An August 9, 1862 diary entry from William Ellis Jones, an artillerist with Crenshaw’s Battery, Pegram’s Battalion, Army of Northern Virginia, was contributed by a descendant, Connie Jones, and copied below as submitted through our Facebook page.
Artillerist William Ellis Jones’ entire Civil War diary and comprehensive biography, The Spirits of Bad Men Made Perfect: The Life and Diary of Confederate Artillerist William Ellis Jones, is forthcoming from Southern Illinois University Press later this year.
Saturday, August 9, 1862
Started this morning before sunrise and all felt that we would have a
fight before sunset. We traveled as fast as we could under a sun that must have been one hundred degrees in the shade. We crossed the Rapidan at Barnett’s Ford where there was a pretty good skirmish last night at twelve o’clock between 400 Yankee cavalry and some of our troops. A pretty daring dash for the Yanks. It is quite a novel sight to see a regiment crossing a stream. Such a pulling off of shoes and stockings, rolling up pants and the majority of them taking off their pants. We had nothing of this to do for we rode on the caisson. We traveled on and saw a good many evidences of the outrages committed by the Hessians. There was one place which must have been a lovely spot before the war, but now a perfect waste. We crossed Robinson’s River in the middle of the day, a small stream which empties itself into the Rapidan and is the boundry line between Madison and Culpeper counties. We reached Mrs. Pettit’s farm about four or five o’clock, when the battle had commenced. We halted and were ordered to remain here until further orders. We could plainly hear the din at first but it gradually ceased till nothing but the sullen roar of artillery could be heard, and that died out by nightfall. We whipped the Yanks very badly after a sharp and bloody struggle and drove them back two miles. General Wender, a gallant officer and commander of the Stonewall Brigade, was killed by a piece of a shell. His death was quite a misfortune to the country. The 21st and 23rd Virginia regiments done deeds of valor. At one time the 23rd was surrounded by the foe and had to cut their way out, which they did in gallant style. The Yanks fought with more bravery on this occasion than they have ever done, charging and receiving and giving bayonet thrusts, and in some incidences clubbing their muskets and tapping our brave boys on the cranium, but all this was met by Virginia lads with an ardor and coolness that they could not stand and therefore retired leaving the field and woods strewed with their killed and wounded. We took a great many prisoners. I saw a batch of two hundred and fifty amongst them were a great many officers. We also took Brid. Gen. Prince. These prisoners seemed to be lively and very chatty. Some of them told awful big lies about their forces, saying that Pope had four hundred thousand troops and that he would bring up two hundred and seventy one pieces of artillery during the night, all of which was believed. I got tired of listening to them and went over to where we were parked to get a little sleep, when a pretty severe thunderstorm commenced. I had not more than got there when orders came for us to report to Col. Walker about four miles down the road. Our boys were aroused and they soon put themselves in marching order. Soon after starting the cannonade ceased. We learned that Purcell battery was shelling the roads and that they were soon silenced, the enemy bringing three batteries up all bearing on them. Lieut. Featherstone and a private were killed and eight wounded, also losing eight horses.
Our march was anything but agreeable as we met ambulances filled with wounded all along the road, and as we approached the battlefield the groans of the wounded were pitiful to hear. A great many dead bodies were laying just on the edge of the road and their ghastly and bloody features were not pleasant to look upon in the moon’s pale light. I don’t think I ever shall forget that march. After getting to our stopping place we parked our pieces and immediately went to sleep. Although we were in good shelling range of their guns. There is one outrage I must not omit. Opposite to a mill at Burnett’s Ford lived two estimable ladies. Whilst the Yankee cavalry was leaving this ford this morning two infernal scoundrels took deliberate aim at them, whilst sitting in their door, and shot one of them just above the knee and the other in the foot. General Jackson took down as near as he could from some prisoners what company and regiment they belonged to. Hanging is too good for such miscreants. They ought to be covered with tar and set on fire.