20 July 1861: “our division retreated to Union Mills on the east side of Bull Run as we retreated a good many ladies left their homes and marched in advance of us.”

Item description: Letter, 20 July 1861, from Robert W. Parker to his wife describing his involvement in skirmishes near Manassas (Junction), Va., just days prior to the Battle of First Bull Run.

[Item transcription available below images.]

Item citation: From the Robert W. Parker Papers, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

July the 20 ’61, evening.

Union mills.

I’ll attempt to give you some of the news since the morning of the seventeenth / on the morning of the seventeenth I left camp early to water my horse sum distance from camp just before I reached camp I received the a larm to hast in camp the yankeys were approaching with all hase we struch our tents and packed for retreat our company was called to gather as soon as possible wagon loaded and started for the junction. we there mounted and prepared for action. prayre was offered by one of our squadron for our heavenly fathers protection. by this time our pickets pickets came in bringing the news that the yankeys were advancing in great numbers one colume up by the station the other by the courthouse  numbering frome from 30,000 to 50,000 this the report. our forces received orders from general Bureagard to retreat which was obeyed immediately at both point station & courthouse. only a few of one of our regiments fired on the enemy killing 18teen the number wounded not known. the loss on our side two wounded on flesh wound in the leg the other a part of his ear cut off by a ball. all our forces retreated all from the station up the station road toward the pine those from the court house up the turnpike toward the junction. our squadron took the rear of the infantry from the station never before did I see such a day the poor infantry weared down with their guns and knapsacks over coats & almost any thing they had a good many just out of the measles almost too weak to travail one or two poor fellows I heard died on the road it is thought one or two thousand dollars worth of one thing or other was thrown away our division retreated to Union mills on the east side of Bull run was we retreated a good many ladies left their homes and marched in advance of us no one could could tell the feeling some of us had to see some of the ladies in so much distress. We stoped in an oatfield and let our horses eat the oats not getting off our horse. We stayed on the eastside of the run till next morning about suup lying out that night in a clover field on hay had nothing to eat but a few crackers & but little meat which we were glad to get our wagons having on our baggage and several miles in advance. early the morning of the 18 we crossed the run and came to where we are now in the woods this side the run… some of the souldiers done with out eating twentyfour hours at once. we took several prisoners during the 17 days. I must tell you how the yankeys did when they took possession our breast works at the courthouse as it happened four of our troopers and a corperal were on picket between the two roads the yankeys came up and didn’t know of their advance till they had

[The letter ends here.]

More about Robert Parker: Robert W. Parker was born in 1838 in Pittsylvania County, Va. His father, Ammon H. Parker, and mother, Frances Goggin Parker, eventually settled in Bedford County, Va., where Robert became a farmer. Robert served in the 2nd Virginia Cavalry of the Confederate States of America Army from the onset of the American Civil War, and attained the rank of 4th Sergeant. Robert was killed in action at Appomattox Courthouse, Va., on the morning of 9 April 1865, the same day that Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to the Union Army. Surviving him was his wife, Rebecca Louise Fitzhugh Walker Parker, and two sons.

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