Thursday, April 12, 2012

First Battle of Bull Run or First Manassas

My cousin, Bill West, sent away for the Civil War pension application for our mutual ancestor, Asa Freeman Ellingwood. Last summer he transcribed the file and shared it with the family and posted a substantial portion of his transcription on his blog. The bulk of the testimony involves various persons, relatives of Asa and others who knew him, testifying as to his health when he returned home after his discharge in late 1861. He was a member of Company I, 5th Maine Infantry and "ruptured" his kidneys at the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861. 
Asa Freeman Ellingwood & wife Florilla Dunham
The story of how he was injured is what I find most interesting. "I was helping a man by the name of Perry who died afterwards off the field when the Col. Mark H. Dunnell who was riding by the side of us swung his horse around and knocked me down with the man I was helping on top of me. We were both knocked over. We were on the retreat from Bull Run in the woods at the time and when I was knocked over I was knocked over a log and it was at that time I was knocked down when I ruptured on both sides. The right side and the left side." (How many times can one say "knocked" in one paragraph?)

Col. Mark Dunnell
Eyewitness account of Bull Run by a Rhode Island soldier
Animation of the battle

Historians agree that the Union troops were not prepared for the battle. In addition, Union commanders were over-confident that they could win the war quickly and easily. People came out from nearby Washington, D.C. to watch what they were sure would be an easy victory over the Confederate troops. The battle turned out to be a decisive victory for the Confederacy and some historian speculate that had they been better prepared, they may have been able to press their advantage and capture the capital. That would certainly have changed the course of history! 

According to the web site of the Fifth Maine Museum, "when news of the attack on Fort Sumpter (sic) reached the small town of Bethel, Maine, Clark S. Edwards was high on a ladder shingling his roof. He immediately climbed down, obtained permission from the appropriate authorities to form a company of men, and set out to gather recruits from Bethel and the surrounding towns. This group became Company I, Fifth Regiment Maine Volunteer Infantry with Edwards as its Captain." The Fifth Maine was one of the first Maine regiments to be mustered in. It consisted of 1046 men (another 500 joined later) from southern and central Maine. The men left Portland by train in July 1861, stopping briefly in New York where thy were presented with a silk flag by Portlanders living in that area. The Fifth captured more prisoners than the number of men who served in the regiment and three times the number of battle flags than any other Maine regiment captured. After three years, only 193 men were mustered out in July 1864. The rest had been killed in action, died from disease, been wounded, deserted or had been transferred to other regiments. 

genl_clark_s_edwards
Clark Edwards, Captain of Company I, Fifth Maine Volunteers

Statistics: Union dead = 460, wounded = 1,124 and missing or captured = 1,312
Confederate dead = 387, wounded = 1, 582 and missing or captured = 13

A couple of amusing stories...- My great-grandmother wanted my mother to name me Florilla after Asa's wife. I'm glad she decided on Pam instead. - While teaching an honors U.S. history class one year, I had a brain cramp and misspelled Manassas as Mannasses. Knowing that didn't look right, I turned around to the board and erased the second "n" and turned back to teach...but the giggles of my students let me know that leaving Man asses on the board was not a good idea. 

Asa Freeman Ellingwood & Florilla Dunham
Nina King Ellingwood & George Gibbs
Annie Florilla Gibbs & Ray Everett Cotton
Fern Lyndell Cotton - my grandmother


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