Tuesday, November 24, 2015

19th Virginia Infantry: First Blood at Manassas

On 15 April 1861, the day President Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring an insurrection existed in the country and called up 75,000 men, two brothers, Daniel Rose and Samuel Henry Jennings, and their first cousin, John Thomas Jennings (my great grand uncle) left their farms in Amherst County, Virginia, and enlisted at the county courthouse. The Commonwealth of Virginia seceded from the United States two days later. The Jennings men were ordered to muster with Company H, 19th Virginia Infantry, in Charlottesville on 24 May 1861.

Two weeks later, nineteen-year-old Leroy Powhatan Jennings, a first cousin of the three Jennings' men who enlisted previously, left his father's farm in Amherst County, Virginia, and traveled to nearby Buffalo Springs to enlist in Company I, 19th Virginia Infantry regiment. He was told to muster in Charlottesville, 63 miles away, 29 May 1861. And so began the military service of four young men during the Civil War, which started a few weeks earlier in Fort Sumter, South Carolina. John Thomas Jennings' younger brother, Charles Edward Jennings, my great grandfather, would join Company H, known as the Southern Rights Guard, a year later.

The University of Virginia during the Civil War; photograph courtesy of
Encyclopedia Virginia

On the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Leroy Jennings joined about 83 other men as part of Company I, the Amherst Rifles. His cousins had been there about a week before he arrived. Like the Jennings men, most of their fellow soldiers from Amherst County were farmers. The authors of the 19th Virginia Infantry, part of the Virginia Regimental Series, compared the atmosphere in Charlottesville to an agricultural fair. There were "songs at night and patriotic speeches." Squads of soldiers in training drilled several hours a day and dress parades were held in the evening.

Near the end of June they were sent to northern Virginia. This appeared to be the initial testing ground of the entire regiment. The citizens of the north were clamoring for an early campaign against the Confederate capitol in Richmond. Politicians yielded to the pressure and sent General Irvin McDowell's untested Army of Northern Virginia south, planning to cut the railroad lines to Richmond.  They stopped in Centreville, Virginia, after a grueling two-day march in hot, humid weather. Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard's Army of the Potomac was encamped at Manassas Junction. As the Union army grew near, he deployed his troops along the south banks of Bull Run. General Joseph E. Johnston, commanding the Confederal Army of the Shenandoah, arrived with significant reinforcements and took overall command of the rebel armies.

Federal forces advance at the First Battle of Bull Run; drawing which
appeared in The Washington Post

The First Battle of Bull Run, or First Manassas[1], started well for the Army of the Potomac, they advanced with the goal of turning the Confederate left flank and capture the railroad, but the Confederate line held and several Union guns were captured. When the entire Confederate line began to advance, the Union line crumbled and the uncontrollable retreat back to Centreville began.

The 19th Virginia Infantry was part of Cocke's Fifth Brigade. They sat in trenches throughout most of the battle protecting Lewis' Ford to the right of the heavy fighting. They received orders in early afternoon to reinforce soldiers at Henry House Hill to their left. When they arrived, the Union soldiers were in full retreat. The 19th Virginia Infantry pursued the enemy for about two miles before sundown. Prisoners were escorted to Manassas Junction while most of the regiment returned to Lewis' Ford. On the way, they went through the abandoned Union camp and picked up blankets, overcoats, oilcloths, haversacks, and muskets. From the regiment, one man had been killed, four wounded, and one was missing.

Remains of the Judith Henry house, which was damaged during the battle;
photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress

To be continued...

[1]There are different names for the same battle primarily because the Union side tended to name battles after nearby bodies of water while the Confederate side used town names.

Jennings, Charles E. (my great grandfather), Private, Co. H; enlisted 1 March 1862 at Amherst courthouse; Present until detailed 18 May 1863 to General Hospital in Lynchburg on surgeon's certificate; absent there through last roll August 1864.

Jennings, Daniel R. (my first cousin three times removed), Corporal, Co. H; enlisted 15 April 1861 at Amherst Courthouse; age 20, farmer; Private to 4th Corporal by August 1863; 4 Corporal to 3rd Corporal by October 1863; 3rd Corporal to 2nd Corporal by February 1864; Present until wounded at Ganes Mill on 27 June 1862; returned, wounded in action at Gettysburg on 3 July 1863; sent to Lynchburg Hospital; absent, detailed on government work, dropped as non-commissioned officer from 16 April 1865. Surrendered at Appomattox, pension in 1910.

Jennings, John T. (my great grand uncle), Private, Co. H; enlisted 15 April 1861 at Amherst Courthouse, age 23, farmer; present through last roll 31 December 1863.

Jennings, Leroy P.  (my first cousin three times removed), Corporal, Co. I; enlisted 29 April 1861 at Buffalo Springs; age 19, farmer; Private to 3rd Corporal by August 1863; 3rd Corporal to 2nd Corporal by October 1863; Present till wounded at Gaines Mill on 27 June 1862; returned; wounded in action and taken prisoner of war on 3 July 1863 at Gettysburg; gunshot in right lung; paroled at General Hospital West's Building in Baltimore on 25 September 1863; returned to duty by February 1864; through last roll August 1864.

Jennings, Samuel H. (my first cousin three times removed), Private, Co. H; enlisted 15 April 1861 at Amherst courthouse; age 24, farmer; Present until discharged discharged on 12 September 1861 by order of General Beauregard, surgeon's certificate, listed disease was smallpox. Pension 1900.

A Lover, Not a Fighter

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