton, our march being through that place in the direction of Centreville but when arriving at a certain point we turned off to the westward toward Haymarket and [unclear: know] in [unclear: face] Gap, through which a day or two before Jackson had passed with a portion of his Army, and [unclear: one] which he was expecting reinforcements. He arrived, it is believed in time, to drive this (said to be Longstreets) force into and through the Gap or such parts of it as had emerged from the Gap. It was soon apparent that the enemy was in the vicinity and that there would be fighting. on passing through the village of Haymarket near two miles East of the Gap, those Regiments having knapsacks were required to leave them at that point. We continued to move forward, but with great caution. On arriving upon the point I was at once ordered with the 107th to the support of Capt Thomsons (Pa) battery on the right, and also to protect the Rail Road. At this time the fight had commenced briskly. I continued in the duty first assigned me until it was deemed proper to remove Thomsons battery, or that part of it, of which we formed the immediate support to the left and to another part of the field where other infantry support was convenient, when I was ordered forward to join the Brigade from which I had been temporarily detatched. Coming up to the position then occupied by General Duryea, I was at once ordered by him to march my Regiment to an eminence on our right and form line of battle along the crest of the hill, which movement was promptly executed, the men manifesting a most courageous spirit. Here we remained while the action lasted in support of Capt. Mathews (Pa) battery.
Our force at this place and engaged in this action was that of Ricketts Division, only, perhaps about 4000 men and I presume it was not intended or deemed safe, to remain between Jackson & Longstreet, with a force utterly inadequate to contend with either - and besides it was understood that our orders had been filled and the purpose of the Expedition accomplished. In leaving this ground we retraced our steps to the village of Haymarket in the night and thence to Gainsville, where we bivouacked for the remainder of the night, and at day light of the 29th, continued on march, taking the road directly to Manasses, where we arrived during the day and found the place unexpectedly in the possession of our troops. Our men being very much worn down by the almost incessant marching, excitement, and the irregularity in obtaining rations, were greatly in need of rest. As much time for this as possible was given, some two hours, and then the line of march was taken for the battle field, the battle then raging with great fury near the old Bull Run Battle ground. At the close of the day the Division arrived upon the ground, the battle still going on and our troops with cheers driving the enemy back. We bivouacked in the field while the balls & shells of the enemy were flying over & around us. Although upon the battlefield, and upon the
of another in which it was known we were to take a part, our men I believe rested well and slept soundly.
Soon after day light of the 30th, the Regiment was in line on the right of the Brigade, which Brigade was on the right of the Division, the Division on the right of field, the 107th leaving during the operations of the day, being on the extreme right. We moved forward to the conflict, early in the morning. The firing of the skirmishers on the right had already begun, we were formed in line of battle on the extreme right of the field. We advanced over a ridge obliquely to the left, relieving the skirmishers on our point, and pushed forward to a position in the little valley beyond the ridge, a position considerably nearer the enemy then any previously occupied by any of our troops upon that part of the field.
Being in close proximity to the enemy whose sharp shooters were endeavoring to pick off our officers & men, I sent forward to guard against suprise, several small parties of skirmishers. The Regiments of our Brigade (97th, 104 & 105th N.Y.V.) on our left soon began to fire frequent vollies - and this attracting the attention of the enemy, he turned the fire of a concealed battery upon us. The range being close, it was soon discovered that the fire would be, and indeed was being very effective, some in those Regiments & in my own were already wounded, together with Genl Duryea, commanding the Brigade, his wound however being very slight. The General, now seeing that the position was an unnecessarily exposed one, gave an order to fall back in order to have the advantage of more favorable ground, as to have attempted to maintain this ground without a battery of our own to reply to that of the enemies would have been a useless sacrifice of our brave men. The Regiments on our left hastily fell back, and in consequence of not receiving the order for some time after, I maintained my position, but in receiving it, I marched my Regiment back in good order and re-joined the Brigade. A new line was soon formed more in prolongation of the general line of battle, and some time after without pressure from the enemy, it was deemed expedient to retire temporarily a few hundred yards, to give room, as was at the time supposed for our Artillery to opperate, co. A ([unclear: Doshumen]) occupying the former position as a picket. The battle at this period appeared to have slackened by a partial cessation of fire on both sides. Soon however we were again advanced to our former position, with the encouraging word that the enemy was falling back! As we occupied the former ground the firing began to increase, both Artillery and Musketry, principally on the left of our line. For hours it increased in extent and volume. At about 5 oclock in the afternoon, the battle was appalling and terrific in the extreme. Our lines were giving way in the left (our left) and centre. Gradually the Regiments on the left of our Brigade fell back and the enemy immediately in front in large force, with batteries advanced in close proximity, the Regiments on our immediate left & in our own Brig- ade fell rapidly to the rear, leaving my own Regiment the only one in position along the whole part of this part of the field. The firing was very heavy and being rapidly concentrated against us. Having by this time been flanked on both wings, our supports all gone, and in less that five minutes would have been surrounded by overwhelming numbers, we moved back in the direction of the Regiments that preceeded us under a most destructive fire of Artillery & Musketry, and at considerable loss in killed wounded and prisoners. Rallying the Regiment as speedily as possible, yet under the guns of the advancing enemy, in the growing darkness, and now meeting with the General of the Brigade, yet on the field although wounded, and with him at our head took up the line of march for Centreville where we arrived at the dawn of the next morning.
In reviewing the opperations of the Regiment during the past fifteen days (previous to August 31st 1862) eventful as they have been, of which the foregoing is but a brief account, I am more impressed with its good conduct, and that it deserves well of the country and the great Commonwealth from which it came. Leading the Brigade that first opened the great battle early in the morning of August 30-1862, it has the satisfaction to know that it was the last of the whole Army engaged, to leave the line of that battle at the close fo the day. Unfortunate as the contest of this day may have been to the Army, and country, and deeply as we felt chagrined to have retired before the enemy, yet the Regiment feels confidently assured that none of the misfortunes are or can be chargeable to it, in any degree, as up tot he last moment and even long beyond any possibility of retrieving the reverse, did it maintain the forward and honorable position it occupied.
For an account of the losses, as well as the names of the officers who took an honorable part in these movements, I would refer you & his Excellency the Governor to my official report to Genl Duryea commanding the Brigade which I had the honor to forward you.
The 107th Regiment, it affords me pleasure to record was under fire in the closing part of the battle (being after dark) at "Cedar Mountain" August 9th, 1862, and was also in the line of battle, (although not engaged), at Chantilly Sept 1st 1862, in the former of which several were wounded, and should I receive reports of these opperations from Lt. Col. Mc Allen, who was in command, I will take pleasure in forwarding them for the information of his Excellency the Governor.
I herewith enclose you a copy of the report of Capt. [unclear: J.] Mac Thompson, of the gallant conduct of the Regiment in the battle of South Mountain & Antietam, on the 14th and 17th days of September, 1862.
I am General very Respectfully Your obt servt
T. F. McCoy
Col. [unclear: Comdg] 107 P. V.