A recollection of the 6th North Carolina State Troops at the First battle of Manassas

Copyright (C) 2016 Frederick Walton

A Brief Sketch of Co. G, 6th NC State Troops by L H Rothrock155 years ago today, members of the 6th North Carolina State Troops were at Piedmont Station, Va. waiting to board a train to be taken to Manassas junction to reenforce General Beauregard, where a battle was shortly anticipated. In fact as I write this, I can see the sun setting, this is about the exact same time the 6th NCST was starting to board the cars.

I present the following recollection from a member of the 6th NCST, in their Honor.
Corporal, later Lieutenant Lewis H. Rothrock of Co, “G” wrote this account “at the rather urgent request of Col. A. H. Boyden”. Why it was requested or written is unclear. It may be related to a Confederate reunion in Durham that occurred around the same time this was written. Rothrock, Born in 1839 was 82 when he penned this account.

The son of a well known Lutheran Minister, he was described as modest, successful, conscientious, able and a wonderful influence on the hundreds of school children he has taught.(Salisbury Evening Post, 26 April 1922) and “still vigorous in mind and body.” at age 83 (Charlotte Observer, 20 April 1922).  In fact he was still teaching when these articles were written and was well known as Professor Rothrock. He was very active teaching Sunday school as well as being an elected official and an officer in the United Confederate Veterans (UCV).

I found this handwritten sketch in the Military Collection of the North Carolina state Archives where I made a copy back in 2007, but only recently took the time to transcribe it. I would like to share it with my readers on this anniversary of the events he described.


A brief sketch of Co. “G”

6th N. C. State Troops
By L. H. Rothrock
sent by Col. A. H. Boyden Sept 30, 1921
(Transcribed by Frederick Walton, 2016)

L. H. Rothrock

from Salisbury Evening Post, 9 May 1922, Tue, Page 4

 


Col. Charles F. Fisher’s 6th N. C.Regiment left Winchester Va.1 about 2 o’clock PM on Friday, 19 July 1861 for Manassas Junction, and arrived at Piedmont Station, Manassas gap R. R. in the early part of the day Saturday, after marching all night. Other troops being in advance of us, did not get aboard the cars until sundown. Had not gone very far, when our train was stopped on account of track obstructions. Col. Fisher now became engineer and general manager and after a detention of two or three hours we were on our way, reaching Manassas Junction a little after sunrise Sunday morning2. There a little delay occurred, when Col. Fisher hurried off with his regiment to the battle-field, some six or seven miles distant. It must have been 12 o’clock before we gained the field of conflict. Col. Fisher halted his men near a ravine to give them a little rest and deposit their knapsacks, blankets, etc., that they might go into the fight fresh, and in light order. Col. Fisher was sitting on his horse and in fiery words to his soldiers “To ‘quit themselves like men”3. A section of Rickett’s battery4 was playing rapidly above our position. I here recall this statement from our beloved Col., ”Men, I intend to take that battery or die in the attempt”.

Colonel Charles F. Fisher

Colonel Charles F. Fisher

Presently the order came to move. Col. Fisher quickly got his men into line, the regiment in fine order crossed the ravine four deep5. The head of the regiment was nearing a dense thicket of pines when the command “File right”6 was given and when the word “front”7 rang out, Co.”G” had a position a little to the left of Ricketts’ battery8. The firing was now very brisk . The 6th Regiment shot down the horses of the battery and the gunners either fell or fled9. At this juncture Col. Fisher from the clump of Pine’s (the left of Co. “G” resting on the thick undergrowth, two other companies on our immediate left not getting into action) called me saying Corp. Rothrock “walk up to the brow of the hill and fire then fall back and load.” I did not know Col. Fisher was near until he called me. I recognized him instantly. He was on his knees, hat off, hands above his head cheering his men.

 

Launch point

Position of Griffin’s Battery on Manassas battlefield Photo Copyright (C) 2006 Frederick Walton Photography

At this crisis Co. “G” lost seven of her best men killed out right10, and seven wounded11. And now there was a lull in the battle and Henry W. Miller, having been wounded and in a standing posture on the top of the hill, called to me, being some 15 or 20 feet behind him; Rothrock,”There goes a gunner, kill him.” I could see his head and shoulders, so I leveled my piece on him and fired and Miller said he fell.”Deponent sayeth not”12. This part of the field was now clear. Col. Fisher had gained a complete victory over this particular stretch of the strife. Now we were ordered to reform and move to the left to support one of our batteries. Where was Col. Fisher? How delighted to have seen him at this moment13! Did not know positively that he was lost to us forever in this world, until the following Monday morning.

Now a more sublime scene rarely presents itself. Gen. McDowell’s army was most beautifully aligned on a slightly elevated plane. Our gunners got the exact range. The first shell fell in the midst of this well formed square. The enemy began forthwith to waver, and the third or fourth shot produced an utter route. Pardon me. Although Col Fisher came in, probably between one or two o’clock, I shall always believe that his regiment did as much or more than any other one regiment in winning the victory over Gen. McDowell’s army. In five minutes’ time not a soldier of our opposing forces was to be seen. Capt. James A. Craig14 and I crossed the valley and viewed the plain where the Union Army had been posted. We passed by an old fence and from one corner, out sprang a fine black Newfoundland dog. He seemed overjoyed to see us, but assumed a cringing attitude. He too was whipped. We made an examination of his lair, and discovered two bottles of fine champagne. The Capt. and I at once made violent charge upon the wine and won a most signal victory; for we were both hungry and thirsty. Where we encamped Monday night, I know not, unless somewhere near the head waters of Bull Run. We had received no food since we left Piedmont station on the previous Saturday, until Monday evening- a space of forty-eight hours.

Tuesday morning we marched back to Manassas Junction and later took up camp near Bristoe Station, four miles below. The two guns “Long Tom” and “Aunt Sal” remain with us as gentle reminders of the glorious achievements of the first battle of Bull Run15. Col Fisher deserves a monument fifty feet high, and present and future historians should not attempt to rob him of the glory and honor which justly belong to his pure unsullied and exalted patriotism. In the name of God’s truth let justice be done.”Honor to whom honor is due”

Gold Hill N. C.

September 21, 1921

L. H. Rothrock

Notes:

1 The 6th North Carolina State Troops was part of General Joseph E. Johnston’s army of the Shenandoah and had traveled from North Carolina, via Richmond, to Winchester., arriving July 14, 1861 after a long forced march, to reenforce Johnston against an anticipated attack by Federal General Robert Patterson. They were assigned to the Third Brigade, commanded by General Barnard E. Bee, serving along side the 4th Alabama, 2nd and 11th Mississippi and the Staunton Artillery.

2 Charles Frederick Fisher was the president of the North Carolina Railroad before resigning to form the 6th North Carolina State Troops, Many of the officers and men were former Railroad employees and had a lot of experience that could be used to repair damaged railroad tracks, engines, etc

3 Acquit- To bear or conduct one’s self; to perform one’s part. i.e.The soldier acquitted himself well in battle.

4 Captain James B. Ricketts commanded the 1st US artillery, more commonly called Ricketts battery. They were deployed along the crest of Henry House Hill across from where the Confederate lines were being formed on the opposite crest. Their Cannons firing into the Confederate lines caused panic as unfortunate men were arbitrarily cut down. Leaves and branches rained down on the untested troops as cannon balls soared overhead.

5 Column of fours- A civil war regiment, standing in two ranks and facing front would count off, from right to left, each soldier, in turn, would be numbered 1 or 2. At the order “right face”, each soldier numbered 1 would turn to the right. Every second soldier, numbered “2” would step to the right of the soldier previously to his right, thereby forming column of four, which would be an efficient, compact way to march along narrow paths.

6 Technically the command is “By file Right (or Left) , March”. At the command March, the first file of the column (i. e. the first four men) will wheel (turn) in the direction specified followed by the rest of the column, each wheeling at the same spot until the entire column has turned 90 degrees. In other words, the column has made a right hand turn.

7 Technically the command is “Company halt, Front” at which time the column will stop marching (halt) and undouble, returning to a two rank battle front, which can be deployed against an enemy.

8 Two guns of Griffin’s battery to move down the Sudley road (about 1:30 PM), into a position in front of the wood line on the far left of the Confederate line in an effort to enfilade the Confederates if they attempted to move forward. At the same time that these guns were being moved, Colonel Fisher had been ordered to move to the left end of the Confederate line and ended up fronting his regiment opposite these newly arrived guns. It is Actually Griffin’s Battery, not Ricketts, that Co, G overlaps on the left.

9 Griffin’s battery moved forward without any infantry support, and was unprepared to defend itself against an infantry attack like this. Shooting the horses would have prevented the battery from withdrawing, allowing the guns to be captured. It is a long running debate about who actually silenced this battery, the 33rd Va. also making the claim.

10 The Richmond Daily Dispatch of August 1, 1861 reported the following seven members of Co. “G” killed: Privates G. Noah, A. B. Corriher, J. R. Corriher, J. S. Smith, Jason D. Setzer, Jno. Hess and Jacob Safrit

11 The Richmond Daily Dispatch of August 1, 1861 reported the following Six members of Co. “G” wounded: privates John Howard and N. Lindsay Dancy, severely wounded; privates W. Rufus Owen, Henry W. A. Miller, Jacob W. Miller, and Bartlett Allen, slightly wounded. Checking the roster, I was unable to find a seventh wounded member of company G.

12 This may refer to a common legal term included at the end of a deposition or Affidavit meaning that the person has nothing further to say… which would certainly be true if the person, in this case, had been fatally shot.

13 I believe he means to say, how delighted we would have been to have seen him at this moment. I suspect he was already dead, having fallen among the guns of Griffin’s Battery when they charged the guns. the following was reported in the Carolina Watchmen,July 25, 1861 “He was killed on the battlefield of Manassas Junction, Sunday 21st July, instant whilst bravely leading his regiment into an engagement. He was struck by a Minnie ball (As was supposed) above the left eye. It cut the rim, and passed through the hat at the band, and came out the back of the head. His death was believed to be instantaneous. No one noticed his fall at the moment, not did anyone know of his death until late in the after part of the day, his presence was missed from his regiment. Search was then made over the field upon which the engagement was had, and his lifeless body was found.”

14 Commander of Company G

15 “Long Tom” was a Federal 30-pounder Parrott Rifle, abandoned at Cub Run after the battle of Manassas and captured by the Confederates to add to their arsenal. I assume “Aunt Sal” had a similar history, but have been unable to find a captured gun by that name.

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