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PA Civil War > Diaries > Wren

Pennsylvania Civil War Diary of James Wren

Excerpts from Civil War Diary of Captain James Wren

of Pottsville, Pennsylvania Forty-eighth Regiment, Company B

James Wren

August 12, 1862
Camp Front of Fredericksburg

We left 4 of our men behind here, sick: Robert Campbell, Joseph Kirby, Thomas Conell, and Samuel Stanley. We left camp this evening at 6 PM. We started the march and continued it until 3 in the morning of the 13th and took no nap until 6 AM and started again on the march and marched all day until the evening of the 13th and put up for the night and resumed our march again at reveille, which was at 4 AM of the 14th and reached the railroad station at 11 AM of the 14th.. During the night, it rained very, very heavy and having no tents, it was rather disagreeable.

August 24, 1862
Sulphur Springs

The bugle sounded at 4 AM and we marched until 10 AM and we shelled the valley near the river and formed line of battle, but no reply from the enemy. We renewed our march and just as we advance, the rebel guns replied and we fought our way up to the Sulphur Springs. Just after the rebel guns opened fire, their cavalry came out on the opposite mountain about 100 strong, in the rear of our train and I, having command of the train guard and had some on picket, I called in the pickets and formed the company in line. The men could see for themselves what they had to do as the Rebels were in sight of each other but they did not advance. So they shelled us, but fired too high. We reached Sulphur Springs in the evening at 8 PM and lay down, very tired.

August 28, 1862
in camp near Greenwich Church

At 3 AM, the 48th regiment was brought into line to go on the advance picket. At 3 AM, four companies - A,B,I and D joined regiment as it passed. We had coffee before we started to march, and we heard that Jackson had reached Manassas Junction. General Pope said, 'We have him bagged, if we can only keep him.' We started at 6AM for Manassas Gap. Cannonading was heard on our left. Just after leaving Greenwich Church, were we camped last night, we finally arrived at Board Crick were the battle was fought on the 27th, were one of General Reno's batteries was engaged. It is 2 1/2 miles from the Manassas Gap. We leave this place at 11 AM. Jackson is supposed to be 3 or 4 miles ahead of us. We are pressing him hard. We arrived at Manassas Junction at 1PM and found that Jackson had left yesterday after setting fire to our railroad train and destroying it contents - army supplies. The cars were still burning and some beef was in part of the ruins and looked pretty well roasted and our men cut some of it and eat it. Mike Divine of our company said Jackson wasn't the worst of men, that he cooked rations for us and left....

August 29, 1862
On March to Centreville

At 3 o'clock this morning, I got awake with the cold and I got up. The battle was opened at 6 1/2 o'clock AM. Our artillery put on the right of the Line, had a Company roale call this morning. Absent: J. Brooks, Mardsen, Ward and Copeland (All B men). Gen. Pope just passed our line and he takes things quite cool. He was smoking a cigar when he passed. We marched to Centreville and when we arrived on the height, we flanked to the left and moved on towards the battle, which was going on. Supposed Jackson to be retreating and our troops in her rear. 11 o' clock AM - here we passed the rebels that was taken prisoner. Thear was between 4 and 5 hundred of them. Thear was some of them fought against us in New Bern, North Carolina. Some of my men recognized them and they remarked that they would not fight anymore. Gen. Pope just passed our brigade line, the men behind in the field resting, being very tired and hungry, but no time to attend to eating.

At present, our Cavalry are in the rear of Jackson's lines. After our artillery had silenced the rebel guns, the infantry line taking possession and now being in Position, the battle then had to be decided by the infantry. At 25 minutes past 2 PM, our brigade entered the battle line and before we advanced one hundred yards, we received a volley of muskerty into us, but we kept our line well dressed, and we advanced and fired about 20 minutes direct to the front but was not getting any further advanced, the rebels being in the old road cut and we was ordered to cease firing and then ordered to fix bayonet and we charged the cut and routed the enemy out of the cut and we held the cut and we and we were advancing beyond the cut when a masked battery opened and drove us back into the cut and while we were advancing beyond the cut, our left was unsupported and the enemy got around our left and got in our rear and we then had a fire to contend against in frunt and rear. I went up on the bank to see the movements of the enemy and I saw them, quite plain, crossing the road on our left and in our rear and I told Gen. Nagle and he could not believe it and the adjutant Bertolette, was at our left and I went up on the bank the second time and while up, my men called at the top of thear voice to "Come down or you will be cut to pieces." I felt the rim of my old hat quiver like a leaf. The adjutant and myself went and we told Nagle the enemy was in our rear and we received a heavy volley from the rear. Nagle then flanked the Regiment by a right flank on the double quick and they retreated, having orders for Captain Wren to protect the left of cut until the regiment got out. I saw through the move in a flash, better to lose a pice of the loaf than to lose a whole one and seeing that the regiment was out, I then flanked my company to the right and gave the command, "double quick, march!" and we passed through the rebels on the right and left of us and within speaking distance of each other. On our retreating through these lines, the rebels yelled out, "Stop, you Yankee sons of Bitches. You are our prisoners." But we did not stop and after we had all got out, Gen. Phil Kearney was rallying his brigade and they all rallied to the 48th colors and they and the 48th went in again but was overpowered and driven back. During the rallying to the colors, Gen. Phil Kearney, having but one arm and meeting some of his brigade said, with the bridle rein between his teeth and his sword in his hand, "Come on and go in again, you sons of bitches and I'll make brigadier generals of every one of you.".

Darkness came on and the battle ended for the day, during our retreating, I fell with my breast striking a stump and I thought I was a prisoner sure when 2 of my men picked me and and helped me out and it made me very sick and we went a little to the side and they thought they would cook a tin cup of coffee for me and just as we sat down, a solid shot buried itself right between us and I said, "Boys, let's get out of this." We went up to whear thear was a group of staff officers and I was relating our narrow escape when a solid shot buried itself right between Gen Pope and Gen Reno, who was setting down together, and they looked at each other in the face and said "I guess we had better get away from hear" and they moved to the one side to another seat.

All hostility ceased for the night, both forced holding thear positions. Pope was anxiously waiting for the arrival of Gen. Fitz John Porter, who was to have bin hear today, but at night had not arrived yet. I felt quite proud of my own company as they behaved well during the whole battle and obey the commands and stood true to thear work. So did our Regiment An old artilleryman who had gone to the Mexican War said during the time that our Brigade was engaged, he never heard such a steady fire keep up for such a long time, of infantry, in his life. From the time we went in, until we came out, it was just 1 3/4 hours. We fought in a thick woods and the powder smoke hung about , and we were almost all black, particularly around the mouth and eyes, when we came out. During the battle, 5 of my men was surrounded by rebels but was relieved by our troops again. Paul Sheck, my old cook, was in the hands of the rebels, but was relieved by some of our men. The sergeant, Basler, had 2 plugs of tobacco in his haversack and a bullet went right through both of them and Bickert had a ball go through his cartridge box. George Marsden, a rather slow soldier to move, saw a rebel up in a tree and he took aim on him and he fell to the ground like a log. The men said that act made up for all of George's lost motion, as a number of them saw the act. During the time we were advance, on of our men, Nicholas Shiterhour, shot the color bearer of the enemy's flag, but he got wounded afterwards, He was shot in the thigh. The ball went right through but did not break any bones. The Rebel troops that our brigade drove out of the road cut was the Louisiana Tigers, which we fought at New Bern March 14. As we advanced to the cut, they said, "Them is Burnside's troops We know them by their line and their charge". We, at night, lay under arms on the field where we were driven back to and having unslung our knapsacks and had thrown them in a pile before we went into battle. This ground became the center of the 2 armies and therefore, we were deprived of all our knapsacks and blankets. We thought it hard to have no tents but here we have neither tents nor blanket, the enemy having captured it all.

August 30, 1862
on the Bull Run Battle Field

This morning being after the Battle of yesterday - the 29th - I had company role call and the following was the list of killed, wounded and missing of company B of the 48th regt of Pa Volunteers:
Louis M Reece, private - killed
2nd Sergeant Thomas Johnson - wounded in head
3rd Sergeant JG Basler - wounded in leg
Henry T Copeland - wounded in leg and arm
Samuel Stanley - wounded in hand
Thomas G. Williams - spent ball in shoulder
Wlliam Hill - wounded in head
Corporal Joseph Kirby - spent ball in hand
John Lucid - wounded in hand slightly
John Heafling - in back, spent ball
Nicolas Shiterhour - wounded in thigh
Sergeant Philip Hughes - taken prisoner
Corporal Jacob Freshley - taken prisoner
John Evans - taken prisoner
Joseph Rarig - taken prisoner
William Bradely - taken prisoner
George W. Johnson, drummer - taken prisoner
Corporal George Evans - wounded in the leg

December 14th, 1862
In Fredericksburg, Va.

...Today there was a very amusing thing that took place with Dye Davis and John Howells and Bill Hill, who was killed with the falling of the Chimney the day of the 12th. When we crossed into the town of Fredericksburg, the men captured many things and these three, Davis, Howells, and Hill got into a house and a carpenter's store room and Dye Davis said, 'We be got him now, lads. Fill your haversacks.' And the haversacks was filled. Dye Davis said, 'Now, lads, lets go down to the fire and we will have some johnny cakes.' And when they reached the fire, Dye said, 'John Howells, do we get some wood and make a fire?', and 'Bill Hill, do we get some water and I will make some johnny cake' and the work went on and Dye made a cake on the old plate and he turned it up to see if it was done, but it was not browned yet and Jack said, 'turn 'em over any'ow.' Dye turned it over and said, 'Jack he is hard any'ow,' and they got the other side hard and Dye wanted to get it browned but Bill Hill got impatient and said, 'Damn, 'em, Dye, less have him!' The cake was handed to Bill and the cook put another on the pan and while Dye was working at the second one, Bill Hill could not get his knife to split the first one and Jack Howells says, 'Bill, get a stone and break'em.' They got a stone and broke it and tried to bit it, but it was no go and Jack examined it carefully and exclaimed, 'Damn 'em, Dye, 'e is plaster of Paris, and the cook stopped instantly and he examined and exclaimed, 'Well, Jack, I did think he was damn heavy flour in my haversack.' And sure enough, it was white plaster of Paris.

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